Choice Specimens of American Literature, And Literary Reader - Being Selections from the Chief American Writers
by Benj. N. Martin
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[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.]

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Matthew F. Maury,[62] 1806-1873.

From "The Physical Geography of the Sea."


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.]

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *

Ormsby M. Mitchell,[63] 1810-1862.


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.]

* * * * *


William Bartram, 1739-1813. (Manual, p. 490.)

From the "Travels through the Carolinas," &c.


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.


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.

* * * * *

Alexander Wilson, 1766-1813. (Manual, p. 504.)

From the "American Ornithology."


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.

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *

Stephen Elliott,[64] 1771-1830.

From "Views 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."


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.

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *


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.

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Daniel Drake,[65] 1785-1852.

From a "Picture of Cincinnati, &c."


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,[66] 1790-1873.

From "The Quadrupeds of North America."


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.]

* * * * *

J. A. Lapham.[67]

From "Wisconsin, its Geography," &c.


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.]

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *

Charles Wilkins Webber, 1819-1856. (Manual, p. 505.)

From "Wild Scenes and Song-birds."


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.

* * * * *

Charles Lanman, 1819-. (Manual, p. 505.)

From "Haw-ho-noo."


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.

* * * * *

Ephraim C. Squier, 1821-. (Manual, p. 504.)

From "Aboriginal Monuments of the West."


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."


... 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."


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."


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.

* * * * *


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,[68] 1822-1857.

From "Arctic Explorations."


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.]

* * * * *

Bayard Taylor, 1825-. (Manual, pp. 505, 523, 531.)

From "Eldorado."


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.

* * * * *


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.


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.

* * * * *


Charles Brockden Brown, 1771-1810. (Manual, pp. 478, 505.)

From "Ormond."


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.

* * * * *

Washington Allston, 1779-1843. (Manual, pp. 504, 510.)

From "Monaldi."


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."


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.

* * * * *


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.

* * * * *

James K. Paulding, 1779-1860. (Manual, p. 510.)

From "Letters from the South."


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."


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."


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[69] 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."


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,—

"Give me a plenty of sea-room, and good canvas, where there is no occasion for pilots at all, sir. For my part, I was born on board a chebacco-man, and never could see the use of more land than now and then a small island, to raise a few vegetables, and to dry your fish—I'm sure the sight of it always makes me feel uncomfortable, unless we have the wind dead off shore."

... "I am more than half of your mind, that an island now and then is all the terra firma that a seaman needs."

"It's reason and philosophy, sir," returned the sedate cock-swain; "and what land there is, should always be a soft mud, or a sandy ooze, in order that an anchor might hold, and to make soundings sartin. I have lost many a deep-sea, besides hand-leads by the dozens, on rocky bottoms; but give me the roadstead where a lead comes up light, and an anchor heavy. There's a boat pulling athwart our fore-foot, Captain Barnstable; shall I run her aboard, or give her a berth, sir."

* * * * *

From "The Prairie."


The trapper had remained nearly motionless for an hour. His eyes alone had occasionally opened and shut. When opened, his gaze seemed fastened on the clouds which hung around the western horizon, reflecting the bright colors, and giving form and loveliness to the glorious tints of an American sunset. The hour, the calm beauty of the season, the occasion, all conspired to fill the spectators with solemn awe. Suddenly, while musing on the remarkable position in which he was placed, Middleton felt the hand which he held grasp his own with incredible power, and the old man, supported on either side by his friends, rose upright to his feet. For a moment he looked about him, as if to invite all in presence to listen (the lingering remnant of human frailty), and then, with a fine military elevation of the head, and with a voice that might be heard in every part of that numerous assembly, he pronounced the word "Here!"

A movement so entirely unexpected, and the air of grandeur and humility which were so remarkably united in the mien of the trapper, together with the clear and uncommon force of his utterance, produced a short period of confusion in the faculties of all present. When Middleton and Hard-Heart, each of whom had involuntarily extended a hand to support the form of the old man, turned to him again, they found that the subject of their interest was removed forever beyond the necessity of their care.

* * * * *

From "The Red Rover."


... The boat was soon cleared of what, under their circumstances, was literally lumber; leaving, however, far more than enough to meet all their wants, and not a few of their comforts, in the event that the elements should accord the permission to use them.

Then, and not till then, did Wilder relax in his exertions. He had arranged his sails ready to be hoisted in an instant; he had carefully examined that no straggling rope connected the boat to the wreck, to draw them under with the foundering mass; and he had assured himself that food, water, compass, and the imperfect instruments that were there then in use to ascertain the position of a ship, were all perfectly disposed of in their several places, and ready to his hand. When all was in this state of preparation, he disposed of himself in the stern of the boat, and endeavored by the composure of his manner, to inspire his less resolute companions with a portion of his own firmness.

The bright sunshine was sleeping in a thousand places on every side of the silent and deserted wreck. The sea had subsided to such a state of utter rest that it was only at long intervals that the huge and helpless mass, on which the ark of the expectants lay, was lifted from its dull quietude, to roll heavily, for a moment in the washing waters, and then to settle lower into the greedy and absorbing element. Still the disappearance of the hull was slow, and even tedious, to those who looked forward with such impatience to its total immersion, as to the crisis of their own fortunes.

* * * * *

Then came the moon, with its mild and deceptive light, to throw the delusion of its glow on the varying but ever frightful scene.

"See," said Wilder, as the luminary lifted its pale and melancholy orb out of the bed of the ocean; "we shall have light for our hazardous launch!"

"Is it at hand?" demanded Mrs. Wyllis, with all the resolution of manner she could assume in so trying a situation.

"It is—the ship has already brought her scuppers to the water. Sometimes a vessel will float until saturated with the brine. If ours sink at all, it will be soon." "If at all! Is there then hope that she can float?"

"None!" said Wilder, pausing to listen to the hollow and threatening sounds which issued from the depths of the vessel, as the water broke through her divisions, in passing from side to side, and which sounded like the groaning of some heavy monster in the last agony of nature. "None; she is already losing her level!"

His companions saw the change; but not for the empire of the world, could either of them have uttered a syllable. Another low, threatening, rumbling sound was heard, and then the pent air beneath blew up the forward part of the deck, with an explosion like that of a gun.

"Now grasp the ropes I have given you" cried Wilder, breathless with his eagerness to speak.

His words were smothered by the rushing and gurgling of waters. The vessel made a plunge like a dying whale; and raising its stern high into the air, glided into the depths of the sea, like the leviathan seeking his secret places. The motionless boat was lifted with the ship, until it stood in an attitude fearfully approaching to the perpendicular. As the wreck descended, the bows of the launch met the element, burying themselves nearly to filling; but buoyant and light, it rose again, and, struck powerfully on the stern by the settling mass, the little ark shot ahead, as though it had been driven by the hand of man. Still, as the water rushed into the vortex, every thing within its influence yielded to the suction; and at the next instant, the launch was seen darting down the declivity, as if eager to follow the vast machine, of which it had so long formed a dependant, through the same gaping whirlpool, to the bottom. Then it rose, rocking to the surface, and for a moment, was tossed and whirled like a bubble circling in the eddies of a pool. After which, the ocean moaned, and slept again; the moon-beams playing across its treacherous bosom, sweetly and calm, as the rays are seen to quiver on a lake that is embedded in sheltering mountains.

* * * * *

From "The History of the United States Navy."


Thus terminated the war of 1812, so far as it was connected with the American marine. The navy came out of this struggle with a vast increase of reputation. The brilliant style in which the ships had been carried into action, the steadiness and rapidity with which they had been handled, and the fatal accuracy of their fire, on nearly every occasion, produced a new era in naval warfare. Most of the frigate actions had been as soon decided as circumstances would at all allow, and in no instance was it found necessary to keep up the fire of a sloop-of-war an hour, when singly engaged. Most of the combats of the latter, indeed, were decided in about half that time. The execution done in these short conflicts was often equal to that made by the largest vessels of Europe in general actions, and, in some of them, the slain and wounded comprised a very large proportion of the crews.

It is not easy to say in which nation this unlooked-for result created the most surprise, America or England. In the first it produced a confidence in itself that had been greatly wanted, but which, in the end, perhaps, degenerated to a feeling of self-esteem and security that were not without danger, or entirely without exaggeration.... The ablest and bravest captains of the English fleet were ready to admit that a new power was about to appear on the ocean, and that it was not improbable the battle for the mastery of the seas would have to be fought over again.

That the tone and discipline of the service were high, is true; but it must be ascribed to moral, and not to physical, causes, to that aptitude in the American character for the sea which has been so constantly manifested, from the day the first pinnace sailed along the coast, on the trading voyages of the seventeenth century, down to the present moment.

Many false modes of accounting for the novel character that had been given to naval battles were resorted to, and among other reasons, it was affirmed that the American vessels of war sailed with crews of picked seamen. That a nation which practiced impressment should imagine that another in which enlistments were voluntary, could possess an advantage of this nature, infers a strong disposition to listen to any means but the right one to account for an unpleasant truth. It is not known that a single vessel left the country, the case of the Constitution on her two last cruises excepted, with a crew that could he deemed extraordinary in this respect. No American man-of-war ever sailed with a complement composed of nothing but able seamen; and some of the hardest fought battles that occurred during this war, were fought by ships' companies that were materially worse than common. The people that manned the vessels on Lake Champlain, in particular, were of a quality much inferior to those usually found in ships of war. Neither were the officers, in general, old or very experienced. The navy itself dated but fourteen years back, when the war commenced; and some of the commanders began their professional careers several years after the first appointments had been made. Perhaps one half of the lieutenants in the service at the peace of 1815, had first gone on board ship within six years from the declaration of the war, and very many of them within three or four. So far from the midshipmen having been masters and mates of merchantmen, as was reported at the time, they were generally youths that first went from the ease and comforts of the paternal home, when they appeared on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war.

* * * * *

Catharine M. Sedgwick, 1789-1867. (Manual, p. 484.)

From "Hope Leslie."


Mr. Cotton, the regular pastor, rose to remind his brethren of the decree "that private members should be very sparing in their questions and observations after public sermons," and to say that he should postpone any further discussion of the precious points before them, as it was now near nine o'clock, after which it was not suitable for any Christian family to be unnecessarily abroad.

Hope now, and many others, instinctively rose, in anticipation of the dismissing benediction; but Mr. Cotton waved his hand for them to sit down till he could communicate to the congregation the decision to which the ruling elders and himself had come on the subject of the last Sabbath sermon. "He would not repeat what he had before said upon that lust of costly apparel which was fast gaining ground, and had already, as was well known, crept into godly families. He was pleased that there were among them gracious women, ready to turn at a rebuke, as was manifested in many veils being left at home that were floating over the congregation like so many butterflies' wings in the morning. Economy," he justly observed, "was, as well as simplicity, a Christian grace; and, therefore, the rulers had determined that those persons who had run into the excess of immoderate veils and sleeves, embroidered caps, and gold and silver lace, should be permitted to wear them out, but new ones should be forfeited."

This sumptuary regulation announced, the meeting was dismissed.

Madame Winthrop whispered to Everell that she was going, with his father, to look in upon a sick neighbor, and would thank him to see her niece home. Everell stole a glance at Hope, and dutifully offered his arm to Miss Downing.

Hope, intent only on one object, was hurrying out of the pew, intending, in the jostling of the crowd, to escape alone; but she was arrested by Madame Winthrop's saying, "Miss Leslie, Sir Philip offers you his arm;" and at the same moment, her aunt stooped forward to beg her to wait a moment, till she could send a message to Deacon Knowles' wife, that she might wear her new gown with the Turkish sleeves, the next day.... "It is but doing as a body would be done by, to let Mistress Knowles know she may come out in her new gown to-morrow."

* * * * *

From "The Linwoods."


The harmonies of Nature's orchestra were the only and the fitting sounds in this seclusion; the early wooing of the birds; the water from the fountains of the heights, that, filtering through the rocks, dropped from ledge to ledge with the regularity of a water-clock; the ripple of the waves, as they broke upon the rocky points of the shore, or softly kissed its pebbly margin; and the voice of the tiny stream, that, gliding down a dark, deep, and almost hidden channel in the rocks, disappeared and welled up again in the center of the turfy slope, stole over it, and trickled down the lower ledge of granite to the river. Tradition has named this little, green shelf on the rocks, "Kosciusko's Garden;" but, as no traces have been discovered of any other than Nature's plantings, it was probably merely his favorite retreat, and, as such, is a monument of his taste and love of nature.

* * * * *

John Neal, 1793-. (Manual, p. 510.)

From "Randolph."


Poetry is the naked expression of power and eloquence; but, for many hundred years, poetry has been confounded with false music, measure, and cadence, the soul with the body, the thought with the language, the manner of speaking with the mode of thinking.... What I call poetry, has nothing to do with art or learning. It is a natural music, the music of woods and waters, not that of the orchestra.... Poetry is a religion, as well as a music. Nay, it is eloquence. It is whatever affects, touches, or disturbs the animal or moral sense of man. I care not how poetry may be expressed, nor in what language; it is still poetry; as the melody of the waters, wherever they may run, in the desert or the wilderness, among the rocks or the grass, will always be melody.... It is not the composition of a master, the language of art, painfully and entirely exact, but is the wild, capricious melody of nature, pathetic or brilliant, like the roundelay of innumerable birds whistling all about you, in the wind and water, sky and air, or the coquetting of a river breeze over the fine string's of an Aeolian harp, concealed among green, leaves and apple blossoms.

* * * * *

John Pendleton Kennedy, 1795-1870. (Manual, pp. 490, 510.)

From "Swallow Barn."


Swallow Barn is an aristocratical old edifice, which sits, like a brooding hen, on the southern bank of the James River. It looks down upon a shady pocket, or nook, formed by an indentation of the shore, from a gentle acclivity, thinly sprinkled with oaks, whose magnificent branches afford habitation to sundry friendly colonies of squirrels and woodpeckers.

This time-honored mansion was the residence of the family of Hazards....

The main building is more than a century old. It is built with thick brick walls, but one story in height, and surmounted by a double-faced or hipped roof, which gives the idea of a ship, bottom upwards. Later buildings have been added to this, as the wants or ambition of the family have expanded. These are all constructed of wood, and seem to have been built in defiance of all laws of congruity, just as convenience required....

... Beyond the bridge, at some distance, stands a prominent object in the perspective of this picture,—the most venerable appendage to the establishment,—a huge barn, with an immense roof hanging almost to the ground, and thatched a foot thick with sun-burnt straw, which reaches below the eaves in ragged flakes. It has a singularly drowsy and decrepit aspect.

* * * * *


"Things are getting worse and worse," replied the other. "I can see how it's going. Here, the first thing General Jackson did, when he came in, he wanted to have the president elected for six years; and, by and by, they will want him for ten; and now they want to cut up our orchards and meadows, whether or no. That's just the way Bonaparte went on. What's the use of states, if they are all to be cut up with canals, and railroads, and tariffs? No, no, gentlemen; you may depend Old Virginny's not going to let Congress carry on in her day."

"How can they help it?" asked Sandy.

"We haven't fout and bled," rejoined the other, taking out of his pocket a large piece of tobacco, and cutting off a quid, as he spoke in a somewhat subdued tone,—"we haven't fout and bled for our liberties to have our posterity and their land circumcised after this rate, to suit the figaries of Congress. So let them try it when they will."

"Mr. Ned Hazard, what do you call state rights?" demanded Sandy.

"It's a sort of a law," said the other speaker, taking the answer to himself, "against cotton and wool."

* * * * *

From his "Life of William Wirt."


He became, in the maturity of his career, one of the most philosophic and accomplished lawyers of his time. In earlier life, he was remarked for a florid imagination, and a power of vivid declamation,—faculties which are but too apt to seduce their possessor to waste his strength in that flimsier eloquence, which more captivates the crowd without the bar, than the Judge upon the bench, and whose fatal facility often ensnares ambitious youth capable of better things, by its cheap applause and temptation to that indolence which may be indulged without loss of popularity. The public seem to have ascribed to Mr. Wirt some such, reputation as this, when he first attracted notice. He came upon the broader theater of his fame under this disadvantage. He was aware of it himself, and labored with matchless perseverance to disabuse the tribunals, with which he was familiar, of this disparaging opinion. How he succeeded, his compeers at the bar have often testified. None amongst them ever brought to the judgment-seat a more complete preparation for trial—none ever more thoroughly argued a case through minute analysis and nice discrimination of principles. In logical precision of mind, clearness of statement, full investigation of complicated points, and close comparison of precedents, he had no superior at the bar of the Supreme Court. He often relieved the tedium of argument with playful sallies of wit and humor. He had a prompt and effective talent for this exercise, to which his extensive and various reading administered abundant resource; and he indulged it not less to the gratification of his auditory than to the aid of his cause. In such tactics, Mr. Wirt was well versed. In sarcasm and invective he was often exceedingly strong, and denounced with a power that made transgressors tremble; but the bent of his nature being kindly and tolerant of error, he took more pleasure in exciting the laugh, than in conjuring the spirit of censure or rebuke.

His manner in speaking was singularly attractive. His manly form, his intellectual countenance and musical voice, set off by a rare gracefulness of gesture, won, in advance, the favor of his auditory. He was calm, deliberate, and distinct in his enunciation, not often rising into any high exhibition of passion, and never sinking into tameness. His key was that of earnest and animated argument, frequently alternated with that of a playful and sprightly humor. His language was neat, well chosen, and uttered without impediment or slovenly repetition. The tones of his voice played, with a natural skill, through the various cadences most appropriate to express the flitting emotions of his mind, and the changes of his thought. To these external properties of his elocution, we may ascribe the pleasure which persons of all conditions found in listening to him. Women often crowded the court-rooms to hear him, and as often astonished him, not only by the patience, but the visible enjoyment with which they were wont to sit out his argument to the end,—even when the topic was too dry to interest them, or too abstruse for them to understand his discourse.... His oratory was not of that strong, bold, and impetuous nature which is often the chief characteristic of the highest eloquence, and which is said to sway the Senate with absolute dominion, and to imprison or set free the storm of human passion, in the multitude, according to the speaker's will. It was smooth, polished, scholar-like, sparkling with pleasant fancies, and beguiling the listener by its varied graces, out of all note or consciousness of time.

* * * * *

William Ware, 1797-1852. (Manual, p. 510.)

From "Aurelian, or Rome in the Third Century."


When now he had stood there not many minutes, one of the doors of the vivaria was suddenly thrown back, and bounding forth with a roar that seemed to shake the walls of the theatre, a lion of huge dimensions leaped upon the arena. Majesty and power were inscribed upon his lordly limbs; and, as he stood there where he had first sprung, and looked round upon the multitude, how did his gentle eye and noble carriage, with which no one for a moment could associate meanness, or cruelty, or revenge, cast shame upon the human monsters assembled to behold a solitary, unarmed man torn limb from limb! When he had in this way looked upon that cloud of faces, he then turned, and moved round the arena through its whole circumference, still looking upwards upon those who filled the seats, not till he had come again to the point from which he started so much as noticing him who stood his victim in the midst. Then, as if apparently for the first time becoming conscious of his presence, he caught the form of Probus, and, moving slowly towards him, looked steadfastly upon him, receiving in return the settled gaze of the Christian. Standing there still a while, each looking upon the other, he then walked round him, then approached nearer, making suddenly, and for a moment, those motions which indicated the roused appetite; but, as it were, in the spirit of self-rebuke, he immediately retreated a few paces, and lay down in the sand, stretching out his head towards Probus, and closing his eyes, as if for sleep.

* * * * *

Lydia Maria Child, 1802-. (Manual, p. 434.)

From "Autumnal Leaves."


It is curious to observe how a man's spiritual state reflects itself in the people and animals around him; nay, in the very garments, trees, and stones.

Reuben Black was an infestation in the neighborhood where he resided. The very sight of him produced effects similar to the Hindoo magical tune called Raug, which is said to bring on clouds, storms, and earthquakes. His wife seemed lean, sharp, and uncomfortable. The heads of his boys had a bristling aspect, as if each individual hair stood on end with perpetual fear. The cows poked out their horns horizontally, as soon as he opened the barn-yard gate. The dog dropped his tail between his legs, and eyed him askance, to see what humor he was in. The cat looked wild and scraggy, and had been known to rush straight up the chimney when he moved towards her. Fanny Kemble's expressive description of the Pennsylvania stage-horses was exactly suited to Reuben's poor old nag. "His hide resembled an old hair-trunk." Continual whipping and kicking had made him such a stoic, that no amount of blows could quicken his pace, and no chirruping could change the dejected drooping of his head. All his natural language said, as plainly as a horse could say it, that he was a most unhappy beast. Even the trees on Reuben's premises had a gnarled and knotted appearance. The bark wept little sickly tears of gum, and the branches grew awry, as if they felt the continual discord, and made sorry faces at each other behind their owner's back. His fields were red with sorrel, or run over with mullein. Every thing seemed as hard and arid as his own visage. Every day, he cursed the town and the neighborhood, because they poisoned his dogs, and stoned his hens, and shot his cats. Continual law-suits involved him in so much expense, that he had neither time nor money to spend on the improvement of his farm.

Against Joe Smith, a poor laborer in the neighborhood, he had brought three suits in succession. Joe said he had returned a spade he borrowed, and Reuben swore he had not. He sued Joe, and recovered damages, for which he ordered the sheriff to seize his pig. Joe, in his wrath, called him an old swindler, and a curse to the neighborhood. These remarks were soon repeated to Reuben. He brought an action for slander, and recovered twenty-five cents. Provoked at the laugh this occasioned, he watched for Joe to pass by, and set his big dog upon him, screaming furiously, "Call me an old swindler again, will you." An evil spirit is more contagious than the plague. Joe went home and scolded his wife, and boxed little Joe's ears, and kicked the cat; and not one of them knew what it was all for. A fortnight after, Reuben's big dog was found dead by poison. Whereupon he brought another action against Joe Smith, and not being able to prove him guilty of the charge of dog-murder, he took his revenge by poisoning a pet lamb belonging to Mrs. Smith. Thus the bad game went on, with mutual worriment and loss. Joe's temper grew more and more vindictive, and the love of talking over his troubles at the grog-shop increased on him. Poor Mrs. Smith cried, and said it was all owing to Reuben Black; for a better hearted man never lived than her Joe, when she first married him.

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