Catskill Mountain House

Chapter 13

Sketches Continued

From "The Catskill Mountains And The Region Around" (1867) By Rev. Charles Rockwell
Willis Gaylord Clark.-His Sketch of the Mountains, the Road to them and Views from them.-Similar Sketches by Tyrone Power, N. P. Willis, Park Benjamin, Harriet Martineau, Mrs. Ellett, Dr. Murdoch, Bayard Taylor, and Rev. Dr. Cuyler.

Yesterday was a golden Sabbath. With a chastened warmth the sun-rays fell through the crystal air-an air so pure that the slightest sound from cawing crow or whistling robin in the pines beneath us, came up to our ears distinctly

    "Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
    Bridal of earth and sky."

By five o'clock we were out upon the ledge in front of the hotel, for you must rernernber that the Mountain House is hung, like an eagle's nest, right on the verge of the precipice. As we came out to the table-rock, the sun was just coming up to the horizon. Aurora, with rosy finger, was opening the portals of the east. A long, fleecy cloud, whose lower surface was dyed with crimson, which faded into pink and then into a pearl-white, lay motionless in the glowing air. Between the Hudson and the faraway bills of Berkshire were heaped up banks of vapor which parted at the coming of the king of day-like cohorts parting right and left to receive an advancing sovereign. Detachments of mist were floating out from the entrance of the " Clove," and moving off toward the silver Hudson. Presently the river began to turn to paly gold. Then brighter. Then redder. Then it burned into a molten mirror of crimson, for the sun had already passed up from the horizon and veiled his glorious face behind the mantling cloud. So screened was his brightness from the eye, that we could look down undazzled upon the gorgeous panorama of the veil beneath. Far off toward the south, smoked the Highlands with their morning incense. Nearer lay the winding of the river before Hyde Park. Saugerties, with its white church-spires, was at our feet. A patch of green no larger than a man's hand, on the opposite side of the river from Catskill, marked the spot on which the painter Church is gathering materials for his nest. The cottage (Mrs. Cole's) in which, with his new-found mate, he is now waiting for the season of nidification, is also distinctly in view. Across the field from the cottage stands the studio of Cole, from which came forth the immortal "Voyage of Life," and in which still remains the unfinished "Cross and the World." Beyond this haunt of genius lies the bay of Hudson, golden in the sunlight, then the spires of Hudson City, then verdant farms and forest, and in the dim, mist-covered background swell upward the Green Mountains of Vermont .

A half-dozen of our fellow-lodgers, who, like ourselves, wished to begin the day's worship early, were standing beside us on the rocks, wrapped in cloaks and shawls. There was a dim resemblance in the scene to a sunrise on the Righi. But alas! no glaciers, no sky-piercing pinnacle of ice, was in sight. No sublimity, either, was there in our spectacle; but there was beauty infinite, beauty beyond aught that we have seen from mountaintop before, beauty beyond the reach of words. The sublime is only to be found at Catskill when a thunder-storm is mustering its battalions and discharging its terrific artillery among the "rattling peaks." At other times, the one sensation that is inspired by every varying view from sunrise to sunset, is that of beauty unending and illimitable. And never is the spectacle so surpassingly beautiful as at the day-dawn of a summer's morn.

After breakfast, the large company gathered in groups upon the ledge until the hour of service , or, with book in hand, strolled up into the thickets toward South Mountain. A few drove off to the Kauterskill Falls about three miles distant; but the Sabbath arrangements of our Sabbath-observing host were cordially responded to by ninetenths of all his guests. This house is a sweet home all the week, and a sanctuary on the Lord's day.

At eleven o'clock a gong sounded through the halls, and the parlors were soon filled by a quiet, reverential audience. A pulpit was extemporized in one corner of the drawing-room, quite as much of a pulpit as that from behind which Boanerges thunders every Sunday in Plymouth church. We had delightful music, for the leader of the "First Dutch Church" of Brooklyn, with his accomplished soprano was present. Their rich voices led ours, as we joined in good old "Coronation ;" and with swelling chorus shouted out, " Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings," in a style that would have gladdened Father Hastings' soul. A stout substantial Scotch divine gave us a discourse quite Chalmerian in character, on the "wondrous works of God" in creation, providence, and redemption. We all like his Scotch brogue exceedingly; it is an unctuous brogue, whether for song or for sermon, whether in Burns's lyrics or from Guthrie's pulpit. In that Gaelicized English have been delivered many of the most magnificent discourses of modern days. In the afternoon our hotel congregation gathered again to hear a discourse from your Brooklyn friend on "Love for Christ as the inspiration and joy of the Christian's life." Even a third service in the evening was crowded to the door! Again our good dominie from the "land o' brown heath " addressed us, his subject being the "Sepulchre in the Garden ;" -- again our eyes were lifted toward the everlasting hills whence cometh all our help -- again our voices rang out upon the still mountain air as we joined in singing " Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people." When the company separated, unwearied, to their rooms, the general utterance was: "What a blessed Sabbath we have had! A more delightful we never passed than this Sabbath on the Catskills!"

Yesterday was clear from dawn to twilight. Today the drenching rain is pouring down the window-pane. Over the ledge lies an Atlantic of vapor without sail or shore, and through the hemlocks on North mountain the wind brattles like a hurricane. We are disappointed of our expected ride through the Clove, a deep ravine, which was the favorite haunt of Cole, and of his pupil Church. Over all this region these two sons of nature rambled together; their names are as thoroughly identified with it as the name of Scott with the Eildon Hills, or that of Irving with the Hudson. Great as is the fame of Cole, it is not outstripped by his more celebrated pupils. No production of Turner is superior to the Heart of the Andes -- not even the "Sunset View of Cologne," or the " Building of Carthage." Claude is the acknowledged prince of landscape painters; yet in a distant land of which Claude had never heard, has risen up a youth who need not fear to have his productions hung on the same wall with the masterpieces of the man whose pictures used to sell for as much gold as would cover the canvass. Were the "Twilight in the Wilderness" to be found a few years hence in some dusty corner of an Italian convent, it might pass for a gem of Venetian or Florentine genius. Yet its author once played, a Yankee boy, in the streets of Hartford, and learned the secrets of his wondrous art, not in foreign galleries, but in yonder glorious Clove -- gallery of rocks and mountain-pines, built by the Almighty arm.


Chapter 13 SKETCHES

Willis Gaylord Clark.-His Sketch of the Mountains, the Road to them and Views from them.-Similar Sketches by Tyrone Power, N. P. Willis, Park Benjamin, Harriet Martineau, Mrs. Ellett, Dr. Murdoch, Bayard Taylor, and Rev. Dr. Cuyler.

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