« AnteriorContinuar »
dant of an Italian geometrician of that name and joint commissioner of the canal, claims for his ancestor the glory of the enterprise. So that the invention of the plan of this canal and its execution is contended between two Italians; and it is in reality to the descendant of an Italian that France owes the happy execution of the idea of uniting the two seas by a canal, which is an inexhaustible source of wealth. At the culminating point there is a feeder which supplies the water to the canal, and the water of which comes from a basin at five leagues' distance. It is enclosed by mountains and immense walls, and gathers all the waters of many rivers and torrents which have been turned out of their natural beds into new channels. This basin is so large that, after filling the whole canal in all its extent, the loss of water in the reservoir is not felt. The beds of many rivers pass beneath the canal and under bridges, which serve as aqueducts to the bed of the canal itself; so that while some rivers have been turned out of their channels, others have been compelled to the service of man, levels found, mountains perforated, difficulties of every kind subdued, and every physical obstacle has yielded to inventive genius. With reference to all these difficulties surmounted, Riquet wrote to the Minister Colbert:
“Par préjugé on me qualifie le Moise du Languedoc; toute fois avec cette difference, dit-on, que Moise ne fit jaillir que des sources pour de petites fontaines, et que j'en dispose pour de grandes rivières."
The canal is large and well built, with a fine walk on each side planted with trees, which is a delightful promenade for the passengers. It is well constructed in all its details. There is a very ingenious use made of the bullrush, an aquatic plant growing in marshes. It is planted along both sides of the canal, just at the water's edge, and where there is always the greatest detrition of the canal by the passage of the boats and the movement of the water, which by this means is completely prevented. I never saw this plant thus usefully employed in our country. I hope these remarks will not go unnoticed by the superintendents of our various canals. This plant is cut and trimmed every year, so that it is not only useful, but becomes very ornamental to the banks. But even with all these improvements, canals will never be equal to railroads for expedition and cheapness of construction. In this instance'a railroad might have been made in half the time, and with one fourth of the money, to enable the traveller to go over the same distance in one fourth of the time; and, by this means, the union of the two seas might have been as effectually made as by a canal; for the ultimate object of all this immense work is to transport merchandise from the ocean to the Mediterranean, and vice versa. We arrived at last at Montpellier, where, after seeing what was most interesting to me personally and professionally, I went to see the library belonging to the medical school of the city. Here I was shown a very curious and interesting manuscript of Torquato Tasso being the first plan of the different arguments of his poem the Gerusalemme Liberatù. The argument of the first canto begins thus
“Già volgea il sesto anno che i principi Cristiani erano passati.” etc.
'The beginning of the sixth stanza, same canto, is:
“ Il sesto anno volgea che in Oriente
With a very slight transposition of his original prose argument, this divine poet has formed the richest poetry, and most harmonious versification of the Sweet South; which, without being overloaded with historical facts, is both instructive and full of the most brilliant poetical images. You may have some curiosity to know why this manuscript was found at Montpellier. I was myself no less astonished; and, upon inquiry from the Dean of the University, M. Dubreuil, I learned that it was sent by the minister, Chaptal, who had been raised by Napoleon, from a professorship in that university to the station of a minister. You know that Napoleon, in his various invasions of his mother country, had carried away the most valuable, and, at the same time, interesting manuscripts, from the Italian libraries. This was one of those stolen, at that time, from that ever prolific mother of genius-farfamed Italy. If she were only free, thousands of her sons would arise to illustrate and immortalise her once more; and, for ages yet to come, the new barbarians might plunder again the masterpieces of her sons, to enlighten and civilise the Goths and Vandals yet uncreated.
While at Montpellier, I learnt another singular circumstance concerning Italian literature, which I never saw mentioned. It is this. You must be aware that the Countess of Albany, during her residence in Itals, became Alfieri's mistress, as the Countess Guiccioli was Byron’s. Alfieri, dying, left to his widow, who was also the relict of the last unworthy Stuart, (for it is known that they were, soon after their first acquaintance, secretly married, to quiet the conscience of her ladyship,) his library, which was very select, and contained a great many valuable books, especially all the editions ever made of Alfieri's works, as well as all his manuscripts. After the death of Alfieri, the Countess took a fancy, so fame relates, to a French painter from Montpellier, called Fabre, a man of some talent as an artist, and a friend of the poet.
Her ladyship, contrary, no doubt, to the wishes of the great Italian bard, left, at her death, Alfieri's library, manuscripts, and all her own books to M. Fabre, who, proud of such rich spoils, left Italy, his adopted country, where he had learned to hold the crayon, and to wield the brush, whose very sky, and the air he breathed, had inspired him with the feelings of a painter, to return to Montpellier, to the authorities of which city he presented his booty, books, manuscripts, pictures, and all, as well as a valuable collection of pictures, collected by himself, and works of his own pencil. So exasperated am I at the Countess of Albany, for thus disposing of the library of the Italian bard, who is the very type of the present age, that, were she alive, I could travel a thousand leagues to unfold my mind, and display the utmost degradation of a degraded dynasty. May she meet forever, hereafter, the just punishment of this black and treacherous deed, the piercing and reproachful looks of the disembodied spirit, who, had he thought for a moment that his books, which he so dearly loved, would ultimately have this Gallic destination, would, certainly, have ordered them to be burnt; to such a degree did he detest the French, as a nation, although Fabre, a renegado, was united to him in friendship. Among other things in the Musée Fabre, as it is called, there is an excellent bust in marble of Alfieri, and a portrait, by Fabre himself, of the same poet, both very good. The portrait is the original, copied to make that fine engraving, which we see at the head of the finest Florentine edition of his works. There is also a very good portrait of Antonio Canova, the sculptor, by Fahre. In conclusion, there is, at Montpellier, in the university, another interesting production of the arts, stolen from Italy; I mean the antique bust, in bronze, of the old and renowned Hippocrates.
BY W. B. TAPPAN.
NEW JERSEY! thy blue hills are fair to the vision,
How pleasant to wander where nought but old ocean
Sweet innocence, beauty and fashion uniting,
How tranquil the scene, when Atlantic's proud billow
When deep calls to deep and the surge mocks the mountain,
Soon the gale dies in whispers, the billows are bounding,