Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

tooth of time the embellishments of


and the ravages of war—the voluptuous refinements of luxury, and the torturous inventions of tyranny-the corruscations of heaven-born genius, and the eclipses of Baotian intellect! It has often heard the cheering voice of exulting Freedom and the fearful tocsin of insurgent Anarchy ;-but it has more frequently felt the withering grasp of iron Despotism—it has even bowed its proud head beneath a foreign yoke !

« Vanish'd are all its pomps 'tis true,

But mourn them not-for vanish’d, too,
(Thanks to that Power, who, soon or late,
Hurls to the dust the guilty great),
Are all the outrage, falsehood, fraud,

The chains, the rapine, and the blood,
That fill'd each spot, at home, abroad,

Where'er the Roman standard stood.”

The sight of localities famed in classic tale or solemn history, most powerfully stimulates the memory, and draws forth from the deepest recesses of its magic granary, the earliest fruits of our intellectual labours. Over these airy figures, resuscitated from their mystic abodes, an excited imagination pours a flood of mellowed, but variegated light

While every form that Fancy can repair,
From dull Oblivion, glow's divinely there !

If the ranges of fantastic clouds that sometimes hover along the western horizon, on autumnal evenings, incessantly changing their shapes and hues under the radiation of the solar beams, are capable of exercising the fancy

in shadowing forth the transitory representations of castles, mountains, temples, cities-in short, every figure and combination of figures that had been previously impressed on the memory through the medium of the senses and of the imagination, the PALATINE Mount, viewed from the Tower of the Capitol, is still better calculated to call forth the waking dreams of a philosophic mind, and conjure up a series of vistas presenting the most interesting phantasmagoria ever contemplated by the mental eye.

Between the straw-covered shed of ROMULUS and the ban: nered camp of GENSERIC, (embracing twelve centuries) what gorgeous structures have been piled, like Pelion upon Ossa, on that mound of earth-each the anxious care, the secret pride, the final disappointment, of its transitory architect, its momentary possessor! Pig-styes, cabbage-beds, artichokes, and lines of sober ilex, now cover the spots where stood the temples of her gods—the palaces of her Cæsars—the DOMUS AUREA of her Nero—the halls of her philosophers, poets, patricians—nay, ROME HERSELF ! *

If foolish pride, frenzied ambition, and purblind power, were capable of taking lessons from the past, or holding converse with the dead, the Palatine Mount might prove a school of no ordinary instruction! There is scarcely a grain of dust on that once castellated eminence, which has not, at some former period, been animated by the vital spark, and formed a component part of some living machine. If these silent atoms, these mouldering ruins, had tongues to relate the secret history of the PaLATINE, human ears would not be able to endure the whole recital of the tragic tale. Enough, however has been spared by the scythe of Time, and rescued from the ravages of barbarism, to furnish sermons of morality and wisdom to all succeeding generations. The history of the Palatine Hill might offer lessons of humility to the great, and of contentment to the lowly -of moderation to princes, and fidelity to subjects-of veracity to courtiers—of probity to statesmen-of temperance to ambition, love, avarice, and every tempestuous passion that agitates the soul of man during his brief sojourn on the surface of that

* “The Casinos of Popes mouldering upon the palaces of Roman emperors -pigs and peasants inhabiting a corner of these splendid ruins-cabbages and artichokes flourishing above them-fragments of precious marbles and granites, of carved cornices and broken alabaster, scattered amongst the mould—while the eye wanders over a confused array of long corridors, pameless arcades, unknown vaults, forgotten chambers, and broken arches.". Rome in the 19th Century.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

orb, from which he emerges, eyes a few revolving suns, shakes off his little tenement of clay--and vanishes-back to mother Earth, or forward to a new scene of existence !

If the black and bloody deeds, the reckless murders, the savage cruelties, the unutterable iniquities, perpetrated on, or emanating from that far-famed Mount, have sunk, with their merciless agents, into everlasting repose, or evaporated into annihilation with the last scintillations of vitality-it is impossible to suppose that a hand of wisdom constructed the Universe, or a spirit of justice can preside over its laws! To the materialist, then, we may say—“utrum horum mavis accipe.”


Vidimus flavum Tiberim retortis
Littore Etrusco, violenter undis,
Ire dejectum monumenta regis

Templaque Vestæ.

Carrying the eye over the ruins of the Palatine, towards the banks of the Tiber, we light on a small circular church, and are startled at finding it to be the famous Temple of VESTA-forming a striking contrast, in solitude and meanness, to its successors, the multitudinous and gorgeous monastic edifices, scattered through fair Italy! Ancient Rome found it difficult to keep up the number of six vestal virgins-and if history speaks truth, they were not always more vestal than they ought to have been! It was but a poor prospect for these virgins, that, after 30 years' service in watching the sacred fire, they might retire, without pension or dower, and enter into the holy state of matrimonyif they could. Yet even that regulation was better than the present withering vow and blighting veil, which extinguish the hope of ever mixing with the world again!

That Rhea Sylvia did not relish the system of celibacy enjoined by Vesta, and imposed upon her by the heartless Numitor, is pretty clear. She, like many of her sex, was

captivated by a nodding plume and a glittering helmet. The God of War, indeed, was accused of being the gay deceiver on this occasion—but it was far more likely to have been some sturdy “Son of Mars” than the God himself. Be that as it may, it is evident that the Eternal City was cradled in sin and christened in murder! The faux-pas of poor Rhæa Sylvia was a venial indiscretion, compared with the slaughter of Remus by the hand of his brother, Romulus. The incontinence of the mother, however, and the fratricide of the son, were ominous presages of those dreadful scenes of licentiousness and cruelty which Rome was destined to exhibit, and to put on deathless record, for the astonishment, if not the instruction of after

ages !

To guard the holy fire, the extinction of which was believed to be so displeasing to the gods and dangerous to man, by virgins, rather than by matrons, whose thoughts might wander, and whose attention might be diverted from the altar to their families, was not an unnatural idea or an injudicious regulation. But the modern incarceration of thousands of the fair sex in those solitudes and cells, where superstition is fostered

“And ever musing Melancholy reigns,”

is a grade of infatuation very little inferior to that which consigns the Hindoo widow to the funereal pyre, the decrepid Indian to the spring-tide of the Ganges, or the frenzied zealot to the crashing wheels of Jaggernaut.

Throughout every gradation of animated nature, from reasoning man to the vegetating polypus, the omniscient Creator has admirably adapted the organization to the functions of the animal. But no metaphysical sophistry, no sacerdotal policy, no religious dogma, no precept, divine or human, can convince a rational and unbiassed mind, that men and women were ever designed to be converted into Monks and NUNS. Had such strange and unnatural modes of existence been contemplated by the all-wise Architect, a portion of the human species would annually be born with a corporeal structure and intellectual en

[blocks in formation]

dowments corresponding with the anomalous life that was to be led. This not being the case, we are irresistibly impelled to the conclusion that MONACHISM can never answer the designs, however pious, of man, because it is in direct contravention of one of the most universal laws of God.


It is not surprising that the ancients should have conquered in war, and prospered in peace. Gods and Goddesses mingled in the martial conflict, and fought in the ranks, like common soldiers. The same deities assisted in cultivating the fields, planting the vines, pressing the grapes—and getting drunk with the wine. In short, the celestial powers of ancient Rome were neither so lazy, proud, or dirty as her modern inhabitants. They disdained no office, however menial- and one of them actually turned SCAVENGER, and kept the streets of the city clean and wholesome!

Of all the divinities to whom incense rose in the Eternal City, CLOACINA was the most practically useful. Hygeia, like some of her descendants, might occasionally stumble upon a cure—but CLOACINA weut nearer the root of the evil—she aimed at the prevention of diseases.

On the banks of the Tiber, not far from Janus QUADRIFRONS, may still be seen the first temple erected (as is said) by the Tarquins to Cloacina— the oldest edifice among the seven hills -and the least disputed as to its antiquity. Hither flowed, by day and by night, the votive offerings of the entire population of Rome. The worship of Cloacina was not a divided worship. The tenets of the Goddess were not disturbed by scepticismher TEMPLE was not defiled-at least by heresies or schisms. Yet it is not to be concealed that it was by midnight rites, revolting ceremonies, and horrible philtres,* that a beneficent

* Not the PHILTREs described by poets for entangling reluctant lovers in the chains of Venus

Necte tribus nodis

et Veneris dic vincula necto;


« AnteriorContinuar »