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Í must however do this audience the justice to acknow. ledge, that they seemed to feel the pathetic and sublime, as well as the ludicrous, parts of the ancient bard.
This practice of rehearsing the verses of Ariosto, Tasso, and other poets, in the street, I have not observed in any other town of Italy; and I am told it is less common here than it was formerly. I remember, indeed, at Veo nice, to have frequently seen mountebanks, who gained their livelihood by amusing the populace at St. Mark's Place, with wonderful and romantic stories in proše.
Listen, gentlemen,' said one of them : • let me crave your attention, ye beautiful and virtuous ladies; I have something equally affecting and wonderful to tell you ; a strange and stupendous adventure, which happened to a gallant knight.'--Perceiving that this did not sufficiently interest the hearers, he exalted his voice, calling out that his knight was uno Cavalliero Cristiano. The audience seemed still a little fluctuating. He raised his voice a note higher, telling them that this Christian knight was one of their own victorious countrymen,' un'Eroe Ve*: neziano.' This fixed them; and he proceeded to relate how the knight, going to join the Christian army, which was on its march to recover the Sepulchre of Christ from the hands of the infidels, lost his way in a vast wood, and wandered at length to a castle, in which a lady of transcendent beauty was kept prisoner by a gigantic Saracen, who, having failed in all his endeavours to gain the heart of this peerless damsel, resolved to gratify his passion by force, and had actually begun the horrid attempt, when the shrieks of this chaste maiden reached the ears of the Venetian hero; who, ever ready to relieve virgins in distress, rushed into the apartment from whence the cries issued. The brutal ravisher, alarmed at the noise, quits the struggling lady, at the very instant when her strength began to fail ; draws his flaming sword ; and a dreadful combat begins between him and the Christian knight, who performs miracles of courage and address in resisting the blows of this mighty giant; till, his foot unfortunate
ly slipping in the blood which flowed on the pavement, he fell at the feet of the Saracen ; who, immediately seizing the advantage which chance gave him, raised his sword with all his might, and — Here the orator's hat flew to the ground, open to receive the contributions of the listeners; and he continued repeating, raised his sword over the head of the Christian knight-raised his bloody, murderous brand, to destroy your noble, valiant countryman.'-But he proceeded no farther in his narrative, till all who seemed interested in it had thrown some thing into the hat. He then pocketed the money with great gravity, and went on to inform them, that, at this critical moment, the lady, seeing the danger which threatened her deliverer, redoubled her prayers to the blessed Mary, who, a virgin herself, is peculiarly attentive and propitious to the prayers of virgins. Just as the Saracen's sword was descending on the head of the Venetian, a large bee flew, quick as thought, in at the window, stung the former very smartly on the left temple, diverted the blow, and gave the Christian knight time to recover himself. The fight then recommenced with fresh fury; but, after the Virgin Mary had taken such a decided part you may believe it was no match. The infidel soon fell dead at the feet of the believer. But who do
think this beauteous maiden was, on whose account the combat had begun ? Why no other than the sister of the Venetian hero.—This young lady had been stolen from her father's house, while she was yet a child, by an Armenian merchant, who dealt in no other goods than women. He concealed the child till he found means to carry her to Egypt; where he kept her in bondage, with other young girls, till the age of fifteen, and then sold her to the Sa
I do not exactly remember whether the recognition between the brother and sister was made out by means of a mole on the young lady's neck, or by a bracelet on her arm, which, with some other of her mother's jewels, happened to be in her pocket when she was stolen; but, in whatever manner this came about, there was
the greatest joy on the happy occasion ; and the lady joined the army with her brother, and one of the Christ. ian commanders fell in love with her, and their nuptials were solemnized at Jerusalem; and they returned to Venice, and had a very numerous family of the finest child. ren you ever beheld.
At Rome, those street-orators sometimes entertain their audience with interesting passages of real history. I remember having heard one in particular, give a full and true account how the bloody heathen emperor Nero set fire to the city of Rome, and sat at a window of his golden palace, playing on a harp, while the town was in flames. After which the historian proceeded to relate, how this unnatural emperor murdered his own mother; and he concluded by giving the audience the satisfaction of hearing a particular detail of all the ignominious circumstances attending the murderer's own death.
This business of street-oratory, while it amuses the pos pulace, and keeps them from less innocent and more expensive pastimes, gives them at the same time some general ideas of history. Street-orators, therefore, are a more useful set of men than another class, of which there are numbers at Rome, who entertain companies with extemporaneous verses on any given subject. The last are called Improuvisatoris ; and some people admire these performances greatly. For my own part, I am too poor a judge of the Italian language either to admire or condemn them; but, from the nature of the thing, I should imagine they are but indifferent. It is said, that the Italian is peculiarly calculated for poetry, and that verses may be made with more facility in this than in any other language. It may be more easy to find smooth lines, and make them terminate in rhime in Italian, than in any language; but to compose verses with all the qualities essential to good poetry, I imagine leisure and long reflection are requisite. Indeed I understand, from those who are judges, that those extempore compositions of the Improuvisatori are in general but mean productions, consisting of a few fulsome
compliments to the company, and some common-place obe servations, put into rhime, on the subject proposed. There is, however, a lady of an amiable character, Signora Corilla, whose extempore productions, which she repeats in the most graceful manner, are admired by people of real taste. While we were at Rome, this lady made an appearance one evening, at the assembly of the Arcadi, which charmed a very numerous company; and of which our friend Mr. Ramsay has given me such an account, as makes me regret that I was not present. After much entreaty, a subject being given, she began, accompanied by two violins, and sung lier tinpremeditated strains with great variety of thought and elegance of language. The whole of her performance lasted above an liour, with three or four pauses, of about five minutes each, which seemed necessary, more that she might recover her strength and voice, than for recollection ; for that gentleman said, that nothing could have more the air of inspiration, or what we are told of the Pythian prophetess. At her first setting out, her manner was sedate, or rather cold ; but gradually becoming animated, her voice rose, her eyes sparkled, and the rapidity and beauty of her expressions and ideas seemed supernatural. She at last called on another member of the society to sing alternately with her, which he complied with ; but Mr. Ramsay thought, though they were Arcades ambo, they were by no means cantare pares.
Naples is celebrated for the finest opera in Europe. This however happens not to be the season of performing; but the common people enjoy their operas at all seasons. Little concerts of vocal and instrumental music are heard every evening in the Strada Nuova, the Chiaca, the Strada di Toledo, and other streets : and young men and women are seen dancing to the music of ambulatory performers all along this delightful bay. To a mere spectator, the amusements of the common people afford more delight, than those of the great; because they seem to be more enjoyed by the one class, than by the other. This is the case every where, except in France; where the high appear as bappy as those of middle rank, and the rich are very near as merry as the poor. But, in 'most other countries, the people of great rank and fortune, though they flock to every kind of entertainment, from not knowing what to do with themselves, yet seem to enjoy them less than those of inferior rapk and fortune.
* Both Arcadeans, but not equally skilled in singing,
The English particularly are said to be in this predicament. This may be true in some degree ; though I imagine there is more appearance than reality in it; owing: to an absurd affectation of indifference, or what the French call nonchalance, which has prevailed of late years. A few insipid characters in high life, whose internal vacancy leads them to seek amusement in public places, and whose insensibility prevents them from finding it, have probably brought this appearance of a want of all enjoyment into fashion. Those who wish to be thought of what is called the ton, imitate the mawkish josipidity of their superiors in rank, and imagine it distinguishes them from the yulgar, to suppress all the natural expressions of pity, joy, or admiration, and to seem, upon all occasions, in a state of complete apathy. Those amiable creatures frequent public places, that it may be said of them, they are not as other men are. You will see them occasionally at the playhouse placed in the boxes, like so many busts, with unchanging features; and, while the rest of the audience yield to the emotions excited by the poet and the actors, those men of the ton preserve the most dignified serenity of countenance; and, except that they from time to time pronounce the words Pshaw! and Stuff!-one would think them the express representatives of the Pagan gods, who have eyes but do not see, and ears but do not hear. I know not what may be the case at the opera;
but I can assure you there are none of those busts among the auditories which the street-performers at Naples gather around them. I saw very lately a large cluster of men, womell, and children, entertained to the highest degree, and to all appearance made exceedingly happy, by a poor fellow