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And glowing into day : we may resume
And food for meditation, nor pass by
SCENERY OF THE ENGLISH LAKE DISTRICT.
PART 1.—THE MAIN OUTLINES OF THE COUNTRY. Ar Lucerne in Switzerland is shown a model of the Alpine country which encompasses the Lake of the Four Cantons. The spectator ascends a little platform, and sees mountains, lakes, glaciers, rivers, woods, waterfalls, and valleys, with their cottages and every other object contained in them, lying at his feet; all things being represented in their appropriate colours. It may be readily conceived that this exhibition affords an exquisite delight to the imagination, tempting it to wander at will from valley to valley, from mountain to mountain, through the deepest recesses of the Alps. But it supplies also a more substantial pleasure ; for the sublime and beautiful region, with all its hidden treasures, and their bearings and relations to each other, is thereby comprehended and understood at once.
Something of this kind, without touching upon minute details and individualities, which would only confuse and embarrass, will here be attempted in respect to the Lakes in the North of England and the vales and mountains enclosing and surrounding them. The delineation, if tolerably executed, will in some instances communicate to the traveller who has already seen the objects new information; and will assist in giving to his recollections a more orderly arrangement than his own opportunities of observing may have permitted him to make ; while it will be still more useful to the future traveller, by directing his attention at once to distinctions in things which, without such previous aid, a length of time only could enable him to discover. It is hoped, also, that this Essay may become generally serviceable, by leading to habits of more exact and considerate observation than, as far as the writer knows, have hitherto been applied to local scenery.
To begin, then, with the main outlines of the country ;-I know not how to give the reader a distinct image of these more readily, than by requesting him to place himself with me, in imagination, upon some given point ; let it be the top of either of the mountains, Great Gable or Scawfell ; or, rather, let us suppose our station to be a cloud hanging midway between those two mountains, at not more than half a mile's distance from the summit of each, and not many yards above their highest elevation. We shall then see stretched at our feet a number of valleys, not fewer than eight, diverging from the point on which we are supposed to stand, like spokes from the nave of a wheel.
First we note, lying to the south-east, the vale of Langdale, which will conduct the eye to the long lake of Windermere, stretched nearly to the sea ; or rather, to the sands of the vast bay of Morecambe, serving here for the rim of this imaginary wheel ; – let us trace it in a direction from the south-east towards the south, and we shall next fix our eyes upon the vale of Coniston, running up likewise from the sea, but not (as all the other valleys do) to the nave of the wheel, and therefore it may be not inaptly represented as a broken spoke sticking in the rim.
Looking forth again, with an inclination towards the west, we see immediately at our feet the vale of Duddon, in which is no lake, but a copious stream, winding among fields, rocks, and mountains, and terminating its course in the sands of Duddon. The fourth vale next to be observed, namely, that of the Esk, is of the same general character as the last, yet beautifully discriminated from it by peculiar features. Its stream passes under the woody steep upon which stands Muncaster Castle, and after forming a short and narrow estuary, enters the sea below the small town of Ravenglass. Next, almost due west, look down into and along the deep valley of Wastdale, with its little chapel and half a dozen neat dwellings scattered upon a plain of meadow and cornground intersected with stone walls, apparently innumerable, like a large piece of lawless patch, or an array of mathematical figures, such as in the ancient schools of geometry might have been sportively and fantastically traced out upon sand. Beyond this little fertile plain lies, within a bed of steep mountains, the long, narrow, stern, and desolate lake of Wastdale, and beyond this, a dusky tract of level ground conducts the eye to the Irish Sea. The stream that issues from Wastwater is named the Irt, and falls into the estuary of the River Esk. Next comes in view Ennerdale, with its lake of bold and somewhat savage shores. Its stream, flowing through a soft and fertile country, passes the town of Egremont, and the ruins of the castle,then, seeming, like other rivers, to break through the barriers of sand thrown up by the winds on this tempestuous coast, enters the Irish Sea.
The vale of Buttermere, with the lake and village of that name, and Crummock Water beyond, next present themselves. We will follow the main stream, the Coker, through the fertile and beautiful vale of Lorton, till it is lost in the Derwent, below the noble ruins of Cockermouth Castle. Lastly, Borrowdale, of which the vale of Keswick is only a continuation, stretching due north, brings us to a point nearly opposite to the vale of Windermere, with which we began.
From this it will appear that the image of a wheel, thus far exact, is little more than half complete, but the deficiency on the eastern side may be supplied by the vale of Wythburn, Ullswater, Haweswater, and the vale of Grasmere and Rydal ; none of these, however, run up to the central point between Great Gable and Scawfell. From this, hitherto our central point, take a flight of not more than four or five miles eastward to the ridge of Helvellyn, and you will look down upon Wythburn and St. John's Vale, which are a branch of the vale of Keswick; upon Ullswater, stretching due east ;-and not far beyond, to the south-east (though from this point not visible), lie the vale and lake of Haweswater; and lastly, the vale of Grasmere, Rydal, and Ambleside, brings you back to Windermere, thus completing, though on the eastern side in a somewhat irregular manner, the representative figure of the wheel.
Such, concisely given, is the general topographical view of the country of the Lakes in the North of England ; and it may be observed that, from the circumference to the centre, that is, from the sea or plain country to the mountain stations specified, there is — in the several ridges that enclose these vales and divide them from each other, I mean in the forms and surfaces, first of the swelling grounds, next of the hills and rocks, and lastly of the mountains—an ascent of almost regular gradation, from elegance and richness to the highest point of grandeur and sublimity. It follows, therefore, from this, first, that these rocks, hills, and mountains must present themselves to view in stages rising above each other, the mountains clustering together towards the central point ; and next that an observer familiar with the several vales, must, from their various positions in relation to the sun, have had before his eyes every possible embellishment of beauty, dignity, and splendour, which light and shadow can bestow upon objects so diversified.
For example, in the vale of Windermere, if the spectator looks for gentle and lovely scenes, his eye is turned towards the south ; if for the grand, towards the north : in the vale of Keswick, which (as has been said) lies almost due north of this, it is directly the reverse. Hence, when the sun is setting in summer far to the north-west, it is seen by the spectator from the shores or breasts of Windermere resting among the summits of the loftiest mountains, some of which will perhaps be half or wholly hidden by clouds, or by the blaze of light which the orb diffuses around it; and the surface of the lake will reflect before the eye correspondent colours through every variety of beauty, and through all degrees of splendour. In the vale of Keswick, at the same period, the sun sets over the humbler regions of the landscape, and showers down upon them the radiance which at once veils and glorifies,-sending forth, meanwhile, broad streams of rosy, crimson, purple, or golden light, towards the grand mountains in the south and southeast, which, thus illuminated, with all their projections and cavities, and with an intermixture of solemn shadow, are seen distinctly through a cool and clear atmosphere. Of course, there is as marked a difference between the noontide appearance of those two opposite vales. The bedimming haze that overspreads the south, and the clear atmosphere and determined shadows of the clouds in the north, at the same time of the day, are each seen in these several vales with a contrast as striking. The reader will easily conceive in what degree the intermediate vales partake of a kindred variety.
I do not, indeed, know any tract of country in which, within so narrow a compass, may be found an equal variety in the influences of light and shadow upon the sublime or beautiful features of landscape ; and it is owing to the combined circumstances to which the reader's attention has been directed. From a point between Great Gable and Scawfell, a shepherd would not require more than an hour to descend into any one of eight of the principal vales by which he would be surrounded; and all the others lie (with the exception of Haweswater) at but a small distance. Yet, though clustered together, every valley has its distinct and separate character; in some instances, as if they had been formed in studied contrast to each other, and in others with the united pleasing differences and resemblances of a sisterly rivalship. This concentration of interest gives to the country a decided superiority over the most attractive districts of Scotland and Wales, especially for the pedestrian traveller. In Scotland and Wales are found, undoubtedly, individual scenes which in their several kinds cannot be excelled. But in Scot