« FöregåendeFortsätt »
REMARKS ON ITALY.
THE REPUBLIC OF LUCCA.
IT is very pleasant to see how the small territories of this little republic are cultivated to the best advantage, so that one cannot find the least spot of ground, that is not made to contribute its utmost to the owner. In all the inhabitants there appears an air of cheerfulness and plenty, not often to be met with in those of the countries which lie about them. There is but one gate for strangers to enter at, that it may be known what numbers of them are in the town. Over it is written, in letters of gold, Libertas.
This republic is shut up in the great duke's dominions, who, at present, is very much incensed against it, and seems to threaten it with the fate of Florence, Pisa, and Sienna. The occasion is as follows:
The Lucquese plead prescription for hunting in one of the duke's forests, that lies upon their frontiers, which about two years since was strictly forbidden them, the prince intending to preserve the game for his own pleasure. Two or three sportsmen of the republic, who had the hardiness to offend against the prohibition, were seized, and kept in a neighbouring prison. Their countrymen, to the number of threescore, attacked the place where they were kept in custody, and rescued them. The great duke redemands his prisoners, and, as a farther satisfaction, would have the governor of the town, where the threescore, assailants had combined together, deli
vered into his hands; but receiving only excuses, he resolved to do himself justice. Accordingly he ordered all the Lucquese to be seized that were found on a market-day, in one of his frontier towns. These amounted to fourscore, among whom were persons of some consequence in the republic. They are now in prison at Florence, and, as it is said, treated hardly enough, for there are fifteen of the number dead within less than two years. The king of Spain, who is protector of the commonwealth, received information from the great duke of what had passed, who approved of his proceedings, with orders to the Lucquese, by the governor of Milan, to give a proper satisfaction. The republic, thinking themselves ill used by their protector, as they say at Florence, have sent to Prince Eugene to desire the emperor's protection, with an offer of winter-quarters, as it is said, for four thousand Germans. The great duke rises on them in his demands, and will not be satisfied with less than a hundred thousand crowns, and a solemn embassy to beg pardon for the past, and promise amendment for the future. Thus stands the affair at present, that may end in the ruin of the commonwealth, if the French succeed in Italy. It is pleasant, however, to hear the discourse of the common people of Lucca, who are firmly persuaded that one Lucquese can beat five Florentines, who are grown lowspirited, as they pretend, by the great duke's oppressions, and have nothing worth fighting for. They say, they can bring into the field twenty or thirty thousand fighting men, all ready to sacrifice their lives for their liberty. They have a good quantity of arms and ammunition, but few horse. It must be owned these people are more happy, at least in imagination, than the rest of their neighbours, because
they think themselves so; though such a chimerical happiness is not peculiar to republicans, for we find the subjects of the most absolute prince in Europe are as proud of their monarch as the Lucquese of being subject to none. Should the French affairs prosper in Italy, it is possible the great duke may bargain for the republic of Lucca, by the help of his great treasures, as his predecessors did formerly with the emperor for that of Sienna. The great dukes have never yet attempted any thing on Lucca, as not only fearing the arms of their protector, but because they are well assured, that, should the Lucquese be reduced to the last extremity, they would rather throw themselves under the government of the Genoese, or some stronger neighbour, than submit to a state for which they have so great an aversion. And the Florentines are very sensible, that it is much better to have a weak state within their dominions, than the branch of one as strong as themselves. But should so formidable a power, as that of the French king, support them in their attempts, there is no government in Italy that would dare to interpose. This republic, for the extent of its dominions, is esteemed the richest and best peopled state of Italy. The whole administration of the government passes into different hands at the end of every two months, which is the greatest security imaginable to their liberty, and wonderfully contributes to the quick despatch of all public affairs; but in any exigence of state, like that they are now pressed with, it certainly asks a much longer time to conduct any design, for the good of the commonwealth, to its maturity and perfection.
I had the good luck to be at Florence when there was an opera acted, which was the eighth that I had seen in Italy. I could not but smile to read the solemn protestation of the poet in the first page, where he declares that he believes neither in the Fates, Deities, or Destinies : and that if he has made use of the words, it is purely out of a poetical liberty, and not from his real sentiments, for, that in all these particulars, he believes as the holy mother church believes and commands.
Le voci Fato, Deità, Destino, e simili, che per entro questo drama trovarai, son messe per ischerzo poetico, e non per sentimento vero, credendo sempre in tutto quello, che crede, e comanda Santa Madre chiesa.
There are some beautiful palaces in Florence; and, as Tuscan pillars and rustic work owe their original to this country, the architects always take care to give them a place in the great edifices that are raised in Tuscany. The duke's new palace is a very noble pile, built after this manner, which makes it look extremely solid and majestic. It is not unlike that of Luxemburg, at Paris, which was built by Mary of Medicis, and, for that reason, perhaps, the workmen fell into the Tuscan humour. I found, in the court of this palace, what I could not meet with any where in Rome; I mean, an antique statue of Hercules lifting up Antæus from the earth, which I have already had occasion to speak of. It was found in Rome, and brought hither under the reign of Leo the Tenth. There are abundance of pictures in the several apartments, by the hands of the greatest masters.