“—the old majestic
Stand ghost-like in the Caesar’s home,
As if their conscious roots were set
In the old graves of giant Rome,
And drew their sap all kingly yet!”
* * * * *
“There every mouldering stone
Is broken from some mighty thought,
And sculptures in the dust still breathe
The fire with which their lines were wrought,
And sunder’d arch and plundered tomb
Still thunder back the echo—’Rome!’”
In Rome there is no need that the imagination be excited to call up thrilling emotion or poetic reverie—they are forced on the mind by the sublime spirit of the scene. The roused bard might here pour forth his thoughts in the wildest climaces, and I could believe he felt it all. This is like the Italy of my dreams—that golden realm whose image has been nearly chased away by the earthly reality. I expected to find a land of light and beauty, where every step crushed a flower or displaced a sunbeam—whose very air was poetic inspiration, and whose every scene filled the soul with romantic feelings. Nothing is left of my picture but the far-off mountains, robed in the sapphire veil of the Ausonian air, and these ruins, amid whose fallen glory sits triumphant the spirit of ancient song.
I have seen the flush of morn and eve rest on the Coliseum; I have seen the noon-day sky framed in its broken loopholes, like plates of polished sapphire; and last night, as the moon has grown into the zenith, I went to view it with her. Around the Forum all was silent and spectral—a sentinel challenged us at the Arch of Titus, under which we passed and along the Caesar’s wall, which lay in black shadow. Dead stillness brooded around the Coliseum; the pale, silvery lustre streamed through its arches, and over the grassy walls, giving them a look of shadowy grandeur which day could not bestow. The scene will remain fresh in my memory forever.
TIVOLI AND THE ROMAN CAMPAGNA.
Jan. 9.—A few days ago we returned from an excursion to Tivoli, one of the loveliest spots in Italy. We left the Eternal City by the Gate of San Lorenzo, and twenty minutes walk brought us to the bare and bleak Campagna, which was spread around us for leagues in every direction. Here and there a shepherd-boy in his woolly coat, with his flock of browsing sheep, were the only objects that broke its desert-like monotony.
At the fourth mile we crossed the rapid Anio, the ancient Teverone, formerly the boundary between Latium and the Sabine dominions, and at the tenth, came upon some fragments of the old Tibertine way, formed of large irregular blocks of basaltic lava. A short distance further, we saw across the plain the ruins of the bath of Agrippa, built by the side of the Tartarean Lake. The wind, blowing from it, bore us an overpowering smell of sulphur; the waters of the little river Solfatara, which crosses the road, are of a milky blue color, and carry those of the lake into the Anio. A fragment of the old bridge over it still remains.