You may see them all around you in the flames that blaze upon the crest of the Grigna, in the rose that blooms across the heavens, in the shades of amethyst that lie so tenderly upon the distant mountains, in the sapphire and the gold that burn upon the level lake, in the mist of violet that slowly veils them all. Each slowly uttered cadence pauses, as though listening for the answer from some distant tower.
No hindering walls check the full tide of the vibrations, since the bells hang almost as much outside the belfry windows as within. It is a daily confession of the Christian Faith.
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At midday it is the same. Many a peasant raises his thoughts for a moment from sordid cares or hard labour, and realizes that there is an unseen world. We pause by great masses of crimson creeper, festooning rock and wall, climbing over the grey olives or streaming in bleeding rivers down the dark green sides of majestic cypresses ; or we round a little headland, crowned with the cactus and aloe, and trailing the long weepers of its willows in the wave.
Perhaps we reach the sunny island of Co- macina or San Giovanni, row round it to see some of the choicest views npon the lake, and sketch the picturesque old tower t of S.
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Maria Maddalena di Stabio upon the main- land. Then we may cross to the little grotto opposite the Villa Arconati on the Lavedo promontory, roofed with maidenhair fern, and in its weird effects of light and colour see a miniature of the famous cave at Capri, then saunter home by the rock-bound eastern shore, Grosgalli. J Plate VI. Then we may explore the neglected beauties of the Lecco arm. To skirt the southern shore as far as Onno, cross to Lierna and coast up to Varenna, forms a memorable expe- rience.
Or we may seek the cool Bay of Menaggio, float under the grim precipice of the Sasso Rancio, picnic in the smiling gardens of Graeta near its foot, and drift along, as time permits, by rock and castle, ravines spanned by airy bridges, and shores laden with the wealth of corn, and wine, and silk. Ample sport can be had with the fly under the rocks during the day, but a merrier game is found in choosing a dark night, attracting large fish by means of fire suspended at the prow of the boat, and spearing them as their curiosity brings them to the surface.
A bad shot sometimes ends in a cool bath. It has not, however, been my fortune, nor that of anyone I have known, to hook, net, or spear a specimen of those royal fish which P. Giovio ascribes to the Lake of Como. Moret wonderful and exciting still, he tells of great caves in the rocky coast between San Griovanni and Lezzeno Grosgallia Saxa , where in the heat of summer great monsters hurhuri jpisces , as big as a man, might be descried cooling themselves in the glassy depths ; so strong that no net could hold them, and armed with a coat of mail gravique squamarum serie tlioracati which no arrow could pierce.
But possibly in three hundred and fifty years these species have become extinct, and P. Giovio would not be too scrupulous when he had undertaken to prove the excellence of the fish of his own lake above all others.
His assurance that in his hrocliure upon the Lake of Como, no heed has been paid to hearsay nihil est trihutum fabulis , must be taken cum grano salis. The more sentimental will give the palm to the moon- light jpasseggiata al hatello or promenade au bateau, especi- ally should some fair nightingale choose to sing upon the lake that evening, or the world-famous violincellist, Signer Piatti, open the doors of his villa and wail forth his pathetic music to the panting stars.
Pragrant flowers launch their odours on the balmy air. The boat rocks to the liquid ripple. Voice or viol floats out its soul to the infinite silence. A spell lies upon each sense. The thoughts that are too deep for words begin to stir. And then suddenly a strident tongue from a gliding barque breaks the stillness ; — " Waal, I guess this is real slow. Why don't somebody boss a dance at the Bellevue, just to take the creases out of one's knees?
Giovio, when he wrote his Descriptio Larii LacuSy to which re- peated reference will have to be made. He followed the coast line, visiting each point of interest and covering a distance of one hundred and twenty miles in six days sexto die complefo universce navigationis cursu, qui per oram centum et viginti millihus passuuin conficitur. Nowadays, a small steamer may be hired at Como, which will achieve the same feat in twelve hours, but not with the same results of repose, observation and enjoyment. The vicinity of the Lake of Como is rich in shells.
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Jefferies, the eminent English conchologist, was engaged in investigating the mollusca of this region shortly before his death. But there is no need to be a scientific shell- hunter in order to enjoy the beauty and variety of these treasures, scattered so lavishly all around, and often carry- ing us in their quest into spots of untrodden seclusion and luxuriant loveliness.
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The region is as rich in floraf as in shells, and the botanist will happily find the most prolific fields of his research among the noblest scenery of the district, as e. We begin with the conventional round. Our boat glides alongside the marble steps of Villa Carlotta, embosomed in a little paradise of tropical luxuriance.
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Several treasures of modern sculpture are found in the entrance-hall, beyond which there is little of interest. The chief work is a frieze by Thorwaldsen, begun at the command of Napoleon I. The frieze, which por- trays the Triumph of Alexander of Macedon, makes the entire circuit of this large apartment, but its details are im- perfectly seen, for want of better light.
The central figure is the youthful conqueror, who heads the victorious proces- sion in a chariot swiftly driven by the Groddess of Victory. His mien bespeaks the pride of conquest, but a touch of ennui is thrown into the expression, as befits the man who wept because there were no more fields for his warlike ambition to reap. The other half of the frieze depicts the conqueror's welcome home. The Grenius of Peace meets him with an olive branch and horn of plenty.
The people, headed by his own family, strew flowers or offer gifts. Balconies are crowded with eager spectators. A final panel shows the development of commerce through successful war. The many groups in this work deserve much longer study than is usually given to them. The two figures bringing up the rear of the pro- cession, on the left hand as we face the door, are said to be portraits of the artist and his patron.
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Count Sommariva. Canova's Psyche and Cupid is a more popular subject, since it appeals to humanity at large. While few sympa- thize deeply with the ambition of Alexander, most of us know how the birth of passion transfigures life. There is an exquisite abandon about Pysche, who is lost in her beauti- ful lover. We almost hear her say, " I would die a hundred times rather than be deprived of thy sweet usage. Psyche, so the old story goes, was a royal child, so lovely that men saw in her an incarnation of divine beauty, and began to desert the shrine of Venus to lay their offerings at the feet of this new goddess?.
But Venus could brook no rival, and forthwith summoning her " winged bold boy of evil ways," she pointed out the maiden, and bade him make her the slave of an unworthy love. But he came only in the darkness of the night, and went again before the break of dawn, so that Psyche knew not the face of him she had learnt to love, and of whose sweet usage she could not bear to be deprived.
ISTor had she hope of seeing him, since he warned her that if ever in an evil hour curiosity mastered her, so that she espied his bodily form, she would feel his embrace no more. But the course of true love never ran smooth, and now came her jealous sisters, who contrived to work upon poor Psyche's feelings and credulity, until she believed herself the victim of a dread monster in her unseen lover, whom she resolved to slay.
But when, with lamp in one hand and knife in the other, she nerved herself for the fatal blow, the vision that met her eye disarmed her purpose, for there lay Cupid, golden-locked and dewy-pinioned, all soft and white and lovely. Then Pysche, catching sight of his bow and arrows, drew out a dart, and trying the temper of its point upon her thumb, drove in the barb, and so fell into the love of Love; and in her rapture a "drop of scalding oil fell from her lamp upon her lover's shoulder, who awoke, and seeing the failure of her faith, took flight and left her.
And now began many sorrows for Psyche, the bitter penalty of doubt and curiosity. Venus learnt the amour of her boy, and though Juno and Ceres received her overtures for help in the quest of Psyche coldly and with some spite- ful taunts, yet from Jupiter she obtained the use of Mercury, the god of speech, who soon tracked out for her the object of her persecution. With insults and hardships, many and cruel, did Venus ply her daughter-in-law, to whose help came in turn the ant, and the reed, and the eagle, and the very stones of the walls, all for the sake of Love.
And opening the casket on her way, that she might touch herself with some particle of the precious gift, to enhance her own fair beauty in the eyes of her truant lover and win him back again, she fell into a deadly sleep, until Cupid found her, and by the touch of his arrow awoke her once more to life. Then Cupid, who had grown lovesick for his sweet bride, sought his father's sympathy; and Jupiter granted his son's desire, and bade Mercury bring Psyche to the court of Heaven, and there he gave her a draught of the immortal wine, saying, " Take it and live for ever ; nor shall Cupid ever depart from thee.
On the first couch lay the bridegroom, and Psyche in his bosom. His rustic serving boy bore the wine to Jupiter ; and Bacchus to the rest. The seasons crimsoned all things with their roses. Apollo sang to the lyre, while little Pan prattled on his reeds, and Venus sweetly danced to the soft music.