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process by which the bluish grey of twilight is first transmuted into a delicate purple, gradually warning into a rosy, and then a still warmer glow, as the power of the yet unseen sunbeam comes into fuller operation upon the snow's unsullied whiteness ; for myself, not being equal to a scientific, I must be content with a poetico-critical deduction from it, in reference to one of those enigmatical beauties which Mr. Tennyson has been pleased to give to his readers, in order that they may exercise ingenuity, or, as the case may be, exhibit absurdity in conjecturing their meaning
Twice in the course of that remarkable composition, entitled a “Vision of Sin,” which concludes his revised volume of Lyrics, the laureate has introduced these lines :
To the horizon's verge withdrawn,
God made himself an awful rose of dawn. Sundry" notes and queries” have been put as to the meaning of this mysterious last line. More than one answer has been hazarded, but the oracular poet himself has not condescended to define his own meaning, and therefore leaves it open to one conjecture more; the meaning intended, I conceive to be, that through all the phases and madness of reckless sin, the sinner can never get rid of an overshadowing sense of an awful God, who has appointed a day " wherein to judge the world in righteousness ;" that this sense of coming judgment may be dim and faint, but yet as inevitable a token of future account as the blush before dawn of the coming day.
While we stood on the Righi Culm, in high-wrought expectation of the sun's up-rising, unable to calculate at what moment he would actually emerge, and yet continually warned that he was coming near and yet nearer by the increasing redness of the eastern sky, causing a kind of awful hushed anxiety for the moment—when we could say that the sun was “risen upon the earth” and that we stood in his full light, these words of Tennyson's occurred to me as best calculated to describe my. sations, and as embodying a conception from a natural image, which, if it was not in the mind of the author when writing them, might, if he had ever waited such a moment as this, well be so. One would like to know the value of such a conjecture if it would be possible to induce this rather transcendental poet to condescend to the infirmities of admiring readers and perplexed commentators.
Nearer, and yet nearer, and at last the day-god surmounts the Alpine heights and gives the signal to our lower world to “go forth” to its varied labours, pleasures, joys, and sorrows“ until the evening.” What ideas of force and power are conveyed by the ascending luminary driving up, as it were, the clear blue steep of the Empyrean, scattering the mists and vapours, which seem to be annihilated by his very presence. No one can have ever stood and contemplated the rush of a steam-train carrying its hundred tons at the rate of forty miles an hour without receiving the impression of irresistible force in action, and of human nothingness in comparison to the giant power it has evoked. But the scientific embodiment of power sinks into nothingness, and becomes of the earth and earthy," when compared with the glorious, quiet, natural strength in which the "great light made to rule the day' rolls on his unwearied course, ful. filling from the first morning of creation the simple fiat, “let there be light." And with light ministering all those appliances of living enjoy
ment without which being, if it were indeed a possibility, would be a dreary blank instead of an endowment from God "given to his intelligent creation richly to enjoy."
The sea of mountains which spreads itself to the south and east, as “Alp o'er Alp ascends," baffles all description. We heard on every side names of interest—"Voilà Mont Blanc !” “Yung Frau!” “Gliasnich!" and so on—but to identify these with any of the giant peaks before, us was impossible. "Mont Pilatre,” as it stood out in gloom and nearness, though but comparatively a pigmy, was a more impressive object than those huge real mountains looming in the distant horizon. And on the Righi top one is obliged to let imagination loose in unlimited conjecture rather than attempt to realise anything like accurate knowledge of the Oberland wonders spread out before him.
There is one point of the panorama within what is called “the middle distance," on which the spectator gazes with an interest to which the mere sepse of seeing contributes little. As the eye ranges over the Lake of Lowertz, the position of the little town of Schwytz may be seen, or guessed at, marked as its site is by splintered peaks, called " The Mitres;" and near it one loves to fancy that the meadow of “Grütli” can be distinguished by its "greenery," as the natural temple in which the original vow of Swiss freedom was registered more than five centuries since. As I strained my eyes to catch the spot through the growing light of morning, there came to my memory a passage which I had been reading in a Swiss history a few days before, namely, the words of fierce taunt with which the wife of “Werner Stauffacher" first roused in him that spirit of resistance to the castled chiefs," who from their strongholds of pride, lust, and oppression had so long held the mountaineers in thraldom : “ Combien de temps encore verra't-on l'orgueil rire et l'humilité pleurer ?”. Des étrangers seront-ils les maîtres de ce pays, et les héritiers de nos biens ? A quoi sert-il que nos montagnes soient habitées par
des hommes? Mères, devons-nous nourrir des fils mendians, et élever nos filles pour servir d'esclaves aux étrangers ? Loin de nous tant de lâcheté !”
These words, as we loitered over our cafe before departure, wrought themselves into the following contribution to the Righi Culm Album :
THE BIRTI-WORDS OF SWISS FREEDOM.
How long from the castles which rise on our steeps
It kindled, it strengthened—it spread and full soon,
Swore a vow, which they kept, and the Swytz-land is free.
R. We are whiling away description, as we whiled away our time on the Culm, in hopes that to the splendours of our sunset and sunrise might be added one other exhibition, which would have rendered our achievements of the Righi a perfect success. We had heard of the “Righi Spectre” a kind of Swiss rival to the “Spectre of the Brocken"-and we lingered on the Culm, in the hope that to all our other good fortune might be added that peculiar atmospheric combination of mist and sunshine, by which sometimes the shadow of the mountain, and of any person who may be on it at the time, are projected in gigantic proportions upon a huge vapour looking-glass, or curtain, opposite. We looked in vain for this grand phenomenon, and yet our watch was not altogether fruitless. For, though the mist was wanting, the sun shone out with remarkable strength and power, and gave us a minor wonder well worth waiting for. This was no less than the whole mountain on which we stood clearly reflected from the snow curtain or sheet of the Oberland Alps. We could trace the outline of the Righi quite as distinctly as our own shadows on the grass before us; and must leave to the readers to calculate the delight with which we viewed this effect of a solar magic lantern, in which the object exhibited was an isolated mountain, 5700 feet in altitude, projected at a distance from fifty to one hundred miles !
The sun was now shining in his strength upon the earth, the glory of the ante and post sunrise half-hour was gone, and we now turned into the “Culm Hotel” for coffee and the bill, preparatory to our descent by the way of Kussnath to Lucerne. We had discharged our cavalry the night before, the downward journey was to be made on foot, or, where the way allowed the ladies to be carried, by chaises à porteur engaged for them; while our American friend, his guide and I, took the road, or rather the ravine, Alpen-stock in hand.-N.B. Every one buys an Alpenstock on a Swiss mountain. It would be a curious statistical inquiry to ascertain how many of them are ever carried beyond the first hotel, where they are laid down.
The downward path to Kussnath has nothing remarkable about it, and our progress was marked by little of interest, save a conversation with our friend's guide, which I record here for the benefit of those tourists who travel over Europe, surrendering themselves to the “ tender mercies” of that variety of the genus homo called —Courier !
We had by this time established a pleasant travelling familiarity with the young
American. He attached himself to the suite of my daughters, while his guide transferred his attentions altogether to me. I found him very intelligent and communicative, and he produced a perfect volume of attestations from tourists, who professed to have tested his. civility and fidelity through all sorts of explorations of Alp-land.
Our conversation was carried on in French, and after I had asked him if " he knew anything of English ?" to which his response was, “No, sir, I wish I did,” he surprised me by the inquiry whether “I wanted a domestic ?” a question which he followed up by an offer, that if I would take him to England in my service, he would “ serve me for five years without any wages-not any whatever !"
I was startled by the proposition ; reminiscences of “Lord William Russell's tragedy' came to my memory“I had not the least desire to accept the offer; and at last 1 said, " It is not the custom of English masters to receive service without wages. We never do it.” I then added, “Why do you make the proposal?”
“Tenez, monsieur," he said, laying his hand on my arm; “ I am here a guide, and a good one. But here I can never be more ; I am a guide for life—until I grow old, or perhaps die in a crevasse or a drift—but if I was some years—say five, for I am young, monsieur-in England, I should then comprehend English, and make myself courier; and then," his eyes sparkled as he said, “in few years more I should come home and sit down rich~-rich as a syndic,” this being, I suppose, the Swiss equivalent for our expression of “rich as a Jew.
" “But,” I replied, "your wages as a guide are quite as good as a courier's, I should think?"
“Wages-bah !- wages is a bagatelle. Monsieur will pardon my ignorance, that I presumed to offer him a compliment of it for his service. The wages are nothing-nothing! it is the opportunities and all that.”
“What are the opportunities?" I asked, knowing his meaning, but wishing to discover more of his opinion on the subject.
“I don't know what they are, for I am not courier yet. There is a Verbundnik
them which I hope to understand some day. All I know now is, that I see poor fellows like myself go out in a courier dress, and presently they come home, and don't regard the "burgmeister:' that's what I should like to do.”
Our subject ended on my assuring the poor fellow that his proposition could not be entertained by me.
Poor Louis Schmutz of Swytz (such was his name recorded in my pocket-book) may have since found some one to accept his services, and put him in the way of gratifying his ambition, though I fear without improving his integrity,
While on the subject, I may mention an incident illustrative of those “ opportunities,” which improved as they know how to improve them, send these courier gentry home as "rich as syndics” and proud as “ burgmeisters.
When leaving Rome in that annual dispersion after Easter, which regularly puts fifty per cent. on the price of veturinos and post-horses until the food-tide of travel has abated, an agreeable military friend, who had half promised to take the fourth seat in our carriage, told me one day that he had been laid hold on by two old lady relatives, whom he accidentally encountered, and who, in their horrors and alarms at “banditti,” had fairly pressed him into their service as far as Florence.
“ Their courier was not to be found,” said he, “and in the run for carriages, I am going to engage a veturino for them. I'm sorry I can't join you ; I had much rather.”
I also expressed my regret, and we parted. Later in the day, I met him again, in high glee at having just concluded an engagement for a very good carriage and horses at the price of, I think, twenty-three napoleons, or some such sum ; and, considering the “run ” on the road, I thought he had made a very fair bargain indeed.
Next day we met as usual. When, in reply to some question as to his journey, Captain M—'s countenance immediately fell, as he answered: “I'm in a nice travelling predicament. In my endeavour to serve these old tabbies I told you of, I am become liable to a complaint for a broken contratto;" and then, with an emphasis most unusual with a high-bred gentleman, he added one of those expressions which “in a captain is a choleric word,”—“ when I interfere between a courier and his dupes again, I'm
He then related to me, that while in the act of telling his ancient relatives the clever bargain he had concluded on their behalf, in marched the courier! who, heretofore, in all their journeyings, had sole charge of these old ladies," body, soul, and circular notes' inclusive.” Monsieur le Courier listened very coldly to the intelligence of Captain M-'s bargain ; observed that a carriage at that price could not be fit for “ Miladies ” to put foot into; he had himself just engaged a carriage, en particulier and très bon marché, for thirty napoleons ; the contratto was made, and he could not break it without forfeit—and so on.
* The worst of it is," continued the irate captain, “I have seen the carriage the infernal scoundrel has put upon us. It is one I rejected myself as inferior, before I engaged my own; and, as sure as we are speaking, the fellow actually pays less for it, and pockets the difference, in the shape of commission, per-centage, or some such mode of extortion.”
So much for the “opportunities” which send these harpies home rich men after a few years' plunder of English dupes. I say English, for, according to the proverb, “ Hawks do not pike out hawks' eyes," continentals do not prey on each other; and I believe the English to be the only nation which delivers itself, tied and bound, to the calamity of Courierism.
The descent from the Righi brings you to one of the Tell's chapels, of which there are several in this cradle corner of Swiss freedom.
It is very provoking to find in our utilitarian age that Tell and his heroism is beginning to be rationalised into little better than a myth. Some ugly anachronisms are beginning to be affirmed as to his various trophies ; for example, the tower, popularly supposed to mark the spot where he shot the apple from his son's head, is now discovered to have existed a century previous to the date of that event-if it happened at all ; and iu like manner do they begin to pick holes in the other deeds of daring in his memorable career. So that there is much danger that in some future day this object of popular hero-worship will himself be explained away into a kind of Swiss “ Mrs. Harris.” This is not merely provoking, but injurious. It is removing from before the minds of the simple mountaineers a standard measure of patriotic devotion and daring, which has often led them to maintain their hard-won rights, to the admiration of the world. Malo cum Platone errare. Rather than be convinced with, or by, the most hard-headed matter-of-fact investigator of our age, I should prefer these reflections, to the following effect, which suggested themselves to the mind of Sir James Mackintosh at the chapel of the Tellen-platte, on Lucerne Lake, the principal shrine of Swiss devotion to the memory of their hero :
“To the inhabitants of Thermopylæ or Marathon these famous spots are but so many square feet of earth. England is too extensive, too