Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/550

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

has a day out from Hell, to the twin-crested summit, and show him the panorama of land and sea, of rivers and famous cities. The Vale of Tempe, the deep gap between Olympus and Ossa, beautiful in its great red cliffs, fountains and spreading plane-trees, was part of a Roman's classical tour. The superb buttresses in which Taygctus breaks down on the valley of the Eurotas were used by the Spartans for other purposes besides the disposal of criminals and weakly babies. The middle regions—the lawns above the Langada Pass, 'virginibus bacchata Lacænis Taygeta'—are frequented to this day as a summer resort by Spartan damsels. The very top, the great rock that from a height of 8,000 feet looks down through its woods of oaks and Aleppo pines on the twin bays of the southern sea, is a place of immemorial pilgrimages. It is now occupied by a chapel framed in a tiny court, so choked with snow at the beginning of June that I took the ridge of the chapel roof for a dilapidated stoneman. I have no time to-day to look for evidence in classical literature, to refer to the discriminating epithets applied in it to mountain scenes.

A third race destined apparently to play a great part in the world's history—the Japanese—are ancient mountain lovers. We are all aware that Fusiyama to the Japanese is (as Ararat to the Armenians) a national symbol; that its ascent is constantly made by bands of pilgrims; that it is depicted in every aspect. Those who have read the pleasant book of Mr. Watson, who, as English chaplain for some years at Tokio, had exceptional opportunities of travel in the interior, will remember how often he met with shrines and temples on the summits of the mountains, and how he found pilgrims who frequented them in the belief that they fell there more readily into spiritual trances. The Japanese Minister, when he attended Mr. Watson's lecture at the Alpine Club, told us that his countrymen never climbed mountains without a serious—that is to say, a religious—object.

India and China would add to my evidence had I knowledge and time enough to refer to their literature. I remember Tennyson pointing out to me in a volume of translations from the Chinese a poem, written about the date of King Alfred, in praise of a picture of a mountain landscape. But I must return to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe; I may go earlier—even back to Dante. His allusions to mountain scenery are frequent; his Virgil had all the craft of an Alpine rock-climber. Read Leonardo da Vinci's 'Notes' Conrad Gesner's 'Ascent of Pilatus'; study the narratives of the Alpine precursors Mr. Coolidge has collected and annotated with admirable industry in the prodigious volume he has recently brought out.

It is impossible for me here to multiply proofs of my argument, to quote even a selection from the passages that show an authentic enthusiasm for mountains that may be culled from writers of various