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17

RECOLLECTIONS

OF

ITALY

ROME AND ITS ENVIRONS.

TO MONSIEUR DE FONTANES.

me.

My dear friend,

I AM just arrived at Rome from Naples, and send you all my journey has produced, for you have a right to this all —a few laurel leaves snatched from the tomb of Virgil, whom “ tenet nunc Parthenope." I should long since have given you a description of this classic region, but various circumstances have hindered

I will not leave Rome, however, without saying a few words about so celebrated a city. We agreed that I was to address you without ceremony; and to tell you at a venture whatever impressions were made upon me in Italy, as I formerly related to you what ideas I had formed, while wandering through the solitudes of the New World. Without further preamble, then, I will attempt to give you an account of the environs of Rome, that is to say, the adjacent country and the ruins.

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You have read all that has been written on this subject, but I do not know whether travellers have given you a very just idea of the picture, which the Roman territory presents. Figure 10 yourself something of the desolation at Tyre and Babylon, as described in scripture--silence and solitude as vast as the noise and tumult of men, who formerly crowded together on this spot. One

may

almost fancy that the prophet's curse is still heard, when he announced that two things should happen on a single day, sterility and widowhood.* You see here and there some remains of Roman roads, in places where nobody ever passes, and some dried-up tracks of winter torrents, which at a distance have themselves the appearance of large frequented roads, but which are in reality the beds of waters, formerly rushing onwards with impetuosity, though they have now passed away like the Roman nation. It is with some difficulty that you discover any trees, but on every side you behold the ruins of aqueducts and tombs, which appear to be the forests and indigenous plants of this land -composed as it is of mortal dust, and the wrecks of empires. I have often thought that I beheld rich crops in a plain, but on approaching them, found that my eye had been deceived by withered grass. Under this barren her. bage traces of ancient culture may sometimes be discovered. Here are no birds, no labourers, no lowing of cattle, no villages. A few miserably managed farms appear amidst tlie general nakedness of the country, but the windows and doors of the habitations are closed. No smoke, no noise, no inhabitant proceeds from them. A sort of savage, in tattered garments, pale and emaciated by fever, guards these melancholy dwellings, like the spectres who defend the entrance of abandoned castles in our gothic legends. It may be said, therefore, that no

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* Isaiah.

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