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degree of fertility, except a very few that are but newly formed, that is, within these two or three hundred years: for it certainly requires some thousands to bring them to their greatest degree of perfection. We looked down into the craters of these, and attempted, but in vain, to number them.
The circumference of this zone or great circle of iEtna is not less than seventy or eighty miles. It is every where succeeded by the vineyards, orchards, and corn-fields, that compose the Regione Culta, or the fertile region. This last zone is much broader than the others, and extends on all sides to the foot of the mountain. Its whole circumference, according to Recupero, is one hundred and eighty-three miles. It is likewise covered with a number of little conical and spherical mountains, and exhibits a wonderful variety of forms and colours, and makes a delightful contrast with the other two regions. It is bounded by the sea to the south and south-east, and on all its other sides by the rivers Semetus and Alcantara, which run almost round it. The whole course of these rivers is seen at once, and all their beautiful windings through these fertile valleys, looked upon as the favourite possession of Ceres herself, and the very scene of the rape of her daughter Proserpine.
Cast your eyes a little further, and you embrace the whole island, and see all its cities, rivers, and mountains, delineated in the great chart of nature: all the adjacent islands, the whole coast of Italy, as far as your eye can reach, for it is nowhere bounded, but every where lost in the space. On the sun's first rising, the shadow of the mountain extends across the whole island, and makes a large track visible even in the sea and in the air. By degrees this is shortened, and in a little time is confined only to the neighbourhood of ./Etna.
We now had time to examine a fourth region of this wonderful mountain, very different indeed from the others, and productive of very different sensations; but which has, undoubtedly, given being to all the rest; I mean the region of fire.
The present crater of this immense volcano is a circle of about three miles and a half in circumference. It goes shelving down on each side, and forms a regular hollow like a vast amphitheatre. From many places of this space issue volumes of sulphureous smoke, which, being much heavier than the circumambient air, instead of rising in it, as smoke generally does, immediately on its getting out of the crater, rolls down the side of the mountain like a torrent, till, coming to that part of the atmosphere of the same specific gravity with itself, it shoots off horizontally, and forms a large track in the air, according to the direction of the wind; which, happily for us, carried it exactly to the side opposite to that where we were placed. The crater is so hot, that it is very dangerous, if not impossible, to go down into it; besides, the smoke is very incommodious; and, in many places, the surface is so soft, there have been instances of people sinking down in it, and paying for their temerity with their lives. Near the centre of the crater is the great mouth of the volcano. That tremendous gulf, so celebrated in all ages, looked upon as the terror and scourge of this and another life; and equally useful both to ancient poets, or to modern divines, when the Muse, or when the Spirit inspires. We beheld it with awe and with horror, and were not surprised that it had been considered as the place of the damned. When we reflect on the immensity of its depth, the vast cells and caverns whence so many lavas have issued; the force of its internal fire, to raise up those lavas to so vast a height, to support as it were in the air, and even to force it over the very summit of the crater, with all the dreadful accompaniments; the boiling of the matter, the shaking of the mountains, the explosions of flaming rocks, &c. we must allow that the most enthusiastic imagination, in the midst of all its terrors, hardly ever formed an idea of a hell more dreadful.
It was with a mixture both of pleasure and pain that we quitted this awful scene. But the wind had risen very high, and clouds began to gather round the mountain. In a short time they formed like another heaven below us; and we were in hopes of seeing a thunder storm under our feet—a scene that is not uncommon in these exalted regions, and which I have already seen on the top of the high Alps; but the clouds were soon dispelled again by the force of the wind, and we were disappointed in our expectations.
CHARACTER OF GRECIAN SCENERY.
The character of this sort of scenery is impressive to a degree, that can scarcely be fancied by those who have not had opportunities of beholding it. The features of nature in these climates are broad, reposing, and dignified: an image of power is displayed in her attitudes: she seems to reject the tampering of man, and to lie satiating herself with the glory of a pure and burning heaven. No appearance of patchwork disfigures her, no prettiness adorns her: her barrenness is grand; her cultivation is careless and irregular. Every line of every object cuts clear and distinct against the sky; and a sense of the perfect presence of all objects, producing an indescribable emotion in the mind of the stranger, is the consequence of the pellucidness of the medium through which they are viewed. Every tiling tells; every thing appears complete and independent. The shifting, hiding, and uncertain effects of northern scenery are unknown here: the shadows are defined and massy; the mist lies, like a solid substance, against the sides of the hill, whose summit springs up as from a magic base, delineating its sharp, bold outline upon the bright surface of the air. The towns lie heavy, insulated, and lifeless, freckling the vast expanse of country: castles and towers shine like crowns on the abrupt eminences that detach themselves from the great mountainchain ; the lakes lie still and deep in rocky basins; the rivers sparkle in their beds; the ocean comes up quiet and blue upon the land; silence and heat are in the air by day; and at night a rosy hue, of unspeakable beauty, colours the freshness which is then felt undulating about the eyelids, and calming the senses: myriads of fireflies dart here and there fantastic coruscations; and, along the height of the great vault, the host of stars look forth, pure, large, and watchful:—
As if their silent company were charged
THE ABBEY OF ST. RUTH.
It frequently happens that the most beautiful points of Scottish scenery lie hidden in some sequestered dell, and that you may travel through the country in every direction without being aware of your vicinity to what is well worth seeing, unless intention or accident carry you to the very spot. This is particularly the case with the country around Fairport, which is, generally speaking, open, unenclosed, and bare. But here and there the progress of rills, or small rivers, has formed dells, glens, or, as they are provincially called, dens, on whose high and rocky banks trees and shrubs of all kinds find shelter, and grow with a luxuriant profusion, which is more gratifying, as it forms an unexpected contrast with the general face of the country. This was eminently the case with the approach to the ruins of Saint Ruth, which was for some time merely a sheep-track, along the side of a steep