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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/547

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ON MOUNTAINS AND MANKIND.

ON MOUNTAINS AND MANKIND.
By DOUGLAS W. FRESH FIELD,

PRESIDENT OF THE GEOGRAPHICAL SECTION OF THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION.

WE have all of us seen hills, or what we call hills, from the monstrous protuberances of the Andes and the Himalaya to such puny pimples as lie about the edges of your fens. Next to a waterfall, the first natural object (according to my own experience) to impress itself on a child's mind is a hill, some spot from which he can enlarge his horizon. Hills, and still more mountains, attract the human imagination and curiosity. The child soon asks, 'Tell me, how were mountains made?' a question easier to ask than to answer, which occupied the lifetime of the father of mountain science, De Saussure. But there are mountains and mountains. Of all natural objects the most impressive is a vast snowy peak rising as a white island above the waves of green hills—a fragment of the arctic world left behind to commemorate its past predominance—and bearing on its broad shoulders a garland of the Alpine flora that has been destroyed on the lower ground by the rising tide of heat and drought that succeeded the last glacial epoch. Mid-summer snows, whether seen from the slopes of the Jura or the plains of Lombardy, above the waves of the Euxine or through the glades of the tropical forests of Sikhim, stir men's imaginations and rouse their curiosity. Before, however, we turn to consider some of the physical aspects of mountains, I shall venture, speaking as I am here to a literary audience, and in a university town, to dwell for a few minutes on their place in literature—in the mirror that reflects in turn the mind of the passing ages. For geography is concerned with the interaction between man and nature in its widest sense. There has been recently a good deal of writing on this subject—I can not say of discussion, for of late years writers have generally taken the same view. That view is that the love of mountains is an invention of the nineteenth century, and that in previous ages they had been generally looked on either with indifference or positive dislike, rising in some instances to abhorrence. Extreme examples have been repeatedly quoted. We have all heard of the bishop who thought the devil was allowed to put in mountains after the fall of man; of the English scribe in the tenth century who invoked 'the bitter blasts of glaciers and the Pennine host of demons' on the violaters of the charters he was employed to draft. The examples on the other side have been comparatively neglected. It seems time they were insisted on.