Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

samo

have been pitched bodily down in the the insignificant knob on the ridge grows same heterogeneous and confused fashion. into a gigantic tower; the cupola of Mont

So far, then, the pleasure produced by Blanc, which at first seems comparable the sight of mountain scenery is, so to to the dome of St. Paul's, swells into a speak, of the second order of magnitude. mountain itself, equal to Snowdon or Ben It rather forms a delicate sauce than con- Nevis. The mind gradually has to learn stitutes a satisfactory meal of itself. It a new alphabet; it has to interpret symwould not be of sufficiently high flavor bols which to the uninitiated mean mereto render palatable a food otherwise disa- ly green or white spots into signs of vast greeable. By ordinary people it will not tracts of Alp or snow-field; even then, be perceived, except remotely, as harmo- it still has to go through an effort, not nizing by an occult influence, beauties of unlaborious, to substitute some lively and à more positive kind. Even by more practical conception for mere statements cultivated minds it might be obscured in about millions of tons, and billions of presence of more vivid impressions. We cubic feet. may remark in passing, that it belongs The intensity of this impression is to an order of beauty of which we are undeniable, but in itself it is neither more apt to be conscious in modern, than pleasant nor the reverse. The sense of men were in former, times. We have in vast, immeasurable mass may be extrememost directions rather exhausted the sim- ly painful. These huge, unwieldy lumps, pler kinds of pleasure, and in proportion these millions of tons of granite and limeto the greater variety of the objects of stone, stuck up on end for no apparent thought, become inclined to more com- reason, are not of necessity agreeable plex and more delicate sensations. We, matter of contemplation. The of course, cannot speak of the cause of sense of vastness may be produced by this change, but its existence goes, as we other natural phenomena—by deserts or shall see, some way towards explaining forests through which you travel for our modern appreciation of the moun- thousands of miles and many consecutains. We pass on, meanwhile, to tive days. As they are in themselves another class of emotions. There are dreary and monotonous objects, their some sentiments which are suggested to mere size serves to make their utter the mind of every observer almost as dreariness sink down more deeply into vividly as the colors are painted on his our minds. Indeed, the attempt to picretina. Certain thoughts must have oc- ture to our minds enormous weight curred to every one who has crossed an and size is in itself fatiguing to the imAlpine pass, from the time when Alaric agination. Any very strong sensation is descended upon Italy to the last tourist apt to become actively painful when exup to the end of 1863. To catalogue cited beyond certain limits, even though completely those universal impressions pleasant when confined within them. would again be an utterly impossible And the mere massiveness of an Alp task. But, as before, the notice of a would therefore only serve to make it a few of the most prominent may serve to more thoroughly bateful object to any show their general character. In the one to whom it was already hateful on first place, then, no human being ever other grounds. looked at a mountain for the first time The same is true, though perhaps less without being struck by its monstrous obviously, in the case of most of the and unreasonable size. That an Alp is other thoughts which can be considered very big is, in fact, the first and the last as common to any large classes of obimpression of some people. Moreover, servers. Thus, for example, it has probahuge as the bulk looms upon an inexpe- bly occurred to most people that mounrienced

eye, it seems to swell and increase tains are apt to be steep. From the time as the eye learns by experience to take when Hannibal found them blister his some measure of its mass. It is not that elephants' feet, to the time when the the shrimp swells till it becomes a whale, last tourist broke down on the Righi, this but the whale swells till its head strikes peculiarity has been occasionally a source the stars. The faint blue patch expands of vexation. That it is the quality which into broad tracks of hanging meadow; calls forth more admiration than any

other is also true, partly from the fact nous wilderness; and, till they have that it is a very easy one of which to again palled upon him, the succession judge. Everybody can appreciate the of fields gives him the same pleasure as circumstance that the cliffs of the Wet- a succession of exquisite gardens would terhorn are “ literally overhanging." All do, till he got tired of them. tourists express their unfeigned delight This is illustrated still more forcibly by at seeing the Staubbach clear nine hun- the well-known statement of dwellers in dred feet at a bound, with the exception mountains, who are apt to consider them of the severe critic who said that he didn't as personal enemies. They may genersee what there was to prevent it. Mont ously concede to them the possession of Blanc is scarcely admired, because he is certain merits, but on the whole they built with a certain regard to stability; think them decidedly in the way. The but the apparently reckless architecture barrenness and steepness of which we of the Matterhorn brings the traveler have just spoken are pleasant enough to fairly on his knees with a respect akin to the amateur, but decidedly irritating in that felt for the leaning tower of Pisa, or practical life. When a man has been the soaring pinnacles of Antwerp. But brought up among the mountains, he why should we always take it for granted gets to know the bad points in their charthat it is necessarily very pleasant to look acter. He knows that they are the at something very steep? The considera- causes of avalanches, floods, and landtion of one other peculiarity will throw slips; that they are bad places for falling; some light upon

this. What strikes the that he has to engage in a severe strugimpartial observer as much as any thing gle to coax a few potatoes out of them, is the extreme barrenness of these places. and to endanger his life to collect a bunAs you leave the plains of Lombardy or dle of hay from their ledges; to an agrithe Rhine, you feel that you have unde- culturist, or a porter, or to men in any niably got to a district where nothing will ordinary walk of life, they are apt to be grow that can help it. As the vine- constantly obnoxious. The difference yards, the chestnut forests, the corn-fields, between his sentiments and those of the and even the pine woods sink successive- tourist is as great as the difference of ly beneath

you, and

you

climb over the feeling between the native off whose open grass meadows, the stunted rhodo- family the tiger habitually dines, and the dendrons, and finally the wretched dabs of cockney who sees it in a cage. Some lichens sucking at the knobs of hard rock, people would say, that though the tiger you feel (even if an enthusiastic moun was undeniably associated with unpleataineer) a certain dismal sensation, as if sant ideas in the native's mind, yet the the eternal frost was somehow getting color of his hide and the symmetry of into your bones. Now this is a sensa- his limbs would still be beautiful. Doubttion which is emphatically of ambiguous less it would if you could draw the attencharacter. The traveler in the English tion of the aforesaid native to it; but lowlands, indeed, gets as sickened of that is just the point in question. Poscultivation as the proverbial grocer's boy sibly a Balmat or a Lauener might be as of figs. Endless roads between unceas- sensible as an Englishman to the beauty ing hedge-rows, an unvarying succession of mountain colors

. But the sight of the of little ups and little downs, limiting mountain irresistibly suggests thoughts every horizon to a few hundred yards, which as completely overpower the sense and all cut up into little parallelograms of of color, as the claws and teeth of the ticorn or turnips, get wearisome in the ger produce a certain creeping in the long run. A bit of unenclosed common calves of the native's legs which prebecomes as refreshing as an open window vents his full appreciation of the striped in a crowded room. But the same travel and tawny hide. He hates the precipice er fresh from Western America, from and the waterfall as the huntsman hated endless stretches of wild forest land, or "them stinking violets;" they are symbols unbroken undulations of prairie, has his which to him suggest only too faithfully whole frame of mind inverted. He has discomfort and danger, and which fairly learned to associate a lively pleasure with wipe out from his mind the fainter imevery bit of cultivation in the monoto- pressions of colors, and“ lines of aqueous

erosion.” Whether the mountains are with these arbitrary associations which still “beautiful” is a question not worth have a relation to the mind only of one arguing. The total impression produced individual. They are keys which will is one highly disagreeable.

only open one door. No one would call Of this class of impressions, those the house or the bit of road beautiful or which are universally produced, we have, ugly on account of them. Let us take of course, only selected a few of the most a rather different case. There is a cerstriking. They all, however, agree in tain sluggish stream, one part river and these, which we believe to be character- three parts canal, creeping between banks istic of all. In the first place, they ex- of oozy mud, through flat gray meadows, ercise a great power over the imagina- bounded by monotonous lines of grotion; in the second place, that power is tesque pollard willows. Yet we never as it were neutral; it may either give return to the sight of its dull reaches pain or pleasure, according to the men- without a lively sense of pleasure. Too tal condition of the observer. We can many recollections of old friends, of desonly say so far that they are not at all perate contests, of delightful triumphs, likely to convey a merely indifferent im- and defeats now scarcely less delightful, pression; but the nature of that impres- come up with the sight, to admit even sion will depend either upon the other of indifference to one of its slimy curves. elements with which they are combined, Yet we frankly admit that the Cam is or upon the condition of the mind af- unjustifiably ugly. It is pleasant just as fected. They are like some chemical the ugly face of an old friend is pleasagent which in one combination may be ant; and, in both cases, it requires an a deadly poison, or in another an ener- effort of mind to say whether it is ugly getic medicine; or like a basin of water or not. In other words, it requires an which seems cold to the hand which is effort of mind to realize the effect proheated and hot to that which is cool. duced upon the average multitude. There We have now to endeavor to point out is another stream which no painter can some of those peculiarities which deter- pass without pleasure. Its broad, clear mine the precise nature of the effect pro- waters reflect banks covered with forest duced, to indicate the causes which de- trees, deep, rich meadow land and luxcide whether we are to receive an intense urious gardens, and are fitly “crowned pleasure or an intense pain. The inten- by three arches” of an old bridge and a sity in one direction or the other being gray church tower. But it is totally imassumed, we shall try to explain some of possible for us to say whether it most the causes of that intense thrill of pleas- strongly recalls images common to all ure which runs through every true moun- rural scenery of equal merit, or those of taineer on the sight of the glorious cliffs bounding outriggers and frantic crowds. of the Oberland, or the snow wastes of To the profane vulgar, indeed, and Mont Blanc. We must, however, before even to an Oxford man, the Thames at pointing out the causes which determine Henley is lovely, and the Cam at Batesthe pleasure or pain, show the true bear- bite Lock is hideous. But to an old ings of a difficulty to which we have be- Cambridge rowing man, they are both fore adverted. As the present set of beautiful; and possibly the sight of his feelings depend upon what would gen- " reverend sire, Camus,” gives him the erally be called arbitrary associations, the most pleasure so long as it is tolerably name of beautiful will be generally re- free from dead dogs. If then it is really fused to their causes. An illustration of impossible to disentangle the various perhaps rather an undignified order will threads of association that combine to exemplify this.

produce one sensation, what is the disTo our mind, a certain corner of an tinction between them in language? A English street is inextricably bound up bank of rushes pleases at once by its with the recollection of Havelock's re- lively color, by the deep, cool water that treat from Lucknow. A certain stretch surrounds it, and by the thought that at of road always calls up a weary mathe- that particular spot you had the first matical explanation of the theory of the glimpse from the corner of your eye of harvest moon. Every one is familiar the bows of the hostile boat dropping

hopelessly to the rear. The first pleasure of course is, that a great many people is common to all who are not color- have acquired a taste formerly peculiar to blind; the next to the large class who one. We conceive that the change by wash; the last belongs only to you and which mountains have now gained the seven of your friends. We choose to name of beautiful is precisely analogous. ascribe the first two pleasures to a sense We have only to add by way of caution, of beauty—the last to arbitrary associa- that we do not mean to say that this tion. The reason of this distinction of universality is a sufficient condition of language is obvious; the rushes excite beauty; it is only one of the necessary the first two classes of pleasure in the conditions. minds of every one who sees their color. We will now return to our mountains. We therefore consider them as the re- We will endeavor to mention some of sult of a property inherent not in us, but the associations most likely to be excited in the rushes, because the phenomenon in the bosom of the common tourist. is always produced by the rushes, how- \ In doing so we will not endeavor preever often we change the mind that per- sumptuously to trace out the more proceives them. But we consider the last found changes which discriminate the pleasure to be as it were accidental, de modern from the ancient mould of pendent upon their being presented to thought and character. We shall even the mind of a particular individual; and be content to assume that people on an we therefore speak of it as a result of average are actuated by much the same his special mental condition, because he motives as formerly. We will merely is apparently the most essential part of select one of the most prominent changes the phenomenon; of course, both the that has taken place in the conditions of rushes and observers are, in truth, equal society, and trace out some of the changly essential in every case.

es in our feelings towards mountains that We therefore consider the true state- may be confidently ascribed to it. By ment to be this : For an indefinite and abstracting this particular set of causes incalculable number of reasons the sight we do not of course deny or ignore the of external objects produces a very keen existence of others far more general and pleasure. We do not generally call these profound. We will try, by taking them objects beautiful, unless (besides fulfilling singly, to form some kind of estimate of certain other conditions) they produce the share due to them in a result due to this pleasure in the minds of a very the combined action of many others. large number of people. We merely What is the first thought that occurs to say that they call up pleasant associa- you as a turn of the valley reveals to you tions when the pleasure is excited in a for the first time the lion-like mass of the very small class; and the reason of the Wetterhorn towering over the pine fordistinction is, that beauty, as we have ests into the sky ? If you are one of the before pointed out, is popularly spoken harmless enthusiasts stigmatized as climbof as a property inherent, not in our- ers, clamberers, and by other offensive selves, but in the object. We can not see, epithets, you will probably think first of however, that the pleasures are to be the knife-edge where you perched with classified under different heads. As the your feet dangling over ten thousand feet association is extended by degrees, and of thin mountain air, with apparently nobecomes the property of a class, instead thing but the cliff jackdaws to break of an individual, and afterwards the your fall into the garden of the inn becommon property of a large class, in- low. Then you trace the ledge of turf stead of a very small one, its object grad- where you took off your gaiters, smoking ually gains the dignified appellation of the pipe of peace, preparatory to a race beautiful. There was probably a time over the Alps to the valley. If a less amwhen people said, that eccentric Sir Wal- bitious tourist, you think of the quiet ter Raleigh likes that nasty weed, to- evenings under the veranda of the Adbacco. The great part of the male sex ler where you watched the flush of sunwould now say, Sir Walter Raleigh had set on the hills, and felt sublimely indifthe good taste to appreciate the exquisite ferent to The Times and Reuter's teleflavor of tobacco. The only difference grams; or you see the rhododendron

beds where you basked at the top of the fil “their manifest destiny," and a crowdWengern Alps, listening to the thunder ed population overflow the plains from the of the Jungfrau avalanches, and wonder- Alleghanies to the Rockies, the inhabiting that any man should be fool enough ants of Chicago (then to be counted by to walk who could ride. Such as these the million) and the Christian population are perhaps the first associations. Why of Salt Lake City will doubtless make are they so inexpressibly delightful ? pilgrimages to the Chamouni of the disFor much the same reason that the trict with an enthusiasm comparable to schoolboy likes his playground, or a ours. The lungs of the world will rise in workingman likes the Victoria Park. It interest just as the “lungs of London" is a thing not very surprising that the have done. Hyde Park has nothing Alps should have become the playground very attractive in its own scenery, though of nations; that the only bit of Europe it looks very well to the lawyer emergwhich neither railroads nor cultivation ing from his gloomy haunts. can materially alter should be a pleasant This change of circumstances is perrelief from the modern state of society. haps sufficient of itself to account for the Professor Tyndall is one of the most elo- fact that the wild and barren nature of quent of modern rhapsodists on Alpine mountain scenery, one, as we have bescenery; and the chord which runs fore remarked. of its most striking charthrough all his descriptions is the intense acteristics, is as much a source of pleapleasure to the scientific mind and body sure to us as it was of pain to former obof a release from stinking chemicals and servers. All the associations which we crowded lecture-rooms, conferred by the have with the Alps are of a distinctly keen mountain air taken in a shooting- agreeable character ; and they are assojacket. The whole stand-point (to use a ciations which could have no existence very unpleasant word) from which we except under our peculiar circumstances. look at them is altered. Instead of com- Mr. Ruskin has an elaborate discussion ing as our ancestors must have done, on what he calls “the mountain gloom.” like men turned out at night from a We doubt whether it requires much diswarm fireside into the bleak wilderness cussion. A man is not unnaturally which they could scarcely fence out, we gloomy after spending three or four turn as tired Londoners on a holiday into months in one shirt, supported on bread the “Crystal Palace” (another word more of granitic texture, washed down with than unpleasant). It will be easy to en- milk and water, three hours from the large upon this. We might take the in- nearest village, and seeing about two verse case. We have heard a Swiss guide, travelers in the course of the summer. looking at the matter from the inverted The views which he will take of Alpine point of view, declare rapturously his scenery are apt to be materially different preference of the view from Vauxhall from those of the gentleman who comes Station, across the chimney-pots of Lam- to get a breath of fresh air on the same beth, stretching “as far as the eye could Alps after a year spent in inhaling the reach,” to anything visible from Mont London fog. But this is of course only Blanc. The same guide showed that one of many reasons.

It will account, this was not owing to any want of sensi- perhaps, for our looking at the mountains bility by his intense delight on a first in an unprejudiced spirit, ready to appresight of the sea—the boundless plain be- ciate whatever pleasant thoughts may be ing as pleasant to him as the barren, associated with or suggested by them. confined Alpine gorges to us. Another One impediment has been removed from curious illustration to us is the uniform our perceptions which must have preventdisgust with which travelers always seem ed others from the unrestrained use of to regard the Rocky Mountains. They their faculties. We have an advantage must, we presume, be as beautiful as the similar to that which a painter would enAlps to us; but the Alps, minus civiliza- joy if suddenly dropped from a balloon tion and plus grizzly bears, red Indians, on to the summit of Mont Blanc, instead and general discomfort, seem to be an of- of panting up to it only fit to throw himfensive phenomenon.

Whenever the self flat on the snow. time comes when the Western States ful We have thus shown that in our case

« AnteriorContinuar »