Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1839/River Tonse

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1839-41-Crossing the River Tonse.png


Artist: W. Purser - Engraved by: H. Jorden


Light is the bridge across the dark blue river,
Gracefully swinging, far more like a shadow
Flung from a cloud, than the work of man and labour.

Formed of twisted grasses, fragile is the structure—
Seems it as meant to bear no other burden
Than sunbeams and moonbeams, dreams, thoughts, and fancies.

Light is the line it traces on the water,
Light is the line it traces on the air—
Made to carry over yellow flowers from the champac.

Yet must it bear the weight of many burthens;
Winding around it passes the dark Hindoo—
Often does it bend, though it breaks not with its freightage.

Airy bridge! thou art of airy youth the symbol—
So does its hope bind the present and the future;
So slight is the structure which its heart carries onwards.

Hope’s fairy arches cross human life’s dark river;
Frail the support—while over it there hastens
All the sweet beliefs that make the morning fair.

Soon the noontide comes, and the hurried hours grow busy
Morning has passed like a bright and sudden vision,
Day has other freightage than its blushes and its dews.

Slight as is the bridge, yet it can well sustain them;
Hope carries on life’s passage to the last,
Aiding in its labour, as it aided in its fancies.

The natives in this part of India perform the operation of crossing their rivers by means of the jhoola, or rope-bridge; holding on with the hands and feet, and making a loop of their bodies: but, for those unaccustomed to their exercises, there is a wooden slide attached to the rope. On the left bank of the Tonse, which is rather more elevated than the opposite one, a three-stranded rope is attached to a log of wood, secured among the rocks. The rope being stretched across the river, (which is here eighty yards in width) is passed between the prongs of a wooden fork, planted firmly in the ground; and being again divided into three strands, is secured to the trunk of a tree, steadied by a heavy weight. The slide, of hollowed wood, hangs like a moveable scale from the rope, having two handles, and a loop to which a thin cord is attached; by means of the latter, the two-handled chair, or slide, is drawn from the lower to the higher bank, the weight of the passenger being sufficient to accomplish the transit in the opposite direction.