Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

XXXIX. — CLIMATE OF THE CATSKILL" MOUNTAINS.

1. I SHALL never forget29 my first view of these mountains." It was in the course of a voyage up the Hudson, 7 in the good old times, before steamboats and railroads had driven all poëtry and romances out of travel. Such an excursion in those days was equal to a voyage to Europe at present, and cost almost as much; but we enjoyed the river then. My whole voyage up the Hudson was full of wonder and romance. I was a lively boy, somewhat imaginative, of easy faith, and prone to relish everything which partook of the marvellous. Among the passengers on board of the sloop was a veteran Indian” trader, on his way to the lakes to traffic with the natives. He had discovered my propensity, and amused himself throughout the voyage by telling me Indian legends and grotesquel stories about every noted place on the river.

2. The Catskille Mountains, especially, called forth a host of fanciful traditions. We were all day tiding along in sight of them, so that he had full time to weave his whimsical narratives. In these mountains, he told me, according to Indian belief, was kept the great treasury of storm and sunshine for the region of the Hudson. An old squaw28 spirit had charge of it, who dwelt on the highest peak of the mountain. Here she kept Day and Night shut up in her wigwam, letting out only one of them at a time. She made new moons every month, and hung them up in the sky, cutting up the old ones for stars. The great Manitou, ki or master spirit, einployed her to manufacture clouds : sometimes she wove them out of cobwebs, gossamers, and morning dew,* and sent them off, flake after flake, to float in the air and give light summer showers; — sometimes she would brew up black thunder-storins, and send down drenching rains, to swell the streams, and sweep everything away.

3. He had many stories, also, about mis'chievous spirits, who infested the mountains in the shape of animals, and played all kinds of pranks upon Indian hunters, decoying them into quag. mires and morass'es, or to the brinks of torrents and precipices. All these were doled out to me as I lay on the deck, throughout a long summer's day, gazing upon these mountains, the everchanging shapes and hues of which appeared to realize the magical influences in question. Sometimes they seemed to approach; at others, to recede. During the heat of the day they almost melted into a sultry haze. As the day declined they deepened in tone; their sunnuits were brightened by the last rays of the sun, and, later in the evening, their whole outline was printed in

deep purple against an amber sky. As I beheld them thus shifte ing continually before my eye, and listened to the marvellous legends of the trader, a host of fanciful notions was conjured into my brain, which have haunted it ever since.

4. As to the Indian superstitions concerning the treasury of storms and sunshine, and the cloud-weaving spirits, they may have been suggested by the atmosphericale1 phenomenal of these mountains, the clouds which gather round their summits, and the thousand aërial effects which indicate the changes of weather over a great extent of country. They are epitomes of our vari. able climate, and are stamped with all its vicissitudes.40 And here let me say a word in favor of those vicissitudes, which are too often made the subject of exclusive repining. If they annoy us occasionally by changes from hot to cold, from wet to dry, they give us one of the most beautiful climates in the world.

5. They give us the brilliant sunshine of the south of Europe, with the fresh verdure of the north. They fioat our summer sky with clouds of gorgeous tints or fleecy whiteness, and send down cooling showers to refresh the panting earth and keep it green. Our seasons are all poetical; the phenomena of our heavens are full of sublimity and beauty. Winter with us has none of its proverbial gloom. It may have its howling winds, and chilling frosts, and whirling snow-storms; but it has also its long intervals of cloudles: sunshine, when the snow-clad earth gives redoubled brightness to the day; when, at night, the stars beam with intensest lustre, or the moon floods the whole landscape with her most limpid radiance.

6. And then the joyous outbreak of our Spring, bursting at once into leaf and blossom, redundant with vegetation, and vociferous with life! And the splendors of our Summer; its morning voluptuousness and evening glory; its airy palaces of sun-gilt clouds piled up in a deep azure sky; and its gusts of tempest of almost tropical grandeur, when the forked lightning and the bellowing thunder volley34 from the battlements of heaven and shake the sultry atmosphere !EI And the sublime melancholy of our Autumn, magnificent in its decay, withering down the pomp and pride of a woodland country, yet reflecting back from its yellow forests the golden serenity of the sky! Surely we may say that, in our climate, “ the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth his handiwork: day unto day uttoreth speech; and night unto night showeth knowi edge."

IRVING.

XL. — SELECT PASSAGES IN VERSE.

1.- HAPPINESS. — Keble. THERE are166 in this rude stunning tide

Of human care and crime, With whom the melodies abide

Of the everlasting chime; Who carry music in their heart,

Through dusty lane and wrangling mart, Plying their daily toil with busier feet, Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.

2. — FRIENDSHIP. — Wordsworth. Small service is true service while it lasts ;

of friends, however humble, scorn not one: The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,

Protects the lingering dew-dropum from the sun.

3.- COMFORT IN ADVERSITY. – Southey. Methinks, if ye would know How visitations of calamity Affect the pious soul, 't is shown you there! Look yonder at that cloud, which, through the sky, Sailing alone, doth croes in her career The rolling moon! — I watched it as it came, And deemed the deep opaqucxl would blot her beains But, melting like a wreath of snow, it hangs In folds of wavy silver round, and clothes The orb with richer beauties than her own; Then, passing, leaves her in her light serene !

4.- FUTURITY.40 — Dryden.
Too curious man, why dost thou seek to know
Events, which, good or ill, foreknown are woe?
The all-sceing Power that made thee mortal gave
Thee everything a mortal state should have ;
Foreknowledge only is enjoyed by Heaven,
And, for his peace of mind, to man forbidden;
Wretched were life, if he foreknew his doom ;
Even joys foreseen give pleasing hope no room,
And griefs assured are felt before they come.

5. — SHORTSIGIITEDNESS OF Max. — Trench.
A dew-drop, falling on the ocean-wave,
Exclaimed, in fear, “ I perish in this grave;"
But, in a shell received, that drop of dew
Unto a pearl of marvellous beauty grew;

And, happy now, the grace did magnify
Which thrust it forth — as it had feared – to die;
Until again, “ I perish quite," it said,
Torn by rude diver from its occan bed:
0, unbelieving! - So it came to gleam
Chief jewel in a monarch's diadem.

6. — INDEPENDENCE. — Thomson.
I care not, Fortune, what you mel56 deny ;
You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace;
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora El shows her brightening face ;
You cannot bare my constant feet to trace
The woods and lawns, hy living stream, at eve:
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
And I their toys to the great children leave;
Of Fancy, Reason, Virtue, naught can me bereave!

7.- THE MORAL Law. – Wordsworth.
All true glory rests,
All praise of safety, and all happiness,
Upon the moral law. Egyptian Thebes,
Tyre by the margin of the sounding waves,
Palmy'ra central in the desert, fell,
And the arts died by which they had been raised.
Call Archimēdēses from his buried tombs
Upon the plain of vanished Syracuse, El
And feelingly the sage shall make report
How insecure, how baseless in itself,
Is that philosophy whose sway is framed
For mere material instruments : - how weak
Those arts and high inventions, if unpropped
By Virtue.

8.– THE RUINED City.
I asked of Time, from whom those temples rose,

That, prostrate by his hand, in silence lie. His lips disdained the mystery 156 to disclose,

And, borne on swifter wing, he hurried by ! ". These broken columns 59 whose?” I asked of Fame:

(Her kindling breath gives life to works sublimeli) With downcast looks of mingled grief and shame,

She heaved the uncertain sigh, and followed Time.
Wrapt in amazement, o'er the mouldering pile

I saw Oblivion pass, with giant stride ;
And, whilst his visilge wore Pride's scornful smile,

“ Hluply thou know'st ;-- then, tell me whose!” I cried, " Whos; these vast domes that even in ruin shinc?” – “ I reck rot whose,” he said ; " they now are mine!”

XLI. — JOHN POUNDS, THE COBBLER. 1. John Pounds was one of those good Samaritans) of whom every generation apparently produces scme examples. Born on the 17th of July, in the year 1766, at Portsmouth in England, he was apprenticed, when twelve years of age, to a shipwright, with whom he served three years of his term, when a serious accident happened to the boy. Falling one day from a consid. erable height into one of the dry docks, Ei he dislocated his thigh, and was in other respects very grievously injured. Time and surgical ingenuity sufficed to restore him to a tolerable state, but he was crippled in such a manner as to be unfitted to resume his trade; and so John Pounds became a cobbler.

2. He lived a lonely kind of life. Having no household society, and being little disposed to go abroad in quest of entertainment, he relieved his involuntary solitude by rearing and domesticating all kinds of singing birds and harmless animals; teaching some of them a variety of amusing tricks, and accus toming those of opposite propensities to live together in har mony. He would sit with a cat upon one shoulder, and a canary-bird on the other, charming away fear from the one, and curbing destructive inclinations in the other.

3. The notion of undertaking the gratuitous education of poor children seems to have been suggested accidentally to John Pounds. A brother of his, who was a seafaring man with a large family, had amongst the rest a feeble little boy, with deformed feet. John benevolently took charge of this lad, cured him of his deformity, and taught him to read. Thinking it would be well for the boy to have a companion in study, he took another, and then another poor child under his care, until at length he became a sort of ragged schoolmaster-general to all the poorer population; and, in a spirit of noble disinterested. ness, performed a most serviceable work in his generation.

4. He might be seen, day after day, in his small workshop, about six feet wide, and eighteen in length, in St. Mary-street, Portsmouth, seated on his stool, mending shoes, and attending at the same time to the studies of a busy crowd of ragged children, clustering around him. Sometimes there would be assenibled in his shop as many as forty boys and girls, the latter of whom he kept a little apart from the rest. In receiving pupils, he made choices of those who seemed most in need of his reforming discipline. He had a decided predilection for “the little black guards,” and was frequently at great pains to attract such within his door. He was once seen following a young vaga.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »