« PredošláPokračovať »
their line of attack. The foremost ranks consisted of the refuse of the host, a voluntary crowd, who fought without order or command; of the feebleness of age or childhood, of peasants and vagrants, and of all who had joined the camp in the blind hope of plunder and martyrdom. The common impulse drove them onwards to the wall; the most audacious to climb were instantly precipitated; and not a dart, not a bullet of the Christians was idly wasted on the accumulated throng. But their strength and ammunition were exhausted in this laborious defence; the ditch was filled with the bodies of the slain; they supported the footsteps of their companions; and of this devoted vanguard the death was more serviceable than the life.
Under their respective bashaws and sanjaks, the troops of Anatolia and Romania were successively led to the charge; their progress was various and doubtful; but, after a conflict of two hours, the Greeks still maintained and improved their advantage; and the voice of the emperor was heard, encouraging his soldiers to achieve, by a last effort, the deliverance of their country. In that fatal moment, the janizaries arose, fresh, vigorous, and invincible. The sultan himself on horseback, with an iron mace in his hand, was the spectator and judge of their valor; he was surrounded by ten thousand of his domestic troops whom he reserved for the decisive occasions; and the tide of battle was directed and impelled by his voice and eye. His numerous ministers of justice were posted behind the line to urge, to restrain, and to punish; and, if danger was in the front, shame and inevitable death were in the rear of the fugitives. The cries of fear and of pain were drowned in the martial music of drums, trumpets, and attaballs; and experience has proved that the mechanical operation of sounds, by quickening the circulation of the blood and spirits, will act on the human machine more forcibly than the eloquence of reason and honor. From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke, which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman Empire.
The single combats of the heroes of history or fable amuse our fancy and engage our affections; the skilful evolutions of war may inform the mind, and improve a necessary, though pernicious, science; but, in the uniform and odious pictures of a general assault, all is blood and horror and confusion: nor shall I strive, at the distance of three centuries and a thousand miles, to delineate a scene of which there could be no spectators, and of which the actors themselves were incapable of forming any just or adequate idea.
The immediate loss of Constantinople may be ascribed to the bullet, or arrow, which pierced the gauntlet of John Justiniani. The sight of his blood, and the exquisite pain appalled the courage of the chief, whose arms and counsels were the firmest rampart of the city. As he withdrew from his station in quest of a surgeon, his flight was perceived and stopped by the indefatigable emperor. “ Your wound,"exclaimed Palæologus, “is slight; the danger is pressing; your presence is necessary; and whither will you retire?” “I will retire,” said the trembling Genoese, “by the same road which God has opened to the Turks;" and at these words he hastily passed through one of the breaches of the inner wall. By this pusillanimous act he stained the honors of a military life; and the few days which he survived in Galata, or the isle of Chios, were embittered by his own and the public reproach. His example was imitated by the greatest part of the Latin auxiliaries, and the defence began to slacken when the attack was pressed with redoubled vigor.
The number of the Ottomans was fifty, perhaps a hundred, times superior to that of the Christians; the double walls were reduced by the cannon to a heap of ruins; in a circuit of several miles, some places must be found more easy of access or more feebly guarded; and, if the besiegers could penetrate in a single point, the whole city was irrecoverably lost. The first who deserved the sultan's reward was Hassan, the janizary, of gigantic stature and strength. With his scimitar in one hand, and his buckler in the other, he ascended the outward fortification; of the thirty janizaries who were emulous of his valor eighteen perished in the bold adventure. Hassan and his twelve companions had reached the summit; the giant was precipitated from the rampart; he rose on one knee, and was again oppressed by a shower of darts and stones. But his success had proved that the achievement was possible; the walls and towers were instantly covered with a swarm of Turks; and the Greeks, now driven from the vantage-ground, were overwhelmed by increasing multitudes. Amidst these multitudes, the emperor, who accomplished all the duties of a general and a soldier, was long seen, and finally lost. The nobles, who fought round his person, sustained, till their last breath, the honorable names of Palæologus and Cantacuzene; his mournful exclamation was heard, “ Cannot there be found a Christian to cut off my head ?” and his last fear was that of falling alive into the hands of the infidels. The prudent despair of Constantine cast away the purple; amidst the tumult he fell by an unknown hand, and his body was buried under a mountain of the slain.
After his death, resistance and order were no more; the Greeks fled towards the city, and many were pressed and stifled in the narrow pass of the gate of St. Romanus. The victorious Turks rushed through the breaches of the inner wall, and, as they advanced into the streets, they were soon joined by their brethren, who had forced the gate Phenar on the side of the harbor. In the first heat of their pursuit, about two thousand Christians were put to the sword; but avarice soon prevailed over cruelty, and the victors acknowledged that they should immediately have given quarter, if the valor of the emperor and his chosen bands had not prepared them for a similar opposition in every part of the capital. It was thus, after a siege of fifty-three days, that Constantinople was irretrievably subdued by the arms of Mahomet II. pire only had been subverted by the Latins; her religion was trampled in the dust by the Moslem conquerors.
PHILOSOPHICAL AND POLITICAL LITERATURE.-" These were both stimulated by the great movement of thought on all subjects pertaining to the natural rights of man which was led by Voltaire and Rousseau. In philosophy the historian David Hume led the way, and the transparent clearness of his style gave full force to opinions which made utility the only measure of virtue, and the knowledge of our ignorance the only certain knowledge.
In Political Literature, EDMUND BURKE, born 1731, is our greatest, almost our only, writer of this time. From 1756 to 1797, when he died, his treatises and speeches proved their right to the title of literature by their extraordinary influence on the country. Philosophical reasoning and poetic passion were wedded together in them on the side of conservatism, and every art of eloquence was used with the mastery that imagination gives. His Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, 1773, was perhaps the best of his works in point of style.
All Burke's work is more literature than oratory. Many of his speeches enthralled their hearers, but many more put them to sleep. The very men, however, who slept under him in the House read over and over again the same speech, when published, with renewed delight. Goldsmith's praise of him, that he wound himself into his subject like a serpent,' gives the reason why he sometimes failed as an orator, why he always succeeded as a writer."
“The varieties of Burke's literary or rhetorical method are very striking. It is almost incredible that the superb imaginative amplification of the description of Hyder Ali's descent upon the Carnatic should be from the same pen as the grave, simple, unadorned Address to the King, 1777, where each sentence falls on the ear with the accent of some golden-tongued oracle of the wise gods. His stride is the stride of a giant, from the sentimental beauty of the picture of Marie Antoinette at Versailles to the learning, positiveness, and cool, judicial mastery of the Report on the Lords' Journals, 1794. Even in the coolest and dryest of his pieces, there is the mark of greatness, of grasp, of comprehension. In all its varieties Burke's style is noble, earnest, deep-flowing, because his sentiment was lofty and fervid, and went with sincerity and ardent disciplined travail of judgment. Burke had the style of his subjects, the amplitude, the weightiness, the laboriousness, the sense, the high flight, the grandeur, proper to a man dealing with imperial themes, the freedom of nations, the justice of rulers, the fortunes of great societies, the sacredness of law.
Burke will always be read with delight and edification, because, in the midst of discussions on the local and the accidental, he. scatters apothegms that take us into the regions of lasting wisdom. In the midst of the torrent of his most strenuous and passionate deliverances, he suddenly rises aloof from his immediate subject, and in all tranquility re. minds us of some permanent relation of things, some enduring truth of human life or society. We do not hear the organ tones of Milton, for faith and freedom had other notes in the seventeenth century. There is none of the complacent and wise-browed sagacity of Bacon, for Burke's were days of eager, personal strife and party fire and civil division. We are not exhilarated by the cheerfulness, the polish, the fine manners of Bolingbroke, for Burke had an anxious conscience, and was earnest and intent that the good should triumph. And yet Burke is among the greatest of those who have wrought marvels in the prose of our English tongue.”—John Morley.
POLITICAL ECONOMY.—“Before Burke, a new class of political writings had arisen which concerned themselves with social and economical reform. The immense increase of the industry, wealth, and commerce of the country, from 1720 to 1770, aroused inquiry into the laws that regulate wealth, and ADAM SMITH, 1723-1790, a professor at Glasgow, who had in 1759 written his book on the Moral Sentiments, published in 1776 the Wealth of Nations. By its theory, that labor is the source of wealth, and that to give the laborer absolute freedom to pursue his own interest in his own way is the best means of increasing the wealth of the country; by its proof that all laws made to restrain or to shape or to promote commerce were stumbling-blocks in the way of the wealth of any state, he created the Science of Political Economy, and started the theory and practice of Free Trade. All the questions of labor and capital were now placed on a scientific basis, and since that time the literature of the whole of the subject has engaged great thinkers. Connected with this were all the writings on the subjects of the poor and education and reform.
MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE. - During the whole of the time from the days of Addison onwards, the finer literature of prose had flourished. With SAMUEL JOHNSON, born 1709, began the literary man such as we know him in modern times, who, independent of patronage or party, lives by his pen, and finds in the public his only paymaster. The Essay was continued by him in his Rambler, 1750-2, and Idler, but, in these papers, lightness, the essence of Addison's and Steele's Essays in the Spectator and Tatler, is not found.
His celebrated letter to Lord Chesterfield gave the deathblow to patronage. The great Dictionary of the English Language, 1755, at which he worked unhelped, and which he published without support, was the first book that appealed solely to the public. He represents thus a new class. But he was also the last representative of the literary king who, like Dryden and Pope, held a kind of court in London. When he died, 1784, London was no longer the only literary centre, and poetry and prose were produced from all parts of the country.”