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A peep from our chamber windows at day-break dispelled all the poetical visions of the night, and served to damp the ardour of romantic feelings:
"The dawn is overcast-the morning lowers,
Lake Leman has its mists, like less pure and brilliant elements; as the minds of the novelist and poet were sometimes overshadowed with gloom, in the same manner as meaner intellects. In plain terms, it was a very dark, foggy, unpleasant morning-the first we had experienced since leaving Milan. But the sky soon cleared, and another bright autumnal day cheered us onward to Geneva.
As the sun broke through the clouds, it fully disclosed the intrinsic beauty of the Lake, as well as the grandeur and picturesque scenery of its shores. It is about fifty miles in length, from the entrance to the exit of the Rhone, and eight or nine in width, in the broadest part; lying very nearly in the form of a crescent. The complexion of the water is a deep azure, slightly tinged with green, arising as well from the verdure of its borders, as from the original colour of its tributaries. Numerous boats, spreading their canvass to the inland breeze, were seen skimming its peaceful bosom. From this point, the view of the opposite side can hardly be surpassed in extent, richness, and splendour. A long line of white villages and hamlets is traced by the eye, from Chillon to Geneva, studding the green and woody slopes, which rise with moderate acclivities from the margin. In the distance, the chain of the Jura Alps sweeps round in amphitheatric grandeur, presenting alternately broken rocks and deep forests.
We rode all day along the southern shore of the Lake, which affords few objects of interest, except what nature herself furnishes. The woods are rich and beautiful, retaining their verdure, and freshness of foliage even at this season. Through groves of chesnut, walnut, ash, and elm, gleams of blue water meet the eye, on the right; while on the other hand, the broken and snowy peaks of the Alps rise in the distance, above the intervening curtain of forests. At a customhouse, not far from St. Gingoux, we left the frontier of the Bas-Valais, and entered Savoy. Although doganas, officers, and troops of his Sardinian Majesty were seen upon the road, they gave us no trouble in this part of his dominions. The air of the Swiss mountains is not so congenial to the funguses of petty despotism, as the more stagnant political atmosphere of Italy. If the people are no longer independent, they retain a portion of the thoughts, feelings, manners, and habits of freemen.
The rocks of Meillerie are haunted by the spirits of Rousseau's lovers. He could scarcely have found a more romantic seclusion. A rugged spur of the Alps here projects to the very brink of the Lake, and terminates in a cliff two hundred feet in height. It was hewn down to its base by Napoleon, who seemed to sport with mountains, as children play with pebbles. Double walls and terraces were constructed along the precipice, to give security to the road. Had not the Simplon just exhausted admiration, the extent and magnitude of this humbler work would have excited astonishment.
In the old town of Evian, the vetturino hove to, at the door of a small hotel, and insisted on our stopping to dinner, although it was not yet noon. We demurred to eating and drinking without appetites, before the coffee of St. Gingoux was yet settled. But without saying with your leave, and with a sort of independence which pleased us, as smacking of Swiss freedom, he deliberately unharnessed his team, and was gone an hour, before he was again seen or could be found. The secret at length leaked out. He has here a large store, a farm-house, and an extensive vineyard, with other real estate to a considerable amount, which he had gone to examine, after an absence of several weeks. In going out of the town, he paused opposite a handsome chateau, and two pretty Savoyard girls, with rosy cheeks, and neatly dressed, came out to the coach, each bearing a fruit-dish heaped with rich clusters of grapes, which by concert had been purposely plucked for us, and were presented with an elegant simplicity of manners, that rendered the offering doubly acceptable. Such an agreeable stratagem, contrived by the coachman, to show off his daughters and vineyards, removed every trace of vexation caused by a tedious delay.
Between Evian and Thonon, the old capital of Chablais, we passed the torrent of Dranse, opening from the Alps in the vicinity of Mont Blanc. Its banks are strewed with ruins of the mountains to the width of more than half a mile, similar in character to the gorges of the Haut-Valais. It is passed on a strong stone bridge, the massive walls of which are made water-tight, to guard against the floods, which at certain seasons sweep down with tremendous fury. The old Convent of Ripaille, on the borders of the Lake, and one or two picturesque ruins on the left, give variety to the scenery.
After leaving Thonon, the road deserts the margin of the Lake, and becomes rather monotonous, though it passes through a rich agricultural district, well tilled and shaded with large forest trees. Our heads were turned to the left all the afternoon, to catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc; and just before evening, our wishes were gratified as fully, as they could be at the distance of fifty or sixty miles. An hour of bright
sunshine enabled us to gaze, till the eye was dazzled with the brilliancy of the spectacle. At first a mere speck of bright snow was seen near the base, beneath a curtain of vapour, which hung upon the brow, and entirely concealed the form of the mountain. The cloud rose gradually, as the sun declined, disclosing one peak and one glacier after another, till every vestige of the rack disappeared, and the four-fold summits, towering above all the surrounding region, blazed like beacons in the heavens. It seemed as if the elements conspired, to render the grandeur of the scene as impressive as possible; and I dare not copy the extravagance of language, entered in my diary, in the enthusiasm of the moment.
The depth of light and shade, occasioned by the position of the dif ferent peaks in relation to the sun, reminded me of the appearance of the icy orb of the moon, as descried through a good telescope. While the western sides were tinged with a rich roseate hue, the declivities thrown into a penumbra by giant shadows, were but dimly discernible. Almost for the first time in my life, I attempted to use the crayon, in delineating the forms of things; and a rude profile of this mountain is now before me, though the perspective and proportions are not probably very well preserved. No artist could reach the delicacy and beauty of the colouring. The south-western peak is the lowest, and pointed to a needle at top. Next in order is a stupendous cone, towering far above all the rest, which are of comparatively moderate elevation, shooting up from the north-eastern shoulder. But why should I attempt, at such a distance, to sketch the features of this monarch of the Alps, when so many others have drawn portraits, from stations at its base; and when some of my countrymen have climbed to the topmost glacier? I envy them the glory of the achievement; though circumstances would not permit me to follow their example.
Mont Blanc almost entirely engrossed our attention, for the hour it remained in sight, notwithstanding the minor attractions which surrounded us. The environs of Geneva are extremely splendid. For several miles from its foot, the Lake contracts to a less width, than the Hudson opposite New-York. It presents a perfect mirror to its verdant, soft, and picturesque shores. In the approach along its southern side, the broad avenue is bordered by beautiful country-seats, green lawns, spacious gardens, and extensive walks shaded with elms.
The natural scenery, as well in the immediate suburbs, as in the distance, is so superlatively rich and varied, presenting the happiest combinations of hills, woods, and waters, that one hardly thinks of the venerable old town, which shows its numerous calvinistic steeples, sheathed with metallic plates, and, at the hour of our arrival. glittering
in the setting sun. Its situation is unrivalled, both in point of beauty and convenience, occupying an acclivity which rises from the very margin of the Lake, to the height of several hundred feet, and looks abroad upon the whole region between the Alps and Jura-a district that can scarcely be surpassed in the variety and splendour of its natural features. The city itself is not remarkable for stateliness, architectural grandeur, or elegance. Its streets are paved like those of Paris; and the buildings, though often five and six stories high, exhibit few embellishments, and are far from being showy.
At the lofty gate, our passports were demanded for the first time, since leaving the banks of the Ticin. The officer retained them, and gave us a carte of security for their safe return. Neat and commo
dious apartments were obtained at the Crown Hotel, for two francs a day; and the table d'hote was in the true Parisian style. The landlord gave us fish from the Lake and chamois from the mountains. In flavour and delicacy, the latter is inferior to venison; though it is considered a dainty by gourmands, chiefly on account of its scarcity and high price..
It was a comfortable thought, to be thus safely and snugly lodged for a short time, after an arduous and active journey of seven days from Milan; though circumstances conspired to render it in the highest degree favourable, novel, and interesting. We might have seen the Alps under more sublime and terrific aspects; but surely not in a better light, for extended views and minute observations. Not a drop of rain, nor a flake of snow, had descended during the whole passage; and clouds seldom darkened our pathway. The evening of our arrival was delightfully pleasant; and the skies at sunset were emphatically those of Claude Lorraine.
EXCURSION TO FERNEY-EGRESS OF THE RHONE-ENVIRONS OF GENEVA
THE day after our arrival at Geneva was occupied in an excursion to Ferney, the well known residence of Voltaire. As the weather was extremely favourable, and it was doubtful how long the serenity of the skies would continue, we deemed it advisable first to examine the environs and shores of the Lake, reserving the city for a rainy day. By adopting this plan, the traveller may often save time, and consult his own comfort, as was proved by us in numerous instances. A church, or palace, or gallery may be examined to as much advantage in storm as in sunshine; while rural scenery admits only of the latter. Obvious as this remark may appear, it often escapes tourists, who are sometimes obliged to wait a week, for the purpose of making a single excursion, after all other sources of instruction and amusement have been exhausted.
Ferney is only five or six miles from Geneva. In our ride thither, we bade good morrow to our old friend the Rhone, who had been taking a nap like ourselves. He resumes his unfinished journey to the sea in great haste, as if he had overslept himself, and lingered too long, enamoured of the peaceful and sumptuous couch, which nature has spread for his repose. But the brightness and azure hue of his waters have not been sullied by resting awhile on a bed of such purity, and they here gush out of the lake with all the freshness and activity of their original fountains among the glaciers. Art has done little, to embellish a stream of such grandeur and unequalled beauty. The bridge is contemptibly mean; the buildings in the vicinity are unsightly; and the current has been choked up with mills. Seizing the giant from the mountains, at a point where his wildness can be tamed, the ingenious mechanics of Geneva have bound him like Sampson in withes, and degraded him into the servile offices of turning wheels and working the city pumps.
The northern environs of the town are not inferior, in fertility and beauty, to the suburbs passed at our entrance, having the same richness