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dwarfish fir, the latter exhibit only sterile masses of rock and snow, without a trace of vegetation. Enormous crags and needles, in the shape of pyramids, too pointed to afford lodgment to accumulated ice, pierce the crust and rise like grey battlements along the eternal ramparts. It is impossible to conceive an image of more desolate and gloomy grandeur, than this castellated region, this throne of perpetual winter, presents to the eye. The verdure of the Alps is the more remarkable, since their giant peaks throw their sides and bases, which here have a northern exposure, into the shade for a considerable part of the day. We rode in their deep and chill shadows, for the first three hours this morning, without seeing the sun, except as it shot a beam through the serrated summits; while the opposite glaciers were glittering with the most dazzling brightness. It is indeed a glorious prospect, to look back on St. Gothard, towering at the source of the Rhone, and forward, through the long vista of mountains, to the utmost limits of vision.
The fertility of the Valais furnishes an astonishing contrast to the desolate barriers of rock and ice, by which it is enclosed. Rich alluvial plains, shaded with trees of a large growth; fields neatly cultivated, teeming with corn, vineyards, fruits, and flowers; green pastures, filled with flocks and herds, frequently meet the eye of the traveller, where he would look only for frost and sterility. We saw the peasantry engaged in mowing a second crop of grass, gathering yellow tresses of maize, or busy with the vintage, while the labours of the harvest were liable to be interrupted by the descent of avalanches.
The population of the Vale appears to be sparse; and most of the agricultural labour is performed by females, whose husbands, fathers, and brothers perhaps are filling the Austrian or French regiments, or crowding to the shores of other countries as emigrants. Those who are left behind seem to be industrious, frugal, and temperate in their habits; simple and courteous in their manners. Every person who met us on the road, old and young, male and female, offered some kind of a salutation, by lifting the hat, bowing, or bidding a kind good-morrow. In features, the peasantry bear marks of severe toil and a rigorous climate. Their costumes are peculiarly fantastic. The women wear, in the house as well as abroad, a small straw hat, with a silk band, cut in scallops. The number of beggars indicates more po
verty, than we expected to find among the hardy Swiss, "pelted and starved as they are by the elements." A dozen of the descendants of Tell beset us for charity, in our first day's ride among their mountains. Most of the inhabitants in this Canton are Catholics; and the style of mendicity varies very little from that of Italy.
The villages, hamlets, farm-houses, and cottages of the Valais, however picturesque and romantic they may appear at a distance, seated as they often are upon the acclivities of the mountains, are comparatively rude in structure, and will not bear a very close examination, except in point of cleanliness, which is carried throughout every department of life. Even the smallesftaverns are perfectly neat; and in several instances, females were seen sweeping out the stalls of their cows. Many of the buildings are of red cedar, the complexion of which gives them the appearance of having been painted. The barns are elevated upon piles, five or six feet from the ground, to prevent the approach of rats and mice. A ladder leads to the door, and the basement is used to shelter cattle from the weather. The cabins are often constructed of hewn logs; small, dark, and gloomy, with circular panes of glass for the windows. Huts upon the mountains are frequently inhabited only during the summer, by shepherds and herdsmen, who retreat to the vale before the storms, torrents, and avalanches of winter and spring.
Such are some of the physical and moral features of the Tale of the Rhone, which I have attempted to generalize, to save repetition, where so great a uniformity of scenery prevails. Our journey of two or three days furnished few incidents, to swell the contents of this sketch. At Viege, seven or eight miles from Brigue, we paused a moment, and had a fine view of our old acquaintance, Monte Rosa. A deep ravine here opens in nearly a direct line to its base.
While dinner was preparing at Tourtemagne, a visit was paid to a cascade, back of the village. It spouts from the rocks of the Alps, and is twisted into a silver thread in its descent. The stream is small; or at least it appears so, in comparison with other natural objects around it.
We took lodgings for the night at Sion, which is the capital of the Haut-Valaid, the old Sedunum of the Romans. Its ancient inhabitants opposed the march of Hannibal, upon the summit of the Alps: and their scarcely less warlike descendants kept the Bas-Valais tributary, for three hundred years. It is a large town, the seat of a Bishop, with half a dozen churches, and several convents. The houses are three and four stories high, with handsome fronts. We found the streets muddy and silent. A walk was attempted; but the pavements and corsos of Italy were wanting. The hotel was thronged with another swarm of English travellers, bound across the Simplon. At 4 o'clock the next morning, we resumed our journey down the Bas-Valais. The sun came up behind the Alps, and again poured a flood of glory over the glaciers. It was ascene, which would beara thousand repetitions in the reality, though but one in description. At Martigny, the Rhone makes a bold sweep, towards the north, preparatory to its entrance into the lake. A fine view is here obtained of St. Bernard, over which Napoleon and his army marched into Italy. From its sides a torrent descended in 1818, and deluged the village, sweeping away houses and their tenants, in its furious march to the Rhone. The height to which the water rose is marked on the front of the hotel, at an elevation of ten or twelve feet from the ground ; and the devastations of the flood are still visible. Soon after leaving Martigny, we had a fine view of the celebrated cascade of Pissevache, which is within a few rods of the road. In an approach from the south, the stream is not seen above the fall, and the water appears to gush out of the solid and perpendicular cliff, as if it had been smitten by the rod of Moses. The descent, including the rapids, is said to be 270 feet; but the perpendicular pitch cannot much exceed one hundred. It is worthy of its name, in comparison with the cataracts of our own country. The sheet of water is spread into a sort of silver net-work, resembling a lace veil, which forms a pretty piece of drapery, as it hangs from the ‘sombre brow of the mountain. Tiny rainbows were observed upon the cloud of spray, which rolls from the foot. The finest view is obtained from the north, where the Salanche is seen tossing and foaming among the dark crags above, before it leaps the precipice. We reached St. Maurice at noon. From an eminence beyond the town, a glimpse of the Lake of Geneva and of the shores near its head was caught, through the narrow vista of mountains, which here continue to rise to the height of six or seven thousand feet, presenting precipitous faces to the vale, Vevay, Clarens, and other white villages, were seen in the
distance. The defile is but just wide enough for the passage of the Rhone, and the site of St. Maurice, under the cliffs upon its left bank, occupying a most romantic position. A tremendous glacier rises from the opposite shore, crowned with naked masses of rock, in the shape of castles and fantastic towers. The old town has been a place of some importance ever since the days of Caesar. It was the great cemetery of the Roman Legions, employed in the conquest of Helvetia, and one of the modern churches was formerly paved with their tombstones. Here the emperor Maximian is said to have twice decimated, and then put to the sword a whole legion, who had been baptized into the Christian faith, and who refused to renounce their fidelity to the Cross. Under a cliff, back of the village, sheltered from the storm and the avalanche, stand a hermitage and chapel, overlooking the vale, from a solitary recess in the rocks. The latter building is said to be a votive offering to the Virgin, by a wealthy individual, for the preservation of his child, in falling uninjured from a precipice a hundred feet in height.
After dinner, our journey towards the Lake was continued. In going out of the town, we passed a noble stone bridge, said to date from the age of the Romans, spanning the rapid current of the Rhone, and leading down the opposite shore to Lausanne. A castle stands at one end, and a chapel at the other. Onward, the mountains retreat, the vale widens, and the scenery assumes a softer character. Deep forests of chestnut and hanging woods clothe the slopes of the hills; the waters are less turbulent; and the fields are luxuriant in pasturage, corn, and wine.
Just at dusk, we reached the head of the lake, and rode for several miles along its margin, to St. Gingoux, where good accommodations were found for the night. The hotel stands upon a declivity, sloping to the water, and commanding a full view of the bright expanse, which spreads between it and the opposite shore, where the old castle of Chillon, Clarens, and Vevay are seated at the foot of the hills, which rise in the back-ground. Adventitious circumstances conspired with the intrinsic richness of the scenery, to render the first glance transporting. Our eyes had been accustomed for several days to rest on savage mountains, forming a striking contrast to the rural and luxuriant borders of Lake Leman. Its very brink is deeply wooded and green, fringing waters which were now slumbering in an azure sheet, and in unbroken quiet; as if like ourselves they were happy to repose, after having been tossed and agitated, in traversing a rugged region. A little fleet of boats was moored along the strand, and every image was that of peace and tranquillity. The moon shone in unclouded splendour, and the radiance of the Lake was as brilliant as her own orb. A poet might fancy, that Dian in one of her fabled chases here dropped her silver crescent among the mountains. It was probably such a night as this, which inspired the impassioned dreams of Rousseau, and the still loftier imagery of Byron.
A peep from our chamber windows at day-break dispelled all the poetical visions of the night, and served to damp the ardour of romantic feelings:
"The dawn is overcast—the morning lowers,
Lake Leman has its mists, like less pure and brilliant elements; as the minds of the novelist and poet were sometimes overshadowed with gloom, in the same manner as meaner intellects. In plain terms, it was a very dark, foggy, unpleasant morning—the first we had experienced since leaving Milan. But the sky soon cleared, and another bright autumnal day cheered us onward to Geneva.
As the sun broke through the clouds, it fully disclosed the intrinsic beauty of the Lake, as well as the grandeur and picturesque scenery of its shores. It is about fifty miles in length, from the entrance to the exit of the Rhone, and eight or nine in width, in the broadest part; lying very nearly in the form of a crescent. The complexion of the water is a deep azure, slightly tinged with green, arising as well from the verdure of its borders, as from the original colour of its tributaries. Numerous boats, spreading their canvass to the inland breeze, were seen skimming its peaceful bosom. From this point, the view of the opposite side can hardly be surpassed in extent, richness, and splendour. A long line of white villages and hamlets is traced by the eye, from Chillon to Geneva, studding the green and woody slopes, which rise with moderate acclivities from the margin. In the distance, the chain of the Jura Alps sweeps round in amphitheatric grandeur, presenting alternately broken rocks and deep forests.
We rode all day along the southern shore of the Lake, which affords few objects of interest, except what nature