set off an hour after sunrise one radiant morning
in a little boat: there was not a cloud in the sky, nor a
wave upon the sea, which was so translucent that you could
see the hollow caverns clothed with the glaucous sea-moss,
and the leaves and branches of those delicate weeds that
pave the unequal bottom of the water.
As noon approached, the
heat, and especially the light, became intense. We passed
Posillipo and came first to the eastern point of the bay
of Pozzuoli, which is within the great bay of Naples, and
which again incloses that of Baiæ. Here are lofty rocks
and craggy islets, with arches and portals of precipice
standing in the sea, and enormous caverns, which echoed
faintly with the murmur of the languid tide. This is
called La Scuola di
We then went directly
across to the promontory of Misenum, leaving the
precipitous island of Nisida on the right. Here we were
conducted to see the Mare
Morto, and the Elysian Fields; the spot on
which Virgil places the scenery of the Sixth Æneid.
Though extremely beautiful, as a lake, and woody hills,
and this divine sky must make it, I confess my
disappointment. The guide showed us an antique cemetery,
where the niches used for placing the cinerary urns of
the dead yet remain.
We then coasted the bay of Baiæ to the left, in which we saw many picturesque and interesting ruins; but I have to remark that we never disembarked but we were disappointed - while from the boat the effect of the scenery was inexpressibly delightful. The colours of the water and the air breathe over all things here the radiance of their own beauty. After passing the bay of Baiæ, and observing the ruins of its antique grandeur standing like rocks in the transparent sea under our boat, we landed to visit lake Avernus. We passed through the cavern of the Sybil (not Virgil's Sybil) which pierces one of the hills which circumscribe the lake, and came to a calm and lovely basin of water, surrounded by dark and woody hills and profoundly solitary. Some vast ruins of the temple of Pluto stand on a lawny hill on one side of it, and are reflected in its windless mirror.
Passing onward we came to
Pozzuoli, the ancient Dicæarchea, where there are the
columns remaining of a temple to Serapis, and the wreck of
an enormous amphitheatre, changed, like the Coliseum, into
a natural hill of the overteeming vegetation. Here also is
the Solfatara, of which there is a poetical description in
the Civil War of Petronius, beginning - `Est locus', and
in which the verses of the poet are infinitely finer than
what he describes, for it is not a very curious place.
After seeing these things we returned by moonlight to
Naples in our boat. What colours there were in the sky,
what radiance in the evening star, and how the moon was
encompassed by a light unknown to our regions!
to an entry on the Shelleys in Naples two other letters from Naples by Shelley - here and here