Page images

vaults opening upon other ruins; in short, above, below, and around, one vast collection of magnificence and devastation, of grandeur and decay.

11. The Coliseum, owing to the solidity of its materials, survived the era of barbarism, and was so perfect in the thirteenth century that games were exhibited in it, not for the amusement of the Roman only, but of all the nobility of Italy. The destruction of this wonderful fabric is to be ascribed to causes more active in general in the erection, than in the demolition of magnificent buildings -to Taste and Vanity.

12. When Rome began to revive, and architecture arose from its ruins, every rich and powerful citizen wished to have, not a commodious dwelling merely, but a palace. The Coliseum was an immense quarry at hand: the common people stole, the grandees obtained permission to carry off, its materials, till the interior was dismantled, and the exterior half stripped of its ornaments.


13. It is difficult to say where this system of depredation, so sacrilegious in the opinion of the antiquary, would have stopped, had not Benedict XIV., a pontiff of great judgment, erected a cross in the center of the arena, and declared the place sacred, out of respect to the blood of the many martyrs who were butchered there during the persecutions.This declaration, if issued two or three centuries ago, would have preserved the Coliseum entire; it can now only protect its remains, and transmit them in their present state to posterity.

14. We then ascended the Palatine Mount, after having walked around its base in order to examine its bearings.-This hill, the nursery of infant Rome, and finally the residence of imperial grandeur, presents now two solitary villas and a convent, with their deserted gardens and vineyards.

15. Its numerous temples, its palaces, its porticos, and its libraries, once the glory of Rome, and the admiration of the universe, are now mere heaps of ruins, so shapeless and scattered, that the antiquary and architect are at a loss to discover their site, their plans and their elevation. Of that wing of the imperial palace which looks to the west, and on the Circus Maximus, some apartments remain vaulted, and of fine proportions, but so deeply buried in ruins as to be now subterranean."

16. A hall of immense size was discovered about the be

a a fixed

b De-mo-li"-tion, act of overthrowing.

c Grand-ees', men of rank.

d Sac-ri-le-gious, violating what is sacred An'-ti-qua-ry, one versed in antiquities.

fPon-tif, a high priest.

g Con' vent, a religious house, a nun. nery.

h Sub-ter-ra'-ne-an, under ground.

ginning of the last century, concealed under the ruins of its own massive roof. The pillars of Verde antico that supported its vaults, the statues that ornamented its niches, and the rich marbles that formed its pavement, were found buried ‘in rubbish, and were immediately carried away by the Farnesian family, the proprietors of the soil, to adorn their palaces, and furnish their galleries.

17. This hall is now cleared of its encumbrances, and presents to the eye a vast length of naked wall, and an area covered with weeds. As we stood contemplating its extent and proportions, a fox started from an aperture at one end, once a window, and, crossing the open space, scrambled up the ruins at the other, and disappeared in the rubbish.

18. This scene of desolation reminded me of Ossian's beautiful description: "the thistle shook there its lonely head; the moss whistled to the gale; the fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass waved around his head,"and almost seemed the accomplishment of that awful prediction-"There the wild beasts of the desert shall lodge, and howling monsters shall fill the houses; the wolves shall howl to one another in their palaces, and dragons in their voluptuous pavilions." Eustace.


Description of Ætna.a

1. Ar day break we set off from Catania, to visit Mount Etna, that venerable and respectable father of mountains. His base, and his immense declivities, are covered with a numerous progeny of his own; for every great eruption produces a new mountain; and, perhaps by the number of these better than by any other method, the number of eruptions, and the age of Etna itself might be ascertained.

2. The whole mountain is divided into three distinct regions, called La Regione Cultra or Piedmontese, the fertile region; La Regione Sylvosa or Nemorosa, the woody region; and La Regione Deserta or Scoperta, the barren region. These three are as different, both in climate and productions, as the three zones of the earth; and perhaps with equal propriety might have been styled the Torrid, the Temperate, and the frigid Zone.

3. The first region surrounds the mountain, and constitutes the most fertile country in the world, on all sides of it,

a Nich'-es, hollows in a wall. Ap-er-ture, an open place. Vo-lup-tu-ous, luxurious.

d Etna, a mountain on the island of of Sicily.

to the extent of fourteen or fifteen miles, where the woody region begins. It is composed almost entirely of lava, which, after a number of ages, is at last converted into the most fertile of all soils. At Nicolosi, which is twelve miles up the mountain, we found the barometera at 27 1-2:-at Catania it stood at 29 1-2.

4. After leaving Nicolosi, in an hour and a half's traveling over barren ashes and lava, we arrived on the confines of the Regione Sylvosa, or temperate zone. As soon as we entered these delightful forests, we seemed to have entered another world. The air, which before was sultry and hot, was now cool and refreshing; and every breeze was loaded with a thousand perfumes -the whole ground being covered with the richest aromatic plants. Many parts of this region are surely the most delightful spots upon earth.

This mountain unites every beauty, and every horror; and the most opposite and dissimilar objects in nature. Here you observe a gulf that formerly threw out torrents of fire, now covered with the most luxuriant vegetation; and from an object of terror, become one of delight. Here you gather the most delicious fruit, rising from what was but lately a barren rock. Here the ground is covered with flowers; and we wander over these beauties, and contemplate this wilderness of sweets, without considering that under our feet, but a few yards separate us from lakes of liquid fire and brimstone.

6. But our astonishment still increases, upon raising our eyes to the higher region of the mountain. There we behold in perpetual union, the two elements which are at perpetual war -an immense gulf of fire, forever existing in the midst of snows which it has not power to melt; and immense fields of snow and ice, forever surrounding this gulf of fire, which they have not power to extinguish. The woody region of Ætna ascends for about eight or nine miles, and forms a zone or girdle of the brightest green, all around the mountain.

7. This night we passed through little more than half of it; arriving some time before sun set at our lodging, which was a large cave, formed by one of the most ancient and venerable lavas. Here we were delighted with the contemplation of many beautiful objects,--the prospect on all sides being immense, and we already seemed to have been lifted from the earth. After a comfortable sleep, and other refreshments, at eleven o'clock at night we recommenced our expedition.

8. Our guide now began to display his great knowledge of a Ba-rome-ter, an instrument to show Ar-o-ma'-tic, spicy, fragrant.

the weight of the atmosphere.

the mountain, and we followed him with implicita confidence, where perhaps human foot had never trod before. Some times through gloomy forests, which by day were delightful, but now, from the universal darkness, the rustling of the trees, the heavy dull bellowing of the mountain, the vast expanse of ocean stretched at an immense distance below us, inspired a kind of awful horror.

9. Sometimes we found ourselves ascending great rocks of laya, where, if our mules should make but a false step, we might be thrown headlong over the precipice.—However, by the assistance of our guide we overcame all these difficulties, and in two hours we had ascended above the region of vegetation, and had left the forests of Ætna far below, which now appeared like a dark and gloomy gulf surrounding the mountain.

10. The prospect before us was of a very different nature: we beheld an expanse of snow and ice which alarmed us exceedingly, and almost staggered our resolution. In the center of this we descried the high summit of the mountain, rearing its tremendous head, and vomiting out torrents of smoke.

11. The ascent for some time was not steep, and as the surface of the snow sunk a little, we had tolerably good footing; but as it soon began to grow steeper, we found our labor greatly increased: however, we determined to persevere, calling to mind that the emperor Adrian and the philosopher Plato had undergone the same; and from a like motive tooto see the rising sun from the top of Ætna.

12. We at length arrived at the summit; but here, description must ever fall short; for no imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious, and so magnificent a scene.Neither is there on the surface of this globe, any one point, that unites so many awful and sublime objects:

13. The immense elevation from the surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a single point, without any neighboring mountain for the senses and imagination to rest upon, and recover from their astonishment in their way down to the world;-this point, or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a bottomless gulf, as old as the world, often discharging rivers of fire, and throwing out burning rocks, with a noise that shakes the whole island,-add to this, the unbounded extent of the prospect, comprehending the greatest diversity,-and the most beautiful scenery in nature,-with the rising sun advancing in the east, to illuminate the wondrous scene.

14. The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and showed, dimly and faintly, the boundless prospect around.

Im-plic'-it, tacitly implied.

b Sum'-mit, top, highest point.

Both sea and land looked dark and confused, as if only emerging from their original chaos; and light and dark ness seemed still undivided, till the morning, by degrees advancing, completed the separation. The stars are extinguished, and the shades disappear. The forests, which but now seemed black and bottomless gulfs, from which no ray was reflected to show their form or colors, appear a new creation, rising to the sight, and catching life and beauty from every increasing beam.

15. The scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems to widen and expand itself on all sides, till the sun, like the great Creator, appears in the east, and with his plastic rays completes the mighty scene. All appears enchantment; and it is with difficulty we can believe we are still on earth.-The senses, unaccustomed to the sublimity of such a scene, are bewildered and confounded; and it is not till after some time, that they are capable of separating and judging of the objects that compose it.

16. The body of the sun is seen rising from the ocean, immense tracts both of sea and land intervening; the islands of Lipari, Panari, Alicudi, Strombolo, and Volcano, with their smoking summits, appear under your feet: you ook down on the whole of Sicily as on a map; and can trace every river through all its windings, from its source to its mouth.

17. The view is absolutely boundless on every side; nor is there any one object within the circle of vision to interrupt it; so that the sight is every where lost in the immensity; and I am persuaded it is only from the imperfection of our organs, that the coasts of Africa, and even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are certainly above the horizon. The circumference of the visible horizon, on the top of Ætna, cannot be less than two thousand miles.

18. But the most beautiful part of the scene is certainly the mountain itself, the island of Sicily, and the numerous islands lying around it. All these, by a kind of magic in vision that I am at a loss to account for, seem as if they were brought close around the skirts of Etna -the distances appearing reduced to nothing.

19. The Regione Deserta, or the frigid zone of Ætna, is the first object that calls your attention. It is marked out by a circle of snow and ice, which extends on all sides to the distance of about eight miles. In the center of this circle, the great crater of the mountain rears its burning head; and the regions of intense cold and of intense heat seem for ever to be united in the same point.

a Cha'-os, confused mass.

b In-ter-ve-ning, coming between.

« PreviousContinue »