"In lovely Mantua was my childhood's home, Till my ambition lured me forth to Rome; Flocks, fields, and heroes have inspired my breast; And now on Naples1 sunny slope I rest".
Below this, on the pedestal, are cut the words: "Consecrated to the Prince of Latin poets by F. G. Eichhoff, Librarian to her Majesty, the Queen of France, 1840." This is only one of many attempts to honor Virgil's final resting-place; but, thus far, all such monuments have either fallen into decay, or have been carried away by relic hunters. Yet, since the historic site is undoubtedly genuine, thousands of grateful pilgrims come here year after year, and the poet's genius still exists, as fadeless and immortal as the beauty of the bay. Standing by Virgil's tomb, and looking off on the adjacent shore where St. Paul landed when he came to Italy, I thought of the not improbable legend that he then paid a visit to the poet's grave. This was in fact commemorated by a verse, frequently sung in Roman Catholic churches during the Middle Ages, which ran as follows :
"When to Virgil's tomb they brought him, Tender grief and pity wrought him
To exclaim with pious tears : ' What a saint I might have crowned thee, Had I only, living, found thee,
Poet, first and without peers.'"
Continuing our drive beyond Posilipo, along the northern shore, we soon approached the modern town of Pozzuoli. It is the unseen that most interests us here; for this, in ancient times, was a seaport of so much importance that Cicero called it a "miniature Rome." When, in the dawn of the Christian era, St. Paul set foot upon this shore, he doubtless saw around him a multitude of warehouses, and stately ships unloading oil from Athens, corn from Egypt, grain from Sicily, African lions destined for Italian amphitheatres, and spoils from every portion of the Roman world. Before him then upon these hills rose, tier on tier, hundreds of marble villas, temples, and magnificent baths and, above all, the walls of a huge amphitheatre, in which no less than thirty thousand people could be seated.
On The North Shore.
The Coast Near Pozzuoli.
The Amphitheatre At Pozzuoli.
Now all this splendor has departed. The hollow-eyed inhabitants look like beggars in a ruined banquet-hall. Gone are the villas, palaces, and baths of Puteoli, as it was then called, and the once crowded waters of its famous harbor are now rarely furrowed by a keel. One ruin here impressed me greatly. Emerging from the bay, not far from the land, are thirteen columns which formerly supported the great landing-pier of the city. So massive is the lava concrete which encases them, that, notwithstanding all the ravages of war, and waves, and earthquake shocks for eighteen hundred years, it still remains as strong as when upon the platform it upheld the great Apostle landed on his way to Rome. There is, however, a present as well as a past to Pozzuoli, of which we are convinced by the appearance of its fishermen along the beach. Although they look almost as ancient as the ruins that surround them, they are not really old. Their wrinkles come from hard work and exposure. This Neapolitan bay, which is to us merely a thing of beauty, is to these men a vast arena where they struggle for existence. The stake is life itself, their foe starvation. Even if they, to-day, come off victorious, they gain as their reward merely a respite from the conflict for twenty-four hours; then the grim fight begins again. Life on the Neapolitan shore is not entirely composed of merriment. The singers and guitarists, whose music echoes softly over the bay, are never genuine fishermen. The actual toilers of the sea have little time to sing. Day after day, year after year, beneath a scorching sun, or face to face with wintry winds, they work for what amounts at best to only a bare subsistence. For, though the bay is deep and wide, and life abundant in its waves, many are the boatmen who cast in their nets. The very best wages they can earn do not exceed a dollar a day. Driving on from Pozzuoli, another indentation of the coast revealed to us the little island, Nisida, - only a tiny spot of earth, but rich with memories that held us spellbound. To a villa on this wave-encircled rock, Brutus retired after the murder of Caesar, and hither Cicero came to hold with him a consultation. A crisis had indeed arrived accentuated by-Mark Antony's great speech. The cruel murder in the Senate-House was meeting with no popular approval. Brutus and Cassius, with their followers, had struck down the first man of the world, but the conditions that had made him necessary were beyond their reach. "We have killed the King," cried Cicero, sadly, "but the kingdom is still with us".