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0105_001E VII. Alpenrosen and Goat's-Milk Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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Through the wood the cuckoo was calling--the bird which reverses the law of good children, and insists on being heard, but not seen.

When the forest was at an end we found ourselves at the foot of an alp which sloped steeply up to the Five Towers of Averau. The effect of these enormous masses of rock, standing out in lonely grandeur, like the ruins of some forsaken habitation of giants, was tremendous. Seen from far below in the valley their form was picturesque and striking; but as we sat beside the clear, cold spring which gushes out at the foot of the largest tower, the Titanic rocks seemed to hang in the air above us as if they would overawe us into a sense of their majesty. We felt it to the full; yet none the less, but rather the more, could we feel at the same time the delicate and ethereal beauty of the fringed gentianella and the pale Alpine lilies scattered on the short turf beside us.

We had now been on foot about three hours and a half. The half hour that remained was the hardest. Up over loose, broken stones that rolled beneath our feet, up over great slopes of rough rock, up across little fields of snow where we paused to celebrate the Fourth of July with a brief snowball fight, up along a narrowing ridge with a precipice on either hand, and so at last to the summit, 8600 feet above the sea.

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It is not a great height, but it is a noble situation. For Nuvolau is fortunately placed in the very centre of the Dolomites, and so commands a finer view than many a higher mountain. Indeed, it is not from the highest peaks, according to my experience, that one gets the grandest prospects, but rather from those of middle height, which are so isolated as to give a wide circle of vision, and from which one can see both the valleys and the summits. Monte Rosa itself gives a less imposing view than the Gorner Grat.

It is possible, in this world, to climb too high for pleasure.

But what a panorama Nuvolau gave us on that clear, radiant summer morning--a perfect circle of splendid sight! On one side we looked down upon the Five Towers; on the other, a thousand feet below, the Alps, dotted with the huts of the herdsmen, sloped down into the deep-cut vale of Agordo. Opposite to us was the enormous mass of Tofana, a pile of gray and pink and saffron rock. When we turned the other way, we faced a group of mountains as ragged as the crests of a line of fir-trees, and behind them loomed the solemn head of Pelmo. Across the broad vale of the Boite, Antelao stood beside Sorapis, like a campanile beside a cathedral, and Cristallo towered above the green pass of the Three Crosses. Through that opening we could see the bristling peaks of the Sextenthal. Sweeping around in a wider circle from that point, we saw, beyond the Durrenstein, the snow-covered pile of the Gross-Glockner; the crimson bastions of the Rothwand appeared to the north, behind Tofana; then the white slopes that hang far away above the Zillerthal; and, nearer, the Geislerspitze, like five fingers thrust into the air; behind that, the distant Oetzthaler Mountain, and just a single white glimpse of the highest peak of the Ortler by the Engadine; nearer still we saw the vast fortress of the Sella group and the red combs of the Rosengarten; Monte Marmolata, the Queen of the Dolomites, stood before us revealed from base to peak in a bridal dress of snow; and southward we looked into the dark rugged face of La Civetta, rising sheer out of the vale of Agordo, where the Lake of Alleghe slept unseen. It was a sea of mountains, tossed around us into a myriad of motionless waves, and with a rainbow of colours spread among their hollows and across their crests. The cliffs of rose and orange and silver gray, the valleys of deepest green, the distant shadows of purple and melting blue, and the dazzling white of the scattered snow-fields seemed to shift and vary like the hues on the inside of a shell. And over all, from peak to peak, the light, feathery clouds went drifting lazily and slowly, as if they could not leave a scene so fair.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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