From Eleanor Clark, Rome and a Villa (New York: Atheneum, 1982; orig. 1950):
The spaces are shocking. They are close too, and give no warnings, so that suddenly the Pantheon or the huge volutes of Sant’ Ignazio are crowding right over you; you are not allowed to stand off, it seems you are not allowed to admire at all; it is as though a giant mother were squashing you to her breast. (p. 53)
The sense of touch is especially strong here, the space being tiny in relation to the dark immensity of the Pantheon columns and their associations. There is a jungle craziness in the proportions, crushing on short acquaintance, of which the modest obelisk with a cross on top and the water, the whole raised by a few steps, are the secrete balancing point…There is something of the sacred grove about this square, which affects its more or less hobo occupants, and it is surely from the sense of this that Piranesi gave so strange a perspective to his best etching of it, putting the Pantheon off at an impossible distance with the little fountain grandly spreading in the foreground. (p. 79)
From John Varriano’s A Literary Companion to Rome (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1991):
The Pantheon “has this great advantage: it requires only two moments to be penetrated by its beauty. You stop before the portico; you take a few steps, you see the church, and the whole thing is over.”
--Stendhal (p. 156)
….its begrimed surface, its fissures and mutilations, and the half-effaced inscription of its architrave, give it a maimed and invalid appearance.
--Hippolyte Taine, Italy, Rome and Naples (1868)
The Pantheon stands in a narrow and dirty piazza, and is shouldered and elbowed by a mob of vulgar houses. There is no breathing-space around, which it might penetrate with the light of its own serene beauty….On one side is a market; and the space before the matchless portico is trewn with fish-bones, decayed vegetables, and offal.
--George Hillard, p. 157
Shalt thou not last? – Time’s scythe and tyrants rods
Shiver upon thee – sanctuary and home
Of art and piety – Pantheon! – ride of Rome!
--Byron (1812-1818), p. 158
By ar the most beautiful piece of ancientry [sic] in Rome is that simple and unutterable Pantheon to which I repeated my devotions yesterday afternoon. It makes you profoundly regret that you are not a pagan suckled in the creed outworn that produced it. It’s the most conclusive example I have yet seen of the simple sublime.
--Henry James (1869), p. 158
The great slanting beam…was visible all the way down to the pavement, falling upon motes of dust or a thin smoke of incense imperceptible in the shadow. Insects were playing to and fro in the beam, high up towards the opening. There is a wonderful charm in the naturalness of all this…So the sunbeam would represent those rays of divine intelligence which enable us to see wonders and to know that they are natural things.
--Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun (1860), p. 159