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Yonder across the square goes a Minente of Trastevere ; a fellow who boasts the blood of the old Romans in his veins. He is a plebeian exquisite of the western bank of the Tiber, with a swarthy face and the step of an emperor. He wears a slouched hat, and blue velvet jacket and breeches, and has enormous silver buckles in his shoes. As he marches along, he sings a ditty in his own vulgar dialect:
“ Uno, due, e tre,
E lo Papa non è Re." Now he stops to talk with a woman with a pan of coals in her hand. What violent gestures ! what expressive attitudes! Head, hands, and feet are all in motion, — not a muscle is still ! It must be some interesting subject that excites him so much, and gives such energy to his gestures and his language. No; he only wants to light his pipe!
Rome omits this midnight visit ; for though there is something unpleasant in having one's admiration forestalled, and being as it were romantic aforethought, yet the charm is so powerful, the scene so surpassingly beautiful and sublime, – the hour, the silence, and the colossal ruin have such a mastery over the soul, — that you are disarmed when most upon your guard, and betrayed into an enthusiasm which perhaps you had silently resolved you would not feel.
On my way to the (Coliseum, I crossed the Capitoline Hill, and descended into the Roman Forum by the broad staircase that leads to the triumphal arch of Septimius Severus. Close upon my right hand stood the three remaining columns of the Temple of the Thunderer, and the beautiful Ionic portico of the Temple of Concord, their base in shadow, and the bright moonbeam striking aslant upon the broken entablature above.
Before me the Phocian Column, an isolated shaft, like a thin vapor hanging in the air scarce visible; and far to the left, the ruins of the Temple of Antonio and Faustina, and the three colossal arches of the Temple of Peace,- dim, shadowy, indistinct, — seemed to melt away and mingle with the sky. I crossed the Forum to the foot of the Palatine, and, ascending the Via Sacra, passed beneath the Arch of Titus. From this point, I saw below me the gigantic outline of the Coliseum, like a cloud resting upon the earth. As I descended the hillside, it grew more broad and high, more definite in its form, and yet more grand in its dimensions, till, from the vale from which it stands encompassed by three of the Seven Hills of Rome, - the Palatine, the Celian, and the Esquiline,
the majestic ruin in all its solitary grandeur swelled vast to heaven."
A single sentinel was pacing to and fro beneath the arched gateway which leads to the interior, and his measured footsteps were the only sound that broke the breathless silence of the night. What a contrast with the scene which that same midnight hour presented, when, in Domitian's time, the eager populace began to gather at the gates, impatient for the morning sports! Nor was the contrast within less striking. Silence, and the quiet moon
It is now past midnight. The moon is full and bright, and the shadows lie so dark and massive in the street that they seem a part of the walls that cast them. I have just returned from the Coliseum, whose ruins are so marvellously beautiful by moonlight. No stranger at
beams, and the broad, deep shadows of the ruined wall! Where were the senators of Rome, her matrons, and her virgins ? where the ferocious populace that rent the air with shouts, when, in the hundred holidays that marked the dedication of this imperial slaughter-house, five thousand wild beasts from the Libyan deserts and the forests of Anatolia made the arena sick with blood ? Where were the Christian martyrs, that died with prayers upon their lips, amid the jeers and imprecations of their fellow-men ? where the barbarian gladiators, brought forth to the festival of blood, and “butchered to make a Roman holiday”? The awful silence answered, “They are mine!” The dust beneath me answered, “ They are mine!”
I crossed to the opposite extremity of the amphitheatre. A lamp was burning in the little chapel, which has been formed from what was once a den for the wild beasts of the Roman festivals. Upon the steps sat the old beadsman, the only tenant of the Coliseum, who guides the stranger by night through the long galleries of this vast pile of ruins. I followed him up a narrow wooden staircase, and entered one of the long and majestic corridors, which in ancient times ran entirely round the amphitheatre. Huge columns of solid masonwork, that seem the labor of Titans, support the flattened arches above; and though the iron clamps are gone, which once fastened the
hewn stones together, yet the columns stand majestic and unbroken, amid the ruin around them, and seem to defy " the iron tooth of time.” Through the arches at the right, I could faintly discern the ruins of the baths of Titus on the Esquiline ; and from the left, through every chink and cranny of the wall, poured in the brilliant light of the full moon, casting gigantic shadows around me, and diffusing a soft, silvery twilight through the long arcades. At length I came to an open space, where the arches above had crumbled away, leaving the pavement an unroofed terrace high in air. From this point, I could see the whole interior of the amphitheatre spread out beneath me, with such a soft and indefinite outline that it seemed less an earthly reality than a reflection in the bosom of a lake. The figures of several persons below were just perceptible, mingling grotesquely with their foreshortened shadows. The sound of their voices reached me in a whisper; and the cross that stands in the centre of the arena looked like a dagger thrust into the sand. I did not conjure up the past, for the past had already become identified with the present. It was before me in one of its visible and most majestic forms. The arbitrary distinctions of time, years, ages, centuries were annihilated. I was a citizen of Rome! This was the amphitheatre of Flavius Vespasian! Mighty is the spirit of the past, amid the ruins of the Eternal City!
I PASSED the month of September at the village of La Riccia, which stands upon the western declivity of the Albanian hills, looking towards Rome. Its situation is one of the most beautiful which Italy can boast.
Like a mural crown, it encircles the brow of a romantic hill; woodlands of the most luxuriant foliage whisper around it; above rise the rugged summits of the Abruzzi, and beneath lies the level floor of the Campagna, blotted with ruined tombs, and marked with broken but magnificent aqueducts that point the way to Rome. The whole region is classic ground. The Appian Way leads you from the gate of Rome to the gate of La Riccia. On one hand you have the Alban Lake, on the other the Lake of Nemi; and the sylvan retreats around were once the dwellings of Hippolytus and the nymph Egeria.
The town itself, however, is mean and dirty. The only inhabitable part is near the northern gate, where the two streets of the village meet. There, face to face, upon a square terrace, paved with large, flat stones, stand the Chigi palace and the village church with a dome and portico. There, too, stands the village inn, with its beds of cool, elastic maize-husks, its little dormitories, six feet square, and its spacious saloon, upon whose walls the melancholy story of Hippolytus is told in gorgeous frescoes. And there, too, at the union of the streets, just peeping through the gateway, rises the wedge-shaped Casa Antonini, within whose dusty chambers I passed the month of my villeggiatura, in company with two much-esteemed friends from the Old Dominion, fair daughter of that generous clime, and her husband, an artist, an enthusiast, and a man of - infinite jest.”
My daily occupations in this delightful spot were such as an idle man usually whiles away his time withal in such a rural residence. I read Italian poetry, — strolled in the Chigi
park, — rambled about the wooded environs of the village, - took an airing on a jackass, threw stones into the Alban Lake,
and, being seized at intervals with the artist-mania, that came upon me like an intermittent fever, sketched — or thought I did - the trunk of a hollow tree, or the spire of a distant church, or a fountain in the shade.
At such seasons, the mind is “ tickled with a straw," and magnifies each trivial circumstance into an event of some importance. I recollect one morning, as I sat at breakfast in the village coffee house, a large and beautiful spaniel came into the room, and placing his head upon my knee looked up into my face with a most piteous look, poor dog! as much as to say that he had not breakfasted. him a morsel of bread, which he swallowed without so much as moving his long silken ears; and keeping his soft, beautiful eyes still fixed upon mine, he thumped upon the floor with his bushy tail, as if knocking for the waiter. He was a very beautiful animal, and so gentle and affectionate in his manner, that I asked the waiter who his owner was.
He has none now," said the boy.
What!” said I, “so fine a dog without a master?"
" Ah, sir, he used to belong to Gasparoni, the famous robber of the Abruzzi mountains, who murdered so many people, and was caught at last and sent to the galleys for life. There's his portrait on the wall.”
It hung directly in front of me; a coarse print, representing the dark, stern countenance of that sinful man, a face that wore an expression of savage ferocity and coarse sensuality. I had heard his story told in the village; the accustomed tale of outrage, violence, and murder. And is it possible, thought I, that this man of blood could have chosen so kind and gentle a companion? What a rebuke must he have met in those large, meek eyes, when he
uplands and through wooded hollows to Genzano and the sequestered Lake of Nemi, which lies in its deep crater, like the waters of a well, "all coiled into itself and round, as sleeps the snake.” A third, and the most beautiful of all, runs in an undulating line along the crest of the last and lowest ridge of the Albanian Hills, and leads to the borders of the Alban Lake. In parts it hides itself in thick-leaved hollows, in parts climbs the open hillside and overlooks the Campagna. Then it winds along the brim of the deep, oval basin of the lake, to the village of Castel Gandolfo, and thence onward to Marino, Grotta-Ferrata, and Frascati.
That part of the road which looks down upon the lake passes through a magnificent gallery of thick embowering trees, whose dense and luxuriant foliage completely shuts out the noonday sun, forming
patted his favorite on the head, and dappled his long ears with blood! Heaven seems in mercy to have ordained that none even the most depraved
should be left entirely to his evil nature, without one patient monitor, - a wife, - a daughter, - a fawning, meek-eyed dog, whose silent, supplicating look may rebuke the man of sin ! If this mute, playful creature, that licks the stranger's hand, were gifted with the power of articulate speech, how many a tale of midnight storm, and mountain-pass, and lonely glen, would — but these reflections are commonplace!
On another occasion, I saw an overladen ass fall on the steep and slippery pavement of the street. He made violent but useless efforts to get upon his feet again; and his brutal driver - more brutal than the suffering beast of burden — beat him unmercifully with his heavy whip. Barbarian! is it not enough that you have laid upon your uncomplaining servant a burden greater than he can bear? scourge this unresisting slave, because his strength has failed him in your hard service? Does not that imploring look disarm you? Does not and here was another theme for commonplace reflection!
Again. A little band of pilgrims, clad in white, with staves, and scallop-shells, and sandal shoon, have just passed through the village gate, wending their toilsome way to the holy shrine of Loretto. They wind along the brow of the hill with slow and solemn pace, — just as they ought to do, to agree with my notion of a pilgrimage drawn from novels. And now they disappear behind the hill; and hark ! they are singing a mournful hymn, like Christian and Hopeful on their way to the Delectable Mountains. How strange it seems to me, that I should ever behold a scene like this! a pilgrimage to Loretto! Here was another outline for the imagination to fill up.
But my chief delight was in sauntering along the many woodland walks, which diverge in every direction from the gates of La Riccia. One of these plunges down the steep declivity of the hill, and, threading its way through a most romantic valley, leads to the shapeless tomb of the Horatii and the pleasant village of Albano. Another conducts you over swelling
This long sylvan arcade is called the Galleria-di-sopra, to distinguish it from the Galleriadi-sotto, a similar, though less beautiful avenue, leading from Castel Gandolfo to Albano, under the brow of the hill. In this upper gallery, and almost hidden amid its old and leafy trees, stands a Capuchin convent, with a little esplanade in front, from which the eye enjoys a beautiful view of the lake, and the swelling hills beyond. It is a lovely spot, - so lonely, cool, and still; and was my favorite and most frequented haunt.
Another pathway conducts you round the southern shore of the Alban Lake, and, after passing the site of the ancient Alba Longa, and the convent of Palazzuolo, turns off to the right through a luxuriant forest, and climbs the rugged precipice of Rocca di Papa. Behind this village swells the rounded peak of Monte Cavo, the highest pinnacle of the Albanian Hills, rising three thousand feet above the level of the sea. Upon its summit once stood a temple of Jupiter, and the Triumphal Way, by which the Roman conquerors ascended once a year in solemn procession to offer sacri
fices, still leads you up the side of the hill. But a convent has been built upon the ruins of the ancient temple, and the disciples of Loyola are now the only conquerors that tread the pavement of the Triumphal Way.
The view from the windows of the convent is vast and magnificent. Directly beneath you, the sight plunges headlong into a gulf of dark-green foliage, — the Alban Lake seems
near that you can almost drop a pebble into it, -- and Nemi, embosomed in a green and cup-like valley, lies like a dew-drop in the hollow of a leaf. All around you, upon every swell of the landscape, the white walls of rural towns and villages peep from their leafy coverts, - Genzano, La Riccia, Castel Gandolfo, and Albano; and beyond spreads the flat and desolate Campagna, with Rome in its centre and seamed by the silver thread of the Tiber, that at Ostia, “ with a pleasant stream, whirling in rapid eddies, and yellow with much sand, rushes forward into the sea.”
The scene of half the Æneid is spread beneath you like a map; and it would need volumes to describe each point that arrests the eye in this magnificent panorama.
As I stood leaning over the balcony of the convent, giving myself up to those reflections which the scene inspired, one of the brotherhood came from a neighboring cell, and entered into conversation with me.
He was an old man, with a hoary head, and a trembling hand ; yet his voice was musical and soft, and his eye still beamed with the enthusiasm of youth.
“How wonderful," said he, “is the scene before us ! I have been an inmate of these walls for thirty years, and yet this prospect is as beautiful to my eye as when I gazed upon it for the first time. Not a day passes that I do not come to this window to behold and to admire. My heart is still alive to the beauties of the scene, and to all the classic associations it inspires."
“ You have never, then, been whipped by an angel for reading Cicero and Plautus, as St. Jerome was?”
"No," said the monk, with a smile. - From my youth up I have been a disciple of Chrysostom, who often slept with the comedies of
Aristophanes beneath his pillow ; and yet I confess that the classic associations of Roman history and fable are not the most thrilling which this scene awakens in my mind. Yonder is the bridge from which Constantine beheld the miraculous cross of fire in the sky; and I can
never forget that this convent is built upon the ruins of a pagan temple. The town of Ostia, which lies before us on the seashiore, is renowned as the spot where the Trojan fugitive first landed on the coast of Italy. But other associations than this have made the spot holy in my sight. Marcus Minutius Felix, a Roman lawyer, who flourished in the third century, a convert to our blessed faith, and one of the purest writers of the Latin Church, here places the scene of his · Octavius.' This work has probably never fallen into your hands ; for you are too young to have pushed your studies into the dusty tomes of the early Christian fathers.”
I replied that I had never so much as heard the book mentioned before; and the monk continued :
“ It is a dialogue upon the vanity of pagan idolatry and the truth of the Christian religion, between Caecilius, a heathen, and Octavius, a Christian. The style is rich, flowing, and poetical ; and if the author handles his weapons with less power than a Tertullian, yet he exhibits equal adroitness and more grace.
He has rather the studied elegance of the Roman lawyer, than the bold spirit of a Christian martyr. But the volume is a treasure to me in my solitary hours, and I love to sit here upon the balcony, and con its poetic language and sweet imagery. You shall see the volume; I
in my bosom." With these words, the monk drew from the folds of his gown a small volume, bound in parchment, and clasped with silver; and, turning over its well worn leaves, continued :
“In the introduction, the author describes himself as walking upon the sea-shore at Ostia, in company with his friends Octavius and Cæcilius. Observe in what beautiful language he describes the scene.”
Here he read to me the following passage, which I transcribe, not from memory, but from the book itself.
carry it in