By a native of Ferrara too were first collected the books that were earliest placed in the Ambrosian library at Milan, Barnardine Ferrarius, whose deep erudition and simple manners gained him the favour of Frederick Borromeo, who sent him to Spain to pick up literary rarities, which he bestowed with pleasure on the place where he had received his education. His treatise on the rites of sepulture used by the ancients is in good estimation; and Sir Thomas Brown, in his Urn Burial, owes him much obligation.
The custom of wearing swords here seems to proceed from some connection they have had with the Spaniards; and Dr. Moore has given us an admirable account of why the Highland broad-sword is still called an Andrew Ferrara.
The Venetians, not often or easily intimidated by Papal power, having taken this city in the year 1303, were obliged to restore it, for fear of the consequences of Pope Boniface the Eighth’s excommunications; his displeasure having before then produced dreadful effects in the conspiracy of Bajamonti Tiepulo; which was suppressed, and he killed, by a woman, out of a flaming zeal for the honour and tranquillity of her country: and so disinterested too was her spirit of patriotism, that the only reward she required for a service so essential, was that a constant memorial of it might be preserved in the dress of the Doge; who from that moment obliged himself to wear a woman’s cap under the state diadem, and so his successors still continue to do.
But Ferrara has other distinctions.—Bonarelli here, at the academy of gl’Intrepidi, read his able defence of that pastoral comedy so much applauded and censured, called Filli di Sciro; and here the great Ariosto lived and died.
Nothing leads however to a less gloomy train of thought, than the tomb of a celebrated man; where virtue, wit, or valour triumph over death, and wait the consummation of all sublunary things, before the remembrance of such superiority shall be lost. Italy must be shaken from her deepest foundation, and England made a scene of general ruin, when Shakespear and Ariosto shall be forgotten, and their names confounded among deedless nobility, and worthless wasters of treasure, long ago passed from hand to hand, perhaps from the dwellers in one continent to the inhabitants of another. It has been equally the fate of these two heroes of modern literature, that they have pleased their countrymen more than foreigners; but is that any diminution of their merit? or should it serve as a reason for making disgraceful comparisons between Ariosto and Virgil, whom he scorned to imitate? A dead language is like common ground;—all have a right to pasture, and all a claim to give or to withhold admiration. Virgil is the old original trough at the corner of the road, where every passer-by pays, drinks, and goes on his journey well refreshed. But the clear spring in the meadow sure, though private property, and lately dug, deserves attention: and confers delight not only on the actual master of the ground, but on all his visitants who can climb the style, and lift the silver cup to their lips which hangs by the fountain-side.