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And the sea-fog, like a ghost,
But onward still I sailed.
“ Four days I steered to eastward,
Four days without a night:
With red and lurid light.”
Here Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Ceased writing for a while; And raised his eyes from his book, With a strange and puzzled look,
And an incredulous smile.
But Othere, the old sea-captain,
He neither paused nor stirred,
“And now the land," said Othere,
“ Bent southward suddenly, And I followed the curving shore, And ever southward bore
Into a nameless sea.
“ And there we hunted the walrus,
The narwhal, and the seal;
Ha! 'twas a noble game!
Flew our harpoons of steel.
“ There were six of us altogether,
Norsemen of Helgoland;
And dragged them to the strand!”
Here Alfred, the Truth-Teller,
Suddenly closed his book,
Depicted in their look.
And Othere, the old sea-captain,
Stared at him wild and weird, Then smiled, till his shining teeth Gleamed white from underneath
His tawny, quivering beard.
And to the King of the Saxons,
In witness of the truth,
“ Behold this walrus-tooth !"
HENRY W. LONGFELLOW.
XXV. — AN AUTUMN SPECTACLE.'
1. On a night, not appointed beforehand, we went to sleep in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Ranges of mountains, solid, blue, and stately, hedged us round, yet left open for our untiring gaze so wide a circle that at its outer rim, even in clearest days, lingered a purple haze.
Near us were fields of brown ferns, scarlet cornels, and gray boulders frosted with myriad lichens; and woods, rich in all sorts of growths, soft underfoot with unnumbered mosses, and low flowering things. All this seemed enough, and we went to sleep content, but not expectant of more than we had had.
2. With the leisurely feeling that wraps solitary people, in the warm, autumn mountain weather, we set ourselves to begin the day, and by chance looked out of our window.
Like children, at sight of a merry juggler's show, we shouted with delight, then drew long, silent breaths, with a bewilderment too like awe to find easy shape in words.
O whence! ( who ! and how had their feet passed by so noiselessly? Who had touched with this enchantment every leaf of every tree which stood within our sight?
3. Every maple tree blazed at top with tint of scarlet, or cherry, or orange, or pale yellow. Every ash tree had turned from green to dark purple, or to pale strawcolor. Every birch shimmered and quivered in the sun, as if gold pieces had been strung along its branches;
basswoods were flecked with white, beeches were brown and yellow, poplars were marked and spotted with vermilion, sumachs had become ladders, and bars, and fringes of fire; not a single tree was left of solid dark green, except the pines, the larches, and the firs, and they also seemed to have shared in the transformation, looking darker and greener than ever, as a setting for those masses of flashing color. Single trees in fields, near and far, looked like great hewn jewels: with light behind them, their tints flickered and waved as in transparent stones held up to the sun. When the wind shook them it was like nothing but the tremulousness of distant seas at sunset.
4. All this in one night! To north, to south, to east, to west, it was the same. Miles away, at the very foot of the farthest green mountains, shone the glory ; within our hand's reach, at the neighbors' gates, stood the stately splendor.
With reverent eyes we went close into territory after territory; coming nearer we found that the scarlet or the claret, the crimson or the orange, which we had seen from the distance, was no longer scarlet, claret, crimson or orange, but all these and more than all of these, shading up and down and into each other by gradations indistinguishable and fine beyond all counting; alternating and interrupting each other with an infinity of change, almost like caprice or frolic.
5. I have seen our western prairies in their June flowering; I have seen also the Mosaic fields of blossoms in the Ampezzo Pass, at which one cannot so
much as look without shaded eyes, and from which Titian learned color. I have seen old altar fronts, on which generations of kings have lavished jewels; but I have never seen such flaming, shading, changing, lavishing, rioting of color as in this death of the autumn leaves on the Bethlehem hills.
6. Every day we said, “ This will be the last”; and indeed it was the last, bearing away with it its own tint of glory never to return. But the next was as beautiful, sometimes we thought more beautiful, except that the brilliance of the long royal line before it had dulled our
Bright days dazzled us and made us leap in their sun; gray days surprised us, revealing new tints and more gorgeous colors.
7. And there was a lesson in the sudden discovering, hour by hour, of tiny hidden leaves of unnoted things, underfoot in fields, tucked away in hedges, lying low even in edges of dusty roads, but bright and burnished as those loftiest in air. Strawberry leaves dappled with claret spots, or winey red with rims of yellow; raspberry and blackberry shoots as brilliant as maples ; the odd little shovel-shaped sorrel leaves, a deep clear cherry just pricked with orange; patient old “hardhack,” sticking to its heavy plumes of seed, through thick and thin, of wind, its pretty oval leaves all tinted with delicate browns and yellows and pinks ; “ fireweed” with no two of its sharp, slender, spikeshaped leaves of a tint, some mottled, some scarlet, some yellow, some green; - all these we found, and more