Page images
PDF
EPUB

framing new laws and new institutions, Henry became involved in that dispute with the popular archbishop, which set the whole nation chafing and thinking. And when the king, although rejoicing in Becket's fate, was compelled to do penance at Canterbury, the people, we know, did not view it so much as a homage to ecclesiastical power, as a proof that even monarchs could not do just as they pleased. A most wholesome lesson both for king and people. From henceforth, we find a public opinion vigorously springing up. manifesting itself broadly even in the reign of Cour de Lion, but coming forth sternly in the reign of his brother, and winning the great Charter.

IV.

LAST YEAR'S CARNIVAL IN ROME.

Wuns during the snows and easterly winds that have prevailed during the month English folks have been gathering round the fire-side at home, or closely and comfortably habited in woolleni ar furs, have sturdily faced the dreary outer world, a scene of tomt tuons gaiety has been enacted in Rome. It has been the Cartus. time there. We saw the last year's Carnival, and our recollection rise vividly before us, as we muse in our study over its pageants and turmoil of frolic. These recollections we pen for our reader

Wednesday, March 9th, 1859.—This morning we see a repetit on a large and illustrious scale, of what we have often seen nearer bicu - namely, “the day after the ball,” when the rooms are still strewen. with the disordered decorations, and the candles are burnt down, the flowers are dead, and above all, when the beautiful, pure daylikler smiles serenely in upon everything, with a sweet, reproachful inova gruity that is at once troubling and consoling. This is the day alles a ball that has lasted, with the intermission of two Sundays and on Friday, for ten days. The Carnival commenced on Saturday, Fem ruary 96th. On the morning of that day, the long line of the Con which runs in a nearly straight direction down the centre of moden Rumo, began to evince signs of new and marvellous life. Soldiers ever! when French soldiers of course preponderating; gens-d'armes, Roma drons with their brass helmets, looking very frightened and un Ihr when their unmanageable steeds commenced to caper about, as were much given to do while careering down the street in troops, W pomp of banners, and noise of trumpets. Procession of the senat - glued carriages, wondrous men in startling liveries, velvet standarts and more drums and trumpets. Procession of the municipality-JU** the same, but additionally remarkable for the embroidered coat-tails of the coachmen. Bands of music, crowds of people, energetic soldiers keeping the way clear with shouts and cries in an excited mixture of French and Italian, &c. This was the beginning of the madness. After these official solemnities were over, all barriers were removed, and the waiting carriages with their eager occupants were admitted into the Corso.

Already, the tall houses wore an aspect of holiday gaiety very different from their sober and dignified wont. The balconies and windows were decorated with hangings of crimson and gold, of brocade more or less rich and elaborate, and apparently designed for that special purpose. Each balcony, and nearly every window, even to the giddy altitude of the sixième, was thronged with gaily-dressed people, all smiles and eagerness. Unhappy those who were too high up to take an active share in the proceedings ; happy the brilliant line of entre-sol and drawing-room balconies, and those, lower still, contrived in the entrances and windows of shops and looking exactly like boxes at a theatre, lined with red, or striped red and white, and most of them filled with handsome Roman women in their national dresses, bearing in their hands bouquets, and trinkets, and other offerings which had been presented to them by their admirers from the street.

Very soon, the double tide of carriages (all uniformly lined with white linen, for the protection of the cloth or silk cushions from the incessant fire of chalk confetti to which they are exposed) was in full flow along the Corso-up one way and down another—and the earnest business of the day began. Every vehicle bore its contingent of individuals in divers eccentric costumes, to add to the general masquerade. White dominoes, trimmed with blue, red, or pink, were most general in the carriages, but some people wore more ambitious costumes ; and the Albanian and Sabine women in their picturesque national dresses especially made a charming variety.

The pedestrians formed a third class of Carnivalites, by no means the least active and amusing. Gentlemen masked, and attired from head to foot in brown holland, with huge pockets in their blouses, attacking all they met (more particularly those wearing well-looking black hats,) with flour, and sending well-directed salutes of bon-bons to their friends in carriages and balconies. Regular masquers attired as harlequins, or tom-fools—one or two fashionably dressed as ladies, in handsome silks and liberal allowance of crinoline, and really walking and talking in a manner that was hardly a caricature of the demeanour of what some people call “an elegant female.” Processions of masks, Pierrots, Polichinelles, &c., parading in a long line, with fife and tabor, dancing beautifully, and every now and then stopping to make droll speeches. Processions on donkeys also-one being an illustration of English manners and customs, which, like most foreign attempts of the kind, was totally unrecognizable—but certainly very funny. First came a herald, gorgeous in red and gold, blowing a trumpet; then two gentlemen in black, wearing spectacles, and a lady in a riding habit, all mounted on donkeys. Then came a queer endeavour to represent a stage-coach, drawn by four donkeys, directed by two postillions ;-absurdly dressed people inside the coach and on the top-staring about them with restless, wide-eyed curiosity: Then followed the Italian idea of a foxhunter, dressed in a coat with long. flapping skirts, top-boots, and a very shabby hat, and mounted on & dejected donkey, which he rode with a wonderful show of more than all the energy proper to his reckless character. Then more ti umpers blowing dismal notes, and so the troop passed on-cleaving its way through the dense crowd of masquerading humanity that now overflowed the street.

And now the showers of chalk confetti are liberally exchanged The balconies pour forth volleys of these small shot upon the carriages below, whose occupants are of course at a great disadvantage in returning the fire. One or two instances of balconies on the second or even third storey of the tall houses, from which the cowardly attack comes, drive the victims in the street below to desperation. Frants efforts are made to reach them--but vainly, and then fists are clenched and good-humoured vows of vengeance are shouted up at themLan shot of flowers and bon-bons occasionally darken the air ; and every now and then some eager cavalier aims a beautiful bouquet, delicates enclosed in laced-paper, at some fair lady in balcony or carriage ... a pity when it misses, and falls into the street, for then some of to many hundred urchins whose grand business it appears to be to prou by such accidents, snatches it up in one instant, and is away-kost the crowd, and offering it for sale, in another.

Other aggressive devices are in vogue also : There is a certain illu trious little prince, whose beaming face is an object of much inte to us English, at one balcony, who, having heroically endured for os day the privation of taking no active part in the proceedings, has up for lost time ever since, and you may be very sure is far from be the least delighted individual of the many thousands who are today joying the Carnival. He has invented a contrivance by ineans of w a small quantity of flour is deposited on the head of every passenger 2. the street below. The blackest hats receive the most flour, it is to observed. And between whiles, he is not idle with confetti, bouque and so forth, as indeed he has no chance to be, for, not unnatural this is a favoured point of attack, and courteous salutes of flow sugar-plums, and specimens of all the prettiest “shot” of the Carti are sent in that direction.

The variety of these ornamental missiles which are exchanged tween friends, or offered as tributes of regard, is very great. A would be speechless with delight over them. A Christmas. would exult in them. These pretty offerings consist of bou. in dainty little boxes, or baskets, or cases ; cunningly-contrivedi slippers, little ermine muffs, little reticules, and portmanteans, an, high favour ; also birds-nests, bird-cages, dressed tigures, all imaginile devices for looking quaint and pretty, and containing sugar-plus

You should see the excitement with which the intended recipient stretches her arms from a balcony, as it is about to be thrown from a carriage-the exultation with which it is caught--the felicitations on that happy event which are exchanged in dumb show between giver and receiver !

Thus prosily catalogued, you have some of the elements of the general frolic. But how to give any idea of the life and mirth, and good humour, and brightness and picturesqueness of the whole scene ? To you, far away from the scene and the time, and their exhilarating and infecting influences, it will doubtless seem childish and absurd enough-but you must take it upon faith that there is something of irresistible fascination in it all, not to be conceived of, much less appreciated, except by those who have seen and experienced it. True, to sober lookers-on it might seem as if all the world had gone mad for the time being : but then the madness is universal, every one is bitten by the mania, and there are no sober lookers-on!

It does not seem strange at the time, but there may be something curious in remembering, afterwards, how unanimous and overwhelming is this same Carnival spirit. It will, perhaps, be curious to recal how pensive Italian, grave English, shrewd American, stolid Russian, and mobile French faces are all alike and at once relaxed to the same expression of eager fun and thorough enjoyment. On every hand are to be seen astonishing examples of the effect of this powerful influence, and never so frequently as among our own compatriots. Ordinarily demure-looking English fathers of families, staid men, who, in their every-day existences, and in their own country, are to be recognised as responsible dignitaries, sober lawyers, thoughtful men of letters; individuals supposed to be so completely engrossed by professional or business pursuits as to be altogether without the pale of susceptibility to frolic and fun,-are here in the very midst of it, pelting away with their confetti, or making desperate efforts to return a fire of bouquets to a retreating carriage, with an eager energy that must surely remind them of nothing later in life than their first school-days.

And if Saxon phlegm is to be decoyed into such antics, we may well accept, without much marvelling, the story told of a Carnival many years before, at the most excited and crowded epoch of which a carriage containing two gentlemen, habited and masked, broke down, and the unfortunate occupants had to be lifted out and receive refuge and assistance, and lo! beneath the dominoes and masks were found, first, an illustrious Cardinal ; and secondly, a puissant Monsignore !

Doubtless “Il Carnavale” has a very engrossing hold upon the hearts of the Romans, albeit, they are a far graver and less mercurial race than the Italians generally. Indeed, it is reported, and currently believed, that if the authorities had, as was at one time threatened, prohibited “masks" this year, and in other ways hindered the full flow of the many days' revel, a revolution might have been expected !

However, revolutions are not easy of accomplishment in a city stifled with spies and swarming with French soldiers, and among a people

in a riding habit, all mounted on donkeys. Then came a queer endeavour to represent a stage-coach, drawn by four donkeys, directed by two postillions ;-absurdly dressed people inside the coach and on the top-staring about them with restless, wide-eyed curiosity. Then followed the Italian idea of a foxhunter, dressed in a coat with long, flapping skirts, top-boots, and a very shabby hat, and mounted on a dejected donkey, which he rode with a wonderful show of more than all the energy proper to his reckless character. Then more trumpets blowing dismal notes, and so the troop passed on--cleaving its way through the dense crowd of masquerading humanity that now overflowed the street.

And now the showers of chalk confetti are liberally exchanged. The balconies pour forth volleys of these small shot upon the carriages below, whose occupants are of course at a great disadvantage in returning the fire. One or two instances of balconies on the second or even third storey of the tall houses, from which the cowardly attack comes, drive the victims in the street below to desperation. Frino efforts are made to reach them- but vainly, and then fists are clenched and good-humoured vows of vengeance are shouted up at them. Laht shot of flowers and bon-bons occasionally darken the air ; and every now and then some eager cavalier aims a beautiful bouquet, delicate! enclosed in laced-paper, at some fair lady in balcony or carriage a pity when it misses, and falls into the street, for then some of many hundred urchins whose grand business it appears to be to pra by such accidents, snatches it up in one instant, and is away- lost bu the crowd, and offering it for sale, in another.

Other aggressive devices are in vogue also :-There is a certain ilk trious little prince, whose beaming face is an object of much inter to us English, at one balcony, who, having heroically endured for day the privation of taking no active part in the proceedings, has up for lost time ever since, and you may be very sure is far from beina the least delighted individual of the many thousands who are to-day en joying the Carnival. He has invented a contrivance by means of whic a small quantity of flour is deposited on the head of every passenger the street below. The blackest hats receive the most flour, it is 10 observed. And between whiles, he is not idle with confetti, bouque. and so forth, as indeed he has no chance to be, for, not unnaturally this is a favoured point of attack, and courteous salutes of flowers sugar-plums, and specimens of all the prettiest "shot " of the Carnik are sent in that direction.

The variety of these ornamental missiles which are exchanged tween friends, or offered as tributes of regard, is very great Aca would be speechless with delight over them. A Christmas would exult in them. These pretty offerings consist of boniin dainty little boxes, or baskets, or cases ; cunningly-contrived and slippers, little ermine muffs, little reticules, and portmanteaus, are high favour ; also birds-nests, bird cages, dressed figures, all imaginas devices for looking quaint and pretty, and containing sugar-plum

« PreviousContinue »