“Ha, ha!” said Cetoxa, laughing, “our good Loredano is envious of my diamond. Gentlemen, you sup with me to-night. I assure you I never met a more delightful, sociable, entertaining person, than my dear friend the Signor Zanoni.”
Quello Ippogifo, grande
e strano augello
Lo porta via.
“Orlando Furioso,” c. vi. xviii.
(That hippogriff, great and marvellous bird, bears him away.)
And now, accompanying this mysterious Zanoni, am I compelled to bid a short farewell to Naples. Mount behind me,—mount on my hippogriff, reader; settle yourself at your ease. I bought the pillion the other day of a poet who loves his comfort; it has been newly stuffed for your special accommodation. So, so, we ascend! Look as we ride aloft,—look!—never fear, hippogriffs never stumble; and every hippogriff in Italy is warranted to carry elderly gentlemen,—look down on the gliding landscapes! There, near the ruins of the Oscan’s old Atella, rises Aversa, once the stronghold of the Norman; there gleam the columns of Capua, above the Vulturnian Stream. Hail to ye, cornfields and vineyards famous for the old Falernian! Hail to ye, golden orange-groves of Mola di Gaeta! Hail to ye, sweet shrubs and wild flowers, omnis copia narium, that clothe the mountain-skirts of the silent Lautulae! Shall we rest at the Volscian Anxur,—the modern Terracina,—where the lofty rock stands like the giant that guards the last borders of the southern land of love? Away, away! and hold your breath as we flit above the Pontine Marshes. Dreary and desolate, their miasma is to the gardens we have passed what the rank commonplace of life is to the heart when it has left love behind.
Mournful Campagna, thou openest on us in majestic sadness. Rome, seven-hilled Rome! receive us as Memory receives the way-worn; receive us in silence, amidst ruins! Where is the traveller we pursue? Turn the hippogriff loose to graze: he loves the acanthus that wreathes round yon broken columns. Yes, that is the arch of Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem,—that the Colosseum! Through one passed the triumph of the deified invader; in one fell the butchered gladiators. Monuments of murder, how poor the thoughts, how mean the memories ye awaken, compared with those that speak to the heart of man on the heights of Phyle, or by thy lone mound, grey Marathon! We stand amidst weeds and brambles and long waving herbage. Where we stand reigned Nero,—here were his tessellated floors; here,
“Mighty in the heaven, a second heaven,”
hung the vault of his ivory roofs; here, arch upon arch, pillar on pillar, glittered to the world the golden palace of its master,—the Golden House of Nero. How the lizard watches us with his bright, timorous eye! We disturb his reign. Gather that wild flower: the Golden House is vanished, but the wild flower may have kin to those which the stranger’s hand scattered over the tyrant’s grave; see, over this soil, the grave of Rome, Nature strews the wild flowers still!