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the earth; and, even of the present century, barons of the most ancient families, armed cap-a-pee, are to be purchased for two or three ducats, in most of the towns of Germany. French marquises, in full suits of embroidered velvet, may be had at Paris still cheaper ;' and many worshipful citizens of London are to be seen dangling on the walls of an auction-room, when they are scarce cold in
Rome. There are no theatrical entertainments permitted in this city, except during the carnival; but they are then attended with a degree of ardour unknown in capitals whose inhabitants are under no such restraint. Every kind of amusement, indeed, in this gay season, is followed with the greatest eagerness. The natural gravity of the Roman citizens is changed into a mirthful vivacity; and the serious, sombre city of Rome exceeds Paris itself in sprightliness and gaiety. This spirit seems gradually to augment, from its commencement; and is at its height in the last week of the six which comprehend the carnival The citizens then appear in the streets, masked, in the characters of Harlequins, Pantaloons, Punchinellos, and all the fantastic variety of a masquerade. This humour spreads to men, women, and children ; descends to the lowest ranks, and becomes universal. Even those who put on no mask, and have no desire to remain unknown, reject their usual clothes, and assume some whimsical dress. The coachnien, who are placed in a more conspicuous point of view than others of the same rank in life, and who are perfectly known by the carriages they drive, generally affect some ridiculous disguise : many of them choose a woman's dress, and have their faces painted, and adorned with patches. However dull these fellows may be, when in breeches, they are, in petticoats, considered as the pleasantest men in the world; and excite much
laughter in every street in which they appear. . I observed to an Italian of my acquaintance, that, considering the staleness of the joke, I was surprised at the mirth it seemed to raise. • When a whole city,' answered he, are resolved to be merry for a week together, it is exceedingly convenient to have a few established jokes ready made; the young laugh at the novelty, and the old from prescription. This metamorphosis of the coachinen is certainly not the most refined kind of wit ; however, it is more harmless than the burning of heretics, which formerly was a great source of amusement to our populace.'
The street, called the Corso, is the great scene of these masquerades. It is crowded every night with people of all conditions: those of rank come in coaches, or in open carriages, made on purpose. A kind of civil war is carried on by the company, as they pass each other. The greatest mark of attention you can shew your friends and acquaintance, is, to throw a handful of little white balls, resembling sugar-plums, full in their faces; and, if they are not deficient in politeness, they will instantly return you the compliment. All who wish to make a figure in the Corso, come well supplied in this kind of ammunition.
Sometimes two or three open carriages, on a side, with five or six persons of both sexes in each, draw up opposite to each other, and fight a pitched battle. On these occasions, the combatants are provided with whole bags full of the small shot above mentioned, which they throw at each other, with much apparent fury, till their ammunition is exhausted, and the field of battle is as white as
The peculiar dresses of every nation of the globe, and of every profession, besides all the fantastic characters usual at masquerades, are to be seen on the Corso. Those of Harlequin and Pantaloon are in great vogue among the men. The citizens wives and daughters generally affect the pomp of women of quality; while their brothers, or other relations, appear as train-bearers and attendants.
In general, they seem to delight in characters the most remote from their own. Young people assume the long beard, tottering step, and other concomitants of old age; the aged choose the bib and rattle of childhood ; and the women of quality, and women of the town, appear in the characters of country maidens, nuns, and vestal virgins. All endeavour to support the assumed characters to the best of their ability ; but none, in my opinion, succeed so well as those who represent children.
Towards the dusk of the evening, the horse-race takes place. As soon as this is announced, the coaches, cabriolets, triumphal cars, and carriages of every kind, are drawn up, and line the street ; leaving a space in the mid, dle for the racers to pass. These are five or six horses, trained on purpose for this diversion ; they are drawn up abreast in the Piazza del Popolo, exactly where the Corso begins. Certain balls, with little sharp spikes, are hung along their sides, which serve to spur them on. as they begin to run, those animals, by their impatience to be gone, shew that they understand what is required of them, and that they take as much pleasure as the spectators in the sport. A broad piece of canvass, spread across the entrance of the street, prevents them from starting too soon: the dropping that canvass is the signal for the race to begin. The horses fly off together, and, without riders, exert themselves to the utmost; impelled by emulation, the shouts of the populace, and the spurs above mentioned. They run the whole length of the Corso ; and the proprietor of the victor is rewarded by a certain quantity of fine scarlet or purple cloth, which is always furnished by the Jews.
This diversion, such as it is, seems highly entertaining to the Roman populace ; though it appears a mighty foolish business in the eyes of Englishmen. An acquaintance of mine, who had entirely ruined a fine fortune at Newmarket, told me, that Italian horse-races were the most absurd things in the world ; that there were not a hundred guineas lost or won during a whole carnival ; and
nothing could be a greater proof of the folly of the peo. ple, than their spending their time in such a silly manner.
Masking and horse-races are confined to the last eight days; but there are theatrical entertainments, of various kinds, during the whole six weeks of the carnival. The serious opera is most frequented by people of fashion, who generally take boxes for the whole season. The opera, with which this theatre opened, was received with the highest applause, though the music only was new. The Italians do not think it always necessary to compose new words for what is called a new opera ; they often satisfy themselves with new music to the affecting dramas of Metastasio. The audience here seem to lend a more profound and continued attention to the music, than at Venice. This is probably owing to the entertainment being a greater rarity in the one city than in the other; for I could perceive that the people of fashion, who came every night, began, after the opera had been repeated several nights, to abate in their attention, to receive visitors in their boxes, and to listen only when some favourite airs were singing: whereas the audience in the pit uniformly preserve the most perfect silence, which is only interrupted by gentle murmurs of pleasure from a few individuals, or an universal burst of applause from the whole assembly. I never saw such genuine marks of satisfaction displayed by any assembly, on any occasion whatever. The sensibility of some of the audience gave me an idea of the
power of sounds, which the dulness of my own auditory nerves could never have conveyed to my mind. At certain airs, silent enjoyment was expressed in every countenance ; at others, the hands were clasped together, the eyes half shut, and the breath drawn in, with a prolonged sigh, as if the soul was expiring in a torrent of delight. One young woman, in the pit, called out,- O Dio, dove sono! che piacer via caccia l'alma ?"*
On the first night of the opera, after one of thees favourite airs, an universal shout of applause took place, inter
• O God, where am 1! what pleasure ravishes my soul !
mingled with demands that the composer of the music should appear. Il Maestro ! il Maestro ! resounded from every corner of the house. He was present, and led the band of music; he was obliged to stand upon the bench, where he continued, bowing to the spectators, till they were tired of applauding him. One person, in the middle of the pit, whom I had remarked displaying great signs of satisfaction from the beginning of the performance, cried out, -He deserves to be made chief musician to the Virgin, and to lead a choir of angels !'. This expression would be thought strong, in any country; but it has peculiar energy here, where it is a popular opinion, that the Virgin Mary is very fond, and an excellent judge, of music. I received this information on Christmas morning, when I was looking at two poor Calabrian pipers doing their utmost to please her, and the infant in her arms. They played for a full hour to one of her images which stands at the corner of a street. All the other statues of the Virgin, which are placed in the streets, are serenaded in the same manner every Christmas morning. On.my inquiring into the meaning of that ceremony, I was told the above-mentioned circumstance of her character, which, though you may have always thought highly probable, perhaps you never before knew for certain. My informer was a pilgrim, who stood. listening with great devotion to the pipers. He told me, at the same time, that the Virgin's taste was too refined to have much satisfaction in the performance of those poor Calabrians, which was chiefly intended for the infant; and he desired me to remark, that the tunes were plain, simple, and such as might naturally be supposed agreeable to the ear of a child of his time of life.
Though the serious opera is in highest estimation, and more regularly attended by people of the first fashion ; yet the opera buffas, or burlettas, are not entirely neglected, even by them, and are crowded, every night, by the middle and lower classes. Some admired singers have performed there during the carnival, and the musical composers have rendered them highly pleasing to the general taste.