Imágenes de páginas

of policy which was a perpetual menace to the liberties of every state in Europe. Arrested for a moment, at the outset of his career, by an unwelcome conflict with the Holy See, which was forced upon him by the Italian patriotism and the personal pride of Pope Paul IV., Philip availed himself of the easy triumph won by the veterans of his Neapolitan army, to manifest in the clearest way the settled purposes of his heart.

It was a portentous sight for Protestant Europe, that spectacle of the victorious Alva humiliating himself before the pontiff whom he had vanquished!

The meaning of the portent soon became dismally plain. ̈ ́

Victorious in France as in Italy, Philip made no apologies to Henry II. for beating his chivalry at St. Quentin and Gravelines. At the peace of Chateau Cambresis, Spain received a province in exchange for every town which she surrendered. When the death of Mary deprived him of the titular crown of England, Philip sued for the hand of Elizabeth, in terms which made it clear that he must be received as a master, if at all, and that wherever he was master, the church of Rome must be supreme. Rejected by Elizabeth, who, in this first step of her royal career, committed herself to the cause of Protestantism and national independence, Philip lost no time in allying himself with a daughter of Catholic France. As soon as he had concluded the preliminaries of his third nuptials, he departed to put his house in order. He traveled through the Netherlands, confirming everywhere the bad impression which he had formerly made, and satisfying himself most thoroughly that his Flemish provinces were infected with the disorders of freedom, and needed his healing hand.

Philip's theory of spiritual medicine was the same with that of Loyola; he thought it best to extenuate the body, in order to save the soul, and he signalized his return to Spain by such an application of this system as astounded Europe, and revolted even his own son, Don Carlos. "Better not reign at all, than reign over heretics," he had said to one of his councillors, in Flanders; and his first appearance at Valladolid was celebrated by a grand Auto da Fé, in which those heroic martyrs of Spanish Protestantism, De Seso and De Roxas,

expiated their sincerity at the stake. The pages which Mr. Prescott consecrates to the account of the Spanish persecution, are most moving and manly. He has written nothing more worthy of his fame. So stealthy had the Grand Inquisitor been in his preparations, and so inexorable was Philip in his bigotry, that Protestantism in Spain was stifled suddenly and at once.

The next step of the sovereign who had thus deliberately constituted himself the crowned personification of the Council of Trent, was to subject Flanders to the same course of purification which had delivered Spain from the demon of progress.

The Netherlandish states of Philip were, at this time, the glory of his dominions. The golden Indies did not yield to the treasury of Spain so large a revenue as was collected from the intelligent industry of Flanders. "Antwerp was the banking-house of Europe," and its merchants "rivaled the nobles of other lands in the splendor of their dress and domestic establishments." It was rare to find one of the humbler classes "unacquainted with the rudiments of grammar, and there was scarcely a peasant who could not read and write." In fact, the germs of that school system which is now the pride of New England, had already been planted by the burghers of the Flemish cities.

"It was not possible," as Mr. Prescott observes, "that such a people should long remain insensible to the great religious reform which, having risen on their borders, was now spreading over Christendom."

Charles the Fifth had perceived the growth of heresy in Flanders, and had fulminated against it the most dreadful edicts. But these edicts had been imperfectly executed, and the Regent Margaret of Parma, though instructed by Philip to use greater severity, had preferred the prosperity of Flanders to the preservation of the Catholic faith. Philip resolved that the work should be done. His resolution, and the means he used to execute it, gave rise to the world-famous Revolt of the Netherlands -a revolt which occupied the greater part of his reign, and which ended in the humiliation of Spain and the rise of the great Protestant republic of Holland. The earlier stages of this tremendous conflict, down to the execution

[ocr errors]

of Egmont and Van Hoorne-those Netherlandish heroes, whose story belongs as much to the realm of poetry as to that of history—are described by Mr. Prescott in the volumes of his work now before us. Of no passage in history is the interest more profound and dramatic. The intense will of Philip, opposed by the will, fully as intense and more nobly directed, of William the Taciturn; the pitiless soldier Alva matched against indomitable preachers like Marnix; the insanities of the Iconoclasts replying to the atrocities of the Inquisition; Spain standing, between death and famine, to offer the crucifix of Rome; Flanders answering with Leyden, better be Turks than Papists!"-with such materials, it would hardly be possible for the most ordinary writer to construct a history which should be wholly unattractive to American readers. How much Mr. Prescott has made of the episode, may be easily guessed. His sketch, not yet completed, will be the best introduction to the specific history of those troubles; and we are glad to have his testimony to the value of that work upon the Netherlands, which we are shortly to receive from Mr. Lathrop Motley.

[ocr errors]

Two other episodes in the life of Philip have been treated by Mr. Prescott in his second volume, and conclude this portion of his work-the siege of Malta and the story of Don Carlos. To the first of these, the historian, tempted by the subject, has given, we must think, too great a prominence; but readers in general, perhaps, will not quarrel with the number of the brilliant pages thus added to the book. Mr. Prescott has a gentleman's sympathy with chivalric warriors, and writes of their deeds with a kind of gentlemanly enthusiasm. Upon the tragedy of Carlos little light can be thrown, till a certain " green box," not yet produced, shall see the day. But Mr. Prescott has made it plain enough, we think, that Philip acted a cruel and unnatural part by his son, from his childhood, and that the Prince, towards the end of his life, was not a responsible agent. We confess that we cannot escape from a conviction, that the death of the prince, who was convicted of insubordination

and suspected of heresy, must be charged directly upon his dark, unscrupulous, and bigoted father.

From this hasty sketch of the subjects which engage Mr. Prescott's attention, in the first volumes of his history, our readers will see how interesting they must be. They will see, too, how improper it would be for us to enter now upon any extended critical notice of the work-so much of Philip's history yet remains to be treated, and so many of its most important relations.

We have yet to witness, in the tremendous collision between England and Spain, the first of those gigantic European conflicts, of which our own times, let us hope, are beholding the last-the final emancipation of the Northern Netherlands; the final subjugation of the Southern Provinces; the triumph of commerce over military blindness; and the triumph of brute force over unenlightened industry. The interference of Spain in the great French struggles of the League, and in the thirty years' war of Germany; the conquest of Portugal; the seeming culmination, and the true decay, of the Spanish might these are yet to be dealt with.

The volumes already published will not merely sustain, they will enhance, Mr. Prescott's reputation. His style, though still deficient in finish, has visibly gained in elegance and in force. His narrative is as masterly as ever; his generalizations are more full, broad, and luminous.

We have already stated our impres sion, that the episode of the siege of Malta is described at too great length; and we should make the same objection, in a more decided manner, to the account of the cloister life of Charles V., which adds nothing to the narratives of Stirling and Mignet, and is handled in such a way as to throw it quite out of any vital connection with the history of Philip.

Yet we are sure that few readers will lay these volumes down without echoing our hope, that we may soon possess the sequel of a work which reflects such honor, alike upon its author and upon his country.


HOW rich and varied are the enjoy

ments of the traveler in mountainous regions! In constant changes, he sees hill and dale, lofty forests, and gray, granite rocks-now a sweet-smiling meadow, and now a beetling, aweinspiring precipice; below him, blooming orchards and rich pastures, with peaceful cattle; above him, the silent solitude of ice-covered crags and domes. New objects incessantly strike his eye; new sensations fill him with delight. And when, at last, the prospect opens, and from the lofty height he looks down, as from a monarch's throne, upon a wide, luxuriant plain, he is pleased with the change, and interested in the monuments of human industry which suddenly greet him. But as he wanders through the plain, he is soon wearied by its endless monotony; he feels like the strong, active man, when suddenly condemned to unbroken idleness, or the soldier who must exchange the din and turmoil of war for the lonely prison. Still, the plains are not alike, all over the earth. On the vast table-land of Northern China, men are crowded upon men so thickly that laws are required to govern the simplest of daily labors, lest they interfere with each other. In the Great Sahara, the traveler sees day after day pass in unbroken silence, and blesses the first human face he meets in the oasis. The fertile plains of Lombardy are literally covered with cities and villages, whilst the equally productive llanos of South America feed millions of wild, roving horses, and vast distances separate dwelling from dwelling. Nor are the children of the steppes less different in their characteristics; for climate, and soil, and a thousand unobserved influences, change them from zone to zone. Even nations that live close to each other, are found thus to differ. The Mongol is proud, open-hearted, and bold; careless of old usage, and brooking no control. His immediate neighbor, the Chinese, is as cowardly as he is humble; and, consequently, false and treacherous. He worships whatever is hallowed by time; void of faith, he observes the canons of his creed and the laws of his magistrates with unwearied obedience. Thus, the two nations, sprung from the same race, living in

the same zone, and mingling in daily intercourse, are found as far apart as the races of Europe and Asia. But the plains of the Mongols are high above the sea, and their soil is covered with sterile sand and with shingle, while the land of the Flowery Empire is fertile to a degree known to but few parts of the earth. It is also but little raised above the surface of the ocean.

Steppes, covered with heath, with grass, or other low plants, are found of unmeasured extent, in all parts of the world; but they are commonly looked upon as specially belonging to the temperate zone, because they are here most frequent, and much surpass the sandy barrens in the vastness of their extent. The prairies, covered with sweet, even verdure, awaken, most of all steppes, the image of the great sea, by the similar color, the waving motion of the surface, and even, now and then, by a Fata Morgana. But the impression they produce upon the mind of the traveler is far different. Even in extent, they have, thanks to their constant undulations, but little of the vast, grand character of the old "Okeanos, that holds the world, his spouse, in sweet embrace." Nor do they lead us, as the sea does, to distant lands, and enchanted isles. The few plants that surround us, without break or change, day after day, lack the animating, cheering power that dwells in water, and do not present, like the latter, the ever-changing, graceful forms of restless waves.

At first, it is true, the sight of a steppe causes surprise, by its unlimited extent of space; and when, in the northwest, we step forth from dark, dense forests, and suddenly see before us a smiling, open plain, basking in bright sunshine, and glowing and glittering with a thousand colors, the impression is both pleasing and striking. Soon, however, its unbroken uniformity wearies the wanderer; indistinct, half-unconscious longings fill his heart; the desire of more varied impressions seizes him, and his joy changes into melancholy.

Where, on the other hand, neither tree nor grass, nor even traces of men appear, and scanty, frugal herbs alone cover the sterile soil, there the steppe becomes more and more like the desert,

and ever sadder and more desolate, in proportion as animal life, also, is wanting. Thus each steppe has its own marked characteristics, little as they have yet been observed. What a difference, for instance, between the broad plains of Hungary and the salt table-lands of Upper Asia; the grass forests of the llanos and the carroos of Southern Africa! All have one feature in common: the expression of wide extent of being grand, almost infinite in space. But whilst the desert is full of terrors, the steppe is more cheerful; here the wanderer is at least not pursued at every step by signs and symptoms of death; he may faint from fatigue, and his mind may be wearied with painful monotony, but he still meets with rare signs of life, and does not feel, as in the Sahara, the breath of the destroyer in every current of air.

His sufferings are, therefore, of the mind, rather than of the body. The constant uniformity begins to weigh heavily upon his unoccupied thoughts, and the unusual, complete independence of external influences causes him discomfort; his loneliness becomes a burden, and his freedom loathsome. His fancy wanders far and near, to enliven his weary mind by pictures of the past, or by fictions in unknown realms, in order thus to afford, from within, the accustomed variety of ideas which the outer world no longer suggests. Thus it is that the imagination of the dweller in the steppe becomes as roving and restless, as subject to vague, indistinct longing, as his actual life; but it is not, as in the dread Sahara, filled with grim, gaunt images of all that is terrible, with tales of bitter deception, and of sudden death that lies ever in waiting. Around him nature lacks variety, as well as individuality; she presents no difficulties to overcome, as in African regions, or on the high sea, where the heart grows strong, and the knee humble before God, in unceasing struggle; she refuses him a country that belongs to his nation only, and, above all, the greatest of boons, a home of his


Hence arises that want of powerful motives for exertion, and even amusement, which is supplied by the more varied soil of happier countries. The steppe has not, we must confess, that stimulating, developing, refining influence on the mind and the heart

which is felt in the shadow of lofty mountains, or in sight of the blue ocean. It retards the progress of races, and hence is the proper and peculiar home of nomadic tribes. There man rarely says: "It is good for us to be here; let us build tabernacles;" and ho thus remains a shepherd, age after age; never passing onward to become a tiller of the soil; to form a commonwealth, with all its blessings; and to the worship of the Muses and the Graces. The children of the unbounded plains of Middle Asia, where we meet with the most perfect steppes, have, through all ages, remained wandering tribes of shepherds, while, hard by, the more favored plains of Eastern Europe have, from olden times, had settled homes, and well-secured boundaries. So powerful, indeed, is the influence of the steppe on the life of man, that even in well-cultivated Hungary, the character of the Magyars still retains some nomadic features; and in other races, as in the Arabs, the truly great and glorious epochs, and noble, enthusiastic efforts of a whole nation, have not been able to remove the sons of the steppe from their original condition.

So, too, we find that the true steppes of our continent, the pampas of South America, also have their own striking features, and their strongly marked children. Here, nature alone reigns supreme: no oasis reminds you of former dwellers on the soil; no hewn stone speaks of labor, and its blessings; no neglected fruit tree recalls the industry and the enjoyments of past generations. The changeless plain stretches far and wide to the changeless horizon; a wide, wild theatre, on which plants and animals alone lead their mysterious, unknown life. Even the most impressive sight of the pampas, surpassing, in grandeur and majesty, all other wonders of our globe, has this lonely, saddening character. It is in the lower part of the boundless plains, where the gigantic La Plata is seen to roll its vast unmeasured masses through the peaceful steppe, amidst solemn silence, and in sublime solitude. Few are the traces of life; fewer still, the rare objects that attract our attention. In hidden crevices, a cactus hides its round balls, horrid with threatening thorns; and now and then, at vast distances, a solitary umber, the only

tree of the country, rises like a great landmark, in unspeakable loneliness and sadness. Occasionally, there appears on the vast plain, where it rests in deepest solitude, the huge skeleton of an animal, that lived at times when the Andes were still sleeping at the bottom of the great ocean, and dreamt not of ever raising their snow-covered heads to heaven. The whole expanse of the pampas is said to be one great sepulchre of these extinct gigantic bipeds; and, like ghosts of a race far older than man, they rise from their grave, to bear witness of Him who made both them and us. Of late years, huge mounds also may be seen to rise on the plain, covering the bones of whole generations, that now slumber in sublime isolation in this vast solitude. Formerly, all the Indian tribes carried their dead to the coast, and there buried them by the side of their fathers; now, they find a resting-place only in the midst of the wild, inhospitable desert! High above it, a black point is seen in the air: it is a condor, slowly tracing his wide gyrations in the blue ether; or far away, on the faint horizon, the quaint form of an ostrich passes and vanishes, like a dream of our fancy. Still, there is an indescribable charm in this very solitude; its wild, unfettered freedom gives, even the traveler from the far north, an idea of the fervor with which the Indians love it here, hoping to see still vaster pamp as in the world to come.

These immense plains, as yet but little known, stretch from the straits of Magellan to the Colorado river, covering an area four times the size of the empire of France, and extending in length to more than eight hundred miles. At the south, snow and ice cover the ground for months; at the north, palm-trees are seen to lift their graceful plumes on high, and the breezes are loaded with richest fragrance. They are, strictly speaking, plains of the temperate zone; but, in fact, they extend through all geographical and climatic zones, and exhibit the richest varieties of natural life, perhaps, known in our globe. It is here that we see the productive power of nature, and the marvelous goodness of our Lord, manifested in the most striking and majestic forms. They present to us, in their vast extent, a greater variety of surface, of climate, and of products, than the wild forests of the Amazon, or the sandy Sahara.

Far down, at the southern extremity of this continent, there opens a plain, barren in the extreme, and covered with countless pebbles of porphyry; for shingle is the characteristic feature of the Patagonian Pampas. In the south, we meet with thick layers of lava, the result of former eruptions of volcanoes in the Andes, which still rear their formidable craters in a majestic line against the horizon, and threaten, ever and anon, to speak, after a silence of ages, once more, in voices of thunder, to mankind. These parts are utterly sterile, and apparently forsaken by God and man. But, from thence, the plains begin gradually to rise, from the coast of the Atlantic toward the foot of the Andes; now gently ascending, and now mounting upwards in magnificent, gigantic terraces, one above the other, until they, at last, reach to the summits of the snow-capped mountains. Towards the northern part, the pebbles become smaller, rich tracts of land break in upon the barren shingle, and, finally, make way for luxurious pasturage, where are found large and numerous herds of Patagonian cattle. These would be fertile regions, indeed, and happy, were it not for a want of water, of which, in our more favored regions, we have no adequate conception. The quantity of rain that ordinarily falls is always small, but there are long, dreary seasons of absolute drought. That charming traveler Darwin, tells us that, from 1827 to 1830, not a drop fell, and all vegetation, even the hardy thistle, failed utterly. All brooks dried up in this great drought-as it is still called-and the whole country appeared like a huge, dusty high-road. An incredible number of birds, wild animals, cattle and horses, died from want of food and water. Deer came, fearlessly, into court-yards, to wells dug by the Spaniards; partridges could not fly, when pursued; and, of cattle, a million heads perished, alone, in the province of Buenos Ayres. Nay, the ground being so long perfectly dry, and enormous quantities being daily blown about for years, the landmarks became obliterated, and men could not tell, any longer, the limits of their estates! In summer, the heat is intense, and the soil glows, as if blighted by furnace-heat; in winter, violent winds sweep unimpeded over the plain, and, at night,

« AnteriorContinuar »