« PreviousContinue »
TO THE READER.
IF Italy has been beautifully and appropriately termed the garden of Europe, Rome and Venice may lay no less fair a claim to be regarded as the two noblest conservatories of its choicest productions. They teem with exhaustless treasures—the fruits of its intellectual clime; unrivalled specimens of that supremacy of genius whose vigorous germ and rapid growth half realize our dreams of the glory and fascination of the old Grecian and Roman worlds. The revival and perfection, indeed, of art and learning in Rome and Venice vied with their influence over the spiritual and temporal fortunes of mankind.
It is for this—the early and exalted fame of Italy in the intellectual race of nations—the cherished hopes of that Italy we love to picture as great in freedom as she has shone in arms and arts—that the author presumes to offer no apology to English tourists for recurring to the same consecrated scenes—to the same high names, nor impugns the sincerity of their regard for what is most lofty and ennobling in classic and heroic recollection, by hurrying too rapidly over Italian ground. What eye but still loves to linger upon that land of the south--its sky, its waters, its
olive groves, its sunny hills, covered with vines and flowers; and still more, its monuments of past and mightier ages—wonders of art no longer to be equalled— fragments of an older and greater world! Or where may we beguile pleasanter hours, or indulge loftier aspirations, than amidst the scenes where genius and valour carried their patriotic daring and achievements to the highest summits of human greatness and devotion?
On the Forum, or on the Bridge of Sighs— among the deserted fanes or ruined palaces of the crownless queens of the earth and of the ocean, the thoughts of the tourist still dwell with melancholy pleasure; and “ Time, war, flood, and fire” have vainly dealt their fury upon cities whose recollections present us with all that is most splendid and daring in thought and action-in the arts of peace or the exploits of war.
Rome and Venice are not places to be passed over in a season. Mirrors of wisdom to future ages—as full of moral doctrine as of monuments of mightier days—the utter extremes of human power and weakness are typified in their history and their doom :
“ Their doors sealed up, and silent as the night
The dwellings of the illustrious dead !"