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An Excursion to Paris, the Netherlands, and the Rhine

An Excursion to Paris, the Netherlands, and the Rhine

To Cardinal Giovanni Colonna

I have lately been travelling through France, not on business, as you know, but simply from a youthful curiosity to see the country. I finally penetrated into Germany, to the banks of the Rhine itself. I have carefully noted the customs of the people, and have been much interested in observing the characteristics of a country hitherto unknown to me, and in comparing the things I saw with those at home. While I found much to admire in both countries, I in no way regretted my Italian origin. Indeed, the more I travel, the more my admiration for Italy grows. If Plato, as he himself says, thanked the immortal gods, among other things, for making him a Greek and not a barbarian, why should not we too thank the Lord for the land of our birth, unless to be born a Greek be considered more noble than to be born an Italian. This, however, would be to assert that the slave was above his master. No Greekling, however shameless, would dare to make such a claim, if he but recollected that long before Rome was founded and had by superior strength established her sway, long before the world yet knew of the Romans, "men of the toga, lords of the earth," a beggarly fourth part of Italy, a region desert and uninhabited, was nevertheless styled by its Greek colonists "Greater Greece." If that scanty area could then be called great, how very great, how immense, must the Roman power have seemed after Corinth had fallen, after Aetolia had been devastated and Argos, Mycenae, and other cities had been taken, after the Macedonian kings had been captured, Pyrrhus vanquished, and Thermopylae a second time drenched with Asiatic blood! Certainly no one can deny that it is a trifle more distinguished to be an Italian than a Greek. This, however, is a matter which we may perhaps take up elsewhere.

To revert to my travels in France, - I visited the capital of the kingdom, Paris, which claims Julius Caesar as its founder. I must have felt much the same upon entering the town as did Apuleius when he wandered about Hypata in Thessaly. I spent no little time there, in open-mouthed wonder; and I was so full of interest and eagerness to know the truth about what I had heard of the place that when daylight failed me I even prolonged my investigations into the night. After loitering about for a long time, gaping at the sights, I at last satisfied myself that I had discovered the point where truth left off and fiction began. But it is a long story, and not suited for a letter, and I must wait until I see you and can rehearse my experiences at length.

To pass over the intervening events, I also visited Ghent, which proudly claims the same illustrious founder as Paris, and I saw something of the people of Flanders and Brabant, who devote themselves to preparing and weaving wool. I also visited Liege, which is noted for its clergy, and Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles's capital, where in a marble church I saw the tomb of that great prince, which is very properly an object of veneration to the barbarian nations. . .

June 21.

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Peter Sadlon
Updated Sept 10th 2007

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