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less storm, while the terrors of the passage are heightened by the sight of the Crosses erected by the road-side to mark the death of the unhappy travellers crushed in a moment by the tumbling rock, or sweeping avalanche.
The predominant feature throughout the Simplon is wild sublimity. The effect is inconceivably grand, as the heavy carriage rumbles through the dark and solid rock, to hear the raging torrent roaring beneath your feet; or to dread the crush of the frowning precipice above. Indeed the torrent, and the cascade, constitute two of the most picturesque, and striking, beauties throughout Switzerland. On the Simplon, among others, is seen the terrific cascade of Frissinone.
The Vedro, formed by the glaciers above, foaming for miles its impetuous course, yet checked at every gush by the huge granites that choke up its bed, here tumbles headlong down a steep. It is grand indeed to see the rage of the torrent:so impetuous is its fall, that it tumbles not in a sheet of water, but in one broad, vast, misty, spray. The eye delights to watch one mass of foam perpetually hurling down another, to view the forms they take the whitening surge, and clouds of silvery sparkles that mount, and circle, all around.
The deafening noise drowns all other sounds, and involuntarily we grasp tighter and tighter the rock we hold by, while vainly stretching over the brink
of the precipice, we try to discover where the last rage of the torrent is spent among the profound and craggy cliffs below. Leaving this, and passing immediately through the fourth gallery of rock, another cascade formed by the torrent issuing from the gorge of Zwischbergen clamours again upon the ear-and further on, a gentle rill, issuing from the heights above, slips silently down smooth plains of slate, which reflect a purply hue; while the stream, transparent as the finest lace, and forming arrowy, rocket, shapes, thus peaceably glides away into a basin below, whose silvery, pellucid, waters reflect all the Alpine firs above in bright, and tranquil, green.
It is remarkable that Napoleon himself never traversed this road. The foundations, and commencement of the magnificent Convent, which he had endowed, a similar institution to that of St. Bernard, may be seen here, now falling to decay, instead of rising to completion.
One of the huge columns intended to support the Triumphal Arch at Milan, which was to terminate this path, and commemorate its founder's fame, in an unlucky moment was arrested on its progress by the news of the Emperor's downfal. There it lies, near Baveno, neglected, but not forgotten ;-a striking monument of fallen glory;-yet recalling, still more forcibly, amidst the grandeur of the surrounding wilds, the greatness of him who made such scenes accessible.
From Duomo d'Ossola, the scene begins to change; softer features:-the champaign plains of Lombardy:-Italian inscriptions:-Italian tongue.
The route we took from Martigny, setting off on Tuesday, was through Sion, and sleeping at Tourtemagne :-thence to Brigg on Wednesday, and sleeping at the inn on the top of the Simplon, which, by the bye, I ought to note as a most excellent, and superior, hotel. Dined at Domo d'Ossola, where begin the Italian territories, on Thursday, and slept at Baveno. Sent the carriage on to Sesto, and hired a boat on Friday to view the Borromean Isles (of which hereafter), proceeding by water on the Lago Maggiore to Sesto-entered the voiture at half-past six on Saturday morning, breakfasted at Gallarate, and reached Milan at four o'clock the same day.
It happened that I reached Italy for the first time in my life on my birthday.
It remains to speak of our excursion to the Borromean Isles.
The Lago Maggiore, anciently termed Verbanus, is about thirty-five miles long, and five or six broad, and, in places, of the appalling depth of above 1200 feet. Our boat was manned by four rowers, and since our aquatic trip would occupy us till dusk, and a late dinner at Sesto, we took fruits with wine, &c. on board.
Not a wave ruffled the peaceful bosom of the
lake, and, as we skimmed lightly o'er the surface, the scenery appeared to combine some of the majestic grandeurs of Switzerland with the smiling, gentle, features of Italian landscape.
The savage mountains of Gamborogno rising to the height of 6000 feet above the waters are lost amidst the fleecy clouds, yet their sloping sides are clad with verdure and cultivation even to the water's edge; while their many breaks and intervals give place to show between them the luxuriant plains, and vines, of Italian shores.
There are two Islands in this lake, the Isola Bella, and the Isola Madre, which Tasso, and Ariosto, have sung; and which other poets have deemed as fairy palaces, fit abode for Calypso, and her nymphs;-and be it also remembered, that being now on classic ground, I am speaking of a lake to whose beauties Virgil, and Catullus, have alluded. The Isola Madre was our first landingplace on the northern side, is a wood:-on the southern, are seven terraces surmounted by a palace. Both these islands belong to the Borromeo family, but as this villa is now deserted by its illustrious possessors, the rooms, the theatre, &c. &c. have all the appearance of neglect. Its charms arise from its situation, its exotic plants, its aviaries of foreign birds, its groves; and from the beauties of nature, without art.
One mile further north, arises the Isola Bella. Ten terraces, forming so many gardens, rising each
above the other, terminate in a square platform of about fifty feet, surmounted by a colossal Pegasus ; while gigantic statues, meant for distant effect, finish the corners of each ascent. The total elevation is about 130 feet; the base of the pyramid 400 feet square. In these gardens bloom the orange and the lemon, the olive and pomegranate, the citron and the cedar, entwined with roses, jessamins, and vines. Here balmy summer ever reigns, and the snows of winter are unknown; while the caper tree, the acanthus, and the tracheline, grow without culture. Each terrace is a garden supported by arcades which form so many green-houses for the more tender plants. Here also are aviaries, and fountains; and gold and silver birds, with the plumage of China and Japan.
On the ground floor of the Palazzo are a suite of rooms formed entirely of shells, spars, and partycoloured marbles; mosaic floors of pebbles; marine productions; with pilasters of lava, and shells, intermixed. How delightful and appropriate here to sit, and view the broad expanse of lake, the distant glowing scenery, and gentle waves, rippling at your feet!
In these grottoes are also some fine specimens of sculpture, and a marble bust of Achilles, considered very superior; but I was most struck with an Hebe, and recumbent Venus, by Monti, the latter, a most exquisite specimen of voluptuous beauty. The whole palace evinces somewhat more