Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/23

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3
CONTRASTS

It seems therefore reasonable to take the entire curve as forming the Cevennes from the depression of the Jarrêt, through which runs the line from Lyons to the coalfields of S. Etienne, as the northern limit, and the Montagne Noire, east of the gap of Revel, by which the road by which Castelnaudary and Castres are linked, as the western termination.


"The Cevennes," says Onésime Reclus, "have this striking feature, that they separate two climates, two vegetations, two natures. To the north and to the west are rain, snow, light fog silvered by the moon, and dense vapours which the sun cannot pierce; and the streams that water the smallest valleys nourish rich green meadows; to the south and east is a blazing sun, are glare, heat, drought, barrenness, dust, the vine, the olive, springs of water few and far between, but where they do issue, copious and clear; here—contrasts of colour, sharp-cut horizons, more beautiful than those of the north. What a contrast within a few leagues' distance between the verdure of Mezamet and the vari-coloured marbles of Cannes, between the Agout and the Salvetat d' Angles … between the valley of the Dourbie at Nant and the Hérault at Ganges, between the Tarn at Pont-de-Montvert and the embattled gorges of the Gardons, between the Allier at La Bastide and the ravines down which rushes the Cèze, between the young Loire and the terrible rapids of the Ardèche … on one side a French Siberia, on the other an Africa where the sirocco does not parch up the harvests, but where the mistral shrieks, itself producing a brief winter."[1]

The chain of the Cevennes, of which Mézenc may be regarded as the hinge, forms a ridge on the right bank of the Rhone, running for a while parallel to the French Alps upon the left bank. But whereas these latter

  1. France: Algérie et Colonies, Paris, Hachette et Cie.