In this lovely seclusion, we will not find it hard to forget the illusive hopes and stormy raptures of human life, which, as with Laocoon, are too often followed by the reaction of intense pain and crushing despair.
We may feast our eyes on this lovely vista shut in by partitions of box and laurel, high as groves of oak. If we had time to linger here, we might form the acquaintance of those two young priests who are enjoying this cool retreat.
Just such avenues as this cross and recross one another in all parts of the garden, but some are lined with orange-trees cut into hedges, in which the golden fruit and the perfumed alabaster blossoms give a delightful animation to the foliage.
Here, in this bower before us, are some old olive trees, the huge branches of one of them extending almost over our heads, and the other beside which that young priest is standing, has been propped up. To my mind, the olive is one of the most fascinating of trees, its gnarled and twisted trunk covered with coarse-ribbed bark looks like a warrior’s armor battered in a hundred fights ; and its wealth of silver-gray leaves gives a tender and poetic hue to any landscape.
In this world-famed garden, here and there along shady paths specked with sunshine sifting through the overhanging leaves, one comes upon picturesque grottoes, fairy-like summer-houses, and even antique tombs ; and sometirnes, as in this place to our right, a gardener’s cottage covered with tiles.
Beside these numerous avenues there is a drive of two and a half miles around the garden, and this is frequently enjoyed by the Pope. When out driving it is his custom to stop the carriage and take a short walk. In order that he may be undisturbed in his rambles, visitors are rigorously excluded from the gardens, although from the dome of St. Peter’s, which casts its vast shadow over the Vatican grounds, one occasionally catches a glimpse of the pontiff in his brief strolls.
There is nothing remarkable or unusual about this Eden of the Pope, but the spell it weaves over the soul is the result of a happy combination of light and color, of grove and fountain, of cooling shade and musical stream and luscious fruit while the air, even in midwinter, is perfumed with the fragrance of the flowers. So restful and satisfying is it all, that it would seem impossible for the most fastidious taste to suggest any improvement in its delightful arrangement.
For a considerable time we have been giving our attention to the great center of Rome’s religious power, now we turn again to places and ruins made famous during the year’s’ of her political supremacy as well. Our first halting place will be before the Castle of St. Angelo, little more than half a mile east of St. Peter’s. On the large map of modern Rome we find the number 20 n a circle on the lower side of the Tiber in front of the castle and the two red lines which branch from that place toward the north.
Therefore let us go down once more to the Tiber and examine some structures that more than any now existing are identified with the warlike days of Rome.