« AnteriorContinuar »
places which ideas should occupy, and
ties of that wonderful region of lakes the proper forms in which they should and mountains. I have indeed lived a be arranged. Every unprejudiced month in Paradise, and scarcely know, spectator must perceive that English when I return-as I must do-to that literature is running waste, and sink- 'dull native city of mine, how I shall be ing into degradation, from the want of able to endure existence. But to begin. a philosophy to guide its combinations. You know that I had too long been The earliest forms given to literature kept, sorely against my will, in the are generally dictated by instinctive dreariest part of England, and when impressions which authors have re I found myself among the mountains ceived from real life. Later authors of the north, I felt as if I had been are apt to bewilder themselves among dropt from the sky into some far disthe variety of existing models, and to tant land of enchantment. My very choose modes of writing which do not soul seemed changed with the scenery always harmonize with the principal around me, and I gave myself up to a ideas they mean to convey.
When crowd of delightful emotions that the lights and instincts of nature have formed, as it were, a new and combeen lost sight of (as they always must plete life of themselves, independent be after a long series of artificial com
of all former recollections. I was in. positions), it is only by the influence sulated, among the dreary sea of human of philosophy that literature can be existence, in a spot that seemed sacred regenerated, and made to spring up to happiness,-care, sorrow, and anxiagain in pure and symmetrical forms. ety, were shut out by an everlasting bare English literature, indeed, has all a- rier of mountains; there was a bright long been more remarkable for sub- regeneration of all the brightness of stance and vigour, than for fine pro- early youth, and I walked along like a portions or flowing outlines. The ex- being who had never suffered the deternal causes of that vigour, however, pression of mortality, but was strong are now on the decline; and there re in the spirit of gladness that seemed mains but one chance for our litera- to pervade universal nature. These ture, namely, that of being regenera- feelings may seem exaggerated or inted by a spirit of system, proceeding comprehensible to those who have out of a more profound analytical ex lived all their days in a beautiful and amination of human nature, than has magnificent country, or to those whose hitherto taken place in England. If hearts are bound only to cities and nothing of that sort comes round, our communities of men. The first canliterature must go rapidly down the not fully understand the glorious ex. hill. Schlegel has a passage on this ultation of novelty that expands the subject, which we have already quo- soul of an enthusiast, admitted but ted in a former number of this publi “ in angel-visits short and far becation. It contains so much truth, tween” to communion with those that we earnestly request our readers great and lovely forms of nature, to turn back to No XVII. Vol. III. among which they themselves have page 509, and read it over again. passed all their tranquil lives—while
the second can yet less sympathize with that devotional feeling excited by objects which to them yield, at best, but a transitory entertainment. It is
perhaps on persons such as I that na( Translated from the German of Phi ture most omnipotently works, persons
lip Kempferhausen—written in the who have known enough of her and Summer of 1818.)
her wonders to have conceived for her
a deep and unconquerable passion, but LETTER I.
whom destiny has debarred from free
quent intercourse, and chained down MY DEAR FRIEND,
among scenes most alien indeed to all I MAY now safely say that I know her holiest influences. something of the character of the north of England ; and if you afford
My heart leaps up when I behold me any encouragement to write long
A rainbow in the sky." letters, I shall attempt to give you Those little secret haunts of beauty some description of the infinite beau- which one sometimes sees near the
LETTERS FROM THE LAKES.
suburbs of a great smoky city, never peculiar light over the face of Nature. fail to touch my heart with inexpressi- For a while I was haunted by a deble pleasure. They seem vestiges of lightful perplexity concerning the momy past youth--groves of gladness ral character of the happy people, left sacred in the melancholy waste whose figures, faces, dresses, fields, of time and peopled with a thou- gardens, houses, churches, all seemed sand visions. They have often made to me so interesting-and so impresme feel how imperishable is the love sive. Nature, thought I, is in herself of nature-a love that may sleep, but most beautiful--and beautiful would may not be extinguished-that, like an this region be, even were it a region of early attachment to a human soul, can lifeless solitude. But here, there is a live for ever on occasional or recollect- subordination of all the various works ed smiles, and is unconsciously strong of man to the spirit that reigns over in the mournfulness of absence as in all the vast assemblage of these various the bounding bliss of enjoyment. For works of nature. The very houses nearly fifteen years of a life yet short, seem to grow out of the rocks--they I had seen mountains, and glens, and are not so much on the earth, as of the cataracts only on the canvass-silent earth-every thing is placed seemingly shadows of thunderous magnificence, just where it ought to be-there is a --fair gleamings of light and verdure, concord and a harmony in the disruptthat no art can steal from the bosom ed fragments of the cliffs that have of inimitable Nature. But now I was overstrewed the plains with treerestored to my birth-right-the moun crowned natural edifices, no less than tains, the rocks, the lakes, the clouds, in the artificial habitations that are the
very blue vault of heaven itself mingled with that mountain-architecwere felt to belong to me, and my ture, in every imaginable shape of fansoul, expanding like a rainbow, em- tastic beauty.--Here must dwell an inbraced the whole horizon in its own digenous population—their outward brightening joy.
forms and shews of life are moulded The circumstances in which I was, visibly by the influence of these superdrew around me a peculiar atmosphere incumbent mountains the genius of of feeling. I was of stranger-a fo- theplace—the“Relligio Loci” has made reigner-in this heavenly land. All what it willed of the human life over the mountains that rose up before which it presides. Never before had me had each its own name unknown I seen nature so powerful in the birth · to me-on every hand streams came of beauty, harmony, solemnity, gendancing by me, that doubtless gave tleness, and peace, all blending with appropriate appellations to the long and sustaining the works and the spirit winding vallies which they made so of animated existence. beautiful-cottages peeped from every For the first day or two I understood little covert of wood, and shone in every thing I sawimperfectly, but there clusters on every hill-side, filled with was unspeakable delight in the conhappy beings all strangers to me, and stant flow of images that kept passing now for the first time brought into the through my soul. In a foreign country existing world of my imagination-an almost every thing is, to a certain decient halls, impressed with a solemn gree, new to us. Things so familiar shade of hereditary grandeur, at times to the natives as not even to be seen lifted themselves above the fine oak by them, touch a stranger with an inwoods—there hung a mossy bridge that quiring emotion, and as he is becoming for centuries had spanned the cliffy tor- gradually acquainted with the meanrent-there stood a chapel bright in ing, and purposes, and character of a green old-age of ivy—there lay a every thing around him, his mind engray heap of stones—burial-place, or joys a singular union of the pleasure cairn, or shapeless and undistinguish- of mere perception, with that of imaable ruin of some dwelling of the days gination, and even of the reasoning fagone by. The great objects of nature culty. It is like acquiring a new lanherself speak an universal language, guage, when words seem gradually to and I understood at once the character brighten into things, and when the of the noble mountains of England. page of a book, at first dim and perBut here, there were under tones new plexing, seems at last crowded with to my heart; the spirit of human life pictures brightly painted and clearly breathed a peculiar music-shed a defined. I had not slept two nights
among the hills of Westmorland, till at the time, nor food for future poetiI felt as if I could have pointed out cal meditations. I therefore asked and explained to others, beauties, which, no questions, even of those intelligent on my first entrance into the country, and noble looking shepherds whom I might be said to have enjoyed, ra I often passed upon the hillside; I ther than to have understood. I soon courteously returned their somewhat felt like a native-and in walking up haughty and laconic salutations, and the mountains, have acquired some- passed on like a shadow along the thing of the springing step and for- verdant moss, or the finty crags. ward-leaning attitude of the shepherds Why should I ask what the moun. and the herdsmen.
tains themselves told me in language A strong and deep passion for na- easily understood. I saw before me ture, especially when of a sudden re the cliff that might not be sealed vived and gratified to the utmost, seeks and the abyss that might not be deto indulge itself in solitude,-and on scended. At each bend of a valleyplunging into the manifold recesses of on each shoulder of a mountain-my those magnificent mountains, I felt magnificent and royal road stretched that even the conversation and society into the distance—I feared not to move of a beloved friend would have been onwards when the torrent called upon irksome, much more the unsatisfactory me to follow—and if the thick mistovertalk of some peasant guide, whose pro- shadowed me, I waited till the blast vincial dialect I, though well acquainte drove into air the walls of my prisoned with the pure English tongue, house. At night-fall I could recollect might have been unable distinctly to no plan on which I had pursued my have understood. I wished for no guide pilgrimage, but I did recollect many and in good truth I needed none. a panoramic vision on earth-many a I had an imperfect map-knowledge phantasmagorial procession through of the geography of those mountains the heavens--all the tamer scenery of and had formed to myself a confused the spectacle was forgotten, and in and dim picture of its celebrated lakes sleep my senses continued to be im-but I cared not into what pass I pressed by a wild and hurried confufirst penetrated I went not there to sion of all the mrt majestie images of prove the correctness of other men's nature. descriptions-orto sail down the stream I felt afraid to enter into conversaof their emotions—I had no faith in tion with the shepherds and peasants that mock philosophy that pretends to in whose cottages I slept. I wished lay down the infallible laws of beauty them to be what they seemed to my and grandeur, and draws out rules for imagination, and I was loth to acquire scientifically making our approaches to an imperfect knowledge of their charwards the impregnable precipices of na- acter, lest the strong interest which ture, ---I chose rather to travel like the their appearance had created in my free wind that shifts twenty times a- mind should thereby be destroyed or day, yet, midst all its caprices, obeys the weakened. Never had I seen so finespirit of the regions where it roams; looking a race. The young men were and, if I may so speak, to linger, like all tall, straight, and muscular, with a calm, in places of sudden and unex- brown-clustering hair, and bronzed pected peace. Who shall pretend to faces, in whose high and regular feadetermine which of a hundred vallies tures nothing vulgar or clownish apis the most beautiful ? Who ever saw peared. The old men, as I have all the beauties that, during one long seen them, sitting at their cottage summer day pass over the very humblest doors, or beneath a huge beam of dell? There can be no guide to a love wood that forms a recess for the fireer of nature but that love itself—and place in these simple dwellings, seemhe who once surrenders the course and ed, with their solemn countenances flow of his affection and his imagina- and gray heads, like patriarchs of the tion to the will of another,-sees as he great pastoral age; while the young wasees
and feels as he feels and may men, beautiful as angels, and arrayed undoubtedly both see and feel much in a bashful yet no inelegant timidity that is startling and impressive ; but in the presence of a stranger, even his pleasure, after all, must be a bar- surpassed all my former ideas of the ren pleasure, and can create within fabled charms of shepherdesses and the soul, neither exalted enthusiasm mountain-nymphs. Never before bad
I seen human life in low estate, with away from the level expanse of a lake, out something allied to degradation. however beautiful or majestic, as from But I now beheld before me the free a scene too peaceful for the tumultuous children of the soil, and I could not state of my senses and imagination. but admire the sons and daughters of
In this wild mood I traversed many liberty. There was nothing like ser- of the mountain glens of Westmorvitude to be seen among them. I land and Cumberland ; and I was forcould not tell whether the young tunate enough to enjoy every kind of maidens were or were not daughters weather, from the stillest and brightof the family; all seemed to perform est sunshine to the most loud and the same household work in those stormy darkness. Now that I have calm evenings which I passed silently become somewhat familiar with the among them; and every thing went " local habitations and the names," I on as if one kind spirit of love and cannot but admire the many wayhappiness insensibly filled all hearts ward routes which, in all the glorious with one purpose. Of these interest- delight of ignorance, I find that I ing people I have since seen much; have occasionally followed. One very but I dare not yet venture to speak of stormy day, I left the village of Patthe habits, manners, customs, and terdale (a hamlet surrounded by huge feelings, of a race so unlike any other mountains at the head of a lake called I have beheld, and whom it requires to Ullswater); and, ascending a steep wild study thoughtfully before it is possible pass through the hills that hang over for a stranger to understand them. the little inn, came at last by the edge of How should I dare to describe their frightful precipices to the very summit character, till I have seen into the soul of Helvyln. I then may say, that I of their lonely, their adventurous, and few before a strong-rushing wind amost peculiar life? A shepherd's year is long the smooth brink of a succession one of many seasons !
of semicircular basins of vast depth, It was the land of lakes through in some of which lay black sullen which I was a pilgrim. Yet I know pools, till I descended the shoulder not how it happened, that, during the of a huge mountain upon the old oak first days I saw no lakes that had pow. woods and the ancient Hallof Rydal. I er to detain me on their shores. I had then crossed the valley through which passed some years of my boyhood on the high road runs from Kendal to the sea-shore; and as I walked by Keswick, and, ascending Loughrig Fells the edge of these calm sheets of water, (I have a pleasure in writing these I seemed to long for the hollow mur- names), came out of the enveloping mist murs of the ocean, and felt the want in the long and solemn valley called of that awful sound. But it was Langdale: having traced that valley the mountains that, when I was yet to its head, I bore on across the opat a distance from them, wholly filled posing precipices, and after two hours' my imagination. The deep blackness walk in a savage solitude, my course that separated one mighty mass from was blocked up by an enormous another-the topmost crags that shot mountain (the Great Gabel); so, wheelinto the sky's heart—the sudden illu- ing to the right, I soon descended inminations that burned on the cliffs to Borrowdale, a vale filled with rocks, till the whole side of a hill would seem woods, promontories, and even mounon fire-the clouds that coursed not tains, -and certainly not to be suralong the sky, but up the glens, and passed by any scene on earth for beau. cleaving to the mountains half-way ty mixed with grandeur wildness down, sometimes with amazing veloci- with cultivation and profound secluty flying past in detached and broken sion sometimes widening out into fragments, and sometimes coming on such a sweeping magnificence, that it with a majestic slowness in deep pro- would seem a fitter site for palaces cessional masses, as if from an im- than cottages, for cities than for hammense distance and then, the sounds lets;-then espying through the openof the desert at times even terrible ing storm a wild staircase in a moun. these were the things that followed tain to the left, I toiled up its steps me, and that I followed there was a against the hurricane, and, descendsort of rolling-aswell in my soul that ing its long, dreary, melancholy yale, I wished not to subside, and in that by the side of a stream rolling mood I think I should have turned over a bed of blue slate, just us the
evening closed in, I reached a small wished to be a hermit in the severe inn on the banks of Buttermere, having sojourn of that other profounder glen, been without one hour's rest, hurry- it was here that I almost thought, ing on through the storm from sunrise to sunset, and having travelled
“ That lowly shepherd's life was best," nearly fifty miles, through all possible and could have pitched my tent in varieties of mountain scenery. this bright and warbling solitude.
Next morning, by sunrise, I left But the sweet cottages and green the valley, in which lie separated from mounds of Eskdale soon faded behind each other, by some smili meadows, me;-as I ascended a steep mountain, the lakes of Buttermere and Cromackó which I believe is called Hardknot, Water, and passing a singular cataract the mists again encircled me in dark in a roaring cleft between two high ness, and I saw nothing for two hours perpendicular rocks, I followed a green but black crags, or foamy waterfalls, and wide pass, till I came to the top till the gentle hours of evening again of a mountain hanging over the lake stole over the earth, and I continued of Ennerdale, whose shores stretch walking on through a succession of away in Arcadian beauty, till it melts meadows, coppice-woods, and rocky into a noble vale extending to the sea. heaths, till a brighter smile of verdure Instead of pacing the level banks of all round me, and more frequent cotthis lake, I penetrated the misty mass tages, and a widened rivulet, warned of mountains at its head, and, after me that some village was near, and long bewilderment, came suddenly just as the rooks were gathering for the down upon the head of Wastdale, in night on a lofty row of pine trees, I whose profound and silent depth—for entered Ambleside, a romantic village, the wind had wholly ceased-lay a
situated on the slope of a hill, crowncluster of cottages embowered in trees, ed by its white church-tower, and and close to them a little building, commanding the view of a noble valscarcely larger than a cottage, but ley, which terminates in the lake of which I discovered from its shape to Windermere. be a chapel. This is the most solitary If ever, my dear P., you visit this place I ever beheld; and what makes enchanted land, endeavour to make the solitude more affecting is, that it your way through the mountains in has, and seems long to have had, its the track I have now described. I own small population. The few houses have sketched these two days' walk it contains are old, but not ruinous very slightly and generally; but he ash trees of immense age overshadow who has traversed this mountainous them-and all around them are the region, has assuredly seen specimens remains of woods long ago decayed, of the finest things the country conand some solitary yew-trees, within tains.-Yours ever. whose wreathed trunks centuries seem to be enclosed, and that give to this still pastoral scene something of an indefinite and mysterious solemnity. Methought I could have lived here
MY DEAR FRIEND, for ever!-transient thought! I soon left this solitary hamlet, and, pausing I have now been a fortnight at Amon the top of a hill, gave it a farewell bleside, and have studied with enthuglance; and then, crossing a long siastic love, the character of nature, moor, and its own dreary lake (Barn- as she is displayed in the enchanted moor-Tarn), I descended into a vale circle of which that sweet village may of a character altogether opposite be considered as the centre. Wherever to that of Wastdale,-a long nar a man happens to be, indeed, he is apt to row vale, smiling with cultivated fields feel that all things gather, as it were, -watered by a rivulet, that, though round himself—and even though there much swollen, was still translucent, be no such combination of objects in and, along all its course, beautifully reality, they seem all to diverge from shaded with trees. Never saw I such his place of abode in imagination. fair cottages as in this valley-all But Ambleside is a central situation,seemed cheerful serenity, and placid and each day has presented me with a enjoyment; and if two hours ago I fresh vision of beauty and magnifi