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of Ætna, tells me, he had examined this lava with great attention, and he thinks that its course, including all its windings, is not less than forty miles. It issued from a mountain on the north side of Ætna, and finding some valleys that lay to the east, it took its course that way, interrupting the Alcantara in many places, and at last arrived at the sea, not far from the mouth of that river.
The city of Jaci, or Aci, and indeed all the towns on this coast, are founded on immense rocks of lava, heaped one above another, in some places to an amazing height; for it apo
арpears that these flaming torrents, as soon as they arrived at the sea, were hardened into rock, which not yielding any longer to the pressure of the liquid fire behind, the melted matter continuing to accumulate, formed a dam of fire, which in a short time run over the solid front, pouring a second torrent into the ocean ; this was immediately consolidated, and succeeded by a third, and so on.
Many of the places on the coast still retain their ancient names ; but the properties ascribed to them by the ancients are now no more. The river Acis, which is now so poisonous, was of old celebrated by the sweetness and salubrity
of its waters;
* which Theocritus says, were ever held sacred by the Sicilian shepherds.
We were surprised to find that so many places retained the name of this swain, who, I imagined, had never existed, but in the imagination of the poets : but the Sicilian authors say, that Acis was the name of a king vho reigned in this part of the island in the time of the most remote antiquity ; in confirmation of which Massa gives the translation of an inscription found near Aci Castello. + He is said to have been slain in a fit of jealousy by Polyphemus, one of the giants of Ætna, which gave rise to the fable. Anguillara, a Sicilian poet, in relating this story, gives a tremendous idea of the voice of Polyphemus ; the passage has been greatly admired.
* Quique per Ætnæos Acis petit æquora fines,
Et dulce gratum Nereide perluit unda.
“ Tremo per troppo horrore Ætna; e Tifeo
You will observe, however, that the Sicilian poet cannot in justice claim the entire merit of these lines, as they are evidently borrowed from Virgil's description of the sound of the Fury Alecto’s horn, in the 7th Æneid. The last line, perhaps the most beautiful of the whole, is almost word for word.
“ Et trepidæ matres pressere ad pectora natos."
It has been observed too, by some critics, that even this description of Virgil is not his own, but copied from the account that Apollonius Rhodius gives of the roaring of the dragon that guarded the golden fleece ; so that you see there is nothing new under the sun. Rhodius probably stole it from somebody else, and so on. Poets have ever been the greatest of all thieves ; and happy it is that poetical theft is no felony ; otherwise, I am afraid, Parnassus would have been but thinly peopled.
Farewell ; to-morrow I shall endeavour to bring you up with us; for at present you will please to observe, that you have got no farther than the city of Jaci, and have still many extinguished volcanoes to pass before your arrival here.
Catania, May 25.
THE road from Jaci to this city is entirely over lava, and consequently very fatiguing and troublesome. Within a few miles of that place, we counted eight mountains förmed by eruption, with every one its crater, from whence the burnt matter was discharged. Some of these are very high, and of a great compass. It appears evidently that the eruptions of Mount Ætna have formed the whole of the coast, and in many places have driven back the sea for Several miles from its ancient boundary. The account the Sicilian authors give of the conflict betwixt these two adverse elements is truly tremendous ; and in relating it, they seem to have been shaken with horror. Conceive the front of a torrent of fire, ten miles in breadth, and heaped up to an enormous height, rolling down the mountain, and pouring its flames into the ocean! The noise, they assure us, is infinitely more dreadful than the loudest thunder ; and is heard through the whole country to an immense distance. The water seemed to retire and diminish before the fire, and to confess its superiority; yielding up its possessions, and contracting its banks, to make room for its imperious master, who commands it: far shalt thou come, and no farther.”—The clouds of salt vapour darken the face of the sun, covering up this scene under a veil of horror and of night; and laying waste every field and vineyard in these regions of the island. The whole fish on the coast are destroyed, the colour of the sea itself is changed, and the transparency of its waters lost for many months.