By Rev. Charles Rockwell
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
The Cauterskill Falls—View of them in Winter—Column and Pillars of Ice—The Falls in 1865—Excursion to Blackhead—To South Peak—Cole’s Last Visit to the Mountains—His Death—His Residence—The Dutch Dominie of the Catskills—Its Author—Its Hero and Leading Character’s—The Spectral Looking-glass—Mirage—Fata Morgana—Mirage at Sea—Fawn’s Leap and Dog Hole—Mountains in Autumn and Winter—Indian Summer—Scottish Scenery—The Falls in Winter—Water Scenery of the Mountains.
The Cauterskill Falls
These falls are two miles from the Catskill Mountain House, by foot-paths through the woods, or by a boat to the foot of the Southern Lake, of which the Cauterskill Creek is the outlet; and thence through the woods, or two and a half miles by a pleasant mountain road, over which, during the summer, an omnibus runs twice a day. The falls are near the Laural House, kept by Mr. Schutt, a poplar summer resort for visitors and boarders. The creek there passes over two precipices, the first one hundred and eighty feet high, and the second, a few rods below, is ninety feet. The deep gorge into which the water falls, and the wild ravine through which it flows below the falls, are very grand and imposing. At the upper falls the rock projects eighty feet, so that one can safely pass behind the sheet of falling water. There is also a wild rude mountain path, along the stream and above it for three fourths of a mile, to the road which passes through the Cauterskill Clove. These remarks have been made as explanatory of the following sketch of Cole, of
The Falls of Cauterskill In Winter
"Winter, hoary, stern, and strong,
Sits the mountain crags among:
On his bleak and horrid throne,
Drift on drift the snow in piled,
Into forms grotesque and wild;
Ice-ribbed precipices shed
Cold light round his grizzly head.
Clouds athwart his brows are bound,
Ever whirling round and round.
"March, 1843.—We have often heard that the Falls of Cauterskill present an interesting spectacle in winter; and, February 27, a party of ladies invited Mrs. C____ and myself to join in this tour, in search of the wintry picturesque. Cloaks, moccasins, and mittens were in great demand, and we were soon glancing over the creaking snow, the sleigh-bells ringing in harmony with our spirits, which were light and gay.
"A snow-storm near the mountains, which proved transitory, added to our enjoyment; for, by partially veiling the heights above us, it gave them a vast, visionary, and spectral appearance. The sun broke forth in mild splendor just as we came in view of the Mountain House, on the bleak crags, a few hundred feet above us. Leaving the house to the left, we crossed the lesser of the two lakes. From its level breast, now covered with snow, the mountains rose in desolate grandeur, their steep sides bristling with bare trees, or clad in sturdy evergreens. Here and there was to be seen a slivery birch, so pale and wan that one might readily imagine that it drew its aliment from the snow around its roots. The Clove Valley, the lofty range of the High Peak and Round Top, which rise beyond, as seen from the road between the house of the falls, are, in summer, grand objects; but winter had given them a sterner character. The mountains seemed more precipitous, and the forms that inclosed their sides more clearly defined. The projecting mounds, the rocky terraces, the shaggy clefts, down which the courses of the torrents could be traced by the gleaming ice, were exposed in the leafless forests and clear air of winter, while along the grizzly peaks the snow was driving rapidly. There is beauty, there is sublimity in the wintry aspect of the mountains, but their beauty is touched with melancholy, and their sublimity has a dreary tone."Before speaking of the Falls as arrayed in wintry grab, I will give a hasty sketch of their appearance in summer.
"There is a deep gorge in the midst of the loftiest Catskills, which is terminated at its upper end by a mighty wall of rock. As the spectator approaches from below, he sees its craggy and impending front rising to height of three hundred feet. This huge rampart if semicircular. From the centre of the more distant or middle part of the semicircle, like a gush of living light from heaven, the cataract leaps, and foaming into feathery spray, descends into rocky basin one hundred and eighty feet below. Thence the water flows through a wild rocky pass of several rods, and falls over another rock ninety feet high; and then, struggling and foaming through the shattered fragments of the mountains, and shadowed by fantastic trees, it plunges into the gloomy depths of the valley below. The stream is small, except when swollen by summer freshets, or by the rains and melted snows of spring and autumn; yet a thing of life and motion, it is sufficient at all times to give expression to the scene, which is one of savage and silent grandeur. But its semicircular cavern, or gallery, is perhaps the most remarkable feature of the scene. This has been formed in the wall of the rock by the gradual crumbling away of a narrow stratum of soft shell that lies beneath gray rocks of the hardest texture. The upper rock projects some eighty feet, and forms a stupendous canopy, over which the cataract shoots. Underneath it, if the ground was level, thousands of men might stand. A narrow path, about twenty feet above the basin of the waterfall, leads through the depth of this arched gallery, which is about five hundred feet long.
"It is singular, a wonderful scene, whether viewed from above, where the stream leaps into the tremendous gulf scooped into the very heart of the huge mountain, or as seen from below the second fall; the impending crags, the shadowy depth of the cavern, across which darts the cataract, broken into fleecy forms and tossed and swayed hither and thither by the wayward wind; the sound of the water, now falling upon the ear in a loud roar, and now in fitful lower tones; the lonely voice, the solitary song of the valley.
"To visit the scene in winter, is a privilege permitted to but few; and to visit it this winter, when the spectacle is more than usually magnificent, and, as the hunters say, ‘more complete than has been known for thirty years,’ is, indeed, worthy of a long pilgrimage. What a contrast to its appearance in summer! Not leafy woods, no blossoms glittering in the sun, rejoice upon the steeps around.
O’er forests wide has laid his hand,
And they are bare—
They move and moan, a spectral band
Struck by despair.’"
There are overhanging rocks and the dark-browed cavern, but where the spangled cataract fell stands a gigantic tower of ice, reaching from the basin of the waterfall to the very summit of the crags. From the jutting rocks that form the canopy of which I have spoken, hang festoons of glittering icicles. Not a drop of water, not a gust of spray is to be seen. No sound of many waters strides the ear, not even as of a gurgling rivulet or trickling rill. All is silent and motionless as death; and did not the curious eye perceive, through two window-like spaces of clear ice, the falling water, one might believe that all was bound in icy fetters. But there falls the cataract, not bound but shielded, as a thing too delicate for the frosts of winter to blow upon."It falls, too, as in summer, broken into myriads of diamonds, which group themselves, as they descend, into wedge-like forms, like wild-fowls when traversing the blue air. This tower, or perforated column of ice, one hundred and eighty feet high, rests on a field of snow-covered ice, spread over the basin and rocky platform, that in some places is broken into miniature glaciers. Near the foot it is more than thirty feet in diameter, but is somewhat narrower above. It is in general of a milk-white color, and curiously embossed with rich and fantastic ornaments. About its dome are numerous dome-like forms, supported by groups of icicles. In other parts may be seen falling strands of flowers, each flower ruffed by the breeze. These were of the most transparent ice. This curious frost work reminded me of the tracery and icicle-like ornament frequent in Saracenic architecture, and I have no doubt that nature suggested such ornament to the architect as the most fitting for halls wherever flowing fountains cooled the sultry air. Here and there, suspended from the projecting rocks that form the eaves of the great gallery, are groups and ranks of icicles of every variety of size and number. Some of them are twenty or thirty feet in length. Sparkling in the sunlight, they form a magnificent fringe.
"The scene is striking from many points of view, but one seemed superior to the rest. Near by, and overhead, hung a broad festoon of icicles. A little further on, another cluster of great size, grouped with the columns all in full sunlight, contrasting finely with the sombre cavern behind. The icicles in this group appear to have been broken off midway some time ago, and form their truncated ends numerous smaller icicles depend. They look like gorgeous chandeliers, or the riches pendants of a Gothic cathedral, wrought in crystal.
"Beyond the icicles and the column is seen a cluster of lesser columns and icicles, and columns of pure cerulean color, and then come the broken rocks and woods. The icy spears, the majestic tower, the impending rocks above, the wild valley below, with its contorted trees, the lofty mountains towering in the distance, compose a wild and wondrous scene, where the Ice King
‘Builds in the starlight clear and cold,’
A palace of ice where the torrent falls;
With turret, and arch, and fretwork fair,
And pillars blue as the summer air.’
We left the place with lingering steps and real regret, for in all probability we were never to see these wintry glories again. The Royal Architect builds but unstable structures, which, like worldly virtues, quickly vanish in the full light and fiery trial.
"It may be asked, by the curious, how the gigantic cylinder of ice is formed round the waterfall. The question is easily answered. They spray first freezes in a circle round the foot of the fall, and as long as the frosts continue this circular wall keeps rising, until it reaches the summit of the cataract—as is the case this winter—though ordinarily the column rises only part of the way up. Even when imperfectly formed, it must be strange to see the water shoot into a hollow tube of ice, fifty or one hundred feet high; and I have no doubt it would amply repay one for the fatigue and exposure to which he might be subjected in his visit."The author, or rather the compiler, of this work, visited the Cauterskill Falls late in the winter of 1865, and found a hollow cone of ice reaching to the top of the falls, with here and there, near the base, a few openings as air-holes or ventilators; while the whole of the stream below, with the lower falls, was also encased in ice. The icicles from above, and the columns of ice below, formed by the water slowly dripping from the lofty precipices on either side of the falls, were also on a scale of gigantic grandeur, and more than royal magnificence and splendor; the ice, with the light which then shone upon it, having a rich, mellow, alabaster lustre, and a golden or amber tint and radiance. Late in February, or early in March, is the time to see, to the best advantage, the winter glories of the mountains and the falls.
Blackhead, spoken of below, is a high, steep, thickly-wooded, and almost overhanging mountain-peak, on the eastern side of the range, some five or six miles north of the Mountain House. its base can be reached by way of the valley through which flows the stream, near the foot of the eastern slope of the mountains.
Excursion To Blackhead.
"An excursion to Blackhead, or the Dome of Mountain, as Cole loved to call it, one of the finest portions of the Catskills, must always continue to be, both to the winter and the painter, one of the luminous points of the past. Our ride in the morning, over the finely-broken intervening country, through the fresh air, sweetly scented with millions of flowers in the fields and along the roadside, the likeness of which we see in many of Cole’s rich pictures, was one of those rides the very memory of which is beautiful and fragrant. At noon, thirsty and panting on the moss beneath the black fir-trees of the summit, we gazed, and listened, and grew cool and rested. Then followed the descent, the plunge down the wooded steeps, and the laughable mishaps from slips upon the slant, wet rocks, and trips among the roots, vines, and brushwood; all concluding with a pensive return homeward in the dark, loaded with blooming boughs, gathered while yet the golden rays of the sun were upon their crimson and snowy clusters."
Excursion To South Peak.
This mountain, more commonly called High Peak, and Round Top, already spoken of, are near each other, some five miles south-west of the Mountain House, in the range of lofty heights which form the southern wall of the Cauterskill Clove, extending far to the west beyond it, and crossed by the deep mountain gorge or ravine known as Stony Clove, on the almost perpendicular sides of which dark-green shrubs and trees thickly grow, as if suspended there by magnetism, or by some miraculous power; and through which flows a rapid, mountain stream, in which, each year, trout by hundreds and thousands are caught. Pine Orchard, where the Mountain House stand, is there thousand feet above the tide-water; Round Top is three thousand seven hundred and eighteen feet high; and High Peak three thousand eight hundred and four—or eighty-six feet higher than Round Top. The biographer of Cole speaks of High Peak as perhaps the finest for views in the whole grange of the Catskills. Cole made his excursion there in two days, with a party of twelve, the larger part of whom were ladies. He thus describes the manner in which the night was spent upon the summit of the mountain:
"Evening now closed around us. The red flame shot up its long tongue with a loud crackling, when the gummy foliage of the evergreen fir was sportively thrown upon the fire, and the smoke rolled away in luminous billows over the tree-tops, waving to and fro in the fresh night-breeze, and shining in the pale, green light. The heavens, even in their starry blue, seemed awfully dark, immeasurably deep. The trees nears us stood out in strong relief form the broad loom of the great mountain forest, and our house of boughs, all glowing with a flood of light. Except in its dark recessed, presented a scene of singular beauty. Within, reclining forms were dimly seen; while in front, figures in grotesque costumes of shawl and blanket, both sitting and standing, caught the vivid brightness on their faces and vestments. Every light was clear, every shadow mingled with the darkness of the surrounding woods, giving a unity of effect that does not exist by day. Every form thus united with the great shadow of the wilderness became, with trees and grass, part of the mountain top.
"Then came the hours of repose. One by one we sank down upon the fragrant branches of fir, the ladies in the more retired part, the gentlemen on the outer edge of the bough-tent—one in a shawl or cloak, and other in his blanket, and I in my brown monk’s-dress. The weary sleepers breathed heavily; the breeze at one time softly whispering overhead, at another rushing through the forest-tops with a fitful, melancholy roar; now afar off like the sea-surf, and now making the branches swing about in the dim light of our declining fire. Solemn, awful midnight! A thousand fancies came thronging on my mind. When the gray dawn broke in mildly, a solitary robin, on the mountain-side below us, was warbling his morning hymn. I shall never forget the quiet sorrow with which, in the course of the forenoon, we bade farewell to South Peak, and slowly took our way down the mountain."
Cole’s last visit to the mountains, arrayed as they were in the colors of October, occupied two days. He went to the top of the huge precipice on the side of South Peak, a point visible from his house, at a distant of some twenty miles, and commanding a wonderful prospect. From this dizzy crag he took a long and silent look up and down the beloved "Valley of the Hudson," which for near a quarter of a century had been the chosen and ever-cherished home of his heart’s affection and delight, as that he could, with the poet, truly say,
"Where’er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untraveled, fondly turns to thee"
He had gazed upon this valley from other points unnumbered times, alone, and with such companions as Bryant, Durand, Ver Dryck, and Huntington. It had filled his heart for years. This was his last look. A few hundred feet below, by a rivulet, expanding into a small glassy pool, bordered with moss, and roofed with the gay foliage of the month, he took his final mountain repast.
Soon after this, at his beautiful home in Catskill, he died, at the age of forty-seven years. Calm and strong in Christian faith and hope, he closed his eyes on earth, to open the spirit’s eye on brighter, fairer worlds above.
His residence, still occupied by his family, and his studio, with "The Cross and the World," his last unfinished painting in it, are a short distance beyond the beautiful cemetery which crowns the hill above the village of Catskill. In full view in front is the whole eastern slope of the mountains, around are beautiful plants and flowers, fruit and shade trees, and in the rear a lofty range of primeval forest trees, covering lovely, sloping grounds, for the fourth of a mile or more, down the banks of the Hudson.
The Dutch Domine Of The Catskills.
A Romance, partly historical, with the title above, was published in New York in 1861. Its author was the Rev. Dr. Murdoch, a native of Scotland, and educated there, though he preached for some time in Canada. He was pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church, in the village of Catskill, from 1842 until 1851, when his house and its contents, including his library, were burned, and the church in which he preached. He died a few years since, at Elmira, New York, where he was, from the time of his leaving Catskill, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church. He was a man of talents, of a vigorous, active, cultivated mind, and a lively imagination, with sprightly social qualities, and a pleasant vein of wit hand humor.
The hero of the Doctor’s romance was Dominie Schuneman, who during the part of the last century was the pastor of the Dutch churches in Leeds and Coxsackie, including Catskill and the region around—a man of power in his day. His son, Hon. Martin G. Schuneman, a giant in size, a man of great force and energy of character, was member of the Congress from this District in 1806 and 1807, and his children are still living in Leeds. The Abeels, of whose captivity among the Indians in early times and account is given in this work, with Frederick Saxe, the famous bear-hunter, who was a worthy and useful elder in the Dutch church in Kiskatom, Cornelius Wynkoop, in the same parish, and others, have also prominent place in the Doctor’s book.
The work in question, though somewhat disconnected and incoherent in its different parts, and not always observing the unities of time and place, has still passages and chapters of much vividness and power, especially in its description of the natural scenery and the action and movements of the elements, in connection with storms and other phenomena among the mountains. Dr. Murdoch also compiled the pamphlet entitled "The Catskill Mountains, as described by Irving, Cooper, Bryant, and others," which has been circulated for several years in this region, and extracts from which will be found in this work.
We here first quote from Dr. Murdoch’s book his description of what he calls
"The Spectral Looking-Glass."
By this he means what is called Mi-rage, which Webster defines as "and optical delusion, arising from an unequal refraction in the lower strata of the atmosphere, causing remote objects to be seen double, as if reflected in a mirror, or to appear as if suspended in the air. It is frequently seen in sandy deserts, presenting the appearance of water. the Fata Morgana and Looming are species of mirage."
Fata Morgana is a phenomenon which occurs at Reggio, in Italy, on the Straits of Messina, where, by atmospheric refraction, multiplies images of the objects on the shore around are seen in the air, over the surface of the sea. Looming is a magnifying and bringing near to one, in appearance, large and distant objects. The writer once saw this in a striking manner among the White Mountains, in New Hampshire, before a storm. In passing out of the harbor of Portland, Maine, too, is a steamboat, of a misty morning, many years since, the more than three hundred islands in the bay were seen by him, inverted in the air, the lowest point of the image touching the highest part of the island below. When sailing on the Mediterranean Sea, also, he once saw distinctly the image of a large ship high up in the clouds. In these cases, the moist air or mist acts as a mirror, so that at times persons see their own images reflected back to them, greatly enlarged, as in the case described below.
"At this point of their conference a movement was observed among the different groups, as if some object of interest had arisen. The wind rose from the north, lifting up the black cloud that had hung like a heavy sheet behind the, and was rolling it up like a scroll, so that the sun was coming out in a clear sky west of the mountains. On the flat rock were all the persons known to us, standing together on the verge of the cliff. When their attention was properly fixed, Teunis saw, for the first time, what he had heard the old hunters tell of, the Geest Wolk Waren—the Spirit of the Mist—seen only at rare times in these regions. There were huge masses of vapor passing in different strata, some of which were denser than others. That which was nearest to them was thin and transparent, reflecting all the objects which stood between it and the light thrown upon it from the clearer sky behind. It was indeed a moving mirror that slowly passed, as a panorama is unrolled before a company of spectators. There was, however, this difference between nature and art: the faces and forms of the persons looking on were the figures in the picture before them, taken instantly, and held up to them. Every one saw himself distinctly, and his nearest neighbor, only less vividly drawn. The whole was more like an artist’s dream than a reality. It seemed as if they could have walked out and touched the picture, till a moment’s reflection made them sensible that the whole was but a shadow. Teunis gazed first at this own outline, then on the tall, straight form of the Indian, who stood immovable. Behind the front group he saw those who had lain down on the laurel bed, and beside them several starting up in evident alarm. Others were rushing forward with curious and hasty looks of wonder at the strange sight; and around the place where hemlock branches had been woven into tents, some of the Indians were stooping, like Arabs when an alarm has been given caused by the mirage, when it had lifted the forms of an enemy above level of their sandy plains. Scarcely one of those present had seen the wonder before, and those who had heard of it were more inclined to regard it as a vision of a frightened imagination than a fact.
"Even the educated Englishman, Clifford, though affecting, through philosophy, a superiority to those around him, could not help showing an intense eagerness to see all to the close. He had read of such things among the Alpine heights, and could explain them, but his whole soul was for the moment absorbed in the sense of sight. Indeed, all were more eager to see than to speak, except one man, a Scotch Highlander, who, knowing of these sights in his own country, was anxious to tell of the famous speerman of Ben Cruachan, who saw, in the mists of the hills, the warning of Lochiel.
"The whole assemblage were awakened to the intensest eagerness. All were under an undefined feeling of superstition, as if what they saw was like the writing on the wall, which the profane king saw, ominous of his own doom. The sheet-cloud went slowly by, figure after figure melting into thin air. It was affecting to hear each one tell, afterwards, how he felt an internal shivering as he saw his own body dissolving, before his eyes, into nothing."Soon the whole east was covered with the same black cloud as before, while the thin, white vapor, which had served as a reflector, was wheeled round to the south and settled against the sides of the hill, which rises bluffy, a few hundred feet higher than Flat Rock. There again it became a new mirror, but far different from what it was before. Each one, instead of himself, saw his nearest neighbor to the right of him. Fear and superstition gave place to curiosity, and then to frolic and fun. One, who had been the most cowardly of the crew, gave a caper in the air, which threw others into the same absurd attitudes, until an hundred more were seen dancing around and hallooing like madmen. Solemnly and silently the figures in the cloud mocked the fools outside."
The Fawn’s Leap, Or Dog Hole.
This singularly wild and romantic gorge and whirlpool among the rocks, is a little above the lower bridge in the Cauterskill Clove, where there is a beautiful cascade, with a lofty, massive wall of rock overhanging it. A rude, narrow bridge, by which wood is brought over the stream from the mountains above, crosses it just below the Dog Hole, or Dog Pool, as Dr. Murdoch calls it. He thus speaks of it:
"It lies in a narrow ravine, below the rocks where the Cauterskill comes down and falls over the shelf into a basin, and hundred feet lower down. The whole is surrounded and overhung by trees and shrubs common to the region, and forms and amphitheatre of wilderness and beauty seldom surpassed. It is not so capacious as the falls near Pine Orchard, but has points of interest which surpass even the famous spot.
" ‘Do you see how that stream leaps down among the rocks? Did you ever see a lighter foot than that is, trusting to the air so confidently?’
" ‘No, never; and yet I have seen airy creatures who seem more the creations of fancy than of reality.
" ‘But how beautifully the whole stream loses itself in the haze which covers it with a veil thinner than the lightest gossamer.’
" ‘And there, again, see how it trips away down yonder, coming out of its misty curtains, fresh and fair, like a child running to its mother’s arms.’
" ‘The stream we are watching is dealt kindly by, for it is let down, step by step, in a far, roundabout way. You saw the two ponds they form the fountain head. About two miles below, the waters take a far higher leap than they do here. The further down it goes, the fall is less and less, till it becomes a smooth as your cheek, and as quiet as you old nurse’s voice, when she found you asleep in you cradle.’
" ‘The Dominie says that his young folks go off like the Cauterskill up here, and end like the quiet Catskill, in their old age, joining the great river rolling into the sea.’"
High Peak—The Mountains In Autumn And In Winter.
" ‘Let us walk, and please not to turn around till I tell you, for I want to point to what I think is worth seeing.’ When they had advanced about half a mile above the fall, Elsie said, ‘Now turn and look.’
"The sight was so overwhelming that Margaret was for a few moments in speechless rapture, High Peak, the majestic pyramid, stood out in bold relief against the southern sky, surrounded by numerous summits, great and small, among which he rose, like a king attended by his suite, who looked up to his crown with awe and delight. The October sun has spread a mysterious haze over the whole scene, which expanded rather than hid its greatness." ‘What do you see there?’ said the mountain damsel, proud of her own region.
" ‘My head is dizzy. Let me alone till I get over my bewilderment, and be able to comprehend what is before me. Oh ! what a stage is there for superior beings to descend upon and see the actions of puny mortals. Elsie, have you ever known any one to ascend that height?"
" ‘Oh, yes; I have been up there myself more than once. But it helps to humble one. I never feel myself so small as when I stand on that eminence and think what a mote I am. And yet I have felt my soul expanding above it all when I knew that I was an immortal creature, redeemed by the Son of God.’
" ‘That is like mounting from the foot of Jacob’s Ladder to the top of it at a bound. When I was in the city of Rome they took me into the great church there, called St. Peter’s, and do you know that when one beside me said he felt himself so small that he could sink, I said, presumptuous thing that I was, ‘My heart swells so that I fill all this house.’ You must have felt up there as I did in Rome.
" ‘Four times a year, Miss Clinton, do I come up to this place and look up; in June, when everything is in the greenest lustre; in August, when all is so rich and full; in October, when those various colors are painted by the hand of Nature; and again in winter.
" ‘Now I find out the cause of my confusion, Elsie; that wondrous variety of colors. This is what is called the Fall, and Indian Summer, when the foliage changes It is a new thing to my English eyes.’
" ‘And have you no Fall, no Indian Summer, in England?’ said the amazed girl. ‘No Fall ! No Indian Summer ! What, then have you?’
" ‘England is always green, like you June, Elsie; but what would they give for one glimpse of that mountain, clad in trees to the very crown, and every one of these trees in different colors, from the richest purple to the brightest yellow, and the whole robe intermingled with pale and deep green. But tell me what shrub is that covering all the ground so darkly red?’
" ‘We call that the laurel, which is spread all over the mountains as you see it beneath our feet. But look, here is my favorite flower at this time of year—the sumach. Let me put it in your hair for a feather—and tell me if ever the Queen of England had one so rich?"
" ‘Oh, what deep and pure scarlet ! Never, never would they believe me, were I to tell of it just as I see it in your hands. When do you call the mountain in its grandest array? I cannot imagine anything beyond what I am looking at just now. I have seen Mont Blanc, but there was nothing on it save the awful whiteness, which blinds and awes the spirit.’
" ‘Miss Clinton, to my mind the sublimest scene of these heights is to be seen in the white winter. The loneliness pleases me so that I then have a reverence for High Peak that I never feel at any other season. All than is so still that I can hear my heart beating. It is only at rare times that its real grandeur appears. One day, a few years ago, in January, I was here. There had been a thaw and a heavy rain for a whole day, which beat upon the snow without melting it, making it so hard that one could walk upon it without sinking. Towards midnight the wind came around suddenly to the north-west, and blew on of the coldest blasts I ever knew. The rain froze as it fell, so that not a tree, a twig, nor a leaf but hung icicles, clear as crystal. I came here when the sun was at the highest, and of all the sights that mortal eye ever beheld, it seems to me still that one surpassed them all. The mountain was one lump of glass, with not one dark spot on the whole. The trees all hung in crystals. The hard snow was frozen, and glittering to the very mountain’s top. It was one vast diamond, perfectly reflecting the different colors of the rainbow. I looked, but my eyes so filled with tears that I turned away, for I was ashamed to be seen weeping at what no one seemed to care for but myself."
Scottish And American Scenery Compared.
" ‘How would the valley down there compare with the scenery of Scotland? You have been up here, of course, in the daytime, and can judge.’
" ‘Oh, aye, sir; I have been up here hunting with the lads, and, to be honest, I think that it size of the country takes away from the feeling of pleasure I used to have when looked down from a Scottish mountain.’
" ‘But does not that make the sublimity all the more, if there be a sufficient variety of hill and dale, wood and water interspersed? And then, surely the forest, rising up as this does, to the very mountain tops, must be more beautiful at all times of the year than the bare furze on the Scottish mountains.’
" ‘Heather, sir; heather is the word. There is music in the very sound of it, and, as to the sight, I have seen nothing here that can compare with the bloom of the heather.’
" ‘Keeping out of view the association of the Scottish scenery, where, to my mind, lies the difference between it and what we see around us?’
" ‘I think, sir, that the chief difference between what we see here, and that of Scottish mountains and glens, lies in the fact that you can take in all Ben Lomond and the loch below, with the islands down to Dumbarton, and on to Tintock-top, at a glance, and it’s all grand; but here, man, everything is on such a grand scale, I cannot comprehend it. My head gets so dizzy that I feel as if my thoughts had turned into bumble-bees. Do you not feel something like it yourself, sir?’
" ‘I confess that my head is turned, after all that I have seen and heard this day; but, from what you say, there must be a fine uncultivated field for the future poet, in the very greatness and mistiness which meet in the far-off horizon, where the other mountain tops just peer through the clouds, and with that noble river, too, running through the centre, where the forests are ever living and moving.’
" ‘You are very eloquent on what you have never seen yet, but even your description does not come half way up to it; and as you say yourself, it will require some poet like Allan Ramsay to sing about it.’"
The Cauterskill Falls In Winter.
"His knowledge of the route soon brought him to the Cauterskill Falls, the place of rendezvous. The solitude, to minds like theirs, under the most painful suspense, was as much as they could bear. The ever-running water below, and the constant fall from above, affecting the two senses, hearing and sight, with the same monotonous din, and the same succession of airy spirits coming constantly through the narrow passage, and then leaping over into the cloud formed by their predecessors, produced a strange loneliness in there watching. And yet, as no man feels himself alone if a child be playing near him, so these men, when they saw that playful stream tripping down to the brink and then stepping off with ease, felt that they had communion with the spirit of the region." ‘This is more than I bargained for,’ said Bertram. ‘I expected to see a wild country along the shores of the river, but not this precious gem of the mountains.’
" ‘First impressions are always the most effective; but I have been here when I felt the influence of the scene far more than at present.’
" ‘Still, Captain, you cannot help admiring the grandeur of the whole amphitheatre as your eye ranges around in search of some single object on which to rest, till you fix it on the watery spirit which leaps from the shelving platform into the capacious halls beneath. Indeed, when I look again, I can imagine so many winged spirits, sent forth from on high, meeting again below, as in airy sport, first in that dark, mysterious gulf, from which they recoil, as a place of punishment, to rise where the sunbeams shine upon them, forming the whole into a glorious crown, fit for the heads of seraphim.
" ‘I will tell you what I once saw here. It was winter; the snow all crusted over so that it would bear man or beast. After a hard run, we had taken a fox, near the foot of the hill there. By the advice of Frederick Saxe, the bear-hunter, we went down to see the falls frozen. We came up from the deep ravine below, and suddenly saw what we were quite at a lose to understand, as we stood speechless before it. It was a high tower, reaching form the bottom to the tip of that lofty rock jutting our there, pure white, intermingled with glittering crystals. The stillness of the grave was around us. Some one whispered in my ear. ‘The year is dead, and that is its monument raised by the Frost King.’ Imagine, just now, that not a sound is reaching your ear—all that din stopped, and the murmuring altogether lulled, so that you could hear the beating of your heart.’
" ‘You don’t mean to say that the stream was all gone?’
" ‘No,’ continued the other; ‘the water ran as before up there, but was neither seen nor heard after it left the ledge at the top of the falls. Suppose, now, that from the place where we are sitting over to the other side of that "amphitheatre," as you call it, a round, thick tower of glass was built, hollow in the centre, rising up and up till it came to that shelf from which the water now runs, where would the drops go?’
" ‘Why, through the glass tower, of course. But what has that to do with your description?’
" ‘Everything; for there would be no murmuring sound of water as there is now; nor thundering roar, such as I have heard after a heavy storm, when that stream, now so small and tame, sprang like an angry beast, till it cleared the whole platform and fell into the lower basin yonder, two hundred and twenty feet.’
" ‘Yes, Captain, but your enthusiasm has made you forget your glass tower, which, as you describe it, must have been a large bottle, bottomless, taking in the whole stream at the neck and letting it run down its sides, so that it passed through below.’
" ‘Just so, and better than I could describe it. It was full eighty feet in diameter at the base, and one hundred and eighty feet high, pure as snow, till it rose to the neck, when it became clear as rock crystal, with the whole steam entering and passing through it, so as to be plainly seen.’
" ‘Certainly, that was a wonderful object, and equal to any of the peaks of frost I have ever seen or heard of. Does it rise so every winter?"
" ‘No sir. Old Fred said that he had hunted among the mountains forty years, and had seen it complete only once before. A half-bottle may frequently be seen, like what comes after a drunken frolic; but the perfect, full-blown vessel, out of nature’s glass-house, comes but once in a lifetime.’
" ‘I hope you had something warm to drink, Captain; for cold water, from a bottle of frost, may be good in a hot summer day, but in winter it is quite another thing.’
" ‘We had plenty of the hot stuff, sir; and it was dearly paid for, too, with broken heads and bones nearly cracked. A little more, and I would not have been here to tell the tale. After we had freely drunk of Santa Cruz rum, our brains began to swim, and some of us did not know whether we were on our heads or our heels. I was ready for anything; either to scale the tower from below, or to slide down from above. Through recklessness I began to climb. The rough sides of the gigantic thing allowed me footing, so that I reached one of the turrets, twenty feet from the ground, where I stood looking around me. All round, under the rocks, were huge pillars of ice, formed by the water which had flowed through the seams. It seemed a crystal theatre of display, and I have often wished that lights of a sufficient size and number could have been introduced, so as to show the effect of illumination is such a place.’
" ‘You must read, when you can,’ said Bertram, ‘the account of the Empress of Russia’s Palace of Ice, where the thing you wish for was tried with full success. Then turn to the Arabian Nights, and you will see the power of Aladdin’s lamp.’
" ‘Well, sir I stood on the turret, admiring my own daring as much as the wonders around me, when Jim Crapser, that imp of Satan, cried out, "Three cheers of Gabe." They were never given; one was enough. It seemed as if that single cheer would never stop. Crack ! crack ! crack ! went the pillars all around, falling in pieces as big as a cannon, and others like the trunk of a tree. As to the small lumps, they were like a shower of grape-shot, mixed with forty-pounders. It sounded and seemed more like the last day than any battle I have been in. More terrified beings I have never seen in actual danger, with no way to retreat. As for myself, I was in the safest place, in the centre, looking at the shower. But to this day I feel the shaking of the mass beneath me. If the three cheers had been give the whole tower would have fallen, and I would have been crushed beneath the fragments.’
" ‘That would indeed have been a tale worth telling for ever after. Buried by an avalanche, and swept away by the stream when the spring floods came.’
" ‘We left in double-quick time for a look at the ice-tower from above. It reflected the different colors of the rainbow, and was, indeed, a frozen rainbow, and was, indeed, a frozen rainbow. But the half of the wonders of this spot has not been told you. Come here in summer, and after a fall of rain, if you look up from below, you will see an entire rainbow—a complete circle; and though you may laugh, I will tell it: I have seen my face as distinctly in the centre, as I have ever seem it in the looking-glass. I have stood hours looking up into the wonderful glass, where I would sometimes see a single face, then one other; and as the sun shone out differently through the clouds, there would be faces all around the circle, constantly changing their position, like a mystic wheel revolving, till the head grew so dizzy that I have believed them to be faces looking down upon me from the upper world—though they were not always of the most pleasant kind.’
" ‘While you were telling me of those cheerings which shook icicles on you in showers, I was reminded of how Dante, the Italian poet, describes hell: where ‘Naked spirits lay down, or huddled sat, trying to throw from them the flakes of fire which came like snow. The devils called our to other devils, thrusting the soul back into the boiling pitch.’ And looking up, Dante saw them, walking on a mount of ice, their teeth chattering, and eyes locked up with frozen tears."Thus much of Dr. Murdoch and his romance, in which some may perchance think that he romances in good earnest, drawing a long low bow on his Scotch fiddle. As to this I will only say, that with regard to the falling of avalanches, and other large masses of ice and snow, when the heat of the sun and the air has made them very tender and frail, or has well-nigh detached them from the base on which they rested, or the mountain side on which they hung, it is known that the concussion of the air caused by loud tones a single human voice, or of may voices at a time, may cause them to fall with wide-spread and desolating force and fury. As bearing on this point, my friend and fellow-student in theology, Rev. Dr. Perkins, who has for many years been a missionary among the Nestorians in Northern Persia, thus speaks of that region:
"For nine years we have had a mission station on the heights of Koordistan, just at the bade of its loftiest mountain, which is fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea, and second in height to Mount Ararat alone, in that part of Asia. Cultivated men and women cheerfully forego the comforts of the mild plains of Persia, for the self-denials and hardships of a residence among those interior mountains. There is one young married couple, in a deep gorge of those central mountains, where the lofty encircling ranges limit the rising and the setting of the sun to ten o’clock A. M., and two P. M., much of the year; where the towering cones of solid rock, like peering Gothic spires, cast their pointed shadows from the moonbeams on the sky, as on a canvas—nay, rear their tops against that canopy, which seems to rest on them, as on pillars; and where, in winter, the terrific roar of avalanches, above and around, is one of the most common sounds that salute the ear. Often has the missionary scaled those mountains, and treaded their deepest gorges, to search out the sheep of those long-forgotten folds, and point them to the Good Shepherd. Sometimes he has crept along the steep and lofty cliff, towering threateningly above him, where whispers, at particular seasons of the year, must be his only means of communication, lest the sound of the human voice, by an echo, bring upon him an overwhelming avalanche, ever ready, at such season, to quit its bed at the summons of the lightest jar."
Dr. Murdoch’s book had in it numerous Dutch phrases and expression; a language with which he was not very familiar. Having loaned my copy of his book to a friend, who has a good knowledge of Dutch, he returned it with the following lines, among others, on a blank leaf at the end of the work:
Oh, Doctor Murdoch ! sin ye’re dead,
I ken there is nae m__kle need
To criticize you, or to rede
Anent your Dutch:
But were ye here, I’d say, indeed,
It’s mair like Scotch.
To see the water-scenery of the mountains, in all its richly-varied fullness, grandeur, and beauty, one should pass through the Cloves and visit the falls after a long and severe rain-storm, when the streams are wildly swollen and raging; when every ravine is filled with a fiercely-rushing cascade, and from every fissure in the rocks the water is gushing out, while over their tops, and from each cliff, copious streams are flowing; and the larger falls, with their swollen torrents and loud and deep-toned roaring, drown the voice and excite and rapturous and sublime.
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