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Title: Frondes Agrestes - Readings in 'Modern Painters'
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  FRONDES AGRESTES.

  READINGS IN 'MODERN PAINTERS.'

  CHOSEN AT HER PLEASURE,
  BY THE AUTHOR'S FRIEND,
  THE YOUNGER LADY OF THE THWAITE,
  CONISTON.

  'Spargit agrestes tibi silva frondes.'

  Thirty-Eighth Thousand.

  London: George Allen, 156, Charing Cross Road. 1902.

  Printed By Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
  At the Ballantyne Press



PREFACE.


I have been often asked to republish the first book of mine which the
public noticed, and which, hitherto, remains their favourite, in a
more easily attainable form than that of its existing editions. I am,
however, resolved never to republish the book as a whole; some parts
of it being, by the established fame of Turner, rendered unnecessary;
and others having been always useless, in their praise of excellence
which the public will never give the labour necessary to discern. But,
finding lately that one of my dearest friends, who, in advanced age,
retains the cheerfulness and easily delighted temper of bright youth,
had written out, for her own pleasure, a large number of passages from
'Modern Painters,' it seemed to me certain that what such a person
felt to be useful to herself, could not but be useful also to a class
of readers whom I much desired to please, and who would sometimes
enjoy, in my early writings, what I never should myself have offered
them. I asked my friend, therefore, to add to her own already chosen
series, any other passages she thought likely to be of permanent
interest to general readers; and I have printed her selections in
absolute submission to her judgment, merely arranging the pieces she
sent me in the order which seemed most convenient for the reciprocal
bearing of their fragmentary meanings, and adding here and there an
explanatory note; or, it may be, a deprecatory one, in cases where my
mind had changed. That she did me the grace to write every word with
her own hands, adds, in my eyes, and will, I trust, in the readers'
also, to the possible claims of the little book on their sympathy; and
although I hope to publish some of the scientific and technical
portions of the original volumes in my own large editions, the
selections here made by my friend under her quiet woods at
Coniston--the Unter-Walden of England--will, I doubt not, bring within
better reach of many readers, for whom I am not now able myself to
judge or choose, such service as the book was ever capable of
rendering, in the illustration of the powers of nature, and
intercession for her now too often despised and broken peace.

Herne Hill,

  5th December, 1874.



  CONTENTS.

                                                    PAGE
  PREFACE                                              V

  SECTION I.    PRINCIPLES OF ART                      1

          II.   POWER AND OFFICE OF IMAGINATION       10

          III.  ILLUSTRATIVE: THE SKY                 35

          IV.       "        STREAMS AND SEA          64

          V.        "        MOUNTAINS                74

          VI.       "        STONES                  107

          VII.      "        PLANTS AND FLOWERS      115

          VIII. EDUCATION                            140

          IX.   MORALITIES                           151



FRONDES AGRESTES.



SECTION I.

PRINCIPLES OF ART.


1. Perfect taste is the faculty of receiving the greatest possible
pleasure from those material sources which are attractive to our moral
nature in its purity and perfection; but why we receive pleasure from
some forms and colours, and not from others, is no more to be asked or
answered than why we like sugar and dislike wormwood.


2. The temper by which right taste is formed is characteristically
patient. It dwells upon what is submitted to it. It does not trample
upon it,--lest it should be pearls, even though it look like husks. It
is good ground, penetrable, retentive; it does not send up thorns of
unkind thoughts, to choke the weak seed; it is hungry and thirsty too,
and drinks all the dew that falls on it. It is an honest and good
heart, that shows no too ready springing before the sun be up, but
fails not afterwards; it is distrustful of itself, so as to be ready
to believe and to try all things; and yet so trustful of itself, that
it will neither quit what it has tried, nor take anything without
trying. And the pleasure which it has in things that it finds true and
good, is so great, that it cannot possibly be led aside by any tricks
of fashion, or diseases of vanity; it cannot be cramped in its
conclusions by partialities and hypocrisies; its visions and its
delights are too penetrating,--too living,--for any whitewashed object
or shallow fountain long to endure or supply. It clasps all that it
loves so hard that it crushes it if it be hollow.


3. It is the common consent of men that whatever branch of any pursuit
ministers to the bodily comforts, and regards material uses, is
ignoble, and whatever part is addressed to the mind only, is noble;
and that geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing
lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron;
astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven, than in
teaching navigation; botany better in displaying structure than in
expressing juices; surgery better in investigating organization than
in setting limbs.--Only it is ordained that, for our encouragement,
every step we make in the more exalted range of science adds something
also to its practical applicabilities; that all the great phenomena of
nature, the knowledge of which is desired by the angels only, by us
partly, as it reveals to farther vision the being and the glory of Him
in whom they rejoice and we live, dispense yet such kind influences
and so much of material blessing as to be joyfully felt by all
inferior creatures, and to be desired by them with such single desire
as the imperfection of their nature may admit; that the strong
torrents, which, in their own gladness, fill the hills with hollow
thunder, and the vales with winding light, have yet their bounden
charge of field to feed, and barge to bear; that the fierce flames to
which the Alp owes its upheaval and the volcano its terror, temper for
us the metal vein, and warm the quickening spring; and that for our
incitement, I say, not our reward,--for knowledge is its own
reward,--herbs have their healing, stones their preciousness, and
stars their times.


4. Had it been ordained by the Almighty[1] that the highest pleasures
of sight should be those of most difficult attainment, and that to
arrive at them it should be necessary to accumulate gilded palaces,
tower over tower, and pile artificial mountains around insinuated
lakes, there would never have been a direct contradiction between the
unselfish duties and the inherent desires of every individual. But no
such contradiction exists in the system of Divine Providence; which,
leaving it open to us, if we will, as creatures in probation, to abuse
this sense like every other, and pamper it with selfish and
thoughtless vanities, as we pamper the palate with deadly meats, until
the appetite of tasteful cruelty is lost in its sickened satiety,
incapable of pleasure unless, Caligula like, it concentrates the
labour of a million of lives into the sensation of an hour,--leaves it
also open to us, by humble and loving ways, to make ourselves
susceptible of deep delight, which shall not separate us from our
fellows, nor require the sacrifice of any duty or occupation, but
which shall bind us closer to men and to God, and be with us always,
harmonized with every action, consistent with every claim, unchanging
and eternal.

[1] The reader must observe, that having been thoroughly disciplined in
the Evangelical schools, I supposed myself, at four-and-twenty, to know
all about the ordinances of the Almighty. Nevertheless, the practical
contents of the sentence are good; if only they are intelligible, which
I doubt.


5. A great Idealist never can be egotistic. The whole of his power
depends upon his losing sight and feeling of his own existence, and
becoming a mere witness and mirror of truth, and a scribe of
visions,--always passive in sight, passive in utterance, lamenting
continually that he cannot completely reflect nor clearly utter all he
has seen,--not by any means a proud state for a man to be in. But the
man who has no invention is always setting things in order,[2] and
putting the world to rights, and mending, and beautifying, and pluming
himself on his doings, as supreme in all ways.

[2] I am now a comic illustration of this sentence, myself. I have not a
ray of invention in all my brains; but am intensely rational and
orderly, and have resolutely begun to set the world to rights.


6. So far as education does indeed tend to make the senses delicate,
and the perceptions accurate, and thus enables people to be pleased
with quiet instead of gaudy colour, and with graceful instead of
coarse form; and by long acquaintance with the best things, to discern
quickly what is fine from what is common--so far acquired taste is an
honourable faculty, and it is true praise of anything to say it is "in
good taste." But,[3] so far as this higher education has a tendency to
narrow the sympathies and harden the heart, diminishing the interest
of all beautiful things by familiarity, until even what is best can
hardly please, and what is brightest hardly entertain,--so far as it
fosters pride, and leads men to found the pleasure they take in
anything, not on the worthiness of the thing, but on the degree in
which it indicates some greatness of their own, (as people build
marble porticoes, and inlay marble floors, not so much because they
like the colours of marble, or find it pleasant to the foot, as
because such porches and floors are costly, and separated in all human
eyes from plain entrances of stone and timber);--so far as it leads
people to prefer gracefulness of dress, manner, and aspect, to value
of substance and heart, liking a well-_said_ thing better than a true
thing, and a well-trained manner better than a sincere one, and a
delicately-formed face better than a good-natured one,--and in all
other ways and things setting custom and semblance above everlasting
truth;--so far, finally, as it induces a sense of inherent distinction
between class and class, and causes everything to be more or less
despised which has no social rank, so that the affection, pleasure,
and grief of a clown are looked upon as of no interest compared with
the affection and grief of a well-bred man;--just so far, in all these
several ways, the feeling induced by what is called "a liberal
education" is utterly adverse to the understanding of noble art.

[3] Nobody need begin this second volume sentence unless they are
breathed like the Græme:--

"Right up Ben Ledi could he press, And not a sob his toil confess."


7. He who habituates himself in his daily life to seek for the stern
facts in whatever he hears or sees, will have these facts again
brought before him by the involuntary imaginative power, in their
noblest associations; and he who seeks for frivolities and fallacies,
will have frivolities and fallacies again presented to him in his
dreams.[4]

[4] Very good. Few people have any idea how much more important the
government of the mind is, than the force of its exertion. Nearly all
the world flog their horses, without ever looking where they are going.


8. All the histories of the Bible are yet waiting to be painted. Moses
has never been painted; Elijah never; David never (except as a mere
ruddy stripling); Deborah never; Gideon never; Isaiah never.[5] What
single example does the reader remember of painting which suggested so
much as the faintest shadow of their deeds? Strong men in armour, or
aged men with flowing beards, he _may_ remember, who, when he looked
at his Louvre or Uffizi catalogue, he found were intended to stand for
David, or Moses. But does he suppose that, if these pictures had
suggested to him the feeblest image of the presence of such men, he
would have passed on, as he assuredly did, to the next picture,
representing, doubtless, Diana and Actæon, or Cupid and the Graces, or
a gambling quarrel in a pothouse--with no sense of pain or surprise?
Let him meditate over the matter, and he will find ultimately that
what I say is true, and that religious art at once complete and
sincere never yet has existed.

[5] I knew nothing, when I wrote this passage, of Luini, Filippo Lippi,
or Sandro Botticelli; and had not capacity to enter into the deeper
feelings, even of the men whom I was chiefly studying,--Tintoret and Fra
Angelico. But the British public is at present as little acquainted with
the greater Florentines as I was then, and the passage, for _them_,
remains true.



SECTION II.

POWER AND OFFICE OF IMAGINATION.


9. What are the legitimate uses of the imagination,--that is to say,
of the power of perceiving, or conceiving with the mind, things which
cannot be perceived by the senses? Its first and noblest use is,[6] to
enable us to bring sensibly to our sight the things which are recorded
as belonging to our future state, or invisibly surrounding us in this.
It is given us, that we may imagine the cloud of witnesses, in heaven,
and earth, and sea, as if they were now present,--the souls of the
righteous waiting for us; that we may conceive the great army of the
inhabitants of heaven, and discover among them those whom we most
desire to be with for ever; that we may be able to vision forth the
ministry of angels beside us, and see the chariots of fire on the
mountains that gird us round; but, above all, to call up the scenes
and facts in which we are commanded to believe, and be present, as if
in the body, at every recorded event of the history of the Redeemer.
Its second and ordinary use is, to empower us to traverse the scenes
of all other history, and to force the facts to become again visible,
so as to make upon us the same impression which they would have made
if we had witnessed them; and, in the minor necessities of life, to
enable us, out of any present good, to gather the utmost measure of
enjoyment, by investing it with happy associations, and, in any
present evil, to lighten it, by summoning back the images of other
hours; and also to give to all mental truths some visible type, in
allegory, simile, or personification, which shall most deeply enforce
them; and finally, when the mind is utterly outwearied, to refresh it
with such innocent play as shall be most in harmony with the
suggestive voices of natural things, permitting it to possess living
companionship, instead of silent beauty, and create for itself fairies
in the grass, and naiads in the wave.

[6] I should be glad if the reader who is interested in the question
here raised, would read, as illustrative of the subsequent statement,
the account of Tintoret's 'Paradise,' in the close of my Oxford lecture
on Michael Angelo and Tintoret, which I have printed separately to make
it generally accessible.


10. Yet, because we thus reverence the power and art of imagination,
let none of us despise the power and art of memory.

Let the reader consider seriously what he would give at any moment to
have the power of arresting the fairest scenes, those which so often
rise before him only to vanish; to stay the cloud in its fading, the
leaf in its trembling, and the shadows in their changing; to bid the
fitful foam be fixed upon the river, and the ripples be everlasting
upon the lake; and then to bear away with him no darkness or feeble
sun-stain, (though even that is beautiful,) but a counterfeit which
should seem no counterfeit--the true and perfect image of life indeed.
Or rather, (for the full majesty of such a power is not thus
sufficiently expressed,) let him consider that it would be in effect
nothing less than a capacity of transporting himself at any moment
into any scene--a gift as great as can be possessed by a disembodied
spirit; and suppose, also, this necromancy embracing not only the
present but the past, and enabling us seemingly to enter into the very
bodily presence of men long since gathered to the dust; to behold them
in act as they lived; but, with greater privilege than ever was
granted to the companions of those transient acts of life, to see them
fastened at our will in the gesture and expression of an instant, and
stayed on the eve of some great deed, in immortality of burning
purpose.--Conceive, so far as is possible, such power as this, and
then say whether the art which conferred it is to be spoken lightly
of, or whether we should not rather reverence, as half-divine, a gift
which would go so far as to raise us into the rank, and invest us with
the felicities, of angels.[7]

[7] Passage written in opposition to the vulgar notion that the 'mere
imitation' of Nature is easy, and useless.


11. I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I
do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation of
speaking his opinions; but a right understanding of the relation
between what _he_ can do and say, and the rest of the world's sayings
and doings. All great men not only know their business, but usually
know that they know it; and are not only right in their main opinions,
but they usually know that they are right in them; only they do not
think much of themselves on that account. Arnolfo knows he can build a
good dome at Florence; Albert Durer writes calmly to one who has found
fault with his work,--"It cannot be better done;" Sir Isaac Newton
knows that he has worked out a problem or two that would have puzzled
anybody else; only they do not expect their fellow-men, therefore, to
fall down and worship them. They have a curious under-sense of
powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is not _in_ them, but
_through_ them--that they could not do or be anything else than God
made them; and they see something divine and God-made in every other
man they meet, and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.


12. As far as I can observe, it is a constant law, that the greatest
men, whether poets or historians, live entirely in their own age, and
the greatest fruits of their work are gathered out of their own age.
Dante paints Italy in the thirteenth century; Chaucer, England in the
fourteenth; Masaccio, Florence in the fifteenth; Tintoret, Venice in
the sixteenth; all of them utterly regardless of anachronism and minor
error of every kind, but getting always vital truth out of the vital
present. If it be said that Shakespeare wrote perfect historical plays
on subjects belonging to the preceding centuries, I answer that they
_are_ perfect plays, just because there is no care about centuries in
them, but a life which all men recognise for the human life of all
time--and this it is, not because Shakespeare sought to give universal
truth, but because painting, honestly and completely, from the men
about him, he painted that human nature which is indeed constant
enough,--a rogue in the fifteenth century being _at heart_ what a
rogue is in the nineteenth, and was in the twelfth; and an honest or
knightly man being in like manner very similar to other such at any
other time. And the work of these great idealists is, therefore,
always universal; not because it is not _portrait_, but because it is
_complete_ portrait, down to the heart, which is the same in all ages;
and the work of the mean idealists is _not_ universal, not because it
is portrait, but because it is _half_ portrait--of the outside, the
manners and the dress, not of the heart. Thus Tintoret and Shakespeare
paint, both of them, simply Venetian and English nature, as they saw
it in their time, down to the root; and it does for _all_ time; but as
for any care to cast themselves into the particular ways and tones of
thought, or custom, of past time in their historical work, you will
find it in neither of them,[8] nor in any other perfectly great man
that I know of.

[8] What vestige of Egyptian character is there, for instance, in
Cleopatra?--of Athenian in Theseus or Timon?--of old English in Imogen
or Cordelia?--of old Scottish in Macbeth?--or even of mediæval Italian
in Petruchio, the Merchant of Venice, or Desdemona? And the Roman plays
appear definitely Roman only because the strength of Rome was the
eternal strength of the world,--pure family life, sustained by
agriculture, and defended by simple and fearless manhood.


13. I think it probable that many readers may be surprised at my
calling Scott the great representative of the mind of the age of
literature. Those who can perceive the intense penetrative depth of
Wordsworth, and the exquisite finish and melodious power of Tennyson,
may be offended at my placing in higher rank that poetry of careless
glance and reckless rhyme in which Scott poured out the fancies of his
youth; and those who are familiar with the subtle analysis of the
French novelists, or who have in any wise submitted themselves to the
influence of German philosophy, may be equally indignant at my
ascribing a principality to Scott among the literary men of Europe, in
an age which has produced De Balzac, and Goethe.[9]

[9] I knew nothing of Goethe when I put him with Balzac; but the
intolerable dulness which encumbers the depth of Wilhelm Meister, and
the cruel reserve which conceals from all but the intensest readers the
meaning of Faust, have made him, in a great degree, an evil influence in
European literature; and Evil is always second-rate.

But the mass of sentimental literature concerned with the analysis and
description of emotion, headed by the poetry of Byron, is altogether
of lower rank than the literature which merely describes what it saw.
The true seer feels as intensely as any one else; but he does not much
describe his feelings. He tells you whom he met, and what they said;
leaves you to make out, from that, what they feel, and what he feels,
but goes into little detail. And, generally speaking, pathetic writing
and careful explanation of passion are quite easy, compared with this
plain recording of what people said, and did; or with the right
invention of what they are likely to say and do; for this reason, that
to invent a story, or admirably and thoroughly tell any part of a
story, it is necessary to grasp the entire mind of every personage
concerned in it, and know precisely how they would be affected by what
happens; which to do, requires a colossal intellect; but to describe a
separate emotion delicately, it is only needed that one should feel it
oneself; and thousands of people are capable of feeling this or that
noble emotion, for one who is able to enter into all the feelings of
somebody sitting on the other side of the table. Even, therefore,
where this sentimental literature is first rate, as in passages of
Byron, Tennyson, and Keats, it ought not to be ranked so high as the
creative; and though perfection even in narrow fields is perhaps as
rare as in the wider, and it may be as long before we have another "In
Memoriam" as another "Guy Mannering," I unhesitatingly receive as a
greater manifestation of power, the right invention of a few sentences
spoken by Pleydell and Mannering across their supper-table, than the
most tender and passionate melodies of the self-examining verse.


14. Fancy plays like a squirrel in its circular prison, and is happy;
but Imagination is a pilgrim on the earth--and her home is in heaven.
Shut her from the fields of the celestial mountains, bear her from
breathing their lofty, sun-warmed air; and we may as well turn upon
her the last bolt of the Tower of Famine, and give the keys to the
keeping of the wildest surge that washes Capraja and Gorgona.[10]

[10] I leave this passage, as my friend has chosen it; but it is
unintelligible without the contexts, which show how all the emotions
described in the preceding passages of this section, are founded on
trust in the beneficence and rule of an Omnipotent Spirit.


15. In the highest poetry, there is no word so familiar, but a great
man will "bring good out of it, or rather, it will bring good to him,
and answer some end for which no other word would have done equally
well. A common person, for instance, would be mightily puzzled to
apply the word 'whelp' to anyone, with a view of flattering him. There
is a certain freshness and energy in the term, which gives it
agreeableness, but it seems difficult, at first hearing it, to use it
complimentarily. If the person spoken of be a prince, the difficulty
seems increased; and when farther he is at one and the same moment to
be called a 'whelp' and contemplated as a hero, it seems that a common
idealist might well be brought to a pause! But hear Shakespeare do
it:--

                    "Awake his warlike spirit,
  And your great uncle's, Edward the Black Prince,
  Who on the French ground played a tragedy,
  Making defeat on the full power of France,
  While his most mighty father on a hill
  Stood smiling, to behold his lion's whelp
  Forage in blood of French nobility."


16. Although in all lovely nature there is, first, an excellent degree
of simple beauty, addressed to the eye alone, yet often what impresses
us most will form but a very small portion of that visible beauty.
That beauty may, for instance, be composed of lovely flowers, and
glittering streams, and blue sky and white clouds; and yet the thing
that impresses us most, and which we should be sorriest to lose, may
be a thin grey film on the extreme horizon, not so large, in the space
of the scene it occupies, as a piece of gossamer on a near-at-hand
bush, nor in any wise prettier to the eye than the gossamer; but
because the gossamer is known by us for a little bit of spider's work,
and the other grey film is known to mean a mountain ten thousand feet
high, inhabited by a race of noble mountaineers, we are solemnly
impressed by the aspect of it, and yet all the while the thoughts and
knowledge which cause us to receive this impression are so obscure
that we are not conscious of them.


17. Examine the nature of your own emotion, (if you feel it,) at the
sight of the Alps; and you find all the brightness of that emotion
hanging, like dew on a gossamer, on a curious web of subtle fancy and
imperfect knowledge. First you have a vague idea of its size, coupled
with wonder at the work of the great Builder of its walls and
foundations; then an apprehension of its eternity, a pathetic sense of
its perpetualness, and your own transientness, as of the grass upon
its side;--then, and in very sadness, a sense of strange companionship
with past generations, in seeing what they saw. They did not see the
clouds that are floating over your head, nor the cottage wall on the
other side of the field, nor the road by which you are travelling. But
they saw _that_. The wall of granite in the heavens was the same to
them as to you. They have ceased to look upon it; you will soon cease
to look also, and the granite wall will be for others. Then, mingled
with these more solemn imaginations, come the understandings of the
gifts and glories of the Alp;--the fancying forth of all the fountains
that well from its rocky walls, and strong rivers that are born out of
its ice, and of all the pleasant valleys that wind between its cliffs,
and all the châlets that gleam among its clouds, and happy farmsteads
couched upon its pastures; while, together with the thoughts of these,
rise strange sympathies with all the unknown of human life, and
happiness, and death, signified by that narrow white flame of the
everlasting snow, seen so far in the morning sky. These images, and
far more than these, lie at the root of the emotion which you feel at
the sight of the Alps. You may not trace them in your heart, for there
is a great deal more in your heart, both of evil and good, than you
can ever trace; but they stir you and quicken you for all that.
Assuredly, so far as you feel more at beholding the snowy mountain
than any other object of the same sweet silvery grey, these are the
kind of images which cause you to do so; and observe, these are
nothing more than a greater apprehension of the _facts_ of the thing.
We call the power 'Imagination,' because it imagines or conceives; but
it is only noble imagination, if it imagines or conceives the _truth_.
And according to the degree of knowledge possessed, and of sensibility
to the pathetic or impressive character of the things known, will be
the degree of this imaginative delight.


18. So natural is it to the human heart to fix itself in hope rather
than in present possession, and so subtle is the charm which the
imagination casts over what is distant or denied, that there is often
a more touching power in the scenes which contain far-away promises of
something greater than themselves, than in those which exhaust the
treasures and powers of nature in an unconquerable and excellent
glory, leaving nothing more to be by fancy pictured or pursued. I do
not know that there is a district in the world more calculated to
illustrate this power of the expectant imagination than that which
surrounds the city of Fribourg in Switzerland, extending from it
towards Berne. It is of grey sandstone, considerably elevated, but
presenting no object of striking interest to the passing traveller; so
that as it is generally seen in the course of a hasty journey from the
Bernese Alps to those of Savoy, it is rarely regarded with any other
sensation than that of weariness, all the more painful because
accompanied with reaction from the high excitement caused by the
splendour of the Bernese Oberland. The traveller--foot-sore, feverish,
and satiated with glacier and precipice,--lies back in the corner of
the diligence, perceiving little more than that the road is winding
and hilly, and the country through which it passes, cultivated and
tame. Let him, however, only do this tame country the justice of
staying in it a few days, until his mind has recovered its tone, and
take one or two long walks through its fields, and he will have other
thoughts of it. It is, as I said, an undulating district of grey
sandstone, never attaining any considerable height, but having enough
of the mountain spirit to throw itself into continual succession of
bold slope and dale; elevated, also, just far enough above the sea to
render the pine a frequent forest tree along its irregular ridges.
Through this elevated tract the river cuts its way in a ravine some
five or six hundred feet in depth, which winds for leagues between the
gentle hills, unthought of until its edge is approached; and then,
suddenly, through the boughs of the firs, the eye perceives, beneath,
the green and gliding stream, and the broad walls of sandstone cliff
that form its banks; hollowed out where the river leans against them,
at its turns, into perilous over-hanging; and, on the other shore, at
the same spots, leaving little breadths of meadow between them and the
water, half overgrown with thicket, deserted in their sweetness,
inaccessible from above, and rarely visited by any curious wanderers
along the hardly traceable footpath which struggles for existence
beneath the rocks. And there the river ripples and eddies and murmurs
in an outer solitude. It is passing through a thickly peopled country;
but never was a stream so lonely. The feeblest and most far-away
torrent among the high hills has its companions; the goats browse
beside it; and the traveller drinks from it, and passes over it with
his staff; and the peasant traces a new channel for it down to his
mill-wheel. But this stream has no companions; it flows on in an
infinite seclusion, not secret, nor threatening, but a quietness of
sweet daylight and open air--a broad space of tender and deep
desolateness, drooped into repose out of the midst of human labour and
life; the waves plashing lowly, with none to hear them; and the wild
birds building in the boughs, with none to fray them away; and the
soft, fragrant herbs rising and breathing and fading, with no hand to
gather them;--and yet all bright and bare to the clouds above, and to
the fresh fall of the passing sunshine and pure rain. But above the
brows of these scarped cliffs, all is in an instant changed. A few
steps only beyond the firs that stretch their branches, angular, and
wild, and white, like forks of lightning, into the air of the
ravine,--and we are in an arable country of the most perfect richness;
the swathes of its corn glowing and burning from field to field: its
pretty hamlets all vivid with fruitful orchards, and flowery garden,
and goodly with steep-roofed storehouse and barn; its well-kept, hard,
park-like roads rising and falling from hillside to hillside, or
disappearing among brown banks of moss, and thickets of the wild
raspberry and rose, or gleaming through lines of tall trees, half
glade, half avenue, where the gate opens, or the gateless path turns
trustedly aside, unhindered, into the garden of some statelier house,
surrounded in rural pride with its golden hives, and carved granaries,
and irregular domain of latticed and espaliered cottages, gladdening
to look upon in their delicate homeliness--delicate, yet in some sort,
rude; not like our English homes--trim, laborious, formal,
irreproachable in comfort--but with a peculiar carelessness and
largeness in all their detail, harmonizing with the outlawed
loveliness of their country. For there is an untamed strength even in
all that soft and habitable land. It is indeed gilded with corn, and
fragrant with deep grass, but it is not subdued to the plough or to
the scythe. It gives at its own free will; it seems to have nothing
wrested from it, nor conquered in it. It is not redeemed from
desertness, but unrestrained in fruitfulness,--a generous land, bright
with capricious plenty, and laughing from vale to vale in fitful
fulness, kind and wild. Nor this without some sterner element mingled
in the heart of it. For, along all its ridges stand the dark masses of
innumerable pines,[11] taking no part in its gladness; asserting
themselves for ever as fixed shadows, not to be pierced or banished
even in the intensest sunlight; fallen flakes and fragments of the
night, stayed in their solemn squares in the midst of all the rosy
bendings of the orchard boughs and yellow effulgence of the harvest,
and tracing themselves in black network and motionless fringes against
the blanched blue of the horizon in its saintly clearness. And yet
they do not sadden the landscape, but seem to have been set there
chiefly to show how bright everything else is round them; and all the
clouds look of pure silver, and all the air seems filled with a whiter
and more living sunshine, where they are pierced by the sable points
of the pines; and all the pastures look of more glowing green where
they run up between the purple trunks; and the sweet field footpaths
skirt the edges of the forest for the sake of its shade, sloping up
and down about the slippery roots, and losing themselves every now and
then hopelessly among the violets and ground-ivy and brown sheddings
of the fibrous leaves, and at last plunging into some open aisle,
where the light through the distant stems shows that there is a chance
of coming out again on the other side; and coming out indeed in a
little while from the scented darkness into the dazzling air and
marvellous landscape, which stretches still farther and farther in new
wilfulness of grove and garden, until at last the craggy mountains of
the Simmenthal rise out of it, sharp into the rolling of the southern
clouds.

[11] Almost the only pleasure I have, myself, in rereading my old books,
is my sense of having at least done justice to the pine. Compare the
passage in this book, No. 47.


19.[12] Although there are few districts of Northern Europe, however
apparently dull or tame, in which I cannot find pleasure; though the
whole of Northern France (except Champagne), dull as it seems to most
travellers, is to me a perpetual paradise; and, putting Lincolnshire,
Leicestershire, and one or two such other perfectly flat districts
aside, there is not an English county which I should not find
entertainment in exploring the cross-roads of, foot by foot,--yet all
my best enjoyment would be owing to the imagination of the hills,
colouring with their far-away memories every lowland stone and herb.
The pleasant French coteau, green in the sunshine, delights me either
by what real mountain character it has in itself, (for in extent and
succession of promontory, the flanks of the French valleys have quite
the sublimity of true mountain distances,) or by its broken ground and
rugged steps among the vines, and rise of the leafage above against
the blue sky, as it might rise at Vevay or Como. There is not a wave
of the Seine, but is associated in my mind with the first rise of the
sandstones and forest pines of Fontainebleau; and with the hope of the
Alps, as one leaves Paris, with the horses' heads to the southwest,
the morning sun flashing on the bright waves at Charenton. If there be
no hope or association of this kind, and if I cannot deceive myself
into fancying that perhaps at the next rise of the road there may be
the film of a blue hill in the gleam of sky at the horizon, the
landscape, however beautiful, produces in me even a kind of sickness
and pain; and the whole view from Richmond Hill or Windsor
Terrace,--nay, the gardens of Alcinous, with their perpetual
summer--or of the Hesperides, (if they were flat, and not close to
Atlas,) golden apples and all, I would give away in an instant, for
one mossy granite stone a foot broad, and two leaves of lady fern.

[12] This, and the following passage, have nothing to do with the
general statements in the book. They occur with reference only to my own
idiosyncrasy. I was much surprised when I found first how individual it
was, by a Pre-Raphaelite painter's declaring a piece of unwholesome
reedy fen to be more beautiful than Benvenue.


20. I cannot find words to express the intense pleasure I have always
in first finding myself, after some prolonged stay in England, at the
foot of the old tower of Calais Church. The large neglect, the noble
unsightliness of it; the record of its years written so visibly, yet
without sign of weakness or decay; its stern wasteness and gloom,
eaten away by the Channel winds, and overgrown with the bitter sea
grasses; its slates and tiles all shaken and rent, and yet not
falling; its desert of brickwork, full of bolts, and holes, and ugly
fissures, and yet strong, like a bare brown rock; its carelessness of
what any one thinks or feels about it, putting forth no claim, having
no beauty, nor desirableness, pride, nor grace; yet neither asking for
pity; not, as ruins are, useless and piteous, feebly or fondly
garrulous of better days; but, useful still, going through its own
daily work,--as some old fisherman, beaten grey by storm, yet drawing
his daily nets: so it stands, with no complaint about its past youth,
in blanched and meagre massiveness and serviceableness, gathering
human souls together underneath it; the sound of its bells for prayer
still rolling through its rents; and the grey peak of it seen far
across the sea, principal of the three that rise above the waste of
surfy sand and hillocked shore,--the lighthouse for life, and the
belfry for labour, and this--for patience and praise.

I cannot tell the half of the strange pleasures and thoughts that come
about me at the sight of that old tower; for, in some sort, it is the
epitome of all that makes the continent of Europe interesting, as
opposed to new countries; and, above all, it completely expresses that
agedness in the midst of active life which binds the old and the new
into harmony. We in England have our new streets, our new inn, our
green shaven lawn, and our piece of ruin emergent from it--a mere
_specimen_ of the Middle Ages put on a bit of velvet carpet, to be
shown; and which, but for its size, might as well be on a museum shelf
at once, under cover;--but, on the Continent, the links are unbroken
between the past and present; and, in such use as they can serve for,
the grey-headed wrecks are suffered to stay with men; while, in
unbroken line, the generations of spared buildings are seen
succeeding, each in its place. And thus, in its largeness, in its
permitted evidence of slow decline, in its poverty, in its absence of
all pretence, of all show and care for outside aspect, that Calais
tower has an infinite of symbolism in it, all the more striking
because usually seen in contrast with English scenes expressive of
feelings the exact reverse of these.[13]

[13] My friend won't write out the reverse! Our book is to be all jelly,
and no powder, it seems. Well, I'm very thankful she likes the
jelly,--at any rate, it makes me sure that _it_ is well made.



SECTION III.

ILLUSTRATIVE: THE SKY.


21. It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the
sky. It is the part of creation in which Nature has done more for the
sake of pleasing man--more for the sole and evident purpose of talking
to him, and teaching him--than in any other of her works; and it is
just the part in which we least attend to her. There are not many of
her other works in which some more material or essential purpose than
the mere pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their
organization; but every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as
we know, be answered if once in three days, or thereabouts, a great,
ugly, black rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything
well watered, and so all left blue again till next time, with perhaps
a film of morning and evening mist for dew;--and instead of this,
there is not a moment of any day of our lives, when Nature is not
producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory,
and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the
most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain[14] it is all done for
us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. And every man, wherever
placed, however far from other sources of interest or of beauty, has
this doing for him constantly. The noblest scenes of the earth can be
seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live
always in the midst of them; he injures them by his presence, he
ceases to feel them if he is always with them; but the sky is for all:
bright as it is, it is not

    "too bright nor good
  For human nature's daily food;"

it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and
exalting of the heart,--for soothing it, and purifying it from its
dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes
awful--never the same for two moments together; almost human in its
passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its
infinity, its appeal to what is immortal in us is as distinct as its
ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is mortal is
essential. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject
of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we look
upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes, upon
all which bears witness to the intentions of the Supreme that we are
to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew
which we share with the weed and the worm, as only a succession of
meaningless and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be
worthy of a moment of watchfulness, or a glance of admiration. If in
our moments of utter idleness and insipidity, we turn to the sky as a
last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says, it has
been wet; and another, it has been windy; and another, it has been
warm. Who among the whole chattering crowd can tell one of the forms
and the precipices of the chain of tall white mountains that girded
the horizon at noon yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeam that came
out of the south, and smote upon their summits until they melted and
mouldered away in a dust of blue rain? Who saw the dance of the dead
clouds when the sunlight left them last night, and the west wind blew
them before it like withered leaves? All has passed unregretted as
unseen; or, if the apathy be ever shaken off even for an instant, it
is only by what is gross, or what is extraordinary. And yet it is not
in the broad and fierce manifestations of the elemental energies, not
in the clash of the hail, nor the drift of the whirlwind, that the
highest characters of the sublime are developed. God is not in the
earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still, small voice. They are
but the blunt and the low faculties of our nature, which can only be
addressed through lamp-black and lightning. It is in quiet and subdued
passages of unobtrusive majesty, the deep and the calm, and the
perpetual; that which must be sought ere it is seen, and loved ere it
is understood; things which the angels work out for us daily, and yet
vary eternally; which are never wanting, and never repeated; which are
to be found always, yet each found but once;--it is through these that
the lesson of devotion is chiefly taught, and the blessing of beauty
given.

[14] At least, I thought so, when I was four-and-twenty. At
five-and-fifty, I fancy that it is just possible there may be other
creatures in the universe to be pleased, or,--it may be,--displeased, by
the weather.


22. We habitually think of the rain-cloud only as dark and grey; not
knowing that we owe to it perhaps the fairest, though not the most
dazzling, of the hues of heaven. Often in our English mornings, the
rain-clouds in the dawn form soft, level fields, which melt
imperceptibly into the blue; or, when of less extent, gather into
apparent bars, crossing the sheets of broader cloud above; and all
these bathed throughout in an unspeakable light of pure rose-colour,
and purple, and amber, and blue; not shining, but misty-soft; the
barred masses, when seen nearer, composed of clusters or tresses of
cloud, like floss silk; looking as if each knot were a little swathe
or sheaf of lighted rain.


23. Aqueous vapour or mist, suspended in the atmosphere, becomes
visible exactly as dust does in the air of a room. In the shadows, you
not only cannot see the dust itself, because unillumined, but you can
see other objects through the dust, without obscurity; the air being
thus actually rendered more transparent by a deprivation of light.
Where a sunbeam enters, every particle of dust becomes visible, and a
palpable interruption to the sight; so that a transverse sunbeam is a
real obstacle to the vision--you cannot see things clearly through it.
In the same way, wherever vapour is illuminated by transverse rays,
there it becomes visible as a whiteness more or less affecting the
purity of the blue, and destroying it exactly in proportion to the
degree of illumination. But where vapour is in shade, it has very
little effect on the sky, perhaps making it a little deeper and greyer
than it otherwise would be, but not, itself, unless very dense,
distinguishable or felt as mist.


24. Has the reader any distinct idea of what clouds are?

[15]That mist which lies in the morning so softly in the valley, level
and white, through which the tops of the trees rise as if through an
inundation--why is _it_ so heavy, and why does it lie so low, being
yet so thin and frail that it will melt away utterly into splendour of
morning when the sun has shone on it but a few moments more? Those
colossal pyramids, huge and firm, with outlines as of rocks, and
strength to bear the beating of the high sun full on their fiery
flanks,--why are _they_ so light, their bases high over our heads,
high over the heads of Alps? Why will these melt away, not as the sun
_rises_, but as he _descends_, and leave the stars of twilight clear;
while the valley vapour gains again upon the earth, like a shroud? Or
that ghost of a cloud, which steals by yonder clump of pines; nay,
which does _not_ steal by them, but haunts them, wreathing yet round
them, and yet,--and yet,--slowly; now falling in a fair waved line
like a woman's veil; now fading, now gone; we look away for an
instant, and look back, and it is again there. What has it to do with
that clump of pines, that it broods by them, and weaves itself among
their branches, to and fro? Has it hidden a cloudy treasure among the
moss at their roots, which it watches thus? Or has some strong
enchanter charmed it into fond returning, or bound it fast within
those bars of bough? And yonder filmy crescent, bent like an archer's
bow above the snowy summit, the highest of all the hills--that white
arch which never forms but over the supreme crest,--how is it stayed
there, repelled apparently from the snow,--nowhere touching it, the
clear sky seen between it and the mountain edge, yet never leaving
it--poised as a white bird hovers over its nest? Or those war clouds
that gather on the horizon, dragon-crested, tongued with fire,--how is
their barbed strength bridled? What bits are those they are champing
with their vapourous lips, flinging off flakes of black foam? Leagued
leviathans of the Sea of Heaven,--out of their nostrils goeth smoke,
and their eyes are like the eyelids of the morning; the sword of him
that layeth at them cannot hold the spear, the dart, nor the
habergeon. Where ride the captains of their armies? Where are set the
measures of their march? Fierce murmurers, answering each other from
morning until evening--what rebuke is this which has awed them into
peace;--what hand has reined them back by the way in which they came?

[15] This is a fifth volume bit, and worth more attention.

I know not if the reader will think at first that questions like these
are easily answered. So far from it, I rather believe that some of the
mysteries of the clouds never will be understood by us at all.
"Knowest thou the balancings of the clouds?" Is the answer ever to be
one of pride? The wondrous works of Him, who is perfect in knowledge?
Is _our_ knowledge ever to be so?...

For my own part, I enjoy the mystery, and perhaps the reader may. I
think he ought. He should not be less grateful for summer rain, or see
less beauty in the clouds of morning, because they come to prove him
with hard questions; to which perhaps, if we look close at the
heavenly scroll, we may find also a syllable or two of answer,
illuminated here and there.[16]

[16] Compare, in 'Sartor Resartus,' the boy's watching from the garden
wall.

And though the climates of the south and east may be _comparatively_
clear, they are no more absolutely clear than our own northern air.
Intense clearness, whether, in the north, after or before rain, or in
some moments of twilight in the south, is always, as far as I am
acquainted with natural phenomena, a _notable_ thing. Mist of some
sort, or mirage, or confusion of light or of cloud, are the general
facts; the distance may vary in different climates at which the
effects of mist begin, but they are always present; and therefore, in
all probability, it is meant that we should enjoy them.... We surely
need not wonder that mist and all its phenomena have been made
delightful to us, since our happiness as thinking beings must depend
on our being content to accept only partial knowledge even in those
matters which chiefly concern us. If we insist upon perfect
intelligibility and complete declaration in every moral subject, we
shall instantly fall into misery of unbelief. Our whole happiness and
power of energetic action depend upon our being able to breathe and
live in the cloud; content to see it opening here, and closing there;
rejoicing to catch through the thinnest films of it, glimpses of
stable and substantial things; but yet perceiving a nobleness even in
the concealment, and rejoicing that the kindly veil is spread where
the untempered light might have scorched us, or the infinite clearness
wearied. And I believe that the resentment of this interference of the
mist is one of the forms of proud error which are too easily mistaken
for virtues. To be content in utter darkness and ignorance is indeed
unmanly, and therefore we think that to love light and find knowledge
must always be right. Yet (as in all matters before observed,)
wherever _pride_ has any share in the work, even knowledge and light
may be ill pursued. Knowledge is good, and light is good: yet man
perished in seeking knowledge, and moths perish in seeking light; and
if we, who are crushed before the moth, will not accept such mystery
as is needful to us, we shall perish in like manner. But, accepted in
humbleness, it instantly becomes an element of pleasure; and I think
that every rightly constituted mind ought to rejoice, not so much in
knowing anything clearly, as in feeling that there is infinitely more
which it cannot know. None but proud or weak men would mourn over
this, for we may always know more, if we choose, by working on; but
the pleasure is, I think, to humble people, in knowing that the
journey is endless, the treasure inexhaustible,--watching the cloud
still march before them with its summitless pillar, and being sure
that, to the end of time, and to the length of eternity, the mysteries
of its infinity will still open farther and farther, their dimness
being the sign and necessary adjunct of their inexhaustibleness. I
know there are an evil mystery, and a deathful dimness,--the mystery
of the great Babylon--the dimness of the sealed eye and soul; but do
not let us confuse these with the glorious mystery of the things which
the "angels desire to look into," or with the dimness which, even
before the clear eye and open soul, still rests on sealed pages of the
eternal volume.


25. On some isolated mountain at day-break,[17] when the night mists
first rise from off the plain, watch their white and lakelike fields,
as they float in level bays, and winding gulfs, about the islanded
summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than dawn, colder
and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of midnight; watch
when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver channels, how the foam
of their undulating surface parts, and passes away, and down under
their depths the glittering city and green pastures lie like Atlantis,
between the white paths of winding rivers; the flakes of light falling
every moment faster and broader among the starry spires, as the
wreathed surges break and vanish above them, and the confused crests
and ridges of the dark hills shorten their grey shadows upon the
plain. Wait a little longer, and you shall see those scattered mists
rallying in the ravines, and floating up towards you, along the
winding valleys, till they crouch in quiet masses, iridescent with the
morning light, upon the broad breasts of the higher hills, whose
leagues of massy undulation will melt back, back into that robe of
material light, until they fade away, lost in its lustre, to appear
again above in the serene heaven like a wild, bright, impossible
dream, foundationless, and inaccessible, their very bases vanishing in
the unsubstantial and mocking blue of the deep lake below. Wait yet a
little longer, and you shall see those mists gather themselves into
white towers, and stand like fortresses along the promontories, massy
and motionless, only piled, with every instant, higher and higher into
the sky, and casting longer shadows athwart the rocks; and out of the
pale blue of the horizon you will see forming and advancing a troop of
narrow, dark, pointed vapours, which will cover the sky, inch by inch,
with their grey network, and take the light off the landscape with an
eclipse which will stop the singing of the birds, and the motion of
the leaves, together;--and then you will see horizontal bars of black
shadow forming under them, and lurid wreaths create themselves, you
know not how, among the shoulders of the hills; you never see them
form, but when you look back to a place which was clear an instant
ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging by the precipice, as a hawk
pauses over his prey;--and then you will hear the sudden rush of the
awakened wind, and you will see those watch-towers of vapour swept
away from their foundations, and waving curtains of opaque rain, let
down to the valley, swinging from the burdened clouds in black bending
fringes, or, pacing in pale columns along the lake level, grazing its
surface into foam as they go. And then, as the sun sinks, you shall
see the storm drift for an instant from off the hills, leaving their
broad sides smoking and loaded yet with snow-white, torn, steam-like
rags of capricious vapour, now gone, now gathered again,--while the
smouldering sun, seeming not far away, but burning like a red-hot ball
beside you, and as if you could reach it, plunges through the rushing
wind and rolling cloud with headlong fall, as if it meant to rise no
more, dyeing all the air about it with blood;--and then you shall hear
the fainting tempest die in the hollow of the night, and you shall see
a green halo kindling on the summit of the eastern hills, brighter,
brighter yet, till the large white circle of the slow moon is lifted
up among the barred clouds, step by step, line by line; star after
star she quenches with her kindling light, setting in their stead an
army of pale, penetrable, fleecy wreaths in the heaven, to give light
upon the earth, which move together hand in hand, company by company,
troop by troop, so measured in their unity of motion that the whole
heaven seems to roll with them, and the earth to reel under them. And
then wait yet for one hour, until the east again becomes purple, and
the heaving mountains, rolling against it in darkness, like waves of a
wild sea, are drowned one by one in the glory of its burning; watch
the white glaciers blaze in their winding paths about the mountains,
like mighty serpents with scales of fire; watch the columnar peaks of
solitary snow, kindling downwards chasm by chasm, each in itself a new
morning--their long avalanches cast down in keen streams brighter than
the lightning, sending each his tribute of driven snow, like
altar-smoke, up to heaven; the rose-light of their silent domes
flushing that heaven about them, and above them, piercing with purer
light through its purple lines of lifted cloud, casting a new glory on
every wreath, as it passes by, until the whole heaven, one scarlet
canopy, is interwoven with a roof of waving flame, and tossing vault
beyond vault, as with the drifted wings of many companies of angels;
and then, when you can look no more for gladness, and when you are
bowed down with fear and love of the Maker and Doer of this, tell me
who has best delivered this His message unto men!

[17] I forget now what all this is about. It seems to be a recollection
of the Rigi, with assumption that the enthusiastic spectator is to stand
for a day and night in observation; to suffer the effects of a severe
thunder-storm, and to get neither breakfast nor dinner. I have seen such
a storm on the Rigi, however, and more than one such sunrise; and I much
doubt if its present visitors by rail will see more.


26.[18] The account given of the stages of creation in the first
chapter of Genesis is in every respect clear and intelligible to the
simplest reader, except in the statement of the work of the second
day. I suppose that this statement is passed over by careless readers
without any endeavour to understand it, and contemplated by simple and
faithful readers as a sublime mystery which was not intended to be
understood. But there is no mystery in any other part of the chapter,
and it seems to me unjust to conclude that any was intended here. And
the passage ought to be peculiarly interesting to us, as being the
first in the Bible in which the heavens are named, and the only one in
which the word "Heaven," all-important as that word is to our
understanding of the most precious promises of Scripture, receives a
definite explanation. Let us therefore see whether, by a little
careful comparison of the verse with other passages in which the word
occurs, we may not be able to arrive at as clear an understanding of
this portion of the chapter as of the rest. In the first place the
English word, "Firmament," itself is obscure and useless; because we
never employ it but as a synonym of heaven, it conveys no other
distinct idea to us; and the verse, though from our familiarity with
it we imagine that it possesses meaning, has in reality no more point
nor value than if it were written, "God said, Let there be a something
in the midst of the waters, and God called the something, Heaven." But
the marginal reading, "Expansion," has definite value; and the
statement that "God said, Let there be an expansion in the midst of
the waters, and God called the expansion, Heaven," has an
apprehensible meaning. Accepting this expression as the one intended,
we have next to ask what expansion there is, between two waters,
describable by the term "heaven." Milton adopts the term "expanse,"
but he understands it of the whole volume of the air which surrounds
the earth. Whereas, so far as we can tell, there is no water beyond
the air, in the fields of space; and the whole expression of division
of waters from waters is thus rendered valueless. Now with respect to
this whole chapter, we must remember always that it is intended for
the instruction of all mankind, not for the learned reader only; and
that therefore the most simple and natural interpretation is the
likeliest in general to be the true one. An unscientific reader knows
little about the manner in which the volume of the atmosphere
surrounds the earth; but I imagine that he could hardly glance at the
sky when rain was falling in the distance, and see the level line of
the bases of the clouds from which the shower descended, without being
able to attach an instant and easy meaning to the words, "expansion in
the midst of the waters;" and if, having once seized this idea, he
proceeded to examine it more accurately, he would perceive at once, if
he had ever noticed _anything_ of the nature of clouds, that the level
line of their bases did indeed most severely and stringently divide
"waters from waters"--that is to say, divide water in its collective
and tangible state, from water in its aërial state; or the waters
which _fall_, and _flow_, from those which _rise_, and _float_. Next,
if we try this interpretation in the theological sense of the word
_heaven_, and examine whether the clouds are spoken of as God's
dwelling-place, we find God going before the Israelites in a pillar of
cloud; revealing Himself in a cloud on Sinai; appearing in a cloud on
the mercy-seat; filling the Temple of Solomon with the cloud when its
dedication is accepted; appearing in a great cloud to Ezekiel;
ascending into a cloud before the eyes of the disciples on Mount
Olivet; and in like manner returning to judgment: "Behold He cometh
with clouds, and every eye shall see Him." "Then shall they see the
Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great
glory." While, further, the "clouds" and "heavens" are used as
interchangeable words in those psalms which most distinctly set forth
the power of God: "He bowed the heavens also, and came down; He made
darkness pavilions round about Him, dark waters, and thick clouds of
the skies." And again, "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy
faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds." And again, "His excellency is
over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds." And again, "The
clouds poured out water, the skies sent out a sound, the voice of Thy
thunder was in the heaven." Again, "Clouds and darkness are round
about Him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His
throne; the heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see
His glory." In all these passages the meaning is unmistakable if they
possess definite meaning at all. We are too apt to take them merely
for sublime and vague imagery, and therefore gradually to lose the
apprehension of their life and power. The expression, "He bowed the
heavens," for instance, is, I suppose, received by most readers as a
magnificent hyperbole, having reference to some peculiar and fearful
manifestation of God's power to the writer of the psalm in which the
words occur. But the expression either has _plain_ meaning, or it has
_no_ meaning. Understand by the term "heavens" the compass of infinite
space around the earth, and the expression "bowed the heavens,"
however sublime, is wholly without meaning: infinite space cannot be
bent or bowed. But understand by the "heavens" the veil of clouds
above the earth, and the expression is neither hyperbolical nor
obscure; it is pure, plain, accurate truth, and it describes God, not
as revealing Himself in any peculiar way to David, but doing what He
is still doing before our own eyes, day by day. By accepting the words
in their simple sense, we are thus led to apprehend the immediate
presence of the Deity, and His purpose of manifesting Himself as near
us whenever the storm-cloud stoops upon its course; while by our vague
and inaccurate acceptance of the words, we remove the idea of His
presence far from us, into a region which we can neither see nor know:
and gradually, from the close realization of a living God, who "maketh
the clouds His chariot," we define and explain ourselves into dim and
distant suspicion of an inactive God inhabiting inconceivable places,
and fading into the multitudinous formalisms of the laws of Nature.
All errors of this kind--and in the present day we are in constant and
grievous danger of falling into them--arise from the originally
mistaken idea that man can, "by searching, find out God--find out the
Almighty to perfection"--that is to say, by help of courses of
reasoning and accumulations of science, apprehend the nature of the
Deity, in a more exalted and more accurate manner than in a state of
comparative ignorance; whereas it is clearly necessary, from the
beginning to the end of time, that God's way of revealing Himself to
His creatures should be a _simple_ way, which _all_ those creatures
may understand. Whether taught or untaught, whether of mean capacity
or enlarged, it is necessary that communion with their Creator should
be possible to all; and the admission to such communion must be
rested, not on their having a knowledge of astronomy, but on their
having a human soul. In order to render this communion possible, the
Deity has stooped from His throne, and has, not only in the person of
the Son, taken upon Him the veil of our human _flesh_, but, in the
person of the Father, taken upon Him the veil of our human _thoughts_,
and permitted us, by His own spoken authority, to conceive Him simply
and clearly as a loving father and friend; a being to be walked with
and reasoned with, to be moved by our entreaties, angered by our
rebellion, alienated by our coldness, pleased by our love, and
glorified by our labour; and, finally, to be beheld in immediate and
active presence in all the powers and changes of creation. This
conception of God, which is the child's, is evidently the only one
which can be universal, and, therefore, the only one which _for us_
can be true. The moment that, in our pride of heart, we refuse to
accept the condescension of the Almighty, and desire Him, instead of
stooping to hold our hands, to rise up before us into His glory, we
hoping that, by standing on a grain of dust or two of human knowledge
higher than our fellows, we may behold the Creator as He rises,--God
takes us at our word. He rises into His own invisible and
inconceivable majesty; He goes forth upon the ways which are not our
ways, and retires into the thoughts which are not our thoughts; and we
are left alone. And presently we say in our vain hearts, "There is no
God."

[18] This passage, to the end of the section, is one of the last, and
best, which I wrote in the temper of my youth; and I can still ratify
it, thus far, that the texts referred to in it must either be received
as it explains them, or neglected altogether.

I would desire, therefore, to receive God's account of His own
creation as under the ordinary limits of human knowledge and
imagination it would be received by a simple-minded man; and finding
that "the heavens and the earth" are spoken of always as having
something like equal relation to each other, ("Thus the heavens and
the earth were finished, and all the host of them,") I reject at once
all idea of the term "heavens" being intended to signify the infinity
of space inhabited by countless worlds; for between those infinite
heavens and the particle of sand, which not the earth only, but the
sun itself, with all the solar system, is, in relation to them, no
relation of equality or comparison could be inferred. But I suppose
the heavens to mean that part of creation which holds equal
companionship with our globe; I understand the "rolling of these
heavens together as a scroll," to be an equal and relative destruction
with the melting of the elements in fervent heat; and I understand the
making of the firmament to signify that, so far as man is concerned,
most magnificent ordinance of the clouds;--the ordinance that, as the
great plain of waters was formed on the face of the earth, so also a
plain of waters should be stretched along the height of air, and the
face of the cloud answer the face of the ocean; and that this upper
and heavenly plain should be of waters, as it were, glorified in their
nature, no longer quenching the fire, but now bearing fire in their
own bosoms; no longer murmuring only when the winds raise them or
rocks divide, but answering each other with their own voices, from
pole to pole; no longer restrained by established shores, and guided
through unchanging channels, but going forth at their pleasure like
the armies of the angels, and choosing their encampments upon the
heights of the hills; no longer hurried downwards for ever, moving but
to fall, nor lost in the lightless accumulation of the abyss, but
covering the east and west with the waving of their wings, and robing
the gloom of the farther infinite with a vesture of diverse colours,
of which the threads are purple and scarlet, and the embroideries
flame.

This I believe is the ordinance of the firmament; and it seems to me
that in the midst of the material nearness of these heavens, God means
us to acknowledge His own immediate presence as visiting, judging, and
blessing us: "The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the
presence of God." "He doth set His bow in the clouds," and thus
renews, in the sound of every drooping swathe of rain, His promises of
everlasting love. "In them hath He set a _tabernacle_ for the sun;"
whose burning ball, which, without the firmament, would be seen but as
an intolerable and scorching circle in the blackness of vacuity, is by
that firmament surrounded with gorgeous service, and tempered by
mediatorial ministries: by the firmament of clouds the temple is
built, for his presence to fill with light at noon; by the firmament
of clouds the purple veil is closed at evening, round the sanctuary of
his rest; by the mists of the firmament his implacable light is
divided, and its separated fierceness appeased into the soft blue that
fills the depth of distance with its bloom, and the flush with which
the mountains burn, as they drink the overflowing of the dayspring.
And in this tabernacling of the unendurable sun with men, through the
shadows of the firmament, God would seem to set forth the stooping of
His own Majesty to men, upon the throne of the firmament. As the
Creator of all the worlds, and the Inhabiter of eternity, we cannot
behold Him; but as the Judge of the earth and the Preserver of men,
those heavens are indeed His dwelling-place: "Swear not, neither by
heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His
footstool!" And all those passings to and fro of fruitful showers and
grateful shade, and all those visions of silver palaces built about
the horizon, and voices of moaning winds and threatening thunders, and
glories of coloured robe and cloven ray, are but to deepen in our
hearts the acceptance, and distinctness, and dearness of the simple
words, "Our Father, which art in heaven."



SECTION IV.

ILLUSTRATIVE: STREAMS AND SEA.


27. Of all inorganic substances, acting in their own proper nature,
and without assistance and combination, water is the most wonderful.
If we think of it as the source of all the changefulness and beauty
which we have seen in clouds,--then, as the instrument by which the
earth we have contemplated was modelled into symmetry, and its crags
chiselled into grace;--then, as in the form of snow, it robes the
mountains it has made with that transcendent light which we could not
have conceived if we had not seen;--then, as it exists in the foam of
the torrent, in the iris which spans it, in the morning mist which
rises from it, in the deep crystalline pools which mirror its hanging
shore, in the broad lake and glancing river;--finally, in that which
is to all human minds the best emblem of unwearied, unconquerable
power the wild, various, fantastic, tameless unity of the sea;--what
shall we compare to this mighty, this universal element, for glory and
beauty? or how shall we follow its eternal changefulness of feeling?
It is like trying to paint a soul!


28. The great angel of the sea--rain; the angel, observe,--the
messenger sent to a special place on a special errand. Not the
diffused, perpetual presence of the burden of mist, but the going and
returning of the intermittent cloud. All turns upon that
intermittence. Soft moss on stone and rock; cave fern of tangled glen;
wayside well--perennial, patient, silent, clear, stealing through its
square font of rough-hewn stone; ever thus deep, no more;--which the
winter wreck sullies not, the summer thirst wastes not, incapable of
stain as of decline;--where the fallen leaf floats undecayed, and the
insect darts undefiling: cressed brook and ever-eddying river, lifted
even in flood scarcely over its stepping stones,--but through all
sweet summer keeping tremulous music with harp-strings of dark water
among the silver fingering of the pebbles. Far away in the south the
strong river gods have all hasted, and gone down to the sea. Wasted
and burning, white furnaces of blasting sand, their broad beds lie
ghastly and bare; but here in the moss lands, the soft wings of the
sea angel droop still with dew, and the shadows of their plumes falter
on the hills; strange laughings and glitterings of silver streamlets,
born suddenly, and twined about the mossy heights in trickling tinsel,
answering to them as they wave.


29. Stand for half an hour beside the fall of Schaffhausen, on the
north side, where the rapids are long, and watch how the vault of
water first bends unbroken, in pure polished velocity, over the
arching rocks at the brow of the cataract, covering them with a dome
of crystal twenty feet thick, so swift that its motion is unseen
except when a foam globe from above darts over it like a falling star;
and how the trees are lighted above it under all their leaves,[19] at
the instant that it breaks into foam; and how all the hollows of that
foam burn with green fire like so much shattering chrysoprase; and
how, ever and anon startling you with its white flash, a jet of spray
leaps hissing out of the fall, like a rocket, bursting in the wind and
driven away in dust, filling the air with light; and how through the
curdling wreaths of the restless crashing abyss below, the blue of the
water, paled by the foam in its body, shows purer than the sky through
white rain-cloud, while the shuddering iris stoops in tremulous
stillness over all, fading and flushing alternately through the
choking spray and shattered sunshine, hiding itself at last among the
thick golden leaves which toss to and fro in sympathy with the wild
water,--their dripping masses lifted at intervals, like sheaves of
loaded corn, by some stronger gush from the cataract, and bowed again
upon the mossy rocks as its roar dies away,--the dew gushing from
their thick branches through drooping clusters of emerald herbage, and
sparkling in white threads along the dark rocks of the shore, feeding
the lichens, which chase and chequer them with purple and silver.

[19] Well noticed. The drawing of the fall of Schaffhausen, which I made
at the time of writing this study, was one of the very few, either by
other draughtsmen or myself, which I have seen Turner pause at with
serious attention.


30. Close beside the path by which travellers ascend the Montanvert
from the valley of Chamouni, on the right hand, where it first begins
to rise among the pines, there descends a small stream from the foot
of the granite peak known to the guides as the Aiguille Charmoz. It is
concealed from the traveller by a thicket of alder, and its murmur is
hardly heard, for it is one of the weakest streams of the valley. But
it is a constant stream, fed by a permanent, though small, glacier;
and continuing to flow even to the close of summer, when more copious
torrents, depending only on the melting of the lower snows, have left
their beds,--"stony channels in the sun." The long drought which took
place in the autumn of 1854, sealing every source of waters except
these perpetual ones, left the torrent of which I am speaking, and
such others, in a state peculiarly favourable to observance of their
_least_ action on the mountains from which they descend. They were
entirely limited to their own ice fountains, and the quantity of
powdered rock which they brought down was, of course, at its minimum,
being nearly unmingled with any earth derived from the dissolution of
softer soil, or vegetable mould, by rains. At three in the afternoon,
on a warm day in September, when the torrent had reached its average
maximum strength for the day, I filled an ordinary Bordeaux wine flask
with the water where it was least turbid. From this quart of water I
obtained twenty-four grains of sand and sediment more or less fine. I
cannot estimate the quantity of water in the stream; but the runlet of
it at which I filled the flask was giving about two hundred bottles a
minute, or rather more, carrying down, therefore, about three quarters
of a pound of powdered granite every minute. This would be forty-five
pounds an hour; but allowing for the inferior power of the stream in
the cooler periods of the day, and taking into consideration, on the
other side, its increased power in rain, we may, I think, estimate its
average hour's work at twenty-eight or thirty pounds, or a
hundredweight every four hours. By this insignificant runlet,
therefore, rather more than two tons of the substance of the Mont
Blanc are displaced and carried down a certain distance every week;
and as it is only for three or four months that the flow of the stream
is checked by frost, we may certainly allow eighty tons for the mass
which it annually moves. It is not worth while to enter into any
calculation of the relation borne by this runlet to the great torrents
which descend from the chain of Mont Blanc into the valley of
Chamouni.[20] I but take this quantity, eighty tons, as the result of
the labour of a scarcely noticeable runlet at the side of one of them,
utterly irrespective of all sudden falls of stones and of masses of
mountain (a single thunderbolt will sometimes leave a scar on the
flank of a soft rock looking like a trench for a railroad), and we
shall then begin to apprehend something of the operation of the great
laws of change which are the conditions of all material existence,
however apparently enduring. The hills, which, as compared with living
beings, seem "everlasting," are in truth as perishing as they; its
veins of flowing fountain weary the mountain heart, as the crimson
pulse does ours; the natural force of the iron crag is abated in its
appointed time, like the strength of the sinews in a human old age;
and it is but the lapse of the longer years of decay which, in the
sight of its Creator, distinguishes the mountain range from the moth
and the worm.

[20] I have slightly modified and abridged what follows, being impatient
of its prolixity, as well as ashamed of what is truly called the
ludicrous under-estimate of the mass of the larger streams.


31. Few people, comparatively, have ever seen the effect on the sea of
a powerful gale continued without intermission for three or four days
and nights; and to those who have not, I believe it must be
unimaginable, not from the mere force or size of surge, but from the
complete annihilation of the limit between sea and air. The water,
from its prolonged agitation, is beaten, not into mere creamy foam,
but into masses of accumulated yeast, which hang in ropes and wreaths
from wave to wave; and where one curls over to break, form a festoon
like a drapery from its edge; these are taken up by the wind, not in
dissipating dust, but bodily, in writhing, hanging, coiling masses,
which make the air white, and thick as with snow, only the flakes are
a foot or two long each; the surges themselves are full of foam in
their very bodies, underneath, making them white all through, as the
water is under a great cataract,--and their masses, being thus half
water and half air, are torn to pieces by the wind whenever they rise,
and carried away in roaring smoke, which chokes and strangles like
actual water. Add to this, that when the air has been exhausted of its
moisture by long rain, the spray of the sea is caught by it as
described above, and covers its surface not merely with the smoke of
finely divided water, but with boiling mist: imagine also the low
rain-clouds brought down to the very level of the sea, as I have often
seen them, whirling and flying in rags and fragments from wave to
wave; and finally conceive the surges themselves in their utmost pitch
of power, velocity, vastness, and madness, lifting themselves in
precipices and peaks furrowed with their whirl of ascent, through all
this chaos; and you will understand that there is indeed no
distinction left between the sea and air; that no object, nor horizon,
nor any landmark, or natural evidence of position is left; that the
heaven is all spray, and the ocean all cloud, and that you can see no
farther in any direction than you could see through a cataract.[21]

[21] The whole of this was written merely to show the meaning of
Turner's picture of the steamer in distress, throwing up signals. It is
a good study of wild weather; but, separate from its aim, utterly feeble
in comparison to the few words by which any of the great poets will
describe sea, when they have got to do it. I am rather proud of the
short sentence in the 'Harbours of England,' describing a great breaker
against rock:--"One moment, a flint cave,--the next, a marble
pillar,--the next, a fading cloud." But there is nothing in
sea-description, detailed, like Dickens' storm at the death of Ham, in
'David Copperfield.'



SECTION V.

ILLUSTRATIVE: MOUNTAINS.


32. The words which marked for us the purpose of the clouds are
followed immediately by those notable ones,--"And God said, Let the
waters which are under the heavens be gathered together into one
place, and let the dry land appear." We do not, perhaps, often enough
consider the deep signification of this sentence. We are too apt to
receive it as the description of an event vaster only in its extent,
not in its nature, than the compelling of the Red Sea to draw back
that Israel might pass by. We imagine the Deity in like manner rolling
the waves of the greater ocean together on an heap, and setting bars
and doors to them eternally. But there is a far deeper meaning than
this in the solemn words of Genesis, and in the correspondent verse of
the Psalm, "His hands prepared the dry land." Up to that moment the
earth had been _void_; for, it had been _without_ _form_. The command
that the waters should be gathered, was the command that the earth
should be _sculptured_. The sea was not driven to its place in
suddenly restrained rebellion, but withdrawn to its place in perfect
and patient obedience. The dry land appeared, not in level sands
forsaken by the surges, which those surges might again claim for their
own; but in range beyond range of swelling hill and iron rock, for
ever to claim kindred with the firmament, and be companioned by the
clouds of heaven.

What space of time was in reality occupied by the "day" of Genesis, is
not at present of any importance for us to consider. By what furnaces
of fire the adamant was melted, and by what wheels of earthquake it
was torn, and by what teeth of glacier and weight of sea-waves it was
engraven and finished into its perfect form, we may, perhaps,
hereafter endeavour to conjecture; but here, as in few words the work
is summed by the historian, so in few broad thoughts it should be
comprehended by us; and, as we read the mighty sentence, "Let the dry
land appear," we should try to follow the finger of God as it engraved
upon the stone tables of the earth the letters and the law of its
everlasting form, as gulf by gulf the channels of the deep were
ploughed; and cape by cape the lines were traced with Divine
foreknowledge of the shores that were to limit the nations; and chain
by chain the mountain walls were lengthened forth, and their
foundations fastened for ever; and the compass was set upon the face
of the depth, and the fields and the highest part of the dust of the
world were made; and the right hand of Christ first strewed the snow
on Lebanon, and smoothed the slopes of Calvary.

It is not, I repeat, always needful, in many respects it is not
possible, to conjecture the manner or the time in which this work was
done; but it is deeply necessary for all men to consider the
magnificence of the accomplished purpose, and the depth of the wisdom
and love which are manifested in the ordinances of the hills. For
observe, in order to bring the world into the form which it now bears,
it was not mere _sculpture_ that was needed; the mountains could not
stand for a day unless they were formed of materials altogether
different from those which constitute the lower hills, and the
surfaces of the valleys. A harder substance had to be prepared for
every mountain chain, yet not so hard but that it might be capable of
crumbling down into earth fit to nourish the Alpine forest, and the
Alpine flower; not so hard but that in the midst of the utmost majesty
of its enthroned strength there should be seen on it the seal of
death, and the writing of the same sentence that had gone forth
against the human frame, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou
return." And with this perishable substance the most majestic forms
were to be framed that were consistent with the safety of man; and the
peak was to be lifted and the cliff rent, as high and as steeply as
was possible, in order yet to permit the shepherd to feed his flocks
upon the slopes, and the cottage to nestle beneath their shadow. And
observe, two distinct ends were to be accomplished in doing this. It
was, indeed, absolutely necessary that such eminences should be
created, in order to fit the earth in any wise for human habitation;
for without mountains the air could not be purified, nor the flowing
of the rivers sustained, and the earth must have become for the most
part plain, or stagnant marsh. But the feeding of the rivers and the
purifying of the winds, are the least of the services appointed to the
hills. To fill the thirst of the human heart for the beauty of God's
working--to startle its lethargy with the deep and pure agitation of
astonishment,--are their higher missions. They are as a great and
noble architecture, first giving shelter, comfort, and rest; and
covered also with mighty sculpture and painted legend. It is
impossible to examine, in their connected system, the features of even
the most ordinary mountain scenery, without concluding that it has
been prepared in order to unite as far as possible, and in the closest
compass, every means of delighting and sanctifying the heart of man:
"as far as _possible_,"--that is, as far as is consistent with the
fulfilment of the sentence of condemnation on the whole earth. Death
must be upon the hills; and the cruelty of the tempests smite them,
and the briar and thorn spring up upon them; but they so smite as to
bring their rocks into the fairest forms, and so spring as to make the
very desert blossom as the rose. Even among our own hills of Scotland
and Cumberland, though often too barren to be perfectly beautiful, and
always too low to be perfectly sublime, it is strange how many deep
sources of delight are gathered into the compass of their glens and
vales; and how, down to the most secret cluster of their far-away
flowers, and the idlest leap of their straying streamlets, the whole
heart of Nature seems thirsting to give, and still to give, shedding
forth her everlasting beneficence with a profusion so patient, so
passionate, that our utmost observance and thankfulness are but, at
last, neglects of her nobleness, and apathy to her love. But among the
true mountains of the greater orders, the Divine purpose of appeal at
once to all the faculties of the human spirit becomes still more
manifest. Inferior hills ordinarily interrupt, in some degree, the
richness of the valleys at their feet; the grey downs of southern
England and treeless coteaux of central France, and grey swells of
Scottish moor, whatever peculiar charm they may possess in themselves,
are at least destitute of those which belong to the woods and fields
of the lowlands. But the great mountains _lift_ the lowlands on _their
sides_. Let the reader imagine first the appearance of the most varied
plain of some richly cultivated country; let him imagine it dark with
graceful woods, and soft with deepest pastures; let him fill the space
of it, to the utmost horizon, with innumerable and changeful incidents
of scenery and life; leading pleasant streamlets through its meadows,
strewing clusters of cottages beside their banks, tracing sweet
footpaths through its avenues, and animating its fields with happy
flocks, and slow wandering spots of cattle; and when he has wearied
himself with endless imagining, and left no space without some
loveliness of its own, let him conceive all this great plain, with its
infinite treasures of natural beauty, and happy human life, gathered
up in God's hands from one edge of the horizon to the other, like a
woven garment, and shaken into deep falling folds, as the robes droop
from a king's shoulders; all its bright rivers leaping into cataracts
along the hollows of its fall, and all its forests rearing themselves
aslant against its slopes, as a rider rears himself back when his
horse plunges, and all its villages nestling themselves into the new
windings of its glens, and all its pastures thrown into steep waves of
greensward, dashed with dew along the edges of their folds, and
sweeping down into endless slopes, with a cloud here and there lying
quietly, half on the grass, half in the air,--and he will have as yet,
in all this lifted world, only the foundation of one of the great
Alps. And whatever is lovely in the lowland scenery, becomes lovelier
in this change; the trees which grew heavily and stiffly from the
level line of plain, assume strange curves of strength and grace as
they bend themselves against the mountain side; they breathe more
freely and toss their branches more carelessly as each climbs higher,
looking to the clear light above the topmost leaves of its brother
tree; the flowers which on the arable plain fall before the plough,
now find out for themselves unapproachable places where year by year
they gather into happier fellowship, and fear no evil; and the streams
which in the level land crept in dark eddies by unwholesome banks, now
move in showers of silver, and are clothed with rainbows, and bring
health and life wherever the glance of their waves can reach....

It may not, therefore, be altogether profitless or unnecessary to
review briefly the nature of the three great offices which mountain
ranges are appointed to fulfil, in order to preserve the health and
increase the happiness of mankind. Their first use is, of course, to
give motion to water. Every fountain and river, from the inch-deep
streamlet that crosses the village lane in trembling clearness, to the
massy and silent march of the everlasting multitude of waters in
Amazon or Ganges, owe their play, and purity, and power, to the
ordained elevations of the earth. Gentle or steep, extended or abrupt,
some determined slope of the earth's surface is of course necessary
before any wave can so much as overtake one sedge in its pilgrimage;
and how seldom do we enough consider, as we walk beside the margins of
our pleasant brooks, how beautiful and wonderful is that ordinance, of
which every blade of grass that waves in their clear water is a
perpetual sign--that the dew and rain fallen on the face of the earth
shall find no resting-place; shall find, on the contrary, fixed
channels traced for them from the ravines of the central crests down
which they roar, in sudden ranks of foam, to the dark hollows beneath
the banks of lowland pasture, round which they must circle slowly
among the stems and beneath the leaves of the lilies; paths prepared
for them by which, at some appointed rate of journey, they must
evermore descend, sometimes slow, and sometimes swift, but never
pausing; the daily portion of the earth they have to glide over marked
for them at each successive sunrise, the place which has known them
knowing them no more, and the gateways of guarding mountains opened
for them in cleft and chasm, none letting them in their pilgrimage;
and, from afar off, the great heart of the sea calling them to itself!
"Deep calleth unto deep." I know not which of the two is the more
wonderful,--that calm, gradated, invisible slope of the champaign
land, which gives motion to the stream; or that passage cloven for it
through the ranks of hill, which, necessary for the health of the land
immediately around them, would yet, unless so supernaturally divided,
have fatally intercepted the flow of the waters from far-off
countries. When did the great spirit of the river first knock at these
adamantine gates? When did the porter open to it, and cast his keys
away for ever, lapped in whirling sand? I am not satisfied--no one
should be satisfied--with that vague answer, The river cut its way.
Not so. The river _found_ its way. [22]I do not see that rivers in
their own strength can do much in cutting their way; they are nearly
as apt to choke their channels up as to carve them out. Only give a
river some little sudden power in a valley, and see how it will use
it. Cut itself a bed? Not so, by any means, but fill up its bed; and
look for another in a wild, dissatisfied, inconsistent manner,--any
way rather than the old one will better please it; and even if it is
banked up and forced to keep to the old one, it will not deepen, but
do all it can to raise it, and leap out of it. And although wherever
water has a steep fall it will swiftly cut itself a bed deep into the
rock or ground, it will not, when the rock is hard, cut a wider
channel than it actually needs; so that if the existing river beds,
through ranges of mountains, had in reality been cut by the streams,
they would be found, wherever the rocks are hard, only in the form of
narrow and profound ravines, like the well-known channel of the
Niagara, below the fall; not in that of extended valleys. And the
actual work of true mountain rivers, though often much greater in
proportion to their body of water than that of the Niagara, is quite
insignificant when compared with the area and depth of the valleys
through which they flow; so that, although in many cases it appears
that those larger valleys have been excavated at earlier periods by
more powerful streams, or by the existing stream in a more powerful
condition, still the great fact remains always equally plain, and
equally admirable, that, whatever the nature and duration of the
agencies employed, the earth was so shaped at first as to direct the
currents of its rivers in the manner most healthy and convenient for
man. The valley of the Rhone may have been in great part excavated, in
early times, by torrents a thousand times larger than the Rhone; but
it could not have been excavated at all, unless the mountains had been
thrown at first into two chains, by which the torrents were set to
work in a given direction. And it is easy to conceive how, under any
less beneficent dispositions of their masses of hill, the continents
of the earth might either have been covered with enormous lakes, as
parts of North America actually are covered; or have become
wildernesses of pestiferous marsh; or lifeless plains, upon which the
water would have dried as it fell, leaving them for great part of the
year desert. Such districts do exist, and exist in vastness; the whole
earth is not prepared for the habitation of man; only certain small
portions are prepared for him,--the houses, as it were, of the human
race, from which they are to look abroad upon the rest of the world;
not to wonder or complain that it is not all house, but to be grateful
for the kindness of the admirable building, in the house itself, as
compared with the rest. It would be as absurd to think it an evil that
all the world is not fit for us to inhabit, as to think it an evil
that the globe is no larger than it is. As much as we shall ever need
is evidently assigned to us for our dwelling-place; the rest, covered
with rolling waves or drifting sands, fretted with ice or crested with
fire, is set before us for contemplation in an uninhabitable
magnificence. And that part which we are enabled to inhabit owes its
fitness for human life chiefly to its mountain ranges, which, throwing
the superfluous rain off as it falls, collect it in streams or lakes,
and guide it into given places, and in given directions; so that men
can build their cities in the midst of fields which they know will be
always fertile, and establish the lines of their commerce upon streams
which will not fail.

[22] I attach great importance to the remaining contents of this
passage, and have had occasion to insist on them at great length in
recent lectures at Oxford.

Nor is this giving of motion to water to be considered as confined
only to the surface of the earth. A no less important function of the
hills is in directing the flow of the fountains and springs from
subterranean reservoirs. There is no miraculous springing up of water
out of the ground at our feet; but every fountain and well is supplied
from reservoirs among the hills, so placed as to involve some slight
fall or pressure enough to secure the constant flowing of the stream;
and the incalculable blessing of the power given to us, in most
valleys, of reaching by excavation some point whence the water will
rise to the surface of the ground in perennial flow, is entirely owing
to the concave dispositions of the beds of clay or rock raised from
beneath the bosom of the valley into ranks of enclosing hills.

The second great use of mountains is to maintain a constant change in
the currents and nature of the _air_. Such change would, of course,
have been partly caused by difference in soil and vegetation, even if
the earth had been level; but to a far less extent than it is now by
the chains of hills which--exposing on one side their masses of rock
to the full heat of the sun, (increased by the angle at which the rays
strike on the slope,) and on the other casting a soft shadow for
leagues over the plains at their feet--divide the earth not only into
districts, but into climates; and cause perpetual currents of air to
traverse their passes in a thousand different states; moistening it
with the spray of their waterfalls, sucking it down and beating it
hither and thither in the pools of their torrents, closing it within
clefts and caves, where the sunbeams never reach, till it is as cold
as November mists; then sending it forth again to breathe lightly
across the slopes of velvet fields, or to be scorched among sunburnt
shales and grassless crags; then drawing it back in moaning swirls
through clefts of ice, and up into dewy wreaths above the snow-fields;
then piercing it with strange electric darts and flashes of mountain
fire, and tossing it high in fantastic storm-cloud, as the dried grass
is tossed by the mower, only suffering it to depart at last, when
chastened and pure, to refresh the faded air of the far-off plains.

The third great use of mountains is to cause perpetual change in the
_soils_ of the earth. Without such provision the ground under
cultivation would in a series of years become exhausted, and require
to be upturned laboriously by the hand of man. But the elevations of
the earth's surface provide for it a perpetual renovation. The higher
mountains suffer their summits to be broken into fragments, and to be
cast down in sheets of massy rock, full, as we shall see presently, of
every substance necessary for the nourishment of plants; these fallen
fragments are again broken by frost, and ground by torrents, into
various conditions of sand and clay--materials which are distributed
perpetually by the streams farther and farther from the mountain's
base. Every shower that swells the rivulet enables their waters to
carry certain portions of earth into new positions, and exposes new
banks of ground to be mined in their turn. That turbid foaming of the
angry water,--that tearing down of bank and rock along the flanks of
its fury,--are no disturbances of the kind course of nature; they are
beneficent operations of laws necessary to the existence of man, and
to the beauty of the earth. The process is continued more gently, but
not less effectively, over all the surface of the lower undulating
country; and each filtering thread of summer rain which trickles
through the short turf of the uplands is bearing its own appointed
burden of earth to be thrown down on some new natural garden in the
dingles beneath.

I have not spoken of the local and peculiar utilities of mountains. I
do not count the benefit of the supply of summer streams from the
moors of the higher ranges,--of the various medicinal plants which are
nested among their rocks,--of the delicate pasturage which they
furnish for cattle,--of the forests in which they bear timber for
shipping,--the stones they supply for building, or the ores of metal
which they collect into spots open to discovery, and easy for working.
All these benefits are of a secondary or a limited nature. But the
three great functions which I have just described, those of giving
motion and change to water, air, and earth, are indispensable to human
existence; they are operations to be regarded with as full a depth of
gratitude as the laws which bid the tree bear fruit, or the seed
multiply itself in the earth. And thus those desolate and threatening
ranges of dark mountain, which in nearly all ages of the world men
have looked upon with aversion, or with terror, and shrunk back from
as if they were haunted by perpetual images of death, are in reality
sources of life and happiness far fuller and more beneficent than all
the bright fruitfulness of the plain. The valleys only feed; the
mountains feed, and guard, and strengthen us. We take our idea of
fearlessness and sublimity alternately from the mountains and the sea;
but we associate them unjustly. The sea-wave, with all its
beneficence, is yet devouring and terrible; but the silent wave of the
blue mountain is lifted towards heaven in a stillness of perpetual
mercy; and the one surge, unfathomable in its darkness, the other
unshaken in its faithfulness, for ever bear the seal of their
appointed symbolism:--

"Thy _righteousness_ is like the great mountains;

"Thy _judgments_ are a great deep."


33. Mountains are to the rest of the body of the earth, what violent
muscular action is to the body of man. The muscles and tendons of its
anatomy are, in the mountain, brought out with force and convulsive
energy, full of expression, passion, and strength; the plains and the
lower hills are the repose and the effortless motion of the frame,
when its muscles lie dormant and concealed beneath the lines of its
beauty,--yet ruling those lines in their every undulation. This then
is the first grand principle of the truth of the earth. The spirit of
the hills is action, that of the lowlands repose; and between these
there is to be found every variety of motion and rest, from the
inactive plain, sleeping like the firmament, with cities for stars, to
the fiery peaks, which, with heaving bosoms and exulting limbs, with
the clouds drifting like hair from their bright foreheads, lift up
their Titan heads to Heaven, saying, "I live for ever."


34. Where they are,[23] they seem to form the world; no mere bank of a
river here, or of a lane there, peeping out among the hedges or
forests, but from the lowest valley to the highest clouds, all is
theirs,--one adamantine dominion and rigid authority of rock. We yield
ourselves to the impression of their eternal unconquerable
stubbornness of strength; their mass seems the least yielding, least
to be softened, or in anywise dealt with by external force, of all
earthly substance. And behold, as we look further into it, it is all
touched and troubled, like waves by a summer breeze; rippled far more
delicately than seas or lakes are rippled; _they_ only undulate along
their surfaces--this rock trembles through its every fibre, like the
chords of an Eolian harp, like the stillest air of spring, with the
echoes of a child's voice. Into the heart of all those great
mountains, through every tossing of their boundless crests, and deep
beneath all their unfathomable defiles, flows that strange quivering
of their substance. Other and weaker things seem to express their
subjection to an Infinite Power only by momentary terrors: as the
weeds bow down before the feverish wind, and the sound of the going in
the tops of the taller trees passes on before the clouds, and the
fitful opening of pale spaces on the dark water, as if some invisible
hand were casting dust abroad upon it, gives warning of the anger that
is to come, we may well imagine that there is a fear passing upon the
grass, and leaves, and waters, at the presence of some great spirit
commissioned to let the tempest loose; but the terror passes, and
their sweet rest is perpetually restored to the pastures and the
waves. Not so to the mountains. They, which at first seem strengthened
beyond the dread of any violence or change, are yet also ordained to
bear upon them the symbol of a perpetual fear. The tremor which fades
from the soft lake and gliding river is sealed to all eternity upon
the rock; and while things that pass visibly from birth to death may
sometimes forget their feebleness, the mountains are made to possess a
perpetual memorial of their infancy--that infancy which the prophet
saw in his vision,[24]--"I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without
form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the
mountains, and lo, they _trembled_, and all the hills moved
_lightly_."

[23] Passage written after I had got by some years cooler and wiser than
when I wrote No. 33, describing however the undulation of the gneiss
rocks, which, 'where they are, seem, to form the world,' in terms more
fanciful than I now like.

[24] Utter misinterpretation of the passage. It is the old age, not the
childhood of earth, which Jeremiah describes in this passage. See its
true interpretation in 'Fors Clavigera,' Letter XLVI.


35. The longer I stayed among the Alps, and the more closely I
examined them, the more I was struck by the one broad fact of there
being a vast Alpine plateau, or mass of elevated land, upon which
nearly all the highest peaks stood like children set upon a table,
removed, in most cases, far back from the edge of the plateau,--as if
for fear of their falling; while the most majestic scenes in the Alps
are produced, not so much by any violation of this law, as by one of
the great peaks having apparently walked to the edge of the table to
look over, and thus showing itself suddenly above the valley in its
full height. This is the case with the Wetterhorn and Eiger at
Grindelwald, and with the Grande Jorasse above the Col de Ferret. But
the raised bank or table is always intelligibly in existence, even in
these apparently exceptional cases; and for the most part, the great
peaks are not allowed to come to the edge of it, but remain like the
keeps of castles far withdrawn, surrounded, league beyond league, by
comparatively level fields of mountain, over which the lapping sheets
of glacier writhe and flow, foaming about the feet of the dark central
crests like the surf of an enormous sea-breaker hurled over a rounded
rock, and islanding some fragment of it in the midst. And the result
of this arrangement is a kind of division of the whole of Switzerland
into an upper and lower mountain world,--the lower world consisting of
rich valleys, bordered by steep, but easily accessible, wooded banks
of mountain, more or less divided by ravines, through which glimpses
are caught of the higher Alps; the upper world, reached after the
first banks of 3,000 or 4,000 feet in height have been surmounted,
consisting of comparatively level but most desolate tracts of moor and
rock, half covered by glacier, and stretching to the feet of the true
pinnacles of the chain. It can hardly be necessary to point out the
perfect wisdom and kindness of this arrangement, as a provision for
the safety of the inhabitants of the high mountain regions. If the
great peaks rose at once from the deepest valleys, every stone which
was struck from their pinnacles, and every snow-wreath which slipped
from their ledges, would descend at once upon the inhabitable ground,
over which no year would pass without recording some calamity of
earth-slip or avalanche; while in the course of their fall both the
stones and the snow would strip the woods from the hillsides, leaving
only naked channels of destruction where there are now the sloping
meadow and the chestnut glade. Besides this, the masses of snow, cast
down at once into the warmer air, would all melt rapidly in the
spring, causing furious inundation of every great river for a month or
six weeks. The snow being then all thawed, except what lay upon the
highest peaks in regions of nearly perpetual frost, the rivers would
be supplied during the summer only by fountains, and the feeble
tricklings on sunny days from the high snows. The Rhone, under such
circumstances, would hardly be larger, in summer, than the Severn, and
many Swiss valleys would be left almost without moisture. All these
calamities are prevented by the peculiar Alpine structure which has
been described. The broken rocks and the sliding snow of the high
peaks, instead of being dashed at once to the vales, are caught upon
the desolate shelves, or shoulders, which everywhere surround the
central crests. The soft banks which terminate these shelves,
traversed by no falling fragments, clothe themselves with richest
wood, while the masses of snow heaped upon the ledge above them, in a
climate neither so warm as to thaw them quickly in the spring, nor so
cold as to protect them from all the power of the summer sun, either
form themselves into glaciers, or remain in slowly wasting fields even
to the close of the year,--in either case supplying constant,
abundant, and regular streams to the villages and pastures beneath,
and to the rest of Europe, noble and navigable rivers.

Now, that such a structure is the best and wisest possible,[25] is
indeed sufficient reason for its existence, and to many people it may
seem useless to question farther respecting its origin. But I can
hardly conceive any one standing face to face with one of these towers
of central rock, and yet not also asking himself, Is this indeed the
actual first work of the Divine Master, on which I gaze? Was the great
precipice shaped by His finger, as Adam was shaped out of the dust?
Were its clefts and ledges carved upon it by its Creator, as the
letters were on the tables of the law, and was it thus left to bear
its eternal testimony to His beneficence among these clouds of Heaven?
Or is it the descendant of a long race of mountains, existing under
appointed laws of birth and endurance, death and decrepitude? There
can be no doubt as to the answer. The rock itself answers audibly by
the murmur of some falling stone or rending pinnacle. It is _not_ as
it was once. Those waste leagues around its feet are loaded with the
wrecks of what it was. On these perhaps, of all mountains, the
characters of decay are written most clearly; around these are spread
most gloomily the memorials of their pride, and the signs of their
humiliation.

[25] Of course I had seen every other tried before giving this
favourable judgment.

What then were they once? The only answer is yet again--"Behold the
cloud!"


36. There are many spots among the inferior ridges of the Alps, such
as the Col de Ferret, the Col d'Anterne, and the associated ranges of
the Buet, which, though commanding prospects of great nobleness, are
themselves very nearly types of all that is most painful to the human
mind. Vast wastes of mountain ground,[26] covered here and there with
dull grey grass or moss, but breaking continually into black banks of
shattered slate, all glistening and sodden with slow tricklings of
clogged, incapable streams; the snow-water oozing through them in a
cold sweat, and spreading itself in creeping stains among their dust;
ever and anon a shaking here and there, and a handful or two of their
particles or flakes trembling down, one sees not why, into more total
dissolution, leaving a few jagged teeth, like the edges of knives
eaten away by vinegar, projecting, through the half-dislodged mass,
from the inner rock; keen enough to cut the hand or foot that rests on
them, yet crumbling as they wound, and soon sinking again into the
smooth, slippery, glutinous heap; looking like a beach of black scales
of dead fish cast ashore from a poisonous sea, and sloping away into
foul ravines, branched down immeasurable slopes of barrenness, where
the winds howl and wander continually, and the snow lies in wasted and
sorrowful fields covered with sooty dust, that collects in streaks and
stains at the bottom of all its thawing ripples.

[26] This is a fourth volume passage,--and I will venture to say of it,
as Albert Dürer, when he was pleased with his work--that for what it has
to do, it cannot be much better done. It is a study on the Col de Bon
Homme.

I know of no other scenes so appalling as these in storm, or so woful
in sunshine. Where, however, these same rocks exist in more favourable
positions--that is to say, in gentler banks and at lower
elevations--they form a ground for the most luxuriant vegetation; and
the valleys of Savoy owe to them some of their loveliest
solitudes--exquisitely rich pastures, interspersed with arable and
orchard land, and shaded by groves of walnut and cherry. Scenes of
this kind, and of that just described, so singularly opposed, and
apparently brought together as foils to each other, are however
peculiar to certain beds of the slaty coherents, which are both vast
in elevation, and easy of destruction. In Wales and Scotland the same
groups of rocks possess far greater hardness, while they attain less
elevation; and the result is a totally different aspect of scenery.
The severity of the climate, and the comparative durableness of the
rock, forbid the rich vegetation; but the exposed summits, though
barren, are not subject to laws of destruction so rapid and fearful as
in Switzerland, and the natural colour of the rock is oftener
developed in the purples and greys which, mingled with the heather,
form the principal elements of the deep and beautiful distant blue of
the British hills. Their gentler mountain streams also permit the beds
of rock to remain in firm, though fantastic, forms along their banks,
and the gradual action of the cascades and eddies upon the slaty
cleavage produces many pieces of foreground scenery to which higher
hills can present no parallel.


37. Unlike Chamouni Aiguilles, there is no aspect of destruction about
the Matterhorn cliffs. They are not torn remnants of separating
spires, yielding, flake by flake, and band by band, to the continual
process of decay. They are, on the contrary, an unaltered monument,
seemingly sculptured long ago, the huge walls retaining yet the forms
into which they were first engraven, and standing like an Egyptian
temple;--delicately fronted, softly coloured, the suns of uncounted
ages rising and falling upon it continually, but still casting the
same line of shadows from east to west; still, century after century,
touching the same purple stains on the lotus pillars; while the desert
sand ebbs and flows about their feet, as those autumn leaves of rock
lie heaped and weak about the base of the Cervin.

Is not this a strange type in the very heart and height of these
mysterious Alps--these wrinkled hills in their snowy, cold,
grey-haired old age, at first so silent, then, as we keep quiet at
their feet, muttering and whispering to us garrulously in broken and
dreaming fits, as it were, about their childhood,--is it not a strange
type of the things which "out of weakness are made strong"? If one of
these little flakes of mica sand, hurried in tremulous spangling along
the bottom of the ancient river, too light to sink, too faint to
float, almost too small for sight, could have had a mind given to it
as it was at last borne down with its kindred dust into the abysses of
the stream, and laid, (might it not have been thought?) for a hopeless
eternity, in the dark ooze, the most despised, forgotten, and feeble
of all earth's atoms; incapable of any use or change; not fit, down
there in the diluvial darkness, so much as to help an earth wasp to
build its nest, or feed the first fibre of a lichen; what would it
have thought, had it been told that one day, knitted into a strength
as of imperishable iron, rustless by the air, infusible by the flame,
out of the substance of it, with its fellows, the axe of God should
hew that Alpine tower?--that against _it_--poor, helpless mica
flake!--the wild north winds should rage in vain; beneath
_it_--low-fallen mica flake!--the snowy hills should lie bowed like
flocks of sheep, and the kingdoms of the earth fade away in unregarded
blue; and around _it_--weak, wave-drifted mica flake!--the great war
of the firmament should burst in thunder and yet stir it not; and the
fiery arrows and angry meteors of the night fall blunted back from it
into the air; and all the stars in the clear heaven should light, one
by one as they rose, new cressets upon the points of snow that fringed
its abiding-place on the imperishable spire?



SECTION VI.

ILLUSTRATIVE: STONES.


38. There are no natural objects out of which more can be learned than
out of stones. They seem to have been created especially to reward a
patient observer. Nearly all other objects in nature can be seen to
some extent without patience, and are pleasant even in being half
seen. Trees, clouds, and rivers are enjoyable even by the careless;
but the stone under his foot has, for carelessness, nothing in it but
stumbling; no pleasure is languidly to be had out of it, nor food, nor
good of any kind; nothing but symbolism of the hard heart, and the
unfatherly gift. And yet, do but give it some reverence and
watchfulness, and there is bread of thought in it, more than in any
other lowly feature of all the landscape. For a stone, when it is
examined, will be found a mountain in miniature. The fineness of
Nature's work is so great, that into a single block, a foot or two in
diameter, she can compress as many changes of form and structure, on a
small scale, as she needs for her mountains on a large one; and taking
moss for forests, and grains of crystal for crags, the surface of a
stone in by far the plurality of instances is more interesting than
the surface of an ordinary hill; more fantastic in form, and
incomparably richer in colour.


39. On a Highland hillside are multitudinous clusters of fern and
heather; on an Alpine one, multitudinous groves of chestnut and pine.
The number of the things may be the same, but the sense of infinity is
in the latter case far greater, because the number is of nobler
things. Indeed, so far as mere magnitude of space occupied on the
field of the horizon is the measure of objects, a bank of earth ten
feet high may, if we stoop to the foot of it, be made to occupy just
as much of the sky as that bank of mountain at Villeneuve; nay, in
many respects, its little ravines and escarpments, watched with some
help of imagination, may become very sufficiently representative to us
of those of the great mountain; and in classing all water-worn
mountain ground under the general and humble term of Banks, I mean to
imply this relationship of structure between the smallest eminences
and the highest. But in this matter of superimposed _quantity_, the
distinctions of rank are at once fixed. The heap of earth bears its
few tufts of moss, or knots of grass; the Highland or Cumberland
mountain, its honeyed heathers or scented ferns; but the mass of the
bank at Martigny or Villeneuve has a vineyard in every cranny of its
rocks, and a chestnut grove on every crest of them.... The minute
mounds and furrows scattered up the side of that great promontory,
when they are actually approached after three or four hours' climbing,
turn into independent hills, with true _parks_ of lovely pasture-land
enclosed among them, and avenue after avenue of chestnuts, walnuts,
and pines bending round their bases; while in the deeper dingles,
populous villages, literally bound down to the rock by enormous trunks
of vine, which, first trained lightly over the loose stone roofs, have
in process of years cast their fruitful net over the whole village,
and fastened it to the ground under their purple weight and wayward
coils as securely as ever human heart was fastened to earth by the net
of the Flatterer.


40. When a rock of any kind has lain for some time exposed to the
weather, Nature finishes it in her own way. First she takes wonderful
pains about its forms, sculpturing it into exquisite variety of dent
and dimple, and rounding or hollowing it into contours which for
fineness no human hand can follow; then she colours it; and every one
of her touches of colour, instead of being a powder mixed with oil, is
a minute forest of living trees, glorious in strength and beauty, and
concealing wonders of structure.


41. On the broken rocks in the foreground in the crystalline groups,
the mosses seem to set themselves consentfully and deliberately to the
task of producing the most exquisite harmonies of colour in their
power. They will not conceal the form of the rock, but will gather
over it in little brown bosses, like small cushions of velvet, made of
mixed threads of dark ruby silk and gold, rounded over more subdued
films of white and grey, with lightly crisped and curled edges like
hoar frost on fallen leaves, and minute clusters of upright orange
stalks with pointed caps, and fibres of deep green, and gold, and
faint purple passing into black, all woven together, and following
with unimaginable fineness of gentle growth the undulation of the
stone they cherish, until it is charged with colour so that it can
receive no more; and instead of looking rugged, or cold, or stern, or
anything that a rock is held to be at heart, it seems to be clothed
with a soft dark leopard's skin, embroidered with arabesque of purple
and silver.


42. The colour of the white varieties of marble is of exquisite
delicacy, owing to the partial translucency of the pure rock; and it
has always appeared to me a most wonderful ordinance--one of the most
_marked_ pieces of purpose in the creation--that all the variegated
kinds should be comparatively opaque, so as to set off the colour on
the surface, while the white, which, if it had been opaque, would have
looked somewhat coarse, (as for instance common chalk does,) is
rendered just translucent enough to give an impression of extreme
purity, but not so translucent as to interfere in the least with the
distinctness of any forms into which it is wrought. The colours of
variegated marbles are also for the most part very beautiful,
especially those composed of purple, amber, and green, with white; and
there seems something notably attractive to the human mind in the
_vague_ and veined labyrinths of their arrangements.


43. I have often had occasion to allude to the apparent connection of
brilliancy of colour with vigour of life or purity of substance. This
is pre-eminently the case in the mineral kingdom. The perfection with
which the particles of any substance unite in crystallization,
corresponds in that kingdom to the vital power in organic nature; and
it is a universal law, that according to the purity of any substance,
and according to the energy of its crystallization, is its beauty or
brightness. Pure earths are white when in powder; and the same earths,
which are the constituents of clay and sand, form, when crystallized,
the emerald, ruby, sapphire, amethyst, and opal.


44. As we pass between the hills which have been shaken by earthquake
and torn by convulsion, we find that periods of perfect repose succeed
those of destruction. The pools of calm water lie clear beneath their
fallen rocks, the water-lilies gleam, and the reeds whisper among
their shadows; the village rises again over the forgotten graves, and
its church tower, white through the storm-light, proclaims a renewed
appeal to His protection in whose hand "are all the corners of the
earth, and the strength of the hills is His also." There is no
loveliness of Alpine valley that does not teach the same lesson. It is
just where "the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is
removed out of his place," that in process of years the fairest
meadows bloom between the fragments, the clearest rivulets murmur from
between their crevices among the flowers, and the clustered cottages,
each sheltered beneath some strength of mossy stone, now to be removed
no more, and with their pastured flocks around them, safe from the
eagle's stoop and the wolf's ravin, have written upon their fronts, in
simple words, the mountaineer's faith in the ancient
promise,--"Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction, when it
cometh; for thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field, and
the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee."



SECTION VII.

ILLUSTRATIVE: PLANTS AND FLOWERS.


45. Wonderful, in universal adaptation to man's need, desire, and
discipline, God's daily preparation of the earth for him, with
beautiful means of life. First, a carpet, to make it soft for him;
then a coloured fantasy of embroidery thereon; then, tall spreading of
foliage to shade him from sun-heat, and shade also the fallen rain,
that it may not dry quickly back into the clouds, but stay to nourish
the springs among the moss. Stout wood to bear this leafage; easily to
be cut, yet tough and light, to make houses for him, or instruments
(lance-shaft, or plough-handle, according to his temper); useless it
had been if harder; useless if less fibrous; useless if less elastic.
Winter comes, and the shade of leafage falls away, to let the sun warm
the earth; the strong boughs remain, breaking the strength of winter
winds. The seeds which are to prolong the race, innumerable according
to the need, are made beautiful and palatable, varied into infinitude
of appeal to the fancy of man, or provision for his service; cold
juice, or flowing spice, or balm, or incense, softening oil,
preserving resin, medicine of styptic, febrifuge, or lulling charm;
and all these presented in forms of endless change. Fragility or
force, softness and strength, in all degrees and aspects; unerring
uprightness, as of temple pillars, or unguided wandering of feeble
tendrils on the ground; mighty resistances of rigid arm and limb to
the storms of ages, or wavings to and fro with faintest pulse of
summer streamlet; roots cleaving the strength of rock, or binding the
transience of the sand; crests basking in sunshine of the desert, or
hiding by dripping spring and lightless cave; foliage far tossing in
entangled fields beneath every wave of ocean--clothing with
variegated, everlasting films the peaks of the trackless mountains, or
ministering, at cottage doors, to every gentlest passion and simplest
joy of humanity.


46. If ever in autumn a pensiveness falls upon us, as the leaves drift
by in their fading, may we not wisely look up in hope to their mighty
monuments? Behold how fair, how far prolonged in arch and aisle, the
avenues of the valleys, the fringes of the hills! so stately,--so
eternal; the joy of man, the comfort of all living creatures, the
glory of the earth,--they are but the monuments of those poor leaves
that flit faintly past us to die. Let them not pass, without our
understanding their last counsel and example: that we also, careless
of monument by the grave, may build it in the world--monument by which
men may be taught to remember, not where we died, but where we lived.


47. The Pine. Magnificent! nay, sometimes almost terrible. Other
trees, tufting crag or hill, yield to the form and sway of the ground,
clothe it with soft compliance, are partly its subjects, partly its
flatterers, partly its comforters. But the pine rises in serene
resistance, self-contained; nor can I ever without awe stay long under
a great Alpine cliff, far from all house or work of men, looking up to
its companies of pines, as they stand on the inaccessible juts and
perilous ledges of the enormous wall, in quiet multitudes, each like
the shadow of the one beside it--upright, fixed, spectral, as troops
of ghosts standing on the walls of Hades, not knowing each other, dumb
for ever. You cannot reach them, cannot cry to them: those trees never
heard human voice; they are far above all sound but of the winds. No
foot ever stirred fallen leaf of theirs: all comfortless they stand,
between the two eternities of the Vacancy and the Rock; yet with such
iron will, that the rock itself looks bent and shattered beside
them,--fragile, weak, inconsistent, compared to their dark energy of
delicate life, and monotony of enchanted pride--unnumbered,
unconquerable.

Then note farther their perfectness. The impression on most people's
minds must have been received more from pictures than reality, so far
as I can judge, so ragged they think the pine; whereas its chief
character in health is green and full _roundness_. It stands compact,
like one of its own cones, slightly curved on its sides, finished and
quaint as a carved tree in some Elizabethan garden; and instead of
being wild in expression, forms the softest of all forest scenery, for
other trees show their trunks and twisting boughs; but the pine,
growing either in luxuriant mass, or in happy isolation, allows no
branch to be seen. Summit behind summit rise its pyramidal ranges, or
down to the very grass sweep the circlets of its boughs; so that there
is nothing but green cone, and green carpet. Nor is it only softer,
but in one sense more cheerful than other foliage, for it casts only a
pyramidal shadow. Lowland forest arches overhead, and chequers the
ground with darkness; but the pine, growing in scattered groups,
leaves the glades between emerald-bright. Its gloom is all its own;
narrowing into the sky, it lets the sunshine strike down to the dew.
And if ever a superstitious feeling comes over me among the pine
glades, it is never tainted with the old German forest fear, but it is
only a more solemn tone of the fairy enchantment that haunts our
English meadows; so that I have always called the prettiest pine-glade
in Chamouni, "Fairies' Hollow." It is in the glen beneath the steep
ascent above Pont Pelissier, and may be reached by a little winding
path which goes down from the top of the hill[27]--being indeed not
truly a glen, but a broad ledge of moss and turf, leaning in a
formidable precipice (which, however, the gentle branches hide) over
the Arve. An almost isolated rock promontory, many coloured, rises at
the end of it. On the other sides it is bordered by cliffs, from which
a little cascade falls, literally, down among the pines, for it is so
light, shaking itself into mere showers of seed pearl in the sun, that
the pines don't know it from mist, and grow through it without
minding. Underneath, there is only the mossy silence; and above, for
ever, the snow of the nameless Aiguille.

[27] The new road to Chamouni has been carried right through it. A
cascade on the right, as you ascend, marks the place spoken of in the
text,--once as lonely as Corrie-nan-shian.

Other trees rise against the sky in dots and knots, but this, in
fringes. You never see the edges of it, so subtle are they; and for
this reason,--it alone of trees, so far as I know, is capable of the
fiery change which has been noticed by Shakespeare. When the sun rises
behind a ridge crested with pine, provided the ridge be at a distance
of about two miles, and seen clear, all the trees, for about three or
four degrees on each side of the sun, become trees of light, seen in
clear flame against the darker sky, and dazzling as the sun itself. I
thought at first this was owing to the actual lustre of the leaves;
but I believe now it is caused by the cloud-dew upon them--every
minutest leaf carrying its diamond. It seems as if these trees, living
always among the clouds, had caught part of their glory from them; and
themselves, the darkest of vegetation, could yet add splendour to the
sun itself.


48. The Swiss have certainly no feelings respecting their mountains in
anywise correspondent with ours. It was rather as fortresses of
defence, than as spectacles of splendour, that the cliffs of the
Rothslock bare rule over the destinies of those who dwelt at their
feet; and the training for which the mountain children had to thank
the slopes of the Muotta-Thal, was in soundness of breath, and
steadiness of limb, far more than in elevation of idea. But the point
which I desire the reader to note is, that the character of the scene
which, if any, appears to have been impressive to the inhabitant, is
not that which we ourselves feel when we enter the district. It was
not from their lakes, nor their cliffs, nor their glaciers--though
these were all peculiarly their possessions--that the three venerable
cantons received their name. They were not called the States of the
Rock, nor the States of the Lake, but the States of the _Forest_. And
the one of the three which contains the most touching record of the
spiritual power of Swiss religion, in the name of the convent of the
'Hill of Angels,' has, for its own, none but the sweet childish name
of 'Under the Woods.'

And indeed you may pass under them if, leaving the most sacred spot in
Swiss history, the Meadow of the Three Fountains, you bid the boatman
row southward a little way by the shore of the Bay of Uri. Steepest
there on its western side, the walls of its rocks ascend to heaven.
Far in the blue of evening, like a great cathedral pavement, lies the
lake in its darkness; and you may hear the whisper of innumerable
falling waters return from the hollows of the cliff, like the voices
of a multitude praying under their breath. From time to time the beat
of a wave, slow lifted where the rocks lean over the black depth, dies
heavily as the last note of a requiem. Opposite, green with steep
grass, and set with châlet villages, the Fron-Alp rises in one solemn
glow of pastoral light and peace; and above, against the clouds of
twilight, ghostly on the gray precipice, stand, myriad by myriad, the
shadowy armies of the Unterwalden pine.


49. It had been wild weather when I left Rome, and all across the
Campagna the clouds were sweeping in sulphurous blue, with a clap of
thunder or two, and breaking gleams of sun along the Claudian
aqueduct, lighting up the infinity of its arches, like the bridge of
Chaos. But as I climbed the long slope of the Alban Mount, the storm
swept finally to the north, and the noble outline of the domes of
Albano, and graceful darkness of its ilex grove, rose against pure
streaks of alternate blue and amber, the upper sky gradually flushing
through the last fragments of rain-cloud in deep palpitating azure,
half æther and half dew. The noonday sun came slanting down the rocky
slopes of La Riccia, and their masses of entangled and tall foliage,
whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure of a thousand
evergreens, were penetrated with it, as with rain. I cannot call it
colour,--it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like
the curtains of God's Tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the
valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant
and burning life; each, as it turned to reflect, or to transmit the
sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses
of the valley the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves
of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their
banks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air
around them, breaking over the grey walls of rock into a thousand
separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind
lifted and let them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden
floor of heaven, opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke, and
closed above it, as sheet-lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the
motionless masses of dark rock, dark though flushed with scarlet
lichen, casting their quiet shadows across its restless radiance, the
fountain underneath them filling its marble hollow with blue mist and
fitful sound; and, over all, the multitudinous bars of amber and
rose--the sacred clouds that have no darkness, and only exist to
illumine--were seen in fathomless intervals between the solemn and
orbed repose of the stone pines, passing to lose themselves in the
last, white, blinding lustre of the measureless line where the
Campagna melted into the blaze of the sea.


50. Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity:
children love them; quiet, contented, ordinary people love them as
they grow; luxurious and disorderly people rejoice in them gathered;
they are the cottager's treasure; and in the crowded town, mark, as
with a little broken fragment of rainbow, the windows of the workers
in whose hearts rests the covenant of peace.


51. Yet few people really care about flowers. Many, indeed, are fond
of finding a new shape of blossom, caring for it as a child cares
about a kaleidoscope. Many, also, like a fair service of flowers in
the greenhouse, as a fair service of plate on the table. Many are
scientifically interested in them, though even these in the
nomenclature, rather than the flowers; and a few enjoy their
gardens.... But, the blossoming time of the year being principally
spring, I perceive it to be the mind of most people, during that
period, to stay in towns. A year or two ago a keen-sighted and
eccentrically-minded friend of mine, having taken it into his head to
violate this national custom, and go to the Tyrol in spring, was
passing through a valley near Landech with several similarly
headstrong companions. A strange mountain appeared in the distance,
belted about its breast with a zone of blue, like our English Queen.
Was it a blue cloud, a blue horizontal bar of the air that Titian
breathed in youth, seen now far away, which mortal might never breathe
again? Was it a mirage--a meteor? Would it stay to be
approached?--(ten miles of winding road yet between them and the foot
of the mountain)--such questioning had they concerning it. My
keen-sighted friend, alone, maintained it to be substantial;--whatever
it might be, it was not air, and would not vanish. The ten miles of
road were overpast, the carriage left, the mountain climbed. It stayed
patiently, expanding still into richer breath and heavenlier glow--a
belt of gentians. Such things may verily be seen among the Alps in
spring, and in spring only; which being so, I observe most people
prefer going in autumn.


52. Perhaps few people have ever asked themselves why they admire a
rose so much more than all other flowers. If they consider, they will
find, first, that red is, in a delicately gradated state, the
loveliest of all pure colours; and, secondly, that in the rose there
is _no shadow_, except what is composed of colour. All its shadows are
fuller in colour than its lights, owing to the translucency and
reflective power of the leaves.


53. Has the reader ever considered the relations of commonest forms of
volatile substance? The invisible particles which cause the scent of a
rose-leaf, how minute, how multitudinous, passing richly away into the
air continually!


54. In the range of inorganic nature I doubt if any object can be
found more perfectly beautiful, than a fresh, deep snow-drift, seen
under warm light. Its curves are of inconceivable perfection and
changefulness; its surface and transparency alike exquisite; its light
and shade of inexhaustible variety and inimitable finish,--the shadows
sharp, pale, and of heavenly colour, the reflected lights intense and
multitudinous, and mingled with the sweet occurrences of transmitted
light.... If, passing to the edge of a sheet of it upon the lower
Alps, early in May, we find, as we are nearly sure to find, two or
three little round openings pierced in it; and through these,
emergent, a slender, pensive, fragile flower,[28] whose small, dark,
purple-fringed bell hangs down and shudders over the icy cleft that it
has cloven, as if partly wondering at its own recent grave, and partly
dying of very fatigue after its hard-won victory; we shall be, or we
ought to be, moved by a totally different impression of loveliness
from that which we receive among the dead ice and the idle clouds:
there is now uttered to us a call for sympathy, now offered to us an
image of moral purpose and achievement, which, however unconscious or
senseless the creature may indeed be that so seems to call, cannot be
heard without affection, nor contemplated without worship, by any of
us whose heart is rightly turned, or whose mind is clearly and surely
sighted.

[28] Soldanella Alpina. I think it is the only Alpine flower which
actually pierces snow, though I have seen gentians filling thawed
hoof-prints. Crocuses are languid till they have had sun for a day or
two. But the soldanella enjoys its snow, at first, and afterwards its
fields. I have seen it make a pasture look like a large lilac silk gown.


55. It has been well shown by Dr. Herbert, that many plants are found
alone on a certain soil or sub-soil in a wild state, not because such
soil is favourable to them, but because they alone are capable of
existing on it, and because all dangerous rivals are by its
inhospitality removed. Now if we withdraw the plant from this
position, which it hardly endures, and supply it with the earth and
maintain about it the temperature that it delights in; withdrawing
from it, at the same time, all rivals, which in such conditions Nature
would have thrust upon it, we shall indeed obtain a magnificently
developed example of the plant, colossal in size, and splendid in
organization; but we shall utterly lose in it that moral ideal which
is dependent on its right fulfilment of its appointed functions. It
was intended and created by the Deity for the covering of those lonely
spots where no other plant could live. It has been thereto endowed
with courage and strength, and capacities of endurance; its character
and glory are not therefore in the gluttonous and idle feeding of its
own over luxuriance, at the expense of other creatures utterly
destroyed and rooted out for its good alone; but in its right doing of
its hard duty, and forward climbing into those spots of forlorn hope
where it alone can bear witness to the kindness and presence of the
Spirit that cutteth out rivers among the rocks, as He covers the
valleys with corn; and there, in its vanward place, and only there,
where nothing is withdrawn for it, nor hurt by it, and where nothing
can take part of its honour, nor usurp its throne, are its strength
and fairness, and price, and goodness in the sight of God to be truly
esteemed. The first time I saw the Soldanella Alpina, before spoken
of, it was growing of magnificent size on a sunny Alpine pasture,
among bleating of sheep, and lowing of cattle, associated with a
profusion of Geum Montanum, and Ranunculus Pyrenæus. I noticed it only
because new to me--nor perceived any peculiar beauty in its cloven
flower. Some days after, I found it alone, among the rack of the
higher clouds, and howling of glacier winds; and, as I described it,
piercing through an edge of avalanche which in its retiring had left
the new ground brown and lifeless, and as if burnt by recent fire. The
plant was poor and feeble, and seemingly exhausted with its
efforts,--but it was then that I comprehended its ideal character, and
saw its noble function and order of glory among the constellations of
the earth.


56. GRASSES.--Minute, granular, feathery, or downy seed-vessels,
mingling quaint brown punctuation, and dusty tremors of dancing grain,
with the bloom of the nearer fields; and casting a gossamered grayness
and softness of plumy mist along their surfaces far away; mysterious
evermore, not only with dew in the morning, or mirage at noon, but
with the shaking threads of fine arborescence, each a little belfry of
grainbells, all a-chime.


57. Gather a single blade of grass, and examine for a minute quietly
its narrow sword-shaped strip of fluted green. Nothing, as it seems,
there of notable goodness or beauty. A very little strength and a very
little tallness, and a few delicate long lines meeting in a
point,--not a perfect point neither, but blunt and unfinished, by no
means a creditable or apparently much-cared-for example of Nature's
workmanship, made, only to be trodden on to-day, and to-morrow to be
cast into the oven,--and a little pale and hollow stalk, feeble and
flaccid, leading down to the dull brown fibres of roots. And yet,
think of it well, and judge whether, of all the gorgeous flowers that
beam in summer air, and of all strong and goodly trees, pleasant to
the eyes, or good for food,--stately palm and pine, strong ash and
oak, scented citron, burdened vine--there be any by man so deeply
loved, by God so highly graced, as that narrow point of feeble green.
And well does it fulfil its mission. Consider what we owe merely to
the meadow grass, to the covering of the dark ground by that glorious
enamel, by the companies of those soft, and countless, and peaceful
spears. The fields! Follow forth but for a little time the thoughts of
all that we ought to recognise in these words. All spring and summer
is in them--the walks by silent, scented paths--the rests in noonday
heat,--the joy of herds and flocks,--the power of all shepherd life
and meditation,--the life of sunlight upon the world falling in
emerald streaks, and falling in soft blue shadows where else it would
have struck upon the dark mould, or scorching dust. Pastures beside
the pacing brooks, soft banks and knolls of lowly hills, thymy slopes
of down, overlooked by the blue line of lifted sea, crisp lawns, all
dim with early dew, or smooth in evening warmth of barred sunshine,
dinted by happy feet, and softening in their fall the sound of loving
voices,--all these are summed in those simple words; and these are not
all. We may not measure to the full the depth of this heavenly gift in
our own land, though still as we think of it longer, the infinite of
that meadow sweetness, Shakespeare's peculiar joy, would open on us
more and more; yet we have it but in part. Go out in the springtime
among the meadows that slope from the shores of the Swiss lakes to the
roots of their lower mountains. There, mingled with the taller
gentians, and the white narcissus, the grass grows deep and free; and
as you follow the winding mountain path, beneath arching boughs, all
veiled with blossom--paths that for ever droop and rise over the green
banks and mounds sweeping down in scented undulation steep to the blue
water, studded here and there with new-mown heaps filling all the air
with fainter sweetness,--look up towards the higher hills, where the
waves of everlasting green roll silently into their long inlets among
the shadows of the pines; and we may perhaps at last know the meaning
of those quiet words of the 147th Psalm, "He maketh grass to grow upon
the mountains."

Assembling the images we have traced, and adding the simplest of all,
from Isaiah xl. 6, we find the grass and flowers are types, in their
passing, of the passing of human life, and in their excellence, of the
excellence of human life; and this in twofold way: first by their
beneficence, and then by their endurance--the grass of the earth, in
giving the seed of corn, and in its beauty under tread of foot and
stroke of scythe; and the grass of the waters, in giving its freshness
for our rest, and in its bending before the wave. But, understood in
the broad human and Divine sense, the "_herb_ yielding seed"--(as
opposed to the fruit tree yielding fruit)--includes a third family of
plants, and fulfils a third office to the human race. It includes the
great family of the lints and flaxes, and fulfils thus the _three_
offices of giving food, raiment, and rest. Follow out this fulfilment;
consider the association of the linen garment and the linen embroidery
with the priestly office and the furniture of the tabernacle, and
consider how the rush has been to all time the first natural carpet
thrown under the human foot. Then next observe the three virtues
definitely set forth by the three families of plants--not arbitrarily
or fancifully associated with them, but in all the three cases marked
for us by Scriptural words: 1st. Cheerfulness, or joyful serenity; in
the grass for food and beauty--"Consider the lilies of the field, how
they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin." 2nd. Humility; in the
grass for rest--"A bruised reed shall he not break." 3rd. Love; in the
grass for clothing, (because of its swift kindling,)--"The smoking
flax shall he not quench." And then finally observe the confirmation
of these last two images in, I suppose, the most important prophecy,
relating to the future state of the Christian Church, which occurs in
the Old Testament, namely that contained in the closing chapters of
Ezekiel. The measures of the Temple of God are to be taken; and
because it is only by charity and humility that those measures ever
can be taken, the angel has "a line of _flax_ in his hand, and a
measuring reed." The use of the line was to measure the land, and of
the reed to take the dimensions of the buildings; so the buildings of
the church, or its labours, are to be measured by humility; and its
territory, or land, by love.


58. LEAVES motionless. The strong pines wave above them, and the weak
grasses tremble beside them; but the blue stars rest upon the earth
with a peace as of heaven; and far along the ridges of iron rock,
moveless as they, the rubied crests of Alpine rose flush in the low
rays of morning.


59. MOSSES.--Meek creatures! the first mercy of the earth, veiling
with hushed softness its dintless rocks; creatures full of pity,
covering with strange and tender honour the scarred disgrace of ruin,
laying quiet finger on the trembling stones to teach them rest. No
words, that I know of, will say what these mosses are. None are
delicate enough, none perfect enough, none rich enough. How is one to
tell of the rounded bosses of furred and beaming green,--the starred
divisions of rubied bloom, fine-filmed, as if the rock spirits could
spin porphyry as we do glass,--the traceries of intricate silver, and
fringes of amber, lustrous, arborescent, burnished through every fibre
into fitful brightness and glossy traverses of silken change, yet all
subdued and pensive, and framed for simplest, sweetest offices of
grace? They will not be gathered, like the flowers, for chaplet, or
love-token; but of these the wild bird will make its nest, and the
wearied child his pillow.

And as the earth's first mercy, so they are its last gift to us: when
all other service is vain, from plant and tree, the soft mosses and
gray lichen take up their watch by the headstone. The woods, the
blossoms, the gift-bearing grasses, have done their parts for a time;
but these do service for ever. Trees for the builder's yard, flowers
for the bride's chamber, corn for the granary, moss for the grave.


60. LICHENS.--As in one sense the humblest, in another they are the
most honoured of the earth-children. Unfading as motionless, the worm
frets them not, and the autumn wastes not. Strong in loveliness, they
neither blanch in heat, nor pine in frost. To them, slow-fingered,
constant-hearted, is entrusted the weaving of the dark, eternal
tapestries of the hills; to them, slow-pencilled, iris-dyed, the
tender framing of their endless imagery. Sharing the stillness of the
unimpassioned rock, they share also its endurance; and while the winds
of departing spring scatter the white hawthorn blossom like drifted
snow, and summer dims on the parched meadow the drooping of its
cowslip gold,--far above, among the mountains, the silver lichen spots
rest, star-like, on the stone: and the gathering orange stain, upon
the edge of yonder western peak, reflects the sunsets of a thousand
years.



SECTION VIII.

EDUCATION.


61. The most helpful and sacred work which can at present be done for
humanity, is to teach people (chiefly by example, as all best teaching
must be done) not how "to better themselves," but how to "satisfy
themselves." It is the curse of every evil nature and evil creature to
eat and _not_ be satisfied. The words of blessing are, that they shall
eat and be satisfied; and as there is only one kind of water which
quenches all thirst, so there is only one kind of bread which
satisfies all hunger--the bread of justice or righteousness; which
hungering after, men shall always be filled, that being the bread of
Heaven; but hungering after the bread or wages of unrighteousness,
shall not be filled, that being the bread of Sodom. And in order to
teach men how to be satisfied, it is necessary fully to understand the
art of joy and humble life--this, at present, of all arts or sciences,
being the one most needing study. Humble life; that is to say,
proposing to itself no future exaltation, but only a sweet
continuance: not excluding the idea of foresight, but wholly of
fore-sorrow, and taking no troublous thought for coming days; so also
not excluding the idea of providence or provision, but wholly of
accumulation;--the life of domestic affection and domestic peace, full
of sensitiveness to all elements of costless and kind
pleasure;--therefore chiefly to the loveliness of the natural world.


62. We shall find that the love of nature, wherever it has existed,
has been a faithful and sacred element of feeling; that is to say,
supposing all the circumstances otherwise the same with respect to two
individuals, the one who loves nature most will be always found to
have more capacity for _faith_ in God than the other. Nature-worship
will be found to bring with it such a sense of the presence and power
of a Great Spirit as no mere reasoning can either induce or
controvert; and where that nature-worship is innocently
pursued--_i.e._, with due respect to other claims on time, feeling,
and exertion, and associated with the higher principles of
religion,--it becomes the channel of certain sacred truths, which by
no other means can be conveyed.


63. Instead of supposing the love of nature necessarily connected with
the faithlessness of the age, I believe it is connected properly with
the benevolence and liberty[29] of the age; that it is precisely the
most healthy element which distinctively belongs to us; and that out
of it, cultivated no longer in levity or ignorance, but in earnestness
and as a duty, results will spring of an importance at present
inconceivable; and lights arise, which, for the first time in man's
history, will reveal to him the true nature of his life, the true
field for his energies, and the true relations between him and his
Maker.

[29] I forget, now, what I meant by 'liberty' in this passage; but I
often used the word in my first writings, in a good sense, thinking of
Scott's moorland rambles and the like. It is very wonderful to me, now,
to see what hopes I had once: but Turner was alive, then; and the sun
used to shine, and rivers to sparkle.


64. To any person who has all his senses about him, a quiet walk, over
not more than ten or twelve miles of road a day, is the most amusing
of all travelling; and all travelling becomes dull in exact proportion
to its rapidity.

Going by railroad I do not consider as travelling at all; it is merely
"being sent" to a place, and very little different from becoming a
parcel.


65. I believe an immense gain in the bodily health and happiness of
the upper classes would follow on their steadily endeavouring, however
clumsily, to make the physical exertion they now necessarily exert in
amusements, definitely serviceable. It would be far better, for
instance, that a gentleman should mow his own fields, than ride over
other people's.


66. In order to define what is fairest, you must delight in what is
fair; and I know not how few or how many there may be who take such
delight. Once I could speak joyfully about beautiful things, thinking
to be understood; now I cannot, any more, for it seems to me that no
one regards them. Wherever I look or travel, in England or abroad, I
see that men, wherever they can reach, destroy all beauty. They seem
to have no other desire or hope but to have large houses, and be able
to move fast. Every perfect and lovely spot which they can touch, they
defile. Thus the railroad bridge over the fall of Schaffhausen, and
that round the Clarens shore of the lake of Geneva, have destroyed the
power of two pieces of scenery of which nothing can ever supply the
place, in appeal to the higher ranks of European mind.


67. The first thing which I remember as an event in life, was being
taken by my nurse to the brow of Friar's Crag on Derwentwater. The
intense joy, mingled with awe, that I had in looking through the
hollows in the mossy roots, over the crag into the dark lake, has
associated itself more or less with all twining roots of trees ever
since. Two other things I remember as, in a sort, beginnings of
life;--crossing Shap-fells, being let out of the chaise to run up the
hills; and going through Glenfarg, near Kinross, on a winter's
morning, when the rocks were hung with icicles; these being
culminating points in an early life of more travelling than is usually
indulged to a child. In such journeyings, whenever they brought me
near hills, and in all mountain ground and scenery, I had a pleasure,
as early as I can remember, and continuing till I was eighteen or
twenty, infinitely greater than any which has been since possible to
me in anything.


68. A fool always wants to shorten space and time; a wise man wants to
lengthen both. A fool wants to kill space and time; a wise man, first
to gain them, then to animate them.


69. I suspect that system-makers in general are not of much more use,
each in his own domain, than, in that of Pomona, the old women who tie
cherries upon sticks, for the more portableness of the same. To
cultivate well, and choose well, your cherries, is of some importance;
but if they can be had in their own wild way of clustering about their
crabbed stalks, it is a better connection for them than any others;
and if they cannot, then so that they be not bruised, it makes to a
boy of practical disposition not much difference whether he gets them
by handfuls, or in beaded symmetry on the exalting stick.


70. Every great man is always being helped by everybody, for his gift
is to get good out of all things and all persons.


71. God appoints to every one of His creatures a separate mission, and
if they discharge it honourably, if they quit themselves like men, and
faithfully follow the light which is in them, withdrawing from it all
cold and quenching influence, there will assuredly come of it such
burning as, in its appointed mode and measure, shall shine before men,
and be of service constant and holy. Degrees infinite of lustre there
must always be, but the weakest among us has a gift, however seemingly
trivial, which is peculiar to him, and which, worthily used, will be a
gift also to his race for ever.


72. There is not any matter, nor any spirit, nor any creature, but it
is capable of a unity of some kind with other creatures; and in that
unity is its perfection and theirs, and a pleasure also for the
beholding of all other creatures that can behold. So the unity of
spirits is partly in their sympathy, and partly in their giving and
taking, and always in their love; and these are their delight and
their strength; for their strength is in their co-working and army
fellowship, and their delight is in their giving and receiving of
alternate and perpetual good; their inseparable dependency on each
other's being, and their essential and perfect depending on their
Creator's. And so the unity of earthly creatures is their power, and
their peace; not like the dead and cold peace of undisturbed stones
and solitary mountains, but the living peace of trust, and the living
power of support; of hands that hold each other and are still.[30]

[30] A long, affected, and obscure second volume sentence, written in
imitation of Hooker. One short sentence from Ecclesiastes is the sum of
it: "How can one be warm alone?"


73. It is good to read of that kindness and humbleness of St. Francis
of Assisi, who spoke never to bird, nor to cicada, nor even to wolf
and beasts of prey, but as his brother;--and so we find are moved the
minds of all good and mighty men, as in the lesson that we have from
the 'Mariner' of Coleridge, and yet more truly and rightly taught in
the 'Hartleap Well'--

  "Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
  With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels,"--

and again in the 'White Doe' of Rylstone, with the added teaching,
that anguish of our own

  "Is tempered and allayed by sympathies
  Aloft ascending, and descending deep,
  Even to the inferior kinds;"--

so that I know not of anything more destructive of the whole theoretic
faculty, not to say of the Christian character and human intellect,[31]
than those accursed sports in which man makes of himself cat, tiger,
leopard, and alligator in one; and gathers into one continuance of
cruelty, for his amusement, all the devices that brutes sparingly and
at intervals use against each other for their necessities.

[31] I am more and more grieved, as I re-read this and other portions of
the most affected and weak of all my books, (written in a moulting time
of my life,)--the second volume of 'Modern Painters,'--at its morbid
violence of passion and narrowness of thought. Yet, at heart, the book
was, like my others, honest; and in substance it is mostly good; but all
boiled to rags.


74. He who loves not God, nor his brother, cannot love the grass
beneath his feet, nor the creatures which live not for his uses,
filling those spaces in the universe which he needs not: while, on the
other hand, none can love God, nor his human brother, without loving
all things which his Father loves; nor without looking upon them every
one as in that respect his brethren also, and perhaps worthier than
he, if, in the under concords they have to fill, their part is touched
more truly.[32]

[32] Morbidly Franciscan, again! and I am really compelled to leave out
one little bit my friend liked,--as all kindly and hopeful women
would,--about everything turning out right, and being to some good end.
For we have no business whatever with the ends of things, but with their
beings; and their beings are often entirely bad.


75. Things may always be seen truly by candid people, though never
_completely_. No human capacity ever yet saw the whole of a thing; but
we may see more and more of it the longer we look. Every individual
temper will see something different in it; but supposing the tempers
honest, all the differences are there. Every advance in our acuteness
of perception will show us something new; but the old and
first-discerned thing will still be there, not falsified, only
modified and enriched by the new perceptions, becoming continually
more beautiful in its harmony with them, and more approved as a part
of the infinite truth.



SECTION IX.

MORALITIES.


76. When people read, "The law came by Moses, but grace and truth by
Christ," do they suppose it means that the law was ungracious and
untrue? The law was given for a foundation; the grace (or mercy) and
truth for fulfilment;--the whole forming one glorious Trinity of
judgment, mercy, and truth.[33] And if people would but read the text
of their Bibles with heartier purpose of understanding it, instead of
superstitiously, they would see that throughout the parts which they
are intended to make most personally their own, (the Psalms,) it is
always the Law which is spoken of with chief joy. The Psalms
respecting mercy are often sorrowful, as in thought of what it cost;
but those respecting the Law are always full of delight. David cannot
contain himself for joy in thinking of it,--he is never weary of its
praise: "How love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thy
testimonies are my delight and my counsellors; sweeter also than honey
and the honeycomb."

[33] A great deal of the presumption and narrowness caused by my having
been bred in the Evangelical schools, and which now fill me with shame
and distress in re-reading 'Modern Painters,' is, to my present mind,
atoned for by the accurate thinking by which I broke my way through to
the great truth expressed in this passage, which all my later writings,
without exception, have been directed to maintain and illustrate.


77. I suppose there is no event in the whole life of Christ to which,
in hours of doubt or fear, men turn with more anxious thirst to know
the close facts of it, or with more earnest and passionate dwelling
upon every syllable of its recorded narrative, than Christ's showing
Himself to His disciples at the Lake of Galilee. There is something
pre-eminently open, natural, full fronting our disbelief, in this
manifestation. The others, recorded after the resurrection, were
sudden, phantom-like, occurring to men in profound sorrow and wearied
agitation of heart; not, it might seem, safe judges of what they saw.
But the agitation was now over. They had gone back to their daily
work, thinking still their business lay net-wards, unmeshed from the
literal rope and drag. "Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing.
They say unto him, We also go with thee." True words enough, and
having far echo beyond those Galilean hills. That night they caught
nothing; but when the morning came, in the clear light of it, behold!
a figure stood on the shore. They were not thinking of anything but
their fruitless hauls. They had no guess who it was. It asked them
simply if they had caught anything. They say, No, and it tells them to
cast again. And John shades his eyes from the morning sun with his
hand to look who it is; and though the glistening of the sea, too,
dazzles him, he makes out who it is at last; and poor Simon, not to be
outrun this time, tightens his fisher's coat about him, and dashes in
over the nets. One would have liked to see him swim those hundred
yards, and stagger to his knees upon the beach.

Well, the others get to the beach, too, in time, in such slow way as
men in general do get in this world to its true shore, much impeded by
that wonderful "dragging the net with fishes"; but they get
there--seven of them in all; first the Denier, and then the slowest
believer, and then the quickest believer, and then the two
throne-seekers, and two more, we know not who.

They sit down on the shore, face to face with Him, and eat their
broiled fish as He bids. And then to Peter, all dripping still,
shivering, and amazed, staring at Christ in the sun, on the other side
of the coal-fire,--thinking a little perhaps of what happened by
another coal-fire, when it was colder, and having had no word changed
with him by his Master, since that look of His,--to him so amazed,
comes the question, "Simon, lovest thou Me?" Try to feel that a
little; and think of it till it is true to you: and then take up that
infinite monstrosity and hypocrisy,--Raphael's cartoon of the charge
to Peter. Note first the bold fallacy--the putting _all_ the Apostles
there, a mere lie to serve the Papal heresy of the Petric supremacy,
by putting them all in the background while Peter receives the charge,
and making them all witnesses to it. Note the handsomely curled hair
and neatly tied sandals of the men who had been out all night in the
sea-mists, and on the slimy decks; note their convenient dresses for
going a-fishing, with trains that lie a yard along the ground, and
goodly fringes--all made to match;--an apostolic fishing costume. Note
how Peter especially, (whose chief glory was in his wet coat _girt_
about him, and naked limbs,) is enveloped in folds and fringes, so as
to kneel and hold his keys with grace. No fire of coals at all, nor
lonely mountain shore, but a pleasant Italian landscape, full of
villas and churches, and a flock of sheep to be pointed at; and the
whole group of Apostles, not round Christ, as they would have been
naturally, but straggling away in a line, that they may be shown. The
simple truth is, that the moment we look at the picture we feel our
belief of the whole thing taken away. There is visibly no possibility
of that group even having existed, in any place, or on any occasion.
It is all a mere mythic absurdity, and faded concoction of fringes,
muscular arms, and curly heads of Greek philosophers.


78. Among the children of God, there is always that fearful and bowed
apprehension of His majesty, and that sacred dread of all offence to
Him which is called the Fear of God; yet of real and essential fear
there is not any, but clinging of confidence to Him as their Rock,
Fortress, and Deliverer; and perfect love, and casting out of fear; so
that it is not possible that, while the mind is rightly bent on Him,
there should be dread of anything earthly or supernatural; and the
more dreadful seems the height of His majesty, the less fear they feel
that dwell in the shadow of it. "Of whom shall I be afraid?"


79. If for every rebuke that we utter of men's vices, we put forth a
claim upon their hearts; if for every assertion of God's demands from
them, we could substitute a display of His kindness to them; if side
by side with every warning of death, we could exhibit proofs and
promises of immortality; if, in fine, instead of assuming the being of
an awful Deity, which men, though they cannot, and dare not deny, are
always unwilling, sometimes unable to conceive, we were to show them a
near, visible, inevitable, but all beneficent Deity, whose presence
makes the earth itself a heaven, I think there would be fewer deaf
children sitting in the market-place.


80. If not by sympathy discovered, it is not in words explicable with
what divine lines and light the exercise of godliness and charity will
mould and gild the hardest and coldest countenance, neither to what
darkness their departure will consign the loveliest. For there is not
any virtue the exercise of which, even momentarily, will not impress a
new fairness upon the features.


81. The love of the human race is increased by their individual
differences, and the unity of the creature, made perfect by each
having something to bestow and to receive, bound to the rest by a
thousand various necessities and various gratitudes; humility in each
rejoicing to admire in his fellow that which he finds not in himself,
and each being in some respect the complement of his race.


82. They who are as the angels of God in heaven, yet cannot be
conceived as so assimilated that their different experiences and
affections upon earth shall then be forgotten and effectless: the
child, taken early to his place, cannot be imagined to wear there such
a body, nor to have such thoughts, as the glorified apostle who had
finished his course and kept the faith on earth. And so, whatever
perfections and likeness of love we may attribute to either the tried
or the crowned creatures, there is the difference of the stars in
glory among them yet; differences of original gifts, though not of
occupying till their Lord come; different dispensations of trial and
of trust, of sorrows and support, both in their own inward, variable
hearts, and in their positions of exposure or of peace; of the gourd
shadow and the smiting sun, of calling at heat of day, or eleventh
hour, of the house unroofed by faith, or the clouds opened by
revelation; differences in warning, in mercies, in sickness, in signs,
in time of calling to account; alike only they all are by that which
is not of them, but the gift of God's unchangeable mercy: "I will give
unto this last even as unto thee."


83. The desire of rest planted in the heart is no sensual, no unworthy
one; but a longing for renovation, and for escape from a state whose
every phase is mere preparation for another equally transitory, to one
in which permanence shall have become possible through perfection.
Hence the great call of Christ to men, that call on which St.
Augustine fixed as the essential expression of Christian hope, is
accompanied by the promise of rest; and the death bequest of Christ to
men, is peace.


84. He who has once stood beside the grave, to look back upon the
companionship which has been for ever closed, feeling how impotent,
there, are the wild love, and the keen sorrow, to give one instant's
pleasure to the pulseless heart, or atone in the lowest measure to the
departed spirit, for the hour of unkindness, will scarcely for the
future incur that debt to the heart, which can only be discharged to
the dust. But the lessons which men receive as individuals, they do
not learn as nations. Again and again they have seen their noblest
descend into the grave, and have thought it enough to garland the
tombstone when they had not crowned the brow, and to pay the honour to
the ashes, which they had denied to the spirit. Let it not displease
them that they are bidden, amidst the tumult and the dazzle of their
busy life, to listen for the few voices, and watch for the few lamps,
which God has toned and lighted to charm and to guide them, that they
may not learn their sweetness by their silence, nor their light by
their decay.


85. In the Cathedral of Lucca, near the entrance door of the north
transept, there is a monument by Jacopo della Quercia to Ilaria di
Caretto, the wife of Paolo Guinigi. I name it not as more beautiful or
perfect than other examples of the same period; but as furnishing an
instance of the exact and right mean between the rigidity and rudeness
of the earlier monumental effigies, and the morbid imitation of life,
sleep, or death, of which the fashion has taken place in modern times.
She is lying on a simple couch, with a hound at her feet; not on the
side, but with the head laid straight and simply on the hard pillow,
in which, let it be observed, there is no effort at deceptive
imitation of pressure.--It is understood as a pillow, but not mistaken
for one. The hair is bound in a flat braid over the fair brow, the
sweet and arched eyes are closed, the tenderness of the loving lips is
set and quiet; there is that about them which forbids breath;
something which is not death nor sleep, but the pure image of both.
The hands are not lifted in prayer, neither folded, but the arms are
laid at length upon the body, and the hands cross as they fall. The
feet are hidden by the drapery, and the form of the limbs concealed,
but not their tenderness.


86. I do not know any district possessing a more pure or uninterrupted
fulness of mountain character, (and that of the highest order,) or
which appears to have been less disturbed by foreign agencies, than
that which borders the course of the Trient between Valorsine and
Martigny. The paths which lead to it out of the valley of the Rhone,
rising at first in steep circles among the walnut trees, like winding
stairs among the pillars of a Gothic tower, retire over the shoulders
of the hills into a valley almost unknown, but thickly inhabited by an
industrious and patient population. Along the ridges of the rocks,
smoothed by old glaciers into long, dark, billowy swellings, like the
backs of plunging dolphins, the peasant watches the slow colouring of
the tufts of moss and roots of herb, which little by little gather a
feeble soil over the iron substance; then, supporting the narrow slip
of clinging ground with a few stones, he subdues it to the spade; and
in a year or two a little crest of corn is seen waving upon the rocky
casque. The irregular meadows run in and out like inlets of lake among
these harvested rocks, sweet with perpetual streamlets that seem
always to have chosen the steepest places to come down for the sake of
the leaps, scattering their handfuls of crystal this way and that, as
the wind takes them with all the grace, but with none of the
formalism, of fountains; dividing into fanciful change of dash and
spring, yet with the seal of their granite channels upon them, as the
lightest play of human speech may bear the seal of past toil, and
closing back out of their spray to lave the rigid angles, and brighten
with silver fringes and glassy films each lower and lower step of
sable stone; until at last, gathered altogether again,--except perhaps
some chance drops caught on the apple blossom, where it has budded a
little nearer the cascade than it did last spring,--they find their
way down to the turf, and lose themselves in that, silently; with
quiet depth of clear water furrowing among the grass-blades, and
looking only like their shadows but presently emerging again in little
startled gushes and laughing hurries, as if they had remembered
suddenly that the day was too short for them to get down the hill.
Green field, and glowing rock, and glancing streamlet, all slope
together in the sunshine towards the brows of ravines, where the pines
take up their own dominion of saddened shade; and with everlasting
roar, in the twilight, the stronger torrents thunder down, pale from
the glaciers, filling all the chasms with enchanted cold, beating
themselves to pieces against the great rocks that they have themselves
cast down, and forcing fierce way beneath their ghastly poise. The
mountain paths stoop to those glens in forky zigzags, leading to some
grey and narrow arch, all fringed under its shuddering curve with the
ferns that fear the light; a cross of rough-hewn pine, iron-bound to
its parapet, standing dark against the lurid fury of the foam. Far up
the glen, as we pause beside the cross, the sky is seen through the
openings in the pines thin with excess of light; and, in its clear
consuming flame of white space, the summits of the rocky mountains are
gathered into solemn crowns and circlets, all flushed in that strange
faint silence of possession by the sunshine, which has in it so deep a
melancholy, full of power, yet as frail as shadows; lifeless, like the
walls of a sepulchre, yet beautiful in tender fall of crimson folds,
like the veil of some sea spirit, that lives and dies as the foam
flashes; fixed on a perpetual throne, stern against all strength,
lifted above all sorrows, and yet effaced and melted utterly into the
air by that last sunbeam that has crossed to them from between the two
golden clouds.

High above all sorrow? Yes; but not unwitnessing to it. The traveller
on his happy journey, as his foot springs from the deep turf, and
strikes the pebbles gaily over the edge of the mountain road, sees
with a glance of delight the clusters of nut-brown cottages that
nestle along those sloping orchards, and glow beneath the boughs of
the pines. Here, it may well seem to him, if there be sometimes
hardship, there must be at least innocence and peace, and fellowship
of the human soul with nature. It is not so. The wild goats that leap
along those rocks have as much passion of joy in all that fair work of
God as the men that toil among them,--perhaps more. Enter the street
of one of those villages, and you will find it foul with that gloomy
foulness that is suffered only by torpor, or by anguish of soul. Here,
it is torpor--not absolute suffering--not starvation or disease; but
darkness of calm enduring: the spring, known only as the time of the
scythe, and the autumn as the time of the sickle, and the sun only as
a warmth, the wind as a chill, and the mountains as a danger. They do
not understand so much as the name of beauty, or of knowledge. They
understand dimly that of virtue. Love, patience, hospitality,
faith--these things they know. To glean their meadows side by side, so
happier; to bear the burden up the breathless mountain flank
unmurmuringly; to bid the stranger drink from their vessel of milk; to
see at the foot of their low death-beds a pale figure upon a cross,
dying, also patiently;--in this they are different from the cattle and
from the stones; but, in all this, unrewarded, as far as concerns the
present life. For them, there is neither hope nor passion of spirit;
for them, neither advance nor exultation. Black bread, rude roof, dark
night, laborious day, weary arm at sunset; and life ebbs away. No
books, no thoughts, no attainments, no rest,--except only sometimes a
little sitting in the sun under the church wall, as the bell tolls
thin and far in the mountain air; a pattering of a few prayers, not
understood, by the altar-rails of the dimly gilded chapel,--and so,
back to the sombre home, with the cloud upon them still unbroken--that
cloud of rocky gloom, born out of the wild torrents and ruinous
stones, and unlightened even in their religion, except by the vague
promise of some better thing unknown, mingled with threatening, and
obscured by an unspeakable horror--a smoke, as it were, of martyrdom,
coiling up with the incense; and amidst the images of tortured bodies
and lamenting spirits in hurtling flames, the very cross, for them,
dashed more deeply than for others with gouts of blood.


87. A Highland scene is beyond doubt pleasant enough in its own way;
but, looked close at, has its shadows.[34] Here, for instance, is the
very fact of one--as pretty as I can remember,--having seen many. It
is a little valley of soft turf, enclosed in its narrow oval by
jutting rocks, and broad flakes of nodding fern. From one side of it
to the other winds, serpentine, a clear brown stream, drooping into
quicker ripple as it reaches the end of the oval field, and then,
first islanding a purple and white rock with an amber pool, it dashes
away into a narrow fall of foam under a thicket of mountain ash and
alder. The autumn sun, low, but clear, shines on the scarlet
ash-berries and on the golden birch-leaves, which, fallen here and
there, when the breeze has not caught them, rest quiet in the crannies
of the purple rock. Beside the rock, in the hollow under the thicket,
the carcase of a ewe, drowned in the last flood, lies nearly bare to
the bone, its white ribs protruding through the skin, raven-torn; and
the rags of its wool still flickering from the branches that first
stayed it as the stream swept it down. A little lower, the current
plunges, roaring, into a circular chasm like a well, surrounded on
three sides by a chimney-like hollowness of polished rock, down which
the foam slips in detached snow-flakes. Round the edges of the pool
beneath, the water circles slowly like black oil; a little butterfly
lies on its back, the wings glued to one of the eddies, its limbs
feebly quivering; a fish arises, and it is gone. Lower down the
stream, I can see over a knoll the green and damp turf roofs of four
or five hovels, built at the edge of a morass, which is trodden by the
cattle into a black Slough of Despond at their doors, and traversed by
a few ill-set stepping stones, with here and there a flat slab on the
tops, where they have sunk out of sight;--and at the turn of the brook
I see a man fishing, with a boy and a dog--a picturesque and pretty
group enough certainly, if they had not been there all day starving. I
know them, and I know the dog's ribs also, which are nearly as bare as
the dead ewe's; and the child's wasted shoulders, cutting his old
tartan jacket through, so sharp are they.

[34] Passage written to be opposed to an exuberant description, by an
amiable Scottish pastor, of everything flattering to Scotchmen in the
Highlands. I have put next to it, a little study of the sadness of
Italy.


88. Perhaps there is no more impressive scene on earth than the
solitary extent of the Campagna of Rome under evening light. Let the
reader imagine himself for a moment withdrawn from the sounds and
motion of the living world, and sent forth alone into this wild and
wasted plain. The earth yields and crumbles beneath his foot, tread he
never so lightly, for its substance is white, hollow, and carious,
like the dusty wreck of the bones of men. The long knotted grass waves
and tosses feebly in the evening wind, and the shadows of its motion
shake feverishly along the banks of ruin that lift themselves to the
sunlight. Hillocks of mouldering earth heave around him, as if the
dead beneath were struggling in their sleep. Scattered blocks of black
stone, four-square remnants of mighty edifices, not one left upon
another, lie upon them to keep them down. A dull purple poisonous haze
stretches level along the desert, veiling its spectral wrecks of massy
ruins, on whose rents the red light rests, like dying fire on defiled
altars; the blue ridge of the Alban Mount lifts itself against a
solemn space of green, clear, quiet sky. Watch-towers of dark clouds
stand steadfastly along the promontories of the Apennines. From the
plain to the mountains, the shattered aqueducts, pier beyond pier,
melt into the darkness, like shadowy and countless troops of funeral
mourners, passing from a nation's grave.


89. I was coming down one evening from the Rochers de Naye, above
Montreux, having been at work among the limestone rocks, where I could
get no water, and both weary and thirsty. Coming to a spring at the
turn of the path, conducted, as usual, by the herdsmen, into a
hollowed pine trunk, I stooped to it, and drank deeply. As I raised my
head, drawing breath heavily, some one behind me said, "Celui qui
boira de cette eau-ci, aura encore soif." I turned, not understanding
for a moment what was meant, and saw one of the hill peasants,
probably returning to his châlet from the market place at Vevay or
Villeneuve. As I looked at him with an uncomprehending expression, he
went on with the verse: "Mais celui qui boira de l'eau que je lui
donnerai, n'aura jamais soif."


90. It may perhaps be permitted me[35] to mark the significance of the
earliest mention of mountains in the Mosaic books; at least of those
in which some Divine appointment or command is stated respecting them.
They are first brought before us as refuges for God's people from the
two judgments of water and fire. The Ark rests upon the mountains of
Ararat; and man, having passed through the great Baptism unto death,
kneels upon the earth first where it is nearest heaven, and mingles
with the mountain clouds the smoke of his sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Again; from the midst of the first judgment by fire, the command of
the Deity to His servant is, "Escape to the mountain;" and the morbid
fear of the hills, which fills any human mind after long stay in
places of luxury and sin, is strangely marked in Lot's complaining
reply, "I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me." The
third mention, in way of ordinance, is a far more solemn one: "Abraham
lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off." "The Place," the
mountain of myrrh, or of bitterness, chosen to fulfil to all the seed
of Abraham, far off and near, the inner meaning of promise regarded in
that vow: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh
mine help." And the fourth is the delivery of the law on Sinai. It
seemed then to the monks that the mountains were appointed by their
Maker to be to man refuges from judgment, signs of redemption, and
altars of sanctification and obedience; and they saw them afterwards
connected, in the manner the most touching and gracious, with the
death, after his task had been accomplished, of the first anointed
Priest; the death, in like manner, of the first inspired Lawgiver; and
lastly, with the assumption of His office, by the Eternal Priest,
Lawgiver, and Saviour.

[35] With reference to the choice of mountain dwellings by the greater
monastic orders.

Observe the connection of these three events. Although the _time_ of
the deaths of Aaron and Moses was hastened by God's displeasure, we
have not, it seems to me, the slightest warrant for concluding that
the _manner_ of their deaths was intended to be grievous or
dishonourable to them. Far from this, it cannot, I think, be doubted
that in the denial of the permission to enter the Promised Land, the
whole punishment of their sin was included; and that, as far as
regarded the manner of their deaths, it must have been appointed for
them by their Master, in all tenderness and love, and with the full
purpose of ennobling the close of their service upon the earth. It
might have seemed to _us_ more honourable that both should have been
permitted to die beneath the shadow of the Tabernacle, the
congregation of Israel watching by their side; and all whom they loved
gathered together to receive the last message from the lips of the
meek lawgiver, and the last blessing from the prayer of the anointed
priest. But it was not thus they were permitted to die. Try to realize
that going forth of Aaron from the midst of the congregation. He who
had so often done sacrifice for their sin, going forth now to offer up
his own spirit. He who had stood among them between the dead and the
living, and had seen the eyes of all that great multitude turned to
him, that by his intercession their breath might yet be drawn a moment
more, going forth now to meet the angel of death face to face, and
deliver himself into his hand. Try if you cannot walk in thought with
those two brothers, and the son, as they passed the outmost tents of
Israel, and turned, while yet the dew lay round about the camp,
towards the slopes of Mount Hor; talking together for the last time,
as step by step they felt the steeper rising of the rocks, and hour
after hour, beneath the ascending sun, the horizon grew broader as
they climbed, and all the folded hills of Idumea, one by one subdued,
showed, amidst their hollows in the haze of noon, the windings of that
long desert journey, now at last to close. But who shall enter into
the thoughts of the High Priest as his eye followed those paths of
ancient pilgrimage; and through the silence of the arid and endless
hills, stretching even to the dim peak of Sinai, the whole history of
those forty years was unfolded before him, and the mystery of his own
ministries revealed to him; and that other Holy of Holies, of which
the mountain peaks were the altars, and the mountain clouds the veil,
the firmament of his Father's dwelling, opened to him still more
brightly and infinitely as he drew nearer his death?--until at last,
on the shadeless summit, from him on whom sin was to be laid no more,
from him on whose heart the names of sinful nations were to press
their graven fire no longer, the brother and the son took breastplate
and ephod, and left him to his rest. There is indeed a secretness in
this calm faith, and deep restraint of sorrow, into which it is
difficult for us to enter; but the death of Moses himself is more
easily to be conceived, and had in it circumstances still more
touching as regards the influence of the external scene. For forty
years Moses had not been alone. The care and burden of all the people,
the weight of their woe, and guilt, and death, had been upon him
continually. The multitude had been laid upon him as if he had
conceived them; their tears had been his meat night and day, until he
had felt as if God had withdrawn His favour from him, and he had
prayed that he might be slain, and not see his wretchedness. And now
at last the command came, "Get thee up into this mountain." The weary
hands, that had been so long stayed up against the enemies of Israel,
might lean again upon the shepherd's staff, and fold themselves for
the shepherd's prayer--for the shepherd's slumber. Not strange to his
feet, though forty years unknown, the roughness of the bare mountain
path, as he climbed from ledge to ledge of Abarim; not strange to his
aged eyes the scattered clusters of the mountain herbage, and the
broken shadows of the cliffs, indented far across the silence of
uninhabited ravines; scenes such as those among which, as now, with
none beside him but God, he had led his flocks so often; and which he
had left, how painfully! taking upon him the appointed power to make
of the fenced city a wilderness, and to fill the desert with songs of
deliverance. It was not to embitter the last hours of his life that
God restored to him for a day the beloved solitudes he had lost, and
breathed the peace of the perpetual hills around him, and cast the
world in which he had laboured, and sinned, far beneath his feet in
that mist of dying blue;--all sin, all wandering, soon to be forgotten
for ever. The Dead Sea--a type of God's anger understood by him, of
all men, most clearly, who had seen the earth open her mouth, and the
sea his depth, to overwhelm the companies of those who contended with
his Master--laid waveless beneath him; and beyond it the fair hills of
Judah, and the soft plains and banks of Jordan, purple in the evening
light as with the blood of redemption, and fading in their distant
fulness into mysteries of promise and of love. There, with his
unabated strength, his undimmed glance, lying down upon the utmost
rocks, with angels waiting near to contend for the spoils of his
spirit, he put off his earthly armour. We do deep reverence to his
companion prophet, for whom the chariot of fire came down from heaven;
but was his death less noble whom his Lord Himself buried in the vales
of Moab, keeping, in the secrets of the eternal counsels, the
knowledge of a sepulchre, from which he was to be called in the
fulness of time, to talk with that Lord upon Hermon of the death that
He should accomplish at Jerusalem?

And lastly, let us turn our thoughts for a few moments to the cause of
the resurrection of these two prophets. We are all of us too much in
the habit of passing it by, as a thing mystical and inconceivable,
taking place in the life of Christ for some purpose not by us to be
understood, or, at the best, merely as a manifestation of His divinity
by brightness of heavenly light, and the ministering of the spirits of
the dead, intended to strengthen the faith of His three chosen
apostles. And in this, as in many other events recorded by the
Evangelists, we lose half the meaning, and evade the practical power
upon ourselves, by never accepting in its fulness the idea that our
Lord was "perfect man,"--"tempted in all things like as we are." Our
preachers are continually trying, in all manner of subtle ways, to
explain the union of the Divinity with the Manhood--an explanation
which certainly involves first their being able to describe the nature
of Deity itself, or, in plain words, to comprehend God. They never can
explain, in any one particular, the union of the natures; they only
succeed in weakening the faith of their hearers as to the entireness
of either. The thing they have to do is precisely the contrary of
this--to insist upon the _entireness_ of both. We never think of
Christ enough as God, never enough as Man; the instinctive habit of
our minds being always to miss of the Divinity, and the reasoning and
enforced habit to miss of the humanity. We are afraid to harbour in
our own hearts, or to utter in the hearing of others, any thought of
our Lord as hungering, tired, sorrowful, having a human soul, a human
will, and affected by events of human life, as a finite creature is:
and yet one half of the efficiency of His atonement, and the whole of
the efficiency of His example, depend on His having been this to the
full. Consider, therefore, the Transfiguration as it relates to the
human feelings of our Lord. It was the first definite preparation for
His death. He had foretold it to His disciples six days before; then
takes with Him the three chosen ones into "an high mountain apart."
From an exceeding high mountain, at the first taking on Him the
ministry of life, He had beheld and rejected the kingdoms of the
earth, and their glory: now, on a high mountain, He takes upon Him the
ministry of death. Peter and they that were with Him, as in
Gethsemane, were heavy with sleep. Christ's work had to be done alone.

The tradition is that the Mount of Transfiguration was the summit of
Tabor; but Tabor is neither a high mountain, nor was it in any sense a
mountain "_apart_," being in those years both, inhabited and
fortified. All the immediately preceding ministries of Christ had been
at Cesarea Philippi. There is no mention of travel southward in the
six days that intervened between the warning given to His disciples
and the going up into the hill. What other hill could it be than the
southward slope of that goodly mountain, Hermon, which is indeed the
centre of all the Promised Land, from the entering in of Hamath unto
the river of Egypt; the mount of fruitfulness, from which the springs
of Jordan descended to the valleys of Israel? Along its mighty forest
avenues, until the grass grew fair with the mountain lilies, His feet
dashed in the dew of Hermon, He must have gone to pray His first
recorded prayer about death; and from the steep of it, before He
knelt, could see to the south all the dwellings of the people that had
sat in darkness, and seen the great light, the land of Zabulon and of
Naphtali, Galilee of the nations,--could see, even with His human
sight, the gleam of that lake by Capernaum and Chorazin, and many a
place loved by Him, and vainly ministered to, whose house was now left
unto them desolate; and chief of all, far in the utmost blue, the
hills above Nazareth, sloping down to His old home; hills on which yet
the stones lay loose that had been taken up to cast at Him when He
left them for ever.

"And as He prayed, two men stood by Him." Among the many ways in which
we miss the help and hold of Scripture, none is more subtle than our
habit of supposing that, even as man, Christ was free from the fear of
death. How could He then have been tempted as we are?--since among all
the trials of the earth, none spring from the dust more terrible than
that fear. It had to be borne by Him, indeed, in a unity which we can
never comprehend, with the foreknowledge of victory,--as His sorrow
for Lazarus with the consciousness of His power to restore him; but it
_had_ to be borne, and that in its full earthly terror; and the
presence of it is surely marked for us enough by the rising of those
two at His side. When, in the desert, He was girding Himself for the
work of life, angels of life came and ministered to Him; now in the
fair world, when He is girding Himself for the work of death, the
ministrants come to Him from the grave. But, from the grave,
conquered. One from that tomb under Abarim, which His own hand had
sealed long ago; the other, from the rest into which he had entered
without seeing corruption. "There stood by Him Moses and Elias, and
spake of His decease." Then, when the prayer is ended, the task
accepted, first, since the star paused over Him at Bethlehem, the full
glory falls upon Him from heaven, and the testimony is borne to His
everlasting Sonship and power. "Hear ye Him."

If, in their remembrance of these things, and in their endeavour to
follow in the footsteps of their Master, religious men of bygone days,
closing themselves in the hill solitudes, forgot sometimes, and
sometimes feared, the duties they owed to the active world, we may
perhaps pardon them more easily than we ought to pardon ourselves, if
we neither seek any influence for good, nor submit to it unsought, in
scenes to which thus all the men whose writings we receive as
inspired, together with their Lord, retired whenever they had any task
or trial laid upon them needing more than their usual strength of
spirit. Nor perhaps should we have unprofitably entered into the mind
of the earlier ages, if among our other thoughts, as we watch the
chains of the snowy mountains rise on the horizon, we should sometimes
admit the memory of the hour in which their Creator, among their
solitudes, entered on His travail for the salvation of our race; and
indulge the dream, that as the flaming and trembling mountains of the
earth seem to be the monuments of the manifesting of His terror on
Sinai, these pure and white hills, near to the heaven, and sources of
all good to the earth, are the appointed memorials of that light of
His mercy, that fell, snowlike, on the Mount of Transfiguration.


FINIS.

Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.

Edinburgh & London





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