Mont Blanc: Lines Written In The Vale Of Chamouni (Excerpt)

by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The everlasting universe of things

Flows through the mind, and rolls it`s rapid waves,

Now dark – now glittering – now reflecting gloom-

Now lending splendour, where from secret springs

The source of human thought it`s tributes brings

Of waters – with a sound but half it`s own

Such as a feeble brook will oft assume,

In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,

Where waterfalls around it leap forever,

Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river

Over it`s rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves……………..

These marvelously evocative lines come from the experience of a journey Shelley made across the Alps. We travel in air conditioned comfort through tunnels, on smooth, tarmacked roads, and along swift lines of electrified rail at speeds Shelley could never have comprehended. It took days – weeks – of ceaseless struggle, dangers, and exposure to the most terrifying weather one could possible imagine – and then some. There were no instant digital images from a smart phone to convey the awesomeness of the alpine landscape; only the memory, to be transferred to paper – whether by pen, or watercolour – as the great artist, J.M.W Turner did. Most would neither have the wit, or the inclination to recall the memories of such an arduous journey. But, the great artists do; they possess not only the will, but the inspiration to record every tiny detail, every footfall along the winding track. Nothing is missed or passed over; all is remembered in an almost, supernatural mental landscape of memory. As is the want of the Romantic poets, Shelley`s poem rolls onwards like thunder into the distance for stanza, after stanza of descriptive genius. So, let`s just leave him on this occasion, as he restlessly, and ceaselessly wanders over the surrounding rocky world, like a vast river, as the wind contends, and bursts and raves in his memory`s eye.

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