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young people that had seen but very little of the world. In short, a family likeness prevailed through all; and, — properly speaking, - they had but one character, - that of being all equally generous, credulous, simple, and inoffensive.
[The prevailing characteristic of the following extract, is sublimity: the
prevailing emotion is awe, which requires partially “ aspirated quality,” “low note,” “suppressed force,” and “ slow movement." The “falling inflection” predo.ninates, where, otherwise, the “ rising” would exist.]
To throw the more prominent features of landscape before the eye, by a few bold strokes of the pen or pencil, is easy ; but how to describe objects which hold nothing in common with the lower world? How can we impress the mind of the hearer with the feelings of awe and of wonder, which are inspired by those immense masses of ice, girded in and over-crested by rocky pyramids still more enormous, - by the contrast of the snow's dazzling whiteness with their sombre colours, — by the purity of the air, and the clearness of the sunlight, which makes every object to stand out to the eye, — by the profound silence of the solitude, broken, perhaps, at intervals, by the distant reverberation of falling granite or avalanches, – and even by the very barrenness of the rocks themselves, which support not animal, tree, nor verdure ?
I stood looking on this scene of savage desolation until I felt almost startled, as I recalled the green and lovely field which lay but a few hours' walk behind: I almost thought I was forgotten by Nature, in a chaos where she had never smiled!- that I was “ the last man,” looking on the skeleton of a world. — Yet this was said too hastily; for before my eyes was a rock, whose tabular summit rose like an island among the sea of snows. The frosts which cover all else, seem scarcely to linger there; it is crowned with the verdure of delicious green, and with the prettiest Alpine flowers; and hence the Savoyards have called it the Garden. Indeed, it has the exact form ; for the glacier has fenced it round with enclosing walls; — and there it rises, like some bright remembrance, smiling amidst the frosts of old age.
How delighted I was that I had descended on the * Mer de Glace! for when first standing on Montanvert, I felt ittle inclined to the descent, — partly from fatigue, partly from the effect of the air. I have said how impossible it is to judge of its wonders at a distance:— the eye, as ever, deceives us; and, as we look down, its inequalities appear but like the undulating ridges of the sea, after a storm. Descend into it, and how wonderfully the scene is changed! Those waves are magnified into hills, and the hollows between them into valleys. How astonished was I, when I found myself standing amidst a sea of petrified waves, - icy and motionless ! — when I found myself sunk and buried among them ; when I looked along them, rising everywhere around me, like a tumbling ridge of hills, - half hiding from me the rocky and precipitous shores around them!
I stood, and observed everywhere the beautiful accidents of nature; - how thickly they gathered around me! I saw profound chinks, vast caverns, and little narrow lakes of palest blue water, enclosed among crystal or azure walls; rivulets of sparkling green, rolling along icy canals, and precipitating themselves, (mocking the greater streams of earth,) into abysses below. I drank a little from my hand; it was indeed “ clear, — but oh! how cold !”.
I felt exhausted ; and I reposed on what I saw around me. I was standing by the shore of the Mer de Glace, which was covered with heaps of débris, lying under precipitous rocks, which rocks again were but the bases of the peaks above them; they forming the footstool to Mont Blanc. As I stood, I placed one hand on the ice of ages; the other, on the flowers of yesterday! I plucked one of them, for I felt how much they resembled ourselves ; — they were blooming, while round them gigantic pines were lying in every state of ruin and decay; like empires, they had had their centuries, and were gone, as these will have their hours.
Nature is here one eternal metamorphosis. One sees the efforts of all times and of all seasons, met together :— the snows and the frost of Lapland, the flowery vegetation, and the brightest suns of Italy, — mosses and ice, — waters frozen
* For pronunciation, see remark formerly made with regard to French words.
into glaciers, forming.glorious rainbow-arches of rivers, which one afterwards beholds bounding like youth exultingly along happier plains, and “rejoicing to run their course.” The harshness of winter, — the softness of summer, — the glowing hues of autumn, all are manifested here! One looks down, with an expanding heart, on a very paradise of a hundred leagues of plains covered with spire-crowned villages, and with joyous vintages : - one turns round, - chilled and shuddering, — to twenty thousand feet of ice, which form their line of horizon.
I left the beaten track, and struck up immediately against the side of the mountains, in a part where I think few or none might have been before me. I clambered incessantly, for one hour, up a ridge nearly inaccessible, I should think, to any, excepting to him whose head turns not on the edge of precipices. I threw myself, at last, on a sort of platform, under a lofty peak, which I know not by name; but, what a moment to me was that when I saw what my vision had gained by the ascent! I was there, among the ruins of nature, - or rather, I seemed to look upon the world ere the. Almighty had called it into order. I stood above all : around me was a broken sea of mountains; and the clouds were breaking around their highest tops. The glorious sun was above; and the voices of the thousand torrents were heard below, breaking the almighty silence! What a thrill of exultation, of joy, of wonder, of love, and of gratitude, ran through me! I looked along it all, with a sidelong glance, and half reclining myself, — you know not the pleasure of this; but Coleridge knew it well, and he has described it, — thought I really was looking on another world. I felt alone as the Arab in his desert, on a spot perhaps untrodden by the foot of man.
I sprang up, and caught firm hold of one solitary pine, which overhung a dizzy precipice. One arm of it was hanging broken, over a depth which I would not have hung over for all beneath the sun; and yet, — there was a butterfly sporting! I trusted to the trunk of the tree, and I swung myself forward. —
"I saw mountains behind, around, and beneath me: fronting me, across the abyss, where lay the Vale of Chamounix, rose the range of the Breven, and a host of mountains; close at my right, across the Mer de Glace, were the red pinnacles of the Dru; and behind me, the Blanc in his clouds. A sea of clouds also, beneath me, was silently opening, and discios
ing lovely spots of landscape, and then softly veiling them over, as the breeze fitfully entered into the veil of silvery mist, and shook its dewy folds. Then suddenly, and as it were, in the midst of the sky, a bold craggy peak, like a spear, would reveal itself, apparently based on nothing, and then become filmy and dim, and vanish away: all was motion; — all was life; – all was progression; — which is life — even here. The winds were abroad; and the birds of prey flew screaming past me;— the waters were calling to each other; and flowers were bursting into life. Over this face of chaos, Life and Death were met, — production and devastation, - beauty and decay! All the energies and powers of nature were here in their first strength; all warring on each other, and living on devastation; the life of each was the other's death; and that death, or change, was the cause of renewed and beautified existence! And here I stood above it all : my only visible companions were the Col du Geant and Mont Blanc; and nothing to interrupt the feeling which was opened between me and the pervading Infinite !
MORNING HYMN TO MONT BLANC.
[The following piece opens with the tones of sublimity and awe,
slightly aspirated “pectoral quality,” “ low notes,” and “very slow movement.” The tone of tranquillity and admiration, succeeds, at “ Yet like some sweet beguiling melody.” At “Awake my soul,” &c. the “ expression ” changes to increasing loudness and energy. At “ Thou first and chief,” &c. the tone of awe returns : at “ Wake oh! wake,” &c. the full tones of majesty and grandeur, are resumed. In the invocations which follow, the style of utterance varies with the feelings naturally connected with each class of objects in the apostrophes. The close of the piece is in the “ sustained” style of a prolonged but solemn shout.]
Hast thou a charm to stay the morning star
Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful form!
Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,
Awake, my soul! not only passive praise Thou owest! — not alone these swelling tears, Mute thanks, and secret ecstasy! Awake, Voice of sweet song! awake, my heart, awake! Green vales and icy cliffs all join my hymn !
Thou first and chief, sole sovereign of the vale !
And you, ye five wild torrents fiercely glad !