Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/225

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less earnestly in the field of morality and religion, or with San Bernardino, who had found favour both with Guelf and Ghibelline. Saints are not necessarily unpopular. The cause may, perhaps, be sought in Savonarola's self-assertion, in his perpetual use of the first person, in the reiteration of all that he had done for Florence, of all the prophecies that had been fulfilled or were to be fulfilled, at the expense of those who would not listen. Whoever will force himself to read one of his more emphatic sermons from an opponent's point of view may find the key to the final verdict of the city. The child had grown into the man. Savonarola had striven to break the wings of the foul bird, and the bird had struck him with its talons; he had lifted his rod to part the waters, and the Red Sea had overwhelmed him.

The fascination which Savonarola exercised is almost as living to-day as it was when his congregation sat spell-bound round him. The object of these pages has been to discuss his influence upon political and constitutional history; but this is only one aspect of his career and to himself the least important. He was, perhaps, no skilled statesman, no wise political leader; but, as a spiritual force whose influence long survived him, he has had few equals. Those who would study this side of his character must leave the chroniclers, the despatches of ambassadors, and the biographies, and turn to his letters, his sermons, and his tracts. His zeal for righteousness, his horror of sin, his sympathy for the poor, his love of children appeal to the earnest and loving of all ages. There is little question that for most foreigners, certainly for those of the English-speaking race, the very thought of Florence centres in Dante, the exile of Ravenna, and in Savonarola, the alien of Ferrara.