Page images
PDF
EPUB

quill when you write to me, and not leave room for a pin's point in four sides of a sheet royal. Do you but find matter, I will find spectacles.

I have more time than I thought, and I will employ it in telling you about a ball that we were at the other evening. Figure to yourself a Roman villa ; all its little apartments thrown open,

and lighted up to the best advantage. At the upper end of the gallery, a fine concert, in which La Diamantina, a famous virtuoso, played on the violin divinely, and sung angelically; Giovannino and Pasqualini (great names in musical story) also performed miraculously. On each side were ranged all the secular grand monde of Rome, the ambassadors, princesses, and all that. Among the rest Il Serenissimo Pretendente (as the Mantova gazette calls him) displayed his rueful length of person, with his two young ones, and all his ministry around him. “ Poi nacque un grazioso ballo,” where the world danced, and I sat in a corner regaling myself with ice fruits, and other pleasant rinfrescatives.

LETTER XXI.

MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.

Rome, May, 1740.
MATER rosarum, cui teneræ vigent
Auræ Favonî, cui Venus it comes
Lasciva, Nympharum choreis

Et volucrum celebrata cantu !
Dic, non inertem fallere quâ diem
Amat sub umbrâ, seu sinit aureum

[ocr errors]

Dormire plectrum, seu retentat

Pierio* Zephyrinus antro
Furore dulci plenus, et immemor
Reptantis inter frigora Tusculi
Umbrosa, vel colles Amici

Palladiæ superantis Albæ.
Dilecta Fauno, et capripedum choris
Pineta, testor vos, Anio minax
Quæcunque per clivos volutus

Præcipiti tremefecit amne,
Illius altum Tibur, et Æsulæ
Audisse sylvas nomen amabiles,
Illius et gratas Latinis

Naiasin ingeminâsse rupes:
Nam me Latinæ Naiades uvida
Vidễre ripa, quà niveas levi
Tam sæpe lavit rore plumas

Dulcè canens Venusinus ales
Mirum! canenti conticuit nemus,
Sacrique fontes, et retinent adhuc
(Sic Musa jussit) saxa molles

Docta modos, veteresque lauri.
Mirare nec tu me citharæ rudem
Claudis laborantem numeris : loca
Amæna, jucundumque ver in-

-compositum docuere carmen;
Hærent sub omni nam folio nigri
Phoebea luci (credite) somnia,
Argutiusque et lympha et auræ

Nescio quid solito loquuntur. I am to-day just returned from Alba, a good deal fatigued; for you know the Appian is somewhat tiresome.t We dined at Pompey's; he in

[ocr errors]

* He entitled this charming ode, “ Ad C. Favonium Zephyrinum," and writ it immediately after his journey to Frescati and the cascades of Tivoli, which he describes in the preceding letter.

+ However whimsical this humour may appear to some readers, I chose to insert it, as it gives me an opportunity of remarking, that Mr. Gray was extremely skilled in the customs of the ancient Romans; and has catalogued, in his common place book, their various eatables, wines, perfumes, clothes, medicines, &c. with great precision, referring under every article to passages in the poets and historians where their names are mentioned.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

deed was gone for a few days to his Tusculan, but by the care of his Villicus, we made an admirable meal. We had the dugs of a pregnant sow, a peacock, a dish of thrushes, a noble scarus just fresh from the Tyrrhene, and some conchylia of the lake with garum sauce: for my part I never eat better at Lucullus's table. We drank half a dozen cyathi a-piece of ancient Alban to Pholoë's health ; and, after bathing, and playing an hour at ball, we mounted our essedum again, and proceeded up the mount to the temple. The priests there entertained us with an account of a wonderful shower of birds' eggs, that had fallen two days before, which had no sooner touched the ground, but they were converted into gudgeons; as also that the night past a dreadful voice had been heard out of the Adytum, which spoke Greek during a full half hour, but nobody understood it. But quitting my Romanities, to your great joy and mine, let me tell you in plain English, that we come from Albano. The present town lies within the inclosure of Pompey's villa in ruins. The Appian way runs through it, by the side of which, a little farther, is a large old tomb, with five pyramids upon it, which the learned suppose to be the burying-place of the family, because they do not know whose it can be else. But the vulgar assure you it is the sepulchre of the Curiatii, and by that name (such is their power) it goes. One drives to Castel Gondolfo,' a house of the Pope's, situated on the top of one of the Collinette, that forms a, brim to the basin, commonly called the Alban lake.

[ocr errors]

It is seven miles round; and directly opposite to you, on the other side, rises the. Mons Albanus, much taller than the rest, along whose side are still discoverable (not to common eyes) certain little ruins of the old Alba, longa. They had need be very little, as having been nothing but ruins ever since the days of Tullus Hostilius.' On its top is a house of the Constable Colona's, where stood the temple of Jupiter Latialis. At the foot of the hill Gondolfo, are the famous outlets of the lake, built with hewn stone, a mile and a half under ground. Livy, you know, amply informs us of the foolish occasion of this expense, and gives me this opportunity of displaying all my erudition, that I

may appear considerable in your eyes. This is the prospect from one window of the palace. From another

you

have the whole Campagna, the city, Antium, and the Tyrrene sea (twelve miles distant) so distinguishable, that you may see the vessels sailing upon it. All this is charming. Mr. Walpole says our memory sees more than our eyes in this country. Which is extremely true; since for realities, Windsor, or Richmond Hill, is infinitely preferable to Albano or Frescati. I am now at home, and going to the window to tell you it is the most beautiful of Italian nights, which, in truth, are but just begun (so backward has the spring been here, and every where else, they say). There is a moon! there are stars for you! Do the fountain ? Do not you smell the orange flowers? That building yonder is the convent of S. Isidore; and that eminence, with the cypress trees and pines upon it, the top of M. Quirinal. This is all true, and yet my prospect is not two hundred yards in length. We send you some Roman inscriptions to entertain you. The first two are modern, transcribed from the Vatican library by Mr. Walpole.

you not hear

Pontifices olim quem fundavere priores,

Præcipua Sixtus perficit arte tholum ; *
Et Sixti tantúm se gloria tollit in altum,

Quantum se Sixti nobile tollit opus :
Magnus honos magni fundamina ponere templi,

Sed finem cæptis ponere major honos.
Saxa agit Amphion, Thebana ut mænia condat:

Sixtus et immensæ pondera molis agit.t
Saxa trahunt ambo longè diversa : sed arte

Hæc trahit Amphion ; Sixtus et arte trahit.
At tantum exsuperat Dircæum Amphiona Sixtus,

Quantum hic exsuperat cætera saxa lapis.
Mine is ancient, and I think not less curious.
It is exactly transcribed from a sepulchral marble,
at the villa Giustiniani. I put stops to it, when I
understand it.

DIs Manibus
Claudiae, Pistes
Primus Conjugi
Optumae, Sanctae,

Et Piae, Benemeritate.
Non æquos, Parcae, statuistis stamina vitae.
Tam bene compositos potuistis sed tenere.
Amissa est conjux. cur ego et ipse moror ?
Si • bella • esse . mi iste.mea • vivere debuit •
Tristia contigerunt qui amissâ conjuge vivo.
Nil est tam miserum, quam totam perdere vitam.
Nec vita enasci dura peregistis crudelia pensa, sorores,
Ruptaque deficiunt in primo munere fusi.
O nimis injustæ ter denos dare munus in annos,
Deceptus grautus. fatum.sic.pressit. egestas
Dum vitam tulero, Primus Pistes lugea conjugium.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

* Sixtus V. built the dome of St. Peter's. + He raised the obelisk in the great area.

« PreviousContinue »