where the road thrown off the Appia below entered the town. Thence we return to the Porta Grande. A square enclosure sunk in the earth was a large cistern surrounded by polygonal walls. Norma and Norba belonged to the Caetani from 1282 to 1618, when they were sold to Cardinal Scipione Borghese.

'From the citadel, the panorama of the Maritima is especially magnificent. One can distinctly trace the whole boundary line of the sea, from Antium (Porto d'Anzio) to the Cape of Circe near Terracina, and still farther off one can distinguish Ostia, Pratica, and Ardea, and many towers rising like solitary obelisks on the sea-shore. These watch towers were built in the ninth century, when the Saracens began to invade the coasts of Italy; and even in the present time the whole of Italy and all the Italian islands are encircled by these picturesque towers. ... A tower gleams on the sea-shore with the dark woods reaching down close to it: it is the celebrated castle of Astura. A mile farther on is another tower, Foce Verde, so called from the river, flowing from the marshy wooded wilderness into the sea. Farther on is another tower by a great lake, the surface of which shines like molten gold, while round it extends a thick green wood. There a ghostly stillness surroiinds the traveller; he stands by the lake as if in a strange world, and he looks at the osprey circling above; or at the fisherman, pale with fever, floating on his frail raft; or at the half-naked leech-seeker, who passes his life there. These are the Tower and Lake of Fogliano, in ancient times Clostra Romana, where Lucullus had a villa. The Nymphaeus, that charming stream which we see rushing through the green ring of Ninfa, flows into the Lake of Fogliano; we can trace its course thither, through the whole of the Pontine marsh-land. Farther on, by its side, the Lago de' Monaci is visible, then the Lago di Caprolace; finally the great Lake of Paola, with its tower; and not far from this rises the Cape of Circe, almost like an island.

'Whoever has not traversed the Pontine marshes by the Via Appia as far as Terracina, has the most erroneous idea of their nature, if he only thinks of horrible morasses. There are indeed plenty of marshes and lakes, but they lie hidden in forests and hushes, where the hedgehog, the stag, the wild-boar, the buffalo, and the half-wild bull are roaming. In May and June the Pontine land is a sea of flowers, which cover the ground as far as the eye can reach. In summer it is a Tartarus, where pale fever stalks, and torments the poor shepherds and farm-labourers, who have to earn their bread there.

'The nearer to the sea, the more forest, and from Norba we see it distinctly stretching to the Cape of Circe. From the mouth of the Tiber the forests of Ostia, of Ardca, of Nettuno, Cisterna, and Terracina succeed one another. In the middle of these woods or on their borders lie single farms, principally devoted to breeding cattle, but also to agriculture: such are Conca, Campo Morto, Campo Leone, Tor' di Selce, and others. Where the forest leaves off in the interior stretch endless meadows, then a firm arable land, and we see distinctly the Appian Way, renewed by Pius VI., traversing the Maritima. Near it is Cisterna, the largest place in the marshes, close to which the Three Taverns stood formerly, and farther on is Foro Appio, the ancient Forum Appium.

'No century has been able to drain the Pontine marshes. Julius Caesar formed a plan for it, but he died before putting it into execution. The Roman Emperors, so extravagant in buildings of every kind, did nothing for it; and it is therefore strange enough that under a barbarian king, inheritor or conqueror of Rome, the great Theodoric, the ruined Appian Way was first restored, and a part of the marshes as far as Terracina drained. The original record of this noble deed of a Goth, may be read at the present day inscribed on two tablets in Terracina. In papal times SixtusV.,a man of practical Roman spirit, was the first to undertake again the draining of the marshes, and more than two centuries later, he was followed by Pius VI. This pope restored the Appian Way, dng the great canal alongside, had other canals made, changed part of the marsh into arable land, and thus gained a lasting credit in this part of the Maritima.'—Gregorovius.

A man in scarlet cap and with long curly hair guided us through the high beans which then occupied the central platform of the


ancient city, to the 'Grotte di Norba.' It is a ruin of Roman brickwork, covering the entrance to long caves and cellars, on the south side of the Arx, but is always shown to strangers as the place where the spirit of Junius Brutus is held imprisoned, waiting for the final judgment, and whence his howls are heard at night mingling with the thunder-storms.

Leaving the citadel, and descending slightly on the other side, we soon reach the edge of the precipice toward the marshes, and here, through a jagged rift in the mountain-side, we look upon Norma, perched like an eagle's nest upon the top of a grand precipice of bare rock.

'Immediately beneath us is a ring as of green ivy walls encircling many wonderful mounds, which all seem formed of flowers and ivy. Grey towers rise out of this, ruins all overhung with green, and in the midst of the strange circle we may see a silver spring gushing forth and glowing through the Pontine marshes, ending in a sparkling lake far away by the sea-shore. We ask in astonishment what this curious garlanded circle is with its many green hillocks, and are told it is Ninfa, the Pompeii of the middle ages.'— Grefforovius.

There is a carriage road now from Norma down to Ninfa, beside the railway, but pedestrians will descend direct from hence to the valley, clambering down through the broken rock and sliding shale, clinging to the myrtle and Judas bushes, into the depths where, nestling under the hill, is Ninfa, almost as entirely a ruin as Norba itself. It is an unspeakably quiet scene of sylvan beauty, and there is something unearthly about it which possesses and absorbs every sense. If fairies exist anywhere, surely mediaeval Ninfa is their capital: Ninfa, where Flora holds her court, where the only inhabitants are the roses and lilies, and all the thousands of flowers which grow in the deserted streets, where honeysuckle and jessamine fling their garlands through the ivied windows of every house, and where the very altars of the churches are thrones for the flamecoloured valerian. Outside the walls, but for the towers, you would scarcely believe it was a town: so encrusted in verdure is every building that the houses look like green mounds rising out of the plain. One tall tower stands near the entrance and, narcissus-like, watches its own reflection in the still waters of a pool fringed with forget-me-not. By the road-side a crystal spring rises in great abundance in a little basin of ancient brickwork, and falls into the pool, where it turns a mill, and a little farther on becomes a lake, on which Pliny mentions the floating islands in his time, which were called Saltuares, because they were said to move to the time of dancing feet. An inscription on the mill tells that it was built by one of the Caetani in 1765. The town must have been inhabited then, yet none can tell now the story of its desertion. It has belonged to the family since the thirteenth century, and Pope Alexander III. was consecrated here, September 20, 1159. From the tower, say the natives of Norma, 'la bella Ninfa,' who was so disobedient to her parents, flung herself into the pool to evade becoming the sposina of the unsympathetic pariito they had chosen or her, and ever since the name of the little [city has kept her

[merged small][merged small][graphic]

memory alive. Let it be so, though etymologists suggest the little river Nymphaeus as a godfather. The water-nymphs will avenge all insults by the fever-bearing vapours of their lake. Ninfa can never be rebuilt. Death, though garlanded with flowers, is death still. Gregory IX., who had built a church here in 1216, to ' S. Mary of the Myrtle-grove,' dedicated it in vain. No sound will ever be heard but the hum of the myriad insects which float amongst the flower-possessed streets and houses, the croaking of the frogs in the surrounding waters, and the everlasting sighing and rustling of the wind in the bulrushes.

'Here is Ninfa, the fairy-like ruin of a town, with its walls, towers, churches, convents, and dwellings half sunk in the marsh, and buried under thickest ivy. Truly this place looks even more charming than Pompeii, for there the houses stare like crumbling mummies, dragged from the volcanic ashes. But over Ninfa waves a balmy sea of flowers; every building, every wall, every church, every house is veiled with ivy, and on all the ruins wave the purple banners of the triumphant god of spring.

'It causes an indescribable impression to enter this ivy town, to wander down the grassy, flowery streets, between the walls where the wind plays in the leaves, and no voice is heard but the cry of the raven in the tower, the splash of the foaming stream Nymphaeus, the rustling of the tall reeds by the pond, and the melodious singing and sighing of the blades of grass all around.

* All the streets are filled with flowers, which seem to march in procession to the ruined churches. They climb on every tower, they lie laughing and smiling in all the desolate windows, they barricade every door, for within the houses reside elves, fairies, water-nymphs, and a thousand charming spirits of the fable world. Yellow marigolds, mallows, sweet narcissus; greybearded thistles who once dwelt here as monks; white lilies, who were nuns in their life-time; wild roses, laurnstinns, masticks, tall ferns, wreaths of elemst-s and bramble; the red foxgloves, which look like enchanted Saracens; the fantastic caper-plant growing in the clefts of the buildings, the sweet wall-flower, the myrtle, and the fragrant mint; brilliant yellow broom, and dark ivy which creeps over all the ruins, and falls over the walls like green cascades—yes, one may fling oneself into this sea of flowers, quite intoxicated by the perfume, and the most charming fairy power enchains the soul.

'The walls of the town are still standing and encircle it like a great ring, but they are everywhere covered thickly with ivy, and only here and there peeps out a crumbling pinnacle on a square ruined tower. The gates of the town are no less barred and barricaded by the wild vine, the ivy, and the bramble, as if the flowers in Ninfa feared some enemy who wanted to break in upon them, as formerly the Saracen, or the soldiers of Barbarossa, or of the Duke of Alba, and the Colonna. They have entrenched themselves behind these ivy walls ; perhaps it may be the swarms of meteors, or will-o'the-wisps from the Pontine marshes, who by night besiege or storm this enchanted town to cany off the flower-spirits into the marshes.

* Many squares and many streets are still standing, with their rained houses covered with an ivy web, many palaces of a half-gothic architecture, once the dwellings of rich nobles. The churches, the ruins of four or five of which remain, look very strange. I never saw such fantastic ruins; but how can one describe them in words? How shall I depict such a brown shattered belltower, with round windows, or windows divided by small pillars, with its frieze of the middle ages formed of sharp-pointed tiles, and with its romantic decorations of ivy and flowers waving in the wind? or how shall I picture the ruins of the arched niches, or the nave of the church, all overhung with tapestries of flowers?

'These churches are old, they belong to the eleventh or twelfth century, if they are not of a still earlier date, for they are built in the simple basilica style. In their deserted space the flowers worship now, and the censers are

« 上一頁繼續 »