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THE GLEE-SINGERS ;?
And shall these hands?
King John. The day, the fateful Thursday, so interesting to Florence, arrived at last. It was at the commencement of the year 1215. The whole city was on the alert, for all the citizens were to take, more or less, part in the festival.
At an early hour in the morning the Palazzo Amidei was crowded with the fast-arriving wedding guests. The chief apartment was filled with the noblest Guelphs and Ghibellines; the courtyard was overflowing with attendants and horses, and the streets with lookers on and wonderers. The reception-room was decorated with gay hangings and tapestry, statues, pictures, vases of early flowers ; and a long table was covered with wine-flasks and flagons, goblets, beakers and cups, prepared for the bridal party to pledge the bride and bridegroom on their return from the church of San Stefano.
To do honour to the occasion, the Florentines surpassed their usual efforts at personal decoration. There was embroidery, and silver-lace, and chains, and mantles of scarlet trimmed with minever and silks, and here and there a few jewels. Every lady wore an artificial lily, the emblem flower of Florence. The cavalieri bore their plumed caps in their hands; but no party-colour nor party-symbol appeared in that assembly, now so harmonious, though composed of discordant materials. The old men used the ancient Tuscan long gown, hooded, and lined and faced with minever; but the younger gallants preferred the tunic and hose.
The bridegroom was a conspicuous object. His dress was white, and the tight under-sleeves of the tunic were buttoned thickly with silver buttons from the wrist to the elbow; a slight silver fringe edged the lawn shirt where it appeared above the tunic; a black velvet girdle with a silver clasp encircled his waist; his boots were of date colour; his mantle, scarlet, lined with minever; and his black cap was adorned with a small white plume, fastened in by a silver medallion of St. John, the patron saint of Florence.
i Continued from page 296,
The young cavalieri moved about the room, or stood together in small groups, or leaned over the seats of the ladies, gaily chatting with them as they awaited the entrance of the bride.
The Widow Donati took an opportunity of fixing Buondelmonte beside herself and Imma, whispering to him inuendos against the Ghibellines, and dropping allusions to the difference between the attractions of his betrothed and Imma. The latter was attired precisely in the same manner as when Buondelmonte had seen her for the first time, except that a thin white veil was thrown over her head. He looked at her and was struck with a painful reminiscence, just as La Donati intended when she arranged her daughter's attire. The Widow took an opportunity, when she was not remarked, to raise Imma's veil a little and display her beauty. “There,"* whispered she to Buondelmonte, - there is the wife I had reserved for you. Like you she is a Guelph ; but you take one from the enemies of your church and race.”
Buondelmonte was greatly agitated, and his endeavours to appear calm prevented him from attempting to assume the gaiety that was once natural to him. Most earnestly did he wish he could have gone through the ceremony without the pain of seeing Imma. “It is refinement in cruelty," thought he, “to have brought her here.” When he looked round upon the company, he wished he could shrink from them, and thought—“Why all these spectators? This is like the crowd that assembles to see a criminal carried to the place of execution." His painful reflections were interrupted by the entrance of Almanno Amidei, leading in his sister.
Amidea's dress was of white silk; her girdle was clasped with a silver lily, and her cross and beads, which hung from her waist, were of ivory and silver ; her hair was adorned with a wreath of myrtle, and over her head was thrown a clear white veil with an embroidered border of lilies. She appeared calm, but an unsteady colour came and went on her varying cheek as Buondelmonte advanced to meet her. She was followed by her cousin and bridesmaid, Francesca Uberti. It was not the custom in Florence for unmarried females to be present at marriage ceremonies ; but on this solemn and peculiar occasion a deviation was sanctioned
See Sismondi, Italian Republics.
from ordinary habits, and Amidea was permitted the companionship of two maidens.
In a few minutes Almanno rose, and gave the signal for the procession to form, and it began to set out in a preconcerted order. First from the great gate issued two young men of the junior branches of the Houses of Amidei and Buondelmonte ; they were mounted, and had the care of the nuptial banner, which was to be borne by each alternately to certain distances till they reached the church. After the banner followed, as attendants upon it, six young men of the Amidei and the Buondelmonti, riding two and two. Then came six confidential persons belonging to the two families, bearing the oblations of the bride and bridegroom to the church. They were followed by the retainers of each noble family present, bearing armorial ensigns, and mingled together, Guelph and Ghibelline side by side. After them appeared the litter of the bride; on one side of it rode Almanno Amidei, and on the other Buondelmonte on his celebrated white horse, the most beautiful animal of its kind in Tuscany. Immediately behind came the litters of the bridesmaids; Mosca Lamberti riding beside Imma's, and a younger Buondelmonte beside Francesca Uberti's. They were followed by a long train of litters, each containing a lady accompanied by a mounted noble; and the order of procession was so arranged that a Guelph noble escorted a Ghibellinc lady, and a Ghibelline noble a Guelph lady. The train was closed by the grooms of the nobles walking two and two, Guelph and Ghibelline, to be in readiness to hold their masters' horses at the church door, and each wore the colours of the house he served.
As the procession advanced, the streets were lined with the populace in their holiday garb. The houses were decked with tapestry and evergreens; and the open windows were crowded with spectators, who threw out early flowers, and wreaths of myrtlc, and artificial lilies; and over all shone a bright and seemingly auspicious sun.
The train approached a monastery richly endowed by the Amidei, and at its gate the monks appeared chanting an anthem till all were out of sight. It passed another monastery favoured by the Buondelmonti, and again was saluted by a solemn choir. It reached the church of San Stefano. The banner-bearers halted and gave their charge to the attendants, who received it to carry it up to the highest attainable pinnacle and fix it there, to be displayed to the breezes as soon as the marriage ceremony should be completed. The nobles alighted and handed the ladies from their litters, and the procession ascended the crowded steps and entered the church. The bearers of the gifts delivered them to some of the inferior clergy, and then ranged themselves on each side of the church; the banner-bearers of the different families placed
form the cerved Amearing a ver a silve
bents with grou
themselves in the same manner, holding their banners; and the bridal party moved in order up the church, and halted before the high altar. There stood Padre Severino in costly vestments ready to perform the ceremony which he hoped was to insure the happiness of his beloved Amidea. He was attended by two clerks in white surplices, one bearing a vessel of holy water with an aspergillum or sprinkler, and the other a silver plate for holding the wedding-ring at the moment of blessing it. The altar was adorned with rich silver vessels, silver candlesticks with thick wax candles lighted, golden reliquiaries, and the çifts of the bride and bridegroom. Beside it stood choristers ready to burst forth into a solemn anthem as soon as the ceremony should be terminated.
Buondelmonte took the hand of his bride and led her to the epistle side of the altar, placing himself at the gospel side at her right hand. Imma Donati stood at the other side of Amidea, but a little back, and the Widow was close behind her daughter, Almanno Amidei stood near Buondelmonte, and Francesca Uberti behind Amidea. The rest of the Florentines formed a semicircle in the back ground; the men holding their plumed caps, the ladies with their veils and wimples Aung back, and their heads bent forwards.
Padre Severino opened his book : the Widow was now in despair; she threw up her daughter's veil as if she knew Imma wanted air. The action attracted the attention of Buondelmonte; he looked; he saw Imma with an expression of anguish on her usually serene countenance, and her eyes swimming in tears, for she had felt bitterly at attending in her rival's train to add to lier triumphal procession. Still she was exquisitely beautiful; she gained by comparison with all the assembled fair of Florence. The Widow cast a significant glance at Buondelmonte, who could scarcely repress the heavy sigh that would have relieved his labouring heart.
Padre Severino knelt; all followed his example. He recited the prayer for the couple before him; all was now so still that the voice of the venerable priest sounding in the vast church inspired the assembly with a feeling of awe. He rose, and advancing towards Buondelmonte and Amidsa, asked them by their baptismal names would each accept the other for his wife? for her husband ? The bride's reply was audible; the good Padre took the bridegroom's for granted. But Buondelmonte heard nothing; he was now in a state of total abstraction, gazing on that beauty for which he thought worlds too small a sacrifice, and on that expression of anguish for which he reproached himself. So wholly was he ab. sorbed, that he made no attempt to take Amidea's hand at that part of the ceremony which required it; and when the priest roused him, addressing him by name, he looked up with a stupefied air, took Imma's hand, and drew her forward.
All started. Imma, already nearly overpowered, was now wholly stricken down by shame and terror, and fainted away. Buondelmonte, completely thrown off his guard by her corpse-like appearance, clasped her in his arms, and exclaimed aloud upon her as his only love.
The church was now filled with confusion; the wedding was interrupted; the priest and the bride looked at each other in surprise and dismay; the Widow came to her daughter's assistance, saying purposely aloud to Buondelmonte—“I may thank you, Messer Buondelmonte, for my child's death, if I lose her.” Some of the Guelphs carried Imma into the sacristy. Buondelmonte attempted to follow, but was prevented by his kinsmen. The relatives of the Amidei clamoured reproaches on him, and Almanno exclaimed
“Speak, Vossignoria! speak! unless you are feigning madness to escape from merited vengeance; is this a premeditated insult to my sister ?"
“What audacity !” cried the Ghibellines; “what perfidy! what unmanly outrage on a noble lady!”
“Shame on you, Giovanni !” cried the Guelphs; “you have disgraced us for ever in Florence.”
“I entreat a moment's silence," said Amidea, recovering herself, and turning towards the clamorous assembly. “Messer Buondelmonte, what means this strange scene? tell me truly, are you the lover of Imma Donati ? ”
Buondelmonte looked down and was silent.
“Fear not to speak sincerely, Messer Buondelmonte," resumed Amidea; “ you owe me candour after the insult you have offered me. Buondelmonte, I conjure you, speak!”
The distracted bridegroom, with his eyes still fixed on the ground, answered in a low but distinct voice—“In this sacred place I dare not utter falsehood; I do love Imma Donati more than life.”
Amidea took her brother's arm and drew back, with a countenance of much suffering.
“ But,” said Buondelmonte, looking at her with something like remorse, “but I have erred involuntarily. Florence engaged my hand-the beautiful Imma engaged my heart. Yet I was willing to sacrifice my feelings to my honour, and I came here to do so ; but they overpowered me. And now, after this public scene, I fear to say, Can you forgive me, Amidea ? I apprehend it would avail but little to offer you again my hand.”
Amidea made a gesture of rejection ; and Almanno answered proudly “ We thank you, no! My sister cannot accept the hand of a man who tells her plainly he prefers another."
“Observe,” cried Carlo Donati, appealing to the bystanders ; “observe, it is the Amidei who break the engagement.”