Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/90

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snow-covered peaks arose on either hand, and they marched within sight and hearing of the great volcano which menaced their path, they gained, in fine, the western slope, and saw the green and cultivated fields and gardens spreading like a carpet at their feet, round the bright and inland sea which then encircled the "Venice of the Aztecs!" With what ravishment must they have marked the thousand specks which moved upon the waters round that broad city spread below, with its white roofs, streets, temples, and edifices? what must have been their amazement at descrying the long and solid causeways dividing' the waters; the innumerable towns and villages scattered over the surface of the fertile plain; and the huge circle of mountains which appeared to form like a bulwark on every side? No! I could not realize all they felt—but, amid the desolation of most of the ancient fields and gardens; the aridity and utter barrenness of much of the broad plain which now girdles the city in every direction; the diminished extent of the lake; the solitude reigning on its waters; the destruction of the forests on the mountain slopes; I still felt that the round world can hardly match the beauty and interest of that landscape. Even if man had destroyed, without in some degree repairing the wrongs he had committed to that lovely scene, by the fruits of his industry and genius, there is that about the whole scenery which is above him, and beyond being affected by him. But let us do the stern old conquerors justice. Their minds appear to have been imbued with the pervading spirit of the land which they conquered. All around them was strange, and wonderful, and colossal—and their conceptions and their labours took the same stamp. Look at their works: the moles, aqueducts, churches, roads—and the luxurious City of Palaces which has risen from the clay-built ruins of Tenochtitlan, at a height above the ocean, at which, in the Old World, the monk of St. Bernard alone drags through a shivering and joyless existence!

If the general features of the valley of Mexico are