LITERATURE, AMUSEMENT, AND INSTRUCTION.
|VOL. XVII, NO. 477.]
||SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1831.
MOUNT ST. MICHAEL, NORMANDY.
MOUNT ST. MICHAEL, NORMANDY.
The interest attached to this extraordinary place is of so popular a character as fully to justify its introduction to our pages. It is situate at the southern extremity of the ancient province of Normandy, a district of considerable importance in the early histories of France and England. The "Mount" is likewise one of the most stupendous of Nature's curiosities, it being one mass of granite, and referred to by geologists as a fine specimen of that primary or primitive rock; or, to speak untechnically, of that rock "which is most widely spread over the globe in the lowest relative situation," and which contains no remains of a former world.1 St. Michael's therefore stands pre-eminently in the sublime philosophy of Nature. It figures also in the page of man's history: its early celebrity is recognised in the chronicles of olden France and England; and it promises note in the history of our own times; since to this monastic spot will the political balance of France, in all probability, exile the person of the ambitious Polignac, ex-minister of France. The reader will perhaps suspect the political concatenation of Lulworth Castle, the Hotel de Ville, and the Palais Royal in our last volume; and the Prison of Vincennes and Mount St. Michael in the present. Instead of catching "the manners living as they rise," we appear to be looking out for crowns and ministers headlong as they fall.
St. Michael's is in that portion of Normandy which is not often visited by English tourists. One of its recent visitors was Mrs. Charles Stothard, wife of the distinguished artist, who, in 1820, published a narrative of her journey in, the autumn of 1818. Mrs. Stothard's description of the "Mount" is dated from Avranches, a coast town of some consequence, not far from Caen. Speaking of the delightfully situated town of Avranches, the fair correspondent says,
"Beyond, in the midst of the sea, arises 400 feet above the surface of the water, the majestic rock of Mount St. Michael, and near it another, but smaller rock, called the Tombalaine. In the distant and blue horizon appears the long and extending land of Britanny, mingling with the surrounding atmosphere, from which it is alone distinguished by a faint and uncertain line, that, like the prospect of our future years, impresses the mind with a deeper interest from its distant and impenetrable form. Mount St. Michael is a league in circumference; in some parts of the rock is perpendicular; it is flooded entirely at high water, but when the tide is out, the rock may be approached by the sands; some danger, however, attends the passage to those who are not perfectly well acquainted with the track, as many quicksands intercept, where travellers have frequently been lost.
"There is a small town on Mount St. Michael. The castle, which stands at the top, is accessible by steps cut in the solid rock. In the year 708, St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, here first created the chapel dedicated to St. Michael; in 966, Richard the first Duke of Normandy, established a convent of monks of the order of St. Benoit, and in 1024, Richard the second Duke of Normandy, built the church, which still exists. The provisions that supply the fortress, are sent up in a basket drawn by a machine. Tradition says, that there was in this castle an obligatory, or concealed trap-door, where, in feudal times, persons were taken, whom the state directed should be secretly put out of the way. Under pretext, of showing them the castle, they were conducted into a remote chamber, there they soon met their destined fate, for chancing to step upon the concealed door, they were precipitated into the abyss, many hundred feet below. They still exhibit at this fortress the sword and shield of St. Michael, and some cannon left by the English, when they made a fruitless attempt to take possession of the rock. Here it was that in former times, the Kings of France and the Dukes of Britanny made frequent pilgrimages, and performed penance at the shrine of St. Michael."
The lofty situation of the church appears to be peculiar to the churches dedicated to St. Michael. In many parts of the world they are built on very lofty eminences, in allusion, it is said, to St. Michael's having been the highest of the heavenly host. St. Michael's, in Cornwall, is another confirmation of this remark.
We have the pleasure of acknowledging the original of our Engraving from an elegant Print Scrap Book, now in course of publication by Mr. H. Dawe. It consists of well executed mezzotinto prints which are worthy of the album of any fair subscriber.
(For the Mirror.)
Hush'd are the groans of death, heart-piercing sound,
That mournful rose in peals on peals around;
Child after child by heav'nly darts expires,
And frequent corses feed the gloomy pyres.
Aghast she stands!—now here in wild amaze—
Now there the mother casts her madd'ning gaze:
In fixedness of grief, in dumb despair,
Her looks, her mien, her inmost soul declare:
Her looks, her mien, her deep-sunk anguish show
With all the silent eloquence of woe.
See! from her cheek the rosy lustre flies;
How dim the beams that sparkled in her eyes.
No more so softly heaves the throbbing breast;
The purple currents in their channels rest;—
No more the Zephyr's balmy breath can wave
The graceful locks which laughing Hebe gave;—
And fade those lips where fresh vermilion shone,
Cold as the clay, or monumental stone;—
O'er all her limbs an icy numbness spreads,
And marble death eternal quiet sheds.
2Great sculptor hail! whom Nature's self design'd
To trace the labyrinths of the human mind—
To read the heart, and give with strong control,
To stone the silent workings of the soul:
Thine all-creative hand, thy matchless skill
Could what unbounded genius plann'd, fulfil.
Hence sprang that grief-wrung form—the languid eye—
The bloodless lip, and look of agony—
That face, where mute contending passions play—
That life of pain, of anguish, and dismay.
To sink she seems beneath the afflictive weight
Of gloomy cares portentous of her fate;—
Yet on her brow still soft Affection beams,
Tho' Desperation prompts her sombre dreams.
Parental feelings thrill her tortur'd breast,
And all the frantic mother stands confest—
A very Niobe—sad, hapless name!
In figure, features, and in all the same:
The same in all as Vengeance fierce pursued
Far to a wild and cheerless solitude.
For Salmo's bard has sung (by Heaven's decrees)
In awful pomp she mounted on the breeze—