and was respected. Indeed, to some extent, it operated as a sort of peace society, and was held sacred when nothing else was. Even rude soldiers, amid the perils and necessities of sieges, turned aside destruction from the walls that sheltered it. The history of art is full of records of its power to soften and elevate the human heart. As soon would man, were it possible, mar one of God’s sunsets, as cease to respect what genius has confided to his care, when once his mind has been awakened to its meaning.
The desire for art being awakened, museums to illustrate its technical and historical progress, and galleries to exhibit its master-works, become indispensable. In the light of education, appropriations for such purposes are as much a duty of the government as for any other purpose connected with the true welfare of the people; for its responsibilities extend over the entire social system.
* * * * *
=_Edwin P. Whipple, 1819-._= (Manual, p. 501.)
From “Literature and Life.”
=_236._= WIT AND HUMOR IN LITERATURE.
Every student of English theological literature knows that much of its best portions gleams with wit. Five of the greatest humorists that ever made the world ring with laughter were priests,–Rabelais, Scarron, Swift, Sterne, and Sydney Smith. The prose works of Milton are radiant with satire of the sharpest kind. Sydney Smith, one of the most benevolent, intelligent and influential Englishmen of the nineteenth century, a man of the most accurate insight and extensive information, embodied the large stores of his practical wisdom in almost every form of the ludicrous. Many of the most important reforms in England are directly traceable to him. He really laughed his countrymen out of some of their most cherished stupidities of legislation.
And now let us be just to Mirth. Let us be thankful that we have in Wit a power before which the pride of wealth and the insolence of office are abased; which can transfix bigotry and tyranny with arrows of lightning; which can strike its object over thousands of miles of space, across thousands of years of time; and which, through its sway over an universal weakness of man, is an everlasting instrument to make the bad tremble and the foolish wince. Let us be grateful for the social and humanizing influences of Mirth. Amid the sorrow, disappointment, agony, and anguish of the world,–over dark thoughts and tempestuous passions, the gloomy exaggerations of self-will, the enfeebling illusions of melancholy,–Wit and Humor, light and lightning, shed their soft radiance, or dart their electric flash. See how life is warmed and illumined by Mirth! See how the beings of the mind, with which it has peopled our imaginations, wrestle with the ills of existence,–feeling their way into the harshest or saddest meditations, with looks that defy calamity; relaxing muscles made rigid with pain; hovering o’er the couch of sickness, with sunshine and laughter in their beneficent faces; softening the austerity of thoughts whose awful shadows dim and darken the brain,–loosening the gripe of Misery as it tugs at the heart-strings! Let us court the society of these gamesome, and genial, and sportive, and sparkling beings,–whom Genius has left to us as a priceless bequest; push them not from the daily walks of the world’s life: let them scatter some humanities in the sullen marts of business; let them glide in through the open doors of the heart; let their glee lighten up the feast, and gladden the fireside of home:
“That the night may be filled with music, And the cares that infest the day
May fold their tents, like the Arabs, And as silently steal away.”
* * * * *
=_Jane T.L. Worthington,-1847._= (Manual, p. 524.)
From “Love Sketches.”
=_237._= THE SISTERS.
The sisters were together, together for the last time in the happy home of their childhood. The window before them was thrown open, and the shadows of evening were slowly passing from each familiar outline on which the gazers looked. They were both young and fair; and one, the elder, wore that pale wreath the maiden wears but once. The accustomed smile had forsaken her lip now, and the orange-flowers were scarcely whiter than the cheek they shaded. The sister’s hands were clasped in each other, and they sat silently watching the gradual brightening of the crescent moon, and the coming forth, one by one, of the stars. Not a cloud was floating in the quiet sky; the light wind hardly stirred the young leaves, and the air was fraught with the fragrance of early spring flowers. It was the hour when reverie is deepest, and fantasies have the earnestness of truth, when memory is melancholy in its vividness, and we feel, “almost like a reality,” the presence of those who may bless our pathway no more. The loved, the lost–
“So many, yet how few!”–
gather around us, not as they are, chastened and troubled by battling with trials and disappointments, but as they used to be, in the glow of unwearied expectation. Old fears flit before us altered into pleasures, and old hopes return bathed in tears.
* * * * *
=_Alice Cary, 1820-1871._= (Manual, p. 484.)
=_238._= THE END OF THE HISTORY.
And so with the various seasons of the year. May, with her green lap full of sprouting leaves and bright blossoms, her song-birds making the orchards and meadows vocal, and rippling streams and cultivated gardens; June, with full-blown roses and humming-bees, plenteous meadows and wide cornfields, with embattled lines rising thick and green; August, with reddened orchards and heavy-headed harvests of grain, October, with yellow leaves and swart shadows; December, palaced in snow, and idly whistling through his numb fingers;-all have their various charm; and in the rose-bowers of summer, and as we spread our hands before the torches of winter, we say joyfully, “Thou hast made all things beautiful in their time.” We sit around the fireside, and the angel feared and dreaded by us all comes in, and one is taken from our midst. Hands that have caressed us, locks that have fallen over us like a bath of beauty, are hidden beneath shroud-folds. We see the steep edges of the grave, and hear the heavy rumble of the clods; and, in the burst of passionate grief, it seems that we can never still the crying of our hearts. But the days rise and set, dimly at first, and seasons come and go, and, by little and little, the weight rises from the heart, and the shadows drift from before the eyes, till we feel again the spirit of gladness, and see again the old beauty of the world.
* * * * *
=_Donald G. Mitchell, 1822-._= (Manual, pp. 504, 531.)
From “Wayside Hints.”
=_239._= A TALK ABOUT PORCHES.
A country house without a porch is like a man without an eyebrow; it gives expression, and gives expression where you most want it. The least office of a porch is that of affording protection against the rain-beat and the sun-beat. It is an interpreter of character; it humanizes bald walls and windows; it emphasizes architectural tone; it gives hint of hospitality; it is a hand stretched out (figuratively and lumberingly, often) from the world within to the world without.
At a church door even, a porch seems to me to be a blessed thing, and a most worthy and patent demonstration of the overflowing Christian charity, and of the wish to give shelter. Of all the images of wayside country churches which keep in my mind, those hang most persistently and agreeably, which show their jutting, defensive rooflets to keep the brunt of the storm from the church-goer while he yet fingers at the latch of entrance.
I doubt if there be not something beguiling in a porch over the door of a country shop–something that relieves the odium of bargaining, and imbues even the small grocer with a flavor of cheap hospitalities. The verandas (which is but a long translation of porch) that stretch along the great river front of the Bellevue Hospital diffuse somehow a gladsome cheer over that prodigious caravansery of the sick; and I never see the poor creatures in their bandaged heads and their flannel gowns, enjoying their convalescence in the sunshine of those exterior corridors, but I reckon the old corridors for as much as the young doctors, in bringing them from convalescence into strength, and a new fight with the bedevilments of the world.
What shall we say, too, of inn porches? Does anybody doubt their fitness? Is there any question of the fact–with any person of reasonably imaginative mood–that Falstaff and Nym and Bardolph, and the rest, once lolled upon the benches of the porch that overhung the door of the Boar’s Head Tavern, Eastcheap? Any question about a porch, and a generous one, at the Tabard, Southwark–presided over by that wonderful host who so quickened the story-telling humors of the Canterbury pilgrims of Master Chaucer?
Then again, in our time, if one were to peel away the verandas and the exterior corridors from our vast watering-place hostelries, what an arid baldness of wall and of character would be left! All sentiment, all glowing memories, all the music of girlish footfalls, all echoes of laughter and banter and rollicking mirth, and tenderly uttered vows would be gone.
King David when he gave out to his son Solomon the designs for the building of the Temple, included among the very first of them, (1 Chron. XXVIII. 11) the “pattern of a porch.” It is not, however, of porches of shittim-wood and of gold, that I mean to talk just now–nor even of those elaborate architectural features which will belong of necessity to the entrance-way of every complete study of a country house. I plead only for some little mantling hood about every exterior door-way, however humble.
There are hundreds of naked, vulgar-looking dwellings, scattered up and down our country highroads, which only need a little deft and adroit adaptation of the hospitable feature which I have made the subject of this paper, to assume an air of modest grace, in place of the present indecorous exposure of a wanton.
* * * * *
=_Richard Grant White, 1822-._=
From “Memoirs of the Life of William Shakespeare.”
=_240._= THE CHARACTER OF SHAKESPEARE’S STYLE.
Writing for the general public, he used such language as would convey his meaning to his auditors,–the common phraseology of his period. But what a language was that! In its capacity for the varied and exact expression of all moods of mind, all forms of thought, all kinds of emotion, a tongue unequaled by any other known to literature! A language of exhaustless variety; strong without ruggedness, and flexible without effeminacy. A manly tongue; yet bending itself gracefully and lovingly to the tenderest and the daintiest needs of woman, and capable of giving utterance to the most awful and impressive thoughts, in homely words that come from the lips, and go to the heart, of childhood. It would seem as if this language had been preparing itself for centuries to be the fit medium of utterance for the world’s greatest poet. Hardly more than a generation had passed since the English tongue had reached its perfect maturity; just time enough to have it well worked into the unconscious usage of the people, when Shakespeare appeared, to lay upon it a burden of thought which would test its extremest capability. He found it fully formed and developed, but not yet uniformed and cramped and disciplined by the lexicographers and rhetoricians,–those martinets of language, who seem to have lost for us in force and flexibility as much as they have gained for us in precision. The phraseology of that day was notably large and simple among ordinary writers and speakers. Among the college-bred writers and their imitators, there was too great a fondness for little conceits; but even with them this was an extraneous blemish, like that sometimes found in the ornament upon a noble building. Shakespeare seized this instrument to whose tones all ears were open, and with the touch of a master he brought out all its harmonies. It lay ready to any hand; but his was the first to use it with absolute control; and among all its successors, great as some are, he has had, even in this single respect, no rival. No unimportant condition of his supreme mastery over expression was his entire freedom from restraint–it may almost be said from consciousness–in the choice of language. He was no precisian, no etymologist, no purist. He was not purposely writing literature. The only criticism that he feared was that of his audience, which represented the English people of all grades above the peasantry. These he wished should not find his writing incomprehensible or dull: no more. If we except the translators of the Bible, Shakespeare wrote the best English that has yet been written.
[Footnote 56: A native of New York City; distinguished as a student and editor of Shakespeare, and more recently for his critical articles on the English language and grammar.]
* * * * *
=_Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1823-._= (Manual, p. 531).
From “Atlantic Essays.”
=_241._= ELEGANCE OF FRENCH STYLE.
In France alone among living nations is literature habitually pursued as an art; and in consequence of this, despite the seeds of decay which imperialism sowed, French prose-writing has no rival in contemporary literature. We cannot fully recognize this fact through translations, because only the most sensational French books appear to be translated. But as French painters and actors now habitually surpass all others even in what are claimed as the English qualities,–simplicity and truth,–so do French prose-writers excel. To be set against the brutality of Carlyle and the shrill screams of Ruskin, there is to be seen across the Channel the extraordinary fact of an actual organization of good writers, the French Academy, whose influence all nations feel. Under their authority we see introduced into literary work an habitual grace and perfection, a clearness and directness, a light and pliable strength, and a fine shading of expression, such as no other tongue can even define. We see the same high standard in their criticism, in their works of research, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and in short throughout literature. What is there in any other language, for instance, to be compared with the voluminous writings of Sainte-Beuve, ranging over all history and literature, and carrying into all, that incomparable style, so delicate, so brilliant, so equable, so strong,–touching all themes, not with the blacksmith’s hand of iron, but with the surgeon’s hand of steel.
In the average type of French novels, one feels the superiority to the English in quiet power, in the absence of the sensational and exaggerated, and in keeping close to the level of real human life. They rely for success upon perfection of style, and the most subtle analysis of human character; and therefore they are often painful,–just as Thackeray is painful,–because they look at artificial society, and paint what they see. Thus they dwell often on unhappy marriages, because such things grow naturally from the false social system in France. On the other hand, in France there is very little house-breaking, and bigamy is almost impossible, so that we hear delightfully little about them: whereas, if you subtract these from the current English novels, what is there left?
* * * * *
=_Charles Godfrey Leland, 1824._=
From “Meister Karl’s Sketch-book.”
=_242._= ASPECT OF NUREMBERG.
There is a picturesque disorder–a lyrical confusion about the entire place, which is perfectly irresistible. Turrets shoot up in all sorts of ways, on all sorts of occasions, upon all sorts of houses; and little boxes, with delicate Gothic windows, cling to their sides and to one another, like barnacles to a ship; while the houses themselves are turned round and about in so many positions that you wonder that a few are not upside down or lying on their sides by way of completing the original arrangement of no arrangement at all. It always seemed to me as if the buildings in Nuremberg had, like the furniture in Irving’s tale, been indulging over night in a very irregular dance, and suddenly stopped in the most complicated part of a confusion worse confounded. Galleries, quaint staircases, and towers with projecting upper stories, as well as eccentric chimneys, demented door-ways, insane weather-vanes, and highly original steeples, form the most common-place materials in building; and it has more than once occurred to me that the architects of this city, even at the present day, must have imbibed their principles; not from the lecture-room, but from the most remarkable inspirations of some romantic scene-painter. During the last two centuries men appear to have striven, with a most uncommendable zeal, all over Christendom, to root out and extirpate every trace of the Gothic. In Nuremberg alone they have religiously preserved what little they originally had in domestic architecture, and added to it….
Nuremberg, like Avignon, is one of the very few cities which have retained in an almost perfect state, the feudal walls and turrets with which they were invested by the middle ages. At regular intervals along these walls occur little towers, for their defence, reminding one of beads strung on a rosary; the great watch-tower at the gate, with its projecting machicolation, forming the pendent cross,–the whole serving to guard the town within from the dangers of war, even as the rosary protects the city of Mansoul from the attacks of Sin and Death–though, sooth to say, since the invention of gunpowder and the Reformation, both the one and the other appear to have lost much of their former efficacy. Directly through the center of the town runs a small stream called the Pegnitz, “dividing the town into two nearly equal halves, named after the two great churches situated within them; the northern being termed St. Sebald’s, and the southern, St. Lawrence side.”
In the northern part of the division of St. Sebaldus rises a high hill, formed, at the summit, of vast rocks, on which is situated the ancient Reicheveste, or Imperial Castle, whose origin is fairly lost in the dark old days of Heathenesse. From it the traveller can obtain an admirable view of the romantic town below. In regarding it, I was irresistibly reminded of the remarkable resemblance existing between most of its buildings and the children’s toys manufactured by the ingenious artisans of Nuremberg and its vicinity.
[Footnote 57: A native of Philadelphia, who has resided much abroad, and pursued a varied literary career; he possesses a familiarity with the German language and character, which he has turned to good account in the comic ballads by Hans Breitman.]
* * * * *
=_George William Curtis, 1824-._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “Nile Notes of a Howadji.”
=_243._= UNDER THE PALMS.
Thenceforward, in the land of Egypt, palms are perpetual. They are the only foliage of the Nile; for we will not harm the modesty of a few mimosas and sycamores, by foolish claims. They are the shade of the mud villages, marking their site in the landscape, so that the groups of palms are the number of villages. They fringe the shore and the horizon. The sun sets golden behind them, and birds sit swinging upon their boughs and float gloriously among their trunks; on the ground beneath are flowers; the sugar-cane is not harmed by the ghostly shade, nor the tobacco, and the yellow flowers of the cotton-plant star its dusk at evening. The children play under them; the old men crone and smoke; the surly bison and the conceited camels repose. The old Bible-pictures are ceaselessly painted, but with softer, clearer colors, than in the venerable book.
… But the eye never wearies of palms, more than the ear of singing-birds. Solitary they stand upon the sand, or upon the level, fertile land in groups, with a grace and dignity that no tree surpasses. Very soon the eye beholds in their forms the original type of the columns which it will afterwards admire in the temples. Almost the first palm is architecturally suggestive, even in those western gardens–but to artists living among them and seeing only them! men’s hands are not delicate in the early ages, and the fountain fairness of the palms is not very flowingly fashioned in the capitals; but in the flowery perfection of the Parthenon the palm triumphs. The forms of those columns came from Egypt, and that which was the suspicion of the earlier workers, was the success of more delicate designing. So is the palm inwound with our art, and poetry, and religion, and of all trees would the Howadji be a palm, wide-waving peace and plenty, and feeling his kin to the Parthenon and Raphael’s pictures.
But nature is absolute taste, and has no pure ornament, so that the palm is no less useful than beautiful. The family is infinite, and ill understood. The cocoa-nut, date, and sago, are all palms. Ropes and sponges are wrought of their tough interior fibre. The various fruits are nutritious; the wood, the roots, and the leaves, are all consumed. It is one of nature’s great gifts to her spoiled sun-darlings. Whoso is born of the sun is made free of the world. Like the poet Thompson, he may put his hands in his pockets and eat apples at leisure.
* * * * *
=_John L. McConnell, 1826-._= (Manual, p. 510.)
From “Western Characters.”
=_244._= THE EARLY WESTERN POLITICIAN.
He was tall, gaunt, angular, swarthy, active, and athletic. His hair was invariably black as the wing of the raven. Even in that small portion which the cap of raccoon-skin left exposed to the action of sun and rain, the gray was but thinly scattered, imparting to the monotonous darkness only a more iron character…. A stoop in the shoulders indicated that, in times past, he had been in the habit of carrying a heavy rifle, and of closely examining the ground over which he walked; but what the chest thus lost in depth it gained in breadth. His lungs had ample space in which to play. There was nothing pulmonary even in the drooping shoulders….
From shoulders thus bowed hung long, muscular arms, sometimes, perhaps, dangling a little ungracefully, but always under the command of their owner, and ready for any effort, however violent. These were terminated by broad, bony hands, which looked like grapnels; their grasp, indeed, bore no faint resemblance to the hold of those symmetrical instruments. Large feet, whose toes were usually turned in, like those of the Indian, were wielded by limbs whose vigor and activity were in keeping with the figure they supported. Imagine, with these peculiarities, a free, bold, rather swaggering gait, a swarthy complexion, and comformable features and tones of voice, and, excepting his costume, you have before your fancy a complete picture of the early western politician.
* * * * *
=_Sarah J. Lippincott,_= about =_1833-_=. (Manual p. 484.)
From “Records of Five Years.”
=_245._= DEATH IN TOWN AND COUNTRY.
Up the long ascent it moved,–that shadow of our mortal sorrow and perishable earthly estate, that shadow of the dead man’s hearse, along the way his feet had often trod, past the spring over whose brink he may have often bent with thirsting lip, past lovely green glades, mossy banks, and fairy forests of waving ferns, on which his eye had often dwelt with a vague and soft delight; and so passed out of our view. But its memory went not out of our hearts that day.
In this pure, healthful region, where nature seems so unworn, so youthful and vigorous, where dwell simplicity, humble comfort, and quiet happiness, death has startled us as something strange and unnatural….
How different is it in the city!… There, on many a corner, one is confronted with the black, significant sign of the undertaker’s “dreadful trade,” or comes upon some marble-yard, filled with a ghastly assemblage of anticipatory gravestones and monuments; graceful broken columns, which are to typify the lovely incompleteness of some young life now full of beauty and promise; melancholy, drooping figures, types of grief forever inconsolable, destined, perhaps, to stand proxy for mourning young widows now happy wives; sculptured lambs, patiently waiting to take their places above the graves of little children whom yet smiling mothers nightly lay to sleep in soft cribs, without the thought of a deeper dark and silence of a night not far away, or of the dreary beds soon to be prepared for their darlings “i’ the earth.”
[Footnote 58: Originally and very favorably known by the assumed name of “Grace Greenwood.”]
* * * * *
=_Francis Bret Harte, 1837-._=
From “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” &c.
=_246._= BIRTH OF A CHILD IN A MINER’S CAMP.
… The camp lay in a triangular valley, between two hills and a river. The only outlet was a steep trail over the summit of a hill that faced the cabin, now illuminated by the rising moon. The suffering woman might have seen it from the rude bunk whereon she lay,–seen it winding like a silver thread until it was lost in the stars above.
A fire of withered pine-boughs added sociability to the gathering. By degrees the natural levity of Roaring Camp returned. Bets were freely offered and taken regarding the result. Three to five that “Sal would get through with it,” even, that the child would survive; side bets as to the sex and complexion of the coming stranger….
In the midst of an excited discussion an exclamation came from those nearest the door, and the camp stopped to listen. Above the swaying and moaning of the pines, the swift rush of the river, and the crackling of the fire, rose a sharp, querulous cry. The pines stopped moaning, the river ceased to rush, and the fire to crackle. It seemed as if Nature had stopped to listen too.
The camp rose to its feet as one man! It was proposed to explode a barrel of gunpowder; but, in consideration of the situation of the mother, better counsels prevailed, and only a few revolvers were discharged; for, whether owing to the rude surgery of the camp, or some other reason, Cherokee Sal was sinking fast. Within an hour she had climbed, as it were, the rugged road that led to the stars, and so passed out of Roaring Camp, its sin and shame, forever….
I do not think that the announcement disturbed them much, except in speculation as to the fate of the child, “Can he live now?” was asked of Stumpy. The answer was doubtful. The only other being of Cherokee Sal’s sex and maternal condition in the settlement, was an ass. There was some conjecture as to fitness, but the experiment was tried. It was less problematical than the ancient treatment of Romulus and Remus, and apparently as successful.
Strange to say, the child thrived. Perhaps the invigorating climate of the mountain camp was compensation for maternal deficiencies. Nature took the foundling to her broader breast. In that rare atmosphere of the Sierra foot-hills–that air pungent with balsamic odor, that ethereal cordial at once bracing and exhilarating–he may have found food and nourishment, or a subtle chemistry that transmuted asses’ milk to lime and phosphorus. Stumpy inclined to the belief that it was the latter and good nursing, “Me and that ass,” he would say, “has been father and mother to him! Don’t you,” he would add, apostrophizing the helpless bundle before him, “never go back on us.”
[Footnote 59: Prominent among the more recent American writers; a native of New York, but long resident in California; noted for his vivid portraiture of the early life, and remarkable scenery of that State, in a style uncommonly suggestive.]
* * * * *
=_William Dean Howells, 1837-._= (Manual, p. 531.)
From “Venetian Life.”
=_247._= SNOW IN VENICE.
… The lofty crest of the bell-tower was hidden in the folds of falling snow, and I could no longer see the golden angel upon its summit. But looked at across the Piazza, the beautiful outline of St. Mark’s Church was perfectly penciled in the air, and the shifting threads of the snow-fall were woven into a spell of novel enchantment around a structure that always seemed to me too exquisite in its fantastic loveliness to be anything but the creation of magic. The tender snow had compassionated the beautiful edifice for all the wrongs of time, and so hid the stains and ugliness of decay that it looked as if just from the hands of the builder–or, better said, just from the brain of the architect. There was marvellous freshness in the colors of the mosaics in the great arches of the facade; and all that glorious harmony into which the temple rises, of marble scrolls and leafy exuberance airily supporting the statues of the saints, was a hundred times etherialized by the purity and whiteness of the drifting flakes. The snow lay lightly on the golden globes that tremble like peacock-crests above the vast domes, and plumed them with softest white; it robed the saints in ermine; and it danced over all its work as if exulting in its beauty….
Through the wavering snow-fall, the Saint Theodore upon one of the granite pillars of the Piazzetta did not show so grim as his wont is, and the winged lion on the other might have been a winged lamb, so mild and gentle he looked by the tender light of the storm. The towers of the island churches loomed faint and far away in the dimness; the sailors in the rigging of the ships that lay in the Basin, wrought like phantoms among the shrouds; the gondolas stole in and out of the opaque distance, more noiselessly and dreamily than ever; and a silence almost palpable, lay upon the mutest city in the world.
* * * * *
=_Mary Abigail Dodge, 1838-._=
From “Wool Gathering.”
=_248._= SCENERY OF THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI.
Up the broad, cold, steel-blue river we wind steadily to its Northern home. No flutter of its orange groves, no fragrance of its Southern roses, no echo of its summer lands, can penetrate these distances. Only prophecies of the sturdy North are here,–the glitter of the Polar sea, the majesty of Arctic solitudes. The imagination is touched. The eye looks out upon a hemisphere. Vast spaces, lost ages, the unsealed mysteries of cold and darkness and eternal silence, sweep around the central thought, and people the wilderness with their solemn symbolism, Prettiness of gentle slope, wealth, and splendor of hue, are not wanting, but they shine with veiled light. Mountains come down to meet the Great River. The mists of the night lift slowly away, and we are brought suddenly into the presence-chamber. One by one they stand out in all their rugged might, only softened here and there by fleecy clouds still clinging to their sides, and shining pink in the ruddy dawn. Bold bluffs that have come hundreds of miles from their inland home guard the river. They rise on both sides, fronting us, bare and black, layer of solid rock piled on solid rock, defiant fortifications of some giant race, crowned here and there with frowning tower; here and there overborne and overgrown with wild-wood beauty, vine and moss and manifold leafage, gorgeous now with the glory of the vanishing summer. It is as if the everlasting hills had parted to give the Great River entrance to the hidden places of the world. And then the bold bluffs break into sharp cones, lonely mountains rising head and shoulders above their brethren, and keeping watch over the whole country; groups of mountains standing sentinels on the shores, almost leaning over the river, and hushing us to breathless silence as we sail through their awful shadow. And then the earth smiles again, the beetling cliffs recede into distances, and we glide through a pleasant valley. Green levels stretch away to the foot of the far cliffs, level with the river’s blue, and as smooth,–sheltered and fertile, and fit for future homes. Nay, already the pioneer has found them, and many a hut and cottage and huddle of houses show whence art and science and all the amenities of human life, shall one day radiate. And even as we greet them we have left them, and the heights clasp us again, the hills overshadow us, the solitude closes around us.
[Footnote 60: Born in Massachusetts, author of numerous magazine articles of merit and earnestness, afterwards republished as books; known to her readers as Gail Hamilton.]
* * * * *
LATER MISCELLANEOUS WRITERS.
=_George Washington, 1732-1799._=
From a Letter to Sir John Sinclair.
=_249._= NATURAL ADVANTAGES OF VIRGINIA.
The United States, as you well know, are very extensive, more than fifteen hundred miles between the northeastern and southwestern extremities; all parts of which, from the seaboard to the Appalachian Mountains, which divide the eastern from the western waters, are entirely settled; though not as compactly as they are susceptible of; and settlements are progressing rapidly beyond them.
Within so great a space, you are not to be told, that there is a great variety of climates, and you will readily suppose, too, that there are all sorts of land, differently improved, and of various prices, according to the quality of the soil, its contiguity to, or remoteness from, navigation, the nature of the improvements, and other local circumstances….
Notwithstanding these abstracts, and although I may incur the charge of partiality in hazarding such an opinion at this time, I do not hesitate to pronounce, that the lands on the waters of the Potomac will in a few years be in greater demand and in higher estimation, than in any other part of the United States. But, as I ought not to advance this doctrine without assigning reasons for it, I will request you to examine a general map of the United States; and the following facts will strike you at first view; that they lie in the most temperate latitude of the United States, that the main river runs in a direct course to the expanded parts of the western country, and approximates nearer to the principal branches of the Ohio, than any other eastern water, and of course must become a great, if not (under all circumstances), the best highway into that region; that the upper seaport of the Potomac is considerably nearer to a large portion of Pennsylvania, than that portion is to Philadelphia, besides accommodating the settlers thereof with inland navigation for more than two hundred miles; that the amazing extent of tide navigation, afforded by the bay and rivers of the Chesapeake, has scarcely a parallel.
When to these it is added, that a site at the junction of the inland and tide navigations of that river is chosen for the permanent seat of the general government, and is in rapid preparation for its reception; that the inland navigation is nearly completed, to the extent above mentioned; that its lateral branches are capable of great improvement at a small expense, through the most fertile parts of Virginia in a southerly direction, and crossing Maryland and extending into Pennsylvania in a northerly one, through which, independently of what may come from the western country, an immensity of produce will be water-borne, thereby making the Federal City the great emporium of the United States; I say, when these things are taken into consideration, I am under no apprehension of having the opinion I have given, relative to the value of land on the Potomac, controverted by impartial men.
[Footnote 61: Washington’s correspondence was voluminous, and on the subjects relating to climate, agriculture, and internal improvements, he wrote with interest and ability. The letter to Sinclair is characteristic.]
* * * * *
=_Matthew F. Maury, 1806-1873._=
From “The Physical Geography of the Sea.”
=_250._= THE MARINER’S GUIDE ACROSS THE DEEP.
So to shape the course on voyages as to make the most of the winds and currents at sea, is the perfection of the navigator’s art. How the winds blow, and the currents flow, along this route or that, is no longer matter of opinion or subject of speculation, but it is a matter of certainty determined by actual observation…. The winds and the weather daily encountered by hundreds who have sailed on the same voyage before him, and “the distance made good” by each one from day to day, have been tabulated in a work called Sailing Directions, and they are so arranged that he may daily see how much he is ahead of time, or how far he is behind time; nay, his path has been literally blazed through the winds for him on the sea; mile-posts have been set up on the waves, and finger-boards planted, and time-tables furnished for the trackless waste, by which the ship-master, on his first voyage to any port, may know as well as the most experienced trader whether he be in the right road or no.
… The route that affords the bravest winds, the fairest sweep, and the fastest running to be found among ships, is the route to and from Australia. But the route which most tries a ship’s prowess is the outward-bound voyage to California. The voyage to Australia and back, carries the clipper ship along a route which, for more than three hundred degrees of longitude, runs with the “brave west winds” of the southern hemisphere. With these winds alone, and with their bounding seas which follow fast, the modern clipper, without auxiliary power, has accomplished a greater distance in a day than any sea-steamer has ever been known to reach. With these fine winds and heaving seas, those ships have performed their voyages of circumnavigation in sixty days.
[Footnote 62: Formerly an officer of the navy, eminent for his scientific researches and writings on maritime subjects; a native of Virginia.]
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=_251._= THE GULF STREAM.
As a rule, the hottest water of the Gulf Stream is at, or near, the surface; and as the deep-sea thermometer is sent down, it shows that these waters, though still far warmer than the waters on either side at corresponding depths, gradually become less and less warm until the bottom of the current is reached. There is reason to believe that the warm waters of the Gulf Stream are nowhere permitted, in the oceanic economy, to touch the bottom of the sea. There is everywhere a cushion of cool water, between them and the solid parts of the earth’s crust. This arrangement is suggestive, and strikingly beautiful. One of the benign offices of the Gulf Stream is to convey heat from the Gulf of Mexico, where otherwise it would become excessive, and to dispense it in regions beyond the Atlantic, or the amelioration of the climates of the British Islands and of all Western Europe. Now cold water is one of the best non-conductors of heat, and if the warm water of the Gulf Stream was sent across the Atlantic in contact with the solid crust of the earth,–comparatively a good conductor of heat,–instead of being sent across, as it is, in contact with a cold non-conducting cushion of cool water to fend it from the bottom, much of its heat would be lost in the first part of the way, and the soft climates of both France and England would be, as that of Labrador, severe In the extreme, icebound, and bitterly cold.
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=_Ormsby M. Mitchell, 1810-1862._=
=_252._= THE GREAT UNFINISHED PROBLEMS OF THE UNIVERSE.
I do not pretend to indorse the theory of Maedler with reference to his central sun. If I did indorse it, it would amount simply to nothing at all, for he needs no indorsement of mine. But it is one of the great unfinished problems of the universe, which remains yet to be solved. Future generations yet are to take it up. Materials for its solution are to accumulate from generation to generation, and possibly from century to century. Nay, I know not but thousands of years will roll away before the slow movements of these far distant orbs shall so accumulate as to give us the data whereby the resolution may be absolutely accomplished. But shall we fail to work because the end is far off? Had the old astronomer that once stood upon the watch-tower in Babylon, and there marked the coming of the dreaded eclipse, said. “I care not for this; this is the business of posterity; let posterity take care of itself; I will make no record”–and had, in succeeding ages, the sentinel in the watch-tower of the skies said, “I will retire from my post; I have no concern with these matters, which can do me no good; it is nothing that I can do for the age in which I live,”–where should we have been to-night? Shall we not do, for those who are to follow us, what has been done for us by our predecessors? Let us not shrink from the responsibility which comes down upon the age in which we live. The great and mighty problem of the universe has been given to the whole human family for its solution. Not by any clime, not by any age, not by any nation, not by any individual man or mind, however great or grand, has this wondrous solution been accomplished; but it is the problem of humanity, and it will last as long as humanity shall inhabit the globe on which we live and move.
* * * * *
No, here is the temple of our Divinity. Around us and above us rise sun and system, cluster and universe. And I doubt not that in every region of this vast empire of God, hymns of praise and anthems of glory are rising and reverberating from sun to sun, and from, system to system, heard by Omnipotence alone, across immensity, and through eternity.
[Footnote 63: An astronomer, and a favorite lecturer on the science; a native of Kentucky.]
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WRITERS ON NATURAL HISTORY, SCENERY, &c.
=_William Bartram, 1739-1813._= (Manual, p. 490.)
From the “Travels through the Carolinas,” &c.
=_253._= SCENES ON THE UPPER OCONEE.
At this rural retirement were assembled a charming circle of mountain vegetable beauties…. Some of these roving beauties stroll over the mossy, shelving, humid rocks, or from off the expansive wavy boughs of trees, bending over the floods, salute their delusive shade, playing on the surface; some plunge their perfumed heads and bathe their flexile limbs in the silver stream; whilst others by the mountain breezes are tossed about, their blooming tuffts bespangled with pearly and crystalline dew-drops collected from the falling mists, glistening in the rainbow arch. Having collected some valuable specimens at this friendly retreat, I continued my lonesome pilgrimage. My road for a considerable time led me winding and turning about the steep rocky hills: the descent of some of which was very rough and troublesome, by means of fragments of rocks, slippery clay and talc: but after this I entered a spacious forest, the land having gradually acquired a more level surface: a pretty grassy vale appears on my right, through which my wandering path led me, close by the banks of a delightful creek, which sometimes falling over steps of rocks, glides gently with serpentine meanders through the meadows.
After crossing this delightful brook and mead, the land rises again with sublime magnificence, and I am led over hills and vales, groves and high forests, vocal with the melody of the feathered songsters; the snow-white cascades glittering on the sides of the distant hills.
It was now afternoon; I approached a charming vale, amidst sublimely high forests, awful shades! Darkness gathers around; far distant thunder rolls over the trembling hills: the black clouds with august majesty and power move slowly forwards, shading regions of towering hills, and threatening all the destruction of a thunder-storm: all around is now still as death, not a whisper is heard, but a total inactivity and silence seem to pervade the earth; the birds afraid to utter a chirrup, in low tremulous voices take leave of each other, seeking covert and safety: every insect is silenced, and nothing heard but the roaring of the approaching hurricane. The mighty cloud now expands its sable wings, extending from north to south, and is driven irresistibly on by the tumultuous winds, spreading its livid wings around the gloomy concave, armed with terrors of thunder and fiery shafts of lightning. Now the lofty forests bend low beneath its fury; their limbs and wavy boughs are tossed about and catch hold of each other; the mountains tremble and seem to reel about, and the ancient hills to be shaken to their foundations: the furious storm sweeps along, smoking through the vale and over the resounding hills: the face of the earth is obscured by the deluge descending from the firmament, and I am deafened by the din of the thunder. The tempestuous scene damps my spirits, and my horse sinks under me at the tremendous peals, as I hasten on for the plain.
* * * * *
From his “Travels in the Carolinas, Florida,” &c.
=_254._= THE WOOD PELICAN OF FLORIDA.
This solitary bird does not associate in flocks, but is generally seen alone, commonly near the banks of great rivers, in vast marshes or meadows, especially such as are caused by inundations, and also in the vast deserted rice plantations: he stands alone on the topmost limb of tall dead cypress trees, his neck contracted or drawn in upon his shoulders, and beak resting like a long scythe upon his breast: in this pensive posture and solitary situation, it looks extremely grave, sorrowful, and melancholy, as if in the deepest thought.
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=_Alexander Wilson, 1766-1813._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From the “American Ornithology.”
=_255._= NEST OF THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.
Notwithstanding the care which this bird, in common with the rest of its genus, takes to place its young beyond the reach of enemies, within the hollows of trees, yet there is one deadly foe, against whose depredations neither the height of the tree nor the depth of the cavity is the least security. This is the blade snake, who frequently glides up the trunk of the tree, and, like a skulking savage, enters the woodpecker’s peaceful apartment, devours the eggs or helpless young, in spite of the cries and flutterings of the parents, and if the place be large enough, coils himself up in the spot they occupied, where he will sometimes remain for several days. The eager school-boy, after hazarding his neck to reach the woodpecker’s hole, at the triumphant moment when he thinks the nestlings his own, and strips his arm, launching it down into the cavity, and grasping what he conceives to be the callow young, starts with horror at the sight of a hideous snake, and almost drops from his giddy pinnacle, retreating down the tree with terror and precipitation. Several adventures of this kind have come to my knowledge; and one of them was attended with serious consequences, where both snake and boy fell to the ground, and a broken thigh, and long confinement, cured the adventurer completely of his ambition for robbing woodpeckers’ nests.
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=_256._= THE WHITE-HEADED, OR BALD, EAGLE.
Elevated on the high dead limb of some gigantic tree that commands a wide view of the neighboring shore and ocean, he seems calmly to contemplate the motions of the various feathered tribes that pursue their busy avocations below,–the snow-white Gulls slowly winnowing the air; the busy _Tringoe_ coursing along the sands; trains of Ducks streaming over the surface; silent and watchful Cranes, intent and wading; clamorous crows; and all the winged multitudes that subsist by the bounty of this vast liquid magazine of nature. High over all these hovers one, whose action instantly arrests his whole attention. By his wide curvature of wing, and sudden suspension in air, he knows him to be the Fish Hawk, settling over some devoted victim of the deep. His eye kindles at the sight, and balancing himself with half-opened wings, on the branch, he watches the result. Down, rapid as an arrow from heaven, descends the distant object of his attention, the roar of its wings reaching the ear as it disappears in the deep, making the surges foam around. At this moment, the eager looks of the Eagle are all ardor; and levelling his neck for flight, he sees the Fish Hawk once more emerge, struggling with his prey, and mounting in the air with screams of exultation. These are the signal for our hero, who launching into the air, instantly gives chase, and soon gains on the Fish Hawk; each exerts his utmost to mount above the other, displaying in these rencontres the most elegant and sublime aerial evolutions. The unincumbered Eagle rapidly advances, and is just on the point of reaching his opponent, when, with a sudden scream, probably of despair and honest execration, the latter drops his fish; the Eagle poising himself for a moment, as if to take a more certain aim, descends like a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches the water, and bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods.
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=_Stephen Elliott, 1771-1830._=
From “Views of Nature.”
=_257._= COMPLETENESS AND VARIETY OF NATURE.
What is there that will not be included in the history of nature? The earth on which we tread, the air we breathe, the waters around the earth, the material forms that inhabit its surface, the mind of man, with all its magical illusions and all its inherent energy, the planets that move around our system, the firmament of heaven–the smallest of the invisible atoms which float around our globe, and the most majestic of the orbs that roll through the immeasurable fields of space–all are parts of one system, productions of one power, creations of one intellect, the offspring of Him, by whom all that is inert and inorganic in creation was formed, and from whom all that have life derive their being.
Of this immense system,–all that we can examine,–this little globe that we inherit, is full of animation, and crowded with forms, organized, glowing with life, and generally sentient. No space is unoccupied; the exposed surface of the rock is incrusted with living substances; plants occupy the bark, and decaying limbs, of other plants; animals live on the surface, and in the bodies, of other animals: inhabitants are fashioned and adapted to equatorial heats, and polar ice;–air, earth, and ocean teem with life;–and if to other worlds the same proportion of life and of enjoyment has been distributed which has been allotted to ours, if creative benevolence has equally filled every other planet of every other system, nay, even the suns themselves, with beings, organized, animated, and intelligent, how countless must be the generations of the living! What voices which we cannot hear, what languages that we cannot understand, what multitudes that we cannot see, may, as they roll along the stream of time, be employed hourly, daily, and forever, in choral songs of praise, hymning their great Creator!
And when, in this almost prodigal waste of life, we perceive that every being, from the puny insect which flutters in the evening ray; from the lichen which we can scarcely distinguish on the mouldering rock; from the fungus that springs up and re-animates the mass of dead and decomposing substances; that every living form possesses a structure as perfect in its sphere, an organization sometimes as complex, always as truly and completely adapted to its purposes and modes of existence as that of the most perfect animal; when we discover them all to be governed by laws as definite, as immutable, as those which regulate the planetary movements, great must be our admiration of the wisdom which has arrayed, and the power which has perfected this stupendous fabric.
Nor does creation here cease. There are beyond the limits of our system, beyond the visible forms of matter, other principles, other powers, higher orders of beings, an immaterial world which we cannot yet know; other modes of existence which we cannot comprehend; yet however inscrutable to us, this spiritual world must be guided by its own unerring laws, and the harmonious order which reigns in all we can see and understand, ascending through the series of immortal and invisible existence, must govern even the powers and dominions, the seraphim and cherubim, that surround the throne of God himself.
[Footnote 64: Distinguished as a writer and scholar, and especially for his work on the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia; a native of South Carolina.]
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=_John James Audubon, 1776-1851._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From the “Ornithological Biography.”
=_258._= THE PASSENGER PIGEON.
I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial evolutions, when a hawk chanced to press upon the rear of a flock. At once, like a torrent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into a compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the centre. In these almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and when high, were seen wheeling and twisting within their continued lines, which then resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.
It is extremely interesting to see flock after flock performing exactly the same evolutions which had been traced as it were, in the air, by a preceding flock. Thus should a hawk have charged on a group at a certain spot, the angles, curves, and undulations that have been described by the birds, in their efforts to escape from the dreaded talons of the plunderer, are undeviatingly followed by the next group that comes up. Should the by-stander happen to witness one of these affrays, and, struck with the rapidity and elegance of the motions exhibited, feel desirous of seeing them repeated, his wishes will be gratified, if he only remain in the place until the next group comes up.
As soon as the pigeons discover a sufficiency of food to entice them to alight, they fly around in circles, reviewing the country below. During their evolutions, on such occasions, the dense mass which they form, exhibits a beautiful appearance, as it changes its direction, now displaying a glistening sheet of azure, when the backs of the birds come simultaneously into view, and anon, suddenly presenting a mass of rich purple. They then pass lower, over the woods, and for a moment are lost among the foliage, but again emerge, and are seen gliding aloft. They now alight, but the next moment, as if suddenly alarmed, they take to wing, producing by the flapping of their wings a noise like the roar of distant thunder, and sweep through the forests to see if danger is near. Hunger, however, soon brings them to the ground. When alighted, they are seen industriously throwing up the withered leaves in quest of the falling mast. The rear ranks are continually rising, passing over the main body, and alighting in front, in such rapid succession, that the whole flock seems still on wing. The quantity of ground thus swept is astonishing, and so completely has it been cleared, that the gleaner who might follow in their rear, would find his labor completely lost.
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=_259._= EMIGRANTS REMOVING WESTWARD.
I think I see them at this moment harnessing their horses and attaching them to their wagons, which are already filled with bedding, provisions, and the younger children; while on the outside are fastened spinning-wheels and looms, and a bucket filled with tar and tallow swings between the hind wheels. Several axes are secured to the bolster, and the feeding-trough of the horses contains pots, kettles, and pans. The servant, now become a driver, rides the near saddled horse; the wife is mounted on another; the worthy husband shoulders his gun; and his sons, clad in plain, substantial homespun, drive the cattle ahead, and lead the procession, followed by the hounds and other dogs.
* * * * *
=_260._= INTEREST OF EXPLORATION IN THE REMOTE WEST.
How delightful, I have often exclaimed, must have been the feelings of those enthusiastic naturalists, my friends Nuttall and Townsend, while traversing the ridges of the Rocky Mountains! How grand and impressive the scenery presented to their admiring gaze, when from an elevated station they saw the mountain torrent hurling its foamy waters over the black crags of the rugged ravine, while on wide-spread wings the Great Vulture sailed overhead watching the departure of the travellers, that he might feast on the Salmon which in striving to ascend the cataract had been thrown on the stony beach! Now the weary travellers are resting on the bank of a brawling brook, along which they are delighted to see the lively Dipper frisking wren-like from stone to stone. On the stunted bushes above them some curious Jays are chattering, and as my friends are looking upon the gay and restless birds, they are involuntarily led to extend their gaze to the green slope beneath the more distant crags, where they spy a mountain sheep, watching the movements of the travellers as well as those of yon wolves stealing silently toward the fleet-footed animal. Again the pilgrims are in motion; they wind their pathless way round rocks and fissures; they have reached the greatest height of the sterile platform; and as they gaze on the valleys whose waters hasten to join the Pacific Ocean, and bid adieu, perhaps for the last time, to the dear friends they have left in the distant east, how intense must be their feelings, as thoughts of the past and the future blend themselves in their anxious minds! But now I see them, brother-like, with lighter steps, descending toward the head waters of the famed Oregon. They have reached the great stream, and seating themselves in a canoe, shoot adown the current, gazing on the beautiful shrubs and flowers that ornament the banks, and the majestic trees that cover the sides of the valley, all new to them, and presenting a wide field of discovery. The melodies of unknown songsters enliven their spirits, and glimpses of gaudily plumed birds excite their desire to search those beautiful thickets; but time is urgent, and onward they must speed. A deer crosses the stream, they pursue and capture it; and it being now evening, they land and soon form a camp, carefully concealed from the prying eyes of the lurking savage. The night is past, the dawn smiles upon the refreshed travellers, who launch their frail bark; and, as they slowly float on the stream, both listen attentively to the notes of the Red-and-White-winged Troopial, and wonder how similar they are to those of the “Red-winged Starling;” they think of the affinities of species, and especially of those of the lively birds composing this beautiful group.
* * * * *
=_Daniel Drake, 1785-1852._=
From a “Picture of Cincinnati, &c.”
=_261._= OBJECTS OF THE WESTERN MOUND-BUILDERS.
No objects in the State of Ohio seem to have more forcibly arrested the attention of travellers, nor employed a greater number of pens, than its antiquities. It is to be regretted, however, that so hastily and superficially have they been examined by strangers, and so generally neglected by ourselves, that the materials for a full description have not yet been collected….
The forests over these remains exhibit no appearances of more recent growth than in other parts. Trees, several hundred years old, are in many places seen growing out of the ruins of others, which appear to have been of equal size….
Those at Cincinnati, for example, exhibit so few of the characters of a defensive work, that General Wayne, upon attentively surveying them in 1794, was of opinion that they were not designed for that purpose. It was from the examination of valley-works only, that Bishop Madison was led to deny that the remains of the western country were ever intended for defence, and to conclude that they were enclosures for permanent residence. It would be precipitate to assert that the relics found in the valleys were for this purpose, and those of the uplands for defence. But while it is certain that the latter were military posts, it seems highly probable that the former were for ordinary abode in times of peace. They were towns and the seats of chiefs, whose perishable parts have crumbled into earth, and disappeared with the generations which formed them. Many of them might have been calculated for defence, as well as for habitations; but the latter must have been the chief purpose for which they were erected. On the contrary, the hill-constructions, which are generally in the strongest military positions of the country, were designed solely for defence, in open and vigorous war.
[Footnote 65: A native of New Jersey, who was taken when very young, to the West, where he became distinguished as a medical professor and practitioner. His recollections and sketches are very valuable.]
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=_John Bachman, 1790-1873._=
From “The Quadrupeds of North America.”
=_262._= THE OPOSSUM.
We can imagine to ourselves the surprise with which the opossum was regarded by Europeans, when they first saw it. Scarcely anything was known of the marsupial animals, as New Holland had not as yet opened its unrivalled stores of singularities to astonish the world. Here was a strange animal, with the head and ears of the pig, sometimes hanging on the limb of a tree, and occasionally swinging like the monkey by the tail. Around that prehensile appendage a dozen sharp-nosed, sleek-headed young had entwined their own tails, and were sitting on the mother’s back. The astonished traveller approaches this extraordinary compound of an animal, and touches it cautiously with a stick. Instantly it seems to be struck with some mortal disease: its eyes close, it falls to the ground, ceases to move, and appears to be dead. He turns it on its back, and perceives on its stomach a strange, apparently artificial opening. He puts his fingers into the extraordinary pocket, and lo, another brood of a dozen or more young, scarcely larger than a pea, are hanging in clusters on the teats. In pulling the creature about, in great amazement, he suddenly receives a gripe on the hand; the twinkling of the half-closed eye, and the breathing of the creature, evince that it is not dead: and he adds a new term to the vocabulary of his language, that of “playing possum.”
… When the young are four weeks old, they begin from time to time to relax their hold on the teats, and may now be seen with their heads occasionally out of the pouch. A week later, and they venture to steal occasionally from their snug retreat in the pouch, and are often seen on the mother’s back, securing themselves by entwining their tails around hers. In this situation she moves from place to place in search of food, carrying her whole family along with her, to which she is much attached, and in whose defence she exhibits a considerable degree of courage, growling at any intruder, and ready to use her teeth with great severity on man or dog. In travelling, it is amusing to see this large family moving about. Some of the young, nearly the size of rats, have their tails entwined around the legs of the mother, and some around her neck,–thus they are dragged along. They have a mild and innocent look, and are sleek, and in fine condition, and this is the only age in which the word pretty can be applied to the Opossum. At this period, the mother in giving sustenance to so large a family, becomes thin, and is reduced to one-half of her previous weight. The whole family of young remain with her about two months, and continue in the vicinity till autumn. In the meantime, a second, and often a third brood, is produced, and thus two or more broods of different ages may be seen, sometimes with the mother, and at other times not far off.
… Hunting the Opossum is a very favorite amusement among domestics and field laborers on our Southern plantations, of lads broke loose from school in the holidays, and even of gentlemen, who are sometimes more fond of this sport than of the less profitable and more dangerous and fatiguing one of hunting the gray fox by moonlight. Although we have never participated in an Opossum hunt, yet we have observed that it afforded much amusement to the sable group that in the majority of instances make up the hunting party, and we have on two or three occasions been the silent and gratified observers of the preparations that were going on, the anticipations indulged in, and the excitement apparent around us.
[Footnote 66: A clergyman of the Lutheran church, for many years a citizen of Charleston, South Carolina, out originally from New York; eminent for his attainments and writings in natural history and science.]
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=_J. A. Lapham._=
From “Wisconsin, its Geography,” &c.
=_263._= THE SMALLER LAKES.
BESIDES these immense lakes, Wisconsin abounds in those of smaller size, scattered profusely over her whole surface. They are from one to twenty or thirty miles in extent. Many of them are the most beautiful that can be imagined–the water deep, and of crystal purity and clearness, surrounded by sloping hills and promontories, covered with scattered groves and clumps of trees. Some are of a more picturesque kind, being more rugged in their appearance, with steep, rocky bluffs, crowned with cedar, hemlock, spruce, and other evergreen trees of a similar character. Perhaps a small rocky island will vary the scene, covered with a conical mass of vegetation, the low shrubs and bushes being arranged around the margin, and the tall trees in the centre. These lakes usually abound in fish of various kinds, affording food for the pioneer settler; and among the pebbles on their shores may occasionally be found fine specimens of agate, carnelian, and other precious stones. In the bays, where the water is shallow, and but little affected by the winds, the wild rice grows in abundance, affording subsistence for the Indian, and attracting innumerable water-birds to these lakes.
[Footnote 67: The age of this meritorious and industrious writer we have not been able to learn. The second edition of his book on Wisconsin appeared in 1846.]
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=_264._= ANCIENT EARTHWORKS.
There is a class of ancient earthworks in Wisconsin, not before found in any other country…. Some have a resemblance to the buffalo, the eagle, or crane, or to the turtle or lizard. One, representing the human form, near the Blue Mounds, is, according to R.C. Taylor, Esq., one hundred and twenty feet in length: it lies in an east and west direction, the head towards the west, with the arms and legs extended. The body or trunk is thirty feet in breadth, the head twenty-five, and its elevation above the general surface of the prairie is about six feet. Its conformation is so distinct, that there can be no possibility of mistake in assigning it to the human figure.
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=_Charles Wilkins Webber, 1819-1856._= (Manual, p. 505.)
From “Wild Scenes and Song-birds.”
=_265._= THE MOCKING-BIRD.
THE next spring a new melody filled the air. A melody such as I had never heard before burst in clear and overwhelming raptures from the meadows where I had first seen the graceful stranger with the white-barred wings, last year…. I saw it now leaping up from its favorite perch on a tree-top much in the manner I had observed before, but now it was in a different mood and seemed to mount thus spirit-like upon the wilder ecstasies, and floating fall upon the subsiding cadence, of that passionate song it poured into the listening ear of love, for I could see his mate, with fainter bars across her wings, where she sat upon a thornbush near, and listened. When this magnificent creature commenced to sing, the very air was burdened with a thousand different notes; but his voice rose clear and melodiously loud above them all. As I listened, one song after another ceased suddenly, until, in a few minutes, and before I could realize that it was so, I found myself hearkening to that solitary voice. This is a positive fact. I looked around me in astonishment. What! Are they awed? But his song only now grew more exulting, and, as if feeling his triumph, he bounded yet higher, with each new gush, and in swift and quivering raptures dived, skimmed, and floated round–round–then rose to fall again more boldly on the billowy storm of sound.
… This curious phenomenon I have witnessed many times since. Even in the morning choir, when every little throat seems strained in emulation, if the mocking-bird breathes forth in one of its mad, bewildered, and bewildering extravaganzas, the other birds pause almost invariably, and remain silent until his song is done. This, I assure you, is no figment of the imagination, or illusion of an excited fancy; it is just as substantial a fact as any other one in natural history. Whether the other birds stop from envy, as has been said, or from awe, cannot be so well ascertained, but I believe it is from the sentiment of awe, for as I certainly have felt it myself in listening to the mocking-bird, I do not know why these inferior creatures should not also.
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=_Charles Lanman, 1819-._= (Manual, p. 505.)
=_266._= MAPLE-SUGAR-MAKING AMONG THE INDIANS.
It is in the month of April, and the hunting season is at an end. Albeit, the ground is covered with snow, the noonday sun has become quite powerful; and the annual offering has been made to the Great Spirit, by the medicine-men, of the first product of one of the earliest trees in the district. This being the preparatory signal for extensive business, the women of the encampment proceed to make a large number of wooden troughs (to receive the liquid treasure), and after these are finished, the various trees in the neighborhood are tapped, and the juice begins to run. In the mean time the men of the party have built the necessary fires, and suspended over them their earthen, brass, or iron kettles. The sap is now flowing in copious streams, and from one end of the camp to the other is at once presented an animated and romantic scene, which continues day and night, until the end of the sugar season. The principal employment to which the men devote themselves, is that of lounging about the encampment, shooting at marks, and playing the moccasin game; while the main part of the labor is performed by the women, who not only attend to the kettles, but employ all their leisure time in making the beautiful birchen mocucks, for the preservation and transportation of the sugar when made; the sap being brought from the troughs to the kettles, by the boys and girls. Less attention than usual is paid by the Indians at such times to their meals; and unless game is very easily obtained, they are quite content to depend upon the sugar alone.
It was now about the middle of June, and some fifty birchen canoes have just been launched upon the waters of Green Bay. They are occupied by our Ottawa sugar-makers, who have started upon a pilgrimage to Mackinaw. The distance is near two hundred miles, and as the canoes are heavily laden not only with mocucks of sugar, but with furs collected by the hunters during the past winter, and the Indians are travelling at their leisure, the party will probably reach their desired haven in the course of ten days. Well content with their accumulated treasures, both the women and the men are in a particularly happy mood, and many a wild song is heard to echo over the placid lake. As the evening approaches, day after day they seek out some convenient landing place, and, pitching the wigwams on the beach, spend a goodly portion of the night carousing and telling stories around their camp fires, resuming their voyage after a morning sleep, long alter the sun has risen above the blue waters of the east. Another sunset hour, and the cavalcade of canoes is quietly gliding into the crescent bay of Mackinaw, and, reaching a beautiful beach at the foot of a lofty bluff, the Indians again draw up their canoes,–again erect their wigwams. And, as the Indian traders have assembled on the spot, the more improvident of the party immediately proceed to exhibit their sugar and furs, which are usually disposed of for flour and pork, blankets and knives, guns, ammunition, and a great variety of trinkets, long before the hour of midnight.
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=_Ephraim C. Squier, 1821-._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “Aboriginal Monuments of the West.”
=_267._= INDIAN POTTERY.
The site of every Indian town throughout the west is marked by the fragments of pottery scattered around it; and the cemeteries of the various tribes abound with rude vessels of clay, piously deposited with the dead. Previous to the discovery, the art of the potter was much more important, and its practice more general than it afterwards became, upon the introduction of metallic vessels. The mode of preparing and moulding the materials is minutely described by the early observers, and seems to have been common to all the tribes, and not to have varied materially from that day to this. The work devolved almost exclusively upon the women, who kneaded the clay and formed the vessels. Experience seems to have suggested the means of so tempering the material as to resist the action of fire; accordingly we find pounded shells, quartz, and sometimes simple coarse sand from the streams mixed with the clay. None of the pottery of the present races, found in the Ohio valley, is destitute of this feature; and it is not uncommon, in certain localities, where from the abundance of fragments, and from other circumstances, it is supposed the manufacture was specially carried on, to find quantities of the decayed shells of the fresh water molluscs, intermixed with the earth, probably brought to the spot to be used in the process. Amongst the Indians along the Gulf, a greater degree of skill was displayed than with those on the upper waters of the Mississippi, and on the lakes. Their vessels were generally larger and more symmetrical, and of a superior finish. They moulded them over gourds and models, and baked them in ovens. In the construction of those of large size, it was customary to model them in baskets of willow or splints, which, at the proper period, were burned off, leaving the vessel perfect in form, and retaining the somewhat ornamental markings of their moulds. Some of those found on the Ohio seem to have been modelled in bags or nettings of coarse thread or twisted bark. These practices are still retained by some of the remote western tribes.
* * * * *
=_Benjamin Silliman, 1779-1864._= (Manual, p. 505.)
From “A Tour to Canada.”
=_268._= THE FALLS OF MONTMORENCI.
… The Montmorenci, after a gentle previous declivity, which, greatly increases its velocity, takes its stupendous leap of two hundred and forty feet, into a chasm among the rocks, where it boils and foams in a natural rocky basin, from which, after its force is in some measure exhausted in its own whirlpools and eddies, it flows away in a gentle stream towards the St. Lawrence. The fall is nearly perpendicular, and appears not to deviate more than three or four degrees from it. This deviation is caused by the ledges of rock below, and is just sufficient to break the water completely into foam and spray.
The effect on the beholder is most delightful. The river, at some distance, seems suspended in a sheet of billowy foam, and contrasted as it is, with the black frowning abyss into which it falls, it is an object of the highest interest. As we approached nearer to its foot, the impressions of grandeur and sublimity were, in the most perfect manner imaginable, blended with those of extreme beauty.
This river is of so considerable a magnitude, that, precipitated as it is from this amazing height, the thundering noise, and mighty rush of waters, and the never-ceasing wind and rain produced by the fall, powerfully arrest the attention: the spectator stands in profound awe, mingled with delight, especially when he contrasts the magnitude of the fall, with that of a villa, on the edge of the dark precipices of frowning rock which form the western bank, and with the casual spectators looking down from the same elevation.
The sheet of foam which breaks over the ridge, is more and more divided as it is dashed against the successive layers of rocks, which it almost completely veils from view; the spray becomes very delicate and abundant, from top to bottom, hanging over, and revolving around the torrent, till it becomes lighter and more evanescent than the whitest fleecy clouds of summer, than the finest attenuated web, than the lightest gossamer, constituting the most airy and sumptuous drapery that can be imagined. Yet, like the drapery of some of the Grecian statues, which, while it veils, exhibits more forcibly the form beneath, this does not hide, but exalts the effect produced by this noble cataract.
The rainbow we saw in great perfection; bow within bow, and (what I never saw elsewhere so perfectly), as I advanced into the spray, the bow became complete, myself being a part of its circumference, and its transcendent glories moving with every change of position.
This beautiful and splendid sight was to be enjoyed only by advancing quite into the shower of spray; as if, in the language of ancient poetry, and fable, the genii of the place, pleased with the beholder’s near approach to the seat of their empire, decked the devotee with the appropriate robes of the cataract, the vestal veil of fleecy spray, and the heavenly splendors of the bow.
* * * * *
=_John L. Stephens, 1808-1852._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From the “Travels in Central America.”
=_269._= DISCOVERY OF A RUINED CITY IN THE WOODS
The sight of this unexpected monument put at rest, at once and forever, in our minds, all uncertainty in regard to the character of American antiquities, and gave as the assurance that the objects we were in search of were interesting, not only as the remains of an unknown people, but as works of art, proving, like newly-discovered historical records, that the people who once occupied the continent of America were not savages. With an interest perhaps stronger than we had ever felt in wandering among the ruins of Egypt, we followed our guide, who, sometimes missing his way, with a constant and vigorous use of his machete, conducted us through the thick forest, among half-buried fragments, to fourteen monuments of the same character and appearance, some with more elegant designs, and some in workmanship equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians; one displaced from its pedestal by enormous roots; another locked in the close embrace of branches of trees, and almost lifted out of the earth; another hurled to the ground, and bound down by huge vines and creepers; and one standing, with its altar before it, in a grove of trees which grew around it, seemingly to shade and shroud it as a sacred thing; in the solemn stillness of the woods it seemed a divinity mourning over a fallen people. The only sounds that disturbed the quiet of this buried city, were the noise of monkeys moving among the tops of the trees, and the cracking of dry branches broken by their weight. They moved over our heads in long and swift processions, forty or fifty at a time; some, with little ones wound in their long arms, walking out to the end of boughs, and holding on with their hind feet, or a curl of the tail, sprang to a branch of the next tree, and with a noise like a current of wind, passed on into the depths of the forest. It was the first time we had seen these mockeries of humanity, and with the strange monuments around us, they seemed like wandering spirits of the departed race, guarding the ruins of their former habitations.
… We sat down on the very edge of the wall, and strove in vain to penetrate the mystery by which we were surrounded. Who were the people that built this city? In the ruined cities of Egypt,–even in the long lost Petra, the stranger knows the story of the people whose vestiges are around him. America, say historians, was peopled by savages; but savages never reared these structures, savages never carved these stones.
* * * * *
=_John Charles Fremont, 1813-._= (Manual, p. 505.)
From “Report of an Exploring Expedition.”
=_270._= ASCENT OF A PEAK OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
We continued climbing, and in a short time reached the crest. I sprang upon the summit, and another step would have precipitated me into an immense snow field five hundred feet below. To the edge of this field was a sheer icy precipice; and then, with a gradual fall, the field sloped off for about a mile, until it struck the foot of another lower ridge. I stood on a narrow crest, about three feet in width, with an inclination of about 20 deg. N., 51 deg. E. As soon as I had gratified the first feelings of curiosity, I descended, and each man ascended in his turn; for I would only allow one at a time to mount the unstable and precarious slab, which it seemed a breath would hurl into the abyss below. We mounted the barometer in the snow of the summit, and fixing a ramrod in a crevice, unfurled the national flag to wave in the breeze, where never flag waved before. During our morning’s ascent, we had met no sign of animal life, except the small sparrow-like bird already mentioned. A stillness the most profound, and a terrible solitude forced themselves constantly on the mind, as the great features of the place. Here, on the summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the region of animated life; but while we were sitting on the rock, a solitary bee (_bromus_, the bumble bee) came winging his flight from the eastern valley, and lit on the knee of one of the men.
* * * * *
=_271._= THE COLUMBIA RIVER, OREGON.
The Columbia is the only river which traverses the whole breadth of the country, breaking through all the ranges, and entering the sea. Drawing its waters from a section of ten degrees of latitude in the Rocky Mountains, which are collected into one stream by three main forks (Lewis’, Clark’s, and the North Fork) near the center of the Oregon valley, this great river thence proceeds by a single channel to the sea, while its three forks lead each to a pass in the mountains which opens the way into the interior of the continent. This fact in relation to the rivers of this region, gives an immense value to the Columbia. Its mouth is the only inlet and outlet, to and from the sea; its three forks lead to the passes in the mountains; it is therefore the only line of communication between the Pacific and the interior of North America; and all operations of war or commerce, of national or social intercourse, must be conducted upon it. This gives it a value beyond estimation, and would involve irreparable injury if lost. In this unity and concentration of its waters, the Pacific side of our continent differs entirely from the Atlantic side, where the waters of the Alleghany mountains are dispersed into many rivers, having their different entrances into the sea, and opening many lines of communication with the interior.
* * * * *
=_Elisha Kent Kane, 1822-1857._=
From “Arctic Explorations.”
=_272._= THE DISCOVERY OF AN OPEN SEA.
As Morton, leaving Hans and his dogs, passed between Sir John Franklin Island and the narrow beach-line, the coast became more wall-like, and dark masses of porphyritic rock abutted into the sea. With growing difficulty, he managed to climb from rock to rock, in hopes of doubling the promontory and sighting the coasts beyond, but the water kept encroaching more and more on his track.
It must have been an imposing sight, as he stood at this termination of his journey, looking out upon the great waste of waters before him. Not a “speck of ice,” to use his own words, could be seen. There, from a height of four hundred and eighty feet, which commanded a horizon of almost forty miles, his ears were gladdened with the novel music of dashing waves; and a surf, breaking in among the rocks at his feet, stayed his farther progress.
Beyond this cape all is surmise. The high ridges to the north-west dwindled off into low blue knobs, which blended finally with the air. Morton called the cape, which baffled his labors, after his commander; but I have given it the more enduring name of Cape Constitution.
… I am reluctant to close my notice of this discovery of an open sea without adding that the details of Mr. Morton’s narrative harmonized with the observations of all our party. I do not propose to discuss here the causes or conditions of this phenomenon. How far it may extend–whether it exist simply as a feature of the immediate region, or as part of a great and unexplored area communicating with the Polar basin, and what may be the argument in favor of one or the other hypothesis, or the explanation which reconciles it with established laws–may be questions for men skilled in scientific deductions. Mine has been the more humble duty of recording what we saw. Coming as it did, a mysterious fluidity in the midst of vast plains of solid ice, it was well calculated to arouse emotions of the highest order; and I do not believe there was a man among us who did not long for the means of embarking upon its bright and lonely waters.
[Footnote 68: A traveller, explorer, and writer of high merit; a native of Philadelphia, and a Surgeon in the Navy. His early death was much deplored.]
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=_Bayard Taylor, 1825-._= (Manual, pp. 505, 523, 531.)
=_273._= MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA.
No one can be in Monterey a single night, without being startled and awed by the deep, solemn crashes of the surf, as it breaks along the shore. There is no continuous roar of the plunging waves, as we hear on the Atlantic seaboard; the slow, regular swells–quiet pulsations of the great Pacific’s heart–roll inward in unbroken lines, and fall with single grand crashes, with intervals of dead silence between. They may be heard through the day, if one listens, like a solemn undertone to all the shallow noises of the town; but at midnight, when all else is still, those successive shocks fall upon the ear with a sensation of inexpressible solemnity. All the air, from the pine forests to the sea, is filled with a light tremor, and the intermitting beats of sound are strong enough to jar a delicate ear. Their constant repetition at last produces a feeling something like terror. A spirit worn and weakened by some scathing sorrow could scarcely bear the reverberation.
* * * * *
=_274._= APPROACH TO SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.
Sunset came on as we approached the strait opening from Pablo Bay into the Bay of San Francisco. The cloudless sky became gradually suffused with a soft rose-tint, which covered its whole surface, painting alike the glassy sheet of the bay, and glowing most vividly on the mountains to the eastward. The color deepened every moment, and the peaks of the Coast Range burned with a rich vermilion light, like that of a live coal. This faded gradually into as glowing a purple, and at last into a blue as intense as that of the sea at noon-day. The first effect of the light was most wonderful; the mountains stretched around the horizon like a belt of varying fire and amethyst, between the two roseate deeps of air and water; the shores were transmuted into solid, the air into fluid gems. Could the pencil faithfully represent this magnificent transfiguration of Nature, it would appear utterly unreal and impossible to eyes which never beheld the reality…. It lingered, and lingered, changing almost imperceptibly and with so beautiful a decay, that one lost himself in the enjoyment of each successive charm, without regret for those which were over. The dark blue of the mountains deepened into their night-garb of dusky shadow without any interfusion of dead, ashy color, and the heaven overhead was spangled with all its stars long before the brilliant arch of orange in the west had sunk below the horizon. I have seen the dazzling sunsets of the Mediterranean flush the beauty of its shores, and the mellow skies which Claude used to contemplate from the Pincian Hill; but lovely as they are in my memory, they seem cold and pale when I think of the splendor of such a scene, on the Bay of San Francisco.
* * * * *
The Little Land of Appenzell.
=_275._= SWISS SCENERY,–A BATTLEFIELD; PICTURESQUE DWELLINGS.
On the right lay the land of Appenzell,–not a table-land, but a region of mountain, ridge, and summit, of valley and deep, dark gorge, green as emerald, up to the line of snow, and so thickly studded with dwellings, grouped or isolated, that there seemed to be one scattered village as far as the eye could reach. To the south, over forests of fir, the Sentis lifted his huge towers of rock, crowned with white, wintry pyramids.
Here, where we are, said the postillion, “was the first battle; but there was another, two years afterwards, over there, the other side of Trogen, where the road goes down to the Rhine. Stoss is the place, and there’s a chapel built on the very spot. Duke Frederick of Austria came to help the Abbott Runo, and the Appenzellers were only one to ten against them. It was a great fight, they say, and the women helped,–not with pikes and guns, but in this way: they put on white shirts, and came out of the woods, above where the lighting was going on. Now when the Austrians and the Abbot’s people saw them, they thought there were spirits helping the Appenzellers, (the women were all white you see, and too far off to show plainly,) and so they gave up the fight, after losing nine hundred knights and troopers. After that, it was ordered, that the women should go first to the sacrament, so that no man might forget the help they gave in that battle. And the people go every year to the chapel, on the same day when it took place.”
If one could only transport–a few of these houses to the United States! Our country architecture is not only hideous, but frequently unpractical, being at worst, shanties, and at best, city residences set in the fields. An Appenzell farmer lives in a house from forty to sixty feet square, and rarely less than four stories in height. The two upper stories, however, are narrowed by the high, steep roof, so that the true front of the house is one of the gables. The roof projects at least four feet on all sides, giving shelter to balconies of carved wood, which cross the front under each row of windows. The outer walls are covered with upright, overlapping shingles, not more than two or three inches broad, and rounded at the ends, suggesting the scale armor of ancient times. This covering secures the greatest warmth; and when the shingles have acquired from age that rich burnt-sienna tint–which no paint could exactly imitate, the effect is exceedingly beautiful. The lowest story is generally of stone, plastered and whitewashed. The stories are low, (seven to eight feet) but the windows are placed side by side, and each room is thoroughly lighted. Such a house is very warm, very durable, and, without any apparent expenditure of ornament, is externally so picturesque that no ornament could improve it….
The view of a broad Alpine landscape dotted all over with such beautiful homes, from the little shelf of green hanging on the sides of a rocky gorge, and the strips of sunny pasture between the ascending forests, to the very summits of the lower heights and the saddles between them, was something quite new in my experience.
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NOVELISTS AND WRITERS OF FICTION.
=_Charles Brockden Brown, 1771-1810._= (Manual, pp. 478, 505.)
=_276._= THE YELLOW FEVER IN PHILADELPHIA.
As she approached the house to which she was going, her reluctance to proceed increased. Frequently she paused to recollect the motives that had prescribed this task, and to re-enforce her purposes. At length she arrived at the house. Now, for the first time, her attention was excited by the silence and desolation that surrounded her. This evidence of fear and of danger struck upon her heart. All appeared to have fled from the presence of this unseen and terrible foe. The temerity of adventuring thus into the jaws of the pest, now appeared to her in glaring colors.
… She cast her eye towards the house opposite to where she now stood. Her heart drooped on perceiving proofs that the dwelling was still inhabited. The door was open, and the windows in the second and third story were raised. Near the entrance, in the street, stood a cart. The horse attached to it, in his form, and furniture, and attitude, was an emblem of torpor and decay. His gaunt sides, motionless limbs, his gummy and dead eyes, and his head hanging to the ground, were in unison with the craziness of the vehicle to which he belonged, and the paltry and bedusted harness which covered him. No attendant nor any human face was visible. The stillness, though at an hour customarily busy, was uninterrupted, except by the sound of wheels moving at an almost indistinguishable distance.
She paused for a moment to contemplate this unwonted spectacle. Her trepidations were mingled with emotions not unakin to sublimity; but the consciousness of danger speedily prevailed, and she hastened to acquit herself of her engagement. She approached the door for this purpose, but before she could draw the bell, her motions were arrested by sounds from within. The staircase was opposite the door. Two persons were now discovered descending the stair. They lifted between them a heavy mass, which was presently discerned to be a coffin. Shocked by this discovery, and trembling, she withdrew from the entrance.
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=_Washington Allston, 1779-1843._= (Manual, pp. 504, 510.)
=_277._= IMPERSONATION OF THE POWER OF EVIL.
The light (which descended from above) was so powerful, that for nearly a minute I could distinguish nothing, and I rested on a form attached to the wainscoting. I then put up my hand to shade my eyes, when–the fearful vision is even now before me–I seemed to be standing before an abyss in space, boundless and black. In the midst of this permeable pitch stood a colossal mass of gold, in shape like an altar, and girdled about by a huge serpent, gorgeous and terrible; his body flecked with diamonds, and his head, an enormous carbuncle, floating like a meteor on the air above. Such was the Throne. But no words can describe the gigantic Being that sat thereon–the grace, the majesty, its transcendent form–and yet I shuddered as I looked, for its superhuman countenance seemed, as it were, to radiate falsehood; every feature was in contradiction–the eye, the mouth, even to the nostril–whilst the expression of the whole was of that unnatural softness which can only be conceived of malignant blandishment. It was the appalling beauty of the King of Hell. The frightful discord vibrated through my whole frame, and I turned for relief to the figure below…. But I had turned from the first, only to witness in the second object, its withering fascination. I beheld the mortal conflict between the conscience and the will–the visible struggle of a soul in the toils of sin.
* * * * *
From his “Letters.”
=_278._= ON A PICTURE BY CARRACCI.
The subject was the body of the virgin borne for interment by four apostles. The figures are colossal; the tone dark, and of tremendous color. It seemed, as I looked at it, as if the ground shook at their tread, and the air was darkened by their grief.
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=_279._= ORIGINALITY OF MIND.
An original mind is rarely understood until it has been _reflected_ from some half dozen congenial with it; so averse are men to admitting the true in an unusual form; whilst any novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed.
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=_James K. Paulding, 1779-1860._= (Manual, p. 510.)
From “Letters from the South.”
=_280._= CHARACTER OF THE DUTCH AND GERMAN SETTLERS.
In almost every part of the United States where I have chanced to be, except among the Dutch, the Germans, and the Quakers, people seem to build everything extempore and pro tempore, as if they looked forward to a speedy removal or did not expect to want it long. Nowhere else, it seems to me, do people work more for the present, less for the future, or live so commonly up to the extent of their means. If we build houses, they are generally of wood, and hardly calculated to outlast the builder. If we plant trees, they are generally Lombardy poplars, that spring up of a sudden, give no more shade than a broom stuck on end, and grow old with their planters. Still, however, I believe all this has a salutary and quickening influence on the character of the people, because it offers another spur to activity, stimulating it not only by the hope of gain, but the necessity of exertion to remedy passing inconveniences. Thus the young heir, instead of stepping into the possession of a house completely finished, and replete with every convenience–an estate requiring no labor or exertion to repair its dilapidations, finds it absolutely necessary to bestir himself to complete what his ancestor had only begun, and thus is relieved from the tedium and temptations of idleness.
But you can always tell when you get among the Dutch and the Quakers, for there you perceive that something has been done for posterity. Their houses are of stone, and built for duration, not for show. If a German builds a house, its walls are twice as thick as others–if he puts down a gate-post, it is sure to be nearly as thick as it is long. Every thing about him, animate and inanimate, partakes of this character of solidity. His wife even is a jolly, portly dame, his children chubby rogues, with legs shaped like little old-fashioned mahogany bannisters–his barns as big as fortresses–his horses like mammoths–his cattle enormous–and his breeches surprisingly redundant in linseywoolsey. It matters not to him, whether the form of sideboards or bureaus changes, or whether other people wear tight breeches or cossack pantaloons in the shape of meal-bags. Let fashion change as it may, his low, round-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, keeps its ground, his galligaskins support the same liberal dimensions, and his old oaken chest and clothes-press of curled maple, with the Anno Domini of their construction upon them, together with the dresser glistening with pewter-plates, still stand their ground, while the baseless fabrics of fashion fade away, without leaving a wreck behind. Ceaseless and unwearied industry is his delight, and enterprise and speculation his abhorrence. Riches do not corrupt, nor poverty depress him; for his mind is a sort of Pacific ocean, such as the first navigators described it–unmoved by tempests, and only intolerable from its dead and tedious calms. Thus he moves on, and when he dies his son moves on in the same pace, till generations have passed away, without one of the name becoming distinguished by his exploits or his crimes. These are useful citizens, for they bless a country with useful works, and add to its riches. But still, though industry, prudence, and economy are useful habits, they are selfish after all, and can hardly aspire to the dignity of virtues, except as they are preservatives against active vices.
* * * * *
From “Westward Ho.”
=_281._= ABORTIVE TOWNS.
Zeno Paddock and his wife Mrs. Judith, departed from the village, never to return. Such was the reputation of the proprietor of the Western Sun, that a distinguished speculator, who was going to found a great city at the junction of Big Dry, and Little Dry, Rivers, made him the most advantageous offers to come and establish himself there, and puff the embryo bantling into existence as fast as possible. He offered him a whole square next to that where the college, the courthouse, the church, the library, the athenaeum, and all the public buildings were situated…. Truth obliges us to say, that on his arrival at the city of New Pekin, as it was called, he found it covered with a forest of trees, each of which would take a man half a day to walk round; and that on discovering the square in which all the public buildings were situated, he found, to his no small astonishment, on the very spot where the court-house stood on the map, a flock of wild turkeys gobbling like so many lawyers, and two or three white-headed owls sitting on the high trees listening with most commendable gravity…. Zeno set himself down, began to print his paper in a great hollow sycamore, and to live on anticipation, as many great speculators had done before him.
* * * * *
=_James Fenimore Cooper, 1789-1851._= (Manual, pp. 478, 495, 506.)
From “The Pioneers.”
=_282._= THE SHOOTING MATCH.
In the mean while, as Billy Kirby was preparing himself for another shot, Natty left the goal, with an extremely dissatisfied manner, muttering to himself, and speaking aloud.–
“There hasn’t been such a thing as a good flint sold at the foot of the lake, since the time when the Indian traders used to come into the country;–and if a body should go into the flats along the streams in the hills, to hunt, for such a thing, it’s ten to one but they will be all covered up with the plough. Heigho! its seems to me, that just as the game grows scarce, and a body wants the best of ammunition, to get a livelihood, everything that’s bad falls on him, like a judgment. But I’ll change the stone, for Billy Kirby hasn’t the eye for such a mark, I know.”
The wood-chopper seemed now entirely sensible that his reputation in a great measure depended on his care; nor did he neglect any means to ensure his success. He drew up his rifle, and renewed his aim, again and again, still appearing reluctant to fire. No sound was heard from even Brom, during these portentous movements, until Kirby discharged his piece, with the same want of success as before. Then, indeed, the shouts of the negro rung through the bushes, and sounded among the trees of the neighboring forest, like the outcries of a tribe of Indians. He laughed, rolling his head, first on one side, then on the other, until nature seemed exhausted with mirth. He danced, until his legs were wearied with motion, in the snow; and in short, he exhibited all that violence of joy that characterizes the mirth of a thoughtless negro.
The wood-chopper had exerted his art, and felt a proportionate degree of disappointment at his failure. He first examined the bird with the utmost attention, and more than once suggested that he had touched its feathers, but the voice of the multitude was against him, for it felt disposed to listen to the often-repeated cries of the black, to “gib a nigger fair play.”
Finding it impossible to make out a title to the bird, Kirby turned fiercely to the black, and said–
“Shut your oven, you crow! Where is the man that can hit a turkey’s head at a hundred yards? I was a fool for trying. You needn’t make an uproar like a falling pine-tree about it. Show me the man who can do it.”
“Look this a-way, Billy Kirby,” said Leather-Stocking, “and let them clear the mark, and I’ll show you a man who’s made better shots afore now, and that when he’s been hard pressed by the savages and wild beasts.”
* * * * *
Although Natty Bumppo had certainly made hundreds of more momentous shots, at his enemies or his game, yet he never exerted himself more to excel. He raised his piece three several times; once to get his range; once to calculate his distance; and once because the bird, alarmed by the deathlike stillness that prevailed, turned its head quickly to examine its foes. But the fourth time he fired. The smoke, the report, and the momentary shock, prevented most of the spectators from instantly knowing the result; but Elizabeth, when she saw her champion drop the end of his rifle in the snow, and open his mouth in one of its silent laughs, and then proceed very coolly to recharge his piece, knew that he had been successful. The boys rushed to the mark, and lifted the turkey on high, lifeless, and with nothing but the remnant of a head.
“Bring in the critter,” said Leather-Stocking, “and put it at the feet of the lady. I was her deputy in the matter, and the bird is her property.” … Elizabeth handed the black a piece of silver as a remuneration for his loss, which had some effect in again unbending his muscles, and then expressed to her companion her readiness to return homeward.
[Footnote 69: Another name of Leather-Stocking.]
* * * * *
From “The Pilot.”
=_283._= LONG TOM COFFIN.
The seaman who was addressed by this dire appellation arose slowly from the place where he was stationed as cockswain of the boat, and seemed to ascend high in air by the gradual evolution of numberless folds in his body. When erect, he stood nearly six feet and as many inches in his shoes, though, when elevated in his most perpendicular attitude, there was a forward inclination about his head and shoulders, that appeared to be the consequence of habitual confinement in limited lodgings…. One of his hands grasped, with a sort of instinct, the staff of a bright harpoon, the lower end of which he placed firmly on the rock, as, in obedience to the order of his commander, he left the place, where, considering his vast dimensions, he had been established in an incredibly small space.
… The hardy old seaman, thus addressed, turned his grave visage on his commander, and replied with a becoming gravity,–