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- ject, as you can scarcely conceive a more uninteresting figure, fat, round, and dumpy; but she had a good-humoured face, and promised to give me
a clean bed, as well as the best supper she could provide. Altogether, I believe I ought to be pleased with my good fortune. While I was waiting for supper, and feeling anxious to retire to rest, I was annoyed by three of the inhabitants making their appearance to pay their respects to me. I could well have dispensed with this honour. I could not, however, get rid of them without actual rudeness, as they were ushered into my presence without notice. One of them was a Frenchman, who had resided here for twenty years, and was now preparing to leave it, from the annoyance he received from government on account of his political sentiments. It appears that the government is afraid of an insurrection at this moment, and they are placing all suspicious persons under strict surveillance of the police. At one time
there was a Masonic lodge at Pisciotta, in which the greater part of the
inhabitants were enrolled; and as this is connected with the system of Carbonarism, it causes Pisciotta to be regarded with great suspicion by government. This may account for the insolent conduct of the gendarmes whom I had met. He apologised for the incivility with which I had been received by the inhabitants when I was inquiring my way to the house of the judge ; they had imagined that I was the bearer of government despatches, and few of them feel good will to the underlings of office. This explained satisfactorily what had struck me so forcibly, and I find that I run no danger from brigands in this part of the country.
I can hear of no ancient remains at Pisciotta, though it is supposed to have been the site of the city Pyxus. They speak of a fine natural grotto, which they wish to show me to-morrow, and I have agreed to accompany them.
THIs morning my French friend was with me at sunrise, and we proceeded to visit the natural grotto that he had spoken of the night before. I begin to suspect, however, that this was a mere pretext to detain me, in order that he might try to discover if I was not an English agent on a political mission, as he pushed me very strongly on such subjects. After walking about a couple of miles along the hills, and through an uninteresting country, we reached a place where the grotto was said to be; but he could not find the entrance, and he asserted that it must have been blocked up. This was very teasing, as I have no wish to add unnecessarily to my fatigues, and, besides, the freshness of the morning was spent in this fruitless search. Neither did his conversation compensate for the delay, as he was a shallow, vain coxcomb, prating of constitutions and constitutional government with a volubility truly distressing: and with increased fluency from his entire ignorance of the subject. I may be doing him injustice, but I could not help suspecting that he was a spy, to find out if I had any ulterior object different from that which I professed. It is so unusual for a foreigner to visit this part of the country, that I can perceive that I am an object of curiosity to both the government officers and to their opponents. The latter consider all Englishmen their friends; but it would be absurd in me to intermeddle with the internal affairs of a country of which I know so little, and I have as yet seen nothing to incline me to believe that the body of the people is fitted for a representative form of government. They are, indeed, dissatisfied, and I have no doubt that many of them would willingly see a change. On our return, we met the judge, who behaved with great incivility, possibly from my intercourse with this Frenchman. I lost no more time, starting at once with a boy to conduct me to a spot said to be the tomb of Palinurus, interesting to classical scholars: Et statuent tumulum et tumulo solemnia mittent, AEternumque locus Palinuri nomen habebit. Till they propitiate thy offended ghost, And raise a tomb, with vows and solemn prayer; And Palinurus's name the place shall bear. Such are the words in which Virgil (AEn. vi. 380) records the fact of a tomb being erected to the pilot of Æneas, who was drowned off this coast on his way to Latium. This is, no doubt, a mere fiction of the poet; still, even in Roman times they had a tradition that he was buried here, and I felt anxious to visit the site of his supposed tomb. The country through which I passed was partially cultivated; there was the same lonely and desolate appearance from the few inhabitants. I met. The tomb is situated at a place called Torrione, near to the village Torracce, a few hundred yards from the shore, and three miles from what is called the promontory of Palinurus. It had very much the appearance of a ruined watch-tower, and however I might be inclined to believe it to be the spot so beautifully alluded to by Virgil, I confess that my belief was of a very doubtful character. It is, however, much resembling the tombs at Velia, though much larger, being filled up with stones and lime. At one time it was larger than it is at present, as the hill is covered with its remains; and the peasants say that coins have been found, though they could show none. There is a chamber below, so filled with stones that it cannot be entered. On one side you see the remains of plaster, composed of small pieces of stone and lime. I think it an ancient building, but of what epoch it is impossible to say. It is a curious circumstance that there should be a fair held at this uninhabited spot on the 4th of August, for three days; and one cannot help imagining that this may be a continuation of those meetings mentioned by ancient writers, at which games were celebrated in honour of Palinurus. The spot where the fair is held is marked by a small chapel and a clump of very aged trees, under whose branches the peasants assemble at a stated period to exchange their various commodities. I dismissed my guide, and lay down under the shade. It was a quiet and peaceful scene, but sad and melancholy. I regretted when I felt myself obliged to move forward. I was in a mood little inclined for exertion, and could have passed hours under this shady retreat. I had still about six miles before I reached Centola, where I intended to remain for the day, as I meant to examine the promontory Palinurus to-morrow. My friend at Ascea furnished me with a letter of introduction to a gentlei. at Centola, so that I had no fear of being able to find accommoation. The country still continued to be uncultivated, and the bare white limestone rocks are disagreeable to the eye. The few peasants I met looked strangely upon me, and were anxious to know on what errand I was bent. If I had attempted to explain it, I am sure that they would not have understood me, or else disbelieved my statements. I reached at last a small river called Molpa, the ancient Melphes, which I had some difficulty in crossing. Here was situated the parish mill, to which all the grain must be sent to be ground. In every parish there is a mill under the control of government, and it is in this way able to tax the people at its discretion. It was now past mid-day, and the heat was most exhausting, yet I had still a steep ascent to mount before I could reach Centola. Half way up the hill I came to a monastery, and I resolved to take shelter, if the good monks would admit a heretic. I rang the bell, and after some delay a young monk made his appearance, when I stated to him that I was a foreigner, and should be obliged to him if he would allow me to remain a short time, till I had recovered from my exhaustion. He conducted me at once to the superior, who received me with great cordiality and politeness. He gave directions that dinner should be got ready, and regretted that it was not such as he could have wished, since the rules of his order compelled them to live in the most temperate manner. I was conducted to the refectory, a large gloomy hall, with two long tables and some rudely constructed wooden benches; and here the inmates of the monastery crowded round me. They had no appearance of living on spare diet, being as jolly a set of fellows as could anywhere be met. They eat twice a day—at eleven o'clock in the morning, and at seven in the evening. Three dishes were all they were allowed—soup, maccaroni, and an omelette, with fruit in its proper season. Their garden showed that, whatever else they neglected, they paid due attention to horticulture. Any one might enter their society who could muster a sum of thirty ducats, about five pounds of our money; but there are only fifteen monks at present, who are supported principally by the voluntary contributions of the people. This monastery had, like many others, been suppressed by the French, and it has never recovered the blow it then received. They have a small library, chiefly of old theological works, in a confused and dirty state, showing that study formed no part of their duty; and I was amused when the superior apologised for its appearance by remarking that they had not found time to arrange it since they were visited by the French. They had been restored to their monastery for fifteen years. They inquired if I were not a heretic; and when I acknowledged that I was what they so denominated, they expressed their regret that I should be doomed to eternal damnation. I asked if they did not think it sinful to receive me in their house; when they remarked that I was un uomo, a fellowcreature, and that as God made the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, they had no right to refuse me the slight assistance they could afford me. When I stated that I intended to remain the rest of the day at Centola, the superior pressed me kindly to accept of a bed, which, however, I thought it better to refuse, and to press on to Centola. Accordingly, I made my way to the syndic's house, and found him to be a young man of pleasing manners. Having seen that my passport was regular, he invited me to accompany him to his brother's house, and here they proposed that I should take up my residence for the night. They offered to prepare dinner, and when I refused on the plea of having already enjoyed the hospitality of the Capuchin friars, they brought out rosolio and prepared coffee for me. Nothing, in fact, could exceed the genuine, unaffected kindness of these simple people. I declined, however, their proposal to remain the night, and proceeded to deliver my letter; but the maid-servant who answered my summons had evidently been roused from her slumbers, and was in bad humour. She told me that her master was enjoying his siesta, and could not be disturbed, nor would she admit me within the house before her master gave permission. There was no use disputing the point with her, nor did she indeed give me an opportunity, as she slammed the door in my face, and I imagine retired to finish her disturbed slumbers. Thus within an hour I had called up a variety of human passions and human feelings. What a contrast between the kindness of the monks and the unmannerly rudemess of this girl |
I might have returned to the house where I had been received so kindly; there was little doubt, however, that they too were now enjoying their repose, as all others seemed to be doing, and I did not think it right to disturb them. Luckily, I found a tree, under whose shade I sat down. I made a pillow of my knapsack, and was soon soundly asleep. How long I may have reposed I know not, but several hours must have passed, as the sun was far advanced in its course when I awoke. I started up in some alarm to examine if all my goods were safe; everything was right, and I felt quite refreshed by my slumbers. I returned to the house of the gentleman, and, having presented my letter, was received with the utmost kindness by the whole family. The lady of the house was particularly pleasing, and the house was soon crowded by all the respectable inhabitants of the village. We had a very interesting conversation on a variety of subjects, and, in return for the information I communicated to them respecting England and its customs, I gleaned all I could respecting their municipal system, which I find to be the following:
†. office of syndic has a close resemblance to our provost, except that there is one in each parish here. Next to him in dignity are what they call Primo eletto and Secondo eletto, on whom devolves the government, if the syndic be incapacitated to act. Those three magistrates are assisted by twenty-seven decuriones. The syndic is chosen by vote every third year from this council, but the election requires to be ratified by government. . He is the president of his little council, and, with their concurrence, has it in his power to impose a variety of taxes to furnish money for the payment of the judge, the schoolmaster, and for the further. ance of internal improvements. Each parish has, besides, to pay a certain sum for the maintenance of the central government, but they are allowed to settle their local taxation as they please. Thus, at Sorento, on the Gulf of Naples, I found each ox had to pay fifteen carlini, equal to five shillings ; each cow, one shilling and sixpence; and a sheep, eightpence. The right of baking bread—il dritto di panizzare—is taxed at one shilling and fourpence for every bushel of flour, or a measure somewhat about that size, called cantara; wine paid twopence per botto, or skin-full. It cannot, therefore, be denied that they have the management of their affairs very much in their own hands; and if they make few improvements, I scarcely think it fair to throw all the blame on the central
government. The great landed proprietors do not, as with us, mingle with their people, and lead the way in improvements. The great mass seem, in fact, to be without energy, and have no desire for anything else than to eat and sleep. There are a few men of highly cultivated minds who would wish to see their country take a higher place in the eyes of Europe, but the great body of the people are as yet unfitted for a representative form of government. A certain number of their parishes form what they call a circondario, and to this a judge is appointed by the crown, who can settle all pecu. niary disputes where the sum is less than thirty pounds. His most important business, however, is to receive and investigate all accusations of political delinquencies; and to us, who live under a government where such accusations are unknown, it is impossible to imagine how much suffering is caused by them. The whole police of the country is placed under his control. Many are under the surveillance of the police, and these poor individuals are compelled to present themselves morning and evening before the judge, or some deputy, to give an account of their proceedings. Their house may be entered at all hours; and I found one person who had had the honour of receiving three domiciliary visits in one night. In his case it had been without effect; but on examining some of his papers, a written translation of one of Voltaire's works was discovered, and as he was mean enough to give up the name of the friend to whom it belonged, the latter was immediately arrested. It required a purgation of six months' imprisonment to clean him of this juvenile performance, though he proved satisfactorily that it had been written during the military occupation of the French. Every province is divided into a certain number of districts, containing two or more circondarii, over which presides a criminal judge, whose business it is to investigate all matters of a more serious nature. He collects the information, and brings it before the supreme court of judicature at the capital of the province. An appeal lies from it to the court at Naples; and if the offender has sufficient money, it is said that, except in political offences, he runs no risk of being punished, however flagrant may have been his crime. The general price of agricultural labour in this part of Italy agrees with what I found to prevail in every other part of this country. The day-labourer receives one carlin, or fourpence of our money, with three meals. A very general complaint is the system of listening to anonymous informations, and compelling the individual to prove his innocence without confronting him with his accuser. I met one poor man who had been imprisoned five months on the information of a private enemy; and he was at last released, from the impossibility of proving anything against him, though he still continued to be narrowly watched.