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the earth. We were amazed at the distinctness of vision, and exclaimed together, What a glorious situation for an observatory! Had Empedocles had the eyes of Galileo, what discoveries must he not have made! We regretted that Jupiter was not visible, as I am persuaded we might have discovered some of his satellites with the naked eye, or at least with a small glass which I had in my pocket. We observed a light a great way below us on the mountain, which seemed to move amongst the forests; but whether an ignis fatuus, or what it was, I shall not pretend to say. We likewise took notice of several of those meteors called falling stars, which still appeared to be as much elevated above us as when seen from the plain ; so that, in all probability, those bodies move in regions much beyond the bounds that some philosophers have assigned to our atmosphere.
After contemplating these objects for some time, we set off, and soon after arrived at the foot of the great crater of the mountain. This is of an exact conical figure, and rises equally on all sides. It is composed solely of ashes and other burned materials, discharged from the mouth of the volcano, which is in its centre. This conical mountain is of a very great size; its circumference cannot be less than ten miles. Here we took a second rest, as the greatest part of our fatigue still remained. We found this mountain excessively steep ; and although it had appeared black, yet it was likewise covered with snow; but the surface, luckily for us, was spread over with a pretty thick layer of ashes, thrown out from the crater. Had it not been for this, we never should have been able to get to the top, as the snow was every where frozen hard and solid from the piercing cold of the air.
In about an hour's climbing we arrived at a place where there was no snow, and where a warm and comfortable vapor issued from the mountain, which induced us to make another balt. From this spot it was only about three hundred yards to the highest summit of the mountain, where we arrived in full time to see the most wonderful and sublime sight in nature.
But here description must ever fall short, for no imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious and so magnificent
Neither is there on the surface of this globe any one point that unites so many awful and sublime objects — the immense elevation from the surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a single point, without any neighboring mountain for the senses and imagination to rest upon, and recover from their astonishment in their way down to the world; this point, or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a bottomless gulf as old as the world, often discharging rivers of fire, and throwing out burning rocks with a noise that shakes the whole island. Add to this the unbounded extent of the prospect, comprehending the greatest diversity and the most beautiful scenery in nature; with the rising sun advancing in the east to illuminate the wondrous scene.
The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and showed dimly and faintly the boundless prospect around. Both sea and land looked dark and confused, as if only emerging from their original chaos; and light, and darkness seemed still undivided, till the morning, by degrees advancing, completed the separation. The stars are extinguished, and the shades disappear. The forests, which but now seemed black and bottomless gulfs, from whence no ray was reflected to show their form or colors, appear a new creation rising to the sight; catching life and beauty from every increasing beam. The scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems to widen and expand itself on all sides ; till the sun, like the great Creator, appears in the east, and with his plastic ray completes the mighty scene.
All appears enchantment, and it is with difficulty we can believe we are still on earth. The senses, unaccustomed to the sublimity of such a scene, are bewildered and confounded; and it is not till after some time that they are capable of separating and judging of the objects that compose it. The body of the sun is seen rising from the ocean, immense tracts both of sea and land intervening; the islands of Lipari, Panaria,
Alicudi, Stromboli and Volcano, with their smoking summits, appear
look down on the whole of Sicily as on a map, and can trace every river, through all its windings, from its source to its mouth. The view is absolutely boundless on every side, nor is there any one object, within the circle of vision, to interrupt it ; so that the sight is every wbere lost in the immensity; and I am persuaded it is only from the imperfection of our organs that the coasts of Africa, aud even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are certainly above the horizon.
LVIII. — ASCENT OF MOUNT VESUVIUS
On reaching Naples, and reanchoring in the Mole, after seven weeks' absence, we learned that the eruption of Vesuvius had been going on for a fortnight, but that the finest exhibition of all had been on the night when we saw it from the Bay of Salerno. This was not very consolatory, especially as the Neapolitans assured us the commotion was at an end for the present a piece of information I did not altogether believe, as the smoke and flames, or what appeared to be flames, continued to issue almost constantly from the crater; and as we made sure of seeing, if not a regular eruption of lava, at least a succession of explosions of red-hot stones, — which is one of the grandest fireworks in the world, the famous Girandola, on the Castle of St. Angelo at Rome, not excepted, we resolved to make an expedition, and take our chance next day, whether the volcano was in action or not.
Accordingly, we left Naples, and drove straight to the house of Salvatore, at Resina, and were so fortunate as to find this prince of guides not only disengaged, but so much in expectation of company, that his beasts were already saddled ; and we were soon off under his skilful and agreeable guidance. Some of us were mounted on horses, some on mules, some on don«
keys; and after a charming ride of an hour and a half, we reached the celebrated hermitage, the inmate of which as little deserves the title he bears, as did the friar of Copmanhurst, in Ivanhoe. Among other incongruities of his position, this jolly personage was surrounded by a guard of soldiers, or persons dressed in uniform, one of whom accompanies every party. This troublesome appendage, we were told, was tacked on ever since a notorious robbery had been committed, some years before ; but our Sicilian experience led us to suspect that it was a mere subterfuge for getting more money; so, as it seemed vastly pleasanter to be without a guard than with one, we gave him his fee on the express condition of his leaving the work undone. The fellow smiled at an obligation so agreeable to himself, and pocketing the carlin, turned us over to the robbers without any compunction.
The trip up to the base of the cone looked quite a child's play, compared to the arduous task of Mount Ætna; for the path was every where chalked out, in most parts quite good, and the fatigue was nothing at all. But the walk, or rather scramble, up the cone proved more difficult in comparison than that of Ætna, in the inverse proportion of their heights. This, so far as I 'have studied mountains of the sort, always takes place. Thus Ætna, which is more than twice as high as Vesuvius, has not half so large a cone of ashes at the top; and Teneriffe, which is some thousands of feet higher than Ætna, has a much smaller cone.
As we approached the scene of action, the night became more dark, the jets of red-hot stones more and more splendid, and just before we reached the crest of the ridge, a scout, whom Salvatore had sent forward to inspect the state of the mountain, shouted out that he saw symptoms of an eruption. Accordingly, by the time we gained the summit of the wall which forms the outwork of the great external cone of all, we beheld, to our infinite joy, the lava flowing from an orifice to a considerable distance. Near the entrance it was of a bright white heat, with only a slight tinge of pink. As the stream receded from the source, the pink color gradually in. creased, and at some places its surface was slightly dimmed by patches of a dark, crusty-looking matter; but as these were, too, red-hot, it was merely a less brilliant degree of redness, which made them distinguishable on the surface of the melted lava. The distance of the stream was about a mile from us; yet the light which it shed all over the dreary intervening surface of the rugged top of the mountain was sufficient, I hoped, to enable us to reach it in safety. But Salvatore declared such an enterprise almost impossible, and certainly very hazardous. As I recollected very nearly losing my life on the same spot, when under the same pilotage, I deferred to his authority at once, and limited the expedition to a good view of the magnificent jets of stones, which had now become almost incessant. I counted the time which some of these red-hot stones took to fall to the ground from the highest point of their ascent. The longest which I remarked was twelve seconds, from which I infer that the height to which the stone was projected must have been about two thousand three hundred feet. Sir William Hamilton, it will be recollected, considers that the column of liquid lava which shot up in his eruption mounted ten thousand feet.
Next day I made another expedition to Vesuvius. Setting the heat of the sun as well as that of the volcano at defiance, I resolved to have good daylight for the work, and therefore started at four in the morning. This enabled me to manage the ascent in warm weather; and as I took up a teakettle and other requisites for breakfast, and found a snug nook, under a projecting point of the lava of the great eruption of 1822, I made a most satisfactory meal. When starting from Resina, I suggested to Salvatore that we might as well carry some charcoal with us to make a fire for boiling the water ; and though he is the best bred person imaginable, from having kept company with the choicest spirits of Europe, he could not help smiling, for a moment, at my ignorance of volcanic habits. “No, no, sir,” cried he, “there is no want of