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and the force of the whole to be concentered in Strombolo, which acts as one great vent to them all. We still observe Volcano and Volcanello throwing out volumes of smoke, but during the whole night we could not perceive the least spark of fire from either of them.
It is probable, that Strombolo, as well as all the rest of these islands, is originally the work of subterraneous fire. The matter of which they are composed, in a manner demonstrates this; and many of the Sicilian authors confirm it. There are now eleven of them in all ; and none of the ancients mention more than seven. Fazello, one of the best Sicilian authors, gives an account of the production of Volcano, now one of the most considerable of these islands. He says it happened in the early time of the republic, and is recorded by Eusebius, Pliny and others. He adds, that even in his time, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it still discharged quantities of fire and of pumice stones; but that in the preceding century, in the year 1444, on the 5th of February, there had been a very great eruption of this island, which shook all Sicily, and alarmed the coast of Italy as far as Naples. He says the sea boiled all around the island, and rocks of a vast size were dis
charged from the crater; that fire and smoke in many places pierced through the waves, and that the navigation amongst these islands was totally changed; rocks appearing where it was formerly deep water; and many of the straits and shallows were entirely filled up. He observes, that Aristotle, in his book on meteors, takes notice of a very early eruption of this island, by which not only the coast of Sicily, but likewise many cities in Italy were covered with ashes. It has probably been that very eruption which formed the island. He describes Strombolo to have been, in his time, pretty much the same as at this day ; only that it then produced a great quantity of cotton, which is not now the case. The greatest part of it appears to be barren. On the north side there are a few vineyards; but they are very meagre : opposite to these, there is a rock at some distance from land; it seems to be entirely of lava, and is not less than fifty or sixty feet above the water.
The whole island of Strombolo is a mountain that rises suddenly from the sea ; it is about ten miles round, and is not of the exact conical form supposed common to all volcanoes.
We were determined to have landed on the island, and to have attempted to examine the volcano : but
our Sicilian pilot assures us, that the crater is not only inaccessible, (which indeed I own it appears to be,) but that we shall likewise be obliged to perform a quarantine of forty-eight hours at Messina ; and that besides, we should run a great risk of being attacked by the natives, who are little better than
and always on the alarm against the Turks. On weighing these reasons, and putting the question, it was carried, to proceed on our voyage.
I own it is with much regret that. I leave this curious island, without being better acquainted with it. I have been looking with a good glass all round, but can see no marks of the eruption we heard so much of at Naples : indeed, the south-west part, where we saw the appearance of fire, is still bid from us by the interposition of the island; and if there has been an eruption, it was certainly on that side: it is probable we shall never be able to learn whether there has been one or not; or at least to make ourselves masters of any of the particulars relating to it; for events of that kind do not make such a noise in this ignorant and indolent country, as the blowing of an aloe, or a gooseberry-bush at Christmas, does in England. Strombolo rises to a great height : our pilot says, bigher than
Vesuvius; but I think he is mistaken. Both the captain and he agree, that in clear weather it is discoverable at the distance of twenty-five leagues ; and that at night its flames are to be seen still much farther; so that its visible horizon cannot be less than five hundred miles, which will require a very considerable elevation.
The revenue these islands bring to the king of Naples is by no means inconsiderable. They produce great quantities of alum, sulphur, nitre, cinnabar, and most sorts of fruits, particularly raisins, currants, and figs in great perfection ; some of their wines are likewise much esteeme ed ; particularly the Malvasia, well known all over Europe.
The island of Lipari (from which all the rest take their name) is by much the largest, as well as the most fertile. By the description of Aristotle, it appears that it was in his time, what Strombolo is in ours, considered by sailors as a light-house, as its fires were never extinguished. It has not suffered from subterraneous fires for many ages past, though it every where bears the marks of its former state. This is the island supposed by Virgil (who is one of our travelling companions) to be the habitation of Æolus; but indeed all of them were: formerly called Æolian. As they were full of vast caverns, roaring with internal fires, the poets feigned that Æolus kept the winds prisoners here, and let them out at his pleasure. This allegorical fiction is of great use both to Virgil and Homer, when they want to make a storm, and forms no inconsiderable part of their machinery. A goddess has nothing to do but to take a flight to the Lipari islands, and Æolus, who was the very pink of courtesy, has always a storm ready at her command.
Homer, indeed, departing sadly from his usual dignity, supposes that Æolus kept the winds here, each tied up in their respective bags; and when any particular wind was demanded, he made them a present of a bag full of it, to use at discretion. Some of the ancient historians (Diodorus, I think) says that this fable took its rise from a wise king named Æolus ; who, from observing the smoke of these burning islands, and other phenomena attending them, had learned to foretel the weather; and from thence was said to have the command of the winds.
The forge of Vulcan too has been supposed by the poets to be placed in Hiera, one of these islands. Virgil sends him here, to make the