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ART. VIII. — The Island of Sardinia, including Pictures of the
Manners and Customs of the Sardinians, and Notes on the Antiquities and Modern Objects of Interest in the Island. To achich is added some Account of the House of Savoy. By John WALLIS TYNDALE, M. A., Barrister-at-Law. 3 vols. 8vo.
London : 1849. JI would be difficult to name any other region, situated in the 1 middle of so much that attracts the eye and interests the imagination, which has obtained so little of the notice of the curious world as the island of Sardinia. It occupies a central position between Spain, Italy, and Barbary, much as the Isle of Man is placed between the three divisions of the United Kingdom. Its position is therefore in the very high road both of modern and ancient commerce. It is inhabited by an Italian race, and is an appendage of one of the most important secondary monarchies of our times. Though it be not strictly true that the sentinels of Populonia, or of any Italian town, can
"descry Sardinia's snowy mountain tops
Fringing the southern sky,' as Macaulay sings, on the authority of the eyes of Strabo, certainly not his own*, yet a few hours' sail from the coast of Tuscany or the Campagna, will bring its romantic outlines full in view. Notwithstanding which, it is less visited and described than several islets of the Pacific. While her sister Sicily forms an essential part of the steamboat tour of the Mediterranean, Sardinia is left to the tunny fishermen and coral divers. She has indeed great deficiencies in point of adventitious interest. She has no art, no literature, and the dullest and most obscure of histories. To the stores of memory accumulated in the mind of ordinary students she has contributed absolutely nothing. We question whether one in a hundred of our own readers has ever heard of
• Cramer, in his · Description of Ancient Italy,' has also trusted to Strabo's personal observation. If the great geographer did not begin his gigantic work till he was eighty-three years old, and wrote at all from memory, he may have made some confusion with the snowy Apennines above the gulf of Spezia. But the island of Elba lies opposite Piombino, and effectually shuts out Sardinia, even if it were within visible distance. See Dennis's .Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria,' ii. 239.
the achievements, or even the name, of a single native Sardinian.* No one, in short, who is not, like Mr. Tyndale, surfeited with wanderings in the beaten tracks of Italy, Spain, and the Levant, is likely to feel tempted to linger in this dull half-way house between those great objects of travel.
Yet if nature alone could compensate for the want of more fashionable attractions, or if there was in reality among Mediterranean tourists half that love for her unadorned beauties which they are usually so zealous in professing, this great island would not remain thus unexplored. For in this respect, it' may well assume even to outvie its more celebrated rivals. It presents at the present day, thanks to a thin population and uncommercial habits, the aspect which over-cultivated Italy, or the exhausted shores of Sicily and Greece, might have exhibited in the days of their pristine freshness. It is clad in that luxuriant natural vegetation which has for ages disappeared from the neighbouring coasts; that lovely, though bastard, vegetation of the Mediterranean basin, which has few distinct types of its own, and displays the forms of the north in the huge deciduous oaks and chesnuts of its mountains, mingled with the cosmopolite pine, and the palms and cacti of the tropics. Sardinia was never a populous country; and has now scarcely half a million of inhabitants, on a surface as extensive as that of Sicily. One-fifth of its surface is forest; but the forests are contiguous to luxuriant plains, still, from unhealthiness and other causes, in a state of nature. The traveller in many parts passes for days over what Mr. Tyndale terms a continuous wilderness of forests cand flowers,' whole districts being • blanched' with the blossoms of the richest kinds of cistus, which reminded him of the
extravagant prices given during the winter seasons at Paris • for a single bouquet of this plant - nearly as many francs as * would purchase an entire acre of land in the district of Gallura.' The aspect of the island is such as we may almost fancy the shores of Italy to have presented to the companions of Ulysses, or the fugitives from Troy.
Travellers of another class, or of the same class, for the pursuits have much in common, will hear with satisfaction that these solitary regions are full of the wilder varieties of game. The wild boar and deer, and the problematic ‘moufflon' of Sar
poplitants, orace is Lill, from eller in ni
* We are compelled to strike off one name from Mr. Tyndale's scanty list, and at the same time rescue the memory of a hero from a suspicion of inconstancy. Emma Lionna,' Nelson's reputed passion --whom Mr. Tyndale calls the belle of the island'-a popular character in the Mediterranean, -- and whose birth is equally claimed as an honour by Sicily, is only the double of Lady Hamilton herself.
dinia, still abound in the woods. The marshy plains of the south are frequented, not only by quails and snipes, but by multitudes of wild swans, cormorants, herons, and other waterbirds; and in September the sky at Cagliari seems dotted with
clouds of living fire,' as the wedge-shaped phalanxes of the flamingoes arrive in close array from the south. The numbers · of these birds congregated at one time on the Stagni, near Cagliari, have been estimated at between two and three hundred thousand. But the flamingo does not appear to maintain in Sardinia the culinary reputation which it enjoyed among those eccentric gourmands, the Romans. Cetti, the naturalist, gallantly ventured on the tongues of a brace of flamingoes, though unprovided with the sauce which Apicius invented for them;- but the result was unsatisfactory. Although they were only mouthfuls, he says, 'm' accorsi che andava a dare gran lavoro allo stomaco
per questa notte.'* The Sardinians, however, use the shank bones to make their flageolets, or “ launeddu;' thus illustrating the original meaning of the word • Tibia.'
The following specimen of a travelling party's dinner, and its prices, may serve to show that such primitive enjoyments may yet be obtained by those who relish them, without crossing the Atlantic and the Mississippi :
· Three lbs. of eels, or any other fish, 4d.; a whole lamb, 1s. 31d.; half a wild boar, small, 2s.; twelve eggs, 2.d.; two quarts of wine; 2 d.; a pound of cheese, 2}d.; amounting to 4s. 3 d.
This my Sarde carte à manger was more than sufficient for the dinner and supper of my two servants, my extra guide, and myself. My kitchen and dining room were furnished au naturel, and the routine is as follows. The first thing on halting for the mid-day's rest, having taken off baggage and saddles, and turned the horses loose to graze, no matter where is to cut a quantity of fire-wood, the arbutus. cistus, lavender, myrtle, and thyme being selected for the delicious flavour they give to the meat. The live ashes are made into a pile of about eighteen inches high and two feet square, with a stone at each corner, supporting four long horizontal arbutus stakes, on which the lamb and wild boar are spitted. These are occasionally turned and put diagonally across the embers, so that all parts of the meat are well roasted ; and while this operation is going on, the small travelling frying-pan turns out the fish and omelet. The wine is already iced in the cold transparent stream flowing close by: the green grass table-cloth is already laid : the mountain air and seven hours' ride serve in lieu of the sauce en matelotte and aux tomates for the meats, and the perfume from the ashes supplies the à la vanille for the omelet.” (Vol. ii. p. 23.)
* Vol. iii. p. 92.
The early history of Sardinia is, if possible, even more mysterious and confused than that of the other islands and peninsulas of the Mediterranean. It has its own peculiar monuments, the so-called “Noraghe,' ancient tombs, temples, houses, or fortresses, whichever they may be; which are as great a puzzle to the Italian antiquaries as the round towers of Ireland to our own, and are much more surprising, from their great numbers and curious architecture. When tolerably perfect, a Noraghe? consists of a central conical building, containing two or more vaulted chambers, each forming a separate story, with wings or side chambers of similar construction attached to it. The name has been variously derived, but certainly bears a suspicious resemblance to that of Norax,' the leader of the Iberian colonists of Sardinia according to Pausanias, and whom modern antiquaries identify with Father Sardus,' the fabulous first inhabitant of the island. • Nothing like them,' says Mr. Tyndale, has been discovered any where else, except some equally problema
tical remains of antiquity in Minorca.' But to our minds the description of them bears a striking resemblance to that given by ancient writers of some Etruscan monuments, and partially confirmed by their disinterred remains. The unlearned reader will find translated for him by Mr. Dennis, Varro's strange account of the tomb of Porsena at Clusium; so strange, that Niebuhr, after his fashion, set it down without hesitation as a 'myth;' while, as if to show the vanity of the great scholar's à priori reasonings, recent inquirers have detected, piece by piece, counterparts of almost every particular of Varro's specification, in their researches among the buried cities of Etruria. Now this stupendous mausoleum seems to have been very like a gigantic Noraghe; and it is singular that the traditions of the Sarde peasantry, who certainly never heard of Porsena or of Varro, preserve the memory of a point of similarity to what seems at first sight the most fabulous item in the Roman's description. • Each pyramid of the tomb of Porsena,' he says,
supported a brazen circle or petasus, from which bells hung. Now Mr. Tyndale (who has no suspicion of the analogy, and is therefore quite a fair witness for the purpose) says, that according to report, “in some Noraghe a metal ring is suspended from • the apex; but the fact is yet to be proved; and the current belief of the peasants is, as a Sarde author has observed, like
that entertained by them of the existence of spirits in these . buildings : “che come gli spettri, si veggono, e non si lasciano “ o toccare.”' (Vol. i. p. 112.)
However this may be, the extraordinary number of these buildings seems to prove conclusively, that they must have been
either dwellings or sepulchres. There are said to be more than 3000 still in existence, whole or in ruins; and when it is considered, what an incalculable number must probably have been demolished for the daily uses of the peasantry during at least 2000 years—for at that distance of time, ancient writers, Aristotle among others, had already mentioned them as objects of impenetrable antiquity,-- it seems plain that their original multitude must have far exceeded anything which could well be required for purposes of religion or of defence. On the other hand, the circumstance that they are often found near ancient burying places, of a singular and uniform construction (sepolture de is gigantes), seems to argue that the Noraghe themselves were not sepulchral. Beyond these faint indications, all is mere conjecture; and Mr. Tyndale's Canaanitish theory, the chosen hobby of British antiquaries, may probably pass muster quite as fairly as the Pelasgic, Iberian, and Carthaginian doctrines, which find more favour in general among Italian philosophers. Perhaps not the least plausible conjecture is that, which imagines them to have been the dwellings of the primæval shepherd inhabitants of the island, living apart from each other in patriarchal state, like the Cyclopes of Sicily:
* High upon hills, or airy cliffs, they dwell,
Heedless of others, to his own severe. Neither under Carthaginian nor Roman supremacy did Sardinia ever attain to marked prosperity or celebrity. It was chiefly famous among the Romans for its fertility and unwholesomeness; both of which qualities eminently distinguish it to the present day. The intemperie,' the fever-and-ague of Sardinia, regularly desolates the plains and low valleys during the hot season. All sorts of conjectures as to its origin are rife among physicians and natural historians; many of whom, as in continental Italy, seem to attach unnecessary mystery to this peculiarity of climate, as a kind of excuse for the indolence of the community which suffers by it. Now, although the causes which regulate the local distribution of the aria cattiva,' as well as those which aggravate or remove it, are unquestionably capricious, yet, in the main, there seems no reason to doubt that in Sardinia, as elsewhere, it yields to drainage and cultivation.
The “Sardonic smile,' so celebrated in antiquity, baffles research much more than the intemperie;' nor have modern physiologists thrown any light on the nature of the deleterious plant which produces it,