« ZurückWeiter »
that many of these enormous masses, emaciated, and naked, the terror of which seem to overburden the globe, are the neighbouring shepherds. As the only vaults that protect the most beauti- people are prone to the marvellous, ful fabrics, in the construction of which they were considered as forcerers or Nature seems to have excelled even fairies, and it was thought impious to herself? There, in silence, she is at doubt that they were supernatural bework. Uncontrouled by man, the ings. Afterwards, when misery had makes light of the greatest difficulties; extinguished their race, the belief of and even, though under the influence their existence continued, and no body of second causes, art is astonished at ventured near the spot they had inhaher fortuitous, and yet regular com- bited. The bones that are still found, binations; at the boldness and majesty shew that they must have lived here that appear even in her most careless for a long time; and some utensils, performances ; but, above all, at the formed in a very rude manner, give Simplicity of the means the employs. some idea of their arts and their geThe vulgar are in raptures, and think nius. . they understand her operations ; the · M. Lonjon, excited by the accounts philosopher admires, but laments his of the inhabitants, and even by their own ignorance.
fears, could not resist the desire of · Those subterraneous caverns, call. visiting this grotto ; but finding infur. ed Grottoes, have been often defcri- mountable difficulties to his first atbed, but the difficulty of approaching tempt, he abandoned it, with the relothem has generally damped the curio- lution of returning provided with eve. fity of travellers, who have been con- ry thing necessary for ensuring success. tent with viewing those of easiest ac. Several years afterwards, I accicess. Yet it is to be remarked, that dentally met M. Lonjon at Montpel. those which are most worthy of being lier. A correspondence of pursuits Seen, are precisely those which are made the discourse turn upon grottoes, with most difficulty and danger ap- many of which I had seen. The proached ; as if Nature meant to de- Grotto of the Fairies was mentioned, fend her treasures, and to protect them and the description of it, which seemfrom the idle visits of the multitude. ed to me a romance, instantly deter
Some years ago, Mons. Lonjon, of mined me to visit it. M Lonjon talkthe town of Ganges, an enthufiastic ed to me of the dangers ; I replied, admirer of the curiosities of nature, by fixing the day. We hastily proafter having scrutinised all the grottoes vided ourselves with some neceffary in his neighbourhood, was tempted to implements, which we thought would examine that of the Fairies, (baume be more than fufficient. de las doumaiselles, in the language of · M. Brunet, a young gentleman of the country.) This grotto is situated Montpellier, who applies his mind to three quarters of a league from Ganges, the sciences at an age when others near St Bauzile, in a wood at the top think of nothing but pleasure, confentof a very steep mountain called Roc de ed to accompany me, along with a Taurach, where it is much celebrated. domestic and two peafants. We had It is said, that, in the time of the re. a ladder of ropes 50 feet long, with ligious wars, a devoted family shelter- cords, torches, and some provitions, ed themselves in this place from per- and with these, and a fufficient portioa
secution and death; that they conti- of curiosity, we set out on our fubter: un pued here for many years, living on ranean expedition on Wednesday the
herbs, roots, and such animals as came 7th of June 1780. within their reach ; that they were At first we had nothing but fatiguer fometimes seen, towards evening, pale, We were forced to clamber up the
mountain for three quarters of an hour; bottom; this is not in general the we had to contend with the heat of the shape of such stalactites as reft on the sun reverberated from the rocks, with ground. roads never traversed but by goats, In this first cavern, which is divided with loose stones, with the weight of into two by these columns, we kindled our hammers, torches, ropes, and pro- a fire, took breakfast, and renounced vilions, and, what was worst, with for a long time the light of day. thirst, as we had neglected to bring There is a passage from this into water, expecting to meet with it at the the second cavern, but it is so narrow grotto : but we supplied the want with that you must go sideways before you Some cherries.
can get in. Here we again made About the middle of the mountain use of our wooden ladder to descend we stopped at the Mas de la Coste; twenty feet farther. (mas means a small house): here we This second cavern is immense : increased our caravan by the addition here, you see, as it were, a curtaia of a man and of a ladder. On the studded with diamonds, the height of top of the mountain we found a little which you cannot measure, touching wood of green oaks, which affords a the ground, and gracefully folded, as grateful shade, and defends the open- if its drapery had been adjusted by the ing of the cavern.
moft skilful artist : there, are petrified This is in the shape of a funnel, cascades, white like froth ; others yeltwenty feet in diameter at the mouth, low, which seem about to fall upon and thirty feet deep. This opening is you in accumulated waves ; the first most delightfully overshadowed with look terrifies, the second stupifies and trees, plants, and wild vines with their astonishes you, but all is silence and grapes, as if these meant to make the rest. It looks as if some superior curious adventurer regret the beauties power had arrested the whole with a of nature which he is about to leave touch of his magic wand, as in those for dark and gloomy recesses. The imaginary palaces through which, du. aspect of this cavern must necessarily ring the times of the fairies, the astobe very frightful, for M. Brunet's dog, nished traveller, lost in admiration, an animal exceedingly attached to his walked along without meeting a single master,preferred waiting foreight hours animated being. Many columns, some at the mouth of the grotto, making hi- truncated, others in the shape of an deous yellings, and the most moving obelisk; the roof loaded with feftoons and pitiable cries, till M. Brunet re or horrid with sharp points ; fome turned.
transparent like glass, others white as We descended by a rope, tied round alabaster ; crystals, diamonds, porcea rock, to the place where a wooden laine, forming a rich and fanciful alladder had been firmly fixed. When semblage, all contribute to recall to we had overcome this difficulty, we mind the fictions that delighted our found ourselves at the entrance of the infancy. first cavern, which inclines a little, and Proceeding to the left, we passed is covered with capillary plants : on a third cavern, pretty large and very the right is another cave, that does long : its form is that of a winding not reach far.
gallery, along which we walked a con• In front are four magnificent co. fiderable way. At last we entered un lumns, like palm-trees, ranged in a der an arch so low, that we had to line, and forming a gallery of ftalac. stoop much; it was called the Oven, s tite thirty feet high. They do not on account of its low and round shape: reach the roof, which is smooth, and it has two exits ; the congelations here they are larger at the top than at the are white and granulated like - small B b 2
Thot. It is impoffible to conceive the ress, would instantly decide the fade. fanciful appearance which Nature af. of the hardiest adventurer. fumes in this oren. On the right weHowever, the resolution is taken, left a second oven, and entered a caThe cavera before us, by the feebie vern where nothing was to be seen light of our corches, promises to inbut rocks, orerturned, broken, heap. demnify us for our labour. Pillars of ed or. fufpended, indicating violent prodigious height, an immense excaconvulsions in the bowels of the earth: ration, an arch of which, even at the every thing wore a dreadful aspect, place where we food, it was impor. and we hurried through, left one of fible to ascertain the elevation, precis these enormous masses which seemed pices of which we could not fathom ready to fall should crush us in pieces. the depth, all tend to inspire us with A little afterwards we found ourselves fear, and to stimulate our curiofity. standing on them, having a view of A peasant of Ganges, called Peter, others that produced funilar effects. as alert as intrepid, is the first to It was a vast amphitheatre, where we venture : M. Brunet follows him; we grew familiar with fear ; and where loft light, at the distance of three fa. optics, and the rules of geometry, were thoms, of the person descending, the perpetually set at nought.
time he took up seemed enormous, the These first caverns were known to rock ceased abruptly at twenty feet, the country people, but, as they were and the ladder without support fwung nor the principal object of our invetti- in the air and turned round upon itself, gation, we came at last to a place at The dead filence, the feeble light, which M. Lonjon had formerly sprung which diminished the obscurity without a mine.
difpelling it, the fear occalioned by this · The passage is narrow, and cannot profound folitude, the alarming noise be entered but by creeping. This of pieces of broken stalactite falling hole leads to a space large enough to from the roof and bounding from rock bold only about a dozen of people. to rock, contributed to give our at. - Behind three small columns we dif. tempt an air of enchantment. It is covered a reservoir filled with muddy pofbible, that on such occasions the water , a prodigious number ef bats mind may exaggerate its own senfa. were our companions in this little tions, but I deforibe those felt at the space; upon the rocks we found many time, and which we have fince fer crystallizations in the form of plants : veral times avowed. or they were white and thining, and made I was the third to descend: I was a fine contralt with the dark ground tired with looking and listeninga The on which they were laid. A passage, ladder was already affected with the opposite to that by which we had en- descent of the two persons that pres tered, led to a place lo large that the ceded me; the steps were too distant eye could not estimate the size of it. from each other, and made of cords ; Into this there was no road but by a the weight of the ladder made them rock of 50 feet. To this we apply ftill more distant ; I was obliged to our ladder of ropes, fixing it to a sta take some time in holding by my hand, Jactite ; each encourages the other, that I might find the steps and detach looks down and instantly recoils; a the ladder from the rock, without be horrible precipice appears on every ing able to support myself with the 0Lide; a stone is thrown in, which takes ther hand on account of the distance : 2 considerable time to descend; it is all these circumstances exhausted my at last heard striking and bounding strength, so that having descended a. from rock to rock for some time be- bout a third of the ladder, ny leff fore it ceases. A falle step, or giddi, am became unable to support me, and
І remained I remained fufpended with one foot re-afcend the fatal ladder. This I'acon a Atep and the other in the air, complished by the help of a rope held at embracing the ladder, without ha- top by my servant, and the asistance of ping the power either of descending or the intrepid Peter, who humbled us all getting up again. I continued for a by his boldness and address. quarter of an hour in this most cruel Upon our return to Montpellier the perplexity, viewing below me a dwad- relation of this enterprise enflamed the ful precipice with a narrow and flip- courage of our young naturalists, and
pery rock at the foot of the ladder, froze the hearts of the petits maitres, · on which I would be obliged to come Many solicited the favour of accom
down perpendicularly, commiserating panying us on our next expedition, at once my own condition and that of and more than we could possibly admy companions, whom this accident mit. most cruelly alarmed. I heard them. On Saturday, therefore, the 15th of talk of my situation below me, and July, Meff, Lonjon, father and son, M. judged of my position by their dif Brunet, and several others, agreed to course. At the end of a quarter of accompany me, with the firm resolution an hour, however, exerting all my of penetrating to the bottom of the strength, and pressed by necessity, I grotto, whatever might happen. fid down several steps, and my two Every precaution was taken which companions preparing to support me, I prudence could suggest, the ladder allowed myself to fall into their arms, was repaired, and men were employed bedewed with sweat and overpowered for two days in making supports for with fatigue, but throwing myself on the feet, and placing pegs of iron for a wet rock, which appeared to me the fixing the ropes. most luxurious fopha, I foun recover. We departed early, lightly cloathed my spirits.
ed, furnished with a thermometer, My domestic, whom my success had pencils, and hammers : at once paitnot encouraged, and who had been ia ters, masons, naturalists, and mecha great fear for me, remained above pics, we inspired one another mutually with a son of M. Lonjon's ; he had with chearfulness and courage. We accompanied me through all the ca- followed without difficulty the road verns, and tho' he had a great deal of I have already described, till we arcourage, he was afraid of trusting to rived in the cavern at the frightful char ill-formed ladder which every mo. precipice which had stopped us before. ment became worse.
Having orercome this difficulty, and · We now surveyed an immense spaco, several others of great danger, two of enriched and covered with stalactites our companions refused to follow us, and Italagmites of every shape, and of when we were just about to arrive at a dazzling whiteness. But we were the end of our labours. still so feet from the bottom; the We came at last then to a folid precipitous rocks below, which were bottom on which we could walk, if so finooch as to afford no support for not with ease, at least with safety: the foor, nor any thing on which the when every step presented a new subhand could lay bold, seemed to threaten je&t for admiration. , instant death to the rash person who An altar, white like the finest porce. Should attempt to descend. After, laine, three feet high, perfectly oval, therefore, having scrutinised every place and surrounded with regular steps, was in vain for a road, we found, that with- the first object that struck us. The table out iron hooks, and hammers, and af- of this altar is most beautifully enamelGultants, it was impossible to proceed, and led with a sort of foliage, imbricated we were therefore reluctantly obliged to like the leaves of an artichoke.
Furulier • Further are four twisted columns of · This grotto is round; it may be a yellowish colour, but in several pla. compared to a stately church surroundo ces transparent, notwithstanding their ed with chapels of different heights : fize, for four men could not embrace the centre is a dome too high to be them. It was impossible to measure measured, but we supposed, from the their height, but they seemed to touch height we had defcended, that it was the roof.
about 50 toises. The bottom is wet, This place is so large that our eyes in some of the caverns the ground is tould not estimate either its elevation black, and among others there is one or depth. We perceived cavities into that perfectly resembles a riding-house, which the industry of man could not with a pillar in the middle. penetrate. While seated on this altar, It is impollible to describe every thing we were surrounded with a number we saw in this place, and in the little of stupendous objects which affected chambers adjoining, during 'ten beurs us with mute admiration. Among which we employed in descending others there was an obelisk, high as a and observing. Many parts were fo steeple, pointed and perfectly round, beautiful, fo regular, and so happily of a reddish colour, carved its whole formed, that they were entitled to all height, and in the most exact propor our praise. Enthusiasm admires evetions; huge masses like churches, fome- ry thing, but indeed there were many times in the form of cascades, and pieces which it is impossible to describe sometimes in that of clouds ; pillars that perfectly charmed us. The cal. broken in all directions, and covered careous spar which is found in this with ramifications of enamel, formed grotto is of the finest kind, and would the most varied and phantastic combi- produce most valuable alabaster. We nations. A scull was the only object wished to carry away every thing, and that disturbed our enchantment; we have even to reproach ourselves with were at a loss to conceive how the un- destroying many of these objects of our happy being that owned it could have admiration. penetrated to such a depth, considering In this place we dined, and it was the pains that our descent nad cost us ; illuminated as well as so vast a place but at last we concluded that the wa- could well be ; for the light of the ter, which every Winter inundates this greatest torch seemed only equal to grotto, must have brought hither the that of an ordinary taper. head, and we re-assumed our gaiety. After dinner we made the proceso
One of the finest objects in this verbal of our descent, and of the means grotto is a colossal statue, 'placed on a we had employed to effect it: we put pedestal, which represents a woman it into a sealed bottle, which was plaholding two children. This piece ced where it could not be broken; would be worthy the possession of the tin box contained our names, and to greatest Sovereign of Europe, if it the deepest part of the grotto we af. could be procured in the form which fixed a piece of lead with our names we very distinctly and without any inscribed. These little effulions of illusion viewed it in. It is adorned self-love would not appear surprising with fringes, curtains, and canopies, if the reader could have any idea of inlaid with snamel and crystal, with la. the patience, the courage, and circumces and ribbands so delicately wrought, spection which it was necessary for us that one must be convinced that no to exert in this laborious and hazardo human being had ever penetrated these ous enterprize. regions, before he can believe that it Our torches, which were nearly fje is not the workmanship of the most nished warned us to depart, which we Skilful artist. * did with regret. Let not our reloc