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Of which the literal translation is roughly as follows.
The Virgin is the daughter of Saint Anna!
II. FOR THE 8TH DECEMBER.
O Vergine immacolata e giglio di amore,
O Virgin Immaculate, O Lily of Love,
We have had the Pfifferari in London, and when they come droning and shouting under our windows while we are busily engaged, chafed at the distraction, we drive them away without caring to weigh their merits. In Rome we have set aside our occupations, being there for the express purpose of being distracted, and are disposed to make the best of any chance of diversion that offers. Thus, when at the approach of Christmas, the very Pfifferari I had ordered from my door at home, came round in emulation of the shepherds of Bethlehem, to pay their humble tribute of melody to 'the young Child and His Mother' wherever they might find Him, even in His lonely shrine at the corner of my
vicolo, I felt no difficulty in listening to them patiently. My first improved impression was to notice their superiority over the 'savage and shrill? Scotch bagpipes, with which I had heretofore confounded their instrument. I perceived that their pitch was not so squeaky, their sostenuto less piercing; further, that the quick jocund notes of the accompanying pipe was cleverly calculated to correct the monotony of the leading performance. My ear educated to appreciate the tones, and my mind edified by the generally intelligent and devout hearing of these primitive musicians, I ended by standing to listen to them with pleasure, while I stocked a leaf in my sketch-book with some of their groupings; and the pony's companion sheep seemed to think he snuffed his native air as he assisted at the pastoral scene.
R. H. B.
CHRISTMAS AT MALTA.
A few years ago, it fell to my lot to pass a winter at Malta. Like most other visitors, I arrived about the middle of November, and certainly the first view of the island was not prepossessing. It had not yet recovered from the intense heat of a Maltese summer-a heat which must be felt to be appreciated, and which burns up every leaf and every blade of grass, and leaves the island looking very much like a vast white rock with low white stone walls scattered thickly on the surface, which is only varied by white villages, white country houses, or white churches of a rather mosque-like appearance. In fact, the first thing that strikes a traveller on arriving at Malta, is the excessive whiteness of everything around him.
But by Christmas, all this whiteness and barrenness has disappeared ; everything is fresh, green, and fertile. The ramparts are carpeted with dwarf marigolds and ragged-robins; the sides of the high-road are white with daisies, or yellow with the lovely oxalis, which grows so luxuriantly that it has become the torment of the Maltese farmer--if such a term may be applied to a Maltese tiller of the ground. The public gardens are full of beautiful and fragrant flowers; the fields are green with the growing corn, clover, and cotton; and the waste land, where there is not sufficient soil for either of these three, is covered with fine purple anemones, red pheasant's-eye, (Flos Adonis,) white narcissus, or scarlet poppies.
The climate too, is changed for the better. The intense heat has passed away, and given place to a moderate and equable temperature, very much like an English May or June. But, occasionally, the damp scirocco blows, and then-farewell to all comfort and enjoyment for the next three days. In a scirocco nothing goes right; you complain of the bread being heavy, and you are told that it is not the baker's fault, but that bread will not rise in a sciroc. You next find the meat detestable, and that is equally attributed to the sciroc. And woe to him who in ignorance of the climate, and despising the good advice of older inhabitants, shall venture to have anything painted in a sciroc! The punishment will be a severe one, and he will not soon forget that whatever is painted in a sciroc, not only takes long to dry, but is liable to become damp again on the next recurrence of this torment.
Sometimes, by way of variety, the island is visited by a gregale-a strong north-east wind—which, like the scirocco, blows for three, six, or nine, days at a time. This is a very healthy wind, but one of extreme violence; indeed, it has often done very serious damage to the shipping, and even to the buildings on land. Some years ago, a large merchant ship at anchor in the Quarantine Harbour, suddenly sank during a gregale, and every soul on board perished; and on another occasion, the sea rose to such a height, during a three days' continuance of this wind, as to sweep away entirely a great part of the road between Sliema and the village of St. Julian's. But these are rare events, and the average weather of a Maltese winter is extremely delightful.
On my arrival, in November, I found Valletta very quiet, and provisions wonderfully cheap, and I soon discovered the reason. The fleet had been out cruising on the coast of Spain during the hot months, and had not yet returned. For a few weeks more, no tidings were heard of it, till one day, about the middle of December, H. M. steamer, Terrible, appeared, bearing despatches from the Admiral to the Governor and the Port-Admiral, and she forthwith took up her quarters for the winter at the mouth of the Quarantine Harbour. It was rumoured that the rest of the fleet would soon follow; but day after day wore on, and still no ships appeared in sight, except the usual steam-packets and trading-vessels, and at length people almost gave up expecting it, and made up their minds that the Admiral intended to stay away till after Christmas. But in this they were mistaken, for before day-break on the morning of the 24th of December, the Firebrand arrived with the news that the fleet might be expected in a few hours. Immediately everyone was on the qui vive ; the Maltese ran to and fro, preparing for the immense demand for eatables and drinkables which would ensue directly on the arrival of such a host of Jack Tars; or, clustered together in the streets, chattered,
screamed, and gesticulated, with even more vehemence than usual; the officers of the garrison betook themselves to the highest parts of the fortifications, especially of Fort St. Elmo, and kept a diligent look-out from thence, while the English visitors did the same from the roofs of their respective hotels, or from the Observatory at the Palace, where good George Calamatta, the signal-master, was in great glory, arranging signals, lending his telescope, and telling, with even more than ordinary delight, his nerer-failing anecdotes of the sayings and doings of the late Queen Dowager, during her visit to Malta.
At about nine o'clock a.m., the fleet came in sight. The day was perfect—so clear and warm and still—but soon it became too still for the sailing-vessels, and the Firebrand was obliged to go out and tow them in one by one. The 'Queen’ was the first to enter the harbour, which she did about twelve o'clock, and she was most warmly received by the crowd who lined the walls. The other ships followed by degrees ; and in the afternoon a breeze sprang up which enabled the fine three-decker, 'Caledonia,' to enter majestically with all her sails set.
But the Maltese are too busy on Christmas Eve with preparations for the ensuing festival, to be entirely absorbed in the contemplation even of so great an event as the arrival of the feet, and they do not choose their visitors to devote the whole day to it. Accordingly, you are told that the correct thing to do is to drive to Citta Vecchia, and see the Cathedral hung with erimson damask, and lighted by numberless wax candles, in preparation for the midnight Mass.
Citta Vecchia, the capital of Malta till the Grand Master La Vallette built the town which bears his name, is about six miles inland from Valletta, and was once a very flourishing town, but it is now only inhabited by the lower classes of Maltese. The Cathedral is by no means a fine building; in fact, it is very far inferior to the Church of St. John in Valletta ; its principal merit being its superior age, and a few memorial tablets to the knights, in different coloured marbles, which have been well restored within the last few years. The usual aspect of the Cathedral is dreary and deserted ; but on Christmas Eve the walls are covered with fine old crimson satin hangings, which, with the wax candles, the burning incense, and a continual monotonous chant performed by a few priests, make it look a little less gloomy than usual. Still, the effect was not at all what the glowing descriptions of the Maltese had led me to expect, and I returned to Valletta thinking the splendours of the Cathedral and the Christmas Eve service rather fabulous. It appeared, however, as if the Maltese did not agree in my view of the case, for all night long there was a sound in the streets of people going to the midnight Mass, or returning from it. At length day dawned, and the bleating of the goats as they came to be milked, succeeded to the constant tramp of feet, and the screaming Maltese voices. But I was not destined to enjoy such quiet long; for soon the bells of a church, near the hotel, began to ring, and the peal was taken up by another church, and another, and another, VOL. 6.
till all the bells in Valletta were ringing, as if the safety of the island depended on their making as much noise as possible; and this continued at intervals all day.
Christmas Day, so far from home, is a very dreary affair. You may think this a piece of sentimentality unworthy of a true Briton, and to which he should 'never, never, never, be a slave;' but you will find it to be a real, and, I had almost said, an unconquerable, feeling. Love of home is one of the most strongly marked points in the British character, and at no season is it so forcibly excited as at Christmas.
Under these circumstances, then, it was by no means pleasant or enlivening to find that the loveliness of the preceding day had given place to the very worst damp scirocco there had been that winter in Malta. It was much too hot to think of a fire, in spite of the clinging damp which made one long for it, while the depressing effect of that hated wind was even more powerful than usual.
However, there was nothing for it but to make the best of it, which I accordingly endeavoured to do ; and when the bells of the English church rang out sweet and clear on the still air, I felt that after all, I was not so entirely an outcast from old England as I had at first allowed myself to think
In the course of the day I visited several of the churches of Valletta. Dingy crimson hangings, huge tallow candles, monotonous chanting by dirty priests—these were the principal features of them all. To my mind, the graceful branches of the pepper tree, with which in lieu of bolly, the English church was decorated, formed a more fitting and far more lovely ornament.
Roast beef, plum-pudding, and mince-pies—a regular Christmas dinner --but the blazing fire was wanting ; and still more, the merry greetings, the kind wishes, the happy faces, which we always associate with Christmas ; and when night had closed in, I looked back on the events of the day, and resolved that, if I could avoid it, I would never pass a Christmas so far from old England again.
CHRISTMAS-TIDE IN THE ISLE OF MAN.
MANY and curious were the customs which once prevailed in the Isle of Man at this season, but they are now fast dying out.
On Christmas Eve there is a late evening service in all the parish churches, which are brilliantly lighted for the occasion, and several carols are sung. But this service, though always well attended, must seem tame indeed to those old Manx men who remember the time when the church was kept open nearly all night; when the people provided their own tapers, and vied with their neighbours in the quantity they