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the continuous Vale of Borrowdale, Keswick, and Bassenthwaite,—with Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Saddle-back, and numerous other mountains-and, in the distance, the Solway Frith and the Mountains of Scotland ;the other side, and below us, the Langdale Pikes—their own vale below them ;-Windermere,—and, far beyond Windermere, Ingleborough in Yorkshire. But how shall I speak of the deliciousness of the third prospect! At this time, that was most favoured by sunshine and shade. The green Vale of Esk—deep and green with its glittering serpent stream, lay below us : and, on we looked to the Mountains near the Sea, -Black-Comb pre-eminent, -and, still beyond, to the Sea itself, in dazzling bright
Turning round we saw the Mountains of Wastdale in tumult; to our right, Great Gavel, the loftiest, a distinct and huge form, though the middle of the mountain was, to our eyes, as its base.
We had attained the object of this journey; but our ambition now mounted higher. We saw the summit of Scawfell apparently very near to us; and we shaped our course towards it; but discovering that it could not be reached without first making a considerable descent, we resolved, instead, to aim at another point of the same mountain, called the Pikes, which I have since found has been estimated as higher than the summit bearing the name of Scawfell Head where the Stone Man is built.
The sun had never once been overshadowed by a cloud during the whole of our progress from the centre of Borrowdale. On the summit of the Pike, which we gained after much toil, though without difficulty, there was not a breath of air to stir even the papers containing our refreshment, as they lay spread out upon a rock. The stillness seemed to be not of this world :paused, and kept silence to listen ; and no sound could be heard : the Scawfell Cataracts were voiceless to us ; and there was not an insect to hum in the air. The vales which we had seen from Ash-course lay yet in
view; and, side by side with Eskdale, we now saw the sister Vale of Donnerdale terminated by the Duddon Sands. But the majesty of the mountains below, and close to us, is not to be conceived. We now beheld the whole mass of Great Gavel from its base,—the Den of Wastdale at our feet-a gulf immeasurable : Grasmire and the other mountains of Crummock-Ennerdale and its mountains; and the Sea beyond! We sat down to our repast, and gladly would we have tempered our beverage (for there was no spring or well near us) with such a supply of delicious water as we might have procured, had we been on the rival summit of Great Gavel ; for on its highest point is a small triangular receptacle in the native rock, which, the shepherds say, is never dry. There we might have slaked our thirst plenteously with a pure and celestial liquid, for the cup or basin, it appears, has no other feeder than the dews of heaven, the showers, the vapours, the hoar frost, and the spotless
While we were gazing around, “Look," I exclaimed, “at yon ship upon the glittering sea !”
“ Is it a ship? replied our shepherd-guide. “ It can be nothing else,” interposed my companion ; “ I cannot be mistaken, I am so accustomed to the appearance of ships at sea.” The Guide dropped the argument; but, before a minute was gone, he quietly said, “Now look at your ship; it is changed into a horse.” So indeed it was, -a horse with a gallant neck and head. We laughed heartily; and, I hope, when again inclined to be positive, I may remember the ship and the horse upon the glittering sea ; and the calm confidence, yet submissiveness of our wise Man of the Mountains, who certainly had more knowledge of clouds than we, whatever might be our knowledge of ships.
I know not how long we might have remained on the summit of the Pike, without a thought of moving, had not our Guide warned us that we must not linger; for a storm was coming. We looked in vain to espy the signs of it. Mountains, vales, and sea were touched with the clear light of the sun. “ It is there,” said he, pointing to the sea beyond Whitehaven, and there we perceived a light vapour unnoticeable but by a shepherd accustomed to watch all mountain bodings. We gazed around again, and yet again, unwilling to lose the remembrance of what lay before us in that lofty solitude; and then prepared to depart. Meanwhile the air changed to cold, and we saw that tiny vapour swelled into mighty masses of cloud which came boiling over the mountains. Great Gavel, Helvellyn, and Skiddaw, were wrapt in storm ; yet Langdale and the mountains in that quarter, remained all bright in sunshine. Soon the storm reached us; we sheltered under a crag ; and almost as rapidly as it had come it passed away, and left us free to observe the struggles of gloom and sunshine in other quarters. Langdale now had its share, and the Pikes of Langdale were decorated by two splendid rainbows. Skiddaw also had his own rainbows. Before we again reached Ash-course every cloud had vanished from every summit.
I ought to have mentioned that round the top of Scawfell- PIKE not a blade of grass is to be seen. Cushions or tufts of moss, parched and brown, appear between the huge blocks and stones that lie in heaps on all sides to a great distance, like skeletons or bones of the earth not needed at the creation, and there left to be covered with never-dying lichens, which the clouds and dews nourish; and adorn with colours of vivid and exquisite beauty. Flowers, the most brilliant feathers, and even gems, scarcely surpass in colouring some of those masses of stone, which no human eye beholds, except the shepherd or traveller be led thither by curiosity : and how seldom must this happen! For the other eminence is the one visited by the adventurous stranger; and the shepherd has no inducement to ascend the PIKE in quest of his sheep; no food being there to tempt them.
We certainly were singularly favoured in the weather, for when we were seated on the summit, our conductor, turning his eyes thoughtfully round, said, “I do not know that in my whole life, I was ever, at any season of the year, so high upon the mountains on so calm a day.” (It was the 7th of October.) Afterwards we had a spectacle of the grandeur of earth and heaven commingled ; yet without terror. We knew that the storm would pass away ;—for so our prophetic Guide had assured us.
Before we reached Seathwaite in Borrowdale, a few stars had appeared, and we pursued our way down the Vale, to Rosthwaite, by moonlight.
Scawfell and Helvellyn being the two Mountains of this region which will best repay the fatigue of ascending them, the following Verses may be here introduced with propriety. They are from the Author's Miscellaneous Poems.
ON HER FIRST ASCENT TO THE SUMMIT OF HELVELLYN
INMATE of a Mountain Dwelling,
Lo! the dwindled woods and meadows !
And a record of commotion
Ridge, and gulf, and distant ocean
-Take thy flight ;-possess, inherit
To confess their majesty !1 Having said so much of points of view to which few are likely to ascend, I am induced to subjoin an account of a short excursion through more accessible parts of the country, made at a time when it is seldom seen but by the inhabitants. As the journal was written for one acquainted with the general features of the country,2 only those effects and appearances are dwelt upon, which are produced by the changeableness of the atmosphere, or belong to the season when the excursion was made.
A.D. 1805.—On the 7th of November, on a damp and gloomy morning, we left Grasmere Vale, intending to pass a few days on the banks of Ullswater. A mild and dry autumn had been unusually favourable to the
i See the “ Poetical Works," vol. vi. pp. 135-7.-ED. 2 It was written by his sister Dorothy.—ED.