« ElőzőTovább »
On the beach close to this village is very striking, and which is heightis a fine statue of St. Pancrazio, ened by the dress of the women, who the first Bishop of Sicily, ordained wear the large manto of black silk, by St. Peter in the year 40, and covering all of the face except the called the Apostle of Sicily, as he eyes, with bright-colored petticoats, first converted it to the Christian as at Cairo, and strings of coral or faith. Crossing a succession of rapid pearls. streams, fed by the snows of Etna, The morning after their arrival whose eruptions sounded day and found some of the party very early night like the detonation of artillery, at the great church of the magnificent they drove through a region almost Benedictine convent, said to be the unequalled in fertility, and yielding largest monastic building in Europe. grain and wine of all kinds in the The Superior, the Abbate D- , a greatest abundance. On the right man of high birth, first-rate ability, was the famous stone pine and chest- and singular personal holiness, renut wood, of which the chestnut ceived his guests with the greatest trees are the largest in the known kindness and hospitality. world, being between 60 and 70 feet After Mass and Benediction were in circumference. After this the road over, the latter being most beautifully enters on a waste of lava, the remains sung, the Abbate requested the organof former eruptions; the coast breaks ist, Prince C- , to play something into bold and rugged cliffs, which to his guests; with which request he show where the fiery torrent has been instantly complied, and most goodchecked by meeting the adverse naturedly went on for more than an element, which has worn them into hour with every description of music. grotesque forms and hollowed them It is difficult to conceive a more (as in the Giant's Causeway or the magnificent instrument, and it is, in island of Portland) into numerous fact, declared to be the finest in caverns, supported by natural piers Europe, certainly exceeding those at and columns, which it is hard to be- Haarlem and at Freiburg, both in the lieve are not hewn by the hand of sweetness of its tone and its marvelman. This kind of scenery con- lous power. After hearing the organ, tinues up to the very gates of Cata- the Superior took them into the sacnia, which town our travellers reached risty, where there is a fine picture, soon after dark.
by Novelli, of Tobias and the Angel. Earthquakes and eruptions have The relics are very valuable, especombined to overthrow and destroy cially one of the nails of the True this bright and beautiful city ; but Cross, which is preserved in an exnevertheless, it always rises again quisite reliquary of the fifteenth cenfrom its ruins, and at this moment is tury. From the sacristy, the party, one of the cleanest and gayest towns by papal permission, visited the abin Sicily, abounding in commerce bey, going through the cloisters and and manufactures and with a very up a fine staircase to the corridors, agreeable society. The Catanese opening out of which are the cells have a proverb :
and refectories. But the glory of
the monastery is its garden, with its “ Se Catania avesse porto, Palermo sarebbe morto."
terraces and fountains, its myrtles
and oleanders, its orange-trees and Be that as it may, the glistening cypresses, and its exquisite and vawhite houses against the dark lava- ried flowers. The monks are all of beds which surround the city, and noble families, and do not exceed the many towers and palms which fifty in number. They have a murise up against the bright blue sky, seum, chiefly of Sicilian antiquities give it an Eastern appearance, which and natural products, and a magnifi
cent library, containing many most which are carried in procession on beautiful manuscripts, and including the day of her martyrdom. a very curious copy of Cæsar's Com Our travellers next visited the mentaries, a Psalter of the thirteenth Museo Biscari, which contains the century, a fine illustrated Dante, and largest known collection of Sicilian a beautifully illuminated Bible of the antiquities, and some very beautiful fifteenth century, besides some won- statues and terra-cotta vases. Cataderful Breviaries and martyrologies. nia still boasts of the remains of a The Abbate then kindly entertained very fine amphitheatre, theatre, and his guests at breakfast in his own baths, although nearly buried by charming rooms, where he receives successive earthquakes. After Beneaudiences and virtually transacts diction at the cathedral, the evening most of the diocesan business. was spent listening to a very good
From the convent he good-na- military band, under the kind chapturedly undertook to escort our party eronage of their German friend, to the Santo Carcere, or prison where Colonel E- (to whom they have St. Agatha was confined, and finally brought letters of introduction), and martyred. The church has nothing sitting eating ices in the Piazza del remarkable in it but a fine Norman Duomo, which has a European repuportal, which was originally brought tation. In the centre is the famous from the cathedral. The cell of the fountain of the elephant, the device martyr is inclosed in a little chapel of Catania, and on its back rises an to the right of the high altar. St. obelisk, evidently of Egyptian origin, Agatha was tortured at fifteen, in the supposed to have been brought by time of the Decian persecution, by the Crusaders from the East. This order of the Prefect, who wished to piazza is in the centre of the town, and marry her. Enraged at her con- from the streets which radiate from stancy, he caused her breasts to be it, the views are equally beautiful on cut off. But God healed her wounds all sides. in the prison, and the inhuman Some friends having arrived the judge, untouched by the miracle, following day in their yacht, tempted then caused her to be laid on a grid- the party to go down to the port, iron, and consumed by a slow fire, which is small, and can only contain under which torment she expired. vessels of small tonnage. It is picThe exact spot of her sufferings and turesquely overhung by old walls and death is pointed out. From thence gates, said to have been constructed the Abbate took our travellers to see by Charles V. The quay has been the church and convent of St. Placida, turned into a promenade, with avea very beautiful Benedictine convent, nues of acacia and seats of marble; where the nuns received them most a very pleasant evening lounge for kindly, giving them ices and fruit, those who have been toiling all day and showing them all the treasures in the intense heat of the centre of of their house. The cathedral is the town. The Prince and Princess uninteresting, badly kept and badly R- also arrived that day with the served. Built by Count Roger, it last news from Rome, and agreed to has been almost entirely destroyed accompany our party to Nicolosi, by a succession of earthquakes, and where, by the advice of the Prefect, contains now nothing worth looking they had settled to go that afternoon at but the relics of St. Agatha, which in order to make arrangements for are kept in a silver shrine in a side the ascent of Etna. chapel dedicated to the saint; and
“ BEHOLD, THY KING COMETH.”
Oh, dress thy tent with lilies and with palms,
Robe thee in marriage-raiment white and holy, And greet his coming with rejoicing psalms,
Who hath not scorned to choose a bride so lowly !
Go forth, upon his pathway gladly flinging
All the poor treasures thou hast deemed so fair; Behold! He cometh from the Orient, bringing
Sceptre and crown for his beloved to share.
Oh, favored one! all lesser loves forsaking
(Frail must they seem to thee, and cold and dim), Fly to thy king, nor falter, swiftly breaking
The bonds that strive to hold thee back from him.
But thou art silent ; love, perchance, doth still thee
In trance ecstatic, deepening more and more ; Yet bliss diviner draweth near to thrill thee,–
The King's bright heralds pass thy threshold o'er!
Why, on thy marriage-day, in mourning languish?
Lo, he is come at last, thy spouse, thy king! Why look on him in white and wordless anguish ?
Why weep? Those tears are not love's welcoming.
His sad eyes meet thine own, in mercy heeding
Thy soul's wild agony reflected there, Shrink'st thou because his fair white brow is bleeding
Under the royal crown his bride must share ?
Shrink'st thou because his choice means pain unspoken,
Shadows and tears, dread changes, bitter loss,
Shrink'st thou because his sceptre is a cross ?
BIRTH OF PLANTS.
The vegetable world bears in- the permanent through the mutable scribed upon its glorious front a and Aleeting. The spiritual ordinance threefold purpose. The first implies of eternal being is nobly symbolized that which Emerson would delight to to us in the immutable law of vegecall the culinary use of plants. Un- table nature, which decrees that der this aspect we regard the plant death shall proceed out of life, and as ministering to the sustenance of life out of death; that the living the whole animal world, and above animal shall feed its vitality upon the all, of mankind: not alone furnish- dead plant; and the living plant ing the basis of the existence of the upon the dead animal ; that decomhuman race, but affording the ma- position shall be but the commenceterials for boundless appliances of ment of recomposition; and putrecomfort and convenience. This ma- faction but the symbol of renewed terial relation of the vegetable world, production. although most important, socially although most important, socially
“For though to every draught of vital breath, considered, æsthetically must be re Renewed throughout the bounds of earth or ocean,
The melancholy gates of death
Respond with sympathetic motion : timately concerns the animal require
Though all that feeds on nether air,
Howe'er magnificent or fair, ments of each individual, however Grows but to perish and intrust
Its ruins to their kindred dust; much these may be glossed over by
Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care
Amid the unfathomable deeps,
From dread of emptiness or dearth." operations of the universe. The The inexhaustible fertility of the scorched and rainless desolation of vegetable world affords matter for the Sahara and the overflowing wealth profound wonder and admiration to of vitality in the humid forests of the the naturalist. Does a volcanic islgorgeously clothed tropics, partly and rise from the ocean, bare and owe their characteristic peculiarities devoid of aught that can allure man to the action of the plant creation. to take up his habitation on its soil, Varying states of climate, dry or or that can furnish food for his sushumid atmosphere, parched or moist tenance or implements for his use, soil, scanty or abundant development yet when years have rolled on, it will of animal, and especially of human, be covered by a peculiar form of life, in the mass, find their mastering vegetation, to which will succeed conditions in the nature and extent others more perfect; and the sun of local vegetation. Herein the vege that glared upon a smoking rocky table world is related to the well- mass may smile upon an earthly being and actual existence of whole paradise. What have been the weapraces, and the great physical features ons which nature has here employed of entire regions.
to battle against want and desolation, But the most sublime and exalted to cast out death and implant the mission of the vegetable creation is germs of life? The waves have wasted as the material interpreter of the the seeds of vegetation, and the winds spiritual; the veil which conceals but have carried them on their wings. yet declares the mighty Author and Strangely fashioned insects and brilSustainer—the gorgeous tapestry of liantly plumed birds have paused in God's great temple; the emblem of their flight to wonder or to rest, and, the Eternal, teaching us to look for pursuing their careless way, have left
precious traces of their visit—the oped, and that the one plant never seeds of a teeming host of plants. persects its seed, unless an individual • Thus in the earth, in water, and in air,
of the other kind flowers simultaneIn moisture and in drought, in heat and cold, ously in its vicinity. Thus, Pliny Thousands of germs their energies unfold."
and Theophrastus relate that the counTo us, then, it is of the deepest try people hung flowering branches interest to investigate the means by of one kind of date on two boughs of which the limits of the vegetable the other, in order to secure full kingdom are extended, and the mul- crops; and Kaempfer recounts that tiplication of plants is effected. And an inroad of Turks into Bassora was even if the relation which this all- checked by the felling of all the date important process bears to the life of trees of one kind; when the others the universe were less lofty than we refused to bear fruit. Yet more have seen it to be, the phenomena romantic is the account furnished us accompanying it might well arrest by the Italian Micheli, of the Vallisour attention. The function of re- neria spiralis, an inhabitant of the riv. production is performed in all flow- ers. Here the flowers of the one kind ering plants, by the aid of the blos- float on the water, those of the other som. In nature everything has a are bound to the bottom of the river, meaning and a purpose; nothing until at the period of flowering they which is superfluous or useless finds burst from their bondage, float up to a place in its economy; even the the object of their affection, exchange flowers—that calm race, all loveliness a gentle kiss of love, and are borne and tranquillity, without passion or away by the rippling wavelet soon to pain, desire or disappointment, breathe out their life-fit emblems of whose life is beauty and whose breath the ardent lover, consumed by inis perfume-are destined to play no ward flame, and expiring even at the idle part in the workshop of nature. moment when he has attained the To them is committed the task of consummation of his vows. Alas, perpetuating vegetable existence; that earnest truth-loving science upon their active industry depends should step in to crush this graceful the life of every bird that soars in air, fabric of the imagination, to strip of every beast that stalks across the this history of all its glowing passion, plain, of every insect that crawls over and all its mystery of almost human the surface of the earth; the life of love! And yet we have no real man himself; the very existence of cause for lamentation. The highest the universe as at present constituted. truth is in itself the highest poetry. Well may we ask with Tennyson, The simple but eternal and therefore
sublime truths which science substi“Who is it that could live an hour If nature put not forth her power
tutes for the visionary beauties of the About the opening of a flower ?"
human imagination, far transcend Displaying in their form and es- the inventions of the greatest masters sence a union of the sweetest utili- of poetry. In the place of isolated tarianism with the most ideal beauty, and mysterious facts, without visible the flowers preside over the birth of connection or harmony, it has given the plants under conditions giving us all-embracing principles, and has rise to fancies that have fed the ima- furnished us with a mastery which gination of generations of poets, and will unlock the secret chambers of have inspired the gravest botanical Nature, and enable us to behold all philosophers of former ages with her operations, regulated by a unipleasant thoughts. Many hundred versal frame of laws. years have passed since it was first The minute vegetable cell, artificer noticed that in several species of of the world of plants, here again plants two differing forms are devel- comes before us, as the agent by