Obrazy na stronie

growing absolutely out of the lava, the soil having as yet hardly filled the crevices of that porous substance; and, not a great way farther, I observed several little mountains that seemed to have been formed by a late eruption. I dismounted from my mule, and climbed to the top of them all. They are seven in number; every one of them with a regular cup or crater on the top, and in some the great gulf or (as they call it) Voragine, that had discharged the burnt matter of which these little mountains áre formed, is still open.

I tumbled stones down into these gulfs, and heard the noise for a long time after. All the fields round, to a conside erable distance, are covered with large burnt stones discharged from these little volcanoes.

From this place it is not less than five or six miles to the great chesnut-trees, through forests growing out of the lava, in several places almost impassable. Of these trees there are many of ali enormous size ; but the Castagno de Cento Cavalli is by much the most celebrated. I have even found it marked in an old


of Sicily, published near a hundred years ago ; and in all the maps of Ætna, and its environs, it makes a very conspicuous figure. I own I was by no means struck with its appearance, as it does not seem to be one tree, but a bush of five large trees growing together. We complained to our guides of the imposition, when they unanimously assured us, that by the universal tradition, and even testimony of the country, all these were once united in one stem; that their grandfathers remembered this, when it was looked upon as the glory of the forest, and visited from all quarters;

many years past it had been reduced to the venerable ruin we beheld. We began to examine it with more attention, and found there was indeed an appearance as if these five trees had really been once united in one. The opening in the middle is at present prodigious; and it does indeed require faith to believe, that so vast a space was once occupied by solid timber. But there is no appearance of bark on the inside of any of the stumps, nor on the sides that are opposite to one another. Mr. Glover and I measured it separately, and brought it exactly to the same size, viz. two hundred and four feet round. If this was once united in one solid stem, it must with justice indeed have been looked upon as a very wonderful phenomenon in the vegetable world, and was deservedly styled the glory of the forest.

that for

I have since been told by the Canonico Recupero, an ingenious ecclesiastic of this place, that he was at the expense of carrying up peasants with tools to dig round the Castagno de Cento Cavalli ; and be assures me, upon his honour, that he found all these stems united below ground, in one root. I alleged that so extraordinary an object must have been mentioned by many of their writers. He told me that it bad, and produced several examples ; Philateo, Carrera, and some others. Carrera begs to be excused from telling its dimensions, but says, he is sure there was wood enough in that one tree to build a large palace. Their poet Bagolini too has celebrated a tree of the same kind, perhaps the same tree ; * and Massa, one of their most esteemed authors, says he has seen solid oaks upwards of forty feet round ; but

; adds, that the size of the chesnut trees was be yond belief, the hollow of one of which, he says, contained three hundred sheep; and thirty people on horseback had often been in it at a

* Supremos inter montes monstrosior omni

Monstrosi fætum stipitis Ætna dedit
Castaneam genuit, cujus modo concava cortex
Turmam equitum haud parvam continet, atque greges, &c.

time. I shall not pretend to say, that this is the same tree he means ; or whether it ever was one tree or not. There are many others that are well deserving the curiosity of travellers. One of these about a mile and a half higher on the mountain, is called Il Castagno del Galea ; it rises from one solid stem to a considerable height, after which it branches out, and is a much finer object than the other. I measured it about two feet from the ground, and found it seventy-six feet round. There is a third called Il Castagno del Nave, that is pretty nearly of the same size. All these grow on a thick rich soil, formed originally, I believe, of ashes thrown out by the mountain.

The climate here is much more temperate than in the first region of Ætna, where the excessive heats must ever prevent a very

luxuriant vegetation. I found the barometer had now fallen to 26 : 53; which announces an elevation of very near four thousand feet ; equivalent, in the opinion of some of the French academicians, to eighteen or twenty degrees of latitude in the formation of a climate.

The vast quantity of nitre contained in the ashes of Ætna, probably contributes greatly to increase the luxuriance of this vegetation; and


the air too, strongly impregnated with it from the smoke of the volcano, must create a constant supply of this salt, termed by some, not without reason, the food of vegetables.

There is the ruins of a house in the inside of the great chesnut-tree which had been built for holding the fruit it bears, which is still considerable ; here we dined with excellent appetite, and being convinced, that it was in vain to attempt getting to the top of the mountain on that side, we began to descend ; and after a very fatiguing journey over old lavas, now become fertile fields and rich vineyards, we arrived about sunset at Jaci Reale, where, with no small difficulty, we at last got lodging in a convent of Dominicans.

The last lava we crossed before our arrival there, is of a vast extent; I thought we never should have had done with it; it certainly is not less than six or seven miles broad, and appears

in many places to be of an enormous depth.

When we came near the sea, I was desirous to see what form it had assumed in meeting with the water. I went to examine it, and found it had driven back the waves for upwards of a mile, and had formed a large black high

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