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Chapel of Our Lady of Cold Spring

Chapel of “Our Lady of Cold Spring.”

Coldspring, Putnam Cy. N.Y.

T HE Hudson bends out from Crow-Nest into a small bay; and in the lap of the crescent thus formed lies snug and sheltered the town of Cold Spring.

It is a pity, picturesquely speaking, that the boatmen on the river are not Catholics; it would be so pretty to see them shorten sail off Our Lady of Cold Spring, and uncover for an Ave-Maria. This little chapel, so exquisitely situated on the bluff overlooking the river, reminds me of a hermit's oratory and cross which is perched similarly in the shelter of a cliff on the desolate coast of Sparta. I was on board a frigate, gliding slowly up the Ægean, and clinging to the shore for a land-wind, when I descried the white cross at a distance of about half a mile, strongly relieved against the dark rock in its rear. As we approached, the small crypt and altar became visible; and at the moment the ship passed, a tall monk, with a snow-white beard, stepped forth like an apparition upon the cliffs, and spread out his arms to bless us. In the midst of the intense solitude of the Ægean, with not a human dwelling to be seen on the whole coast from Morea to Napoli, the effect of this silent benediction was almost supernatural. He remained for five minutes in this attitude, his long cowl motionless in the still air, and his head slowly turning to the ship as she drew fast round the little promontory on her course. I would suggest to Our Lady of Cold Spring, that a niche under the portico of her pretty chapel, with a cross to be seen from the river by day and a lamp by night, would make at least a catholic impression on the passer-by, though we are not all children of St. Peter.

Half way between the mountain and Our Lady's shrine stands, on a superb natural platform, the romantic estate of Undercliff. Just above it rises the abrupt and heavily-wooded mountain, from which it derives its name; a thick grove hides it from the village at its foot, and from the portico of the mansion extend views in three directions unparalleled for varied and surprising beauty. A road running between high-water mark and the park gate skirts the river in eccentric windings for five or six miles; the brows of the hills descending to the Hudson in the west and north are nobly wooded and threaded with circuitous paths; and all around lies the most romantic scenery of the most romantic river in the world.

The only fault of the views from West Point is that West Point itself is lost as a feature in the landscape. The traveller feels the same drawback which troubled the waiting-maid when taken to drive by the footman in her mistress's chariot,—“How I wish I could stand by the road-side and see myself go by!” From Undercliff, which is directly opposite, and about at the same elevation, the superb terrace of the Military School is seen to the greatest advantage. The white barracks of Camptown, the long range of edifices which skirt the esplanade, the ruins of old Fort Putnam half way up the mountain, and the waving line of wood and valley extending to the estate of “Stoney Lonesome” form a noble feature in the view from Undercliff.

I had forgotten that Cold Spring “plucks a glory on its head” from being honored with the frequent visits of Washington Irving, Halleck, and other lesser stars in the literary firmament. Now that these first lights above the horizon have set (Hesperus-like, first and brightest!), there lingers about the town many a tale of the days when Geoffrey Crayon talked in his gentle way with the ferryman who brought him to Cold Spring; or the now plethoric post-master, who in his character of librarian to the village enjoyed the friendship of Irving and Halleck, and received from their own hands the “author's copies,” since curiously preserved in the execrable print and binding then prevalent in America. Perhaps even old Lipsey the ferryman, and his rival Andrews, will come in for their slice of immortality, little as they dream now, pulling close in for the counter-current under Our Lady's skirts, of working at that slow oar for posthumous reputation.