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20. The Regione Deserta is immediately succeeded by the Sylvosa, or the woody region, which forms a circle or girdle of the most beautiful green, surrounding the mountain on all sides; and it is certainly one of the most delightful spots on earth. This presents a remarkable contrast with the desert region. It is not smooth and even, like the greatest part of the latter; but is finely variegated by an infinite number of those beautiful little mountains, that have been formed by the different eruptions of Ætna.
21. All these have now acquired a wonderful degree of fertility, except a very few that are but newly formed,—that is, within these five or six hundred years; for it certainly requires some thousands to bring them to their greatest degree of perfection. We looked down into the craters of these, and attempted, but in vain, to number them.
22. The circumference of this zone, or great circle on Ætna, is not less than 70 or 80 miles. It is every where succeeded by the vineyards, orchards, and corn fields, that compose the Regione Cultra, or the fertile region. This last zone is much oroader than the others, and extends on all sides to the foot of the mountain. Its whole circumference, according to Recupero, is 183 miles.
23. It is likewise covered with a number of little conical and spherical mountains, and exhibits a wonderful variety of forms and colors, and makes a delightful contrast with the other two regions. It is bounded by the sea to the south and south-east, and on all its other sides by the rivers Semetus and Alcantara, which run almost around it. The whole course of these rivers is seen at once, and all their beautiful windings through these fertile valleys looked upon, as the favorite possession of Ceres herself.
24. Cast your eyes a little farther, and you embrace the whole island, and see all its cities, rivers, and mountains, delineated in the great chart of nature,—all the adjacent islands, the whole coast of Italy, as far as your eye can reach;-for it is no where bounded, but every where lost in space. On the sun's first rising, the shadow of the mountain extends across the whole island, and makes a large track, visible even in the sea and in the air. By degrees this is shortened, and, in a little time, is confined only to the neighborhood of Ætna.
25. We had now time to examine the fourth region of that wonderful mountain, very different indeed from the others, and productive of very different sensations; but which has undoubtedly given being to all the rest;-I mean the region
Spher'-i-cal, globular, round,
of fire. The present crater of this immense volcano, is a circle of about three miles and a half in circumference. It goes shelving down on each side, and forms a regular hollow, like a vast amphitheater.
26. From many places of this space, issue volumes of sulphureous smoke, which, being much heavier than the circumambienta air, instead of rising in it, as smoke generally does, immediately on its getting out of the crater it rolls down the side of the mountain like a torrent, till coming to that part of the atmosphere of the same specific gravity with itself, it shoots off, horizontally, and forms a large track in the air, according to the direction of the wind, which, happily for us, carried it exactly to the side opposite to that where we were placed.
27. The crater is so hot that it is very dangerous, if not impossible, to go down into it; besides, the smoke is very incommodious, and in many places the surface is so soft, there have been instances of people sinking into it, and paying for their temerity with their lives. Near the center of the crater, is the great mouth of the volcano-that tremendous gulf so celebrated in all ages, and looked upon as the terror and scourge both of this and another life. We beheld it with awe and with horror, and were not surprised that it had been considered as the place of eternal punishment.
28. When we reflect on the immensity of its depth, the vast cells and caverns whence so many lavas have issued,the force of its internal fire, to raise up those lavas to so vast a height, to support as it were in the air, and even to force them over the very summit of the crater,—with all the dreadful accompaniments,-the boiling of the matter, the shaking of the mountain, the explosion of flaming rocks, &c.-we must allow that the most enthusiastic imagination in the midst of all its terrors, hardly ever formed an idea of a hell more dreadful. Brydone.
The Widow and her Son.
1, DURING my residence in the country, I used frequently to attend at the old village church, which stood in a country filled with ancient families, and contained within its cold and >In-com-mo'-dl-ous, inconvenient.
« Cir-cum-am'-bi-ent, surrounding.
silent aisles, the congregated dust of many noble generations. Its shadowy aisles, its mouldering monuments, its dark oaken panneling, all reverend with the gloom of departed years, seemed to fit it for the haunt of solemn meditation.
2. A Sunday, too, in the country, is so holy in its repose; such a pensive quiet reigns over the face of nature, that every restless passion is charmed down, and we feel all the natural religion of the soul gently springing up within us:
"Sweet day, so pure, so calm, so bright,
I do not pretend to be what is called a devout man, but there are feelings that visit me in a country church, amid the beautiful serenity of nature, which I experience nowhere else; and if not a more religious, I think I am a better man on Sunday, than on any other day of the seven.
3. But in this church I felt myself continually thrown back upon the world, by the frigidity and pomp of the poor worms around me. The only being that seemed thoroughly to feel the humble and prostrate piety of a true Christian, was a poor decrepit old woman, bending under the weight of years and infirmities. She bore the traces of something better than abject poverty. The lingerings of decent pride were visible in her appearance. Her dress, though humble in the extreme, was scrupulously clean.
4. Some trivial respect, too, had been awarded her; for she did not take her seat among the village poor, but sat alone on the steps of the altar. She seemed to have survived all love, all friendship, all society; and to have nothing left her but the hopes of heaven. When I saw her feebly rising, and bending her aged form in prayer,-habitually conning her prayer-book, which her palsied hand and failing eyes would not permit her to read, but which she evidently knew by heart, I felt persuaded that the faultering voice of that poor woman, arose to Heaven far before the responses of the clerk, the swell of the organ, or the chanting of the choir.
Frig'-id-l-ty, coldness. b De-crep-it, worn by age. Con'-ning, fixing in the mind.
5. I am fond of loitering about country churches, and this was so delightfully situated, that it frequently attracted me. It stood on knoll, around which a stream made a beautiful bend, and then wound its way through a long reach of sof meadow scenery. The church was surrounded by yew trees, which seemed almost coeval with itself. Its tall Gothic spire shot up lightly from among them, with rooks and crows generally wheeling about it.
Choir, pron. Quire, a body of singers,
6. I was seated there one still, sunny morning, watching two laborers who were digging a grave.-They had chosen one of the most remote and neglected corners of the churchyard, where, from the number of nameless graves around, it would appear that the indigent and friendless were huddled into the earth. I was told that the new-made grave was for the only son of a poor widow.
7. While I was meditating on the distinctions of worldly rank, which extend thus down into the very dust, the toll of the bell announced the approach of the funeral. They were the obsequies of poverty, with which pride had nothing to do. A coffin of the plainest materials, without pall or other covering, was borne by some of the villagers. The sexton' walked before with an air of cold indifference.
8. There were no mock mourners in the trappings of affected wo; but there was one real mourner, who feebly tottered after the corpse. It was the aged mother of the deceased -the poor old woman whom I had seen seated on the steps of the altar. She was supported by an humble friend, who was endeavoring to comfort her. A few of the neighboring poor had joined the train, and some children of the village were running, hand in hand, now shouting with unthinking mirth, and now pausing to gaze, with childish curiosity, on the grief of the mourner.
9. As the funeral train approached the grave, the parson issued from the church porch, arrayed in the surplice, with prayer-book in hand, and attended by the clerk. The service, however, was a mere act of charity. The deceased had been destitute, and the survivor was pennyless. It was shuffled through, therefore, in form, but coldly and unfeelingly. The well-fed priest moved but a few steps from the churchdoor; his voice could scarcely be heard at the grave; and never did I hear the funeral service, that sublime and touching ceremony, turned into such a frígid mummery of words.
10. I approached the grave. The coffin was placed on the ground. On it were inscribed the name and age of the deceased-"George Somers, aged 26 years." The poor mother had been assisted to kneel down at the head of it. Her withered hands were clasped, as if in prayer; but I could perceive, by a feeble rocking of the body, and a convulsive motion of the lips, that she was gazing on the last relics of her son, with the yearnings of a mother's heart.
11. The service being ended, preparations were made to deposit the coffin in the earth. There was that bustling stir
c Sur'-plice, a garment for clergymen
a Ob'-se-quies, funeral solemnities. b Sex'-ton, one whose pusiness is to dig graves,
which breaks so harshly on the feelings of grief and affeetion -directions given in the cold tones of business —the striking of spades into sand and gravel,-which, at the grave of those we love, is of all sounds the most withering. The bustle around seemed to waken the mother from a wretched revery. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness.
12. As the men approached, with cords to lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands, and broke into an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her, took her by the arm, endeavoring to raise her from the earth, and to whisper something like consolation;—she could only shake her head, and wring her hands, as one not to be comforted.
13. As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords seemed to agonize her; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there was a justling of the coffin, all the tenderness of the mother burst forth; as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.
14. I could see no more ;-my heart swelled into my throat; -my eyes filled with tears ;-I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in standing by, and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another part of the churchyard, where I remained until the funeral train had dispersed.
15. When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. What, thought I, are the distresses of the rich!-they have friends to soothe,-pleasures to beguile, -a world to divert and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young!—their growing minds soon close above the wound,―their elastic spirits soon rise beneath the pressure, their green and ductile affections soon twine around new objects.
16. But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appliances to soothe,-the sorrows of the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can look for no aftergrowth of joy,—the sorrows of a widow, aged, solitary, des titute, mourning over an only son, the last solace of her years, -these are indeed sorrows which make us feel the impotency of consolation.
a Rev'-e-ry, loose thought.
b Ma-tern'-al, motherly.
c Duc-tile, pliable.
17. It was some time before I left the church-yard. On my way homeward, I met with the woman who had acted
d Ap-pli'-an-ces, things applied.
e Im'-po-ten-cy, weakness.