Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

and solemn grandeur, moss-grown with age, and blackened by the storms of three centuries. Within, all is mournful and deserted. The grass has overgrown the pavement of the courtyard, and the rude sculpture upon the walls is broken and defaced. From the courtyard I entered the central tower, and, ascending the principal staircase, went out upon the battlements. I seemed to have stepped back into the precincts of the feudal ages; and, as I passed along through echoing corridors, and vast, deserted halls, stripped of their furniture, and mouldering silently away, the distant past came back upon me; and the times when the clang of arms, and the tramp of mail-clad men, and the sounds of music and revelry and wassail, echoed along those high-vaulted and solitary chambers !

My third day's journey brought me to the ancient city of Blois, the chief town of the department of Loire-et-Cher. This city is celebrated for the purity with which even the lower classes of its inhabitants speak their native language. It rises precipitously from the northern bank of the Loire ; and many of its streets are so steep as to be almost impassable for carriages. On the brow of the hill, overlooking the roofs of the city, and commanding a fine view of the Loire and its noble bridge, and the surrounding country, sprinkled with cottages and châteaux, runs an ample terrace, planted with trees, and laid out as a public walk. The view from this terrace is one of the most beautiful in France. But what most strikes the eye of the traveller at Blois is an old, though still unfinished, castle. Its huge parapets of hewn stone stand upon either side of the street; but they have walled up the wide gateway, from which the colossal drawbridge was to have sprung high in air, connecting together the main towers of the building, and the two hills upon whose slope its foundations stand. The aspect of this vast pile is gloomy and desolate. It seems as if the strong hand of the builder had been arrested in the midst of his task by the stronger hand of death ; and the unfinished fabric stands a lasting monument both of the power and weakness of man-of his vast desires, his sanguine hopes, his ambitious purposes—and of the unlooked-for conclusion, where all these desires, and hopes, and purposes are so often arrested. There is also at Blois another ancient château, to which some historic interest is attached, as being the scene of the massacre of the Duke of Guise.

On the following day I left Blois for Amboise ; and, after walking several leagues along the dusty highway, crossed the river in a boat to the little village of Moines, which lies amid luxuriant vineyards upon the southern bank of the Loire. From Moines to Amboise the road is truly delightful. The rich lowland scenery, by the margin of the river, is verdant even in October; and occasionally the landscape is diversified with the picturesque cottages of the vintagers, cut in the rock along the roadside, and overhung by the thick foliage of the vines above them.

At Amboise I took a cross-road, which led me to the romantic borders of the Cher, and the château of Chenonceau. This beautiful château, as well as that of Chambord, was built by the gay and munificent Francis the First. One is a specimen of strong and massive architecture—a dwelling for a warrior; but the other is of a lighter and more graceful construction.

The château of Chenonceau is built upon arches across the river Cher, whose waters are made to supply the deep moat at each extremity. There is a spacious courtyard in front, from which a drawbridge conducts to the outer hall of the castle. There the armour of Francis the First still hangs upon the wall—his shield, and helm, and lance—as if the chivalrous but dissolute prince had just exchanged them for the silken robes of the drawing-room. From this hall a door opens into a long gallery, extending the whole length of the building across the Cher. The walls of the gallery

ung with the faded portraits of the long line of the descendants of Hugh Capet; and the windows, looking up

ar

and down the stream, command a fine reach of pleasant river scenery.

This is said to be the only château in France in which the ancient furniture of its original age is preserved. In one part of the building you are shown the bed-chamber of Diane de Poitiers, with its antique chairs covered with faded damask and embroidery, her bed, and her portrait hanging over the mantel-piece. In another you see the apartment of the infamous Catherine de Medici ; a venerable arm-chair and an autograph letter of Henry the Fourth; and in an old laboratory, among broken crucibles, and neckless retorts, and drums, and trumpets, and skins of wild beasts, and other ancient lumber of various kinds, are to be seen the bed-posts of Francis the First. Doubtless the naked walls and the vast solitary chambers of an old and desolate château inspire a feeling of greater solemnity and awe; but when the antique furniture of the olden time remains—the faded tapestry on the walls, and the arm-chair by the fireside—the effect upon the mind is more magical and delightful. The old inhabitants of the place, long gathered to their fathers, though living still in history, seem to have left their halls for the chase or the tournament; and as the heavy door swings upon its reluctant hinge, one almost expects to see the gallant princes and courtly dames enter those halls again, and sweep in stately procession along the silent corridors.

Rapt in such fancies as these, and gazing on the beauties of this stately edifice, and the soft scenery around it, I lingered, unwilling to depart, till the rays of the setting sun, streaming through the dusty windows, admonished me that the day was drawing rapidly to a close. I sallied forth from the southern gate of the château, and crossing the broken drawbridge, pursued a pathway along the bank of the river, still gazing back upon those towering walls, now bathed in the rich flow of sunset, till a turn in the road and a clump of woodland at length sḥut them out from my sight.

H. W. LONGFELLOW.

AUTUMN DEPARTS.

AUTUMN departs—but still her mantle's fold

Rests on the groves of noble Somerville ;
Beneath a shroud of russet, drooped with gold,

Tweed and her tributaries mingle still ;
Hoarser the wind, and deeper sounds the rill,

Yet lingering notes of silvan music swell,
The deep-toned cushat, and the redbreast shrill ;

And yet some tints of summer splendour tell Where the broad sun sinks down on Ettrick's western fell.

Autumn departs—from Gala's fields no more

Come rural sounds our kindred banks to cheer ;
Blent with the stream and gale that wafts it o'er,

No more the distant reapers' mirth we hear.
The last blithe shout hath died upon our ear,

And harvest-home hath hushed the clanging wain.
On the waste hill no forms of life appear,

Save where, sad laggards of the autumnal train, Some age-struck wanderer gleans few ears of scattered grain,

SIR W. SCOTT.

THE HOUSE-SWALLOW OR CHIMNEY

SWALLOW.

The house-swallow or chimney-swallow is undoubtedly the first-comer of all the British hirundines; and appears in general on or about the 13th of April, as I have remarked from many years' observation. Not but that now and then a straggler is seen much earlier : and, in particular, when I was a boy I observed a swallow for a whole day together on a sunny, warm Shrove Tuesday : which day could not fall out later than the middle of March, and often happened early in February

It is worth remarking that these birds are seen first about lakes and mill-ponds ; and it is also very particular, that if these early visitors happen to find frost and snow, as was the case of the two dreadful springs of 1770 and 1771, they immediately withdraw for a time.

The swallow, though called the chimney-swallow, by no means builds altogether in chimneys, but often within barns and outhouses against the rafters.

In Sweden she builds in barns, and is called ladu swala, the barn swallow. Besides, in the warmer parts of Europe there are no chimneys to houses, except they are English built; in these countries she constructs her nest in porches, and gateways, and galleries, and open

halls. Here and there a bird may affect some odd, peculiar place; as we have known a swallow build down the shaft of an old well, through which chalk had been formerly drawn up for the purpose of manure : but in general with us this hirundo breeds in chimneys ; and loves to haunt those stacks where there is a constant fire, no doubt for the sake of warmth. Not that it can subsist in the immediate shaft where there is a fire; but prefers one adjoining to that of the kitchen, and disregards the perpetual smoke of that funnel, as I have often observed with some degree of wonder.

Five or six or more feet down the chimney does this little bird begin to form her nest about the middle of May, which consists, like that of the house-martin, of a crust or shell composed of dirt or mud, mixed with short pieces of straw to render it tough and permanent ; with this difference, that whereas the shell of the martin is nearly hemispheric, that of the swallow is open at the top, and like half a deep dish : this nest is lined with fine grasses, and feathers which are often collected as they float in the air.

Wonderful is the address which this adroit bird shows all day long in ascending and descending with security through so narrow a pass. When hovering over the mouth th funnel, the vibrations of her wings acting on the confined air

« AnteriorContinuar »