"The Meuse" [essay]
How lightly the waves of the broad Meuse crisped with the first breath
of the morning, as we swept over the long bridge that crosses the river
from Namur, and looked back on the rich dome of its small but beautiful
cathedral, 1 as it began to smile to the first glance of the joyous sun, that
was drinking up the delicate mists which clung to the hills, and rested on
the valley, in which the fair city reposed so peacefully—and then we
dashed along the valley of the Meuse. I know not if it was because this
was our first initiation in to a the scenery of Continental rivers, but this
part of the Meuse appeared to me infinitely preferable (not in point of
sublimity or beauty, b but in that romantic and picturesque fairy beauty
which is, in many cases, superior to either) to anything which I ever after‐
wards saw on the shores of the far famed Rhine.
There was, to me, a great sameness throughout the whole of the course
of the latter river; and, for its fortresses, it is positively too much of a
good thing—a tiresome repetition of ruins, and ruins too which do not
altogether agree with my idea of what ruins ought to be. But for the
Meuse—the infinite variety of scenery, the impossibility of seeing every
successive change as you feel that it ought to be seen—and, finally, the
tantalizing rate at which you dash away from that which you could feast
upon, and look upon, and dwell upon, for—ages, I was going to say,
months, I will say, are enough to enchant you with anything. If you
wish to see rock scenery in perfection, go to the Meuse, 2 for never were
rocks more beautifully disposed, more richly and delicately wooded, or
more finely contrasted with the amazing richness of the surrounding
scenery. But, alas! it was but a forenoon ride, and the eve saw us quit
the magnificent Meuse with sorrow, for the smoky streets and coal wharfs
of Li├Ęge, and the round, dumpy, shapeless hills of Spa. 3