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Title: Lucerne
Author: Flemwell, George
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lucerne" ***

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



          [Illustration: THE TEUFELSMÜNSTER FROM TELLSPLATTE]



                                LUCERNE

                       Pictured and described by

                              G. FLEMWELL

                _Author of “Alpine Flowers and Gardens”
               “The Flower Fields of Alpine Switzerland”
                                 &c._

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                        BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
                       LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY



               +----------------------------------------+
               |         Beautiful Switzerland          |
               |                                        |
               |                                        |
               |_In this series have already appeared_: |
               |                                        |
               |     LUCERNE      |      CHAMONIX       |
               |         VILLARS AND CHAMPÉRY           |
               |               LAUSANNE                 |
               |                                        |
               |       PAINTED AND DESCRIBED BY         |
               |              G. FLEMWELL               |
               |                                        |
               |    _Other volumes in preparation_      |
               +----------------------------------------+



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                            Page

The Teufelsmünster from Tellsplatte                _Frontispiece_

Lucerne: Springtime on the Musegg                              8

The Rigi from the Musegg--Lucerne                             14

The Bürgenstock from Vitznau                                  20

Ruins of Gessler’s Stronghold at Küssnacht                    26

Mount Pilatus from Stansstad                                  32

The Bernese Alps from Mount Pilatus                           36

The Titlis from Engelberg--Winter                             42

The Engelberg at Engelberg--Spring                            46

Treib                                                         50

The Uri-Rothstock seen from Brunnen                           56

The Axenberg from Brunnen--an Autumn Evening                  60



[Illustration]



LUCERNE


There is good warrant for turning directly to Lucerne and to the lake
which lies in the midst of the four Forest Cantons when making, or
renewing, acquaintance with Switzerland; and there should be no question
of thereby slighting other famed districts of this favoured land. Almost
invariably it is best to go straight to the heart of things, and the
Vierwaldstätter-See, or Lake of the Four Forest Cantons--commonly known
to us as the Lake of Lucerne--is held to be, both geographically and
historically, at the very heart of Switzerland. There is, too, the
additional assurance that no other district in the whole of the
twenty-two Cantons which go to the making of the Confederation can
offer a more admirable, a more ideal introduction to the fascinating
wonders and delights of Swiss scenery. In spite of our being in the
heart of the country, we are, as it were, upon the frontier of a
Promised Land, one flowing as literally as may be with milk and
honey--and glaciers; we are, that is to say, at the portal by which we
may as lief best enter the domain of the Swiss Alps. For if we except
Pilatus, that gaunt, tormented rock-mass standing in severe isolation
upon the threshold of the city, Lucerne is relatively modest and
restrained as regards its immediate scenery; but away on the horizon
which bounds the waters of the Lake is the long snowy array of majestic
Alps, and we may soon reach by boat and rail the giants of Schwyz, Uri,
Unterwalden and the Bernese Oberland. The steamboats alone will
transport us, through graduated scenic grandeur, to the great cliffs and
snow-covered crags of Uri, romantic birthplace of the Swiss Republic.

However, there is no occasion to become restive at the prospect; Lucerne
itself is the most charming of preludes and _points d’appui_ for all
that lies afield. Particularly is this so if opportunity allows us to be
here in the spring of the year, with the fruit trees all a-flower and
the grey-towered Musegg ramparts deep set in a rosy-white haze; and with
the fields all a-wave with blue, white, and gold, and the lakeside
promenade laden with the myriad flower-spikes of the horse-chestnut
trees. Spring is earlier here--some ten days earlier in May--than away
at the very feet of the Alps. We may well be content, then, to remain
awhile amid such vernal freshness, studying the life and history of the
town of the “wooden storks’ nests”, and revelling on the quay in the
Alpine panorama framed by the soft blue sky and blue-green waters--a
panorama which is never more delightful than at this season of the year,
never even in autumn when October clears the atmosphere, robes the near
hills in fire, deepens the blue colouring of distant rock and forest,
and spreads a new white drapery upon the higher peaks.

To those who knew this town, say, five-and-twenty years ago, and who
have not revisited it until to-day, how many are the changes which they
will meet, and with what mixed feelings will they meet these changes!
The past twenty-five years have meant astonishing developments for
almost every quarter of Switzerland. Cities have burst their bounds and
have spread far along the countryside; villages have grown into towns,
and from nothing, or perhaps from a single old-time chalet, great groups
of hotels and their dependencies have sprung up upon the mountains. And
Lucerne certainly has been no laggard in this movement. Twenty-five
years ago the sign and symbol of the city was a stolid, stunted tower
set in water beside a long, roofed, wooden bridge running slantwise
across a river, with tapering twin steeples beyond. But nowadays the
place would be unrecognizable without an airship floating above vast
Palace hotels which all but obscure the twin steeples and cause the aged
Kapell-Brücke and its faithful companion, the Wasserturm, to look as two
quaint old country folk come into town to see the sights, and who remain
coyly by the See-Brücke on the outskirts, so to speak, of all the
splendid modern hustle--two dear, simple, reticent old things in their
old-world garb, despite the efforts of the authorities to bring them
abreast of the times by festooning them about with many strings of
electric lights. We have to be thankful that these and other intensely
individual relics of the past weathered the rage for demolition that
appears to have reigned in the town during the middle of the nineteenth
century. Something of what this rage was like can be gathered from
Professor Weingartner’s pictures which line the walls of Muth’s Beer
Restaurant in the Alpen-Strasse. Here, whilst sampling the
_Schweinswürstl_, a speciality of the house, we can study the
presentment of at least a dozen old gates and towers which were pulled
down between the years 1832 and 1870. That the remaining nine Musegg
towers, the two wooden bridges

[Illustration: LUCERNE: SPRINGTIME ON THE MUSEGG]

and the Water Tower escaped this onslaught would seem to have been a
miracle of good luck. At any rate, the townspeople of to-day must surely
look upon it in some such light. For a new spirit now rules in this
direction--a spirit of conservatism, even of rehabilitation--and what of
the antique past remains is dear and safe, and what can be done to
reinstate or reconstruct that which was lost, or in danger of being
lost, in the fresco and iron-work decorated house-fronts is rapidly
being done. Art is in the ascendancy to-day in Lucerne, and Hans
Holbein’s heart would be rejoiced could he but return to the quarters he
frequented in 1516 before he journeyed, in 1526, to the Court of
England. I do not think that the townspeople would go so far as Rodin,
the great French sculptor, and say, “_Une seule chose est utile au
monde: l’Art!_” (for there is the hotel business, and however
artistically inclined the Lucerneois may be, they are eminently
practical); but it is quite evident that to-day they would never accept
without amendment Plato’s scheme for a republic in which Art was
ignored.

In some of its aspects Lucerne is reminiscent of both Nuremberg and
Venice: of the former in its ancient towers, its beaten ironwork and its
frescoed houses; and of the latter in its river and lakeside life and
architecture, especially looking from the Schweizerhof Quay to the
finely domed railway station across the water, or again at night-time
when many-tinted reflected lights dance upon the flood, and row-boats,
with the oarsmen poised much as in Venetian gondolas, move stealthily
athwart the velvet shadows. All this, however, is merely reminiscent;
Lucerne is substantially herself--“Lucerna, the Shining One”, quick with
an individual beauty in which orderliness, dignity, and self-respect are
prominent qualities. And because these traits in her character are so
manifest, certain lapses in good taste and the fitness of things are apt
to be the more keenly regretted. Go down along the right side of the
Reuss river, past the Kapell-Brücke with its 154 paintings of ancient
local history and legend filling the beam-spaces beneath the roof, past
the befrescoed Gasthaus zu Pfistern, past the Flower and Fruit Market in
the old Rathaus arcades, past the Hotel Balances and its history-telling
_façade_, across the Wine Market containing a fifteenth-century fountain
dedicated to St. Maurice--who, with St. Leodegar, is co-patron of the
town--down to the Mühlen-Platz, and there you will find stark modernism,
in the shape of ramshackle baths and uncompromising factory workshops,
right beside one of the chief and most picturesque relics of Old
Lucerne--the fourteenth-century wooden Spreuer-Brücke, with its quaint
shrine and paintings of the Dance of Death, sung of by the poet
Longfellow. But perhaps a more brazen example of this intrusiveness is
to be seen by passing over the bridge and standing at the nearest corner
of the Zeughaus. From this point there is what is probably the most
perfect _ensemble_ of varied mediaeval architecture to be found in the
town--the old bridge and its quaint, rosy-red shrine in the foreground,
spanning the green and rapidly flowing Reuss, and backed by the Musegg
towers and ramparts and the bulky monastic building whose deep roof is
pierced by a triple line of windows. It is a nearly perfect glimpse of
the past, and that it is not entirely perfect is due to a bald modern
villa set high against the rampart walls. This brazen-faced building is
wellnigh as incongruous, perched up there beneath the unique and
precious Mannlithurm, whose warrior sentinel, hand upon sword, watches
over the town, as is the Alhambra Labyrinth, with its “interesting
Oriental groups and palm-groves”, in the Glacier Garden.

However, it will not do to be too critical. Rather should we give thanks
for the strong directing hand which in the main the town now holds upon
Progress, that arch-egoist with no eyes but for itself. There are times
when it is no easy matter to reconcile the old with the new: to say
where antiquity shall rule for art and sentiment’s sake, and where it
shall give way, tears or no tears, before the utilities of the present.
Nor is it less difficult to give an unprejudiced and far-sighted
judgment upon the actual truth, and, therefore, upon the actual merit
and value of beauty and ugliness. It is such a personal matter--personal
so largely to the time being. We must not imagine that the chimney-pot
hat will be for all time cherished as respectable, though we may expect
some wailing and remonstrance when its call to go arrives. So, possibly,
even probably, here in this town the old inhabitants of 400 years ago,
when every house was of wood, were heard to carp and grumble--may even
have risen in protest--when Jacob von Hertenstein built for himself the
first stone dwelling and had it painted gaily with pictures by young
Hans Holbein, thus setting a fashion which eventually not only ousted
the “storks’ nests”, but set up something for whose preservation we now
clamour, although at the same time we incline to rave against some of
its recent offspring, the Palace hotels. Thus, if we are not careful, do
we find ourselves caught in a tangle of inconsistencies. Apt to think,
like the cicerone of Chichester Cathedral, that “nothing later than the
fourteenth century is of much value”, we should be wary lest posterity
has cause to deride us. We are enthusiastic children where temporary
custom and passing bias are concerned, and what to us is horrible
to-day is often splendid to-morrow.

On the other hand, there is a strong tendency, perhaps a kind of
bravado, which aims at showing that we are no longer overawed by the
past as were our ancestors; that we live very much in the present, with
one eye on the immediate future, and that we do not so much say “Let the
dead bury their dead” as “Let us at once bury all that is moribund”. In
short, an egotistical irreverence stalks abroad with regard to the past,
as well as an exorbitant sentimentality, and our pressing necessity is
to beware of both and to keep in the middle of the road. Now this is
just the happy and wise position which Lucerne seems to occupy at
present. The merest feather will show which way the wind is blowing, and
in the current edition of the Official Guidebook there is no trace of
the phrase employed in an earlier edition: “In a town where the present
is so beautiful, we may well let the past be forgotten”. Beautiful most
certainly the town is to-day, and that is partly because the beauty of
its past is _not_ forgotten.

History is boiled down and compressed into tabloid form in another
guidebook. “In olden times,” it hurriedly tells us, “there stood upon
the banks of the Reuss a little village of fishermen, for which the
founding of the convent of St. Leodegar, about the year 735, became the
first event of importance. The little place grew up by and by into a
town, and the time came when it was strong enough to lay its hands upon
the trade of the lake. Later on, when the peasantry of the inner cantons
concluded that alliance, out of which in time the Swiss confederacy was
to rise, Lucerne did not hesitate to join them, so that from the year
1332 the history of the Confederacy has been also that of Lucerne.” That
is all very true as far as it goes; food in the form of a tabloid is
never quite satisfactory. But probably the majority of visitors will be
content with this high essence, not caring to dive deeper into
antecedent waters to fish up Lacustrians, Alemanni, King Pepin, the
Abbot of Murbach, or the Dukes of Hapsburg. There are, however, certain
tit-bits of history--or are they of legend?--which are always palatable,
and among these is a story meriting a place by the side of that
recounted of Tell and his son. It dates from 1362, from the time, that
is to say, when the hold of Austria upon Lucerne was weakening under the
contagious example set the townspeople by their neighbours of Uri,
Schwyz, and Unterwalden. Things had reached such a pass that the
partisans of Austria had had to leave the town, and the Bailiff of
Rothenbourg, Governor of the district, was vowing vengeance and plotting
with certain traitors among the Swiss

[Illustration: THE RIGI FROM THE MUSEGG; LUCERNE]

to retake the town by night and put the townspeople to the sword. After
dark, on 29th June, a little boy, Pierre Hohdorf, who had been bathing
in the lake and had fallen asleep on the shore, was awakened by the
stealthy tread of armed men creeping warily towards a cave beneath the
Abbey of the Tailors. Recognizing the Governor among the number, and
knowing well the bad blood existing between the Austrians and the
townspeople, Pierre Hohdorf, under cover of the reeds, followed these
men to their meeting-place, but was surprised by a newcomer, taken by
this latter into the cave, denounced as a spy, and threatened with
instant death. The boy could only confess that he had fallen asleep
after his bath, had been awakened by footsteps, and had become curious
to know what was the matter. This was not considered a satisfactory
explanation by his captors; a dagger was already uplifted above his
breast, when the Governor intervened, caused little Pierre to swear that
he would never reveal to a living soul anything of what he had seen or
heard, and then allowed him to go free. The boy made his way in all
haste to the town and to the Abbey of the Butchers, where he saw that
lights were still burning. Entering the building and going to the hall
where numbers of citizens were talking and drinking, Pierre went
straight up to the big stove and thus addressed it:--“O stove, you are
not a living soul; I may therefore tell you what I have just seen and
heard without breaking the oath which the Austrians have forced me to
take”. He then went on to tell the stove the whole of his adventure. At
first the men thought it was just a child’s prank; but they soon pricked
up their ears, realized the seriousness of what they were hearing,
buckled on their swords, shouldered their battle-axes, hurried out into
the streets, and awaited the coming of the Austrians and traitors. As
one o’clock struck, the enemy stole out from the Abbey of the Tailors,
were quickly confronted and after a fierce struggle were either killed
or routed, the arch-traitor, Jean de Malters, together with the
Governor, saving their lives in flight.

But Lucerne suffers somewhat from the brilliant history of her near
neighbours, her precursors in Swiss freedom. William Tell and his famous
companions monopolize so much of the atmosphere that the average visitor
is probably satisfied if he supplements a knowledge of their exploits
with what he can pick up casually in his strolls around the town.[1] In
this way, if he finds himself in the Pfistergasse and notices the
ancient three-storied building known as “von Moos’s Haus”, he will come
into contact with Ruskin, who made of it one of his exquisitely careful
drawings; in this way, at the Gütsch, he will learn how Queen Victoria
loved the alleys midst the stately pines; in this way he will hear of
Richard Wagner’s erstwhile residence for some six prolific years at
Tribschen, the country house nestling among Teutonic-looking poplar
trees on the promontory not far beyond the airship station, and of how
the great man was wont to wend his way of an afternoon to Dubeli’s Café
in the Fürren Gasse, where he smoked his pipe and in all probability
sought inspiration for _Die Meistersinger_, the _Siegfried
Götterdämmerung_, and the _Siegfried-Idyll_, and perhaps discussed
philosophy with Nietzche, who was a frequent visitor to Tribschen in
those friendly days before he discovered that the great composer was
merely a “clever rattlesnake”. In this way, too, the visitor will hear
of the droll doings of Fridli an der Halden, popularly known as Bruder
Fritschi, who flourished in the fifteenth century and founded a merry
festival which, in the shape of the Fritschi Procession, is still kept
up at carnival-time. Many tales are told of this worthy. He seems to
have been a prime favourite, not only in Lucerne, but far afield, being
on several occasions held captive in some distant town.

     “The news reached Lucerne”, we are told, “that Fritschi was being
     detained at Basle, whereupon the burgomaster and council of the
     former town at once declared war, announcing that within eight days
     they would appear in force before Basle and demand the release of
     the prisoner. They received the reply that their appearance was
     eagerly looked for, and that the greater the number of the enemy,
     the better pleased the Basle folk would be. The expedition really
     took place. Several hundred of the men of Lucerne, with the two
     burgomasters and eighteen councillors at their head, marched to
     Basle, where they were received by the burgomaster and council and
     a host of citizens in martial attire. Brother Fritschi welcomed his
     fellow-townsmen from a window of one of the best houses, and
     several days were spent in feasting and revelry.”

The lighter side of warfare, this, and without doubt a welcome interlude
in what were seriously stirring times. Frivolous history, do you call
it? Is, then, serious history a record only of long faces, and a reserve

    “For heathen heart that puts his trust
     In reeking tube and iron shard”?

Is not a merry smile a thing of great gravity in the world’s economy,
and may not a hearty laugh be as potent as a bloody battle? Why, at a
time when kings and their peoples slept booted and spurred, jesters were
paid to break the horrid spell with laughter. True, the world called,
and still calls, these merrymakers “fools”, but the sooner a foolish
world recasts its mode of thinking in these matters, the sooner will it
realize how low and odious is its recognized god of war. Lucerne holds
excellent and moving proof of this in the Museggstrasse, where stands
the International Museum of War and Peace, founded by the Russian,
Johann von Bloch. In this Museum there are things which, although they
represent what have long been looked upon as among the noblest elements
in serious history, come as a dreadful and a useful shock to such as pin
their faith to the vaunted advance in intellectuality, humanity, and
civilization of this present age.

In Lucerne there is much excuse for pensiveness upon this subject. I
know no town where the problem of Peace and War presents itself more
suggestively. Not that Lucerne is a hotbed of that militarism which is
apt to think of Peace as “sweet poison for the age’s tooth”; for
excepting a subdued rattle of arms from the barracks near the
Spreuer-Brücke, and an occasional drilling of recruits in the recesses
of the Gütsch woods, little or nothing is seen here of the actual cult
of warfare. Peace pervades Lucerne, and War is evident upon all hands as
an irresistibly suggestive reminiscence. There could be no more
appropriate home for the Bloch Museum. Fritschi is the town’s hero, not
for the part he played in the Burgundian Wars, but for his drolleries; a
sham castle-fortress stands picturesquely by the steamboat quay; the
Glacier Garden, witness of neolithic man’s grim struggles as far back,
possibly, as 700,000 years, is now a sylvan resort of pleasure-seeking
tourists; and the soft-blue distant Alps of Uri and Unterwalden send to
the town subdued echoes of past tyranny and revolt. On every hand is all
that could be wished for from peace; and warfare, in the form of
battlements and towers, sits crumbling upon the Musegg slopes--swords
turned into ploughshares, the past’s frowning exigencies left to serve
the present’s decorative sense and purpose. Truly the Bloch Museum has
found a fitting home, and for long years may this fitness endure,
spreading wide its virtues to the four corners of the globe and
inspiring men to live up to that high level which, in their quiet
moments, they so persistently claim for modern civilization.

And yet, because something finer is expected of the present than of the
past there is no right rhyme or reason for heaping wholesale abuse upon
the latter’s crudely drastic ways. We may quite well admit how much of
actual beauty arises from previous horrors. As, surely, few can visit
Lucerne’s unique Glacier Garden without being impressed with the fact of
how much the loveliness and grandeur of the town’s surrounding scenery
is indebted to that dismal and terrific epoch, of which these giants’
cauldrons, mills and mill-stones are the witnesses, so, surely, few can
stroll up to the Drei Linden, or through the cathedral-like pine woods
of the Gütsch to Sonnenberg, and survey

[Illustration: THE BÜRGENSTOCK FROM VITZNAU]

the lovely reaches of the Lake and the blue borderline of the Alps
beyond without feeling the enormous and quiet benefits which to-day are
enjoyed because of the sanguinary struggles of a bygone age. Nor,
surely, can many stand by the shady water pool and gaze at the
rock-cliff wherein is sculptured Thorwaldsen’s famous masterpiece and
not be sensible of how large a debt is laid upon to-day’s tranquillity
by such past incidents which in a sense were so ugly and so vicious.
“Honour to you, brave men”, says Carlyle with stirring eloquence,
referring to this same monument in honour of the 800 officers and men of
the Swiss Guard, slain at the Tuileries in defending Louis XVI, very
many of whom were natives of Lucerne and district (which was noted for
its so-called mercenaries)--

     “Honour to you, brave men; honourable pity, through long times! Not
     martyrs were ye; and yet almost more. He was no King of yours, this
     Louis; and he forsook you like a King of shreds and patches; ye
     were but sold to him for some poor sixpence a-day; yet would ye
     work for your wages, keep your plighted word. The work now was to
     die; and ye did it. Honour to you, O Kinsmen; and may the old
     Deutsch _Biederkeit_ and _Tapferkeit_, and valour which is _Worth_
     and _Truth_, be they Swiss, be they Saxon, fail in no age! Not
     bastards; true-born were these men: sons of the men of Sempach, of
     Murten, who knelt, but not to thee, O Burgundy! Let the traveller,
     as he passes through Lucerne, turn aside to look at their
     monumental Lion; not for Thorwaldsen’s sake alone. Hewn out of
     living rock, the Figure rests there, by the still Lake-waters, in
     lullaby of distant-tinkling _rance-des-vaches_, the granite
     Mountains dumbly keeping watch all round; and, though inanimate,
     speaks.”

Yes, it speaks. Aye, and the mountains speak, the Lake speaks, the whole
wide landscape speaks--speaks of all we owe to the violent deaths of
such as these. And if to-day this land breathes freedom throughout every
pore; if to-day she attracts all wanderers by her beauty, how shall we
deny that it is due to a convulsed and tortured past?

But in admitting this, our deep sense of gratitude to bygone men and
days, is such gratitude to bespeak our resolve to follow closely their
example? Are we to despair of freedom and beauty being maintained, even
accentuated, by other and more refined methods? Why should we? Why
should not this very freedom, this very beauty be the instrument of our
secure regeneration? In view of the hundreds of thousands of travellers
who come to Switzerland (it is deputed that 300,000 yearly visit Lucerne
alone), who fall under the beneficent spell of her life and landscape,
and who return to their hearths and homes with ineffaceable
souvenirs--in view of all this precious and increasing influence, it
seems impossible that history can so far repeat itself as to soil afresh
the Alps with battle-carnage. Walk along the lake-front amid the
gathering shades of night, when the gulls have gone to slumber, leaving
the duck and coot alone to seek their supper from the passer-by, and
when the lights flash out from the great hotels on the heights of
Pilatus, the Stanserhorn, the Bürgenstock and the Rigi. Can you help
believing, when you gaze over at those far-off constellations of
electric lights, that men are now living in closer and truer communion
with all that is ennobling in Nature? can you help believing that,
although men may drag luxury with them to the summits of the
Alps--although they there must have their billiard and their music room,
and eat their evening’s dinner in full dress, yet are they inevitably
influenced for good in their ideals, and in the practical assertion of
their ideals, by the air, the flowers, the snow-capped peaks and rolling
glaciers around them, and the wondrous lake-land panorama spread out low
about their feet?



THE LAKE, THE RIGI, AND MOUNT PILATUS


To call the Lake of the Four Forest Cantons the Lake of Lucerne is as
correct locally as to call Lac Leman the Lake of Geneva; and it meets
with as much sympathy among the inhabitants. The Lake of Lucerne is
really but a modest portion of the whole, and the whole is so
delightfully irregular in form as almost to be three lakes, if not four.
The form of the Lake is sometimes likened to that of a cross, but this,
as any map will show, is a reckless definition, and has far less warrant
than the profile of Pilate’s face which some find in the outline of
Mount Pilatus, or the lion _couchant_ which some see in the combined
outline of the two Mythen when viewed from Brunnen. As a matter of fact,
the Lake’s form is too eccentric to resemble anything but what it is--a
series of bays. And, speaking strictly, the Lake of Lucerne is just one
of these bays.

Where fascination and charm are so great and abundant, where places of
historical and natural interest are so many and famous, it is not easy
to decide what to see first; and yet, I suppose, comparatively few
visitors hesitate to make a bee-line for the Rigi. By right of conquest
the Rigi holds a prime place among the attractions of the district.
Thanks to sunrise, thanks to Mark Twain, to Tartarin, and a host of
others, thanks also to the fact of the railway to its summit being the
first of its kind in the field, the Rigi’s fame is as great as, if not
greater than, that of Tell’s Chapel on the Bay of Uri. Certainly it is
greater than that of Pilatus--though whether it is deservedly so is
another matter. So famous is it, that writers, carried far upon the
wave-crest of enthusiasm, have not shrunk from acclaiming it “Queen of
the Mountains”--a valuation which gives one furiously to think how
uncommonly crowded with royalties is this stanch republic. But whatever
may be thought of the Rigi as a monarch among mountains, it is, in any
case, a Mecca among mountains. Its summit, the Kulm, is deservedly
popular, not only for the intrinsic beauty of the vast panorama of Alp,
valley, lake, and plain, but also because it is an eminently suitable
spot from which to comprehend something of the rugged, tumbled country
whose stern exigencies upon life have bred that simple, direct, and
nobly independent spirit which broke the might of Austria and of
Burgundy and wrung--indeed, still wrings--respect from all enemies of
Freedom.

However, with all due respect for Her Majesty, I see no reason why her
illustrious presence, though it dominate the Bay of Küssnacht, should so
overwhelm the rights and reputation of that Bay. In course of sequence,
and moving, as is seemly, with the orbit of the sun, the Bay of
Küssnacht should come first upon the programme. But there stands the
Rigi, clothed in such bright repute that the Bay which laves its
northern base is, as far as tourists are concerned, comparatively
neglected. Little else do many see of its beauty-spots than the tiny
gleaming-white shrine to St. Nicholas, the fishermen’s patron saint, set
picturesquely upon one of the isolated rocks of Meggen; and this only as
the steamer passes on its way across to the royal presence at Vitznau.
And yet this Bay possesses a very charming individuality. There is
little that is wild and rugged about it, if the bold escarpments of the
Rigi be excepted. Handsome châteaux--particularly Neu-Habsburg, standing
by the ruins of an ancient seat of the Dukes of Hapsburg--and country
houses, orchards, and rich farm-pastures claim its shores. The verdure
of field and tree touches the water’s edge and merges in a velvet-rich
reflection of itself. Happy prosperity is the keynote of this Bay:
“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs
with a harvest”--welcome complement to the wild, weird shores of Uri.
Moreover, at the end of the Bay is Küssnacht,

[Illustration: RUINS OF GESSLER’S STRONGHOLD AT KÜSSNACHT]

as quaint and picturesque a town as there is in the Lake’s whole
district (despite the bold intrusion of “Auto Benzin” and “Afternoontea”
by the side of ancient heraldic decorations). Here Goethe stopped in
1797, at the Gasthaus zum Engel, containing the ancient Rathsaal, dating
from 1424; here, too, a little way back from the town, is the Hollow
Way, which figures so prominently in Schiller’s _William Tell_; and
here, crowning a steep wooded knoll near by, are the last remnants of
Gessler’s sinister stronghold in whose dungeon Tell was to have been
incarcerated--

    “There, where no beam of sun or moon finds entrance”.

The ruins of this castle, composed largely of the Rigi’s pudding-stone,
are not in themselves impressive to-day, except in their associations
with the tragic past--associations strikingly symbolized by the bold
erect clumps of Atropa, the venomous Belladonna, so suggestively
established amid the crumbling debris. But the site is a fascinating and
beautiful one with the shady stream, the old water-mill and farmsteads
below, and glimpses of the Lake between the trees. It is especially
lovely in autumn when the beeches are a-fire, and one wonders then if
Longfellow, who knew Lucerne and neighbourhood, was here or hereabouts
inspired to write--

     “Magnificent Autumn! He comes not like a pilgrim, clad in russet
     weeds. He comes not like a hermit, clad in gray. But he comes like
     a warrior, with the stain of blood upon his brazen mail.”

For the Bay of Küssnacht is a revelation of what the dying year can
achieve in colour-splendour.

The peculiar geography of the Lake has happily done much to guard
natural beauties and rural simplicities against certain of man’s
customary attacks. Only at four points upon its shores has the Federal
Railway found it convenient to break the peace. Communication is thus in
large part by the more fitting and picturesque service of steamboats.
Unless, therefore, we go round, via Küssnacht, to Arth-Goldau on the
eastern side of the Rigi and thence take the mountain-line to the
summit, it is by steamboat that we must reach Weggis or Vitznau, from
whence to make the ascent of the Monarch. Weggis, with its big old
chocolate-coloured chalets seated upon full-green slopes, and its
luxuriance of fig trees sweeping the water-line, was, before the
mountain-railway at Vitznau came into existence in 1871, the
starting-point for reaching the Rigi’s heights; even to-day the many who
prefer pedestrianism use this route, though Vitznau has become the
crowded centre. In whatever else she may have suffered from this change,
Weggis has lost nothing in beauty and repose by Vitznau being the
dumping-ground for some 120,000 tourists annually. But let it not be
thought that Vitznau has no charming moments, particularly in the spring
and autumn, when the ruddy conglomerate crags of the Rigi soar above
woods and orchards radiant with colour, and thin mists lend increasing
fascination to the “Pearl of the Lake”--the abrupt, cliff-like mass of
the Bürgenstock rising from the opposite shore, at all times an
arresting feature of the lake-side scenery despite its comparatively
modest proportions.

As for the Rigi and the ascent thereof, what more can be said than
countless pens have told already? Enthusiasm--easily and plentifully
acquired in such splendid surroundings--has dubbed it “without a rival
on the face of the earth”. Can I say more? Less, perhaps; but surely
never more! However, an abundant rapture is excusable. Language is poor
to explain the lavish beauty that Nature has assembled in the panorama
which unfolds itself as the train moves upwards; superlative exclamation
is wellnigh bound to creep into the expression of even the coldest of
temperaments. When, beyond a foreground in which trees and chalets are
so out of the perpendicular as to appear as though toppling over into
the abyss below, the giant Alps of the Bernese Oberland slowly rise
above the peaks of Unterwalden, and the distant Jura mountains come into
view upon the horizon far beyond Lucerne, lying map-like by the softly
iridescent Lake, whose complex contours gradually reveal themselves from
Alpnachstad to Küssnacht and from Buochs to Kehrsiten--when this
wide-flung landscape, bathed in slight blue-purple haze, is steadily
disclosed before the eager gaze of the tourist, whose imagination has
been already whipped into liveliness by all that he has read and heard,
small wonder if language is driven to hyperbole. And as the train creeps
up and up, over steep slopes covered with bracken-fern and stately
yellow Gentian; up and up, over rocky chasm and flower-filled pasture,
till at last, at some 6000 feet, the summit-station of the Kulm is
reached and the tourist steps out, and finds himself dominating an
Alpine landscape over which his eye can roam for miles in all
directions, then certainly may he be excused if his emotion runs riot
with his gift of weighty utterance.

     “There are some descriptions”, wrote Alexandre Dumas, the elder,
     about this very prospect, “which the pen cannot give, some pictures
     which the brush cannot render; one has to appeal to those who have
     seen them and content oneself with saying that there is no more
     magnificent spectacle in the world than this panorama of which one
     is the centre, and which embraces 3 mountain chains, 22 lakes, 17
     towns, 40 villages, and 70 glaciers spread over a circumference of
     250 miles. It is not merely a magnificent view, a splendid
     panorama, it is a phantasmagoria.”

Here, at all events, distance lends enchantment to the view. Details are
blurred for the time being, for the brain at first has no use for them.
Large, unified impressions monopolize the senses; inquisitiveness and
criticism are swamped by acute though vague emotion, and we are content
to gaze at the vast expanse of lovely shaded colour rather than at any
formal object. But after a while, when the senses have drunk deeply of
these first impressions, enquiry, that dream-destroying faculty, asserts
itself; out come sundry maps and guidebooks, topography is to the front,
history is probed, and away to Memory’s secret treasury flies our
unambitious entrancement, only to invade us afresh in later quiet
moments at home. George Borrow, in the very characteristic Introduction
to his _Wild Wales_, considers that “scenery soon palls unless it is
associated with remarkable events, and the names of remarkable men”.
Possibly this opinion is upon all-fours with that other expressed by
Mason, one of Horace Walpole’s friends:--

    “For what is Nature? Ring her changes round.
     Her three flat notes are water, plants, and ground.
     Prolong the strain and, spite of all your chatter,
     The tiresome theme is still ground, plants, and water.”

Be this as it may--and both opinions are at least debatable--the scenery
here, around the Rigi, is so bound up with remarkable events and
remarkable men that, willy-nilly, some sort of acquaintance has to be
made with them.

Among the twenty-two lakes which go to the making of this wondrous
panorama are at least two that we shall hear of when we come into closer
contact with William Tell and his momentous age. Away to the left of the
Rossberg, and beyond and above the Lake of Zug, is the little
Aegeri-See, upon whose shores the epoch-marking battle of Morgarten was
fought in 1315, some seven years after the secret banding together of
the men of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden to throw off the tyrannic yoke
of Austria. The trouble, which had been brewing through many years of
oppression, came to a head when the men of Schwyz attacked and pillaged
the Abbey of Einsiedeln (to the east of the Lake of Aegeri, and still a
famous place of pilgrimage), taking the monks prisoners, because the
Abbot, under a deed of gift from the Austrian Emperor, claimed the
mountain pastures of Schwyz for his cattle. Austria determined to crush
this revolt, and on November 15, 1315, the Duke Leopold I raised an army
20,000 strong and marched upon Schwyz.

     “The Austrians”, says Alexandre Daguet, in his little primer used
     in Swiss schools, “were so sure of victory that they had with them
     carts full of rope with which to bind their prisoners. A noble of
     the neighbourhood, Henri de Hünenberg, warned the Confederates of
     the danger which menaced them, and 1300 armed peasants at once
     posted themselves upon the heights dominating the Lake of Aegeri.
     The Austrian army climbed laboriously the mountain path, when
     suddenly blocks of rock were hurled upon

[Illustration: MOUNT PILATUS FROM STANSSTAD]

     them from the heights, causing frightful disorder in their ranks.
     Others of the Confederates then attacked the Austrians with clubs
     and halebards, slaughtering such as were not drowned in the lake. A
     crowd of nobles bit the dust, and the Duke himself only narrowly
     escaped death, arriving _pâle et effaré_ the same evening at
     Winterthour.”

This battle was the young Confederation’s baptism of blood, and on the
following 19th of December the secret pact made on the Rütli in 1307 was
publicly confirmed at Brunnen.

The Lake of Sempach, too, upon whose shores, in 1386, another heroic
victory was won from Austria, can be seen in the direction of Basle.

     “The Swiss, to the number of 1400, knelt in prayer, then flung
     themselves upon the enemy. But in vain did they strive against the
     wall of pikes. Sixty of their number already lay bathed in their
     own blood, and in another moment the little army would have been
     enveloped by the enemy. Suddenly a man of Unterwalden, Arnold von
     Winkelried, cried aloud to them: ‘Confederates, I will open a way
     for you; take care of my wife and children’. Then, throwing himself
     upon the enemy’s pikes, he gathered in his arms as many of these as
     possible, and fell, opening a breach in the Austrian ranks, through
     which the Confederates rushed. The Austrians resisted furiously.
     The Duke Leopold himself fought with great bravery, but he was
     killed by a man of Schwyz.”

At this battle the town of Lucerne lost its famous burgomaster,
Petermann von Gundoldingen, whose frescoed house still stands in the
Seidenhof Strasse. The coat of mail which Duke Leopold wore at Sempach
is kept in the Museum at the old Rathaus at Lucerne, together with
several banners taken from the Austrians.

To the south of the Lake of Zug, and lying beneath the precipitous
masses of the two Mythen, is the little Lowerz-See with the tiny Isle of
Schwanau, seeming like a mere boat upon its surface. This lake, also,
has its part in history. King Ludwig of Bavaria, Wagner’s far-sighted if
eccentric patron, sojourned for a time upon the Isle of Schwanau; so
also did Goethe. But history goes back further than this: back again to
the tyrannical Austrian governors, one of whom had his castle on the
island. And history (or is it legend?--hereabouts the line is often not
well marked between the two) tells of how this Governor “was smitten
with the charms of three beautiful but virtuous sisters, living in the
neighbourhood of Arth”, and of how these three sisters, to escape his
importunities, “fled to the pathless wilds of the Rigi”. Here, near a
spring of water, they built themselves “a little hut of bark” and
settled down to live, until one summer night some herdsmen noticed
“three bright lights hovering over the wooded rocks”, and, following
these lights, they reached the little hut where they discovered the
three good sisters wrapped in their last long sleep. The spot, near the
Rigi-Kaltbad Hotel, is still famous as the _Schwesternborn_, and its
waters are noted for their healing properties.

Between the Lakes of Zug and Lowerz rises the Rossberg, from whose side,
on September 2, 1806, descended the terrible fall of rock which
destroyed the town of Goldau. Ruskin speaks of it in _Modern Painters_,
and Lord Avebury, in _The Scenery of Switzerland_, gives the following
brief account:--

     “The railway from Lucerne to Brunnen passes the scene of the
     remarkable rockfall of Goldau. The line runs between immense masses
     of puddingstone, and the scar on the Rossberg from which they fell
     is well seen on the left. The mountain consists of hard beds of
     sandstone and conglomerate, sloping towards the valley, and resting
     on soft argillaceous layers. During the wet season of 1806 these
     became soaked with water, and being thus loosened, thousands of
     tons of the solid upper layers suddenly slipped down and swept
     across the valley, covering a square mile of fertile ground to a
     depth, it is estimated, in some places of 200 feet. The residents
     in the neighbourhood heard loud cracking and grating sounds, and
     suddenly, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the valley seemed
     shrouded in a cloud of dust, and when this cleared away the whole
     aspect of the place was changed. The valley was blocked up by
     immense masses of rocks and rubbish, Goldau and three other
     villages were buried beneath the debris, and part of the Lake of
     Lowerz was filled up. More than 450 people were killed.”

In September, 1881, a similar catastrophe overtook the village of Elm,
in Canton Glarus (somewhat to the right of the Glärnisch, and almost in
a direct line with Brunnen, looking from the Rigi), when the
Plattenbergkopf fell: 10,000,000 cubic metres of rock. Sir Martin
Conway, in _The Alps from End to End_, has a long and vivid description
of this mountain-fall and of all the horrors which it entailed.

Enough! It would take volumes to hold all of moment that could be told
in connection with this panorama. But what of the Rigi itself? Well, it
serves what has become peculiarly its purpose--a nesting-place for
innumerable hotels and their parasitic incongruities, and a platform
from which thousands upon thousands witness the sunrise. Except, then,
in its remoter parts and around about its base it is so trampled on by
hosts of feet that the early spring crocus and the late autumn gentians
are almost alone among the lovely flowers to have a peaceful, profitable
time. Ask the Swiss Heimatschutz--the Society for the Protection of
Natural Beauty--what it thinks of the present state of the Rigi, the
Stanserhorn, and Mount Pilatus; it will give an answer couched in no
mixed terms. One of the most patent and painful paradoxes of our age is,
that our appreciation destroys so much of that which we appreciate.
Inconsequence links its arm in that of the holiday-maker. Hence the call
for the Eastern Labyrinth in the Glacier Garden at Lucerne, and the
extraordinary number of bead-necklace and bracelet shops crowded
together in that quarter of the town. True, on the Rigi “the
questionable melody of the Alpine horn” echoes through the early morning
darkness, and chamois finds a place upon the hotel menu--goat being
inadmissible at such an altitude; but are there

[Illustration: THE BERNESE ALPS FROM MOUNT PILATUS]

not also the bazaars full of Brummagem trinkets and what not?--strange,
mysterious effect of Alpine air upon the human system!

From the Rigi it is well to turn to Mount Pilatus. The experience will
be in but small measure a repetition; for Pilatus has marked
individuality. Although Alpnachstad, the starting-point of the Pilatus
Railway, is one of the few places on the Lake which may be reached by
rail from Lucerne, not many people, I imagine, avail themselves of this
means of transit. To take the train, as being quicker than the
steamboat, is a false economy; in Switzerland less haste means wider
experience and finer views. The tree-clothed cliff of the Bürgenstock is
never seen to greater advantage than when the boat heads for Kehrsiten,
after leaving Kastanienbaum (where, by the way, it is said that the
first horse-chestnut trees on the Lake were planted); nor is Pilatus
ever more picturesque than when seen from the quay-side at Stansstad.
But more than this--for those who invariably see dignity and beauty in
man’s labours, and who think that “ugliness means failure of some
kind”--there is, from Kehrsiten, an admirable view of the open ironwork
shaft of the electric lift which decorates the lovely Hammetschwand; and
after passing the swing bridge which gives entrance to the
Alpnacher-See, there are the Cement Works of Rotzloch, where the gorge,
the trees, the whole hillside are as though dressed for some _bal
poudre_--even the piermaster.

It was in late October when I was last upon Pilatus. Fog ruled the roast
about Lucerne; a fog so dense, though white, that the steamboats moved
with the utmost caution, feeling their way as much by incessant
interchange of bell-signals with the shore as by the compass. That the
beech woods were ablaze with autumn’s waning energy was known, but
little besides grey, ghostlike objects could be seen as the train
started with a jerk upon its strenuous journey. Nor was there anything
but fog and phantoms for some twenty minutes or more. Then slowly the
fog lightened, the phantoms took on the form of trees, grew warmer in
tint, still warmer and still clearer, until the golden, red-brown woods,
purpled in part by distance, became revealed, all wreathed about with
trails of veil-like mist. Before the lower, rock-strewn pastures of the
Matt-Alp were reached, every vestige of the fog was left lying compact
below, and the train was labouring upwards towards a radiant, cloudless
sky. The Alps, of course, are rich in such experience as this, but I can
remember nothing that ever more nearly realized my conception of
fairyland. Indeed, if it were not like saying that a lovely hothouse
orchid is so natural as to seem to be made of wax, I would declare that
the piercing of the fogzone that day on the autumn-tinted sides of Mt.
Pilatus resembled nothing so much as the grand transformation scene of
our Christmas-time theatres, when gauze veil after gauze veil is slowly
rolled away, and from grey, then tinted mystery emerges brilliant,
spotless colour.

What a wonderful journey this railway provides! If any proof were needed
of the high eminence of Swiss engineers and of the indomitable spirit
and resource which the Alps breed in their children, here assuredly it
is. Beasts, plants, birds, and insects are not alone to feel the
influence of Alpine circumstance upon character; hare and saxifrage,
ptarmigan and fritillary are not the only pupils trained in Nature’s
Alpine school. Man, in common with the chamois and the edelweiss, the
eagle and the erebia, owes priceless capacity to the life imposed by
high-flung precipice and pasture. Nursed in all the rigour and
beneficence accompanying contact with high altitudes, he develops much
of that amazing efficiency, that impelling adaptiveness which is so
admired in “Alpines”. The will to master the worst and to enjoy the best
is never more alert than in the dweller among mountains. And this fact
is borne in upon the imagination as the train climbs panting up the face
of the Eselwand, in every way the culminating labour of its journey.
Here the track has been carved upon a sheer precipice, and it makes one
dizzy to think of the workmen’s initial efforts to gain a foothold. Some
idea of the resource and nerve that must have been required can be
gathered by standing upon the Kulm Station platform and turning to gaze
down the way the train came up; or, better still, on the rocks beyond
the hotel and facing the Esel’s fearsome cliff to which the line so
desperately clings; for from this vantage-ground the Titlis and the Alps
of Uri, Unterwalden, and the Grisons rise beyond and between the Esel
and the Matthorn, giving terrible depth to the gaunt masses of these
latter, and thus suggesting the magnitude of the task performed by the
railway builders.

A large part of the superiority of Pilatus over the Rigi lies in its
magnificent foreground: invaluable adjunct to the panorama. A vast,
unbroken horizon is well for a time, but it is all of a piece, and its
very immensity becomes wearisome. Humanity is more at home with
partially hidden views. To have everything simultaneously discovered is,
for many subtle but important reasons, to impose a limit upon interest.
A certain amount of interruption gives durability to pleasure.
Delightful combinations are present, and the eye can rest reposefully
upon portions which in themselves are perfect pictures. In this manner,
then, Pilatus is more attractive than either the Rigi or the
Stanserhorn. The panorama itself may be much the same from all three of
these eminences, but from Pilatus it is enhanced by the mighty
foreground. All about the summit are wild, weird places of fascination,
and this was particularly so during those late autumnal days, with the
dense, billowy sea of fog below, covering the whole Lake, stretching
away over the plain towards the Jura, straggling up the valleys towards
Engelberg and the Brünig Pass, and leaving such prominences as the Rigi,
the Bürgenstock, and the Stanserhorn like islands floating on a scarcely
moving ocean. The huge, abrupt escarpments of Pilatus looked the more
impressive for the purple shadows which they threw upon this milk-white
sea; and the choughs, circling and whistling about the crags, lent just
that eerie note which has been so fruitful of legend in the past.

For fiery dragons once had their lairs upon these heights. Renward
Cysart, town clerk of Lucerne in the sixteenth century, says so; and he
tells of how they were often seen flying backwards and forwards between
Pilatus and the Rigi. One day, he avers, a cooper from Lucerne, while
climbing Pilatus, missed his footing, fell into a cavern, and on coming
to his senses, found himself confronted with “two large, terrible, and
monstrous dragons”, which, however, did him no harm, but allowed him to
live with them until the return of summer, when he, clinging to the tail
of one of his delightful hosts, was landed in a safe place, from whence
he reached home and recounted his adventure, which recountal was handed
down through several generations until it came to Master Cysart who,
therefore, vouches for its accuracy, though regretting “that the day,
year, and name have, through carelessness, passed into forgetfulness”.
Dragons were common objects of the Alps in those and previous days. The
country between Stans and Kernwald (well seen from Pilatus) was ravaged,
about the year 1240, by an enormous specimen, which was slain by one
Winkelried, an ancestor of the hero of Sempach. Legend usually has
relative truth at the back of it, and although we may feel inclined to
dismiss dragons and their doings as unalloyed fabrications of primitive,
superstitious minds, yet certain authorities hold that the dragon was a
species of enormous serpent formerly inhabiting some parts of the Alps,
but now extinct there.

Pilatus is said to obtain its name from what is perhaps the most
important of the host of legends connected with the mountain. Although
there has been an attempt to derive _Pilatus_ from _pileatus_, meaning
“hatted” (in reference to the “hat” or hood of cloud which so frequently
sits upon the summit), the more probable derivation seems to be from the
one-time belief that Pontius Pilate’s remains were buried in a lake near
the summit of the mountain. According to this legend, Pontius Pilate
committed

[Illustration: THE TITLIS FROM ENGELBERG--WINTER]

suicide in prison in Rome, and his body was thrown into the Tiber, when
at once a terrific, devastating storm arose. The body was therefore
taken out, conveyed to Vienne, in France, and thrown into the Rhone,
here again causing disturbance. It was then transferred to Lausanne, but
a further repetition of its untoward behaviour caused it to be banished
to the little lake upon Mount Pilatus. Here it remained benign so long
as the lake was in no way interfered with. If, however, anything was
thrown into the water, “the lightnings flashed, the thunder rolled, and
desolation broke over the land”. The town council of Lucerne therefore
felt called upon to forbid all persons to approach the Lake, and it is
related how at least one wretched man was executed for disobedience. But

     “by degrees the belief in the supernatural powers of the old Roman
     began to decay,” says J. Hardmeyer, in his little work upon this
     mountain, “and at last, in 1585, a certain Johannes Muller, rector
     of Lucerne, brought about its complete overthrow. With numerous
     companions he made his way to the lake on Mount Pilatus, boldly
     challenged the evil spirit to show his might, threw stones into the
     water, and made some of his people wade about in it, and behold,
     neither storm nor tempest followed, not a wave rose, and the skies
     remained as serene as before. This was the death-blow to the legend
     of Pontius Pilate and his evil deeds. The council of Lucerne went
     still further: they had the mountain lake drained off, so that
     nothing remained of it but a small morass, where a little water
     still collects after the melting of the snows, but soon
     disappears.”

Thus perishes Romance before the onward march of prosaic understanding!



ENGELBERG, THE LAKE, AND WILLIAM TELL


Andermatt and Engelberg are the two really Alpine villages which one
usually connects with Lucerne. Andermatt is rather remote, being away up
in the mountains beyond Göeschenen; but the journey to Engelberg is no
more than that to the summit of Pilatus. From Stansstad, with its
sturdy, grey old tower upon the water’s edge--a tower built soon after
the banding together of the Forest Cantons, and last used in the
desperate struggle against the French in 1798--there is an electric
railway. The line passes over the orchard-covered plain to Stans, the
capital of Nidwalden and the birthplace of Arnold von Winkelried, whose
monument is in the marketplace, and whose ancient farmstead still exists
amid flowery fields beyond the town; then on past Wolfenschiessen, known
to history in connection with the Austrian Governor of that name killed
hereabouts by the woodman Baumgartner for insulting his wife--a deed
which appears to have done much to mature the defensive alliance of 1307
between the three Cantons; and so on to Grafenort, where the engine is
changed and the line commences its steep ascent to Engelberg. Through a
forest, wherein the hart’s-tongue fern luxuriates, the train advances,
crossing and re-crossing the winding carriage-road. Here and there
through the trees to the right of the line are glimpses of towering
cliffs with waterfalls tumbling wildly over the rugged sides and falling
into the gorge below, where foams and froths the Engelberger Aa on its
way to the Lake at Buochs. The ascent is not a long one. Soon the forest
is replaced by rapid flower-strewn slopes, and the near presence of
impressive mountains. Then the valley somewhat broadens, and through
almost flat pastures the train quickly reaches the village, its big
hotels and spick-and-span prosperity.

Engelberg has all the airs and graces which two crowded seasons can
give. It is as popular in winter as in summer, and is organized
accordingly. But with the exception of its famous monastery, there is
little that is old and picturesque about it. As the local guidebook
says--and says seemingly with pride and glee--: “Favoured by a great
fire in the autumn of 1887, the witnesses of modern civilization have
become predominant”--an expression of sentiment which is apt to make one
think of Thoreau’s caustic remark about man placing his hoof among the
stars. However, although “the splendid hotel buildings tower
gigantically above the country cottages of former times”, and the fine
old timbered dwelling of the tailor stands an heroic interval in the
midst of shop-fronts decorated in the best art shades of paint, yet
something has been spared of the peasants’ old-time costumes--the
women’s quaint silver hair-shields and bejewelled silver-gilt necklaces,
and the men’s elaborately embroidered blouses. Nor have the blessings of
fire and civilization suppressed the lovely mountain flowers which
carpet the pastures outside the hotel-zone. Here, from the early spring
crocus and soldanella to the late autumn crocus and willow-gentian,
there is a rich round of floral delight. Rock, Alp, and forest are alike
gay with colour, and many a botanical treasure haunts the district.
Perhaps the best season for appreciating this side of Engelberg’s charm
is spring and early summer. The near fields and slopes are then wearing
their finest dress. Where, erstwhile, the _sportsleute_ revelled on ski,
the vernal gentian and yellow violet are in radiant masses, and where
the luge ran merrily but a few weeks previously, the geranium and
globe-flower are ablaze. And for this bright and wild abundance there is
a wonderfully effective background of stately mountains. The rugged
Engelberg, the fretted Spannorts, and the giant Titlis of such
distinctive form, all abundantly clothed in snow at this season, make as
admirable a setting for these slopes and fields of

[Illustration: THE ENGELBERG AT ENGELBERG SPRING]

early flowers as could be well desired. Later on, when the Surenen Pass,
the Trübsee, the Joch Pass, and the Engstlenalp can be comfortably
reached, the wealth of Alpine anemone, deep-blue monkshood,
blue-and-white columbine, steel-blue thistle, and a host of other
treasures carry the Feast of Flora to the very verge of the eternal
snows.

It was the pastures of the Surenen which gave birth to the legend of the
famous Bull of Uri--the bull whose head figures on Uri’s armorial
shield. A shepherd becoming inordinately attached to a lamb, baptized it
into the Christian Church; whereupon the lamb developed into a monster
and slew the shepherd. The monster continued to be such a scourge upon
these pastures that the inhabitants of Uri trained a pure white bull
especially to do battle with it. In the combat which ensued, the monster
was slain, but the bull was so grievously wounded that it died soon
after. One of the bull’s horns became the famous battlehorn of the men
of Uri, striking panic into the hearts of their enemies whenever it was
sounded.

Legend also hangs about the Engelberg; for it was upon those rocky
heights that Conrad von Seldenbüren heard angels singing, St. Cecilia
with her lute being amongst the number. This so impressed the good man
that he there and then (in the year 1120) founded the monastery which
stands to this day, and, until 1798, ruled the valley. Great for
centuries as a centre of literature and science, it still retains its
prestige as an educational institution. The building contains much of
high interest--the great library of over 20,000 books and manuscripts,
and the Sacristy full of precious relics of the past--but access to
these is difficult for visitors. As for the natives of Engelberg, for
the most part they practise the breeding of cattle and the weaving of
silk, both industries being fostered by the Monastery, itself owning a
herd of mouse-coloured cows with tuneful silver bells. The natives have
retained much of their engaging individuality. Sturdy children of a
sturdy race, many of them are quite typical descendants of what one
imagines Tell’s strong, strenuous age to have been.

In leaving Engelberg, unless the Surenen Pass be crossed into Uri, and
so down to the Lake near Flüelen, the best way is to branch off at Stans
and touch the Lake at Buochs. From Buochs, where farms and orchards form
the prevailing note, the steamboat passes, by way of Beckenried and its
big old walnut tree, to Gersau at the southern foot of the Rigi. Until
the end of the eighteenth century this village, prosperous-looking
nowadays with its big hotels along the quay-side promenade, was a
fullblown republic on its own account; but to-day its independence is
merged in that of the Canton Schwyz. There is a lovely walk from here
to Brunnen; loveliest perhaps in spring when the rosy, black-pointed
heather (_Erica carnea_) decks the rocks through which in part the road
is cut. Not far along this road is the chapel of Kindlimord nestling
among pines on the steep and rocky shore of a tiny deep-green bay. It is
said that here a strolling fiddler murdered his child who cried to him
for food, and that this romantically situated little chapel was built in
expiation of the deed.

On the farther shore of the Lake, almost opposite Kindlimord, and below
the woods of Seelisberg, is Treib, the most ancient and picturesque of
houses in all this district. Rich in colour and quaint design, and
possessing its own little harbour, it stands quite alone amid the beech
woods which here sweep down to the water. It is a perfect bijou picture
from the distant past: something for a showcase in some sheltering
museum, rather than for such buffeting storm-winds and waves as recently
overthrew its stone breakwater. Built in 1243, it did service as the
first Federal Palace, the Assembly of the three Cantons, Uri, Schwyz,
and Unterwalden, having been held here in 1291. It then became the Guild
House of the boatmen of the Four Cantons. At that time roads were
scarce, communication was mostly by water, and Treib was correspondingly
important. The interior of the house is redolent of old-world
associations: the small bottle-glass windows, the massive old stoves,
the fine wooden ceilings, the quaintly carved chairs, the aged pewter
plates, the genealogical tree dating from 1360, and the
fourteenth-century clocks, one of which is entirely of wood--but
absolutely unheeding of Greenwich time. Treib is indeed a refreshing
place to linger in after the almost omnipresence of the great hotels.
But the past is impossible as a permanency. Modern hoteldom holds its
own--and more than its own. At Brunnen, whither the boat transports us,
Treib is just a sideshow--something to patronize in fine weather as a
poor and utterly antiquated relation.

Brunnen owes the spoiling of its site to the magnificent prospect to be
enjoyed from thence of the Bay of Uri. Hotels innumerable, to the right
and to the left, crowding upon quay, perching upon cliff and soaring
above forest; but the prospect of the Bay of Uri remains--at once
Brunnen’s making and undoing. From the very nature of things this
invasion was inevitable. It was inevitable that the touring world and
his wife should wish for ample accommodation at such a view-point. Nor
is forgiveness difficult if one but turns one’s face towards the
Uri-Rothstock. Brushes and pens without number have essayed to depict
this prospect, to translate its beauty and magnificence, to catch its
ceaseless, changeful charm; and brushes and

[Illustration: TREIB]

pens without number have necessarily failed in the attempt. Something
only of its fascinating phases and _ensemble_ can at most be given. As a
whole it is too elusive, too consummate: too surely out of reach of
human dexterity in either paint or words. Even if it had but one mood,
one fixed mood upon which contemplation could feed indefinitely, a
description of it must needs be inadequate; but as it is--well,
description falls far short of what is _felt_. Seen through the
soft-gold haze of spring, or through actinic summer sunshine, or through
the warm mists of autumn, or through winter’s steely breath, there is
such ever-shifting light and shade, such incessant recomposing of the
picture, and always such mystery in parts and such subtlety over all,
that here, at any rate, one knows that one’s inner consciousness is more
than a match for one’s powers of formal expression. A restless repose
suffuses the whole landscape; its moods are unified though everchanging.
The Lake reflects the mountains, and the mountains reflect the Lake; for
the Lake--to use Canon Rawnsley’s simile--“is as many-minded as a
beautiful woman”, and so, also, are the mountains.

And this elusive yet striking quality of beauty is no particular
possession of the mere distant view from Brunnen; it is just as evident
upon near inspection. From Tellsplatte or from Flüelen, from Isleton or
from the Rütli, or from any open spot upon the whole length of the
wonderful Axenstrasse, “this temple of wild harmony” has all the
charming variety and mystery of lovely woman. The close intimacy of
severe and towering crags (as at Sisikon and Isleton) does nothing to
dispel it; rather is it accentuated by the presence of something so
rudely definite. Whether it be where the bare precipice plunges headlong
to the Lake (as at the Teufelsmünster, near Flüelen), or whether it be
where the beech woods run down to meet the waters (as at the Rütli and
round about the Schillerstein), sublimity, which in part is mystery, is
never wanting. Always there are heights, or snows, or distances over
which the thin air plays in endless moods of light and shade. The Bay of
Uri is indeed a wonder-spot in which to roam and float and dream. Well
might the water-sprite in Gerhart Hauptmann’s _The Sunken Bell_ have
drawn his inspiration from men and women to be found wandering here
entranced; well might these scenes by Uri’s waters have given him the
insight to exclaim:--

    “Man’s a thing that, so to say,
     Among the fairy-folk has lost his way.
     Akin to us and yet not native here;
     Half of our world, and half--ah, who knows where?”

For amid scenes like these man knows that he is more than mortal; amid
scenes like these he discerns that elusiveness in himself which is akin
to the elusiveness around him; amid scenes like these his own
inexpressible subtleties are alive to the inexpressible subtleties of
Nature, and his fairy self goes out in intimate communion with the fairy
world.

Men may well continue to write of the Bay of Uri; just as they may well
continue to write of beautiful woman. Will they ever have finished
writing about either? will they ever have said all that can be said? It
is one of the extraordinary things about the Bay of Uri that romance
should be doubled in its every corner. Much in history has had a most
prosaic background, but here, in Uri, Nature and History have combined
to lift events into the very forefront of romantic fascination. No story
of the heroic past is more universally known than that of William Tell
and the founding of the Swiss Confederation; and it is probably safe to
say that this universality is due in no small measure to the magnificent
natural setting for that story. One indeed wonders if Goethe, had he
never visited these waters and been enthralled by their surroundings,
would have been moved to recommend his friend Schiller to dramatize this
story. One, moreover, wonders if Schiller ever would have achieved the
famous thing he did if he had not been able to place his drama amid the
scenery of this Bay. One’s questioning may go further still, and one may
even wonder if the superb scenery has not played an important part in
welding the story with the very religion of the Swiss people. History
and Nature seem here to be made for each other, and it does not
necessarily require a Swiss to feel the thrill which each lends to the
other.

Here, briefly, is the story. Around the year 1240 the Austrian Empire
was the dominant power in these parts. The Canton of Unterwalden was
governed by the Empire; whereas the Cantons of Uri and of Schwyz
governed themselves, but were under the protection of, and owed service
to the Empire. Little by little the Hapsburg dynasty endeavoured to
absorb the whole country surrounding the Lake. Governors were set up in
the three Cantons, tyranny developed, and to meet this process of
absorption, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, in 1307, entered into a solemn
alliance (the original document, drawn up afterwards, still exists in
the archives of Schwyz). This, then, broadly stated, was the setting of
the stage upon which William Tell and his companions played their famous
parts. These actors emerge, so to speak, from the wings to the dull
mutterings of popular exasperation. The Governors are treating the
people as the merest serfs. Wolfenschiessen, Governor of Unterwalden,
has been killed by the outraged Baumgartner of Altzellen; a
dungeon-castle is being built at Altdorf, in Uri, to overawe the
people; Arnold of Melchthal’s old father has had his eyes put out and
his estate confiscated because his son has chastised one of the
Governor’s impudent servants; and Governor Gessler has vowed vengeance
upon Werner Stauffacher of Steinen in Schwyz, because the latter is a
landed proprietor, and has built himself too fine a house. Walter Fürst
(Tell’s father-in-law) of Canton Uri, Werner Stauffacher of Canton
Schwyz, and Arnold von Melchtal of Canton Unterwalden, each bringing
with them ten men, meet at night on the Rütli--a steep, grass-covered
clearing made in the beech woods almost opposite Brunnen--and pledge
themselves, in the name of their respective Cantons, to resist all
attempts at annexation by Austria. Governor Gessler, hearing rumours of
this revolt, sets his hat upon a pole at Altdorf and orders all and
sundry to bow down to it.

    “The Hat’s a perfect scarecrow to the People.”

William Tell, among others, refuses to bow the knee, and is condemned by
Gessler to shoot an apple from off his (Tell’s) son’s head:--

                  “Thou shalt shoot or perish--
    Ay, instantly--and thy Son perish with thee”.

Tell comes successfully through the ordeal, but has a second arrow
hidden in his tunic. The Governor sees it and forces Tell to confess--

    “If with the first I’d chanc’d to slay my Child--
     This second shaft would I have shot at thee”.

Gessler thereupon has Tell seized and bound, and declares:--

    “Some Dungeon’s depth must be thy habitation.

           *       *       *       *       *

     --Convey him to the Bark! I’ll follow quickly.
     I will myself conduct him o’er to Küssnacht.”

A violent storm springs up; the bark is likely to be wrecked. Gessler,
in fear and trembling for his own safety, and knowing Tell to be an
adept steersman, has him released and orders him to take the helm. Tell
directs the bark to the Axenberg, springs upon a little shelf of rock
and,

                                “sending back
    The stagger’d Boat into the whirl of waters,”

escapes up the wooded cliff. Making for Küssnacht, Tell awaits the
Governor in the Hollow Way and shoots him through the heart.

    “Whilst Austria’s Tyrant sinks forlorn,
     The Parent’s curse, the Infant’s scorn,
         The Hate of Human-kind;
     Blest with the meed, which Virtue gives,
     Lo! Tell’s pure name to ages lives,
         In every nobler heart enshrin’d.”

Of course, critics have arisen, who attempt the destruction of this
story. Some would not account themselves progressive if they did not try
to annihilate the

[Illustration: THE URI-ROTHSTOCK SEEN FROM BRUNNEN]

past, or turn it upside down, or inside out. Bacon was Shakespeare;
Homer was a crowd of at least twenty scribes; a Welshman, and not
Columbus, discovered America; and Bonivard, the Prisoner of Chillon, was
an out-and-out scamp. So would some deal with Tell. They would treat him
as the lake on Mount Pilatus was treated--they would throw stones at
him, scoff at his simple, heroic virtue, and drain him even of his
existence. Listen to what Baedeker, in his guide to Switzerland, has to
say of “the romantic but unfounded tradition of William Tell”:

     “The legend of the national hero of Switzerland, as well as the
     story of the expulsion of the Austrian bailiffs in 1308, is
     destitute of historical foundation. No trace of such a person is to
     be found in the work of John of Winterthur (Vitoduranus, 1349), or
     that of Conrad Justinger of Bern (1420), the earliest Swiss
     historians. Mention is made of him for the first time in the Sarner
     Chronik of 1470, and the myth was subsequently embellished by
     Ægidius Tschudi of Glarus (d. 1542), and still more by Johann von
     Müller (d. 1809), while Schiller’s famous play has finally secured
     to the hero a world-wide celebrity. Similar traditions are met with
     among various northern nations, such as the Danes and Icelanders.”

Does not such reading as this appear to damage the scenery of Uri’s Bay?
It seems at least but poor service to render to the tourist--this
killing of half of the district’s wild romance. Those who cling to the
stout, red little volume as to a dear and trusted friend, must
nevertheless feel something like a pang of regret as they climb up
through the beech wood to the green slope and the old chalet of the
Rütli and drink water from the three famous springs; nor can they be
unconscious of a certain feeling of loss as they walk by the bushes of
mountain honeysuckle along the path to the little chapel on the
Tellsplatte and gaze through the ironwork screen at the fine mural
pictures of this outrageous but glorious myth. Tradition is a hard thing
to kick against.

Sentiment, however, is of no use for confounding the critics. But let
the Baedeker-beridden tourist take heart; there is evidence, after all,
not only that Tell may have lived, but that he may have done something
to earn his reputation. William Peter, in the Appendix to his English
translation of Schiller’s play, voices this evidence. Among other points
in favour of the substantial veracity of tradition, he gives two facts
of special hopefulness:--

     “The many old German Songs and Romances in which he (Tell) is
     celebrated, and which are so remarkable for their ancient dialect
     and simplicity as to leave little doubt either of their own
     authenticity or of the truth of the deeds which they commemorate”;

and

     “The creation of three Chapels (one of them--viz. at the Tell’s
     plat--in 1388, only 24 years after Tell’s death, and when there
     were 114 persons present in the Landsgemeinde of Uri who had
     personally known him)”.

He further states that

     “The last of Tell’s posterity--a female named Verena--died in
     1720. The male branch had become extinct in 1684, by the Death of
     John Martin Tell of Attinghausen. Tell (the famous Tell) resided
     at, and was Mayor of Bürglen, which is not half an hour’s walk from
     the village of Attinghausen. He lived for many years after the
     events celebrated in Schiller’s Play, performed his part at the
     battles of Morgarten and Laupen in 1315 and 1339, and perished, in
     1354, in his generous attempt to rescue a child from the
     overflowing waters of the Schächen (the mountain torrent which
     flows through Bürglen and into the Reuss at Attinghausen).”

Moreover, there is the proved importance of tradition, as such.
Something can and must be said for it. That certain episodes, accepted
as fact, do not appear in written contemporary history, is not in itself
safe proof of the falsity of those episodes. Just because no mention is
made of Tell in the White Book of Sarnen, this is small reason for
denouncing the hero as a mere replica of Toko, principal actor in an old
Danish legend. The truthfulness of traditions handed down from
generation to generation by word of mouth has frequently startled those
who have set out to refute them. The tradition of the Flood, current
among many widely separated and obscure peoples, has been proved by
geology to be quite worthy of credence. A rolling stone may gather much
moss; but the essential thing, the stone, is beneath the richly-tinted
covering.

So, let critic and historian do their worst to damage William Tell; he
will escape them as surely as he escaped Gessler. His name and deeds,
be they fact or be they fiction, are so much part and parcel of the
scenery, that nothing save a devastating convulsion of Nature can
possibly bring them to naught. Landmarks must be obliterated, the whole
landscape must be radically changed, if Tell is to sink into oblivion.
As things are, go where you will around the Lake, he and his age are
bound to assert themselves. Even the elements will combine to bring him
to your mind. Walk from Brunnen along the magnificent Axenstrasse hewn
by the Government from the rock-cliffs of the Axenberg as a strategic
route; stroll on amid the red-barked pines, the rocks aglow with tufts
of rosy _Erinus alpinus_, or with the rosy springtime heather, or the
blood-red summer cranesbill, while Orange Tip, or White Admiral and
Purple Emperor butterflies flit from flower to flower or from sun-patch
to sun-patch along the road; stroll on to the wayside clearing where
stands a stone memorial to the artist, Henry Telbin, who fell from this
spot whilst sketching in 1860; sit here amongst the bright wild
sunflowers[2] and gaze down the sheer rocks to the sparkling blue-green
waters partly flooded in golden light, and take note of how calm and
peaceful all is as the gay-awninged row-boats and the curiously ungainly
steam cargo-barges steal about the surface. Now mark that

[Illustration: THE AXENBERG FROM BRUNNEN--AN AUTUMN EVENING]

faint, distant rumbling, and look up towards the snows of the
Uri-Rothstock. A storm is brewing beyond Göeschenen and among the
Bernese Alps. You say that it is nothing; that it is a very long way
off? Wait awhile! Mark that filmy wisp of cloud, sprung suddenly from
nowhere, wreathing itself slowly about the Teufelsmünster’s cliff; mark,
too, how the blue sky has changed to grey behind the snows, and how the
snows themselves have turned a sullen white. “Cat’s-paws” are playing
erratically upon the water; the mountains are growing harder in colour;
heavy vapours are filling the gorges, and the pines about you are
whispering mysteriously among themselves. Do you notice how all the
row-boats are hastening towards Brunnen, and how the gulls are
screaming? Black clouds are rolling up over the Seelisberg hotels; white
horses are visible upon the Lake, and the Uri-Rothstock now looks quite
forbidding. Do you hear that dull roaring? No, it is not thunder; it is
the wind as it approaches. The pines above you are warning you. The
snows have disappeared in darkness; Isleton is blotted out, and the
Rütli can scarcely be seen for drifting cloud-bursts. The scene is now a
chaos of cold indigo steeped in greyness. The wind is rushing on you
with a whistling howl, and hurling hail at you. Forked lightning,
piercing the murk, stabs at the seething waters, and the thunder rattles
and booms and rolls interminably. Where all but a brief while ago was
crystal-bright and tranquil, at present is dull-grey pandemonium.

And as the electric tongues flash zigzag across the gloom, you fancy
that you catch sight of a storm-tossed barque of ancient form, and that
you hear above the screeching wind the scream of fear-struck Gessler,
imploring Tell to take the helm. For it was some such storm as this to
which Tell owed his freedom and his life. Critics point to the
convenient suddenness of the two storms which find a place in Schiller’s
play; they call them specimens of poetic licence. But this is not
necessarily the case. From the very configuration of the Bay of Uri it
is a deadly storm-trap. Ah, it can smile and look winsome enough when it
pleases--and this, to our great good, is more than often; but it is
subject to surprisingly sudden fits of rage, when it is as fearsome as,
and perhaps more treacherous than, many a hurricane-ridden ocean.

The storm has passed as quickly as it came, and butterflies and flowers
are in their element once more. If possible, the Bay is the lovelier for
its rude half-hour of stress. It can be grand in tempest and foul
weather; but that which fits it best is the rule and realm of sunshine.
Thus, in hard-won peace and grimly conceived beauty, may we
appropriately take leave of the Lake of the Forest Cantons.

There is a movement afoot to erect in these parts a costly and elaborate
national monument in commemoration of the founding of the republic; a
monument that shall eclipse all existing monuments having a like
purpose. Has, then, the Bay of Uri been forgotten, or are there hopes
that this new monument will represent a nation’s pride and faith with
greater distinction, beauty, and inspiration than does Nature’s own most
noble, venerated effort? Saturated as are these precincts with the very
spirit of primitive Swiss history; crowded as they are already with
mementoes of that heroic past, can any new, particular memorial, however
expensive and imposing, add one whit to national consciousness, one whit
of strength and fervour to the inherited love of independence? If, as
some think, there is a threatening tendency towards future absorption by
a neighbouring power, will any fresh monument to liberty, no matter how
imposing and elaborate, stir depths of protective patriotism which are
not already touched by the scenery of Uri’s Bay and the grand old story
of William Tell? I think not. The story is one of Switzerland’s
strongest bulwarks; it is among those things which, though they may have
never happened, are indestructible. I venture to believe that the spirit
of the landscape, and of all for which the landscape stands, is
engrained in the race, and that, as long as Uri’s Bay and its historic
landmarks exist, Schiller’s lines will express the simple, forceful, and
abiding verity--

    “True as yon Alp to its own native Flowers,
     True as the Torrent to its Rocky-Bed,
     Or Clouds and Winds to their appointed Track
     The Switzer cleaves to his accustom’d Freedom”.

[Illustration]

                       PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
             _At the Villafield Press, Glasgow, Scotland_


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Canon Rawnsley’s little _brochure_, _The Revival of the Decorative
Arts in Lucerne_, is a useful companion to have with one when strolling
about the town and looking at the frescoed houses.

[2] _Buphthalmum salicifolium_, an herbaceous plant abundant around
this Lake.





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