Roman Rides

ROME, last of April.

SHALL always remember the first I took : out of the Porta del Popolo, to where the Ponte Molle, whose single arch sustains a weight of historic tradition, compels the sallow Tiber to flow between its four great mannered ecclesiastical statues, over the crest of the hill, and along the old posting-road to Florence. It was mild midwinter, the season, peculiarly, of color on the Roman Campagna; and the light was full of that mellow purple glow, that tempered intensity, which haunts the after-visions of those who have known Rome like the memory of some supremely irresponsible pleasure. An hour away, I pulled up, and stood for some time at the edge of a meadow, gazing away into remoter distances. Then and there, it seemed to me, I measured the deep delight of knowing the Campagna. But I saw more things in it than it is easy to repeat. The country rolled away around me into slopes and dells of enchanting contour, checkered with purple and blue and blooming brown. The lights and shadows were at play on the Sabine Mountains, — an alternation of tones so exquisite that you can indicate them only by some fantastic comparison to sapphire and amber. In the foreground a contadino, in his cloak and peaked hat, was jogging solitary on his ass ; and here and there in the distance, among blue undulations, some white village, some gray tower, helped deliciously to make the scene the typical “ Italian landscape ” of oldfashioned art. It was so bright and yet so sad, so still, and yet so charged, to the supersensuous ear, with the murmur of an extinguished life, that you could only say it was intensely and deliciously strange, and that the Roman Campagna is the most suggestive place in the world. To ride once, under these circumstances, is of course to ride again, and to allot to the Campagna a generous share of the time one spends in Rome.

It is a pleasure that doubles one’s horizon, and one can scarcely say whether it enlarges or limits one’s impression of the city proper. It certainly makes St. Peter’s seem a trifle smaller, and blunts the edge of one’s curiosity in the Forum. If you have ridden much, to think of Rome afterwards will be, I imagine, to think still respectfully and regretfully enough of the Vatican and the Pincio, the streets and the duskily picturesque street-life ; but it will be even more to wonder, with an irrepressible contraction of the heart, when again you shall feel yourself bounding over the flower-smothered turf, or pass from one framed picture to another beside the open arches of the crumbling aqueducts. You look at Rome so often from some grassy hill-top—hugely compact within its walls, with St. Peter’s overtopping all things and yet seeming small, and the vast girdle of marsh and meadow receding on all sides to the mountains and the sea — that you come to remember it at last as hardly more than a large detail in an impressive landscape. And within the walls you think of your intended ride as a sort of romantic possibility ; of the Campagna generally as an illimitable experience. One’s rides certainly make Rome a richer place to live in than most others. To dwell in a city which, much as you grumble at it, is, after all, very fairly a modern city ; with crowds, and shops, and theatres, and cafés, and balls, and receptions, and dinner-parties, and all the modern confusion of social pleasures and pains ; to have at your door the good and evil of it all ; and yet to be able in half an hour to gallop away and leave it a hundred miles, a hundred years, behind, and to look at the tufted broom glowing on a lonely tower-top in the still blue air, and the pale pink asphodels trembling none the less for the stillness, and the shaggy-legged shepherds leaning on their sticks in motionless brotherhood, with the heaps of ruin and the scrambling goats and staggering little kids treading out wild desert smells from the top of hollow-sounding mounds ; and then to come back through one of the great gates, and, a couple of hours later, find yourself in the “ world,” dressed, introduced, entertained, inquisitive, talking about Middlemarch to a young English lady, or listening to Neapolitan songs from a gentleman in a very low-cut shirt, — all this is to lead a sort of double life, and to gather from the hurrying hours more impressions than a mind of modest capacity quite knows how to dispose of. I touched lately upon this theme with a friend who, I fancied, would understand me, and who immediately assured me that he had just spent a day which this mingled diversity of sensation made to the days one spends elsewhere what an uncommonly good novel is to a newspaper. “There was an air of idleness about it, if you will,” he said, “ and it was certainly pleasant enough to have been wrong. Perhaps, being, after all, unused to long stretches of dissipation, this was why I had a halffeeling that I was reading an odd chapter in the history of a person very much more of a héros de roman than myself.” Then he proceeded to relate how he had taken a long ride with a lady whom he extremely admired. “We turned off from the Tor di Quinto Road to that castellated farm-house you know of,— once a Ghibelline fortress, — whither Claude Lorraine used to come to paint pictures of which the surrounding landscape is still artistically suggestive. We went into the inner court, a cloister almost, with the carven capitals of its loggia columns, and looked at a handsome child swinging shyly against the half-opened door of a room whose impenetrable shadow, behind her, made her, as it were, a sketch in bituminous water-colors. We talked with the farmer, a handsome, pale, fever-tainted fellow, with a well-to-do air, who did n’t in the least prevent his affability taking a turn which resulted in his acceptance of small coin; and then we galloped away and away over the meadows which stretch with hardly a break to Veü. The day was strangely delicious, with a cool gray sky and just a touch of moisture in the air, stirred by our rapid motion. The Campagna, in the colorless, even light, was more solemn and romantic than ever; and a ragged shepherd, driving a meagre, straggling flock, whom we stopped to ask our way of, was a perfect type of pastoral, weather-beaten misery. He was precisely the shepherd for the foreground of a scratchy etching. There were faint odors of spring in the air, and the grass here and there was streaked with great patches of daisies ; but it was spring with a foreknowledge of autumn, —a day to be enjoyed with a sober smile, — a day somehow to make one feel as if one had seen and felt a great deal, — quite, as I say, like a héros de roman. Apropos of such people, it was the illustrious Pelham, I think, who, on being asked if he rode, replied that he left those violent exercises to the ladies. But under such a sky, in such an air, over acres of daisied turf, a long, long gallop is certainly the gentlest, the most refined of pleasures. The elastic bound of your horse is the poetry of motion ; and if you are so happy as to add to it — not the prose of companionship, riding comes to seem to you really an intellectual pursuit. “ My gallop, at any rate,” said my friend, “ threw me into a mood which gave an extraordinary zest to the rest of the day.” He was to go to a dinner-party at a villa on the edge of Rome, and Madame X&wmdash;, who was also going, called for him in her carriage. “ It was a long drive,” he went on, “through the Forum, past the Coliseum. She told me a long story about a most interesting person. Toward the end I saw through the carriage window a slab of rugged sculptures. We were passing under the Arch of Constantine. In the hall pavement of the villa is a rare antique mosaic, —one of the largest and most perfect ; the ladies, on their way to the drawing-room, trail over it the flounces of Worth. We drove home late, and there’s my day.”

On your exit from most of the gates of Rome you have generally half an hour’s riding through winding lanes, many of which are hardly less charming than the open meadows. On foot, the walls and high hedges would vex you and make your walk dull; but in the saddle you generally overtop them and see treasures of picturesqueness. Yet a Roman wall in the springtime is, for that matter, as picturesque as anything it conceals. Crumbling grain by grain, colored and mottled to a hundred tones by sun and storm, with its rugged structure of brick extending through its coarse epidermis of peeling stucco, its creeping lace-work of wandering ivy starred with miniature violets, and its wild fringe of stouter flowers against the sky,— it is as little as possible a blank partition ; it is almost a piece of landscape. At this moment in mid-April, all the ledges and cornices are wreathed with flaming poppies, nodding there as if they knew so well what faded grays and yellows were an offset to scarlet. But the best point in a dilapidated wall of vineyard or villa is of course the gateway, lifting its great arch of cheap rococo scroll-work, its balls and shields and mossy dish-covers (as they always seem to me), and flanked with its dusky cypresses. I never pass one without taking out my mental sketch-book and jotting it down as a vignette in the insubstantial record of my ride. They always look to me intensely sad and dreary, as if they led to the moated grange where Mariana waited in desperation for something to happen ; and I fancy the usual inscription over the arch to be a recommendation to those who enter to renounce all hope of anything but a glass of more or less agreeably acrid vino romano. For what you chiefly see over the walls and at the end of the straight, short avenue of rusty cypresses are the appurtenances of a vigna,— a couple of acres of little upright sticks, blackening in the sun, and a vast, sallow-faced, scantily-windowed mansion, whose expression denotes little intellectual life beyond what goes to the driving of a hard bargain over the tasted hogsheads. If Mariana is there, she certainly has no pile of old magazines to beguile her leisure. Intellectual life, if the term is not too pompous, seems to the contemplative tourist as he wanders about Rome, to exist only as a kind of thin deposit of the past. Within the rococo gateway, which itself has a vague literary suggestiveness, at the end of the cypress walk, you ’ll probably see a mythological group in rusty marble,— a Cupid and Psyche, a Venus and Paris, an Apollo and Daphne, — the relic of an age when a Roman proprietor thought it fine to patronize the arts. But I imagine you are safe in thinking that it constitutes the only literary allusion that has been made on the premises for three or four generations.

There is a franker cheerfulness — though certainly a proper amount of that forlornness which lurks about every object to which the Campagna forms a background — in the primitive little taverns where, on the homeward stretch, in the waning light, you are often glad to rein up and demand a bottle of their best. But their best and their worst are the same, though with a shifting price, and plain vino bianco or vino rosso (rarely both) is the sole article of refreshment in which they deal. There is a ragged bush over the door, and within, under a dusky vault, on crooked cobble-stones, sit half a dozen contadini in their indigo jackets and goatskin breeches, with their elbows on the table. There is generally a rabble of infantile beggars at the door, pretty enough in their dusty rags, with their fine eyes and intense Italian smile, to make you forget your private vow of doing your individual best to make these people, whom you like so much, unlearn their old vices. Was the Porta Pia bombarded three years ago, that Peppino should still grow up to whine for a copper ? But the Italian shells had no direct message for Peppino’s stomach, — and you are going to a dinner-party at a villa. So Peppino “ points ” an instant for the copper in the dust and grows up a Roman beggar. The whole little place is the most primitive form of a hostelry; but along any of the roads leading out of the city you may find establishments of a higher type, with Garibaldi, superbly mounted and foreshortened, painted on the wall; or a lady in a low-necked dress opening a fictive lattice with irresistible hospitality, and a yard with the classic pine-wreathed arbor casting thin shadows upon benches and tables draped and cushioned with the white dust from which the highways from the gates borrow most of their local color. But, as a rider, I say, yon avoid the highroads, and, if you are a person of taste, don’t grumble at the occasional need of following the walls of the city. City walls, to a properly constituted American, can never be an object of indifference ; and there is certainly a fine solemnity in pacing in the shadow of this massive cincture of Rome. I have found myself, as I skirted its base, talking of trivial things, but never without a sudden reflection on the deplorable impermanence of first impressions. A twelvemonth ago the raw plank fences of a Boston suburb, inscribed with the virtues of healing drugs, bristled along my horizon: now I glance with idle eyes at this compacted antiquity, in which a more learned sense may read great dates and signs,— Serums, Aurelian, Honorius. But even to idle eyes the walls of Rome abound in picturesque episodes. In some places, where the huge brick-work is black with time, and certain strange square towers look down at you with still blue eyes, — the Roman sky peering through lidless loopholes,—and there is nothing but white dust in the road and solitude in the air, I feel like a wandering Tartar touching on the confines of the Celestial Empire. The wall of China must be very much such a churly piece of masonry. The color of the Roman ramparts is everywhere fine, and their rugged patchwork has been subdued by time and weather into the mellow harmony which painters love. On the northern side of the city, behind the Vatican, St. Peter’s, and the Trastevere, I have seen them glowing in the late afternoon with the tones of ancient bronze and rusty gold. Here, at various points, they are embossed with the Papal insignia,— tiara with its flying bands and crossed keys, — for which the sentimental tourist has possibly a greater kindness than of yore. With the dome of St. Peter’s resting on their cornice and the hugely clustered architecture of the Vatican rising from them as from a terrace, they seem indeed the valid bulwark of an ecclesiastical city. Vain bulwarks, alas ! sighs the sentimental tourist, fresh from the meagre entertainment of this latter Holy Week. But he may find picturesque consolation in this neighborhood at a source where, as I pass, I never fail to apply for it. At half an hour’s walk beyond the Porta San Pancrazio, beneath the wall of the Villa Doria, is a delightfully pompous ecclesiastical gateway of the seventeenth century, erected by Paul V. to commemorate his restoration of the aqueducts through which the stream bearing his name flows towards that fine, florid portico which covers its clear-sheeted outgush on the crest of the Janiculum. It arches across the road in the most ornamental manner of the period, and one can hardly pause before it without seeming to assist at a ten minutes’ revival of old Italy,— without feeling as if one were in a cocked hat and sword, and were coming up to Rome in another mood than Luther’s, with a letter of recommendation to the mistress of a Cardinal.

The Campagna differs greatly on the two sides of the Tiber ; and it is hard to say which, for the rider, has the greater charm. The half-dozen rides you may take from the Porta San Giovanni possess the perfection of traditional Roman interest, and lead you through a far-strewn wilderness of ruins, — a scattered maze of tombs and towers and nameless fragments of antique masonry. The landscape here has two great features ; close before you on one side is the long, gentle swell of the Alban Mountains, deeply, fantastically blue in most weathers, and marbled with the vague white masses of their scattered towns and villas. It is hard to fancy a softer curve than that with which the mountain sweeps down from Albano to the plain ; it is a perfect example of the classic beauty of line in the Italian landscape, — that beauty which, when it fills the background of a picture, makes us look in the foreground for a broken column bedded in flowers, and a shepherd piping to dancing nymphs. At your side, constantly, you have the broken line of the Claudian Aqueduct carrying its broad arches far away into the plain. The meadows along which it lies are not the smoothest in the world for a gallop, but there is no pleasure greater than to wander over it. It stands knee-deep in the flower-strewn grass, and its rugged piers are hung with ivy, as the columns of a church are draped for a festa. Every archway is a picture, massively framed, of the distance beyond, — of the snow-tipped Sabines and lonely Soracte. As the spring advances, the whole Campagna smiles and waves with flowers ; but I think they are nowhere more rank and lovely than in the shifting shadow of the aqueducts, where they muffle the feet of the columns and smother the half-dozen brooks which wander in and out like silver meshes between the legs of a file of giants. They make a niche for themselves, too, in every crevice and tremble on the vault of the empty conduits. The ivy hereabouts, in the springtime, is peculiarly brilliant and delicate ; and though it cloaks and muffles these Roman fragments far less closely than the castles and abbeys of England, it hangs with the light elegance of all Italian vegetation. It is partly, doubtless, because their mighty outlines are still unsoftened that the aqueducts are so impressive. They seem the very source of the solitude in which they stand ; they look like architectural spectres, and loom through the light mists of their grassy desert, as you recede along the line, with the same insubstantial vastness as if they rose out of Egyptian sands. It is a great neighborhood of ruins, many of which, it must be confessed, you have applauded in many an album. But station a peasant with sheepskin coat and bandaged legs in the shadow of the tomb or tower best known to drawing-room art, and scatter a dozen goats on the mound above him, and the picture has a charm which has not yet been sketched away.

The other side of the Campagna has wider fields and smoother turf and perhaps a greater number of delightful rides, the earth is sounder, and there are fewer pitfalls and ditches. The land for the most part lies higher and catches more breezes, and the grass, here and there, is for great stretches as smooth and level as a carpet. You have no Alban Mountains before you, but you have in the distance the waving ridge of the nearer Appenines, and west of them, along the course of the Tiber, the long seaward level of deep-colored fields, deepening as they recede to the blue and purple of the sea itself. Beyond them, of a very clear day, you may see the glitter of the Mediterranean. These are rides, perhaps, to remember most fondly, for here are enchanting places, and the landscape has details of supreme picturesqueness. Indeed, when I turn over the picturesque impressions, the vaguely lingering sensations, of these Roman rides, it seems a fool’s errand to have attempted to express them, and a waste of words to do more than recommend the reader to ride citywards at twilight, at the end of March, toward the Porta Cavalleggieri, and note what he sees. At this hour the Campagna seems peculiarly its melancholy self, and I remember roadside “ effects” of the most poignant suggestiveness. Certain mean, mouldering villas behind grass-grown courts have an indefinably sinster look ; there was one in especial, of which it was impossible not to fancy that a despairing creature had once committed suicide there, behind bolted door and barred window, and that no one had since had the pluck to go in and see why he never came out. But, to my sense, every slight wayside detail in the country about Rome has a penetrating eloquence, and I may possibly exaggerate the charms of very common things. This is the more likely, because the charms I touch on are so many notes in the scale of melancholy. To delight in the evidence of meagre lives might seem to be a heartless pastime, and the pleasure, I confess, is a pensive one. Melancholy is as common an influence from Southern things as gayety, I think; it rarely fails to strike a Northern observer when he misses what he calls comfort. Beauty is no compensation for the loss ; it only makes it more depressing. Enough beauty of climate hangs over these Roman cottages and farm-houses, — beauty of light, of atmosphere, and of vegetation ; but their charm for seekers of the picturesque is the way in which the lustrous air seems to illuminate their intimate desolation. Man lives more with Nature in Italy than in New England ; she does more work for him and gives him more holidays than in our short-summered clime ; and his home is therefore much more bare of devices for helping him to do without her, forget her and forgive her. These reflections are, perhaps, the source of the entertainment you find in a moss-coated stone stairway climbing outside of a wall ; in a queer inner court, befouled with rubbish and drearily bare of convenience ; in an ancient, quaintly-carven well, worked with infinite labor from an overhanging window ; in an arbor of time-twisted vines, under which may sit with your feet in the dirt, and you remember as a dim fable that there are races for which the type of domestic allurement is the parlor hearth-rug. For reasons apparent or otherwise, these things amuse me beyond expression, and I am never weary of staring into gateways, of lingering by dreary, shabby, half-barbaric farm-yards, of feasting a foolish gaze on sun-cracked plaster and unctuous indoor shadows.

I must not forget, however, that it is not for wayside effects that one rides away behind Saint-Peter’s, but for the enchanting sense of wandering over boundless space, of seeing great classic lines of landscape, of watching them dispose themselves into pictures so full of “ style ” that you can think of no painter who deserves to have you admit that they suggest him, — hardly knowing whether it is better pleasure to gallop far and drink deep of air and grassy distance and the whole delicious opportunity, or to walk and pause and linger, and try and grasp some ineffaceable memory of sky and color and outline. Your pace can hardly help falling into a contemplative measure at the time, everywhere so wonderful but in Rome so persuasively divine, when the winter begins palpably to soften and quicken into spring. Far out on the Campagna, early in February, you feel the first vague, earthy emanations, which in a few weeks come wandering into the heart of the city and throbbing through the close, dark streets. Springtime in Rome is an immensely poetic affair; but you must stand often in the meadows, between grass and sky, to measure its deep, full, steadily-accelerated rhythm. The winter has an incontestible beauty, and is pre-eminently the time of color, — the time when it’s no affectation, but homely verity, to talk about the “ purple ” tone of the atmosphere. As February comes and goes, your purple is streaked with green, and the rich, dark bloom of the distance begins to lose its intensity. But your loss is made up by other gains ; none more precious than that inestimable gain to the ear, — the disembodied voice of the lark. It comes with the early flowers, the white narcissus and the cyclamen, the half-buried violets and the pale anemones, and makes the whole atmosphere ring, like a vault of tinkling glass. You never see the bird himself, and are utterly unable to localize his note, which seems to come from everywhere at once, to be some hundredthroated voice of the air. Sometimes you fancy you just distinguish him, a mere vague spot against the blue, an intenser throb in the universal pulsation of light. As the weeks go on, the flowers multiply and the deep blues and purples of the hills turn to azure and violet, and creep higher toward the narrowing snow-line of the Sabines. The first hour of your ride becomes rather warm for comfort, but you beguile it with brushing the hawthornblossoms as you pass along the hedges, and catching at the wild rose and honeysuckle ; and when you get into the meadows, there is stir enough in the air to lighten the dead weight of the sun. The Roman air, however, is not a tonic medicine, and it seldom allows your rides to be absolutely exhilarating. It has always seemed to me, indeed, part of their picturesqueness that your keenest enjoyment is haunted with a vague languor. Occasionally, when the sirocco blows, this amounts to a sensation really worth having on moral and intellectual grounds. Then, under the gray sky, toward the veiled distances which the sirocco generally brings with it, you seem to ride forth into a world from which all hope has departed, and in which, in spite of the flowers that make your horse’s footfalls soundless, nothing is left save a possibility of calamity which your imagination is unable to measure, but from which it hardly shrinks. An occasional sense of depression from this source may almost amount to exhilaration; but a season of sirocco would be an overdose of morbid pleasure. I almost think that you may best feel the peculiar beauty of the Campagna on those mild days of winter when the brilliant air alone suffices to make the whole landscape smile, and you may pause on the brown grass in the sunny stillness and, by listening long enough, almost fancy you hear the shrill of the midsummer cricket. It is detail and ornament that vary from month to month, from week to week even, and make your rides over familiar fields a constant feast of unexpectedness ; but the great essential lines and masses of the Campagna preserve throughout the year the same impressive serenity. Soracte, in January and April, rises from its blue horizon like an island from the sea, with an elegance of contour which no mood of the year can deepen or diminish. You know it well ; you have seen it often in the mellow backgrounds of Claude ; and it has such an irresistibly classical, academical air that, while you look at it, your saddle begins to feel like a faded old arm-chair in a palace gallery. A month’s riding on the Campagna, indeed, will show you a dozen prime Claudes. After I had seen them all, I went piously to the Doria gallery to refresh my memory of its two famous specimens, and I vastly enjoyed their delightful air of reference to something which had become a part of my personal experience. Delightful it certainly is to feel the common element in one’s own impressions and those of a genius whom it has helped to do great things. Claude must have wandered much on the Campagna, and interfused its divine undulations with his exquisite conception of the picturesque. He was familiar with a landscape in which there was not a single uncompromising line. I saw, a few days later, a small finished sketch from his hand, in the possession of an American artist, which was almost startling in its clear reflection of forms unaltered by the two centuries which have dimmed and cracked the paint and canvas.

This unbroken continuity of impressions which I have tried to indicate is an excellent example of the intellectual background of all enjoyment in Rome. It effectually prevents pleasure from becoming vulgar, for your sensation rarely begins and ends with itself; it never berates ; it recalls, commemorates, resuscitates something else. At least half the merit of everything you enjoy must be that it suits you absolutely; but the larger half, here, is generally that it has suited some one else, and that you can never flatter yourself you have discovered it. It is historic, literary, suggestive ; it has played some other part than it is just then playing to your eyes. It was an admission of this truth that my discriminating friend who showed me the Claudes found it impossible to designate a certain delightful region which you enter at the end of an hour’s riding from the Porta Cavalleggieri as anything but Arcadia. The exquisite correspondence of the term in this case altogether revived its faded bloom ; here veritably the oaten pipe must have stirred the windless air, and the satyrs have laughed among the brookside reeds. Three or four long grassy dells stretch away in a chain between low hills over which slender trees are so discreetly scattered that each one is a resting-place for a shepherd. The elements of the scene are simple enough, but the composition has extraordinary refinement. By one of those happy chances which keep observation, in Italy, always in her best humor, a shepherd had thrown himself down under one of the trees in the very attitude of Melib&Hx0153;us. He had been washing his feet, I suppose, in the neighboring brook, and had found it pleasant afterwards to roll his short breeches well up on his thighs. Lying thus in the shade, on his elbow, with his naked legs stretched out on the turf, and his soft peaked hat over his long hair crushed back like the veritable bonnet of Arcady, he was exactly the figure for the background of this happy valley. The poor fellow, lying there in rustic weariness and ignorance, little fancied that he was a symbol of Old World meanings to New World eyes. Such eyes may find as great a store of picturesque meanings in the corkwoods of Monte Mario, tenderly loved of all equestrians. These are less severely pastoral than our Arcadia, and you might more properly lodge there a damsel of Ariosto than a nymph of Theocritus. Among them is strewn a lovely wilderness of flowers and shrubs, and the whole place has such a charming woodland air, that, casting about me the other day for a compliment, I declared that it reminded me of New Hampshire. My compliment had a double edge, and I had no sooner uttered it than I smiled — or sighed—to perceive in all the undiscriminated botany about me the wealth of detail, the idle elegance and grace of Italy alone, —the natural stamp of the land which has the singular privilege of making one love her unsanctified beauty all but as well as those features of one’s own country toward which nature’s small allowance doubles that of one’s own affection. In this matter of suggestiveness, no rides are more profitable than those you take in the Villa Doria or the Villa Borghese ; or do not take, possibly, if you prefer to reserve these particular regions (the latter in especial) for your walkinghours. People do ride, however, in both villas, which deserve honorable mention in this regard. The Villa Doria, with its noble site, its lovely views, its great groups of stone-pines, so clustered and yet so individual, its lawns and flowers and fountains, its altogether princely disposition, is a place where one may pace, well mounted, of a brilliant day, with an agreeable sense of its being a rather more elegant pastime to balance in one’s stirrups than to trudge on even the smoothest gravel. But at the Villa Borghese the walkers have the best of it; for they are free of those delicious, outlying corners and bosky byways which the rumble of barouches never reaches. Early in March it becomes a perfect epitome of the spring. You cease to care much for the melancholy greenness of the disfeatured statues which has been your chief winter’s intimation of verdure ; and before you are quite conscious of the tender streaks and patches in the great, quaint, grassy arena round which the Propaganda students, in their long skirts, wander slowly, like dusky seraphs revolving the gossip of Paradise, you spy the brave little violets uncapping their azure brows beneath the highstemmed. One’s walks, here, would take us too far, and one’s pauses detain us too long, when, in the quiet parts, under the wall, one comes across a group of certain charming little scholars in full-dress suits and white cravats, shouting over their play in clear Italian, while a grave young priest, under a tree, watches them over the top of his book. I have wished only to say a word for one’s rides,— to suggest that they give one, not only exercise, but memories.

Henry James Jr.