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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/698

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PICTURES IN HOLLAND, ON AND OFF CANVAS.

successful; the young governor made a rally, but was driven back into a corner of the castle, while the rest of the garrison, belonging to Spinola’s famous Sicilian legion, fled helter-skelter into the town, not even destroying the bridge behind them. A body of picked troops and Maurice himself soon arrived, the palisade was beaten down, and they entered by the same way as the fatal turf-boat. Before sunrise the city and the fort had surrendered "to the States-General and his Excellency." The capture was not only important in itself, but was the beginning of a series of Dutch victories, the turn in the tide after the Spanish triumphs of previous years.

Next came Dort, with its bright little gardens, houses, churches, ships, canals, windmills, and river, — all seeming inextricably mixed, — and a savor of the Synod collected here to settle the Calvinistic, Lutheran, and Arminian disputes of Protestant countries, not very satisfactory in its results, as it settled nothing. The place was a favorite subject with Cuyp, and the numerous "views," two of which were to be seen in the last Loan Collection, the "Landing of Prince Maurice at Dort," in the Bridgewater Gallery, with Mr. Holford’s "View of Dart," are at least a much more beautiful consequence due to the existence of the town.

There is a curious romance about this picture; it was very long and narrow, and was cut in two by an unscrupulous dealer, thus utterly ruining the composition and balance of color, particularly in the sky. The two halves remained apart for years and were called "Morning" and "Evening" in the strange ignorance of both buyers and sellers of what constituted early light. At length the true relation of the parts was discovered, they have been once again married, and shine in the full glow of their warm beauty on Mr. Holford’s walls: one can hardly help feeling that they rejoice in their reunion. The luminous effect of the evening light on sky and river, hot and still, with the town and its windmills, and the summer morning effect of the "Landing," are equally admirable. The atmospheric effects in Holland are certainly very peculiar. When the landscape is not blotted out by the mists, the fog, and the rain, its extreme flatness (as at sea) allows long perspectives of light to be seen under the clouds down to the very low level of the horizon. This often produces wonderful beauty of light and shade, when the sun is shining on any point in the great sweeps of country generally there in sight. The chances of variety are also much greater with such an immense arch of sky, than when the lower circle is cut off all round by trees and undulations, more or less high, as is usually the case elsewhere. There is also a singular clearness in the air over great expanses of water or watery land, and of vivid color when the cloud-screens lift, which is infinitely attractive; while the reflected light from the plains of bright water gives a remarkable luminousness — which has certainly passed on to the canvas of the Dutch artists.

Further down the Maas comes Rotterdam, which is now the entrepôt for the trade between Java and Germany. It looks busy and full of life, with its forests of masts on the broad, muddy, vapid river, washing away a bit of land on one side, piling it up further on, on the ever-changing morasses formed where the Maas reaches the sea. Here first one sees that strange combination of dark red brick houses, trees, and canals, most picturesque, and strikingly unlike anything else in the world. Even Venice, to which it is so often compared, resembles it in the words of a description far more than in reality. The Dutch towns, with their deep sombre tones of color, do not in the least remind one of their brilliant Italian cousin.

The Hague is certainly the pleasantest and most peaceful-looking capital existing — "umbrageous" is the only word expressive of it, such is the amount of trees in every direction. "Trim retired leisure" is the general impression of the place, where women have time to squirt water at the fronts of their houses, and where the railway station is so clean that one might almost eat off the bricks. Still there is a busier and dirtier side to the town, connected with the trade to the sea. We looked down canal after canal, with long perspectives of bridges, men punting heavy barges with long poles thrust into the muddy black water or against the brick sides, leaning over so far that, at sharp turnings of the canals, it seemed as if they must overtopple themselves and fall. The boats were full of green cabbages and yellow carrots, baskets, mats hung up in rows, peat in neat little square cakes, the best from Gueldreland. In many of them women and children were living in the small cabins, half under and half upon the deck, and were sitting about in picturesque heaps. Some of the canals are now filled up and turned into streets, but the waterways, with bright lights and