« AnteriorContinuar »
superstition-paralyzed, as to all progression, by a senseless policy, for forty centuries. The intermediate countries are little better than hordes of semibarbarians, presenting few excitements so strong as the desire to get out of them. Italy is different. Her mountains, her valleys, and her plains are still romantic, beautiful, fertile. She is peopled almost as numerously by the dead as by the living—the former in shapes and colours more animated than the latter! The results of ancient genius and of modern art—of natural talent and of acquired science—the efforts of the human mind and body, in past and present times, are here accumulated to a greater extent than in any other country on the face of the globe.
*“Now in travelling (says Rogers, the Poet) we multiply events, andinnocently. We set out, as it were, on our adventures; and many are those that occur to us, morning, noon, and night. The day we come to a place which we have long heard and read of, and in Italy we do so continually, it is an era in our lives ; and from that moment the very name calls up a picture. How delightfully too does the knowledge flow in upon us, and how fast! To judge at once of a nation, we have only to throw our eyes on the markets and the fields. If the markets are well-supplied, the fields well cultivated, all is right. If otherwise we may say, and say truly, these people are barbarous or op, pressed.* Would he who sat in a corner of his library, poring over books and maps, learn more or so much in the time, as he who, with his eyes and his heart open, is receiving impressions all day long from the things themselves ? Assuredly not, if the last has laid a proper foundation. Knowledge makes knowledge as money makes money, nor ever perhaps so fast as on a journey. How accurately do these impressions arrange themselves in our memory, towns, rivers, mountains ; and in what living colours do we recall the dresses, manners, and customs of the people! Our sight is the noblest of all our senses. • It fills the mind with most ideas, converses with its ob. jects at the greatest distance, and continues longest in action without being tired.' Our sight is on the alert when we travel ; and its exercise is then so delightful, that we forget the profit in the pleasure. Like a river, that gathers, that refines as it runs, like a spring that takes its course through some rich rein of mineral, we improve and imperceptiblyếnor in the head only, but in the heart. Our prejudices leave us one by one. Seas and mountains are no longer our boundaries. We learn to love, and esteem, and admire beyond them. Our benevolence extends itself with our knowledge. And must we not return better citizens than we went ? For the more we become acquainted with the institutions of other countries, the more highly must we value our own.”--Italy, by S. Rogers, Esq.
* Here the poet is decidedly wrong. Look at the Campania Felix of Naples. It is the emblem of fertility-fertility itself. But what are the inhabitants ? Starving-slaves !-J. J.
RISE AND FALL OF ITALY.
It is at Florence that the intellectual banquet is first spread profusely before the traveller. The painter and the poet may here copy from nature and art. The philosopher and the historian are here presented, at every step, with wrecks and records of the past, that cannot fail to excite the most intense exercise of their intellectual faculties. The devotees of literature and science are here surrounded with ample materials for contemplation and study—while the great mass of visitors and temporary sojourners are overwhelmed, overpowered, by the endless succession of sights, one half of which they cannot see, and one hundredth part of which they cannot comprehend! Italy, in truth, is not more prolific of those causes that kindle up fever in the body, than of those which generate fervor of the mind. It is the land of excitement, mental and corporeal ;-and, if so, why are her sons sunk in apathy and sloth? The problem is not very difficult of solution. Vivid excitement and “plenary indulgence” of the senses are as certainly succeeded by exhaustion and innervation, as prodigality is followed by poverty, labour by fatigne, and exercise by sleep. This is not less an historical fact than a physiological maxim. Of the innumerable, the nameless hordes that have rushed over the Alps from the borders of the Rhine, the Elbe, the Vistula, and the Danube, impelled by the accumulated energies of their rigorous climes, or the thirst of plunder, each has regularly melted down beneath the influence of Italian skies and Italian pleasures, to furnish effeminate subjects for successive conquests. Or, to use the more expressive language of the Tuscan historian, (Pignotti), “the sturdy valour of the warriors of the North became gradually softened and unnerved by the mildness of the climate and the delights of the South.”* But it may appear enigmatical, or contradictory, that the Italians should have previously conquered the world. The solution of this problem is not difficult. In the first place, the Romans had a world to conquer-no unimportant part of the Postulate. In the second place, a constant state of warfare kept the energies of a poor, brave, and uncorrupted people in perpetual operation, the widening circle of conquest being regularly converted into an extending sphere of amalgamation and strength, till the burning sands of Lybia, and the frozen shores of Thulé -the pillars of Hercules and the wilds of Scythia, acknowledged the Roman sway. So far, steady discipline prevailed over barbarous courageand steel over gold. The Roman empire became one dreary and monotonous prison. But gradually the scene changed. The influx of wealth from other countries, and the relaxing skies of their own, prepared the way for luxury, effeminacy, vice, depravity. The heart of this vast body politic became rotten, and streams of corruption permeated every vein. The nerves of this colossal empire were paralyzed—and re-action of its extremities at length ensued. Then it was
* Pignotti's History of Tuscany.
that Goth and Vandal—that “ fiery Frank and furious Hun” scaled the mighty Alps-gazed on the fertile plains of Italy-inhaled, with wild rapture, the balmy gales of that terrestrial paradise-shook their glittering falchions in the beams of her setting sun—and rushed down, in resistless torrents, upon her beautiful vales, overturning the monuments of her former greatness, scattering on the winds the literature of her sages, and subjugating the degenerate sons of her heroes and demigods! Wave after wave of these barbarian inraders perished by the sword, or drank the cup of Circé, and sank into the same stye of debauchery with the vanquished, under the influence of a sky which lulls the reason and excites the passions—which, like the Syren's sung, charms the senses and demoralizes the soul! This strange mixture of northern vigour with southern effeminacy was probably the fulfilment of a law of nature, as necessary as it was inevitable. The irruption of barbaric tribes into Italy, thus sunk in riches, in vice, and in debility, was governed by a law as wise and undeviating as that which causes the cool sea-breeze to sweep, with diurnal regularity, over the burning surface of the tropical shores. It might not be going too far to suppose that the flux and Teflux of war, the ebbings and flowings of prosperity, the tide of civilization itself, are under laws less ostensible, but not less immutable, than those which heave the waters of the ocean, direct the course of the hurricane, regulate the progression of the seasons, adjust the proportion of the sexes, and limit the range of human existence.
"IUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY.
But to return from this contemplative digression to the Lions of Florence. Three of these Lions would require three large volumes of description, and would not then be half described—the Museum of Natural History—the Palazzo Pitti—and the Royal Gallery of the Gran Duca. The reader is insured against a description from the pen of the writer ; and, therefore, a few cursory remarks may be fearlessly encountered.
The galleries of wax-works are the pride of Florence, as far as the science of man's mortal fabric is concerned. In ancient days, “know thyself (nosce te ipsum) was a celebrated precept. In modern times, it has been superseded by the more fashionable precept—“know thy neighbour and every thing that concerns him.” I was delighted to see the ladies prefer the Grecian dictate, and anxiously surveying the “ fearful and wonderful” structure of man—and of woman too, in the anatomical galleries of the studio. Surely the repugnance to resurrectionary labours in England must soon be obliterated by the familiarization of the female eye to the beauties of dissection in Italy
CITY OF THE PLAGUE-HANNIBAL'S ELEPHANT.
Although the anatomical models in these galleries will not all bear the strict scrutiny of the professed anatomist, they are quite correct enough for conveying all the knowledge of the human frame that is necessary for men of general science and literature, free from the disgusting scenes of the dissecting
To this class of travellers, Florence presents facilities unequalled in any part of the world. The “ CITY OF THE PLAGUE,” though too faithful to prostrate human nature, conveys, in my opinion, no other sensation than that of unmixed horror. To whom can this sickening portrait of putrefaction be useful, except to the poet, when working up some scene of horror in the charnelhouse? The painter could not exhibit such representations. The fatal raft of the Medusa, as drawn in the Louvre, with all its ghastly forms of the dead and the dying, awakens pity and various other emotions, as well as horror. —while heavenly hope comes wafting on the distant sail from the verge of the horizon. But in this “ CITY OF THE Plague,” the King of Terrors reigns over putrid corses alone, and that conversion of man into food for worms, which ought to take place in the deep and silent grave, is here portrayed with such disgusting fidelity, that the sense of smell actually catches the contagion from the neighbouring sense of sight, and imagination creates an atmosphere of pestiferous emanations from the inodorous wax.
The ductility of this substance is turned to a more useful account, in another room of this vast museum, where vegetable life is beautifully imitated. The aloe, the prickly pear, the pine-apple, the lily, and the rose, can scarcely be distinguished from their living prototypes. Why do not the fair sex of England employ a portion of their time in modelling with wax, instead of feasting one only sense--the ear-day and night?
Among the innumerable objects which keep the mind in a fever, while we are pacing gallery after gallery in this magnificent museum, the fossil remains of animals can hardly be passed without the excitation of a train of reflections not less bewildering than humiliating. The bones of the elephant, found in the “ Val d'Arno SUPERIORE,” are considered to be those of some forlorn “MADEMOISELLE D'JECK" who accompanied Hannibal in his trip over the Alps and the Apennines !* Unfortunately for this hypothesis, the said bones were deposited near those of the hippopotamus of the Upper Nile-a quadruped that must have proved an awkward component of the materiel of the Afric warrior's army when crossing the Little St. Bernard ! It is more likely
* We are informed that after the battle of Trebia, and consequently before Hannibal' ascended the Apennines, the whole of his elephants, except one, perished by the cold. It would be very remarkable indeed if this one left its bones in the Val d'Arno-more especially as we are told, that on this lone elephant Hannibal was carried through the marshes, after he had crossed the Apennines, into Hetruria.
that the bones of the elephant were deposited in the Val D'Arno by such a convulsion of Nature as locked up the same animal in a mass of ice, by which its flesh, skin, and hair were preserved in perfect freshness, from a period before the universal deluge till a few years ago, when the iceberg was thrown on the shores of Kamschatka, and the pickled animal furnished a rich antedi. luvian feast to the bears of Siberia. It requires not much geological knowledge, while surveying the surface of this globe, to be convinced that the confusion observed among its watery deposits and fiery eruptions—its horizontal strata and its perpendicular basalts—its granite mountains covered with snow, and its gigantic craters filled with water, were produced by causes that ceased to operate before the commencement of human records—perhaps before the existence of human beings. How many hundred centuries must have rolled away, between the extinction of that volcano which occupied the Campagna di Roma, and the time when its crater became a level plain, the Tiber worked its classic channel, and Romulus took possession of its seven molehills ! How is it that no vestiges of man can be traced in any of these secondary formations, before the last grand catastrophe, the Deluge, while those of animals are so plentiful? But if, from the mysterious and Cimmerian darkness that hangs over the origin and early history of the human race, we shift our view to the scenes and circumstances of his progress along the stream of time, we shall have more cause to shudder and blush than to exult and glorify!
The exterior of this palace has a most gloomy and heavy aspect. It is like a colossal Newgate, and within its massive walls more executions have taken place than at the New Drop-but without the formality of any legal ceremony! “Its marble floors have been stained with blood, shed under circumstances of unparalleled horror. Brides, here, have been given away with more than royal splendour, soon to be murdered by their husbands' handsmand princely assassins have stalked through its sumptuous halls with reeking daggers, unquestioned and unpunished.” But these scenes are gone by, never again to return. The Palazzo Pitti is now one of the greatest lions of Italy, as far as painting is concerned ; and the amateurs of that delightful art would be amply repaid for their journey across the Alps and the Apennines by a sight of this palace alone. Michael Angelo's three fates—Raphael's Madonna della Sedia–Guido's Cleopatra-Salvator Rosa's Cataline conspiracy-Titian's mistress—the Hours of Giulio Romano-Annibale Caracci's Sebastiano, &c. &c. are only a few stars of the first magnitude, sprinkled along a dazzling galaxy of pictorial orbs, scarcely less brilliant than they.
How fortunate it is that the great mass of mankind were not born or bred virtuosi and connoisseurs, and, conseqnently, not liable to