Page images
PDF
EPUB

the table of shew-bread, and the river Jordan. Some are of opinion, that the composite pillars of this arch were made in imitation of the pillars of Solomon's temple, and observe that these are the most ancient of any that are found of that order.

It is almost impossible for a man to form, in his imagination, such beautiful and glorious scenes as are to be met with in several of the Roman churches and chapels; for, having such a prodigious stock of ancient marble within the very city, and, at the same time, so many different quarries in the bowels of their country, most of their chapels are laid over with such a rich variety of incrustations, as cannot possibly be found in any other part of the world. And notwithstanding the incredible sums of money which have been already laid out this way, there is still the same work going forward in other parts of Rome, the last still endeavouring to outshine those that went before them. Painting, sculpture, and architecture, are at present far from being in a flourishing condition, but it is thought they may all recover themselves under the present pontificate, if the wars and confusions of Italy will give them leave; for, as the pope is himself a master of polite learning, and a great encourager of arts, so at Rome any of these arts immediately thrive under the encouragement of the prince, and may be fetched up to its perfection in ten or a dozen years, which is the work of an age or two in other countries, where they have not such excellent models to form themselves upon.

I shall conclude my observations on Rome, with a letter of King Henry the Eighth to Ann of Bulleyn, transcribed out of the famous manuscript in the Vatican, which the Bishop of Salisbury assures us is written with the king's own hand.

“The cause of my writing at this time is to hear of your health and prosperity, of which I would be as glad as in manner of my own, praying God that it be his pleasure to send us shortly together, for I promise I long for it; howbeit, I trust it shall not be long too, and seeing my darling is absent I can no less do than send her some flesh, prognosticating that hereafter thou must have some of mine, which, if he please, I would have now. As touching your sister's mother, I have consigned Walter Welsh to write to my Lord Manwring my mind therein, whereby I trust he shall not have power to disseid; for surely whatever is said, it cannot so stand with his honour, but that he must needs take his natural daughter in her extreme necessity. No more to you at this time, my own darling, but that with a whistle I wish we were together one evening; by the hand of yours,

“ HENRY."

These letters are always shown to an Englishman that visits the Vatican library.

TOWNS WITHIN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF

ROME.

I spent three or four days on Tivoli, Frescati, Palestrina, and Albano. In our way to Tivoli I saw the rivulet of Salforata, formerly called Albula, and smelt the stench that arises from its waters some time before I saw them. Martial mentions this offensive smell in an epigram of the fourth book, as he does the rivulet itself in the first.

Lib. 4. ep. 4.

Quod siccæ redolet lacus lacuna,
Crudurum nebulæ quod Albulurum.
The drying marshes such a stench convey,
Such the rank steams of reeking Albula.

Itur ad Herculeæ gelidas quà Tiburis arces,

Canaque sulphureis Albula fumat aquis.

Lib. 1. ep. 5.

[ocr errors]

As from high Rome to Tivoli you go,

Where Albula's sulphureous waters flow. The little lake that gives rise to this river, with its floating islands, is one of the most extraordinary natural curiosities about Rome. It lies in the very flat of Campania, and, as it is the drain of these parts, it is no wonder that it is so impregnated with sulphur. It has at bottom so thick a sediment of it, that upon throwing in a stone the water boils for a considerable time over the place which has been stirred up. At the same time are seen little flakes of scurf rising up, that are probably the parts which compose the islands, for they often mount of themselves, though the water is not troubled.

I question not but this lake was formerly much larger than it is at present, and that the banks have grown over it by degrees, in the same manner as the islands have been formed on it. Nor is it improbable, but that, in the process of time, the whole surface of it may be crusted over, as the islands enlarge themselves, and the banks close in upon them. All about the lake, where the ground is dry, we found it to be hollow by the trampling of our horses' feet. I could not discover the least traces of the Sibyls Temple and Grove, which stood on the borders of this lake. Tivoli is seen at a distance lying along the brow of a hill. Its situation has given Horace occasion to call it Tibur Supinum, as Virgil, perhaps for the same reason, entitles it Superbum. The villa de Medicis, with its water-works, the cascade of the Teverone, and the ruins of the Sibyls Temple (of which Vignola has made a little copy at St. Peters de Montorio) are described in every Itinerary. I must confess I was most pleased with a beautiful prospect that none of them have mentioned, which lies at about a mile distance from the town. It opens on one side into the Roman Campania, where the eye loses itself on a smooth, spacious plain. On the other side is a more broken and interrupted scene, made up of an infinite variety of inequalities and shadowings, that naturally rise from an agreeable mixture of hills, groves, and valleys. But the most enlivening part of all, is the river Teverone, which you see at about a quarter of a mile's distance throwing itself down a precipice, and falling by several cascades from one rock to another, till it gains the bottom of the valley, where the sight of it would be quite lost, did it not sometimes discover itself through the breaks and openings of the woods that grow about it. The Roman painters often work upon this landscape, and I am apt to believe that Horace had his eye upon it in those two or three beautiful touches he has given us of these seats. The Teverone was formerly called the Anio.

Me nec tam patiens Lacedæmon,
Nec tam Larissæ percussit campus opima,

Quam domus Albuneæ resonantis,
Et præceps Anio, et Tiburni lacus, it uda
Mobilibus pomaria rivis.

Lib. 1. od. 7.
Not fair Larissa's fruitful shore,
Nor Lacedæmon charms me more,
Than high Albunea's airy walls
Resounding with her water-falls,
And Tivoli's delightful shades,
And Anio rolling in cascades,
That through the flow'ry meadows glides,

And all the beauteous scene divides. I remember Monsieur Dacier explains mobilibus by ductilibus, and believes that the word relates to the conduits, pipes, and canals, that were made to distribute the waters up and down, according to the pleasure of the owner, But any one who sees the Teverone must be of another opinion, and conclude it to be one of the most moveable rivers in the world, that has its stream broken by such a multitude of cascades, and is so often shifted out of one channel into another. After a turbulent and noisy course of several miles among the rocks and mountains, the Teverone falls into the valley before mentioned, where it reçovers its temper, as it were, by little and little, and, after many turnings and windings, glides peaceably into the Tiber. In which sense we are to understand Silius Italicus's description, to give it its proper beauty.

Sulphureis gelidus qud serpit lenitèr undis,
Ad genitorem Anio lubens sine murmure Täbrim.

Here the loud Anio's boist'rous clamours cease,
That with submissive murmurs glides in peace
To his old sire, the Tiber-

At Frescati I had the satisfaction of seeing the first sketch of Versailles in the walks and water-works. The prospect from it was doubtless much more delightful formerly, when the Campania was set thick with towns, villas, and plantations. Cicero's Tusculum was at a place called Grotto Ferrate, about two miles off this town, though most of the modern writers have fixed it to Frescati. Nardini says, there was found among the ruins at Grotto Ferrate a piece of sculpture, which Cicero himself mentions in one of his familiar epistles. In going to Frescati we had a fair view of Mount Algido.

On our way to Palæstrina we saw the Lake Regillus, famous for the apparition of Castor and Pollux, who were here seen to give their horses drink after the battle between the Romans and the son-in-law of Tarquin. At some distance from it we had a view of the Lacus Gabinus, that is much larger than the former. We left the road for about half a mile to see the sources of a modern aqueduct. It is entertaining to observe how the several little springs and rills, that break out of the sides of the mountain, are gleaned up and conveyed through little covered channels into the main hollow aqueduct. It was certainly very lucky for Rome, seeing it had occasion for so many aqueducts, that there chanced to be such a range of mountains within its neighbourhood; for, by this means, they could take up their water from what height they pleased, without the expence of such an engine as that of Marli. Thus the Claudian aqueduct ran thirty

« PreviousContinue »