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Natural Scenery. – Vines. - Horses. — Bells. — Beggars. - La Cava. — Sa
lerno. - Buffaloes. - Pæstum. - Banditti. - Crosses. - Murders in Spain. - Walls of Pæstum. - Tombs. - Temples. - Its Present State. — Relections. – Volcanic Eruption. - Pompeii. - Amphitheatre. - Herculaneum. - Skeletons in Pompeii. - Temple. - Houses. - Articles found there. Morals of the Inhabitants. — Pickpockets. — Puppy Auction. – Vesuvius. - Ascent by Night. - A Warm Bed. – Scene at Sunrise. — Eruptions. Crater. – Manuscripts at Herculaneum. - Skeletons. — Shops. - Eruptions. - Minerals. - Fertility. - Sorrento. - Madam Starke. — Ruins. — Villa of Vedius Pollio. - Tasso. – The Piano. – Mountain Scenery. Amalfi. – Artists. — Mountains. — Snow-pits. – Scenery. - A singular Ride and a pleasant Acquaintance.
" Around are banks which bear the vine,
And bills all rich with blossomed trees,
And scattered cities crowning these.
Through green leaves lift their walls of gray,
And noble arch in proud decay,
Our excursions from Naples were made at that season of the year when the whole face of nature is clothed with the richest and most gorgeous covering. The forest trees, the fields of waving grain, the vine and the olive, all presented the rank luxuriance, and that shade of deep and living green which they wear in early summer, and which, too, are far more striking in these glad and sunny climes than in the colder regions of the north. The shrubs and plants are also decked with a greater variety and profusion of blossoms, and they have deeper and more brilliant hues than in less genial climes. The clover of Spain and Italy, when in bloom, instead of the round, compact, and pale red top which it has in the United States, is decked with what looks more like a spiral cluster of distinct Aowers than a single blossom. Its color is that of blood, or rather a light and brilliant crimson ; and fields of it, scattered here and there, give a delightful variety to a widely-extended landscape. Another plant, everywhere seen, is the wild poppy. Its bright scarlet blossoms, resting on a slender stem, and gently waving before the slightest breeze, may be seen in all directions, thickly covering the hillside and the plain, and adding another shade of beauty to the rich and variegated scenery of these southern lands.
The numerous vineyards, and the different ways in which vines are trained, also form an important item when speaking of the rich variety there is, in the features of an Italian landscape. To support young vines a kind of reed or cane is used, which grows to the height of ten or Gifteen feet. These, when dry, are firm and very durable ; and, for vines during their first year's growth, a reed three or four feet high, or three or four of them, separated from each other at the bottom, and tied together at the top, are placed at each vine or cluster of vines. These are planted about two or three feet apart. Larger vines are either permitted to ascend trees, or are supported by poles resting on stakes driven in the ground, and six or seven feet high. Often, however, poplar trees, which grow tall and very slender, are planted ten or twelve feet apart, and the vines run on poles which pass from one of these trees to another. Thus, large tracts of country are divided into little squares by wreaths of vines, while the slender and graceful poplars above, and the waving fields of cotton, grass, and grain below, form a picturesque and peculiar landscape. The olive, too, with its various shades, from the lightest to the deepest green, is not without its claim to beauty. But its appearance is most pleasing when seen, as in the neighbourhood of Salerno, covering conical hills, and with parallel rows, like so many verdant wreaths, extending quite around the circumference, and rising one above another, from the base to the summit. This general description of some prominent points in the rural scenery of Italy, has been given to avoid the necessity of future digressions for this object.
The day on which we left Naples to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Pæstum, was a truly delightful one. Every thing around us had the charm of novelty, and our pleasure was increased by the fact, that we had just broken loose from the confinement of a cruise, and of quarantine. A recent rain had cooled the air, laid the dust, and given to the face of nature an air of freshness and of fragrance. Our party, consisting of Commodore P. and his family, and a number of officers, started off in true Italian style. Each carriage was drawn by three horses, ranged abreast, two of which were attached to the shaft, and the third drew by a rope tied to the fore-spring of the carriage. They were all ornamented with ribands, and the head-stalls of their bridles were set off with the skin and hair of some wild animal; while a crest of feathers, a foot in height, rose from between the ears, and twenty or thirty little tinkling sleigh-bells, scarcely larger than a walnut, were stuck all over the head. These bells are not used, as with us, to warn ihose on foot of the approach of danger, for the noise of the carriage does that; but there was an old idea among the pagans, that the sound of bells had a peculiar effect in driving away demons, and in freeing one from other evil influences. Hence, has been derived the Catholic custom of ringing bells frequently, when saying mass for the souls of the dead, and also during thunder-storms and fires. Bells were also used as charms to protect horses, and other animals, from all those diseases and other ills which were brought upon them by the agency of evil spirits. This historical fact was confirmed by finding bells on the harnesses and around the necks of the skeletons of horses disinterred at Pompeii. A similar superstition leads Catholics, on St. Anthony's day, to take their horses, asses, and other animals, to the priest for a blessing and a sprinkling with holy water, and also to have a small bag of meal wet with holy water, and stirred up with a bone of St. Anthony, to be used as a medicine in all possible diseases which may befall these brutes.
After leaving Naples, we passed through the beautiful suburbs, with the sea on one side, and mountains on the other, and fruitful gardens and vineyards all around us. In a short time we were riding through the village, which is built upon the solid lava which now covers Herculaneum. There, in every direction, were the ruins caused by the successive eruptions of the mighty volcano above us. In one place, we noticed the steeple of a church, rising a few feet. above the surface, all other parts of the building being buried in the lava. Here and there a blind man, led by a little boy or girl, or a ragged, woe-begone wretch, with a child on his shoulders, horridly deformed, would leave his station by the roadside, and pursue us at the top of his speed, crying aloud with doleful tones for charity. Then there would come on the same errand a troop of bronze-colored urchins, naked, or
nearly so, and hardy and active, and fleet as the wind. Some of them would imitate the sound of a trumpet, while others would turn rapidly over on their hands and feet, like a wheel, and play all sorts of antics and monkey tricks, to amuse us and draw out our coppers. They were droll vagabonds, – one moment full of their waggery, and the next, with a long face and a kind of mock gravity, they cried, “Fame, fame, mort a fame." (I am hungry, hungry, dead with hunger.)
Leaving Pompeii to be visited when we returned, soon after passing it we left the sea, and entered a broad and lovely valley, covered with vineyards and fruitful fields, and enclosed on each side by a range of picturesque and beautiful mountains. Here and there, upon their lofty crags and topmost peaks, rose the ruins of some old castle or fortress of early times, while in romantic nooks upon their sunny sides, convents and monasteries, robed in the gray and sombre livery of antiquity, were snugly seated, forming a truly delightful seclusion, from which to look out upon the quiet loveliness of the vales below. Just before sunset we passed La Cava, a town which has its principal street through its whole extent, lined on both sides with an open-arched passage, like the cloisters of a monastery. Leaving this place, we began to descend, when there opened to our view a landscape presenting a combination of hill and dale, of mountain and valley, of the grand, the lofty, and sublime, with the lovely, the picturesque, and the beautiful, grouped with a splendor and effect surpassing all description. Suffice it to say, that we all instinctively paused to admire it, and feast our eyes on its surpassing beauties, and though a number of our party had passed through the far-famed vale of the Arno, had beheld the luxuriant scenery of Mexico and South America, had visited the pyramids of Egypt, and wandered over the mountains and valleys of Syria and Palestine, yet all admitted that never before had their eyes rested on so delightful a landscape.
We spent the night at Salerno, at the head of the gulf of the same name, which is quite deep. It is enclosed by wild and rugged mountains, with here and there a village or a convent perched among the cliffs. The town has sixteen churches, a university, and a cathedral, which is ornamented with pillars and other antiques, brought from Pæstum. Horace, in one of his epistles, makes inquiries as to the beauties and luxuries of Salerno, and he could hardly have found a spot so well fitted to delight one possessed of such a gifted
poetic genius, and of so much taste for the charms of rural scenery. Salvator Rosa resided for some time in this region, where, in the mountains around, and in the dress of the Calabrian peasantry, he found the subjects of his wildest and most striking landscape paintings. The medical school of Salerno had a brilliant reputation during the reign of the last of the Lombard princes, owing to the fact that the Sara-' cens, who were then distinguished for their knowledge of the sciences, resorted there in great numbers. In the year 1100 the physicians of this school published a celebrated work in Latin verse, which has since been translated into numerous other languages.
Salerno is twenty-seven miles south of Naples, and Pæstum more than fifty miles. We left for the latter place early in the morning, and passed through a fertile and highly cultivated country, until within a few miles of the end of our journey, when we found a wide and untilled plain, looking like a fit nursery of the Malaria. There was scarce a house upon it, and the only living beings to be seen were, here and there, a flock of sheep or swine, or a herd of domestic buffaloes. These last are black, with thin coarse hair, short ugly horns, and are altogether the most uncouth and misshapen libels on the animal creation that my eyes ever beheld. In this region are extensive huntinggrounds, belonging to the king of Naples, while on our left, extended the mountains of Calabria, notorious for robbers, and also for the bloody warfare which Murat waged against those who had taken refuge there, - many of whom, rather than surrender, perished of hunger in the caves and wilds of their mountain fastnesses.
Just before entering the town of Pæstum, or rather the imposing ruins of what was once a town, we saw, on the right, a cross, rising above the wall. It marked the spot, where, a few years since, an English gentleman and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, were murdered by banditti. They had been married but a short time, and had left England for a tour of pleasure on the continent. They were stopped by robbers, just after leaving Pæstum, and the same ball which passed through his body, entered that of his wife, and proved fatal to both. They survived but a short time, and were carried to Naples, and buried in the same grave. The murderers, when fleeing, left a bundle in the care of an old woman, with the promise of calling for it the next day. She had the