« السابقةمتابعة »
Silence accompanied ; for beast and bird,
-now glowed the firmament.
Seated upon a rock, we for a long time contemplated this exquisite scene, till at length the calls of sleep induced us to descend into our cabin, where our accommodations were very comfortable. With the sun, which was an early riser, we unmoored, and advanced but very slowly; as we proceeded, misery in a new shape presented itself. From a wretched hovel, upon one of the islands which began to appear in clusters, hanging over the edge of the water, and ready to drop into it, an old man in rags, and nearly blind, put off in a little crazy boat, and rowing towards us, implored our charity in the most touching manner, and seemed very grateful for the trifle we gave him.
In the evening, having made but little way, the master again moored the vessel to another island for the night; as I found was the custom, on account of the danger and difficulty of the navigation. This island was indeed a most enchanting scene; upon its romantic summit of gray rock we found a little cottage, embowered in trees of fir, ash, and elder, that might well be called the peasant's nest.” A fisherman, his aged 'mother, his wife and his children, formed the population of this beautiful spot. A little field of grass,
in which a cow was grazing, another of corn, a garden, and the waters of the Baltic, which again resembled a lake, supplied them with all their wants, and all their riches. Here it seemed as if the heart could no longer ache, as if ambition might wish to be what he beheld, and that love might ponder on the past without a pang. The inside of the cottage was neat and cheerful; the good old lady, with the children in their shirts playing round her, sat knitting by the light of a sprightly fire, and under locks of snow presented a face at peace with all the world. Upon hearing that we wished to have some supper, the fisherman, with a countenance of health and gaiety, descended into a little creek, where his boats were moored, for some perch, confined in a wicker-well in the water, whilst his young wife, who had a pair of very sweet expressive eyes, laid the cloth in a detached room facing the cottage. Whilst supper was preparing I rambled over this little paradise. Night came on, and all the beauties of the preceding evening, with some variety of new forms, returned; the same bright bespangled. Heaven! the same serenity ; the same silence ! yielding only to the unceasing rippling of a little stream of rock water, to which, as it gushed from a bed of long moss, and as our fair hostess presented her pitcher, thriftily fenced with wicker, might be applied the beautiful inscription of Bosquillon, on the fountain in the street of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris :
“ La nymphe qui donne de cette eau
Au plus creux de rocher se cache:
Donnez sans vouloir qu'on le sache.”
Or thus in English:
“ Prompt to relieve, tho' viewless wrapp'd in stone,
It was just such a spot as the poetical spirit of Cowper would have coveted: his eye would have penetrated, and his pen could alone have painted every beauty.
On the third day of this voyage of islands, we touched at another, and procured a noble pike, fresh from the net, and some eggs. Our skipper very ingeniously kindled a fire and cooked it in his little canoe, which was towing astern, by placing upon the bottom of it a large stone, upon which he set fire to some chips and pieces of fir, and suspended over it, from an oar laid across the sides of the boat, an iron pot containing the fish; our eggs formed the sauce, and with a broken saucer for a plate, we made an excellent Robinson Crusoe repast.
One morning, as I was looking over the deck from the stern, I beheld an operation somewhat ridiculous; but as it originated in rude notions of cleanliness, and moreover is one of the domestic customs of the country, I shall relate it. Our skipper was lying at the feet of a good-natured brawny girl, who was a passenger; his head was on her lap, just as Goliah some time since rested his in that of Delilah; but the fingers of our fair companion were more kindly employed than were those of the woman of the valley of Sorek: the skipper had no comb, perhaps never heard of such a thing, and this kind-hearted creature was sedulously consigning with a humane, because an instantaneous destruction of sensation in every vital part by an equal and forcible pressure, every restless disturber of his peace in thạt region, which most assuredly must be, though doctors may dispute the point, the seat of reason; the cabin-boy succeeded his master, and in return, with the keen eye and nimble finger of a monkey, gratefully repaid the obligation upon the head of his benefactress. In Italy, these engaging little offices of kindness constitute the principal delights of courtship.
The islands, after we had passed Aland, and as we approached the gulf, ceased to present any picturesque object; they appeared but a little above the water, and were scantily covered with slender weak firs, whose naked branches were whitened over with hoary moss, and at length, from their number and similarity, became very tedious, and as dull as the melancholy forests through which our road lay on shore.
In the midst of the heavy ennui inseparable from such a situation, by good fortune, upon rummaging my portmanteau, I found a catalogue of the year's exhibition; with this precious prize in my hand, I jumped into the little canoe astern, and defied the gloom of the rocks and firs; with fresh vigour my memory revisited that splendid gallery of the British arts. The genius of West, of Westall, and of Smirke, in history; of the Daniells, and of Turner, in landscape; and Lawrence, in portrait painting, again filled my mind with the proudest sensations of delight. During these meditations I had prevailed upon the president and council to confine the admission of portraits to a certain number, that the public eye might no longer be confused and disgusted by a mob of faces, in which nature had done nothing for the originals, or the painter but little for nature. With a thrifty use of my treasure, it lasted till the tenth, when, as I was gazing in my mind's eye, with silent rapture, upon the bust of the lovely lady Ribblesdale, by Bacon, the fairy fabric of my reveries was in a moment destroyed by a cry of “ there is Abo, there is Abo."
About two English miles before we reached the town, we entered a very narrow channel, not above forty feet wide, which was marked out by piles, not wide enough to admit of large vessels, which are obliged to moor a little before the entrance of it. On the left we, passed by the castle, built of brick stuccoed: it is very ancient, and has a very picturesque appearance, and was once the prison of the bloody Eric IV, but is now a garrison. A little further on the same side is the house of the gallant admiral Steddynk, who in the last reign displayed distinguished skill and bravery in several engagements with the Russians, and who has the command of the gun-boats, which are ranged in a long line of boat-houses near his residence. It is a matter worthy of observation, particularly at this period, that the gun-boats used in the naval conflicts between Russia and Sweden with so much effect, originally suggested to France the idea of using them against this country. In the seven years war they were recommended to the Duc de Choiseul, the minister of Louis XV, by captain Kergvagelin, of the Swedish navy, and in the late revolution by captain Muskein, who was also a lieutenant in the same service: this small craft is capable of acting in the Baltic, where no tides ever interfere with maneuvres ; but it has excited astonishment, not only in Sweden but in every other part of the continent which I visited, (and I mention it with more shame than reluctance, because with the millions of England, I believed at the time in the romantic practicability of the long, very long threaten.ed, invasion), that any reflecting Englishman could believe in the
possibility of a flotilla of gun-boats crossing such an expanse of water as divides the Isle of Wight from Boulogne, subject to the tides, currents, and winds, which are with more or less certainty felt there, omitting the proud and confident reflections which our gallant cruisers and channel fleet naturally suggest. We well know, that in the year 1791 Muskein, without having much dread from the natural difficulties before enumerated, on account of the shortness of the distance, attacked that dot in the channel, the island of St. Marcou, with fifty of his redoubted gun-boats; that the battery of the little wave-girt fortress blew her rash and presuming enemies to atoms; and that their commander with difficulty escaped only to be disgraced by the directory. In mere patriotic ardour and enthusiasm, independent of tides, currents, winds, cruisers, and fleets, the French, ‘if they reflect at all, will regard St. Marcou as a miniature of a greater island.
Beyond the boat-houses is the custom-house, from whence an officer came on board, and proceeded up the river with us to the town, which, with the cathedral, now presented the appearance of a large and populous city. We soon reached the quay, and very gladly landed in the capital of Swedish Finland.
In our inn yard I beheld the first indication of our being in the neighbourhood of Russia, in a clumsy kibitka, the ordinary carriage of that country, and which was here exposed for sale. It is a small cart, very much resembling a cradle, round at the bottom, about five feet long, and in which two persons can sit or lie, the latter is the usual posture, and who are protected from the weather by a semicircular tilt, open in front, made of broad laths interwoven, and covered with birch or beech bark; it has no iron in it, but is fastened to the body of the carriage without springs, by wooden pins and ropes: the driver sits upon the front of it, close to the horses' tails. At dinner we had some delicious wild strawberries, the first fruit that we had tasted for the year.
Abo is situated upon a point of land where the gulfs of Finland and Bothnia unite, is a large town, and carries on a tolerable commerce. Many of the houses are handsome : they are mostly built of wood, but some are of brick stuccoed, and the inhabitants are said to exceed ten thousand. The fir of Finland is superior to that of any other part of Sweden, and particularly preferred for building : great quantities of it are annually sent from Abo to Stockholm. The cathedral is a very ancient massy pile of brick, displaying no attractions to the eye; and the gloom of the interior is augmented by a barbarous representation of drapery in blue, upon a lead-coloured ground : it contains the tombs of many illustrious families. Christina, who with all her levities was a learned woman, and the munificent friend of learning, endowed an university here, which has a library containing ten thousand indifferent volumes : the former is not in a flourishing condition, and the latter worthy of little notice. We ascended the craggy rocks impending over one side of the town, which, with the windings of the Aura, and occasional glimpses of the gulf of Finland, shining through the openings of those dark forests that cover its shores on this side, presented a somewhat interesting but sombre prospect.