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LONDON FROM THE DOME OF ST. PAUL'S. HAVING climbed to the summit of the dome, I saw, laid fairly at my feet, all of London that the smoke and the weather permitted to come into sight. But though a finer morning might have presented me with a more extensive and more richly-coloured prospect, it would scarce have given me one equally striking. I stood over the middle of a vast seething cauldron, and looked down through the blue reek on the dim, indistinct forms that seemed parboiling within. The denser clouds were rolling away, but their huge volumes still lay folded all around on the outskirts of the prospect. I could see a long reach of the river, with its gigantic bridges striding across ; but both ends of the tide, like those of the stream seen by Mirza, were enveloped in darkness ; and the bridges, grey and unsolid-looking themselves, as if cut out of sheets of compressed vapour, seemed leading to a spectral city.
Immediately in the foreground there lay a perplexed labyrinth of streets and lanes, and untraceable ranges of buildings, that seemed the huddled-up fragments of a fractured puzzledifficult enough of resolution when entire, and rendered altogether unresolvable by the chance that had broken it. As the scene receded, only the larger and more prominent objects came into view—here a spire, and there a monument, and yonder a square Gothic tower ; and as it still farther receded, I could see but the dim fragments of things—bits of churches inwrought into the cloud, and the insulated pediments and columned fronts of public buildings sketched off in diluted grey. I was reminded of Sir Walter Scott's recipe for painting a battle : a great cloud to be got up as the first part of the process ; and as the second, here and there an arm or a leg stuck in, and here and there a head or a body. And such was London, the greatest city of the world as I looked upon it this morning, for the first time, from the golden gallery of St. Paul's.
The hour of noon struck on the great bell far below my feet; the pigmies in the thoroughfare of St. Paul's Yard, still farther below, were evidently increasing in number and gathering into groups; I could see faces that seemed no bigger than fists thickening in the windows, and dim little figures starting up on the leads of houses; and then, issuing into the Yard from one of the streets, there came a long line of gay coaches, with the identical coach in the midst, all gorgeous and grand, that I remembered to have seen done in Dutch gold, full five-and-thirty years before, on the covers of a splendid sixpenny edition of Whittington and his Cat. Hurrah for Whittington, Lord Mayor of London ! Without having once bargained for such a thing—all unaware of what was awaiting me—I had ascended St. Paul's to see, as it proved, the Lord Mayor's procession. To be sure, I was placed rather high for witnessing with the right feeling the gauds and the grandeurs. All human greatness requires to be set in a peculiar light, and does not come out to advantage when seen from either too near or too distant a point of view. Slowly the pageant passed on and away; the groups dispersed in the streets, the faces evanished from the windows, the figures disappeared from the house-tops ; the entire apparition and its accompaniments melted into thin air, like the vision seen in the midst of the hollow valley of Bagdad ; and I saw but the dim city parboiling amid the clouds, and the long leaden-coloured reach of the river bounding half the world of London, as the monstrous ocean snake of the Edda more than half encircles the globe.
ON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE.
Earth has not anything to show more fair ::
This city now doth, like a garment, wear
THE SUMMIT OF THE WETTERHORN.
EVERY visitor with a soul for the beautiful admires the noble form of the Wetterhorn—the lofty, snow-crowned pyramid rising in such light and yet massive lines from its huge basement of perpendicular cliffs. The Wetterhorn has, however, a further merit. To my mind—and I believe most connoisseurs of mountain-tops agree with me—it is one of the most impressive summits in the Alps. It is not a sharp pinnacle like the Weisshorn, or a cupola like Mont Blanc, or a grand, rocky tooth like the Monte Rosa, but a long and nearly horizontal knife-edge, which, as seen from either end, has of course the appearance of a sharp-pointed cone. It is when balanced upon this ridge—sitting astride of the knife-edge, on which one can hardly stand without giddiness—that one fully appreciates an Alpine precipice. Behind you the snow-slope sinks with perilous steepness towards the wilderness of glacier and rock through which the ascent has lain. But in front the ice sinks with even greater steepness for a few feet or yards. Then it curves over and disappears, and the next thing that the eye catches is the meadow-land of Grindelwald, some 9000 feet below.
I have looked down many precipices, where the eye can trace the course of every pebble that bounds down the awful slopes, and where I have shuddered as some dislodged fragment of rock showed the course which, in case of accident, fragments of my own body would follow. A precipice is always, for obvious reasons, far more terrible from above than from below. The creeping, tingling sensation which passes through one's limbs—even when one knows oneself to be in perfect safety-testifies to the thrilling influence of the sight. But I have never so realized the terrors of a terrific cliff as when I could not see it. The awful gulf which intervened between me and the green meadows struck the imagination by its invisibility. It was like the view which may be seen from the ridge of a cathedral roof, where the eaves have for their immediate background the pavement of the streets below; only this cathedral was 9000 feet high. Now, any one standing at the foot of the Wetterhorn may admire their stupendous massiveness and steepness ; but to feel their influence enter in the very marrow of one's bones, it is necessary to stand at the summit, and to fancy the one little slide down the short ice-slope, to be followed apparently by a bound into clear air and a fall down to the houses, from heights where the eagle never ventures to soar.
This is one of the Alpine beauties, which, of course, is beyond the power of art to imitate, and which people are therefore apt to ignore. But it is not the only one to be seen on the high summits. It is often said that these views are not beautiful '—apparently because they won't go in a picture, or, to put it more fairly, because no picture can in the faintest degree imitate them. But without quarrelling about words, I think that even if 'beautiful' be not the most correct epithet, they have a marvellously stimulating effect upon the imagination. Let us look round from this wonderful pinnacle of mid-air, and note one or two of the most striking elements in the scenery.
You are, in the first place, perched on a cliff, whose presence is the more felt because it is unseen. Then you are in a region over which eternal silence is brooding. Not a sound ever comes there, except the occasional fall of a splintered fragment of rock, or a layer of snow ; no stream is heard trickling, and the sounds of animal life are left thousands of feet below. The most that you can hear is some mysterious noise made by the wind eddying round the gigantic rocks ; sometimes a strange flapping sound, as if an unearthly flag was shaking its invisible folds in the air. The enormous tract of country over which your view extends-most of it dim and almost dissolved into air by distance-intensifies the strange influence of the silence. You feel the force of that line from Wordsworth
"The sleep that is among the lonely hills.' None of the travellers whom you can see crawling at your feet have the least conception of what is meant by the silent solitudes of the High Alps. To you, it is like a return to the stir of active life, when, after hours of lonely wandering, you return to hear the tinkling of the cow-bells below : to them the same sound is the ultimate limit of the habitable world.
Whilst your mind is properly toned by these influences, you become conscious of another fact, to which the common variety of tourists is necessarily insensible. You begin to find out for the first time what the mountains really are. On one side, you back upon the huge reservoirs from which the Oberland glaciers descend. You see the vast stores from which the great rivers of Europe are replenished, the monstrous crawling masses that are carving the mountains into shape, and the gigantic bulwarks that separate two great quarters of the world. From below these wild regions are half invisible; they are marked by the outer line of mountains; and it is not until you are able to command them from some lofty point that you can appreciate the grandeur of the huge barriers, and the snow that is piled within their folds,