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In the first spring, they bring us, till at last
We issued out upon an eminence,
Commanding prospect large on every side;
But largest where the world's great city lay,
Whose features, undistinguishable now,
Allowed no recognition, save where the eye
Could mark the white front of the Lateran
Facing this way, or rested on the dome,
The broad stupendous dome, high over all.
And as a sea around an island's roots
Spreads, so the level champaign round the town
Stretched every way, a level plain, and green
With the new vegetation of the spring;
Nor by the summer ardours scorched as yet,
Which shot from southern suns, too soon dry up
The beauty and the freshness of the plains;
But to the right the ridge of Apennine,
Its higher farther summits all snow-crowned,
Rose, with white clouds above them, as might seem
Another range of more aerial hills.
These things were at a distance, but more near
And at our feet signs of the tide of life,
That once was here, and now had ebbed away—
Pavements entire, without one stone displaced,
Where yet there had not rolled a chariot-wheel
For many hundred years; rich cornices,
Elaborate friezes of rare workmanship,
And broken shafts of columns, that along
This highway side lay prone; vaults that were rooms,
And hollowed from the turf, and cased in stone,
Seats and gradations of a theatre,
Which emptied of its population now
Shall never be refilled: and all these things,
Memorials of the busy life of man,
Or of his ample means for pomp and pride,
Scattered among the solitary hills,
And lying open to the sun and showers,
And only visited at intervals
By wandering herds, or pilgrims like ourselves
From distant lands; with now no signs of life,
Save where the goldfinch built his shallow nest
'Mid the low bushes, or where timidly
A rchbishop Trciuk.
Descending from the Arx, a path to the right leads through woods full of flowers to the Camaldoli, but nobody can pass the cross at the foot of the hill on which the convent stands, upon pain of excommunication. Here Cardinal Passionei lived in retirement, and occupied himself by collecting eight hundred inscriptions found amongst the ruins of Tusculum.
The whole of the inhabitants of the Camaldoli were carried off during an audacious outbreak of brigandage in the reign of Pius VII., but escaped during a skirmish with the Papal troops sent to their rescue. Since then the buildings have been surrounded with defensive walls with loopholes for the discharge of fire-arms. The aspect of the place is beautifully described by Cardinal Wiseman.
"The English college possesses a country house, deliciously situated in the village of Monte-Porzio. Like most villages in the Tusculan territory, this crowns a knoll, which in this instance looks as if it had been kneaded up from the valleys beneath it, so round, so shapely, so richly bosoming does it swell upwards; and so luxuriously clothed is it with the three gifts whereby 'men are multiplied ' (Ps. iv. 8), that the village and its church seem not to sit upon a rocky summit, but to be half sunk into the lap of the olive, the vine, and the waving coin, that reach the very houses. While the entrance and front of this villa are Vol. I. 8
upon the regular streets of the little town, the garden side stands upon the very verge of the hill-top; and the view, after plunging at once to the depths of the valley, along which runs a shady road, rises up a gentle acclivity, vine and olive clad, above which is clasped a belt of stately chestnuts, the bread-tree of the Italian peasant, and thence springs a round craggy mound, looking stem and defiant, like what it was—the citadel of Tusculum. Upon its rocky front the English students have planted a huge cross.
"Such is the view which presents itself immediately opposite to the spectator, if leaning over the low parapet of the English garden. Just where the vineyards touch the woods, as if to adorn both, there lies nestling what you would take to be a very neat and regular village. A row of houses, equidistant and symmetrical, united by a continuous dwarf wall, and a church with its towers in the midst, all of dazzling whiteness, offer no other suggestion. The sight would certainly deceive one, but not so the ears. There is a bell that knows no sleeping. The peasant hears it as he rises at day-break to proceed to his early toil; the vine-dresser may direct every pause for refreshment by its unfailing regularity through the day; the horseman returning home at evening uncovers himself as it rings forth the 'Ave ;' and the muleteer singing on the first of his string of mules, carrying wine to Rome, at midnight is glad to catch its solemn peal, as it mingles with the tinkle of his own drowsy bells. Such an unceasing call to prayer and praise can only be answered, not by monks nor by friars, but by anchorites.
"And to such does this sweet abode belong. A nearer approach does not belie the distant aspect. It is as neat, as regular, as clean, and tranquil as it looks. It is truly a village divided by streets, in each of which are rows of houses exactly symmetrical. A small sitting-room, a sleeping cell, a chapel completely fitted up, in case of illness, and a wood and lumber room, compose the cottage. This is approached by a garden, which the occupant tills, but only for flowers, assisted by his own fountain abundantly supplied. While singing None in the choir, the day's meal is deposited in a little locker within the door of the cell, for each one's solitary refection. On a few great festivals they dine together; but not even the Pope, at his frequent visits, has meat placed before him. Everything, as has been said, is scrupulously clean. The houses inside and out, the well-furnished library, the stranger's apartments (for hospitality is freely given), and still more the church, are faultless in this respect. And so are the venerable men who stand in the choir, and whose noble voices sustain the church's magnificent psalmody with unwavering slowness of intonation. They are clad in white from head to foot, their thick woollen drapery falling in large folds; and the shaves
head, but flowing beard, the calm features, the cast-down eyes, and often venerable aspect, make every one a picture, as solemn as Zurbaran ever painted, but without the sternness which he sometimes imparts to his recluses. They pass out of the church, to return home, all silent and unnoticing; but the guest-master will tell you who they are. I remember but a few. This is a native of Turin, who was a general in Napoleon's army, fought many battles, and has hung up his sword beside the altar, to take down in its place the sword of the Spirit, and fight the good fight within. The next is an eminent musician, who has discovered the hollowness of human applause, and has unstrung his earthly harp, and taken up the ' lyre of the Levite,' to join his strains to those of angels. Another comes 'curved like a bridge's arch,' as Dante says, and leaning on a younger arm, as he totters forward, one whose years are ninety, of which seventy have been spent in seclusion, except a few of dispersion, but in peace: for he refuses any relaxation from his duties. Then follows a fourth, belonging to one of the noblest Roman families, who yet prefers his cottage and his lentil to the palace and the banquet."—Life of Pius VII.
Below the Camaldoli we-reach the gates of the Villa
Mondragone, the Queen of Frascati villas. It belongs to the
family of Borghese, but is used as a Jesuit College. The
casino, built, from designs of Vansanzio, by Cardinal Altemps
in the reign of Gregory XIII., is exceedingly magnificent, but
still more so is the view from the vast and stately terrace in
front, adorned with a grand fountain and tall columns.
"Imaginez-vous un chateau qui a trois cent soixante quatorze fenetres, un chateau complique comme ceux d'Anne Radcliffe, un monde d'enigmes a debrouiller, un enchainement de surprises, un reve de Piranese.
"Ce palais fut bati au seizieme siecle. On y entre par un vaste corps de logis, sorte de caserne destinee a la suite armee. Lorsque, plus tard, le pape Paul V. en fit une simple villtgiature, il relia un des cotes de ce corps de garde au palais par une longue galérie, de pleinpied avec la cour interieure, dont les arcades élegantes s'ouvraient, au couchant, sur un escarpement assez considerable, et laissent aujourd'hui passer le vent et la pluie. Les voutes suintent, la frcsque est devenue une croute des stalactites bizarrees; des ronces et des orties poussent dans le pave disjoint; les deux Stages superposes au-dessus de cette galerie s'ecroulent tranquillement. II n'y a plus dc toiture ; les entabkments du dernier étage se penchent et s'appaissent aux risques et périls des passants, quand passants il y a, autour de cette thébaïde.
"Cependant, la villa Mondragone, restée dans la famille Borghèse, à laquelle appartenait Paul V., était encore une demeure splendide, il y a une cinquantaine d'années, et elle revête aujourd'hui un caractère de désolation riante, tout à fait particulier à ces ruines prématurées. C'est durant nos guerres d'Italie, au commencement du siècle, que les Autrichiens l'ont ravagée, bombardée, et pillée. Il en est resulté ce qui arrive toujours en ce pays-ci après une secousse politique: le dégoût et l'abandon. Pourtant la majeure partie du corps de logis principal, la partemcdia, est assez saine pour qu'en supprimant les dépendances inutiles, on puisse encore trouver de quoi restaurer une délicieuse villégiature.'''' — George Sami, La Daniella.
Joining the grounds of the Mondragone are those of the Villa Taverna, built in the 16th century, from designs of Girolamo Rainaldi. It was much used, until the change of Government, as a summer residence by the Borgheses.
A beautiful road along the ridge of the hill-side leads back to Frascati, or we may go on to the right towards Colonna, about four miles distant.
Not far below the Villa Mondragone is the volcanic Lake cf Cornufdle. There is no longer any water here, but its bed is a crater about half a mile in diameter, and is evidently the place described by Pliny, where there was a grove of beeches (probably horn-beams—carpini) dedicated to Diana, one of which was so much admired by Passienus, the orator and consul, that he used to embrace it, sleep under it, and pour wine upon it. This is the spot described in Macaulay's Lays, as that
"—where, by Lake Regillus,
Under the Porcian height,
Was fcnight the glorious fight."
And Arnold says :—
"The lake of Regillus is now a small and weedy pool surrounded by