« ForrigeFortsett »
the distinct reflection of Mont Blanc and Mont Argentière in the calm of the lake, which I was crossing in my boat ; the distance of these mountains from their mirror is sixty miles.
By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone, The colour of the Rhone at Geneva is blue, to a depth of tint which I have never seen equalled in water, salt or fresh, except in the Mediterranean and Archipelago.
STANZA LXXIX. Than vulgar minds may be with all they seek possest. This refers to the account in his “ Confessions” of his passion for the Comtesse d’Houdetot (the mistress of St. Lambert), and his long walk every morning, for the sake of the single kiss which was the common salutation of French acquaintance. Rousseau's description of his feelings on this occasion may be considered as the most passionate, yet not impure, description and expression of love that ever kindled into words; which, after all, must be felt, from their very force, to be inadequate to the delineation : a painting can give no sufficient idea of the ocean.
Of earth-o'ergazing mountains, It is to be recollected, that the most beautiful and impressive doctrines of the divine Founder of Christianity were delivered, not in the Temple, but on the Mount.
To waive the question of devotion, and turn to human eloquence,-the most effectual and splendid specimens were not pronounced within walls, Demosthenes addressed the public and popular assemblies. Cicero spoke in the forum. That this added to their effect on the mind of both orator and hearers, may be conceived from the difference between what we read of the emotions then and there produced, and those we ourselves experience in the perusal in the closet. It is one thing to read the Iliad at Sigæum and on the tumuli, or by the springs with Mount Ida above, and the plain and rivers and Archipelago around you; and another to trim your taper over it in a snug library--this I know.
Were the early and rapid progress of what is called Methodism to be attributed to any cause beyond the enthusiasm excited by its vehement faith and doctrines (the truth or error of which I presume neither to canvass nor to question), I should venture to ascribe it to the practice of preaching in the fields, and the unstudied and extemporaneous effusions of its teachers.
The Mussulmans, whose erroneous devotion (at least in the lower orders) is most sincere, and therefore impressive, are accustomed to repeat their prescribed orisons and prayers, wherever they may be, at the stated hoursof course, frequently in the open air, kneeling upon a light mat (which they carry for the purpose of a bed or cushion as required); the ceremony lasts some minutes, during which they are totally absorbed, and only living in
their supplication; nothing can disturb them. On me the simple and entire sincerity of these men, and the spirit which appeared to be within and upon them, made a far greater impression than any general rite which was ever performed in places of Worship, of which I have seen those of almost every persuasion under the sun; including most of our own sectaries, and the Greek, the Catholic, the Armenian, the Lutheran, the Jewish, and the Mahometan. Many of the negroes, of whom there are numbers in the Turkish empire, are idolaters, and have free exercise of their belief and its rites : some of these I had a distant view of at Patras; and, from what I could make out of them, they appeared to be of a truly Pagan description, and not very agreeable to a spectator.
STANZA XCIX. And sun-set into rose-hues sees them wrought Rousseau's Héloïse, Lettre 17. part. 4. note. " Ces montagnes sont si hautes qu’une demi-heure après le soleil couche, leurs sommets sont éclairés de ses rayons; dont le rouge forme sur cescimes blanches une belle couleur de rose, qu'on aperçoit de fort loin."
This applies more particularly to the heights over Meillerie.
« J'allai à Vevay loger à la Clef, et pendant deux jours que j'y restai sans voir personne, je pris pour cette ville un amour qui m'a suivi dans tous mes voyages, et qui m'y a fait établir enfin les héros de mon roman. Je dirais volontiers à ceux qui ont du goût et qui sont sensibles : Allez à Vevay-visitez le pays, examinez les sites, promenez-vous sur le lac, et dites si la Nature n'a pas fait ce beau pays pour une Julie, pour une Clair, et pour un St. Preux; mais ne les y cherchez pas.”—Les Confessions, livre iv. p. 306. Lyon, ed. 1796.
In July, 1816, I made a voyage round the Lake of Geneva ; and, as far as my own observations have led me in a not uninterested nor inattentive survey of all the scenes most celebrated by Rousseau in his “Héloïse," I can safely say, that in this there is no exaggeration. It would be difficult to see Clarens (with the scenes around it, Vevay, Chillon, Boyeret, St. Gingo, Meillerie, Eivan, and the entrances of the Rhone) without being forcibly struck with its peculiar adaptation to the persons and events with which it has been peopled. But this is not all: the feeling with which all around Clarens, and the opposite rocks of Meillerie, is invested, is of a still higher and more compréhensive order than the mere sympathy with individual passion; it is a sense of the existence of love in its most extended and sublime capacity, and of our own participation of its good and of its glory: it is the great principle of the universe, which is there more condensed, but not less manifested ; and of which, though knowing ourselves a part, we lose our individuality, and mingle in the beauty of the whole.
If Rousseau had never written, nor lived, the same associations would not less have belonged to such scenes. He has added to the interest of his works by their adoption; he has shown the sense of their beauty by the selection; but they have done that for him which no human being could do for them.
I had the fortune (good or evil as it might be) to sail from Meillerie (where we landed for some time) to St. Gingo during a lake storm, which added to the magnificence of all around, although occasionally accompanied by danger to the boat, which was small and overloaded. It was over this very part of the lake that Rousseau has driven the boat of St. Preux and Madame Wolmar to Meillerie for shelter during a tempest.
On gaining the shore at St. Gingo, I found that the wind had been sufficiently strong to blow down some fine old chestnut-trees on the lower part of the mountains.
On the opposite height of Clarens is a château. The hills are covered with vineyards, and interspersed with some small but beautiful woods; one of these was named the “Bosquet de Julie;" and it is remarkable that, though long ago cut down by the brutal selfishness of the monks of St. Bernard (to whom the land appertained), that the ground might be enclosed into a vineyard for the miserable drones of an execrable superstition, the inhabitants of Clarens still point out the spot where its trees stood, calling it by the name which consecrated and survived them.
Rousseau has not been particularly fortunate in the preservation of the “ local habitations” he has given to “airy nothings." The Prior of Great St. Bernard has cut down some of his woods for the sake of a few casks of wine, and Buonaparte has levelled part of the rocks of Meillerie in improving the road to the Simplon. The road is an excellent one; but I cannot quite agree with the remark which I heard made, that " La route vaut mieux que les souvenirs."
“ If it be thus,
STANZA CXIV. O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve ; It is said by Rochefoucault, that “there is always something in the misfortunes of men's best friends not displeasing to them.”
CANTO THE FOURTH.
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs ;
A palace and a prison on each hand : The communication between the ducal palace and the prisons of Venice is by a gloomy bridge, or covered gallery, high above the water, and divided by a stone wall into a passage and a cell. The state dungeons, called pozzi, or wells, were sunk in the thick walls of the palace; and the prisoner when taken out to die was conducted across the gallery to the other side, and being then led back into the other compartment, or cell, upon the bridge, was there strangled. The low portal through which the criminal was taken into this cell is now walled up; but the passage is still open, and is still known by the name of the Bridge of Sighs. The pozzi are under the flooring of the chamber at the foot of the bridge. They were formerly twelve ; but on the first arrival of the French, the Venetians hastily blocked or broke up the deeper of these dungeons. You may still, however, descend by a trapdoor, and crawl down through holes, half-choked by rubbish, to the depth of two stories below the first range. If you are in want of consolation for the extinction of patrician power, perhaps you may find it there; scarcely a ray of light glimmers into the narrow gallery which leads to the cells, and the places of confinement themselves are totally dark. A small hole in the wall admitted the damp air of the passages, and served for the introduction of the prisoner's food. A wooden pallet, raised a foot from the ground, was the only furniture. The conductors tell you that a light was not allowed. The cells are about five paces in length, two and a half in width, and seven feet in height. They are directly beneath one another, and respiration is somewhat difficult in the lower holes. Only one prisoner was found when the republicans descended into these hideous recesses, and he is said to have been confined sixteen years. But the inmates of the dungeons beneath had left traces of their repentance, or of their despair, which are still visible, and may, perhaps, owe something to recent ingenuity. Some of the detained appear to have offended against, and others to have belonged to, the sacred body, not only from their signatures, but from the churches and belfries which they have scratched upon the walls. The reader may not object to see a specimen of the records prompted by so terrific a solitude. As nearly as they could be copied by more than one pencil, three of them are as follows:
NON TI FIDAR AD ALCUNO PENSA e TACI
IL PENTIRTI PENTIRTI NULLA GIOVA
1607. ADI. 2. GENARO. FUI RE-
DA MANZAR A UN MORTO
I ACOMO. GRITTJ. SCRISSE.
UN PARLAR POCHO et
EGO IOHN BAPTISTA AD
DE CHI MI FLDO GUARDAMI DIO
TA H A NA
The copyist has followed, not corrected, the solecisms ; some of which are, however, not quite so decided, since the letters were evidently scratched in the dark. It only need be observed, that bestemmia and mangiar may be read in the first inscription, which was probably written by a prisoner confined for some act of impiety committed at a funeral; that Cortellarius is the name of a parish on terra firma, near the sea; and that the last initials evidently are put for Viva la santa Chiesa Kattolica Romana.
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers An old writer, describing the appearance of Venice, has made use of the above image, which would not be poetical were it not true.
“Quo fit ut qui superne urbem contempletur, turritam telluris imaginem medio Oceano figuratam se putet inspicere."*
In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more. The well known song of the gondoliers, of alternate stanzas from Tasso's Jerusalem, has died with the independence of Venice. Editions of the poem, with the original on one column, and the Venetian variations on the other, as sung by the boatmen, were once common, and are still to be found.
Marci Antonii Sabellici de Venetæ Urbis situ narratio, edit. Taurin. 1527, lib. i. fol. 202.