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Title: Naples Past and Present
Author: Norway, Arthur H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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     METHUEN & CO.

     _First Published_    _May 1901_
     _Second Edition_    _June 1905_




I have designed this book not as a guide, but as supplementary to a
guide. The best of guide-books--even that of Murray or of
Gsell-Fels--leaves a whole world of thought and knowledge untouched,
being indeed of necessity so full of detail that broad, general views
can scarcely be obtained from it.

In this work detail has been sacrificed without hesitation. I have
omitted reference to a few well-known places, usually because I could
add nothing to the information given in the handbooks, but in one or
two cases because the considerations which they raised lay too far
from the thread of my discourse.

I have thrown together in the form of an appendix such hints and
suggestions as seemed likely to assist anyone who desires wider
information than I have given.

     A. H. N.

     EALING, 1901


       CHAPTER I                                                 PAGE
     THE APPROACH TO NAPLES BY THE SEA                              1


     OBSERVATIONS UPON VIRGIL, THE ENCHANTER                       49

     OCCURRED THERE                                                68

       CHAPTER V
     OF THE KINGS WHO HELD IT                                      85

     ROUND THE CITY                                               101

     SINNERS                                                      121


     POMPEII, AND STABIÆ                                          178

       CHAPTER X
     MADONNA OF POZZANO                                           226


     CAPRI                                                        273


     MAJESTY OF PÆSTUM                                            327

       APPENDIX                                                   345

       INDEX                                                      357


     Bay of Naples from the Vomero                     _Frontispiece_
     Pozzuoli                                                      24

     Pozzuoli                                                      32

     Columns in the Serapeon Pozzuoli                              35

     Castle of Baiæ                                                44

     Fishing Stage, Santa Lucia                                    54

     Strada di Chiaia                                              68

     Porta Mercantile                                              72

     Boats at the Mergellina                                       76

     Gradoni di Chiaia                                             78

     Naples                                                        90

     Castle of St. Elmo                                            97

     Old Town                                                     113

     Bay of Naples from San Martino                               116

     The Church of the Carmine                                    156

     In the Strada di Tribunali                                   168

     Card-players                                                 188

     A Slum                                                       195

     In the Strada di Tribunali                                   209

     Porta Capuana                                                220

     Roof top, Modern Naples                                      259

     Courtyard in the Old Town                                    268

     Unloading Boats, Bay of Naples                               284

     Naples: on the modern side, looking towards Capri from the
     Corso Vittorio Emmanuele                                     288

     Gossip                                                       334




On a fine spring morning when the sun, which set last night in gold
and purple behind the jagged mountain chain of Corsica, had but just
climbed high enough to send out shafts and flashes of soft light
across the opalescent sea, I came up on the deck of the great steamer
which carried me from Genoa to watch for the first opening of the Bay
of Naples. It was so early that the decks were very quiet. There was
no sound but the perpetual soft rustle of the wave shed off from the
bow of the steamer, which slipped on silently without sense of motion.
The Ponza Islands were in sight, desolate and precipitous, showing on
their dark cliffs no house nor any sign of life, save here and there a
seabird winging its solitary way round the crags and caverns of the
coast. Far ahead, in the direction of our course, lay one or two dim,
cloudy masses, too faint and shadowy to be detached as yet from the
grey skyline which bounded the crystalline sparkles of the sea. And
so, having strained my eyes in vain effort to discover the high peak
of Ischia, I fell to wondering why any man who is at liberty to
choose his route should dream of approaching this Campanian coast
otherwise than by the sea.

For Naples is the city of the siren--"Parthenope," sacred to one of
those sea nymphs whose marvellous sweet singing floated out across the
waves and lured the ancient seamen rowing by in their strange old
galleys, shaped after a fashion now long since forgotten, and carrying
merchandise from cities which thirty centuries ago and more were
"broken by the sea in the depths of the waters" so that "all the
company in the midst of them did fail." How many generations had the
line of sailors stretched among whom Parthenope wrought havoc before
Ulysses sailed by her rock, and saw the heaps of whitening bones, and
last of all men heard the wondrous melodies which must have lured him
too, but for the tight thongs which bound him to the mast! So
Parthenope and her two sisters cast themselves into the sea and
perished, as the old prediction said they must when first a mariner
went by their rock unscathed. But her drowned body floated over the
blue sea till it reached the shore at Naples, and somewhere near the
harbour the wondering people built her a shrine which was doubtless
rarely lovely, and is mentioned by Strabo, the old Greek geographer,
as being shown still in his day, not long after the birth of Christ.

There is now but little navigation on these seas compared with the
relative importance of the shipping that came hither in old days.
Naples is in our day outstripped by Genoa, and hard run, even for the
goods of southern Italy, by Brindisi and Taranto. The trade of Rome
goes largely to Leghorn. If Ostia were ever purged of fever and
rebuilt, or if the schemes for deepening the Tiber so as to allow
large vessels to discharge at Rome were carried out, we might see the
port of Naples decline as that of Pozzuoli did for the selfsame
reason, the broad facts which govern the course of trade being the
same to-day as they were three thousand years ago. Even now it is
rather the convenience of passengers and mails than the necessities of
merchants which take the great ocean steamers into Naples. It is not
easy for men who realise these facts to remember that the waters of
the Campanian coast have more than once been ploughed by the chief
shipping of the world. Far back in the dawn of history, where nothing
certain can be distinguished of the deeds of men or nations, the
presence of traders, Phoenician and Greek, can be inferred upon
these shores. The antiquity of shipping is immense and measureless.
Year by year the spade, trenching on the sites of ancient
civilisation, drives back by centuries the date at which man's
intellect began to gather science; and no one yet can put his finger
on any point of time and say, "within this space man did not
understand the use of sail or oar." The earliest seamen of whom we
know anything at all were doubtless the successors of many a
generation like themselves. It cannot be much less than a thousand
years before Christ was born when Greek ships were crossing the sea
which washed their western coasts bound for Sicily and the Campanian
shores. Yet how many ages must have passed between the days when the
Greeks first went afloat and those in which they dared push off toward
the night side of the world, where the mariners of the dead went to
and fro upon the sea, where the expanse of ocean lay unbroken by the
shelter of any friendly island, and both winds and currents beat
against them in their course, or even by coasting up and down the
Adriatic set that dreaded sea between them and their homes! Superstition,
hand in hand with peril, barred their way, yet they broke through! But
after what centuries of fearful longing,--curiosity, and love of salt
adventure struggling in their hearts with fear of the unknown, till
courage gained the mastery and the galleys braved the surf and smoke
of the _planctæ_, the rocks that struck together, "where not even do
birds pass by, no, not the timorous doves which carry ambrosia for
Zeus, but even of them the sheer rock ever steals one away, and the
father sends in another to make up the number."

Then the rowers saw the rock of Scylla and her ravening heads thrust
forth to prey on them, while beneath the fig tree on the opposite crag
Charybdis sucked down the black seawater awfully, and cast it forth
again in showers of foam and spray. These fabled dangers passed, there
remained the Island of the Sirens, which legend placed near Capri,
where Ulysses passed it when he sailed south again; and so the
wonderful tradition of the Sirens dominates the ancient traffic of
mankind upon these waters, and the harbour where the shrine of
Parthenope was reflected in the blue sea claims a lofty place in the
realms whether of imagination or of that scholarship which cares
rather for the deeds of men than for the verbal emendations of a text.

The shrine has gone. The memory remains only as a fable, whose dim
meaning rests on the vast duration of the ages through which men have
gone to and fro upon these waters. But here, still unchanged, is the
pathway to the shrine--the Tyrrhene Sea, bearing still the selfsame
aspect as in the days when the galleys of Æneas beat up the coast from
Troy, and Palinurus watched the wind rise out of the blackening west.
Since those old times the surface of the land has changed as often
almost as the summer clouds have swept across it. Volcanic outbursts
and the caprice of many masters have wrought together in destruction;
so that he who now desires to see what Virgil saw must cheat his eyes
at every moment and keep his imagination ever on the stretch. Even the
city of mediæval days, the capital of Anjou and Aragon, is so far lost
and hidden that a man must seek diligently before he cuts the network
of old streets, unsavoury and crowded, in which he can discover the
lanes and courtyards where Boccaccio sought Fiammetta, or the walls on
which Giotto painted.

But here, upon the silent sea, at every moment fresh objects are
coming into sight which have lain unchanged under dawn and dusk in
every generation. Already the volcanic cone of Monte Epomeo towers out
of Ischia, a menace of destruction which not twenty years ago
fulfilled itself and shook the town of Casamicciola in a few seconds
into a mere rubble heap. It is a sad thing still to stroll round that
once smiling town. Ruins project on every side. The cathedral lies
shattered and untouched; there is not enough money in the island to
rebuild it. The visitors, to whom most of the old prosperity was due,
have not yet recovered from the attack of nerves brought on by the
earthquake. But there remains wonderful beauty at Casamicciola and
elsewhere on Ischia; the "Piccola Sentinella" is an excellent hotel;
some day, surely, the lost ground will be recovered, and prosperity

The new town lies gleaming on the flat at the foot of the great
mountain. Far away towards my right Capri, loveliest of islands,
floats upon the sea touched with blue haze; and there, stretching
landwards, is the mountain promontory of Sorrento, Monte St. Angelo
towering over Monte Faito, and the whole mass dropping by swift, steep
slopes to the Punta di Campanella, the headland of the bell, whence in
the old days of corsairs the warning toll swung out across the sea as
often as the galleys of Dragut or of Barbarossa hove in sight, echoing
from Torre del Greco, Torre Annunziata, and many another watchtower of
that fair and wealthy coast, while the artillery of the old castle of
Ischia, answering with three shots, gave warning of the coming peril.
Even now I can see that ancient castle, standing nobly on a rock that
seems an island, though, in fact, it is united with the land by a low
causeway; and it comes into my mind how Vittoria Colonna took refuge
from her sorrows there, spending her widowhood behind the battlements
on which she had played with her husband as a child. Doubtless the two
children listened awestruck on many a day to the cannon-shots which
warned the fishers. Perhaps Vittoria may even have been pacing there
when, as Brantôme writes, a party of French knights of Malta came
sailing by with much treasure on their ship, and hearing the three
shots took them arrogantly for a salute in honour of their flag, and
so, thinking of nothing but their dignity, made a courteous salute in
answer, and kept on their way. Whereupon the spider Dragut, who at
that moment was sacking Castellammare, just where the peninsula joins
the mainland, driving off as captive all those men or women who had
not fled up into the wooded hills in time, swooped out with half a
dozen galleys, and added the poor knights and their treasure to his
piles of plunder.

Many tales are told about that castle, so near and safe a refuge from
the turbulence of Naples. But already it is dropping astern, and the
lower land of Procida usurps its place, an island which in the days
of Juvenal was a byword of desolation, though populous and fertile in
our own. The widening strait of water between the low shore and the
craggy one played its part in a tale as passionate, though not so
famous, as that of Hero and Leander. For Boccaccio tells us that
Gianni di Procida, nephew and namesake of a man whose loyalty popular
tradition will extol until the end of time, loved one Restituta
Bolgaro, daughter of a gentleman of Ischia; and often when his love
for her burnt so hotly that he could not sleep, used to rise and go
down to the water, and if he found no boat would plunge into the black
sea, swim the channel, and lie beneath the walls of Restituta's house
all night, swimming back happy in the morning if he had but seen the
roof which sheltered her. But one day when Restituta was alone upon
the shore she was carried off by pirates out of Sicily, who, wondering
at her beauty, took her to Palermo and showed her to King Federigo,
who straightway loved her, and gave her rooms in his palace, and
waited till a day might come when she would love him. But Gianni armed
a ship and followed swiftly on the traces of the captors, and found at
last that Restituta was in Palermo. Then, led by love, he scaled the
palace wall by night and crossed the garden in the dark and gained the
poor girl's chamber, and might have borne her off in safety had not
the King, suspecting that all was not well, come with torches in the
darkness and discovered Gianni and cast him into prison, where he lay
till he was sentenced to be taken out and burned at the stake in the
Piazza of Palermo together with the girl who had dared to flout the
affection of a king. And burned they would have been had not the great
Admiral Ruggiero di Loria chanced to pass that way as they stood
together at the stake and known Gianni as the nephew of that great
plotter who conceived the massacre of the Sicilian Vespers, whereby
the crown of Sicily was set upon the head of Aragon. Straightway he
hastened to the King, who forthwith released Gianni and gave him
Restituta, and sent both home laden with rich gifts to Ischia, where
they lived happy for many a year, till they were overcome at last by
no worse fate than that which is reserved for all humanity whether
glad or sorry.

No man can prove this story true; but it is at least so happily
conceived as to be worth credence, like others told us by the same
immortal writer, who, though a Florentine, knew Naples well, and
doubtless wove into the _Decameron_ many an anecdote picked up in the
taverns which survives now in no other form. For there was no Brantôme
to collect for us the gossip of the days when Anjou drove out
Hohenstaufen from this kingdom; and if we would know what happened on
the coast in those tragic and far-distant times we must take the tales
set down by Boccaccio for what they may be worth.

I am not sure that Gianni, the hot-passioned lad who used to swim this
strait by night, does not emerge out of the darkness of the centuries
more clearly than his greater uncle--that mighty plotter who, using
craft and guile where he had no strength, is fabled to have built up a
conspiracy and engineered a massacre which has no parallel save in the
St. Bartholomew. Yet it is not to be judged without excuse like that
foul act of cold-blooded treachery, but was in some measure an
expiation of intolerable wrongs, as may be discovered even now by
anyone who will study the plentiful traditions of that March night
when eight thousand French of every age and either sex perished in
two hours, slain at the signal of the vesper bell ringing in Palermo.
That bloodshed split the kingdom of the two Sicilies in twain. It did
more: it scored men's minds with a memory so deep that even now there
is no child in Sicily who could not tell how the massacre began. To
men then living it appeared a cataclysm so tremendous that they must
needs date time from it, as from the birth of Christ or the foundation
of the world. In documents written full four centuries later the
passage of the years is reckoned thus; and in Palermo to this day the
nuns of the Pietà sing a litany on the Monday after Easter in memory
of the souls of the French who perished on that night of woe. So
memorable was the deed ascribed by tradition to the plotter, Giovanni
di Procida, lord of that little island which is already slipping past
me out of sight.

The steamer slips on noiselessly as ever. Procida falls away into the
background, with its old brown town clinging to the seaward face of a
precipitous cliff; and I can look down the Bay of Baiæ, where in old
Roman days every woman who went in a Penelope came out a Helen, and
almost catch a glance at Cumæ, where Dædalus put off his weary wings
after that great flight from Crete which no man since has contrived to
imitate. There lies the Gate of Hell down which Æneas plunged in
company with the Sibyl; and round it all the land of the Phlegræan
fields, heaving and steaming with volcanic fires. There too is the
headland of Posilipo, where Virgil dwelt and where he wrought those
enchantments concerning which I shall have much to say hereafter; for
though Virgil is a poet to the world at large, he is a magician in the
memory of the Neapolitans. And who shall say their tradition is not

Next, sweeping round towards my right hand in a perfect curve, comes
the shore of the Riviera di Chiaia, once a pleasant sandy beach,
broken midway by the jutting rock and island on which stood the church
and monastery of San Lionardo. It is long since church and island
disappeared, and few of those gay Neapolitans who throng the Via
Caracciolo, that fine parade which now usurps the whole seafront from
horn to horn of the bay, could even point out where it stood. In these
days the whole shore is embowered in trees and gardens skirting the
fine roadway; and there stands the wonderful aquarium, which has no
equal in the world, and where the wise will spend many afternoons and
yet leave its marvels unexhausted.

My eyes have travelled on to the other horn of this fine bay, and are
arrested by what is surely the most picturesque object in all Naples.
For at this point the spine or backbone of land which breaks the
present city into two, leaving on the right the ancient town and on
the left the modern, built along the pretty shore of which I have just
spoken,--at this point the ridge sweeps down precipitously from the
Castle of St. Elmo on the height, breaks off abruptly in the sheer
cliff of the Pizzo-Falcone, "The Falcon's Beak," and then sends
jutting out into the sea a small craggy island which bears an old
hoary castle low down by the water's edge. On this grey morning the
sea breaks heavily about the black reef on which the castle stands,
and the walls, darkened almost to the colour of the rock itself,
assume a curious aspect of vast age, such as disposes one to seek
within their girth for some at least among the secrets of old Naples.
Nor will the search be vain; for this hoary fortress is Castel
dell'Uovo, "The Castle of the Egg," so called, if we may lend an ear
to Neapolitan tradition, because Virgil the Enchanter built it on an
egg, on which it stands unto this hour, and shall stand until the egg
is broken. Others again say that the islet is egg-shaped, which it is
not, unless my eyes deceive me; and of other explanations I know none
at all, so that any man who can content himself with neither of these
may resign himself to contemplate an unsolved puzzle for as long as he
may stay in Naples.

Apart, however, from the wizard Virgil and the idle tale of the
enchanted egg, there is something so arresting in the sight of this
ancient castle thrust out into the sea that I cannot choose but see in
it the heart of the interest of Naples. It is by far the oldest castle
which Naples owns, and as its day came earliest so it passed the
first. Castel Nuovo robbed it of its consequence, both as a royal
dwelling and a place of arms; and now the noisy, feverish tide of life
that beats so restlessly from east to west through the great city
finds scarce an echo on the silent battlements of the Egg Castle,
where Norman monarchs met their barons and royal prisoners languished
in the dungeons. Inside the walls there is nothing to attract a
visitor but memories. Yet those gather thick and fast as soon as one
has crossed the drawbridge, and there is scarce one other spot in
Naples where a man who cares for the past of the old tragic city can
lose himself more easily in dreams.

But again the steamer turns her course a little, and suddenly the
Castel dell'Uovo slips out of sight, the old brown city passes across
my line of vision like a picture on the screen of a camera oscura when
the lens is moved, and I am gazing out beyond the houses across the
wide rich plain out of which the vast bulk of Vesuvius rears itself
dark and tremendous, towering near the sea. There are other mountains
far away, encircling the plain like the walls of some great
amphitheatre, but they are beyond the range of volcanic catastrophe,
and stood unmoved while the peaks of Vesuvius were piled up and blown
away into a thousand shapes, sometimes green and fertile, the haunt of
wild boars and grazing cattle, at others rent by fire and subterranean
convulsion so as to give reality to the most awful visions which the
imagination of mankind has conceived concerning the destruction which
befell the sinful cities of the plain.

The plain is the Campagna Felice, a happy country, notwithstanding the
perpetual menace of the smoking mountain, which time after time has
convulsed the fields, altered the outline of the coast, and
overwhelmed cities, villages, and churches. Throughout the last
eighteen hundred years a destruction like to that which befell the
cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii has been overtaking hamlets and
buildings of less note. The country is a palimpsest. What is now
written on its surface is not a tithe of what was once inscribed
there. In 1861 an earthquake at Torre del Greco made a fissure in the
main street. Those who dared descend it found themselves in a church,
long since buried and forgotten. So it is in every direction
throughout the Campagna Felice. The works of man are overwhelmed in
countless numbers by the ejections from Vesuvius, and the green fields
of beans and lupins which stretch so pleasantly across the wide spaces
between the Sarno and the Sebeto cover the ruins of innumerable homes.

It seems strange that a land exposed to such great and constant perils
should be densely populated. The coast is lined with towns, all
shining in the sun, and the first graceful slopes of Vesuvius itself
are studded with white buildings, planted here and there in apparent
oblivion of the floods of red-hot lava which have so often forced
their way down the inclines towards the sea. There must be many
dwellers in those towns who saw the lava break out from new vents in
1861 among the cultivated fields. Yet the fields are cultivated still,
and in time of eruption the peasants will continue working in the
vineyards within a few hundred yards of the crawling stream, knowing
well how often its progress is arrested by the cooling of the fiery
mass. There is, moreover, the power of the saints to be considered.
How often has not San Gennaro arrested the outbreaks, and brought
peace to the frightened city! On the Ponte della Maddalena he stands
unto this day, his outstretched arm, pointing to the mountain with a
gesture drawn from the mimic language of the people, bids it "Halt!"
And then the fertility of the volcanic soil! Vesuvius, if a rough
friend, is a kindly one. He may drive the people to their prayers from
time to time, which is no great harm! but, if a balance be struck, his
benefits are as many as his injuries, and the peasants, looking up, as
they hoe their fields, at the coiling wreaths of copper-coloured smoke
which issue from the cone, are content to take their chance that death
may some day meet them too in a cloud of scorching ashes as it did
those who dwelt in Pompeii so very long ago.

The great steamer is already near her moorings. The western or newer
half of Naples is hidden by the hill, and I have before my eyes only
the densely peopled ancient city, a rabbit warren of tortuous and
narrow streets, unsavoury and not too safe, yet full of interest if
not of beauty, and possessing a picturesqueness which is all their
own. One salient feature only arrests the eye wandering over this
intricate mass of balconies and house-fronts--the handsome steeple of
the Carmine, a church sorely injured and defaced, but still abounding
in romance. For there lies the boy-king Conradin, slaughtered by
Charles of Anjou in the market-place just outside; and there, too, the
fisherman Masaniello met his end, after a trick of fortune had made
him ruler of Naples for eight days. There is no church in all the city
so full of tragedies as this, which was founded by hermits fleeing
from Mount Carmel twelve hundred years ago, and which ever since has
been close to the heart of the passionate and fierce-tempered people
dwelling round its walls.

I do not doubt there was a time when travellers, arriving at Naples by
sea, found themselves greeted by persons of aspect more pleasing than
those who accost the astonished pilgrim of to-day. There was surely an
age when the lazzaroni were really picturesque, when they lay on the
warm sand in the sunshine, while the bay resounded with the chant of
fishermen, the light-hearted people beguiling their unbounded leisure
with the tuneful strains of "Drunghe, drunghete," of "Tiritomba," or
even the too familiar "Santa Lucia." It cannot be that travellers lied
when they wrote of the amazing picturesqueness of the Neapolitans,
that they painted brown purple, and put on their spectacles of rose as
they approached the land! I wish I had those spectacles; for indeed
the aspect of the quays and wharves of Naples is not attractive, while
the people who throng the boats now pushing off towards the steamer
are just such a crowd of expectant barterers as one may see wherever a
great steamer touches. In the stern of the first stands a naked boy,
brown and lithe. His accomplishment is to dive for pence, which he
does with singular dexterity, cramming all the coins as he catches
them into his mouth, which yet is not so full as to impede his
bellowing like a bull in the effort to attract more custom. Did I
complain of the lack of music? I was hasty; for there comes a second
boat, carrying two nymphs whose devotion to the art has caused them to
forget the use of water, unless it be internally. One has a hoarse
voice, the other a shrill one; and with smiles and antics they pipe
out the cheapest of modern melodies, chanting the eternal "Funicoli,
Funicola," till one wishes the writer of that most paltry song could
be keelhauled, or taught by some other process of similar asperity how
grave is the offence of him who casts one more jingle into the hoarse
throats of the street musicians of to-day. If I flee to the further
side of the steamer and stop my ears from the cacophony, my face is
tickled by the foliage of huge nosegays thrust up on the ends of poles
from a boat so low in the water that I cannot see it. The salt air
grows heavy with the scent of violets and roses. None of my senses is
at peace.

But in another hour the landing was happily accomplished. The
recollection of the mob through which one struggled to the quay, the
noise, the extortion, and the smells had faded away into the limbo of
bad dreams, and I was free to go whither I would in the small portion
of the day remaining and taste whichever sight of Naples pleased me
first. There is nothing more bewildering to a stranger than to be
turned loose in a great city with which he is imperfectly acquainted.
I looked east towards the Carmine; but the handsome campanile lay far
from the centre of the city. I gazed before me, up a long straight
street which cleft the older city with a course as straight as any bow
shot, the house fronts intricate with countless balconies and climbing
plants. It is the Strada del Duomo; but I knew it to be new through
all its lower length, and it leads into the very heart of the dense
old town, where, lost in a maze of vicoli, I could never grasp the
broad and general aspect of this metropolis of many kings.

At that moment I remembered the hill on which the Castle of St. Elmo
stood; and turning westwards along the street which borders the quays,
I came out in no great distance on the Piazza del Municipio, bordered
on the further side by the walls and towers of Castel Nuovo, that old
royal castle of Anjou and Aragon, which saw so many tragedies wrought
within its walls, and holds some still, as I shall tell in time, for
the better persuasion of any who may be disposed to set down the
accusations of history as distant and vague charges, which cannot
nowadays be brought to the test of sight. Before my eyes rises the
white priory of San Martino topping the hillside high above the town,
and it is to that point that I am hastening ere the gold light of the
afternoon fades off the bay, and the grey shades of the early dusk rob
the islands of their sunset colours. It is a long climb up to the
belvedere of the low white building. The Neapolitans believed in days
not long distant that vast caverns of almost immeasurable extent
branched out laterally from the dungeons of St. Elmo and ran down
beneath the city even to Castel Nuovo, making a secret communication
between the garrisons of the two fortresses on which the security of
Naples most depended. The story is not true. The vaults of St. Elmo do
not reach so far, and are not more extensive than the circuit of the
castle. But indeed these hillsides on which Naples lies are pierced so
frequently by caverns, so many tales are told of grottoes known and
unknown in every spine of rock, that the wildest stories of mysterious
passages have found ready credence; and there are doubtless many
children, old and young, in Naples who believe that one may walk
beneath the earth from St. Elmo to Castel Nuovo no less firmly than
they credit the existence of vast caverns filled with gold and jewels
lying underneath Castel dell'Uovo, guarded for ever from the sight of
man by the chafing of the waves.

Naples presents us with a strange blend of romance and common
sense--the modern spirit, practical and useful, setting itself with
something like the energy of the old Italian genius towards the
gigantic task of acquiring the arts of government, and turning a
people enslaved for centuries into one which can wield the hammer of
its own great destinies. "L'Italia è fatta," said Massimo d'Azeglio,
"ma chi farà ora gli Italiani?" It was the question of a patriot, and
it may be that it is not wholly answered yet. The most careless of
observers can see that some things still go wrong in Italy, that the
Italians are not yet wholly made, and it is the easiest as it is the
stupidest of tasks to demonstrate that thirty years of freedom have
not taught the youngest nation what the oldest took eight centuries to
learn. It galls me to hear the supercilious remarks dropped by
strangers coming from a country where serious difficulties of
government have not existed in the memory of man, the casual wisdom of
critics who look around too carelessly to note the energy with which
one by one the roots of evil are plucked up, and the refuse of the
long tyranny cleared away. I am not writing a political tract; but I
say once for all that the recent history of Italy can show more
triumphs than its failures; and the day will surely come when the
indomitable courage of her rulers shall purge the country of those
cankers which for centuries ate out her manhood.

       "We do not serve the dead--the past is past.
     God lives, and lifts his glorious mornings up
       Before the eyes of men awake at last,
     Who put away the meats they used to sup,
       And down upon the dust of earth outcast
     The dregs remaining of the ancient cup,
       Then turn to wakeful prayer and worthy act."

Dear prophetess and poet, who once from Casa Guidi sang so bravely of
the future, kindling the love of Italy in many a heart where it has
since grown into a passion,--it is coming true! It may be that
fulfilment loiters, but Heaven does not disappoint mankind of hopes so
great as these. They are of the sort with which God keeps troth. The
child who went by singing "O bella libertà, o bella!" does not flute
so sweetly now he is a man, but his hands have taken hold, and his
heart is set on the greatness of his motherland.

The sun lies thick and hot in the Toledo, that long and crowded street
which is the chief thoroughfare of Naples. It is hotter still when,
having toiled as far as the museum, I turn off along the Corso
Vittorio Emmanuele, which winds along the hillside, giving at each
turn grand views across the town and harbour towards Capri shining in
the west. A little way down the Corso is a flight of steps, long,
tortuous and steep, yet forming much the pleasantest approach to the
white priory whither every visitor to Naples goes once at least
towards the hour of sunset. As one mounts, the city drops away, and
the long semicircle of hills behind it rises into sight, green rounded
hills, bearing on their summits palms which stand out sharp and dark
against the sky. With every convolution of the stairs one sees more
and more of the great plain out of which Vesuvius rises,--the Campagna
Felice, a purple flat, stretching from the base of the volcano as far
as that mountain chain which marks the limit of its power. Out of the
mountains comes a fresh cool wind, and all the city sparkles in the

So I went up among the housetops till at length I reached an open
space bounded by a rampart whence one looked down upon the town. On
the further side a gateway gave admission to a courtyard, and that
again to a corridor of the old priory, through which a guide led me
with vain pointings toward the chamber containing the "Presepe," a
vast model of the scene of the Nativity. Mary sits upon a height under
a fragment of an old Greek building; while all the valleys are filled
with the procession of the kings. Their goods are being unloaded from
the troops of asses which bore them. In the meadows sheep are grazing,
cows are being milked; and the sky is filled with choirs of angels. It
is an ingenious, theatrical toy, but not half so pretty as the sunset,
which I came to see. So, with some indignation of my guide, I pressed
on through an exquisitely cool arcaded courtyard of white marble, its
centre occupied by a garden wherein palms and roses grew almost
profuse enough to hide the ancient draw well, with its chain and
bucket lying as if they waited for some brother told off by the Prior
to draw water for the rest. In one corner of this courtyard a doorway
gives admission to the belvedere, a little chamber with two windows,
whereof one looks towards the plain behind Vesuvius, and the other
gives upon Posilipo.

As I stepped out on the belvedere the sun was dropping fast towards
Posilipo, and wide flashes of gold were spreading over all the
cup-shaped bay. Far out at sea, between the two horns of the gulf, the
dark peaks of Capri caught the light, and presently the glow blazed
more brightly in the west, and all the shores where Sorrento lies
began to quiver softly in the sunset. Vesuvius was grim and black; a
pillar of dark smoke mounted slowly from its summit, and stretched
across the paling sky like a banner floating defiantly from some tall
citadel. Deep down beneath me lay the white city, a forest of domes
and house-fronts which seemed at first impenetrable. But ere long the
royal palace detached itself from the other buildings, and I could
distinguish Castel Nuovo, with its old round towers, looking very dark
and grim, while on the left a forest of domes and spires rose out of
the densely crowded streets which have known so many masters and have
allured conquerors from lands so very far away. A faint brown haze
crept down from the hilltops, the first touch of evening chilled the
air, but the seaward sky was marvellously clear, and the wide bay
gleamed with gold and purple lights.



It is a morning of alternate sun and shadow. The clouds are flying low
across the city, so that now one dome and now another flashes into
light and the orange groves shine green and gold among the square
white houses. All the high range of the Sorrento mountains lies in
shadow, but on the sea the colours are glowing warm and bright, here a
tender blue, there deepening into grey, and again, nearer into shore,
a marvellous rich tint which has no name, but is azure and emerald in
a single moment. Away across the crescent of the gulf a crowd of
fishing boats are putting forth from Torre del Greco or Torre dell'
Annunziata. Even at this distance one can see how they set their huge
triangular sails and scatter, some one way, some another, searching
each perhaps for his favourite volcanic shoal; for the largest fish
lurk always in the hollows of those lava reefs which have from time to
time burst out of the bottom of the bay. Some, perhaps, are sailing
for the coral fishery upon the coast of Africa, to which great numbers
go still in this month of April out of all the harbours beneath
Vesuvius, though the profits are not what they were, and the trade is
falling upon evil days. As for the mountain, he has cleared himself of
clouds, and from his summit a heavy coil of smoke uncurls itself
lazily and spreads like a pennant stretching far across the sky.

All these things and more I have time to notice while I trudge along
above the housetops of the city, those flat roofs named _astrici_
which are such pleasant lounges on the summer evenings when the blue
bay is dotted over with white sails and the shadows deepen on the
flanks of Vesuvius or the distant line of the Sorrento coast. At
length the road approaching the ridge of hill whose point forms the
headland of Posilipo drops swiftly, and I find myself in face of a
short ascent leading to the mouth of the very ancient grotto by which,
these two thousand years and more, those who fared from Naples unto
Pozzuoli have saved themselves the trouble of the hill.

It is absolutely necessary to pause and consider this hill, to which
so much of the rare beauty of Naples is to be attributed. For the
moment I set aside its legends and traditions, and turn my attention
to the eminence itself. It is a cliff of yellow rock, whose
consistency somewhat resembles sandstone, evidently worked without
much difficulty, since it has been quarried out into vast cavities.
The rock is tufa. It is a volcanic product, and forms the staple not
only of the headland, but also of all the site of Naples and the
rising ground behind it up to the base of the blue Apennines, which
are seen continually towering in the distance beyond Vesuvius.

Thus at Naples one may distinguish between the eternal hills and those
which have no title to the name. Of the latter is Posilipo, formed as
I said out of volcanic ash. That ash was ejected underneath the sea,
and having been compacted into rock by the action of the water was
upreared by some convulsion long since forgotten. It is an intrusion
on the landscape--a very ancient one, certainly--but it has nothing
to do with the great mountain-chain which hems in the Neapolitan
Campagna and ends at last in the Sorrento peninsula and Capri. All the
most fertile plain which lies within that barrier was once beneath the
sea, which flowed up to the bases of the mountains. There is no doubt
about it. The rock of Posilipo contains shells of fish now living in
the bay. From Gaeta to Castellammare stretched one wide inlet of the
sea. But underneath the water volcanic ash was being cast out, as it
is still at certain spots within the bay; the heaps of ash and pumice
stone grew into shoals and reefs, were uplifted into hills, the sea
flowed back from its uptilted bed, and the coasts of Naples and of
Baiæ assumed some outline roughly similar to that which they possess
at present.

Of course all this is very ancient history, far beyond the ken of
written records, or even the faintest whisper of tradition, unless,
indeed, in the awe with which ancient writers alluded to the Phlegræan
fields, fabled in old time to be the gate of hell, we may detect some
lingering memory of the horrible convulsion which drove back the sea,
and out of its deserted bed reared up this wilderness of ash and
craters. But speculations of this kind are rather idle. We had better
turn towards the grottoes, which are, at least in part, the work of
men whose doings on this earth are known to history. The one, of
course, is wholly modern, a construction of our own age for the
accommodation of the steam tramway; but the other, through which one
walks or drives, is certainly as old as the Emperor Augustus, and has
sometimes been supposed to possess an antiquity far greater than that.

It seems remarkable that the Romans should have esteemed it easier to
bore through the cliff than to make a road across the headland.
Indeed, there were villas on Posilipo, and there must surely have been
a road of some sort from very early times, though it must be admitted
that the founders of Naples did not go to Pozzuoli by the coast as we
do. The old road climbed up directly from the city to Antignano, in
the direction of Camaldoli, and kept along the ridge as far as
possible. The coast road began to be used when the tunnel had been
made. Still there must have been at least a track across the headland,
and one wonders why the Romans did not improve it, in preference to
boring underground. The ease with which the soft stone can be worked
may account partially for their choice; but it is not to be forgotten
that numberless caves, whether natural or artificial, exist in the
cliffs at Posilipo and Pizzofalcone, giving occasion to the quick
fancy of the Neapolitans to devise wild tales of buried treasure and
of strange fierce beasts which guard it from the greed of men. The old
legends of the Cimmerians who dwelt in dark caverns of the Phlegræan
fields present themselves to mind in this connection, and without
following out this mysterious subject further into the mists which
envelope it, we may recognise the possibility that some among these
caverns are far older than is commonly believed. Of course the
preference of the Romans for tunnelling is explained at once, if we
may suppose that by enlarging existing caverns they found their tunnel
already partly made.

  [Illustration: POZZUOLI]

"I do not know," cries Capaccio, an ancient topographer who may yet be
read with pleasure, though the grapes have ripened three hundred times
above his tomb, "I do not know whether the Posilipo is more adorned by
the grotto or the grotto by Posilipo." I really cannot guess what he
meant. It sounds like the despairing observation of a writer at a
loss for matter. We will leave him to resolve his own puzzle and go on
through the darkness of the ill-lighted grotto--no pleasanter now than
when Seneca grumbled at its dust and darkness--sparing some thought
for that great festival which on the 7th of September every year turns
this dark highway into a pandemonium of noise and riot. The festival
of Piedigrotta is held as much within the tunnel as on the open space
outside, where stands the church whose Madonna furnishes a devotional
pretext for all the racket. Indeed it is almost more wild and whirling
within than without; for one need not become a boy again to understand
that the joys of rushing up and down, wearing a fantastic paper cap,
blowing shrieks upon a catcall, and brandishing a Chinese lantern,
must be infinitely greater in the bowels of the hill than in the open
air. Of course it is not only, nor even chiefly, a feast for children.
All the lower classes rejoice at Piedigrotta, and often with the best
of cause; for it happens not infrequently that the sky, which for many
weeks has been pitiless and brazen, clouds and breaks about that time,
the welcome rain falls, the streets grow cool again, and laughter
rises from end to end of the reviving city.

Of Fuorigrotta, the unpleasing village at the further end of the
grotto, I have nothing to say, unless it be to express the wish that
Giacomo Leopardi, who lies in the church of San Vitale, lay elsewhere.
That superb poet and fine scholar whose verses upon Italy not yet
reborn rank by their majesty and fire next after those of Dante, and
who yet could produce a poem rendering so nobly the solitude of
contemplation as that which commences--

     "Che fai tu luna in ciel, dimmi, che fai,
     Silenziosa luna!"

this man should have lain upon some mountain-top, among the scent of
rosemary and of fragrant myrtle, rather than in such a reeking dirty
village as Fuorigrotta.

But I forget!--the compelling interest of this day's journey is not
literary. A short walk from Fuorigrotta brings me to a point where the
road turns slightly upward to the right, leading me to the brow of a
hill, over which I look into a wooded hollow--none other than the Lago
d'Agnano, once a crater, then a volcanic lake. Oddly enough, it is not
mentioned as a lake by any ancient writer. Pliny describes the Grotta
del Cane, which we are about to visit, but says not a word of any
lake. This fact, with some others, suggests that the water appeared in
this old crater only in the Middle Ages; though it really does not
matter much, for it is gone now. The bottom has been reft from the
fishes and converted into fertile soil. The sloping heights which wall
the basin have a waste and somewhat blasted aspect; but I was not
granted time to muse on these appearances before a smiling but
determined brigand, belonging to the class of guides, sauntered up
with a small cur running at his heels and made me aware that I had
reached the entrance of the Dog Grotto.

I might have known it; for, in fact, through many centuries up to that
recent year when it pleased the Italians to drain the lake, the life
of the small dogs dwelling in this neighbourhood has been composed of
progresses from grotto to lake and back again, first held up by the
heels to be stifled by the poisonous gas, then soused head over ears
in the lake with instructions to recover quickly because another
carriage was coming down the hill. Thus lake and grotto were twin
branches of one establishment, now dissolved. Perhaps the lake was the
more important of the two, since it is easier to stifle a dog or man
than to revive him; and on many occasions there would have been
melancholy accidents had not the cooling waters been at hand. For
instance it is related by M. de Villamont, who came this way when the
seventeenth century was very young indeed, that M. de Tournon, a few
years before, desiring to carry off a bit of the roof of the grotto,
was unhappily overcome by the fumes as he stood chipping off the piece
he fancied, and tumbled on the floor, as likely to perish as could be
wished by the bitterest foe of those who spoil ancient monuments. His
friends promptly dragged him out and tossed him into the lake. It is
true the cure found so successful with dogs proved somewhat less so
with M. de Tournon, for he died a few days later. Yet had the lake
been dry, as it is to-day, he would have died in the cave, which would
surely have been worse.

The little dog--he was hardly better than a puppy--looked at me and
wagged his tail hopefully. I understood him perfectly. He had detected
my nationality; and I resolved to be no less humane than a
countrywoman of my own who visited this grotto no great while ago, and
who, when asked by the brigand whether he should put the dog in,
answered hastily, "Certainly not." "Ah!" said the guide, "you are
Englees! If you had been American you would have said, 'Why,
certainly.'" I made the same condition. The fellow shrugged his
shoulders. He did not care, he knew another way of extorting as many
francs from me; and accordingly we all went gaily down the hill,
preceded by the happy cur, running on with tail erect, till we reached
a gate in the wall through which we passed to the Grotta del Cane.

A low entrance, hardly more than a man's height, a long tubular
passage of uniform dimensions sloping backwards into the bowels of the
hill--such is all one sees on approaching the Dog Grotto. A misty
exhalation rises from the floor and maintains its level while the
ground slopes downwards. Thus, if a man entered, the whitish vapour
would cling at first about his feet. A few steps further would bring
it to his knees, then waist high, and in a little more it would rise
about his mouth and nostrils and become a shroud indeed; for the gas
is carbonic acid, and destroys all human life. King Charles the Eighth
of France, who flashed across the sky of Naples as a conqueror, came
here in the short space of time before he left it as a fugitive,
bringing with him a donkey, on which he tried the effects of the gas.
I do not know why he selected that animal; but the poor brute died. So
did two slaves, whom Don Pietro di Toledo, one of the early Spanish
viceroys, used to decide the question whether any of the virtue had
gone out of the gas. That question is settled more humanely now. The
guide takes a torch, kindles it to a bright flame, and plunges it into
the vapour. It goes out instantly; and when the act has been repeated
some half-dozen times the gas, impregnated with smoke, assumes the
appearance of a silver sea, flowing in rippling waves against the
black walls of the cavern.

With all its curiosity the Dog Grotto is a deadly little hole, in
which the world takes much less interest nowadays than it does in many
other objects in the neighbourhood of the Siren city, going indeed by
preference to see those which are beautiful, whereas not many
generations ago it rushed off hastily to see first those which are
odd. For that reason many visitors to Naples neglect this region of
the Phlegræan fields and are content to wait the natural occasion for
visiting the mouth of Styx, over which all created beings must be
ferried before they reach the nether world. It is a pity; for, judged
from the point of beauty solely, there is enough in the shore of the
Bay of Baiæ to content most men. The road mounts upon the ridge which
parts the slope of Lago d'Agnano from the sea. One looks down from
the spine over a broken land of vineyards to a curved bay, an almost
perfect semicircle, bounded on the left by the height of Posilipo,
with the high crag of the Island of Nisida, and on the right by Capo
Miseno, the point which took its name from the old Trojan trumpeter
who made the long perilous voyage with Æneas, but perished as he
reached the promised land where at last the wanderers were to find
rest. The headland, which, like every other eminence in sight, is
purely volcanic, is a lofty mass of tufa, united with the land by a
lower tongue, like a mere causeway; and on the nearer side stands the
Castle of Baiæ, with the insignificant townlet which bears on its
small shoulders the burden of so great a name. Midway in the bay the
ancient town of Pozzuoli nestles by the water's edge, deserted this
long while by all the trade which brought it into touch with
Alexandria and many another city further east, filling its harbour
with strange ships, crowding its quays with swarthy sailors, and with
silks and spices of the Orient. All that old consequence has gone now
like a dream, and no one visits the cluster of old brown houses for
any other reason than to see that which is still left of its ancient
greatness. But before going down the hill, I turn aside towards a
gateway on my right, which admits me to a place of strange and curious
interest. It is the Solfatara, and is nothing more or less than the
crater of a half-extinct volcano, which, having lain torpid for full
seven centuries, is now a striking proof of the fertility of volcanic
soil, and the speed with which Nature will haste to spread her lushest
vegetation even over a thin crust which covers seething fires. It was
so once with the crater of Vesuvius, which, after five centuries of
rest, filled itself with oaks and beeches, and covered its slopes with
fresh grass up to the very summit.

Indeed, on entering the inclosure of the Solfatara, one receives the
impression of treading the winding alleys of a well-kept and lovely
park. The path runs through a pretty wood. The trees are scarcely more
important than a coppice; but under their green shade there grows a
wealth of flowers of every colour, glowing in the soft sunshine which
filters through the boughs. There is the white gum-cistus, which is so
strangely like the white wild rose of English hedges, and the
branching asphodel, with myriads of those exquisite anemones, lilac
and purple, which make the woods of Italy in springtime a perpetual
joy to us who come from colder climates; and among these, a profusion
of smaller blossoms trailing on the ground, crimson, white and orange,
making such a mass of colour as the most cunning gardener would seek
vainly to produce. One lingers and delays among these woods, doubting
whether any sight which may be shown one further on can compensate for
the loss of the cool glades.

But already over the green coppice bare grey hillsides have come in
sight. They are the walls of the old crater, and here and there a puff
of white smoke curling out of a cleft reminds me that the flowers are
only here on sufferance, and that the whole hollow is in fact but
waiting the moment when its hidden fires will break forth again, and
vomit destruction over all the country. A few yards further on the
coppice falls away. The flowers persist in carpeting the ground; but
in a little way they too cease, the soil grows grey and blasted. Full
in front there rises a strange scene of desolation. The wall of the
crater is precipitous and black. At its base there are openings and
piles of discoloured earth which suggest the débris of some factory of
chemicals, an impression which is driven home by the yellow stains of
sulphur which lie in every direction on the grey bottom of the crater.
From one vast rent in the soil a towering pillar of white smoke pours
out with a loud hissing noise, and blows away in wreaths and coils
over the dark surface of the cliff.

There is something curiously arresting in this quick passage from a
green glade carpeted with flowers to the calcined ash and the grey
desolation of this broken hillside. Of vegetation there is almost
none, except a stunted heather which creeps hardily towards the blast
hole. A little way off, towards the right, lies a level space sunk
beneath the surrounding land, not unlike the fashion of an asphalt
skating rink, so even in its surface that it resembles the work of
man, and one strolls towards it to discover with what purpose anyone
had dared to tamper with the soil in a spot where so thin a crust lies
over bottomless pits of fire. But when one steps out upon the level
flat, it reveals itself at once to be no human work. The guide stamps
with his foot, and remarks that the sound is hollow. It is indeed,
most unpleasantly so. He jumps upon it, and the surface quivers. You
beg him to spare you further demonstrations, and walking gingerly on
tiptoe, wishing at each step that you were safe in Regent Street once
more, you follow him out towards the middle of this devilish crust,
which rocks so easily and covers something which you hope devoutly you
may never see. Midway in the expanse the fellow pauses in triumph--he
has reached what he is confident will please you. He is standing by a
hole, just such an opening as is made in a frozen lake in winter for
the watering of animals. From it there emerges a little vapour and a
curious low sound, like that which a child will make with pouting
lips. The guide grins, crouching by the opening; you, on the other
hand, hang back, in doubt whether the crust may not break off and
suddenly enlarge the hole. You are encouraged forwards, and at last,
peering nervously down the hole, you see with keen and lively interest
that the crust appeared to have about the thickness of your
walking-stick, at which depth there is a lake of boiling mud. The grey
mud stirs and seethes in the round vent-hole, rising and falling,
while on its surface the gas collects slowly into a huge bubble, which
forms and bursts and then collects again.

For my part I do not deny that the sight fascinated me, but it
deprived me of all wish to tread further on that shaking crust, and I
sped back as lightly as I might, wishing all the way for wings, to
where there was at least sound, green earth for a footing, in place of
pumice stone and hardened mud, which some day, surely, will fly into
splinters, and leave the seething, steaming lake once more open to the

  [Illustration: POZZUOLI]

From the hillside just beyond the gate of the Solfatara one gazes down
on the town of Pozzuoli, brown and ancient, looking, I do not doubt,
much the same unto this hour as when the Apostle Paul landed there
from the _Castor and Pollux_, a ship of Alexandria which had wintered
in the Island of Melita. But if the town itself, the very houses
clustered on the hill, preserve the aspect which they bore twenty
centuries ago, so much cannot be said for the sea-front, which is
vastly changed. Pozzuoli in those days must have rung with the noise
of ships entering or departing. Its quays were clamorous with all
the speeches of the East; its great trade in corn needed long
warehouses near the water's edge; its amphitheatre was built for the
games of a people numbering many thousands. But now the little boats
which come and go are too few to break the long silence of the city,
and there are scarce any other noises in the place than the shout of
children at their games, or the loud crack of the vetturino's whip as
the strangers rattle through the streets on their way to Baiæ.

It was the fall of Capua which made the trade of Pozzuoli, and it was
the rise of Ostia that destroyed it. Capua, long the first town of
Italy by reason of its commerce and its luxury, lost that pre-eminence
in the year 211 B.C., when the Romans avenged the adhesion of the city
to the cause of Hannibal. That act of punishment made Rome the chief
mart of merchants from the East, and the nearest port to the Eternal
City being Pozzuoli, the trade flowed thither naturally. Naples no
doubt had a finer harbour; but Naples was not in Roman hands, while
Pozzuoli was. Ostia, before the days of the Emperor Claudius, who
carried out great works there, was a port of smallest consequence.
Thus the harbour of Pozzuoli was continually full of ships. They came
from Spain, from Sardinia, from Elba, bringing iron, which was wrought
into fine tools by cunning workmen of the town; from Africa, from
Cyprus, and all the trading ports of Asia Minor and the isles of the
Ægean. Thither came also the merchants of Phoenicia, bringing with
them all those gorgeous wares which moved the prophet Ezekiel to utter
so great a chant of glory and its doom. "Tarshish was thy merchant by
reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches; with silver, iron,
tin, and lead they traded in thy fairs.... These were thy merchants in
all sorts of things, in blue clothes and broidered work and in chests
of rich apparel, bound with cords and made of cedar among thy
merchandise. The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market.
Thou wast replenished and made very glorious in the midst of the
seas." All that most noble description of the commerce of Tyre returns
irresistibly upon the mind when one looks back on the greatness of
Pozzuoli, where the Tyrians themselves had a mighty factory and all
the nations of the East brought their wares for sale. Most of all the
town rejoiced when the great fleet hove in sight which came each year
from Egypt in the spring. Seneca has left us a description of the
stir. The fleet of traders was preceded some way in advance by light,
swift sailing ships which heralded its coming. They could be known a
long way off, for they sailed through the narrow strait between Capri
and the mainland with topsails flying, a privilege allowed to none but
ships of Alexandria. Then all the town made ready to hasten to the
water's edge, to watch the sailors dancing on the quays, or to gloat
over the wonders which had travelled thither from Arabia, India, and
perhaps even far Cathay.

Well, all this is an old story now--too old, perhaps, to be of any
striking interest--yet here upon the shore is still the vast old
Temple of Serapis, the Egyptian deity whom the strangers worshipped.
One knows not by what slow stages the Egyptians departed and the
ancient temple was deserted. The only certain fact is that at some
period the whole inclosure was buried deep beneath the sea, and after
long centuries raised up again by some fresh movement of the swaying


Strange as this seems to those who have not watched the perpetual
heavings and subsidences of a volcanic land, the testimony of the fact
is unmistakably in sight of all. For the sacred inclosure once
hallowed to the rite of Serapis is still not allotted to any other
purpose; and the visitor who enters it finds many of the ancient
columns still erect. It is a vast quadrangle, once paved with squares
of marble. There was a covered peristyle, and in the centre another
smaller temple. Many of the columns of fine marble which once adorned
the abode of the goddess were reft from her in the last century, when
the spot was cleared of all the soil and brushwood which had grown up
about it; but three huge pillars of cipollino, once forming part of
the pronaos, are still erect; and what is singular about them is that,
beginning at a height of some twelve feet from the ground and
extending some nine feet further up, the marble is honeycombed with
holes, drilled in countless numbers deep into the round surface of the

There is no animal in earth or air which will attack stone in this
destructive manner; but in the sea there is a little bivalve, called
by naturalists "lithodomus," whose only happiness lies in boring. This
animal is still found plentifully in the Bay of Baiæ. His shells still
lie in the perforations of the columns; and it is thus demonstrated
that the ancient temple must have been plunged beneath the sea, that
it lay there long ages, till at length some fresh convulsion reared it
up once more out of the reach of fish. Surely few buildings have
sustained so strange a fate!

The holes drilled by the patient lithodomus, as I have said, do not
extend through the whole height of the column, but have a range of
about nine feet only, which is thus the measure of the space left for
the operations of the busy spoiler. Above the ring of perforations one
sees the indications of ordinary weathering, so that the upper edge
of the holes doubtless marks the level of high water, and the summit
of the columns stood up above the waves. But one does not see readily
what protected the lower portion of the marble. Possibly, before the
land swayed downwards something fell which covered them.

In the twelfth century the Solfatara broke forth into eruption for the
last time. The scoriæ and stones fell thick in Pozzuoli, and they
filled the court of the Serapeon to the height of some twelve feet.
Probably the sea had then already stolen into the courtyard; and it
may be that the earthquakes attending the eruption caused the
subsidence which left the lithodomus free to crawl and bore upon the
stones which saw the ancient mysteries of Serapis. At any rate it was
another volcanic outburst which raised the dripping columns from the
sea in 1538, since which time the land has been swaying slowly down
once more, so that now if anyone cares to scratch the gravel in the
courtyard he will find he has constructed a pool of clear sea water.

It is a strange and terrible thing to realise the existence of hidden
forces which can sway the solid earth as lightly as a puff of wind
disturbs an awning; none the less terrible because the ground has
risen and fallen so very gently that the pillars stand erect upon
their bases. Once more, as at the Solfatara, one has the sense of
treading over some vast chasm filled with a sleeping power which may
awake at any moment. Let us go on beyond the city and see what has
happened elsewhere upon this bay, so beautiful and yet so deadly, a
strange dwelling-place for men who have but one life to pass on the
surface of this earth.

In passing out of Pozzuoli one sees upon the right the vine-clad
slopes of Monte Barbaro. That also is a crater, the loftiest in the
Phlegræan fields, but long at rest. The peasants believe the mountain
to contain vast treasures--statues of kings and queens, all cast of
solid gold, with heaps of coin and jewels so immense that great ships
would be needed to carry them away. These tales are very old. I
sometimes wonder whether they may not have had their source in dim
memory of the great hoard of treasure which the Goths stored in the
citadel of Cumæ, and which, when their power was utterly broken, they
were supposed to have surrendered to the imperial general Narses.
Perhaps they did not; perhaps--but what is the use of suppositions?
Petrarch heard the stories when he climbed Monte Barbaro in 1343. Many
men, his guides told him, had set out to seek the treasure, but had
not returned, lost in some horrible abyss in the heart of the
mountain. They must have neglected the conditions of success. They
should have watched the moon, and learnt how to catch and prison down
the ghosts which guard the precious heaps, otherwise the whole mass,
even if found, will turn to lumps of coal!

What a wilderness of craters! Small wonder if wild tales exist yet in
a district which in old days, and even modern ones, has been
encompassed with fear. One volcano is enough to fill the country east
of Naples with terror. But here are many--active, doubtless, in very
different ages--Monte Barbaro, Monte Cigliano, Monte Campana, Monte
Grillo, which hems in the more recent crater of Avernus much as Somma
encircles the eruptive crater of Vesuvius. What terrible sights must
have been witnessed here in those far-distant days when these and
other craters were in action!--"affliction such as was not from the
beginning of the creation which God created" until then! But a few
miles away across the sea is Monte Epomeo, towering out of Ischia.
That was the chief vent of the volcanic forces in Roman times; and
then the Phlegræan fields were still. Epomeo has been silent for five
centuries; but that proves nothing, and there are people who suggest
that the awful earthquake which destroyed Casamicciola may be just
such a prelude to the awakening of Epomeo as was the convulsion which
shook Pompeii to its foundations sixteen years before its final
destruction. _Dî avertite omen!_

We need not, however, go back five centuries for facts that bid men
heed what may be passing underground about the shores of this blue
bay. Here is one too large to be overlooked, immediately in front of
us--no other than the green slope of Monte Nuovo, a hill of aspect
both innocent and ancient, ridged with a few pine trees by whose aid
the mountain contrives to look as if it had stood there beside the
Lucrine Lake as long as any eminence in sight. This is a false
pretension. There was no such mountain when Petrarch climbed the
neighbouring height, nor for full two centuries afterwards. What
Petrarch saw exists no longer. He looked down upon the Lucrine Lake
connected with the sea by a deep channel, and formed with Lake Avernus
into one wide inlet fit for shipping. This was the Portus Julius, a
harbour so large that the whole Roman fleet could manoeuvre in it.
The canals and piers were in existence less than four centuries ago;
and this great work, so remarkable a witness to the sea power of the
Romans, would doubtless have lasted unto our day had it not been for
the intrusion of Monte Nuovo, which destroyed the channels and
reduced the Lucrine Lake to the dimensions of a sedgy duck pond.

The catastrophe is worth describing, for no other in historic times
has so greatly changed the aspect of this coast or robbed it of so
large a portion of its beauty. For full two years there had been
constant earthquakes throughout Campania. Some imprisoned force was
heaving and struggling to release itself, and all men began to fear a
great convulsion. On the 27th of September, 1538, the earth tremors
seemed to concentrate themselves around the town of Pozzuoli. More
than twenty shocks struck the town in rapid succession. By noon upon
the 28th the sea was retreating visibly from the pleasant shore beside
the Lucrine Lake, where stood the ruined villa of the Empress
Agrippina, and a more modern villa of the Anjou kings, who were used,
like all their predecessors in Campania, to take their ease in summer
among the luxuriant vegetation of the hills whose volcanic forces were
believed to be lulled in a perpetual sleep.

For three hundred yards the sea fell back, its bottom was exposed, and
the peasants came with carts and carried off the fish left dry upon
the strand. The whole of the flat ground between Lake Avernus and the
sea had been heaved upwards; but at eight o'clock on the following
morning it began to sink again, though not as yet with any violence.
It fell apparently at one spot only, and to a depth of about thirteen
feet, while from the hollow thus formed there burst out a stream of
very cold water, which was investigated cautiously by several persons,
some of whom found it by no means cold, but tepid and sulphurous. Ere
long those who were examining the new spring perceived that the sunken
ground was rising awfully. It was upreared so rapidly that by noon
the hollow had become a hill, and as the new slopes swelled and rose
where never yet had there been a rising ground, the crest burst and
fire broke out from the summit.

"About this time," says one Francesco del Nero, who dwelt at Pozzuoli,
"about this time fire issued forth and formed the great gulf with such
a force, noise, and shining light that I, who was standing in my
garden, was seized with great terror. Forty minutes afterwards, though
unwell, I got upon a neighbouring height, and by my troth it was a
splendid fire, that threw up for a long time much earth and many
stones. They fell back again all round the gulf, so that towards the
sea they formed a heap in the shape of a crossbow, the bow being a
mile and a half and the arrow two-thirds of a mile in dimensions.
Towards Pozzuoli it has formed a hill nearly of the height of Monte
Morello, and for a distance of seventy miles the earth and trees are
covered with ashes. On my own estate I have neither a leaf on the
trees nor a blade of grass.... The ashes that fell were soft,
sulphurous, and heavy. They not only threw down the trees, but an
immense number of birds, hares, and other animals were killed."

Amid such throes and pangs Monte Nuovo was born, and the events of
that natal day suggest hesitation before we label any crater of the
Phlegræan fields with the word "extinct." It is granted that in the
course of geologic ages volcanic forces do expend themselves. The
British Isles, for instance, contain many dead volcanoes, once at
least as formidable as any in the world. But the exhaustion has been
the work of countless ages, and many generations of mankind will come
and go upon this planet before the coasts of Baiæ and Misenum are as
safe as those of Cumberland.

While speaking of these terrors, I have been halting by the wayside at
a point, not far beyond the outskirts of Pozzuoli, where two roads
unite, the one going inland beneath the slope of Monte Barbaro, the
other following the outline of the curved shore on which Baiæ stands.
The inland road is the one which goes to Cumæ, and is entitled to
respect, if not to veneration, as being among the oldest of Italian
highways, the approach to the most ancient Greek settlement in Italy,
mother city of Pozzuoli and of Naples, not to mention the mysterious
Palæopolis, whose very existence has been disputed by some scholars.
Some say it was more than ten centuries before Christ's birth that the
bold Greeks of Euboea came up this coast, where already their
kinsmen were known as traders, and having settled first on Ischia
moved to the opposite mainland, and built their acropolis upon a crag
of trachyte which overhung the sea. Their life was a long warfare.
More than once they owed salvation to the aid of their kinsmen from
Sicilian cities, yet they made their foundation a mighty power in
Italy. With one hand they held back the fierce Samnite mountaineers
who coveted their wealth, and gave out with the other more and more
freely that noble culture which has had no rival yet.

One must wonder why these strangers coming from the south passed by so
many gulfs and harbours shaped out of the enduring rock only to choose
a site for their new city at the foot of all these craters. It may be
that chance had its part in the matter; in some slight indication of
wind or wave they may have seen the guidance of a deity. Indeed, an
ancient legend says their ships were guided by Apollo, who sent a dove
flying over sea to lead them. But again, the fires of the district
were sacred in their eyes. The subterranean gods were near at hand,
and on the dark shore of Lake Avernus they recognised the path by
which Ulysses sought the shades. The mysteries of religion drew them
there, and the cave of the Cumæan sibyl became the most venerated
shrine in Italy. Lastly, one may perceive that the volcanic tract,
full of terrors for the Etruscan or Samnite mountaineer who looked
down upon its fires from afar, must have made attack difficult from
the land.

Greek cities, such as Cumæ, studded the coast of southern Italy.
"Magna Græcia" they called the country; and Greek it was, in blood, in
art, and language. How powerful and how rich is better understood at
Pæstum than it can be now at Cumæ, where, with the single exception of
the Arco Felice, there remains no dignity of ruin, nothing but waste,
crumbling fragments, half buried in the turf of vineyards. Such
shattered scraps of masonry may aid a skilful archæologist to imagine
what the city was; but in the path of untrained men they are nothing
but a hindrance, and anyone who has already in his mind a picture of
the greatness of Euboean Cumæ had better leave it there without
attempt to verify its accuracy on the spot.

Observations similar to these apply justly to most of the remaining
sights in this much-vaunted district. The guides are perfectly
untrustworthy. They give high-sounding names to every broken wall, and
there is not a burrow in the ground which they cannot connect with
some name that has rung round the world. It is absolutely futile to
hope to recapture the magic with which Virgil clothed this country.
The cave of the Sibyl under the Acropolis of Cumæ was destroyed by the
imperial general Narses when he besieged the Goths. The dark, wet
passage on the shore of Lake Avernus, to which the name of the Sibyl
is given by the guides, is probably part of an old subterranean road,
not devoid of interest, but is certainly not worth the discomfort of a
visit. The Lake of Avernus has lost its terrors. It is no longer dark
and menacing, and anyone may satisfy himself by a cursory inspection
that birds by no means shun it now.

The truth is that this region compares ill in attractions with that
upon the other side of Naples. In days not far distant, when brigands
still invested all the roads and byways of the Sorrento peninsula,
strangers found upon the Bay of Baiæ almost the only excursion which
they could make in safety; and imbued as every traveller was with
classical tradition, they still discovered on this shore that fabled
beauty which it may once have possessed. There is now little to
suggest the aspect of the coast when Roman fashion turned it into the
most voluptuous abode of pleasure known in any age, and when the shore
was fringed with marble palaces whose immense beauty is certainly not
to be imagined by contemplating any one of the fragments that stud the
hillside, though it may perhaps be realised in some dim way by anyone
who will stand within the atrium of some great house at Pompeii, say
the house of Pansa, who will note the splendour of the vista through
the colonnaded peristyle, and will then remember that the Pompeiian
houses were not famed for beauty, while the palaces of Baiæ were.

Baiæ, like Cumæ, is lost beyond recall. Fairyland is shattered into
fragments; and the guides who baptise them with ridiculous names know
no more than any one of us what it is they say. Really, since the
tragedy of that first great outbreak of Vesuvius did, as Goethe said,
create more pleasure for posterity than any other which has struck
mankind, one is disposed to wish that it had been more widespread. If
only the ashes had rained down a trifle harder at Misenum and at Baiæ,
what noble Roman buildings might have survived unto this day,
conserved by the kind wisdom of the mountain! What matter if more of
that generation had been left houseless? It nearly happened, if
Pliny's letter is not exaggerated. "The ashes now began to fall on
us," he says, of his escape with his mother from the palace at
Misenum, "though in no great quantity. I turned my head, and observed
behind us a thick smoke which came rolling after us like a torrent. We
had scarce stepped out of the path when darkness overspread us, not
like the darkness of a cloudy night, nor that when there is no moon,
but that of a closed room when all the lights are out. Nothing was to
be heard but the shrieks of women, the screams of children, and the
cries of men, some calling for their children, others for their
parents, others for their husbands, and only distinguishing each other
by their voices.... At length a glimmering light appeared, which we
imagined to be rather the forerunner of an approaching burst of
flames, as in truth it was, than the return of day. However, the fire
fell at some distance from us. Then again we were immersed in thick
darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were
obliged every now and then to shake off, otherwise we should have been
crushed and buried in the heap...." It is an awful tale. Anyone can
see how nearly all this region escaped the fate of Pompeii, and how
narrowly the modern world lost a greater joy than that of
contemplating the city by the Sarno.

  [Illustration: CASTLE OF BAIÆ]

However, it did not happen so, and there is comparatively little
satisfaction in describing all the melancholy scraps of what was
marvellously beautiful. I have nothing to say about them which is
not said as fully in the guide-books. There is, however, something
which more piques my interest in the narrow tongue of land parting the
Lucrine Lake from the sea. There is, or was, a causeway here so
ancient that even the Greeks, who settled at Cumæ so many centuries
before our era, did not know who built it; and being in the dark about
the matter, put down the construction to no less a person than the god
Hercules, who made it, they declared, for the passage of the oxen
which he had taken from Geryon, the monster whom he slew in Gades. It
was no small work, even for Hercules. The dam was eight stadia long,
nearly a mile, made of large stone slabs laid with such skill that
they withstood the sea for many centuries. Who could have been the
builders of this dam in days so ancient that even the Greek settlers
did not know its origin? Rome was not in those days. There were
factories and traders on the coast,--Phoenicians perhaps. But why
guess about a question so impossible to solve? The curiosity of the
thing is worth noting; for the age of civilisation on these coasts is
very great.

At this spot beside the Lucrine Lake, where the sea is lapping slowly,
almost stealthily, on the one hand, and the diminished waters of the
lake lie still and reedy on the other, one memory, more than any
other, haunts my mind. It cannot have been far from this very spot,
certainly in sight of it, that there stood in old Roman days the villa
of the Empress Agrippina, mother of the Emperor Nero, and it was at
Baiæ, lying just across the blue curved bay, that he planned her
murder, as soon as he discovered that she loved power, like himself,
and stood in the way of certain schemes on which he set great store.

The fleet which lay at Capo Miseno, the great naval station of those
days, was commanded by one Anicetus, a freedman, who, being of an
ingenious mechanical turn of mind, devised a ship of a sort likely to
prove useful to any tyrant anxious to speed his friends into the
nether world without suspicion. It had much the same aspect as other
ships when viewed from without; but a careful observer of its inward
parts might notice that the usual tight boltings were replaced by
movable ones, which could be shot back at will, so that on a given
signal the whole ship would fall to pieces. This pretty toy was of
course not designed to make long voyages--it was enough if it would
reach deep water.

Nero was delighted. He saw now how to avoid all scandal. The Empress
was at that moment on the sea, homeward bound from Antium, and
designed to land at Bauli, which lay near Baiæ on the bay. The ship
was prepared, the bolts were shot, and the pretty pinnace lay waiting
on the beach at Bauli when the Empress disembarked. And there too was
Nero, come from Baiæ on purpose to pay duty to his mother and invite
her to spend the Feast of Minerva with him at Baiæ, whither he hoped
she would cross over in the boat which he had had the pleasure of
fitting up with the splendour which was proper to her rank.

Agrippina knew her son, and was suspicious. She would go to Baiæ, but
preferred to follow the road in a litter. That night, however, when
the festivities at Baiæ were over, her fears vanished. Nero had been
affectionate and dutiful. He had assured her of his love. It would be
churlish to refuse to enter the boat which he had fitted out for her,
and which having been brought over from Bauli now lay waiting for her
on the sands. It was a bright night, brilliant with stars. The bay
must have looked incomparably peaceful and lovely. On the shore there
were crowds of bathers, all the fashionable world of Rome, drawn
thither by the presence of the Emperor, and attracted out by the
beauty of the night. At such a time and place nothing surely could be
planned against her. She went on board with her attendants. The rowers
put off from land. They had gone but a little way when the canopy
under which Agrippina lay crashed down on her and killed one of her
waiting women. A moment's examination showed that it had been weighted
with pigs of lead. Almost at the same moment the murderers on board
withdrew the bolts. The machinery, however, refused to act. The planks
still held together; and the sailors despairing of their bloodmoney,
rushed to the side of the ship and tried to capsize it. They succeeded
so far as to throw the Empress and her attendants into the sea.
Agrippina retained sufficient presence of mind to lie silent on the
water, supporting herself as best she could, while the sailors
thrashed the sea with oars, hoping thus to make an end of their
victim, and one poor girl who thought to save herself by crying out
that she was the Empress had her brains beaten out for her pains. At
last the shore boats, whose owners could not know that they were
interrupting the Emperor's dearest wish, arrived upon the scene,
picked up the Empress, and carried her to her villa on this Lucrine

It would have been wiser to flee to a greater distance, if indeed
there was safety in any Roman territory for the mother of the Emperor
when he desired to slay her. That night, as she lay bruised and weak,
deserted by her attendants, a band of murderers rushed in, headed by
Anicetus, who thus redeemed his credit with his master when his more
ingenious scheme had failed. "Strike the womb that bore this monster!"
cried the Empress, and so died.

"Then," says Merivale, from whose most vivid story this is but an
outline, "began the torments which never ceased to gnaw the heart
strings of the matricide. Agrippina's spectre flitted before him....
The trumpet heard at her midnight obsequies still blared with ghostly
music from the hill of Misenum."



It was setting towards evening when I turned my back on Baiæ and drove
through Pozzuoli along the dusty road which runs beside the sea in the
direction of Posilipo. All day I had seen the blunt headland of tufa
lying like a cloud on the further side of the blue bay; and from hour
to hour as I plodded through the blasted country, my thoughts turned
pleasantly to the great rampart which stood solid when all the region
further west was shaken like a cornfield by the wind, and beyond which
lies the city, with its endless human tragedies and its fatal beauty
unimpaired by the possession of many masters. "Bocca baciata non perde
ventura...," the scandalous old proverb has a sweet application to the
city, and the mouth which has been kissed by conquerors and tyrants is
still as fresh and rosy as when first uplifted for the delight of man.

I think this angle of the bay more beautiful than Baiæ or Misenum. In
Roman times the opposite shore may have excelled it; but one does not
know the precise form of the ancient coastline. As I advanced towards
the headland, leaving behind the bathing-place of Bagnoli, and passing
out on the wide green flats which at that point occupy the valley
mouth, the lofty crag of Nisida began to detach itself from the
mainland, and a channel of blue sea shining between the two glowed
sweetly in the increasing warmth of evening light. The island is a
crater, a finely broken mass of volcanic rock and verdure, flecked
here with light and there with shadow. One side of the crater lacks
half of its rim, so that there is a little port. Down by the edge of
the many-coloured water is a pier, where half a dozen boats lie
rocking; and from a similar landing-place upon the shingly beach of
the mainland a fisherman is hailing some comrade on the island. The
answering shout floats back faint and distant through the clear air,
and a boat pushes off, sculled slowly by a man standing erect and
facing towards the bow, in the ancient fashion of the Mediterranean.
At this point I dismiss my carriage, for I have many things to think
about, and do not want the company of the chattering, extortionate
vetturino. Having seen him go off up the hill, cracking his whip like
pistol shots, and urging on his eager pony in the full hope of a fare
at the Punta di Posilipo, I stroll on up the long ascent towards the
shoulder of the hill, stopping often to watch the gold light grow
warmer on the sea, tinging the volcanic crags of Ischia, until my
enjoyment of the view is broken by an uninvited companion, who thrusts
himself upon me with a reminder that I have reached the opening of the
Grotto of Sejanus.

I had forgotten all about the grotto, though indeed it was the point
for which I should have made, and but for the interruption of the
lively little Tuscan who acts as custodian, I might have walked by
without going in. I accepted gratefully the voluble assurances that
this is indeed the most wonderful and authentic grotto on the
Posilipo, far surpassing those twin tunnels through which one goes
from Naples to Pozzuoli; and the guide, having caught up a torch of
smouldering tow, and vented a few hearty curses on the Neapolitans,
who lie, he says, without recollection of eternity, conducted me into
a long passage of utter and palpable darkness.

"Nè femmena nè tela a lume di cannela," say the Neapolitans--You must
not judge either a woman or a weft by candlelight. This is very true,
and many a man has suffered from forgetting it. But when it is a case
of grottoes, there is no choice; and accordingly I delivered myself
over to the chatter of the Tuscan.

The lively little man was extolling the superior character of his own
countrymen of Tuscany; and when his torch flickered out with no
warning, leaving us in sudden blackness in the bowels of the earth,
his indignation blazed out fiercely against the worthless knaves who
sold such tow in Naples. I paid little heed to him, for the grandeur
and the silence of the place appeal to the imagination. I was treading
on a smooth and even floor, between walls of tufa which had been
chiselled out so straight that whenever I looked back the entrance
shone behind me like a star across a vast dark sky. The air was sweet
and fresh, filtering through some hidden openings of the rock. The
relighted torch flashed now on Roman brickwork, now on arches of
massive stone built to increase the strength of the vault, and fit it
the better for those great processions of chariots and horsemen which
came and went to the villa at the further end, returning from a
hunting party with dogs which had wearied out the game on the hills of
Astroni, or escorting the gladiators landed at Pozzuoli for some
combat in the theatre which now lies so waste and desolate amid the
vineyards. How this passage must have rung with shouts and laughter in
old Roman days! But now it is as silent as the tomb; and one passes on
a full half-mile in darkness, to emerge at length with heated fancy
and high memories of Roman splendour, on nothing but a ruinous
cottage, a starved vineyard, and a paltry garden-ground of common

It is not possible, one thinks impatiently, that this trumpery of
vines and cabbages can be all there is to see at the further end of a
passage so ancient and hewn with such vast labour through the solid
rock; and indeed, when one's eyes are used to the sunshine, one
perceives that the garden plot lies like a dust heap on the ruins of a
splendid palace. Treading across a patch of vegetables, covering I
know not what remains of marble portico or colonnade, I peered down
through the trails of budding vines into a hollow where some fragments
of old masonry project still from the earth, and after much gazing
perceived that the sides of the hollow rise in tiers, one bank above
another, to the height of seventeen rows. So that here, on this now
lonely creek of the Posilipo, in face of Nisida and all the blue reach
of the Bay of Baiæ, there was once a theatre, ringing with shouts and
applause, and by it all the other buildings of a noble mansion. It is
a poor ruin now, stripped of the marbles which once made it splendid.
There are vast structures on the slopes and in the sea itself: an
Odeon, another building seated like a theatre, and relics innumerable
of one of the greatest of all Roman villas, which must have been
incomparably lovely. If only one such might have lasted to our day!

The long darkness of the grotto, the exit on the hillside, where the
ancient splendour is so shattered, combine to create a sense of
mystery which one never loses on the Posilipo. The sea frets and
chafes about the jagged reefs at the base of the headland, echoing and
resounding in caves of vast antiquity, where broken marbles and
defaced inscriptions give substance to the tales of treasure which the
fishers say lies hidden in them to this hour. The dullest of mankind
would be smitten with some touch of fancy on this spot, much more the
quick-witted Neapolitans, whose rich imagination has run riot among
the relics of a splendid past.

The impression of this lonely cliff is characteristic of all the
headland. I send away my guide, who can do nothing more for me, and
perch myself upon a scrap of ancient wall, whence I can look past the
green island of Nisida, full in the warm light of the westering sun,
over the wide bay to where the black peak of Ischia, towering into the
clear sky, begins to shine as if some goddess had brushed it with
liquid gold.

There is a cavern in the cliff at no great distance which the
fishermen call "La Grotta dei Tuoni" (The Cave of Thunders); I
scarcely know why, unless it be because the sea bellows so loudly when
it is driven by the storm wind round the vaults and hollows of the
rock. The cave is accessible only by boat; and, like many another
cleft in the soft tufa of this headland, it is believed to hide
immeasurable riches, left there since the days when every cliff bore
its white Roman villa, and all the shady caverns were the cool arbours
of their pleasure grounds. From the creek of Marechiano, which cleaves
the Posilipo in half, up to the very spot on which I sit, there is no
break in the succession of the ruins. Ancient cisterns lie upon the
beaches, the green tide washes over shattered colonnades, the boatmen
peering down through the translucent water as they sink their nets
see the light waver round the foundations of old palaces, and the
seaweeds stir fantastically on the walls. It is little wonder if no
one of them can rid himself of the belief in spirits wandering yet
about the wreck of so much splendour, or shake off the fear

     "Lest the dead should, from their sleep
     Bursting o'er the starlit deep,
     Lead a rapid masque of death
     O'er the waters of his path."

As for this cave of the thunders, the story goes that one day certain
Englishmen presented themselves before a boatman who was lounging on
the quay of Santa Lucia at Naples and demanded whether he would take
them on his skiff into the grotto.

Pepino had seen the cavern many times, and did not fear it. "Why not?"
he said, and the bargain was struck. As they rowed across the crescent
bay of the Chiaia, past the Palazzo di Donna Anna, and under the
hillside where the whispering pines grow down the high cliff faces,
and golden lemons glow in the shade of marble terraces, the Englishmen
were very silent; and Pepino, who loved chatter, began to feel
oppressed. He did not quite like the zeal with which they sat studying
a huge volume; for he knew that great books were of more use to
magicians than to honest people, who were quite content with little
ones, or better still with none at all. So he looked askance at the
English students as he guided his boat to the mouth of the grotto of
the thunders, and ran in out of the sunshine to the cool green shades
and wavering lights among which the old treasure of the Romans lies


The Englishmen rose up, and one of them, taking the book in both
hands, began to read aloud. Who can tell what were the words? They
were strange and very potent; for as they rolled and echoed round the
sea-cave it seemed as if the vaulted roof rose higher, and Pepino,
glancing this way and that in terror, saw that the level of the water
was sinking. Shelf by shelf the sea sank down the rock, leaving
dripping walls of which no living man had ever seen the shape before;
and Pepino, keeping the boat steady with his oars, shook with fear as
he saw the top of a marble staircase rear itself erect and shiny out
of the depths of the ocean. Still the English student rolled out the
sonorous words, which rang triumphantly through the cave, and still
the water sank stair by stair, till suddenly it paused--the readers
voice had stopped, and slowly, steadily the sea began to rise again.

The spell was broken. A page was missing from the book! The Englishman
in despair clutched at the pages as if he would tear them piecemeal.
Instantly the crash of thunder rang through the cave, the sea surged
back to its old level, the marble staircase leading to the treasure
was engulfed, and the boatman, screaming on the name of the Madonna,
was whirled out of the cavern into the light of day again.

Close below me is a little reef or island of yellow pozzolano stone,
jutting out from the Punta di Coroglio, which is the name of the most
westerly cliff of the Posilipo, that through which the tunnel runs.
Under the island there is a tiny creek with a beach of yellow sand;
the spot is so silent that I can hear the ripple plashing on the
beach. That rock is a famous one. It is the "Scoglio di Virgilio," the
Rock of Virgil, by all tradition a favourite haunt of the great poet,
and the spot in which he practised his enchantments.

Petrarch said he did not believe in those enchantments. But then King
Robert questioned him about them at a moment when both were riding
with a gallant party, and the joy of life was surging high enough to
make men doubt all achievements but those of battle or of love. Had
Petrarch sat alone watching the sunset bathe the Scoglio di Virgilio
with gold, he might have judged the matter differently. At any rate
twenty generations of Neapolitans since his day have accepted the
beliefs of thirty more who went before them, and set down Virgil as a
magician. Why must we be wiser than fifty generations of mankind?

To be a wizard is not to be wicked! Virgil's fair fame is in no
danger. There was no malignity in any of the spells wrought out on
that little headland. Each of them conferred a benefit on the city
which the poet loved. One by one the woes of Naples were assuaged by
the beneficent enchanter; its flies, its serpents, the fatal tendency
of butcher's meat to go bad, exposure to volcanic fires, all were held
in check by the power of the enchanter.

A stranger visiting Naples ten centuries ago would have found it
studded with the ingenious inventions of the wizard. Perhaps the
device for bridling the audacity of Vesuvius might be the first to
strike him. It was nothing less than a horse of bronze bestridden by
an archer, whose notched arrow was ever on the string, its point
directed at the summit of the mountain. This menace sufficed to hold
the unruly demons of the fire in check, and might do so to this hour
were it not that one day a countryman coming into Naples from the
Campagna, and looking at the statue for the hundredth time felt bored
by seeing the archer had not fired off his arrow yet, and so did it
for him. The shaft sped through the air, striking the rim of the
crater, which straightway boiled over and spouted fire, and from that
day to this no man has found the means of placing another arrow on the
string. It is a thousand pities. San Gennaro has taken up the duty
now, and stands pointing imperiously with outstretched hand bidding
the volcano halt. He had some success too. In 1707, when the fires of
the volcano turned night into day, and its smoke converted day into
night, San Gennaro was carried in procession as far as the Porta
Capuana, and had no sooner come in sight of the mountain than the
thunders ceased, the smoke was scattered, the stars appeared, and
Naples was at peace. But as a rule the holiness of the saint impresses
the demons less than the menace of the arrow, and the mountain goes on

As for the bronze fly which the good poet made and set high on one of
the city gates, where it banished every other insect from the town, it
certainly is not in Naples now. Many people must have wished it were.
The story runs that the young Marcellus was intercepted by Virgil one
day as he was going fowling, and desired to decide whether he would
rather have a bird which would catch all other birds, or a fly which
would drive away all flies. Nobody who knows Naples can doubt the
answer. Marcellus, it is true, thought fit to consult the Emperor
Augustus before replying; but that fact only adds to the weight of his
decision. He decided on the fly, and many a man listening in the
midnight to the deadly humming outside his mosquito curtains will
lament the loss of Virgil's fly.

It is an Englishman, one John of Salisbury, who collects these pretty
tales for us; and he has another which, as it supplies a reason for an
historical fact which must have puzzled many people in the history of
Naples, is the better worth recording, and may indeed have the luck to
please both clever and stupid people in one moment.

The puzzling fact is to discover how on earth it happened that the
city which in Middle Ages bore a somewhat evil reputation for
surrendering itself light-heartedly at the first summons of any
conqueror, yet held such a different repute in earlier days, having
remained faithful to the Greek Empire in Constantinople when Amalfi
had fallen and Salerno received a stranger garrison, which resisted
heroically every attack of Lombard or of Norman, and saw army after
army retire baffled from before its walls. Whither had all that
stout-heartedness fled in the days when French, Spanish, and German
conquerors found no more resistance in the Siren city than in a
beautiful woman to whom one man's love is as much as any other's? How
came that old glory to sink into shame, to accept slavery and to
forget faith? The answer is that in the old days the city was kept by
a spell of the enchanter Virgil.

Virgil, it seems, musing on this point of rock throughout long
moonlight nights, had constructed a palladium. It consisted of a model
of the city, inclosed in a glass bottle, and as long as this fragile
article remained intact the hosts of besiegers encamped in vain
beneath the walls. The Emperor Henry the Sixth was the first who
managed to break in. The city fathers rushed to their palladium to
discover why for the first time it had failed to protect them. The
reason was but too plain. There was a small crack in the glass!

Through that crack all the virtue went out of the palladium, and until
the great upstirring of heroic hearts which the world owes to France
at the close of the eighteenth century, Naples was never credited
again with any marked disposition to resist attack or to strike
courageously for freedom. I am not sure whether those who know best
the inner heart of Naples would claim that the great deeds wrought
since then are to be attributed to any new palladium; but, for my
part, if spells are to be spoken of, I prefer to hold that the long
age of sloth and slavery is that which needs the explanation of black
magic, and that neither the loyal Naples of old days nor the free
Naples of the present time owes any debt to other sources than its own
high spirit and its natural stout heart, which slept for centuries,
but are now awake again.

The setting sun has dropped so far towards the sea that the tide
begins to wash in grey and gold around the yellow cliffs. The bay is
covered with dark shades falling from the sky in masses, and a little
wind rising from the west ruffles the water constantly. Only the ridge
of Ischia yet holds the light, and there it seems as if a river of
soft gold flowed along the mountain-top, vivid and pure, turning all
the peak of Epomeo to a liquid reflection, impalpable as the sky
itself. But the glow fades even as I watch it; and the approach of
chilly evening warns me not to loiter on the lonely hillside. I wander
down across the hollow, passing near the broken theatre, and so strike
a path which climbs up the further hill between high walls and hedges,
where it is already almost dark, bringing me out at length on the main
road which crosses the headland, just where a row of booths is set to
catch the soldi of those Neapolitans who have strayed out here in
search of evening freshness. There is a clear, sharp air upon this
high ground; and the young moon climbing up the sky sends a faint,
silvery light upon the sea. The road winds on as beautifully as a man
need wish. On the left hand rises the hill, on the right the ground
drops in sharp, swift slopes, cleft with deep ravines where the cliff
is sometimes sheer and sometimes passable for men. All these hollows
are filled with vegetation of surpassing beauty--here a belt of dark
green pines, there a grove of oranges thatched over to protect them
from the sun. Golden lemons gleam out of the rich foliage, hanging
thick and numberless upon the trees. The bare stems of fig trees are
bursting out into their first yellow leaf; and the hedges of red roses
and abutilon fill every nook with masses of bright colour unknown
except in lands where spring comes with gentle touch and warm, sweet
days of sunny weather. Far down amid the depths of this luxuriance of
fruit and flowers the sea washes round some creek or curved white
beach, and there built out with terraces and balconies of pure white
stone are villas which repeat the splendour of those Roman homes over
whose ruins they are built and whose altars lie still in the
innumerable caverns which pierce the base of the old legendary

In the silvery dusk of this spring evening the beauty of these ravines
brimming over with fruits and flowers is quite magical. I pause beside
a low wall, over which a man may lean breast high, and gaze down
through the shadows spreading fast among the trellised paths below.
The fading light has robbed the lemons of their colour; but the
crimson roses are flaming still against a heavy background of dark
firs, and beyond them the path winds out upon a little beach, where
the tide breaks at the foot of yellow cliffs, and a boat is rocking at
her moorings. Beyond the outline of the wooded cliff the grey sea lies
darkening like a steely mirror; and lifting my eyes I can see the spit
of rock on which stands the enchanted Castle of the Egg, black and
grim as ever, and higher still Vesuvius towering amid the pale sky and
the stars, its slowly coiling pillar of dark smoke suffused with a
rosy glow, the reflection of the raging furnace hidden in its cone.
Already one or two lamps are flashing on the shore. The day is nearly
gone, and the beautiful Southern night is come.

Many people had wandered up from Naples to enjoy the taste of
approaching summer on this height, where surely the scent of roses is
more poignant than elsewhere and the outlook over land and sea is of
incomparable beauty. As I walked on slowly down the road my ears
caught the tremulous shrill melody of a mandolin, and a man's voice
near at hand trolled forth the pretty air of "La vera sorrentina." I
stopped to listen. The voice was sweet enough, and some passion was in
the singer.

     "Ma la sgrata sorrentina
     Non ha maje di me pietà!"

The music came from a little roadside restaurant, half open to the
sky, where a few people sat at tables overlooking the sea. I strolled
in, and sat sipping my vino di Posilipo while the mandolin thrummed
till the singer grew tired, took his fees, and went off to some other
café. The wine is not what it was in Capaccio's days. "Semper
Pausilypi vigeat poculum!" cries the jolly topographer, "and may
Jupiter himself lead the toasts!" By all means, if he will; but I fear
the son of Saturn will not be tempted from Olympus by the contents of
the purple beaker set before me at the price of three soldi. "It is
pure, it is fragrant, it is delicious," Capaccio goes on, waxing more
eloquent with every glass. "In the fiercest heat it is grateful to the
stomach, it goeth down easily, it promoteth moisture, it molesteth
neither the liver nor the reins, nor doth it even obfuscate the head!
Its virtue is not of those that pass away; for whether of this year,
last year, or of God knows when, it hath still the scent of flowers,
and lyeth sweetly on the tongue." I think Capaccio must have had a
vineyard here, and sold his wines by auction. Far beneath me I could
hear the washing of the sea, and the moon climbing up the sky
scattered a gleam of silver here and there upon the water. Naples
stretched darkly round the curving shore, while high upon the ridge
the Castle of St. Elmo stood out black and solid against the night
sky, with the low priory in front, sword and cowl dominating the city,
as ever through her history, whether for good or ill.

In dusk or sunshine no man who looks upon this view will need to ask
why Virgil loved it, and desired to be buried near the spot whence he
had been used to watch it. Not far away upon my left, above the grotto
which leads to Pozzuoli, is the tomb traditionally known as his. There
are many who believe and some who doubt; but there is a mediæval tale
about the matter which is well worth telling. It was commonly reported
in the days of Hohenstaufen and Anjou that the bones of Virgil were
buried in a castle surrounded by the sea. There is no other fortress
to which this could apply than the Castle of the Egg.

In the reign of Roger, King of Sicily, a certain scholar--they are
always English, in these legends!--who had wandered far in quest of
learning, came into the royal presence with a petition. The King, who
found him wise and grave, and took pleasure in his conversation, was
willing to grant his wish, whatever it might be; whereon the
Englishman replied that he would not abuse the royal favour, nor beg
for any mere ephemeral pleasure, but would ask a thing which in the
eyes of men must seem but small, namely, that he might have the bones
of Virgil, wheresoever he might find them in the realm of Sicily. It
was even then long since forgotten in what spot precisely the body of
the great poet had been laid; and it seemed to the King little likely
that a stranger from the north should be able to discover what had
remained hidden from the Neapolitans. So he gave consent, and the
Englishman set forth for Naples, armed with letters to the Duke,
giving him full power to search wherever he would. The citizens
themselves had no fear of his success in a quest where they had often
failed, and so made no effort to restrain him. The scholar searched
and dug, guiding his operations by the power of magic. At last he
broke into the centre of a mountain, where not one cleft betrayed the
existence of any cavity or tomb. There lay the body of the mighty
poet, unchanged and calm as if he slept. Full eleven centuries he had
lain silently in a rest unbroken by the long-resounding tread of
barbarous armies from the north, flooding and desolating the fair
empire which must have seemed to him likely to outlast the world. I
wish that some one of those who broke into the sepulchre, and shed the
light of day once more upon those features which had slept so long in
darkness, had told us with what feelings he looked upon them and saw
the very lips that had spoken to Augustus, and the cheek which Horace
kissed. I think the men who found themselves in the sudden presence of
so much greatness must have stood there with a certain tremor, as
those others did who not long afterwards disturbed the bones of Arthur
and of Guenevere at Glastonbury, daring to lift and touch the long
fair tresses which brought Lancelot to shame.

These men who found the tomb of Virgil would have done well if they
had sealed it up again and lost the secret, so that the bones might
lie unto this hour on the spot where the spirit is so well remembered.
But the English scholar had the King's warrant, and claimed at least
the books on which the wizard's head was propped. Those the Duke of
Naples gave him, but the bones he refused, and had them taken for
greater safety to Castel dell'Uovo, where they lay behind an iron
grating and were shown to anyone who desired to see them. But if they
were at any time disturbed, the air would darken suddenly, high gusts
of storm would roar around the battlements of the castle, and the sea
beating heavily about the rocks would rage as if demanding vengeance
for the insult.

Such is the tale told by Gervasius of Tilbury, who has been dead
almost half as long as Virgil. It may be true or untrue. I am not fond
of climbing up into the judgment seat, or attempting to recognise
white-robed truth in the midst of the throng of less worthy, though
more amusing, characters which throng Italian legend. Least of all on
such a night as this, when the soft wind blowing over the sea from the
enchanted Castle of the Egg fills the air with whispering suggestions
of old dead things and calls back many a tale of inimitable tragedy
wrought out upon the shore of the gulf which lies before me--a furnace
in all ages of hot passions and sensuous delights such as leave deep
marks upon the memory of man. That most wilful quality is not unlike
the echo in the hollow of some overhanging rock. It will repeat the
sounds that please it, but no others, while even those it will
distort, adding something wild or unearthly to every one, however
ordinary. So the memory of the people selects capriciously those
circumstances which it cherishes; and even while it hands them on
from generation to generation it is ever adding fact to fact with the
cunning of him who writes a fairy tale, casting glamour round the
sordid details, struggling towards the beautiful or terrible--even not
seldom towards the scandalous.

A little lower on the slope of the hill, well in sight from the point
at which I sit, there is a vast and ruined building on the very margin
of the sea. In the dusk light I can clearly see its two huge wings
thrust out into the water, and the broken outline of its roof breaking
the pale sky. The tide washes round its foundations. The whole mass
lies black and silent, except at one point where a restaurant has
intruded itself into the shell of a once splendid hall, and lights
flicker round the empty windows which were built for the pleasure of a
court. Three hundred years ago this palace was begun for the wife of a
Spanish viceroy, Donna Anna Carafa. It was never finished, and has
been put to a number of degrading uses, being at one time a quarantine
station, at another a stable for the horses of the tramway, while a
few fishermen have always housed their wives and children in its old
ruined chambers, undeterred by the tales which associate the ruin with
the spirit of the Queen Giovanna.

Queen Giovanna is so great a personage in Naples that it is worth
while to consider her particularly. There are few spots within thirty
miles of Naples where one does not hear of her too amorous life and
her tragic death. I doubt if there are half a dozen guides or
vetturini in all the city who, if asked the name of this great
building, will not answer that it is "Il Palazzo della Regina
Giovanna," and on being further questioned will not tell a doleful
story of how she was strangled in one of the deserted chambers. The
stranger, ignorant of Naples, will perhaps set down this fact, pleased
to discover a trace of history yet lingering in the recollection of
the people, and will cherish it carefully until he is told the same
tale at Castel Capuano, on the other side of the city, with the
addition of certain particulars which, by our narrow northern way of
thinking, are damaging to Queen Giovanna's character. For instance, it
is said of her that she was in those early days so convinced a
democrat as to choose her lovers freely from among the sovereign
people. They were doubtless gratified by her choice; but the pleasure
faded when they discovered in due course of time that each favourite
in turn, after the fickle Queen grew tired of him, was expected or
compelled to leap from the top of a high tower, thus carrying all his
knowledge of the secret scandals of a court by a short cut into the
next world. A cruel Queen, it is true; but how prudent! Any one of us
might leave a marvellous sweet memory of himself in the world, if only
he could stop the mouths of--But that has nothing to do with Queen

This sweet memory, however, this fruit of prudence, is precisely what
the Queen has attained in Naples and in all the surrounding country. I
have questioned many peasants who spoke to me about her, and received
the invariable answer that she was a good Queen, a very good Queen--in
fact, of the best. Now history, listening to this declaration, sighs
and shakes her head despairingly. There were two queens named
Giovanna--leaving out several others who, for various reasons, do not
come into the reckoning. The first was certainly a better woman than
the second, but she is credibly believed to have begun her reign when
quite a girl by murdering her first husband, after which she departed
in various ways from the ideal of Sunday-schools. The second was an
atrocious woman, concerning whose ways of life it is better to say as
little as possible. The first was strangled, though not in Naples, or
its neighbourhood, but at the Castle of Muro, far down in Apulia. The
second had innumerable lovers, and was, perhaps, one of the worst
women ever born.

The Queen Giovanna of tradition seems to be a blend of these two
sovereigns, laden with the infirmities of both, and loved the more for
the burden of the scandals which she bears. It is a charming trait,
this disposition of poor humanity to glorify dead sinners! Conscious
of their own imperfections, mindful of the condescension of a queen
who steps down to the moral level of her people, the Neapolitans
welcome her with outstretched hands, and love her for her
peccadilloes. Legend confers a pleasanter immortality than history,
earned less painfully, bestowed more charitably, and quite as durable.



In bright sunshine I came down the last slopes of the Posilipo,
wending towards the Riviera di Chiaia. The bay sparkled with
innumerable colours; the hills lay in morning shadow; Vesuvius was
dark and sullen, and the twin peaks of Capri rested on the horizon
like the softest cloud. The sun fell very sweetly among the oranges in
the villa gardens, lighting up their dark and glossy leaves with
quick-changing gleams which moved and went as lightly as if reflected
from the restless waters of the bay. Out on the sea there was a swarm
of fishing boats, each provided with a rod of monstrous length; while
as I reached the level of the sea, and entered on the winding road
that goes to Naples, I found myself skirting a long, narrow beach, of
which the reeking odours proclaimed it to be a landing-place of
fishers. There, under the shadow of the towering cliff, boats were
hauled up, nets were drying, fish frails were piled in heaps, and
close to a small stone pier which jutted out into the water a couple
of fishing-wives were scolding each other much in the same way as two
dames of Brixham or of Newlyn, while a small urchin prone upon the
sand, watched the encounter of wits with eager curiosity to know
whether more was to come of it or not.

  [Illustration: STRADA DI CHIAIA, NAPLES.]

More did not come of it. The strife sank into silence, and as I paced
along the margin of the little beach, glancing now at the wide curve
of the bay, now at the dark fortress of the enchanted Castle of the
Egg upon its further horn, I found myself in a strange medley of
ancient thoughts and modern ones, the old world wrestling with the
new, tales of the kings of Aragon mingling with the cries of cabmen
and the whirring noises of the tramways.

This little beach by which I stand is all that is now left of the
Marina di Chiaia, which once ran round the bay up to the rocks and
caverns of the Chiatamone, where the Egg Castle juts out into the sea.
It was all a sandy foreshore, with boats hauled up and nets set out to
dry, just as one may see them on this scrap which still remains. It
was renowned as a place of ineffable odours. Indeed, an ancient
writer, seeking a simile for a certain very evil smell, could think of
none more striking than "that which one smells on the Marina di Chiaia
in the evening." It is to be gathered that the women were in large
measure responsible for this--as for most other things that go wrong
in Naples. "Tutt'e' peccate murtali so' femmene," says the
proverb--All the mortal sins are feminine; and if those, why not the
smells also? But it is not to be supposed that the women of the Chiaia
were the less attractive. Far from that. We have the word of the poet
del Tufo that they were so gracious and charming that even a dead man
would not remain insensible to the desire of loving them. What can
have become of these houris? I did much desire to see them, but I
searched in vain. I found none but heavy, wide-mouthed women, owning
no charm but dirt, and no attractions save a raucous tongue. Perhaps
the disappearance of the smells involved the loss of the beauty also.
If so, another grudge is to be cherished against the sanitary
reformers, who so often in the history of mankind have proved that
they know not what they do.

But I was about to speak of King Alfonso of Aragon, a monarch whose
story can be forgotten by no one who has given himself the pleasure of
reading the superb work in which Guicciardini has told the story of
his times, a tale of greatness and of woe immeasurable, having in
itself every element of tragedy, with a human interest which throbs
even painfully from page to page. Macaulay, by giving currency to a
stupid tale about a galley slave who chose the hulks rather than the
history, has contrived to rob many of us of a pleasure far greater
than can be derived from the antitheses in which he himself delights;
and has spread abroad the impression that this prince among
historians, this dignified and simple writer, this unsurpassed judge
of men whom he himself in a wiser moment compared to Tacitus, was
dull! It is but one more injustice done by Macaulay's hasty fancy,
serving well to prove what mischief may be wrought by a man who cannot
deny himself the pleasure of a quirk until he has reflected what
injury it may do to another's reputation.

Alfonso of Aragon was King of Naples when the French, led by their
King Charles the Eighth, were advancing through Italy to the attack of
Naples. The old title of the House of Anjou which reigned in Naples
for near two centuries, was in the French judgment not extinct; and
Charles, called into Italy by Ludovic the Moor, Duke of Milan, and one
of the greatest scoundrels of all ages, was pressing on through the
peninsula faster and with more success than either his friends wished
or his enemies had feared. One by one the obstacles which were to have
detained him in northern Italy crumbled at his approach. Florence was
betrayed by Piero di Medici; the Neapolitan armies in the Romagna were
driven back; the winter was mild, offering no obstacle to campaigning;
the Pope was overawed; and at length Alfonso, seeing the enemy
victorious everywhere, and now almost at his gates, fell into a
strange state of nerves. The first warrior of his age broke down like
a panic-stricken girl. The strong, proud King fell a prey to fear. He
could not sleep, for the night was full of haunting terrors, and out
of the dark there came to visit him the spectres of men whom he had
slain by treachery, each one seeming to rejoice at the vengeance of
which Heaven had made the French King the instrument.

Yet Alfonso had large and well-trained armies at his command, and the
passes of the kingdom were easily defended. The French were no nearer
than at Rome; and anyone who has travelled between the Eternal City
and Naples must see how easily even in our own days a hostile army
could be held among the mountains. Had there been a resolute defence,
many a month might yet have passed before a single Frenchman reached
the Siren city. But Alfonso could give no orders; and his terrors were
completed by a vision which appeared to one of his courtiers in a
dream repeated on three successive nights. It was the spirit of the
old King Ferdinand which appeared to the affrighted Jacopo, grave and
dignified as when all trembled before him in his life, and commanded,
first in gentle words and afterwards with terrifying threats, that he
should go forthwith to King Alfonso, telling him that it was vain to
hope to stem the French invasion; that fate had declared their house
was to be troubled with infinite calamities, and at length to be
stamped out in punishment for the many deeds of enormous cruelty which
the two had committed, but above all for that one wrought, at the
persuasion of Alfonso, in the Church of San Lionardo in the Chiaia
when he was returning home from Pozzuoli.

The spirit gave no details of this crime. There was no need. The mere
reference to it completed Alfonso's overthrow. Whatever the secret may
have been, it scored the King's heart with recollections which he
could not face when conjured up in this strange and awful manner.
There was no longer any resource for him. His life was broken once for
all, and hastily abdicating his kingdom in favour of his son
Ferdinand, whose clean youth was unstained by any crimes, he carried
his remorse and all his sinful memories to a monastery in Sicily,
where he died, perhaps in peace.

No man who reads this tale can refrain from wondering where was this
Church of San Lionardo on the Chiaia, and what it was that King
Alfonso did there. The first question is easier than the last to
answer, yet there are some materials for satisfying curiosity in
regard to both.


It is useless to seek for the Church of San Lionardo now. It was swept
away when the fine roadway was made which skirts the whole sea-front
from the Piazza di Vittoria to the Torretta. But in old days it must
have been a rarely picturesque addition to the beauty of the bay. It
stood upon a little island rock, jutting out into the sea about the
middle of the curve, near the spot where the aquarium now stands. It
was connected with the land by a low causeway, not unlike that by
which the Castle of the Egg is now approached; and it was a place
of peculiar interest and sanctity, apart from its conspicuous and
beautiful position, because from the days of its first foundation it
had claimed a special power of protection over those who were
tormented by the fear of shipwreck or captivity, both common cases in
the lives of the dwellers on a shore haunted by pirates and often
vexed by storms. The foundation was due to the piety of a Castilian
gentleman, Lionardo d'Oria, who, being in peril of wreck so long ago
as the year 1028, vowed a church in honour of his patron saint upon
the spot, wherever it might be, at which he came safely to land. The
waves drove him ashore upon this beach, midway between Virgil's Tomb
and the enchanted Castle of the Egg; and here his church stood for
seven hundred years and more upon its rocky islet--a refuge and a
shrine for all such as went in peril by land or sea.

Naturally enough, the thoughts of Neapolitans turned easily in days of
trouble to the saint whose special care it was to extricate them. Many
a fugitive slipped out of Naples in the dark and sped furtively along
the sandy beach to the island church, whence, as he knew perfectly, he
could embark on board a fishing-boat with far better hope of getting
clear away than if he attempted to escape from Naples. Thus at all
moments of disturbance in the city the chance was good that important
persons were in hiding in the Church of San Lionardo waiting the
favourable moment of escape. King Alfonso must have known this
perfectly. One may even surmise that his journey to Pozzuoli was
undertaken with the object of tempting out rebellious barons and their
followers from the city, where they might be difficult to find, into
this solitary spot, where he could scarcely miss them. If so, he
doubtless gloated over the first sight of the island church as he came
riding down from the Posilipo and out upon the beach towards it,
knowing that the trap was closed and the game his own.

Alfonso was a man who never knew mercy. Who the fugitives were whom he
found hidden in the church, or in what manner they met their death,
is, so far as I know, recorded nowhere. But this we know, that it was
no ordinary death, no mere strangling or beheading of rebellious
subjects that the King sanctioned and perhaps watched in this lonely
church which was built as a refuge for troubled men. Of such deeds
there were so many scored up to the account of both kings that the
spirit of the elder could hardly have reproached his son with any one
of them. What was done in the Church of San Lionardo was something
passing the common cruelty of even Spaniards in those ages, and it is
perhaps a merciful thing that oblivion has descended on the details.

I shall return again to King Alfonso and his family, for the city is
full of memories of them, and in the vaults of the Castel Nuovo there
are things once animate which throw a terrible light upon the
practices of the House of Aragon. But for the time this may be enough
of horrors; and I turn with pleasure to the long sea-front against
which the tide is breaking fresh and pleasantly, surging white and
foaming over the black rocks which skirt the foot of the sea-wall. The
wind comes freshly out of the east. Capri is growing into a wonderful
clearness. Even the little town upon the saddle of the island begins
to glow white and sparkling, and the limestone precipices show their
clefts and shadows in the increasing light. The soft wind blows in
little sunny gusts, which shake the blossoms of wistaria on the
house-fronts, mingling the salt and fishy odours of the beach with the
scent of flowers in the villa gardens. There is scarce a sign of cloud
in the warm sky, and all the crescent bay between me and the city
takes colours which are perpetually changing into deeper tints of
liquid blue and rare soft green, with flashes here and there of brown,
and exquisite reflections which are but half seen before they yield to
others no less beautiful. The long white sea-wall gleams like the
setting of a gem, and the warm air trembles slightly in the distance,
so that the Castle of the Egg looks as if it were indeed enchanted,
and might be near the doom predicted for it when its frail foundations
shall be broken.

I had meant to spend an hour this morning in the Church of Sannazzaro,
on the slope of the hill, at no great distance from this spot. He who
does not see churches betimes in Naples may chance to miss them
altogether, and will waste much temper during the hot afternoon in
hammering on barred doors with vain effort to rouse sleepy sacristans.
Heaven knows I am not indifferent to church architecture, and had the
morning been less beautiful I should certainly have described
learnedly enough, the building preserving the memory of the quaint and
artificial poet whom Bembo, as frigid and unnatural as himself,
declared to be next to Virgil in fame, as he was also next in
sepulture. I often wonder whether Bembo really meant anything at all
by this judgment, except an elegant turn of verse. If he did--But I am
straying away from the lights and shadows of this magic morning, which
are far more delightful than the arcadian rhapsodies of Sannazzaro and
of Bembo. Let me put them both aside. Or stay, one observation of the
former comes into mind. He said the Mergellina was "Un pezzo di cielo
caduto in terra"--a scrap of heaven fallen down on earth. He had blood
in him, then, this worshipper of nymphs and classicism; let us go and
see his Mergellina. It will not take us far from the sea-front, to
which it once lay open, in the days when there were no grand hotels
nor ugly boarding-houses blocking out the sweet colours and the clean
air of the sea.

As I turn inland, my eye is caught by a tablet on a house-front to the
left, which has a melancholy interest for all Englishmen:--

                   IL 18 GUIGNO 1752
               STRANGOLATO AL 29 GUIGNO 1799"

"Strangolato"--ay, hung at Nelson's yardarm, while his flagship lay
off Naples, and sunk afterwards in the sea, whence his naked body was
washed up on shore. It is a tragic tale; but to use it as an
imputation on Nelson's honour is unjust. Caraccioli was a rebel, and
paid the penalty of unsuccessful revolution. He was brave and
unfortunate, he resisted manfully an evil government; but he was not
unfairly slain.

In a few yards further the whole charming length of Sannazzaro's bit
of heaven lies spread out before me. A wide, straight street, a
paradise of yellow stucco, stained and peeling off, a wilderness of
sordid shops and dirty children running wild, a solitary tramcar
spinning on its way to Naples, a creaking cart with vegetables, a
huckster bawling fish--I have not patience to catalogue the delights
of the Mergellina of to-day, but turn my back on them and flee to the
sea-front again, where I can look out on what is still unspoiled,
because man has no dominion over it.


A short stroll towards the city within reach of the lapping waves
restored my temper, and I remembered that as I fled from the
Mergellina I saw over my shoulder a halting-place for tramcars, well
known to all who visit Naples by the name of the "Torretta."

I hardly know how many of those visitors have asked themselves what
this Torretta was, to which they have so often paid their fares of
twenty-five centimes, or have connected it in memory with the other
towers of which they hear upon the further side of Naples. But since
Naples is a seaborn city, and a wealthy city by the shore of ocean
attracts pirates as naturally as flies flock to honey, it may be as
well to explain why the Torretta was built.

The tale goes back as far as the days of Don Fernando Afan de Rivera,
Duca d'Alcala, who did Naples the honour of condescending to govern it
as Viceroy to His Most Catholic Majesty of Spain from the year 1629 to
1631. He was an old and gouty viceroy, but not lacking in energy or
courage. Those were times in which infinite numbers of Turkish pirates
hovered round the coasts of Italy; and week by week the warning cannon
roared out from Ischia, and the heavy toll of the alarm bells rolled
along the shore from Campanella and Castellammare to the harbours
beneath Vesuvius, waking all the fishermen to watchfulness and rousing
the guards within the city walls.

     "All'arme! all'arme! la Campana sona
     Li Turche so' arrivati a la marina!"

The terror-stricken refrain is still on the lips of the peasants in
the coasts which were harried by Dragut and Ucchiali.

One night a band of these bold corsairs struck suddenly in the
darkness, and landed on the western end of the Chiaia, well outside
the limits of the city. There were among their numbers certain
renegades of Naples, and using the local knowledge of these
scoundrels, they had conceived the design of capturing the Marchesa
del Vasto, whose palace stood in this somewhat unprotected region, and
whom they intended to surprise in her sleep. So rich a prisoner would
have brought them a vast ransom; but the scheme turned out
disappointing. The Marchesa had gone to take the waters, over the
hills at Agnano, whither greedy Turks could not pursue her. Nothing
remained but to bag as many people of inferior consequence as time
permitted; and the renegades, turning to their advantage the alarm
which was already spreading among the inhabitants, rushed about
knocking at every door and imploring the people in anguished tones to
come out at once and save themselves from the Turks, who were landing
at that moment. Some poor frightened souls were simple enough to
accept this invitation, and were made prisoners for their pains the
moment they crossed the threshold. Others, more wisely, suspecting the
trick, made rude replies, and barred their doors and shutters, knowing
that at dawn, if not before, help must surely come from the
neighbouring city.

  [Illustration: NAPLES--GRADONI DI CHIAIA.]

They were not mistaken in their faith. Naples was astir, and the
guards were mustering by torchlight in the streets. The Duca d'Alcala
was at the Palazzo Stigliano, near the Porta di Chiaia. Old and gouty
as he was, he had set himself at the head of his men, the city gate
was flung open, and in the grey light of morning the Turks saw a
considerable force advancing on them. They did not stay to fight, but
pushed off their ships, carrying with them twenty-four prisoners,
whom next day they signified that they were willing to ransom.
Accordingly parleys were held upon the Island of Nisida; the Viceroy
himself paid part of the sum demanded, while the rest was contributed
by the Society for the Redemption of Captives, a useful public
institution whose income was heavily drawn upon in those days.
Probably neither one nor the other was entirely pleased at having to
pay out a large sum for the redemption of people living almost under
the walls of the city. It was to guard against such mishaps in future
that the Torretta was built, and garrisoned as strongly as its size

What old tales these seem, and how changed is all the aspect of this
bay! San Lionardo gone as completely as the shadow of a drifting
cloud! The Torretta degraded to a halting-place of tramcars! The
Mergellina stripped of all that made the poet Sannazzaro love it! Only
on the sea-front the same beauty of heavenly blue still shimmers on
the waters, breaking into bubbles of pure gold where the soft tide
washes up amid the rocks. The fishing boats slip to and fro under
their large three-cornered sails. There is more wind out there upon
the bay; it strikes in sharp puffs on the bellying canvas, and the
light craft heel towards the land. One of them has put in beside the
stairs not far from where I am loitering. The bottom of his boat is
alive with silvery fish; and on the cool stones of the landing-place,
just awash with clear green water, stand the barelegged fishermen,
stooping over the still living fish, cleansing their burnished scales
from the soil of the dirty skiff, laughing and chattering like
children, as they are. Suddenly one of them snatches at a little
object which the others had not noticed, and holds it up to me in
gleeful expectation of a few soldi. "Cavallo di mare!" A tiny
sea-horse, already stiff and rigid, a clammy and uncomfortable
curiosity. My good man, if I desire to look at sea-horses I have but
to cross the road to the aquarium, where I can watch them in the grace
and wonder of their life and shall not be asked to cumber myself with
their dead bodies. Salvatore shrugs his shoulders. If I am mad enough
to miss this chance, it is my own affair; the Madonna will scarce send
me another. In the midst of the diatribe I stroll across to the

Rarely, if ever, have I passed by this storehouse of great marvels
without regretting it, for indeed it has no equal in the world. Tanks
of fish are kept in many cities; the only aquarium is at Naples. There
alone can one stand and watch the actual stress and movement of the
life which passes in the sea, that animal life of myriad shapes and
colours which is so like the plants and which while rooted to a rock,
and spreading long translucent tendrils like a frond of seaweed, will
yet curl and uncurl, swaying this way and that in search of food, or
in the effort to escape some enemy it fears. For the depths of the sea
are full of enemies, and every sense of those which dwell beneath it
is alert. There one may see the tube-dwelling worms, thrust out from
the mouth of their tall cylinders like a feathery tuft of tendrils, a
revolving fan, which spins and spins until some sea-horse floating up
erect and graceful comes too close, and instantly the fan closes, the
tendrils disappear and lie hidden till the danger has gone by. Far
along the rock clefts, high and low throughout the pools, there is a
perpetual watchfulness and motion, a constant stir and trembling; and
the provision which the lowest animal possesses for the protection of
its life is in quick and momentary use, laying open such a revelation
of the infinite resources of nature as itself makes this cool chamber
one of the most interesting places in the world.

But if a man go there for beauty only, in what profusion he will find
it! The green depths of the tanks are all aglow with soft rich colour.
The sea beneath the cliffs at Vico is not more blue on the softest day
in spring than the fish which glide by among these shadows; nor are
the lights seen from Castellammare when the sun drops down behind
Ischia and the rosy flushes spread along the coast, more exquisite
than the soft pink scales which glance through the arches of the
rocks. Turquoise and pearl, emerald and jacinth, the gleams caught
from the hidden sun above reflect the hues of every gem. The strange,
dense vegetation, the quick flash of moving gold and purple, reveal a
world of marvellous rich beauty; and if it be indeed the case that
those bold divers of past days who dared to plunge out of the bright
sun into the dusk and dimness of the ocean depths saw there the orange
sponges, the waving forests of crimson weed, and all the myriad
colours of the moving fishes glinting through them, it is no wonder
that they came back into the world of men spreading tales of countless
jewels, and unnumbered treasures, which lie buried in the caves and
grottoes of the sea.

Naples is alive with stories of this sort; and not Naples only, but
all Sicily and southern Italy share the tales of the great diver,
Nicolò Pesce, who is sometimes a Sicilian and sometimes a dweller on
the mainland, but is claimed by Naples with good reason, as I shall
show presently. The mere sight of things so like those which Nicolò
must have seen calls up all the rare stories told of him; and I go up
into the Villa Garden, which skirts the long sea-front, and having
found a seat beneath a shady palm tree, whence I can watch the blue
sea lying motionless around the dark battlements of Castel dell'Uovo,
while the wind makes light noises in the feathery boughs above me, I
fall to thinking of the diver who, at the bidding of the king,
searched the caverns underneath the castle, which no man has ever
found but he, and came back with his arms full of jewels. Any child in
Naples knows that heaps of gems are lying in those caverns still.

Who was Nicolò Pesce? Ah! what is the use of asking such questions
about a myth? He was once, like all of us, a thing which crept about
the earth--it matters little when, _nei tempi antichi_! But now he is
a butterfly fluttering in the world of romance, a theme for poets, and
cherished in the heart of children. If you must know more about his
actual existence, catch a child and give him a few soldi to escort you
to the foot of the Vico Mezzocannone, away on the further side of the
city, where the lanes drop steeply to the harbour. There, built into
the front of a house, you will see an ancient stone, on which is
carved the figure of a shaggy man grasping a knife in his right hand,
while his left is clenched in the air. That is Nicolò Pesce, so called
because he was at home in the water as a fish is; and the knife is
that which he used to cut himself out from the bellies of the fish
when he had done the long swift journeys which he was wont to make in
the manner of which no other man had experience but Jonah.

You may get much more than this from the child, though confidence is
hard to gain, and soldi will not always buy it. One day the King bade
Nicolò find out what the bottom of the sea is like. The diver plunged,
and when he came up gasping he said he had seen gardens of coral and
large spaces of ribbed sand strewn with precious stones, and piled
here and there with heaps of treasure, mouldering weapons, the ribs of
sunken ships and the whitening skeletons of drowned mariners. I well
believe it! Ave Maria, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, be gracious to
poor sailors in their peril!

But another time the King bade Nicolò dive down and find out how
Sicily floated on the sea, and the man brought up a fearful tale. For
he said that groping to and fro in the dim abysses he saw that Sicily
had rested on three pillars, whereof one had fallen, one was split and
like to fall, and one only stood erect and sound! The years have gone
by in many hundreds since that plunge; but no man knows whether the
shattered pillar is erect.

Now the King desired to be sure that Nicolò did actually reach the
bottom of the sea, and accordingly took him to the summit of a rock
where the water was deepest, and there, surrounded by his courtiers,
hurled a gold cup far out from the shore. The goblet flashed and sank,
and the King bade Nicolò dive and bring it back.

The diver plunged, and the King waited, watching long before the
surface of the sea was broken. At last Nicolò rose, brandishing the
cup as he swam, and when he had reached shore and won his breath again
he cried, "Oh, King, if I had known what I should see, neither this
cup nor half your kingdom would have tempted me to dive." "What did
you see?" the King demanded, and the diver answered that he found on
the floor of the ocean four impenetrable things. First the great rush
of a river which streams out of the bowels of the earth, sweeping all
things away before the might of its resistless current; and next a
labyrinth of rocks, whose crags overhung the winding ways between
them. Then he was beaten hither and thither by the flux and reflux of
the waters out of the lowest parts of ocean; and lastly, he dared not
pass the monsters which stretched out long tentacles as if to clutch
him and draw him into the caverns of the rocks. So he groped and
wandered in mortal fear, till at last he saw the gleam of gold upon a
shelf of rock and grasped the cup and came up into the world again.

Now the King pondered long upon this story, and then taking the cup
flung it into the sea once more, and bade Nicolò dive again. The
fellow begged hard that he might not go, but the King was ruthless,
and the waters closed over the diver. The day waned, the night came
on, and still the King waited on the crag beside the sea. But Nicolò
Pesce the diver was never seen again.

Many a child has thrilled over this story as told in Schiller's
verse,--"Wer wagt es, Rittersman oder Knapp...." You ask--What is the
truth of these old stories? I answer that they have neither truth nor
falsity, and that is enough for most of us in this dull world, of
which so much has to be purged away before the beauty can appear. The
flower-laden boughs in this Villa garden go on rustling in the sunny
wind; the Judas trees are gay with purple blossoms, and from the long,
straight avenue, where white marble statues gleam in the cool shades,
the cries and laughter of the children ring out merrily. Tell a child
these tales and he will doubt nothing, reason over nothing, but accept
the beauty and talk of it with quickened breath and glowing cheeks.
That is the wisdom of the babes. Let us be content to copy it.



In Naples one is never very far from history, and when I arose from my
pleasant seat beneath the palm tree, plodding on down the long and
beautiful avenue of the Villa garden I came out at no great distance
on the sunny Piazza della Vittoria--a name which, I suspect, connects
itself in the fancy of many visitors with some of the wild triumphs of
Garibaldi. But the piazza has an older history than that. It
commemorates the sea battle of Lepanto, in which Don John of Austria,
the youthful son of the great Emperor Charles the Fifth and of Barbara
Blomberg, washerwoman of Ratisbon, led the united fleets of Venice,
Spain, and Rome into the Gulf of Lepanto as the Turks were coming out
and administered a drubbing under which the throne of the Caliph
rocked and tottered, all so long ago as the year 1576. Naples had the
best of reasons, as I have said already, for rejoicing over any event
which reduced the sea power of the Turks, and I do not doubt that the
child of Kaiser and of washerwoman had an intoxicating triumph on this
spot which has so long forgotten him.

At this point I hesitate, as the ass did between two bundles, a
dilemma often thrust on one in Naples. For if I turn towards my left
and mount the hill, I reach the Piazza dei Martiri and the pleasant
strangers' quarter. But since my aim is not to describe things known
easily to all who visit Naples, but rather to talk at large of what
the guide-books do not mention, I take the other way and move out on
the sea-front again, just where the Via Partenope, a new road, runs
towards the ancient castle at the point.

As I approach the centre of this ancient city, scene of so many bitter
conflicts, it becomes the more needful to select those epochs which
are most worthy to be remembered, to let all the ghosts of great names
flutter by except a few, and those the few whose memories rise
oftenest. The choice is easy. All the deepest tragedy of Naples closes
round the fall of the House of Hohenstaufen and the fall of that of
Aragon. I must explain briefly how these houses held the throne of
Naples and of Sicily.

The Normans founded that kingdom in the year 1130. They won it by
conquest from Lombards and from Saracens; and they placed their
capital at Palermo, where their rule on the whole was just and
splendid, and their throne gained lustre from Arab art and Arab
learning, so that those were happy days for Italy and Sicily, held by
strong sovereigns who kept in check all dangers from without. But even
in the good times the seed of trouble was sprouting fast; for the
first Normans, superstitious in their piety, and anxious to obtain a
legal title to the lands their swords had won, accepted the feudal
lordship of the Pope; and thus originated the papal claim to alter the
succession of the realm at will.

The male line of the Normans failed. Constance, the heiress of the
house, carried the throne to the Emperor Henry VI., son of the great
Barbarossa, and as resolved as he to turn into realities the shadowy
claims of the Emperors to the overlordship of all Italy. But the Popes
already claimed the universal spiritual dominion, as the Emperors
claimed the temporal; and since in the rough-thinking minds of men
there was but little comprehension of the theoretical distinction
between the dominions of spirit and of matter, it happened often that
even in the understanding of Pope and Kaiser themselves the difference
was lost, and the two claims worked out to rivalry and the clash of
interests which wrought much bloodshed.

There was not room in Italy for two universal rulers, both holding of
God, even though one ruled spiritual things and the other temporal.
The theory was clear, but who could interpret the practice on all
occasions? Every Pope was greedy for temporalities; and no Kaiser,
unless wholly occupied in taming rebellious barons beyond the Alps,
could refrain from meddling with spiritual affairs. Thus arose two
parties throughout Italy, and all the land was cleft with the feuds of
Guelf and Ghibelline, the former holding to the Pope, the latter
dreaming, as Dante did, of the days when the Emperor should descend
from the Alps again brandishing the sword of judgment, and purge away
the foulness from the lovely cities which stood oppressed and
mourning. Day and night, in the fancy of the great Florentine, Rome
lay weeping, widowed and alone, calling constantly, "Cesare mio, why
hast thou deserted me?"

More often than not the Emperors did not come, and the Pope grew ever
stronger. But when the successor of St. Peter saw his great rival
established by natural inheritance in the territory which was not
only the fairest of all Italy, but also the one over which he claimed
feudal rights, it was certain that there could be no peace; and the
conflict might have broken out at once had not the Emperor died and
his widow granted the Church great power over her young son, whom the
Pope might naturally hope to mould into what he would.

But the lad grew up strong and self-reliant, a noble and a splendid
monarch, worthy of the fame which clings to this day about the name of
the Emperor Frederick the Second. Alone of all the line of Western
Emperors this one lived by choice in Italy. He loved the blue sea and
the purple mountains which guard the land of Sicily. His heart was in
the white coast towns of Apulia and the ranges of long low hills which
look towards the Adriatic over the flat plains of Foggia, where the
hawks wheel screaming in the clear air and the great mountain shrine
of Monte Gargano towers blue and dim above the heel of Italy. He loved
the Arab art and learning. He was no mean poet--a troubadour,
moreover; and withal a just and upright ruler, with aims far greater
than those of the age in which he lived, a monarch born for the
happiness of nations, had only the Pope been able to bate a little of
his pride and tolerate the rival at his gates.

But those were days in which the Popes would endure no compromise; and
from the hour in which he entered man's estate to that in which he
laid down his weary life in an Apulian castle, Frederick was in
continual warfare with the Church. Had he lived, who knows how that
struggle might have ended, or by what devices the prince who was
Emperor as well as King, and had the prestige of the Holy Roman
Empire at his back, might have met the dangers gathering round his
kingdom? For the Pope was negotiating with other princes, offering
them the inheritance of Naples if they would but turn the Hohenstaufen
out; and at length, after an English prince had refused the
enterprise, Charles of Anjou took it up, brother of St. Louis, and a
man accounted the first warrior of his age. By this time the kingdom
of the Two Sicilies had passed to Manfred, the favourite child of
Frederick the Second, though born of an unlawful union. There was a
child in Germany of lawful blood, one Conradin; but he was still
playing with his mother, and of no age to stem the troubles of the
kingdom. Moreover, he was reported dead, and Manfred seized the throne
with the goodwill of the people, who loved him well, and keep his
memory unto this day; for he was handsome and gallant, "Bello e
biondo" the Apulians call him still, a king whom a man might follow
and a woman love, and, but for the Pope and his restless enmity,
Manfred also, like his father, might have made the happiness of a
whole people.

But Charles of Anjou descended suddenly and met Manfred in battle
outside Benevento. It was the 26th of February, in the year 1266.
Manfred, watching the battle from a hillock, saw his troops waver; and
suspecting treachery, which was indeed abroad that day, he rushed into
the thickest of the fight, and was slain by an unknown hand as he
strove to rally his Apulians.

That day there fell before the French spears not only a noble king,
but the peace and happiness of southern Italy. Charles of Anjou was a
grim and ruthless tyrant, whose conceptions of mercy and justice were
those of a hawk hovering above a hen-coop. He denied burial to the
body of his enemy, and caused it to be flung naked on the banks of
the river, where every soldier as he passed cast a stone at it. He
seized Manfred's luckless queen, Helena, and kept her prisoner with
her children until death released them. He overthrew good laws and set
up bad ones. He sought to stamp out loyalty to the old kings by exile
and the sword. In Sicily he wrought unutterable woe, such as in the
end turned the blood of every islander to fire and his heart to stone,
and produced a massacre from which no Frenchman escaped. All the world
knows that great act of retribution by the name of the Sicilian

But in the meantime Conradin had grown up to tall boyhood, and his
heart was already brave enough to rage when he saw his kingdom in the
hands of a cruel conqueror, and his own subjects slain and banished
because they loved his house. His mother wept, but the boy did what
any brave boy of kingly blood would do. I will tell the tale of that
great tragedy later, when I reach the square outside the Carmine where
the last scene was played out, and the boy-king lost the game, but
carried all the honours with him from the world, leaving eternal
infamy for a heritage to the foe who slew him.

So Charles of Anjou possessed the kingdom. But it brought no happiness
to him or to his race. His own days were tortured by the loss of
Sicily, and every one of those who followed him reigned uneasily. Even
his grandson Robert, called "The Wise," is suspected of having won the
throne by murder. Robert's granddaughter, Queen Giovanna, whose sweet
memory we found on the slopes of the Posilipo, was privy to the murder
of her husband, and was herself smothered with a pillow. The other
Joanna, who followed her, was the most profligate woman of her age,
and in her ended, meanly and sordidly, the line of Anjou sovereigns.

  [Illustration: NAPLES]

Then came the House of Aragon, which had reigned in Sicily ever since
the Vespers, and now expelled the last scion of Anjou and established
a kingdom which seemed likely to be stable. But the claims of the
royal house of France were only dormant; and before the end of the
century they started up again, eager and adventurous, in the heart of
the young King, Charles the Eighth. It was the wily Duke of Milan,
Ludovic Sforza, named the Moor, who incited this young man to lead the
French chivalry through the passes of the Alps. He was the warder of
Italy, and he betrayed her. It would be hard to name any one act of
man since God divided light from darkness which has let loose upon the
world such tremendous consequences of woe.

It is not my duty here to describe those consequences, nor to tell how
the French invasion resulted very shortly in riveting on Naples the
long Spanish slavery, which in the middle of the last century became a
monarchy again, and in 1860 was torn from the hold of the Bourbons,
and made free at last, by the grace of God and the valour of true
heroes, each one of whom dared all for Italy.

     "Blessed is he of all men, being in one
         As father to her and son,
     Blessed of all men living, that he found
         Her weak limbs bared and bound,
     And in his arms and in his bosom bore,
         And as a garment wore
     Her weight of want, and as a royal dress
         Put on her weariness.

     "Praise him, O storm and summer, shore and wave,
         O skies, and every grave;
     O weeping hopes, O memories beyond tears,
         O many and murmuring years."

I will quote no more, even of these immortal verses. Since it was
given to an English singer to voice the rapture with which all good
men hailed the salvation of Italy, it is but just that every visitor
should read the "Song of Italy" himself. I would that everyone among
them had it by heart and could catch some thrill from the noble
passion of the verses.

This has been a long discourse. But if certain things happened a great
while ago, is it my fault? Or again, am I to blame for the strange
neglect of Italian history in schools? The lesson is done now, and the
sun is still bright and hot on the Via Partenope. Even the enchanted
Castle of the Egg, black and grim as it usually looks, has caught the
glow, and is steeped and drowned in warm light. A quiver of haze hangs
over the sea, tremulous and burning. The wind has dropped, and a
midday silence has descended upon Naples. It is the hour when
sacristans bar the church doors and seek the solace of slumber, when
the vetturini congregate on the shady side of the piazza and cease to
crack their whips at the sight of strangers. On the castle bridge a
sentry paces to and fro. There are one or two restaurants below him in
the shadow, neither good nor bad, but good enough; and I order my
colazione in one which looks towards the sheer cliff of the
Pizzofalcone, and from which towards my right I can look out upon the
harbour, can catch a glimpse of the Castel Nuovo, the old royal
dwelling of the Houses of Anjou and Aragon, and see beyond it the old
city bathed in sunshine sloping to the curving sea.

The Pizzofalcone is the Falcon's Beak. If it were not too hot to think
much about anything, I might perhaps detect the resemblance. But at
this hour, in this city, and in face of this sun, one does not think;
one sits and lets half realised ideas drift past as they will. The
Pizzofalcone looks to me much like any other cliff, rather dangerously
near the castle, which could easily be dominated from the height by
even the smallest modern guns. There was once a villa of the Roman
Lucullus on that height. Statesman and epicure, he had another on this
island; or perhaps the two formed part of a single domain, which must
have been rarely lovely in those days when waving pine trees filled
the hollows of the cliff and the sea broke white and creamy on the
strand of Santa Lucia. It was not this handsome quay stretching on
beyond the castle which set the Neapolitans singing--

     "Oh, dolce Napoli,
     Oh, suol beato."

For the truth is that modern works of engineering have not yet proved
as prolific in poetry as the abuses they replace, and the Neapolitans
have not written about their sea-wall any song one half so sweet as
that which was inspired by the pretty, solitary creek outside the city
bounds, bad as it is understood to have been in morals. There were,
and are still, caverns all along the cliffs of Santa Lucia which were
sad places in the old day, full of riotous and evil people who
resorted thither for the worst of ends. For this reason Don Pietro di
Toledo, when he was Viceroy, ruined some and closed others, by which
act he at once improved the morals of Naples and enriched its
folklore, for nothing stimulated the imagination of the people so much
as the idea that their caverns were lying empty and silent. They
believe now that some are the haunt of witches, while others are
filled with treasure. One or two are worth seeing still if a guide can
be found to show them.

But I sat down here to talk of tragedies connected with this castle.
Some people may think it would be better to do so within and not
without the walls, and they are welcome to their opinion; but I have
tried both courses and think not. The interior of the castle is badly
modernised. The custodian is stupid and knows nothing. The old chapel
is a kitchen, and when I went to see the spot where the spirit of
Queen Helena wrote the word "revenge" upon the altar I found it full
of soldier cooks washing potatoes for the garrison. The prisons are
either forgotten or not shown. Inside the walls there is nothing but
disillusion and regret.

Queen Helena was the young wife of Manfred, who, as I said above, was
slain at Benevento, defending his kingdom against the butcher, Charles
of Anjou. The poor girl was at Lucera with her children, when they
brought her news that her husband, kingdom, and home were all lost;
and her first natural impulse was to flee to the protection of her
father, the Greek Emperor in Constantinople. So she took to horse, and
rode down out of the hill country through the coast plains of Apulia,
where but a few weeks earlier she had hunted and feasted with her
lord, and so came to the port of Trani, where she had touched land and
met the King in all the splendour of his retinue when she came from
the east a happy bride. One can fancy with what fearfulness this
little band of fugitives rode towards the sea, carrying with them the
children of the slain King, and how often they must have turned their
heads to watch lest they might see the spearpoints of Anjou flashing
among the defiles of the mountains. At Trani surely they would find
servants loyal enough to speed them on board ship before they cast
themselves at the feet of the conqueror; and as she rode beneath the
gateway of the white-walled town and saw the green Adriatic stretching
far towards the shores of Greece, the Queen's heart must have leapt
amidst its sorrow at the thought that she had brought her dead lord's
boys in sight of safety and of freedom.

Alas, poor Queen! The whole land was turning like a flower to the sun!
The Castellan of Trani spoke her fair. A month before he would have
given all he had to gain her favour, and now--he did but beg her rest
until a ship could be got ready, and instantly sent off tidings to the
French. Ere morning mother and children were riding once more across
the plain, their horses' heads turned from the sea, and their bridles
guided by French hands. Neither the sorrow of the Queen nor the youth
of the children touched the heart of Charles. He would have none of
the blood of Manfred left in freedom, and Queen and children died
after many years in prison.

Queen Helena was shut up in this castle for some years. Men say it was
at Nocera that she died, but it must have been here that her noble
spirit fretted most sorely against fate, bruising itself like a poor
lark flapping against its prison bars. For in the corridors of this
old castle her spirit used to walk on the eve of Ascension every year,
pacing slowly from her cell to the chapel of the castle, where she
wrote upon the altar the word "revenge" with finger dipped in blood.
Nothing could erase those letters till the night of the Sicilian
Vespers, when the French were hunted and slain in every street and
alley of Palermo. After that dread act of vengeance wrought in her own
capital city, the spirit of Queen Helena was never seen again.

It is in sight of these grey walls, which stood here before Naples
was a kingdom, certainly in the year 1140, that every pageant and
almost every tragedy in the long story of the city has passed by. In
those days when dukes ruled Naples, and the age of Greek dominion was
but just over, the castle was called "Castello del Salvatore," the
Castle of the Saviour, with the addition of the words "near Naples,"
for the old walled city which made such valorous defences lay beyond
the ridge. Sometimes, again, it is spoken of as "Castello Marino," a
name which sufficiently explains itself; but nowhere is its present
designation used in ancient documents until the year 1352, when it
appears in the rules of the Order of the Holy Spirit, founded by Louis
of Anjou, and appears, moreover, not only as "the Castle of the Egg,"
but as "the Castle of the Enchanted Egg," thus showing that the legend
concerning the magical foundation of the fortress had gained strength
enough to displace one, if not two, ancient titles, and attach itself
inseparably to the spot.

There is in this fact something very singular; and one would willingly
ask the dead centuries why they left us the heritage of this
mysterious name. Of itself, the ancient castle must remain in all
men's minds as the chief interest in Naples, the most marked object on
its beautiful shore, and the central point of its romantic story. But
beyond the beauty and the interest, one is piqued with curiosity; and
the sense of mystery clinging to the castle lends it a charm to which
no one can remain insensible. There are few points near Naples,
whether on hillside or in valley, from which one does not see the
enchanted castle low down by the water's edge, swept by cloud and
sunshine, or wet with spray, when the storm wind drives along the
shore, a witness of past ages, the one thing in Naples which has not
changed, except only the blue sea and the contours of the
everlasting hills.

  [Illustration: NAPLES--CASTLE OF ST. ELMO]

No castle builder of the days when artillery had come into use would
have set this fortress on the shore beneath the Pizzofalcone, whence
it could be so easily bombarded. It is rather curious to sit under
these old walls, and turn one's eyes in succession to the three
castles of the city. This is much the oldest, and the least
defensible. Then came Castel Nuovo, a little higher in the town;
Charles of Anjou founded it; and lastly St. Elmo, high upon the
hillside, in a perfect situation, of all others best suited to be the
_arx_, or citadel. Why, one wonders, did not the first builders use
it, and let the city grow around it? or at least, why did they not
place their keep and fortress on the Pizzofalcone? an eminence well
suited for defence. Surely those first Greek settlers who came across
the hills from Cumæ could not have overlooked the merits of this site!
Perhaps, as some scholars hold, Neapolis, "the new city," could not be
built upon the Pizzofalcone because Palæopolis, "the old city," was
already there. I cannot tell. There are no answers to these questions,
which recur again and again as one wanders round these coasts, none
the less absorbing because one must speculate on them in vain.

But in Naples one must not spend time in chasing shadows. I have still
to speak about the French bombardment of the enchanted castle; but
first I will take up the tale of the fall of the House of Aragon where
I left it in my last chapter, when King Alfonso, terrified and broken
by nameless fear, leapt down shuddering from his throne, and fled from
royalty and kingdom, to die a penitent monk in a monastery in Sicily.

It was a well-nigh hopeless task for his son Ferdinand to maintain
the sceptre thus hastily thrust into his hands. The French were
already over the borders of his kingdom. They had stormed and sacked
the Castle of Monte di San Giovanni, putting the garrison to the
sword. "This," says Guicciardini with scornful bitterness, "was the
sum of the opposition and trouble which the King of France met with in
the conquest of a realm so noble and so splendid; in the defence of
which there was shown neither skill, nor courage, nor good counsel, no
desire for honour, no strength, no loyalty." The Neapolitans were
strongly posted at San Germano, the River Garigliano flowing like a
moat in front, and their flanks guarded by lofty mountains; but they
fled without a blow, before they even saw the French, leaving their
guns behind, and falling back on Capua.

At Capua, that ancient city of delights, which turned the strong
Carthaginian invaders into feeble voluptuaries, cowardice was fitly
followed up by treachery. The troops were under command of Gianjacopo
Triulzi, a captain of repute, "accustomed to make profession of
honour," observes Guicciardini, in his dry, contemptuous way. This
honourable captain seized the moment when his young master had been
called back to Naples by disorders in the city, to deliver over his
whole command to the French. Ferdinand hurried back; but arrived too
late. He returned with a few followers to Naples. The whole city was
in an uproar, the mob was already sacking the stables of the Castel
Nuovo. There was no more hope of stemming the tide. The young king,
brave, just, and personally popular, was overwhelmed by the misdeeds
of his house. The very guards of his palace were inclined to seize his
person; but he distracted their attention by admitting them to sack
the castle, and while they were quarrelling over their booty, he left
the castle by the secret postern towards the sea, and embarked on a
light galley bound for Ischia. There as he stood in the stern, and
through the black smoke of the burning ships, destroyed by his orders,
saw home and kingdom lost by the sins and dishonour of other men, he
repeated over and over, as long as he could still see Naples, those
words in which the psalmist tells us that except the Lord keep the
city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

But the Castle of the Egg still held out for him, and the French,
having seized a little tower on the height of Pizzofalcone, bombarded
the fortress from that eminence. King Charles the Eighth himself was
there watching the practice of his gunners, when two light galleys ran
across from Ischia, touching shore at the old mole, and from one of
them landed Don Federigo of Aragon, uncle of the King, who had dwelt
at the French Court, and knew both Charles and his barons. They took
him up to the height, and when the French King saw him coming, says
Passaro, that most gossipy of chroniclers, "he leapt down from his
horse and bowed down to the ground, and embraced Don Federigo with the
greatest pleasure, and took him by the hand and led him apart to a
spot beneath an olive tree, where they began to talk together, but of
what they said I know nothing, though many supposed that King Charles
was trying to treat with King Ferdinand, offering him great lordships
in France, but he would not, and Don Federigo left him and went back
to his ships."

A strange interview, surely, between King and Prince, while the French
gunners stood waiting with their matches burning, and the standard of
Aragon still flew over the enchanted castle. It fell ere long, and
the whole kingdom was in the hands of Charles. It is true he had not
the wit to keep it. But anyone who wants to know that story must seek
it in Guicciardini, and may live to thank me for referring him to one
of the greatest and most interesting writers whom the world can show.



It is not possible to stroll along the sea-front much further than the
Castle of the Enchanted Egg, because the inclosures of the arsenal
occupy the foreshore. Thus the only course open is to turn inland,
and, retracing one's steps a little, to pass up beneath the shadow of
the great cliff of the Pizzofalcone into the Strada Santa Lucia, which
has always borne the fame of exhibiting at a glance more of the highly
coloured, if uncleanly, life of the poorer Neapolitans than any other
district of the city. I suspect its proximity to the hotels had
something to do with this high reputation, for crowded as the winding
roadway is at times with fishermen and peasant women, there is, I
maintain, incomparably more of uncivilised and ancient Naples to be
seen in the Strada de' Tribunali, or around Castel Capuano, than is
now presented to the eyes of the astonished visitor in Santa Lucia.
However, the wide pavement on the side of that highway which opens
towards the sea--for the famous creek is filled up now--is at all
times a standing-place for booths, chiefly for the sale of the "frutti
del mare," edible or not; and there one may see both young girls and
ancient hags proffering their wares with clamorous pertinacity, making
use of a vocabulary which is piquant, if not sweet, and soaring up
into howls such as only a Neapolitan throat can execute.

The charm of Santa Lucia is largely of the past. Naples is suffering a
change; and at this point one realises for the first time that the old
city of dirt and laughter is being swept and garnished. The "piano di
risanamento," that much-needed scheme of resanitation which was
conceived in Naples after the dread outbreak of cholera had scourged
the narrow alleys in a way to make the most careless people
think--that great conception of broad streets to be driven through the
crowded quarters, letting the sweet and healing sea air course to and
fro between the houses, has brought health and may bring cleanliness,
but it seems to be expelling gaiety and picturesqueness with the
mephitic vapours which have wrought such woe. Naples may be an idle
city still, but it is not so idle. It is disorderly and not too safe,
yet is more reputable than it was. The rake is contemplating better
things, and by-and-by may actually achieve them--an anticipation over
which good men must rejoice. But visitors who come to play may lament
the increase of seriousness and the vanishing faith that life begins
and ends with laughter.

A traveller approaching Naples from this side must needs be struck by
the narrowness of the close alleys which pierce the houses of Santa
Lucia. Standing in the middle of any one of these vicoli, a man might
almost touch both house-fronts, while the walls tower up so high on
either hand that only a mere strip of sky is visible, and that with
effort. No breeze but one which blew directly on the mouth of these
alleys could reach the windows of the dense population which inhabits
them. Disease stalks unimpeded, beyond the power of science to
restrain. The reason for building these lines of houses so close
together was, of course, to secure shade, that priceless blessing
throughout the burning dog days in southern Italy. No man can have
strolled about Italian towns even in fine spring weather without
feeling grateful for the shadows which fall on him from some
overhanging house-front. Under shelter from the sun the very smells
seem less; and in August scarce any price in health may appear too
high to pay for a patch of shade which lasts throughout the day.

The curved roadway of Santa Lucia mounts the hill on which the kings
of Anjou, having resolved to take up their residence in Naples rather
than in Palermo, which was the former capital of the Two Sicilies,
built their new castle--Castel Nuovo--still a fortress, though
untenable in modern war. This eminence lay outside the city then.
Centuries later the town had not absorbed it, and the castle on the
knoll remained surrounded by vineyards and the palaces of those
princes of the blood who were entitled to dwell in the immediate
neighbourhood of the King. Eastwards lay the city, much as one may see
it now, filling the hollow of the coast and stretching some way up a

The royal palace, which stands now upon the right, hiding the front of
the Castel Nuovo, is of course a modern building. It has no beauty,
and I have naught to say concerning it. The handsome piazza laid out
before the palace is a pleasant place to stroll in, especially on warm
evenings when the lights are glittering and there is music at
Gambrinus' Café at the corner. But it has no special interest, and I
go on therefore round the corner of the piazza past the halting-place
of tramcars, past the little garden of the palace and the colonnade of
the San Carlo Theatre, till I reach the Piazza del Municipio, where a
gateway in the long wall admits to the castle precinct. Admission is
free. The sentry at the gate merely nods when I declare my business to
be curiosity and nothing more, and leaves me to stroll unchecked up
the ascending causeway till I enter the quadrangle of the castle,
where a squad of soldiers are drilling awkwardly.

It is strange that many visitors to Naples omit this castle from the
sights they see. It is well to spend hours and days in the museum and
aquarium, or in wandering from church to church, spoilt as is almost
every one among those sacred buildings by the corrupt taste of the
eighteenth century, which daubed over noble gothic arches with
unmeaning Barocco ornament, and left Naples degraded among Italian
cities by the loss of almost all that was once done nobly within her
walls in stone or marble. But here is the very fount and centre of the
sovereignty of Naples, the home of all its kings since Manfred, the
Palace of Anjou and Aragon. In these walls their secrets were
deposited, and some to this day remain open to the curious. Here was
the chief theatre of their pomp, and here, on the knoll above the
shore among the olive groves and orchards that fringed the city walls,
unnumbered tragedies occurred.

The castle has two courtyards. The portal leading from the outer to
the inner is dignified by what is probably the finest piece of
building now left in Naples, the triumphal arch erected by Alfonso of
Aragon--first of the two kings who bore that name--to celebrate his
conquest of the city and the downfall of the last adherents of the
old House of Anjou. "Pious, merciful, unconquered": such were the
terms in which his character was described upon the arch beneath which
he rode in and out in triumph. Mercy was an attribute uncommon in his
family; of that all men can judge unto this day. Piety is estimated
differently from age to age. In monarchs, at least of mediæval times,
it was a virtue of outward observance, and in this Alfonso did perhaps
excel. As for the third merit which he claimed, it is not on record
that anyone tried to conquer him, except the barons of the kingdom,
who were suppressed with a ruthless cruelty which forecast the tyranny
of his son and grandson, who wrought the deed of terror in the Church
of San Lionardo on the Chiaia.

The archway is chiefly the work of Pietro di Martino of Milan, though
it is said that Giuliano da Majano also laboured on it, if not others
also. It possesses a noble pair of bronze doors of even greater
interest than the archway; for not only is their workmanship extremely
fine, but also the figures possess the interest of portraiture. The
scenes depicted are the triumphs of King Ferdinand, second of the five
monarchs of Aragon, over his revolting barons. There is Ferdinand upon
his war-horse talking to the Duke of Taranto, his thin, cruel face
recognisable at a glance by the high nose which he derived from his
father, King Alfonso, builder of the arch. In the medallions of the
door the same sharp face appears; while his son, afterwards Alfonso
the Second, bears a shorter, thicker face, which is suggestive, though
very falsely, of more kindness.

Let us go into the castle and see what remains there to explain the
reputation of inhuman cruelty which history has conferred on these
kings. A small boy armed with keys is already hovering about
expectant; and though it is his purpose to show only the Chapel of
Santa Barbara, the slightest hint of a desire to see the subterranean
chamber will cause him to lead you through the sacristy, where he will
produce a couple of candle ends, and throw open a small doorway hidden
in the wall. A winding stair of perhaps twenty steps conducts to a
little chamber, faintly lighted by a deep-set window. At first the
room seems empty, but as one's eyes adjust themselves to the dim light
four coffins become visible, each lying on a shelf, two open and two

Surely, one thinks, this must be a place of private sepulture for the
Royal Family or for their servants, and the stair giving access from
the chapel was built for the convenience of mourners who wished to
stand beside their dead. But the boy, with a chuckle of amusement,
lifts the lid of one of the closed coffins. Within lies the mummy of a
man, fearfully distorted by his agony, his cramped hands clutched
desperately, as if fighting with all his strength against those who
held him down. His mouth is contorted, his whole body heaving with a
last struggle for life and breath. The man was strangled, there can be
no doubt of it; and there he lies to this hour, fully clothed in the
garments which he wore when he came down that little winding stair,
hose, buttons, and doublet still intact.

Each of the other coffins contains the body of a man slain in his
clothes, the head separated, and lying by the shoulders.

Who were these men, and how has it happened that they lie here all
together? What made mummies of them, and with what object were their
bodies preserved? The answer must be sought in history. The _Diario
Ferrarese_, printed by Muratori, tells us that "it was the constant
habit of King Ferdinand and King Alfonso, when their enemies, whether
barons or people, had fallen into their hands, to cut off their heads
and keep them salted in chambers underneath their palace." Not content
with having dismissed the spirits of their foes to another world,
these kingly Aragons must needs have, close by the scene of their
continual sports and labours, so many secret pleasure chambers into
which they could withdraw at leisure moments and gaze in rapture on
the very features of the enemy whose turbulence was stilled and whose
wits would never be turned against his king again. Doubtless these
visits renewed the joy of killing!

So in this chamber where King Alfonso or his father stood and gloated,
one may stand to-day and look down on the same bodies still unmoved--a
strange step back into the Middle Ages, and a more revealing glimpse
than any other known to me of what Naples was in old days, when its
kings--yes, even the best of them!--were tigers, and the seeds were
sown of that contempt for life which is to this hour a chief
difficulty of those who govern Naples. Who were these men? Surely, one
thinks, their rank and importance must be measured by the care with
which the King bestowed their bodies in such close neighbourhood to
the royal chapel and to his own apartments!

Probably we shall not miss the truth by very much if we conclude them
to be some among those barons of the kingdom who, incensed by the
harsh government of Ferdinand, and furious beyond all measure with his
more hateful son, gave rein to their old affection for the House of
Anjou, and conspired with the Pope to confer the realm on a prince of
that royal house. It seems strange that even under the afflictions of
the Aragon sovereignty men should have looked back on the days of
Anjou with affection. But the fact is that Alfonso, Duke of Calabria,
whose power as the eldest son of the aged King grew stronger daily,
was such a ruler as must needs rouse regrets for other days even in a
patient generation, much more in one so proud and turbulent as the
Neapolitans. Harshness and cruelty they understood; but Alfonso did
what no nation will endure. He took the women, even of the noblest
houses, at his will. Of this came unquenchable hatred, and in the end
the ruin of his house.

The conspiracy was a terrible one. Half the great officers of the
kingdom were involved in it, and King Ferdinand knew not where to look
for loyalty. The Prince of Salerno, Lord High Admiral of the realm,
and the Prince of Bisignano were among the leaders--members both of
that great family of San Severino, whose palace is known to every
visitor as the Church of the Gesù Nuovo. The Grand Constable, the
Grand Seneschal, the King's Secretary--there was no end to the men of
note and consequence who joined in the appeal to the Pope to dethrone
the tyrants of the House of Aragon, and give the kingdom to René of
Lorraine, last descendant of the ancient kings.

Ferdinand was a prince whose sagacity is extolled by all men. He was
wise as is the serpent. His statesmanship was of the type made widely
known twenty years later by Cæsar Borgia, and in this emergency he
practised the same arts as enabled that accomplished dissimulator to
strangle his four chief enemies at once. The two occasions deserve
close study from those who would understand the statecraft of the
fifteenth century. Each was indeed a masterpiece of that art which
Machiavelli calls "virtù," and it is difficult to decide where to
award the palm.

Ferdinand negotiated. It was indeed his only course, for time must be
gained at any cost. This was in the regular routine of kings in
difficulty. De Comines, in a memorable passage, explains how useful it
is to send ambassadors to meet one's enemies; they see so much even
while they are treating. Ferdinand negotiated with such skill, such
open frankness and goodwill, showed such a broad and merciful spirit,
and was so ready to forgive, that the conspirators, who had waited in
vain for their new king, accepted the accord and returned sullenly to
their castles, doubting and fearing sorely.

"Let no man think that present kindnesses lead to the forgetting of
past injuries," says Machiavelli, laying bare the roots of human
nature in his incisive way. To do them justice, the barons supposed no
such thing. The Prince of Salerno was missing one fine morning. On the
gateway of his palace was a card, on which were inscribed the mystic
words--"Passero vecchio non entra in caggiola" (An old sparrow does
not go into the cage). He is said to have got out of the city
disguised as a muleteer. Other sparrows were less prudent or more
unfortunate. The cage doors were wide open, and the King and Duke sat
piping so prettily that any bird might have thought it safe to flutter
in. Towards the Count of Sarno Ferdinand showed particular affection.
His son Marco Coppola was betrothed to the daughter of the Duke of
Amalfi, the King's nephew. The wedding was at hand. It must be held in
the Royal Palace, in Castel Nuovo, if only to mark the royal favour.
There were great festivities. The pomp of the Court was boundless. But
the wedding garments which the King was preparing were not of this
world. Midway in the feastings and the music, when all men were
confident and careless, the stroke fell. How, one wonders, did
Ferdinand and Alfonso look at that moment when, sitting at the head of
the tables, gazing down upon their guests, bridegroom and bride and
relatives trusting in the royal honour, they gave the signal and
called in the soldiers who turned that feast to terror? How did the
guests look when the guard went round arresting every man of mark or
consequence within the hall? Surely since Belshazzar was King in
Babylon no feast has been broken up more awfully!

The craft and treachery of this great stroke fixed once for all the
reputation of Ferdinand and Alfonso. The nice taste of Renaissance
Italy revolted, giving voice to loud condemnation. King and Prince,
surprised at the outcry, paused, and held back the secret executioner.
It would be safer to have a show of justice; so a court was nominated,
the prisoners were tried, and when they had been despatched from the
world in this unexceptionable manner, one by one the other dukes and
barons were caught and led into the secret pleasure chambers, whence
they never more emerged. The Prince of Bisignano, the Duke of Melfi,
the Duke of Nardo, counts and knights innumerable disappeared. Their
children and their wives were treated in like manner. Few escaped; but
for many a day Neapolitans told the tale how Bandella Gaetano,
Princess of Bisignano, a woman of high courage and resource, fled with
her young children to the Church of San Lionardo in the Chiaia; and
there, profiting by the old fame of the saint as the guardian of
fugitives, bribed a boatman to take her on to Terracina, and so sought
refuge with the Colonnas. Ferdinand would have given much to stamp
out the brood; and had he been able to turn the pages of the book of
fate he would have given even more.

What happened to the prisoners was never known. For some time the
fiction was kept up that they were alive, and food was even sent daily
to their cells, set down perhaps beside the salted bodies in mockery.
But the executioner was seen wearing a gold chain which had belonged
to the Prince of Bisignano; and ere long it was known that every one
was dead.

There is no doubt that in these awful days the Church of San Lionardo
was filled with fugitives. It was there that Alfonso wrought that
nameless deed of terror which dwelt so heavily upon his conscience as
to destroy his nerves and send him fleeing from the kingdom. We have
seen what things his conscience would endure; perhaps it is as well we
remain in ignorance of what it would not. But if we argue from the
known to the unknown we may form a surmise of the nature of that act
which is enough to banish sleep, and may well make us grateful that
the walls of that old sanctuary which concealed so terrible a secret
stand no longer on the smiling shore which is the chosen parade of
Neapolitan society of our own day.

There are two chapels in the castle, one opening from the other; but
both lost whatever beauty they once had by the deplorable passion for
Barocco, which wrought such evil in Naples. Two great beauties still
remain, though not inside the chapels. One is the doorway, a lovely
work of Giuliano da Majano, mercifully left untouched, I know not by
what happy chance; the other is a winding staircase behind the choir,
consisting of a hundred and fifty-eight steps, each formed of a
single block of travertine, and so arranged that their inward edges
form a perfect cylinder. There is no end to the scenes of history and
tragedy which are recalled by these old walls and chambers, in which
the hottest passions of life in Naples have spent themselves so often,
even from the first coming of Charles of Anjou down to the creation of
the Parthenopean Republic, when Nelson received the surrender of the
Revolutionists, driven to despair by the arrival of his fleet. But
these are tales which visitors must find out for themselves. If they
will not go to Castel Nuovo on the inducement which I have given them,
neither will they if I should write a volume.

  [Illustration: NAPLES--OLD TOWN]

When I emerge from the old palace fortress I hesitate, being, in
truth, half inclined to turn directly to the Carmine, the strongest
point of interest in Naples. But a man will fail to comprehend the
relation of the Carmine to ancient Naples if he goes to it by the
broad street along the quays which lay outside the mediæval city. It
is better to plunge into the maze of narrow ways which still, unto
this hour, retain the general aspect of the city wherein Boccaccio
rambled, picking up in I know not what haunt of roysterers those sad
tales which beguile one yet in the pages of the _Decameron_. Who has
not read of the nocturnal adventures of Andreuccio, who came from Pisa
to Naples to buy horses with twenty gold florins in his pocket? Who
would not wish to see the very lanes through which he wandered naked
in the night? Who has not felt the charm of that naïve irresponsibility
which pervades the tales of Naples in old days? Does it still exist?
Are the narrow lanes athrob even now on summer nights with the
thrumming of the lute, with the patter of girls' feet, made musical
by wafts of song blown down from lofty windows?

                   "Flower of the rose,
     If I've been merry, what matter who knows?"

Well, let us go and see; and first we will turn up the Toledo, now
rechristened "Via Roma," that long straight street which the Viceroy
Don Pietro di Toledo made without the city wall, and which is still
the chief artery of life and fashion.

The narrow vista, made picturesque by hanging balconies and green
shutters, is bathed in sunshine--not the fierce glare which even in
early summer brings out the awnings used to convert the footways into
shaded corridors, but the pleasant golden glow of an April Eastertide,
carrying with it the reek of violets and early roses. It is no wonder
that the street is odorous of flowers; for at any corner a few soldi
will buy them by the handful, fresh and dewy, redolent of summer,
though indeed summer never flees far from this sunny coast, and even
in midwinter she will slip back for a while, bringing golden days. It
is on the stroke of noon, noon of Holy Thursday, and in another hour
the roadway will be closed to vehicles. For on this day, by custom old
enough to be respectable, the Neapolitans go on foot to visit the
sepulchres of Christ in the churches, combining this exercise of
devotion with the more worldly solaces of friendship and social
intercourse. There was a time when princesses came down and mingled
with the throng, the royal ladies of the House of Bourbon going to and
fro on foot; while the rustling of their long dresses of black silk
gave the ceremony its picturesque title of "Lu Struscio." There being
no princesses in Naples now, the old ceremony has lost some of its
attractions for the nobly born; but it is still honoured, and already
the carriages are growing thin, while in every part of the long street
men armed with long brooms are reducing the whole width to the same
state of cleanliness as the footpaths. With the disappearance of the
vetturino a blessed peace steals down upon the air. This is, I should
suppose, the one day in the year on which a man can hear himself speak
in the Via Roma. But Naples, passionate for noise, is never long
without it. Fast as the vetturini go the hawkers come, hoarse and
raucous; men with strings of chestnuts, boys holding tiny Java
sparrows on their finger-tips, women thrusting at you trays of
"pastiere," without which no good citizen of Naples would dream of
passing Easter, any more than he would go through Christmas without
"capitoni." It is rarely wise to apply to local delicacies any other
test than that of sight. The women push past me with their trays,
knowing well that their market does not lie among the strangers.
Meantime the Via Santa Brigida, which crosses the Via Roma, has broken
out into a jungle of standing booths, on which are displayed proudly
cheap playthings for the children, sweetmeats and other paschal joys,
mingled with combs, shirtings, and suchlike useful articles, to which
attention is drawn by huge placards.


while the seething crowd which hustles round the stalls is animated by
any but a feeling of devotion.

So the throng gathers, till by-and-by the Via Roma is a sea of moving
heads. The church doors stand wide open, of itself an unusual sight in
Naples, where the churches are closed at noon, and reopen only for an
hour in the evening. Their doorways are curtained heavily in black,
and beneath the hanging folds a ceaseless stream of people are passing
in and out, pressing forward to where the recumbent figure of our Lord
lies at the foot of a blazing trophy of flowers and wax lights,
kissing the contorted limbs fervently, then hurrying away. A large
proportion of these devotees are dressed in black, especially the
older women, but among them are many who seem more anxious to display
their bright spring toilettes, and the crowded street assumes the
aspect of a drawing-room, in which greetings and laughing salutations
fly freely on all hands. It is all picturesque enough, and a relic of
old life in Naples which is worth seeing.

In the absence of the usual street noises, in the solemn trappings of
the churches, and yet more in the tramp of crowds so largely clad in
mourning, there is not wanting a suggestion of funeral pomp; and as I
stand apart and watch the throng go by, there comes into my mind the
memory of a solemn procession which once came down this famous
highway, bearing to the grave the body of a lad whom the city, by the
strangest freak, had raised in one day from the lowest to the highest
station, and cast down as suddenly into a bloody grave, one who had
enough heroism in his ignorant mind to resent oppression, and
might--who knows?--have proved an earlier Garibaldi, had he been
supported by the nobles. It was Mas'aniello who was thus borne dead
down the slope of the Toledo, honoured by the weeping people who were
little likely to find another leader bold enough to head them,
honoured even by the Church, which rarely refuses outward show of
honour to the men she has destroyed. First came a hundred boys of the
conservatorio of Loreto, then all the brothers of the monasteries, to
the number of four hundred, and then the body of the fisherman
dictator, wrapped in a white shroud folded so that all might see the
head--I hope it had not that hideous look of death and anguish from
which one shrinks on seeing the wooden model in the museum of San
Martino! After the bier walked great crowds of Mas'aniello's
followers, those ragamuffin soldiers who but a few days earlier had
stormed down this street in triumph, sacking and destroying where they
pleased. Now they walked mournfully and slow, as well they might, for
liberty lay upon the bier they followed, and the Spanish tyranny was
about to close over them again. Behind them trailed their flags, and
they marched to the soft beat of muted drums all hung with crape. But
last of all came those who made this great procession memorable beyond
all others. The soldiers were followed by a countless throng of women
of the people. Out of every lane and alley of the swarming city they
had come to bid farewell to their defender, to the one man who in many
generations had dared to show them that they were not worms. Many of
them carried lighted candles, weeping bitterly as they went slowly by;
while others sang in tearful voices the "Santissimo Rosario," in trust
that the brave soul of the departed might find peace.


So through this outskirt of the city the funeral train of Mas'aniello
came from the Carmine and went back to that centre of the life and
tragedy of Naples. We too will go there presently, and then will talk
the more about Mas'aniello. But first we must walk through the ancient
city, and that is now quite close at hand. I have traversed almost
half the length of the Toledo--the ancient name comes more readily
than the modern--passing by the little Largo della Carità, where in
the shadow of the tramcars green bays hang around the tablet that
protests against forgetfulness of Felice Cavallotti. I am in sight of
the Piazza Dante, and a little more would show me the red walls of the
museum, when I halt beneath the vast and heavy front of the Palazzo
Maddaloni, and turning round into the shadow of the Strada Quercia, I
see the fine courtyard and loggia of the palace, eloquent of pomps and
ceremonies which find no match in the Naples of to-day. Some hundred
and fifty yards beyond the palace the old line of the city walls
crossed the street at right angles. There is not a sign of walls or
towers now. The ancient quadrangle of streets and alleys, the old
Greek city which held out so stoutly generation after generation when
besieged by Lombard or Imperialist, lies open now to strangers of
every nation. On entering its precinct one appears to have found a new
world, albeit an unsavoury one. For here, in place of the irregular
and curved vistas in which the builders of modern Naples have
delighted, is a long narrow street of exceeding straightness, cleaving
like an arrow-flight through the close-packed houses. Irresistibly it
brings to mind the long straight streets of Pompeii, so far as a
thoroughfare seething with crowded life can recall one which lies
silent and open under the winds of heaven. It is a just comparison;
for indeed Pompeii still retains the very aspect which Naples must
have borne. In size, in manner of construction, in defences, the two
towns were closely similar, and this long street which under several
names pierces the ancient city from side to side, was one of the three
Decuman ways which every visitor to the buried city traces out and
follows. A little higher up the hill is the Decumanus Major, now
called the Strada de' Tribunali, and still by far the most interesting
street in Naples, while higher yet upon the slope the third of the
Decuman streets runs parallel to the other two under the name of
Strada Anticaglia, and in it stood the ancient theatre, some remnants
of which still exist between the Vico di S. Paolo and the Vico de'
Giganti. These three Decuman streets are the arteries of ancient
Naples. In them, and in the countless alleys which unite them, are to
be found almost all the relics of the mediæval city; and indeed a man
wandering about beneath those unmodernised house-fronts, elbowing his
way through crowds of ragged peasants and of burly priests, might well
doubt in what century he found himself, so unlike the scene is to the
trim world which he has known elsewhere.

But these are quarters in which it is not prudent to wander when the
night is falling. Naples is not a safe city, and travellers would do
wisely to realise the fact. Even in broad daylight caution and good
sense are needed more than in most other cities. Ladies will show it
by removing from their dress all ornaments of the slightest value, and
men by refusing absolutely all inducements to enter houses, whether
offered by small boys professing to find sacristans--a not uncommon
trick--or by any other person not known and vouched for. After dark,
if a man must walk alone, he should walk carefully on the light side
of the street and restrain any curiosity he may feel to see the effect
of moonlight on the houses until he can watch it safely from his own
window. These are not unnecessary cautions. Neapolitans themselves do
not neglect them, though strangers do; and many have found cause to
regret it. I myself, while walking with a lady in the immediate
neighbourhood of the cathedral, have seen her caught by the waist by a
burly brute and shaken as a terrier shakes a rat in the effort to
unclasp a handsome silver buckle which she wore. The rascal failed,
and was gone again before he could be seized. But the experience is
one which few men would desire their wives or sisters to undergo.
Complaint is useless. It is even doubtful whether, in a city where
almost every robber has a knife, worse things may not happen to those
who meet such attacks in the customary English manner. But the remedy
is simple. Carry nothing which is of any obvious value. Avoid
unnecessary conversation with poor boys, who are not safe guides. Go
home while it is still light. With these plain rules men and women
equally may explore the recesses of old Naples with pleasure and with
almost perfect safety.

It is out of these teeming quarters, packed with a population as dense
and fetid as that of Seven Dials, that the Camorra, the great secret
society of Naples, drew the strength and vigour which enables it still
to defy the law. There would be no exaggeration in saying that hardly
a full generation has passed by since in all the lower quarters of the
city the Camorra ruled with an audacity so high that there was neither
man nor woman, boy nor girl, who did not know he must obey it rather
than the law. The law was blind and deaf. The Camorra had eyes and
ears in every vicolo and every cellar. It discovered all things; it
struck heavily and secretly at those who tried to thwart it. A
fruitseller who resisted payment of dues to the Camorrist would find
his custom disappear. Accident upon accident would happen to his
goods. Ere long he would be a ruined man. The Camorra might accept his
submission, if proffered humbly and accompanied by a fine; but any
active resistance, any communication with the police, would be repaid
by a knife-thrust in the stomach some dark night. Fishermen, street
hawkers, vetturini, guides--all were under the thrall of the ruthless
organisation, all paid tribute in return for its protection, and
executed its orders without remorse.

So far as is known to outsiders, the aims of the Camorra--which still
exists, and wields considerable power yet--were not mainly political,
though it was certainly at one time a powerful engine in the hands of
those who desired the return of the Bourbons. That desire, once
passionate in Naples, has almost died away. Francis the Second is
dead, and there is none who can breathe life into the dry bones of his
party. If the devotion to the old Royal House exists, it is kept alive
by the exertions of the priests, who would make a hero of Apollyon if
he came down on earth and showed a disposition to unseat the present
king. The lower orders are still as clerical as in the days of
Mas'aniello. Turbulent and fierce as are their passions, they are
capable of high devotion; and a spiritual ruler who exerted the whole
influence of the Church might turn them into a great people. But here
too, as at every turn in Italy, the task of government is checked and
hampered by the hostility of Church and Crown. No foreigner can
appreciate the chances of this struggle, or even apportion fairly
blame between the combatants. It is enough for those of us who love
Italy to sit and watch the unrolling of the future, lamenting that
from the outset of her career as a united nation she has been
wrestling with a Church whose traditions lie in the humbling of
emperors and kings.



He who will see the churches of Naples must rise betimes, since
ancient custom closes them, for unknown reasons, from eleven o'clock
till four. Some say the poor man will get nothing for his pains. But
this is not so. It is indeed impossible that sacred buildings in a
city so old and famous as Naples should be devoid of interest. Here,
as elsewhere, they reflect the strong emotions of the citizens, their
sorrows and their aspirations; and though it is true that many a once
noble building has been daubed over with unmeaning ornament so freely
that one has trouble in discovering the pure taste with which the
builders wrought it, yet there is not a church in Naples which does
not set vibrating some chord either of beauty or poignant association.
No man can know the city or its people if he neglect the churches.
Past and present jostle each other perpetually there, and the effigies
of kings look down with fine grave eyes on the filthy peasant women
lifting up their children to kiss the feet of the dead Christ.

I have paused in the Strada Quercia opposite the Gesù Nuovo, once, as
I have said before, the palace of the San Severini, Princes of
Salerno. It was on that fine doorway that the Prince affixed the
inscription "An old sparrow does not enter into the cage," as he stood
beneath his ancestral gateway listening for the mule team with its
jingling bells which gave him his chance of life and safety. Perhaps
he waited under this old archway till he saw the beasts with
high-piled burdens coming up this way from the Mercato, and slipped in
silently among the swarthy knaves who led them, and so forth from the
city and away to France, where he hatched a scheme of vengeance which
destroyed the King, his enemy. The tinkling of those mule-bells as
they went up this narrow street in the night fell on no ears that
heeded them, yet in truth and earnest they were ringing the dirge of
the House of Aragon.

The interior of the Gesù is among those which arouse the citizens of
Naples to enthusiasm. It is not without grandeur, but over-decorated,
and on my mind it leaves but little sense of pleasure.

But from this archway where I stand I can see a church far older and
more interesting, one indeed which yields in fame to none in Naples.
It is Santa Chiara, whose dignified façade rears itself with twin
towers in the cool shadow of the courtyard, a name famous not only in
the ecclesiastical history of Naples, but in the legal also, having
given its title to a great body of state councillors which once met
here. It was the royal chapel of King Robert the Wise, third among the
monarchs of his house, and the only prosperous one out of the whole
number, though even he was pursued by sorrows, and by remorse too,
unless the constant suspicions of the centuries have erred.

For the tale goes that Robert knew better than any other the cause of
that sudden illness which carried off his elder brother, Charles
Martel, King of Hungary, when, towards the close of their father's
life, he came to Naples to arrange for the succession. Stories of
mediæval poisonings are to be received with caution. No man who
glances round Naples to-day, swept and garnished as it has been by
advancing science, will find it hard to understand how swiftly disease
may--nay, must have struck in those crowded dirty streets six
centuries ago. Yet Robert was believed to have seized the throne by
fratricide. This Church of Santa Chiara was his atonement for the
crime, and by its high altar he sleeps for ever, robed as a monk and
throned as a king, beneath a monument of rare beauty, on which
Petrarch wrote the jingling epitaph, "Cernite Robertum, regem virtute

"Chock full of virtue." Such was Petrarch's judgment on King Robert
dead, and doubtless he believed it, for the King's Court was splendid,
poets and scholars were held in honour, and Florentines especially.
Innocent or guilty, Robert ruled with a magnificence which makes his
reign the one bright spot in the troubled history of the Anjou
sovereigns; and posterity, which has little good to say of any of
them, remembers gratefully that he procured the laurel crown for
Petrarch, and gave his protection to that rake Boccaccio.

Let us go in and see his church. It is rectangular, and has no aisles,
while a long range of chapels upon either hand recall irresistibly the
quirk recorded of King Robert's son, when his father, proud of the
progress which the church was making, brought him in to admire its
fair proportions. The graceless lad gazed round, and it struck him
that the chapels were not unlike so many mangers. So when the King
pressed him for his opinion he remarked airily that the church
reminded him of a stable, whereupon the King said angrily, "God
grant, my son, that you be not the first to eat in those stalls!"

It was a prophetic speech, and one which must have returned many times
on the King's memory, for the historian Giannone assures us that the
first train of royal mourners who entered the new church were
following the coffin of this very lad, King Robert's firstborn, and
the hope of the realm.

The chief artist selected to adorn Santa Chiara with frescoes was no
other than the great Florentine, Giotto. Petrarch, Boccaccio, Giotto!
How the best brains of Tuscany flocked to Naples in those days! The
explanation of it was, apart from the natural attractions of a
splendid Court, that when Charles of Anjou defeated and slew Manfred,
he cast down by that act, and ruined throughout Italy, the party of
Ghibellines, the Emperor's men, of whom Manfred, son of a great
emperor, was naturally head. The Guelfs, the Pope's men, returned to
Florence, whence they had been banished, and straightway the closest
ties sprang up between the city on the Arno and the city of the Siren,
so close that the money-bags of Florence saved Charles from ruin at
least once.

So Tuscan poets and artists making the weary ten days' journey were
assured that on the shores of the blue gulf they would find
compatriots. Giotto came most gladly, and in the chapels of Santa
Chiara he painted many scenes of Bible story, all of which were daubed
over with whitewash by order of a Spanish officer a century and a half
ago. He complained that they made the church dark. There is indeed one
fresco left in the old refectory, now a shop. But Crowe and
Cavalcaselle do not accept it as the work of the same hand.

So here, in the large, cool church, Giotto painted for many a day,
alternating his labours perhaps with visits to Castel dell'Uovo, where
he painted the chapel, now a smoky, useful kitchen! King Robert loved
the man, so shrewd and cogent was his talk, and often came to chat
with him in one place or the other. "If I were you, Giotto, I should
stop painting now it is so hot," observed the King. "So should I, if I
were you," returned the artist dryly. And one day, wishing perhaps to
warn Robert by how frail a tenure he held his throne, he painted an
ass stooping under one pack saddle and looking greedily towards
another lying at his feet. Both saddles were adorned with crowns, and
the explanation was that the ass typified the Neapolitans, who thought
any other saddle better than the one they bore.

The most beautiful works of art in Santa Chiara, if not indeed in the
whole city, are the eleven small reliefs which run as a frieze along
the organ gallery. The scenes are from the life of St. Katherine,
martyr as well as saint. Dignified and tender, wrought with the rarest
delicacy, yet inspired with astonishing vigour, the graceful figures
are in white relief upon a ground of black. Very memorable and lovely
they appear, rebuking the corrupt taste which has begotten so much
base ornament in Naples.

Next to this frieze the interest of Santa Chiara lies in its
monuments, for in this Royal Chapel of Anjou many children of that
house were buried. The King himself assumed the frock of a Franciscan
monk before his death, craving for a peace which he did not find upon
his throne, and lies recumbent therefore, attired humbly in his habit,
while on a higher story of the monument he sits enthroned in all his
earthly splendour, gazing down upon his church with those keen
features which were characteristic of his house, the thin hooked
nose, not unlike a vulture's beak, so strangely like that which one
sees on the coins of his grandfather, murderer of Conradin. Uneasy
were the lives of all the monarchs of that house; their throne was set
in blood, and in blood it was perpetually slipping.

I left Santa Chiara by the northern door, which opens on a handsome
double staircase descending to the courtyard. In this wide space there
is fine shadow, and, by contrast with the noisy street outside, the
square is almost silent--a wondrous thing in Naples! Across the court,
beside the archway by which I entered, rises the noble campanile, once
planned on Gothic lines, but interrupted by the death of King Robert,
and finished two centuries and a half later by an architect who
transformed it into the classic style. There are mean houses all
around, occupied by people who care not one jot for King Robert or his
lost design.

Down the incline of the courtyard, where Boccaccio may well have
whispered guilty secrets to his Anjou princess, there loafs a hawker
with his donkey, his head thrown back, his brown hat tilted
picturesquely, bawling with iron throat the praises of his leeks and
cabbages, while the donkey creeps on cautiously over the broken
stones. In the Neapolitan speech he is the "padulano"--the man who
comes from the swamp, by which is meant the low plain of the Sebeto,
that muddy river which the railway to Castellammare crosses on the
outskirts of the city. On this marshy ground grow quantities of early
vegetables, and these it is which the padulano goes vaunting in his
brazen voice. He needs his strength of lung, for see! on the highest
story a woman has heard his bawling and comes out upon her balcony. At
that height they do not bargain in words, but in signs, the universal
language of the people. A few rapid passes of the hands and the
business is done. The woman lets down a basket by a rope; a few soldi
are jingling in the bottom; the basket goes up packed with green
stuff, and the padulano loafs on beside his patient donkey.

It is in these crowded quarters of the ancient city, these streets
through which the noisy, swarthy, dirty people were seething just as
they are now when Pompeii was a peopled town and the hawkers went up
and down the streets of Herculaneum,--it is here that one can grasp
most easily those peculiarities which fence off life in southern Italy
from that of other regions in the peninsula. Here is neither the
dignity of Rome nor the gracious charm of Tuscany, but another world,
a life more hot and passionate, more noisy and more sensuous, a
character strangely blended out of the blood of many nations--Greek,
Saracen, Norman, Spaniard--each of which contributed some burning drop
to the quick glow of the Campanian nature, making it both fierce and
languid, keen and subtle beyond measure when its interests are
engaged, capable of labour, but not loving it, easily depressed, and
when thwarted turning swiftly to the thought of blood. Here is
difficult material for the statesman. Never yet, in all its
vicissitudes of government, have these volcanic, elemental passions
been concentrated on any one great object. In the War of Independence
Milan had its "Cinque Giorni"; Venice, led by Manin, struck a glorious
blow at the oppressor; but Naples effected nothing till Garibaldi came
with armies from without.

How the street swarms with curious figures! I stand aside in the
opening of a side lane, and there goes past me a man carrying in one
hand a pail of steaming water, while on his other arm he has a flat
basket, containing the sliced feelers of an octopus, and a tray of
rusks. At the low price of a soldo you may choose your own portion of
the hideous dainty, warm it in the water and devour it on the spot.
Close upon his heels, bawling out his contribution to the deafening
noises of the streets, comes the "pizzajuolo," purveyor of a dainty
which for centuries has been unknown elsewhere. "Pizza" may be seen in
every street in Naples. It is a kind of biscuit, crisp and flavoured
with cheese, recognisable at a glance by the little fish, like
whitebait, which are embedded in its brown surface, dusted over with
green chopped herbs. I cannot recommend the dainty from personal
knowledge, but Neapolitan tradition is strongly in its favour.

The pizzajuolo goes off chanting down a sideway, and I, moving on a
little, still away from the Toledo and towards the older quarter of
the town, find that the street has widened out into a small square,
the Largo San Domenico, on the left of which stands the famous Church
of San Domenico Maggiore, second in beauty to none in Naples, and
perhaps less spoilt than many others by the hand of the restorer. The
bronze statue of the saint stands on a pillar in the square, looking
down on the palaces which were once the homes of Neapolitan nobles,
dwelling gladly in this centre point of the great city. Neither
cavaliers nor ladies live here now. The world of trade and civic
institutions has slipped into their abandoned palaces, and enjoys the
spacious rooms and frescoed ceilings which were designed for the
splendour of great entertainments.

On the southern side of the Largo, sloping towards the sea, runs the
Via Mezzocannone, which, if antiquaries are to be believed, was the
ditch skirting the city wall upon the western side in Greco-Roman
days. It is a lane worth following, though narrow and somewhat fetid,
for by it one may reach not only a certain very ancient fountain, the
Fontana Mezzocannone, which is of itself worth seeing, but also the
Church of San Giovanni Pappacoda, and by careful search may even find
the bas-relief of Niccolo Pesce, of whom I spoke at length in a former
chapter. But my course is eastwards. I turn up the steps, and enter
the Church of San Domenico Maggiore by a door admitting to its
southern transept.

The cool and silent chapel into which one steps is the most ancient
part of the church, massive and severe. The first glance reveals that
the building must have been in a high degree esteemed a place of
sepulture. The tombs are very numerous, and names of mark in the
history of Naples appear on every side. Through the vaulted doorway
leading to the main body of the church there stream long rolling
melodies, the crash of a fine organ played triumphantly, and the grand
music of a pure tenor voice, ringing high among the arches. The church
is full of kneeling figures, among which others stroll about with
little care for their devotions; while children, infinitely dirty,
waddle up and down untended, as if the show were for their amusement

The chanting ceases, and the priests in their gorgeous vestments
stream down the altar steps towards the sacristy. I have come at an
unlucky moment! The sacristy at least will be closed till the priests
have done unrobing! But no! The hawk-eyed sacristan has marked down
the stranger, and hurries up obsequious and eager to detain me. I
cannot think of leaving without seeing the most interesting sight in
Naples--the coffins? "Si, sicuro! The very sarcophagi of all the
princes of the House of Aragon." "But they are in the sacristy," I
object, "and that is full of priests unrobing!" "Oh, you English, you
odd people," hints the sacristan, with a shrug. "What does that
matter?" If he does not care, why should I? And in another moment we
are in the sacristy.

Clearly the sacristan knew his ground, and has committed no breach of
manners; for among the crowd of ecclesiastics, young and old, which
fills the long panelled chamber, some jovial, some ascetic, many
chatting pleasantly, others resting on long seats, not one betrays the
least surprise at the intrusion of a tourist bent on sightseeing. High
dignitaries, arrayed like Solomon in his glory, make way courteously
as the sacristan draws me forward, and standing in the centre of the
vast apartment points out that the panelling ceases at half the height
of the walls, leaving a kind of shelf, on which lie, shrouded in red
velvet, to the number of five-and-forty, the coffins of the family of
Aragon, and the chief adherents of their house.

Here, taking what rest remorse allows him, is that Ferdinand who
trapped the barons in Castel Nuovo. His son Alfonso, who shared in
that and other infamies, is not here. He lies in Sicily, whither he
fled at the bidding of the furies who pursued him. But close by is his
son, the young King Ferdinand, whose chance of redeeming the fame of
his house was lost by death. And here is that luckless Isabella,
Duchess of Milan and of Bari, whose husband, Duke Giovanni Galeazzo
Sforza, was robbed of throne and life by his uncle Ludovic the Moor,
the man who, more than any other, was accountable for all the woes and
slavery of Italy. What bitter tragedies were closed when the scarlet
palls were flung over those old coffins! Here, too, is the dust of
the base scoundrel Pescara, archetype of treachery for all ages, at
least of public treachery. In private life his heart may have been
true enough, else how could his wife Vittoria Colonna have loved and
mourned him as she did? It is no new sight to see a woman lay great
love at the feet of a man who, on one view, is quite unworthy of it.
Her knowledge is the wider, and the account as she cast it may be the
truer. Why need we be puzzled that we cannot make our balance agree
with hers? How is it possible that we should?

On leaving San Domenico Maggiore, my desire is to pass into the Strada
Tribunali, the largest and most important of the three streets which
still cleave the city as they did in ancient days. The cross ways
turning up by San Domenico are devious and narrow, evil alleys
darkened sometimes by the high dead wall of a church or convent, at
others bristling with life, from the foul "bassi," the cellars which
are the despair of Neapolitan reformers, where ragged women crouch
over a chafing-dish of bronze, their only fire, and all the refuse is
flung out in the gutter, up to the high garrets where the week's wash
is hung out on a pole to dry. Not the freshest wind which blows across
the sea from Ischia can bring sweetness to these alleys, or expel the
wandering fever which on small inducement blazes to an epidemic and
slays ruthlessly. There were high hopes of Naples when the
"risanamento" was begun, that great scheme of clearance which was to
let in fresh air and sunshine among the rookeries. But already the new
tenements begin to be as crowded and as filthy as the old ones, and
the better era is soiled at its very outset. One cannot make a people
clean against its will. And then the sunshine! Week after week it is a
curse in Naples. The old narrow streets made shadow, the new wide
ones do not. Who knows whether the city will escape more lightly when
the next epidemic comes? God grant it may! For the days of cholera in
1884 were more awful than one cares to think about.

Among these devious lanes lies the Chapel of San Severo, a shrine
which everyone should visit, but one concerning which I have nothing
to say that is not set forth in the guide-books. Had it been the
Church of San Severo and San Sosio indeed, I could have told a grisly
tale of poisonings; but that lies far down towards the harbour and we
shall not pass it. At length I emerge in the narrow Street of
Tribunals, and turning eastwards behold it running straight and
crowded further than the eye will reach, a wilderness of bustling
figures, a maze of balconies and garrets, bright shops high piled with
fruit and vegetables, and butchers' stalls dressed with green boughs
to keep off the flies. At a corner stands the booth of a lemonade
seller, one of the most picturesque of all street merchants in this
busy city. His golden fruit is heaped up underneath a canopy which
shades it from the sun. Brown water-jars are reared among the fruit
and a jet of water sparkling up sheds a cool dewy spray over oranges
and lemons, dripping off their dark green leaves like dew. Many a
passer-by stops to look at the pretty sight, and the vendor's tongue
is never still, "A quatto, a cinque, a sei a sordo, 'e purtualle 'e
Palermo." In another month or two his stall will be far gayer, for the
figs and melons will come in, and the "mellonaro" will pass the day in
shouting "Castiellamare! che maraviglia! so' di Castiellamare! mellune
verace! cu' 'no sordo vevo e me lavo 'a faccia!" With a water-melon
one may drink and wash one's face at once! Who has not seen the street
urchins gnawing at a slice of crimson melon, while the water streams
out from among the black seeds, and does in truth make streaks of
cleanliness at least upon their faces; for not the widest mouth can
catch all the dripping juice.

In this ancient street one is at the heart of Naples. This strong
pulse of life, this eager, abounding vitality has throbbed along this
thoroughfare for more ages than one can count; and the sight on which
we look to-day, the seething crowd, the straight house-fronts, the
long street dropping to the east, is different in no essential from
that which has been seen by every ruler of the city--Spaniard,
Angevin, or Norman, yes, even by Greek and Roman governors--from days
when the fires of Vesuvius were a forgotten terror, and the streets of
Pompeii surged with just such another crowd as this. It is here, in
this most ancient Strada Tribunali, that the traveller should pause
before he visits the old buried cities. Here and here only will he
learn to comprehend how they were peopled; and only when he carries
with him in the eyes of memory the aspect of the cellars and the
shops, the crowded side streets and the pandemonium of noise, will he
succeed in discovering at Pompeii more than a heap of ruins, out of
which the interest dies quickly because his imagination has not gained
materials out of which to reconstruct the living city.

Neapolis, the old Greek city, was similar to Pompeii both in size and
construction. Its situation, too, was not dissimilar. It stood near
the sea, yet did not touch it, having a clear space of open ground
between its strand and walls, perhaps because the sea was an open
gateway into every town which stood upon it, though the nature of the
ground partly dictated the arrangement. There is no building, even in
the Strada Tribunali, which was standing when Pompeii was a city. The
oldest left is near the point at which we entered the street--to be
exact, it is at the angle of the Strada Tribunali and the Vico di
Francesco del Giudice--a tall brick campanile of graceful outline
which, in the confusion of the narrow street, one might most easily
pass unobserved. That is the only portion still remaining of the
church built by Bishop Pomponio, between the years 514 and 532; and
not only is it almost, if not quite the most ancient building now
extant in Naples, but it was the first of Neapolitan churches known to
have been dedicated to the Virgin, and it is thus especially sacred in
the eyes of the citizens.

Going eastwards still along this most interesting street I come ere
long to a great church upon my right where I must pause, for there are
associated with it closely the memories both of Petrarch and
Boccaccio. Now of these two men I confess to a strong preference for
the rake. He was a sinner, and a great one. But for that matter he was
a penitent in the end, and had he not found grace, it is for no man to
scorn him. Iniquitous though they be, I prefer the record of his warm
human passions to the dry spirituality of Petrarch; and to me one tale
out of the _Decameron_, with its high beat of joyous and exultant
life, is worth all the sonnets in which the poet of Avignon bewailed
the fact that the moon would not come down out of heaven.

No one who has turned over the works of Boccaccio is unacquainted with
the name of Fiammetta. She was of course not least among the seven
ladies of noble birth who met in the Church of Santa Maria Novella in
Florence on that Tuesday morning when the tales of the _Decameron_
begin. She, too, it was whose amorous musings Boccaccio published in a
book which bore her name. In fact her warm-blooded personality
pervades the writings of her lover; and it was in this Church of San
Lorenzo that he saw her first, as he tells us himself in the
_Filocopo_. The passage is well known to be autobiographical, though
occurring in a tale of pure, or rather impure imagination.

"I found myself," he says, "in a fine church of Naples, named after
him who endured to be offered as a sacrifice upon the gridiron. And in
it there was a singing compact of sweetest melody. I was listening to
the Holy Mass celebrated by a priest, successor to him who first girt
himself humbly with the cord, exalting poverty and adopting it. Now
while I stood there, the fourth hour of the day, according to my
reckoning, having already passed down the Eastern sky, there appeared
to my eyes the wondrous beauty of a young woman, come hither to hear
what I too heard attentively. I had no sooner seen her than my heart
began to throb so strongly that I felt it in my slightest pulses; and
not knowing why, nor yet perceiving what had happened, I began to say,
'Oimè, what is this?'... But at length, being unable to sate myself
with gazing, I said, 'Oh, Love, most noble lord, whose strength not
even the gods were able to resist, I thank thee for setting happiness
before my eyes!'... I had no sooner said these words than the flashing
eyes of the lovely lady fixed themselves on mine with a piercing

There was sin in that look, though not perhaps by the standard of
those days. It was an Anjou princess who won immortality in the Church
of San Lorenzo on that Holy Thursday when she was dreaming of nothing
but a lover--perhaps not even of so much as that. She was the Princess
Maria, natural daughter of King Robert the Wise, he whose tomb we saw
in the Church of Santa Chiara. She had a husband; but no one asks or
remembers his name. It is with Boccaccio that her memory is linked for
evermore. She was certainly of rare beauty. Her lover, than whom no
man ever wrote more delicately, tries to fix it for all time. "Hair so
blonde that the world holds nothing like it shadows a white forehead
of noble width, beneath which are the curves of two black and most
slender eyebrows ... and under these two wandering and roguish eyes
... cheeks of no other colour than milk." Item two lips, indifferent
red! Why, what a shiver it gives one to realise that not Boccaccio
himself can convey to us any real picture of his love! Even the magic
of his style, informed by all the passion of his burning heart, can
give us nothing better than a catalogue of charms such as any village
lover of to-day might write! The dead are dead; and no wizard can set
them before us as they lived.

Yet granting that, it is still the spirits of these lovers which haunt
the Church of San Lorenzo, filling the large old temple with a throb
of human passion to this hour. I saunter round endeavouring to fix my
mind on the details of the architecture, which are worth more notice
than they commonly receive from all save students. But it is useless.
Every time I raise my eyes I seem to see the subtle radiance of
sympathy flash across the church from the eyes of the princess,
stirring strange, uneasy feelings, born of young hot blood, and the
sensuous essence of the chanting heard in the restless days of spring.

The architecture may wait the coming of some cooler head. I stroll out
into the courtyard, full of memories of kings and poets and of Anjou
Courts, when the world was splendid, and life was full of colour, and
the city not more unhappy than it is to-day.

Among the letters of Petrarch is one written from the monastery
attached to this church. The poet lodged there during a visit to
Naples in 1342, after the death of King Robert, and gives a vivid
description of a great hurricane which struck the city on the 25th of
November in that year.

The storm had been predicted by a preacher, whose denunciation struck
such terror into the Neapolitans, easily stirred to religious
apprehensions, that ere dark a troop of women stripped half naked and
clasping their children to their breasts were rushing through the
streets from church to church, flinging themselves prostrate before
the altars, bathing the sacred images with tears, and crying aloud to
the Saviour to have mercy on mankind.

The panic spread from house to house. The city was alive with fear.
Petrarch, not untroubled by the general consternation, went early to
his chamber, and remained at his window till near midnight watching
the moon sail down a ragged angry sky until her light was blotted out
by the hills, and all the dome of heaven lay black.

"I was just falling asleep," he says, "when I was rudely awakened by
the horrible noise made by the windows of my room. The very wall
rocked to its foundation under the buffet of the gust. My lamp, which
burns all night, went out; in place of sleep the fear of death came
into the chamber. Every soul in the monastery rose, and those who
found each other in the turmoil of the night, exhorted one another to
meet death bravely.

"The monks who had been astir thus early for chanting Matins,
terrified by the trembling of the earth, came to my room brandishing
crosses and relics of the saints. At their head strode a prior named
David, a saint indeed, and the sight of them gave us a little
courage. We all descended to the church, which we found full of
people, and there passed the rest of the night, expecting every moment
that the city would be swallowed up, as foretold by the preacher.

"It would be impossible to depict the horror of that night in which
all the elements seemed to be unchained. Nothing can describe the
appalling crash of the storm wind, rain and thunder in one moment, the
roar of the furious sea, the swaying of the ground, the shrieks of the
people, who thought death here at every instant. Never was night so
long. As soon as day came near the altars were made ready, and the
priests attired themselves for Mass. At last the morning came. The
upper part of the town had grown more calm, but from the seafront came
frightful shrieks. Our fear turned into boldness, and we mounted on
horseback, curious to see what was going on.

"Gods! What a scene! Ships had been wrecked in the harbour, and the
shore was strewn with still breathing bodies, horribly mangled by
being dashed against the rocks--the sea had burst the bounds which God
set for it--all the lower town was under water. It was impossible to
enter the streets without risk of drowning. Around us we found more
than a thousand Neapolitan gentlemen who had come to assist, as it
were at the obsequies of their country. 'If I die,' I said to myself,
'I shall die in good company.'"

If we may trust the story told by Wading, a great historical authority
upon the deeds of the Franciscan Order, to which the monks of San
Lorenzo belonged, this same prior David, whose aspect Petrarch found
so comforting, was the instrument of a notable miracle on this
occasion, having kept the impious sea out of at least some part of
the city by boldly thrusting the relics of the saints in its track.
Petrarch does not mention this, and indeed if Prior David could do so
much he is to blame for not having done more, since he might as easily
have prevented all the damage done while he was chanting in his

As for Petrarch, the storm impressed him so deeply that he told
Cardinal Colonna he had resolved never to go afloat again, even at the
Pope's bidding. "I will leave the air to birds, and the sea to
fishes," he observed very sagely; "I know that learned men say there
is no more danger on sea than on land, but I prefer to render up my
life where I received it. That is a good saying of the ancient writer,
'He who suffers shipwreck a second time has no right to blame

Are we not growing a little tired of churches? There are so many in
this city, and in the next chapter I shall have to dwell long upon the
Carmine, or rather on its manifold associations. Well, no great harm
will be done if we pass by a good many of these temples; but one must
not be left unmentioned, namely the cathedral, which we have almost
reached. A few yards from San Lorenzo, the Strada del Duomo cuts
across the old Decumanus Major at right angles, and if we descend it a
little way towards the sea we have before us the fine front of the

It will be expected of me here that in lieu of copying from Gsell-Fels
all the interesting facts about the date of the building, describing
the ancient fane of Santa Restituta which has already witnessed
fourteen centuries, or detailing the arrangement of the chapels where
so much of the noblest ever born in Naples lies mouldering into
dust,--it is expected of me, I suppose, that I shall repeat once more
the oft-told tale of the liquefaction of the blood of San Gennaro,
that miracle and portent which brings luck to the city if it happens
speedily, and is a presage of woe when it is delayed. We have heard
the story all our lives. But no book on Naples is complete without it,
and I will therefore take the description by Fucini, which has at any
rate the advantage of being little known in England, to which I may
add that it is the work of one who might very truly say what he did
not know of Naples, at least in his own day, was not knowledge.

"In the church," says Fucini, "the crowd was dense. Around the altar
crowded pilgrims, male and female, shouting, laughing, weeping,
chewing prayers and oranges.... In the midst of deep silence begins
the moving function. The officiating priest holding up to the people
the vase, not unlike a carriage lamp, inspects it carefully, and
beginning to twirl it in his hands, cries out with a stentorian voice,
'It is hard, the blood is hard!' At that fatal announcement the people
break out into cries most pitiful. The pilgrims weep, some even are
like to faint. The saint is slow. The miracle delays, the cries and
tears redouble. A group of peasant women who stand near me pour out
these prayers, 'Faccela, faccela, la grazia, San Gennarino mio bello!'
And if the priest still shook his head they broke out again, 'It is
hard! O, quanto ci mette stamattina, San Gennarino mio benedetto. Ah
faccela, faccela, questa divina grazia, faccela, faccela, San
Gennarino bello, bello, bello!'

"The pilgrims went on chanting, the people crowded round the chapel.
In the nave a powerful preacher was relating the life and glories of
the saint. The noise of voices rose or fell as the priest signified
that the commencement of the miracle was still far off, or gave hopes
of its speedy consummation.

"At last, when the suspense had lasted nine-and-twenty minutes, we saw
the priests and those spectators who were nearest to them fix their
eyes more intently on the vase, with beckonings and signs, as if to
say, 'Perhaps--a minute more--I almost think--who knows?' Then
followed a moment of great anxiety, a short interval of silence,
broken only by sobs and stifled sighs. The emotion spread, tearful
faces and trembling hands undulated in a kneeling crowd. Then suddenly
all arms were flung in air, all hands were clapped, the priest waved a
white veil joyfully, and like the outbursts of a hurricane the organs
pealed out in crashing harmonies, the bells clanged and clamoured
through the air, and the high roof of the cathedral rang with the
triumph of the voices of the vast crowd chanting the Ambrosian hymn."

If the Duomo had no other interest, the emotion of this oft-repeated
scene would create a fascination to which everyone must yield. But it
teems with interest. It abounds in relics out of every age of Naples.
I cannot convey its charm to any other man. For me the church is full
of presences and shadows of the past, kings and cardinals, noble
gentlemen and lovely ladies, hopes and aspirations, and feverish
ambitions mouldering together beneath marble cenotaphs and stately
wealth of gilding and of fresco. I stand before the monument of
Innocent the Fourth, he who had no other word than "adder" to bestow
on the great emperor whom he opposed and crushed; and straightway all
the tragedy of that terrific strife absorbs my memory, and I am
devoured by pity for the fair land of Italy which became the
battlefield of two such powers, and which by the victory of the
Church and the ruin of the Empire lost a family of rulers more apt for
the creation of her happiness than any which has governed the
Peninsula from the destruction of the Goths until our own day. To one
who looks back across the years, desiring more the welfare of this
queen among the lands than the triumph of any principle, it seems a
base deed that was wrought by this fine-featured old man, lying here
so peacefully in the contemplation of the centuries, his judges. One
wonders if he ever saw as we do the rare and precious value of the
thing he was destroying, whether the true nobility of Frederick, his
culture, his wide humanity, his strong firm government were really
worse than nothing in the judgment of the active brain which throbbed
beneath that placid brow. The ruin of the Empire, the concentration of
all power in the papacy, the expulsion of the Emperor and all his
brood from Italy, it was nothing less than this that Innocent
contrived. Not the great Hildebrand himself, whose tomb we shall visit
at Salerno, did more service to the Church. The pity is that one
should find it so hard to see how that service helped mankind, to whom
no consequences seem to have come that were not dire and woeful. But
whether good or evil, it was great. There was nothing paltry about
Innocent. He was not of double heart. He found a great thing to do,
and did it with all his might. In this world of futilities that is
much, and very much, perhaps all that can be asked of man with his dim
vision. The consequences must be left unto the care of those who see



There can be no question that the interest of Naples deepens as one
goes through the ancient quarter in the direction of the east. In
modern times the centre of the city is on the western side, but of old
it was not so. Castel Nuovo stood outside the city among groves and
gardens. The further one goes back in history, the more frequently the
court is found at Castel Capuano, which fronts the bottom of this most
picturesque of streets by which we have come almost the whole distance
from the Via Roma.

In an irregular space, shapeless and crowded with stalls and booths,
stands the ancient fortress, long since rebuilt and handed over to the
law. The very name of the street in whose narrow entrance we still
stand recalls the tribunals. They were all brought together in this
castle by Don Pietro di Toledo, that active viceroy who stamped his
memory on so many parts of Naples. But there was a place of judgment
on this ground long before his day; and the thing is worth mention.

Opposite the gate of the castle, and within a stone's-throw of the
spot on which we have halted, stood in former days a pillar of white
marble on a squared base of stone. It marked the ground on which
debtors were compelled to declare their absolute insolvency. The
wretched men were stripped stark naked in proof of their inability to
pay, and stood there exposed to the insults of their creditors. This
custom, which existed in many Italian towns, was doubtless of great
antiquity. The pillar was taken down in 1856, and is now in the museum
of San Martino. The people called it "La Colonna della Vicaria."
Similarly the Castel Capuano is spoken of as "La Vicaria," a name
which gained a frightful notoriety in the days of the last Bourbon
kings, by reason of the barbarity of the treatment shown to political
prisoners confined there, and the infamous condition of the dens in
which innocent and cultured gentlemen were shut up.

So many streets radiate from the Largo della Vicaria that numberless
streams of passengers unite and separate there, while all day long a
market goes on beneath the walls of the Place of Lamentations whose
secrets Mr. Gladstone laid bare before the eyes of Europe. Nothing
rich or rare or curious is sold. Old keys, rusty padlocks, shapeless
lumps of battered iron, cheap hats and tawdry bedsteads, with the
inevitable apparatus of the lemonade seller, brown jars, golden fruit,
and dark green leaves, all dripping in the shade--such are the wares
set out to attract the seething crowd which saunters to and fro. If
the truth must be confessed the crowd looks villainous. The
Neapolitans of the lower classes have not as a rule engaging faces.
They are keen and often humorous, intensely eager and alive, eyes and
lips responsive to the quickest flashes of emotion. But candid or
inviting trust they are not; and as many scowls as smiles are to be
seen on the faces of old or young alike. They have their virtues, it
is true. They have boundless family affection. When misfortune
strikes their friends, they are helpful even to self-sacrifice. They
respect the old profoundly, and serve or tend them willingly. They are
industrious and very patient in their poverty, devout towards the
Church, especially to the Madonna, who from time to time writes them a
letter, which sells in the streets faster even than the "pizza." There
is perhaps in these and other qualities the foundation of a character
which may some day place Naples high among the cities of the world;
but before that day dawns, many things will have to be both learnt and
unlearnt. In this region of the Porta Capuana one sees the people in
what Charles Lamb would have called its quiddity. There are low
taverns in the house-fronts, haunts of the Camorra and the vilest of
the poor. Each has its few chairs set out upon the pavement, and its
large shady room inside, with great casks standing in the background.
Here and there a barber hovers in his doorway, chatting with a
neighbour. At morn and even the tinkling bell announces the coming of
the goats, and children hurry out with tumblers to the wayside where
the bleating herd is stopped and milked as custom goes, while all day
long the steps of Santa Catarina a Formello are crowded with dirty
women sitting in the shade. High against the church towers the great
archway of the Porta Capuana, a fit gateway for the approach of kings.
What pageants it has seen! The great Emperor Charles the Fifth rode in
beneath it on his return from the Tunis expedition, by which he drove
out the corsair Barbarossa from the kingdom he had seized, freed no
less than twenty thousand slaves, and dealt the pirates one of the few
heavy blows ever levelled at their force by Europe until Lord Exmouth
three hundred years later smoked out the hornets' nest at Algiers.

The Castel Capuano did not stand directly on the street in those days
when it was the home of kings. It had its gardens, which must almost
have touched those of another royal palace, the Duchescha, of which
all traces have been swallowed up by the growth of squalor which has
claimed this region for its own. The gardens of the Duchescha were
large and beautiful. It was the pleasure-house of Alfonso of Aragon,
while yet he was Duke of Calabria, heir to the throne from which he
fled in terror so short a time after he ascended it.

It was no mere archæological musing which brought this blood-stained
tyrant back to my memory, but rather the trivial inconvenience of
being trundled roughly towards the gutter by a half-grown lad who was
hurrying along the causeway with a bundle of pamphlets, one of which,
thrust into a cleft stick, he was brandishing high in the air with an
alluring placard announcing that it was to be had by anybody for the
price of one soldo. I pursued the boy, caught him under the Porta
Capuana, and bought his pamphlet. The miscellaneous literature of the
Neapolitan streets is not as a rule of a kind that makes for
righteousness, but my ear had caught the sound of the word "martiri,"
and I had been half expecting some sign of public interest in martyrs
on this spot.

The pamphlet gave a fairly accurate account of the massacre of
Christians by the Turks who landed at Otranto in the heel of Italy in
the year 1480. So old a tale has of course much interest for educated
people still; but what, one asks in wonder, makes it worth while to
hawk the story round the squalid streets surrounding the Vicaria,
where it evidently commands a sale as brisk as if it were "Vendetta di
Tigre" or any other highly peppered work about the social vices of the

The matter will become a little clearer if we push past the half-clad
women who sit suckling babes on the steps of Santa Caterina a
Formello, and go into that uninteresting church. At the altar rails a
priest is preaching vehemently to a languid congregation, while in the
empty nave four fat laughing children are toddling round the benches,
playing games and calling to each other merrily. There are gaudy
paintings and high silk curtains; but the only object that excites my
interest is a printed card hung on the closed railings of the second
chapel on the left of the nave, which appeals for "Elemosina pel culto
dei bb, martiri di Otranto, dei quali 240 corpi si venerano sotto
questo altare."

Alms for the worship of the blessed martyrs of Otranto! So some of
those twelve thousand who were put to the sword by the Turks in cold
blood on a hillside near the city have been brought to this small
church in Naples. But why? The answer doubtless is that the Duke of
Calabria, who led the mingled hosts of Naples and of Europe against
the Turks, brought back these bones as a religious trophy, and placed
them in Santa Caterina because it lay near to his own palace. He may
have been the more eager about the pious trophy since he brought no
military ones. It was the death of the Turkish Sultan, not the sword
of Alfonso, which drove the warriors of the Crescent out of Italy.

It is thus clear why the boy was hawking his pamphlets outside Santa
Caterina. But what gains a ready sale for them? Well, partly the
strong clerical feeling among the lower orders of the Neapolitans, and
partly the skill with which the priests play upon this feeling for
political ends.

I open the pamphlet, and in its second paragraph I find these words:--

"By this story we shall show that the Catholics are the real friends
of the country, that the true martyrs are not found outside the
Church, that Catholicism is the true glory of Italy, and that the
great days worthy to be commemorated are not those of Milan, nor those
of Brescia in 1848, nor those of Turin in 1864, but the days of
Otranto in August, 1480. May the tribute which we pay to-day to our
true martyrs atone for the frequent sacrilege of giving that name to

No words could prove more clearly by what untraversable distance the
Church of Rome is parted from all sympathy with the unity of Italy.
That is why I have told this incident at length. I venture to say that
in the length and breadth of Britain, where, if bravery is loved,
right and justice are loved too, and felons are not exalted, there is
scarce one man who can read the tale of the five days of Milan without
feeling that there is one of the bright spots in the history of all
mankind, one of those rare occasions when what is noblest leapt to the
front, and a ray of true hope and sunshine fell on Italy. But in the
eyes of the priests this light and glory were mere crime and darkness.
Those who fought the Austrians were criminals. It is a hopeless
difference of view, hopeless equally if sincere, and if not. I went on
a little sick at heart, as any lover of Italy may well be when he
contemplates the enmity of State and Church, and that Church the

If I were not so eager to reach the Carmine, I should certainly
retrace my steps a little and go up the Strada Carbonara to the Church
of San Giovanni Carbonara, which contains much that is interesting,
and leads one straight to the tragic days of Queen Giovanna. But that
age of lust and murder, that perplexed period of woe and strife, does
not allure me when I have the Carmine almost in sight; and I turn
away past the railway station, and down the Corso Garibaldi till I
come to the round towers of the Porta Nolana, the only one of the old
city gates which still serves its ancient purpose and recalls the days
of fortification. Its twin towers are named "Faith" and "Hope," "Cara
Fè" and "Speranza," and when one passes in betwixt those virtues one
plunges into a throng which is as animated as the Strada Tribunali,
and considerably dirtier. The life of the people in this Vico
Sopramuro is elemental. It has but few conventions and disdains
restraints. A tattered shirt, gaping to the waist, admits the free
play of air round the bodies of boys and girls alike; the breeches or
the gown which complete the costume recall the aspect of a stormy
night sky when the rent clouds are scattered by the wind and the stars
peep through. It is as well not to loiter among this engaging people.
"The Neapolitans," said Von Räumer airily, "were invented before the
fuss about the seven deadly sins." I have no wish to make a fuss about
those or any other sins so long as they are practised upon other
people, and I feel completely charitable to the human anthill when I
emerge safe and sound in the wide square of the Mercato.

In this wide market-place, this bare spot of open ground which to-day
lies cumbered with iron bedsteads, and piled with empty cases, the
débris of last market day, the bitterest tragedy of Naples was played
out, and a scene enacted of which the infamy rang through all the
world. There is no spot in the whole city less beautiful or more
interesting than the Mercato; and in the hot afternoon, while the
churches are closed, and half the city sits drowsy in the shady spots,
I know no better way of passing time than in recalling some of the
poignant memories which haunt this place of blood and tears.

In an earlier chapter of this book, when I gave a rapid sketch of the
succession of Hohenstaufen, Anjou, and Aragon to the throne of the Two
Sicilies, I passed on without pausing on the story of the boy-king
Corradino, little Conrad, as the Italians have always called him. It
is time now to tell the tale, for it was on this spot that the lad was

I need not go back on what I have already said so far as to repeat how
Charles of Anjou defeated Manfred and slew him outside the walls of
Benevento, nor how utterly the party of the Ghibellines, the Emperor's
men, were cast down throughout Italy by that great triumph of the
Guelf. When Manfred fell and his wife, Queen Helena, passed with her
children into lifelong captivity, the House of Hohenstaufen was not
extinct. There remained in Germany the true heir of Naples, a king
with a better title than Manfred had possessed, Corradino, a boy of
five, who grew up in the keeping of his mother, Elizabeth of Bavaria;
and as year after year went by found his pride and fancy stimulated by
many a tale of the rich heritage beyond the mountains which was his by
every right, but was reft from him by an usurper, and lay groaning
under the rule of an alien and an oppressor. Tales such as these must
have had for the child all the fascination of a fairy story; but as
his years increased, and he came to the comprehension of what wrong
and injury meant, they touched him far more nearly, and all the
courage of his high race, all the spirit which he derived from the
blood of emperors and kings, urged him on to strike one stout blow at
least for the recovery of that land which was his father's, that sunny
kingdom where the blue sea kissed the very feet of the orange groves,
and marble palaces gleamed out of the shade of gardens such as the
boy had never seen except in dreams.

His mother did her best to scatter these dreams, and bring him back to
the plain prose of life. Italy, she said, had always sucked the blood
and strength of the Hohenstaufen, and if she could, she would stop the
drain ere it robbed her of her only child. But the task was too great
for her. Not from Naples only, which was really full of nobles ready
to revolt against the tyrant of Anjou and return to their old
allegiance, but from a dozen other cities in northern Italy, where the
Ghibellines waited for the coming of a leader, the growth of Conradin
to manhood was watched impatiently; and when he was turned fifteen,
strong, handsome, and kingly in every act, the hopes of his partisans
could be restrained no longer. Pisa sent her embassies to bid him
hasten. Verona, ancient home of the Ghibellines, assured him of
support. Siena, Pavia, implored him to come and free his people. The
task they said was easy, and the glory great. More than that, it was a
righteous duty to resume what was his own. Many a burning tale of
wrong committed by the French was poured into the lad's ears; and the
end was that little Conrad broke away from his mother's prayers and
tears, and crossed the Alps in the autumn of the year 1267 at the head
of 10,000 men, being then fifteen, and by the universal consent of all
who saw him both handsome in his person and by his breeding worthy to
be the son of many kings.

At first all went well with him. At Verona he was received with the
honours of a conqueror. The mere news that his standard had been seen
coming down from the high Alpine valleys drew the exiles of Ferrara,
Bergamo, Brescia, and many another city in crowds to welcome him.
Padua and Vicenza sent him greeting; and in January he moved on to
Pisa, where the same joy awaited him. The Pisan fleet was of high
power in those days, and it was sent at once to ravage the coasts of
Apulia and Sicily, where it inflicted a sound drubbing on the French.
Near Florence, too, Conradin's army gained a victory, and when he
moved on to Rome, where Henry of Castile, who ruled the city in the
absence of the Pope, had joined his party, the hopes of every
Ghibelline in Italy were high and proud, while Charles of Anjou was
seriously anxious for his throne.

It was on the 18th of August of the year 1268 that Conradin left Rome.
Charles expected him by the ordinary route of travellers which lies
through Ceperano, San Germano, and Capua. That route was studded with
fortresses and was easy to defend--for which sufficient reason
Conradin did not take it. His aim was not to make for Naples by the
shortest way, but rather to get through the mountains, if he could
without a battle, and to raise Apulia, where he was certain of
support, not only from the Saracens of Lucera, but from many other
quarters also. So he struck off from Tivoli towards the high valleys
of the Abruzzi, through which he found a way not only unguarded, but
cool, well watered and fresh, considerations of vast moment to the
leader of an army through southern Italy in August. It was the line of
the ancient Roman road, the "Via Valeria," and he followed it until on
the 22nd of August as his troops came down from the hills of Alba,
debouching on the plain of Tagliacozzo, some five miles in front, they
saw the lances of Anjou gleaming on the heights of Antrosciano, drawn
up in a position which was too strong for attack.

Conradin's army lay across the road to Tagliacozzo, offering battle to
the king, who looked down upon the host of the invaders, and liked
not what he saw. He had pressed on from Aquila, and was uneasy about
the loyalty of that stronghold in his rear. Night fell; but before
dusk hid the long line of foes upon the plain, Charles had seen an
embassy ride into their ranks, and men said it came from Aquila,
offering the town to Conradin. This was what Charles chiefly feared.
He would trust no man but himself to learn the truth; and spurring his
horse across plain and mountain through the night, he rode back
headlong till he drew rein beneath the walls of Aquila, and shouted to
the warder on the walls, "For what king are you?" Sharp and quick the
answer came, "For King Charles"; and the King, reassured, rode back
wearily towards his camp sleeping round the fires on the mountains.

He slept long that night, notwithstanding the hazard which lay upon
the cast of battle; and when at length he woke, the host of the
invaders was already marshalled along the bank of the River Salto,
which formed their front. Charles scanned their line, and his heart
sank, so great was their multitude. In something like despair he
turned for counsel to a famous warrior who had but just landed from
Palestine, where he had won world-wide renown, Alard de St. Valery.
The wary Frenchman did not question that the chances of the coming
fight were against Anjou. "If you conquer," he said, "it must be by
cunning rather than by strength." Charles allowed him to make those
dispositions which he pleased; and thereupon St. Valery placed a
strong force of lances, with the King himself at their head, in a
hollow of the hills, where they could not be seen. Then he hurled
against Conradin two successive attacks, both of which were repulsed
with heavy loss. Charles wept with rage to see his knights so broken,
and strove to break out to rescue them, but St. Valery held him back,
and Conradin, seeing no more enemies, thought the battle won. His men
unhelmed themselves. Some went to bathe in the cool river. Others,
after the fashion of the day, plundered the fallen knights. One large
body under Henry of Castile had pursued the fleeing French far over
plain and mountain. All this St. Valery lay watching in dead silence
from his hiding in the hollow of the hills.

At last the moment came, and the serried ranks of the fresh warriors
rode down upon their unarmed and unsuspecting enemies. No time was
given to arm or form up the troops. Some perished in the water. Others
died struggling bravely against the shock of that horrible surprise.
The trap was perfect. All either died or fled; and in one brief hour
Conradin, who had thought himself the conqueror of his father's
throne, was fleeing for his life across the hills, a fugitive devoid
of hope. Never, surely, was there so sudden or terrible a change of

With Conradin fled Frederick of Baden, his close friend, not long
before his playmate; and these two princely lads were accompanied by a
few faithful followers, the last remnant of what so short a time
before was a noble army. All that night they sped across the mountains
in the direction of the coast, where they hoped to find some craft
which would carry them to Pisa, a safe haven for them all. They struck
the sea near Astura in the Pontine marshes. On the shore they found a
little fishing boat; and having sought out the men who owned it, they
offered large reward for the voyage up the coast. The fellows demurred
that they must have provisions for the trip; and Conradin, taking a
ring from his finger, gave it to one of them and told him to buy
bread at the nearest place he could. It was a fatal imprudence. The
sailor pledged the ring at a tavern in exchange for bread. The host
saw the value of the jewel, and took it instantly to the lord of the
castle near at hand.

Now this noble was of the Frangipani family, on which honours had been
heaped by the grandfather of the boy-king, thus cast up a fugitive and
in peril of his life in his domain. The only gratitude which honour
demanded of him was to let the lad pass by and escape in his own way;
but even this was too much for Frangipani. He saw at once that the
ring must belong to some man of mark escaping from the fight, and he
bade his servants launch a boat, and bring back the fugitive whoever
he might be.

When Frangipani's boat overtook the other, Conradin was not much
dismayed. He knew how greatly the Frangipani were indebted to his
house, and he did not doubt they would show due gratitude. The poor
lad did not know the world. Frangipani foresaw that no boon he could
ask of Charles would be too great if he handed him his enemy; and thus
not many days had passed when Conradin and Frederick were brought into
Naples, and carried through the streets where they had hoped to ride
as conquerors.

Even Charles, bloodthirsty as he was, shrank from taking his
prisoners' life without some legal warrant. It was so plain that they
had played no part but that of gallant gentlemen, striking a blow for
what was in fact their right, however much the Pope might question it,
or assert his title to bestow the kingdom where he would. He convoked
an assembly of jurists, but found only one among the number obsequious
enough to tax Conradin or his followers with any crime. Thus driven
back on his own murderous will as ultimate sanction for the act he
meditated, Charles himself pronounced the death sentence on the whole
number of his prisoners.

On the 29th of October a scaffold was raised in the Mercato. The
chronicles say that it was by the stream which ran past the Church of
the Carmine, a humbler building than that which we see now, but
standing on the same spot. They add also that it was near the sea,
from which we may conclude that few, if any, houses parted the
market-place from the beach in those days, and that the whole of the
most exquisite coast-line of his father's kingdom stretched blue and
fair before Conradin's eyes as he mounted the scaffold. Side by side
with him came his true comrade, Frederick of Baden. The united ages of
the boys scarce turned thirty. There was no nobler blood in Europe
than theirs, and among the great crowd of citizens there were few who
did not weep when they saw the fair-haired lads embrace each other
beside the block. The demeanour of both was high and bold. Of
Conradin, no less than of another king more than thrice his age, it
can be said--

     "He nothing common did or mean
     Upon that memorable scene."


He turned to the people, and avowed he had defended his right. "Before
God," he said, "I have earned death as a sinner, but not for this!"
Then he flung his glove far out among the crowd, thus with his last
defiant gesture handing on the right of vengeance and the succession
of his kingdom to those who could wrestle for it with the French. The
glove was caught up by a German knight, Heinrich von Waldburg, who did
in fact convey it to Queen Constance of Aragon, last of the
Hohenstaufen blood, of which bequest came many consequences.

Having flung down his gage, Conradin was ready to depart. He kissed
his comrades, took off his shirt, and then raising his eyes to heaven,
said aloud, "Jesus Christ, Lord of all creation, king of honour, if
this cup of sorrow may not pass by me, into Thy hands I commend my
spirit." Then he knelt and laid down his head; but at the last moment
earthly sorrows returned upon him, and starting half up he cried, "Oh,
mother, what a sorrow I am making for you!" Having said this he spoke
no more, but received the stroke. As it fell, Frederick of Baden gave
a scream so pitiful that all men wept. A moment later he had travelled
the same path, and the two lads were together once more.

So died these brave German boys, and so perished the last hope of
happiness for Naples. For if anything in history is sure, it is as
clear as day that Naples never afterwards was ruled by kings so strong
and just as those whose blood was shed in the Mercato on that October
day. As for the slayer, he has left a name at which men spit. Six
centuries already have execrated his memory. It may well be that sixty
more will execrate it. Yet even while he lived he ate the bread of
tears, and the day came when in the anguish of his heart he was heard
to pray aloud that God who had raised him to such a height of fortune
might cast him down by gentler steps.

There are countless traditions connected with the death of Conradin.
Men say that as his head fell an eagle swooped down from the sky,
dipped its wing in the blood, and flew off again across the city.
Another and more constant tale is that the poor boy's mother, when she
heard of his captivity, gathered a great sum of money to ransom him,
and came herself to Naples, but was too late, and landed in deep
mourning from her ship, and came into the Church of the Carmine, poor
and mean in those days, and gave the monks all the money she had
brought to sing Masses for ever for her son's soul.

These may be fables. But to pass to truth, it is a fact that in the
year 1631, when the pavement of the Church of the Carmine was being
lowered, a leaden coffin was found behind the high altar. The letters
R. C. C. were roughly cut on it, and were interpreted to mean "Regis
Corradini Corpus," the body of King Conradin. The coffin was opened.
It contained the skeleton of a lad, the head severed and lying on the
breast. There were some fragments of linen, which turned to dust
immediately, and by the side lay a sword unsheathed, as bright and
speckless as if it had but just come from the maker's hands. One would
give much to know that the boy-king still slept there with his sword
beside him, but when the coffin was next opened, at the wish of one of
his own family in 1832, the sword had gone.

The Church of the Carmine is, as I have said already, a vastly
different building from that into which the body of Conradin was
carried. Whether the tradition speaks truly of the benefaction of the
unhappy mother or no, the fact remains that a splendid reconstruction
of the church took place about that time. The origin of the church is
curious. The records of the monks declare that towards the middle of
the seventh century the hermits of the Mount Carmel, fleeing from the
persecution of Saracens, came to Italy, some to one city, some to
another. A handful of them rested at Naples, bringing with them an
antique picture of the Madonna, said to have been painted by St. Luke,
and established themselves in this spot close outside the city walls,
near a hospital for sick sailors of which in later days they obtained
the site. There they built a humble church, and either found or
excavated a grotto underneath it, in which they placed their picture.
The image became famous, and to this day is known amongst the people
as "La Madonna della Grotticella," or more commonly as "La Bruna."
Indeed there was no similitude of Our Lady of Sorrows in all south
Italy which wrought more wondrous miracles or better earned her
sanctity; and when the jubilee came round in the year 1500 the
Neapolitans could think of no better deed than to take La Bruna out of
her grotto and carry her in procession to Rome, which they did
accordingly, and many were the marvels which she wrought upon the long
journey through the mountains.

But in Rome La Bruna was not well received by the Vicegerent of God.
That intelligent and subtle man Rodrigo Borgia was Pope, and his
equally keen-witted son Cæsar Borgia was in fact, though not in name,
chief counsellor. Both had schemes for which much money was needed,
and that money they looked to make out of the jubilee. They looked
about them with their practical clear sight, and took note of the fact
that La Bruna was very active, working miracles in fact on every side.
Had the proceeds fallen into their pockets this would have been well,
but as they did not it was ill. Madonnas from other cities must not
come emptying the pockets of the pilgrims in that style, or what would
be left for the Holy Father and the ex-Cardinal, his son? So La Bruna
was packed off home, and the procession went back through the
mountains. I should think the Madonna was glad enough to get out of
the Roman stews of the Borgia days, and the Fathers who accompanied
her had cause for thankfulness that they escaped without tasting those
chalices with which the Pope and Cæsar removed all such as stood in
their way.

The wonders of the Carmine do not begin or end with La Bruna. There is
another miraculous image in the church, a large figure of the dead
Christ extended on the cross. Now in the year 1439, when the House of
Anjou was tottering to its fall, sustained only by the feeble hands of
René, last sovereign of his house, Alfonso of Aragon was besieging
Naples, pounding the city without much care for considerations other
than mere military ones. His brother, Don Pietro of Aragon, seems to
have suspected that the Carmine was a sort of fort, and indeed its
conspicuous steeple was used as a battery. Accordingly he turned his
guns upon it, and a ball flew straight towards the head of our Lord,
which lay back slightly raised as if communing with heaven. The ball
carried away the crown of thorns, and would certainly have destroyed
the head also of the sacred figure had it not bowed suddenly, as if it
were alive, and let the shot go by. But the miracle did not end there.
The ball, though having struck nothing but the light tracery of the
crown of thorns, was checked in midair, hung there for an instant, and
then dropped within the altar rails.

This very striking miracle is famous yet in Naples. Brantôme records
it, but in his careless way sets down the wonder as having happened in
the days of Lautrec, and attributes it to a statue of the Madonna.
King Alfonso when he took the city made a careful examination of the
neck of the figure, to discover whether there were not some hidden
mechanism, but found none, and became convinced that human agency had
naught to do with it.

From every point of view this Church of the Carmine is to me the most
interesting of all Naples, not by reason of its architecture, though
even that, as I suspect and guess, was beautiful before the hideous
Barocco passion ruined it. Every nook and corner of it has been filled
with vulgar and unmeaning ornament, so that the old graceful outlines
are lost for ever. But it is for the abounding richness of its life,
both past and present, that I visit it again and again. Standing in
the poorest quarter of the city, within sight of the swarming
population which crowds the streets and alleys around the Porta Nolana
and the ancient rookeries which abut upon the Church of St. Eligio,
endeared to the people by the miracles of which I have just spoken,
there is no feast or saint's day on which the popolane do not visit it
in thousands. I go to see it in its Easter glory. The wide vestibule
is packed with women of the people, vilely dirty; and inside the
church one can scarcely move through the swarming crowd, surging this
way and that, now pressing forwards to the altar rails, where a priest
is chanting in a loud monotone, now clustering thick about the image
of the Madonna, holding on her knees the lifeless bleeding body of the
Christ. The women press forward, kissing her robe with passion and
holding up the babies to do the like. The chairs are packed with men
staring vacantly before them, as if they wondered what had brought
them there, and over the feverish bustle of the throng the fine grave
figure of Conradin rises carved in snowy marble.

The sanctity of this great and ancient church, its propinquity to the
Mercato and to the teeming populations of the old alleys of the city,
has made it in all ages a central point of that turbulent hot life
which fills the history of Naples with tales of blood and terror. The
associations of the place are infinite, and would in themselves fill a
portly volume were they all set down with the detail which their rich
interest demands. One tale there is which must be told in full, for
its tragedy is too great to be forgotten, and has indeed rung round
all the world.

In the year 1647, when England was convulsed by civil war, Naples had
lain for near a century and a half beneath the Spanish yoke, governed
by viceroys, some good, others saturated with the greed and
covetousness which have made the name of Proconsul odious since Verres
drained the lifeblood out of Sicily. Naples was rich, but not rich
enough for Spanish greed. The huge, unwieldy Spanish Empire began to
fall on troublous days. The old rivalry with France was pressing hard
on the statesmen of Madrid. Europe was unsettled, and war was
constant. Fleets and armies are the most expensive toys of nations,
and all viceroys were given to understand that the only road to royal
favour was to remit more and still more money. Unhappily at Naples the
effect of this hint on the Duke of Arcos, who then ruled in the palace
often occupied by wiser men, was to set him angling in a well of which
his predecessors had fished out the bottom. It was really very
difficult to see how another penny could be got out of Naples, but
nothing was more certain than that the penny must be found. So the
Viceroy, having called a Parliament which met, after the custom of
that time, in the convent attached to the Church of San Lorenzo,
persuaded that august body to announce a fresh gabelle, to be levied
on all the fruit brought into Naples.

Nobody who has visited Naples in the summer, and noted the abounding
plenty of the fruit stalls at every corner of the ancient streets--the
ruddy grapes, the vast piles of blackening figs, the immense water
melons, sliced so as to show their black seeds and their brimming
juice, so cool and tempting when the August sun burns down upon the
houses,--nobody who has seen how the Neapolitans feed on fruit
throughout the scorching dogdays can doubt that to tax it must be
dangerous. If the risk was not self-evident, there was example of it
to be found in the memory of men then living. Not fifty years before
the same expedient had resulted in riot. A prudent governor would have
been warned; the more so as the people were already oppressed and
sullen, restless and indignant under the unending exactions of the
farmers of the taxes, and divided by the memory of many bitter
outrages from the nobles of native birth who should have been their
natural leaders and protectors. Naples was full of a sullen, dangerous
temper; but those who were responsible for the safety of the city had
not wit enough to understand its state.

The gabelle on fruit was imposed early in the year; and on many days
of spring, even before the burden of the tax was felt, crowds ran
beside the Viceroy's coach demanding angrily that the duty should be
repealed. As the warm days drew on, the angry temper rose. Every
market day whipped it up to fever heat and set the people thinking of
their miseries. It is said--and the thing is probable enough--that
many days before the actual outbreak of revolt a rising was being
planned by several agents, of whom one was a Carmelite monk. The day
selected for its commencement was carefully chosen in such a manner as
to secure the patronage and protection of the most popular Madonna of
the crowded city; but before it came an accident precipitated the

It was the custom in those days to hold a kind of popular game in the
Piazza del Mercato, a few days before the Festival of the Madonna of
the Carmine. The ragged population chose a captain, under whom they
attacked and stormed a wooden castle reared in the centre of the
piazza. In this year the lot of the people had fallen on Tommaso
Anello, who in their contracted and musical dialect was known as
"Mas'aniello," a native of Amalfi, by origin, if not by birth, driven
perhaps into the city by fear of the constant incursions of the Turks,
which went near to depopulate the coasts from Salerno to
Castellammare. By one account Mas'aniello was thirsting to revenge an
insult offered to his wife by one of the collectors. Other writers
assert that chance alone thrust him into the foremost position in what

On Sunday the 7th of July the Mercato was seething with life. Out of
all the rookeries around the Porta Nolana, and behind the Church of
Sant' Eligio, the people poured out intent on frolic. Festivity was in
the air--that joyousness which in southern Italy is very apt to smear
itself with blood ere night. The women crowded in and out of the
churches. The bells chimed. From all the towns and villages on either
side of Naples the peasant women had brought in their fruit, and the
thirsty people bought it greedily. Among the crowd Mas'aniello and his
army of ragamuffins were going up and down armed with canes; when
suddenly there arose a loud and angry bawling, and everyone pressed
forward to see what had happened.

It was a dispute between the peasants who brought in the fruit and the
keepers of the stalls who sold it. They could not agree which should
bear the burden of the new tax. The people's magistrate was called in
and decided in favour of the stall men; on which a fellow who had
brought in figs from Pozzuoli flung down his baskets on the ground,
and trampled on them in a fit of rage. The guard, insulted by the
act, and still more by the words which accompanied it, seized the
fellow and beat him. His cries gathered more and more people. So did
the figs, which rolled about in every direction, while the boys
scrambled for them, and some laughed, while others shouted angrily,
"Take off the gabelle!" The guard tried to disperse the crowd; but
scattering in one place, it reassembled in another. Soon sticks and
stones began to fly--even the fruit upon the stalls was used for
missiles. The guard gave way. The magistrate fled to the beach, with a
gang of angry ruffians at his heels, and got off with difficulty in a
boat; while Mas'aniello, reuniting his forces, led them against the
office of the Gabelle in the Mercato, wrecked it, and burnt the books.

By this time all the turbulence of the city was aroused; its
suppressed passions had found a rallying point, and from every quarter
there poured forth an army, ragged and dangerous, carrying for the
most part no other weapons than sticks and stones, but roaring with a
single voice for the abolition of the gabelle. Mas'aniello seized
rapidly on these raw levies, ordered them into bands, and sent them in
various directions through the city with orders to break down the
stalls of the collectors wherever they found them; while he himself,
at the head of a mighty crowd, marched up to the Toledo and down that
famous street towards the palace of the Viceroy.

That feeble ruler had come out upon the balcony of his palace to
behold the sight. As far as he could see there stretched a forest of
angry men and women, a sight most terrible and menacing in the eyes of
any ruler. The Spaniard's inclination would have been to soothe and
quiet them with pikes; but he had not men enough at his command, and
so tried cooing at them, professing his immediate willingness to do
everything they wished. It is uncertain what the result of this
accommodating policy might have been if only the people could have
heard him or would have waited to attend to the written messages he
sent them out. Unluckily neither words nor notes were heeded. The mob
broke into the palace and swarmed up the stairs, sweeping away the
guards. The Viceroy, impelled by prudence, slipped out down the secret
stair, and entering a private coach, attempted to pass through the mob
towards the Castel dell'Uovo. His carriage had not travelled far
before he met a crowd which recognised him and threatened to drag him
out of his carriage. A few handfuls of gold scattered in the air
opened a lane through the dense ranks of the rioters, and the Viceroy,
taking advantage of the momentary diversion, slipped into the Church
of San Luigi and took refuge there. Meantime the mob went on to sack
his palace.

It must appear passing strange that no effort was made by the Spanish
soldiery in Naples to defend the authority of the Viceroy. There was a
garrison in each of the three castles, and in the length and breadth
of Naples there must have been a sufficient number of well-disposed
persons to furnish valuable accessions of strength to any central body
of trained soldiery. But whether it was that the strength of the
garrison had been so far drained off for the wars in Tuscany and
elsewhere that the remnant possessed no fighting power, or whether, as
seems also possible, the very suddenness of the revolt had paralysed
the regular troops, dreading as all soldiers do a conflict with an
undisciplined and ardent enemy in the streets of a great
city--whichever reason may be the true one, the fact remains that
throughout the ten days of this revolt the mob was not attacked, and
its disposition to excess was restrained by little else than by its
own moderation, which by all accounts was conspicuous and wonderful.

If, however, the Viceroy took no steps to repress the rising by force
of arms, it is not to be supposed that he lay idle in the Church of
San Luigi grasping the horns of the altar. By no means. On the
contrary, Don Gabriele Tontoli, an eye-witness of these disasters,
assures us that the great man in this crisis, while the mob were
battering and howling at the doors of the church, forgot nothing which
was due to his exalted position, but climbed out nobly on the roof of
the church and addressed the people in affectionate accents, seeking
to draw them back to the duteous loyalty which they seemed for the
moment to have forgotten. Oddly enough these paternal admonitions were
little heeded by the mob, who, if they spared a look for the pleading
Viceroy on the roof, only roared the louder and battered at the door
the harder. Indeed, there can be little doubt that they would have
battered down the door ere long, and the Viceroy's position was
growing so perilous that Don Gabriele compares it aptly with that of
the innocent Andromeda bound to the rock and awaiting the onset of the
sea monster. But Perseus arrived, as in the classical tale, just in
the nick of time, wearing the odd garb of a cardinal of the Roman
Catholic Church. In fact, he was no other than the Archbishop of
Naples, Cardinal Ascanio Filamarino, a man destined to play a
considerable part in the coming troubles.

Perseus took in the situation at a glance, and being unluckily
unprovided with a Gorgon's head with which to turn the monster into
stone, he saw no other way of saving the rhetorical Andromeda
discanting eloquently on the roof than by translating some of his
promises into actions. Taking his stand, therefore, on the steps of
the church, he sent up word through the grid that the Viceroy must
instantly make out an order for the abolition of the gabelle and send
it down to him. The Viceroy sent it without delay, and the Cardinal,
who appears to have been one of the very few men of mark in Naples
possessing any credit with the mob, produced an instant sensation by
waving the paper in the air. With a singular good judgment he allowed
no one to see it on that spot, but getting into his coach, still
waving the document high above his head, he drew off the people from
the church, and so opened a way for the escape of the Viceroy.

It was perhaps hoped that the remission of the duty on fruit would
quiet the city; but greater purposes were already taking shape in the
minds of those who led the people. The Spanish tyranny had bitten deep
into their hearts, and the very promptitude of their success made them
hope the moment had arrived to end many things. The Convent of San
Lorenzo in the Strada Tribunali was an armoury well stored with pikes
and harquebusses. The crowd, led by a Sicilian who had played a
foremost part in a revolt upon his native island, attacked the
convent, and fierce fighting took place between the citizens and the
small body of defenders who had thrown themselves into the convent.
The Sicilian was shot in the forehead, but the attacks continued, and
a day or two later the arsenal became untenable, and was surrendered
with the cannon and munitions which it contained.


The night of Sunday was full of terror. Throughout the hours of
darkness mobs raged through the city; and the excellent Don Gabriele,
after vainly endeavouring to sleep, tells us that he got up and looked
out to see what they were doing. They were going by in gangs,
brandishing torches which flared and dripped with pitch. For standards
they bore a loaf stuck on the point of a pike in derision of its tiny
size, the result of the gabelle on flour. Of opposition from the
guardians of order there was none at all, and had the mob elected to
burn the city to the ground it is not clear what force could have
restrained them. The strange thing was that the ragamuffins made so
little use of their opportunities. It was as if already, in these
first moments of the insurrection, the rule of the leaders was
respected. Mas'aniello was busy throughout the night in the Mercato
and the piazza of the Carmine, organising, directing, and restraining.
He must have had some rare quality of command, some spark of that
divine faculty for swaying men which is recognised and honoured
instinctively in moments of sharp crisis. Otherwise it could not have
happened that the mob, unbridled and passionate, would have gone
through the streets by night chanting "Viva, viva il re di Spagna,"
and abstaining from gross outrages as they did. Even Don Gabriele,
whose mouth is full of fulsome praises of the powers that were,
asserts that among the rabble, needy and starving as many of them
were, none plundered for himself without being repressed by his
companions, while one who did so was instantly tossed into the flames
of a burning house, in punishment for an offence which could but bring
disgrace on the whole movement.

So Don Gabriele watched the crowds go by, and consoled himself amid
his natural fears of what might happen next by the sage reflection
that the whole disturbance had been foretold as long ago as in the
days when the Book of Ecclesiastes was written. It may probably puzzle
even well-read men to discover any reference to Mas'aniello in that
sacred book; but Don Gabriele was convinced of the fact, and anyone
who desires to verify his references will find the passages on which
he relied in the tenth chapter.

When morning came all Naples was in arms, and the authority of
Mas'aniello was supreme. In the Piazza di Mercato, opposite the house
in which he lived, some rope dancers had erected a platform for their
exhibition, and on this throne sat the fisherman's boy, in trousers
and shirt, both torn and dirty, girded with a rusty sword, and
delivering his orders like a conqueror, calm and confident in the
knowledge of his strength. The business which chiefly occupied his
mind was the discovery of fresh arms and munitions. Early in the day,
by the secret help of a woman, the rioters had discovered five cannon
hidden in the city. Powder they also found, flooded by the Spaniards,
but not beyond the possibility of being dried. Meantime most of the
prisons were flung open. Hour by hour the forces mustering in the
Carmine increased, and already bands were told off to destroy the
houses and property of those nobles who were hated by the people.

As for the Viceroy, he saw no resource but in sending messages of
peace. For this purpose he released from prison the Duke of Maddaloni,
head of the Carafa family, who had incurred the displeasure of the
Crown, and despatched him to the Mercato, with instructions to use his
influence in any way which seemed to him most likely to disperse the
people to their homes. But, as Don Gabriele remarks quaintly, the
people obstinately refused to taste the perfect liquor out of this
caraffe, esteeming it indeed rank poison. Nor was their refusal merely
passive. On the contrary, they hunted the Duke through the piazza till
he fled for his life to the shelter of the Carmine, convinced that he
was sent to play them false and delude them with worthless promises,
in place of the restoration of the privileges bestowed on Naples by
the great Emperor Charles the Fifth, which charter they were resolved
to obtain and re-establish.

It is quite clear that the nobles of Naples had no real sympathy with
the mob in the most reasonable of their grievances. Had any one among
them come forward to support and to restrain them, the issue of the
revolt might have been very different. Indeed, the part played by the
nobles rankled in the minds of the citizens for many a year; and when,
in the next century, the nobles themselves sought to organise a
rising, an old man who had been out with Mas'aniello cast it in their
teeth and called upon the people to go to their homes, which they did.

But finding that the rioters would have naught to say to nobles, the
Cardinal Filamarino went himself to the Mercato. He was received with
deference, if not with enthusiasm. The Cardinal was a cunning
statesman. "Like a skilful hunter," says Don Gabriele, who is lost in
admiration of his wisdom, "he knew well how to whistle the birds into
his net." A churchman trained at Rome was scarcely likely to be
baffled by the rough sincerity of fishermen and fruitsellers, ignorant
of all the niceties which salve the conscience of diplomatists. The
Cardinal spoke as one of themselves, as a father to his dear and
faithful children. He sympathised with their complaints. He admitted
their grievances, even exaggerating them. He commended their courage,
and assured them of entire success if only they would be guided by his
advice. He showed no horror at the steps taken by the rioters,
watching bands told off to destroy houses, or erect fortifications
without remonstrance. All his efforts were exerted to gain dominion
over Mas'aniello and his followers. To this end he took up his
quarters in the Carmine, and admitted the fisher's boy to audience at
all hours. He was aided by the natural piety of Mas'aniello, who
looked up to him as little less than divine, and always fell upon his
knees before he spoke to him, seeking counsel in every difficulty,
with absolute confidence that the church in which he trusted could not
delude or trick him.

It cost the cunning Cardinal but little pains to win over a man so
reverential and so humble. At the Cardinal's bidding Mas'aniello laid
aside his scheme of punishing the nobles by still further destruction
of their property, and in reward for this mark of obedience the
Cardinal produced the much-desired charter of Charles the Fifth, with
an order of the Viceroy giving it validity. On the next day
Mas'aniello was to go in state to the palace to receive confirmation
of these privileges, and the night of Tuesday fell upon a pleasing
scene, the good Cardinal receiving the thanks and blessings of his
grateful flock.

During that night, however, somebody, vaguely described as "a
personage," was devising an elaborate scheme of murder. Don Gabriele
is sure it could not have been the Cardinal, but he does not tell us
who it was. Perhaps some enemy of the worthy Cardinal, designing to
filch his credit while he slept, posted the murderers in the very
Church of the Carmine, without the knowledge of either the good
Fathers or their excellent Archbishop! There at any rate they were,
and in the morning Mas'aniello, going into the church, was greeted by
a salvo of balls, every one of which, by a miracle naturally set down
to the credit of the Madonna della Carmine, flew past him harmlessly.
The people, having wreaked summary vengeance on the would-be
murderers, were unreasonable enough to suspect the Cardinal of
complicity in the crime. But that good man had abundant evidence that
it was not so, and Mas'aniello, yielding to reverence again, publicly
declared his contrition for the unworthy suspicion he had formed.
Whereupon the Cardinal, who was too great to harbour resentment,
mounted the steeple of the Carmine and blessed the crowd. But still
the identity of the personage is not revealed. Don Gabriele is
contemptuous of his folly in thinking to kill the hydra by a premature
and badly devised attack. When the personage tried next his scheme was
better laid.

Meantime all went on wheels. An audience with the Viceroy was
appointed, and Mas'aniello, having with great difficulty been
persuaded to array himself in garments of silver cloth, which
splendour he considered quite unsuited to his humble origin, mounted a
richly caparisoned steed and rode towards the palace at the head of an
innumerable crowd of people. What a change of state was there! On
Sunday morning this fellow was among the basest of a great city, not
even a fish-seller, but the ragged attendant who provided scraps of
paper in which to wrap up the fish. On Wednesday, clothed like an
emperor and followed by a crowd which adored him, he rode in triumph
to meet the Viceroy of the proudest monarchy on earth. Surely never,
save in the wild fantasy of Eastern fairy tales, has fortune turned
her wheel so swiftly, or given more lightly what she caught no less
rapidly away.

Mas'aniello cast himself humbly at the feet of the Viceroy, who raised
him in the sight of all the people and embraced him with tears of
affection. Don Gabriele makes no reference to Judas at this point,
which is odd, seeing how well equipped he was with apt references to
Scripture. The crowd roared with pleasure at the great man's
condescension, making such a noise that no one of the gracious words
used by the Duke of Arcos could be heard. On this--and the fact was
noted as a striking proof of the ease with which the people could be
swayed by one they trusted--Mas'aniello turned towards them and laid
his finger on his lip. Instantly the roars ceased, and all the vast
crowd stood as mute as carven statues. He waved his hand, in sign that
they should go, and as if by magic the wide piazza, crowded to
suffocation only a moment previously, stood bare and empty. The
Viceroy offered him a rich jewel, but he refused it, declaring that it
was his set purpose to go back to his lowly station: and indeed,
having obtained decrees which confirmed the ordinances of the previous
day, Mas'aniello returned to the Piazza del Mercato, doffed his
splendid raiment, and put on once more the rags he had been used to
wear when he followed humbly in the rear of his master who sold fish.

The work of quieting the city was almost done. During Thursday and
Friday the tumults were steadily repressed; and on Saturday the
Cardinal, leaving his temporary quarters at the Carmine, returned to
his own palace in solemn procession, followed by Mas'aniello upon
horseback. The streets were decorated. The people thanked and blessed
their saviours. But already the strain of his position was telling on
Mas'aniello. It was noticed that he did not sleep, but was possessed
by a feverish activity which kept him sitting all day long in the
scorching summer sun, organising, judging, and directing. The constant
apprehension of murder weighed upon him; and even on the Wednesday,
after discovering the plot to kill him, he was disposed to credit a
wild story that the Viceroy had caused the fountains to be poisoned, a
belief which could only be dissipated when the Cardinal, sending for a
great beaker of fresh water from the fountain of the Carmine, drank it
off in full sight of the crowd. Fatigue, excitement, some natural fear
of death--there was nothing more the matter with the lad than a day's
rest with some peace of mind would have repaired. But fate gave him
the opportunity for neither; and indeed, if one calculates the
possibilities before him, the power of the forces which he had
offended, and the treacherous nature of the popular favour which was
his only strength, one may well ask whether fate, kinder to mankind
than they ever realise, did not show charity and love when she gave
him death as the meed of his unselfish service to the people.

It is certain that ere the week was over Mas'aniello began to show
signs of unsettled brain, infirmity of temper, extravagance of manner.
The people began to be impatient of him, turning rapidly as ever
against those who serve them best.

     "Amor di padrone, e vino di fiasco,
     La sera è buono e la mattina è guasto."

The people were Mas'aniello's "padrone," and like the wine in the
flask, their favour was sweet at night but sour in the morning. There
is no need to tell the history of the next two days in full, or to
drag out the obscure conspiracy which culminated on the Tuesday
morning. The poor lad knew well what was in store for him, and the
knowledge may have completed his mental agitation. The Feast of the
Madonna del Carmine came at last, and Mas'aniello went early to the
church to await the Cardinal. When he saw the great man coming he ran
to meet him and broke out, "Eminence and Lord, I see already that my
people are abandoning me and betraying me. Now for my consolation I
beg that there may be public procession to this most holy Lady of the
Carmine, headed by the Viceroy, and I desire that your Eminence will
also join it." The Cardinal embraced the agitated lad, and praised his
devotion, assuring him that all should happen as he wished.

The Mass began. The church was packed with people so close that one
could scarcely breathe. In the face of this vast crowd Mas'aniello
mounted into the pulpit, and in burning words reproached the people
for their inclination to desert him, reminding them of all that he had
achieved, not for himself, but for them. Then turning on his past
life, with some passionate remembrance of the holy character of the
day on which he spoke, he laid bare his sins, calling loudly on the
people to do the like, confessing them humbly before God. Then as his
passion and delirium increased, he lost control utterly of himself,
stripped off his clothes, and threatened to dash himself down from the
pulpit on the floor of the church. By sheer force he was restrained,
and being led away into the cloister of the convent, leaned out of an
open window which looked towards the sea, seeking to cool his head
with the fresh breeze that blew from Capri or from Ischia.

But for the second time the murderers were hidden in the Carmine. In
the cloister they lurked waiting for the order of the Viceroy. The
order arrived. The murderers came out openly and went along the
corridor, calling "Signor Mas'aniello." The lad heard them, and went
towards them saying, "What is it, my people?" on which they shot him,
and he fell, crying "Ah, traitors and unjust!"

Such was the end of Mas'aniello, a death which at the moment it
occurred seems to have caused no sort of sorrow to the people. In
fact, when the head of the prince-fisherman was cut off and carried
through the streets on a pike there were few found who did not curse
it, while the headless trunk was dragged about the Mercato by children
in derision. But not many days passed before the instable people
discovered how great a loss he was to them. The gabelles were
reimposed, bread grew dear again. There was no longer any protector
for the people; and by a quick revulsion of feeling, when it was too
late, the corpse was dug up, the head reunited to the body, and those
funeral pomps accorded which I spoke of in a former chapter.

And so the Viceroy and the Cardinal won the game, as rulers often win
it in this world when they cast aside both faith and honour. But for
all such crimes history reserves its chastisement. She speaks without
fear or favour, and declares that these two princes cut a sorry figure
beside the fisher boy whom they betrayed and slew. Both alike, whether
spiritual or temporal, are of that poor scum of humanity which merits
nothing but contempt; whereas Mas'aniello is heroic, stained by no
unworthy action, and bearing himself right nobly in a crisis as
wondrous as any in the whole history of man.



It is to most strangers approaching Naples for the first time a matter
of surprise to discover that Vesuvius has two peaks rising out of the
same base, and that far removed from all the range of Apennines which,
dim and distant, hedge in the wide fertile plain.

When viewed from Naples, Monte Somma, the landward peak, appears
scarcely less conical than its neighbour, which contains the crater;
but from the other side it has a wholly different aspect, and if one
looks at it from the Sorrento cliffs one perceives that it is no peak,
but a long ridge, the segment of a circle which, if completed, would
enfold the present eruptive cone.

The fact is important, for not only is it the key to all the
topography of the mountain, but it is essential to the comprehension
of what happened on that August day of the year 79 A.D., when the dead
volcano woke to life. The broken circle of Monte Somma was complete in
those days; and men looking up from Pompeii or Herculaneum saw a
mountain vastly different from that which we behold, yet one which,
from the part before us, can be reconstructed by an easy use of the

If a man will take his stand on the lower heights of the hills behind
Castellammare, he will find that he looks over Pompeii, over Bosco
Reale lying on the first slopes which swell upward from the plain,
into the mouth of the gap which parts Vesuvius from Somma. Even from
that distance he will obtain a forcible impression of the black cliff
of Somma, towering almost sheer to the height of a thousand feet above
the bottom of the gap, while the outer face of the same rock wall
slopes towards the sunny plain and the woods of Ottajano with an
incline so gentle as to be comparatively easy of ascent.

Clearly the two faces of Somma have been differently formed. The sheer
one was, at least in part, the actual wall of the prehistoric crater,
that caldron in which the volcanic forces raged in days so ancient
that they had been clean forgotten when the Romans ruled the land. The
present cone did not exist. The circuit of Monte Somma was unbroken,
and lay clothed with green meadows up to the very summit. But where,
then, is the rest of that gigantic wall? It was blown away by the
eruption that destroyed Pompeii.

This is the first tremendous fact which the visitor to Naples has to
realise; and it is well worth while to absorb it thoroughly before
setting foot upon the mountain, for nothing else seen there carries
with it the same impression of overwhelming, cataclysmal awe. It is
from a distance that the terror of the thing can be appreciated best.
When one goes forward from the observatory on the mountain-side,
skirting the flank of the eruptive cone, into that portion of the gap
which is called the Atrio del Cavallo--though it would at certain
times be found as safe to stable a steed in the Kelpie's flow as in
this wilderness of burnt rock--the sight of the steep wall towering on
one's left is infinitely striking. But at so close a distance, and in
the immediate neighbourhood of so many other sights, it is scarcely
possible to concentrate one's thoughts on the girth of the ancient
crater. To comprehend the extent of the wall which has been blown away
one must go further off, till one can distinguish the shape of Somma's
wall, till one's eye can measure the vast size of the crater which
would be formed by its completion, even allowing for the doubts which
have been raised whether the circuit could have been so vast as this
measurement would imply. There are some shattered fragments of the
wall to be seen upon the south or seaward side of the volcano. The
ridge where the white observatory building stands is one; another,
named the "pedementina," appears as a shoulder of the mountain,
clearly distinguishable from Naples. But these scattered remnants help
little towards the general impression. It is by contemplating Somma
that one learns to comprehend the appalling nature of the convulsion
which, with little warning, blasted away so immense a portion of the
mountain regarded by those who dwelt beneath it as one of the eternal

Far from having any title to immortality Vesuvius is among the
youngest and most mutable of mountains. The present cone is, as I
said, the creation of the last eighteen centuries, piled up by
successive eruptions to something more than the height of Somma, which
once, as its name implies, towered far above it. Even though the
antiquity of the mountain be reckoned by the age of Somma, or of some
earlier cone, on the ruins of which Somma may have reared itself, it
is as nothing when set beside the great wall of mountains which
sweeps round the plain and ends in the great crags of St. Angelo and
the cliffs of Capri. Those hills may be termed "eternal" by as true a
warrant as any on the earth. But long after they were shaped and
fashioned the sea flowed over the Campagna Felice and the site of
Naples. Vesuvius was a volcanic vent-hole underneath the water, like
many another which now seethes and hisses deep down in the blue bay,
forming lava reefs about which the best fish always cluster. Then came
the upheaval of the sea floor, and Vesuvius stood on dry land, no
longer a sea-drenched reef or islet, but a hill of ashes and of lava
piled over a crack in the earth's crust, which belched forth fiery
torrents for unnumbered years, and sank at last to rest after an
outburst which, if one may judge by the hugeness of the crater it
scooped out, must have been terrible almost beyond conception.

Yet it was completely forgotten! How many centuries of rest must it
not have needed to erase from the minds of men all memory of a
cataclysm so tremendous! In the days when doom was drawing near to the
cities of the Campagna, an old tradition was current that fire had
once been seen coming out of the summit of Vesuvius. Doubtless many
people looking up at the green mountain pastures shrugged their
shoulders at the tale. Yet Strabo, the geographer, remarked that the
rocks upon the surface of the mountain looked as if they had been
subjected to fire. It is difficult for us to detach the idea of terror
from Vesuvius, and to contemplate it with thoughts at all resembling
those which the dwellers in the buried cities bestowed upon it. There
has, however, been one period when the summit of the mountain
presented an aspect probably not far unlike that which a Pompeiian
would have seen, had curiosity led him to the top after visiting his
vineyards or his pastures on the lower slopes. That time was in the
years immediately preceding the eruption of 1631. Vesuvius had been
almost at rest for near five centuries, and there were many who
believed its fires to be extinct.

The Abate Braccini ascended the mountain in 1612, nineteen years
before the outbreak. Vesuvius was then, as it is now, somewhat higher
than Somma, though the comparative level has been changed more than
once in the last three centuries. On the summit Braccini found a
profound chasm, a mile in circuit, surrounded by a bulwark of calcined
stones, on which no vegetation grew. Having crossed it, he descended
to a little plain, where he found plants of divers kinds, though in no
profusion. But from that point there was a gulf of verdure. One could
descend it by tortuous paths, which led to the very bottom of the
abyss, and were used not only by woodcutters plying their trade among
the dense forest trees which had grown up to maturity on the lava
soil, but also by animals which strayed down to browse on the
succulent, rich grass. Neither men nor cattle retained any fear of the
green crater depths. Only the rim of calcined stones at the summit
seems to have betrayed the volcanic fire of old days, except that here
and there a wreath of smoke coiled away across the elms and oaks and
the pleasant scrub of broom and other underwood.

About the same time a Neapolitan descended to the bottom of the
crater. He found there a flat plain with two small lakes, the crater
walls all pierced with caverns, through some of which the wind
whistled with a noise which sounded awfully on that dim, lonely spot.
There were tales of treasure hidden in the caves, but no man had dared
explore them. The crater was so deep that the descent and ascent
occupied three hours.

Such was the aspect of the mountain in days when it had certainly
rested for a shorter space than in the great age of Pompeii and
Herculaneum. All men must have known what none remembered in either of
those doomed cities. The tales of terror spreading from the mountain
were still fresh, yet they inspired no more fear than there is in
Ischia to-day of Monte Epomeo; and the herdsmen sat and whistled all
day long upon the slopes as they do now within an hour's climb of

To this false security must be ascribed the fact that those who dwelt
about the mountain paid little heed to the indications of an
approaching break in its long rest. Profound changes were taking place
within the abyss which Braccini has described; and on the 1st or 2nd
of December, 1631, an inhabitant of Ottajano, visiting the summit,
found the woods gone, the chasm filled up to the brim. A level plain
had replaced the yawning gulf. The bold Ottajanese walked across from
one side to the other, surprised, no doubt, to see what had occurred,
but, so far as we can judge from Braccini's narrative, by no means
afflicted with any sense of awe at the magnitude of the event, still
less inclined to see in it a foretaste of danger for the country.

A few nights later the peasants of Torre del Greco and of Massa di
Somma began to complain that the growlings of the demons confined
within the mountain disturbed their rest. Religious ceremonies were
carried out, but the growls continued. On the night of the 15th, the
air being extraordinarily clear, there hung in the sky above the
mountain a star of strange size and brilliance. Dusk fell upon that
day, and still there was no alarm; but somewhat later in the evening,
a servant crossing the Ponte della Maddalena, on his way home from
Portici, saw a flash of lightning strike the mountain; while at Resina
a deep red glow appearing on the summit perplexed the villagers, for
no such sight had been seen within the memory of living man.

As night passed and day approached, the reports of those who had
ventured up the slopes grew more awful. Peasants between Torre del
Greco and Torre dell'Annunziata had seen smoke pour in volumes out of
the Atrio del Cavallo. A herdsman on the mountain saw the pastures
rent, and the sweet herbage turned into a raging blast furnace.
Santolo di Simone ventured some way up to ascertain the truth. He saw
the ground cleft in divers places, out of which poured smoke and
flame, while all the air was filled with thunderous reports, and great
stones cast out of the fiery gulfs were hurled about the slopes.
Meantime dawn in Naples was at hand; and as the light increased, men
going about the common affairs of their existence began to take note
of an extraordinary cloud which hung above Vesuvius, having the
precise shape of a gigantic pine tree. Some wondered and some feared,
but none understood what was the terror which had come upon them, till
Braccini, going into his library and taking down his Pliny, read them
that vivid passage which describes the sight young Pliny saw when he
looked towards Vesuvius from Misenum. "There," said Braccini, as he
closed the book, "there, in the words of sixteen centuries ago, is
depicted what you see to-day."

That pine tree has become awfully familiar to most Neapolitans now
alive; and to some of those who visit the city during an eruption it
seems as if familiarity had bred contempt, and caused the occasion to
be regarded as one for merriment, since it draws strangers there in
countless numbers, and enriches every trader on the coast. But there
is terror also in the streets when the shocks come rapidly, when doors
and windows rattle with continuous concussions, and all the city reeks
with sulphurous stenches coming one knows not whence. To this natural
and human fear there was added, in the days of which Braccini wrote,
the shock of a horrible surprise. The people were not dreaming of
eruptions. They thought of them as little as did their far-distant
kinsmen, who occupied the lovely shore when Pompeii was a city of the
quick, not of the dead. That is what makes Braccini's tale so
interesting. It reproduces for us, as nearly as is possible, a picture
of what must have happened in the city streets on that morning when
Pliny came sailing from Misenum at the urgent cry of Herculaneum for
help, only to find his ships beaten off the coast by a hail of fiery

The Cardinal Archbishop of Naples was at Torre del Greco on that
fateful morning. He hurried back to the city, and having celebrated
the Sacrament, and given orders for the rite to be solemnised
throughout the city, he went up to the treasury where the relics of
the saints were kept, intending to arrange a solemn procession. The
blood of San Gennaro was found already liquefied and boiling! Great
crowds accompanied the procession, the superstitious Neapolitans
turned to their priests and saints at the first sign of danger, and
marched behind the relics with effusion of piety, the men scourging
themselves till the blood ran from their shoulders, the women
dishevelled and weeping, while crowds of boys chanted the Litany with
extraordinary tenderness. The shops were shut. Naples had become a
city of devotees.

But San Gennaro, though his blood had boiled, was not ready to
disperse the peril. The shocks of earthquake grew louder. The
concussions rattled faster from the mountain. Towards noon thick
darkness stole down upon the city, as it had upon Misenum sixteen
hundred years before. The smell of sulphur in the streets was choking.
Men asked themselves if so strong a reek could possibly travel from
Vesuvius, and whether some vent had not opened close at hand. The
houses, says Braccini, were swaying like ships at sea, and in the air
there was a horrible roaring sound like the blast of many furnaces.
The darkness grew more dense, and tongues of lightning flashed
continuously out of the mirk sky. The crashes became quite appalling.
Naples went wild with terror. The Viceroy sent drummers round the city
appealing to the people to live cleanly in that which appeared to be
the supreme moment of the created world. Men and women utterly unknown
to each other ran up and embraced, seeking comfort, and crying, "Gesù,
misericordia !"

So passed the first day of the reawakened activity of Vesuvius. The
night brought no abatement of terror. Early in the morning the crashes
redoubled. The whole mountain seemed to be springing into the air, and
all the surface of the earth rocked like water in a vessel which is
violently shaken. At the same moment the sea retreated for near half a
mile, and then swept back to a point far above its level. At Naples
nothing more than that was seen, but the miserable inhabitants of
Resina perceived that those mighty birth throes had ended in the
ejection of a vast flood of lava, which was pouring down the mountain
on the seaward side. The fiery torrent came on with such speed that it
had reached the sea in less than an hour from the outbreak. As it
advanced it split into seven streams, each one of which took a
different course of devastation. One flowed in the direction of San
Jorio, which it destroyed, engulfing, it is said, no less than three
thousand persons, including a religious procession. A second arm of
the flood destroyed Bosco Reale and Torre dell'Annunziata, running out
more than two hundred yards into the sea, where it formed a reef so
hot that the water round about it boiled for days. A third wrecked
Torre del Greco, a fourth poured over Resina, and a fifth, passing
westwards, ruined San Giorgio a Cremano, and touched Barra and San
Giovanni. Meantime a sixth stream, after filling the valleys divided
by the ridge on which the observatory stands now, swept down on Massa
di Somma, and reached San Sebastiano.

In this point the eruption of 1631 differed from that which destroyed
Pompeii. In the latter there was no lava, but only falling stone and
ash, either dry, or compacted into mud by storms of rain and showers
of water thrown out of the crater. But it was not by lava only that
the country was devastated three centuries and a half ago. Ashes fell
also in such masses that near Vesuvius they were heaped up twelve feet
deep, and great quantities of them drifting across southern Italy fell
upon the shores of that lovely bay where Taranto looks across to the
snow-topped mountains of Calabria. Stones fell also of astounding
weight. One which was thrown into Massa di Somma is reported to have
weighed 50,000 pounds; while another, which fell as far away as Nola,
was of such dimensions that a team of twenty oxen could not stir it.

When this great eruption ended, the relative heights of Vesuvius and
Somma were reversed, and the eruptive cone, which had risen 50 feet
above its neighbour, stood nearly 200 feet below it. It is almost the
rule that in great eruptions Vesuvius suffers loss of height, while
the cone is piled up by smaller ones.

Such is the country in which a teeming population elects to live. It
is said that no less than 80,000 persons have their homes on the
slopes of the mountain--a fact which appears inexplicable to those who
do not know by experience how small the loss of life may be in the
greatest eruption. It is true that in 1631 a vast number of persons
perished. But this was due probably in some measure to the fact that
they did not know their danger and took no proper measures to avoid
it. The men then living had seen nothing like the sudden peril which
beset them. But every peasant of our day is well aware what lava
floods may do, and how their course will lie. All have their little
images of San Gennaro, which they set up in their cottages, and many
can tell how the good saint has averted from his vineyard a fiery
torrent which crawled on to the point when it seemed as if not even
heavenly power could avert destruction, yet twisted off to one side
and left him scatheless. At times, of course, the velocity of the lava
is so great that no man can do aught but flee. In 1766 Sir William
Hamilton saw a stream which ran in the first mile with a velocity
"equal to that of the River Severn at the passage near Bristol," while
in 1794 the lava ran through Torre del Greco at the rate of one foot
in a second. Yet the loss of life was small. "Napoli fa i peccati,"
say the people, "e Torre li paga !"--Naples commits the sins and Torre
pays for them. It is true enough; yet the toll is taken more in
property than life. Moreover, the after-fruits of an eruption are
worth rubies to the people, so fertile is the soil created by the
decaying lava.

  [Illustration: CARDPLAYERS--NAPLES]

That the loss of life remains so small is the more surprising in view
of the fact that Vesuvius can by no means be trusted to discharge
itself on all occasions by the main crater. In fact, the flanks of the
mountain, strengthened and compacted as they are by the outflow of
countless lava streams, are yet seamed and fissured by the rupture of
the surface to form other vents. Occasionally these "bocche" mouths,
as the Italians call them, have opened far down the slopes among the
cultivated fields and vineyards. It was so in 1861, not fortunately
one of the greatest of eruptions. The bocche of that year are on the
hillside no great way above Torre del Greco. Nothing, in fact, is
certain about the operation of volcanic forces, and this is a fact
which may be borne in mind by those who elect to ascend the mountain
during an eruption. Sir William Hamilton in 1767 had a narrow escape.
"I was making my observations," he says, "upon the lava, which had
already from the spot where it first broke out reached the
valley"--that is, the Atrio del Cavallo--"when on a sudden, about
noon, I heard a violent noise within the mountain, and at a spot about
a quarter of a mile off the place where I stood, the mountain split,
and with much noise from this new mouth a fountain of liquid fire shot
up many feet high, and then like a torrent rolled on directly towards
us. The earth shook, and at the same time a volley of stones fell
thick upon us; in an instant clouds of black smoke and ashes caused
almost a total darkness; the explosions from the top of the mountain
were much louder than any thunder I ever heard, and the smell of the
sulphur was very offensive. My guide, alarmed, took to his heels; and
I must confess I was not at my ease. I followed close, and we ran near
three miles without stopping."

To run three miles over the broken and uneven lava reefs of the Piano,
with a fiery torrent hunting close behind, is not an experience which
would be relished by the ordinary tourist, however far it might be
sweetened in the retrospect to the adventurous man of science. Yet
happy is the man who in such a case gets off with a sharp run. In 1872
a party of tourists were less happy. The terrible eruption of that
year deserves attention, being certainly the greatest within the
present generation, and fortunately it has been described with
knowledge and precision by Professor Palmieri who, with noble devotion
to the cause of science, had spent so many years in the observatory
planted on the barren ridge of trachyte which divides the two
valley-arms which the Atrio del Cavallo projects towards Naples. Those
valleys receive the streams of lava which are ejected into the Atrio,
and when the volume of the flow is large, it has happened that the
observatory has been almost engirdled with the red-hot torrents--a
position of which, if the danger may be exaggerated, the awe certainly
cannot, and which must fill all men with admiration for the
illustrious scientists who endure it.

Palmieri regarded the eruption as the last phase of a series of
disturbances which began at the end of January, 1871. From November,
1868, until the end of December, 1870, the mountain had been almost
quiet. Only a few fumaroles discharging smoke bore witness to the need
for watchfulness. "Early in 1871 the delicate instruments of the
observatory which register earth tremors were observed to be slightly
agitated, and the crater discharged a few incandescent projectiles,
detonating at the same time, but not remarkably. On the 13th of
January an aperture appeared on the northern edge of the upper plain
of the Vesuvian cone; at first a little lava issued from it, then a
small cone arose which threw out incandescent projectiles and much
smoke of a reddish colour, whilst the central crater continued to
detonate more loudly and frequently. The lava flow continued to
increase until the beginning of March, without extending much beyond
the base of the cone, although it had great mobility. In March the
little cone appeared not only to subside but even partly to give way,
as almost always happens with eccentric cones when their activity is
at an end.... A little smoke issued from the small crater, and a loud
hissing from the interior was audible. By lying along the edge I could
see a cavity of cylindrical form about ten metres deep.... The bottom
of the crater was level, but in the centre a small cone of about two
metres had formed, pointed in such a manner that it possessed but a
very narrow opening at the apex, from which smoke issued with a
hissing sound, and from which were spurted a few very small
incandescent stones and scoriæ. This little cone increased in size as
well as in activity until it filled the crater and rose four or five
metres above the brim. New and more abundant lavas appeared near the
base of this cone, and pouring continually into the 'Atrio del
Cavallo' rushed into the 'Fossa della Vetrana' in the direction of the
observatory, and towards the Crocella, where they accumulated to such
an extent as to cover the hillside for a distance of about three
hundred metres.... For many months the lava descended from the cone
and traversed the 'Atrio del Cavallo.'... On the 3rd and 4th of
November a copious and splendid stream coursed down the principal cone
on its western side, but was soon exhausted. The new small cone
appeared again at rest, but did not cease to emit smoke...."

In the beginning of January, 1872, the little cone again became
active, the crater of the preceding October resumed strength, there
were bellowings, projectiles, and copious outflows of lava. In
February the action of the hidden forces abated somewhat; but in
March, at the full moon, the cone opened on the north-western side,
the cleavage being marked out by a line of fumaroles, and a lava
stream issued from the lowest part without any noise and with very
little smoke, pouring down into the Atrio del Cavallo as far as the
precipices of Monte Somma. This lava ceased flowing after a week, but
the fumaroles still pointed out the clefts, and between the small
re-made cone and the central crater a new crater of small dimensions
and interrupted activity opened. On the 23rd of April, another full
moon, the observatory instruments were agitated, the activity of the
craters increased, and on the evening of the 24th splendid lavas
descended the cone in many directions. The spectacle was of superb
beauty. There was clear moonshine, and from Naples the outline of a
vast fiery tree was seen to be traced on the black side of the
mountain. Strangers poured into the city. The long period of activity
without destruction disposed them to regard the show as a display of
fireworks. Half Naples set its heart on ascending the mountain by
night, and little wonder, for the moonlit bay reddened by the wide
reflection from the burning breast of the volcano made a sight on
which no man could look without the sense of witnessing a thing which
was absolutely unearthly in the splendour of its beauty.

But on the following morning the flow was nearly spent. One stream
only continued to flow from the base of the cone. And this one was
almost inaccessible, by reason of the roughness of the ground. As
night fell the visitors began to arrive. No less than 120 carriages
are said to have passed the hermitage by dusk. Palmieri tried to
dissuade the sightseers from going on, but in vain. The display of
the previous night had been too splendid. They hoped continually that
the show might be repeated. It was, but in a manner which they little
looked for.

The crater was casting out huge stones, with detonations resembling
the discharge of whole parks of artillery at once. From time to time
the din ceased absolutely, then low and softly it began again, and
gained force quickly till it crashed as loudly as before. When
midnight was past, immense clouds of smoke began to pour out of all
the craters, and lava broke out simultaneously from many points upon
the slopes. Out of the chief crater rose the awful pine tree. The
detonations grew more constant. There was still time to flee; but the
spectacle was growing grander every moment, and inexperienced guides
led forward a large party into the Atrio, where they stood watching
such a sight as living men have rarely seen. At half-past three came
the catastrophe. The whole of the great cone rent itself from top to
bottom with an appalling crash, casting out a huge stream of fiery
lava. At the same moment two large craters formed upon the summit,
discharging showers of red-hot scoriæ, while the pillar of the pine
tree rose up to many times more than even the vast height which it
then stretched across the sky. A cloud of choking blinding smoke
enveloped the visitors, a fiery hail rained down on them, the lava
broke out immediately by them, and barred their retreat to the
observatory. Eight medical students were engulfed by the fire, with
others who were not known. Eleven more were grievously injured; and
when the survivors were able to reach the observatory, it was in
several cases but to die.

The lava flow from this grand fissure was restrained for some time
within the Atrio; but issuing thence at last divided, one branch
threatening Resina, but stopping happily almost as soon as it reached
the cultivated ground, while the larger branch ran through the Fossa
della Vetrana, traversing its whole length of 1,300 metres in three
hours. It dashed into the Fossa della Faraone, then again divided, one
arm of the diminished stream destroying a great part of the villages
of Massa and San Sebastiano, and flowing on so far in the direction of
Naples that had it continued but for four-and-twenty hours longer it
must have flowed into the city streets.

It may be supposed that whilst this awful eruption was proceeding, the
position of the courageous men of science in the observatory was
rather glorious than safe. Nothing can exceed the value of the
services rendered to science by these gentlemen who elect to spend
their lives upon a spot which is always dreary and exposed to constant
danger. They are of the outposts of mankind. I take my cap off to
their stout hearts and their keen intellects. To them their danger is
a little thing, and they would not thank me if I were to dwell too
long on it. But I will take Professor Palmieri's own words, and beg
those who read to ponder over what is involved in them. "On the night
of the 26th of April the observatory lay between two torrents of fire.
The heat was insufferable. The glass of the windows was hot and
crackling, especially on the side of the Fossa della Vetrana. In all
the rooms there was a smell of scorching."

  [Illustration: NAPLES--A SLUM.]

Meantime the spectacle of the mountain must have been bewilderingly
grand. The cone was seamed and perforated on every side, and the fiery
lava issuing from the vents covered it so completely that, in
Palmieri's picturesque expression, Vesuvius "sweated fire." On the
27th of April the igneous period of the eruption was over, though
the rain of ashes and projectiles became more abundant, the crashes
were louder than ever, the pine tree was of a darker colour, and was
continually furrowed by flashes of lightning; while on the 29th stones
fell at the observatory of such size that the glass of the unshuttered
windows was broken. By midnight, of that day, however, there was a
marked improvement, and on the 1st of May the eruption was at an end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The visitor who strolls to-day through the main street of Portici sees
nothing but a continuation of the squalid life and poverty of building
which have followed him continuously from the eastern quarters of the
city. The mean aspect of the town is unexpected. One had not looked
for any striving after the dream of classical beauty, once so frequent
and so great upon the Campanian shore. But this was the chosen
pleasure resort of the Bourbon kings; and some greater dignity might
have been expected in the close neighbourhood of a palace.

The palace is there still. The noisy street runs through its
courtyard. Poor deserted palace! It has lost its royalty of aspect,
and for all one sees in passing by the discoloured walls and shuttered
windows it might be any poverty-stricken crowded palazzo in Naples.
But turn in beneath the archway on the right, and go by the large cool
staircase, across the clanking stones, until you emerge into the hot
spring sun again. There is a noble semicircular expanse, flanked on
either hand by a terrace, adorned with busts and vases, and with
stairs descending to the garden, which stretches down to a belt of
pine trees, cut away a little in the centre to reveal that band of
heavenly blue which is the sea. The young trees standing by the pine
are in fresh leaf; the grass is full of poppies; white butterflies are
skimming to and fro across it; all is silent and deserted. A
bare-armed stable-boy comes out to train a skinny pony round the
terrace. The stucco of the walls is peeling off; the long rows of
windows are shuttered; the sentry boxes stand empty. It is forty years
since any courtier came out to taste the evening freshness on this
spot where Sir William Hamilton talked of the wonders of the buried
cities so long and eagerly that he forgot to watch the wife and friend
whose sins the world forbears to reckon when it remembers the beauty
of the one and the valour and wisdom of the other.

It is but a little way beyond the palace to the spot where the Prince
d'Elboeuf is said, while sinking a well in the year 1709, to have
chanced on things of which he did not know the meaning. This is one of
the fables which demonstrate the extreme difficulty of speaking the
truth, even about important and world-famous matters. Nothing is more
certain than that the prince sank his "well" with the hope and
intention of drawing up not water, but antiquities. The fact is, that
in the year just mentioned he bought a country house, which stood near
the site of the present railway station. It was perfectly well known
that Herculaneum lay buried underneath Portici or Resina, and the
prince began excavating of set purpose. It was mere chance which
guided him to a spot where his first shaft came right down on the
benches of the theatre, thus letting in to Herculaneum the first gleam
of daylight which had entered there for more than sixteen centuries.
Not much more than that stray glimmer has enlightened the old academic
city even now; for none of the energy and learned patience lavished
daily on Pompeii has been expended here.

Herculaneum as it lies to-day, awaiting its turn for excavation,
creates in one respect an impression which Pompeii excites in a far
less degree. It retains the visible aspect of a buried city. The sense
of overwhelming tragedy is never lost. Pompeii stands free and open
under the clear sky; so large, so perfect, that in the fascination of
its archæology one is somewhat led away from the disaster. It is a
deserted city. One knows what it was that drove the people out, but it
is easy to forget. Perhaps one cares more to gloat over the rich old
life laid bare so freely than to burden one's mind with memory of that
day when the glow of August sunshine turned to darkness "as of a room
shut up," and death came down from the mountain into the crowded

At Herculaneum the mere fragment of a street, the few half-buried
houses, the pit in which they lie, the cavernous darkness which hides
the amphitheatre, stimulate the imagination till it leaps to a sudden
comprehension of what it was that happened on that day of woe. One
passes from the dirty street of Resina into a building of no dignity,
somewhat like the entrance to the public baths of some small English
town. A guide appears and guides one down a flight of steps which are
at first palpably modern. But ere long the tread changes. One is on an
ancient stair, and almost immediately the guide pauses in a vaulted
corridor running right and left through perfect darkness. The height
is hardly more than permits a tall man to walk upright. Here and there
an arched opening in the corridor goes one sees not whither. Passing
under such an arch one may descend four steps, beyond which rises
another wall. That wall is tufa; it is no part of the structure. It
flowed or fell here when it was half liquid; it came out from
Vesuvius, and it is what overwhelmed the city.

The steps, thus interrupted by the intrusion of what are now stone
walls, are the upper tier of seats in the amphitheatre. A gleam of
daylight breaks the darkness: it comes from the Prince d'Elboeuf's
shaft, which pierces the stone steps and goes down far below them. One
looks up the tubular wet boring and then plunges forward to the bottom
of the theatre through blackness barely scattered by the candles which
the guide carries.

A short descent of nineteen steps in all brings one to the floor of
the theatre, at the spot appropriated to the orchestra. The stage is a
low platform, approached on either hand by steps. It is deprived of
some part of its original depth by pillars and barriers hardened out
of that choking mud which poured down from the mountain. Such barriers
present themselves on every side; they leave the theatre formless;
they create gangways where none existed, walls where the spectators
had clear line of vision, darkness where the sun shone freely eighteen
centuries ago. In one of these gangways behind the stage the clear
impression of human features looks down from the rough wet ceiling; it
is the impression of a player's mask. There were doubtless many in the
theatre when the seething flood rolled in.

Among this darkness and these sights the sense of tragedy tightens on
the imagination. The cruelty of the ruin stands before one and is not
to be set aside. There are remains of frescoes here and there; but
they are almost destroyed, and serve only to increase the pity that a
theatre which once rang with laughter and glowed so richly with soft
light and colour should lie wet, buried and forsaken in the darkness.

It is sometimes said that Herculaneum was destroyed by lava--the
guides use the word to this day. But Vesuvius threw out no lava in the
great eruption which destroyed the cities. It ejected much in
prehistoric times. Pompeii itself is built upon a lava ridge, which in
the old days was quarried for millstones, thus giving rise to an
important industry. But in historic times lava did not flow--if we may
trust geologists--till the year 1036 A.D.

Herculaneum was destroyed by fragments of pumice stone and ashes,
scarcely distinguishable from those which one may see raked away from
the half-uncovered walls of some new house at Pompeii. With this storm
of falling cinders--how dense and thick one may picture dimly by
remembering once more that all the seaward wall of the vast old crater
was being blown away--with this crushing, choking shower, came
torrents of rain, enough to turn the falling ashes to a sort of mud,
which hardened into tufa. Indeed, just as the yellow tufa of Posilipo
is composed of volcanic ash ejected underneath the sea, and is thus
formed of ash and water, such precisely is the crust which hardened
over Herculaneum, and holds the city in its clutch unto this hour.
Perhaps the mud formed on the mountain slopes, and came rolling down
upon the town. Professor Phillips thought it formed within the crater.
Some obvious warning of great peril there must have been, and that
quite early on the fatal 24th of August; for it was not long past noon
when a message reached Pliny at Misenum, begging for his ships, since
escape was even then impossible except by sea. Already Pliny, looking
from Misenum, saw the mountain topped by that vast and awful cloud
shaped like a pine tree, out of which ashes were raining down on the
three cities. His ships, approaching the coast towards evening, ran
into a hail of pumice stone. The ashes fell hotter and hotter on the
decks, and in continually larger masses. The sea ebbed suddenly. Ruins
were tumbling from the mountain. There was no possibility of giving
help to the doomed city, and Pliny gave orders to steer off the coast.
No eye has seen Herculaneum from that day to this. What became of the
citizens is not known. Comparatively few bodies have been found; but
the excavations were too imperfect to prove that somewhere in the city
bounds they do not lie in heaps.

Such was the end of Herculaneum, by ashes, not by lava. It is true
that lava beds lie above the city now. Probably the lava of 1631
passed over it. Sir William Hamilton distinguished the débris of no
less than six eruptions besides that which destroyed it. Sir Charles
Lyell also thought that a large part of the covering of the city was
subsequent to its first destruction.

At Herculaneum all that is most interesting lies underground, and
nearly all is still invisible. But little effort has been made at any
time to disinter the city. The searchers who dug there at the command
of Charles of Bourbon between the years 1750 and 1761--to which period
we must refer nearly all the most precious discoveries--contented
themselves with sinking shafts in likely spots, from which they mined
and tunnelled as far as seemed possible to them, and then filled up
the shaft again and sank another. Thus the notices of what they found,
and still more of how they found it, are imperfect. They have,
moreover, been carelessly preserved. Some were even wantonly destroyed
in the last century by men who did not appreciate their value. Yet
enough has been retained to stimulate the highest interest in
Herculaneum, if not indeed to justify the belief that whenever it
shall be possible to overcome the obvious difficulties of excavation,
treasures will be found which may far exceed in quantity and beauty
those which Pompeii has yielded.

This will be better understood by considering what has been written by
Signor Comparetti and Signor de Petra concerning a single villa of
Herculaneum, now, alas! buried up once more in darkness. It stood
between the "new diggings" and the royal palace of Portici. I will
preface my abstract of the treatise of the two scholars by some
passages taken from the letters of Camillo Paderni, director of the
excavations, to Mr. Thomas Hollis, in 1754.

"This route," says Paderni, "led us towards a palace, which lay near
the garden. But before they arrived at a palace they came to a square
... which was adorned throughout with columns of stucco. At the
several angles of the square was a terminus of marble, and on every
one of these stood a bust of bronze of Greek workmanship, one of which
had on it the name of the artist. A small fountain was placed before
each terminus, which was constructed in the following manner. Level
with the pavement was a vase to receive the water which fell from
above. In the middle of this vase was a stand of balustrade work, to
support another marble vase. This second vase was square on the
outside and circular within, where it had the appearance of a scallop
shell; in the centre whereof was the spout which threw up the water
that was supplied by leaden pipes within the balustrade. Among the
columns ... were alternately placed a statue[1] of bronze and a bust
of the same material, at the equal distance of a certain number of
palms.... The statues taken out from April 15 to September 30 are in
number seven, near the height of six Neapolitan palms, except one of
them, which is much larger, and of excellent expression. This
represents a faun lying down, who appears to be drunk, resting upon
the goatskin in which they anciently put wine.... September 27.--I
went myself to take out a head in bronze, which proved to be that of
Seneca, and the finest that has hitherto appeared.... Our greatest
hopes are from the palace itself, which is of a very large extent. As
yet we have only entered into one room, the floor of which is formed
of mosaic work, not inelegant. It appears to have been a library,
adorned with presses inlaid with different sorts of wood, disposed in
rows. I was buried in this spot more than twelve days, to carry off
the volumes found there, many of which were so perished that it was
impossible to remove them. Those which I took away amounted to the
number of 337, all of them at present incapable of being opened. These
are all in Greek characters. While I was busy in this work I observed
a large bundle, which from the size I imagined must contain more than
a single volume. I tried with the utmost care to get it out, but could
not, from the damp and weight of it. However, I perceived that it
consisted of about eighteen volumes.... They were wrapped about with
the bark of a tree, and covered at each end with a piece of wood.

"November 27th.--We discovered the figure of an old faun, or rather a
Silenus, represented as sitting on a bank, with a tiger lying on his
left side, on which his hand rested. Both these figures served to
adorn a fountain, and from the mouth of the tiger had flowed water.
From the same spot were taken out, November 29th, three little boys
of bronze of a good manner. Two of them are young fauns, having the
horns and ears of a goat. They have likewise silver eyes, and each of
them the goatskin on his shoulder, wherein anciently they put wine,
and through which here the water issued. The third boy is also of
bronze, has silver eyes, is of the same size with the two former, and
in a standing posture like them, but is not a faun. On one side of
this last stood a small column, upon the top of which was a comic mask
that served as a capital to it and discharged water from its mouth.
December 16th.--In the same place were discovered another boy with a
mask and three other fauns.... Besides these we met with two little
boys in bronze, somewhat less than the former. These likewise were in
a standing posture, had silver eyes, and had each a vase upon his
shoulder whence the water flowed. We also dug out an old faun, crowned
with ivy, having a long beard, a hairy body, and sandals on his feet.
He sat astride upon a goatskin, holding it at the feet with both his

Thus far Paderni; and I have made this long extract to little purpose
if the reader has not already recognised some among the finest objects
in the great museum at Naples. This villa, with its garden full of
statues, its cool peristyle all humming with the plash of falling
water, its shadowy colonnade sheltering the marvellous bronzes, must
have been a place of wonderful beauty. He was a rare collector who
dwelt there. He had twenty-three large bronze busts and eight small
ones, thirteen large bronze statues and eighteen small ones. In his
garden stood not less than nine marble statues, and of marble busts he
had certainly seven and probably seven more. Among these not one is of
mean workmanship. The greater part are famous all round the world for
beauty. They are unsurpassed, and they all came from a single villa
just beyond the walls of this buried city.

Who was the man who made himself a home so splendid? The style of the
decorations points to the latter years of the Republic. It is in
marked distinction from the more ornate style which prevailed under
the Empire, and of great mythological pictures there was none. One
thing only enables us to guess with something like assurance who among
the patricians of those days owned the villa--namely the library. The
mode of inference is curious.

It was no small library which was lifted by Paderni from the presses
where it had lain for seventeen centuries. The papyri numbered 1,806,
though by no means all were separate treatises, while some were mere
scraps. All were charred and damaged to such a degree as to render
their examination a work whose difficulty baffled many men of science.
At length the task was accomplished by an ingenious arrangement of
silk threads, which unfolded the papyrus upon a false back made partly
of onion skins, and laid it open to investigation. The results are
curious. Indeed, they are something more than curious; and making due
allowance for the fact that wise men do not permit themselves to be
ruffled by the tricksy mockeries of time, it must be admitted that the
story of this library is exasperating.

All the world knows how small a space the treasures of Greek and Latin
literature occupy upon our shelves compared with that which they would
fill were they intact. What melancholy gaps! How much pure delight has
not been reft from us! Where is the scholar who in moments of low
spirits has not roamed round his library reckoning up his losses?
Livy shorn of more than half his bulk, Terence mangled, Cicero lacking
heaven knows how many of his finest compositions! Petrarch had the
treatise of the great orator "De Gloria," but nobody has seen it
since. It is a painful subject--the canker at the heart of learned
men, the skeleton at the feasts of all academies.

So much the greater, then, was the joy when the news ran round Europe
that a library, formed in the best age of Latin literature, was
discovered at Herculaneum. Now, surely, some of the lost treasures
would be restored! All the universities chuckled and stood on tiptoe.
Humanity, with the help of a volcano, had scored a point against time
at last.

But the rolls of papyri were sadly like mere lumps of charcoal.
Paderni saw a letter here, a letter there, but on the whole could make
nothing of them. The smile died on the faces of the scholars. The
trick was not won yet. Who would unroll these charred manuscripts, and
who could possibly read them when unrolled?

Many people tried and failed, Sir Humphry Davy among the number.
Learned hearts sank, and hope flickered almost to extinction. At
length Padre Piaggi invented an ingenious arrangement of silk threads,
whereby the charred and brittle rolls were unwrapped in the manner
described above. It was a slow and weary process, but the wit of man
has devised no better. One by one the treasures of the past were read.
It took a century and a half, but we know the contents of some three
hundred and fifty of them now.

Broadly stated, the outcome of all the pother has been to restore to
an unthankful world what is probably a complete set of the works of
Philodemus! "Philodemus!" gasp the scholars. "Who wanted him?" A
fifth-rate Greek philosopher and a fourth-rate poet, who lived at Rome
in the days of Cicero, better esteemed for his verses than his
reasoning, and not much for either. But no Livy? No Terence? No
Cicero? Not one line; hardly anything but the prose treatises of
Philodemus, concerning which Signor Comparetti observes with emphasis
that the oblivion they lay in was anything but undeserved.

Such is the greatest practical joke played on us by the Time Spirit in
the present age. But now, laying aside our disappointment and bad
temper, let us see what can be made out of this curious, if worthless,
discovery. Who could have cared to collect the works of Philodemus,
large and small, even to the notes he made from other books? The
philosophy was Epicurean, but the chief works of the leaders of that
school are with few exceptions not there. Who could it be but
Philodemus himself, the only man, surely, for whom such a collection
would have value? But what, then, was the library doing in this
splendid and costly villa at Herculaneum? Philodemus was a poor Greek
scholar, the last man who could have afforded to collect fine marbles
or to house them nobly. The villa must have belonged to his patron and
protector. Cicero names for us the patrician who enjoyed the privilege
of hearing Philodemus reason when he would. It was Piso, Lucius
Calpurnius Piso Cæsoninus, attacked by Cicero in one of the greatest
of his orations. Piso had known this poor scholar from a boy, learnt
the philosophy of Epicurus from him, and gave him rooms in his own
house. To Piso, probably, belonged this villa. Here he may have ended
his stormy life in the society of Philodemus; and when that learned
man ascended to Parnassus, his books remained in what had been his
study, preserved perhaps by some lingering attachment to his memory,
perhaps by such a superstitious pride in what is never read as may be
seen in certain country houses of to-day, where the squire believes
the dusty volumes collected by his grandfather are a credit to the
house, and chides the housemaid if he ever finds a cobweb on the
peaceful shelves. It will also be remembered that, unless you want the
space very much, it is easier to leave books alone than to destroy
them. On the whole, I do not think the discovery of this library
affords any evidence of the prevalence of cultivated taste in
Herculaneum. Rather the opposite, indeed, for whatever value the
owners of the house may have attached to the library the fact remains
that they added to it nothing in the hundred years which followed the
decease of Philodemus.

As for the statues and the bronzes, the finest were doubtless part of
the spoils of Piso's proconsulate in Macedonia. Cicero taunted him
with having stripped Greece of its treasures, as Verres ransacked
those of Sicily. The conduct of both men was barbarous perhaps; but
the candid visitor will look many times at the Sleeping Faun, or the
Mercury in repose, before daring to ask himself whether he would have
come home from Macedonia without them. If he discover that he would,
he may yet find cause to rejoice that Piso was less virtuous; for a
very short reflection on the state of Greece during the last twenty
centuries suggests that if a moralist had been proconsul we should
have lacked many pleasures which we now enjoy.

The "Scavi Nuovi" lie at a little distance from the theatre. One goes
down a steep street sloping to the sea, the Vico di Mare. A gate in
the wall gives admission to what seems at first a quarry, but a second
glance shows one a short street of roofless houses, emerging from the
hillside and running straight in the direction of the shore until
stopped by the opposite bank. Beneath and behind these walls, bright
with mesembryanthemums and wild roses, lies all the city save this
little fragment, this portion of a street, this poor two dozen houses,
with the remnants of four insulæ, of which three are occupied by
private houses and the fourth by some rooms belonging to the baths, of
which the greater part are buried still. The houses of the south-west
insula are the most interesting. At the corner is a shop with marble
counter, and close to that is a dwelling of rare beauty, the so-called
"Casa d'Argo." At the door there are four pillars, and on either side
a bench. Out of this entrance one passes through a larger room into
the xystos, colonnaded on three sides. A row of rooms open from it,
all frescoed in the architectural style of which we shall see much at
Pompeii, and giving on the garden. Beyond these rooms there is a
second peristyle, all very beautiful--clearly the dwelling of a man of
taste and means.

But in all this there is no source of pleasure which cannot be enjoyed
far better at Pompeii. It is there and not to Herculaneum that the
traveller goes to see the results of excavation. On this spot, I say
again, it is the tragedy that counts; and as I turn in the warm
sunshine and look up the broken street, where rose bushes bloom
profusely in the untended gardens and the brown lizards slip in and
out among the cold and empty hearths, I see above the houses of the
dirty modern town the huge cone of Vesuvius fronting me directly. So
he stands, looking down upon the ruin he has made, while the long
train of sulky smoke which stains the clear blueness of the April sky
flaunts itself like a warning to mankind that it is vain to set human
forces against his, and that what he wills to hide shall lie lost
and hidden in the earth for ever.


A man willing to go on foot from Resina to Pompeii might find much to
amuse him by the way, especially if he have any care for tracing out
the ravages of eruptions. The seashore is not unpleasant. The lava
reefs that fringe it are curious, and the ports of Torre del Greco and
Torre dell'Annunziata have their share of interest and picturesqueness.
But the crumbs of knowledge to be picked up during such a walk seem
insignificant beside the banquet which lies waiting at Pompeii; and
only those who have already tasted the last dish of that banquet will
care to loiter on the way.

I do not propose to add one more to the countless unscholarly
rhapsodies which have been produced by visitors to Pompeii. Certain
tragic feelings strike every one who enters the old grey streets. They
are too obvious to need description. All else belongs to the domain of
the guide-book or of the expert--to the latter more than to the
former, since the best of guide-books is a sorry companion to a man
who has neglected the works of Helbig or August Mau. It is not to be
expected that the detailed descriptions of Murray or of Gsell-Fels can
supply the broad principles and the general ideas which would have
been a constant delight if acquired in advance. Many of the best
intellects in Europe have been engaged in estimating the significance
of the objects found from day to day in Pompeii. It is in their works
that knowledge should be sought; for there is scarce any subject on
which so much has been written, both so badly and so well, as on this
lost city of the Campanian Plain.

It is, as I have said already, by wandering up and down the Strada
Tribunali in Naples that one may prepare oneself to picture what
would have struck a stranger on first entering Pompeii. A man passing
to-day beneath the vault of the Porta Marina sees a grey street, its
house-fronts perfect, but empty, and startlingly silent. This street
runs into the Forum, and is in easy hearing distance of the babel of
noise which issued constantly from that centre of the city. Under the
colonnade of the Forum tinkers mended pots with clatter and din of
hammers. Women hawked fruit and vegetables up and down, chanting their
praises doubtless as loudly as the "padulani" of to-day in Naples.
Ladies met their shoemakers under the cool shadows of the great
arcade; and there, too, children chased each other up and down,
screaming at their games like any urchins of to-day upon the steps of
San Giovanni Maggiore. We know it, for they are all depicted in
paintings found in neighbouring houses. There is the seller of hot
food with his caldron, not unlike the stall at which the workman stops
to-day in the Piazza Cavour and pays a soldo to have his hunch of
bread dipped into hot tomato broth. What cheerful sounds must have
risen up from all these occupations! How shall one picture them,
except in the streets of some other crowded city? On the left,
abutting on the south-west angle of the Forum, is the Basilica, a
broad hall used as an extension of the market-place, and containing at
the rear the tribunals of justice; while at the opposite, or
north-east corner of the Forum, is the market proper, the Macellum,
where the fish were sold. Certainly they were brought in by this Porta
Marina, far nearer to the shore in those days than now. The scales
scraped off the fish in the Macellum were found there in great
numbers. Close by were pens for living sheep and counters for the
butchers. What a reek of odours, what a hum of eager voices, must
have risen up from this dense quarter of the busy, active town! The
Pompeiians traded with their very hearts. "Lucrum gaudium!" "Oh,
joyous gain!" such were the exclamations which they painted on their
walls. And gain they did! Transmitting over the seas the commerce from
Nola and Nocera, trading doubtless with ships of Alexandria, as
Pozzuoli did; harbouring at their piers upon the Sarno, round which a
suburb had sprung up, galleys of many a seaport city, Greek or
Barbarian, carrying the industries, and not a few among the vices of
the East. Both found a ready welcome in this full-blooded city,
intensely alive to all delights and interests, whether pure or impure.
Venus was protectress of the city, and was worshipped without stint.
There were some within the city whom loathing of its wickedness had
impelled to prophecy, so at least one must infer from the fact that
the words "Sodoma Gomora" are scratched in large letters on one of the

To whom in that pagan city could Hebrew history have suggested so apt
and terrible a foreboding? A Jew, perhaps, of whom there were
multitudes in Rome; even possibly a Christian, but there is scant
evidence of that. Doubtless the Pompeiians read those words without
comprehending their horrible significance, and went their way to
theatre or to wineshop, a laughing people, a gay, light-hearted
nation, a mixed race, the blood of Oscans and of Samnite mountaineers
mingling with the languid graces of the degenerating Greeks, loving
easily, forgetting lightly, careless, passionate, and intensely human.

Such was Pompeii, a seething, noisy, eager city, filled with the reek
of dense humanity. But now it is swept clean by winds and sunlight.
Its very stews are fragrant. In the morning sweet air blows in from
the sea; at night it steals down no less sweetly from the mountains.
In all the city there is not one stench. The freshness and the silence
of the long streets weigh upon the nerves. There is so little evidence
of ruin, not an ash left, not a bank of earth in all the wide district
which one enters first, nothing to remind us by the evidence of sight
what it was that drove out the people from these once crowded streets
and left the houses and the colonnades open to the whispering sea

It was not so before the great director Fiorelli came. He it was who
stopped haphazard digging, and cleared each quarter completely before
beginning work upon another. Since, then, his methods have in great
measure freed the city already of its débris, and set its inanimate
life before us as it was, the wiser part at Pompeii is to try to grasp
the arrangements of a Roman city, leaving the necessary musings on the
tragedy to be got through elsewhere.

It is beyond my scope, as I have said already, to assume the authority
of an expert on Pompeii. More experts are not wanted. The lack, at
least in England, is of readers for those who exist. A man intending a
tour in Italy will lay out ungrudgingly ten pounds upon his travelling
gear, but he will scout the idea of spending the price of a new
hat-box on August Mau's treatise, _Pompeii, its Life and Art_, though
it would increase his pleasure tenfold more. Still less will he buy
any book in a foreign tongue. I must, therefore, in my unlearned way,
set down some few facts which will with difficulty be discovered in
the guide-books or from the guides. And firstly as to the houses.

It will occur to any man that a town so large as Pompeii must have
been built in many fashions, old and new. New types grew popular,
while old ones still persisted. There is no town in the world in which
many manners cannot be traced. At Pompeii, where building was arrested
eighteen hundred years ago, the changes of taste are plain and
interesting. Indeed, while the houses all possess the atrium, that is
the large square or oblong hall in front, open to the sky, with
chambers surrounding it on every side, and most have also the
peristyle, the colonnaded court behind; yet there are some which are
built without the peristyle, and which by other points in their
construction give witness of belonging to an earlier and simpler age.

One of these antique houses is easily found by passing through the
Forum, across the Strada delle Terme and up the Strada Consolare,
almost to the Herculaneum gate. It is called the House of the Surgeon;
and as in all the city there is no other which retains so largely the
aspect and arrangements of the earlier time, before Greek influence
was paramount, it should certainly be visited first.

It appears at once on entering the house that the peristyle is
lacking. One may stand within the courtyard of the atrium, and,
looking through the house, see no such vista of colonnaded quadrangle,
of fountains, busts, and splendid distances, as gratified the eye
within the larger and more modern houses. Those beauties were the
contribution of the Greeks to the old simple Latin life. This was the
abode of a "laudator temporis acti," a lover of the old homely times,
when the single courtyard of the atrium sufficed alike for the master,
his family and clients, when the wife sat spinning with her maidens by
the scanty light, as in Ovid's immortal description of Lucretia, and
the slaves came and went about the household duties close at hand. A
colonnade there is certainly, but of only one arcade, and giving on
the garden. There was but little splendour in such a dwelling. Only
when Greek influence destroyed the simplicity of earlier life was the
family quarter distinguished from that of slaves and clients and
relegated to the peristyle, the inner courtyard. There is no trace in
the Surgeon's house of the rich ornament which became so popular in
Pompeii, neither mosaics nor wall paintings. The very building stone
differs from that used in later years; for the house is built of large
square limestone blocks, while the immense majority of houses in the
city are constructed of tufa, quarried chiefly from the ridge on which
the city stands. All these facts mark the Surgeon's house as belonging
to the earliest Pompeiian age of which traces still exist. It is
certainly older than the year 200 B.C., and we may picture the city,
while still untouched by the rare sense of beauty which was flowering
in the Greek coast towns, as consisting largely of houses on this
model, with others of a fashion older and more humble, of which we now
know nothing.

From the House of the Surgeon it is but a little way to that of
Sallust, a larger residence, and one of later date, when tufa had
displaced limestone as a building material. It belongs, therefore, to
the same period as the vast majority of houses in the city, yet in
that period it is of the most antique, the work of a day when Greek
influence was not yet paramount in architecture or in private life. It
has no peristyle, if a late Roman addition be excepted; the family
life was not yet divided. From the atrium one looked through to
colonnade and garden, much as in the Surgeon's house. The only
paintings are in imitation of slabs of marble on the walls.

To reach the House of the Faun we must return to the Strada delle
Terme and follow it towards the north-east until it merges in the
Strada della Fortuna, in which, upon the left, stands the once
magnificent dwelling which takes its name from the beautiful bronze of
the Dancing Faun now in the Naples museum. It is much to be wished
that the treasures of this noble house could have been left in it. It
may in part be older than the house of Sallust, though belonging like
it to the Tufa period, and possessing the additional apartments
prescribed by the influx of Greek taste. Indeed the added rooms, like
all the other portions of the house, were planned with magnificence;
and as there are two atria, so there are two peristyles, each of
singular beauty and built in the purest taste. There is no house in
Pompeii in which a man should pause so long, or to which he should
come back so often; for this is the most perfect specimen of the best
age of building in the city. It is the fruit of a long age of peace,
during which the people drank in thirstily the exquisite sense of
beauty diffused from the Greek coast towns. It is not difficult to
understand how these rough townsmen, bred of sturdy mountaineers, and
inheriting no tradition of fine culture, must have been affected when
they went across the sea to Cumæ or to Pæstum, saw the austere glory
of the temples rising near the shore, talked with the men whose brains
schemed out that splendour and whose hands learnt how to fashion it,
craftsmen who wrought nothing destitute of loveliness, whose coins
were as noble as their temples, whose hearts must have been afire to
spread more widely their own perception of line and form, and who were
doubtless no less eager to teach than the Pompeiians were to learn.
There is nothing in the world to-day comparable to the magic of that
influence which spread like sunshine out of the Greek cities on the
Campanian coast, no teachers so noble, no scholars so devoted and
receptive, no people who surrender themselves so absolutely to the
dominion of beauty, and will have it pure, and none but it.

Under the first passion of this enthusiasm Pompeii was transformed.
Almost all the public buildings received their present shape from this
wave of pure Greek art. Almost every one is graceful and lovely, the
columns and architraves were white, the ornament not overloaded, the
decorations simple. The artists who tinted the walls confined
themselves to producing masses of colour. Wall pictures there were
none; but the mosaics of the floors were wrought with curious beauty,
and reproduced the first compositions of great painters. The House of
the Faun is beautified by no wall pictures, but it contained on the
floor of the room which divided the two peristyles one of the finest
mosaics ever found, that which depicts the battle of Alexander the
Great upon the Issos.

The stream of Greek influence ran pure for some four generations.
After that it was contaminated. Man can keep no beauty in his hands
for long unspoilt. The change is manifest in Pompeii. The Roman
influence stole in. A muddy taste obscured the simple grace of the
Greek lines, tortured the architecture, piled up unmeaning ornament,
and degraded all the city. There were many stages between the first
step and the last, not a few still beautiful, though the downward
tendency is plain. The house of the Vettii is the finest of the later
period. There one may see wall-paintings of rare charm, mingled with
others of far inferior taste, as if the gallery of some fine
connoisseur had fallen by mischance into the hands of men who did not
understand its worth, and placed the compositions of degraded artists
side by side with the masterpieces of an olden time.

Exact descriptions of these houses are the business of the guide-book.
But there are certain observations which I think it necessary to make
about the paintings--though if anyone would read the work of Helbig on
the subject, it would be much better.

No one who visits Pompeii, no one who has seen in the most hasty way
the collections of the Naples Museum, can fail to be impressed, first
with the worth of the pictures, their dramatic force, their exquisite
grace, their rich and tender fancy; and next by their vast profusion.
What manner of city was this which worshipped art so devoutly that
scarce a single house is without pictures more beautiful than any save
a few collectors can obtain to-day? Helbig, writing more than twenty
years ago, described and classified two thousand. Others perished on
the walls where they were found. More still are being dug up day by
day. No ancient writer has told us that Pompeii was renowned for the
multitude of its paintings. The city bore almost certainly no such
reputation. It was a provincial town of little note, remarkable for
nothing in the eyes of those who visited it. Yet what a world of
beauty must have existed on the earth when these were the common
decorations of a fourth-rate town, excelled by those of Rome, or even
Ostia, in proportion to the higher wealth and dignity of those
imperial haunts! What were the decorations to be seen at Baiæ, when
Pompeii was adorned so finely! That group of palaces must surely have
drawn more noble craftsmen, and in greater numbers, than ever visited
the town of trade and pleasure on the Sarno. As in a great museum we
stand before the gigantic bone of some lost animal, striving to
picture in our minds the creature as he lived, getting now a dim
conception of great strength and bulk which is lost again by the
weakness of our fancy ere half realised, so in presence of these
pictures at Pompeii we are tormented by flashing visions of the grace
and splendour of the ancient world which so many centuries ago was
shattered into fragments, and which it may be that no human intellect
will ever reconstruct before the earth grows cold and man fails from
off its surface.

Whence came these pictures, these noble visions of Greek myth, austere
and restrained, these warriors, these satyrs, these happy, laughing
loves? Is it possible that one small city can have bred the artists
who dreamed all these dreams and yet have left no mark in history of
such great achievement? Clearly not. The artists cannot have been
Pompeian. The elder Pliny tells us that in his day painting was at the
point of death, while Petronius declares roundly that it was
absolutely dead. One walks round the Naples Museum and recalls these
judgments with astonishment. Can this art be really moribund, this
Iphigenia, spreading her arms wide to receive the stroke, this
Calchas, finger on lip, watching for the fated moment, this Perseus,
this Ariadne! If this is dying art, Heaven grant that English art may
ere long die of the same death.

But it is not. No man can judge it so. Pliny and Petronius meant
something else, and the key to their despondency is produced by the
discovery that many of these Pompeian pictures are replicas. The same
subjects recur, with almost the same treatment. Sometimes the figures
are identical. Sometimes the painter has elected to reduce the
composition. The painting of Argos watching Io occurs four times in
Pompeii. It has been found also in Rome!--the same picture, but
containing figures which the Campanian artist thought proper to omit.
There is evidence, too, that the picture was diffused over an area far
wider than that lying between Rome and Pompeii. It appears on reliefs,
on medals, and on cameos. Lucian had it in his mind when he wrote a
famous passage in his poem, and it suggested an epigram by Antiphilos.
The case is similar with the fresco of Perseus and Andromeda. Both
were world-known pictures, the composition of a great artist--Helbig
suggests that it was the Athenian Nikias--and both were copied far and
wide by craftsmen who could merely reproduce.

This is what Pliny and Petronius meant. They looked about them and
found only copyists. The great school of painting was dead, and those
who reproduced its works did so without heart or understanding. This
was sorrowful enough for them; but we may regard their woeful faces
cheerfully. Time and the volcano have done us the good service of
preserving to our day copies of some masterpieces of ancient painting.
The copyists were often treacherous. There is a fresco of Medea at
Pompeii in which the figure of the mother brooding over the thought of
murdering her children is weak and unconvincing. But at Herculaneum
was found a Medea who is terrible indeed, wild-eyed and murderous,
such a figure as none but the greatest artist could conceive and few
copyists could reproduce. Set this Medea in her place in the Pompeian
fresco and the result may well be the Medea of Timomachus, one of the
most famous pictures of all antiquity.

The school in which these artists, Pompeians or travelling painters,
found their models was Hellenist, Greek art of the period subsequent
to Alexander the Great. They did not draw by preference upon its
highest compositions. Serious treatment of the ancient myths, that
treatment which revealed the great and elemental facts from which they
sprang, was not popular in Pompeii, where the citizens appear to have
preferred a lighter and more artificial view of life--love without its
passion, the comedy of manners rather than the tragedy. These gay
feasters desired to see no skeletons among their roses and their
winecups. They preferred light laughing cupids, kind towards the human
frailties of both men and women. It was a joyous, light-hearted,
unreflecting society on which this terrible destruction fell,
luxurious and vicious. The realisation of that fact tightens the sense
of tragedy, as the sudden annihilation of a group of children playing
with their flowers seems more pitiful than the death of men.

There are a thousand things still to say of Pompeii, but they are
beyond my scope. The westering sun has turned all the hills above
Castellammare into purple clouds. The heat lies among the broken city
walls. It is enough. I turn away, and take up anew the course of my

It is no long way from the turfed ridges which conceal Pompeii to the
first rises of the Castellammare Mountains. The road crosses the
Sarno, and cuts straight and dusty through wide fields of beans and
lupins, with here and there a gaunt farmhouse, or massaria, bare of
all attempt to make it pleasant to the eye. The bitter lupins are
almost, if not quite, the cheapest food that can be bought in Naples,
and are accordingly sold principally to the very poor by the
"lupinaria," who may be seen any day in the precinct of the Porta
Capuana, or in the byways round about the Mercato. Does anyone ask how
the beans became so bitter? It was by the curse of our Lord, who was
fleeing from the Pharisees, and hid Himself in a field of lupins. The
beans were dry, and betrayed His movements by their rustling;
whereupon He cursed them, and they have been bitter ever since.

  [Illustration: PORTA CAPUANA--NAPLES]

There is no doubt that the Sarno was navigable when Pompeii was a
living city, but these many centuries it has been a rather dirty
ditch, unapproachable by shipping. Its chief interest for me lies in
the fact that along its bank, and across all the fertile country up to
the base of the great mountains, was fought the last great battle of
the Goths, those brave Teutons out of whom, as Mr. Hodgkin says, "so
noble a people might have been made to cultivate and to defend the
Italian peninsula." Heaven had been very kind to Italy in this sixth
century after Christ. It had sent down upon her from the north a race
of conquerors, barbarian, it is true, but brave, honourable, sincere,
and possessing every capability for government. They conquered Italy
from end to end. No province, no city, held out against them. From the
Alps to Sicily they were supreme, and their genius, humane and not
disdainful either of the arts or Christianity, was rapidly fusing
every warring element of the peninsula into a mighty nation--Germanic
earnestness infused with Latin wit--when the lord of the world, the
Roman Emperor in distant Constantinople, resolved to put forth his
strength and drive out these strangers, these builders of a nation,
who were tending what he had neglected, defending what he had left
open to attack, and reaping harvests of which he, out of all men, was
least entitled to proclaim himself the sower.

So the Emperor sent first Belisarius, and then Narses, and long and
bitter was the war which followed. Mr. Hodgkin, in his fourth volume,
has told it in a style which is beyond all praise. Upon these plains
was fought out the last battle of the Goths. Here Narses brought them
to bay. For two months they lay along the line of the Sarno, while
Narses, baffled by the river, plotted how to take them in the rear. At
last he won over some traitor of an admiral, who surrendered to him
the Gothic fleet, lying, perhaps, at Castellammare; and the Goths,
finding that the port was no longer theirs, fell back upon the hills,
entrenching themselves upon the spot where the ruined castle of
Lettere now stands. But their supplies were cut off--it was impossible
to feed an army on the barren mountains--and adopting counsels of
despair, they descended to the plain and gave battle to the Imperial

It was a great and terrible fight. Goths and Romans fought on foot.
Teias the king fell after bearing himself right nobly; but the Goths
fought on, and when darkness interrupted the engagement they did but
pause in order to renew it with no less desperation when the light
returned. When both armies were nearly wearied out the Goths sent a
messenger to Narses. They perceived, they said, that God had declared
against them, and that the strife was hopeless. If terms were granted
they would depart from Italy. The Imperial general accepted their
proposals, and the Goths, the noblest invaders who ever entered Italy,
turned their backs for ever on the fertile land where they had made
their homes, crossed the Alps in order, and were never heard of in
Italy again. So perished, until our day, the last hope of unity for
Italy, and for full thirteen centuries that unhappy land was drenched
in constant blood--the prey of conquerors who could not conquer, and
the sport of statesmen who never learnt to govern. For the Roman
Emperor could build no state comparable to the one he had destroyed,
and what Italy owes to him is forty generations of unhappiness.

In travelling through this country one is haunted by the perpetual
desire to look back into past ages, and admonished almost as often
that as yet one cannot do so. Indeed, one looks forward almost as
often, anticipating that day when scholars will combine to assist in
the excavation of all the buried regions, when every villa shall be
disinterred, and the secrets hidden underneath the vineyards be
exposed to the light of day again. Here on the first slopes of the
hills around Castellammare lay the groups of country villas which
formed ancient Stabiæ, and every man who goes this way longs to see
them disinterred. For what is seen at Pompeii is but half the life of
Roman days--a city stripped of its country villas and all its rustic
intercourse. Pompeii stood in the heart of the country. Its citizens
must have had farms upon the mountain slopes; they must have had
concern in husbandry as well as trade; there must have been hourly
comings and goings between the crowded streets and the sweet hillsides
of Varano, where the grapes ripened and the wine-vats gathered the
crushed juice, where the oil dripped slowly from the olive-presses,
and the jars stood waiting for the mountain honey.

The day will come when all this great life of Roman husbandry will be
disclosed to us, and we shall know it as we now know the city streets;
for it is here still upon the mountain slopes, buried safe beneath the
vineyards, waiting only till its vast interest is comprehended by
people in sufficient numbers to provide the funds to excavate it.
Stabiæ was by no means another Pompeii. It was no city, but a group of
farms and country villas, and has countless things to teach us which
cannot be seen or learnt beside the Sarno. The very houses were of
other shapes and plans; for the Romans did not reproduce town houses
in the country, but designed them for different uses, and embodied
apartments which had no matches in the city. There are the residences
of wealthy men, adorned with noble peristyles, mosaics, and fine
statues, and side by side with them the home farms--if one may use a
modern term--the chambers of the husbandmen, and the courts in which
they worked. There, too, are buildings far too large for any family
and differing in arrangement from any private dwelling yet discovered.
The use of these great buildings can only be conjectured. Ruggiero,
whose self-denying labour has collected in one monumental work all the
information now obtainable upon the subject, suggests that they may
have been hospitals, a supposition probable enough when we remember
that the Romans must have been no less aware than we ourselves how
potent a tonic is the mountain air for patients suffering from the
fevers bred upon the plains. In Ruggiero's pages one may see the
scanty and imperfect plans sketched out by those who dug upon the site
more than a century ago. Posterity owes those hasty workers but little
gratitude. They were inspired by hardly more than a mean kind of
curiosity. They were treasure-seekers, pure and simple; and what they
judged to be of little value they broke up with their pickaxes.
Swinburne, the traveller, watched a portion of the excavations, but
without intelligence, and has nothing to tell us of much interest.
"When opened," he says, speaking evidently of a villa on Varano, it
may be the very one in which Pliny passed the last night of his life,
"the apartment presented us with the shattered walls, daubed rather
than painted with gaudy colours in compartments, and some birds and
animals in the cornices, but in a coarse style, as indeed are all the
paintings of Stabiæ. In a corner we found the brass hinges and lock
of a trunk; near them part of the contents, viz. ivory flutes in
pieces, some coins, brass rings, scales, steelyards, and a very
elegant silver statue of Bacchus about twelve inches high, represented
with a crown of vine leaves, buskins, and the horn of plenty." With
this perfunctory account we must rest content, until some millionaire
shall conceive the notion of delighting all the world instead of
building a palace for himself. But the camel will have gone through
the needle's eye before that happens.


[1] Paderni is wrong here. Signor de Petra shows us that the busts
only were in the peristyle. The statues were all in the garden.



"Marzo è pazzo" ("March is mad") say the Neapolitans, contemptuous of
his inconstancies. God forbid that I should try to prove the sanity of
March; but it is long odds if April is one whit the better. His moon
is in its first quarter, and still sirocco blows up out of the sea day
by day. The grey clouds drift in banks across Vesuvius and hide the
pillar of his smoke, dropping down at whiles even to the level of the
plain. From time to time it is as if the mountain stirred and shook
himself, flinging off the weight of vapour from his flanks and crest,
so that again one can see the rolling column of dense smoke, stained
and discoloured by the reflection of the fires far down within the
cone, now rosy, now a menacing dull brown which is easily
distinguishable from the watery clouds that gather in the heavens. Yet
slowly, steadily the veil of mist returns, while mine host murmurs
ruefully, "Sette Aprilanti, giorni quaranta!" But it is not the
seventh of April yet, so we may still be spared the sight of dripping
trees for forty days. An hour ago, when I ventured up the hill towards
the woods, a tattered, copper-coloured varlet of a boy looked out of
the cellar where his mother was stooping over the smoking coals in her
brass chafing-dish. "Aprile chiuove, chiuove," he bawled, as if it
were the greatest news in the world. He thinks the harvest will be
mended by the April rains; though if he and others in this region knew
whence their true harvest comes, they would humbly supplicate our Lady
of Pozzano to give fine weather to the visitors.

To be stayed at the gate of the Sorrento peninsula by doubtful weather
is by no means an unmixed misfortune. It may be that our Lady of
Pozzano sometimes employs the showers to bring hasty travellers to a
better way of thinking. Certainly many people hurry past Castellammare
to their own hurt. The town is unattractive, and may, moreover, be
reproached with wickedness, though it suffers, as is said, from the
low morality of Greek sailors, rather than from any crookedness of its
homeborn citizens. But the mountain slopes behind it are immensely
beautiful. No woods elsewhere in the peninsula are comparable to
these. No other drives show views so wide and exquisite framed in such
a setting of fresh spring foliage, nor is there upon these shores an
hotel more comfortable or more homelike than the "Quisisana," which
stands near the entrance of the woods; and this I say with confidence,
though not unaware that the judgments of travellers upon hotels are as
various as their verdicts on a pretty woman, who at one hour of the
day is ten times prettier than at another, and may now and then look
positively plain.

Castellammare possesses an excellent sea-front, which would have made
a pleasant promenade had not a selfish little tramway seized upon the
side next the shore, guarding itself by a high railing from the
intrusion of strangers in search of cool fresh air. Thus cast back on
a line of dead walls, house-fronts as mean as only a fourth-rate
Italian town can boast, one has no other amusement than gazing at the
mountains, which in truth are beautiful enough for anyone. Very steep
and high they tower above Castellammare; not brown and purple, as when
I looked up at them across the broken walls of Pompeii, but clad in
their true colours of green of every shade, dark and sombre where
ravines are chiselled out upon the slopes, or where the pines lie wet
and heavy in the morning shadow. Higher up, the flanks of the
mountains are rough with brushwood, while on the summits the clear air
blows about bare grass deepening into brown. Sometimes sloping swiftly
to the sea, but more often dropping in sheer cliffs of immense height,
this dark and shadowy mountain wall thrusts itself out across the blue
waters, while here and there a village gleams white upon some broken
hillside, or a monastery rears its red walls among the soft grey of
the olive woods. There lies Vico, on its promontory rock, showing at
this distance only the shade of its great beauty; and beyond the next
lofty headland is Sorrento, at the foot of a mountain country so
exquisite, so odorous with myrtle and with rosemary, so fragrant of
tradition and romance, that it is, as I said, a good fortune which
checks the traveller coming from the plain at the first entrance of
the hills and gives him time to realise the nature of the land which
lies before him.

It needs no long puzzling to discover whence the importance of
Castellammare has been derived in all the centuries. The port offers a
safe shelter for shipping, which of itself counts for much upon a
coast possessing few such anchorages; and it lies near the entrance
of that valley road across the neck of the Sorrento peninsula, which
is the natural route of trade between Naples and Salerno. The road is
of much historical interest, as any highway must be which has been
followed by so many generations of travellers, both illustrious and
obscure; and any man who chooses to recollect by what various masters
Salerno has been held will be able to people this ancient track with
figures as picturesque as any in the history of mankind. He will
observe, moreover, the importance of the Castle of Nocera, which
dominates this route of traders. I confess to being somewhat puzzled
as to the exact course by which the commerce of Amalfi extricated
itself from the mountains and dispersed itself over the mainland.
Doubtless the merchants of La Scala and Ravello followed the still
existing road from Ravello to Lettere, and thence to Gragnano, whence
comes the ancient punning jest, "L'Asene de Gragnano Sapevano
Lettere." This road is certainly ancient, and early in the present
century it was the usual approach to Amalfi, whither travellers were
carried in litters across the mountains. The little handbook of
Ravello, based on notes left by the late Mr. Reid, seems to account
this road more recent than the age of Ravello's commercial greatness.
Probably a recency of form rather than of course is meant; but in any
case, I cannot believe that the merchants of Amalfi sent out their
trade by a route which began for them with an ascent so very long and
arduous. Possibly they approached Gragnano by a road running up the
valley from Minori or Majori. Of course the traders of old days were
very patient of rough mountain tracks, and did not look for the wide
beaten turnpikes which we have taught ourselves to regard as essential
to commerce. Doubtless, therefore, many a team of mules from Amalfi,
laden with silks and spices from the East, came down through Lettere,
where it would scarce get by the castle of the great counts who held
that former stronghold of the Goths without paying toll or tribute for
its safety on the mountain roads. And so, passing through Gragnano and
beneath the hillsides where the palaces of ancient Stabiæ lie buried,
the wearied teams would come down at last to Castellammare, where they
would need rest ere beginning the hot journey by the coast road into

Both the roads which diverge from Castellammare, the one heading
straight across the plains towards the high valley of La Cava, the
other clinging to the fresh mountain slopes, are therefore full of
interest. Of Nocera, indeed, its castle full of memories of Pope Urban
VI., and its fine church Santa Maria Maggiore, some two miles out, any
man with ease might write a volume. But we stayed long scorching on
the plains among the buried cities; and the hill route is the more
inviting now. The weather is disposed to break. A gleam of sun
sparkles here and there upon the water. Let us see what the hillsides
have to show us.

Castellammare is a dirty and ill-odorous town. As I hurry through its
crowded streets, brushed by women hawking beans and dodging others who
are performing certain necessary acts of cleanliness at their house
doors, I occupy myself in wondering whether there is in all southern
Italy a city without smells. From Taranto to Naples I can recall none
save Pompeii. It is, doubtless, an unattainable ideal to bring
Castellammare to the state of that sweet-smelling habitation of the
dead; though it would be unwise to prophesy what the volcano may not
yet achieve on the scene of his old conquests. There are so many
things lost and forgotten upon this coast. I see that Schulz, whose
great work still remains by far the best guide through the south of
Italy, describes vast catacombs in the hillside at Castellammare. I
must admit that I do not know where these catacombs are. Schulz, who
visited them before 1860, found in them pictures not older than the
twelfth century, and resembling in many details those which are seen
in the catacombs of Naples. Certainly the old grave chambers are no
longer among the sights of this summer city. But the whole region
impresses one with the constant sense that the keenest interest and
the longest knowledge spent upon this ground which is strewn with the
dust of so many generations, will leave behind countless undiscovered
things. The world seems older here than elsewhere. And so it is, if
age be counted by lives and passions rather than by geologic courses.

As one goes on up the ascent, the narrow alleys break out into wider
spaces, and here and there a breath of mountain air steals down
between the houses, or the ripe fruit of an orange lights up a shadowy
courtyard with a flash of colour; till at last the houses fall away,
and one climbs out on a fresh hillside, where a double row of trees
gives protection from the sun. Two sharp turns of the steep road bring
one into a small village, of which the first house is the Hotel
Quisisana. But I have nothing to say to hotels at this hour of the
morning, and accordingly trudge on a little further up the hill, till
I come to the Vico San Matteo, a lane branching off along the hillside
on my right, which brings me to a shady terrace road, rising and
falling on the hillside just below the level of the woods. At this
height the air blown down from sea and mountain is sweet and pure.
The banks are glowing with crimson cyclamen and large anemones, both
lavender and purple, while the hillside on the right, dropping rapidly
towards the town, is thick-set with orchards, through whose falling
blossoms the sea shines blue and green, while across the bay Vesuvius
pours out its rosy vapour coil by coil.

It is a wide and noble view, one of those which have made
Castellammare famous in all ages, as the first slopes of the cool
wooded mountains must needs be among all the cities of the scorching
plains. In Roman days, just as in our own, men looked up from Naples
long before the grapes changed colour or the figs turned black, pining
for the sweet breezes of Monte Sant'Angelo, and the whispering woods
of Monte Coppola, where the shadows lie for half the day, and the only
sounds are made by the busy hacking of the woodcutters. There is no
caprice of fashion in this straining to the hills, but a natural
impulse as strong as that which stops a hot and weary man beside a
roadside well. Every generation of Neapolitans has come hither in the
summer; everyone will do so to the end of time. I shall go up this
evening to the Bourbon pleasure-house; and here, set before me at the
turning of the road, is the ancient castle of the Hohenstaufen, built
by the great Emperor Frederick the Second, and added to by the foe who
seized his kingdom and slew his son, yet came to take his pleasure on
the same spot.

Underneath the round towers of the crumbling ruin an old broken
staircase descends towards the town, skirting the castle wall. It is
from this ancient ladder, ruinous and long disused, that Castellammare
looks its best. The harbour lies below, and a fishing boat running in
furls its large triangular sail and drops its anchor. The long quay is
a mass of moving figures. The tinkle of hammers rings through the
quiet air. Here in the shadow of the woods time seems to pause, and
one sees the hillside, the staircase, and the old town below much as
they must have looked when Boccaccio came out hither in his hot youth,
inflamed with love for Marie of Anjou, and heard, perhaps, on some
summer night within the woods the story which he tells us of the base
passion which beset the fierce King Charles in his old age, and how he
overcame it. The tale, though possibly not true, is worth recalling,
if only because not many kingly actions are recorded of the monarch
who slew Conradin.

An exile from Florence had come to end his days among these mountains,
one Messer Neri Degli Uberti. He was rich, and bought himself an
estate a bowshot distant from the houses of the town, and on it made a
shady garden, in the midst of which he set a fishpond, clear and cool,
and stocked it well with fish. So he went on adding beauty upon beauty
to his garden, till it chanced that King Charles heard of it, when in
the hot summer days he came out to his castle by the sea for rest, and
desiring to see the pleasaunce sent a messenger to Messer Neri to say
that he would sup with him next evening. The Florentine, bred among
the merchant princes, received the King nobly; and Charles, having
seen all the beauties of the garden, sat down to sup beside the
fishpond, placing Messer Neri on one side and on the other his own
courtier, Count Guido di Monforte. The dishes were excellent, the
wines beyond praise, the garden exquisite and still. The King's worn
heart thrilled with pleasure. Cares and remorse fled away, and the
charm of the soft summer evening reigned unbroken.

At that moment two girls came into the garden, daughters of Messer
Neri, not more than fifteen. Their hair hung loose like threads of
spun gold. A garland of blue flowers crowned it, and their faces wore
the look of angels rather than of sinful humankind, so delicate and
lovely were their features. They were clad in white, and a servant
followed them carrying nets, while another had a stove and a lighted
torch. Now the King wondered when he saw these things; and as he sat
watching the girls came and did reverence to the old, grim monarch,
and then walking breast deep into the fishpond, swept the waters with
their nets in those places where they knew the fish were lurking.
Meanwhile one of the servants blew the live coals of the stove, while
his fellow took the fish; and by-and-by the girls began to toss the
fish out on the bank towards the King, and he, snatching them up with
jest and laughter, threw them back; and so they sported like gay
children till the broil was ready. Then the girls came out of the
water, their thin dresses clinging round them; and presently
returning, dressed in silk, brought to the King silver dishes heaped
up high with fruit, and then sang together some old song with pure
childlike voices, so sweet that as the weary tyrant sat and listened
it seemed to him as if some choir of angels were chanting in the
evening sky.

Now as the old King rode homeward to his castle, the gentle beauty of
these girls stole deeper and deeper into his heart, and one of them
especially, named Ginevra, stirred him into love, so that at last he
opened his heart to Count Guido, and asked him how he might gain the
girl. But the Count had the courage of a noble friend, and set the
truth before him, showing how base a deed he meditated. "This," he
said, "is not the action of a great king, but of a cowardly boy. You
plot to steal his daughter from the poor knight who did you all the
honour in his power, and brought his daughters to aid him in the task,
showing thereby how great is the faith which he has in you, and how
firmly he holds you as a true king, and not a cowardly wolf." Now
these words stung the King the more since he knew them to be true; and
he vowed he would prove before many days were over that he could
conquer his lusts, even as he had trodden down his enemies. So, not
long afterwards, he went back to Naples; and there he made splendid
marriages for both the girls, heaping them with honours, and having
seen them in the charge of noble husbands, he went sorrowfully away
into Apulia, where with great labours he overcame his passion. "Some
may say," adds Fiammetta, who told the tale on the tenth day of the
_Decameron_, "that it was a little thing for a king to give two girls
in marriage; but I call it a great thing, ay, the greatest, that a
king in love should give the woman whom he loves unto another."

Fiammetta should have known of what she spoke--none better. I wonder
why Boccaccio chose to put an impossible circumstance into this story.
If the tale be true of anyone, it cannot be one of the Uberti family
who settled in the territory and near the castle of the great Guelf
king. For the Uberti were all Ghibellines, supporters of the empire
and deadly enemies of him who slew Manfred. Not one of them ever asked
or obtained mercy from Charles, who was the butcher of their family.
Boccaccio certainly did not forget this. No Florentine could have been
ignorant even momentarily of circumstances so terrible, affecting so
great a family. No carelessness of narrative could account for the
introduction of one of the Uberti into the story. It must have been
deliberate, though I do not see the reason. It may have been that he
desired only to accentuate the magnanimity of Charles, to whose
grandson, King Robert, he owed much, and chose the circumstances,
whether true or false, which made that magnanimity most striking. I
can find no more probable explanation.

The road which goes on past the castle undulates beneath an arch of
beech trees, just unfurling their young leaves of tender green, and in
half a mile or so comes out at the ancient monastery of Pozzano, a red
building of no great intrinsic interest, but recalling the name of
Gonsalvo di Cordova, "il gran capitano," to whose piety the foundation
of the convent is frequently ascribed, though in truth there had been
an ecclesiastical foundation on the spot for three centuries before
Gonsalvo's time, and all he did was to restore it from decay. I doubt
if many people remember the great soldier now. The peasants who go up
and down the slope before the convent doors know far better the tale
of the mysterious picture of the Madonna which was found buried in a
well, but is now hung up in glory in the church.

It is worth while to stop and hear the story of this picture. Long
before the present convent was built, when the hillside at this spot
lay waste and covered with dense herbage, through which the mules
going to Sorrento forced their way with labour, the people of
Castellammare noticed a flame which sprang up night by night like a
signal fire lit to warn ships off the coast. The people looked and
trembled, for there were strange beings on the mountain, dwarfs, and
what not! No mortal man would make a fire there. So the signal blazed,
but none went near it, till at length some fishers casting their nets
in the bay, and wondering among themselves what could be the meaning
of the flame which was then burning on the hill, saw the Madonna come
to them across the sea, all clothed in light. The radiant virgin stood
looking down upon them kindly as they sat huddled in their fear, and
bade them tell their Bishop to search the ground over which the fire
hovered, for he would there find an image of herself.

The poor men took no heed of what they thought a vision of the night;
nor did they obey the Virgin when she came again. But when on the
third night the Queen of Heaven descended to this murky world, she
towered above their boat incensed and awful, denouncing against them
all the pains of hell and outer darkness if they dared neglect her
bidding. The fear-struck fishers hastened to their Bishop on the first
light of morning and told him their tale. He too had seen a celestial
vision, warning him of the coming of the sailors. There was no room
for doubt or hesitation. He put himself at the head of a long penitent
procession, went up the hill, discovered a well just where the flame
had burnt, and in the well the marvellous picture which now adorns the

How came the picture there? If one could answer that question some
light would be thrown on the age of the relic. The country people when
they see any work of ancient art are disposed to say, "San Luca l'ha
pittato"! ("St. Luke painted it"), as he did the Madonna of the
Carmine in Naples; and accordingly this picture also has been ascribed
to the brush of the Evangelist. The priests themselves do not claim an
origin so sacred for their canvas, but maintain that it is an early
Greek work, buried for safety in the days when, at the bidding of the
iconoclastic Emperor, Leo the Isaurian, an attempt was made to root
out image worship from the land. I do not know whether any competent
expert has pronounced the painting to be of an age which renders the
story probable. Ecclesiastical traditions are frequently inspired
rather by piety than truth, and for my part, when I remember what
ravages the Turks committed along these coasts up to the boyhood of
men not long dead, I can find no reason for going back to the eighth
century to discover facts which may have led either priests or laymen
to bury sacred things.

In these days the Madonna of Pozzano walks no more upon the sea. Yet
she remains, in a particular degree, the protectress of all sailors;
and one may very well suspect that the priestly tale of the miraculous
light, the hidden well, and the long-forgotten picture, does but
conceal some record of kindness done to mariners which we heretics
might prize more highly. For in old days, when ships approaching
Naples may have found it hard to set their course after the light
faded, and harder still to anchor off a lee shore, a beacon fire on
the monastery roof would have been a noble aid, such as must have
saved many a tall ship and brought many a sailor home to his wife in
safety. Surely in some such facts as these lies the explanation of the
traditional attachment of the sailors to the Madonna of Pozzano. "Ave
Maria, Stella Maris!"--a star of the sea indeed, if it was the beacon
kindled by her servants by which poor mariners steered back to port.

It needs not much faith to believe some portion of this pretty story.
Incredulity is generally stupid; but he who most sincerely desires to
be wise must needs ponder when he finds that almost every town
throughout the peninsula possesses a Madonna found in some wondrous
way. At Casarlano, for example, Maria Palumbo was feeding a heifer
when she heard a voice issuing from the bushes, which said, "Maria,
tell your father to come and dig here, and he will find an image of
me." Maria, seeing no one, did not understand, but the same thing
happened on the next day and the next, while at length her
comprehension was quickened by a light box on the ear, which might
have changed into a heavy one had she waited for another day. But,
growing prudent by experience, she told her father all; and he,
knowing that it was not for him to reason concerning heavenly
monitions, went and dug in the spot indicated, and there found an
image which has been of peculiar sanctity ever since. In fact its
sensibilities were so keen, that when the Turks ravaged the country in
1538 it wept tears mingled with drops of blood.

When speaking of these Madonnas it would be wrong to omit the one most
honoured in Nocera, and in many other places round about. She is known
as "La Madonna delle Galline"--the Madonna of the cocks and hens--and
her image was found, according to one version of the tale, by the
scratching of hens in the loose soil which covered it. Her feast is on
Low Sunday, or rather on the three days of which that Sunday is the
centre; and most visitors who stay at Castellammare in the spring must
have seen some trace of the festa. The procession starts from Nocera,
and as the crowds of chanting priests and pious laity go by, every
good peasant woman looses a hen, or else a pigeon, which she has
previously stained bright purple. The purple hens perch on the base of
the Madonna's statue, made broad and large for their accommodation,
and are then collected by the master of the ceremonies, who sells them
to devout persons. In many a village from Gragnano to La Cava the
purple hens may be occasionally seen pecking in the dust, a marvel and
astonishment to English visitors, who, being unaware how much their
plumage owes to the dye-bag, are disposed to barter at a high price
for animals so certain to create sensation at the next poultry show.

At the foot of the slope which drops from Pozzano into the highway
from Castellammare to Sorrento is a little roadside shrine, set deeply
in the rock, over which pious hands have inscribed one of those
pathetically appealing calls to wayfarers which seem to penetrate so
rarely the hearts to which they are addressed--

     "Non sit tibi grave
     Dicere Mater ave."

"Let it not be a burden to say, Hail, Mother!" It is a gentle appeal,
a light act of devotion, yet few there are who care to claim the
blessing. The peasants, men and women, go by without an instant's
pause in their chatter, or the slightest glance towards the shrine.
They do not want even the human love which is offered to them so
simply. In Naples, on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, is another Madonna,
who has put on even more passionately the accents of a human mother
brooding over sorrow-stricken children, and all the strong feeling is
expressed in verses, of which the burden runs--

                       "... C'è un'allegrìa
     Incontrar la Madonna in sulla via"--

"It is a joy to meet the Mother of mankind beside the way." In the
last verse the pleading becomes more eager, giving utterance to the
cry of a lost and frightened child seeking the protection which will
never fail it--

                       "... O mamma mia
     Venite incontrarmi in sulla via!"

But neither does this call find a ready answer, and I think the appeal
of the verses falls more often on the hearts of strangers and aliens
in creed than on those which it seeks to comfort.

The steep slope before the convent at Pozzano was the end of the
ancient mule track from Sorrento, the same, I imagine, by which St.
Peter travelled after landing at Sorrento, as I shall tell in the next
chapter. Anyone who cares to penetrate behind the convent can trace it
still meandering up hill and down dale with a pleasant indifference to
gradients which is characteristic of highways of measureless
antiquity. Over the crest of Capo d'Orlando and many another headland
it climbs, as if its main object were to take one up into the clear,
silent air, over the sweet-smelling brushwood, where myrtle and
rosemary scent the air, and the white gum-cistus grows like a weed. No
one follows that lonely track in these days, yet it is worth while to
walk along it, if only that one may see how easy it made the
respectable, but now decadent, trade of brigandage, which in days not
yet far distant was the sweet solace of all the men and most of the
women in the towns, and yet more in the mountain villages of the
peninsula. Castellammare, placed so as to command the highway from
Naples to Salerno, as well as those coast roads which were more
frequented by wealthy tourists of all nations, was in high favour with
men who practised the gentle art of stopping travellers, and many a
heavy purse was eased of its burden upon the lonely roads. Fra Diavolo
was well known here; in fact, it was among the mountains above this
very road to Sorrento that he tried his 'prentice hand at the
profession in which he afterwards became so great a master.

The Convent of Santa Marta lies towards Vico Equense, high up in the
olive woods, in a lonely situation, guarded by its sanctity. That had
been quite enough, until Fra Diavolo came into the world, to keep safe
not only the nuns, but even their gold statue of the Madonna, which is
perhaps more wonderful, though both are sterling proofs of the
excellent and reverential morals of the people.

One Scarpi dwelt in the woods above Castellammare, with a faithful
band of followers who loved him. I fear he is forgotten now, which is
scarcely just, for he was a bold and bloodthirsty bandit. But as is
said in the _Purgatorio_ on a similar occasion--

     "... Credette Cimabue nella pintura
     Tener lo Campo! ed ora ha Giotto il grido."

In Brigantaggio it is just the same, and Scarpi's just celebrity is
obscured by the greater fame of Fra Diavolo.

Scarpi was torn two ways; cupidity reminded him that the golden statue
was easily obtained, piety interposed that it would be a shocking
crime. Nothing worse was set down against him than the usual tricks on
travellers, slitting their ears, and dismissing them upon occasion to
a better world. It was a pity to spoil so fair a record. But Fra
Diavolo, boy as he was when he joined Scarpi's band, possessed the
great advantage of a single heart. Cupidity was not thwarted by any
opposing force of piety, and craft came to make the weak arm strong.

He dressed himself like a novice, and going up boldly to the gate of
the convent proclaimed himself a penitent, and sought admission to the
Order. I doubt not he had an innocent face. The mother superior
welcomed him, and straightway shut him up in solitude for the usual
three days' communing with heavenly powers, which was to prepare him
for the spiritual life to which he aspired. The boy naturally wished
to make this intercourse as direct as possible, and making his way
unobserved into the chapel he seized the golden Madonna and hid her
under some straw in a cart belonging to a peasant whom some lawful
occasion had brought up to the convent. Having done this, he presented
himself before the Mother Superior, telling her reflection had
convinced him he was not fitted for a heavenly life--which was indeed
no more than the truth--and so departed with her approval.

The poor peasant driving down among the olive woods somewhat later,
all unconscious of the riches in his creaking cart, was probably at a
loss to understand why Scarpi's faithful followers should stop him,
and insist on rummaging in the straw. His emotions when he saw what
they fished out would be a fit subject for a dramatic monologue.
Horror at the sacrilege must have struggled with regret that he had
not himself thought of fumbling in the straw. Had he done so, would he
not have driven off the other way, and melted down the Madonna in his
own cottage? To be made the tool by which sinners acquire wealth is
surely bitter, and often in after life the poor man must have cursed
the fate which did not whisper in his ear what it was he carried in
the cart.

But Scarpi's bandits carried off the statue, and Fra Diavolo gained
great honour with them. This early fame he never lost. And the common
people, holding that priests and devils are, however opposite in all
their qualities, the only classes of mankind who are uniformly cunning
and successful in all they undertake, combined the titles into one
cognomen, no whit too glorious for the chieftain, who in his untutored
youth had proved greater than all the restraints which hamper greedy
men, and had laid hands on the Madonna.

So Fra Diavolo became a mighty leader, and woeful are the tales which
travellers told of him. Yet I should be unjust if I did not mention
that his most brutal outrages were sometimes capable of being
dignified by the name of politics, if not of loyalty to an exiled
king. For Ferdinand of Bourbon when he fled from his throne of Naples
at the end of the last century, skulking from revolutionary outblasts
and the coming of the French, was not so far untrue to the traditions
of his race as to despise the help of any agents, however rascally. It
might have seemed incongruous if we had found the inheritor of the
name of the constable Bourbon who led Frundsberg's Lanzknechts down on
Rome in 1527, and cast the treasures of ages as a prey to the scum of
Europe, if we had found this monarch saying to himself "Non tali
auxilio," and indulging in the luxury of scruples. But Ferdinand
despised no man who would help him; and so Fra Diavolo, the murderer
and bandit, became a secret agent of the exiled king, working hand in
hand with that even more atrocious scoundrel Mammone, whose habit it
was to dine with a newly severed human head upon the table, and whose
cold-blooded assassinations were more in number than any man could
count. So these murderous devils cut off French couriers on the
mountain roads, attacked small parties in overwhelming numbers, and
performed other gallant deeds in the service of their king, who was
not ungrateful, but rewarded them after his kind and theirs.

I can find but little in the streets of Castellammare which invites me
to linger in them. There are mineral baths just outside the town, but
Providence gave me no occasion for visiting them, and I dislike the
apparatus of ill-health. I went past the baths, therefore, and
strolled on through the crowded, evil-smelling streets till I came out
again at the foot of the hill leading to the woods of Quisisana, and
went up once more beneath the green arches of the budding leaves, till
I saw from time to time a snatch of sea above the houses and the wide
sunlit plain revealed itself stretching far and distant round the base
of the great volcano.

As I went through the little village of which I spoke before, I
noticed hanging on a wire which crosses the road a doll made in the
likeness of an old grey-haired woman, adorned with a tuft of feathers
growing somewhat bare. As it swung to and fro in the light wind it had
the aspect of a child's plaything which had fallen there by chance;
but I had seen a similar doll hanging from a balcony in Castellammare,
and knew the thing to be no toy.

Such dolls are seen commonly hanging in the air at this season in the
Sorrento peninsula. The old woman is Quaresima, or Lent, and she is
provided with as many hen's feathers as there are weeks in that period
of fasting. Every Sunday one feather is plucked out; and when the last
is gone Quaresima is torn down with rejoicing. On the first Sunday of
her exaltation a playful diversion is carried on at the cost of poor
Quaresima. A boy or girl, chosen by lot, is blindfolded and armed with
a long stick, with which he strikes in the air, groping after the
swinging figure. At last he finds it, and a sharp blow breaks a
concealed bottle, letting out a red fluid--the blood of Lent; the
ceremony is diversified by a good deal of horseplay.

I know not how ancient these superstitious ceremonies may be. Italy,
perhaps southern Italy in particular, is crowded with usages handed
down from days so old that it sometimes causes me a shudder to
remember how many ages of mankind have passed by them in procession
off the earth. The toy, the trivial folly persisting still, more than
half meaningless, century after century, while the bright eyes and
laughing lips, all that we call life, pass on like shadows when the
sun goes in. It is the doll, the grotesque Quaresima, which has life
and endures, not we, however distasteful it may be to realise it.

But if our time be shorter, and we shall see fewer springs than the
absurd Quaresima, we may at least rejoice in the beauty of this one.
For as unsettled weather brings the loveliest days, so the country has
put on its rarest beauty. The blue sky hangs like a tent overhead, the
clouds are driven back behind the mountains and lie there piled in
heavy ranks of tower and column; while through the brown trunks of the
trees and the green mist of their lower twigs I can see all the
mountains behind Nola and towards Caserta rise one above the other
into the far blue distance. For from the clouds of heaven there
dropped light on some peaks and shadows on the others, purple lights
and dark brown shadow deepening into indigo, so that some looked near
and others far away, and some were sulphurous and others green, while
all the Campagna laughed in the sunshine, and the houses white and
pink flashed on the margin of the turquoise sea.

There are lovely villas on these fringes of the wood, stately houses
with terraced gardens occupying the high slopes. The road twists
upwards by sharp inclines, catching at each turn more of the freshness
of the mountain, till at length it runs into the gateway of the old
royal villa, a refuge used when heat or pestilence made Naples
unendurable by almost every sovereign since the days of Charles the
Second of Anjou. It was once the property of that shocking scoundrel,
Pierluigi Farnese, most unsavoury and least respectable even among
Popes' children, who do so little credit to St. Peter's chair. But it
was associated more particularly with Ferdinand of Bourbon, who
rebuilt the place. He is said to have given it the name "Quisisana"
("Here one gets well"); but I think that name, or at least as much of
it as "Casa sana," is found in records much older than his time.

The villa is no longer royal, but it retains the aspect of old
splendour. In these spring days it is empty and silent, lying with
barred windows in expectation of those guests who will climb up the
hill in crowds when the figs ripen and the sultry weather comes, and
all Italy begins to dream of cool, green shades. For three summer
months the place is an hotel, the "Margherita"; but now, when I walk
round towards the wide terrace which overhangs the grass-grown
courtyard, the sound of my steps echoes through the still air, and the
red walls are eloquent of vanished royalty.

A formal air of ceremonial stiffness clings about the garden walks,
suggestive of hoops and powder, of polished courtliness, and the old,
stately manners which vanished from the earth in the crash of the
Revolution. I pass out through the gate by which the courtiers entered
the woods, and have hardly gone a hundred yards beneath the tender
green of the young beech trees when I come to a shady fountain set
round with stone seats, a pleasant spot in which the court used to
linger on hot summer days, greeting the riders who mounted at the
moss-grown block, so long disused except by peasants going to and fro
with their rough carts. There were lovely roads laid out for those
royal pleasure parties; but as I plunge further into the woods courts
and kings are driven out of my mind by a sharp whirring sound breaking
the silence of the treetops. Across an island of blue sky, in an ocean
of green boughs, a bundle of faggots was flying like a huge brown
bird. I watched it going with extraordinary speed. Hard on its heels
came another, and then a third, while by watching closely I perceived
that slanting downwards through the woods from the height of the next
mountain there ran a stout wire, to which the faggots were slung by
hooked sticks cut on those high uplands where the woodmen were
working. Presently a sharp turn of the path brought me out at the last
station of the wire. The faggots were piled high in stacks, the air
was full of the scent of fresh-sawn wood, and a fire burning by the
wayside sent up coils of thin blue smoke among the trees. Half a dozen
men were piling cut staves upon a cart; and from time to time there
was a jangling of bells as the mules tossed their heads or shivered,
and all the brass contrivances set upon the harness to keep off the
evil eye clashed together in the sunlight. Far away across dipping
woods the logs came whirring down from Monte Pendolo. All the mountain
tops are connected by these wires, and in every direction as one
wanders through the silent woods the strange and not unmusical humming
of the flying faggots is the only sound audible.

A little further wandering brings me to a glen, whose steep slopes are
brown with fallen leaves and green with budding brushwood. A stream
runs down through the ravine, and a stone bridge is flung across it.
Here the road divides, one branch going more directly to those uplands
whence the faggots start upon their journey, and by this route
bare-legged children hurry up carrying baskets of the forked sticks
by which the bundles hang. But I go onwards by the other road, winding
upwards by slow inclines, now deep in glades where large blue anemones
glow in the long grass, and bee orchids hide among the shadows, now
emerging in full sight of the wide blue gulf and the smoking volcano
which towers over it, till at last I reach the top of Monte Coppola,
where once more seats and tables set beneath the trees mark a spot at
which the Bourbon court used to revel in the mountain breezes. I lean
over the low breastwork, and enjoy the splendour of the prospect.

It is late afternoon, and the westering sun leaves the great bulk of
Monte Faito in deep shadow, casting only here and there a fleck of
warm gold light on the pines that clothe some shoulder, and throwing
into deeper shade the ravines and scars which are chiselled out of his
grey flanks. Yet even in the dark clefts there are gleams of yellow
broom or cytisus; for the cuckoo is calling all over the sunny
country, the trees are in their brightest leaf, and all the slopes of
oak and chestnut that sweep down to the margin of the bay are like a
cataract of vivid green tumbling down the mountain. Here, on the
summit, it is very still. The silence of the mountains holds the air,
and scarce a bird twitters in the gold light. The ridge of Faito, like
a gigantic buttress, cuts off all the western promontory towards
Sorrento, and falls into the sea across the peak of Ischia.

As the sun sank lower, and the warm light grew deeper and more golden,
a great bar of cloud formed across the western sky. The sun was now
above and now below it. Ischia grew shadowy, and then caught the most
delicate light imaginable, swimming like an impalpable fairy island on
a sea of darkest blue. Then, at some unseen change in the order of
the heavens, suddenly the craggy island lost its colour, and Monte
Epomeo stood out sharp and black against the flushed sky. So one saw
it for a few brief moments. But all the while a rosy glow was
spreading over Cape Miseno, it ran along the coast of Baiæ, and caught
Posilipo with a delicate radiance. Then all at once Ischia sprang
again into light, quivering with every shade of rose and purple, till
the sun sank down behind its blackening peak, and the stars hung large
and luminous in a space of clear green sky.



I suppose I need remind no one that the coast roads between
Castellammare and Salerno are famous round all the world for beauty.
No great while ago there were but two. A third has placed herself
between them now, and many are the disputes as to which bears off the
palm. In these bickerings it is to be feared that the way from
Castellammare to Sorrento must needs go to the wall; for indeed it
does not possess the grandeur of the others. The northern face of the
peninsula has an aspect wholly different from that of the precipices
which look towards Pæstum and the islands of the Sirens. It is softer,
more exquisitely wooded; its hillsides sink more often into valleys
and ravines; its cliffs are certainly not awful; its mountain slopes
are sweet and homely, clad with olive groves and pastures, studded
with villas and with monasteries. It is a land which lies in the cool
shadow of the mountains for full half the day, so that the scorching
sun does not strike it until he is well past the middle of his course
towards the Tyrrhene Sea.

I left Castellammare on an uncertain morning. Large grey clouds had
sunk far down over the green slopes of Monte Faito; even the wooded
cone of Monte Coppola had caught a wreath of vapour which lay
drifting across the trees with menace of rain and mist. But here and
there a gleam quivered on the woods; and presently far-distant Ischia
was all a-glimmer, while the dark sea in between flashed into tender
shades of blue. Then came the sunlight, warm and soft, casting sharp
shadows in the gloomy town, while out on the low road beyond the
arsenal the colour of the waves was glorious, and all the long beaches
of the curving shore shone like silver. A heavy shower in the night
had clogged the level road with white mud. Out of the quarry, half a
mile beyond the town, came five men pushing a cart of stones through
the slush--swarthy ruffians, clad in blue trousers, with coloured
handkerchiefs knotted on their heads. And there, descending by a rocky
path from the Monastery of Pozzano, was a solitary monk, with flapping
hat, a grey old man with a bleached, sunken face, the very opposite of
the bright, lusty day. It is thus, so slow and lonely, that "'O
Munaciello" comes, that ghostly monk whom all the children hope and
fear to see; for if they can but snatch his hat from off his head, it
will bring a fortune with it. But "'O Munaciello" does not come down
the mountain paths in this bright daylight; nor is there time to think
of spirits at this moment. For the beauty of the road is growing
strangely. Round the shoulder of a sheer grey cliff which overtops the
road, there is suddenly thrust out into the sea a craggy precipice, in
which one recognises the familiar face of Capri, unseen since we
passed Torre dell'Annunziata. A moment later a long, sharp promontory
like a tooth emerges in the nearer distance. That is "Capo di
Sorrento," but one has scarce time to identify it when the far loftier
cliff of "Punta di Scutola" appears, dropping from a vast height
almost sheer into the sea, while on a nearer and a lower cliff rests
the white town of Vico, flashing in the sun.

Among the pleasures of the road it is not the least that the traveller
coming from Castellammare, as long as this most lovely scene extends
before his eyes, is compelled to saunter. No man may hurry, for the
road winds continually upwards, and one pauses, now to look down upon
a little beach, where the blue tide washes in over white gravel, now
to notice how the slopes are cut in terraces of vines; while in every
sheltered cleft the golden fruit of orange trees hangs in the shadow
of the brown screens put up to guard them from the sun. The vegetation
is extraordinarily rich; as well it may be, for the limestone mountain
is overlaid with volcanic tufa for full half its height--though Heaven
only knows where the tufa came from. A hundred yards beyond the beach
there is once more deep water, dark and unruffled, up to the very base
of the high cliff; and further out the sea is stained with turquoise
changing into green that recalls in some dim way the colour of a field
of flax when the blue flowers are just appearing. But this is fresher,
alive with light and sparkles, flashing with the soft radiance of the
sky, while the olive woods upon the lofty headland behind the town
change from grey to dusk as the shadows of the clouds are flung upon
them or dispersed by the returning sun.

Vico, no less than Pozzano, has its miraculous Madonna. She was found
long ago by one Catherine, a poor crippled girl, to whom the Virgin
appeared in a dream, saying, "Go, Catherine, to the Cave of Villanto,
and there, before my image, you will be healed." Now the Cave of
Villanto was occupied by cows, and seemed a most unlikely place to
contain even the least sacred statue. But Catherine did not stay to
reason; she went and found it, was healed according to the promise,
and now on the third Sunday in October the image is borne in solemn
procession from the Church of Santa Maria del Toro through the streets
of Vico, in glorious memory of this striking miracle.

There is no end to these marvels of Madonnas. At Meta, just where the
road drops into the plain of Sorrento, an old woman, attending on her
cow, was amazed to see the beast drop on its knees in front of a
laurel tree. She kicked and poked the creature, but in vain; Colley
continued her devotions with placid piety, and the natural amazement
of her mistress was increased when she saw a flame spring up at the
foot of the tree, in which flame presently appeared not only a statue
of the Madonna, but a hen and chickens of pure gold!

It may be mere accident that, while the legend goes on to describe
fully what became of the statue, it says nothing more about the golden
hen and chickens--worthless dross, of course, yet surely not without
some interest for the finder! Perhaps the silence hides a tragedy. It
had been prudent if the old woman had allowed no mention of those
gewgaws to be made. She was probably a gossip, and could not hold her
tongue in season. These are fruitless speculations, and yet I think
some charm is added to the loveliest of countries by the knowledge
that such gauds as a hen and chickens of pure gold are to be picked up
there by the piously observant.

But to return to Vico. I should do that townlet too much honour if I
left it to be supposed that its only traditions are concerned with
heavenly presences. The truth is otherwise, and it would be improper
to conceal it. Vico, indeed, shares with no few other townlets on the
peninsula the discredit of having been afflicted sorely by witches.
Once upon a time the nuisance grew unbearable. A farm close to the
town had long been the centre of uncanny noises, such as terrified the
peasants almost to death, and might have gone near to depopulate the
neighbourhood had not some very bold people gone over to inspect.
There were the witches sure enough. They had bells tied to their
heels, and were leaping like monkeys from one tree to another, while
the bells tinkled and the air was full of weird noises. Fortunately
the investigators carried guns, and the witches, seeing that their
enemies were ready to shoot, decided to come down, whereupon they
received such a trouncing with sticks that they learnt better manners
and left the neighbourhood at peace.

If one is so defenceless, is it worth while to be a witch in Italy at
all? The point is arguable, and it is important to be right on it; for
many children of both sexes become witches without knowing it, by the
mere fact of being born on Christmas night, or on the day of the
conversion of St. Paul. If, therefore, the parents do not wish the
bairns to retain the _entrée_ of the witches' Sabbath--held always at
Benevento--it behoves them to take prompt action. The remedy is
simple. You cut a slip of the vine, set fire to one end, and pass it
over the child's arm in the shape of a cross. The flame burns out, and
Satan's spell is broken.

I do not find anyone who can tell me why the witches have bells on
their heels. Bells throughout the peninsula are sacred to
Sant'Antuono, called Antonio elsewhere. In old times the bell of Sant'
Antuono was carried round from house to house, and mothers would bring
out their sucking children to sip water from it, in the hope that they
might learn to speak the sooner. Even now a little bell is often hung
round a baby's neck, where it serves the purpose of the horn, the
half-moon, or the hand with outstretched fingers; that is to say, it
keeps off the evil eye. What can there be in common between the babies
and the sinful witches that both should be followed by the same

Vico, as I have said, lies on a plateau, and when the road has
traversed the clean town--how different from the foulness of
Castellammare or Nocera!--it drops into a ravine of very singular
beauty, a winding cleft which issues from the folds of Faito and St.
Angelo, brimming over with vineyards and orange groves, and opening at
last upon the sea, where through the soft grey foliage one looks to
Ischia, far away across the blue. Having traversed the bridge which
spans this shadowy valley, the road mounts again, rising through dense
woods of olive, till at last the summit of Punta di Scutola is won,
and all the plain of Sorrento lies below.

There is no hour of dawn or dusk in which this view is otherwise than
exquisite. In the morning light the plain is full of shadows, for the
sun has not yet travelled westwards of St. Angelo, and the mighty
mountain towers dark over the whole peninsula. It is the evening sun
which shines most beautifully here, and no one who has climbed up this
road when the plain is full of soft, gold light, when Ischia turns
rosy and the jagged peak of Vico Alvano soars up dark against the pale
green sky, is likely to forget it when he thinks of Paradise.

Sorrento lies upon the western side of the plain, almost touching the
rim of the mountains that inclose it, so that one has hardly left the
streets before the mountains close in and the plain is lost. A little
way beyond the houses the hill upon one's left is already high and
sheer, a broken outline of sharp limestone jags, clothed with cytisus
and broom and slopes of sweet short grass, out of which rings the
plashing of a stream, for there has been rain upon the mountains, and
all the clefts and runnels are brimming over with fresh fallen water.
So one goes on among the whispering sounds of tree and brook until a
mightier noise surpasses them, and one pauses at the foot of the
ravine of Conca to behold the waterfall.

So high and dark is this ravine that though the sun is almost exactly
above it, its light catches only the bushes at the very top, and
penetrates not at all into the sheer funnel down which the water
plunges, scattered into spray by the force of the descent, until a
hundred feet below it drops upon a jut of rock and so pours down in a
succession of quick leaps from pool to pool.

It is a wild and beautiful sight to watch the downpour of this water
on the days succeeding rain. But in the warm weather the ravine is
dry, and an active climber might go up it without much trouble. There
is some temptation to the feat; for men say a treasure lies hidden in
a cave which opens out of the sheer walls, and the gold is enough to
make a whole village rich. If any doubt it, let him go there on the
stroke of midnight. As the hour sounds, he will see the guardian of
the hoard appear at the top of the ravine, a dark mailed warrior,
mounted on a sable steed, who leaps into the gulf and vanishes when
mortal men accost him. There was once a wizard living at no great
distance from Sorrento whose dreams were haunted by the craving for
this treasure. He must have been a half-educated wizard, for he knew
no spell potent enough to help him towards his object. One day there
came to him three lads who had possessed themselves, I know not how,
of a magic book, a work of power such as might have been compiled by
the great enchanter, Michael Scot, who toiled in Apulia for the
welfare of the Emperor, reading the secrets of the stars with little
thought of the pranks that would one day be played on him by William
of Deloraine in Melrose Abbey. It is rather odd that though our
generation turns out so many kinds of books, both good and bad, it
seems unable to produce the magic sort. But the three lads got one,
and they brought it to the wizard of Sorrento; and all together one
May night, casting a rope ladder into the ravine of Conca, climbed
down until they reached the entrance of the cave.

They found it buried in black darkness, and waited there trembling
till the grey dawn stole down the rocks, and a gold beam from the
rising sun quivered into the mouth of the grotto. As the light shot
through the opening, all the treasure-seekers shouted together; for
walls and roof were crusted over with gold and gems, and marvellous
flashes of soft colour glowed in the heart of rubies and of emeralds.
They stood and stared awhile, then one of them tried to break off a
mass of jewels, but had no sooner touched it than the rocks rang with
a crash of thunder, the magic book whirled away in a livid flame,
wizard and lads fled trembling up the ladder. It was a melancholy
rout. I fear the party was too large for prudence. The local proverb
says, "When there are too many cocks to crow, it never will be day."

A little further up the road a stair ascends the fresh and sunny
hillside. It winds upwards through green grasses and grey rocks till
it attains a level plateau, where a few olives grow detached and
scattered. At that point I turn to look down upon the plain and the
long line of cliff which holds the sea in check, so black and sheer,
so strangely even in its height. It is still early on this bright
mid-April morning, but the sun has force and power, and all the sea
is radiantly blue. Immediately below me is a little beach, the Marina
Grande, the opening of the westerly ravine, small, yet much the
largest which the town possesses, and there most of the boats lie
hauled up on the black sand. Another fringe of lava sand runs under
the dark cliff below the great hotels. Sometimes in the early morning
the traveller, waking not long after dawn, may hear a low monotone of
chanting down beneath his window, and flinging it open to the clean
salt wind that breathes so freshly over the grey sea dimpling into
green, ere yet the sun does more than sparkle on the water, he will
see far down below him the barefooted women tugging in the nets, while
the fish glitter silvery on the red planking of the boat that rocks on
the translucent water twenty yards from shore.

  [Illustration: ROOF TOP--MODERN NAPLES]

Beyond these beaches the straight sheer cliff sweeps on with what
looks like an unbroken wall, though in truth it is gashed by creeks
and inlets, while one beach, the Marina di Cassano, has in its time
done yeoman's service to the trade of all the plain. There clings to
it a tale of witches too. But really, I must turn aside less readily
at these beckonings of Satan. Let the witches wait. It is the lava
which attracts me now. Anybody else would have noticed it long since,
and turned his mind to the wonders of creation first.

Most people expect to have done with volcanoes and their products when
they climb up out of the Campagna Felice on to the hillsides of
Castellammare. Yet we heard of lava soil at Vico; and here are the
lava cliff, the lava sand, and the abounding vegetation just as lush
as if Vesuvius, or some other like him, were close behind the hilltop.
Was I not told that the peninsula is built of limestone, showing no
trace of fire, shaped and chiselled as it stands to-day before the
earth's crust broke at any spot in all Campania, or fire burst forth
from any fissure? It is limestone too! What other rock could so ridge
its precipices, or give so vivid a freshness to the green pastures on
its slopes? Whence, then, came the lava?

Well, that is in some degree a mystery. Swinburne, to whose travels I
have referred already, thought he had solved it, and declared that the
Isles of the Sirens, commonly known as "I Galli," for reasons which we
shall come to in good time,--he declared these islands to be nothing
but the relics of a crater. The rocks were visited so seldom a century
ago that no one could contradict him at the moment. But in Naples a
geologist lay waiting disdainfully to demolish him. It was no other
than Scipione Breislak, a formidable man of science, and an authority
even now, which is something more than can be said of Swinburne.
Breislak got a boat and went himself to the Galli to see what nonsense
it was that the Englishman had been talking. Alas! he found no trace
of fires or crater! Thus one more nail was driven into the coffin of
English scholarship, and since that day no one has even guessed where
the lava came from.

What may be regarded as fairly certain, however, is that it was not
ejected on this spot. The Piano di Sorrento, sweet country of
perpetual summer, of which more truly than of many parts of Italy, the
poet might have written--

     "Hic ver assiduum, atque alienis mensibus aestas,"

is in no danger of being blown to fragments. Perhaps the lava came
from some volcanic outburst under the sea, from some islet formed and
washed away again--it matters little. Somewhere underneath the soil
lies the clean, firm limestone, and the volcanic matter, whencesoever
it came, did no more than fill a hollow of the hills, and turn it into
the loveliest valley in the world. Sorrento, the very name whispers of
smiles and laughter, and the people, softening it still with the
incomparable music of their speech, modulate it into "Surriento," just
as they turn "cento" into "ciento," and drop a liquid vowel into the
harshness of Castellammare, calling it "Castiellammare." "Surriento!"
How it trembles on the air! Had ever any town a name so fit for love!

And was any ever set in a fairer country? It is a plain, yet no
monotony of level, for a spine of the encircling hills tilts the
gardens to the evening sun, while the shadow of the mountains wards
off the fierce glare of the heat till long past noon. And what
fertility! Is there on the surface of the earth such a lush wild glade
of orange groves, three generations, "father, son, and grandson," as
the Sorrentines say, hanging on a single tree; while as they hang and
ripen, the scented flowers are continually budding in the shadow of
the dark green leaves, and every waft of air is sweetened by the
fragrance of the blossom. But at Surriento all the airs are sweet. If
they do not blow across the orange groves they carry down the scent of
rosemary and myrtle from the mountains, which are knee-deep in
delicious scrub; or they come off the sea in sharp, cool breezes,
bringing the gladness and fresh movement of the deep, scattering the
stagnant heats and making all the plain laugh with pleasure in the joy
of life. How long the lovely summer lasts at Surriento, and how short
are the bad winter days! "A Cannelora," say the peasants, "state rinto
e vierno fora!" What is "Cannelora"? It is the second day of
February, when England still has full three months of winter! Then it
is that summer returns to the Piano di Sorrento and chases winter away
across the hills. Is it true? "Chi lo sa." Perhaps not quite, but what
of that? The Sorrentines themselves have another saying, which runs
thus: "A neve 'e Marzo nu' fa male,"--that is, "Snow does no harm in
March." So the summer which comes at Cannelora is not incompatible
with snow! Yet even in fibs there must be probability, or where would
be the use of them? To declare that an English summer began at
Cannelora would be simply dull.

The plain, I say, is not one unbroken level, nor is it wide enough to
be monotonous. One cannot look out far in any direction over the olive
woods which like a soft grey flood surge over the fertile country,
without being checked by the cool, shadowy mountains, St. Angelo vast
and lovely, Vico Alvano thrusting up an almost perfect cone; and many
another peak showing towards Sorrento a slope of crag and pasture-land
which on its other face drops in sheer precipices to the Gulf of
Salerno. One knows that from the summit of the ridge there is an
outlook over both the gulfs; and from my post, here on the hillside
known as Capo di Monte, I can see the red monastery called the
Deserto, because it was indeed erected in a solitary waste, where the
soul of man might hope to tread down underfoot him who, in the
language of the place, is rarely spoken of by name, but indicated more
gently as "Chillo che sta sotto San Michele"--"He who lies beneath St.

The pleasantest way to the Deserto is on foot. One goes on up the
stairs from Capo di Monte, stopping gladly enough to chaffer with the
children who offer flowers or early fruits, and are contented with so
very little coin in exchange, then climbing on past hillside cottages
and orange groves within high walls, which only now and then admit a
glance across the sea to Vesuvius smoking, or the blue hills beyond
Nola so far away, until at last the stairs are left behind and one
passes on through vineyards into a wood which occupies the higher
slopes of the open hillside, a mossy, fragrant wood, whose spring
foliage is not yet so dense as to bar the sunlight from the anemones,
lilac and purple, which grow in profusion out of the trailing ivy and
the dead leaves of last year's fall. After the wood, the gate of the
Deserto is close at hand: it gives access to a straight, steep drive,
at the end of which stands a tower overtopping a red group of
buildings, and on it the words--

     "Ego vox clamantis
         In Deserto
     Tempus breve est."

An old monk admitted me, and without waste of words, pointed out the
staircase which gave access to the upper story. He did not offer to
accompany me, but went back along the silent corridor like a man
contemptuous of earthly things, even of the immeasurable beauty which
lay stretched out on every side of that high eminence. So I went up
the stairs alone, listening to the echoes of my feet, until I came to
a doorway whence I passed out on the wall which surrounds the garden
quadrangle; and here I turned instinctively to seek for Capri, unseen
since the glimpse I caught of its high precipices on approaching Vico

Looking northward from the monastery wall I had the island on my left,
the sheer cliff called the Salto turned towards me, the island rocks
of the Faraglioni standing out distinctly, the little marina
sparkling in the sun, while high above it, like an eagle's nest,
towered the crags of Anacapri and Barbarossa's castle. The morning sun
had transformed the island wondrously. Grey and green by nature, some
suffusion out of the warm sky had showered down deep purple on it, and
from end to end it lay glowing with the colour of an evening cloud.
Whence that light came was a marvel that I could not guess; for the
nearer slopes of Punta di Campanella caught not a trace of it, but
ravine and mountain pasture lay there in the sunlight grey and green
as ever, while across the narrow strait Capri had all the tremulous
beauty of the coasts of fairyland. Far away northwards, across a space
of the loveliest sea imaginable, lay the craggy peak of Ischia, the
low reef of Procida, and the mountains of the Campanian coast; while
on the hither side of that blue land of cloudy peaks the sun had flung
a heavy shadow over Monte Sant'Angelo, and all his towering slopes lay
black and lurid.

The southward view is scarcely so fine. For the Deserto is built on
the Sorrento side of the ridge, so that even from its roof one surveys
a part only of the vast waters which owned the domination of Salerno,
of Amalfi, and in far older days submitted to the rule of that great
city Pæstum, whose shattered temples are still, unto this day, a
prouder relic than any left by the commonwealths which rose in later
times upon the gulf. One looks across the blue moving waters towards
the flat where Pæstum stood. Behind it rise the mountain peaks in long
succession, flashing here and there with fields of snow, while further
off, scarce seen by reason of its distance, the headland of Licosia
marks the limit of the bay.

Such is the Deserto, a solitude among the mountains. When I came down
once more into the cool corridors, the old monk acknowledged my
benefaction with a solemn bow, but let me go without a word. Silence
hung over the building like a spell. It played its part in the great
charm and beauty of the spot; and I was well content that nothing
broke it. It was past noon, and the sun was dropping westwards. All
the hillsides were glowing in gold light. The budding woods, so
shadowy as I climbed up, were full of glimmering radiance; and as I
descended further, and all the plain lay before me, its olive woods,
its orange groves, and the long line of white villas cresting the
black cliff were suffused in one wide glory of warm colour. As I went
across the bridge into the city, I turned off from the main street,
and found what is left of the old wall, guarding the ancient ducal
domain, though indeed one might have thought the deep ravines had
fenced it sufficiently on three sides, while on the fourth the sea
protects it strong and well. The gates have gone, under which in the
old days of festival, when Carnival pranced up and down the streets,
the grisly figure of death, "la morte di Sorrento," used to lurk,
waiting to mow down the rioter as the hour struck which marked the
approach of Lent. But there is still enough left of the massive
fortifications to show that a rich city once occupied this site.

It is a pleasant spot at this hour of evening shadows. The deep ravine
is filled with the whispering echoes of a stream, which does not fill
the bottom of the hollow, but leaves space for orange groves, deep
thatched with boughs. Cottages are built out on jutting rocks,
overhanging the precipice with strange indifference to the probable
results of even little earthquakes; and the lanes are alive with
brown, half-naked children. The sheer rocky chasms, the swarming
population, the ancient walls, recall memories of an older Sorrento
than one can recover easily upon the sea-front, or in the tortuous
streets which skirt it. One sees here the system of defence, and can
believe that in its day Sorrento was a fortress, though its great days
of independence passed so early, and its dukes were tributaries long
ere the Normans came and coveted these shores. Yet the ducal days, the
"Giorni Ducheschi," are by no means forgotten in Sorrento. Indeed, if
their natural glories had passed out of mind, the nocturnal ramblings
of Mirichicchiu would serve to refresh the memory of every man and
child, terror being, as Machiavelli puts it, a better remembrancer
than love.

Mirichicchiu, "the little physician," was a dwarf. He lived in the
time of the dukes, and was unwise enough to conspire against his lord,
who promptly cut his head off and caused the body to be thrown into
the fields outside the castle walls, where its several parts appear to
have been dispersed by the operations of husbandry, since Mirichicchiu
to this day has not been able to recover them.

Night by night he goes searching up and down the fields, stooping with
a lantern over the clods, until the cock-crow frights him back to the
place from whence he came. Sometimes the lonely little dwarf will go
up to a cottage and tap at the door. When that light knocking rings
through the startled house the inmates know that Mirichicchiu is
hungry, and they prepare his breakfast. The dish must be cooked
specially for him, and no one else must taste it. If he finds it to
his mind he leaves coins in the plate.

There can, I think, be few districts in which the folklore is richer
or more romantic than in this region of Sorrento. The peasants are
soaked in superstition. The higher classes are scarce more free from
it. Those who loiter at midnight near the Capo di Sorrento, whither
every tourist goes to see the ruins of the Villa Pollio and the great
cool reservoir of sea-water known as "Il Bagno della Regina
Giovanna," may see a maiden clad in white robes rise out of the sea
and glide over the water towards the Marina di Puolo, the little beach
which lies between the Punta della Calcarella and the Portiglione. She
has scarce touched land when she is pursued by a dark rider on a
winged horse, who comes from the direction of Sorrento, and hunts her
shrieking all along the shore. There are spectres on every cliff and
hillside, witches on the way to their unhallowed gatherings at
Benevento, and wizards prowling up and down in the shape of goats or
dogs. At night the peasants keep their doors and windows closed; if
they do not, the Janara may come in and cripple the babies. You may
sometimes keep out evil spirits by setting a basin full of water near
the door; the fiends will stop to count the drops, which takes a long
time, probably enough to occupy them until day drives them home.

If anyone be out after dark it is better not to look round. The risk
is that one may be turned into stone.

Here and there one may see ruined churches in the country, but no
peasant will go near them after nightfall; for he knows that spectral
Masses are celebrated there, solemn services chanted by dead priests,
who are thus punished for neglect of their offices in life, and whose
congregation is made up of worshippers who forgot their religion while
they lived.

The Italian fancy begets things terrible more easily than it conceives
a lovely dream. Even the tales of fairies turn more readily on fear
than on the merry pranks with which our northern legends associate
the dwellers in the foxglove bells. But on a fine spring evening, when
the sun is glowing over the plain, there are pleasanter things to
think of in Sorrento than the spirits of the other world. I turn
gladly away from the ravines into the broad main street, and passing
by the cathedral, pause in the piazza, where the life of the pleasant
little town is busiest and gayest. It is here that one should call to
mind the poet Tasso, whose tragedy was cast into noble verse by
Goethe; for his statue stands in the square, looking down gravely on
the rows of vetturini cracking whips, the children coming or going to
the fountain, the babble of strange tongues from lands which never
dreamt of Surriento when he dwelt on earth. But I think the days are
gone in which English people can delight in the sixteenth-century
poets of which Italy was once so proud. Tasso and Ariosto may have
every merit save sincerity; but that is lacking, and Italy has so many
noble poets who possess it! I care little for the memories of Tasso,
save in Goethe's verse, and as I go down to the marina it is of older
visitors, welcome and unwelcome, that my mind is full--St. Peter, for
example. There is a constant legend that he came this way after the
death of Christ, landing perhaps from some galley of Alexandria that
touched here on its way to Pozzuoli, and set down the apostle to win
what souls he could among the rough dwellers in the mountains. The
saint preached his first sermon by the roadside near Sant'Agnello, a
village between Sorrento and the Marina di Cassano; and then went over
the hills towards Castellammare, where he rewarded the hospitality of
the dwellers at Mojano, near the roots of Faito, by making springs of
water gush out of the thirsty rock.


Doubtless the apostle was on his way to Rome. I know no reason why
we should distrust the tale that he did indeed pass through this
country. The water-way from the East around the coasts of southern
Italy is of mysterious antiquity. Pæstum was a mighty trading city
many centuries before St. Peter lived, and its sailors may well have
inherited traditions of navigation as much older than their day as
they are older than our own. I do not know whether it was indeed upon
the islands under the Punta di Campanella that Ulysses, lashed to the
mast, heard the singing of the Sirens, but the tradition is not
doubted in Sorrento; and without leaning on it as a fact, one may
recognise at least that the tale suggests the vast antiquity of trade
upon these waters. Else whence came the heaps of whitening bones of
lost sailors, among which the Sirens sat and sang? Here year by year
we learn more of the age of man, and of the countless centuries he has
dwelt by the shore of the great deep. We cannot tell when he first
adventured round the promontories with sail and oar; but it is safe to
believe that those early voyages were made unnumbered centuries before
any people lived whose records have come down to us, and that those
sailors whom we discern when the mists are first lifted from the face
of history were no pioneers, but followed in a well-worn track of
trade, beaten out who knows how long before their time.

It is said that in old days the city of Sorrento stretched farther out
to sea than it does now. The fishers say they could once go dryfoot
from one marina to the other. There are ruins underneath the water.
The two small beaches have but cramped accommodation now, and if trade
settled there, as it did in the days of Tiberius, a harbour of some
sort must have existed. A city on the coast may last without a harbour
which has once brought it consequence; but would it have grown
without one to a place of power? It is profitless speculation,
perhaps. But no one wandering along these coasts, which played so
great a part in early maritime adventure, can easily refrain from
wondering at the tricks of destiny which brought the stream of
commerce now to one spot, now to another; and then, wresting away the
riches it had given, left the busy quays to silence, and made one more
city of the dead.

The hotels which line the summit of the cliff conceal the remnants of
great Roman villas. The Hotel Vittoria is built over one of the
finest. On that spot, in 1855, were found the remains of a small
theatre, destroyed to make the terrace of the hotel. The tunnel by
which one goes down to the sea is the same by which the Roman lord of
the mansion descended to his boat. Beneath the Hotel Sirena there are
large chambers which once formed part of such another villa. I cannot
tell how many other traces of old days may be left scooped out of the
black rock.

As the dusk descends upon Sorrento, and the sea turns grey, the
narrow, tortuous streets resume an appearance of vast age. They are
very silent at this hour; the shops are mostly closed; the children
hawking woodwork have gone home. One's footsteps echo all down the
winding alleys, and the tall houses look mysterious and gloomy. Such
was the aspect of the town on the evening of Good Friday, when I took
my stand in the garden of the Hotel Tramontano to see the procession
of our Lady of Sorrows, who, having gone out at daybreak to seek the
body of the Lord, has now found it, and is bearing it in solemn
mourning through the city streets.

Along the narrow lane which passes the hotel a row of lamps has been
set, and little knots of people are moving up and down, laughing and
jesting, with little outward recognition of the nature of the rite.
The procession has already started; it is in a church at the further
end of the long alley, and every ear is strained to catch the first
sound of the chanting which will herald its approach. Wherever the
houses fall back a little the space is banked up with curious
spectators. Some devout inhabitant hangs out a string of coloured
lamps, and is rewarded by a shower of applause and laughter, which has
scarcely died away when a distant strain of mournful music casts a
hush over the throng. Far down the alley one sees the glittering of
torches, and a slow, sobbing march, indescribably weird and majestic,
resounds through the blue night, with soft beat of drum and now and
then a clash of cymbals. Very slow is the approach of the mourners,
but now there is no movement in the crowd. Men and children stand like
ranks of statues, watching the slow coming of the torches and the dark
waving banners which are borne behind them.

So the heavy rhythm of the funeral march goes up into the still air,
knocking at every heart; and after the players, treading slow and
sadly, come the young men of Sorrento, two and two, at wide intervals,
hooded in deep black, their eyes gleaming through holes in the crape
masks which conceal their faces. Each bears some one among the
instruments of the divine passion--the nails, the scourge, and
scourging pillar, the pincers--while in their midst rise the heavy
folds of a huge crape banner, drooping mournfully from its staff. Next
comes a silver crucifix raised high above the throng, and then, as the
head of the procession winds away among the houses, the throbbing note
of the march changes to a sweeter and more plaintive melody, while
from the other hand there rises the sound of voices chanting "Domine,
exaudi." In a double choir come the clergy of the city and the country
round, all robed in solemn vestments, and between the two bodies the
naked figure of our Lord is borne recumbent on a bier, limbs drawn in
agony, head falling on one side, pitiful and terrible, while last of
all Our Lady of Sorrows closes the long line of mourners.

When she has passed, silence drops once more upon the dusky alleys.
Far off, the sound of chanting rings faintly across the houses, and
the slow music of the march sighs through the air. Then even that dies
away, and on the spot where Tasso opened his eyes upon a troubled
world there is no sound but the wind stirring among the orange
blossoms, or the perpetual soft washing of the sea about the base of
the black cliffs.



It is a common observation among those who visit Capri that the first
close view of the island is disappointing. The distant lights and
colours are all gone. The cliffs look barren. The island has a stony
aspect, inaccessible and wild. The steamer coming from Sorrento
reaches first the cliff of the Salto, concerning which I shall have
more to say hereafter, and only when that tremendous precipice has
been rounded does one see the saddle of the island, a neck of land
which unites the two mountain peaks so long watched from the mainland,
a continuous garden, at the head of which stands the town of Capri,
while the Marina is at its foot.

It must be admitted that the landing-place of Capri is on the way to
lose its quaintness, and is even in some danger of taking on the
aspect of an excursionists' tea-garden. Hotels and restaurants spring
up on every side, and a broad, winding road has been carried in long
convolutions from the sea up to the town. Capri is striving hard to
provide conveniences for her visitors, and no longer conducts them up
the hill by the ancient staircase, which was good enough for friends
and enemies alike in all ages till our own, and is still so broad and
easy that a donkey can go up it with less distress than it will
experience on the hot and dusty road. However, the staircase is still
there, and as it is my odd whim to care nothing for the nice new road,
but to prefer entering Capri by the old front door, I consign my
luggage to the strapping, stout-armed sirens who pounced upon it as
soon as the landing-boat touched shore, and go up the cool and shadowy
steps between walls of ivy and deep-rooted creepers, over which the
budding vines project their tendrils, and blossoming fruit trees send
a drift of petals falling on the stair. From time to time I cross the
noisy road, and go on in peace again with greater thankfulness, till,
after some twenty minutes' climb, I emerge beneath an old vaulted
gateway, from the summit of which defence unnumbered generations of
Capriotes must have parleyed with their enemies, fierce Algerines,
followers of Dragut or of Barbarossa, merciless sea-wolves who
descended on this luckless island again and again, attracted, no
doubt, by its proximity to the wealthy cities of the mainland and the
streams of commerce which were ever going by its shores.

The gate is flung wide open now, and the group of women sitting in its
shadow eye the coming stranger with a friendly smile. I step out of
the archway on to the Piazza, the prettiest and tiniest of squares,
bordered with shops on two sides. On the third side stand the
cathedral and the post office, while the fourth is occupied by a wall
breast high, over which one may look out across the fertile slopes
bounded by the huge cliffs of Monte Solaro all burning in the midday

From the Piazza two or three arched openings give access to narrow,
shady lanes. One of these is the main street of the town, and meanders
down the opposite side of the saddle, passing Pagano's Hotel and the
"Quisisana," whereof the former is as old as the fame of the island
among tourists; for they, although the great interest and beauty of
Capri were well known, came here rarely before the discovery of the
Blue Grotto caught the fancy of all Europe. I shall not go to see that
marvel of the world to-day, for the hour of its greatest beauty is
past already; and I will therefore spend the hours of heat in setting
down how the grotto was recalled to memory some seventy years ago by
August Kopisch. The story is sold everywhere in Capri, but as it
happens to be written in German, hardly any English visitors take the
trouble to look at it.

There can be no doubt that when Kopisch landed in Capri during the
summer of 1826 the blue grotto was practically unknown. There are, it
is true, one or two vague passages in the writings of early
topographers--Capaccio, Parrino--which appear to be based upon some
knowledge of it; and it is said that in 1822 a fisherman of Capri had
dared to enter the low archway. If so, he kept his knowledge to
himself; for when Kopisch landed, and went up the old staircase to
Pagano's Hotel--a humble hostelry it was in those days!--he knew
nothing of the grotto, and his host, though very ready to talk about
the wonders of the island, required some pressing before he would
explain the hints he dropped of an enchanted cave below the tower of
Damecuta, a place which boatmen were afraid to visit in broad day, and
which they believed to be the habitation of the devil. "But I," went
on Pagano, "do not believe that. Many times, when I was a lad, I
begged friends of mine, who were strong swimmers, to swim into the
cavern with me, but in vain; the fear of the devil was too strong in
them! But listen! I once learned from a very aged fisher that two
hundred years ago a priest swam with one of his colleagues a little
way into the cave, but turned and came out at once in a terrible
fright; the legend says that the priests found the entrance widen out
into a vast temple, with high altar, set round with statues of the

Pagano's story fell on the enthusiastic fancy of the young German
artist like flint on steel, and the Capriote, catching his guest's
excitement, went on to say that he himself believed the tower of
Damecuta to be a relic of one of the palaces built by the Emperor
Tiberius, who constructed no pleasure-house without a secret exit.
Might not the hidden way go through the grotto? And if so, what
strange things might they not find if they dared explore it! Perhaps a
temple of Nereus, the shrine of some sea deity, left unworshipped and
forgotten through all the ages since the Roman Empire fell!

Both men had heart for the adventure, undismayed by prophecies of
mischief from devils, mermen, or sea monsters, though quaking secretly
at the recollection of the sharks, which, however, rarely come close
into shore. Wondrous tales were told them of things seen near the
fabled grotto. Sometimes the frightened fishers had watched the glow
of fire from within trembling on the waves. Beasts like crocodiles
were seen to look in and out; seven times a day the entrance changed
its shape and windings; at night the Sirens sang there among dead
men's bones; the screams of little children in agony rang often round
the rocks, and it was no uncommon thing for young fishermen to
disappear in the neighbourhood of the ill-famed cavern. Many an
instance could be quoted, and one tale in particular was brought up to
show how mad they were who loitered on that sea. A fisherman went out
to spear fish near the grotto. It was a lovely morning, and he could
distinguish the shellfish creeping on the bottom, though the water
was ten fathoms deep. Suddenly he saw all the fish scurry away into
hiding, and just underneath his boat came swimming in concentric
circles a vast sea monster, rising at each turn nearer and nearer to
the surface. The fisher was uneasy, but instead of calling on the
Madonna as a Christian would, he trusted in his own strength, and
hurled his spear at the monster in the devil's name. He saw it strike
the creature's neck, but from the wound there came such a gush of
blood as clouded all the water so that he could see nothing. He
thought joyfully that he had killed the fish; but the thong of his
spear hung slack, and when he pulled it in the point of the harpoon
was gone--not broken off, but fused, as if it had been thrust into a

The poor fisherman, terrified to death, dropped the spear and seized
his oars, longing only to get away from that accursed place. But row
as he might he could not progress. His boat went round in circles, as
the sea monster had swum, and finally stood still as if anchored,
while out of the reddened water rose a bloodstained man, with the
spear sticking in his breast, and threatened the fisher with his fist.
The poor man sank down fainting, and when he came to life again he was
being tended by his friends at the Marina of Capri. For three days he
was dumb. When he could speak and tell what had befallen him he began
to shrivel up. First his right hand withered, then his arms and legs,
till finally, when he died, he had lost the aspect of a man, and was
like nothing but a bundle of dried herbs in an apothecary's shop.

Such were the tales with which the Capriotes sought to dissuade
Kopisch from paying heed to the suggestions of Pagano, but in vain.
Early in the morning the party started, having with them Angelo
Ferraro, a boatman, with a second boat in which they had packed a
small stove, with all the materials necessary for kindling a fire.
When they came to the low entrance of the cave not one of them was
quite at ease, and Kopisch, who was in the water first, begged Angelo,
the boatman, for a fresh assurance that sharks never came between the
rocks. Angelo was labouring to kindle his fire, and gave a hasty
confident reply, which provoked the German to the natural reflection,
"It's all very well for him to be sure. His legs are in the boat!"

But when the resinous wood shavings caught and blazed up brightly all
fear was gone. Angelo pulled in under the low archway, pushing the
smaller boat with the lighted stove before him. Close behind came
Kopisch, Pagano, and a second German traveller, half blinded by the
smoke which blew back in their faces, and full of natural excitement
and anxiety concerning what might befall them in this bold quest. For
a time they could see nothing save a dim, high vault; but when Kopisch
turned to look for his companions he, first of all men of our age and
knowledge, saw that sight which for absolute beauty and wonder has no
superior in all the world.

"What a panic seized me," he says himself, "when I saw the water under
me like blue flames of burning spirits of wine! I leapt upwards, for,
half blinded as I was by the fire in the boat, I thought first of a
volcanic eruption. But when I felt the water cold I looked up at the
roof, thinking the blue light must come from above. But the roof was
closed.... The water was wonderful, and when the waves were still, it
seemed as if I were swimming in the invisible blue sky...."

I have told this adventure at some length because, in mere justice,
Kopisch and Pagano ought not to be forgotten by the crowds of pleasure
seekers who visit Capri, and for whom, however much or little they
may take pleasure in the other immense beauties of the island, the
Blue Grotto still remains the chief delight. It may not be necessary
to claim for Kopisch that he was indeed first of all men to see its
marvellous beauty; nor even that, but for his bold adventure, its low
gateway would have remained closed to all the world. Discoveries such
as this are made at their appointed time, and Kopisch may perhaps have
had precursors. But it remains true that his audacity first threw wide
the gate for us; and for my part I acknowledge gladly a deep debt of

No wise man goes to the Blue Grotto from the steamer by which he
travels from Naples or Sorrento. When one has crossed the ocean, and
journeyed thousands of miles, to see a sight so wonderful, why should
one be content to hurry round it in the few minutes given by a boatman
eager for other fares? There is but one way to see the Blue Grotto,
and that is by hiring a boat at the Marina on a still, sunny morning,
bargaining carefully that there shall be no compulsion to leave before
one wishes. Then as the boatman rows on slowly beneath the luxuriant
vineyards and the green slopes of the saddle of the island, he will
point out the baths of the Emperor Tiberius, low down by the shore,
indeed, partly covered by the clear green water, and will go on to
talk of the strange life led by the imperial recluse, who studded the
island with palaces and left it teeming with unsolved mysteries.
Twelve villas he built, so says Tacitus, upon this narrow space, and
in these solitary palaces by cliff and shore he lived a life of
nameless tyranny and wickedness. Who can tell the uses of the strange
masses of broken masonry which one finds in climbing up and down the
lonely cliff paths? With what object did he build tower and arched
vault in spots where only sea-birds could have the fancy for
alighting? What secret chambers may not still be hidden in these
ruins! What passages leading deep into caverns of the hillside! What
mysteries! What treasures for those who have the heart and courage of
the German artist! Such are the suggestions of the brown-faced boatman
bending towards me across his oars, while in a hushed whisper he
points out now one and now another chasm of the limestone which gives
access, so he tells me, to a cavern of unmeasured size. And still, as
he talks eagerly and low, the sheer cliff rises higher and darker
overhead; for the saddle of the island is long past, the towering
precipices of Monte Solaro are above me, and high up on some eyrie
which the sight straining from the water cannot reach is the white
mountain town of Anacapri.

Presently the coast-line sinks to a more moderate height. The tower of
Damecuta is seen ahead, and below it a stair, cut in the face of the
rock, leads down to a low arched opening, through which the blue sea
is washing in and out. A couple of women in gay dresses are sitting in
the shade upon the stair. A few boats are rocking on the blue water,
strangely, intensely blue, even in the morning shadow which the cliffs
fling out across the sea. It was not the rich, royal colour which one
may see about the shores of western England, nor yet the exquisite
soft turquoise which glows by all the bays and headlands of this
coast, but a darker and more watery blue, verging on indigo rather
than on any other single colour.

The boat approached the opening. The boatman, warning me to lie flat
in the stern, shipped his oars, grasped a chain which was fastened to
the rock, and, at the lowest point of the wet, winding entrance,
flung himself backward on my body, while the boat shot into what for
an instant seemed a moonlit darkness. But on struggling up erect I
became conscious of a strange, milky radiance, which grew and
brightened as the sight adjusted itself, until I saw that the waves
washing round the boat were of a silvery blue, which is like nothing
else, lambent, incandescent, flashing with the softest glow
imaginable. One thinks of the shimmering flashes in the heart of an
opal, of the flame of phosphorus, of the most delicate colour on a
blue bird's throat--there is no similitude for that which has no
match, nothing else upon the earth which is not gross when set beside
these waves of purest light, impalpable, unsubstantial, and radiantly
clear. "Che colore?" I asked in wonder; and the boatman, no less awed
by the strange beauty, answered very low, "Il cielo," and sat silent,
stirring his oar gently, so as to make spouts of light among the blue

The roof of the Blue Grotto, low-spreading near the entrance, rises at
the centre into a domed vault. It is not dark--nowhere in the grotto is
it dark--it is neither light nor dark, but blue; blue pervades the
air, and plays about the crannies of the roof like flame, far paler
than the sea, yet quick and living.

Far back in the cave, where the blue shades are deepest, is a shelf of
rock, the only place within the grotto at which one can land. It is
usually occupied by a boy who pesters visitors by offering to dive in
return for as many francs as he can extort. The sight of his body in
the silvery water has excited various writers to high flights of
eloquence, one of them indeed assuring us that here alone we can
realise what we shall look like in heaven, when the grossness of our
bodies has been purged away into the radiance of ethereal light. If
this is so one should rejoice, though on more human grounds I regret
the presence of the boy, whose avarice detracts from the charm of the
grotto. The aspect of his body in the water is less wonderful than he
believes. Moreover, the shelf which he has turned into a bathing board
has a higher interest than any which it derives from him.

For at this spot, and this only, is conclusive evidence that other
eyes, in ages far distant from our own, have beheld this grotto,
though, for reasons to be given presently, it is practically certain
that those eyes saw a different sight. It is easy to discern a squared
opening, like a door or window, in the rock above the ledge. Probably
such visitors as notice it regard this as a modern contrivance to
serve some purpose of the guides; but it is not so. It stands
untouched since Kopisch saw it when he swam in half blinded by the
smoke. When he, first of all men of our age, climbed up on the rock
ledge and peered through the opening he felt confident that he had
found the secret exit from the palace of Tiberius at Damecuta; and
nothing has yet been discovered which disproves the possibility of

The boatmen will have it that the passage goes to Anacapri. Mine was
positive upon the subject, and though constrained to admit that his
conclusion had not been proved, yet did not regard it as open to
discussion. Tradition has a certain value where proof is not
available; and as the passage is blocked at no great distance from the
grotto, it may be long before the boatman's faith is shaken. Kopisch
followed it as far as possible. He describes several corridors
radiating in different directions through the hillside, forming a sort
of labyrinth in which his party almost lost themselves, and in which
they were finally checked by the presence of mephitic vapours.

Now, whatever may be the secret of these passages, it scarcely admits
of doubt that they were designed for an entrance to the grotto from
the island. Capri is so thickly studded with Roman works of the
emperors Augustus and Tiberius, and possesses so few others, that
there is little risk in attributing the construction of this passage
to Roman hands. But what did the Imperial courtiers see, if they did
indeed come down those winding passages and stand on the rock shelf
where the greedy boy now bargains loudly for francs? Was it the same
blue wonder that we see? The answer is certain. The miracle of colour
depends directly on the level of the water, and in Roman days the arch
was far too high to permit the necessary refraction or colouration of
the rays of sunlight.

This is proved in two ways. Firstly, there is unanswerable evidence in
the hands of geologists and naturalists that the level of the sea in
Roman days was many feet lower than at present. Secondly, the fact
that there was more of the archway to be uncovered has been proved by
Colonel MackOwen, who explored it by diving, and who found not only
that the original height of the entrance was six feet and a half, of
which three feet are under water, but also that the base of the
opening is formed by a flat, projecting sill, which appeared to have
been set there by human hands. Moreover, this archway, which is now
the sole entrance to the grotto, is but a poor substitute for a more
ancient and incomparably larger doorway still existing, but now
submerged, and measuring as much as fifty feet by forty feet, which
must have let white sunlight into the cavern as long as it stood above
the water.

There is thus not much reason for supposing that Roman eyes ever
beheld this wonder of the world. Whether seen or not seen by an
occasional bold intruder, this unique marvel lay silent and unvisited
through all the Middle Ages, accounted even by our grandfathers as a
haunt of fiends and a centre of mysterious terrors. It is not easy now
to catch a moment in which the cave is silent. Only early in the
morning one may find its charm completely undisturbed, and carry away
a recollection of unearthly mystery and beauty which will remain a
precious possession throughout life.

There is much in Capri that is unparalleled. If I have set the Blue
Grotto first, that is not because more beauty is found there than
exists elsewhere upon the island. It may be beauty of a rarer kind; I
do not know. All Capri is a gem, and that which one sees from the
island is lovelier still than anything upon its shores.

Only one driving road exists in Capri, yet that one serves the purpose
of a score, so rich is it in a charm that perpetually changes. It
leads to Anacapri, and is cut along the precipices of Monte Solaro,
doing violence to the face of those solitary cliffs on which the
winding staircase offered until recently the only mode of approach.
Here and there one may find a few yards of the stair still clinging to
the front of the abyss, and by its narrow steepness it is possible to
gauge the desperate courage of those Turkish rovers who, coming up
this way, stormed and destroyed the castle overhead. Perhaps, however,
what we should measure by the dangers of the approach is the faint
spirit of the defenders, who could not even keep a path by which every
enemy was under full arrowshot a dozen times while toiling up the
cliff. One ought to visit Anacapri on a clear morning, early,
because the sunshine is then softer; and having seen what is of
interest in that whitewashed hamlet, leaving Monte Solaro for another
day, it is well to loiter down the road on foot--the way is far too
beautiful to drive.


First, in coming down, one's eye is caught by the incomparable
loveliness of the channel that parts the island from the peninsula.
High on the right hand towers the dark headland named "Lo Capo," and
when one has dropped upon the hillside to the point at which the
strait appears about to close, and the height of Capri seems almost to
touch the tower on the Punta di Campanella, just so much of the coast
towards Amalfi has disclosed itself as looks like the shores of
fairyland skirting a magic sea. Behind the green slope of the
Campanella, with its humps close to the water's edge, drops the purple
ridge of the St. Angelo, with an islet at its base, shadowy and having
the colour of an amethyst. Upon the great slopes of St. Angelo one can
see every jag and cleft, while further off lie the blue mountains,
vague, soft, melting imperceptibly into the pale sky. Away beyond
Salerno, where the mountains join the purple sea, a solitary
snow-capped cone towers up radiant and flashing, while as one watches
the changes of the light, now one peak and now another is lit up, and
disappears again under the returning shadow.

But if I turn in the direction of the north, there lies extended the
whole length of the Sorrento peninsula, the little town of
Massalubrense exactly opposite, with the low point of Sorrento jutting
like a tooth, while further off the Punta di Scutola rises out of the
sea, all purple in the warm sun, with the further cliff that hides
Castellammare--Capo d'Orlando the people call it talking still of a
great sea fight that occurred there six hundred years ago, when the
Admiral Roger di Loria shattered the fleet of Sicily, which in other
days he had led to victory. There is all the curving strand of the
Campagna Felice, backed by its mountains, brown and blue, ridged here
and there with snow; and then one sees Vesuvius with his smoky pillar,
the reflection of which lies across the bay, discolouring the water,
and Somma, wonderfully shadowed by the clouds; while further north
again, gleaming so splendidly, rising so pure and white into the
heavens that one has to look more than once to make sure they are not
piles of cumulus, stretches the snowy line of Apennines, peak rising
over peak till the gleam upon their summits dissolves in the great
distance. Lower down in the vast prospect is the chain of Campanian
mountains, which seem so lofty when one cannot look beyond them; and
at their feet lies Naples, that queenly city with the long sweep of
coast from Posilipo to Miseno, where the flames rose from the pyre of
the Trojan trumpeter. Further off again is craggy Ischia, while blue
and infinitely vague upon the skyline one can see the mountains behind

There is surely in the whole world scarce any other view at once so
wide, so beautiful, and so steeped in the associations of romance. The
sun climbs higher, the light increases, the coast towards Amalfi is as
purple as a violet. The sea, unruffled by the lightest breeze, is of
that nameless blue which seems to have been refined and purified from
the colour of a turquoise. Far as one can see, from the headland which
hides Cumæ to the farthest point of the Lucanian coast, scarcely one
vessel is in sight. The ancient waterway is deserted by which Æneas
came, which through so many centuries was ploughed by the galleys of
Alexandria, and which in later days, when the power of Amalfi rose to
its height, was crowded with the wealth of furthest India. From side
to side of the great Bay of Salerno there is now no port of
consequence. The coast is silent which once rang with the busy noise
of arsenals; trade has departed; and the boats which slip in and out
beneath the Islands of the Sirens are so few that Parthenope would
have disdained them, not caring to uplift her song for so mean a

This decay happened long ago. It was partly the work of pirates, who,
as I have often said, swarmed upon these coasts up to that year of
grace in which Lord Exmouth destroyed Algiers. The nest being dinged
down, the crows flew away, or rather learnt better manners. But for
many generations they hunted at their will along the coasts of Italy,
counting the people theirs, as often as they chose to come for
them--the men to slay, the women and children to be carried off.

The corsairs in all generations had a rendezvous at Capri, which
served them much the same useful purpose as Lundy, at the entrance of
the Bristol Channel, did to others of their breed. It was a turnpike
placed across the track of shipping, and heavy tolls were taken there
from the luckless sailors. Barbarossa has stamped his memory on the
island more permanently than any other rover. Dragut was, perhaps, as
terrible in life, and Occhialy can have met few men who did not fear
him. But tradition makes less of them than of the red-bearded
scoundrel who assumed the cognomen of an emperor. Barbarossa was
indeed often at Capri. His armaments were colossal. One gasps in
reading of a pirate who descended on Capri with a fleet of 150 sail!
Yet such were the numbers with which Barbarossa arrived about St.
Johns Day in the year 1543. Happily we do not know the exact details
of the woe he wrought upon the midsummer seas; but on this lofty road
it is well to recollect him, for it was up the now fragmentary stair
to Anacapri that his warriors swarmed, perhaps on this, perhaps on
some other visit, and stormed the ancient castle overhead.

It is worth while to climb up this last flight of the old broken
stair. One has free access to it from the modern road, and turning
away from the sea-wall, over which one can distinguish the boats far
down below on their way to the Blue Grotto, looking as small as
beetles from this vast height, one may climb cautiously up the
shattered steps, gaining continually wider outlooks until at last a
level platform is attained, where the path winds round the face of the
precipice. Sweet-scented shrubs and flowering plants are rooted in the
crannies of the limestone, and next the path leads under an old
gatehouse, spanning the whole width of the ground between precipice
above and abyss below.

How, one asks, did the Turks get past this point? There is no way
round, save for the birds. They must have stormed it, coming on in
twos and threes--which is another way of saying that the defenders
were either fools or cowards. The mere sight of a Turk turned men's
hearts to water, it would seem. When the corsairs had won the
gatehouse, they were still at some distance from the castle, which
towers on a crag several hundred feet higher, strengthened with
towers, and having guardrooms for a substantial number of defenders.
It is not often that a castle wins and keeps the name of the enemy who
stormed it. One may surmise that Barbarossa committed some atrocious
deed when the fight was over. There is a dizzy precipice on the higher
side of the castle. Probably all the garrison went over it who had
not fallen by the sword. It is a grand and beautiful spot. There is no
end to the pleasures of these mountain slopes; one may wander over
Monte Solaro for many days, and yet remain in doubt from what point or
in what light its wondrous views are finest.


As one comes down the winding road, in the shadow of the high grey
scars, discoloured with patches of black brushwood, the saddle of the
island looks picturesque and homely. The white town nestles on the
ridge between two conical hills, the Telegrafo and the Castiglione,
the latter crowned by a small fort, the modern representative of an
ancient stronghold which was the last defence of the Capriotes in the
days of piracy.

It is a good and defensible position, but the stranger, remembering
the almost inaccessible plateau of Anacapri, may wonder not
unnaturally why all the inhabitants of the island did not retreat
thither on the approach of danger. The answer is that on the small
island there are two nations, despising each other like most other
neighbours. To the undiscerning eye of the stranger the Capriotes are
a pleasant, friendly race; but any child in Anacapri will declare them
to be full of malice and deceit, unworthy neighbours of those who look
down on them from a moral elevation no less remarkable than the
physical. The Capriotes, on their part, would not have dreamt of
taking refuge in Anacapri, knowing that here, as elsewhere, only bad
men dwell in lofty places. They had a refuge of their own in times of
danger--a vast cavern in the hill of Castiglione, where the women and
children used to crowd together when the pirates came. It could tell
woeful stories, but has not been examined with the care that its past
history demands.

As for the streets of Capri, they are always gay and charming, but to
my mind they are most pleasing when the dusk descends, bringing not
only cool fresh breezes from the sea, but also imparting a sense of
space to vistas which under the garish sunlight seem a trifle cramped.
Therefore I go on through the town towards the opposite height, where
the villa of Tiberius crowns the hill; and here it is necessary to
discourse of Carolina and Carmelina, the two sirens who lie in wait
for travellers on the ascent.

These words are not a warning. It is no calamity for a traveller to
fall into the hands of either nymph. It is a thirsty walk, and she
will bring him wine. It is not a very beautiful walk; and she--yes,
both of her!--is charming, attired in blue and scarlet, like the
Capriote maidens of an olden day. She will, moreover, dance the
tarantella gracefully and well, and talk even about archæology when
she has done explaining volubly what a cheat the other girl is, and
how false is her pretence to be custodian of anything worth seeing.

The whole of the weary climb is beguiled by the pretty rivalries and
antics of these dancers. I have scarcely commenced the ascent, when a
boy, starting up from the cover of a rock, thrusts upon me a notice
gracefully written in three languages. It advertises the attractions
of the restaurant of the Salto and Faro of Tiberio, and contains the
following emphatic caution: "Visitors are requested to take careful
note that certain unscrupolous (_sic_) persons do their best to
misguide visitors in misnominating the real and authenticated position
of the Tiberius Leap. Visitors are therefore warned not to be
misguided by these unscrupolous persons who, for their own ends,
falsely indicate an historical fact, etc., etc."

I hardly know what weighty accusations may lurk beneath the words
"etc.," but I have hardly done reading this kindly caution when, at a
turn of the path, I am confronted by the chief among the "unscrupolous
persons" who debase historical truth. It is no other, indeed, than
Carmelina herself, smiling all over her handsome face so pleasantly
that I could forgive her a worse crime. She is unabashed by the
knowledge that I have been put upon my guard as to her true character.
She has a Salto, she informs me; and when I point out that it is not
the true one, but a fraud, she directs my attention, with a charming
shrug, to her own particular notice-board, whereon is printed in large
characters a judicial statement to the effect that it is quite
impossible for anyone to say precisely over which precipice Tiberius
threw his victims. Thus, one being as good as another, it is the part
of a wise man, without labouring further up the hill, to take the
first which comes, at which, moreover, the Capri wine is of unequalled
quality, and so forth.

I do not propose to discuss the rival merits of Carmelina and
Carolina. No chart avails the mariner in danger of wreck upon the
reefs of woman's beauty. Nothing will help him but a good stout
anchor, and that I cannot give him, nor even indicate where he should
cast it out. But if a man pass safely by these perils he will ere long
attain the summit of the rock, whence he will find much the same view
exposed before him as he saw from Anacapri, and thus may give his
attention the more freely to the ruins of the "Villa di Tiberio."

None but an archæologist can derive much pleasure from these ruins.
Eighteen hundred winters and the delvings of many investigators,
whether pirates or men of science, have so shattered the buildings
that a trained intelligence is required to comprehend their
arrangement. Other eyes can see nothing but broken walls, grass-grown
corridors, and vaulted basement chambers, which suggest but little
splendour. Yet here, on the summit of the headland, stood beyond any
doubt the largest and most magnificent of the palaces in which
Tiberius secluded himself during the long years he spent in Capri; and
with this spot most of the stories told by the guides are associated.
These tales are grim and terrible. Tiberius, in the days he spent in
Capri, was a tyrant and a debauchee. His palaces, which are now washed
and blown clean by the pure rain and wind, were stews of lust and
murder while he lived. It is not strange that he is well remembered in
the island. His life was wicked enough to beget tradition--the surest
way of earning long remembrance! When he saw Capri first it was
occupied by a simple, laughing people, gracious and friendly as they
are to-day. He left it full of agony and tears. No wonder that after
eighteen centuries he is not yet forgotten!

Tiberius came first with the Emperor Augustus, an old man near his
end, but joyous and frank, as was his nature.

It happened that a ship from Alexandria was lying at the Marina, bound
for Pozzuoli; and the shipmen, desiring to do honour to Augustus, clad
themselves in white, put garlands on their heads, and came to give him
hail. The simple ceremony, the frank reverence of the sailors, pleased
the Emperor beyond measure. He mixed freely with them, gave his
attendants money to buy merchandise from the ship, put himself at the
head of the revels; and left behind him when he went away a kingly
memory. Perhaps the Capriotes hoped that when Tiberius came back those
good days would return. But Tiberius was made of other clay, and
brought only deepening terror to the island.

Timberio, the islanders call him, and they believe that deep down in
the bowels of this hill, where now his crumbled villa is slowly
yielding to the weather, the Emperor sits to this hour upon his steed,
both carved in bronze, and having eyes of diamond. Years ago,--no one
can say how many!--a boy, creeping through some crevice of the rock,
saw that sight, and lived to tell of it, but could never find his way
into the vault again. Such tales of mystery are common all the world
over; but there are few places in which, whether true or untrue, they
have more excuse.

It is impossible to wander round the remnants of this gigantic
building without suspecting that the hillside underneath it must be
honeycombed with vaults and secret chambers, natural caverns, perhaps,
which are so plentiful in Capri, adapted to the uses of the villa.
There is a constant tradition among the peasants that from this palace
as from all the others, Tiberius had a secret passage to the sea. The
tremendous height of the cliff seems almost to forbid belief in the
tale; but if it be true, corridors and stairs must exist in the hill
upon a scale sufficient to warrant even stranger stories than those
which circulate.

There is in the face of the Salto a cavern which, from its proximity
to the ruins of the palace, has sometimes been regarded as a possible
exit of the secret passage. In 1883 a gentleman of Capri named Canale,
together with three peasants, climbed up to this grotto from the sea.
It was a hardy feat; and the searchers were rewarded by the discovery
of two chambers hewn by hand in the solid rock. Beyond them was an
opening closed with fallen stones and earth; and having cleared away
the rubbish, they penetrated into a large and lofty natural grotto,
hung with stalactites; but found no exit from it. There was no trace
of a staircase. The issue of the search seems unsatisfactory, and one
can only wish that it may be resumed. Clearly there must have been
some approach to these chambers otherwise than by climbing from the

The day may come when on this spot, as elsewhere in Capri, more
careful excavations and researches will be set on foot and continued
until Time has either been compelled to yield up his secrets, or has
been convicted of possessing none. At that day the archæologist will
rejoice; but I think the unlearned man may rather grieve. For the
abounding mystery of Capri is so inextricably woven with its
extraordinary beauty that to touch either must be to reduce the
strange fascination which conquers every visitor, which wakes
enthusiasm even in those who do not love Italy, and makes this little
island the one spot which no one sees without longing to return. How
shall one explain this feeling? It would be as easy to analyse a
caress. Not alone the mystery, the beauty, the aloofness from the
world, the balmy air or the odorous vegetation of the hillsides,--all
these elements exist upon the mainland, yet there is no town, not even
Sorrento, which wins such instant or such enduring love. It is partly
in the people that the secret lies. They have charm. They are simple,
friendly, gracious; they accost the stranger from the outset as a
kindly friend, who must mean well, and whom they are disposed to like.
If they beg, which is but rarely, they ask without importunity, and
accept refusal with good temper. The children run up as you cross the
piazza, say "Buon Giorno," and run away smiling out of pure delight.
The women sitting in their doorways, clean and industrious, look up
and smile but ask for nothing. They are indifferently honest, paragons
of every solid virtue, when compared with the denizens of Naples. But
were it otherwise, were they unblushing rogues and knaves, I think one
would love them still for their abundant charm and grace.

In Capri it is rare to see a plain girl; it is perhaps not very common
to see a beautiful one. But between the two extremes lies something
more attractive than regularity of feature, a thing without a
name--charm, vivacity, a gracious radiance of manner which is lacking
in scarce any girl or woman of the island. Their features are small
and delicate, their heads well poised, their faces brown as berries,
their large and lustrous eyes are sometimes pensive, but oftener
sparkling with goodwill and merriment. They toil at heavy weights like
men, yet do not grow coarse. They will work from dawn to dusk without
complaining, without even dreaming that constant labour is a
grievance; and at any moment they will return a pleasant word with one
still pleasanter, not only responsive to kindness, but arousing it
with all the frankness of a child who feels sure all people are as
full of goodwill as he is himself.

It is this sense of simplicity and friendliness which, more than any
other of Capri's rare attractions, wins the heart of every visitor. On
the mainland no such sense exists, save perhaps in some degree on the
Piano di Sorrento. Naples, even in broad daylight, is none too safe,
and at night the citizens themselves walk cautiously. Castellammare is
a wicked city. Amalfi puts the stranger on his guard instinctively. In
Capri, from the very hour of landing, one drops precautions.
Suspicions are cast off like bad dreams in this isle of laughter and
goodwill; the women on the roads want nothing but a greeting, the men
believe you when you say you do not need a carriage. If you lose your
purse the loss is cried in church, and the odds are the purse comes
back that day. Crimes of violence are very rare; and never has it been
taught in Capri, as it is even in Sorrento, that he who licks the warm
blood on his knife will not be troubled by remorse.

There is a hermit on the summit of the hill among the ruins of the
villa. He is not poor, but prosperous. He keeps a visitors' book, a
tap of wine, moreover, and though he has a chapel he did not interest
me. Escaping him with some dexterity, I wandered along the cliff past
the lighthouse, climbing over boulders, sometimes knee-deep in tuft
grass and scrub, until I reached the brow of the valley on the hither
side of the Telegrafo, and climbed down into it by a break-neck path.
Having reached the bottom, I was in the main way from the town to the
Arco Naturale, and a few turns of the path brought me to the verge of
the cliff.

The sun had sloped far westwards, so that all this, the eastern face
of the island, was in shade. The first steps of the rock staircase by
which the gorge is descended lay in grateful shadow. There is a fine
path along the northern slope, but it is better to plunge down the
stair towards the level of the sea. After many flights had been
descended I came out under a great arch, where cavernous vaults lined
with Roman masonry awake once more the sense of mystery which is never
far distant in this island. At the foot I found a rough path leading
to the south, by which I clambered on until by backward glances I was
assured that the Arco Naturale had freed itself from the labyrinth of
spires and splintered jags of limestone over which it rises, and stood
out clear and sharp against the sky.

The setting sun shone warm and soft on the top of the great cliffs,
but all their vast height was covered with cool grey and brown, with
here and there a green tuft of grass or trailing herbs. There is no
end to the fantastic wonder of the crags rising out of the cliff
slopes. The great loophole of the Arco Naturale is the loftiest and
most striking, but there are countless others. The whole line of the
cliff is pierced with cavities and grottoes, with many a sheer, smooth
precipice, dropping steep and awful to the sea. Immediately opposite
lay the bare headland of the Bell, bathed in golden sunlight, and the
rocky coast towards Amalfi, purple and brown beneath the paling sky.
Then a bar of cloud came and drew its wisps of vapour slowly across
the sunset slope of the Campanella. Whence it came I know not; for the
sky was clear, and the hill, both above and below the bank of mist,
was bright. The ravines of St. Angelo grew sharper and the glow more
purple. The sea was paling fast. One or two rosy clouds floated in the
east, catching all the reflections of the sunset. Night was at hand;
but as I climbed up the stair I turned often to look again upon that
channel through which the Greek ships steered their way three thousand
years ago, as they came or went between Euboean Cumæ and the
far-distant cities of the East.

Well, it is growing dusk in Capri, and the time has gone by in which
one can see sights. The sea has turned grey and the colour has gone
out of the coast. I turn back towards the town, and as I loiter down
the steep hill paths I perceive by a growing brightness in the sky
that the full moon is rising behind the Telegrafo. The April night has
all the fine warm scents of summer. The blue darkness is dropping fast
across both town and sea, while in the soft sky the small gold stars
are trembling as they do in June in England.

Ere long the silvery light begins to drive the shadows back; the
bright disc climbs above the pointed hill, and floods all the Valley
of Tragara. From hill to hill the old white town lies glowing softly.
The sea is all a-shimmer, "Splendet tremulo sub lumine pontus"; the
deserted cloister of the Certosa has the colour of old carved ivory;
the Castiglione on the hilltop shines like steel. The tremendous
precipice of Monte Solaro, a cliff wall severing the island in twain,
is transformed most wonderfully. In the clear morning sun the heights
are red and grey, chiselled into infinite crevices and clefts, awful
and magnificent. But when the full moon sails clear of the Telegrafo
all the rock face turns light and silvery, almost impalpable, towering
up among the stars like a mountain of frosted silver rising out of
fairyland. The small piazza is silent and empty, streaked with hard
shadows flung by the rising moon. As I step out on it and pause in
wonder at the beauty of the scene, the striking of the clock falls on
the still air with a strange theatrical effect. Away over the houses
comes a drift of music; for Schiano, the coiffeur, is giving a concert
in his salon, and all the world has crowded down the street to hear
it. At this distance the voices are softened, and blend insensibly
with the magic of the summer night, across which, trembling like a
star fallen out of the blue sky, shines the light hung over the great
figure of the Madonna set in a cleft of the rock on the road to



Loath as every traveller must be to turn his back on Capri and lose
sight of Sorrento lying on its black cliff by the sea, yet it is a
rare moment when first one tops the mountain barrier and sees the Gulf
of Salerno far spreading at one's feet, with the Islands of the Sirens
just below, and away over the blue distance the plain of Pæstum, once
a rose garden, now a fever-stricken flat, hemmed in between the
mountains and the sea. The road, traversing the plain as far as Meta,
in the shadow of St. Angelo, commences to ascend by long convolutions,
winding perpetually through orange groves and orchards of amazing
richness and fertility, mounting continually, gaining every moment
wider views over plain and mountain. Directly in the path rises the
sharp cone of Vico Alvano, precipitous and rugged. It seems to block
the way, but suddenly the road sweeps towards the right, the ridge is
gained at last, and all the Gulf of Salerno lies spread out below.

     "So I turned to the sea, and there slumbered
             As greenly as ever
     Those Isles of the Sirens, your Galli;
             No ages can sever
     The three, nor enable the sister
             To join them--half-way
     On the voyage, she looked at Ulysses."

There is no escaping the spell of this ancient legend. At every turn
it confronts one, testifying to the passage of unnumbered years since
the first ships sailed upon this lovely gulf which in its time has
seen such mighty armaments. It was shipping which made the power of
the cities on the gulf. By the sea they rose, and by the sea the
noblest of them fell. For Amalfi has been torn away yard by yard;
wharf and palace have been alike engulfed; and now there remains so
little of the ancient city that one must guess and guess again before
discovering where its splendour lay. Its greatness has departed as
utterly as that of Pæstum, and though it still teems with people,
while the city of Neptune is desolate and silent, there seems no more
chance for one than for the other that the spirit of old days will
return to animate the present, or set the modern energies towards a
goal which fits their past. What is it, in Heaven's name, which
filches from so many splendid cities the desire to excel, and leaves
them content to see the weeds grow over their past achievements?

I have said already that the mountains of the peninsula show their
sternest face towards Salerno. The road which is carried along these
precipices is of astonishing grandeur. From the very summit of the
mountains the cliffs fall by wide steep slopes to the deep water
washing round their feet. Farms or cottages scarcely exist; the
ravines seem inaccessible. Beaches there are none, save at three or
four points in the long distance to Amalfi; few fishermen dwell on
this barren coast. Only at one or two points are the tunny nets spread
upon the sea; and one may trudge for miles without meeting any soul
but travellers whisked along by their quick-trotting ponies, or here
and there a knot of soldiers lounging, rifle in hand, outside a
guardhouse. The cliff is red and yellow; the grass slopes and the
jutting crags which break them are odorous with rosemary. The road
follows a course meant only for the sea-birds, now buttressed out over
the very face of the abyss, guarded only by a low, crumbling wall, now
driven through the flank of some great headland which could not be
turned. Every yard reminds one that the road is modern, that no
trodden way led along the faces of these cliffs in mediæval times, and
when one comes at last to the ravine of Positano and looks down on the
old brown town, clinging like a hawk's nest to the steep sides of the
gulley which gives access to the sea, the first thought which occurs
is that here was a site of wondrous strength, secure from all attack
save that which came across the ocean, and faced the perils of a
landing on the narrow beach.

Positano feared nothing from the ocean so long as the banner of Amalfi
flew. For this strange cluster of half abandoned houses, looking now
as if some giant had gone through the streets poking holes in the
baked clay of the walls, was a member of that group of towns and
havens which to the world outside the gulf called itself Amalfi.

Positano, Prajano, Conca, Pontone, Scala, Ravello, Minori, Majori,
Cetara--all these and other communes supplied the hardy sailors and
keen merchants who packed the city with the silks and spices of the
East, who, though traders, retained their nobility, like the gentlemen
of Venice, and whose regard for discipline and social obligations was
so keen that the sea laws they had evolved in their two centuries of
admiralty became the wonder and the pattern of the world.

The standing puzzle on the Riviera d'Amalfi is to discover the
original impulse which gave birth to this commonalty. Whence came the
high spirit and the desire of greatness which burnt so brightly, and
flickered out so utterly, these many centuries ago? If the belief of
some historians be true, Positano, which originally was a monks' town,
a mere cluster of houses in the shadow of a monastery, was made
populous by an influx of refugees from Pæstum, fleeing across the gulf
from the pirates who, in the ninth century, gave the _coup de grâce_
to that dying city. The tale is not improbable, and it may be that men
born in the shadow of the splendid ruins which we see to-day carried
with them to their new settlement some tradition of past greatness,
which was stung to life again by the shock of their misfortunes. But
the virile energy which made Pæstum feared upon the sea must have been
almost a forgotten memory even then, and doubtless one should search
elsewhere for the spirit which breathed life into the growing state.

Whencesoever it came, there was once a high audacity among the seamen
of this small port, little as it counts among the harbours of Italy
to-day. It is here that Flavio Gioja dwelt, by whom, as is boasted at
Amalfi, the mariner's compass was given to the world. It is quite
certain that the polarity of the magnet was known before Gioja lived,
if live he did; but though he was assuredly not the first of mankind
to observe the properties of the needle, it may well be that he did
bring back the knowledge from some trading voyage to the East, and
make it known in his own portion of the earth. If so, was he not
entitled to the honour which his country claims for him? At the end of
the thirteenth century, to which his lifetime is ascribed, discoveries
of science were not noised about the world as they are to-day. The
knowledge of one man radiated only a short distance round his
birthplace. Those strangers who had the wit to appreciate it and
carry it elsewhere earned scarcely less honour, and by as just a

The priests have their own legend in explanation of the name which the
town bears. Over the high altar of the church is a picture of the
Virgin and Child painted on a panel of cedar wood. This picture was
rescued--so the story goes--from the fury of the Iconoclasts; and when
the ship which bore it from Greece was nearing Positano, on its way, I
suppose, to Rome, a miraculous voice was heard upon the sea, saying
over and over again, "Posa, posa!" till at last the sailors heeded,
and brought the ship to land, and called the place Positano in memory
of the event.

The road goes down the ravine beside the town of Positano, yet the old
houses go on lower still, to the very edge of the blue sea, where the
water laps in shadow on the beach. There is a fine cascade rushing
down the hillside opposite the town, and high up on the towering
skyline the crag of rock is pierced by a natural arch. The road,
always grand and beautiful, becomes still wilder when the town is
passed, and for a great way it hangs like a ridge of swallows' nests
midway on the face of such precipices as defy description. The
villages come rarely, and the jutting headlands which cut off all
prospect of the different towns increase the solitude of this
wilderness of mountains. When one has passed Vettica Maggiore, where
the women sit plying distaff and spindle in their doorways, one comes
in contact with the degraded and persistent beggary which makes the
peasants of this coast abhorred of strangers; and having rounded the
great cliff of Capo Sottile, one sees far down in a beautiful gorge
the small beach of Prajano, where two or three boats hauled up on the
gravel, with a cottage under the cliff, make a picture of homely
industry which is indescribably refreshing after the savage grandeur
through which one has come for hours. Ere long one sees the beautiful
headland of Conca, with its castle on the cliff. That point is one of
the boundaries of the Bay of Amalfi; and when it has been rounded one
comes ere long to a bridge thrown across the deep gulley of Furore, so
named, it is said, from the wild surging of the waves through its
rocky hollow in rough weather; and so, passing by many a grotto and
overhanging rock, which seems to totter to its fall, one attains at
last to the ancient city of Amalfi.

A long beach of white and grey gravel, facing full south, lies
sparkling in the sunshine. Here and there the strand is littered by
great boulders which have fallen from the cliff, and the sea washes in
among them, cool and translucent. Long lines of net, brown and red,
are extended on the gravel, and here and there a man sits patching it,
while great numbers more sprawl idle on the warm stones. The main
road, descending the hill through a long tunnel in the cliffs, crosses
the Marina. Half the width between the houses and the beach is
occupied by sheets of sacking, on which yellow rice and macaroni are
spread out to bleach. A couple of brown-legged boys in brilliant
scarlet caps sprawl over the half-dried goods, spreading them to catch
the sun more freely; while all the throng of sailors, women going to
the fountain, children pestering visitors for alms, carriages rattling
at quick pace across the stones, crowd up and down the narrow remnant
of the way as best they can.

The mountains drop so steeply on either side of the ravine, and form
with the sea-front a triangle so narrow, that there is but little
space left for the city. The houses are crowded in strange confusion.
It is a town of long vaulted staircases, branching into dark alleys,
out of which the houses are approached by flights of steps. For
several hundred feet one may climb up these eyries, now tasting the
fresh air and catching a glimpse of the blue sea or the many-coloured
campanile rising out of the huddled town below, now dodging to avoid
the refuse flung from some high window on the stair, till at last a
breastwork is attained which sweeps round a corner of the ravine,
lined with houses and protected by a low wall. On a level space below
are orange trees, growing freely among the housetops; and over all
tower the vast mountains, cramping the space on every hand.

Where, one asks oneself, is old Amalfi? In what region of this dirty,
squalid town of idlers are we to seek the relics of that proud city
for the accommodation of whose Oriental trade, brought out of Asia by
the ancient trade route up the Volga and down the Don, a whole quarter
of Constantinople was an emporium not too large. The banner of Amalfi
floated over hospitals for pilgrims in Jerusalem long ere any other
Christian power was able to protect them, and for the better defence
of the sacred places she called into life the noblest of all military
orders, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who first at Acre, then
at Rhodes, and lastly on the rocks of Malta, sustained the cause of
Europe against the Turk with a passionate devotion which might well
have shamed the monarchs into imitation. Where are the palaces of
those senators and doges, the council halls, the exchanges, the noble
colonnades such as one sees in other cities not more famous? What has
happened to the churches, and the monasteries? And where in this small
harbour, fit only for the accommodation of a few coasting schooners,
could anchorage have been found for the fleets which sought out the
furthest corner of the East, and flaunted the banner of Amalfi in
every port from Alexandria to Trebizond?

There is no doubt about the answer. All those splendours, all the
apparatus of this once great city, lie beneath the sea. That which we
look upon to-day is not Amalfi, but a shred of it, only the small
segment which the sea has not yet taken, and the crumbling cliff has
spared from the ruin of its landslips. Look at the western point of
the small harbour. There is just room for the road to climb round
between the mountain and the sea. When one stands at the curve of the
highway, underneath the ancient watchtower that guards the entrance,
one sees the deep creek of Atrani, a town continuous in these days
with Amalfi; and beyond the limits of that creek a wider, broader
indent into the mountain wall, making an open valley, on the further
side of which the town of Majori lies under the vast shadow of the
Monte dell'Avvocato. Such is the aspect of the coast to-day, and one
watches the boats plying in deep water from one point to another of
the cliff. But the chronicle of Minori tells us there was once a beach
from Amalfi to Majori! If that be so, if an alteration so immense has
occurred in the aspect of the coast-line, of what use is it for us to
marvel where the argosies lay, or to guess what may have been reft
from us by the encroaching sea?

It is futile to ponder over what is lost. That which remains is rarely
beautiful, a miracle of colour, and of noisy, seething life. Under the
watchtower of which I spoke there is a broad stone seat, which makes a
pleasant resting-place, if only the greedy beggars of the town will be
content to hunt their prey at the Marina, where the crowd is thickest,
and to leave a moment's peace to the traveller who desires nothing
less than their obtrusive help in discovering what it is worth while
to see. From this point one looks across the beach from hill to hill,
and sidewards up the ravine to the brown mountain-tops. In the very
centre of the town rises the campanile of the cathedral, having a
small cupola roofed with green tiles; and on the hill which closes
down on the further side of the town, approached by a stair of many
flights, stand the long, low buildings of the Cappuccini convent, now
a home for saints no longer, but for sinful tourists, a noisy hostelry
alive with the tongues of many nations, all caring more for cookery
than heaven.

The convent was the work of Cardinal Capuano, a noted ecclesiastic of
Amalfi, on whose name one may pause awhile, if only to recall the fact
that it was he who found the body of St. Andrew the apostle, and
brought it from the East to the cathedral, where it rests beneath a
gorgeous shrine--for ever, we may hope, since the days are past in
which even dead cities are rifled of the bones of saints. It is a
strange fate which gives tombs to two apostles on this coast at so
short a distance from each other as Amalfi and Salerno! The good
Cardinal was at Constantinople shortly after the Crusaders sacked it.
All his life he had been eager to find the body of St. Andrew, patron
saint of his native city. He knew it rested in the city on the
Bosphorus, whither it had been carried from Patras centuries before;
but where the shrine lay no man could tell him. At length, after many
fruitless searches, going one day to the Church of the Holy Apostles
to pray, he was approached by an old priest, who revealed himself to
be his fellow-townsman, and declared the treasure which he sought was
in that very church.

At this point the historian Pansa, from whose learned work I extract
this pious tale, is less precise than could be wished. The Cardinal,
he tells us, watched his opportunity, and got the body of the saint,
with several other bodies, more or less complete in their several
parts. But how? Churches rarely give up relics willingly, and it must
have cost much trouble to abstract so many bones. Some interesting act
of theft is here glossed over. One would like to be quite sure,
moreover, that the relics were authentic, though after all there
cannot really be much doubt of that, for St. Andrew had lain at Amalfi
scarce three centuries and a half when he did the town most signal
service. The corsair Barbarossa, often mentioned in these pages,
having been driven off from Pozzuoli by the Viceroy of Naples,
conceived the idea of revenging himself at Amalfi; and would certainly
have accomplished his fell purpose, the sea power of the city being
long since dead, had not St. Andrew, out of a clear summer sky, raised
such a tempest as taught the pirate once for all that he could not
flout a saint with safety.

I wish that the powers which scattered Barbarossa's ships had been
exerted to hold back the ruin which crashed down on the end of the
long buildings of the Cappuccini some six months ago. As I sit looking
across the harbour to the hillside where the convent stands, my sight
is drawn continually by a ghastly scar in the rock at the further end
of the buildings, and beyond it, down to the very level of the sea, is
a hideous ruin--a wild confusion of gigantic boulders projecting from
steep slopes of rubble and débris. One might look at the wreck of this
evident convulsion a hundred times without guessing what was there six
months ago--indeed, what lies there still, crushed and hidden by the
fall of the overhanging cliff.

Just at the entrance of the town the road passes through the Grotto of
St. Christopher. At the mouth of the grotto is a signboard, bearing
the words, "Hotel e Pensione Santa Caterina," with an arrow pointing
to a narrow path cut round the cliff towards the face of the
projecting headland. The path goes nowhere now; after a few yards it
ends in nothing.

At that point one can see no more; but from this seat on the opposite
side of the harbour one looks towards the headland, formerly most
beautiful. For the overhanging cliff was topped with brushwood; it was
chiselled into slopes and hollows, where the shadows lay superbly.
Midway up its height stood the white buildings of the Pensione
Caterina, with its terraced garden; and a winding footway cut below
the Pensione was the access for sailors to a quay and a pretty strip
of beach, where a few boats were hauled up and the larger barks of
fishermen lay moored in safety. So it looked on that December morning,
when, with little warning, all the face of the headland slipped away
and crashed down upon the shore, carrying with it nearly a third part
of the Cappuccini Convent, and burying the whole of the "Santa
Caterina" as completely as if it had never been.

Since that awful catastrophe, in which two ladies and several
fishermen lost their lives, the ruin has lain untouched. Probably it
will continue so, until time has covered up the scars with moss and
lichen, and softened the piteous tale of the two lost ladies with all
the grace and charm of folklore. Landslips and encroachments of the
sea have dealt hardly with Amalfi. Perhaps it is scarcely strange that
a people so buffeted by fate should lose their hope of greatness, and
conceive no interest save the pillage of their guests. Returning to
the centre of the town, I turn off from the marina by the first
archway leading to the piazza, just where a tablet on the wall calls
on Mary by the name of Stella Maris, "Star of the Sea," to aid all
sailors in peril of the deep; and ere quitting the shadow for the
sunlight, I stand in wonder at the beauty of the prospect. The piazza
is irregular in shape, roughly triangular, following the conformation
of the ground. In its midst is an ancient statue round whose base the
pavement is stacked high with vegetables, piles of lettuces and
carrots lighting up the grey shadowy space, round which stand the
high, irregular houses, with quaint alcoves and dark stairs climbing
to the higher stories. There is a deafening babble of tongues,
swarthy, broad-browed women kneeling by their baskets and screaming
ceaselessly at the purchasers, who themselves are no less voluble,
while the confusion is increased by bawling children, of whom some one
is every moment at the traveller's elbow, pestering him with "Signurì,
u' sold'," and clinging like a leech, in spite of the angriest
"Vattèn" which stranger-lips can speak.

It is a striking, many-coloured scene of full and vivid life,
material, not to say degraded, in its aspect. But beyond this crowd of
unaspiring humanity, passionate of gain rather than of any
unsubstantial thing, rises the splendid front of the cathedral, set
upon a height, as the temple of the Lord should be. A long and noble
flight of steps, the haunt of squalid beggar children, gives access to
a portico of many arches, rebuilt in recent years, but resting still
on some of its antique pillars; while on the left rises the
many-coloured campanile, its four small turrets clustered about the
central lantern like the apostles standing round the Incarnate Word,
so Volpicella puts it. Ruined and restored, altered by hands of men
who could not comprehend the strivings of the ancient builders, this
lovely structure still bears witness to the spirituality which dwelt
here, as elsewhere in Italy, seven centuries ago. High over the
babble of the degraded town it towers in its old majesty of form and
colour; while higher still the mountain-slopes behind it rise in
terrace beyond terrace into the silent regions of pure sunlight and
fresh, untainted air.

It is the only spot in Amalfi where soul still triumphs over sense.
The interior has been badly modernised, and is less striking. The
sub-church, as happens so often in south Italy, is but little changed,
and its five apses suggest tolerably clearly that the upper church
must at one time have had double aisles. Indeed, one of those aisles
exists still on the north side, though walled off so as to form a
distinct church.

There are many things worth notice in this church, but I shall speak
chiefly of the doors of the main entrance, the great bronze doors of
workmanship so fine that the most careless visitor cannot pass them by
unnoticed. These doors were given to the cathedral by the great family
of Pantaleone, before the year 1066. They are not of Italian
workmanship, but were wrought in Constantinople, with which town, as I
have said before, Amalfi traders held a constant intercourse. It is
not a bad way of realising the extent and importance of that trade to
stand in front of these very beautiful doors, to consider what their
value must have been, and then to reflect that the family of
Pantaleone gave to Italian churches no less than five pairs of similar
doors. These were their first gift. Others were presented to the
Church of San Salvatore a Bireta at Atrani, where the doges of Amalfi
were elected. It is interesting to compare them with these of the
cathedral. Another set went to Rome, but do not now exist; another to
Monte Cassino; while for another benefaction still the Pantaleoni
reached across the peninsula to the Adriatic shore, and presented
bronze doors to the Church of the Archangel upon Monte Gargano, that
great and solitary mountain shrine which in mediæval days was all and
more than all that Monte Cassino and Monte Vergine are to-day, visited
with at least as much rapture of devotion and far more famous in the
remotest parts of Christian Europe, being indeed the mother church of
Mont St. Michel and our own St. Michael's Mount.

Monte Gargano looks down on the Apulian coast towns, Trani, Bari,
Barletta, and half a dozen more, all of which, by their situation
facing to the east, are and have always been the chief gates of
Oriental trade passing into Italy. Travellers of to-day are apt to
forget the importance of the Adriatic coast throughout Italian
history. It may well be that a great part of the trade between Amalfi
and Constantinople was conducted by sea; but certainly also much
traffic must have passed across the country from coast to coast; and
it is certain that Ravello and Scala traded chiefly with the Apulian
coast towns, maintaining important settlements in every one, and so
securing a share in the Eastern trade at second hand. Thus it is not
surprising to see in the cathedral at Ravello another pair of bronze
gates, about which there is this interesting fact to be noted, namely
that they are not of Constantinople workmanship, though of that
school, but were wrought by Barisanus of Trani, who also made a
similar pair of gates for the cathedral of his own city, and another
for that of Monreale.

Thus the art practised in Constantinople had passed over sea to one of
the most important of the Apulian towns, and in its passage it had
gained nobility. For the work of the Apulian craftsman is finer and
more dignified than that of his Greek master, and indeed Schulz, who
was no mean critic, declared roundly that the Ravello gates were
unmatched save only by those which, by a miracle of craft, Ghiberti
wrought for the baptistery of Florence.

Upon the summit of the mountain which rises behind the cathedral
stands a very noticeable tower. It is of well-authenticated history,
and the guide-books will give all the truth about it. Thus I need
concern myself only with the fable, which I do the more gladly since
it brings on the scene an old acquaintance, no other, indeed, than "La
Regina Giovanna," whom we left behind on the Posilipo. I do not know
of any historical warrant for connecting either Queen Joanna with
Amalfi, though doubtless both visited a city so important in their
day. But the peasants, intent as ever on localising their folklore,
repeat upon this spot all the legends of the luckless Queen, her
lovers and the fate which she reserved for them. I wish some traveller
of leisure would make it his business to collect out of all southern
Italy the various traces of this myth. It has bitten deeply into the
heart of the people from Sicily to Naples, if not further, and in
Provence, which was included in the dominions of the first Joanna, the
tradition is said also to exist. "Si' comme 'a Regina Giuvanna!" is a
taunt which strips the last rag from a woman's character. In Sicily it
is said that the Queen visited her stables nightly and chose her
lovers from her grooms. There is in existence the strangest possible
dialogue in Latin between the Queen and an enchanter, who conjures up
a spirit to foretell her end. It dates from the first half of the
fifteenth century, and embodies what were doubtless the current
traditions when the dissolute life of the second Joanna had revived
and deepened the memory of the failings of the first.

The way to the mountain fastness of Ravello is wild and beautiful. It
turns up across the hill beyond Atrani, and having surmounted the
ridge, drops down again into the valley of the mills, a silent,
shadowy ravine, between the brooding mountains, through which a pretty
brook splashes down from leap to leap. The road winds upwards steadily
till at last the old brown town of Scala is seen on the further side
of the ravine, and a little later the towers of Ravello face it on the
nearer hill. Both are inland villages, deserted in these days by
almost all save peasants. But when Amalfi was great these mountain
cities were great also; and of Ravello a tale is set down by
Boccaccio, which sheds a flood of light on the pursuits of the
dwellers on this coast five centuries ago.

"Near Salerno," says the prince of storytellers, "is a hill country
looking on the sea, named by its inhabitants 'La Costa d'Amalfi,' full
of little cities, of gardens and of fountains, as well as of rich men,
eager in the pursuit of commerce. Among these cities is one named
Ravello, wherein, just as there are rich men in it now, once dwelt
Landolfo Rufolo, who was more than rich, but, not content with his
wealth, tried to double it, and went near to lose the whole."

Landolfo, it appears, had conceived the idea that a large market lay
open in Cyprus for certain kinds of wares, and accordingly he realised
all the capital he could command, bought a large ship, laded it deep
with goods, and set sail from home, but when he reached Cyprus he
found the markets glutted. Prices fell to almost nothing, and he had
almost to give the goods away. Thus he was cast down in a single day
from wealth to poverty, and saw no course open to him but to die or to
turn corsair.

Of these alternatives the natural man would choose the last, and
Landolfo was frankly natural in all his acts. He sold his heavy ship,
bought a light one, fitted it with all things needful for the trade of
piracy, and set sail once more, intent on pillage,--of Turks
especially, but by no means only those, for pirates must be practical.
In this vocation Heaven helped him who helped himself, so that within
a year he had not only regained what Boccaccio quaintly calls "his
own," but much more also; and being minded not to push his luck too
far, set sail for home, where he meant to live in peace.

He had got as far as the Greek archipelago when he met a storm, and
put into a small creek for shelter. In that creek two Genoese ships
were lying, and the Genoese, being of like profession to Landolfo,
made a prize of him, sacked his ship, and scuttled it.

These Genoese were God-fearing men, and having got Landolfo's goods,
by no means desired to deprive him of his life. Thus when the storm
abated the citizen of Ravello, now once more a beggar, set sail for
Genoa on his captors' ship. For a whole day the sea was kind and
smooth; but the storm came back, the two ships were driven far apart,
and the one in which Landolfo was a prisoner, driving on a reef off
the island of Cephalonia, was shattered like a glass bottle flung at a

The ship was gone; it was dark night; the sea was strewn with floating
wreckage; and Landolfo, who had been calling all day for death to
relieve his sorrows, saw the grisly shape awaiting him and did not
like it. Accordingly he caught at a table which went swimming by, and
getting astride of it as best he could, held on with a grip of
desperation. So he went on, up and down the hills and valleys of the
sea, till at last he became aware of a huge chest floating near him,
which threatened every moment to surge up against his frail raft and
sink it utterly. He fended the chest off with his hand as best he
could, but presently there came a mighty squall of wind, raising a sea
so great that the chest drove down and over the luckless merchant,
tore him from his perch, and sank him in the sea.

When he came up, gasping and half drowned, his raft was so far off
that he feared to make for it. But the chest was close at hand, and
across it he cast himself, and so was tossed up and down all that day
and the next night. But when the light returned, either the will of
God or the force of the wind drove him to the shore of the Island of
Gurfo, where a poor woman happened to be polishing her household pots
among the sand; and she, seeing a shapeless thing tossing up and down
in the surf a little way from shore, waded out and dragged it ashore.

Much warm water and judicious rubbing brought back the departing life
to Landolfo's body, and in a day or two he thought himself well enough
to go. The old woman thought so too, and gave him a broad hint to be
off. So the ruined merchant gathered up his rags, and being in no want
of the chest, thought of giving it to his hostess in return for her
Christian care of him. But like a prudent merchant he first took the
precaution of opening it when alone, and found it filled with precious
stones, set and unset, of great value.

Landolfo, though somewhat stunned by this fresh caprice of fortune,
yet saw clearly how improper it would be to give all this wealth to
the old woman. So he packed the whole of it about his person, gave her
the empty chest, and departed with tears and blessings. On some
fisherman's boat he got across to Brindisi, and so up the coast to
Trani, where he found merchants of his own town. Note once more the
close relations between Ravello and the Apulian cities. These friendly
merchants clothed him, gave him a horse, and sent him home, where he
realised his wealth and lived in honour all his days.

This Rufolo family of Amalfi was one of the greatest in all Italy,
though unhappily it has been extinct these many centuries. So far as
can be ascertained, the name of Landolfo does not occur among their
records. But Boccaccio's story has the marks of truth. It is all quite
possible, and its incidents entirely in keeping with the manners of
the age. One writer, I see, calls it a "brutta storia," but we need
not use hard names about what we ourselves should certainly have done
had we lived in the twelfth century. The greedy vulture Charles of
Anjou was often indebted to the wealth of the Rufoli for loans. In
1275 Matteo Rufolo and fifteen other nobles of this neighbourhood held
the royal crown in pledge! What wealth there must have been in the
decaying palaces of these hillsides! The Rufoli had a villa on the
seashore at a spot called "La Marmorata," set by a stream which flows
down through groves of oranges and lemons to the sea. In this villa
they feasted the monarchs of the House of Anjou right royally; and the
peasants still say that at the end of every course the silver dishes
were flung out of the window into the sea, to show how little the
wealthy Rufoli recked even of such precious wares as those. But it is
added that the canny nobles did not really lose the dishes, for nets
had been laid carefully beneath the sea, into which the silver fell,
and out of which it was recovered when the guests had gone.

This tale sounds too remarkable to be invented. Yet it is in fact only
a variant of a myth localised also in Sicily, and doubtless in many
other places. The Palermo version is worth noting. It is a pendant,
of course quite unhistorical, to one of the traditions of the Sicilian
Vespers. After the massacre, the Pope laid an interdict on Sicily. The
churches were closed and the bells silent. The people could not live
so; something must be done. So they built a ship, and a group of
gentlemen went on board, carrying with them all the silver cups and
dishes which they possessed. They sailed to Rome, and having reached
the Tiber, they feigned the speech and manners of some strange
country, and on the deck of their ship they sat banqueting, while as
each precious vessel served its turn they flung it overboard, where it
fell into a net concealed about the vessel's keel. The fame of these
reckless strangers soon reached the Pope, who came down to see the
marvel, and, being very curious about the matter, was easily induced
to step on board. Whereupon the strangers shot out their oars and,
rowing quickly off, carried the Pope to Palermo, where he was soon
persuaded to relieve Sicily of the interdict.

Such tales as these blow about the world like balls of thistledown,
lighting now here, now there, and securing at each resting-place a
passionate belief. What is the truth of the fact common to both these
tales, and in what age and place are we to seek for it? The age of
Mediterranean folklore is past guessing, and the variety of races
which have dwelt upon the shores of the great inland sea should make
it the richest in the world.

Whilst we have been discoursing of the Rufoli the road, having climbed
over the shoulder of the hill above Atrani, has been slowly mounting
the valley of the Dragone, and at last it emerges on the small piazza
fronting the Cathedral of Ravello. By the time he attains this plateau
on the mountain-top the traveller will have seen enough of the
approach to set him pondering by what fact it happened that Ravello
ever grew into an important city. For nothing is more certain than
that the course of trade is not determined by caprice. Chance has no
part in it, and any man who wishes to understand the causes of the
rise or fall of cities must ask himself in every case what convenience
brought trade thither, or what inconvenience checked it. Now the
inconvenience of the situation in which Ravello lies is manifest, and
as the existing road was made out of a rough muletrack only in the
present generation, the difficulty of access either to Ravello or La
Scala must have been immense. Yet that difficulty did not deflect the
trade. Both cities were undoubtedly rich. La Scala is said to have
possessed one hundred and thirty churches, a statement which seems
incredible to-day, even if the outlying towns of Pontone and Minuto be
included in the number. D'Engenio enumerates no less than twenty-five
families of undoubted nobility at Ravello, and adds to his list the
words "et alii." At Scala he mentions only twelve. All abandoned these
hilltops centuries ago, leaving their palaces to decay. That is
scarcely strange. It is easy to understand why trade left this
half-inaccessible eyrie. The wonder is what brought it here. The city
had a great reputation for the dyeing of stuffs. Why did not the dyers
establish their vats at the foot of the hill, profiting by the
constant intercourse of Amalfi with other cities? I can see no other
reason for the growth of Ravello and La Scala than the paramount
necessity in the early Middle Ages of safety from sea rovers. It will
be impossible to verify this guess until some really scholarly man,
probably a German, elects to spend his learning in elucidating the dim
and tangled history of this most interesting coast. It would be a
noble task, and it is strange that some fine scholar has not been
attracted to the work ere now.

Probably the visitor who has just arrived in the cathedral piazza may
not immediately see with how great beauty Ravello has been adorned. It
is certainly no more than the wreck of what it once was. But this can
be said of so many Italian towns that the point may be scarcely worth
making. The cathedral once possessed a beautiful porch, approached
from the piazza by a double flight of seventeen white marble steps. It
has none now. Within is a lamentable scene of desolation, a church
once filled with glorious works of art among which rather more than a
century ago a bishop was allowed to work his will. An Anglican rector
with a passion for encaustic tiles could not have wrought more
mischief. The bishop's conception of beauty lay in the whitewash pot.
This simple ideal he worked out with such thoroughness that in all the
church only two half-figures remain of the noble frescoes which were
once its pride. The bishop looked round, saw that it was well, and
began on the mosaics, which were priceless and beyond all praise. The
most beautiful of these was probably the baldacchino which surmounted
the high altar. This the energetic bishop got rid of altogether,
unless it be the fact, as some suppose, that a few scraps of it are
embedded in the bishops throne. There were fifty-two choir stalls of
carved walnut wood. They dated from the year 1320, and anyone who
surveys the relics of the great beauty with which the founders of the
church equipped it may guess that the choir stalls were rarely lovely.
Not one chip remains of them. By the time he had done all this the
bishop had made much progress towards bringing his lovely cathedral to
the condition of some Bible Christian chapel in a country village.
But the church was full of marbles. Out they went, no one knows where.
The pulpit was among the most exquisite of man's works. He began to
deface it, but something stayed his hand, I cannot guess what, for
such a man must have been impenetrable to remorse. The man who did us
this intolerable wrong was called Tafuri, and I hope visitors to
Ravello will not forget him.

By some providential accident the pulpit remains but little hurt. Its
western end is carried on six slender spiral pillars, each a twist of
exquisite mosaic, and supported on the backs of lions and lionesses of
strong, fine workmanship. The body of the pulpit is a marvel, a superb
blend of rich soft colour with the purest carving in white marble. It
is wrought with the most delicate fancy and restraint. It lights up
the whole desolated church, and makes one's heart burn for the rare
beauty which was shattered and destroyed by the ignorant Bishop
Tafuri. And, more than that, this pulpit is an object which sets one
pondering whether southern Italy in the great age of the Hohenstaufen,
or their first successors, can have been so destitute of great artists
as is maintained by certain critics, among the rest by Crowe and
Cavalcaselle. It is true that scarce any paintings in Naples can be
attributed to the native artists of that period save those which have
been retouched so often as to be of no value to the argument. But
granting this, it is surely fair to say that the existence of this
pulpit proves the possession of a sense of form and colour so noble
that it must have produced fine painters. The craftsman was Nicolo di
Foggia, again an Apulian town, unless it be the fact, as I see some
say, that a family named De Foggia was settled in Ravello. But art so
beautiful as this is begotten of a long tradition; it is an
inheritance from many predecessors of less merit. It does not leap
into existence in the full blossom of its beauty. The ideals of
Nicolo, and in some measure his attainments also, must have been those
of others in his day, and it cannot be that some of them did not
express their conceptions with the brush. The last four centuries have
wrought almost as much mischief in southern Italy as a barbarian
invasion, yet the cathedral at Ravello remains one of the spots at
which we can best perceive the greatness of that which once was; and
few men who ponder on the grandeur of the doors and the soft wealth of
colour on the pulpit, the ambo, and the bishop's throne, will be
disposed to deny that there was once a tribe of artists in these
regions who earned immortality of fame, though destiny has snatched
away their crown.

It is but a stone's-throw from the cathedral to the gate of the
Palazzo Rufolo, which, by the unselfish courtesy of the late Mr. Reid
and his widow, is freely opened to the inspection of any stranger
anxious to examine its rare beauty. The palace, though lovingly
repaired and tended by Mr. Reid, is but the wreck of itself, having
suffered sorely not only by the waste of time, but also by cruel
barbarity in the last century. Yet it remains a most important example
of the Saracenic taste which crept into this country from the middle
of the ninth century, affecting profoundly both its life and art, and
perhaps carrying with it the seed of ultimate destruction. It is true,
at all events, that the rulers of this coast began in the eleventh or
twelfth century to lay such stress on purity of blood as to suggest
that they discovered peril in the blending of Italian blood with
Moorish. It is not easy to realise in what degree Saracens dwelt
freely in the land. It was in the year 842 that a rival claimant for
the great Lombard Duchy of Benevento called in the aid of Saracens.
Not long afterwards the followers of the Crescent established
themselves at Bari. They pillaged Sant'Angelo, the sacred city on
Monte Gargano, both in 869 and 952, while before the ninth century
closed the Dukes of Naples, Amalfi and Salerno were in league with
them for the plunder of Roman territory. The Norman kings, when they
founded the realm of Naples, made no effort to exterminate them.
Frederick the Second loved their art and science, spoke their
language, and was often taunted with adopting their religion and

Clearly, then, there is no ground for surprise at finding on this spot
traces of Saracenic influence on architecture. Doubtless, if we had
records of the life led by the founders of this palace, we should find
that it also was largely Saracenic, and that from Bari, Lucera,
Salerno, and elsewhere, many a turbaned scholar or merchant brought
the grace and luxury of the East, and fired the latent sense of beauty
in Italian hearts much as in olden days the Greeks had touched the
selfsame strings.

Many parts of the Palazzo Rufolo show the lovely fancy of the Saracen
builders, but more than elsewhere it is displayed in the remnants of
the courtyard, where one arcade is still intact of arches so delicate
and graceful as make one wish that the same principles of building
might have permeated all the country and transformed the palaces of
other nobles also into dwellings as beautiful as the Palazzo Rufolo
once was. From the court one passes to the terrace garden, which lies
on the very brow of the mountain, commanding what is surely among the
loveliest views of the whole world.

The curious penetrating charm of this terrace garden, the marvel of
its view across the fabled sea which was cleft by the galleys of
Ulysses and Æneas, appealed so strongly to the most romantic spirit of
our generation that Richard Wagner, signing his name in the visitors'
book of the Hotel Palumbo, added the words, "Klingsor's Zaubergarten
ist gefunden."

Destiny is sometimes overkind, or she would not have added to a spot
so rich in memories all the associations which are called up by those
four words,--the lovely songs of the flower maidens, most exquisite of
all our age; the strange passionate seduction of the enchantress
Kundry, plucking chord after chord of memory; the wild ecstasy of
spiritual purity reasserting its dominion over the guileless fool, the
magic spear hurled at him from the battlements and caught harmless in
mid air, the crumbling of the castle walls like the unsubstantial
fabric of a vision. Many an age will go by before what is noblest in
the heart of man will cease to be uplifted by this great fable. And it
is to Ravello that our thoughts must turn whenever _Parsifal_ exalts
them. It is on this mountain-top that the great temptation was trodden

Beyond the Palazzo Rufolo the old mountain city prolongs itself into
what was once its most exclusive quarter, the "Toro." The nobles of
this privileged spot held themselves aloof from their fellow-townsmen,
and assumed the privileges of a ruling caste. On the Piazza in the
centre of this quarter stands the Church of San Giovanni del Toro, of
which Pansa said that it was the most beautiful seen in many hours'
journey along this coast. Like the cathedral, it has been sorely used;
yet of late years something has been done for its preservation. The
crypt with its interesting frescoes was ruined and inaccessible when
Schulz visited Ravello, but is in tolerable order now. There is a
mosaic pulpit, less beautiful than that of the cathedral, but still
magnificent, and traces of fine frescoes remain to show how the
keepers of the church interpreted their obligations to posterity.

More than one of the old palaces in this quarter retains some of its
old splendour. Among them is the Hotel Palumbo, to which I have
referred already--a quiet, comfortable resting-place, in which a
kindly hostess not only speaks English, but understands the habits of
the English far enough to make her house a charming memory with all
who stay there. I do not know of any more beautiful or pleasant spot,
even in Capri, and certainly there can be none healthier than this
mountain town, perched high above the exhalations which strangers
dread, though indeed less justly than they should fear their own
prudence. The hotel was formerly the bishop's palace. Its comfortable
salon was once the chapel, and a little door opening from one corner
gives access to a narrow stair by which the bishop descended to his
meditation chamber. The holier men are, the more the foul fiend
plagues them; and that is doubtless how it comes to pass that in this
meditation chamber there are ladies painted on the walls, temptations
which no doubt the bishop caused to be depicted there in everlasting
memory of his triumphant victory over the intrusive fiend.

The terrace of the hotel commands what is practically the same view
which is seen from the garden of the Palazzo Rufolo. The light is
failing, and the great bulk of the Monte dell'Avvocata is growing
black. I know not how many ages have passed since the Virgin, clothed
in light, appeared to a simple shepherd on the mountain-side, saying
to him, "If thou wilt stay here and pray, I will be thine advocate."
The man did stay to pray, and on the spot where the mother of mankind
became his advocate he built a hermitage which these many years has
lain in ruins. But still the mountain retains its name, for faith
lingers yet upon these heights, where life is simple, and forces up no
problems. My friend Mr. Ferard, staying at the Hotel Palumbo about the
time when the autumn evening darkens down early over hill and valley,
was called out by his hostess to the terrace to listen to the bell of
Sant'Antonio chiming from the ancient convent near the town. It was
the first hour of the night, an hour after Angelus; and as the peal of
Sant'Antonio floated across the steep hillside, it was met by the
answering chimes from the cathedral churches of Majori and Minori,
lying far down by the base of the mountain near the sea. Presently a
number of small lights began to glimmer in the valley. They were the
lamps and candles set outside their houses by the peasants when they
hear the chiming of the bells, and kept there till the ringing ceases.
But why, or with what object? It is because every Thursday evening, at
the first hour of the night, our Lord who redeemed the world comes
down out of heaven and passes through the street. He must not pass in
darkness, and the lamps are set out to light Him by. The chiming of
the bell through the brown autumn air, the lights twinkling like
little stars out of the deep valley, the simple act of faith and
reverence, leave a deep impression on the hearts of those who witness
a ceremony so little tainted with the modern spirit. One is carried
back into an earlier age, when many a lovely vision occupied men's
minds which left the world the poorer when it fled from the earth. And
so I leave Ravello, while the lamps are set outside the windows still
and the chiming of the bells announces that on this mountain-side
faith is not dead, nor the homes of the peasants yet left comfortless.



The arms of the ancient city of Majori are the most apt that could
possibly be devised. Upon an azure field the city bears a sprig of
marjoram--in token, surely it must have been in token, of the rare and
memorable beauty of its mountain-sides, where a sea so blue that
nothing out of heaven can surpass it laps about the base of cliffs
which in spring-time are from top to bottom and from end to end one
fragrant field of aromatic and delicious odours. The scented myrtle is
knee-deep. The rosemary and marjoram root themselves in every cleft,
and a thousand other herbs growing rank along the mountain-side catch
every breeze that blows and fill the air, especially in the morning
when the shadows are still wet and the day has not yet grown
languorous, with thymy fragrances blown out of every hollow and
ravine. Meantime among the grass and herbage of the cliffs the flowers
glow like an Eastern carpet. The white gum-cistus stars the hillside
thickly, and the anemones cluster in soft banks of colour, while up
and down the banks crimson cyclamens burn little tongues of flame, and
over all waves the graceful asphodel.

It is when one climbs the hill on the Salerno road beyond Majori that
these sweet sights and odours are encountered. But first the way
passes through Minori, dipping down to the sea-level at the marina of
that little town, which now has no industry but fishing, yet once
harboured ships and traders from the East. No one of these townlets is
devoid of interest, yet when a man travels by this road he is afire to
reach the greater beauty further on, and will not tarry to collect the
broken fragments of an old tradition at this point. The road emerges
from the houses, and in a little way it frees itself from the hills
and enters the wider valley of Majori, running out on a wide, pleasant
beach, where an avenue of trees gives shelter from the sun. On the
right-hand the fishers are drawing up their nets, women hauling with
the men, while on the left the ancient town lies open in a broad,
straight street, surmounted by the castle which in old days could not
save it from the Pisan onslaught, and in modern ones has nothing left
to guard. It is not, however, this landward castle which lingers in
the memory of the traveller as he turns his memory back upon this
beautiful and breezy beach. It is rather the tower, not near so
ancient, which juts out to the sea at the very point of the cliff
formed by the downward slope of the Monte dell'Avvocata. That vast
mountain wall descends so steeply that it seems to forbid access to
this pleasant valley from the outer world; and just where the dark and
shadowy rock touches the blue sea the castle is approached by three
high and slender arches carrying a bridge. It is one of the coast
towers erected as a refuge from the incursions of sea-rovers,
belonging to the same group of fortifications as the Castello di
Conca, or the Torre dello Ziro at Atrani.

The castle stands out finely in the shadow of the hill. The blue sea
is warm and soft. Far away towards Salerno a dim gleam from time to
time betrays the mountains of Cilento, snow-capped and wreathed in
clouds. The road climbs upward from the beach, winding round the
headland with continually growing beauty. The rock forms are superb;
and as the way rises on the flank of the sweet-scented mountain it
passes ravine upon ravine, each one cleft down to the blue water's
edge, a shadowy precipice fringed by the soft spring sunshine. The
road mounts. The ravines grow deeper. The washing of the sea dies away
to a pleasant far-off murmur; and at last one attains the summit of
the Capo d'Orso, and pauses to absorb the immense beauty of the

As one stands upon this height one perceives that the creek upon which
Amalfi is built has receded into its true position as no more than a
single inlet in a wide bay which extends from Capo di Conca to Capo
d'Orso, at least five miles as the crow flies, and includes other
indentations of no less size.

It is by the size and importance of this bay that the old consequence
of Amalfi should be measured rather than by what stood upon the city
site itself. The historian Hallam, when he visited this coast, doubted
the tradition of commercial greatness, remarking that the nature of
the ground and the proximity of the mountains to the sea can never
have admitted the growth of a city whose transactions were really
vast. He does not seem to have realised that Amalfi was a group of
cities, of which, perhaps, no one was very large, but each had its own
vigorous life, each one contributed some distinct element to the
strength and valour of the commonwealth. Doubtless, also, all vied
together to promote the glory of the whole.

After crossing Capo d'Orso the road descends, and its beauty
decreases, until one sees Cetara, the old cliff town which was the
limit of the Duchy of Amalfi, and for many years a nest of Saracens;
and further on Vietri, standing quaint and beautiful upon the sea.

At Vietri we must turn inland, for though the greater beauty of the
sea coast has led us away from the high valley of La Cava, yet the
ancient abbey on the mountain-side above that summer resort is famous
by too many titles for us to pass it by. A pleasant road leads inland
from the pretty little port. Ere long the highway up the valley is
abandoned for a winding lane, which climbs and climbs till it comes
out at last on a small white village, nestling under the slopes of
higher hills. The air is keen upon this lofty ground. Spring has not
yet advanced so far as on the coast, but all the brown coppice on the
mountain slopes is flushing into green, and the serrated ridge that
jags the skyline is lit and obscured by flying light and shadow.

All the air is musical with streams and fragrant with the scent of
fresh-sawn wood. Plodding cautiously along the mountain path come the
mules laden with sawn boughs for vine-poles; and on a stair which
mounts to the level of the abbey out of the deep valley-bottom
children are carrying up long bundles of fresh-smelling laths. The
abbey stands half-way down the narrow valley, a solitude of wood and
mountain. The church is of the period when piety proved its zeal by
destroying fine building which it was unable to replace, but beneath
it are many remnants of the ancient beauty, and even in the church
itself, glittering with gold and undistinguished paintings, one may
see in the south-east chapel a fragment of primæval rock covered with
rough frescoes, which recalls strangely the memory of an age in which
the monks sought heaven by a ruder path than that which they tread
now. If one descends into the crypt, that austere impression grows the
deeper. Here is nothing splendid, but construction which is simple,
solid, and severe. There is a noble courtyard and a cavernous crypt,
in which lie the bones of Lombard princes loosely stacked with those
of others of less note, all equal now, the greater undistinguished
from the less. Some came hither humbly clad as pilgrims; and indeed in
early days, when faith impelled men forth on pilgrimage from every
land, this great abbey, lying so near both to Amalfi and Salerno, must
have heard the orisons of those who spoke in many tongues.

Pilgrims who sought the Holy Land travelled very frequently on ships
belonging to this coast. They came sometimes in penance and sometimes
in love. Some travelled laden with fetters made of the steel with
which they had slain a neighbour, some bore no other burden than the
staff and scrip; but both alike came over the Alps from northern
countries in astonishing numbers, and all were cared for as they came
or went by that abounding charity which is the great glory of the
Middle Ages. "In richer places," declared an ordinance of the Emperor
Lewis the Pious in the year 816, "two-thirds of the wealth given to
the clergy shall be set aside for the poor; in poorer places
one-half." Out of these funds hospitals to shelter pilgrims were
placed on every lonely tract where they might be stayed by the
necessities of travel, on mountain roads where night might overtake
them far from hospitable dwellings, by bridgeless rivers which might
be made impassable by flood. Churchmen and laity vied with each other
to ease the way of these wanderers of God, and the care with which
edicts were issued relating to the maintenance of the hospices
testifies to the greatness of the numbers which, but for the piety of
the faithful, must have perished in the wilderness.

In this passionate devotion to the sacred places originated the
kingdom of the Normans in southern Italy and Sicily. For a band of
Normans returning from the Holy Land on a ship of Salerno were still
in that city, then a Lombard duchy, when the Saracens landed to exact
the tribute which they extorted at certain or uncertain intervals. The
proud pilgrims resented the insolent demand, and at the permission of
the duke attacked the followers of Mahomet and drove them off. Then
followed the usual tale of profuse gratitude, territorial concessions,
and ultimate subjection to the stranger. Thus it is not for nothing
that Norman pilgrims are recalled to our memory at La Cava.

The abbey has rendered to the world priceless services by the careful
preservation of its records. Manuscripts of inestimable value lie
stored in the long presses of its library; and for the last two
centuries have formed the chief resource of historians of southern
Italy. Lying as La Cava does on the edge of the ground over which
Lombards, Saracens, and Normans wrestled for dominion, her records
have an absolutely vital interest, and many a scholar turns his mind
towards that quiet library among the mountains with reverence almost
as deep as the ancient pilgrims felt for the abbey church.

There is not very much of interest upon the way from the abbey to
Salerno, saving only the exquisite beauty of the sea, which grows
bluer as the day increases. But in approaching the old city, which was
once so famed among physicians, one passes by the arches of an ancient
aqueduct, which reminds me that I undertook to explain why the Isles
of the Sirens are called "I Galli." You think the moment has gone by
for speaking of the islets? By no means. This is the proper place, for
in this city of Salerno dwelt an enchanter who knew more about their
origin than any other man.

This enchanter was called Pietro Bajalardo--there are other forms of
his name, but we need not be exact. The aqueduct reminded me of him
because he is said to have built it by his magic powers just as Virgil
with the same black art constructed the Grotto of Posilipo. It may
have been the success of this great feat which inspired him with the
idea of rendering to Salerno a service even more important, and
providing it with a good safe harbour. This is a thing which all
Salernitans have desired ardently from very early days, and on the
possible construction of which they have based such hopes of eminence
that, as they say--

     "Si Salierno avesse 'o puorte
     Napule sarria muorte!"

This neighbourly aspiration it was which Pietro set himself to
encourage; and he asked of the eager townsmen one thing only, namely,
that they should forthwith slaughter all the cocks in the city, so
that when his legions of fiends were engaged in their gigantic task
they might not be disturbed and frightened by that sound which all
sinners have loathed since the days of the Apostle Peter. So light a
condition was complied with gladly. All day Salerno was filled with
the sound of expiring cackles; and night descended with the
comfortable belief that for once her stillness would reign unbroken by
the officious trumpeting which bade her go.

Pietro was at work in the window of his high tower. Through the dark
air legions of devils came and went to do his bidding. Fast they sped
over the silent sea, carrying huge blocks of limestone from the Punta
di Campanella. The sky was crossed and recrossed thickly with wondrous
potencies and powers, while all the city lay and held its breath. All,
that is to say, save one old woman, who loved her cock too much to
slaughter him. The harbour was very little to her, the cock was much.
So she hid him under an old pan, and went to bed hoping he would be
discreet. But the bird smelt the approach of dawn in his confinement,
and announced it with an indignant screech. Away flew the demons,
tumbling over each other in their fright. In their haste to be gone
they let drop into the sea the big blocks they were carrying, and
never by any art could be induced to take up their task again. The
blocks they dropped are now the islands of "I Galli," that is to say,
"The Cocks," and if any man is so incredulous as to doubt this tale,
he may very fairly be asked to keep his incredulity to himself until
he has found another explanation of the name.

In the cathedral of Salerno many men will be interested in many
things. Some will delight in its beautiful forecourt, arcaded with
antique pillars and adorned with marbles brought from Pæstum. Some
will marvel at the fine mosaic of the pulpit, others at the ancient
chest of ivory kept in the sacristy, while some will even take
pleasure in the gorgeous decoration of the lower church, with its huge
statue of St. Matthew, or rather its two statues set back to back, so
that the apostle turns a face toward either altar, thus giving point
to the local gibe, "He is double faced (tene doje facce) like San
Matteo." But I set aside these things and others with a passing
glance, and go straight up to a chapel in the eastern end of the great
church, on the south side of the choir, where, slumbering in a peace
which rarely blessed him while he lived, lies the greatest of all
popes, Gregory the Seventh.

  [Illustration: GOSSIP--NAPLES.]

In the Duomo at Naples we paused before the tomb of Innocent the
Fourth, who fought and won the last battle between Papacy and Empire,
the last, that is to say, which really counted in that long and awful
rivalry. Never after the victory of Innocent did the Emperor, the
great world Sovereign, occupy the same pinnacle in men's minds again.
The theory of his position was not altered; but in practice the Pope
had demonstrated its futility, and set himself, Christ's Vicar upon
earth, supreme at the head of all mankind. Once or twice the Empire
flickered into life, but the issue was unchanged.

This overthrow of the Empire by the Pope is one of those events which
have profoundly modified the history of Europe and the world. If
Innocent completed it, Gregory began it. He, first of all popes, dared
to initiate the fight. His clear brain, his high, stern courage,
planned the complete release of the Papacy from dependence upon the
Empire. With a quick perception of the legal weakness of his cause, he
linked the support of privilege with that of chastity, and thus
appealing to that which mediæval men esteemed the loftiest and most
saintly of all virtues, gave his attitude a moral greatness which it
did not derive from inherent principle. He attacked the Empire while
it was still near its highest power, clothed in the traditions of
Charlemagne and Otho the Great. He did not fear to question the
prerogative of the lord of the world, the King of the Romans, who made
or unmade popes. When the Emperor resisted, he dared to declare him
dethroned; and ere long after the issue of that declaration the great
Cæsar had crossed the Alps a suppliant for pardon, and stood
bareheaded, clothed in the woollen garment of a penitent, in the
courtyard of the castle at Canossa, waiting humbly till the Pope
should admit him to his presence.

There, prostrate in the snow, lay the only power which could measure
itself against the Pope. There fell, once and for all, the supreme
dominion of the Empire. Three days and nights the Emperor waited upon
Gregory's will. It was an awful victory, the humiliation of the lord
of kings, the temporal head of all mankind became the footstool of his
spiritual brother. In vain that very Emperor ere long abandoned his
humility, and drove Gregory to exile in Salerno, where he died. In
vain many another Emperor fought and struggled for the old supremacy.
The world had seen the Emperor a suppliant waiting in the snow, and
could not forget it. This, for good or evil, was the deed of Gregory
who sleeps here at Salerno. "I have loved justice and hated iniquity,"
he said in dying, "therefore I die in exile." Did he in truth act only
from those pure motives? It may be so, for indeed he and other popes
of the same age were great idealists. He died in exile thinking his
cause lost, when in fact it was absolutely won. There are those among
us who look on the Papacy with fear, and some with hope; but all
alike, if they think at all, regard it as big with destiny, and
charged with most potent influences on the future of mankind.
Therefore this tomb in the Duomo of Salerno is one of the most
interesting upon earth. In days far distant from our own the bones of
him who first lifted St. Peter's chair to world-wide supremacy may be
cursed or blessed, but forgotten they can never be.

We men and women of to-day, regardful only of the accomplished fact,
contemptuous of the power of ideals, and profoundly careless of the
teachings of history, dismiss these matters very lightly from our
minds as having been settled in the "Settanta" when the Italians
entered Rome. This is a mere error bred of ignorance. The old strife
of Guelf and Ghibelline is raging still. Once again the Papacy is at
war with a monarchy, with one, moreover, which is by no means founded
on the rock of Christ, as was the Holy Roman Empire, nor supported by
the prescriptive glories of Charlemagne or of the Cæsars. The rival
which possessed those vast advantages was brought to stand humbly in
the snow at Canossa. What will be the issue of the present contest? It
is idle to speculate. Faith and asceticism, two strong weapons of the
mediæval popes, no longer stir mankind to action. We can only sit and
watch, remembering that thirty years are but as a day in the judgment
of the oldest of all human institutions. Kingdoms rise and fall. They
change their form and develop into other constitutions. The Church of
Rome is the only organism on earth which neither changes nor develops.
How should it do either, when it claims to be a mere expression of
eternal law?

It was a weary journey which one made in old days from Salerno through
Battipaglia to Pæstum. The plain which in Greek hands overflowed with
fertility has long been but roughly cultivated, and fever has wrought
its fatal work with little check among the dwellers on the neglected
flats. It was an unsafe journey too, for the main road through the
lonely country was infested by brigands who, though they practised
chiefly among the native proprietors, yet rejoiced greatly when they
met a wealthy stranger unattended by carabineers. The years following
the expulsion of the Bourbons in 1860 witnessed a terrible
recrudescence of the scourge. Manzi was the most ferocious of the
bandits in this region. He haunted chiefly the oak forest of Persano,
on the further side of Pæstum, and on any alarm his band used to
disperse to hiding-places which they only knew among the mountains.
But now the brigands have been hunted down, and the land sleeps in
peace. The fever, too, is less, thanks to the eucalyptus, whose red
stems and glossy foliage spread far and wide across the swampy ground
beside the milky rivers. The time may yet come when Pæstum will be a
rose garden again, though never more, so far as human intelligence can
make a forecast, will the crafts or eager life of a crowded city
displace the husbandmen from the wide plains between the mountains and
the sea. The Italian races, compact into one strong people, have fixed
the centre of their life on other spots, and the day of Pæstum will no
more return.

How great a day it was! Time, which has dealt so hardly with the
cities of the Italian mainland, has preserved here, in solitary
grandeur, the evidence of splendours which elsewhere are but a dream.
Cumæ is a rubbish heap, Sybaris and Croton have perished
everlastingly. Taranto is overbuilt into the semblance of a mediæval
if not a modern city. Brindisi is paltry and Otranto dead. At Pæstum
only on the mainland, thanks to the expulsion of the last handful of
its citizens eleven centuries ago, three temples stand erect out of
the waste of herbage which has strewn itself over the ruined streets
and market-places. There alone we can comprehend the lost greatness of
that Hellenic people whose submersion by barbaric onslaught must be
counted as the greatest misfortune which has befallen the human race.

It is no great wonder that the Greeks, having once overcome the
terrors of the ocean on the night side of the world, crossed over in
large numbers to the fair coasts which are in sight from the Albanian
mountains. So short a ferry must have been constantly at work. There
are still Greeks in Italy--not Greeks by descent alone, nor of Greek
origin mixed with other elements, but Greeks of pure blood and speech.
No less than twenty thousand of them dwell in two colonies in southern
Italy, one in the Terra d'Otranto, the other some twenty miles
south-east of Reggio. Neither maintains communications with the other,
nor does either possess traditions of its origin. Both maintain
themselves apart from the surrounding people, whom they call
"Latinoi." Their language is unwritten. It differs from modern Romaic,
and is apparently not derived from the Greek spoken in the cities of
Magna Grecia. The colonists are probably descendants of immigrants who
came from Greece not later than the eleventh century, or perhaps in
those earlier days when refugees crowded into Italy for shelter from
the fury of the iconoclasts.

But whencesoever these mysterious colonies came, they have shown not a
trace of the great heart and spirit which animated the earliest
settlers of their race upon Italian shores. Pæstum, or rather
Poseidonia, to give it its Greek name, was a city less ancient than
Cumæ. It was not founded by settlers direct from Greece. It was a
colony thrown off by Sybaris, that great city of Calabria which became
a byword of luxury while Rome was young and counted for little in the
Italian land. Five centuries before Christ was born that mighty city
was destroyed by its rival Croton, destroyed so utterly that the River
Krathis was led over the ruins; yet Poseidonia, its distant colony,
still remembered the greatness of her origin, and grew and flourished
splendidly, till she became the mightiest town of all this coast,
powerful upon sea, potent to thrust back the swarming tribes which
looked down enviously from the mountains on her wealth.

All the city's life is lost and forgotten. What we know of her
greatness and her beauty is revealed by no records, but by the
tangible evidence of indestructible things. Her coins are numerous
exceedingly and of the purest beauty. They prove her abounding wealth.
Whence that wealth came is suggested by the fact that the city gave
her name to the whole gulf, which could scarcely have happened had she
not been great upon the sea. Poseidon was the tutelary deity of the
city, and on her coins he appears brandishing his trident, a mighty
emblem of sea empire. These coins prove, too, the perfection of the
art for which the city was renowned. When Phocæan Greeks founded the
once famous city of Velia, some twenty miles away, it was to
Poseidonia that they came for instruction in the art of building,
drawn doubtless by the desire to match the superb temples which we see
to-day, the envy of our builders as of theirs, though we, less
fortunate, can summon no citizen of Poseidonia to teach us what our
hearts and minds cannot of themselves design.

It must have been a proud and splendid life which throbbed itself out
upon this spot. At last the savage mountaineers stormed the city.
Greek aid from Epirus gave back its liberty, but to no purpose. The
mountain warriors returned and were quelled at last only by the onward
march of Rome, which imposed on Poseidonia another servitude and
changed its name to Pæstum. Thenceforwards nothing was left to the
Greek citizens but their regrets, which they wept out yearly in a
mournful festival, telling over the greatness of the days that had
been. Even the mourning has been done these twelve centuries and more,
yet still the temples stand there silent and deserted, and the walls
mark out the empty circuit of the city.

Virgil, when he came near the end of his poem upon husbandry, and,
perceiving the limits of his space, sketched out briefly what other
subjects he might have treated, spoke of the twice-flowering roses of
Pæstum as if the gardens where they bloomed were the loveliest he
knew. There are none now. Only such flowers grow at Pæstum still as
flourish in a rough, coarse soil, or can exist in the scant foothold
of mould which has collected on the friezes of the temples. High up,
where the shattered reddish stone seems to touch the cloudless sky,
the blossoming weeds run riot. The mallow flaunts its blood-red
flowers on the architrave, and the ruddy snap-dragon looks down into
the inmost places of the temple. Over all there is a constant
twittering of little birds. The lizards, green and brown, flash in and
out among the vast shadows of the columns. They will stop and listen
if you whistle to them, raising their heads and peering round in
delight with any noise which breaks the long, deathly silence of the
city. Beyond the shadow white oxen are ploughing languidly in the
thick heat, and across two fields the sea is breaking on a shore as
lonely as it was when the Greeks from Sybaris first beached their
galleys there. Perhaps they found a city there already. Lenormant was
inclined to think so; and it is certainly strange that the Greek name
was so completely driven out by the Roman, unless the latter be an
older name revived. But though all men use the Latin appellation, and
though their scanty knowledge of the city is largely gained from Latin
writers, yet the glory of the place is Greek, and neither Roman nor
barbarian added to its lustre. Some day men will excavate upon this
ground, of which the surface has been barely scratched. They will
unearth the tombs outside the city gate, in some of which remarkable
paintings have been found already. They will lay bare the foundations
of all the crowded city, houses, streets, and temples, and declare
once more in the clear sunlight how great and splendid was this city
of Neptune, which the course of time has reduced to three vast temples
standing in a lonely waste.

The grandest of the three temples is that assigned, probably enough,
to Poseidon. It cannot be much less ancient than the city itself, and
out of Athens there is not a nobler example of Greek architecture,
unless it be at Girgenti, where the Temple of Concord is perhaps as
fine and somewhat more perfect. It is Doric in style. Its fluted
pillars, somewhat short in proportion to their mass, give the building
an aspect of gigantic bulk; its heavy architrave, the austerity of its
design, the dull red hues with which rain and storm have stained the
travertine, all combine to leave a rare impression on the mind. The
space within seems strangely narrow. One realises why the early
Christians rejected the Greek form of temple, designed for acts of
worship paid by individuals singly, and took the model of their
churches from the Basilica, in whose spacious hall the congregation
which professed to be a brotherhood might assemble at its ease. No
congregation could have met in this vast Neptune temple. From the busy
market-place outside, the central spot of all the crowded city,
worshippers slipped in one by one beneath the shadowy colonnade.

There is a so-called Basilica here, but the name is of no authority,
and the building is probably a temple. Wide differences of opinion
exist about its date, but none about its beauty. The third temple
shows marks of differing styles, and while in part it may be coeval
with the foundation of the city, it was probably retouched during the
period of Roman rule.

Such are the visible remains of Pæstum. In all Italy there is no more
interesting spot. Not Rome itself, which ruled the habitable world,
has cast over mankind a spell so mighty as these Greek cities, which
scarcely aimed at rule beyond their walls, and cared nothing for the
lust of wide dominion. Conquest was not in their hearts, but the
desire of beauty burned there more passionately than ever before or
after, creating loveliness which has gone on breeding loveliness and
wisdom which has not ceased begetting wisdom, while kingdoms have
crumbled into dust and conquerors have earned no better guerdon than
forgetfulness; so that still men look back on the life of the Greek
cities as the very flower of human culture, the finest expression of
what may be achieved by heart and soul and brain aspiring together.
The cities perished, but the heritage to mankind remains, kindling
still the desire for that beauty in form, thought, and word which was
attained upon these coasts more than twenty centuries ago. And if the
heritage was for mankind, it was first of all for Italy, that noble
land which has been the scene of every kind of greatness, which has
been burdened with every shame and sorrow that can afflict mankind,
yet is rising once more into strength which will surely dismay her
slanderers and shame those who seek to work her ruin. And so I lay
down my pen, with a faith in the future which turns ever back to the
noblest song yet sung of Italy:--

     "Salve magna parens frugum, Saturnia tellus,
     Magna virûm; tibi res antiquæ laudis et artis


_Page 6._ The story of the French knights who misunderstood the
warning shots from Ischia is told in Brantôme's Life of Dragut, No. 37
of the "Vies des Hommes Illustres." Concerning Vittoria Colonna there
is, of course, a considerable literature. A pleasant and readable
account of her life is contained in _A Decade of Italian Women_, by T.
A. Trollope (Chapman and Hall, 1859).

_Page 7._ The tale of Gianni di Procida is Novella VI. of the fifth
day of the _Decameron_.

_Page 9._ The common tale about the origin of the Sicilian Vespers is
that Gianni di Procida, who is sometimes spoken of as having suffered
in his own family from the lustful dealings of the French soldiery,
and sometimes only as sympathising with the islanders in their
intolerable wrongs, went through the island in disguise, beating a
drum and capering up to whomsoever he met. If it were a Frenchman, he
screamed some mad jest in his ear; if a Sicilian, he whispered some
information about the projected rising, which was to take place at the
signal of the Vesper bell ringing in Palermo. But for this tale there
is no historical authority. Procida had certainly some connection with
the revolt; but so far as can be discovered, the actual outbreak was
unpremeditated, and the name of the Sicilian Vespers is applied to the
massacre by no writer earlier than the latter part of the fifteenth
century. The great authority on this subject is of course Amari, _La
Guerra del Vespro Siciliano_.

_Page 9._ Virgil the enchanter. See note on p. 55.

_Page 21._ It is impossible to give separate references to all the
authorities which I have consulted in writing this chapter. The work
which I have found most valuable--incomparably so--is the _Campanien_
of Beloch, which outstrips both in learning and in judgment all works
known to me upon the Phlegræan Fields. It may be said, once for all,
that with hardly one exception, the best works upon the region of
Naples are by Germans. English scholarship does not appear to
advantage. If a man will not read German, he may seek information
usefully from Breislak, _Topograpia Fisica della Campania_ (Firenze,
1798). Other useful works are:--Phillips, J., _Vesuvius_ (Oxford,
1869); Daubeny, C. G. B., _A Description of Volcanoes_ (London, 1848);
Logan Lobley, _Mount Vesuvius_ (London, 1889); to which should be
added the "Physical Notices of the Bay of Naples," by Professor
Forbes, in Brewster's _Edinburgh Journal of Science_, vol. x. All
these works treat of the Phlegræan Fields, as well as of Vesuvius.

_Page 24._ The treatise of Capaccio will be found in the collection of
chronicles which bears the name of Grævius, but was, in fact,
completed after the death of that great scholar by Peter Burmann. The
collection is an honour to Leyden, where it was published full half a
century before Muratori commenced his work.

_Page 26._ This gossip about the Grotta del Cane is derived chiefly
from a small guide to the locality, published early in the present

_Page 37._ Petrarch's account of his visit to the Phlegræan Fields
will be found among his Latin verse epistles (_Carm._ lib. ii. epist.

_Page 41._ Upon the theory that Cumæ was founded so early as a
thousand years before Christ, I translate as follows from Holm
(_Geschichte Griechenlands_, vol. i. p. 340), the most recent of
authorities, and perhaps the most judicious:--"It is scarcely credible
that an organised Greek city existed in these regions in such early
times. But it need not be questioned that scattered settlements of
Greeks were already established on the Campanian coast a thousand
years before Christ; and it cannot be doubted that Cumæ is the
earliest Greek colony, recognised as such, in the West.... Cumæ also
became the mother city of Naples, but at what precise date cannot be

_Page 45._ The dyke of Hercules. See Beloch, _Campanien_.

_Page 52._ For the Villa of Vedius Pollio, as well as for all the
other antiquities of this region, see Beloch, _Campanien_.

_Page 53._ The story of the Grotta dei Tuoni is one of the interesting
pieces of folklore collected by Signor Gaetano Amalfi, to whose
unwearied labours I acknowledge gratefully many debts. It was
published in the periodical called _Napoli Nobilissima_ in 1895.

_Page 55._ For the stories of the enchanter Virgil, see Comparetti,
_Virgilio nel Mediævo_. The tale of the plundering of Virgil's tomb in
the reign of Roger of Sicily is taken from the same work, where it is
told on the authority of Gervasius of Tilbury. It was a widely
credited tale, and will be found also in Marin Sanudo, _Vite dei
Dogi_, p. 232 of the fine new edition of Muratori, now (1901) being
issued under the direction of Giosuè Carducci, an enterprise which is
remarkable both for scholarship and beauty, and deserves the more
praise since it emanates from no great city, but from the printing
house of Scipione Lapi at Città di Castello, on the upper valley of
the Tiber.

_Page 65._ The traditions of Queen Joanna are well set out by Signor
Amalfi in _La Regina Giovanna nella Tradizione_ (Naples, 1892), a
little work which, though no other exists upon the subject, the
British Museum disdains to purchase. Mr. Nutt procured me a copy,
though with some difficulty. The book is not as complete as it might
be; it contains, for example, no reference to the traditions of the
Queen at Amalfi.

_Page 71._ For Alfonso of Aragon, see Guicciardini, _Istoria
d'Italia_, lib. i. cap. 4. Most of my history is taken from this

_Page 72._ For an account of San Lionardo, as well as for the
subsequent tale of the Torretta, see _Napoli Nobilissima_ (1892).

_Page 81._ Niccolò Pesce. See _Nap. Nob._ (1896). Schiller's ballad,
"Der Taucher," will of course be found in any collection of his works.

_Page 88._ The best book on the Hohenstaufen is Von Räumer,
_Geschichte der Hohenstaufen_, a very fine and interesting work.
Frederick loved more than Arab art, unless history is unjust. Amari
speaks of him and his grandfather, King Roger, as "i due Sultani
battezzati di Sicilia."

_Page 97._ Upon the vexed question where Palæopolis stood, or if it
stood anywhere at all, Beloch seems a little wilful, arguing stoutly
that there never was such a city. "But," says Mr. Hodgkin, "in the
face of Livy's clear statement (viii. 22) as to the situation of the
two cities, and the record in the Triumphal Fasti of the victory of
Publilius over the 'Samnites Palæopolitanei,' this seems too bold a
stroke of historical scepticism" (_Italy and Her Invaders_, vol. iv.
p. 53).

_Page 108 et seq._ See Camillo Porzio, _La Congiura de' Baroni_.

_Page 121._ Upon the churches of Naples there are two works which
surpass all others--namely, _Documenti per la storia, le arti e le
industrie_, by Prince Gaetano Filangieri, a monument of vast learning;
and _Denkmaeler der Kunst des Mittelalters in Unter Italien_, by H. W.
Schulz, whose work forms the basis of almost every guide-book
published on southern Italy.

_Page 123._ This tale of the graceless Duke of Calabria is in
Giannone, _Storia di Napoli_, lib. xxii. _ad init._

_Page 126._ Those who desire more information on the everyday life of
Naples will do well to seek it in Kellner's work, _Alltägliches aus
Neapel_, the tenth volume of the well-known series, "Kennst du das
Land," which is sold everywhere in Italy.

_Page 137._ The account of this storm is in book v. epist. 5, of
Petrarch's letters. The storm may, or may not, be the one which
destroyed Amalfi. I know of no evidence pointing either way, save the
improbability that two tempests should have wrought such devastation.

_Page 140._ Fucini's work is called _Napoli a Occhio Nudo_.

_Page 141._ Any history of Naples will give the facts of the struggle
between Frederick the Second and Innocent. See especially von Räumer
or Giannone.

_Page 143._ La Colonna della Vicaria. Signor Amalfi quotes from
Voltero, _Dizionario filosofico_, _s.v._ "Banqueroute," the following
passage:--"Le négociant _fallito_ pouvait dans certaines villes
d'Italie garder tous ses biens et frustrer ses créanciers, pourvu qu'il
s'assit le derrière nu sur une pierre en présence de tous les
marchands. C'était une dérivation douce de l'ancien proverbe romain,
_Solvere aut in aere, aut in cute_, payer de son argent ou de sa peau"
(_Tradizioni ed usi_, p. 123).

_Page 146._ The facts about the descent of the Turks upon Otranto in
1480 will be found stated briefly in all the histories. But they are
sufficiently curious to make it worth while to consult the admirable
and detailed report made to Ludovic Sforza, Il Moro, by the commissary
who served him in his capacity as Duke of Bari. As ruler of the chief
Apulian coast town, Il Moro was of course painfully anxious for exact
information about the proceedings of the Turks. The report will be
found in volume vi. of the _Archivio Storico_, published by the
"Società di Storia Patria," of Naples.

_Page 150 et seq._ The story of Conradin's expedition and death is
told best in von Räumer, _Geschichte der Hohenstaufen_. It will be
found also in Amari, _La Guerra del Vespro_. The two historians report
the circumstances of Conradin's death with some differences of detail,
having relied on different chronicles. The variations are not

_Page 158._ Details concerning the examination of Conradin's tomb will
be found in Filangieri, _op. cit._

_Page 161._ For the story of Mas'aniello's revolt I have followed
Sign. Gabriele Tontoli, _Il Masaniello, overo Discorsi Narrativi, La
Sollevatione di Napoli_, printed at Naples in 1648. I selected this
work (1) because it is rare; (2) because it is full of detail; (3)
because it is the narrative of an eye-witness.

_Page 178._ The literature of Vesuvius is immense. As general
references, I can only indicate again the works named in the note on
page 21.

_Page 182._ Braccini's narrative was published at Naples in 1632 under
the title _Dell'Incendio fattosi nel Vesuvio_.

_Page 190._ Palmieri's account has been translated. _The Eruption of
Vesuvius in 1872_ (London, 1873).

_Page 196._ Herculaneum. Once more it is well to refer to Beloch,

_Page 201 et seq._ The work of Signori Comparetti and de Petra was
published at Turin in 1883, under the title _La Villa Ercolanense dei
Pisoni_. It is one of those monuments of patient, well-directed
learning and research which fill one with high hopes for the future of
Italian scholarship. I presume the British Museum acquired its copy
shortly after publication. I may add that I cut its pages in July,
1900--a fact that says worlds about British scholarship.

_Page 209._ The translation of Mau's _Pompeii, its Life and Art_, was
published at New York in 1899.

_Page 217._ The only works worth mentioning about the pictures at
Pompeii are those of Helbig, _Untersuchungen über die Campanische
Wandmalerei_ (Leipzig, 1873), and his earlier _Wandgemälde_ (Leipzig,
1868). A summary of Helbig's conclusions will be found in _Promenades
Archéologiques_, by Gaston Boissier (Paris, 1895).

_Page 223._ On Stabiæ a work comparable only to that cited above on
Piso's villa has been written by Signor Michele Ruggiero, _Degli Scavi
di Stabia_ (Naples, 1881).

In connection with the Roman country life, I might have mentioned the
recent excavations at Bosco-reale, where the villas were doubtless
similar to those upon Varano. The first discoveries on that spot are
set down by the superstitious peasants to the credit of a priest, who
is said to have indicated a place where treasure would be found by
digging. The real fact is that about the year 1868 a small proprietor
named Pulzella discovered, while hoeing his field, the entrance to a
buried chamber. He enlarged the aperture, and found a second room; but
could not penetrate further without entering a neighbouring property,
which belonged to Signor de Prisco. Of this discovery he said nothing
for twenty years. In 1888 the ground passed into the possession of the
de Prisco family, who, learning what had occurred, continued the
excavation, found in 1894 all the apartments of a bath, and in one of
them a great treasure of money and silver plate of exquisite
workmanship, which was bought by Baron Rothschild and presented to the
Louvre. A full account of the villa then unearthed is given by August

Six years passed, and recently the excavations have been resumed. A
larger villa has been unearthed, near the former one. No treasure was
found in it, nor any portable articles. Possibly the owners had been
able to return and recover their property, or more probably they had
fled on earlier warning. But the interest of this new house lies in
its frescoes, which are of great beauty, both architectural and figure
pieces. There can be no doubt that we are on the verge of a great
expansion of our knowledge of Roman life; and it is to be hoped that
the works at Bosco-reale will be vigorously pushed and carefully

An interesting account of the discoveries, with illustrations, will be
found in the Italian magazine _Emporium_ for December, 1900.

_Page 229._ Trade routes in the Sorrento peninsula. I cannot discover
that anyone has written with scholarship on this most interesting
subject. There is none more important to a clear comprehension of
history, nor any more generally neglected.

_Page 230._ Santa Maria Maggiore. Gsell-Fels gives a good account of
this remarkable church, based on that of Schulz.

_Page 231._ Catacombs at Castellammare. I regret that the passage in
Schulz, _Denkmaeler der Kunst des Mittelalters in Unter Italien_, vol.
ii. p. 224, referring to these catacombs, did not come under my notice
in time to admit of my making a personal examination of them. They
appear to be so completely forgotten that several well-informed
persons to whom I applied denied their existence. They do exist,
however, upon the road to La Cava. I cannot indicate the spot exactly,
nor does Schulz do so. I translate from him as follows:--"To the
largest grotto one goes by a broad passage hewn in the rock, in whose
sides are squared niches, apparently designed for flasks, lamps,
inscriptions or children's coffins. The uncertain line between ancient
and modern alterations makes decision difficult. Then one goes through
a sort of rock gateway of more modern construction.... In the
background of the grotto, which has five niches on either of its
longer sides, there are more graves under a vault. The greater number
of the pictures are on the left as one enters. In the first recess
stands a woman's figure in the Norman-Greek style of painting, badly
damaged. Near her is a smaller figure of a saint holding a book.
Higher up, in a disc set with white pearls, hovers the figure of
Christ with a nimbus; and by it are other circles, with busts of
angels. Over the upper one is written 'RAFA' (Raphael), above another
'MICAH, SCS VRVS' (?). The painting is in the ancient style with
black, white, and red--that peculiar dark brown-red of early Christian
pictures, as in the lower church at Assisi, the catacombs of Syracuse
and Naples, etc.... The inscriptions, mostly white on a green ground,
are in characters of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, or yet
later times," etc., etc.

I cannot too emphatically express my sense of the great value of
Schulz' work. Much is changed since 1860, when he wrote; yet still his
survey must be the starting-point for every other writer.

_Page 236._ La Madonna di Pozzano. I take this legend from _Storia
dell'Immagine di S. Maria di Pozzano_, written by Padre Serafino de
Ruggieri. It was published at Valle di Pompeii in 1893.

_Page 237._ The facts about the Iconoclasts will be found in any
Church history; _e.g._ Milman, _Hist. of Latin Christianity_, bk. iv.
chap. 7.

_Page 238._ My chief authority for the stories of madonnas in this
chapter and the next is Signor Gaetano Amalfi, whose invaluable work,
_Tradizioni ed Usi nella Penisola Sorrentina_, forms volume viii. of
the "Curiosità Popolari Tradizioniali," published by Signor Pitrè at
Palermo. Those who are acquainted with the bookshops in Naples will
not be surprised to hear that I searched them vainly for a copy of
this work, great as its interest should be for all visitors to the
city. The book is largely written in the local dialects, and would be
of little use to those who cannot read them.

_Page 241._ The old road from Castellammare towards Sorrento.
Breislak, who wrote so recently as in 1800, says, "Le chemin est le
plus mauvais possible, et ne peut se faire avec sureté qu'à pied."

_Page 245._ Quaresima. I refer once more to Signor Amalfi, _op. cit._

_Page 255._ These various scraps of folklore are from the same work,
as are also the legends in this chapter.

_Page 260._ For the tufa of Sorrento, see Breislak, _Voyages

_Page 270._ On the archæology of Sorrento the best work known to me is
that of Beloch, _Campanien_.

_Page 273._ Not much has been written well on Capri. _Storia
dell'Isola di Capri_, by Mons. A. Canale, is sold throughout the town,
but has little value. _Die Insel Capri_, by Ferdinand Gregorovius, is
a book of great beauty and merit; the reputation of Gregorovius stands
in no need of praise. Kopisch' narrative, _Die Entdeckung der blauen
Grotte_, is volume 2,907 of Reclam's "Universal Bibliothek."

_Page 301._ It is much to be desired that some German or Italian
scholar--I fear none other would have the necessary patience--might
undertake to elucidate the history of that collection of communes
which passed by the name of Amalfi. Two histories exist--a modern one
by Camera, an ancient one by Pansa. Both comprise interesting facts,
but neither attempts to solve the puzzles which beset the traveller on
every side. Nor will it be of any use for other writers to attempt
solutions without long study; yet for one who might be willing to
bestow the labour, there will certainly be reserved a rich reward of
fame. Probably there is scarce any spot where thorough investigation
might teach us so much of the tangled yet splendid history of Italy in
the Middle Ages.

_Page 305._ The Knights Hospitallers of St. John were settled at
Cyprus for a time after their expulsion from Acre; but were not long
contented to remain vassals of the king of that island, and
accordingly obtained the Pope's permission to turn their arms against
the Greek Empire, from which they took Rhodes on 15th August, 1310.
Finlay, _History of Greece_, vol. iii. p. 410.

_Page 306._ No one need concern himself with the works of Volpicella.
They belong to the bad period of archæology, when sentiment overcame
both reason and sense. Schulz remains the safe and trusty guide; it
being remembered always that changes have occurred since he wrote.

_Page 311._ The bronze doors at Amalfi and Ravello. Schulz remains the
chief authority on this very interesting subject; but there is a good
article on the subject in Lenormant, _À travers l'Apulie et la
Lucanie_, under the heading "Monte Sant'Angelo."

_Page 312._ Monte Gargano, one of the most picturesque and interesting
spots in Italy. There was a shrine for pagan pilgrims on this mountain
in Strabo's time. He describes the crowd who came to consult the
demi-god in his cavern, and lay sleeping in the open air around the
cave, resting on skins of the black sheep they had slaughtered. In due
course the heathen demi-god was replaced by a miraculous apparition of
the archangel Michael, and Christian pilgrims came in crowds. It was
the common process. The priests recognised a tradition of pilgrimage
which they could not check, and legalised it by a Christian legend.
See Lenormant, _À travers l'Apulie et la Lucanie_ (Paris, 1883).

_Page 330._ Vietri is of great age. Strabo, quoted by Camera,
indicates it under the name Marcinna as the only city between the
rocks of the Sirens and Pæstum. Possibly he looked on Salerno and
Vietri as one.

_Page 331._ The facts about pilgrims are from Ducange, _s.v._
"Peregrinatio," and Muratori, Dissertation 37.

_Page 338._ The best account of Pæstum known to me is in Lenormant,
_op. cit._



     Agnano, Lake, 26, 78

     Agrippina, Empress, her murder, 45 _et seq._

     Alcala, Duke of, 77

     Alfonso of Aragon, first king of that name, 104, 160;
       second king of that name, 70, 72, 107 _et seq._, 130, 146

     Amalfi, 58;
       its trade, 229, 295, 297, 299 _et seq._

     Anacapri, 282, 284, 288, 289, 298

     Angelo, Monte Sant', 6, 181, 232, 256, 285, 297

     Anicetus, 46, 47

     Anjou, Charles, King. See "Charles"

     Anjou, House of, 8, 70, 91, 103

     Anna, Palazzo di Donna, 54, 65

     Aragon, House of, 8, 16, 86, 91, 97, 108, 122, 130

     Arco Naturale, 296, 297

     Arcos, Duke of, 162 _et seq._

     Augustus, Emperor, 57, 292

     Avernus, Lake of, 37, 38, 43


     Baiæ, 23, 40, 43, 44, 217

     Barbaro, Monte, its legend, 37

     Barbarossa, Corsair, 6, 145, 274, 287, 288, 308

     Bauli, 46

     Beloch quoted, 346 (App.), 353 (App.)

     Bembo, Pietro, epitaph on Sannazzaro, 75

     Bisignano, Prince of, 110, 111;
       Princess of, her escape, 110

     Blue Grotto, 275 _et seq._

     Boccaccio, 5, 7, 112, 123, 124, 134, 233, 235, 317

     Bolgaro, Restituta, 7

     Bosco Reale, 179, 187, 350 (App.)

     Braccini, Abate, 182, 184 _et seq._, 350 (App.)

     Brantôme quoted, 8, 160

     Breislak quoted, 346 (App.), 353 (App.)


     Calabria, Duke of, 123, 348 (App.);
       Alfonso, Duke of. See "Alfonso of Aragon."

     Camorra, The, 119, 145

     Campagna Felice, 12, 18, 181, 286

     Campana, Monte, 37

     Campanella, Punta di, 6, 77, 264

     Cane, Grotta del, 26-8, 346 (App.)

     Capaccio quoted, 24, 61, 346 (App.)

     Cappuccini Convent, Hotel, 307 _et seq._

     Capri, 5, 18, 68, 273 _et seq._

     Capuana, Porta, 57, 145, 146, 220

     Capuano, Cardinal, 307

     Capuano, Castel, 66, 101, 143, 145

     Caraccioli, Francesco, 76

     Carmine, Church of, 13, 112, 116, 156, 158, 160, 170 _et seq._

     Carmine, Madonna del, 158

     Casamicciola, 5, 38, 183

     Castellammare, 6, 81, 126, 179, 220, 226 _et seq._;
       its catacombs, 231, 295, 352 (App.)

     Castles. See "Elmo," "Nuovo," "Uovo," etc.

     Charles of Anjou, King, 89, 90, 94, 97, 112, 124, 152

     Chiaia, Riviera di, 10, 68, 69, 78

     Churches: Carmine, see above;
       Cathedral, 140 _et seq._;
       Gesù Nuovo, 108, 121;
       Santa Caterina a Formello, 147;
       Santa Chiara, 123-5, 135;
       San Domenico Maggiore, 128, 129;
       San Lionardo, 10, 72-4, 79, 105, 110, 111, 168;
       San Lorenzo, 135, 136, 138, 162

     Cigliano, Monte, 37

     Colonna, Vittoria, 6, 131, 345 (App.)

     Conca, Ravine of, its legend, 257 _et seq._

     Conca, Capo di, 304, 329

     Conradin, 89, 90, 126, 150-8, 161, 349 (App.)

     Coppola, Monte, 232, 249;
       family of, 109

     Cumæ, 41, 45, 97, 215, 346 (App.)


     Damecuta, Tower of, 275, 276, 280, 282

     Decuman ways in Naples, 117, 118

     Deserto, The, 262 _et seq._

     Dragut, Corsair, 6, 77, 274, 287, 345 (App.)


     Elmo, St., Castle, 10, 16, 17, 62, 97

     Epomeo, Monte di, 5, 59, 183, 250


     Faito, Monte, 6, 249, 251

     Ferdinand First of Aragon, King, 71, 72, 105, 107-11;
       the Second, 98

     Fiammetta (Princess Marie of Anjou), 5, 134, 135, 235

     Filamarino, Cardinal Ascanio, 167 _et seq._

     Fiorelli, director of excavations at Pompeii, 212

     Folklore. See "Galli," "Giovanna," "Madonnas," "Nicolo Pesce,"
      "Rufolo," "Sorrento," "Vico," "Virgil," etc.

     Fra Diavolo, bandit, 242 _et seq._

     Frangipani betrays Conradin, 155

     Frederick the Second, Emperor, 88, 89;
       his struggle with the Papacy, 141, 142, 348 (App.)

     Frederick of Baden, comrade of Conradin, 154, 156, 157

     Fucini, Renato, quoted, 140, 349 (App.)


     Galli, I, Legend of, 333

     Gargano, Monte, 88, 312, 354 (App.)

     Garibaldi, 127

     Gennaro, San, 13, 57;
       his miracle, 140, 185, 188

     Gioja, Flavio, 302

     Giotto, 5, his residence in Naples, 124, 125

     Giovanna, Queen, Traditions of, 65-7, 90, 148, 313, 347 (App.)

     Gregorovius, F., 353 (App.)

     Grillo, Monte, 37

     Guicciardini quoted, 70, 98, 100


     Helena, Queen, wife of Manfred, 90, 94, 95

     Herculaneum, 178, 183, 185;
       how discovered, 196;
       amphitheatre, 197;
       how destroyed, 199;
       how searched, 200;
       Piso's villa, 201 _et seq._;
       the library, 204;
       new excavations, 207

     Hodgkin, T., quoted, 221, 348 (App.)


     Iconoclasts, The, 237

     Ischia, 1, 5, 6, 8, 50, 53, 59, 81, 99, 176, 183, 286


     Kopisch, August, discoverer of Blue Grotto, 275 _et seq._


     La Cava, Valley of, 230;
       Abbey, 330

     Lakes: Agnano, 26, 78;
       Avernus, 37, 38, 43;
       Lucrine, 45, 47

     Leopardi, Giacomo, 25

     Lionardo d'Oria, 73

     Lionardo, San, 10, 72-4, 79, 105, 110, 111, 348 (App.)

     Loria, Roger di, Admiral, 7, 286

     Lucia, Santa, 54, 93, 101-3

     Lucrine, Lake, 45, 47

     Luigi, San, Church of, 166


     Machiavelli quoted, 108, 109

     Maddaloni, Duke of, 170

     Maddaloni Palace, 117

     Madonnas, Legends of: della Carmine (La Bruna), 159, 163;
       di Casarlano, 238;
       delle Galline, 239;
       di Meta, 254;
       di Positano, 303;
       di Pozzano, 236;
       di Sorrento, carried in procession, 270;
       di Villanto, 253;
       authority, 353 (App.)

     Majori, 229, 301, 306, 327, 328

     Mammone, bandit, 244

     Manfred, King, 89, 94, 95, 104, 124, 150

     Marcellus, 57

     Martino, San, 16, 116

     Mas'aniello, 115, 116, 120, 164 _et seq._, 350 (App.)

     Mercato of Naples, 122, 149, 157, 161, 163 _et seq._, 220

     Mergellina, 76, 79

     Minori, 229, 301, 306, 328

     Mirichicchiu, Apparition of, 266

     Misenum, 29, 40, 44, 45, 48, 49, 185, 199, 286

     Monforte, Count, 233

     Munaciello, 'O, Apparition of, 252


     Nero, Emperor, 45, 46

     Nisida, Island of, 50, 52, 53, 79

     Nocera, 95;
       dominates trade route, 229, 230

     Nuovo, Castel, 11, 16, 17, 20, 74;
       its age, 97, 98;
       described, 104;
       vault of, 106;
       cruelties wrought there, 108, etc.

     Nuovo, Monte, 40


     Otranto, Martyrs of, 146-8, 349 (App).


     Paderni, C., report on Herculaneum, 201 _et seq._

     Padulano, The, 126

     Pæstum, 215, 251, 299, 302, 337 _et seq._

     Pagano, host at Capri, 275 _et seq._

     Palæopolis, 97, 348 (App.)

     Palermo, 7

     Palmieri, of Vesuvius Observatory, 190, 194

     Pantaleoni, Family of, 311

     Parthenope, 2, 4

     Pesce, Nicolo, Legends of, 81, 348 (App.)

     Petrarch visits Phlegræan Fields, 37, 346 (App.);
       56, 124;
       at San Lorenzo, 134, 205

     Petronius quoted, 218

     Philodemus, his library at Herculaneum, 205 _et seq._

     Phlegræan Fields, 9, 23, 37;
       authorities on, 346 (App.)

     Piedigrotta, 25

     Piso, his villa at Herculaneum, 201 _et seq._, 350 (App.)

     Pizzofalcone, 10, 92, 93, 97, 99, 101

     Pliny quoted, 44, 199, 200, 218

     Pompeii, 13, 44;
       its plan, 133, 178, 179, 183, 197, 199;
       general aspect, 210;
       houses, 213-7;
       pictures, 217-20;
       authorities, 350 (App.)

     Portici, 195

     Poseidon, Temple of, 342

     Posilipo, 9, 19;
       how formed, 22;
       its caverns, 24, 53, 60;
       described, 49 _et seq._, 199

     Pozzano, Convent and Madonna of, 236-8, 352 (App.)

     Pozzuoli, 3, 24, 29;
       its trade and fall, 32, 33;
       Serapeon, 34;
       Greek origin, 41, 62

     Prajano, 301, 303

     Procida, Gianni, 7, 8;
       Giovanni, 9, 345 (App.)


     Quaresima, Figure of, 245


     Ravello, 229, 301, 312 _et seq._

     Resina, 186, 194, 197, 209

     Robert, King, 122, 123, 126, 135, 137

     Rufolo, Landolfo, Tale of, 314

     Rufolo, Palazzo, 322

     Ruggiero, work on Stabiæ, 223, 350 (App.)


     Salerno, City, 58, 229, 251, 299, 300, 332 _et seq._

     Salerno, Prince of, his escape, 109, 121, 122

     Salto di Tiberio, 273, 292, 293

     Sannazzaro, 75, 76, 79

     San Severino, family of, 108, 121

     Sarno, River, 221

     Scala, 319

     Scarpi, bandit, 242 _et seq._

     Schulz, H. W., quoted, 231, 348, 352

     Sejanus, Grotto of, 50

     Serapis, Temple of, 34, 35

     Severo, San, Chapel of, 132

     Sicilian Vespers, 8, 9, 90, 95

     Sicily, 7, 8;
       how it floats on the sea, 83

     Sirens, The, 4, 269, 299

     Solaro, Monte, 274, 284, 285, 289, 298

     Solfatara, The, 29, 32, 36

     Somma, Monte, 37, 178 _et seq._, 286

     Sorrento, 5, 22, 229, 251 _et seq._;
       its folklore, 266, 267;
       Good Friday procession, 270

     Stabiæ, 223 _et seq._, 230, 350 (App.)

     St. John, Knights of, 305, 354 (App.)

     Strabo quoted, 181, 355 (App.)

     Struscio, Lu, 113

     Styx, 29


     Tiberius, Emperor, 279, 283, 291;
       Villa of, 290

     Toledo (Via Roma), 18, 113, 115, 116, 165

     Tontoli, don Gabriele, quoted, 167 _et seq._

     Torre dell'Annunziata, 21, 184, 187, 209

     Torre del Greco, 21, 183-5, 187, 188, 209

     Torretta, la, 77, 79

     Tribunali, Strada di, 101, 117, 131, 133, 149, 168, 209

     Tuoni, Grotta dei, legend of, 53


     Uberti, Messer Neri degli, Tale of, 233 _et seq._

     Ulysses, 4

     Uovo, Castel dell', 10, 17, 61, 62, 64, 69;
       its caverns, 82;
       its name, 96;
       besieged, 99, 125, 166


     Vasto, Marchesa del, 78

     Vesuvius, 12, 18, 21, 22, 30, 37;
       held in check by Virgil, 56;
       by San Gennaro, 13, 57, 68, 185, 188;
       how formed, 178-81;
       Eruptions of, 79 A.D., 44;
       1631, 182 _et seq._;
       1707, 57;
       1767, 189;
       1861, 189;
       1872, 190 _et seq._;
       authorities on, 346 (App.)

     Via Roma (see Toledo)

     Vicaria, La, 143, 349 (App.)

     Vico Equense, 81, 228, 253 _et seq._

     Vietri, 330, 355 (App.)

     Virgil, 5, 9;
       founder of Castel dell'Uovo, 10;
       his enchantments, 56-9;
       legend of his tomb, 62, 347 (App.)

     Virgilio, Scoglio di, 55

     Vittoria, Piazza di, 85

     Volpicella quoted, 306, 354 (App.)


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