things present—that stilly, dreamy, waking vision that places you where
you are not, that carries you where you wish to be, that presents the past
to your recollection, and the future to your fancy, so forcibly, so impressively,
so lovelily, throwing a glow on every circumstance, and a halo on every
feature, giving the vivid, the magic colouring of the dream to the defined
and distinct recollection of the reality. It is thus that I look back upon
our first walk at Chamouni, to the Source of the Arveron. 1 What varieties
of childish beauty we met with in that short walk, every little mountaineer
was a perfect picture; one little fellow insisted upon conducting us to the
source, and as notre guide principale piloted us proudly through the crowd
of little fry who were lying in wait, all expecting a similar distinction,
but who, finding the post of honour preoccupied, followed very gravely en
suite. 2 “Voilà la source,” quoth our petit conducteur, as we emerged from a
dark wood of pines bordering on the waves of the flowing Arveron. It was
exceeding lovely. The day had been one continued succession of storms,
but the eve was breaking and giving fair promise of a sunny morrow.
Right in front a few exhausted but lingering tempest clouds shadowed
the dark masses of pine that girdle the Montanvert, 3 but farther to
the west broke away into fleecy masses, scarcely distinguishable from the
eternal snow that flashed through their openings, and farther still a serene
evening sky glowed peacefully. A lurid, ominous light pervaded the
whole air, that stormy and murky lume, the effect of the strange combat
between the sun and tempest; the one casting the whole body of gigantic
mountains into a dreary darkness, the other pouring a stream of red,
ghostly, dusky light up the valley, that caught as it past the projecting
pinnacled spires of the glacier des Bossons, which flashed dazzling forth
from the gloom of the ribbed crags as the lightning leaps from the
thunder cloud. A low, hollow, melancholy echoing was heard issuing from
the recesses of the mountains, the last sighing of the passing-away tempest,
the last murmurs of the storm spirit as he yielded up his reign; it past
away, and the blue rigidness of the transparent cavern of the glacier woke
rosily to the departing sun.
Like snow upon the eddies cast.
Forth from his cold and silent tomb,
Forth flies the river from the gloom. 5
The bars that echoed to his roaring—
Those icy bars have burst before him.
And now his chafèd surges see
Bound high in laughing liberty!
Oh, frigidly the glacier pale
Bears broadly to the nether vale!
Right in his cliffy, shivered side
Yawneth a chasm high and wide,
And from the portal arched and strong
Springs gladsome forth the Arveron.
Seems it an ancient forteresse, b
All shattered in its mightiness;
The higher towers all rent and riven—
The battlements all downward driven— c
And, that its form thou now couldst trace,
Froze to an icy wilderness: d
And that, its portal vast and old,
All archèd by the crisp ice cold,
And through whose chasms of paly green
The shivery sunshine shot between,
Or trembling with a meteor light,
Or dancing in the billows bright,
Smiling aetherially through
The ghost lights of the crystal blue.