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One sees hay-making girls, under broad flats, in a little rug of land, away over among the inaccessible rocks. The valleys have a green, which is black; the very air seems changed; the effect is not melancholy but an awful serenity. As we get more among proper mountaineers, cut off from the rest of mankind, it is pleasing to observe how the family feeling becomes more manifest. Fifty times I saw what I thought a family, on some knoll, by some spring, down some well-like plunge of green with a house at the bottom; three sisters with broad Leghorn flats, and haymakers under a tree; babies held by others little bigger, that the mothers might hoe or drive. No poetry or fiction can reach the reality of such scenes, occurring every moment, and amid such sights and such air.
On the beautiful evening of the 12th, we drove into lovely Geneva, a beauty in the midst of sublimity. We have been greatly favoured in weather, for it is said that there are not more than fifty days in the year which furnish a perfectly clear view of Mont Blanc, and we have had three of them, and seen the full moon rise above it, which could only happen with great southing.
As I now see it, it is rose-colour in one part, while, as the sun declines, the left-hand portion assumes a ghastly bluish pallor, which must remind every one of death. I had never thought much of this thing of hues. This very day (the 14th) as I was walking along the delightful avenue, skirting the south side of the lake to Dr. Merle’s residence in Eaux Vives, I suddenly found the perspective ending in the placid Leman. But what a play of hues! The foreground avenue all deep-green; the nearer water pea-green; the tilled lands just below, a veil of lilac; the mountains beyond that a crystalline hue, shading off into pearly clouds and blue heaven.
Who would have thought, that Geneva could have been turned into such a stamping-ground! The park or wood on the northern eminence is full of booths, stalls, shows, and gambling tables. The variety of gamblings is great. Women generally keep the tables, and children are inducted into the mysteries. Some are rolling balls for eatables; some shooting a cross-bow at a target, over which a rude Liberty rises, on each shot, with the appropriate information that she purposes to go round the globe. Here are flying-horses, more rapid and comical than in Paris or anywhere else, having one row of whirlers within another, going not merely on horses, but on
1 Dr. Alexander found great pleasure and assistance, during his Alpine travels, and to Heidelberg, in the company of the Rev. J. W. Newton, chap. lain of the U. S. Navy, and formerly of the Edgehill School at Princeton.
2 The Tir Fédéral : see page 148.
swans, sleigh-bodies, and so on. Here are lotteries,
ou l'on ne perd pas," and dice-playing, where you get gingerbread or knives. Here are booths of cirques, and jugglers, and posturemakers, most primitive in kind, and outvying Greenwich Fair. I never could have expected to see two such displays of unAmerican sportiveness.
Swiss politics is in much commotion about these times. Enjoying freedom for ages, except when the French had them under, they are nevertheless practised on by every sort of French and Italian refugee. What is in the mouths of every one about aristocracy, is very much like the same talk in France, during the years preceding the reign of terror. Yet, when I think of the past, when I look on the face of nature here, and especially when I contemplate the thousands of mountain men and women now in Geneva, so fresh, frank, hearty, honest, and Protestant, I hope strongly that God has something better in reserve for the sons of Tell, as they love to call themselves.
I have seen four priests going about in the black robes of their detestable order. There is a rookery of Jesuits here, and they have set the sisters of Charity a-going, as most likely to win our Protestants by acts of real humanity. The number of papists in Geneva is about 10,000. The more I see of the pomp of Romanism-and I have seen perhaps as much as could be seen out of Rome—the more I am in love with simple architecture and simple worship.
GENEVA, July 19, 1851. I have just returned here, fifty-one miles from Chamonix. It is summer, and European summer, without summer-clothes, summer debility, or summer insects. Geneva is full of English. Sir R. Peel is near me, and Lord Vernon and Lady Vane probably in the house. Lord Vernon put twenty balls in the centre of one of the targets the first day of the shooting match. The distant mountains interest me most; near by they are too cold, cloudy, and frightful. The sights one sees are somewhat, but nothing to the millions of thoughts, which the sights awaken. The sights are only the keys; the thoughts are the music. Many a mark is in E.'s Bible of spots, where I have read God's words under the tremendous shadow of mountain walls reaching to heaven, and by torrents pure and beautiful, leaping and foaming down the perpendicular but broken sides of deep vales. The dark, but clear atmosphere, caused by the elevation, the unparalleled verdure, the shadow of giant mountains, and the play of altogether novel lights and shades, affect me even more than the summits of the great Alps. I could slightly imagine the latter; the other is entirely beyond every descriptive power. I have thought of an eclipse; but there is no melancholy. It is a serene, heavenly awe. The very potato blossoms look pearly, and shine like some sort of brilliant exotic. This shows that it is the air and light which produce the effect. The imminent and terrific passes and paths make even the horse and mule different from ours. In precipitous ascents, when the driver dismounted, the stout muscular horses took the carriage up as well without him. As to the mules, their footing is next to a miracle. They always take the outside edge, and go boldly along places more difficult than the bowsprit of a ship.
It was almost like home when I reached Geneva. With its lake, its suburban parks and campagnes, its nearer hills, and its Alps in view, it is the loveliest place I know. Mr. Newton and I united in thanking God for the wonders of these three days, and for good tidings from home. “Let the God of my salvation be exalted.''
The horrible priest-riding of the kingdom of Savoy, smites me everywhere. The priests are the largest, finest, and fattest. The churches are solid and often modern.
O how a bell resounds in the green Alps! The crosses are as frequent as milestones. If the Virgin could weep, it would be to see the puppets and frights which represent her in the wayside shrines. Swiss families seem to love one another with intensity. They love all their little livestock. What a blessed land do you and I live in, where poor woman is not turned into a beast ! I am sure I have seen girls of fourteen, carrying as much straw or green branches as would fill a cart. Their heads are used for this. I saw one woman carrying thus a closed umbrella, and another a heavy pick-axe. My soul is weary of soldiers. The sight of a soldier or a priest makes me first angry, and then sorrowful. As I surveyed the boundless arable lands on the slopes of the mountains, which contain the lower Arve, all one map of varying meadow, garden, and harvest, unincumbered by fences, dotted with sweet cottages, sprinkled with trees and vines, without a square foot in a state of nature, I remembered the numberless wars between Savoy and Geneva. And when I looked at the soldiers, and listened to the fierce, radical politics, and the sounds of rifle-shooting at the grand national match, I was made sure that unless God interpose, all this sweet land will be given up again to fire and blood. Yet these Swiss of the great cantons are a noble race. It was doubt. less the best of them I saw here, during the great democratic celebration. The mountain-girls, in costumes of every cut, were fresh as roses and brawny as boxers. The middle of the streets
was their walk. Not a loud word, nor a disorderly gesture. To tell the truth, they looked American to me, and I laid it to (1) Republicanism, and (2) to Protestantism; but rather of their fathers than their own.
Here the wheat-harvest is in its glory. I looked out on rising, and saw a company of young men and lasses going a-field. Their sickles were all fantastically ranged around a staff
, surmounted with a grand bouquet, and borne aloft by one in the middle. They make a play of every thing.
VEVAY, July 21, 1851. We arrived at Vevay by steam from Geneva on the 19th, in order to spend the Sabbath in one of the loveliest, quietest towns in Europe. From the bank here, we look into the rounding of the lake, and see the castle of Chillon. We took a calèche, and visited it on Saturday. Without an interval this road is walled the whole way. It has on the right the lake-shore, vineyards' to the very edge, and on the left, the swelling round mountains, vineyards to the very top. So populous is this region, that it is like one village all the way. Vevay is celebrated by Rousseau as the most enchanting spot on earth, and I see no reason to the contrary. The old cathedral is the chief Protestant church. The building bears date 1498. Alas! the gospel of the Reformers who occupied it, is not preached there in French, but in English. I heard one of the most blessed gospelsermons, of the Simeon sort, from an Anglican chaplain, Mr. Cleves ; John v. 42. About sixty English were present. It was a refreshment to my weary soul, which I shall remember all my days. When I came out, and looked from under the perfect shade over vineyards, town, lake, and nearer hills, to the silvery, heaven-like Alps, on a day of great clearness, with temperature making cloth dress indispensable, I trust my heart experienced some of God's sure mercies, and I was reminded that his covenant is more durable than the Alps, which must crumble away. The people are in great contrast to the mountaineers of Savoy. They are a ruddy, industrious, teeming, happy generation. The illusory view of a tourist is that they know no care.
On Saturday evening, at dusk, the streets and neighbouring roads were full of people, coming in from the vines, and sitting at their doors. A most wonderful yodler sang in the court, in the Alpine manner. It is as indescribable as inimitable, and does not sound like a human organ. The peasantry drink wine as freely as we drink water, but intemperance is very rare. Bread and wine are the universal meal. I am surprised to see how little flesh is used, even in twenty courses, at table d'hôte. Indeed I think the air and climate lessens one's taste for it. There is no end to the confections. Their cakes are always dry, crisp, and macaroony. I am sure I have tasted 200 kinds in France and Switzerland. Warm bread is unknown.
LUCERNE, July 25, 1851. From Vevay I went to Berne, a stern old Protestant town, more noble in my view from my having just come out of Freiburg, the chief Catholic canton. The Jesuits are in full blast there. I have no expectation of ever seeing such farms, such crops, such peasantry, such houses, and such babies as I saw in Berne. The châlets equalled all my best forethoughts, and erased the ill impressions of the Savoy Alps. Millions of beehives in these vales and heights. Morning or evening the honey is never absent.
We entered Lucerne the 24th. The country people of Lucerne are not to be compared with those of Berne, whom I continue to think the finest yeomanry I ever saw.
We took a little steamboat yesterday, to survey the lake Lucerne, which, in the opinion of Sir James Mackintosh and others, is the noblest lake in Switzerland, i. e, in all the world. I read Schiller's
's “ William Tell” among the very scenes it describes. The spirit of liberty waked up in me very strong at Rütli, the green ledge, where in 1307 the three Swiss conspirators met to free their country; at Flüchen, by Altorf, where Tell shot the apple; at the chapel where he leaped ashore out of Gessler's boat; and in view of Küssnacht, near which he slew Gessler. Five hundred years have not taken away the interest of the Swiss in these mighty deeds. At least three men, of whom two were quite coinmon, indicated the localities to me, and the third told me the whole in English, with tears in his eyes. The 'music of the Lucerne church-bells is beyond any thing I have yet heard. Many of the people speak Italian, but most a horrible German patois. The Jesuits have a college here, and go about like princes
ZURICH, July 26, 1851. Here I am, Deo favente, in the old Protestant city of Zuingle. We came from Lucerne in about 71 hours across the Mt. Albis. We went through the canton of Zug; all Papists : but I saw no such horrendous life-size images of our Lord crucified as abound and stare at you in Lucerne. Crossing this little canton, we entered the sweet, rich, green, Protestant land of Zurich. The road went round and round the mountain (Albis) in successive platforms, for a length uncommon even in Switzerland, so that this enchanting paysage was every moment coming up afresh,