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A DAY AT RAVENNA.
Shall we go see the reliques of this town?
On a gloomy evening, I found myself crossing the broad plains contiguous to the ancient city of Ravenna. These extensive fields serve chiefly for pasturage, and their monotonous aspect is only diversified by a few stunted trees and patches of rice. Nearer the Adriatic, however, the eye is relieved by the appearance of a noble forest of pines, which extends for the space of several miles along the shore. The branches of these trees, as is common in Italy, have been, by repeated trimmings, concentrated at the top ; and most of them being lofty, a complete canopy is formed, beneath which one walks in that woodland twilight so peculiar and impressive. The effect is enhanced here, by the vicinity of the sea, whose mournful anthem or soothing music mingles with the wind-hymns of the forest aisles. As we emerged from a magnificent church that stands in the midst of this solitude, the interior columns of which were transported from Constantinople, no living object disturbed the profound repose of the scene, but a group of fine cattle, instinctively obeying the intimations of nature, and slowly returning to their domiciles. I found no difficulty in realizing that this scenery, when arrayed in the dreamy influences of such an hour, should prove congenial to the poetic mood, and wondered not that Byron, during his long residence at Ravenna, found so much pleasure in coursing through this quiet country, and along the adja. cent shore.
The old city, like Venice, to whose triumphant arms, after so many fierce wars, it was at last subjected, rose from the marshes, and, although apparently at a considerable distance from the sea, presents, even at the present day, abundant indications of its marine foundation ; and among them, the traveller observes with regret, the obliterating traces of a humid air, in the discolored and corroded frescos of the churches. One of the most valuable of these, however, has been singularly well preserved, considering that it has withstood the combined effects of dampness and removal from its original position-a process involving no little risk. This beautiful specimen is at present fixed in the sacristy of the cathe. dral. It represents the angel visiting Elijah in the desert; and dimmed as are its tints by time and moisture, no one can gaze upon the sweet face of the angel, radiant with youth, and contrast it with the calm, aged countenance and gray locks of the sleeping prophet, without recognizing that peculiar grace which marks the creations of Guido. Happily, some of the most ancient vestiges of art discoverable at Ravenna, exist in the more durable form of mosaics. Several of the churches, but particularly the baptistry, and the sepulchral chamber of Galla Placida, are completely lined with this curious species of painting, evidently of the most primitive order.
But by far the finest antiquity, is the edifice called the Rotunda, which, like almost every similar relic. in Italy, with equal disregard to taste and propriety, is fitted up as a modern church. This building is the mausoleum of Theodoric. It is without the walls, and approached through an avenue of poplars, whose yellow leaves rustled beneath our feet, or whirled in wild eddies over the grass. The cloudy sky and the solitude of the spot were also favorable to the associations of the scene. The form of the structure is circular, and the dome is considered a curiosity, being constructed from a single piece of marble. It is likewise remarkable, that all attempts to drain the water which has collected beneath the building, have proved fruitless. A flight of steps leads to the interior, which has long since been denuded of its ornaments; and the porphyry sarcophagus which surmounted the structure, and contained the ashes of Theodoric, has been removed, and imbedded in the walls of the old building supposed to have been his palace. I could not but remark, as I afterward noted this ancient urn, the singular combination which seems to attend memorials of past greatness. The side presented to view, was covered with the notices of public sales and amusements, a purpose which it had evidently long subserved, while the mansion itself has been converted into a wine magazine.