Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens
XI A RAPID DIORAMA
are bound for Naples! And we cross the threshold of the Eternal
City at yonder gate, the Gate of San Giovanni Laterano, where the two
last objects that attract the notice of a departing visitor, and the
two first objects that attract the notice of an arriving one, are a
proud church and a decaying ruin, good emblems of Rome.
way lies over the Campagna, which looks more solemn on a bright blue
day like this, than beneath a darker sky; the great extent of ruin being
plainer to the eye: and the sunshine through the arches of the broken
aqueducts, showing other broken arches shining through them in the melancholy
distance. When we have traversed it, and look back from Albano, its
dark, undulating surface lies below us like a stagnant lake, or like
a broad, dull Lethe flowing round the walls of Rome, and separating
it from all the world! How often have the Legions, in triumphant march,
gone glittering across that purple waste, so silent and unpeopled now!
How often has the train of captives looked, with sinking hearts, upon
the distant city, and beheld its population pouring out, to hail the
return of their conqueror! What riot, sensuality and murder, have run
mad in the vast palaces now heaps of brick and shattered marble! What
glare of fires, and roar of popular tumult, and wail of pestilence and
famine, have come sweeping over the wild plain where nothing is now
heard but the wind, and where the solitary lizards gambol unmolested
in the sun!
train of wine-carts going into Rome, each driven by a shaggy peasant
reclining beneath a little gipsy-fashioned canopy of sheepskin, is ended
now, and we go toiling up into a higher country where there are trees.
The next day brings us on the Pontine Marshes, wearily flat and lonesome,
and overgrown with brushwood, and swamped with water, but with a fine
road made across them, shaded by a long, long avenue. Here and there,
we pass a solitary guard-house; here and there a hovel, deserted, and
walled up. Some herdsmen loiter on the banks of the stream beside the
road, and sometimes a flat-bottomed boat, towed by a man, comes rippling
idly along it. A horseman passes occasionally, carrying a long gun cross-wise
on the saddle before him, and attended by fierce dogs; but there is
nothing else astir save the wind and the shadows, until we come in sight
blue and bright the sea, rolling below the windows of the inn so
famous in robber stories! How picturesque the great crags and points
of rock overhanging to-morrow's narrow road, where galley slaves are
working in the quarries above, and the sentinels who guard them lounge
on the sea-shore! All night there is the murmur of the sea beneath the
stars; and, in the morning, just at daybreak, the prospect suddenly
becoming expanded, as if by a miracle, reveals in the far
distance, across the sea there! Naples with its islands, and Vesuvius
spouting fire! Within a quarter of an hour, the whole is gone as if
it were a vision in the clouds, and there is nothing but the sea and
Neapolitan frontier crossed, after two hours' travelling; and the hungriest
of soldiers and custom-house officers with difficulty appeased; we enter,
by a gateless portal, into the first Neapolitan town Fondi. Take note
of Fondi, in the name of all that is wretched and beggarly.
filthy channel of mud and refuse meanders down the centre of the miserable
streets, fed by obscene rivulets that trickle from the abject houses.
There is not a door, a window, or a shutter; not a roof, a wall, a post,
or a pillar, in all Fondi, but is decayed, and crazy, and rotting away.
The wretched history of the town, with all its sieges and pillages by
Barbarossa and the rest, might have been acted last year. How the gaunt
dogs that sneak about the miserable streets, come to be alive, and undevoured
by the people, is one of the enigmas of the world.
hollow-cheeked and scowling people they are! All beggars; but that's
nothing. Look at them as they gather round. Some, are too indolent to
come down-stairs, or are too wisely mistrustful of the stairs, perhaps,
to venture: so stretch out their lean hands from upper windows, and
howl; others, come flocking about us, fighting and jostling one another,
and demanding, incessantly, charity for the love of God, charity for
the love of the Blessed Virgin, charity for the love of all the Saints.
A group of miserable children, almost naked, screaming forth the same
petition, discover that they can see themselves reflected in the varnish
of the carriage, and begin to dance and make grimaces, that they may
have the pleasure of seeing their antics repeated in this mirror. A
crippled idiot, in the act of striking one of them who drowns his clamorous
demand for charity, observes his angry counterpart in the panel, stops
short, and thrusting out his tongue, begins to wag his head and chatter.
The shrill cry raised at this, awakens half-a-dozen wild creatures wrapped
in frowsy brown cloaks, who are lying on the church-steps with pots
and pans for sale. These, scrambling up, approach, and beg defiantly.
'I am hungry. Give me something. Listen to me, Signor. I am hungry!'
Then, a ghastly old woman, fearful of being too late, comes hobbling
down the street, stretching out one hand, and scratching herself all
the way with the other, and screaming, long before she can be heard,
'Charity, charity! I'll go and pray for you directly, beautiful lady,
if you'll give me charity!' Lastly, the members of a brotherhood for
burying the dead: hideously masked, and attired in shabby black robes,
white at the skirts, with the splashes of many muddy winters: escorted
by a dirty priest, and a congenial cross-bearer: come hurrying past.
Surrounded by this motley concourse, we move out of Fondi: bad bright
eyes glaring at us, out of the darkness of every crazy tenement, like
glistening fragments of its filth and putrefaction.
noble mountain-pass, with the ruins of a fort on a strong eminence,
traditionally called the Fort of Fra Diavolo; the old town of Itri,
like a device in pastry, built up, almost perpendicularly, on a hill,
and approached by long steep flights of steps; beautiful Mola di Gaeta,
whose wines, like those of Albano, have degenerated since the days of
Horace, or his taste for wine was bad: which is not likely of one who
enjoyed it so much, and extolled it so well; another night upon
the road at St. Agatha; a rest next day at Capua, which is picturesque,
but hardly so seductive to a traveller now, as the soldiers of Praetorian
Rome were wont to find the ancient city of that name; a flat road among
vines festooned and looped from tree to tree; and Mount Vesuvius close
at hand at last! its cone and summit whitened with snow; and its smoke
hanging over it, in the heavy atmosphere of the day, like a dense cloud.
So we go, rattling down hill, into Naples.
funeral is coming up the street, towards us. The body, on an open bier,
borne on a kind of palanquin, covered with a gay cloth of crimson and
gold. The mourners, in white gowns and masks. If there be death abroad,
life is well represented too, for all Naples would seem to be out of
doors, and tearing to and fro in carriages. Some of these, the common
Vetturino vehicles, are drawn by three horses abreast, decked with smart
trappings and great abundance of brazen ornament, and always going very
fast. Not that their loads are light; for the smallest of them has at
least six people inside, four in front, four or five more hanging on
behind, and two or three more, in a net or bag below the axle-tree,
where they lie half-suffocated with mud and dust. Exhibitors of Punch,
buffo singers with guitars, reciters of poetry, reciters of stories,
a row of cheap exhibitions with clowns and showmen, drums, and trumpets,
painted cloths representing the wonders within, and admiring crowds
assembled without, assist the whirl and bustle. Ragged lazzaroni lie
asleep in doorways, archways,
and kennels; the gentry, gaily dressed, are dashing up and down in carriages
on the Chiaji, or walking in the Public Gardens; and quiet letter-writers,
perched behind their little desks and inkstands under the Portico of
the Great Theatre of San Carlo, in the public street, are waiting for
is a galley-slave in chains, who wants a letter written to a friend.
He approaches a clerkly-looking man, sitting under the corner arch,
and makes his bargain. He has obtained permission of the sentinel who
guards him: who stands near, leaning against the wall and cracking nuts.
The galley-slave dictates in the ear of the letter-writer, what he desires
to say; and as he can't read writing, looks intently in his face, to
read there whether he sets down faithfully what he is told. After a
time, the galley-slave becomes discursive incoherent. The secretary
pauses and rubs his chin. The galley-slave is voluble and energetic.
The secretary, at length, catches the idea, and with the air of a man
who knows how to word it, sets admiringly. The galley-slave is silent.
The soldier stoically cracks his nuts. Is there anything more to say?
inquires the letter-writer. No more. Then listen, friend of mine.
He reads it through. The galley-slave is quite enchanted. It is folded,
and addressed, and given to him, and he pays the fee. The secretary
falls back indolently in his chair, and takes a book. The galley-slave
gathers up an empty sack. The sentinel throws away a handful of nut-shells,
shoulders his musket, and away they go together.
do the beggars rap their chins constantly, with their right hands, when
you look at them? Everything is done in pantomime in Naples, and that
is the conventional sign for hunger. A man who is quarrelling with another,
yonder, lays the palm of his right hand on the back of his left, and
shakes the two thumbs expressive of a donkey's ears whereat his adversary
is goaded to desperation. Two people bargaining for fish, the buyer
empties an imaginary waistcoat pocket when he is told the price, and
walks away without a word: having thoroughly conveyed to the seller
that he considers it too dear. Two people in carriages, meeting, one
touches his lips, twice or thrice, holding up the five fingers of his
right hand, and gives a horizontal cut in the air with the palm. The
other nods briskly, and goes his way. He has been invited to a friendly
dinner at half-past five o'clock, and will certainly come.
over Italy, a peculiar shake of the right hand from the wrist, with
the forefinger stretched out, expresses a negative the only negative
beggars will ever understand. But, in Naples, those five fingers are
a copious language.
this, and every other kind of out-door life and stir, and macaroni-eating
at sunset, and flower-selling all day long, and begging and stealing
everywhere and at all hours, you see upon the bright sea-shore, where
the waves of the bay sparkle merrily. But, lovers and hunters of the
picturesque, let us not keep too studiously out of view the miserable
depravity, degradation, and wretchedness, with which this gay Neapolitan
life is inseparably associated! It is not well to find Saint Giles's
so repulsive, and the Porta Capuana so attractive. A pair of naked legs
and a ragged red scarf, do not make ALL the difference between what
is interesting and what is coarse and odious? Painting and poetising
for ever, if you will, the beauties of this most beautiful and lovely
spot of earth, let us, as our duty, try to associate a new picturesque
with some faint recognition of man's destiny and capabilities; more
hopeful, I believe, among the ice and snow of the North Pole, than in
the sun and bloom of Naples.
once made odious by the deified beast Tiberius Ischia, Procida,
and the thousand distant beauties of the Bay, lie in the blue sea yonder,
changing in the mist and sunshine twenty times a day: now close at hand,
now far off, now unseen. The fairest country in the world, is spread
about us. Whether we turn towards the Miseno shore of the splendid watery
amphitheatre, and go by the Grotto of Posillipo to the Grotto del Cane
and away to Baiae: or take the other way, towards Vesuvius and Sorrento,
it is one succession of delights. In the last-named direction, where,
over doors and archways, there are countless little images of San Gennaro,
with his Canute's hand stretched out, to check the fury of the
Burning Mountain, we are carried pleasantly, by a railroad on the beautiful
Sea Beach, past the town of Torre del Greco, built upon the ashes of
the former town destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius, within a hundred
years; and past the flat-roofed houses, granaries, and macaroni manufactories;
to Castel-a-Mare, with its ruined castle, now inhabited by fishermen,
standing in the sea upon a heap of rocks. Here, the railroad terminates;
but, hence we may ride on, by an unbroken succession of enchanting bays,
and beautiful scenery, sloping from the highest summit of Saint Angelo,
the highest neighbouring mountain, down to the water's edge among vineyards,
olive-trees, gardens of oranges and lemons, orchards, heaped-up rocks,
green gorges in the hills and by the bases of snow-covered heights,
and through small towns with handsome, darkhaired women at the doors
and pass delicious summer villas to Sorrento, where the Poet Tasso drew
his inspiration from the beauty surrounding him. Returning, we may climb
the heights above Castela-Mare, and looking down among the boughs and
leaves, see the crisp water glistening in the sun; and clusters of white
houses in distant Naples, dwindling, in the great extent of prospect,
down to dice. The coming back to the city, by the beach again, at sunset:
with the glowing sea on one side, and the darkening mountain, with its
smoke and flame, upon the other: is a sublime conclusion to the glory
of the day.
church by the Porta Capuana near the old fisher-market in the dirtiest
quarter of dirty Naples, where the revolt of Masaniello began is memorable
for having been the scene of one of his earliest proclamations to the
people, and is particularly remarkable for nothing else, unless it be
its waxen and bejewelled Saint in a glass case, with two odd hands;
or the enormous number of beggars who are constantly rapping their chins
there, like a battery of castanets. The cathedral with the beautiful
door, and the columns of African and Egyptian granite that once ornamented
the temple of Apollo, contains the famous sacred blood of San Gennaro
or Januarius: which is preserved in two phials in a silver tabernacle,
and miraculously liquefies three times a-year, to the great admiration
of the people. At the same moment, the stone (distant some miles) where
the Saint suffered martyrdom, becomes faintly red. It is said that the
priests turn faintly red also, sometimes, when these miracles occur.
old, old men who live in hovels at the entrance of these ancient
catacombs, and who, in their age and infirmity, seem waiting here, to
be buried themselves, are members of a curious body, called the Royal
Hospital, who are the official attendants at funerals. Two of these
old spectres totter away, with lighted tapers, to show the caverns of
death as unconcerned as if they were immortal. They were used as burying-places
for three hundred years; and, in one part, is a large pit full of skulls
and bones, said to be the sad remains of a great mortality occasioned
by a plague. In the rest there is and labyrinths, hewn out of the rock.
At the end of some of these long passages, are unexpected glimpses of
the daylight, shining down from above. It looks as ghastly and as strange;
among the torches, and the dust, and the dark vaults: as if it, too,
were dead and buried.
present burial-place lies out yonder, on a hill between the city and
Vesuvius. The old Campo Santo with its three hundred and sixty-five
pits, is only used for those who die in hospitals, and prisons, and
are unclaimed by their friends. The graceful new cemetery, at no great
distance from it, though yet unfinished, has already many graves among
its shrubs and flowers, and airy colonnades. It might be reasonably
objected elsewhere, that some of the tombs are meretricious and too
fanciful; but the general brightness seems to justify it here; and Mount
Vesuvius, separated from them by a lovely slope of ground, exalts and
saddens the scene.
it be solemn to behold from this new City of the Dead, with its dark
smoke hanging in the clear sky, how much more awful and impressive is
it, viewed from the ghostly ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii!
at the bottom of the great market-place of Pompeii, and look up the
silent streets, through the ruined temples of Jupiter and Isis, over
the broken houses with their inmost sanctuaries open to the day, away
to Mount Vesuvius, bright and snowy in the peaceful distance; and lose
all count of time, and heed of other things, in the strange and melancholy
sensation of seeing the Destroyed and the Destroyer making this quiet
picture in the sun. Then, ramble on, and see, at
every turn, the little familiar tokens of human habitation and every-day
pursuits; the chafing of the bucket-rope in the stone rim of the exhausted
well; the track of carriage wheels in the pavement of the street; the
marks of drinking-vessels on the stone counter of the wine-shop; the
amphorae in private cellars, stored away so many hundred years ago,
and undisturbed to this hour all rendering the solitude and deadly lonesomeness
of the place, ten thousand times more solemn, than if the volcano, in
its fury, had swept the city from the earth, and sunk it in the bottom
of the sea.
it was shaken by the earthquake which preceded the eruption, workmen
were employed in shaping out, in stone, new ornaments for temples and
other buildings that had suffered. Here lies their work, outside the
city gate, as if they would return to-morrow.
the cellar of Diomede's house, where certain skeletons were found huddled
together, close to the door, the impression of their bodies on the ashes,
hardened with the ashes, and became stamped and fixed there, after they
had shrunk, inside, to scanty bones. So, in the theatre of Herculaneum,
a comic mask, floating on the stream when it was hot and liquid, stamped
its mimic features in it as it hardened into stone; and now, it turns
upon the stranger the fantastic look it turned upon the audiences in
that same theatre two thousand years ago.
to the wonder of going up and down the streets, and in and out of
the houses, and traversing the secret chambers of the temples of a religion
that has vanished from the earth, and finding so many fresh traces of
remote antiquity: as if the course of Time had been stopped after this
desolation, and there had been no nights and days, months, years, and
centuries, since: nothing is more impressive and terrible than the many
evidences of the searching nature of the ashes, as
bespeaking their irresistible power, and the impossibility of escaping
them. In the wine-cellars, they forced their way into the earthen vessels:
displacing the wine and choking them, to the brim, with dust. In the
tombs, they forced the ashes of the dead from the funeral urns,
and rained new ruin even into them. The mouths, and eyes, and skulls
of all the skeletons, were stuffed with this terrible hail. In Herculaneum,
where the flood was of a different and a heavier kind, it rolled in,
like a sea. Imagine a deluge of water turned to marble, at its height
and that is what is called 'the lava' here.
workmen were digging the gloomy well on the brink of which we now stand,
looking down, when they came on some of the stone benches of the theatre
those steps (for such they seem) at the bottom of the excavation and
found the buried city of Herculaneum. Presently going down, with lighted
torches, we are perplexed by great walls of monstrous thickness, rising
up between the benches, shutting out the stage, obtruding their shapeless
forms in absurd places, confusing the whole plan, and making it a disordered
dream. We cannot, at first, believe, or picture to ourselves, that THIS
came rolling in, and drowned the city; and that all that is not here,
has been cut away, by the axe, like solid stone. But this perceived
and understood, the horror and oppression of its presence are indescribable.
of the paintings on the walls in the roofless chambers of both cities,
or carefully removed to the museum at Naples, are as fresh and plain,
as if they had been executed yesterday. Here are subjects of still life,
as provisions, dead game, bottles, glasses, and the like; familiar classical
stories, or mythological fables, always forcibly and plainly told; conceits
of cupids, quarrelling, sporting, working at trades; theatrical rehearsals;
poets reading their productions to their friends; inscriptions chalked
upon the walls; political squibs, advertisements, rough drawings by
schoolboys; everything to people and restore the ancient cities, in
the fancy of their wondering visitor. Furniture, too, you see, of every
kind lamps, tables, couches; vessels for eating, drinking, and cooking;
workmen's tools, surgical instruments, tickets for the theatre, pieces
of money, personal ornaments, bunches of keys found clenched in the
grasp of skeletons, helmets of guards and warriors; little household
bells, yet musical with their old domestic tones.
least among these objects, lends its aid to swell the interest of Vesuvius,
and invest it with a perfect fascination. The looking, from either ruined
city, into the neighbouring grounds overgrown with beautiful vines and
luxuriant trees; and remembering that house upon house, temple on temple,
building after building, and street after street, are still lying underneath
the roots of all the quiet cultivation, waiting to be turned up to the
light of day; is something so wonderful, so full of mystery, so captivating
to the imagination, that one would think it would be paramount, and
yield to nothing else. To nothing but Vesuvius; but the mountain is
the genius of the scene. From every indication of the ruin it has worked,
we look, again, with an absorbing interest to where its smoke is rising
up into the sky. It is beyond us, as we thread the ruined streets: above
us, as we stand upon the ruined walls, we follow it through every vista
of broken columns, as we wander through the empty court-yards of the
houses; and through the garlandings and interlacings of every wanton
vine. Turning away to Paestum yonder, to see the awful structures built,
the least aged of them, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ,
and standing yet, erect in lonely majesty, upon the wild, malaria-blighted
plain we watch Vesuvius as it disappears from the prospect, and watch
for it again, on our return, with the same thrill of interest: as the
doom and destiny of all this beautiful country, biding its terrible
is very warm in the sun, on this early spring-day, when we return
from Paestum, but very cold in the shade: insomuch, that although we
may lunch, pleasantly, at noon, in the open air, by the gate of Pompeii,
the neighbouring rivulet supplies thick ice for our wine. But, the sun
is shining brightly; there is not a cloud or speck of vapour in the
whole blue sky, looking down upon the bay of Naples; and the moon will
be at the full to-night. No matter that the snow and ice lie thick upon
the summit of Vesuvius, or that we have been on foot all day at Pompeii,
or that croakers maintain that strangers should not be on the mountain
by night, in such an unusual season. Let us take advantage of the fine
weather; make the best of our way to Resina, the little village at the
foot of the mountain; prepare ourselves, as well as we can, on so short
a notice, at the guide's house; ascend at once, and have sunset half-way
up, moon-light at the top, and midnight to come down in!
four o'clock in the afternoon, there is a terrible uproar in the little
stable-yard of Signior Salvatore, the recognised head-guide, with the
gold band round his cap; and thirty under-guides who are all scuffling
and screaming at once, are preparing half-a-dozen saddled ponies, three
litters, and some stout staves, for the journey. Every one of the thirty,
quarrels with the other twenty-nine, and frightens the six ponies; and
as much of the village as can possibly squeeze itself into the little
stable-yard, participates in the tumult, and gets trodden on by the
much violent skirmishing, and more noise than would suffice for the
storming of Naples, the procession starts. The head-guide, who is liberally
paid for all the attendants, rides a little in advance of the party;
the other thirty guides proceed on foot. Eight go forward with the litters
that are to be used by-and-by; and the remaining two-and-twenty beg.
ascend, gradually, by stony lanes like rough broad flights of stairs,
for some time. At length, we leave these, and the vineyards on either
side of them, and emerge upon a bleak bare region where the lava lies
confusedly, in enormous rusty masses; as if the earth had been ploughed
up by burning thunderbolts. And now, we halt to see the sun set. The
change that falls upon the dreary region, and on the whole mountain,
as its red light fades, and the night comes on and the unutterable solemnity
and dreariness that reign around, who that has witnessed it, can ever
is dark, when after winding, for some time, over the broken ground,
we arrive at the foot of the cone: which is extremely steep, and seems
to rise, almost perpendicularly, from the spot where we dismount. The
only light is reflected from the snow, deep, hard, and white, with which
the cone is covered. It is now intensely cold, and the air is piercing.
The thirty-one have brought no torches, knowing that the moon will rise
before we reach the top. Two of the litters are devoted to the two ladies;
the third, to a rather heavy gentleman from Naples, whose hospitality
and good-nature have attached him to the expedition, and determined
him to assist in doing the honours of the mountain. The rather heavy
gentleman is carried by fifteen men; each of the ladies by half-a-dozen.
We who walk, make the best use of our staves; and so the whole party
begin to labour upward over the snow, as if they were toiling to the
summit of an antediluvian Twelfth-cake.
are a long time toiling up; and the head-guide looks oddly about
him when one of the company not an Italian, though an habitue of the
mountain for many years: whom we will call, for our present purpose,
Mr. Pickle of Portici suggests that, as it is freezing hard, and the
usual footing of ashes is covered by the snow and ice, it will surely
be difficult to descend. But the sight of the litters above, tilting
up and down, and jerking from this side to that, as the bearers continually
slip and tumble, diverts our attention; more especially as the whole
length of the rather heavy gentleman is, at that moment, presented to
us alarmingly foreshortened, with his head downwards. The rising of
the moon soon afterwards, revives the flagging spirits of the bearers.
Stimulating each other with their usual watchword, 'Courage, friend!
It is to eat macaroni!' they press
on, gallantly, for the summit.
tingeing the top of the snow above us, with a band of light, and pouring
it in a stream through the valley below, while we have been ascending
in the dark, the moon soon lights the whole white mountain-side, and
the broad sea down below, and tiny Naples in the distance, and every
village in the country round. The whole prospect is in this lovely state,
when we come upon the platform on the mountain-top the region of Fire
an exhausted crater formed of great masses of gigantic cinders, like
blocks of stone from some tremendous waterfall, burnt up; from every
chink and crevice of which, hot, sulphurous smoke is pouring out: while,
from another conical-shaped hill, the present crater, rising abruptly
from this platform at the end, great sheets of fire are streaming forth:
reddening the night with flame, blackening it with smoke, and spotting
it with red-hot stones and cinders, that fly up into the air like feathers,
and fall down like lead. What words can paint the gloom and grandeur
of this scene!
broken ground; the smoke; the sense of suffocation from the sulphur:
the fear of falling down through the crevices in the yawning ground;
the stopping, every now and then, for somebody who is missing in the
dark (for the dense smoke now obscures the moon); the intolerable noise
of the thirty; and the hoarse roaring of the mountain; make it a scene
of such confusion, at the same time, that we reel again. But, dragging
the ladies through it, and across another exhausted crater to the foot
of the present Volcano, we approach close to it on the windy side, and
then sit down among the hot ashes at its foot, and look up in silence;
faintly estimating the action that is going on within, from its being
full a hundred feet higher, at this minute, than it was six weeks ago.
is something in the fire and roar, that generates an irresistible desire
to get nearer to it. We cannot rest long, without starting off, two
of us, on our hands and knees, accompanied by the head-guide, to climb
to the brim of the flaming crater, and try to look in. Meanwhile, the
thirty yell, as with one voice, that it is a dangerous proceeding, and
call to us to come back; frightening the rest of the party out of their
with their noise, and what with the trembling of the thin crust
of ground, that seems about to open underneath our feet and plunge us
in the burning gulf below (which is the real danger, if there be any);
and what with the flashing of the fire in our faces, and the shower
of red-hot ashes that is raining down, and the choking smoke and sulphur;
we may well feel giddy and irrational, like drunken men. But, we contrive
to climb up to the brim, and look down, for a moment, into the Hell
of boiling fire below. Then, we all three come rolling down; blackened,
and singed, and scorched, and hot, and giddy: and each with his dress
alight in half-a-dozen places.
have read, a thousand times, that the usual way of descending, is, by
sliding down the ashes: which, forming a gradually increasing ledge
below the feet, prevent too rapid a descent. But, when we have crossed
the two exhausted craters on our way back and are come to this precipitous
place, there is (as Mr. Pickle has foretold) no vestige of ashes to
be seen; the whole being a smooth sheet of ice.
this dilemma, ten or a dozen of the guides cautiously join hands, and
make a chain of men; of whom the foremost beat, as well as they can,
a rough track with their sticks, down which we prepare to follow. The
way being fearfully steep, and none of the party: even of the thirty:
being able to keep their feet for six paces together, the ladies are
taken out of their litters, and placed, each between two careful persons;
while others of the thirty hold by their skirts, to prevent their
falling forward a necessary precaution, tending to the immediate and
hopeless dilapidation of their apparel. The rather heavy gentleman is
abjured to leave his litter too, and be escorted in a similar manner;
but he resolves to be brought down as he was brought up, on the principle
that his fifteen bearers are not likely to tumble all at once, and that
he is safer so, than trusting to his own legs.
this order, we begin the descent: sometimes on foot, sometimes shuffling
on the ice: always proceeding much more quietly and slowly, than on
our upward way: and constantly alarmed by the falling among us of somebody
from behind, who endangers the footing of the whole party, and clings
pertinaciously to anybody's ankles. It is impossible for the litter
to be in advance, too, as the track has to be made; and its appearance
behind us, overhead with some one or other of the bearers always down,
and the rather heavy gentleman with his legs always in the air is very
threatening and frightful. We have gone on thus, a very little way,
painfully and anxiously, but quite merrily, and regarding it as a great
success and have all fallen several times, and have all been stopped,
somehow or other, as we were sliding away when Mr. Pickle of Portici,
in the act of remarking on these uncommon circumstances as quite beyond
his experience, stumbles, falls, disengages himself, with quick presence
of mind, from those about him, plunges away head foremost, and rolls,
over and over, down the whole surface of the cone!
as it is to look, and be so powerless to help him, I see him there,
in the moonlight I have had such a dream often skimming over the white
ice, like a cannon-ball. Almost at the same moment, there is a cry from
behind; and a man who has carried a light basket of spare cloaks on
his head, comes rolling past, at the same frightful speed, closely followed
by a boy. At this climax of the chapter of accidents, the remaining
eight-and-twenty vociferate to that degree, that a pack of wolves would
be music to them!
and bloody, and a mere bundle of rags, is Pickle of Portici when we
reach the place where we dismounted, and where the horses are waiting;
but, thank God, sound in limb! And never are we likely to be more glad
to see a man alive and on his feet, than to see him now making light
of it too, though sorely bruised and in great pain. The boy is brought
into the Hermitage on the Mountain, while we are at supper, with his
head tied up; and the man is heard of, some hours afterwards. He too
is bruised and stunned, but has broken no bones; the snow having, fortunately,
covered all the larger blocks of rock and stone, and rendered them harmless.
a cheerful meal, and a good rest before a blazing fire, we again
take horse, and continue our descent to Salvatore's house very slowly,
by reason of our bruised friend being hardly able to keep the saddle,
or endure the pain of motion. Though it is so late at night, or early
in the morning, all the people of the village are waiting about the
little stable-yard when we arrive, and looking up the road by which
we are expected. Our appearance is hailed with a great clamour of
tongues, and a general sensation for which in our modesty we are somewhat
at a loss to account, until, turning into the yard, we find that one
of a party of French gentlemen who were on the mountain at the same
time is lying on some straw in the stable, with a broken limb: looking
like Death, and suffering great torture; and that we were confidently
supposed to have encountered some worse accident.
'well returned, and Heaven be praised!' as the cheerful Vetturino, who
has borne us company all the way from Pisa, says, with all his heart!
And away with his ready horses, into sleeping Naples!
wakes again to Policinelli and pickpockets, buffo singers and beggars,
rags, puppets, flowers, brightness, dirt, and universal degradation;
airing its Harlequin suit in the sunshine, next day and every day; singing,
starving, dancing, gaming, on the seashore; and leaving all labour to
the burning mountain, which is ever at its work.
English dilettanti would be very pathetic on the subject of the national
taste, if they could hear an Italian opera half as badly sung in England
as we may hear the Foscari performed, to-night, in the splendid theatre
of San Carlo. But, for astonishing truth and spirit in seizing and embodying
the real life about it, the shabby little San Carlino Theatre the rickety
house one story high, with a staring picture outside: down among the
drums and trumpets, and the tumblers, and the lady conjurer is without
a rival anywhere.
is one extraordinary feature in the real life of Naples, at which
we may take a glance before we go the Lotteries. They prevail in most
parts of Italy, but are particularly obvious, in their effects and influences,
here. They are drawn every Saturday. They bring an immense revenue to
the Government; and diffuse a taste for gambling among the poorest of
the poor, which is very comfortable to the coffers of the State, and
very ruinous to themselves. The lowest stake is
one grain; less than a farthing. One hundred numbers from one to a hundred,
inclusive are put into a box. Five are drawn. Those are the prizes.
I buy three numbers. If one of them come up, I win a small prize. If
two, some hundreds of times my stake. If three, three thousand five
hundred times my stake. I stake (or play as they call it) what I can
upon my numbers, and buy what numbers I please. The amount I play, I
pay at the lottery office, where I purchase the ticket; and it is stated
on the ticket itself.
lottery office keeps a printed book, an Universal Lottery Diviner, where
every possible accident and circumstance is provided for, and has a
number against it. For instance, let us take two carlini about seven
pence. On our way to the lottery office, we run against a black man.
When we get there, we say gravely, 'The Diviner.' It is handed over
the counter, as a serious matter of business. We look at black man.
Such a number. 'Give us that.' We look at running against a person in
the street. 'Give us that. ' We look at the name of the street itself.
'Give us that.' Now, we have our three numbers.
the roof of the theatre of San Carlo were to fall in, so many people
would play upon the numbers attached to such an accident in the Diviner,
that the Government would soon close those numbers, and decline to run
the risk of losing any more upon them. This often happens. Not long
ago, when there was a fire in the King's Palace, there was such a desperate
run on fire, and king, and palace, that further stakes on the numbers
attached to those words in the Golden Book were forbidden. Every accident
or event, is supposed, by the ignorant populace, to be a revelation
to the beholder, or party concerned, in connection with the lottery.
Certain people who have a talent for dreaming fortunately, are much
sought after; and there are some priests who are constantly favoured
with visions of the lucky numbers.
heard of a horse running away with a man, and dashing him down,
dead, at the corner of a street. Pursuing the horse with incredible
speed, was another man, who ran so fast, that he came up, immediately
after the accident. He threw himself upon his knees beside the unfortunate
rider, and clasped his hand with an expression of the wildest grief.
'If you have life,' he said, 'speak one word to me! If you have one
gasp of breath left, mention your age for Heaven's sake, that I may
play that number in the lottery.'
is four o'clock in the afternoon, and we may go to see our lottery drawn.
The ceremony takes place every Saturday, in the Tribunale, or Court
of Justice this singular, earthy-smelling room, or gallery, as mouldy
as an old cellar, and as damp as a dungeon. At the upper end is a platform,
with a large horse-shoe table upon it; and a President and Council sitting
round all judges of the Law. The man on the little stool behind the
President, is the Capo Lazzarone, a kind of tribune of the people, appointed
on their behalf to see that all is fairly conducted: attended by a few
personal friends. A ragged, swarthy fellow he is: with long matted hair
hanging down all over his face: and covered, from head to foot, with
most unquestionably genuine dirt. All the body of the room is filled
with the commonest of the Neapolitan people: and between them and the
platform, guarding the steps leading to the latter, is a small body
is some delay in the arrival of the necessary number of judges; during
which, the box, in which the numbers are being placed, is a source of
the deepest interest. When the box is full, the boy who is to draw the
numbers out of it becomes the prominent feature of the proceedings.
He is already dressed for his part, in a tight brown Holland coat, with
only one (the left) sleeve to it, which leaves his right arm bared to
the shoulder, ready for plunging down into the mysterious chest.
the hush and whisper that pervade the room, all eyes are turned on this
young minister of fortune. People begin to inquire his age, with a view
to the next lottery; and the number of his brothers and sisters; and
the age of his father and mother; and whether he has any moles or pimples
upon him; and where, and how many; when the arrival of the last judge
but one (a little old man, universally dreaded as possessing the Evil
Eye) makes a slight diversion, and would occasion a greater one, but
that he is immediately deposed, as a source of interest, by the officiating
priest, who advances gravely to his place, followed by a very dirty
little boy, carrying his sacred vestments, and a pot of Holy Water.
is the last judge come at last, and now he takes his place at the
horse-shoe table. There is a murmur of irrepressible agitation. In the
midst of it, the priest puts his head into the sacred vestments, and
pulls the same over his shoulders. Then he says a silent prayer; and
dipping a brush into the pot of Holy Water, sprinkles it over the box
and over the boy, and gives them a double-barrelled blessing, which
the box and the boy are both hoisted on the table to receive. The boy
remaining on the table, the box is now carried round the front of the
platform, by an attendant, who holds it up and shakes it lustily all
the time; seeming to say, like the conjurer, 'There is no deception,
ladies and gentlemen; keep your eyes upon me, if you please!'
last, the box is set before the boy; and the boy, first holding up his
naked arm and open hand, dives down into the hole (it is made like a
ballot-box) and pulls out a number, which is rolled up, round something
hard, like a bonbon. This he hands to the judge next him, who unrolls
a little bit, and hands it to the President, next to whom he sits. The
President unrolls it, very slowly. The Capo Lazzarone leans over his
shoulder. The President holds it up, unrolled, to the Capo Lazzarone.
The Capo Lazzarone, looking at it eagerly, cries out, in a shrill, loud
voice, 'Sessantadue!' (sixty two), expressing the two upon his fingers,
as he calls it out. Alas! the Capo Lazzarone himself has not staked
on sixty-two. His face is very long, and his eyes roll wildly.
it happens to be a favourite number, however, it is pretty well received,
which is not always the case. They are all drawn with the same ceremony,
omitting the blessing. One blessing is enough for the whole multiplication-table.
The only new incident in the proceedings, is the gradually deepening
intensity of the change in the Cape Lazzarone, who has, evidently, speculated
to the very utmost extent of his means; and who, when he sees the last
number, and finds that it is not one of his, clasps his hands, and raises
his eyes to the ceiling before proclaiming it, as though remonstrating,
in a secret agony, with his patron saint, for having committed so gross
a breach of confidence. I hope the Capo Lazzarone may not desert him
for some other member of the Calendar, but he seems to threaten it.
the winners may be, nobody knows. They certainly are not present; the
general disappointment filling one with pity for the poor people. They
look: when we stand aside, observing them, in their passage through
the court-yard down below: as miserable as the prisoners in the gaol
(it forms a part of the building), who are peeping down upon them, from
between their bars; or, as the fragments of human heads which are still
dangling in chains outside, in memory of the good old times, when their
owners were strung up there, for the popular edification.
from Naples in a glorious sunrise, by the road to Capua, and then
on a three days' journey along by-roads, that we may see, on the way,
the monastery of Monte Cassino, which is perched on the steep and lofty
hill above the little town of San Germano, and is lost on a misty morning
in the clouds. ...
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