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EXTRACTS FROM MY JOURNAL.-SWITZERLAND.
No. XV.-THE LAST BUT ONE.* I had been spending the winter and spring of 184— at Naples; was tired of solitude, and yearning to look upon the face of a friend; was frying with the heat and tormented by the moschitoes, when letters from England brought the welcome intelligence that a party of beloved relatives were about to make a trip to Switzerland. I was invited to meet them, and, with my very heart dancing with delight, soon set out on board the good ship Muzibello, bound for Civita Vecchia, Leghorn and Genoa. Yet as we shot out of port, on a bright June afternoon, and looked back and around on the crescent of unrivalled beauties which surround the loveliest bay in the world, I confess that it was not without a pang that I bade adieu to this pezzo di cielo, though but for a time; and till a late hour I lingered upon the deck, watching each column of smoke as it issued from Vesuvius, and dwelling upon that graceful veil which a Southern clime throws lightly over the luxurious and sleepy forms of beauty which every where meet the eye. We were a large and merry party on board; and, with smooth seas and starry skies, nothing could exceed the luxury of our nocturnal trips, for by day we were shut up in the different ports at which we touched. Never, I believe, did a lovelier moon look down upon a lovelier scene. One might almost imagine that she had been "calling up looks" on purpose to excite the envy of the poor foreigners. Such a flood of light she poured around us !-unlike the farthing rushlight which glimmers through our Northern fogs. At all events, very sure am I that her vanity must have been infinitely gratified as she looked down upon the silvery surface of the ocean in which her lineaments were mirrored. As she rose, we rose too—that is from table, where we had sat down to dinner, 130 souls, on all the luxuries which could have been procured in the centre of Naples; and then, dispersing in the cabin or about the decks, we engaged in such pursuits as were most congenial to our tastes. Some played chess, and some the piano; some tried to beat steam at smoking, and others talked of the opera, or even politics; for we were now on a bit of neutral ground, where, free as the breezes which scarcely crisped the waters, men might venture to breathe and speak at liberty; whilst others read-aye, read, and by moonlight too-and others “sighed and looked, sighed and looked, sighed and looked, and sighed again.” Ah! those moonlights, they have much to answer for; and if ever they are put in the Confessional, I know no holy friar who will dare to give them absolution. There was one poor little girl on board whom I shall never forget-a Swiss damsel she was—who had been confided to my care by her inamorato at Naples, amidst protestations of eternal love and wavings of handkerchiefs, as if they had been all the world. Her silent, deep despair, and her sighs, as they came rapidly one after the other on the night breeze, really touched me; but how could I better comfort her than by leaving her to herself? for there are sorrows when all the consolation in the world is ineffective. Give me my friend, says the mourner, and I accept your consolation. Give me my inamorato, perhaps thought the damsel, and your words shall
* Describing the origin and commencement of my Swiss tour.
be as music to my ear; otherwise, cease from tormenting me;—and so I did. The morning after our first night at sea rose as brilliant as it ever does in June in the sunny South. The dolphins were playing around us in great numbers, and, fin-power against steam, beat us at the race; fishing-boats, with their picturesque sails, were coming from the shore, or taking in the produce of their night's labour, to be sent up to the Roman market;-yes, it must be to the Roman market, for look, full thirty miles distant, St. Peter's dome lifts itself up proudly in the horizon. This announcement soon called up the sleepers, and eyes were rubbed and glasses levelled N. S. E. and W. to find St Peter's. Soon, too, Civita Vecchia, stony and sterile, woodless and leafless, hove in sight, and there was a moving of baggage, for many were to leave us here. And now we have shot into the narrow port. Had I been blindfolded, I could have told that we were no longer in Naples : 'tis the bocca Romana I hear. A heavy morning spent in port, sweltering in the sun and irritated by flies, made us too happy to get out.
Soon after mid-day, and again we are scudding over the waters. There is the same routine of dinner and chess and music and gossip and sighs. We have many new faces amongst us, and our numbers are greatly increased, for Rome has sent down to us all her winter birds.
Another brilliant night and brilliant morning, and we are in Leghorn, but not without having received some alarm. Whether it was that my lungs were a little more sensitive than those of others, I know not, but soon after midnight I awoke with a sense of suffocation, and, looking out of my narrow berth, found the cabin full of smoke. The curtains of our beds had taken fire from the lamps which hung suspended near, and there we were all but myself sleeping, unconscious of the danger. To leap out of my berth and run upon deck, was the act of a moment; and, calling down the men, we soon extinguished the fire.—Leghorn has much more to interest than Civita Vecchia. One gets his summer Tuscan here. Greeks' churches and Jews' synagogues, and cemeteries, are to be visited. Some, too, take the rail and run up to Pisa; and by the time all these deeds are done, the steamer bell is ringing and we are pushing off from land—our last night at sea; and oh, how lovely a night it is! From Leghorn to Genoa does not occupy more than five or six hours, and all seemed resolved to remain on deck and enjoy the beauty of the scene. For me, I joined a party of Franciscan friars, and was soon immersed in controversy with them upon some knotty points. Their mildness and liberality interested and attracted as much as it astonished me; but they were on neutral ground. Had we been at Rome, I had not dared to speak so freely, nor they to answer with so much moderation. I have always immense pleasure in entering Genoa from the South-the sea voyage is over; for though an Englishman, I have no love for the sea except in poetry, or as seen from the land; and though it is a proud thought that Britain rules the waves, my pride and love are as nothing to the regret I feel that she does not “rule them a little straighter." Yet nothing can be grander than the view which bursts upon one as the vessel glides into port beneath the Mola Grande. It is generally early dawn; the bells of churches and convents are calling upon the faithful to sing their matins, and a beautiful custom, too, it is. One springs on deck: the night has passed; the
monotonous outline of the sea has died away, and to it has succeeded a city of palaces running round the coast in a crescent form, and rising from the very flower of the water, as the Italian has it, to the very summit of the mountains which form the background. To me, it is always like a scene of enchantment; fatigue and annoyances of every kind forgotten; and I long to rise on the wings of a lark into mid air, and look down upon the wondrous scene at leisure.
I must not now take you into the marble churches and pictured palaces of Genoa, but hurry on to Switzerland. The proud city is left behind; up, up we climb, and, looking a last look back upon the blue waters of the Mediterranean, enter on the vast plains of Lombardy. How rich the soil! It is literally bursting with wealth, and the verdure of the trees speaks of a land more favoured in some respects than the arid regions of the sunny South. The Po and the Ticino are passed. Pavia, with its university, too, is left behind, and, following the course of a large canal, the Duomo of Milan, with its thousand minarets, soon heaves in view. To pass by Milan, though well I knew it, without stopping one day to worship within its Duomo, is impossible. When staying in this city, I pass the entire morning there. I walk up and down its nave, and round at the back of the choir, and look up to its beautifully painted windows and statuary and fair proportions, with a feeling approaching almost to veneration. Man feels his littleness and his greatness in this edifice more than in any other I have visited: his physical littleness, as compared with the vast proportions of the magnificent structure; his intellectual greatness, at the thought that the human mind could conceive and execute so grand a monument to the honour and glory of God.
The next morning I was en route for Switzerland by Mount St. Gothard, and I know of no road which throughout is characterized by such beauty and grandeur. The first few miles, through the rich though monotonous plains of Lombardy, are perhaps a little tedious, but three hours or so bring us up to Como, the very name of which to my ear breathes every thing that is soft and lovely in scenery and poetical in sentiment. Look at the lights and shadows as they fall on the gracefully sloping hills, seeming to bring more fully out to view their swelling proportions ! Amidst those luxuriant bouquets, how many and elegant are the villas which lie half hid; their terrace gardens run down even to the Lake; and close under the hanging steps is waiting one of those picturesque barks, canopied all over, beneath whose canvas you may lounge at pleasure, defended from the mid-day sun. Yet the Lake is small, you say; but run up to the extremity of the view, and a sudden turn between two hills leads you into another lakelet, and then you go from Lake to Lake, as it were, each vying with the other in every beauty which wood and water and villa and sloping hills and aërial tints can give. Our road, however, only skirts the Lake, and, climbing up that lofty hill at the back, we shortly bid adieu to this earthly Paradise. Then come the Swiss frontier and the canton of Ticino, a little noisy, democratic, upstart canton, too, it is, which, like a puppy at the heels of a mastiff, seems to bark the more from its proximity to its powerful neighbour. At all events, the extremes of social and political character on either side the border are very marked and striking to a curious observer. One hour, nay five minutes, before I stood in a land where a man dared not speak above a whisper, and where gend'armes and soldiers annoyed one at every turn; when cross an imaginary line, and presto! as if by magic, the scene is changedpassports are put in the trunk-gend'armes and soldiers disappearthe people laugh from ear to ear and talk of constitutions and corps francs, and side by side with the Cross the cap of Liberty hangs flauntily in the breeze. To one, however, who views matters simply on the surface, the change is by no means agreeable ; for one of the effects of absolutism is to form that subdued kind of character which is favourable to the cultivation of the courtesies and amenities of life. Thus throughout Italy the refinements of politeness go hand in hand with the utmost exercise of kingly power; whilst cross the border, and a change comes over the spirit of one's dream. The men swagger about with their hats cocked on one side, sometimes surmounted by a feather or a ribbon, as if, though republican, each was a lord. And do you not believe that their spirit is infinitely more aristocratic than that of many a lord ? Aye, to be sure it is ; for, however contradictory it may appear, the very essence of democracy is nothing but the result of an intolerance of a superior.
As I sate gazing through the open window of the diligence, the clouds which were chasing each other, and the moaning of the wind amongst the trees, told of a change in the weather. How happy was I to have escaped a gale at sea! Then the moon, as it peeped between the trees, revealing here and there a pine, and the rushing of the streams, told me that I was approaching the wild mountain tracts of Switzerland ; and in fact, on waking the next morning, we were at the rugged foot of St. Gothard. Broken rocks and pines, mingled in wild confusion, lay scattered all around ; torrents came roaring down, and with terrific violence, as they rushed through some rocky gorge; whilst temporary wooden bridges, enough to make the timid tremble as they passed over them, gave signs of the ruin and desolation which the winter storms had made. I know not, indeed, a more desolate bit of road than the commencement of the ascent of this mountain. The general character of every Alpine road is indeed the same (and I have crossed every one), though I think the features of the San Gothard more rugged than those of any other. The snow being still deep, we were compelled, on arriving at a certain height, to leave the diligence and take sledges, a mode of travelling by no means pleasant: up and down and from side to side, one is tossed and rolled about by the inequalities of the road; sometimes, as happened to myself, being thrown completely out-a matter of no great consequence, however, involving only a roll on the snow, unless it happened just on the edge of a precipice, when it may by chance shake the nerves a little. The summit, however, was reached without any disaster, unless the fall of an avalanche across our path may be called one, obliging us to call for the assistance of the cantonniers, and detaining us some time on the mountain. A rude inn crowns the top, where bad beds and worse refreshments may be had by any one whose misfortune it may be to need them. Not being in any need of them ourselves, we commenced our descent, and in sledge and diligence, rolling and swinging from side to side, in a few moments, as it appeared, we were once more in the valley. Hospice, Andermath, and the gloomy tunnel in the solid
rock, and the Devil's Bridge, less wonderful the new one than the old, are all passed rapidly by. Yet what savage grandeur marks these scenes ! How dizzy, too, is the winding road which leads hence into the lower parts of the valley! Seated on the top of the coach, your fall over into the boiling recess below seems inevitable, when a sudden jerk brings you around, and away you go again at a spanking pace headlong, apparently, to perdition, when another sudden jerk brings you round again; and thus you speed down the descent, jerk after jerk, with nervous apprehension, till this bit of road is passed.
It is a lovely valley which leads down to Fluellen, and full of historical associations with Gessler and Tell and Fürst. Who does not run up to the market-place at Altorf, whilst the horses are being changed, to get a glimpse of the statue of Tell and his son ? On arriving at Fluellen, the wind was so high and the Lake so stormy, that I determined to remain all night, and, if the weather cleared, run up to Lucerne the next morning. A Lake storm! you contemptuously ask. Yes, and a heavy one too. From the very form of the Lake, four arms meeting in the centre, the wind rushes down these narrow straits at times so strong that no steamer will venture out. A bright summer's morning, however, enabled me on the morrow to pursue my journey. Lucerne was at that time in an unusually disturbed state; the town was full of soldiers, and the bridges were barricaded, for the battle between the Lucernese and the corps francs had just been fought, and every mouth was full of descriptions of this sanguinary combat. The Stadthaus in particular was the scene of great bustle ; soldiers of every size, age and dimension were parading their little square, unmilitary figures up and down in front, and looking out of the windows were some of the half-fledged striplings, who, waking one fine morning full of patriotic and ambitious aspirations, determined to upset the government of Lucerne and shake the spheres. Curious to see them, I went up, and, entering into conversation with them, lost, I confess it, all sympathy for them in their state of durance vile, in a feeling of amusement at their childish vanity. Had they been whipped and sent back to their papas and mammas, Lucerne would have done better, and reduced to a farce what was afterwards dignified into an affair of vast national importance. Many of these lads, we were told, had been taken by the women, who had fallen upon them in small detachments on their flight.
But I am lingering too long at Lucerne; so let us prepare for a steady drive up to Basle, and the next day by railway let us run to Strasburg, and getting once again on the broad, broad Rhine, steam down to Maintz. Here, then, I am at length, breathless with haste and delight, for Maintz is our point de reunion, and to-morrow am I, a solitary wanderer, who for months—aye, years—have not thrilled at the voice of affection, to look on features whose every trait is, as it were, a volume in which are the recorded reminiscences of youth's happiest days. Alas! how sad a change have death and sorrow and misfortune since made in that party! But now all was as bright as life and hope and love and prosperity could make it; and blind to the future, and reckless of it too, we dreamt of but one long-continued course of happiness. And to-morrow came. How heavily dragged the moments ! The steamers are all in but one; it will be here in an hour; shall I