The World's Famous Orations/Volume 7/To the Young Men of Italy
TO THE YOUNG MEN OF ITALY
Born in 1805, died in 1872; arrested in 1830, but released for want of evidence to secure conviction; lived abroad and conducted agitations for the liberation of Italy; in 1848 returned to become a member of the short-lived triumvirate; organized insurrections afterward, but played a subordinate part in the unification effected under Victor Emmanuel in 1861.
When I was commissioned by you, young men, to proffer in this temple a few words consecrated to the memory of the brothers Bandiéra, and their fellow martyrs at Cosenza, I thought some one of those who heard me might, perhaps, exclaim, with noble indignation: "Why thus lament over the dead? The martyrs of liberty can be worthily honored only by winning the battle they began. Cosenza, the land where they fell, is enslaved; Venice, the city of their birth, is begirt with strangers. Let us emancipate them; and, until that moment, let no words pass our lips, save those of war."
But another thought arose, and suggested to me the inquiry, Why have we not conquered? Why is it that, while our countrymen are fighting for independence in the North, liberty is perishing in the South? Why is it that a war which should have sprung to the Alps with the bound of a lion has dragged itself along for four months with the slow, uncertain motion of the scorpion surrounded by a circle of fire? How has the rapid and powerful intuition of a people newly arisen to life been converted into the weary, helpless effort of a sick man, turning from side to side?Ah, had we all arisen strong in the sanctity of the idea for which our martyrs died; had the holy standard of their faith inspired our youth to battle; had we made of our every thought an action, and of our every action a thought; had we learned from them that liberty and independence are one, we should not now have war, but victory! Cosenza would not be compelled to venerate the memory of her martyrs in secret, nor Venice be restrained from honoring them with a monument. We, here gathered together, then might gladly invoke those sacred names without uncertainty as to our future destiny or a cloud of sadness on our brows; and we might say to those precursor souls: "Rejoice, for your spirit is incarnate in your brethren, and they are worthy of you." Could Attilio and Emilio
Love is the flight of the soul toward God: to-ward the great, the sublime, and the beautiful, which are the shadows of God upon earth. Love your family; the partner of your life; those around you, ready to share your joys and sorrows; the dead who were dear to you, and to whom you were dear. Love your country. It is your name, your glory, your sign among the peoples. Give to it your thought, your counsel, your blood. You are twenty-four millions of men, endowed with active and splendid faculties; with a tradition of glory which is the envy of the nations of Europe. An immense future is before you. Your eyes are raised to the loveliest heaven, and around you smiles the loveliest land in Europe. You are encircled by the Alps and the sea, boundaries marked out by the finger of God for a people of giants.
And you must be such, or nothing. Let not a man of that twenty-four millions remain excluded from the fraternal bond which shall join you together; let not a look be raised to heaven which is not that of a free man. Love humanity. You can only ascertain your own mission from the aim placed by God before humanity at large. Beyond the Alps, beyond the sea, are other peoples, now fighting, or preparing to fight, the holy fight of independence, of nationality, of liberty; other peoples striving by different routes to reach the same goal. Unite with them and they will unite with you.
And, young men, love and reverence the Ideal; that is the country of the spirit, the city of the soul, in which all are brethren who believe in the inviolability of thought, and in the dignity of our immortal natures. From that high sphere spring the principles which alone can redeem peoples. Love enthusiasm—the pure dreams of the virgin soul, and the lofty visions of early youth; for they are the perfume of Paradise, which the soul preserves in issuing from the hands of its Creator. Respect, above all things, your conscience; have upon your lips the truth that God has placed in your hearts; and, while working together in harmony in all that tends to the emancipation of our soil, even with those who differ from you, yet ever bear erect your own banner, and boldly promulgate your faith.
Such words, young men, would the martyrs of Cosenza have spoken had they been living among you. And here, where, perhaps, invoked by our love, their holy spirits hover near us, I call upon you to gather them up in your hearts, and to make of them a treasure amid the storms that yet threaten you, but which, with the name of our martyrs on your lips, and their faith in your hearts, you will overcome. God be with you and bless Italy!
- From an address at Milan on the 25th of July, 1848, delivered by request at a solemn commemoration of the death of the brothers Bandiéri and others at Cosenza. Contemporary translation revised for this collection.
Attilio and Emilio Bandiéra. natives of Naples and sons of Admiral Bandiéra, attempted to effect a rising of patriots on the Calabrian coast in 1844, and were arrested and execuved by the Neapolitan government at Cosenza.
Before the walls of Cosenza died Alaric, king of the West Goths in 410, after having twice sacked Rome.