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

Section II.

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Cortina lies in its valley like a white shell that has rolled down into a broad vase of malachite. It has about a hundred houses and seven hundred inhabitants, a large church and two small ones, a fine stone campanile with excellent bells, and seven or eight little inns. But it is more important than its size would signify, for it is the capital of the district whose lawful title is Magnifica Comunita di Ampezzo--a name conferred long ago by the Republic of Venice. In the fifteenth century it was Venetian territory; but in 1516, under Maximilian I., it was joined to Austria; and it is now one of the richest and most prosperous communes of the Tyrol. It embraces about thirty-five hundred people, scattered in hamlets and clusters of houses through the green basin with its four entrances, lying between the peaks of Tofana, Cristallo, Sorapis, and Nuvolau. The well-cultivated grain fields and meadows, the smooth alps filled with fine cattle, the well-built houses with their white stone basements and balconies of dark brown wood and broad overhanging roofs, all speak of industry and thrift. But there is more than mere agricultural prosperity in this valley. There is a fine race of men and women--intelligent, vigorous, and with a strong sense of beauty. The outer walls of the annex of the Hotel Aquila Nera are covered with frescoes of marked power and originality, painted by the son of the innkeeper. The art schools of Cortina are famous for their beautiful work in gold and silver filigree, and wood-inlaying. There are nearly two hundred pupils in these schools, all peasants' children, and they produce results, especially in intarsia, which are admirable. The village orchestra, of which I spoke a moment ago, is trained and led by a peasant's son, who has never had a thorough musical education. It must have at least twenty-five members, and as we heard them at the Festa they seemed to play with extraordinary accuracy and expression.

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This Festa gave us a fine chance to see the people of the Ampezzo all together. It was the annual jubilation of the district; and from all the outlying hamlets and remote side valleys, even from the neighbouring vales of Agordo and Auronzo, across the mountains, and from Cadore, the peasants, men and women and children, had come in to the Sagro at Cortina. The piazza--which is really nothing more than a broadening of the road behind the church--was quite thronged. There must have been between two and three thousand people.

The ceremonies of the day began with general church-going. The people here are honestly and naturally religious. I have seen so many examples of what can only be called "sincere and unaffected piety," that I cannot doubt it. The church, on Cortina's feast-day, was crowded to the doors with worshippers, who gave every evidence of taking part not only with the voice, but also with the heart, in the worship.

Then followed the public unveiling of a tablet, on the wall of the little Inn of the Anchor, to the memory of Giammaria Ghedini, the founder of the art-schools of Cortina. There was music by the band; and an oration by a native Demosthenes (who spoke in Italian so fluent that it ran through one's senses like water through a sluice, leaving nothing behind), and an original Canto sung by the village choir, with a general chorus, in which they called upon the various mountains to "re-echo the name of the beloved master John-Mary as a model of modesty and true merit," and wound up with--

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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