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plains round 'nrood was so popular that the clay of all the enough for his eulogists. ionld scarcely furnish brick-kilns Pharonezzar, the Assyrian Pindar, published in narticular that walls in his praise.
One day the King was going in state from his palace to the temple of Belus. During this procession it was lawful for any Babylonian to offer any petition or suggestion to his sovereign. As the chariot passed before a vintner's shop, a large company, apparently half drunk, sallied forth into the street, and one of them thus addressed the king :
“ Gomer Chephoraod, live for ever! It appears to thy servants that of all the productions of the earth good wine is the best, and bad wine is the worst. Good wine makes the heart cheerful, the eyes bright, the speech ready. Bad wine confuses the head, disorders the stomach, makes us quarrelsome at night, and sick the next morning. Now therefore let my lord the King take order that thy servants may drink good wine.'
“ And how is this to be done?” said the good-natured Prince.
« Oh, King,” said his monitor, “ this is most easy. Let the King make a decree, and seal it with his royal signet: and let it be proclaimed that the King will give ten she-asses, and ten slaves, and ten changes of raiment every year, unto the man who shall make ten measures of the best wine. And whosoever wishes for the she-asses, and the slaves, and the raiment, let him send the ten measures of wine to thy servants, and we will drink thereof and judge. So shall there be much good wine in Assyria.”
The project pleased Gomer Chephoraod. “ Be it so," said he. The people shouted. The petitioners prostrated them. selves in gratitude. The same night heralds were dispatched to bear the intelligence to the remotest districts of Assyria.
After a due interval the wines began to come in, and the examiners assembled to adjudge the prize. The first vessel was unsealed. Its odour was such that the judges, without tasting it, pronounced unanimous condemnation. The next was opened : it had a villanous taste of clay. The third was sour and vapid. They proceeded from one cask of execrable liquor to another, till at length, in absolute nausea, they gave up the investigation.
The next morning they all assembled at the gate of the King, with pale faces and aching heads. They owned that they could not recommend any competitor as worthy of the rewards. They swore that the wine was little better than poison, and intreated permission to resign the office of deciding between such detestable potions,
wuppened ?” “ In the name of Belus, how said the King. wgu-priest, muttered something about the
Mor the Gods at the toleration shown to a sect of impious heretics who ate pigeons broiled, “ whereas," said he,“ our religion commands us to eat them roasted. Now therefore, oh, King," continued this respectable divine, "give command to thy men of war, and let them smite the disobedient people with the sword, them, and their wives, and their children, and let their houses, and their flocks, and their herds, be given to thy servants the priests. Then shall the land yield its increase, and the fruits of the earth shall be no more blasted by the vengeance of heaven."
“ Nay,” said the King, “ the ground lies under no general curse from heaven. The season has been singularly good. The wine which thou didst thyself drink at the banquet a few nights ago, oh, venerable Merolchazzar, was of this year's vintage. Dost thou not remember how thou didst praise it? It was the same night that thou wast inspired by Belus, and didst reel to and fro, and discourse sacred mysteries. These things are too hard for me. I comprehend them not. The only wine which is bad is that which is sent to my judges. Who can expound this to us?”
The King scratched his head. Upon which all the courtiers scratched their heads.
He then ordered proclamation to be made, that a purple robe and a golden chain should be given to the man who could solve this difficulty.
An old philosopher, who had been observed to smile rather disdainfully when the prize had first been instituted, came forward and spoke thus :
“ Gomer Chephoraod, live for ever! Marvel not at that which has happened. It was no miracle, but a natural event. How could it be otherwise ? It is true that much good wine has been made this year. But who would send it in for thy rewards? Thou knowest Ascobaruch who hath the great vineyards in the north, and Cohahiroth who sendeth wine every year from the south over the Persian gulf. Their wines are so delicious that ten measures thereof are sold for an hundred talents of silver. Thinkest thou that they will exchange them for thy slaves and thine asses? What would thy prize profit any who have vineyards in rich soils?”
“ Who then,” said one of the judges, the wretches who sent us this poison ?”
• Blame them not,” said the sage, seeing that you have been the authors of the evil. They are men whose lands are
poor, and have never yielded them any, returns equal to the prizes which the King proposed. Wherefore, knowing that the lords of the fruitful vineyards would not enter into competition with them, they planted vines, some on rocks, and some in light sandy soil, and some in deep clay. Hence their wines are bad. For no culture or reward will make barren land bear good vines. Know therefore, assuredly, that your prizes have increased the quantity of bad, but not of good wine.”
There was a long silence. At length the King spoke. “ Give him the purple robe and the chain of gold. Throw the wine into the Euphrates; and proclaim that the Royal Society of Wines is dissolved."
AGOSTINO DELLA MONTEROSA.
[I have not been able to ascertain exactly the æra of the events recorded in
the following history, but I believe that they occurred about the time that Prospero was Duke of Milan.]
At the close of the
century the Duchy of Padua far outshone in wealth and splendour all the petty princedoms of Italy. The halls of its University were crowded with the chosen youth of Spain, and France, and Almayne. They were accounted in Christendom the fountains of wisdom, and nations came from afar to drink. The court was the very home of chivalry; and all that was noble in its spirit, and magnificent in its pageantry, formed the princely delight of the youthful sovereign; while his minister, the Count Muratone, secured the internal quiet of the state, and made its power respected abroad. The Count was a younger son of an undistinguished house ; but from his earliest youth he had made himself remarkable by his reserve and haughtiness, and by the steadiness with which he pursued the objects of his ambition, though often those objects were scarcely suspected till he had triumphantly attained them. He had been a soldier of fortune. He never had been esteemed rash; he never had appeared to be carried away by that animal love of fighting, which is excited by the hurry of actual conflict; but he was noted for the indifference with which he risked his own life, and the lives of all under his command, for any probable advantage. When he had gained the highest personal reputation, he seemed to aim at greater prizes than those awarded to mere individual courage. With the same coolness as before, he speculated with human life ; but his soldiers were the instruments of his ambition, and no longer the companions of his dangers. In those troubled times, his military character gave him an easy access to the councils of the state; and in the bold and wary general was found a subtle politician, and without any of the tumults of sudden revolution all his rivals melted away before him. As a soldier, he was admired by his young and gallant sovereign; his powerful mind obtained a complete dominion over the feebler intellect and easier temper of the Duke ; and Muratone wanted neither aptitude of nature, nor the pliability of art, to enable him to mingle in all the princely pleasures of a high-spirited and gorgeous court. Indeed the love of pleasure seemed to the world the one weakness of his mind. Now that almost all appeared to be gained for which his most extravagant ambition could have hoped, passions burst out at intervals which in his younger days had been held down with a strong hand by the settled purpose of his soul; and it was whispered that not a few of the Count's hours of retirement were spent in employments less austere than might be guessed from his thoughtful brow and penetrating eye, and the proud reserve of his compressed lips. Yet it was hinted by those who were nearest to his person, that he had yet weaker points than this ;—that sometimes he seemed to indulge in strange and mysterious fancies, that his course was directed by an imperious destiny, of which he, with all his energies, was but the powerless and irresponsible instrument;—that he, who trusted and feared no living man, would listen with credulity and awe to any tale of supernatural marvels;-and that sometimes, when his conscience seemed to struggle with secret remembrances of his past life, he would seek relief in hours of superstitious observances and ascetic discipline. There were not wanting some to conjecture, that the successful ambition of Count Muratone would at last turn with disgust from the objects of his once ardent pursuit, and take refuge in the seclusion and penance of a monastic cell.
At length Muratone appeared to have attained his highest prize, when he was honoured with the hand of the sister of his sovereign. No magnificence was spared in the celebration of his princely nuptials. The long procession moved in solemn pomp from the ducal palace to the cathedral. A troop of horsemen headed the varied and glittering column. Then came instruments of martial music; which sometimes in a low key regulated the march, then burst forth in a loud and spirit-stirring peal, dying away again in the shouts of the populace, who fluctuated in immense måsses in every street and square, and looked down from window and balcony, roof and terrace, parapet and pinnacle; and with the deep and growing roll of the drum, and the high and long-drawn flourish of trumpet, horn, and clarion, were mingled the wilder sounds of Eastern music, the
clashing of cymbals, and the thrilling reverberation of the gong ; and gigantic figures looked up with swarthy faces which bore the tinge of no European climate, while with bare arms they shook the tambourine in the air, or the tall and slender cross beset with gilded bells ; and the white folds of their turbans, and their flowing and fantastic drapery, were well grouped with the more usual pageantry of occidental chivalry. Then curvetting side by side came heralds ; the herald of the Princess Isidora, on a huge white horse, with a peaceful lozenge emblazoned with the many-quartered bearings of her sovereign house; and the herald of Count Muratone, on a black charger of equal size and strength, supporting a massive shield charged with the devices of his less distinguished ancestry. Each herald was followed by his poursuivants and pages. With the grotesque and barbarous pomp
the train of Muratone was terminated by hideous and mis-shapen dwarfs gorgeously apparelled ; while the attendants of the Princess were noble, and beautiful boys, with long raven ringlets floating on their shoulders ; and they caracoled, and laughed, and gazed about them, with a reality and intensity of pleasure, which better became the wedding festival than all its studied and elaborate magnificence. Then, in the midst of a bevy of fair ladies, waving with plumes and glittering with jewels, each mounted on her palfrey and attended by her knight, in simple and unadorned majesty, veiled from every eye, and escorted by her princely brother, came the Lady Isidora. Slowly she moved along, and listlessly let the reins fall upon her horse's neck, and stooped her head as if overcome with feelings more painful than the mere bashfulness of a bride; and if doubled and redoubled shouts, or a loud and ringing peal of music, or an accidental disturbance of the procession, roused her for a moment, she looked around her as if she knew not where she was whither she was led. Muratone followed. At his right hand rode Federigo, the brother of the Duke; and they were attended by all the nobles of the land. But it were loss of time to tell how many gallant gentlemen rode that day behind the Count, or of how many colours, and of how marvellous fancy and richness was their attire : very stately was the waving of their plumes ; and many a one wore a gaud or jewel in his cap, which, if it were not a love-token, would have better become a fair lady: but all such quaint devices, and the glittering of their arms, and the ringing of their golden chains, and the pacing of their horses, and the bravery of their housings, and how their squires rode after them, I will at the present pass over. Last of all, in seemly array, as if they were about to meet an enemy's power, marched divers troops who had of old time fought with the Count Muratone in the warg. If you had