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L ET TER XXI.
Palermo, June 19th. We are now arrived at the great capital of Sicily, which in our opinion in beauty and elegance is greatly superior to Naples. It is not, indeed, fo large, but the regularity, the uniformity and neatness of its streets and buildings, render it much more pleasing ; it is full of people, who have mostly an air of affluence and gaiety. And indeed we seem to have got into a new world.
But stop, not so faft.--I had forgot that you have still 50 miles to travel on a cursed stubborn mule, over rocks and precipices; for I can see no reason, why we should bring you at once into all the sweets of Palermo, without bearing at leait some little part in the fatigues of the journey. Come, we shall make them as short as possible.
We left you, I think, in a little village on the top of a high mountain. We should indeed use you very ill, were we to leave you there any longer ; for I own it is the very worst country quarter, that ever fell to my lot. However, we got a good comfortable sleep in it, the only one thing it afforded us; and the fleas, the bugs, and chickens, did all that lay in their power even to deprive us of that, but we defied them. Our two leaders came to awake us before five, apostrophying their entry with a detail of the horrid robberies and murders that had been committed in the neighbourhood; all of them, you may be sure, on the very road that we were
Our whole squadron was drawn out, and we were ranged in order of battle, by five o'clock, when we began our march, attended by the whole village, man, woman, and child. We foon got down amongst the woods, and endeavoured to forget the objects of misery we had left behind us.
The beauty and richness of the country increased in proportion as we advanced. The mountains, although of a great height (that we have left is near 4000 feet, the mercury standing af 26 inches 2 lines) are covered to the very summit with the richest pasture. The grass in the valleys is already burnt up, so that the flocks are all upon the mountains. The gradual separation of heat and cold, is very vifible in taking a view of them. The valleys are brown and scorched, and so are the mountains to a considerable height; they then begin to take a shade of green, which grows deeper and deeper, and covers the whole upper region; however, on the summit, the grass and corn are by no means so luxuriant as about the middle.
We were amazed at the richness of the crops, far superior to any thing I had ever seen either in England or Flanders, where the happy foil is assisted by
all the arts of cultivation; whilst here, the wretched husbandman can hardly afford to give it a furrow; and gathers in with a heavy heart, the most luxuriant harvest. To what purpose is it given him ? only to lie a dead weight upon his hand, sometimes till it is entirely lost ; exportation being prohibited to all such as cannot pay exorbitantly for it to the sovereign. What a contrast is there betwixt this, and the little uncouth country of Switzerland ! to be sure, the dreadful consequences of oppression can never be set in a more striking opposition to the blessings and charms of liberty. Switzerland, the very excrescence of Europe, where nature seems to have thrown out all her cold and stagnating humours; full of lakes, marches, and woods, and surrounded by immense rocks, and everlasting mountains of ice, the barren, but sacred, ramparts of liberty.. Switzerland, enjoying every blessing, where every blessing seems to have been denied ; whilft Sicily, covered by the most luxuriant hand of Nature; where Heaven seems to have showered down its richest blessings with the utmost prodigality ; groans under the most abje& poverty, and with a pale and wan visage, starves in the midst of plenty. It is liberty alone that works this standing miracle. Under her plastic hands the mountains sink, the lakes are drained; and these rocks, these marshes, these woods, become so many sources of wealth and of pleasure. But what has temperance to do with wealth?
“ Here reigns Content,
“ 'Tis Industry supplies “ The little Temperance wants; and rosy Health “ Sits smiling at the board.”
You will begin to think I am in danger of turning poetical in these classic fields; I am sure I neither suspected any of the mountains we have passed to be Parnassus; nor did I believe any one of the nine foolish enough to inhabit them, except Melpomene perhaps, as she is so fond, of tragical faces : however, I shall now get you out of them as soon as possible, and bring you · once more into the gay world. I assure you, I
have often wished that you could have lent me your muse, on this expedition ; my letters would then have been more worth the reading ; but you must take the will for the deed.
After travelling till about midnight, we are rived at another miserable village, where we slept for some hours on straw, and continued our journey again by day-break. We had the pleasure of seeing the rising sun from the top of a pretty high mountain, and were delighted with the prospect of Strombolo, and the other Lipari Islands, at a great distance from us. descent from this mountain, we found ourselves on the banks of the sea, and took that road,
preferable to an inland one, although several miles nearer.
We foon lighted from our mules, and plunged into the water, which has ever made one of our greatest pleasures in this expedition : nobody that has not tried it, can conceive the delight of this; after the fatigue of such a journey, and pasting three days without undressing. Your friend Fullerton, though only seventeen, but whose mind and body now equally despise every fatigue, found himself strong as a lion, and fit to begin such another march. We boiled our tea-kettle under a fig-tree, and eat a breakfast that might have served a company of strolling players.
The approach to Palermo is fine. The alleys are planted with fruit trees, and large American aloes in full blow. Near the city we passed a place of execution, where the quarters of a number of robbers were hung up upon hooks, like so many, hams; some of them appeared newly executed, and made a very unsightly figure. On our arrival, we learned that a priest and three others had been taken a few days ago, after an obstinate defence, in which several were killed on both sides; the priest, rather than submit to his conquerors, plunged his hanger into his breast, and died on the spot: the rest submitted and were executed.
As there is but one inn in Palermo, we were obliged to agree to their own terms (five ducats.