« PreviousContinue »
place. Monsieur Misson has wrote a more correct account of Italy in general than any before him, as he particularly excels in the plan of the country, which he has given us in true and lively colours.
There are still several of these topics that are far from being exhausted, as there are many new subjects that a traveller may find to employ himself upon. For my own part, as I have taken notice of several places and antiquities that nobody else has spoken of, so, I think, I have mentioned but few things in common with others, that are not either set in a new light, or accompanied with different reflections. I have taken care particularly to consider the several passages of the ancient poets, which have any relation to the places and curiosities that I met with; for, before I entered on my voyage, I took care to refresh my memory among the classic authors, and to make such collections out of them as I might afterwards have occasion for. I must confess it was not one of the least entertainments that I met with in travelling, to examine these several descriptions, as it were, upon the spot, and to compare the natural face of the country with the landscapes that the poets have given us of it. However, to avoid the confusion that might arise from a multitude of quotations, I have only cited such verses as have given us some image of the place, or that have something else besides the bare name of it to recommend them.
On the twelfth of December, 1699, I set out from Marseilles to Genoa in a tartane, and arrived late at a small French port, called Cassis, where the next morning we were not a little surprised to see the mountains about the town covered with green olivetrees, or laid out in beautiful gardens, which gave us a great variety of pleasing prospects, even in the depth of winter. The most uncultivated of them produce abundance of sweet plants, as wild thyme, lavender, rosemary, balm, and myrtle. We were here shown at a distance the Deserts, which have been rendered so famous by the penance of Mary Magdalene, who, after her arrival with Lazarus and Joseph of Arimathea at Marseilles, is said to have wept away the rest of her life
among these solitary rocks and mountains. It is so romantic a scene, that it has always probably given occasion to such chimerical relations; for it is perhaps of this place, that Claudian speaks, in the following description:
Et locus extremum pandit quà Gallia littus
GL. In. Ruf. lib. 1.
A place there lies, on Gallia's utmost bounds,
I know there is nothing more undetermined among the learned than the voyage of Ulysses: some confining it to the Mediterranean, others extending it to the great ocean, and others ascribing it to a world of the poet's own making; though his conversations with the dead are generally supposed to have been in the Narbon Gaul.
Incultos adiit Læstrigonas Antiphatenque, &c.
In new imaginary worlds was lost. The next day we again set sail, and made the best of our way, till we were forced, by contrary winds, into St. Remo, a very pretty town in the Genoese dominions. The front to the sea is not large, but there are a great many houses behind it, built up the side of the mountain to avoid the winds and vapours that come from the sea. We here saw several persons, that, in the midst of December, had nothing over their shoulders but their shirts, without complaining of the cold. It is certainly very lucky for the poorer sort, to be born in a place that is free from the greatest inconvenience, to which those of our northern nations are subject; and indeed without this natural benefit of their climates, the extreme misery and poverty that are in inost of the Italian governments would be insupportable. There are at St. Remo many plantations of palm-trees, though they do not grow in other parts of Italy. We sailed from hence directly for Genoa, and had a fair wind that carried us into the middle of the gulf, which is very remarkable for tempests and scarcity of fish. It is probable one may be the cause of the other, whether it be that the fishermen cannot employ their art with so much success in so troubled a sea, or that the fish do not care for inhabiting such stormy waters.
And from the fisher's art defends her finny shoals. We were forced to lie in it two days, and our captain thought his ship in so great danger, that he fell upon his knees, and confessed hiniself to a capuchin who was on board with us. But at last, taking the advantage of a side wind, we were driven back in a few hours time as far as Monaco. Lucan has given us a description of the harbour that we found so very welcome to us, after the great danger we had escaped.
Quèque sub Herculeo sacratus nomine portus
And sudden tempests rage within the port. On the promontory, where the town of Monaco now stands, was formerly the temple of Hercules Monæcus, which still gives the name to the small principality.
Aggeribus socer Alpinis atque arce Monæci
VIRG. Æn. 6. There are but three towns in the dominions of the prince of Monaco. The chief of them is situate on a rock which runs out into the sea, and is well fortified by nature. It was formerly under the protection of the Spaniards, but not many years since drove out the Spanish garrison, and received a French one, which consists at present of five hundred men, paid and officered by the French king. The officer who showed me the palace told me, with a great deal of gravity, that his master and the king of France, amidst all the confusions of Europe, had ever been good friends and allies. The palace has handsome apartments, that are many of them hung with pictures of the reigning beauties in the court of France. But the best of the furniture was at Rome, where the prince of Monaco resided at that time ambassador. We here took a little boat to creep along the sea-shore as far as Genoa; but at Savona, finding the sea too rough, we were forced to make the best of our way by land, over very rugged mountains and precipices: for this road is much more difficult than that over Mount Cennis.
The Genoese are esteemed extremely cunning, industrious, and inured to hardship above the rest of the Italians, which was likewise the character of the old Ligurians. And indeed it is no wonder, while the barrenness of their country continues, that the manners of the inhabitants do not change: since there is nothing makes men sharper, and sets their hands and wits more at work, than want. The Italian proverb says of the Genoese, that they have 'a sea without fish, land without trees, and men without faith.' The character the Latin poets have given of them is not much different. Assuetumque malo Ligurem.
VIRG. Georg 2.
Sil. Ir. el. 8.
Aus. Eid. 12.