« ZurückWeiter »
And rising from Hesperia's wat’ry veins,
Phaeton mistook his way,
Quench'd the dire flame that set the world on fire.
Non minor hic Nilo, si non per plana jacentis
In Scythian seas the glut of rivers throws. That is, says Scaliger, the Eridanus would be bigger than the Nile and Danube, if the Nile and Danube were not bigger than the Eridanus. What makes the poet's remark the more improper, the very reason why the Danube is greater than the Po, as he assigns it, is that which really makes the Po as great as it is; for before its fall into the gulf, it receives into its channel the most considerable rivers of Piemont, Milan, and the rest of Lombardy.
From Venice to Ancona the tide comes in very sensibly at its stated periods, but rises more or less in proportion as it advances nearer the head of the gulf. Lucan has run out of his way to describe the phenomenon, which is indeed very extraordinary to those who lie out of the neighbourhood of the great ocean, and, according to his usual custom, lets his poem stand still that he may give way to his own reflections.
Quáque jacet littus dubium, quod terra fretumque
Oceanus, vel cum refugis se fluctibus aufert.
Wash'd with successive seas, the doubtful strand
Nor, into what the gods conceal, presumptuously inquire. At Ferrara I met with nothing extraordinary. The town is very large, but extremely thin of people. It has a citadel, and something like a fortification running round it, but so large that it requires more soldiers to defend it, than the pope has in his whole dominions. The streets are as beautiful as any I have seen, in their length, breadth, and regularity. The Benedictines have the finest convent of the place. They showed us in the church Ariosto's monument: his epitaph says, he was Nobilitate generis atque animi clarus, in rebus publicis administrandis, in regendis populis, in gravissimis et summis Pontificis legationibus prudentid consilio, eloquentid præstantissimus.
I came down a branch of the Po, as far as Alberto, within ten miles of Ravenna. All this space lies miserably uncultivated till you come near Ravenna, where the soil is made extremely fruitful, and shows what much of the rest might be, were there hands enough to manage it to the best advantage. It is now on both sides the road very marshy, and generally overgrown with rushes, which made me fancy it was once floated by the sea, that lies within four miles of it. Nor could I in the least doubt it when I saw Ravenna, that is now almost at the same distance from the Adriatic, though it was formerly the most famous of all the Roman ports. One
may guess at its ancient situation from Martial's Meliúsque Ranæ garriant Ravennates.
Lib. 3. Ravenna's frogs in better music croak. and the description that Silius Italicus, has given us of it.
Quaque gravi remo limosis segniter undis
With heavy strokes the thick unwieldy tide. Accordingly the old geographers represent it as situated among marshes and shallows. The place which is shown for the haven, is on a level with the town, and has probably been stopped up by the great heaps of dirt that the sea has thrown into it; for all the soil on that side of Ravenna has been left there insensibly by the sea's discharging itself upon it for so many ages, The ground must have been formerly much lower, for otherwise the town would have lain under water. The remains of the Pharos, that stand about three miles from the sea, and two from the town, have their foundations covered with earth for some yards, as they told me, which notwithstanding are upon a level with the fields that lie about them, though it is probable they took the advantage of a rising ground to set it upon. It was a square tower of about twelve yards in breadth, as appears by that part of it which yet remains entire, so that its height must have been very considerable to have preserved a proportion. It is made in the form of the Venetian Campanello, and is probably the high tower mentioned by Pliny, lib. 36. cap. 12.
On the side of the town, where the sea is supposed to have lain formerly, there is now a little church called
• Which] i. e. what now appear to be their foundations.
They] Who? This whole sentence is wretchedly expressed.
the Rotonda. At the entrance of it are two stones, the one with an inscription in Gothic characters, that has nothing in it remarkable; the other is a square piece of marble, that by the inscription appears ancient, and by the ornaments about it shows itself to have been a little Pagan monument of two persons who were shipwrecked, perhaps in the place where now their monument stands. The first line and a half, that tells their names and families in prose, is not legible; the rest runs thus:
-Raniæ domus hos produrit alumnos,
Et duplices luctus mors periniqua dedit. Both with the same indulgent master bless'd, On the same day their liberty possess'd : A shipwreck slew whom it had join'd before, And left their common friends their fun’rals to deplore. There is a turn in the third verse that we lose, by not knowing the circumstances of their story. It was the naufraga mors which destroyed them, as it had formerly united them; what this union was is expressed in the preceding verse, by their both having been made freemen on the same day. If, therefore, we suppose they had been formerly shipwrecked with their master, and that he made them free at the same time, the epigram is unriddled. Nor is this interpretation perhaps so forced as it may seem at first sight, since it was the custom of the masters, a little before their death, to give their slaves their freedom, if they had deserved it at their hands; and it is natural enough to suppose one, involved in a common shipwreck, would give such of his slaves their liberty, as should have the good luck to save themselves. The chancel of this church is vaulted with a single stone of four foot in thickness, and a hundred and fourteen in circumference. There stood on the outside of this little cupola a great tomb of porphyry, and the statues of the twelve apostles ; but in the war that Louis the twelfth made on Italy, the tomb was broken in pieces by a cannon-ball. It was perhaps the same blow that made the flaw in the cupola, though
the inhabitants say it was cracked by thunder that destroyed a son of one of their Gothic princes, who had taken shelter under it, as having been foretold what kind of death he was to die. I asked an abbot that was in the church, what was the name of this Gothic prince, who, after a little recollection, answered me, That he could not tell precisely, but that he thought it was one Julius Cæsar.” There is a convent of Theatins, where they show a little window in the church, through which the Holy Ghost is said to have entered in the shape of a dove, and to have settled on one of the candidates for the bishopric. The dove is represented in the window, and in several places of the church, and is in great reputation all over Italy. I should not, indeed, think it impossible for a pigeon to fly in accidentally through the roof, where they still keep the hole open, and, by its fluttering over such a particular place, to give so superstitious an assembly an occasion of favouring a competitor, especially if he had many friends among the electors that would make a politic use of such an accident: but they pretend the miracle has happened more than once. Among the pictures of several famous men of their order, there is one with this inscription. P. D. Thomas Gouldvellus Ep. As. Trid. concilio contra Hereticos, et in Anglia contra Elisabet. Fidei Confessor conspicuus. The statue of Alexander the Seventh stands in the large square of the town; it is cast in brass, and has the posture that is always given the figure of a pope; an arm extended, and blessing the people. In another square on a high pillar is set the statue of the Blessed Virgin, arrayed like a queen, with a sceptre in her hand, and a crown upon her head; for having delivered the town from a raging pestilence. The custom of crowning the Holy Virgin is so much in vogue among the Italians, that one often sees in their churches a little tinsel crown, or perhaps a circle of stars glued to the canvass over the head of the figure, which sometimes spoils a good picture. In the convent of Benedictines I saw three huge chests of marble, with