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Noble Lady Adeline !
Happy Lilien, who can see
And sweet Lady Adeline,
SWITZERLAND IN 1831. Politics are becoming a veritable nuisance. Like waters too long pent up in a narrow and unnatural space—in the heads of boroughmongers, if you will, and high-born statesmen—they have, in bursting their bounds, at once overspread and devastated the 'surface and remaining interests of society. Literature and quiet life, for instance, they have destroyed at home. In France, they have drowned, not only all such light matter, but have stifled the substantial also. "There commerce itself is forsaken, and at a stand. The wheel of the manufacturer hath ceased until the tongue of the politician shall rest, too, in something like decision. Think of this flood, this moral cholera of politics, having passed over the mountains, and invaded the remote valleys of Switzerland ! Even the picturesque, that last retreat of the musing and the tranquil, the seeker of health and thought, has not escaped. Its source, too, is muddied, if not pol luted, and its bright sky clouded by the exhalations of political discussion.
At Chamouni, some years since, visitors spoke of glaciers and chalets and the mer de glace. Now, Mont Blanc himself is forgotten. You meet at the table d'hôte the Marquis un tel, a Carlist, voyaging from disgust. Next him you find a wanderer of a different colour, and the Revolution of July soon absorbs the converse. At Yverdun, I wanted to re-hire my former guide. “ Oh! Sir, he is taken by the conscription, and become a soldier.” “ Soldier ! are the Swiss at war, then ?” “ Oh! yes, Sir, we have sent a contingent into the Vallais to oppose the march of the Austrians ; and they say another must march to keep peace amongst the Bâlois.” Do you get a guide—he has forgotten the names of the very Alps, and asks you of the Poles, and of their fate. The very arts are infected: the young shepherd no longer thunders out the Ranz des Vaches, but the Parisienne(fact ! I heard it in the Grindelwald ;) and the sketch-book contains representations, no longer of the glaciers, but of the trois jours.
Seriously speaking, Switzerland is in as great a turmoil as its neighbours, and the pernicious consequences to industry and its classes are the same.
Each canton has had its revolution, and some are already threatened with a second. One of the chief causes of this is the total separation of interests betwixt the townsman and the peasant. As land brings in universally but small profits, the wealthy retire into towns, and place their fortunes in foreign funds, in those of France or England; the farmer tills the soil, or rather mows it, cheese being the chief production ; and for this he procures purchasers in Italy chiefly, or in foreign lands. Hence the peasant finds not even a market in the town, nor a consumer in its inhabitant; and this solitary and most natural link betwixt them exists not. Yet of the townsmen is necessarily composed the municipal council, &c. &c.; and hence the jealousy entertained by the peasant against the burgess, with whom he has no connexion, to whom he has no obligation. Some Cantons form an exception to this. Neufchatel is one-Neufchatel, where subsisting families, of noble birth, have lands and country mansions, and hold to them. After all, an aristocracy, not
overgrown, forms the true and beneficial link betwixt town and country.
The most exasperated amongst the Swiss, those foremost in the mouvement, as the love of political novelty is called, are certainly the Vaudois. There are good reasons for this ;—their having been so long a state subject and secondary to Berne, for instance. Their speaking French is not sufficient cause, for the Neufchatelese speak French too, yet have that honest, neighbourly hatred towards France, such as becomes a frontier province. In this they are the opposite of the Vaudois, who are furious Gallicians. The Vaud is, indeed, in the Swiss Federation, precisely what France is in Europe, the most restless and vivacious child of the family—such a child as quiet parents pack to school, in order at once to tame and get rid of him. Some months ago, reports were circulated on Change and in newspaper columns, that the Austrians were about to march into Piedmont. The Vaudois were instantly in arms, without calculating even the expense-a most un-Swiss-like oblivion—they raised a force, and occupied the Vallais. They have since, indeed, evacuated it; but their army remains on the war footing. There are Generals and Staff, etat majors, in every town, and certainly a sufficient number of officers to drill and lead the whole force of the Alps. But the military ardour is already evaporating, and the townsfolk begin to exclaim against the expense.
Despite of the common-placing about the picturesque, and the hundred-and-one tours which record the search for it in these regions, it is, as a spot to visit, a region wherein to kill agreeably a summer, that Switzerland most interests us. And one advantage of this country is certainly, that neither pen nor pencil can convey any idea of its aspect, of its beauties, and sublimities. Tourists cannot vulgarise, nor lithographs degrade it. One must come and see; and a very few days suffice, so deep and everlasting is the impression made, and, at the same time, so monotonous and little varied is the character of the country. The most apt and befitting entrance to the Alpine land, is certainly that by St. Croix, over the highest range of the Jura, a walk, the wildness of which well repays the traveller. The descent affords a splendid view, preferable to that which opens suddenly over the Lake of Geneva ; for here this Lake is visible in the distance, whilst that of Neufchatel extends beneath, and half Switzerland, to the glaciers is clearly seen.
Pestalozzi and his method have successively expired at Yverdun. The survival of a system of education, requiring the continued presidence of a man of genius, cannot reasonably be hoped. From Yverdun to Berne the road passes by the field of Morat. The Ossuary, containing the bones of the slain Burgundians, destroyed and scattered by the French, has been replaced by a column. The inscription is ingenious: it contains the name of neither France nor Burgundy, and merely says, Novo signat lapide,“ With a new building commemorates” the battle fought in such a year. The Canton of Freyburg, in which this stands, has been attached to France, that is, to Catholic and Ultra-France. It has proved a retreat to the Jesuits of that country, and to their friends, the Carlist emigrants. Freyburg is thronged with them, as is, indeed, its name-sake in the Brisgau. Every country-house is occupied by partisans of the fallen family; and this new Coblentz can even boast its Gazette, edited by the Count, Baron, or Chevalier Omahoni.
Travellers in general remark, that they immediately become aware of the transition from a Protestant to a Catholic Canton; from the Vaud, for example, into the Vallais, or into Freyburg, by the instant decrease of cleanliness and neatness. There is certainly truth in the fact; as any one who ever passed the bridge of St. Maurice, with industry and neat cottages on one side, Monks and filth on the other, must allow. But the consequence too obviously drawn, that Catholicism implies laziness and want of cleanliness, is not so just. The facts are these. When the ideas of religious Reformation penetrated into Switzerland, the agricultural cantons in general embraced them: thus did Zurich, Berne, Geneva, and the Vaud. The pastoral regions, more remote from intercourse and civilization, held—such is the characteristic of a pastoral people-to old traditions. Now, a shepherd race are always filthy, despite of poetical ideas,-in general poor. They live with their cattle rather than with fellow men: they are scattered. The women, those ministers of cleanliness, are too busied in heavy drudgery to attend to more than the indispensable neatness of the milk vessels. These, indeed, are seen resplendently white, in chalets, of which the filth and smoke are not to be rivalled in dear Ireland. Thus, if Protestantism and cleanliness have become united, it is not owing to any abstergent qualities in the creed of the former.
Berne is a most original city in its appearance. It has, at least, that merit :—singular, that one of the most modern capitals in Europe should, nevertheless, wear the most ancient aspect. Indeed, this holds true of all Switzerland. The country that first shook off the tyranny of the middle ages, is the country which preserves latest the external characteristics of that epoch. This is especially the case in the churches of the Catholic cantons. Where, in Europe, is there a monastery calculated to bring back the imagination to old times, in comparison with that of Einsiedelin. Those of Italy are mere modern barracks compared with it. The sacred respect with which costume, in all its primitive oddness, beauty, and diversity is preserved in Switzerland, calls forth precisely the same remark. Berne has other advantages: a vicinity and promenades, superior to those of any other city, and certainly the finest view of the higher range of Alps. Even that from the top of the Righi is not to be compared with it. Indeed, without viewing the great chain from Berne, it is impossible to comprehend or have an idea of the geography of this stupendous ridge.
Nature has kindly framed for the lover of her most sublime scenes a path to and along the foot of her most stupendous elevations. This way lies first across the lovely Lake of Thorn, from the end of which two valleys diverge in ascending, one to the foot of the Yungfrau, the other to that of the Eiger. The first is that of Lanterbrunner, famed by tourists for its loveliness. The torrents of the 9th of August last, however, have laid the whole vale in ruin, swept away the houses, effaced the road, and converted the entire breadth of the valley into the bed of a tempestuous river. They played all kinds of wicked freaks. One that I remarked, was to transplant a tremendous tree, bearing its roots and trunk a furlong down, and fixing it in a boiling gulf of water, where, when I saw it, a fortnight after the catastrophe, it vegetated with all the sang froid imaginable.
The fall of the Staubbach, at Lanterbrunner, is the beautiful of Swiss cascades, as that of the Aar, at Handeck, is the sublime. The former, although it has acquired its fame as falling from the greatest height, has nought of the terrific. Though a full river rushed over the precipice, nevertheless the character of the fall was gentleness. The waters burst into foam from collision merely with the air, and seemed as if they would not harm a lady's cheek. I never saw any sight so exquisitely beautiful. It was like woman's rage, which, when it meets with nought whereon to wreak itself, bursts and dissolves in tears.
At Lanterbrunner one is at the foot of the highest of the Bernese Alps. The Yungfrau—less deserving of the name than of old, since some half dozen climbers have reached the top within these few years-terminates the valley. And the pedestrian's path to Grindelwald winds over a secondary Alp, (the Wengern,) which juts out towards the great queen of glaciers, displaying fully its peaks and dread recesses, whilst an intervening vale takes away all peril from the attempt. The mountains are here grouped together: they form not a chain, but a knot, with snow and glaciers filling up the intervals, so as to defy all approach. The Finster Aar-horn is the central peak, whilst the Yungfrau and Eiger form the outer limit towards the north. Those, in consequence, are fully visible and examinable on this side ; but, unfortunately, it is to the southward, that the many and great avalanches fall, down steeps where mortal eye cannot observe or wonder at their course. More rarely the avalanches fall on the northern side; but the continual roar of them from the other is even more appalling than the sight. Here, at least, earth has its thunders to rival those of Heaven.
Whilst the Yungfrau rises gradually, and by successive elevations, to its majestic height, the Eigar, which is the next in the chain, presents an almost perpendicular front to the north. No snow can rest there. It consequently forms no glacier, and precipitates no avalanche. The valley beneath is inhabited in safety. A beautiful valley it is, the Grindelwald, rendered more curious by two glaciers protruded into it, not menacingly, but beautifully, from clefts in the chain, and descending from the unexplored recesses of the Finster Aar-horn. Around the great Alpine groupe the road continues to wind over another secondary mountain (the Scheideck,) turning the Wetterhorn, which forms the salient angle on this side of nature's most stupendous fortress.
It is to be feared, or hoped, just as the reader pleases, that the awful sacro-sanctity of these regions will gradually diminish before the boldness of man. Not a century back, the valley of Chamouni, at the foot of the Mont Blanc, was unknown and unexplored. It now contains a town, and sends annual visitors to the very top of the monarch of mountains. The less obvious recesses of the Oberland are threatened with similar freedoms. The Yungfrau, as observed, has already lost its, or her, right to the appellation of Maiden. A flag-staff on the summit records, that four men of the Unterwalden