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    Ch. 23 - The Dal Elv

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    Chapter 23
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    Before Homer sang there were heroes; but they are not known; no poet
    celebrated their fame. It is just so with the beauties of nature, they
    must be brought into notice by words and delineations, be brought
    before the eyes of the multitude; get a sort of world's patent for
    what they are, and then they may be said first to exist. The elvs of
    the north have rushed and whirled along for thousands of years in
    unknown beauty. The world's great highroad does take this direction;
    no steam-packet conveys the traveller comfortably along the streams of
    the Dal-elvs; fall on fall makes sluices indispensable and invaluable.
    Schubert is as yet the only stranger who has written about the wild
    magnificence and southern beauty of Dalecarlia, and spoken of its
    greatness.

    Clear as the waves of the sea does the mighty elv stream in endless
    windings through forest deserts and varying plains, sometimes
    extending its deep bed, sometimes confining it, reflecting the bending
    trees and the red painted block houses of solitary towns, and
    sometimes rushing like a cataract over immense blocks of rock.

    Miles apart from one another, out of the ridge of mountains between
    Sweden and Norway, come the east and west Dal-elvs, which first become
    confluent and have one bed above Bålstad. They have taken up rivers
    and lakes in their waters. Do but visit this place! here are pictorial
    riches to be found; the most picturesque landscapes, dizzyingly grand,
    smilingly pastoral--idyllic: one is drawn onward up to the very source
    of the elv, the bubbling well above Finman's hut: one feels a desire
    to follow every branch of the stream that the river takes in.

    The first mighty fall, Njupeskoers cataract, is seen by the Norwegian
    frontier in Sernasog. The mountain stream rushes perpendicularly from
    the rock to a depth of seventy fathoms.

    We pause in the dark forest, where the elv seems to collect within
    itself nature's whole deep gravity. The stream rolls its clear waters
    over a porphyry soil where the mill-wheel is driven, and the gigantic
    porphyry bowls and sarcophagi are polished.

    We follow the stream through Siljan's lake, where superstition sees
    the water-sprite swim, like the sea-horse with a mane of green
    sea-weed, and where the aërial images present visions of witchcraft in
    the warm summer days.

    We sail on the stream from Siljan's lake, under the weeping willows of
    the parsonage, where the swans assemble in flocks; we glide along
    slowly with horses and carriages on the great ferry-boat, away over
    the rapid current under Bålstad's picturesque shore. Here the elv
    widens and rolls its billows majestically in a woodland landscape, as
    large and extended as if it were in North America.

    We see the rushing, rapid stream under Avista's yellow clay
    declivities: the yellow water falls like fluid amber in picturesque
    cataracts before the copper-works, where rainbow-coloured tongues of
    fire shoot themselves upwards, and the hammer's blows on the copper
    plates resound to the monotonous, roaring rumble of the elv-fall.

    And now, as a concluding passage of splendour in the life of the
    Dal-elvs, before they lose themselves in the waters of the Baltic, is
    the view of Elvkarleby Fall. Schubert compares it with the fall of
    Schafhausen; but we must remember, that the Rhine there has not such a
    mass of water as that which rushes down Elvkarleby.

    Two and a half Swedish miles from Gefle, where the high road to Upsala
    goes over the Dal-elv, we see from the walled bridge, which we pass
    over, the whole of that immense fall. Close up to the bridge, there is
    a house where the bridge toll is paid. There the stranger can pass the
    night, and from his little window look over the falling waters, see
    them in the clear moonlight, when darkness has laid itself to rest
    within the thicket of oaks and firs, and all the effect of light is in
    those foaming, flowing waters, and see them when the morning sun
    stretches his rainbow in the trembling spray, like an airy bridge of
    colours, from the shore to the wood-grown rock in the centre of the
    cataract.

    We came hither from Gefle, and saw at a great distance on the way, the
    blue clouds from the broken, rising spray, ascend above the dark-green
    tops of the trees. The carriage stopped near the bridge; we stepped
    out, and close before us fell the whole redundant elv.

    The painter cannot give us the true, living image of a waterfall on
    canvas--the movement is wanting; how can one describe it in words,
    delineate this majestic grandeur, brilliancy of colour, and arrowy
    flight? One cannot do it; one may however attempt it; get together, by
    little and little, with words, an outline of that mirrored image which
    our eye gave us, and which even the strongest remembrance can only
    retain--if not vaguely, dubiously.

    The Dal-elv divides itself into three branches above the fall: the two
    enclose a wood-grown rocky island, and rush down round its smooth-worn
    stony wall. The one to the right of these two falls is the finer; the
    third branch makes a circuit, and comes again to the main stream,
    close outside the united fall; here it dashes out as if to meet or
    stop the others, and is now hurried along in boiling eddies with the
    arrowy stream, which rushes on foaming against the walled pillars that
    bear the bridge, as if it would tear them away along with it.

    The landscape to the left was enlivened by a herd of goats, that were
    browsing amongst the hazel bushes. They ventured quite out to the very
    edge of the declivity, as they were bred here and accustomed to the
    hollow, thundering rumble of the water. To the right, a flock of
    screaming birds flew over the magnificent oaks. Cars, each with one
    horse, and with the driver standing upright in it, the reins in his
    hand, came on the broad forest road from Oens Brück.

    Thither we will go in order to take leave of the Dal-elv at one of the
    most delightful of places, which vividly removes the stranger, as it
    were, into a far more southern land, into a far richer nature, than he
    supposed was to be found here. The road is so pretty--the oak grows
    here so strong and vigorously with mighty crowns of rich foliage.

    Oens Brück lies in a delightfully pastoral situation. We came thither;
    here was life and bustle indeed! The mill-wheels went round; large
    beams were sawn through; the iron forged on the anvil, and all by
    water-power. The houses of the workmen form a whole town: it is a long
    street with red-painted wooden houses, under picturesque oaks, and
    birch trees. The greensward was as soft as velvet to look at, and up
    at the manor-house, which rises in front of the garden like a little
    palace, there was, in the rooms and saloon, everything that the
    English call comfort.

    We did not find the host at home; but hospitality is always the
    house-fairy here. We had everything good and homely. Fish and wild
    fowl were placed before us, steaming and fragrant, and almost as
    quickly as in beautiful enchanted palaces. The garden itself was a
    piece of enchantment. Here stood three transplanted beech-trees, and
    they throve well. The sharp north wind had rounded off the tops of the
    wild chesnut-trees of the avenue in a singular manner: they looked as
    if they had been under the gardener's shears. Golden-yellow oranges
    hung in the conservatory; the splendid southern exotics had to-day got
    the windows half open, so that the artificial warmth met the fresh,
    warm, sunny air of the northern summer.

    That branch of the Dal-elv which goes round the garden is strewn with
    small islands, where beautiful hanging birches and fir-trees grow in
    Scandinavian splendour. There are small islands with green, silent
    groves; there are small islands with rich grass, tall brackens,
    variegated bell-flowers, and cowslips--no Turkey carpet has fresher
    colours. The stream between these islands and holms is sometimes
    rapid, deep, and clear; sometimes like a broad rivulet with
    silky-green rushes, water-lilies, and brown-feathered reeds; sometimes
    it is a brook with a stony ground, and now it spreads itself out in a
    large, still mill-dam.

    Here is a landscape in Midsummer for the games of the river-sprites,
    and the dancers of the elves and fairies! Here, in the lustre of the
    full moon, the dryads can tell their tales, the water-sprite seize the
    golden harp, and believe that one can be blessed, at least for one
    single night like this.

    On the other side of Oens Brück is the main stream--the full Dal-elv.
    Do you hear the monotonous rumble? it is not from Elvkarleby Fall that
    it reaches hither; it is close by; it is from Laa-Foss, in which lies
    Ash Island: the elv streams and rushes over the leaping salmon.

    Let us sit here, between the fragments of rock by the shore, in the
    red evening sunlight, which sheds a golden lustre on the waters of the
    Dal-elv.

    Glorious river! But a few seconds' work hast thou to do in the mills
    yonder, and thou rushest foaming on over Elvkarleby's rocks, down into
    the deep bed of the river, which leads thee to the Baltic--thy
    eternity.
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