« PreviousContinue »
Chateau de Chillon.
rocks of Meillerie, and the occasional sublimities of the storm.
The same evening we proceeded to Chillon. This castle, situated between Clarens and Villeneuve, at the extremity of the Lake of Geneva, has a situation equally picturesque and beautiful, a record equally black, and an immortality from the pen of the first poet of the age, Lord Byron.
In 1519, Francois de Bonnivard, Prior of St. Victor, was imprisoned two years, for protecting his country; and again in 1530, because he dared endeavor to procure the freedom of his native Geneva, and to resist the oppression of the Duke of Savoy, and the Bishop, was seized on the Jura mountains, was confined without trial, or interrogation, for six years in the castle of Chillon, and was then liberated by the inhabitants of Berne, who obtained possession of the Pays de Vaud.
The poet thus describes the Lake of Geneva and prison:
Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls;
A thousand feet in depth below
Its massy waters meet and flow;
Thus much the fathom line was sent
There are seven pillars of Gothic mold
Chateau de Chillon.
There are seven columns massy and grey,
And in each pillar there is a ring,
For in these limbs its teeth remain.
I shuddered involuntarily, at this dismal dungeon, and handled the chain asserted to have bound the illustrious patriot to the pillar. It is said that his footsteps were imprinted on the pavement! I also, with difficulty, scrambled up the slippery stones to peep through the iron grating, where he had sometimes looked;-the only sad and sole comfort he could claim!
After this, crossing the lake, and reaching the miserable auberge at St. Gingo, the first news was
no beds." By infinite favour the landlord and his wife, at last, consented to resign theirs; another poor place was found to shelter two more; but for the fourth there was no possible room.
We agreed to draw lots, and it fell to my share to sit up all night. I threw myself on a couple of chairs, yet, spite of weariness, could not sleep; and my two friends upstairs, after creeping to their pigeon-holes, immediately got up again, as the sheets were damp and vermin abundant. They, however, laid outside on their travelling coats, till five in the morning, at which hour we had ordered a char à banc and post horses, back to Geneva, by the opposite side of the lake to that we had taken.
Valley of Chamouni-eleven o'clock at nightWednesday. Though now so wearied and expecting to be called at five o'clock the next morning, in order to view the Mer de Glace, and to ascend to the Jardin des Alpes, at an elevation of 8000 feet; such is the impression caused by Swiss scenery, that I cannot resist recording somewhat of the objects of the day.
In an open landau, and on a very fine morning, we arrived, after three hours' drive, at Bonneville from Geneva, to breakfast; and in justice to the aubergiste, it may be remembered that the whole meal was excellent, but that the honey was most delicious. For miles on the road, the apple and the pear-tree line the way, and we, very sensibly, amused ourselves in rival jumpings to catch the fruit as we rode along beneath their branches.
The nearer the approach to Sallenches, the more savage does the scenery become; entering narrow defiles, occasional breaks will discover all the luxuriant, boundless, verdure of the distant Pays de Vaud :-on the right, the lofty mountains are clad with beach and fir to their summits; the carriage rolls on the very verge of precipices; while on the left, the barren rocks of slate, of porphyry, and granite, piled upon each other, even to the very clouds, frown in sullen terror upon the insignificant beings beneath, threatening every instant to crush them; which fright is no little increased by seeing all around enormous masses of rock which, from
time to time, and in winter particularly, owing to the torrents of water which loosen them, have tumbled headlong; and whether dashed to pieces, or sinking by their own force into the earth, have carried havoc all before them. The effect is singular to see the clouds obscure the centre of the mountain, while, on the very summit, on particular spots, the sun may shine, discovering verdant fields, plains, and cultivated meadows, which seem to hang within the skies.
Arrived at Sallanches, a stage before Chamouni, whilst the sun was setting. One apparent golden éloud appeared conspicuous in the heavens; as a darker o'ershadowed it, blackening furrows, and silvery snows contrasted, proved it Mont Blane.
It were vain to attempt to describe the glorious appearance that this huge mountain and its stupendous heights make ;-the varieties of tints as the sun rises or sets upon it; the splendour of its colours; its green furrows; its blackening granite ; its silvery ice, and pinky, roseate hues; a mount specially sacred to the wintry, rigid Deities of Frost, but around and about which beneficent Apollo, as if for contrast, loves to show and play his brightest, rainbow beams.
With a char à banc* to accommodate three, and
* A char à banc is an oblong wooden form, suspended in a rude way; and is the only sort of vehicle practicable in these mountainous regions
Cascade of Chade.
with one mule, we set out from Sallenches for the Valley of Chamouni :-it rained almost the entire way, giving but little opportunity to observe the savage scenery. The valley itself is at the height of 3000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean; nevertheless in the still higher acclivities that line the road, occasional plains of verdure are found: here flocks are reared, while amid them are two or three huts, containing at present nine people, who consent thus to live, totally cut off from society, a visit to the villages beneath being an occurrence but once in a few years; in winter they are buried in snows, and at no time have they any other food than the bread and cheese they can make, with the milk of their goats and cows.
On the road, we diverged a little to view the cascade of Chade.-Nearly on the summit of the mountain, about 600 feet high, the waters issue in one broad stream: falling about thirty feet, the rock divides it into two; thence to the bottom the two torrents tumble headlong; yet winding with the rock, and dashed against many a projecting point, they continue to shower their silvery mists, till far below our feet they rolled peaceably along, and lost themselves in the windings of the vale.
The existence of the valley of Chamouni was unknown to all but its own mountaineers till the year 1741, when it was first discovered and explored by our countrymen, Messrs. Pocock and