MOUNTAIN-TOPS Frères de l'aigle! Aimez la montagne sauvage! Surtout à ces moments où vient un vent d'orage. Victor Hugo.
I belong to the great and mystic brotherhood of mountain worshippers. We are a motley crowd drawn from all lands and all ages, and we are certainly a peculiar people. The sight and smell of the mountain affect us like nothing else on earth. In some of us they arouse excessive physical energy and lust of conquest in a manner not unlike that which suggests itself to the terrier at the sight of a rat. We must master the heights above, and we become slaves to the climbing impulse, itinerant purveyors of untold energy, marking the events of our lives on peaks and passes. We may merit to the full Ruskin's scathing indictment of those who look upon the Alps as soaped poles in a bear-garden which we set ourselves “to climb and slide down again with shrieks of delight,” we may become top-fanatics and record-breakers, “red with cutaneous eruption of conceit,” but we are happy with a happiness which passeth the understanding of the poor people in the plains.
Others experience no acceleration of physical energy, but a strange rousing of all their mental faculties. Prosaic, they become poetical—the poetry may be unutterable, but it is there; commonplace, they become eccentric; severely practical, they become dreamers and loiterers upon the hillside. The sea, the wood, the meadow cannot compete with the mountain in egging on the mind of man to incredible efforts of expression. The songs, the rhapsodies, the poems, the æsthetic ravings of mountain worshippers have a dionysian flavour which no other scenery can impart.
Yesterday I left the turmoil of a conference in Geneva and reached home amongst my delectable mountains. I took train for the foot of the hills and climbed for many hours through drifts of snow. This morning I have been deliciously mad. First I greeted the sun from my open chalet window as it rose over the range on my left and lit up the great glacier before me, throwing the distant hills into a glorious dream-world of blue and purple. Then I plunged into the huge drifts of clean snow which the wind had piled up outside my door. I laughed with joy as I breathed the pure air, laden with the scent of pines and the diamond-dust of snow. I never was more alive, the earth was never more beautiful, the heavens were never nearer than they are to-day. Who says we are prisoners of darkness? Who says we are puppets of the devil? Who says God must only be worshipped in creeds and churches? Here are the glories of the mountains, beauty divine, peace perfect, power unfathomable, love inexhaustible, a never failing source of hope and light for our struggling human race. I am vaguely aware of the unreasonableness of my delirium of mountain joy, but I revel in it. And I sing with Sir Lewis Morris—More it is than ease, Palace and pomp, honours and luxuries, To have seen white presences upon the hills, To have heard the voices of the eternal gods....