The very rain is strange: it is charged with obscure personality; it is the habitation of a new presence, a storm-genius that I have never known; it in born of Etna, whence all things here have being and draw nourishment. It is not rain, but the rain-cloud, spread out over the valleys, the precipices, the sounding beaches, the ocean plain; it is not a storm, but a season. It does not rise with the moist Hyades, or ride with cloudy Orion in the Mediterranean night; it does not pass like Atlantic tempests on great world-currents: it remains. Its home is upon Etna; thence it comes and thither it returns; it gathers and disperses, lightens and darkens, blows and is silent, and though it suffer the clear north wind, or the west, to divide its veils with heaven, again it draws the folds together about its abode. It obeys only Etna, who sends it forth; then with clouds and thick darkness the mountain hides its face: it is the Sicilian winter.
But Etna does not withdraw continuously from its children even in this season. On the third day, at farthest, I was told it would bring back the sun; and I was not deceived. Two days it was closely wrapped in impenetrable gray; but the third morning, as I threw open my casement and stepped out upon the terrace, I saw it, like my native winter, expanding its broad flanks under the double radiance of dazzling clouds spreading from its extreme summit far out and upward, and of the snow-fields whose long fair drifts shone far down the sides. Villages and groves were visible, clothing all the lower zone, and between lay the plain. It seemed near in that air, but it is twelve miles away. From the sea-dipping base to the white cone the slope measures more than twenty miles, and as many more conduct the eye downward to the western fringe—a vast bulk; yet one does not think of its size as he gazes; so large a tract the eye takes in, but no more realizes than it does the distance of the stars. High up, forests