The country we came through to Cremona is rich and fertile, the roads deep and miry of course; very few of the Lombardy poplars, of which I expected to see so many: but Phaeton’s sisters seem to have danced all away from the odoriferous banks of the Po, to the green sides of the Thames, I think; meantime here is no other timber in the country but a few straggling ash, and willows without end. The old Eridanus, however, makes a majestic figure at Cremona, and frights the inhabitants when it overflows. There are not many to be frighted though, for the town is thinly peopled; but exquisitely clean, perhaps for that very reason; and the cathedral, of a mixed Grecian and Gothic architecture, has a respectable appearance; while two enormous lions, of red marble, frown at its door, and the crucifixion, painted by Pordenone, with a rough but powerful pencil, strikes one at the entrance: I have seen nothing finer than the figure of the Centurion upon the fore-ground, who seems to cry out, with soldier-like courage and apostolic fervour, Truly this is the Son of God.
The great clock here too is very curious: having, besides the twenty-four hours, a minute and second finger, like a stop watch, and shews the phases of the moon, with her triple rotation clearly to all who walk across the piazza. Yet I trust the dwellers at Cremona are no better astronomers than those who live in other places; to what purpose then all these representations with which Italy is crowded; processions, paintings, &c. besides the moral dances, as they call them now? One word of solid instruction to the ear, conveys more knowledge to the mind at last, than all these marionettes presented to the eye.
The tower of Cremona is of a surprising height and elegant form; we climbed, not without some difficulty, to its top, and saw the flat plains of Lombardy stretched out all round us. Prospects, however, and high towers have I seen; that in Mr. Hoare’s grounds, dedicated to King Alfred, is a much finer structure than this, and the view from it much more variegated certainly; I think of greater extent; though there is more dignity in these objects, while the Po twists through them, and distant mountains mingle with the sky at the end of a lengthened horizon.
What I have never seen till now, we were made to observe in the octagon gallery which crowns this pretty structure, where in every compartment there are channels cut in the stone to guide the eye or rest the telescope, that so a spectator need not be fruitlessly teized, as one almost always is, by those who shew one a prospect, with Look there! See there! &c. At this place nothing needs be done but lay the glass or put the eye even with the lines which point to Bergamo, Mantua, or where you please; and look there becomes superfluous as offensive.