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Belifarius, throughout the whole, is an amiable and interefting character. He is the friend of civil and religious liberty. He glows with a generous love of human kind. He is a warrior, a ftatefman, a man of piety, and an enemy to perfecution. In short, nothing can be more beautifully imagined than the pathetic fcencs which are introduced by this celebrated French writer, and the fentiments that animate every page.
With regard to the reputed cruelty of Juftinian, in caufing the eyes of his old and faithful fervant to be put out, Marmontel allows that the fact may be considered rather as a popular opinion than as an historical truth. But, that opinion, fays he, has fo univerfally prevailed, and the idea of a blind old man reduced to beggary is now fo affociated with the name of Belifarius, that the latter never occurs without prefenting to the imagination a picture of the former.
Vandyke has entertained the fame idea; and in a flyle of animation which awakens the tender feelings of every fufceptible beholder, has reprefented, in his line, the veteran in the act of foliciting charity. The expreffive pity of the foldier who contemplates
his general in fo pitiable a fituation, has too often been the fubject of admiration to need a defcription here.
To purfue Marmontel through the different fcenes in which he exhibits his hero, in order to give him an opportunity of uttering those fublime and patriotic fentinents which may well be fuppofed to have dropped from the lips of Belifarius, would exceed our limits. The concluding fcene, where the emperor difcovers himfelf to him, after having been witnefs, without being known, to the noble and difinterested sentiments of the man whom he had fo greatly injured, is too pleafing and applicable to be omitted.
Having with an unparalleled forbearance endeavoured to palliate his mafter's cruel ufage, Belifarius thus concludes the detail of the events which had occafioned it :
"In this fituation I imagined I had nothing left but to close the laft fcene of life in tranquillity, when of a fudden the Huns made. an irruption into Thrace, and ravaged all the country around. The emperor deigned to recollect that I was ftill in being, and in my
old days I was charged with the command of an expedition, by the event of which the empire was faved from ruin. I covered my grey heirs and the furrows of my forehead with an helmet, crufted over with ten years ruft.
"Fortune proved favourable, and I repulfed the Huns, who were advanced within a few miles of the capital. I laid an ambush for the enemy, and it fucceeded fo well that I was regarded by the people as a guardian god. The whole city, at my return, was one wild uproar of joy and exultation, to fuch a degree that I was much alarmed at the fatal confequences, which I then forefaw.
"But how could I appeafe the violence of the populace? The emperor was old, and age brings infirmities with it. honours paid me by the multitude, and the excefs of applaufe that rung throughout the city, were understood by Juftinian as marks of difaffection, plainly indicating that his fubjects were tired of his reign, and wifhed to fee him abdicate his throne in favour of the general who defended it. Miftruft and jealoufy took poffeffion of him;
and, without alledging any thing against me, he judged it right to remove fo dangerous a man from his prefence.
"While I paffed my time in obfcurity, a plot against the crown was difcovered; and the confpirators, without detecting their principal, died in the agony of torture. But the filence of those unhappy men was interpreted by my enemies, and calumny furnished out a copious fupplement. I was ordered into confinement; difcontent fpread among all ranks of men; till at length, touched with compaffion for all my fufferings, the people expreffed their feelings without referve. Pity was foon inflamed to indignation; and by a general revolt, the emperor was compelled to give me up to the clamours of my country.
I am per
"In depriving me of my eyes, fuaded he thought he was difarming an enemy. That I was never difaffected to him, Heaven can bear me witnefs; but Heaven, that reads the hearts of men, has not given that power to princes. You accufe the emperor of ingratitude and injuftice; but it was his misfortune, and not his crime, to believe appearances, which perhaps would have mifled your judgment in the fame manner.”
"Yes, he is miferable, the moft miferable of men," faid Juftinian, throwing his arms about the hero, and clafping him in his embrace." What means this burft of an
guish ?" enquired Belifarius. "It is the agony of a heart ready to break," faid Juftinian; "O Belifarius! that unjust mafter, that barbarous tyrant, who rent your eyes from their fockets, and reduced you thus to mifery and want, in bitternefs of forrow and repentance, now embraces you, and throws himself thus upon you with all the compunction of fenfibility and love."
"Thou my fovereign!" exclaimed Belifarius."Yes, I am he. Oh my friend! my deliverer! my protector! Yes, thou beft of men, yes, I am that unhappy prince who has fet the world an example of the baseft cruelty and ingratitude. Let me thus, proftrate at your feet, be humbled to that depth of lowness which my guilt deferves, I here forget my crown, difhonoured as it is by the vileft of crimes. I am unworthy to wear it longer. Nothing now befits me, but thus to bathe the duft under your feet with my tears, and to hide my opprobrious head overwhelmed with fhame and infamy."