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She who tamed the world seemed to tame herself at last, and, falling under her own weight, grew to be a prey to Time, who with his iron teeth consumes all bodies at last, making all things, both animate and inanimate, which have their being under that changeling, the moon, to be subject unto corruption and desolation.
HOWELL'S SIGNORIE OF VENICE.
THE masks and mummeries of Carnival are over; the imposing ceremonies of Holy Week have become a tale of the times of old ; the illumination of St. Peter's and the Girandola are no longer the theme of gentle and simple ; and finally, the barbarians of the North have retreated from the gates of Rome, and left the Eternal City silent and deserted. The cicerone stands at the corner of the street with his hands in his pockets ; the artist has shut himself up in his studio to muse upon antiquity ; and the idle facchino lounges in the marketplace, and plays at mora by the fountain. Midsummer has come ; and you may now hire a palace for what, a few weeks ago, would hardly have paid your night's lodging in its garret.
I am still lingering in Rome, – a student, not an artist, — and have taken lodgings in the
Piazza Navona, the very heart of the city, and one of the largest and most magnificent squares of modern Rome. It occupies the site of the ancient amphitheatre of Alexander Severus ; and the churches, palaces, and shops that now surround it are built upon the old foundations of the amphitheatre. At each extremity of the square stands a fountain; the one with a simple jet of crystal water, the other with a triton holding a dolphin by the tail. In the centre rises a nobler work of art; a fountain with a marble basin more than two hundred feet in circumference. From the midst uprises a huge rock pierced with grottoes, wherein sit a rampant sea-horse, and a lion couchant. the sides of the rock are four colossal statues, representing the four principal rivers of the world; and from its summit, forty feet from the basin below, shoots up an obelisk of red
granite, covered with hieroglyphics, and fifty feet in height, — a relic of the amphitheatre of Caracalla.
In this quarter of the city I have domiciliated myself in a family of whose many kindnesses I shall always retain the most lively and grateful remembrance. My mornings are spent in visiting the wonders of Rome, in studying the miracles of ancient and modern art, or in reading at the public libraries. We breakfast at noon, and dine at eight in the evening. After dinner comes the conversazione, enlivened with music, and the meeting of travellers, artists, and literary men from every quarter of the globe. At midnight, when the crowd is gone, I retire to my chamber, and, poring over the gloomy pages of Dante, or “Bandello's laughing tale," protract my nightly vigil till the morning star is in the sky.
Our windows look out upon the square, which circumstance is a source of infinite enjoyment to me. Directly in front, with its fantastic belfries and swelling dome, rises the church of St. Agnes ; and sitting by the open window, I note the busy scene below, enjoy the cool air of morning and evening, and even feel the freshness of the fountain, as its waters leap in mimic cascades down the sides of the rock.
deep, drive to and fro across the mimic lake; a dense crowd gathers around its margin, and a thousand tricks excite the loud laughter of the idle populace. Here is a fellow groping with a stick after his seafaring hat; there another splashing in the water in pursuit of a mischievous spaniel, who is swimming away with his shoe; while from a neighboring balcony a noisy burst of military music fills the air, and gives fresh animation to the scene of mirth. This is one of the popular festivals of midsummer in Rome, and the merriest of them all. It is a kind of carnival unmasked ; and many a popular bard, many a Poeta di dozzina, invokes this day the plebeian Muse of the market-place to sing in high-sounding rhyme, “ Il Lago di Piazza Navona."
I have before me one of these sublime effusions. It describes the square, — the crowd, - the rattling carriages, - the lake, — the fountain, raised by “the superhuman genius of Bernini," — the lion, the sea-horse, and the triton grasping the dolphin's tail. “Half the grand square,” thus sings the poet, “where Rome with food is satiate, was changed into a lake, around whose margin stood the Roman people, pleased with soft idleness and merry holiday, like birds upon the margin of a limpid brook. Up and down drove car and chariot ; and the women trembled for fear of the deep water; though merry were the young, and well I ween, had they been borne away to unknown shores by the bull that bore away Europa, they would neither have wept nor screamed!”
The Piazza Navona is the chief marketplace of Rome; and on market-days is filled with a noisy crowd of the Roman populace, and the peasantry from the neighboring villages of Albano and Frascati. At such times the square presents an animated and curious
The gayly-decked stalls, - the piles of fruits and vegetables, — the pyramids of flowers, — the various costumes of the peasantry,
the constant movement of the vast, fluctuating crowd, and the deafening clamor of their discordant voices, that rise louder than the roar of the loud ocean, - all this is better than a play to me, and gives me amusement when naught else has power to amuse.
Every Saturday afternoon in the sultry month of August, this spacious square is converted into a lake, by stopping the conduitpipes which carry off the water of the fountains.
Vehicles of every description, axle
On the eastern slope of the Janiculum, now called, from its yellow sands, Montorio, or the Golden Mountain, stands the fountain of Acqua Paola, the largest and most abundant of the Roman fountains. It is a small Ionic temple, with six columns of reddish granite in front, a spacious hall and chambers within, and a garden with a terrace in the rear. Beneath the pavement, a torrent of water from the ancient aqueducts of Trajan, and from the lakes of Bracciano and Martignano, leaps forth in three beautiful cascades, and from the overflowing basin rushes down the hillside to turn the busy wheels of a dozen mills.
joyment, then were I happy, - yes, thrice happy! But no ; this fluttering, struggling, and imprisoned spirit beats the bars of its golden cage,
disdains the silken fetter ; it will not close its eye and fold its wings; as if time were not swift enough, its swifter thoughts outstrip his rapid flight, and onward, onward do they wing their way to the distant mountains, to the fleeting clouds of the future ; and yet I ,
now, that ere long, weary, and wayworn, and disappointed, they shall return to nestle in the bosom of the past !
This day, also, I have passed at Acqua Paola. From the garden terrace I watched the setting sun, as, wrapped in golden vapor, he passed to other climes.
A friend from my native land was with me ; and as we spake of home, a liquid star stood trembling like a tear upon the closing eyelid of the day. Which of us wrote these lines with a pencil upon the cover of Julia's Corinna ?
The key of this little fairy palace is in our hands, and as often as once a week we pass the day there, amid the odor of its flowers, the rushing sound of its waters, and the enchantments of poetry and music. How pleasantly the sultry hours steal by! Cool comes the summer wind from the Tiber's mouth at Ostia. Above us is a sky without a cloud; beneath us the magnificent panorama of Rome and the Campagna, bounded by the Abruzzi and the sea. Glorious scene! one glance at thee would move the dullest soul, one glance can melt the painter and the poet into tears !
In the immediate neighborhood of the fountain are many objects worthy of the stranger's notice. A bowshot down the hillside towards the city stands the convent of San Pietro in Montorio ; and in the cloister of this convent is a small, round Doric temple, built upon the spot which an ancient tradition points out as the scene of St. Peter's martyrdom. In the opposite direction the road leads you over the shoulder of the hill, and out through the citygate to gardens and villas beyond. Passing beneath a lofty arch of Trajan's aqueduct, an ornamented gateway on the left admits you to the Villa Pamfili-Doria, built on the western declivity of the hill. This is the largest and most magnificent of the numerous villas that crowd the immediate environs of Rome. Its spacious terraces, its marble statues, its woodlands and green alleys, its lake and waterfalls and fountains, give it an air of courtly splendor and of rural beauty, which realizes the beau ideal of a suburban villa.
This is our favorite resort, when we have passed the day at the fountain, and the afternoon shadows begin to fall. There we sit on the broad marble steps of the terrace, gaze upon the varied landscape stretching to the misty sea, or ramble beneath the leafy dome of the woodland and along the margin of the lake.
Bright star! whose soft, familiar ray,
In colder climes and gloomier skies, I've watched so oft when closing day
Had tinged the west with crimson dyes; Perhaps to-night some friend I love,
Beyond the deep, the distant sea, Will gaze upon thy path above,
And give one lingering thought to me.
TORQUATI TASSO OSSA HIC JACENT, Here lie the bones of Torquato Tasso, — is the simple inscription upon the poet's tomb, in the church of St. Onofrio. Many a pilgrimage is made to this grave. Many a bard from distant lands comes to visit the spot, and, as he paces the secluded cloisters of the convent where the poet died, and where his ashes rest, muses on the sad vicissitudes of his life, and breathes a prayer for the peace of his soul. He sleeps midway between his cradle at Sorrento and his dungeon at Ferrara.
The monastery of St. Onofrio stands on the Janiculum, overlooking the Tiber and the city of Rome; and in the distance rise the towers of the Roman Capitol, where after long years of sickness, sorrow, and imprisonment, the laurel crown was prepared for the great epic poet of Italy. The chamber in which Tasso died is still shown to the curious traveller ; and the
“ And drop a pebble to see it sink Down in those depths so calm and cool."
Oh, did we but know when we are happy! Could the restless, feverish, ambitious heart be still, but for a moment still, and yield itself, without one farther-aspiring throb, to its en
silken ribands of various colors. Leaning over the marble balustrade, I read the following superscription upon one of them : “ All Angelico Giovane S. Luigi Gonzaga, Paradiso, - To the angelic youth St. Louis Gonzaga, Paradise.” A soldier, with a musket, kept guard over this treasure; and I had the audacity to ask him at what hour the mail went out; for which heretical impertinence he cocked his mustache at me with the most savage look imaginable, as much
“ Get thee gone:
tree in the garden, under whose shade he loved to sit. The feelings of the dying man, as he reposed in this retirement, are not the vague conjectures of poetic revery. He has himself recorded them in a letter which he wrote to his friend Antonio Constantini, a few days only before his dissolution. These are his melancholy words: —
* What will my friend Antonio say, when he hears the death of Tasso? Erelong, I think, the news will reach him ; for I feel that the end of my life is near ; being able to find no remedy for this wearisome indisposition which is superadded to my customary infirmities, and by which, as by a rapid torrent, I see myself swept away, without a hand to save.
It is no longer time to speak of my unyielding destiny, not to say the ingratitude of the world, which has longed even for the victory of driving me a beggar to my grave; while I thought that the glory whichi, in spite of those who will it not, this age shall receive from my writings was not to leave me thus without reward. I have come to this monastery of St. Onofrio, not only because the air is commended by physicians as more salubrious than in any other part of Rome, but that I may, as it were, commence, in this high place, and in the conversation of these devout fathers, my conversation in heaven. Pray God for me, and be assured that as I have loved and honored you in this present life so in that other and more real life will I do for you all that belongs to charity unfeigned and true. And to the divine mercy I commend both you and myself.”
The modern Romans are likewise strongly given to amusements of every description. Panem et circenses, says the Latin satirist, when chiding the degraded propensities of his countrymen ; Panem et circenses, they are content with bread and the sports of the cir
The same may be said at the present day. Even in this hot weather, when the shops are shut at noon, and the fat priests waddle about the streets with fans in their hands, the people crowd to the Mausoleum of Augustus, to be choked with the smoke of fireworks, and see deformed and humpback dwarfs tumbled into the dirt by the masked horns of young bullocks. What a refined amusement for the inhabitants of “pompous and holy Rome!”
The Sirocco prevails to-day, — a hot wind from the burning sands of Africa, that bathes its wings in the sea, and comes laden with fogs and vapors to the shores of Italy. It is oppressive and dispiriting, and quite unmans one, like the dog-days of the North. There is a scrap of an old English song running in my mind, in which the poet calls it a cool wind ; though ten to one I misquote.
The modern Romans are a very devout people. The Princess Doria washes the pilgrims' feet in Holy Week; every evening, foul or fair, the whole year round, there is a rosary sung before an image of the Virgin, within a stone's throw of my window ; and the young ladies write letters to St. Louis Gonzaga, who in all paintings and sculpture is represented as young and angelically beautiful. I saw a large pile of these letters a few weeks ago in Gonzaga's chapel, at the church of St. Ignatius. They were lying at the foot of the altar, prettily written on smooth paper, and tied with
“ When the cool Sirocco blows,
And daws and pies and rooks and crows Sit and curse the wintry snows,
Then give me ale !”
I should think that stark English beer might have a potent charm against the pow
ers of the foul fiend that rides this steaming, reeking wind.
A flask of Montefiascone, or a bottle of Lacrima Christi does very well.
There is an old fellow who hawks pious legends and the lives of saints through the streets of Rome, with a sharp, cracked voice, that knows no pause nor division in the sentences it utters. I just heard him cry at a breath:
“ La Vita di San Giuseppe quel fidel servitor di Dio santo e maraviglioso mezzo bajocco, The Life of St. Joseph that faithful servant of God holy and wonderful ha'penny !”
This is the way with some people; everything helter-skelter, — heads and tails, - prices current and the lives of saints !
Beggars all, - beggars all! The Papal city is full of them; and they hold you by the button through the whole calendar of saints. You cannot choose but hear. I met an old woman yesterday who pierced my ear with this alluring petition :
" Ah signore! Qualche piccola cosa, per carità! Vi dirò la buona ventura! C" è una bella signorina, che vi ama molto! Per il Sacro Sacramento! Per la Madonna!"
Which being interpreted, is, “ Ah, sir, a trifle, for charity's sake! I will tell for you! There is a beautiful young lady who loves you well! For the Holy Sacrament, — for the Madonna's sake!"
Who could resist such an appeal ?
I made a laughable mistake this morning in giving alms. A man stood on the shady side of the street with his hat in his hand, and as I passed he gave me a piteous look, though he said nothing. He had such a woe-begone face, and such a threadbare coat, that I at once took him for one of those mendicants who bear the title of poveri vergognosi, — bashful beggars ; persons whom pinching want compels to receive the stranger's charity, though pride restrains them from asking it. Moved with compassion, I threw into the hat the little I had to give; when, instead of thanking me with a blessing, my man with the threadbare coat showered upon me the most sonorous maledictions of his native tongue, and, emptying his greasy hat upon the pavement, drew it down over his ears with both hands, and stalked away with all the dignity of a Roman senator in the best days of the republic, — to the infinite amusement of a green-grocer, who stood at his shop-door bursting with laughter. No time was given me for an apology; but I resolved to be for the future more discriminating in my charities, and not to take for a beggar every poor gentleman who chose to stand in the shade with his hat in his hand on a hot summer's day.
It has been a rainy day, — a day of gloom. The church-bells never rang in my ears with so melancholy a sound; and this afternoon I saw a mournful scene, which still haunts my imagination. It was the funeral of a monk. I was drawn to the window by the solemn chant, as the procession came from a neighboring street, and crossed the square. First came a long train of priests, clad in black, and bearing in their hands large waxen tapers, which flared in every gust of wind, and were now and then extinguished by the rain. The bier followed, borne on the shoulders of four barefooted Carmelites; and upon it, ghastly and grim, lay the body of the dead monk, clad in his long gray kirtle, with the twisted cord about his waist. Not even a shroud was thrown over him.
His head and feet were bare, and his hands were placed upon his bosom, palm to palm, in the attitude of prayer. His face was emaciated, and of a livid hue; his eyes unclosed ; and at every movement of the bier, his head nodded to and fro, with an unearthly and hideous aspect. Behind walked the monastic brotherhood, a long and melancholy procession, with their cowls thrown back, and their eyes cast upon the ground ; and last of all came a man with a rough, unpainted coffin upon his shoulders, closing the funeral train.
Many of the priests, monks, monsignori, and cardinals of Rome have a bad reputation, even after deducting a tithe or so from the tales of gossip. To some of them may be ap