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those whose business it was to interfere—the gardeachampetres—the contrary would have been proved to them.
The time immediately preceding the vintage is given up to pleasure-parties: the proprietors of vineyards invite their friends from the town to eat grapes, and pass the day on their plantations. But on the hour appointed by the ordonnance of the prefect, the scene begins to be far different. Pleasure is ahandoned for labour, and it is the end of all to accelerate that as much as possible. At such time Clermont was deserted, and its whole population seemed to have spread itself over the neighbouring hills. The lanes across these hills became obstructed by fine bullocks, by carts full of tubs of wellpressed fruit, and by crowds of busy and happy-looking labourers. Chambermaids, cooks, and all other in-door servants, had left their work to partake of the shortlived fun, and to enjoy in the country a few days of a beautiful autumn. Proprietors of petty plantations had gathered their small crops, and squeezed them into tubs of the usual size and shape; and these, placed at the entrance of their fields, were hargained for by those who speculated on the collection of such small and scattered quantities of fruit. The interest of the scene was, as may be perceived, greatly enhanced by the vicinity of Clermont, whose inhabitants thus hastened to gather and convey home the produce of their little fields: and thus the gate of the town afforded scenes of interesting confusion, when the several wagon loads were stopped, and, one after the other, compelled topay the taxwhich the excisemen determined by quickly calculating the quantity of wine supposed to be produced from each tub of fruit. Even the very streets of the city were blocked up with wine-presses, from which long tubes conveyed the juice into the cuves, or great fermenting tubs, placed in the cellars under ground.
These peasants in wooden shoes—these heavy carts
—these closely-pressed grapes—and these scrutinizing
excise-collectors, do not, it is true, agree with those
Arcadian descriptions of vintages which so fondly please anil captivate our imaginations; still a vintage, even such as I have described it, and stript of poetical embellishments, is a delightful scene! The succession of your northern seasons imposes other labours on your peasantry; but the cultivation of the vine requires, perhaps, a less portion of toil than any other harvest, and that toil is mingled with immediate, or future, pleasure. Unlike
'Le vendangeur ravi de ployer sous lefaix,' the sower and the reaper is induced to work because he feels that, besides the profit resulting from his exertions, it is from them that he must expect his necessary and almost exclusive food; and from the time when the ploughman turns over the first furrow till the corn is consumed by his family, the gleaner is, perhaps, the only one who can receive immediate, lively, and unqualified pleasure in the performance of an easy task—is the only one who does not bow beneath the original curse,'in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread.'
But in the cultivation of the vine, how slight is the labour and how different the result! When once the pruning-knife has cleared away the useless twigs, the idle peasant makes way for the unassisted order of nature; and from the day when the clear drops of water, oozing through the tender hark of the shortened branches, announce the approaching spring and the putting forth of the early buds—he is left to admire the gradual formation of the fruit, and tranquilly awaits the moment when its bright and mellow hues snail declare that nature has accomplished her part, and that she resigns to him the completion of the work.
Instantly the scene changes: the solitary hills are covered with a lively and bustling population; the toil is light; women and children can join in it; and, while none are restrained from the actual enjoyment of the most delicious fruit the earth can produce, all look forward to the time when it will be converted into a cheap liquor, in the moderate enjoyment of which they will find pleasure and health, and the necessary courage to contend with the difficulties of their situation.
Such is the vintage in itself; and, did the labourers who take part in it resemble the nymphs and swains of the poets, their high-wrought descriptions would still afford a tolerably faithful picture of this happy, animated scene. But, when we see the uncouth dress and awkward gestures of these vendangeurs, we fancy that we are admiring a work of Rubens, or gazing on some other Flemish picture, in which the artist has ably represented an heroic action of antiquity, although he has clothed his historic personages in the homely attire of those of his own town and country.
The wine produced in this neighbourhood might be excellent, for the liquor is strong, and has a good flavour; but two circumstances conduce to its deterioration. Both in the home and in the foreign market, depth of colour is the chief requisite: but depth of colour can only be secured by allowing the husks of the fruit to remain too long a time in the cuve, while the juice is fermenting; and, in consequence of this, the wine is generally thick and puddly. But great quantities are sent to Paris to be mixed with other wines, to which they give an undue appearance of strength and consistency : and when an Auvergnat peasant purchases wine, in order to judge of its merits he dips his finger into the liquid and drops it on the fronting of his shirt: according to the depth or paleness of the stain that remains on the linen, he then decides on the good or bad qualities of the wine! What would poor Sancho have said to this?
When the landed proprietors of a province have gathered in and disposed of this, the last harvest, their business, as country gentlemen, is ended, and they resort to the capital of their department. The more opulent repair to Paris every winter, or every two winters, according to the state of their finances; for now that they have lost all feudal power, their county presents few attractions, and Paris is daily becoming the place of resort of all those who can afford to meet the expenses of the capital.
'Enteticommeitn Auvergnat—as obstinate as a native of Auvergne'—is a proverb in the rest of France : and of this proverb I have been able to discover the truth; not but what I think the whole French nation may vie in obstinacy with the people of any other country- But the natives of Clermont partake most strongly of this disposition ; which is, indeed, always peculiarly observable in those of every mountainous district. Separated from the rest of the world, the Auvergnats look upon all other people as strangers: even the French of other provinces are beheld in this light. They still boast of the repulse which Cicsar and the Roman arms received under the neighbouring walls of Gergovia: and they glory in the more recent fame of their countrymen, the Chancellier del'Hdpital, the Poet Delille, the General Desaix, and the great Pascal. For all this, they fancy themselves entitled to exclusive honour, and assert a proud superiority: their mountain of the Puy de Dome may be considered as the axis on which the remainder of France revolves in unceasing evolutions, while the mountain itself is stationary, and receives no impulse from the changes that take place around it.
Auvergne was little affected by the revolution: religion and those who upheld it were here little persecuted. I have, indeed, been told of eight-and-forty peasant women who were seized in their mountains and sent to Paris to stand their trial for the capital offence of having heard mass ; but the death of Robespierre interrupted the hymns with which they consoled themselves while crowded in the open caits that were conveying them to martyrdom, and restored them to their cottages and their religion.
I also see the public theatre erected close beside the very beautiful Gothic cathedral of the town, and to complete which the revolutionary agents had intended to destroy its light and graceful structure, and to desecrate those stones that had first heard the vows of enthusiastic devotion, and had echoed the inspiring Deus vult shouted by the multitude assembled in the plain below, while accepting the cross of the first of the crusades. But murders aud desecrations were not general in the mountains of the Poy de Dome: owing to their retired situation, their inhabitants were comparatively unheeded by the Committee of Public Safety: the attention of that committee was engrossed by more important objects than the revolutionizing and enlightening of ignorant, poor, and uninfluential mountaineers.
But, being an inland and retired province, devoid of manufactures and commerce, Auvergne contained great numbers of country gentlemen—of nobles attached to the ancient form of government and their own hereditary privileges, and pledged to the support of all that was then assailed by the irresistible force of public opinion. In the hope of defending these, they left their feudal chateaux; and no county furnished to the emigrant army of CondG so great a number of soldiers as were thus recruited from the fastnesses of the Puy de Dome. The landed property afterwards fell into other hands—or, perhaps, the opinions of its ancient possessors become moderated by defeat—for, in all the subsequent changes, this department has been, and still is, remarkable for its adherence to Napoleon. Under his reign, all political discords were hushed, and Clermont was noted as the most agreeable and social town in Prance. After the fall of the emperor, parties again separated: they were even drawn up in hostile array in the streets: and, till within the last three years, all fellowship and good-will was destroyed; the advocates of one form of government kept aloof from the supporters of another system ; or, when casually thrown together, the opinions of each were tacitly, but forcibly, made known to the other.
I have now resided nine months at Clermont, and the moment approaches when I am to take my departure.
GOOD ADVICE TO A FRIEND IN TROUBLE. You've been in hot water! and can it be true 1 If so, 'twas the very best thing you could do; And next time the kettle is boiling, I hope, You'll also make use of a towel and soap.