The Path to Rome By Hilaire Belloc


The hither side of that bank, I say, had been denuded of its trees;
the roots of secular chestnuts stood - Page 300
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The Hither Side Of That Bank, I Say, Had Been Denuded Of Its Trees; The Roots Of Secular Chestnuts Stood Like Graves Above The Dry Steep, And Had Marked My Last Arduous Climb.

Now, at the summit, the highest part was a line of cool forest, and the late afternoon mingled with the sanctity of trees.

A genial dampness pervaded the earth beneath; grasses grew, and there were living creatures in the shade.

Nor was this tenanted wood all the welcome I received on my entry into Tuscany. Already I heard the noise of falling waters upon every side, where the Serchio sprang from twenty sources on the southern slope, and leapt down between mosses, and quarrelled, and overcame great smooth dark rocks in busy falls. Indeed, it was like my own country in the north, and a man might say to himself - 'After so much journeying, perhaps I am in the Enchanted Wood, and may find at last the fairy Melisaunde.'

A glade opened, and, the trees no longer hiding it, I looked down the vale, which was the gate of Tuscany. There - high, jagged, rapt into the sky - stood such a group of mountains as men dream of in good dreams, or see in the works of painters when old age permits them revelations. Their height was evident from the faint mist and grey of their hues; their outline was tumultuous, yet balanced; full of accident and poise. It was as though these high walls of Carrara, the western boundary of the valley, had been shaped expressly for man, in order to exalt him with unexpected and fantastic shapes, and to expand his dull life with a permanent surprise.

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