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ART. IX. Three Months passed in the Mountains East of Rome, during the Year 1819. By MARIA GRAHAM, Author of Journal of a Residence in India. 8vo. pp. 312. London, Longman. 1820.
THIS HIS is really a book of considerable entertainment, and some instruction, without any pretensions either to deep remark or great learning. The high roads and great towns of Italy are now such beaten tracks in literature as well as in travelling, that there is some refreshment in leaving them, and retreating, for a season, from the noise of the hosts and the couriers, the gabble of the cicerone, and even the glories of the City itself, and what remains of the smoke and wealth and bustle of Rome,' in order to see a little of what the ordinary traveller never thinks of, the habits of the people among themselves, and the appearance of those quiet districts, which, not being seen from his carriage window, pass for having no existence. This pleasing variety is afforded by Mrs Graham's work; we have given one recommendation of its manner, the modesty of its pretensions; we may add a more important one of its matter, the apparent accuracy of its facts; for, not only does the narrative carry with it the strongest marks of truth, but all that is told having been heard or witnessed by two other persons, a check is provided upon involuntary exaggeration, by far the most fruitful source of inaccuracy in all travellers. Those who have been accustomed to compare the accounts in such books with the facts, best know the inestimable importance of such a circumstance to the reader's comfort, even if he only takes the book as a work of amusement, and has no design of building speculations upon the information it may profess to give.
Our author, accompanied by her husband and Mr C. Eastlake, an ingenious artist, left Rome, as is usual during the unhealthy season, in 1819, and took up her residence at the small town of Poli, twenty-six miles from the city, and situated between Tivoli and Palestrina, the ancient Præneste. The journey from Rome thither presents nothing to detain us. The places passed through, or seen at a distance, are mentioned with the accustomed classic references; and, of course, Collatia and Gabii could not be approached without a notice of the Tarquins and Lucretia. We could have wished that Mrs Graham had showed her wonted good sense in resting satisfied with received allusions, and not loaded Gabii with the more recondite one, of being the place where Romulus and Remus were brought up. For this she cites Dionysius; but the received
account is certainly that of Livy, who expressly gives as a reason for building Rome where they did, that it was the spot ubi expositi ubique educati erant;' and adds (in case there should be any doubt as to the meaning of the latter phrase), that Romulus began by fortifying the shepherd's house where he had been brought up, or its site called the Palatium. The reader will perceive that we give no opinion upon this point, nor enter indeed into the discussion. In a part of history wholly fabulous according to some, abundantly doubtful and obscure in every man's judgment, it would be childish to dogmatize; but we only stop to take notice of the historical paradox above mentioned, as a small exception to the generally unassuming character of our author's remarks. In plain terms, we think that a work which cites Virgil and Horace always, in Dryden's and Francis's words, might have been satisfied with the Gabian and Roman history, as commonly taken from Livy.
Poli, where our travellers fixed their abode, is a small town of 1300 inhabitants, wholly employed in agriculture; so that, with the exception of some publick ovens, and a few other places where the most common necessaries may be bought, there are no shops, nor any handicraftsmen but a carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker and harness-maker. The cloth worn by these simple and industrious people is made by the women, who spin their wool and flax in the winter, and weave it in looms which they hire in spring, and then dye and bleach it before the vintage and harvest begin, when they take their share in the labours of the field. It is hardly necessary to add, that here, as indeed in most parts of the Continent, the peasantry live in the towns, and not in the country. The flock is left under the care of shepherds, and a single farm-servant is stationed at the buildings where grain or tools or cattle are housed; but the town, be it far or near the scene of work, is the home of the labourers. There are only five priests at Poli, one of whom is the schoolmaster. Two well filled monasteries were once established, a convent of Breton monks, chiefly supported by estates in France, and the rich house of San Stefano connected in the same way with Spain. The former was entirely dispersed at the beginning of the French Revolution; and of the latter, one monk, and a lay-brother his cook, alone remain; but they only remain because the monk is master of a Latin, reading and writ ing school, founded by the useful piety of a lady of the Conti family, and free to all the Polese. The same excellent person appointed a mistress to teach the girls reading and plain work.
Education, imperfect as it is here, displays its advantages in the conduct and sentiments of some of the peasants. We met with one
remarkable instance of its influence in a young man who was usually our guide in our little expeditions. His powers of reasoning were acute, and his observations, wherever his religious faith did not interfere, far above any thing we had expected in this rude and remote place. If by chance he got near the doubtful grounds of faith, he always checked himself, saying, "These subjects are better not touched upon. I do not think the worse of you for differing in your belief from me; but I believe it would be mortal sin in me, unenlightened as I am, to attempt to examine the grounds of my own, and thereby expose myself to the perils of heresy or discontent. On all other subjects he was very frank and intelligent, and exceedingly curious about the productions of our country, and the customs of our country people. We had the curiosity to borrow the common school-books from Agabitto, for so our friend was called, and could not help being struck with the extreme care with which the church of Rome has watched to effect its own purposes in the instruction of even the youngest child. The Italian Santa Croce, or Christ's-cross-row, contains, besides the letters and syllables, some prayers in Italian, others in Latin, which the little children are instructed to repeat, without, however, understanding them; the creed, a short catechism, and a manufactured copy of the Decalogue. In this last, the second commandment is completely omitted, to accommodate the pictures and images of the Romish worship; and the 10th is split, to make up the number. Indeed, we do not see how the commandment against idolatry could be retained where the practice is so prevalent. The women wear a Madonna and child in their rings, the men sew a crucifix into their jackets; these are caressed and invoked in every peril; and we had more than one occasion to observe, that these images were considered as something more than mere symbols.' p. 31-33.
The Italian books read at the school are entirely religious, it seems. Among these the Bible is never included in Catholic countries; but a history of it, prepared to suit the doctrines of the church, is substituted in the place of the genuine original. Yet, though the peasants are not taught to read beyond a certain range, they seem, by our author's account, to expatiate pretty widely themselves. Some of them are readers of Metastasio; but the common favourites are the ballads which abound in Italy, and contain a strange mixture of Pagan mythology and legendary lore. Of these a very minute account, with specimens, is given in an Appendix to this work, which treats of the popular poetry of the modern Romans, and of which we shall take notice hereafter. But of the change made in the Ten Commandments above referred to, we may here add, that it is not the only one introduced to serve the views of the hierarchy. The fourth (which stands third in their version) requires not that the Sabbath, but that the days of festivals, be kept holy. As for the
substitution of fornication for adultery, possibly it may be the more literal translation; at least the Latin Bible has it,
Much detail is given respecting the cultivation both of the grain and the trees which grow near Poli; and many quotations are interspersed from Georgical poems. The only facts of any importance seem to be these. The wages in harvest are higher than might have been expected; the men having a shilling a day in money, and four loaves weighing in all 32 ounces Troy, with as much wine as they please, reduced by one-fourth of water; while the women have sixpence, and 24 ounces, with wine. At Tivoli the money payments are one half more, the provisions being the same. The quitrents reserved by the church and feudal proprietor, appear very large. Our author mentions the case of the peasant's father formerly spoken of, who had improved a piece of land which was a mere barren waste in the Duke of Sporza's domain, and converted it into a very productive farm. He had to pay one-fifth of the corn, and one-fourth of the oil, wine and pulse, raised upon it; so that in bad years he can hardly maintain bis famil after paying this rent, and has been known hardly to have seed corn left, much less any surplus. The olive is the favourite culture in this district, as indeed in all Italy-the Polese proverb being, If you would leave your children's children a lasting inherit'ance, plant an olive. An old tree is mentioned by our author as hollow, and reduced to such a shell, that it can scarcely keep its hold of the ground, or resist the storm; and it had just yielded 240 English quarts of oil. The cattle which are kept in the mountains during the summer, and driven down to fatten in the Campagna when winter sets in, are tended by cowherds who contract for the season. One man will take charge of the cattle of several owners, and then he receives two crowns a month per score; if he is hired wholly by one owner, he has six crowns; and for these wages he is to attend them day and night over all their wanderings. Shepherds and goatherds are paid in their own neighbourhood a halfpenny per day, with 32 ounces of bread, and as much milk and curd as they please; but if they go to a distance from their village, they have a crown a month, with their food. Thus much of common and lowly matters; but now-paullo majora canamus-the hog remains to be disposed of; and, fearful of approaching the subject, we shall leave it in the hands of the author.
'All this mountain district is famous for the goodness of the hams and bacon it produces The pigs, generally called animali neri, are, like the wild hog of the country, black, long faced, and narrow
shouldered. They are scarcely ever put up to feed, but fatten naturally in the woods upon the nuts, mast, and roots they find. The hog is a much more dignified animal in Italy, than with us in the north; and indeed it appears from the Odyssey, that the swineherd was no mean personage in an ancient Greek family: here he is on the same footing as a shepherd. We recollect a pastoral poem, by Michael Angelo, where the bringing in and folding the herd of swine is the subject. The pig is certainly an intelligent animal, and easily becomes attached to his master: we have seen them running along the high road at night, to meet the labourers returning from work, and caressing them as a dog would do. They are useful in a variety of ways, particularly in hunting for, and destroying the larvæ of locusts, when turned into an infected field early in the morning. The sow, even when she has her young, is not confined to the sty, but is tethered in some shady place, where she can get at water, and graze at pleasure; and her food is assisted twice a day with milk, bran, and vegetables. This mode of treating the pig produces less fat pork and bacon indeed, than a Hampshire farmer would approve; but it gains greatly in flavour from its partially wild state The favour it is in with the low Romans, may be best gathered from the whimsical "Praise of the Pig," (Lode del Porchetto), by the abbate Veccei, who calls upon Apollo and all the Aonian choir to assist him to praise the noble animal.
p. 57, 58.
From the gentle and familiar personage just commemorated, the transition is natural to his savage namesake, the chase of whom forms the principal sport of the Polese and their neighbours. The following passage gives a spirited description of this diversion.
The hunting the wild-boar, which begins about the fall of the leaf, is a favourite diversion of the middle and lower classes; and if a boar is taken, it is a kind of rural triumph. When a hunt is to take place, from ten to thirty hunters assemble, and appoint a chief, experienced in the chase, and whose local knowledge enables him to guess at the probable track of the game. As many dogs as can be procured are collected, and three keepers are chosen to take care of them, and set them on the scent. There are, besides, generally a number of peasants armed with sticks, who go out to beat the thickets, and assist the dogs to find the game. As soon as a boar is discovered, notice is given to the huntsman, who immediately places the hunters in stations convenient for shooting the animal as it passes, after it is roused, as is practised in our northern deer-shooting. The experience of the huntsman should enable him to place five or six of the best marksmen at the principal passes by which the boar is likely to escape. The others are placed at convenient distances between. The keepers then divide the dogs, and advance from three different points towards the boar, encouraging the dogs with their voices; and, if the cover is so thick and rough that they hesitate, they fire a few