The second hermitage, for I give them in the order they are usually visited, is that of St. Catharine, situated in a deep and solitary vale: it however commands a most extensive and pleasing prospect, at noon-day, to the East and West. The buildings, garden, &c. are confined within small limits, being fixed in a most picturesque and secure recess under the foot of one of the high pines. Though this hermit’s habitation is the most retired and solitary abode of any, and far removed from the din of men, yet the courteous, affable, and sprightly inhabitant, seems not to feel the loss of human society, though no man, I think, can be a greater ornament to human nature. If he is not much accustomed to hear the voice of men, he is amply recompensed by the notes of birds; for it is their sanctuary as well as his; for no part of the mountain is so well inhabited by the feathered race of beings as this delightful spot. Perhaps indeed, they have sagacity enough to know that there is no other so perfectly secure. Here the nightingale, the blackbird, the linnet, and an infinite variety of little songsters greater strangers to my eyes, than fearful of my hands, dwell in perfect security, and live in the most friendly intimacy with their holy protector, and obedient to his call; for, says the hermit,
“Haste here, ye feather’d
race of various song,
Bring all your pleasing melody along!
O come, ye tender, faithful, plaintive doves,
Perch on my hands, and sing your absent loves!”—
When instantly the whole vocal band quit their sprays, and surround the person of their daily benefactor, some settling upon his head, others entangle their feet in his beard, and in the true sense of the word, take his bread even out of his mouth; but it is freely given: their confidence is so great, (for the holy father is their bondsman) that the stranger too partakes of their familiarity and caresses. These hermits are not allowed to keep within their walls either dog, cat, bird, or any living thing, lest their attention should be withdrawn from heavenly to earthly affections. I am sorry to arraign this good man; he cannot be said to transgress the law, but he certainly evades it; for though his feathered band do not live within his walls, they are always attendant upon his court; nor can any prince or princess on earth boast of heads so elegantly plumed, as may be seen at the court of St. Catharine; or of vassals who pay their tributes with half the chearfulness they are given and received by the humble monarch of this sequestered vale. If his meals are scanty, his dessert is served up with a song, and he is hushed to sleep by the nightingale; and when we consider, that he has but few days in the whole year which are inferior to some of our best in the months of May and June, you may easily conceive, that