HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION - EXTREME PERIL.
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(JANUARY TO FEBRUARY 1536.)
THE duke of Savoy was preparing to aim more decisive blows at Geneva.
He desired to satisfy the ancient ambition of his house, and to crush a city which believed itself called upon to divorce from Rome the populations scattered around her. In this he was animated by his wife, Beatrice, a Portuguese princess, who was inspired by that religious fanaticism which generally distinguishes the women of the Iberian peninsula. The cities of Asti, Ivrea, and Verceil had fallen into the hands of the house of Savoy, and Geneva was to experience the same fate. The moment seemed favorable. Charles V. was preparing to destroy protestantism: lansquenets, recruited by the emperor’s brother, were arriving from Germany, and the army which Charles himself was bringing back from Africa, was moving towards the Alps. Letters from Berne announced that the emperor and the duke would begin by reducing Geneva, reformed Switzerland would follow, and last of all Lutheran Germany. Thus the subjection of the city of the huguenots formed part of a general plan. That mighty monarch, upon whose dominions the sun never set, had determined to abolish the Reformation, beginning with this city.
Charles III. had learnt that what had paralyzed his former efforts was the error he had committed by not sending disciplined troops against the huguenot city. He therefore determined on this occasion to select none but veteran soldiers and to place them under the orders of one of the boldest captains of the age, whose march should be accompanied with plunder and devastation. A person of low birth, who had settled at Milan, had acquired a small fortune by his industry. This man, Bernardino Medici (a name not to be confounded with that of the Medicis of Florence) had two sons, Giovanni Angelo, who became Pope under the name of Pius IV., and Giangiacomo, a rash, enterprising, treacherous, and cruel young man, whose ambition was insatiable and whose trade was war. Having been sent to the castle of Musso on the lake of Como, by the duke of Milan, with a letter charging the governor to put the bearer to death, the cunning Giangiacomo had opened the letter, got together a few companions, seized the castle, and made a small principality of it, which he had increased little by little, by furious inroads into the surrounding districts — the Valteline, the Milanese, Venetia, and even the Grisons. The Swiss, with Nagueli at their head, marched against the robber chieftain and destroyed his lair.
From that time the daring freebooter had carried his impetuosity and devastations elsewhere. Portions of French Switzerland, on the side of the Jura, had been ravaged by him. It was this Attila on a small scale whom Charles III. selected to put at the head of the new campaign against Geneva. It was not a question of merely taking the city, but of putting it in such a position that it could never lift its head again; in short, of destroying it. Giangiacomo was just the man for the work. At a later period Charles V., wishing to employ him against the German Reformation, created him marquis of Marignano, and gave him the command of the artillery in his campaign against the Lutherans. For the present, however, it was not Wittemberg but Geneva that Medici was to lay waste. The duke of Savoy placed his general at the head of an army composed of four thousand Italians, besides Savoyards and Spaniards, stout, strong fellows, most of them old soldiers. A considerable number of armed men were summoned from the valley of the Leman to join Medici, and thus double or even triple his forces. The warlike brother of the future Pope Pius IV., supported by great princes, by the duke of Savoy and the emperor, had no doubt of victory. He began his march along the valley of the Leman.
The peril was great, but was everything lost? Was there not a power in Geneva which had not been found in Verceil or Asti? ‘There seem to be no means of escaping from the hands of our enemies,’ said the pious Genevans; ‘but our hope is in God, who will not suffer His holy name to be blasphemed by infidels.’ Berne had long closed her ears to the cries of Geneva. Baudichon de la Maisonneuve had gone thither to point out the extremity to which his country was reduced. At the moment when the peril had become greatest, the Bear awoke, and prepared to descend from his mountains. Political motives had no doubt something to do with this decision of the Council.
Somewhat later she had formed treaties of co-citizenship with Geneva and Lausanne; and when she saw the king of France raising an army, and moving it towards the Alps, she feared lest that prince should be beforehand with her. But the solicitations of Baudichon de la Maisonneuve, and the voices of the Bernese citizens who were for independence and the Reformation, had, after God, the greatest share in the decision of that state. The Bernese Council issued a proclamation to the people, in which, after, setting forth the peril of Geneva, they went on to say: ‘This matter touches, first of all, the glory of God, and next it touches us.’ ‘We are ready,’ answered the people, ‘to sacrifice our goods and our lives for the maintenance of the faith and of our oaths.’ Twenty thousand men offered to march. The change which now took place in the councils of Berne was so unexpected that it was generally ascribed to the direction of God. ‘Berne, urged by the divine inspiration, is moving,’ wrote a pious Bernese to Bullinger, Zwingle’s successor at Zurich. And that excellent Genevan, Porral, said in the fullness of his joy: ‘O God, I thank Thee for that Thou hast inspired our citizens to give us help and comfort.’ On the 16th of January a herald bore to the duke of Savoy a declaration of war with fire and sword. Francis Nagueli was unanimously appointed commander of the expedition. A decided Christian, a tried captain, and a skillful negotiator, he was adored by his soldiers, who called him ‘our Franz.’ From the twenty thousand men who offered themselves he selected six thousand. He gave two orders. A new weapon was then succeeding the halberds and the long swords; the arquebuses threw balls that struck the enemy invisibly. Nagueli wished to have the advantage of that weapon. ‘Bring fire-sticks ,’ he said. He moreover exacted strict discipline: ‘Be orderly, just, and kind towards the peasantry, as well as fearless in battle.’
There was another man in Berne who had the cause of Geneva as much at heart as Nagueli. The reformer, Berthold Haller, bowed down with suffering, had only a few days to live. Yet as the army, before leaving Berne, wished publicly to pray for God’s help, he left his sick-bed with some difficulty, and, supported by his friends, crawled into the cathedral pulpit. That man, so mild, so timid, so mistrustful of himself, showed on the approach of death an energy which had hitherto been foreign to him. ‘Men of Berne,’ he said, with a voice almost inaudible, ‘be firm and courageous. Magistrates and people, officers and soldiers, remain faithful to the Word of God. Honor the Gospel, by behaving righteously, and follow up unshrinkingly for the love of God your intention to snatch from the destruction that threatens them our poor brethren of Geneva, hitherto sadly forsaken of men.’ Then lifting his trembling hands towards heaven, Haller stretched them above the silent army, and exclaimed, ‘May God fill your hearts with faith, and may He be your Comforter!’ The whole army, the whole people, in the city, in the canton, and even in the upper valleys among the perpetual snows, repeated these words — the last the reformer uttered in public which became the watchwords of this holy war.
On Saturday (January 22d) six thousand men left the city, marching with a firm step, not under their peculiar flags (for each city had its own), but under that of Berne alone, a symbol at once of strength and unity. A hundred cavalry and sixteen pieces of cannon accompanied the infantry.
They all wore a white cross on a red field; the old mark of the crusaders was their only uniform. Haller’s words had borne fruit. Those children of the mountains went to the help of their brothers with enthusiasm and with faith. The noble Nagueli rode at their head. He desired to make an evangelical and Helvetic country of the beautiful valley of the Leman. He was serious and silent, for he was meditating on the means of freeing Geneva completely, but at the cost of as little blood as possible. The soldiers marched after him, active and joyful, in the midst of a crowd of men, women, and children collected from the villages round about; and those bold Helvetians, with heads erect, made the road echo with their songs of war. The Chronicle of old Switzerland has preserved them for us:
Be silent, people all, and listen to my lay.
With eager footsteps on he goes, the weeping ones to save, Whom all the world hath left to sink unaided to the grave. My gallant, gallant bear! God hath raised thee from the dead; Bound in his chains, the scorn of men, the pope long held thee fast, But Christ hath snapped thy bonds, and the night of slavery is passed.
Cheer up, old mountain bear! and with head uplifted high, Let him who tries to stop thee have a care!
Woe, woe to him that hateth thee, woe to the knaves who fear To follow where thou leadest — to Rome and victory, To dethrone the king of liars, at the hypocrites to laugh, And their idolatries to scatter to the winds of heaven like chaff.
I await thee in the mountains, when the bloody strife is o’er, And thou comest with the laurel wreath upon thy head; Thou shalt drink our mountain streams, grassy meads shall be thy bed, There thy wearied limbs shall rest, and thy heart be glad once more, He who fighteth for the faith, findeth glory at the last, And God shall crown the warrior for the dangers he has passed.
On the first day the army reached the battle-field of Morat, which the soldiers hailed with enthusiasm. The contingents of Bienne, Nidau, La Neuville, Neuchatel, Valengin, Chateau d’Oex, Gessenay, and Payerne, burning with affection for Geneva and the Reformation, joined the Bernese flag in the last-named town. Here the Avoyer de Watteville passed this noble army in review on the 21th of January, and administered the oath to it.
Geneva presented at this time a less showy spectacle. The famine, which for some months had distressed the city, was now prowling like a ghastly phantom in every street, frightening the women and children, and even the men themselves. Cold and sickness, the inevitable consequences of deprivation, filled the houses with suffering and mourning. These adversities were like a fierce torrent that sweeps away everything it touches. Even the brave began to grow dejected. At this conjuncture a man arrived from Berne, the bearer of two messages. One, on paper, had been given him to avert suspicion in case he should be stopped by the governor of Vaud; it was a demand for Furbity’s liberation. The other message was to be made verbally. ‘Detain me here a prisoner,’ said the Bernese, ‘and put me to death, if my lords do not march out with their army to help you.’ The people of Geneva could not believe him. ‘In three days,’ he added, ‘you will see the castles of the country in flames. That will be the signal of Berne’s coming.’ When there was no longer any doubt of the arrival of the liberators, the Genevan population, so long afflicted, breathed and took courage. The most energetic men did not want to wait until their allies had arrived.
Versoix, an important place belonging to the duke of Savoy, might stop the Bernese army. Fourscore citizens, manning a few boats, attacked it from the lake, put to flight the soldiers of Savoy by the fire of their cannon, and entered the fortress. The granaries were filled with corn, the cellars with wine, and the stalls with cattle: this was to the hungry citizens like the scene in the camp of the Syrians at the gates of Samaria. ( 2 Kings 7) The Genevese hastily removed to their boats all that they could carry away, and returning to the city displayed their booty in the market-place in the midst of an immense crowd. Wheat, barley, and cattle were sold at a low rate. Everybody ran and bought what he wanted; all rejoiced at this unexpected succor. And yet great danger still impended over Geneva.
It is true Berne was coming to her help; but more than that was required to save the city. The emperor’s plan was (as we have seen) to crush the Reformation, which opposed his absolute sovereignty in Germany. It has been said that Francis I., attracted by the offer of Milan, had shown an inclination to let Charles V. do what he liked. Could Berne resist that powerful monarch? Would not the patricians, who more than once had shown themselves very cold with respect to Geneva, be found returning to their old system of compromises and delays? A great change in the relations and projects of the princes could alone, as it would appear, save the city. Now just at this very moment a series of events was taking place that suddenly transformed the political aspect of Europe.
Catherine of Aragon, aunt of Charles V., died. In consequence of her decease, the emperor relinquished his design of invading England, and kept the duchy of Milan, which he had offered to the king of France to induce him to combine against Henry VIII. Francis I., treated by the emperor as a person of no importance, swore that he would be avenged. But to reach Charles V. and seize Milan, it was necessary to march over the body of his uncle, the duke of Savoy. He did not hesitate to let this prince know ‘how little he would be advantaged by not having France for a friend.’ Now, if the duke of Savoy, prince of Piedmont, is driven by the king of France beyond the Alps and further still, Geneva is saved.
At the sight of the danger which threatened him, Charles III. would have liked to renew the old alliance with his nephew; but the influence of his wife, who had ‘led him into this dance,’ kept him bound to the cause of the emperor. In his embarrassment he formed a resolution that was not devoid of a certain cleverness, and which would make the conquest of Geneva and its annexation to the dominions of the emperor inevitable.
Charles III. offered to cede to Charles V., in exchange for various Italian provinces, the western slopes of the Alps, ‘all the country he possessed from Nice to the Swiss League, including Geneva.’ By establishing the house of Austria between himself and France, the duke would raise an impassable barrier against his restless neighbor, and at the same time gratify the taste of the house of Savoy, which loved to extend itself on the side of Italy. By virtue of this exchange, the states of Charles V. would have bordered France everywhere from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. Francis I. was alarmed. ‘I will not permit the emperor,’ he said, ‘to set up such a ladder against my kingdom, in order to invade it from that quarter hereafter.’ All his hesitation ceased, and he determined to carry out without delay the plan he had formed of invading Savoy, Piedmont, and the Milanese. Thus at the very moment when the duke was preparing to crush Geneva, he saw a storm suddenly gathering which was at once to drive him from both slopes of the Alps and save the little city.
Let us see whether such was really the result of that policy.
The Swiss army, commanded by Nagueli, had started from Payerne on the 24th of January and arrived the next day at Echallens, whence it was to march on Morges. The contingents of Orbe and Lausanne, desirous of taking part in the deliverance of Geneva, came to increase his force, which was thus raised to about ten thousand men. Sebastian de Montfaulcon, bishop of Lausanne, a proud, intriguing, domineering priest, inflamed with anger at seeing his people declare for Geneva, determined to raise troops to oppose the liberating army. His bailiff and secretary, going into the steep and narrow streets of the city, knocked at every door, and asked whether the inmates would take the side of the bishop or of the burgesses.
Montfaulcon himself set out for his castle of Glerolles, near St. Saphorin, in order to stir up the inhabitants of La Vaux. But Nagueli was to encounter in his march a more formidable obstacle than Montfaulcon and his extempore soldiers.
Medici, informed of the march of the Bernese army, had determined to attack it before it reached Geneva. He could see that if Nagueli were once established in that city, it would not be easy to take it. The plan of the Italian commander was to march by Thonon and Evian, carry his soldiers across the lake, give battle to the Bernese, and, after defeating them, turn upon Geneva, which would be incapable of resisting him. The character and antecedents of the devastating condottiere were sufficient to indicate the fate reserved for his conquest. The city would have been pillaged, perhaps burnt, in conformity with the habits of Giangiacomo.
That formidable chief had crossed the lake with his army in boats from Chablais, and had almost reached Morges; his intention being to give a solid base to his operations, not only by being master of Morges, which was under the duke’s orders, but still further by taking possession, with the bishop’s help, of Lausanne, whose liberal citizens were ready to join Nagueli. On the 27th of January, in the evening, a detachment started for that purpose under the orders of the Sieur de Colloneys. But the latter had not gone far when Medici perceived fires on the heights near the villages of Bussigny, Renens, and Crissier; it was the Bernese who were preparing to bivouac on the hills. The fugitive governor of Musso had no idea that the enemy was so near. He had not yet taken up his position and the Swiss were in sight. He called back the detachment, and early next morning sent out some of his cavalry to reconnoiter the Swiss army and skirmish with them. Nagueli, not doubting that the hour of battle had arrived, drew up his formidable line on the heights of Morges; all his men were full of ardor. Medici also desired to arrange his troops for the struggle, but was not blind to the disadvantages of his position. Nagueli was on the heights, while the Savoyard troops had their backs to the lake, into which they might be driven. The general, sent by the duke of Savoy to destroy Geneva, looked with astonishment at the army of the new crusaders. He found himself in presence of that valorous Nagueli who, as captain-general of the Leagues, had taken from him his castle of Musso and the lands he had seized by stratagem or force. More than once this robber-chief had said: ‘What neither the emperor nor the king of France could do, that Switzer did.’ And now, at the head of the troops of Piedmont and Savoy, and supported by Charles V., the late castellan of Musso had flattered himself with the hope of taking vengeance for the injury he had once endured; but it was the contrary that happened. Instead of rushing forward at the head of his veteran soldiers, he was confused; he hesitated, and his heart seemed to fail him.
How was that? Was it because the sight of the army of Berne in line of battle intimidated him? Was it because the gentlemen of Vaud and Gex, upon whom he had counted, remembering the valor of the Swiss at Gingins, had no desire to risk the chance of receiving a second lesson, and kept away? Was it because the reinforcements expected from Savoy had not arrived? Or was it because bad news reached him from Chambery, informing him that the duke could think of nothing but the defense of his hereditary states against the king of France? All these reasons had something to do with the trouble of the former castellan of Musso; but the last was the strongest. What a vexation for Medici! He had vaunted that he would put an end to the interminable existence of Geneva; and at the first reencounter he has to retreat. He had reckoned on the pleasure of destroying a nest of heretics , and he cannot prevent Nagueli’s saving it. At this critical moment, one of the most daring captains of the age seemed to become one of the most cowardly. There are people who, audacious in prosperity, lose their heads when the chances are against them. The flotilla in which the commander of the troops of Savoy had traversed the lake lay at anchor a little distance from Morges, on the side of Lausanne. Medici deserted the field of battle without striking a blow, and embarked a portion of his troops while the remainder stopped in Morges, a fortified city.
Nagueli, seeing that the enemy was retiring, pushed the advanced guard of the Swiss down to the shore. The Italian captain, desiring at least to burn a few cartridges, discharged the guns of his fleet at the Bernese, who returned the fire; but it was not difficult for the latter to get out of reach of the cannonade.
During this petty engagement, the Spaniards and Italians, who to the number of about seven hundred had taken shelter in Morges, furious at seeing the triumph of the protestants so near at hand, behaved in that city, which belonged to the duke, as if they had been in a hostile town. They rushed into the castle, broke open private houses, and even pillaged the churches, everywhere committing the cruelest outrages; after which they opened the gate on the Rolle side, and most of them ran away. Some escaped on horseback, ‘and the rest’, says Froment, ‘got off fighting with a two-legged sword.’ Medici sent two or three boats to Morges to bring off those who had not decamped, and then sailed away to Savoy.
One might almost say that an invincible angel of the Almighty, as in the days of Judah, had put the enemies of the Word of God to flight. (2 Kings 19) The break-up was complete: a panic terror had fallen upon the soldiers.
The roads, the plain, the mountain paths were crowded with fugitives. The motives that induced Medici to retire were doubtless unknown to his troops; but there is another explanation, a moral explanation, of their disorderly flight. The Italian bands had crossed the Alps because their captains had promised to deliver up to them Geneva, whose wealth rumor had greatly exaggerated. It was a very different motive that animated the Swiss: they had left their mountains and their valleys to secure national independence and liberty of faith in Geneva in opposition to the pope, the bishop, and the duke. The Genevese themselves, in the obstinate struggle they had maintained for so many years, were impelled by the noblest motives. But moral principles give to an army a moral energy which bands of pillagers cannot resist. There is no doubt that Medici’s condottieri were in many respects better soldiers than the shepherds of the Alps or the shopkeepers of the little city; but the latter had a holy cause to defend.
Their glance sufficed to scare the bandits, who, renouncing the plunder of the hostile city, pillaged the towns of their allies and fled as fast as oars or legs could carry them. On the 30th of January the Council of Geneva were able to enter the following words on their minutes: ‘Four thousand Italian and other foreigners, who had made preparations at Morges for the defense of the country (Vaud), made no resistance and fled like cowards without striking a blow.’
But Nagueli might encounter adversaries more formidable than the Italians of Medici. The chiefs of all the district lying between the Alps and the Jura, not only those of Vaud, but of Gex, Chablais, and other parts of Savoy, were a real power. It was not known at that time what part they would take. Their absence from Morges might only have been occasioned by delay. Might not the priests be found arousing their parishioners and marching at their head, as they had done three months before at the battle of Gingins? If the cavaliers of the Middle Ages should unite with the mercenaries of the sixteenth century, it would be all over with Geneva. But the victory gained at Gingins by four hundred and fifty sons of the Reformation over three to four thousand nobles and soldiers, had, as we have mentioned, spread terror throughout the country. They called to mind that one had put seven to flight; that many chiefs had fallen by the balls of those keen marksmen; and that a hundred priests had bitten the dust. Hence it was that only a few of the gentry had any idea of taking up the sword: the priests kept silence, and even the intrepid baron of La Sarraz went and hid himself within the walls of Yverdun. The real feat of arms that delivered Geneva was the victory of Gingins, gained by the independent friends of the reformation: the official expedition of Berne was the triumphal march which gathered the fruits and wore the laurels.
Nagueli, who stopped in Morges until the next day, was aroused in the middle of the night by his alarmed followers. The sentries at the harbor had heard the noise of oars in the distance. Was the enemy returning from Savoy in greater force? Each man held his breadth, the sound drew nearer, and presently a boat approached. It might perhaps be followed by others; but no, it was alone, and brought letters for Medici which had probably been delayed. Everything was seized, and from the dispatches the Bernese general learnt that the count of Challans had dispatched to the Italian commander a considerable reinforcement of cavalry and infantry.
Nagueli, thinking to come up with this reinforcement near Geneva, hurried forward to meet them. On the morning of the 30th of January he started for Rolle; no obstacle retarded his march; nobles and soldiers ‘had been reduced to dust by terror.’ The fields were deserted; the small towns and villages were empty; fear of the Bernese had swept the country. The general, in concert with his chiefs, had agreed that it would be an unwise policy to neglect establishing peace in that district with a firm hand, as well for the present as for the future. Another principle also animated the Bernese: they wanted to extend the territory of the Helvetic League and their own as far as the shores of Lake Leman. Now so long as the power of the nobles of Vaud, who were strongly attached to Savoy, remained unbroken, there would be perpetual insurrections, and Berne would hardly be in a position to hold her own. Nagueli was persuaded that the strength of the cruel chevaliers of those valleys lay in their strongholds. ‘If we want to drive out the wolves,’ he said, ‘we must destroy their dens.’ The castles of Rolle and Rosay were reduced to ashes; and the Genevans, seeing in the darkness of the night those distant flames, shouted with joy, ‘They are coming !’
Nagueli resumed his march, sparing the inhabitants, but everywhere destroying the images. Passing near Nyon without attacking it, he moved upon Divonne and Gex, important positions from which he desired to expel the enemy before entering Geneva.
Francois de Gingins, lord of Divonne and Chatelard, who had at first taken part in the blockade of Geneva, but had withdrawn his troops during the frosts of December, had shut himself up in his castle of Divonne on the hills which overlook that village. Nagueli desired to treat with respect a nobleman whose ancestors had been counted from the tenth century among the great vassals of the kings of Transjurassic Burgundy, and who possessed an amiable character and pacific disposition. Brought up by his maternal uncle, the count of Gruyeres, and afterwards appointed by the king of France page of honor in his household, he had returned to his home and married his cousin Margaret, daughter of Antoine de Gingins, president of the sovereign council of Savoy. He had small liking for the priests, whose gross and often immoral conduct offended him; but he was alarmed at the idea of being unfaithful to the Church and feudalism, and after some hesitation attached himself to Roman-catholicism and the duke. Margaret had, it is said, some share in the change which afterwards occurred in the family. The ladies of the castles were generally superior to their husbands; they were more accessible to religious impressions. While the lord was away at tournaments or on warlike expeditions, the wife remained mistress of the household, governed her children and servants, and virtues were often developed in her which would have been vainly sought for elsewhere. A son speaking of his mother, describes her beauty, her features always tranquil, her brow armed with severe chastity, her virtuous looks, her regulated conversation, her modesty, her fear of God, and her charity. It is thus we love to picture to ourselves Margaret of Gingins.
The young lord of Divonne liked the neighborhood of Geneva and the intelligence of its inhabitants, and, without being aware of it, the cause of the Reformation had made some progress in his heart. In 1548 he made over his four castles of Gingins, Divonne, Chatelard, and Sarraz to his sons, and retired to Geneva, where he remained to the end of his days. Thus, in his person, peace was concluded between the redoubtable gentlemen of the country and the city which they had so harassed.
On Tuesday (February lst) ten syndics of Geneva came to present the Bernese general with the thanks of the city. While they were in conference with him, a noise was heard in the castle. They all pricked up their ears.
The old abbot De Gingins, episcopal vicar of Geneva, who had retired (as we have seen) into the Jura, to his isolated convent of Bonmont, alarmed at the approach of the army, disturbed by the recollection of his licentious life, and remembering that the Swiss had no liking for wicked priests, a great number of whom had fallen at Gingins, had taken refuge at Divonne in his nephew’s castle, where he believed himself safe from all harm. He kept quiet in a secret hiding-place, greatly tormented by fear that the Bernese might discover him. Some soldiers, who were ordered to search the castle, found him and brought him more dead than alive before their general. As the latter sharply reproached the lord of Divonne with violating their convention, the alarm of the old sinner increased; but he began to breathe again, when the general declared that he would be willing to release him for a ransom of four hundred crowns. The poor abbot, though the fear of death was passed, never recovered from his fright.
Consequently, next morning (February 2d) Nagueli, finding that there was no enemy to prevent his entering Geneva, divided his soldiers into three corps: one was to reduce the country between the Rhone and the Jura as far as the Fort de l’Ecluse, which it was to take; the other was to march to Gex, and burn the castle; while the rest of the army started for Geneva. The Genevans awaited with great impatience the arrival of their liberators.
The sun cheered with its beams the brightest of the days in Genevese history. The snows which covered the mountains glittered in the distance; but in the plain at their feet, flashes of light were observed which delighted the citizens still more. ‘Two leagues off,’ says Froment, ‘we could see the arms glittering, which was a great joy to us.’ The young people ran forward to meet their deliverers, and in a short time the Bernese army approached and passed through an enthusiastic crowd stationed on both sides of the road. The leaders Nagueli, Weingarten, Cyro, Diesbach, and Graffenried, came first on horseback; then followed the bannerets, councilors, provosts, and other members of the Councils of Berne; and last of all the liberating army, seventeen pieces of artillery, and the companies of Neuchatel, Lausanne, and other places in Vaud. As the Bernese passed the gates and entered the city, they sang aloud once more these strains to the glory of God:
The hour is come : ‘Up, Judah, up!
Deaf to Geneva’s woes and sleeping Among her meads Helvetia lay ; But our rocks at last are shaken ; With a shout the Bernese waken, And to succor the oppressed They march with dauntless breast : The Bear alone to pity giveth way. To the war the fierce old bear, With his eager cubs, has gone : Day of safety to God’s children, Day of gladness to each one.
Berne, if thy heart could counterfeit, If thy proud neck could bend ; If thy tongue, in honeyed accents, Could kings, as gods, commend ; Then their haughty palace gates Would before thee open wide, — But Christ is thy salvation, And His cup thy boast and pride.
In the battle no man fighteth at thy side.
Fear nothing! every coming age Shall bless thy memory ; For twice ten days thy cry has been : ‘We conquer or we die!’ What feats have been accomplished By thy arm! how many a town And many a haughty ruler Before thee hath gone down!
‘Geneva received her deliverers with great delight,’ says an eye-witness, ‘and replied to their songs with cries of joy.’ The barbarous captain, sent against the huguenots to destroy them, had disappeared; the wild beast, after a roar, had returned hastily to his den. Their goods, their liberty, their faith, their lives were saved. Excited by this great deliverance, the Genevans were not satisfied merely with expressing their gratitude to the Bernese, but looked higher. They knew that a Supreme Power, an Infinite Love, holds the affairs of this world in His hands. It was that faith which was to make the little city grow, and they wished to give expression to it. The council being assembled, they resolved to enroll in the annals of the republic a testimony of their gratitude, and ordered these words to be written: ‘The power of God has confounded the presumption and rash audacity of our enemies.’ Froment, too, an eye-witness of these things, wrote in his Gestes Merveilleux the following simple and touching words: ‘In the year 1536, and in the month of February, Geneva was delivered from her enemies by the providence of God.’