With all this not ill-founded complaint of these our active companions, my constant wonder is, that the grapes hang untouched this 20th of September, in vast heavy clusters covered with bloom; and unmolested by insects, which, with a quarter of this heat in England, are encouraged to destroy all our fruit in spite of the gardener’s diligence to blow up nests, cover the walls with netting, and hang them about with bottles of syrup, to court the creatures in, who otherwise so damage every fig and grape and plum of ours, that nothing but the skins are left remaining by now. Here no such contrivances are either wanted or thought on; and while our islanders are sedulously bent to guard, and studious to invent new devices to protect their half dozen peaches from their half dozen wasps, the standard trees of Italy are loaded with high-flavoured and delicious fruits.
Here figs sky-dy’d a
purple hue disclose,
Green looks the olive, the pomegranate glows;
Here dangling pears exalted scents unfold,
And yellow apples ripen into gold.
The roadside is indeed hedged with festoons of vines, crawling from olive to olive, which they plant in the ditches of Tuscany as we do willows in Britain: mulberry trees too by the thousand, and some pollarded poplars serve for support to the glorious grapes that will now soon be gathered. What least contributes to the beauty of the country however, is perhaps most subservient to its profits. I am ashamed to write down the returns of money gained by the oil alone in this territory and that of Lucca, where I was much struck with the colour as well as the excellence of this useful commodity. Nor can I tell why none of that green cast comes over to England, unless it is, that, like essential oil of chamomile, it loses the tint by exposure to the air.
An olive tree, however, is no elegantly-growing or happily-coloured plant: straggling and dusky, one is forced to think of its produce, before one can be pleased with its merits, as in a deformed and ugly friend or companion.
The fogs now begin to fall pretty heavily in a morning, and rising about the middle of the day, leave the sun at liberty to exert his violence very powerfully. At night come forth the inhabitants, like dor-beetles at sunset on the coast of Sussex; then is their season to walk and chat, and sing and make love, and run about the street with a girl and a guittar; to eat ice and drink lemonade; but never to be seen drunk or quarrelsome, or riotous. Though night is the true season of Italian felicity, they place not their happiness in brutal frolics, any more than in malicious titterings; they are idle and they are merry: it is, I think, the worst we can say of them; they are idle because there is little for them to do, and merry because they have little given them to think about. To the busy Englishman they might well apply these verses of his own Milton in the Masque of Comus: