Lombard Vignettes – On The Superga

THIS is the chord of Lombard coloring in May : Lowest in the scale, bright green of varied tints, the meadow-grasses mingling with willows and acacias, harmonized by air and distance ; next, opaque blue-the blue of something between amethyst and lapislazuli—that belongs alone to the basements of Italian mountains; higher, the roseate whiteness of ridged snow on Alps or Apennines ; highest, the blue of the sky, ascending from pale turquoise to transparent sapphire filled with light. A mediæval mystic might have likened this chord to the spiritual world. For the lowest region is that of natural life, of plant and bird and beast, and unregenerate man. It is the place of faun and nymph and satyr, the plain where wars are fought and cities built and work is done. Thence we climb to purified humanity, the mountains of purgation, the solitude and simplicity of contemplative life not yet made perfect by freedom from the flesh. Higher comes that thin white belt, where are the resting-places of angelic feet, the points whence purged souls take their flight towards infinity. Above all is heaven, the hierarchies ascending row on row to reach the light of God.

This fancy occurred to me as I climbed the slope of the Superga, gazing over acacia hedges and poplars to the mountains bare in morning light. The occasional occurrence of bars across this chord—poplars shivering in sun and breeze, stationary cypresses as black as night, and tall campanili with the hot red shafts of glowing brick—adds just enough of composition to the landscape. Without too much straining of the allegory, the mystic might have recognized in these aspiring bars the upward effort of souls rooted in the common life of earth.

The panorama, unrolling as we ascend, is enough to overpower a lover of beauty. There is nothing equal to it for space and breadth and majesty. Monte Rosa, the masses of Mont Blanc blended with the Grand Paradis, the airy pyramid of Monte Viso, these are the battlements of that vast Alpine rampart in which the vale of Susa opens like a gate. To west and south sweep the Maritime Alps and the Apennines. Beneath glides the infant Po; and where he leads our eyes the plain is only limited by pearly mist.