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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/551

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547
ON MOUNTAINS AND MANKIND.

nations prior to A. D. 1600. I must content myself with the following specimens, which will probably be new to most of my hearers.

Benoît Marti was a professor of Greek and Hebrew at Bern, and a friend of the great Conrad Gesner (I call him great, for he combined the qualities of a man of science and a man of letters, was one of the fathers of botany as well as of mountaineering, and was, in his many-sidedness, a typical figure of the renaissance). Marti, in the year 1558 or 1559, wrote as follows of the view from his native city:

"These are the mountains which form our pleasure and delight" (the Latin is better—'deliciæ nostræ, nostrique amores') "when we gaze at them from the higher parts of our city and admire their mighty peaks and broken crags that threaten to fall at any moment. Here we watch the risings and settings of the sun and seek signs of the weather. In them we find food not only for our eyes and our minds but also for our bellies"; and he goes on to enumerate the dairy products of the Oberland and the happy life of its population. I quote again this good man: "Who, then, would not admire, love, willingly visit, explore, and climb places of this sort? I assuredly should call those who are not attracted by them mushrooms, stupid, dull fishes, and slow tortoises" ('fungos, stupidos insulsos pisces, lentosque chelones'). "In truth, I cannot describe the sort of affection and natural love with which I am drawn to mountains, so that I am never happier than on the mountain crests, and there are no wanderings dearer to me than those on the mountains. They are the theater of the Lord, displaying monuments of past ages, such as precipices, rocks, peaks and chasms, and never-melting glaciers"; and so on through many eloquent paragraphs.

I will only add two sentences from the preface to Simler's 'Vallesiæ et Alpium Descriptio,' first published in 1574, which seems to me a strong piece of evidence in favor of my view: "In the entire district, and particularly in the very lofty ranges by which the Vallais is on all sides surrounded, wonders of nature offer themselves to our view and admiration. With my countrymen many of them have through familiarity lost their attraction; but foreigners are overcome at the mere sight of the Alps, and regard as marvels what we through habit pay no attention to."

Mr. Coolidge, in his singularly interesting footnotes, goes on to show that the books that remain to us are not isolated instances of a feeling for mountains in the age of the renaissance. The mountains themselves bear, or once bore, records even more impressive. Most of us have climbed to the picturesque old castle at Thun and seen beyond the rushing Aar the green heights of the outposts of the Alps, the Stockhorn and the Niesen. Our friend, Marti, who climbed the former peak about 1558, records that he found on the summit (tituli, rythmi, et proverbia saxis inscripta unà cum imaginibus et nominibus