Now then I must leave this lovely state of Venice, where if the paupers in every town of it did not crowd about one, tormenting passengers with unextinguishable clamour, and surrounding them with sights of horror unfit to be surveyed by any eyes except those of the surgeon, who should alleviate their anguish, or at least conceal their truly unspeakable distresses—one should break one’s heart almost at the thoughts of quitting people who show such tenderness towards their friends, that less than ocular conviction would scarce persuade me to believe such wandering misery could remain disregarded among the most amiable and pleasing people in the world. His excellency Bragadin half promised me that some steps should be taken at Venice at least, to remove a nuisance so disgraceful; and said, that when I came again, I should walk about the town in white sattin slippers, and never see a beggar from one end of it to the other.
On the twenty-sixth of May then, with the senator Quirini’s letters to Corilla, with the Countess of Starenberg’s letters to some Tuscan friends of her’s; and with the light of a full moon, if we should want it, we set out again in quest of new adventures, and mean to sleep this night under the pope’s protection:—may God but grant us his!
We have crossed the Po, which I expected to have found more magnificent, considering the respectable state I left it in at Cremona; but scarcely any thing answers that expectation which fancy has long been fermenting in one’s mind.
I took a young woman once with me to the coast of Sussex, who, at twenty-seven years old and a native of England, had never seen the sea; nor any thing else indeed ten miles out of London:—And well, child! said I, are not you much surprised?—“It is a fine sight, to be sure,” replied she coldly, “but,”—but what? you are not disappointed are you?—“No, not disappointed, but it is not quite what I expected when I saw the ocean.” Tell me then, pray good girl, and tell me quickly, what did you expect to see? “Why I expected,” with a hesitating accent, “I expected to see a great deal of water.” This answer set me then into a fit of laughter, but I have now found out that I am not a whit wiser than Peggy: for what did I figure to myself that I should find the Po? only a great deal of water to be sure; and a very great deal of water it certainly is, and much more, God knows, than I ever saw before, except between the shores of Calais and Dover; yet I did feel something like disappointment too; when my imagination wandering over all that the poets had said about it, and finding earth too little to contain their fables, recollected that they had thought Eridanus worthy of a place among the constellations, I wished to see such a river as was worthy all these praises, and even then, says I,
O’er golden sands let
rich Pactolus flow.
And trees weep amber on the banks of Po.