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a gala. The country is extremely populous, and the inhabitants appear to be industrious in the cultivation of their few acres, appropriated as usual to grain, the olive, and vine.
After crossing a beautiful sunny plain, embosomed among the mountains, we reached Arezzo at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and took lodgings for the night at the Post House. While dinner was preparing, an hour was occupied in looking at the town, which is charmingly situated in the midst of a smiling country, and contains a population of about 10,000. It has seen better days, and some of the streets exhibit an air of former magnificence, being remarkably well paved, spacious, and lined with stately edifices. The Cathedral is a vast building, standing upon an eminence, with a showy exterior. Among the usual share of ornaments in the interior, is a splendid painting of Judith presenting the head of Holofernes to the people. The most has been made of a bad subject, and the picture possesses so much merit, that Morghen has hence drawn one of his best prints. In one of the aisles is a marble tomb of an Archbishop, furnishing a curious specimen of antique sculpture. Before the church spreads an extensive promenade, planted with trees, and ornamented with a lofty column of granite rising in the centre.
One of the first objects which the traveller inquires for on entering Arezzo, is the birth-place of Petrarch. Our curiosity was greatly augmented by having visited his secluded residence in the vale of Vaucluse. But what was our disappointment, on being conducted to the street, to find that the old house, in which he was born in 1304, had been demolished about eight years since, and a new one erected on its site. Such a revolution has dissolved the charm of association, and the traveller scarcely pauses long enough before the fresh stucco walls, to read a Latin inscription of great length, posted up like the rates of a toll-gate in front of the house. The early life of Petrarch seems to have given rise to several legendary and fabulous tales, though it was sufficiently romantic without any of these incredible stories. He was emphatically the child of misfortune. At the time of his birth, his parents were exiles from their native Florence, and his father was waging in the field an ineffectual struggle to restore the liberties of his country. While the poet was an infant, his mother returned to Incisa, the village mentioned above; and in crossing the Arno, her babe, put into a sack fastened to the end of a pole, and entrusted to a peasant whose horse fell in fording the river, was nigh being drowned. So says tradition. At the age of seven, he and his parents embarked at Leghorn for Marseilles, on their way to Avignon. They were wrecked during the voyage, and the infant bard again narrowly esca
ped. These moving accidents of his childhood were in consonance with the misfortunes of his riper years, and perhaps have been invented to harmonize with the story of his woes.
Arezzo (the old Arretium,) was anciently a town of great importance, and here the Consul Flaminius had his head quarters, previous to the fatal battle with Hannibal on the shores of lake Thrasymenus. Some vestiges of its antiquities still remain. We visited the ruins of the Amphitheatre, situated near the Roman Gate. Its construction almost exactly resembles that of Frejus, in the south of France, less spacious as well as less perfect than the one at Nismes. A few of the arches are yet entire; but the walls are overgrown with shrubbery, and the arena covered with rank grass. In musing over these wrecks of other ages, the mind involuntarily reverts to vanished scenes, when the benches were crowded with circles of Roman beauty, and the pulse of thousands beat high with enjoyment.
Early the next morning we left Arezzo, and pursued our journey through the vale of Chiana, sixteen miles in extent, across which the eye stretches, charmed with the richness of the landscape, and rests on the picturesque village of Chiusi, seated on the top of a round insulated hill several hundred feet above the surrounding plain. This town, anciently called Clusium, was the castellated kingdom of old Porsenna, whose arms carried terror to the gates of Rome. The ramparts and towers of Cortona, once the capital of Etruria, but now wasted away into comparative insignificance, crown the heights on the left of the road, and overlook the whole of the beautiful valley blooming below. It is said the Cathedral in this town contains an ancient tomb, which is supposed to have been erected in memory of the Consul Flaminius, whose death gave eclat to the victory of the Carthaginian.
Passing the post of Camuccia, we reached the little village of Ossaia, on the frontiers of Tuscany, which pretends to derive its name from the bones (ossa) of the ten thousand Romans, who fell in the memorable engagement above referred to, and here found a grave. An inscription in front of a building on the left of the street urges this claim, strengthened by fragments of human bones found in the vicinity. But its authenticity is denied by antiquaries, and the scene of the battle is uniformly laid several miles farther on. I seize this occasion to say, that a note to the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold comprises, within a narrow compass, more authentic information on this subject, than all the volumes of modern travellers put together. Byron's topographical descriptions, aided by the patient labours of his friend Hobhouse, are more minutely accurate than any one would
expect in the pages of a poet. His text of course often exaggerates and embellishes; but you may always rely on his notes, and if any of my readers wish for a perfect picture of one of the most renowned fields in the whole history of Rome, they have only to turn to the passage above referred to, which is too long for quotation, and too concise for abridgment.
On leaving Ossaia, we continued to ascend an eminence of moderate elevation, shaded with oaks and olives, till our arrival at the narrow Pass of Borghetto, by which the Consul and his army entered the semicircular plain upon the shore of the lake, at the dawn of the illfated day, the events of which spread dismay through the streets of Rome. Idle as the curiosity may seem, and remote as the associations must be, the eye loves to trace even the ground, upon which the Roman legions trampled, as they advanced with high hopes and proud bearing to meet the inveterate enemy of their country. None but a rash leader would have entrusted an army to such a field, from which there was no retreat in case of discomfiture. But the Roman arms were at that period unaccustomed to reverses, and the wily African was not looked for in such a secluded recess of the mountains. It is not, however, my business to balance the merits of generalship, nor to dwell on the incidents of a battle, which have been recorded by a thousand pens since the days of Livy, from whose copious and "pictured page" my classical friend recited passage after passage, as the inspiration of the ground awakened the chain of associations, and opened the treasures of memory.
In winding round the Pass of Borghetto, glimpses of the blue waters of Thrasymenus were at first indistinctly seen, through the groves of oak which fringe the road, till at length the whole lake, cradled among the Apennines, and girt by verdant shores, spread in all its brightness full before us. The feelings of the moment may be much more easily conceived than described. To the impressions produced by the charms of natural scenery were added the recollections of history, and the classic dreams of boyhood. If the lake is not peculiarly remarkable for either its grandeur or beauty, it is intensely interesting; and it is difficult to analyze the complex emotions which the first view of it produced in my mind. Its length is ten miles, and its breadth five or six; it is of an irregular form, and encircled on all sides by mountainous and woody borders, which give it an air of deep solitude. Three small islands rise boldly from its bosom, and contribute greatly to its picturesque beauty. Its immediate margin is girt with a deep fringe of reeds. The complexion of the water is as bright as the azure of the skies it reflects.
We had now entered the dominions of the Pope, and our trunks were consigned to the hands of a host of hungry custom-house officers, who throng the Dogana of his Holiness, situated near the frontier, and bearing the image of the eagle and triple crown. In our haste to walk forward to the battle ground, while our luggage was undergoing an inspection, the surrender of keys had been forgotten, and a fat Italian placeman, pufling and panting like a porpoise, found difficulty in overtaking us at the distance of half a mile. A moderate fee blinded the vigilance of these papal Arguses, and it could not be perceived from a subsequent examination, that the contents of our trunks had been molested.
The most desperate and bloody part of the contest between Flaminius and Hannibal was fought upon the banks of a little stream, or rather the channel of a stream, called the Sanguinetto, which intersects the semicircular plain already mentioned, five or six miles in length, along the shore of the lake, and about four in width. An unbroken chain of hills, called the Gualandra, of moderate elevation, but steep, and crowned with several old fortresses, sweeps round the field, terminating at the defiles of Borghetto and Passignano. This range of mountains, the arena spreading below, and bordered in front by a splendid sheet of water, present on the whole a glorious amphitheatre, worthy of the sublime spectacle which it once exhibited. Tradition has designated the banks of the Sanguinetto," which all the while ran blood," as the place where Flaminius fell. Here it was, that the Insubrian knight Ducarius recognized the Consul, and plunging into the thickest of the foe, gave his enemy a victim, to appease the manes of his plundered and butchered fellow-citizens.
But I must not dwell on so old a story as Livy's description of this battle. His two chapters, detailing the incidents of the engagement and the scenes of frantic terror which the news excited at Rome, form one of the finest specimens of eloquence to be found in the whole compass of the Latin classics.* From this fountain Byron has drawn all his imagery, and done little more than versify the Roman historian.
* On the arrival of the messenger at Rome, the inhabitants of both sexes thronged the Forum, and Marcus Pomponius the Prætor communicated to the assembled multitude the sad intelligence in few words—" pugna magna victi sumus” -we have been conquered in a great battle. Mothers and wives and sisters with dishevelled locks, and in the torture of suspense, flew to the gates of the city, and watched day and night for the return of their friends. Two matrons died of excess of joy at the unexpected arrival of their sons; but still more of broken hearts. What a subject is here for the pencil of an artist!
There seemed to be a combination of every possible circumstance to heighten the grandeur of a conflict between two such armies-the intervention of an earthquake so severe as to prostrate many of the cities of Italy-the cloud of mist from the Lake, so dense that, in the forcible language of Livy, the combatants were guided rather by the ear than the eye-the shouts of the onset-the tremendous slaughterand the sublime image of the Roman legions, who standing upon the heights of the Gualandra, heard the clashing of shields and the clangor of arms far beneath them, without being able to discern the contending forces. In a word, the whole description has the fascination of splendid romance.
Near the bridge of the Sanguinetto, we found a peasant ploughing the glorious field. He stopped his team and courteously responded to our inquiries, pointing to a place at some distance on the left of the road, as the spot where the Consul fell. Traditions of the battle, kept alive by the curiosity of travellers, are still vivid with the inhabitants of the plain. The scene is all quiet and rural now. A fine species of red clover, entirely different from any I had before seen, crimsoned the field with its bright blossoms. It is extremely fragrant, and appears to be a favourite flower with the bee. Here too the olive waves its pale green foliage, and the vine was putting forth its young tendrils. For once in the world, the delay of a custom-house was a favour instead of a vexation; and our coaches did not overtake us, till localities so full of interest had been satisfactorily examined.
We rode for several miles along the immediate margin of the lake. At Passignano a bold, rocky promontory, shooting out from the Apennines, bathes itself in the waves, leaving but a narrow defile for the path. A little village is seated under the cliffs, picturesque in the approach, but mean, dirty, and poor on a closer examination. At the village of Torricella, situated upon the shore, a few miles farther on, we made a short pause, and embarked in a small boat, partly from the idle curiosity of navigating the waters of Thrasymenus, and partly for the sake of purchasing a lot of fresh fish for dinner. Several kinds were found, and among the rest a species of the streaked bass. Each of our party making a selection according to his own taste, augmented the quantity beyond what was exactly agreeable to be borne for many miles in our vehicles on a warm day.
Having reinforced each of our teams by a yoke of oxen, decorated in this instance with snowy garlands, and under the guidance of an old lady who led them by a rope fastened to their horns, we commenced climbing the hill of Magiona at a pace so slow, as to afford ample time to cast many a lingering and farewell look at Thrasymenus, gradually