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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 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, Panari, Alicudi, Strombolo, and Volcano, with their smoking summits, appear under your feet; and you 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 where lost in the immensity; and I am persuaded, it is only from the imperfection of our organs, that the coasts of Africa, and even of Greece, are not discovered, as they are certainly above the horizon. The circumference of the visible horizon on the top of Ætna, cannot be less than 2000 miles.
At Malta, which is near 200 miles distant, they perceive all the eruptions from the second region: and that island is often discovered from about one half the elevation of the mountain: so that, at the whole elevation the horizon must extend to near double that distance, or 400 miles, which makes 800 miles for the diameter of the circle, and 2400 for the circumference; but this is by much too vast for our senses, not intended to grasp so boundless a scene.
The most beautiful part of the scene is certainly
mountain itself, the island of Sicily, and the numerous islands lying round it. All these, by a kind of magic in vision, that I am at a loss to account for, seem as if they were brought close round the skirts of Ætna; the distances appearing reduced to nothing. Perhaps this singular effect is produced by the rays of light passing from a rarer medium into a denser, which, (from a well-known law in optics) to an observer in the rare medium, appears to lift up objects that are at the bottom of the dense one, as a piece of money placed in a basin, appears lifted up as soon as the basin is filled with water.
The Regione Deserta, or the frigid zone of Ætna, is the first object that calls your attention. It is marked out by a circle of snow and ice, which extends on all sides to the distance of about eight miles. In the centre of this circle, the great crater of the mountain rears its burning head, and the regions of intense cold, and of intense heat, seem for ever to be united in the same point.
The Regione Deserta is immediately succeeded by the Sylvosa, or the woody region, which forms a circle or girdle of the most beautiful green, which surrounds the mountain on all sides, and is certainly one of the most delightful spots on earth.
This presents a remarkable contrast with the desert region. It is not smooth and even, like the greatest part of the latter; but is finely variegated by an infinite number of those beautiful little mountains, that have been formed by the different eruptions of Ætna. All these have now acquired a wonderful degree of fertility, except a very few that are but newly formed, that is, within these six hundred years; for it certainly requires some thousands, to bring them to their greatest degree of perfection. We looked down into the craters of these, and attempted, but in vain, to number them.
This zone is every where succeeded by the vineyards, orchards, and corn-fields that compose the Regione Culta, or the fertile region. This zone makes a delightful contrast with the other two regions. It is bounded by the sea to the south and southeast, and on all its other sides, by the rivers Semetus and Alcantara, which run almost round it. The whole course of these rivers is seen at once, and all their beautiful windings through these fertile valleys, looked upon as the favorite possession of Ceres herself.
Cast your eyes a little further, and you embrace the whole island; all its cities, rivers, and mountains, delineated
in the great chart of nature; all the adjacent islands, and the whole coast of Italy, as far as your eye can reach; for it is nowhere bounded, but every where lost in the space. On the sun's first rising, the shadow of the mountain extends across the whole island, and makes a large tract visible even in the sea and in the air. By degrees this is shortened, and in a little time is confined only to the neighborhood of Ætna."
Why is it that every one is pleased with the common ivy? There is a charm about that plant which all feel, but none can tell why. Observe it hanging from the arch of some old bridge, and consider the degree of interest it gives to that object. The bridge itself may be beautifully situated; the stream passing through its arches clear and copious; but still, it is the ivy which gives the finished and pictu
Mouldering towers and castles, and ruined cloisters, interest our feelings in a degree more or less, by the circumstance of their being covered or not by the ivy. Precipices, which else would exhibit only their naked, barren walls, are clothed by it in a rich and beautiful vesture.
Old trees, whose trunks it surrounds, assume a great variety of aspect; and, indeed, it is a most important agent in forming the beauty and variety of rural landscape.
It is also as useful as it is beautiful; and among its uses, I would include the very thing of which I am now speaking, for I have no idea that the forms and colors in nature, please the eye by a sort of chance. If I admire the ivy clinging to and surmounting some time-worn tower, and the various tints that diversify the parts of the ruin not hidden by it, I can only refer the pleasure I experience, to the natural construction of the human mind, which the Almighty has formed to feel a pleasure, in contemplating the external world around it.
Who is insensible to the beauties of nature at the rising and setting of the summer's sun? Who can behold the moonbeams reflected from some silent river, lake, or sea, and not feel happy in the sight? None, I believe, in early
life. When hardened in the ways of men—when the chief good pursued is the accumulation of wealth, the acquisition of power, or the pursuit of pleasure, so called,—then mankind lose a sense of the beauties of nature; but never, perhaps till then. A love for them is inherent in the mind, and almost always shows itself in youth; and, if cherished at that period by education, would seldom be destroyed or become dormant in after life, as it now so generally is.
The ivy is of vast advantage to the smaller birds, as it affords them shelter in winter, and a retreat for building their nests in spring and summer. It is in fructification in October and November, and the sweet juice which its flowers exude, supports an infinity of insects in autumn, while its berries are a store of nutriment for many birds in early spring.
The Pleasures of Religion.-SMITH. A RIGHTEOUS man is a happy man, because he is a free man, and the servant to no inward lust.
He can act up to his own decisions, and when he sees what is right, he can do it. He has found from experience, that the impulse of passion may be withstood, till the resistance becomes habitually strong, and the passion habitually weak.
While the sinner stands trembling, and says to himself, shall I enjoy this one pleasure? shall I tempt the mercy of God only this once? the righteous man treads down Satan beneath his feet, defends his soul, and walks on to his salvation, unheeding bad pleasures that lure him from eternity.
If there is wretchedness upon earth, it is to live by a rule which we perpetually violate; first, to convince ourselves that the thing is right, that prudence requires it, that the world approves it, that religion ordains it; then, when the eye is tempted, when the heart is touched only by the faint beginnings of pleasure, to forget prudence, to forget the world, to forget religion, to enjoy, and to repent.
He, who has suffered this long, hates and despises himself; he can see nothing venerable in his own nature; nothing but that levity and voluptuousness, which he would despise in others, and which, in spite of all self-love, he knows to be despicable in himself.
The most miserable of human beings are professed sinners, men who despise rule, who look upon their passions as mere instruments of pleasure, and are determined to extract from life, every drop of amusement it can afford. The last excess is stale, and tiresome; there must be a higher degree of emotion; when every thing else is exhausted, the destruction of all decency affords some little entertainment; to laugh at religion is, for some time new, and amusing. But immodesty, and blasphemy soon weary, and the sinner finds, that he has not chosen the path of pleasantness, and peace.
In fact, putting aside all religious considerations, there is not a greater mistake in the world, than to suppose, that a profligate man is a happy man. He seems to be happy, because his enjoyments are more visible, and ostentatious; but is in truth a very sorry, and shallow impostor, who may deceive the young, but is laughed at by the wise, and by all who know in what true happiness consists.
The truly happy man is he, who has early discovered, that he carries within his own bosom his worst enemies, that the contest must be manfully entered into; that if righteousness does not save him from his sinful appetites, they will rule him, up to the moment of the grave; that they will bend him down to the earth, and tear, and rend him like the bad spirits in scripture; that his fame will be sullied, his mind and body wasted away, and his substance destroyed.
When Solomon saw these things, when he beheld one man groaning with despair, another writhing with disease, when he beheld the follies, the errors, and crimes of the world, and could see nothing placid, nothing calm, nothing stable, but the righteous man; then he said, (and oh how truly, and wisely he said it,) the ways of that man are the ways of pleasantness, and his paths the paths of peace.
A religious man is happy because he is secure; because it is not in the power of accident, or circumstance, to disclose any secret guilt; as he is, he has long been; he can refer to the blameless tenor of years; to a mind long exercised in avoiding offence towards God, and towards man! His present enjoyments are never polluted, by bitter remembrances of the past; whatever he has of honor, or consideration among men, he has it honestly, and safely; it does not depend upon their ignorance, nor upon his dexterity, nor upon any fortunate combination of events.