WHILE the eye rests on this far famed and beautiful city, its magnificent edifices, fine architecture, and antique buildings, rising in dark and imposing majesty, its bridges, and its noble river, watering, far as the eye can reach, the vale of the lovely Arno, the mind insensibly wanders back, and recalls the days when turbulence and bloody feuds raged within the walls; when on the surrounding amphitheatre of hills, now luxuriant with the olive and vine, and richly studded with peaceful dwellings, stood, proudly frowning, the castellated towers of the feudal chief, at once a terror and protection to the city Of these towers scarcely a trace remains.
The imagination unconsciously embodies the aspect of Florence with its history, and the recollection of what it has been, seems to form an integral part with its pre-sent appearance. The mind dwells on the days of other times, their troubles, horrors, and glories; and the fancy not unwillingly rests on the early pictures of a city, whose ardent spirit, ambition, and genius, thus produced an eventful and ever-changing scene. We behold them in fearful and rapid alternation, now with the noble spirit of equitable patriotism, encouraging the arts, and balancing power; and now, suddenly plunged into anarchy, with all its dismal train of horrors.
We find, in tracing the earlier periods of Florentine history, a wide field for speculation, where, though much is left to conjecture, there is likewise much to interest the philosopher, and to excite the imagination. The Florentines appear to have been a bold and ingenious race; and we are led to attribute the fearful feuds which convulsed the city, staining her streets with blood, and darkening the pages of her annalists, no less to the result of national character, than to the effect of moral causes bearing upon a high-minded people, fighting for renown and independence.
The love of science and the arts, for which they have been so peculiarly distinguished, and which was constantly found mingling with all their warlike habits and passions, bespeaks a high strain of genius, which still serves to ennoble and adorn their eventful history.
Florence should be the very school of the fine arts. Even in the period when Italy shone brightest in mental powerswhen science and learned men enlightened the rest of Europe, Florence, high in the scale of recorded merit, enjoyed pre-eminence. To the distinctions of splendid talent she added a sedulous application to the sources of wealth. While she fought for independence, and protected science, she enriched her people by widely extended commerce. A merchant was there a proud appellation, and constantly found among her nobles and her rulers. The elevated station which this republic attained, and which, for a season, shed such lustre on her name, had its birth in the combined influence of the talent, wisdom, wealth, and magnificent spirit, which adorned the House of Medici. Yet it was by slow stages that she rose to such distinction: centuries of devastation, turbulence, and bloodshed, preceded this luminous era.