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HISTORICAL PICTURES

OF

THE MIDDLE AGES.

BÂSLE-SWITZERLAND, 1843.

"Erasmus diffuses a lustre over his age which no other name, among the learned, supplies."

"As the vessel moved slowly from the ancient bridge and quays, lined with thousands of spectators assembled in solemn silence to witness his departure, Erasmus arose, and, turning towards the city he had abandoned, pronounced, with much ́emotion, a Latin farewell, in four impromptu lines, which his friend Amerbach immediately transcribed upon his tablets:

66 6 'Bâsle, beloved city! where I have passed the sweetest portion of my life, adieu! May Heaven bless thee, and may thy hospitable walls never shelter any guest less happy, or less attached, than he who now bids thee farewell!'"*

THE door of a museum, filled with rare and beautiful objects, is usually passed with careless indifference by the eager visitor impatient to gaze on the treasures it will unlock to his view; and on his return, sated with seeing, the eye weary, and the

* "Jam, Basilea, vale, quâ non urbs altera multis
Annis exhibuit gratius hospitium.

Hinc precor omnia læta tibi, simul illud, Erasmo
Hospes utine unquam tristior adveniat!"

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attention occupied, he is probably still less disposed to stop to examine it, however worthy of his attention and admiration.

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Such is too often the fate of the fine old city of Bâsle, the portal through which so many travellers pass on their way to the wonders of Alpine scenery -the Oberland, Mont Blanc, the sunny vine-clad mountains of the Jura — the varied beauties of the romantic lakes of Switzerland-the snow-capped regions of the Saint Bernard, and the glowing charms of Italian landscapes. A cursory view of its noble cathedral a slight glance at the frescoes of its Gothic Hôtel-de-ville, or modern palace for the poor, with a peep at the chefs-d'œuvre of Holbein, and the fragments of the famous Dance of Death (not by him) in the public library, and the stranger quits Bâsle, satisfied that he has seen all it presents meet for inspection. He drives through its antique gateways, each crowned (as in former times) with warlike turrets and a warning tocsin - its double enclosure of grey battlemented walls mossy with age, but perfect as when Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the lively accomplished embryo pope Pius II. (whose letters confer far more honour on his latinity than his morals), and the grave and most learned Erasmus, delighted to take their daily walks from one old circular tower to another without observation; and, contrasting the comparative sameness of its sur

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rounding country with the grandeur of that which soon afterwards bursts on his astonished sight, registers Bâsle in the tablets of memory as "a dull old place, with no natural beauties around to recommend it to notice."

Not such was the opinion of the many illustrious men who have recorded in letters, that posterity delights to preserve, their admiration of this fallen but still attractive city. The chosen abode of Erasmus, whose ashes repose in the cathedral of Ecolamof Meyer, and other distinguished rethe birth-place of the Bernouillis — of

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Euler of Maupertuis -of Buxtorf, and many

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literary characters scarcely less revered; the seat of the famous council whose acts were the precursors of the dawning Reformation; and, from its position as a free independent town, continually selected for negotiations of importance to the world at large, Bâsle has ever occupied a prominent place in the history of by-gone ages: and whilst wandering through its curious quadrangular cloisters, whose walls, pillars, and pavement are lined with sculptured monuments, or seated on the lovely terrace of the cathedral, listening to the murmurs of the Rhine, rushing beneath to the long old wooden bridge which spans its broad clear bosom — the Black Forest in the distance the high pointed roofs of the old buildings below spires, and pinnacles, and feudal turrets

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mingling their glittering ornaments with the leafy tops of luxuriant trees the old city walls, at intervals shaded by the blooming gardens which now arise in rich luxuriance from the deep circumvallating fosses at their feet the wandering artist, whose feeble pencil traces this hasty sketch, has often felt more calm delight than when contemplating scenes of greater magnificence.

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Bâsle, though politically a portion of the Swiss Confederation, is historically a part of Swabia; and still exhibits many of the characteristics of an imperial city numerous churches of beautiful architecture antique houses ornamented with sculpture and exterior fresco paintings - fine fountains — spacious squares and ancient gateways retaining, with their portcullis's, the advanced work or barbican, similar to those which formerly existed at York- others decorated with designs in fresco by the hands of Holbein and his pupils. The roof of the cathedral — the Rathhaus, or Hôtel-de-ville, a Burgundian building of imposing appearance, and many of the old towers, are covered with a species of mosaic, formed of bright glossy tiles of various colours - several of the principal streets have trottoirs composed of shining pebbles wrought into devices brought from the banks of the Byrse, so hard as to admit of polishing; and stranger guests, amateur lapidists, are accused of sometimes digging up, under cover of the

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