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In confirmation of the sentiment of the poet, the following remarks of an eminent geologist may be cited: "If, in contemplating," says Dr. MacCulloch, "the towering peaks and the solid precipices of an Alpine region, braving the fury of the elements and the floods of winter, the spectator is at first impressed with the character of strength and solidity which nature here seems to have conferred on her works, it requires but a moment's reflection, to show that every thing around him bears the marks of ruin and decay. Here he learns to withhold his regret at the perishable nature of all human labors,-at the fall of the strong tower and the solid pyramid,-when he sees that the most massive rocks, those mountains which seem calculated for eternal duration, bear alike the marks of vicissitude and the traces of ruin." With sudden transition, the scene whose stillness had been hitherto disturbed by no sound save the monotonous voice of waters, awoke as from a profound lethargy, and gave terrific signs of life and motion. Whirling masses of clouds enveloped all but the summits of the loftiest peaks, the deep-mouthed thunder bellowed among the rocks, and vivid flashes of lightning succeeded each other in rapid succession. As the thunderbolt leapt from mountain to mountain, and the red lightning flew like shafts of vengeance among the echoing peaks, I could not help calling to mind the impious war waged by the fabled Titans against the majesty of Heaven. The quick, explosive shocks, which almost deafened the startled ear, were repeated by a hundred hills, until they died away in the prolonged moanings of the distant echo. Presently the tumult subsided, the tempest was hushed, the sun shot forth a kindly ray, the mists vanished, a delightful calm ensued, and the whole scene assumed a fairer and brighter aspect.
We slept this night at a pretty village called St. Michaels, and starting again at two o'clock, reached Lanslebourg, at the foot of Mount Cénis, a little after day-break. Here we determined to accomplish the passage of the mountain on foot, and accordingly set out upon an enterprise which we should probably have not undertaken, had we anticipated the labor which it involved. Mont Cénis is between six and seven thousand feet above the level of the ocean, and could not be traversed by carriages, until the construction of the new road which I have described. At intervals, houses of refuge are placed, occupied by persons in the employ of the government, who keep the way in repair, and administer succour to the erring or weary traveller. Though somewhat advanced in the month of April, more than the upper half of the mountain was still covered with snow, in some places accumulated to an enormous depth. After toiling a considerable time, we at length arrived, very much fatigued, at the summit, which is a large platform surrounded by an amphitheatre of elevated peaks. Here, then, is a lake, filled with excellent trout, which at the period of our visit, was entirely
covered with ice and snow. There are also several public edifices, among others, a post-house, barracks, and a monastery. We stopped about half an hour, at the first of them, to obtain a little repose and refreshment after the fatigues of our morning's journey. This elevated plain is said to be a delightful retreat in summer, when it is covered with verdure, and blooming with a great variety of Alpine herbs and flowers, which afford pasture to numerous flocks of sheep and goats, from whose milk an excellent cheese is made. The aspect, however, which it presented at this season was most dreary, and I should regard a residence on the summit of Mont Cénis as little better than a Siberian banishment. In the winter the passage is frequently interrupted for days, and accidents not unfrequently happen from the tourmente or Alpine tornado, and, at a later season, from the fall of avalanches. The "difficult air of the iced mountain top" may be breathed here in perfection throughout the greater part of the year.
The prospect of loftier hills, covered with perpetual snow, is very imposing, from this very elevated table. The solitary grandeur and tranqui 1 majesty of their dazzling summits, "far lifted towards the unfading sky," fill the spirit with solemn admiration.
But to describe the reflections or emotions awakened by such a spectacle the language of prose is tame, and I must therefore call to my aid the following lines, than which the whole range of descriptive poetry does not contain a nobler passage:
"But now with other mind I stand alone,
Through vacant worlds where Nature never gave
Which unsubstantial phantoms sacred keep;
Through worlds where life, and sound, and motion sleep;
Mocks the dull ear of Time with deaf abortive sound
To see a planet's pomp and steady light
In the least star of scarce appearing night,
And far and wide the icy summits blaze,
To him the day-star glitters small and bright,
Those fast receding depths of sable blue,
"And oft when passed that solemn vision by,
Alps overlooking Alps their state up-swell;
Huge Peaks of Darkness, named of Fear and storms,
In sea-like reach of prospect round him spread,
Resuming our journey, I had the good fortune, my companion having preceded me, to fall in with some honest Savoyards, who make it a business to accompany travellers who may stand in need of their services. I found them simple and communicative, and they furnished me with much information concerning these romantic, or, rather, savage regions and their hardy inhabitants. Their language, which is a sort of Italicized French, is not unpleasant nor difficult to understand. The reflection of the sun's rays upon the dazzling surface of the snow painfully affected the eyes, and produced an acute headache, which, combined with the fatigue of this toiling pedestrian journey, rendered the assistance of these sturdy mountaineers very seasonable. Indeed I know not what I should have done had they not lent me their arms, and almost borne me along during the latter part of the route. Being familiar with all the localities, they would frequently leave the main road and thus shorten our tedious journey. Their agility and firmness of step amid ice and snow and shelving rocks, were not a little remarkable. Sometimes they would amuse me by dropping upon their haunches, paddling themselves along with their hands, and then rapidly gliding down the steep declivities covered, with hard polished snow. The southern descent of Mont Cenis, as is the case with all the Alps, is more rapid than the northern, and is rendered difficult by numerous precipices, glaciers, cascades and torrents.
At length, as the road took a sudden turn, my eyes were cheered
* Wordsworth's Descriptive Sketches.
with a distant view of the plains of Italy. It will be readily believed when I assert that my spirit glowed, and my heart leaped within me at the prospect. I felt something of the ardor of the soldiers of Hannibal, when after long fatigues and countless dangers their leader pointed to them the fair regions which they had sought through so much difficulty and hazard. I beheld with indescribable emotion the verdure of the fields, the bloom of the trees and all the delightful garniture of spring. Above and around me was winter in its dreariest forms and most desolate aspect, while at my feet, and almost within my reach, the earth was green with herbage, the branches fringed with verdure and fragrant with blossoms. I felt my vigor renewed by the prospect, and seemed to breathe a softer air and inhale a balmier influence as I descended towards the land of promise. Italy (what a charm in the very name!) the land of a thousand ennobling recollections, theme of my most delightful studies, scope of my fondest aspirations, was now before me, fair as if painted by fancy, lovely as if pictured in a dream. I could not restrain my impatience, and besought my guides to hasten our steps, and if practicable curtail our route. They accordingly conducted me through a rugged path, sometimes formed by the bed of an exhausted torrent, at others following the declivity of a shelving rock, down which we glided with rapid step. I no longer observed the scenes around. My eyes were bent only before and beneath; every other feeling was absorbed by the avidity with which I hastened forward.
We at length reached the foot of the mountain and soon approached a village, when the first object that saluted my view was a religious procession. The fair train of peasant girls arrayed in white and decked with flowers, the holy insignia borne aloft, the solemn chaunt of the priests in the early calm of twilight, combined to produce an impression that was as pleasing as it was in harmony with my feelings. Passing on we did not arrive at the town of Susa until the shades of evening had fallen around. As we entered the suburbs my attention was arrested by a friar, clothed in a robe of dark serge, girt with a cord, his feet shod with sandals, and bearing in his hands a missal. His person was tall, his air dignified, his countenance calm and devout, and his whole aspect saintly and venerable. I had never before seen a monk, and I therefore gazed upon him with a mixture of curiosity and awe. The beauty of the country, the balmy softness of the air, the accents that fell upon the ear, and still more the solemn chaunt, the procession, and the dark-robed Franciscan, made me feel that I was indeed in Italy. Having parted from my faithful companions, I need not say how welcome was repose after a pedestrian journey, such as I have described, of from twenty to twenty-five miles, the distance from Lanslebourg to Susa.
A SOLDIER'S STORY.
"DRAW aside the canvass, Lascelles. Let me gaze once more upon that lovely scene."
The words were spoken in a faltering voice, by a young man stretched upon a camp-bed in one of those small but elegant tents, which the ingenuity of sutlers have adapted so admirably, in lightness and convenience, to the rapid movements of modern warfare; and were addressed to one in the undress uniform of a British offi cer, who stood or rather leaned against the bed, his arms folded upon his breast in an attitude of thoughtful melancholy. One other individual whose equipment betokened high regimental rank, sat upon a chest near his head, and watched in silence, but with strong interest, the countenance of the invalid, to which, perhaps, the pale and fitful light of a small lamp beside him lent an expression of more deep-seated anguish than he felt. The military surgeon leaned over him, his fingers professionally resting upon the pulse, and his features betraying an anxiety he was half unable to conceal, from the weak and languid motion they encountered. There was a solemnity in the silence of the group, which was deepened by the interest with which all listened to the simple request of the patient; and to those who know the obtuseness which in a time of war is created by mere frequency of occasion towards the wounded, even in the most tender, there was something touching in the alacrity with which the two officers went stealthily forward; and each lifted a corner of the drapery which shut out the landscape from the view of their unfortunate young comrade. The surgeon assisted him as he raised himself in the bed and leaned upon his hand, gazing out upon the scene with a deep, quiet satisfaction which was visibly expressed in his pale features.
The scene was indeed lovely. The breezeless silence of that enchanting midnight which in these latitudes has been described by all travellers as unsurpassed for beauty, was broken along the banks of the Patuxent by the dull and heavy hum of a numerous army in repose, the waveless expanse of the moonlit river was covered with stately ships, and in the dim distance to which the glittering waters stretched, the tall frigate and the lighter transport cast their dark shadows on its bosom. Far, far along the deep indentations which formed the shore, the white tent and the rude sheiling disclosed in the rich moonlight the resting places of battalions resigned to the complete enjoyment of that unsuspected security in which large bodies are apt to indulge. The tread of the sentinel, his long repeated call, with the occasional dipping of oars as the boats