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FROM THE GERMAN OF WEBER.
In that superstitious age, when a dissolute priesthood held an almost unlimited sway over the inclinations and understandings of men; when the cowled head was supposed to be the only depository of the secrets of Omniscience; when the glance of a layman behind the curtain of nature. was accounted contraband, and of evil origin; when science and wisdom conducted their votaries to the torture and the stake; there lived in Salerno (tranquil and happy, in the cultivation of those pursuits which occasioned the persecution of the “starry Galileo,” brought Savonarola to the flames, and consigned Faustus to the devil,), an old man, named Pietro Barliardo. A century, which had risen and flourished under his eye, and which was now fast hastening to decay, had enriched him with experience and the materials of wisdom.
Aware of the nobler uses of science, he applied his attainments to no purposes of idle parade. To rival the clergy in the arts, which it appropriated exclusively to itself, and on which it had set its landmarks ; to boast that he had traced nature in her most secret evolutions, and was a confident of her most clandestine transactions, formed no part of his plan : he professed but to inculcate civil and classical erudition among the youth of his time, and this the monks did not consider an encroachment on their patent; but, while they were left the uncontested dispensers of divine truth, they allowed him to be resorted to as an oracle of profane and pagan literature.
Secret as the councils of conspirators were the researches of Barliardo into the mysteries of magic; for not content with a knowledge of the arts which govern men, he wished to push his conquests into other regions, and to bend superior beings to his will. So guarded, however, were all his measures, that lynx-eyed suspicion was foiled, and vigilance in vain lay in wait to ensnare him; although his green old age, vigorous and unimpaired at ninety-five, was well calculated to excite invidious observation; for unless Lucifer were his physician, and had been feed with the reversion of Pietro's soul, it seemed impossible that at an age when his vital powers ought to have been exhausted, and the honours of his head withered and decayed, the old man could retain so much of the freshness of his youth. So argued the monks, and such reasoning became them. Their emissaries mingled with his pupils ; but without extracting any matter for the gratification of their malice, and without
other consequence than that of inducing Pietro to renounce the instruction of youth (to which he imputed the jealousy of the clergy) that he might not provoke their envy to more effectual measures, and lose the consolation of returning to dust in consecrated ground. He resolved to devote the last chapter of his life to the education of an orphan nephew, whom fate seemed, in an especial manner, to have called on him to protect, by depriving the boy of every other friend. Having adopted him as his son, and declared him heir to all his estates, he secluded himself from all commerce with the world. Books of astrology and magic, his nephew Benedetto, and a poor cousin named Fran
cesco, whom he had taken into the house as a playmate and companion for the former, composed his whole society.
The child alone tasted the pleasures of the passing moment; the harvest of the old man and Francesco existed but in reversion. Though the latter found in the house of Barliardo all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, his young heart, panting for freedom, would have spurned these advantages for a wider range of liberty, had not a fair neighbour, the daughter of a decayed and disabled sculptor, overbalanced the chagrin he endured from the peevishness of the old man, and the tediousness he felt in the insipid amusements of the child. No sooner had Benedetto wearied himself with his sports—no sooner had Barliardo immured himself in his library, to acquaint himself in books with the beings whom he dreaded to invoke, than Francesco stole to Enemonde, and raised, whilst gazing on the beauty of the fair girl, a more blissful spirit than ever necromancy, with all its dread and powerful incantations, had conjured up.
This gentle sprite was no other than the gay god of love, who holds magic circles of crucifixes, death's heads, cross-bows and swords, as light as the burning torrents of Vesuvius do the reliques of St. Januarius; who creeps through the grates of convents, laughs at the precautions of monks, and forces his way to the human heart through every human sense: that god, who, though a child, is absolute over men; who, though himself blind, is the surest of guides; and before whom, though he has no longer altars in any church, the whole world bends and worships !
To secure the possession of this treasure, Francesco would have bound his tongue in eternal silence, and have subscribed to the most dreadful law that ancient or modern Dracos have enacted; he would have renounced his reason, received the writings of priests as the word of God, and submitted his faith to the guidance of hoary ignorance and inveterate error.
He erected altars among the fragrant myrtles : under the thick shade of the broad plantain and the gigantic larch: he prayed in the cool of the evening, beside the rippling fountain ; he animated the silent and stagnant noon with his entreaties and complaints. It chanced one day, as he had with cheerful promptitude accompanied Benedetto in all the meanders of spontaneous gaiety and mirthful caprice, that the old man elated by the hilarity of the child, cast more grateful looks than usual at the youth, who contributed so largely to its happiness. Francesco seized the moment, when gladness and gratitude beamed in his patron's countenance, like fructifying clouds in an April sky, and prepared by every art to make them descend in a golden shower upon himself. Praises of the boy's intelligence, frankness, and sensibility, opened the discourse, and, warmed with paternal fondness, Barliardo ratified every commendation with a “ true Francesco !” and closed all by remarking,
“ 'tis a soft wax, on which every stamp will leave a clear and perfect impression."
“ Fortunate child,” exclaimed Francesco, “ who will receive a form from the moulding of Barliardo of which princes might envy him! long have men envieghed against the folly and injustice of Fortune, behold her calumniators refuted. In her treatment of Benedetto and myself,
she has evinced her discernment and demonstrated her equity. The gentle child she leads by the hands of the wise Barliardo to honour and opulence, to independence and happiness ; whilst I, unworthy as unfortunate, am left to grovel in poverty and neglect.”
“ How!” responded Pietro, “ do you style yourself poor? have you not every necessary ; do you not enjoy numberless superfluities ? 'are your employments more than salutary exercise ? Seest thou not in the future as in the past, a smiling harvest spring gratuitously for thee? I sow for thee now; at my death Benedetto will provide for thee.” “ Think me not ungrateful,” said Francesco,
your favour has rescued me from indigence, and your
may perpetuate your benefits; but does man need only raiment for his limbs, and viands for his hunger, and repose for his weariness ? the child thinks himself rich with these, and knows no greater bliss than to receive : but man feels a sublimer delight in bestowing—the narrow joys of youth leave my heart vacant; I pant for nobler occupations, and would seek to be happy by imparting felicity. Dependence is not the destination of man ; under his vigorous arm weakness should find protection; yet what wretch blesses me for shelter ? I feel myself rich in energy, and repine that no one's stock of pleasures is augmented by my exertions; were death this instant to snatch me from the world, what monument of my
usefulness should I leave behind me? A day would glide over my tomb, and I should be forgotten.”
These," answered Pietro, are mere whims, vapours, phantasies ! the fractious family of leisure and satiety; say, art thou not esteemed by Benedetto and myself, wilt not our friendship for thee be perpetual? Oh! Francesco! the benignant dews of friendship have made hearts of granite teem with deeds of virtue.”
“ Not long since,” pursued Francesco, “ I strolled with Benedetto to the beach, to inhale the cool breath of evening: when my eyes were dazzled with the charms of a young maiden, who walked before usher form ! but let me not belie her beauty by an unworthy portraiture. Light as cheerfulness, and airy as liberty, she tripped before me, and my eyes spontaneously pursued her, and
“ Cousin,” said Barliardo, interrupting him ; " you grow tedious, and weary me.”
“ And is the ear of friendship so soon fatigued by the voice of the friend?—then friendship thou will not satisfy me. The livelong day has this girl listened attentively to the love-sick effusions of my soul.”
Yes, and her eyes have taught thee love—and robbed my child of thy friendship; and mark me, the eyes of women are delusive lights, that lure their credulous pursuer to destruction. Are the excellencies of the mind the ground of thy passion ? know you now, the true from the counterfeit ? Can you determine in the glitter of distance, the genuine brilliant from the ignobler chrystal ? Marriage gives you closer inspection; but then, you have bought the stone, and must abide the purchase. Or dost thou found thy hope of happiness on personal beauty ? Will time pass over the head of thy idol and leave no trace of his footstep? Oh! Francesco, thou knowest not the heart of man, that aggregate of contrarieties, that seat of intestine war and civil discord! We enjoy, but to find in our enjoyments materials for new wishes, to be pursued in their turn, and in their turn to be pronounced worthless !”
“ And if,” added Francesco, “ regardless of your representations and all that the holy fathers of our church have declared, love should yet hurry me to taste the tempting fruit which you represent as so noxious, what then ?”
“ Then, cousin,” exclaimed Pietro, with a voice of thunder, “I would tear thee from my heart, wert thou the ark and palladium of my prosperity. I would despair and die, for that my benefits had not moved thee to more gratitude, and secured thy friendship to my nephew. Unfortunate child ! to strangers, intent but to enrich themselves by thy plunder, must I commit thee; to robbers, must I leave thee; attracting rapacity by thy wealth, and emboldening them by thy weakness. Oft have I, deluded dotard, thought that he, who is thy playmate now, would be thy father when I should be no more. Why, Francesco, dost thou strike from me the last support of my declining existence, and tear from me the pillow on which I could have expired with calmness and resignation
—but go, exult with thy idol at thy barbarous desertion of me; I will change the name of my house, and disclaim thy affinity. Benedetto shall seek, in the mortification and austerities of a cloister, a sanctuary against vice, and monks shall inherit my ample possessions."
“My father, my benefactor,” said Francesco, “ torture not thyself with these fears, I only suggested the possibility of that which has not yet come to pass ; the eyes of Enemonde have taught me love, but my gratitude to you, and my affection for Benedetto, may teach me to conquer it.”
“May I believe thee, Francesco ?' say that I may believe thee.” “ Let my words be registered in heaven.”
“ Infirm and timid age is by nature credulous,” returned Barliardo; “ good kinsman, wilt thou confirm my reliance on thy assurances by an oath, which I wish to dictate to thee? Wilt thou swear never to transfer thy affections from him to another object?”
“ Never to transfer my affections by marriage? Never? Never ? I will.”
“ Follow me to my study; there, before the crucifix, to vow by the redeeming grace of Heaven.”
“Never to desert him ; never by a marriage to transfer my affections to another ?”
“ Aye: why dost thou reiterate this to thyself ?”
“ Shall I not reflect, said Francesco,“ upon what I pledge myself to perform? So shall I not pledge myself above my powers of accomplishment. An engagement built on scrupulous hesitations, stands on the firmest basis.”
" True, true; wise was thy reiteration, good Francesco; swear also to conceal what I will unveil to thee, in the darkest recesses of thy soul, and to keep thy tongue for ever ignorant of it.”
Francesco followed the old man into the library, and there repeated the oath required of him.
Scarcely was the awful attestation completed, when the old man, elate with joy and triumph, was profuse in his expressions of neverending gratitude. “Thou hast," said he, “ sacrificed to my happiness, and Benedetto's welfare, a first love; thou hast sacrificed it too in the
heat of youth.
Gratitude has not stores sufficient to repay thee, but what it can bestow shall be thine. Follow me.”
He seized Francesco's hand, and sliding back the panel of the wainscot, led the astonished youth into a spacious chamber, beneath the floor. A white curtain divided it; which Pietro having drawn aside, turned to Francesco, who stood by, petrified with astonishment, and bade him survey the inestimable treasure which awaited him. On the floor of the apartment, which was hung with sable tapestry, he observed three circles formed by fillets of parchment, stained with mystic characters, diagrams, and figures of hideous monsters. The outer circle was supported on twelve crosses of the sacred palm ; the inner on the same number of crosses of thorn; the middle rested on twelve of laurel. Within these circles lay, in an oblong quadrangle, a white dragon, with golden crest, and scarlet wings, holding in his claws a yellow lizard; and in an oval, inscribed parallel to the door of the vault, was a triangle containing certain mystic inscriptions. Over the vertex of the triangle, rested on two crossed bones, a human skull, from the eye-cavities of which projected a naked sword and a branch of palm and in the crown was fixed a cross, round which twined a silver serpent. Behind these sacred barriers, which the combined force of Erebus dared not invade, stood an altar compacted of human bones, and supported by four monstrous forms, for which language affords no
Twelve candlesticks, bearing high yellow tapers of wax, formed a heptagon round the altar and circles; and in the centre of these stood four terrific forms, bearing diadems and sceptres, emblematic of the governing spirits of the four elements. An enneagon of holy vessels, crosses, chalices, sculls and bones, swords, palm branches, and doves' wings, enclosed the whole mysterious apparatus. On the altar lay the book of incantation unfolded, to which twelve seals were suspended by flesh-coloured fillets.
“ Thy astonishment,” Francesco," said Barliardo, suppresses thy inquiries, and stifles curiosity ; I should plunge thee yet deeper in confusion, were I to reply to all that thy dumb amazement would seek to know. I have promised thee a recompence; now hear its nature and its worth.”
“ Know then, that I have long been, what envy and suspicion represented me, a student and an adept in magic. The possession of this precious volume gives me sovereignty over the invisible legions that tenant the vast worlds of air, the spacious tracts of water, the wide regions of earth, and the ample realms of elemental fire: yet, convinced as I am, beyond the reach of doubt, of my dominion over the invisible world, I own that I have never yet put it to the proof by any actual summons. On thee, my son, have I cast my eyes for a fit auxiliary in this great undertaking; for thee have I, with my own hands, fabricated the form of Ulric, king of the morning; of Paymon, king of the evening; of Maymon, king of the noon; and of Egyn, king of midnight. For thee bave I constructed those circles, and erected that altar. I have confined thee by the short tether of entire dependence upon my will, to preclude any transgression from purity and virtue, either of which would disqualify thee for commerce with the spiritual world. Learn, now, why I wished to control thy. will--to endow thee with possessions, which thy fancy, in its boldest