Fragrance in Travel Literature-The Tagus and the Tiber by William Baxter

The Tagus and the Tiber; or, Notes of travel in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, in 1850-1 (1852)
Baxter, William Edward, 1825-1890


'' I saw this morning near the trail," writes a
traveller journeying over the Kocky Mountains,
'' a solitary rose, the first I have seen blooming in
the prairies, the delightful fragrance of which in-
stantly excited emotions of sadness and tenderness,
by reviving in the memory a thousand associations
connected with home, and friends, and civilization,
all of which we had left behind for a weary journey
through a desolate wilderness. It is not possible to
describe the effect upon the sensibilities produced
by that modest and lonely flower. The perfume
exhaled from its petals, and enriching ' the desert
air,' addressed a language to the heart more thril-
ling than the plaintive and impassioned accents
from the inspired voice of music or poesy."

The eastern end of the Court of the Lions conducts
to the Hall of Justice, adorned with a fresco re-
presenting Moorish counsellors in divan assembled.
The floors of the halls are of white marble, and
recesses in the walls of that called the Two Sisters
indicate the former position of the sleeping apart-
ments. The window of this elegant room looks
into the garden of Lindaraxa, a lovely open space,
fragrant with the perfume of lemons, oranges, and
flowers. In the apartments opposite, Washington
Irving, to whom the Alhambra owes half its
charms, took up his abode.
As we gazed on this scene of enchantment, the
sun shone brightly on the shrubs, a gentle breeze
rustled the orange branches, and the smell of
odoriferous plants rose towards the balconies.
I could almost fancy myself borne back to the
times when dark-eyed beauties peopled these fairy
bowers, and the courts of the Alhambra were one
blaze of purple and of gold.

The Tocador, or Balcony of the Sultanas, occu-
pies an aerial tower, looking down on the Darro and
across to the Albaycin. In one comer of it a large
marble flag full of holes, through which the smoke
of perfumes ascended from the furnaces below,
shows the spot where the Moorish Queen sat to be
fumigated. From this cabinet the ladies could,
themselves invisible, watch the city and enjoy
the charming prospect from their windows.
The lofty rock beneath is quite perpendicular.
The stranger next descends into the secret room,
entering, from the garden of Lindaraxa, an apart-
ment constructed as a whispering gallery, near the
ante-rooms and baths, where, soothed by strains
of music, the lords of creation smoked and lounged
on divans.

The greater part of the ground covered by the
city in former times has now few inhabitants.
There you wander among noble ruins enclosed in
gardens and vineyards, whose manifold beauties
delight the eye; days might you meditate on the
Aventine, Coelian and Palatine Mounts, among the
groves of cypress and pomegranates, shaded from
the fierce rays by o'erspreading fig-trees, and inhal-
ing the perfume of a thousand flowers. The air of
these solitudes is always laden with odours ; the ivy
twines on fallen columns ; clusters of rich grapes
hang from imperial archways, and bowers of roses
seem placed there to invite meditation on the fate
of empires, to cast a veil over the prostrate glories
of a kingly race, and by the brilliance of their
varied tints
" To gild Destruction with a smile,
And beautify Decay."

A narrow cutting between rocks brought us to
the picturesque town of Savona, where no fewer
than three Eoman Pontiffs were born. As dark-
ness came on, the scenery was shrouded from our
view ; but myriads of fire-flies glistened around us,
and ever and anon the revolving Pharos of Genoa
poured a stream of brilliant light far over the
Mediterranean. St. Remo, where we breakfasted
on ripe figs, is one of the prettiest places on this
romantic coast. It contains ten thousand inhabit-
ants, who dwell in houses of great height, and, like
the towns in the Grecian archipelago, has been
built up the hill-side, instead of along the beach.
The perfume of its orange groves is delicious ; and
even palms flourish in the neighbouring gardens.

Between it and the Mediterranean, mountains
covered with perpetual snow, the majestic Sierra
Nevada, arrest the progress of those withering
winds which come from the great desert of Sahara ;
while on the north, the Sierra de Elvira, a pictu-
resque range, on which we witnessed the most
beautiful effects of light and shade, shut out this
secluded spot from the valley of the Guadalquiver.
Perpetual verdure decks this extended plain, for
numerous streams descend from the hills, which,
flowing less impetuously as they reach more level
ground, in ten thousand channels meander grace-
fully among the groves. No wonder that the
Moors imagined the Paradise of their prophet to
be placed in that part of heaven which overhung
the kingdom of Granada, There the fragrance of
the rose and the citron bower mingle with the
breezes from the mountains, while the serenity of
the sky, when its deep azure, as the sun declines,
is dyed with tints of glory, reminds one that even
within sight of those snowy peaks he can yet enjoy
'' the rich evening of a southern heaven."

At the charming town of Vevay we were joined
by a party of Brunswickers, on their way to the
Lago Maggiore. Enjoying the ever varying pro-
spects of the Savoy hills, and the fragrance of
fruit blossom and new mown hay, we drove along
the margin of the lake, past scenes amidst which
I had spent a week or two seven years before.
The churchyard of Montreux, the " Pension " at
Veytaux, the castle of Chillon, the wooded banks
and tumbling brooks — all were unchanged, for no
manufactories or railroads disturb those quiet
spots which Byron and Rousseau have combined
to celebrate.


Descending from these desolate heights into
a valley with well- tilled fields, and, what are very
unusual abroad, a few country seats, we followed
the banks of a little stream, up a narrow highland
glen to Fontebuona, the last changing-place,
where I got out of the diligence and walked up
a steep hill, from the top of which a view burst
upon my senses, which language fails to describe.
It was a cloudless warm evening, the sun shining
brilliantly, and a pleasant breeze playing among
the foliage of the gardens around ; there lay the
Val d'Arno, with its woods and winding stream ;
while, as it were beneath my feet, glittering in
Italian sunshine, rose the domes and towers of
Florence ; on the left, crowning a lofty hill, was
Virgil's Fiesole, and far as the eye could reach
white houses sparkled like jewels on the purple
Apennines. A delicious fragrance from the vine-
yards filled the air, — peasants returning to their
homes dashed past me in their light vehicles,
and music, rising and falling with the gentle wind,
broke upon my ear. Lost in admiration, I sat
down on a bank, where the wild thyme grew, and
meditated on the scene before me.

There is a brilliance in the climate of Central
Italy, which cheers even these solitudes. The
gloom of a northern atmosphere would fill them
with phantoms, the spectres of a vanished race,
risen to avenge the desecration of their tombs ;
but in the rosy light of morn, or the more chas-
tened rays of evening, you can admire the lux-
uriance of nature, amid the ruins of art, or the
remains of fallen fanes and prostrate columns.
You may breathe the fragrance of wall-flower,
and gather the rich clusters of the vine, while the
fig-tree shelters your bower, and the bright flowers
of the pomegranate wave in a breeze, which
seems, as if lulled by the loveliness of these
gardens, to die away among the foliage.

In no part of Europe have 1 seen a district
which had the appearance of more fertility, indus-
try, plenty, and comfort, or which could with such
propriety be taken as an illustration of the loveli-
ness of that garden where our first parents dwelt
before the fall. The smooth excellent road winds
under the shade of trees forming arches overhead ;
you hear only the loud chirping of grasshoppers,
and the ploughman's voice encouraging his team
of oxen ; agreeable odours rise from every field,
and squalid poverty seems scarcely known.

As we gazed on this scene of enchantment, the
sun shone brightly on the shrubs, a gentle breeze
rustled the orange branches, and the smell of
odoriferous plants rose towards the balconies.
I could almost fancy myself borne back to the
times when dark-eyed beauties peopled these fairy
bowers, and the courts of the Alhambra were one
blaze of purple and of gold.

The day was oppressively warm ; not a cloud
obscured the rays of that southern sun, which
shone on the mulberry-trees and vineyards, the
groves of walnuts, and meadows of sweet-smelling
hay, on each side of our path. The gardens with
outspreading fig-trees, the patches of wheat and
green carpet-like hemp, the villas and villages, and
the lovely colour of the waters, strongly reminded
me of Naples, the " bright city of the waves."