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Crossing the Alps.
"In the mountains he doth feel his faith,
All things responsive to the writing there
There littleness is not. The least of things
ROM the highly cultivated and sun-warmed plains of Italy to these Alpine peaks, snow-covered and wind-beaten, what a change?-How sudden! Can it be real? Yes; for the sough of the wind around this old stone auberge, and the chilly air without, are palpable proofs even on this 18th of July, that we are upon the summit of the Simplon, where winter lives under the open sky. Besides,
"Small, busy flames play through the fresh laid coals,
Two days ago and these fiery appendages would have been as superfluous as painting the lily, smoothing ice, or describing to one who had seen and felt them, the scenery and sensations which have followed our pathway up-up-some seven thousand feet above ordinary humanity and the sea-level. So much has been written of these passes through the Alps; so much that speaks to the eye, to the ear, to all the senses; so much has been told in every variety of style, by every variety of person, that I despair of uttering any thing that can convey, even partially, an adequate idea of their sublimities.
These Alpine scenes are not to be lightly passed. The impression they produce is not a theme for flimsy rapture or minute analysis. They seem born of the GREAT GOD, and within their august temples His presence becomes omnipotence, and His worship holy and awful!
The Simplon road is named after the snow-topped mount just above our hospice. It is the crowning peak of the pass. Over the pass the road is forty-five miles. It took six years to complete it, although 30,000 men were at work. It has 611 bridges, in addition to miles of solid masonry. It is twenty-five or thirty feet wide. The road was built by Bonaparte, and is one among the many monuments, other than warlike, by which his name will be heralded to posterity. The road begins properly at Milan and ends at Geneva. It is magnificent in its construction, and stupendous in its triumphs over the ruggedness and sinuosity of nature in her wildest and loftiest freaks. Where does not this road wind and venture? Over what fearinspiring chasms; between what deep and terrific gorges; along what jutting and blackened granité, ever winding up through clouds, through cascades, among flowery meadows, along pine forests, until surmounting the jagged difficulties of the way, it leaves vegetation, yea, even the hardy lichen below, and descends with marble pathway, ever guarded at intervals with granite posts, into the valley of the Rhone!
Leaving behind us the lovely beauty of Lake Como; and the grandeur of her queenly sister Maggiore, we hurry by post to Domo D'Ossolo, the prominent place at the foot of the Simplon. Before reaching it, we had to cross by ferry, several wild torrents, where bridges had once been. Upon one of these ferries, there was a beautiful specimen of a chanticleer, with tiny bells in his gills and his comb; who, before we reached the opposite shore, rung his bells, crowed joyously, flapped his wings, and cleared the space between boat and shore. Perhaps that was his custom. I did not inquire. Our courier, Dominichino, was here at home, and rattled off his native Piedmontese idiom,
with as much satisfaction to the host and postillions as to himself. The Piedmontese dislike the Austrians exceedingly, and take every occasion to show their contempt. Our republican courier was not behind in the national aversion. for Geneva, we began the ascent.
His passport arranged
The vale of Domo D'Ossolo was soon spread out beneath, in its verdurous luxuriance, with mulberries and myrtles, figs and trellised vines, interspersed with lovely lawns, Suddenly we pass a bridge, and behold! in a hollow and awful abyss below, the torrent thundering in white spray over rocks-deep down in the creviced mountain !-Far up and around we again overlook the chasm and bridge. We turn to bid farewell to Italy, before we trace to its mountain source this Alpine torrent. By it, we are enabled to surmount the fastnesses; for its waters have torn out this Simplon pass. The bells of the city, ringing clearly, echoed from mountain to mountain, silverly, sweetly undulating in rare music, until they fill the ear with harmony. Blending the meanwhile therewith, was the angry undertone of the torrent Douvernia, making its way insanely and violently into its bolder-strewn bed of the vale; while far up and on every side, the slopes and perpendicular sides were vivacious with cascades fretting and shining, but ever singing. We have had rain for several days, so that the mountains all the way up hither were voiceful and nimble with fleecy waterfalls and bouncing cataracts. Out of cloud and out of chasm, skipping in gleeful bound, dashing into worn holes, and leaping upward in recoiling grace, to fall back hundreds of feet-sliding from mountain summit adown smooth marble paths, making thus exquisite lace-work, manyfigured, wide and flowing, and white as milk, clear as air and musical as flutes-these fountain spirits seem to give life and activity to the massive, immovable, shattered, blackened, heavenreaching, thunder-riven Alps. We were regretting, during our way from Como, that the rain cloud was constantly over us; but after the sun had chased it away this morning, and we found its result in sach entrancing and soul-like sounds,
'So sweet we know not we are listening to them,
the regret was absorbed in the pervading joyousness and har
I have been thus particular in my mention of these fountains and cascades, because they are so life-like. They peopled the solitudes. They laughed and glittered as they hung to the beetling crags, and sung in harmony with the greater torrent, along whose bewildering way we have been winding for so many hours.
To be sure, houses and people have not been wanting. Honest-looking masons were repairing the road; women with protuberances from their necks plainly telling of the goitre,beggar-boys with no hands,-Piedmontese soldiers demanding passports,-postillions in glazed hats with silver band, in redcollared coats with bobby tails to them,-peasant girls washing clothes in the torrent, and now and then, a white-dressed chamois hunter, looking like a speck of snow against the sides of the cliffs, and firing away at Alpine venison in embryo, with what success we could not see, these were the living people whom we met and saw. Farther down, the peasants were gathering in the golden grain from the pleasant vales between the frowning mounts; and farther up, they were discernible, clipping the harvest of grass even upon apparently inaccessible rocks, and attending the cattle. But Nature, not man and his puny works, is the great object of our view. How insignificant look the habitations of men here. Pigeon-boxes they seem, far up the perilous slopes. Nay, what are the grandest exhibitions of human art compared to that immense mountain which we passed just before we entered the first Gallery. Saint Sophia, the Duomo of Milan, St. Mark's, Nôtre Dame, St. Peter's-how minute, atomic, delicate, are ye all, compared to that one "moveless pillar of a mountain's weight." Cathedrals may be sliced off from its sides, temples taken from its tops; but its majestic disproportionate proportions, many-shaped minarets
and domes, its coliseums and temples, its every-shaped structures peaking heavenward, still remain-the same for ever.
The mountain stream, whose valley forms the important Simplon, destroyed eight miles of the road in 1839. Every bridge of stone was swept away. Avalanches of stones, some huge enough to form islands, upon many of which are now cultivated gardens, and into many of which men have carved habitations, line the bed of the stream. They are scoured white and neat by the crystal cold water. Snow-drifts, under which arches are made by the torrents, lie in the bed of the stream, unmelted, and rivalling the frisky cascades in their pallid hue. Galleries are made at points along the road, under which we pass to emerge upon fearful heights above the stream, under other imminent. craggy heights, jutting far over our heads.
The gallery of Gondo, and its surrounding scenery, I would select as a specimen of the majesty, terror, beauty, vivacity, awfulness, sublimity and glory of this celebrated pass. Artists have painted it upon the canvas, engineers have discussed it in mathematical equations, poets have sung of its manifold scenes and their correspondent emotions. Dare I intrude my vagrant pen in such goodly company? Just from the sublime spectacle, with the noise of its cascades still murmuring in my ear, and the glisten of its sun-bright snows yet dazzling the eye, my description may have the merit of freshness, if not any wonderful fidelity to the ineffable original.
The Gorge of Gondo is some fifteen miles from Domo D'Ossolo, just above a miserable village of the name of Gondo. The torrent Douveria furnishes a narrow but artificial bank for the road, which, winding under the smooth and almost treeless sides of the mountain, enters the gallery. The cut is 596 feet through the solid granite mountain. The granite was so hard, and the access so difficult, that it required the incessant labor of more than one hundred men, in gangs of eight, relieving each other, day and night, to pierce it through in eighteen months! And those side-galleries, looking out upon the deep-seething "hell of