Abbildungen der Seite

she received it. It is far more likely that she went by design, and at the same time as some faithful friend on the bridge, who detached the precious head, and dropped it down to her in the boat beneath. Be this as it may, she owned before the cruel-hearted Council that she had taken away and cherished the head of the man whom they had slain as a traitor. However, Henry VIII. was not a Creon, and our Christian Antigone was dismissed unhurt by the Council, and allowed to retain possession of her treasure. She caused it to be embalmed, kept it with her wherever she went, and when, nine years afterwards, she died (in the year 1544), it was laid in her coffin in the “Roper aisle ” of St. Dunstan's church, at Canterbury.


[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


the chief boyards or nobles at the Court of Ivan, the first Grand Prince of Muscovy who assumed the Eastern title of Tzar, and who relieved Russia from the terrible invasions of the Tatars. This wild race for nearly four hundred years had roamed over the country, destroying and plundering all they met with, and blighting all the attempts at civilization that had begun to be made in the eleventh century. It was only when the Russians learnt the use of fire-arms that these savages were in any degree repressed. In the year 1551 the city of Kazan, upon the river Kazanka, a tributary of the Volga, was the last city that remained in the hands of the Tatars. It was a rich and powerful place, a great centre of trade between Europe and the East, but it was also a nest of robbers, who had frequently broken faith with the Russians, and had lately expelled the Khan Schig Alei for having endeavored to fulfil his engagements to them. The Tzar Ivan Vassilovitch, then only twenty-two years of age, therefore marched against the place, resolved at any cost to reduce it and free his country from these inveterate foes.

On his way he received tidings that the Crimean Tatars had come plundering into Russia, probably thinking to attack Moscow, while Ivan was besieging Kasan. He at once sent off the Prince Kourbsky with 15,00ɔ men, who met double that number of Tatars at Touli, and totally defeated them, pursuing them to the river Chevorona, where, after a second defeat, they abandoned a great number of Russian captives, and a great many camels. Prince Kourbsky was wounded in the head and shoulder, but was able to continue the campaign.

Some of the boyards murmured at the war, and declared that their strength and resources were exhausted. Upon this the Tzar desired that two lists might be drawn up of the willing and unwilling warriors in his camp. “ The first," he said, “shall be as dear to me as my own children ; their needs shall be made known to me, and I will share all I have with them. The others may stay at hoine ; I want no cowards in my army.” No ne of course chose to be in the second list, and about this time was formed the famous guard called the Strelitzes, a body of chosen warriors who were always near the person of the Tzar.

In the middle of August, 1552, Ivan encamped in the meadows on the banks of the Volga, which spread like a brilliant green carpet around the hill upon which stood the strongly fortified city of Kazan. The Tatars had no fears. 66 This is not the first time,” they said, “ that we have seen the Muscovites beneath our walls. Their fruitless attacks always end in retreats, till we have learnt to laugh them to scorn”; and when Ivan sent them messengers with offers of peace, they replied, “ All is ready; we only await your coming to begin the feast.”

They did not know of the great change that the last half century had made in sieges. One of the Italian condottieri, or leaders of free companies, had made his way to Moscow, and, under his instructions, Ivan's troops were for the first time to conduct

a siege in the regular modern manner, by digging trenches in the earth, and throwing up the soil in front into a bank, behind which the cannon and gunners are posted, with only small openings made through which to fire at some spot in the enemy's walls. These trenches are constantly worked nearer and nearer to the fortifications, till by the effect of the shot an opening or breach must be made in the walls, and the soldiers can then climb up upon scaling ladders or heaps of small faggots piled up to the height of the opening. Sometimes, too, the besiegers burrow underground till they are just below the wall, then fill the hole with gunpowder, and blow all above them ; in short, instead of, as in former days, a well-fortified city being almost impossible to take, except by starving out the garrison, a siege is in these times almost equally sure to end in favor of the besiegers.

All through August and September the Russians made their approaches, while the Tatars resisted them bravely, but often showing great barbarity. Once when Ivan again sent a herald, accompanied by a number of Tatar prisoners, to offer terms to Yediguer, the present Khan, the defenders called out to their countrymen, “ You had better perish by our pure hands than by those of the wretched Christians,” and shot a whole flight of arrows at them. Moreover, every morning the magicians used to come out at sunrise upon the walls, and their shrieks, contortions, and waving of garments were believed, not only by the Tatars but by the Russians, and by Andrej Kourbsky himself, to bring foul weather, which greatly harassed the Russians. On this Ivan sent to Moscow for a sacred cross that had been given to the Grand Prince Vladimir when he was converted; the rivers were blessed, and their water sprinkled round the camp, and the fair weather that ensued was supposed to be due to this counteraction


of the incantations of the magicians. These Tatars were Mahomedans, but they must have retained some of the wind-raising enchantments of their Buddhist brethren in Asia.

A great mine had been made under the gate of Arsk, and eleven barrels of gunpowder placed in it. On the 30th of September it was blown up, and the whole tower became a heap of ruins. For some minutes the consternation of the besieged was such that there was a dead silence like the stillness of the grave. The Russians rushed forward over the opening, but the Tatars, recovering at the sight of them, fought desperately, but could not prevent them from taking possession of the tower at the gateway. Other mines

were already prepared, and the Tzar gave notice of a general assault for the next day, and recommended all his warriors to purify their souls by repentance, confession, and communion, in readiness for the deadly strife before them. In the mean time, he sent Yediguer a last offer of mercy, but the brave Tatars cried out, “We will have no pardon! If the Russians have one tower, we will build another; if they ruin our ramparts we will set up more. We will be buried under the walls of Kazan, or else we will make him raise the siege.”

Early dawn began to break. The sky was clear and cloudless. The Tatars were on their walls, the Russians in their trenches; the Imperial eagle standard, which Ivan had lately assumed, floated in the morning wind. The two armies were perfectly silent, save here and there the bray of a signal trumpet, or beat of a naker-drum in one or the other, and the continuous hum of the hymns and chants from the three Russian chapel-tents. The archers held their arrows on the string, the gunners stood with lighted matches. The copper-clad domes of the minarets began to glow with the rising sunbeams, the muezzins were on the roofs about to call

« ZurückWeiter »