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A Circus and a theatre invites
BRESCIA, VERONA, PADUA. From Milan we travelled through a very pleasant country to Brescia, and by the way crossed the river Adda, that falls into the Lago di Como, which Virgil calls the lake Larius, and running out at the other end loses itself at last in the Po, which is the great receptacle of all the rivers of this country. The town and province of Brescia have freer access to the senate of Venice, and a quicker redress of injuries, than any other part of their dominions. They have always a mild and prudent governor, and live much more happily than their fellow-subjects: for as they were once a part of the Milanese, and are now on their frontiers, the Venetians dare not exasperate them, by the loads they lay on other provinces, for fear of a revolt; and are forced to treat them with much more indulgence than the Spaniards do their neighbours, that they may have no temptation to it. Brescia is famous for its iron-works. A small day's journey more brought us to Verona. We saw the lake Benacus in our way, which the Italians now call Lago di Garda: it was so rough with tempests when we passed by it, that it brought into my mind Virgil's noble description of it.
Adde lacus tantos, te Lari maxime, teque
So loud the tempest roars, so high the billows rise. This lake perfectly resembles a sea, when it is worked up by storms. It is thirty-five miles in length, and twelve in breadth. At the lower end of it we crossed the Mincio.
—Tardis ingens ubi fexibus errat
VIRG. Georg. iii. v. 14
Where the slow Mincius through the valley strays;
And reeds defend the winding water's brink. DRYDEN. The river Adige runs through Verona; so much is the situation of the town changed from what it was in Silius Italicus his time.
- Verona Athesi circumflua. Lib. viii. Verona by the circling Adige bound. This is the only great river in Lombardy that does not fall into the Po; which it must have done, had it run but a little further before its entering the Adriatic. The rivers are all of them mentioned by Claudian.
-Ventosque erectior amnes
Sexto Cons. Hon.
force From nine wide mouths comes gushing to his course. His Larius is doubtless an imitation of Virgil's Benacus.
-Umbrosâ vestit qua littus olivâ
An ocean of fresh water spreads around. I saw at Verona the famous amphitheatre, that with a few modern reparations has all the seats entire. There is something very noble in it, though the high wall and corridors that went round it are almost entirely ruined, and the area is quite filled up to the lower seat, which was formerly deep enough to let the spectators see in safety the combats of the wild beasts and gladiators. Since I have Claudian before me, I cannot forbear setting down the beautiful description he has made of a wild beast newly brought from the woods, and making its first appearance in a full amphitheatre.
Ut fera quæ nuper montes amisit avitos,
Illa pavet strepitus, cuneosque erecta theatri
In. RUF. lib. ii.
And the vast hissing multitude admires. There are some other antiquities in Verona, of which the principal is the ruin of a triumphal arch erected to Flaminius, where one sees old Doric pillars without any pedestal or basis, as Vitruvius has described them. I have not yet seen any gardens in Italy worth taking notice of. The Italians fall as short of the French in this particular, as they excel them in their palaces. It must, however, be honour of the Italians, that the French took from them the first plans of their gardens, as well as of their water-works; so that their surpassing of them at present is to be attributed rather to the greatness of their riches than the excellence of their taste. I saw the terrace-garden of Verona, that travellers generally mention. Among the churches of Verona, that of St. George is the handsomest: its chief ornament is the martyrdom of the saint, drawn by Paul Veronese; as there are many other pictures about the town by the same hand. A stranger is always shown the tomb of Pope Lucius, who lies buried in the dome. I saw in the same church a monument erected by the public to one of their bishops: the inscription says, that there was between him and his Maker summa necessitudo, summa similitudo. The Italian epitaphs are often more extravagant than those of other countries, as the nation is more given to compliment and hyperbole. From Verona to Padua we travelled through a very pleasant country: it is planted thick with rows of white mulberry-trees, that furnish food for great quantities of silk-worms with their leaves, as the swine and poultry consume the fruit. The trees themselves serve, at the same time, as so many stays for their vines, which hang all along like garlands from tree to tree. Between the several ranges lie fields of corn, which, in these warm countries, ripens much better among the mulberry shades than if it were ex
posed to the open sun. This was one reason why the inhabitants of this country, when I passed through it, were extremely apprehensive of seeing Lombardy the seat of war, which must have made miserable havoc among their plantations; for it is not here as in the corn-fields of Flanders, where the whole product of the place rises from year to year. We arrived so late at Vicenza, that we had not time to take a full sight of the place. The next day brought us to Padua. St. Anthony, who lived above five hundred years ago, is the great saint to whom they here pay their devotions. He lies buried in the church that is dedicated to him at present, though it was formerly consecrated to the blessed Virgin. It is extremely magnificent, and very richly adorned. There are narrow clefts in the monument that stands over him, where good Catholics rub their beads, and smell his bones, which they say have in them a natural perfume, though very like apoplectic balsam; and what would make one suspect that they rub the marble with it, it is observed that the scent is stronger in the morning than at night. There are abundance of inscriptions and pictures hung up by his votaries in several parts of the church: for it is the way
of those that are in any signal danger to implore his aid, and if they come off safe they call their deliverance a miracle, and perhaps hang up the picture or description of it in the church. This custom spoils the beauty of several Roman Catholic churches, and often covers the walls with wretched daubings, impertinent inscriptions, hands, legs, and arms of wax, with a thousand idle offerings of the same nature.
They sell at Padua the Life of St. Anthony, which is read with great devotion; the most remarkable part of it is his discourse to an assembly of fish. As the audience and sermon are both very extraordinary, I will set down the whole passage at length.
“Non curando gli heretici il suo parlare, egli si come era alla riva del mare, dove sbocca il fiume Marecchia, chiamò da parte di Dio li pesci, che venissero à sentir la sua santa parola. Et ecco che di subito sopra l' acque nuotando gran moltitudine di varii, et diversi pesci, e del mare, e del fiume, si unirono tutti, secondo le specie loro, e con bell ordine, quasi che di ragion capaci stati fossero, attenti, e cheti con gratioso spettacolo s'accommodaro per sentir la parola di Dio. Ciò veduto il santo entro al cuor suo di dolcezza stillandosi, et per altretanta maraviglia inarcando le ciglia, della obedientia di queste irragionevoli creature così cominciò loro à parlare. Se bene in tutte le cose create (cari, et amati pesci) si scuopre la potenza, et providenza infinita di Dio, come nel cielo, nel sole, nella luna, nelle stelle, in questo mondo inferiore, nel huomo, e nelle altre creature perfette, nondimeno in voi particolarmente lampeggia e risplende la bontà della maestà divina; perche se bene siete chiamati rettili, mezzi frà pietre, e bruti, confinati nelli profondi abissi delle ondeggiante acque: agitati sempre da flutti: mossi sempre da procelle ; sordi al' udire, mutoli al parlare, et horridi al vedere; con tutto ciò in voi maravigliosamente si scorge la Divina grandezza; e da voi si cavano li maggiori misterii della bontà di Dio, ne mai si parla di voi nella scrittura sacra, che non vi sia ascosto qualche profondo sacramento; credete voi, che sia senza grandissimo misterio, che il primo dono fatto dall' onnipotente Iddio all' huomo fosse di voi pesci ? Credete, voi che non sia misterio in questo, che di tutte le creature, e di tutti gli animali si sien fatti sacrificii, eccetto, che di voi pesci ? Credete, che non vi sia qualche secreto in questo, che Christo nostro salvatore dall' agnelo pasquale in poi, si compiacque tanto del cibo di voi pesci ? Credete, che sia à caso questo, che dovendo il redentor del mondo, pagar, come huomo, il censo à Cesare la volesse trovare nella bocca di un pesce? Tutti, tutti sono misteri è sacramenti : perciò siete particolarmente obligati a lodare il vostro Creatore: amati pesci di Dio havete ricevuto l' essere, la vita, il moto, e 'l senso ; per stanza vi ha dato il liquido elemento dell' acqua, secondo che alla vostra naturale inclinatione conviene: ivi hà fatti amplissimi alberghi, stanze, caverne, grotte, e secreti luogi à voi più che sale regie, e regal palazzi, cari, e grati; et per propria sede havete l' acqua, elemento diafano, transparente, e sempre lucido quasi cristallo, e verro: et dalle più basse, e profonde vostre stanze scorgete ciò che sopra acqua ò si fa, o nuota; havete gli occhi quasi di lince, o di Argo, et da causa non errante guidati
, seguite ciò che vi giova, et aggrada; et fuggite ciò che vi nuoce, havete natural desio di conservarvi secondo le spetie vostre, fase, oprate et caminate ove natura vi detta senza contrastro alcuno; nè algor d'inverno, nè calor di state vi offende, o nuoce; siasi per sereno, o turbato il cielo, che alli