« PreviousContinue »
the dust of another saint in the crypt; but the jaw-bone and tongue of St. Anthony had satisfied us.
The cloisters of an adjoining convent have been very laudably converted into a hospital for invalid soldiers, dedicated by Francis I. to the "Læso Militi," inscribed upon the front. We saw hundreds of the inmates, as well as other troops who had never been wounded, parading the streets in a uniform of coarse tow cloth, which hung like cotton-bagging about their limbs, and formed an odd contrast to gilt swords, cocked hats, and tawdry epaulettes. But the most showy of the throng was a young Othello, of a coal black complexion, in a gaudy laced coat, girt with a broad red sash, wearing one yellow glove, and dangling the other in his hand, as he paraded the streets in all the pomp and circumstance of a military dandy, looking out for some modern Desdemona among the fair Paduese. In the dress and appearance of the people of this city, there is a strange compound of pride and poverty. One man was observed in a shabby coat, with a ponderous watch-seal hanging from each of his pockets.
A spacious and splendid promenade, called the Prato della Valle, spreads in front of the church of Santa Justizia. It is surrounded by a canal, planted with beautiful groves, and filled with hundreds of statues of distinguished men of Padua and Venice. Any one has the privilege of canonizing his friend, by adding a bust to the congregation, with a label upon the pedestal. When the marble multitude were first seen by moonlight, at our entrance into the city, they were taken for real persons, reposing among the trees.
We visited the Observatory, near the western walls, and ascended to the top, which is 125 feet from the ground. The cupola is ornamented with frescos, exhibiting rude likenesses of eminent astronomers, among whom are Sir Isaac Newton and Gallileo. On the ceiling are delineated the signs of the zodiac. This tower affords a perfect view of the town, which is seven miles in circuit, situated upon a plain, and watered by the Brenta. In many places the houses have dropped away, leaving large tracts of vacant grounds, shaded with luxuriant foliage. The population, which could once send an army of 20,000 to the field, is now reduced to 50,000 in all; and the city bears the marks of decrepitude, poverty, and decay. We had an enchanting prospect of Monselice, the Euganean Hills, the Rhætian Alps, and Tyrol, together with the boundless sea of verdure which stretches along the shores of the Adriatic. The waters of the Gulf were not discernible; but through the excellent telescope belonging to the Observatory, a fair view was obtained of the dome of St. Mark's at Venice.
A call was made at the Cathedral, which is far from being an interesting church. It contains a pretty medallion of Petrarch, in altorilievo of white marble, placed against a slab of black antique, fixed in the wall. The monument was erected in 1818, at the expense of one of the canons, who was a great admirer of the poet. If I mistake not, Petrarch was an officer in this church.
The cicerone led us thence to the reputed house of Titus Livius, the Roman historian. My faith was so weak, while gazing at the front of a modern building, ornamented with angels, and exhibiting no traces of antiquity, that I felt little interest and derived little pleasure from the visit. The words "vestustate restaurata"-dilapidated and restored-are inscribed upon a tablet over, the door. All the ancient memorials have been taken to the great Gothic Hall, denominated the Salone, whither we followed them. The Hall is a monstrous shell, 300 feet in length, 100 in width, and as many in height to the arched roof, rudely constructed of wood, supported by iron rods running across from side to side, joined by others standing in a vertical position. It is in all respects a novelty. The walls are daubed with rude frescos, and lined with sepulchral monuments, among which is one to the memory of Livy. It occupies a conspicuous situation at the upper end of the hall, and is ornamented with the Roman emblem of the wolf and twin boys. The slab appears to have been taken from the family tomb of the historian, who died at Padua, at the age of 67, on the same day with Ovid.
A tablet upon the wall commemorates the important event of a visit from one of the Popes to the Salone, when the assembled citizens had the honour of kissing the hand and receiving the benediction of his Holiness. This enormous hall seems to be appropriated to a great variety of purposes. Justice is here administered, and it is also used for public meetings. We found the floor covered with the drop scenes of a theatre, which a party of workmen were busy in repairing. A portico extends the whole length in front, which is entered by a double flight of steps. Below spreads a spacious square, which is occupied as the principal market, filled with all kinds of commodities and all sorts of people. An old palace adjoining is labelled with " Residenza di Podesta"-Mayor's office.
Not far hence is the University of Padua once the most celebrated in the world; but alas how fallen! Its walls are still venerable; and the double arcades surrounding the court are thickly hung with escutcheons, not of military renown, but of achievements in scholarship-with records of doctorates, professorships, and other literary honours, bestowed as a reward for profound erudition and distinguish
There are some thousands of these tablets. It was now vacation. The rooms were all closed; the officers and students were all absent; and the courts were silent as the grave. Our guide stated, that there are at present forty professors and fifteen hundred students. The number of the latter is said to have once amounted to eighteen thousand!
We visited an old church, to see a bas-relief by Canova, made to the order of a Prince. It appeared to me unworthy of his chisel. A picture of St. John, by Guido, furnished a much more ample recompense for a long walk on a warm day. An hour was spent in examining the finest palace in the city, the rendezvous of all the Austrian nobility, who pass through Padua. Its doors and stairs are beautiful, and the rooms neatly finished; but the contents are meagre, in comparison with the rich collections in similar edifices at Rome. The greatest curiosity is a pyramid, composed of small figures, in white marble, of the falling angels, tumbling from heaven in confusion, and supporting one another in all possible attitudes. It is the work of a monk, and is said to have called forth the admiration of Canova. Independent of its novelty, the sculpture is intrinsically good, the expression of the rebel throng infinitely varied, and their limbs entwined in the most ingenious manner.
The last object of attention, though it can hardly be said, of attraction or interest, was what in order of time should have been firstthe Tomb of Antenor. Risum teneatis ?--The cicerone informed us with a grave countenance, that the bones of the Trojan traitor, refugee, and adventurer were actually enclosed in the sarcophagus, elevated on pillars like that of Petrarch at Arqua, and evidently of the same age. It stands at the corner of two streets, in the most ancient part of the city. There is an inscription on the front, in the old Saxon character, which we found it difficult to decipher; but enough was learned to satisfy us, that the tomb was really intended for Antenor. It is probably a cenotaph, erected in the middle ages, in honour of the founder of the city.
At 1 o'clock in the afternoon, we left Padua in a vettura for Venice. The ride down the left bank of the Brenta was charming, with the river on one side, and a succession of splendid villas on the other. Several of the palaces were built by Palladio and other distinguished architects, for Venetian noblemen, whose wealth and families have now disappeared, while their sumptuous mansions, whither they used to retire in the hot months, are inhabited by Austrians and other foreigners. The largest and most elegant belongs to the Archduke Ranieri, Viceroy
of Italy. Its proportions are grand, and its grounds are in good taste, being laid out in the style of park scenery in England. The right bank of the Brenta is finely wooded, sprinkled with farm-houses and cottages. The stream itself is sluggish, and sufficiently large to be navigable with boats to Padua. Its shores in many places are so wild and luxuriant, that the branches of the trees bathe themselves in the flood. There appeared to be much bustle, activity, and gaiety in the villages along the road.
At 5 o'clock we reached Fusina, the point of embarkation for Venice. Our passports were retained, to be forwarded the next day. The custom-house officer was satisfied with a small fee, and did not open our trunks. A fleet of gondolas were moored in the Brenta, waiting for passengers, and a host of competitors, more clamorous than coachmen or the runners for French hotels, beset us and proffered their services.
The gondola is about thirty feet in length, four and a half feet wide in the centre, built sharp fore and aft, very much in the form of an Indian canoe. It is constructed of substantial timbers, though light and buoyant, sitting beautifully upon the water, and calculated for extra. ordinary speed. The prow consists of a serrated sheet of iron, terminating in a beak or volutes at top, kept bright and having rather a martial aspect. To this appearance the glossy black colour in no small degree contributes, suggesting the idea of a piratical bark. In the middle of the boat is a pavilion, of the size and somewhat in the shape of the top of a carriage, with a window on each side which may be opened or shut at pleasure, handsome curtains in front, and seats furnished with fine cushions. A person is effectually protected from inclement weather, and may be as retired and comfortable, as in a private chamber. The gondolier stands erect, and never shifts his oar. It is incredible with what dexterity and speed he drives his boat, which glides along the water in a noiseless manner, and without any apparent effort. In crossing the Lagune two oarsmen are generally employed; but on the canals only one is required.
Comfortably seated, with our faces towards Venice, we descended the Brenta for a mile or two. The banks are here rural, quiet, and luxuriant in foliage. Shrubs and wild-flowers are reflected from the glassy wave; and among the rest, the hawthorn was in several instances observed to dip its red berries in the stream. On emerging from the mouth of the river, we came in full view of Venice, sitting upon the sea, lifting her hundred domes, towers, and palaces above the waves, and gilded by the declining sun. The magnificence of the pic
ture and the feelings and associations it awakened, are wholly indescribable. All that chivalry has achieved-all that history has recorded, or poetry imagined, of this renowned and romantic city, came fresh over the mind. After the ecstacy of the moment had subsided, and the features in the coup d'oeil had been fixed, we plied the gondoliers with a thousand inquiries about localities, and the names of the more prominent objects. St. Mark's is another St. Peter's, and its dome is the first to attract the eye of the traveller. The sound of its bells tolling for vespers, and stealing across the waters, met us at a distance, and attuned the feelings to a pleasing melancholy.
We could not have crossed the Lagune, which is five miles in breadth and occupies about an hour and a half in the passage, at a more favourable season, or a more agreeable part of the day. The evening was bright and the bay tranquil, showing scarcely a ripple upon its surface. At first the sun set in all its glory upon the gilded battlements of the city, which were long reddened by the rich hues of the west. Then came an Italian twilight, in all its variety of tints, its softness and repose. At length the full moon again lighted up the skies, and poured her splendour upon the quiet waves of the Adriatic. The scene was constantly shifting, producing the most diversified combinations of light and shade.
Soon after leaving the mouth of the Brenta, we sportively asked the gondoliers to sing us some of the verses of Tasso. To our surprise, one of them so far complied, as to chant a passage from that poet. The other oarsman, taking the hint, bawled himself hoarse and us deaf with his harsh notes, which he continued during the whole voyage. He seemed to sing from the mere love of music, and not to gratify his audience. His companion responded, when he was acquainted with the song, and when not, the other prompted. The unceasing strain at length became tedious, especially when objects of greater interest attracted attention.
In approaching the shore and entering the canals, the scene again changed and presented a new aspect. The city was by this time lighted up, and the long line of illuminated windows appeared like beacons floating upon the water. In a word, it was difficult to realize a picture so entirely novel and unique, and we seemed to have been transported to a fairy land, where all was enchantment. Other gondolas shot by us, with the fleetness and silence of spirits. Our own glided alternately through the deep shadow of buildings, five or six stories high, and gleams of moonlight breaking through between the successive ranges of palaces, which hang their flights of white marble steps