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A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth

But the mountains are ecstatic


Reverting to his early letters from abroad one is struck by the anticipation of the modern attitude, in his description of a visit to the Grande Chartreuse, which he calls "one of the most solemn, the most romantic, and the most astonishing scenes."[42] "I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation that there was no restraining. Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry. . . One need not have a very fantastic imagination to see spirits there at noonday."[43] Walpole's letter of about the same date, also to West,[44] is equally ecstatic. It is written "from a hamlet among the mountains of Savoy. . . Here we are, the lonely lords of glorious desolate prospects. . . But the road, West, the road! Winding round a prodigious mountain, surrounded with others, all shagged with hanging woods, obscured with pines, or lost in clouds! Below a torrent breaking through cliffs, and tumbling through fragments of rocks!. . . Now and then an old foot bridge, with a broken rail, a leaning cross, a cottage or the ruin of an hermitage! This sounds too bombast and too romantic to one that has not seen it, too cold for one that has." Or contrast with Addison's Italian letters passages like these, which foretoken Rogers and Byron. We get nothing so sympathetic till at least a half century later. "It is the most beautiful of Italian nights. . . There is a moon! There are starts for you! Do not you hear the fountain? Do not you smell the orange flowers? That building yonder is the convent of St. Isidore; and that eminence with the cypress-trees and pines upon it, the top of Mt. Quirinal."[45] "The Neapolitans work till evening: then take their lute or guitar and walk about the city, or upon the sea shore with it, to enjoy the _fresco_. One sees their little brown children jumping about stark naked and the bigger ones dancing with castanets, while others play on the cymbal to them."[46] "Kennst dud as Land," then already? The

"small voices and an old guitar, Winning their way to an unguarded heart"?

And then, for a prophecy of Scott, read the description of Netley Abbey,[47] in a letter to Nicholls in 1764. "My ferryman," writes Gray in a letter to Brown about the same ruin, "assured me that he would not go near it in the night time for all the world, though he knew much money had been found there. The sun was all too glaring and too full of gauds for such a scene, which ought to be visited only in the dusk of the evening."

"If thou woulds't view fair Melrose aright Go visit it by the pale moonlight, For the gay beams of lightsome day Gild, but to flout, the ruins, Gray."

In 1765, Gray visited the Scotch Highlands and sent enthusiastic histories of his trip to Wharton and Mason. "Since I saw the Alps, I have seen nothing sublime till now." "The Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the mountains are ecstatic, and ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year. None but those monstrous creatures of God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror. A fig for your poets, painters, gardeners, and clergymen that have not been among them."


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