The irresponsible harmony of a hundred cow-bells; a like but thinner music from a hundred head of goats; the sharp, strident clacking of the coachmen's whips as diligence and carriage wend their way up from the plain; the weird notes from the great goat-horn as the goatherd gathers his scattered flock together from the rocky heights above; the constant lowing of the cattle on the slopes; the vacher vociferating the Ranz des Vaches as he thinks of nothing in particular, and trims a stick with his pocket-knife; while all the time the 'brimming echoes spill the pleasant din' - these are the summer sounds which, though we should find it no easy matter to hear them in the towns without consulting the police, or, at any rate, writing to the papers, delight and intoxicate us in the Alps, and seem the only possible accompaniment for the magnificent glaciers and lovely flowers. Curious that so much discord should consort with such loveliness and yet not disturb it! Curious that so much discord should create such harmony! After all, dirt, as Lord Beaconsfield is said to have remarked, is only matter out of place; and here is discord quite at home. Untamed music amid untamed Nature, with net result - an entrancing harmony past imagining.
The Sulphur Anemone And Orchids At The Col De La Forclaz. In June.
It is a very different scene from that of spring. In spring these sounds would have struck an unreasonable note. Nature's awakening would have been too rude and noisy; there was a shy reserve about her wildness which it would never have done to so break in upon. But Summer's season is more flamboyant. Nature is in the fulness of life, and something of loudness is not out of tune. Vulgarity? No, that is not the right word. Summer in the Alps has nothing of vulgarity. Demureness, certainly, has vanished, but a great relative refinement remains. Summer's colours may be gaudy, her life may be demonstrative, but there is nothing in this that jars or hurts our sense of fitness. All things are in tune with the key-note of lustiness and vigour; all things are bent upon reaping a full harvest from the fierce sun, and are rightly alive with appropriate colour and gesture. Maybe this colour and gesture would be anything but aesthetic at another time and season, but now they speak of the very spirit of things -and speak most convincingly and sweetly. If these cow-bells were hushed, and did not wake us at dawn with their irresponsible chiming, we should feel that something was amiss; if the brightly-burnished little Copper butterflies were not flitting about the brilliant clear-yellow Dandelions, we should be sad; and it the vivid orange Arnica were not freely blooming amid a gorgeous wealth of rosy Rhododendron, we should think that things were out of joint. All is well! - the year is at its height, and nothing of this could we do without - nothing! No, not even the flies! We should indeed feel strange if the cattle-flies did not companion us! 'For sheer beauty and multiplicity of changing impression in colour, vegetation, composition of landscape scenery, the middle heights, before we quite leave the juicy pastures and forest foliage of the Alps (which means the pasturages), are the scenes of the most tranquil and continuous delight.' Thus writes Mr. Frederic Harrison; but he writes of days before those when 'Sings the Scythe to the flowers and grass.'
For the scythemen have been here, and the hay has been cut and gathered in from the pastures set apart for that purpose. If we were not here betimes, we have missed that wonderful point where Spring joins Summer in a riot of many colours; we have missed the undulating acres of mauve and rose, and white and gold, softened by the warm, grey, filmy sheen of flowering grasses. Two weeks or so ago these now 'stale, unprofitable' slopes and fields were a perfect marvel of varied tints. Here were broad masses of blue Campanula rkomboidalis blending with the rosy-mauve Crane's-bill (Geranium silvaticum), and with the lively pink Knottweed (Polygonum Bistorta) and the graceful pink-flowered Umbellifer (Pimpinella magna), forming a colour-scheme of most exquisite refinement. In the adjoining enclosure the scheme was more daring, for here masses of bright rose-pink Campion were strewn with the rich blue Knapweed (Cen-tanrea montana), with the rosy-white Masterwort (Astrantia major) and the gay yellow Globe-Flower; while more daring still were the slopes farther on, gorgeous with orange Arnica, red Knapweed (Centaurea uniflora), golden-brown Dandelion (Crepis aurea), yellow St. John's-Wort, and a host of blue Campanula, and pink, red, and mauve Orchids.
But all this has gone - cut by the scythe to make winter fodder for the cows. The neighbourhood now is in possession of the cattle and their attendant hordes of flies, seeking all they may devour! We must go farther afield; farther up to yet higher pastures, or to the stony slopes and the rough beds and sides of the mountain streams and glacier torrents. There we shall yet find 'A world with summer radiance drest' a world with 'Nature's ev'ry fair device, Mingled in a scented hoard.'
Nor should we delay. The cows will soon be moving higher, browsing and trampling things beyond this year's repair; but more especially will the goats - those omnivorous feeders, as far as vegetable life is concerned - be nibbling irreverently at shrub and grass and flower alike, clearing their district so that it looks as if a swarm of locusts had passed that way. Over on yonder Col we shall find Summer's Alpine splendours as yet undisturbed. Let us go.
Hood's lines are ringing in our ears:
'It was the time of roses - We plucked them as we passed!' for various Briars are in fullest beauty all along the path to the forest through which we must ascend. What a wonderful range of red and rosy colour! First and foremost is the dwarf and dainty Alpine Eglantine (Rosa alpina), of vivid magenta red, single blossom: a Rose belying the proverb about thorns. It is surprising that the Germans, generally so precise, should give the name of 'Alpenrose' to the Rhododendron, when this Eglantine exists as so distinctive, exquisite, and dazzling a feature of the Alpine flora. Mere beauty is not its only grace: a very wholesome and refreshing tea is made from the seed of this rose - a tea which is drunk by many vegetarians. Spreading bushes of Rosa pomifera are also here, with their abundance of fiery salmon or intense pink flowers harmonizing so admirably with their warm, blue-green foliage. And besides these two distinct roses there are many intermediate forms, their blossoms varying from shell-pink to white. Indeed, there are some which look uncommonly like our old friend the pale or blushing Dog Rose. The Genus is not an easy one to classify, there being so many forms which link up the varieties.