« PreviousContinue »
about three feet in height, with imperceptible wires fixed in their heads, and moved by persons above the scenes, who by dint of ventriloquism threw their voices into the consequential actors. By a contraction of the stage, and the illusion of the perspective, they appear like real persons at a distance. The principal piece for the night was the Rape of Proserpine, a very classical production, in which the infernal regions were disclosed to view! Pluto appeared in his flaming car, driven by Cupid bearing a blazing torch. Peter Quince and his corps did not raise a storm half so tremendous, as these Lilliputians produced. Then came the ballet, which was an admirable satire upon the dancing at the Scala. Minikin actresses hopped, reeled, and span like tops, showing their wooden legs with as much dexterity, as" children of a larger growth." An exhibition of this kind
was witnessed at Lodi; but there the marionettes were contadini, displaying the rusticity of a country life, and not to be compared with the gay dresses and fashionable manners of city puppets.
The objects in the environs of Milan are neither numerous, nor remarkable for a high degree of interest. An excursion was made a mile or two beyond the walls, to look at an old palace hidden among vines and poplars, celebrated chiefly for an echo in its court, which is said to give sixty distinct reverberations of sound. We did not take the trouble to count them. Three parties of ladies and gentlemen arrived on the same errand to this secluded retreat, during our visit of an hour. Pistols were discharged, and all sorts of noises made by the visitants, from the stentorian shouts of valets, to the involuntary shrieks of females, at the report of fire-arms and the smell of gunpowder. The echo is very perfect, though not more so than that in the mausoleum of Augustus; while the retreat of the fabled daughter of Air and Earth is here not so classical as on the banks of the Tiber, nor so silvan as amidst the woods and rocks of Killarney, where the pipes of Pan still waken her slumbers. In the walls of a palace, she has literally realized the metamorphosis of the poet, and been changed into stone.
On our way back, we visited the Villa of Napoleon, in the suburbs of the city, presenting a distant view of the Cathedral. The grounds are extensive and highly embellished in the French style, watered by an artificial stream, overhung with trees. Grecian temples and pavilions rise along the rural walks, and the garden yet bloomed with autumnal flowers. The palace is two stories, elegant in its proportions and architecture, but objectionable in some of its ornaments. In the bas-reliefs of the exterior, the loves and frolics of Satyrs are represented in their broadest characters. The roof is crowned with
ranges of statues. We traversed long suites of apartments, which are elegantly finished, but indifferently furnished, containing neither sculpture nor paintings. They are occupied a part of the year by the Viceroy. A call was made at the Palace of the Governor, standing upon the Corso. The architrave of the third story is supported by a series of caryatides, male and female, yoked together in pairs, and extending quite round the court. It is a barbarous and grotesque species of ornament. The edifice is devoid of interest of any kind.
A day was occupied in an excursion to Monza, for the purpose of examining the Iron Crown of Lombardy. It was necessary to go through with the formality of obtaining a permit from the Austrian authorities. They gave us a sealed letter, bearing the double-headed eagle and the arms of the Empire. It was folded, stamped, and superscribed in as much style, as if it had been a commission to a foreign What it contained was never known to us. It passed current with the priesthood, and served as a key to open the cabinet of the Cathedral, which was enough for us to know.
Monza is ten miles from Milan. We rode along the banks of the canal, which connects the city with Lake Como, and passed the Villa Greco, without discovering any of the charms, with which it has been invested by the luxuriant and pliant imagination of Lady Morgan. The whole region is an unvaried plain, and the view is intercepted by eternal poplars, tangled with vines. Neither nature nor art presents a single new feature, in the course of a ride which has been so much extolled.
At noon we reached the large village of Monza, the Versailles of Lombardy, and first looked at the Imperial Palace. It is one of the dozen residences of the Viceroy. Two of his five children were now here. He is at the age of 43, with a wife of twenty-five. His only employment seems to consist in riding from palace to palace, without troubling his head with the cares of empire. No trace of a library was found in his many mansions, and no monuments, save new doganas, have risen under his auspices.
The royal gardens at Monza surpass those of the Bourbons, in taste as well as in extent. They are laid out and embellished in the style of English parks. The woods are rich and beautiful. We sauntered an hour along umbrageous walks, following each winding pathway, which led to a Grecian or Chinese temple, a tower or an imitation ruin, a rustic grotto a lake, fountain, or waterfall. Such is the location of these various objects, as often to take the spectator by surprise, and produce the finest effect. In some instances perspectives are opened purposely for show-a species of ornament not uncommon in the north
of Italy, though generally uninteresting; for the vista should never rise above an accessory, or medium of vision, presenting some ulterior object to fix the eye. The waters in these grounds are transparent, brisk, and musical, frequently descending in cascades, in which art has happily pursued the suggestions of nature. Swans, ducks, and other domestic animals give to the scenery a rural appearance. Botanical, kitchen, and fruit gardens are among the appendages of the park. The palace is colossal in its proportions, and its architecture classical. It was rebuilt some fifty years ago of substantial materials. The interior, though highly finished and richly furnished, contains not a vestige of the fine arts. Three ordinary pictures in the chapel were the only traces of the pencil, discoverable about the imperial residence ; and they seemed merely guardians of the bones and relics of saints, which sanctify the altar. After traversing Lombardy from the Po to the Lakes, it was ascertained pretty satisfactorily, that an Austrian palace is one of the most vacant and stupid buildings in the world. The royal inmates are too poor, too indolent, or too tasteless to collect either statues or paintings, contenting themselves with reposing in state beds, or lolling on sumptuous couches.
The Cathedral is near the Palace. Its front is not a mean specimen of Gothic architecture; but the black and white stripe destroys whatever of merit the exterior would otherwise possess. A fulsome inscription, in praise of the munificence of the Austrian dynasty, meets the eye at the portals. The church is consecrated to Theolinda, who is its patron saint, and whose tomb is near the high altar.
Our imperial order was delivered, and as much preparation was made, as if the Iron Crown was to be placed upon one of our brows, as it had been upon that of Napoleon. It required the services of four priests, and a layman, as à lackey, to exhibit the relic, which is enshrined in a cross of massive gold, studded with the costliest gems, and hallowed by veritable fragments of the apparatus, used in the crucifixion upon Calvary-such as pieces of the sponge still red with blood, and splinters of the reed on which it was fastened! As an initiatory step in the ceremony, five candles were lighted up before the high altar. One of the priests then knelt upon a red cushion, placed on the steps, whispered a prayer, and burned much incense, which rose in such clouds as to form halos about the tapers. Another of the fraternity mounted a ladder and unlocked the cabinet; while the remaining two lifted the ponderous cross from its shrine, and set it on the pavement for our inspection. It was examined much at our leisure, and the showmen were very accommodating.
The Crown is incased in crystal, hermetically sealed; but the me
dium is so transparent, that you see the relic as perfectly as through so much air. Its outer circle is a band of gold, set with jewels, and lined with a narrow hoop of iron, made of nails from the Cross! It is composed of six distinct pieces, connected by hinges, and capable of being enlarged, to suit any brow. Its diameter does not exceed seven or eight inches; and it must have been tremendously stretched, to encircle the head of Napoleon. This is the oldest diadem in existence, and since the days of Charlemagne, it has rested upon the skull of many a dunce and many a tyrant, whom Bonaparte had the vain ambition and folly to imitate in mummery, which his greatness should have led him to scorn and trample under foot. It is almost inconceivable, that a mind of such lofty and liberal views, pledged to the support of republican principles, could so far debase itself, as to stoop to the low ambition of common despots :
"Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw."
A group of peasantry, together with two or three ecclesiastics from the neighbouring towns, availed themselves of this opportunity, to take a peep at the gew-gaw. The wonder depicted in their faces was quite as amusing as the brilliancy of the tiara. All the treasures of the church, rich in chalices and crosses, were shown to us; but they are nothing in comparison with those of the Cathedral at Milan. In a niche of the cloisters, a mummy of one of the Visconti stands erect, girt with a red sash and his warrior sword at his side, the hilt of which bears the dragon arms of the family.
DEPARTURE FROM MILAN-ARRIVAL AT COMO-FIRST
VIEW OF THE
LAKE-SKETCH OF THE SCENERY-EXCURSION TO THE VILLA D'ESTE -THE LATE QUEEN OF ENGLAND DESCRIPTION OF PLINIANA-ROUTE TO LAKE MAGGIORE-VERESE-BANKS OF THE TICIN-ARONA-COLOSSUS OF SAN CARLO-SKETCH OF MAGGIORE-BORROMEAN ISLESEXCURSION TO ISOLA BELLA-RIDE TO DOMO D'OSSOLA.
A SAVOYARD Vetturino was employed to take us from Milan, by the way of the Italian Lakes and across the Simplon, to Geneva, stopping when, where, and as long as we pleased. He gave us a napoleon to bind the bargain, to the conditions of which he proved faithful; though he sometimes gave us short commons, aroused us before day, and made long pauses to rest his horses. Notwithstanding these slight deductions, travelling by vettura has a decided preference over all other modes, both in point of economy and comfort. The interior of the coach is generally spacious, and the tourist may lounge at his ease, read, write, or look at the country from the windows. He is relieved from the vexations of paying off postillions, bespeaking accommodations, or settling bills at the hotels.
Early on the morning of the 8th, we left Milan for Lake Como, distant twenty-six miles in a northerly direction. From the Forum of Napoleon, a parting view of the Cathedral was obtained, just as the blushing east and the rising sun began to redden its Gothic pinnacles. The Virgin was the first to welcome the returning orb of day; and she was arrayed in robes of gold, while the streets of the city were yet shadowy and cheerless. After the belt of low ground, encircling the walls, had been traversed, the Alps disclosed themselves, sweeping round the green and fertile plains of Lombardy, from Verona to Turin, in a long, semicircular, and serrated chain. Their tops were already buried in snow, brightened by the beams of morning; and the very thought, that their bleak summits were to be climbed, made us shudder, in anticipation of the change of climate. The line of separation between eternal glaciers and verdure almost as perpetual, was very strongly marked even at this distance, and formed a most striking feature in the prospect.
At noon we reached Como, and had an enchanting view of the Lake, in winding down the long hill, which rises at its southern end. The day was as serene and mild as summer and no picture could ex