Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/85

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THE TABLE LAND.

The second day's ride of seven leagues, over a hilly country, increasing in interest at every step, brought us over the great dike of San Cristobal, to a village within three leagues of Mexico: and, at last, on the morning of the 18th, passing by the celebrated collegiate church of Guadaloupe, we quitted terra firma by the causeway from the north and half an hour afterward entered the gate of Mexico.

I would not here anticipate many observations upon the features and phenomena of the district now traversed, which may find a more suitable place in a future letter, but I cannot avoid observing, how, from the very moment of his descent from the mountains, the unusual scenes which open themselves before the traveller, prepare him as it were for that extraordinary and fascinating picture, which is presented to him on attaining the object of his toils.

The arid, glazed, and silent surface of those interminable levels, over which the whirling column of sand is seen stalking with its stately motion in the midst of a hot and stagnant atmosphere; and upon whose surface he continually sees painted the magic and illusory pictures of the mirage, with their transparent waters and reflected scenes: the huge dark piles of distant mountains, range behind range—the strange character of the colouring of the landscape far and near—the isolated volcanic cones springing up suddenly from the dead flats, and the lofty peaks of the great volcanoes far in the distance, gleaming in the blue sky with their snowy summits; the numerous churches, each with its dome and towers, mocking the deserted waste around, and the wretched groups of mud cottages in its vicinity, by its stately architecture; all this—seen through an atmosphere of such transcendent purity, that, vast as the expanded landscape seems, no just idea of its immensity can be formed from the calculations of the eye—imbodies forth, not perhaps the picturesque, nor perhaps the beautiful, but most assuredly the sublime.

And when approaching the main valley, the villages