Imágenes de páginas

“ The waies through which my weary steps I guide,

Are sprinckled with such sweet variety
Of all that pleasant is to eare or eye,
That I, nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight,
My tedious travell doe forget thereby;

And when I'gin to feele decay of might,
It strength to me supplies, and chears my dullied spright."


. No one feels a keener enjoyment than I do in a rich and beautiful country, of corn-fields, woods, meadows, and gentle rivers, where every tree and every blade of grass attains its full luxuriant growth; but to wander among bleak and barren mountains is, “all the world to nothing," to me a greater pleasure. Here my feet are seldom weary, my knapsack never heavy. He must be dull indeed who cannot acknowledge the influence of these gigantic scenes. With such a man, an Epic would be but a tedious waste of words ;-let him sit, with a ballad of his own rhyming, under a peacock-shaped box-tree, and go sleep.

My visits have hitherto been paid to the British mountains only; but those I thoroughly know. The best months in three summers have been devoted to them, and I have walked among them as many thousand miles. Switzerland is to come next; but Switzerland, I fear, will not be to my taste so much as Norway. North Wales, with its uniformity of outline and monotony of colour, rather disappointed me. The vales and the lakes of Cumberland, and the Highland glens and lochs, are my favourites. Were I asked to which I owed a preference, I would say, without hesitation, to the latter. The Highlands are on a mightier scale: they excel in wildness and sublimity. There a traveller is the worse for a companion : he wants to commune with none but his own soul; the awful wonders occupy his mind to fulness; his thoughts are solemn, and must not be distracted. On the other hand, our English lakes surpass them in brilliancy and beauty. While strolling on their banks, I have wished for a friend at my side to join in my pleasures, to point out new charms in the scene, and observe on every thing to which I directed his attention.

A man may read Spenser aloud to a party, and perhaps understand him the better'; but if he would enjoy Milton, he must ponder over him in silence and solitude. I regretted there was cultivation about Loch Tay, for the wild suits best with the sublime. But at Ulleswater the farmer's work is welcome; without it, the beauty of some points in the view would be lessened. Yet both the Lakes and the Highlands afford me the highest enjoyment, though in a different way: with the former I am captivated, and full of wonder; with the latter I am astonished, and full of contemplation. This is speaking of them generally; for they sometimes exchange characters, each reminding me of the other, and creating a corresponding sentiment.

It is in vain for those who are unacquainted with mountain scenery to doubt its influence. I have been told that magnitude is nothing, beauty every thing. This is not my creed; besides, may they not meet together? One of these misbelievers (but he will not long be so) once said to me" Show me a mountain of any height you please

and I will imagine it ten times higher; then what becomes of your tithe of a bill ?" This is a mistake. Allowing that he could so far stretch his imagination, the object would be utterly changed. He may spread his canvass larger, but how is he to fill up the picture ? As well it might be said, -"Show me the most beautiful rose, and I will make it poor, by imagining a flower far more beautiful.” The flower, then, cannot be a rose. But is magnitude nothing ? Had the colossal Jupiter of Phidias been diminished to a pigmy's stature, would it have been considered one of the wonders of the world ? Suppose you had a model of St. Paul's, complete in all its parts, but small enough to lie within the palm of your hand, and would you compare it to its massive prototype ? The model, indeed, may exhibit the same archi. tectural skill, but it will want majesty; and cannot be, like all stupendous works of art, an evidence of power. In the same manner do these mighty works of Nature speak aloud of omnipotence. Nor is it one mountain's height alone, but where they “each on others throng," together with their grand accompaniments, which affect the mind so intensely: the fearful precipice, the overhanging rocks, now dimly seen through a passing vapour, or. hidden for a while behind some sweeping cloud; the roar of many waters, contrasted with the quiet silvery lake below : then the variety, the harmony of form and colour, from the valley to the topmost crag, where you may chance to see “ Jove's harness-bearing bird,” between two parted clouds, returning to his native citadel. The beauty of gently-sloping meadows, of “tali trees with leaves apparelled,” of every flower that blooms, is as evanescent as it is fresh, vivid, and luxuriant: they are more mortal than ourselves, the modern fair ones of the day, and decay and death await them on the morrow. But the unchanged, the everlasting rocks, the ruins, they may be, of a former world, these are God's antiquities, the emblems of eternity! The soul is bowed down before them, and our imaginations are carried back, aye, even to a date before the creation of man!

The defective vision and the advanced age of Dr. Johnson are, in my mind, ample apologies for the want of enthusiasm in his “ Tour to the Hebrides;" notwithstanding he happened to say, that the finest prospect in the world was the one up Fleet-street. Éven had he been younger, and with every sense complete, he might have felt the inefficiency of language, and forborne to make the effort, as beyond his grasp. Here the Poet himself is baffled. Such grandeur will form, will elevate his genius, but must not be the subject of his Muse. The worst poems Burns ever wrote are those in which he attempts, as an eye-witness, to describe certain situations in the Highlands. Gray knew better; his letters show how true a feeling he had for these scenes, and that was enough for the world, while the remembrance of them was enough for himself, without vainly daring to do more. Terror, according to Burke, is “the ruling principle,” “ the common stock of every thing that is sublime;" and the natural timidity of Gray enhanced his enjoyment of it. " In our little journey up to the Grande Chartreuse,” he writes to his friend West, “ I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation that there was no restraining." And again--"You have death perpetually before your eyes; only so far removed, as to compose the mind without frighting it.” When in the Virth of England, speaking of a cataract, he says: “ I stayed there,

not without shuddering, à quarter of an hour, and thought my trouble richly paid ; for the impression will last for life.” Indeed that thrilling emotion, felt in the midst of awful and appalling objects, while, at the same time, we are undisturbed by fears of a personal nature, is the highest mental pleasure, received immediately through the senses, of which we are capable.

In these mysterious and romantic regions there are no insensible beings, except mercantile travellers. They, unhappy men! jog on doggedly with horse and giy, intent upon " red-lined accounts,” their serious thoughts employed on nothing but perilous bills at six months after date, out of humour at the steepness of the roads, and despising a country with so few green fields, because it makes the article of hay too chargeable. These are "people with one idea," and the attempt to foist another upon them is vain. Yet that it should be so, is (as Candide says) all for the best; for, were they once to taste of the enchanted cup, business would be at an end, the shops unprovided, and their employers in despair.

It is remarked, that mountaineers are not unimpassioned and selfish. If we believe that an equal proportion is born among them of dull and cold perceptions, then we may likewise believe that, owing to their imaginations being so powerfully assailed, they are changed into better men. How many among the inhabitants of our pleasant plains are found to be incapable of looking on the beauties of nature, otherwise than with filmed eyes. These are creatures of sensation, not of sentiment; and require a stronger excitement, a contemplation of the sublime, in order to release the mind from the trammels of the body, and to give life to their existence. This is effected, I contend, by mountain scenery. An appeal to the passions, by aid of the imagination, is the cure of selfishness. Besides, a man gazing about him in this solitary world, where his way is trackless, and his eyes unblessed by the sight of a fellow being, ceases to think only of himself, and becomes kindly towards his kind. At such a time his bitterest enemy is regarded with love, for even he wears a human form. We can love nobody in a crowd, because every body jostles us. In solitude, and surrounded by the majestic works of the Creator, we cannot but be affectionate towards all mankind. Unfortunately, there is no atrocity which man has not committed, or I should doubt the tale of those cold, premeditated, treacherous murders at Glencoe.

Of our summer tourists in the North I know little. What I have learnt has tended to confirm my faith. A young Collegian, one of those beings of dull and cold perceptions, had made his hasty way into the heart of the Highlands, and told me he never wretched a country, with nothing to repay him for his toil. This was true, insomuch as he had come by a dreary road, and through clouds and rain. However, I was piqued, and resolved to try if he was “made of penetrable stuff.” 'In the mean time I discovered that his memory had been laboriously tutored, while his intellect had not been taught to beget an idea of its own, according to our remorseless system of education. Had you plucked a wild flower, and spoken of ii with feeling, he would have understood your words, but not their sense, for as yet he was incapable of sympathy with the creation. On the following morning I led him, without preparation, into the midst of a wild romantic glen; and as I walked by his side, I affected VOL. III, No. 15.-1822.


[ocr errors]

indifference that I might not provoke affectation. After a short silence, he stopped. I saw his eyes brighten, his lips quiver, and striking his foot on the ground, he stammered out, “How grand! how beautiful ! how great is God.!" From this moment his mental education began. His heart was opened to Nature's pure religion; and for evermore will he speak of her works with feeling as well as language, nor will the simplest wild flower need a prompter. To study the effect of these scenes, upon different minds, would produce some curious metaphysical speculations. I know a gentleman, who, unable to express in words his wonder and delight, all at once burst forth into loud and uncontrollable song; and I heard of a young lady, while riding through a narrow pass, with the sight of a precipice from one carriage window, and a steep and rugged mountain's side from the other, who could not, for a long time, be roused from a state of apparent stupefaction; and afterwards, with the tears rolling down her cheeks, she told her alarmed companions, she was never so delighted in her life. But of all travellers none astonished ine so much as a boy. I heard of him at two distant spots in the Highlands. I envy tie dreams of that boy more than the realities of an emperor. At each time I had hopes of falling in with him, but was disappointed. They described him as a very fairfaced creature, walking alone, with a bundle under his arm, his shoes worn away to mere nothings, husbanding his little purse, his eyes exulting in all he saw, and when he took refreshment at an inn, he stood with untired feet, upon the threshold, still gazing at the mighty hills. He said he was thirteen, that he had never seen the mountains in all his life before, and had set out to walk among them during his holidays. My child! where was your skipping-rope, your game at cricket, your knuckle-down at taw? What! all forgotten, all your pastimes left behind, as they were nothing worth, that you might take your solitary wanderings, banqueting like an angel, amidst such scenes as these? And was there no little friend, no loving playfellow, to bear you company? Or did you rather choose to hold a lonely converse with Nature, and that in her severest moods ? Alas! my bright child, the world may be cruel to you, pity you as an idiot, or start from you as a madman; or they inay be, in their way, kind, as the humour of the day may suit, and bow down their heads, and call you glorious, wonderful?

Let a father bring his son hither, while he is yet young, before his pure nature is adulterated by his passions, or rather by the grosser passions of the world. Here will the intellect be nourished into strength, and the heart be touched to kindliness. Sometimes let him be left solitary in a wild spot, where no habitation, no trace of man is seen, as if the world were young as himself, and that a region where mortal foot had never before trod. There he will meditate on his being, in wisdom far beyond his years. The feelings of childhood are without alloy: they are neither mistrusted, confused, nor analyzed, and maintain as free a sway as they are freely welcomed. Let nothing disturb them; they are sacred. I would have them wrought upon almost to pain, that they may endure for ever. The fear that an early acquaintance with such scenes may divert the mind from industrious hàbits is founded in error. It is more likely to produce a contrary effect. A youthful and warm imagination must have something to build upon: the safer course is to content it at once with realities; where these are denied, the chances are that it will rove in the ideal world, never satisfied, and therefore always on the spring. Those idle visionaries, who continually brood over delightful impossibilities, and daily weave their romances for to-morrow, will be found, for the most part, among the tenants of a pent-up town. Whereas a mountaineer, never cursed with these distracting illusions, is remarkable for energy and perseverance. A father need not apprehend any danger from the most romantic valley in the world, even surpassing that of the Arabian Sinbad, only wanting the diamonds and the serpents.

It would be unfair to bring forward the names of celebrated men, either in confirmation of what is said, or in opposition to it. Genius is extraordinary, and can only be judged by its peers, or, as is frequently the case, it is “itself alone.” No one felt the magic of mountain-scenery more than Rousseau, and his beloved Pays de Vaud was, perhaps, the foster-mother of his genius; but though he is called a visionary, he was not an idle one. He

says, -"

-“ Never did a level country, however beautiful it might be, seem beautiful in my eyes. I must have cataracts, rocks, fir-trees, dark forests, steep and rugged pathways, with precipices at my feet which make me shudder.” There is a passage in his “Confessions" upon this subject, written with such enthusiasm, that the greatest enemies of the man must, as they read it, admire and delight in the boy Rousseau. Start not !—here is none of his philosophy,

" Never did I possess such activity of thought, never was I so sensible of my being, so full of the enjoyment of life, so much myself, if I may dare use the expression, as when I have travelled alone and on foot. There is something in walking which animates and enlightens my ideas : while I remain still, I am scarce capable of thought; my body must be set in motion if I would rouse my intellect. My gaze upon the country, the succession of pleasing views, the open air, my keen appetite, the flow of health which walking earns for me, the ease of a country-inn, my distance from all that can make me feel my dependance, from all that reminds me of my situation, all this disentangles my soul, gives me a daring grasp of thought, throws me, as it were, into the immensity of created things, where I combine, select, appropriate them to myself, without restraint and without fear. The whole of Nature is at my control; my heart, wandering from object to object, unites, identifies itself to those which are congenial to it, is surrounded by enchanting illusions, is intoxicated with delicious sentiments. If, to fix them for awhile, I take pleasure in describing them to myself, what boldness of pencil, what freshness of colour, what energy of expression do I give them! This is all to be found, they tell me, in my works, though written towards the decline of life. Oh! if they had seen those of my early youth, those which I made during my walks, those which I composed, but which I never wrote ! Why, you will ask, why not write them ? And why, I answer, should I write them? Why deprive me of the actual charm of enjoyment, in order to let others know that I have been happy? What were your readers to me, your public, what the whole world, whilst I was soaring in the Heavens? Besides, was I to carry a supply of pens and paper Had I considered these matters, nothing would have entered my mind. I foresaw not that I should have ideas; they came at their will, not at mine. They came not, or they came in crowds; they overwhelmed

« AnteriorContinuar »