Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/379

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XIX.

 

POPOCATAPETL.

 
"I could not, ever and anon, forbear

To glance an upward look on two huge peaks,
That from some other vale peered into this."

FOUR snow-covered mountain peaks gleam in the sun in Mexico, making it famous among the countries of the world. There are but two higher on the continent of North America, for the lowest of the four reaches sixteen thousand feet.

First, nearest the Gulf of Mexico, is Orizaba, visible at sea before the coast of Mexico is discovered. This reaches an altitude of seventeen thousand three hundred feet, and is second only to the giant of all, Popocatapetl, whose hoary head is lifted up seventeen thousand eight hundred feet above the sea. Iztaccihuatl and the Volcan de Toluca next appear, each about sixteen thousand feet in height.

Far above the wall of mountains that surrounds the valley of Mexico towers the mighty Popocatapetl, visible from the city of Mexico, and one of the most beautiful objects that grace that land of glorious scenery. It is the first to greet the traveller's eye and enchain his attention as he enters the Mexican valley, the first he later seeks in the morning, the last he loves to look upon at evening time.

Though called an active volcano, it has emitted nothing but sulphur fumes, and perhaps a little smoke, within the memory of man. Yet it may be only resting, for the old historians affirm that it was active in the first years of the conquest, and its very name, Popocatapetl, signifies "the smoking mountain."

Volcanoes take their rest like human beings, and we have only