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and exclaimed together, "What a glorious situation for an observatory! Had Empedocles had the eyes of Galileo, what discoveries must he not have made!" We regretted that Jupiter was not visible, as I am persuaded we might have discovered some of his satellites with the naked eye, or at least with a small glass which I had in my pocket. We observed a light a great way below us on the mountain, which seemed to move amongst the forests: but whether an ignis fatuus, or what it was, I shall not pretend to say. We likewise took notice of several of those meteors called falling stars, which still appeared to be as much elevated above us as when seen from the plain; so that, in all probability, those bodies move in regions much beyond the bounds that some philosophers have assigned to our atmosphere.
After contemplating these objects for some time, we set off, and soon after arrived at the foot of the great crater of the mountain. This is of an exact conical figure, and rises equally on all sides. It is composed solely of ashes and other burnt materials, discharged from the mouth of the volcano, which is in its centre. This conical mountain is of a very great size: its circumference cannot be less than ten miles. Here we took a second rest, as the greatest part of our fatigue still remained. The mercury had fallen to 20 i\. We found this mountain excessively steep; and although it had appeared black, yet it was likewise covered with snow; but the surface (luckily for us) was spread over with a pretty thick layer of ashes, thrown out from the crater. Had it not been for this, we never should have been able to get to the top; as the snow was every where frozen hard and solid from the piercing cold of the air.
In about an hour's climbing, we arrived at a place where there was no snow; and where a warm and comfortable vapour issued from the mountain, which induced us to make another halt. Here I found the mercury at 19 64. The thermometer was fallen three degrees below the point of congelation; and before we left the summit of /Etna, it fell two degrees more, viz. to 17. From this spot it was only about three hundred yards to the highest summit of the mountain, where we arrived in full time to see the most wonderful and most sublime sight in nature.
But here description must ever fall short; for no imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious and so magnificent a scene. Neither is there on the surface of this globe any one point that unites so many awful and sublime objects. The immense elevation from the surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a single point, without any neighbouring mountain for the senses and imagination to rest upon, and recover from their astonishment in their way down to the world. This point, or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a bottomless gulf, as old as the world, often discharging rivers of fire, and throwing out burning rocks, with a noise that shakes the whole island. Add to this, the unbounded extent of the prospect, comprehending the greatest diversity and the most beautiful scenery in nature; with the rising sun, advancing in the east, to illuminate the wondrous scene.
The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and showed dimly and faintly the boundless prospect around. Both sea and land looked dark and confused, as if only emerging from their original chaos, and light and darkness seemed still undivided; till the morning, by degrees advancing, completed the separation. The stars are extinguished, and the shades disappear. The forests, which but now seemed black and bottomless gulfs, from whence no ray was reflected to show their form or colours, appear a new creation rising to the sight, catching life and beauty from every increasing beam. The scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems to widen and expand itself on all sides; till the sun, like the great Creator, appears in the east, and with his plastic ray completes the mighty scene. All appears enchantment; and it is with difficulty we can believe we are still on earth. The senses, unaccustomed to the sublimity of such a scene, are bewildered and confounded; and it is not till after some time that they are capable of separating and judging of the objects that compose it. The body of the sun is seen rising from the ocean, immense tracts both of sea and land intervening; the islands of Lipari, Panari, Aliendi, Strombolo, and Volcano, with their smoking summits, appear under your feet; and you look down on the whole of Sicily as on a map; and can trace every river through all its windings from its source to its mouth. The view is absolutely boundless on every side; nor is there any one object within the circle of vision to interrupt it; so that the sight is every where lost in the immensity: and I am persuaded it is only from the imperfection of our organs, that the coasts of Africa, and even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are certainly above the horizon. The circumference of the visible horizon on the top of jEtna cannot be less than two thousand miles. At Malta, which is near two hundred miles distant, they perceive all the eruptions from the second region; and that island is often discovered from about one half the elevation of the mountain; so that at the whole elevation of the mountain, the horizon must extend to near double that distance, or four hundred miles, which makes eight hundred for the diameter of the circle, and two thousand four hundred for the circumference. But this is by much too vast for our senses, not intended to grasp so boundless a scene. I find, indeed, by some of the Sicilian authors, particularly Massa, that the African coast, as well as that of Naples, with many of its islands, have been discovered from the top of < Etna. Of this, however, we cannot boast, though we can very well believe it. Indeed, if we knew the height of the mountain, it would be easy to calculate the extent of its visible horizon; and, vice versa, if its visible horizon was exactly ascertained, it would be an easy matter to calculate the height of the mountain.—But the most beautiful part of the scene is certainly the mountain itself, the island of Sicily, and the numerous islands lying round it. All these, by a kind of magic in vision, 'that I am at a loss to account for, seem as if they were brought close round the skirts of /Etna; the distances appearing reduced to nothing. Perhaps this singular effect is produced by the rays of light passing from a rarer medium into a denser, which (from a well known law in optics) to an observer in the rare medium, appears to lift up the objects that are at bottom of the dense one, as a piece of money placed in a bason appears lifted up as soon as the bason is filled with water.
The Kegione Deserta, or the frigid zone of ./Etna, is the first object that calls your attention. It is marked out by a circle of snow and ice, which extends on all sides to the distance of about eight miles. In the centre of this circle, the great crater of the mountain rears its burning head; and the regions of intense cold and of intense heat seem for ever to be united in the same point.—On the north side of the snowy regions, they assure us, there are several small lakes that are never thawed; and that in many places the snow, mixed with the ashes and salts of the mountain, is accumulated to a vast depth: and indeed I suppose the quantity of salts contained in this mountain, is one great reason of the preservation of its snows.—The Regione Deserta is immediately succeeded by the Sylvasa, or the woody region, which forms a circle or girdle of the most beautiful green, which surrounds the mountain on all sides, and is certainly one of the most delightful spots on earth. This presents a remarkable contrast with the desert region. It is not smooth and even, like the greatest part of the latter; but it is finely variegated by an infinite number of those beautiful little mountains that have been formed by the different eruptions of ./Etna. All these have now acquired a wonderful