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may he who sells, and he who buys a worthless puppy, be wiser far than he who squanders thousands on objects of imaginary wealth; and, by closely observing the humbler walks of life, we may acquire such lessons of practical wisdom, and of right judging, as shall lead us to feel a sincere and lively interest in the little joys and sorrows of the poor, and at the same time to feel far more pity for those who, by reckless folly, cast themselves headlong down from the heights of affluence to deep and hopeless poverty, than for those whose whole history has been “the short and simple annals of the poor.” Thus much, gentle reader, for the moral of our story; and surely, if we may learn lessons of industry from the busy ant, and of confidence in God from the falling sparrow, why may we not, instead of merely turning away with a laugh or a sneer, be taught some useful truth by such a scene as that described above.
It was near sunset when I turned away from the performance just referred to, and feeling more like a stroll in the country than a berth on shipboard, I shaped my course for Mount Vesuvius. A succession of villages line the road most of the way, and, with observing what was passing on either hand, stopping here and there to talk with those I met, and musing on the world of wonders above, around, and be. neath me, I whiled away the time until late in the evening, when, after a walk of nine miles, I found myself at the house of Salvadore, the celebrated mountain guide. At midnight I was awaked by the young man who was to be my attendant in ascending the mountain. We each of us mounted a horse, and, save here and there the crying of a child or the barking of a dog, as we left the village at the foot of the mountain, no sound but the trampling of our horses on the lava, broke in upon the silence of night. The horse on which my guide rode had not been trained to climbing the mountain, and being refractory, I rode on by myself, with nothing to divert me from my solitary musings. The road was along a dark ravine, deeply worn and washed in the decaying lava, with vineyards, or a dense growth of wild plants and shrubs, on either side: The
very darkness of the night, and the seclusion of our way, by veiling from the view surrounding objects, caused the mind to turn in upon itself, and to draw more freely than it would otherwise have done, from the storehouse of fancy and of memory, the materials of excited thought and feeling, treasured there. Around and beneath us were the ruins of ages, while above rose, in solemn grandeur, the frowning mountain, sending up its wreathed smoke to heaven, like a mighty giant, musing over the wide-spread ruin he had wrought, and, by repose, regaining strength for other deeds of desolation and of death. In moving over such ground, how vividly do past scenes rise to the mind, how intensely does one feel and live, and with what emotions of sublimity and awe, do we, with the fallen spirit, inwardly exclaim,
" What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,
Awaked, should blow them into seven fold rage,
His red right hand to plague us !" On a high ridge, about half way up the mountain, stands the Hermitage, with trees in front, and inhabited by a single monk, who supplies travellers with refreshments. Before reaching this point, and soon after leaving it, we crossed wide fields of rough, broken lava, rising in black irregular masses, of from a few inches, to five or six feet in height. We tied our horses to some stakes planted in the lava near the foot of the cone, which rises at an angle of forty-five degrees, and is composed, at the surface, of light, loose ashes, mingled with cinders and stones. The ascent is extremely fatiguing, as one sinks to the ankle in the yielding mass, every step he takes. On reaching the summit, however, fatigue is soon forgotten. 'Every thing around leads one to feel that but a narrow, brittle crust of lava separates him from the flaming, raging depths below, and he knows not how soon the boiling fires beneath his feet may burst forth from their prison-house, or, by a sudden and mighty effort, hurl upwards to the face of heaven, the heated mass on which he stands. All around him, heated vapor and pungent gases are rushing forth from the fissures in the lava, and in one place, before reaching the brim of the crater, the guide placed a handful of dry herbage on the surface of the lava, and it was instantly in flames. It was between two and three o'clock in the morning when we reached the summit of the cone, and as we had only starlight to guide us, we deferred descending into the crater until day should dawn.
One object in ascending Vesuvius by night, is to witness from its summit the dawn of day, and the rising sun, as, dispelling the shades of night, they seem, as it were, to
call into being, in rapid succession, the richness and beauty of the city and country, - the leafy hill-side, and the fertile plain, the hoary mountain, and the rolling sea. As three hours or more must elapse, before sunrise, iny next inquiry was, how to protect myself from the chilling vapors of the night, and at the same time, secure a little quiet sleep. These were matters of some urgency, owing to the fatigue and violent perspiration caused by ascending the cone, as also to the fact that we had no overcoat with us. Making a virtue of necessity, therefore, I selected a resting-place directly over one of the numerous fissures, from which heated vapor, strongly charged with muriatic or sulphuric acid gas, rushes forth as from the chimney of a furnace, and there composed myself to sleep. My only pillow was
сар, laid upon a broken piece of cinder; and though my bed was none of the softest, and it was, withal, necessary so to place my head that the pungent gasses might not be inhaled, causing as they did the inner surface of the nostrils to feel as if a thousand heated cambric needles were shot into them, still, thus warmed by the volcano's breath, my quiet and luxurious sleep was such as kings might envy. Gentle reader, was it not a most romantic resting-place?
It were in vain to attempt a description of the varied and intense emotions excited by gazing on the splendid panorama, which the morning light opened to the view. First the classic heights around, and far beyond us, as if rising from the bosom of primeval chaos, shadowed forth their rugged outline on the morning sky. Then rose the woody hills; and soon the rising sun, as it drew up the fleecy vapor which rested alike on the land and the sea, disclosed at once to the view, the quiet village and the crowded city, the wide-spread vales, laden with the olive and the vine, and the azure waters of the quiet bay, studded with islands known to classic fame; and, as the morning mist soared upwards, the stately ship of war, with its fair proportions, and its tapering beauty, was seen, as if, like the seaborn Venus, rising from the bosom of the deep. We were above the raging fires and boiling lava of the burning mount, clad in the sable covering of its own desolation, and standing there, as a living monument of the buried cities below; as if its heated breathing were the deep-drawn sigh of anguish, and its inward quaking, the convulsive heavings of remorse, for deeds of desolation, and of death.
In October, 1822, an eruption, with violent explosions, which continued more than twenty days, left an immense chasm at the summit of the mountain, about three miles in circumference. The depth of this abyss has been constantly decreasing since, by the falling in of its sides. It measured, at first, from one to two thousand feet, but at the time of my visit, the edge or brim of the cone, was not more than two or three hundred feet above the open vent of the volcano. More than 800 feet of the summit of the mountain has been carried away by explosions, so that its height has been reduced from 4200, to 3400 feet.
By clambering over the masses of broken lava, we descend. ed the inner surface of the crater, until we were within a few feet of the open chimney of this mighty subterranean furnace. The smoke and heated vapor, with a loud roaring sound, rushed wildly up from a chasm some fifty feet in diameter, into which we cast large masses of lava, and could hear them, after a minute or more, drop into the boiling depths below, when, with a louder roaring, a denser cloud of smoke, filled with glowing sparks, rolled upwards to the face of heaven. Emotions of peculiar sublimity and awe were excited, as, enclosed by the rugged cliffs of lava, with the heavens above darkened by the smoke of the volcano, while beneath'me were the fiery-heaving billows, bellowing forth their rage, as if impatient of restraint, and gathering strength to rise again above the walls of their mountain prison, and rush, with fury, down upon the plains below. It seemed like standing on the verge of the pit of woe, where the wailings of the lost were ascending, mingled with the smoke of their torments, going up for ever and ever. What a stupendous and overwhelming display of the fearful power of the Most High are the raging fires of a volcano; now resting to regain their strength, and then, with mighty convulsions, heaving the earth, causing the sea to re far back from its wonted limits, and then sending high up in the heavens, massive rocks, and columns of glowing, liquid fire, which, in their descent, roll their desolating torrent, like the river of death, over the fertile plains below. With feelings of no slight, or transient interest, I climbed to the brim of the crater, rapidly descended to the Hermitage, and from thence, having taken needful refreshinents, to the base of the mountain.
Before leaving Vesuvius, it may not be amiss to state some facts connected with its past history. At the time of our earliest accounts of it, the cone was regular in its form, with the remains of an ancient crater nearly filled at its summit, covered within by wild vines, and with a barren plain at the bottom. It was within this ancient and extinct crater, that Spartacus, the rebel gladiator, encamped his army of 10,000 men. The sides of the mountain were clothed with fertile fields, highly cultivated, and at its base were the populous cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the year 63 there was an earthquake by which these cities were much injured, and, in 79, they were buried by an eruption of Vesuvius.
We have no evidence that any lava flowed from the mountain in the year 79, as the buildings, both in Pompeii and Herculaneum, were filled with small stones, sand, ashes, and fragments of older lava. Pompeii has never been overflowed with lava, though the town stands on a bed of it composed of several layers, which were thrown out at a periòd earlier than any of which we have a history. As Herculaneum is directly at the base of the mountain, it has often been covered, not only as at first with showers of mud and ashes, but also with streams of lava. Above the lowest stratum is the matter of six eruptions, with veins of good soil between each, all of them of a depth of from 70 to 112 feet. Both these cities were seaports, and Herculaneum is still near the sea, but Pompeii is now a mile from the shore, the intervening space having been filled up with volcanic matter. Of the manuscripts found at Herculaneum, about 400 of those least injured have been read. A few are in Latin, but most of them are Greek, and though to us entirely new yet are they unimportant. They relate mostly to music, rhetoric, and cookery.
In the barracks at Pompeii, were the skeletons of two sol. diers chained to the stocks, and in the vaults of a country house near the city were the bones of seventeen persons, who seem to have fled there to escape from danger. They were found enclosed in an indurated tufa, and in the same way was preserved a perfect cast of a woman, with an infant in her arms.
Although the rock fully retained the outline of her form, the bones alone remained : attached to these was a chain of gold, and on her fingers were rings, set with jewels. Thus was she adorned for the embrace of Death, and though near a score of centuries have passed since she