Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of pillars, called the needles, are seen, the tops of which, just appearing out of the sloping bank, plainly show them to be in an oblique position, and about half way between the perpendicular and horizontal. These seem to have been removed from a perpendicular to their present oblique position, by the sinking or falling of the cliff. -Clarke.

ICE-ISLANDS AND ICEBERGS OF SPITZBERGEN.

The name of ice-islands is given by sailors to a great quantity of ice collected into one huge mass, and floating upon the seas near or within the polar circles. Many of these are to be met with on the coast of Spitzbergen, to the great danger of the shipping employed in the Greenland fishery. In the midst of these tremendous masses, navigators have been arrested in their career, and frozen to death. The forms assumed by the ice in this chilling climate are pleasing to the most incurious eye.

The surface of that which is congealed from the sea. water, is flat, even, hard, and opaque, resembling white sugar, and incapable of being slidden on.

The greater pieces, or fields, are many leagues in length; the lesser are the meadows of the seals, on which, at times, those animals frolic by hundreds. The approximation of two great fields produces a most singular phenomenon: they force smaller pieces out of the water, and add them to their own surface, till at length, the whole forms an aggregate of tremendous height. They float in the sea like so many rugged mountains, and are sometimes five or six hundred yards thick, the far greater part of which is concealed beneath the water. Those which remain in this frozen climate receive continual growth; others are by degrees wafted into southern latitudes, and melt gradually by the heat of the sun, till they waste away, and disappear in the boundless element. The collision of the great fields of ice in high latitudes is often attended with a noise that, for a time, takes away the sense of hearing anything else; and that of the smaller, with a grinding of unspeakable horror. The water which dashes against the mountainous ice, freezes into an infinite variety of forms, and gives the voyager ideal towns, streets, churches, steeples, and every shape which imagination can frame.

Besides the fields of ice in high latitudes, there are icebergs, as they are called, or large bodies of ice, that fill the valleys between the high mountains in northern latitudes. Among the most remarkable are those of the east coast of Spitzbergen. They are seven in number, at considerable distances from each other; each fills the valleys for tracts unknown, in a region totally inaccessible in the interior parts. The first exhibits a front three hundred feet high, emulating the emerald in its green colour: cataracts of melted snow precipitate down various parts, and blocked spiry moun. tains, streaked with white, bound the sides, and rise, crag above crag, as far as the eye can reach in the back-ground.

-Goldsmith

POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM.

WHEN it was first proposed that we should winter in Italy, instead of pursuing our original plan of returning home from Geneva, I remember my exclamation was, “Then we shall see Pompeii !”—and now it is with a joy which as yet seems too undefined to be real, that I feel we have indeed visited this city of past ages, have penetrated into its houses, wandered amidst its deserted streets—that we have stood in its forum, and gazed on its ruined temples. Do you wonder that I feel as if awaking from a dream ? Pompeii possesses an interest which even the most magnificent cities of the Roman empire must fail to excite; in them we may see finer ruins, monuments of the power and splendour of the ancients; but here, and here only, we can contemplate man as he existed in former times ; here we are admitted into the retreats of private and domestic life, and can learn from observation that man is in all ages the same; we follow him from his own house to the theatres, the baths, the forum, and the temples ; we trace the same actuating motives, the same love of splendour, of amusement, the same eager pursuit of business, the same impulses to soar from earth to the invisible and eternal world beyond. It is this which excites the

most powerful feelings of our nature as we wander through Pompeii.

It is well known that the awful eruption of Vesuvius which overwhelmed Herculaneum and Pompeii took place A.D. 79, in the reign of the emperor Titus. The remembrance of these cities had entirely passed away, and their existence was known but as a tale that is told, until, in 1720, the attention of the Prince d'Elbeuf was attracted to the spot by several valuable relics of antiquity which he purchased from workmen employed at Portici in digging a well. His curiosity being excited, he began to excavate, and was ultimately rewarded by the discovery of still more beautiful and rare antiquities, amongst which were several statues. The attention of the government of Naples was aroused by his acquisitions, and he was commanded to desist; the excavations were afterwards carried on by Charles the Third of Naples, and Herculaneum was discovered. The king, being engaged at that time in the erection of a palace at Portici, gladly availed himself of the treasures from the buried city to enrich his royal abode. The discovery of Pompeii was also the result of accident, and did not take place until 1748, when some men at work in the vineyards on the banks of the Sarno, finding several objects of curiosity, were led to make further investigation, and the city was at length revealed.

Herculaneum and Pompeii were overwhelmed and entombed on the same day; their existence was terminated by the same cause and the same agent, an eruption of Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii under a shower of ashes, and obliterated Herculaneum by a flood of lava. The latter lying nearer to Vesuvius, the destructive torrent, pouring down its sides, inundated every corner, and filled every crevice. This has rendered the prosecution of the excavations here difficult and dangerous to the villages built over it; the lava has become as hard as stone, and is consequently worked with great labour. Pompeii, on the contrary, to which the lava did not reach, was overwhelmed by ashes, burning stones, and hot water; these materials being of a lighter nature, lay like a crust over the city, which was easily removed. Thus, while we wandered through the streets of Pompeii in the free open air, gladdened amidst the desolation around by the bright rays of the sun and the cheerful sounds of nature, we were obliged to grope our way through the dark pas. sages of Herculaneum, realizing to our imaginations the horrors of the living grave it proved to so many of our fellow-creatures.

On reaching Portici, we alighted at a gate, over which was inscribed in large letters, “ Scale di Ercolano." With wax tapers in our hands, and attended by a guide, we descended the stairs cut in the lava, and presently reached the level of the ancient city. All was darkness and gloom; and as we threaded the intricate mazes, a feeling of indescribable horror seized me. I endeavoured in vain to comprehend the description the guide gave us; I remember being led round the corridors of the theatre, and seeing the well, in sinking which the city was first discovered ; but all else was unintelligible to me, and it was with delight that we quitted Herculaneum, and returned to the open day.

low different was Pompeii! I can never lose the impression made upon my mind as we entered the Street of Tombs. The ancients had a superstitious reverence for every thing touched by the lightning of Jove; it was with a similar feeling of awe that I regarded this city, which seemed to me a sacred spot: death and ruin had swept through its streets, and the silence of desolation now reigned around. Other and mightier cities have fallen by the hand of time, or the sword of barbarians; Rome, Palmyra, Babylon, the glory of them all has passed away. We can trace the causes of their decline, and watch them in their decay as in their rise; but in the dreadful fate of Pompeii there is a deeper and more startling interest. Suddenly, awfully did destruction fall upon it, as a thief in the night, crushing and burying the entire city in a few short hours; in the morning its streets were alive with the crowds eagerly pursuing their pleasure or business, heedless of the coming doom :-at night it was a mighty sepulchre ! Death in many cases overtook the unconscious inhabitants in the midst of their employments : here the mason's hammer was arrested in the act of striking the chisel; there the sentinel was struck while at his post of duty; one spot is pointed out where the skeleton of a poor mother was found clasping a baby to her breast, unable to shield her child from the ruin which involved them both. In the shops men were actively engaged in the business of life ;

the loaves were found in the baker's oven, the hot drinks stood on the marble counters of the Thermopolium; prisoners were discovered in their solitary cells, while the ministers of justice sat in the courts above. In many cases, men and women, terrified at the approaching torrent, seem to have attempted to escape—some by flight-but whither could they fly? others sought refuge in the subterranean cellars, but even there death met them. The picture is too painful to realize ; every where traces of life and activity are visible, but activity suddenly arrested by the touch of death, and you start at the desolation and silence around. The Street of Tombs derives its name from the sepulchral monuments which line it on either side, and at its termination stands the gate of the city. The villa of Diomed, which is situated without the walls on this side of the town, although small, is amongst the best preserved houses.

All the private residences are built on nearly the same plan; they surround a court-yard, or, in the larger, two courts are embraced in one house; in the centre is a reservoir for water, generally of white marble ; on this we saw the marks of the cords by which the buckets had been drawn up. The sleeping apartments are of such narrow dimensions as to admit of no furniture but a bed, and many of them have no windows. The reception rooms are larger, but even in the houses of the principal citizens these are small compared with modern drawing and dining rooms. In the cellars of Diomed's villa, under the porticos which surround the garden, seventeen skeletons were found buried in ashes. One female figure had on, when discovered, bracelets, rings, and ornaments of gold; the'skeleton mouldered away when exposed to the air, leaving only an impression of the bust in the ashes. Another poor wretch was found grasping bags of money and keys in his hands. What reflections do these pictures call up in the mind !

We now entered the city, and at first could not be persuaded to pass a single door unentered; but our guide, Salvator, soon convinced us that we must confine our atten. tion to the principal objects, as we had much to see, and our time was limited. We had first, however, visited the Thermopolium, or shop in which hot drinks had been sold -the café, as Salvator called it; on the marble counter

« AnteriorContinuar »