Fragrance of the Alps in Literature

Fragrance of the Alps in Literature

The path leads through thick woods, (broken, here and there, by patches of upland meadow) which clothe the side of the mountain for about the first two thousand feet. The overhanging branches and tangled underwood showed how little it was used, and we had sometimes a difficulty in clearing a passage for the rider as well as the horse. This part of the excursion was exquisitely beautiful. For the first thousand feet or so, the woods were composed chiefly of splendid beeches, but mingled with them was a sprinkling of ash, chesnut and walnut, which gave a pleasant variety of form and colour. Through their interlacing branches, we caught unexpected views of the Lakes of Thun and Brientz and the smiling plains which nestle beneath the shelter of the many ranges converging upon' Interlaken. These glimpses came so suddenly upon us, ever and anon, from some opening in the wood, and in the bright sunshine all nature was so radiant and lovely, that we seemed to be taking furtive peeps into fairyland. We wound our way amongst the stems of noble trees, and through rocks green with a rich carpet of moss, or by the side of a bank of wild flowers, laden with heavy dew and scenting the air with their grateful fragrance.
After the beeches came a belt of pines, firs and larches, separated from the lower strip of less mountainous trees by a broken line of verdant meadow-land where the wild flowers bloomed with great purity and loveliness. We were struck with the great beauty of a very familiar little flower—the common milkwort, which grows in remarkable strength and abundance; parts of the meadow looked quite blue with it. We found also, the large yellow fox-glove (digitalis grandiflora), which had a very brilliant effect. The air was fragrant with beds of wild thyme. The tall yellow sage (salvia viscosa) was conspicuous, from its size and the clearness of its colour. In the lower woods, on many of the banks, and clustered against many of the large stones, were quantities of the delicate asplenium ruta-muraria, (rue-leaved spleenwort) splendidly fruited. Beyond the meadows, near the upper skirts of the fir-woods, I gathered a noble specimen of the dark blue mountain centaury, growing in solitary pride.
Wandering among the high Alps
By Sir Alfred Wills

Indeed it is in this region that one finds the essence of Alpine scenery. Alp, as everybody knows, means in the mountains, simply a lofty pasturage. The peasant of course considers the hills simply as providing food for his cattle; and montagne in French, is used in a precisely equivalent sense. But though the use of the word implies a rather utilitarian view of things in its first properties, there is a meaning in the view that here is the essence of the Alps, for persons of a more romantic turn. Between the forests and the snows lies the most poetical of the mountain regions. There, when climbing upwards, you first feel that the bundle of earthly cares rolls off your shoulders, and that you have finally cleared the 'slough of despond '. There, in the early months, you walk knee-deep in flowers, every one of which is a bit of embodied poetry. When the snow has just departed, the fragile cup of the Soldanella makes a purple carpeting amidst turf which seems to have been scorched by the frost. Its delicate beauty suggests'that it is made rather of air than of earthly elements, and yet it ventures where no plant of grosser frame dares to rival it. To gather it seems to be sacrilegious; and you are forced to justify yourself for cutting short its career by the general argument of oppressors, namely, that, if you don't commit the crime, some less appreciative sinner, probably a coarse-minded cow, will commit it instead. And the Soldanella is only one amongst a throng of beauties to which justice could only be done by the author of the Midsummer Nighfs Dream. When descending from the sterner heights above, the Alp is equally delicious. There you hear the first sound that tells of life, the music of the cattle-bells which, to some unfortunately constituted person, at least, is the only music in the world not rather disagreeable than otherwise—probably because it makes no attempt at a tune. Most bells indulge in rather querulous reproach. It is time to get up, to go to church, or to come to dinner, they seem to be saying; and in another minute you will be too late. But the sound of the cow-bells, bursting out for a moment as a faint puff of air lends it wings, or the cattle make a slight movement, and then dying away fitfully and accidentally, dispels for a time the belief that such a thing as hurry exists. The words which set themselves to such music would be, 'take your time,' 'chew the cud,' 'think of nothing,' ' breathe fresh air,' and ' crop sweet herbage.' What can be more delicious than the regions with which such sensations are associated; the delicate beauty of the most exquisite flowers, the sound of cow-bells, and the fragrance of cow's breath: the softness of mountain turf, and the freshness of the mountain air; the rounded slopes of pasture in the foreground, and behind a rugged peak or two, fading into a mere flat shadow in the distance? Why not lie down on one's back, and enjoy the sleep of the hills in their loveliest recesses?
A Bye Day in the Alps by Leslie Stephen

"This sea of ice, which embosoms in its farthest recesses a little living flower-garden, whither the humble-bees from Chamouny resort for honey, is also bordered by steep lonely beds of the fragrant rhododendron, or rose of the Alps. This hardy and beautiful flower grows from a bush larger than our sweet-fern, with foliage like the leaves of the ivory-plum. It continues blooming late in the season, and sometimes covers vast declivities on the mountains at a great hight, where one would hardly suppose it possible for a handful of earth to cling to the rocky surface. There, amid the snows and ice of a thousand winters, it pours forth its perfume on the air, though there be none to inhale the fragrance, or praise the sweetness, save only 'the little busy bees,' that seem dizzy with delight, as they throw themselves into the bosom of these beds of roses.
The wonders of the world: a complete museum, descriptive and pictorial
By John Loraine Abbott

The path leads through thick woods, (broken, here and there, by patches of upland meadow) which clothe the side of the mountain for about the first two thousand feet. The overhanging branches and tangled underwood showed how little it was used, and we sometimes found a difficulty in clearing a passage for the rider as well as for the horse. This part of the excursion was exquisitely beautiful. For the first thousand feet or so, the woods were composed chiefly of splendid beeches, but mingled with them was a sprinkling of ash, chesnut and walnut, which gave a pleasant variety of form and colour. Through their interlacing branches, we caught unexpected views of the Lakes of Thun and Brientz and the smiling plains which nestle beneath the shelter of the many ranges converging upon Interlaken. These glimpses came so suddenly upon us, ever and anon, from some opening in the wood, and in the bright sunshine all nature was so radiant and lovely, that we seemed to be taking furtive peeps into fairyland. We wound our way amongst the stems of noble trees, and through rocks green with a rich carpet of moss, or by the side of a bank of wild flowers, laden with heavy dew and scenting the air with their grateful fragrance.
Wanderings among the high Alps
By Alfred Wills (sir.)

If you wish to see what nature can do in the way of rock-gardens, you should go to Switzerland in early spring. It is then that blue gentians spread out vast girdles of blossom over the Alpine pastures; then that the green slopes on the mountain sides are yellowed by globe flowers; then that the poet's narcissus stars with its white petals, and scents with its sweet perfume, the rich meadows on the spurs of the lesser ranges. Higher up, sheets of creeping rockplants, close clinging to the uneven surface, fall in great cataracts of pink and blue over the steep declivities. As the snow melts, upward, the flowers open in zones, one after another, upon the mountain sides, so that you can mark your ascent by the variations in the flora, and the different successive stages of development reached by the most persistent kinds at various levels.
Current literature, Volume 22
edited by Edward Jewitt Wheeler