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Frondes Agrestes - Readings in 'Modern Painters'
by John Ruskin
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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 Duerer, 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 chalet 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 aether 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 Pyrenaeus. 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.

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