Nonfiction > William Jennings Bryan, ed. > The World’s Famous Orations > Vol. VII. Continental Europe
See also: Girolamo Savonarola Biography
  The World’s Famous Orations.
Continental Europe (380–1906).  1906.
I. A Report on His Embassy to the King
Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98)
Born in 1452, died in 1498; became a Monk in Bologna in 1475; Prior of St. Mark’s in Florence in 1491; secured the overthrow of the Medici, and the restoration of the Republic in 1494, being virtually Dictator; excommunicated in 1497; strangled and burned at the stake in 1498.
HERE 1 I am once more among you. You ask me: “Father, have you brought us some good news?” Yes, good news; I bring nothing but good news. You know that in time of prosperity I brought you bad news, and now, in your tribulation, I bring nothing but good news. Good news for Florence! Bad news for other places! “Oh, but we want to know more, Father. Can you give us particulars?” Well, do you not think that it is a good piece of news that Florence has begun to return to a Christian way of living? For a good life is the truest happiness; and happiness is only to be found where men live well and fear God.  1
  I have been yonder in the camp, which is like being in hell. Do not ever allow yourself to desire to be a great lord, for such men never have an hour of true peace and happiness.  2
  Moreover, do you not think it a piece of good news that God has lifted the cloud from over you and has sent it over others? But you say: “It is we who have caused it to move on.” This is just what I told you that you would say, attributing all to your own prudence. But I tell you now that your prayers have been the wind which has driven away this cloud. It is the hand of God which has done it all. “But we want to know more, Father. You have been to the king. Have you nothing to tell us?” Nay, I was not your ambassador. I had no commission from the Signiory or from the Ten, tho I was asked to go by some friends. So, not having been sent by, you, I have no occasion to report to you the results of my embassy. I have reported it to Him who sent me. But I will tell you this: I went, and I sowed good seed, which in its time will sprout and grow, and you shall gather the harvest and shall eat. “Oh, Father, this is a parable; we want plain words. “Well, then, I will explain it. I went on your behalf and out of the love which I bear to you. Do you think I would risk my life were I not certain of the truth of the things which I tell you?  3
  I went to his majesty and I told him certain things which if he shall do it will be well with him—well for his soul and for his kingdom and for his subjects. I told him that he must stand well with Florence, and act well by Florence, and that if he would not do it for love he should do it perforce; that if he should so act it will be well with him, but woe to him if he does not so act; and I told him in detail (tho I will not tell you, for it is not fitting that I should) what will befall him. He heard me with kindness and promised me to do what I bade him, and he promised it to you, and I tell you again that if he does not fulfil what he has promised per amore he shall do it perforce. And it is God Himself, who speaks in me, who will make him do it.  4
  This I say in conclusion, that God has opened His hand to this “barber,” 2 the king of France, and has given him all that he wanted in Italy; but if he fails to do what I have told him, I tell you, and I would have all the world to know, that God will withdraw His hand. And if he fails to perform for the Florentines what I have bidden him to do, nevertheless we shall have everything, if not of his good will, then perforce. Meanwhile our arm must be prayer and fasting.  5
Note 1. Delivered in Florence in 1495 on his return from Poggibonsi, whence he had gone on an informal embassy to Charles VIII., king of France. These translations from Savonarola appear in the “Life of Savonarola,” by Herbert Lucas, S. J., published in London in 1905, by Messrs. Sands & Co., by whose kind permission these passages are printed here. [back]
Note 2. Mr. Lucas explains that this is an allusion to the “hired razor” of Isaiah vii:20. It was one of Savonarola’s favorite predictions that God would send “many barbers” into Italy, of whom Charles VIII. was only the first. [back]


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