Would you see this land as I see it? Come then, since Etna gives a fair, pure morning, up over the shelving bank to the great eastern spur of Taormina, where stood the hollow theatre, now in ruins, and above it the small temple with which the Greeks surmounted the highest point. It is such a spot as they often chose for their temples; but none ever commanded a more noble prospect. The far-shining sea, four or five hundred feet below, washes the narrow, precipitous descent, and on each hand is disclosed the whole of that side of Sicily which faces the rising sun. To the left and northward are the level straits, with the Calabrian mountains opposite, thinly sown with light snow, as far as the Cape of Spartivento, distinctly seen, though forty miles away; in front expands the open sea; straight to the south runs the indented coast, bay and beach, point after point, to where, sixty miles distant, the great blue promontory of Syracuse makes far out. On the land-side Etna fills the south with its lifted snow-fields, now smoke-plumed at the languid cone; and thence, though lingeringly, the eye ranges nearer over the intervening plain to the well-wooded ridge of Castiglione, and, next, to the round solitary top of Monte Maestra, with its long shoreward descent, and comes to rest on the height of Taormina overhead, with its hermitage of Santa Maria della Rocca, its castle, and Mola. Yet further off, at the hand of the defile, looms the barren summit of Monte Venere, with Monte d’Oro and other hills in the foreground, and northward, peak after peak, travels the close Messina range.
A landscape of sky, sea, plain, and mountains, great masses majestically grouped, grand in contour! Yet to call it sublime does not render the impression it makes upon the soul. Sublime, indeed, it is at times, and dull were he whose heart from hour to hour awe does not visit here; but constantly the scene is beautiful, and yields that delight which dwells unwearied with the soul. One may be seldom touched to the exaltation which sublimity implies, but to take pleasure in loveliness is the habit of one who lives as heaven made him; and what characterizes this landscape and sets it apart is the permanence of its beauty, its perpetual and perfect charm through every change of light and weather, and in every quarter of its heaven and earth, felt equally whether the eye sweeps the great circuit with its vision, or pauses on the nearer features, for they, too, are wonderfully