Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

2. The valley is of such irregular width, and bends so much and often so abruptly, that there is great variety and frequent surprise in the forms and combinations of the overhanging rocks as one rides along the bank of the stream. The patches of luxuriant meadow, with their dazzling green, and the grouping of the superb firs, two hundred feet high, that skirt them, and that shoot above the stout and graceful oaks and sycamores through which the horse-path winds, are delightful rests of sweetness and beauty amid the threatening awfulness.

3. The Merced, which flows through the main pass, is a noble stream, a hundred feet wide and ten feet deep. It is formed chiefly of the streams that leap and rush through the narrower passes, and it is swollen, also, by the bounty of the marvelous waterfalls that pour down from the ramparts of the wider valley. The sublime poetry of Habakkuk is needed to describe the impression, and, perhaps, the geology, of these mighty fissures: "Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers." 4. At the foot of the break-neck declivity of nearly three thousand feet by which we reach the banks of the Merced, we are six miles from the hotel, and every rod of the ride awakens wonder, awe and a solemn joy. As we approach the hotel, and turn toward the opposite bank of the river, what is that

"Which ever sounds and shines,

A pillar of white light upon the wall
Of purple cliffs aloof descried"?

That, reader, is the highest waterfall in the world-the Yosemite cataract, nearly twenty-five hundred feet in its plunge, dashing from a break or depression in a cliff thirty-two hundred feet sheer.

5 A writer who visited this valley in September calls the cataract a mere tape-line of water dropped from the sky. Perhaps it is so, toward the close of the dry season; but as we saw it, the blended majesty and beauty of it, apart from the

Pronounce Yosemite, Yo-sem'i-te; Sierra, Se-ĕr'ra; a in Ne-va'da like a in father; x in lux-u'ri-ant like gz; th in beneath and in paths vocal, as in breathe; toward, tõard; basin, bas'n.

general sublimities of the Yosemite gorge, would repay a journey of a thousand miles. There was no deficiency of water. It was a powerful stream, thirty-five feet broad, fresh from the Nevada, that made the plunge from the brow of the awful precipice.

6. At the first leap it clears fourteen hundred and ninetyseven feet; then it tumbles down a series of steep stairways four hundred and two feet, and then makes a jump to the meadows five hundred and eighteen feet more. The three pitches are in full view, making a fall of more than twentyfour hundred feet. But it is the upper and highest cataract that is most wonderful to the eye, as well as most musical. The cliff is so sheer that there is no break in the body of the water during the whole of its descent of more than a quarter of a mile. It pours in a curve from the summit, fifteen hundred feet, to the basin that hoards it but a moment for the cascades that follow.

7. And what endless complexities and opulence of beauty in the forms and motions of the cataract! It is comparatively narrow at the top of the precipice, although, as we said, the tide that pours over is thirty-five feet broad. But it widens as it descends, and curves a little on one side as it widens, so that it shapes itself, before it reaches its first bowl of granite, into the figure of a comet. More beautiful than the comet, however, we can see the substance of this watery loveliness ever renew itself and ever pour itself away.

"It mounts in spray the skies, and thence again

Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,

Is an eternal April to the ground,

Making it all one emerald:-how profound

The gulf! and how the giant element

From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs!"

8. The cataract seems to shoot out a thousand serpentine heads or knots of water, which wriggle down deliberately

through the air and expend themselves in mist before half the descent is over. Then a new set burst from the body and sides of the fall, with the same fortune on the remaining distance; and thus the most charming fretwork of watery nodules, each trailing its vapory train for a hundred feet or more, is woven all over the cascade, which swings, now and then, thirty feet each way, on the mountain side, as if it were a pendulum of watery lace. Once in a while, too, the wind manages to get back of the fall, between it and the cliff, and then it will whirl it round and round for two or three hundred feet, as if to try the experiment of twisting it to wring it dry.

9. Of course I visited the foot of the lowest fall of the Yosemite, and looked up though the spray, five hundred feet, to its crown. And I tried to climb to the base of the first or highest cataract, but lost my way among the steep, sharp rocks, for there is only one line by which the cliff can be scaled. But no nearer view that I found or heard described is comparable with the picture, from the hotel, of the cometcurve of the upper cataract, fifteen hundred feet high, and the two falls immediately beneath it, in which the same water leaps to the level of the quiet Merced.


[ocr errors]





SELECT ETYMOLOGIES.-Bounty: L. bon'itas; fr. bon'us, good. . . . Cataract: Gr. katarak'tēs; fr. kat'a, down, and rēg'nunai, to break. Curve: L. cur'vus, crooked, bent. ... Dazzle: dimin. of daze; fr. the Scotch dase, to stupefy. . . . Declivity: L. decliv'itas; fr. de and cli'vus, a slope; h., ac-clivity, pro-clivity. Deficient: L. defi'ciens; fr. de and fa'cio, I make. Frequent: L. frè'quens. . Hotel: L. L. hospita'le; fr. L. hos'pes, hos'pitis, a guest, a host; h., hospitable, hospital, host, hostler, in-hospitable. Nodule: L. no'dulus, a little knot; fr. no'dus, a knot; h., node. Opulence: L. opulen'tia; fr. ops, op'is, riches. . . . Picture: L. pictu'ra; fr. pin'go, pic'tum, to paint; h., de-pict, paint, pictorial, picturesque, pigment. September: fr. L. sep'tem, seven, September being the seventh month formerly, when the year commenced with March. Serpentine: L. serpenti'nus; fr. ser'po, I creep. . . . Sierra: a Spanish word; fr. the L. serra, a saw; fr. the resemblance of a chain of mountains to the teeth of a saw; h., serrate.... Solemn : L. solem'nis; fr. sol'lennis, that takes place every year (sol'lus = totus, all, an'nus, year), referring to Roman religious ceremonies. . . . Vapor: L. vap'or, steam; h., evaporate, vapid, etc. Vary: L. vår'io, varia'tum; fr. văr'ius, diverse; h., in-variable, variation, variegate, variety, various.




"HAVE, then, thy wish!" He whistled shrill, And he was answered from the hill;

Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.
Instant, through copse and heath arose
Bonnets and spears and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprang up at once the lurking foe.
From shingles gray the lances start,
The bracken bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow-wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.
That whistle garrisoned the glen
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterranean host had given.
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood, and still;
Like the loose crags, whose threat'ning mass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge

Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung,
Upon the mountain-side they hung.

The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,

Then fixed his eye and sable brow

Full on Fitz-James: "How say'st thou now?

These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;

And, Saxon, I am Roderick Dhu!"


Fitz-James was brave. Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,
He manned himself with dauntless air,
Returned the chief his haughty stare.
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."

Sir Roderick marked, and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.

Short space he stood, then waved his hand:
Down sank the disappearing band;
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Sank brand and spear and bended bow
In osiers pale and copses low;
It seemed as if their mother-earth
Had swallowed up her warlike birth.
The wind's last breath had tossed in air
Pennon and plaid and plumage fair-
The next but swept a lone hillside,

Where heath and fern were waving wide;

The sun's last glance was glinted back

From spear and glave, from targe and jack;*

The next, all unreflected, shone

On bracken green and cold gray stone.

*The iron jack, or jacques de maille-a back and breastplate of ironwas worn by the Highlanders as late as the sixteenth century. The jack or surcoat was made of various materials-linen, leather, silk, etc.—and embroidered with the arms or badges of the different leaders. The English soldiers wore on their jacks the cross of St. George, the Scottish, that of St. Andrew; hence, after the union of the two nations the flag bearing the two crosses was called the Union Jack.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »