jump to navigation
  • Frozen Love Returns at Chamonix December 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    This story is haunting and involves ice: so December fare.

    In 1844 young man left a village near Chamouny [Chamonix], on pilgrimage to the Convent St. Bernard, in consequence of a vow made before gaining the belle of the village. After leaving the convent, he went to several places and bought some linen, with the intention of smuggling it across the Sardinian frontier. To do this had to go by an unfrequented track. He started on his perilous journey, and was never heard of again until a few weeks ago, when…

    Just quickly the ‘Sardinian frontier’ is a reference to the border with Piedmont, then Piedmont-Sardinia. We now fast forward nineteen years to 1863 and the discovery: Beach’s copy of this widely circulated story comes from The Surrey Comet, 26 Sep 1863, 2.

    … a shepherd, who had lost his way, on jumping across a deep glacier, saw a wonderful sight. The rays of the sinking sun illuminated a gulf of ice, looking like a vast crystal cavern, in the midst of which was the figure of man, lying flat on his back, with apparently open eyes, and hands folded across his breast, and with a large parcel, serving as a pillow, under his head. The shepherd hallooed at the top his voice, and then screamed but not a voice answered him below.

    We have a man then who has been frozen for two decades.

    At break of dawn next morning a party of mountaineers, guided the shepherd, and provided with ropes and axes, set out for the spot. The crystal sarcophagus was soon found, and the boldest of the company was let down into the icy depths, from which he brought in his arms the body of a young man frozen, and hard as stone, yet looking still fresh and lifelike.

    Imagine the weight of a frozen dead-weight pilgrim: Beach doubts very much that he ‘brought in his arms the body’. Now the proofs of the experiences: like the rose found in the bed of the medieval dreamer.

    Attached to the corpse, by a mass of ice, was a parcel containing a new piece of linen; while a watch, in the coat pocket of the dead man, with broken glass, but not otherwise damaged, showed the hour of noon. Two elderly peasants at once recognised the features of those of the pilgrim of Passy, mysteriously lost nineteen years ago. Embalmed in ice, decay had not yet touched his flesh, and he had lain undisturbed in his crystal coffin while a generation of men passed away over his head. The pilgrim, dead nineteen years, was carried to his former home, and left at the cottage of the young widow of Passy—now young no more, but an elderly grey-haired woman. The son who had never before seen his father, made him a wooden coffin, and, to honour his memory, kept the body lying in state for twenty-four hours.

    The effect is unusual. Perhaps someone somewhere wrote a short story about this: or perhaps this was the short story… Chamonix on the edge of Mont Blanc was already a tourist destination. Can anyone help with the French sources: drbeachcombing AT gmail DOT com

    Note how the Belle of the village became elderly and grey-haired in just nineteen years. Beach is, in any case, reminded of an earlier post on Italian cemeteries, where young and old love meet jarringly.