Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ract at once; and as he stands musing, let him listen to the deep thunderings of the falling sheet. Let him go to the Table Rock, and creep forward to its jutting edge, and gaze steadily into the foaming and ed. dying waters so far beneath him, until his nerves thrill and vibrate, and he involuntarily shrinks back, exclaiming,

"How dreadful
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!

I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn."

Next, let him stand upon that rock till the sun approaches so near the western horizon that a glorious bow, forming an almost entire circle on the cataract and the spray, shall clothe the scene with unearthly beauty, and, in connection with the emerald green of the waters, give it a brilliancy fully equal to its sublimity. And, finally, if he would add the emotions of moral to natural sublimity, let him follow to Ontario, the deep gulf through which all these waters flow, and, gathering up the evidence, which he will find too strong to resist, that they themselves have worn that gulf backward seven miles, let him try the rules of geological arithmetic to see if he can reach the period of its commencement. Surely, when he reviews the emotions of that day, he will never again doubt that the magnificent scenery of our world is the result of benevolent design on the part of the Creator.

If, now, we cross the Atlantic, we shall easily find scenes of natural beauty and sublimity, that have long clicited the wonder and delight of thousands of genuine taste. Shall we turn our steps first to the valleys and mountains of Wales ? To an American eye, indeed, they lack one important feature, in being so destitute of trees. But then their wild aspect, their ragged and rocky outlines, present a picture of the sublimity of desolation so rarely equalled. And as you ascend the mountains, Snowdon, for instance, the highest of them all ---you find their summits, not rounded as our American mountains, by former drift agency, nor forming contiuous ridges, but shooting up in ragged peaks and edges, as if they formed the teeth of mother earth; although, in fact, it was the tooth of time that has gnawed them into their present forms. As you approach the summit, you feel animated in anticipation of the splendid prospect about to open upon you. But the clouds begin to gather, and soon envelop the mountain top; and though you reach the pinnacle, the dense mist limits your vision to a circle of a few rods in diameter. Bat ere long the vapor begins to break away, and the lofty cliffs and deep caverns around you are revealed. Now and then, the lake, so often found in the recesses of these mountains, is half seen through the opening cloud, and, magnified by the obscurity, it seems more distant and grand than if distinctly visible. Gradually the clouds open in various directions, disclosing gulf after gulf, lake after lake, mountain after mountain, and, finally, the Irish Channel, dotted with sails; and the whole scene lies spread out before you in glories that cannot be described. You are standing upon the pinnacle of England, and you feel as if almost the whole of it lay within the circle of vision. After enjoying so splendid a scene, you are thankful that the cloud bid it at first from your sight, and so much enhanced your pleasure by

opening vista after vista, till the whole became one magnificent circle of picturesque beauty and sublimity. *

To relieve the mind after gazing long on such scenes of rugged.grandeur, let us turn our course southerly, and follow down the romantic banks of the Wye, where every turn presents some new beauties, occasionally disclosing the ruins of some old castle, or magnificent abbey, (Tinton,) and at length Bristol, with its aristocratic adjunct, Clifton, turns your thoughts from the works of nature to those of man. And yet, even Clifton's elegant Crescent is but a meagre show by the side of the magnificent gorge which the Avon has cut in the rocks just before it enters Bristol Channel.

Passing over to the Isle of Wight, and traversing its shores, we shall witness many unique examples of natural beauty, swelling sometimes into sublimity—such are the chalk cliffs near its western extremity, from two hundred to six hundred feet high-sometimes hollowed out into magnificent domes, and the pillars of chalk, called Needles, in the midst of the sea, alive with sea gulls and cormorants, and forming the remnants of the chalk bridge that once united the island to England. There, too, Alum Bay, with its many-colored strata of clay, unites the interesting in geology with the picturesque in scenery.

Along the southern coast, also, are the stupendous cliffs and the romantic under-cliffs, as well as the ragged chines, where an almost tropical climate attracts the invalid, while the cool sea breezes draw thither the wealthy and the fashionable.

But if sublime scenery pleases us more, we must traverse the Highlands of Scotland, -

“ Land of brown heath and shagsy furze,land of lofty and naked mountains, embosoming lakes of great beauty, and full of historic and poetic interest

Passing over Loch Lomond, the Queen of Scottish lakes, you go through the long shadow of Ben Lomond, propped by many lesser mountains. Rising into the Highlands, the sterility and wildness increase, and reach their maximum in Glencoe, whose wildness and sublimity are indeed indescribable ; but, if seen, they can never be forgotten. Still farther.north, Ben Nevis lifts its uncovered head above all other mountains in the British Isles ; so high, indeed, that often, during the whole summer, it retains a portion of its snowy, wintry mantle.

Yet farther north, we come to the unique terraces, called the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, formerly supposed to be the work of giants; but now, that they are known to be the product of nature, proving not only objects of great scenographical interest, but a problem of special importance and difficulty in geology.

If we should pass from Scotland to the north-east part of Ireland, taking Staffa in our way, we should find in the basaltic columns of Fin.

*In this description I bave attempted to give exactly the experience of myself and Joba Tappan, Esq., with our wives, who ascended Snowdon in June, 1850. A few days after, we ascended Cader Idris, another mountain of Wales, near Dolgelly, where the views were perhaps equally wild and sublime, with the addition of a vast number of trap columns, and a pseudo-crater, with its jagged and frowning sides.

gal's Cave, and the Giant's Causeway, what seems, at first view, to be stupendous buman structures, or rather the architecture of giants. Bat you soon find it to be only an example

" Where naturo works as if defying art,

And, in defiance of her rival powers
By these fortuitous and random strokes,
Performing such inimitable feats,

As she, with all her rules, can never reach." Let any one sail along the coast for a few miles at the Giant's Causeway, enter some of the deep and echoing caverns, overbung by the basaltic mass, and see the columns rising tier above tier, sometimes four hundred feet in height, and assuming every wild and fantastic shape ; or let him walk over the acres of columns, whose tops are as perfectly polygonal and as accurately fitted to one another as the most skilful architect could make them, and he will confess how superior Nature is, when she would present a model for human imitation ; and how with accurate system she can combine the wildest disorder, and thus delight by symmetry, while she awes by sublimity.

Let us next pass over to continental Europe. We have reached the Rhine at Bonn, and the steamboat takes us at once into the midst of the romantic Drachenfels, or seven mountains, the result of volcanic agency, and still presenting more or less of the conical outline peculiar almost to modern volcanoes. These are the commencement of the romantic scenery of the Rhine. From thence to Bingen, some sixty or seventy miles, that river has cut its way through hills and mountains, sometimes rising one thousand feet. Along their base, the inhabitants have planted many a well-known town, while old castles, half crumbled down, recall continually the history of feudal ages; and here, too, springs up a multitude of remembrances of startling events in more recent times. The mind, indeed, finds itself drawn at one moment to some historical monument, and next to scenery of surpassing beauty or sublimity; now the bold, overhanging rock, now the deep recess, now the towering mountain, now the quiet dell with its romantic villages; while every where on the north bank, the vine-clad terraces show us what wonders human industry can accomplish.

Nor does the Rhine lose its interest when we have emerged from its Ghor into its more open valley, from Bingen to Basle, in Switzerland. On its right bank, the Vosges Mountains, and on its left, the Black Forest, with not unfrequent volcanic summits, afford a fine resting-place for the eye, as the rail car bears us rapidly over the rich intervening level. Or, if we turn aside--as to Heidelberg, on the Neckar—what can be a more splendid sight than to stand by the old castle above the town, and look down the valley as the sun is sinking in the west !

But after all, it is in Switzerland, and there only, that we meet with the climax of scenographical wonders. Nowhere else can we find such lakes in the midst of such mountains; such pleasant valleys bordered by such stupendous hills; such gorges, and precipices, and passes, and especially such glaciers ; such avalanches, such snow-capped mountains, while vegetation at their base, and far up the sides, is fresh and luxuriant.

Embark, for instance, at Zurich, and, crossing its beautiful lake, direct your course towards Mount Righi. As the heavy diligence lifts you above the lake, you begin to catch glimpses of the grandeur of the Swiss mountains to the soutb, piercing the clouds afar off

. Passing the romantic Zug, you come to the valley between the Rossberg and the Righi, and the denuded face of the former tells you whence came the mass of ruins over which you clamber, and which buried the villages of Goldau, Bussingen, and Rothen, several hundred feet deep with blocks of stone and soil

. Long and steep is your ascent of Righi, nearly six thousand feet above the sea. But the views you obtain by the way become wider and grarder at erery step. Reaching the summit near sunset, you may be gratified by a panoramic view of a large part of Switzerland, embracing its wildest and grandest scenery. Yet, if the clouds prevent, you wait for the morning, in the hope of being more fortunate. With the earliest dawn you awake, and proceed to the summit of the mountain, where hundreds, perhaps, from all civilized lands, are congregated, to witness the rising of the sun. But a dense cloud envelops the mountain, and hope almost dies within you. Wait, however, a few moments, and the rising sun will depress the clouds below the mountain's summit, and a scene of glory shall open upon you, which can nerer be erased from your memory. Look now, for the sun's first rays hare shed a flood of glory orer the clouds which now fill the valleys beneath your feet. Å fleecy white predominates; but the colors of the prism tinge the edges of the clouds, and no part of the solid earth rises above them, save the pinnacle on which you stand, and to the south the higher peaks of the Bernese Alps,--the Jungfrau, the Eiger, the Shreckborn, and the Wetterhorn--covered with snow and glaciers, and seeming too pure to belong to earth. Indeed, the whole scene seemed to me to be unearthly; the fittest emblem that my eyes erer rested upon of celestial scenes; and one cannot repress the desire, when looking upon it, to be borne away on wings over the glorious scene, and to repose for a time

upon the gorgeous bed, forgetful of the lower world. Yet when, at length, the clouds begin to break away, and disclose the deep valleys and blue lakes,-places made immortal by the deeds of such patriots and reformers as Tell and Zwinglius,—We feel again the attractions of earth; and as we descend to Lake Lucerne, we hare before as such scenery as scar ely any other part of the world can furnish. And these scenes continue, in ever-changing aspects, wherever we wander along this enchanting lake; and though the exhausted brain fails at length, the objects of interest do not.

From this lake we might turn our course easterly, and soon find ourselves amid the glacial regions of the Oberland Alps--scenes full of deep and thrilling interest. But let us rather turn southerly, and, following down the great valley of Switzerland, find our way among the Alps of Savoy, where the same phenomena attain their maximum of interest and sublimity, and the great monarch of the Alps is seen, wearing his hoary crown. As we pass along towards Lake Lehman, if the air be clear, the Bernese Alps loom up in unrivalled majesty; and as we sail over Lake Lehman, Mont Blanc, with some of its nearly equal associates, shows its distant yet impressire form. Passing without notice the almost unrivalled beauties of Lehman, and following up the Arve through its stupendous gorges, we catch views of Mont Blanc, as we approach

it, that possess overpowering sublimity. At length, Chamouny is reached-a lovely vale in the midst of Alpine wonders. From thence we first ascend the Flegere, thirty-five hundred feet above the valley, and sixty-five hundred above the ocean; and there we get a fine view of Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles, or Needles. Here, distances are vastly diminished to the eye, and you seem in near proximity even with Mont Blanc; and, in fact, should any adventurous visitors have reached the top of that mountain, a good spy-glass will show them from this spot.*

On the opposite side of the valley from the Flegere, and at about the same height, is Montanvert, the most convenient spot for traversing the glacier called the Mer de Glace. If, however, one would see the lower extremity of that glacier, and the Arveron issuing from it, he must pass along the right-hand side of the stream, and then he can follow up the glacier to Montanvert; and strange would it be if, in doing this, he should not hear and see the frequent avalanche. We have now reached the field where everlasting war is

rried on between heat and cold, summer and winter. Below us, verdure clothes the valleys, and climbs up the slopes of the hills ; and there the shepherd watches his flocks. Above us there are fields of ice stretching many a league, save where some needle-shaped summit of naked rock, too steep for snow to rest upon, shoots up in lonely grandeur thousands of feet, and defies the raging elements. From these oceans of ice shoot forth down the valleys enormous glaciers, appearing like vast rivers of ice, winding among the bills, and pushing, at the rate of a few inches each day, far into regions of vegetation; one year encroaching upon the shepherd's pasture ground, and anon, by the access of heat, driven back towards the summit; hurling down, from time to time, as they push forward, the thundering avalanche.

Without difficulty at Montanvert we can enter upon the glacier, and in spite of the deep crevasse, and the elemental war, which always iages in those lofty regions, we may make our way to their source. Nay, human feet, as already suggested, have passed even the top of Mont Blanc; and should we reach this summit of the Alps, we shoald stand upon the loftiest point of Europe, and behold a scene which but few eyes ever have, or ever will, rest apon. We should

" breathe
The dificult air of the iced mountain's top,
Where the birds dare not build, nor insect's wing
Flit o'er the berbless granite."

We should, in fact, have reached the climax of the sublime in natural scenery.

*When I visited this spot, in September, 1850, I wos so fortunate as to get sight of & party that had just commenced the descent from the summit of Mont Blanc. To the naked eye they were invisible, but the whole train could be distinctly seen through a telescope. This was the third party that had ascended that mountain in the summer of 1850. I doubt not that the dangers have been exaggerated, and that the excursion will become common.

There are other points of great interest around Chamouny, which I havo not noticed, -some of which I visited, but not all. I have mentioned only the most common.

« ZurückWeiter »