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the road suddenly turns, and the traveller begins in reality to work up the steep. The road is well contrived to lessen the labour of ascent, winding gently up the mountains, and affording every
, where perfect security, though generally skirting the edge of a precipice. It presents some striking objects, such as the Abbey of Willtean, anciently Villitenum, the castle of Sonenberg, and, through a break to the west, a transient view of a most majestic mountain, rising from the midst of the surrounding glaciers, and lifting its pointed summit to the skies. Its craggy sides are sheathed in ice, and its brow is whitened with eternal snows*. Its height is supposed to be nearly equal to that of Mont Blanc, though in grandeur the mountain of Savoy yields to that of the Tyrol; because the former heaves itself gradually from the plain, and conducts the eye by three different stages to its summit, whilst the latter shoots up at once without support or gradation, and terminates in a point that seems to pierce the heavens.
The ascent still continued steep and without intermission to Steinach; and the cold, which hitherto had not much incommoded us, except at night, became more intense. The scenery grew more dreary, gradually assuming all the bleak appearances of Alpine winter. The last mentioned place, though situated amidst the pinnacles of the Rhetian Alps, is yet not the highest point of ele.vation; and the traveller has still to labour up the tremendous steeps of the Brenner. As he advances, piercing blasts blowing around the bare ridges and summits that gleam with ice, stunted half-frozen firs appearing here and there along the road, cottages almost buried under a weight of snow, all announce the regions where winter reigns undisturbed, and where the Alps display all
* This mountain bears, I believe, the very barbarous appellation of Boch Kögel.
their ancient and unchangeable horrors.-“ Nives cælo prope im“ mista, tecta informia imposita rupibus, pecora, jumentaque torrida
frigore, homines intonsi et inculti, animalia, inanimaque omnia rigentia gelu*.”
The summit, or rather the highest region of the mountain which the road traverses, is crowned with immense crags and precipices enclosing a sort of plain or valley : this plain was bleak and dreary when we passed through it, because buried in deep snow, and darkened by fogs and mists, and the shades of the approaching evening: yet it possesses one feature, which in summer must give it some degree of animation, of beauty, and even of fertility; I mean the source of the river Atagis, which, bursting from the side of a shattered rock, tumbles in a noble cascade to the plain. We had just before passed the fountain head of the river Sill, which takes a northward course, and runs down the defile that leads to Inspruck, so that we now stood on the confines of the north, our faces being turned towards Italy, and the genial regions of the south. At the post we once more entered sledges, and with great satisfaction began to descend, a vast mass of mountain hanging over us on the left, and the Atagis, now called the Adige, tumbling from steep to steep on our right. Night soon enveloped us, and we pursued our way with great rapidity down the declivity through Marck and Middlewald, and at length entered the episcopal city of Brixen, or Bressinone.
We had now passed the wildest retreats and most savage scenery of the Alps, once the impenetrable abode of fierce tribes of barbarians, and the haunt of associated robbers, who plundered with
the numbers, the spirit, and the discipline of armies. The Roman legions were not unfrequently impeded in their progress, and more
, than once stripped of their baggage by these desperate mountaineers. The expedition of Drusus, before alluded to, seems to have reduced the Alpine tribes, at least the Vindelici and the Rhæti, so far to subjection as to ensure a safe and easy passage through their territories for many succeeding ages. The incursions, invasions, and consequent anarchy, that preceded and followed the dissolution of the Roman empire, naturally revived the fierceness of the mountain tribes, and renewed the disorders of earlier.pe. riods. But these disorders yielded in their turn to the increasing influence of Christianity and to the authority of the clergy; two causes, which, fortunately for Europe, worked with increasing extent and energy, and successfully counteracted the prodigious efforts of ferocity, of barbarism, and of ignorance during the middle ages. So effective was their operation, that the Rhetians, from
. the most savage, became the most gentle of mountain tribes, and have for a long succession of ages continued to distinguish themselves by their innocence, simplicity, and benevolence: and few travellers have, I believe, traversed the Rhetian Alps, without having witnessed some instances of these amiable virtues.
It is indeed fortunate, that religion has penetrated these fastnesses impervious to human power, and spread her influence over solitudes where human laws are of no avail; that where precaution is impossible, and resistance useless, she spreads her invisible Ægis over the traveller, and conducts him secure under her protection, through all the dangers of the way. While rapidly skimming the edge of a precipice, or winding cautiously along under the loose masses of an impending cliff, he trembles to think that a single touch might bury him under a crag precipitated from above, or that the start of a horse purposely alarmed, might hurl him into the abyss below, and give the ruffian a safe opportunity of preying upon his plunder. When in such situations the traveller reflects upon his security, and recollects that these mountains, so savage, and so well adapted to the purposes of murderers and of banditti, have not in the memory of man been stained by human blood, he ought to do justice to the cause, and gratefully acknowledge the beneficent influence of religion. Impressed with these reflections, he will behold with indulgence, perhaps even with interest, the crosses which frequently mark the brow of a precipice, and the little chapels hollowed out of the rock where the road is narrowest: he will consider them as so many pledges of security, and rest assured, that as long as the pious mountaineer continues to adore the* Good Shepherd, and to beg the prayers of the afflicted Mother, he will never cease to befriend the traveller, nor to discharge the duties of hospitality. If French principles should unfortunately pass from the courts and the cities in the plains, to the recesses of these mountains, the murderer may shortly aim his rifle from behind the ruins of the cross, and the nightly banditti lurk, in expectation of their prey, under the roof of the forsaken chapel.
* Pastor bonus, Mater dolorosa; such are the titles often inscribed over those rustic temples; sometimes a whole sentence is subjoined, as, Pastor bonus qui animam suam dat pro ovibus suis *. Under a crucifix on the brow of a tremendous crag, I observed some lines taken from the Dies Iræ, a funeral hymn, which, though disfigured by rhyme, was justly admired by Johnson and by Lord Roscommon for its pathos and sublimity. The lines were,
Recordare, Jesu pie !
* St. John, x. 11.
Bressinone, in German Brixen, presents nothing very remarkable to the attention of the traveller. Its cathedral is neither large nor beautiful; and its claim to antiquity is rather dubious, as the
; name of Brixentes, in ancient authors, belongs not so much to the town, as to the inhabitants of the surrounding country. I need scarcely inform the reader, that the Brixia, alluded to by Catullus, is now Brescia, a well known and fourishing city in the plain below, between the lake Benacus and Cremona.
Brixia Chinæa supposita specula ;
The River Mela, described in these verses as a yellow and smooth flowing stream, and represented by Virgil as meandering through cultivated valleys, still retains its ancient name and character, and runs near the last mentioned town t.
The descent from the little plain of Bressinone is not so steep as the road which leads to it. On a hill not far from Chiusa stands the abbey of Sabiona, the only remains of the ancient Sabina: thus bearing its former name, with little variation. Chiusa or Clausen, once Clusium, ta kes ts name, as other towus of similar appellations, from its situation: as the plain, in which it stands, is terminated by a tremendous defile, whose rocky sides jut out so
* Catull. Lxv. 32. 34. +
tonsis in vallibus illum (florem) Pastores, et curva legunt prope Aumina Mellæ.
It is remarkable, that while Virgil calls this river Mella, Catullus, a citizen of Verona, gives it the exact appellation which it still retains, and which probably was then current in its neighbourhood.