Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/561

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CANTO IV.]
517
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

a sacred fountain, and fanes once consecrated to the Muses; and that from this spot there was a descent into the valley of Egeria, where were several artificial caves. It is clear that the statues of the Muses made no part of the decoration which the satirist thought misplaced in these caves; for he expressly assigns other fanes (delubra) to these divinities above the valley, and moreover tells us that they had been ejected to make room for the Jews. In fact, the little temple now called that of Bacchus, was formerly thought to belong to the Muses, and Nardini[1] places them in a poplar grove, which was in his time above the valley.

It is probable from the inscription and position, that the cave now shown may be one of the "artificial caverns," of which, indeed, there is another a little way higher up the valley, under a tuft of alder bushes; but a single grotto of Egeria is a mere modern invention, grafted upon the application of the epithet Egerian to these nymphea in general, and which might send us to look for the haunts of Numa upon the banks of the Thames.

Our English Juvenal was not seduced into mistranslation by his acquaintance with Pope: he carefully preserves the correct plural—

"Thence slowly winding down the vale we view
The Egerian grots: oh, how unlike the true!"

The valley abounds with springs,[2] and over these springs, which the Muses might haunt from their neighbouring groves, Egeria presided: hence she was said to supply them with water; and she was the nymph of the grottos through which the fountains were taught to flow.

The whole of the monuments in the vicinity of the Egerian valley have received names at will, which have been changed at will. Venuti[3] owns he can see no traces of the temples of Jove, Saturn, Juno, Venus, and Diana, which Nardini found, or hoped to find. The mutatorium of Caracalla's circus, the temple of Honour and Virtue, the temple of Bacchus, and, above all, the temple of the god Rediculus, are the antiquaries' despair.

The circus of Caracalla depends on a medal of that emperor cited by Fulvius Ursinus, of which the reverse

  1. Lib. iii. cap. iii.
  2. "Quamvis undique e solo aquæ scaturiant." Nardini, lib. iii. cap. iii. Thes. Ant. Rom., ap. J. G. Græv., 1697, iv. 978.
  3. Eschinard, etc. Sic cit., pp. 297, 298.