A SABBATH ON THE CATSKILLS.
BY REV. THEODORE L. CUYLER, D.D.
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.