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It extends to the distance of fourteen or fifteen miles, where the woody region begins. It is composed almost entirely of lava, which, after a number of ages, is at last converted into the most fertile of all soils. After leaving Nicolo'si, twelve miles up the mountain, in an hour and a half's traveling, over barren ashes and lava, we arrived on the con'fines of the woody region, or temperate zone. As soon as we came to these delightful forests, we seemed to have entered another world. The air, which before was sultry and hot, was now cool and refreshing; and every breeze was loaded with a thousand perfumes, the whole ground being covered with the richest aromatic plants. Many parts of this region are surely the most delightful spots upon earth.
3. This mountain unites every beauty and every horror, and the most opposite and dissimilar objects in nature. Here you observe a gulf, that formerly threw out torrents of fire, now covered with the most luxuriant vegetation, and from an object of terror become one of delight. Here you găther the most delicious fruit, rising from what was but lately a barren rock. Here the ground is covered with flowers; and we wander over these beauties, and contem'plate this wilderness of sweets, without considering that, under our feet, but a few yards separate us from lakes of liquid fire and brimstone.
4. But our astonishment still increases, upon raising our eyes to the higher region of the mountain. There we behold, in perpetual union, the two elements which are at perpetual war, — an immense gulf of fire, forever existing in the midst of snows, which it has not power to melt; and immense fields of snow and ice, forever surrounding this gulf of fire, which they have not power to extinguish. The woody region of Etna ascends for about eight or nine miles, and forms a
zone or girdle, of the brightest green, all around the mountain.
5. This night we passed through little more than half of it, arriving some time before sunset at our lodging, which was a large cave, formed by one of the most ancient eruptions. Here we were delighted with the contemplation of many beautiful objects, the prospect on all sides being immense; and we already seemed to have been lifted from the earth. After a comfortable sleep, and other refreshments, at eleven o'clock at night we recommenced our expedition.
6. Our guide now began to display his great knowledge of the mountain, and we followed him with implicit confidence where, perhaps, human foot had never trod before ; sometimes through gloomy forests, which by day were delightful, but now, from the universal darkness, the rustling of the trees, the heavy, dull bel. lowing of the mountain, the vast expanse of ocean stretched at an immense distance below us, inspired a kind of awful horror.
7. Sometimes we found ourselves ascending great rocks of lava, where, if our mules should make but a false step, we might be thrown headlong over the précipice. However, by the assistance of our guide, we overcame all these difficulties, and in two hours we had ascended above the region of vegetation, and had left far below the forests of Etna, which now appeared like a dark and gloomy gulf surrounding the mountain.
8. The prospect before us was of a very different nature. We beheld an expanse of snow and ice, which alarmed us exceedingly, and almost staggered our resolution. In the center of this we descried the high summit of the mountain, rearing its tremendous head, and vomiting out torrents of smoke. The ascent, for some time, was not steep, and, as the surface of the snow sank a little, we had tolerably good footing; but, as it soon began to grow steeper, we found our labor greatly increased.
9. However, we determined to persevere, calling to mind, in the midst of our labor, that the Emperor Adrian and the philosopher Plato had undergone the same; and from a like motive, too,– to see the rising sun from the top of Etna. At this point we at length arrived. But here description must ever fall short; for no imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious and so magnificent a scene; nēither is there, on the surface of this globe, any one point that unites so many awful and sublime objects.
10. The immense elevation from the surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a single point, without any neighboring mountain for the senses and imagination to rest upon, and recover from their astonishment, in their way down to the world; this point, or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a bottomless gulf, as old as the world, often discharging rivers of fire, and throwing out burning rocks, with a noise that shakes the whole island; the unbounded extent of the prospect, comprehending the greatest diversity, and the most beautiful scenery in nature, with the rising sun advancing in the east to illumine the wondrous scene,-formed a combination to which I do not know a parallel
11. The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and showed, dimly and faintly, the boundless prospect around. Both sea and land looked dark and confused, as if only emerging from their original chaos; and light and darkness seemed still undivided, till the morning, by degrees advancing, completed the separa tion. The stars are extinguished, and the shades disappear. The forests, which but now seemed black ord bottomless gulfs, from which no ray was reflected ť show their form or colors, appear a new creation rising to the sight, and cătching life and beauty from every increasing beam.
12. The scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems to widen and expand itself on all sides, till the sun, like the great Creator, appears in the east, and with his plastic rays completes the mighty scene. All appears enchantment, and it is with difficulty we can believe we are still on earth. The senses, unaccustomed to the sublimity of such a scene, are bewildered and confounded; and it is not till after some time that they are capable of separating and judging of the objects that compose it. The body of the sun is seen rising from the ocean, immense tracts both of sea and land intervening. The islands of Lipari, Pana'ri, Alicu'di, Strom'boli, and Volca'no, with their smoking summits, appear under your feet.
13. You look down on the whole of Sicily, as on a map, and can trace every river, through all its windings, from its source to its mouth. The view is absolutely boundless on every side, nor is there any one object within the circle of vision to interrupt it; so that the sight is every where lost in the immensity; and I am persuaded it is only from the imperfection of our organs that the coasts of Africa, and even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are certainly above the horizon. The circumference of the visible horizon, on the top of Etna, can not be less than two thousand miles.
14, The highest point of the mountain is 10,874 feet above the level of the sea. About eleven hundred feet from the summit there is an irregular plane, estimated to be nine miles in circumference, and from this plane rises the steep terminating cone, at the top of which is the great crater or opening, continually throwing out sulphureous vapors, and which is so hot that it is very dangerous to go down into it.
PATRICK BRYDONE. (1743 – 1818.)
Do not say ware, wisper, &c., for where, whis'per, &c. Heed the aspirate.
Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? - JOB xiv. 10.
“And where is he?” Not by the side
Of her whose wants he loved to tend;
Where, sweetly lost, he oft would wend.
Those scenes admired no more shall see ;
And she as fair, but where is he?
No, no! the radiance is not dim,
That used to gild his favorite hill ;
Are dear to life and nature still.
Neglected must his garden be;
And seem to whisper, Where is he?
His was the pomp, the crowded hall;
But where is now the proud display?
Desire could frame; but where are they?
Protected by the circling sea,
Seemed proudly strong ; and where is he?
The church-yard bears an added stone;
The fire-side shows a vacant chair ;.
And Death displays his banner there!