網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

information. They seldom go beyond the limits of their own castdli, except that all have probably paid one visit to Rome in their lifetime, to receive the Easter Benediction from the Holy Father. Their animals are generally like friends to them, and are often trained in a wonderfully human way—especially their pigs, which generally live in the houses, and are the companions of their daily life. A pig at Subiaco danced the tarantella like a human being. If an Italian peasant were told that there was no future state for his domestic animals he would be very incredulous. "Sant' Antonio abbia pieta dell' anima sua," cried Madame de Stael's Italian coachman, as his horse fell down dead; and the Intendente of the Duke of Sermoneta, writing lately to announce that a number of his pigs had died in the country, said simply, " Sono andati in Paradiso."

The men are generally far more instructed than the women, whose ideas are for the most part confined to what they hear in the churches, and to the stories of their own village or of the saints.

"Among us, and in many places, the contatiina is neither more nor lesi than the wife, the female of the contadino, as the hen is the female of the cock ; with which, except in sex, it has life, nourishment, habits, all in common. This equality, on the contrary, in certain places becomes, destruction and loss to the poor woman. Here, for example, if a faggot of wood and a bunch of chickens have to be carried down to the shore from one of the villages half-way up the mountain, the labour is thus distributed in the family; the wife loads herself with the faggot of wood which weighs half a hundred-weight, and the husband will take the chickens which weigh a mere nothing. In mountainous places it is generally thus. It is curious to hear the contadini, when they are trying to lift a weight, if they find it heavy, say, as they quickly put it down again, 'It is woman's work !'"—Massimo d'Azeglio.

"From a people so original and so ignorant we may expect many quaint superstitions. Accordingly besides ghosts and haunted houses we hear of the lupo-manaro, a kind of were-wolf, most dangerous on rainy INTRODUCTORY. 31

nights; of witches whom you may keep out of the house by hanging a broom at the window. The Roman witch seizes eagerly on her favourite steetl, and with the muttered charm,

'Sopr' acqua e sopra vento Portami alia noce di Benevento,'

she is off in a trice to join her Samnite sisters. If a Roman housewife has lost anything, she will repeat Psalm xci., 'Qui habitat,' quite sure that at the words 'from the snare of the hunter' (' de laquco venantium '— she reads it 'acqua di Venanzio') the truant will re-appear. Then she has her famous 'Rimedii Simpatici' To cure a wart you must tie the finger round with crimson silk ribbon: for a sty, pretend to sew it up with needle and thread : for a boil, get a poor neighbour to beat a frying-pan at your door. Their faith in the lottery and the libro deli' arte is too well known for comment ; a similar reverence is paid to the weather-prophecies of the almanac. The book must be true, they argue, for it has the Imprimatur.'''Claude Delaval Cobham, "Essay on Belli."

In spite of the richness of the land, and in spite of the

fact that most of the peasants are themselves land-owners

on a very small scale, the most terrible poverty frequently

prevails, but this is greater in the Hernican and Equian than

in the Alban Hills.

"Can we believe that amid the abundant produce of the land the peasants are poor? Looking at the region, it appears to be an Eldorado of happy inhabitants ; but living with them in the paradise of Nature we meet too often with starvation. All these fruits (twenty figs or twenty walnuts may be bought here for one bajocco, and in good years a bottle of wine for the same price) do not feed the peasant; he would starve if he had not the meal of the Turkish corn, which is his only food. The fault of this incongruity lies in the agrarian condition. To begin with, you must know that the possessor of land here owes the fourth part of the produce as rent to the lord of the soil. It is the old curse of the latifundia to sink the people in poverty. There are indeed few peasants who do not possess a small vineyard, but it is not sufficient to maintain the family. Usury is unlimited; even from the poorest ten per cent, is taken. The smallest misfortune, or a bad harvest, brings him into debt. If he borrows money or grain the interest burdens him; the avaricious rich man watches for the time of want to wrest the land from the small proprietor for a nominal price. Barons and monasteries grow rich, the peasant-farmer becomes their vassal and vine-dresser. As a rule the transaction takes place thus,—the debtor only sells the soil ; the trees (gli albert, which includes the vines) remain his, he continues to cultivate the vineyard, and retains for himself half or three-quarters of the produce. Scarcely a year passes, and the same vine-owner appears before the purchaser of his land and offers him the trees for sale. Now he becomes farmer for his master, inhabits the vineyard with his family, and continues to cultivate it, receiving a portion of the produce. This may equal or even exceed that of the present proprietor, but yet he will find himself more and more in debt, and have to make over to his master no small proportion of his gains in advance."—Gregorovius.

The simple religious faith which exists amongst the mountain peasantry is most touching and instructive. The sound of the angelus bell will collect the whole population of one of the small Abruzzi towns in its churches, and the priests, unlike the spectres which haunt ultra-Protestant story-books, are more frequently simple gentle fathers of their people, consulted by them in every anxiety, and trusted in every difficulty. The open-air life in many ot these villages, where all the spinning, lace-making, and other avocations are carried on in the street, brings the people wonderfully together, and unites their interests and associations as those of one great family, and if a poor person dies, it is not unusual to see the whole town attend the funeral, while orphans who have been born in the place, become regarded as universal property, and receive a share of the attentions and care of all. On a summer's evening, when crowds of the inhabitants of a mountain town are sitting out in the shady street at their work, it is not unusual for one of them to take up one of the long melancholy neverending songs which are handed down here for generations, and for the whole people to join in the choruses. These songs are inexhaustible, varying from the short lively catches INTRODUCTORY. 33

in two lines called stornelli, to long ballads which sometimes succeed one another in more than a hundred verses. A curious collection of the latter, giving their variations according to the different towns and patois in which they are sung, are being published, under the name of "Canti e Eacconti del Popolo Italiano," collected by D. Comparetti and A. D'Ancona. But no more complete picture of the manners and characteristics of the lower classes in Eome and its neighbourhood can be found than that which is given in the two thousand three hundred sonnets of Belli (1791—1863), who, himself one of "the people," wrote with the very essence of their feeling. There is a charming volume on "The Folklore of Eome," by B. H. Busk. Biding is the best means of seeing the Campagna immediately around Borne; indeed there are many interesting places, such as Eustica on the Anio, which cannot be reached in a carriage. But for the longer excursions it is far best to adopt whatever is the usual means of locomotion in the district, generally some high-slung Baroccino. In the Abruzzi, diligences are universally used, and, where the distances are so great between one town and another, they are quite a necessity. In some places these are of the most primitive construction, and in mountainous districts are always drawn by oxen placed in front of the horses, while the harness of the latter, thickly adorned with bells, feathers, and little brass figures of saints, is quite an artistic study. Diligence life is a phase of Italian existence which no one should omit trying at least once, or rather that of the public carriages which ply slowly between the different surrounding towns and the capital. In a vehicle of this kind one cannot fail to be thrown into the closest juxtaposition with

V

one's neighbours, and nowhere is the universal national bonhommie and good fellowship more conspicuous. Suppose you are at Tivoli and wish to go to Eome. The diligence starts in the middle of the day. You walk to it from your inn, with a porter carrying your portmanteau. You find it under a dark archway; a lumbering vehicle, something like a heavy though very dilapidated fly, with three lean unkempt horses attached to it by ropes. The company is already assembled and greet you as if you were an old acquaintance. There is a fat monk in a brown habit which does not smell very good, a woman in panno and large gold ear-rings, a young office clerk, a girl of sixteen, and a little child of two. The young man sits by the driver, all the rest go inside. There is endless delay in starting, for when you are just going off, the rope-harness gives way and has to be mended. You begin to feel impatient, but find nobody cares in the least, so you think it is not worth while. You get in, and find the interior very mouldy, with tattered sides, and dirty straw on the floor. The most unimaginable baggage is being packed on the roof. The gossippy conduttore leans against the portico smoking cigarettes, and regaling Tivoli with the scandal of Eome. An important stattiere in rags stands by and demands his fee of one soldo. At last the company are desired to mount. The diligence is moving: it is an immense excitement: there is quite a rush of children down the street to see it. The vehicle creaks and groans. Surely the ropes are going to break again; but no, they actually hold firm this time and the carriage starts, rocking from side to side of the rugged pavement, amid the remonstrances of the woman in the earrings, whose daughter has not been able to embrace her,

« 上一頁繼續 »