ePub 版

the ancient Roman highways, and, as in the case of the Via Tiburtina, still paved with the blocks of black lava, laid down two thousand years ago, over which the wine-carts rattle with their revolving hoods (capote), shelters alike against sun and shower,—often drawn by grand, meek-eyed oxen. Hard by, the black crosses, sprinkled along the dusty wayside amongst the thistles, keep their dismal record of accidents or murders; and refuges of hurdles, erected at intervals, attest the ferocity of the Campagna buffaloes and the necessity of escape from them.

In the winter the plain is crimson and gold with the decaying vegetation; but, as spring advances, it changes so rapidly to green, that it is as if it were suddenly touched with phosphoric light; and, as summer advances, the growth becomes coarse and rampagious to a degree—Virgins thistle, breast-high; rank anchusas; hemlock; huge resedas; acres covered with the tall and stately but poisonous asphodel, here and there a low bush of hawthorn, and a band of green osiers marking where the Anio meanders through a cleft. Almost every building is mediaeval, except those which are classical. The most conspicuous are the tall towers of brick and stone, relics for the most part of Orsini and Colonna feuds, and erected as a refuge for the shepherds of one of the great proprietors, against the inroads of his neighbours. Besides these, there are the huts built of reeds, such as Virgil describes, and the rifled tombs, now used as houses, in the doors of which we so often see the shepherd-wives, with folded panni shading their withered faces, seated spinning like the pictures of the Fates, while the shepherds themselves, dressed in goat-skins, watch their flocks on the neighbouring turfy hillocks.


"Next to the picturesquely conspicuous towers the most frequent landmarks are the conical shepherds' huts, usually on the higher grounds, inhabited during about half the year by a race of men so cut off from all social and civilizing influence*» that one might expect to find the lowest brutality, and all the fiercest passions, in a moral soil thus neglected. The shepherd of these parts, in his broad-brimmed black hat, long loose jacket and leggings, both alike of unshorn sheep or goatskin, might seem the original type whence an idealizing dream devised the mythologie satyr. His temporary dwelling is made of branches of the yellow-flowering Spanish broom, and is open at the pointed apex for the escape of smoke from the wood-fire lit in the middle, around which are ranged beds, something like berths in a ship, and usually for several people, as this hut is inhabited by many inmates, besides dogs or pigs, and at times sheep or goats, also privileged to enjoy its warmth and shelter. Here (it may be within sight of St. Peter's and the Lateran basilica) does this rude servant of the soil spend the long seasons of his monotonous existence, till the summer-sultriness obliges him to migrate with his dogs and sheep. The usual food of these outcast-looking beings is black bread and ricotta (ewe's-milk cheese). Yet, despite his wild and savage aspect, this shepherd, on near approach, proves a harmless creature; will sometimes beg in the humblest tone; and has the reputation of being consistently devout, his religion standing him in the stead of knowledge and ideas."—Heman's Story of Monuments in Rome.

"Vous apercevez çà et là quelques bouts de voies romaines dans des lieux où il ne passe plus personne, quelques traces desséchées des torrents de l'hiver, qui, vues de loin, ont elles-mêmes l'air de chemins battus et fréquentés, et qui ne sont que le lit d'une onde orageuse, qui s'est écoulée comme le peuple romain. A peine découvrez-vous quelques arbres, mais vous voyez partout des ruines d'aqueducs et de tombeaux qui semblent être les forêts et les plantes indigènes d'une terre composée de la poussière des morts et des débris des empires; souvent, dans une grande plaine, j'ai cru voir de riches moissons ; je m'en approchais, et ce n'étaient que des herbes flétries qui avaient trompé mon œiL Sous ces moissons arides, on distingue quelquefois les traces d'une ancienne culture. Point d'oiseaux, point de mugissements de troupeaux, point de villages; un petit nombre de fermes délabrées se montrent sur la nudité des champs; les fenêtres et les portes en sont fermées, il n'en sort ni fumée, ni bruit, ni habitants. Une espèce de sauvage, presque nu, pâle et miné par la fièvre, garde seulement ces tristes chaumières, comme ces spectres qui, dans nos histoires gothiques, défendent l'entrée des châteaux abandonnées. . . . Vous croiriez peut-etre, d'apres cette description, qu'il n'y a rien de plus affreux que les campagnes romaines; vous vous tromperiez beaucoup: elles ont une inconcevable grandeur."—Chateaubriand.

In this vast undulating plain, generally occupying some green knoll, washed by a brook at its base, are the sites of many an ancient Latin town which was alternately the enemy and the ally of Rome. Sometimes, as in the case of Ostia, a whole city, with its paved streets, its narrow shops, and its equally miniature temples, has been laid bare. Sometimes, as at Veii, Gabii, and Tusculum, only a fragment of ruin, rising here and there above-ground, marks one of the principal buildings—a theatre or a temple. Often, as at Antemnae, Fidenae, Crustumerium, and Collatia, only the undulations of the turf attest where the city has been.

As we advance into the hills, where they were more easily protected, the ancient cities are far more perfect; at Tivoli are beautiful miniature temples of the ancient Tibur; at Sutri is its wonderful rock-hewn amphitheatre; at Aquino are noble remains both of arches and temples; at Cori are the threefold walls which gird, and the rock temples which crown, its hill top.

Further still from the capital, where the classical buildings were always less magnificent, glorious mediaeval remains attest the presence of Popes who made the hill-towns the fortified residence of their troubled reigns. The massive remains of the Papal palaces of Anagni, Viterbo, and Orvieto, with the glorious churches of those towns; the gothic palace of Cardinal Vitelleschi at Corneto; the convents of Monte Cassino, Subiaco, Farfa, Grotta Ferrata, Trisulti, Casamari, and Fossanuova; the castles and towers of Tivoli, Bracciano, Ostia, Celano, Avezzano, Borghetto, and INTRODUCTORY. 23

Bolsena; the walls of Civita Lavinia and Nepi,—attest the love and knowledge of art and beauty which flourished in those dark ages.

As we go further from Rome, too, new interests are suggested by the pelasgic and cyclopean remains at Palestrina, Cori, Norba, Segni, Alatri, and Arpino, or by the marvellous Etruscan discoveries of Cervetri, Cometo, Vulci, Norchia, and Bieda.

"The excursions in the neighbourhood of Rome are charming, and would be full of interest if it were only for the changing views they afford of the wild Campagna. But every inch of ground, in every direction, is rich in associations, and in natural beauties. There is Albano, with its lovely lake and wooded shore, and with its wine, that certainly has not improved since the days of Horace, and in these times hardly justifies his panegyric. There is squalid Tivoli, with the river Anio, diverted from its course, and plunging down, headlong, some eighty feet in search of it. With its picturesque Temple of the Sibyl, perched high on a crag; its minor waterfalls glancing and sparkling in the sun ; and one good cavern yawning darkly, where the river takes a fearful plunge and shoots on, low down under beetling rocks. There, too, is the Villa d'Este, deserted and decaying among groves of melancholy pine and cypress trees, where it seems to lie in state. Then, there is Frascati, and, on the steep above it, the ruins of Tusculum, where Cicero lived, and wrote, and adorned his favourite house (some fragments of it may yet be seen there), and where Cato was born. We saw its ruined amphitheatre on a grey dull day, when a shrill March wind was blowing, and when the scattered stones of the old city lay strewn about the lonely eminence, as desolate and dead as the ashes of a long-exunguished fire."—Dickens.

"Nothing can be more rich and varied, with every kind of beauty, than the Campagna of Rome—sometimes, as around Ostia, flat as an American prairie, with miles of canni and reeds rustling in the wind, fields of exquisite feathery grasses waving to and fro, and forests of tall golden-trunked stone-pines poising their spreading umbrellas of rich green high in the air, and weaving a murmurous roof against the sun; sometimes drear, mysterious, and melancholy, as in the desolate stretches between Civita Vecchia and Rome, with lonely hollows and hills without a habitation, where sheep and oxen feed, and the wind roams over treeless and deserted slopes, and silence makes its home ; sometimes rolling like an inland sea whose waves have suddenly been checked and stiffened, green with grass, golden with grain, and gracious with myriads of wild flowers, where scarlet poppies blaze over acres and acres, and pink-frilled daisies cover the vast meadows, and pendant vines shroud the picturesque ruins of antique villas, aqueducts, and tombs, or droop from mediaeval towers and fortresses.

"Such is the aspect of the Agro Romano, or southern portion of the Campagna extending between Rome and Albano. It is a picture wherever you go. The land, which is of deep rich loam that repays a hundred-fold the least toil of the farmer, does not wait for the help of man, but bursts into spontaneous vegetation and everywhere laughs into flowers. Here is pasturage for millions of cattle, and grain fields for a continent, that now in wild untutored beauty bask in the Italian sun, crying shame on their neglectful owners. Over these long unfenced slopes one may gallop on horseback for miles without let or hindrance, through meadows of green smoothness on fire with scarlet poppies— over hills crowned with ruins that insist on being painted, so exquisite are they in form and colour, with their background of purple mountains—down valleys of pastoral quiet, where great tufa caves open into subterranean galleries leading beyond human ken; or one may linger in lovely secluded groves of ilexes and pines, or track the course of swift streams overhung by dipping willows, and swerving here and there through broken arches of antique bridges smothered in green; or wander through hedges heaped and toppling over with rich luxuriant foliage, twined together by wild vetches, honeysuckles, morning-glories, and every species of flowering vine; or sit beneath the sun-looped shadows of ivy-covered aqueducts, listening to the song of hundreds of larks far up in the air, and gazing through the lofty arches into wondrous deeps of violet-hued distances, or lazily watching flocks of white sheep as they cross the smooth slopes guarded by the faithful watch-dog. Everywhere are deep brown banks of pozzolana earth which makes the strong Roman cement, and quarries of tufa and travertine with unexplored galleries and catacombs honey-combing for miles the whole Campagna. Dead generations lie under your feet wherever you tread. The place is haunted by ghosts that outnumber by myriads the living, and the air is filled with a tender sentiment and sadness which makes the beauty of the world about you more touching. You pick up among the ruins on every slope fragments of rich marbles that once encased the walls of luxurious villas. The contadino or shepherd offers you an old worn coin, on which you read the name of Caesar, or a scarabaus which once adorned the finger of an Etruscan king, in whose dust he now grows his beans, or the broken head of an ancimt jar in marble or terra-cotta, or a lacrymatory

« 上一頁繼續 »