Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]


APLES is one of the fairest and foulest spots in Italy. The bay is magnificent, dotted with islands here and there, and surrounded by shores remarkable for their luxuriant fertility. Extending in a long and gentle curve from Posilippo to Portici, Naples charms the eye with its graceful variety of town and country, as if art and nature were contesting in a loving rivalry which should contribute the most to make the city and its environs the loveliest in Europe. A mole formed something like the letter L stretches out into the bay, and offers a convenient harbour for vessels of small draught; a lighthouse sends its friendly and inviting beams over the water when the sun goes down. In the rear of the city are numerous acclivities clothed with vineyards and gardens, and farms and villas; behind these are wooded mountains and old monastic houses and villages that nestle among the brotherhood of pine trees; and in the rear of all these, its graceful outline clearly defined against the azure sky, is Vesuvius, with a distant view of some of the boldest summits of the Appenine chain.

But the interior of Naples is nothing like so beautiful as the visitor might be led to expect from its outward aspect. Many of the streets are narrow, dark, and dismal; the houses are so lofty that the strip of blue

sky can scarcely send its light to the bottom, where hungry ill-clad children are gesticulating in the mud, and hungry grown-up people-with traces of masculine vigour and feminine grace, which rags and wretchedness cannot altogether obliterate-are lounging lazily. The poorest quarters of every city in the world bear a striking resemblance to each other, and the same sort of squalor to be found in London is to be seen in Naples, only under a more picturesque aspect. Since the Italian revolution there is a marked change in the Neapolitans. They are not what they were. There used to be a saying in their city that feste, farine, forche (shows, food, and gibbet), were all that were required to keep the lower classes quiet. They want more now. Of the gibbet Bomba gave them enough and to spare; but with food they were not equally well supplied. Now-a-days, they are getting less gibbet and more food; as for the shows the spectacles-they like them as well as ever.

As a rule Neapolitans are not much enamoured of roofs; they like the open air, and the sellers come into the streets to sell, and the buyers come into the streets to buy, and the manufacturers and menders to make and to cobble, and the loungers to look on, and the mountebanks to amuse them all. Suppose yourself in a Neapolitan street, or on the mole, if it be a holiday time, which it is almost sure to be; be good enough to look around: what do you see? Crowds of people everywhere, going this way in a tolerably steady line, going that way in a tolerably steady line again, but for the most part mingled in a fluctuating current which obeys no law, but ebbs and flows all sorts of ways at once and whirls you about as in an ever-varying eddy. There sits a tailor stitching at a coat, with shears and threadpapers, needles and paper patterns all strewn about him in the sunny little niche he has chosen for his perch this day. There stands a busy carpenter-not busy with his work, but industriously idle in a gossip with his friend who deals in ice-water and who at intervals utters the peculiar cry of the tribe. There are some gipsey-looking fellows lounging on the ground-they are Lazzaroni, famous all the world over as peculiar to Naples-a gay but ignorant host, content with hard fare and little work-a fill of maccaroni and a sun bath. Cannot you imagine as you look at these fellows, as you see one or more of them laying flat and fast asleep, their bronzed faces turned up to the sun for further tanning-cannot you imagine as you look at yonder fishermen sitting on the shore and mending their nets in an indolent manner peculiar to themselves, that of all men in the world these are the very last whose

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed]


hearts could be stirred by things political-that they who seem so indifferent to all things but the passing hour should ever stir themselves to action and strike for a good cause. But they can do so-they have done so lately-they are very likely shouting their "Viva Garibaldi" at this hour. And they rose up in all their strength two hundred years and more ago, and enthroned their liberator. It was a brief struggle, but a brave oue-marred by selfish aims and petty jealousies, but it still stands out boldly in the page of history-an example and a warning.

The strange narrative of Masaniello and his eight days' of royalty we relate as a strong illustration of Austrian and Spanish despotism, and the aspirations of the Neapolitan people two centuries ago.

Charles V., Emperor of Germany and King of Spain, was also monarch of Naples, which in his time, and for a long period afterwards, was attached to the Spanish crown. During his reign and those of his successors, Philip II., Philip III., and Philip IV., the country was governed by the Viceroys of Spain, and suffered greatly from their oppression. The Neapolitans were most unwilling to submit to their Spanish masters, and every fresh impost was the occasion of an outbreak more or less serious, insurrections usually suppressed with tolerable facility by the soldiers and the hangman. In 1647 there ruled in Naples the Duke of Arcos; and on him Philip IV. of Spain relied for the defence of Naples against the machinations of Louis XIV. and Cardinal Mazarin, and also to realise as much profit out of the Neapolitans as it might be possible to obtain by fines, fiscal regulations, and other methods known to ministers of finance. In consequence of this double charge Arcos employed a vast number of spies, police, revenue officers, informers and the like; and the exciseman, never a very popular person, became the embodiment of everything that was hateful to the Neapolitans. One method adopted, that of farming the taxes, was the most distasteful of all. The farmers-general were the most rapacious of men, grinding the faces of the poor, and hunting up all defaulters with a perseverance worthy of a better cause.

One brilliant summer's day, as the Naples bay was calmly sleeping and the last rays of the setting sun changed its purple to gold, when nobles, fishermen, and citizens were idly lounging, watching the few vessels whose white sails were spread in vain for a breeze, a young peasant woman, carrying in her apron fruits more luxurious than befitted her condition, entered the church of the Virgin of Carmel and kneeled down before the image of the Virgin. The nave was almost deserted, the

« AnteriorContinuar »