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while an ungrateful soil refuses all recompense. The mountaineer, who feels his misfortune, is more sincere than travellers. He calls the plains the good country, and does not pretend that the rocks, moistened by the sweat of his brow, but not thereby rendered more fertile, are the most beautiful and best of God's dispensations. If lie appears highly attached to his mountain, this must be reckoned among the marvellous connection, which the Almighty has established, between our troubles, the object which causes them, and the places, in which we experienced them. It is also attributable to the recollections of infancy, to the first sentiments of the heart, to the pleasures and even the rigours of the paternal habitation. More solitary than the rest of mankind, more serious from a habit of enduring hardships, the mountaineer finds support in his owo sentiments. The extreme love of his country does not arise from any charm in the district which he inhabits, but from the concentration of his ideas, and the limited extent of his wants.
Mountains, however, are said to be the abode of contemplation.—I doubt this. I doubt whether any one can indulge in contemplation, when his walk is fatiguing, and when the attention he is obliged to bestow on his steps, entirely occupies his mind. The lover of solitude, who gazed with open mouth at chimeras, * while he was climb. ing Montanvert, might well fall into some pits, like the astrologer, who pretended to read over head when he could not see his feet.
I am well aware that poets have fixed upon valleys and woods as the proper places to converse with the Muses. For instance let us hear what Virgil says.
66 Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amem, sylvasque inglorius."
* La Fontaine
From this quotation it is evident that he liked the plains,
rura mihi ;" he looked for agreeable, smiling, orna. mented valleys, “vallibus amnes;" he was fond of rivers, flumina amem," (not torrents) and forests, in which he could pass
his life without the parade of glory, “ sylvasque inglorius.” These sylvæ are beautiful groves of oaks, elms, and beeches, not melancholy woods of fir; for he does not say in this passage, “ et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra,” that he wishes to be enveloped in thick shade.
And where does he wish that this valley shall be situated ? In a place, which will inspire happy recollections and harmonious names, with traditions of the muses and of history:
« O ubi cdmai
Oh, where are the fields, and the river Sperchius, and Mount Taygetus, frequented by the virgins of Laconia ? Oh, who will convey me to the cool valleys of 'Mount Hæmus ?» He would have cared very little for the valley of Chamouni, the glacier of Taconay, the greater or lesser Iorasse, the peak of Dru, and the rock of Tête-Noir.
Nevertheless, if we are to believe Rousseau, and those who have adopted his errors without inheriting his eloquence, when a person arrives at the summit of a moun- . tain, he is transformed into a new man. snountains,” says Jean Jacques, “Meditation assumes a grand and sublime character, in unison with the objects that strike us. The mind feels an indescribable placid delight, which has nothing earthly or sensual in it. It appears to raise itself above the abode of mankind, leaving there all low and terrestrial feelings. . I doubt whether any
« On high agitation of the soul can be so violent as to resist the effects of a lenthened stay in such a situation."
Would to Heaven that it were really thus! How charming the idea of being able to shake off our cares by elevating ourselves a few feet above the plains ! But unfortunately the soul of man is independent of air and situation. Alas! a heart, oppressed with pain, would be no less heavy on the heights than in the valley. Antiquity, which should always be referred to when accuracy of feeling is the subject of discussion, was not of Rousseau's opinion as to mountains; but, on the contrary, represents them as the abode of desolation and sorrow. If the lover of Julia forgot his chagrin among the rocks of Valais, the husband of Eurydice fed the source of his grief upon the mountains of Thrace. In spite of the talents possessed by the philosopher of Geneva, I doubt whether the voice of Saint Preux will be heard by so many future ages as the lyre of Orpheus. Edipus, that perfect model of Royal calamity, that grand epitome of all earthly evils, likewise sought deserted eminences. He mounted towards Heaven to interrogate the Gods respecting human misery. We have other examples supplied by antiqui. ty, and of a more beautiful as well as more sacred des. cription. The holy writings of the inspired, who better knew the nature of man than the profane sages, always describe those who are particularly unhappy, the prophets and our Saviour himself, as retiring, in the day of affliction, to the high places. The daughter of Jeptha, before her death, asked her father's permission to go and bewail her virginity on the mountains of Judea. Jeremiah said that he would go to the mountains for the purpose of weeping and groaning. It was on the Mount of Olives that. Christ drank the cup, which was filled with all the afflictions and tears of mankind,
It is worthy of observation that in the most rational pages of that writer, who stepped forward as the defender of fixed morality, it is still not difficult to find traces of the spirit of the age in which he lived. This supposed change of our internal dispositions, according to the nature of the place which we inhabited, belonged secretly to the system of materialism ; which Rousseau affected to combat. The soul was considered to be a sort of plant, subject to the variations of the atmosphere, and agitated or serene in conformity with this. But could Jean Jacques himself really believe in this salutary influence of the higher regions? Did not this unfortunate man himself carry with him his passions and his misery to the moun.. tains of Switzerland ?
There is only one situation, in which it is true that mountains inspire an oblivion of earthly troubles. This is when a man retires far from the world to employ his days in religious exercises. An anchorite, who devotes himself to the relief of human nature, or a holy hermit, who silently meditates on the omnipotence of God, may sind peace and joy upon barren rocks; but it is not the tranquillity of the place which passes into the soul of the recluse; it is on the contrary, his soul, which diffuses serenity through the region of storms.
It has ever been an instinctive feeling of mankind to adore the Eternal on high places. The nearer we are to Heaven, the less distance there seems to be for our prayers to pass before they reach the throne of God. The patriarchs sacrificed on the mountains; and as if they
; had borrowed from their altars their idea of the Divinity, they called him the Most High. Traditions of this ancient mode of worship remained among Christian nations; whence our mountains, and in default of them our hills were covered with monasteries and abbeys. From the centre of a corrupt city, man, who was perhaps pro
ceeding to the commission of some crime, or who was at least in pursuit of some vanity, perceived, on raising his
eyes, the altars upon the neighbouring heights. The cross, displaying at a distance the standard of poverty to the eyes of luxury, recalled to the rich ideas of affliction and commiseration. Our poets little understood their art, when they ridiculed these emblems of Mount Calvary, with?
the institutions and retreats, which bring to our recollection those of the East, the manners of the hermits of the Thebaid, the miracles of our divine religion, and the events of times, the antiquity of which is not effaced by that of Homer.
But this belongs to another class of ideas and senti ments, and bears no reference to the general question, which we are examining. After having censured mountains, it is only just to conclude by saying something in their favour. I have already observed that they are essential to a fine landscape, and that they ought to form the chain in the back ground of a picture. Their hoary heads, their lank sides, and gigantic members, though hideous when contemplated, are admirable when rounded by the vapour of the horizon, and coloured in a melting gilded light. Let us add too, if it be wished, that mountains are the source of rivers, the last asylum of liberty in times of despotism, as well as an usesul barrier against invasion, and the evils of war. All I ask is that I may not be compelled to admire the long list of rocks, quagmires, crevices, holes, and contortions of the Alpine vallies. On this condition I will say there are mountains, which I should visit again with much pleasure--for instance those of Greece and Judea. *
* This letter was written prior to M. de Chateaubriand's recent Travels in the Holy Land.