Abbildungen der Seite

“ Seizė — seize him!” loud the king doth scream;

" There are a thousand here ;
Let his foul blood this instant stream ;-

What! caitiffs, do ye fear?
Seize — seize the traitor !” But not ono

To move a finger dareth :
Bernardo standeth by the throne,

And calm his sword he bareth.

He drew the falchion from the sheath,

And held it up on high ;
And all the hall was still as death :-

Cries Bernard, “Here am I;
And here's the sword that owns no lord,

Excepting Heaven and me:
Fain would I know who dares its point,

King, condé, or grandee.”

Then to his mouth his horn he drew;

(It hung below his cloak;) His ten true men the signal knew,

And through the ring they broke.
With helm on head, and blade in hand,

The knights the circle brake, *
And back the lordlings 'gan to stand,

And the false king to quake.

“Ha! Bernard,” quoth Alfonzo,

“What means this warlike guise ? Ye know full well I jested ;

Ye know your worth I prize!But Bernard turned upon his heel,

And, smiling, passed away :Long rued Alfonzo and Castile

The jesting of that day!

* Obsolete preterit of to break. We now say bronca



MACE, n., a short staff.

HA-RANGUE' (ha-rang'), n., a speech. Fane, n., a temple ; a church. CARIS'TEN-DOM (kris'sn-), n., the whole SCHISM (sizm), n., a division.

body of Christians. PA-Cha' (pa-shaw'), n., a governor of CRES’CENT, n., the figure of the new a Turkish province.

moon, as borne in the Turkish flag. IGʻLAM (iz-), n., the body of Mahom- RE-HEAR'SAL (-her-), n., repetition ; etan believers.

recital. OTTO-MAN, a., Turkish.


the principal church AT'A-BAL, n., a kettle-drum.

in a bishop's see. JAN'I-ZA-RY, n., a soldier of the Turk- RIT'U-AL, n., ceremonial. ish foot-guards.

COM-PACT, a., close ; solid. IN-VET'ER-ATE, a., old ; deep-rooted. I MYR'I-AD, n., ten thousand.

A. D. stands for an'no dom'i-ni, Latin for in the year of the Lord; St. for Saint. Pronounce Constantine, Kon'stan-teen ; Sophia, So-fë'a; a in Ga-la-ta' as in far.

1. The attacks which, during successive centuries, the walls of Constantinople had sustained, were but the rehearsal of the tragedy in store. That power, which, as early as the year 668, had appeared in arms before them, had continued century after century to watch for their downfall. The might of Islam burned to fling itself upon the ancient Christian capital, and was resolved to hang about its neck until one or the other had perished. In that wonderful career of success which had attended it within but a few years of the prophet's* death, the capture of Constantinople had been its highest aspiration. That aspiration was never lost sight of; for instinctively and inveterately the Crescent hated the Cross.

2. The fatal hour had at last arrived. On the sixth of April, 1453, Ma'homet II. planted his standard before the gate of St. Roma'nus, and commenced that siege which ended in the loss to Christendom of what had for so many centuries been revered as her eastern metrop'olis. One thing alone, it is probable, could have averted that calamity. Had it been possible to heal

* Mohammed, the so-called prophet, founder of the Mohammedan religion.


the great schism in the church, the western world would not have calmly stood by to witness the downfall of eastern Christendom.

3. After a separation of six centuries, the Greek and Latin churches had been solemnly reünited at the Council of Florence, A. D. 1438; but on the return of the emperor, and the prěl'ates who accompanied him, all that they had effected was disowned, and the flames of religious hatred broke out more furiously than

The consequences were fatal. Distracted by their own internal quarrels, the princes of western Europe could spare neither time nor thought, neither money nor arms, to protect from the Ottoman invasion a Christian power with which, it not being in -communion with them, they had little religious sympathy, and with which, owing to its remoteness, they had no other bond.

4. The events of that terrible siege can never be forgotten by a so'journer at Constantinople. Every thing that he sees and hears is a memorial of it, and the spot is still pointed out, close to the widest breach in the wall, on which the heroic Constantine was seen last before his death. Never, perhaps, was so unequal a battle so long and so direfully contested; and even at the last it seems probable that Mahomet would have been repulsed by those mighty walls, had he not resorted to an expedient almost without precedent in the annals of war.

5. Finding that success was not to be hoped for, except through a double attack by sea and land, and unable to force the narrow channel of the Bos'phorus, he transported his lighter vessels by land, dragging them in a single night over the high grounds of Galata and launched them again in the shallow waters of the harbor, inaccessible to the deeper ships of the Greeks. He was thus enabled to construct a floating battery, which opened its fire upon the weakest part of the city walls, and a breach was ere long effected. Disaster followed up disaster, and within a few days four towers, near the gate of St. Roma'nus, had crumbled to the ground.

6. The conclusion ceased to be doubtful; but Constantine, resolved that the Eastern empire, like its last monarch, should perish by an honorable death, refused all disgraceful conditions of peace. After consulting his astrologers, Mahomet fixed the twenty-ninth of May as the day for the final assault.

On the previous day he harangued his chiefs, and sent heralds through the camp, who threatened with his impla cable displeasure all who might shrink from their duty. The ardor of the troops burned with a steady flame, and the camp resounded with shouts of “There is no God but God; and Mahomet is his Prophet.”

7. History contains no passage more solemn or more pathetic than the last farewell of the Greek chiefs, summoned by Constantine to his palace, the night before the general assault. The emperor, in his final appeal, held out small hopes of success; but the heroic band needed none, resolved to die in the discharge of duty. They wept; they embraced each other; finally, they repaired to the cathedral of St. Sophia, and, for the last time before that fane was converted into a mosque, partook of the Holy Communion.

8. The emperor asked pardon of all whom he might ever have injured, and received from his people, as from his confessor, an absolution confirmed ere long by that of death. That sad ritual over, the chiefs mounted their horses once more, and each proceeding to the spot on the ramparts confided to his especial care, waited there for the morning light. Day broke at last, and with it the battle. The assault was begun at the same time by sea and land; and in a few moments a mighty and multitudinous host, wielded as if by some unseen power like that which directs the tides of the sea, was precipitated to the attack.

9. To retreat or to stand still for a moment became impossible, even if any in that assailing army had wavered. Wave after wave was repulsed, but the conquering tide rushed on: those in the front ranks were pushed forward by the com-pact' masses behind, and the myriads who fell successively beneath the walls, whose gaping ruins we still behold, filled up the trenches with their bodies, and bridged a way for the myriads that followed.

10. The pachas of Romania, and Anatolia, and Syria, and every Eastern province that bowed to the Crescent, advanced successively, with jeweled turban, at the head of their respective hosts. Attended by his household troops, and holding an iron mace in his hand, Mahomet II., seated on horseback close by, witnessed every assault, and rewarded every high action with his eye. During a temporary lull, the voice of the emperor was heard urging his exhausted band to one effort more. At that moment, Mahomet, lifting his mace, gave the final sign; and the irresistible Janizaries, whose strength had been reserved until then, rose up and dashed themselves on their

prey. 11. From that instant the details of the battle were lost in clouds of smoke and flame, and the clamor of drums, trumpets, and atabals. It is only known that Justinia'ni, wounded in the hand by an arrow, and despairing of the event, abandoned the walls, in spite of the remonstrances of the emperor.

Constantine himself continued to fight to the last, surrounded by his nobles and friends, who strengthened themselves, as their ranks thinned, by shouting his name.

12. The last words which he was heard to utter were,

“Can not there be found a Christian to slay

« ZurückWeiter »