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ground. Thus concluded this wonderful performance. Grasping the hands of his companion as before, the little man sprang upon his feet, and made a parting bow to the gallery.
LXV. - THE REAPER AND THE FLOWERS.
THERE is a reaper, whose name is Death ;
And, with his sickle keen,
reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
“ Shall I have nought that is fair ?” saith he;
“ Have nought but the bearded grain ?
I will give them all back again.”
He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes,
He kissed their drooping leaves ;
He bound them in his sheaves.
“My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,"
The reaper said, and smiled :
Where he was once a child.
“They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care,
These sacred blossoms wear.”
And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.
* In the above poem Death is personified as a reaper, who cuts down grain and flowers with a sickle. By “bearded grain,” persons of mature age are meant; for, when wheat, and rye, and barley are ripe, little threads, like bristles, or hair, grow out between the grains in the ear. But the flowers are young children; and the reaper is made to say that when he takes them away, he carries them to heaven, where they will live happily with God, and saints, and angels.
+ Glebe, literally, turf; used here for fields covered with turf.
My steadfast heart shall fear no ill,
Though in a bare and rugged way,
LXVII. - THE CHAMOIS AND CHAMOIS HUNTING.
The animals which lend the greatest charm to the mountains are the chamois. - those beautiful swift-footed goats of the rock, which wander in small herds through the loneliest districts of the Alps, people the highest ridges, and course rapidly over leagues of ice fields. Though much resembling the goat, it is distinguished from it by longer and larger legs, a longer neck, a shorter and more compact body, and especially by its horns, which are black and curved like a hook. These horns are much used in ornamenting those ingenious fabrics which the Swiss peasants make, and which travellers bring back as memorials from that country.
They live together in herds of five, ten, or twenty. Their grace and agility are very remarkable. They bound across wide and deep chasms, and balance themselves on the most difficult ledges; then, throwing themselves on their hind legs, reach securely the landing place, often no bigger than a man's hand, on which their unerring eye has been fixed. It is difficult to give a trustworthy account of this noble animal's agility. It will certainly leap over chasms from sixteen to eighteen feet wide, without any hesitation; or down precipices of twenty-four feet and upwards ; and it will clear at a bound a barrier of fourteen feet, coming down lightly on all fours on the other side.
* Crook, a staff curved at one end, used by shepherds in managing their flocks. It is employed here in a figurative sense, meaning the care or assistance of God, who is represented as a shepherd watching over his flock, that is, mankind.
Their wonderful sense of smell, sight, and hearing preserves the chamois from many perils. When they are collected in troops, they will appoint a doe as sentinel, which grazes alone at a little distance, while the others are feeding or gambolling, and looks round every instant, snuffing the air with her nose. If she perceives any danger, she gives a shrill whistle, and the rest fly after her at a gallop. But their most acute sense is that of smell. They scent the hunter from an immense distance, if he stands in the direction of the wind.
The trained chamois hunters of Switzerland belong to the poorer classes. They are a sturdy, frugal race, inured to all weathers, and familiar with the details of the mountains, the habits of the animals, and the art of hunting them. The hunter needs a sharp eye, a steady hand, a strong frame, a spirit resolute, calm, ready, and circumspect; and, besides all this, good lungs and untiring energy. He must be not only a firstrate shot, but a first-rate climber also ; for the chamois hunter often finds himself in positions where he must exert every limb and muscle to the utmost, in order to support or push himself forward.
The ordinary preparations of the hunter consist of a warm dress, with a cap or felt hat, a strong Alpen stock,* a pouch with powder, bullets, and telescope, bread and cheese, and a little flask of spirits. In order to procure something warm, he takes an iron bowl and a portion of meal, roasted and salted beforehand, and makes it into a porridge over a fire, morning and evening, mixing it with water. But the most essential
* Alpen stock, a long staff, with an iron point at one end.
parts of the equipment are a pair of stout mountain shoes and a good gun.
The hunter starts by starlight in the evening, or at midnight, in order to gain the highest hunting ground before sunrise. He knows the haunts of the game, their favorite pastures and hiding places, and directs his course accordingly. The principal point is always to keep the animals before the wind; for, should the lightest breeze be wafted from him to the chamois, the creature scents him at an immense distance, and is lost. Many hours of patient watching and waiting must be passed before he can get within shot of them.
The chase is not only toilsome, but dangerous. The hunter is often led, by the eagerness of his pursuit, to the brink of fearful precipices, where a single false step may cause instant death ; or to narrow ridges of rock and slippery ice, where it is hard to find firm footing, and where a fall might be fatal. Sometimes he is allured to a spot where he can neither advance nor recede.
Sometimes a sharp frost overtakes the weary hunter, and cramps his limbs. If he yields to an almost unconquerable impulse to sit down, he immediately falls asleep, never to wake again.
Sometimes a large falling stone wounds him or dashes him into the abyss ; or an avalanche* overwhelms him, and buries him deep beneath the snow. But no enemy is more dangerous than the fog, when it surprises him in the awful labyrinth of peaks, leagues and leagues above the dwellings of man, closing in so thickly that often he cannot see six feet before him, and must inevitably be lost unless great presence of mind and local knowledge can extricate him from the peril. His situation is yet worse if the fog be followed by a snow storm covering up every track on the ground before him.
The actual profits of the chase bear no proportion to the perils, labor, and loss of time which it involves. And yet the hunters have a perfect passion for the sport. One at Zurich,
* Avalanche, a mass of snow that slides, or tumbles, from a mountain.
+ Zurich (pronounced zoo'rick) is a large town in Switzerland, at the head of a lake of the same name.