«If I could daguerreotype the forms that reared themselves around…»
Lo sguardo del viaggiatore ottocentesco in una citazione fenomenale da Bayle St. John (1856):
However often I may visit Genoa, it will always appear to me as it did at first, when, just as the sun was setting over the dim coast towards Savona, I wandered forth to make acquaintance under their night aspect with its streets and façades, and courts, and arcades.
Positively, my impression must be the correct one after all. When I returned by the land route to the city last year, I felt the same mysterious excitement. My imagination was equally warmed and stimulated. On that occasion, likewise, I had a companion who felt with me, and with whom I could exchange at intervals the solemn and romantic thoughts that the scenes we beheld produced, as necessarily as flowers follow appropriate seed. We went forth also at night; but this time, after the population had retired within doors, and when only a few figures, apparently bound on mysterious errands, were moving to and fro. If I could daguerreotype the forms that reared themselves around, it would be nothing. There was a hidden meaning to us in all we saw. It would be necessary, in order to associate others in our feelings, to tell also the fragments of story that chased themselves tumultuously through our brains as we roamed about the city, now in gloomy shadow, now across bright squares of moonlight; here along streets, the two sides of which we could touch with our hands j there across broad open places, expanding in front of gorgeous palaces or fantastic churches; now pausing in delight when our steps led us through open portals into pillared courts, with galleries and balconies piled aloft, until a piece of sky impregnated with moonbeams appeared at top, like bright water down in a well; anon moving slowly, and in awe, beneath squat arcades supported by rough unshapen columns, that seemed to stagger under the weight of the houses that leaned forward upon them.
It is perhaps impossible to convey accurately the impressions received during such wanderings — because, in fact, the impressions are confused and undetermined. When branches of trees are shaken by the wind over a stream, something is reflected that hath no form of leaf or wood in the ruffled mirror; so the images cast into the excited mind during a night-stroll through Genoa vaguely colour it, but can hardly be fixed. We remembered neither the aspects nor the directions of streets, nor the locality of the palaces along the courts of which we trod; and scarcely hoped to recognise again those dark colonnades that seemed to be quarried at haphazard out of rocks, not built designedly in that massive way. Sometimes as we came to open spaces we saw far above us, as on the edge of precipices, vast palaces gleaming ‘in the moonlight; but we doubted whether they were not raised thither by a kind of mirage. Then below, through some break between the houses, like a mountain gorge sparkled a fragment of the sea, into which, from the yellow sphere of the moon, poised above, a shower of silver seemed to be poured. Meanwhile, the silence around, as the hour advances, has become almost painful.
Da: The Subalpine Kingdom Or Experiences and Studies in Savoy, Piedmont, and Genoa, Champan and Hall, London 1856. L’illustrazione è un dagherrotipo (“ANONIMO, ritratto di fanciulle, seconda metà dell’800”) andato all’incanto ad aprile da Aste Boetto.