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VALLEY OF THE LIRIS.
the wonderful beauty of the women. The best peasant jewels, of designs such as are seen in Greek sculpture, are all bought and sold here. Owing to the factories of the Liris and the great care which their owner, M. Lefebvre, bestows upon his workmen, the people are all most thriving and prosperous, and the valley of the Liris may be regarded as "the Happy Valley " of Central Italy.
"The modem factories, mostly paper-mills, on a large scale and on the newest system, owe their rise chiefly to Frenchmen of the time of VOL. IL 13
Murat, among them M. Lefebvre. (This man arrived poor, but the banks of the Liris became to him an Eldorado, for he drew pure gold from the power of water. He left to his son manufactures and millions. The king of Naples, I think Ferdinand II., ennobled his family; they richly deserved this honour, for a hitherto scarcely cultivated region owes to the inventive genius of this one man an abundant life which will not disappear but increase. The creative action of a man in a certain circle of industry belongs to those manifestations of human activity which we may contemplate with the purest interest; if such (action) is frequent in England, Germany, or France, and rare in Naples, we may easily imagine how highly merit of this kind is to be esteemed."— Gregorovius.
As in the days of Juvenal, Sora may be looked upon as a pleasant retreat for respectable old age:
"Si potes avelli Circensibus, optima Sorae,
Sat. iii. 223.
It is only two miles from Sora, descending the valley of the Liris, to the old conventual church of 5. Domenico Abdte. It stands on an island in the Fibreno, close to its junction with the Liris. The nave is of very good and pure Gothic. In the adjoining convent S. Domenico Abate died. These buildings occupy the site, and are built from the remains of the beloved villa of Cicero. In Cicero "de Legibus " * Atticus asks why Cicero is so much attached to this Villa, and Cicero answers:
"Why, to tell the truth, this is the real home of myself, and my brother here. Our family, a most ancient one, had its rise here, our household-gods are here, our clan, and many a relic of our ancestors. Well, and you see this Villa, it was enlarged to its present form by my father, who, as his health failed, spent his latter years here in study, and in this very spot, my grandfather being still alive, and the Villa still
THE ISLAND OF CICERO.
small and old-fashioned, like the one at Cures on my Sabine estate, I was born. So that deep down in my heart I cherish a singular feeling and affection for the place: just as we read of that most cunning hero, who to see his Ithaca renounced immortality."
Afterwards the island became the property of Silius Italicus.
"Silius haec magni celebrat monumenta Maronis,
Martial, Ep. xi. 49.
As we enter the plot of garden ground behind the convent, we cannot wonder at the affection which the great orator entertained for the place. On all sides it is surrounded by clear glancing water. The Fibrenus is lovely, with wooded banks, and abounding in trout. Through the trees we have exquisite mountain views. In spring the banks are one sheet of violets, and primroses—which are very rare in Italy. Amid the rich vegetation lie fragments and capitals of columns; a tall pillar with some Roman masonry grouped around it, stands at the west end of the church, and the crypt is supported by low massive pillars of granite and marble, evidently taken from the ruins of the villa.
"It was here that Cicero, Quintus, and Atticus held those conversations wnich we possess as the three books 'de Legibus.' They wander on foot from Arpinum to the river Fibrenus, they arrive at the 'insula quae est in Fibreno,' here they will sit and philosophise further. Atticia wonders at the beauty of the place, and Cicero, who remarks that he is fond of meditating, reading, or writing here, says that the place has a peculiar additional charm for him from having been his own cradle:
THE ISLAND OF CICERO.
1 fuia hac est mea et hujus fratris mei germana patria; hinc enim ortt stirpe antiquissima, hie sacra, hie gens, hie majorum multa vestigia.' He relates that his grandfather possessed this villa; that his sickly father, who enlarged it, there became old in his studies. At the sight of his birthplace Cicero confesses that the same feeling came over him which Ulysses experienced, when he preferred the sight of Ithaca to immortality. He avows that Arpinum is his home, as 'civitas,' but that he properly belonged to the country round Arpinum; and Atticus now paints the lovely position of the island in the arms of the Fibrenus, which refreshes the waters of the Liris, and is so cold that he scarcely dared to bathe his feet in it. They sit down to converse further about the laws, and we prefer the sight of these three men of Roman urbanity, and of the highest education of their day, to that of the company of monks in cowls, where Gregory VII. sits by some holy man with a tangled beard, in the eleventh century, the epoch at which Rome was lost in the deepest barbarism both of manners and civilization. How Cicero, Atticus, and Quintus would have stared at the Romans of the eleventh century.
"So the chattering poplars of the Fibrenus surrounded the cradle of Cicero—and one still listens with pleasure to the ceaseless whispers of these quivering branches, whose leaves are as busy and talkative as the tongues of women. Yes! Cicero certainly had an enviable birthplace, but what good is there in talking of it to those who can never give one glance at this land of nymphs, of unfading flowers, and an eternal spring? Around it, what a panorama of hills, brown, or hyacinthineblue in the still majesty of aerial distance ! Cicero was a child of the plain, not of the hills, and his great intellect accumulated to itself all the learning of his time, as a mighty stream receives the brooks: but Marius was a child of the mountain, bom above in Arpinum within the walls of the Cyclops, and hither we will now turn our steps."— Gregorovius.
If we cross the river Liris, in front of the convent, by the ferry-boat—which is in itself a picture, when filled with women in their bright costumes, accompanied by their donkeys with panniers full of vegetables—we may visit, below the gardens, the ruin of a Roman bridge, called Ponte di Cicerone. Only a single arch remains.
The most famous of the monks of S. Domenico was Hildebrand, afterwards Pope Gregory VII.