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chief town, not remarkable except for those miserable objects called Cretins, the very lowest class of idiots, some of whom are insensible even to blows. We saw also many persons afflicted with the goitre. Above the town, on a lofty rock, stands an old castle, and, on another rock, the ruins of a second, wearing the appearance of much antiquity, and which I would fain have visited.
This was the fourth day of our journey. We had experienced extreme heat in Burgundy, but the weather was now become very cool, and heavy rain fell the whole day. Our route still lay between towering mountains, snowcapped, the Rhone constantly by our side, although we crossed it four or five times. This valley was the principal scene of the brave but unavailing struggle made against the overpowering numbers of the invading French in 1798. In summer the reflected heat here is very great: the fruits almost of the torrid zone ripen within view of eternal ice and snow. Some have attributed the goitre and cretinism to the stagnant air confined at the bottom of these valleys. In this part of the country, German, or a sort of German, is spoken; but as the traveller is not supposed to be provided with it, French is preserved for his use. At one of the Posthouses I noticed the inscription, "Post à Shi
val;" the latter word being, as I imagined, a Germanico-Helvetico mode of writing cheval. The Rhone here at times becomes a marsh, while at others it is a rapid torrent; and the valley at some places opens so as to admit of its being skirted by a few meadows, at others contracts so as scarcely to allow it to pass. The sides of the mountains are clothed with wood and vineyards up to the very limits of vegetation; and studded with white cottages and cabins at almost every height-frequently in situations, which, to any one but a Swiss mountaineer, would seem absolutely inaccessible-nay, how some of them can be reached, except on hands and knees, I am at a loss to conceive. I was amused by my companion the Courier's applying the common French colloquial expression, ta-bas," to a house perched some thousand feet above our heads: but, with a Parisian, every position, high or low, is "la-bas."
About three o'clock in the afternoon we reached Brigg, a town at the foot of the mountains of the Simplon, the most tremendous of the passes between Italy and the north of Europe. Here we halted to go through the ceremony of dinner, which, in travelling, one acquires a habit of performing every day, at least if opportunities offer. At Brigg, the
gigantic elevations which had hitherto afforded us a passage between their bases, closed in a semicircle before us, as if to form an insurmountable obstacle to our farther progress. On looking however to the right hand, southward, we perceived a road lying and winding like a thread round the side of the mountain, till it was lost in a black forest of pines. This is the celebrated work of the Simplon, one of the most striking proofs of the contempt in which Napoleon held what common mortals call impossibilities. The road he found here was practicable only on foot or on horse-back, in many places presenting only a foot-width between a precipice and a perpendicular rock; and travellers were carried along it by Alpine chairmen, or by mules whom it was necessary to abandon to their instinctive prudence. At present, the heaviest carriages pass by a magnificent highway, cut as a shelf on the sides of the rocks, which are in several instances pierced by a sort of grotto, or gallery, to afford a passage. I regretted much that it was so late as four o'clock in the afternoon when we began to ascend: the rain, however, which had fallen heavily the whole morning, was obliging enough to disperse: I was happy therefore in an opportunity of escaping from the carriage, and walking by its side for an
hour, which enabled me to enjoy the prospects to more advantage. They were magnificent beyond description. All around were mountains piled on mountains, their summits presenting peaks and plains of snow, which dazzled the eye by reflecting the sunshine; while half-way down hung precipices, rocks, and woods, mingled in wild confusion; and, far below, lay the valley we had traversed, the Rhone looking like a silver line, and the town of Brigg resembling a collection of play-thing houses, which one might have fancied could be taken in the hand. The evening closed in we were still climbing, to my extreme annoyance.
About midnight we had reached the greatest elevation of this grand road, which is, I believe, nearly seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. The rain had again begun to fall in torrents, enveloping us as in a sheet of the thickest mist or cloud. When this had cleared, the effect of the entire scene around us was indeed awfully impressive. My fellow-traveller, (who was on his forty-fourth journey between Paris and Naples,) was comfortably asleep; and the postillions were walking beside their horses, guiding them by low moaning cries: but, for me, I was wholly absorbed in the wild grandeur of the surrounding objects, which,
but half visible beneath the faint light of the moon, presented just such a mixture of illumination and obscurity, as is in the highest degree favourable to the sublime. Snow having fallen the day previously, the huge mountain rising almost perpendicularly on our left was mantled with it to its summit, which was lost in a wreath of clouds. On the right, a precipice of snow gradually darkened into a black yawning abyss, whose horrid depths the eye sought in vain to fathom. The mountain torrents, swollen by the rains, were thundering into the valleys around with deafening clamour; some from above, some from below, some from beneath the masses of snow beside us. Beyond the hideous clefts we were toiling round, the sight was carried over long whitened plains, or met by the black side of a mountain wholly devoid of vegetation, against whose towering mass the patches and lines of snow created an infinity of forms. My fancy made of them gigantic figures of monks and spectres, armed warriors, and dames in flowing robes; and had the Alps been the country of Ossian, I could have named as I imagined them starting into life, indignant that such puny beings as ourselves should intrude within their savage haunts. We passed the summits, and, after descending for a while, reached the village of the