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causes are on the decline. The people are becoming more sober, more industrious, more cleanly. Those who can afford the expense also, send their children up into the mountains to check the tendency to cretinism.
Enough has been said, and a great deal more will be shewn hereafter, to prove the influence of climate and locality on the corporeal and intellectual constitution of man. And I hope to convince John Bull, in the course of our wanderings together, on this little tour, that all the moral and physical evils of the world are not included in fogs and taxes, against which he so bitterly complains in his uwn country.
The traveller is not sorry to leave the Vallais, where he feels its Bæotian atmosphere, even in his transitory passage between its cloud-capt boundaries. We slept one night at Tourtemagne, which is a very small hamlet, in a comparatively open space; but the atmosphere in the night was singularly oppressive, not from heat so much as impregnation with the exhalations from the soil. The sight of a pass from this “ valley of the shadow of death" into the plains of Latium is most exhilarating-more especially when that pass is the Simplon.
An accurate survey of this “ seventh wonder” of the world did not disappoint me, though I had strong presentiments that it would do so, from woful experience. Travellers have so exaggerated every thing in their descriptions, and landscape-painters have so cordially co-operated with them, that it is difficult to recognize the reality when we see it, and mortifying to think that, even in tangible things like these-in such plain matters of fact-pleasure is all in anticipation !
Present to grasp yet future still to find.
In respect to the Simplon, the most professed scene-painting travellers, not always excepting our good and useful friend Mrs. Starke, have rather magnified unimportant views, and fallen short in their descriptions, if not in their perceptions, of magnificent scenes ; thus, the tourist who goes over this celebrated mountain pass, with book in hand, is sometimes agreeablysometimes disagreeably surprised. No one can be blamed for inability to convey adequate ideas of scenes that are, in truth, indescribable; but there can be no necessity, unless on the stage or in Paternoster-row, for exaggerating the beauty or sublimity of mediocrity or insignificance. I feel considerable qualms, doubts, and fears, in venturing to give even a very concise sketch of what has been so often described by those who have infinitely greater command of language and fertility of imagination than myself. More than
once have I run my pen through some hasty notes of fresh impressions, committed to paper at the dreary Hotel de la Poste, in the village of the Simplon, where I slept one night; and on the balcony of the inn at Domo Dos-, solo, where I halted the next day. The reader can turn over, this sketch unread; but perhaps the traveller, while crossing the Simplon, may amuse himself by comparing it with the original, or with some of the copies that happen to be "
compagnons de voyage.” Crossing from Gliss to Brigg, the Simplon comes full in view through a gorge or narrow opening between two steep and piny mountains, the Gliss.. horn and Klena Mountains. It is clothed with wood two-thirds up then presents crags with straggling trees-and last of all, the snow-capt summit. The road first leads up the left hand mountain, (by Gantherhal) through a dense wood of pines, winding rather laboriously for nearly two hours—but still tending towards the gorge or narrow valley that separates it from the opposite mountain, and through which valley the SALTINE, a rapid torrent, is distinctly heard in its foaming and precipitous course towards the Rhone. At every turn of this long zig-zag ascent, the valley of the Rhone lengthens out, and the river is seen more clearly meandering through its plain. Brigg, Naters, Gliss, Viege, Tourtemagne, and many other towns and villages, come successively into view, and appear as distinct as if they were only a few miles from the observer-while the immense chain of Alps on th north side of the Vallais, with the Genmi in their centre, are ranged along like fleecy clouds; but with all their angles and forms surprisingly well defined. The innumerable chalets, cottages, and hamlets, perched in all directions on the steeps rising from the north side of the Vallais, can be traced with the naked eye, while the telescope shews the men and cattle moving about.
At length the road opens on the verge of the precipice formed by the Klena over the Saltine, and directly opposite to the Gliss-horn, which appears within musket-shot. Here the scene is sublime, and even fearful. It really requires some courage to look from the space between the first and second Refuge down into the yawning abyss, through which the torrent is dashing from crag to crag. The opposite steep seems so abrupt, that the pine-trees appear to grow along a surface as upright as themselves. Here, though not the last, yet the most extensive view of the Vallais, with all its snow.clad Alps, is taken, and the traveller, however excited by the anticipations of what is to come, lingers for a moment, in reflections on the wretched picture of human nature which the cretins of the Vallais have imprinted on the memory—then surveys, for the last time, the hoary-headed mountains of Swit-, zerland—and pursues his course towards the classic ground of Italy.
The road, from the second Refuge to the bridge crossing the Kanter, assumes a perfectly horizontal line, under the stupendous brow of the Klena, and along the face of a craggy and precipitous steep, out of which the road,
is cut with infinite labour and art. This gallery, as it may be termed, extends two miles, and here was the difficulty of constructing the road originally, as well as that of preserving it afterwards. If ever the Simplon becomes impassable, this will be one of the first places to give way. The whole side of the mountain is a series of loose or easily loosened masses of rock, of all sizes, interspersed thinly with pines. Every avalanche-almost every fall of rain, undermines or detaches some of these masses, which go down with thundering precipitation into the valley, tearing away, where they do not happen to leap over, the preservative terraces or even the road itself. A rock 50 tons in weight, had just rolled down the steeps before we crossed, and lodged on the road, rendering it extremely difficult for carriages to pass, there not being twelve inches to spare between the off wheels and the precipice! The rolling down of these rocks exemplifies, in a most striking manner, one of the sublimest descriptions in Homer.
“ As from some mountain's craggy forehead torn,
A rock's round fragment flies, with fury borne,
every shock the echoing vale resounds ;
It would be impossible for human language to convey a more accurate representation of what monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily happens, along the defiles of the Simplon, than the above passage.* After passing the bridge, where a wild and romantic view of the valley above, as well as of that below, is seen, we ascend in zig-zags up the opposite mountain, through forests of pine, larch, and other trees-along the edges of frightful precipices, and under magnificent grottos, hewn out of the solid rock-till we come to the open and barren part of the Simplon, in the iminediate vicinity of the snow.
* Most travellers laud the Italian at the expense of the French engineers, because the road on the south side of the Simplon is better constructed and more durable than on the Swiss side. But the comparison is not fair. The Italian engineers, it is true, had to work along and through the solid granite. The route was difficult to construct, but when once made was durable, and not liable to the avalanches of rock, which the other side of the Simplon is perpetually exposed to. It is not improbable that the expences of keeping the Simplon in repair, and the rivalry of other routes, especially by the Splugen and by Nice, Genoa, and Spezzia will, ere long, render this seventh wonder of the world once more a goatherd's track !
Here a picture of desolation surrounds the traveller. The pine has no longer the scanty pittance of soil which it requires for nourishment-the hardy, but beautiful Alpine flower ceases to embellish the sterile solitude—and the eye wanders over snow and glacier—fractured rock and roaring cataract-relieved only by that stupendous monument of human labour, the ROAD ITSELF, winding along the edges of precipices, penetrating the primeval granite, striding over the furious torrent, and burrowing through dark, dreary, dismal, and dripping grottos, beneath accumulated masses of ice and snow.
At length the summit of the Simplon is gained--a solitary human habitation is approached-and
“The shivering tenant of this frigid zone”
presents himself, in the shape of a Piedmontaise soldier, who demands your passport and levies a contribution on your purse at the same moment. The contribution, however, is cheerfully paid, since it is expended on a spacious HOSPICE, (similar to that on the great St. Bernard, and now nearly finished) destined for the hospitable reception and protection of the way-worn and benighted traveller.
Tourists, who make excursions into the regions of fancy, as well as into the regions of snow among the Alps, have treated their readers with magnificent views of the fertile plains of Italy, taken from the summit of the Simplon. But no such views are to be seen there. Like the Great St. Bernard, the route of the Simplon is encompassed with peaks of snow and ice, which preclude all distant prospect. They who can see the plains of Italy from either mountain must be endowed with a second sight, which penetrates through denser media than the mists of futurity.
Mrs. Starke, I conceive, has drawn a little on her imagination in describing, from the Simplon, “the gigantic empress of the Alps (Mont Blanc) proudly towering above them all, and, in consequence of her immense height, appearing near, though really far off.” The atmosphere was perfectly clear when I crossed the mountain, but no Mont Blanc was visible, nor do I think it physically possible that it could be so.
The descent from the barrier to the village of the Simplon winds between wild, barren, and snow-clad heights—and the traveller is not sorry to ascend the dirty, cold, and stony stairs of the HOTEL DE LA Poste into a dreary
SALLE A MANGER,” where a stinking German stove, with its murky and sudatory atmosphere, is a miserable substitute for the blazing faggots of France, or the powerful radiation of light and heat from an English fire-side! Invalids should not stop here ; but those who are in tolerable health should take two days to the Simplon, sleeping in this eagle's nest, in order to feel the contrast between the mountain air of the Alps, and the mephitic atmosphere of the Vallais. In a small apartment, ten or twelve feet square, I was
fortunate enough to find a chimney, and took good care to kindle a cheerful fire. I had walked almost the whole way up the Simplon-made a hearty dinner-and taken my bottle of mountain wine. The crackling of the pine faggots, the murmuring of the tapering flame, the genial warmth of the ungrated hearth, the circumscribed dimensions of my little chamber, the howling winds, descending in fitful blasts from the Schonhorn, the Fletschorn, and the hundred surrounding glaciers, shivering the broken panes and disjointed frames of my little window, disturbed not, but rather aided, an hour's rumination, with all its discursive ranges among the fields of fancy, memory, and imagination, till a sleep, too deep for dreams, and such as monarchs have vainly sighed for, with all the opiates of wealth, power, and pleasure, sealed my senses in seven sweet hours of heavenly and restorative oblivion !*
Although the cheerful sun had long risen on the plains before us, we had advanced some miles on our tortuous way down the valley of the Simplon before he greeted us with his presence. This valley, contrary to the usual mode, contracts as it descends, and terminates in a frightful chasm between perpendicular precipices, fifteen hundred or two thousand feet high, formed by the rending asunder of granite mountains, during some earthquake or volcano long before the appearance of man. Through this abyss, or series of abysses, runs and roars the torrent of the Vedro, formed by the junction of the Kronback and Quirna. At the point where these two glacier streams, or rather cataracts, unite, the road, which had first accompanied the one and then the other, dives into the solid rock and disappears. On emerging from the gloomy grotto, the route follows the channel of the foaming Vedro, sometimes excavated out of the wall of granite on one side, sometimes striding across the boiling flood, and pursuing the same course on the other. In this way the astonished traveller proceeds for nine or ten miles through a succession of the most stupendous and desolate scenes which imagination can conceive. The rocks rise on each side to frightful altitude, and, in many places, appear ready to precipitate themselves headlong on the traveller ; while cascades, in all directions, come down in sheets of foam along their rugged and perpendicular sides.
* I am rather surprised to find my fair and talented countrywoman (Lady Morgan) describing our journeys among the Alps as a species of malady,” and the peculiar weariness, physical and moral, “ which hangs on the close of each day's progress” as a periodical paroxysm of the disease.” I appeal to travellers whether this be a true state of their feelings? For my own part, the act of travelling, whether actively or passively, has appeared to be the very reverse of a “malady”-namely, the antidote to such a state! As to the fatigue which is necessarily induced by this kind of exercise, it is the prelude or preparative to repose, which sedentary habits can never hope to enjoy.