« PreviousContinue »
they lie at a smaller or greater distance from France, It may
be here worth while to consider how it comes to pass, that the common people of Italy have in general so very great an aversion to the French, which every traveller cannot but be sensible of, that has passed through the country. The most obvious reason is, certainly the great difference that there is in the humours and manners of the two nations, which always works more in the meaner sort, who are not able to vanquish the prejudices of education, than with the nobility. Besides, that the French humour, in regard of the liberties they take in female conversations, and their great ambition to excel in all companies, is in a more particular manner very shocking to the Italians, who are naturally jealous, and value themselves upon their great wisdom. At the same time the common people of Italy, who run more into news and politics than those of other countries, have all of them something to exasperate them against the king of France. The Savoyards, notwithstanding the present inclinations of their court, cannot forbear resenting the infinite mischiefs he did them in the last war. The Milanese and Neapolitans remember the many insults he has offered to the house of Austria, and particularly to their deceased king, for whom they still retain a natural kind of honour and affection. The Genoese cannot forget his treatment of their doge, and his bombarding their city. The Venetians will tell you of his leagues with the Turks; and the Romans, of his threats to Pope Innocent the Eleventh, whose memory they adore. It is true, that interest of state and change of circumstances may have sweetened these reflections to the politer sort, but impressions are not so easily worn out of the minds of the vulgar. That, however, which I take to be the principal motive among most of the Italians, for their favouring the Germans above the French, is this, that they are entirely persuaded it is for the interest of Italy to have Milan and Naples rather in the hands of the first than of the other. One may generally observe, that the body of a people has juster views for the public good, and pursues them with greater uprightness than the nobility and gentry, who have so many private expectations and particular interests which hang like a false bias upon their judgments, and may possibly dispose them to sacrifice the good of their country to the advancement of their own fortunes; whereas the gross of the people can have no other prospect in changes and revolutions, than of public blessings, that are to diffuse themselves through the whole state in general.
To return to Milan: I shall here set down the description Ausonius has given of it, among the rest of his great cities.
Et Mediolani mira omnia, copia rerum:
BRESCIA, VERONA, PADUA.
From Milan we travelled through a very pleasant country to Brescia, and by the way crossed the river Adda, that falls into the Lago di Como, which Virgil calls the lake Larius, and running out at the other end loses itself at last in the Po, which is the great receptacle of all the rivers of this country. The town and province of Brescia have freer access to the senate of Venice, and a quicker redress of injuries, than any other part of their dominions. They have always a mild and prudent governor, and live much more happily than their fellow-subjects: for as they were once a part of the Milanese, and are now on their frontiers, the Venetians dare not exasperate them, by the loads they lay on other provinces, for fear of a revolt; and are forced to treat them with much more indulgence than the Spaniards do their neighbours, that they may have no temptation to it. Brescia is famous for its iron-works. A small day's journey more brought us to Verona. We saw the lake Benacus in our way, which the Italians now call Lago di Garda: it was so rough with tempests when we passed by it, that it brought into my mind Virgil's noble description of it.
Adde lacus tantos, te Lari maxime, teque
So loud the tempest roars, so high the billows rise. This lake perfectly resembles a sea, when it is worked up by storms. It is thirty-five miles in length, and twelve in breadth. At the lower end of it we crossed the Mincio.
-Tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat
VIRG. Georg. iii. v. 14.
Where the slow Mincius through the valley strays;
And reeds defend the winding waters brink. Dryden. The river Adige runs through Verona; so much is the situation of the town changed from what it was in Silius Italicus's time.
Verona by the circling Adige bound. This is the only great river in Lombardy that does not fall into the Po; which it must have done, had it run but a little further before its entering the Adriatic. The rivers are all of them mentioned by Claudian.
-Venetosque erectior amnes
Sexto Cons. Hon.
Venetia's rivers, summon'd all around,
From nine wide mouths, comes gushing to his course. His Larius is doubtless an imitation of Virgil's Benacus.
littus oliva Larius, et dulci mentitur Nerea fluctu. De Bel. Get. The Larius here, with groves of olives crown'd,
An ocean of fresh water spreads around. I saw at Verona the famous amphitheatre, that, with a few modern reparations, has all the seats entire. There is something very noble in it, though the high wall and corridors that went round it are almost entirely ruined, and the area is quite filled up to the lower seat, which was formerly deep enough to let the
spectators see in safety the combats of the wild beasts
Ut fera quæ nuper montes amisit avitos,
And the vast hissing multitude admires.