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Title: Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino
Author: Butler, Samuel
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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Transcribed from the 1913 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                   [Picture: Public domain book cover]

              [Picture: Mortuary Chapel at Soazza (etching)]



                           ALPS AND SANCTUARIES
                    Of Piedmont And the Canton Ticino
                                 (Op. 6)


                             By Samuel Butler

   Author of “Erewhon,” “Life and Habit,” “The Way of All Flesh,” etc.

          _New and Enlarged Edition_, _with Author’s Revisions_
         _and Index_, _and an Introduction by R. A. Streatfeild_

                     [Picture: St. Maria della Neve]

              London: A. C. Fifield, 13 Clifford’s Inn, E.C.
                                   1913

                                * * * * *

            WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH



Introduction


THE publication of a new and revised edition of “Alps and Sanctuaries” at
a much reduced price and in a handier and more portable form than the
original will, I hope, draw general attention to a book which has been
undeservedly neglected.  “Alps and Sanctuaries” has hitherto been the
Cinderella of the Butler family.  While her sisters, both elder and
younger, have been steadily winning their way to high places at the
feast, she has sat unrecognised and unhonoured in the ashes.  For this,
of course, the high price of the book, which was originally issued at a
guinea, was largely responsible, as well as its unmanageable size and
cumbrousness.  But Time has revenges in his wallet for books as well as
for men, and I cannot but believe that a new life is in store for one of
the wisest, wittiest and tenderest of Butler’s books.

“Alps and Sanctuaries” originally appeared at a time (1881) when the
circle of Butler’s readers had shrunk to very narrow dimensions.
“Erewhon” (1872) had astonished and delighted the literary world, but
“The Fair Haven” (1873) had alienated the sympathies of the orthodox, and
“Life and Habit” (1877) and its successors “Evolution, Old and New”
(1879) and “Unconscious Memory” (1880) had made him powerful and
relentless enemies in the field of science.  In 1881 Butler was, as he
often termed himself, a literary pariah, and “Alps and Sanctuaries” was
received for the most part with contemptuous silence or undisguised
hostility.  Now that Butler is a recognised classic, his
twentieth-century readers may care to be reminded of the reception that
was accorded to this—one of the most genial and least polemical of his
works.  Very few papers reviewed it at all, and in only four or five
cases was it honoured with a notice more than a few lines long.

Strange as it may seem, Butler’s best friends were the Roman Catholics.
_The Weekly Register_ praised “Alps and Sanctuaries” almost unreservedly,
and _The Tablet_ became positively lyrical over it.  The fact is that
about this time Butler was dallying with visions of a _rapprochement_
between the Church of Rome and the “advanced wing of the Broad Church
party,” to which he always declared that he belonged.  In the second
edition of “Evolution, Old and New,” which was published in 1882, there
is a remarkable chapter, entitled “Rome and Pantheism,” in which Butler
holds out an olive branch to the Vatican, and suggests that if Rome would
make certain concessions with regard to the miraculous element of
Christianity she might win the adherence of liberal-minded men, who are
equally disgusted by the pretensions of scientists and the dissensions of
Protestants.

“Alps and Sanctuaries” contains nothing like a definite eirenicon, but it
is pervaded by a genuine if somewhat vague sympathy for Roman
institutions, which, emphasised as it is by some outspoken criticism of
Protestantism, will serve to explain the welcome that it received in
Roman Catholic circles.  Nevertheless, one may venture to doubt whether
Butler felt altogether at ease in the society of his new friends, and it
was probably with rather mixed feelings that he read _The Tablet’s_
description of “Alps and Sanctuaries” as “a book that Wordsworth would
have gloated over with delight.”  On the other hand, the compliment paid
to his little discourse on the “wondrous efficacy of crosses and
crossing,” which the pious _Tablet_ read in a devotional rather than a
biological sense and characterised as “so very suggestive and moral that
it might form part of a sermon,” must have pleased him almost as much as
_The Rock’s_ naïf acceptance of “The Fair Haven” as a defence of
Protestant orthodoxy.

“Alps and Sanctuaries” is essentially a holiday book, and no one ever
enjoyed a holiday more keenly than Butler.  “When a man is in his
office,” he used to say, “he should be exact and precise, but his holiday
is his garden, and too much precision here is a mistake.”  He acted up to
his words, and in “Alps and Sanctuaries” we see him in his most
unbuttoned mood, giving the rein to his high spirits and letting his
fantastic humour carry him whither it would.  Butler always spent his
holidays in Italy, a country which he had known and loved from his
earliest childhood, and for which the passing years only increased his
affection.  Few Englishmen have ever studied her people, her landscape
and her art with deeper sympathy and understanding, and she never
received a sincerer tribute than the book which Butler dedicated to his
“second country” as “a thank-offering for the happiness she has afforded
me.”

Butler used to declare that he wrote his books so that he might have
something to read in his old age, knowing what he liked much better than
any one else could do.  But though he cared little for contemporary
popularity, no man valued intelligent appreciation more highly.  He
recorded in his “Note-books” with evident delight the remark made by a
lady after reading “Alps and Sanctuaries”: “You seem to hear him
speaking,” adding, “I don’t think I ever heard a criticism of my books
which pleased me better.”  The story of another unsolicited testimonial I
must give in his own words:

“One day in the autumn of 1886 I walked up to Piora from Airolo,
returning the same day.  At Piora I met a very nice quiet man whose name
I presently discovered, and who, I have since learned, is a well-known
and most liberal employer of labour somewhere in the north of England.
He told me that he had been induced to visit Piora by a book which had
made a great impression upon him.  He could not recollect its title, but
it had made a great impression upon him; nor yet could he recollect the
author’s name, but the book had made a great impression upon him; he
could not remember even what else there was in the book; the only thing
he knew was that it had made a great impression upon him.

“This is a good example of what is called a residuary impression.
Whether or no I told him that the book which had made such a great
impression upon him was called ‘Alps and Sanctuaries,’ and that it had
been written by the person he was addressing, I cannot tell.  It would
have been very like me to have blurted it all out and given him to
understand how fortunate he had been in meeting me.  This would be so
fatally like me that the chances are ten to one that I did it; but I
have, thank Heaven, no recollection of sin in this respect, and have
rather a strong impression that, for once in my life, I smiled to myself
and said nothing.”

Butler always remembered with satisfaction that “Alps and Sanctuaries”
gained him the friendship of Dr. Mandell Creighton.  In her biography of
her husband, Mrs. Creighton mentions that the Bishop had been reading
“Alps and Sanctuaries,” which charmed him so much that he determined to
visit some of the places described therein.  On his return to England,
Dr. Creighton wrote to Butler, telling him how much “Alps and
Sanctuaries” had added to the pleasure of his trip, and begged him to
come to Peterborough and pay him a visit.  The story is told in Butler’s
“Note-books,” but I cannot resist the temptation to repeat it:

“The first time that Dr. Creighton asked me to come down to Peterborough,
I was a little doubtful whether to go or not.  As usual, I consulted my
good clerk Alfred, who said:

“‘Let me have a look at his letter, sir.’

“I gave him the letter, and he said:

“‘I see, sir, there is a crumb of tobacco in it; I think you may go.’

“I went, and enjoyed myself very much.  I should like to add that there
are few men who have ever impressed me so profoundly and so favourably as
Dr. Creighton.  I have often seen him since, both at Peterborough and at
Fulham, and like and admire him most cordially.”

“Alps and Sanctuaries” was published a few months before the opening of
the St. Gothard tunnel in 1882.  That event naturally made many and great
changes in the Val Leventina, and we who know the valley only as a
thoroughfare for shrieking smoking expresses, can scarcely realise its
ancient peace in the days of which Butler wrote.  But apart from the
incursion of the railway, Butler’s beloved valleys have changed but
little since “Alps and Sanctuaries” was written.  A few more roads have
been made, and a few more hotels have been built.  Butler’s prediction to
the effect that the next great change in locomotion in the Ticinese
valleys “would have something to do with electricity”—a prediction which
in 1881 was by no means so obvious as a twentieth-century reader might
suppose—has been strikingly fulfilled.  Electric railways now run up the
Val Blenio from Biasca to Acquarossa, half-way to Olivone; up the Val
Mesocco from Bellinzona to Mesocco, and from Locarno up the Val Maggia to
Bignasco.  Ere long they will doubtless penetrate the higher recesses of
the valleys.  Many of the “nice people” mentioned in “Alps and
Sanctuaries” have passed away.  Signer Dazio no longer reigns in Fusio;
his hotel is in other hands, “and from the sign is gone Sibylla’s name.”
Signor Guglielmoni has long since fallen a victim to the rigours of the
Alpine winter, which Butler so feelingly describes.  At S. Michele,
however, there are still some monks who remember Butler and a copy of
“Alps and Sanctuaries,” given by him to the Sanctuary, is one of their
most cherished possessions.  The lapse of thirty years has left S.
Michele unaltered, so far as I could see a few years ago, save for the
arm-chairs made out of clipped box-trees.  These have fallen grievously
from their high estate as depicted on p. 103, and are now deplorably thin
and ragged.

I think that Butler must at one time have intended to bring out a new
edition of “Alps and Sanctuaries”—the so-called second edition published
in 1882 by Mr. David Bogue being merely a re-issue of the original sheets
with a new title-page—since he took the trouble to compile an elaborate
and highly characteristic index, the manuscript of which is bound up in a
copy of the so-called second edition now in my possession.  This idea he
seems to have abandoned, and he did not revise the text of the book,
beyond correcting two or three misprints.  He continued, however, to
accumulate material for a possible sequel, and at his death he left a
large mass of rough notes recording impressions of many holiday
expeditions to various parts of Italy, in particular to his favourite
Lombard and Ticinese valleys.  Mr. Festing Jones and I have examined
these notes with great care, and from them Mr. Jones, who was, I need
hardly say, Butler’s constant companion both at home and abroad, and his
collaborator in the original “Alps and Sanctuaries,” has constructed one
entirely new chapter, “Fusio Revisited,” and made considerable additions
to Chapter X.  I have, in addition, borrowed two passages, relating
respectively to Bellinzona (p. 198) and Varese (p. 257) from Butler’s
recently published “Note-books,” and Mr. Jones has kindly allowed me to
take the note on Medea Colleone and her _passero solitario_ (p. 23) from
his “Diary of a Journey through North Italy and Sicily.”  I have revised
the original text of the book, into which some trifling errors had crept,
and have completed the index by adding references to the new matter.  I
have also ventured to consign to an appendix the original Chapter IX,
“Reforms instituted at S. Michele in the year 1478,” which contains a
summary of certain documents relating to the Sanctuary.  These are
valuable to scholars and students, but are not likely to interest the
ordinary reader, and I am following the suggestion of a friend in
transplanting the chapter bodily to the end of the book.  The
illustrations, all save six which the reader will easily distinguish, are
printed from the original Dawson-Process blocks, which are interesting
examples of early photo-engraving work.

Mr. Fifield’s determination to make the present edition handy and
portable has unfortunately compelled him to abandon Mr. Charles Gogin’s
design for the original cover, which requires a larger volume than would
in the present case be convenient.  Readers who propose to carry the book
from S. Ambrogio up to the Sanctuary of S. Michele will, I am sure,
acquiesce in the sacrifice.

My last words must be an expression of cordial thanks to Mr. Festing
Jones, whose help and counsel have been invaluable to me in preparing the
book for republication.

                                                        R. A. STREATFEILD.

_May_, 1913.



Author’s Preface to First Edition


I SHOULD perhaps apologise for publishing a work which professes to deal
with the sanctuaries of Piedmont, and saying so little about the most
important of them all—the Sacro Monte of Varallo.  My excuse must be,
that I found it impossible to deal with Varallo without making my book
too long.  Varallo requires a work to itself; I must, therefore, hope to
return to it on another occasion.

For the convenience of avoiding explanations, I have treated the events
of several summers as though they belonged to only one.  This can be of
no importance to the reader, but as the work is chronologically inexact,
I had better perhaps say so.

The illustrations by Mr. H. F. Jones are on pages 95, 211, 225, 238, 254,
260.  The frontispiece and the illustrations on the title-page and on
pages 261, 262 are by Mr. Charles Gogin.  There are two drawings on pages
136, 137 by an Italian gentleman whose name I have unfortunately lost,
and whose permission to insert them I have, therefore, been unable to
obtain, and one on page 138 by Signor Gaetano Meo.  The rest are mine,
except that all the figures in my drawings are in every case by Mr.
Charles Gogin, unless when they are merely copied from frescoes or other
sources.  The two larger views of Oropa are chiefly taken from
photographs.  The rest are all of them from studies taken upon the spot.

I must acknowledge the great obligations I am under to Mr. H. F. Jones as
regards the letterpress no less than the illustrations; I might almost
say that the book is nearly as much his as mine, while it is only through
the care which he and another friend have exercised in the revision of my
pages that I am able to let them appear with some approach to confidence.

_November_, 1881.



Table of Contents

                                                                  PAGE
INTRODUCTION, BY R. A. STREATFEILD                                   5
AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION                                   11
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                                               15
CHAPTER
         I.  INTRODUCTION                                           17
        II.  FAIDO                                                  22
       III.  PRIMADENGO, CALPIOGNIA, DALPE, CORNONE, AND            33
             PRATO
        IV.  ROSSURA, CALONICO                                      49
         V.  CALONICO (_continued_) AND GIORNICO                    59
        VI.  PIORA                                                  77
       VII.  S. MICHELE AND THE MONTE PIRCHIRIANO                   86
      VIII.  S. MICHELE (_continued_)                               92
        IX.  THE NORTH ITALIAN PRIESTHOOD                          106
         X.  S. AMBROGIO AND NEIGHBOURHOOD                         113
        XI.  LANZO                                                 131
       XII.  CONSIDERATIONS ON THE DECLINE OF ITALIAN ART          141
      XIII.  VIÙ, FUCINE, AND S. IGNAZIO                           160
       XIV.  SANCTUARY OF OROPA                                    169
        XV.  OROPA (_continued_)                                   175
       XVI.  GRAGLIA                                               188
      XVII.  SOAZZA AND THE VALLEY OF MESOCCO                      198
     XVIII.  MESOCCO, S. BERNARDINO, AND S. MARIA IN               207
             CALANCA
       XIX.  THE MENDRISIOTTO                                      228
        XX.  SANCTUARY ON MONTE BISBINO                            237
       XXI.  A DAY AT THE CANTINE                                  243
      XXII.  SACRO MONTE, VARESE                                   249
     XXIII.  ANGERA AND ARONA                                      258
      XXIV.  LOCARNO                                               268
       XXV.  FUSIO                                                 277
      XXVI.  FUSIO REVISITED                                       287
             APPENDIX A.  WEDNESBURY COCKING                       305
             APPENDIX B.  REFORMS INSTITUTED AT S. MICHELE         309
             IN THE YEAR 1478
             AUTHOR’S INDEX                                        326

List of Illustrations

MORTUARY CHAPEL AT SOAZZA (ETCHING)          _Frontispiece_
STA. MARIA DELLA NEVE                          _Title-page_
PRATO FROM NEAR DAZIO                                    26
TICINESE BARLEY-STACKS                                   29
CAMPO SANTO AT CALPIOGNIA                                30
PRIMADENGO                                               35
DALPE                                                    37
PRATO, AND VALLEY OF ST. GOTHARD                         43
PRATO CHURCH PORCH, NO. 1                                45
PRATO CHURCH PORCH, NO. 2                                48
ROSSURA CHURCH                                           49
ROSSURA CHURCH PORCH                                     50
ROSSURA CHURCH PORCH IN 1879                             53
TENGIA, NO. 1                                            56
TENGIA, NO. 2                                            57
CALONICO CHURCH, NO. 1                                   64
CALONICO CHURCH, NO. 2                                   65
MAIN DOORWAY, S. NICOLAO                                 73
INTERIOR OF OLD CHURCH, GIORNICO                         74
CHAPEL OF S. CARLO, PIORA                                81
S. MICHELE FROM NEAR BUSSOLENO                           86
S. MICHELE                                               86
S. MICHELE FROM S. PIETRO                                93
S. MICHELE, NEAR VIEW                                    95
S. MICHELE, FROM PATH TO AVIGLIANA                       95
MAIN ENTRANCE TO THE SANCTUARY                           96
STEPS LEADING TO THE CHURCH, NO. 1                       98
STEPS LEADING TO THE CHURCH, NO. 2                      100
GARDEN AT THE SANCTUARY OF S. MICHELE                   103
INN AT S. AMBROGIO                                      113
S. GIORIO—COMBA DI SUSA                                 115
CASINA DI BANDA                                         119
VOTIVE PICTURE                                          121
MEDIÆVAL TOWER AT LANZO                                 132
PIAZZA AT LANZO                                         133
STUDY BY AN ITALIAN AMATEUR, NO. 1                      136
STUDY BY AN ITALIAN AMATEUR, NO. 2                      137
STUDY BY A SELF-TAUGHT ITALIAN                          138
PARADISO! PARADISO!                                     145
BY AN ITALIAN SCHOOLBOY                                 147
AVOGADRO’S VIEW OF S. MICHELE                           149
FUNERAL OF TOM MOODY                                    159
S. IGNAZIO, NEAR LANZO                                  161
FRESCO NEAR CERES                                       161
VIÙ CHURCH                                              162
FUCINE, NEAR VIÙ                                        164
FAÇADE OF THE SANCTUARY OF OROPA                        172
INNER COURT OF SANCTUARY OF OROPA                       174
CHAPELS AT OROPA                                        175
CHAPEL OF S. CARLO AT GRAGLIA                           189
SANCTUARY OF GRAGLIA                                    194
SOAZZA CHURCH                                           203
CASTLE OF MESOCCO                                       208
S. CRISTOFORO                                           209
FRESCO AT MESOCCO—MARCH                                 211
FRESCO AT MESOCCO—APRIL                                 211
FRESCO AT MESOCCO—MAY                                   212
FRESCO AT MESOCCO—AUGUST                                212
APPROACH TO STA. MARIA                                  224
STA. MARIA, APPROACH TO CHURCH                          225
FRONT VIEW OF STA. MARIA                                226
TOP OF MONTE BISBINO                                    238
VEDUTA DEL MONTE BISBINO                                240
TABLE ON MONTE BISBINO                                  241
CHAPEL OF S. NICOLAO                                    241
SOMMAZZO                                                247
SACRO MONTE OF VARESE                                   253
SACRO MONTE OF VARESE, NEARER VIEW                      254
TERRACE AT THE SACRO MONTE, VARESE                      255
SACRO MONTE FROM ABOVE                                  256
CASTLE OF ANGERA                                        259
CASTLE OF ANGERA, FROM S. QUIRICO                       260
TERRACE AT CASTLE OF ANGERA, NO. 1                      261
TERRACE AT CASTLE OF ANGERA, NO. 2                      262
ROOM IN WHICH S. CARLO BORROMEO WAS BORN                263
SACRO MONTE, LOCARNO, NO. 1                             269
SACRO MONTE, LOCARNO, NO. 2                             270
CLOISTER AT SACRO MONTE, LOCARNO                        271
FUSIO FROM THE CEMETERY                                 279
STREET VIEW IN FUSIO                                    280

Chapter I
Introduction


MOST men will readily admit that the two poets who have the greatest hold
over Englishmen are Handel and Shakespeare—for it is as a poet, a
sympathiser with and renderer of all estates and conditions whether of
men or things, rather than as a mere musician, that Handel reigns
supreme.  There have been many who have known as much English as
Shakespeare, and so, doubtless, there have been no fewer who have known
as much music as Handel: perhaps Bach, probably Haydn, certainly Mozart;
as likely as not, many a known and unknown musician now living; but the
poet is not known by knowledge alone—not by _gnosis_ only—but also, and
in greater part, by the _agape_ which makes him wish to steal men’s
hearts, and prompts him so to apply his knowledge that he shall succeed.
There has been no one to touch Handel as an observer of all that was
observable, a lover of all that was loveable, a hater of all that was
hateable, and, therefore, as a poet.  Shakespeare loved not wisely but
too well.  Handel loved as well as Shakespeare, but more wisely.  He is
as much above Shakespeare as Shakespeare is above all others, except
Handel himself; he is no less lofty, impassioned, tender, and full alike
of fire and love of play; he is no less universal in the range of his
sympathies, no less a master of expression and illustration than
Shakespeare, and at the same time he is of robuster, stronger fibre, more
easy, less introspective.  Englishmen are of so mixed a race, so
inventive, and so given to migration, that for many generations to come
they are bound to be at times puzzled, and therefore introspective; if
they get their freedom at all they get it as Shakespeare “with a great
sum,” whereas Handel was “free born.”  Shakespeare sometimes errs and
grievously, he is as one of his own best men “moulded out of faults,” who
“for the most become much more the better, for being a little bad;”
Handel, if he puts forth his strength at all, is unerring: he gains the
maximum of effect with the minimum of effort.  As Mozart said of him, “he
beats us all in effect, when he chooses he strikes like a thunderbolt.”
Shakespeare’s strength is perfected in weakness; Handel is the serenity
and unself-consciousness of health itself.  “There,” said Beethoven on
his deathbed, pointing to the works of Handel, “there—is truth.”  These,
however, are details, the main point that will be admitted is that the
average Englishman is more attracted by Handel and Shakespeare than by
any other two men who have been long enough dead for us to have formed a
fairly permanent verdict concerning them.  We not only believe them to
have been the best men familiarly known here in England, but we see
foreign nations join us for the most part in assigning to them the
highest place as renderers of emotion.

It is always a pleasure to me to reflect that the countries dearest to
these two master spirits are those which are also dearest to myself, I
mean England and Italy.  Both of them lived mainly here in London, but
both of them turned mainly to Italy when realising their dreams.
Handel’s music is the embodiment of all the best Italian music of his
time and before him, assimilated and reproduced with the enlargements and
additions suggested by his own genius.  He studied in Italy; his subjects
for many years were almost exclusively from Italian sources; the very
language of his thoughts was Italian, and to the end of his life he would
have composed nothing but Italian operas, if the English public would
have supported him.  His spirit flew to Italy, but his home was London.
So also Shakespeare turned to Italy more than to any other country for
his subjects.  Roughly, he wrote nineteen Italian, or what to him were
virtually Italian plays, to twelve English, one Scotch, one Danish, three
French, and two early British.

But who does not turn to Italy who has the chance of doing so?  What,
indeed, do we not owe to that most lovely and loveable country?  Take up
a Bank of England note and the Italian language will be found still
lingering upon it.  It is signed “for Bank of England and Compa.”
(_Compagnia_), not “Compy.”  Our laws are Roman in their origin.  Our
music, as we have seen, and our painting comes from Italy.  Our very
religion till a few hundred years ago found its headquarters, not in
London nor in Canterbury, but in Rome.  What, in fact, is there which has
not filtered through Italy, even though it arose elsewhere?  On the other
hand, there are infinite attractions in London.  I have seen many foreign
cities, but I know none so commodious, or, let me add, so beautiful.  I
know of nothing in any foreign city equal to the view down Fleet Street,
walking along the north side from the corner of Fetter Lane.  It is often
said that this has been spoiled by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway
bridge over Ludgate Hill; I think, however, the effect is more imposing
now than it was before the bridge was built.  Time has already softened
it; it does not obtrude itself; it adds greatly to the sense of size, and
makes us doubly aware of the movement of life, the colossal circulation
to which London owes so much of its impressiveness.  We gain more by this
than we lose by the infraction of some pedant’s canon about the
artistically correct intersection of right lines.  Vast as is the world
below the bridge, there is a vaster still on high, and when trains are
passing, the steam from the engine will throw the dome of St. Paul’s into
the clouds, and make it seem as though there were a commingling of earth
and some far-off mysterious palace in dreamland.  I am not very fond of
Milton, but I admit that he does at times put me in mind of Fleet Street.

While on the subject of Fleet Street, I would put in a word in favour of
the much-abused griffin.  The whole monument is one of the handsomest in
London.  As for its being an obstruction, I have discoursed with a large
number of omnibus conductors on the subject, and am satisfied that the
obstruction is imaginary.

When, again, I think of Waterloo Bridge, and the huge wide-opened jaws of
those two Behemoths, the Cannon Street and Charing Cross railway
stations, I am not sure that the prospect here is not even finer than in
Fleet Street.  See how they belch forth puffing trains as the breath of
their nostrils, gorging and disgorging incessantly those human atoms
whose movement is the life of the city.  How like it all is to some great
bodily mechanism of which the people are the blood.  And then, above all,
see the ineffable St. Paul’s.  I was once on Waterloo Bridge after a
heavy thunderstorm in summer.  A thick darkness was upon the river and
the buildings upon the north side, but just below I could see the water
hurrying onward as in an abyss, dark, gloomy, and mysterious.  On a level
with the eye there was an absolute blank, but above, the sky was clear,
and out of the gloom the dome and towers of St. Paul’s rose up sharply,
looking higher than they actually were, and as though they rested upon
space.

Then as for the neighbourhood within, we will say, a radius of thirty
miles.  It is one of the main businesses of my life to explore this
district.  I have walked several thousands of miles in doing so, and I
mark where I have been in red upon the Ordnance map, so that I may see at
a glance what parts I know least well, and direct my attention to them as
soon as possible.  For ten months in the year I continue my walks in the
home counties, every week adding some new village or farmhouse to my list
of things worth seeing; and no matter where else I may have been, I find
a charm in the villages of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, which in its way I
know not where to rival.

I have ventured to say the above, because during the remainder of my book
I shall be occupied almost exclusively with Italy, and wish to make it
clear that my Italian rambles are taken not because I prefer Italy to
England, but as by way of _parergon_, or by-work, as every man should
have both his profession and his hobby.  I have chosen Italy as my second
country, and would dedicate this book to her as a thank-offering for the
happiness she has afforded me.



Chapter II
Faido


FOR some years past I have paid a visit of greater or less length to
Faido in the Canton Ticino, which though politically Swiss is as much
Italian in character as any part of Italy.  I was attracted to this
place, in the first instance, chiefly because it is one of the easiest
places on the Italian side of the Alps to reach from England.  This merit
it will soon possess in a still greater degree, for when the St. Gothard
tunnel is open, it will be possible to leave London, we will say, on a
Monday morning and be at Faido by six or seven o’clock the next evening,
just as one can now do with S. Ambrogio on the line between Susa and
Turin, of which more hereafter.

True, by making use of the tunnel one will miss the St. Gothard scenery,
but I would not, if I were the reader, lay this too much to heart.
Mountain scenery, when one is staying right in the middle of it, or when
one is on foot, is one thing, and mountain scenery as seen from the top
of a diligence very likely smothered in dust is another.  Besides I do
not think he will like the St. Gothard scenery very much.

It is a pity there is no mental microscope to show us our likes and
dislikes while they are yet too vague to be made out easily.  We are so
apt to let imaginary likings run away with us, as a person at the far end
of Cannon Street railway platform, if he expects a friend to join him,
will see that friend in half the impossible people who are coming through
the wicket.  I once began an essay on “The Art of Knowing what gives one
Pleasure,” but soon found myself out of the diatonic with it, in all
manner of strange keys, amid a maze of metaphysical accidentals and
double and treble flats, so I left it alone as a question not worth the
trouble it seemed likely to take in answering.  It is like everything
else, if we much want to know our own mind on any particular point, we
may be trusted to develop the faculty which will reveal it to us, and if
we do not greatly care about knowing, it does not much matter if we
remain in ignorance.  But in few cases can we get at our permanent liking
without at least as much experience as a fishmonger must have had before
he can choose at once the best bloater out of twenty which, to
inexperienced eyes, seem one as good as the other.  Lord Beaconsfield was
a thorough Erasmus Darwinian when he said so well in “Endymion”: “There
is nothing like will; everybody can do exactly what they like in this
world, provided they really like it.  Sometimes they think they do, but
in general it’s a mistake.” {23}  If this is as true as I believe it to
be, “the longing after immortality,” though not indeed much of an
argument in favour of our being immortal at the present moment, is
perfectly sound as a reason for concluding that we shall one day develop
immortality, if our desire is deep enough and lasting enough.  As for
knowing whether or not one likes a picture, which under the present
æsthetic reign of terror is _de rigueur_, I once heard a man say the only
test was to ask one’s self whether one would care to look at it if one
was quite sure that one was alone; I have never been able to get beyond
this test with the St. Gothard scenery, and applying it to the Devil’s
Bridge, I should say a stay of about thirty seconds would be enough for
me.  I daresay Mendelssohn would have stayed at least two hours at the
Devil’s Bridge, but then he did stay such a long while before things.

The coming out from the short tunnel on to the plain of Andermatt does
certainly give the pleasure of a surprise.  I shall never forget coming
out of this tunnel one day late in November, and finding the whole
Andermatt valley in brilliant sunshine, though from Flüelen up to the
Devil’s Bridge the clouds had hung heavy and low.  It was one of the most
striking transformation scenes imaginable.  The top of the pass is good,
and the Hotel Prosa a comfortable inn to stay at.  I do not know whether
this house will be discontinued when the railway is opened, but
understand that the proprietor has taken the large hotel at Piora, which
I will speak of later on.  The descent on the Italian side is impressive,
and so is the point where sight is first caught of the valley below
Airolo, but on the whole I cannot see that the St. Gothard is better than
the S. Bernardino on the Italian side, or the Lukmanier, near the top, on
the German; this last is one of the most beautiful things imaginable, but
it should be seen by one who is travelling towards German Switzerland,
and in a fine summer’s evening light.  I was never more impressed by the
St. Gothard than on the occasion already referred to when I crossed it in
winter.  We went in sledges from Hospenthal to Airolo, and I remember
thinking what splendid fellows the postillions and guards and men who
helped to shift the luggage on to the sledges, looked; they were so ruddy
and strong and full of health, as indeed they might well be—living an
active outdoor life in such an air; besides, they were picked men, for
the passage in winter is never without possible dangers.  It was
delightful travelling in the sledge.  The sky was of a deep blue; there
was not a single cloud either in sky or on mountain, but the snow was
already deep, and had covered everything beneath its smooth and heaving
bosom.  There was no breath of air, but the cold was intense; presently
the sun set upon all except the higher peaks, and the broad shadows stole
upwards.  Then there was a rich crimson flush upon the mountain tops, and
after this a pallor cold and ghastly as death.  If he is fortunate in his
day, I do not think any one will be sorry to have crossed the St. Gothard
in mid-winter; but one pass will do as well as another.

Airolo, at the foot of the pass on the Italian side, was, till lately, a
quiet and beautiful village, rising from among great green slopes, which
in early summer are covered with innumerable flowers.  The place,
however, is now quite changed.  The railway has turned the whole Val
Leventina topsy-turvy, and altered it almost beyond recognition.  When
the line is finished and the workmen have gone elsewhere, things will get
right again; but just now there is an explosiveness about the valley
which puzzles one who has been familiar with its former quietness.
Airolo has been especially revolutionised, being the headquarters for the
works upon the Italian side of the great St. Gothard tunnel, as Göschenen
is for those on the German side; besides this, it was burnt down two or
three years ago, hardly one of the houses being left standing, so that it
is now a new town, and has lost its former picturesqueness, but it will
be not a bad place to stay at as soon as the bustle of the works has
subsided, and there is a good hotel—the Hotel Airolo.  It lies nearly
4000 feet above the sea, so that even in summer the air is cool.  There
are plenty of delightful walks—to Piora, for example, up the Val Canaria,
and to Bedretto.

After leaving Airolo the road descends rapidly for a few hundred feet and
then more slowly for four or five kilometres to Piotta.  Here the first
signs of the Italian spirit appear in the wood carving of some of the
houses.  It is with these houses that I always consider myself as in
Italy again.  Then come Ronco on the mountain side to the left, and
Quinto; all the way the pastures are thickly covered with cowslips, even
finer than those that grow on Salisbury Plain.  A few kilometres farther
on and sight is caught of a beautiful green hill with a few natural
terraces upon it and a flat top—rising from amid pastures, and backed by
higher hills as green as itself.  On the top of this hill there stands a
white church with an elegant Lombard _campanile_—the _campanile_ left
unwhitewashed.  The whole forms a lovely little bit of landscape such as
some old Venetian painter might have chosen as a background for a
Madonna.

                     [Picture: Prato from near Dazio]

This place is called Prato.  After it is passed the road enters at once
upon the Monte Piottino gorge, which is better than the Devil’s Bridge,
but not so much to my taste as the auriculas and rhododendrons which grow
upon the rocks that flank it.  The peep, however, at the hamlet of
Vigera, caught through the opening of the gorge, is very nice.  Soon
after crossing the second of the Monte Piottino bridges the first
chestnuts are reached, or rather were so till a year ago, when they were
all cut down to make room for some construction in connection with the
railway.  A couple of kilometres farther on and mulberries and occasional
fig-trees begin to appear.  On this we find ourselves at Faido, the first
place upon the Italian side which can be called a town, but which after
all is hardly more than a village.

Faido is a picturesque old place.  It has several houses dated the middle
of the sixteenth century; and there is one, formerly a convent, close to
the Hotel dell’ Angelo, which must be still older.  There is a brewery
where excellent beer is made, as good as that of Chiavenna—and a
monastery where a few monks still continue to reside.  The town is 2365
feet above the sea, and is never too hot even in the height of summer.
The Angelo is the principal hotel of the town, and will be found
thoroughly comfortable and in all respects a desirable place to stay at.
I have stayed there so often, and consider the whole family of its
proprietor so much among the number of my friends, that I have no
hesitation in cordially recommending the house.

Other attractions I do not know that the actual town possesses, but the
neighbourhood is rich.  Years ago, in travelling by the St. Gothard road,
I had noticed the many little villages perched high up on the sides of
the mountain, from one to two thousand feet above the river, and had
wondered what sort of places they would be.  I resolved, therefore, after
a time to make a stay at Faido and go up to all of them.  I carried out
my intention, and there is not a village nor fraction of a village in the
Val Leventina from Airolo to Biasca which I have not inspected.  I never
tire of them, and the only regret I feel concerning them is, that the
greater number are inaccessible except on foot, so that I do not see how
I shall be able to reach them if I live to be old.  These are the places
of which I do find myself continually thinking when I am away from them.
I may add that the Val Leventina is much the same as every other
subalpine valley on the Italian side of the Alps that I have yet seen.

I had no particular aversion to German Switzerland before I knew the
Italian side of the Alps.  On the contrary, I was under the impression
that I liked German Switzerland almost as much as I liked Italy itself,
but now I can look at German Switzerland no longer.  As soon as I see the
water going down Rhinewards I hurry back to London.  I was unwillingly
compelled to take pleasure in the first hour and a half of the descent
from the top of the Lukmanier towards Disentis, but this is only a
ripping over of the brimfulness of Italy on to the Swiss side.

The first place I tried from Faido was Mairengo—where there is the oldest
church in the valley—a church older even than the church of St. Nicolao
of Giornico.  There is little of the original structure, but the rare
peculiarity remains that there are two high altars side by side.

There is a fine half-covered timber porch to the church.  These porches
are rare, the only others like it I know of being at Prato, Rossura, and
to some extent Cornone.  In each of these cases the arrangement is
different, the only agreement being in the having an outer sheltered
place, from which the church is entered instead of opening directly on to
the churchyard.  Mairengo is full of good bits, and nestles among
magnificent chestnut-trees.  From hence I went to Osco, about 3800 feet
above the sea, and 1430 above Faido.  It was here I first came to
understand the purpose of certain high poles with cross bars to them
which I had already seen elsewhere.  They are for drying the barley on;
as soon as it is cut it is hung up on the cross bars and secured in this
way from the rain, but it is obvious this can only be done when
cultivation is on a small scale.  These _rascane_, as they are called,
are a feature of the Val Leventina, and look very well when they are full
of barley.

                    [Picture: Ticinese Barley-stacks]

From Osco I tried to coast along to Calpiognia, but was warned that the
path was dangerous, and found it to be so.  I therefore again descended
to Mairengo, and re-ascended by a path which went straight up behind the
village.  After a time I got up to the level of Calpiognia, or nearly so,
and found a path through pine woods which led me across a torrent in a
ravine to Calpiognia itself.  This path is very beautiful.  While on it I
caught sight of a lovely village nestling on a plateau that now showed
itself high up on the other side the valley of the Ticino, perhaps a
couple of miles off as the crow flies.  This I found upon inquiry to be
Dalpe; above Dalpe rose pine woods and pastures; then the loftier _alpi_,
then rugged precipices, and above all the Dalpe glacier roseate with
sunset.  I was enchanted, and it was only because night was coming on,
and I had a long way to descend before getting back to Faido, that I
could get myself away.  I passed through Calpiognia, and though the dusk
was deepening, I could not forbear from pausing at the Campo Santo just
outside the village.  I give a sketch taken by daylight, but neither
sketch nor words can give any idea of the pathos of the place.  [Picture:
Campo Santo at Calpiognia] When I saw it first it was in the month of
June, and the rank dandelions were in seed.  Wild roses in full bloom,
great daisies, and the never-failing salvia ran riot among the graves.
Looking over the churchyard itself there were the purple mountains of
Biasca and the valley of the Ticino some couple of thousand feet below.
There was no sound save the subdued but ceaseless roar of the Ticino, and
the Piumogna.  Involuntarily I found the following passage from the
“Messiah” sounding in my ears, and felt as though Handel, who in his
travels as a young man doubtless saw such places, might have had one of
them in his mind when he wrote the divine music which he has wedded to
the words “of them that sleep.” {31}

          [Picture: Score for ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’]

Or again: {32}

     [Picture: Score for ‘Suites of Pièces, set i., prelude to No. 8]

From Calpiognia I came down to Primadengo, and thence to Faido.



Chapter III
Primadengo, Calpiognia, Dalpe, Cornone, and Prato


NEXT morning I thought I would go up to Calpiognia again.  It was Sunday.
When I got up to Primadengo I saw no one, and heard nothing, save always
the sound of distant waterfalls; all was spacious and full of what Mr.
Ruskin has called a “great peacefulness of light.”  The village was so
quiet that it seemed as though it were deserted; after a minute or so,
however, I heard a cherry fall, and looking up, saw the trees were full
of people.  There they were, crawling and lolling about on the boughs
like caterpillars, and gorging themselves with cherries.  They spoke not
a word either to me or to one another.  They were too happy and goodly to
make a noise; but they lay about on the large branches, and ate and
sighed for content and ate till they could eat no longer.  Lotus eating
was a rough nerve-jarring business in comparison.  They were like saints
and evangelists by Filippo Lippi.  Again the rendering of Handel came
into my mind, and I thought of how the goodly fellowship of prophets
praised God. {33}

                       [Picture: Dettingen Te Deum]

And how again in some such another quiet ecstasy the muses sing about
Jove’s altar in the “Allegro and Penseroso.”

Here is a sketch of Primadengo Church—looking over it on to the other
side the Ticino, but I could not get the cherry-trees nor cherry-eaters.

                          [Picture: Primadengo]

On leaving Primadengo I went on to Calpiognia, and there too I found the
children’s faces all purple with cherry juice; thence I ascended till I
got to a _monte_, or collection of chalets, about 5680 feet above the
sea.  It was deserted at this season.  I mounted farther and reached an
_alpe_, where a man and a boy were tending a mob of calves.  Going still
higher, I at last came upon a small lake close to the top of the range: I
find this lake given in the map as about 7400 feet above the sea.  Here,
being more than 5000 feet above Faido, I stopped and dined.

I have spoken of a _monte_ and of an _alpe_.  An _alpe_, or alp, is not,
as so many people in England think, a snowy mountain.  Mont Blanc and the
Jungfrau, for example, are not alps.  They are mountains with alps upon
them.

An _alpe_ is a tract of the highest summer pasturage just below the
snow-line, and only capable of being grazed for two or three months in
every year.  It is held as common land by one or more villages in the
immediate neighbourhood, and sometimes by a single individual to whom the
village has sold it.  A few men and boys attend the whole herd, whether
of cattle or goats, and make the cheese, which is apportioned out among
the owners of the cattle later on.  The pigs go up to be fattened on
whey.  The cheese is not commonly made at the _alpe_, but as soon as the
curd has been pressed clear of whey, it is sent down on men’s backs to
the village to be made into cheese.  Sometimes there will be a little hay
grown on an _alpe_, as at Gribbio and in Piora; in this case there will
be some chalets built, which will be inhabited for a few weeks and left
empty the rest of the year.

The _monte_ is the pasture land immediately above the highest enclosed
meadows and below the _alpe_.  The cattle are kept here in spring and
autumn before and after their visit to the _alpe_.  The _monte_ has many
houses, dairies, and cowhouses,—being almost the _paese_, or village, in
miniature.  It will always have its chapel, and is inhabited by so
considerable a number of the villagers, for so long a time both in spring
and autumn, that they find it worth while to make themselves more
comfortable than is necessary for the few who make the short summer visit
to the _alpe_.

Every inch of the ascent was good, but the descent was even better on
account of the views of the Dalpe glacier on the other side the Ticino,
towards which one’s back is turned as one ascends.  All day long the
villages of Dalpe and Cornone had been tempting me, so I resolved to take
them next day.  This I did, crossing the Ticino and following a broad
well-beaten path which ascends the mountains in a southerly direction.  I
found the rare English fern _Woodsia hyperborea_ growing in great
luxuriance on the rocks between the path and the river.  I saw some
fronds fully six inches in length.  I also found one specimen of
_Asplenium alternifolium_, which, however, is abundant on the other side
the valley, on the walls that flank the path between Primadengo and
Calpiognia, and elsewhere.  _Woodsia_ also grows on the roadside walls
near Airolo, but not so fine as at Faido.  I have often looked for it in
other subalpine valleys of North Italy and the canton Ticino, but have
never happened to light upon it.

                             [Picture: Dalpe]

About three or four hundred feet above the river, under some pines, I saw
a string of ants crossing and recrossing the road; I have since seen
these ants every year in the same place.  In one part I almost think the
stone is a little worn with the daily passage and repassage of so many
thousands of tiny feet, but for the most part it certainly is not.
Half-an-hour or so after crossing the string of ants, one passes from
under the pine-trees into a grassy meadow, which in spring is decked with
all manner of Alpine flowers; after crossing this, the old St. Gothard
road is reached, which passed by Prato and Dalpe, so as to avoid the
gorge of the Monte Piottino.  This road is of very great antiquity, and
has been long disused, except for local purposes; for even before the
carriage road over the St. Gothard was finished in 1827, there was a
horse track through the Monte Piottino.  In another twenty minutes or so,
on coming out from a wood of willows and alders, Dalpe is seen close at
hand after a walk of from an hour-and-a-half to two hours from Faido.

Dalpe is rather more than 1500 feet above Faido, and is therefore nearly
4000 feet above the sea.  It is reckoned a _bel paese_, inasmuch as it
has a little tolerably level pasture and tillable land near it, and a
fine _alpe_.  This is how the wealth of a village is reckoned.  The
Italians set great store by a little bit of _bella pianura_, or level
ground; to them it is as precious as a hill or rock is to a Londoner out
for a holiday.  The peasantry are as blind to the beauties of rough
unmanageable land as Peter Bell was to those of the primrose with a
yellow brim (I quote from memory).  The people complain of the climate of
Dalpe, the snow not going off before the end of March or beginning of
April.  No climate, they say, should be colder than that of Faido;
barley, however, and potatoes do very well at Dalpe, and nothing can
exceed the hay crops.  A good deal of the hay is sent down to Faido on
men’s backs or rather on their heads, for the road is impracticable even
for sledges.  It is astonishing what a weight the men will bear upon
their heads, and the rate at which they will come down while loaded.  An
average load is four hundredweight.  The man is hardly visible beneath
his burden, which looks like a good big part of an ordinary English
haystack.  With this weight on his head he will go down rough places
almost at a run and never miss his footing.  The men generally carry the
hay down in threes and fours together for company.  They look distressed,
as well they may: every muscle is strained, and it is easy to see that
their powers are being taxed to their utmost limit; it is better not even
to say good-day to them when they are thus loaded; they have enough to
attend to just then; nevertheless, as soon as they have deposited their
load at Faido they will go up to Dalpe again or Calpiognia, or wherever
it may be, for another, and bring it down without resting.  Two such
journeys are reckoned enough for one day.  This is how the people get
their _corpo di legno e gamba di ferro_—“their bodies of wood and legs of
iron.”  But I think they rather overdo it.

Talking of legs, as I went through the main street of Dalpe an old lady
of about sixty-five stopped me, and told me that while gathering her
winter store of firewood she had had the misfortune to hurt her leg.  I
was very sorry, but I failed to satisfy her; the more I sympathised in
general terms, the more I felt that something further was expected of me.
I went on trying to do the civil thing, when the old lady cut me short by
saying it would be much better if I were to see the leg at once; so she
showed it me in the street, and there, sure enough, close to the groin
there was a swelling.  Again I said how sorry I was, and added that
perhaps she ought to show it to a medical man.  “But aren’t you a medical
man?” said she in an alarmed manner.  “Certainly not,” replied I.  “Then
why did you let me show you my leg?” said she indignantly, and pulling
her clothes down, the poor old woman began to hobble off; presently two
others joined her, and I heard hearty peals of laughter as she recounted
her story.  A stranger visiting these out-of-the-way villages is almost
certain to be mistaken for a doctor.  What business, they say to
themselves, can any one else have there, and who in his senses would
dream of visiting them for pleasure?  This old lady had rushed to the
usual conclusion, and had been trying to get a little advice gratis.

Above Dalpe there is a path through the upper valley of the Piumogna,
which leads to the glacier whence the river comes.  The highest peak
above this upper valley just turns the 10,000 feet, but I was never able
to find out that it has a name, nor is there a name marked in the
Ordnance map of the Canton Ticino.  The valley promises well, but I have
not been to its head, where at about 7400 feet there is a small lake.
Great quantities of crystals are found in the mountains above Dalpe.
Some people make a living by collecting these from the higher parts of
the ranges where none but born mountaineers and chamois can venture;
many, again, emigrate to Paris, London, America, or elsewhere, and return
either for a month or two, or sometimes for a permanency, having become
rich.  In Cornone there is one large white new house belonging to a man
who has made his fortune near Como, and in all these villages there are
similar houses.  From the Val Leventina and the Val Blenio, but more
especially from this last, very large numbers come to London, while
hardly fewer go to America.  Signor Gatti, the great ice merchant, came
from the Val Blenio.

I once found the words, “Tommy, make room for your uncle,” on a chapel
outside the walls of one very quiet little upland hamlet.  The writing
was in a child’s scrawl, and in like fashion with all else that was
written on the same wall.  I should have been much surprised, if I had
not already found out how many families return to these parts with
children to whom English is the native language.  Many as are the
villages in the Canton Ticino in which I have sat sketching for hours
together, I have rarely done so without being accosted sooner or later by
some one who could speak English, either with an American accent or
without it.  It is curious at some out-of-the-way place high up among the
mountains, to see a lot of children at play, and to hear one of them
shout out, “Marietta, if you do that again, I’ll go and tell mother.”
One English word has become universally adopted by the _Ticinesi_
themselves.  They say “waitee” just as we should say “wait,” to stop some
one from going away.  It is abhorrent to them to end a word with a
consonant, so they have added “ee,” but there can be no doubt about the
origin of the word. {41}

When we bear in mind the tendency of any language, if it once attains a
certain predominance, to supplant all others, and when we look at the map
of the world and see the extent now in the hands of the two
English-speaking nations, I think it may be prophesied that the language
in which this book is written will one day be almost as familiar to the
greater number of _Ticinesi_ as their own.

I may mention one other expression which, though not derived from
English, has a curious analogy to an English usage.  When the beautiful
children with names like Handel’s operas come round one while one is
sketching, some one of them will assuredly before long be heard to
whisper the words “Tira giù,” or as children say when they come round one
in England, “He is drawing it down.”  The fundamental idea is, of course,
that the draughtsman drags the object which he is drawing away from its
position, and “transfers” it, as we say by the same metaphor, to his
paper, as St. Cecilia “drew an angel down” in “Alexander’s Feast.”

A good walk from Dalpe is to the Alpe di Campolungo and Fusio, but it is
better taken from Fusio.  A very favourite path with me is the one
leading conjointly from Cornone and Dalpe to Prato.  The view up the
valley of the St. Gothard looking down on Prato is fine; I give a sketch
of it taken five years ago before the railway had been begun.

The little objects looking like sentry boxes that go all round the church
contain rough modern frescoes, representing, if I remember rightly, the
events attendant upon the Crucifixion.  These are on a small scale what
the chapels on the sacred mountain of Varallo are on a large one.  Small
single oratories are scattered about all over the Canton Ticino, and
indeed everywhere in North Italy by the roadside, at all halting-places,
and especially at the crest of any more marked ascent, where the tired
wayfarer, probably heavy laden, might be inclined to say a naughty word
or two if not checked.  The people like them, and miss them when they
come to England.  They sometimes do what the lower animals do in
confinement when precluded from habits they are accustomed to, and put up
with strange makeshifts by way of substitute.  I once saw a poor Ticinese
woman kneeling in prayer before a dentist’s show-case in the Hampstead
Road; she doubtless mistook the teeth for the relics of some saint.  I am
afraid she was a little like a hen sitting upon a chalk egg, but she
seemed quite contented.

               [Picture: Prato, and Valley of St. Gothard]

Which of us, indeed, does not sit contentedly enough upon chalk eggs at
times?  And what would life be but for the power to do so?  We do not
sufficiently realise the part which illusion has played in our
development.  One of the prime requisites for evolution is a certain
power for adaptation to varying circumstances, that is to say, of
plasticity, bodily and mental.  But the power of adaptation is mainly
dependent on the power of thinking certain new things sufficiently like
certain others to which we have been accustomed for us not to be too much
incommoded by the change—upon the power, in fact, of mistaking the new
for the old.  The power of fusing ideas (and through ideas, structures)
depends upon the power of _con_fusing them; the power to confuse ideas
that are not very unlike, and that are presented to us in immediate
sequence, is mainly due to the fact of the impetus, so to speak, which
the mind has upon it.  We always, I believe, make an effort to see every
new object as a repetition of the object last before us.  Objects are so
varied, and present themselves so rapidly, that as a general rule we
renounce this effort too promptly to notice it, but it is always there,
and it is because of it that we are able to mistake, and hence to evolve
new mental and bodily developments.  Where the effort is successful,
there is illusion; where nearly successful but not quite, there is a
shock and a sense of being puzzled—more or less, as the case may be;
where it is so obviously impossible as not to be pursued, there is no
perception of the effort at all.

Mr. Locke has been greatly praised for his essay upon human
understanding.  An essay on human misunderstanding should be no less
interesting and important.  Illusion to a small extent is one of the main
causes, if indeed it is not the main cause, of progress, but it must be
upon a small scale.  All abortive speculation, whether commercial or
philosophical, is based upon it, and much as we may abuse such
speculation, we are, all of us, its debtors.

                   [Picture: Prato Church Porch, No. 1]

Leonardo da Vinci says that Sandro Botticelli spoke slightingly of
landscape-painting, and called it “but a vain study, since by throwing a
sponge impregnated with various colours against a wall, it leaves some
spots upon it, which may appear like a landscape.”  Leonardo da Vinci
continues: “It is true that a variety of compositions may be seen in such
spots according to the disposition of mind with which they are
considered; such as heads of men, various animals, battles, rocky scenes,
seas, clouds, words, and the like.  It may be compared to the sound of
bells which may seem to say whatever we choose to imagine.  In the same
manner these spots may furnish hints for composition, though they do not
teach us how to finish any particular part.” {46}  No one can hate
drunkenness more than I do, but I am confident the human intellect owes
its superiority over that of the lower animals in great measure to the
stimulus which alcohol has given to imagination—imagination being little
else than another name for illusion.  As for wayside chapels, mine, when
I am in London, are the shop windows with pretty things in them.

The flowers on the slopes above Prato are wonderful, and the village is
full of nice bits for sketching, but the best thing, to my fancy, is the
church, and the way it stands, and the lovely covered porch through which
it is entered.  This porch is not striking from the outside, but I took
two sketches of it from within.  There is, also, a fresco, half finished,
of St. George and the Dragon, probably of the fifteenth century, and not
without feeling.  There is not much inside the church, which is
modernised and more recent than the tower.  The tower is very good, and
only second, if second, in the upper Leventina to that of Quinto, which,
however, is not nearly so well placed.

The people of Prato are just as fond of cherries as those of Primadengo,
but I did not see any men in the trees.  The children in these parts are
the most beautiful and most fascinating that I know anywhere; they have
black mouths all through the month of July from the quantities of
cherries that they devour.  I can bear witness that they are
irresistible, for one kind old gentleman, seeing me painting near his
house, used to bring me daily a branch of a cherry-tree with all the
cherries on it.  “Son piccole,” he would say, “ma son gustose”—“They are
small, but tasty,” which indeed they were.  Seeing I ate all he gave
me—for there was no stopping short as long as a single cherry was
left—he, day by day, increased the size of the branch, but no matter how
many he brought I was always even with him.  I did my best to stop him
from bringing them, or myself from eating all of them, but it was no use.

               [Picture: Autograph of Tlolinda Del Pietro]

Here is the autograph of one of the little black-mouthed folk.  I watch
them growing up from year to year in many a village.  I was sketching at
Primadengo, and a little girl of about three years came up with her
brother, a boy of perhaps eight.  Before long the smaller child began to
set her cap at me, smiling, ogling, and showing all her tricks like an
accomplished little flirt.  Her brother said, “She always goes on like
that to strangers.”  I said, “What’s her name?”  “Forolinda.”  The name
being new to me, I made the boy write it, and here it is.  He has
forgotten to cross his F, but the writing is wonderfully good for a boy
of his age.  The child’s name, doubtless, is Florinda.

More than once at Prato, and often elsewhere, people have wanted to buy
my sketches: if I had not required them for my own use I might have sold
a good many.  I do not think my patrons intended giving more than four or
five francs a sketch, but a quick worker, who could cover his three or
four Fortuny panels a day, might pay his expenses.  It often happens that
people who are doing well in London or Paris are paying a visit to their
native village, and like to take back something to remind them of it in
the winter.

From Prato, there are two ways to Faido, one past an old castle, built to
defend the northern entrance of the Monte Piottino, and so over a small
pass which will avoid the gorge; and the other, by Dazio and the Monte
Piottino gorge.  Both are good.

                   [Picture: Prato Church Porch, No. 2]



Chapter IV
Rossura, Calonico


[Picture: Rossura, Calonico] ANOTHER day I went up to Rossura, a village
that can be seen from the windows of the Hotel dell’ Angelo, and which
stands about 3500 feet above the sea, or a little more than 1100 feet
above Faido.  The path to it passes along some meadows, from which the
church of Calonico can be seen on the top of its rocks some few miles
off.  By and by a torrent is reached, and the ascent begins in earnest.
When the level of Rossura has been nearly attained, the path turns off
into meadows to the right, and continues—occasionally under magnificent
chestnuts—till one comes to Rossura.

The church has been a good deal restored during the last few years, and
an interesting old chapel—with an altar in it—at which mass was said
during a time of plague, while the people stood some way off in a meadow,
has just been entirely renovated; but as with some English churches, the
more closely a piece of old work is copied the more palpably does the
modern spirit show through it, so here the opposite occurs, for the
old-worldliness of the place has not been impaired by much renovation,
though the intention has been to make everything as modern as possible.

                     [Picture: Rossura Church Porch]

I know few things more touching in their way than the porch of Rossura
church.  It is dated early in the last century, and is absolutely without
ornament; the flight of steps inside it lead up to the level of the floor
of the church.  One lovely summer Sunday morning, passing the church
betimes, I saw the people kneeling upon these steps, the church within
being crammed.  In the darker light of the porch, they told out against
the sky that showed through the open arch beyond them; far away the eye
rested on the mountains—deep blue save where the snow still lingered.  I
never saw anything more beautiful—and these forsooth are the people whom
so many of us think to better by distributing tracts about Protestantism
among them!

While I was looking, there came a sound of music through the open
door—the people lifting up their voices and singing, as near as I can
remember, something which on the piano would come thus:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

                          [Picture: Music score]

I liked the porch almost best under an aspect which it no longer
presents.  One summer an opening was made in the west wall, which was
afterwards closed because the wind blew through it too much and made the
church too cold.  While it was open, one could sit on the church steps
and look down through it on to the bottom of the Ticino valley; and
through the windows one could see the slopes about Dalpe and Cornone.
Between the two windows there is a picture of austere old S. Carlo
Borromeo with his hands joined in prayer.

It was at Rossura that I made the acquaintance of a word which I have
since found very largely used throughout North Italy.  It is pronounced
“chow” pure and simple, but is written, if written at all, “ciau,” or
“ciao,” the “a” being kept very broad.  I believe the word is derived
from “schiavo,” a slave, which, became corrupted into “schiao,” and
“ciao.”  It is used with two meanings, both of which, however, are
deducible from the word slave.  In its first and more common use it is
simply a salute, either on greeting or taking leave, and means, “I am
your very obedient servant.”  Thus, if one has been talking to a small
child, its mother will tell it to say “chow” before it goes away, and
will then nod her head and say “chow” herself.  The other use is a kind
of pious expletive, intending “I must endure it,” “I am the slave of a
higher power.”  It was in this sense I first heard it at Rossura.  A
woman was washing at a fountain while I was eating my lunch.  She said
she had lost her daughter in Paris a few weeks earlier.  “She was a
beautiful woman,” said the bereaved mother, “but—chow.  She had great
talents—chow.  I had her educated by the nuns of Bellinzona—chow.  Her
knowledge of geography was consummate—chow, chow,” &c.  Here “chow” means
“pazienza,” “I have done and said all that I can, and must now bear it as
best I may.”

                 [Picture: Rossura Church Porch in 1879]

I tried to comfort her, but could do nothing, till at last it occurred to
me to say “chow” too.  I did so, and was astonished at the soothing
effect it had upon her.  How subtle are the laws that govern consolation!
I suppose they must ultimately be connected with reproduction—the
consoling idea being a kind of small cross which _re-generates_ or
_re-creates_ the sufferer.  It is important, therefore, that the new
ideas with which the old are to be crossed should differ from these last
sufficiently to divert the attention, and yet not so much as to cause a
painful shock.

There should be a little shock, or there will be no variation in the new
ideas that are generated, but they will resemble those that preceded
them, and grief will be continued; there must not be too great a shock or
there will be no illusion—no confusion and fusion between the new set of
ideas and the old, and in consequence, there will be no result at all,
or, if any, an increase in mental discord.  We know very little, however,
upon this subject, and are continually shown to be at fault by finding an
unexpectedly small cross produce a wide diversion of the mental images,
while in other cases a wide one will produce hardly any result.
Sometimes again, a cross which we should have said was much too wide will
have an excellent effect.  I did not anticipate, for example, that my
saying “chow” would have done much for the poor woman who had lost her
daughter; the cross did not seem wide enough; she was already, as I
thought, saturated with “chow.”  I can only account for the effect my
application of it produced by supposing the word to have derived some
element of strangeness and novelty as coming from a foreigner—just as
land which will give a poor crop, if planted with sets from potatoes that
have been grown for three or four years on this same soil, will yet yield
excellently if similar sets be brought from twenty miles off.  For the
potato, so far as I have studied it, is a good-tempered, frivolous plant,
easily amused and easily bored, and one, moreover, which if bored, yawns
horribly.

As an example of a cross proving satisfactory which I had expected would
be too wide, I would quote the following, which came under my notice when
I was in America.  A young man called upon me in a flood of tears over
the loss of his grandmother, of whose death at the age of ninety-three he
had just heard.  I could do nothing with him; I tried all the ordinary
panaceas without effect, and was giving him up in despair, when I thought
of crossing him with the well-known ballad of Wednesbury Cocking. {55}
He brightened up instantly, and left me in as cheerful a state as he had
been before in a desponding one.  “Chow” seems to do for the Italians
what Wednesbury Cocking did for my American friend; it is a kind of small
spiritual pick-me-up, or cup of tea.

From Rossura I went on to Tengia, about a hundred and fifty feet higher
than Rossura.  From Tengia the path to Calonico, the next village, is a
little hard to find, and a boy had better be taken for ten minutes or so
beyond Tengia, Calonico church shows well for some time before it is
actually reached.  The pastures here are very rich in flowers, the tiger
lilies being more abundant before the hay is mown, than perhaps even at
Fusio itself.  The whole walk is lovely, and the Gribbiasca waterfall,
the most graceful in the Val Leventina, is just opposite.

                         [Picture: Tengia, No. 1]

How often have I not sat about here in the shade sketching, and watched
the blue upon the mountains which Titian watched from under the chestnuts
of Cadore.  No sound except the distant water, or the croak of a raven,
or the booming of the great guns in that battle which is being fought out
between man and nature on the Biaschina and the Monte Piottino.  It is
always a pleasure to me to feel that I have known the Val Leventina
intimately before the great change in it which the railway will effect,
and that I may hope to see it after the present turmoil is over.  Our
descendants a hundred years hence will not think of the incessant noise
as though of cannonading with which we were so familiar.  From nowhere
was it more striking than from Calonico, the Monte Piottino having no
sooner become silent than the Biaschina would open fire, and sometimes
both would be firing at once.  Posterity may care to know that another
and less agreeable feature of the present time was the quantity of stones
that would come flying about in places which one would have thought were
out of range.  All along the road, for example, between Giornico and
Lavorgo, there was incessant blasting going on, and it was surprising to
see the height to which stones were sometimes carried.  The dwellers in
houses near the blasting would cover their roofs with boughs and leaves
to soften the fall of the stones.  A few people were hurt, but much less
damage was done than might have been expected.  I may mention for the
benefit of English readers that the tunnels through Monte Piottino and
the Biaschina are marvels of engineering skill, being both of them
spiral; the road describes a complete circle, and descends rapidly all
the while, so that the point of egress as one goes from Airolo towards
Faido is at a much lower level than that of ingress.

                         [Picture: Tengia, No. 2]

If an accident does happen, they call it a _disgrazia_, thus confirming
the soundness of a philosophy which I put forward in an earlier work.
Every misfortune they hold (and quite rightly) to be a disgrace to the
person who suffers it; “Son disgraziato” is the Italian for “I have been
unfortunate.”  I was once going to give a penny to a poor woman by the
roadside, when two other women stopped me.  “Non merita,” they said; “She
is no deserving object for charity”—the fact being that she was an idiot.
Nevertheless they were very kind to her.



Chapter V
Calonico (_continued_) and Giornico


OUR inventions increase in geometrical ratio.  They are like living
beings, each one of which may become parent of a dozen others—some good
and some ne’er-do-weels; but they differ from animals and vegetables
inasmuch as they not only increase in a geometrical ratio, but the period
of their gestation decreases in geometrical ratio also.  Take this matter
of Alpine roads for example.  For how many millions of years was there no
approach to a road over the St. Gothard, save the untutored watercourses
of the Ticino and the Reuss, and the track of the bouquetin or the
chamois?  For how many more ages after this was there not a mere
shepherd’s or huntsman’s path by the river side—without so much as a log
thrown over so as to form a rude bridge?  No one would probably have ever
thought of making a bridge out of his own unaided imagination, more than
any monkey that we know of has done so.  But an avalanche or a flood once
swept a pine into position and left it there; on this a genius, who was
doubtless thought to be doing something very infamous, ventured to make
use of it.  Another time a pine was found nearly across the stream, but
not quite, and not quite, again, in the place where it was wanted.  A
second genius, to the horror of his fellow-tribesmen—who declared that
this time the world really would come to an end—shifted the pine a few
feet so as to bring it across the stream and into the place where it was
wanted.  This man was the inventor of bridges—his family repudiated him,
and he came to a bad end.  From this to cutting down the pine and
bringing it from some distance is an easy step.  To avoid detail, let us
come to the old Roman horse road over the Alps.  The time between the
shepherd’s path and the Roman road is probably short in comparison with
that between the mere chamois track and the first thing that can be
called a path of men.  From the Roman we go on to the mediæval road with
more frequent stone bridges, and from the mediæval to the Napoleonic
carriage road.

The close of the last century and the first quarter of this present one
was the great era for the making of carriage roads.  Fifty years have
hardly passed and here we are already in the age of tunnelling and
railroads.  The first period, from the chamois track to the foot road,
was one of millions of years; the second, from the first foot road to the
Roman military way, was one of many thousands; the third, from the Roman
to the mediæval, was perhaps a thousand; from the mediæval to the
Napoleonic, five hundred; from the Napoleonic to the railroad, fifty.
What will come next we know not, but it should come within twenty years,
and will probably have something to do with electricity.

It follows by an easy process of reasoning that, after another couple of
hundred years or so, great sweeping changes should be made several times
in an hour, or indeed in a second, or fraction of a second, till they
pass unnoticed as the revolutions we undergo in the embryonic stages, or
are felt simply as vibrations.  This would undoubtedly be the case but
for the existence of a friction which interferes between theory and
practice.  This friction is caused partly by the disturbance of vested
interests which every invention involves, and which will be found
intolerable when men become millionaires and paupers alternately once a
fortnight—living one week in a palace and the next in a workhouse, and
having perpetually to be sold up, and then to buy a new house and
refurnish, &c.—so that artificial means for stopping inventions will be
adopted; and partly by the fact that though all inventions breed in
geometrical ratio, yet some multiply more rapidly than others, and the
backwardness of one art will impede the forwardness of another.  At any
rate, so far as I can see, the present is about the only comfortable time
for a man to live in, that either ever has been or ever will be.  The
past was too slow, and the future will be much too fast.

Another thing which we do not bear in mind when thinking of the Alps is
their narrowness, and the small extent of ground they really cover.  From
Göschenen, for example, to Airolo seems a very long distance.  One must
go up to the Devil’s Bridge, and then to Andermatt.  From here by
Hospenthal to the top of the pass seems a long way, and again it is a
long way down to Airolo; but all this would easily go on to the ground
between Kensington and Stratford.  From Göschenen to Andermatt is about
as far as from Holland House to Hyde Park Corner.  From Andermatt to
Hospenthal is much the same distance as from Hyde Park Corner to the
Oxford Street end of Tottenham Court Road.  From Hospenthal to the
hospice on the top of the pass is about equal to the space between
Tottenham Court Road and Bow; and from Bow you must go down three
thousand feet of zig-zags into Stratford, for Airolo.  I have made the
deviation from the straight line about the same in one case as in the
other; in each, the direct distance is nine and a half miles.  The whole
distance from Flüelen, on the Lake of Lucerne, to Biasca, which is almost
on the same level with the Lago Maggiore, is only forty miles, and could
be all got in between London and Lewes, while from Lucerne to Locarno,
actually on the Lago Maggiore itself, would go, with a good large margin
to spare, between London and Dover.  We can hardly fancy, however, people
going backwards and forwards to business daily between Flüelen and
Biasca, as some doubtless do between London and Lewes.

But how small all Europe is.  We seem almost able to take it in at a
single _coup d’œil_.  From Mont Blanc we can see the mountains on the
Paris side of Dijon on the one hand, and those above Florence and Bologna
on the other.  What a hole would not be made in Europe if this great
eyeful were scooped out of it.

The fact is (but it is so obvious that I am ashamed to say anything about
it), science is rapidly reducing space to the same unsatisfactory state
that it has already reduced time.  Take lamb: we can get lamb all the
year round.  This is perpetual spring; but perpetual spring is no spring
at all; it is not a season; there are no more seasons, and being no
seasons, there is no time.  Take rhubarb, again.  Rhubarb to the
philosopher is the beginning of autumn, if indeed, the philosopher can
see anything as the beginning of anything.  If any one asks why, I
suppose the philosopher would say that rhubarb is the beginning of the
fruit season, which is clearly autumnal, according to our present
classification.  From rhubarb to the green gooseberry the step is so
small as to require no bridging—with one’s eyes shut, and plenty of cream
and sugar, they are almost indistinguishable—but the gooseberry is quite
an autumnal fruit, and only a little earlier than apples and plums, which
last are almost winter; clearly, therefore, for scientific purposes
rhubarb is autumnal.

As soon as we can find gradations, or a sufficient number of uniting
links between two things, they become united or made one thing, and any
classification of them must be illusory.  Classification is only possible
where there is a shock given to the senses by reason of a perceived
difference, which, if it is considerable, can be expressed in words.
When the world was younger and less experienced, people were shocked at
what appeared great differences between living forms; but species,
whether of animals or plants, are now seen to be so united, either
inferentially or by actual finding of the links, that all classification
is felt to be arbitrary.  The seasons are like species—they were at one
time thought to be clearly marked, and capable of being classified with
some approach to satisfaction.  It is now seen that they blend either in
the present or the past insensibly into one another, and cannot be
classified except by cutting Gordian knots in a way which none but plain
sensible people can tolerate.  Strictly speaking, there is only one
place, one time, one action, and one individual or thing; of this thing
or individual each one of us is a part.  It is perplexing, but it is
philosophy; and modern philosophy like modern music is nothing if it is
not perplexing.

A simple verification of the autumnal character of rhubarb may, at first
sight, appear to be found in Covent Garden Market, where we can actually
see the rhubarb towards the end of October.  But this way of looking at
the matter argues a fatal ineptitude for the pursuit of true philosophy.
It would be a most serious error to regard the rhubarb that will appear
in Covent Garden Market next October as belonging to the autumn then
supposed to be current.  Practically, no doubt, it does so, but
theoretically it must be considered as the first-fruits of the autumn (if
any) of the following year, which begins before the preceding summer (or,
perhaps, more strictly, the preceding summer but one—and hence, but any
number), has well ended.  Whether this, however, is so or no, the rhubarb
can be seen in Covent Garden, and I am afraid it must be admitted that to
the philosophically minded there lurks within it a theory of evolution,
and even Pantheism, as surely as Theism was lurking in Bishop Berkeley’s
tar water.

                    [Picture: Calonico Church, No. 1]

To return, however, to Calonico.  The church is built on the extreme edge
of a cliff that has been formed by the breaking away of a large fragment
of the mountain.  This fragment may be seen lying down below shattered
into countless pieces.  There is a fissure in the cliff which suggests
that at no very distant day some more will follow, and I am afraid carry
the church too.  My favourite view of the church is from the other side
of the small valley which separates it from the village, (see preceding
page).  Another very good view is from closer up to the church.

                    [Picture: Calonico Church, No. 2]

The _curato_ of Calonico was very kind to me.  We had long talks
together.  I could see it pained him that was not a Catholic.  He could
never quite get over this, but he was very good and tolerant.  He was
anxious to be assured that I was not one of those English who went about
distributing tracts, and trying to convert people.  This of course was
the last thing I should have wished to do; and when I told him so, he
viewed me with sorrow, but henceforth without alarm.

All the time I was with him I felt how much I wished could be a Catholic
in Catholic countries, and a Protestant in Protestant ones.  Surely there
are some things which, like politics, are too serious to be taken quite
seriously.  _Surtout point de zèle_ is not the saying of a cynic, but the
conclusion of a sensible man; and the more deep our feeling is about any
matter, the more occasion have we to be on our guard against _zèle_ in
this particular respect.  There is but one step from the “earnest” to the
“intense.”  When St. Paul told us to be all things to all men he let in
the thin end of the wedge, nor did he mark it to say how far it was to be
driven.

I have Italian friends whom I greatly value, and who tell me they think I
flirt just a trifle too much with _il partito nero_ when I am in Italy,
for they know that in the main I think as they do.  “These people,” they
say, “make themselves very agreeable to you, and show you their smooth
side; we, who see more of them, know their rough one.  Knuckle under to
them, and they will perhaps condescend to patronise you; have any
individuality of your own, and they know neither scruple nor remorse in
their attempts to get you out of their way.  “Il prete,” they say, with a
significant look, “è sempre prete.  For the future let us have professors
and men of science instead of priests.”  I smile to myself at this last,
and reply, that I am a foreigner come among them for recreation, and
anxious to keep clear of their internal discords.  I do not wish to cut
myself off from one side of their national character—a side which, in
some respects, is no less interesting than the one with which I suppose I
am on the whole more sympathetic.  If I were an Italian, I should feel
bound to take a side; as it is, I wish to leave all quarrelling behind
me, having as much of that in England as suffices to keep me in good
health and temper.

In old times people gave their spiritual and intellectual sop to Nemesis.
Even when most positive, they admitted a percentage of doubt.  Mr.
Tennyson has said well, “There lives more doubt”—I quote from memory—“in
honest faith, believe me, than in half the” systems of philosophy, or
words to that effect.  The victor had a slave at his ear during his
triumph; the slaves during the Roman Saturnalia dressed in their masters’
clothes, sat at meat with them, told them of their faults, and blacked
their faces for them.  They made their masters wait upon them.  In the
ages of faith, an ass dressed in sacerdotal robes was gravely conducted
to the cathedral choir at a certain season, and mass was said before him,
and hymns chanted discordantly.  The elder D’Israeli, from whom I am
quoting, writes: “On other occasions, they put burnt old shoes to fume in
the censers; ran about the church leaping, singing, dancing, and playing
at dice upon the altar, while a _boy bishop_ or _pope of fools_
burlesqued the divine service;” and later on he says: “So late as 1645, a
pupil of Gassendi, writing to his master what he himself witnessed at Aix
on the feast of Innocents, says—‘I have seen in some monasteries in this
province extravagances solemnised, which pagans would not have practised.
Neither the clergy nor the guardians indeed go to the choir on this day,
but all is given up to the lay brethren, the cabbage cutters, errand
boys, cooks, scullions, and gardeners; in a word, all the menials fill
their places in the church, and insist that they perform the offices
proper for the day.  They dress themselves with all the sacerdotal
ornaments, but torn to rags, or wear them inside out; they hold in their
hands the books reversed or sideways, which they pretend to read with
large spectacles without glasses, and to which they fix the rinds of
scooped oranges . . . ; particularly while dangling the censers they keep
shaking them in derision, and letting the ashes fly about their heads and
faces, one against the other.  In this equipage they neither sing hymns
nor psalms nor masses, but mumble a certain gibberish as shrill and
squeaking as a herd of pigs whipped on to market.  The nonsense verses
they chant are singularly barbarous:—

    Hæc est clara dies, clararum clara dierum,
    Hæc est festa dies festarum festa dierum.’” {68}

Faith was far more assured in the times when the spiritual saturnalia
were allowed than now.  The irreverence which was not dangerous then, is
now intolerable.  It is a bad sign for a man’s peace in his own
convictions when he cannot stand turning the canvas of his life
occasionally upside down, or reversing it in a mirror, as painters do
with their pictures that they may judge the better concerning them.  I
would persuade all Jews, Mohammedans, Comtists, and freethinkers to turn
high Anglicans, or better still, downright Catholics for a week in every
year, and I would send people like Mr. Gladstone to attend Mr.
Bradlaugh’s lectures in the forenoon, and the Grecian pantomime in the
evening, two or three times every winter.  I should perhaps tell them
that the Grecian pantomime has nothing to do with Greek plays.  They
little know how much more keenly they would relish their normal opinions
during the rest of the year for the little spiritual outing which I would
prescribe for them, which, after all, is but another phase of the wise
saying—_Surtout point de zèle_.  St. Paul attempted an obviously hopeless
task (as the Church of Rome very well understands) when he tried to put
down seasonarianism.  People must and will go to church to be a little
better, to the theatre to be a little naughtier, to the Royal Institution
to be a little more scientific, than they are in actual life.  It is only
by pulsations of goodness, naughtiness, and whatever else we affect that
we can get on at all.  I grant that when in his office, a man should be
exact and precise, but our holidays are our garden, and too much
precision here is a mistake.

Surely truces, without even an _arrière pensée_ of difference of opinion,
between those who are compelled to take widely different sides during the
greater part of their lives, must be of infinite service to those who can
enter on them.  There are few merely spiritual pleasures comparable to
that derived from the temporary laying down of a quarrel, even though we
may know that it must be renewed shortly.  It is a great grief to me that
there is no place where I can go among Mr. Darwin, Professors Huxley,
Tyndall, and Ray Lankester, Miss Buckley, Mr. Romanes, Mr. Allen, and
others whom I cannot call to mind at this moment, as I can go among the
Italian priests.  I remember in one monastery (but this was not in the
Canton Ticino) the novice taught me how to make sacramental wafers, and I
played him Handel on the organ as well as I could.  I told him that
Handel was a Catholic; he said he could tell that by his music at once.
There is no chance of getting among our scientists in this way.

Some friends say I was telling a lie when I told the novice Handel was a
Catholic, and ought not to have done so.  I make it a rule to swallow a
few gnats a day, lest I should come to strain at them, and so bolt
camels; but the whole question of lying is difficult.  What _is_ “lying”?
Turning for moral guidance to my cousins the lower animals, whose
unsophisticated nature proclaims what God has taught them with a
directness we may sometimes study, I find the plover lying when she lures
us from her young ones under the fiction of a broken wing.  Is God angry,
think you, with this pretty deviation from the letter of strict accuracy?
or was it not He who whispered to her to tell the falsehood—to tell it
with a circumstance, without conscientious scruple, not once only, but to
make a practice of it, so as to be a plausible, habitual, and
professional liar for some six weeks or so in the year?  I imagine so.
When I was young I used to read in good books that it was God who taught
the bird to make her nest, and if so He probably taught each species the
other domestic arrangements best suited to it.  Or did the nest-building
information come from God, and was there an evil one among the birds also
who taught them at any rate to steer clear of priggishness?

Think of the spider again—an ugly creature, but I suppose God likes it.
What a mean and odious lie is that web which naturalists extol as such a
marvel of ingenuity!

Once on a summer afternoon in a far country I met one of those orchids
who make it their business to imitate a fly with their petals.  This lie
they dispose so cunningly that real flies, thinking the honey is being
already plundered, pass them without molesting them.  Watching intently
and keeping very still, methought I heard this orchid speaking to the
offspring which she felt within her, though I saw them not.  “My
children,” she exclaimed, “I must soon leave you; think upon the fly, my
loved ones, for this is truth; cling to this great thought in your
passage through life, for it is the one thing needful; once lose sight of
it and you are lost!”  Over and over again she sang this burden in a
small still voice, and so I left her.  Then straightway I came upon some
butterflies whose profession it was to pretend to believe in all manner
of vital truths which in their inner practice they rejected; thus,
asserting themselves to be certain other and hateful butterflies which no
bird will eat by reason of their abominable smell, these cunning ones
conceal their own sweetness, and live long in the land and see good days.
No: lying is so deeply rooted in nature that we may expel it with a fork,
and yet it will always come back again: it is like the poor, we must have
it always with us; we must all eat a peck of moral dirt before we die.

All depends upon who it is that is lying.  One man may steal a horse when
another may not look over a hedge.  The good man who tells no lies
wittingly to himself and is never unkindly, may lie and lie and lie
whenever he chooses to other people, and he will not be false to any man:
his lies become truths as they pass into the hearers’ ear.  If a man
deceives himself and is unkind, the truth is not in him, it turns to
falsehood while yet in his mouth, like the quails in the Wilderness of
Sinai.  How this is so or why, I know not, but that the Lord hath mercy
on whom He will have mercy and whom He willeth He hardeneth.

My Italian friends are doubtless in the main right about the priests, but
there are many exceptions, as they themselves gladly admit.  For my own
part I have found the _curato_ in the small subalpine villages of North
Italy to be more often than not a kindly excellent man to whom I am
attracted by sympathies deeper than any mere superficial differences of
opinion can counteract.  With monks, however, as a general rule I am less
able to get on: nevertheless, I have received much courtesy at the hands
of some.

My young friend the novice was delightful—only it was so sad to think of
the future that is before him.  He wanted to know all about England, and
when I told him it was an island, clasped his hands and said, “Oh che
Provvidenza!”  He told me how the other young men of his own age plagued
him as he trudged his rounds high up among the most distant hamlets
begging alms for the poor.  “Be a good fellow,” they would say to him,
“drop all this nonsense and come back to us, and we will never plague you
again.”  Then he would turn upon them and put their words from him.  Of
course my sympathies were with the other young men rather than with him,
but it was impossible not to be sorry for the manner in which he had been
humbugged from the day of his birth, till he was now incapable of seeing
things from any other standpoint than that of authority.

What he said to me about knowing that Handel was a Catholic by his music,
put me in mind of what another good Catholic once said to me about a
picture.  He was a Frenchman and very nice, but a _dévot_, and anxious to
convert me.  He paid a few days’ visit to London, so I showed him the
National Gallery.  While there I pointed out to him Sebastian del
Piombo’s picture of the raising of Lazarus as one of the supposed
masterpieces of our collection.  He had the proper orthodox fit of
admiration over it, and then we went through the other rooms.  After a
while we found ourselves before West’s picture of “Christ healing the
sick.”  My French friend did not, I suppose, examine it very carefully,
at any rate he believed he was again before the raising of Lazarus by
Sebastian del Piombo; he paused before it and had his fit of admiration
over again: then turning to me he said, “Ah! you would understand this
picture better if you were a Catholic.”  I did not tell him of the
mistake he had made, but I thought even a Protestant after a certain
amount of experience would learn to see some difference between Benjamin
West and Sebastian del Piombo.

From Calonico I went down into the main road and walked to Giornico,
taking the right bank of the river from the bridge at the top of the
Biaschina.  Not a sod of the railway was as yet turned.  At Giornico I
visited the grand old church of S. Nicolao, which, though a later
foundation than the church at Mairengo, retains its original condition,
and appears, therefore, to be much the older of the two.  The stones are
very massive, and the courses are here and there irregular as in
Cyclopean walls; the end wall is not bonded into the side walls but
simply built between them; the main door is very fine, and there is a
side door also very good.  There are two altars one above the other, as
in the churches of S. Abbondio and S. Cristoforo at Como, but I could not
make the lower altar intelligible in my sketch, and indeed could hardly
see it, so was obliged to leave it out.  The remains of some very early
frescoes can be seen, but I did not think them remarkable.  Altogether,
however, the church is one which no one should miss seeing who takes an
interest in early architecture.

[Picture: Main Doorway, S. Nicolao] While painting the study from which
the following sketch is taken, I was struck with the wonderfully vivid
green which the whitewashed vault of the chancel and the arch dividing
the chancel from the body of the church took by way of reflection from
the grass and trees outside.  It is not easy at first to see how the
green manages to find its way inside the church, but the grass seems to
get in everywhere.  I had already often seen green reflected from
brilliant pasturage on to the shadow under the eaves of whitewashed
houses, but I never saw it suffuse a whole interior as it does on a fine
summer’s day at Giornico.  I do not remember to have seen this effect in
England.

               [Picture: Interior of Old Church, Giornico]

Looking up again against the mountain through the open door of the church
when the sun was in a certain position, I could see an infinity of insect
life swarming throughout the air.  No one could have suspected its
existence, till the sun’s rays fell on the wings of these small creatures
at a proper angle; on this they became revealed against the darkness of
the mountain behind them.  The swallows that were flying among them
cannot have to hunt them, they need only fly with their mouths wide open
and they must run against as many as will be good for them.  I saw this
incredibly multitudinous swarm extending to a great height, and am
satisfied that it was no more than what is always present during the
summer months, though it is only visible in certain lights.  To these
minute creatures the space between the mountains on the two sides of the
Ticino valley must be as great as that between England and America to a
codfish.  Many, doubtless, live in the mid-air, and never touch the
bottom or sides of the valley, except at birth and death, if then.  No
doubt some atmospheric effects of haze on a summer’s afternoon are due to
nothing but these insects.  What, again, do the smaller of them live
upon?  On germs, which to them are comfortable mouthfuls, though to us
invisible even with a microscope?

I find nothing more in my notes about Giornico except that the people are
very handsome, and, as I thought, of a Roman type.  The place was a Roman
military station, but it does not follow that the soldiers were Romans;
nevertheless, there is a strain of bullet-headed blood in the place.
Also I remember being told in 1869 that two bears had been killed in the
mountains above Giornico the preceding year.  At Giornico the vine begins
to grow lustily, and wine is made.  The vines are trellised, and looking
down upon them one would think one could walk upon them as upon a solid
surface, so closely and luxuriantly do they grow.

From Giornico I began to turn my steps homeward in company with an
engineer who was also about to walk back to Faido, but we resolved to
take Chironico on our way, and kept therefore to the right bank of the
river.  After about three or four kilometres from Giornico we reached
Chironico, which is well placed upon a filled-up lake and envied as a
_paese ricco_, but is not so captivating as some others.  Hence we
ascended till at last we reached Gribbio (3960 ft.), a collection of
chalets inhabited only for a short time in the year, but a nice place in
summer, rich in gentians and sulphur-coloured anemones.  From Gribbio
there is a path to Dalpe, offering no difficulty whatever and perfect in
its way.  On this occasion, however, we went straight back to Faido by a
rather shorter way than the ordinary path, and this certainly was a
little difficult, or as my companion called it, “un tantino
difficoltoso,” in one or two places; I at least did not quite like them.

Another day I went to Lavorgo, below Calonico, and thence up to Anzonico.
The church and churchyard at Anzonico are very good; from Anzonico there
is a path to Cavagnago—which is also full of good bits for sketching—and
Sobrio.  The highest villages in the immediate neighbourhood of Faido are
Campello and Molare; they can be seen from the market-place of the town,
and are well worth the trouble of a climb.



Chapter VI
Piora


AN excursion which may be very well made from Faido is to the Val Piora,
which I have already more than once mentioned.  There is a large hotel
here which has been opened some years, but has not hitherto proved the
success which it was hoped it would be.  I have stayed there two or three
times and found it very comfortable; doubtless, now that Signor Lombardi
of the Hotel Prosa has taken it, it will become a more popular place of
resort.

I took a trap from Faido to Ambri, and thence walked over to Quinto; here
the path begins to ascend, and after an hour Ronco is reached.  There is
a house at Ronco where refreshments and excellent Faido beer can be had.
The old lady who keeps the house would make a perfect Fate; I saw her
sitting at her window spinning, and looking down over the Ticino valley
as though it were the world and she were spinning its destiny.  She had a
somewhat stern expression, thin lips, iron-grey eyes, and an aquiline
nose; her scanty locks straggled from under the handkerchief which she
wore round her head.  Her employment and the wistful far-away look she
cast upon the expanse below made a very fine _ensemble_.  “She would have
afforded,” as Sir Walter Scott says, “a study for a Rembrandt, had that
celebrated painter existed at the period,” {78} but she must have been a
smart-looking handsome girl once.

She brightened up in conversation.  I talked about Piora, which I already
knew, and the Lago Tom, the highest of the three lakes.  She said she
knew the Lago Tom.  I said laughingly, “Oh, I have no doubt you do.
We’ve had many a good day at the Lago Tom, I know.”  She looked down at
once.

In spite of her nearly eighty years she was active as a woman of forty,
and altogether she was a very grand old lady.  Her house is scrupulously
clean.  While I watched her spinning, I thought of what must so often
occur to summer visitors.  I mean what sort of a look-out the old woman
must have in winter, when the wind roars and whistles, and the snow
drives down the valley with a fury of which we in England can have little
conception.  What a place to see a snowstorm from! and what a place from
which to survey the landscape next morning after the storm is over and
the air is calm and brilliant.  There are such mornings: I saw one once,
but I was at the bottom of the valley and not high up, as at Ronco.
Ronco would take a little sun even in midwinter, but at the bottom of the
valley there is no sun for weeks and weeks together; all is in deep
shadow below, though the upper hillsides may be seen to have the sun upon
them.  I walked once on a frosty winter’s morning from Airolo to
Giornico, and can call to mind nothing in its way more beautiful:
everything was locked in frost—there was not a waterwheel but was sheeted
and coated with ice: the road was hard as granite—all was quiet and seen
as through a dark but incredibly transparent medium.  Near Piotta I met
the whole village dragging a large tree; there were many men and women
dragging at it, but they had to pull hard and they were silent; as I
passed them I thought what comely, well-begotten people they were.  Then,
looking up, there was a sky, cloudless and of the deepest blue, against
which the snow-clad mountains stood out splendidly.  No one will regret a
walk in these valleys during the depth of winter.  But I should have
liked to have looked down from the sun into the sunlessness, as the old
Fate woman at Ronco can do when she sits in winter at her window; or
again, I should like to see how things would look from this same window
on a leaden morning in midwinter after snow has fallen heavily and the
sky is murky and much darker than the earth.  When the storm is at its
height, the snow must search and search and search even through the
double windows with which the houses are protected.  It must rest upon
the frames of the pictures of saints, and of the sister’s “grab,” and of
the last hours of Count Ugolino, which adorn the walls of the parlour.
No wonder there is a S. Maria della Neve—a “St. Mary of the Snow”; but I
do wonder that she has not been painted.

From Ronco the path keeps level and then descends a little so as to cross
the stream that comes down from Piora.  This is near the village of
Altanca, the church of which looks remarkably well from here.  Then there
is an hour and a half’s rapid ascent, and at last all on a sudden one
finds one’s self on the Lago Ritom, close to the hotel.

The lake is about a mile, or a mile and a half, long, and half a mile
broad.  It is 6000 feet above the sea, very deep at the lower end, and
does not freeze where the stream issues from it, so that the magnificent
trout in the lake can get air and live through the winter.  In many other
lakes, as for example the Lago di Tremorgio, they cannot do this, and
hence perish, though the lakes have been repeatedly stocked.  The trout
in the Lago Ritom are said to be the finest in the world, and certainly I
know none so fine myself.  They grow to be as large as moderate-sized
salmon, and have a deep red flesh, very firm and full of flavour.  I had
two cutlets off one for breakfast and should have said they were salmon
unless I had known otherwise.  In winter, when the lake is frozen over,
the people bring their hay from the farther Lake of Cadagno in sledges
across the Lake Ritom.  Here, again, winter must be worth seeing, but on
a rough snowy day Piora must be an awful place.  There are a few stunted
pines near the hotel, but the hillsides are for the most part bare and
green.  Piora in fact is a fine breezy open upland valley of singular
beauty, and with a sweet atmosphere of cow about it; it is rich in
rhododendrons, and all manner of Alpine flowers, just a trifle bleak, but
as bracing as the Engadine itself.

The first night I was ever in Piora there was a brilliant moon, and the
unruffled surface of the lake took the reflection of the mountains.  I
could see the cattle a mile off, and hear the tinkling of their bells
which danced multitudinously before the ear as fireflies come and go
before the eyes; for all through a fine summer’s night the cattle will
feed as though it were day.  A little above the lake I came upon a man in
a cave before a furnace, burning lime, and he sat looking into the fire
with his back to the moonlight.  He was a quiet moody man, and I am
afraid I bored him, for I could get hardly anything out of him but “Oh
altro”—polite but not communicative.  So after a while I left him with
his face burnished as with gold from the fire, and his back silver with
the moonbeams; behind him were the pastures and the reflections in the
lake and the mountains; and the distant cowbells were ringing.

                   [Picture: Chapel of S. Carlo, Piora]

Then I wandered on till I came to the chapel of S. Carlo; and in a few
minutes found myself on the Lago di Cadagno.  Here I heard that there
were people, and the people were not so much asleep as the simple
peasantry of these upland valleys are expected to be by nine o’clock in
the evening.  For now was the time when they had moved up from Ronco,
Altanca, and other villages in some numbers to cut the hay, and were
living for a fortnight or three weeks in the chalets upon the Lago di
Cadagno.  As I have said, there is a chapel, but I doubt whether it is
attended during this season with the regularity with which the parish
churches of Ronco, Altanca, &c., are attended during the rest of the
year.  The young people, I am sure, like these annual visits to the high
places, and will be hardly weaned from them.  Happily the hay will be
always there, and will have to be cut by some one, and the old people
will send the young ones.

As I was thinking of these things, I found myself going off into a doze,
and thought the burnished man from the furnace came up and sat beside me,
and laid his hand upon my shoulder.  Then I saw the green slopes that
rise all round the lake were much higher than I had thought; they went up
thousands of feet, and there were pine forests upon them, while two large
glaciers came down in streams that ended in a precipice of ice, falling
sheer into the lake.  The edges of the mountains against the sky were
rugged and full of clefts, through which I saw thick clouds of dust being
blown by the wind as though from the other side of the mountains.

And as I looked, I saw that this was not dust, but people coming in
crowds from the other side, but so small as to be visible at first only
as dust.  And the people became musicians, and the mountainous
amphitheatre a huge orchestra, and the glaciers were two noble armies of
women-singers in white robes, ranged tier above tier behind each other,
and the pines became orchestral players, while the thick dust-like cloud
of chorus-singers kept pouring in through the clefts in the precipices in
inconceivable numbers.  When I turned my telescope upon them I saw they
were crowded up to the extreme edge of the mountains, so that I could see
underneath the soles of their boots as their legs dangled in the air.  In
the midst of all, a precipice that rose from out of the glaciers shaped
itself suddenly into an organ, and there was one whose face I well knew
sitting at the keyboard, smiling and pluming himself like a bird as he
thundered forth a giant fugue by way of overture.  I heard the great
pedal notes in the bass stalk majestically up and down, like the rays of
the Aurora that go about upon the face of the heavens off the coast of
Labrador.  Then presently the people rose and sang the chorus “Venus
laughing from the skies;” but ere the sound had well died away, I awoke,
and all was changed; a light fleecy cloud had filled the whole basin, but
I still thought I heard a sound of music, and a scampering-off of great
crowds from the part where the precipices should be.  The music went
thus:—{83}

     [Picture: Score of Handel’s third set of organ concertos, No. 6]

By and by the cantering, galloping movement became a trotting one, thus:—

     [Picture: Score of Handel’s third set of organ concertos, No. 6]

After that I heard no more but a little singing from the chalets, and
turned homewards.  When I got to the chapel of S. Carlo, I was in the
moonlight again, and when near the hotel, I passed the man at the mouth
of the furnace with the moon still gleaming upon his back, and the fire
upon his face, and he was very grave and quiet.

Next morning I went along the lake till I came to a good-sized streamlet
on the north side.  If this is followed for half-an-hour or so—and the
walk is a very good one—Lake Tom is reached, about 7500 feet above the
sea.  The lake is not large, and there are not so many chalets as at
Cadagno; still there are some.  The view of the mountain tops on the
other side the Ticino valley, as seen from across the lake, is very fine.
I tried to sketch, but was fairly driven back by a cloud of black gnats.
The ridges immediately at the back of the lake, and no great height above
it, are the main dividing line of the watershed; so are those that rise
from the Lago di Cadagno; in fact, about 600 feet above this lake is the
top of a pass which goes through the Piano dei Porci, and leads down to
S. Maria Maggiore, on the German side of the Lukmanier.  I do not know
the short piece between the Lago di Cadagno and S. Maria, but it is sure
to be good.  It is a pity there is no place at S. Maria where one can put
up for a night or two.  There is a small inn there, but it did not look
tempting.

Before leaving the Val Leventina, I would call attention to the beautiful
old parish church at Biasca, where there is now an excellent inn, the
Hotel Biasca.  This church is not so old as the one at Giornico, but it
is a good though plain example of early Lombard architecture.



Chapter VII
S. Michele and the Monte Pirchiriano


             [Picture: S. Michele and the Monte Pirchiriano]

[Picture: S. Michele] SOME time after the traveller from Paris to Turin
has passed through the Mont Cenis tunnel, and shortly before he arrives
at Bussoleno station, the line turns eastward, and a view is obtained of
the valley of the Dora, with the hills beyond Turin, and the Superga, in
the distance.  On the right-hand side of the valley and about half-way
between Susa and Turin the eye is struck by an abruptly-descending
mountain with a large building like a castle upon the top of it, and the
nearer it is approached the more imposing does it prove to be.  Presently
the mountain is seen more edgeways, and the shape changes.  In
half-an-hour or so from this point, S. Ambrogio is reached, once a
thriving town, where carriages used to break the journey between Turin
and Susa, but left stranded since the opening of the railway.  Here we
are at the very foot of the Monte Pirchiriano, for so the mountain is
called, and can see the front of the building—which is none other than
the famous sanctuary of S. Michele, commonly called “della Chiusa,” from
the wall built here by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, to protect his
kingdom from Charlemagne.

The history of the sanctuary is briefly as follows:—

At the close of the tenth century, when Otho III was Emperor of Germany,
a certain Hugh de Montboissier, a noble of Auvergne, commonly called
“Hugh the Unsewn” (_lo sdruscito_), was commanded by the Pope to found a
monastery in expiation of some grave offence.  He chose for his site the
summit of the Monte Pirchiriano in the valley of Susa, being attracted
partly by the fame of a church already built there by a recluse of
Ravenna, Giovanni Vincenzo by name, and partly by the striking nature of
the situation.  Hugh de Montboissier when returning from Rome to France
with Isengarde his wife, would, as a matter of course, pass through the
valley of Susa.  The two—perhaps when stopping to dine at S.
Ambrogio—would look up and observe the church founded by Giovanni
Vincenzo: they had got to build a monastery somewhere; it would very
likely, therefore, occur to them that they could not perpetuate their
names better than by choosing this site, which was on a much travelled
road, and on which a fine building would show to advantage.  If my view
is correct, we have here an illustration of a fact which is continually
observable—namely, that all things which come to much, whether they be
books, buildings, pictures, music, or living beings, are suggested by
others of their own kind.  It is; always the most successful, like Handel
and Shakespeare, who owe most to their forerunners, in spite of the
modifications with which their works descend.

Giovanni Vincenzo had built his church about the year 987.  It is
maintained by some that he had been Bishop of Ravenna, but Claretta gives
sufficient reason for thinking otherwise.  In the “Cronaca Clusina” it is
said that he had for some years previously lived as a recluse on the
Monte Caprasio, to the north of the present Monte Pirchiriano; but that
one night he had a vision, in which he saw the summit of Monte
Pirchiriano enveloped in heaven-descended flames, and on this founded a
church there, and dedicated it to St. Michael.  This is the origin of the
name Pirchiriano, which means _πῦρ κυρίανον_, or the Lord’s fire.

The fame of the heavenly flames and the piety of pilgrims brought in
enough money to complete the building—which, to judge from the remains of
it embodied in the later work, must have been small, but still a church,
and more than a mere chapel or oratory.  It was, as I have already
suggested, probably imposing enough to fire the imagination of Hugh de
Montboissier, and make him feel the capabilities of the situation, which
a mere ordinary wayside chapel might perhaps have failed to do.  Having
built his church, Giovanni Vincenzo returned to his solitude on the top
of Monte Caprasio, and thenceforth went backwards and forwards from one
place of abode to the other.

Avogadro is among those who make Giovanni Bishop, or rather Archbishop,
of Ravenna, and gives the following account of the circumstances which
led to his resigning his diocese and going to live at the top of the
inhospitable Monte Caprasio.  It seems there had been a confirmation at
Ravenna, during which he had accidentally forgotten to confirm the child
of a certain widow.  The child, being in weakly health, died before
Giovanni could repair his oversight, and this preyed upon his mind.  In
answer, however, to his earnest prayers, it pleased the Almighty to give
him power to raise the dead child to life again: this he did, and having
immediately performed the rite of confirmation, restored the boy to his
overjoyed mother.  He now became so much revered that he began to be
alarmed lest pride should obtain dominion over him; he felt, therefore,
that his only course was to resign his diocese, and go and live the life
of a recluse on the top of some high mountain.  It is said that he
suffered agonies of doubt as to whether it was not selfish of him to take
such care of his own eternal welfare, at the expense of that of his
flock, whom no successor could so well guide and guard from evil; but in
the end he took a reasonable view of the matter, and concluded that his
first duty was to secure his own spiritual position.  Nothing short of
the top of a very uncomfortable mountain could do this, so he at once
resigned his bishopric and chose Monte Caprasio as on the whole the most
comfortable uncomfortable mountain he could find.

The latter part of the story will seem strange to Englishmen.  We can
hardly fancy the Archbishop of Canterbury or York resigning his diocese
and settling down quietly on the top of Scafell or Cader Idris to secure
his eternal welfare.  They would hardly do so even on the top of Primrose
Hill.  But nine hundred years ago human nature was not the same as
nowadays.

The valley of Susa, then little else than marsh and forest, was held by a
marquis of the name of Arduin, a descendant of a French or Norman
adventurer Roger, who, with a brother, also named Arduin, had come to
seek his fortune in Italy at the beginning of the tenth century.  Roger
had a son, Arduin Glabrio, who recovered the valley of Susa from the
Saracens, and established himself at Susa, at the junction of the roads
that come down from Mont Cenis and the Mont Genèvre.  He built a castle
here which commanded the valley, and was his base of operations as Lord
of the Marches and Warden of the Alps.

Hugh de Montboissier applied to Arduin for leave to build upon the Monte
Pirchiriano.  Arduin was then holding his court at Avigliana, a small
town near S. Ambrogio, even now singularly little altered, and full of
mediæval remains; he not only gave his consent, but volunteered to sell a
site to the monastery, so as to ensure it against future disturbance.

The first church of Giovanni Vincenzo had been built upon whatever little
space could be found upon the top of the mountain, without, so far as I
can gather, enlarging the ground artificially.  The present church—the
one, that is to say, built by Hugh de Montboissier about A.D. 1000—rests
almost entirely upon stone piers and masonry.  The rock has been masked
by a lofty granite wall of several feet in thickness, which presents
something of a keep-like appearance.  The spectator naturally imagines
that there are rooms, &c., behind this wall, whereas in point of fact
there is nothing but the staircase leading up to the floor of the church.
Arches spring from this masking wall, and are continued thence until the
rock is reached; it is on the level surface thus obtained that the church
rests.  The true floor, therefore, does not begin till near what appears
from the outside to be the top of the building.

There is some uncertainty as to the exact date of the foundation of the
monastery, but Claretta {90} inclines decidedly to the date 999, as
against 966, the one assigned by Mabillon and Torraneo.  Claretta relies
on the discovery, by Provana, of a document in the royal archives which
seems to place the matter beyond dispute.  The first abbot was
undoubtedly Avverto or Arveo, who established the rules of the
Benedictine Order in his monastery.  “In the seven hours of daily work
prescribed by the Benedictine rule,” writes Cesare Balbo, “innumerable
were the fields they ploughed, and the houses they built in deserts,
while in more frequented places men were laying cultivated ground waste,
and destroying buildings: innumerable, again, were the works of the holy
fathers and of ancient authors which were copied and preserved.” {91}

From this time forward the monastery received gifts in land and
privileges, and became in a few years the most important religious
establishment in that part of Italy.

There have been several fires—one, among others, in the year 1340, which
destroyed a great part of the monastery, and some of the deeds under
which it held valuable grants; but though the part inhabited by the monks
may have been rebuilt or added to, the church is certainly untouched.



Chapter VIII
S. Michele (_continued_)


I HAD often seen this wonderful pile of buildings, and had marvelled at
it, as all must do who pass from Susa to Turin, but I never went actually
up to it till last summer, in company with my friend and _collaborateur_,
Mr. H. F. Jones.  We reached S. Ambrogio station one sultry evening in
July, and, before many minutes were over, were on the path that leads to
San Pietro, a little more than an hour’s walk above S. Ambrogio.

In spite of what I have said about Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, we found
ourselves thinking how thin and wanting, as it were, in adipose cushion
is every other country in comparison with Italy; but the charm is
enhanced in these days by the feeling that it can be reached so easily.
Wednesday morning, Fleet Street; Thursday evening, a path upon the quiet
mountain side, under the overspreading chestnuts, with Lombardy at one’s
feet.

Some twenty minutes after we had begun to climb, the sanctuary became
lost to sight, large drops of thunder-rain began to fall, and by the time
we reached San Pietro it was pouring heavily, and had become quite dark.
An hour or so later the sky had cleared, and there was a splendid moon:
opening the windows, we found ourselves looking over the tops of trees on
to some lovely upland pastures, on a winding path through which we could
almost fancy we saw a youth led by an angel, and there was a dog with
him, and he held a fish in his hand.  Far below were lights from villages
in the valley of the Dora.  Above us rose the mountains, bathed in
shadow, or glittering in the moonbeams, and there came from them the
pleasant murmuring of streamlets that had been swollen by the storm.

                   [Picture: S. Michele from S. Pietro]

Next morning the sky was cloudless and the air invigorating.  S.
Ambrogio, at the foot of the mountain, must be some 800 feet above the
sea, and San Pietro about 1500 feet above S. Ambrogio.  The sanctuary at
the top of the mountain is 2800 feet above the sea-level, or about 500
feet above San Pietro.  A situation more delightful than that of San
Pietro it is impossible to conceive.  It contains some 200 inhabitants,
and lies on a ledge of level land, which is, of course, covered with the
most beautifully green grass, and in spring carpeted with wild-flowers;
great broad-leaved chestnuts rise from out the meadows, and beneath their
shade are strewn masses of sober mulberry-coloured rock; but above all
these rises the great feature of the place, from which, when it is in
sight, the eyes can hardly be diverted,—I mean the sanctuary of S.
Michele itself.

A sketch gives but little idea of the place.  In nature it appears as one
of those fascinating things like the smoke from Vesuvius, or the town on
the Sacro Monte at Varese, which take possession of one to the exclusion
of all else, as long as they are in sight.  From each point of view it
becomes more and more striking.  Climbing up to it from San Pietro and
getting at last nearly on a level with the lower parts of the building,
or again keeping to a pathway along the side of the mountain towards
Avigliana, it will come as on the following page.

                     [Picture: S. Michele, near view]

              [Picture: S. Michele, from Path to Avigliana]

There is a very beautiful view from near the spot where the first of
these sketches is taken.  We are then on the very ridge or crest of the
mountain, and look down on the one hand upon the valley of the Dora going
up to Susa, with the glaciers of the Mont Cenis in the background, and on
the other upon the plains near Turin, with the _colline_ bounding the
horizon.  Immediately beneath is seen the glaring white straight line of
the old Mont Cenis road, looking much more important than the dingy
narrow little strip of railroad that has superseded it.  The trains that
pass along the line look no bigger than caterpillars, but even at this
distance they make a great roar.  If the path from which the second view
is taken is followed for a quarter of an hour or so, another no less
beautiful point is reached from which one can look down upon the two
small lakes of Avigliana.  These lakes supply Turin with water, and, I
may add, with the best water that I know of as supplied to any town.

                [Picture: Main Entrance to the Sanctuary]

We will now return to the place from which the first of the sketches on
p. 95 was taken, and proceed to the sanctuary itself.  Passing the small
but very massive circular ruin shown on the right hand of the sketch,
about which nothing whatever is known either as regards its date or
object, we ascend by a gentle incline to the outer gate of the sanctuary.
The battered plates of iron that cover the wooden doors are marked with
many a bullet.  Then we keep under cover for a short space, after which
we find ourselves at the foot of a long flight of steps.  Close by there
is a little terrace with a wall round it, where one can stand and enjoy a
view over the valley of the Dora to Turin.

Having ascended the steps, we are at the main entrance to the building—a
massive Lombard doorway, evidently the original one.  In the space above
the door there have been two frescoes, an earlier and a later one, one
painted over the other, but nothing now remains save the signature of the
second painter, signed in Gothic characters.  On entering, more steps
must be at once climbed, and then the staircase turns at right angles and
tends towards the rock.

At the head of the flight shown p. 98, the natural rock appears.  The
arch above it forms a recess filled with desiccated corpses.  The great
pier to the left, and, indeed, all the masonry that can be seen, has no
other object than to obtain space for, and to support, the floor of the
church itself.  My drawing was taken from about the level of the top of
the archway through which the building is entered.  There comes in at
this point a third small staircase from behind; ascending this, one finds
one’s self in the window above the door, from the balcony of which there
is a marvellous panorama.  I took advantage of the window to measure the
thickness of the walls, and found them a little over seven feet thick and
built of massive granite blocks.  The stones on the inside are so sharp
and clean cut that they look as if they were not more than fifty years
old.  On the outside, the granite, hard as it is, is much weathered,
which, indeed, considering the exposed situation, is hardly to be
wondered at.

              [Picture: Steps Leading to the Church, No. 1]

Here again how the wind must howl and whistle, and how the snow must beat
in winter!  No one who has not seen snow falling during a time when the
thermometer is about at zero can know how searching a thing it is.  How
softly would it not lie upon the skulls and shoulders of the skeletons.
Fancy a dull dark January afternoon’s twilight upon this staircase, after
a heavy snow, when the soft fleece clings to the walls, having drifted in
through many an opening.  Or fancy a brilliant winter’s moonlight, with
the moon falling upon the skeletons after snow.  And then let there be a
burst of music from an organ in the church above (I am sorry to say they
have only a harmonium; I wish some one would give them a fine organ).  I
should like the following for example:—{99}

 [Picture: Score form Handel; slow movement in the fifth grand concerto]

How this would sound upon these stairs, if they would leave the
church-door open.  It is said in Murray’s handbook that formerly the
corpses which are now under the arch, used to be placed in a sitting
position upon the stairs, and the peasants would crown them with flowers.
Fancy twilight or moonlight on these stairs, with the corpses sitting
among the withered flowers and snow, and the pealing of a great organ.

              [Picture: Steps Leading to the Church, No. 2]

After ascending the steps that lead towards the skeletons, we turn again
sharp round to the left, and come upon another noble flight—broad and
lofty, and cut in great measure from the living rock.

At the top of this flight there are two sets of Lombard portals, both of
them very fine, but in such darkness and so placed that it was impossible
to get a drawing of them in detail.  After passing through them, the
staircase turns again, and, as far as I can remember, some twenty or
thirty steps bring one up to the level of the top of the arch which forms
the recess where the corpses are.  Here there is another beautiful
Lombard doorway, with a small arcade on either side which I thought
English, rather than Italian, in character.  An impression was produced
upon both of us that this doorway and the arcade on either side were by a
different architect from the two lower archways, and from the inside of
the church; or at any rate, that the details of the enrichment were cut
by a different mason, or gang of masons.  I think, however, the whole
doorway is in a later style, and must have been put in after some fire
had destroyed the earlier one.

Opening the door, which by day is always unlocked, we found ourselves in
the church itself.  As I have said, it is of pure Lombard architecture,
and very good of its kind; I do not think it has been touched since the
beginning of the eleventh century, except that it has been re-roofed and
the pitch of the roof altered.  At the base of the most westerly of the
three piers that divide the nave from the aisles, there crops out a small
piece of the living rock; this is at the end farthest from the choir.  It
is not likely that Giovanni Vincenzo’s church reached east of this point,
for from this point onwards towards the choir the floor is artificially
supported, and the supporting structure is due entirely to Hugo de
Montboissier.  The part of the original church which still remains is
perhaps the wall, which forms the western limit of the present church.
This wall is not external.  It forms the eastern wall of a large chamber
with frescoes.  I am not sure that this chamber does not occupy the whole
space of the original church.

There are a few nice votive pictures in the church, and one or two very
early frescoes, which are not without interest; but the main charm of the
place is in the architecture, and the sense at once of age and strength
which it produces.  The stock things to see are the vaults in which many
of the members of the royal house of Savoy, legitimate and illegitimate,
lie buried; they need not, however, be seen.

I have said that the whole building is of much about the same date, and,
unless perhaps in the residential parts, about which I can say little,
has not been altered.  This is not the view taken by the author of
Murray’s Handbook for North Italy, who says that “injudicious repairs
have marred the effect of the building;” but this writer has fallen into
several errors.  He talks, for example, of the “open Lombard gallery of
small circular arches” as being “one of the oldest and most curious
features of the building,” whereas it is obviously no older than the rest
of the church, nor than the keep-like construction upon which it rests.
Again, he is clearly in error when he says that the “extremely beautiful
circular arch by which we pass from the staircase to the corridor leading
to the church, is a vestige of the original building.”  The double round
arched portals through which we pass from the main staircase to the
corridor are of exactly the same date as the staircase itself, and as the
rest of the church.  They certainly formed no part of Giovanni Vincenzo’s
edifice; for, besides being far too rich, they are not on a level with
what remains of that building, but several feet below it.  It is hard to
know what the writer means by “the original building;” he appears to
think it extended to the present choir, which, he says, “retains traces
of an earlier age.”  The choir retains no such traces.  The only remains
of the original church are at the back of the west end, invisible from
the inside of the church, and at the opposite end to the choir.  As for
the church being “in a plain Gothic style,” it is an extremely beautiful
example of pure Lombard, of the first few years of the eleventh century.
True, the middle arch of the three which divide the nave from the aisles
is pointed, whereas the two others are round, but this is evidently done
to economise space, which was here unusually costly.  There was room for
more than two round arches, but not room enough for three, so it was
decided to dock the middle arch a little.  It is a she-arch—that is to
say, it has no keystone, but is formed simply by propping two segments of
a circle one against the other.  It certainly is not a Gothic arch; it is
a Lombard arch, modified in an unusual manner, owing to its having been
built under unusual conditions.

             [Picture: Garden at the Sanctuary of S. Michele]

The visitor should on no account omit to ring the bell and ask to be
shown the open Lombard gallery already referred to as running round the
outside of the choir.  It is well worth walking round this, if only for
the view.

The official who showed us round was very kind, and as a personal favour
we were allowed to visit the fathers’ private garden.  The large
arm-chairs are made out of clipped box-trees.  While on our way to the
garden we passed a spot where there was an alarming buzzing, and found
ourselves surrounded by what appeared to be an angry swarm of bees;
closer inspection showed that the host was a medley one, composed of
wasps, huge hornets, hive-bees, humble-bees, flies, dragon-flies,
butterflies, and all kinds of insects, flying about a single patch of ivy
in full blossom, which attracted them so strongly that they neglected
everything else.  I think some of them were intoxicated.  If this was so,
then perhaps Bacchus is called “ivy-crowned” because ivy-blossoms
intoxicate insects, but I never remember to have before observed that
ivy-blossoms had any special attraction for insects.

I have forgotten to say anything about a beam of wood which may be seen
standing out at right angles from the tower to the right of the main
building.  This I believe to have been the gallows.  Another like it may
be seen at S. Giorio, but I have not got it in my sketch of that place.
The attendant who took us round S. Michele denied that it was the
gallows, but I think it must have been.  Also, the attendant showed us
one place which is called _Il Salto della belle Alda_.  Alda was being
pursued by a soldier; to preserve her honour, she leaped from a window
and fell over a precipice some hundreds of feet below; by the
intercession of the Virgin she was saved, but became so much elated that
she determined to repeat the feat.  She jumped a second time from the
window, but was dashed to pieces.  We were told this as being unworthy of
actual credence, but as a legend of the place.  We said we found no great
difficulty in believing the first half of the story, but could hardly
believe that any one would jump from that window twice. {105}



Chapter IX
The North Italian Priesthood


THERE is now a school in the sanctuary; we met the boys several times.
They seemed well cared for and contented.  The priests who reside in the
sanctuary were courtesy itself; they took a warm interest in England, and
were anxious for any information I could give them about the monastery
near Loughborough—a name which they had much difficulty in pronouncing.
They were perfectly tolerant, and ready to extend to others the
consideration they expected for themselves.  This should not be saying
much, but as things go it is saying a good deal.  What indeed more can be
wished for?

The faces of such priests as these—and I should say such priests form a
full half of the North Italian priesthood—are perfectly free from that
bad furtive expression which we associate with priestcraft, and which,
when seen, cannot be mistaken: their faces are those of our own best
English country clergy, with perhaps a trifle less flesh about them and a
trifle more of a not unkindly asceticism.

Comparing our own clergy with the best North Italian and Ticinese
priests, I should say there was little to choose between them.  The
latter are in a logically stronger position, and this gives them greater
courage in their opinions; the former have the advantage in respect of
money, and the more varied knowledge of the world which money will
command.  When I say Catholics have logically the advantage over
Protestants, I mean that starting from premises which both sides admit, a
merely logical Protestant will find himself driven to the Church of Rome.
Most men as they grow older will, I think, feel this, and they will see
in it the explanation of the comparatively narrow area over which the
Reformation extended, and of the gain which Catholicism has made of late
years here in England.  On the other hand, reasonable people will look
with distrust upon too much reason.  The foundations of action lie deeper
than reason can reach.  They rest on faith—for there is no absolutely
certain incontrovertible premise which can be laid by man, any more than
there is any investment for money or security in the daily affairs of
life which is absolutely unimpeachable.  The funds are not absolutely
sale; a volcano might break out under the Bank of England.  A railway
journey is not absolutely safe; one person, at least, in several millions
gets killed.  We invest our money upon faith mainly.  We choose our
doctor upon faith, for how little independent judgment can we form
concerning his capacity?  We choose schools for our children chiefly upon
faith.  The most important things a man has are his body, his soul, and
his money.  It is generally better for him to commit these interests to
the care of others of whom he can know little, rather than be his own
medical man, or invest his money on his own judgment; and this is nothing
else than making a faith which lies deeper than reason can reach, the
basis of our action in those respects which touch us most nearly.

On the other hand, as good a case could be made out for placing reason as
the foundation, inasmuch as it would be easy to show that a faith, to be
worth anything, must be a reasonable one—one, that is to say, which is
based upon reason.  The fact is, that faith and reason are like desire
and power, or demand and supply; it is impossible to say which comes
first: they come up hand in hand, and are so small when we can first
descry them, that it is impossible to say which we first caught sight of.
All we can now see is that each has a tendency continually to outstrip
the other by a little, but by a very little only.  Strictly they are not
two things, but two aspects of one thing; for convenience sake, however,
we classify them separately.

It follows, therefore—but whether it follows or no, it is certainly
true—that neither faith alone nor reason alone is a sufficient guide: a
man’s safety lies neither in faith nor reason, but in temper—in the power
of fusing faith and reason, even when they appear most mutually
destructive.  A man of temper will be certain in spite of uncertainty,
and at the same time uncertain in spite of certainty; reasonable in spite
of his resting mainly upon faith rather than reason, and full of faith
even when appealing most strongly to reason.  If it is asked, In what
should a man have faith?  To what faith should he turn when reason has
led him to a conclusion which he distrusts? the answer is, To the current
feeling among those whom he most looks up to—looking upon himself with
suspicion if he is either among the foremost or the laggers.  In the
rough, homely common sense of the community to which we belong we have as
firm ground as can be got.  This, though not absolutely infallible, is
secure enough for practical purposes.

As I have said, Catholic priests have rather a fascination for me—when
they are not Englishmen.  I should say that the best North Italian
priests are more openly tolerant than our English clergy generally are.
I remember picking up one who was walking along a road, and giving him a
lift in my trap.  Of course we fell to talking, and it came out that I
was a member of the Church of England.  “Ebbene, caro Signore,” said he
when we shook hands at parting; “mi rincresce che Lei non crede come me,
ma in questi tempi non possiamo avere tutti i medesimi principii.” {109}

I travelled another day from Susa to S. Ambrogio with a priest, who told
me he took in “The Catholic Times,” and who was well up to date on
English matters.  Being myself a Conservative, I found his opinions sound
on all points but one—I refer to the Irish question: he had no sympathy
with the obstructionists in Parliament, but nevertheless thought the
Irish were harshly treated.  I explained matters as well as I could, and
found him very willing to listen to our side of the question.

The one thing, he said, which shocked him with the English, was the
manner in which they went about distributing tracts upon the Continent.
I said no one could deplore the practice more profoundly than myself, but
that there were stupid and conceited people in every country, who would
insist upon thrusting their opinions upon people who did not want them.
He replied that the Italians travelled not a little in England, but that
he was sure not one of them would dream of offering Catholic tracts to
people, for example, in the streets of London.  Certainly I have never
seen an Italian to be guilty of such rudeness.  It seems to me that it is
not only toleration that is a duty; we ought to go beyond this now; we
should conform, when we are among a sufficient number of those who would
not understand our refusal to do so; any other course is to attach too
much importance at once to our own opinions and to those of our
opponents.  By all means let a man stand by his convictions when the
occasion requires, but let him reserve his strength, unless it is
imperatively called for.  Do not let him exaggerate trifles, and let him
remember that everything is a trifle in comparison with the not giving
offence to a large number of kindly, simple-minded people.  Evolution, as
we all know, is the great doctrine of modern times; the very essence of
evolution consists in the not shocking anything too violently, but
enabling it to mistake a new action for an old one, without “making
believe” too much.

One day when I was eating my lunch near a fountain, there came up a
moody, meditative hen, crooning plaintively after her wont.  I threw her
a crumb of bread while she was still a good way off, and then threw more,
getting her to come a little closer and a little closer each time; at
last she actually took a piece from my hand.  She did not quite like it,
but she did it.  This is the evolution principle; and if we wish those
who differ from us to understand us, it is the only method to proceed
upon.  I have sometimes thought that some of my friends among the priests
have been treating me as I treated the meditative hen.  But what of that?
They will not kill and eat me, nor take my eggs.  Whatever, therefore,
promotes a more friendly feeling between us must be pure gain.

The mistake our advanced Liberals make is that of flinging much too large
pieces of bread at a time, and flinging them at their hen, instead of a
little way off her.  Of course the hen is fluttered and driven away.
Sometimes, too, they do not sufficiently distinguish between bread and
stones.

As a general rule, the common people treat the priests respectfully, but
once I heard several attacking one warmly on the score of eternal
punishment.  “Sarà,” said one, “per cento anni, per cinque cento, per
mille o forse per dieci mille anni, ma non sarà eterna; perchè il Dio è
un uomo forte—grande, generoso, di buon cuore.” {111}  An Italian told me
once that if ever I came upon a priest whom I wanted to tease, I was to
ask him if he knew a place called La Torre Pellice.  I have never yet had
the chance of doing this; for, though I am fairly quick at seeing whether
I am likely to get on with a priest or no, I find the priest is generally
fairly quick too; and I am no sooner in a diligence or railway carriage
with an unsympathetic priest, than he curls himself round into a moral
ball and prays horribly—bristling out with collects all over like a
cross-grained spiritual hedgehog.  Partly, therefore, from having no wish
to go out of my way to make myself obnoxious, and partly through the
opposite party being determined that I shall not get the chance, the
question about La Torre Pellice has never come off, and I do not know
what a priest would say if the subject were introduced,—but I did get a
talking about La Torre Pellice all the same.

I was going from Turin to Pinerolo, and found myself seated opposite a
fine-looking elderly gentleman who was reading a paper headed, “Le
Témoin, Echo des Vallées Vaudoises”: for the Vaudois, or Waldenses,
though on the Italian side of the Alps, are French in language and
perhaps in origin.  I fell to talking with this gentleman, and found he
was on his way to La Torre Pellice, the headquarters of indigenous
Italian evangelicism.  He told me there were about 25,000 inhabitants of
these valleys, and that they were without exception Protestant, or rather
that they had never accepted Catholicism, but had retained the primitive
Apostolic faith in its original purity.  He hinted to me that they were
descendants of some one or more of the lost ten tribes of Israel.  The
English, he told me (meaning, I gather, the English of the England that
affects Exeter Hall), had done great things for the inhabitants of La
Torre at different times, and there were streets called the Via Williams
and Via Beckwith.  They were, he said, a very growing sect, and had
missionaries and establishments in all the principal cities in North
Italy; in fact, so far as I could gather, they were as aggressive as
malcontents generally are, and, Italians though they were, would give
away tracts just as readily as we do.  I did not, therefore, go to La
Torre.

Sometimes priests say things, as a matter of course, which would make any
English clergyman’s hair stand on end.  At one town there is a remarkable
fourteenth-century bridge, commonly known as “The Devil’s Bridge.”  I was
sketching near this when a jolly old priest with a red nose came up and
began a conversation with me.  He was evidently a popular character, for
every one who passed greeted him.  He told me that the devil did not
really build the bridge.  I said I presumed not, for he was not in the
habit of spending his time so well.

“I wish he had built it,” said my friend; “for then perhaps he would
build us some more.”

“Or we might even get a church out of him,” said I, a little slyly.

“Ha, ha, ha! we will convert him, and make a good Christian of him in the
end.”

When will our Protestantism, or Rationalism, or whatever it may be, sit
as lightly upon ourselves?



Chapter X
S. Ambrogio and Neighbourhood


SINCE the opening of the railway, the old inn where the diligences and
private carriages used to stop has been closed; but I was made, in a
homely way, extremely comfortable at the Scudo di Francia, kept by Signor
Bonaudo and his wife.  I stayed here over a fortnight, during which I
made several excursions.

                      [Picture: Inn at S. Ambrogio]

One day I went to San Giorio, as it is always written, though San Giorgio
is evidently intended.  Here there is a ruined castle, beautifully placed
upon a hill; this castle shows well from the railway shortly after
leaving Bussoleno station, on the right hand going towards Turin.  Having
been struck with it, I went by train to Bussoleno (where there is much
that I was unwillingly compelled to neglect), and walked back to San
Giorio.  On my way, however, I saw a patch of Cima-da-Conegliano-looking
meadow-land on a hill some way above me, and on this there rose from
among the chestnuts what looked like a castellated mansion.  I thought it
well to make a digression to this, and when I got there, after a lovely
walk, knocked at the door, having been told by peasants that there would
be no difficulty about my taking a look round.  The place is called the
_Castel Burrello_, and is tenanted by an old priest who has retired
hither to end his days.  I sent in my card and business by his servant,
and by-and-by he came out to me himself.

“Vous êtes Anglais, monsieur?” said he in French.

“Oui, monsieur.”

“Vous êtes Catholique?”

“Monsieur, je suis de la religion de mes pères.”

“Pardon, monsieur, vos ancêtres étaient Catholiques jusqu’au temps de
Henri VIII.”

“Mais il y a trois cent ans depuis le temps de Henri VIII.”

“Eh bien! chacun a ses convictions; vous ne parlez pas contre la
religion?”

“Jamais, jamais, monsieur; j’ai un respect énorme pour l’Eglise
Catholique.”

“Monsieur, faites comme chez vous; allez où vous voulez; vous trouverez
toutes les portes ouvertes.  Amusez-vous bien.”

He then explained to me that the castle had never been a properly
fortified place, being intended only as a summer residence for the barons
of Bussoleno, who used to resort hither during the extreme heat, if times
were tolerably quiet.  After this he left me.  Taking him at his word, I
walked all round, but there was only a shell remaining; the rest of the
building had evidently been burnt, even the wing in which the present
proprietor resides being, if I remember rightly, modernised.  The site,
however, and the sloping meadows which the castle crowns, are of extreme
beauty.

                    [Picture: S. Giorio—Comba di Susa]

I now walked down to San Giorio, and found a small inn where I could get
bread, butter, eggs, and good wine.  I was waited upon by a good-natured
boy, the son of the landlord, who was accompanied by a hawk that sat
always either upon his hand or shoulder.  As I looked at the pair I
thought they were very much alike, and certainly they were very much in
love with one another.  After dinner I sketched the castle.  While I was
doing so, a gentleman told me that a large breach in the wall was made a
few years ago, and a part of the wall found to be hollow, the bottom of
the hollow part being unwittingly removed, there fell through a skeleton
in a full suit of armour.  Others, whom I asked, had heard nothing of
this.

Talking of hawks, I saw a good many boys with tame young hawks in the
villages round about.  There was a tame hawk at the station of S.
Ambrogio.  The station-master said it used to go now and again to the
church-steeple to catch sparrows, but would always return in an hour or
two.  Before my stay was over it got in the way of a passing train and
was run over.

Young birds are much eaten in this neighbourhood.  The houses and barns,
not to say the steeples of the churches, are to be seen stuck about with
what look like terra-cotta water-bottles with the necks outwards.  Two or
three may be seen in the illustration on p. 113 outside the window that
comes out of the roof, on the left-hand side of the picture.  I have seen
some outside an Italian restaurant near Lewisham.  They are artificial
bird’s-nests for the sparrows to build in: as soon as the young are old
enough they are taken and made into a pie.  The church-tower near the
Hotel de la Poste at Lanzo is more stuck about with them than any other
building that I have seen.

Swallows and hawks are about the only birds whose young are not eaten.
One afternoon I met a boy with a jay on his finger: having imprudently
made advances to this young gentleman in the hopes of getting acquainted
with the bird, he said he thought I had better buy it and have it for my
dinner; but I did not fancy it.  Another day I saw the _padrona_ at the
inn-door talking to a lad, who pulled open his shirt-front and showed
some twenty or thirty nestlings in the simple pocket formed by his shirt
on the one side and his skin upon the other.  The _padrona_ wanted me to
say I should like to eat them, in which case she would have bought them;
but one cannot get all the nonsense one hears at home out of one’s head
in a moment, and I am afraid I preached a little.  The _padrona_, who is
one of the most fascinating women in the world, and at sixty is still
handsome, looked a little vexed and puzzled: she admitted the truth of
what I said, but pleaded that the boys found it very hard to gain a few
_soldi_, and if people didn’t kill and eat one thing, they would another.
The result of it all was that I determined for the future to leave young
birds to their fate; they and the boys must settle that matter between
themselves.  If the young bird was a boy, and the boy a young bird, it
would have been the boy who was taken ruthlessly from his nest and eaten.
An old bird has no right to have a homestead, and a young bird has no
right to exist at all, unless they can keep both homestead and existence
out of the way of boys who are in want of half-pence.  It is all
perfectly right, and when we go and stay among these charming people, let
us do so as learners, not as teachers.

I watched the _padrona_ getting my supper ready.  With what art do not
these people manage their fire.  The New Zealand Maoris say the white man
is a fool: “He makes a large fire, and then has to sit away from it; the
Maori makes a small fire, and sits over it.”  The scheme of an Italian
kitchen-fire is that there shall always be one stout log smouldering on
the hearth, from which a few live coals may be chipped off if wanted, and
put into the small square gratings which are used for stewing or
roasting.  Any warming up, or shorter boiling, is done on the Maori
principle of making a small fire of light dry wood, and feeding it
frequently.  They economise everything.  Thus I saw the _padrona_ wash
some hen’s eggs well in cold water; I did not see why she should wash
them before boiling them, but presently the soup which I was to have for
my supper began to boil.  Then she put the eggs into the soup and boiled
them in it.

After supper I had a talk with the _padrone_, who told me I was working
too hard.  “Totam noctem,” said he in Latin, “lavoravimus et nihil
incepimus.”  (“We have laboured all night and taken nothing.”)  “Oh!” he
continued, “I have eyes and ears in my head.”  And as he spoke, with his
right hand he drew down his lower eyelid, and with his left pinched the
pig of his ear.  “You will be ill if you go on like this.”  Then he laid
his hand along his cheek, put his head on one side, and shut his eyes, to
imitate a sick man in bed.  On this I arranged to go an excursion with
him on the day following to a farm he had a few miles off, and to which
he went every Friday.

We went to Borgone station, and walked across the valley to a village
called Villar Fochiardo.  Thence we began gently to ascend, passing under
some noble chestnuts.  Signor Bonaudo said that this is one of the best
chestnut-growing districts in Italy.  A good tree, he told me, would give
its forty francs a year.  This seems as though chestnut-growing must be
lucrative, for an acre should carry some five or six trees, and there is
no outlay to speak of.  Besides the chestnuts, the land gives a still
further return by way of the grass that grows beneath them.  Walnuts do
not yield nearly so much per tree as chestnuts do.  In three-quarters of
an hour or so we reached Signor Bonaudo’s farm, which was called the
_Casina di Banda_.  The buildings had once been a monastery, founded at
the beginning of the seventeenth century and secularised by the first
Napoleon, but had been purchased from the state a few years ago by Signor
Bonaudo, in partnership with three others, after the passing of the
Church Property Act.  It is beautifully situated some hundreds of feet
above the valley, and commands a lovely view of the _Comba_, as it is
called, or _Combe_ of Susa.  The accompanying sketch will give an idea of
the view looking towards Turin.  The large building on the hill is, of
course, S. Michele.  The very distant dome is the Superga on the other
side of Turin.

                        [Picture: Casina di Banda]

The first thing Signor Bonaudo did when he got to his farm was to see
whether the water had been duly turned on to his own portion of the
estate.  Each of the four purchasers had his separate portion, and each
had a right to the water for thirty-six hours per week.  Signor Bonaudo
went round with his hind at once, and saw that the dams in the ducts were
so opened or closed that his own land was being irrigated.

Nothing can exceed the ingenuity with which the little canals are
arranged so that each part of a meadow, however undulating, shall be
saturated equally.  The people are very jealous of their water rights,
and indeed not unnaturally, for the yield of grass depends in very great
measure upon the amount of irrigation which the land can get.

The matter of the water having been seen to, we went to the monastery,
or, as it now is, the homestead.  As we entered the farmyard we found two
cows fighting, and a great strapping wench belabouring them in order to
separate them.  “Let them alone,” said the _padrone_; “let them fight it
out here on the level ground.”  Then he explained to me that he wished
them to find out which was mistress, and fall each of them into her
proper place, for if they fought on the rough hillsides they might easily
break each other’s necks.

We walked all over the monastery.  The day was steamy with frequent
showers, and thunderstorms in the air.  The rooms were dark and mouldy,
and smelt rather of rancid cheese, but it was not a bad sort of rambling
old place, and if thoroughly done up would make a delightful inn.  There
is a report that there is hidden treasure here.  I do not know a single
old castle or monastery in North Italy about which no such report is
current, but in the present case there seems more than usual ground (so
the hind told me) for believing the story to be well founded, for the
monks did certainly smelt the quartz in the neighbourhood, and as no gold
was ever known to leave the monastery, it is most likely that all the
enormous quantity which they must have made in the course of some two
centuries is still upon the premises, if one could only lay one’s hands
upon it.  So reasonable did this seem, that about two years ago it was
resolved to call in a somnambulist or clairvoyant from Turin, who, when
he arrived at the spot, became seized with convulsions, betokening of
course that there was treasure not far off: these convulsions increased
till he reached the choir of the chapel, and here he swooned—falling down
as if dead, and being resuscitated with apparent difficulty.  He
afterwards declared that it was in this chapel that the treasure was
hidden.  In spite of all this, however, the chapel has not been turned
upside down and ransacked, perhaps from fear of offending the saint to
whom it is dedicated.

                        [Picture: Votive Picture]

In the chapel there are a few votive pictures, but not very striking
ones.  I hurriedly sketched one, but have failed to do it justice.  The
hind saw me copying the little girl in bed, and I had an impression as
though he did not quite understand my motive.  I told him I had a dear
little girl of my own at home, who had been alarmingly ill in the spring,
and that this picture reminded me of her.  This made everything quite
comfortable.

We had brought up our dinner from S. Ambrogio, and ate it in what had
been the refectory of the monastery.  The windows were broken, and the
swallows, who had built upon the ceiling inside the room, kept flying
close to us all the time we were eating.  Great mallows and hollyhocks
peered in at the window, and beyond them there was a pretty
Devonshire-looking orchard.  The noontide sun streamed in at intervals
between the showers.

After dinner we went “al cresto della collina”—to the crest of the
hill—to use Signor Bonaudo’s words, and looked down upon S. Giorio, and
the other villages of the _Combe_ of Susa.  Nothing could be more
delightful.  Then, getting under the chestnuts, I made the sketch which I
have already given.  While making it I was accosted by an underjawed man
(there is an unusually large percentage of underjawed people in the
neighbourhood of S. Ambrogio), who asked whether my taking this sketch
must not be considered as a sign that war was imminent.  The people in
this valley have bitter and comparatively recent experience of war, and
are alarmed at anything which they fancy may indicate its recurrence.
Talking further with him, he said, “Here we have no signori; we need not
take off our hats to any one except the priest.  We grow all we eat, we
spin and weave all we wear; if all the world except our own valley were
blotted out, it would make no difference, so long as we remain as we are
and unmolested.”  He was a wild, weird, St. John the Baptist looking
person, with shaggy hair, and an Andrea Mantegnesque feeling about him.
I gave him a pipe of English tobacco, which he seemed to relish, and so
we parted.

I stayed a week or so at another place not a hundred miles from Susa, but
I will not name it, for fear of causing offence.  It was situated high,
above the valley of the Dora, among the pastures, and just about the
upper limit of the chestnuts.  It offers a summer retreat, of which the
people in Turin avail themselves in considerable numbers.  The inn was a
more sophisticated one than Signor Bonaudo’s house at S. Ambrogio, and
there were several Turin people staying there as well as myself, but
there were no English.  During the whole time I was in that neighbourhood
I saw not a single English, French, or German tourist.  The ways of the
inn, therefore, were exclusively Italian, and I had a better opportunity
of seeing the Italians as they are among themselves than I ever had
before.

Nothing struck me more than the easy terms on which every one, including
the waiter, appeared to be with every one else.  This, which in England
would be impossible, is here not only possible but a matter of course,
because the general standard of good breeding is distinctly higher than
it is among ourselves.  I do not mean to say that there are no rude or
unmannerly Italians, but that there are fewer in proportion than there
are in any other nation with which I have acquaintance.  This is not to
be wondered at, for the Italians have had a civilisation for now some
three or four thousand years, whereas all other nations are,
comparatively speaking, new countries, with a something even yet of
colonial roughness pervading them.  As the colonies to England, so is
England to Italy in respect of the average standard of courtesy and good
manners.  In a new country everything has a tendency to go wild again,
man included; and the longer civilisation has existed in any country the
more trustworthy and agreeable will its inhabitants be.  This preface is
necessary, as explaining how it is possible that things can be done in
Italy without offence which would be intolerable elsewhere; but I confess
to feeling rather hopeless of being able to describe what I actually saw
without giving a wrong impression concerning it.

Among the visitors was the head confidential clerk of a well-known
Milanese house, with his wife and sister.  The sister was an invalid, and
so also was the husband, but the wife was a very pretty woman and a very
merry one.  The waiter was a good-looking young fellow of about
five-and-twenty, and between him and Signora Bonvicino—for we will say
this was the clerk’s name—there sprang up a violent flirtation, all open
and above board.  The waiter was evidently very fond of her, but said the
most atrociously impudent things to her from time to time.  Dining under
the veranda at the next table I heard the Signora complain that the
cutlets were burnt.  So they were—very badly burnt.  The waiter looked at
them for a moment—threw her a contemptuous glance, clearly intended to
provoke war—“Chi non ha appetito {124} . . . ” he exclaimed, and was
moving off with a shrug of the shoulders.  The Signora recognising a
challenge, rose instantly from the table, and catching him by the nape of
his neck, kicked him deftly downstairs into the kitchen, both laughing
heartily, and the husband and sister joining.  I never saw anything more
neatly done.  Of course, in a few minutes some fresh and quite
unexceptionable cutlets made their appearance.

Another morning, when I came down to breakfast, I found an altercation
going on between the same pair as to whether the lady’s nose was too
large or not.  It was not at all too large.  It was a very pretty little
nose.  The waiter was maintaining that it was too large, and the lady
that it was not.

One evening Signor Bonvicino told me that his employer had a very large
connection in England, and that though he had never been in London, he
knew all about it almost as well as if he had.  The great centre of
business, he said, was in Red Lion Square.  It was here his employer’s
agent resided, and this was a more important part than even the city
proper.  I threw a drop or two of cold water on this, but without avail.
Presently I asked what the waiter’s name was, not having been able to
catch it.  I asked this of the Signora, and saw a little look on her face
as though she were not quite prepared to reply.  Not understanding this,
I repeated my question.

“Oh! his name is Cesare,” was the answer.

“Cesare! but that is not the name I hear you call him by.”

“Well, perhaps not; we generally call him Cricco,” {125a} and she looked
as if she had suddenly remembered having been told that there were such
things as prigs, and might, for aught she knew, be in the presence of one
of these creatures now.

Her husband came to the rescue.  “Yes,” said he, “his real name is Julius
Cæsar, but we call him Cricco.  Cricco è un nome di paese; parlando così
non si offende la religione.” {125b}

The Roman Catholic religion, if left to itself and not compelled to be
introspective, is more kindly and less given to taking offence than
outsiders generally believe.  At the Sacro Monte of Varese they sell
little round tin boxes that look like medals, and contain pictures of all
the chapels.  In the lid of the box there is a short printed account of
the Sacro Monte, which winds up with the words, “La religione _e lo
stupendo panorama_ tirano numerosi ed allegri visitatori.” {126}

Our people are much too earnest to allow that a view could have anything
to do with taking people up to the top of a hill where there was a
cathedral, or that people could be “merry” while on an errand connected
with religion.

On leaving this place I wanted to say good-bye to Signora Bonvicino, and
could not find her; after a time I heard she was at the fountain, so I
went and found her on her knees washing her husband’s and her own
clothes, with her pretty round arms bare nearly to the shoulder.  It
never so much as occurred to her to mind being caught at this work.

Some months later, shortly before winter, I returned to the same inn for
a few days, and found it somewhat demoralised.  There had been grand
doings of some sort, and, though the doings were over, the moral and
material débris were not yet quite removed.  The _famiglia_ Bonvicino was
gone, and so was Cricco.  The cook, the new waiter, and the landlord (who
sings a good comic song upon occasion) had all drunk as much wine as they
could carry; and later on I found Veneranda, the one-eyed old
chambermaid, lying upon my bed fast asleep.  I afterwards heard that, in
spite of the autumnal weather, the landlord spent his night on the grass
under the chestnuts, while the cook was found at four o’clock in the
morning lying at full length upon a table under the veranda.  Next day,
however, all had become normal again.

Among our fellow-guests during this visit was a fiery-faced eructive
butcher from Turin.  A difference of opinion having arisen between him
and his wife, I told the Signora that I would rather be wrong with her
than right with her husband.  The lady was delighted.

“Do you hear that, my dear?” said she.  “He says he had rather be wrong
with me than right with you.  Isn’t he a naughty man?”

She said that if she died her husband was going to marry a girl of
fifteen.  I said: “And if your husband dies, ma’am, send me a dispatch to
London, and I will come and marry you myself.”  They were both delighted
at this.

She told us the thunder had upset her and frightened her.

“Has it given you a headache?”

She replied: No; but it had upset her stomach.  No doubt the thunder had
shaken her stomach’s confidence in the soundness of its opinions, so as
to weaken its proselytising power.  By and by, seeing that she ate a
pretty good dinner, I inquired:

“Is your stomach better now, ma’am?”

And she said it was.  Next day my stomach was bad too.

I told her I had been married, but had lost my wife and had determined
never to marry again till I could find a widow whom I had admired as a
married woman.

Giovanni, the new waiter, explained to me that the butcher was not really
bad or cruel at all.  I shook my head at him and said I wished I could
think so, but that his poor wife looked very ill and unhappy.

The housemaid’s name was La Rosa Mistica.

The landlord was a favourite with all the guests.  Every one patted him
on the cheeks or the head, or chucked him under the chin, or did
something nice and friendly at him.  He was a little man with a face like
a russet pippin apple, about sixty-five years old, but made of iron.  He
was going to marry a third wife, and six young women had already come up
from S. Ambrogio to be looked at.  I saw one of them.  She was a
Visigoth-looking sort of person and wore a large wobbly-brimmed straw
hat; she was about forty, and gave me the impression of being familiar
with labour of all kinds.  He pressed me to give my opinion of her, but I
sneaked out of it by declaring that I must see a good deal more of the
lady than I was ever likely to see before I could form an opinion at all.

On coming down from the sanctuary one afternoon I heard the landlord’s
comic song, of which I have spoken above.  It was about the musical
instruments in a band: the trumpet did this, the clarinet did that, the
flute went tootle, tootle, tootle, and there was an appropriate motion of
the hand for every instrument.  I was a little disappointed with it, but
the landlord said I was too serious and the only thing that would cure me
was to learn the song myself.  He said the butcher had learned it
already, so it was not hard, which indeed it was not.  It was about as
hard as:

    The battle of the Nile
    I was there all the while
    At the battle of the Nile.

I had to learn it and sing it (Heaven help me, for I have no more voice
than a mouse!), and the landlord said that the motion of my little finger
was very promising.

The chestnuts are never better than after harvest, when they are
heavy-laden with their pale green hedgehog-like fruit and alive with
people swarming among their branches, pruning them while the leaves are
still good winter food for cattle.  Why, I wonder, is there such an
especial charm about the pruning of trees?  Who does not feel it?  No
matter what the tree is, the poplar of France, or the brookside willow or
oak coppice of England, or the chestnuts or mulberries of Italy, all are
interesting when being pruned, or when pruned just lately.  A friend once
consulted me casually about a picture on which he was at work, and
complained that a row of trees in it was without sufficient interest.  I
was fortunate enough to be able to help him by saying: “Prune them freely
and put a magpie’s nest in one of them,” and the trees became interesting
at once.  People in trees always look well, or rather, I should say,
trees always look well with people in them, or indeed with any living
thing in them, especially when it is of a kind that is not commonly seen
in them; and the measured lop of the bill-hook and, by and by, the click
as a bough breaks and the lazy crash as it falls over on to the ground,
are as pleasing to the ear as is the bough-bestrewn herbage to the eye.

To what height and to what slender boughs do not these hardy climbers
trust themselves.  It is said that the coming man is to be toeless.  I
will venture for it that he will not be toeless if these chestnut-pruning
men and women have much to do with his development.  Let the race prune
chestnuts for a couple of hundred generations or so, and it will have
little trouble with its toes.  Of course, the pruners fall sometimes, but
very rarely.  I remember in the Val Mastallone seeing a votive picture of
a poor lady in a short petticoat and trousers trimmed with red round the
bottom who was falling head foremost from the top of a high tree, whose
leaves she had been picking, and was being saved by the intervention of
two saints who caught her upon two gridirons.  Such accidents, however,
and, I should think, such interventions, are exceedingly rare, and as a
rule the peasants venture freely into places which in England no one but
a sailor or a steeple-jack would attempt.

And so we left this part of Italy, wishing that more Hugo de
Montboissiers had committed more crimes and had had to expiate them by
building more sanctuaries.



Chapter XI
Lanzo


FROM S. Ambrogio we went to Turin, a city so well known that I need not
describe it.  The Hotel Europa is the best, and, indeed, one of the best
hotels on the continent.  Nothing can exceed it for comfort and good
cookery.  The gallery of old masters contains some great gems.
Especially remarkable are two pictures of Tobias and the angel, by
Antonio Pollaiuolo and Sandro Botticelli; and a magnificent tempera
painting of the Crucifixion, by Gaudenzio Ferrari—one of his very finest
works.  There are also several other pictures by the same master, but the
Crucifixion is the best.

From Turin I went alone to Lanzo, about an hour and a half’s railway
journey from Turin, and found a comfortable inn, the Hotel de la Poste.
There is a fine fourteenth-century tower here, and the general effect of
the town is good.

One morning while I was getting my breakfast, English fashion, with some
cutlets to accompany my bread and butter, I saw an elderly Italian
gentleman, with his hand up to his chin, eyeing me with thoughtful
interest.  After a time he broke silence.

“Ed il latte,” he said, “serve per la suppa.” {131}

I said that that was the view we took of it.  He thought it over a while,
and then feelingly exclaimed—

“Oh bel!”

Soon afterwards he left me with the words—

“Là! dunque! cerrea! chow! stia bene.”

                    [Picture: Mediæval Tower at Lanzo]

“Là” is a very common close to an Italian conversation.  I used to be a
little afraid of it at first.  It sounds rather like saying, “There,
that’s that.  Please to bear in mind that I talked to you very nicely,
and let you bore me for a long time; I think I have now done the thing
handsomely, so you’ll be good enough to score me one and let me go.”  But
I soon found out that it was quite a friendly and civil way of saying
good-bye.

                        [Picture: Piazza at Lanzo]

The “dunque” is softer; it seems to say, “I cannot bring myself to say so
sad a word as ‘farewell,’ but we must both of us know that the time has
come for us to part, and so”—

“Cerrea” is an abbreviation and corruption of “di sua Signoria,”—“by your
highness’s leave.”  “Chow” I have explained already.  “Stia bene” is
simply “farewell.”

The principal piazza of Lanzo is nice.  In the upper part of the town
there is a large school or college.  One can see into the school through
a grating from the road.  I looked down, and saw that the boys had cut
their names all over the desks, just as English boys would do.  They were
very merry and noisy, and though there was a priest standing at one end
of the room, he let them do much as they liked, and they seemed quite
happy.  I heard one boy shout out to another, “Non c’ è pericolo,” in
answer to something the other had said.  This is exactly the “no fear” of
America and the colonies.  Near the school there is a field on the slope
of the hill which commands a view over the plain.  A woman was mowing
there, and, by way of making myself agreeable, I remarked that the view
was fine.  “Yes, it is,” she answered; “you can see all the trains.”

The baskets with which the people carry things in this neighbourhood are
of a different construction from any I have seen elsewhere.  They are
made to fit all round the head like something between a saddle and a
helmet, and at the same time to rest upon the shoulders—the head being,
as it were, ensaddled by the basket, and the weight being supported by
the shoulders as well as by the head.  Why is it that such contrivances
as this should prevail in one valley and not in another?  If, one is
tempted to argue, the plan is a convenient one, why does it not spread
further?  If inconvenient, why has it spread so far?  If it is good in
the valley of the Stura, why is it not also good in the contiguous valley
of the Dora?  There must be places where people using helmet-made baskets
live next door to people who use baskets that are borne entirely by back
and shoulders.  Why do not the people in one or other of these houses
adopt their neighbour’s basket?  Not because people are not amenable to
conviction, for within a certain radius from the source of the invention
they are convinced to a man.  Nor again is it from any insuperable
objection to a change of habit.  The Stura people have changed their
habit—possibly for the worse; but if they have changed it for the worse,
how is it they do not find it out and change again?

Take, again, the _pane Grissino_, from which the neighbourhood of Turin
has derived its nickname of _il Grissinotto_.  It is made in long sticks,
rather thicker than a tobacco pipe, and eats crisp like toast.  It is
almost universally preferred to ordinary bread by the inhabitants of what
was formerly Piedmont, but beyond these limits it is rarely seen.  Why
so?  Either it is good or not good.  If not good, how has it prevailed
over so large an area?  If good, why does it not extend its empire?  The
Reformation is another case in point: granted that Protestantism is
illogical, how is it that so few within a given area can perceive it to
be so?  The same question arises in respect of the distribution of many
plants and animals; the reason of the limits which some of them cannot
pass, being, indeed, perfectly clear, but as regards perhaps the greater
number of them, undiscoverable.  The upshot of it is that things do not
in practice find their perfect level any more than water does so, but are
liable to disturbance by way of tides and local currents, or storms.  It
is in his power to perceive and profit by these irregularities that the
strength or weakness of a commercial man will be apparent.

One day I made an excursion from Lanzo to a place, the name of which I
cannot remember, but which is not far from the Groscavallo glacier.  Here
I found several Italians staying to take the air, and among them one
young gentleman, who told me he was writing a book upon this
neighbourhood, and was going to illustrate it with his own drawings.
This naturally interested me, and I encouraged him to tell me more, which
he was nothing loth to do.  He said he had a passion for drawing, and was
making rapid progress; but there was one thing that held him back—the not
having any Conté chalk: if he had but this, all his difficulties would
vanish.  Unfortunately I had no Conté chalk with me, I but I asked to see
the drawings, and was shown about twenty, all of which greatly pleased
me.  I at once proposed an exchange, and have thus become possessed of
the two which I reproduce here.  Being pencil drawings, and not done with
a view to Mr. Dawson’s process, they have suffered somewhat in
reproduction, but I decided to let them suffer rather than attempt to
copy them.  What can be more absolutely in the spirit of the fourteenth
century than the drawings given above?  They seem as though done by some
fourteenth-century painter who had risen from the dead.  And to show that
they are no rare accident, I will give another (p. 138), also done by an
entirely self-taught Italian, and intended to represent the castle of
Laurenzana in the neighbourhood of Potenza.

              [Picture: Study by an Italian Amateur, No. 1]

              [Picture: Study by an Italian Amateur, No. 2]

If the reader will pardon a digression, I will refer to a more important
example of an old master born out of due time.  One day, in the cathedral
at Varallo, I saw a picture painted on linen of which I could make
nothing.  It was not old and it was not modern.  The expression of the
Virgin’s face was lovely, and there was more individuality than is
commonly found in modern Italian work.  Modern Italian colour is
generally either cold and dirty, or else staring.  The colour here was
tender, and reminded me of fifteenth-century Florentine work.  The folds
of the drapery were not modern; there was a sense of effort about them,
as though the painter had tried to do them better, but had been unable to
get them as free and flowing as he had wished.  Yet the picture was not
old; to all appearance it might have been painted a matter of ten years;
nor again was it an echo—it was a sound: the archaism was not affected;
on the contrary, there was something which said, as plainly as though the
living painter had spoken it, that his somewhat constrained treatment was
due simply to his having been puzzled with the intricacy of what he saw,
and giving as much as he could with a hand which was less advanced than
his judgment.  By some strange law it comes about that the imperfection
of men who are at this stage of any art is the only true perfection; for
the wisdom of the wise is set at naught, and the foolishness of the
simple is chosen, and it is out of the mouths of babes and sucklings that
strength is ordained.

                [Picture: Study by a Self-taught Italian]

Unable to arrive at any conclusion, I asked the sacristan, and was told
it was by a certain Dedomenici of Rossa, in the Val Sesia, and that it
had been painted some forty or fifty years ago.  I expressed my surprise,
and the sacristan continued: “Yes, but what is most wonderful about him
is that he never left his native valley, and never had any instruction,
but picked up his art for himself as best he could.”

I have been twice to Varallo since, to see whether I should change my
mind, but have not done so.  If Dedomenici had been a Florentine or
Venetian in the best times, he would have done as well as the best; as it
is, his work is remarkable.  He died about 1840, very old, and he kept on
improving to the last.  His last work—at least I was told upon the spot
that it was his last—is in a little roadside chapel perched high upon a
rock, and dedicated, if I remember rightly, to S. Michele, on the path
from Fobello in the Val Mastallone to Taponaccio.  It is a Madonna and
child in clouds, with two full-length saints standing beneath—all the
figures life-size.  I came upon this chapel quite accidentally one
evening, and, looking in, recognised the altar-piece as a Dedomenici.  I
inquired at the next village who had painted it, and was told, “un certo
Dedomenici da Rossa.”  I was also told that he was nearly eighty years
old when he painted this picture.  I went a couple of years ago to
reconsider it, and found that I remained much of my original opinion.  I
do not think that any of my readers who care about the history of Italian
art will regret having paid it a visit.

Such men are more common in Italy than is believed.  There is a fresco of
the Crucifixion outside the Campo Santo at Fusio, in the Canton Ticino,
done by a local artist, which, though far inferior to the work of
Dedomenici, is still remarkable.  The painter evidently knows nothing of
the rules of his art, but he has made Christ on the cross bowing His head
towards the souls in purgatory, instead of in the conventional fine
frenzy to which we are accustomed.  There is a storm which has caught and
is sweeping the drapery round Christ’s body.  The angel’s wings are no
longer white, but many coloured as in old times, and there is a touch of
humour in the fact that of the six souls in purgatory, four are women and
only two men.  The expression on Christ’s face is very fine, but
otherwise the drawing could not well be more imperfect than it is.



Chapter XII
Considerations on the Decline of Italian Art


THOSE who know the Italians will see no sign of decay about them.  They
are the quickest witted people in the world, and at the same time have
much more of the old Roman steadiness than they are generally credited
with.  Not only is there no sign of degeneration, but, as regards
practical matters, there is every sign of health and vigorous
development.  The North Italians are more like Englishmen, both in body
and mind, than any other people whom I know; I am continually meeting
Italians whom I should take for Englishmen if I did not know their
nationality.  They have all our strong points, but they have more grace
and elasticity of mind than we have.

Priggishness is the sin which doth most easily beset middle-class and
so-called educated Englishmen: we call it purity and culture, but it does
not much matter what we call it.  It is the almost inevitable outcome of
a university education, and will last as long as Oxford and Cambridge do,
but not much longer.

Lord Beaconsfield sent Lothair to Oxford; it is with great pleasure that
I see he did not send Endymion.  My friend Jones called my attention to
this, and we noted that the growth observable throughout Lord
Beaconsfield’s life was continued to the end.  He was one of those who,
no matter how long he lived, would have been always growing: this is what
makes his later novels so much better than those of Thackeray or Dickens.
There was something of the child about him to the last.  Earnestness was
his greatest danger, but if he did not quite overcome it (as who indeed
can?  It is the last enemy that shall be subdued), he managed to veil it
with a fair amount of success.  As for Endymion, of course if Lord
Beaconsfield had thought Oxford would be good for him, he could, as Jones
pointed out to me, just as well have killed Mr. Ferrars a year or two
later.  We feel satisfied, therefore, that Endymion’s exclusion from a
university was carefully considered, and are glad.

I will not say that priggishness is absolutely unknown among the North
Italians; sometimes one comes upon a young Italian who wants to learn
German, but not often.  Priggism, or whatever the substantive is, is as
essentially a Teutonic vice as holiness is a Semitic characteristic; and
if an Italian happens to be a prig, he will, like Tacitus, invariably
show a hankering after German institutions.  The idea, however, that the
Italians were ever a finer people than they are now, will not pass muster
with those who know them.

At the same time, there can be no doubt that modern Italian art is in
many respects as bad as it was once good.  I will confine myself to
painting only.  The modern Italian painters, with very few exceptions,
paint as badly as we do, or even worse, and their motives are as poor as
is their painting.  At an exhibition of modern Italian pictures, I
generally feel that there is hardly a picture on the walls but is a
sham—that is to say, painted not from love of this particular subject and
an irresistible desire to paint it, but from a wish to paint an academy
picture, and win money or applause.

The same holds good in England, and in all other countries that I know
of.  There is very little tolerable painting anywhere.  In some kinds,
indeed, of black and white work the present age is strong.  The
illustrations to “Punch,” for example, are often as good as anything that
can be imagined.  We know of nothing like them in any past age or
country.  This is the one kind of art—and it is a very good one—in which
we excel as distinctly as the age of Phidias excelled in sculpture.
Leonardo da Vinci would never have succeeded in getting his drawings
accepted at 85 Fleet Street, any more than one of the artists on the
staff of “Punch” could paint a fresco which should hold its own against
Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  Michael Angelo again and Titian would have
failed disastrously at modern illustration.  They had no more sense of
humour than a Hebrew prophet; they had no eye for the more trivial side
of anything round about them.  This aspect went in at one eye and out at
the other—and they lost more than ever poor Peter Bell lost in the matter
of primroses.  I never can see what there was to find fault with in that
young man.

Fancy a street-Arab by Michael Angelo.  Fancy even the result which would
have ensued if he had tried to put the figures into the illustrations of
this book.  I should have been very sorry to let him try his hand at it.
To him a priest chucking a small boy under the chin was simply
non-existent.  He did not care for it, and had therefore no eye for it.
If the reader will turn to the copy of a fresco of St. Christopher on p.
209, he will see the conventional treatment of the rocks on either side
the saint.  This was the best thing the artist could do, and probably
cost him no little trouble.  Yet there were rocks all around him—little,
in fact, else than rock in those days; and the artist could have drawn
them well enough if it had occurred to him to try and do so.  If he could
draw St. Christopher, he could have drawn a rock; but he had an interest
in the one, and saw nothing in the other which made him think it worth
while to pay attention to it.  What rocks were to him, the common
occurrences of everyday life were to those who are generally held to be
the giants of painting.  The result of this neglect to kiss the soil—of
this attempt to be always soaring—is that these giants are for the most
part now very uninteresting, while the smaller men who preceded them grow
fresher and more delightful yearly.  It was not so with Handel and
Shakespeare.  Handel’s

    “Ploughman near at hand, whistling o’er the furrowed land,”

is intensely sympathetic, and his humour is admirable whenever he has
occasion for it.

Leonardo da Vinci is the only one of the giant Italian masters who ever
tried to be humorous, and he failed completely: so, indeed, must any one
if he tries to be humorous.  We do not want this; we only want them not
to shut their eyes to by-play when it comes in their way, and if they are
giving us an account of what they have seen, to tell us something about
this too.  I believe the older the world grows, the better it enjoys a
joke.  The mediæval joke generally was a heavy, lumbering old thing, only
a little better than the classical one.  Perhaps in those days life was
harder than it is now, and people if they looked at it at all closely
dwelt upon its soberer side.  Certainly in humorous art, we may claim to
be not only _principes_, but _facile principes_.  Nevertheless, the
Italian comic journals are, some of them, admirably illustrated, though
in a style quite different from our own; sometimes, also, they are
beautifully coloured.

As regards painting, the last rays of the sunset of genuine art are to be
found in the votive pictures at Locarno or Oropa, and in many a wayside
chapel.  In these, religious art still lingers as a living language,
however rudely spoken.  In these alone is the story told, not as in the
Latin and Greek verses of the scholar, who thinks he has succeeded best
when he has most concealed his natural manner of expressing himself, but
by one who knows what he wants to say, and says it in his mother-tongue,
shortly, and without caring whether or not his words are in accordance
with academic rules.  I regret to see photography being introduced for
votive purposes, and also to detect in some places a disposition on the
part of the authorities to be a little ashamed of these pictures and to
place them rather out of sight.

                      [Picture: Paradiso! Paradiso!]

Sometimes in a little country village, as at Doera near Mesocco, there is
a modern fresco on a chapel in which the old spirit appears, with its
absolute indifference as to whether it was ridiculous or no, but such
examples are rare.

Sometimes, again, I have even thought I have detected a ray of sunset
upon a milkman’s window-blind in London, and once upon an undertaker’s,
but it was too faint a ray to read by.  The best thing of the kind that I
have seen in London is the picture of the lady who is cleaning knives
with Mr. Spong’s patent knife-cleaner, in his shop window nearly opposite
Day & Martin’s in Holborn.  It falls a long way short, however, of a good
Italian votive picture: but it has the advantage of moving.

I knew of a little girl once, rather less than four years old, whose
uncle had promised to take her for a drive in a carriage with him, and
had failed to do so.  The child was found soon afterwards on the stairs
weeping, and being asked what was the matter, replied, “Mans is all
alike.”  This is Giottesque.  I often think of it as I look upon Italian
votive pictures.  The meaning is so sound in spite of the expression
being so defective—if, indeed, expression can be defective when it has so
well conveyed the meaning.

I knew, again, an old lady whose education had been neglected in her
youth.  She came into a large fortune, and at some forty years of age put
herself under the best masters.  She once said to me as follows, speaking
very slowly and allowing a long time between each part of the
sentence;—“You see,” she said, “the world, and all that it contains, is
wrapped up in such curious forms, that it is only by a knowledge of human
nature, that we can rightly tell what to say, to do, or to admire.”  I
copied the sentence into my notebook immediately on taking my leave.  It
is like an academy picture.

But to return to the Italians.  The question is, how has the deplorable
falling-off in Italian painting been caused?  And by doing what may we
again get Bellinis and Andrea Mantegnas as in old time?  The fault does
not lie in any want of raw material: the drawings I have already given
prove this.  Nor, again, does it lie in want of taking pains.  The modern
Italian painter frets himself to the full as much as his predecessor
did—if the truth were known, probably a great deal more.  It does not lie
in want of schooling or art education.  For the last three hundred years,
ever since the Carracci opened their academy at Bologna, there has been
no lack of art education in Italy.  Curiously enough, the date of the
opening of the Bolognese Academy coincides as nearly as may be with the
complete decadence of Italian painting.

                    [Picture: By an Italian Schoolboy]

This is an example of the way in which Italian boys begin their art
education now.  The drawing which I reproduce here was given me by the
eminent sculptor, Professor Vela, as the work of a lad of twelve years
old, and as doing credit alike to the school where the lad was taught and
to the pupil himself. {147}

So it undoubtedly does.  It shows as plainly the receptiveness and
docility of the modern Italian, as the illustrations given above show his
freshness and naïveté when left to himself.  The drawing is just such as
we try to get our own young people to do, and few English elementary
schools in a small country town would succeed in turning out so good a
one.  I have nothing, therefore, but praise both for the pupil and the
teacher; but about the system which makes such teachers and such pupils
commendable, I am more sceptical.  That system trains boys to study other
people’s works rather than nature, and, as Leonardo da Vinci so well
says, it makes them nature’s grandchildren and not her children.  The boy
who did the drawing given above is not likely to produce good work in
later life.  He has been taught to see nature with an old man’s eyes at
once, without going through the embryonic stages.  He has never said his
“mans is all alike,” and by twenty will be painting like my old friend’s
long academic sentence.  All his individuality has been crushed out of
him.

I will now give a reproduction of the frontispiece to Avogadro’s work on
the sanctuary of S. Michele, from which I have already quoted; it is a
very pretty and effective piece of work, but those who are good enough to
turn back to p. 93, and to believe that I have drawn carefully, will see
how disappointing Avogadro’s frontispiece must be to those who hold, as
most of us will, that a draughtsman’s first business is to put down what
he sees, and to let prettiness take care of itself.  The main features,
indeed, can still be traced, but they have become as transformed and
lifeless as rudimentary organs.  Such a frontispiece, however, is the
almost inevitable consequence of the system of training that will make
boys of twelve do drawings like the one given on p. 147.

If half a dozen young Italians could be got together with a taste for
drawing like that shown by the authors of the sketches on pp. 136, 137,
138; if they had power to add to their number; if they were allowed to
see paintings and drawings done up to the year A.D. 1510, and votive
pictures and the comic papers; if they were left with no other assistance
than this, absolutely free to please themselves, and could be persuaded
not to try and please any one else, I believe that in fifty years we
should have all that was ever done repeated with fresh naïveté, and as
much more delightfully than even by the best old masters, as these are
more delightful than anything we know of in classic painting.  The young
plants keep growing up abundantly every day—look at Bastianini, dead not
ten years since—but they are browsed down by the academies.  I remember
there came out a book many years ago with the title, “What becomes of all
the clever little children?”  I never saw the book, but the title is
pertinent.

                 [Picture: Avogadro’s View of S. Michele]

Any man who can write, can draw to a not inconsiderable extent.  Look at
the Bayeux tapestry; yet Matilda probably never had a drawing lesson in
her life.  See how well prisoner after prisoner in the Tower of London
has cut this or that out in the stone of his prison wall, without, in all
probability, having ever tried his hand at drawing before.  Look at my
friend Jones, who has several illustrations in this book.  The first year
he went abroad with me he could hardly draw at all.  He was no year away
from England more than three weeks.  How did he learn?  On the old
principle, if I am not mistaken.  The old principle was for a man to be
doing something which he was pretty strongly bent on doing, and to get a
much younger one to help him.  The younger paid nothing for instruction,
but the elder took the work, as long as the relation of master and pupil
existed between them.  I, then, was making illustrations for this book,
and got Jones to help me.  I let him see what I was doing, and derive an
idea of the sort of thing I wanted, and then left him alone—beyond giving
him the same kind of small criticism that I expected from himself—but I
appropriated his work.  That is the way to teach, and the result was that
in an incredibly short time Jones could draw.  The taking the work is a
_sine quâ non_.  If I had not been going to have his work, Jones, in
spite of all his quickness, would probably have been rather slower in
learning to draw.  Being paid in money is nothing like so good.

This is the system of apprenticeship _versus_ the academic system.  The
academic system consists in giving people the rules for doing things.
The apprenticeship system consists in letting them do it, with just a
trifle of supervision.  “For all a rhetorician’s rules,” says my great
namesake, “teach nothing, but to name his tools;” and academic rules
generally are much the same as the rhetorician’s.  Some men can pass
through academies unscathed, but they are very few, and in the main the
academic influence is a baleful one, whether exerted in a university or a
school.  While young men at universities are being prepared for their
entry into life, their rivals have already entered it.  The most
university and examination ridden people in the world are the Chinese,
and they are the least progressive.

Men should learn to draw as they learn conveyancing: they should go into
a painter’s studio and paint on his pictures.  I am told that half the
conveyances in the country are drawn by pupils; there is no more mystery
about painting than about conveyancing—not half in fact, I should think,
so much.  One may ask, How can the beginner paint, or draw conveyances,
till he has learnt how to do so?  The answer is, How can he learn,
without at any rate trying to do?  If he likes his subject, he will try:
if he tries, he will soon succeed in doing something which shall open a
door.  It does not matter what a man does; so long as he does it with the
attention which affection engenders, he will come to see his way to
something else.  After long waiting he will certainly find one door open,
and go through it.  He will say to himself that he can never find
another.  He has found this, more by luck than cunning, but now he is
done.  Yet by and by he will see that there is _one_ more small,
unimportant door which he had overlooked, and he proceeds through this
too.  If he remains now for a long while and sees no other, do not let
him fret; doors are like the kingdom of heaven, they come not by
observation, least of all do they come by forcing: let them just go on
doing what comes nearest, but doing it attentively, and a great wide door
will one day spring into existence where there had been no sign of one
but a little time previously.  Only let him be always doing something,
and let him cross himself now and again, for belief in the wondrous
efficacy of crosses and crossing is the corner-stone of the creed of the
evolutionist.  Then after years—but not probably till after a great
many—doors will open up all round, so many and so wide that the
difficulty will not be to find a door, but rather to obtain the means of
even hurriedly surveying a portion of those that stand invitingly open.

I know that just as good a case can be made out for the other side.  It
may be said as truly that unless a student is incessantly on the watch
for doors he will never see them, and that unless he is incessantly
pressing forward to the kingdom of heaven he will never find it—so that
the kingdom does come by observation.  It is with this as with everything
else—there must be a harmonious fusing of two principles which are in
flat contradiction to one another.

The question whether it is better to abide quiet and take advantage of
opportunities that come, or to go further afield in search of them, is
one of the oldest which living beings have had to deal with.  It was on
this that the first great schism or heresy arose in what was heretofore
the catholic faith of protoplasm.  The schism still lasts, and has
resulted in two great sects—animals and plants.  The opinion that it is
better to go in search of prey is formulated in animals; the other—that
it is better on the whole to stay at home and profit by what comes—in
plants.  Some intermediate forms still record to us the long struggle
during which the schism was not yet complete.

If I may be pardoned for pursuing this digression further, I would say
that it is the plants and not we who are the heretics.  There can be no
question about this; we are perfectly justified, therefore, in devouring
them.  Ours is the original and orthodox belief, for protoplasm is much
more animal than vegetable; it is much more true to say that plants have
descended from animals than animals from plants.  Nevertheless, like many
other heretics, plants have thriven very fairly well.  There are a great
many of them, and as regards beauty, if not wit—of a limited kind indeed,
but still wit—it is hard to say that the animal kingdom has the
advantage.  The views of plants are sadly narrow; all dissenters are
narrow-minded; but within their own bounds they know the details of their
business sufficiently well—as well as though they kept the most
nicely-balanced system of accounts to show them their position.  They are
eaten, it is true; to eat them is our bigoted and intolerant way of
trying to convert them: eating is only a violent mode of proselytising or
converting; and we do convert them—to good animal substance, of our own
way of thinking.  But then, animals are eaten too.  They convert one
another, almost as much as they convert plants.  And an animal is no
sooner dead than a plant will convert it back again.  It is obvious,
however, that no schism could have been so long successful, without
having a good deal to say for itself.

Neither party has been quite consistent.  Who ever is or can be?  Every
extreme—every opinion carried to its logical end—will prove to be an
absurdity.  Plants throw out roots and boughs and leaves; this is a kind
of locomotion; and as Dr. Erasmus Darwin long since pointed out, they do
sometimes approach nearly to what may be called travelling; a man of
consistent character will never look at a bough, a root, or a tendril
without regarding it as a melancholy and unprincipled compromise.  On the
other hand, many animals are sessile, and some singularly successful
genera, as spiders, are in the main liers-in-wait.  It may appear,
however, on the whole, like reopening a settled question to uphold the
principle of being busy and attentive over a small area, rather than
going to and fro over a larger one, for a mammal like man, but I think
most readers will be with me in thinking that, at any rate as regards art
and literature, it is he who does his small immediate work most carefully
who will find doors open most certainly to him, that will conduct him
into the richest chambers.

Many years ago, in New Zealand, I used sometimes to accompany a dray and
team of bullocks who would have to be turned loose at night that they
might feed.  There were no hedges or fences then, so sometimes I could
not find my team in the morning, and had no clue to the direction in
which they had gone.  At first I used to try and throw my soul into the
bullocks’ souls, so as to divine if possible what they would be likely to
have done, and would then ride off ten miles in the wrong direction.
People used in those days to lose their bullocks sometimes for a week or
fortnight—when they perhaps were all the time hiding in a gully hard by
the place where they were turned out.  After some time I changed my
tactics.  On losing my bullocks I would go to the nearest accommodation
house, and stand occasional drinks to travellers.  Some one would ere
long, as a general rule, turn up who had seen the bullocks.  This case
does not go quite on all fours with what I have been saying above,
inasmuch as I was not very industrious in my limited area; but the
standing drinks and inquiring was being as industrious as the
circumstances would allow.

To return, universities and academies are an obstacle to the finding of
doors in later life; partly because they push their young men too fast
through doorways that the universities have provided, and so discourage
the habit of being on the look-out for others; and partly because they do
not take pains enough to make sure that their doors are _bonâ fide_ ones.
If, to change the metaphor, an academy has taken a bad shilling, it is
seldom very scrupulous about trying to pass it on.  It will stick to it
that the shilling is a good one as long as the police will let it.  I was
very happy at Cambridge; when I left it I thought I never again could be
so happy anywhere else; I shall ever retain a most kindly recollection
both of Cambridge and of the school where I passed my boyhood; but I
feel, as I think most others must in middle life, that I have spent as
much of my maturer years in unlearning as in learning.

The proper course is for a boy to begin the practical business of life
many years earlier than he now commonly does.  He should begin at the
very bottom of a profession; if possible of one which his family has
pursued before him—for the professions will assuredly one day become
hereditary.  The ideal railway director will have begun at fourteen as a
railway porter.  He need not be a porter for more than a week or ten
days, any more than he need have been a tadpole more than a short time;
but he should take a turn in practice, though briefly, at each of the
lower branches in the profession.  The painter should do just the same.
He should begin by setting his employer’s palette and cleaning his
brushes.  As for the good side of universities, the proper preservative
of this is to be found in the club.

If, then, we are to have a renaissance of art, there must be a complete
standing aloof from the academic system.  That system has had time
enough.  Where and who are its men?  Can it point to one painter who can
hold his own with the men of, say, from 1450 to 1550?  Academies will
bring out men who can paint hair very like hair, and eyes very like eyes,
but this is not enough.  This is grammar and deportment; we want it and a
kindly nature, and these cannot be got from academies.  As far as mere
_technique_ is concerned, almost every one now can paint as well as is in
the least desirable.  The same _mutatis mutandis_ holds good with writing
as with painting.  We want less word-painting and fine phrases, and more
observation at first-hand.  Let us have a periodical illustrated by
people who cannot draw, and written by people who cannot write (perhaps,
however, after all, we have some), but who look and think for themselves,
and express themselves just as they please,—and this we certainly have
not.  Every contributor should be at once turned out if he or she is
generally believed to have tried to do something which he or she did not
care about trying to do, and anything should be admitted which is the
outcome of a genuine liking.  People are always good company when they
are doing what they really enjoy.  A cat is good company when it is
purring, or a dog when it is wagging its tail.

The sketching clubs up and down the country might form the nucleus of
such a society, provided all professional men were rigorously excluded.
As for the old masters, the better plan would be never even to look at
one of them, and to consign Raffaelle, along with Plato, Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus, Dante, Goethe, and two others, neither of them Englishmen, to
limbo, as the Seven Humbugs of Christendom.

While we are about it, let us leave off talking about “art for art’s
sake.”  Who is art that it should have a sake?  A work of art should be
produced for the pleasure it gives the producer, and the pleasure he
thinks it will give to a few of whom he is fond; but neither money nor
people whom he does not know personally should be thought of.  Of course
such a society as I have proposed would not remain incorrupt long.
“Everything that grows, holds in perfection but a little moment.”  The
members would try to imitate professional men in spite of their rules,
or, if they escaped this and after a while got to paint well, they would
become dogmatic, and a rebellion against their authority would be as
necessary ere long as it was against that of their predecessors: but the
balance on the whole would be to the good.

Professional men should be excluded, if for no other reason yet for this,
that they know too much for the beginner to be _en rapport_ with them.
It is the beginner who can help the beginner, as it is the child who is
the most instructive companion for another child.  The beginner can
understand the beginner, but the cross between him and the proficient
performer is too wide for fertility.  It savours of impatience, and is in
flat contradiction to the first principles of biology.  It does a
beginner positive harm to look at the masterpieces of the great
executionists, such as Rembrandt or Turner.

If one is climbing a very high mountain which will tax all one’s
strength, nothing fatigues so much as casting upward glances to the top,
nothing encourages so much as casting downward glances.  The top seems
never to draw nearer; the parts that we have passed retreat rapidly.  Let
a water-colour student go and see the drawing by Turner, in the basement
of our National Gallery, dated 1787.  This is the sort of thing for him,
not to copy, but to look at for a minute or two now and again.  It will
show him nothing about painting, but it may serve to teach him not to
overtax his strength, and will prove to him that the greatest masters in
painting, as in everything else, begin by doing work which is no way
superior to that of their neighbours.  A collection of the earliest known
works of the greatest men would be much more useful to the student than
any number of their maturer works, for it would show him that he need not
worry himself because his work does not look clever, or as silly people
say, “show power.”

The secrets of success are affection for the pursuit chosen, a flat
refusal to be hurried or to pass anything as understood which is not
understood, and an obstinacy of character which shall make the student’s
friends find it less trouble to let him have his own way than to bend him
into theirs.  Our schools and academies or universities are covertly, but
essentially, radical institutions and abhorrent to the genius of
Conservatism.  Their sin is the true radical sin of being in too great a
hurry, and of believing in short cuts too soon.  But it must be
remembered that this proposition, like every other, wants tempering with
a slight infusion of its direct opposite.

I said in an early part of this book that the best test to know whether
or no one likes a picture is to ask one’s self whether one would like to
look at it if one was quite sure one was alone.  The best test for a
painter as to whether he likes painting his picture is to ask himself
whether he should like to paint it if he was quite sure that no one
except himself, and the few of whom he was very fond, would ever see it.
If he can answer this question in the affirmative, he is all right; if he
cannot, he is all wrong.  I will close these remarks with an illustration
which will show how nearly we can approach the early Florentines even
now—when nobody is looking at us.  I do not know who Mr. Pollard is.  I
never heard of him till I came across a cheap lithograph of his Funeral
of Tom Moody in the parlour of a village inn.  I should not think he ever
was an R.A., but he has approached as nearly as the difference between
the geniuses of the two countries will allow, to the spirit of the
painters who painted in the Campo Santo at Pisa.  Look, again, at
Garrard, at the close of the last century.  We generally succeed with
sporting or quasi-sporting subjects, and our cheap coloured coaching and
hunting subjects are almost always good, and often very good indeed.  We
like these things: therefore we observe them; therefore we soon become
able to express them.  Historical and costume pictures we have no genuine
love for; we do not, therefore, go beyond repeating commonplaces
concerning them.

                     [Picture: Funeral of Tom Moody]

I must reserve other remarks upon this subject for another occasion.



Chapter XIII
Viù, Fucine, and S. Ignazio


I MUST now return to my young friend at Groscavallo.  I have published
his drawings without his permission, having unfortunately lost his name
and address, and being unable therefore to apply to him.  I hope that,
should they ever meet his eye, he will accept this apology and the
assurance of my most profound consideration.

Delighted as I had been with his proposed illustrations, I thought I had
better hear some of the letterpress, so I begged him to read me his MS.
My time was short, and he began at once.  The few introductory pages were
very nice, but there was nothing particularly noticeable about them;
when, however, he came to his description of the place where we now were,
he spoke of a beautiful young lady as attracting his attention on the
evening of his arrival.  It seemed that she was as much struck with him
as he with her, and I thought we were going to have a romance, when he
proceeded as follows: “We perceived that we were sympathetic, and in less
than a [Picture: S. Ignazio, near Lanzo] quarter of an hour had exchanged
the most solemn vows that we would never marry one another.”  “What?”
said I, hardly able to believe my ears, “will you kindly read those last
words over again?”  He did so, slowly and distinctly; I caught them
beyond all power of mistake, and they were as I have given them
above:—“We perceived that we were sympathetic, and in less than a quarter
of an hour had exchanged the most solemn vows that we would never marry
one another.”  While I was rubbing my eyes and making up my mind whether
I had stumbled upon a great satirist or no, I heard a voice from
below—“Signor Butler, Signor Butler, la vettura è pronta.”  I had
therefore to leave my doubt unsolved, but all the time as we drove down
the valley I had the words above quoted ringing in my head.  If ever any
of my readers come across the book itself—for I should hope it will be
published—I should be very grateful to them if they will direct my
attention to it.

[Picture: Fresco near Ceres] Another day I went to Ceres, and returned on
foot _viâ_ S. Ignazio.  S. Ignazio is a famous sanctuary on the very top
of a mountain, like that of Sammichele; but it is late, the St. Ignatius
being St. Ignatius Loyola, and not the apostolic father.  I got my dinner
at a village inn at the foot of the mountain, and from the window caught
sight of a fresco upon the wall of a chapel a few yards off.  There was a
companion to it hardly less interesting, but I had not time to sketch it.
I do not know what the one I give is intended to represent.  St. Ignatius
is upon a rock, and is pleased with something, but there is nothing to
show what it is, except his attitude, which seems to say, “Senza far
fatica,”—“You see I can do it quite easily,” or, “There is no deception.”
Nor do we easily gather what it is that the Roman centurion is saying to
St. Ignatius.  I cannot make up my mind whether he is merely warning him
to beware of the reaction, or whether he is a little scandalised.

                          [Picture: Viù Church]

From this village I went up the mountain to the sanctuary of S. Ignazio
itself, which looks well from the distance, and commands a striking view,
but contains nothing of interest, except a few nice votive pictures.

From Lanzo I went to Viù, a summer resort largely frequented by the
Turinese, but rarely visited by English people.  There is a good inn at
Viù—the one close to where the public conveyance stops—and the
neighbourhood is enchanting.  The little village on the crest of the hill
in the distance, to the left of the church, as shown on the preceding
page, is called the Colma di S. Giovanni, and is well worth a visit.  In
spring, before the grass is cut, the pastures must be even better than
when I saw them in August, and they were then still of almost incredible
beauty.

I went to S. Giovanni by the directest way—descending, that is, to the
level of the Stura, crossing it, and then going straight up the mountain.
I returned by a slight detour so as to take the village of Fucine, a
_frazione_ of Viù a little higher up the river.  I found many picturesque
bits; among them the one which I give on the next page.  It was a grand
_festa_; first they had had mass, then there had been the _funzioni_,
which I never quite understand, and thenceforth till sundown there was a
public ball on the bowling ground of a little inn on the Viù side of the
bridge.  The principal inn is on the other side.  It was here I went and
ordered dinner.  The landlady brought me a _minestra_, or hodge-podge
soup, full of savoury vegetables, and very good; a nice cutlet fried in
bread-crumbs, bread and butter _ad libitum_, and half a bottle of
excellent wine.  She brought all together on a tray, and put them down on
the table.  “It’ll come to a franc,” said she, “in all, but please to pay
first.”  I did so, of course, and she was satisfied.  A day or two
afterwards I went to the same inn, hoping to dine as well and cheaply as
before; but I think they must have discovered that I was a _forestiere
__inglese_ in the meantime, for they did not make me pay first, and
charged me normal prices.

                       [Picture: Fucine, near Viù]

What pretty words they have!  While eating my dinner I wanted a small
plate and asked for it.  The landlady changed the word I had used, and
told a girl to bring me a _tondino_.  A _tondino_ is an abbreviation of
_rotondino_, a “little round thing.”  A plate is a _tondo_, a small plate
a _tondino_.  The delicacy of expression which their diminutives and
intensitives give is untranslateable.  One day I was asking after a
waiter whom I had known in previous years, but who was ill.  I said I
hoped he was not badly off.  “Oh dear, no,” was the answer; “he has a
_discreta posizionina_”—“a snug little sum put by.”  “Is the road to such
and such a place difficult?” I once inquired.  “Un tantino,” was the
answer.  “Ever such a very little,” I suppose, is as near as we can get
to this.  At one inn I asked whether I could have my linen back from the
wash by a certain time, and was told it was _impossibilissimo_.  I have
an Italian friend long resident in England who often introduces English
words when talking with me in Italian.  Thus I have heard him say that
such and such a thing is _tanto cheapissimo_.  As for their gestures,
they are inimitable.  To say nothing of the pretty little way in which
they say “no,” by moving the forefinger backwards and forwards once or
twice, they have a hundred movements to save themselves the trouble of
speaking, which say what they have to say better than any words can do.
It is delightful to see an Italian move his hand in such way as to show
you that you have got to go round a corner.  Gesture is easier both to
make and to understand than speech is.  Speech is a late acquisition, and
in critical moments is commonly discarded in favour of gesture, which is
older and more habitual.

I once saw an Italian explaining something to another and tapping his
nose a great deal.  He became more and more confidential, and the more
confidential he became, the more he tapped, till his finger seemed to
become glued to, and almost grow into his nose.  At last the supreme
moment came.  He drew the finger down, pressing it closely against his
lower lip, so as to drag it all down and show his gums and the roots of
his teeth.  “There,” he seemed to say, “you now know all: consider me as
turned inside out: my mucous membrane is before you.”

At Fucine, and indeed in all the valleys hereabout, spinning-wheels are
not uncommon.  I also saw a woman sitting in her room with the door
opening on to the street, weaving linen at a hand-loom.  The woman and
the hand-loom were both very old and rickety.  The first and the last
specimens of anything, whether animal or vegetable organism, or machine,
or institution, are seldom quite satisfactory.  Some five or six years
ago I saw an old gentleman sitting outside the St. Lawrence Hall at
Montreal, in Canada, and wearing a pigtail, but it was not a good
pigtail; and when the Scotch baron killed the last wolf in Scotland, it
was probably a weak, mangy old thing, capable of little further mischief.

Presently I walked a mile or two up the river, and met a godfather coming
along with a cradle on his shoulder; he was followed by two women, one
carrying some long wax candles, and the other something wrapped up in a
piece of brown paper; they were going to get the child christened at
Fucine.  Soon after I met a priest, and bowed, as a matter of course.  In
towns or places where many foreigners come and go this is unnecessary,
but in small out-of-the-way places one should take one’s hat off to the
priest.  I mention this because many Englishmen do not know that it is
expected of them, and neglect the accustomed courtesy through ignorance.
Surely, even here in England, if one is in a small country village, off
one’s beat, and meets the clergyman, it is more polite than not to take
off one’s hat.

Viù is one of the places from which pilgrims ascend the Rocca Melone at
the beginning of August.  This is one of the most popular and remarkable
pilgrimages of North Italy; the Rocca Melone is 11,000 feet high, and
forms a peak so sharp, that there is room for little else than the small
wooden chapel which stands at the top of it.  There is no accommodation
whatever, except at some rough barracks (so I have been told) some
thousands of feet below the summit.  These, I was informed, are sometimes
so crowded that the people doze standing, and the cold at night is
intense, unless under the shelter just referred to; yet some five or six
thousand pilgrims ascend on the day and night of the _festa_—chiefly from
Susa, but also from all parts of the valleys of the Dora and the Stura.
They leave Susa early in the morning, camp out or get shelter in the
barracks that evening, reaching the chapel at the top of the Rocca Melone
next day.  I have not made the ascent myself, but it would probably be
worth making by one who did not mind the fatigue.

I may mention that thatch is not uncommon in the Stura valley.  In the
Val Mastallone, and more especially between Civiasco (above Varallo) and
Orta, thatch is more common still, and the thatching is often very
beautifully done.  Thatch in a stone country is an indication of German,
or at any rate Cisalpine descent, and is among the many proofs of the
extent to which German races crossed the Alps and spread far down over
Piedmont and Lombardy.  I was more struck with traces of German influence
on the path from Pella on the Lago d’Orta, to the Colma on the way to
Varallo, than perhaps anywhere else.  The churches have a tendency to
have pure spires—a thing never seen in Italy proper; clipped yews and
box-trees are common; there are lime-trees in the churchyards, and thatch
is the rule, not the exception.  At Rimella in the Val Mastallone, not
far off, German is still the current language.  As I sat sketching, a
woman came up to me, and said, “Was machen sic?” as a matter of course.
Rimella is the highest village in its valley, yet if one crosses the
saddle at the head of the valley, one does not descend upon a
German-speaking district; one descends on the Val Anzasca, where Italian
is universally spoken.  Until recently German was the language of many
other villages at the heads of valleys, even though these valleys were
themselves entirely surrounded by Italian-speaking people.  At Alagna in
the Val Sesia, German is still spoken.

Whatever their origin, however, the people are now thoroughly
Italianised.  Nevertheless, as I have already said, it is strange what a
number of people one meets among them, whom most people would
unhesitatingly pronounce to be English if asked to name their
nationality.



Chapter XIV
Sanctuary of Oropa


FROM Lanzo I went back to Turin, where Jones again joined me, and we
resolved to go and see the famous sanctuary of Oropa near Biella.  Biella
is about three hours’ railway journey from Turin.  It is reached by a
branch line of some twenty miles, that leaves the main line between Turin
and Milan at Santhià.  Except the view of the Alps, which in clear
weather cannot be surpassed, there is nothing of very particular interest
between Turin and Santhià, nor need Santhià detain the traveller longer
than he can help.  Biella we found to consist of an upper and a lower
town—the upper, as may be supposed, being the older.  It is at the very
junction of the plain and the mountains, and is a thriving place, with
more of the busy air of an English commercial town than perhaps any other
of its size in North Italy.  Even in the old town large rambling old
_palazzi_ have been converted into factories, and the click of the
shuttle is heard in unexpected places.

We were unable to find that Biella contains any remarkable pictures or
other works of art, though they are doubtless to be found by those who
have the time to look for them.  There is a very fine _campanile_ near
the post-office, and an old brick baptistery, also hard by; but the
church to which both _campanile_ and baptistery belonged, has, as the
author of “Round about London” so well says, been “utterly restored;” it
cannot be uglier than what we sometimes do, but it is quite as ugly.  We
found an Italian opera company in Biella; peeping through a grating, as
many others were doing, we watched the company rehearsing “La forza del
destino,” which was to be given later in the week.

The morning after our arrival, we took the daily diligence for Oropa,
leaving Biella at eight o’clock.  Before we were clear of the town we
could see the long line of the hospice, and the chapels dotted about near
it, high up in a valley at some distance off; presently we were shown
another fine building some eight or nine miles away, which we were told
was the sanctuary of Graglia.  About this time the pictures and
statuettes of the Madonna began to change their hue and to become
black—for the sacred image of Oropa being black, all the Madonnas in her
immediate neighbourhood are of the same complexion.  Underneath some of
them is written, “Nigra sum sed sum formosa,” which, as a rule, was more
true as regards the first epithet than the second.

It was not market-day, but streams of people were coming to the town.
Many of them were pilgrims returning from the sanctuary, but more were
bringing the produce of their farms, or the work of their hands for sale.
We had to face a steady stream of chairs, which were coming to town in
baskets upon women’s heads.  Each basket contained twelve chairs, though
whether it is correct to say that the basket contained the chairs—when
the chairs were all, so to say, froth running over the top of the
basket—is a point I cannot settle.  Certainly we had never seen anything
like so many chairs before, and felt almost as though we had surprised
nature in the laboratory wherefrom she turns out the chair supply of the
world.  The road continued through a succession of villages almost
running into one another for a long way after Biella was passed, but
everywhere we noticed the same air of busy thriving industry which we had
seen in Biella itself.  We noted also that a preponderance of the people
had light hair, while that of the children was frequently nearly white,
as though the infusion of German blood was here stronger even than usual.
Though so thickly peopled, the country was of great beauty.  Near at hand
were the most exquisite pastures close shaven after their second mowing,
gay with autumnal crocuses, and shaded with stately chestnuts; beyond
were rugged mountains, in a combe on one of which we saw Oropa itself now
gradually nearing; behind and below, many villages with vineyards and
terraces cultivated to the highest perfection; further on, Biella already
distant, and beyond this a “big stare,” as an American might say, over
the plains of Lombardy from Turin to Milan, with the Apennines from Genoa
to Bologna hemming the horizon.  On the road immediate before us, we
still faced the same steady stream of chairs flowing ever Biella-ward.

After a couple of hours the houses became more rare; we got above the
sources of the chair-stream; bits of rough rock began to jut out from the
pasture; here and there the rhododendron began to show itself by the
roadside; the chestnuts left off along a line as level as though cut with
a knife; stone-roofed _cascine_ began to abound, with goats and cattle
feeding near them; the booths of the religious trinket-mongers increased;
the blind, halt, and maimed became more importunate, and the
foot-passengers were more entirely composed of those whose object was, or
had been, a visit to the sanctuary itself.  The numbers of these
pilgrims—generally in their Sunday’s best, and often comprising the
greater part of a family—were so great, though there was no special
_festa_, as to testify to the popularity of the institution.  They
generally walked barefoot, and carried their shoes and stockings; their
baggage consisted of a few spare clothes, a little food, and a pot or pan
or two to cook with.  Many of them looked very tired, and had evidently
tramped from long distances—indeed, we saw costumes belonging to valleys
which could not be less than two or three days distant.  They were almost
invariably quiet, respectable, and decently clad, sometimes a little
merry, but never noisy, and none of them tipsy.  As we travelled along
the road, we must have fallen in with several hundreds of these pilgrims
coming and going; nor is this likely to be an extravagant estimate,
seeing that the hospice can make up more than five thousand beds.  By
eleven we were at the sanctuary itself.

               [Picture: Façade of the Sanctuary of Oropa]

Fancy a quiet upland valley, the floor of which is about the same height
as the top of Snowdon, shut in by lofty mountains upon three sides, while
on the fourth the eye wanders at will over the plains below.  Fancy
finding a level space in such a valley watered by a beautiful mountain
stream, and nearly filled by a pile of collegiate buildings, not less
important than those, we will say, of Trinity College, Cambridge.  True,
Oropa is not in the least like Trinity, except that one of its courts is
large, grassy, has a chapel and a fountain in it, and rooms all round it;
but I do not know how better to give a rough description of Oropa than by
comparing it with one of our largest English colleges.

The buildings consist of two main courts.  The first comprises a couple
of modern wings, connected by the magnificent façade of what is now the
second or inner court.  This façade dates from about the middle of the
seventeenth century; its lowest storey is formed by an open colonnade,
and the whole stands upon a raised terrace from which a noble flight of
steps descends into the outer court.

Ascending the steps and passing under the colonnade, we found ourselves
in the second or inner court, which is a complete quadrangle, and is, we
were told, of rather older date than the façade.  This is the quadrangle
which gives its collegiate character to Oropa.  It is surrounded by
cloisters on three sides, on to which the rooms in which the pilgrims are
lodged open—those at least that are on the ground-floor, for there are
three storeys.  The chapel, which was dedicated in the year 1600, juts
out into the court upon the north-east side.  On the north-west and
south-west sides are entrances through which one may pass to the open
country.  The grass, at the time of our visit, was for the most part
covered with sheets spread out to dry.  They looked very nice, and, dried
on such grass and in such an air, they must be delicious to sleep on.
There is, indeed, rather an appearance as though it were a perpetual
washing-day at Oropa, but this is not to be wondered at considering the
numbers of comers and goers; besides, people in Italy do not make so much
fuss about trifles as we do.  If they want to wash their sheets and dry
them, they do not send them to Ealing, but lay them out in the first
place that comes handy, and nobody’s bones are broken.

               [Picture: Inner Court of Sanctuary of Oropa]



Chapter XV
Oropa (_continued_)


[Picture: Chapels at Oropa] ON the east side of the main block of
buildings there is a grassy slope adorned with chapels that contain
illustrating scenes in the history of the Virgin.  These figures are of
terra-cotta, for the most part life-size, and painted up to nature.  In
some cases, if I remember rightly, they have hemp or flax for hair, as at
Varallo, and throughout realism is aimed at as far as possible, not only
in the figures, but in the accessories.  We have very little of the same
kind in England.  In the Tower of London there is an effigy of Queen
Elizabeth going to the city to give thanks for the defeat of the Spanish
Armada.  This looks as if it might have been the work of some one of the
Valsesian sculptors.  There are also the figures that strike the quarters
of Sir John Bennett’s city clock in Cheapside.  The automatic movements
of these last-named figures would have struck the originators of the
Varallo chapels with envy.  They aimed at realism so closely that they
would assuredly have had recourse to clockwork in some one or two of
their chapels; I cannot doubt, for example, that they would have eagerly
welcomed the idea of making the cock crow to Peter by a cuckoo-clock
arrangement, if it had been presented to them.  This opens up the whole
question of realism _versus_ conventionalism in art—a subject much too
large to be treated here.

As I have said, the founders of these Italian chapels aimed at realism.
Each chapel was intended as an illustration, and the desire was to bring
the whole scene more vividly before the faithful by combining the
picture, the statue, and the effect of a scene upon the stage in a single
work of art.  The attempt would be an ambitious one, though made once
only in a neighbourhood, but in most of the places in North Italy where
anything of the kind has been done, the people have not been content with
a single illustration; it has been their scheme to take a mountain as
though it had been a book or wall and cover it with illustrations.  In
some cases—as at Orta, whose Sacro Monte is perhaps the most beautiful of
all as regards the site itself—the failure is complete, but in some of
the chapels at Varese and in many of those at Varallo, great works have
been produced which have not yet attracted as much attention as they
deserve.  It may be doubted, indeed, whether there is a more remarkable
work of art in North Italy than the Crucifixion chapel at Varallo, where
the twenty-five statues, as well as the frescoes behind them, are (with
the exception of the figure of Christ, which has been removed) by
Gaudenzio Ferrari.  It is to be wished that some one of these
chapels—both chapel and sculptures—were reproduced at South Kensington.

Varallo, which is undoubtedly the most interesting sanctuary in North
Italy, has forty-four of these illustrative chapels; Varese, fifteen;
Orta, eighteen; and Oropa, seventeen.  No one is allowed to enter them,
except when repairs are needed; but when these are going on, as is
constantly the case, it is curious to look through the grating into the
somewhat darkened interior, and to see a living figure or two among the
statues; a little motion on the part of a single figure seems to
communicate itself to the rest and make them all more animated.  If the
living figure does not move much, it is easy at first to mistake it for a
terra-cotta one.  At Orta, some years since, looking one evening into a
chapel when the light was fading, I was surprised to see a saint whom I
had not seen before; he had no glory except what shone from a very red
nose; he was smoking a short pipe, and was painting the Virgin Mary’s
face.  The touch was a finishing one, put on with deliberation, slowly,
so that it was two or three seconds before I discovered that the
interloper was no saint.

The figures in the chapels at Oropa are not as good as the best of those
at Varallo, but some of them are very nice notwithstanding.  We liked the
seventh chapel the best—the one which illustrates the sojourn of the
Virgin Mary in the temple.  It contains forty-four figures, and
represents the Virgin on the point of completing her education as head
girl at a high-toned academy for young gentlewomen.  All the young ladies
are at work making mitres for the bishop, or working slippers in Berlin
wool for the new curate, but the Virgin sits on a dais above the others
on the same platform with the venerable lady-principal, who is having
passages read out to her from some standard Hebrew writer.  The statues
are the work of a local sculptor, named Aureggio, who lived at the end of
the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century.

The highest chapel must be a couple of hundred feet above the main
buildings, and from near it there is an excellent bird’s-eye view of the
sanctuary and the small plain behind; descending on to this last, we
entered the quadrangle from the north-west side and visited the chapel in
which the sacred image of the Madonna is contained.  We did not see the
image itself, which is only exposed to public view on great occasions.
It is believed to have been carved by St. Luke the Evangelist.  I must
ask the reader to content himself with the following account of it which
I take from Marocco’s work upon Oropa:—

“That this statue of the Virgin is indeed by St. Luke is attested by St.
Eusebius, a man of eminent piety and no less enlightened than truthful.
St. Eusebius discovered its origin by revelation; and the store which he
set by it is proved by his shrinking from no discomforts in his carriage
of it from a distant country, and by his anxiety to put it in a place of
great security.  His desire, indeed, was to keep it in the spot which was
most near and dear to him, so that he might extract from it the higher
incitement to devotion, and more sensible comfort in the midst of his
austerities and apostolic labours.

“This truth is further confirmed by the quality of the wood from which
the statue is carved, which is commonly believed to be cedar; by the
Eastern character of the work; by the resemblance both of the lineaments
and the colour to those of other statues by St. Luke; by the tradition of
the neighbourhood, which extends in an unbroken and well-assured line to
the time of St. Eusebius himself; by the miracles that have been worked
here by its presence, and elsewhere by its invocation, or even by
indirect contact with it; by the miracles, lastly, which are inherent in
the image itself, {178} and which endure to this day, such as is its
immunity from all worm and from the decay which would naturally have
occurred in it through time and damp—more especially in the feet, through
the rubbing of religious objects against them.

                                * * * * *

“The authenticity of this image is so certainly and clearly established,
that all supposition to the contrary becomes inexplicable and absurd.
Such, for example, is a hypothesis that it should not be attributed to
the Evangelist, but to another Luke, also called ‘Saint,’ and a
Florentine by birth.  This painter lived in the eleventh century—that is
to say, about seven centuries after the image of Oropa had been known and
venerated!  This is indeed an anachronism.

“Other difficulties drawn either from the ancient discipline of the
Church, or from St. Luke the Evangelist’s profession, which was that of a
physician, vanish at once when it is borne in mind—firstly, that the cult
of holy images, and especially of that of the most blessed Virgin, is of
extreme antiquity in the Church, and of apostolic origin as is proved by
ecclesiastical writers and monuments found in the catacombs which date as
far back as the first century (see among other authorities, Nicolas, “La
Vergine vivente nella Chiesa,” lib. iii. cap. iii. § 2); secondly, that
as the medical profession does not exclude that of artist, St. Luke may
have been both artist and physician; that he did actually handle both the
brush and the scalpel is established by respectable and very old
traditions, to say nothing of other arguments which can be found in
impartial and learned writers upon such matters.”

I will only give one more extract.  It runs:—

“In 1855 a celebrated Roman portrait-painter, after having carefully
inspected the image of the Virgin Mary at Oropa, declared it to be
certainly a work of the first century of our era.” {180}

I once saw a common cheap china copy of this Madonna announced as to be
given away with two pounds of tea, in a shop near Hatton Garden.

The church in which the sacred image is kept is interesting from the
pilgrims who at all times frequent it, and from the collection of votive
pictures which adorn its walls.  Except the votive pictures and the
pilgrims the church contains little of interest, and I will pass on to
the constitution and objects of the establishment.

The objects are—1.  Gratuitous lodging to all comers for a space of from
three to nine days as the rector may think fit.  2.  A school.  3.  Help
to the sick and poor.  It is governed by a president and six members, who
form a committee.  Four members are chosen by the communal council, and
two by the cathedral chapter of Biella.  At the hospice itself there
reside a director, with his assistant, a surveyor to keep the fabric in
repair, a rector or dean with six priests, called _cappellani_, and a
medical man.  “The government of the laundry,” so runs the statute on
this head, “and analogous domestic services are entrusted to a competent
number of ladies of sound constitution and good conduct, who live
together in the hospice under the direction of an inspectress, and are
called daughters of Oropa.”

The bye-laws of the establishment are conceived in a kindly genial
spirit, which in great measure accounts for its unmistakeable popularity.
We understood that the poorer visitors, as a general rule, avail
themselves of the gratuitous lodging, without making any present when
they leave, but in spite of this it is quite clear that they are wanted
to come, and come they accordingly do.  It is sometimes difficult to lay
one’s hands upon the exact passages which convey an impression, but as we
read the bye-laws which are posted up in the cloisters, we found
ourselves continually smiling at the manner in which almost anything that
looked like a prohibition could be removed with the consent of the
director.  There is no rule whatever about visitors attending the church;
all that is required of them is that they do not interfere with those who
do.  They must not play games of chance, or noisy games; they must not
make much noise of any sort after ten o’clock at night (which corresponds
about with midnight in England).  They should not draw upon the walls of
their rooms, nor cut the furniture.  They should also keep their rooms
clean, and not cook in those that are more expensively furnished.  This
is about all that they must not do, except fee the servants, which is
most especially and particularly forbidden.  If any one infringes these
rules, he is to be admonished, and in case of grave infraction or
continued misdemeanour he may be expelled and not readmitted.

Visitors who are lodged in the better-furnished apartments can be waited
upon if they apply at the office; the charge is twopence for cleaning a
room, making the bed, bringing water, &c.  If there is more than one bed
in a room, a penny must be paid for every bed over the first.  Boots can
be cleaned for a penny, shoes for a half-penny.  For carrying wood, &c.,
either a halfpenny or a penny will be exacted according to the time
taken.  Payment for these services must not be made to the servant, but
at the office.

The gates close at ten o’clock at night, and open at sunrise, “but if any
visitor wishes to make Alpine excursions, or has any other sufficient
reason, he should let the director know.”  Families occupying many rooms
must—when the hospice is very crowded, and when they have had due
notice—manage to pack themselves into a smaller compass.  No one can have
rooms kept for him.  It is to be strictly “first come, first served.”  No
one must sublet his room.  Visitors must not go away without giving up
the key of their room.  Candles and wood may be bought at a fixed price.

Any one wishing to give anything to the support of the hospice must do so
only to the director, the official who appoints the apartments, the dean
or the _cappellani_, or to the inspectress of the daughters of Oropa, but
they must have a receipt for even the smallest sum; alms-boxes, however,
are placed here and there, into which the smaller offerings may be
dropped (we imagine this means anything under a franc).

The poor will be fed as well as housed for three days
gratuitously—provided their health does not require a longer stay; but
they must not beg on the premises of the hospice; professional beggars
will be at once handed over to the mendicity society in Biella, or even
perhaps to prison.  The poor for whom a hydropathic course is
recommended, can have it under the regulations made by the committee—that
is to say, if there is a vacant place.

There are _trattorie_ and cafés at the hospice, where refreshments may be
obtained both good and cheap.  Meat is to be sold there at the prices
current in Biella; bread at two centimes the chilogramma more, to pay for
the cost of carriage.

Such are the bye-laws of this remarkable institution.  Few except the
very rich are so under-worked that two or three days of change and rest
are not at times a boon to them, while the mere knowledge that there is a
place where repose can be had cheaply and pleasantly is itself a source
of strength.  Here, so long as the visitor wishes to be merely housed, no
questions are asked; no one is refused admittance, except for some
obviously sufficient reason; it is like getting a reading ticket for the
British Museum, there is practically but one test—that is to say, desire
on the part of the visitor—the coming proves the desire, and this
suffices.  A family, we will say, has just gathered its first harvest;
the heat on the plains is intense, and the malaria from the rice grounds
little less than pestilential; what, then, can be nicer than to lock up
the house and go for three days to the bracing mountain air of Oropa?  So
at daybreak off they all start, trudging, it may be, their thirty or
forty miles, and reaching Oropa by nightfall.  If there is a weakly one
among them, some arrangement is sure to be practicable, whereby he or she
can be helped to follow more leisurely, and can remain longer at the
hospice.  Once arrived, they generally, it is true, go the round of the
chapels, and make some slight show of pilgrimage, but the main part of
their time is spent in doing absolutely nothing.  It is sufficient
amusement to them to sit on the steps, or lie about under the shadow of
the trees, and neither say anything nor do anything, but simply breathe,
and look at the sky and at each other.  We saw scores of such people just
resting instinctively in a kind of blissful waking dream.  Others saunter
along the walks which have been cut in the woods that surround the
hospice, or if they have been pent up in a town and have a fancy for
climbing, there are mountain excursions, for the making of which the
hospice affords excellent headquarters, and which are looked upon with
every favour by the authorities.

It must be remembered also that the accommodation provided at Oropa is
much better than what the people are, for the most part, accustomed to in
their own homes, and the beds are softer, more often beaten up, and
cleaner than those they have left behind them.  Besides, they have
sheets—and beautifully clean sheets.  Those who know the sort of place in
which an Italian peasant is commonly content to sleep, will understand
how much he must enjoy a really clean and comfortable bed, especially
when he has not got to pay for it.  Sleep, in the circumstances of
comfort which most readers will be accustomed to, is a more expensive
thing than is commonly supposed.  If we sleep eight hours in a London
hotel we shall have to pay from 4d. to 6d. an hour, or from 1d. to 1½d.
for every fifteen minutes we lie in bed; nor is it reasonable to believe
that the charge is excessive, when we consider the vast amount of
competition which exists.  There is many a man the expenses of whose
daily meat, drink, and clothing are less than what an accountant would
show us we, many of us, lay out nightly upon our sleep.  The cost of
really comfortable sleep-necessaries cannot, of course, be nearly so
great at Oropa as in a London hotel, but they are enough to put them
beyond the reach of the peasant under ordinary circumstances, and he
relishes them all the more when he can get them.

But why, it may be asked, should the peasant have these things if he
cannot afford to pay for them; and why should he not pay for them if he
can afford to do so?  If such places as Oropa were common, would not lazy
vagabonds spend their lives in going the rounds of them, &c., &c.?
Doubtless if there were many Oropas, they would do more harm than good,
but there are some things which answer perfectly well as rarities or on a
small scale, out of which all the virtue would depart if they were common
or on a larger one; and certainly the impression left upon our minds by
Oropa was that its effects were excellent.

Granted the sound rule to be that a man should pay for what he has, or go
without it; in practice, however, it is found impossible to carry this
rule out strictly.  Why does the nation give A. B., for instance, and all
comers a large, comfortable, well-ventilated, warm room to sit in, with
chair, table, reading-desk, &c., all more commodious than what he may
have at home, without making him pay a sixpence for it directly from
year’s end to year’s end?  The three or nine days’ visit to Oropa is a
trifle in comparison with what we can all of us obtain in London if we
care about it enough to take a very small amount of trouble.  True, one
cannot sleep in the reading-room of the British Museum—not all night, at
least—but by day one can make a home of it for years together except
during cleaning times, and then it is hard if one cannot get into the
National Gallery or South Kensington, and be warm, quiet, and entertained
without paying for it.

It will be said that it is for the national interest that people should
have access to treasuries of art or knowledge, and therefore it is worth
the nation’s while to pay for placing the means of doing so at their
disposal; granted, but is not a good bed one of the great ends of
knowledge, whereto it must work, if it is to be accounted knowledge at
all? and is it not worth a nation’s while that her children should now
and again have practical experience of a higher state of things than the
one they are accustomed to, and a few days’ rest and change of scene and
air, even though she may from time to time have to pay something in order
to enable them to do so?  There can be few books which do an
averagely-educated Englishman so much good, as the glimpse of comfort
which he gets by sleeping in a good bed in a well-appointed room does to
an Italian peasant; such a glimpse gives him an idea of higher
potentialities in connection with himself, and nerves him to exertions
which he would not otherwise make.  On the whole, therefore, we concluded
that if the British Museum reading-room was in good economy, Oropa was so
also; at any rate, it seemed to be making a large number of very nice
people quietly happy—and it is hard to say more than this in favour of
any place or institution.

The idea of any sudden change is as repulsive to us as it will be to the
greater number of my readers; but if asked whether we thought our English
universities would do most good in their present condition as places of
so-called education, or if they were turned into Oropas, and all the
educational part of the story totally suppressed, we inclined to think
they would be more popular and more useful in this latter capacity.  We
thought also that Oxford and Cambridge were just the places, and
contained all the appliances and endowments almost ready made for
constituting two splendid and truly imperial cities of
recreation—universities in deed as well as in name.  Nevertheless, we
should not venture to propose any further actual reform during the
present generation than to carry the principle which is already admitted
as regards the M.A. degree a trifle further, and to make the B.A. degree
a mere matter of lapse of time and fees—leaving the Little Go, and
whatever corresponds to it at Oxford, as the final examination.  This
would be enough for the present.

There is another sanctuary about three hours’ walk over the mountain
behind Oropa, at Andorno, and dedicated to St. John.  We were prevented
by the weather from visiting it, but understand that its objects are much
the same as those of the institution I have just described.  I will now
proceed to the third sanctuary for which the neighbourhood of Biella is
renowned.



Chapter XVI
Graglia


THE sanctuary of Graglia is reached in about two hours from Biella.
There are daily diligences.  It is not so celebrated as that of Oropa,
nor does it stand so high above the level of the sea, but it is a
remarkable place and well deserves a visit.  The restaurant is
perfect—the best, indeed, that I ever saw in North Italy, or, I think,
anywhere else.  I had occasion to go into the kitchen, and could not see
how anything could beat it for the most absolute cleanliness and order.
Certainly I never dined better than at the sanctuary of Graglia; and one
dines all the more pleasantly for doing so on a lovely terrace shaded by
trellised creepers, and overlooking Lombardy.

I find from a small handbook by Signor Giuseppe Muratori, that the
present institution, like that of S. Michele, and almost all things else
that achieve success, was founded upon the work of a predecessor, and
became great not in one, but in several generations.  The site was
already venerated on account of a chapel in honour of the _Vergine
addolorata_ which had existed here from very early times.  A certain
Nicolao Velotti, about the year 1616, formed the design of reproducing
Mount Calvary on this spot, and of erecting perhaps a hundred chapels
with terra-cotta figures in them.  The famous Valsesian sculptor,
Tabachetti, and his pupils, the brothers Giovanni and Antonio (commonly
called “Tanzio”), D’Enrico of Riva in the Val Sesia, all of whom had
recently been working at the sanctuary of Varallo, were invited to
Graglia, and later on, another eminent native of the Val Sesia, Pietro
Giuseppe Martello.  These artists appear to have done a good deal of work
here, of which nothing now remains visible to the public, though it is
possible that in the chapel of S. Carlo and the closed chapels on the way
to it, there may be some statues lying neglected which I know nothing
about.  I was told of no such work, but when I was at Graglia I did not
know that the above-named great men had ever worked there, and made no
inquiries.  It is quite possible that all the work they did here has not
perished.

                 [Picture: Chapel of S. Carlo at Graglia]

The means at the disposal of the people of Graglia were insufficient for
the end they had in view, but subscriptions came in freely from other
quarters.  Among the valuable rights, liberties, privileges, and
immunities that were conferred upon the institution, was one which in
itself was a source of unfailing and considerable revenue, namely, the
right of setting a robber free once in every year; also, the authorities
there were allowed to sell all kinds of wine and eatables (_robe
mangiative_) without paying duty upon them.  As far as I can understand,
the main work of Velotti’s is the chapel of S. Carlo, on the top of a
hill some few hundred feet above the present establishment.  I give a
sketch of this chapel here, but was not able to include the smaller
chapels which lead up to it.

A few years later, one Nicolao Garono built a small oratory at Campra,
which is nearer to Biella than Graglia is.  He dedicated it to S. Maria
della Neve—to St. Mary of the Snow.  This became more frequented than
Graglia itself, and the feast of the Virgin on the 5th August was
exceedingly popular.  Signor Muratori says of it:—

“This is the popular feast of Graglia, and I can remember how but a few
years since it retained on a small scale all the features of the _sacre
campestri_ of the Middle Ages.  For some time past, however, the stricter
customs which have been introduced here no less than in other Piedmontese
villages have robbed this feast (as how many more popular feasts has it
not also robbed?) of that original and spontaneous character in which a
jovial heartiness and a diffusive interchange of the affections came
welling forth from all abundantly.  In spite of all, however, and
notwithstanding its decline, the feast of the Madonna is even now one of
those rare gatherings—the only one, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of
Biella—to which the pious Christian and the curious idler are alike
attracted, and where they will alike find appropriate amusement.” {190}

How Miltonic, not to say Handelian, is this attitude towards the Pagan
tendencies which, it is clear, predominated at the _festa_ of St. Mary of
the Snow.  In old days a feast was meant to be a time of actual
merriment—a praising “with mirth, high cheer, and wine.” {191a}  Milton
felt this a little, and Handel much.  To them an opportunity for a little
paganism is like the scratching of a mouse to the princess who had been
born a cat.  Off they go after it—more especially Handel—under some
decent pretext no doubt, but as fast, nevertheless, as their art can
carry them.  As for Handel, he had not only a sympathy for paganism, but
for the shades and gradations of paganism.  What, for example, can be a
completer contrast than between the polished and refined Roman paganism
in Theodora, {191b} the rustic paganism of “Bid the maids the youths
provoke” in Hercules, the magician’s or sorcerer’s paganism of the blue
furnace in “Chemosh no more,” {191c} or the Dagon choruses in Samson—to
say nothing of a score of other examples that might be easily adduced?
Yet who can doubt the sincerity and even fervour of either Milton’s or
Handel’s religious convictions?  The attitude assumed by these men, and
by the better class of Romanists, seems to have become impossible to
Protestants since the time of Dr. Arnold.

I once saw a church dedicated to St. Francis.  Outside it, over the main
door, there was a fresco of the saint receiving the stigmata; his eyes
were upturned in a fine ecstasy to the illuminated spot in the heavens
whence the causes of the stigmata were coming.  The church was insured,
and the man who had affixed the plate of the insurance office had put it
at the precise spot in the sky to which St. Francis’s eyes were turned,
so that the plate appeared to be the main cause of his ecstasy.  Who
cared?  No one; until a carping Englishman came to the place, and thought
it incumbent upon him to be scandalised, or to pretend to be so; on this
the authorities were made very uncomfortable, and changed the position of
the plate.  Granted that the Englishman was right; granted, in fact, that
we are more logical; this amounts to saying that we are more rickety, and
must walk more supported by cramp-irons.  All the “earnestness,” and
“intenseness,” and “æstheticism,” and “culture” (for they are in the end
one) of the present day, are just so many attempts to conceal weakness.

But to return.  The church of St. Mary of the Snow at Campra was
incorporated into the Graglia institution in 1628.  There was originally
no connection between the two, and it was not long before the later
church became more popular than the earlier, insomuch that the work at
Graglia was allowed to fall out of repair.  On the death of Velotti the
scheme languished, and by and by, instead of building more chapels, it
was decided that it would be enough to keep in repair those that were
already built.  These, as I have said, are the chapels of S. Carlo, and
the small ones which are now seen upon the way up to it, but they are all
in a semi-ruinous state.

Besides the church of St. Mary of the Snow at Campra, there was another
which was an exact copy of the _Santa Casa di Loreto_, and where there
was a remarkable echo which would repeat a word of ten syllables when the
wind was quiet.  This was exactly on the site of the present sanctuary.
It seemed a better place for the continuation of Velotti’s work than the
one he had himself chosen for it, inasmuch as it was where Signor
Muratori so well implies a centre of devotion ought to be, namely, in “a
milder climate, and in a spot which offers more resistance to the
inclemency of the weather, and is better adapted to attract and retain
the concourse of the faithful.”

The design of the present church was made by an architect of the name of
Arduzzi, in the year 1654, and the first stone was laid in 1659.  In 1687
the right of liberating a bandit every year had been found to be
productive of so much mischief that it was discontinued, and a yearly
contribution of two hundred _lire_ was substituted.  The church was not
completed until the second half of the last century, when the cupola was
finished mainly through the energy of a priest, Carlo Giuseppe Gastaldi
of Netro.  This poor man came to his end in a rather singular way.  He
was dozing for a few minutes upon a scaffolding, and being awakened by a
sudden noise, he started up, lost his balance, and fell over on to the
pavement below.  He died a few days later, on the 17th of October, either
1787 or 1778, I cannot determine which, through a misprint in Muratori’s
account.

The work was now virtually finished, and the buildings were much as they
are seen now, except that a third storey was added to the hospice about
the year 1840.  It is in the hospice that the apartments are in which
visitors are lodged.  I was shown all over them, and found them not only
comfortable but luxurious—decidedly more so than those of Oropa; there
was the same cleanliness everywhere which I had noticed in the
restaurant.  As one stands at the windows or on the balconies and looks
down on to the tops of the chestnuts, and over these to the plains, one
feels almost as if one could fly out of the window like a bird; for the
slope of the hills is so rapid that one has a sense of being already
suspended in mid-air.

                     [Picture: Sanctuary of Graglia]

I thought I observed a desire to attract English visitors in the pictures
which I saw in the bedrooms.  Thus there was “A view of the black lead
mine in Cumberland,” a coloured English print of the end of the last
century or the beginning of this, after, I think, Loutherbourg, and in
several rooms there were English engravings after Martin.  The English
will not, I think, regret if they yield to these attractions.  They will
find the air cool, shady walks, good food, and reasonable prices.  Their
rooms will not be charged for, but they will do well to give the same as
they would have paid at an hotel.  I saw in one room one of those
flippant, frivolous, Lorenzo de’ Medici match-boxes on which there was a
gaudily-coloured nymph in high-heeled boots and tights, smoking a
cigarette.  Feeling that I was in a sanctuary, I was a little surprised
that such a matchbox should have been tolerated.  I suppose it had been
left behind by some guest.  I should myself select a matchbox with the
Nativity, or the Flight into Egypt upon it, if I were going to stay a
week or so at Graglia.  I do not think I can have looked surprised or
scandalised, but the worthy official who was with me could just see that
there was something on my mind.  “Do you want a match?” said he,
immediately reaching me the box.  I helped myself, and the matter
dropped.

There were many fewer people at Graglia than at Oropa, and they were
richer.  I did not see any poor about, but I may have been there during a
slack time.  An impression was left upon me, though I cannot say whether
it was well or ill founded, as though there were a tacit understanding
between the establishments at Oropa and Graglia that the one was to adapt
itself to the poorer, and the other to the richer classes of society; and
this not from any sordid motive, but from a recognition of the fact that
any great amount of intermixture between the poor and the rich is not
found satisfactory to either one or the other.  Any wide difference in
fortune does practically amount to a specific difference, which renders
the members of either species more or less suspicious of those of the
other, and seldom fertile _inter se_.  The well-to-do working-man can
help his poorer friends better than we can.  If an educated man has money
to spare, he will apply it better in helping poor educated people than
those who are more strictly called the poor.  As long as the world is
progressing, wide class distinctions are inevitable; their discontinuance
will be a sign that equilibrium has been reached.  Then human
civilisation will become as stationary as that of ants and bees.  Some
may say it will be very sad when this is so; others, that it will be a
good thing; in truth, it is good either way, for progress and equilibrium
have each of them advantages and disadvantages which make it impossible
to assign superiority to either; but in both cases the good greatly
overbalances the evil; for in both the great majority will be fairly well
contented, and would hate to live under any other system.

Equilibrium, if it is ever reached, will be attained very slowly, and the
importance of any change in a system depends entirely upon the rate at
which it is made.  No amount of change shocks—or, in other words, is
important—if it is made sufficiently slowly, while hardly any change is
too small to shock if it is made suddenly.  We may go down a ladder of
ten thousand feet in height if we do so step by step, while a sudden fall
of six or seven feet may kill us.  The importance, therefore, does not
lie in the change, but in the abruptness of its introduction.  Nothing is
absolutely important or absolutely unimportant, absolutely good or
absolutely bad.

This is not what we like to contemplate.  The instinct of those whose
religion and culture are on the surface only is to conceive that they
have found, or can find, an absolute and eternal standard, about which
they can be as earnest as they choose.  They would have even the pains of
hell eternal if they could.  If there had been any means discoverable by
which they could torment themselves beyond endurance, we may be sure they
would long since have found it out; but fortunately there is a stronger
power which bars them inexorably from their desire, and which has ensured
that intolerable pain shall last only for a very little while.  For
either the circumstances or the sufferer will change after no long time.
If the circumstances are intolerable, the sufferer dies: if they are not
intolerable, he becomes accustomed to them, and will cease to feel them
grievously.  No matter what the burden, there always has been, and always
must be, a way for us also to escape.



Chapter XVII
Soazza and the Valley of Mesocco


I REGRET that I have not space for any of the sketches I took at
Bellinzona, than which few towns are more full of admirable subjects.
The Hotel de la Ville is an excellent house, and the town is well adapted
for an artist’s headquarters.  Turner’s two water-colour drawings of
Bellinzona in the National Gallery are doubtless very fine as works of
art, but they are not like Bellinzona, the spirit of which place (though
not the letter) is better represented by the background to Basaiti’s
Madonna and child, also in our gallery, supposing the castle on the hill
to have gone to ruin.

At Bellinzona a man told me that one of the two towers was built by the
Visconti and the other by Julius Cæsar, a hundred years earlier.  So,
poor old Mrs. Barratt at Langar could conceive no longer time than a
hundred years.  The Trojan war did not last ten years, but ten years was
as big a lie as Homer knew.

Almost all days in the subalpine valleys of North Italy have a beauty
with them of some kind or another, but none are more lovely than a quiet
gray day just at the beginning of autumn, when the clouds are drawing
lazily and in the softest fleeces over the pine forests high up on the
mountain sides.  On such days the mountains are very dark till close up
to the level of the clouds; here, if there is dewy or rain-besprinkled
pasture, it tells of a luminous silvery colour by reason of the light
which the clouds reflect upon it; the bottom edges of the clouds are also
light through the reflection upward from the grass, but I do not know
which begins this battledore and shuttlecock arrangement.  These things
are like quarrels between two old and intimate friends; one can never say
who begins them.  Sometimes on a dull gray day like this, I have seen the
shadow parts of clouds take a greenish-ashen-coloured tinge from the
grass below them.

On one of these most enjoyable days we left Bellinzona for Mesocco on the
S. Bernardino road.  The air was warm, there was not so much as a breath
of wind, but it was not sultry: there had been rain, and the grass,
though no longer decked with the glory of its spring flowers, was of the
most brilliant emerald, save where flecked with delicate purple by
myriads of autumnal crocuses.  The level ground at the bottom of the
valley where the Moesa runs is cultivated with great care.  Here the
people have gathered the stones in heaps round any great rock which is
too difficult to move, and the whole mass has in time taken a mulberry
hue, varied with gray and russet lichens, or blobs of velvety green moss.
These heaps of stone crop up from the smooth shaven grass, and are
overhung with barberries, mountain ash, and mountain elder with their
brilliant scarlet berries—sometimes, again, with dwarf oaks, or alder, or
nut, whose leaves have just so far begun to be tinged as to increase the
variety of the colouring.  The first sparks of autumn’s yearly
conflagration have been kindled, but the fire is not yet raging as in
October; soon after which, indeed, it will have burnt itself out, leaving
the trees it were charred, with here and there a live coal of a red leaf
or two still smouldering upon them.

As yet lingering mulleins throw up their golden spikes amid a profusion
of blue chicory, and the gourds run along upon the ground like the fire
mingled with the hail in “Israel in Egypt.”  Overhead are the umbrageous
chestnuts loaded with their prickly harvest.  Now and again there is a
manure heap upon the grass itself, and lusty wanton gourds grow out from
it along the ground like vegetable octopi.  If there is a stream it will
run with water limpid as air, and as full of dimples as “While Kedron’s
brook” in “Joshua”:—

                 [Picture: Score of While Kedron’s Book]

                      [Picture: Last part of score?]

How quiet and full of rest does everything appear to be.  There is no
dust nor glare, and hardly a sound save that of the unfailing waterfalls,
or the falling cry with which the peasants call to one another from afar.
{201}

So much depends upon the aspect in which one sees a place for the first
time.  What scenery can stand, for example, a noontide glare?  Take the
valley from Lanzo to Viù.  It is of incredible beauty in the mornings and
afternoons of brilliant days, and all day long upon a gray day; but in
the middle hours of a bright summer’s day it is hardly beautiful at all,
except locally in the shade under chestnuts.  Buildings and towns are the
only things that show well in a glare.  We perhaps, therefore, thought
the valley of the Moesa to be of such singular beauty on account of the
day on which we saw it, but doubt whether it must not be absolutely among
the most beautiful of the subalpine valleys upon the Italian side.

The least interesting part is that between Bellinzona and Roveredo, but
soon after leaving Roveredo the valley begins to get narrower and to
assume a more mountain character.  Ere long the eye catches sight of a
white church tower and a massive keep, near to one another and some two
thousand feet above the road.  This is Santa Maria in Calanca.  One can
see at once that it must be an important place for such a district, but
it is strange why it should be placed so high.  I will say more about it
later on.

Presently we passed Cama, where there is an inn, and where the road
branches off into the Val Calanca.  Alighting here for a few minutes we
saw a _cane lupino_—that is to say, a dun mouse-coloured dog about as
large as a mastiff, and with a very large infusion of wolf blood in him.
It was like finding one’s self alone with a wolf—but he looked even more
uncanny and ferocious than a wolf.  I once saw a man walking down Fleet
Street accompanied by one of these _cani lupini_, and noted the general
attention and alarm which the dog caused.  Encouraged by the landlord, we
introduced ourselves to the dog at Cama, and found him to be a most sweet
person, with no sense whatever of self-respect, and shrinking from no
ignominy in his importunity for bits of bread.  When we put the bread
into his mouth and felt his teeth, he would not take it till he had
looked in our eyes and said as plainly as though in words, “Are you quite
sure that my teeth are not painful to you?  Do you really think I may now
close my teeth upon the bread without causing you any inconvenience?”  We
assured him that we were quite comfortable, so he swallowed it down, and
presently began to pat us softly with his foot to remind us that it was
our turn now.

Before we left, a wandering organ-grinder began to play outside the inn.
Our friend the dog lifted up his voice and howled.  I am sure it was with
pleasure.  If he had disliked the music he would have gone away.  He was
not at all the kind of person who would stay a concert out if he did not
like it.  He howled because he was stirred to the innermost depths of his
nature.  On this he became intense, and as a matter of course made a fool
of himself; but he was in no way more ridiculous than an Art Professor
whom I once observed as he was holding forth to a number of working men,
whilst escorting them round the Italian pictures in the National Gallery.
When the organ left off he cast an appealing look at Jones, and we could
almost hear the words, “What _is_ it out of?” coming from his eyes.  We
did not happen to know, so we told him that it was “Ah che la morte” from
“Il Trovatore,” and he was quite contented.  Jones even thought he looked
as much as to say, “Oh yes, of course, how stupid of me; I thought I knew
it.”  He very well may have done so, but I am bound to say that I did not
see this.

                         [Picture: Soazza Church]

Near to Cama is Grono, where Baedeker says there is a chapel containing
some ancient frescoes.  I searched Grono in vain for any such chapel.  A
few miles higher up, the church of Soazza makes its appearance perched
upon the top of its hill, and soon afterwards the splendid ruin of
Mesocco on another rock or hill which rises in the middle of the valley.

The mortuary chapel of Soazza church is the subject my friend Mr. Gogin
has selected for the etching at the beginning of this volume.  There was
a man mowing another part of the churchyard when I was there.  He was so
old and lean that his flesh seemed little more than parchment stretched
over his bones, and he might have been almost taken for Death mowing his
own acre.  When he was gone some children came to play, but he had left
his scythe behind him.  These children were beyond my strength to draw,
so I turned the subject over to Mr. Gogin’s stronger hands.  Children are
dynamical; churches and frescoes are statical.  I can get on with
statical subjects, but can do nothing with dynamical ones.  Over the door
and windows are two frescoes of skeletons holding mirrors in their hands,
with a death’s head in the mirror.  This reflected head is supposed to be
that of the spectator to whom death is holding up the image of what he
will one day become.  I do not remember the inscription at Soazza; the
one in the Campo Santo at Mesocco is, “Sicut vos estis nos fuimus, et
sicut nos sumus vos eritis.” {204}

On my return to England I mentioned this inscription to a friend who, as
a young man, had been an excellent Latin scholar; he took a panic into
his head that “eritis” was not right for the second person plural of the
future tense of the verb “esse.”  Whatever it was, it was not “eritis.”
This panic was speedily communicated to myself, and we both puzzled for
some time to think what the future of “esse” really was.  At last we
turned to a grammar and found that “eritis” was right after all.  How
skin-deep that classical training penetrates on which we waste so many
years, and how completely we drop it as soon as we are left to ourselves.

On the right-hand side of the door of the mortuary chapel there hangs a
wooden tablet inscribed with a poem to the memory of Maria Zara.  It is a
pleasing poem, and begins:—

    “Appena al trapassar il terzo lustro
    Maria Zara la sua vita finì.
    Se a Soazza ebbe la sua colma
    A Roveredo la sua tomba . . .

she found,” or words to that effect, but I forget the Italian.  This poem
is the nearest thing to an Italian rendering of “Affliction sore long
time I bore” that I remember to have met with, but it is longer and more
grandiose generally.

Soazza is full of beautiful subjects, and indeed is the first place in
the valley of the Moesa which I thought good sketching ground, in spite
of the general beauty of the valley.  There is an inn there quite
sufficient for a bachelor artist.  The clergyman of the place is a monk,
and he will not let one paint on a feast-day.  I was told that if I
wanted to paint on a certain feast-day I had better consult him; I did
so, but was flatly refused permission, and that too as it appeared to me
with more peremptoriness than a priest would have shown towards me.

It is at Soazza that the ascent of the San Bernardino becomes
perceptible; hitherto the road has seemed to be level all the way, but
henceforth the ascent though gradual is steady.  Mesocco Castle looks
very fine as soon as Soazza is passed, and gets finer and finer until it
is actually reached.  Here is the upper limit of the chestnuts, which
leave off upon the lower side of Mesocco Castle.  A few yards off the
castle on the upper side is the ancient church of S. Cristoforo, with its
huge St. Christopher on the right-hand side of the door.  St. Christopher
is a very favourite saint in these parts; people call him S. Cristofano,
and even S. Carpofano.  I think it must be in the church of S. Cristoforo
at Mesocco that the frescoes are which Baedeker writes of as being near
Grono.  Of these I will speak at length in the next chapter.  About half
or three-quarters of a mile higher up the road than the castle is Mesocco
itself.



Chapter XVIII
Mesocco, S. Bernardino, and S. Maria in Calanca


AT the time of my first visit there was an inn kept by one Desteffanis
and his wife, where I stayed nearly a month, and was made very
comfortable.  Last year, however, Jones and I found it closed, but did
very well at the Hotel Toscani.  At the Hotel Desteffanis there used to
be a parrot which lived about loose and had no cage, but did exactly what
it liked.  Its name was Lorrito.  It was a very human bird; I saw it eat
some bread and milk from its tin one day and then sidle along a pole to a
place where there was a towel hanging.  It took a corner of the towel in
its claw, wiped its beak with it, and then sidled back again.  It would
sometimes come and see me at breakfast; it got from a chair-back on to
the table by dropping its head and putting its round beak on to the table
first, making a third leg as it were of its head; it would then waddle to
the butter and begin helping itself.  It was a great respecter of persons
and knew the landlord and landlady perfectly well.  It yawned just like a
dog or a human being, and this not from love of imitation but from being
sleepy.  I do not remember to have seen any other bird yawn.  It hated
boys because the boys plagued it sometimes.  The boys generally go
barefoot in summer, and if ever a boy came near the door of the hotel
this parrot would go straight for his toes.

                       [Picture: Castle of Mesocco]

The most striking feature of Mesocco is the castle, which, as I have
said, occupies a rock in the middle of the valley, and is one of the
finest ruins in Switzerland.  More interesting than the castle, however,
is the church of S. Cristoforo.  Before I entered it I was struck with
the fresco on the _facciata_ of the church, which, though the _facciata_
bears the date 1720, was painted in a style so much earlier than that of
1720 that I at first imagined I had found here another old master born
out of due time; for the fresco was in such a good state of preservation
that it did not look more than 150 years old, and it was hardly likely to
have been preserved when the _facciata_ was renovated in 1720.  When,
however, my friend Jones joined me, he blew that little romance away by
discovering a series of names with dates scrawled upon it from “1481.
viii. Febraio” to the present century.  The lowest part of the fresco
must be six feet from the ground, and it must rise at least ten or a
dozen feet more, so the writings upon it are not immediately obvious, but
they will be found on looking at all closely.

                         [Picture: S. Cristoforo]

It is plain, therefore, that when the _facciata_ paired the original
fresco was preserved; it cannot be, as I had supposed, the work of a
local painter who had taken his ideas of rocks and trees from the
frescoes inside the church.  That I am right in supposing the curious
blanc-mange-mould-looking objects on either side St. Christopher’s legs
to be intended for rocks will be clear to any one who has seen the
frescoes inside the church, where mountains with trees and towns upon
them are treated on exactly the same principle.  I cannot think the
artist can have been quite easy in his mind about them.

On entering the church the left-hand wall is found to be covered with the
most remarkable series of frescoes in the Italian Grisons.  They are
disposed in three rows, one above the other, occupying the whole wall of
the church as far as the chancel.  The top row depicts a series of
incidents prior to the Crucifixion, and is cut up by the pulpit at the
chancel end.  These events are treated so as to form a single picture.

The second row is in several compartments.  There is a saint in armour on
horseback, life-size, killing a dragon, and a queen who seems to have
been leading the dragon by a piece of red tape buckled round its
neck—unless, indeed, the dragon is supposed to have been leading the
queen.  The queen still holds the tape and points heavenward.  Next to
this there is a very nice saint on horse-back, who is giving a cloak to a
man who is nearly naked.  Then comes St. Michael trampling on the dragon,
and holding a pair of scales in his hand, in which are two little souls
of a man and of a woman.  The dragon has a hook in his hand, and
thrusting this up from under St. Michael, he hooks it on to the edge of
the scale with the woman in it, and drags her down.  The man, it seems,
will escape.  Next to this there is a compartment in which a monk is
offering a round thing to St. Michael, who does not seem to care much
about it; there are other saints and martyrs in this compartment, and St.
Anthony with his pig, and Sta. Lucia holding a box with two eyes in it,
she being patroness of the eyesight as well as of mariners.  Lastly,
there is the Adoration, ruined by the pulpit.

Below this second compartment are twelve frescoes, each about three and a
half feet square, representing the twelve months—from a purely secular
point of view.  January is a man making and hanging up sausages;
February, a man chopping wood; March, a youth proclaiming spring with two
horns to his mouth, and his hair flying all abroad; April is a young man
on horseback carrying a flower in his hand; May, a knight, not in armour,
going out hawking with his hawk on one finger, his bride on a pillion
behind him, and a dog beside the horse; June is a mower; July, another
man reaping twenty-seven ears of corn; August, an invalid going to see
his doctor; October, a man knocking down chestnuts from a tree and a
woman catching them; November is hidden and destroyed by the pulpit;
December is a butcher felling an ox with a hatchet.

                    [Picture: Fresco at Mesocco—March]

                    [Picture: Fresco at Mesocco—April]

                     [Picture: Fresco at Mesocco—May]

                   [Picture: Fresco at Mesocco—August]

We could find no signature of the artist, nor any date on the frescoes to
show when they were painted; but while looking for a signature we found a
name scratched with a knife or stone, and rubbed the tracing which I
reproduce, greatly reduced, here; Jones thinks the last line was not
written by Lazarus Bovollinus, but by another who signs A. T.

 [Picture: Brass rubbing: Lazarus Bouollins 1534  30 Augusti explenit 20
                                Amurs ...]

The Boelini were one of the principal families in Mesocco.  Gaspare
Boelini, the head of the house, had been treacherously thrown over the
castle walls and killed by order of Giovanni Giacomo Triulci in the year
1525, because as chancellor of the valley he declined to annul the
purchase of the castle of Mesocco, which Triulci had already sold to the
people of Mesocco, and for which he had been in great part paid.  His
death is recorded on a stone placed by the roadside under the castle.

Examining the wall further, we found a little to the right that the same
Lazzaro Bovollino (I need hardly say that “Bovollino” is another way of
spelling “Boelini”) scratched his name again some sixteen years later, as
follows:—

    [Picture: Diagram showing Lazzaro Bovollino, 26 Decemb. 1550 etc.]

The handwriting is not so good as it was when he wrote his name before;
but we observed, with sympathy, that the writer had dropped his Latin.
Close by is scratched “Gullielmo Bo.”

The mark between the two letters L and B was the family mark of the
Boelini, each family having its mark, a practice of which further
examples will be given presently.

We looked still more, and on the border of one of the frescoes we
discovered—

                      .

    “1481 die Jovis Veneris viiij Februarij hoines di Misochi et Soazza
    fecerunt fidelitatem in manibus di Johani Jacobi Triulzio,”

—“The men of Mesocco and Soazza did fealty to John Jacob Triulci on
Friday the 8th of February 1481.”  The day originally written was
Thursday the 7th of February, but “Jovis” was scratched out and “Veneris”
written above, while another “i” was intercalated among the i’s of the
viij of February.  We could not determine whether some hitch arose so as
to cause a change of day, or whether “Thursday” and “viij” were written
by a mistake for “Friday” and “viiij,” but we imagined both inscription
and correction to have been contemporaneous with the event itself.  It
will be remembered that on the St. Christopher outside the church there
is scratched it “1481. 8 Febraio” and nothing more.  The mistake of the
day, therefore, if it was a mistake, was made twice, and was corrected
inside the church but not upon the fresco outside—perhaps because a
ladder would have had to be fetched to reach it.  Possibly the day had
been originally fixed for Thursday the 8th, and a heavy snow-storm
prevented people from coming till next day.

I could not find that any one in Mesocco, not even my excellent friend
Signor à Marca, the _curato_ himself, knew anything about either the
inscriptions or the cause of their being written.  No one was aware even
of their existence; on borrowing, however, the history of the Valle
Mesolcina by Signor Giovanni Antonio à Marca, {215} I found what I think
will throw light upon the matter.  The family of De Sax had held the
valley of Mesocco for over four hundred years, and sold it in 1480 to
John Jacob Triulci, who it seems tried to cheat him out of a large part
of the purchase money later on; probably this John Jacob Triulci had the
frescoes painted to conciliate the clergy and inaugurate his entry into
possession.  Early in 1481 he made the inhabitants of the valley do
fealty to him.  I may say that as soon as he had entered upon possession,
he began to oppress the people by demanding tolls on all produce that
passed the castle.  This the people resisted.  They were also harassed by
Peter De Sax, who made incursions into the valley and seized property,
being unable to get his money out of John Jacob Triulci.

Other reasons that make me think the frescoes were painted in 1480 are as
follows.  The spurs worn by the young men in the April and May frescoes
(pp. 211, 212) are about the date 1460.  Their facsimiles can be seen in
the Tower of London with this date assigned to them.  The frescoes,
therefore, can hardly have been painted before this time; but they were
probably painted later, for in the St. Christopher there is a distinct
hint at anatomy; enough to show that the study of anatomy introduced by
Leonardo da Vinci was beginning to be talked about as more or less the
correct thing.  This would hardly be the case before 1480, as Leonardo
was not born till 1452.  By February 1481 the frescoes were already
painted; this is plain because the inscription—which, I think, may be
taken as a record made at the time that fealty was done—is scratched over
them.  Peter De Sax, if he was selling his property, is not likely to
have had the frescoes painted just before he was going away; I think it
most likely, therefore, that they were painted in 1480, when the valley
of Mesocco passed from the hands of the De Sax family to those of the
Triulci.

Underneath the inscription about the doing fealty there is scratched in
another hand, and very likely years after the event it commemorates—“1548
fu liberata la Vallata.”  This date is contradicted (and, I believe,
corrected) by another inscription hard by, also in another hand, which
says—

    “1549.  La valle di Misocho comprò la liberti da casa Triulcia per
    2400 scuti.”

This inscription is signed thus:—

    [Picture: Copy of inscription] Carlo à Marca had written his name
    along with three others in 1606 on another part of the frescoes.
    Here are the signatures:—

                          [Picture: Signatures]

Two of these signatures belong to members of the Triulci family, as
appears by the trident, which translates the name.  The T in each case is
doubtless for “Triulci.”  Four years earlier still, Carlo à Marca had
written his name, with that of his wife or fiancée, on the fresco of St.
Christopher on the _facciata_ of the church, for we found there—

1602      Carlo à Marca.

          Margherita dei Paglioni.



There is one other place where his name appears, or rather a part of it,
for the inscription is half hidden by a gallery, erected probably in the
last century.

The à Marca family still flourish in Mesocco.  The _curato_ is an à
Marca, so is the postmaster.  On the walls of a house near the convent
there is an inscription to the effect that it was given by his
fellow-townsmen to a member of the à Marca family, and the best work on
the history of the valley is the work of Giovanni Antonio Marca from
which I have already quoted.

Returning to the frescoes, we found that the men of Soazza and Mesocco
did fealty again to John Jacob Triulci on the feast of St. Bartholomew,
the 24th day of August 1503; this I believe to have been the son of the
original purchaser, but am not certain; if so, he is the Triulci who had
Gaspare Boelini thrown down from the castle walls.  The people seem by
another inscription to have done fealty again upon the same day of the
following year.

On the St. Christopher we found one date, 1530, scratched on the right
ankle, and several of 1607, apparently done at one time.  One date was
scratched in the left-hand corner—

    1498 . . .

    il Conte di (Misocho?)

There are also other dates—1627, 1633, 1635, 1626; and right across the
fresco there is written in red chalk, in a bold sixteenth or seventeenth
century handwriting—

    “Il parlar di li homini da bene deve valer più che quello degli
    altri.”

—“The word of a man of substance ought to carry more weight than that of
other people;” and again—

    “Non ha la fede ognun come tu chredi;
    Non chreder almen [quello?] che non vedi”

—“People are not so worthy of being believed as you think they are; do
not believe anything that you do not see yourself.”

Big with our discoveries, we returned towards our inn, Jones leaving me
sketching by the roadside.  Presently an elderly English gentleman of
some importance, judging from his manner, came up to me and entered into
conversation.  Englishmen do not often visit Mesocco, and I was rather
surprised.  “Have you seen that horrid fresco of St. Christopher down at
that church there?” said he, pointing towards it.  I said I had.  “It’s
very bad,” said he decidedly; “it was painted in the year 1725.”  I had
been through all that myself, and I was a little cross into the bargain,
so I said, “No; the fresco is very good.  It is of the fifteenth century,
and the _facciata_ was restored in 1720, not in 1725.  The old fresco was
preserved.”  The old gentleman looked a little scared.  “Oh,” said he, “I
know nothing about art—but I will see you again at the hotel;” and left
me at once.  I never saw him again.  Who he was, where he came from, how
he departed, I do not know.  He was the only Englishman I saw during my
stay of some four weeks at Mesocco.

On the first day of my first visit to Mesocco in 1879, I had gone on to
S. Bernardino, and just before getting there, looking down over the great
stretches of pasture land above S. Giacomo, could see that there was a
storm raging lower down in the valley about where Mesocco should be; I
never saw such inky blackness in clouds before, and the conductor of the
diligence said that he had seen nothing like it.  Next morning we learnt
that a water-spout had burst on the mountain above Anzone, a hamlet of
Mesocco, and that the water had done a great deal of damage to the
convent at Mesocco.  Returning a few days later, I saw where the torrent
had flowed by the mud upon the grass, but could not have believed such a
stream of water (running with the velocity with which it must have run)
to have been possible under any circumstances in that place unless I had
actually seen its traces.  It carried great rocks of several cubic yards
as though they had been small stones, and among other mischief it had
knocked down the garden wall of the convent of S. Rocco and covered the
garden with débris.  As I looked at it I remembered what Signor Bullo had
told me at Faido about the inundations of 1868, “It was not the great
rivers,” he said, “which did the damage: it was the _ruscelli_” or small
streams.  So in revolutions it is not the heretofore great people, but
small ones swollen under unusual circumstances who are most conspicuous
and do most damage.  Padre Bernardino, of the convent of S. Rocco, asked
me to make him a sketch of the effect of the inundation, which I was
delighted to do.  It was not, however, exactly what he wanted, and,
moreover, it got spoiled in the mounting, so I did another and he
returned me the first with an inscription upon it which I reproduce
below.

First came the words—

                   [Picture: Ricordo a Mesocco written]

Then came my sketch; and then—

                          [Picture: The sketch]

The English of which is as follows:—“View of the church, garden, and
hospice of S. Rocco, after the visitation inflicted upon them by the sad
torrent of Anzone, on the unhallowed evening of the 4th of August 1879.”
I regret that the “no” of Padre Bernardino’s name, through being written
in faint ink, was not reproduced in my facsimile.  I doubt whether Padre
Bernardino would have got the second sketch out of me, if I had not liked
the inscription he had written on the first so much that I wanted to be
possessed of it.  Besides, he wrote me a note addressed “all’ egregio
pittore S. Butler.”  To be called an egregious painter was too much for
me, so I did the sketch.  I was once addressed as “L’esimio pittore.”  I
think this is one degree better even than “egregio.”

The damage which torrents can do must be seen to be believed.  There is
not a streamlet, however innocent looking, which is not liable
occasionally to be turned into a furious destructive agent, carrying ruin
over the pastures which at ordinary times it irrigates.  Perhaps in old
times people deified and worshipped streams because they were afraid of
them.  Every year each one of the great Alpine roads will be interrupted
at some point or another by the tons of stones and gravel that are swept
over it perhaps for a hundred yards together.  I have seen the St.
Gothard road more than once soon after these interruptions and could not
have believed such damage possible; in 1869 people would still shudder
when they spoke of the inundations of 1868.  It is curious to note how
they will now say that rocks which have evidently been in their present
place for hundreds of years, were brought there in 1868; as for the
torrent that damaged S. Rocco when I was in the valley of Mesocco, it
shaved off the strong parapet of the bridge on either side clean and
sharp, but the arch was left standing, the flood going right over the
top.  Many scars are visible on the mountain tops which are clearly the
work of similar water-spouts, and altogether the amount of solid matter
which gets taken down each year into the valleys is much greater than we
generally think.  Let any one watch the Ticino flowing into the Lago
Maggiore after a few days’ heavy rain, and consider how many tons of mud
per day it must carry into and leave in the lake, and he will wonder that
the gradual filling-up process is not more noticeable from age to age
than it is.

Anzone, whence the sad torrent derives its name, is an exquisitely lovely
little hamlet close to Mesocco.  Another no less beautiful village is
Doera, on the other side of the Moesa, and half a mile lower down than
Mesocco.  Doera overlooks the castle, the original hexagonal form of
which can be made out from this point.  It must have been much of the
same plan as the castle at Eynsford in Kent—of which, by the way, I was
once assured that the oldest inhabitant could not say “what it come
from.”  While I was copying the fresco outside the chapel at Doera, some
charming people came round me.  I said the fresco was very beautiful.
“Son persuaso,” said the spokesman solemnly.  Then he said there were
some more pictures inside and we had better see them; so the keys were
brought.  We said that they too were very beautiful.  “Siam persuasi,”
was the reply in chorus.  Then they said that perhaps we should like to
buy them and take them away with us.  This was a more serious matter, so
we explained that they were very beautiful, but that these things had a
charm upon the spot which they would lose if removed elsewhere.  The nice
people at once replied, “Siam persuasi,” and so they left us.  It was
like a fragment from one of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas.

For the rest, Mesocco is beautifully situated and surrounded by
waterfalls.  There is a man there who takes the cows and goats out in the
morning for their several owners in the village, and brings them home in
the evening.  He announces his departure and his return by blowing a
twisted shell, like those that Tritons blow on fountains or in pictures;
it yields a softer sound than a horn; when his shell is heard people go
to the cow-house and let the cows out; they need not drive them to join
the others, they need only open the door; and so in the evening, they
only want the sound of the shell to tell them that they must open the
stable-door, for the cows or goats when turned from the rest of the mob
make straight to their own abode.

There are two great avalanches which descend every spring; one of them
when I was there last was not quite gone until September; these
avalanches push the air before them and compress it, so that a terrific
wind descends to the bottom of the valley and mounts up on to the village
of Mesocco.  One year this wind snapped a whole grove of full-grown
walnuts across the middle of their trunks, and carried stones and bits of
wood up against the houses at some distance off; it tore off part of the
covering from the cupola of the church, and twisted the weathercock awry
in the fashion in which it may still be seen, unless it has been mended
since I left.

The judges at Mesocco get four francs a day when they are wanted, but
unless actually sitting they get nothing.  No wonder the people are so
nice to one another and quarrel so seldom.

The walk from Mesocco to S. Bernardino is delightful; it should take
about three hours.  For grassy slopes and flowers I do not know a better,
more especially from S. Giacomo onward.  In the woods above S. Giacomo
there are some bears, or were last year.  Five were known—a father,
mother, and three young ones—but two were killed.  They do a good deal of
damage, and the Canton offers a reward for their destruction.  The
Grisons is the only Swiss Canton in which there are bears still
remaining.

San Bernardino, 5500 feet above the sea, pleased me less than Mesocco,
but there are some nice bits in it.  The Hotel Brocco is the best to go
to.  The village is about two hours below the top of the pass; the walk
to this is a pleasant one.  The old Roman road can still be seen in many
places, and is in parts in an excellent state even now.  San Bernardino
is a fashionable watering-place and has a chalybeate spring.  In the
summer it often has as many as two or three thousand visitors, chiefly
from the neighbourhood of the Lago Maggiore and even from Milan.  It is
not so good a sketching ground—at least so I thought—as some others of a
similar character that I have seen.  It is not comparable, for example,
to Fusio.  It is little visited by the English.

On our way down to Bellinzona again we determined to take S. Maria in
Calanca, and accordingly were dropped by the diligence near Gabbiolo,
whence there is a path across the meadows and under the chestnuts which
leads to Verdabbio.  There are some good bits near the church of this
village, and some quaint modern frescoes on a public-house a little off
the main footpath, but there is no accommodation.  From this village the
path ascends rapidly for an hour or more, till just as one has made
almost sure that one must have gone wrong and have got too high, or be on
the track to an _alpe_ only, one finds one’s self on a wide beaten path
with walls on either side.  We are now on a level with S. Maria itself,
and turning sharply to the left come in a few minutes right upon the
massive keep and the _campanile_, which are so striking when seen from
down below.  They are much more striking when seen from close at hand.
The sketch I give does not convey the notion—as what sketch can convey
it?—that one is at a great elevation, and it is this which gives its
especial charm to S. Maria in Calanca.

                    [Picture: Approach to Sta. Maria]

The approach to the church is beautiful, and the church itself full of
interest.  The village was evidently at one time a place of some
importance, though it is not easy to understand how it came to be built
in such a situation.  Even now it is unaccountably large.  There is no
accommodation for sleeping, but an artist who could rough it would, I
think, find a good deal that he would like.  On p. 226 is a sketch of the
church and tower as seen from the opposite side to that from which the
sketch on p. 224 was taken.

                [Picture: Sta. Maria, Approach to Church]

The church seems to have been very much altered, if indeed the body of it
was not entirely rebuilt, in 1618—a date which is found on a pillar
inside the church.  On going up into the gallery at the west end of the
church, there is found a Nativity painted in fresco by a local artist,
one Agostino Duso of Roveredo, in the year 1727, and better by a good
deal than one would anticipate from the epoch and habitat of the painter.
On the other side of the same gallery there is a Death of the Virgin,
also by the same painter, but not so good.  On the left-hand side of the
nave going towards the altar there is a remarkable picture of the battle
of Lepanto, signed “Georgius Wilhelmus Groesner Constantiensis fecit A.D.
1649,” and with an inscription to the effect that it was painted for the
confraternity of the most holy Rosary, and by them set up “in this church
of St. Mary commonly called of Calancha.”  The picture displays very
little respect for academic principles, but is full of spirit and
sensible painting.

                   [Picture: Front View of Sta. Maria]

Above this picture there hang two others—also very interesting, from
being examples of, as it were, the last groans of true art while being
stifled by academicism—or it may be the attempt at a new birth, which was
nevertheless doomed to extinction by academicians while yet in its
infancy.  Such pictures are to be found all over Italy.  Sometimes, as in
the case of the work of Dedomenici, they have absolute merit—more
commonly they have the relative merit of showing that the painter was
trying to look and feel for himself, and a picture does much when it
conveys this impression.  It is a small still voice, which, however
small, can be heard through and above the roar of cant which tries to
drown it.  We want a book about the unknown Italian painters in
out-of-the-way Italian valleys during the times of the decadence of art.
There is ample material for one who has the time at his command.

We lunched at the house of the incumbent, a monk, who was very kind to
us.  We found him drying French marigold blossoms to colour his _risotto_
with during the winter.  He gave us some excellent wine, and took us over
the tower near the church.  Nothing can be more lovely than the monk’s
garden.  If æsthetic people are ever going to get tired of sun-flowers
and lilies, let me suggest to them that they will find a weary utterness
in chicory and seed onions which they should not overlook; I never felt
chicory and seed onions till I was in the monk’s garden at S. Maria in
Calanca.  All about the terrace or artificial level ground on which the
church is placed, there are admirable bits for painting, and if there was
only accommodation so that one could get up as high as the _alpi_, I can
fancy few better places to stay at than S. Maria in Calanca.



Chapter XIX
The Mendrisiotto


WE stayed a day or two at Bellinzona, and then went on over the Monte
Cenere to Lugano.  My first acquaintance with the Monte Cenere was made
some seven-and-thirty years ago when I was a small boy.  I remember with
what delight I found wild narcissuses growing in a meadow upon the top of
it, and was allowed to gather as many as I liked.  It was not till some
thirty years afterwards that I again passed over the Monte Cenere in
summer time, but I well remembered the narcissus place, and wondered
whether there would still be any of them growing there.  Sure enough when
we got to the top, there they were as thick as cowslips in an English
meadow.  At Lugano, having half-an-hour to spare, we paid our respects to
the glorious frescoes by Bernardino Luini, and to the façade of the
duomo, and then went on to Mendrisio.

The neighbourhood of Mendrisio, or, as it is called, the “Mendrisiotto,”
is a rich one.  Mendrisio itself should be the headquarters; there is an
excellent hotel there, the Hotel Mendrisio, kept by Signora Pasta, which
cannot be surpassed for comfort and all that makes a hotel pleasant to
stay at.  I never saw a house where the arrangements were more perfect;
even in the hottest weather I found the rooms always cool and airy, and
the nights never oppressive.  Part of the secret of this may be that
Mendrisio lies higher than it appears to do, and the hotel, which is
situated on the slope of the hill, takes all the breeze there is.  The
lake of Lugano is about 950 feet above the sea.  The river falls rapidly
between Mendrisio and the lake, while the hotel is high above the river.
I do not see, therefore, how the hotel can be less than 1200 feet above
the sea-line; but whatever height it is, I never felt the heat
oppressive, though on more than one occasion I have stayed there for
weeks together in July and August.

Mendrisio being situated on the railway between Lugano and Como, both
these places are within easy reach.  Milan is only a couple of hours off,
and Varese a three or four hours’ carriage drive.  It lies on the very
last slopes of the Alps, so that whether the visitor has a fancy for
mountains or for the smiling beauty of the _colline_, he may be equally
gratified.  There are excellent roads in every direction, and none of
them can be taken without its leading to some new feature of interest; I
do not think any English family will regret spending a fortnight at this
charming place.

Most visitors to Mendrisio, however, make it a place of passage only, _en
route_ for the celebrated hotel on the Monte Generoso, kept by Dr. Pasta,
Signora Pasta’s brother-in-law.  The Monte Generoso is very fine; I know
few places of which I am fonder; whether one looks down at evening upon
the lake of Lugano thousands of feet below, and then lets the eye wander
upward again and rest upon the ghastly pallor of Monte Rosa, or whether
one takes the path to the Colma and saunters over green slopes carpeted
with wild-flowers, and studded with the gentlest cattle, all is equally
delightful.  What a sense of vastness and freedom is there on the broad
heaving slopes of these subalpine spurs.  They are just high enough
without being too high.  The South Downs are very good, and by making
believe very much I have sometimes been half able to fancy when upon them
that I might be on the Monte Generoso, but they are only good as a
quartet is good if one cannot get a symphony.

I think there are more wild-flowers upon the Monte Generoso than upon any
other that I know, and among them numbers of beautiful wild narcissuses,
as on the Monte Cenere.  At the top of the Monte Generoso, among the
rocks that jut out from the herbage, there grows—unless it has been all
uprooted—the large yellow auricula, and this I own to being my favourite
mountain wild-flower.  It is the only flower which, I think, fairly beats
cowslips.  Here too I heard, or thought I heard, the song of that most
beautiful of all bird songsters, the _passero solitario_, or solitary
sparrow-if it is a sparrow, which I should doubt.

Nobody knows what a bird can do in the way of song until he has heard a
_passero solitario_.  I think they still have one at the Hotel Mendrisio,
but am not sure.  I heard one there once, and can only say that I shall
ever remember it as the most beautiful warbling that I ever heard come
out of the throat of bird.  All other bird singing is loud, vulgar, and
unsympathetic in comparison.  The bird itself is about as big as a
starling, and is of a dull blue colour.  It is easily tamed, and becomes
very much attached to its master and mistress, but it is apt to die in
confinement before very long.  It fights all others of its own species;
it is now a rare bird, and is doomed, I fear, ere long to extinction, to
the regret of all who have had the pleasure of its acquaintance.  The
Italians are very fond of them, and Professor Vela told me they will even
act like a house dog and set up a cry if any strangers come.  The one I
saw flew instantly at my finger when I put it near its cage, but I was
not sure whether it did so in anger or play.  I thought it liked being
listened to, and as long as it chose to sing I was delighted to stay,
whereas as a general rule I want singing birds to leave off. {231}

People say the nightingale’s song is so beautiful; I am ashamed to own
it, but I do not like it.  It does not use the diatonic scale.  A bird
should either make no attempt to sing in tune, or it should succeed in
doing so.  Larks are Wordsworth, and as for canaries, I would almost
sooner hear a pig having its nose ringed, or the grinding of an axe.
Cuckoos are all right; they sing in tune.  Rooks are lovely; they do not
pretend to tune.  Seagulls again, and the plaintive creatures that pity
themselves on moorlands, as the plover and the curlew, or the birds that
lift up their voices and cry at eventide when there is an eager air
blowing upon the mountains and the last yellow in the sky is fading—I
have no words with which to praise the music of these people.  Or listen
to the chuckling of a string of soft young ducks, as they glide
single-file beside a ditch under a hedgerow, so close together that they
look like some long brown serpent, and say what sound can be more
seductive.

Many years ago I remember thinking that the birds in New Zealand
approached the diatonic scale more nearly than European birds do.  There
was one bird, I think it was the New Zealand thrush, but am not sure,
which used to sing thus:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

I was always wanting it to go on:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

But it never got beyond the first four bars.  Then there was another
which I noticed the first day I landed, more than twenty years since, and
whose song descended by very nearly perfect semitones as follows:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

but the semitones are here and there in this bird’s song a trifle out of
tune, whereas in that of the other there was no departure from the
diatonic scale.  Be this, however, as it may, none of these please me so
much as the _passero solitario_.

The only mammals that I can call to mind at this moment as showing any
even apparent approach to an appreciation of the diatonic scale are the
elephant and the rhinoceros.  The braying (or whatever is the technical
term for it) of an elephant comprises a pretty accurate third, and is of
a rich mellow tone with a good deal of brass in it.  The rhinoceros
grunts a good fourth, beginning, we will say, on C, and dropping
correctly on to the G below.

The Monte Generoso, then, is a good place to stay a few days at, but one
soon comes to an end of it.  The top of a mountain is like an island in
the air, one is cooped up upon it unless one descends; in the case of the
Monte Generoso there is the view of the lake of Lugano, the walk to the
Colma, the walk along the crest of the hill by the farm, and the view
over Lombardy, and that is all.  If one goes far down one is haunted by
the recollection that when one is tired in the evening one will have all
one’s climbing to do, and, beautiful as the upper parts of the Monte
Generoso are, there is little for a painter there except to study cattle,
goats, and clouds.  I recommend a traveller, therefore, by all means to
spend a day or two at the hotel on the Monte Generoso, but to make his
longer sojourn down below at Mendrisio, the walks and excursions from
which are endless, and all of them beautiful.

Among the best of these is the ascent of the Monte Bisbino, which can be
easily made in a day from Mendrisio; I found no difficulty in doing it on
foot all the way there and back a few years ago, but I now prefer to take
a trap as far as Sagno, and do the rest of the journey on foot, returning
to the trap in the evening.  Every one who knows North Italy knows the
Monte Bisbino.  It is a high pyramidal mountain with what seems a little
white chapel on the top that glistens like a star when the sun is full
upon it.  From Como it is seen most plainly, but it is distinguishable
over a very large part of Lombardy when the sun is right; it is
frequently ascended from Como and Cernobbio, but I believe the easiest
way of getting up it is to start from Mendrisio with a trap as far as
Sagno.

A mile and a half or so after leaving Mendrisio there is a village called
Castello on the left.  Here, a little off the road on the right hand,
there is the small church of S. Cristoforo, of great antiquity,
containing the remains of some early frescoes, I should think of the
thirteenth or early part of the fourteenth century.

As usual, people have scratched their names on the frescoes.  We found
one name “Battista,” with the date “1485” against it.  It is a mistake to
hold that the English scribble their names about more than other people.
The Italians like doing this just as well as we do.  Let the reader go to
Varallo, for example, and note the names scratched up from the beginning
of the sixteenth century to the present day, on the walls of the chapel
containing the Crucifixion.  Indeed, the Italians seem to have begun the
habit long before we did, for we very rarely find names scratched on
English buildings so long ago as the fifteenth century, whereas in Italy
they are common.  The earliest I can call to mind in England at this
moment (of course, excepting the names written in the Beauchamp Tower) is
on the church porch at Harlington, where there is a name cut and dated in
one of the early years of the seventeenth century.  I never even in Italy
saw a name scratched on a wall with an earlier date than 1480.

Why is it, I wonder, that these little bits of soul-fossil as it were,
touch us so much when we come across them?  A fossil does not touch
us—while a fly in amber does.  Why should a fly in amber interest us and
give us a slightly solemn feeling for a moment, when the fossil of a
megatherium bores us?  I give it up; but few of us can see the lightest
trifle scratched off casually and idly long ago, without liking it better
than almost any great thing of the same, or ever so much earlier date,
done with purpose and intention that it should remain.  So when we left
S. Cristoforo it was not the old church, nor the frescoes, but the name
of the idle fellow who had scratched his name “Battista . . . 1485,” that
we carried away with us.  A little bit of old world life and entire want
of earnestness, preserved as though it were a smile in amber.

In the Val Sesia, several years ago, I bought some tobacco that was
wrapped up for me in a yellow old MS. which I in due course examined.  It
was dated 1797, and was a leaf from the book in which a tanner used to
enter the skins which his customers brought him to be tanned.

“October 24,” he writes, “I received from Signora Silvestre, called the
widow, the skin of a goat branded in the neck.—(I am not to give it up
unless they give me proof that she is the rightful owner.)  Mem.  I
delivered it to Mr. Peter Job (Signor Pietro Giobbe).

“October 27.—I receive two small skins of a goat, very thin and branded
in the neck, from Giuseppe Gianote of Campertogno.

“October 29.—I receive three skins of a chamois from Signor Antonio
Cinere of Alagna, branded in the neck.”  Then there is a subsequent entry
written small.  “I receive also a little gray marmot’s skin weighing
thirty ounces.”

I am sorry I did not get a sheet with the tanner’s name.  I am sure he
was an excellent person, and might have been trusted with any number of
skins, branded or unbranded.  It is nearly a hundred years ago since that
little gray marmot’s skin was tanned in the Val Sesia; but the wretch
will not lie quiet in his grave; he walks, and has haunted me once a
month or so any time this ten years past.  I will see if I cannot lay him
by prevailing on him to haunt some one or other of my readers.



Chapter XX
Sanctuary on Monte Bisbino


BUT to return to S. Cristoforo.  In the Middle Ages there was a certain
duke who held this part of the country and was notorious for his
exactions.  One Christmas eve when he and his whole household had
assembled to their devotions, the people rose up against them and
murdered them inside the church.  After this tragedy, the church was
desecrated, though monuments have been put up on the outside walls even
in recent years.  There is a fine bit of early religious sculpture over
the door, and the traces of a fresco of Christ walking upon the water,
also very early.

Returning to the road by a path of a couple of hundred yards, we
descended to cross the river, and then ascended again to Morbio
Superiore.  The view from the piazza in front of the church is very fine,
extending over the whole Mendrisiotto, and reaching as far as Varese and
the Lago Maggiore.  Below is Morbio Inferiore, a place of singular
beauty.  A couple of Italian friends were with us, one of them Signor
Spartaco Vela, son of Professor Vela.  He called us into the church and
showed us a beautiful altar-piece—a Madonna with saints on either side,
apparently moved from some earlier church, and, as we all agreed, a very
fine work, though we could form no idea who the artist was.

From Morbio Superiore the ascent is steep, and it will take half-an-hour
or more to reach the level bit of road close to Sagno.  This, again,
commands the most exquisite views, especially over Como, through the
trunks of the trees.  Then comes Sagno itself, the last village of the
Canton Ticino and close to the Italian frontier.  There is no inn with
sleeping accommodation here, but if there was, Sagno would be a very good
place to stay at.  They say that some of its inhabitants sometimes
smuggle a pound or two of tobacco across the Italian frontier, hiding it
in the fern close to the boundary, and whisking it over the line on a
dark night, but I know not what truth there is in the allegation; the
people struck me as being above the average in respect of good looks and
good breeding—and the average in those parts is a very high one.

                     [Picture: Top of Monte Bisbino]

Immediately behind Sagno the old paved pilgrim’s road begins to ascend
rapidly.  We followed it, and in half-an-hour reached the stone marking
the Italian boundary; then comes some level walking, and then on turning
a corner the monastery at the top of the Monte Bisbino is caught sight
of.  It still looks small, but one can now see what an important building
it really is, and how different from the mere chapel which it appears to
be when seen from a distance.  The sketch which I give is taken from
about a mile further on than the place where the summit is first seen.

Here some men joined us who lived in a hut a few hundred feet from the
top of the mountain and looked after the cattle there during the summer.
It is at their _alpe_ that the last water can be obtained, so we resolved
to stay there and eat the provisions we had brought with us.  For the
benefit of travellers, I should say they will find the water by opening
the door of a kind of outhouse; this covers the water and prevents the
cows from dirtying it.  There will be a wooden bowl floating on the top.
The water outside is not drinkable, but that in the outhouse is
excellent.

The men were very good to us; they knew me, having seen me pass and
watched me sketching in other years.  It had unfortunately now begun to
rain, so we were glad of shelter: they threw faggots on the fire and soon
kindled a blaze; when these died down and it was seen that the sparks
clung to the kettle and smouldered on it, they said that it would rain
much, and they were right.  It poured during the hour we spent in dining,
after which it only got a little better; we thanked them, and went up
five or six hundred feet till the monastery at length loomed out suddenly
upon us from the mist, when we were close to it but not before.

There is a restaurant at the top which is open for a few days before and
after a _festa_, but generally closed; it was open now, so we went in to
dry ourselves.  We found rather a roughish lot assembled, and imagined
the smuggling element to preponderate over the religious, but nothing
could be better than the way in which they treated us.  There was one
gentleman, however, who was no smuggler, but who had lived many years in
London and had now settled down at Rovenna, just below on the lake of
Como.  He had taken a room here and furnished it for the sake of the
shooting.  He spoke perfect English, and would have none but English
things about him.  He had Cockle’s antibilious pills, and the last
numbers of the “Illustrated London News” and “Morning Chronicle;” his
bath and bath-towels were English, and there was a box of Huntley &
Palmer’s biscuits on his dressing-table.  He was delighted to see some
Englishmen, and showed us everything that was to be seen—among the rest
the birds he kept in cages to lure those that he intended to shoot.  He
also took us behind the church, and there we found a very beautiful
marble statue of the Madonna and child, an admirable work, with painted
eyes and the dress gilded and figured.  What an extraordinary number of
fine or, at the least, interesting things one finds in Italy which no one
knows anything about.  In one day, poking about at random, we had seen
some early frescoes at S. Cristoforo, an excellent work at Morbio, and
here was another fine thing sprung upon us.  It is not safe ever to pass
a church in Italy without exploring it carefully.  The church may be new
and for the most part full of nothing but what is odious, but there is no
knowing what fragment of earlier work one may not find preserved.

                   [Picture: Veduta del Monte Bisbino]

                    [Picture: Table on Monte Bisbino]

[Picture: Chapel of S. Nicolao] Signor Barelli, for this was our friend’s
name, now gave us some prints of the sanctuary, one of which I reproduce
on p. 240.  Behind the church there is a level piece of ground with a
table and stone seats round it.  The view from here in fine weather is
very striking.  As it was, however, it was perhaps hardly less fine than
in clear weather, for the clouds had now raised themselves a little,
though very little, above the sanctuary, but here and there lay all
ragged down below us, and cast beautiful reflected lights upon the lake
and town of Como.

Above, the heavens were still black and lowering.  Over against us was
the Monte Generoso, very sombre, and scarred with snow-white torrents;
below, the dull, sullen slopes of the Monte Bisbino, and the lake of
Como; further on, the Mendrisiotto and the blue-black plains of Lombardy.
I have been at the top of the Monte Bisbino several times, but never was
more impressed with it.  At all times, however, it is a marvellous place.

Coming down we kept the ridge of the hill instead of taking the path by
which we ascended.  Beautiful views of the monastery are thus obtained.
The flowers in spring must be very varied; and we still found two or
three large kinds of gentians and any number of cyclamens.  Presently
Vela dug up a fern root of the common _Polypodium vulgare_; he scraped it
with his knife and gave us some to eat.  It is not at all bad, and tastes
very much like liquorice.  Then we came upon the little chapel of S.
Nicolao.  I do not know whether there is anything good inside or no.
Then we reached Sagno and returned to Mendrisio; as we re-crossed the
stream between Morbio Superiore and Castello we found it had become a
raging torrent, capable of any villainy.



Chapter XXI
A Day at the _Cantine_


NEXT day we went to breakfast with Professor Vela, the father of my
friend Spartaco, at Ligornetto.  After we had admired the many fine works
which Professor Vela’s studio contains, it was agreed that we should take
a walk by S. Agata, and spend the afternoon at the _cantine_, or cellars
where the wine is kept.  Spartaco had two painter friends staying with
him whom I already knew, and a young lady, his cousin; so we all went
together across the meadows.  I think we started about one o’clock, and
it was some three or four by the time we got to the _cantine_, for we
kept stopping continually to drink wine.  The two painter visitors had a
fine comic vein, and enlivened us continually with bits of stage business
which were sometimes uncommonly droll.  We were laughing incessantly, but
carried very little away with us except that the drier one of the two,
who was also unfortunately deaf, threw himself into a rhapsodical
attitude with his middle finger against his cheek, and his eyes upturned
to heaven, but to make sure that his finger should stick to his cheek he
just wetted the end of it against his tongue first.  He did this with
unruffled gravity, and as if it were the only thing to do under the
circumstances.

The young lady who was with us all the time enjoyed everything just as
much as we did; once, indeed, she thought they were going a little too
far—not as among themselves—but considering that there were a couple of
earnest-minded Englishmen with them: the pair had begun a short
performance which certainly did look as if it might develop into
something a little hazardous.  “Minga far tutto,” she exclaimed rather
promptly—“Don’t do all.”  So what the rest would have been we shall never
know.

Then we came to some precipices, whereon it at once occurred to the two
comedians that they would commit suicide.  The pathetic way in which they
shared the contents of their pockets among us, and came back more than
once to give little additional parting messages which occurred to them
just as they were about to take the fatal plunge, was irresistibly comic,
and was the more remarkable for the spontaneousness of the whole thing
and the admirable way in which the pair played into one another’s hands.
The deaf one even played his deafness, making it worse than it was so as
to heighten the comedy.  By and by we came to a stile which they
pretended to have a delicacy in crossing, but the lady helped them over.
We concluded that if these young men were average specimens of the
Italian student—and I should say they were—the Italian character has an
enormous fund of pure love of fun—not of mischievous fun, but of the very
best kind of playful humour, such as I have never seen elsewhere except
among Englishmen.

Several times we stopped and had a bottle of wine at one place or
another, till at last we came to a beautiful shady place looking down
towards the lake of Lugano where we were to rest for half-an-hour or so.
There was a _cantina_ here, so of course we had more wine.  In that air,
and with the walk and incessant state of laughter in which we were being
kept, we might drink _ad libitum_, and the lady did not refuse a second
small _bicchiere_.  On this our deaf friend assumed an anxious, fatherly
air.  He said nothing, but put his eyeglass in his eye, and looked first
at the lady’s glass and then at the lady with an expression at once kind,
pitying, and pained; he looked backwards and forwards from the glass to
the lady more than once, and then made as though he were going to quit a
scene in which it was plain he could be of no further use, throwing up
his hands and eyes like the old steward in Hogarth’s “Marriage à la
mode.”  They never seemed to tire, and every fresh incident at once
suggested its appropriate treatment.  Jones asked them whether they
thought they could mimic me.  “Oh dear, yes,” was the answer; “we have
mimicked him hundreds of times,” and they at once began.

At last we reached Professor Vela’s own _cantina_, and here we were to
have our final bottle.  There were several other _cantine_ hard by, and
other parties that had come like ourselves to take a walk and get some
wine.  The people bring their evening meal with them up to the _cantina_
and then sit on the wall outside, or go to a rough table and eat it.
Instead, in fact, of bringing their wine to their dinner, they take their
dinner to their wine.  There was one very fat old gentleman who had got
the corner of the wall to sit on, and was smoking a cigar with his coat
off.  He comes, I am told, every day at about three during the summer
months, and sits on the wall till seven, when he goes home to bed, rising
at about four o’clock next morning.  He seemed exceedingly good-tempered
and happy.  Another family who owned a _cantina_ adjoining Professor
Vela’s, had brought their evening meal with them, and insisted on giving
us a quantity of excellent river cray-fish which looked like little
lobsters.  I may be wrong, but I thought this family looked at us once or
twice as though they thought we were seeing a little more of the Italians
absolutely _chez eux_ than strangers ought to be allowed to see.  We can
only say we liked all we saw so much that we would fain see it again, and
were left with the impression that we were among the nicest and most
loveable people in the world.

I have said that the _cantine_ are the cellars where the people keep
their wine.  They are caves hollowed out into the side of the mountain,
and it is only certain localities that are suitable for the purpose.  The
_cantine_, therefore, of any village will be all together.  The _cantine_
of Mendrisio, for example, can be seen from the railroad, all in a row, a
little before one gets into the town; they form a place of _réunion_
where the village or town unites to unbend itself on _feste_ or after
business hours.  I do not know exactly how they manage it, but from the
innermost chamber of each _cantina_ they run a small gallery as far as
they can into the mountain, and from this gallery, which may be a foot
square, there issues a strong current of what, in summer, is icy cold
air, while in winter it feels quite warm.  I could understand the
equableness of the temperature of the mountain at some yards from the
surface of the ground, causing the _cantina_ to feel cool in summer and
warm in winter, but I was not prepared for the strength and iciness of
the cold current that came from the gallery.  I had not been in the
innermost _cantina_ two minutes before I felt thoroughly chilled and in
want of a greatcoat.

Having been shown the _cantine_, we took some of the little cups which
are kept inside and began to drink.  These little cups are common
crockery, but at the bottom there is written, Viva Bacco, Viva l’Italia,
Viva la Gioia, Viva Venere, or other such matter; they are to be had in
every crockery shop throughout the Mendrisiotto, and are very pretty.  We
drank out of them, and ate the cray-fish which had been given us.  Then
seeing that it was getting late, we returned together to Besazio, and
there parted, they descending to Ligornetto and we to Mendrisio, after a
day which I should be glad to think would be as long and pleasantly
remembered by our Italian friends as it will assuredly be by ourselves.

                           [Picture: Sommazzo]

The excursions in the neighbourhood of Mendrisio are endless.  The walk,
for example, to S. Agata and thence to Meride is exquisite.  S. Agata
itself is perfect, and commands a splendid view.  Then there is the
little chapel of S. Nicolao on a ledge of the red precipice.  The walk to
this by the village of Sommazzo is as good as anything can be, and the
quiet terrace leading to the church door will not be forgotten by those
who have seen it.  Sommazzo itself from the other side of the valley
comes as on p. 247.  There is Cragno, again, on the Monte Generoso, or
Riva with its series of pictures _in tempera_ by the brothers Giulio
Cesare and Camillo Procaccini, men who, had they lived before the days of
academics, might have done as well as any, except the few whom no academy
can mould, but who, as it was, were carried away by fluency and facility.
It is useless, however, to specify.  There is not one of the many
villages which can be seen from any rising ground in the neighbourhood,
but what contains something that is picturesque and interesting, while
the _coup d’œil_, as a whole, is always equally striking, whether one is
on the plain and looks towards the mountains, or looks from the mountains
to the plains.



Chapter XXII
Sacro Monte, Varese


FROM Mendrisio we took a trap across the country to Varese, passing
through Stabbio, where there are some baths that are much frequented by
Italians in the summer.  The road is a pleasant one, but does not go
through any specially remarkable places.  Travellers taking this road had
better leave every cigarette behind them on which they do not want to pay
duty, as the custom-house official at the frontier takes a strict view of
what is due to his employers.  I had, perhaps, a couple of ounces of
tobacco in my pouch, but was made to pay duty on it, and the searching of
our small amount of luggage was little less than inquisitorial.

From Varese we went without stopping to the Sacro Monte, four or five
miles beyond, and several hundred feet higher than the town itself.
Close to the first chapel, and just below the arch through which the more
sacred part of the mountain is entered upon, there is an excellent hotel
called the Hotel Riposo, kept by Signor Piotti; it is very comfortable,
and not at all too hot even in the dog-days; it commands magnificent
views, and makes very good headquarters.

Here we rested and watched the pilgrims going up and down.  They seemed
very good-humoured and merry.  Then we looked through the grating of the
first chapel inside the arch, and found it to contain a representation of
the Annunciation.  The Virgin had a real washing-stand, with a basin and
jug, and a piece of real soap.  Her slippers were disposed neatly under
the bed, so also were her shoes, and, if I remember rightly, there was
everything else that Messrs. Heal & Co. would send for the furnishing of
a lady’s bedroom.

I have already said perhaps too much about the realism of these groups of
painted statuary, but will venture a word or two more which may help the
reader to understand the matter better as it appears to Catholics
themselves.  The object is to bring the scene as vividly as possible
before people who have not had the opportunity of being able to realise
it to themselves through travel or general cultivation of the imaginative
faculties.  How can an Italian peasant realise to himself the notion of
the Annunciation so well as by seeing such a chapel as that at Varese?
Common sense says, either tell the peasant nothing about the
Annunciation, or put every facility in his way by the help of which he
will be able to conceive the idea with some definiteness.

We stuff the dead bodies of birds and animals which we think it worth
while to put into our museums.  We put them in the most life-like
attitudes we can, with bits of grass and bush, and painted landscape
behind them: by doing this we give people who have never seen the actual
animals, a more vivid idea concerning them than we know how to give by
any other means.  We have not room in the British Museum to give a loose
rein to realism in the matter of accessories, but each bird or animal in
the collection is so stuffed as to make it look as much alive as the
stuffer can make it—even to the insertion of glass eyes.  We think it
well that our people should have an opportunity of realising these birds
and beasts to themselves, but we are shocked at the notion of giving them
a similar aid to the realisation of events which, as we say, concern them
more nearly than any others, in the history of the world.  A stuffed
rabbit or blackbird is a good thing.  A stuffed Charge of Balaclava again
is quite legitimate; but a stuffed Nativity is, according to Protestant
notions, offensive.

Over and above the desire to help the masses to realise the events in
Christ’s life more vividly, something is doubtless due to the wish to
attract people by giving them what they like.  This is both natural and
legitimate.  Our own rectors find the prettiest psalm and hymn tunes they
can for the use of their congregations, and take much pains generally to
beautify their churches.  Why should not the Church of Rome make herself
attractive also?  If she knows better how to do this than Protestant
churches do, small blame to her for that.  For the people delight in
these graven images.  Listen to the hushed “oh bel!” which falls from
them as they peep through grating after grating; and the more tawdry a
chapel is, the better, as a general rule, they are contented.  They like
them as our own people like Madame Tussaud’s.  Granted that they come to
worship the images; they do; they hardly attempt to conceal it.  The
writer of the authorised handbook to the Sacro Monte at Locarno, for
example, speaks of “the solemn coronation of the image that is there
revered”—“la solenne coronazione del simulacro ivi venerato” (p. 7).  But
how, pray, can we avoid worshipping images? or loving images?  The actual
living form of Christ on earth was still not Christ, it was but the image
under which His disciples saw Him; nor can we see more of any of those we
love than a certain more versatile and warmer presentment of them than an
artist can counterfeit.  The ultimate “them” we see not.

How far these chapels have done all that their founders expected of them
is another matter.  They have undoubtedly strengthened the hands of the
Church in their immediate neighbourhood, and they have given an
incalculable amount of pleasure, but I think that in the Middle Ages
people expected of art more than art can do.  They hoped a fine work of
art would exercise a deep and permanent effect upon the lives of those
who lived near it.  Doubtless it does have some effect—enough to make it
worth while to encourage such works, but nevertheless the effect is, I
imagine, very transient.  The only thing that can produce a deep and
permanently good influence upon a man’s character is to have been
begotten of good ancestors for many generations—or at any rate to have
reverted to a good ancestor—and to live among nice people.

The chapels themselves at Varese, apart from their contents, are very
beautiful.  They come as fresh one after the other as a set of variations
by Handel.  Each one of them is a little architectural gem, while the
figures they contain are sometimes very good, though on the whole not
equal to those at Varallo.  The subjects are the mysteries of joy,
namely, the Annunciation (immediately after the first great arch is
passed), the Salutation of Mary by Elizabeth, the Nativity, the
Presentation, and the Disputing with the Doctors.  Then there is a second
arch, after which come the mysteries of grief—the Agony in the Garden,
the Flagellation, the Crowning with Thorns, the Ascent to Calvary, and
the Crucifixion.  Passing through a third arch, we come to the mysteries
of glory—the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost,
and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  The Dispute in the Temple is the
chapel which left the deepest impression upon us.  Here the various
attitudes and expressions of the doctors are admirably rendered.  There
is one man, I think he must have been a broad churchman and have taken in
the “Spectator”; his arms are folded, and he is smiling a little, with
his head on one side.  He is not prepared, he seems to say, to deny that
there is a certain element of truth in what this young person has been
saying, but it is very shallow, and in all essential points has been
refuted over and over again; he has seen these things come and go so
often, &c.  But all the doctors are good.  The Christ is weak, and so are
the Joseph and Mary in the background; in fact, throughout the whole
series of chapels the wicked or worldly and indifferent people are well
done, while the saints are a feeble folk: the sculptor evidently neither
understood them nor liked them, and could never get beyond silliness; but
the artist who has lately done them up has made them still weaker and
sillier by giving them all pink noses.

                     [Picture: Sacro Monte of Varese]

Shortly after the sixth chapel has been passed the road turns a corner,
and the town on the hill (see preceding page) comes into full view.  This
is a singularly beautiful spot.  The chapels are worth coming a long way
to see, but this view of the town is better still: we generally like any
building that is on the top of a hill; it is an instinct in our nature to
do so; it is a remnant of the same instinct which makes sheep like to
camp at the top of a hill; it gives a remote sense of security and
vantage-ground against an enemy.  The Italians seem hardly able to look
at a high place without longing to put something on the top of it, and
they have seldom done so with better effect than in the case of the Sacro
Monte at Varese.  From the moment of its bursting upon one on turning the
corner near the seventh, or Flagellation chapel, one cannot keep one’s
eyes off it, and one fancies, as with S. Michele, that it comes better
and better with every step one takes; near the top it composes, as on p.
254, but without colour nothing can give an adequate notion of its
extreme beauty.  Once at the top the interest centres in the
higgledy-pigglediness of the houses, the gay colours of the booths where
strings of beads and other religious knick-knacks are sold, the glorious
panorama, and in the inn where one can dine very well, and I should
imagine find good sleeping accommodation.  The view from the balcony
outside the dining-room is wonderful, and above is a sketch from the
terrace just in front of the church.

              [Picture: Sacro Monte of Varese, nearer View]

              [Picture: Terrace at the Sacro Monte, Varese]

There is here no single building comparable to the sanctuary of
Sammichele, nor is there any trace of that beautiful Lombard work which
makes so much impression upon one in the church on the Monte Pirchiriano;
the architecture is late, and _barocco_, not to say _rococo_, reigns
everywhere; nevertheless the effect of the church is good.  The visitor
should get the sacristan to show him a very fine _pagliotto_ or altar
cloth of raised embroidery, worked in the thirteenth century.  He will
also do well to walk some little distance behind the town on the way to
S. Maria dei fiori (St. Mary of the flowers) and look down upon the town
and Lombardy.  I do not think he need go much higher than this, unless he
has a fancy for climbing.

                    [Picture: Sacro Monte from above]

The Sacro Monte is a kind of ecclesiastical Rosherville Gardens,
eminently the place to spend a happy day.  We happened by good luck to be
there during one of the great _feste_ of the year, and saw I am afraid to
say how many thousands of pilgrims go up and down.  They were admirably
behaved, and not one of them tipsy.  There was an old English gentleman
at the Hotel Riposo who told us that there had been another such _festa_
not many weeks previously, and that he had seen one drunken man there—an
Englishman—who kept abusing all he saw and crying out, “Manchester’s the
place for me.”

The processions were best at the last part of the ascent; there were
pilgrims, all decked out with coloured feathers, and priests and banners
and music and crimson and gold and white and glittering brass against the
cloudless blue sky.  The old priest sat at his open window to receive the
offerings of the devout as they passed; but he did not seem to get more
than a few bambini modelled in wax.  Perhaps he was used to it.  And the
band played the _barocco_ music on the _barocco_ little piazza and we
were all _barocco_ together.  It was as though the clergyman at Ladywell
had given out that, instead of having service usual, the congregation
would go in procession to the Crystal Palace with all their traps, and
that the band had been practising “Wait till the clouds roll by” for some
time, and on Sunday as a great treat they should have it.

The Pope has issued an order saying he will not have masses written like
operas.  It is no use.  The Pope can do much, but he will not be able to
get contrapuntal music into Varese.  He will not be able to get anything
more solemn than “La Fille de Madame Angot” into Varese.  As for fugues—!
I would as soon take an English bishop to the Surrey pantomime as to the
Sacro Monte on a _festa_.

Then the pilgrims went into the shadow of a great rock behind the
sanctuary, spread themselves out over the grass and dined.



Chapter XXIII
Angera and Arona


FROM the Hotel Riposo we drove to Angera, on the Lago Maggiore.  There
are many interesting things to see on the way.  Close to Velate, for
example, there is the magnificent bit of ruin which is so striking a
feature as seen from the Sacro Monte.  A little further on, at Luinate,
there is a fine old Lombard _campanile_ and some conventual buildings
which are worth sparing five minutes or so to see.  The views hereabouts
over the lake of Varese and towards Monte Rosa are exceedingly fine.  The
driver should be told to go a mile or so out of his direct route in order
to pass Oltrona, near Voltrone.  Here there was a monastery which must
once have been an important one.  Little of old work remains, except a
very beautiful cloister of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, which
should not be missed.  It measures about twenty-one paces each way: the
north side has round arches made of brick, the arches are supported by
small columns about six inches through, each of which has a different
capital; the middle is now garden ground.  A few miles nearer Angera
there is Brebbia, the church of which is an excellent specimen of early
Lombard work.  We thought we saw the traditions of Cyclopean masonry in
the occasional irregularity of the string-courses.  The stones near the
bottom of the wall are very massive, and the west wall is not, if I
remember rightly, bonded into the north and south walls, but these walls
are only built up against it as at Giornico.  The door on the south side
is simple, but remarkably beautiful.  It looks almost as if it might
belong to some early Norman church in England, and the stones have
acquired a most exquisite warm colour with age.  At Ispra there is a
_campanile_ which Mr. Ruskin would probably disapprove of, but which we
thought lovely.  A few kilometres further on a corner is turned, and the
splendid castle of Angera is caught sight of.

                       [Picture: Castle of Angera]

Before going up to the castle we stayed at the inn on the left
immediately on entering the town, to dine.  They gave us a very good
dinner, and the garden was a delightful place to dine in.  There is a
kind of red champagne made hereabouts which is very good; the figs were
ripe, and we could gather them for ourselves and eat _ad libitum_.  There
were two tame sparrows hopping continually about us; they pretended to
make a little fuss about allowing themselves to be caught, but they
evidently did not mind it.  I dropped a bit of bread and was stooping to
pick it up; one of them on seeing me move made for it and carried it off
at once; the action was exactly that of one who was saying, “I don’t
particularly want it myself, but I’m not going to let you have it.”
Presently some _cacciatori_ came with a poodle-dog.  They explained to us
that though the poodle was “a truly hunting dog,” he would not touch the
sparrows, which to do him justice he did not.  There was a tame jay also,
like the sparrows going about loose, but, like them, aware when he was
well off.

               [Picture: Castle of Angera, from S. Quirico]

After dinner we went up to the castle, which I have now visited off and
on for many years, and like always better and better each time I go
there.  I know no place comparable to it in its own way.  I know no place
so pathetic, and yet so impressive, in its decay.  It is not a ruin—all
ruins are frauds—it is only decayed.  It is a kind of Stokesay or Ightham
Mote, better preserved than the first, and less furnished than the
second, but on a grander scale than either, and set in incomparably finer
surroundings.  The path towards it passes the church, which has been
spoiled.  Outside this there are parts of old Roman columns from some
temple, stuck in the ground; inside are two statues called St. Peter and
St. Paul, but evidently effigies of some magistrates in the Roman times.
If the traveller likes to continue the road past the church for
three-quarters of a mile or so, he will get a fine view of the castle,
and if he goes up to the little chapel of S. Quirico on the top of the
hill on his right hand, he will look down upon it and upon Arona.  We
will suppose, however, that he goes straight for the castle itself; every
moment as he approaches it, it will seem finer and finer; presently he
will turn into a vineyard on his left, and at once begin to climb.

              [Picture: Terrace at Castle of Angera, No. 1]

Passing under the old gateway—with its portcullis still ready to be
dropped, if need be, and with the iron plates that sheathe it pierced
with bullets—as at S. Michele, the visitor enters at once upon a terrace
from which the two foregoing illustrations were taken.  I know nothing
like this terrace.  On a summer’s afternoon and evening it is fully
shaded, the sun being behind the castle.  The lake and town below are
still in sunlight.  This, I think, is about the best time to see the
castle—say from six to eight on a July evening, or at any hour on a gray
day.

              [Picture: Terrace at Castle of Angera, No. 2]

Count Borromeo, to whom the castle belongs, allows it to be shown, and
visitors are numerous.  There is very little furniture inside the rooms,
and the little there is is decaying; the walls are covered with pictures,
mostly copies, and none of them of any great merit, but the rooms
themselves are lovely.  Here is a sketch of the one in which San Carlo
Borromeo was born, but the one on the floor beneath is better still.  The
whole of this part was built about the year 1350, and inside, where the
weather has not reached, the stones are as sharp as if they had been cut
yesterday.  It was in the great _Sala_ of this castle that the rising
against the Austrians in 1848 was planned; then there is the _Sala di
Giustizia_, a fine room, with the remains of frescoes; the roof and the
tower should also certainly be visited.  All is solid and real, yet it is
like an Italian opera in actual life.  Lastly, there is the kitchen,
where the wheel still remains in which a turnspit dog used to be put to
turn it and roast the meat; but this room is not shown to strangers.

           [Picture: Room in which S. Carlo Borromeo was Born]

The inner court of the castle is as beautiful as the outer one.  Through
the open door one catches glimpses of the terrace, and of the lake beyond
it.  I know Ightham, Hever, and Stokesay, both inside and out, and I know
the outside of Leeds; these are all of them exquisitely beautiful, but
neither they nor any other such place that I have ever seen please me as
much as the castle of Angera.

We stayed talking to my old friend Signor Signorelli, the _custode_ of
the castle, and his family, and sketching upon the terrace until Tonio
came to tell us that his boat was at the quay waiting for us.  Tonio is
now about fourteen years old, but was only four when I first had the
pleasure of making his acquaintance.  He is son to Giovanni, or as he is
more commonly called, Giovannino, a boatman of Arona.  The boy is
deservedly a great favourite, and is now a _padrone_ with a boat of his
own, from which he can get a good living.

He pulled us across the warm and sleepy lake, so far the most beautiful
of all even the Italian lakes; as we neared Arona, and the wall that runs
along the lake became more plain, I could not help thinking of what
Giovanni had told me about it some years before, when Tonio was lying
curled up, a little mite of an object, in the bottom of the boat.  He was
extolling a certain family of peasants who live near the castle of
Angera, as being models of everything a family ought to be.  “There,” he
said, “the children do not speak at meal-times, the _polenta_ is put upon
the table, and each takes exactly what is given him, even though one of
the children thinks another has got a larger helping than he has, he will
eat his piece in silence.  My children are not like that; if Marietta
thinks Irene has a bigger piece than she has, she will leave the room and
go to the wall.”

“What,” I asked, “does she go to the wall for?”

“Oh! to cry; all the children go to the wall to cry.”

I thought of Hezekiah.  The wall is the crying place, playing, lounging
place, and a great deal more, of all the houses in its vicinity.  It is
the common drawing-room during the summer months; if the weather is too
sultry, a boatman will leave his bed and finish the night on his back
upon its broad coping; we who live in a colder climate can hardly
understand how great a blank in the existence of these people the
destruction of the wall would be.

We soon reached Arona, and in a few minutes were in that kind and
hospitable house the Hotel d’Italia, than which no better hotel is to be
found in Italy.

Arona is cooler than Angera.  The proverb says, “He who would know the
pains of the infernal regions, could go to Angera in the summer and to
Arona in the winter.”  The neighbourhood is exquisite.  Unless during the
extreme heat of summer, it is the best place to stay at on the Lago
Maggiore.  The Monte Motterone is within the compass of a single day’s
excursion; there is Orta, also, and Varallo easily accessible, and any
number of drives and nearer excursions whether by boat or carriage.

One day we made Tonio take us to Castelletto near Sesto Calende, to hear
the bells.  They ring the bells very beautifully at Vogogna, but, unless
my recollection of a good many years ago fails me, at Castelletto they
ring them better still.

At Vogogna, while we were getting our breakfast, we heard the bells
strike up as follows, from a _campanile_ on the side of the hill:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

They did this because a baby had just died, but we were told it was
nothing to what they would have done if it had been a grown-up person.

At Castelletto we were disappointed; the bells did not ring that morning;
we hinted at the possibility of paying a small fee to the ringer and
getting him to ring them, but were told that “la gente” would not at all
approve of this, and so I was unable to take down the chimes at
Castelletto as I had intended to do.  I may say that I had a visit from
some Italian friends a few years ago, and found them hardly less
delighted with our English mode of ringing than I had been with theirs.
It would be very nice if we could ring our bells sometimes in the English
and sometimes in the Italian way.  When I say the Italian way—I should
say that the custom of ringing, as above described, is not a common one—I
have only heard it at Vogogna and Castelletto, though doubtless it
prevails elsewhere.

We were told that the people take a good deal of pride in their bells,
and that one village will be jealous of another, and consider itself more
or less insulted if the bells of that other can be heard more plainly
than its own can be heard back again.  There are two villages in the
Brianza called Balzano and Cremella; the dispute between these grew so
hot that each of them changed their bells three times, so as to try and
be heard the loudest.  I believe an honourable compromise was in the end
arrived at.

In other respects Castelletto is a quiet, sleepy little place.  The
Ticino flows through it just after leaving the lake.  It is very wide
here, and when flooded must carry down an enormous quantity of water.
Barges go down it at all times, but the river is difficult of navigation
and requires skilful pilots.  These pilots are well paid, and Tonio
seemed to have a great respect for them.  The views of Monte Rosa are
superb.

One of the great advantages of Arona, as of Mendrisio, is that it
commands such a number of other places.  There is rail to Milan, and
again to Novara, and each station on the way is a sub-centre; there are
also the steamers on the lake, and there is not a village at which they
stop which will not repay examination, and which is not in its turn a
sub-centre.  In England I have found by experience that there is nothing
for it but to examine every village and town within easy railway
distance; no books are of much use: one never knows that something good
is not going to be sprung upon one, and few indeed are the places where
there is no old public-house, or overhanging cottage, or farmhouse and
barn, or bit of De Hooghe-like entry which, if one had two or three
lives, one would not willingly leave unpainted.  It is just the same in
North Italy; there is not a village which can be passed over with a light
heart.



Chapter XXIV
Locarno


WE were attracted to Locarno by the approaching fêtes in honour of the
fourth centenary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Fra Bartolomeo
da Ivrea, who founded the sanctuary in consequence.

The programme announced that the festivities would begin on, Saturday, at
3.30 P.M., with the carrying of the sacred image (_sacro simulacro_) of
the Virgin from the Madonna del Sasso to the collegiate church of S.
Antonio.  There would then be a benediction and celebration of the holy
communion.  At eight o’clock there were to be illuminations, fireworks,
balloons, &c., at the sanctuary and the adjacent premises.

On Sunday at half-past nine there was to be mass at the church of S.
Antonio, with a homily by Monsignor Paolo Angelo Ballerini, Patriarch of
Alexandria _in partibus_, and blessing of the crown sent by Pope Leo XIII
for the occasion.  S. Antonio is the church the roof of which fell in
during service one Sunday in 1865, through the weight of the snow,
killing sixty people.  At half-past three a grand procession would convey
the Holy Image to a pretty temple which had been erected in the
market-place.  The image was then to be crowned by the Patriarch, carried
round the town in procession, and returned to the church of S. Antonio.
At eight o’clock there were to be fireworks near the port; a grand
illumination of a triumphal arch, an illumination of the sanctuary and
chapels with Bengal lights, and an artificial apparition of the Madonna
(_Apparizione artificiale della Beata Vergine col Bambino_) above the
church upon the Sacro Monte.  Next day the Holy Image was to be carried
back from the church of S. Antonio to its normal resting-place at the
sanctuary.  We wanted to see all this, but it was the artificial
apparition of the Madonna that most attracted us.

                  [Picture: Sacro Monte, Locarno, No. 1]

Locarno is, as every one knows, a beautiful town.  Both the Hotel Locarno
and the Hotel della Corona are good, but the latter is, I believe, the
cheaper.  At the _castello_ there is a fresco of the Madonna, ascribed, I
should think rightly, to Bernardino Luini, and at the cemetery outside
the town there are some old frescoes of the second half of the fifteenth
century, in a ruinous state, but interesting.  If I remember rightly
there are several dates on them, averaging 1475–80.  They might easily
have been done by the same man who did the frescoes at Mesocco, but I
prefer these last.  The great feature, however, of Locarno is the Sacro
Monte which rises above it.  From the wooden bridge which crosses the
stream just before entering upon the sacred precincts, the church and
chapels and road arrange themselves as on p. 269.

                  [Picture: Sacro Monte, Locarno, No. 2]

On the way up, keeping to the steeper and abrupter route, one catches
sight of the monks’ garden—a little paradise with vines, beehives,
onions, lettuces, cabbages, marigolds to colour the _risotto_ with, and a
little plot of great luxuriant tobacco plants.  Amongst the foliage may
be now and again seen the burly figure of a monk with a straw hat on.
The best view of the sanctuary from above is the one which I give on p.
270.

The church itself is not remarkable, but it contains the best collection
of votive pictures that I know in any church, unless the one at Oropa be
excepted; there is also a modern Italian “Return from the Cross” by
Ciseri, which is very much admired, but with which I have myself no
sympathy whatever.  It is an Academy picture.

               [Picture: Cloister at Sacro Monte, Locarno]

The cloister looking over the lake is very beautiful.  In the little
court down below—which also is of great beauty—there is a chapel
containing a representation of the Last Supper in life-sized coloured
statues as at Varallo, which has a good deal of feeling, and a fresco (?)
behind it which ought to be examined, but the chapel is so dark that this
is easier said than done.  There is also a fresco down below in the
chapel where the founder of the sanctuary is buried which should not be
passed over.  It is dated 1522, and is Luinesque in character.  When I
was last there, however, it was hardly possible to see anything, for
everything was being turned topsy-turvy by the arrangements which were
being made for the approaching fêtes.  These were very gay and pretty;
they must have cost a great deal of money, and I was told that the
municipality in its collective capacity was thought mean, because it had
refused to contribute more than 100 francs, or £4 sterling.  It does seem
rather a small sum certainly.

On the afternoon of Friday the 13th of August the Patriarch Monsignor
Ballerini was to arrive by the three o’clock boat, and there was a crowd
to welcome him.  The music of Locarno was on the quay playing a
selection, not from “Madame Angot” itself, but from something very like
it—light, gay, sparkling opera bouffe—to welcome him.  I felt as I had
done when I found the matchbox in the sanctuary bedroom at Graglia: not
that I minded it myself, but as being a little unhappy lest the Bishop
might not quite like it.

I do not see how we could welcome a bishop—we will say to a
confirmation—with a band of music at all.  Fancy a brass band of some
twenty or thirty ranged round the landing stage at Gravesend to welcome
the Bishop of London, and fancy their playing we will say “The two
Obadiahs,” or that horrid song about the swing going a little bit higher!
The Bishop would be very much offended.  He would not go a musical inch
beyond the march in “Le Prophète,” nor, willingly, beyond the march in
“Athalie.”  Monsignor Ballerini, however, never turned a hair; he bowed
repeatedly to all round him, and drove off in a carriage and pair,
apparently much pleased with his reception.  We Protestants do not
understand, nor take any very great pains to understand, the Church of
Rome.  If we did, we should find it to be in many respects as much in
advance of us as it is behind us in others.

One thing made an impression upon me which haunted me all the time.  On
every important space there were advertisements of the programme, the
substance of which I have already given.  But hardly, if at all less
noticeable, were two others which rose up irrepressible upon every
prominent space, searching all places with a subtle penetrative power
against which precautions were powerless.  These advertisements were not
in Italian but in English, nevertheless they were neither of them
English—but both, I believe, American.  The one was that of the Richmond
Gem cigarette, with the large illustration representing a man in a hat
smoking, so familiar to us here in London.  The other was that of Wheeler
& Wilson’s sewing machines.

As the Patriarch drove off in the carriage the man in the hat smoking the
Richmond Gem cigarette leered at him, and the woman working Wheeler &
Wilson’s sewing machine sewed at him.  During the illuminations the
unwonted light threw its glare upon the effigies of saints and angels,
but it illumined also the man in the black felt hat and the woman with
the sewing machine; even during the artificial apparition of the Virgin
Mary herself upon the hill behind the town, the more they let off
fireworks the more clearly the man in the hat came out upon the walls
round the market-place, and the bland imperturbable woman working at her
sewing machine.  I thought to myself that when the man with the hat
appeared in the piazza the Madonna would ere long cease to appear on the
hill.

Later on, passing through the town alone, when the people had gone to
rest, I saw many of them lying on the pavement under the arches fast
asleep.  A brilliant moon illuminated the market-place; there was a
pleasant sound of falling water from the fountain; the lake was bathed in
splendour, save where it took the reflection of the mountains—so peaceful
and quiet was the night that there was hardly a rustle in the leaves of
the aspens.  But whether in moonlight or in shadow, the busy persistent
vibrations that rise in Anglo-Saxon brains were radiating from every
wall, and the man in the black felt hat and the bland lady with the
sewing machine were there—lying in wait, as a cat over a mouse’s hole, to
insinuate themselves into the hearts of the people so soon as they should
wake.

Great numbers came to the festivities.  There were special trains from
Biasca and all intermediate stations, and special boats.  And the ugly
flat-nosed people came from the Val Verzasca, and the beautiful people
came from the Val Onsernone and the Val Maggia, and I saw Anna, the
curate’s housekeeper, from Mesocco, and the old fresco painter who told
me he should like to pay me a visit, and suggested five o’clock in the
morning as the most appropriate and convenient time.  The great
procession contained seven or eight hundred people.  From the balcony of
the Hotel della Corona I counted as well as I could and obtained the
following result:—



Women                                                              120
Men with white shirts and red capes                                 85
Men with white shirts and no capes                                 (?)
The music from Intra                                                30
Men with white shirts and blue capes                                25
Men with white shirts and no capes                                  25
Men with white shirts and green capes                               12
Men with white shirts and no capes                                  36
The music of Locarno                                                30
Girls in blue, pink, white and yellow, red, white                   50
Choristers                                                           3
Monks                                                                6
Priests                                                             66
Canons                                                              12
His Excellency Paolo Angelo Ballerini, Patriarch of                 25
Alexandria in Egypt, escorted by the firemen, and his
private cortège of about 20
Government ushers                                                  (?)
The Grand Council, escorted by 22 soldiers and 6 policemen          28
The clergy without orders                                           30
                                                                   583

In the evening, there, sure enough, the apparition of the Blessed Virgin
was.  The church of the Madonna was unilluminated and all in darkness,
when on a sudden it sprang out into a blaze, and a great transparency of
the Virgin and child was lit up from behind.  Then the people said, “Oh
bel!”

I was myself a little disappointed.  It was not a good apparition, and I
think the effect would have been better if it had been carried up by a
small balloon into the sky.  It might easily have been arranged so that
the light behind the transparency should die out before the apparition
must fall again, and also that the light inside the transparency should
not be reflected upon the balloon that lifted it; the whole, therefore,
would appear to rise from its own inherent buoyancy.  I am confident it
would have been arranged in this way if the thing had been in the hands
of the Crystal Palace people.

There is a fine old basilicate church dedicated to S. Vittore at the
north end of Locarno.  It is the mother church of these parts and dates
from the eighth or ninth century.  The frescoes inside the apse were once
fine, but have been repainted and spoiled.  The tower is much later, but
is impressive.  It was begun in 1524 and left incomplete in 1527,
probably owing to the high price of provisions which is commemorated in
the following words written on a stone at the top of the tower inside

                   1527
Furm. [fromento—corn] cost      lib. 6.
Segale [barley]                 lib. 5.
Milio [millet]                  lib. 4.



I suppose these were something like famine prices; at any rate, a workman
wrote this upon the tower and the tower stopped.



Chapter XXV
Fusio


WE left Locarno by the conveyance which leaves every day at four o’clock
for Bignasco, a ride of about four hours.  The Ponte Brolla, a couple of
miles out of Locarno, is remarkable, and the road is throughout (as a
matter of course) good.  I sat next an old priest, an excellent kindly
man, who talked freely with me, and scolded me roundly for being a
Protestant more than once.

He seemed much surprised when I discarded reason as the foundation of our
belief.  He had made up his mind that all Protestants based their
convictions upon reason, and was not prepared to hear me go heartily with
him in declaring the foundation of any durable system to lie in faith.
When, however, it came to requiring me to have faith in what seemed good
to him and his friends, rather than to me and mine, we did not agree so
well.  He then began to shake death at me; I met him with a reflection
that I have never seen in print, though it is so obvious that it must
have occurred to each one of my readers.  I said that every man is an
immortal to himself: he only dies as far as others are concerned; to
himself he cannot, by any conceivable possibility, do so.  For how can he
know that he is dead until he _is_ dead?  And when he _is_ dead, how can
he know that he is dead?  If he does, it is an abuse of terms to say that
he is dead.  A man can know no more about the end of his life than he did
about the beginning.  The most horrible and loathed death still resolves
itself into being badly frightened, and not a little hurt towards the end
of one’s life, but it can never come to being unbearably hurt for long
together.  Besides, we are at all times, even during life, dead and dying
to by far the greater part of our past selves.  What we call dying is
only dying to the balance, or residuum.  This made the priest angry.  He
folded his arms and said, “Basta, basta,” nor did he speak to me again.
It is because I noticed the effect it produced upon my fellow-passenger
that I introduce it here.

Bignasco is at the confluence of the two main branches of the Maggia.
The greater part of the river comes down from the glacier of Basodino,
which cannot be seen from Bignasco; I know nothing of this valley beyond
having seen the glacier from the top of the pass between Fusio and Dalpe.
The smaller half of the river comes down from Fusio, the valley of
Sambucco, and the lake of Naret.  The accommodation at Bignasco is quite
enough for a bachelor; the people are good, but the inn is homely.  From
Bignasco the road ascends rapidly to Peccia, a village which has suffered
terribly from inundations, and from Peccia it ascends more rapidly
still—Fusio being reached in about three hours from Bignasco.  There is
an excellent inn at Fusio kept by Signor Dazio, to whose energy the
admirable mountain road from Peccia is mainly due.  On the right just
before he crosses the bridge, the traveller will note the fresco of the
Crucifixion, which I have mentioned at page 140.

Fusio is over 4200 feet above the level of the sea.  I do not know
wherein its peculiar charm lies, but it is the best of all the villages
of a kindred character that I know.  Below is a sketch of it as it
appears from the cemetery.

                    [Picture: Fusio from the Cemetery]

There is another good view from behind the village; at sunset this second
view becomes remarkably fine.  The houses are in deep cool shadow, but
the mountains behind take the evening sun, and are sometimes of an
incredible splendour.  It is fine to watch the shadows creeping up them,
and the colour that remains growing richer and richer until the whole is
extinguished; this view, however, I am unable to give.

I hold Signor Dazio of Fusio so much as one of my most particular and
valued friends, and I have such special affection for Fusio itself, that
the reader must bear in mind that he is reading an account given by a
partial witness.  Nevertheless, all private preferences apart, I think he
will find Fusio a hard place to beat.  At the end of June and in July the
flowers are at their best, and they are more varied and beautiful than
anywhere else I know.  At the very end of July and the beginning of
August the people cut their hay, and then for a while the glory of the
place is gone, but by the end of August or the beginning of September the
grass has grown long enough to re-cover the slopes with a velvety
verdure, and though the flowers are shorn, yet so they are from other
places also.

                     [Picture: Street View in Fusio]

There are many walks in the neighbourhood for those who do not mind
mountain paths.  The most beautiful of them all is to the valley of
Sambucco, the upper end which is not more than half-an-hour from Signor
Dazio’s hotel.  For some time one keeps to the path through the wooded
gorge, and with the river foaming far below; in early morning while this
path is in shade, or, again, after sunset, it is one of the most
beautiful of its kind that I know.  After a while a gate is reached, and
an open upland valley is entered upon—evidently an old lake filled up,
and neither very broad nor very long, but grassed all over, and with the
river winding through it like an English brook.  This is the valley of
Sambucco.  There are two collections of _stalle_ for the cattle, or
_monti_—one at the nearer end and the other at the farther.

The floor of the valley can hardly be less than 5000 feet above the sea.
I shall never forget the pleasure with which I first came upon it.  I had
long wanted an ideal upland valley; as a general rule high valleys are
too narrow, and have little or no level ground.  If they have any at all
there often is too much as with the one where Andermatt and Hospenthal
are—which would in some respects do very well—and too much cultivated,
and do not show their height.  An upland valley should first of all be in
an Italian-speaking country; then it should have a smooth, grassy,
perfectly level floor of say neither much more nor less than a hundred
and fifty yards in breadth and half-a-mile in length.  A small river
should go babbling through it with occasional smooth parts, so as to take
the reflections of the surrounding mountains.  It should have three or
four fine larches or pines scattered about it here and there, but not
more.  It should be completely land-locked, and there should be nothing
in the way of human handiwork save a few chalets, or a small chapel and a
bridge, but no tilled land whatever.  Here oven in summer the evening air
will be crisp, and the dew will form as soon as the sun goes off; but the
mountains at one end of it will keep the last rays of the sun.  It is
then the valley is at its best, especially if the goats and cattle are
coming together to be milked.

The valley of Sambucco has all this and a great deal more, to say nothing
of the fact that there are excellent trout in it.  I have shown it to
friends at different times, and they have all agreed with me that for a
valley neither too high nor too low, nor too big nor too little, the
valley of Sambucco is one of the best that any of us know of—I mean to
look at and enjoy, for I suppose as regards painting it is hopeless.  I
think it can be well rendered by the following piece of music as by
anything else:—{282}

    [Picture: Score from Handel’s third set of organ Concertos, No. 3]

                        [Picture: Score continued]

One day Signor Dazio brought us in a chamois foot.  He explained to us
that chamois were now in season, but that even when they were not, they
were sometimes to be had, inasmuch as they occasionally fell from the
rocks and got killed.  As we looked at it we could not help reflecting
that, wonderful as the provisions of animal and vegetable organisms often
are, the marvels of adaptation are sometimes almost exceeded by the feats
which an animal will perform with a very simple and even clumsy
instrument if it knows how to use it.  A chamois foot is a smooth and
slippery thing, such as no respectable bootmaker would dream of offering
to a mountaineer: there is not a nail in it, nor even an apology for a
nail; the surefootedness of its owner is an assumption only—a piece of
faith or impudence which fulfils itself.  If some other animal were to
induce the chamois to believe that it should at the least have feet with
suckers to them, like a fly, before venturing in such breakneck places,
or if by any means it could get to know how bad a foot it really has,
there would soon be no more chamois.  The chamois continues to exist
through its absolute refusal to hear reason upon the matter.  But the
whole question is one of extreme intricacy; all we know is that some
animals and plants, like some men, devote great pains to the perfection
of the mechanism with which they wish to work, while others rather scorn
appliances, and concentrate their attention upon the skilful use of
whatever they happen to have.  I think, however, that in the clumsiness
of the chamois foot must lie the explanation of the fact that sometimes
when chamois are out of season, they do nevertheless actually tumble off
the rocks and get killed; being killed, of course it is only natural that
they should sometimes be found, and if found, be eaten; but they are not
good for much.

After a day or two’s stay in this delightful place, we left at six
o’clock one brilliant morning in September for Dalpe and Faido,
accompanied by the excellent Signor Guglielmoni as guide.  There are two
main passes from Fusio into the Val Leventina—the one by the Sassello
Grande to Nante and Airolo, and the other by the Alpe di Campolungo to
Dalpe.  Neither should be attempted by strangers without a guide, though
neither of them presents the smallest difficulty.  There is a third and
longer pass by the Lago di Naret to Bedretto, but I have never been over
this.  The other two are both good; on the whole, however, I think I
prefer the second.  Signor Guglielmoni led us over the freshest grassy
slopes conceivable—slopes that four or five weeks earlier had been gay
with tiger and Turk’s-cap lilies, and the flaunting arnica, and every
flower that likes mountain company.  After a three hours’ walk we reached
the top of the pass, from whence on the one hand one can see the Basodino
glacier, and on the other the great Rheinwald glaciers above Olivone.
Other small glaciers show in valleys near Biasca which I know nothing
about, and which I imagine to be almost a _terra incognita_, except to
the inhabitants of such villages as Malvaglia in the Val Blenio.

When near the top of the pass we heard the whistle of a marmot.
Guglielmoni told us he had a tame one once which was very fond of him.
It slept all the winter, but turned round once a fortnight to avoid lying
too long upon one side.  When it woke up from its winter sleep it no
longer recognised him, but bit him savagely right through the finger; by
and by its recollection returned to it, and it apologised.

From the summit, which is about 7600 feet above the sea, the path
descends over the roughest ground that is to be found on the whole route.
Here there are good specimens of asbestos to be picked up abundantly, and
the rocks are full of garnets; after about six or seven hundred feet the
Alpe di Campolungo is reached, and this again is an especially favourite
place with me.  It is an old lake filled up, surrounded by peaks and
precipices where some snow rests all the year round, and traversed by a
stream.  Here, just as we had done lunching, we were joined by a family
of knife-grinders, who were also crossing from the Val Maggia to the Val
Leventina.  We had eaten all we had with us except our bread; this
Guglielmoni gave to one of the boys, who seemed as much pleased with it
as if it had been cake.  Then after taking a look at the Lago di
Tremorgio, a beautiful lake some hundreds of feet below, we went on to
the Alpe di Cadonighino where our guide left us.

At this point pines begin, and soon the path enters them; after a while
we catch sight of Prato, and eventually come down upon Dalpe.  In another
hour and a quarter Faido is reached.  The descent to Faido from the
summit of the pass is much greater than the ascent from Fusio, for Faido
is not more than 2300 feet above the sea, whereas, as I have said, Fusio
is over 4200 feet.  The descent from the top of the pass to Faido is
about 5300 feet, while to Fusio it is only 3400.  The reader, therefore,
will see that he had better go from Fusio to Faido, and not _vice versa_,
unless he is a good walker.



Chapter XXVI
Fusio Revisited


THIS last year Jones and I sent for Guglielmoni to take us over the
Sassello Grande from Airolo to Fusio.  Soon after starting we were joined
by a peasant woman and her daughter who were returning to their home at
Mugno in the Val Maggia some twenty minutes’ walk below Fusio.  They had
come the day before over the Sassello Pass through Fusio carrying two
hundred eggs and several fowls to Airolo.  They had had to climb a full
four thousand feet; the path is rugged in the extreme; neither of them
had any shoes or stockings; the weather was very wet; the clouds hung
low; the wind on the Colma blew so hard that, though the rain was coming
down in torrents, it was impossible to hold up an umbrella, and they did
not know the little road there is.  Happily, before they got above the
Valle di Sambucco they had fallen in with Guglielmoni, on his way to meet
us; otherwise one does not see how they could have got over.  As it was,
they did not break a single egg, but they were a good deal scared and
asked us to let them go back in our company.  We found them delightful
people; the girl was very pretty and the mother still comely, with a
singularly pleasing expression.  We found out what they had done with
their eggs and fowls.  They sold the eggs for nine centimes apiece,
whereas at Fusio they would have got but five.  The fowls fetched three
francs apiece as against two they would have got at Fusio.  Altogether
they had made the best part of twenty francs by their journey, over and
above what they would have made if they had stayed at home, and thought
they had done good business.

The weather was perfect for the return journey.  After passing Nante we
noticed by the side of the path several round burnt patches some four
feet in diameter which struck us as rather strange, so we asked
Guglielmoni about them.  He said there had been ants’ nests there, and
the people burnt them because the ants did so much damage.  He showed us
one that was in process of reconstruction, the ants building upon the
remains of their ruined home, and pointed out the deep channel which the
ants had worn in the ground through their habit of entering and quitting
their old-established nest by one main road.  We had thought the channel
was a rill artificially cut for irrigation, and it was not till
Guglielmoni showed us how impossible this was that we came to see he was
right.  He showed us a disused road that had led to a nest now destroyed,
and on two or three other occasions showed us roads leading from one nest
to another.

He told us several more things about marmots which I may mention as
opinions held by the Fusians, but upon which I should be sorry to base a
theory.  He said their fat was so subtle that it would go through glass
and could not therefore be kept in a bottle.  He said it would go through
a man’s hand.  I said: “Let us try,” but it appeared that it might take
three or four hours in getting through, so we delayed the experiment for
a more convenient season.  I asked how the marmots held their own fat if
it would go through skin.  I was answered that at the end of summer, when
the marmots are very fat, they no longer hold it and their fur is greasy.
I could not contradict this from personal knowledge and was obliged to
let it pass.  He said marmots’ fat was good for rheumatism and sprains,
but that it must never be used for a broken bone, as the ends of the bone
would not grow together again if the fat reached them.  Badgers’ fat, he
said, was very good, but it was not so sovereign a remedy as marmots’.
There are badgers about Fusio, though not so many as lower down the
valley in the chestnut country.  We saw some badgers’ fat later on at
Tesserete; it was  kept in a tin which was certainly very greasy, but we
did not think that the fat had gone through the tin.

Then we met an old gentleman with a Rembrandt-Rabbi far-away look in his
eyes.  He wore a coarse but clean linen shirt, and was otherwise neat in
his attire.  He looked as if he had suffered much and had been chastened
rather than soured by it.  We talked a little and the conversation turned
upon deceit.  I said that deceit was a necessary alloy for truth which,
without this hardening addition, like gold without an alloy of copper,
would be unworkable.

“Chi non sa ingannare,” I said in conclusion, “non sa parlare il vero.”

The old gentleman seemed to like this, and so we parted.  Guglielmoni
told us he was a painter and liable to temporary fits of insanity.
During these fits he would go up by himself into the mountains, like some
old prophet going out into the wilderness, and stay there till the fit
was over, living no one knew where or how.

Cheese is the principal product of these valleys.  I asked Guglielmoni
whether there was any sign of the upper pastures becoming impoverished by
the annual removal of so much cheese.  He said the soil about Fusio did
not yield as much by a third as it had yielded when he was a boy, but I
hardly think it likely that there is much difference.  He did not see why
taking away so many hundredweight, or rather tons, of cheese yearly
should impoverish the land, for, he said, the cows manured it.  He did
not see that the cheeses should be taken into account.  At one time he
said that two hundred years hence the Alpe di Campo la Turba would not be
worth feeding; at another that the cows left what they ate behind them.
Our own impression was that, what with insect and bird life and the
fertilising power of snow and the frequent addition of new soil by
avalanches, there was probably no harm done, and that the grass was there
or thereabouts much what it always had been since people had first begun
to feed it.  I have myself known these _alpi_ off and on ever since 1843,
and can perceive no difference, except that the glaciers, especially at
Grindelwald, have receded very considerably, and even this may be only
fancy.

I asked Guglielmoni whether the _Alpigiani_—the people who spend the
summer in the _alpi_—ever get pulmonary complaints.  “Oh si,” was his
answer, and he nodded as though it were common, which I can well believe;
but it is more difficult to understand how the few robust Alpigiani
escape.  The majority seemed to us to be prematurely worn and to live in
a state almost of squalor.  What would a doctor say to the damp floor
covered with mildew growing on spilt milk and fragments of half-made
cheese?  What about men sleeping night after night in a room built in the
middle of a dung-heap, with never a ray of sunshine save a little near
the door and an occasional beam through crannies in the walls?  What
_nidus_ can be conceived more favourable for the development of organic
germs?  How can any one escape who spends a summer in one of these huts?
I should say the worst and most insanitary cellar into which human beings
are huddled in London is not more unwholesome than these _alpi_ in the
middle of the finest air in Europe.

Guglielmoni had some edelweiss in his hat, and we asked him the Italian
name for it.  He replied that it had no other name.  The passion for this
flower has evidently spread from the north.  The Italians are great at
suppressing unnecessary details.  I was going up once in the _posta_ from
Varallo to Fobello and had an Americanised Italian cook for my only
fellow-traveller.  I asked him the name of a bird I happened to see, and
he said:

“Oh, he not got no name.  There is two birds got names.  There is the
_gazza_; he spik very nice.  I have one; he spik beautiful.  And there is
the _merlo_; he sing very pretty.  The other, they not got no names; they
not want no names; every one call them what he choose.”

And so it is with the flowers.  There is the rose and perhaps
half-a-dozen more plants, but as for the others “they not got no names,
they not want no names.”

My fellow-traveller, speaking of the villagers in the villages we passed
through, said:

“They all right as long as they stop here, but when they go away and
travel, then they not never happy no more.”

When we reached the floor of the Valle di Sambucco, the people were
milking the few cattle that remained there, and the milk purred into the
pails as with a deep hum of satisfaction.  The sun was setting red upon
the Piz Campo Tencia; the water was as clear as the air, and the air in
the deep shadow of the bottom of the valley had something of the deep
blue as well as of the transparency of the water.  We passed the gorge in
twilight and presently were again at Fusio.  We ordered some wine for the
women who had accompanied us, and as they sat waiting for it with their
hands folded before them they looked so good and holy and quiet that one
would have thought they were returning from a pilgrimage.

I have nothing to retract from what I have said in praise of Fusio.  It
is the most old-world subalpine village that I know.  It was probably
burnt down some time in the Middle Ages and perhaps the scare thus caused
led to its being rebuilt not in wood but in stone.  The houses are much
built into one another as at S. Remo; the roofs are all of them made of
large stones; there are a good many wooden balconies, but it is probably
because it has been chiefly built of stone that we now see it much as it
must have looked two or even three centuries ago.  If any one wants to
know what kind of village the people of three hundred years ago beheld,
at Fusio he will find an almost untouched specimen of what he wants.  For
picturesqueness I know no subalpine village so good.  Sit down wherever
one will there is a subject ready made.  The back of the village is
perhaps more mediæval in appearance than the front.  Its quaint
picturesqueness, the beauty of its flowers, the brilliancy of its
meadows, and the genial presence of Signor Dazio prevent me from allowing
any great length of time to pass without a visit to Fusio.

I said to Jones once: “It is worth while going to Fusio if only to please
Signor Dazio.”

“Yes,” said Jones, “and he is so very easily pleased.”

It is just this that makes it so pleasant to try to please him.  I
believe all the people in Fusio are good.  I asked Guglielmoni once what
happened when any one did something wrong.  He seemed bewildered.  The
case had not arisen within his recollection.  I pressed him and said that
it might arise even at Fusio, and what would happen then?  Had they a
prison or a lock-up of any kind?  He said they had hone, and he supposed
the offender would have to be taken down the valley to Cevio, about
fourteen or fifteen miles off—but the case had not arisen.

At Fusio, in spite of all its flowers, there are no bees; the summer is
too short and they would have to be fed too long.  Nevertheless, we got
the best honey at Fusio that we got anywhere.  Signor Dazio said it was
from his own hives at Locarno and had not been “elongated” in any way.
What was bought at the shops, he said, was almost invariably “elongated”
with flour, sugar and a variety of other things.

The hotel has been much improved during these last two years; the kitchen
has been taken downstairs and the old one thrown into the dining-room,
which has been newly decorated after a happily-conceived and
tastefully-executed scheme.  The visitor is to suppose himself seated in
a large open belvedere upon the roof of the house, over which a light
iron trellis-work has been thrown and gracefully festooned with a
profusion of brilliant flowers.  In the sky, which is of unclouded blue,
birds of lustrous plumage are engaged in carrying a wreath, presumably
for the brow of one of the visitors.  The lower part of the heavens is
studded with commodious hat pegs, two or three doors, the windows, and a
substantial fire-place.  The gorgeous parrot of the establishment has
chosen the point where the sky unites with the right-hand corner of the
chimney-piece as the most convenient spot to perch on, and his presence
there gives life and nature to the scene.  We were struck with the wise
reticence of the painter in not putting another parrot at the opposite
corner; there is a verisimilitude about one bird which would have been
lost with two, for few houses have more than one parrot.  The effect of
the whole is singularly gay and pleasing.  For an English household I
admit that there is nothing to compare with Mr. Morris’s
wall-papers—except, of course, his poetry—but there is an
over-the-garden-walliness, if the expression may be pardoned, about these
Italian decorations, a frank meretriciousness, both of design and colour,
which will be found infinitely refreshing and may be looked for in vain
in the works of our English masters of decoration.

The day after our arrival was the feast of the Assumption of the Madonna,
and the next day was the feast of S. Rocco, the patron saint of Fusio, so
the bells were ringing continually.  There are only three bells, but they
are good ones; they were brought up from Peccia some forty years ago,
long before Signor Dazio had the present road made; he was then a boy and
assisted at the very arduous task of bringing them up.  Like bells
generally in North Italy they hang half-way out of the windows of the
_campanile_, instead of being wholly within the belfry as our English
bells are.  This is why an Italian _campanile_ is such a much more
slender object than an English belfry; it has less to cover.  When the
bells are rung by being raised and swung in and out of the window, there
is one ringer to each bell, and the following is all that is attempted:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

This, however, is varied with another and very different effect to which
I have alluded in Chapter XXIII, but of which I can now speak at greater
length inasmuch as we went up among the bells and saw how it was done.

The ringer has a light cord for each bell; he fastens one end of the cord
by an iron hook to a hole in the clapper and the other to a beam of the
belfry.  The cords are just long enough to hold the clapper an inch or so
off the side of the bell, the weight of the clapper keeping the cord
tight.  The ringer has thus three tight cords before him, on which he
plays by hitting the middle of whichever one he wants with his hand; this
depresses it and brings the clapper suddenly against the bell.  He sits
so that he can easily reach all the strings, and sets to work playing on
the cords as though on a clumsy three-stringed harp.  He plays out of his
head without any music, and it is wonderful what variety he makes this
rude instrument produce and how responsive it is to moods requiring
different shades of expression.  Of course, when the player’s resources
are enlarged by the addition of two more bells, as at Castelletto and
Vogogna, he can produce an infinitely more varied effect.

The notes, according to the pitch of Signor Dazio’s piano, were G, A, and
B, and when we watched the ringer we saw that he frequently played the B
with the G; sometimes he struck the B with the A, no doubt intending it
as an _appoggiatura_, and, at a distance, this was the effect produced.
But when he struck the two notes together and made the B louder than the
A it had the effect of varying the tune.  He never played his tunes in
precisely the same way twice running, and this makes it difficult to say
with certainty what they were, but, omitting variations, the two
favourite tunes went like this:

                          [Picture: Music score]

This last he treated almost like a patter song, making it go as fast as
ever he could.  Give the Italian three bells, a belfry, and some bits of
string and he will play with them and with you by the hour together with
infinite variety.  Give the German five bells and he will know a single
figure, which he will probably have got an Italian to make for him, and
will repeat it till you have to close the windows to keep the sound out,
and the bottom bell will make a noise like the smell of a crushed
cockroach.  This is what happened to us in the valley of Gressoney at
Issime, where German influences and the German language prevail.

It was at Issime, by the by, that we saw the most beautiful woman that
either of us ever saw.  She was gathering French beans in the little
garden in front of the hotel and had her apron full of leeks and celery.
No words can give an idea of the dignity and grace with which she moved,
and as for her head, it was what Leonardo da Vinci, Gaudenzio Ferrari,
and Bernardino Luini all tried to get without ever getting it.  As long
as she was in sight it was impossible to look at anything else, and at
the same time there was a something about her which forbade staring.

S. Rocco is the saint who is always pointing to the dreadful wound in his
poor leg; accordingly he is invoked by people who are out of health and
thanked by those who have recovered.  Near the first _stalle_ in one of
the neighbouring valleys there is a chapel where we saw three women
praying.  It had been prettily decorated with edelweiss, mountain-elder
berries, thistle flowers, and everything gay that could be got.  There
was nothing of interest inside it, except a votive picture of a little
man in a tailed coat who had got a bad leg like S. Rocco and was
expostulating about it to the Virgin Mary.  I have seldom seen any even
tolerably serious frescoes in any of these small wayside oratories; they
are usually done by some local man who has cultivated the Madonna touch,
as it may be called, much as some English amateurs cultivate the tree
touch, and with about as happy a result.  The three women had crossed by
the Sassello Grande from Nante, starting with earliest daybreak.  It
seems that one of them had for a time been deprived of her reason, but
her sister had prayed at this chapel that it might be restored and her
prayer had been granted; so the two sisters and another woman come over
every year as near the feast of S. Rocco as they can, and repeat their
thanks at this spot.

The feast of S. Rocco is kept at Fusio with considerable solemnity.
Jones happened to be outside the church and kissed a relic of the saint
which was handed round after service.  I was sorry not to have been there
at the moment, but I joined in the procession and helped to carry S.
Rocco out of the church and down the valley to Peccia.  There a table
covered with a handsome cloth had been placed in the middle of the road,
and on this the bearers rested the silvered statue.  The officiating
priest approached it, said some appropriate words before it, I believe in
Latin, at any rate I could not catch them, and then we all turned home
again.  When the procession doubled round we could see the faces of the
people as they met us in pairs.  First came the women, one of them
bearing a crucifix turned so that the people following might see the
figure on the cross.  Then came the men in white shirts, some carrying
candles, among whom we saw Guglielmoni, and some bearing the image of the
saint.  Then came the men of the place in their ordinary dress, and we
followed last of all.  The older women wore the Fusio costume, which is
now fast disappearing; many of them wore white linen drapery over their
heads, but we did not understand why some did and some did not.
Immediately before the statue of S. Rocco came two nuns from Italy who
were seeking alms for some purpose in connection with the Church.

We thought the people did not as a general rule look in robust health;
some few, both men and women, seemed to have little or nothing the matter
with them, but most of them looked as though they were suffering from the
unwholesome conditions under which they live, for the conditions in the
villages are not much healthier than in the _alpi_.  The houses in such a
village as Fusio are few of them even tolerably wholesome.  Signor
Dazio’s houses are all that can be wished for in this respect, but in too
many of the others the rooms are low, without sufficient sunlight, and
too many of them are far from inodorous.

We see a place like Fusio in summer, but what must it be after, say, the
middle of October?  How chill and damp, with reeking clouds that search
into every corner.  What, again, must it be a little later, when snow has
fallen that lies till the middle of May?  The men go about all day in
great boots, working in the snow at whatever they can find to do; they
come in at night tired and with their legs and feet half frozen.  The
main room of the house may have a _stufa_ in it, but how about the
bedrooms?  With single windows and the thermometer outside down to zero,
if the room is warm enough to thaw and keep things damp it is as much as
can be expected.  Fancy an elderly man after a day’s work in snow
climbing up, like David, step by step to a bed in such a room as this.
How chill it must strike him as he goes into it, and how cold must be the
bed itself till he has been in it an hour or two.  We asked Guglielmoni
how he warmed his house in winter and what he did about his bedroom.  He
said he put his wife and children into the warm room and slept himself in
one that on inquiry proved to have only single windows and no stove.  It
then turned out that he had been at death’s door this last spring and the
one before, and that the doctors at Locarno said he had serious chest
mischief.  The wonder is that he is alive at all.  I advised him to get a
half-crown petroleum burner and, if he felt he had caught cold, to keep
it in his room burning all night.  He asked how much it would cost and,
when told from twenty to twenty-five centimes a night, said this was
prohibitive, and I have no doubt to him with his wife and family it was.

One cause of the mischief doubtless lies in the fact that the
high-altitude houses have descended with insufficient modification from
ancestors adapted to a warmer climate.  Their forefathers were built for
the plains.  These houses should have been begotten of Russian or
Canadian dwellings, not of Piedmontese or Lombard.  At any rate, if a
reform is to be initiated it should begin by a study of the Canadian or
Russian house.

But it is not only the hard, long cold winters, with rough living of
every kind, that weigh the people down; the monotony of the snow, seven
months upon the ground, is enough to bow even the strongest spirit.  It
is not as if one could get the “Times” every morning at breakfast and
theatres, concerts, exhibitions of pictures, social gatherings of every
kind.  Day after day not a blade of grass can be seen, not a little bit
of green anywhere, save the mockery of the pine-trees.  I once spent a
remarkably severe winter at Montreal and saw the thermometer for a month
at 22° below zero in the main street of the city.  True, it was warm
enough indoors, and grass does not usually grow in houses, so that one
ought not to have missed it; nevertheless one did miss it, as one misses
a dead friend whom one may have been seeing but seldom.  There is a
depressing effect about long cold and snow which one feels whether one is
cold or not.  I suspect it is the monotony of the snow-surface that is so
fatiguing.  I used to trudge up to the far end of Montreal Mountain every
day because there was a space of a few yards there on which the snow
positively would not lie by reason of the wind.  Here I could see a few
roots of brown dried grass and moss with a tinge of yellow in it, having
looked at which for a little while I would return comparatively
contented.  If the monotony of surface was found so depressing even in a
city like Montreal, where so many interests and amusements were open,
what must it be in a place like Fusio, where there are none?

The two great foes of life are the two extremes of change.  Too much,
that is to say too sudden change and too little change are alike fatal.
That is why there is so little organic life a few feet below the surface
of the earth.  It gets too slow altogether and things won’t stand it.
Cut away for months together the incessant changes involved in the
changed vibrations consequent upon looking at a surface whose colour is
varied, and a monotony is induced which should be relieved by the entry
of as much other change as possible to supply the place of what is lost.

What a vineyard for the Church is there not in these subalpine valleys,
if she would only work in it!  The beauty and sweetness of the children
show what the people are by nature and prove that the raw material is
splendid.  Their flowers are not gayer and lovelier than their children;
but they do not get a fair chance.  If the Church would only use her
means and leisure to teach people how to make themselves as healthy and
happy in this life as their case admits!  If she would do this with a
single eye to facts and to the happiness of the people, cutting caste,
dogma, prescription, and self-aggrandisement direct or indirect, what a
hold would she not soon have upon a grateful people.  Nay, if the priests
would only set the example of washing, of keeping their houses clean and
their bedrooms warm and light and dry, and of being at some pains with
their cookery, their example would be enough without their preaching.  I
grant honourable exceptions, but the upland clergy are as a rule little
above their flocks in regard to cleanliness of house and person; instead
of facing the many problems that surround them, they rather, I am afraid,
have every desire to avoid them.  They do not want their people to learn
continually better and better in health and wealth how to live; they want
things to go on indefinitely as hitherto, only they hold that the people
should be even more docile and obedient than they are.  I may be wrong,
but this is certainly the impression that remains with me.

The priest himself must have a hard time of it in winter.  We see the
church steps basking in the morning sun of August.  It is an easy matter
then to dawdle into church and sit quiet for a while amid a droning
old-world smell of cheese, ancestor, dry-rot, _Alpigiano_, and stale
incense, and to read the plaintive epitaphing about the dear, good people
“whose souls we pray thee visit with the everlasting peace that waits on
saints and angels.”

As the clouds come and go the gray-green cobweb-chastened light ebbs and
flows over the ceiling.  If a hen has laid an egg outside and has begun
to cackle, it is an event of magnitude.  A peasant hammering his scythe,
the clack of a wooden shoe upon the pavement, the dripping of the
fountain, all these things, with such concert as they keep, invite the
dewy-feathered sleep till the old woman comes and rings the bell for
_mezzo giorno_.

This is the sunny side of subalpine church-going, but how is it when
these steps are hidden under a metre of frozen snow?  How about five
o’clock on a Christmas morning, when the priest can hardly get down the
steps leading from his house into the church from the fury of the wind
and the driving of the fine midge-like snow?  Even when the horrors of
the middle passage have been overcome and the church has been reached,
surely it is a nice, cosy place for an infirm old gentleman or lady with
bronchitic tendencies!  How is it conceivable that any one should keep
even decently well who has to go to church in a high subalpine village at
five, six, seven, eight, or in fact at any hour before about noon upon a
winter morning?  And yet they go, and some of them reach good old ages.
Still one would think that, if a little pains were taken, the thing might
be managed so that more of them could reach better old ages.  As for the
priest, he will carry the last sacraments of the Church any distance, in
any weather, at any hour of the night, in summer or winter, but he must
have an awful time of it every now and then.  So, for the matter of that,
has an English country parson or doctor.  Still, the Alpine roads are
rougher and the snow deeper, and the pay, poor as it often is in England,
is here still poorer.

After a few days at Fusio, Guglielmoni took us over to Faido in the Val
Leventina by the pass that we had not yet crossed—the one that goes by
the Lago di Naret and Bedretto.  From Faido we returned home.  We looked
at nothing between the top of the St. Gothard Pass and Boulogne, nor did
we again begin to take any interest in life till we saw the
science-ridden, art-ridden, culture-ridden, afternoon-tea-ridden cliffs
of old England rise upon the horizon.



Appendix A
Wednesbury Cocking
(See p. 55)


I KNOW nothing of the date of this remarkable ballad, or the source from
which it comes.  I have heard one who should know say, that when he was a
boy at Shrewsbury school it was done into Greek hexameters, the lines
(with a various reading in them):

    “The colliers and nailers left work,
    And all to old Scroggins’ went jogging;”

being translated:

    Ἔργον χαλκότυποι καὶ τέκτονες ἄνδρες ἔλειπον
    Σκρωγινιοῦ μεγάλου ζητοῦντες εὐτίμενον δῶ.

I have been at some pains to find out more about this translation, but
have failed to do so.  The ballad itself is as follows:

    At Wednesbury there was a cocking,
       A match between Newton and Scroggins;
    The colliers and nailers left work,
       And all to old Spittle’s went jogging.
    To see this noble sport,
       Many noblemen resorted;
    And though they’d but little money,
       Yet that little they freely sported.

    There was Jeffery and Colborn from Hampton,
       And Dusty from Bilston was there;
    Flummery he came from Darlaston,
       And he was as rude as a bear.
    There was old Will from Walsall,
       And Smacker from Westbromwich come;
    Blind Robin he came from Rowley,
       And staggering he went home.

    Ralph Moody came hobbling along,
       As though he some cripple was mocking,
    To join in the blackguard throng,
       That met at Wednesbury cocking.
    He borrowed a trifle of Doll,
       To back old Taverner’s grey;
    He laid fourpence-halfpenny to fourpence,
       He lost and went broken away.

    But soon he returned to the pit,
       For he’d borrowed a trifle more money,
    And ventured another large bet,
       Along with blobbermouth Coney.
    When Coney demanded his money,
       As is usual on all such occasions,
    He cried, — thee, if thee don’t hold thy rattle,
       I’ll pay thee as Paul paid the Ephasians.

    The morning’s sport being over,
       Old Spittle a dinner proclaimed,
    Each man he should dine for a groat,
       If he grumbled he ought to be —,
    For there was plenty of beef,
       But Spittle he swore by his troth,
    That never a man should dine
       Till he ate his noggin of broth.

    The beef it was old and tough,
       Off a bull that was baited to death,
    Barney Hyde got a lump in his throat,
       That had like to have stopped his breath,
    The company all fell into confusion,
       At seeing poor Barney Hyde choke;
    So they took him into the kitchen,
       And held him over the smoke.

    They held him so close to the fire,
       He frizzled just like a beef-steak,
    They then threw him down on the floor,
       Which had like to have broken his neck.
    One gave him a kick on the stomach,
       Another a kick on the brow,
    His wife said, Throw him into the stable,
       And he’ll be better just now.

    Then they all returned to the pit,
       And the fighting went forward again;
    Six battles were fought on each side,
       And the next was to decide the main.
    For they were two famous cocks
       As ever this country bred,
    Scroggins’s a dark-winged black,
       And Newton’s a shift-winged red.

    The conflict was hard on both sides,
       Till Brassy’s black-winged was choked;
    The colliers were tarnationly vexed,
       And the nailers were sorely provoked.
    Peter Stevens he swore a great oath,
       That Scroggins had played his cock foul;
    Scroggins gave him a kick on the head,
       And cried, Yea,—thy soul.

    The company then fell in discord,
       A bold, bold fight did ensue;
    —, —, and bite was the word,
       Till the Walsall men all were subdued.
    Ralph Moody bit off a man’s nose,
       And wished that he could have him slain,
    So they trampled both cocks to death,
       And they made a draw of the main.

    The cock-pit was near to the church,
       An ornament unto the town;
    On one side an old coal pit,
       The other well gorsed around.
    Peter Hadley peeped through the gorse,
       In order to see them fight;
    Spittle jobbed out his eye with a fork,
       And said, — thee, it served thee right.

    Some people may think this strange,
       Who Wednesbury never knew;
    But those who have ever been there,
       Will not have the least doubt it’s true;
    For they are as savage by nature,
       And guilty of deeds the most shocking;
    Jack Baker whacked his own father,
       And thus ended Wednesbury cocking.



Appendix B
Reforms Instituted at S. Michele in the year 1478
(See p. 105)


THE palmiest days of the sanctuary were during the time that Rodolfo di
Montebello or Mombello was abbot—that is to say, roughly, between the
years 1325–60.  “His rectorate,” says Claretta, “was the golden age of
the Abbey of La Chiusa, which reaped the glory acquired by its head in
the difficult negotiations entrusted to him by his princes.  But after
his death, either lot or intrigue caused the election to fall upon those
who prepared the ruin of one of the most ancient and illustrious
monasteries in Piedmont.” {309}

By the last quarter of the fifteenth century things got so bad that a
commission of inquiry was held under one Giovanni di Varax in the year
1478.  The following extracts from the ordinances then made may not be
unwelcome to the reader.  The document from which they are taken is to be
found, pp. 322–336 of Claretta’s work.  The text is evidently in many
places corrupt or misprinted, and there are several words which I have
looked for in vain in all the dictionaries—Latin, Italian, and French—in
the reading-room of the British Museum which seemed in the least likely
to contain them.  I should say that for this translation, I have availed
myself, in part, of the assistance of a well-known mediæval scholar, the
Rev. Ponsonby A. Lyons, but he is in no way responsible for the
translation as a whole.

After a preamble, stating the names of the commissioners, with the
objects of the commission and the circumstances under which it had been
called together, the following orders were unanimously agreed upon, to
wit:—

“Firstly, That repairs urgently required to prevent the building from
falling into a ruinous state (as shown by the ocular testimony of the
commissioners, assisted by competent advisers whom they instructed to
survey the fabric), be paid for by a true tithe, to be rendered by all
priors, provosts, and agents directly subject to the monastery.  This
tithe is to be placed in the hands of two merchants to be chosen by the
bishop commendatory, and a sum is to be taken from it for the restoration
of the fountain which played formerly in the monastery.  The proctors who
collect the tithes are to be instructed by the abbot and commendatory not
to press harshly upon the contributories by way of expense and labour;
and the money when collected is, as already said, to be placed in the
hands of two suitable merchants, clients of the said monastery, who shall
hold it on trust to pay it for the above-named purposes, as the reverends
the commendatory and chamberlain and treasurer of the said monastery
shall direct.  In the absence of one of these three the order of the
other two shall be sufficient.

“Item, it is ordered that the _mandés_, {310} or customary alms, be made
daily to the value of what would suffice for the support of four monks.

“Item, that the offices in the gift of the monastery be conferred by the
said reverend the lord commendatory, and that those which have been
hitherto at the personal disposition of the abbot be reserved for the
pleasure of the Apostolic See.  Item, that no one do beg a benefice
without reasonable cause and consonancy of justice.  Item, that those who
have had books, privileges, or other documents belonging to the monastery
do restore them to the treasury within three months from the publication
of these presents, under pain of excommunication.  Item, that no one
henceforth take privileges or other documents from the monastery without
a deposit of caution money, or taking oath to return the same within
three months, under like pain of excommunication.  Item, that no laymen
do enter the treasury of the monastery without the consent of the prior
of cloister, {311} nor without the presence of those who hold the keys of
the treasury, or of three monks, and that those who hold the keys do not
deliver them to laymen.  Item, it is ordered that the places subject to
the said monastery be visited every five years by persons in holy orders,
and by seculars; and that, in like manner, every five years a general
chapter be held, but this period may be extended or shortened for
reasonable cause, and the proctors-general are to be bound in each
chapter to bring their procurations, and at some chapter each monk is to
bring the account of the fines and all other rights appertaining to his
benefice, drawn up by a notary in public form, and undersigned by him,
that they may be kept in the treasury, and this under pain of suspension.
Item, that henceforth neither the office of prior nor any other benefice
be conferred upon laymen.  The lord abbot is in future to be charged with
the expense of all new buildings that are erected within the precincts of
the monastery.  He is also to give four pittances or suppers to the
convent during infirmary time, and six pints of wine according to the
custom. {312}  Furthermore, he is to keep beds in the monastery for the
use of guests, and other monks shall return these beds to the chamberlain
on the departure of the guests, and it shall be the chamberlain’s
business to attend to this matter.  Item, delinquent monks are to be
punished within the monastery and not without it.  Item, the monks shall
not presume to give an order for more than two days’ board at the expense
of the monastery, in the inns at S. Ambrogio, during each week, and they
shall not give orders for fifteen days unless they have relations on a
journey staying with them, or nobles, or persons above suspicion, and the
same be understood as applying to officials and cloistered persons.
{313a}

“Item, within twelve months from date the monks are to be at the expense
of building an almshouse in S. Ambrogio, where one or two of the oldest
and most respected among them are to reside, and have their portions
there, and receive those who are in religion.  Item, no monk is to wear
his hair longer than two fingers broad. {313b}  Item, no hounds are to be
kept in the monastery for hunting, nor any dogs save watch-dogs.  Persons
in religion who come to the monastery are to be entertained there for two
days, during which time the cellarer is to give them bread and wine, and
the pittancer {313c} pittance.

“Item, women of bad character, and indeed all women, are forbidden the
monk’s apartments without the prior’s license, except in times of
indulgence, or such as are noble or above suspicion.  Not even are the
women from San Pietro, or any suspected women, to be admitted without the
prior’s permission.

“The monks are to be careful how they hold converse with suspected women,
and are not to be found in the houses of such persons, or they will be
punished.  Item, the epistle and gospel at high mass are to be said by
the monks in church, and in Lent the epistle is to be said by one monk or
sub-deacon.

“Item, two candelabra are to be kept above the altar when mass is being
said, and the lord abbot is to provide the necessary candles.

“Any one absent from morning or evening mass is to be punished by the
prior, if his absence arises from negligence.

“The choir, and the monks residing in the monastery, are to be provided
with books and a convenient breviary {314} . . . according to ancient
custom and statute, nor can those things be sold which are necessary or
useful to the convent.

                                * * * * *

“Item, all the religious who are admitted and enter the monastery and
religion, shall bring one alb and one amice, to be delivered into the
hands of the treasurer and preserved by him for the use of the church.

                                * * * * *

“The treasurer is to have the books that are in daily use in the choir
re-bound, and to see that the capes which are unsewn, and all the
ecclesiastical vestments under his care are kept in proper repair.  He is
to have the custody of the plate belonging to the monastery, and to hold
a key of the treasury.  He is to furnish in each year an inventory of the
property of which he has charge, and to hand the same over to the lord
abbot.  He is to make one common pittance {315a} of bread and wine on the
day of the feast of St. Nicholas in December, according to custom; and if
it happens to be found necessary to make a chest to hold charters, &c.,
the person whose business it shall be to make this shall be bound to make
it.

“As regards the office of almoner, the almoner shall each day give alms
in the monastery to the faithful poor—to wit, barley bread to the value
of twopence current money, and on Holy Thursday he shall make an alms of
threepence {315b} to all comers, and shall give them a plate of beans and
a drink of wine.  Item, he is to make alms four times a year—that is to
say, on Christmas Day, on Quinquagesima Sunday, and at the feasts of
Pentecost and Easter; and he is to give to every man a small loaf of
barley and a grilled pork chop, {315c} the third of a pound in weight.
Item, he shall make a pittance to the convent on the vigil of St. Martin
of bread, wine, and mincemeat dumplings, {315d}—that is to say, for each
person two loaves and two . . . {315e} of wine and some leeks,—and he is
to lay out sixty shillings (?) in fish and seasoning, and all the
servants are to have a ration of dumplings; and in the morning he is to
give them a dumpling cooked in oil, and a quarter of a loaf, and some
wine.  Item, he shall give another pittance on the feast of St. James—to
wit, a good sheep and some cabbages {316a} with seasoning.

“Item, during infirmary time he must provide four meat suppers and two
pints {316b} (?) of wine, and a pittance of mincemeat dumplings during
the rogation days, as do the sacristan and the butler.  He is also to
give each monk one bundle of straw in every year, and to keep a servant
who shall bring water from the spring for the service of the mass and for
holy water, and light the fire for the barber, and wait at table, and do
all else that is reasonable and usual; and the said almoner shall also
keep a towel in the church for drying the hands, and he shall make
preparation for the _mandés_ on Holy Thursday, both in the monastery and
in the cloister.  Futhermore, he must keep beds in the hospital of S.
Ambrogio, and keep the said hospital in such condition that Christ’s poor
may be received there in orderly and godly fashion; he must also maintain
the chapel of St. Nicholas, and keep the chapel of St. James in a state
of repair, and another part of the building contiguous to the chapel.
Item, it shall devolve upon the chamberlain to pay yearly to each of the
monks of the said monastery of St. Martin who say mass, except those of
them who hold office, the sum of six florins and six groats, {316c} and
to the treasurer, precentor, and surveyor, {316d} to each one of them the
same sum for their clothing, and to each of the young monks who do not
say mass four florins and six groats.  And in every year he is to do one
O {317a} for the greater priorate {317b} during Advent.  Those who have
benefices and who are resident within the monastery, but whose benefice
does not amount to the value of their clothes, are to receive their
clothes according to the existing custom.

“Item, the pittancer shall give a pittance of cheese and eggs to each of
the monks on every day from the feast of Easter to the feast of the Holy
Cross in September—to wit, three quarters of a pound of cheese; but when
there is a principal processional duplex feast, each monk is to have a
pound of cheese _per diem_, except on fast days, when he is to have half
a pound only.  Also on days when there is a principal or processional
feast, each one of them, including the hebdomadary, is to have five eggs.
Also, from the feast of Easter to the octave of St. John the Baptist the
pittancer is to serve out old cheese, and new cheese from the octave of
St. John the Baptist to the feast of St. Michael.  From the feast of St.
Michael to Quinquagesima the cheese is to be of medium quality.  From the
least of the Holy Cross in September until Lent the pittancer must serve
out to each monk three quarters of a pound of cheese, if it is a feast of
twelve lessons, and if it is a feast of three lessons, whether a week-day
or a vigil, the pittancer is to give each monk but half a pound of
cheese.  He is also to give all the monks during Advent nine pounds of
wax extra allowance, and it is not proper that the pittancer should weigh
out cheese for any one on a Friday unless it be a principal processional
or duplex feast, or a principal octave.  It is also proper, seeing there
is no fast from the feast of Christmas to the octave of the Epiphany,
that every man should have his three quarters of a pound of cheese _per
diem_.  Also, on Christmas and Easter days the pittancer shall provide
five dumplings per monk _per diem_, and one plate of sausage meat, {318a}
and he shall also give to each of the servants on the said two days five
dumplings for each several day; and the said pittancer on Christmas Day
and on the day of St. John the Baptist shall make a relish, {318b} or
seasoning, and give to each monk one good glass thereof, that is to say,
the fourth part of one {318c} for each monk—to wit, on the first, second,
and third day of the feast of the Nativity, the Circumcision, the
Epiphany, and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin; and the pittancer
is to put spice in the said relish, and the cellarer is to provide wine
and honey, and during infirmary time those who are being bled are to
receive no pittance from the pittancer.  Further, from the feast of
Easter to that of the Cross of September, there is no fast except on the
prescribed vigils; each monk, therefore, should always have three
quarters of a pound of cheese after celebration on a week-day until the
above-named day.  Further, the pittancer is to provide for three _mandés_
in each week during the whole year, excepting Lent, and for each _mandé_
he is to find three pounds of cheese.  From the feast of St. Michael to
that of St. Andrew he is to provide for an additional _mandé_ in each
week.  Item, he is to pay the prior of the cloister six florins for his
fine {319a} . . . and three florins to the . . . . {319b} and he should
also give five eggs per _diem_ to the hebdomadary of the high altar,
except in Lent.  Further, he is to give to the woodman, the baker, the
keeper of the church, the servants of the Infirmary, the servant at the
Eleemosynary, and the stableman, to each of them one florin in every
year.  Item, any monks who leave the monastery before vespers when it is
not a fast, shall lose one quarter of a pound of cheese even though they
return to the monastery after vespers but if it is a fast day, they are
to lose nothing.  Item, the pittancer is to serve out mashed beans to the
servants of the convent during Lent as well as to those who are in
religion, and at this season he is to provide the prior of the cloister
and the hebdomadary with bruised cicerate; {319c} but if any one of the
same is hebdomadary, he is only to receive one portion.  If there are two
celebrating high mass at the high altar, each of them is to receive one
plate of the said bruised cicerate.

“As regards the office of cantor, the cantor is to intone the antiphon
‘_ad benedictus ad magnificat_’ at terce, {319d} and at all other
services, and he is himself to intone the antiphons or provide a
substitute who can intone them; and he is to intone the psalms according
to custom.  Also if there is any cloistered person who has begun his week
of being hebdomadary, and falls into such sickness that he cannot
celebrate the same, the cantor is to say or celebrate three masses.  The
cantor is to lead all the monks of the choir at matins, high mass,
vespers, and on all other occasions.  On days when there is a
processional duplex feast, he is to write down the order of the office;
that is to say, those who are to say the invitatory, {320a} the lessons,
the epistle of the gospel {320b} and those who are to wear copes at high
mass and at vespers.  The cantor must sing the processional hymns which
are sung on entering the church, but he is exempt from taking his turn of
being hebdomadary by reason of his intoning the offices; and he is to
write down the names of those who celebrate low masses and of those who
get them said by proxy; and he is to report these last to the prior that
they may be punished.  The cantor or his delegate is to read in the
refectory during meal times and during infirmary time, and he who reads
in the refectory is to have a quart [?] of bread, as also are the two
junior monks who wait at table.  The cantor is to instruct the boys in
the singing of the office and in morals, and is to receive their portions
of bread, wine and pittance, and besides all this he is to receive one
florin for each of them, and he is to keep them decently; and the prior
is to certify himself upon this matter, and to see to it that he victuals
them properly and gives them their food.

“The sacristan is to provide all the lights of the church whether oil or
wax, and he is to give out small candles to the hebdomadary, and to keep
the eight lamps that burn both night and day supplied with oil.  He is to
keep the lamps in repair and to buy new ones if the old are broken, and
he is to provide the incense.  He is to maintain the covered chapel of
St. Nicholas, and the whole church except the portico of the same; and
the lord abbot is to provide sound timber for doors and other
necessaries.  He is to keep the frames {321a} of the bells in repair, and
also the ropes for the same, and during Lent he is to provide two
pittances of eels to the value of eighteen groats for each pittance, and
one other pittance of dumplings and seasoning during rogation time, to
wit, five dumplings cooked in oil for each person, and one quart of bread
and wine, and all the house domestics and serving men of the convent who
may be present are to have the same.  At this time all the monks are to
have one quarter of a pound of cheese from the sacristan.  And the said
sacristan should find the convent two pittances during infirmary time and
two pints {321b} of wine, and two suppers, one of chicken and salt meat,
with white chestnuts, inasmuch as there is only to be just so much
chicken as is sufficient.  Item, he is to keep the church clean.  Item,
he has to pay to the keeper of the church one measure of barley, and
eighteen groats for his clothes yearly, and every Martinmas he is to pay
to the cantor sixty soldi, and he shall place a {321c} . . . or boss
{321d} in the choir during Lent.  Also he must do one O in Advent and
take charge of all the ornaments of the altars and all the relics.  Also
on high days and when there is a procession he is to keep the paschal
candle before the altar, as is customary, but on other days he shall keep
a burning lamp only, and when the candle is burning the lamp may be
extinguished.

                                * * * * *

“As touching the office of infirmarer, the infirmarer is to keep the
whole convent fifteen days during infirmary time, to wit, the one-half of
them for fifteen days and the other half for another fifteen days, except
that on the first and last days all the monks will be in the infirmary.
Also when he makes a pittance he is to give the monks beef and mutton,
{322} sufficient in quantity and quality, and to receive their portions.
The prior of the cloister, cantor, and cellarer may be in the infirmary
the whole month.  And the infirmarer is to keep a servant, who shall go
and buy meat three times a week, to wit, on Saturdays, Mondays, and
Wednesdays, but at the expense of the sender, and the said servant shall
on the days following prepare the meat at the expense of the infirmarer;
and he shall salt it and make seasoning as is customary, to wit, on all
high days and days when there is a processional duplex feast, and on
other days.  On the feast of St. Michael he shall serve out a seasoning
made of sage and onions; but the said servant shall not be bound to go
and buy meat during Advent, and on Septuagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays
he shall serve out seasoning.  Also when the infirmarer serves out fresh
meat, he is to provide fine salt.  Also the said servant is to go and
fetch medicine once or oftener when necessary, at the expense of the sick
person, and to visit him.  If the sick person requires it, he can have
aid in the payment of his doctor, and the lord abbot is to pay for the
doctor and medicines of all cloistered persons.

“On the principal octaves the monks are to have seasoning, but during the
main feasts they are to have seasoning upon the first day only.  The
infirmarer is not bound to do anything or serve out anything on days when
no flesh is eaten.  The cellarer is to do this, and during the times of
the said infirmaries, the servants of the monastery and convent are to
be, as above, on the same footing as those who are in religion, that is
to say, half of them are to be bled during one fifteen days, and the
other half during the other fifteen days, as is customary.

“Item, touching the office of cellarer, it is ordered that the cellarer
do serve out to the whole convent bread, wine, oil, and salt; as much of
these two last as any one may require reasonably, and this on all days
excepting when the infirmarer serves out kitchen meats, but even then the
cellarer is to serve his rations to the hebdomadary.  Item, he is to make
a pittance of dumplings with seasoning to the convent on the first of the
rogation days; each monk and each servant is to have five dumplings
uncooked with his seasoning, and one cooked with [oil?] and a quart of
bread and wine, and each monk is to have one quarter of a pound of
cheese.  Item, upon Holy Thursday he is to give to the convent a pittance
of leeks and fish to the value of sixty soldi, and . . . {323a} Item,
another pittance upon the first day of August; and he is to present the
convent with a good sheep and cabbages with seasoning.  Item, in
infirmary time he is to provide two pittances, one of fowls and the other
of salt meat and white chestnuts, and he is to give two pints of wine.
Item, in each week he is to give one flagon [?]. {323b}  Item, the
cellarer is to provide napkins and plates at meal times in the refectory,
and he is to find the bread for making seasoning, and the vinegar for the
mustard; and he is to do an O in Advent, and in Lent he is to provide
white chestnuts, and cicerate all the year.  From the feast of St. Luke
to the octave of St. Martin he is to provide fresh chestnuts, to wit, on
feasts of twelve lessons; and on dumpling days he is to find the oil and
flour with which to make the dumplings.

“Item, as to the office of surveyor, it is ordered that the surveyor do
pay the master builder and also the wages of the day labourers; the lord
abbot is to find all the materials requisite for this purpose.  Item, the
surveyor is to make good any plank or post or nail, and he is to repair
any hole in the roofs which can be repaired easily, and any beam or piece
of boarding.  Touching the aforesaid materials it is to be understood
that the lord abbot furnish beams, boards, rafters, scantling, tiles, and
anything of this description; {324a} the said surveyor is also to renew
the roof of the cloister, chapter, refectory, dormitory, and portico; and
the said surveyor is to do an O in Advent.

“Item, concerning the office of porter.  The porter is to be in charge of
the gate night and day, and if he go outside the convent, he must find a
sufficient and trustworthy substitute; on every feast day he is {324b} .
. . to lose none of his provender; and to receive his clothing in spring
as though he were a junior monk; and if he is in holy orders, he is to
receive clothing money; and to have his _pro ratâ_ portions in all
distributions.  Item, the said porter shall enjoy the income derived from
S. Michael of Canavesio; and when a monk is received into the monastery,
he shall pay to the said porter five good sous; and the said porter shall
shut the gates of the convent at sunset, and open them at sunrise.”

The rest of the document is little more than a _resumé_ of what has been
given, and common form to the effect that nothing in the foregoing is to
override any orders made by the Holy Apostolic See which may be preserved
in the monastery, and that the rights of the Holy See are to be preserved
in all respects intact.  If doubts arise concerning the interpretation of
any clause they are to be settled by the abbot and two of the senior
monks.



Index


Abruptness of introduction the measure of importance, 196

Absolute, we would have an absolute standard if we could, 196

Absolutely, nothing is anything, 196

Academies and their influence, 146–59, 226, 248

Academy picture, the desire to paint an, 142

— Ciseri’s, at Locarno, 271

Accidentals, a maze of metaphysical, 23

Action, foundations of, lie deeper than reason, 107

Adaptation and illusion, 44

Adipose cushion of Italy, 92

Advertisements, American, at Locarno, 273

Æstheticism, culture, earnestness, and intenseness, all methods of trying
to conceal weakness, 192

Affection a _sine quâ non_ for success, 158

_Agape_ and _gnosis_, 17

Airolo, 25

Alcohol and imagination, 46

Alda, Il Salto della bella, 104

All things to all men, 66

Allen, Grant, 69

Almoner, the, of S. Michele, 315

Alone, should we like to see a picture when we are, 23, 158

_Alpi_ and _monti_, difference between, 35

Alpine roads, the steps by which they have advanced, 59

Alps, narrowness of the, 61

Altar cloth, a fine embroidered 256

Altar-piece at Morbio Superiore, 237

Amateurs, wanted a periodical written and illustrated by, 156

Amber, a smile in, 235

Ambrogio, S., and neighbourhood, 113

American advertisements at Locarno, 273

Ancestors, to have been begotten of good ones for many generations, 252

Andermatt, 24

Andorno, 186

Angel, drawing an, down, 42

Angera, 258

Animals and plants, cause of their divergence, 153

Ants near Faido, 38

— and bees, stationary civilisation of, 195

— and their nests, 288

Anzone, the sad torrent of, 220

Apparition, artificial, of the B.V.M., 275

Appliances, creatures and their, 283

Apprenticeship _v._ the academic system, 150

Arona, 265

Art for art’s sake, 156

— Italian, causes of its decline, 141

— moral effect of, 252

Asbestos on pass between Fusio and Dalpe, 285

_Asplenium alternifolium_, 37

Ass dressed in sacerdotal robes, 67

Aureggio, 177

Aurora Borealis like pedal notes in Handel’s bass, 83

Avalanches at Mesocco, 222

Avogadro, 148

                                * * * * *

B.A. degree should be assimilated to M.A., 186

Baby, death of a, bells rung for, 266

Bach as good a musician as Handel, 17

Badgers’ fat, 289

Balaclava, a stuffed Charge of, 251

Ballerini, Mgr., Patriarch of Alexandria, 268, 272

_Banda_, _Casina di_, 119

Bank of England note, Italian language on, 19

Barelli, Signer, at Bisbino, 239

Barley, mode of drying, 29

Barratt, Mrs., of Langar, 198

Baskets, helmet-shaped, near Lanzo, 134

Bastianini, 149

Bayeux tapestry, 150

Beaconsfield, Lord, 23, 141, 142

Bears, 75, 223

Beds, good, their moral influence, 184, 186

Bees, stationary civilisation of, 195

Beethoven on Handel, 18

Beginners in art, how to treat them, 155

Bell, Peter, and his primrose, 38, 143

Bellini, the, when, where, and how to get their like again, 146

Bellinzona, 198

Bells, 45, 265, 294

Bergamo, Colleone chapel at, 231

Berkeley, Bishop, and his tar-water, 64

Bernardino, Padre, his inscription on my drawing, 220

Bernardino, San, 223

Biasca, 85

Biella, 169

Bignasco, 278

Bigotry, eating a mode of, 153

Birds, 116

— their names, 291

— their singing, 230

Bisbino, Monte, 233

Bishop, Boy, 67

— welcomed with a brass band, 272

Bleeding times, 312

Blinds, milkmen’s and undertakers’, 145

Blood, circulation of, like people, 20

Bodily mechanism, a town like, 20

Body, soul, and money, 107

Boelini, family of, 213

Bologna, Academy at, 147

Bonvicino, the _famiglia_, 124

Borromeo, S. Carlo, room in which he was born, 263

Botticelli, Sandro, on landscape painting, 45

Box-trees, clipped, 104, 167

Brebbia, church at, 258

Bridge, the first, 59

Brigand, right to free a, conferred upon Graglia, 189, 193

British Museum and Oropa, 183, 185

Buckley, Miss Arabella, 69

Bullocks, how I lost my, 154

Burrello, Castel, 114

Bussoleno, 114

Butcher, the eructive, 126

                                * * * * *

Cadagno, Lake of, 81

Cader Idris, an Archbishop on, 89

Calanca, Sta. Maria in, 202, 223

Calonico, 55

Calpiognia, 29, 35

Cama, the æsthetic dog at, 202

Cambridge, a modest proposal to make an Oropa of, 186

Campello, 76

Campo Santo at Calpiognia, 30

— at Mesocco, 204

— at Pisa, 159

Campolungo, Alpe di, 42, 284

Canaries, their song unpleasant, 231

_Cantine_, a day at the, 243

Canvas of life turned upside down, 68

“Carbonate of pork,” 315

Carracci, the, 147

_Casina di Banda_, 119

Castelletto, 265

Cavagnago, 76

Cenere, Monte, narcissuses on, 228

Ceres, 161

_Cerrea_, 133

Chalk, Conté, the Italian for whom this was the one thing needful, 136

Chalk eggs, 43

Chamois, foot of, 283

Change, repudiation of desire for sudden, 186

— importance of, depends on the rate of introduction, 196

— either the circumstances or the sufferer will, 196

Changes, sweeping, to be felt hereafter as vibrations, 60

_Cheapissimo_, 165

Cheese and the _alpi_, 289

Cherries, 33, 35, 46

Chestnuts, 118

Chicory and seed onions, weary utterness in, 227

Children, subalpine, 301

— what becomes of the clever, 149

Chinese, the examination-ridden, 151

Chironico, 75

“Chow,” 52

Church-going, subalpine, 303

Circulation of people like blood, 20

Ciseri, his picture at Locarno, 271

Civilisation, antiquity of Italian, 124

— stationary, of ants and bees, 195

Class distinction inevitable, 195

Classification only possible through sense of shock, 63

Clergy, our English, and S. Michele priests, 106

Cloisters at Locarno, 271

— at Oltrona, 258

Club, the, the true university, 155

Cocking, Wednesbury, 55, 305

Collects, unsympathetic priest bristling with, 111

Colleone, Medea, 231

Colma di San Giovanni, 163

Comba di Susa, 119

Comfort as a moral influence 185

Comic song, the landlord’s, 128

Common sense, the safest guide, 108

Consistent, who ever is? 153

Contradictory principles, there must be a harmonious fusing of, 152

Converting things by eating them, 153

Corpses, desiccated, at S. Michele, 97

Cousins, my, the lower animals, 69

Cows fighting in farmyard, 120

Cricco, 125

Cristoforo, S., church of, at Mesocco, 208

— at Castello, 234

Crossing, efficacy of, 152

— unexpected results of, 55

— useless if too wide, 157

Crucifixion, fresco at Fusio, 140

Culture and priggishness, 141

— a mode of concealing weakness, 192

Current feeling, the safest guide, 108

Cutlets, burnt, and the waiter, 124

                                * * * * *

Dalpe, 38

Dante a humbug, 156

Darwin, Charles, no place for meeting, 69

Darwin, Erasmus, 23, 153

Dazio, Signor Pietro, of Fusio, 279

Death, no man can die to himself, 277

Deceit a necessary alloy of truth, 289

Dedomenici da Rossa, 137–9

Demand and supply, 108

D’Enrico, the brothers, 189

Dentist’s show-case mistaken for relics, 43

Deportment, good technique resembles, 156

Desire and power, 108

Development of power to know our own likes and dislikes, 22

Devil’s Bridge, 23

Diatonic scale, and song of birds in New Zealand, 232

Dirt, eating a peck of moral, 71

_Disgrazia_ and misfortune, 58

D’Israeli, Isaac, quotations from, 67

Dissenters all narrow-minded, 153

Distribution of plants and animals often inexplicable, 135

Diversion of mental images, 54

Doera, fresco at, 145, 221

Dogs, 156, 202, 260, 313

Doing, the only mode of learning, 151

Doors, how they open in time, 151

Doubt, “There lives more doubt in honest faith,” 67

Downs, the South, like Monte Generoso, 230

Draughtsman, first business of a, 148

Drawing, the old manner of teaching, 150

Dream, my, at Lago di Cadagno, 82

Drunkenness and imagination, 46

_Dunque_, 133

Duso, Agostino, his fresco at Sta. Maria in Calanca, 225

                                * * * * *

Earnestness, 142, 192

Eating, a mode of bigotry, 153

Echo at Graglia, 192

Edelweiss, 291

Electricity and Alpine roads, 60

Elephant brays a third, 233

“Elongated” honey, 293

Embryonic stages, the artist must go through, 148

Endymion, Lord Beaconsfield’s, 23, 141

English as tract-distributors, 65

— language, its ultimate supremacy, 41

English priests and Italian, 106

— why introspective, 18

Equilibrium only attainable at the cost of progress, 195

_Eritis_, a panic concerning, 204

Eternal punishment, 111, 196

Eusebius, St., 178

Evolution and illusion, 43

— essence of, consists in not shocking too much, 110

Extreme, every, an absurdity, 153

                                * * * * *

Faido, 22

Faith, doubt lives in honest, 67

— more assured in the days of spiritual Saturnalia, 68

— foundations of our system based on, 107, 277

— and reason, 108

— catholic, of protoplasm, 152

— a mode of impudence, 283

Falsehood turning to truth, 71

Famine prices at Locarno, 276

Feeling, current, the safest guide, 108

Fertile, rich and poor rarely fertile _inter se_, 195

Fires, how Italians manage their, 117

Fishmonger choosing a bloater, 23

Flats and sharps, a maze of metaphysical, 23

Fleet Street, beauties of, 19

Flowers, names of, 291

Fossil-soul, 234

Foundations of action lie deeper than reason, 107

— of a durable system laid on faith, 277

Francis, St., and Insurance Co.’s plate, 191

Friction, which prevents the unduly rapid growth of inventions, 60

Fucine, 166

Fun, Italian love of, 243

Fusing and confusing of ideas and structures, 44

— faith and reason, necessity of, 108

Fusing the harmonious, of two contradictory principles, 152

Fusio, 140, 277

                                * * * * *

Gallows at S. Michele, 104

Garnets, 285

Garrard, 159

Generations, more than one necessary for great things, 87, 188

Generoso, Monte, 229

German influences in Italian valleys, 167

Gesture older and easier than speech, 165

Giacomo, San, 223

Giorio, San, 113

Giornico, 73

Giovanni, San, Colma di, 163

Gladstone, Mr., advised to go to the Grecian pantomime, 68

Gnats, daily swallowing of, 69

_Gnosis_ and _Agape_, 17

God not angry with the plover for lying, and likes the spider, 70

Goethe a humbug, 156

Gogin, Charles, 204

Gold at the _Casina di Banda_, 120

Gothard, St., scenery of the pass, 22

— crossing in winter, 24

— the old road, 38

Graglia, 188

Grammar and good technique, 156

Grecian pantomime, Mr. Gladstone recommended to see, 68

Gribbio, 76

Griffin at Temple Bar, 20

_Grissino_, _pane_, 135

Groesner, G. W., his picture at S. Maria in Calanca, 225

Groscavallo Glacier, 135

Guglielmoni, 284, 287–92, 298

                                * * * * *

Habit, the oldest commonly resorted to at a pinch, 165

Hair, no monk to wear his hair more than two fingers broad, 313

Handel and Shakespeare, 17

— and Italy, 19

— how I said he was a Catholic, 69

Handel, his ploughman and his humour, 144

— his paganism and his religious fervour, 191

— the Varese chapels like a set of variations by, 252

— quotations from his music, 31, 34, 83, 84, 99, 200, 282

Harlington, inscription at, 234

Hawks, tame, 116

Hay-making at Piora, 81

Hedgehog, a spiritual, 111

Hen, the meditative, 110

— and chalk eggs, 43

Heresy and heretics, 152

Hieroglyph of a lost soul, 147

Holidays like a garden, 69

Holiness a Semitic characteristic, 142

Honey, the “elongation” of, 293

Hooghe, P. de, 267

Humbugs, the seven, 156

Humour, Italian love of, 243

— Leonardo da Vinci’s, 144

Huxley, 69

                                * * * * *

Ignazio, S., 161

Illusion and evolution, 43

— and fusion, 54

Images, mental diversion of the, 54

— worship of, 251

Imagination and bells, Leonardo da Vinci on, 45

Immortality, 23, 277

Imperfection the only true perfection, 138

_Impossibilissimo_, 165

Impudence a mode of faith, 284

— the chamois continues to live through, 284

Inconsistency of plants and animals, 153

Infirmary times, 316

Institution, the Royal, why we go to, 68

Insurance Office, plate of, and St. Francis, 191

Intenseness a mode of weakness, 192

Interaction of reason and faith, 108

Inundations and the _ruscelli_, 219

Inventions, 59, 134

Irrigation, 119

Israelites, the Vaudois the lost ten tribes of, 112

Issime, bells at, 297

Italians, their resemblance to Englishmen, 141, 168

Ivy blossoms, intoxicating effect of, on insects, 104

                                * * * * *

Jay, a tame, 116

John-the-Baptist-looking man, 122

Joke, the mediæval, 144

Jones, H. F., as my collaborator, 92

— on Lord Beaconsfield and Endymion, 142

— how he learned to draw, 150

— and the dog at Cama, 202

— and the fresco of S. Cristoforo at Mesocco, 209

— on the writing by Lazarus Borollinus, 213

Jutland and Scheria, 41

                                * * * * *

Kettle, sparks smouldering on, a sign of rain, 239

Kicking the waiter downstairs, 124

Kindliness _v._ grammar and deportment, 156

Kitchen at Angera, 263

Knowing our own likes and dislikes, difficulty of, 22

Knowledge, a good bed one of the main ends of, 186

                                * * * * *

_Là_, 132

Lamb and perpetual spring, 62

Lankester, Prof. Ray, 69

Larks and Wordsworth, 231

Latin and Greek verses and art, 145

Learning _via_ doing, 151

Leg, old woman’s, at Dalpe, 39

— S. Rocco’s, 297

Lesbia and her _passer_, 231

Liberals throw too large pieces of bread at their hen, 110

Ligornetto, 243

Likes and dislikes hard to discover, 22

Liking and trying, 151

Lilies, 55, 285

Locarno, 268

Locke, his essay on the understanding, 44

Locomotion of plants, 153

London, 19

Loom at Fucine, 166

Lothair sent to a University, 141

Ludgate Hill Station, 20

Lugano, 228

Luke, St., his statue of the Virgin, 178

Lukmanier Pass, 24, 28

Lying, a few remarks on, 69

                                * * * * *

M.A. degree should be assimilated to the B.A. degree, 186

Mairengo, 28

“Mans is all alike,” 146

Mantegnesque man at the _Casina di Banda_, 122

Maoris on white men’s fires, 117

Marcus Aurelius a humbug, 156

Marigold blossoms used to colour _risotto_, 227

Marmots, 285, 288

Martello, Pietro Giuseppe, 189

Master and pupil, true relations between, 150

Matchbox, a frivolous, at Graglia, 194

Matilda and the Bayeux tapestry, 150

Megatherium fossil bores us, 235

“Membrane, my mucous, is before you,” 166

Mendelssohn, staying a long time before things, 24

Mendrisio, 228

Merriment an essential feature of the old feast, 191

Mesocco, 207

Michael Angelo would have failed for “Punch,” 143

Michele, S., 86

Microscope, a mental, wanted, 22

Milton and Fleet Street, 20

Milton and Handel, 191

“Minga far tutto,” 244

Mirrors, frescoes of Death with, at Soazza, 204

Misfortune and disgrace, 58

Mistakes, essence of evolution lies in power to make, 110

— and plasticity, 44

Misunderstanding, essay on human, 44

Monks less sociable than priests, 71

— at S. Michele, 106

Montboissier, Hugo de, 87

_Monti_ and _alpi_, difference between, 35

Montreal Mountain, 301

Moody, Tom, funeral of, 159

Morbio Superiore, 237

Mozart on Handel, 18

Murray’s Handbook, mistakes on S. Michele, 102

Music at Locarno, 272

— at Varese, 257

                                * * * * *

Names of birds, 291

— of flowers, 291

— scratched on walls, 213, 235

Narcissuses on Monte Cenere, 228

National Gallery, an art professor at the, 203

Nativity, a stuffed, 251

Negri, Cav. Avvocato, 41

Nemesis, an intellectual sop to, 67

Nests, artificial, 116

New Zealand, song of birds in, 232

Nicolao, S., church of, at Giornico, 73

— chapel of, on Monte Bisbino, 242

— above Sommazzo, 247

Nightingale does not use the diatonic scale, 231

Nose, the man who tapped his, 165

— the man with red, among the saints at Orta, 177

— dispute about a lady’s, 124

Noses, saints with pink, 254

Novice, the, to whom I played Handel, 69

“Obadiahs, The two,” welcoming a bishop with, 272

Oltrona, 258

Onions, seed, and chicory, their weary utterness, 227

Opportunity, lying in wait for, 152

Oratories, Ticinese, 42

Orchids that imitate flies, 70

Oropa, 169

Orta, 167, 177

Osco, 28

Oxford and Cambridge, proposal to make Oropas of them, 186

                                * * * * *

Paganism of Handel, Milton, and the better part of Catholicism, 191

_Pagliotto_ at Varese, 256

Painting, the giants of, uninteresting, 144

— not more mysterious than conveyancing, 151

Pantheism lurking in rhubarb, 64

Parrot at Mesocco, 207

_Passero solitario_, 230

Paul, St., letting in the thin edge of the wedge, 66

— and seasonarianism, 68

Peccia, 278

Pella, 167

Periodical, wanted a, by pure amateurs, 156

Photography used in votive pictures, 145

Pick-me-up, a spiritual, 55

Pietro, San, 92

Pinerolo, 111

Piora, 77

Piotta, 26

Piottino, Monte, 26

Pirchiriano, Monte, 88

Plants and animals, causes of their divergence, 153

Plato a humbug, 156

Plover, the, a liar, 69

Pollaiuolo, Antonio, 131

Pollard, Mr., 158

_Polypodium vulgare_, 242

Porches, timber, 28

“Pork, carbonate of,” 315

_Posizionina_, _una discreta_, 165

Postilions, St. Gothard, 24

Potatoes easily bored, 55

Prato, 42

Present, the only comfortable time to live in, 61

Priggishness, 70, 141

Prigs, “she had heard there were such things,” 125

Primadengo, 33

Primrose Hill and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, 89

Procaccini, the brothers, 248

Professions should be hereditary, 155

Progress and equilibrium, each have their advantages, 195

Propositions want tempering with their contraries, 158

Proselytising by eating, 153

Protestantism less logical than Catholicism, 106

— more logical than Catholicism, 192

Protestants do not try to understand Catholicism, 273

Protoplasm, the catholic faith of, 152

Pruning of trees, 129

Pulmonary complaints in subalpine villages, 290

“Punch,” the illustrations to, 143

Punishment, eternal, denied by an Italian, 111

— we would have it so if we could, 196

Purgatory, fresco at Fusio, 140

                                * * * * *

Quarrel, pleasure of laying aside a, 69

— why the subalpine people quarrel so little, 223

Quietism _v._ going about in search of prey, 152

Quinto, 26, 46, 77

Quirico, S., chapel of, 261

                                * * * * *

Raffaelle a humbug, 156

Railway director, the ideal, his education, 155

_Rascane_, 29

Rationalism, when will it sit lightly on us? 112

Reason and faith, 108

— insufficient alone, 108

— and the chamois’s foot, 283

Recreation and regeneration, 54

— cities of, 186

Red Lion Square said by an Italian to be the centre of London business,
125

Reformation, the, confined to a narrow area, 135

Relics, dentist’s show-case mistaken for, 43

Rembrandt, Sir W. Scott on, 77

Renaissance, the standing aloof from academic principles a _sine quâ non_
for a genuine, 155

Revolutions felt hereafter as mere vibrations, 60

Rhinoceros grunts a fourth, 233

Rhubarb, reflections upon, 62

Richmond Gem cigarette, advertisement of, 273

_Risotto_, marigolds for colouring, 227

Ritom, Lago, 79

Roads, Alpine, 59

Rocca Melone, 167

Rocco, San, and his leg, 297

Rocks, conventional treatment of, in fresco, 143

Romanes, Mr., 69

Ronco, 77

Rosherville Gardens and Varese, 256

Rossa, Dedomenici da, 137–9

Rossura, 49

Royal Institution, why we go to the, 68

Ruins, all, are frauds, 261

                                * * * * *

Sacramental wafers, how the novice taught me to make, 69

Sagno, 238

Saints a feeble folk at Varese, 253

Sambucco, Val di, 281, 291

Sanitary conditions of the _alpi_, 290

— of Fusio, 299

Saturnalia, spiritual, 68

Scheria and Jutland, 41

Schools, our, are covertly radical, 158

Scott, Sir W., on Rembrandt, 77

Seasonarianism and St. Paul, 68

Seasons, the, like species, 63

Semitic characteristic, holiness a, 142

Shakespeare and Handel, 17, 185

Shock, a _sine quâ non_ for consolation and for evolution, 54

— our perception of a, our sole means of classifying, 63

Signorelli, Signor, 264

Skeletons at S. Michele, 97

Sketching clubs, their place in a renaissance of art, 156

Sleep, cost of, 184

Smile, a, in amber, 235

Smuggling on Monte Bisbino, 238

Soazza, 198

Sommazzo, 247

Soot, sparks clinging to, a sign of rain, 239

Soul, hieroglyph of a lost, 147

Soul-fossil, 234

Sparrow, the solitary, 230

Sparrows, tame, at Angera, 260

Species like the seasons, 63

Speculation founded on illusion, 44

Speech not so old as gesture, 165

Spider, the, a liar, but God likes it, 70

Spiders are liers-in-wait, 152

Spinning-wheels at Fucine, 166

Spiral tunnels, 58

Spires near the Lake of Orta, 167

Sporting pictures, 159

Spring, perpetual, and lamb, 62

Spurs at the Tower of London, 215

Stomach affected by thunder, 127

Structures, fusion and confusion of, 44

Stura Valley, 167

Success due mainly to affection, 158

Sunday at Rossura, 51

Supply and demand, 108

Switzerland, German, I have done with, 28

                                * * * * *

Tabachetti, 189

Tacitus hankered after German institutions, and was a prig, 142

Tanner, extract from ledger of, 235

Tanzio, Il, 189

Tar-water, Bishop Berkeley’s, 64

Technique and grammar, 156

_Témoin_, _Le_, a Vaudois newspaper, 111

Tempering, all propositions want, with their contraries, 152

Tengia, 55

Tennyson, misquotation from, 67

Thatch, an indication of German influence, 167

Theism in Bishop Berkeley’s tar-water, 64

Thunder, its effect on the stomach, 127

Ticino carries mud into the Lago Maggiore, 220

“Tira giù,” 42

Titian would not have done for “Punch,” 143

Toeless men, 129

Tom, Lago, 78, 85

_Tondino_, 164

Torre Pellice, 111

Torrents, deification of, 220

Tower of London, prisoners’ carvings in, 150

— figure of Queen Elizabeth in, 175

— spurs in, 215

Trees, pruning of, 129

Tremorgio, Lago di, 79

Trinity College, Cambridge, and Oropa, 173

Triulci, family of, at Mesocco, 214

Trojan War, duration of, 198

Trout in the Lago Ritom, 79

Truth, deceit a necessary alloy for, 289

Tunnels, spiral, 58

Turin, picture gallery at, 131

Turner, J. M. W., 157, 198

Tyndall, Professor, 69

Undertakers’ blinds and art, 145

Universities and priggishness, 141

— few pass through them unscathed, 151

— an obstacle to the finding of doors, 155

— covertly radical, 158

— proposal to make Oropas of them, 186

                                * * * * *

Varallo, 176

Varese, 176, 249

Vela, Professor, and his son, 243

Velotti, Nicolao, 188

Verdabbio, 223

Vibrations, revolutions in our social status felt as, 60

Vinci, Leonardo da, on bells, 45

— would have failed for “Punch,” 143

— and Nature’s grandchildren 148

— and anatomy, 216

Viù, 160

Vogogna, 265

Votive pictures, 121, 145, 180, 271

                                * * * * *

Wafers, sacramental, how the novice taught me to make, 69

_Waitee_, 41

Waiter, the, at S. Pietro, 124

Walnuts, 118

Waterloo Bridge, view from, 20

Waterspouts at Mesocco, 219

Wednesbury Cocking, 55, 305

West, Benjamin, his picture of Christ healing the sick, 72

Will, Lord Beaconsfield on, 23

Wine-cellars, a day at the, 243

Winter, crossing the St. Gothard Pass in, 24

— in Ticino valley, 78

— at Fusio, 299

— at Montreal, 300

_Woodsia hyperborea_, 37

Wordsworth and larks, 231

                                * * * * *

Yawning of a parrot, 207

Yew-trees, clipped, 167

York, Archbishop of, and Scafell, 89

                                * * * * *

_Zèle_, _surtout point de_, 66, 68



Footnotes


{23}  Vol. iii. p. 300.

{31}  “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”—“Messiah.”

{32}  Suites de Pièces, set i., prelude to No. 8.

{33}  Dettingen Te Deum.

{41}  In the index that Butler prepared in view of a possible second
edition of _Alps and Sanctuaries_ occurs the following entry under the
heading “Waitee”: “All wrong; ‘waitee’ is ‘ohè, ti.’”  He was
subsequently compelled to abandon this eminently plausible etymology, for
his friend the Avvocato Negri of Casale-Monferrato told him that the
mysterious “waitee” is actually a word in the Ticinese dialect, and, if
it were written, would appear as “vuaitee.”  It means “stop” or “look
here,” and is used to attract attention.  Butler used to couple this
little mistake of his with another that he made in _The Authoress of the
Odyssey_, when he said, “Scheria means Jutland—a piece of land jutting
out into the sea.”  Jutland, on the contrary, means the land of the
Jutes, and has no more to do with jutting than “waitee” has to do with
waiting.—R. A. S.

{46}  Treatise on Painting, chap. cccxlix.

{55}  See Appendix A.

{68}  Curiosities of Literature, Lond. 1866, Routledge & Co., p. 272.

{78}  Ivanhoe, chap. xxiii., near the beginning.

{83}  Handel’s third set of organ concertos, No. 6.

{90}  “Storia diplomatica dell’ antica abbazia di S. Michele della
Chiusa,” by Gaudenzio Claretta.  Turin, 1870.  Pp. 8, 9.

{91}  “Storia diplomatica dell’ antica abbazia di S. Michele della
Chiusa,” by Gaudenzio Claretta.  Turin, 1870.  P. 14.

{99}  Handel; slow movement in the fifth grand concerto.

{105}  For documents relating to the sanctuary, see Appendix B, P. 309.

{109}  “Well, my dear sir, I am sorry you do not think as I do, but in
these days we cannot all of us start with the same principles.”

{111}  “It may be for a hundred, or for five hundred years, or for a
thousand, or even ten thousand, but it will not be eternal; for God is a
strong man—great, generous, and of large heart.”

{124}  “If a person has not got an appetite . . . ”

{125a}  The waiter’s nickname no doubt was Cristo, which was softened
into Cricco for the reason put forward below.—R. A. S.

{125b}  “Cricco is a rustic appellation, and thus religion is not
offended.”

{126}  “Religion and the magnificent panorama attract numerous and merry
visitors.”

{131}  “And the milk [in your coffee] does for you instead of soup.”

{147}  Butler said of this drawing that it was “the hieroglyph of a lost
soul.”—R. A. S.

{178}  “Dalle meraviglie finalmente che sono inerenti al simulacro
stesso.”—Cenni storico-artistici intorno al santuario di Oropa.  (Prof.
Maurizio Marocco.  Turin, Milan, 1866, p. 329.)

{180}  Marocco, p. 331.

{190}  “Questa è la festa popolare di Gragha, e pochi anni addietro
ancora ricordava in miniature le feste popolari delle sacre campestri del
medio evo.  Da qualche anno in qua, il costume più severo che s’
introdusse in questi paesi non meno che in tutti gli altri del Piemonte,
tolse non poco del carattere originale di questa come di tante altre
festività popolesche, nelle quali erompeva spontanea da tutti i cuori la
diffusive vicendevolezza degli affetti, e la sincera giovalità dei
sentimenti.  Ciò non pertanto, malgrado sì fatta decadenza la festa della
Madonna di Campra è ancor al presente una di quelle rare adunanze
sentimentali, unica forse nel Biellese, alle quali accorre volentieri e
ritrova pascolo appropriato il cristiano divoto non meno che il curioso
viaggiatore.”  (Del Santuario di Graglia notizie istoriche di Giuseppe
Muratori.  Torino, Stamperia reale, 1848, p. 18.)

{191a}  Samson Agonistes.

{191b}  “Venus laughing from the skies.”

{191c}  Jephthah.

{201}  I cannot give this cry in musical notation more nearly than as
follows:—

                          [Picture: Music score]

{204}  “Such as ye are, we once were, and such as we are, ye shall be.”

{215}  Lugano, 1838.

{231}  Butler always regretted that he did not find out about Medea
Colleone’s _passero solitario_ in time to introduce it into _Alps and
Sanctuaries_.  Medea was the daughter of Bartolomeo Colleone, the famous
_condottiere_, whose statue adorns the Campo SS.  Giovanni e Paolo at
Venice.  Like Catullus’s Lesbia, whose immortal _passer_ Butler felt sure
was also a _passero solitario_, she had the misfortune to lose her pet.
Its little body can still be seen in the Capella Colleone, up in the old
town at Bergamo, lying on a little cushion on the top of a little column,
and behind it there stands a little weeping willow tree whose leaves, cut
out in green paper, droop over the corpse.  In front of the column is the
inscription,—“Passer Medeæ Colleonis,” and the whole is covered by a
glass shade about eight inches high.  Mr. Festing Jones has kindly
allowed me to borrow this note from his “Diary of a Tour through North
Italy to Sicily.”—R. A. S.

{282}  Handel’s third set of organ Concertos, No. 3.

{309}  “Storia diplomatica dell’ antica abbazia di S. Michele della
Chiusa,” by Gaudenzio Claretta.  Turin, Civelli & Co.  1870.  p. 116.

{310}  “Item, ordinaverunt quod fiant mandata seu ellemosinæ consuetæ quæ
sint valloris quatuor prebendarum religiosorum omni die ut moris est.”
(Claretta, Storia diplomatica, p. 325.)  The _mandatum_ generally refers
to “the washing of one another’s feet,” according to the mandate of
Christ during the last supper.  In the Benedictine order, however, with
which we are now concerned, alms, in lieu of the actual washing of feet,
are alone intended by the word.

{311}  The prior-claustralis, as distinguished from the prior-major, was
the working head of a monastery, and was supposed never, or hardly ever,
to leave the precincts.  He was the vicar-major of the prior-major.  The
prior-major was vice-abbot when the abbot was absent, but he could not
exercise the full functions of an abbot.  The abbot, prior-major, and
prior-claustralis may be compared loosely to the master, vice-master, and
senior tutor of a large college.

{312}  “Item, quod dominus abbas teneatur dare quatuor pitancias seu
cenas conventui tempore infirmariæ, et quatuor sextaria vini ut consuetum
est” (Claretta, Storia diplomatica, p. 326).  The “infirmariæ generales”
were stated times during which the monks were to let blood—“Stata nimirum
tempora quibus sanguis monachis minuebatur, seu vena secabatur.”
(Ducange.)  There were five “minutiones generales” in each year—namely,
in September, Advent, before Lent, after Easter, and after Pentecost.
The letting of blood was to last three days; after the third day the
patients were to return to matins again, and on the fourth they were to
receive absolution.  Bleeding was strictly forbidden at any other than
these stated times, unless for grave illness.  During the time of
blood-letting the monks stayed in the infirmary, and were provided with
supper by the abbot.  During the actual operation the brethren sat all
together after orderly fashion in a single room, amid silence and singing
of psalms.

{313a}  “Item, quod religiosi non audeant in Sancto Ambrosio videlicet in
hospiciis concedere ultra duos pastos videlicet officiariis singulis
hebdomadis claustrales non de quindecim diebus nisi forte aliquæ personæ
de eorum parentelâ transeuntes aut nobiles aut tales de quibus
verisimiliter non habetur suspicio eos secum morari faciant, et sic
intelligatur de officiariis et de claustralibus” (Claretta, Storia
diplomatica, p. 326).

{313b}  The two fingers are the barber’s, who lets one finger, or two, or
three, intervene between the scissors and the head of the person whose
hair he is cutting, according to the length of hair he wishes to remain.

{313c}  “Cellelarius teneatur ministrare panem et vinum et pittanciarius
pittanciam” (Claretta, Stor. dip., p. 327).  Pittancia is believed to be
a corruption of “pietantia.”  “Pietantiæ modus et ordo sic conscripti . .
. observentur.  In primis videlicet, quod pietantiarius qui pro tempore
fuerit omni anno singulis festivitatibus infra scriptis duo ova in brodio
pipere et croco bene condito omnibus et singulis fratribus . . .
tenebitur ministrare.”  (Decretum pro Monasterio Dobirluc., A.D. 1374,
apud Ducange.)  A “pittance” ordinarily was served to two persons in a
single dish, but there need not be a dish necessarily, for a piece of raw
cheese or four eggs would be a pittance.  The pittancer was the official
whose business it was to serve out their pittances to each of the monks.
Practically he was the _maître d’hôtel_ of the establishment.

{314}  Here the text seems to be corrupt.

{315a}  That is to say, he is to serve out rations of bread and wine to
everyone.

{315b}  “Tres denarios.”

{315c}  “Unam carbonatam porci.”  I suppose I have translated this
correctly; I cannot find that there is any substance known as “carbonate
of pork.”

{315d}  “Rapiolla” I presume to be a translation of “raviolo,” or
“raviuolo,” which, as served at San Pietro at the present day, is a small
dumpling containing minced meat and herbs, and either boiled or baked
according to preference.

{315e}  “Luiroletos.”  This word is not to be found in any dictionary:
litre (?).

{316a}  “Caulos cabutos cum salsa” (choux cabotés?)

{316b}  “Sextaria.”

{316c}  “Grossos.”

{316d}  “Operarius, i.e. Dignitas in Collegiis Canonicorum et
Monasteriis, cui operibus publicis vacare incumbit . . . Latius interdum
patebant operarii munera siquidem ad ipsum spectabat librorum et
ornamentorum provincia.”  (Ducange.)  “Let one priest and two laymen be
elected in every year, who shall be called _operarii_ of the said Church
of St. Lawrence, and shall have the care of the whole fabric of the
church itself . . . but it shall also pertain to them to receive all the
moneys belonging to the said church, and to be at the charge of all
necessary repairs, whether of the building itself or of the ornaments.”
(Statuta Eccl. S. Laur. Rom. apud Ducange.)

{317a}  O.  The seven antiphons which were sung in Advent were called
O’s.  (Ducange.)

{317b}  “Pro prioratu majori.”  I have been unable to understand what is
here intended.

{318a}  “Carmingier.”

{318b}  “Primmentum vel salsam.”

{318c}  “Biroleti.”  I have not been able to find the words “carmingier,”
“primmentum,” and “biroletus” in any dictionary.  “Biroletus” is probably
the same as “luiroletus” which we have met with above, and the word is
misprinted in one or both cases.

{319a}  “Item, priori claustrali pro suâ duplâ sex florinos.”  “Dupla”
has the meaning “mulcta” assigned to it in Ducange among others, none of
which seem appropriate here.  The translation as above, however, is not
satisfactory.

{319b}  “Pastamderio.”  I have been unable to find this word in any
dictionary.  The text in this part is evidently full of misprints and
corruptions.

{319c}  “Ciceratam fractam.”  This word is not given in any dictionary.
Cicer is a small kind of pea, so cicerata fracta may perhaps mean
something like pease pudding.

{319d}  Terce.  A service of the Roman Church.

{320a}  “Invitatorium.”  Ce nom est donné à un verset qui se chante ou se
récite au commencement de l’office de marines.  Il varie selon les fêtes
et même les féries.  Migne.  Encyclopédie Théologique.

{320b}  “Epistolam Evangelii.”  There are probably several misprints
here.

{321a}  “Monnas.”  Word not to be found.

{321b}  “Sextaria.”

{321c}  Word missing in the original.

{321d}  “Borchiam.”  Word not to be found.  _Borchia_ in Italian is a
kind of ornamental boss.

{322}  “Teneatur dare religiosis de carnibus bovinis et montonis
decenter.”

{323a}  “Foannotos.”  Word not to be found.

{323b}  “Laganum.”

{324a}  “Enredullas hujusmodi” [et res ullas hujusmodi?].

{324b}  “In processionibus deferre et de suâ prebendâ nihil perdat
vestiarium vere suum salvatur eidem sicut uni monacullo.”





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