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sic shades, and the gratulations of thousands welcomed their return. What an era was that for national renown, and how has it vanished under titled dukes! Our associations were in a moment dissolved by the proud pile of marble, which rises above the gate of St. Gallo, inscribed to Ferdinand III. and surmounted by the double-headed Eagle of Austria. The four captives in chains, which recline on the entablature of twelve rich Corinthian columns, and which hide the figures of Fame and History, are but too true an emblem of the degradation of this once glorious Republic.
On the 18th, I made a solitary excursion to Vallombrosa, my friends preferring the charms of the Gallery to the Paradise of Milton. For the first thirteen miles the road leads up the Vale of the Arno, and is bordered by fields luxuriant in foliage, producing corn, olives, and wine. 'The air was fragrant with the odours of the sweet-scented bean, which is extensively cultivated, and was in full blossom. Its flower is as grateful as the product itself.
: Virgil was my sole companion, and the attractions of the country left me time to read only a few of his Eclogues. I had the text and comment both before me; for at least a dozen shepherds and shepherdesses were observed during my excursion. They were tending their flocks of sheep and goats by the way-side; and while the latter quietly browsed the herbage, the former employed their time in spinning, or other labour. But it is difficult to trace any of the poet's dramatis persone in these ragged and dirty rustics, who are generally of the lower classes of peasantry.
P Thirteen miles from Florence, I was obliged to leave the carriage and mount a donkey for the remaining five miles, › over a mountainous and rugged path. Some part of the way was so steep as to compel me to walk. In one instance the by-path actually leads through the porch of an old chateau, and my donkey found himself unexpectedly among Grecian pillars. A fountain in the court bears the following curious inscription:-" Potabunt onagri in siti sua”—the wild asses shall drink in their thirst. My pony understood enough of Latin to take the hint, and ran his nose into the trough without ceremony.
Soon after passing this villa, the path leads along the bank of a little stream, which hurries down from the Apennines to the Arno, filling the solitary vale with its murmurs. It is crossed by a rustic bridge, and the traveller soon finds him
self climbing a ridge of mountains clad with forests of chestnut and oak. At short intervals on the way, crosses and little shrines to the Virgin have been erected by the Monks. A person might trace his way through the woods by means of these pious beacons.
The approach to Vallombrosa bears but a faint resemblance to the gates of a Paradise. A curtain of mountain fir forms the vestibule. The grove is artificial, which detracts much from its beauty. It is, however, thick, dark, and umbrageous, forming rather a pretty screen to hide the convent from the rest of the world. But the smooth lawn beyond is clearly most unromantic. Some dozen dependants on the Monks were cutting and burning the green turf in the field, for the purpose of raising a crop of potatoes, and the whole premises were enveloped in smoke.
On my arrival at the door of the Convent, one of the brotherhood, clad in his surplice and black cap, received me with great cordiality, and bade me welcome to the secluded and hospitable retreat. He conducted me to a neat and comfortable suite of apartments, consisting of dining-rooms and bed chambers, appropriated to the use of strangers, for whose wants it is his peculiar duty for the time being to provide. From his office he bears the title of Forestiero, and he seemed resolved to render his honourable station, as a dispenser of the rites of hospitality, by no means a sinecure. His first order was to kindle a fire in the saloon, as the morning was chilly, and then inquired what refreshments he could offer from his humble store.
Having settled the preliminaries for dinner, he conducted me over every part of the Convent-the cloisters, the cells, the chapel, the library, the refectory of the Monks, and even the kitchen. It is an extensive pile of buildings, three stories high, standing round a spacious court, with a handsome yard in front. The architecture is plain, and the complexion of the edifice a little darkened by time. In the chapel are many respectable pictures, which chiefly attract attention from being found in solitudes, embosomed in the depth of the Apennines. The walls of the church are lined with sepulchral monuments, where sleeps the monastic dust of eight centuries. Much classical learning and some taste are displayed in the epitaphs.
The refectory resembles the dining-halls in the English universities. A table was spread for dinner, to accommodate
perhaps twenty persons, the present number of the fraternity. The board was crowned by a decanter of red wine to each plate, and every thing bore the marks of neatness and good cheer. No peculiar austerities are in fact enjoined upon the brotherhood, who live in much the same style as Fellows of a College. The Forestiero took me to his own private apartment, which was furnished with a bed, a few chairs, a table covered with books and a crucifix. Any student might here be comfortable.
The library is but a shadow of what it once was-a remark indeed, which may be extended to he whole establishment. During the late Revolution, the convent was suppressed by the French, its property confiscated, and most of the books dispersed. The shelves are still half vacant, though they bear the labels of the several compartments, into which the library is judiciously divided. There are at present not more than two or three thousand volumes. I took down a copy of Milton's works from the shelf, and found two papers inserted at the passages relating to this classical retreat. The first is one of the poet's grandest similes :
"Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
The second passage is the celebrated description of the Garden of Eden, the original of which travellers have pretended to discover in the woody declivities of the Apennines, overhanging the retired glen of Vallombrosa. There is a little hermitage actually called Paradise, consisting of a solitary one-story building, seated upon a high point of rock, and shaded on one side by evergreens. The brook, alluded to by Milton, dashes down from the cloudy and still snowy tops of the mountains, forming numerous pretty cascades, and filling the deep solitudes with its murmurs. A bridge, more like that leading into a Mahometan than a Christian Paradise, formed by a solitary plank thrown across the cur#rent, conducts the traveller to the Hermitage.
Notwithstanding all that has been said by Eustace and others, there is nothing peculiarly romantic in the character of the scenery at Vallombrosa, and I looked in vain for the original of Eden. Milton might have found a thousand scenes in his own country, every way superior in picturesque beauty. The forests of fir have all been planted by the
Monks, who renew them about as often as the generations of men, cutting down one growth for timber and fuel, and substituting another. Art has therefore in a great measure broken in upon the solitudes of nature. My visit was perhaps too early in the season, to see the place to the best advantage.
The associations are principally such as superstition has imparted. In the Hermitage are prints of all those, who have been its inmates, since its foundation in the tenth century. It admits of but one at a time, who holds for life. The present possessor seemed to have little of the anchorite in his character, and familiarly acted as a cicerone in showing me his tiny chapel, and other curiosities in his retirement. From the point of the rock in front, the spectator has a glorious peep at the world, extending into the sunny vale of the Arno, to Florence, and even to the dim expanse of the Mediterranean. While the prospect in this direction was all bright with summer skies, the winds of winter were still whistling above my head, round the bleak summits of the Apennines.
In descending from the Hermitage by a path winding under the cliffs, the guide pointed out a cavern in the rock, of the size of a coffin, grated in front. Here a saint buried himself for several years, enduring cold, hunger, and every species of mortification. A little shrine has been erected near the spot, to commemorate his virtues; and the Latin inscription states, that at his death celestial lights gleamed round the rocks, and the bells of the convent tolled without hands. Another chapel rises in memory of a Monk, who was tempted by the devil to leap from the cliff, when the Virgin interfered, and rescued him from peril. One of his brethren was less fortunate; for in walking along the giddy height at evening, he made a misstep, and was dashed to pieces in tumbling down the precipice.
But the most curious of all these shrines is one in commemoration of an event, in the life of the founder of the convent. While he was engaged in prayer among these solitary hills, he was assaulted by the devil. The former took to his heels, as the best mode of escape, and the latter gave chase. At length they arrived at a precipice, under which the saint sheltered himself, while the devil unable to check the momentum he had acquired dashed down headlong! The cliff all at once became so soft as to receive the impression of the saint, which is still shown to the traveller. A long Latin in
scription records the miracle. In the midst of these legends I ought not to forget the name of Father Hugford, an English Hermit of great sanctity, who rose to the rank of Abbé, and who presents a still stronger claim to remembrance, by the invention of inlaying marbles with precious stones.
On my return to the Convent, I found dinner in waiting. The fare was simple, but served up with neatness. All this hospitality is a gratuity; but the visitant is at liberty, if he chooses, to present a trifle for the maintenance of the establishment. A quarto volume, containing the memoirs of the founder of the Convent, was laid upon the table for my amusement; as also an album comprising the names of all the visitants to these shades. Adding my own to the long list, and shaking the Forestiero by the hand, I bade adieu to Vallombrosa, and returned to Florence the same evening.
DEPARTURE FOR ROME-INCISA-AREZZO-BIRTH-PLACE OF
PETRARCH-VALE OF CHIANA-LAKE THRASYMENUS-
April, 1826.-From Florence to Rome, a distance of about two hundred miles, experiment was made of a new mode of travelling. A desire to reach the south of Italy before the commencement of warm weather, and to continue in the agreeable company of our New-York friends, induced us to try the mettle of post-horses, instead of the tardy teams of the vetturino. The change was much for the worse in all respects except speed; and in that article the loss is greater than the gain to the tourist, who travels for information. He is hurried through landscapes however beautiful, and by objects however interesting, without the power to pause a moment for contemplation, as the postillions are anxious to accomplish the journey in the least time possible, often at the imminent risk of broken necks or limbs. Down hill they always make it a point to drive upon the run, to make up for their snail paces in the ascents. The horses