Page images
PDF
EPUB

waste.

an old tower or castle rises from a mound, or the arches of an aqueduct stretch in a long line of ruins across the Round the shattered battlements of one of the former, a large flock of rooks were seen hovering, darkening the air with their dusky wings, and croaking a note of triumph over their undisturbed dominions.

Even scenes and objects, which in a different location would assume an air of cheerfulness and rural quiet, are here assimilated to the prevailing gloom. In one instance a little sheepfold was observed near the road, with the ruminating flock reclining in peace, and three shepherd's dogs sleeping by the side of their charge, unattended by their master. The crowd of peasants, who were journeying on towards Rome, with the produce of their Etrurian farms, and had encamped for the night, near the tomb of Nero, before the gates of the city, having unyoked their teams to graze upon the Campagna, presented a picture at once novel and interesting.

In approaching Rome from the heights of Baccano, the aspect of the city shifted and became more distinct at every step. The ranges of palaces and churches and domes and towers, extending from hill to hill, for the distance of several miles, flanked by the Vatican and St. Peter's on the right, all rising above the long line of ancient ramparts, and gilded by the beams of the declining sun, formed a coup d'oeil of indescribable grandeur. It very far surpassed my expectations of the modern city, and I might almost adopt the language of the Mantuan Shepherd, in comparing its imperial magnificence with his native town. The dome of St. Peter's with its burnished cross, conspicuous as that which Constantine saw blazing in mid air, was constantly in sight. It emphatically forms a Pharos to every part of the Campagna.

Just at evening we descended by a moderate declivity from the high level of the plain, to the narrow fringe of meadow which borders the Tiber, at the Milvian Bridge. This classic and noble stream, having received in its course the copious fountains of the Clitumnus, the white waters of the Nar, and the turbid contributions of the Anio, with many others of less note, is here thrice as large as at the Bridge of St. John near Perugia, a hundred miles above, and its complexion has undergone an entire change. The latter circumstance is not less attributable to the alluvial formation

I

of its own bed, in traversing the Umbrian and Sabine borders, as well as the sandy waste of the Campagna, than to the colour of the above mentioned tributaries. But notwithstanding all the defects of the Tiber, the impurity of its water and the frequent turbulence of its current, it is a river of much intrinsic grandeur-bold, impetuous, and resistless, like the character of the old Romans in the days of the Republic. Wherever a glimpse of it is caught, whether sweeping across the solitudes of the Campagna, or struggling through the ruins of the city, it is always hailed by the traveller with inexpressible interest. At the Milvian Bridge, I should think its current little inferior in breadth to the Seine at Paris, and much superior to it in dignity, as the banks have resumed their natural wildness, and are rural, green, and flowery. It here makes a majestic sweep towards the south, before entering the walls of the city, at - the distance of a mile or two. Its quiet wave, at the time

of our crossing it, reflected the ruddy hues of evening, and seemed as a mirror to its picturesque margin. My readers must excuse me for dwelling so long upon one topic; for I am fairly in love with the Tiber, the more so perhaps, because its character has met with shameless detractors.

The Milvian Bridge, though alluded to by Cicero and Sallust, is less interesting in its historical associations, than some other structures of the same description at Rome. It is celebrated for the death of the Emperor Maxentius in the 4th century. As he was retreating to the city, after his defeat by Constantine, the shattered bridge gave way, and the Tiber swallowed up a monster, who had stained its shores with the enormity of his crimes. Happy would it have been for Rome, if his victor, falsely styled "the Great," and now canonized by the inhabitants of a city which he plundered and ruined, had shared the same fate with his vanquished foe. With the cross for his banner, and with religion upon his lips, his heart was black with hypocrisy aud crime-the murderer of his own son,* a tyrant in power, and a Goth in taste. Yet I know not but his statue is among the group of saints, who line the balustrades, and guard the passage of the Milvian Bridge, which is of too substantial a character to be in danger of again tumbling for some centuries, though it daily sus

* Scarcely had the baptismal water been wiped from his brow, before he caused his gallant son to be poisoned at the instigation of an abandoned stepmother.

tains a greater weight of dignitaries, than both of the Emperors put together-made up of the Pope, Cardinals, and Roman nobility, whipping across it every evening with their splendid equipages, in the long rounds of the Corso.

Crowds of these personages and others of interior rank, with plumed chasseurs and triplets of red stockings posted behind their carriages,* were met in our ride of a mile through the faubourg to the Porta del Popolo. Wide as the street is, it was hardly broad enough for the passage of such a throng, foot and horse, enveloped in clouds of dust.

What a contrast did such a scene present, compared with the depopulated solitudes we had just traversed; and how much wealth is here squandered by the heirs of St. Peter, which ought to be there expended in improving his patrimony! But a coach, bounding over the pavements at the rate of ten miles an hour, does not afford a fit opportunity for moralizing. Our postillions, thinking perchance that their short scarlet doublets, yellow breeches, and tinsel hat-bands, might be mistaken for the livery of men of consequence, dashed through the multitude, giving us little time to examine the Rotunda of St. Andrew on the left, the lofty ramparts in front, and the Pincian and Marian hills, lifting their summits on either hand.

We first drove through the gate-and then asked leave to enter the city of the Cæsars. The delay of half an hour, occupied in the examination of our passports and baggage, was far from being an inconvenience, or hanging heavily on our hands in this instance. Before us opened the spacious Piazza of the Porta del Popolo, enriched with many of the peculiar monuments of Roman magnificence. Three of the principal streets in the city terminate like radii in this square, enabling the eye to extend far up their vistas lined with palaces and churches, in long perspective. Of these streets the middle one is the Corso, in all respects the finest, most fashionable, and most frequented in town. It runs from the Capital to the Porta del Popolo in nearly a direct line, is broad, handsomely paved, and a part of the way, furnished

* Chasseurs are the most fashionable species of servants both in France and Italy. They are generally grenadiers in person, so as to be able to afford effectual protection in case of an attack. Their dress is military, even to the sword and mustaches, and a cluster of variegated plumes, nod upon their gallant brows. The cardinals always drive with three servants perched behind, clad in red stockings, probably to show they are in the service of the Church Militant. The Pope's suite are mere harlequins, with party-coloured garments, like the clown of a circus,

[ocr errors]

with side-walks. At the hour of our arrival it was thronged with carriages, which were pouring incessantly into the Piazza. Some of them continued the course through the gate; others wound their way up a terraced road to the top of the Pincian Mount, on our left; and the remainder, wheeling round an Egyptian Obelisk, erected as a goal in the centre of the square, either halted on the great Exchange of Fashion, to stare and be stared at, or made another circuit through the Corso. Such are the high sports in the capital of his Holiness on Sunday evening.

The magnificent area, surrounded by three stately churches and by two white marble fountains crowned with colossal statues, thronged as it was with no inconsiderable share of the splendour, beauty, taste, and fashion, which a population of a hundred and fifty thousand can afford, formed an imposing vestibule to the imperial city. We sat in our carriages, in the midst of the multitude, and learned much in a short time. The Roman ladies are beautiful--pre-eminently beautiful over those of any part of Italy we have yet seen-in face, form, and complexion; blending grace with dignity of manners, and a comparative simplicity with richness and elegance of dress. The Italian language, as here spoken, is melody itself in comparison with the harsh, guttural intonations of the Tuscans, though the latter are the fathers of the modern dialect, and are said to write it with greater purity than the Romans.

But not to enter farther upon these topics at present: we took lodgings at the Hotel de l'Europe, situated on the Piazza di Spagna, the finest part of the city. The area extends along the base of the Pincian Hill, to the brow of which a magnificent flight of marble steps, perhaps a hundred feet in breadth, and as many in perpendicular height, affords an easy ascent. Rome is indebted to the late king of France, Louis XVIII. for this colossal work, which adds much to the beauty of the city. At the head of the steps, the same monarch restored a large church and established an Academy of the Fine Arts for the benefit of French students. In the rear of the latter is a beautiful garden, containing several acres, planted with shrubbery, and ornamented with statues. Its situation is delightful, and the whole of this group of buildings, with their appurtenances, reflects credit upon the liberality of the French government. Numerous inscriptions take care to inform the public, who was the benefactor.

The top

h

of the Pincian Hill is laid out with terraced roads and gravel walks for pedestrians, bordered by trees, ornamented with an obelisk, and furnished with seats beneath the shade, for the accommodation of visitants. So much by way of preface:5 for as the summit of this eminence commands a full view of Rome and its environs, and as it was near our lodgings, we frequently resorted to it, as a kind of observatory for fixing the outlines of the city.

LETTER LVII.

SKETCH OF ROME-VIEW FROM THE CAPITOLINE HILL-OUTLINES OF THE CITY AND ENVIRONS-ASPECT OF THE SEVEN HILLS-RUINS OF THE FORUM-TRIUMPHAL ARCHES ANCIENT TEMPLES-COLISEUM.

April, 1826.-On the morning after our arrival, we hastened to the centre of attraction, the Capitol and the Forum, and the visit has since been daily repeated with almost as much regularity, as Cicero and Hortensius attended the courts, some two thousand years ago. Let us again hurry thither, and without pausing at present to look at objects on our right or left, ascend to the top of the comparatively modern tower, which rises to the height of perhaps two hundred feet, upon the summit of the Capitoline Hill. The reader has already received from my own remarks, and perhaps from a hundred other sources, some intimations of the great outlines of the picture, which he hence surveys. He here finds himself in the centre both of the ancient and modern city, as well as of the Campagna di Roma. To the north and east, in the distance, the eye rests upon the blue summits of the Apennines, sweeping round the plain like a vast amphitheatre, from Tivoli to the heights of Baccano, embracing in the long range the sombre crest of Soracte, and a hundred other hills, with their tops fading into the skies. Between these mountains, and Mont Albano heaving its woody summit above a cincture of white hamlets, towards the south, an arm of the Campagna, resembling a strait of the sea, opens in boundless perspective, which, beyond the reach of vision, is lost among the hills. On the west and southwest, the prospect is co-extensive with the sensible horizon; for at the distance

ST

« PreviousContinue »