« PreviousContinue »
5th. This day we beheld the Vice-king's procession, which was very splendid for the relics, banners, and music that accompanied the Blessed Sacrament. The ceremony took up most of the morning.
6th. We went by coach to take the air, and see the diversions, or rather madness, of the Carnival; the courtesans (who swarm in this city to the number, as we are told, of 30,000, registered and paying a tax to the State) flinging eggs of sweet water into our coach, as we passed by the houses and windows. Indeed, the town is so pestered with these cattle, that there needs no small mortification to preserve from their enchantment, whilst they display all their natural and artificial beauty, play, sing, feign compliment, and by a thousand studied devices seek to inveigle foolish young men.
7th February. The next day, being Saturday, we went four miles out of town on mules, to see that famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Here we pass a fair fountain, called Labulla, which continually boils, supposed to proceed from Vesuvius, and thence over a river and bridge, where on a large upright stone, is engraven a notable inscription relative to the memorable eruption in 1630.
Approaching the hill, as we were able with our mules, we alighted, crawling up the rest of the proclivity with great difficulty, now with our feet, now with our hands, not without many untoward slips which did much bruise us on the various coloured cinders, with which the whole moun. tain is covered, some like pitch, others full of perfect brimstone, others metallic, interspersed with innumerable pumices (of all which I made a collection), we at the last gained the summit of an extensive altitude. Turning our faces towards Naples, it presents one of the goodliest prospects in the world; all the Baiæ, Cuma, Elysian Fields, Tapreæ, Ischia, Prochyta, Misenus, Puteoli, that goodly city, with a great portion of the Tyrrhene Sea, offering themselves to your view at once, and at so agreeable a distance, as nothing can be more delightful. The mountain consists of a double top, the one pointed very sharp, and
It may be seen at length in Wright's Travels, and in Misson's New Voyage to Italy, i. 431.
commonly appearing above any clouds, the other blunt. Here, as we approached, we met many large gaping clefts and chasms, out of which issued such sulphureous blasts and smoke, that we durst not stand long near them. Having gained the very summit, I laid myself down to look over into that most frightful and terrible vorago, a stupendous pit of near three miles in circuit, and half a mile in depth, by a perpendicular hollow cliff (like that from the highest part of Dover Castle), with now and then a craggy promi. nency jetting out. The area at the bottom is plane, like an even ficor, which seems to be made by the wind circling the ashes by its eddy blasts. In the middle and centre is a hill, shaped like a great brown loaf, appearing to consist of sulphureous matter, continually vomiting a foggy exhalation, and ejecting huge stones with an impetuous noise and roaring, like the report of many muskets discharging. This horrid barathrum engaged our attention for some hours, both for the strangeness of the spectacle, and the mention which the old histories make of it, as one of the most stupendous curiosities in nature, and which made the learned and inquisitive Pliny adventure his life to detect the causes, and to lose it in too desperate an approach. It is likewise famous for the stratagem of the rebel, Spartacus, who did so much mischief to the State, lurking amongst and protected by, these horrid caverns, when it was more accessible and less dangerous than it is now; but especially notorious it is for the last conflagration, when, in anno 1630, it burst out beyond what it had ever done in the memory of history; throwing out huge stones and fiery pumices in such quantity, as not only environed the whole mountain, but totally buried and overwhelmed divers towns and their inhabitants, scattering the ashes more than a hundred miles, and utterly devastating all those vineyards, where formerly grew the most incomparable Greco; wben, bursting through the bowels of the earth, it absorbed the very sea, and, with its whirling waters, drew in divers galleys and other vessels to their destruction, as is faithfully recorded. We descended with more ease than we climbed up, through a deep valley of pure ashes, which at the late eruption was a flowing river of melted and burning brimstone, and so came to our mules at the foot of the Inountain,
On Sunday, we with our guide visited the so much celebrated Baia, and natural rarities of the places adjacent. Here we entered the mountain Pausilypus, at the left hand of which they showed us Virgil's sepulchre erected on a steep rock, in form of a small rotunda or cupolated column, but almost overgrown with bushes and wild bay trees. At the entrance is this inscription :
Can Ree MDLIII.
After we were advanced into this noble and altogether wonderful crypt, consisting of a passage spacious enough for two coaches to go abreast, cut through a rocky mountain near three quarters of a mile (by the ancient Cimmerii as reported, but as others say by L. Cocceius, who employed a hundred thousand men on it), we came to the midway, where there is a well bored through the diameter of this vast mountain, which admits the light into a pretty chapel, hewn out of the natural rock, wherein hang divers lamps, perpetually burning. The way is paved under foot; but it does not hinder the dust, which rises so excessively in this much-frequented passage, that we were forced at mid-day to use a torch. At length, we were delivered from the bowels of the earth into one of the most delicious plains in the world: the oranges, lemons, pomegranates, and other fruits, blushing yet on the perpetually green trees; for the summer is here eternal, caused by the natural and adventitious heat of the earth, warmed through the subterranean fires, as was shown us by our guide, who alighted, and, cutting up a turf with his knife, and delivering it to me, it was so hot, I was hardly able to hold it in my hands. This mountain is exceedingly fruitful in vines, and exotics grow readily.
Such is the inscription, as copied by Evelyn; but as its sense is not very clear, and the Diary contains instances of incorrectness in transcribing, it may be desirable to subjoin the distich said (by Keysler in his Travels, ii. 433) to be the only one in the whole mausoleum ;
Quæ cineris tumulo hæc vestigia? conditur olim
Ille hoc qui cecinit pascua, rura, duces. VOL. I.