« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
tent, but on the whole are sufficiently attractive. The whiteness of the chalk bills, whose tops appear above the trees, gives a singular effect to the more distant parts of the landscape. But we did not mistake them either for the Alps or the Pyrenées.* The vivid reflection of the sand, an excess of beat and dust, and an Egyptian plague of flies, made us glad to stop awhile at Nemours, in which town there is nothing remarkable, although its castle was long the seat of the Ducal family of that name, and its church served as their burial place. The road thence (without pavé) proceeds along the borders of a pretty stream called the Loing. On the left we had a long line of heights, sprinkled with enormous fragments of stone, some of them of grotesque forms, and seemingly ready to precipitate themselves into the road; on our right was a tract of beautiful meadows, planted with poplars and willows, whose lively foliage breaks the monotony of green pasturages. When the eyes have long been irritated with the impalpable powder, and fatigued with the glare, of the road, how gladly. do you repose them on verdure mellowed by the golden tints of Summer's evening sun.
It is seldom that you see a water mill on the river; and rocks and shallows prevent it from being made navigable. Not a gentleman's house, nor even a respectable, habitation, is to be recognized except at very long intervals of space, though the country offers the most desirable situations. The crops were forward, but seemed literally burnt up. The villages, when they do present themselves, look handsomely at a distance, but on passing through you find almost every thing out of order: the peasantry for the most part appearing wretchedly poor.
* See M. Reicharl's Guide des Voyageurs en Europe, v. 2, p. 171.
Approaching La Croisière, we noticed considerable numbers of cattle and sheep feeding in the valley: a sight hitherto of very rare occurrence. The cows are handsome. The horses are of all sizes, except the very large, and indefatigably strong. From this stage we had a pair of uncommonly pretty greys. A great deal of hemp is grown along the course of the Loing; and turkies are bere bred in abundance. The rocky chain, at the foot of which we had been proceeding from Fontainebleau, terminates near La Croisière. Double rows of the tallest poplars line the road. Hereabouts it was full harvest, the corn being completely ripe. The vineyards too began to look luxuriant.
At Fontenay is a bridge of twelve arches; its construction is evidently referable to a very ancient date ; but the oval form of the arch, and the stile of masonry, which is rude, do not favour the opinion that assigns it to the Romans. The centre arch bas fallen in, and the vacuum is supplied with planks, in the usual slovenly way of the Frencb.
The forest of Montargis (to whom has not the story of canine fidelity not rendered this name familiar ?) covers a lofty ridge to our left: it is not much less extensive than that of Fontainebleau. Here and there a huge old chateau shews itself embosomed in its fine timber. When we entered the very ancient town of Montargis, there was yet light enough left to reveal, amidst its narrow streets, the strongly marked features of the olden time. The river Loing, and the canal of Briare (Sully's project), both pass through this place, whose name-makes some figure in the history of the wars between the English and the French, during the contemporaneous reigns of Charles
MONTARGIS,- NOGENT SUR VERNISSON.
the Seventh of France and our Sixth Harry. The post-master, an intelligent man, appeared to be conversant with its local curiosities, and acquainted us that, there are, about two leagues from Montargis, the remains of a Roman circus, in a very interesting state of preservation. Notwithstanding its antiquarian allurements, the absolute necessity of proceeding under cover of the night, made us resolve to quit Montargis* as soon as a change of horses could be procured; and in a cool dry air, which would have been perfectly delightful but for the noisome dust, we travelled on as far as Nogent sur Vernisson. At the Hotel du Puy de Dome, kept by Chirade, we slept undisturbed on clean and well-aired beds.In other respects the house is quite after the ancien régime of inns in this country-chambers with pantile floors -staircases that seem never to have experienced the surprise of an ablution-a filthy kitchen-and a dingy salle à manger.
July 14th.—We pursued our course betimes through a country flat, dreary, and parched for want of rain : not a drop had fallen in these districts for nearly two months. Instead of poplars, as in our progress yesterday, a double row of chesnut trees here lines the road side. At the poor little village of La Bussière is a Chateau, formerly belonging to the family of M. Tilly, President du Parlement. It is a curious specimen of the domestic architecture of the 15th century. Though all continues openfield (a hedge being the greatest possible rarity), and tho' the plain is bounded only by the circle of the horizon, yet cultivation is carried on in mere strips of various produce: thus, whilst the country is on the graud, farming is on the small, scale: This indicates a more numerous distribution of agricultural occupations; and as far as the picturesque is concerned, exhibits a pleasing effect.The wheat having acquired sufficient strength of straw and perfection of ear before the drought commenced, had been saved, but the crops of oats and other later grain it was feared would greatly fail. We met some large droves of horned oxen, fine beasts. The sheep are very small.
* “The Castle built by Charles V. formed for a considerable period, part of the domain of the Crown, and the French Monarchs often held their Court there. The Queens resorted thither previous to their accouchement, on account of the purity of the air, which circumstance obtained for it the name of the Cradle of the Children of France (Berceau des enfans de France.")-Reichard, vol. ii. p. 172.
At Briare we breakfasted. This town gives its name to the canal which passes through it, and which creates some sbew of inland navigation and commercial affairs.As we passed the bridge, a crowd of waterinen and Jabourers were assembled on it, swearing all the sacre dieus and diantre morbleus in the world at each other, but without coming to blows. A fiftieth part of the foul abuse and provoking gesticulations which these fellows were indulging in, would, under similar circumstances, among our own countrymen have inevitably resulted in a battle royal.
Here the country improves; and we gain our first sight of the Loire, from amidst a checquered assemblage of vines, barley, potatoes, beans, and fruit trees intermixed with them.-At Neuvy-sur-Loire the exterior of the church, from its very ancient character, attracted our cursory regard. The women were sitting at the doors of their forlorn babitations employed chiefly in knitting; but like their ragged children, totally destitute of shoes and stockings. Near this village, the Loire is seen meandering through a spacious valley, in a broad stream, studded with islets of sand. For a wonder, we spied a barge sailing upon it. The landscape here amplifies to a vast extent, and its components, wood, water, and fruitful fields, would impart a yet more pleasing in, terest were they graced with the delicious verdure which is so distinguishing a charm of our English prospects.
At noon we arrived at Cosne, a large manufacturing town: it has a population of about 15,000 souls, and is still celebrated, in France, for its cutlery. But every thing in that branch is here fabricated by dint of manual labour, with scarcely any assistance from machinery : improvement in workmanship and increase of production are therefore both equally out of the question. The streets are filled with beggars, and the generality of the houses are apparently as replete with dirt. Most of the churches in this part of France have circular ends and arches, to the east: in the other parts of these buildings the pointed stile prevails. We looked into the principal church at Cosne, which, with the exception of the architectural circumstance above alluded to, has nothing particularly to be noted.
From a lofty eminence overlooking the well situated but wretched village of Pouilly-sur-Loire, a view of surprising extent breaks upon us. It is a truly fine perspective of
“ The vine-covered hills and gay regions of France."
Higbland and valley are each filled with the cultyred tendril that bears the juicy grape. We were indeed on a favourite soil of the vine; and much both for beauty