The domain of Arnheim


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1850
THE DOMAIN OF ARNHEIM
by Edgar Allan Poe

The garden like a lady fair was cut,
That lay as if she slumbered in delight,
And to the open skies her eyes did shut.
The azure fields of Heaven were ‘sembled right
In a large round, set with the flowers of light.
The flowers de luce, and the round sparks of dew.
That hung upon their azure leaves did shew
Like twinkling stars that sparkle in the evening blue.

Giles Fletcher.

FROM his cradle to his grave a gale of prosperity bore my friend
Ellison along. Nor do I use the word prosperity in its mere worldly
sense. I mean it as synonymous with happiness. The person of whom I
speak seemed born for the purpose of foreshadowing the doctrines of
Turgot, Price, Priestley, and Condorcet- of exemplifying by individual
instance what has been deemed the chimera of the perfectionists. In
the brief existence of Ellison I fancy that I have seen refuted the
dogma, that in man’s very nature lies some hidden principle, the
antagonist of bliss. An anxious examination of his career has given me
to understand that in general, from the violation of a few simple laws
of humanity arises the wretchedness of mankind- that as a species we
have in our possession the as yet unwrought elements of content- and
that, even now, in the present darkness and madness of all thought
on the great question of the social condition, it is not impossible
that man, the individual, under certain unusual and highly
fortuitous conditions, may be happy.
With opinions such as these my young friend, too, was fully
imbued, and thus it is worthy of observation that the uninterrupted
enjoyment which distinguished his life was, in great measure, the
result of preconcert. It is indeed evident that with less of the
instinctive philosophy which, now and then, stands so well in the
stead of experience, Mr. Ellison would have found himself
precipitated, by the very extraordinary success of his life, into
the common vortex of unhappiness which yawns for those of
pre-eminent endowments. But it is by no means my object to pen an
essay on happiness. The ideas of my friend may be summed up in a few
words. He admitted but four elementary principles, or more strictly,
conditions of bliss. That which he considered chief was (strange to
say!) the simple and purely physical one of free exercise in the
open air. “The health,” he said, “attainable by other means is
scarcely worth the name.” He instanced the ecstasies of the
fox-hunter, and pointed to the tillers of the earth, the only people
who, as a class, can be fairly considered happier than others. His
second condition was the love of woman. His third, and most
difficult of realization, was the contempt of ambition. His fourth was
an object of unceasing pursuit; and he held that, other things being
equal, the extent of attainable happiness was in proportion to the
spirituality of this object.
Ellison was remarkable in the continuous profusion of good gifts
lavished upon him by fortune. In personal grace and beauty he exceeded
all men. His intellect was of that order to which the acquisition of
knowledge is less a labor than an intuition and a necessity. His
family was one of the most illustrious of the empire. His bride was
the loveliest and most devoted of women. His possessions had been
always ample; but on the attainment of his majority, it was discovered
that one of those extraordinary freaks of fate had been played in
his behalf which startle the whole social world amid which they occur,
and seldom fail radically to alter the moral constitution of those who
are their objects.
It appears that about a hundred years before Mr. Ellison’s coming of
age, there had died, in a remote province, one Mr. Seabright
Ellison. This gentleman had amassed a princely fortune, and, having no
immediate connections, conceived the whim of suffering his wealth to
accumulate for a century after his decease. Minutely and sagaciously
directing the various modes of investment, he bequeathed the aggregate
amount to the nearest of blood, bearing the name of Ellison, who
should be alive at the end of the hundred years. Many attempts had
been made to set aside this singular bequest; their ex post facto
character rendered them abortive; but the attention of a jealous
government was aroused, and a legislative act finally obtained,
forbidding all similar accumulations. This act, however, did not
prevent young Ellison from entering into possession, on his
twenty-first birthday, as the heir of his ancestor Seabright, of a
fortune of four hundred and fifty millions of dollars.*

* An incident, similar in outline to the one here imagined,
occurred, not very long ago, in England. The name of the fortunate
heir was Thelluson. I first saw an account of this matter in the
“Tour” of Prince Puckler Muskau, who makes the sum inherited ninety
millions of pounds, and justly observes that “in the contemplation
of so vast a sum, and of the services to which it might be applied,
there is something even of the sublime.” To suit the views of this
article I have followed the Prince’s statement, although a grossly
exaggerated one. The germ, and in fact, the commencement of the
present paper was published many years ago- previous to the issue of
the first number of Sue’s admirable “Juif Errant,” which may
possibly have been suggested to him by Muskau’s account.

When it had become known that such was the enormous wealth
inherited, there were, of course, many speculations as to the mode
of its disposal. The magnitude and the immediate availability of the
sum bewildered all who thought on the topic. The possessor of any
appreciable amount of money might have been imagined to perform any
one of a thousand things. With riches merely surpassing those of any
citizen, it would have been easy to suppose him engaging to supreme
excess in the fashionable extravagances of his time- or busying
himself with political intrigue- or aiming at ministerial power- or
purchasing increase of nobility- or collecting large museums of virtu-
or playing the munificent patron of letters, of science, of art- or
endowing, and bestowing his name upon extensive institutions of
charity. But for the inconceivable wealth in the actual possession
of the heir, these objects and all ordinary objects were felt to
afford too limited a field. Recourse was had to figures, and these but
sufficed to confound. It was seen that, even at three per cent., the
annual income of the inheritance amounted to no less than thirteen
millions and five hundred thousand dollars; which was one million
and one hundred and twenty-five thousand per month; or thirty-six
thousand nine hundred and eighty-six per day; or one thousand five
hundred and forty-one per hour; or six and twenty dollars for every
minute that flew. Thus the usual track of supposition was thoroughly
broken up. Men knew not what to imagine. There were some who even
conceived that Mr. Ellison would divest himself of at least one-half
of his fortune, as of utterly superfluous opulence- enriching whole
troops of his relatives by division of his superabundance. To the
nearest of these he did, in fact, abandon the very unusual wealth
which was his own before the inheritance.
I was not surprised, however, to perceive that he had long made up
his mind on a point which had occasioned so much discussion to his
friends. Nor was I greatly astonished at the nature of his decision.
In regard to individual charities he had satisfied his conscience.
In the possibility of any improvement, properly so called, being
effected by man himself in the general condition of man, he had (I
am sorry to confess it) little faith. Upon the whole, whether
happily or unhappily, he was thrown back, in very great measure,
upon self.
In the widest and noblest sense he was a poet. He comprehended,
moreover, the true character, the august aims, the supreme majesty and
dignity of the poetic sentiment. The fullest, if not the sole proper
satisfaction of this sentiment he instinctively felt to lie in the
creation of novel forms of beauty. Some peculiarities, either in his
early education, or in the nature of his intellect, had tinged with
what is termed materialism all his ethical speculations; and it was
this bias, perhaps, which led him to believe that the most
advantageous at least, if not the sole legitimate field for the poetic
exercise, lies in the creation of novel moods of purely physical
loveliness. Thus it happened he became neither musician nor poet- if
we use this latter term in its every-day acceptation. Or it might have
been that he neglected to become either, merely in pursuance of his
idea that in contempt of ambition is to be found one of the
essential principles of happiness on earth. Is it not indeed, possible
that, while a high order of genius is necessarily ambitious, the
highest is above that which is termed ambition? And may it not thus
happen that many far greater than Milton have contentedly remained
“mute and inglorious?” I believe that the world has never seen- and
that, unless through some series of accidents goading the noblest
order of mind into distasteful exertion, the world will never see-
that full extent of triumphant execution, in the richer domains of
art, of which the human nature is absolutely capable.
Ellison became neither musician nor poet; although no man lived more
profoundly enamored of music and poetry. Under other circumstances
than those which invested him, it is not impossible that he would have
become a painter. Sculpture, although in its nature rigorously
poetical was too limited in its extent and consequences, to have
occupied, at any time, much of his attention. And I have now mentioned
all the provinces in which the common understanding of the poetic
sentiment has declared it capable of expatiating. But Ellison
maintained that the richest, the truest, and most natural, if not
altogether the most extensive province, had been unaccountably
neglected. No definition had spoken of the landscape-gardener as of
the poet; yet it seemed to my friend that the creation of the
landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most magnificent of
opportunities. Here, indeed, was the fairest field for the display
of imagination in the endless combining of forms of novel beauty;
the elements to enter into combination being, by a vast superiority,
the most glorious which the earth could afford. In the multiform and
multicolor of the flowers and the trees, he recognised the most direct
and energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness. And in the
direction or concentration of this effort- or, more properly, in its
adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth- he
perceived that he should be employing the best means- laboring to
the greatest advantage- in the fulfilment, not only of his own destiny
as poet, but of the august purposes for which the Deity had
implanted the poetic sentiment in man.
“Its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth.” In
his explanation of this phraseology, Mr. Ellison did much toward
solving what has always seemed to me an enigma:- I mean the fact
(which none but the ignorant dispute) that no such combination of
scenery exists in nature as the painter of genius may produce. No such
paradises are to be found in reality as have glowed on the canvas of
Claude. In the most enchanting of natural landscapes, there will
always be found a defect or an excess- many excesses and defects.
While the component parts may defy, individually, the highest skill of
the artist, the arrangement of these parts will always be
susceptible of improvement. In short, no position can be attained on
the wide surface of the natural earth, from which an artistical eye,
looking steadily, will not find matter of offence in what is termed
the “composition” of the landscape. And yet how unintelligible is
this! In all other matters we are justly instructed to regard nature
as supreme. With her details we shrink from competition. Who shall
presume to imitate the colors of the tulip, or to improve the
proportions of the lily of the valley? The criticism which says, of
sculpture or portraiture, that here nature is to be exalted or
idealized rather than imitated, is in error. No pictorial or
sculptural combinations of points of human liveliness do more than
approach the living and breathing beauty. In landscape alone is the
principle of the critic true; and, having felt its truth here, it is
but the headlong spirit of generalization which has led him to
pronounce it true throughout all the domains of art. Having, I say,
felt its truth here; for the feeling is no affectation or chimera. The
mathematics afford no more absolute demonstrations than the sentiments
of his art yields the artist. He not only believes, but positively
knows, that such and such apparently arbitrary arrangements of
matter constitute and alone constitute the true beauty. His reasons,
however, have not yet been matured into expression. It remains for a
more profound analysis than the world has yet seen, fully to
investigate and express them. Nevertheless he is confirmed in his
instinctive opinions by the voice of all his brethren. Let a
“composition” be defective; let an emendation be wrought in its mere
arrangement of form; let this emendation be submitted to every
artist in the world; by each will its necessity be admitted. And
even far more than this:- in remedy of the defective composition, each
insulated member of the fraternity would have suggested the
identical emendation.
I repeat that in landscape arrangements alone is the physical nature
susceptible of exaltation, and that, therefore, her susceptibility
of improvement at this one point, was a mystery I had been unable to
solve. My own thoughts on the subject had rested in the idea that
the primitive intention of nature would have so arranged the earth’s
surface as to have fulfilled at all points man’s sense of perfection
in the beautiful, the sublime, or the picturesque; but that this
primitive intention had been frustrated by the known geological
disturbances- disturbances of form and color- grouping, in the
correction or allaying of which lies the soul of art. The force of
this idea was much weakened, however, by the necessity which it
involved of considering the disturbances abnormal and unadapted to any
purpose. It was Ellison who suggested that they were prognostic of
death. He thus explained:- Admit the earthly immortality of man to
have been the first intention. We have then the primitive
arrangement of the earth’s surface adapted to his blissful estate,
as not existent but designed. The disturbances were the preparations
for his subsequently conceived deathful condition.
“Now,” said my friend, “what we regard as exaltation of the
landscape may be really such, as respects only the moral or human
point of view. Each alteration of the natural scenery may possibly
effect a blemish in the picture, if we can suppose this picture viewed
at large- in mass- from some point distant from the earth’s surface,
although not beyond the limits of its atmosphere. It is easily
understood that what might improve a closely scrutinized detail, may
at the same time injure a general or more distantly observed effect.
There may be a class of beings, human once, but now invisible to
humanity, to whom, from afar, our disorder may seem order- our
unpicturesqueness picturesque, in a word, the earth-angels, for
whose scrutiny more especially than our own, and for whose death-
refined appreciation of the beautiful, may have been set in array by
God the wide landscape-gardens of the hemispheres.”
In the course of discussion, my friend quoted some passages from a
writer on landscape-gardening who has been supposed to have well
treated his theme:
“There are properly but two styles of landscape-gardening, the
natural and the artificial. One seeks to recall the original beauty of
the country, by adapting its means to the surrounding scenery,
cultivating trees in harmony with the hills or plain of the
neighboring land; detecting and bringing into practice those nice
relations of size, proportion, and color which, hid from the common
observer, are revealed everywhere to the experienced student of
nature. The result of the natural style of gardening, is seen rather
in the absence of all defects and incongruities- in the prevalence
of a healthy harmony and order- than in the creation of any special
wonders or miracles. The artificial style has as many varieties as
there are different tastes to gratify. It has a certain general
relation to the various styles of building. There are the stately
avenues and retirements of Versailles; Italian terraces; and a various
mixed old English style, which bears some relation to the domestic
Gothic or English Elizabethan architecture. Whatever may be said
against the abuses of the artificial landscape- gardening, a mixture
of pure art in a garden scene adds to it a great beauty. This is
partly pleasing to the eye, by the show of order and design, and
partly moral. A terrace, with an old moss- covered balustrade, calls
up at once to the eye the fair forms that have passed there in other
days. The slightest exhibition of art is an evidence of care and human
interest.”
“From what I have already observed,” said Ellison, “you will
understand that I reject the idea, here expressed, of recalling the
original beauty of the country. The original beauty is never so
great as that which may be introduced. Of course, every thing
depends on the selection of a spot with capabilities. What is said
about detecting and bringing into practice nice relations of size,
proportion, and color, is one of those mere vaguenesses of speech
which serve to veil inaccuracy of thought. The phrase quoted may
mean any thing, or nothing, and guides in no degree. That the true
result of the natural style of gardening is seen rather in the absence
of all defects and incongruities than in the creation of any special
wonders or miracles, is a proposition better suited to the
grovelling apprehension of the herd than to the fervid dreams of the
man of genius. The negative merit suggested appertains to that
hobbling criticism which, in letters, would elevate Addison into
apotheosis. In truth, while that virtue which consists in the mere
avoidance of vice appeals directly to the understanding, and can
thus be circumscribed in rule, the loftier virtue, which flames in
creation, can be apprehended in its results alone. Rule applies but to
the merits of denial- to the excellencies which refrain. Beyond these,
the critical art can but suggest. We may be instructed to build a
“Cato,” but we are in vain told how to conceive a Parthenon or an
“Inferno.” The thing done, however; the wonder accomplished; and the
capacity for apprehension becomes universal. The sophists of the
negative school who, through inability to create, have scoffed at
creation, are now found the loudest in applause. What, in its
chrysalis condition of principle, affronted their demure reason, never
fails, in its maturity of accomplishment, to extort admiration from
their instinct of beauty.
“The author’s observations on the artificial style,” continued
Ellison, “are less objectionable. A mixture of pure art in a garden
scene adds to it a great beauty. This is just; as also is the
reference to the sense of human interest. The principle expressed is
incontrovertible- but there may be something beyond it. There may be
an object in keeping with the principle- an object unattainable by the
means ordinarily possessed by individuals, yet which, if attained,
would lend a charm to the landscape-garden far surpassing that which a
sense of merely human interest could bestow. A poet, having very
unusual pecuniary resources, might, while retaining the necessary idea
of art or culture, or, as our author expresses it, of interest, so
imbue his designs at once with extent and novelty of beauty, as to
convey the sentiment of spiritual interference. It will be seen
that, in bringing about such result, he secures all the advantages
of interest or design, while relieving his work of the harshness or
technicality of the worldly art. In the most rugged of wildernesses-
in the most savage of the scenes of pure nature- there is apparent the
art of a creator; yet this art is apparent to reflection only; in no
respect has it the obvious force of a feeling. Now let us suppose this
sense of the Almighty design to be one step depressed- to be brought
into something like harmony or consistency with the sense of human
art- to form an intermedium between the two:- let us imagine, for
example, a landscape whose combined vastness and definitiveness- whose
united beauty, magnificence, and strangeness, shall convey the idea of
care, or culture, or superintendence, on the part of beings
superior, yet akin to humanity- then the sentiment of interest is
preserved, while the art intervolved is made to assume the air of an
intermediate or secondary nature- a nature which is not God, nor an
emanation from God, but which still is nature in the sense of the
handiwork of the angels that hover between man and God.”
It was in devoting his enormous wealth to the embodiment of a vision
such as this- in the free exercise in the open air ensured by the
personal superintendence of his plans- in the unceasing object which
these plans afforded- in the high spirituality of the object- in the
contempt of ambition which it enabled him truly to feel- in the
perennial springs with which it gratified, without possibility of
satiating, that one master passion of his soul, the thirst for beauty,
above all, it was in the sympathy of a woman, not unwomanly, whose
loveliness and love enveloped his existence in the purple atmosphere
of Paradise, that Ellison thought to find, and found, exemption from
the ordinary cares of humanity, with a far greater amount of
positive happiness than ever glowed in the rapt day-dreams of De
Stael.
I despair of conveying to the reader any distinct conception of
the marvels which my friend did actually accomplish. I wish to
describe, but am disheartened by the difficulty of description, and
hesitate between detail and generality. Perhaps the better course will
be to unite the two in their extremes.
Mr. Ellison’s first step regarded, of course, the choice of a
locality, and scarcely had he commenced thinking on this point, when
the luxuriant nature of the Pacific Islands arrested his attention. In
fact, he had made up his mind for a voyage to the South Seas, when a
night’s reflection induced him to abandon the idea. “Were I
misanthropic,” he said, “such a locale would suit me. The thoroughness
of its insulation and seclusion, and the difficulty of ingress and
egress, would in such case be the charm of charms; but as yet I am not
Timon. I wish the composure but not the depression of solitude.
There must remain with me a certain control over the extent and
duration of my repose. There will be frequent hours in which I shall
need, too, the sympathy of the poetic in what I have done. Let me
seek, then, a spot not far from a populous city- whose vicinity, also,
will best enable me to execute my plans.”
In search of a suitable place so situated, Ellison travelled for
several years, and I was permitted to accompany him. A thousand
spots with which I was enraptured he rejected without hesitation,
for reasons which satisfied me, in the end, that he was right. We came
at length to an elevated table-land of wonderful fertility and beauty,
affording a panoramic prospect very little less in extent than that of
Aetna, and, in Ellison’s opinion as well as my own, surpassing the
far-famed view from that mountain in all the true elements of the
picturesque.
“I am aware,” said the traveller, as he drew a sigh of deep
delight after gazing on this scene, entranced, for nearly an hour,
“I know that here, in my circumstances, nine-tenths of the most
fastidious of men would rest content. This panorama is indeed
glorious, and I should rejoice in it but for the excess of its
glory. The taste of all the architects I have ever known leads them,
for the sake of ‘prospect,’ to put up buildings on hill-tops. The
error is obvious. Grandeur in any of its moods, but especially in that
of extent, startles, excites- and then fatigues, depresses. For the
occasional scene nothing can be better- for the constant view
nothing worse. And, in the constant view, the most objectionable phase
of grandeur is that of extent; the worst phase of extent, that of
distance. It is at war with the sentiment and with the sense of
seclusion- the sentiment and sense which we seek to humor in ‘retiring
to the country.’ In looking from the summit of a mountain we cannot
help feeling abroad in the world. The heart-sick avoid distant
prospects as a pestilence.”
It was not until toward the close of the fourth year of our search
that we found a locality with which Ellison professed himself
satisfied. It is, of course, needless to say where was the locality.
The late death of my friend, in causing his domain to be thrown open
to certain classes of visiters, has given to Arnheim a species of
secret and subdued if not solemn celebrity, similar in kind,
although infinitely superior in degree, to that which so long
distinguished Fonthill.
The usual approach to Arnheim was by the river. The visiter left the
city in the early morning. During the forenoon he passed between
shores of a tranquil and domestic beauty, on which grazed
innumerable sheep, their white fleeces spotting the vivid green of
rolling meadows. By degrees the idea of cultivation subsided into that
of merely pastoral care. This slowly became merged in a sense of
retirement- this again in a consciousness of solitude. As the
evening approached, the channel grew more narrow, the banks more and
more precipitous; and these latter were clothed in rich, more profuse,
and more sombre foliage. The water increased in transparency. The
stream took a thousand turns, so that at no moment could its
gleaming surface be seen for a greater distance than a furlong. At
every instant the vessel seemed imprisoned within an enchanted circle,
having insuperable and impenetrable walls of foliage, a roof of
ultramarine satin, and no floor- the keel balancing itself with
admirable nicety on that of a phantom bark which, by some accident
having been turned upside down, floated in constant company with the
substantial one, for the purpose of sustaining it. The channel now
became a gorge- although the term is somewhat inapplicable, and I
employ it merely because the language has no word which better
represents the most striking- not the most distinctive-feature of
the scene. The character of gorge was maintained only in the height
and parallelism of the shores; it was lost altogether in their other
traits. The walls of the ravine (through which the clear water still
tranquilly flowed) arose to an elevation of a hundred and occasionally
of a hundred and fifty feet, and inclined so much toward each other
as, in a great measure, to shut out the light of day; while the long
plume-like moss which depended densely from the intertwining
shrubberies overhead, gave the whole chasm an air of funereal gloom.
The windings became more frequent and intricate, and seemed often as
if returning in upon themselves, so that the voyager had long lost all
idea of direction. He was, moreover, enwrapt in an exquisite sense
of the strange. The thought of nature still remained, but her
character seemed to have undergone modification, there was a weird
symmetry, a thrilling uniformity, a wizard propriety in these her
works. Not a dead branch- not a withered leaf- not a stray pebble- not
a patch of the brown earth was anywhere visible. The crystal water
welled up against the clean granite, or the unblemished moss, with a
sharpness of outline that delighted while it bewildered the eye.
Having threaded the mazes of this channel for some hours, the
gloom deepening every moment, a sharp and unexpected turn of the
vessel brought it suddenly, as if dropped from heaven, into a circular
basin of very considerable extent when compared with the width of
the gorge. It was about two hundred yards in diameter, and girt in
at all points but one- that immediately fronting the vessel as it
entered- by hills equal in general height to the walls of the chasm,
although of a thoroughly different character. Their sides sloped
from the water’s edge at an angle of some forty-five degrees, and they
were clothed from base to summit- not a perceptible point escaping- in
a drapery of the most gorgeous flower-blossoms; scarcely a green
leaf being visible among the sea of odorous and fluctuating color.
This basin was of great depth, but so transparent was the water that
the bottom, which seemed to consist of a thick mass of small round
alabaster pebbles, was distinctly visible by glimpses- that is to say,
whenever the eye could permit itself not to see, far down in the
inverted heaven, the duplicate blooming of the hills. On these
latter there were no trees, nor even shrubs of any size. The
impressions wrought on the observer were those of richness, warmth,
color, quietude, uniformity, softness, delicacy, daintiness,
voluptuousness, and a miraculous extremeness of culture that suggested
dreams of a new race of fairies, laborious, tasteful, magnificent, and
fastidious; but as the eye traced upward the myriad-tinted slope, from
its sharp junction with the water to its vague termination amid the
folds of overhanging cloud, it became, indeed, difficult not to
fancy a panoramic cataract of rubies, sapphires, opals, and golden
onyxes, rolling silently out of the sky.
The visiter, shooting suddenly into this bay from out the gloom of
the ravine, is delighted but astounded by the full orb of the
declining sun, which he had supposed to be already far below the
horizon, but which now confronts him, and forms the sole termination
of an otherwise limitless vista seen through another chasm- like
rift in the hills.
But here the voyager quits the vessel which has borne him so far,
and descends into a light canoe of ivory, stained with arabesque
devices in vivid scarlet, both within and without. The poop and beak
of this boat arise high above the water, with sharp points, so that
the general form is that of an irregular crescent. It lies on the
surface of the bay with the proud grace of a swan. On its ermined
floor reposes a single feathery paddle of satin-wood; but no oarsmen
or attendant is to be seen. The guest is bidden to be of good cheer-
that the fates will take care of him. The larger vessel disappears,
and he is left alone in the canoe, which lies apparently motionless in
the middle of the lake. While he considers what course to pursue,
however, he becomes aware of a gentle movement in the fairy bark. It
slowly swings itself around until its prow points toward the sun. It
advances with a gentle but gradually accelerated velocity, while the
slight ripples it creates seem to break about the ivory side in
divinest melody-seem to offer the only possible explanation of the
soothing yet melancholy music for whose unseen origin the bewildered
voyager looks around him in vain.
The canoe steadily proceeds, and the rocky gate of the vista is
approached, so that its depths can be more distinctly seen. To the
right arise a chain of lofty hills rudely and luxuriantly wooded. It
is observed, however, that the trait of exquisite cleanness where
the bank dips into the water, still prevails. There is not one token
of the usual river debris. To the left the character of the scene is
softer and more obviously artificial. Here the bank slopes upward from
the stream in a very gentle ascent, forming a broad sward of grass
of a texture resembling nothing so much as velvet, and of a brilliancy
of green which would bear comparison with the tint of the purest
emerald. This plateau varies in width from ten to three hundred yards;
reaching from the river-bank to a wall, fifty feet high, which
extends, in an infinity of curves, but following the general direction
of the river, until lost in the distance to the westward. This wall is
of one continuous rock, and has been formed by cutting perpendicularly
the once rugged precipice of the stream’s southern bank, but no
trace of the labor has been suffered to remain. The chiselled stone
has the hue of ages, and is profusely overhung and overspread with the
ivy, the coral honeysuckle, the eglantine, and the clematis. The
uniformity of the top and bottom lines of the wall is fully relieved
by occasional trees of gigantic height, growing singly or in small
groups, both along the plateau and in the domain behind the wall,
but in close proximity to it; so that frequent limbs (of the black
walnut especially) reach over and dip their pendent extremities into
the water. Farther back within the domain, the vision is impeded by an
impenetrable screen of foliage.
These things are observed during the canoe’s gradual approach to
what I have called the gate of the vista. On drawing nearer to this,
however, its chasm-like appearance vanishes; a new outlet from the bay
is discovered to the left- in which direction the wall is also seen to
sweep, still following the general course of the stream. Down this new
opening the eye cannot penetrate very far; for the stream, accompanied
by the wall, still bends to the left, until both are swallowed up by
the leaves.
The boat, nevertheless, glides magically into the winding channel;
and here the shore opposite the wall is found to resemble that
opposite the wall in the straight vista. Lofty hills, rising
occasionally into mountains, and covered with vegetation in wild
luxuriance, still shut in the scene.
Floating gently onward, but with a velocity slightly augmented,
the voyager, after many short turns, finds his progress apparently
barred by a gigantic gate or rather door of burnished gold,
elaborately carved and fretted, and reflecting the direct rays of
the now fast-sinking sun with an effulgence that seems to wreath the
whole surrounding forest in flames. This gate is inserted in the lofty
wall; which here appears to cross the river at right angles. In a
few moments, however, it is seen that the main body of the water still
sweeps in a gentle and extensive curve to the left, the wall following
it as before, while a stream of considerable volume, diverging from
the principal one, makes its way, with a slight ripple, under the
door, and is thus hidden from sight. The canoe falls into the lesser
channel and approaches the gate. Its ponderous wings are slowly and
musically expanded. The boat glides between them, and commences a
rapid descent into a vast amphitheatre entirely begirt with purple
mountains, whose bases are laved by a gleaming river throughout the
full extent of their circuit. Meantime the whole Paradise of Arnheim
bursts upon the view. There is a gush of entrancing melody; there is
an oppressive sense of strange sweet odor,- there is a dream- like
intermingling to the eye of tall slender Eastern trees- bosky
shrubberies- flocks of golden and crimson birds- lily-fringed lakes-
meadows of violets, tulips, poppies, hyacinths, and tuberoses- long
intertangled lines of silver streamlets- and, upspringing confusedly
from amid all, a mass of semi-Gothic, semi-Saracenic architecture
sustaining itself by miracle in mid-air, glittering in the red
sunlight with a hundred oriels, minarets, and pinnacles; and seeming
the phantom handiwork, conjointly, of the Sylphs, of the Fairies, of
the Genii and of the Gnomes.
THE END

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