time to time recalls the passengers thither for a moment. Now it is occasioned by the landing at the port of Ouchy, below Lausanne. Further on is Vevay, the pretty little Vaudois city that bathes its feet in the lake ; still further on is Clarens, a name made poetic by the genius of Rousseau, and which recalls the sweet Julie d'Etanges. Already we had left behind on the right the rocks of Meillerie, from the heights of which Saint Preux was about to precipitate himself in despair. The waters of the lake here attain their greatest depth, which exceeds nine hundred feet. The sublime character of this extremity of Lake Leman, encircled by mountains that become precipitous on the Savoyan shore, awakens anon the admiration of the tourist. We forget this mundane Babel, and turn again to na. ture.

The Château Chillon and its mournful legends carry you back to poetry more

than to history, a proof of PEASANTS OF THE MOUNTAINS.

the masterly power of gen

ius. The “ Prisoner," of least of all to his own countrymen; but he | Byron, is much better known than the hisholds his umbrella with a nervous hand, tory of Bonnivara. Soon, however, hisconsults his card assiduously, or imperturb- tory, poetry, and nature disappear before a ably reads his “ Hand-Book for Switzer more urgent preoccupation : that of finding land.” Lady strangers, come to contem- your trunk and not losing your baggage, plate the wonders of Switzerland, gather for we have come to the termination of our in the stern or descend to the saloon, and voyage; the enchantment of navigation, give themselves up to a charming prattle which, perhaps, we have not fully appreciin reciprocally detailing the minutiæ of ated, has ceased, and we fall again into the their toilet. The young ladies exchange material troubles which form the inevitable albums; and a few, forgetful of the lake ground-work of what is called a pleasure and its shores, read some new romance. trip. The prettiest enjoy the pleasure of being It is necessary to be in all haste, and looked at without having the appearance dispute with the crowd, all equally in a of seeing anything; and others, who are hurry, a place in one of the omnibuses not pretty, set themselves up in the charac- from Villeneuve to Saint Maurice, and ter of duennas, and survey, with an inquisi- to assure yourself that your baggage is torial eye, both the admirers and the ad. well fastened to the carriage, and that it mired.

will not be deposited en route to Aigle However, the confusion on deck from or Bex.




The pleasing impressions which are ex- creep rather than walk, that make inarperienced in the morning at Geneva from ticulate sounds in their throats in place of a view of the quiet azure of the sky, and words, whose laugh is a grimace, and whose the water, and the beautiful distinctness smile freezes you, that stop you as mendiof the landscape, yield here to the most cants, and whose contact with you causes severe realities.

an involuntary horThe dale of Va

ror, as if you were lais opens before

seized by a phantom you, traversed by

in the nightmare ? the Rhône on its

Yet they appear inway to the lake, the

offensive, and whatsame as in the morn

ever may be the ing you had at your

hideous complicaright that pleasant

tion that in them valley whence flows

attains to perfect the Arve, coming

ugliness, an uglifrom Chamouni, and

ness so monstrous commanded by bold

that it would disMont Blanc in the

grace a beast, yet I distance.

know not whether it But while this

is their early degraopens widely, the

dation or a kindly valley of the Rhone, more inclosed by high decay that extinguishes upon their features mountains, presents, in spite of its rich even the appearance of malice and all of vegetation, more somber perspectives, and the passions. What are these objects of has a mournful aspect. The snows do fear or of derision? They are idiots ! not shine so radiantly as those of Mont (cretins.) Unfortunate race! It would Blanc, which appear like a glittering carpet seem that Divine vengeance was wreaking spread out for angels to climb upon to the itself on them, that they are the cursed furthest verge of earth, and rise from thence offspring of some one of the Titans, who to heaven. Here they are scattering and tried to scale heaven by piling up mounthung upon the broken edges of cloud-capped ains, and were discomfited by the thunders summits, or else they appear in the distant of Jupiter. horizon to form mysterious and inaccess- On the contrary, however, the fathers ible retreats.

of these poor idiots If the shades of

were a simple peoevening have com

ple and pious Chrismenced falling in

tians, who came to the valleys, a se

find pasturage for cret terror glides

their herds in these into the imagina

secluded valleys, tion of the unac

who passed their customed traveler

lives in prayer, and at this threshold of

through lack of unknown solitudes,

bread lived upon leading to the sum

milk; who, through mit of the Alps, to

lack of wine, coolregions ever vexed

ed their thirst with with tempests, to a

the clear water of world which is al

the rivulets. But ways being men

this water, against aced with glaciers

which no instinct and avalanches.

could guard them, To the mournfulness of nature may be tends to produce that most terrible of all added that which is inspired at the sight maladies, the goiter, which becomes heredof the inhabitants. What are these de- itary and acquires the fullest developformed dwarfs with a doltish look, a stupid ment; and under the influence of the same form, abortive efforts at humanity, that regime continued, the intellectual faculties



On a

are changed, and idiocy appears. What characteristic of the Valaisian women is venomous principle diffused in these run- their singular hat. It is worn by the poor ning waters has led to such rapid and pro- as well as the rich, only that of the rich found disorders in the physical organiza. is ornamented with a crest of a rich, wide, tion, and consequently in the mind ? None gold-colored ribbon, and the brim of it is at all. The presence of a little magnesia formed by a multitude of black ribbons or the absence of a little iodine suffices to placed side by side upon the edge ; a superproduce this effect. And this frightful | fuity of ornament, the idea of which would degeneracy of the human species from scarcely enter the head of a Parisian milthe same causes manifests itself throughout | liner. These fine Valaisian hats are quite mountainous countries, in the Pyrenees expensive ; but one of them lasts a long and in the Alps, in the Hartz and in the time, for they are only worn on Sundays

and occasional fete days.

If you scale the Alps, whose glaciers separate Switzerland from the kingdom of Sardinia, you will also find, in the southern valley of Aosta, the goiter and idiocy as much as in the northern valley already described. At the village of Aosta these things are infinitely worse. summer Sunday, if you pass through the streets at an hour when the inhabitants come and seat themselves before the door to enjoy the air, you will be much affected at the sight of the numerous idiots.

A single road easily accessible, the route so celebrated under the name of the Great St. Bernard, is the means of communication between these

two valleys, so rich Jura, in the valleys of Thibet, in the Ural | in beautiful and picturesque scenes, and so chain, in the Andes, and the Cordilleras. mournful by the degradation of a part of

The canton of Valais, in Switzerland, is the human race. At the culminating point one of those countries where there is a of the passage, eight thousand one hundred predilection to the goiter and idiocy. The and fifty feet above the level of the sea, is latter, in its excess, is happily the excep- situated the hospice of the Great St. Bertion, but the goiter, more or less developed, nard, in the midst of a desolate solitude is general among the women, and it is al- where all vegetation is dead, where the most as much of a deformity as the neck snow—and some winters it falls to the depth of a swan would be in carrying the head of forty feet—does not disappear from the of a Valaisian woman.

ground except during a very small portion Next to the , goiter the most general | of the year. For several months in each

[ocr errors]


year mules and horses are continually employed in transporting from the valleys below the provision, wood, and other necessaries for the use of the hospice. The establishment of this precious retreat at the very point furthest removed from habitations on either side, and where the snow-storms would be the most dangerous for the traveler exhausted by fatigue and by cold, is a beneficence that cannot be too highly appreciated, but which has been wronged by false ideas induced by declamatory exaggerations. Chateaubriand, in his “Genius of Christianity," paints a young traveler lost at night in the snow. “A dog barks, he comes near, he finds him, he howls for joy; a recluse follows him. It is not enough to expose his own life a thousand times to save men; even animals must needs be made instrumental in these sublime deeds, which they embrace, so to speak, with all the ardent charity of their masters.”

The imagination permits itself to be deceived by the use of false images. Many tourists, in approaching the convent, expect to find in the pale and austere countenances of the monks, traces of their devotion to a long martyrdom; but without referring to Chateaubriand, there is nothing, so far as can be discerned, in the physiognomy even of the dogs which appears as the glorious outshining of a solitudes they can distinguish the approach ministering angel.

of travelers at a great distance. As to Some ladies in the company in which I their manners, they are the same as all arrived one evening at the hospice during watch-dogs, not very gratifying to the à violent storm, were surprised at not see- visitor. ing some one of these valuable and hospi- On entering the convent you will find, table animals come out to meet us, carrying not recluses nor monks with a sorrowful about his neck a basket filled with provis- and mystic air, but regular canons of the ions, wrapped up in a snow white cloth, order of St. Augustine, well favored, reand a flagon of Madeira or some other receiving the traveler with affability, readviving draught. Painters, who fib as well ing the journals, and being quite converas poets, ut pictura poesis, have often rep- sant with what is going on in the world. resented such scenes. The truth is, there is At the dinner hour, which is about six nothing in it; and if by some great chance o'clock during the pleasant season, yon a dog of St. Bernard is the bearer of a lit- might be quite certain of finding a very tle basket of provisions, I would strongly agreeable company met in the dining hall caution any sentimental traveler to be very at St. Bernard. One of the monks does careful and not touch it on penalty of being the honor of the table. The repast is aldevoured at once. It is rather an unpleas- ways found good by travelers to whom the ant encounter to meet with one of these journey and the keen air have given an apdogs prowling about at some distance from petite, but as for the rest, the most rigorthe buildings. The dogs of St. Bernard ous sumptuary law could find nothing there are watch-dogs, and in the silence of these to be retrenched. The repast concluded,



[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][graphic]
« VorigeDoorgaan »