May 24 1816: Darkness Came ON

“May 24. — The innkeeper at Morat, being a little tipsy, and thinking every Englishman (being a philosophe) must be a philosophe like himself, favoured us with some of his infidel notions while serving us at supper. Near Morat was fought the battle wherein the Burgundians were so completely thrashed. Their bones, of which we took pieces,  are now very few ; once they formed a mighty heap in the chapel, but both were destroyed by the Burgundian division when in Switzerland, and a tree of liberty was planted over it, which yet flourishes in all its verdure — the liberty has flown from the planters’ grasp. Saw Aventicum ; there remains sufficient of the walls to trace the boundaries of the ancient town ; but of all the buildings, both for Gods and men, nothing but a column remains, and that the only remnant for more than a hundred years. There are mosaic pavements, and even the streets may be perceived in a dry summer by the grass being thinner. The mosaic in a barn, probably once of a temple, was pretty perfect till the Gallic cavalry came and turned it into a stable. It is formed of little pieces of black, white, and red bricks; little now remains. There was also a copper vessel in the middle ; that too has disappeared. The town is shamefully negligent of the antiquities of their fathers, for there is another more beautiful and perfect mosaic pavement discovered, but which they have allowed the proprietor to cover again with mould rather than buy it. We found in a barn heads, plinths, capitals, and shafts, heaped promiscuously.

The Corinthian-column capital is deeply, sharply, and beautifully cut. A head of Apollo in all the rude ness of first art — a capital of a strange mixed order. There is the Amphitheatre, hollow yet pretty perfect, but no stonework visible ; overgrown with trees ; the size, my companion told me, was larger than common. In the town there were some beautiful fragments of ornament-sculpture incorporated in the walls ; all marble. In the walls of the church we sought in vain for the inscription that Mathison mentions to Julia Alpinula.

I copied the one below on account of its medical tendency. The letters in this as well as in all the other inscriptions are formed like our Roman print, not in the least imperfect : ” Nvminib. Avg. et Genio Col. I. El. Apollini Sagr. 9. Postum Hermes lib. Medicis et Professorib, D.S.D.”

From Aventicum or Avenches we went to Payerne. We have seen in many places boys leading goats just in the antique style. Thence we went to Moudon — dirty town. Stopped for refreshments. One fine view we have had all the way, but nothing equal to the view descending to Morat.

Darkness came on. We saw the Castle wherein defended himself against the French who besieged it for a month : looks so weak, it seems a wonder. The Swiss castles are not nearly so interesting as the Rhine ones. They are very conical roofed and no battlements. We saw the lake, but for a long time doubted whether it was a cloud below, a mist before, or water beneath us. Entered Lausanne.”

— John Polidori writes for  May 24 1816.

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