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The fortifications of Ravenna, which were obviously constructed on no ordinary scale, have fallen into decay. Traces of but two of the many towers designated on the old charts, are discoverable ; and a city, whose obstinate and prolonged conflicts with the Venitian republic are alone sufficient to vindicate the warlike character of its ancient inhabitants, now furnishes the most meagre evidences of former activity and prowess. The few soldiers now seen in its deserted streets, serve not, alas ! to defend the town or enlarge its possessions, but minister to the ignoble purpose of draining its wretched inhabitants of their scanty resources. About three miles from one of the gates, a column commemorates the fate of Gaston De Foix. This brave knight, notwithstanding his extreme youth, had won so high a reputation for invincible courage and address, that he was intrusted with the command of the French troops, then struggling for the possession of Italy. When De Foix attacked Ravenna, it was vigor. ously defended by Antonio Colonna, who, in anticipation of his design, had entrenched himself with an effective force within the walls. After a warm conflict on the ramparts, the crumbling remnants of which still attest their former extent and massive workmanship, during which not less than fifteen hundred men perished in the space of four hours, the invaders were compelled to withdraw. At the instant the young commander was rallying his troops for a second assault, he was informed of the approach of the general army. They were soon fortified about three miles from the town, and the French warrior found himself in a situation sufficiently critical to damp
the ardor of the best tried valor. Before him was his old enemy, of whose prowess he had just received the most -signal proof, and near by, a fresh and vigorous army, while his position was utterly destitute of those accommodations requisite to recruit his forces, or afford the necessary provisions either for men or horses. In this exigency, he formed the resolution to force the army to a general conflict.
Unfortunately for the Italians, the leader of their Spanish allies differed from the other officers as to the course expedient to be adopted ; the one party wishing to remain within the entrenchments, the other advocating a general rally and open attack. The former prevailed. The adverse armies continued to cannonade each other for a considerable time, and the balance of success was evidently in favor of the allied army, when the Duke of Ferrara brought his highly efficient artillery to bear from a very advantageous position in flank. So unremitted and annoying was the fire, that the allies were at length obliged to rush from their entrenchements, according to the sanguine wishes of De Foix, and try the fate of an open battle. On that memorable day, the eleventh of April, 1512, occurred the most tremendous action which for a long period had taken place on the war-tried soil of Italy. As one wanders over the mouldering bastions and solitary campagna of Ravenna, and pictures the spectacle which ou that occasion was here beheld, the contrast between the retrospect and the reality is singularly impressive. The shock of the meet. ing of those two mighty bodies is described by the historian of the period, as abounding in the awfully sublime. The action was sustained with a relentless fierceness, that soon laid the flower of both armies in the dust. More than once, the impetuous valor of the Spanish infantry threatened to decide the fortune of the day ; but the Italian forces were at length compelled to fly, leaving Cardinal de Medici, other illustrious prisoners, and all their artillery and equipages, in the hands of the enemy, besides nine ihousand of their number dead upon the field. The French loss was computed as still greater.
But the most lamentable event of the occasion, was the fate of their gallant leader. Flushed with victory, he pursued the panting squadrons of the fugitives with unremitted ardor, when, as he flew over the hard fought field, at the head of a thousand horse, he was surrounded and killed. There is something peculiarly touching in the fate of this young chieftain. He had scarcely attained the age of manhood, and was already regarded as the flower of the French chivalry. Glowing with the enthu- . siastic, though mistaken zeal of the period, he had just led his soldiers to a victory emiuently fitted to increase the fame of his arms. After a season of suspense, which must have appeared an age to his impatient spirit, he had met the opposing forces on the open field. Long, desperate, and dubious was the contest ; but at length his gladdened eye saw through the smoke of battle, the retreating ranks of the enemy ; his enraptured ear caught, above the din of war, the victorious shouts of his soldiers. What visions of glory must have gleamed before his ima. gination, as he spurred his charger over the conquered field! How sweet must have been the gratulations of his country, heard in exultant fancy! The lasting tro. phies of valorous renown were already won, and he was but in the morning of life. The wreath of chivalric honor, which his early ambition had pictured as a far-off boon, was already his. Yet, in that moment of triumphant emotion, when he felt the wreath of victory pressing his flushed brow, and heard, perhaps, the greeting of her whose smile would be the sweetest flower in his garland of renown, the fatal rally was made, and the gorgeous visions of gratified ambition were suddenly obscured by the mists of death! He fell, not at the fearful onset, when despair of success might have reconciled him to such a fate ; nor in the midst of the struggle, when the influence of his example, or the desire of revenge, might have urged on his followers to yet fiercer effort ; but at the close of the fight, when the day was won, at the instant when the clouds of doubt broke asunder, and the joyful beams of success blessed his sight. At such a moment, fell the young and valiant Gaston de Foix.
In the academy at Ravenna, there is the statue of a warrior carved in white marble. The name of the sculptor is not well authenticated ; but the work seemed to me remarkably well calculated to deepen the associations which environ the memory of the French knight. The figure is completely encased in armor, and sketched in the solemn repose of death. The visor of the helmet is raised, and the face presents that rigid expression, which we cannot look upon without awe. The very eye-lids are cut with such a lifeless distinctness, as to be eloquent of death. Thus, thought I, fell the veil of dissolution over the young soldier, whose bravery was here displayed. How affecting, with the story of his valorous energy fresh in the memory, to gaze upon such an image, and to feel that, thus he became in the very hour of his triumph! Erroneous as were then the ends of youthful ambition, yet is there enough of nobleness in the associa. tions of that epoch, to hallow its ornaments to our imagi. nation. Comparing them with the selfish and narrow ideas which too often mark the manners and demean the characters of our day, we must sometimes lament, that if the ignorance and barbarism of more warlike times have departed, so has also much of their high and almost universal spirit of honor, gallantry and disinterestedness.
Like most secondary Italian cities, Ravenna wears the semblance of desertion. At noonday, the stranger may often walk through streets deficient neither in spaciousness nor noble dwellings, and yet encounter no being, nor hear a sound indicative of life, far less of active prosperity. This was the case, to a remarkable degree, on the day of my visit, as it occurred during the month of October, when, according to the Italian custom, most of the nobility were at their villas ; and the sanitary restrictions established on account of the cholera then raging in some parts of the country, had greatly diminished the usual numbers of passing travellers. In the piazza, at some hours of the day, there is a little life.like appearance, from the assemblage of buyers and sellers, and, at early evening, the principal caffè exhibits the usual motley company collected to smoke and talk scandal, or to pore over the few journals which the jealousy of the government permits to find their