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even this bastard relique of the purer taste was extinguished. The Barbarians, after that they had established their power on the ruins of the empire, introduced a peculiar form of corrupt taste which is styled the Gothic-and is built upon the pas sion for the childish. This passion displayed itself not merely in architecture, but in the sciences and in the general spirit of the manners and usages. The highest point to which human genius was able to soar in its attempt to master the sublime was the Barbaresque. Romances, both temporal and spiritual, were then exhibited on the stage of nations; and oftentimes a disgusting and monstrous abortion of both in combination-monks, with the mass-book in one hand, and the warlike banner in the other, followed by whole armies of deluded victims destined to lay their bones in other climates and in a holier soil; consecrated warriors, solemnly dedicated by vow to outrage and the perpetration of crimes; and in their train a strange kind of heroic visionaries, who styled themselves knights-and were in search of adventures, tournaments, duels, and romantic achievements. During this period, Religion together with the Sciences was disfigured by miserable follies; and we have occasion to observe that taste does not easily degenerate on one side without giving
clear indications of corruption in every thing else that is connected with the finer feelings. The conventual vows transformed a large body of useful citizens into busy idlers, whose dreaming style of life fitted them to hatch a thousand scholastic absurdities-which thence issued to the world and propagated their species. Finally, after that the genius of man has by a species of Palingenesis toiled up from an almost entire desolation to its former heights, we behold in our own days the just taste for the Beautiful and the Noble blooming anew as well in the arts and sciences as in moral sentiment; and we have now nothing left to wish for-but that the false glitter, with its easy and specious delusions may not debauch us imperceptibly from the grandeur of simplicity; more especially that the still undiscovered secret of education may be extricated from ancient abuses-so as to raise betimes the moral sensibilities in the bosom of every youthful citizen to efficient and operative feelings; and for this happy result-that all culture and refinement of taste may no longer terminate in the fugitive and barren pleasure of pronouncing judgment, with more or less good taste, upon what is external to ourselves and alien from our highest interests.
X. Y. Z.
THERE was a silent spot where I have been,
Held out its branches to the moonlight pale.
Of countless stars, that, with their yellow rays,
The birds gave forth no song-the winds no breath,
CAPTAIN W. H. SMYTH'S MEMOIR
In our last Number we discussed with Captain Smyth the general complexion of Sicily; the four next chapters of his Memoirs are devoted more particularly to the object of his tour, and contain a description of what he, with some latitude of expression, denominates the Hydrography of the Island. Lest those of our readers who are unacquainted with Greek, should be puzzled for the meaning of this hard word, and those who are not should be perplexed by its present application, we may as well inform both parties, that by the hydrography of Sicily (an authorised misnomer we allow), Captain Smyth means, a description of the coast of that Island, the terraqueous coast, and the remarkable places upon it. The latent scope of the book is thus more completely announced to the reader, by the explanation of the word hydrography in its new sense; for he will now perceive that Captain Smyth's quarto, ponderous as it may be, is no more a description of Sicily, than a similar quarto upon Hydepark Corner, Tyburn Gate, Paddington, Islington, and the other outposts or landmarks of the metropolis, would be a description of London. It will also, no doubt, give the reader a much more exalted idea, than he otherwise would have had, of our author's ingenuity and fertility of mind, which could enlarge so long upon so little; he will, perhaps, he tempted to apply the well-known exclamation-Bless my soul! eight volumes about potatoes!-with new astonishment and no less justice to the present voluminous performance.
The survey of the coast of Sicily naturally divides itself into three or four sections, according as we choose to consider the island as trilateral or quadrilateral; Captain Smyth has chosen the latter division. A chapter is allotted to each of these sides; and the detail of the North-coast might comprehend many interesting particulars relative to the class of towns situate between Cape St. Vito and the Faro of Messina, once celebrated, now in a state of ruin or decay. Of the ancient APRIL, 1824.
Ægesta, or Segesta, from whose petty ambition the two greatest maritime cities of former times, Athens and Carthage, may date their fall, only the vestiges of a Doric temple and ar theatre remain. The temple is one of the most perfect architectural relics in Sicily, and, though of little real beauty, derives a melancholy interest from the recollections it brings, and from its present wild, deserted situation. Standing in the midst of a bleak and sterile assemblage of hills, with but one solitary fig-tree to afford a shade for the comtemplative traveller, it affects him with a double sense of loneliness, for what is now forsaken must once have been inhabited, what is now gloomy and still must once have been busy and gay. The sublimest visible object which can be imagined is a work of human art perishing amidst the stern immoveable bulwarks of Nature:"The temple of Ægesta is built of a marine concretion, and, from the unequal shape of some of the shafts, the want of a cella and the form of some projecting stones, is supposed to have remained unfinished. It is notwithstanding almost entire, the stylobate, frieze, and architrave, are perfect, and none of the interior is deficient; a few stones of the entablature only are wanting. The columns are curious from being without flutings, although of the Doric order, and suddenly diminishing at both ends in a kind of groove, supposed to have been for the reception of the bronze astragal and torus. The intercolumniations are rather irregular, and at several of them the plinth is cut through for facilitating the entrance to the temple, so that the columns appear to rest on pedestals."
Sicilian annalists ascribe the foundation of Panormus, or Palermo, to the immediate descendants of Noah; but the important difference between floating in an ark at the will and mercy of the winds and waves, and directing the complex motions of a ship across the Archipelago and up the Ionian, will suggest some doubts as to the authenticity of the tra2 C
dition. The world may also be at a loss to know what advantage the Sicilians expect to derive from the concession of such a genealogy to their wishes; a comparison of Phenician industry and enterprise with Palermitan indolence and pusillanimity, might be considered as an invidious proceeding on the part of an enemy, yet such a comparison they are themselves here described as anxious to provoke in our minds, by an assertion of their Phenician pedigree. That perverse species of vanity which finds satisfaction in contemplating the previous heights from which he who entertains it has, by his own misconduct fallen-that, ambition which thus, as it may be said, creeps down the ladder of glory, is surely of a very strange description, though by no means of rare occurrence. Cadwallader upon a he-goat may point to King Arthur on a warhorse, as his lineal progenitor, without raising any emotion in his auditor's breast except that of laughter; but the most supreme contempt is deservedly lavished upon his claims to ancestral reputation, if he is not only poor in means, but debased in mind, debilitated in body, and degenerate in spirit, like the modern Sicilian. The bold maritime marauders of the Syrian coast, were they capable of practically acknowledging their sense of the merits of their unknown descendants in Palermo, would most probably visit the "fire-works" and pyrotechnical illustrations," elegantly so called in the subsequent passage, with more of the opposite element, than Saint Rosalia would deem beneficial to her ceremonies, or her votaries serviceable to their apparel:
Tradition represents this saint, the tutelary patroness of Palermo, to have been a daughter of Sinibaldus, and that, being disgusted with the profligacy of William's court, she retired to a life of solitude and prayer on Mount Pellegrino. There her bones were discovered in a grotto, through the usual medium of a vision, at the critical moment when the city was smarting under the ravages of a plague, which, of course, was instantly stayed.
The anniversary of this auspicious event has ever since been pompously celebrated by brilliant illuminations, splendid fireworks, and the procession of a lofty car, floridly decorated with various allegorical figures, surmounted at the height of sixty
feet by the statue of Sta. Rosalia, and drawn slowly up the Cassaro by fifty oxen, with a band of music in front. The me
thod of illuminating a city in Sicily evinces a much better taste than our's, as the tone of the whole is equal, and public buildings only are expected to display particular magnificence, for the streets are lined with slight wooden arcades, all of a certain height; and these being covered with brilliant lamps, have a much more imposing effect than the irregular attempts of individuals, most of whom would content themselves with putting a few candles in the windows.
The fire-works are also on a very extensive scale, supported by scaffolding on the Marina, and usually represent some histo
The most splendid I had an opportunity of seeing was, in some respects, an appropriate subject for pyrotechnical illustration, being the attack, and burning of Troy; when, after numerous beautiful evolutions, a grand maroon battery opened, and, amidst the flight of many hundred rockets, the city crumbled away, and a magnificent illuminated temple appeared in its place. This part of the festival is succeeded by horse-races in the crowded streets; yet without any accident occurring, although there are no riders to guide the horses advance, and close immediately beanimals, but the populace divide as the hind, adroitly giving the poor creatures a blow as they pass. On the last evening, there is a splendid illumination of the interior of the cathedral, in which the drapery of gold and silver tissue, the mirrors, and the lights, are so tastefully arranged as to command unqualified admiration. The whole winds up on the fifth day, with a procession of all the saints in Palermo, amidst a tremendous noise of drums and Pellegrino, where a fine causeway has been trumpets. A part passes on to Mount made leading up to the Grotto, in which is a statue of bronze gilt, with head and hands of Parian marble, representing a handsome girl, in a reclining posture; and the jewels with which it is ornamented priests reside constantly on the spot; and prove the faith of her devotees. there is a small tavern in the vicinity where visitors can procure refreshments.—(P. 84
There are many fine specimens of Moorish architecture in the vicinity of Palermo, one of the most remarkable of which is the Ziza or Azziza, a building of hewn stone, decorated with mosaics, inscriptions, and other architectural ornaments. Its style of architecture, together with the fountains from the Albuhira springs, identify it as the Emir's palace described in the Arabian manuscript at Mon
reale. One of the inscriptions in this palace displays the following eulogy and climax, which our author admits to be justified by the surrounding views and scenery:" Europe is the glory of the world, Italy of Europe, Sicily of Italy, and the adjacent grounds are the pride of Sicily."
Here is one of those curious receptacles so common in Sicily, denominated-Cadaveries, or Mummycaves. A very good drawing in Captain Smyth's work represents it as somewhat like the nave of a cathedral, or huge vault, in perspective, whose sides are indented by rows of niches, one over the other, for the reception of mummies or skeletons, which are, each and all, suspended by the neck, but in a grateful variety of forms and positions. Whilst the criminal laws are in such lively force within our own realm, we can scarcely prognosticate the introduction of this mode of sepulture into England, however deeply the nation may be imbued with continentalism; the custom of penal suspension has not become less infamous by growing more familiar among us, and to be gibbeted after death, in a state of presumptive innocence, would be regarded by most Britons as equally unpleasant with being gibbeted before death, on a proof of undoubted criminality. It may however be not uninteresting to our readers, if we extract this account, though they may have no desire to turn it to their own immediate advantage:
Near the Ziza, is a Capuchin convent, where a decent table is provided for such decayed nobles as are ashamed to beg. In this convent there is one of those cemeteries, common in Sicily, consisting of a large subterranean space, clean and airy, divided into galleries, surrounded with niches, for the reception of the dead bodies; but this one having been represented as a sort of exhibition of portraits of departed friends, I the more particularly notice it. Previously to descending, the acolyte directs the attention of the visitors to the pictures on each side of the door, the one representing the death of a good man, surrounded by priests and angels; the other that of a sinner, whose dying moments are imbittered by fiends and flames; added to which, there is a sonnet between them, on mortal dissolution; so that, on the whole, the feelings are prepared for a solemn and mournful spectacle. On descending, however, it is difficult to express the disgust
arising from seeing the human form so degradingly caricatured, in the ridiculous assemblage of distorted mummies, that are here hung by the neck in hundreds, with aspects, features, and proportions, so strangely altered by the operation of drying, as hardly to bear a resemblance to human be ings. From their curious attitudes, they are rather calculated to excite derision, than the awful emotions arising from the sight of two thousand deceased mortals. There are four long galleries with their niches filled, besides many coffins containing noblemen in court-dresses; and among the principal personages is a king of Tunis, who died in 1620. At the end of the great corridor is an altar, with the front formed of human teeth, sculls, and bones, inlaid like a kind of mosaic work. There is a small apartment at the end of one of the galleries, which I entered, but soon quitted with the greatest nausea, from an exceedingly offen sive stench; for I found it was a dirty room, called the oven, in which several bodies, in various stages of putrescence, were undergoing the operation of drying. I observed, however, that the friar, who accompanied me, did not appear to be incommoded either (P. 87.) by the sight or the effluvia.
The Eastern shore of Sicily enumerates many illustrious places,-Messina, Catania, Mount Etna, Syracuse, and others. The first of these has obtained an inglorious celebrity as the haunt of a sea-monster, which for many years has infested this neighbourhood; but the Straits of Messina have latterly been stripped of a great part of their reputation, by the increasing testimonies which navigators have accumulated, respecting the innocence and comparative harmlessness of the Chimæra, so long the terror of these shores. Captain Smyth superadds his evidence, and if any doubt yet remains on the mind of the reader, we hope it will ́ be dissipated by the following attestation from the lips of a better judge in these matters than Homer or Virgil could pretend to be, or indeed any other writer among the ancients, who could not legitimately affix R. N. to
SCYLLA. As the breadth across this celebrated strait has been so often disputed, I particularly state, that the Faro Tower is exactly six thousand and forty-seven English yards from that classical bugbear, the Rock of Scylla, which, by poetical fiction, has been depicted in such terrific colours, and to describe the horrors of which, Phalerion, a painter, celebrated for his nervous representation of the awful and the tre
overhear all the conversation that passed among the captives, and deal his mercy or vengeance accordingly. This story, how ever, cannot be founded in truth, as history does not record the confinement of any person of rank, except Philoxenus, the dithyrambic poet; and even his imprisonment, from his speedy release, may be deemed to have been only a humiliation. It was most probably one of the prisons where the Cyllirii and dregs of the populace were confined, though it must certainly be admitted that the design and art apparent in its formation would indicate a more special object. The tyrant, however, could not have listened with satisfaction or advantage; for if two or more people are speaking together, it occasions only a confused clamour; and unless this room, the access to which must always have been difficult, was more convenient than I found it, it must have been a wretched apartment for the mighty ruler of Syracuse. (P. 168, 169.) Another description, which we extract from a work published a short time ago, may serve to fill up the detail of this curious matter:
Ear of Dionysius, Syracuse. The cavern so called is situated in the larger Latomie. Its opening is about seventy feet high, in a precipitous rock, about one hundred feet in height. The breadth of the opening at bottom is about twenty feet. It winds inwardly in a serpentine form. The length of the cavern is about one hundred feet; its breadth irregular, but uniting at the top in a small arch. There is a small cavity to the left, on the top of the great opening, where Dionysius is said to have placed himself to listen to the prisoners below. In the sides are receptacles for rings, and ledges of the length of a man close to them, whence it may be concluded it was here the prisoners were chained. There is a considerable echo; but the voice is not more easily heard from the smaller cavity than in the cavern. In the Latomie are several other excavations, one of which was converted into a rope walk; and in the middle of the space composing the Latomie is an insulated piece of hewn rock higher than the sides, of a cubic form, on the top of which is the ruin of a tower. In the last century this is said to have been visited by Fazellus and Donani, two antiquarians, who found an ancient sword and shield. Those who hazard the ascent to the supposed listening place of Dionysius must submit to sit astride a stick attached to cords fastened in the ground above the Latomie, and are thus pulled up from below: a dangerous and disagreeable undertaking, not at all repaying the traveller's curiosity.
At La Marza, on the Southern coast, where the reader may suppose himself now arrived, Captain Smyth witnessed the Night Rainbow, a rare and beautiful meteor:
Off this place, in July, 1815, I saw a beautiful phenomenon, the lunar iris, very little inferior in brilliancy and prismatic effect to the solar rainbow; the arc was nearly complete, the plainest termination appearing to be in the marshes, and the undefined one over the bay of Pozzallo; the moon was shining with bright radiance, light vapoury clouds hung over the land, and a lurid horizon bounded the sea. I have since been informed by the Sicilians, that this pleasing object is not unfrequent on this part of the coast, owing, they suppose, to exhalations from the swamps, and several peculiar localities. We vainly hoped that this phenomenon would afford a clue to the strange assertion of Fazzello, "Landing on the Isle of Currents, before the early sunbeams have gained strength, hosts of men and armed ships are seen in the air, that seem to fight with each other; but when the sun's rays begin to warm the atmosphere, in an instant those aerial fantasms are dissipated." (P. 189.)
Over the river Salso, which empties itself into the sea between Alicata and Fonducella on this coast, there is an immense bridge of one arch, built by order of Charles V. Its magnitude gave rise to the proverb that Sicily contained "un monte, un fonte, ed un ponte," alluding to Mount Etna, the fountain Arethusa, and the structure in question.
Captain Smyth's narrative abounds in classical reminiscences; there is rather too much of this, we think, scattered through the volume. It is certainly very interesting to recognize the distant similitude between the features of Pagan and Christian Sicily, but it is needless to reiterate those common-places of history and mythology, which are familiar to every well-whipped school-boy, and which are but slightly relevant to the matter in point,-such as: two quarto pages of extract from one of Cicero's speeches, suggested by the mention of the "wretched village of Castelluccio on the site of the ancient Edissa," the threadbare story of Arethuse and Alpheus, the long description of ancient Syracuse, and its five quarters, of which scarcely any thing now remains to give occa"Sicilian Scenery," from the original sketches of Major Light, with drawings by Dewint, a book which may be consulted with advantage by the fireside traveller through