The Last Man

The Last Man

by Mary Shelley
     
 

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I visited Naples in the year 1818. On the 8th of December of that
year, my companion and I crossed the Bay, to visit the antiquities
which are scattered on the shores of Bai�. The translucent and
shining waters of the calm sea covered fragments of old Roman
villas, which were interlaced by sea-weed, and received diamond
tints from the chequering…  See more details below

Overview

I visited Naples in the year 1818. On the 8th of December of that
year, my companion and I crossed the Bay, to visit the antiquities
which are scattered on the shores of Bai�. The translucent and
shining waters of the calm sea covered fragments of old Roman
villas, which were interlaced by sea-weed, and received diamond
tints from the chequering of the sun-beams; the blue and pellucid
element was such as Galatea might have skimmed in her car of mother
of pearl; or Cleopatra, more fitly than the Nile, have chosen as
the path of her magic ship. Though it was winter, the atmosphere
seemed more appropriate to early spring; and its genial warmth
contributed to inspire those sensations of placid delight, which
are the portion of every traveller, as he lingers, loath to quit
the tranquil bays and radiant promontories of Bai�.

We visited the so-called Elysian Fields and Avernus: and wandered
through various ruined temples, baths, and classic spots; at length
we entered the gloomy cavern of the Cum�an Sibyl. Our Lazzeroni
bore flaring torches, which shone red, and almost dusky, in the
murky subterranean passages, whose darkness thirstily surrounding
them, seemed eager to imbibe more and more of the element of light.
We passed by a natural archway, leading to a second gallery, and
enquired, if we could not enter there also. The guides pointed to
the reflection of their torches on the water that paved it, leaving
us to form our own conclusion; but adding it was a pity, for it led
to the Sibyl's Cave. Our curiosity and enthusiasm were excited by
this circumstance, and we insisted upon attempting the passage. As
is usually the case in the prosecution of such enterprises, the
difficulties decreased on examination. We found, on each side of
the humid pathway, "dry land for the sole of the foot." At length
we arrived at a large, desert, dark cavern, which the Lazzeroni
assured us was the Sibyl's Cave. We were sufficiently disappointed--
Yet we examined it with care, as if its blank, rocky walls could
still bear trace of celestial visitant. On one side was a small
opening. "Whither does this lead?" we asked; "can we enter here?"--
"Questo poi, no," said the wild looking savage, who held the
torch; "you can advance but a short distance, and nobody visits
it."

"Nevertheless, I will try it," said my companion; "it may lead to
the real cavern. Shall I go alone, or will you accompany me?"

I signified my readiness to proceed, but our guides protested
against such a measure. With great volubility, in their native
Neapolitan dialect, with which we were not very familiar, they told
us that there were spectres, that the roof would fall in, that it
was too narrow to admit us, that there was a deep hole within,
filled with water, and we might be drowned. My friend shortened
the harangue, by taking the man's torch from him; and we proceeded
alone.

The passage, which at first scarcely admitted us, quickly grew
narrower and lower; we were almost bent double; yet still we
persisted in making our way through it. At length we entered a
wider space, and the low roof heightened; but, as we congratulated
ourselves on this change, our torch was extinguished by a current
of air, and we were left in utter darkness. The guides bring with
them materials for renewing the light, but we had none--our only
resource was to return as we came. We groped round the widened
space to find the entrance, and after a time fancied that we had
succeeded. This proved however to be a second passage, which
evidently ascended. It terminated like the former; though
something approaching to a ray, we could not tell whence, shed a
very doubtful twilight in the space. By degrees, our eyes grew
somewhat accustomed to this dimness, and we perceived that there
was no direct passage leading us further; but that it was possible
to climb one side of the cavern to a low arch at top, which
promised a more easy path, from whence we now discovered that this
light proceeded. With considerable difficulty we scrambled up, and
came to another passage with still more of illumination, and this
led to another ascent like the former.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013762855
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/15/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
479 KB

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