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SKILDRINGER FRA ITALIEN - PICTURES FROM ITALY[ Udskriv ]
 

 

 

Her følger et uddrag som skildrer opstigning til krateret på vulkanen Vesus – i udbrud…. Se også ”Møde 250410” i Møde- og Billedearkiv.

 

 

 
1_descent

 

 

It is very warm in the sun, on this early spring-day, when we
return from Paestum, but very cold in the shade: insomuch, that
although we may lunch, pleasantly, at noon, in the open air, by the
gate of Pompeii, the neighbouring rivulet supplies thick ice for
our wine. But, the sun is shining brightly; there is not a cloud
or speck of vapour in the whole blue sky, looking down upon the bay
of Naples
; and the moon will be at the full to-night. No matter
that the snow and ice lie thick upon the summit of Vesuvius, or
that we have been on foot all day at Pompeii, or that croakers
maintain that strangers should not be on the mountain by night, in
such an unusual season. Let us take advantage of the fine weather;
make the best of our way to Resina, the little village at the foot
of the mountain; prepare ourselves, as well as we can, on so short
a notice, at the guide's house; ascend at once, and have sunset
half-way up, moonlight at the top, and midnight to come down in!

At four o'clock in the afternoon, there is a terrible uproar in the
little stable-yard of Signior Salvatore, the recognised head-guide,
with the gold band round his cap; and thirty under-guides who are
all scuffling and screaming at once, are preparing half-a-dozen
saddled ponies, three litters, and some stout staves, for the
journey. Every one of the thirty, quarrels with the other twenty-
nine, and frightens the six ponies; and as much of the village as
can possibly squeeze itself into the little stable-yard,
participates in the tumult, and gets trodden on by the cattle.

After much violent skirmishing, and more noise than would suffice
for the storming of Naples, the procession starts. The head-guide,
who is liberally paid for all the attendants, rides a little in
advance of the party; the other thirty guides proceed on foot.
Eight go forward with the litters that are to be used by-and-by;
and the remaining two-and-twenty beg.

We ascend, gradually, by stony lanes like rough broad flights of
stairs, for some time. At length, we leave these, and the
vineyards on either side of them, and emerge upon a bleak bare
region where the lava lies confusedly, in enormous rusty masses; as
if the earth had been ploughed up by burning thunderbolts. And
now, we halt to see the sun set. The change that falls upon the
dreary region, and on the whole mountain, as its red light fades,
and the night comes on--and the unutterable solemnity and
dreariness that reign around, who that has witnessed it, can ever
forget!

It is dark, when after winding, for some time, over the broken
ground, we arrive at the foot of the cone: which is extremely
steep, and seems to rise, almost perpendicularly, from the spot
where we dismount. The only light is reflected from the snow,
deep, hard, and white, with which the cone is covered. It is now
intensely cold, and the air is piercing. The thirty-one have
brought no torches, knowing that the moon will rise before we reach
the top. Two of the litters are devoted to the two ladies; the
third, to a rather heavy gentleman from Naples, whose hospitality
and good-nature have attached him to the expedition, and determined
him to assist in doing the honours of the mountain. The rather
heavy gentleman is carried by fifteen men; each of the ladies by
half-a-dozen. We who walk, make the best use of our staves; and so
the whole party begin to labour upward over the snow,--as if they
were toiling to the summit of an antediluvian Twelfth-cake.

We are a long time toiling up; and the head-guide looks oddly about
him when one of the company--not an Italian, though an habitue of
the mountain for many years: whom we will call, for our present
purpose, Mr. Pickle of Portici--suggests that, as it is freezing
hard, and the usual footing of ashes is covered by the snow and
ice, it will surely be difficult to descend. But the sight of the
litters above, tilting up and down, and jerking from this side to
that, as the bearers continually slip and tumble, diverts our
attention; more especially as the whole length of the rather heavy
gentleman is, at that moment, presented to us alarmingly
foreshortened, with his head downwards.

The rising of the moon soon afterwards, revives the flagging
spirits of the bearers. Stimulating each other with their usual
watchword, 'Courage, friend! It is to eat macaroni!' they press
on, gallantly, for the summit.

From tingeing the top of the snow above us, with a band of light,
and pouring it in a stream through the valley below, while we have
been ascending in the dark, the moon soon lights the whole white
mountain-side, and the broad sea down below, and tiny Naples in the
distance, and every village in the country round. The whole
prospect is in this lovely state, when we come upon the platform on
the mountain-top--the region of Fire--an exhausted crater formed of
great masses of gigantic cinders, like blocks of stone from some
tremendous waterfall, burnt up; from every chink and crevice of
which, hot, sulphurous smoke is pouring out: while, from another
conical-shaped hill, the present crater, rising abruptly from this
platform at the end, great sheets of fire are streaming forth:
reddening the night with flame, blackening it with smoke, and
spotting it with red-hot stones and cinders, that fly up into the
air like feathers, and fall down like lead. What words can paint
the gloom and grandeur of this scene!

The broken ground; the smoke; the sense of suffocation from the
sulphur: the fear of falling down through the crevices in the
yawning ground; the stopping, every now and then, for somebody who
is missing in the dark (for the dense smoke now obscures the moon);
the intolerable noise of the thirty; and the hoarse roaring of the
mountain; make it a scene of such confusion, at the same time, that
we reel again. But, dragging the ladies through it, and across
another exhausted crater to the foot of the present Volcano, we
approach close to it on the windy side, and then sit down among the
hot ashes at its foot, and look up in silence; faintly estimating
the action that is going on within, from its being full a hundred
feet higher, at this minute, than it was six weeks ago.

There is something in the fire and roar, that generates an
irresistible desire to get nearer to it. We cannot rest long,
without starting off, two of us, on our hands and knees,
accompanied by the head-guide, to climb to the brim of the flaming
crater, and try to look in. Meanwhile, the thirty yell, as with
one voice, that it is a dangerous proceeding, and call to us to
come back; frightening the rest of the party out of their wits.

What with their noise, and what with the trembling of the thin
crust of ground, that seems about to open underneath our feet and
plunge us in the burning gulf below (which is the real danger, if
there be any); and what with the flashing of the fire in our faces,
and the shower of red-hot ashes that is raining down, and the
choking smoke and sulphur; we may well feel giddy and irrational,
like drunken men. But, we contrive to climb up to the brim, and
look down, for a moment, into the Hell of boiling fire below.
Then, we all three come rolling down; blackened, and singed, and
scorched, and hot, and giddy: and each with his dress alight in
half-a-dozen places.

You have read, a thousand times, that the usual way of descending,
is, by sliding down the ashes: which, forming a gradually-
increasing ledge below the feet, prevent too rapid a descent. But,
when we have crossed the two exhausted craters on our way back and
are come to this precipitous place, there is (as Mr. Pickle has
foretold) no vestige of ashes to be seen; the whole being a smooth
sheet of ice.

In this dilemma, ten or a dozen of the guides cautiously join
hands, and make a chain of men; of whom the foremost beat, as well
as they can, a rough track with their sticks, down which we prepare
to follow. The way being fearfully steep, and none of the party:
even of the thirty: being able to keep their feet for six paces
together, the ladies are taken out of their litters, and placed,
each between two careful persons; while others of the thirty hold
by their skirts, to prevent their falling forward--a necessary
precaution, tending to the immediate and hopeless dilapidation of
their apparel. The rather heavy gentleman is abjured to leave his
litter too, and be escorted in a similar manner; but he resolves to
be brought down as he was brought up, on the principle that his
fifteen bearers are not likely to tumble all at once, and that he
is safer so, than trusting to his own legs.

In this order, we begin the descent: sometimes on foot, sometimes
shuffling on the ice: always proceeding much more quietly and
slowly, than on our upward way: and constantly alarmed by the
falling among us of somebody from behind, who endangers the footing
of the whole party, and clings pertinaciously to anybody's ankles.
It is impossible for the litter to be in advance, too, as the track
has to be made; and its appearance behind us, overhead--with some
one or other of the bearers always down, and the rather heavy
gentleman with his legs always in the air--is very threatening and
frightful. We have gone on thus, a very little way, painfully and
anxiously, but quite merrily, and regarding it as a great success--
and have all fallen several times, and have all been stopped,
somehow or other, as we were sliding away--when Mr. Pickle of
Portici, in the act of remarking on these uncommon circumstances as
quite beyond his experience, stumbles, falls, disengages himself,
with quick presence of mind, from those about him, plunges away
head foremost, and rolls, over and over, down the whole surface of
the cone!

Sickening as it is to look, and be so powerless to help him, I see
him there, in the moonlight--I have had such a dream often--
skimming over the white ice, like a cannon-ball. Almost at the
same moment, there is a cry from behind; and a man who has carried
a light basket of spare cloaks on his head, comes rolling past, at
the same frightful speed, closely followed by a boy. At this
climax of the chapter of accidents, the remaining eight-and-twenty
vociferate to that degree, that a pack of wolves would be music to
them!

Giddy, and bloody, and a mere bundle of rags, is Pickle of Portici
when we reach the place where we dismounted, and where the horses
are waiting; but, thank God, sound in limb! And never are we
likely to be more glad to see a man alive and on his feet, than to
see him now--making light of it too, though sorely bruised and in
great pain. The boy is brought into the Hermitage on the Mountain,
while we are at supper, with his head tied up; and the man is heard
of, some hours afterwards. He too is bruised and stunned, but has
broken no bones; the snow having, fortunately, covered all the
larger blocks of rock and stone, and rendered them harmless.

After a cheerful meal, and a good rest before a blazing fire, we
again take horse, and continue our descent to Salvatore's house--
very slowly, by reason of our bruised friend being hardly able to
keep the saddle, or endure the pain of motion. Though it is so
late at night, or early in the morning, all the people of the
village are waiting about the little stable-yard when we arrive,
and looking up the road by which we are expected. Our appearance
is hailed with a great clamour of tongues, and a general sensation
for which in our modesty we are somewhat at a loss to account,
until, turning into the yard, we find that one of a party of French
gentlemen who were on the mountain at the same time is lying on
some straw in the stable, with a broken limb: looking like Death,
and suffering great torture; and that we were confidently supposed
to have encountered some worse accident.

So 'well returned, and Heaven be praised!' as the cheerful
Vetturino, who has borne us company all the way from Pisa, says,
with all his heart!
And away with his ready horses, into sleeping
Naples!

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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