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Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens

Part 2 out of 4

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hours, and we were going to run back again by the Cornice road from
Nice: not being satisfied to have seen only the outsides of the
beautiful towns that rise in picturesque white clusters from among
the olive woods, and rocks, and hills, upon the margin of the Sea.

The Boat which started for Nice that night, at eight o'clock, was
very small, and so crowded with goods that there was scarcely room
to move; neither was there anything to cat on board, except bread;
nor to drink, except coffee. But being due at Nice at about eight
or so in the morning, this was of no consequence; so when we began
to wink at the bright stars, in involuntary acknowledgment of their
winking at us, we turned into our berths, in a crowded, but cool
little cabin, and slept soundly till morning.

The Boat, being as dull and dogged a little boat as ever was built,
it was within an hour of noon when we turned into Nice Harbour,
where we very little expected anything but breakfast. But we were
laden with wool. Wool must not remain in the Custom-house at
Marseilles more than twelve months at a stretch, without paying
duty. It is the custom to make fictitious removals of unsold wool
to evade this law; to take it somewhere when the twelve months are
nearly out; bring it straight back again; and warehouse it, as a
new cargo, for nearly twelve months longer. This wool of ours, had
come originally from some place in the East. It was recognised as
Eastern produce, the moment we entered the harbour. Accordingly,
the gay little Sunday boats, full of holiday people, which had come
off to greet us, were warned away by the authorities; we were
declared in quarantine; and a great flag was solemnly run up to the
mast-head on the wharf, to make it known to all the town.

It was a very hot day indeed. We were unshaved, unwashed,
undressed, unfed, and could hardly enjoy the absurdity of lying
blistering in a lazy harbour, with the town looking on from a
respectful distance, all manner of whiskered men in cocked hats
discussing our fate at a remote guard-house, with gestures (we
looked very hard at them through telescopes) expressive of a week's
detention at least: and nothing whatever the matter all the time.
But even in this crisis the brave Courier achieved a triumph. He
telegraphed somebody (_I_ saw nobody) either naturally connected
with the hotel, or put en rapport with the establishment for that
occasion only. The telegraph was answered, and in half an hour or
less, there came a loud shout from the guard-house. The captain
was wanted. Everybody helped the captain into his boat. Everybody
got his luggage, and said we were going. The captain rowed away,
and disappeared behind a little jutting corner of the Galley-
slaves' Prison: and presently came back with something, very
sulkily. The brave Courier met him at the side, and received the
something as its rightful owner. It was a wicker basket, folded in
a linen cloth; and in it were two great bottles of wine, a roast
fowl, some salt fish chopped with garlic, a great loaf of bread, a
dozen or so of peaches, and a few other trifles. When we had
selected our own breakfast, the brave Courier invited a chosen
party to partake of these refreshments, and assured them that they
need not be deterred by motives of delicacy, as he would order a
second basket to be furnished at their expense. Which he did--no
one knew how--and by-and-by, the captain being again summoned,
again sulkily returned with another something; over which my
popular attendant presided as before: carving with a clasp-knife,
his own personal property, something smaller than a Roman sword.

The whole party on board were made merry by these unexpected
supplies; but none more so than a loquacious little Frenchman, who
got drunk in five minutes, and a sturdy Cappuccino Friar, who had
taken everybody's fancy mightily, and was one of the best friars in
the world, I verily believe.

He had a free, open countenance; and a rich brown, flowing beard;
and was a remarkably handsome man, of about fifty. He had come up
to us, early in the morning, and inquired whether we were sure to
be at Nice by eleven; saying that he particularly wanted to know,
because if we reached it by that time he would have to perform
Mass, and must deal with the consecrated wafer, fasting; whereas,
if there were no chance of his being in time, he would immediately
breakfast. He made this communication, under the idea that the
brave Courier was the captain; and indeed he looked much more like
it than anybody else on board. Being assured that we should arrive
in good time, he fasted, and talked, fasting, to everybody, with
the most charming good humour; answering jokes at the expense of
friars, with other jokes at the expense of laymen, and saying that,
friar as he was, he would engage to take up the two strongest men
on board, one after the other, with his teeth, and carry them along
the deck. Nobody gave him the opportunity, but I dare say he could
have done it; for he was a gallant, noble figure of a man, even in
the Cappuccino dress, which is the ugliest and most ungainly that
can well be.

All this had given great delight to the loquacious Frenchman, who
gradually patronised the Friar very much, and seemed to commiserate
him as one who might have been born a Frenchman himself, but for an
unfortunate destiny. Although his patronage was such as a mouse
might bestow upon a lion, he had a vast opinion of its
condescension; and in the warmth of that sentiment, occasionally
rose on tiptoe, to slap the Friar on the back.

When the baskets arrived: it being then too late for Mass: the
Friar went to work bravely: eating prodigiously of the cold meat
and bread, drinking deep draughts of the wine, smoking cigars,
taking snuff, sustaining an uninterrupted conversation with all
hands, and occasionally running to the boat's side and hailing
somebody on shore with the intelligence that we MUST be got out of
this quarantine somehow or other, as he had to take part in a great
religious procession in the afternoon. After this, he would come
back, laughing lustily from pure good humour: while the Frenchman
wrinkled his small face into ten thousand creases, and said how
droll it was, and what a brave boy was that Friar! At length the
heat of the sun without, and the wine within, made the Frenchman
sleepy. So, in the noontide of his patronage of his gigantic
protege, he lay down among the wool, and began to snore.

It was four o'clock before we were released; and the Frenchman,
dirty and woolly, and snuffy, was still sleeping when the Friar
went ashore. As soon as we were free, we all hurried away, to wash
and dress, that we might make a decent appearance at the
procession; and I saw no more of the Frenchman until we took up our
station in the main street to see it pass, when he squeezed himself
into a front place, elaborately renovated; threw back his little
coat, to show a broad-barred velvet waistcoat, sprinkled all over
with stars; then adjusted himself and his cane so as utterly to
bewilder and transfix the Friar, when he should appear.

The procession was a very long one, and included an immense number
of people divided into small parties; each party chanting nasally,
on its own account, without reference to any other, and producing a
most dismal result. There were angels, crosses, Virgins carried on
flat boards surrounded by Cupids, crowns, saints, missals,
infantry, tapers, monks, nuns, relics, dignitaries of the church in
green hats, walking under crimson parasols: and, here and there, a
species of sacred street-lamp hoisted on a pole. We looked out
anxiously for the Cappuccini, and presently their brown robes and
corded girdles were seen coming on, in a body.

I observed the little Frenchman chuckle over the idea that when the
Friar saw him in the broad-barred waistcoat, he would mentally
exclaim, 'Is that my Patron! THAT distinguished man!' and would be
covered with confusion. Ah! never was the Frenchman so deceived.
As our friend the Cappuccino advanced, with folded arms, he looked
straight into the visage of the little Frenchman, with a bland,
serene, composed abstraction, not to be described. There was not
the faintest trace of recognition or amusement on his features; not
the smallest consciousness of bread and meat, wine, snuff, or
cigars. 'C'est lui-meme,' I heard the little Frenchman say, in
some doubt. Oh yes, it was himself. It was not his brother or his
nephew, very like him. It was he. He walked in great state:
being one of the Superiors of the Order: and looked his part to
admiration. There never was anything so perfect of its kind as the
contemplative way in which he allowed his placid gaze to rest on
us, his late companions, as if he had never seen us in his life and
didn't see us then. The Frenchman, quite humbled, took off his hat
at last, but the Friar still passed on, with the same imperturbable
serenity; and the broad-barred waistcoat, fading into the crowd,
was seen no more.

The procession wound up with a discharge of musketry that shook all
the windows in the town. Next afternoon we started for Genoa, by
the famed Cornice road.

The half-French, half-Italian Vetturino, who undertook, with his
little rattling carriage and pair, to convey us thither in three
days, was a careless, good-looking fellow, whose light-heartedness
and singing propensities knew no bounds as long as we went on
smoothly. So long, he had a word and a smile, and a flick of his
whip, for all the peasant girls, and odds and ends of the
Sonnambula for all the echoes. So long, he went jingling through
every little village, with bells on his horses and rings in his
ears: a very meteor of gallantry and cheerfulness. But, it was
highly characteristic to see him under a slight reverse of
circumstances, when, in one part of the journey, we came to a
narrow place where a waggon had broken down and stopped up the
road. His hands were twined in his hair immediately, as if a
combination of all the direst accidents in life had suddenly fallen
on his devoted head. He swore in French, prayed in Italian, and
went up and down, beating his feet on the ground in a very ecstasy
of despair. There were various carters and mule-drivers assembled
round the broken waggon, and at last some man of an original turn
of mind, proposed that a general and joint effort should be made to
get things to-rights again, and clear the way--an idea which I
verily believe would never have presented itself to our friend,
though we had remained there until now. It was done at no great
cost of labour; but at every pause in the doing, his hands were
wound in his hair again, as if there were no ray of hope to lighten
his misery. The moment he was on his box once more, and clattering
briskly down hill, he returned to the Sonnambula and the peasant
girls, as if it were not in the power of misfortune to depress him.

Much of the romance of the beautiful towns and villages on this
beautiful road, disappears when they are entered, for many of them
are very miserable. The streets are narrow, dark, and dirty; the
inhabitants lean and squalid; and the withered old women, with
their wiry grey hair twisted up into a knot on the top of the head,
like a pad to carry loads on, are so intensely ugly, both along the
Riviera, and in Genoa, too, that, seen straggling about in dim
doorways with their spindles, or crooning together in by-corners,
they are like a population of Witches--except that they certainly
are not to be suspected of brooms or any other instrument of
cleanliness. Neither are the pig-skins, in common use to hold
wine, and hung out in the sun in all directions, by any means
ornamental, as they always preserve the form of very bloated pigs,
with their heads and legs cut off, dangling upside-down by their
own tails.

These towns, as they are seen in the approach, however: nestling,
with their clustering roofs and towers, among trees on steep hill-
sides, or built upon the brink of noble bays: are charming. The
vegetation is, everywhere, luxuriant and beautiful, and the Palm-
tree makes a novel feature in the novel scenery. In one town, San
Remo--a most extraordinary place, built on gloomy open arches, so
that one might ramble underneath the whole town--there are pretty
terrace gardens; in other towns, there is the clang of shipwrights'
hammers, and the building of small vessels on the beach. In some
of the broad bays, the fleets of Europe might ride at anchor. In
every case, each little group of houses presents, in the distance,
some enchanting confusion of picturesque and fanciful shapes.

The road itself--now high above the glittering sea, which breaks
against the foot of the precipice: now turning inland to sweep the
shore of a bay: now crossing the stony bed of a mountain stream:
now low down on the beach: now winding among riven rocks of many
forms and colours: now chequered by a solitary ruined tower, one
of a chain of towers built, in old time, to protect the coast from
the invasions of the Barbary Corsairs--presents new beauties every
moment. When its own striking scenery is passed, and it trails on
through a long line of suburb, lying on the flat sea-shore, to
Genoa, then, the changing glimpses of that noble city and its
harbour, awaken a new source of interest; freshened by every huge,
unwieldy, half-inhabited old house in its outskirts: and coming to
its climax when the city gate is reached, and all Genoa with its
beautiful harbour, and neighbouring hills, bursts proudly on the


I strolled away from Genoa on the 6th of November, bound for a good
many places (England among them), but first for Piacenza; for which
town I started in the coupe of a machine something like a
travelling caravan, in company with the brave Courier, and a lady
with a large dog, who howled dolefully, at intervals, all night.
It was very wet, and very cold; very dark, and very dismal; we
travelled at the rate of barely four miles an hour, and stopped
nowhere for refreshment. At ten o'clock next morning, we changed
coaches at Alessandria, where we were packed up in another coach
(the body whereof would have been small for a fly), in company with
a very old priest; a young Jesuit, his companion--who carried their
breviaries and other books, and who, in the exertion of getting
into the coach, had made a gash of pink leg between his black
stocking and his black knee-shorts, that reminded one of Hamlet in
Ophelia's closet, only it was visible on both legs--a provincial
Avvocato; and a gentleman with a red nose that had an uncommon and
singular sheen upon it, which I never observed in the human subject
before. In this way we travelled on, until four o'clock in the
afternoon; the roads being still very heavy, and the coach very
slow. To mend the matter, the old priest was troubled with cramps
in his legs, so that he had to give a terrible yell every ten
minutes or so, and be hoisted out by the united efforts of the
company; the coach always stopping for him, with great gravity.
This disorder, and the roads, formed the main subject of
conversation. Finding, in the afternoon, that the coupe had
discharged two people, and had only one passenger inside--a
monstrous ugly Tuscan, with a great purple moustache, of which no
man could see the ends when he had his hat on--I took advantage of
its better accommodation, and in company with this gentleman (who
was very conversational and good-humoured) travelled on, until
nearly eleven o'clock at night, when the driver reported that he
couldn't think of going any farther, and we accordingly made a halt
at a place called Stradella.

The inn was a series of strange galleries surrounding a yard where
our coach, and a waggon or two, and a lot of fowls, and firewood,
were all heaped up together, higgledy-piggledy; so that you didn't
know, and couldn't have taken your oath, which was a fowl and which
was a cart. We followed a sleepy man with a flaring torch, into a
great, cold room, where there were two immensely broad beds, on
what looked like two immensely broad deal dining-tables; another
deal table of similar dimensions in the middle of the bare floor;
four windows; and two chairs. Somebody said it was my room; and I
walked up and down it, for half an hour or so, staring at the
Tuscan, the old priest, the young priest, and the Avvocato (Red-
Nose lived in the town, and had gone home), who sat upon their
beds, and stared at me in return.

The rather dreary whimsicality of this stage of the proceedings, is
interrupted by an announcement from the Brave (he had been cooking)
that supper is ready; and to the priest's chamber (the next room
and the counterpart of mine) we all adjourn. The first dish is a
cabbage, boiled with a great quantity of rice in a tureen full of
water, and flavoured with cheese. It is so hot, and we are so
cold, that it appears almost jolly. The second dish is some little
bits of pork, fried with pigs' kidneys. The third, two red fowls.
The fourth, two little red turkeys. The fifth, a huge stew of
garlic and truffles, and I don't know what else; and this concludes
the entertainment.

Before I can sit down in my own chamber, and think it of the
dampest, the door opens, and the Brave comes moving in, in the
middle of such a quantity of fuel that he looks like Birnam Wood
taking a winter walk. He kindles this heap in a twinkling, and
produces a jorum of hot brandy and water; for that bottle of his
keeps company with the seasons, and now holds nothing but the
purest eau de vie. When he has accomplished this feat, he retires
for the night; and I hear him, for an hour afterwards, and indeed
until I fall asleep, making jokes in some outhouse (apparently
under the pillow), where he is smoking cigars with a party of
confidential friends. He never was in the house in his life
before; but he knows everybody everywhere, before he has been
anywhere five minutes; and is certain to have attracted to himself,
in the meantime, the enthusiastic devotion of the whole

This is at twelve o'clock at night. At four o'clock next morning,
he is up again, fresher than a full-blown rose; making blazing
fires without the least authority from the landlord; producing mugs
of scalding coffee when nobody else can get anything but cold
water; and going out into the dark streets, and roaring for fresh
milk, on the chance of somebody with a cow getting up to supply it.
While the horses are 'coming,' I stumble out into the town too. It
seems to be all one little Piazza, with a cold damp wind blowing in
and out of the arches, alternately, in a sort of pattern. But it
is profoundly dark, and raining heavily; and I shouldn't know it
to-morrow, if I were taken there to try. Which Heaven forbid.

The horses arrive in about an hour. In the interval, the driver
swears; sometimes Christian oaths, sometimes Pagan oaths.
Sometimes, when it is a long, compound oath, he begins with
Christianity and merges into Paganism. Various messengers are
despatched; not so much after the horses, as after each other; for
the first messenger never comes back, and all the rest imitate him.
At length the horses appear, surrounded by all the messengers; some
kicking them, and some dragging them, and all shouting abuse to
them. Then, the old priest, the young priest, the Avvocato, the
Tuscan, and all of us, take our places; and sleepy voices
proceeding from the doors of extraordinary hutches in divers parts
of the yard, cry out 'Addio corriere mio! Buon' viaggio,
corriere!' Salutations which the courier, with his face one
monstrous grin, returns in like manner as we go jolting and
wallowing away, through the mud.

At Piacenza, which was four or five hours' journey from the inn at
Stradella, we broke up our little company before the hotel door,
with divers manifestations of friendly feeling on all sides. The
old priest was taken with the cramp again, before he had got half-
way down the street; and the young priest laid the bundle of books
on a door-step, while he dutifully rubbed the old gentleman's legs.
The client of the Avvocato was waiting for him at the yard-gate,
and kissed him on each cheek, with such a resounding smack, that I
am afraid he had either a very bad case, or a scantily-furnished
purse. The Tuscan, with a cigar in his mouth, went loitering off,
carrying his hat in his hand that he might the better trail up the
ends of his dishevelled moustache. And the brave Courier, as he
and I strolled away to look about us, began immediately to
entertain me with the private histories and family affairs of the
whole party.

A brown, decayed, old town, Piacenza is. A deserted, solitary,
grass-grown place, with ruined ramparts; half filled-up trenches,
which afford a frowsy pasturage to the lean kine that wander about
them; and streets of stern houses, moodily frowning at the other
houses over the way. The sleepiest and shabbiest of soldiery go
wandering about, with the double curse of laziness and poverty,
uncouthly wrinkling their misfitting regimentals; the dirtiest of
children play with their impromptu toys (pigs and mud) in the
feeblest of gutters; and the gauntest of dogs trot in and out of
the dullest of archways, in perpetual search of something to eat,
which they never seem to find. A mysterious and solemn Palace,
guarded by two colossal statues, twin Genii of the place, stands
gravely in the midst of the idle town; and the king with the marble
legs, who flourished in the time of the thousand and one Nights,
might live contentedly inside of it, and never have the energy, in
his upper half of flesh and blood, to want to come out.

What a strange, half-sorrowful and half-delicious doze it is, to
ramble through these places gone to sleep and basking in the sun!
Each, in its turn, appears to be, of all the mouldy, dreary, God-
forgotten towns in the wide world, the chief. Sitting on this
hillock where a bastion used to be, and where a noisy fortress was,
in the time of the old Roman station here, I became aware that I
have never known till now, what it is to be lazy. A dormouse must
surely be in very much the same condition before he retires under
the wool in his cage; or a tortoise before he buries himself.

I feel that I am getting rusty. That any attempt to think, would
be accompanied with a creaking noise. That there is nothing,
anywhere, to be done, or needing to be done. That there is no more
human progress, motion, effort, or advancement, of any kind beyond
this. That the whole scheme stopped here centuries ago, and laid
down to rest until the Day of Judgment.

Never while the brave Courier lives! Behold him jingling out of
Piacenza, and staggering this way, in the tallest posting-chaise
ever seen, so that he looks out of the front window as if he were
peeping over a garden wall; while the postilion, concentrated
essence of all the shabbiness of Italy, pauses for a moment in his
animated conversation, to touch his hat to a blunt-nosed little
Virgin, hardly less shabby than himself, enshrined in a plaster
Punch's show outside the town.

In Genoa, and thereabouts, they train the vines on trellis-work,
supported on square clumsy pillars, which, in themselves, are
anything but picturesque. But, here, they twine them around trees,
and let them trail among the hedges; and the vineyards are full of
trees, regularly planted for this purpose, each with its own vine
twining and clustering about it. Their leaves are now of the
brightest gold and deepest red; and never was anything so
enchantingly graceful and full of beauty. Through miles of these
delightful forms and colours, the road winds its way. The wild
festoons, the elegant wreaths, and crowns, and garlands of all
shapes; the fairy nets flung over great trees, and making them
prisoners in sport; the tumbled heaps and mounds of exquisite
shapes upon the ground; how rich and beautiful they are! And every
now and then, a long, long line of trees, will be all bound and
garlanded together: as if they had taken hold of one another, and
were coming dancing down the field!

Parma has cheerful, stirring streets, for an Italian town; and
consequently is not so characteristic as many places of less note.
Always excepting the retired Piazza, where the Cathedral,
Baptistery, and Campanile--ancient buildings, of a sombre brown,
embellished with innumerable grotesque monsters and dreamy-looking
creatures carved in marble and red stone--are clustered in a noble
and magnificent repose. Their silent presence was only invaded,
when I saw them, by the twittering of the many birds that were
flying in and out of the crevices in the stones and little nooks in
the architecture, where they had made their nests. They were busy,
rising from the cold shade of Temples made with hands, into the
sunny air of Heaven. Not so the worshippers within, who were
listening to the same drowsy chaunt, or kneeling before the same
kinds of images and tapers, or whispering, with their heads bowed
down, in the selfsame dark confessionals, as I had left in Genoa
and everywhere else.

The decayed and mutilated paintings with which this church is
covered, have, to my thinking, a remarkably mournful and depressing
influence. It is miserable to see great works of art--something of
the Souls of Painters--perishing and fading away, like human forms.
This cathedral is odorous with the rotting of Correggio's frescoes
in the Cupola. Heaven knows how beautiful they may have been at
one time. Connoisseurs fall into raptures with them now; but such
a labyrinth of arms and legs: such heaps of foreshortened limbs,
entangled and involved and jumbled together: no operative surgeon,
gone mad, could imagine in his wildest delirium.

There is a very interesting subterranean church here: the roof
supported by marble pillars, behind each of which there seemed to
be at least one beggar in ambush: to say nothing of the tombs and
secluded altars. From every one of these lurking-places, such
crowds of phantom-looking men and women, leading other men and
women with twisted limbs, or chattering jaws, or paralytic
gestures, or idiotic heads, or some other sad infirmity, came
hobbling out to beg, that if the ruined frescoes in the cathedral
above, had been suddenly animated, and had retired to this lower
church, they could hardly have made a greater confusion, or
exhibited a more confounding display of arms and legs.

There is Petrarch's Monument, too; and there is the Baptistery,
with its beautiful arches and immense font; and there is a gallery
containing some very remarkable pictures, whereof a few were being
copied by hairy-faced artists, with little velvet caps more off
their heads than on. There is the Farnese Palace, too; and in it
one of the dreariest spectacles of decay that ever was seen--a
grand, old, gloomy theatre, mouldering away.

It is a large wooden structure, of the horse-shoe shape; the lower
seats arranged upon the Roman plan, but above them, great heavy
chambers; rather than boxes, where the Nobles sat, remote in their
proud state. Such desolation as has fallen on this theatre,
enhanced in the spectator's fancy by its gay intention and design,
none but worms can be familiar with. A hundred and ten years have
passed, since any play was acted here. The sky shines in through
the gashes in the roof; the boxes are dropping down, wasting away,
and only tenanted by rats; damp and mildew smear the faded colours,
and make spectral maps upon the panels; lean rags are dangling down
where there were gay festoons on the Proscenium; the stage has
rotted so, that a narrow wooden gallery is thrown across it, or it
would sink beneath the tread, and bury the visitor in the gloomy
depth beneath. The desolation and decay impress themselves on all
the senses. The air has a mouldering smell, and an earthy taste;
any stray outer sounds that straggle in with some lost sunbeam, are
muffled and heavy; and the worm, the maggot, and the rot have
changed the surface of the wood beneath the touch, as time will
seam and roughen a smooth hand. If ever Ghosts act plays, they act
them on this ghostly stage.

It was most delicious weather, when we came into Modena, where the
darkness of the sombre colonnades over the footways skirting the
main street on either side, was made refreshing and agreeable by
the bright sky, so wonderfully blue. I passed from all the glory
of the day, into a dim cathedral, where High Mass was performing,
feeble tapers were burning, people were kneeling in all directions
before all manner of shrines, and officiating priests were crooning
the usual chant, in the usual, low, dull, drawling, melancholy

Thinking how strange it was, to find, in every stagnant town, this
same Heart beating with the same monotonous pulsation, the centre
of the same torpid, listless system, I came out by another door,
and was suddenly scared to death by a blast from the shrillest
trumpet that ever was blown. Immediately, came tearing round the
corner, an equestrian company from Paris: marshalling themselves
under the walls of the church, and flouting, with their horses'
heels, the griffins, lions, tigers, and other monsters in stone and
marble, decorating its exterior. First, there came a stately
nobleman with a great deal of hair, and no hat, bearing an enormous
banner, on which was inscribed, MAZEPPA! TO-NIGHT! Then, a
Mexican chief, with a great pear-shaped club on his shoulder, like
Hercules. Then, six or eight Roman chariots: each with a
beautiful lady in extremely short petticoats, and unnaturally pink
tights, erect within: shedding beaming looks upon the crowd, in
which there was a latent expression of discomposure and anxiety,
for which I couldn't account, until, as the open back of each
chariot presented itself, I saw the immense difficulty with which
the pink legs maintained their perpendicular, over the uneven
pavement of the town: which gave me quite a new idea of the
ancient Romans and Britons. The procession was brought to a close,
by some dozen indomitable warriors of different nations, riding two
and two, and haughtily surveying the tame population of Modena:
among whom, however, they occasionally condescended to scatter
largesse in the form of a few handbills. After caracolling among
the lions and tigers, and proclaiming that evening's entertainments
with blast of trumpet, it then filed off, by the other end of the
square, and left a new and greatly increased dulness behind.

When the procession had so entirely passed away, that the shrill
trumpet was mild in the distance, and the tail of the last horse
was hopelessly round the corner, the people who had come out of the
church to stare at it, went back again. But one old lady, kneeling
on the pavement within, near the door, had seen it all, and had
been immensely interested, without getting up; and this old lady's
eye, at that juncture, I happened to catch: to our mutual
confusion. She cut our embarrassment very short, however, by
crossing herself devoutly, and going down, at full length, on her
face, before a figure in a fancy petticoat and a gilt crown; which
was so like one of the procession-figures, that perhaps at this
hour she may think the whole appearance a celestial vision.
Anyhow, I must certainly have forgiven her her interest in the
Circus, though I had been her Father Confessor.

There was a little fiery-eyed old man with a crooked shoulder, in
the cathedral, who took it very ill that I made no effort to see
the bucket (kept in an old tower) which the people of Modena took
away from the people of Bologna in the fourteenth century, and
about which there was war made and a mock-heroic poem by TASSONE,
too. Being quite content, however, to look at the outside of the
tower, and feast, in imagination, on the bucket within; and
preferring to loiter in the shade of the tall Campanile, and about
the cathedral; I have no personal knowledge of this bucket, even at
the present time.

Indeed, we were at Bologna, before the little old man (or the
Guide-Book) would have considered that we had half done justice to
the wonders of Modena. But it is such a delight to me to leave new
scenes behind, and still go on, encountering newer scenes--and,
moreover, I have such a perverse disposition in respect of sights
that are cut, and dried, and dictated--that I fear I sin against
similar authorities in every place I visit.

Be this as it may, in the pleasant Cemetery at Bologna, I found
myself walking next Sunday morning, among the stately marble tombs
and colonnades, in company with a crowd of Peasants, and escorted
by a little Cicerone of that town, who was excessively anxious for
the honour of the place, and most solicitous to divert my attention
from the bad monuments: whereas he was never tired of extolling
the good ones. Seeing this little man (a good-humoured little man
he was, who seemed to have nothing in his face but shining teeth
and eyes) looking wistfully at a certain plot of grass, I asked him
who was buried there. 'The poor people, Signore,' he said, with a
shrug and a smile, and stopping to look back at me--for he always
went on a little before, and took off his hat to introduce every
new monument. 'Only the poor, Signore! It's very cheerful. It's
very lively. How green it is, how cool! It's like a meadow!
There are five,'--holding up all the fingers of his right hand to
express the number, which an Italian peasant will always do, if it
be within the compass of his ten fingers,--'there are five of my
little children buried there, Signore; just there; a little to the
right. Well! Thanks to God! It's very cheerful. How green it
is, how cool it is! It's quite a meadow!'

He looked me very hard in the face, and seeing I was sorry for him,
took a pinch of snuff (every Cicerone takes snuff), and made a
little bow; partly in deprecation of his having alluded to such a
subject, and partly in memory of the children and of his favourite
saint. It was as unaffected and as perfectly natural a little bow,
as ever man made. Immediately afterwards, he took his hat off
altogether, and begged to introduce me to the next monument; and
his eyes and his teeth shone brighter than before.


There was such a very smart official in attendance at the Cemetery
where the little Cicerone had buried his children, that when the
little Cicerone suggested to me, in a whisper, that there would be
no offence in presenting this officer, in return for some slight
extra service, with a couple of pauls (about tenpence, English
money), I looked incredulously at his cocked hat, wash-leather
gloves, well-made uniform, and dazzling buttons, and rebuked the
little Cicerone with a grave shake of the head. For, in splendour
of appearance, he was at least equal to the Deputy Usher of the
Black Rod; and the idea of his carrying, as Jeremy Diddler would
say, 'such a thing as tenpence' away with him, seemed monstrous.
He took it in excellent part, however, when I made bold to give it
him, and pulled off his cocked hat with a flourish that would have
been a bargain at double the money.

It seemed to be his duty to describe the monuments to the people--
at all events he was doing so; and when I compared him, like
Gulliver in Brobdingnag, 'with the Institutions of my own beloved
country, I could not refrain from tears of pride and exultation.'
He had no pace at all; no more than a tortoise. He loitered as the
people loitered, that they might gratify their curiosity; and
positively allowed them, now and then, to read the inscriptions on
the tombs. He was neither shabby, nor insolent, nor churlish, nor
ignorant. He spoke his own language with perfect propriety, and
seemed to consider himself, in his way, a kind of teacher of the
people, and to entertain a just respect both for himself and them.
They would no more have such a man for a Verger in Westminster
Abbey, than they would let the people in (as they do at Bologna) to
see the monuments for nothing. {2}

Again, an ancient sombre town, under the brilliant sky; with heavy
arcades over the footways of the older streets, and lighter and
more cheerful archways in the newer portions of the town. Again,
brown piles of sacred buildings, with more birds flying in and out
of chinks in the stones; and more snarling monsters for the bases
of the pillars. Again, rich churches, drowsy Masses, curling
incense, tinkling bells, priests in bright vestments: pictures,
tapers, laced altar cloths, crosses, images, and artificial

There is a grave and learned air about the city, and a pleasant
gloom upon it, that would leave it, a distinct and separate
impression in the mind, among a crowd of cities, though it were not
still further marked in the traveller's remembrance by the two
brick leaning towers (sufficiently unsightly in themselves, it must
be acknowledged), inclining cross-wise as if they were bowing
stiffly to each other--a most extraordinary termination to the
perspective of some of the narrow streets. The colleges, and
churches too, and palaces: and above all the academy of Fine Arts,
where there are a host of interesting pictures, especially by
GUIDO, DOMENICHINO, and LUDOVICO CARACCI: give it a place of its
own in the memory. Even though these were not, and there were
nothing else to remember it by, the great Meridian on the pavement
of the church of San Petronio, where the sunbeams mark the time
among the kneeling people, would give it a fanciful and pleasant

Bologna being very full of tourists, detained there by an
inundation which rendered the road to Florence impassable, I was
quartered up at the top of an hotel, in an out-of-the-way room
which I never could find: containing a bed, big enough for a
boarding-school, which I couldn't fall asleep in. The chief among
the waiters who visited this lonely retreat, where there was no
other company but the swallows in the broad eaves over the window,
was a man of one idea in connection with the English; and the
subject of this harmless monomania, was Lord Byron. I made the
discovery by accidentally remarking to him, at breakfast, that the
matting with which the floor was covered, was very comfortable at
that season, when he immediately replied that Milor Beeron had been
much attached to that kind of matting. Observing, at the same
moment, that I took no milk, he exclaimed with enthusiasm, that
Milor Beeron had never touched it. At first, I took it for
granted, in my innocence, that he had been one of the Beeron
servants; but no, he said, no, he was in the habit of speaking
about my Lord, to English gentlemen; that was all. He knew all
about him, he said. In proof of it, he connected him with every
possible topic, from the Monte Pulciano wine at dinner (which was
grown on an estate he had owned), to the big bed itself, which was
the very model of his. When I left the inn, he coupled with his
final bow in the yard, a parting assurance that the road by which I
was going, had been Milor Beeron's favourite ride; and before the
horse's feet had well begun to clatter on the pavement, he ran
briskly up-stairs again, I dare say to tell some other Englishman
in some other solitary room that the guest who had just departed
was Lord Beeron's living image.

I had entered Bologna by night--almost midnight--and all along the
road thither, after our entrance into the Papal territory: which
is not, in any part, supremely well governed, Saint Peter's keys
being rather rusty now; the driver had so worried about the danger
of robbers in travelling after dark, and had so infected the brave
Courier, and the two had been so constantly stopping and getting up
and down to look after a portmanteau which was tied on behind, that
I should have felt almost obliged to any one who would have had the
goodness to take it away. Hence it was stipulated, that, whenever
we left Bologna, we should start so as not to arrive at Ferrara
later than eight at night; and a delightful afternoon and evening
journey it was, albeit through a flat district which gradually
became more marshy from the overflow of brooks and rivers in the
recent heavy rains.

At sunset, when I was walking on alone, while the horses rested, I
arrived upon a little scene, which, by one of those singular mental
operations of which we are all conscious, seemed perfectly familiar
to me, and which I see distinctly now. There was not much in it.
In the blood red light, there was a mournful sheet of water, just
stirred by the evening wind; upon its margin a few trees. In the
foreground was a group of silent peasant girls leaning over the
parapet of a little bridge, and looking, now up at the sky, now
down into the water; in the distance, a deep bell; the shade of
approaching night on everything. If I had been murdered there, in
some former life, I could not have seemed to remember the place
more thoroughly, or with a more emphatic chilling of the blood; and
the mere remembrance of it acquired in that minute, is so
strengthened by the imaginary recollection, that I hardly think I
could forget it.

More solitary, more depopulated, more deserted, old Ferrara, than
any city of the solemn brotherhood! The grass so grows up in the
silent streets, that any one might make hay there, literally, while
the sun shines. But the sun shines with diminished cheerfulness in
grim Ferrara; and the people are so few who pass and re-pass
through the places, that the flesh of its inhabitants might be
grass indeed, and growing in the squares.

I wonder why the head coppersmith in an Italian town, always lives
next door to the Hotel, or opposite: making the visitor feel as if
the beating hammers were his own heart, palpitating with a deadly
energy! I wonder why jealous corridors surround the bedroom on all
sides, and fill it with unnecessary doors that can't be shut, and
will not open, and abut on pitchy darkness! I wonder why it is not
enough that these distrustful genii stand agape at one's dreams all
night, but there must also be round open portholes, high in the
wall, suggestive, when a mouse or rat is heard behind the wainscot,
of a somebody scraping the wall with his toes, in his endeavours to
reach one of these portholes and look in! I wonder why the faggots
are so constructed, as to know of no effect but an agony of heat
when they are lighted and replenished, and an agony of cold and
suffocation at all other times! I wonder, above all, why it is the
great feature of domestic architecture in Italian inns, that all
the fire goes up the chimney, except the smoke!

The answer matters little. Coppersmiths, doors, portholes, smoke,
and faggots, are welcome to me. Give me the smiling face of the
attendant, man or woman; the courteous manner; the amiable desire
to please and to be pleased; the light-hearted, pleasant, simple
air--so many jewels set in dirt--and I am theirs again to-morrow!

ARIOSTO'S house, TASSO'S prison, a rare old Gothic cathedral, and
more churches of course, are the sights of Ferrara. But the long
silent streets, and the dismantled palaces, where ivy waves in lieu
of banners, and where rank weeds are slowly creeping up the long-
untrodden stairs, are the best sights of all.

The aspect of this dreary town, half an hour before sunrise one
fine morning, when I left it, was as picturesque as it seemed
unreal and spectral. It was no matter that the people were not yet
out of bed; for if they had all been up and busy, they would have
made but little difference in that desert of a place. It was best
to see it, without a single figure in the picture; a city of the
dead, without one solitary survivor. Pestilence might have ravaged
streets, squares, and market-places; and sack and siege have ruined
the old houses, battered down their doors and windows, and made
breaches in their roofs. In one part, a great tower rose into the
air; the only landmark in the melancholy view. In another, a
prodigious castle, with a moat about it, stood aloof: a sullen
city in itself. In the black dungeons of this castle, Parisina and
her lover were beheaded in the dead of night. The red light,
beginning to shine when I looked back upon it, stained its walls
without, as they have, many a time, been stained within, in old
days; but for any sign of life they gave, the castle and the city
might have been avoided by all human creatures, from the moment
when the axe went down upon the last of the two lovers: and might
have never vibrated to another sound

Beyond the blow that to the block
Pierced through with forced and sullen shock.

Coming to the Po, which was greatly swollen, and running fiercely,
we crossed it by a floating bridge of boats, and so came into the
Austrian territory, and resumed our journey: through a country of
which, for some miles, a great part was under water. The brave
Courier and the soldiery had first quarrelled, for half an hour or
more, over our eternal passport. But this was a daily relaxation
with the Brave, who was always stricken deaf when shabby
functionaries in uniform came, as they constantly did come,
plunging out of wooden boxes to look at it--or in other words to
beg--and who, stone deaf to my entreaties that the man might have a
trifle given him, and we resume our journey in peace, was wont to
sit reviling the functionary in broken English: while the
unfortunate man's face was a portrait of mental agony framed in the
coach window, from his perfect ignorance of what was being said to
his disparagement.

There was a postilion, in the course of this day's journey, as wild
and savagely good-looking a vagabond as you would desire to see.
He was a tall, stout-made, dark-complexioned fellow, with a
profusion of shaggy black hair hanging all over his face, and great
black whiskers stretching down his throat. His dress was a torn
suit of rifle green, garnished here and there with red; a steeple-
crowned hat, innocent of nap, with a broken and bedraggled feather
stuck in the band; and a flaming red neckerchief hanging on his
shoulders. He was not in the saddle, but reposed, quite at his
ease, on a sort of low foot-board in front of the postchaise, down
amongst the horses' tails--convenient for having his brains kicked
out, at any moment. To this Brigand, the brave Courier, when we
were at a reasonable trot, happened to suggest the practicability
of going faster. He received the proposal with a perfect yell of
derision; brandished his whip about his head (such a whip! it was
more like a home-made bow); flung up his heels, much higher than
the horses; and disappeared, in a paroxysm, somewhere in the
neighbourhood of the axle-tree. I fully expected to see him lying
in the road, a hundred yards behind, but up came the steeple-
crowned hat again, next minute, and he was seen reposing, as on a
sofa, entertaining himself with the idea, and crying, 'Ha, ha! what
next! Oh the devil! Faster too! Shoo--hoo--o--o!' (This last
ejaculation, an inexpressibly defiant hoot.) Being anxious to
reach our immediate destination that night, I ventured, by-and-by,
to repeat the experiment on my own account. It produced exactly
the same effect. Round flew the whip with the same scornful
flourish, up came the heels, down went the steeple-crowned hat, and
presently he reappeared, reposing as before and saying to himself,
'Ha ha! what next! Faster too! Oh the devil! Shoo--hoo--o--o!'


I had been travelling, for some days; resting very little in the
night, and never in the day. The rapid and unbroken succession of
novelties that had passed before me, came back like half-formed
dreams; and a crowd of objects wandered in the greatest confusion
through my mind, as I travelled on, by a solitary road. At
intervals, some one among them would stop, as it were, in its
restless flitting to and fro, and enable me to look at it, quite
steadily, and behold it in full distinctness. After a few moments,
it would dissolve, like a view in a magic-lantern; and while I saw
some part of it quite plainly, and some faintly, and some not at
all, would show me another of the many places I had lately seen,
lingering behind it, and coming through it. This was no sooner
visible than, in its turn, it melted into something else.

At one moment, I was standing again, before the brown old rugged
churches of Modena. As I recognised the curious pillars with grim
monsters for their bases, I seemed to see them, standing by
themselves in the quiet square at Padua, where there were the staid
old University, and the figures, demurely gowned, grouped here and
there in the open space about it. Then, I was strolling in the
outskirts of that pleasant city, admiring the unusual neatness of
the dwelling-houses, gardens, and orchards, as I had seen them a
few hours before. In their stead arose, immediately, the two
towers of Bologna; and the most obstinate of all these objects,
failed to hold its ground, a minute, before the monstrous moated
castle of Ferrara, which, like an illustration to a wild romance,
came back again in the red sunrise, lording it over the solitary,
grass-grown, withered town. In short, I had that incoherent but
delightful jumble in my brain, which travellers are apt to have,
and are indolently willing to encourage. Every shake of the coach
in which I sat, half dozing in the dark, appeared to jerk some new
recollection out of its place, and to jerk some other new
recollection into it; and in this state I fell asleep.

I was awakened after some time (as I thought) by the stopping of
the coach. It was now quite night, and we were at the waterside.
There lay here, a black boat, with a little house or cabin in it of
the same mournful colour. When I had taken my seat in this, the
boat was paddled, by two men, towards a great light, lying in the
distance on the sea.

Ever and again, there was a dismal sigh of wind. It ruffled the
water, and rocked the boat, and sent the dark clouds flying before
the stars. I could not but think how strange it was, to be
floating away at that hour: leaving the land behind, and going on,
towards this light upon the sea. It soon began to burn brighter;
and from being one light became a cluster of tapers, twinkling and
shining out of the water, as the boat approached towards them by a
dreamy kind of track, marked out upon the sea by posts and piles.

We had floated on, five miles or so, over the dark water, when I
heard it rippling in my dream, against some obstruction near at
hand. Looking out attentively, I saw, through the gloom, a
something black and massive--like a shore, but lying close and flat
upon the water, like a raft--which we were gliding past. The chief
of the two rowers said it was a burial-place.

Full of the interest and wonder which a cemetery lying out there,
in the lonely sea, inspired, I turned to gaze upon it as it should
recede in our path, when it was quickly shut out from my view.
Before I knew by what, or how, I found that we were gliding up a
street--a phantom street; the houses rising on both sides, from the
water, and the black boat gliding on beneath their windows. Lights
were shining from some of these casements, plumbing the depth of
the black stream with their reflected rays, but all was profoundly

So we advanced into this ghostly city, continuing to hold our
course through narrow streets and lanes, all filled and flowing
with water. Some of the corners where our way branched off, were
so acute and narrow, that it seemed impossible for the long slender
boat to turn them; but the rowers, with a low melodious cry of
warning, sent it skimming on without a pause. Sometimes, the
rowers of another black boat like our own, echoed the cry, and
slackening their speed (as I thought we did ours) would come
flitting past us like a dark shadow. Other boats, of the same
sombre hue, were lying moored, I thought, to painted pillars, near
to dark mysterious doors that opened straight upon the water. Some
of these were empty; in some, the rowers lay asleep; towards one, I
saw some figures coming down a gloomy archway from the interior of
a palace: gaily dressed, and attended by torch-bearers. It was
but a glimpse I had of them; for a bridge, so low and close upon
the boat that it seemed ready to fall down and crush us: one of
the many bridges that perplexed the Dream: blotted them out,
instantly. On we went, floating towards the heart of this strange
place--with water all about us where never water was elsewhere--
clusters of houses, churches, heaps of stately buildings growing
out of it--and, everywhere, the same extraordinary silence.
Presently, we shot across a broad and open stream; and passing, as
I thought, before a spacious paved quay, where the bright lamps
with which it was illuminated showed long rows of arches and
pillars, of ponderous construction and great strength, but as light
to the eye as garlands of hoarfrost or gossamer--and where, for the
first time, I saw people walking--arrived at a flight of steps
leading from the water to a large mansion, where, having passed
through corridors and galleries innumerable, I lay down to rest;
listening to the black boats stealing up and down below the window
on the rippling water, till I fell asleep.

The glory of the day that broke upon me in this Dream; its
freshness, motion, buoyancy; its sparkles of the sun in water; its
clear blue sky and rustling air; no waking words can tell. But,
from my window, I looked down on boats and barks; on masts, sails,
cordage, flags; on groups of busy sailors, working at the cargoes
of these vessels; on wide quays, strewn with bales, casks,
merchandise of many kinds; on great ships, lying near at hand in
stately indolence; on islands, crowned with gorgeous domes and
turrets: and where golden crosses glittered in the light, atop of
wondrous churches, springing from the sea! Going down upon the
margin of the green sea, rolling on before the door, and filling
all the streets, I came upon a place of such surpassing beauty, and
such grandeur, that all the rest was poor and faded, in comparison
with its absorbing loveliness.

It was a great Piazza, as I thought; anchored, like all the rest,
in the deep ocean. On its broad bosom, was a Palace, more majestic
and magnificent in its old age, than all the buildings of the
earth, in the high prime and fulness of their youth. Cloisters and
galleries: so light, they might have been the work of fairy hands:
so strong that centuries had battered them in vain: wound round
and round this palace, and enfolded it with a Cathedral, gorgeous
in the wild luxuriant fancies of the East. At no great distance
from its porch, a lofty tower, standing by itself, and rearing its
proud head, alone, into the sky, looked out upon the Adriatic Sea.
Near to the margin of the stream, were two ill-omened pillars of
red granite; one having on its top, a figure with a sword and
shield; the other, a winged lion. Not far from these again, a
second tower: richest of the rich in all its decorations: even
here, where all was rich: sustained aloft, a great orb, gleaming
with gold and deepest blue: the Twelve Signs painted on it, and a
mimic sun revolving in its course around them: while above, two
bronze giants hammered out the hours upon a sounding bell. An
oblong square of lofty houses of the whitest stone, surrounded by a
light and beautiful arcade, formed part of this enchanted scene;
and, here and there, gay masts for flags rose, tapering, from the
pavement of the unsubstantial ground.

I thought I entered the Cathedral, and went in and out among its
many arches: traversing its whole extent. A grand and dreamy
structure, of immense proportions; golden with old mosaics;
redolent of perfumes; dim with the smoke of incense; costly in
treasure of precious stones and metals, glittering through iron
bars; holy with the bodies of deceased saints; rainbow-hued with
windows of stained glass; dark with carved woods and coloured
marbles; obscure in its vast heights, and lengthened distances;
shining with silver lamps and winking lights; unreal, fantastic,
solemn, inconceivable throughout. I thought I entered the old
palace; pacing silent galleries and council-chambers, where the old
rulers of this mistress of the waters looked sternly out, in
pictures, from the walls, and where her high-prowed galleys, still
victorious on canvas, fought and conquered as of old. I thought I
wandered through its halls of state and triumph--bare and empty
now!--and musing on its pride and might, extinct: for that was
past; all past: heard a voice say, 'Some tokens of its ancient
rule and some consoling reasons for its downfall, may be traced
here, yet!'

I dreamed that I was led on, then, into some jealous rooms,
communicating with a prison near the palace; separated from it by a
lofty bridge crossing a narrow street; and called, I dreamed, The
Bridge of Sighs.

But first I passed two jagged slits in a stone wall; the lions'
mouths--now toothless--where, in the distempered horror of my
sleep, I thought denunciations of innocent men to the old wicked
Council, had been dropped through, many a time, when the night was
dark. So, when I saw the council-room to which such prisoners were
taken for examination, and the door by which they passed out, when
they were condemned--a door that never closed upon a man with life
and hope before him--my heart appeared to die within me.

It was smitten harder though, when, torch in hand, I descended from
the cheerful day into two ranges, one below another, of dismal,
awful, horrible stone cells. They were quite dark. Each had a
loop-hole in its massive wall, where, in the old time, every day, a
torch was placed--I dreamed--to light the prisoner within, for half
an hour. The captives, by the glimmering of these brief rays, had
scratched and cut inscriptions in the blackened vaults. I saw
them. For their labour with a rusty nail's point, had outlived
their agony and them, through many generations.

One cell, I saw, in which no man remained for more than four-and-
twenty hours; being marked for dead before he entered it. Hard by,
another, and a dismal one, whereto, at midnight, the confessor
came--a monk brown-robed, and hooded--ghastly in the day, and free
bright air, but in the midnight of that murky prison, Hope's
extinguisher, and Murder's herald. I had my foot upon the spot,
where, at the same dread hour, the shriven prisoner was strangled;
and struck my hand upon the guilty door--low-browed and stealthy--
through which the lumpish sack was carried out into a boat, and
rowed away, and drowned where it was death to cast a net.

Around this dungeon stronghold, and above some part of it: licking
the rough walls without, and smearing them with damp and slime
within: stuffing dank weeds and refuse into chinks and crevices,
as if the very stones and bars had mouths to stop: furnishing a
smooth road for the removal of the bodies of the secret victims of
the State--a road so ready that it went along with them, and ran
before them, like a cruel officer--flowed the same water that
filled this Dream of mine, and made it seem one, even at the time.

Descending from the palace by a staircase, called, I thought, the
Giant's--I had some imaginary recollection of an old man
abdicating, coming, more slowly and more feebly, down it, when he
heard the bell, proclaiming his successor--I glided off, in one of
the dark boats, until we came to an old arsenal guarded by four
marble lions. To make my Dream more monstrous and unlikely, one of
these had words and sentences upon its body, inscribed there, at an
unknown time, and in an unknown language; so that their purport was
a mystery to all men.

There was little sound of hammers in this place for building ships,
and little work in progress; for the greatness of the city was no
more, as I have said. Indeed, it seemed a very wreck found
drifting on the sea; a strange flag hoisted in its honourable
stations, and strangers standing at its helm. A splendid barge in
which its ancient chief had gone forth, pompously, at certain
periods, to wed the ocean, lay here, I thought, no more; but, in
its place, there was a tiny model, made from recollection like the
city's greatness; and it told of what had been (so are the strong
and weak confounded in the dust) almost as eloquently as the
massive pillars, arches, roofs, reared to overshadow stately ships
that had no other shadow now, upon the water or the earth.

An armoury was there yet. Plundered and despoiled; but an armoury.
With a fierce standard taken from the Turks, drooping in the dull
air of its cage. Rich suits of mail worn by great warriors were
hoarded there; crossbows and bolts; quivers full of arrows; spears;
swords, daggers, maces, shields, and heavy-headed axes. Plates of
wrought steel and iron, to make the gallant horse a monster cased
in metal scales; and one spring-weapon (easy to be carried in the
breast) designed to do its office noiselessly, and made for
shooting men with poisoned darts.

One press or case I saw, full of accursed instruments of torture
horribly contrived to cramp, and pinch, and grind and crush men's
bones, and tear and twist them with the torment of a thousand
deaths. Before it, were two iron helmets, with breast-pieces:
made to close up tight and smooth upon the heads of living
sufferers; and fastened on to each, was a small knob or anvil,
where the directing devil could repose his elbow at his ease, and
listen, near the walled-up ear, to the lamentations and confessions
of the wretch within. There was that grim resemblance in them to
the human shape--they were such moulds of sweating faces, pained
and cramped--that it was difficult to think them empty; and
terrible distortions lingering within them, seemed to follow me,
when, taking to my boat again, I rowed off to a kind of garden or
public walk in the sea, where there were grass and trees. But I
forgot them when I stood upon its farthest brink--I stood there, in
my dream--and looked, along the ripple, to the setting sun; before
me, in the sky and on the deep, a crimson flush; and behind me the
whole city resolving into streaks of red and purple, on the water.

In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed
of time, and had but little understanding of its flight. But there
were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the
rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still
afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the
cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed
along the streets.

Sometimes, alighting at the doors of churches and vast palaces, I
wandered on, from room to room, from aisle to aisle, through
labyrinths of rich altars, ancient monuments; decayed apartments
where the furniture, half awful, half grotesque, was mouldering
away. Pictures were there, replete with such enduring beauty and
expression: with such passion, truth and power: that they seemed
so many young and fresh realities among a host of spectres. I
thought these, often intermingled with the old days of the city:
with its beauties, tyrants, captains, patriots, merchants,
counters, priests: nay, with its very stones, and bricks, and
public places; all of which lived again, about me, on the walls.
Then, coming down some marble staircase where the water lapped and
oozed against the lower steps, I passed into my boat again, and
went on in my dream.

Floating down narrow lanes, where carpenters, at work with plane
and chisel in their shops, tossed the light shaving straight upon
the water, where it lay like weed, or ebbed away before me in a
tangled heap. Past open doors, decayed and rotten from long
steeping in the wet, through which some scanty patch of vine shone
green and bright, making unusual shadows on the pavement with its
trembling leaves. Past quays and terraces, where women, gracefully
veiled, were passing and repassing, and where idlers were reclining
in the sunshine, on flag-stones and on flights of steps. Past
bridges, where there were idlers too; loitering and looking over.
Below stone balconies, erected at a giddy height, before the
loftiest windows of the loftiest houses. Past plots of garden,
theatres, shrines, prodigious piles of architecture--Gothic--
Saracenic--fanciful with all the fancies of all times and
countries. Past buildings that were high, and low, and black, and
white, and straight, and crooked; mean and grand, crazy and strong.
Twining among a tangled lot of boats and barges, and shooting out
at last into a Grand Canal! There, in the errant fancy of my
dream, I saw old Shylock passing to and fro upon a bridge, all
built upon with shops and humming with the tongues of men; a form I
seemed to know for Desdemona's, leaned down through a latticed
blind to pluck a flower. And, in the dream, I thought that
Shakespeare's spirit was abroad upon the water somewhere: stealing
through the city.

At night, when two votive lamps burnt before an image of the
Virgin, in a gallery outside the great cathedral, near the roof, I
fancied that the great piazza of the Winged Lion was a blaze of
cheerful light, and that its whole arcade was thronged with people;
while crowds were diverting themselves in splendid coffee-houses
opening from it--which were never shut, I thought, but open all
night long. When the bronze giants struck the hour of midnight on
the bell, I thought the life and animation of the city were all
centred here; and as I rowed away, abreast the silent quays, I only
saw them dotted, here and there, with sleeping boatmen wrapped up
in their cloaks, and lying at full length upon the stones.

But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons sucking
at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town:
crept the water always. Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and
round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the
time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for
any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress.

Thus it floated me away, until I awoke in the old market-place at
Verona. I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this
strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet,
and if its name be VENICE.


I had been half afraid to go to Verona, lest it should at all put
me out of conceit with Romeo and Juliet. But, I was no sooner come
into the old market-place, than the misgiving vanished. It is so
fanciful, quaint, and picturesque a place, formed by such an
extraordinary and rich variety of fantastic buildings, that there
could be nothing better at the core of even this romantic town:
scene of one of the most romantic and beautiful of stories.

It was natural enough, to go straight from the Market-place, to the
House of the Capulets, now degenerated into a most miserable little
inn. Noisy vetturini and muddy market-carts were disputing
possession of the yard, which was ankle-deep in dirt, with a brood
of splashed and bespattered geese; and there was a grim-visaged
dog, viciously panting in a doorway, who would certainly have had
Romeo by the leg, the moment he put it over the wall, if he had
existed and been at large in those times. The orchard fell into
other hands, and was parted off many years ago; but there used to
be one attached to the house--or at all events there may have,
been,--and the hat (Cappello) the ancient cognizance of the family,
may still be seen, carved in stone, over the gateway of the yard.
The geese, the market-carts, their drivers, and the dog, were
somewhat in the way of the story, it must be confessed; and it
would have been pleasanter to have found the house empty, and to
have been able to walk through the disused rooms. But the hat was
unspeakably comfortable; and the place where the garden used to be,
hardly less so. Besides, the house is a distrustful, jealous-
looking house as one would desire to see, though of a very moderate
size. So I was quite satisfied with it, as the veritable mansion
of old Capulet, and was correspondingly grateful in my
acknowledgments to an extremely unsentimental middle-aged lady, the
Padrona of the Hotel, who was lounging on the threshold looking at
the geese; and who at least resembled the Capulets in the one
particular of being very great indeed in the 'Family' way.

From Juliet's home, to Juliet's tomb, is a transition as natural to
the visitor, as to fair Juliet herself, or to the proudest Juliet
that ever has taught the torches to burn bright in any time. So, I
went off, with a guide, to an old, old garden, once belonging to an
old, old convent, I suppose; and being admitted, at a shattered
gate, by a bright-eyed woman who was washing clothes, went down
some walks where fresh plants and young flowers were prettily
growing among fragments of old wall, and ivy-coloured mounds; and
was shown a little tank, or water-trough, which the bright-eyed
woman--drying her arms upon her 'kerchief, called 'La tomba di
Giulietta la sfortunata.' With the best disposition in the world
to believe, I could do no more than believe that the bright-eyed
woman believed; so I gave her that much credit, and her customary
fee in ready money. It was a pleasure, rather than a
disappointment, that Juliet's resting-place was forgotten. However
consolatory it may have been to Yorick's Ghost, to hear the feet
upon the pavement overhead, and, twenty times a day, the repetition
of his name, it is better for Juliet to lie out of the track of
tourists, and to have no visitors but such as come to graves in
spring-rain, and sweet air, and sunshine.

Pleasant Verona! With its beautiful old palaces, and charming
country in the distance, seen from terrace walks, and stately,
balustraded galleries. With its Roman gates, still spanning the
fair street, and casting, on the sunlight of to-day, the shade of
fifteen hundred years ago. With its marble-fitted churches, lofty
towers, rich architecture, and quaint old quiet thoroughfares,
where shouts of Montagues and Capulets once resounded,

And made Verona's ancient citizens
Cast by their grave, beseeming ornaments,
To wield old partizans.

With its fast-rushing river, picturesque old bridge, great castle,
waving cypresses, and prospect so delightful, and so cheerful!
Pleasant Verona!

In the midst of it, in the Piazza di Bra--a spirit of old time
among the familiar realities of the passing hour--is the great
Roman Amphitheatre. So well preserved, and carefully maintained,
that every row of seats is there, unbroken. Over certain of the
arches, the old Roman numerals may yet be seen; and there are
corridors, and staircases, and subterranean passages for beasts,
and winding ways, above ground and below, as when the fierce
thousands hurried in and out, intent upon the bloody shows of the
arena. Nestling in some of the shadows and hollow places of the
walls, now, are smiths with their forges, and a few small dealers
of one kind or other; and there are green weeds, and leaves, and
grass, upon the parapet. But little else is greatly changed.

When I had traversed all about it, with great interest, and had
gone up to the topmost round of seats, and turning from the lovely
panorama closed in by the distant Alps, looked down into the
building, it seemed to lie before me like the inside of a
prodigious hat of plaited straw, with an enormously broad brim and
a shallow crown; the plaits being represented by the four-and-forty
rows of seats. The comparison is a homely and fantastic one, in
sober remembrance and on paper, but it was irresistibly suggested
at the moment, nevertheless.

An equestrian troop had been there, a short time before--the same
troop, I dare say, that appeared to the old lady in the church at
Modena--and had scooped out a little ring at one end of the area;
where their performances had taken place, and where the marks of
their horses' feet were still fresh. I could not but picture to
myself, a handful of spectators gathered together on one or two of
the old stone seats, and a spangled Cavalier being gallant, or a
Policinello funny, with the grim walls looking on. Above all, I
thought how strangely those Roman mutes would gaze upon the
favourite comic scene of the travelling English, where a British
nobleman (Lord John), with a very loose stomach: dressed in a
blue-tailed coat down to his heels, bright yellow breeches, and a
white hat: comes abroad, riding double on a rearing horse, with an
English lady (Lady Betsy) in a straw bonnet and green veil, and a
red spencer; and who always carries a gigantic reticule, and a put-
up parasol.

I walked through and through the town all the rest of the day, and
could have walked there until now, I think. In one place, there
was a very pretty modern theatre, where they had just performed the
opera (always popular in Verona) of Romeo and Juliet. In another
there was a collection, under a colonnade, of Greek, Roman, and
Etruscan remains, presided over by an ancient man who might have
been an Etruscan relic himself; for he was not strong enough to
open the iron gate, when he had unlocked it, and had neither voice
enough to be audible when he described the curiosities, nor sight
enough to see them: he was so very old. In another place, there
was a gallery of pictures: so abominably bad, that it was quite
delightful to see them mouldering away. But anywhere: in the
churches, among the palaces, in the streets, on the bridge, or down
beside the river: it was always pleasant Verona, and in my
remembrance always will be.

I read Romeo and Juliet in my own room at the inn that night--of
course, no Englishman had ever read it there, before--and set out
for Mantua next day at sunrise, repeating to myself (in the coupe
of an omnibus, and next to the conductor, who was reading the
Mysteries of Paris),

There is no world without Verona's walls
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence-banished is banished from the world,
And world's exile is death -

which reminded me that Romeo was only banished five-and-twenty
miles after all, and rather disturbed my confidence in his energy
and boldness.

Was the way to Mantua as beautiful, in his time, I wonder! Did it
wind through pasture land as green, bright with the same glancing
streams, and dotted with fresh clumps of graceful trees! Those
purple mountains lay on the horizon, then, for certain; and the
dresses of these peasant girls, who wear a great, knobbed, silver
pin like an English 'life-preserver' through their hair behind, can
hardly be much changed. The hopeful feeling of so bright a
morning, and so exquisite a sunrise, can have been no stranger,
even to an exiled lover's breast; and Mantua itself must have
broken on him in the prospect, with its towers, and walls, and
water, pretty much as on a commonplace and matrimonial omnibus. He
made the same sharp twists and turns, perhaps, over two rumbling
drawbridges; passed through the like long, covered, wooden bridge;
and leaving the marshy water behind, approached the rusty gate of
stagnant Mantua.

If ever a man were suited to his place of residence, and his place
of residence to him, the lean Apothecary and Mantua came together
in a perfect fitness of things. It may have been more stirring
then, perhaps. If so, the Apothecary was a man in advance of his
time, and knew what Mantua would be, in eighteen hundred and forty-
four. He fasted much, and that assisted him in his foreknowledge.

I put up at the Hotel of the Golden Lion, and was in my own room
arranging plans with the brave Courier, when there came a modest
little tap at the door, which opened on an outer gallery
surrounding a court-yard; and an intensely shabby little man looked
in, to inquire if the gentleman would have a Cicerone to show the
town. His face was so very wistful and anxious, in the half-opened
doorway, and there was so much poverty expressed in his faded suit
and little pinched hat, and in the thread-bare worsted glove with
which he held it--not expressed the less, because these were
evidently his genteel clothes, hastily slipped on--that I would as
soon have trodden on him as dismissed him. I engaged him on the
instant, and he stepped in directly.

While I finished the discussion in which I was engaged, he stood,
beaming by himself in a corner, making a feint of brushing my hat
with his arm. If his fee had been as many napoleons as it was
francs, there could not have shot over the twilight of his
shabbiness such a gleam of sun, as lighted up the whole man, now
that he was hired.

'Well!' said I, when I was ready, 'shall we go out now?'

'If the gentleman pleases. It is a beautiful day. A little fresh,
but charming; altogether charming. The gentleman will allow me to
open the door. This is the Inn Yard. The court-yard of the Golden
Lion! The gentleman will please to mind his footing on the

We were now in the street.

'This is the street of the Golden Lion. This, the outside of the
Golden Lion. The interesting window up there, on the first Piano,
where the pane of glass is broken, is the window of the gentleman's

Having viewed all these remarkable objects, I inquired if there
were much to see in Mantua.

'Well! Truly, no. Not much! So, so,' he said, shrugging his
shoulders apologetically.

'Many churches?'

'No. Nearly all suppressed by the French.'

'Monasteries or convents?'

'No. The French again! Nearly all suppressed by Napoleon.'

'Much business?'

'Very little business.'

'Many strangers?'

'Ah Heaven!'

I thought he would have fainted.

'Then, when we have seen the two large churches yonder, what shall
we do next?' said I.

He looked up the street, and down the street, and rubbed his chin
timidly; and then said, glancing in my face as if a light had
broken on his mind, yet with a humble appeal to my forbearance that
was perfectly irresistible:

'We can take a little turn about the town, Signore!' (Si puo far
'un piccolo giro della citta).

It was impossible to be anything but delighted with the proposal,
so we set off together in great good-humour. In the relief of his
mind, he opened his heart, and gave up as much of Mantua as a
Cicerone could.

'One must eat,' he said; 'but, bah! it was a dull place, without

He made as much as possible of the Basilica of Santa Andrea--a
noble church--and of an inclosed portion of the pavement, about
which tapers were burning, and a few people kneeling, and under
which is said to be preserved the Sangreal of the old Romances.
This church disposed of, and another after it (the cathedral of San
Pietro), we went to the Museum, which was shut up. 'It was all the
same,' he said. 'Bah! There was not much inside!' Then, we went
to see the Piazza del Diavolo, built by the Devil (for no
particular purpose) in a single night; then, the Piazza Virgiliana;
then, the statue of Virgil--OUR Poet, my little friend said,
plucking up a spirit, for the moment, and putting his hat a little
on one side. Then, we went to a dismal sort of farm-yard, by which
a picture-gallery was approached. The moment the gate of this
retreat was opened, some five hundred geese came waddling round us,
stretching out their necks, and clamouring in the most hideous
manner, as if they were ejaculating, 'Oh! here's somebody come to
see the Pictures! Don't go up! Don't go up!' While we went up,
they waited very quietly about the door in a crowd, cackling to one
another occasionally, in a subdued tone; but the instant we
appeared again, their necks came out like telescopes, and setting
up a great noise, which meant, I have no doubt, 'What, you would
go, would you! What do you think of it! How do you like it!' they
attended us to the outer gate, and cast us forth, derisively, into

The geese who saved the Capitol, were, as compared to these, Pork
to the learned Pig. What a gallery it was! I would take their
opinion on a question of art, in preference to the discourses of
Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Now that we were standing in the street, after being thus
ignominiouly escorted thither, my little friend was plainly reduced
to the 'piccolo giro,' or little circuit of the town, he had
formerly proposed. But my suggestion that we should visit the
Palazzo Te (of which I had heard a great deal, as a strange wild
place) imparted new life to him, and away we went.

The secret of the length of Midas's ears, would have been more
extensively known, if that servant of his, who whispered it to the
reeds, had lived in Mantua, where there are reeds and rushes enough
to have published it to all the world. The Palazzo Te stands in a
swamp, among this sort of vegetation; and is, indeed, as singular a
place as I ever saw.

Not for its dreariness, though it is very dreary. Not for its
dampness, though it is very damp. Nor for its desolate condition,
though it is as desolate and neglected as house can be. But
chiefly for the unaccountable nightmares with which its interior
has been decorated (among other subjects of more delicate
execution), by Giulio Romano. There is a leering Giant over a
certain chimney-piece, and there are dozens of Giants (Titans
warring with Jove) on the walls of another room, so inconceivably
ugly and grotesque, that it is marvellous how any man can have
imagined such creatures. In the chamber in which they abound,
these monsters, with swollen faces and cracked cheeks, and every
kind of distortion of look and limb, are depicted as staggering
under the weight of falling buildings, and being overwhelmed in the
ruins; upheaving masses of rock, and burying themselves beneath;
vainly striving to sustain the pillars of heavy roofs that topple
down upon their heads; and, in a word, undergoing and doing every
kind of mad and demoniacal destruction. The figures are immensely
large, and exaggerated to the utmost pitch of uncouthness; the
colouring is harsh and disagreeable; and the whole effect more like
(I should imagine) a violent rush of blood to the head of the
spectator, than any real picture set before him by the hand of an
artist. This apoplectic performance was shown by a sickly-looking
woman, whose appearance was referable, I dare say, to the bad air
of the marshes; but it was difficult to help feeling as if she were
too much haunted by the Giants, and they were frightening her to
death, all alone in that exhausted cistern of a Palace, among the
reeds and rushes, with the mists hovering about outside, and
stalking round and round it continually.

Our walk through Mantua showed us, in almost every street, some
suppressed church: now used for a warehouse, now for nothing at
all: all as crazy and dismantled as they could be, short of
tumbling down bodily. The marshy town was so intensely dull and
flat, that the dirt upon it seemed not to have come there in the
ordinary course, but to have settled and mantled on its surface as
on standing water. And yet there were some business-dealings going
on, and some profits realising; for there were arcades full of
Jews, where those extraordinary people were sitting outside their
shops, contemplating their stores of stuffs, and woollens, and
bright handkerchiefs, and trinkets: and looking, in all respects,
as wary and business-like, as their brethren in Houndsditch,

Having selected a Vetturino from among the neighbouring Christians,
who agreed to carry us to Milan in two days and a half, and to
start, next morning, as soon as the gates were opened, I returned
to the Golden Lion, and dined luxuriously in my own room, in a
narrow passage between two bedsteads: confronted by a smoky fire,
and backed up by a chest of drawers. At six o'clock next morning,
we were jingling in the dark through the wet cold mist that
enshrouded the town; and, before noon, the driver (a native of
Mantua, and sixty years of age or thereabouts) began TO ASK THE WAY
to Milan.

It lay through Bozzolo; formerly a little republic, and now one of
the most deserted and poverty-stricken of towns: where the
landlord of the miserable inn (God bless him! it was his weekly
custom) was distributing infinitesimal coins among a clamorous herd
of women and children, whose rags were fluttering in the wind and
rain outside his door, where they were gathered to receive his
charity. It lay through mist, and mud, and rain, and vines trained
low upon the ground, all that day and the next; the first sleeping-
place being Cremona, memorable for its dark brick churches, and
immensely high tower, the Torrazzo--to say nothing of its violins,
of which it certainly produces none in these degenerate days; and
the second, Lodi. Then we went on, through more mud, mist, and
rain, and marshy ground: and through such a fog, as Englishmen,
strong in the faith of their own grievances, are apt to believe is
nowhere to be found but in their own country, until we entered the
paved streets of Milan.

The fog was so dense here, that the spire of the far-famed
Cathedral might as well have been at Bombay, for anything that
could be seen of it at that time. But as we halted to refresh, for
a few days then, and returned to Milan again next summer, I had
ample opportunities of seeing the glorious structure in all its
majesty and beauty.

All Christian homage to the saint who lies within it! There are
many good and true saints in the calendar, but San Carlo Borromeo
has--if I may quote Mrs. Primrose on such a subject--'my warm
heart.' A charitable doctor to the sick, a munificent friend to
the poor, and this, not in any spirit of blind bigotry, but as the
bold opponent of enormous abuses in the Romish church, I honour his
memory. I honour it none the less, because he was nearly slain by
a priest, suborned, by priests, to murder him at the altar: in
acknowledgment of his endeavours to reform a false and hypocritical
brotherhood of monks. Heaven shield all imitators of San Carlo
Borromeo as it shielded him! A reforming Pope would need a little
shielding, even now.

The subterranean chapel in which the body of San Carlo Borromeo is
preserved, presents as striking and as ghastly a contrast, perhaps,
as any place can show. The tapers which are lighted down there,
flash and gleam on alti-rilievi in gold and silver, delicately
wrought by skilful hands, and representing the principal events in
the life of the saint. Jewels, and precious metals, shine and
sparkle on every side. A windlass slowly removes the front of the
altar; and, within it, in a gorgeous shrine of gold and silver, is
seen, through alabaster, the shrivelled mummy of a man: the
pontifical robes with which it is adorned, radiant with diamonds,
emeralds, rubies: every costly and magnificent gem. The shrunken
heap of poor earth in the midst of this great glitter, is more
pitiful than if it lay upon a dung-hill. There is not a ray of
imprisoned light in all the flash and fire of jewels, but seems to
mock the dusty holes where eyes were, once. Every thread of silk
in the rich vestments seems only a provision from the worms that
spin, for the behoof of worms that propagate in sepulchres.

In the old refectory of the dilapidated Convent of Santa Maria
delle Grazie, is the work of art, perhaps, better known than any
other in the world: the Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci--with a
door cut through it by the intelligent Dominican friars, to
facilitate their operations at dinner-time.

I am not mechanically acquainted with the art of painting, and have
no other means of judging of a picture than as I see it resembling
and refining upon nature, and presenting graceful combinations of
forms and colours. I am, therefore, no authority whatever, in
reference to the 'touch' of this or that master; though I know very
well (as anybody may, who chooses to think about the matter) that
few very great masters can possibly have painted, in the compass of
their lives, one-half of the pictures that bear their names, and
that are recognised by many aspirants to a reputation for taste, as
undoubted originals. But this, by the way. Of the Last Supper, I
would simply observe, that in its beautiful composition and
arrangement, there it is, at Milan, a wonderful picture; and that,
in its original colouring, or in its original expression of any
single face or feature, there it is not. Apart from the damage it
has sustained from damp, decay, or neglect, it has been (as Barry
shows) so retouched upon, and repainted, and that so clumsily, that
many of the heads are, now, positive deformities, with patches of
paint and plaster sticking upon them like wens, and utterly
distorting the expression. Where the original artist set that
impress of his genius on a face, which, almost in a line or touch,
separated him from meaner painters and made him what he was,
succeeding bunglers, filling up, or painting across seams and
cracks, have been quite unable to imitate his hand; and putting in
some scowls, or frowns, or wrinkles, of their own, have blotched
and spoiled the work. This is so well established as an historical
fact, that I should not repeat it, at the risk of being tedious,
but for having observed an English gentleman before the picture,
who was at great pains to fall into what I may describe as mild
convulsions, at certain minute details of expression which are not
left in it. Whereas, it would be comfortable and rational for
travellers and critics to arrive at a general understanding that it
cannot fail to have been a work of extraordinary merit, once:
when, with so few of its original beauties remaining, the grandeur
of the general design is yet sufficient to sustain it, as a piece
replete with interest and dignity.

We achieved the other sights of Milan, in due course, and a fine
city it is, though not so unmistakably Italian as to possess the
characteristic qualities of many towns far less important in
themselves. The Corso, where the Milanese gentry ride up and down
in carriages, and rather than not do which, they would half starve
themselves at home, is a most noble public promenade, shaded by
long avenues of trees. In the splendid theatre of La Scala, there
was a ballet of action performed after the opera, under the title
of Prometheus: in the beginning of which, some hundred or two of
men and women represented our mortal race before the refinements of
the arts and sciences, and loves and graces, came on earth to
soften them. I never saw anything more effective. Generally
speaking, the pantomimic action of the Italians is more remarkable
for its sudden and impetuous character than for its delicate
expression, but, in this case, the drooping monotony: the weary,
miserable, listless, moping life: the sordid passions and desires
of human creatures, destitute of those elevating influences to
which we owe so much, and to whose promoters we render so little:
were expressed in a manner really powerful and affecting. I should
have thought it almost impossible to present such an idea so
strongly on the stage, without the aid of speech.

Milan soon lay behind us, at five o'clock in the morning; and
before the golden statue on the summit of the cathedral spire was
lost in the blue sky, the Alps, stupendously confused in lofty
peaks and ridges, clouds and snow, were towering in our path.

Still, we continued to advance toward them until nightfall; and,
all day long, the mountain tops presented strangely shifting
shapes, as the road displayed them in different points of view.
The beautiful day was just declining, when we came upon the Lago
Maggiore, with its lovely islands. For however fanciful and
fantastic the Isola Bella may be, and is, it still is beautiful.
Anything springing out of that blue water, with that scenery around
it, must be.

It was ten o'clock at night when we got to Domo d'Ossola, at the
foot of the Pass of the Simplon. But as the moon was shining
brightly, and there was not a cloud in the starlit sky, it was no
time for going to bed, or going anywhere but on. So, we got a
little carriage, after some delay, and began the ascent.

It was late in November; and the snow lying four or five feet thick
in the beaten road on the summit (in other parts the new drift was
already deep), the air was piercing cold. But, the serenity of the
night, and the grandeur of the road, with its impenetrable shadows,
and deep glooms, and its sudden turns into the shining of the moon
and its incessant roar of falling water, rendered the journey more
and more sublime at every step.

Soon leaving the calm Italian villages below us, sleeping in the
moonlight, the road began to wind among dark trees, and after a
time emerged upon a barer region, very steep and toilsome, where
the moon shone bright and high. By degrees, the roar of water grew
louder; and the stupendous track, after crossing the torrent by a
bridge, struck in between two massive perpendicular walls of rock
that quite shut out the moonlight, and only left a few stars
shining in the narrow strip of sky above. Then, even this was
lost, in the thick darkness of a cavern in the rock, through which
the way was pierced; the terrible cataract thundering and roaring
close below it, and its foam and spray hanging, in a mist, about
the entrance. Emerging from this cave, and coming again into the
moonlight, and across a dizzy bridge, it crept and twisted upward,
through the Gorge of Gondo, savage and grand beyond description,
with smooth-fronted precipices, rising up on either hand, and
almost meeting overhead. Thus we went, climbing on our rugged way,
higher and higher all night, without a moment's weariness: lost in
the contemplation of the black rocks, the tremendous heights and
depths, the fields of smooth snow lying, in the clefts and hollows,
and the fierce torrents thundering headlong down the deep abyss.

Towards daybreak, we came among the snow, where a keen wind was
blowing fiercely. Having, with some trouble, awakened the inmates
of a wooden house in this solitude: round which the wind was
howling dismally, catching up the snow in wreaths and hurling it
away: we got some breakfast in a room built of rough timbers, but
well warmed by a stove, and well contrived (as it had need to be)
for keeping out the bitter storms. A sledge being then made ready,
and four horses harnessed to it, we went, ploughing, through the
snow. Still upward, but now in the cold light of morning, and with
the great white desert on which we travelled, plain and clear.

We were well upon the summit of the mountain: and had before us
the rude cross of wood, denoting its greatest altitude above the
sea: when the light of the rising sun, struck, all at once, upon
the waste of snow, and turned it a deep red. The lonely grandeur
of the scene was then at its height.

As we went sledging on, there came out of the Hospice founded by
Napoleon, a group of Peasant travellers, with staves and knapsacks,
who had rested there last night: attended by a Monk or two, their
hospitable entertainers, trudging slowly forward with them, for
company's sake. It was pleasant to give them good morning, and
pretty, looking back a long way after them, to see them looking
back at us, and hesitating presently, when one of our horses
stumbled and fell, whether or no they should return and help us.
But he was soon up again, with the assistance of a rough waggoner
whose team had stuck fast there too; and when we had helped him out
of his difficulty, in return, we left him slowly ploughing towards
them, and went slowly and swiftly forward, on the brink of a steep
precipice, among the mountain pines.

Taking to our wheels again, soon afterwards, we began rapidly to
descend; passing under everlasting glaciers, by means of arched
galleries, hung with clusters of dripping icicles; under and over
foaming waterfalls; near places of refuge, and galleries of shelter
against sudden danger; through caverns over whose arched roofs the
avalanches slide, in spring, and bury themselves in the unknown
gulf beneath. Down, over lofty bridges, and through horrible
ravines: a little shifting speck in the vast desolation of ice and
snow, and monstrous granite rocks; down through the deep Gorge of
the Saltine, and deafened by the torrent plunging madly down, among
the riven blocks of rock, into the level country, far below.
Gradually down, by zig-zag roads, lying between an upward and a
downward precipice, into warmer weather, calmer air, and softer
scenery, until there lay before us, glittering like gold or silver
in the thaw and sunshine, the metal-covered, red, green, yellow,
domes and church-spires of a Swiss town.

The business of these recollections being with Italy, and my
business, consequently, being to scamper back thither as fast as
possible, I will not recall (though I am sorely tempted) how the
Swiss villages, clustered at the feet of Giant mountains, looked
like playthings; or how confusedly the houses were heaped and piled
together; or how there were very narrow streets to shut the howling
winds out in the winter-time; and broken bridges, which the
impetuous torrents, suddenly released in spring, had swept away.
Or how there were peasant women here, with great round fur caps:
looking, when they peeped out of casements and only their heads
were seen, like a population of Sword-bearers to the Lord Mayor of
London; or how the town of Vevey, lying on the smooth lake of
Geneva, was beautiful to see; or how the statue of Saint Peter in
the street at Fribourg, grasps the largest key that ever was
beheld; or how Fribourg is illustrious for its two suspension
bridges, and its grand cathedral organ.

Or how, between that town and Bale, the road meandered among
thriving villages of wooden cottages, with overhanging thatched
roofs, and low protruding windows, glazed with small round panes of
glass like crown-pieces; or how, in every little Swiss homestead,
with its cart or waggon carefully stowed away beside the house, its
little garden, stock of poultry, and groups of red-cheeked
children, there was an air of comfort, very new and very pleasant
after Italy; or how the dresses of the women changed again, and
there were no more sword-bearers to be seen; and fair white
stomachers, and great black, fan-shaped, gauzy-looking caps,
prevailed instead.

Or how the country by the Jura mountains, sprinkled with snow, and
lighted by the moon, and musical with falling water, was
delightful; or how, below the windows of the great hotel of the
Three Kings at Bale, the swollen Rhine ran fast and green; or how,
at Strasbourg, it was quite as fast but not as green: and was said
to be foggy lower down: and, at that late time of the year, was a
far less certain means of progress, than the highway road to Paris.

Or how Strasbourg itself, in its magnificent old Gothic Cathedral,
and its ancient houses with their peaked roofs and gables, made a
little gallery of quaint and interesting views; or how a crowd was
gathered inside the cathedral at noon, to see the famous mechanical
clock in motion, striking twelve. How, when it struck twelve, a
whole army of puppets went through many ingenious evolutions; and,
among them, a huge puppet-cock, perched on the top, crowed twelve
times, loud and clear. Or how it was wonderful to see this cock at
great pains to clap its wings, and strain its throat; but obviously
having no connection whatever with its own voice; which was deep
within the clock, a long way down.

Or how the road to Paris, was one sea of mud, and thence to the
coast, a little better for a hard frost. Or how the cliffs of
Dover were a pleasant sight, and England was so wonderfully neat--
though dark, and lacking colour on a winter's day, it must be

Or how, a few days afterwards, it was cool, re-crossing the
channel, with ice upon the decks, and snow lying pretty deep in
France. Or how the Malle Poste scrambled through the snow,
headlong, drawn in the hilly parts by any number of stout horses at
a canter; or how there were, outside the Post-office Yard in Paris,
before daybreak, extraordinary adventurers in heaps of rags,
groping in the snowy streets with little rakes, in search of odds
and ends.

Or how, between Paris and Marseilles, the snow being then exceeding
deep, a thaw came on, and the mail waded rather than rolled for the
next three hundred miles or so; breaking springs on Sunday nights,
and putting out its two passengers to warm and refresh themselves
pending the repairs, in miserable billiard-rooms, where hairy
company, collected about stoves, were playing cards; the cards
being very like themselves--extremely limp and dirty.

Or how there was detention at Marseilles from stress of weather;
and steamers were advertised to go, which did not go; or how the
good Steam-packet Charlemagne at length put out, and met such
weather that now she threatened to run into Toulon, and now into
Nice, but, the wind moderating, did neither, but ran on into Genoa
harbour instead, where the familiar Bells rang sweetly in my ear.
Or how there was a travelling party on board, of whom one member
was very ill in the cabin next to mine, and being ill was cross,
and therefore declined to give up the Dictionary, which he kept
under his pillow; thereby obliging his companions to come down to
him, constantly, to ask what was the Italian for a lump of sugar--a
glass of brandy and water--what's o'clock? and so forth: which he
always insisted on looking out, with his own sea-sick eyes,
declining to entrust the book to any man alive.

Like GRUMIO, I might have told you, in detail, all this and
something more--but to as little purpose--were I not deterred by
the remembrance that my business is with Italy. Therefore, like
GRUMIO'S story, 'it shall die in oblivion.'


There is nothing in Italy, more beautiful to me, than the coast-
road between Genoa and Spezzia. On one side: sometimes far below,
sometimes nearly on a level with the road, and often skirted by
broken rocks of many shapes: there is the free blue sea, with here
and there a picturesque felucca gliding slowly on; on the other
side are lofty hills, ravines besprinkled with white cottages,
patches of dark olive woods, country churches with their light open
towers, and country houses gaily painted. On every bank and knoll
by the wayside, the wild cactus and aloe flourish in exuberant
profusion; and the gardens of the bright villages along the road,
are seen, all blushing in the summer-time with clusters of the
Belladonna, and are fragrant in the autumn and winter with golden
oranges and lemons.

Some of the villages are inhabited, almost exclusively, by
fishermen; and it is pleasant to see their great boats hauled up on
the beach, making little patches of shade, where they lie asleep,
or where the women and children sit romping and looking out to sea,
while they mend their nets upon the shore. There is one town,
Camoglia, with its little harbour on the sea, hundreds of feet
below the road; where families of mariners live, who, time out of
mind, have owned coasting-vessels in that place, and have traded to
Spain and elsewhere. Seen from the road above, it is like a tiny
model on the margin of the dimpled water, shining in the sun.
Descended into, by the winding mule-tracks, it is a perfect
miniature of a primitive seafaring town; the saltest, roughest,
most piratical little place that ever was seen. Great rusty iron
rings and mooring-chains, capstans, and fragments of old masts and
spars, choke up the way; hardy rough-weather boats, and seamen's
clothing, flutter in the little harbour or are drawn out on the
sunny stones to dry; on the parapet of the rude pier, a few
amphibious-looking fellows lie asleep, with their legs dangling
over the wall, as though earth or water were all one to them, and
if they slipped in, they would float away, dozing comfortably among
the fishes; the church is bright with trophies of the sea, and
votive offerings, in commemoration of escape from storm and
shipwreck. The dwellings not immediately abutting on the harbour
are approached by blind low archways, and by crooked steps, as if
in darkness and in difficulty of access they should be like holds
of ships, or inconvenient cabins under water; and everywhere, there
is a smell of fish, and sea-weed, and old rope.

The coast-road whence Camoglia is descried so far below, is famous,
in the warm season, especially in some parts near Genoa, for fire-
flies. Walking there on a dark night, I have seen it made one
sparkling firmament by these beautiful insects: so that the
distant stars were pale against the flash and glitter that spangled
every olive wood and hill-side, and pervaded the whole air.

It was not in such a season, however, that we traversed this road
on our way to Rome. The middle of January was only just past, and
it was very gloomy and dark weather; very wet besides. In crossing
the fine pass of Bracco, we encountered such a storm of mist and
rain, that we travelled in a cloud the whole way. There might have
been no Mediterranean in the world, for anything that we saw of it
there, except when a sudden gust of wind, clearing the mist before
it, for a moment, showed the agitated sea at a great depth below,
lashing the distant rocks, and spouting up its foam furiously. The
rain was incessant; every brook and torrent was greatly swollen;
and such a deafening leaping, and roaring, and thundering of water,
I never heard the like of in my life.

Hence, when we came to Spezzia, we found that the Magra, an
unbridged river on the high-road to Pisa, was too high to be safely
crossed in the Ferry Boat, and were fain to wait until the
afternoon of next day, when it had, in some degree, subsided.
Spezzia, however, is a good place to tarry at; by reason, firstly,
of its beautiful bay; secondly, of its ghostly Inn; thirdly, of the
head-dress of the women, who wear, on one side of their head, a
small doll's straw hat, stuck on to the hair; which is certainly
the oddest and most roguish head-gear that ever was invented.

The Magra safely crossed in the Ferry Boat--the passage is not by
any means agreeable, when the current is swollen and strong--we
arrived at Carrara, within a few hours. In good time next morning,
we got some ponies, and went out to see the marble quarries.

They are four or five great glens, running up into a range of lofty
hills, until they can run no longer, and are stopped by being
abruptly strangled by Nature. The quarries, 'or caves,' as they
call them there, are so many openings, high up in the hills, on
either side of these passes, where they blast and excavate for
marble: which may turn out good or bad: may make a man's fortune
very quickly, or ruin him by the great expense of working what is
worth nothing. Some of these caves were opened by the ancient
Romans, and remain as they left them to this hour. Many others are
being worked at this moment; others are to be begun to-morrow, next
week, next month; others are unbought, unthought of; and marble
enough for more ages than have passed since the place was resorted
to, lies hidden everywhere: patiently awaiting its time of

As you toil and clamber up one of these steep gorges (having left
your pony soddening his girths in water, a mile or two lower down)
you hear, every now and then, echoing among the hills, in a low
tone, more silent than the previous silence, a melancholy warning
bugle,--a signal to the miners to withdraw. Then, there is a
thundering, and echoing from hill to hill, and perhaps a splashing
up of great fragments of rock into the air; and on you toil again
until some other bugle sounds, in a new direction, and you stop
directly, lest you should come within the range of the new

There were numbers of men, working high up in these hills--on the
sides--clearing away, and sending down the broken masses of stone
and earth, to make way for the blocks of marble that had been
discovered. As these came rolling down from unseen hands into the
narrow valley, I could not help thinking of the deep glen (just the
same sort of glen) where the Roc left Sindbad the Sailor; and where
the merchants from the heights above, flung down great pieces of
meat for the diamonds to stick to. There were no eagles here, to
darken the sun in their swoop, and pounce upon them; but it was as
wild and fierce as if there had been hundreds.

But the road, the road down which the marble comes, however immense
the blocks! The genius of the country, and the spirit of its
institutions, pave that road: repair it, watch it, keep it going!
Conceive a channel of water running over a rocky bed, beset with
great heaps of stone of all shapes and sizes, winding down the
middle of this valley; and THAT being the road--because it was the
road five hundred years ago! Imagine the clumsy carts of five
hundred years ago, being used to this hour, and drawn, as they used
to be, five hundred years ago, by oxen, whose ancestors were worn
to death five hundred years ago, as their unhappy descendants are
now, in twelve months, by the suffering and agony of this cruel
work! Two pair, four pair, ten pair, twenty pair, to one block,
according to its size; down it must come, this way. In their
struggling from stone to stone, with their enormous loads behind
them, they die frequently upon the spot; and not they alone; for
their passionate drivers, sometimes tumbling down in their energy,
are crushed to death beneath the wheels. But it was good five
hundred years ago, and it must be good now: and a railroad down
one of these steeps (the easiest thing in the world) would be flat

When we stood aside, to see one of these cars drawn by only a pair
of oxen (for it had but one small block of marble on it), coming
down, I hailed, in my heart, the man who sat upon the heavy yoke,
to keep it on the neck of the poor beasts--and who faced backwards:
not before him--as the very Devil of true despotism. He had a
great rod in his hand, with an iron point; and when they could
plough and force their way through the loose bed of the torrent no
longer, and came to a stop, he poked it into their bodies, beat it
on their heads, screwed it round and round in their nostrils, got
them on a yard or two, in the madness of intense pain; repeated all
these persuasions, with increased intensity of purpose, when they
stopped again; got them on, once more; forced and goaded them to an
abrupter point of the descent; and when their writhing and
smarting, and the weight behind them, bore them plunging down the
precipice in a cloud of scattered water, whirled his rod above his
head, and gave a great whoop and hallo, as if he had achieved
something, and had no idea that they might shake him off, and
blindly mash his brains upon the road, in the noontide of his

Standing in one of the many studii of Carrara, that afternoon--for
it is a great workshop, full of beautifully-finished copies in
marble, of almost every figure, group, and bust, we know--it
seemed, at first, so strange to me that those exquisite shapes,
replete with grace, and thought, and delicate repose, should grow
out of all this toil, and sweat, and torture! But I soon found a
parallel to it, and an explanation of it, in every virtue that
springs up in miserable ground, and every good thing that has its
birth in sorrow and distress. And, looking out of the sculptor's
great window, upon the marble mountains, all red and glowing in the
decline of day, but stern and solemn to the last, I thought, my
God! how many quarries of human hearts and souls, capable of far
more beautiful results, are left shut up and mouldering away:
while pleasure-travellers through life, avert their faces, as they
pass, and shudder at the gloom and ruggedness that conceal them!

The then reigning Duke of Modena, to whom this territory in part
belonged, claimed the proud distinction of being the only sovereign
in Europe who had not recognised Louis-Philippe as King of the
French! He was not a wag, but quite in earnest. He was also much
opposed to railroads; and if certain lines in contemplation by
other potentates, on either side of him, had been executed, would
have probably enjoyed the satisfaction of having an omnibus plying
to and fro across his not very vast dominions, to forward
travellers from one terminus to another.

Carrara, shut in by great hills, is very picturesque and bold. Few
tourists stay there; and the people are nearly all connected, in
one way or other, with the working of marble. There are also

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