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THE I!EW YORK
PUBLIC LIDRARY

561908
ASTOR, LENOX AND
TILDEN FOHINDATIONS.
R
1912

L

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand

eight hundred and fifty-six, by

HARPER & BROTHERS,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District

of New York.

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MEMOIRS

OF

CELEBRATED CHARACTERS.

WILLIAM TELL,

THE RESTORER OF THE LIBERTY OF HELVETIA.

A.D. 1300.

We are about to relate what the Swiss have handed down as the poetic origin of their freedom; but let us first refer to history and geography for such information as they afford respecting Switzerland (or Helvetia) and its inhabitants.

The Alps, resembling a strong and prominent knot of the muscles of the earth’s granite, constitute a chain of mountains which extends over a space of three hundred leagues, from the mouth of the Rhone toward Marseilles, to the plains of Hungary. The links of this chain become

. depressed toward each extremity, and gradually lose themselves in the level country. In the centre they rise to an enormous elevation, inaccessible to the steps, and scarcely perceptible to the eyes, of men. Their summits, crenulated as the battlements of a natural fortress, stand out in bold relief from the deep azure of the heavensbrilliant in dazzling whiteness under the first light of morning, warmly colored like the rose at mid-day, and softening down into the hue of the violet as evening declines : these varying tints are produced by the reflection (more or less powerful) of the sun on the sheets of eternal snow, with which the ridges of the mountains are clothed. When we first look upon them from the valleys of Italy or France, at a distance of sixty or eighty leagues, they inspire the same sentiment, arising from infinity of height, which is produced by the sea or the firmament as regards immensity of extent. It is a spectacle which paralyzes the beholder, and from fear to terror, from astonishment to admiration, carries the thoughts of mortal man up to the Creator, for whom alone nothing is elevated or boundless; but man feels himself reduced to nonentity under the stupendous architecture of these elevated regions, and utters an involuntary cry: that cry is a confession of his own insignificance, and a hymn to the omnipotent power of the Architect. It is from this cause that the heart is usually more impressed with piety on the sea or on the tops of mountains, than on the level plains. The mirror of His works, in which the Divinity is represented, being on a grander scale, He is there retraced and revealed with more distinct and impressive feat

ures.

Toward the southern or Italian side the slopes of the hills are abrupt and steep, as an artificial rampart raised to protect and shelter that fertile country, the garden of Europe. On the north, stretching in the direction of France, Savoy, and Germany, the Alps descend from the clouds to the borers of the lakes and the level of the plains by the most gradual and gentle declivities: these may be described as immense ladders, with steps proportioned to the faculties of man. As soon as you quit the inaccessible region of snow, frost, and eternal ice, formed by the domes of Mont Blanc and the Jungfrau, the slopes become gradual ; the roots of these gi

; gantic pinnacles seem to swell the soil which covers them ; and they become clothed with earth, teeming with vegetation, with greensward, shrubs, flowers, and pasture-land, moistened by the incessant filtration of melting glaciers, which dissolve under the heat of the sun. The eminences diverge widely on all sides as they gradually decrease in altitude; like buttresses, the foundations of which are deeply and extensively sunk, to capacitate them for bearing the in

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