Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Mirare nec tu me cithara rudem Claudis laborantem numeris : loca Amaena, jucundumque verin-compositum docuere carmen; Haerent sub omni nam folio nigri Phoebea luci (credite) somnia, Argutiusque et lympha et aurae Nescio quid solito loquuntur. I am to-day just returned from Alba, a good deal fatigued; for you know the Appian is somewhat tiresome.* We dined at Pompey's; he indeed was gone for a few days to his Tusculan, but by the care of his Willicus, we made an admirable meal. We had the dugs of a pregnant sow, a peacock, a dish of thrushes, a noble scarus just fresh from the Tyrrhene, and some conchylia of the lake with garum sauce : for my part I never eat better at Lucullus's table. We drank half a dozen cyathi a-piece of ancient Alban to Pholoé's health; and, after bathing, and playing an hour at ball, we mounted our essedum again, and proceeded up the mount to the temple. The priests there entertained us with an account of a wonderful shower of birds' eggs, that had fallen two days before, which had no sooner touched the ground, but they were converted into gudgeons; as also that the night past a dreadful voice had been heard out of the Adytum, which spoke Greek during a full half hour, but nobody understood it. But quitting my Romanities, to your great joy and mine, let me tell you in plain English, that we come from Albano. The present town lies within the inclosure of Pompey's villa in ruins. The Appian way runs through it, by the side of which, a little farther, is a large old tomb, with five pyramids upon it, which the learned suppose to be the burying-place of the family, because they do not know whose it can be else. But the vulgar assure you it is the sepulchre of the Curiatii, and by that name (such is their power) it goes. One drives to Castel Gondolfo, a house of the Pope's, situated on the top of one of the Collinette, that forms a brim to the basin, commonly called the Alban lake. It is seven miles round; and directly opposite to you, on the other side, rises the Mons Albanus, much taller than the rest, along whose side are still discoverable (not to common eyes) certain little ruins of the old Alba longa. They had need be very little, as having been nothing but ruins ever since the days of Tullus Hostilius. On its top is a house of the Constable Colona's, where stood the temple of Jupiter Latialis. At the foot of the hill Gondolfo, are the famous outlets of the lake, built with hewn stone, a mile and a half under ground. Livy, you know, amply informs us of the foolish occasion of this expense, and gives me this opportunity of displaying all my erudition, that I may appear considerable in your eyes. This is the prospect from one window of the palace. From another you have the whole Campagna, the city, Antium, and the Tyrrhene sea (twelve miles distant) so distinguishable, that you may see the vessels sailing upon it. All this is charming. Mr. Walpole says our memory sees more than our eyes in this country. Which is extremely true; since for realities, Windsor, or Richmond Hill, is infinitely preferable to Albano or Frescati. I am now at home, and going to the window to tell you it is the most beautiful of Italian nights, which, in truth, are but just begun (so backward has the spring been here, and every where else, they say). There is a moon! there are stars for you! Do you not hear the fountain? Do not you smell the orange flowers ? That building yonder is the convent of S. Isidore; and that eminence, with the cypress trees and pines upon it, the top of M. Quirinal. This is all true, and yet my prospect is not two hundred yards in length. We send you some Romam inscriptions to entertain you. The first two are modern, transcribed from the Vatican library by Mr. Walpole.

* However whimsical this humour may appear to some readers, I chose to insert it, as it gives me an opportunity of remarking, that Mr Gray was extremely skilled in the customs of the ancient Romans; and has catalogued, in his common place book, their various eatables, wines, perfumes, clothes, medicines, &c, with great precision, referring under every article to passages in the poets and historians where their names are mentioned.

Pontifices olim quem fundavere priores,
Præcipuâ Sixtus perficit arte tholum ;*

Et Sixti tantum se gloria tollit in altum,
Quantum se Sixti nobile tollit opus:

Magnus honos magni fundamina ponere templi,
Sed finem cæptis ponere major honos.

Saxa agit Amphion, Thebana ut mænia condat :
Sixtus et immensæ pondera molis agit.f

Saxa trahunt ambo longè diversa: sed arte
Haec trahit Amphion ; Sixtus et arte trahit.

At tantum exsuperat Dircæum Amphiona Sixtus,

Quantum hic exsuperat cætera saxa lapis. *a

Mine is ancient, and I think not less curious. It is exactly transcribed from a sepulchral marble, at the villa Giustiniani. I put stops to it, when I understand it.

DIs Manibus
Claudiae, Pistes
Primus Conjugi
Optumae, Sanctae,
Et Piae, Benemeritate.
Non æquos, Parcae, statuistis stamina vitae.
Tam bene compositos potuistis sed tenere.
Amissa est conjux. cur ego et ipse moror?
Si • bella • esse • m?. iste • mea. vivere. debuit.
Tristia contigerunt qui amissâ conjuge vivo.
Nil est tam miserum, quam totam perdere vitam.
Nec vita enasci dura peregistis crudeJia pensa, sorores,
Ruptaque deficiunt in primo munere fusi.
O nimis injustæ ter denos dare munus in annos,
Deceptus •grautus-fatum • sic •pressit, egestas.
Dum vitam tulero, Primus Pistes lugea conjugium.

xx I I. M R. GRAY TO H Is MoTHER.

- Naples, June 17, 1740. OUR journey hither was through the mostbeautiful part of the finest country in the world ; and every spotofit, on some account or other, famous for these three thou

* Sixtus V. built the dome of St. Peter's. * f He raised the obelisk in the great area.

sand years past.* The season has hitherto been just as warm as one would wish it; no unwholesome airs, or violent heats, yet heard of: the people call it a backward year, and are in pain about their corn, wine, and oil; but we, who are neither corn, wine, nor oil, find it very agreeable. Our road was through Welletri, Cisterna, Terracina, Capua, and Aversa, and so to Naples. The minute one leaves his Holiness's dominions, the face of things begins to change from wide uncultivated plains to olive groves and well-tilled fields of corn, intermixed with ranks of elms, every one of which has its vine twining about it, and hanging in festoons between the rows from one tree to another. The great old fig-trees, the oranges in full bloom, and myrtles in every hedge, make one of the delightfullest scenes you can conceive; besides that, the roads are wide, well-kept, and full of passengers, a sight I have not beheld this long time. My wonder still increased upon entering the city, which I think, for number of people, outdoes both Paris and London. The streets are one continued market, and thronged with populace so much that a coach can hardly pass. The common sort are a jolly lively kind of animals, more industrious than Italians usually are: they work till evening; then they take their lute or guitar (for they all play) and walk about the city, or upon the sea shore with it, to enjoy the fresco. One sees their little brown children jumping about stark naked, and the bigger ones dancing with castanets, while others play on the cymbal to them. Your maps will shew you the situation of Naples; it is on the most lovely bay in the world, and one of the calmest seas: it has many other

* Mr. Gray wrote a minute description of everything he saw in this tour from Rome to Naples; as also of the environs of Rome, Florence, &c. But as these papers are apparently only memorandums for his own use, I do not think it necessary to print then, although they abound with many uncommon remarks and pertinent classical quotations. The reader will please to observe throughout this Section, that it is not my intention to give him Mr. Gray's travels, but only extracts from the letters which he writ during his travels.

beauties besides those of nature. We have spent two days in visiting the remarkable places in the country round it, such as the bay of Baiae, and its remains of antiquity; the lake Avernus, and the Solfatara, Cha

ron's grotto, &c. We have been in the Sybils' cave and

many other strange holes underground (I only name

them, because you may consult Sandy's Travels); but

the strangest hole I ever was in, has been to-day at a

place called Portici, where his Sicilian majesty has a

country seat. About a year ago, as they were digging,

they discovered some parts of ancient buildings above

thirty feet deep in the ground: curiosity led them on,

and they have been digging ever since; the passage

they have made, with all its turnings and windings, is

now more than a mile long. As you walk, you see parts

of an amphitheatre, many houses adorned with marble

columns, and incrusted with the same; the front of a

temple, several arched vaults of rooms painted in fresco.

Some pieces of painting have been taken out from hence,

finer than any thing of the kind before discovered, and

with these the King has adorned his palace; also a

number of statues, medals, and gems; and more are dug

out every day. This is known to be a Roman town,” that in the Emperor Titus's time was overturned by a

furious eruption of mount Vesuvius, which is hard by.

The wood and beams remain so perfect that you may

see the grain; but burnt to a coal, and dropping into

dust upon the least touch. We were to-day at the foot

of that mountain, which at present only smokes a little,

where we saw the materials that fed the stream of fire,

which about four years since ran down its side. We

have but a few days longer to stay here; too little in

conscience for such a place. * * *

* It should seem by the omission of its name, that it was not then discovered to be Herculaneum,

« ForrigeFortsett »