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“ After passing through a very narrow ravine (says a fair and intelligent traveller) and crossing the river several times, the road is carried through a grotto eighty paces in length, beyond which is the magnificent cascade of Frissinone, whose waters precipitate themselves from a rock so lofty, that they seem lost in æther before they reach the foaming bed of the Vedro. The road then passes through another grotto, 202 paces long, cut through solid rocks of granite. On emerging from this grotto, a sudden turn of the road presents another magnificent cascade, formed by a torrent which issues from the gorge of Zwischbergen, falling perpendicularly, and with such clamorous violence, close to the traveller, that no person can witness this scene without feeling, for a moment, as if it would be impossible to proceed. After quitting the sombre hamlet of Gondo, the road enters the still more sombre gorge of Isella, empaled by perpendicular mountains, from whose summits fall cascades capable of deluging the road, were they not conveyed into the bed of the Vedro, which, swoln and agitated by these tributary streams, rushes furiously through enormous fragments of rocks-sometimes exhibiting , all the colours of the rainbow—and at others foaming into gulphs, which can only be compared with the chaos of Milton and the inferno of Dante.” Having slightly hinted that Mrs. Starke has been occasionally led into exaggerated descriptions of unimportant scenes, I have introduced the above passage
proves her power of painting, while I can bear testimony to the fidelity of the portrait.
After traversing the “ solitude of Gondo," and the somewhat less sarage defiles of Isella, the scene gradually changes--the towering precipices begin to lose a little of their perpendicularity and recede backwards at their summits—the abyss becomes less gloomy—solitary and stunted pines shew themselves on the ledges of rock—then clusters of pines—and at last, the gorge opening wider and wider, a fairy scene, the romantic valley of Fontana, bursts on the view! This, indeed, is Italy. The chilling humid vapours of the tremendous abyss, from which the traveller has emerged, vanish at oncethe balmy air is loaded with odoriferous perfumes—the sloping glades on the left are covered with vineyards, orchards, gardens, villages white as snow, and every kind of cultivation, contrasting with the still precipitous and gigantic cliffs on the right. After proceeding a few more miles close along the foaming Vedro, another and much more spacious valley opens out to view, at the village of Crevola, “one of the most delightful (to use the words of Eustace) that Alpine solitudes enclose, or the foot of the wanderer ever traversed.” It is encompassed by mountains of a craggy and menacing aspect, but often softened by verdure, wood, and cultivation. The river Toccia traverses its centre, and is here joined by the Vedro, which loses its name and character by union with its more powerful neighbour.
Whether it was owing to the physical qualities of the air-the sudden
DESIGNS OF NAPOLEON.
transition from scenes of savage sublimity to romantic beauty-from sterility to fertility—from the awful work of earthquakes and cataracts to the peaceful labours of man-from solitude to society—or from all these combined, I know not'; but the exhilaration produced on myself and a large party, by this first entrance into the glades of Italy, was indescribable. Imagination, early association of ideas, and reminiscences of classic tale and history, must have had considerable effect;—but the countenances of some, who knew no more of the territory on which we had just entered than they did of Terra del Fuego, evinced the operation of causes more purely material than intellectual. I have entered upon and sojourned in many different climates on the face of this globe, but never did I feel such elasticity of soul and body, as on the drive from Crevola to Domo Dossolo. A thousand times did I inspire, to the very utmost extent of my lungs, the balmy atmosphere of Italy, and still with increasing delight! After this confession, it will not be said that I descended to the velvet plains of Latium with a mind prejudiced against its climate.
And now, having cleared this formidable pass over a magnificent road, whose gentle ascents up the face of a mighty Alp scarcely tire either horse or man—whose windings along the brinks of yawning precipices alarm not the eye--whose descents into the most frightful chasms and profound abysses scarcely require a drag on our carriage wheels, can we fail to extend our admiration of the route itself to the great man, whose comprehensive mind designed and executed a gigantic task
Beyond all Greek, beyond all Roman fame.
But men are not to be judged solely by their actions in this world, nor probably in the next. The act by which one man bereaves another of life, is construed into murder or homicide entirely by the design. If a peasant cut down a huge pine on the edge of a torrent, and projected it over the flood, with the design of levying predatory nocturnal contributions on his neighbour's farm-yard, it would not inake the act meritorious, even if the said pine-path afforded great facility of intercourse among the surrounding villagers. The pass of the Simplon might have remained a goat-herd's track till doomsday, had Napoleon not experienced the tremendous difficulties of leading an army over the Great St. Bernard. The accommodation of travellers, or the benefit of commerce, never once entered his mind, except as a veil to cover the ambition of military conquest. No, verily! Every parapet-stone, from Paris, to the triumphal arch at the Porta Semprone of Milan, bears unquestionable testimony that the thirst of empire—the usurpation of the IRON CROWN, constructed the great military road across the Alps, without the slightest reference to national or commercial intercourse. And in what, even now, consists the principal trade over the Simplon? The trunks and bandboxes of English families !
And here let me advert, though with reluctance, to the astounding inaccu. racies of an amiable traveller, over whose urn at Naples I paid as sincere a tribute of respect as any of his most ardent admirers could do. Will it be believed that such a man as Eustace, while examining the Simplon two short years after Napoleon had conducted his army over the Great St. Bernard, and when the foundations of the new military road were just commencing, could be capable of writing such a sentence as the following. This moun: tain, (Simplon) the object of our excursion, is one of the highest of the Italian Alps (which, by the bye, is a gross error); it is covered with perpetual snow, and is remarkable for the passage of Buonaparte previous to the battle of Marengo." Eustace could scarcely get up a part of the way on a mule-he describes the bridges and roads that were to be constructed, and innocently imagines that Napoleon marched his army and heavy artillery over the Simplon-a task fully as difficult as it would have been over the summit of Mont Blanc! Is it not still more astonishing that four editions of the work should have been published, without the enormous error being detected either by the author or the critics ? On future occasions I shall be compelled to combat his opinions ; but, at all times I shall be ready to give him full credit for the most perfect sincerity, probity and benevolence.
The first and favourable impressions produced by the balmy air, the azure skies, and the smiling glades of Italy, were enhanced by early intercourse with her lively inhabitants. There must be some affinity between the Irish and the Italians. The hospitality of the former forces you to eat and drink more than you wish that of the other persuades you to make repasts at periods when there is not the least appetite for the most savoury viands. We experienced this last species of hospitality, before we concluded our first day's journey from the summit of the Simplon. After making a substantial second breakfast at Dorno Dossolo, and enjoying the beautiful prospect from the terrace of the inn, we started for Baveno; but at the end of the very first stage, were startled, at the Village of Vogogna, with the words “no horses." The obsequious master of the poste, however, who was, unfortunately master of the principal hotel also, informed us that there were far better things than horses under his roof-delicious trout from the neighbouring Toccia and savoury game from the adjacent mountains. The courier asserted that there were several horses in the stable; but the lively host asserted, in return, that they were in readiness for the Diligence, which was momentarily expected. Jet black clouds were rising in the north-east~the vivid lightnings were playing portentously over the Rhætian Alps--the thunder began to growland part of the road to Baveno had been completely carried away by the recent floods. It required little penetration to see, that the feelings of the
kind Italiañ would be hurt by a refusal of his disinterested hospitality—and therefore, the trout was ordered into the pot, and the game on the gridiron, with all possible expedition, and without a word being said further on the subject of the horses. The dinner was dressed and eaten--an extra bottle of the best wine in the house emptied—and the bill paid within less than an hour. On turning to the window of the salle à manger, I saw some excellent horses and a smart postillion around the carriage--though none had returned during the short period of our repast. At this moment a large English berline drove up, and the same answer was given respecting horses. I advised my countryman to angle for horses with “ trout from the neighbouring stream;” but he swore he would not be imposed upon as I was foolish enough to be. We set off, then, for Baveno with a thousand thanks and bows from our kind host. This was not the first nor the last time I had learnt to know, that fair words and cheerful looks facilitate our journey along the road, as well as through life, much more than blustering and passion. I saw my countryman the next day at Baveno, and he regretted that he had not followed my advice. He was detained three hours at the inn-forced to partake of Italian hospitality at last-charged exorbitantly-treated scurvily-and half-drowned during his journey to Baveno in the middle of the night.
Whoever happens to have been between the Simplon and Milan on the evening and night of the 3d of October, 1829, will hardly forget the thunderstorm which then took place. It was one of those Autumnal hurricanes, which, in Italy, mark the limits between the tropical heat of their Summer and the delightful skies of early Winter. It was a regular ELEPHANTA, such as we see at Bombay on the change of the monsoon, and much about the same time of year Fortunately for us, the periodical rains had fallen much sooner than usual in Italy, as well as in other countries, that year-and this was the last but one of the Autumnal tornadoes. It was no trifle, even to those who had seen such phenomena in the East and West Indieş. It was ll o'clock at night before we reached Baveno, and the last six miles of the road, or rather the remains of a road, along the LAGO MAGGIORE, were illuminated by terrific flashes of sheet lightning. Every mountain around the lake reecchoed the roaring thunder-every village, villa, and town on its shoresevery island on its bosom, were rendered distinctly visible by the lightningand the glassy surface of the lake itself appeared, every two or three minutes, like a gigantic expanse of the electric fluid.
How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea,
And now again 'tis black-and now the glee
They who have got housed in a comfortable hotel, late at night, from the pelting of the pitiless storm—with a warm supper, a blazing fire, a keen appetite, a cheerful company, a light heart—and a bottle of good wine-can form some idea of the traveller's feelings at the excellent Albergo, perched on the very edge of the Lago Maggiore at Baveno, after such a storm as we encountered.
The rested traveller looks back on the dangers or the difficulties of the past, with positive pleasure-a consolation that may be looked to in every adversity that besets us in our journey through life.
The lake has regained its polished and placid countenance—the surrounding mountains are calmly eying their full-length portraits in the spacious mirror -but the frightened torrents are leaping from crag to crag, as if still pursued by the furious tempest. The prospect from the Borromean Isles is magnificent; and has been too well described by Eustace and others to bear another word. As to the Isola Bella itself, with its pyramid of terraces, orange and citron walks, time-worn statues, spouting fountains, galleries of evergreens, and endless arcades—it is neither entitled to the appellation of “ terrestrial paradise, an enchanted island, the abode of Calypso, the garden of Armida,” which some have bestowed on it-nor yet to the contemptuous epithets poured on its head by Pennant, Southey, and the fair Authoress of “Sketches of Italy.” It would, perhaps, be difficult to turn so small a rock, in the midst of a lake, to a better account; and I imagine that the spacious saloons, paved, lined and covered with spars, shells, &c. to imitate grottos, form a very delightful retreat from the burning suns of an Italian Summer. Here, indeed, as throughout Italy, we find filth and finery in close contact! If the traveller happens to mistake the principal entrance to the palace, and turns a corner to the northward, he will find himself ancle-deep in dirt of the worst description-and, on escaping from this scene, into the first door that opens, he will find himself in a large octagonal wing of the palace, without a roof! Painters and poets should never look beyond the surfaces of things, especially in Italy-otherwise the picture will be spoiled, or the poetic illusion will vanish. The whiteness of the houses, the verdure and richness of the country, the elevated spots on which human habitations are perched, and the brilliancy of the skies, all combine to form delightful landscapes. If we wish to keep up the pleasing image, let us as carefully avoid entering town, village, or single mansion—as we would the kitchen, when dinner is under the process of manipulation, in the hands of the cook!