Page images

62. Like laurels on the bald first Caesar's head.

Stanza cxliv. line 6. Suetonius informs us that Julius Caesar was particularly gratified by that decree of the senate, which enabled him to wear a wreath of laurel on all occasions. He was anxious, not to show that he was conqueror of the world, but to hide that he was bald. A stranger at Rome would hardly have guessed at the motive, nor should we with. out the help of the historian.

63. While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand.

Stanza xclv. line 1. This is quoted in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; and a notice on the Coliseum may be seen in the Historical Illustrations to the IVth Canto of Childe Harold.

· spared and blest by time.

Stanza cxlvi. line 3. “Though plundered of all its brass, except the ring which was necessary to preserve the aperture above; though exposed to repeated fires, though sometimes flooded by the river, and always open to the rain, no monument of equal antiquity is so well preserved as this rotundo. It passed with little 'alteration from the Pagan into the present worship; and so convenient were its niches for the Christian altar, that Michael Angelo, ever studious of ancient beauty, introduced their design as a model in the Catholic church. Forsyth’s Remarks, etc. on Italy, p. 137. sec. edit.

65. And they who feel for genius may repose Their eyes on honour'd forms, whose busts around them close.

Stanza cxlvii, lines 8 and 9. The Pantheon has been made a receptacle for the busts of modern great, or, at least, distin

guished, men. The flood of light which once fell through the large orb above on the whole circle of divinities, now shines on a numerous assemblage of mortals, some one or two of whom have been almost deified by the veneration of their countrymen.


There is a dungeon, in whose dim drear light.

Stanza exlviii. line 1. This and the three next stanzas allude to the story of the Roman daughter, whieh is recalled to the traveller by the site, or pretended site, of that adventure, now shown at the church of St. Nicholas in carcere. The difficulties attending the full belief of the tale are stated in Historical Illustrations, etc.

67. Turn to the Mole, which Hadrian rear'd on high.

Stanza clii, line 1. The castle of St. Angelo. See

Historical Ilustrations,


Stanza cliil. This and the six next stanzas have a reference to the church of St. Peter's. For a measurement of the comparative length of this basilica, and the other great churches of Europe, see the pavement of St. Peter's, and the Classical Tour through Italy, vol. ii. pag. 125. et seq. chap. IV.


the strange fate Which tumbles mightiest sovereigns.

Stanza clxxi. lines 6 and 7. Mary died on the scaffold; Elizabeth of a broken heart; Charles V. a hermit; Louis XIV. a bankrupt in means and glory; Cromwell of anxiety; and, “the greatest is behind,» Napoleon lives a prisoner. To these sovereigns a long but superfluous list might be added of names equally illustrious and unhappy.

Lo, Nemi! navelld in the woody hills.

Stanza clxxiii. line 1. The village of Nemi was near the Arician retreat of Egeria, and from the shades which em. bosomed the temple of Diana, has preserved to this day its distinctive appellation of The Grove. Nemi is but an evening's ride from the comfortable inn of Albano.


And afar

The Tiber winds, and the broad ocean laves The Latian coast, etc. etc.

Stanza clxxiv. lines 2, 3, and 4. The whole declivity of the Alban hill is of un. rivalled beauty, and from the convent on the highest point, which has succeeded to the temple of the Latian Jupiter, the prospect embraces all the objects alluded to in the cited stanza; the Mediterranean; the whole scene of the latter half of the Aeneid, and the coast from beyond the month of the Tiber to the headland of Circaéum and the Cape of Terracina.

The site of Cicero's villa may be supposed either at the Grotta Ferrata, or at the Tusculum of Prince Lucien Buonaparte.

The former was thought some years ago the actual site, as may be seen from Middleton's Life of Cicero. At present it has lost something of its credit, except for the Domenichinos. Nine monks of the Greek order live there, and the adjoining villa is a cardinal's summer house. The other villa, called Rufinella, is on the summit of the hill above Frascati, and many rich remains of Tusculum have been found there, besides seventytwo statues of different merit and preservation, and seven busts.

From the same eminence are seen the Sabine hills, embosomed in which lies the long valley of Rustica. There are several circumstances which tend to establish the identity of this valley with the «Ustica » of Horace; and it seems possible that the mosaic pavement which the peasants un. cover by throwing up the earth of a vineyard may belong to his villa. Rustica is pronounced short, not according to our stress upon - «Usticae cubantis. »

It is more rational to think that we are wrong than that the inhabitants of this se. cluded valley have changed their tone in this word. The addition of the consonant prefixed is nothing: yet it is necessary to be aware that Rustica may be a modern name which the peasants may have caught from the antiquaries.

The villa, or the mosaic, is in a vineyard on a knoll covered with ehestnut trees. A stream runs down the valley, and although it is not true, as said in the guide books, that this stream is called Licenza, yet there is a village on a rock at the head of the valley which is so denominated, and which may have taken its name from the Di. gentia. Licenza contains 700 inhabitants. On a peak a little way beyond is Civitella, containing 300. On the banks of the Anio, a little before you turn up into Valle Rustica, to the left, about an hour from the villa, is a town called Vicovaro, another favourable coincidence with the Varia of the poet. At the end of the valley, towards the Anio, there is a bare hill, crowned with a little town called Bardela. At the foot of this hill the rivulet of Licenza flows, and is almost absorbed in a wide sandy bed before it reaches the Anio. Nothing can be more fortunate for the lines of the poet, whether in a metaphorical or direct sense :

“Me quotiens reficit gelidus Digentia rivus,

Quem Mandela bibit rugosus frigore pagus.» The stream is clear high up the valley, but before it reaches the hill of Bardela looks green and yellow like a sulphur rivulet.

Rocca Giovane, a ruined village in the hills, half an hour's walk from the vineyard where the pavement is shown, does seem to be the site of the fane of Vacuna, and an inscription found there

tells that this temple of the Sabine Victory was repaired by Vespasian ?). With these helps, and a position corresponding exactly to every thing which the poet has told ns of his retreat, we may feel tolerably secure of our site.

The hill which should be Lucretilis is called Campanile, and by following up the rivulet to the pretended Bandusia, you come to the roots of the higher mountain Gennaro. Singularly enough, the only spot of ploughed land in the whole valley is on the knoll where this Bandusia rises.

“...... tu friguis amabile
Fessis vomere tauris

Praebes, et pecori vago.» The peasants show another spring near the mo. saic pavement which they call « Oradina , » and which flows down the hills into a tank, or milldam, aud thence trickles over into the Digentia.

But we must not hope “To trace the Muses upwards to their spring, by exploring the windings of the romantic valley in search of the Bandusian fountain. It seems strange that any one should have thought Bandusia a fountain of the Digentia - Horace has not let drop a word of it; and this immortal spring has in fact been discovered in possession of the holders of many good things in Italy, the monks. It was attached to the church of St. Gervais and Protais near Venusia, where it was most likely to be found ?). We shall not be so lucky as a late traveller in finding the occasional pine still pendent on the poetic villa. There is not a pine in the whole valley, but there are two cypresses, which he evidently took, or mistook, for the tree




SVA. IMPENSA. RESTITVIT. 2) See--Historical illustrations of the Fourth Canto, p. 43.

« PreviousContinue »