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SONNET.-WASHERWOMEN AT THE
FOUNTAIN OF ARETHUSA.
SAY, is this Arethusa ? this the stream
AY, is this Arethusa ? this the stream
To whose soft music Greek and Roman sires
Syracuse, April, 1844.
THE THEATRE AT SYRACUSE.
EXTRACT FROM MANUSCRIPT JOURNAL.
E visited the remains of the theatre at Sy
racuse on a fine evening, as the sun was getting low over the heights of Hybla. This most interesting relic seems not to have been built, but to have been almost entirely hewn out of the side of the hill in the solid rock. The seats are in tolerable
preservation, and have been so formed as to present a kind of ledge carefully rounded off, sufficiently raised to prevent the feet of any spectator from annoying the one who sate below him. The stairs are still accessible, though much fallen to decay; the orchestra is partly overgrown with bushes and brambles. The water of the aqueduct from Tyche above, after turning some mills, forms a cascade among the ruins; and at the mill-tail the wind was carrying the spray hither and thither like dust; and it was only to be distinguished from the dust of the mill itself by the rainbow which was formed in it. Here we lingered, with part
of Acradina, the blue Mediterranean, Ortygia, the great Harbour, and the tract watered by the Anapus, full in our view. The peculiar enchantment of this spot gradually unsettles the belief that it once stood in the heart of a populous and mighty city; that here resounded the music of the orchestra, and the shouts of a gay or factious audience ; that here prattled gossips such as Gorgo and Praxinoe *; here flashed the expressions of courtly wit; here was a loose given to ruder jests; here were assignations whispered; here political opinions advanced: for the whole is lying as it were in the lap of Nature; the silence is unbroken save by the dashing of waters, the song of birds, or the hum of insects; the heron takes wing from the rushes hard by; and the lizard basks undisturbed at
If those things were so, here has been regeneration, not decay; for the waters of the city aqueducts have returned to rivulets of the hill; the very seats have been moulded into gradations which the waterfall covers with its spray; and the rainbow comes in glorious stillness into the very centre of the theatre. But this inscription, this regularly fashioned curve, this and that evidence of human design, are things palpable and unanswerable that force themselves upon us, which, however, we would not willingly
* See the XYPAKOYXIAI of Theocritus.
be rid of; for they impart no touch of melancholy
but rather modify than disturb the illusion, and place the whole before us as less under the influence of a destroying power, than subject to the gentle handling of one which is gradually moulding it into a renewed condition of existence.
Again, here might we sit, in a midsummer day dream, and inwardly rebuild and repeople those deserted regions : call up the shades of Dion, Timoleon, Hiero, Archimedes ; remuster the forces of Nicias or Marcellus, and man or destroy at will invading armaments; or cover the pestiferous regions of the Anapus with the bodies of the besiegers, and shape the gaunt spectre of malaria hovering over her unburied thousands, and scourging in fiend-like mercy the proud Himilco home to his native Carthage, there to perish by his own hand; or summon the intendant Verres before us—Verres, the false, the lascivious, the avaricious, the cruel, the sacrilegious—summon him and his lewd band of associates, embody and set forth his piles of plate, his gold, his statues, and his purple. But suddenly the air grows eloquent-breathes and burns with the denunciations of intellect and justice fulminated against the evil doer. And see, the tyrant flies! Now no one fears him, no one values his favour, no one ever loved him! He flies, to hide his
head in voluntary and miserable exile, there, in an hour of awful retribution, to be stripped and murdered by a spoiler * stronger than he.
But our visions are suddenly dissipated by the shout and song of the muleteer, and the loud ringing of the bells of his mules, as they pace along under the weight of the lettiga through the very corridor of the theatre, now a public way. The sun of Syracuse is indeed set.
Let us go
Syracuse. April, 1844.
* Mark Antony