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There is another half of the view equally striking. Looking towards the north, the whole of Switzerland is couched at your feet; the Jura and the Black Forest lie on the far horizon. And then you know what is the nature of a really mountainous country. From below everything is seen in a kind of distorted perspective. The people of the valley naturally think that the valley is everything—that the country resembles old-fashioned maps—where a few sporadic lumps are distributed amongst towns and plains. The true proportions reveal themselves as you ascend. The valleys, you can see, are nothing but narrow trenches scooped out amidst a tossing waste of mountain, just to carry off the drainage. The great ridges run hither and thither, having it all their own way, and wild and untameable regions of rock or open grass or forest, at whose feet the valleys exist on sufferance. Creeping about amongst the roots of the hills, you half miss the hills themselves; you quite fail to understand the massiveness of the mountain chains, and, therefore, the wonderful energy of the forces that have heaved the surface of the world into these distorted shapes. And it is to a half-conscious sense of
that must have been at work that a great part of the influence of mountain scenery is due. Geologists tell us that a theory of catastrophes is unphilosophical; but whatever may be the scientific truth, our minds are impressed as though we were witnessing the results of some incredible convulsion. At Stonehenge we ask what human beings could have erected these strange grey monuments, and in the mountains we instinctively ask what force can have carved out the Matterhorn and placed the Wetterhorn on its gigantic pedestal. Now, it is not till we reach some commanding point that we realize the amazing extent of country over which the solid ground has been shaking and heaving itself in irresistible tumult.
Something, it is true, of this last effect may be seen from such mountains as the Rigi or the Faulhorn. There, too, one seems to be at the centre of a vast sphere, the earth bending
up in a cup-like form to meet the sky, and the blue vault above stretching in an arch majestical by its enormous extent. There you seem to see a sensible fraction of the world at your feet. But the effect is far less striking when other mountains obviously look down upon you ; when, as it were, you are looking at the waves of the great ocean of hills merely from the crest of one of the waves themselves, and not from some lighthouse that rises far over their heads; for the Wetterhorn, like the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, owes one great beauty to the fact that it is on the edge of the lower country and stands between the real giants and the crowd of inferior, though still enormous masses in attendance upon them. And, in the next place, your mind is far better adapted to receive impressions of sublimity when you are alone, in a silent region, with a black sky above and giant cliffs all round ; with a sense still in your mind, if not of actual danger, still of danger that would become real with the slightest relaxation of caution, and with the world divided from you by hours of snow and rock.
HYMN BEFORE SUNRISE IN THE VALE OF
Hast thou a charm to stay the morning-star
O dread and silent Mount ! I gazed upon thee,
Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,
Awake, my soul ! not only passive praise
Thou first and chief, sole sovran of the Vale !
And you, ye five wild torrents, fiercely glad !
forth from night and utter death, From dark and icy caverns called you forth, Down those precipitous, black, jagged rocks, For ever shattered and the same for ever? Who gave you your invulnerable life, Your strength, your speed, your fury, and your joy, Unceasing thunder and unceasing foam ? And who commanded (and the
ence came), Here let the billows stiffen and have rest?
Ye ice-falls ! ye that from the mountain's brow Adown enormous ravines slope amain
Torrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice, And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge !
Motionless torrents! silent cataracts !
Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost !
Thou too, hoar Mount ! with thy sky-pointing peaks,
S. T. COLERIDGE.