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Atlantic Monthly, Volume 10, Number 59, September, 1862 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

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that decaying Commonwealth, "_Sic semper Tyrannis_"; and when one asked
the origin of the precaution, one learned that it was the lasting
memorial of Gabriel's insurrection, the stern heritage of terror
bequeathed by his defeat.


We mustered at midnight, in darkness we formed,
And the whisper went round of a fort to be stormed;
But no drum-beat had called us, no trumpet we heard,
And no voice of command, but our Colonel's low word,--
"Column! Forward!"

And out, through the mist and the murk of the morn,
From the beaches of Hampton our barges were borne;
And we heard not a sound, save the sweep of the oar,
Till the word of our Colonel came up from the shore,--
"Column! Forward!"

With hearts bounding bravely, and eyes all alight,
As ye dance to soft music, so trod we, that night;
Through the aisles of the greenwood, with vines overarched,
Tossing dew-drops, like gems, from our feet, as we marched,--
"Column! Forward!"

As ye dance with the damsels, to viol and flute,
So we skipped from the shadows, and mocked their pursuit;
But the soft zephyrs chased us, with scents of the morn,
As we passed by the hay-fields and green waving corn,--
"Column! Forward!"

For the leaves were all laden with fragrance of June,
And the flowers and the foliage with sweets were in tune;
And the air was so calm, and the forest so dumb,
That we heard our own heart-beats, like taps of a drum,--
"Column! Forward!"

Till the lull of the lowlands was stirred by a breeze,
And the buskins of Morn brushed the tops of the trees,
And the glintings of glory that slid from her track
By the sheen of our rifles were gayly flung back,--
"Column! Forward!"

And the woodlands grew purple with sunshiny mist,
And the blue-crested hill-tops with rose-light were kissed,
And the earth gave her prayers to the sun in perfumes,
Till we marched as through gardens, and trampled on blooms,--
"Column! Forward!"

Ay! trampled on blossoms, and seared the sweet breath
Of the greenwood with low-brooding vapors of death;
O'er the flowers and the corn we were borne like a blast,
And away to the fore-front of battle we passed,--
"Column! Forward!"

For the cannon's hoarse thunder roared out from the glades,
And the sun was like lightning on banners and blades,
When the long line of chanting Zouaves, like a flood,
From the green of the woodlands rolled, crimson as blood,--
"Column! Forward!"

While the sound of their song, like the surge of the seas,
With the "Star-Spangled Banner" swelled over the leas;
And the sword of DURYEA, like a torch, led the way,
Bearing down on the batteries of Bethel, that day,--[5]
"Column! Forward!"

Through green-tasselled cornfields our columns were thrown,
And like corn by the red scythe of fire we were mown;
While the cannon's fierce ploughings new-furrowed the plain,
That our blood might be planted for LIBERTY'S grain,--
"Column! Forward!"

Oh! the fields of fair June have no lack of sweet flowers,
But their rarest and best breathe no fragrance like ours;
And the sunshine of June, sprinkling gold on the corn,
Hath no harvest that ripeneth like BETHEL'S red morn,--
"Column! Forward!"

When our heroes, like bridegrooms, with lips and with breath,
Drank the first kiss of Danger and clasped her in death;
And the heart of brave WINTHROP grew mute, with his lyre,
When the plumes of his genius lay moulting in fire,--
"Column! Forward!"

Where he fell shall be sunshine as bright as his name,
And the grass where he slept shall be green as his fame;
For the gold of the Pen and the steel of the Sword
Write his deeds--in his blood--on the land he adored,--
"Column! Forward!"

And the soul of our comrade shall sweeten the air,
And the flowers and the grass-blades his memory upbear;
While the breath of his genius, like music in leaves,
With the corn-tassels whispers, and sings in the sheaves,--
"Column! Forward!"

[Footnote 5: The march on Bethel was begun in high spirits at midnight,
but it was near noon when the Zouaves, in their crimson garments, led by
Colonel Duryea, charged the batteries, after singing the "Star-Spangled
Banner" in chords. Major Winthrop fell in the storming of the enemy's
defences, and was left on the battle-field. Lieutenant Greble, the only
other officer killed, was shot at his gun soon after. This fatal contest
inaugurated the "war of posts" which has since raged in Virginia.]




Peaceable voyagers in the West Indies were much astonished at their
first sight of certain men, who might have been a new species of native,
generated with slight advances upon the old stock by the principle of
selection, or spontaneous growths of a soil well guanoed by ferocity.
They sported the scarlet suit of the Carib, but of a dye less innocent,
as if the fated islands imparted this color to the men who preyed upon
them. A cotton shirt hung on their shoulders, and a pair of cotton
drawers struggled vainly to cover their thighs: you had to look very
closely to pronounce upon the material, it was so stained with blood and
fat. Their bronzed faces and thick necks were hirsute, as if overgrown
with moss, tangled or crispy. Their feet were tied up in the raw hides
of hogs or beeves just slaughtered, from which they also frequently
extemporized drawers, cut while reeking, and left to stiffen to the
shape of the legs. A heavy-stocked musket, made at Dieppe or Nantes,
with a barrel four and a half feet long, and carrying sixteen balls to
the pound,[6] lay over the shoulder, a calabash full of powder, with a
wax stopper, was slung behind, and a belt of crocodile's skin, with four
knives and a bayonet, went round the waist. These individuals, if the
term is applicable to the phenomena in question, were Buccaneers.[7]

The name is derived from the arrangements which the Caribs made to cook
their prisoners of war. After being dismembered, their pieces were
placed upon wooden gridirons, which were called in Carib, _barbacoa_. It
will please our Southern brethren to recognize a congenial origin for
their favorite barbecue. The place where these grilling hurdles were set
up was called boucan, and the method of roasting and smoking,
_boucaner_. The Buccaneers were men of many nations, who hunted the wild
cattle, which had increased prodigiously from the original Spanish
stock; after taking off the hide, they served the flesh as the Caribs
served their captives. There appears to have been a division of
employment among them; for some hunted beeves merely for the hide, and
others hunted the wild hogs to salt and sell their flesh. But their
habits and appearance were the same. The beef-hunters had many dogs, of
the old mastiff-breed imported from Spain, to assist in running down
their game, with one or two hounds in each pack, who were taught to
announce and follow up a trail.

The origin of these men, called Buccaneers, can be traced to a few
Norman-French who were driven out of St. Christophe, in 1630, by the
Spaniards. This island was settled jointly, but by an accidental
coincidence, by French and English, in 1625. They lived tranquilly
together for five years: the hunting of Caribs, who disputed their title
to the soil, being a bond of union between them which was stronger than
national prejudice. But the Spanish power became jealous of this
encroachment among the islands, which it affected to own by virtue of
Papal dispensation. Though Spain did not care to occupy it, Cuba and the
Main being too engrossing, she determined that no other power should do
so. She therefore took advantage of disturbances which arose there, in
consequence, the French writers affirm, of the perfidious ambition of
Albion, and chased both parties out of the island. The French soon
recovered possession of it, which they solely held in future; but many
exiles never returned, preferring to woo Fortune in company with the
French and English adventurers who swarmed in those seas, having
withdrawn, for sufficient reasons, from civilized society before a
graceful retreat became impossible. This medley of people settled at
first upon the northern and western coasts of San Domingo,--the latter
being as yet unoccupied. A few settlements of Spaniards upon the
northern coast, which suffered from their national antipathies and had
endeavored to root them out, were quickly broken up by them. The Dutch,
of course, were friendly, and promised to supply them with necessaries
in payment for hides, lard, and meat, _boucané_.

Their favorite haunt was the little island Tortuga,[8] so named, some
say, from its resemblance to a turtle afloat, and others, from the
abundance of that "green and glutinous" delight of aldermen. It is only
two or three leagues distant from the northern coast of San Domingo, off
the mouth of Trois Rivières. Its northern side is inaccessible: a boat
cannot find a nook or cove into which it may slip for landing or
shelter. But there is one harbor upon the southern side, and the
Buccaneers took possession of this, and gradually fortified it to make a
place tenable against the anticipated assaults of the Spaniards. The
soil was thin, but it nourished great trees which seemed to grow from
the rocks; water was scarce; the hogs were numerous, smaller and more
delicate than those of San Domingo; the sugar-cane flourished; and
tobacco of superior quality could be raised. About five-and-twenty
Spaniards held the harbor when these adventurers approached to take
possession. There were, besides, a few other rovers like themselves,
whom the new community adopted. The Spaniards made no resistance, and
were suffered to retire.

There was cordial fellowship between the _Flibustiers_ and Buccaneers,
for they were all outlaws, without a country, with few national
predilections,--men who could not live at home except at the risk of
apprehension for vagrancy or crime,--men who ran away in search of
adventure when the public ear was ringing with the marvels and riches of
the Indies, and when a multitude of sins could be covered by judicious
preying. The Spaniards were the victims of this floating and roving St.
Giles of the seventeenth century. If England or France went to war with
Spain, these freebooters obtained commissions, and their pillaging grew
honorable; but it did not subside with the conclusion of a peace. They
followed their own policy of lust and avarice, over regions too far from
the main history of the times to be controlled.

The word _Flibustier_ is derived from the Dutch _Vlieboot_, fly-boat,
swift boat, a kind of small craft whose sailing qualities were superior
to those of the other vessels then in vogue. It is possible that the
English made freebooter[9] out of the French adaptation. The fly-boat
was originally only a long, light pinnace[10] or cutter with oars,
fitted also to carry sail; we often find the word used by the French
writers to designate vessels which brought important intelligence. They
were favorite craft with the _Flibustiers_, not from their swiftness
alone, but from their ease of management, and capacity to run up the
creeks and river-openings, and to lie concealed. From these they boarded
the larger vessels, to plunder or to use them for prolonged freebooting
expeditions. The _Flibustier_, then, was a sea-hunter or pirate, as the
Buccaneer was a land-hunter, but ready also for pillaging expeditions,
in which they coöperated. And their pursuits were interchangeable: the
Buccaneer sometimes went to sea, and the _Flibustier_, in times of
marine scarcity, would don the hog-skin breeches, and run down cows or
hunt fugitive negroes with packs of dogs. The Buccaneers, however,
slowly acquired a tendency to settle, while the _Flibustiers_ preferred
to keep the seas, till Europe began to look them up too sharply; so that
the former became, eventually, the agricultural nucleus of the western
part of San Domingo, when the supply of wild cattle began to fail. This
failure happened partly in consequence of their own extravagant
hunting-habits, and partly through the agency of the Spaniards of the
eastern colony, who thought that by slaughtering the cattle their French
neighbors would be driven, for lack of employment, from the soil.

The Buccaneers generally went to the chase in couples, attended by their
dogs and _Engagés_. These hired or _engaged_ men first appear in the
history of the island as valets of the Buccaneers. But, in their case,
misfortune rather than vice was the reason of their appearance in such
doubtful companionship. They were often sold for debt or inability to
pay a rent, as happened in Scotland even during the eighteenth century;
they were deluded to take ship by the flaming promises which the
captains of vessels issued in the ports of different countries, to
recruit their crews, or with the wickeder purpose of kidnapping simple
rustics and hangers-on of cities; they sometimes came to a vessel's side
in poverty, and sold their liberty for three years for the sake of a
passage to the fabled Ind; press-gangs sometimes stole and smuggled them
aboard of vessels just ready to sail; very young people were induced to
come aboard,--indeed, one or two cases happened in France, where a
schoolmaster and his flock, who were out for a walk, were cajoled by
these purveyors of avaricious navigators, and actually carried away from
the country. There was, besides, a regular method of supplying the
French colonies in the different islands with voluntary _engagés_, who
agreed to serve for three years at certain wages, with liberty and a
small allotment of land at the expiration of the time. These were called
"thirty-six months' men." Sometimes their regular indenture was
respected, and sometimes violently set aside to make the signers
virtually slaves. This was done occasionally by the French in imitation
of the English. A number of _engagés_ at St. Christophe, finding that
they were not set at liberty at the expiration of their three years, and
that their masters intended to hold them two years more, assembled
tumultuously, and threatened to attack the colony. This was in 1632.
Their masters were not in sufficient force to carry out their plan, and
the Governor was obliged to set at liberty all who had served their
time. In 1719, the French Council of State decreed, in consequence of
the scarcity of _engagés_, that all vagabonds and criminals sentenced to
the galleys should be transported for colonial service; and in order to
diminish the expense of shipping them, every vessel leaving France for
the Antilles was compelled to carry three _engagés_ free of expense.

The amount of misery created by these various methods of supplying the
islands with human labor cannot be computed. The victims were very
humble; the manner of their taking-off was rarely noticed; the spirit of
the age never stooped to consider these trifles of sorrow, nor to
protect by some legislation the unfortunates who suffered in remote
islands, whence their cries seldom reached the ears of authority. It
would have been surprising, if many of these _engagés_ had not assumed
the habits of their masters, and kept the wandering hordes by land and
sea recruited. Some of the most famous Buccaneers--for that name
popularly included also the _Flibustiers_--were originally thirty-six
months' men who had daring and conduct enough to make the best of their
enforced condition.

These _engagés_ were in all respects treated as slaves, especially when
bound to agricultural service. Their master left them to the mercies of
an overseer, who whistled them up at daybreak for wood-cutting or labor
in the tobacco-fields, and went about among them with a stout stick,
which he used freely to bring the lagging up to their work. Many
cruelties are related of these men, but they are of the ordinary kind to
be found in the annals of all slave-holding countries. The fact that the
_engagés_ were indentured only for three years made no difference with
men whose sole object was to use up every available resource in the
pursuit of wealth. Bad treatment, chagrin, and scurvy destroyed many of
them. The French writers accused the English of treating their _engagés_
worse than any other nation, as they retained them for seven years, at
the end of which time they gave them money enough to procure a
lengthened debauch, during which they generally signed away their
liberty for seven more years. Oexmelin says that Cromwell sold more than
ten thousand Scotch and Irish, destined for Barbadoes. A whole ship-load
of these escaped, but perished miserably of famine near Cape Tiburon, at
a place which was afterwards called _L'Anse aux Ibernois_.

The first _engagés_ were brought by the French from Dieppe: they signed
contracts before notaries previously to quitting the country. This class
of laborers was eagerly sought by all the colonists of the West Indies,
and a good many vessels of different nations were employed in the trade.
There was in Brazil a system of letting out land to be worked, called a
_labrados_,[11] because a manager held the land from a proprietor for a
certain share of the profits, and cultivated it by laborers procurable
in various ways. The name of Labrador is derived by some writers from
the stealing of natives upon our northern coast by the Portuguese, to be
enslaved. It is certain that they did this as early as 1501,[12] and
named the coast afterwards _Terra de Laborador_.

The Buccaneers, hunting in couples, called each other _matelot_, or
shipmate: the word expresses their amphibious capacity. When a bull was
run down by the dogs, the hunter, almost as fleet of foot as they, ran
in to hamstring him, if possible,--if not, to shoot him. A certain
mulatto became glorious in buccaneering annals for running down his
game: out of a hundred hides which he sent to France, ten only were
pierced with bullet-holes. When the animal was stripped of its skin, the
large bones were drawn from the flesh for the sake of the marrow, of
which the two _matelots_ made their stout repast. Portions of the flesh
were then _boucané_ by the followers, the rest was left to dogs and
birds, and the chase was pursued day by day till a sufficient number of
hides were collected. These were transported to the little coves and
landing places, where they were exchanged for powder and shot, spirits
and silver. Then a grand debauch at Tortuga followed, with the wildest
gratification of every passion. Comrades quarrelled and sought each
other's blood; their pleasure ran _amôk_ like a mad Malay. When wine was
all drunk and the money gamed away, another expedition, with fresh air
and beef-marrow, set these independent bankrupts again to rights.

The _Flibustiers_ had an inexpensive way of furnishing themselves with
vessels for prosecuting their piratical operations. A dozen of them in a
boat would hang about the mouth of a river, or in the vicinity of a
Spanish port, enduring the greatest privations with constancy, till they
saw a vessel which had good sailing qualities and a fair equipment. If
they could not surprise it, they would run down to board it regardless
of its fire, and swarm up the side and over the decks in a perfect fury,
which nothing could resist, driving the crew into the sea. These
expeditions were always prefaced by religious observances. On this point
they were very strict; even before each meal, the Catholics chanted the
Canticle of Zacharias, the Magnificat, and the Miserere, and the
Protestants of all nations read a chapter of the Bible and sang a psalm.
For many a Huguenot was in these seas, revenging upon mankind its
capability to perpetrate, in the name of religion, a St. Bartholomew's.

Captain Daniel was a _Flibustier_ with religious tendencies. Finding
himself out of poultry, as he lay between Les Saintes and Dominica,
(1701,) he approached the former island by night, landed and carried off
the _curé_ and some of the principal inhabitants. These were not the
fowls he wanted, but rather decoys to the fattest poultry-yards. The
account of his exquisite mingling of business and religion gives us a
glimpse into the interior of flibustierism. We translate from Father
Labat, who had the story from the astonished _curé_. They were very
polite to them, he says, "and while the people were bringing in the
provisions, they begged the _curé_ to say mass in their vessel, which he
did not care to refuse. They sent on shore for the proper accessories,
and set up a tent on the quarter-deck, furnished with an altar, to
celebrate the mass, which they chanted zealously with the inhabitants
who were on board. It was commenced by a discharge of musketry, and of
eight pieces of cannon with which their bark was armed. They made a
second discharge at the Sanctus, a third at the Elevation, and a fourth
at the Benediction, and, finally, a fifth after the Exaudiat and the
prayer for the King, which was followed by a ringing _Vive le Roi_. Only
one slight incident disturbed a little our devotions. One of the
_Flibustiers_, taking an indecent posture during the Elevation, was
reprimanded by Captain Daniel. Instead of correcting himself, he made
some impertinent answer, accompanied with an execrable oath, which was
paid on the spot by the Captain, who pistolled him in the head, swearing
before God that he would do the same to the first man who failed in
respect for the Holy Sacrifice. The _curé_ was a little flustered, as it
happened very close to him. But Daniel said to him, 'Don't be troubled,
father; 't was a rascal whom I had to punish to teach his duty': a very
efficacious way to prevent the recurrence of a similar fault. After
mass, they threw the body into the sea, and paid the holy father
handsomely for his trouble and his fright. They gave him some valuable
clothes, and as they knew that he was destitute of a negro, they made
him a present of one,"--"which," says Father Labat, "I received an order
to reclaim, the original owner having made a demand for him."

Such was Captain Daniel's rubricated copy of the Buccaneers' [Greek:
Leitourgia]. One may judge from this what the early condition of
religion must have been in the French colony of San Domingo, which
sprang from these pirates of the land and sea. And it seems that their
reverence for the observances diminished in an inverse proportion to
their perils. Father Labat said mass in the little town of Cap Français,
in 1701. The chapel was not much better than an _ajoupa_, that is, a
four-posted square with a sloping roof of leaves or light boards. The
aisle had half a foot of dust in the dry season, and the same depth of
mud during rain. "I asked the sacristan, who also filled the office of
chanter, if he should chant the Introit, or begin simply with the Kyrie
Eleïson; but he replied that it was not their custom to chant a great
deal, they were content with low mass, brief, and well hurried up, and
never chanted except at funerals. However, I did not omit to bless the
water and asperse the people; and as I thought that the solemnity of the
day demanded a little preaching, I preached, and gave notice that I
should say mass on the following day." This he did, but was infinitely
scandalized at the behavior of the people, comparing it with that of the
thorough-going Catholics of the other French islands. "They came into
the chapel as to an assembly, or to some profane spectacle; they talked,
laughed, and joked. The people in the gallery talked louder than I did,
and mingled the name of God in their discourse in an insufferable
manner. I mildly remonstrated with them three or four times; but seeing
that it had no effect, I spoke in a way that compelled some officers to
impose silence. A well-behaved person had the goodness to inform me,
after mass, that it was necessary to be rather more indulgent with the
_People of the Coast_, if one wanted to live with them." This was an old
euphemism for _Flibustiers_. The good father could expect nothing
better, especially as so many of his audience may have been Calvinists,
for the first habitant at Cap Français was of that sect. These men were
trying to become settled; and the alternative was between rapine with
religion and raising crops without it. The latter became the habitude of
the island; for the descendants of the Buccaneers could afford the
luxury of absolute sincerity, which even their hardy progenitors were
too weak to seize.

In the other Islands, however, the priest had the colonists well in
hand, as may be understood from the lofty language which he could assume
towards petty sacramental infractions. At St. Croix, for instance, three
light fellows made a mock of Sunday and the mass, saying, "We go
a-fishing," and tried to persuade some neighbors to accompany them.

"No; 't is Trinity Sunday, and we shall go to mass."

"And will the Trinity help you to your dinner? Come, mass will keep for
another time."

The decent neighbors refusing, these three unfortunate men departed, and
were permitted by an inscrutable Providence to catch a great number of
little fishes, which they shared with their conforming neighbors. All
ate of them, but with this difference, that the three anti-sabbatarians
fell sick, and died in twenty-four hours, while the others experienced
no injury. The effect of this gastric warning is somewhat weakened by
the incautious statement of the narrative, that a priest, who ran from
one dying man to another, became overheated, and contracted a fatal

The Catholic profession brought no immunity to the Spanish navigators.
Our _Flibustiers_, strengthened by religious exercises, and a pistol in
each hand, stormed upon the deck, as if they had fallen from the clouds.
"_Jesus, son demonios estos_": "They are demons, and not men." After
they had thus "cleared" their vessel, they entered into a contract,
called _chasse-partie_, the articles of which regulated their voyage and
the disposition of the booty. They were very minutely made out. Here are
some of the awards and reimbursements. The one who discovered a prize
earned one hundred crowns; the same amount, or a slave, recompensed for
the loss of an eye. Two eyes were rated at six hundred crowns, or six
slaves. For the loss of the right hand or arm two hundred crowns or two
slaves were paid, and for both six hundred crowns. When a _Flibustier_
had a wound which obliged him to carry surgical helps and substitutes,
they paid him two hundred crowns, or two slaves. If he had not entirely
lost a member, but was only deprived of its use, he was recompensed the
same as if the member had disappeared.

"They have also regard to qualities and places. Thus, the captain or
chief is allotted five or six portions to what the ordinary seamen have,
the master's mate only two, and other officers proportionable to their
employ, after which they draw equal parts from the highest to the lowest
mariner, the boys not being omitted, who draw half a share, because,
when they take a better vessel than their own, it is the boys' duty to
fire their former vessel and then retire to the prize."

Among the conventions of English pirates we find some additional
articles which show a national difference. Whoever shall steal from the
company, or game up to the value of a piece of eight, (piastre,
translated _écu_ by the French,--rated by the English of that day at not
quite five shillings sterling,--about a dollar,) shall be landed on a
desert place, with a bottle of water, gun, powder, and lead. Whoever
shall maltreat or assault another, while the articles subsist, shall
receive the Law of Moses: this was the infliction of forty consecutive
strokes upon the back, a whimsical memento of the dispensation in the
Wilderness. There were articles relative to the treatment and
disposition of women, which sometimes depended upon the tossing of a
coin,--_jeter à croix pile_,--but they need not be repeated: on this
point the French were worse than the English.

The English generally wound up their convention with the solemn
agreement that not a man should speak of separation till the gross
earnings amounted to one thousand pounds per head. Then the whole
company associated by couples, for mutual support in anticipation of
wounds and danger, and to devise to each other all their effects in case
of death. While at sea, or engaged in expeditions against the coasts of
Terra Firma, their friendship was of the most romantic kind, inspired by
a common feeling of outlawry, and colored by the risks of their
atrocious employment. They called themselves "Brothers of the Coast,"
and took a solemn oath not to secrete from each other any portion of the
common spoil, nor uncharitably to disregard each other's wants. Violence
and lust would have gone upon bootless ventures, if justice and
generosity had not been crimped to strengthen the crew.

These buccaneering conventions were gradually imposed upon all the
West-Indian neighborhood, by the title of uncompromising strength, and
became known as the "Usage of the Coast." When the Brothers met with any
remonstrance which referred the rights of navigators and settlers back
to the Common Law of Europe, they were accustomed to defend their Usage,
saying that their baptism had absolved them from all previous
obligations. This was an allusion to the marine ceremony called in later
times "Crossing the Line," and administered only upon that occasion; but
at first it was performed when vessels were passing the Raz de
Fonteneau, on their way to and from the Channel, and originated before
navigators crossed the Atlantic or passed the Tropic of Cancer. The Raz,
or Tide-Race, was a dangerous passage off the coast of Brittany; some
religious observance among the early sailors, dictated by anxiety,
appears to have degenerated into the Neptunian frolic, which included a
copious christening of salt water for the raw hands, and was kept up
long after men had ceased to fear the unknown regions of the ocean.
Perhaps an aspersion with holy-water was a part of the original rite, on
the ground that the mariner was passing into new countries, once thought
uninhabited, as into a strange new-world, to sanctify the hardiness and
propitiate the Ruler of Sea and Air. The Dutch, also, performed some
ceremony in passing the rocks, then called Barlingots, which lie off the
mouth of the Tagus. Gradually the usage went farther out to sea; and the
farther it went, of course, the more unrestrained it grew.

This was the baptism which regenerated Law for the Buccaneers. It also
absolved them from the use of their own names, which might, indeed, in
many cases have been but awkward conveniences; and they were not known
except by _sobriquets_. But when they became _habitans_ or settlers, and
took wives, their surnames appeared for the first time in the
marriage-contract; so that it was a proverb in the islands,--"You don't
know people till they marry."

The institution of marriage was not introduced among the Buccaneers for
many years after their settlement of the western coast. In the mean time
they selected women for extemporaneous partners, to whom they addressed
a few significant words before taking them home to their _ajoupas_, to
the effect that their antecedents were not worth minding, but _this_,
slightly tapping the musket, "which never deceived me, will avenge me,
if _you_ do."

These women, with the exception of one or two organized emigrations of
poor, but honest, girls, were the sweepings of the streets of Paris and
London. They were sometimes deported with as little ceremony as the
_engagés_, and sometimes collected by the Government, especially of
France, for the deliberate purpose of meeting the not over nice demands
of the adventurers; for it was the interest of France to pet Tortuga and
the western coast. All the French islands were stocked in the same
manner. Du Tertre devotes a page to the intrigues of a Mademoiselle de
la Fayolle, who appeared in St. Christophe with a strong force of these
unfortunate women, in 1643. They were collected from St. Joseph's
Hospital in Paris, to prevent the colonists from leaving the island in
search of wives. Mademoiselle came with letters from the Queen and other
ladies of quality, and quite dazzled M. Aubert, the Governor, who
proposed to his wife that she should be accommodated in the chateau. She
had a restless and managing temper, and her power lasted as long as her

In 1667 there was an auction-sale of fifty girls without character at
Tortuga. They went off so well that fifty more were soon supplied.
Schoelcher says that in the twelfth volume of the "Archives de la
Marine" there is a note of "one hundred nymphs for the Antilles and a
hundred more for San Domingo," under the date of 1685.

Here were new elements of civilization for the devoted island, whose
earliest colonists were pirates pacified by prostitutes. They were the
progenitors of families whom wealth and colonial luxury made famous; for
in such a climate a buccaneering nickname will soon flower into titles
which conceal the gnarled and ugly stock. Some of these French Dianas
led a healthy and hardy life with their husbands, followed them to the
chase, and emulated their exploits with the pistol and the knife. Some
blood was thus renewed while some grew more depraved, else the colony
would have rotted from the soil.

Nature struggles to keep all her streams fresh and clear. The children
of adventurers may inherit the vices of their parents; but Nature
silently puts her fragrant graft into the withering tree, and it learns
to bud with unexpected fruit. Inheritance is only one of Mother Nature's
emphatic protestations that her wayward children will be the death of
her; but she knows better than that, unfortunately for the respectable
vice and meanness which flourish in every land and seek to prolong their
line. California and Australia soon reach the average of New York and
London, and invite Nature to preserve through them, too, her world. She
drains and plants these unwholesome places; powerful men and lovely
women are the Mariposa cedars which attest her splendid tillage. But a
part of this Nature consists of conservative decency in men who belong
to law-abiding and Protestant races. For want of this, surgery and
cautery became Nature's expedients for Hayti, which was one of the worst
sinks on her great farm.

If a greater number of female emigrants had been like Mary Read, pirate
as she was, the story of Hayti would have been modified. She had the
character which Nature loves to civilize.

Mary Read was the illegitimate daughter of an Englishwoman, who brought
her up as a boy, after revealing to her the secret of her origin,
apparently wishing to protect her against the mischances which befell
herself. She was first a footman, then a sailor on board a man-of-war;
afterwards she served with great bravery in Flanders in a regiment of
infantry. Then she entered a cavalry regiment, where she fell deeply in
love with a comrade, and her woman's nature awoke. Obeying the
uncontrollable instinct, she modestly revealed her sex to him, and was
married with great _éclat_, after he had sought in vain, repelled by her
high conduct, to make her less than wife. He died soon after, and the
Peace of Ryswick compelled her to assume her male attire again and seek
employment. She went before the mast in a vessel bound for the West
Indies, which was taken by English pirates, with whom she afterwards
enjoyed the benefit of a royal proclamation pardoning all pirates who
submitted within a limited period. Their money gave out, and they
enlisted under a privateer captain to cruise against the Spaniards; but
the men, finding a favorable opportunity, took the vessel from the
officers, and commenced their old trade. Mary was as brave as any in
boarding Spanish craft, pistol in hand, to clear the decks; no peril
made her falter, but she was disarmed again by love in the person of a
fine young pirate of superior mind and grace. She made a friend of him,
revealed her sex, and married him. Her husband had a falling-out with a
comrade, and a duel impended. Torn with love and dread, she managed to
pick a quarrel with his antagonist, appointed a meeting an hour before
the one which her husband expected, and was lucky enough to postpone the
latter indefinitely. At her trial in Jamaica, she would have escaped
through the compassion of the court, if some one had not deposed that
she often deliberately defended piracy with the argument that pirates
were fortunately amenable to capital punishment, and this was a
restraint to cowards, without which a thousand rascals who passed for
honest people, but who did nothing but pillage widows and orphans and
defraud their neighbors, would rush into a more honorable profession,
the ocean would be covered with this _canaille_, and the ruin of
commerce would involve that of piracy. She died in prison of a fever.

Ann Bonny was born in Cork. She was of a truculent disposition, and the
murdering part of piracy was much to her taste. When her husband was led
out to execution, the special favor was granted of an interview with
her; but her only benediction was,--"I'm sorry to find ye in this state;
if ye had fought like a man, ye would not be seein' yerself hung like a

But what could angels themselves have done to make Captain Teach
presentable in the best society? _Blackbeard_ was his _sobriquet_, for
he had one flowing over his chest which patriarchs might be forgiven for
coveting. The hair of his head was tastefully done up with ribbons, and
inframed his truculent face. When he went into a fight, three pairs of
pistols hung from a scarf, and two slow-matches, alight and projecting
under his hat, glowed above his cruel eyes. Certainly, the light of
battle was not in his case a metaphor.

On board his vessel, one day, Captain Teach, just combing upon
strong-water, summoned his crew. "Go to, now, let us make a hell," he
cried, "and get a little seasoned. We'll find who can stand it longest."
Thereupon they all went down into the hold, which he had carefully
battened down; then he lighted sundry pots of sulphur, and showed
superior qualifications for the future by smoking them all out.

On the day of his last combat, when advised to confide to his wife where
his money was hid, he refused, saying that only he and the Devil knew
where it was, and the survivor was to have it.

Whenever these English pirates found a clergyman, they acted as if
pillaging had been only a last resort, owing to the scarcity of that
commodity in those seas. Captain Roberts took a vessel which had on
board a body of English troops with their chaplain, destined for
garrison-duty. His crew went into ecstasies of delight, as if they had
separated themselves from mankind and incurred atrocious suspicions from
their desire to seek for religious persons in all places. They wanted
nothing but a chaplain; they had never wanted anything else; he must
join them; he would have nothing to do but to pray and make the punch.
As he steadily refused, they reluctantly parted with him; but, smitten
with his firmness, they retained of his effects nothing but three
prayer-books and a corkscrew.

These were but common villains. The genuine _Flibustier_ mingled
national hatred with his avarice, and harried the Spanish coasts with a
sense of being the avenger of old affronts, at least the divine
instrument of his country's honest instincts, whose duty it was to smite
and spoil, as if the Armada were yet upon the seas as the Inquisition
was upon the land. Frenchmen and Englishmen, Huguenot and Dutch
Calvinists, Willis, Warner, Montbar the Exterminator, Levasseur,
Lolonois, Henry Morgan, Coxon and Sharp, Bartholomew the Portuguese,
Rock the Dutchman, were representative men. They gave a villanous
expression, and an edge which avarice whetted, to the religious
patriotism of their countrymen. The sombre and deadly prejudices which
lay half torpid in their cage at home escaped from restraint in these
men, and suddenly acted out their proper nature on the highways of the

We have no space to record particular deeds and cruelties. The stories
of the exploits of the _Flibustiers_ show that their outlaw-life had
developed all the powerful traits which make pioneering or the
profession of arms so illustrious. Audacity, cunning, great endurance,
tenacity of purpose, all the character of the organizing nations whence
they sprang, appeared in them so stained by murder and bestiality of
every kind, that the impression made by their career is revolting, and
gets no mitigation from their better qualities. They were generous to
each other, and scrupulously just; but it was for the sake of
strengthening their hands against mankind. They fought against the
enemies of their respective nations with all the fiendishness of popular
hate that has broken loose from popular restraints and civilizing checks
and has become a beast. Commerce was nothing to them but a convenience
for plunder; a voyaging ship was an oasis in the mid-waste on which they
swarmed for an orgy of avarice and gluttony; the cities of the Spanish
Main were hives of wealth and women to be overturned and rifled, and
their mother-country a retreat where the sanctimonious old age of a few
survivors of these successful crimes could display their money and their
piety, and perhaps a titled panel on their coach. Henry Morgan was
knighted, and made a good end in the Tower of London as a political
prisoner. Pierre le Grand, the first _Flibustier_ who took a ship,
retired to France with wealth and consideration. Captain Avery, who had
an immense fame, was the subject of a drama entitled "The Happy Pirate,"
which inoculated many a prentice-lad with cutlasses and rollicking
ferocity. Others became the agents of easy cabinets who always winked at
buccaneering, because it so often saved them the expense of war. What
gift or place would a slave-holding cabinet, or a Southern Confederacy,
have thought too dear to bestow upon Captain Walker, whose criminal acts
were feeding the concealed roots of the Great Conspiracy, if his murder
and arson had become illustrious by success?

The _Flibustiers_ were composed of many nations. The Buccaneers were
mostly French. Their head-quarters, or principal _boucans_, upon San
Domingo, were on the peninsula of Samana, at Port Margot, Savanna Brulée
near Gonaives, and the landing-place of Mirebalais. The Spaniards gained
at first several advantages over them by cutting off the couples which
were engaged in chasing the wild cattle. This compelled the Buccaneers
to associate in larger bands, and to add Spaniards to their list of
game. The word _massacre_ on the maps of the island marks places where
sanguinary surprises were effected by either party; but the Spaniards
lost more blood than their wily antagonists, and were compelled to
abandon all their settlements on the northern and northeastern coasts
and to fall back upon San Domingo and their other towns. The
_Flibustiers_ blockaded their rivers, intercepted the vessels of
slave-traders of all nations, made prizes of the cargoes, and sold them
to the French of the rising western colony, to the English at Jamaica,
or among the other islands, wherever a contraband speculation could be
made. This completed the ruin of Spanish San Domingo; for the
Government, crippled by land- and sea-fights with English, French, and
Dutch, was unable to protect its colonies. It is very strange to notice
this sudden weakness of the nation which was lately so domineering; the
causes which produced it have been stated elsewhere[13] with great
research and power.

The Spaniards had made a few settlements in the western part of the
island, the principal one of which was Yaguana, or Leogane. They were
too far from the eastern population to be successfully defended or
succored, in case of the attacks which were constantly expected after
Drake's expedition. In 1592, the town of Azua was taken and destroyed by
an English force under Christopher Newport, who was making war against
the Spaniards on his own account. He afterwards attacked Yaguana, was at
first repulsed, but took it by night and burned it to the ground. In
consequence of this, all the western settlements were abandoned; and not
a Spaniard remained in that part of the island after 1606. Cruisers of
other nations seized the ports for their private convenience.

A brief outline will suffice to conduct us to the secure establishment
of the French in Western San Domingo. Tortuga was attacked by the
Spaniards in 1638; the Buccaneers were surprised, put to the sword, and
scattered. A few joined their brethren in San Domingo. Their
discomfiture was thought to be so complete that no garrison was left
upon Tortuga. At the same time the Spaniards organized bands of fifty
men each, called _la cinquantaine_ by the French Buccaneers, to serve as
a kind of rural police to hunt down the latter and exterminate them. For
safety the French collected, and put at their head Willis, an
Englishman, who had just then appeared with two or three hundred men,
with the view of joining those of his countrymen who were Buccaneers. He
led them back to Tortuga, and threw up some rude works to command the
harbor. But the national antipathies soon appeared, on the occasion of
some encroachment of Willis, whose countrymen were the more numerous
party. The French despatched secret agents to St. Christophe, who made
it clear to M. de Poincy, the Governor of that island, that the English
could be easily dispossessed by a small force attacking them from
without, while the French rose within. The Governor thought it was a
good opportunity to weed the Huguenots, who were always making trouble
about religious matters, out of his colony; he did not hesitate,
therefore, to cooperate with the outlaws for so nice a game as driving
out the English by getting rid of his heretics. The operation was
intrusted to M. Levasseur, a brave and well-instructed Huguenot officer,
who took with him about a hundred men. Willis decamped at their first
summons, knowing the temper of his French subjects; and Levasseur
landed, and immediately began to fortify a platform-rock which rose only
a few paces from the water's edge. This he intrenched, surrounding an
open square capable of accommodating three or four hundred men. A
never-failing spring gushed from the rock for the supply of a garrison.
From the middle of this platform there rose conveniently another rock
thirty feet high, with scarped sides, upon which he built a block-house
for himself and the ammunition, communicating with the platform by a
movable ladder of iron. He made the place so formidable as a
buccaneering centre that the Spaniards resolved to attack it. They tried
it at first from the sea, but, being well battered, retired and
disembarked six hundred men by night to make a land-attack. They were
defeated, with the loss of a hundred men.

Levasseur appears to have grown arrogant with his success. He began to
abuse and persecute all the Catholics, burned their chapel, and drove
away a priest. He had stocks set up, made of iron, which he called his
Hell, and the fort where he kept it, Purgatory. Du Tertre says that he
wanted to make of Tortuga a little Geneva. He disavowed the authority of
M. de Poincy, and when the latter demanded restitution of a _Nôtre Dame_
of silver which the _Flibustiers_ had taken from a Spanish vessel, he
sent a model of it, constructed of wood, with the message that Catholics
were too spiritual to attach any value to the material, but as for
himself, he had a liking for the metal. Levasseur was assassinated by
two of his captains after a reign of a dozen years.

The next Governor sent by De Poincy to Tortuga was a Catholic, the
Chevalier Fontenay. The religion of this stronghold changed, but not its
habits. The Spaniards planned a second attack upon it in 1653, and
succeeded by dragging a couple of light cannon up the mountain so as to
command the donjon built by Levasseur. The French took refuge upon the
coast of San Domingo, where they waited for an opportunity to repossess
their little island. This soon followed upon an application made by De
Rausset, one of Levasseur's old comrades, to the French West India
Company for a sufficient force to drive out the Spaniards. De Rausset's
plan succeeded, Tortuga passed permanently into French hands, and the
Spaniards confined themselves for the future to annoying the new
colonies of Buccaneers which overflowed upon San Domingo. But their
efforts disappear after a terrible defeat inflicted upon them in 1665,
which the _Flibustiers_ followed up by the sack and destruction of
Santiago, the town second in importance to San Domingo. Henceforth the
history of the island belongs to France.

[To be continued.]

[Footnote 6: This musket was afterwards called _fusil boucanier_. _Fusil
demi-boucanier_ was the same kind, with a shorter barrel.]

[Footnote 7: _Histoire des Avanturiers Flibustiers, avec la Vie, les
Moeurs, et les Coutumes des Boucaniers_, par A.O. Oexmelin, who went out
to the West Indies as a poor _Engagé_, and became a Buccaneer. Four
Volumes. New Edition, printed in 1744: Vol. III., containing the Journal
of a Voyage made with _Flibustiers_ in the South Sea in 1685, by Le
Sieur Ravenau de Lussan; and Vol. IV., containing a History of English
pirates, with the Lives of two Female Pirates, Mary Read and Ann Bonny,
and Extracts from Pirate-Codes: translated from the English of Captain
Charles Johnson.--Charlevoix, _Histoire de St. Domingue_, Vols. III. and
IV.--_The History of the Bucaniers of America, from the First Original
down to this Time; written in several Languages, and now collected into
One Volume._ Third Edition, London, 1704: containing Portraits of all
the Celebrated _Flibustiers,_ and Plans of some of their
Land-Attacks.--_Nouveaux Voyages aux Isles Françoises de l'Amérique_,
par le Père Labat, 1724, Tom. V, pp. 228-230. See also Archenholtz.]

[Footnote 8: Not to be confounded with the Tortugas, the westernmost
islands of the Florida Keys (_Cayos_, Spanish for rocks, shoals, or

[Footnote 9: Charlevoix will have it reversed, and derives _flibustier_
from _freebooter;_ but this English word is not old enough to have been
a vagrom in those seas at that time. Webster derives it from the Dutch
_Vrijbuiter;_ but that and the corresponding German word were themselves
derived. Schoelcher says that it is a corruption of an English word,
_fly-boater_, one who manages a fly-boat; and he adds,--"Our _flibot_, a
small and very fast craft, draws its origin from the English _fly-boat,
bateau mouche, bateau volant_." But this is only a kind of pun. Perhaps
the Dutch named it so, not from its swiftness, but from its resemblance,
with its busy oars and darting motions, to a slender-legged fly. There
appears to be no ground for saying that the boat was so called because
it first came into use upon the river Vlie in Holland. It might have
been a boat used by the inhabitants of Vlieland, a town on the island of
the same name, north of Texel. _Freebooter_ is such a good word for
_flibustier_ that it was easy to accuse it of the parentage.]

[Footnote 10: Pinnaces of five or six tons, which could be packed on
shipboard in pieces and put together when wanted, were built in the
reign of Elizabeth. The name is of Spanish origin, from the pine used
for material.]

[Footnote 11: See a contract of this kind in _Histoire Générale des
Antilles_, Du Tertre, Tom. I. p. 464.]

[Footnote 12: Bancroft's _United States_, Vol. I. p. 14.]

[Footnote 13: Buckle's _History of Civilization_, Vol. II. chap. 1.]


If things would not run into each other so, it would be a thousand times
easier and a million times pleasanter to get on in the world. Let the
sheepiness be set on one side and the goatiness on the other, and
immediately you know where you are. It is not necessary to ask that
there be any increase of the one or any diminution of the other, but
only that each shall preempt its own territory and stay there. Milk is
good, and water is good, but don't set the milk-pail under the pump.
Pleasure softens pain, but pain embitters pleasure; and who would not
rather have his happiness concentrated into one memorable day that shall
gleam and glow through a lifetime, than have it spread out over a dozen
comfortable, commonplace, humdrum forenoons and afternoons, each one as
like the others as two peas in a pod? Since the law of compensation
obtains, I suppose it is the best law for us; but if it had been left
with me, I should have made the clever people rich and handsome, and
left poverty and ugliness to the stupid people; because--don't you
see?--the stupid people won't know they are ugly, and won't care if they
are poor, but the clever people will be hampered and tortured. I would
have given the good wives to the good husbands, and made drunken men
marry drunken women. Then there would have been one family exquisitely
happy, instead of two struggling against misery. I would have made the
rose-stem downy, and put all the thorns on the thistles. I would have
gouged out the jewel from the toad's head, and given the peacock the
nightingale's voice, and not set everything so at half and half.

But that is the way it is. We find the world made to our hand. The wise
men marry the foolish virgins, and the splendid virgins marry dolts, and
matters in general are so mixed up that the choice lies between nice
things about spoiled and vile things that are not so bad after all, and
it is hard to tell sometimes which you like best or which you loathe

I expect to lose every friend I have in the world by the publication of
this paper--except the dunces who are impaled in it. They will never
read it, and if they do, will never suspect I mean them; while the
sensible and true friends, who do me good and not evil all the days of
their lives, will think I am driving at their noble hearts, and will at
once haul off and leave me inconsolable. Still I am going to write it.
You must open the safety-valve once in a while, even if the steam does
whiz and shriek, or there will be an explosion, which is fatal, while
the whizzing and shrieking are only disagreeable.

Doubtless friendship has its advantages and its pleasures; doubtless
hostility has its isolations and its revenges: still, if called upon to
choose once for all between friends and foes, I think, on the whole, I
should cast my vote for the foes. Twenty enemies will not do you the
mischief of one friend. Enemies you always know where to find. They are
in fair and square perpetual hostility, and you keep your armor on and
your sentinels posted; but with friends you are inveigled into a false
security, and, before you know it, your honor, your modesty, your
delicacy are scudding before the gales. Moreover, with your friend you
can never make reprisals. If your enemy attacks you, you can always
strike back and hit hard. You are expected to defend yourself against
him to the top of your bent. He is your legal opponent in honorable
warfare. You can pour hot-shot into him with murderous vigor; and the
more he wriggles, the better you feel. In fact, it is rather refreshing
to measure swords once in a while with such a one. You like to exert
your power and keep yourself in practice. You do not rejoice so much in
overcoming your enemy as in overcoming. If a marble statue could show
fight, you would just as soon fight it; but as it cannot, you take
something that can, and something, besides, that has had the temerity to
attack you, and so has made a lawful target of itself. But against your
friend your hands are tied. He has injured you. He has disgusted you. He
has infuriated you. But it was most Christianly done. You cannot hurl a
thunderbolt, or pull a trigger, or lisp a syllable, against those
amiable monsters who with tenderest fingers are sticking pins all over
you. So you shut fast the doors of your lips, and inwardly sigh for a
good, stout, brawny, malignant foe, who, under any and every
circumstance, will design you harm, and on whom you can lavish your
lusty blows with a hearty will and a clear conscience.

Your enemy keeps clear of you. He neither grants nor claims favors. He
awards you your rights,--no more, no less,--and demands the same from
you. Consequently there is no friction. Your friend, on the contrary, is
continually getting himself tangled up with you "because he is your
friend." I have heard that Shelley was never better pleased than when
his associates made free with his coats, boots, and hats for their own
use, and that he appropriated their property in the same way. Shelley
was a poet, and perhaps idealized his friends. He saw them, probably, in
a state of pure intellect. I am not a poet; I look at people in the
concrete. The most obvious thing about my friends is their avoirdupois;
and I prefer that they should wear their own cloaks and suffer me to
wear mine. There is no neck in the world that I want my collar to span
except my own. It is very exasperating to me to go to my bookcase and
miss a book of which I am in immediate and pressing need, because an
intimate friend has carried it off without asking leave, on the score of
his intimacy. I have not, and do not wish to have, any alliance that
shall abrogate the eighth commandment. A great mistake is lying round
loose hereabouts,--a mistake fatal to many friendships that did run
well. The common fallacy is, that intimacy dispenses with the necessity
of politeness. The truth is just the opposite of this. The more points
of contact there are, the more danger of friction there is, and the more
carefully should people guard against it. If you see a man only once a
month, it is not of so vital importance that you do not trench on his
rights, tastes, or whims. He can bear to be crossed or annoyed
occasionally. If he does not have a very high regard for you, it is
comparatively unimportant, because your paths are generally so diverse.
But you and the man with whom you dine every day have it in your power
to make each other exceedingly uncomfortable. A very little dropping
will wear away rock, if it only keep at it. The thing that you would not
think of, if it occurred only twice a year, becomes an intolerable
burden when it happens twice a day. This is where husbands and wives run
aground. They take too much for granted. If they would but see that they
have something to gain, something to save, as well as something to
enjoy, it would be better for them; but they proceed on the assumption
that their love is an inexhaustible tank, and not a fountain depending
for its supply on the stream that trickles into it. So, for every little
annoying habit, or weakness, or fault, they draw on the tank without
being careful to keep the supply open, till they awake one morning to
find the pump dry, and, instead of love, at best, nothing but a cold
habit of complacence. On the contrary, the more intimate friends become,
whether married or unmarried, the more scrupulously should they strive
to repress in themselves everything annoying, and to cherish both in
themselves and each other everything pleasing. While each should draw on
his love to neutralize the faults of his friend, it is suicidal to draw
on his friend's love to neutralize his own faults. Love should be
cumulative, since it cannot be stationary. If it does not increase, it
decreases. Love, like confidence, is a plant of slow growth, and of most
exotic fragility. It must be constantly and tenderly cherished. Every
noxious and foreign element must be carefully removed from it. All
sunshine, and sweet airs, and morning dews, and evening showers must
breathe upon it perpetual fragrance, or it dies into a hideous and
repulsive deformity, fit only to be cast out and trodden under foot of
men, while, properly cultivated, it is a Tree of Life.

Your enemy keeps clear of you not only in business, but in society. If
circumstances thrust him into contact with you, he is curt and
centrifugal. But your friend breaks in upon your "saintly solitude" with
perfect equanimity. He never for a moment harbors a suspicion that he
can intrude, "because he is your friend." So he drops in on his way to
the office to chat half an hour over the latest news. The half-hour
isn't much in itself. If it were after dinner, you wouldn't mind it; but
after breakfast every moment "runs itself in golden sands," and the
break in your time crashes a worse break in your temper. "Are you busy?"
asks the considerate wretch, adding insult to injury. What can you do?
Say yes and wound his self-love forever? But he has a wife and family.
You respect their feelings, smile and smile, and are villain enough to
be civil with your lips, and hide the poison of asps under your tongue,
till you have a chance to relieve your o'ercharged heart by shaking your
fist in impotent wrath at his retreating form. You will receive the
reward of your hypocrisy as you richly deserve, for ten to one he will
drop in again when he comes back from his office, and arrest you
wandering in Dreamland in the beautiful twilight. Delighted to find that
you are neither reading nor writing,--the absurd dolt! as if a man
weren't at work unless he be wielding a sledge-hammer!--he will preach
out, and prose out, and twaddle out another hour of your golden
even-tide, "because he is your friend." You don't care whether he is
judge or jury,--whether he talks sense or nonsense; you don't want him
to talk at all. You don't want him there any way. You want to be alone.
If you don't, why are you sitting there in the deepening twilight? If
you wanted him, couldn't you send for him? Why don't you go out into the
drawing-room, where are music, and lights, and gay people? What right
have I to suppose, that, because you are not using your eyes, you are
not using your brain? What right have I to set myself up as judge of the
value of your time, and so rob you of perhaps the most delicious hour in
all your day, on pretence that it is of no use to you?--take a pound of
flesh clean out of your heart and trip on my smiling way as if I had not
earned the gallows?

And what in Heaven's name is the good of all this ceaseless talk? To
what purpose are you wearied, exhausted, dragged out and out to the very
extreme of tenuity? A sprightly badinage,--a running fire of nonsense
for half an hour,--a tramp over unfamiliar ground with a familiar
guide,--a discussion of something with somebody who knows all about it,
or who, not knowing, wants to learn from you,--a pleasant interchange of
commonplaces with a circle of friends around the fire, at such hours as
you give to society: all this is not only tolerable, but
agreeable,--often positively delightful; but to have an indifferent
person, on no score but that of friendship, break into your sacred
presence, and suck your blood through indefinite cycles of time, is an
abomination. If he clatters on an indifferent subject, you can do well
enough for fifteen minutes, buoyed up by the hope that he will presently
have a fit, or be sent for, or come to some kind of an end. But when you
gradually open to the conviction that _vis inertiae_ rules the hour, and
the thing which has been is that which shall be, you wax listless; your
chariot-wheels drive heavily; your end of the pole drags in the mud, and
you speedily wallow in unmitigated disgust. If he broaches a subject on
which you have a real and deep living interest, you shrink from
unbosoming yourself to him. You feel that it would be sacrilege. He
feels nothing of the sort. He treads over your heart-strings in his
cow-hide brogans, and does not see that they are not whip-cords. He
pokes his gold-headed cane in among your treasures, blind to the fact
that you are clutching both arms around them, that no gleam of flashing
gold may reveal their whereabouts to him. You draw yourself up in your
shell, projecting a monosyllabic claw occasionally as a sign of
continued vitality; but the pachyderm does not withdraw, and you
gradually lower into an indignation,--smothered, fierce, intense.

Why, _why_, WHY will people inundate their unfortunate victims with such
"weak, washy, everlasting floods"? Why will they haul everything out
into the open day? Why will they make the Holy of Holies common and
unclean? Why will they be so ineffably stupid as not to see that there
is that which speech profanes? Why will they lower their drag-nets into
the unfathomable waters, in the vain attempt to bring up your pearls and
gems, whose lustre would pale to ashes in the garish light,--whose only
sparkle is in the deep sea-soundings? _Procul, O procul este, profani!_

Oh, the matchless power of silence! There are words that concentrate in
themselves the glory of a lifetime; but there is a silence that is more
precious than they. Speech ripples over the surface of life, but silence
sinks into its depths. Airy pleasantnesses bubble up in airy, pleasant
words. Weak sorrows quaver out their shallow being and are not. When the
heart is cleft to its core, there is no speech nor language.

Do not now, Messrs. Bores, think to retrieve your characters by coming
into my house and sitting mute for two hours. Heaven forbid that your
blood should be found on my skirts! but I believe I shall kill you, if
you do. The only reason why I have not laid violent hands on you
heretofore is that your vapid talk has operated as a wire to conduct my
electricity to the receptive and kindly earth; but if you intrude upon
my magnetisms without any such life-preserver, your future in this world
is not worth a crossed six-pence. Your silence would break the reed that
your talk but bruised. The only people with whom it is a joy to sit
silent are the people with whom it is a joy to talk. Clear out!

Friendship plays the mischief in the false ideas of constancy which are
generated and cherished in its name, if not by its agency. Your enemies
are intense, but temporary. Time wears off the edge of hostility. It is
the alembic in which offences are dissolved into thin air, and a calm
indifference reigns in their stead. But your friends are expected to be
a permanent arrangement. They are not only a sore evil, but of long
continuance. Adhesiveness seems to be the head and front, the bones and
blood of their creed. It is not the direction of the quality, but the
quality itself, which they swear by. Only stick, it is no matter what
you stick to. Fall out with a man, and you can kiss and be friends as
soon as you like; the recording angel will set it down on the credit
side of his books. Fall in, and you are expected to stay in, _ad
infinitum_, _ad nauseam_. No matter what combination of laws got you
there, there you are, and there you must stay, for better, for worse,
till merciful Death you do part,--or you are--"fickle." You find a man
entertaining for an hour, a week, a concert, a journey, and _presto!_
you are saddled with him forever. What preposterous absurdity! Do but
look at it calmly. You are thrown into contact with a person, and, as in
duty bound, you proceed to fathom him: for every man is a possible
revelation. In the deeps of his soul there may lie unknown worlds for
you. Consequently you proceed at once to experiment on him. It takes a
little while to get your tackle in order. Then the line begins to run
off rapidly, and your eager soul cries out, "Ah! what depth! What
perpetual calmness must be down below! What rest is here for all my
tumult! What a grand, vast nature is this!" Surely, surely, you are on
the high seas. Surely, you will now float serenely down the eternities!
But by-and-by there is a kink. You find, that, though the line runs off
so fast, it does not go down,--it only floats out. A current has caught
it and bears it on horizontally. It does not sink plumb. You have been
deceived. Your grand Pacific Ocean is nothing but a shallow little brook
that you can ford all the year round, if it does not utterly dry up in
the summer heats, when you want it most; or, at best, it is a fussy
little tormenting river, that won't and can't sail a sloop. What are you
going to do about it? You are going to wind up your lead and line,
shoulder your birch canoe as the old sea-kings used, and thrid the deep
forests, and scale the purple hills, till you come to water again, when
you will unroll your lead and line for another essay. Is that
fickleness? What else can you do? Must you launch your bark on the
unquiet stream, against whose pebbly bottom the keel continually grates
and rasps your nerves--simply that your reputation suffer no detriment?
Fickleness? There was no fickleness about it. You were trying an
experiment which you had every right to try. As soon as you were
satisfied, you stopped. If you had stopped sooner, you would have been
unsatisfied. If you had stopped later, you would have been dissatisfied.
It is a criminal contempt of the magnificent possibilities of life not
to lay hold of "God's occasions floating by." It is an equally criminal
perversion of them to cling tenaciously to what was only the
_simulacrum_ of an occasion. A man will toil many days and nights among
the mountains to find an ingot of gold, which, found, he bears home with
infinite pains and just rejoicing; but he would be a fool who should
lade his mules with iron-pyrites to justify his labors, however severe.

Fickleness! what is it, that we make such an ado about it? And what is
constancy, that it commands such usurious interest? The one is a foible
only in its relations. The other is only thus a virtue. "Fickle as the
winds" is our death-seal upon a man; but should we like our winds
un-fickle? Would a perpetual Northeaster lay us open to perpetual
gratitude? or is a soft South gale to be orisoned and vespered

I am tired of this eternal prating of devotion and constancy. It is
senseless in itself and harmful in its tendencies. The dictate of reason
is to treat men and women as we do oranges. Suck all the juice out and
then let them go. Where is the good of keeping the peel and pulp-cells
till they get old, dry, and mouldy? Let them go, and they will help feed
the earth-worms and bugs and beetles who can hardly find existence a
continued banquet, and fertilize the earth which will have you give
before you receive. Thus they will ultimately spring up in new and
beautiful shapes. Clung to with constancy, they stain your knife and
napkin, impart a bad odor to your dining-room, and degenerate into
something that is neither pleasant to the eye nor good for food. I
believe in a rotation of crops, morally and socially, as well as
agriculturally. When you have taken the measure of a man, when you have
sounded him and know that you cannot wade in him more than ankle-deep,
when you have got out of him all that he has to yield for your soul's
sustenance and strength, what is the next thing to be done? Obviously,
pass him on; and turn you "to fresh woods and pastures new." Do you work
him an injury? By no means. Friends that are simply glued on, and don't
grow out of, are little worth. He has nothing more for you, nor you for
him; but he may be rich in juices wherewithal to nourish the heart of
another man, and their two lives, set together, may have an endosmose
and exosmose whose result shall be richness of soil, grandeur of growth,
beauty of foliage, and perfectness of fruit; while you and he would only
have languished into aridity and a stunted crab-tree.

For my part, I desire to sweep off my old friends with the old year and
begin the new with a clean record. It is a measure absolutely necessary.
The snake does not put on his new skin over the old one. He sloughs off
the first, before he dons the second. He would be a very clumsy serpent,
if he did not. One cannot have successive layers of friendships any more
than the snake has successive layers of skins. One must adopt some
system to guard against a congestion of the heart from plethora of
loves. I go in for the much-abused fair-weather, skin-deep, April-shower
friends,--the friends who will drop off, if let alone,--who must be kept
awake to be kept at all,--who will talk and laugh with you as long as it
suits your respective humors and you are prosperous and happy,--the
blessed butterfly-race who flutter about your June mornings, and when
the clouds lower, and the drops patter, and the rains descend, and the
winds blow, will spread their gay wings and float gracefully away to
sunny southern lands where the skies are yet blue and the breezes
violet-scented. They are not only agreeable, but deeply wise. So long as
a man keeps his streamer flying, his sails set, and his hull above
water, it is pleasant to paddle alongside; but when the sails split, the
yards crack, and the keel goes staggering down, by all means paddle off.
Why should you be submerged in his whirlpool? Will he drown any more
easily because you are drowning with him? Lung is lung. He dies from
want of air, not from want of sympathy. When, a poor fellow sits down
among the ashes, the best thing his friends can do is to stand afar off.
Job bore the loss of property, children, health, with equanimity. Satan
himself found his match there; and for all his buffetings, Job sinned
not, nor charged God foolishly. But Job's three friends must needs make
an appointment together to come and mourn with him and to comfort him,
and after this Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day,--and no wonder.

Your friends have an intimate knowledge of you that is astonishing to
contemplate. It is not that they know your affairs, which he who runs
may read, but they know you. From a bit of bone, Cuvier could predicate
a whole animal, even to the hide and hair. Such moral naturalists are
your dear five hundred friends. It seems to yourself that you are
immeasurably reticent. You know, of a certainty, that you project only
the smallest possible fragment of yourself. You yield your universality
to the bond of common brotherhood; but your individualism--what it is
that makes you you--withdraws itself naturally, involuntarily,
inevitably, into the background,--the dim distance which their eyes
cannot penetrate. But, from the fraction which you do project, they
construct another you, call it by your name, and pass it around for the
real, the actual you. You bristle with jest and laughter and wild whims,
to keep them at a distance; and they fancy this to be your every-day
equipment. They think your life holds constant carnival. It is
astonishing what ideas spring up in the heads of sensible people. There
are those who assume that a person can never have had any grief, unless
somebody has died, or he has been disappointed in love,--not knowing
that every avenue of joy lies open to the tramp of pain. They see the
flashing coronet on the queen's brow, and they infer a diamond woman,
not recking of the human heart that throbs wildly out of sight. They see
the foam-crest on the wave, and picture an Atlantic Ocean of froth, and
not the solemn sea that stands below in eternal equipoise. You turn to
them the luminous crescent of your life, and they call it the whole
round globe; and so they love you with a love that is agate, not pearl,
because what they love in you is something infinitely below the highest.
They love you level: they have never scaled your heights nor fathomed
your depths. And when they talk of you as familiarly as if they had
taken out your auricles and ventricles, and turned them inside out, and
wrung them, and shaken them,--when they prate of your transparency and
openness, the abandonment with which you draw aside the curtain and
reveal the inmost thoughts of your heart,--you, who are to yourself a
miracle and a mystery, you smile inwardly, and are content. They are on
the wrong scent, and you may pursue your plans in peace. They are
indiscriminate and satisfied. They do not know the relation of what
appears to what is. If they chance to skirt along the coasts of your
Purple Island, it will be only chance, and they will not know it. You
may close your port-holes, lower your draw-bridge, and make merry, for
they will never come within gun-shot of the "Round Tower of your heart."

There is no such thing as knowing a man intimately. Every soul is, for
the greater part of its mortal life, isolated from every other. Whether
it dwell in the Garden of Eden or the Desert of Sahara, it dwells alone.
Not only do we jostle against the street-crowd unknowing and unknown,
but we go out and come in, we lie down and rise up, with strangers.
Jupiter and Neptune sweep the heavens not more unfamiliar to us than the
worlds that circle our own hearth-stone. Day after day, and year after
year, a person moves by your side; he sits at the same table; he reads
the same books; he kneels in the same church. You know every hair of his
head, every trick of his lips, every tone of his voice; you can tell him
far off by his gait. Without seeing him, you recognize his step, his
knock, his laugh. "Know him? Yes, I have known him these twenty years."
No, you don't know him. You know his gait, and hair, and voice. You know
what preacher he hears, what ticket he voted, and what were his last
year's expenses; but you don't know him. He sits quietly in his chair,
but he is in the temple. You speak to him; his soul comes out into the
vestibule to answer you, and returns,--and the gates are shut; therein
you cannot enter. You were discussing the state of the country; but,
when you ceased, he opened a postern-gate, went down a bank, and
launched on a sea over whose waters you have no boat to sail, no star to
guide. You have loved and reverenced him. He has been your concrete of
truth and nobleness. Unwittingly you touch a secret spring, and a
Blue-Beard Chamber stands revealed. You give no sign; you meet and part
as usual; but a Dead Sea rolls between you two forevermore.

It must be so. Not even to the nearest and dearest can one unveil the
secret place where his soul abideth, so that there shall be no more any
winding ways or hidden chambers; but to your indifferent neighbor, what
blind alleys, and deep caverns, and inaccessible mountains! To him who
"touches the electric chain wherewith you're darkly bound," your soul
sends back an answering thrill. Our little window is opened, and there
is short parley. Your ships speak each other now and then in welcome,
though imperfect communication; but immediately you strike out again
into the great, shoreless sea, over which you must sail forever alone.
You may shrink from the far-reaching solitudes of your heart, but no
other foot than yours can tread them, save those

"That, eighteen hundred years ago, were nailed,
For our advantage, to the bitter cross."

Be thankful that it is so,--that only His eye sees whose hand formed. If
we could look in, we should be appalled at the vision. The worlds that
glide around us are mysteries too high for us. We cannot attain to them.
The naked soul is a sight too awful for man to look at and live. There
are individuals whose topography we would like to know a little better,
and there is danger that we crash against each other while roaming
around in the dark; but, for all that, would we not have the
Constitution broken up. Somebody says, "In heaven there will be no
secrets," which, it seems to me, would be intolerable. (If that were a
revelation from the King of Heaven, of course I would not speak
flippantly of it; but, though towards Heaven we look with reverence and
humble hope, I do not know that Tom, Dick, and Harry's notions of it
have any special claim to our respect.) Such publicity would destroy all
individuality, and undermine the foundations of society.
Clairvoyance--if there be any such thing--always seemed to me a stupid
impertinence. When people pay visits to me, I wish them to come to the
front-door, and ring the bell, and send up their names. I don't wish
them to climb in at the window, or creep through the pantry, or, worst
of all, float through the keyhole, and catch me in undress. So I believe
that in all worlds thoughts will be the subjects of volition,--more
accurately expressed when expression is desired, but just as entirely
suppressed when we will suppression.

After all, perhaps the chief trouble arises from a prevalent confusion
of ideas as to what constitutes a man your friend. Friendship may stand
for that peaceful complacence which you feel towards all well--behaved
people who wear clean collars and use tolerable grammar. This is a very
good meaning, if everybody will subscribe to it. But sundry of these
well-behaved people will mistake your civility and complacence for a
recognition of special affinity, and proceed at once to frame an
alliance offensive and defensive while the sun and the moon shall
endure. Oh, the barnacles that cling to your keel in such waters! The
inevitable result is, that they win your intense rancor. You would feel
a genial kindliness towards them, if they would be satisfied with that;
but they lay out to be your specialty. They infer your innocent little
inch to be the standard-bearer of twenty ells, and goad you to frenzy. I
mean you, you desperate little horror, who nearly dethroned my reason
six years ago! I always meant to have my revenge, and here I impale you
before the public. For three months, you fastened yourself upon me; and
I could not shake you off. What availed it me, that you were an honest
and excellent man? Did I not, twenty times a day, wish you had been a
villain, who had insulted me, and I a Kentucky giant, that I might have
the unspeakable satisfaction of knocking you down? But you added to your
crimes virtue. Villany had no part or lot in you. You were a member of a
church, in good and regular standing; you had graduated with all the
honors worth mentioning; you had not a sin, a vice, or a fault that I
knew of; and you were so thoroughly good and repulsive that you were a
great grief to me. Do you think, you dear, disinterested wretch, that I
have forgotten how you were continually putting yourself to horrible
inconveniences on my account? Do you think I am not now filled with
remorse for the aversion that rooted itself ineradicably in my soul, and
which now gloats over you, as you stand in the pillory where my own
hands have fastened you? But can Nature be crushed forever? Did I not
ruin my nerves, and seriously injure my temper, by the overpowering
pressure I laid upon them to keep them quiet when you were by? Could I
not, by the sense of coming ill through all my quivering frame, presage
your advent as exactly as the barometer heralds the approaching storm?
Those three months of agony are little atoned for by this late
vengeance: but go in peace!

Mysterious are the ways of friendship. It is not a matter of reason or
of choice, but of magnetisms. You cannot always give the premises nor
the argument, but the conclusion is a palpable and stubborn fact. Abana
and Pharpar may be broad, and deep, and blue, and grand; but only in
Jordan shall your soul wash and be clean. A thousand brooks are born of
the sunshine and the mountains: very, very few are they whose flow can
mingle with yours, and not disturb, but only deepen and broaden the

Your friend! Who shall describe him, or worthily paint what he is to
you? No merchant, nor lawyer, nor farmer, nor statesman claims your
suffrage, but a kingly soul. He comes to you from God,--a prophet, a
seer, a revealer. He has a clear vision. His love is reverence. He goes
into the _penetralia_ of your life,--not presumptuously, but with
uncovered head, unsandalled feet, and pours libations at the innermost
shrine. His incense is grateful. For him the sunlight brightens, the
skies grow rosy, and all the days are Junes. Wrapped in his love, you
float in a delicious rest, rocked in the bosom of purple, scented waves.
Nameless melodies sing themselves through your heart. A golden glow
suffuses your atmosphere. A vague, fine ecstasy thrills to the sources
of life, and earth lays hold on heaven. Such friendship is worship. It
elevates the most trifling services into rites. The humblest offices are
sanctified. All things are baptized into a new name. Duty is lost in
joy. Care veils itself in caresses. Drudgery becomes delight. There is
no longer anything menial, small, or servile. All is transformed

"Into something rich and strange."

The homely household-ways lead through beds of spices and orchards of
pomegranates. The daily toil among your parsnips and carrots is plucking
May violets with the dew upon them to meet the eyes you love upon their
first awaking. In the burden and heat of the day you hear the rustling
of summer showers and the whispering of summer winds. Everything is
lifted up from the plane of labor to the plane of love, and a glory
spans your life. With your friend, speech and silence are one,--for a
communion mysterious and intangible reaches across from heart to heart.
The many dig and delve in your nature with fruitless toil to find the
spring of living water: he only raises his wand, and, obedient to the
hidden power, it bends at once to your secret. Your friendship, though
independent of language, gives to it life and light. The mystic spirit
stirs even in commonplaces, and the merest question is an endearment.
You are quiet because your heart is over-full. You talk because it is
pleasant, not because you have anything to say. You weary of terms that
are already love-laden, and you go out into the highways and hedges, and
gather up the rough, wild, wilful words, heavy with the hatreds of men,
and fill them to the brim with honey-dew. All things great and small,
grand or humble, you press into your service, force them to do soldier's
duty, and your banner over them is love.

With such a friendship, presence alone is happiness; nor is absence
wholly void,--for memories, and hopes, and pleasing fancies sparkle
through the hours, and you know the sunshine will come back.

For such friendship one is grateful. No matter that it comes unsought,
and comes not for the seeking. You do not discuss the reasonableness of
your gratitude. You only know that your whole being bows with humility
and utter thankfulness to him who thus crowns you monarch of all realms.

And the kingdom is everlasting. A thin, pale love dies weakly with the
occasion that gave it birth; but such friendship is born of the gods,
and is immortal. Clouds and darkness may sweep around it, but within the
cloud the glory lives undimmed. Death has no power over it. Time cannot
diminish, nor even dishonor annul it. Its direction may have been
unworthy, but itself is eternal. You go back into your solitudes: all is
silent as aforetime, but you cannot forget that a Voice once resounded
there. A Presence filled the valleys and gilded the mountain-tops,
--breathed upon the plains, and they sprang up in lilies
and roses,--flashed upon the waters, and they flowed to spheral
melody,--swept through the forests, and they, too, trembled into song.
And though now the warmth has faded out, though the ruddy tints and
amber clearness have paled to ashen hues, though the murmuring melodies
are dead, and forest, vale, and hill look hard and angular in the sharp
air, you know that it is not death. The fire is unquenched beneath. You
go your way not disconsolate. There needs but the Victorious Voice. At
the touch of the Prince's lips, life shall rise again and be perfected


When one thinks of a bird, one fancies a soft, swift, aimless, joyous
thing, full of nervous energy and arrowy motions,--a song with wings. So
remote from ours their mode of existence, they seem accidental exiles
from an unknown globe, banished where none can understand their
language; and men only stare at their darting, inexplicable ways, as at
the gyrations of the circus. Watch their little traits for hours, and it
only tantalizes curiosity. Every man's secret is penetrable, if his
neighbor be sharp-sighted. Dickens, for instance, can take a poor
condemned wretch, like Fagin, whose emotions neither he nor his reader
has experienced, and can paint him in colors that seem made of the
soul's own atoms, so that each beholder feels as if he, personally, had
been the man. But this bird that hovers and alights beside me, peers up
at me, takes its food, then looks again, attitudinizing, jerking,
flirting its tail, with a thousand inquisitive and fantastic
motions,--although I have power to grasp it in my hand and crush its
life out, yet I cannot gain its secret thus, and the centre of its
consciousness is really farther from mine than the remotest planetary
orbit. "We do not steadily bear in mind," says Darwin, with a noble
scientific humility, "how profoundly ignorant we are of the condition of
existence of every animal."

What "sympathetic penetration" can fathom the life, for instance, of
yonder mysterious, almost voiceless, Humming-Bird, smallest of feathery
things, and loneliest, whirring among birds, insect-like, and among
insects, bird-like, his path untraceable, his home unseen? An image of
airy motion, yet it sometimes seems as if there were nothing joyous in
him. He seems like some exiled pigmy prince, banished, but still regal,
and doomed to wings. Did gems turn to flowers, flowers to feathers, in
that long-past dynasty of the Humming-Birds? It is strange to come upon
his tiny nest, in some gray and tangled swamp, with this brilliant atom
perched disconsolately near it, upon some mossy twig; it is like
visiting Cinderella among her ashes. And from Humming-Bird to Eagle, the
daily existence of every bird is a remote and bewitching mystery.

Pythagoras has been charged, both before and since the days of Malvolio,
with holding that "the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a
fowl,"--that delinquent men must revisit earth as women, and delinquent
women as birds. Malvolio thought nobly of the soul, and in no way
approved his opinion; but I remember that Harriet Rohan, in her
school-days, accepted this, her destiny, with glee. "When I saw the
Oriole," she wrote to me, "from his nest among the plum-trees in the
garden, sail over the air and high above the Gothic arches of the elm, a
stream of flashing light, or watched him swinging silently on pendent
twigs, I did not dream how near akin we were. Or when a Humming-Bird, a
winged drop of gorgeous sheen and gloss, a living gem, poising on his
wings, thrust his dark, slender, honey-seeking bill into the white
blossoms of a little bush beside my window, I should have thought it no
such bad thing to be a bird, even if one next became a bat, like the
colony in our eaves, that dart and drop and skim and skurry, all the
length of moonless nights, in such ecstasies of dusky joy." Was this
weird creature, the bat, in very truth a bird, in some far primeval
time? and does he fancy, in unquiet dreams at nightfall, that he is
one still? I wonder whether he can enjoy the winged brotherhood
into which he has thrust himself,--victim, perhaps, of some rash
quadruped-ambition,--an Icarus doomed forever _not_ to fall.

I think, that, if required, on pain of death, to name instantly the most
perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird's egg.
There is, first, its exquisite fragility of material, strong only by the
mathematical precision of that form so daintily moulded. There is its
absolute purity from external stain, since that thin barrier remains
impassable until the whole is in ruins,--a purity recognized in the
household proverb of "An apple, an egg, and a nut." Then, its range of
tints, so varied, so subdued, and so beautiful,--whether of pure white,
like the Martin's, or pure green, like the Robin's, or dotted and
mottled into the loveliest of browns, like the Red Thrush's, or
aqua-marine, with stains of moss-agate, like the Chipping-Sparrow's, or
blotched with long weird ink-marks on a pale ground, like the Oriole's,
as if it bore inscribed some magic clue to the bird's darting flight and
pensile nest. Above all, the associations and predictions of this little
wonder,--that one may bear home between his fingers all that winged
splendor, all that celestial melody, coiled in mystery within these tiny
walls! Even the chrysalis is less amazing, for its form always preserves
some trace, however fantastic, of the perfect insect, and it is but
moulting a skin; but this egg appears to the eye like a separate unit
from some other kingdom of Nature, claiming more kindred with the very
stones than with feathery existence; and it is as if a pearl opened and
an angel sang.

The nest which is to contain these fair things is a wondrous study also,
from the coarse masonry of the Robin to the soft structure of the
Humming-Bird, a baby-house among nests. Among all created things, the
birds come nearest to man in their domesticity. Their unions are usually
in pairs, and for life; and with them, unlike the practice of most
quadrupeds, the male labors for the young. He chooses the locality of
the nest, aids in its construction, and fights for it, if needful. He
sometimes assists in hatching the eggs. He feeds the brood with
exhausting labor, like yonder Robin, whose winged picturesque day is
spent in putting worms into insatiable beaks, at the rate of one morsel
in every three minutes. He has to teach them to fly, as among the
Swallows, or even to hunt, as among the Hawks. His life is anchored to
his home. Yonder Oriole fills with light and melody the thousand
branches of a neighborhood; and yet the centre for all this divergent
splendor is always that one drooping dome upon one chosen tree. This he
helped to build in May, confiscating cotton as if he were a Union
provost-martial, and singing many songs, with his mouth full of plunder;
and there he watches over his household, all through the leafy June,
perched often upon the airy cradle-edge, and swaying with it in the
summer wind. And from this deep nest, after the pretty eggs are hatched,
will he and his mate extract every fragment of the shell, leaving it,
like all other nests, save those of birds of prey, clean and pure, when
the young are flown. This they do chiefly from an instinct of delicacy;
since wood-birds are not wont to use the same nest a second time, even
if they rear several broods in a season.

The subdued tints and notes which almost always mark the female sex,
among birds,--unlike insects and human beings, of which the female is
often more showy than the male,--seem designed to secure their safety
while sitting on the nest, while the brighter colors and louder song of
the male enable his domestic circle to detect his whereabouts more
easily. It is commonly noticed, in the same way, that ground-birds have
more neutral tints than those which build out of reach. With the aid of
these advantages, it is astonishing how well these roving creatures keep
their secrets, and what sharp eyes are needed to spy out their
habitations,--while it always seems as if the empty last-year's nests
were very plenty. Some, indeed, are very elaborately concealed, as of
the Golden-Crowned Thrush, called, for this reason, the Oven-Bird,--the
Meadow-Lark, with its burrowed gallery among the grass,--and the
Kingfisher, which mines four feet into the earth. But most of the rarer
nests would hardly be discovered, only that the maternal instinct seems
sometimes so overloaded by Nature as to defeat itself, and the bird
flies and chirps in agony, when she might pass unnoticed by keeping
still. The most marked exception which I have noticed is the Red Thrush,
which, in this respect, as in others, has the most high-bred manners
among all our birds: both male and female sometimes flit in perfect
silence through the bushes, and show solicitude only in a sob which is
scarcely audible.

Passing along the shore-path by our lake, one day in June, I heard a
great sound of scuffling and yelping before me, as if dogs were hunting
rabbits or woodchucks. On approaching, I saw no sign of such
disturbances, and presently a Partridge came running at me through the
trees, with ruff and tail expanded, bill wide open, and hissing like a
Goose,--then turned suddenly, and with ruff and tail furled, but with no
pretence of lameness, scudded off through the woods in a circle,--then
at me again fiercely, approaching within two yards, and spreading all
her furbelows, to intimidate, as before,--then, taking in sail, went off
again, always at the same rate of speed, yelping like an angry squirrel,
squealing like a pig, occasionally clucking like a hen, and, in general,
so filling the woods with bustle and disturbance that there seemed no
room for anything else. Quite overawed by the display, I stood watching
her for some time, then entered the underbrush, where the little
invisible brood had been unceasingly piping, in their baby way. So
motionless were they, that, for all their noise, I stood with my feet
among them, for some minutes, without finding it possible to detect
them. When found and taken from the ground, which they so closely
resembled, they made no attempt to escape; but, when replaced, they
presently ran away fast, as if conscious that the first policy had
failed, and that their mother had retreated. Such is the summer-life of
these little things; but come again in the fall, when the wild autumnal
winds go marching through the woods, and a dozen pairs of strong wings
will thrill like thunder through the arches of the trees, as the
full-grown brood whirrs away around you.

Not only have we scarcely any species of birds which are thoroughly and
unquestionably identical with European species, but there are certain
general variations of habit. For instance, in regard to migration. This
is, of course, a Universal instinct, since even tropical birds migrate
for short distances from the equator, so essential to their existence do
these wanderings seem. But in New England, among birds as among men, the
roving habit seems unusually strong, and abodes are shifted very
rapidly. The whole number of species observed in Massachusetts is about
the same as in England,--some three hundred in all. But of this number,
in England, about a hundred habitually winter on the island, and half
that number even in the Hebrides, some birds actually breeding in
Scotland during January and February, incredible as it may seem. Their
habits can, therefore, be observed through a long period of the year;
while with us the bright army comes and encamps for a month or two and
then vanishes. You must attend their dress-parades, while they last; for
you will have but few opportunities, and their domestic life must
commonly be studied during a few weeks of the season, or not at all.

Wonderful as the instinct of migration seems, it is not, perhaps, so
altogether amazing in itself as in some of its attendant details. To a
great extent, birds follow the opening foliage northward, and flee from
its fading, south; they must keep near the food on which they live, and
secure due shelter for their eggs. Our earliest visitors shrink from
trusting the bare trees with their nests; the Song-Sparrow seeks the
ground; the Blue-Bird finds a box or a hole somewhere; the Red-Wing
haunts the marshy thickets, safer in spring than at any other season;
and even the sociable Robin prefers a pine-tree to an apple-tree, if
resolved to begin housekeeping prematurely. The movements of birds are
chiefly timed by the advance of vegetation; and the thing most
thoroughly surprising about them is not the general fact of the change
of latitude, but their accuracy in hitting the precise locality. That
the same Cat-Bird should find its way back, every spring, to almost the
same branch of yonder larch-tree,--that is the thing astonishing to me.
In England, a lame Redstart was observed in the same garden for sixteen
successive years; and the astonishing precision of course which enables
some birds of small size to fly from Australia to New Zealand in a
day--probably the longest single flight ever taken--is only a part of
the same mysterious instinct of direction.

In comparing modes of flight, the most surprising, of course, is that of
the Swallow tribe, remarkable not merely for its velocity, but for the
amazing boldness and instantaneousness of the angles it makes; so that
eminent European mechanicians have speculated in vain upon the methods
used in its locomotion, and prizes have been offered, by mechanical
exhibitions, to him who could best explain it. With impetuous dash, they
sweep through our perilous streets, these wild hunters of the air, "so
near, and yet so far"; they bathe flying, and flying they feed their
young. In my immediate vicinity, the Chimney-Swallow is not now common,
nor the Sand-Swallow; but the Cliff-Swallow, that strange emigrant from
the Far West, the Barn-Swallow, and the white-breasted species, are
abundant, together with the Purple Martin. I know no prettier sight than
a bevy of these bright little creatures, met from a dozen different
farm-houses to picnic at a way-side pool, splashing and fluttering, with
their long wings expanded like butterflies, keeping poised by a constant
hovering motion, just tilting upon their feet, which scarcely touch the
moist ground. You will seldom see them actually perch on anything less
airy than some telegraphic wire; but, when they do alight, each will
make chatter enough for a dozen, as if all the rushing hurry of the
wings had passed into the tongue.

Between the swiftness of the Swallow and the stateliness of the birds of
prey, the whole range of bird-motion seems included. The long wave of a
Hawk's wings seems almost to send a slow vibration through the
atmosphere, tolling upon the eye as yon distant bell upon the ear. I
never was more impressed with the superior dignity of these soarings
than in observing a bloodless contest in the air, last April. Standing
beside a little grove, on a rocky hill-side, I heard Crows cawing near
by, and then a sound like great flies buzzing, which I really
attributed, for a moment, to some early insect. Turning, I saw two Crows
flapping their heavy wings among the trees, and observed that they were
teasing a Hawk about as large as themselves, which was also on the wing.
Presently all three had risen above the branches, and were circling
higher and higher in a slow spiral. The Crows kept constantly swooping
at their enemy, with the same angry buzz, one of the two taking
decidedly the lead. They seldom struck at him with their beaks, but kept
lumbering against him, and flapping him with their wings, as if in a
fruitless effort to capsize him; while the Hawk kept carelessly eluding
the assaults, now inclining on one side, now on the other, with a
stately grace, never retaliating, but seeming rather to enjoy the novel
amusement, as if it were a skirmish in balloons. During all this,
indeed, he scarcely seemed once to wave his wings; yet he soared
steadily aloft, till the Crows refused to follow, though already higher
than I ever saw Crows before, dim against the fleecy sky; then the Hawk
flew northward, but soon after he sailed over us once again, with loud,
scornful _chirr_, and they only cawed, and left him undisturbed.

When we hear the tumult of music from these various artists of the air,
it seems as if the symphony never could be analyzed into its different
instruments. But with time and patience it is not so difficult; nor can
we really enjoy the performance, so long as it is only a confused chorus
to our ears. It is not merely the highest form of animal language, but,
in strictness of etymology, the only form, if it be true, as is claimed,
that no other animal employs its tongue, _lingua_, in producing sound.
In the Middle Ages, the song of birds was called their Latin, as was any
other foreign dialect. It was the old German superstition, that any one
who should eat the heart of a bird would thenceforth comprehend its
language; and one modern philologist of the same nation (Masius
declares) has so far studied the sounds produced by domestic fowls as to
announce a Goose-Lexicon. Dupont de Nemours asserted that he understood
eleven words of the Pigeon language, the same number of that of Fowls,
fourteen of the Cat tongue, twenty-two of that of Cattle, thirty of that
of Dogs, and the Raven language he understood completely. But the
ordinary observer seldom attains farther than to comprehend some of the
cries of anxiety and fear around him, often so unlike the accustomed
carol of the bird,--as the mew of the Cat-Bird, the lamb-like bleating
of the Veery and his impatient _yeoick_, the _chaip_ of the Meadow-Lark,
the _towyee_ of the Chewink, the petulant _psit_ and _tsee_ of the
Red-Winged Blackbird, and the hoarse cooing of the Bobolink. And with
some of our most familiar birds the variety of notes is so great as
really to promise difficulties in the American department of the
bird-lexicon. I have watched two Song-Sparrows, perched near each other,
in whom the spy-glass could show not the slightest difference of
marking, even in the characteristic stains upon the breast, who yet
chanted to each other, for fifteen minutes, over and over, two elaborate
songs which had nothing in common. I have observed a similar thing in
two Wood-Sparrows, with their sweet, distinct, accelerating lay; nor can
I find it stated that the difference is sexual. Who can claim to have
heard the whole song of the Robin? Taking shelter from a shower beneath
an oak-tree, the other day, I caught a few of the notes which one of
those cheery creatures, who love to sing in wet weather, tossed down to
me through the drops.

(Before noticing me,) _chirrup, cheerup_
(pausing in alarm, at my approach,) _che, che, che;_
(broken presently by a thoughtful strain,) _caw, caw,_
(then softer and more confiding,) _see, see, see;_
(then the original note, in a whisper,) _chirrup, cheerup;_
(often broken by a soft note,) _see, wee;_
(and an odder one,) _squeal;_
(and a mellow note,) _tweedle._

And all these were mingled with more complex combinations, and with
half-imitations, as of the Blue-Bird, so that it seemed almost
impossible to doubt that there was some specific meaning, to him and his
peers, in this endless vocabulary. Yet other birds, as quick-witted as
the Robins, possess but one or two chirping notes, to which they seem
unable to give more than the very rudest variation of accent.

The controversy between the singing-birds of Europe and America has had
various phases and influential disputants. Buffon easily convinced
himself that our Thrushes had no songs, because the voices of all birds
grew harsh in savage countries, such as he naturally held this continent
to be. Audubon, on the other hand, relates that even in his childhood he
was assured by his father that the American songsters were the best,
though neither Americans nor Europeans could be convinced of it.
MacGillivray, the Scottish naturalist, reports that Audubon himself, in
conversation, arranged our vocalists in the following order:--first, the
Mocking-Bird, as unrivalled; then, the Wood-Thrush, Cat-Bird, and Red
Thrush; the Rose-Breasted, Pine, and Blue Grosbeak; the Orchard and
Golden Oriole; the Tawny and Hermit Thrushes; several Finches,
--Bachmann's, the White-Crowned, the Indigo, and the Nonpareil;
and finally, the Bobolink.

Among those birds of this list which frequent Massachusetts, Audubon
might well put the Wood-Thrush at the head. As I sat the other day in
the deep woods beside a black brook which dropped from stone to stone
beneath the shadow of our Rattlesnake Rocks, the air seemed at first as
silent above me as the earth below. The buzz of summer sounds had not
begun. Sometimes a bee hummed by with a long swift thrill like a chord
of music; sometimes a breeze came resounding up the forest like an
approaching locomotive, and then died utterly away. Then, at length, a
Veery's delicious note rose in a fountain of liquid melody from beneath
me; and when it was ended, the clear, calm, interrupted chant of the
Wood-Thrush fell like solemn water-drops from some source above--I am
acquainted with no sound in Nature so sweet, so elevated, so serene.
Flutes and flageolets are Art's poor efforts to recall that softer
sound. It is simple, and seems all prelude; but the music to which it is
the overture must belong to other spheres. It might be the _Angelus_ of
some lost convent. It might be the meditation of some maiden-hermit,
saying over to herself in solitude, with recurrent tuneful pauses, the
only song she knows. Beside this soliloquy of seraphs, the carol of the
Veery seems a familiar and almost domestic thing; yet it is so charming
that Audubon must have designed to include it among the Thrushes whose
merits he proclaims.

But the range of musical perfection is a wide one; and if the standard
of excellence be that wondrous brilliancy and variety of execution
suggested by the Mocking-Bird, then the palm belongs, among our
New-England songsters, to the Red Thrush, otherwise called the Mavis or
Brown Thrasher. I have never heard the Mocking-Bird sing at liberty; and
while the caged bird may surpass the Red Thrush in volume of voice and
in quaintness of direct imitation, he gives me no such impression of
depth and magnificence. I know not how to describe the voluble and
fantastic notes which fall like pearls and diamonds from the beak of our
Mavis, while his stately attitudes and high-born bearing are in full
harmony with the song. I recall the steep, bare hill-side, and the two
great boulders which guard the lonely grove, where I first fully learned
the wonder of this lay, as if I had met Saint Cecilia there. A
thoroughly happy song, overflowing with life, it gives even its most
familiar phrases an air of gracious condescension, as when some great
violinist stoops to the "Carnival of Venice." The Red Thrush does not,
however, consent to any parrot-like mimicry, though every note of wood
or field--Oriole, Bobolink, Crow, Jay, Robin, Whippoorwill--appears to
pass in veiled procession through the song.

Retain the execution of the Red Thrush, but hopelessly impair his organ,
and you have the Cat-Bird. This accustomed visitor would seem a gifted
vocalist, but for the inevitable comparison between his thinner note and
the gushing melodies of the lordlier bird. Is it some hopeless
consciousness of this disadvantage which leads him to pursue that
peculiar habit of singing softly to himself very often, in a fancied
seclusion? When other birds are cheerily out-of-doors, on some bright
morning of May or June, one will often discover a solitary Cat-Bird
sitting concealed in the middle of a dense bush, and twittering busily,
in subdued rehearsal, the whole copious variety of his lay, practising
trills and preparing half-imitations, which, at some other time, sitting
on the topmost twig, he shall hilariously seem to improvise before all
the world. Can it be that he is really in some slight disgrace with
Nature, with that demi-mourning garb of his,--and that his feline cry of
terror, which makes his opprobrium with boys, is part of some hidden
doom decreed? No, the lovely color of the eggs which his companion
watches on that laboriously builded staging of twigs shall vindicate
this familiar companion from any suspicion of original sin. Indeed, it
is well demonstrated by our American oölogist, Dr. Brewer, that the eggs
of the Cat-Bird affiliate him with the Robin and the Wood-Thrush, all
three being widely separated in this respect from the Red Thrush. The
Red Thrush builds on the ground, and has mottled eggs; while the whole
household establishment of the Wood-Thrush is scarcely distinguishable
from that of the Robin, and the Cat-Bird differs chiefly in being more
of a carpenter and less of a mason.

The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, which Audubon places so high on his list of
minstrels, comes annually to one region in this vicinity, but I am not
sure of having heard it. The young Pine Grosbeaks come to our woods in
winter, and have then but a subdued twitter. Every one knows the
Bobolink; and almost all recognize the Oriole, by sight at least, even
if unfamiliar with all the notes of his cheery and resounding song. The
Red-Eyed Flycatcher, heard even more constantly, is less generally
identified by name; but his note sounds all day among the elms of our
streets, and seems a sort of piano-adaptation, popularized for the
million, of the rich notes of the Thrushes. He is not mentioned by
Audubon among his favorites, and has no right to complain of the
exclusion. Yet the birds which most endear summer are not necessarily
the finest performers; and certainly there is none whose note I could
spare less easily than the little Chipping-Sparrow, called hereabouts
the Hair-Bird. To lie half-awake on a warm morning in June, and hear
that soft insect-like chirp draw in and out with long melodious
pulsations, like the rising and falling of the human breath, condenses
for my ear the whole luxury of summer. Later in the day, among the
multiplicity of noises, the chirping becomes louder and more detached,
losing that faint and dream-like thrill.

The bird-notes which have the most familiar fascination are perhaps
simply those most intimately associated with other rural things. This
applies especially to the earliest spring songsters. Listening to these
delicious prophets upon some of those still and moist days which slip in
between the rough winds of March and fill our lives for a moment with
anticipated delights, it has seemed to me that their varied notes were
sent to symbolize all the different elements of spring association. The
Blue-Bird seems to represent simply spring's faint, tremulous, liquid
sweetness, the Song-Sparrow its changing pulsations of more positive and
varied joy, and the Robin its cheery and superabundant vitality. The
later birds of the season, suggesting no such fine-drawn sensations, yet
identify themselves with their chosen haunts, so that we cannot think of
the one without the other. In the meadows, we hear the languid and
tender drawl of the Meadow-Lark,--one of the most peculiar of notes,
almost amounting to affectation in its excess of laborious sweetness.
When we reach the thickets and wooded streams, there is no affectation
in the Maryland Yellow-Throat, that little restless busybody, with his
eternal _which-is-it, which-is-it, which-is-it_, emphasizing each
syllable at will, in despair of response. Passing into the loftier
woods, we find them resounding with the loud proclamation of the
Golden-Crowned Thrush,--_scheat, scheat, scheat, scheat_,--rising and
growing louder in a vigorous way that rather suggests some great
Woodpecker than such a tiny thing. And penetrating to some yet lonelier
place, we find it consecrated to that life-long sorrow, whatever it may
be, which is made immortal in the plaintive cadence of the Pewee.

There is one favorite bird,--the Chewink, or Ground-Robin,--which, I
always fancied, must have been known to Keats when he wrote those few
words of perfect descriptiveness,--

"If an innocent bird
Before my heedless footsteps _stirred and stirred
__In little journeys_."

What restless spirit is in this creature, that, while so shy in its own
personal habits, it yet watches every visitor with a Paul-Pry curiosity,
follows him in the woods, peers out among the underbrush, scratches upon
the leaves with a pretty pretence of important business there, and
presently, when disregarded, ascends some small tree and begins to carol
its monotonous song, as if there were no such thing as man in the
universe? There is something irregular and fantastic in the coloring,
also, of the Chewink: unlike the generality of ground-birds, it is a
showy thing, with black, white, and bay intermingled, and it is one of
the most unmistakable of all our feathery creatures, in its aspect and
its ways.

Another of my favorites, perhaps from our sympathy as to localities,
since we meet freely every summer at a favorite lake, is the King-Bird
or Tyrant-Flycatcher. The habits of royalty or tyranny I have never been
able to perceive,--only a democratic habit of resistance to tyrants; but
this bird always impresses me as a perfectly well-dressed and
well-mannered person, who amid a very talkative society prefers to
listen, and shows his character by action only. So long as he sits
silently on some stake or bush in the neighborhood of his family-circle,
you notice only his glossy black cap and the white feathers in his
handsome tail; but let a Hawk or a Crow come near, and you find that he
is something more than a mere lazy listener to the Bobolink: far up in
the air, determined to be thorough in his chastisements, you will see
him, with a comrade or two, driving the bulky intruder away into the
distance, till you wonder how he ever expects to find his own way back
again. He speaks with emphasis, on these occasions, and then reverts,
more sedately than ever, to his accustomed silence.

After all the great labors of Audubon and Wilson, it is certain that the
recent visible progress of American ornithology has by no means equalled
that of several other departments of Natural History. The older books
are now out of print, and there is actually no popular treatise on the
subject to be had: a destitution singularly contrasted with the variety
of excellent botanical works which the last twenty years have produced.
Nuttall's fascinating volumes, and Brewer's edition of Wilson, are
equally inaccessible; and the most valuable contributions since their
time, so far as I know, are that portion of Dr. Brewer's work on eggs
printed in the eleventh volume of the "Smithsonian Contributions," and
four admirable articles in this very magazine.[14] But the most
important observations are locked up in the desks or exhibited in the
cabinets of private observers, who have little opportunity of comparing
facts with other students, or with reliable printed authorities. What do
we know, for instance, of the local distribution of our birds? I
remember that in my latest conversation with Thoreau, last December, he
mentioned most remarkable facts in this department, which had fallen
under his unerring eyes. The Hawk most common at Concord, the Red-Tailed
species, is not known near the sea-shore, twenty miles off,--as at
Boston or Plymouth. The White-Breasted Sparrow is rare in Concord; but
the Ashburnham woods, thirty miles away, are full of it. The Scarlet
Tanager's is the commonest note in Concord, except the Red-Eyed
Flycatcher's; yet one of the best field-ornithologists in Boston had
never heard it. The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is seen not infrequently at
Concord, though its nest is rarely found; but in Minnesota Thoreau found
it more abundant than any other bird, far more so than the Robin. But
his most interesting statement, to my fancy, was, that, during a stay of
ten weeks on Monadnock, he found that the Snow-Bird built its nest on
the top of the mountain, and probably never came down through the
season. That was its Arctic; and it would probably yet be found, he
predicted, on Wachusett and other Massachusetts peaks. It is known that
the Snow-Bird, or "Snow-Flake," as it is called in England, was reported
by Audubon as having only once been proved to build in the United
States, namely, among the White Mountains, though Wilson found its nests
among the Alleghanies; and in New England it used to be the rural belief
that the Snow-Bird and the Chipping-Sparrow were the same.

After July, most of our birds grow silent, and, but for the insects,
August would be almost the stillest month in the year,--stiller than the
winter, when the woods are often vocal with the Crow, the Jay, and the
Chickadee. But with patient attention one may hear, even far into the
autumn, the accustomed notes. As I sat in my boat, one sunny afternoon
of last September, beneath the shady western shore of our quiet lake,
with the low sunlight striking almost level across the wooded banks, it
seemed as if the last hoarded drops of summer's sweetness were being
poured over all the world. The air was full of quiet sounds. Turtles
rustled beside the brink and slid into the water,--cows plashed in the
shallows,--fishes leaped from the placid depths,--a squirrel sobbed and
fretted on a neighboring stump,--a katydid across the lake maintained
its hard, dry croak,--the crickets chirped pertinaciously, but with
little fatigued pauses, as if glad that their work was almost done,--the
grasshoppers kept up their continual chant, which seemed thoroughly
melted and amalgamated into the summer, as if it would go on
indefinitely, though the body of the little creature were dried into
dust. All this time the birds were silent and invisible, as if they
would take no more part in the symphony of the year. Then, as if by
preconcerted signal, they joined in: Crows cawed anxiously afar; Jays
screamed in the woods; a Partridge clucked to its brood, like the gurgle
of water from a bottle; a Kingfisher wound his rattle, more briefly than
in spring, as if we now knew all about it and the merest hint ought to
suffice; a Fish-Hawk flapped into the water, with a great rude splash,
and then flew heavily away; a flock of Wild Ducks went southward
overhead, and a smaller party returned beneath them, flying low and
anxiously, as if to pick up some lost baggage; and, at last, a Loon
laughed loud from behind a distant island, and it was pleasant to people
these woods and waters with that wild shouting, linking them with
Katahdin Lake and Amperzand.

But the later the birds linger in the autumn, the more their aspect
differs from that of spring. In spring, they come, jubilant, noisy,
triumphant, from the South, the winter conquered and the long journey
done. In autumn, they come timidly from the North, and, pausing on their
anxious retreat, lurk within the fading copses and twitter snatches of
song as fading. Others fly as openly as ever, but gather in flocks, as
the Robins, most piteous of all birds at this season,--thin, faded,
ragged, their bold note sunk to a feeble quaver, and their manner a mere
caricature of that inexpressible military smartness with which they held
up their heads in May.

Yet I cannot really find anything sad even in November. When I think of
the thrilling beauty of the season past, the birds that came and went,
the insects that took up the choral song as the birds grew silent, the
procession of the flowers, the glory of autumn,--and when I think, that,
this also ended, a new gallery of wonder is opening, almost more
beautiful, in the magnificence of frost and snow, there comes an
impression of affluence and liberality in the universe, which seasons of
changeless and uneventful verdure would never give. The catkins already
formed on the alder, quite prepared to droop into April's beauty,--the
white edges of the May-flower's petals, already visible through the bud,
show in advance that winter is but a slight and temporary retardation of
the life of Nature, and that the barrier which separates November from
March is not really more solid than that which parts the sunset from the

[Footnote 14: "Our Birds and their Ways" (December, 1857); "The
Singing-Birds and their Songs" (August, 1858); "The Birds of the Garden
and Orchard" (October, 1858); "The Birds of the Pasture and Forest"
(December, 1853);--the first by J. Elliot Cabot, and the three last by
Wilson Flagg.]


In the rapid alternations of opinion produced by the varying incidents
of the present war, a few days effect the work of centuries. We may
therefore be pardoned for giving an antique coloring to an event of
recent occurrence. Accordingly we say, once upon a time, (Tuesday, July
1, 1862) a great popular convention of all who loved the Constitution
and the Union, and all who hated "niggers," was called in the city of
New York. The place of meeting was the Cooper Institute, and among the
signers to the call were prominent business and professional men of that
great metropolis. At this meeting, that eminently calm and learned
jurist, the Honorable W.A. Duer, interrupted the course of an elaborate
argument for the constitutional rights of the Southern rebels by a
melodramatic exclamation, that, if we hanged the traitors of the country
in the order of their guilt, "the next man who marched upon the scaffold
after Jefferson Davis would be Charles Sumner."

The professed object of the meeting was to form a party devoted to the
support of "the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was." Its
practical effect was to give the Confederates and foreign powers a broad
hint that the North was no longer a unit. The coincidence of the meeting
with the Federal reverses before Richmond made its professed object all

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