Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

for relief, if he should again be confined to the horrors of a prison ! and, melting into tears, he sunk at his father's feet, imploring him to take compasssion on a son who had ever loved him with the most dutiful affection, and who was perfectly innocent of the crime of which he was accused.

15. He conjured him by every bond of nature and religion, by the bowels of a father and the mercy of a Redeem. er, to use his influence with the council to mitigate their sentence, that he might be saved from the most cruel of all deaths, that of expiring under the slow tortures of a broken beart, in a borrible banishment from every creature he loved. My son,” replied the Doge, “submit to the laws of your country, and do not ask of me what is not in my power to obtain."

16. Having made this effort he retired to another apartment; and unable to support any longer the acuteness of his feelings, sunk into a state of insensibility, in which condition he remained till some time after his son had sailed on his return to Candia.

17. Nobody bas presumed to describe the anguish of the wretched mother. Those who are endowed with the most exquisite sensibility, and who have experienced distresses in some degree similar, will have the justest idea of what it

18. The accumulated misery of those unhappy parents touched the hearts of some of the most powerful senators, who applied with so much energy for a complete pardon for young Foscari, that they were on the point of obtaining it; when a vessel arrived from Candia, with tidings, that the miserable youth had expired in prison, a short time after his return.

19. Some years after this, Nicholas Erizzo, a noble Venetian, being on his death bed, confessed that, bearing a violent resentment against the senator Dovato, be had committed the assassination for which the unhappy family of Foscari had suffered so much.

20. At this time the sorrows of the Doge were at an end; he had existed only a few months after the death of his son. Ilis life had been prolonged, till he beheld his son persecuted to death for an infamous crime; but not till he should

was.

ful story.

see this foul stain washed from his family, and the innocence of his beloved son made manifest to the world.

21. The ways of heaven never appeared more dark and intricate, than in the incidents and catastrophe of this mourn

To reconcile the permission of such events to our ideas of infinite power and goodness, however difficult, is a natural attempt in the human mind, and has exercised the ingenuity of philosophers in all ages; while, io the eye of Christians, those seeming perplexities afford an additional proof, that there will be a future state in which the ways of God to man will be fully justified.

PART OF CICERO'S ORATION AGAINST VERRES.

I ASK Cow, Verres, what you have to advance against this charge? Will you pretend to deny it? Will you pretend that any thing false, that even any thing aggravated is alleged against you.

2. Had any prince, or any state, committed the same outrage against the privilege of Roman citizens, should we not think we had sufficient reason for declaring immediate war against ihem ?

3. What punishment, then, ought to be inflicted upon a tyrannical and wicked prætor, who dared, at no greater distance than Sicily, within sight of the Italian coast, to put to the infamous death of crucifixion that unfortunate and innocent citizen, Publius Gavius Cofanus, only for his having asserted his privilege of citizenship, and declared his intention of appealing to the justice of his country against a cruel oppressor, wiso had unjustly confined him in prison at Syracuse whence he had just made his escape ?

4. The unhappy man, arrested as he was going to embark for his native country, is brought before the wicked prætor. With eyes darting fury, and a countenance distorted with cruelty, he orders the helpless victim of his rage to be stripped, and reds to be brought; accusing him, but without the least shadow of evidence, or even of suspicion, of having come to Sicily as a spy.

5. It was in vain that the unhappy man cried out, “s am a Roman citizen; I have served under Lucius Pre

who is now at Panormus, and will attest my innocence.” The blood-thirsty prætor, deaf to all he could urge in his own defence, ordered the infamous punishment to be inflicted.

6. Thus, fathers, was an innocent Roman citizen publicly mangled with scourging; whilst the only words he uttered amidst his cruel sufferings were, “I am a Roman citizen!" With these he hoped to defend himself from violence and infamy. But of so little service was this privilege to him, that while he was asserting his citizenship, the

order was given for his execution; for his execution upon the cross.

7. O Liberty ! O sound, once delightful to every Roman car; O sacred privilege of Roman citizenship? once sacred! nor trampled upon! But what then? Is it come to this ? Shall an inferior magistrate, a governor, wbo holds lis

power of the Roman people, in a Roman province with. in sight of Italy, bind, scourge, torture with fire and red hot plates of iron, and at last put to the infamous death of the cross, a Roman citizen ?

8. Shall neither the cries of innocence expiring in ago ny, nor the tears of pitying spectators, nor the majesty of the Roman commonwealth, nor the fear of the justice of his country, restrain the licentious and wanton cruelty of a monster, who, in confidence of his own riches, strikes at the rout of liberty and sets mankind at defiance ?

9. I conclude with expressing my hopes, that your wisdom and justice, fathers, will not, by suffering the atrocious and unexampled insolence of Caius Verres to escape the due punishment, leave room to appehend the danger of a total subversion of authority, and introduction of a general anarchy and confusion.

HISTORY OF WILLIAM TELL.

BEFORE Switzerland was delivered from the domiuion of Austria, a governor of that nation resided in the city of Altorff named Gesler; who by abusing the power entrusted to him, iniquitously exercised the most cruel ty.

ranny. Interest or caprice alone directed his decisions; justice and reason were banished; judgment was sold; the innocent were punished arbitrarily, and the ministers of the tyrant committed the most enormous crimes with impunity.

2. He at last added extravagance to cruelty, and having caused a pole to be erected in a public square, and placed a hat upon it, he ordered under pain of death, that aīl who passed that way, should bow down before it, and reverence it as they did his own person.

3. In the same canton there lived a man of rough but frank manners, named William Tell, wło, having come on business to Altorff, passed through the public square. and beholding the pole with the hat upon it, hesitated a moment between wonder and laughter; but not knowing its object, and but little curious to inquire, he negligently passed this emblem of

power. 4. The irreverence paid to the pole, and the infraction of the severe edict, were speedily reported to the governor, who, being filled with rage, ordered the criminal to be instantly arrested and brought before him. He received the offender with the savage look of cruelty peculiar to a base mind, jealous of its authority, and ferocious when it is made the subject of derision.

5. Villain, said he, is this your respect for my power and decrees? But you shall feel their full weight, and afford a wretched proof that my dignity is not to be affronted with impunity. Astonished, but not antimidated at this invective, Tell freely inquired of what he was accused, as he was unconscious of any crime.

6. Contempt and derision of my power, said the tyrant. I had no notice, replied Tell, of your edict; and without being instructed, I should never have dreamt of saluting a pole, or that irreverence to a hat was high treason against the state.

7. Enraged at the tone and air of derision with which this was pronounced, and the reasonableness of the still more humiliating reply, he commanded the unfortunate man to be dragged away to the lowest dungeon of the castle and there, loaded with chains, await his vengeance.

Tt

8. While the tyrant was resolving the subject in his own mind, and endeavouring to invent some unheard of punishment, which should strike terror into the Swiss, the only and beloved son of Tell was brought into bis presence by the soldiers.

9. His ingenious cruelty immediately conceived the barbarous design of compelling the virtuous Tell to become the murderer of his son. For this purpose he ordered the child to be placed at a considerable distance, and then placing an apple upon his head, he offered a full pardon to the wretched parent, if he should strike it off with an arrow.

10. Horror-struck at the proposal, be fell at the feet of the tyrant, and besought him to take his life and not insist upon the fatal experiment. But the anguish of the parent only strengthened the determination of Gesler, and the bow and a quiver of arrows were brought forth.

11. The governor attended by his satellites now proceeded to the square to witness the scene. The unhappy boy was conducted into the centre, bound to the pole, and the fatal apple was placed upon his head. Gesler thrilled with joy at the preparations, but a groan of horror arose on all sides from the populace who had assembled.

12. Although Tell was accounted the most skilsul archer in the canton, it was some time before he could obtain his usual self possessicn. At last with a firm hand he placed the arrow, and when he drew the fatal string, the spectators, who had for some time remained in breathless silence, burst forth into a convulsive groan.

13. At that instant the arrow sped with the velocity of lightning, and piercing the apple, bore it to some distance without injuring the child. A shout of applause testified the joy of the spectators. The governor alone appeared dissatisfied with the result, and turned his eye upon the successful archer, with the aspect of disappointed revenge.

14. At that instant, another arrow which Tell had concealed under his cloak, fell upon the ground. Unequalled archer! said the tyrant, since you were only to shoot once, for what purpose was this second arrow concealed ? To have pierced you to the heart, replied the magnanimous Tell, if I had heen so ninfortunate as to kill my son.

« PreviousContinue »