A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. X.--JULY, 1862.--NO. LVII.
It is certain that since the time of Homer the deeds and circumstances of war have not been felicitously sung. If any ideas have been the subject of the strife, they seldom appear to advantage in the poems which chronicle it, or in the verses devoted to the praise of heroes. Remove the "Iliad," the "Nibelungenlied," some English, Spanish, and Northern ballads, two or three Old-Bohemian, the war-songs composed by Ziska, and one or two Romaic, from the field of investigation, and one is astonished at the scanty gleaning of battle-poetry, camp-songs, and rhymes that have been scattered in the wake of great campaigns, and many of the above-mentioned are more historical or mythological than descriptive of war. The quantity of political songs and ballads, serious and satirical, which were suggested by the great critical moments of modern history, is immense. Every country has, or might have, its own peculiar collections. In France the troubles of the League gave an impulse to song-writing, and the productions of Desportes and Bertaut are relics of that time. Historical and revolutionary songs abound in all countries; but even the "Marseillaise," the gay, ferocious "Carmagnole," and the "Ça Ira," which somebody wrote upon a drum-head in the Champ de Mars, do not belong to fighting-poetry. The actual business of following into the field the men who represent the tendencies of any time, and of helping to get through with the unavoidable fighting-jobs which they organize, seems to inspire the same rhetoric in every age, and to reproduce the same set of conventional war-images. The range of feeling is narrow; the enthusiasm for great generals is expressed in pompous commonplaces; even the dramatic circumstances of a campaign full of the movement and suffering of great masses of men, in bivouac, upon the march, in the gloomy and perilous defile, during a retreat, and in the hours when wavering victory suddenly turns and lets her hot lips be kissed, are scarcely seen, or feebly hinted at. The horizon of the battle-field itself is limited, and it is impossible to obtain a total impression of the picturesque and terrible fact. After the smoke has rolled away, the historian finds a position whence the scenes deliberately reveal to him all their connection, and reenact their passion. He is the real poet of these solemn passages in the life of man. 
[Footnote 1: There is a little volume, called _Voices from the Ranks_, in which numerous letters written by privates, corporals, etc., in the Crimea, are collected and arranged. They are full of incident and pathos. Suffering, daring, and humor, the love of home, and the religious dependence of men capable of telling their own Iliad, make this a very powerful book. In modern times the best literature of a campaign will be found in private letters. We have some from Magenta and Solferino, written by Frenchmen; the character stands very clear in them. And here is one written by an English lad, who is describing a landing from boats in Finland, when he shot his first man. The act separated itself from the whole scene, and charged him with it. Instinctively he walked up to the poor Finn; they met for the first time. The wounded man quietly regarded him; he leaned on his musket, and returned the fading look till it went out.]
One would think that a poet in the ranks would sometimes exchange the pike or musket for the pen in his knapsack, and let all the feelings and landscapes of war distil through his fine fancy from it drop by drop. But the knapsack makes too heavy a draught upon the nervous power which the cerebellum supplies for marching orders; concentration goes to waste in doing porter's work; his tent-lines are the only kind a poet cares for. If he extemporizes a song or hymn, it is lucky if it becomes a favorite of the camp. The great song which the soldier lifts during his halt, or on the edge of battle, is generally written beforehand by some pen unconscious that its glow would tip the points of bayonets, and cheer hearts in suspense for the first cannon-shot of the foe. If anybody undertakes to furnish songs for camps, he prospers as one who resolves to write anthems for a prize-committee to sit on: it is sutler's work, and falls a prey to the provost-marshal.
Nor are poets any more successful, when they propose to make camp-life and soldiers' feelings subjects for aesthetic consideration. Their lines are smooth, their images are spirited; but as well might the campaign itself have been conducted in the poet's study as its situations be deliberately transferred there to verse. The "Wallenstein's Camp" of Schiller is not poetry, but racy and sparkling pamphleteering. Its rhyming does not prevent it from belonging to the historical treatment of periods that are picturesque with many passions and interests, that go clad in jaunty regimental costumes, and require not to be idealized, but simply to be described. Goethe, in his soldier's song in "Faust," idealizes at a touch the rough work, the storming and marauding of the mediaeval _Lanzknecht;_ set to music, it might be sung by fine _dilettanti_ tenors in garrison, but would be stopped at any outpost in the field for want of the countersign. But when Goethe describes what he saw and felt in the campaign in France, with that lucid and observant prose, he reproduces an actual situation. So does Chamisso, in that powerful letter which describes the scenes in Hameln, when it was delivered to the French. But Chamisso has written a genuine soldier's song, which we intend to give. The songs of Körner are well known already in various English dresses. 
[Footnote 2: See translations of Von Zedlitz's _Midnight Review_, of Follen's _Blücher's Ball_, of Freihgrath's _Death of Grabbe_, of Rückert's _Patriot's Lament_, of Arndt's _Field-Marshal Blücher_, of Pfeffel's _Tobacco-Pipe_, of Gleim's _War Song_, of Tegner's _Veteran_, (Swedish,) of Rahbek's _Peter Colbjornsen_, (Danish,) _The Death-Song of Regner Lodbrock_, (Norse,) and Körner's _Sword-Song_, in Mr. Longfellow's _Poets and Poetry of Europe_. See all of Körner's soldier songs well translated, the _Sword-Song_ admirably, by Rev. Charles T. Brooks, in _Specimens of Foreign Literature_, Vol. XIV. See, in Robinson's _Literature of Slavic Nations_, some Russian and Servian martial poetry.]
But the early poetry which attempts the description of feats at arms which were points in the welfare of nations--when, for instance, Germany was struggling to have her middle class against the privileges of the barons--is more interesting than all the modern songs which nicely depict soldiers' moods. Language itself was fighting for recognition, as well as industrial and social rights. The verses mark successive steps of a people into consciousness and civilization. Some of this battle-poetry is worth preserving; a few camp-rhymes, also, were famous enough in their day to justify translating. Here are some relics, of pattern more or less antique, picked up from that field of Europe where so many centuries have met in arms. 
[Footnote 3: Among such songs is one by Bayard Taylor, entitled _Annie Laurie_, which is of the very best kind.]
The Northern war-poetry, before the introduction of Christianity, is vigorous enough, but it abounds in disagreeable commonplaces: trunks are cleft till each half falls sideways; limbs are carved for ravens, who appear as invariably as the Valkyrs, and while the latter pounce upon the souls that issue with the expiring breath, the former banquet upon the remains. The celebration of a victory is an exulting description of actual scenes of revelling, mead-drinking from mounted skulls, division of the spoils, and half-drunken brags of future prowess. The sense of dependence upon an unseen Power is manifested only in superstitious vows for luck and congratulations that the Strong Ones have been upon the conquering side. There is no lifting up of the heart which checks for a time the joy of victory. They are ferociously glad that they have beaten. This prize-fighting imagery belongs also to the Anglo-Saxon poetry, and is in marked contrast with the commemorative poetry of Franks and Germans after the introduction of Christianity. The allusions may be quite as conventional, but they show that another power has taken the field, and is willing to risk the fortunes of war. Norse poetry loses its vigor when the secure establishment of Christianity abolishes piracy and puts fighting upon an allowance. Its muscle was its chief characteristic. We speak only of war-poetry.
[Footnote 4: Braga was the name of the goblet over which the Norse drinkers made their vows. Probably no Secessionist ever threatened more pompously over his whiskey. The word goes back a great distance. _Paruf_ is Sanscrit for rough, and _Ragh_, to be equal to. In reading the Norse poetry, one can understand why _Brága_ was the Apollo of the Asa gods, and why the present made to a favorite Scald was called _Bragar-Laun_ (_Lohn_). _Bravo_ is also a far-travelled form.]
Here, for instance, is the difference plainly told. Hucbald, a monk of the cloister St. Amand in Flanders, wrote "The Louis-Lay," to celebrate the victory gained by the West-Frankish King Louis III. over the Normans, in 881, near Saucourt. It is in the Old-High-German. A few lines will suffice:--
The King rode boldly, sang a holy song, And all together sang, Kyrie eleison. The song was sung; the battle was begun; Blood came to cheeks; thereat rejoiced the Franks; Then fought each sword, but none so well as Ludwig, So swift and bold, for 't was his inborn nature; He struck down many, many a one pierced through, And at his hands his enemies received A bitter drink, woe to their life all day. Praise to God's power, for Ludwig overcame; And thanks to saints, the victor-fight was his. Homeward again fared Ludwig, conquering king, And harnessed as he ever is, wherever the need may be, Our God above sustain him with His majesty!
Earlier than this it was the custom for soldiers to sing just before fighting. Tacitus alludes to a kind of measured warcry of the Germans, which they made more sonorous and terrific by shouting it into the hollow of their shields. He calls it _barditus_ by mistake, borrowing a term from the custom of the Gauls, who sang before battle by proxy,--that is, their bards chanted the national songs. But Norse and German soldiers loved to sing. King Harald Sigurdson composes verses just before battle; so do the Skalds before the Battle of Stiklestad, which was fatal to the great King Olaf. The soldiers learn the verses and sing them with the Skalds. They also recollect older songs,--the "Biarkamal," for instance, which Biarke made before he fought. These are all of the indomitable kind, and well charged with threats of unlimited slaughter. The custom survived all the social and religious changes of Europe. But the wild war-phrases which the Germans shouted for mutual encouragement, and to derive, like the Highlanders, an omen from the magnitude of the sound, became hymns: they were sung in unison, with the ordinary monkish modulations of the time. The most famous of these was written by Notker, a Benedictine of St. Gall, about the year 900. It was translated by Luther in 1524, and an English translation from Luther's German can be found in the "Lyra Germanica," p. 237.
[Footnote 5: Laing's _Sea-Kings of Norway_, Vol. II. p. 312; Vol. III. p. 90.]
William's minstrel, Taillefer, sang a song before the Battle of Hastings: but the Normans loved the purely martial strain, and this was a ballad of French composition, perhaps a fragment of the older "Roland's Song." The "Roman de Rou," composed by Master Wace, or Gasse, a native of Jersey and Canon of Bayeux, who died in 1184, is very minute in its description of the Battle of Val des Dunes, near Caen, fought by Henry of France and William the Bastard against Guy, a Norman noble in the Burgundian interest. The year of the battle was 1047. There is a Latin narrative of the Battle of Hastings, in eight hundred and thirty-five hexameters and pentameters. This was composed by Wido, or Guido, Bishop of Amiens, who died in 1075.
The German knights on their way to Jerusalem sang a holy psalm, beginning, "Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of the earth." This was discovered not long ago in Westphalia; a translation of it, with the music, can be found in Mr. Richard Willis's collection of hymns.
One would expect to gather fragments of war-poetry from the early times of the Hungarians, who held the outpost of Europe against the Turks, and were also sometimes in arms against the imperial policy of Germany. But De Gerando informs us that they set both victories and defeats to music. The "Rákótzi" is a national air which bears the name of an illustrious prince who was overcome by Leopold. "It is remarkable that in Hungary great thoughts and deep popular feelings were expressed and consecrated, not by poetry, but by national airs. The armed Diets which were held upon the plain of Rákos were the symbol of ancient liberty to the popular apprehension; there is the 'Air of Rákos,' also the 'Air of Mohács,' which recalls the fall of the old monarchy, and the 'Air of Zrinyi,' which preserves the recollection of the heroic defence of Szigeth." These airs are not written; the first comer extemporized their inartificial strains, which the feeling of the moment seized upon and transmitted by tradition. Among the Servians, on the contrary, the heroic ballad is full of fire and meaning, but the music amounts to nothing.
[Footnote 6: A. De Gerando, _La Transylvanie et ses Habitants_, Tom. II. p. 265, et seq.]
The first important production of the warlike kind, after Germany began to struggle with its medieval restrictions, was composed after the Battle of Sempach, where Arnold Struthalm of Winkelried opened a passage for the Swiss peasants through the ranks of Austrian spears. It is written in the Middle-High-German, by Halbsuter, a native of Lucerne, who was in the fight. Here are specimens of it. There is a paraphrase by Sir Walter Scott, but it is done at the expense of the metre and _naïve_ character of the original.
In the thousand and three hundred and six and eightieth year Did God in special manner His favor make appear: Hei! the Federates, I say, They get this special grace upon St. Cyril's day.
That was July 9, 1386. The Swiss had been exasperated by the establishment of new tolls by the nobility, who were upheld in it by the Duke of Austria. The Federates (_Confederates_ can never again be used in connection with a just fight) began to attack the castles which sheltered the oppressive baronial power. The castle behind the little town of Willisow is stormed and burned. Thereupon the nobles swear to put these Swiss free peasants down and get them a master. The poet tells all this, and proceeds to describe their excesses and pride. Then,--
Ye Lowland lords are drawing hither to the Oberland, To what an entertainment ye do not understand: Hei! 't were better for shrift to call, For in the mountain-fields mischances may befall.
To which the nobles are imagined to reply,--
"Indeed! where sits the priest, then, to grant this needful gift?" In the Schweitz he is all ready,--he'll give you hearty shrift: Hei! he will give it to you sheer, This blessing will he give it with sharp halberds and such gear.
The Duke's people are mowing in the fields near Sempach. A knight insolently demands lunch for them from the Sempachers: a burgher threatens to break his head and lunch them in a heavy fashion, for the Federates are gathering, and will undoubtedly make him spill his porridge. A cautious old knight, named Von Hasenburg, rides out to reconnoitre, and he sees enough to warn the Duke that it is the most serious business in which he ever engaged.
Then spake a lord of Ochsensteín, "O Hasenburg, hare-heart!" Him answereth Von Hasenburg, "Thy words bring me a smart: Hei! I say to you faithfully, Which of us is the coward this very day you'll see."
So the old knight, not relishing being punned upon for his counsel, dismounts. All the knights, anticipating an easy victory, dismount, and send their horses to the rear, in the care of varlets who subsequently saved themselves by riding them off. The solid ranks are formed bristling with spears. There is a pause as the two parties survey each other. The nobles pass the word along that it looks like a paltry business:--
So spake they to each other: "Yon folk is very small,-- In case such boors should beat us, 't will bring no fame at all: 'Hei! fine lords the boors have mauled!'" Then the honest Federates on God in heaven called.
"Ah, dear Christ of Heaven, by Thy bitter death we plead, Help bring to us poor sinners in this our strait and need; Hei! and stand by us in the field, And have our land and people beneath Thy ward and shield."
The shaggy bull (of Uri) was quite ready to meet the lion (Leopold), and threw the dust up a little with its hoof.
"Hei! will you fight with us who have beaten you before?"
To this the lion replies,--
"Thank you for reminding me. I have many a knight and varlet here to pay you off for Laupen, and for the ill turn you did me at Morgarten; now you must wait here till I am even with you."
Now drew the growling lion his tail in for a spring: Then spake the bull unto him, "Wilt have your reckoning? Hei! then nearer to us get, That this green meadow may with blood be growing wet."
Then they began a-shooting against us in the grove, And their long lances toward the pious Federates move: Hei! the jest it was not sweet, With branches from the lofty pines down rattling at their feet.
The nobles' front was fast, their order deep and spread; That vexed the pious mind; a Winkelried he said, "Hei! if you will keep from need My pious wife and child, I'll do a hardy deed.
"Dear Federates and true, my life I give to win: They have their rank too firm, we cannot break it in: Hei! a breaking in I'll make. The while that you my offspring to your protection take."
Herewith did he an armful of spears nimbly take; His life had an end, for his friends a lane did make: Hei! he had a lion's mood, So manly, stoutly dying for the Four Cantons' good.
And so it was the breaking of the nobles' front began With hewing and with sticking,--it was God's holy plan: Hei! if this He had not done, It would have cost the Federates many an honest one.
The poem proceeds now with chaffing and slaughtering the broken enemy, enjoining them to run home to their fine ladies with little credit or comfort, and shouting after them an inventory of the armor and banners which they leave behind. 
[Footnote 7: It is proper to state that an attack has lately been made in Germany upon the authenticity of the story of Winkelried, on the ground that it is mentioned in no contemporaneous document or chronicle which has yet come to light, and that a poem in fifteen verses composed before this of Halbsuter's does not mention it. Also it is shown that Halbsuter incorporated the previous poem into his own. It is furthermore denied that Halbsuter was a citizen of Lucerne. In short, there was no Winkelried! Perhaps we can afford to "rehabilitate" villains of every description, but need therefore the heroic be reduced to _déshabillé_? That we cannot so well afford. We can give up William Tell's apple as easily as we can the one in Genesis, but Winkelreid's "sheaf of Austrian spears" is an essential argument against original sin, being an altogether original act of virtue.]
Veit Weber, a Swiss of Freiburg, also wrote war-verses, but they are pitched on a lower key. He fought against Charles the Bold, and described the Battle of Murten, (Morat,) June 22, 1476. His facetiousness is of the grimmest kind. He exults without poetry. Two or three verses will be quite sufficient to designate his style and temper. Of the moment when the Burgundian line breaks, and the rout commences, he says,--
One hither fled, another there, With good intent to disappear, Some hid them in the bushes: I never saw so great a pinch,-- A crowd that had no thirst to quench Into the water pushes.
They waded in up to the chin, Still we our shot kept pouring in, As if for ducks a-fowling: In boats we went and struck them dead, The lake with all their blood was red,-- What begging and what howling!
Up in the trees did many hide, There hoping not to be espied; But like the crows we shot them: The rest on spears did we impale, Their feathers were of no avail, The wind would not transport them.
He will not vouch for the number of the killed, but gives it on hearsay as twenty-six thousand drowned and slain; but he regrets that their flight was so precipitate as to prevent him from recording a more refreshing total. He is specially merry over the wealth and luxurious habits of Charles, alludes to his vapor-baths, etc.:--
His game of chess was to his cost, Of pawns has he a many lost, And twice his guard is broken; His castles help him not a mite, And see how lonesome stands his knight! Checkmate's against him spoken.
[Footnote 8: Once, the year before, at Granson.]
The wars of the rich cities with the princes and bishops stimulated a great many poems that are full of the traits of burgher-life. Seventeen princes declared war against Nuremberg, and seventy-two cities made a league with her. The Swiss sent a contingent of eight hundred men. This war raged with great fierceness, and with almost uninterrupted success for the knights, till the final battle which took place near Pillerent, in 1456. A Nuremberg painter, Hans Rosenplül, celebrated this in verses like Veit Weber's, with equal vigor, but downright prosaic street-touches. Another poem describes the rout of the Archbishop of Cologne, who attempted to get possession of the city, in 1444. All these Low-German poems are full of popular scorn and satire: they do not hate the nobles so much as laugh at them, and their discomfitures in the field are the occasion of elaborate ridicule.
The _Lanzknechts_ were foot-soldiers recruited from the roughs of Germany, and derived their name from the long lance which they carried; but they were also armed subsequently with the arquebuse. They were first organized into bodies of regular troops by George Frundsberg of Mindelheim, a famous German captain, whose castle was about twenty miles south-west of Augsburg. It was afterwards the centre of a little principality which Joseph I. created for the Duke of Marlborough, as a present for the victory of Hochstädt (Blenheim). Frundsberg was a man of talent and character, one of the best soldiers of Charles V. He saved the Imperial cause in the campaign of 1522 against the French and Swiss. At Bicocco he beat the famous Swiss infantry under Arnold of Winkelried, a descendant, doubtless, of one of the children whom Arnold Struthabn left to the care of his comrades. At Pavia a decisive charge of his turned the day against Francis I. And on the march to Rome, his unexpected death so inflamed the _Lanzknechts_ that the meditated retreat of Bourbon became impossible, and the city was taken by assault. His favorite mottoes were, _Kriegsrath mit der That_, "Plan and Action," and _Viel Feinde, viel Ehre_, "The more foes, the greater honor." He was the only man who could influence the mercenary lancers, who were as terrible in peace as in war.
[Footnote 9: It is sometimes spelled _landsknecht_, as if it meant _country-fellows_, or recruits,--men raised at large. But that was a popular misapprehension of the word, because some of them were Suabian bumpkins.]
[Footnote 10: The French soldier-song about Marlborough is known to every one.]
The _Lanzknecht's_ lance was eighteen feet long: he wore a helmet and breastplate, and was taught to form suddenly and to preserve an impenetrable square. Before him all light and heavy cavalry went down, and that great arm of modern war did not recover from its disgrace and neglect till the time of Frederic. But his character was very indifferent: he went foraging when there was no campaign, and in time of peace prepared for war by systematic billeting and plundering. It was a matter of economy to get up a war in order to provide employment for the _Lanzknecht_.
Hans Sachs wrote a very amusing piece in 1558, entitled, "The Devil won't let Landsknechts come to Hell." Lucifer, being in council one evening, speaks of the _Lanzknecht_ as a new kind of man; he describes his refreshing traits of originality, and expresses a desire to have one. It is agreed that Beelzebub shall repair as a crimp to a tavern, and lie in wait for this new game. The agent gets behind a stove, which in Germany would shield from observation even Milton's Satan, and listens while the _Lanzknechts_ drink. They begin to tell stories which make his hair stand on end, but they also God-bless each other so often, at sneezing and hiccupping, that he cannot get a chance at them. One of them, who had stolen a cock and hung it behind the stove, asks the landlord to go and fetch the poor devil. Beelzebub, soundly frightened, beats a hasty retreat, expressing his wonder that the _Lanzknecht_ should know he was there. He apologizes to Lucifer for being unable to enrich his cabinet, and assures him that it would be impossible to live with them; the devils would be eaten out of house and home, and their bishopric taken from them. Lucifer concludes on the whole that it is discreet to limit himself to monks, nuns, lawyers, and the ordinary sinner.
The songs of the _Lanzknecht_ are cheerful, and make little of the chances of the fight. Fasting and feasting are both welcome; he is as gay as a Zouave. To be maimed is a slight matter: if he loses an arm, he bilks the Swiss of a glove; if his leg goes, he can creep, or a wooden leg will serve his purpose:--
It harms me not a mite, A wooden stump will make all right; And when it is no longer good, Some spital knave shall get the wood.
But if a ball my bosom strikes, On some wide field I lie, They'll take me off upon their pikes,-- A grave is always nigh; Pumerlein Pum,--the drums shall say Better than any priest,--Good day!
[Footnote 11: Who besings himself thus, in a song from the Solferino campaign:--
"Quand l'zouzou, coiffé de son fez, A par hasard queuqu' goutt' sous l'nez, L'tremblement s'met dans la cambuse; Mais s'il faut se flanquer des coups, Il sait rendre atouts pour atouts, Et gare dessous, C'est l'zouzou qui s'amuse! Des coups, des coups, des coups, C'est l'zouzou qui s'amuse."]
There is a very characteristic piece, without date or name of the writer, but which, to judge from the German, was written after the time of Luther. Nothing could better express the feeling of a people who have been saved by martial and religious enthusiasm, and brought through all the perils of history. It is the production of some Meistersinger, who introduced it into a History of Henry the Fowler, (fought the Huns, 919-935,) that was written by him in the form of a comedy, and divided into acts. He brings in a minstrel who sings the song before battle. The last verse, with adapted metre and music, is now a soldier's song.
Many a righteous cause on earth To many a battle growing, Of music God has thought them worth, A gift of His bestowing. It came through Jubal into life; For Lamech's son inventing The double sounds of drum and fife, They both became consenting. For music good Wakes manly mood, Intrepid goes Against our foes. Calls stoutly, "On! Fall on! fall on! Clear field and street Of hostile feet, Shoot, thrust them through, and cleave, Not one against you leave!"
Elias prophecy would make In thirsty Israel's passion: "To me a minstrel bring," he spake, "Who plays in David's fashion." Soon came on him Jehovah's hand, In words of help undoubted,-- Great waters flowed the rainless land, The foe was also routed.
Drom, Druri, Drom, Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom, Drumming and fifing good Make hero-mood; Prophets upspring, Poets, too, sing; Music is life To peace and strife,-- And men have ever heeded What chief by them is needed.
In Dorian mood when he would sing, Timotheus the charmer, 'Tis said the famous lyre would bring All listeners into armor: It woke in Alexander rage For war, and nought would slake it, Unless he could the world engage, And his by conquest make it. Timotheus Of Miletus Could strongly sing To rouse the King Of Macedon, Heroic one, Till, in his ire And manly fire, For shield and weapon rising, He went, the foe chastising.
For what God drives, that ever goes,-- So sang courageous Judith; No one can such as He oppose; There prospers what He broodeth. Who has from God a martial mood, Through all resistance breaking, Can prove himself 'gainst heroes good, On foes a vengeance taking. Drums, when we droop; Stand fast, my troop! Let dart and sabre The air belabor; Give them no heed, But be agreed That flight be a breach of honor: Of that be hearty scorner.
Although a part, as haps alway, Will faintly take to fleeing, A lion's heart have I to-day For Kaiser Henry's seeing. The wheat springs forth, the chaff's behind; Strike harder, then, and braver;
[Footnote 12: This was first said by Rudolph of Erlach at the Battle of Laupen, in 1339, fought between citizens of Berne and the neighboring lords. The great array of the nobles caused the rear ranks of the Bernese to shrink. "Good!" cried Erlach, "the chaff is separated from the wheat! Cowards will not share the victory of the brave." --Zschokke's _History of Switzerland_, p. 48, Shaw's translation.]
Perhaps they all will change their mind, So, brothers, do not waver! Kyrie eleison! Pidi, Pom, Pom, Pom, Alarum beat, There's no retreat; Wilt soon be slashed, Be pierced and gashed: But none of these things heeding, The foe, too, set a-bleeding.
Many good surgeons have we here, Again to heal us ready; With God's help, then, be of good cheer, The Pagans grow unsteady: Let not thy courage sink before A foe already flying; Revenge itself shall give thee more, And hearten it, if dying. Drom, Drari, Drom, Kyrie eleison! Strike, thrust,--for we Must victors be; Let none fall out, Keep order stout; Close to my side, Comrade, abide! Be grace of God revealed now, And help us hold the field now!
God doth Himself encamp us round, Himself the tight inspiring; The foe no longer stands his ground, On every side retiring; Ye brothers, now set boldly on The hostile ranks!--they waver,-- They break before us and are gone,-- Praise be to God the Saver! Drom, Drari, Drom, Come, brother, come! Drums, make a noise! My troops, rejoice! Help now pursue And thrust and hew; Pillage restrain,-- The spoils remain In reach of every finger, But not a foe wilt linger.
Ye bold campaigners, praise the Lord, And strifeful heroes, take now The prize He doth to us accord, Good cheer and pillage make now: What each one finds that let him take, But friendly share your booty, For parents', wives', and children's sake, For household use or beauty. Pidi, Pom, Pom, Pom, Field-surge on come, My gash to bind, Am nearly blind,-- The arrows stick, Out pull them quick,-- A bandage here, To save my ear,-- Come, bind me up, And reach a cup,-- Ho, here at hand, I cannot stand,-- Reach hither what you're drinking, My heart is 'neath me sinking.
War-comrades all, heart's-brothers good, I spare no skill and labor, For these your hurts in hero-mood You got from hostile sabre. Now well behave, keep up thy heart, God's help itself will tend thee; Although at present great the smart, To dress the wound will mend thee; Wash off the blood, Time makes it good,-- Reach me the shear,-- A plaster here,-- Hold out your arm, 'T is no great harm,-- Give drink to stay, He limps away: Thank God, their wounds all tended, Be dart- and pike-hole mended!
Three faces does a surgeon wear: At first God is not higher; And when with wounds they illy fare, He comes in angel's tire; But soon as word is said of pay, How gracelessly they grieve him! They bid his odious face away, Or knavishly deceive him: No thanks for it Spoils benefit, Ill to endure For drugs that cure; Pay and respect Should he collect, For at his art Your woes depart; God bids him speed To you in need; Therefore our dues be giving, God wills us all a living.
No death so blessed in the world As his who, struck by foeman, Upon the airy field is hurled, Nor hears lament of woman; From narrow beds death one by one His pale recruits is calling, But comrades here are not alone, Like Whitsun blossoms falling. 'T is no ill jest To say that best Of ways to die Is thus to lie In honor's sleep, With none to weep: Marched out of life By drum and fife To airy grave, Thus heroes crave A worthy fame,-- Men say his name Is _Fatherland's Befriender_, By life and blood surrender.
With the introduction of standing armies popular warlike poetry falls away, and is succeeded by camp-songs, and artistic renderings of martial subjects by professed poets. The people no longer do the fighting; they foot the bills and write melancholy hymns. Weckerlin (1584-1651) wrote some hearty and simple things; among others, _Frisch auf, ihr tapfere Soldaten_, "Ye soldiers bold, be full of cheer." Michael Altenburg, (1583-1640,) who served on the Protestant side, wrote a hymn after the Battle of Leipsic, 1631, from the watch word, "God with us," which was given to the troops that day. His hymn was afterwards made famous by Gustavus Adolphus, who sang it at the head of his soldiers before the Battle of Lützen, November 16, 1632, in which he fell. Here it is. (_Verzage nicht, du Häuflein klein_.)
Be not cast down, thou little band, Although the foe with purpose stand To make thy ruin sure: Because they seek thy overthrow, Thou art right sorrowful and low: It will not long endure.
Be comforted that God will make Thy cause His own, and vengeance take,-- 'T is His, and let it reign: He knoweth well His Gideon, Through him already hath begun Thee and His Word sustain.
Sure word of God it is to fell That Satan, world, and gates of hell, And all their following, Must come at last to misery: God is with us,--with God are we,-- He will the victory bring.
Here is certainly a falling off from Luther's _Ein feste Burg_, but his spirit was in the fight; and the hymn is wonderfully improved when the great Swedish captain takes it to his death.
Von Kleist (1715-1759) studied law at Königsberg, but later became an officer in the Prussian service. He wrote, in 1759, an ode to the Prussian army, was wounded at the Battle of Künersdorf, where Frederic the Great lost his army and received a ball in his snuff-box. His poetry is very poor stuff. The weight of the enemy crushes down the hills and makes the planet tremble; agony and eternal night impend; and where the Austrian horses drink, the water fails. But his verses were full of good advice to the soldiers, to spare, in the progress of their great achievements, the poor peasant who is not their foe, to help his need, and to leave pillage to Croats and cowards. The advice was less palatable to Frederic's troops than the verses.
But there were two famous soldier's songs, of unknown origin, the pets of every camp, which piqued all the poets into writing war-verses as soon as the genius of Frederic kindled such enthusiasm among Prussians. The first was an old one about Prince Eugene, who was another hero, loved in camps, and besung with ardor around every watchfire. It is a genuine soldier's song.
Prince Eugene, the noble captain, For the Kaiser would recover Town and fortress of Belgrade; So he put a bridge together To transport his army thither, And before the town parade.
When the floating bridge was ready, So that guns and wagons steady Could pass o'er the Danube stream, By Semlin a camp collected. That the Turks might be ejected, To their great chagrin and shame.
Twenty-first of August was it, When a spy in stormy weather Came, and told the Prince and swore That the Turks they all amounted, Near, at least, as could be counted, To three hundred thousand men, or more.
Prince Eugenius never trembled At the news, but straight assembled All his generals to know: Them he carefully instructed How the troops should be conducted Smartly to attack the foe.
With the watchword he commanded They should wait till twelve was sounded At the middle of the night; Mounting then upon their horses, For a skirmish with the forces, Go in earnest at the fight.
Straightway all to horseback getting, Weapons handy, forth were setting Silently from the redoubt: Musketeers, dragooners also, Bravely fought and made them fall so,-- Led them such a dance about.
And our cannoneers advancing Furnished music for the dancing, With their pieces great and small; Great and small upon them playing, Heathen were averse to staying, Ran, and did not stay at all.
Prince Eugenius on the right wing Like a lion did his fighting, So he did field-marshal's part: Prince Ludwig rode from one to th' other, Cried, "Keep firm, each German brother, Hurt the foe with all your heart!"
Prince Ludwig, struck by bullet leaden, With his youthful life did redden, And his soul did then resign: Badly Prince Eugene wept o'er him, For the love he always bore him,-- Had him brought to Peterwardein.
The music is peculiar,--one flat, 3/4 time,--a very rare measure, and giving plenty of opportunity for a quaint camp-style of singing.
The other song appeared during Frederic's Silesian War. It contains some choice reminiscences of his favorite rhetoric.
Fridericus Rex, our master and king, His soldiers altogether to the field would bring, Battalions two hundred, and a thousand squadrons clear, And cartridges sixty to every grenadier.
"Cursed fellows, ye!"--his Majesty began,-- "For me stand in battle, each man to man; Silesia and County Glatz to me they will not grant, Nor the hundred millions either which I want.
"The Empress and the French have gone to be allied, And the Roman kingdom has revolted from my side, And the Russians are bringing into Prussia war;-- Up, let us show them that we Prussians are!
"My General Schwerin, and Field-Marshal Von Keith, And Von Ziethen, Major-General, are ready for a fight; Turban-spitting Element! Cross and Lightning get Who has not found Fritz and his soldiers out yet!
"Now adieu, Louisa!--Louisa, dry your eyes! There's not a soldier's life for every ball that flies; For if all the bullets singly hit their men, Where could our Majesties get soldiers then?
"Now the hole a musket-bullet makes is small,-- 'T is a larger hole made by a cannon-ball; But the bullets all are of iron and of lead, And many a bullet goes for many overhead.
"'T is a right heavy calibre to our artillery, And never goes a Prussian over to the enemy, For 't is cursed bad money that the Swedes have to pay; Is there any better coin of the Austrian?--who can say?
"The French are paid off in pomade by their king, But each week in pennies we get our reckoning; Sacrament of Cross and Lightning! Turbans, spit away! Who draws so promptly as the Prussian his pay?"
With a laurel-wreath adorned, Fridericus my King, If you had only oftener permitted plundering, Fredericus Rex, king and hero of the fight, We would drive the Devil for thee out of sight!
[Footnote 13: His queen]
Among the songs which the military ardor of this period stimulated, the best are those by Gleim, (1719-1803) called "Songs of a Prussian Grenadier." All the literary men, Lessing not excepted, were seized with the Prussian enthusiasm; the pen ravaged the domain of sentiment to collect trophies for Father Friedrich. The desolation it produced in the attempt to write the word Glory could be matched only by the sword. But Gleim was a man of spirit and considerable power. The shock of Frederic's military successes made him suddenly drop the pen with which he had been inditing Anacreontics, and weak, rhymeless Horatian moods. His grenadier-songs, though often meagre and inflated, and marked with the literary vices of the time, do still account for the great fame which they acquired, as they went marching with the finest army that Europe ever saw. Here is a specimen:--
VICTORY-SONG AFTER THE BATTLE NEAR PRAGUE.
Victoria! with us is God; There lies the haughty foe! He falls, for righteous is our God; Victoria! he lies low.
'T is true our father is no more, Yet hero-like be went, And now the conquering host looks o'er From high and starry tent.
The noble man, he led the way For God and Fatherland, And scarce was his old head so gray As valiant his hand.
With fire of youth and hero-craft A banner snatching, he Held it aloft upon its shaft For all of us to see;
And said,--"My children, now attack,-- Take each redoubt and gun!" And swifter than the lightning track We followed, every one.
Alas, the flag that led the strife Falls with him ere we win! It was a glorious end of life: O fortunate Schwerin!
And when thy Frederic saw thee low, From out his sobbing breath His orders hurled us on the foe In vengeance for thy death.
Thou, Henry, wert a soldier true, Thou foughtest royally! From deed to deed our glances flew, Thou lion-youth, with thee!
A Prussian heart with valor quick, Right Christian was his mood: Red grew his sword, and flowing thick His steps with Pandourt-blood.
Full seven earth-works did we clear, The bear-skins broke and fled; Then, Frederic, went thy grenadier High over heaps of dead:
Remembered, in the murderous fight, God, Fatherland, and thee,-- Turned, from the deep and smoky night, His Frederic to see,
And trembled,--with a flush of fear His visage mounted high; He trembled, not that death was near, But lest thou, too, shouldst die:
Despised the balls like scattered seed, The cannon's thunder-tone, Fought fiercely, did a hero's deed, Till all thy foes had flown.
Now thanks he God for all His might, And sings, Victoria! And all the blood from out this fight Flows to Theresia.
And if she will not stay the plague, Nor peace to thee concede, Storm with us, Frederic, first her Prague, Then, to Vienna lead!
[Footnote 14: Marshal Schwerin, seventy years of age, who was killed at the head of a regiment, with its colors in his hand, just as it crossed through the fire to the enemy's intrenchments.]
[Footnote 15: The King's brother.]
[Footnote 16: A corps of foot-soldiers in the Austrian service, eventually incorporated in the army. They were composed of Servians, Croats, etc., inhabitants of the military frontier, and were named originally from the village of Pandúr in Lower Hungary, where probably the first recruits were gathered.]
The love which the soldiers had for Frederic survived in the army after all the veterans of his wars had passed away. It is well preserved in this camp-song:--
THE INVALIDES AT FATHER FREDERIC'S GRAVE.
Here stump we round upon our crutches, round our Father's grave we go, And from our eyelids down our grizzled beards the bitter tears will flow.
'T was long ago, with Frederic living, that we got our lawful gains: A meagre ration now they serve us,--life's no longer worth the pains.
Here stump we round, deserted orphans, and with tears each other see,-- Are waiting for our marching orders hence, to be again with thee.
Yes, Father, only could we buy thee, with our blood, by Heaven, yes,-- We Invalides, forlorn detachment, straight through death would storming press!
When the German princes issued to their subjects unlimited orders for Constitutions, to be filled up and presented after the domination of Napoleon was destroyed, all classes hastened, fervid with hope and anti-Gallic feeling, to offer their best men for the War of Liberation. Then the poets took again their rhythm from an air vibrating with the cannon's pulse. There was Germanic unity for a while, fed upon expectation and the smoke of successful fields. Most of the songs of this period have been already translated. Ruckert, in a series of verses which he called "Sonnets in Armor," gave a fine scholarly expression to the popular desires. Here is his exultation over the Battle of Leipsic:--
Can there no song Roar with a might Loud as the fight Leipsic's region along?
Three days and three nights, No moment of rest, And not for a jest, Went thundering the fights.
Three days and three nights Leipsic Fair kept: Frenchmen who pleasured There with an iron yardstick were measured, Bringing the reckoning with them to rights.
Three days and all night A battue of larks the Leipsicker make; Every haul a hundred he takes, A thousand each flight.
Ha! it is good, Now that the Russian can boast no longer He alone of us is stronger To slake his steppes with hostile blood.
Not in the frosty North alone, But here in Meissen, Here at Leipsic on the Pleissen, Can the French be overthrown.
Shallow Pleissen deep is flowing; Plains upheaving, The dead receiving, Seem to mountains for us growing.
They will be our mountains never, But this fame Shall be our claim On the rolls of earth forever.
What all this amounted to, when the German people began to send in their constitutional _cartes-blanches_, is nicely taken off by Hoffman von Fallersleben, in this mock war-song, published in 1842:--
Hark to the beating drum! See how the people come! Flag in the van! We follow, man for man. Rouse, rouse From earth and house! Ye women and children, good night! Forth we hasten, we hasten to the fight, With God for our King and Fatherland.
_A night-patrol of 1813 sings_.
O God! and why, and why, For princes' whim, renown, and might, To the fight? For court-flies and other crows, To blows? For the nonage of our folk, Into smoke? For must-war-meal and class-tax, To thwacks? For privilege and censordom-- Hum-- Into battle without winking? But--I was thinking--
Hark to the heating drum! See how the people come! Flag in the van! We follow, man for man: In battle's roar The time is o'er To ask for reasons,--hear, the drum Again is calling,--tum--tum--tum,-- With God for King and Fatherland.
Or to put it in two stanzas of his, written on a visit to the Valhalla, or Hall of German Worthies, at Regensburg:--
I salute thee, sacred Hall, Chronicle of German glory! I salute ye, heroes all Of the new time and the hoary!
Patriot heroes, from your sleep Into being could ye pass! No, a king would rather keep Patriots in stone and brass.
The Danish sea-songs, like those of the English, are far better than the land-songs of the soldiers: but here is one with a true and temperate sentiment, which the present war will readily help us to appreciate. It is found in a book of Danish popular songs. 
[Footnote 17: _Sange til Brug før blandede Selskaber_, samlade af FREDERIK SCHALDEMOSE. 1816. Songs for Use in Social Meetings, etc.] (_Herlig er Krigerens Faerd_.)
Good is the soldier's trade, For envy well made: The lightning-blade Over force-men he swingeth; A loved one shall prize The honor he bringeth; Is there a duty? That's soldier's booty,-- To have it he dies.
True for his king and land The Northman will stand; An oath is a band,-- He never can rend it; The dear coast, 't is right A son should defend it; For battle he burneth, Death's smile he returneth, And bleeds with delight.
Scars well set off his face,-- Each one is a grace; His profit they trace,-- No labor shines brighter: A wreath is the scar On the brow of a fighter; His maid thinks him fairer, His ornament rarer Than coat with a star.
Reaches the king his hand, That makes his soul grand, And fast loyal band Round his heart it is slinging; From Fatherland's good The motion was springing: His deeds so requited, Is gratefully lighted A man's highest mood.
Bravery's holy fire, Beam nobler and higher, And light our desire A path out of madness! By courage and deed We conquer peace-gladness: We suffer for that thing, We strike but for that thing, And gladly we bleed.
But our material threatens the space we have at command. Four more specimens must suffice for the present. They are all favorite soldier-songs. The first is by Chamisso, known popularly as the author of "Peter Schlemihl's Shadow," and depicts the mood of a soldier who has been detailed to assist in a military execution:--
The muffled drums to our marching play. How distant the spot, and how long the way! Oh, were I at rest, and the bitterness through! Methinks it will break my heart in two!
Him only I loved of all below,-- Him only who yet to death must go; At the rolling music we parade, And of me too, me, the choice is made!
Once more, and the last, he looks upon The cheering light of heaven's sun; But now his eyes they are binding tight: God grant to him rest and other light!
Nine muskets are lifted to the eye, Eight bullets have gone whistling by; They trembled all with comrades' smart,-- But I--I hit him in his heart!
The next is by Von Holtei:--
THE VETERAN TO HIS CLOAK.
Full thirty years art thou of age, hast many a storm lived through, Brother-like hast round me tightened, And whenever cannons lightened, Both of us no terror knew.
Wet soaking to the skin we lay for many a blessed night, Thou alone hast warmth imparted, And if I was heavy-hearted, Telling thee would make me light.
My secrets thou hast never spoke, wert ever still and true; Every tatter did befriend me, Therefore I'll no longer mend thee, Lest, old chap, 't would make thee new.
And dearer still art thou to ma when jests about thee roll; For where the rags below are dropping, There went through the bullets popping,-- Every bullet makes a hole.
And when the final bullet comes to stop a German heart, Then, old cloak, a grave provide me, Weather-beaten friend, still hide me, As I sleep in thee apart.
There lie we till the roll-call together in the grave: For the roll I shall be heedful, Therefore it will then be needful For me an old cloak to have.
The next one is taken from a student-song book, and was probably written in 1814:--
Just help me, Lottie, as I spring; My arm is feeble, see,-- I still must have it in a sling; Be softly now with me! But do not let the canteen slip,-- Here, take it first, I pray,-- For when that's broken from my lip, All joys will flow away.
"And why for that so anxious?--pshaw! It is not worth a pin: The common glass, the bit of straw, And not a drop within!" No matter, Lottie, take it out,-- 'T is past your reckoning: Yes, look it round and round about,-- There drank from it--my King!
By Leipsic near, if you must know,-- 'T was just no children's play,-- A ball hit me a grievous blow, And in the crowd I lay; Nigh death, they bore me from the scene, My garments off they fling, Yet held I fast by my canteen,-- There drank from it--my King!
For once our ranks in passing through He paused,--we saw his face; Around us keen the volleys flew, He calmly kept his place. He thirsted,--I could see it plain, And courage took to bring My old canteen for him to drain,-- He drank from it--my King!
He touched me on the shoulder here, And said, "I thank thee, friend, Thy liquor gives me timely cheer,-- Thou didst right well intend." O'erjoyed at this, I cried aloud, "O comrades, who can bring Canteen like this to make him proud?-- There drank from it--my King!"
That old canteen shall no one have, The best of treasures mine; Put it at last upon my grave, And under it this line: "He fought at Leipsic, whom this green Is softly covering; Best household good was his canteen,-- There drank from it--his King!"
And finally, a song for all the campaigns of life:--
Morning-red! morning-red! Lightest me towards the dead! Soon the trumpets will be blowing, Then from life must I be going, I, and comrades many a one.
Soon as thought, soon as thought, Pleasure to an end is brought; Yesterday upon proud horses,-- Shot to-day, our quiet corses Are to-morrow in the grave.
And how soon, and how soon, Vanish shape and beauty's noon! Of thy cheeks a moment vaunting, Like the milk and purple haunting,-- Ah, the roses fade away!
And what, then, and what, then, Is the joy and lust of men? Ever caring, ever getting, From the early morn-light fretting Till the day is past and gone.
Therefore still, therefore still I content me, as God will: Fighting stoutly, nought shall shake me: For should death itself o'ertake me, Then a gallant soldier dies.
FROUDE'S HENRY THE EIGHTH.
The spirit of historical criticism in the present age is on the whole a charitable spirit. Many public characters have been heard through their advocates at the bar of history, and the judgments long since passed upon them and their deeds, and deferentially accepted for centuries, have been set aside, and others of a widely different character pronounced. Julius Caesar, who was wont to stand as the model usurper, and was regarded as having wantonly destroyed Roman liberty in order to gratify his towering ambition, is now regarded as a political reformer of the very highest and best class,--as the man who alone thoroughly understood his age and his country, and who was Heaven's own instrument to rescue unnumbered millions from the misrule of an oligarchy whose members looked upon mankind as their proper prey. He did not overthrow the freedom of Rome, but he took from Romans the power to destroy the personal freedom of all the races by them subdued. He identified the interests of the conquered peoples with those of the central government, so far as that work was possible,--thus proceeding in the spirit of the early Roman conquerors, who sought to comprehend even the victims of their wars in the benefits which proceeded from those wars. This view of his career is a sounder one than that which so long prevailed, and which enabled orators to round periods with references to the Rubicon. It is not thirty years since one of the first of American statesmen told the national Senate that "Julius Caesar struck down Roman liberty at Pharsalia," and probably there was not one man in his audience who supposed that he was uttering anything beyond a truism, though they must have been puzzled to discover any resemblance between "the mighty Julius" and Mr. Martin Van Buren, the gentleman whom the orator was cutting up, and who was actually in the chair while Mr. Calhoun was seeking to kill him, in a political sense, by quotations from Plutarch's Lives. We have learnt something since 1834 concerning Rome and Caesar as well as of our own country and its chiefs, and the man who should now bring forward the conqueror of Gaul as a vulgar usurper would be almost as much laughed at as would be that man who should insist that General Jackson destroyed American liberty when he removed the deposits from the national bank. The facts and fears of one generation often furnish material for nothing but jests and jeers to that generation's successors; and we who behold a million of men in arms, fighting for or against the American Union, and all calling themselves Americans, are astonished when we read or remember that our immediate predecessors in the political world went to the verge of madness on the Currency question. Perhaps the men of 1889 may be equally astonished, when they shall turn to files of newspapers that were published in 1862, and read therein the details of those events that now excite so painful an interest in hundreds of thousands of families. Nothing is so easy as to condemn the past, except the misjudging of the present, and the failure to comprehend the future.
Men of a very different stamp from the first of the Romans have been allowed the benefits that come from a rehearing of their causes. Robespierre, whose deeds are within the memory of many yet living, has found champions, and it is now admitted by all who can effect that greatest of conquests, the subjugation of their prejudices, that he was an honest fanatic, a man of iron will, but of small intellect, who had the misfortune, the greatest that can fall to the lot of humanity, to be placed by the force of circumstances in a position which would have tried the soundest of heads, even had that head been united with the purest of hearts. But the apologists of "the sea-green incorruptible," it must be admitted, have not been very successful, as the sence of mankind revolts at indiscriminate murder, even when the murderer's hands have no other stain than that which comes from blood,--for that is a stain which will not "out"; not even printer's ink can erase or cover it; and the attorney of Arras must remain the Raw-Head and Bloody-Bones of history. Benedict Arnold has found no direct defender or apologist; but those readers who are unable to see how forcibly recent writers have dwelt upon the better points of his character and career, while they have not been insensible to the provocations he received, must have read very carelessly and uncritically indeed. Mr. Paget has all but whitewashed Marlborough, and has shaken many men's faith in the justice of Lord Macauley's judgement and in the accuracy of his assertions. Richard III., by all who can look through the clouds raised by Shakespeare over English history of the fifteenth century, is admitted to have been a much better man and ruler than were the average of British monarchs from the Conquest to the Revolution, thanks to the labors of Horace Walpole and Caroline Halsted, who, however, have only followed in the path struck out by Sir George Buck at a much earlier period. The case of Mary Stuart still remains unsettled, and bids fair to be the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case of history; but this is owing to the circumstance that that unfortunate queen is so closely associated with the origin of our modern parties that justice where her reputation is concerned is scarcely to be looked for. Little has been said for King John; and Mr. Woolryche's kind attempt to reconcile men to the name of Jeffreys has proved a total failure. Strafford has about as many admirers as enemies among those who know his history, but this is due more to the manner of his death than to any love of his life: of so much more importance is it that men should die well than live well, so far as the judgement of posterity is concerned with their actions.
Strafford's master, who so scandalously abandoned him to the headsman, owes the existence of the party that still upholds his conduct to the dignified manner in which he faced death, a death at which the whole world "assisted," or might have done so. Catiline, we believe, has found no formal defender, but the Catilinarian Conspiracy is now generally admitted to have been the Popish Plot of antiquity, with an ounce of truth to a pound of falsehood in the narratives of it that have come down to us from Rome's revolutionary age, in political pamphlets and party orations. Cicero's craze on the subject, and that tendency which all men have to overrate the value of their own actions, have made of the business in his lively pages a much more consequential affair than it really was. The fleas in the microscope, and there it will ever remain, to be mistaken for a monster. Truly, the Tullian gibbeted the gentleman of the Sergian _gens_. It must be confessed that Catiline was a proper rascal. How could he have been anything else, and be one of Sulla's men? And a proper rascal is an improper character of the very worst kind. Still, we should like to have had his marginal "notes" on Cicero's speeches, and on Sallust's job pamphlet. They would have been mighty interesting reading,--as full of lies, probably, as the matter commented on, but not the less attractive on that account. What dull affairs libraries would be, if they contained nothing but books full of truth! The Greek tyrants have found defenders, and it has been satisfactorily made out that they were the cleverest men of their time, and that, if they did occasionally bear rather hard upon individuals, it was only because those individuals were so unreasonable as not to submit to be robbed or killed in a quiet and decorous manner. Mr. Grote's rehabilitation of the Greek sophists is a miracle of ingenuity and sense, and does as much honor to the man who wrote it as justice to the men of whom it is written.
Of the doubtful characters of history, royal families have furnished not a few, some of whom have stood in as bad positions as those which have been assigned to Robespierre and his immediate associates. Catharine de' Medici and Mary I. of England, the "Bloody Mary" of anti-Catholic localities, are supposed to be models of evil, to be in crinoline; but if you can believe Eugenio Albèri, Catharine was not the harlot, the tyrant, the poisoner, the bigot, and the son-killer that she passes for in the common estimation, and he has made out a capital defence for the dead woman whom he selected as his client. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not an "Italian crime," but a French _coup d'état_, and was as rough and coarse as some similar transactions seen by our grandfathers, say the September prison-business at Paris in 1792. As to Mary Tudor, she was an excellent woman, but a bigot; and if she did turn Mrs. Rogers and her eleven children out to the untender mercies of a cold world, by sending Mr. Rogers into a hot fire, it was only that souls might be saved from a hotter and a huger fire,--a sort of argument the force of which we always have been unable to appreciate, no doubt because we are of the heretics, and never believed that persons belonging to our determination ought to be roasted. The incense of the stake, that was so sweet in ecclesiastical nostrils three hundred years ago, and also in vulgar nostrils wherever the vulgar happened to be of the orthodox persuasion, has become an insufferable stench to the more refined noses of the nineteenth century, which, nevertheless, are rather partial to the odor of the gallows. Miss Strickland and other clever historians may dwell upon the excellence of Mary Tudor's private character with as much force as they can make, or with much greater force they may show that Gardiner and other reactionary leaders were the real fire-raisers of her reign; but the common mind will ever, and with great justice, associate those loathsome murders with the name and memory of the sovereign in whose reign they were perpetrated.
The father of Mary I. stands much more in need of defence and apology than does his daughter. No monarch occupies so strange a position in history as Henry VIII. A sincere Catholic, so far as doctrine went, and winning from the Pope himself the title of Defender of the Faith because of his writing against the grand heresiarch of the age, he nevertheless became the chief instrument of the Reformation, the man and the sovereign without whose aid the reform movement of the sixteenth century would have failed as deplorably as the reform movements of the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries had failed. A legitimate king, though the heir of a successful usurpation, and holding the royal prerogative as high as any man who ever grasped the sceptre, he was the tool of the mightiest of revolutionists, and poured out more royal and noble blood than ever flowed at the command of all the Jacobins and Democrats that have warred against thrones and dynasties and aristocracies. He is abhorred of Catholics, and Protestants do not love him; for he pulled down the old religious fabric of his kingdom, and furnished to the Reformers a permanent standing-place from which to move the world, while at the same time he slaughtered Protestants as ruthlessly as ever they were disposed of by any ruler of the Houses of Austria and Valois. Reeking with blood, and apparently insensible to anything like a humane feeling, he was yet popular with the masses of his subjects, and no small share of that popularity has descended to our time, in which he is admired by the unreflecting because of the boldness and dash of his actions and on account of the consequences of those actions, so that he is commonly known as "bluff King Hal," a title that speaks more as to the general estimate of his character than would a whole volume of professed personal panegyric, or of elaborate defence of his policy and his deeds. But this is not sufficient for those persons who would have reasons for their historical belief, and who seek to have a solid foundation for the faith they feel in the real greatness of the second Tudor king of England. Men of ability have occasionally sought to create an intelligible Henry VIII., and to cause us to respect one whose doings have so potently affected human affairs through ten generations, and the force of whose labors, whether those labors were blindly or rationally wrought, is apparently as unspent as it was on that day on which, having provided for the butchery of the noblest of his servants, he fell into his final sleep. At the head of these philosophic writers, and so far ahead of them as to leave them all out of sight, is Mr. James Anthony Froude, whose "History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth" has been brought down to the death of Mary I., in six volumes,--another proof of the grand scale on which history is now written, in order that it may be read on the small scale; for it is not given to many men to have the time for study which even a moderate modern course of history requires in these active days. Mr. Froude is a very different writer from Dr. Nares, but the suggestions made to the heavy Doctor by Macaulay might be borne in mind by the lively historian. He should remember that "the life of man is now threescore years and ten," and not "demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence" as must necessarily be required for the perusal of a history which gives an octavo volume for every five years of the annals of a small, though influential monarchy.
Mr. Froude did not commence his work in a state of blind admiration of his royal hero,--the tone of his first volume being quite calm, and on the whole as impartial as could reasonably have been expected from an Englishman writing of the great men of a great period in his country's history; but so natural is it for a man who has assumed the part of an advocate to identify himself with the cause of his client, that our author rapidly passes from the character of a mere advocate to that of a partisan, and by the time that he has brought his work down to the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Henry has risen to the rank of a saint, with a more than royal inability to do any wrong. That "the king can do no wrong" is an English constitutional maxim, which, however sound it may be in its proper place, is not to be introduced into history, unless we are desirous of seeing that become a mere party-record. The practice of publishing books in an incomplete state is one that by no means tends to render them impartial, when they relate to matters that are in dispute. Mr. Froude's first and second volumes, which bring the work down to the murder of Anne Boleyn, afforded the most desirable material for the critics, many of whom most pointedly dissented from his views, and some of whom severely attacked his positions, and not always unsuccessfully. They were, naturally, not disposed to think that an act bad in itself changed its character when it became the act of Henry VIII. It was contrary to all human experience to suppose that Henry was in all cases in the right, while his opponents and his victims were as invariably in the wrong. If there ever had lived and reigned a man who could not do wrong, it was preposterous to look for him in one who had been a wife-killer, a persecutor, the slayer of the nobility of his kingdom, the exterminator of the last remnants of an old royal race, the patron of fagots and ropes and axes, and a hard-hearted and selfish voluptuary, who seems never to have been open to one kind or generous feeling. Most of those tyrants that have been hung up on high, by way of warning to despots, have had their "uncorrupted hours," in which they vindicated their claim to humanity by the performance of some good deeds. Gratitude for some such acts is supposed to have caused even the tomb of Nero to be adorned with garlands. But Henry VIII. never had a kind moment. He was the same moral monster at eighteen, when he succeeded to his sordid, selfish father, that he was at fifty-six, when he, a dying man, employed the feeble remnants of his once Herculean strength to stamp the death-warrants of innocent men. No wonder that Mr. Froude's critics failed to accept his estimate of Henry, or that they arrayed anew the long list of his shocking misdeeds, and dwelt with unction on his total want of sympathy with ordinary humanity. As little surprising is it that Mr. Froude's attachment to the kingly queen-killer should be increased by the course of the critics. That is the usual course. The biographer comes to love the man whom at first he had only endured. To endurance, according to the old notion, succeeds pity, and then comes the embrace. And that embrace is all the warmer because others have denounced the party to whom it is extended. It is fortunate that no man of talent has ever ventured to write the biography of Satan. Assuredly, had any such person done so, there would have been one sincere, enthusiastic, open, devout Devil-worshipper on earth, which would have been a novel, but not altogether a moral, spectacle for the eyes of men. A most clear, luminous and unsatisfactory account of the conduct of Satan in Eden would have been furnished, and it would have been logically made out that all the fault of the first recorded son was with Eve, who had been the temptress, not the tempted, and who had taken advantage of the Devil's unsophisticated nature to impose upon his innocence and simplicity, and then had gone about among "the neighbors" to scandalize his character at tea-tables and quilting-parties.
Mr. Froude is too able a man to seek to pass crude eulogy of Henry VIII. upon the world. He knows that the reason why this or that or the other thing was done is what his readers will demand, and he does his best to meet their requirements. Very plausible, and very well sustained by numerous facts, as well as by philosophical theory, is the position which he assumes in reference to Henry's conduct. Henry, according to the Froudean theory, was troubled about the succession to the throne. His great purpose was to prevent the renewal of civil war in England, a war for the succession. When he divorced Catharine of Aragon, when he married Anne Boleyn, when he libelled and murdered Anne Boleyn, when he wedded Jane Seymour, when he became disgusted with and divorced Anne of Cleves, when he married and when he beheaded Catharine Howard, when he patronized, used, and rewarded Cromwell, and when he sent Cromwell to the scaffold and refused to listen to his plaintive plea for mercy, when he caused Plantagenet and Neville blood to flow like water from the veins of old women as well as from those of young men, when he hanged Catholics and burned Protestants, when he caused Surrey to lose the finest head in England,--in short, no matter what he did, he always had his eye steadily fixed across that boiling sea of blood that he had created upon one grand point, namely, the preservation of the internal peace of England, not only while he himself should live, but after his death. His son, or whoso should be his heir, must succeed to an undisputed inheritance, even if it should be necessary to make away with all the nobility of the realm, and most of the people, in order to secure the so-much-desired quiet. Church-yards were to be filled in order that all England might be reduced to the condition of a church-yard. That _Red Spectre_ which has so often frightened even sensible men since 1789, and caused some remarkably humiliating displays of human weakness during our generation and its immediate predecessor, was, it should seem, ever present to the eyes of Henry VIII. He saw Anarchy perpetually struggling to get free from those bonds in which Henry VIII. had confined that monster, and he cut off nearly every man or woman in whose name a plea for the crown could be set up as against a Tudor prince or princess. Like his father, to use Mr. Froude's admirable expression, "he breathed an atmosphere of suspended insurrection," and he was fixed and firm in his purpose to deprive all rebelliously disposed people of their leaders, or of those to whom they would naturally look for lead and direction. The axe was kept continually striking upon noble necks, and the cord was as continually stretched by ignoble bodies, because the King was bent upon making insurrection a failing business at the best. Men and women, patrician and plebeian, might play at rebellion, if they liked it, but they should be made to find that they were playing the losing game.
Now, this succession-question theory has the merit of meeting the very difficulty that besets us when we study the history of Henry's reign, and it is justified by many things that belong to English history for a period of more than two centuries,--that is to say, from the deposition of Richard II., in 1399, to the death of Elizabeth, in 1603. It is a strangely suggestive satire on the alleged excellence of hereditary monarchy as a mode of government that promotes the existence of order beyond any other, that England should not have been free from trouble for two hundred years, because her people could not agree upon the question of the right to the crown, and so long as that question was left unsettled, there could be no such thing as permanent peace for the castle or the cottage or the city. Town and country, citizen, baron, and peasant, were alike dependent upon the ambition of aspiring princes and king-makers for the condition of their existence. The folly of Richard II. enabled Henry of Bolingbroke to convert his ducal coronet into a royal crown, and to bring about that object which his father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, seems to have ever had at heart. Henry IV. was a usurper, in spite of his Parliamentary title, according to all ideas of hereditary right; for, failing heirs of the body to Richard II., the crown belonged to the House of Mortimer, in virtue of the descent of its chief from the Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III, the Duke of Lancaster being fourth son of that monarch. Henry IV. felt the force of the objection that existed to his title, and he sought to evade it by pretending to found his claim to the crown on descent from Edmund of Lancaster, whom he assumed to have been the _elder_ brother of Edward I.; but no weight was attached to this plea by his contemporaries, who saw in him a monarch created by conquest and by Parliamentary action. The struggle that then began endured until both Plantagenets and Tudors had become extinct, and the English crown had passed to the House of Stuart, in the person of James I., who was descended in the female line from the Duke of Clarence, through Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV., and wife of Henry VII. Intrigues, insurrections, executions, and finally great civil wars, grew out of the usurpation of the throne by the line of Lancaster. We find the War of the Roses spoken of by nearly all writers on it as beginning in 1455, when the first battle of St. Albans was fought, but in fact the contest of which that war was but the extreme utterance began nearly sixty years earlier than the day of the Battle of St. Albans, its commencement dating from the time that Henry IV. became King. A variety of circumstances prevented it from assuming its severest development until long after all the actors in its early stages had gone to their graves. Henry IV. was a man of superior ability, which enabled him, though not without struggling hard for it, to triumph over all his enemies; and his early death prevented a renewal of the wars that had been waged against him. His son, the overrated Henry V., who was far inferior to his father as a statesman, entered upon a war with France, and so distracted English attention from English affairs; and had he lived to complete his successes, all objection to his title would have disappeared. Indeed, England herself would have disappeared as a nation, becoming a mere French province, a dependency of the House of Plantagenet reigning at Paris. But the victor of Agincourt, like all the sovereigns of his line, died young, comparatively speaking, and left his dominions to a child who was not a year old, the ill-fated Henry VI. Then would have broken out the quarrel that came to a head at the beginning of the next generation, but for two circumstances. The first was, that the King's uncles were able men, and maintained their brother's policy, and so continued that foreign distraction which prevented the occurrence of serious internal troubles for some years. The second was, that the Clarence or Mortimer party had no leader.
There is a strange episode in the history of Henry V., which shows how unstable was the foundation of that monarch's throne. While he was preparing, at Southampton, for the invasion of France, a conspiracy was discovered to have been formed to take the throne from him. The chief actor in it was the Earl of Cambridge, who was speedily tried, convicted, and beheaded, sharing the fate of his associates. Cambridge was a son of the Duke of York, fifth son of Edward III., and he had married Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Earl of March; and the intention of the conspirators was to have raised that lady's brother, Edmund Earl of March, to Henry's place. March was a feeble character, and Cambridge is believed to have looked to his own wife's becoming Queen-Regnant of England. The plot, according to one account, was betrayed by March to the King, and the latter soon got rid of one whose daring character and ambitious purpose showed that he must be dangerous as an opposition chief. Henry's enemies were thus left without a head, in consequence of their leader's having lost his head; and the French war rapidly absorbing men's attention, all doubts as to Henry's title were lost sight of in the blaze of glory that came from the field of Agincourt. The spirit of opposition, however, revived as soon as the anti-Lancastrians obtained a leader, and public discontent had been created by domestic misrule and failure in France. That leader was the Duke of York, son of that Earl of Cambridge who had been executed for his part in the Southampton conspiracy, which conspiracy has been called by an eminent authority the first spark of the flame which in the course of time consumed the two Houses of York and Lancaster. Left an infant of three years, it was long before York became a party-leader, and probably he never would have disputed the succession but for the weakness of Henry VI, which amounted to imbecility, and the urging of stronger-minded men than himself. As it was, the open struggle began in 1455, and did not end until the defeat and capture of the person called Perkin Warbeck, in 1497. The greatest battles of English history took place in the course of these campaigns, and the greater part of the royal family and most of the old nobility perished in them, or by assassination, or on the scaffold.
But the Yorkist party, though vanquished, was far from extinguished by the military and political successes of Henry VII. It testifies emphatically to the original strength of that party, and to the extent and the depth of its influence, that it should be found a powerful faction as late as the last quarter of Henry VIII.'s reign, fifty years after the Battle of Stoke. "The elements of the old factions were dormant," says Mr. Froude, "but still smouldering. Throughout Henry's reign a White-Rose agitation had been secretly fermenting; without open success, and without chance of success so long as Henry lived, but formidable in a high degree, if opportunity to strike should offer itself. Richard de la Pole, the representative of this party, had been killed at Pavia, but his loss had rather strengthened their cause than weakened it, for by his long exile he was unknown in England; his personal character was without energy; while he made place for the leadership of a far more powerful spirit in the sister of the murdered Earl of Warwick, the Countess of Salisbury, mother of Reginald Pole. This lady had inherited, in no common degree, the fierce nature of the Plantagenets; born to command, she had rallied round her the Courtenays, the Nevilles, and all the powerful kindred of Richard the King-Maker, her grandfather. Her Plantagenet descent was purer than the King's; and on his death, without a male child, half England was likely to declare either for one of her sons, or for the Marquis of Exeter, the grandson of Edward IV." Of the general condition of the English mind at about the date of the fall of Wolsey Mr. Froude gives us a very accurate picture. "The country," he says, "had collected itself; the feuds of the families had been chastened, if they had not been subdued; while the increase of wealth and material prosperity had brought out into obvious prominence those advantages of peace which a hot-spirited people, antecedent to experience, had not anticipated, and had not been able to appreciate. They were better fed, better cared for, more justly governed, than they had ever been before; and though, abundance of unruly tempers remained, yet the wiser portion of the nation, looking back from their new vantage-ground, were able to recognize the past in its true hatefulness. Henceforward a war of succession was the predominating terror with English statesmen, and the safe establishment of the reigning family bore a degree of importance which it is possible that their fears exaggerated, yet which in fact was the determining principle of their action. It was therefore with no little anxiety that the council of Henry VIII. perceived his male children, on whom their hopes were centred, either born dead, or dying one after another within a few days of their birth, as if his family were under a blight. When the Queen had advanced to an age which precluded hope of further offspring, and the heir presumptive was an infirm girl, the unpromising aspect became yet more alarming. The life of the Princess Mary was precarious, for her health was weak from her childhood. If she lived, her accession would be a temptation to insurrection; if she did not live, and the King had no other children, a civil war was inevitable. At present such a difficulty would be disposed of by an immediate and simple reference to the collateral branches of the royal family; the crown would descend with even more facility than the property of an intestate to the next of kin. At that time, if the rule had been recognized, it would only have increased the difficulty, for the next heir in blood was James of Scotland; and gravely as statesmen desired the union of the two countries, in the existing mood of the people, the very stones in London streets, it was said, would rise up against a king of Scotland who claimed to enter England as sovereign. Even the Parliament itself declared in formal language that they would resist any attempt on the part of the Scotch king 'to the uttermost of their power.'"
There can be no doubt that Mr. Froude has made out his case, and that "the predominating terror," not only of English statesmen, but of the English people and their King, was a war of succession. If we were not convinced by what the historian says, we should only have to look over the reign of Elizabeth, and observe how anxious the statesmen of that time were to have the succession question settled, and how singular was the effect of that question's existence and overshadowing importance on the conduct of the Great Queen. The desire that she should marry, and the pertinacity with which she was urged to abandon her maiden state by Parliament, which strike us of the nineteenth century as being not simply indelicate, but utterly gross even in the coarse sixteenth century, must in fairness be attributed to the fear that prevailed throughout England that that country might again become the theatre of a civil conflict as extensive, as bloody, and as destructive of material prosperity and moral excellence as had been the Wars of the Roses,--a fear which the existence of the contest between Catholicism and Protestantism was well calculated to exaggerate to a very alarming extent. The coquetry and affectation of the Queen, which have been held to detract largely from her claim to be considered a woman of sense and capacity, become natural in her and intelligible to us when we consider them in connection with the succession question. She could not positively declare that she would under no circumstances become a wife, but at the same time she was firm in her heart never to have a husband. So she followed the politician's common plan: she compromised. She allowed her hand to be sought by every empty-handed and empty-headed and hollow-hearted prince or noble in Europe, determined that each in his turn should go empty away; and so she played off princes against her own people, until the course of years had left no doubt that she had become, and must ever remain, indeed "a barren stock." Her conduct, which is generally regarded as having been ridiculous, and which may have been so in its details, and looked upon only from its feminine side, throws considerable light upon the entire field of English politics under the Tudor dynasty.
If it could be established that the conduct of Henry VIII. toward his people, his church, his nobles, and his wives was regulated solely with reference to the succession question, and by his desire to preserve the peace of his kingdom, we believe that few men would be disposed to condemn most of those of his acts that have been long admitted to blacken his memory, and which have placed him almost at the very head of the long roll of heartless tyrants. That the end justifies the means is a doctrine which everybody condemns by word of mouth, but the practice founded upon which almost all men approve in their hearts, whenever it applies to their own schemes, or to schemes the success of which promises to benefit them, either individually or in the mass. As the apologists of the French Jacobins have argued that their favorites were cruel as the grave against Frenchmen only that they might preserve France from destruction, so might the admirers of Henry plead that he was vindictively cruel only that the English masses might live in peace, and be protected in quietly tilling their fields, manuring them after their own fashion, and not having them turned up and fertilized after the fashion of Bosworth and Towton and Barnet. Surely Henry Tudor, second of that name, is entitled to the same grace that is extended to Maximilien Robespierre, supposing the facts to be in his favor.
But are the facts, when fairly stated, in his favor? They are not. His advocates must find themselves terribly puzzled to reconcile his practice with their theory. They prove beyond all dispute that the succession question was the grand thought of England in Henry's time; but they do not prove, because they cannot prove, that the King's action was such as to show that he was ready, we will not say to make important sacrifices to lessen the probabilities of the occurrence of a succession war, but to do anything in that way that required him to control any one of the gross passions or grosser appetites of which he was throughout his loathsome life the slave and the victim. He seems to have passed the last twenty years of his reign in doing deeds that give flat contradiction to the theory set up by his good-natured admirers of after-times, that he was the victim of circumstances, and that, though one of the mildest and most merciful of men in fact, those villanous circumstances did compel him to become a tyrant, a murderer, a repudiator of sacramental and pecuniary and diplomatic obligations, a savage on a throne, and a Nebuchadnezzar for pride and arrogance, only that, unfortunately for his subjects in general, and for his wives in particular, he was not turned out to grass. A beast in fact, he did not become a beast in form. Scarcely one of his acts, after the divorce of Catharine of Aragon, was of a character to favor the continuance of peace in England, while many of them were admirably calculated to bring about a war for the regal succession. Grant that he was justified in putting away his Spanish wife,--a most excellent and eminently disagreeable woman, a combination of qualities by no means uncommon,--where was the necessity of his taking Anne Boleyn to wife? Why could he not have given his hand to some foreign princess, and so have atoned to his subjects for breaking up the Spanish alliance, in the continuance of which the English people had no common political interest, and an extraordinary commercial interest? Why could he not have sent to Germany for some fair-haired princess, as he did years later, and got Anne of Cleves for his pains, whose ugly face cost poor Cromwell his head, which was giving the wisest head in England for the worst one out of it? Henry, Mr. Froude would have us believe, divorced Catharine of Aragon because he desired to have sons, as one way to avoid the breaking out of a civil war; and yet it was a sure way to bring Charles V. into an English dispute for the regal succession, as the supporter of any pretender, to repudiate the aunt of that powerful imperial and royal personage. The English nation, Mr. Froude truly tells us, was at that time "sincerely attached to Spain. The alliance with the House of Burgundy" (of which Charles V. was the head) "was of old date; the commercial intercourse with Flanders was enormous,--Flanders, in fact, absorbing all the English exports; and as many as fifteen thousand Flemings were settled in London. Charles himself was personally popular; he had been the ally of England in the late French war; and when, in his supposed character of leader of the anti-Papal party in Europe, he allowed a Lutheran army to desecrate Rome, he had won the sympathy of all the latent discontent which was fomenting in the population." Was it not a strange way to proceed for the preservation of peace in England to offend a foreign sovereign who stood in so strong and influential a position to the English people? Charles was not merely displeased because of the divorce of his relative, his mother's sister, a daughter of the renowned Isabella, who had wrought such great things for Christendom,--promoting the discovery of America, and conquering Granada,--but he was incensed at the mere thought of preferring to her place a private gentlewoman, who would never have been heard of, if Henry had not seen fit to raise her from common life, first to the throne, and then to the scaffold. That was an insult to the whole Austro-Burgundian family, whose dominions rivalled those of the Roman Caesars, and whose chief had just held a King of France captive and a Pope of Rome besieged. The Emperor might, perhaps, have been sooted, had his relative's place been bestowed upon some lady of corresponding blueness of blood; but it offended his pride, when he reflected on her being supplanted by Mrs. Boleyn. The aristocratical _morgue_ was too strong in him to bear such an insult with fortitude. Yet none other than Mrs. Boleyn would Henry have, notwithstanding the certainty of enraging Charles, and with the equal certainty of disgusting a majority of his own subjects. If it had been simply a wife that he desired, and if he was thinking merely of the succession, and so sought only for an opportunity to beget legitimate children, why did he so pertinaciously insist upon having no one but "Mistress Anne" for the partner of his throne and bed?
When he married Jane Seymour on the 20th of May, 1536, having had Anne's head cut off on the 19th, Mr. Froude sees in that infamous proceeding--a proceeding without parallel in the annals of villany, and which would have disgraced the worst members of Sawney Bean's unpromising family--nothing but a simple business-transaction. The Privy Council and the peers, troubled about the succession, asked Henry to marry again without any delay, when Anne had been prepared for condemnation. The King was graciously pleased to comply with this request, which was probably made in compliance with suggestions from himself,--the marriage with Jane Seymour having been resolved upon long before it took place, and the desire to effect it being the cause of the legal assassination of Anne Boleyn, which could be brought about only through the "cooking" of a series of charges that could have originated nowhere out of her husband's vile mind, and which led to the deaths of six innocent persons. "The indecent haste" of the King's marriage with the Seymour, Mr. Froude says, "is usually considered a proof entirely conclusive of the cause of Anne Boleyn's ruin. To myself the haste is an evidence of something very different. Henry, who waited seven years for Anne Boleyn, was not without some control over his passions; and if appetite had been the moving influence with him, he would scarcely, with the eyes of all the world fixed upon his conduct, have passed so extravagant an insult upon the nation of which he was the sovereign. The precipitancy with which he acted is to me a proof that he looked on matrimony as an indifferent official act which his duty required at the moment. This was the interpretation which was given to his conduct by the Lords and Commons of England. In the absence of any evidence, or shadow of evidence, that among contemporaries who had means of knowing the truth another judgment was passed upon it, the deliberate assertion of an Act of Parliament must be considered a safer guide than modern unsupported conjecture." [Footnote: Mr. Froude mentions that a request that the King would marry, similar to that which he received after the fall of Anne Boleyn, was urged by the Council on the death of Jane Seymour; but, as he allowed more than two years to elapse between the date of Jane's death and the date of his marriage with Anne of Cleves, which marriage he refused to consummate, is not the inference unavoidable that he wedded Jane Seymour so hurriedly merely to gratify his desire to possess her person, and that in 1537-39 he was singularly indifferent to the claims of a question upon his attention?]
We submit that the approving action of men who were partakers of Henry's guilt is no proof of his innocence. Their conduct throughout the Boleyn business simply proves that they were slaves, and that the slaves were as brutal as their master. If Henry was so indifferent in the matter of matrimony as to look upon all women with the same feelings, if he married officially as the King, and not lovingly as a man, how came it to pass that he was thrown into such an agony of rage, when, being nearly fifty years old, ugly Anne of Cleves was provided for him? His disappointment and mortification were then so great that they hastened that political change which led to Cromwell's fall and execution. When Henry first saw the German lady, he was as much affected as George, Prince of Wales, was when he first saw Caroline of Brunswick, but he behaved better than George in the lady's presence. Much as he desired children, he never consummated his marriage with Anne of Cleves, though he must have known that the world would be but ill-peopled, if none but beautiful women were to be married. Had he fulfilled the contract made with her, he might have had many sons and daughters, and the House of Tudor might have been reigning over England at this day. Both his fifth and sixth wives, Catharine Howard and Catharine Parr, were fine women; and if he had lived long enough to get rid of the latter, he would, beyond all question, have given her place to the most beautiful woman whom he could have prevailed upon to risk his perilous embraces preliminarily to those of the hangman.
If Henry had married solely for the purpose of begetting children, he never would have divorced and slaughtered Anne Boleyn. During her brief connection with him, she gave birth to two children, one a still-born son, and the other the future Queen Elizabeth, who lived to her seventieth year, and whose enormous vitality and intellectual energy speak well for the physical excellence of her mother. The miscarriage that Anne experienced in February, 1536, was probably the occasion of her repudiation and murder in the following May, as Henry was always inclined to attribute disappointments of this kind to his wives, who ever dwelt in the valley of the shadow of death.[Footnote: Henry thought of divorcing Catharine of Aragon some years before she had become too old to bear children. She was born in the last month of 1485, and the "King's secret matter," as the divorce question was called, was in agitation as early as the first half of 1527, and probably at an earlier period. Catharine was the mother of five children, but one of whom lived, namely, the Princess Mary, afterward Mary I.] The most charitable view that can be taken of Henry's abominable treatment of his second wife is, that he was led by his superstitious feelings, which _he_ called religion, to sacrifice her to the manes of his first wife, whom Anne had badly treated, and who died on the 7th of January, 1536. Henry, after his fashion, was much moved by Catharine's death, and by perusal of the letter which she wrote him from her dying bed; and so he resolved to make the only atonement of which his savage nature was capable, and one, too, which the bigoted Spanish woman would have been satisfied with, could she have foreseen it. As the alliance between the royal houses of England and Spain was sealed with the blood of the innocent Warwick, who was sent to the scaffold by Henry VII. to satisfy Catharine's father, Ferdinand of Aragon, so were the wrongs of Catharine to be acknowledged by shedding the innocent blood of Anne Boleyn. The connection, as it were, began with the butchery of a boy, reduced to idiocy by ill-treatment, on Tower Hill, and it ended with the butchery of a woman, who had been reduced almost to imbecility by cruelty, on the Tower Green. Heaven's judgement would seem to have been openly pronounced against that blood-cemented alliance, formed by two of the greatest of those royal ruffians who figured in the fifteenth century, and destined to lead to nothing but misery to all who were brought together in consequence of it's having been made. If one were seeking for proofs of the direct and immediate interposition of a Higher Power in the ordering of human affairs, it would be no difficult matter to discover them in the history of the royal houses of England during the existence of the Lancastrian, the York, and the Tudor families. Crime leads to crime therein in regular sequence, the guiltless suffering with the guilty, and because of their connection with the guilty, until the palaces of the Henries and the Edwards become as haunted with horrors as were the halls of the Atridae. The "pale nurslings that had perished by kindred hands," seen by Cassandra when she passed the threshold of Agamemnon's abode, might have been paralleled by similar "phantom dreams," had another Cassandra accompanied Henry VII. when he came from Bosworth Field to take possession of the royal abodes at London. She, too, might have spoken, taking the Tower for her place of denunciation, of "that human shamble-house, that bloody floor, that dwelling abhorred by Heaven, privy to so many horrors against the most sacred ties." And she might have seen in advance the yet greater horrors that were to come, and that hung "over the inexpiable threshold; the curse passing from generation to generation."
Mr. Froude thinks that Catharine Howard, the fifth of Henry's wives, was not only guilty of antenuptial slips, but of unfaithfulness to the royal bed. It is so necessary to establish the fact of her infidelity, in order to save the King's reputation,--for he could not with any justice have punished her for the irregularities of her unmarried life, and not even in this age, when we have organized divorce, could such slips be brought forward against a wife of whom a husband had become weary,--that we should be careful how we attach credit to what is called the evidence against Catharine Howard; and her contemporaries, who had means of weighing and criticizing that evidence, did not agree in believing her guilty. Mr. Froude, who would, to use a saying of Henry's time, find Abel guilty of murder of Cain, were that necessary to support his royal favorite's hideous cause, not only declares that the unhappy girl was guilty throughout, but lugs God into the tragedy, and makes Him responsible for what was, perhaps, the cruellest and most devilish of all the many murders perpetrated by Henry VIII. The luckless lady was but a child at the time she was devoured by "the jaws of darkness." At most she was but in her twentieth year, and probably she was a year or two younger than that age. Any other king than Henry would have pardoned her, if for no other reason, then for this, that he had coupled her youth with his age, and so placed her in an unnatural position, in which the temptation to error was all the greater, and the less likely to be resisted, because of the girl's evil training,--a training that could not have been unknown to the King, and on the incidents of which the Protestant plot for her ruin, and that of the political party of which she was the instrument, had been founded. But of Henry VIII., far more truly than of James II., could it have been said by any one of his innumerable victims, that, though it was in his power to forgive an offender, it was not in his nature to do so.
No tyrant ever was preceded to the tomb by such an array of victims as Henry VIII. If Shakspeare had chosen to bring the highest of those victims around the last bed that Henry was to press on earth, after the fashion in which he sent the real or supposed victims of Richard III. to haunt the last earthly sleep of the last royal Plantagenet, he would have had to bring them up by sections, and not individually, in battalions, and not as single spies. Buckingham, Wolsey, More, Fisher, Catharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Rocheford, Cromwell, Catharine Howard, Exeter, Montague, Lambert, Aske, Lady Salisbury, Surrey,--these, and hundreds of others, selected principally from the patrician order, or from the officers of the old church, might have led the ghostly array which should have told the monarch to die and to despair of redemption; while an innumerable host of victims of lower rank might have followed these more conspicuous sufferers from the King's "jealous rage." Undoubtedly some of these persons had justly incurred death, but it is beyond belief that they were all guilty of the crimes laid to their charge; yet Mr. Froude can find as little good in any of them as of evil in Henry's treatment of them. He would have us believe that Henry was scrupulously observant of the law! and that he allowed Cromwell to perish because he had violated the laws of England, and sought to carry out that "higher law" which politicians out of power are so fond of appealing to, but which politicians in power seldom heed. And such stuff we are expected to receive as historical criticism, and the philosophy of history! And pray, of what breach of the law had the Countess of Salisbury been guilty, that she should be sent to execution when she had arrived at so advanced an age that she must soon have passed away in the course of Nature? She was one of Cromwell's victims, and as he had been deemed unfit to live because of his violations of the laws of the realm, it would follow that one whose attainder had been procured through his devices could not be fairly put to death. She suffered ten months after Cromwell, and could have committed no fresh offence in the interval, as she was a prisoner in the Tower at the time of her persecutor's fall, and so remained until the day of her murder. The causes of her death, however, are not far to seek: she was the daughter of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV., and Henry hated every member of that royal race which the Tudors had supplanted; and she was the mother of Reginald Pole, whom the King detested both for his Plantagenet blood and for the expositions which he made of the despot's crimes.
One of the victims sacrificed by Mr. Froude on the altar of his Moloch even he must have reluctantly brought to the temple, and have offered up with a pang, but whose character he has blackened beyond all redemption, as if he had used upon it all the dirt he has so assiduously taken from the character of his royal favorite. There are few names or titles of higher consideration than that of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. It is sufficient to name Surrey to be reminded of the high-born scholar, the gallant soldier, one of the founders of English literature, and a poet of equal vigor of thought and melodiousness of expression. His early and violent death, at the behest of a tyrant, who himself had not ten days to live when he stamped--for he could no longer write--the death-warrant of his noblest subject, has helped to endear his memory for three centuries; and many a man whose sympathies are entirely with the Reformation and the "new men" of 1546, regrets the untimely death of the Byron of those days, though the noble poet was at the head of the reactionary party, and desired nothing so much as to have it in his power to dispose of the "new men," in which case he would have had the heads of Hertford and his friends chopped off as summarily as his own head fell before the mandate of the King. Everything else is forgotten in the recollection of the Earl's youth, his lofty origin, his brilliant talents, his rank as a man of letters, and his prompt consignment to a bloody grave, the last of the legion of patricians sent by Henry to the block or the gallows. Yet it is Surrey upon whom Mr. Froude makes his last attack, and whom he puts down as a dirty dog, in order that Henry VIII may not be seen devoting what were all but his very latest hours to the task of completing the judicial murder of one whom he hated because he was so wonderfully elevated above all the rest of his subjects as to be believed capable of snatching at the crown, though three of the King's children were then alive, and there were several descendants of two of his sisters in both Scotland and England. Because, of all men who were then living, Surrey most deserved to reign over England, the jealous tyrant supposed there could be no safety for his youthful son until the House of Howard had been humiliated, and both its present head and its prospective head ceased to exist. Not satisfied with attributing to him political offences that do not necessarily imply baseness in the offender, Mr. Froude indorses the most odious charges that have been brought against Surrey, and which, if well founded, utterly destroy all his claims to be considered, we will not say a man of honor, but a man of common decency. Without having stated much that is absolutely new, Mr. Froude has so used his materials as to create the impression that Surrey, the man honored for three centuries as one of the most chivalrous of Englishmen, and as imbued with the elevating spirit of poetry, was a foul fellow, who sought to engage his sister in one of the vilest intrigues ever concocted by courtier, in order that she might be made a useful instrument in the work of changing the political condition of England. Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitz-Roy, Duke of Richmond, whom he had at one time thought of declaring his successor, died, leaving a widow, who was Surrey's sister. This lady told Sir Gawin Carew that her brother had advised her so to bear herself toward the King that possibly "his Majesty might cast some love unto her, whereby in process she should bear as great a stroke about him as Madame d'Estampes did about the French king." Madame d'Estampes was the most notorious and influential of Francis I.'s many mistresses; and if Carew's evidence is to be depended upon, we see what was the part assigned by Surrey to his sister in the political game the old aristocracy and the Catholics were playing. She, the widow of the King's son, was to seduce the King, and to become his mistress! Carew's story was confirmed by another witness, and Lady Richmond had complained of Surrey's "language to her with abhorrence and disgust, and had added, 'that she defied her brother, and said that they should all perish, and she would cut her own throat, rather than she would consent to such villany.'" On Surrey's trial, Lady Richmond also confirmed the story, and "revealed his deep hate of the 'new men,' who, 'when the King was dead,' he had sworn 'should smart for it.'" Such is the tale, and such is the evidence upon which it rests. Its truth at first appears to be beyond dispute, but it is possible that all the witnesses lied, and that the whole process was a made-up thing to aid in reconciling the public to the summary destruction of so illustrious a man as Surrey; and it was well adapted to that end,--the English people having exceeded all others in their regard for domestic decencies and in reverence for the family relations of the sexes. Should it be said that it is more probable that Surrey was guilty of the moral offence charged upon him than that his sister could be guilty of inventing the story and then of perjuring herself to support it, we can but reply, that Lady Rocheford, wife of Anne Boleyn's brother, testified that Anne had been guilty of incest with that brother, and afterward, when about to die, admitted that she had perjured herself. Of the two offences, supposing Lady Richmond to have sworn away her brother's life, that of Lady Rocheford was by far the more criminal, and it is beyond all doubt. So long as there is room for doubting Surrey's guilt, we shall follow the teaching of the charitable maxim of our law, and give him the benefit of the doubt which is his due.
The question of the guilt or innocence of Anne Boleyn is a tempting one, in connection with Henry VIII.'s history; but we have not now the space that is necessary to treat it justly. We may take it up another time, and follow Mr. Froude through his ingenious attempts to show that Anne must have been guilty of incest and adultery, or else--dreadful alternative!--we must come to the conclusion that Henry VIII. was not the just man made perfect on earth.
* * * * *
WHY THEIR CREEDS DIFFERED.
Bedded in stone, a toad lived well, Cold and content as toad could be; As safe from harm as monk in cell, Almost as safe from good was he
And "What is life?" he said, and dozed; Then, waking, "Life is rest," quoth he: "Each creature God in stone hath closed, That each may have tranquillity.
"And God Himself lies coiled in stone, Nor wakes nor moves to any call; Each lives unto himself alone, And cold and night envelop all."
He said, and slept. With curious ear Close to the stone, a serpent lay. "'T is false," he hissed with crafty sneer, "For well I know God wakes alway.
"And what is life but wakefulness, To glide through snares, alert and wise,-- With plans too deep for neighbors' guess, And haunts too close for neighbors' eyes?
"For all the earth is thronged with foes, And dark with fraud, and set with toils: Each lies in wait, on each to close, And God is bribed with share of spoils."
High in the boughs a small bird sang, And marvelled such a creed should be. "How strange and false!" his comment rang; "For well I know that life is glee.
"For all the plain is flushed with bloom, And all the wood with music rings, And in the air is scarcely room To wave our myriad flashing wings.
"And God, amid His angels high, Spreads over all in brooding joy; On great wings borne, entranced they lie, And all is bliss without alloy."
"Ah, careless birdling, say'st thou so?" Thus mused a man, the trees among: "Thy creed is wrong; for well I know That life must not be spent in song.
"For what is life, but toil of brain, And toil of hand, and strife of will,-- To dig and forge, with loss and pain, The truth from lies, the good from ill,--
"And ever out of self to rise Toward love and law and constancy? But with sweet love comes sacrifice, And with great law comes penalty.
"And God, who asks a constant soul, His creatures tries both sore and long: Steep is the way, and far the goal, And time is small to waste in song."
He sighed. From heaven an angel yearned: With equal love his glances fell Upon the man with soul upturned, Upon the toad within its cell.
And, strange! upon that wondrous face Shone pure all natures, well allied: There subtlety was turned to grace, And slow content was glorified;
And labor, love, and constancy Put off their dross and mortal guise, And with the look that is to be They looked from those immortal eyes.
To the faint man the angel strong Beached down from heaven, and shared his pain: The one in tears, the one in song, The cross was borne betwixt them twain.
He sang the careless bliss that lies In wood-bird's heart, without alloy; He sang the joy of sacrifice; And still he sang, "_All_ life is joy."
But how, while yet he clasped the pain, Thrilled through with bliss the angel smiled, I know not, with my human brain, Nor how the two he reconciled.
* * * * *
It was a long and terrible conflict,--I will not say where, because that fact has nothing to do with my story. The Revolutionists were no match in numbers for the mercenaries of the Dictator, but they fought with the stormy desperation of the ancient Scythians, and they won, as they deserved to win: for this was another revolt of freedom against oppression, of conscience against tyranny, of an exasperated people against a foreign despot. Every eye shone with the sublimity of a great principle, and every arm was nerved with a strength grander and more enduring than that imparted by the fierceness of passion or the sternness of pride. As I flew from one part of the field to another, in execution of the orders of my superior officer, I wondered whether blood as brave and good dyed the heather at Bannockburn, or streamed down the mountain-gorge where Tell met the Austrians at Morgarten, or stained with crimson glare the narrow pass held by the Spartan three hundred.
Suddenly my horse, struck by a well-aimed ball, plunged forward in the death-struggle, and fell with me, leaving me stunned for a little time, though not seriously hurt. With returning consciousness came the quickened perception which sometimes follows a slight concussion of the brain, daguerreotyping upon my mind each individual of these fiery ranks, in vivid, even painful clearness. As I watched with intensified interest the hurrying panorama, the fine figure and face of my friend Vilalba flashed before me. I noted at once the long wavy masses of brown hair falling beneath the martial cap; the mouth, a feature seldom beautiful in men, blending sweetness and firmness in rare degree, now compressed and almost colorless; but the eyes! the "empty, melancholy eyes"! what strange, glassy, introspective fixedness! what inexplicable fascination, as if they were riveted on some object unseen by other mortals! A glance sufficed to show to myself, at least, that he was in a state of tense nervous excitation, similar to that of a subject of mesmerism. A preternatural power seemed to possess him. He moved and spoke like a somnambulist, with the same insulation from surrounding minds and superiority to material obstacles. I had long known him as a brave officer; but here was something more than bravery, more than the fierce energy of the hour. His mien, always commanding, was now imperial. In utter fearlessness of peril, he assumed the most exposed positions, dashed through the strongest defences, accomplished with marvellous dexterity a wellnigh impossible _coup-de-main_, and all with the unrecognizing, changeless countenance of one who has no choice, no volition, but is the passive slave of some resistless inspiration.
After the conflict was over, I sought Vilalba, and congratulated him on his brilliant achievement, jestingly adding that I knew he was leagued with sorcery and helped on by diabolical arts. The cold evasiveness of his reply confirmed my belief that the condition I have described was abnormal, and that he was himself conscious of the fact.
Many years passed away, during which I met him rarely, though our relations were always those of friendship. I heard of him as actively, even arduously employed in public affairs, and rewarded by fortune and position. The prestige of fame, unusual personal graces, and high mental endowments gave him favor in social life; and women avowed that the mingled truth and tenderness of his genial and generous nature were all but irresistible. Nevertheless they were chagrined by his singular indifference to their allurements; and many a fair one, even more interested than inquisitive, vainly sought to break the unconquerable reticence which, under apparent frankness, he relentlessly maintained. He had, indeed, once been married, for a few years only; but his wife was not of those who can concentrate and absorb the fulness of another soul, wedding memory with immortal longing. Thus the problem of my friend's life-long reserve continued to provoke curiosity until its solution was granted to me alone, and, with it, the explanation of his mesmeric entrancement on the occasion to which I have alluded. I repeat the story because it is literally _true_, and because some of its incidents may be classed among those psychological phenomena which form the most occult, the most interesting, and the least understood of all departments of human knowledge.
During a period of summer recreation I induced Vilalba to renew our interrupted acquaintance by passing a month with me in my country home. The moonlight of many years had blended its silver with his still abundant locks, and the lines of thought were deepened in his face, but I found him in other respects unchanged. He had the same deep, metallic voice, so musical that to hear him say the slightest things was a pleasure, the same graceful courtesy and happy elasticity of temperament; and was full as ever of noble purposes, and the Roman self-conviction of power to live them out. One of those nights that "are not made for slumber" found us lingering beneath the odorous vines which interlocked their gay blossoms around the slight columns of the veranda, until even the gray surprise of dawn,--the "soft, guileless consolations" of our cigars, as Aeschylus says of certain other incense, the cool, fragrant breezes, gentle as remembered kisses upon the brow, the tremulous tenderness of the star-beams, the listening hush of midnight, having swayed us to a mood of pensiveness which found a reflex in our conversation. From the warning glare of sunlight the heart shuts close its secrets; but hours like these beguile from its inmost depths those subtile emotions, and vague, dreamy, delicious thoughts, which, like plants, waken to life only beneath the protecting shadows of darkness. "Why is it," says Richter, "that the night puts warmer love in our hearts? Is it the nightly pressure of helplessness, or is it the exalting separation from the turmoils of life,--that veiling of the world in which for the soul nothing then remains but souls,--that causes the letters in which loved names are written to appear like phosphorus-writing by night, on _fire_, while day, in their cloudy traces, they but _smoke_?"
Insensibly we wandered into one of those weird passages of psychological speculation, the border territory where reason and illusion hold contested sway,--where the relations between spirit and matter seem so incomprehensibly involved and complicated that we can only feel, without being able to analyze them, and even the old words created for our coarse material needs seem no more suitable than would a sparrow's wings for the flight of an eagle.
"It is emphatically true of these themes," I remarked, after a long rambling talk, half reverie, half reason, "that language conceals the ideas, or, rather, the imaginations they evolve; for the word idea implies something more tangible than vagaries which the Greek poet would have called 'the dream of the shadow of smoke.' But yet more unsatisfactory than the impotence of the type is the obscurity of the thing typified. We can lay down no premises, because no basis can be found for them,--and establish no axioms, because we have no mathematical certainties. Objects which present the assurance of palpable facts to-day may vanish as meteors to-morrow. The effort to crystallize into a creed one's articles of faith in these mental phantasmagoria is like carving a cathedral from sunset clouds, or creating salient and retreating lines of armed hosts in the northern lights. Though willing dupes to the pretty fancy, we know that before the light of science the architecture is resolved into mist, and the battalions into a stream of electricity."
"Not so," replied Vilalba. "Your sky-visions are a deceit, and you know it while you enjoy them. But the torch of science is by no means incendiary to the system of psychology. Arago himself admits that it may one day obtain a place among the exact sciences, and speaks of the actual power which one human being may exert over another without the intervention of any known physical agent; while Cuvier and other noted scientists concede even more than this."
"Do you, then, believe," I asked, "that there is between the silent grave and the silent stars an answer to this problem we have discussed to-night, of the inter-relation between spirit and matter, between soul and soul? To me it seems hopelessly inscrutable, and all effort to elucidate it, like the language of the Son of Maia, 'by night bringeth darkness before the eyes, and in the daytime nought clearer.' I shall as soon expect to wrest her buried secrets from the Sphinx, or to revive the lost mysteries of the Egyptian priesthood."
"And yet, most of those marvels," answered my friend, "as well as the later oracles of Greece, and the clairvoyance, mesmerism, etc., of modern times, were probably the result of a certain power of the mind to shake off for a time its fetters in defiance of physical impediments, and even to exert its control over the senses and will and perception of another. I do not doubt that in certain conditions of the mind there arise potentialities wonderful as any ever conceived by fiction, and that these are guided by laws unannounced as yet, but which will be found in some future archives, inducted in symmetrical clearness through the proper process of phenomena, classification, and generalized statement. My own experience suffices to myself for both assurance and prophecy. Although the loftiest, sweetest music of the soul is yet unwritten, its faint articulations interblend with the jangling discords of life, as the chimes of distant bells float through the roar of winds and waves, and chant to imperilled hearts the songs of hope and gladness."
His voice fell to the low, earnest tone of one who has found in life a pearl of truth unseen by others; and as his eye gleamed in the starlight, I saw that it wore the same speculative expression as on the battle-field twenty years before. A slight tremor fled through his frame, as though he had been touched by an invisible hand, and a faint smile of recognition brightened his features.
"How can we explain," continued he, after a brief pause, "this mystery of PRESENCE? Are you not often conscious of being actually nearer to a mind a thousand miles distant than to one whose outer vestments you can touch? We certainly feel, on the approach of a person repulsive, not necessarily to our senses, but to our instincts,--which in this case are notes of warning from the remote depths of the soul,--as if our entire being intrenched itself behind a vitally repellent barrier, in absolute security that no power in the universe can break through it, in opposition to our will. For the will does not seem to create the barrier, but to guard it; and, thus defended, material contact with the individual affects us no more than the touch of a plaster statue. We are each, and must remain, mutually unknowing and unknown. On the other hand, does not fixed and earnest thought upon one we love seem to bring the companion-spirit within the sacred temple of our own being, infolded as a welcome guest in our warm charities and gentle joys, and imparting in return the lustre of a serene and living beauty? If, then, those whom we do not recognize as kindred are repelled, even though they approach us through the aid and interpretation of the senses, why may not the loved be brought near without that aid, through the more subtile and more potent attraction of sympathy? I do not mean nearness in the sense of memory or imagination, but that actual propinquity of spirit which I suppose implied in the recognition of Presence. Nor do I refer to any volition which is dependent on the known action of the brain, but to a hidden faculty, the germ perhaps of some higher faculty, now folded within the present life like the wings of a chrysalis, which looks through or beyond the material existence, and obtains a truer and finer perception of the spiritual than can be filtered through the coarser organs of sight and hearing."
"Vilalba, you are evidently a disciple of Des Cartes. Your theory is based on the idealistic principle, 'I think, therefore I am.' I confess that I could never be satisfied with mere subjective consciousness on a point which involves the cooperation of another mind. Nothing less than the most positive and luminous testimony of the senses could ever persuade me that two minds could meet and commune, apart from material intervention."
"I know," answered Vilalba, "that it is easier to feel than to reason about things which lie without the pale of mathematical demonstration. But some day, my friend, you will learn that beyond the arid abstractions of the schoolmen, beyond the golden dreams of the poets, there is a truth in this matter, faintly discerned now as the most dim of yonder stars, but as surely a link in the chain which suspends the Universe to the throne of God. However, your incredulity is commendable, for doubt is the avenue to knowledge. I admit that no testimony is conclusive save that of the senses, and such witness I have received.
"You speak perpetual enigmas, and I suspect you--for the second time--of tampering with the black arts. Do you mean to say that you are a believer in the doctrine of palpable spiritual manifestation?"
"I might say in its favor," was the reply, "that apart from the pretences and the plausibilities of to-day, many of which result from the independent action of the mind through clairvoyance, and others from mere excitation of the nervous sensibilities, the truth of that theory is possibly implied in the wants of the soul; for a want proves the existence of an antidote as effectually as a positive and negative interchangeably bear witness to each other's existence. But if you will have patience to listen to a story of my own life, I can better explain how my convictions have been beguiled into the credence which appears to you unphilosophical, if not absurd."
"I will listen with pleasure,--first lighting another cigar to dispel the weird shapes which will probably respond to your incantation."
Vilalba smiled slightly.
"Do not be disturbed. The phantoms will not visit you, not, I fear, myself either. But you must promise faith in my veracity; for I am about to tell you a tale of fact, and not of fancy.
"It happened to me many years ago,--how flatteringly that little phrase seems to extend the scale of one's being!--when I had just entered on the active duties of manhood, that some affairs called me to New Orleans, and detained me there several months. Letters of friendship gave me admission into some of the most agreeable French families of that _quasi_ Parisian city, and in the reception of their hospitality I soon lost the feeling of isolation which attends a stranger in a crowded mart. My life at that time was without shadows. I had health, friends, education, position,--youth, as well, which then seemed a blessing, though I would not now exchange for it my crown of years and experience. Fortune only I then had not; and because I had it not, I am telling you, to-night, this story.
"It chanced, one day, that I was invited to dine at the house of an aristocratic subject of the old French _régime_. I did not know the family, and a previous engagement tempted me to decline the invitation; but one of those mysterious impulses which are in fact the messengers of Destiny compelled me to go, and I went. Thus slight may be the thread which changes the entire web of the future! After greeting my host, and the party assembled in the drawing-room, my attention was arrested by a portrait suspended in a recess, and partly veiled by purple curtains, like Isis within her shrine. The lovely, living eyes beamed upon me out of the shrine, radiant with an internal light I had never before seen on canvas. The features were harmonious, the complexion pure and clear, and the whole picture wore an air of graceful, gentle girlhood, glowing, like Undine, with the flush of 'the coming soul.' I hardly knew whether the face was strictly beautiful according to the canons of Art; for only a Shakspeare can be at the same time critical and sympathetic, and my criticism was baffled and blinded by the fascination of those wondrous eyes. They reminded me of what a materialist said of the portraits of Prudhon,--that they were enough to make one believe in the immortality of the soul. Life multiplied by feeling into a limitless dream of past and future was mirrored in their clear depths; the questful gaze seemed reading the significance of the one through the symbols of the other, and pondering the lesson with sweetness of assent and ever-earnest longing for fuller revelation.
"As I lingered before this fair shadow, I heard my name pronounced, and, turning, beheld the not less fair original, the daughter of my host. Now do not fear a catalogue of feminine graces, or a lengthened romance of the heart, tedious with such platitudes as have been Elysium to the actors, and weariness to the audience, ever since the world began. The Enchanted Isles wear no enchantment to unanointed vision; their skies of Paradise are fog, their angels Harpies, perchance, or harsh-throated Sirens. Besides, we can never describe correctly those whom we love, because we see them through the heart; and the heart's optics have no technology. It is enough to say, that, from almost the first time I looked upon Blanche, I felt that I had at last found the gift rarely accorded to us here,--the fulfilment of a promise hidden in every heart, but often waited for in vain. Hitherto my all-sufficing self-hood had never been stirred by the mighty touch of Love. I had been amused by trivial and superficial affections, like the gay triflers of whom Rasselas says, 'They fancied they were in love, when in truth they were only idle.' But that sentiment which is never twice inspired, that new birth of
'A soul within the soul, evolving it sublimely,'
had never until now wakened my pulses and opened my eyes to the higher and holier heritage. Perhaps you doubt that Psychal fetters may be forged in a moment's heat; but I believe that the love which is deepest and most sacred, and which Plato calls the memory of divine beings whom we knew in some anterior life, that recognition of kindred natures which precedes reason and asks no leave of the understanding, is not a gradual and cautious attraction, like the growth of a coral reef, but sudden and magnetic as the coalescence of two drops of mercury.
"During several following weeks we met many times, and yet, in looking back to that dream of heaven, I cannot tell how often, nor for how long. Time is merely the measure given to past emotions, and those emotions flowed over me in a tidal sweep which merged all details in one continuous memory. The lone hemisphere of my life was rounded into completeness, and its feverish unrest changed to deep tranquillity, as if a faint, tremulous star were transmuted into a calm, full-orbed planet. Do you remember that story of Plato's--I recall the air-woven subtilties of the delightful idealist, to illustrate, not to prove--that story of the banquet where the ripe wines of the Aegean Isles unchained the tongues of such talkers as Pausanias and Socrates and others as witty and wise, until they fell into a discourse on the origin of Love, and, whirling away on the sparkling eddies of fancy, were borne to that preëxistent sphere which, in Plato's opinion, furnished the key to all the enigmas of this? There they beheld the complete and original souls, the compound of male and female, dual and yet one, so happy and so haughty in their perfection of beauty and of power that Jupiter could not tolerate his godlike rivals, and therefore cut them asunder, sending the dissevered halves tumbling down to earth, bewildered and melancholy enough, until some good fortune might restore to each the _alter ego_ which constituted the divine unity. 'And thus,' says Plato, 'whenever it happens that a man meets with his other half, the very counterpart of himself, they are both smitten with strong love; they recognize their ancient union; they are powerfully attracted by the consciousness that they belong to each other; and they are unwilling to be again parted, even for a short time. And if Vulcan were to stand over them with his fire and forge, and offer to melt them down and run them together, and of two to make them one again, they would both say that this was just what they desired!'
"I dare say you have read--unless your partiality for the soft Southern tongues has chased away your Teutonic taste--that exquisite poem of Schiller's, 'Das Geheimnitz der Reminiscenz,' the happiest possible crystallization of the same theory. I recall a few lines from Bulwer's fine translation:--
"'Why from its lord doth thus my soul depart? Is it because its native home thou art? Or were they brothers in the days of yore, Twin-bound both souls, and in the links they bore Sigh to be bound once more?
"'Were once our beings blent and intertwining, And therefore still my heart for thine is pining? Knew we the light of some extinguished sun,-- The joys remote of some bright realm undone, Where once our souls were ONE?
"'Yes, it is so! And thou wert bound to me In the long-vanished eld eternally! In the dark troubled tablets which enroll The past my Muse beheld this blessed scroll,-- 'One with thy love, my soul'!"
"Now the Athenian dreamer builded better than he knew. That phantom which perpetually attends and perpetually evades us,--the inevitable guest whose silence maddens and whose sweetness consoles,--whose filmy radiance eclipses all beauty,--whose voiceless eloquence subdues all sound,--ever beckoning, ever inspiring, patient, pleading, and unchanging,--this is the Ideal which Plato called the dearer self, because, when its craving sympathies find reflex and response in a living form, its rapturous welcome ignores the old imperfect being, and the union only is recognized as Self indeed, complete and undivided. And that fulness of human love becomes a faint type and interpreter of the Infinite, as through it we glide into grander harmonies and enlarged relations with the Universe, urged on forever by insatiable desires and far-reaching aspirations which testify our celestial origin and intimate our immortal destiny.
"'Lo! arm in arm, through every upward grade, From the rude Mongol to the starry Greek, everywhere we seek Union and bond, till in one sea sublime Of love be merged all measure and all time!"
"I never disclosed in words my love to Blanche. Through the lucid transparency of Presence, I believed that she knew all and comprehended all, without the aid of those blundering symbols. We never even spoke of the future; for all time, past and to come, seemed to converge and centre and repose in that radiant present. In the enchantment of my new life, I feared lest a breath should disturb the spell, and send me back to darkness and solitude.
"Of course, this could not last forever. There came a time when I found that my affairs would compel me to leave New Orleans for a year, or perhaps a little longer. With the discovery my dream was broken. The golden web which had been woven around me shrank beneath the iron hand of necessity, and fell in fragments at my feet. I knew that it was useless to speak to Blanch of marriage, for her father, a stern and exacting man in his domestic relations, had often declared that he would never give his daughter to a husband who had no fortune. If I sought his permission to address her now, my fate was fixed. There was no alternative, therefore, but to wait until my return, when I hoped to have secured, in sufficient measure, the material passport to his favor. Our parting was necessarily sudden, and, strange as it may seem, some fatal repression sealed my lips, and withheld me from uttering the few words which would have made the future wholly ours, and sculptured my dream of love in monumental permanance. Ah! with what narrow and trembling planks do we bridge the abyss of misery and despair! But be patient while I linger for a moment here. The evening before my departure, I went to take leave of her. There were other guests in the drawing-room, the atmosphere was heated and oppressive, and after a little time I proposed to her to retreat with me, for a few moments, to the fragrant coolness of the garden. We walked slowly along through clustering flowers and under arching orange-trees, which infolded us tenderly within their shining arms, as in tremulous silence we waited for words that should say enough and yet not too much. The glories of all summer evenings seemed concentred in this one. The moon now silvered leaf and blossom, and then suddenly fled behind a shadowing cloud, while the stars shone out with gladness brief and bright as the promises of my heart. Skilful artists in the music-room thrilled the air with some of those exquisite compositions of Mendelssohn which dissolve the soul in sweetness or ravish it with delight, until it seems as if all past emotions of joy were melted in one rapid and comprehensive reëxperience, and all future inheritance gleamed in promise before our enraptured vision, and we are hurried on with electric speed to hitherto unsealed heights of feeling, whence we catch faint glimpses of the unutterable mysteries of our being, and foreshadowings of a far-off, glorified existence. The eloquence of earth and sky and air breathed more than language could have uttered, and, as my eyes met the eyes of Blanche, the question of my heart was asked and answered, once for all. I recognized the treasured ideal of my restless, vagrant heart, and I seemed to hear it murmuring gently, as if to a long-lost mate, _'Where hast thou stayed so long?'_ I felt that henceforth there was for us no real parting. Our material forms might be severed, but our spirits were one and inseparate.
"'On the fountains of our life a seal was set To keep their waters clear and bright Forever.'
"And thus, with scarce a word beside, I said the 'God be with you!' and went out into the world alone, yet henceforth not alone.
"Two years passed away. They had been years of success in my worldly affairs, and were blessed by memories and hopes which grew brighter with each day. I had not heard of Blanche, save indirectly through a friend in New Orleans, but I never doubted that the past was as sacred, the future as secure, in her eyes as in my own. I was now ready to return, and to repeat in words the vows which my heart had sworn long before. I fixed the time, and wrote to my friend to herald my coming. Before that letter reached him, there came tidings which, like a storm of desolation, swept me to the dust. Blanche was in France, and married,--how or when or to whom, I knew not, cared not. The relentless fact was sufficient. The very foundations of the earth seemed to tremble and slide from beneath me. The sounds of day tortured, the silence of night maddened me. I sought forgetfulness in travel, in wild adventure, in reckless dissipation. With that strange fatality which often leads us to seek happiness or repose where we have least chance of finding it, I, too, married. But I committed no perjury. I offered friendship, and it sufficed. Love I never professed to give, and the wife whom I merely esteemed had not the mental or the magnetic ascendancy which might have triumphed for a time over the image shrined in my inmost heart. I sought every avenue through which I might fly from that and from myself. I tried mental occupation, and explored literature and science, with feverish ardor and some reward. I think it is Coleridge who recommends to those who are suffering from extreme sorrow the study of a new language. But to a mind of deep feeling diversion is not relief. If we fly from memory, we are pursued and overtaken like fugitive slaves, and punished with redoubled tortures. The only sure remedy for grief is self-evolved. We must accept sorrow as a guest, not shun it as a foe, and, receiving it into close companionship, let the mournful face haunt our daily paths, even though it shut out all friends and dim the light of earth and heaven. And when we have learned the lesson which it came to teach, the fearful phantom brightens into beauty, and reveals an 'angel unawares,' who gently leads us to heights of purer atmosphere and more extended vision, and strengthens us for the battle which demands unfaltering heart and hope.
"Do you remember the remark of the child Goethe, when his young reason was perplexed by attempting to reconcile the terrible earthquake at Lisbon with the idea of infinite goodness? 'God knows very well that an immortal soul cannot suffer from mortal accident.' With similar faith there came to me tranquil restoration. The deluge of passion rolled back, and from the wreck of my Eden arose a new and more spiritual creation. But forgetfulness was never possible. In the maddening turbulence of my grief and the ghastly stillness of its reaction, the lovely spirit which had become a part of my life seemed to have fled to the inner temple of my soul, breaking the solitude with glimmering ray and faint melodious murmur. And when I could bear to look and listen, it grew brighter and more palpable, until at last it attended me omnipresently, consoling, cheering, and stimulating to nobler thought and action.
"Nor was it a ghost summoned by memory, or the airy creation of fancy. One evening an incident occurred which will test your credulity, or make you doubt my sanity. I sat alone, and reading,--nothing more exciting, however, than a daily newspaper. My health was perfect, my mind unperturbed. Suddenly my eye was arrested by a cloud passing slowly back and forth several times before me, not projected upon the wall, but floating in the atmosphere. I looked around for the cause, but the doors and windows were closed, and nothing stirred in the apartment. Then I saw a point of light, small as a star at first, but gradually enlarging into a luminous cloud which filled the centre of the room. I shivered with strange coldness, and every nerve tingled as if touched by a galvanic battery. From the tremulous waves of the cloud arose, like figures in a dissolving view, the form and features of my lost love,--not radiant as when I last looked upon them, but pale and anguish-stricken, with clasped hands and tearful eyes; and upon my ears fell, like arrows of fire, the words, _You have been the cause of all this; oh, why did you not'_--The question was unfinished, and from my riveted gaze, half terror, half delight, the vision faded, and I was alone.
"Of course you will pronounce this mere nervous excitement, but, I pray you, await the sequel. Those burning words told the story of that mistake which had draped in despair our earthly lives. They were no reflection from my own mind. In the self-concentration of my disappointment, I had never dreamed that I alone was in fault,--that I should have anchored my hope on somewhat more defined than the voiceless intelligence of sympathy. But the very reproach of the mysterious visitor brought with it a conviction, positive and indubitable, that the spiritual portion of our being possesses the power to act upon the material perception of another, without aid from material elements. From time to time I have known, beyond the possibility of deception, that the kindred spirit was still my companion, my own inalienable possession, in spite of all factitious ties, of all physical intervention.
"Have you heard that among certain tribes of the North-American Indians are men who possess an art which enables them to endure torture and actual death without apparent suffering or even consciousness? I once chanced to fall in with one of these tribes, then living in Louisiana, now removed to the far West, and was permitted to witness some fantastic rites, half warlike, half religious, in which, however, there was nothing noticeable except this trance-like condition, which some of the warriors seemed to command at pleasure, manifested by a tense rigidity of the features and muscles, and a mental exaltation which proved to be both clairvoyant and clairoyant: a state analogous to that of hypnotism, or the artificial sleep produced by gazing fixedly on a near, bright object, and differing only in degree from the nervous or imaginative control which has been known to arrest and cure disease, which chained St. Simeon Stylites to his pillar, and sustains the Hindoo fakirs in their apparently superhuman vigils. These children of Nature had probed with direct simplicity some of the deep secrets which men of science often fail to discern through tortuous devices. I was assured that this trance was merely the result of a concentrative energy of the will, which riveted the faculties upon a single purpose or idea, and held every nerve and sense in absolute abeyance. We are so little accustomed to test the potency of the will out of the ordinary plane of its operation, that we have little conception how mighty a lever it may be made, or to what new exercise it may be directed; and yet we are all conscious of periods in our lives when, like a vast rock in ocean, it has suddenly loomed up firm and defiant amid our petty purposes and fretful indecisions, waxing grander and stronger under opposition, a something apart from, yet a conscious portion of ourselves,--a master, though a slave,--another revelation of the divinity within.
"I will confess that curiosity led me long ago to slight experiments in the direction in which you say the diabolic lies, but my mind was never concentrated on any one idea of sufficient interest to command success, until, in some periods of mingled peril and excitement, the memory of Blanche, and the conscious, even startling nearness of that sweet presence, have lent to my will unwonted energy and inspiration.
"Twenty years passed slowly away. It is common to speak of the _flight_ of time. For me, time has no wings. The days and years are faltering and tardy-footed, laden with the experiences of the outer and the problems of the inner world, which seem perpetually multiplied by reflection, like figures in a room mirrored on all sides. Meanwhile, my wife had died. I have never since sought women beyond the formal pale of the drawing-room: not from insensibility to loveliness, but because the memory, 'dearer far than bliss,' of one irretrievable affection shut out all inferior approach,--like a solitary planet, admitting no dance of satellites within its orbit.
"At last the long silence was broken. I heard that Blanche was free, and, with mingled haste and hesitation, I prepared to seek her. The ideal should be tested, I said to myself, by the actual, and if proved a deceit, then was all faith a mockery, all promise and premonition a glittering lie. As soon as winds and waves could carry me, I was in Louisiana, and in the very dwelling and at the same hour which had witnessed our parting. Again was it a soft summer evening. The same faint golden rays painted the sun's farewell, and the same silver moon looked eloquent response, as on the evening breeze floated sweet remembered odors of jessamine and orange. Again the ideal beauty of the lovely portrait met my gaze and seemed to melt into my heart; and once more, softly, lightly, fell a footstep, and the Presence by which I had never been forsaken, which I could never forsake, stood before me in 'palpable array of sense.' It was indeed the living Blanche, calm and stately as of old,--no longer radiant with the flush of youth, but serene in tenderest grace and sweet reserve, and beautiful through the lustre of the inner light of soul. She uttered a faint cry of joy, and placing her trembling hand in mine, we stood transfixed and silent, with riveted gaze, reading in each other's eyes feelings too sacred for speech, too deep for smiles or tears. In that long, burning look, it seemed as if the emotions of each were imparted to the other, not in slow succession as through words and sentences, but daguerreotyped or electrotyped in perfected form upon the conscious understanding. No language could have made so clear and comprehensible the revelation of that all-centring, unconquerable love which thrilled our inmost being, and pervaded the atmosphere around us with subtile and tremulous vibrations. In that moment all time was fused and forgotten. There was for us no Past, no Future; there was only the long-waited, all-embracing Now. I could willingly have died then and there, for I knew that all life could bring but one such moment. My heart spoke truly. A change passed over the countenance of Blanche,--an expression of unutterable grief, like Eve's retrospective look at Eden. Quivering with strange tremor, again she stood before me, with clasped hands and tearful eyes, in the very attitude of that memorable apparition, and again fell upon my ears the mysterious plaint and the uncompleted question,--_'You have been the cause of all this; oh, why did you not'_--
"Now, my friend, can your philosophy explain this startling verification, this reflex action of the vision, or the fantasy, or whatever else you may please to term it, whose prophetic shadow fell upon my astonished senses long years before? In all the intervening time, we were separated by great distance, no word or sign passed between us, nor did we even hear of each other except indefinitely and through chance. Is there, then, any explanation of that vision more rational than that the spirit thus closely affined with my own was enabled, through its innate potencies, or through some agency of which we are ignorant, to impress upon my bodily perceptions its uncontrollable emotions? That this manifestation was made through what physiologists call the unconscious or involuntary action of the mind was proved by the incredulity and surprise of Blanche when I told her of the wonderful coincidence.
"I need not relate, even if I could do so, the outpouring of long-pent emotions which relieved the yearning love and haunting memories of sad, silent, lingering years. It is enough to tell you briefly of the story which was repeated in fragments through many hours of unfamiliar bliss. Soon after my departure from New Orleans, the father of Blanche, with the stern authority which many parents exercise over the matrimonial affairs of their daughters, insisted upon her forming an alliance to which the opposition of her own heart was the only objection. So trifling an impediment was decisively put aside by him, and Blanche, having delayed the marriage as long as possible, until the time fixed for my return was past, and unable to plead any open acknowledgment on my part which could justify her refusal, had no alternative but to obey. 'I confess,' said she, in faltering tones, 'that, after my fate was fixed, and I was parted from you, as I believed for life, I tried to believe that the love which had given so slight witness in words to its truth and fervor must have faded entirely away, and that I was forgotten, and perhaps supplanted. And therefore, in the varied pursuits and pleasures of my new sphere, and in the indulgence and kindness which ministered to the outer, but, alas! never to the inner life, I sought happiness, and I, too, like yourself, strove to forget. Ah! that art of forgetting, which the Athenian coveted as the best of boons,--when was it ever found through effort or desire? In all scenes of beauty or of excitement, in the allurements of society, in solitude and in sorrow, my heart still turned to you with ceaseless longing, as if you alone could touch its master-chord, and waken the harmonies which were struggling for expression. By slow degrees, as I learned to dissever you from the material world, there came a conviction of the nearness of your spirit, sometimes so positive that I would waken from a reverie, in which I was lost to sights and sounds around me, with a sense of having been in your actual presence. I was aware of an effect rather than of an immediate consciousness,--as if the magnetism of your touch had swept over me, cooling the fever of my brain, and charming to deep tranquillity my troubled heart. And thus I learned, through similar experience, the same belief as yours. I have felt the continuous nearness, the inseparable union of our spirits, as plainly as I feel it now, with my hand clasped in yours, and reading in your eyes the unutterable things which we can never hope to speak, because they are foreshadowings of another existence.
"What I possess I see afar off lying, And what I lost is real and undying."
The material presence is indeed very dear, but I believe that it is not essential to the perpetuity of that love which is nurtured through mutual and perfect understanding.'
"'It is not essential,' I replied, 'but it is, as you say, very, very dear, because it is an exponent and participant of the hidden life which it was designed to aid and to enframe. Blanche, it was you who first wakened my soul to the glorious revelation, the heavenly heritage of love. It was you who opened to me the world which lies beyond the mere external, who gently allured me from the coarse and clouding elements of sense, and infolded me in the holy purity of that marriage of kindred natures which alone is hallowed by the laws of God, and which no accidents of time or place can rend asunder. Apart from the bitterness of this long separation, the lesson might not have been learned; but now that it is ineffaceably engraven on both our hearts, and confirmed in the assurance of this blessed reunion, may I not hope that for the remainder of our earthly lives we may study together in visible companionship such further lessons as may be held in reserve for us?'
"Her face glowed with a soft crimson flush, and again her eyes were suffused with tears, through which beamed a look of sweet, heavenly sorrow,--such as might have shone in the orbs of the angel who enforced upon Adam the sentence of expulsion from Paradise, and who, while sharing the exile's grief, beheld in the remote horizon, far beyond the tangled wilderness of Earth, another gate, wide opening to welcome him to the Immortal Land. She was silent for a little time, and then she murmured, lingering gently on the words, 'No, it must not be. We are, indeed, inalienably one, in a nearer and dearer sense than can be expressed by any transient symbol. Let us not seek to quit the spiritual sphere in which we have long dwelt and communed together, for one liable to discord and misinterpretation. I have an irresistible impression that my life here will be very brief. While I remain, come to me when you will, let me be the Egeria of your hours of leisure, and a consoler in your cares,--but let us await, for another and a higher life, the more perfect consummation of our love. For, oh, believe, as I believe, faith is no mockery, nor is the heart's prophecy a lie. We were not born to be the dupes of dreams or the sport of chance. The voice which whispered to me long ago the promise fulfilled in this hour tells me that in a bright Hereafter we shall find compensation for every sorrow, reality for every ideal, and that there at last shall be resolved in luminous perception the veiled and troubled mystery of PRESENCE!'"
* * * * *
CHIEFLY ABOUT WAR-MATTERS.
BY A PEACEABLE MAN.
There is no remoteness of life and thought, no hermetically sealed seclusion, except, possibly, that of the grave, into which the disturbing influences of this war do not penetrate. Of course, the general heart-quake of the country long ago knocked at my cottage-door, and compelled me, reluctantly, to suspend the contemplation of certain fantasies, to which, according to my harmless custom, I was endeavoring to give a sufficiently life-like aspect to admit of their figuring in a romance. As I make no pretensions to state-craft or soldiership, and could promote the common weal neither by valor nor counsel, it seemed, at first, a pity that I should be debarred from such unsubstantial business as I had contrived for myself, since nothing more genuine was to be substituted for it. But I magnanimously considered that there is a kind of treason in insulating one's self from the universal fear and sorrow, and thinking one's idle thoughts in the dread time of civil war; and could a man be so cold and hard-hearted, he would better deserve to be sent to Fort Warren than many who have found their way thither on the score of violent, but misdirected sympathies. I remembered the touching rebuke administered by King Charles to that rural squire the echo of whose hunting-horn came to the poor monarch's ear on the morning before a battle, where the sovereignty and constitution of England were to be set at stake. So I gave myself up to reading newspapers and listening to the click of the telegraph, like other people; until, after a great many months of such pastime, it grew so abominably irksome that I determined to look a little more closely at matters with my own eyes.
Accordingly we set out--a friend and myself--towards Washington, while it was still the long, dreary January of our Northern year, though March in name; nor were we unwilling to clip a little margin off the five months' winter, during which there is nothing genial in New England save the fireside. It was a clear, frosty morning, when we started. The sun shone brightly on snow-covered hills in the neighborhood of Boston, and burnished the surface of frozen ponds; and the wintry weather kept along with us while we trundled through Worcester and Springfield, and all those old, familiar towns, and through the village-cities of Connecticut. In New York the streets were afloat with liquid mud and slosh. Over New Jersey there was still a thin covering of snow, with the face of Nature visible through the rents in her white shroud, though with little or no symptom of reviving life. But when we reached Philadelphia, the air was mild and balmy; there was but a patch or two of dingy winter here and there, and the bare, brown fields about the city were ready to be green. We had met the Spring half-way, in her slow progress from the South; and if we kept onward at the same pace, and could get through the Rebel lines, we should soon come to fresh grass, fruit-blossoms, green peas, strawberries, and all such delights of early summer.
On our way, we heard many rumors of the war, but saw few signs of it. The people were staid and decorous, according to their ordinary fashion; and business seemed about as brisk as usual,--though, I suppose, it was considerably diverted from its customary channels into warlike ones. In the cities, especially in New York, there was a rather prominent display of military goods at the shopwindows,--such as swords with gilded scabbards and trappings, epaulets, carabines, revolvers, and sometimes a great iron cannon at the edge of the pavement, as if Mars had dropped one of his pocket-pistols there, while hurrying to the field. As railway-companions, we had now and then a volunteer in his French-gray great-coat, returning from furlough, or a new-made officer travelling to join his regiment, in his new-made uniform, which was perhaps all of the military character that he had about him,--but proud of his eagle-buttons, and likely enough to do them honor before the gilt should be wholly dimmed. The country, in short, so far as bustle and movement went, was more quiet than in ordinary times, because so large a proportion of its restless elements had been drawn towards the seat of conflict. But the air was full of a vague disturbance. To me, at least, it seemed so, emerging from such a solitude as has been hinted at, and the more impressible by rumors and indefinable presentiments, since I had not lived, like other men, in an atmosphere of continual talk about the war. A battle was momentarily expected on the Potomac; for, though our army was still on the hither side of the river, all of us were looking towards the mysterious and terrible Manassas, with the idea that somewhere in its neighborhood lay a ghastly battlefield, yet to be fought, but foredoomed of old to be bloodier than the one where we had reaped such shame. Of all haunted places, methinks such a destined field should be thickest thronged with ugly phantoms, ominous of mischief through ages beforehand.
Beyond Philadelphia there was a much greater abundance of military people. Between Baltimore and Washington a guard seemed to hold every station along the railroad; and frequently, on the hill-sides, we saw a collection of weather-beaten tents, the peaks of which, blackened with smoke, indicated that they had been made comfortable by stove-heat throughout the winter. At several commanding positions we saw fortifications, with the muzzles of cannon protruding from the ramparts, the slopes of which were made of the yellow earth of that region, and still unsodded; whereas, till these troublous times, there have been no forts but what were grass-grown with the lapse of at least a lifetime of peace. Our stopping-places were thronged with soldiers, some of whom came through the cars, asking for newspapers that contained accounts of the battle between the Merrimack and Monitor, which had been fought the day before. A railway-train met us, conveying a regiment out of Washington to some unknown point; and reaching the capital, we filed out of the station between lines of soldiers, with shouldered muskets, putting us in mind of similar spectacles at the gates of European cities. It was not without sorrow that we saw the free circulation of the nation's life-blood (at the very heart, moreover) clogged with such strictures as these, which have caused chronic diseases in almost all countries save our own. Will the time ever come again, in America, when we may live half a score of years without once seeing the likeness of a soldier, except it be in the festal march of a company on its summer tour? Not in this generation, I fear, nor in the next, nor till the Millennium; and even that blessed epoch, as the prophecies seem to intimate, will advance to the sound of the trumpet.
One terrible idea occurs, in reference to this matter. Even supposing the war should end to-morrow, and the army melt into the mass of the population within the year, what an incalculable preponderance will there be of military titles and pretensions for at least half a century to come! Every country-neighborhood will have its general or two, its three or four colonels, half a dozen majors, and captains without end,--besides non-commissioned officers and privates, more than the recruiting-offices ever knew of,--all with their campaign-stories, which will become the staple of fireside-talk forevermore. Military merit, or rather, since that is not so readily estimated, military notoriety, will be the measure of all claims to civil distinction. One bullet-headed general will succeed another in the Presidential chair; and veterans will hold the offices at home and abroad, and sit in Congress and the State legislatures, and fill all the avenues of public life. And yet I do not speak of this deprecatingly, since, very likely, it may substitute something more real and genuine, instead of the many shams on which men have heretofore founded their claims to public regard; but it behooves civilians to consider their wretched prospects in the future, and assume the military button before it is too late.
We were not in time to see Washington as a camp. On the very day of our arrival sixty thousand men had crossed the Potomac on their march towards Manassas; and almost with their first step into the Virginia mud, the phantasmagory of a countless host and impregnable ramparts, before which they had so long remained quiescent, dissolved quite away. It was as if General McClellan had thrust his sword into a gigantic enemy, and, beholding him suddenly collapse, had discovered to himself and the world that he had merely punctured an enormously swollen bladder. There are instances of a similar character in old romances, where great armies are long kept at bay by the arts of necromancers, who build airy towers and battlements, and muster warriors of terrible aspect, and thus feign a defence of seeming impregnability, until some bolder champion of the besiegers dashes forward to try an encounter with the foremost foeman, and finds him melt away in the death-grapple. With such heroic adventures let the march upon Manassas be hereafter reckoned. The whole business, though connected with the destinies of a nation, takes inevitably a tinge of the ludicrous. The vast preparation of men and warlike material,--the majestic patience and docility with which the people waited through those weary and dreary months,--the martial skill, courage, and caution, with which our movement was ultimately made,--and, at last, the tremendous shock with which we were brought suddenly up against nothing at all! The Southerners show little sense of humor nowadays, but I think they must have meant to provoke a laugh at our expense, when they planted those Quaker guns. At all events, no other Rebel artillery has played upon us with such overwhelming effect.
The troops being gone, we had the better leisure and opportunity to look into other matters. It is natural enough to suppose that the centre and heart of Washington is the Capitol; and certainly, in its outward aspect, the world has not many statelier or more beautiful edifices, nor any, I should suppose, more skilfully adapted to legislative purposes, and to all accompanying needs. But, etc., etc. [Footnote: We omit several paragraphs here, in which the author speaks of some prominent Members of Congress with a freedom that seems to have been not unkindly meant, but might be liable to misconstruction. As he admits that he never listened to an important debate, we can hardly recognize his qualification to estimate these gentlemen, in their legislative and oratorical capacities.]
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We found one man, however, at the Capitol, who was satisfactorily adequate to the business which brought him thither. In quest of him, we went through halls, galleries, and corridors, and ascended a noble staircase, balustraded with a dark and beautifully variegated marble from Tennessee, the richness of which is quite a sufficient cause for objecting to the secession of that State. At last we came to a barrier of pine boards, built right across the stairs. Knocking at a rough, temporary door, we thrust a card beneath; and in a minute or two it was opened by a person in his shirt-sleeves, a middle-aged figure, neither tall nor short, of Teutonic build and aspect, with an ample beard of a ruddy tinge and chestnut hair. He looked at us, in the first place, with keen and somewhat guarded eyes, as if it were not his practice to vouchsafe any great warmth of greeting, except upon sure ground of observation. Soon, however, his look grew kindly and genial, (not that it had ever been in the least degree repulsive, but only reserved,) and Leutze allowed us to gaze at the cartoon of his great fresco, and talked about it unaffectedly, as only a man of true genius can speak of his own works. Meanwhile the noble design spoke for itself upon the wall. A sketch in color, which we saw afterwards, helped us to form some distant and flickering notion of what the picture will be, a few months hence, when these bare outlines, already so rich in thought and suggestiveness, shall glow with a fire of their own,--a fire which, I truly believe, will consume every other pictorial decoration of the Capitol, or, at least, will compel us to banish those stiff and respectable productions to some less conspicuous gallery. The work will be emphatically original and American, embracing characteristics that neither art nor literature have yet dealt with, and producing new forms of artistic beauty from the natural features of the Rocky-Mountain region, which Leutze seems to have studied broadly and minutely. The garb of the hunters and wanderers of those deserts, too, under his free and natural management, is shown as the most picturesque of costumes. But it would be doing this admirable painter no kind office to overlay his picture with any more of my colorless and uncertain words; so I shall merely add that it looked full of energy, hope, progress, irrepressible movement onward, all represented in a momentary pause of triumph; and it was most cheering to feel its good augury at this dismal time, when our country might seem to have arrived at such a deadly stand-still.
It was an absolute comfort, indeed, to find Leutze so quietly busy at this great national work, which is destined to glow for centuries on the walls of the Capitol, if that edifice shall stand, or must share its fate, if treason shall succeed in subverting it with the Union which it represents. It was delightful to see him so calmly elaborating his design, while other men doubted and feared, or hoped treacherously, and whispered to one another that the nation would exist only a little longer, or that, if a remnant still held together, its centre and seat of government would be far northward and westward of Washington. But the artist keeps right on, firm of heart and hand, drawing his outlines with an unwavering pencil, beautifying and idealizing our rude, material life, and thus manifesting that we have an indefeasible claim to a more enduring national existence. In honest truth, what with the hope-inspiring influence of the design, and what with Leutze's undisturbed evolvement of it, I was exceedingly encouraged, and allowed these cheerful auguries to weigh against a sinister omen that was pointed out to me in another part of the Capitol. The freestone walls of the central edifice are pervaded with great cracks, and threaten to come thundering down, under the immense weight of the iron dome,--an appropriate catastrophe enough, if it should occur on the day when we drop the Southern stars out of our flag.
Everybody seems to be at Washington, and yet there is a singular dearth of imperatively noticeable people there. I question whether there are half a dozen individuals, in all kinds of eminence, at whom a stranger, wearied with the contact of a hundred moderate celebrities, would turn round to snatch a second glance. Secretary Seward, to be sure,--a pale, large-nosed, elderly man, of moderate stature, with a decided originality of gait and aspect, and a cigar in his mouth,--etc., etc.
[Footnote: We are again compelled to interfere with our friend's license of personal description and criticism. Even Cabinet Ministers (to whom the next few pages of the article were devoted) have their private immunities, which ought to be conscientiously observed,--unless, indeed, the writer chanced to have some very piquant motives for violating them.]
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Of course, there was one other personage, in the class of statesmen, whom I should have been truly mortified to leave Washington without seeing; since (temporarily, at least, and by force of circumstances) he was the man of men. But a private grief had built up a barrier about him, impeding the customary free intercourse of Americans with their chief magistrate; so that I might have come away without a glimpse of his very remarkable physiognomy, save for a semi-official opportunity of which I was glad to take advantage. The fact is, we were invited to annex ourselves, as supernumeraries, to a deputation that was about to wait upon the President, from a Massachusetts whip-factory, with a present of a splendid whip.
Our immediate party consisted only of four or five, (including Major Ben Perley Poore, with his note-book and pencil.) but we were joined by several other persons, who seemed to have been lounging about the precincts of the White House, under the spacious porch, or within the hall, and who swarmed in with us to take the chances of a presentation. Nine o'clock had been appointed as the time for receiving the deputation, and we were punctual to the moment; but not so the President, who sent us word that he was eating his breakfast, and would come as soon as he could. His appetite, we were glad to think, must have been a pretty fair one; for we waited about half an hour in one of the antechambers, and then were ushered into a reception-room, in one corner of which sat the Secretaries of War and of the Treasury, expecting, like ourselves, the termination of the Presidential breakfast. During this interval there were several new additions to our group, one or two of whom were in a working-garb, so that we formed a very miscellaneous collection of people, mostly unknown to each other, and without any common sponsor, but all with an equal right to look our head-servant in the face. By-and-by there was a little stir on the staircase and in the passageway, etc., etc.
[Footnote: We are compelled to omit two or three pages, in which the author describes the interview, and gives his idea of the personal appearance and deportment of the President. The sketch appears to have been written in a benign spirit, and perhaps conveys a not inaccurate impression of its august subject; but it lacks _reverence_, and it pains us to see a gentleman of ripe age, and who has spent years under the corrective influence of foreign institutions, falling into the characteristic and most ominous fault of Young America.]
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Good Heavens! what liberties have I been taking with one of the potentates of the earth, and the man on whose conduct more important consequences depend than on that of any other historical personage of the century! But with whom is an American citizen entitled to take a liberty, if not with his own chief magistrate? However, lest the above allusions to President Lincoln's little peculiarities (already well known to the country and to the world) should be misinterpreted, I deem it proper to say a word or two, in regard to him, of unfeigned respect and measurable confidence. He is evidently a man of keen faculties, and, what is still more to the purpose, of powerful character. As to his integrity, the people have that intuition of it which is never deceived. Before he actually entered upon his great office, and for a considerable time afterwards, there is no reason to suppose that he adequately estimated the gigantic task about to be imposed on him, or, at least, had any distinct idea how it was to be managed; and I presume there may have been more than one veteran politician who proposed to himself to take the power out of President Lincoln's hands into his own, leaving our honest friend only the public responsibility for the good or ill success of the career. The extremely imperfect development of his statesmanly qualities, at that period, may have justified such designs. But the President is teachable by events, and has now spent a year in a very arduous course of education; he has a flexible mind, capable of much expansion, and convertible towards far loftier studies and activities than those of his early life; and if he came to Washington a backwoods humorist, he has already transformed himself into as good a statesman (to speak moderately) as his prime-minister.
Among other excursions to camps and places of interest in the neighborhood of Washington, we went, one day, to Alexandria. It is a little port on the Potomac, with one or two shabby wharves and docks, resembling those of a fishing-village in New England, and the respectable old brick town rising gently behind. In peaceful times it no doubt bore an aspect of decorous quietude and dulness; but it was now thronged with the Northern soldiery, whose stir and bustle contrasted strikingly with the many closed warehouses, the absence of citizens from their customary haunts, and the lack of any symptom of healthy activity, while army-wagons trundled heavily over the pavements, and sentinels paced the sidewalks, and mounted dragoons dashed to and fro on military errands. I tried to imagine how very disagreeable the presence of a Southern army would be in a sober town of Massachusetts; and the thought considerably lessened my wonder at the cold and shy regards that are cast upon our troops, the gloom, the sullen demeanor, the declared or scarcely hidden sympathy with rebellion, which are so frequent here. It is a strange thing in human life, that the greatest errors both of men and women often spring from their sweetest and most generous qualities; and so, undoubtedly, thousands of warm-hearted, sympathetic, and impulsive persons have joined the Rebels, not from any real zeal for the cause, but because, between two conflicting loyalties, they chose that which necessarily lay nearest the heart. There never existed any other Government against which treason was so easy, and could defend itself by such plausible arguments as against that of the United States. The anomaly of two allegiances (of which that of the State comes nearest home to a man's feelings, and includes the altar and the hearth, while the General Government claims his devotion only to an airy mode of law, and has no symbol but a flag) is exceedingly mischievous in this point of view; for it has converted crowds of honest people into traitors, who seem to themselves not merely innocent, but patriotic, and who die for a bad cause with as quiet a conscience as if it were the best. In the vast extent of our country,--too vast by far to be taken into one small human heart,--we inevitably limit to our own State, or, at farthest, to our own section, that sentiment of physical love for the soil which renders an Englishman, for example, so intensely sensitive to the dignity and well-being of his little island, that one hostile foot, treading anywhere upon it, would make a bruise on each individual breast. If a man loves his own State, therefore, and is content to be ruined with her, let us shoot him, if we can, but allow him an honorable burial in the soil he fights for. [Footnote: We do not thoroughly comprehend the author's drift in the foregoing paragraph, but are inclined to think its tone reprehensible, and its tendency impolitic in the present stage of our national difficulties.]
In Alexandria, we visited the tavern in which Colonel Ellsworth was killed, and saw the spot where he fell, and the stairs below, whence Jackson fired the fatal shot, and where he himself was slain a moment afterwards; so that the assassin and his victim must have met on the threshold of the spirit-world, and perhaps came to a better understanding before they had taken many steps on the other side. Ellsworth was too generous to bear an immortal grudge for a deed like that, done in hot blood, and by no skulking enemy. The memorial-hunters have completely cut away the original wood-work around the spot, with their pocket-knives; and the staircase, balustrade, and floor, as well as the adjacent doors and doorframes, have recently been renewed; the walls, moreover, are covered with new paper-hangings, the former having been torn off in tatters; and thus it becomes something like a metaphysical question whether the place of the murder actually exists.
Driving out of Alexandria, we stopped on the edge of the city to inspect an old slave-pen, which is one of the lions of the place, but a very poor one; and a little farther on, we came to a brick church where Washington used sometimes to attend service,--a pre-Revolutionary edifice, with ivy growing over its walls, though not very luxuriantly. Reaching the open country, we saw forts and camps on all sides; some of the tents being placed immediately on the ground, while others were raised over a basement of logs, laid lengthwise, like those of a log-hut, or driven vertically into the soil in a circle,--thus forming a solid wall, the chinks closed up with Virginia mud, and above it the pyramidal shelter of the tent. Here were in progress all the occupations, and all the idleness, of the soldier in the tented field: some were cooking the company-rations in pots hung over fires in the open air; some played at ball, or developed their muscular power by gymnastic exercise; some read newspapers; some smoked cigars or pipes; and many were cleaning their arms and accoutrements,--the more carefully, perhaps, because their division was to be reviewed by the Commander-in-Chief that afternoon; others sat on the ground, while their comrades cut their hair,--it being a soldierly fashion (and for excellent reasons) to crop it within an inch of the skull; others, finally, lay asleep in breast-high tents, with their legs protruding into the open air.
We paid a visit to Fort Ellsworth, and from its ramparts (which have been heaped up out of the muddy soil within the last few months, and will require still a year or two to make them verdant) we had a beautiful view of the Potomac, a truly majestic river, and the surrounding country. The fortifications, so numerous in all this region, and now so unsightly with their bare, precipitous sides, will remain as historic monuments, grass-grown and picturesque memorials of an epoch of terror and suffering: they will serve to make our country dearer and more interesting to us, and afford fit soil for poetry to root itself in: for this is a plant which thrives best in spots where blood has been spilt long ago, and grows in abundant clusters in old ditches, such as the moat around Fort Ellsworth will be a century hence. It may seem to be paying dear for what many will reckon but a worthless weed; but the more historical associations we can link with our localities, the richer will be the daily life that feeds upon the past, and the more valuable the things that have been long established: so that our children will be less prodigal than their fathers in sacrificing good institutions to passionate impulses and impracticable theories. This herb of grace, let us hope, may be found in the old footprints of the war.
Even in an aesthetic point of view, however, the war has done a great deal of enduring mischief, by causing the devastation of great tracts of woodland scenery, in which this part of Virginia would appear to have been very rich. Around all the encampments, and everywhere along the road, we saw the bare sites of what had evidently been tracts of hard-wood forest, indicated by the unsightly stumps of well-grown trees, not smoothly felled by regular axe-men, but hacked, haggled, and unevenly amputated, as by a sword, or other miserable tool, in an unskilful hand. Fifty years will not repair this desolation. An army destroys everything before and around it, even to the very grass; for the sites of the encampments are converted into barren esplanades, like those of the squares in French cities, where not a blade of grass is allowed to grow. As to other symptoms of devastation and obstruction, such as deserted houses, unfenced fields, and a general aspect of nakedness and ruin, I know not how much may be due to a normal lack of neatness in the rural life of Virginia, which puts a squalid face even upon a prosperous state of things; but undoubtedly the war must have spoilt what was good, and made the bad a great deal worse. The carcasses of horses were scattered along the way-side.
One very pregnant token of a social system thoroughly disturbed was presented by a party of contrabands, escaping out of the mysterious depths of Secessia; and its strangeness consisted in the leisurely delay with which they trudged forward, as dreading no pursuer, and encountering nobody to turn them back. They were unlike the specimens of their race whom we are accustomed to see at the North, and, in my judgment, were far more agreeable. So rudely were they attired,--as if their garb had grown upon them spontaneously,--so picturesquely natural in manners, and wearing such a crust of primeval simplicity, (which is quite polished away from the Northern black man,) that they seemed a kind of creature by themselves, not altogether human, but perhaps quite as good, and akin to the fauns and rustic deities of olden times. I wonder whether I shall excite anybody's wrath by saying this. It is no great matter. At all events, I felt most kindly towards these poor fugitives, but knew not precisely what to wish in their behalf, nor in the least how to help them. For the sake of the manhood which is latent in them, I would not have turned them back; but I should have felt almost as reluctant, on their own account, to hasten them forward to the stranger's land; and I think my prevalent idea was, that, whoever may be benefited by the results of this war, it will not be the present generation of negroes, the childhood of whose race is now gone forever, and who must henceforth fight a hard battle with the world, on very unequal terms. On behalf of my own race, I am glad, and can only hope that an inscrutable Providence means good to both parties.
There is an historical circumstance, known to few, that connects the children of the Puritans with these Africans of Virginia, in a very singular way. They are our brethren, as being lineal descendants from the Mayflower, the fated womb of which, in her first voyage, sent forth a brood of Pilgrims upon Plymouth Rock, and, in a subsequent one, spawned slaves upon the Southern soil,--a monstrous birth, but with which we have an instinctive sense of kindred, and so are stirred by an irresistible impulse to attempt their rescue, even at the cost of blood and ruin. The character of our sacred ship, I fear, may suffer a little by this revelation; but we must let her white progeny offset her dark one,--and two such portents never sprang from an identical source before.
While we drove onward, a young officer on horseback looked earnestly into the carriage, and recognized some faces that he had seen before; so he rode along by our side, and we pestered him with queries and observations, to which he responded more civilly than they deserved. He was on General McClellan's staff, and a gallant cavalier, high-booted, with a revolver in his belt, and mounted on a noble horse, which trotted hard and high without disturbing the rider in his accustomed seat. His face had a healthy hue of exposure and an expression of careless hardihood; and, as I looked at him, it seemed to me that the war had brought good fortune to the youth of this epoch, if to none beside; since they now make it their daily business to ride a horse and handle a sword, instead of lounging listlessly through the duties, occupations, pleasures--all tedious alike--to which the artificial state of society limits a peaceful generation. The atmosphere of the camp and the smoke of the battle-field are morally invigorating; the hardy virtues flourish in them, the nonsense dies like a wilted weed. The enervating effects of centuries of civilization vanish at once, and leave these young men to enjoy a life of hardship, and the exhilarating sense of danger,--to kill men blamelessly, or to be killed gloriously,--and to be happy in following out their native instincts of destruction, precisely in the spirit of Homer's heroes, only with some considerable change of mode. One touch of Nature makes not only the whole world, but all time, akin. Set men face to face, with weapons in their hands, and they are as ready to slaughter one another now, after playing at peace and good-will for so many years, as in the rudest ages, that never heard of peace-societies, and thought no wine so delicious as what they quaffed from an enemy's skull. Indeed, if the report of a Congressional committee may be trusted, that old-fashioned kind of goblet has again come into use, at the expense of our Northern head-pieces,--a costly drinking-cup to him that furnishes it! Heaven forgive me for seeming to jest upon such a subject!--only, it is so odd, when we measure our advances from barbarism, and find ourselves just here! [Footnote: We hardly expected this outbreak in favor of war from the Peaceable Man; but the justice of our cause makes us all soldiers at heart, however quiet in our outward life. We have heard of twenty Quakers in a single company of a Pennsylvania regiment.]
We now approached General McClellan's head-quarters, which, at that time, were established at Fairfield Seminary. The edifice was situated on a gentle elevation, amid very agreeable scenery, and, at a distance, looked like a gentleman's seat. Preparations were going forward for reviewing a division of ten or twelve thousand men, the various regiments composing which had begun to array themselves on an extensive plain, where, methought, there was a more convenient place for a battle than is usually found in this broken and difficult country. Two thousand cavalry made a portion of the troops to be reviewed. By-and-by we saw a pretty numerous troop of mounted officers, who were congregated on a distant part of the plain, and whom we finally ascertained to be the Commander-in-Chief's staff, with McClellan himself at their head. Our party managed to establish itself in a position conveniently close to the General, to whom, moreover, we had the honor of an introduction; and he bowed, on his horseback, with a good deal of dignity and martial courtesy, but no airs nor fuss nor pretension beyond what his character and rank inevitably gave him.
Now, at that juncture, and, in fact, up to the present moment, there was, and is, a most fierce and bitter outcry, and detraction loud and low, against General McClellan, accusing him of sloth, imbecility, cowardice, treasonable purposes, and, in short, utterly denying his ability as a soldier, and questioning his integrity as a man. Nor was this to be wondered at; for when before, in all history, do we find a general in command of half a million of men, and in presence of an enemy inferior in numbers and no better disciplined than his own troops, leaving it still debatable, after the better part of a year, whether he is a soldier or no? The question would seem to answer itself in the very asking. Nevertheless, being most profoundly ignorant of the art of war, like the majority of the General's critics, and, on the other hand, having some considerable impressibility by men's characters, I was glad of the opportunity to look him in the face, and to feel whatever influence might reach me from his sphere. So I stared at him, as the phrase goes, with all the eyes I had; and the reader shall have the benefit of what I saw,--to which he is the more welcome, because, in writing this article, I feel disposed to be singularly frank, and can scarcely restrain myself from telling truths the utterance of which I should get slender thanks for.
The General was dressed in a simple, dark-blue uniform, without epaulets, booted to the knee, and with a cloth cap upon his head; and, at first sight, you might have taken him for a corporal of dragoons, of particularly neat and soldier-like aspect, and in the prime of his age and strength. He is only of middling stature, but his build is very compact and sturdy, with broad shoulders and a look of great physical vigor, which, in fact, he is said to possess,--he and Beauregard having been rivals in that particular, and both distinguished above other men. His complexion is dark and sanguine, with dark hair. He has a strong, bold, soldierly face, full of decision; a Roman nose, by no means a thin prominence, but very thick and firm; and if he follows it, (which I should think likely,) it may be pretty confidently trusted to guide him aright. His profile would make a more effective likeness than the full face, which, however, is much better in the real man than in any photograph that I have seen. His forehead is not remarkably large, but comes forward at the eyebrows; it is not the brow nor countenance of a prominently intellectual man, (not a natural student, I mean, or abstract thinker,) but of one whose office it is to handle things practically and to bring about tangible results. His face looked capable of being very stern, but wore, in its repose, when I saw it, an aspect pleasant and dignified; it is not, in its character, an American face, nor an English one. The man on whom he fixes his eye is conscious of him. In his natural disposition, he seems calm and self-possessed, sustaining his great responsibilities cheerfully, without shrinking, or weariness, or spasmodic effort, or damage to his health, but all with quiet, deep-drawn breaths; just as his broad shoulders would bear up a heavy burden without aching beneath it.
After we had had sufficient time to peruse the man, (so far as it could be done with one pair of very attentive eyes,) the General rode off, followed by his cavalcade, and was lost to sight among the troops. They received him with loud shouts, by the eager uproar of which--now near, now in the centre, now on the outskirts of the division, and now sweeping back towards us in a great volume of sound--we could trace his progress through the ranks. If he is a coward, or a traitor, or a humbug, or anything less than a brave, true, and able man, that mass of intelligent soldiers, whose lives and honor he had in charge, were utterly deceived, and so was this present writer; for they believed in him, and so did I; and had I stood in the ranks, I should have shouted with the lustiest of them. Of course I may be mistaken; my opinion on such a point is worth nothing, although my impression may be worth a little more; neither do I consider the General's antecedents as bearing very decided testimony to his practical soldiership. A thorough knowledge of the science of war seems to be conceded to him; he is allowed to be a good military critic; but all this is possible without his possessing any positive qualities of a great general, just as a literary critic may show the profoundest acquaintance with the principles of epic poetry without being able to produce a single stanza of an epic poem. Nevertheless, I shall not give up my faith in General McClellan's soldiership until he is defeated, nor in his courage and integrity even then.
Another of our excursions was to Harper's Ferry,--the Directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad having kindly invited us to accompany them on the first trip over the newly laid track, after its breaking up by the Rebels. It began to rain, in the early morning, pretty soon after we left Washington, and continued to pour a cataract throughout the day; so that the aspect of the country was dreary, where it would otherwise have been delightful, as we entered among the hill-scenery that is formed by the subsiding swells of the Alleghanies. The latter part of our journey lay along the shore of the Potomac, in its upper course, where the margin of that noble river is bordered by gray, overhanging crags, beneath which--and sometimes right through them--the railroad takes its way. In one place the Rebels had attempted to arrest a train by precipitating an immense mass of rock down upon the track, by the side of which it still lay, deeply imbedded in the ground, and looking as if it might have lain there since the Deluge. The scenery grew even more picturesque as we proceeded, the bluffs becoming very bold in their descent upon the river, which, at Harper's Ferry, presents as striking a vista among the hills as a painter could desire to see. But a beautiful landscape is a luxury, and luxuries are thrown away amid discomfort; and when we alighted into the tenacious mud and almost fathomless puddle, on the hither side of the Ferry, (the ultimate point to which the cars proceeded, since the railroad bridge had been destroyed by the Rebels,) I cannot remember that any very rapturous emotions were awakened by the scenery.
We paddled and floundered over the ruins of the track, and, scrambling down an embankment, crossed the Potomac by a pontoon-bridge, a thousand feet in length, over the narrow line of which--level with the river, and rising and subsiding with it--General Banks had recently led his whole army, with its ponderous artillery and heavily laden wagons. Yet our own tread made it vibrate. The broken bridge of the railroad was a little below us, and at the base of one of its massive piers, in the rocky bed of the river, lay a locomotive, which the Rebels had precipitated there.
As we passed over, we looked towards the Virginia shore, and beheld the little town of Harper's Ferry, gathered about the base of a round hill and climbing up its steep acclivity; so that it somewhat resembled the Etruscan cities which I have seen among the Apennines, rushing, as it were, down an apparently break-neck height. About midway of the ascent stood a shabby brick church, towards which a difficult path went scrambling up the precipice, indicating, one would say, a very fervent aspiration on the part of the worshippers, unless there was some easier mode of access in another direction. Immediately on the shore of the Potomac, and extending back towards the town, lay the dismal ruins of the United States arsenal and armory, consisting of piles of broken bricks and a waste of shapeless demolition, amid which we saw gun-barrels in heaps of hundreds together. They were the relics of the conflagration, bent with the heat of the fire, and rusted with the wintry rain to which they had since been exposed. The brightest sunshine could not have made the scene cheerful, nor have taken away the gloom from the dilapidated town; for, besides the natural shabbiness, and decayed, unthrifty look of a Virginian village, it has an inexpressible forlornness resulting from the devastations of war and its occupation by both armies alternately. Yet there would be a less striking contrast between Southern and New-England villages, if the former were as much in the habit of using white paint as we are. It is prodigiously efficacious in putting a bright face upon a bad matter.
There was one small shop, which appeared to have nothing for sale. A single man and one or two boys were all the inhabitants in view, except the Yankee sentinels and soldiers, belonging to Massachusetts regiments, who were scattered about pretty numerously. A guard-house stood on the slope of the hill; and in the level street at its base were the offices of the Provost-Marshal and other military authorities, to whom we forthwith reported ourselves. The Provost-Marshal kindly sent a corporal to guide us to the little building which John Brown seized upon as his fortress, and which, after it was stormed by the United States marines, became his temporary prison. It is an old engine-house, rusty and shabby, like every other work of man's hands in this God-forsaken town, and stands fronting upon the river, only a short distance from the bank, nearly at the point where the pontoon-bridge touches the Virginia shore. In its front wall, on each side of the door, are two or three ragged loop-holes which John Brown perforated for his defence, knocking out merely a brick or two, so as to give himself and his garrison a sight over their rifles. Through these orifices the sturdy old man dealt a good deal of deadly mischief among his assailants, until they broke down the door by thrusting against it with a ladder, and tumbled headlong in upon him. I shall not pretend to be an admirer of old John Brown, any farther than sympathy with Whittier's excellent ballad about him may go; nor did I expect ever to shrink so unutterably from any apophthegm of a sage, whose happy lips have uttered a hundred golden sentences, as from that saying, (perhaps falsely attributed to so honored a source,) that the death of this blood-stained fanatic has "made the Gallows as venerable as the Cross!" Nobody was ever more justly hanged. He won his martyrdom fairly, and took it firmly. He himself, I am persuaded, (such was his natural integrity,) would have acknowledged that Virginia had a right to take the life which he had staked and lost; although it would have been better for her, in the hour that is fast coming, if she could generously have forgotten the criminality of his attempt in its enormous folly. On the other hand, any common-sensible man, looking at the matter unsentimentally, must have felt a certain intellectual satisfaction in seeing him hanged, if it were only in requital of his preposterous miscalculation of possibilities. [Footnote: Can it be a son of old Massachusetts who utters this abominable sentiment? For shame!]
But, coolly as I seem to say these things, my Yankee heart stirred triumphantly when I saw the use to which John Brown's fortress and prison-house has now been put. What right have I to complain of any other man's foolish impulses, when I cannot possibly control my own? The engine-house is now a place of confinement for Rebel prisoners.
A Massachusetts soldier stood on guard, but readily permitted our whole party to enter. It was a wretched place. A room of perhaps twenty-five feet square occupied the whole interior of the building, having an iron stove in its centre, whence a rusty funnel ascended towards a hole in the roof, which served the purposes of ventilation, as well as for the exit of smoke. We found ourselves right in the midst of the Rebels, some of whom lay on heaps of straw, asleep, or, at all events, giving no sign of consciousness; others sat in the corners of the room, huddled close together, and staring with a lazy kind of interest at the visitors; two were astride of some planks, playing with the dirtiest pack of cards that I ever happened to see. There was only one figure in the least military among all these twenty prisoners of war,--a man with a dark, intelligent, moustached face, wearing a shabby cotton uniform, which he had contrived to arrange with a degree of soldierly smartness, though it had evidently borne the brunt of a very filthy campaign. He stood erect, and talked freely with those who addressed him, telling them his place of residence, the number of his regiment, the circumstances of his capture, and such other particulars as their Northern inquisitiveness prompted them to ask. I liked the manliness of his deportment; he was neither ashamed, nor afraid, nor in the slightest degree sullen, peppery, or contumacious, but bore himself as if whatever animosity he had felt towards his enemies was left upon the battle-field, and would not be resumed till he had again a weapon in his hand.
Neither could I detect a trace of hostile feeling in the countenance, words, or manner of any prisoner there. Almost to a man, they were simple, bumpkin-like fellows, dressed in homespun clothes, with faces singularly vacant of meaning, but sufficiently good-humored: a breed of men, in short, such as I did not suppose to exist in this country, although I have seen their like in some other parts of the world. They were peasants, and of a very low order: a class of people with whom our Northern rural population has not a single trait in common. They were exceedingly respectful,--more so than a rustic New-Englander ever dreams of being towards anybody, except perhaps his minister; and had they worn any hats, they would probably have been self-constrained to take them off, under the unusual circumstance of being permitted to hold conversation with well-dressed persons. It is my belief that not a single bumpkin of them all (the moustached soldier always excepted) had the remotest comprehension of what they had been fighting for, or how they had deserved to be shut up in that dreary hole; nor, possibly, did they care to inquire into this latter mystery, but took it as a godsend to be suffered to lie here in a heap of unwashed human bodies, well warmed and well foddered to-day, and without the necessity of bothering themselves about the possible hunger and cold of to-morrow. Their dark prison-life may have seemed to them the sunshine of all their lifetime.
There was one poor wretch, a wild-beast of a man, at whom I gazed with greater interest than at his fellows; although I know not that each one of them, in their semi-barbarous moral state, might not have been capable of the same savage impulse that had made this particular individual a horror to all beholders. At the close of some battle or skirmish, a wounded Union soldier had crept on hands and knees to his feet, and besought his assistance,--not dreaming that any creature in human shape, in the Christian land where they had so recently been brethren, could refuse it. But this man (this fiend, if you prefer to call him so, though I would not advise it) flung a bitter curse at the poor Northerner, and absolutely trampled the soul out of his body, as he lay writhing beneath his feet. The fellow's face was horribly ugly; but I am not quite sure that I should have noticed it, if I had not known his story. He spoke not a word, and met nobody's eye, but kept staring upward into the smoky vacancy towards the ceiling, where, it might be, he beheld a continual portraiture of his victim's horror-stricken agonies. I rather fancy, however, that his moral sense was yet too torpid to trouble him with such remorseful visions, and that, for his own part, he might have had very agreeable reminiscences of the soldier's death, if other eyes had not been bent reproachfully upon him and warned him that something was amiss. It was this reproach in other men's eyes that made him look aside. He was a wild-beast, as I began with saying,--an unsophisticated wild-beast,--while the rest of us are partially tamed, though still the scent of blood excites some of the savage instincts of our nature. What this wretch needed, in order to make him capable of the degree of mercy and benevolence that exists in us, was simply such a measure of moral and intellectual development as we have received; and, in my mind, the present war is so well justified by no other consideration as by the probability that it will free this class of Southern whites from a thraldom in which they scarcely begin to be responsible beings. So far as the education of the heart is concerned, the negroes have apparently the advantage of them; and as to other schooling, it is practically unattainable by black or white.
Looking round at these poor prisoners, therefore, it struck me as an immense absurdity that they should fancy us their enemies; since, whether we intend it so or no, they have a far greater stake on our success than we can possibly have. For ourselves, the balance of advantages between defeat and triumph may admit of question. For them, all truly valuable things are dependent on our complete success; for thence would come the regeneration of a people,--the removal of a foul scurf that has overgrown their life, and keeps them in a state of disease and decrepitude, one of the chief symptoms of which is, that, the more they suffer and are debased, the more they imagine themselves strong and beautiful. No human effort, on a grand scale, has ever yet resulted according to the purpose of its projectors. The advantages are always incidental. Man's accidents are God's purposes. We miss the good we sought, and do the good we little cared for. [Footnote: The author seems to imagine that he has compressed a great deal of meaning into these little, hard, dry pellets of aphoristic wisdom. We disagree with him. The counsels of wise and good men are often coincident with the purposes of Providence; and the present war promises to illustrate our remark.]
Our Government evidently knows when and where to lay its finger upon its most available citizens; for, quite unexpectedly, we were joined with some other gentlemen, scarcely less competent than ourselves, in a commission to proceed to Fortress Monroe and examine into things in general. Of course, official propriety compels us to be extremely guarded in our description of the interesting objects which this expedition opened to our view. There can be no harm, however, in stating that we were received by the commander of the fortress with a kind of acid good-nature, or mild cynicism, that indicated him to be a humorist, characterized by certain rather pungent peculiarities, yet of no unamiable cast. He is a small, thin old gentleman, set off by a large pair of brilliant epaulets,--the only pair, so far as my observation went, that adorn the shoulders of any officer in the Union army. Either for our inspection, or because the matter had already been arranged, he drew out a regiment of Zouaves that formed the principal part of his garrison, and appeared at their head, sitting on horseback with rigid perpendicularity, and affording us a vivid idea of the disciplinarian of Baron Steuben's school.
There can be no question of the General's military qualities; he must have been especially useful in converting raw recruits into trained and efficient soldiers. But valor and martial skill are of so evanescent a character, (hardly less fleeting than a woman's beauty,) that Government has perhaps taken the safer course in assigning to this gallant officer, though distinguished in former wars, no more active duty than the guardianship of an apparently impregnable fortress. The ideas of military men solidify and fossilize so fast, while military science makes such rapid advances, that even here there might be a difficulty. An active, diversified, and therefore a youthful, ingenuity is required by the quick exigencies of this singular war. Fortress Monroe, for example, in spite of the massive solidity of its ramparts, its broad and deep moat, and all the contrivances of defence that were known at the not very remote epoch of its construction, is now pronounced absolutely incapable of resisting the novel modes of assault which may be brought to bear upon it. It can only be the flexible talent of a young man that will evolve a new efficiency out of its obsolete strength.
It is a pity that old men grow unfit for war, not only by their incapacity for new ideas, but by the peaceful and unadventurous tendencies that gradually possess themselves of the once turbulent disposition, which used to snuff the battle-smoke as its congenial atmosphere. It is a pity; because it would be such an economy of human existence, if time-stricken people (whose value I have the better right to estimate, as reckoning myself one of them) could snatch from their juniors the exclusive privilege of carrying on the war. In case of death upon the battle-field, how unequal would be the comparative sacrifice! On one part, a few unenjoyable years, the little remnant of a life grown torpid; on the other, the many fervent summers of manhood in its spring and prime, with all that they include of possible benefit to mankind. Then, too, a bullet offers such a brief and easy way, such a pretty little orifice, through which the weary spirit might seize the opportunity to be exhaled! If I had the ordering of these matters, fifty should be the tenderest age at which a recruit might be accepted for training; at fifty-five or sixty, I would consider him eligible for most kinds of military duty and exposure, excluding that of a forlorn hope, which no soldier should be permitted to volunteer upon, short of the ripe age of seventy. As a general rule, these venerable combatants should have the preference for all dangerous and honorable service in the order of their seniority, with a distinction in favor of those whose infirmities might render their lives less worth the keeping. Methinks there would be no more Bull Runs; a warrior with gout in his toe, or rheumatism in his joints, or with one foot in the grave, would make a sorry fugitive!
On this admirable system, the productive part of the population would be undisturbed even by the bloodiest war; and, best of all, those thousands upon thousands of our Northern girls, whose proper mates will perish in camp-hospitals or on Southern battle-fields, would avoid their doom of forlorn old-maidenhood. But, no doubt, the plan will be pooh-poohed down by the War Department; though it could scarcely be more disastrous than the one on which we began the war, when a young army was struck with paralysis through the age of its commander.
The waters around Fortress Monroe were thronged with a gallant array of ships of war and transports, wearing the Union flag,--"Old Glory," as I hear it called in these days. A little withdrawn from our national fleet lay two French frigates, and, in another direction, an English sloop, under that banner which always makes itself visible, like a red portent in the air, wherever there is strife. In pursuance of our official duty, (which had no ascertainable limits,) we went on board the flag-ship, and were shown over every part of her, and down into her depths, inspecting her gallant crew, her powerful armament, her mighty engines, and her furnaces, where the fires are always kept burning, as well at midnight as at noon, so that it would require only five minutes to put the vessel under full steam. This vigilance has been felt necessary ever since the Merrimack made that terrible dash from Norfolk. Splendid as she is, however, and provided with all but the very latest improvements in naval armament, the Minnesota belongs to a class of vessels that will be built no more, nor ever fight another battle,--being as much a thing of the past as any of the ships of Queen Elizabeth's time, which grappled with the galleons of the Spanish Armada.
On her quarter-deck, an elderly flag-officer was pacing to and fro, with a self-conscious dignity to which a touch of the gout or rheumatism perhaps contributed a little additional stiffness. He seemed to be a gallant gentleman, but of the old, slow, and pompous school of naval worthies, who have grown up amid rules, forms, and etiquette which were adopted full-blown from the British navy into ours, and are somewhat too cumbrous for the quick spirit of to-day. This order of nautical heroes will probably go down, along with the ships in which they fought valorously and strutted most intolerably. How can an admiral condescend to go to sea in an iron pot? What space and elbow-room can be found for quarter-deck dignity in the cramped lookout of the Monitor, or even in the twenty-feet diameter of her cheese-box? All the pomp and splendor of naval warfare are gone by. Henceforth there must come up a race of enginemen and smoke-blackened cannoneers, who will hammer away at their enemies under the direction of a single pair of eyes; and even heroism--so deadly a gripe is Science laying on our noble possibilities--will become a quality of very minor importance, when its possessor cannot break through the iron crust of his own armament and give the world a glimpse of it.
At no great distance from the Minnesota lay the strangest-looking craft I ever saw. It was a platform of iron, so nearly on a level with the water that the swash of the waves broke over it, under the impulse of a very moderate breeze; and on this platform was raised a circular structure, likewise of iron, and rather broad and capacious, but of no great height. It could not be called a vessel at all; it was a machine,--and I have seen one of somewhat similar appearance employed in cleaning out the docks; or, for lack of a better similitude, it looked like a gigantic rat-trap. It was ugly, questionable, suspicious, evidently mischievous,--nay, I will allow myself to call it devilish; for this was the new war-fiend, destined, along with others of the same breed, to annihilate whole navies and batter down old supremacies. The wooden walls of Old England cease to exist, and a whole history of naval renown reaches its period, now that the Monitor comes smoking into view; while the billows dash over what seems her deck, and storms bury even her turret in green water, as she burrows and snorts along, oftener under the surface than above. The singularity of the object has betrayed me into a more ambitious vein of description than I often indulge; and, after all, I might as well have contented myself with simply saying that she looked very queer.
Going on board, we were surprised at the extent and convenience of her interior accommodations. There is a spacious ward-room, nine or ten feet in height, besides a private cabin for the commander, and sleeping accommodations on an ample scale; the whole well lighted and ventilated, though beneath the surface of the water. Forward, or aft, (for it is impossible to tell stem from stern,) the crew are relatively quite as well provided for as the officers. It was like finding a palace, with all its conveniences, under the sea. The inaccessibility, the apparent impregnability, of this submerged iron fortress are most satisfactory; the officers and crew get down through a little hole in the deck, hermetically seal themselves, and go below; and until they see fit to reappear, there would seem to be no power given to man whereby they can be brought to light. A storm of cannon-shot damages them no more than a handful of dried peas. We saw the shot-marks made by the great artillery of the Merrimack on the outer casing of the iron tower; they were about the breadth and depth of shallow saucers, almost imperceptible dents, with no corresponding bulge on the interior surface. In fact, the thing looked altogether too safe; though it may not prove quite an agreeable predicament to be thus boxed up in impenetrable iron, with the possibility, one would imagine, of being sent to the bottom of the sea, and, even there, not drowned, but stifled. Nothing, however, can exceed the confidence of the officers in this new craft. It was pleasant to see their benign exultation in her powers of mischief, and the delight with which they exhibited the circumvolutory movement of the tower, the quick thrusting forth of the immense guns to deliver their ponderous missiles, and then the immediate recoil, and the security behind the closed port-holes. Yet even this will not long be the last and most terrible improvement in the science of war. Already we hear of vessels the armament of which is to act entirely beneath the surface of the water; so that, with no other external symptoms than a great bubbling and foaming, and gush of smoke, and belch of smothered thunder out of the yeasty waves, there shall be a deadly fight going on below,--and, by-and-by, a sucking whirlpool, as one of the ships goes down.
The Monitor was certainly an object of great interest; but on our way to Newport News, whither we next went, we saw a spectacle that affected us with far profounder emotion. It was the sight of the few sticks that are left of the frigate Congress, stranded near the shore,--and still more, the masts of the Cumberland rising midway out of the water, with a tattered rag of a pennant fluttering from one of them. The invisible hull of the latter ship seems to be careened over, so that the three masts stand slantwise; the rigging looks quite unimpaired, except that a few ropes dangle loosely from the yards. The flag (which never was struck, thank Heaven!) is entirely hidden under the waters of the bay, but is still doubtless waving in its old place, although it floats to and fro with the swell and reflux of the tide, instead of rustling on the breeze. A remnant of the dead crew still man the sunken ship, and sometimes a drowned body floats up to the surface.
That was a noble fight. When was ever a better word spoken than that of Commodore Smith, the father of the commander of the Congress, when he heard that his son's ship was surrendered? "Then Joe's dead!" said he; and so it proved. Nor can any warrior be more certain of enduring renown than the gallant Morris, who fought so well the final battle of the old system of naval warfare, and won glory for his country and himself out of inevitable disaster and defeat. That last gun from the Cumberland, when her deck was half submerged, sounded the requiem of many sinking ships. Then went down all the navies of Europe, and our own, Old Ironsides and all, and Trafalgar and a thousand other fights became only a memory, never to be acted over again; and thus our brave countrymen come last in the long procession of heroic sailors that includes Blake and Nelson, and so many mariners of England, and other mariners as brave as they, whose renown is our native inheritance. There will be other battles, but no more such tests of seamanship and manhood as the battles of the past; and, moreover, the Millennium is certainly approaching, because human strife is to be transferred from the heart and personality of man into cunning contrivances of machinery, which by-and-by will fight out our wars with only the clank and smash of iron, strewing the field with broken engines, but damaging nobody's little finger except by accident. Such is obviously the tendency of modern improvement. But, in the mean while, so long as manhood retains any part of its pristine value, no country can afford to let gallantry like that of Morris and his crew, any more than that of the brave Worden, pass unhonored and unrewarded. If the Government do nothing, let the people take the matter into their own hands, and cities give him swords, gold boxes, festivals of triumph, and, if he needs it, heaps of gold. Let poets brood upon the theme, and make themselves sensible how much of the past and future is contained within its compass, till its spirit shall flash forth in the lightning of a song!
From these various excursions, and a good many others, (including one to Manassas,) we gained a pretty lively idea of what was going on; but, after all, if compelled to pass a rainy day in the hall and parlors of Willard's Hotel, it proved about as profitably spent as if we had floundered through miles of Virginia mud, in quest of interesting matter. This hotel, in fact, may be much more justly called the centre of Washington and the Union than either the Capitol, the White House, or the State Department. Everybody may be seen there. It is the meeting-place of the true representatives of the country,--not such as are chosen blindly and amiss by electors who take a folded ballot from the hand of a local politician, and thrust it into the ballot-box unread, but men who gravitate or are attracted hither by real business, or a native impulse to breathe the intensest atmosphere of the nation's life, or a genuine anxiety to see how this life-and-death struggle is going to deal with us. Nor these only, but all manner of loafers. Never, in any other spot, was there such a miscellany of people. You exchange nods with governors of sovereign States; you elbow illustrious men, and tread on the toes of generals; you hear statesmen and orators speaking in their familiar tones. You are mixed up with office-seekers, wire-pullers, inventors, artists, poets, prosers, (including editors, army-correspondents, _attachés_ of foreign journals, and long-winded talkers,) clerks, diplomatists, mail-contractors, railway-directors, until your own identity is lost among them. Occasionally you talk with a man whom you have never before heard of, and are struck by the brightness of a thought, and fancy that there is more wisdom hidden among the obscure than is anywhere revealed among the famous. You adopt the universal habit of the place, and call for a mint-julep, a whiskey-skin, a gin-cocktail, a brandy-smash, or a glass of pure Old Rye; for the conviviality of Washington sets in at an early hour, and, so far as I had an opportunity of observing, never terminates at any hour, and all these drinks are continually in request by almost all these people. A constant atmosphere of cigar-smoke, too, envelopes the motley crowd, and forms a sympathetic medium, in which men meet more closely and talk more frankly than in any other kind of air. If legislators would smoke in session, they might speak truer words, and fewer of them, and bring about more valuable results.
It is curious to observe what antiquated figures and costumes sometimes make their appearance at Willard's. You meet elderly men with frilled shirt-fronts, for example, the fashion of which adornment passed away from among the people of this world half a century ago. It is as if one of Stuart's portraits were walking abroad. I see no way of accounting for this, except that the trouble of the times, the impiety of traitors, and the peril of our sacred Union and Constitution have disturbed, in their honored graves, some of the venerable fathers of the country, and summoned them forth to protest against the meditated and half-accomplished sacrilege. If it be so, their wonted fires are not altogether extinguished in their ashes,--in their throats, I might rather say;--for I beheld one of these excellent old men quaffing such a horn of Bourbon whiskey as a toper of the present century would be loath to venture upon. But, really, one would be glad to know where these strange figures come from. It shows, at any rate, how many remote, decaying villages and country-neighborhoods of the North, and forest-nooks of the West, and old mansion-houses in cities, are shaken by the tremor of our native soil, so that men long hidden in retirement put on the garments of their youth and hurry out to inquire what is the matter. The old men whom we see here have generally more marked faces than the young ones, and naturally enough; since it must be an extraordinary vigor and renewability of life that can overcome the rusty sloth of age, and keep the senior flexible enough to take an interest in new things; whereas hundreds of commonplace young men come hither to stare with eyes of vacant wonder, and with vague hopes of finding out what they are fit for. And this war (we may say so much in its favor) has been the means of discovering that important secret to not a few.
We saw at Willard's many who had thus found out for themselves, that, when Nature gives a young man no other utilizable faculty, she must be understood as intending him for a soldier. The bulk of the army had moved out of Washington before we reached the city; yet it seemed to me that at least two-thirds of the guests and idlers at the hotel wore one or another token of the military profession. Many of them, no doubt, were self-commissioned officers, and had put on the buttons and the shoulder-straps, and booted themselves to the knees, merely because captain, in these days, is so good a travelling-name. The majority, however, had been duly appointed by the President, but might be none the better warriors for that. It was pleasant, occasionally, to distinguish a grizzly veteran among this crowd of carpet-knights, --the trained soldier of a lifetime, long ago from West Point, who had spent his prime upon the frontier, and very likely could show an Indian bullet-mark on his breast,--if such decorations, won in an obscure warfare, were worth the showing now.
The question often occurred to me,--and, to say the truth, it added an indefinable piquancy to the scene,--what proportion of all these people, whether soldiers or civilians, were true at heart to the Union, and what part were tainted, more or less, with treasonable sympathies and wishes, even if such had never blossomed into purpose. Traitors there were among them,--no doubt of that,--civil servants of the public, very reputable persons, who yet deserved to dangle from a cord; or men who buttoned military coats over their breasts, hiding perilous secrets there, which might bring the gallant officer to stand pale-faced before a file of musketeers, with his open grave behind him. But, without insisting upon such picturesque criminality and punishment as this, an observer, who kept both his eyes and heart open, would find it by no means difficult to discern that many residents and visitors of Washington so far sided with the South as to desire nothing more nor better than to see everything reestablished on a little worse than its former basis. If the cabinet of Richmond were transferred to the Federal city, and the North awfully snubbed, at least, and driven back within its old political limits, they would deem it a happy day. It is no wonder, and, if we look at the matter generously, no unpardonable crime. Very excellent people hereabouts remember the many dynasties in which the Southern character has been predominant, and contrast the genial courtesy, the warm and graceful freedom of that region, with what they call (though I utterly disagree with them) the frigidity of our Northern manners, and the Western plainness of the President. They have a conscientious, though mistaken belief, that the South was driven out of the Union by intolerable wrong on our part, and that we are responsible for having compelled true patriots to love only half their country instead of the whole, and brave soldiers to draw their swords against the Constitution which they would once have died for,--to draw them, too, with a bitterness of animosity which is the only symptom of brotherhood (since brothers hate each other best) that any longer exists. They whisper these things with tears in their eyes, and shake their heads, and stoop their poor old shoulders, at the tidings of another and another Northern victory, which, in their opinion, puts farther off the remote, the already impossible chance of a reunion.
I am sorry for them, though it is by no means a sorrow without hope. Since the matter has gone so far, there seems to be no way but to go on winning victories, and establishing peace and a truer union in another generation, at the expense, probably, of greater trouble, in the present one, than any other people ever voluntarily suffered. We woo the South "as the Lion wooes his bride"; it is a rough courtship, but perhaps love and a quiet household may come of it at last. Or, if we stop short of that blessed consummation, heaven was heaven still, as Milton sings, after Lucifer and a third part of the angels had seceded from its golden palaces,--and perhaps all the more heavenly, because so many gloomy brows, and soured, vindictive hearts, had gone to plot ineffectual schemes of mischief elsewhere. [Footnote: We regret the innuendo in the concluding sentence. The war can never be allowed to terminate, except in the complete triumph of Northern principles. We hold the event in our own hands, and may choose whether to terminate it by the methods already so successfully used, or by other means equally within our control, and calculated to be still more speedily efficacious. In truth, the work is already done.
We should be sorry to cast a doubt on the Peaceable Man's loyalty, but he will allow us to say that we consider him premature in his kindly feelings towards traitors and sympathizers with treason. As the author himself says of John Brown, (and, so applied, we thought it an atrociously cold-blooded _dictum_,) "any common-sensible man would feel an intellectual satisfaction in seeing them hanged, were it only for their preposterous miscalculation of possibilities." There are some degrees of absurdity that put Reason herself into a rage, and affect us like an intolerable crime,--which this Rebellion is, into the bargain.]
I stood within the little cove, Full of the morning's life and hope, While heavily the eager waves Charged thundering up the rocky slope.
The splendid breakers! how they rushed, All emerald green and flashing white, Tumultuous in the morning sun, With cheer, and sparkle, and delight!
And freshly blew the fragrant wind, The wild sea-wind, across their tops, And caught the spray and flung it far, In sweeping showers of glittering drops.
Within the cove all flashed and foamed, With many a fleeting rainbow hue; Without, gleamed, bright against the sky, A tender, wavering line of blue,
Where tossed the distant waves, and far Shone silver-white a quiet sail, And overhead the soaring gulls With graceful pinions stemmed the gale.
And all my pulses thrilled with joy, Watching the wind's and water's strife,-- With sudden rapture,--and I cried, "Oh, sweet is Life! Thank God for Life!"
Sailed any cloud across the sky, Marring this glory of the sun's? Over the sea, from distant forts, There came the boom of minute-guns!
War-tidings! Many a brave soul fled, And many a heart the message stuns!-- I saw no more the joyous waves, I only heard the minute-guns.
A great contemporary writer, so I am told, regards originality as much rarer than is commonly supposed. But, on the contrary, is it not far more frequent than is commonly supposed? For one should not identify originality with mere primacy of conception or utterance, as if a thought could be original but once. In truth, it may be so thousands or millions of times; nay, from the beginning to the end of man's times upon the earth, the same thoughts may continue rising from the same fountains in his spirit. Of the central or stem thoughts of consciousness, of the imperial presiding imaginations, this is actually true. Ceaseless re-origination is the method of Nature. This alone keeps history alive. For if every Mohammedan were but a passive appendage to the dead Mohammed, if every disciple were but a copy in plaster of his teacher, and if history were accordingly living and original only in such degree as it is an unprecedented invention, the laws of decay should at once be made welcome to the world.
The fact is otherwise. As new growths upon the oldest cedar or baobab do not merely spin themselves out of the wood already formed,--as they thrive and constitute themselves only by original conversation with sun, earth, and air,--that is, in the same way with any seed or sapling,--so generations of Moslems, Parsees, or Calvinists, while obeying the structural law of their system, yet quaff from the mystical fountains of pure Life the sustenance by which they live. Merely out of itself the tree can give nothing,--literally, nothing. True, if cut down, it may, under favorable circumstances, continue for a time to feed the growing shoots out of its own decay. Yet not even at the cost of decay and speedy exhaustion could the old trunk accomplish this little, but for the draft made upon it by the new growths. It is _their_ life, it is the relationship which they assert with sun and rain and all the elements, which is foremost in bringing about even this result. So it is with the great old literatures, with the old systems of philosophy and faith. They are simply avenues, or structural forms, through which succeeding generations of souls come into conversation with eternal Nature, and express their original life.
Observe, again, that the tree lives only while new shoots are produced upon it. The new twigs and leaves not only procure sustenance for themselves, but even keep the trunk itself alive: so that the chief order of support is just opposite what it seems; and the tree lives from above, down,--as do men and all other creatures. So in history, it requires a vast amount of original thought or sentiment to sustain the old structural forms. This gigantic baobab of Catholicism, for example, is kept alive by the conversion of Life into Belief, which takes place age after age in the bosoms of women and men. The trunk was long ago in extensive decay; every wind menaces it with overthrow; but the hearts that bud and blossom upon it yearly send down to the earth and up to the sky such a claim for resource as surrounds the dying trunk with ever new layers of supporting growth. Equally are the thought, poetry, rhetoric of by-gone times kept in significance by the perceiving, the imagining, and the sense of a flowing symbolism in Nature, which our own time brings to them. To make Homer alive to this age,--what an expenditure of imagination, of pure feeling and penetration does it demand! Let the Homeric heart or genius die out of mankind, and from that moment the "Iliad" is but dissonance, the long melodious roll of its echoes becomes a jarring chop of noises. What chiefly makes Homer great is the vast ideal breadth of relationship in which he establishes human beings. But he in whose narrow brain is no space for high Olympus and deep Orcus,--he whose coarse fibre never felt the shudder of the world at the shaking of the ambrosial locks, nor a thrill in the air when a hero fails,--what can this grand stoop of the ideal upon the actual world signify to him? To what but an ethical genius in men can appeal for guest-rites be made by the noble "Meditations" of Marcus Antoninus, or the exquisite, and perhaps incomparable, "Christian Morals" of Sir Thomas Browne? Appreciative genius is centrally the same with productive genius; and it is the Shakspeare in men alone that prints Shakspeare and reads him. So it is that the works of the masters are, as it were, perpetually re-written and renewed in life by the genius of mankind.
In saying that constant re-origination is the method of Nature, I do not overlook the element nor underrate the importance of Imitation. This it is that secures continuity, connection, and structural unity. By vital imitation the embryonic man assumes the features and traits of his progenitors. After birth the infant remains in the matrix of the household; after infancy the glowing youth is held in that of society; and processes kindred with those which bestowed likeness to father and mother go on to assimilate him with a social circle or an age. Complaint is made, and by good men, of that implicit acquiescence which keeps in existence Islam, Catholicism, and the like, long after their due time has come to die; yet, abolish the law of imitation which causes this, and the immediate disintegration of mankind will follow. Mortar is much in the way, when we wish to take an old building to pieces and make other use of the bricks; do you therefore advise its disuse?
But imitation would preserve nothing, did not the law of re-origination keep it company. We are not born from our parents alone, but from the loins of eternal Nature no less. Was Orpheus the grandson of Zeus and Mnemosyne,--of sovereign Unity and immortal Memory? Equally is Shakspeare and every genuine bard. Could the heroes of old Greece trace their derivation from the gods?
Little of a hero is he, even in these times of ours, who is not of the like lineage. And indeed, one and all, we have a father and mother whose marriage-morn is of more ancient date than our calendars, and of whose spousal solemnities this universe is the memorial. All life, indeed, whatsoever be its form and rank, has, along with connections of pedigree and lateral association, one tap-root that strikes straight down into the eternal.
Because Life is of this unsounded depth, it may well afford to repeat the same forms forever, nor incurs thereby any danger of exhausting its significance and becoming stale. Vital repetition, accordingly, goes on in Nature in a way not doubtful and diffident, but frank, open, sure, as if the game were one that could not be played out. It is now a very long while that buds have burst and grass grown; yet Spring comes forward still without bashfulness, fearing no charge of having plagiarized from her predecessors. The field blushes not for its blades, though they are such as for immemorial times have spired from the sod; the boughs publish their annual book of many a verdant scroll without apprehension of having become commonplace at last; the bobolink pours his warble in cheery sureness of acceptance, unmindful that it is the same warble with which the throats of other bobolinks were throbbing before there was a man to listen and smile; and night after night forever the stars, and age after age the eyes of women and men, shine on without apology, or the least promise that this shall be positively their last appearance. Life knows itself original always, nor a whit the less so for any repetition of its elected and significant forms. Youth and newness are, indeed, inseparable from it. Death alone is senile; and we become physically aged only by the presence and foothold of this dogged intruder in our bodies. The body is a fortress for the possession of which Death is perpetually contending; only the incessant activity of Life at every foot of the rampart keeps him at bay; but, with, the advance of years, the assailants gain, here and there a foothold, pressing the defenders back; and just in proportion as this defeat take a place the man becomes _old_. But Life sets out from the same basis of mystery to build each new body, no matter how many myriads of such forms have been built before; and forsaking it finally, is no less young, inscrutable, enticing than before.
Now Thought, as part of the supreme flowering of Life, follows its law. It cannot be anticipated by any anticipation of its forms and results. There were hazel-brown eyes in the world before my boy was born; but the light that shines in these eyes comes direct from the soul nevertheless. The light of true thought, in like manner, issues only from an inward sun; and shining, it carries always its perfect privilege, its charm and sacredness. Would you have purple or yellow eyes, because the accustomed colors have been so often repeated? Black, blue, brown, gray, forever! May the angels in heaven have no other! Forever, too, and equally, the perpetual loves, thoughts, and melodies of men! Let them come out of their own mystical, ineffable haunts,--let them, that is, be _real_,--and we ask no more.
The question of originality is, therefore, simply one of vitality. Does the fruit really grow on the tree? does it indeed come by vital process?--little more than this does it concern us to know. Truths become cold and commonplace, not by any number of rekindlings in men's bosoms, but by out-of-door reflections without inward kindling. Saying is the royal son of Seeing; but there is many a pretender to the throne; and when these supposititious people usurp, age after age, the honors that are not theirs, the throne and government are disgraced.
Truisms are corpses of truths; and statements are to be found in every stage of approach to this final condition. Every time there is an impotency or unreality in their enunciation, they are borne a step nearer the sepulchre. If the smirking politician, who wishes to delude me into voting for him, bid me his bland "Good-morning," not only does he draw a film of eclipse over the sun, and cast a shadow on city and field, but he throws over the salutation itself a more permanent shadow; and were the words never to reach us save from such lips, they would, in no long time, become terms of insult or of malediction. But so often as the sweet greeting comes from wife, child, or friend, its proper savors are restored. A jesting editor says that "You tell a telegram" is the polite way of giving the lie; and it is quite possible that his witticism only anticipates a serious use of language some century hence. Terms and statements are perpetually saturated by the uses made of them. Etymology and the dictionary resist effects in vain. And as single words may thus be discharged of their lawful meaning, so the total purport of words, that is, truths themselves, may in like manner be disgraced. If the man of ordinary heart ostentatiously patronize the maxims of perfect charity, if the traditional priest or feeble pietist repeat the word _God_ or recite the raptures of adoring bards, the sentences they maunder and the sentiments they belie are alike covered with rust; and in due time some Shelley will turn atheist in the interest of religion, and some Johnson in the interest of morality aver that he writes for money alone.
But Truth does not share the fortunes of her verbal body. The grand ideas, the master-imaginations and moving faiths of men, run in the blood of the race; and a given degree of pure human heat infallibly brings them out. Not more surely does the rose appear on the rose-bush, or the apple, pear, or peach upon the trees of the orchard, than these fruits of the soul upon nations of powerful and thrifty spirit. For want of vitality the shrub may fail to flower, the tree to bear fruit, and man to bring forth his spiritual product; but if Thought be attained, certain thoughts and imaginations will come of it. Let two nations at opposite sides of the globe, and without intercommunication arrive at equal stages of mental culture, and the language of the one will, on the whole, be equivalent to that of the other, nay, the very rhetoric, the very fancies of the one will, in a broad way of comparison, be tantamount to those of the other. The nearer we get to any past age, the more do we find that the totality of its conceptions and imaginings is much the same with that of our own. There are specific variation and generic unity; and he whom the former blinds to the latter reads the old literatures without eyes, and knows neither his own time nor any other. Owen, Agassiz, Carpenter explain the homologies of anatomy and physiology; but a doctrine of the homologies of thought is equally possible, and will sometime be set forth.
The basis, then, of any sufficient doctrine of literature and literary production is found in two statements:--
First, that the perfect truth of the universe issues, by vital representation, into the personality of man.
Secondly, that this truth _tends_ in every man, though often in the obscurest way, toward intellectual and artistic expression.
Now just so far as by any man's speech we feel ourselves brought into direct relationship with this ever-issuing fact, so far the impressions of originality are produced. That all his words were in the dictionary before he used them,--that all his thoughts, under some form of intimation, were in literature before he arrived at them,--matters not; it is the verity, the vital process, the depth of relationship, which concerns us.
Nay, in one sense, the older his truth, the _more_ do the effects of originality lie open to him. The simple, central, imperial elements of human consciousness are first in order of expression, and continue forever to be first in order of power and suggestion. The great purposes, the great thoughts and melodies issue always from these. This is the quarry which every masterly thinker or poet must work. Homer is Homer because he is so simply true alike to earth and sky,--to the perpetual experience and perpetual imagination of mankind. Had he gone working around the edges, following the occasional _détours_ and slips of consciousness, there would have been no "Iliad" or "Odyssey" for mankind to love and for Pope to spoil. The great poets tell us nothing new. They remind us. They bear speech deep into our being, and to the heart of our heart lend a tongue. They have words that correspond to facts in all men and women. But they are not newsmongers.
Yesterday, I read in a prose translation of the "Odyssey" the exquisite idyl of Nausicaa and her Maids, and the discovery of himself by Ulysses. Perhaps the picture came out more clearly than ever before; at any rate, it filled my whole day with delight, and to-day I seem to have heard some sweetest good tidings, as if word had come from an old playmate, dear and distant in memory, or a happy and wealthy letter had arrived from a noble friend. Whence this enrichment? There was nothing in this idyl, to which, even on a first reading, I could give the name of "new truth." The secret is, that I _have_ indeed had tidings of old playmates, dear and distant in memory,--of those bright-eyed, brave, imaging playmates of all later ages, the inhabitants of Homer's world. And little can one care for novelties of thought, in comparison with these tones from the deeps of undying youth. Bring to our lips these cups of the fresh wine of life, if you would do good. Bring us these; for it is by perpetual rekindlings of the youth in us that our life grows and unfolds. Each advancing epoch of the inward life is no less than this,--a fresh efflux of adolescence from the immortal and exhaustless heart. Everywhere the law is the same,--Become as a little child, to reach the heavenly kingdoms. This, however, we become not by any return to babyhood, but by an effusion or emergence from within of pure life,--of life which takes from years only their wisdom and their chastening, and gives them in payment its perfect renewal.
This, then, is the proof of originality,--that one shall utter the pure consciousness of man. If he live, and live humanly, in his speech, the speech itself will live; for it will obtain hospitality in all wealthy and true hearts.
But if the most original speech be, as is here explained, of that which is oldest and most familiar in the consciousness of man, it nevertheless does not lack the charm of surprise and all effects of newness. For, in truth, nothing is so strange to men as the very facts they seem to confess every day of their lives. Truisms, I have said, are the corpses of truths; and they are as far from the fact they are taken to represent as the perished body from the risen soul. The mystery of truth is hidden behind them; and when next it shall come forth, it will bring astonishment, as at first. Every time the grand old truths are livingly uttered, the world thinks it never heard them before. The news of the day is hardly spoken before it is antiquated. For this an hour too late is a century, is forever, too late. But truth of life and the heart, the world-old imaginations, the root-thoughts of human consciousness,--these never lose their privilege to surprise, and at every fresh efflux are wellnigh sure to be persecuted by some as unlawful impositions upon the credence of mankind. Nay, the same often happens with the commonest truths of observation. Mr. Ruskin describes leaves and clouds, objects that are daily before all eyes; and the very artists cry, "Fie upon him!" as a propounder of childish novelties: slowly they perceive that it was leaves and clouds which were novel. Luther thunders in the ears of the Church its own creed; the Pope asks, "Is it possible that he believes all this?" and the priesthood scream, "To the stake with the heretic!" A poet prints in the "Atlantic Monthly" a simple affirmation of the indestructibility of man's true life; numbers of those who would have been shocked and exasperated to hear questioned the Church dogma of immortality exclaim against this as a ridiculous paradox. Once in a while there is grown a heart so spacious that Nature finds in it room to chant aloud the word _God_, and set its echoes rolling billowy through one man's being; and he, lifting up his voice to repeat it among men from that inward hearing, invariably astounds, and it may be infuriates his contemporaries. The simple proposition, GOD IS, could it once be _wholly_ received, would shake our sphere as no earthquake ever did, and would leave not one stone upon another, I say not merely of some city of Lisbon, but of entire kingdoms and systems of civilization. The faintest inference from this cannot be vigorously announced in modern senates without sending throbs of terror over half a continent, and eliciting shrieks of remonstrance from the very shrines of worship.
The ancient perpetual truths prove, at each fresh enunciation, not only surprising, but incredible. The reason is, that they overfill the vessels of men's credence. If you pour the Atlantic Ocean into a pint basin, what can the basin do but refuse to contain it, and so spill it over? Universal truths are as spacious and profound as the universe itself; and for the cerebral capacity of most of us the universe is really somewhat large!
But as the major numbers of mankind are too little self-reverent to dispense with the services of self-conceit, they like to think themselves equal, and very easily equal, to any truth, and habitually assume their extempore, off-hand notion of its significance as a perfect measure of the fact. As if a man hollowed his hand, and, dipping it full out of Lake Superior, said, "Lake Superior just fills my hand!" To how many are the words _God, Love, Immortality_ just such complacent handfuls! And when some mariner of God seizes them with loving mighty arms, and bears them in his bark beyond sight of their wonted shores, what wonder that they perceive not the identity of this sky-circled sea with their accustomed handful? Yet, despite egotism and narrowness of brain and every other limitation, the spirit of man will claim its privilege and assert its affinity with all truth; and in such measure as one utters the pure heart of mankind, and states the real relationships of human nature, is he sure of ultimate audience and sufficing love.
ERICSSON AND HIS INVENTIONS.
No events of the present war will be longer remembered, or will hold a more prominent place in History, than those which took place on the eighth and ninth of March in Hampton Roads, when the Rebel steamer Merrimack attacked the Federal fleet. We all know what havoc she made in her first day's work. When the story of her triumphs flashed over the wires, it fell like a thunderbolt upon all loyal hearts.
The Cumberland, manned by as gallant a crew as ever fought under the Stars and Stripes, had gone down helplessly before her. The Congress, half-manned, but bravely defended, had been captured and burnt. Sailing frigates, such as were deemed formidable in the days of Hull and Decatur, and which some of our old sea-dogs still believed to be the main stay of the navy, were found to be worse than useless against this strange antagonist. Our finest steam-frigates, though accidentally prevented from getting fairly into action, seemed likely, however skilfully handled, to have proved almost as inefficient; for all our batteries and broadsides had produced no effect on this iron-clad monster. She had gone back to her lair uninjured. What was to prevent her from coming out again to break the blockade, bombard our seaports, sink and destroy everything that came in her way?
But we had only seen the first act of the drama. The curtain was to rise again, and a new character was to appear on the stage. The champion of the Union, in complete armor, was about to enter the lists. When the Merrimack steamed out defiantly on Sunday morning, the Monitor was there to meet her. Then, for the first time in naval warfare, two iron-clad vessels were pitted against each other. The Merrimack was driven back disabled. We breathed freely again at this _dénouement_, and congratulated ourselves that the nation had been saved from enormous damage and disgrace. We did not foresee that the great Rebel monster, despairing of a successful encounter with her antagonist, was to end her career by suicide. We thought only of the vast injury which she might have done, and might yet be capable of doing, to the Union cause, but from which we had so providentially escaped. It was indeed a narrow escape. Nothing but the opportune arrival of the Monitor saved us; and for this impregnable vessel we are indebted to the genius of Ericsson.
This distinguished engineer and inventor, although a foreigner by birth, has long been a citizen of the United States. His first work in this country--by which, as in the present instance, he added honor and efficiency to the American navy--was the steam-frigate Princeton, a vessel which in her day was almost as great a novelty as the Monitor is now. The improvements in steam machinery and propulsion and in the arts of naval warfare, which he introduced in her, formed the subject of a lecture delivered before the Boston Lyceum by John O. Sargent, in 1844, from which source we derive some interesting particulars concerning Ericsson's early history.
John Ericsson was born in 1803, in the Province of Vermeland, among the iron mountains of Sweden. His father was a mining proprietor, so that the youth had ample opportunities to watch the operation of the various engines and machinery connected with the mines. These had been erected by mechanicians of the highest scientific attainments, and presented a fine study to a mind of mechanical tendencies. Under such influences, his innate mechanical talent was early developed. At the age of ten years, he had constructed with his own hands, and after his own plans, a miniature sawmill, and had made numerous drawings of complicated mechanical contrivances, with instruments of his own invention and manufacture.
In 1814 he attracted the attention of the celebrated Count Platen, who had heard of his boyish efforts, and desired an interview with him. After carefully examining various plans and drawings which the youth exhibited, the Count handed them back to him, simply observing, in an impressive manner, "Continue as you have commenced, and you will one day produce something extraordinary."
Count Platen was the intimate personal friend of Bernadotte, the King of Sweden, and was regarded by him with a feeling little short of veneration. It was Count Platen who undertook and carried through, in opposition to the views of the Swedish nobility, and of nearly the whole nation, that gigantic work, the Grand Ship Canal of Sweden, which connects the North Sea with the Baltic. He died Viceroy of Norway, and left behind him the reputation of one of the greatest men of the century. The few words of kind encouragement which he spoke, on the occasion to which we have referred, sank deeply into the mind of the young mechanician, and confirmed him in the career on which he had entered.
Immediately after this interview young Ericsson was made a cadet in the corps of engineers, and, after six months' tuition, at the age of twelve years, was appointed _niveleur_ on the Grand Ship Canal under Count Platen. In this capacity, in the year 1816, he was required to set out the work for more than six hundred men. The canal was constructed by soldiers. He was at that time not tall enough to look through the levelling-instrument; and in using it, he was obliged to mount upon a stool, carried by his attendants for that purpose. As the discipline in the Swedish army required that the soldier should always uncover the head in speaking to his superior, gray-headed men came, cap in hand, to receive their instructions from this mere child.
While thus employed in the summer months, he was constantly occupied during the winter with his pencil and pen; and there are many important works on the canal constructed after drawings made by Ericsson at this early age. During his leisure hours, he measured up and made working-drawings of every implement and piece of machinery connected with this great enterprise; so that at the age of fifteen he was in possession of accurate plans of the whole work, drawn by his own hand.
His associations with military men on the canal had given him an inclination for military life; and at the age of seventeen he entered the Swedish army as an ensign, without the knowledge of his friend and patron, Count Platen. This step excited the indignation of the Count, who tried to prevail upon him to change his resolution; but finding all his arguments useless, he terminated an angry interview by bidding the young ensign "go to the Devil." The affectionate regard which he entertained for the Count, and gratitude for the interest taken by him in his education, caused the circumstances of this interview to make a deep impression upon Ericsson, but were not sufficient to shake his determination.
Soon after the young ensign had entered upon his regimental duties, an affair occurred which threatened to obscure his hitherto bright prospects. His Colonel, Baron Koskull, had been disgraced by the King, about the time that he had recommended Ericsson for promotion. This circumstance induced the King to reject the recommendation. The Colonel was exceedingly annoyed by this rejection; and having in his possession a military map made by the expectant ensign, he took it to his Royal Highness the Crown Prince Oscar, and besought him to intercede for the young man with the King. The Prince received the map very kindly, expressing great admiration of its beautiful finish and execution, and presented himself in person with it to the King, who yielded to the joint persuasion of the Prince and the map, and promoted the young ensign to the lieutenancy for which he had been recommended.
About the time of this promotion, the Government had ordered the northern part of Sweden to be accurately surveyed. It being the desire of the King that officers of the army should be employed in this service, Ericsson, whose regiment was stationed in the northern highlands, proceeded to Stockholm, for the purpose of submitting himself to the severe examination then a prerequisite to the appointment of Government surveyor.
The mathematical education which he had received under Count Platen now proved very serviceable. He passed the examination with great distinction, and in the course of it, to the surprise of the examiners, showed that he could repeat Euclid _verbatim_,--not by the exercise of the memory, which in Ericsson is not remarkably retentive, but from his perfect mastery of geometrical science. There is no doubt that it is this thorough knowledge of geometry to which he is indebted for his clear conceptions on all mechanical subjects.
Having returned to the highlands, he entered on his new vocation with great assiduity; and, supported by an unusually strong constitution, he mapped a larger extent of territory than any other of the numerous surveyors employed on the work. There are yet in the archives of Sweden detailed maps of upwards of fifty square miles made by his hand.
Neither the great labors attending these surveys, nor his military duties, could give sufficient employment to the energies of the young officer. In connection with a German engineer, Major Pentz, he now began the arduous task of compiling a work on Canals, to be illustrated by sixty-four large plates, representing the various buildings, machines, and instruments connected with the construction of such works. The part assigned to him in this enterprise was nothing less than that of making all the drawings, as well as of engraving the numerous plates; and as all the plates were to be executed in the style of what is called machine-engraving, he undertook to construct a machine for the purpose, which he successfully accomplished. This work he prosecuted with so much industry, in the midst of his other various labors, that, within the first year of its commencement, he had executed eighteen large plates, which were pronounced by judges of machine-engraving to be of superior merit.
While thus variously occupied, being on a visit to the house of his Colonel, Ericsson on one occasion showed his host, by a very simple experiment, how readily mechanical power may be produced, independently of steam, by condensing flame. His friend was much struck by the beauty and simplicity of the experiment, and prevailed upon Ericsson to give more attention to a principle which he considered highly important. The young officer accordingly made sonic experiments on an enlarged scale, and succeeded in the production of a motive power equal to that of a steam-engine of ten-horse power. So satisfactory was the result, from the compact form of the machine employed, as well as the comparatively small consumption of fuel, that he conceived the idea of at once bringing it out in England, the great field for all mechanical inventions.
Ericsson accordingly obtained, leave from the King to visit England, where he arrived on the eighteenth of May, 1826. He there proceeded to construct a working engine on the principle above mentioned, but soon discovered that his _flame-engine_, when worked by the combustion of mineral coals, was a different thing from the experimental model he had tried in the highlands of Sweden, with fuel composed of the splinters of fine pine wood. Not only did he fail to produce an extended and vivid flame, but the intense heat so seriously affected all the working parts of the machine as soon to cause its destruction.
These experiments, it may well be supposed, were attended with no trifling expenditure; and, to meet these demands upon him, our young adventurer was compelled to draw on his mechanical resources.
Invention now followed invention in rapid succession, until the records of the Patent-Office in London were enriched with the drawings of the remarkable steam-boiler on the principle of _artificial draught_; to which principle we are mainly indebted for the benefits conferred on civilization by the present rapid communication by railways. In bringing this important invention before the public, Ericsson thought it advisable to join some old and established mechanical house in London; and accordingly he associated himself with John Braithwaite, a name favorably known in the mechanical annals of England. This invention was hardly developed, when an opportunity was presented for testing it in practice.
The directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, before erecting the stationary engines by which they had intended to draw their passenger and freight carriages, determined to appeal to the mechanical talent of the country, in the hope of securing some preferable form of motor. A prize was accordingly offered, in the autumn of 1829, for the best locomotive engine, to be tested on the portion of the railway then completed. Ericsson was not aware that any such prize had been offered, until within seven weeks of the day fixed for the trial. He was not deterred by the shortness of the time, but, applying all his energies to the task, planned an engine, executed the working-drawings, and had the whole machine constructed within the seven weeks.
The day of trial arrived. Three engines entered the lists for the prize,--namely, the Rocket, by George Stephenson; the Sanspareil, by Timothy Hackworth; and the Novelty, by Ericsson. Both sides of the railway, for more than a mile in length, were lined with thousands of spectators. There was no room for jockeying in such a race, for inanimate matter was to be put in motion, and that moves only in accordance with immutable laws. The signal was given for the start. Instead of the application of whip and spur, the gentle touch of the steam-valve gave life and motion to the novel machine.
Up to that period, the greatest speed at which man had been carried along the ground was that of the race-horse; and no one of the multitude present on this occasion expected to see that speed surpassed. It was the general belief that the maximum attainable by the locomotive engine would not much exceed ten miles. To the surprise and admiration of the crowd, however, the Novelty steam-carriage, the _fastest_ engine started, guided by its inventor Ericsson, assisted by John Braithwaite, darted along the track at the rate of upwards of fifty miles an hour!
The breathless silence of the multitude was now broken by thunders of hurras, that drowned the hiss of the escaping steam and the rolling of the engine-wheels. To reduce the surprise and delight excited on this occasion to the universal standard, and as an illustration of the extent to which the value of property is sometimes enhanced by the success of a mechanical invention, it may be stated, that, when the Novelty had run her two miles and returned, the shares of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway had risen _ten per cent_.
But how easily may the just expectations of an inventor be disappointed! Although the principle of _artificial draught_--the principle which gave to the Novelty such decided superiority in speed--is yet retained in all locomotive engines, the mode of producing this draught in our present engines is far different from that introduced by Ericsson, and was discovered by the merest accident; and so soon was this discovery made, after the successful display of the Novelty engine, that Ericsson had no time to derive the least advantage from its introduction. To him, however, belongs the credit of having disproved the correctness of the once established theory, that it was absolutely necessary that a certain _extensive_ amount of _surface_ should be exposed to the fire, to generate a given quantity of steam.
The remarkable lightness and compactness of the new boiler invented by Ericsson led to the employment of steam in many instances in which it had been previously inapplicable. Among these may be mentioned the steam fire-engine constructed by him in conjunction with Mr. Braithwaite, about the same time with the Novelty, and which excited so much interest in London at the time the Argyle Rooms were on fire. A similar engine of greater power was subsequently constructed by Ericsson and Braithwaite for the King of Prussia, which was mainly instrumental in saving several valuable buildings at a great fire in Berlin. For this invention Ericsson received, in 1842, the large gold medal offered by the Mechanics' Institute of New York for the best plan of a steam fire-engine.
In the year 1833 Ericsson brought before the scientific world in London his invention of the Caloric-Engine, which had been a favorite subject of speculation and reflection with him for many years. From the earliest period of his mechanical labors, he had been in the habit of regarding heat as an agent, _which, whilst it exerts mechanical force, undergoes no change._ The steam in the cylinder of a steam-engine, after having lifted the weight of the piston, contains just as much heat as it did before leaving the boiler,--minus only the loss by radiation. Yet in the low-pressure engine we turn the steam, after having performed its office, into a condensing-apparatus, where the heat is in a manner annihilated; and in the high-pressure engine we throw it away into the atmosphere.
The acting medium employed in the Caloric-Engine is atmospheric air; and the leading peculiarity of the machine, as originally designed by Ericsson, is, that by means of an apparatus styled the Regenerator the heat contained in the air which escapes from the working cylinder is taken up by the air which enters it at each stroke of the piston and used over and over again.
The machine constructed by Ericsson in London was a working engine of five-horse power, the performance of which was witnessed by many gentlemen of scientific pretensions in that metropolis. Among others, the popular author, Sir Richard Phillips, examined it; and in his "Dictionary of the Arts of Life and of Civilization," he thus notices the result of this experiment:--"The author has, with inexpressible delight, seen the first model machine of five-horse power at work. With a handful of fuel, applied to the very sensible medium of atmospheric air, and a most ingenious disposition of its differential powers, he beheld a resulting action in narrow compass, capable of extension to as great forces as ever can be wielded or used by man." Dr. Andrew Ure went so far as to say that the invention would "throw the name of his great countryman, James Watt, into the shade." Professor Faraday gave it an earnest approval. But, with these and some other eminent exceptions, the scientific men of the day condemned the principle on which the invention was based as unsound and untenable.
The interest which the subject excited did not escape the British Government. Before many days had elapsed, the Secretary of the Home Department, accompanied by Mr. Brunel, the constructor of the Thames Tunnel, made his appearance in the engine-room where the new motive power was in operation. Mr. Brunel, who was at that time somewhat advanced in years, conceived at the outset an erroneous notion of the nature of the new power, which he would not suffer to be corrected by explanations. A discussion sprang up between him and the inventor, which was followed by a long correspondence. The result was, that an unfavorable impression of the invention was communicated to the British Government.
The invention fared little better at the hands of Professor Faraday, from whose efficient advocacy the most favorable results might have been anticipated. This gentleman had announced that he would deliver a lecture on the subject in London, in the spacious theatre of the Royal Institution. The novelty of the invention, combined with the reputation of the lecturer, had attracted a very large audience, including many individuals of eminent scientific attainments. Just half an hour, however, before he was expected to enlighten this distinguished assembly, the celebrated lecturer discovered that he had mistaken the expansive principle which is the very life of the machine. Although he had spent many hours in studying the Caloric-Engine in actual operation, and in testing its absolute force by repeated experiments, Professor Faraday was compelled to inform his hearers, at the very outset, that he did not know why the engine worked at all. He was obliged to confine himself, therefore, to the explanation of the Regenerator, and the process by which the heat is continually returned to the cylinder, and re-employed in the production of force. To this part of the invention he rendered ample justice, and explained it in that felicitous style to which he is indebted for the reputation he deservedly enjoys, as the most agreeable and successful lecturer in England.
Other causes than the misconception of a Brunel and a Faraday operated to retard the practical success of this beautiful invention. The high temperature which it was necessary to keep up in the circulating medium of the engine, and the consequent oxidation, soon destroyed the pistons, valves, and other working parts. These difficulties the inventor endeavored to remedy, in an engine, which he subsequently constructed, of much larger powers, but without success. His failure in this respect, however, did not deter him from prosecuting his invention. He continued his experiments from time to time, as opportunity permitted, confident that he was gradually, but surely, approaching the realization of his great scheme.
Meanwhile he applied himself with his accustomed energy to the practical working out of another favorite idea. The principle of the Ericsson propeller was first suggested to the inventor by a study of the means employed to propel the inhabitants of the air and deep. He satisfied himself that all such propulsion in Nature is produced by oblique action; though, in common with all practical men, he at first supposed that it was inseparably attended by a loss of power. But when he reflected that this was the principle invariably adopted by the Great Mechanician of the Universe, in enabling the birds, insects, and fishes to move through their respective elements, he knew that he must be in error. This he was soon able to demonstrate, and he became convinced, by a strict application of the laws which govern matter and motion, that no loss of power whatever attends the oblique action of the propelling surfaces applied to Nature's locomotives. After having satisfied himself on the theory of the subject, the first step of the inventor was the construction of a small model, which he tried in the circular basin of a bath in London. To his great delight, so perfectly was his theory borne out in practice, that this model, though less than two feet long, performed its voyage about the basin at the rate of three English miles an hour.
The next step in the invention was the construction of a boat forty feet long, eight feet beam, and three feet draught of water, with two propellers, each of five feet three inches in diameter. So successful was this experiment, that, when steam was turned on the first time, the boat at once moved at a speed of upwards of ten miles an hour, without a single alteration being requisite in her machinery. Not only did she attain this considerable speed, but her power to tow larger vessels was found to be so great that schooners of one hundred and forty tons' burden were propelled by her at the rate of seven miles an hour; and the American packet-ship Toronto was towed in the river Thames by this miniature steamer at the rate of more than five English miles an hour. This feat excited no little interest among the boatmen of the Thames, who were astonished at the sight of this novel craft moving against wind and tide without any visible agency of propulsion, and, ascribing to it some supernatural origin, united in giving it the name of the _Flying Devil_. But the engineers of London Hoarded the experiment with silent neglect; and the subject, when laid before the Lords of the British Admiralty, failed to attract any favorable notice from that august body.
Perceiving its peculiar and admirable fitness for ships of war, Ericsson was confident that their Lordships would at once order the construction of a war-steamer on the new principle. He invited them, therefore, to take an excursion in tow of his experimental boat. Accordingly, the gorgeous and gilt Admiralty Barge was ordered up to Somerset House, and the little steamer was lashed along-side. The barge contained Sir Charles Adam, Senior Lord of the Admiralty,--Sir William Simonds, Chief Constructor of the British Navy,--Sir Edward Parry, the celebrated Arctic navigator,--Captain Beaufort, the Chief of the Topographical Department of the British Admiralty,--and others of scientific and naval distinction.
In the anticipation of a severe scrutiny from so distinguished a personage as the Chief Constructor of the British Navy, the inventor had carefully prepared plans of his new mode of propulsion, which were spread on the damask cloth of the magnificent barge. To his utter astonishment, as we may well imagine, this scientific gentleman did not appear to take the slightest interest in his explanations. On the contrary, with those expressive shrugs of the shoulder and shakes of the head which convey so much to the bystander without absolutely committing the actor,--with an occasional sly, mysterious, undertone remark to his colleagues,--he indicated very plainly, that, though his humanity would not permit him to give a worthy man cause for so much unhappiness, yet that "he could, an if he would," demonstrate by a single word the utter futility of the whole invention.
Meanwhile the little steamer, with her precious charge, proceeded at a steady progress of ten miles an hour, through the arches of the lofty Southwark and London bridges, towards Limehouse, and the steam-engine manufactory of the Messrs. Seaward. Their Lordships having landed, and inspected the huge piles of ill-shaped cast-iron, misdenominated marine engines, intended for some of His Majesty's steamers, with a look at their favorite propelling--apparatus, the Morgan paddle-wheel, they reembarked, and were safely returned to Somerset House by the disregarded, noiseless, and unseen propeller of the new steamer.
On parting, Sir Charles Adam, with a sympathizing air, shook the inventor cordially by the hand, and thanked him for the trouble he had been at in showing him and his friends this _interesting_ experiment, adding that he feared he had put himself to too great an expense and trouble on the occasion. Notwithstanding this somewhat ominous _finale_ of the day's excursion, Ericsson felt confident that their Lordships could not fail to perceive the great importance of the invention. To his surprise, however, a few days afterwards, a friend put into his hands a letter written by Captain Beaufort, at the suggestion, probably, of the Lords of the Admiralty, in which that gentleman, who had himself witnessed the experiment, expressed regret to state that their Lordships had certainly been very much disappointed at its result. The reason for the disappointment was altogether inexplicable to the inventor; for the speed attained at this trial far exceeded anything that had ever been accomplished by any paddle-wheel steamer on so small a scale.
An accident soon relieved his astonishment, and explained the mysterious givings-out of Sir William Simonds on the day of the excursion. The subject having been started at a dinner-table where a friend of Ericsson's was present, Sir William ingeniously and ingenuously remarked, that, "even if the propeller had the power of propelling a vessel, it would be found altogether useless in practice, _because_, the power being applied in the _stern_, it would be _absolutely impossible_ to make the vessel steer." It may not be obvious to every one how our naval philosopher derived his conclusion from his premises; but his hearers doubtless readily acquiesced in the oracular proposition, and were much amused at the idea of undertaking to steer a vessel when the power was applied in her stern.
But we may well excuse the Lords of the British Admiralty for exhibiting no interest in the invention, when we reflect that the engineering corps of the empire were arrayed in opposition to it,--alleging that it was constructed upon erroneous principles, and full of practical defects, and regarding its failure as too certain to authorize any speculations even as to its success. The plan was specially submitted to many distinguished engineers, and was publicly discussed in the scientific journals; and there was no one but the inventor who refused to acquiesce in the truth of the numerous demonstrations proving the vast loss of mechanical power which must attend this proposed substitute for the old-fashioned paddle-wheel.
While opposed by such a powerful array of English scientific wisdom, the inventor had the satisfaction of submitting his plan to a citizen of the New World, Mr. Francis B. Ogden,--for many years Consul of the United States at Liverpool,--who was able to understand its philosophy and appreciate its importance. Though not an engineer by profession, Mr. Ogden was distinguished for his eminent attainments in mechanical science, and is entitled to the honor of having first applied the important principle of the expansive power of steam, and of having originated the idea of employing right-angular cranks in marine engines. His practical experience and long study of the subject--for he was the first to stem the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi, and the first to navigate the ocean by the power of steam alone--enabled him at once to perceive the truth of the inventor's demonstrations. And not only did he admit their truth, but he also joined Ericsson in constructing the experimental boat to which we have alluded, and which the inventor launched into the Thames with the name of the "Francis B. Ogden," as a token of respect to his Transatlantic friend.
Other circumstances soon occurred which consoled the inventor for his disappointment in the rejection of the propeller by the British Admiralty. The subject had been brought to the notice of an officer of the United States navy. Captain Robert F. Stockton, who was at that time on a visit to London, and who was induced to accompany him in one of his experimental excursions on the Thames. Captain Stockton is entitled to the credit of being the first naval officer who heard, understood, and dared to act upon the suggestions of Ericsson, as to the application of the propeller to ships of war. At the first glance, he saw the important bearings of the invention; and his acute judgment enabled him at once to predict that it was destined to work a revolution in naval warfare. After making a single trip in the experimental steamboat, from London Bridge to Greenwich, he ordered the inventor to build for him forthwith two iron boats for the United States, with steam-machinery and propeller on the plan of this rejected invention. "I do not want," said Stockton, "the opinions of your scientific men; what I have seen this day satisfies me." He at once brought the subject before the Government of the United States, and caused numerous plans and models to be made, at his own expense, explaining the peculiar fitness of the invention for ships of war. So completely persuaded was he of its great importance in this aspect, and so determined that his views should be carried out, that he boldly assured the inventor that the Government of the United States would test the propeller on a large scale; and so confident was Ericsson that the perseverance and energy of Captain Stockton would sooner or later accomplish what he promised, that he at once abandoned his professional engagements in England, and came to the United States, where he fixed his residence in the city of New York. This was in the year 1839.
Circumstances delayed, for some two years, the execution of their plan. With the change of the Federal Administration, Stockton was first able to obtain a favorable hearing; and having at length received the necessary authority, the Princeton was built under his superintendence, from the designs of Ericsson. She was completed and ready for sea early in 1844, when she was pronounced by Stockton "the cheapest, fastest, and most certain ship of war in the world."
In this vessel, in addition to the propeller, Ericsson introduced his semicylindrical steam-engine, a beautiful invention, so compact that it occupied only one-eighth of the bulk of the British marine engine of corresponding power, and was placed more than four feet below the water-line. The boilers were also below the water-line, having a peculiar heating-apparatus attached which effected a great saving of fuel, and with their furnaces and flues so constructed as to burn anthracite as well as bituminous coal. Instead of the ordinary tall smoke-pipe,--an insuperable objection to a steamer as a ship of war,--he constructed a smoke-pipe upon the principle of the telescope, which could be elevated or depressed at pleasure; and in order to provide a draught independent of the height of the smoke-pipe, he placed centrifugal blowers in the bottom of the vessel, which were worked by separate small engines,--an arrangement originally applied by him to marine engines in the steam-packet Corsair in 1831. Thus the steam-machinery of the Princeton fulfilled the most important requisites for a war-steamer, combining lightness, compactness, simplicity, and efficiency, and being placed wholly out of reach of the enemy's fire.
The armament of the ship also exhibited many peculiarities. "By the application of the various arts to the purposes of war on board of the Princeton," says Captain Stockton, in his report to the Navy Department, "it is believed that the art of gunnery for sea-service has, for the first time, been reduced to something like mathematical certainty. The distance to which the guns can throw their shot at every necessary angle of elevation has been ascertained by a series of careful experiments. The distance from the ship to any object is readily ascertained with an instrument on board, contrived for that purpose, by an observation which it requires but an instant to make, and by inspection without calculation. By self-acting locks, the guns can be fired accurately at the necessary elevation,--no matter what the motion of the ship may be." The instruments here referred to, namely, the Distance-Instrument and the Self-Acting Gun-Lock, and also the wrought-iron gun-carriage, by means of which Captain Stockton's enormous guns were readily handled and directed, all were the productions of Ericsson's fertile mechanical genius.
A committee of the American Institute, by whom this remarkable vessel was examined, thus concluded their report:--"Your Committee take leave to present the Princeton as every way worthy the highest honors of the Institute. She is a sublime conception, most successfully realized,--an effort of genius skilfully executed,--a grand _unique_ combination, honorable to the country, as creditable to all engaged upon her. Nothing in the history of mechanics surpasses the inventive genius of Captain Ericsson, unless it be the moral daring of Captain Stockton, in the adoption of so many novelties at one time." We may add that in the Princeton was exhibited the first successful application of screw-propulsion to a ship of war, and that she was the first steamship ever built with the machinery below the water-line and out of the reach of shot.
Ericsson spent the best part of two years in his labors upon the Princeton. Besides furnishing the general plan of the ship and supplying her in every department with his patented improvements, he prepared, with his own hand, the working-drawings for every part of the steam-machinery, propelling-apparatus, and steering-apparatus in detail, and superintended their whole construction and arrangement, giving careful and exact instructions as to the most minute particulars. In so doing, he was compelled to make frequent journeys from New York to Sandy Hook and Philadelphia, involving no small amount of trouble and expense. For the use of his patent rights in the engine and propeller, he had, at the suggestion of Captain Stockton, refrained from charging the usual fees, consenting to accept, as full satisfaction, whatever the Government, after testing the inventions, should see fit to pay. He never imagined, however, that his laborious services as engineer were to go unrequited, or that his numerous inventions and improvements, unconnected with the engine and propeller, were to be furnished gratuitously. Yet, when, after the Princeton, as we have seen, had been pronounced on all hands a splendid success, Ericsson presented his bill to the Navy Department,--not for the patent-fees in question, but for the bare repayment of his expenditures, and compensation for his time and labor in the service of the United States,--he was informed that his claim could not be allowed; it could not be recognized as a "legal claim." It was not denied that the services alleged had been rendered,--that the work for which compensation was asked had been done by Ericsson, and well done,--nor that the United States were in the enjoyment of the unpaid results of his labor and invention. A claim based upon such considerations might, it would seem, have been brought within the definition of a legal claim. But if not admissible under the strict rules of the Navy Department, it was certainly an equitable demand against the United States; and Ericsson could not believe that the representatives of the great American people would stand upon technicalities. He accordingly made a direct appeal to them in a Memorial to Congress.
We may as well here give the further history of this claim. It met with the usual delays and obstructions that private claims, having nothing but their intrinsic merits to support them, are compelled to encounter. It called forth the usual amount of legislative pettifogging. Session after session passed away, and still it hung between the two Houses of Congress, until the very time which had elapsed since it was first presented began to be brought up as an argument against it. At length, when Congress established the Court of Claims, a prospect opened of bringing it to a fair hearing and a final decision. It was submitted to that tribunal six years ago. The Court decided in its favor,--the three judges (Gilchrist, Scarborough, and Blackford) being unanimous in their judgment. A bill directing its payment was reported to the Senate,--and there it is still. Although favorably reported upon by two committees at different sessions, and once passed by the Senate, without a vote recorded against it, it has never yet got through both Houses of Congress. For furnishing this Government with the magnificent war-steamer which was pronounced by Captain Stockton "the cheapest, fastest, and most certain ship of war in the world," Ericsson has never been paid a dollar. It remains to be seen whether the present Congress will permit this stain upon the national good faith to continue. If it does, its "votes of thanks" are little better than a mockery.
The efficiency and utility of the propeller having been established beyond a doubt, it went at once into extensive use. But the inventor was again disappointed in his just expectation of reaping an adequate pecuniary benefit from his exertions. Upon the strength of some attempts at screw-propulsion,--made and abandoned by various experimenters,--which had never resulted, and probably never would have resulted, in any practical application, rival machines, which conflicted with Ericsson's patent, soon made their appearance. A long litigation followed, during which all attempts to collect patent-fees were necessarily suspended; and the result was, that the invention was virtually abandoned to the public. But no one can take from Ericsson the honor of having first introduced the screw-propeller into actual use, and demonstrated its value,--an honor which is now freely accorded to him by the highest scientific authorities at home and abroad.
Although the first five years of his American experience had been less profitable, in a pecuniary sense, than he had anticipated, he continued to reside in the city of New York, where he found an ample field for the exercise of his great powers in the line of his profession. He planned the war-steamer Pomone, the first screw-vessel introduced into the French navy. He planned revenue-cutters for the United States Government, taking care always to have his contracts so distinctly made that no question could again arise as to his "legal claim." He invented a useful apparatus for supplying the boilers of sea-going steamers with fresh water. He invented various modifications of the steam-engine.
In the American division of the London Industrial Exhibition of all Nations in 1851, he exhibited the Distance-Instrument, for measuring distances at sea,--the Hydrostatic Gauge, for measuring the volume of fluids under pressure,--the Reciprocating Fluid-Metre, for measuring the quantity of water which passes through pipes during definite periods,--the Alarm-Barometer,--the Pyrometer, intended as a standard measure of temperature, from the freezing-point of water up to the melting-point of iron,--a Rotary Fluid-Metre, the principle of which is the measurement of fluids by the velocity with which they pass through apertures of different dimensions,--and a Sea-Lead, contrived for taking soundings at sea without rounding the vessel to the wind, and independently of the length of the lead-line. For these inventions he received the prize-medal of the Exhibition.
But while thus continually occupied with new enterprises and objects, he did not lose sight of his great idea, the Caloric-Engine. All his spare hours and spare funds were devoted to experiments with the view of overcoming the practical difficulties which stood in the way of its success. Towards the end of the year 1851 he seemed to be on the point of realizing his hopes, having constructed a large stationary engine, which was applied with great success, at the Phoenix Foundry in New York, to the actual work of pumping water. Soon after, through the liberality of Mr. John B. Kitching, a well-known merchant of New York, he was enabled to test the invention on a magnificent scale. A ship of two thousand tons, propelled by the power of caloric-engines, was planned and constructed by him in the short space of seven months, and in honor of the inventor received the name of the "Ericsson."
Every one will remember the interest which this caloric-ship excited throughout the country. She made a trip from New York to Alexandria on the Potomac, in very rough weather, in the latter part of February, 1853. On this trip the engines were in operation for seventy-three hours without being stopped for a moment, and without requiring the slightest adjustment, the consumption of fuel being only five tons in twenty-four hours. At Alexandria she was visited by the President and President elect, the heads of the departments, a large number of naval officers, and many members of both Houses of Congress, and subsequently by the foreign ministers in a body, and by the Legislature of Virginia, then in session. Ericsson was invited by a committee of the Legislature to visit Richmond, as the guest of the State. The Secretary of the Navy recommended, in a special communication to Congress, the passage of a resolution authorizing him to contract for the construction of a frigate of two thousand tons to be equipped with caloric-engines, and to appropriate for this purpose five hundred thousand dollars. This recommendation failed in consequence of the pressure of business at the close of the session.
But notwithstanding the surprise and admiration which this achievement excited in the scientific world, the speed attained was not sufficient to meet the practical exigencies of commerce; and the repetition of the engines on this large scale could not be undertaken at the charge of individuals. Ericsson accordingly wisely devoted himself to perfecting the Calorie-Engine on a small scale, and in 1859 he produced it in a form which has since proved a complete success. It is no longer a subject of experiment, but exists as a perfect, practical machine. More than five hundred of these engines, with cylinders varying from a diameter of six inches to one of forty inches, are now in successful operation. It is applied to purposes of pumping, printing, hoisting, grinding, sawing, turning light machinery, working telegraphic instruments and sewing-machines, and propelling boats. No less than forty daily papers (among which we may mention the "National Intelligencer") are printed by means of this engine. In Cuba it is used for grinding sugar-cane, on Southern plantations for ginning cotton; and there is an endless variety of domestic, agricultural, and mechanical uses to which it may be advantageously applied.
The extent of power attainable by this machine, consistently with its application to practical uses, is not yet precisely defined. Within the limit thus far given to it, its power is certain, uniform, and entirely sufficient. It is not attended with the numerous perils that make the steam-engine so uncomfortable a servant, but is absolutely free from danger. It requires no engineering supervision. It consumes a very small amount of fuel (about one-third of the amount required by the steam-engine) and requires no water. These peculiarities not only make it a very desirable substitute for the steam-engine, but render it available for many purposes to which the steam-engine would never be applied.
In addition to his regular professional avocations, Ericsson was industriously occupied in devising new applications of the Calorie-Engine, when the attempted secession of the Southern States plunged the country into the existing war and struck a blow at all the arts of peace. Ills whole heart and mind were given at once to the support of the Union. Liberal in all his ideas, he is warmly attached to republican institutions, and has a hearty abhorrence of intolerance and oppression in all their forms. His early military education and his long study of the appliances of naval warfare increased the interest with which he watched the progress of events. The abandonment of the Norfolk navy-yard to the Rebels struck him as a disgrace that might have been avoided. He foresaw the danger of a formidable antagonist from that quarter in the steamship which we had so obligingly furnished them. The building of gun-boats with steam-machinery _above_ the water-line--where the first shot from an enemy might render it useless--seemed to him, in view of what he had done and was ready to do again, a very unnecessary error. Knowing thoroughly all the improvements made and making in the war-steamers of England and France, and feeling the liability of their interference in our affairs, he could not appreciate the wisdom of building new vessels according to old ideas. The blockade of the Potomac by Rebel batteries, in the very face of our navy, seemed to him an indignity which need not be endured, if the inventive genius of the North could have fair play.
An impregnable iron gun-boat was, in his judgment, the thing that was needed; and he determined that the plan of such a vessel should be his contribution towards the success of the war. The subject was not a new one to him. He had given it much consideration, and his plan, in all its essential features, had been matured long before. Proposals for iron-clad vessels having been invited by the Navy Department, Ericsson promptly submitted his plans and specifications. Knowing the opposition that novelties always encounter, he had no great expectation that his proposal would be accepted. "I have done my part," said he; "I have offered my plan. It is for the Government to say whether I shall be allowed to carry it out." He felt confident, however, that, if the plan should be brought to the notice of the President, his practical wisdom and sound common sense could not fail to decide in its favor. Fortunately for the country, Ericsson's offer was accepted by the Navy Department. He immediately devoted all his energies to the execution of his task, and the result was the construction of the vessel to which he himself gave the name of the "Monitor." What she is and what she has accomplished, we need not here repeat. Whatever may be her future history, we may safely say, in the words of the New York Chamber of Commerce, that "the floating-battery Monitor deserves to be, and will be, forever remembered with gratitude and admiration."
We rejoice to believe that the merits and services of Ericsson are now fully appreciated by the people of the United States. The thanks of the nation have been tendered to him by a resolution of Congress. The Boston Board of Trade and the New York Chamber of Commerce have passed resolutions expressive of their gratitude. The latter body expressed also their desire that the Government of the United States should make to Captain Ericsson "such suitable return for his services as will evince the gratitude of a great nation." Upon hearing this suggestion, Ericsson, with characteristic modesty, remarked,--"All the remuneration I desire for the Monitor I get out of the construction of it. It is all-sufficient." Nevertheless we think the suggestion well worthy of consideration. In the same spirit of manly independence, he discountenanced the movement set on foot among the merchants of New York for the subscription of a sum of money to be presented to him. He asks nothing but fair remuneration for services rendered,--and that, it is to be hoped, the people will take care that he shall receive.
Ericsson is now zealously at work in constructing six new iron gun-boats on the plan of the Monitor. If that remarkable structure can be surpassed, he is the man to accomplish it. His ambition is to render the United States impregnable against the navies of the world. "Give me only the requisite means," he writes, "and in a very short time we can say to those powers now bent on destroying republican institutions, '_Leave the Gulf with your frail craft, or perish_!' I have all my life asserted that mechanical science will put an end to the power of England over the seas. The ocean is Nature's highway between the nations. It should be free; and surely Nature's laws, when properly applied, will make it so."
His reputation as an engineer is worldwide. In 1852 he was made a Knight of the Order of Vasa by King Oscar of Sweden. The following extract from a poem "To John Ericsson" we translate from "Svenska Tidningen," the Government journal of Stockholm. It is eloquently expressive of the pride and admiration with which he is regarded in his native country.
"World-wide his fame, so gracefully adorning His native Sweden with enduring radiance! Not a king's crown could give renown so noble: For his is Thought's great triumph, and the sceptre He wields is over elements his subjects!"
Although now in his sixtieth year, Ericsson has the appearance of a man of forty. He is in the very maturity of a vigorous manhood, and retains all the fire and enthusiasm of youth. He has a frame of iron, cast in a large and symmetrical mould. His head and face are indicative of intellectual power and a strong will. His presence impresses one, at the first glance, as that of an extraordinary man. His bearing is dignified and courteous, with a touch perhaps of military _brusquerie_ in his mode of address. He has a keen sense of humor, a kindly and generous disposition, and a genial and companionable nature. He is a "good hater" and a firm friend. Like all men of strong character and outspoken opinions, he has some enemies; but his chosen friends he "grapples to his heart with hooks of steel."
He is not a mere mechanician, but has great knowledge of men and of affairs, and an ample fund of information on all subjects. His conversation is engaging and instructive; and when he seeks to enlist coöperation in his mechanical enterprises, few men can withstand the force of his arguments and the power of his personal magnetism.
Although his earnings have sometimes been large, his heavy expenditures in costly experiments have prevented him from acquiring wealth. Money is with him simply a means of working out new ideas for the benefit of mankind; and in this way he does not scruple to spend to the utmost limit of his resources. He lives freely and generously, but is strictly temperate and systematic in all his habits.
The amount of labor which he is capable of undergoing is astonishing. While engaged in carrying out his inventions, it is a common thing for him to pass sixteen hours a day at his table, in the execution of detailed mechanical drawings, which he throws off with a facility and in a style that have probably never been surpassed. He does not seem to need such recreation as other men pine after. He never cares to run down to the seashore, or take a drive into the country, or spend a week at Saratoga or at Newport. Give him his drawing-table, his plans, his models, the noise of machinery, the clatter of the foundry, and he is always contented. Week in and week out, summer and winter, he works on and on,--and the harder he works, the more satisfied he seems to be. He is as untiring as one of his own engines, which never stop so long as the fire burns. Endowed with such a constitution, it is to be hoped that new triumphs and many years of honor and usefulness are yet before him.
* * * * *
Man is like an onion. He exists in concentric layers. He is born a bulb and grows by external accretions. The number and character of his involutions certify to his culture and courtesy. Those of the boor are few and coarse. Those of the gentleman are numerous and fine. But strip off the scales from all and you come to the same germ. The core of humanity is barbarism. Every man is a latent savage.
You may be startled and shocked, but I am stating fact, not theory. I announce not an invention, but a discovery. You look around you, and because you do not see tomahawks and tattooing you doubt my assertion. But your observation is superficial. You have not penetrated into the secret place where souls abide. You are staring only at the outside layer of your neighbors; just peel them and see what you will find.
I speak from the highest possible authority,--my own. Representing the gentler half of humanity, of respectable birth, tolerable parts, and good education, as tender-hearted as most women, not unfamiliar with the best society, mingling, to some extent, with those who understand and practise the minor moralities, you would at once infer from my circumstances that I was a very fair specimen of the better class of Americans,--and so I am. For one that stands higher than I in the moral, social, and intellectual scale, you will undoubtedly find ten that stand lower. Yet through all these layers gleam the fiery eyes of my savage. I thought I was a Christian, I have endeavored to do my duty to my day and generation; but of a sudden Christianity and civilization leave me in the lurch, and the "old Adam" within me turns out to be just such a fierce Saxon pirate as hurtled down against the white shores of Britain fifteen hundred years ago.
For we have been moving.
People who live in cities and move regularly every year from one good, finished, right-side-up house to another will think I give a very small reason for a very broad fact; but they do not know what they are talking about. They have fallen into a way of looking upon a house only as an exaggerated trunk, into which they pack themselves annually with as much nonchalance as if it were only their preparation for a summer trip to the seashore. They don't strike root anywhere. They don't have to tear up anything. A man comes with cart and horses. There is a stir in the one house,--they are gone;--there is a stir in the other house,--they are settled,--and everything is wound up and set going to run another year. We do these things differently in the country. We don't build a house by way of experiment and live in it a few years, then tear it down and build another. We live in a house till it cracks, and then we plaster it over; then it totters, and we prop it up; then it rocks, and we rope it down; then it sprawls, and we clamp it; then it crumbles, and we have a new underpinning,--but keep living in it all the time. To know what moving really means, you must move from just such a rickety-rackety old farmhouse, where you have clung and grown like a fungus ever since there was anything to grow,--where your life and luggage have crept into all the crevices and corners, and every wall is festooned with associations thicker than the cobwebs, though the cobwebs are pretty thick,--where the furniture and the pictures and the knick-knacks are so become a part and parcel of the house, so grown with it and into it, that you do not know they are chiefly rubbish till you begin to move them and they fall to pieces, and don't know it then, but persist in packing them up and carrying them away for the sake of auld lang syne, till, set up again in your new abode, you suddenly find that their sacredness is gone, their dignity has degraded into dinginess, and the faded, patched chintz sofa, that was not only comfortable, but respectable, in the old wainscoted sitting-room, has suddenly turned into "an object," when lang syne goes by the board and the heirloom is incontinently set adrift. Undertake to move from this tumble-down old house, strewn thick with the _débris_ of many generations, into a tumble-up, peaky, perky, plastery, shingly, stary new one, that is not half finished, and never will be, and good enough for it, and you will perhaps comprehend how it is that I find a great crack in my life. On the farther side are prosperity, science, literature, philosophy, religion, society, all the refinements, and amenities, and benevolences, and purities of life,--in short, all the arts of peace, and civilization, and Christianity,--and on this side--moving. You will also understand why that one word comprises, to my thinking, all the discomforts short of absolute physical torture that can be condensed into the human lot. Condensed, did I say? If it were a condensed agony, I could endure it. One great, stunning, overpowering blow is undoubtedly terrible, but you rally all your fortitude to meet and resist it, and when it is over it is over and the recuperative forces go to work; but a trouble that worries and baffles and pricks and rasps you, that penetrates into all the ramifications of your life, that fills you with profound disgust, and fires you with irrepressible fury, and makes of you an Ishmaelite indeed, with your hand against every man and every man's hand against you,--ah! that is the _experimentum crucis_. Such is moving, in the country,--not an act, but a process,--not a volition, but a fermentation.
We will say that the first of September is the time appointed for the transit. The day approaches. It is the twenty-ninth of August. I prepare to take hold of the matter in earnest. I am nipped in the bud by learning that the woman who was to help about the carpets cannot come, because her baby is taken with the croup. I have not a doubt of it. I never knew a baby yet that did not go and have the croup, or the colic, or the cholera infantum, just when it was imperatively necessary that it should not have them. But there is no help for it. I shudder and bravely gird myself for the work. I tug at the heavy, bulky, unwieldy carpets, and am covered with dust and abomination. I think carpets are the most untidy, unwholesome nuisances in the whole world. It is impossible to be clean with them under your feet. You may sweep your carpet twenty times and raise a dust on the twenty-first. I am sure I heard long ago of some new fashion that was to be introduced,--some Italian style, tiles, or mosaic-work, or something of the sort. I should welcome anything that would dispense with these vile rags. I sigh over the good old sanded floors that our grandmothers rejoiced in,--and so, apotheosizing the past and anathematizing the present, I pull away, and the tacks tear my fingers, and the hammer slips and lets me back with a jerk, and the dust fills my hair and nose and eyes and mouth and lungs, and my hands grow red and coarse and ragged and sore and begrimed, and I pull and choke and cough and strangle and pull.
So the carpets all come up and the curtains all come down. The bureaus march out of the chamber-windows and dance on a tight-rope down into the yard below. The chairs are set at "heads and points." The clothes are packed into the trunks. The flour and meal and sugar, all the wholesale edibles, are carted down to the new house and stored. The forks are wrapped up and we eat with our fingers, and have nothing to eat at that. Then we are informed that the new house will not be ready short of two weeks at least. Unavoidable delays. The plasterers were hindered; the painters misunderstood orders; the paperers have defalcated, and the universe generally comes to a pause. It is no matter in what faith I was nurtured, I am now a believer in total depravity. Contractors have no conscience; masons are not men of their word; carpenters are tricky; all manner of cunning workmen are bruised reeds. But there is nothing to do but submit and make the best of it,--a horrible kind of mechanism. We go forthwith into a chrysalis state for two weeks. The only sign of life is an occasional lurch towards the new house, just sufficient to keep up the circulation. One day I dreamily carry down a basket of wine-glasses. At another time I listlessly stuff all my slippers into a huge pitcher and take up the line of march. Again a bucket is filled with tea-cups, or I shoulder the fire-shovel. The two weeks drag themselves away, and the cry is still, "Unfinished!" To prevent petrifying into a fossil remain, or relapsing into primitive barbarism, or degenerating into a dormouse, I rouse my energies and determine to put my own shoulder to the wheel and see if something cannot be accomplished. I rise early in the morning and walk to Dan, to hire a painter who is possessed of "gumption," "faculty." Arrived in Dan, I am told that he is in Beersheba. Nothing daunted, I take a short cut across the fields to Beersheba, bearding manifold dangers from rickety stone-walls, strong enough to keep women in, but not strong enough to keep bears, bulls, and other wild beasts out,--toppling enough to play the mischief with draperies, but not toppling enough to topple over when urgently pressed to do so. But I secure my man, and remember no more my sorrow of bulls and stones for joy at my success. From Beersheba I proceed to Padan-aram to buy seven pounds of flour, thence to Galilee of the Gentiles for a pound of cheese, thence to the land of Uz for a smoked halibut, thence to the ends of the earth for a lemon to make life tolerable,--and the days hobble on.
"The flying gold of the ruined woodlands" drives through the air, the signal is given, and there is no longer "quiet on the Potomac." The unnatural calm gives way to an unearthly din. Once more I bring myself to bear on the furniture and the trumpery, and there is a small household whirlpool. All that went before "pales its ineffectual fires." Now comes the strain upon my temper, and my temper bends, and quivers, and creaks, and cracks. Ithuriel touches me with his spear; all the integuments of my conventional, artificial, and acquired gentleness peel off, and I stand revealed a savage. Everything around me sloughs off its usual habitude and becomes savage. Looking-glasses are shivered by the dozen. A bit is nicked out of the best China sugar-bowl. A pin gets under the matting that is wrapped around the centre-table and jags horrible hieroglyphics over the whole polished surface. The bookcase that we are trying to move tilts, and trembles, and goes over, and the old house through all her frame gives signs of woe. A crash detonate on the stairs brings me up from the depths of the closet where I am burrowing. I remember seeing Petronius disappear a moment ago with my lovely and beloved marble Hebe in his arms. I rush rampant to the upper landing in time to see him couchant on the lower. "I have broken my leg," roars Petronius, as if I cared for his leg. A fractured leg is easily mended; but who shall restore me the nose of my nymph, marred into irremediable deformity and dishonor?
Occasionally a gleam of sunshine shoots athwart the darkness to keep me back from rash deeds. Behind the sideboard I find a little cross of dark, bright hair and gold and pearls, that I lost two years ago and would not be comforted. O happy days woven in with the dark, bright hair! O golden, pearly days, come back to me again! "Never mind your gewgaws," interposes real life; "what is to be done with the things in this drawer?" Lying atop of a heap of old papers in the front-yard, waiting the match that is to glorify them into flame, I find a letter that mysteriously disappeared long since and caused me infinite alarm lest indelicate eyes might see it and indelicate hands make ignoble use of its honest and honorable meaning. I learn also sundry new and interesting facts in mechanics. I become acquainted for the first time with the _modus operandi_ of "roller-cloths." I never understood before how the roller got inside the towel. It was one of those gentle domestic mysteries that repel even while they invite investigation. I shall not give the result of my discovery to the public. If you wish very much to find out, you can move, as I did.
But the rifts of sunshine disappear, the clouds draw together and close in. The savage walks abroad once more, and I go to bed tired of life.
I have scarcely fallen asleep, when I am reluctantly, by short and difficult stages, awakened. A rumbling, grating, strident noise first confuses, then startles me. Is it robbers? Is it an earthquake? Is it the coming of fate? I lie rigid, bathed in a cold perspiration. I hear the tread of banditti on the moaning stairs. I see the flutter of ghostly robes by the uncurtained windows. A chill, uncanny air rushes in and grips at my damp hair. I am nerved by the extremity of my terror. I will die of anything but fright. I jerk off the bedclothes, convulse into an upright posture, and glare into the darkness. Nothing. I rise softly, creep cautiously and swiftly over the floor, that always creaked, but now thunders at every footfall. A light gleams through the open door of the opposite room whence the sound issues. A familiar voice utters an exclamation which I recognize. It is Petronius, the unprincipled scoundrel, who is uncording a bed, dragging remorselessly through innumerable holes the long rope whose doleful wail came near giving me an epilepsy. My savage lets loose the dogs of war. Petronius would fain defend himself by declaring that it is morning. I indignantly deny it. He produces his watch. A fig for his watch! I stake my consciousness against twenty watches, and go to bed again; but Sleep, angry goddess, once repulsed, returns no more. The dawn comes up the sky and confirms the scorned watch. The golden daggers of the morning prick in under my eyelids, and Petronius introduces himself upon the scene once more to announce, that, if I don't wish to be corded up myself, I must abdicate that bed. The threat does not terrify me. Indeed, nothing at the moment seems more inviting than to be corded up and let alone; but duty still binds me to life, and, assuring Petronius that the just law will do that service for him, if he does not mend his ways, I slowly emerge again into the world,--the dreary, chaotic world,--the world that is never at rest.
And there is hurrying to and fro, and a clang of many voices, and the clatter of much crockery, and a lifting, and balancing, and battering against walls and curving around corners, and sundry contusions, and a great waste of expletives, and a loading of wagons, and a driving of patient oxen back and forth with me generally on the top of the load, steadying a basket of eggs with one foot, keeping a tin can of something from upsetting with the other, and both arms stretched around a very big and very square picture-frame that knocks against my nose or my chin every time the cart goes over a stone or drops into a rut, and the wind threatening to blow my hat off, and blowing it off, and my "back-hair" tumbling down,--and the old house is at last despoiled. The rooms stand bare and brown and desolate. The sun, a hand-breadth above the horizon, pours in through the unblinking windows. The last load is gone. The last man has departed. I am left alone to lock up the house and walk over the hill to the new home. Then, for the first time, I remember that I am leaving. As I pass through the door of my own room, not regretfully, I turn. I look up and down and through and through the place where I shall never rest again, and I rejoice that it is so. As I stand there, with the red, solid sunshine lying on the floor, lying on the walls, unfamiliar in its new profusion, the silence becomes audible. In the still October evening there is an effort in the air. The dumb house is striving to find a voice. I feel the struggle of its insensate frame. The old timbers quiver with the unusual strain. The strong, blind, vegetable energy agonizes to find expression, and, wrestling like a pinioned giant, the soul of matter throws off the weight of Its superincumbent inertia. Slowly, gently, most sorrowfully through the golden air cleaves a voice that is somewhat a wail, yet not untuned by love. Inarticulate at first, I catch only the low mournfulness; but it clears, it concentrates, it murmurs into cadence, it syllables into intelligence, and thus the old house speaks:--
"Child, my child, forward to depart, stay for one moment your eager feet. Put off from your brow the crown which the sunset has woven, and linger yet a little longer in the shadow which enshrouds me forever. I remember, in this parting hour, the day of days which the tremulous years bore in their bosom,--a day crimson with the woodbine's happy flush and glowing with the maple's gold. On that day a tender, tiny life came down, and stately Silence fled before the pelting of baby-laughter. Faint memories of far-off olden time were softly stirred. Blindly thrilled through all my frame a vague, dim sense of swelling buds, and singing-birds, and summer-gales,--of the purple beauty of violets, the smells of fragrant earth, and the sweetness of summer dews and darks. Many a harvest-moon since then has filled her yellow horn, and queenly Junes crowned with roses have paled before the sternness of Decembers. But Decembers and Junes alike bore royal gifts to you,--gifts to the busy brain and the awakening heart. In dell and copse and meadow and gay green-wood you drank great draughts of life. Yet, even as I watched, your eyes grew wistful. Your lips framed questions for which the Springs found no reply, and the sacred mystery of living brought its sweet, uncertain pain. Then you went away, and a shadow fell. A gleam passed out of the sunshine and a note from the robin's song. The knights that pranced on the household hearth grew faint and still, and died for want of young eyes to mark their splendor. But when your feet, ever and anon, turned homeward, they used a firmer step, and I knew, that, though the path might be rough, you trod it bravely. I saw that you had learned how doing is a nobler thing than dreaming, yet kept the holy fire burning in the holy place. But now you go, and there will be no return. The stars are faded from the sky. The leaves writhe on the greensward. The breezes wail a dirge. The summer rain is pallid like winter snow. And--O bitterest cup of all!--the golden memories of the past have vanished from your heart. I totter down to the grave, while you go on from strength to strength. The Junes that gave you life brought death to me, and you sorrow not. O child of my tender care, look not so coldly on my pain! Breathe one sigh of regret, drop one tear of pity, before we part!"
The mournful murmur ceased. I am not adamant. My savage crouched out of sight among the underbrush. I think something stirred in the back of my eyes. There was even a suspicion of dampness in front. I thrust my hand in my pocket to have my handkerchief ready in case of a catastrophe. It was an unfortunate proceeding. My pocket was crammed full. I had to push my fingers in between all manner of rubbish, to get at the required article, and when I got hold of it, I had to pull with all my might to get it out, and when it did come, out with it came a tin box of mustard seed, a round wooden box of tooth-powder, a ball of twine, a paper of picture-books, and a pair of gloves. Of course, the covers of both the boxes came off. The seed scattered over the floor. The tooth-powder puffed a white cloud into my face. The ball of twine unrolled and trundled to the other side of the room. I gathered up what I could, but, by the time order was restored and my handkerchief ready for use, I had no use for it. The stirring in the back of my eyes had stopped. The dewiness had disappeared. My savage sprang out from the underbrush and brandished his tomahawk. And to the old house I made answer as a Bushman of Caffraria might, or a Sioux of the Prae-Pilgrimic Age:--
"Old House, hush up! Why do you talk stuff? 'Golden memories' indeed! To hear you, one might suppose you were an ivied castle on the Rhine, and I a fair-haired princess, cradled in the depths of regal luxury, feeding on the blossoms of a thousand generations, and heroic from inborn royalty. 'Tender care'! Did you not wake me in the middle of the night, last summer, by trickling down water on my face from a passing shower? and did I not have to get up at that unearthly hour to move the bed, and step splash into a puddle, and come very near being floated away? Did not the water drip, drip, drip upon my writing-desk, and soak the leather and swell the wood, and stain the ribbon and spoil the paper inside, and all because you were treacherous at the roof and let it? Have you not made a perfect rattery of yourself, yawning at every possible chink and crumbling at the underpinning, and keeping me awake night after night by the tramp of a whole brigade of the Grand Army that slaughtered Bishop Hatto? Whenever a breeze comes along stout enough to make an aspen-leaf tremble, don't you immediately go into hysterics, and rock, and creak, and groan, as if you were the shell of an earthquake? Don't you shrivel at every window to let in the northeasters and all the snow-storms that walk abroad? Whenever a needle, or a pencil, or a penny drops, don't you open somewhere and take it in? 'Golden memories'! Leaden memories! Wooden memories! Madden memories!"
My savage gave a war-whoop. I turned scornfully. I swept down the staircase. I banged the front-door. I locked it with an accent, and marched up the hill. A soft sighing breathed past me. I knew it was the old house mourning for her departing child. The sun had disappeared, but the western sky was jubilant in purple and gold. The cool evening calmed me. The echoes of the war-whoop vibrated almost tenderly along the hushed hillside. I paused on the summit of the hill and looked back. Down in the valley stood the sorrowful house, tasting the first bitterness of perpetual desolation. The maples and the oaks and the beech-trees hung out their flaming banners. The pond lay dark in the shadow of the circling hills. The years called to me,--the happy, sun-ripe years that I had left tangled in the apple-blossoms, and moaning among the pines, and tinkling in the brook, and floating in the cups of the water-lilies. They looked up at me from the orchard, dark and cool. They thrilled across from the hill-tops, glowing still with the glowing sky. I heard their voice by the lilac-bush. They smiled at me under the peach-trees, and where the blackberries had ripened against the southern wall. I felt them once more in the clover-smells and the new-mown hay. They swayed again in the silken tassels of the crisp, rustling corn. They hummed with the bees in the garden-borders. They sang with the robins in the cherry-trees, and their tone was tender and passing sweet. They besought me not to cast away their memory for despite of the black-browed troop whose vile and sombre robes had mingled in with their silver garments. They prayed me to forget, but not all. They minded me of the sweet counsel we had taken together, when summer came over the hills and walked by the watercourses. They bade me remember the good tidings of great joy which they had brought me when my eyes were dim with unavailing tears. My lips trembled to their call. The war-whoop chanted itself into a vesper. A happy calm lifted from my heart and quivered out over the valley, and a comfort settled on the sad old house as I stretched forth my hands and from my inmost soul breathed down a _Benedicite!_
* * * * *
METHODS OF STUDY IN NATURAL HISTORY.
It may seem to some of my readers that I have wandered from my subject and forgotten the title of these articles, which purport to be a series of papers on "Methods of Study in Natural History." But some idea of the progress of Natural History, of its growth as a science, of the gradual evolving of general principles out of a chaotic mass of facts, is a better aid to the student than direct instruction upon special modes of investigation; and it is with the intention of presenting the study of Natural History from this point of view that I have chosen my title.
I have endeavored thus far to show how scientific facts have been systematized so as to form a classification that daily grows more true to Nature, in proportion as its errors are corrected by a more intimate acquaintance with the facts; but I will now attempt a more difficult task, and try to give some idea of the mental process by which facts are transformed into scientific truth. I fear that the subject may seem very dry to my readers, and I would again ask their indulgence for details absolutely essential to my purpose, but which would indeed be very wearisome, did they not lead us up to an intelligent and most significant interpretation of their meaning.
I should be glad to remove the idea that science is the mere amassing of facts. It is true that scientific results grow out of facts, but not till they have been fertilized by thought The facts must be collected, but their mere accumulation will never advance the sum of human knowledge by one step;--it is the comparison of facts and their transformation into ideas that lead to a deeper insight into the significance of Nature. Stringing words together in incoherent succession does not make an intelligible sentence; facts are the words of God, and we may heap them together endlessly, but they will teach us little or nothing till we place them in their true relations and recognize the thought that binds them together as a consistent whole.
I have spoken of the plans that lie at the foundation of all the variety of the Animal Kingdom as so many structural ideas which must have had an intellectual existence in the Creative Conception independently of any special material expression of them. Difficult though it be to present these plans as pure abstract formulae, distinct from the animals that represent them, I would nevertheless attempt to do it, in order to show how the countless forms of animal life have been generalized into the few grand, but simple intellectual conceptions on which all the past populations of the earth as well as the present creation are founded. In such attempts to divest the thought of its material expression, especially when that expression is multiplied in such thousand-fold variety of form and color, our familiarity with living animals is almost an obstacle to our success. For I shall hardly be able to allude to the formula of the Radiates, for instance,--the abstract idea that includes all the structural possibilities of that division of the Animal Kingdom,--without recalling to my readers a Polyp or a Jelly-Fish, a Sea-Urchin or a Star-Fish. Neither can I present the structural elements of the Mollusk plan, without reminding them of an Oyster or a Clam, a Snail or a Cuttle-Fish,--or of the Articulate plan, without calling up at once the form of a Worm, a Lobster, or an Insect,--or of the Vertebrate plan, without giving it the special character of Fish, Reptile, Bird, or Mammal. Yet I insist that all living beings are but the different modes of expressing these formulae, and that all animals have, within the limits of their own branch of the Animal Kingdom, the same structural elements, though each branch is entirely distinct. If this be true, and if these organic formulae have the precision of mathematical formulae, with which I have compared them, they should be susceptible of the same tests.
The mathematician proves the identity of propositions that have the same mathematical value and significance by their convertibility. If they have the same mathematical quantities, it must be possible to transform them, one into another, without changing anything that is essential in either. The problem before us is of the same character. If, for instance, all Radiates, be they Sea-Anemones, Jelly-Fishes, Star-Fishes, or Sea-Urchins, are only various modes of expressing the same organic formula, each having the sum of all its structural elements, it should be possible to demonstrate that they are reciprocally convertible. This is actually the case, and I hope to be able to convince my readers that it is no fanciful theory, but may be demonstrated as clearly as the problems of the geometer. The naturalist has his mathematics, as well as the geometer and the astronomer; and if the mathematics of the Animal Kingdom have a greater flexibility than those of the positive sciences, and are therefore not so easily resolved into their invariable elements, it is because they have the freedom and pliability of life, and evade our efforts to bring all their external variety within the limits of the same structural law which nevertheless controls and includes them all.
I wish that I could take as the illustration of this statement animals with whose structure the least scientific of my readers might be presumed to be familiar; but such a comparison of the Vertebrates, showing the identity and relation of structural elements throughout the Branch, or even in any one of its Classes, would be too extensive and complicated, and I must resort to the Radiates,--that branch of the Animal Kingdom which, though less generally known, has the simplest structural elements.
I will take, then, for the further illustration of my subject, the Radiates, and especially the class of Echinoderms, Star-Fishes, Sea-Urchins, and the like, both in the fossil and the living types; and though some special description of these animals is absolutely essential, I will beg my readers to remember that the general idea, and not its special manifestations, is the thing I am aiming at, and that, if we analyze the special parts characteristic of these different groups, it is only that we may resolve them back again into the structural plan that includes them all.
I have already in a previous article named the different Orders of this Class in their relative rank, and have compared the standing of the living ones, according to the greater or less complication of their structure, with the succession of the fossil ones. Of the five Orders, Beches-de-Mer, Sea-Urchins, Star-Fishes, Ophiurans, and Crinoids,--or, to name them all according to their scientific nomenclature, Holothurians, Echinoids, Asteroids, Ophiurans, and Crinoids,--the last-named are lowest in structure and earliest in time. Cuvier was the first naturalist who detected the true nature of the Crinoids, and placed them where they belong in the classification of the Animal Kingdom. They had been observed before, and long and laborious investigations had been undertaken upon them, but they were especially baffling to the student, because they were known only in the fossil condition from incomplete specimens; and though they still have their representatives among the type of Echinoderms as it exists at present, yet, partly owing to the rarity of the living specimens and partly to the imperfect condition of the fossil ones, the relation between them was not recognized. The errors about them certainly did not arise from any want of interest in the subject among naturalists, for no less than three hundred and eighty different authors have published their investigations upon the Crinoids, and the books that have been printed about these animals, many of which were written long before their animal nature was suspected, would furnish a library in themselves. The ancients knew little about them. The only one to be found in the European seas resembles the Star-Fish closely, and they called it Asterias; but even Aristotle was ignorant of its true structural relations, and alludes only to its motion and general appearance. Some account of the gradual steps by which naturalists have deciphered the true nature of these lowest Echinoderms and their history in past times may not be without interest, and is very instructive as showing bow such problems may be solved.
In the sixteenth century some stones were found bearing the impression of a star on their surface. They received the name of Trochites, and gave rise to much discussion. Naturalists puzzled their brains about them, called them star-shaped crystals, aquatic plants, corals; and to these last Linnaeus himself, the great authority of the time on all such questions, referred them. Beside these stony stars, which were found in great quantities when attention was once called to them, impressions of a peculiar kind had been observed in the rocks, resembling flowers on long stems, and called "stone lilies" naturally enough, for their long, graceful stems, terminating either in a branching crown or a closer cup, recall the lily tribe among flowers. The long stems of these seeming lilies are divided transversely at regular intervals;--the stem is easily broken at any of these natural divisions, and on each such fragment is stamped a star-like impression resembling those found upon the loose stones or Trochites.
About a century ago, Guettard the naturalist described a curious specimen from Porto Rico, so similar to these fossil lilies of the rocks that he believed they must have some relation to each other. He did not detect its animal nature, but from its long stem and branching crown he called it a marine palm. Thus far neither the true nature of the living specimen, nor of the Trochites, nor of the fossil lilies was understood, but it was nevertheless an important step to have found that there was a relation between them. A century passed away, and Guettard's specimen, preserved at the Jardin des Plantes, waited with Sphinx-like patience for the man who should solve its riddle.
Cuvier, who held the key to so many of the secrets of Nature, detected at last its true structure; he pronounced it to be a Star-Fish with a stem, and at once the three series of facts respecting the Trochites, the fossil lilies, and Guettard's marine palm assumed their true relation to each other. The Troehites were recognized as simply the broken portions of the stem of some of these old fossil Crinoids, and the Crinoids themselves were seen to be the ancient representatives of the present Comatulae and Star-Fishes with stems. So is it often with the study of Nature; many scattered links are collected before the man comes who sees the connection between them and speaks the word that reconstructs the broken chain.
I will begin my comparison of all Echinoderms with an analysis of the Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, because I think I can best show the identity of parts between them, notwithstanding the difference in their external form; the Sea-Urchins having always a spherical body, while the Star-Fishes are always star-shaped, though in some the star is only hinted at, sketched out, as it were, in a simply pentagonal outline, while in others the indentations between the rays are very deep, and the rays themselves so intricate in their ramifications as to be broken up into a complete net-work of branches. But under all this variety of outline, our problem remains always the same: to build with the same number of pieces a star and a sphere, having the liberty, however, of cutting the pieces differently and changing their relative proportions. Let us take first the Sea-Urchin and examine in detail all parts of its external structure. I shall say nothing of the internal structure of any of these animals, because it does not affect the comparison of their different forms and the external arrangement of parts, which is the subject of the present article.
On the lower side is the mouth, and we may call that side and all the parts that radiate from it the oral region. On the upper side is a small area to which the parts converge, and which, from its position just opposite the so-called mouth or oral opening, we may call the _ab-oral region_. I prefer these more general terms, because, if we speak of the mouth, we are at once reminded of the mouth in the higher animals, and in this sense the word, as applied to the aperture through which the Sea-Urchins receive their food, is a misnomer. Very naturally the habit has become prevalent of naming the different parts of animals from their function, and not from their structure; and in all animals the aperture through which food enters the body is called the mouth, though there is not the least structural relation between the organs so designated, except within the limits of each different branch or division. To speak of these opposite regions in the Sea-Urchin as the upper and lower sides would equally mislead us, since, as we have seen, there is, properly speaking, no above and below, no right and left sides, no front and hind extremities in these animals, all parts being evenly distributed around a vertical axis. I will, therefore, although it has been my wish to avoid technicalities as much as possible in these papers, make use of the unfamiliar terms oral and ab-oral regions, to indicate the mouth with the parts diverging from it and the opposite area towards which all these parts converge. [Footnote: When reference is made to the whole structure, including the internal organs as well as the solid parts of the surface, the terms _actinal_ and _ab-actinal_ are preferable to oral and ab-oral.]
[Illustration: Sea-Urchin seen from the oral side, showing the zones with the spines and suckers; for the ab-oral side, on the summit of which the zones unite, see February Number, p. 216.]
The whole surface of the animal is divided by zones,--ten in number, five broader ones alternating with five narrower ones. The five broad zones are composed of large plates on which are the most prominent spines, attached to tubercles that remain on the surface even when the spines drop off after death, and mark the places where the spines have been. The five small zones are perforated with regular rows of holes, and through these perforations pass the suckers or water-tubes which are their locomotive appendages. For this reason these narrower zones are called the _ambulacra_, while the broader zones intervening between them and supporting the spines are called the _interambulacra_. Motion, however, is not the only function of these suckers; they are subservient also to respiration and circulation, taking in water, which is conveyed through them into various parts of the body.
[Illustration: Portion of Sea-Urchin representing one narrow zone with a part of the broad zones on either side and the ab-oral area on the summit.]
The oral aperture is occupied by five plates, which may be called jaws, remembering always that here again this word signifies the function, and not the structure usually associated with the presence of jaws in the higher animals; and each of these jaws or plates terminates in a tooth. Even the mode of eating in these animals is controlled by their radiate structure; for these jaws, evenly distributed about the circular oral aperture, open to receive the prey and then are brought together to crush it, the points meeting in the centre, thus working concentrically, instead of moving up and down or from right to left, as in other animals. From the oral opening the ten zones diverge, spreading over the whole surface, like the ribs on a melon, and converging in the opposite direction till they meet in the small space which we have called the ab-oral region opposite the starting-point.
Here the broad zones terminate in five large plates differing somewhat from those that form the zones in other parts of the body, and called ovarian plates, because the eggs pass out through certain openings in them; while the five narrow zones terminate in five small plates on each of which is an eye, making thus five eyes alternating with five ovarian plates. The centre of this area containing the ovarian plates and the visual plates is filled up with small movable plates closing the space between them. I should add that one of the five ovarian plates is larger than the other four, and has a peculiar structure, long a puzzle to naturalists. It is perforated with minute holes, forming an exceedingly delicate sieve, and this is actually the purpose it serves. It is, as it were, a filter, and opens into a canal which conducts water through the interior of the body; closed by this sieve on the outside, all the water that passes into it is purified from all foreign substances that might be injurious to the animal, and is thus fitted to pass into the water-system, from which arise the main branches leading to the minute suckers which project through the holes in the narrow zones of plates.
[Illustration: Star-Fish from the ab-oral side.]
Now in order to transform theoretically our Sea-Urchin into a Star-Fish, what have we to do? Let the reader imagine for a moment that the small ab-oral area closing the space between the ovarian plates and the eye-plates is elastic and may be stretched out indefinitely; then split the five broad zones along the centre and draw them down to the same level with the mouth, carrying the ovarian plates between them. We have then a star, just as, dividing, for instance, the peel of an orange into five compartments, leaving them, of course, united at the base, then stripping it off and spreading it out flat, we should have a five-rayed star.
[Illustration: One arm of Star-Fish from the oral side.]
But in thus dividing the broad zones of the Sea-Urchins, we leave the narrow zones in their original relation to them, except that every narrow zone, instead of being placed between two broad zones, has now one-half of each of the zones with which it alternated in the Sea-Urchin on either side of it and lies between them. The adjoining wood-cut represents a single ray of a Star-Fish, drawn from what we call its lower side or the oral side. Along the centre of every such ray, diverging from the central opening or the mouth, we have a furrow, corresponding exactly to the narrower zones of the Sea-Urchin. It is composed of comparatively small perforated plates through which pass the suckers or locomotive appendages. On either side of the furrows are other plates corresponding to the plates of the broad zones in the Sea-Urchin. Where shall we look for the five eyes? Of course, at the tip of every ray; exactly where they were when the rays were drawn up to form the summit of a sphere, so that the eyes, which are now at their extremities, were clustered together at their point of meeting. Where shall we look for the ovarian plates? At each angle of the five rays, because, when the broad zones of which they formed the summit were divided, they followed the split, and now occupy the place which, though it seems so different on the surface of the Star-Fish, is nevertheless, relatively to the rest of the body, the same as they occupied in the Sea-Urchin. Assuming, as we premised, that the central area of the ab-oral region, forming the space between the plates at the summit of the zones in the Sea-Urchin, is elastic, it has stretched with the spreading out of the zones, following the indentation between the rays, and now forms the whole upper surface of the body. All the internal organs of the animal lie between the oral and ab-oral regions, just as they did in the Sea-Urchin, only that in the Star- Fish these regions are coequal in extent, while in the Sea-Urchin the ab-oral region is very contracted, and the oral region with the parts belonging to it occupies the greater part of its surface.
Such being the identity of parts between a Star-Fish and a Sea-Urchin, let us see now how the Star-Fish may be transformed into the Pedunculated Crinoid, the earliest representative of its Class, or into a Comatula, one of the free animals that represent the Crinoids in our day.
[Illustration: Crinoid with branching crown; oral side turned upward.]
We have seen that in the Sea-Urchins the ab-oral region is very contracted, the oral region and the parts radiating from it and forming the sides being the predominant features in the structure; and we shall find, as we proceed in our comparison, that the different proportion of these three parts, the oral and ab-oral regions and the sides, determines the different outlines of the various Orders in this Class. In the Sea-Urchin the oral region and the sides are predominant, while the ab-oral region is very small. In the Star-Fish, the oral and ab-oral regions are brought into equal relations, neither preponderating over the other, and the sides are compressed, so that, seen in profile, the outline of the Star-Fish is that of a slightly convex disk, instead of a sphere, as in the Sea-Urchin. But when we come to the Crinoids, we find that the great preponderance of the ab-oral region determines all that peculiarity of form that distinguishes them from the other Echinoderms, while the oral region is comparatively insignificant. The ab-oral region in the Crinoid rises to form a sort of cup-like or calyx-like projection. The plates forming it, which in the Star-Fish or the Sea-Urchin are movable, are soldered together so as to be perfectly immovable in the Crinoid. Let this seeming calyx be now prolonged into a stem, and we see at once how striking is the resemblance to a flower; turn it downwards, an attitude which is natural to these Crinoids, and the likeness to a drooping lily is still more remarkable The oral region, with the radiating ambulacra, is now limited to the small flat area opposite the juncture of the stem with the calyx; and whether it stretches out to form long arms, or is more compact, so as to close the calyx like a cup, it seems in either case to form a flower-like crown. In these groups of Echinoderms the interambulacral plates are absent; there are no rows of plates of a different kind alternating with the ambulacral ones, as in the Sea-Urchins and the Star-Fishes, but the ab-oral region closes immediately upon the ambulacra.
It seems a contradiction to say, that, though these Crinoids were the only representatives of their Class in the early geological ages, while it includes five Orders at the present time, Echinoderms were as numerous and various then as now. But, paradoxical as it may seem, this is nevertheless true, not only for this Class, but for many others in the Animal Kingdom. The same numerical proportions, the same richness and vividness of conception were manifested in the early creation as now; and though many of the groups were wanting that are most prominent in modern geological periods, those that existed were expressed in such endless variety that the Animal Kingdom seems to have been as full then as it is to-day. The Class of the Echinoderms is one of the most remarkable instances of this. In the Silurian period, the Crinoids stood alone; there were neither Ophiurans, Asteroids, Echinoids, nor Holothurians; and yet in one single locality, Lockport, in the State of New York, over an area of not more than a few square miles, where the Silurian deposits have been carefully examined, there have been found more different Species of Echinoderms than are living now along our whole Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida.
There is nothing more striking in these early populations of the earth than the richness of the types. It would seem as if, before the world was prepared for the manifold existences that find their home here now, when organic life was limited by the absence of many of the present physical conditions, the whole wealth of the Creative Thought lavished itself upon the forms already introduced upon the globe. After thirty years' study of the fossil Crinoids, I am every day astonished by some new evidence of the ingenuity, the invention, the skill, if I may so speak, shown in varying this single pattern of animal life. When one has become, by long study of Nature, in some sense intimate with the animal creation, it is impossible not to recognize in it the immediate action of thought, and even to specialize the intellectual faculties it reveals. It speaks of an infinite power of combination and analysis, of reminiscence and prophecy, of that which has been in eternal harmony with that which is to be; and while we stand in reverence before the grandeur of the Creative Conception as a whole, there breaks from it such lightness of fancy, such richness of invention, such variety and vividness of color, nay, even the ripple of mirthfulness,--for Nature has its humorous side also,--that we lose our grasp of its completeness in wonder at its details, and our sense of its unity is clouded by its marvellous fertility. There may seem to be an irreverence in thus characterizing the Creative Thought by epithets which we derive from the exercise of our own mental faculties; but it is nevertheless true, that, the nearer we come to Nature, the more does it seem to us that all our intellectual endowments are merely the echo of the Almighty Mind, and that the eternal archetypes of all manifestations of thought in man are found in the Creation of which he is the crowning work.
In no group of the Animal Kingdom is the fertility of invention more striking than in the Crinoids. They seem like the productions of one who handles his work with an infinite ease and delight, taking pleasure in presenting the same thought under a thousand different aspects. Some new cut of the plates, some slight change in their relative position is constantly varying their outlines, from a close cup to an open crown, from the long pear-shaped oval of the calyx in some to its circular or square or pentagonal form in others. An angle that is simple in one projects by a fold of the surface and becomes a fluted column in another; a plate that was smooth but now has here a symmetrical figure upon it drawn in beaded lines; the stem which is perfectly unbroken in one, except by the transverse divisions common to them all, in the next puts out feathery plumes at every such transverse break. In some the plates of the stem are all rigid and firmly soldered together; in others they are articulated upon each other in such a manner as to give it the greatest flexibility, and allow the seeming flower to wave and bend upon its stalk. It would require an endless number of illustrations to give even a faint idea of the variety of these fossil Crinoids. There is no change that the fancy can suggest within the limits of the same structure that does not find expression among them. Since I have become intimate with their wonderful complications, I have sometimes amused myself with anticipating some new variation of the theme, by the introduction of some undescribed structural complication, and then seeking for it among the specimens at my command, and I have never failed to find it in one or other of these ever-changing forms.
The modern Crinoid without stem, or the Comatula, though agreeing with the ancient in all the essential elements of structure, differs from it in some specific features. It drops its stem when full-grown, though the ab-oral region still remains the predominant part of the body and retains its cup-like or calyx-like form. The Comatulae are not abundant, and though represented by a number of Species, yet the type as it exists at present is meagre in comparison to its richness in former times. Indeed, this group of Echinoderms, which in the earliest periods was the exponent of all its kind, has dwindled gradually, in proportion as other representatives of the Class have come in, and there exists only one species now, the Pentacrinus of the West Indies, which retains its stem in its adult condition. It is a singular fact, to which I have before alluded, and which would seem to have especial reference to the maintenance of the same numeric proportions in all times, that, while a Class is represented by few types, those types are wonderfully rich and varied, but in proportion as other expressions of the same structure are introduced, the first dwindle, and, if they do not entirely disappear, become at least much less prominent than before.
[Illustration: Ophiuran; showing one ray from the oral side.]
There remain only two other Orders to be considered, the Ophiurans and the Holothurians. The Ophiurans approach the Crinoids more nearly than any other group of Echinoderms, and in our classifications are placed next above them. In them the ab-oral region, which has such a remarkable predominance in the Crinoid, has become depressed; it no longer extends into a stem, nor does it even rise into the calyx-like or cup-like projection so characteristic of the Crinoids,--though, when the animal is living, the ab-oral side of the disk is still quite convex. The disk in the Ophiurans is small in comparison to the length of the arms, and perfectly circular; it does not merge gradually in the arms as in the Star-Fish, but the arms start abruptly from its periphery. In these, as in the Crinoids, the interambulacral plates are absent, and the interambulacral spaces are filled by an encroachment of the ab-oral region upon them. There is an infinite variety and beauty both of form and color in these Sea-Stars. The arms frequently measure many times the diameter of the whole disk, and are so different in size and ornamentation in the different Species that at first sight one might take them for animals entirely distinct from each other. In some the arms are comparatively short and quite simple,--in others they are very long, and may be either stretched to their full length or partly contracted to form a variety of graceful curves; in some they are fringed all along the edges,--in others they are so ramified that every arm seems like a little bush, as it were, and, intertwining with each other, they make a thick network all around the animal. In the geological succession, these Ophiurans follow the Crinoids, being introduced at about the Carboniferous period, and perhaps earlier. They have had their representatives in all succeeding times, and are still very numerous in the present epoch.
To show the correspondence of the Holothurians with the typical formula of the whole class of Echinoderms, I will return to the Sea-Urchins, since they are more nearly allied with that Order than with any of the other groups. We have seen that the Sea-Urchins approach most nearly to the sphere, and that in them the oral region and the sides predominate so greatly over the ab-oral region that the latter is reduced to a small area on the summit of the sphere. In order to transform the Sea-Urchin into a Holothurian, we have only to stretch it out from end to end till it becomes a cylinder, with the oral region or mouth at one extremity, and the ab-oral region, which in the Holothurian is reduced to its minimum, at the other. The zones of the Sea-Urchin now extend as parallel rows on the Holothurian, running from one end to the other of the long cylindrical body. On account of their form, some of them have been taken for Worms, and so classified by naturalists; but as soon as their true structure was understood, which agrees in every respect with that of the other Echinoderms, and has no affinity whatever with the articulated structure of the Worms, they found their true place in our classifications.
The natural attitude of these animals is different from that of the other Echinoderms: they lie on one side, and move with the oral opening forward, and this has been one cause of the mistakes as to their true nature. But when we would compare animals, we should place them, not in the attitude which is natural to them in their native element, but in what I would call their normal position,--that is, such a position as brings the corresponding parts in all into the same relation. For instance, the natural attitude of the Crinoid is with the ab-oral region downward, attached to a stem, and the oral region or mouth upward; the Ophiuran turns its oral region, along which all the suckers or ambulacra are arranged, toward the surface along which it moves; the Star-Fish does the same; the Sea-Urchin also has its oral opening downward; but the Holothurian moves on one side, mouth foremost, as represented in the adjoining wood-cut, dragging itself onward, like all the rest, by means of its rows of suckers. If, now, we compare these animals in the various attitudes natural to them, we may fail to recognize the identity of parts, or, at least, it will not strike us at once. But if we place them all--Holothurian, Sea-Urchin, Star-Fish, Ophiuran, and Crinoid--with the oral or mouth side downward, for instance, we shall see immediately that the small area at the opposite end of the Holothurian corresponds to the area on the top of the Sea-Urchin; that the upper side of the Star-Fish is the same region enlarged; that, in the Ophiuran, that region makes one side of the small circular disk; while in the Crinoid it is enlarged and extended to make the calyx-like projection and stem. In the same way, if we place them in the same attitude, we shall see that the long, straight rows of suckers along the length of the Holothurian, and the arching zones of suckers on the spherical body of the Sea-Urchin, and the furrows with the suckers protruding from them along the arms of the Star-Fish and Ophiuran, and the radiating series of pores from the oral opening in the Crinoid are one and the same thing in all, only altered somewhat in their relative proportion and extent. Around the oral opening of the Holothurian there are appendages capable of the most extraordinary changes, which seem at first to be peculiar to these animals, and to have no affinity with any corresponding feature in the same Class. But a closer investigation has shown them to be only modifications of the locomotive suckers of the Star-Fish and Sea-Urchin, but ramifying to such an extent as to assume the form of branching feelers. The little tufts projecting from the oral side in the Sea-Urchins, described as gills, are another form of the same kind of appendage.
The Holothurians have not the hard, brittle surface of the other Echinoderms; on the contrary, their envelope is tough and leathery, capable of great contraction and dilatation. No idea can be formed of the beauty of these animals either from dried specimens or from those preserved in alcohol. Of course, in either case, they lose their color, become shrunken, and the movable appendages about the mouth shrivel up. One who had seen the Holothurian only as preserved in museums would be amazed at the spectacle of the living animal, especially if his first introduction should be to one of the deep, rich crimson-colored species, such as are found in quantities in the Bay of Fundy. I have seen such an animal, when first thrown into a tank of sea-water, remain for a while closely contracted, looking like a soft crimson ball. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, as it becomes accustomed to its new position, it begins to elongate; the fringes creep softly out, spreading gradually all their ramifications, till one end of the animal seems crowned with feathery, crimson sea-weeds of the most delicate tracery. It is much to be regretted that these lower marine animals are not better known. The plumage of the tropical birds, the down on the most brilliant butterfly's wing, are not more beautiful in coloring than the hues of many Radiates, and there is no grace of motion surpassing the movements of some of them in their native element. The habit of keeping marine animals in tanks is happily growing constantly more popular, and before long the beauty of these inhabitants of the ocean will be as familiar to us as that of Birds and Insects. Many of the most beautiful among them are, however, difficult to obtain, and not easily kept alive in confinement, so that they are not often seen in aquariums.
Having thus endeavored to sketch each different kind of Echinoderm, let us try to forget them all in their individuality, and think only of the structural formula that applies equally to each. In all, the body has three distinct regions, the oral, the ab-oral, and the sides; but by giving a predominance to one or other of these regions, a variety of outlines characteristic of the different groups is produced. In all, the parts radiate from the oral opening, and join in the ab-oral region. In all, this radiation is accompanied by rows of suckers following the line of the diverging rays. It is always the same structure, but, endowed with the freedom of life, it is never monotonous, notwithstanding its absolute permanence. In short, drop off the stem of the Crinoid, and depress its calyx to form a flat disk, and we have an Ophiuran; expand that disk, and let it merge gradually in the arms, and we have a Star-Fish; draw up the rays of the Star-Fish, and unite them at the tips so as to form a spherical outline, and we have a Sea-Urchin; stretch out the Sea-Urchin to form a cylinder, and we have a Holothurian.
And now let me ask,--Is it my ingenuity that has imposed upon these structures the conclusion I have drawn from them?--have I so combined them in my thought that they have become to me a plastic form, out of which I draw a Crinoid, an Ophiuran, a Star-Fish, a Sea-Urchin, or a Holothurian at will? or is this structural idea inherent in them all, so that every observer who has a true insight into their organization must find it written there? Had our scientific results anything to do with our invention, every naturalist's conclusions would be colored by his individual opinions; but when we find all naturalists converging more and more towards each other, arriving, as their knowledge increases, at exactly the same views, then we must believe that these structures are the Creative Ideas in living reality. In other words, so far as there is truth in them, our systems are what they are, not because Aristotle, Linnaeus, Cuvier, or all the men who ever studied Nature, have so thought and so expressed their thought, but because God so thought and so expressed His thought in material forms when He laid the plan of Creation, and when man himself existed only in the intellectual conception of his Maker.
LYRICS OF THE STREET.
In her satin gown so fine Trips the bride within the shrine. Waits the street to see her pass, Like a vision in a glass. Roses crown her peerless head: Keep your lilies for the dead!
Something of the light without Enters with her, veiled about; Sunbeams, hiding in her hair, Please themselves with silken wear; Shadows point to what shall be In the dim futurity.
Wreathe with flowers the weighty yoke Might of mortal never broke! From the altar of her vows To the grave's unsightly house Measured is the path, and made; All the work is planned and paid.
As a girl, with ready smile, Where shall rise some ponderous pile, On the chosen, festal day, Turns the initial sod away, So the bride with fingers frail Founds a temple or a jail,--
Or a palace, it may be, Flooded full with luxury, Open yet to deadliest things, And the Midnight Angel's wings. Keep its chambers purged with prayer: Faith can guard it, Love is rare.
Organ, sound thy wedding-tunes! Priest, recite the sacred runes! Hast no ghostly help nor art Can enrich a selfish heart, Blessing bind 'twixt greed and gold, Joy with bloom for bargain sold?
Hail, the wedded task of life! Mending husband, moulding wife. Hope brings labor, labor peace; Wisdom ripens, goods increase; Triumph crowns the sainted head, And our lilies wait the dead.
* * * * *
FRIEND ELI'S DAUGHTER.
The mild May afternoon was drawing to a close, as Friend Eli Mitchenor reached the top of the long hill, and halted a few minutes, to allow his horse time to recover breath. He also heaved a sigh of satisfaction, as he saw again the green, undulating valley of the Neshaminy, with its dazzling squares of young wheat, its brown patches of corn-land, its snowy masses of blooming orchard, and the huge, fountain-like jets of weeping-willow, half concealing the gray stone fronts of the farm-houses. He had been absent from home only six days, but the time seemed almost as long to him as a three-years' cruise to a New-Bedford whaleman. The peaceful seclusion and pastoral beauty of the scene did not consciously appeal to his senses; but he quietly noted how much the wheat had grown during his absence, that the oats were up and looking well, that Friend Comly's meadow had been ploughed, and Friend Martin had built his half of the line-fence along the top of the hill-field. If any smothered delight in the loveliness of the spring-time found a hiding-place anywhere in the well-ordered chambers of his heart, it never relaxed or softened the straight, inflexible lines of his face. As easily could his collarless drab coat and waistcoat have flushed with a sudden gleam of purple or crimson.
Eli Mitchenor was at peace with himself and the world,--that is, so much of the world as he acknowledged. Beyond the community of his own sect, and a few personal friends who were privileged to live on its borders, he neither knew, nor cared to know, much more of the human race than if it belonged to a planet farther from the sun. In the discipline of the Friends he was perfect; he was privileged to sit on the high seats, with the elders of the Society; and the travelling brethren from other States, who visited Bucks County, invariably blessed his house with a family-meeting. His farm was one of the best on the banks of the Neshaminy, and he also enjoyed the annual interest of a few thousand dollars, carefully secured by mortgages on real estate. His wife, Abigail, kept even pace with him in the consideration she enjoyed within the limits of the sect; and his two children, Moses and Asenath, vindicated the paternal training by the strictest sobriety of dress and conduct. Moses wore the plain coat, even when his ways led him among "the world's people"; and Asenath had never been known to wear, or to express a desire for, a ribbon of a brighter tint than brown or fawn-color. Friend Mitchenor had thus gradually ripened to his sixtieth year in an atmosphere of life utterly placid and serene, and looked forward with confidence to the final change, as a translation into a deeper calm, a serener quiet, a prosperous eternity of mild voices, subdued colors, and suppressed emotions.
He was returning home, in his own old-fashioned "chair," with its heavy square canopy and huge curved springs, from the Yearly Meeting of the Hicksite Friends, in Philadelphia. The large bay farm-horse, slow and grave in his demeanor, wore his plain harness with an air which made him seem, among his fellow-horses, the counterpart of his master among men. He would no more have thought of kicking than the latter would of swearing a huge oath. Even now, when the top of the hill was gained, and he knew that he was within a mile of the stable which had been his home since colthood, he showed no undue haste or impatience, but waited quietly, until Frient Mitchenor, by a well-known jerk of the lines, gave him the signal to go on. Obedient to the motion, he thereupon set forward once more, jogging soberly down the eastern slope of the hill,--across the covered bridge, where, in spite of the tempting level of the hollow-sounding floor, he was as careful to abstain from trotting as if he had read the warning notice,--along the wooded edge of the green meadow, where several cows of his acquaintance were grazing,--and finally, wheeling around at the proper angle, halted squarely in front of the gate which gave entrance to the private lane.
The old stone house in front, the spring-house in a green little hollow just below it, the walled garden, with its clumps of box and lilac, and the vast barn on the left, all joined in expressing a silent welcome to their owner, as he drove up the lane. Moses, a man of twenty-five, left his work in the garden, and walked forward in his shirt-sleeves.
"Well, father, how does thee do?" was his quiet greeting, as they shook hands.
"How's mother, by this time?" asked Eli.
"Oh, thee needn't have been concerned," said the son. "There she is. Go in: I'll 'tend to the horse."
Abigail and her daughter appeared on the piazza. The mother was a woman of fifty, thin and delicate in frame, but with a smooth, placid beauty of countenance which had survived her youth. She was dressed in a simple dove-colored gown, with book-muslin cap and handkerchief, so scrupulously arranged that one might have associated with her for six months without ever discovering a spot on the former or an uneven fold in the latter. Asenath, who followed, was almost as plainly attired, her dress being a dark-blue calico, while a white pasteboard sun-bonnet, with broad cape, covered her head.
"Well, Abigail, how art thou?" said Eli, quietly giving his hand to his wife.
"I'm glad to see thee back," was her simple welcome.
No doubt they had kissed each other as lovers, but Asenath had witnessed this manifestation of affection but once in her life,--after the burial of a younger sister. The fact impressed her with a peculiar sense of sanctity and solemnity: it was a caress wrung forth by a season of tribulation, and therefore was too earnest to be profaned to the uses of joy. So far, therefore, from expecting a paternal embrace, she would have felt, had it been given, like the doomed daughter of the Gileadite, consecrated to sacrifice.
Both she and her mother were anxious to hear the proceedings of the Meeting, and to receive personal news of the many friends whom Eli had seen; but they asked few questions until the supper table was ready and Moses had come in from the barn. The old man enjoyed talking, but it must be in his own way and at his own good time. They must wait until the communicative spirit should move him. With the first cup of coffee the inspiration came. Hovering, at first, over indifferent details, he gradually approached those of more importance,--told of the addresses which had been made, the points of discipline discussed, the testimony borne, and the appearance and genealogy of any new Friends who had taken a prominent part therein. Finally, at the close of his relation, he said,--
"Abigail, there is one thing I must talk to thee about. Friend Speakman's partner--perhaps thee's heard of him, Richard Hilton--has a son who is weakly. He's two or three years younger than Moses. His mother was consumptive, and they're afraid he takes after her. His father wants to send him into the country for the summer,--to some place where he'll have good air, and quiet, and moderate exercise, and Friend Speakman spoke of us. I thought I'd mention it to thee, and if thee thinks well of it, we can send word down next week, when Josiah Comly goes."
"What does _thee_ think?" asked his wife, after a pause.
"He's a very quiet, steady young man, Friend Speakman says, and would be very little trouble to thee. I thought perhaps his board would buy the new yoke of oxen we must have in the fall, and the price of the fat ones might go to help set up Moses. But it's for thee to decide."
"I suppose we could take him," said Abigail, seeing that the decision was virtually made already; "there's the corner-room, which we don't often use. Only, if he should get worse on our hands"--
"Friend Speakman says there's no danger. He's only weak-breasted, as yet, and clerking isn't good for him. I saw the young man at the store. If his looks don't belie him, he's well-behaved and orderly."
So it was settled that Richard Hilton the younger was to be an inmate of Friend Mitchenor's house during the summer.
At the end of ten days he came.
In the under-sized, earnest, dark-haired and dark-eyed young man of three-and-twenty Abigail Mitchenor at once felt a motherly interest. Having received him as a temporary member of the family, she considered him entitled to the same watchful care as if he were in reality an invalid son. The ice over an hereditary Quaker nature is but a thin crust, if one knows how to break it; and in Richard Hilton's case, it was already broken before his arrival. His only embarrassment, in fact, arose from the difficulty which he naturally experienced in adapting himself to the speech and address of the Mitchenor family. The greetings of old Eli, grave, yet kindly, of Abigail, quaintly familiar and tender, of Moses, cordial and slightly condescending, and finally of Asenath, simple and natural to a degree which impressed him like a new revelation in woman, at once indicated to him his position among them. His city manners, he felt, instinctively, must be unlearned, or at least laid aside for a time. Yet it was not easy for him to assume, at such short notice, those of his hosts. Happening to address Asenath as "Miss Mitchenor," Eli turned to him with a rebuking face.
"We do not use compliments, Richard," said he; "my daughter's name is Asenath."
"I beg pardon. I will try to accustom myself to your ways, since you have been so kind as to take me for a while," apologized Richard Hilton.
"Thee's under no obligation to us," said Friend Mitchenor, in his strict sense of justice; "thee pays for what thee gets."
The finer feminine instinct of Abigail led her to interpose.
"We'll not expect too much of thee, at first, Richard," she remarked, with a kind expression of face, which had the effect of a smile; "but our ways are plain and easily learned. Thee knows, perhaps, that we're no respecters of persons."
It was some days, however, before the young man could overcome his natural hesitation at the familiarity implied by these new forms of speech. "Friend Mitchenor" and "Moses" were not difficult to learn, but it seemed a want of respect to address as "Abigail" a woman of such sweet and serene dignity as the mother, and he was fain to avoid either extreme by calling her, with her cheerful permission, "Aunt Mitchenor." On the other hand, his own modest and unobtrusive nature soon won the confidence and cordial regard of the family. He occasionally busied himself in the garden, by way of exercise, or accompanied Moses to the cornfield or the woodland on the hill, but was careful never to interfere at inopportune times, and willing to learn silently, by the simple process of looking on.
One afternoon, as he was idly sitting on the stone wall which separated the garden from the lane, Asenath, attired in a new gown of chocolate-colored calico, with a double-handled willow workbasket on her arm, issued from the house. As she approached him, she paused and said,--
"The time seems to hang heavy on thy hands, Richard. If thee's strong enough to walk to the village and back, it might do thee more good than sitting still."
Richard Hilton at once jumped down from the wall.
"Certainly I am able to go," said he, "if you will allow it."
"Haven't I asked thee?" was her quiet reply.
"Let me carry your basket," he said, suddenly, after they had walked, side by side, some distance down the lane.
"Indeed, I shall not let thee do that. I'm only going for the mail, and some little things at the store, that make no weight at all. Thee mustn't think I'm like the young women in the city, who,--I'm told,--if they buy a spool of cotton, must have it sent home to them. Besides, thee mustn't over-exert thy strength."
Richard Hilton laughed merrily at the gravity with which she uttered the last sentence.
"Why, Miss--Asenath, I mean--what am I good for, if I have not strength enough to carry a basket?"
"Thee's a man, I know, and I think a man would almost as lief be thought wicked as weak. Thee can't help being weakly-inclined, and it's only right that thee should be careful of thyself. There's surely nothing in that that thee need be ashamed of."
While thus speaking, Asenath moderated her walk, in order, unconsciously to her companion, to restrain his steps.
"Oh, there are the dog's-tooth violets in blossom!" she exclaimed, pointing to a shady spot beside the brook; "does thee know them?"
Richard immediately gathered and brought to her a handful of the nodding yellow bells, trembling above their large, cool, spotted leaves.
"How beautiful they are!" said he; "but I should never have taken them for violets."
"They are misnamed," she answered. "The flower is an _Erythronium_; but I am accustomed to the common name, and like it. Did thee ever study botany?"
"Not at all--I can tell a geranium, when I see it, and I know a heliotrope by the smell. I could never mistake a red cabbage for a rose, and I can recognize a hollyhock or a sunflower at a considerable distance. The wild flowers are all strangers to me; I wish I knew something about them."
"If thee's fond of flowers, it would be very easy to learn. I think a study of this kind would pleasantly occupy thy mind. Why couldn't thee try? I would be very willing to teach thee what little I know. It's not much, indeed, but all thee wants is a start. See, I will show thee how simple the principles are."
Taking one of the flowers from the bunch, Asenath, as they slowly walked forward, proceeded to dissect it, explained the mysteries of stamens and pistils, pollen, petals, and calyx, and, by the time they had reached the village, had succeeded in giving him a general idea of the Linnaean system of classification. His mind took hold of the subject with a prompt and profound interest. It was a new and wonderful world which suddenly opened before him. How surprised he was to learn that there were signs by which a poisonous herb could be detected from a wholesome one, that cedars and pine-trees blossomed, that the gray lichens on the rocks belonged to the vegetable kingdom! His respect for Asenath's knowledge thrust quite out of sight the restraint which her youth and sex had imposed upon him. She was teacher, equal, friend; and the simple, candid manner which was the natural expression of her dignity and purity thoroughly harmonized with this relation.
Although, in reality, two or three years younger than he, Asenath had a gravity of demeanor, a calm self-possession, a deliberate balance of mind, and a repose of the emotional nature, which he had never before observed, except in much older women. She had had, as he could well imagine, no romping girlhood, no season of careless, light-hearted dalliance with opening life, no violent alternation even of the usual griefs and joys of youth. The social calm in which she had expanded had developed her nature as gently and securely as a sea-flower is unfolded below the reach of tides and storms.
She would have been very much surprised, if any one had called her handsome; yet her face had a mild, unobtrusive beauty, which seemed to grow and deepen from day to day. Of a longer oval than the Greek standard, it was yet as harmonious in outline; the nose was fine and straight, the dark-blue eyes steady and untroubled, and the lips calmly, but not too firmly closed. Her brown hair, parted over a high white forehead, was smoothly laid across the temples, drawn behind the ears, and twisted into a simple knot. The white cape and sunbonnet gave her face a nun-like character, which set her apart, in the thoughts of "the world's people" whom she met, as one sanctified for some holy work. She might have gone around the world, repelling every rude word, every bold glance, by the protecting atmosphere of purity and truth which inclosed her.
The days went by, each bringing some new blossom to adorn and illustrate the joint studies of the young man and maiden. For Richard Hilton had soon mastered the elements of botany, as taught by Priscilla Wakefield,--the only source of Asenath's knowledge,--and entered, with her, upon the text-book of Gray, a copy of which he procured from Philadelphia. Yet, though he had overtaken her in his knowledge of the technicalities of the science, her practical acquaintance with plants and their habits left her still his superior. Day by day, exploring the meadows, the woods, and the clearings, he brought home his discoveries to enjoy her aid in classifying and assigning them to their true places. Asenath had generally an hour or two of leisure from domestic duties in the afternoons, or after the early supper of summer was over; and sometimes, on "Seventh-days," she would be his guide to some locality where the rarer plants were known to exist. The parents saw this community of interest and exploration without a thought of misgiving. They trusted their daughter as themselves; or, if any possible fear had flitted across their hearts, it was allayed by the absorbing delight with which Richard Hilton pursued his study. An earnest discussion as to whether a certain leaf was ovate or lanceolate, whether a certain plant belonged to the species _scandens_ or _canadensis_, was, in their eyes, convincing proof that the young brains were touched, and therefore _not_ the young hearts.
But love, symbolized by a rose-bud, is emphatically a botanical emotion. A sweet, tender perception of beauty, such as this study requires, or develops, is at once the most subtile and certain chain of communication between impressible natures. Richard Hilton, feeling that his years were numbered, had given up, in despair, his boyish dreams, even before he understood them: his fate seemed to preclude the possibility of love. But, as he gained a little strength from the genial season, the pure country air, and the release from gloomy thoughts which his rambles afforded, the end was farther removed, and a future--though brief, perhaps, still a _future_--began to glimmer before him. If this could be his life,--an endless summer, with a search for new plants every morning, and their classification every evening, with Asenath's help, on the shady portico of Friend Mitchenor's house,--he could forget his doom, and enjoy the blessing of life unthinkingly.
The azaleas succeeded to the anemones, the orchis and trillium followed, then the yellow gerardias and the feathery purple pogonias, and finally the growing gleam of the golden-rods along the wood-side and the red umbels of the tall eupatoriums in the meadow announced the close of summer. One evening, as Richard, in displaying his collection, brought to view the blood-red leaf of a gum-tree, Asenath exclaimed,--
"Ah, there is the sign! It is early, this year."
"What sign?" he asked.
"That the summer is over. We shall soon have frosty nights, and then nothing will be left for us except the asters and gentians and golden-rods."
Was the time indeed so near? A few more weeks, and this Arcadian life would close. He must go back to the city, to its rectilinear streets, its close brick walls, its artificial, constrained existence. How could he give up the peace, the contentment, the hope he had enjoyed through the summer? The question suddenly took a more definite form in his mind: How could he give up Asenath? Yes,--the quiet, unsuspecting girl, sitting beside him, with her lap full of the September blooms he had gathered, was thenceforth a part of his inmost life. Pure and beautiful as she was, almost sacred in his regard, his heart dared to say.--"I need her and claim her!"
"Thee looks pale to-night, Richard," said Abigail, as they took their seats at the supper-table. "I hope thee has not taken cold."
"Will thee go along, Richard? I know where the rudbeckias grow," said Asenath, on the following "Seventh-day" afternoon.
They crossed the meadows, and followed the course of the stream, under its canopy of magnificent ash and plane trees, into a brake between the hills. It was an almost impenetrable thicket, spangled with tall autumnal flowers. The eupatoriums, with their purple crowns, stood like young trees, with an undergrowth of aster and blue spikes of lobelia, tangled in a golden mesh of dodder. A strong, mature odor, mixed alike of leaves and flowers, and very different from the faint, elusive sweetness of spring, filled the air. The creek, with a few faded leaves dropped upon its bosom, and films of gossamer streaming from its bushy fringe, gurgled over the pebbles in its bed. Here and there, on its banks, shone the deep yellow stars of the flower they sought.
Richard Hilton walked as in a dream, mechanically plucking a stem of rudbeckia, only to toss it, presently, into the water.
"Why, Richard! what's thee doing?" cried Asenath; "thee has thrown away the very best specimen."
"Let it go," he answered, sadly. "I am afraid everything else is thrown away."
"What does thee mean?" she asked, with a look of surprised and anxious inquiry.
"Don't ask me, Asenath. Or--yes, I _will_ tell you. I must say it to you now, or never afterwards. Do you know what a happy life I've been leading since I came here?--that I've learned what life is, as if I'd never known it before? I want to live, Asenath,--and do you know why?"
"I hope thee will live, Richard," she said, gently and tenderly, her deep-blue eyes dim with the mist of unshed tears.
"But, Asenath, how am I to live without you? But you can't understand that, because you do not know what you are to me. No, you never guessed that all this while I've been loving you more and more, until now I have no other idea of death than not to see you, not to love you, not to share your life!"
"I knew you would be shocked, Asenath. I meant to have kept this to myself. You never dreamed of it, and I had no right to disturb the peace of your heart. The truth is told now,--and I cannot take it back, if I wished. But if you cannot love, you can forgive me for loving you,--forgive me now and every day of my life."
He uttered these words with a passionate tenderness, standing on the edge of the stream, and gazing into its waters. His slight frame trembled with the violence of his emotion. Asenath, who had become very pale as he commenced to speak, gradually flushed over neck and brow as she listened. Her head drooped, the gathered flowers fell from her hands, and she hid her face. For a few minutes no sound was heard but the liquid gurgling of the water, and the whistle of a bird in the thicket beside them. Richard Hilton at last turned, and, in a voice of hesitating entreaty, pronounced her name,--
She took away her hands and slowly lifted her face. She was pale, but her eyes met his with a frank, appealing, tender expression, which caused his heart to stand still a moment. He read no reproach, no faintest thought of blame; but--was it pity?--was it pardon?--or--
"We stand before God, Richard," said she, in a low, sweet, solemn tone. "He knows that I do not need to forgive thee. If thee requires it, I also require His forgiveness for myself."
Though a deeper blush now came to cheek and brow, she met his gaze with the bravery of a pure and innocent heart. Richard, stunned with the sudden and unexpected bliss, strove to take the full consciousness of it into a being which seemed too narrow to contain it. His first impulse was to rush forward, clasp her passionately in his arms, and hold her in the embrace which encircled, for him, the boundless promise of life; but she stood there, defenceless, save in her holy truth and trust, and his heart bowed down and gave her reverence.
"Asenath," said he, at last, "I never dared to hope for this. God bless you for those words! Can you trust me?--can you indeed love me?"
"I can trust thee,--I do love thee!"
They clasped each other's hands in one long, clinging pressure. No kiss was given, but side by side they walked slowly up the dewy meadows, in happy and hallowed silence. Asenath's face became troubled as the old farm-house appeared through the trees.
"Father and mother must know of this, Richard," said she. "I am afraid it may be a cross to them."
The same fear had already visited his own mind, but he answered, cheerfully,--
"I hope not. I think I have taken a new lease of life, and shall soon be strong enough to satisfy them. Besides, my father is in prosperous business."
"It is not that," she answered; "but thee is not one of us."
It was growing dusk when they reached the house. In the dim candle-light Asenath's paleness was not remarked; and Richard's silence was attributed to fatigue.
The next morning the whole family attended meeting at the neighboring Quaker meeting-house, in the preparation for which, and the various special occupations of their "First-day" mornings, the unsuspecting parents overlooked that inevitable change in the faces of the lovers which they must otherwise have observed. After dinner, as Eli was taking a quiet walk in the garden, Richard Hilton approached him.
"Friend Mitchenor," said he, "I should like to have some talk with thee."
"What is it, Richard?" asked the old man, breaking off some pods from a seedling radish, and rubbing them in the palm of his hand.
"I hope, Friend Mitchenor," said the young man, scarcely knowing how to approach so important a crisis in his life,
"I hope thee has been satisfied with my conduct since I came to live with thee, and has no fault to find with me as a man."
"Well," exclaimed Eli, turning around and looking up, sharply, "does thee want a testimony from me? I've nothing, that I know of, to say against thee."
"If I were sincerely attached to thy daughter, Friend Mitchenor, and she returned the attachment, could thee trust her happiness in my hands?"
"What?" cried Eli, straightening himself and glaring upon the speaker, with a face too amazed to express any other feeling.
"Can you confide Asenath's happiness to my care? I love her with my whole heart and soul, and the fortune of my life depends on your answer."
The straight lines in the old man's face seemed to grow deeper and more rigid, and his eyes shone with the chill glitter of steel. Richard, not daring to say a word more, awaited his reply in intense agitation.
"So!" he exclaimed at last, "this is the way thee's repaid me! I didn't expect _this_ from thee! Has thee spoken to her?"
"Thee has, has thee? And I suppose thee's persuaded her to think as thee does. Thee'd better never have come here. When I want to lose my daughter, and can't find anybody else for her, I'll let thee know."
"What have you against me, Friend Mitchenor?" Richard sadly asked, forgetting, in his excitement, the Quaker speech he had learned.
"Thee needn't use compliments now! Asenath shall be a Friend while _I_ live; thy fine clothes and merry-makings and vanities are not for her. Thee belongs to the world, and thee may choose one of the world's women."
"Never!" protested Richard; but Friend Mitchenor was already ascending the garden-steps on his way to the house.
The young man, utterly overwhelmed, wandered to the nearest grove and threw himself on the ground. Thus, in a miserable chaos of emotion, unable to grasp any fixed thought, the hours passed away. Towards evening, he heard a footstep approaching, and sprang up. It was Moses.
The latter was engaged, with the consent of his parents, and expected to "pass meeting" in a few weeks. He knew what had happened, and felt a sincere sympathy for Richard, for whom he had a cordial regard. His face was very grave, but kind.
"Thee'd better come in, Richard," said he; "the evenings are damp, and I've brought thy overcoat I know everything, and I feel that it must be a great cross for thee. But thee won't be alone in bearing it."
"Do you think there is no hope of your father relenting?" he asked, in a tone of despondency which anticipated the answer.
"Father's very hard to move," said Moses; "and when mother and Asenath can't prevail on him, nobody else need try. I'm afraid thee must make up thy mind to the trial. I'm sorry to say it, Richard, but I think thee'd better go back to town."
"I'll go to-morrow,--go and die!" he muttered hoarsely, as he followed Moses to the house.
Abigail, as she saw his haggard face, wept quietly. She pressed his hand tenderly, but said nothing. Eli was stern and cold as an Iceland rock. Asenath did not make her appearance. At supper, the old man and his son exchanged a few words about the farm-work to be done on the morrow, but nothing else was said. Richard soon left the room and went up to his chamber to spend his last, his only unhappy night at the farm. A yearning, pitying look from Abigail accompanied him.
"Try and not think hard of us!" was her farewell the next morning, as he stepped into the old chair, in which Moses was to convey him to the village where he should meet the Doylestown stage. So, without a word of comfort from Asenath's lips, without even a last look at her beloved face, he was taken away.
True and firm and self-reliant as was the nature of Asenath Mitchenor, the thought of resistance to her father's will never crossed her mind. It was fixed that she must renounce all intercourse with Richard Hilton; it was even sternly forbidden her to see him again during the few hours he remained in the house; but the sacred love, thus rudely dragged to the light and outraged, was still her own. She would take it back into the keeping of her heart, and if a day should ever come when he would be free to return, and demand it of her, he would find it there, unwithered, with all the unbreathed perfume hoarded in its folded leaves. If that day came not, she would at the last give it back to God, saying, "Father, here is Thy most precious gift: bestow it as Thou wilt."
As her life had never before been agitated by any strong emotion, so it was not outwardly agitated now. The placid waters of her soul did not heave and toss before those winds of passion and sorrow: they lay in dull, leaden calm, under a cold and sunless sky. What struggles with herself she underwent no one ever knew. After Richard Hilton's departure, she never mentioned his name, or referred, in any way, to the summer's companionship with him. She performed her household duties, if not cheerfully, at least as punctually and carefully as before; and her father congratulated himself that the unfortunate attachment had struck no deeper root. Abigail's finer sight, however, was not deceived by this external resignation. She noted the faint shadows under the eyes, the increased whiteness of the temples, the unconscious traces of pain which sometimes played about the dimpled corners of the mouth, and watched her daughter with a silent, tender solicitude.
The wedding of Moses was a severe test of Asenath's strength, but she stood the trial nobly, performing all the duties required by her position with such sweet composure that many of the older female Friends remarked to Abigail, "How womanly Asenath has grown!" Eli Mitchenor noted, with peculiar satisfaction, that the eyes of the young Friends--some of them of great promise in the sect, and well endowed with worldly goods--followed her admiringly. "It will not be long," he thought, "before she is consoled."
Fortune seemed to favor his plans, and justify his harsh treatment of Richard Hilton. There were unfavorable accounts of the young man's conduct. His father had died during the winter, and he was represented as having become very reckless and dissipated. These reports at last assumed such a definite form that Friend Mitchenor brought them to the notice of his family.
"I met Josiah Comly in the road," said he, one day at dinner. "He's just come from Philadelphia, and brings bad news of Richard Hilton. He's taken to drink, and is spending in wickedness the money his father left him. His friends have a great concern about him, but it seems he's not to be reclaimed."
Abigail looked imploringly at her husband, but he either disregarded or failed to understand her look. Asenath, who had grown very pale, steadily met her father's gaze, and said, in a tone which he had never yet heard from her lips,--
"Father, will thee please never mention Richard Hilton's name when I am by?"
The words were those of entreaty, but the voice was that of authority. The old man was silenced by a new and unexpected power in his daughter's heart: he suddenly felt that she was not a girl, as heretofore, but a woman, whom he might persuade, but could no longer compel.
"It shall be as thee wishes, Asenath," he said; "we had best forget him."
Of their friends, however, she could not expect this reserve, and she was doomed to hear stories of Richard which clouded and embittered her thoughts of him. And a still severer trial was in store. She accompanied her father, in obedience to his wish, and against her own desire, to the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia. It has passed into a proverb, that the Friends, on these occasions, always bring rain with them; and the period of her visit was no exception to the rule. The showery days of "Yearly-Meeting Week" glided by, until the last, and she looked forward with relief to the morrow's return to Bucks County, glad to have escaped a meeting with Richard Hilton, which might have confirmed her fears, and could but have given her pain in any case.
As she and her father joined each other, outside the meeting-house, at the close of the afternoon meeting, a light rain was falling. She took his arm, under the capacious umbrella, and they were soon alone in the wet streets, on their way to the house of the Friends who entertained them. At a crossing, where the water, pouring down the gutter towards the Delaware, caused them to halt, a man, plashing through the flood, staggered towards them. Without an umbrella, with dripping, disordered clothes, yet with a hot, flushed face, around which the long black hair hung wildly, he approached, singing to himself, with maudlin voice, a song which would have been sweet and tender in a lover's mouth. Friend Mitchenor drew to one side, lest his spotless drab should be brushed by the unclean reveller; but the latter, looking up, stopped suddenly, face to face with them.
"Asenath!" he cried, in a voice whose anguish pierced through the confusion of his senses, and struck down into the sober quick of his soul.
"Richard!" she breathed, rather than spoke, in a low, terrified voice.
It was indeed Richard Hilton who stood before her, or rather--as she afterwards thought, in recalling the interview--the body of Richard Hilton, possessed by an evil spirit. His cheeks burned with a more than hectic red, his eyes were wild and bloodshot, and though the recognition had suddenly sobered him, an impatient, reckless devil seemed to lurk under the set mask of his features.
"Here I am, Asenath," he said at length, hoarsely. "I said it was death, didn't I? Well, it's worse than death, I suppose; but what matter? You can't be more lost to me now than you were already. This is _thy_ doing, Friend Eli!" he continued, turning to the old man, with a sneering emphasis on the "_thy_." "I hope thee's satisfied with thy work!"
Here he burst into a bitter, mocking laugh, which it chilled Asenath's blood to hear.
The old man turned pale. "Come away, child!" said he, tugging at her arm. But she stood firm, strengthened for the moment by a solemn feeling of duty which trampled down her pain.
"Richard," she said, with the music of an immeasurable sorrow in her voice, "oh, Richard, what has thee done? Where the Lord commands resignation, thee has been rebellious; where He chasteneth to purify, thee turns blindly to sin. I had not expected this of thee, Richard; I thought thy regard for me was of the kind which would have helped and uplifted thee,--not through me, as an unworthy object, but through the hopes and the pure desires of thy own heart. I expected that thee would so act as to justify what I felt towards thee, not to make my affection a reproach,--oh, Richard, not to cast over my heart the shadow of thy sin!"
The wretched young man supported himself against the post of an awning, buried his face in his hands, and wept passionately. Once or twice he essayed to speak, but his voice was choked by sobs, and, alter a look from the streaming eyes which Asenath could scarcely bear to meet, he again covered his face. A stranger, coming down the street, paused out of curiosity. "Come, come!" cried Eli, once more, eager to escape from the scene. His daughter stood still, and the man slowly passed on.
Asenath could not thus leave her lost lover, in his despairing grief. She again turned to him, her own tears flowing fast and free.
"I do not judge thee, Richard, but the words that passed between us give me a right to speak to thee. It was hard to lose sight of thee then, but it is still harder for me to see thee now. If the sorrow and pity I feel could save thee, I would be willing never to know any other feelings. I would still do anything for thee except that which thee cannot ask, as thee now is, and I could not give. Thee has made the gulf between us so wide that it cannot be crossed. But I can now weep for thee and pray for thee as a fellow-creature whose soul is still precious in the sight of the Lord. Fare thee well!"
He seized the hand she extended, bowed down, and showered mingled tears and kisses upon it. Then, with a wild sob in his throat, he started up and rushed down the street, through the fast-falling rain. The father and daughter walked home in silence. Eli had heard every word that was spoken, and felt that a spirit whose utterances he dared not question had visited Asenath's tongue.
She, as year after year went by, regained the peace and patience which give a sober cheerfulness to life. The pangs of her heart grew dull and transient; but there were two pictures in her memory which never blurred in outline or faded in color: one, the brake of autumn flowers, under the bright autumnal sky, with bird and stream making accordant music to the new voice of love; the other, a rainy street, with a lost, reckless man leaning against an awning-post, and staring in her face with eyes whose unutterable woe, when she dared to recall it, darkened the beauty of the earth, and almost shook her trust in the providence of God.
Year after year passed by, but not without bringing change to the Mitchenor family. Moses had moved to Chester County soon after his marriage, and had a good farm of his own. At the end of ten years Abigail died; and the old man, who had not only lost his savings by an unlucky investment, but was obliged to mortgage his farm, finally determined to sell it and join his son. He was getting too old to manage it properly, impatient under the unaccustomed pressure of debt, and depressed by the loss of the wife to whom, without any outward show of tenderness, he was, in truth, tenderly attached. He missed her more keenly in the places where she had lived and moved than in a neighborhood without the memory of her presence. The pang with which lie parted from his home was weakened by the greater pang which had preceded it.
It was a harder trial to Asenath. She shrank from the encounter with new faces, and the necessity of creating new associations. There was a quiet satisfaction in the ordered, monotonous round of her life, which might be the same elsewhere, but here alone was the nook which held all the morning sunshine she had ever known. Here still lingered the halo of the sweet departed summer,--here still grew the familiar wild-flowers which _the first_ Richard Hilton had gathered. This was the Paradise in which the Adam of her heart had dwelt, before his fall. Her resignation and submission entitled her to keep those pure and perfect memories, though she was scarcely conscious of their true charm. She did not dare to express to herself, in words, that one everlasting joy of woman's heart, through all trials and sorrows,--"I have loved, I have been beloved."
On the last "First-day" before their departure, she walked down the meadows to the lonely brake between the hills. It was the early spring, and the black buds of the ash had just begun to swell. The maples were dusted with crimson bloom, and the downy catkins of the swamp-willow dropped upon the stream and floated past her, as once the autumn leaves. In the edges of the thickets peeped forth the blue, scentless violet, the fairy cups of the anemone, and the pink-veined bells of the miskodeed. The tall blooms through which the lovers walked still slept in the chilly earth; but the sky above her was mild and blue, and the remembrance of the day came back to her with a delicate, pungent sweetness, like the perfume of the trailing arbutus in the air around her. In a sheltered, sunny nook, she found a single erythronium, lured forth in advance of its proper season, and gathered it as a relic of the spot, which she might keep without blame. As she stooped to pluck it, her own face looked up at her out of a little pool filled by the spring rains. Seen against the reflected sky, it shone with a soft radiance, and the earnest eyes met hers, as if it were her young self, evoked from the past, to bid her farewell. "Farewell!" she whispered, taking leave at once, as she believed, of youth and the memory of love.
During those years she had more than once been sought in marriage, but had steadily, though kindly, refused. Once, when the suitor was a man whose character and position made the union very desirable in Eli Mitchenor's eyes, he ventured to use his paternal influence. Asenath's gentle resistance was overborne by his arbitrary force of will, and her protestations were of no avail.
"Father," she finally said, in the tone which he had once heard and still remembered, "thee can take away, but thee cannot give."
He never mentioned the subject again.
Richard Hilton passed out of her knowledge shortly after her meeting with him in Philadelphia. She heard, indeed, that his headlong career of dissipation was not arrested,--that his friends had given him up as hopelessly ruined,--and, finally, that he had left the city. After that, all reports ceased. He was either dead, or reclaimed and leading a better life, somewhere far away. Dead, she believed,--almost hoped; for in that case might he not now be enjoying the ineffable rest and peace which she trusted might be her portion? It was better to think of him as a purified spirit, waiting to meet her in a holier communion, than to know that he was still bearing the burden of a soiled and blighted life. In any case, her own future was plain and clear. It was simply a prolongation of the present,--an alternation of seed-time and harvest, filled with humble duties and cares, until the Master should bid her lay down her load and follow Him.
Friend Mitchenor bought a small cottage adjacent to his son's farm, in a community which consisted mostly of Friends, and not far from the large old meeting-house in which the Quarterly Meetings were held. He at once took his place on the upper seat, among the elders, most of whom he knew already, from having met them, year after year, in Philadelphia. The charge of a few acres of ground gave him sufficient occupation; the money left to him after the sale of his farm was enough to support him comfortably; and a late Indian summer of contentment seemed now to have come to the old man. He was done with the earnest business of life. Moses was gradually taking his place, as father and Friend; and Asenath would be reasonably provided for at his death. As his bodily energies decayed, his imperious temper softened, his mind became more accessible to liberal influences, and he even cultivated a cordial friendship with a neighboring farmer who was one of "the world's people." Thus, at seventy-five, he was really younger, because tenderer of heart and more considerate, than he had been at sixty.
Asenath was now a woman of thirty-five, and suitors had ceased to approach her. Much of her beauty still remained, but her face had become thin and wasted, and the inevitable lines were beginning to form around her eyes. Her dress was plainer than ever, and she wore the scoop-bonnet of drab silk, in which no woman can seem beautiful, unless she be very old. She was calm and grave in her demeanor, gave that her perfect goodness and benevolence shone through and warmed her presence; but, when earnestly interested, she had been known to speak her mind so clearly and forcibly that it was generally surmised among the Friends that she possessed "a gift," which might, in time, raise her to honor among them. To the children of Moses she was a good genius, and a word from "Aunt 'Senath" oftentimes prevailed when the authority of the parents was disregarded. In them she found a new source of happiness; and when her old home on the Neshaminy had been removed a little farther into the past, so that she no longer looked, with every morning's sun, for some familiar feature of its scenery, her submission brightened into a cheerful content with life.
It was summer, and Quarterly-Meeting Day had arrived. There had been rumors of the expected presence of "Friends from a distance," and not only those of the district, but most of the neighbors who were not connected with the sect, attended. By the by-road through the woods, it was not more than half a mile from Friend Mitchenor's cottage to the meeting-house, and Asenath, leaving her father to be taken by Moses in his carriage, set out on foot. It was a sparkling, breezy day, and the forest was full of life. Squirrels chased each other along the branches of the oaks, and the air was filled with fragrant odors of hickory-leaves, sweet-fern, and spice-wood. Picking up a flower here and there, Asenath walked onward, rejoicing alike in shade and sunshine, grateful for all the consoling beauty which the earth offers to a lonely heart. That serene content which she had learned to call happiness had filled her being until the dark canopy was lifted and the waters took back their transparency under a cloudless sky.
Passing around to the "women's side" of the meeting-house, she mingled with her friends, who were exchanging information concerning the expected visitors. Micajah Morrill had not arrived, they said, but Ruth Baxter had spent the last night at Friend Way's, and would certainly be there. Besides, there were Friend Chandler, from Nine Partners, and Friend Carter, from Maryland: they had been seen on the ground. Friend Carter was said to have a wonderful gift,--Mercy Jackson had heard him once, in Baltimore. The Friends there had been a little exercised about him, because they thought he was too much inclined to "the newness," but it was known that the Spirit had often manifestly led him. Friend Chandler had visited Yearly Meeting once, they believed. He was an old man, and had been a personal friend of Elias Hicks.
At the appointed hour they entered the house. After the subdued rustling which ensued upon taking their seats, there was an interval of silence, shorter than usual, because it was evident that many persons would feel the promptings of the Spirit. Friend Chandler spoke first, and was followed by Ruth Baxter, a frail little woman, with a voice of exceeding power. The not unmelodious chant in which she delivered her admonitions rang out, at times, like the peal of a trumpet. Fixing her eyes on vacancy, with her hands on the wooden rail before her, and her body slightly swaying to and fro, her voice soared far aloft at the commencement of every sentence, gradually dropping, through a melodious scale of tone, to the close. She resembled an inspired prophetess, an aged Deborah, crying aloud in the valleys of Israel.
The last speaker was Friend Carter, a small man, not more than forty years of age. His face was thin and intense in its expression, his hair gray at the temples, and his dark eye almost too restless for a child of "the stillness and the quietness." His voice, though not loud, was clear and penetrating, with an earnest, sympathetic quality, which arrested, not the ear alone, but the serious attention of the auditor. His delivery was but slightly marked by the peculiar rhythm of the Quaker preachers; and this fact, perhaps, increased the effect of his words, through the contrast with those who preceded him.
His discourse was an eloquent vindication of the law of kindness, as the highest and purest manifestation of true Christian doctrine. The paternal relation of God to man was the basis of that religion which appealed directly to the heart: so the fraternity of each man with his fellow was its practical application. God pardons the repentant sinner; we can also pardon, where we are offended; we can pity, where we cannot pardon. Both the good and the bad principles generate their like in others. Force begets force; anger excites a corresponding anger; but kindness awakens the slumbering emotions even of an evil heart. Love may not always be answered by an equal love, but it has never yet created hatred. The testimony which Friends bear against war, he said, is but a general assertion, which has no value except in so far as they manifest the principle of peace in their daily lives,--in the exercise of pity, of charity, of forbearance, and Christian love.
The words of the speaker sank deeply into the hearts of his hearers. There was an intense hush, as if in truth the Spirit had moved him to speak, and every sentence was armed with a sacred authority. Asenath Mitchenor looked at him, over the low partition which divided her and her sisters from the men's side, absorbed in his rapt earnestness and truth. She forgot that other hearers were present: he spake to her alone. A strange spell seemed to seize upon her faculties and chain them at his feet; had he beckoned to her, she would have arisen and walked to his side.
Friend Carter warmed and deepened as he went on. "I feel moved to-day," he said,--"moved, I know not why, but I hope for some wise purpose,--to relate to you an instance of Divine and human kindness which has come directly to my own knowledge. A young man of delicate constitution, whose lungs were thought to be seriously affected, was sent to the house of a Friend in the country, in order to try the effect of air and exercise."
Asenath almost ceased to breathe, in the intensity with which she gazed and listened. Clasping her hands tightly in her lap to prevent them from trembling, and steadying herself against the back of the seat, she heard the story of her love for Richard Hilton told by the lips of a stranger!--not merely of his dismissal from the house, but of that meeting in the street, at which only she and her father were present! Nay, more, she heard her own words repeated, she heard Richard's passionate outburst of remorse described in language that brought his living face before her! She gasped for breath,--his face _was_ before her! The features, sharpened by despairing grief, which her memory recalled, had almost anticipated the harder lines which fifteen years had made, and which now, with a terrible shock and choking leap of the heart, she recognized. Her senses faded, and she would have fallen from her seat but for the support of the partition against which she leaned. Fortunately, the women near her were too much occupied with the narrative to notice her condition. Many of them wept silently, with their handkerchiefs pressed over their mouths.
The first shock of death-like faintness passed away, and she clung to the speaker's voice, as if its sound alone could give her strength to sit still and listen further.
"Deserted by his friends, unable to stay his feet on the evil path," he continued, "the young man left his home and went to a city in another State. But here it was easier to find associates in evil than tender hearts that might help him back to good. He was tired of life, and the hope of a speedier death hardened him in his courses. But, my friends, Death never comes to those who wickedly seek him. The Lord withholds destruction from the hands that are madly outstretched to grasp it, and forces His pity and forgiveness on the unwilling soul. Finding that it was the principle of _life_ which grew stronger within him, the young man at last meditated an awful crime. The thought of self-destruction haunted him day and night. He lingered around the wharves, gazing into the deep waters, and was restrained from the deed only by the memory of the last loving voice he had heard. One gloomy evening, when even this memory had faded, and he awaited the approaching darkness to make his design secure, a hand was laid on his arm. A man in the simple garb of the Friends stood beside him, and a face which reflected the kindness of the Divine Father looked upon him. 'My child,' said he, 'I am drawn to thee by the great trouble of thy mind. Shall I tell thee what it is thee meditates?' The young man shook his head. 'I will be silent, then, but I will save thee. I know the human heart, and its trials and weaknesses, and it may be put into my mouth to give thee strength.' He took the young man's hand, as if he had been a little child, and led him to his home. He heard the sad story, from beginning to end; and the young man wept upon his breast, to hear no word of reproach, but only the largest and tenderest pity bestowed upon him. They knelt down, side by side, at midnight; and the Friend's right hand was upon his head while they prayed.
"The young man was rescued from his evil ways, to acknowledge still further the boundless mercy of Providence. The dissipation wherein he had recklessly sought death was, for him, a marvellous restoration to life. His lungs had become sound and free from the tendency to disease. The measure of his forgiveness was almost more than he could bear. He bore his cross thenceforward with a joyful resignation, and was mercifully drawn nearer and nearer to the Truth, until, in the fulness of his convictions, he entered into the brotherhood of the Friends.
"I have been powerfully moved to tell you this story," Friend Carter concluded, "from a feeling that it may be needed, here, at this time, to influence some heart trembling in the balance. Who is there among you, my friends, that may not snatch a brand from the burning? Oh, believe that pity and charity are the most effectual weapons given into the hands of us imperfect mortals, and leave the awful attribute of wrath in the hands of the Lord!"
He sat down, and dead silence ensued. Tears of emotion stood in the eyes of the hearers, men as well as women, and tears of gratitude and thanksgiving gushed warmly from those of Asenath. An ineffable peace and joy descended upon her heart.
When the meeting broke up, Friend Mitchenor, who had not recognized Richard Hilton, but had heard the story with feelings which he endeavored in rain to control, approached the preacher.
"The Lord spoke to me this day through thy lips," said he; "will thee come to one side, and hear me a minute?"
"Eli Mitchenor!" exclaimed Friend Carter; "Eli! I knew not thee was here! Doesn't thee know me?"
The old man stared in astonishment. "It seems like a face I ought to know," he said, "but I can't place thee."
They withdrew to the shade of one of the poplars. Friend Carter turned again, much moved, and, grasping the old man's hands in his own, exclaimed,--
"Friend Mitchenor, I was called upon to-day to speak of myself. I am--or, rather, I was--the Richard Hilton whom thee knew."
Friend Mitchenor's face flushed with mingled emotions of shame and joy, and his grasp on the preacher's hands tightened.
"But thee calls thyself Carter?" he finally said.
"Soon after I was saved," was the reply, "an aunt on the mother's side died, and left her property to me, on condition that I should take her name. I was tired of my own then, and to give it up seemed only like losing my former self; but I should like to have it back again now."
"Wonderful are the ways of the Lord, and past finding out!" said the old man. "Come home with me, Richard,--come for my sake, for there is a concern on my mind until all is clear between us. Or, stay,--will thee walk home with Asenath, while I go with Moses?"
"Yes. There she goes, through the gate. Thee can easily overtake her. I'm coming, Moses!"--and he hurried away to his son's carriage, which was approaching.
Asenath felt that it would be impossible for her to meet Richard Hilton there. She knew not why his name had been changed; he had not betrayed his identity with the young man of his story; he evidently did not wish it to be known, and an unexpected meeting with her might surprise him into an involuntary revelation of the fact. It was enough for her that a saviour had arisen, and her lost Adam was redeemed,--that a holier light than the autumn sun's now rested, and would forever rest, on the one landscape of her youth. Her eyes shone with the pure brightness of girlhood, a soft warmth colored her cheek and smoothed away the coming lines of her brow, and her step was light and elastic as in the old time.
Eager to escape from the crowd, she crossed the highway, dusty with its string of returning carriages, and entered the secluded lane. The breeze had died away, the air was full of insect-sounds, and the warm light of the sinking sun fell upon the woods and meadows. Nature seemed penetrated with a sympathy with her own inner peace.
But the crown of the benignant day was yet to come. A quick footstep followed her, and erelong a voice, near at hand, called her by name.
She stopped, turned, and for a moment they stood silent, face to face.
"I knew thee, Richard!" at last she said, in a trembling voice; "may the Lord bless thee!"
Tears were in the eyes of both.
"He has blessed me," Richard answered, in a reverent tone; "and this is His last and sweetest mercy. Asenath, let me hear that thee forgives me."
"I have forgiven thee long ago, Richard,--forgiven, but not forgotten."
The hush of sunset was on the forest, as they walked onward, side by side, exchanging their mutual histories. Not a leaf stirred in the crowns of the tall trees, and the dusk, creeping along between their stems, brought with it a richer woodland odor. Their voices were low and subdued, as if an angel of God were hovering in the shadows, and listening, or God Himself looked down upon them from the violet sky.
At last Richard stopped.
"Asenath," said he, "does thee remember that spot on the banks of the creek, where the rudbeckias grew?"
"I remember it," she answered, a girlish blush rising to her face.
"If I were to say to thee now what I said to thee there, what would be thy answer?"
Her words came brokenly.
"I would say to thee, Richard,--I can trust thee,--I _do_ love thee!'"
"Look at me, Asenath."
Her eyes, beaming with a clearer light than even then when she first confessed, were lifted to his. She placed her hands gently upon his shoulders, and bent her head upon his breast. He tenderly lifted it again, and, for the first time, her virgin lips knew the kiss of man.
TAXATION NO BURDEN.
According to returns made by the Census Bureau to the Secretary of the Treasury, the gross value of the productions of the United States for 1860 was $3,900,000,000: namely,--the product of Manufactures, the Mechanic Arts, Mining, and the Fisheries, $1,900,000,000; the product of Agriculture, $2,000,000,000.
It is a well-understood principle of political economy, that the annual product of a country is the source from which internal taxes are to be derived.
The nation is to be considered a partnership, the several members engaged in the various departments of business, and producing annually products of the value of $3,900,000,000, which are distributed among the partners, affording to each a certain share of profit. The firm is out of debt, but a sudden emergency compels an investment, in a new and not immediately profitable branch of business, of $1,500,000,000, which sum the firm borrows. As the consequence of this liability, the firm must afterward incur an annual additional expense as follows: $100,000,000 for the payment of members not engaged in productive labor, $90,000,000 for interest upon the debt incurred, and $60,000,000 for a sinking-fund which shall pay the debt in less than twenty years.
It is absolutely necessary for the future prosperity of the business of the firm, that this immense investment, so unexpectedly called for, shall be made to pay. How shall this problem be solved?
Large sums are confusing, and tend to prevent a clear understanding of the matter; therefore let the nation be represented by Uncle Sam, an active, middle-aged man, owning a farm and a factory, of which the annual product is $40,000. The largest and best portion of his farm is very badly cultivated; no intelligent laborers can be induced to remain upon it, owing to certain causes, easily removable, but which, being an easy-going man, well satisfied with his income as it has been, Uncle Sam has been unwilling to take hold of with any determination.
Suddenly and without notice, he is compelled to borrow $15,000, and spend it upon this portion of his farm; and he then finds, while expending the money for another object and not a profitable one, he can remove the only obstacle which prevented his obtaining a full supply of the best and most intelligent labor, and that he can very soon increase his annual product to $42,500. The increase of $2,500 each year will enable him to pay his additional clerks, to meet the interest on his liabilities, and to accumulate a sinking-fund sufficient to pay his debts before his children come of age. He will be able to take some comfort and satisfaction in his agricultural laborers; he will have a larger amount of cotton to spin and to sell than ever before, and so much wool, that, instead of being obliged to buy one-third the amount required by his factory, as he has heretofore done, he will have more than he can spin; and lastly, he will be able to raise fruit, to make wine, to produce indigo, cochineal, and a great variety of articles never produced on his farm before.
What sound business-man would not thus regulate his investment, when compelled to make it, even though he had been unwilling to borrow the money for the simple purpose of making such an improvement?
If a farm and factory, which badly managed produce $40,000 annually, can by good management be made to produce $42,500, and can be very much increased in value and ease of management by the process, the owner had better borrow $15,000 to accomplish the object, and the tax upon him of $2,500 required to meet the interest and sink the principal will be no burden. That is the whole problem,--no more, no less.
We have been driven into a war to maintain the boundaries of our farm; in so doing we shall probably spend $1,500,000,000. It behooves us not only to meet the expenditure promptly, but to make the investment pay.
We have but to increase the annual product of the country six and one-half per cent, and we shall meet the tax for expenses, interest, and sinking-fund, and be as well off as we now are, provided the tax be equitably assessed.
This increase can be made without any increase in the number of laborers, by securing a larger return from those now employed, and by the permanent occupation of the fertile soil of the South by a large portion of the Union army, as settlers and cultivators, who have heretofore spent their energies upon the comparatively unproductive soil of the North.
Slavery is the one obstacle to be removed in order to render this war a paying operation.
Under the false pretence that the climate of the South is too hot for white men to labor in the fields, the degradation involved in field-labor in a Slave State excludes intelligent cultivators from the cotton-fields, a very large portion of which have a climate less hot and less unsuitable for white men than that of Philadelphia, while there is not a river-bottom in the whole South in which the extremes of heat during the summer are so great as in St. Louis. Slave-labor cultivates, in a miserable, shiftless manner, less than two per cent, of the area of the Cotton States; and upon this insignificant portion a crop of cotton has been raised in one year worth over $200,000,000.
There is ample and conclusive evidence to be found in the statistics of the few well-managed and well-cultivated cotton-plantations, that skilful, educated farmers can get more than double the product to the hand or to the acre that is usually obtained as the result of slave-labor.
Again, it will be admitted that $350 per annum is more than an average return for the work of a common laborer on an average New England farm, including his own support.
It is capable of demonstration from, actual facts that an average laborer, well directed, can produce a gross value of $1,000 per annum, upon the uplands of Georgia and South Carolina, in the cultivation of cotton and grain. Negro slaves under a negro driver, with no white man on the premises, have produced this result in Hancock County, Georgia, upon lands previously considered worthless, with a system of cultivation singular and exceptional in that region, but common in all well-cultivated sections, namely, a simple rotation of crops and a moderate amount of manure.
Elevate the negro from a state of slavery to the dignity of a free laborer, and his consumption of manufactured goods increases enormously. In proof of this may be cited the trade with Hayti, and the immense increase in the import of manufactured goods into the British West Indies since emancipation. Slaves are furnished with two suits of clothes in a year, made from the coarsest and cheapest materials: it is safe to estimate, that, if the fair proportion of their earnings were paid them, their demand upon the North for staple articles would be doubled, while the importations of silks, velvets, and other foreign luxuries, upon which their earnings have been heretofore lavished by their masters, would decrease.
The commonly received view of the position of the cotton-planter is that he is in a chronic state of debt. Such is the fact; not, however, because he does not make a large amount of profit,--for cotton-planting is the most profitable branch of agriculture in the United States,--but because his standard of value is a negro, and not a dollar, and, in the words of a Southern writer, "He is constantly buying more land to make more cotton to buy more negroes to cultivate more land to raise more cotton to buy more negroes," and for every negro he buys he gets trusted for another. Both himself and his hands are of the least possible value to the community. By maintaining his system he excludes cheap labor from the cultivation of cotton,--slave-labor being the most wasteful and the most expensive of any. He purchases for his laborers the least possible amount of manufactured articles, and he wastes his own expenditure in the purchase of foreign luxuries.
Reference has been made to the increase to be expected in the product of wool, after the removal or destruction of Slavery.
We import annually 30,000,000 pounds of wool, and make little or no use of the best region for growing wool in the whole country,--the western slope of the Alleghany and Cumberland Mountains and of the Blue Ridge. Free laborers will not go there, although few slaves are there to be found; for they well know that there is no respect or standing for the free laborer in any Slave State.
Again, throughout the uplands of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama, it has been proved that sheep can be raised upon the English system with the greatest success. Upon their light lands, (selling at less than $1 per acre,) turnips can be raised in great abundance and fed to sheep in the field, and by the process the fields brought to a point of fertility, for cotton or grain, equal to the best bottom-lands of Mississippi or Louisiana. This fact has been sufficiently proved by the experience of the very few good farmers in Georgia.
The climate of these sections is wonderfully healthy, and is far better adapted to the production of wool than that of England, the extremes of heat and cold being far greater, and yet the cold not being sufficient to prevent the raising of turnips or feeding from the field in winter. To produce fine fleece-wool, a warm summer and a cool winter are requisite.
Let any one examine Southern writings upon agriculture, and note the experience of the few working, sensible cultivators, who, by a system of rewards and premiums partially equivalent to the payment of wages to their slaves, have obtained the best results of which Slavery is capable, and he will realize the immense increase to be expected when free and intelligent labor shall be applied to Southern agriculture.
We hold, therefore, that by the destruction of Slavery, and by that only, this war can be made to pay, and taxation become no burden.
By free labor upon Southern soil we shall add to the annual product of the country a sum more than equal to the whole tax which will be required to pay interest and expenses, and to accumulate a sinking-fund which will pay the debt in less than twenty years; while to the North will come the immensely increased demand for manufactured articles required by a thrifty and prosperous middle class, instead of the small demand for coarse, cheap articles required by slaves, and the demand for foreign luxuries called for by the masters.
The addition of $250,000,000 to the product of the country would be a gain to every branch of industry; and if the equable system of taxation by a stamp-tax on all sales were adopted, the burden would not be felt. The additional product being mostly from an improved system of agriculture at the South, a much larger demand would exist for the manufactures of the North, and a much larger body of distributors would be required.
Let us glance for a moment at the alternative,--the restoration of the Union without the removal of Slavery.
The system of slave-labor has been shaken to its foundation, and for years to come its aggregate product will be far less than it has been, thus throwing upon the North the whole burden of the taxes with no compensating gain in resources.
Only the refuse of our army could remain in the Slave States, to become to us in the future an element of danger and not of security,--the industrious and respectable portion would come back to the North, to find their places filled and a return to the pursuits of peace difficult to accomplish.
With Slavery removed, the best part of our army will remain upon the fertile soil and in the genial climate of the South, forming communities, retaining their arms, keeping peace and good order with no need of a standing army, and constituting the _nuclei_ around which the poor-white trash of the South would gather to be educated in the labor-system of the North, and thus, and thus only, to become loyal citizens.
The mass of the white population of the South are ignorant and deluded; they need leaders, and will have them.
We have allowed them to be led by slaveholders, and are reaping our reward. Remove Slavery, and their present leaders are crushed out forever.
Give them new leaders from among the earnest and industrious portion of our army, and we increase our resources and render taxation no burden, and we restore the Union in fact and not simply in name.
Leave Slavery in existence, and we decrease our resources, throw the whole tax upon the North, reinforce the Secession element with the refuse of our army, and bequeath to our children the shadow of a Union, a mockery and a derision to all honest men.
THE POET TO HIS READERS.
Nay, blame me not; I might have spared Your patience many a trivial verse, Yet these my earlier welcome shared, So let the better shield the worse.
And some might say,--"Those ruder songs Had freshness which the new have lost: To spring the opening leaf belongs, The chestnut-burrs await the frost."
When those I wrote, my locks were brown; When these I write--ah, well-a-day! The autumn thistle's silvery down Is not the purple bloom of May!
Go, little book, whose pages hold Those garnered years in loving trust; How long before your blue and gold Shall fade and whiten in the dust?
O sexton of the alcoved tomb, Where souls in leathern cerements lie, Tell me each living poet's doom! How long before his book shall die?
It matters little, soon or late, A day, a month, a year, an age,-- I read oblivion in its date, And Finis on its title-page.
Before we sighed, our griefs were told; Before we smiled, our joys were sung; And all our passions shaped of old In accents lost to mortal tongue.
In vain a fresher mould we seek: Can all the varied phrases tell, That Babel's wandering children speak, How thrushes sing or lilacs smell?
Caged in the poet's lonely heart, Love wastes unheard its tenderest tone; The soul that sings must dwell apart, Its inward melodies unknown.
Deal gently with us, ye who read! Our largest hope is unfulfilled,-- The promise still outruns the deed,-- The tower, but not the spire, we build.
Our whitest pearl we never find; Our ripest fruit we never reach; The flowering moments of the mind Drop half their petals in our speech.
These are my blossoms; if they wear One streak of morn or evening's glow, Accept them; but to me more fair The buds of song that never blow.
* * * * *
THE CHILDREN'S CITIES.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "CHARLES AUCHESTER."
There was a certain king who had three sons, and who, loving them all alike, desired to leave them to reign over his kingdom as brothers, and not one above another.
His kingdom consisted of three beautiful cities, divided by valleys covered with flowers and full of grass; but the cities lay so near each other that from the walls of each you could see the walls of the other two. The first city was called the city of Lessonland, the second the city of Confection, and the third the city of Pastime.
The king, feeling himself very old and feeble, sent for the lawyers to write his will for him, that his children might know how he wished them to behave after he was dead. So the lawyers came to the palace and went into the king's bed-room, where he lay in his golden bed, and the will was drawn up as he desired.
One day, not long after the will was made, the king's fool was trying to make a boat of a leaf to sail it upon the silver river. And the fool thought the paper on which the will was written would make a better boat,--for he could not read what was written; so he ran to the palace quickly, and knowing where it was laid, he got the will and made a boat of it and set it sailing upon the river, and away it floated out of sight. And the worst of all was, that the king took such a fright, when the will blew away, that he could speak no more when the lawyers came back with the golden ink. And he never made another will, but died without telling his sons what he wished them to do.
However, the king's sons, though they had little bodies, because they were princes of the Kingdom of Children, were very good little persons,--at least, they had not yet been naughty, and had never quarrelled,--so that the child-people loved them almost as well as they loved each other. The child-people were quite pleased that the princes should rule over them; but they did not know how to arrange, because there was no king's will, and by rights the eldest ought to have the whole kingdom. But the eldest, whose name was Gentil, called his brothers to him and said,--
"I am quite sure, though there is no will, that our royal papa built the three cities that we might each have one to reign over, and not one reign over all. Therefore I will have you both, dear brothers, choose a city to govern over, and I will govern over the city you do not choose."
And his brothers danced for joy; and the people too were pleased, for they loved all the three princes. But there were not enough people in the kingdom to fill more than one city quite full. Was not this very odd? Gentil thought so; but, as he could not make out the reason, he said to the child-people,--
"I will count you, and divide you into three parts, and each part shall go to one city."
For, before the king had built the cities, the child-people had lived in the green valleys, and slept on beds of flowers.
So Joujou, the second prince, chose the city of Pastime; and Bonbon, the youngest prince, chose the city of Confection; and the city of Lessonland was left for Prince Gentil, who took possession of it directly.
And first let us see how the good Gentil got on in his city.
The city of Lessonland was built of books, all books, and only books. The walls were books, set close like bricks, and the bridges over the rivers (which were very blue) were built of books in arches, and there were books to pave the roads and paths, and the doors of the houses were books with golden letters on the outside. The palace of Prince Gentil was built of the largest books, all bound in scarlet and green and purple and blue and yellow. And inside the palace all the loveliest pictures were hung upon the walls, and the handsomest maps; and in his library were all the lesson-books and all the story-books in the world. Directly Gentil began to reign, he said to himself,--
"What are all these books for? They must mean that we are to learn, and to become very clever, in order to be good. I wish to be very clever, and to make my people so; so I must set them a good example."
And he called all his child-people together, who would do anything for the love of him, and he said,--
"If we mean to be of any use in the world, we must learn, learn, learn, and read, read, read, and always be doing lessons."
And they said they would, to please him; and they all gathered together in the palace council-chamber, and Gentil set them tasks, the same as he set himself, and they all went home to learn them, while he learned his in the palace.
Now let us see how Joujou is getting on. He was a good prince, Joujou,--oh, so fond of fun! as you may believe, from his choosing the city of Pastime. Oh, that city of Pastime! how unlike the city of dear, dull Lessonland! The walls of the city of Pastime were beautiful toy-bricks, painted all the colors of the rainbow; and the streets of the city were filled with carriages just big enough for child-people to drive in, and little gigs, and music-carts, and post-chaises, that ran along by clock-work, and such rocking-horses! And there was not to be found a book In the whole city, but the houses were crammed with toys from the top to the bottom,--tops, hoops, balls, battle-doors, bows and arrows, guns, peep-shows, drums and trumpets, marbles, ninepins, tumblers, kites, and hundreds upon hundreds more, for there you found every toy that ever was made in the world, besides thousands of large wax dolls, all in different court-dresses. And directly Joujou began to reign, he said to himself,--
"What are all these toys for? They must mean that we are to play always, that we may be always happy. I wish to be very happy, and that my people should be happy, always. Won't I set them an example?"
And Joujou blew a penny-trumpet, and got on the back of the largest rocking-horse and rocked with all his might, and cried,--
"Child-people, you are to play always, for in all the city of Pastime you see nothing else but toys!"
The child-people did not wait long; some jumped on rocking-horses, some drove off in carriages, and some in gigs and music-carts. And organs were played, and bells rang, and shuttlecocks and kites flew up the blue sky, and there was laughter, laughter, in all the streets of Pastime!
And now for little Bonbon, how is he getting on? He was a dear little fat fellow,--but, oh, so fond of sweets! as you may believe, from his choosing the city of Confection. And there were no books in Confection, and no toys; but the walls were built of gingerbread, and the houses were built of gingerbread, and the bridges of barley-sugar, that glittered in the sun. And rivers ran with wine through the streets, sweet wine, such as child-people love; and Christmas-trees grew along the banks of the rivers, with candy and almonds and golden nuts on the branches; and in every house the tables were made of sweet brown chocolate, and there were great plum-cakes on the tables, and little cakes, and all sorts of cakes. And when Bonbon began to reign he did not think much about it, but began to eat directly, and called out, with his mouth full,--
"Child-people, eat always! for in all the city of Confection there is nothing but cakes and sweets."
And did not the child-people fall to, and eat directly, and eat on, and eat always?
Now by this time what has happened to Gentil? for we left him in the city of Lessonland. All the first day he learned the lessons he had set himself, and the people learned theirs too, and they all came to Gentil in the evening to say them to the Prince. But by the time Gentil had heard all the lessons, he was very, very tired,--so tired that he tumbled asleep on the throne; and when the child-people saw their prince was asleep, they thought they might as well go to sleep too. And when Gentil awoke, the next morning, behold! there were all his people asleep on the floor. And he looked at his watch and found it was very late, and he woke up the people, crying, with a very loud voice,--
"It is very late, good people!"
And the people jumped up, and rubbed their eyes, and cried,--
"We have been learning always, and we can no longer see to read,--the letters dance before our eyes."
And all the child-people groaned, and cried very bitterly behind their books. Then Gentil said,--
"I will read to you, my people, and that will rest your eyes."
And he read them a delightful story about animals; but when he stopped to show them a picture of a lion, the people were all asleep. Then Gentil grew angry, and cried in a loud voice,--
"Wake up, idle people, and listen!"
But when the people woke up, they were stupid, and sat like cats and sulked. So Gentil put the book away, and sent them home, giving them each a long task for their rudeness. The child-people went away; but, as they found only books out of doors, and only books at home, they went to sleep without learning their tasks. And all the fifth day they slept. But on the sixth day Gentil went out to see what they were doing; and they began to throw their books about, and a book knocked Prince Gentil on the head, and hurt him so much that he was obliged to go to bed. And while he was in bed, the people began to fight, and to throw the books at one another.
Now as for Joujou and his people, they began to play, and went on playing, and did nothing else but play. And would you believe it?--they got tired too. The first day and the second day nobody thought he ever could be tired, amongst the rocking-horses and whips and marbles and kites and dolls and carriages. But the third day everybody wanted to ride at once, and the carriages were so full that they broke down, and the rocking-horses rocked over, and wounded some little men; and the little women snatched their dolls from one another, and the dolls were broken. And on the fourth day the Prince Joujou cut a hole in the very largest drum, and made the drummer angry; and the drummer threw a drumstick at Joujou, and Prince Joujou told the drummer he should go to prison. Then the drummer got on the top of the painted wall, and shot arrows at the Prince, which did not hurt him much, because they were toy-arrows, but which made Joujou very much afraid, for he did not wish his people to hate him.
"What do you want?" he cried to the drummer. "Tell me what I can do to please you. Shall we play at marbles, or balls, or knock down the golden ninepins? Or shall we have Punch and Judy in the court of the palace?"
"Yes! yes!" cried the people, and the drummer jumped down from the wall. "Yes! yes! Punch and Judy! We are tired of marbles, and balls, and ninepins. But we sha'n't be tired of Punch and Judy!"
So the people gathered together in the court of the palace, and saw Punch and Judy over and over again, all day long on the fifth day. And they had it so often, that, when the sixth day came, they pulled down the stage, and broke Punch to pieces, and burned Judy, and screamed out that they were so hungry they did not know what to do. And the drummer called out,--
"Let us eat Prince Joujou!"
But the people loved him still; so they answered,--
"No! but we will go out of the city and invade the city of Confection, and fight them, if they won't give us anything to eat!"
So out they went, with Joujou at their head; for Joujou, too, was dreadfully hungry. And they crossed the green valley to the city of Confection, and began to try and eat the gingerbread walls. But the gingerbread was hard, because the walls had been built in ancient days; and the people tried to get on the top of the walls, and when they had eaten a few holes in the gingerbread, they climbed up by them to the top. And there they saw a dreadful sight. All the people had eaten so much that they were ill, or else so fat that they could not move. And the people were lying about in the streets, and by the side of the rivers of sweet wine, but, oh, so sick, that they could eat no more! And Prince Bonbon, who had got into the largest Christmas-tree, had eaten all the candy upon it, and grown so fat that he could not move, but stuck up there among the branches. When the people of Pastime got upon the walls, however, the people of Confection were very angry; and one or two of those who could eat the most, and who still kept on eating while they were sick, threw apples and cakes at the people of Pastime, and shot Joujou with sugar-plums, which he picked up and ate, while his people were eating down the plum-cakes, and drinking the wine till they were tipsy.
As soon as Gentil heard what a dreadful noise his people were making, he got up, though he still felt poorly, and went out into the streets. The people were fighting, alas! worse than ever; and they were trying to pull down the strong book-walls, that they might get out of the city. A good many of them were wounded in the head, as well as Prince Gentil, by the heavy books falling upon them; and Gentil was very sorry for the people.
"If you want to go out, good people," he said, "I will open the gates and go with you; but do not pull down the book-walls."
And they obeyed Gentil, because they loved him, and Gentil led them out of the city. When they had crossed the first green valley, they found the city of Pastime empty, not a creature in it! and broken toys in the streets. At sight of the toys, the poor book-people cried for joy, and wanted to stop and play. So Gentil left them in the city, and went on alone across the next green valley. But the city of Confection was crammed so full with sick child-people belonging to Bonbon, and with Joujou's hungry ones, that Gentil could not get in at the gate. So he wandered about in the green valleys, very unhappy, until he came to his old father's palace. There he found the fool, sitting on the banks of the river.
"O fool," said Gentil, "I wish I knew what my father meant us to do!"
And the fool tried to comfort Gentil; and they walked together by the river where the fool had made the boat of the will, without knowing what it was. They walked a long way, Gentil crying, and the fool trying to comfort him, when suddenly the fool saw the boat he had made, lying among some green rushes. And the fool ran to fetch it, and brought it to show Gentil. And Gentil saw some writing on the boat, and knew it was his father's writing. Then Gentil was glad indeed; he unfolded the paper, and thereon he read these words,--for a good king's words are not washed away by water:--
"My will and pleasure is, that my dearly beloved sons, Prince Gentil, Prince Joujou, and Prince Bonbon, should all reign together over the three cities which I have built. But there are only enough child-people to fill one city; for I know that the child-people cannot live always in one city. Therefore let the three princes, with Gentil, the eldest, wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Lessonland in the morning, that the bright sun may shine upon their lessons and make them pleasant; and Gentil to set the tasks. And in the afternoon let the three princes, with Joujou wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Pastime, to play until the evening; and Joujou to lead the games. And in the evening let the three princes, with Bonbon wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Confection, to drink sweet wine and pluck fruit off the Christmas-trees until time for bed; and little Bonbon to cut the cake. And at time for bed, let the child-people go forth into the green valleys and sleep upon the beds of flowers: for in Child Country it is always spring."
This was the king's will, found at last; and Gentil, whose great long lessons had made him wise, (though they had tired him too,) thought the will the cleverest that was ever made. And he hastened to the city of Confection, and knocked at the gate till they opened it; and he found all the people sick by this time, and very pleased to see him, for they thought him very wise. And Gentil read the will in a loud voice, and the people clapped their hands and began to get better directly, and Bonbon called to them to lift him down out of the tree where he had stuck, and Joujou danced for joy.
So the king's will was obeyed. And in the morning the people learned their lessons, and afterwards they played, and afterwards they enjoyed their feasts. And at bed-time they slept upon the beds of flowers, in the green valleys: for in Child Country it is always spring.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
1. VICTOR HUGO. _Les Misérables. Fantine_. New York: P. W. Christern. 8vo.
2. _The Same_. Translated from the Original French, by CHARLES E. WILBOUR. New York: G. W. Carleton. 8vo.
"FANTINE," the first of five novels under the general title of "Les Misérables," has produced an impression all over Europe, and we already hear of nine translations, It has evidently been "engineered" with immense energy by the French publisher. Translations have appeared in numerous languages almost simultaneously with its publication in Paris. Every resource of bookselling ingenuity has been exhausted in order to make every human being who can read think that the salvation of his body and soul depends on his reading "Les Misérables." The glory and the obloquy of the author have both been forced into aids to a system of puffing at which Barnum himself would stare amazed, and confess that he had never conceived of "a dodge" in which literary genius and philanthropy could be allied with the grossest bookselling humbug. But we trust, that, after our American showman has recovered from his first shock of surprise, he will vindicate the claim of America to be considered the "first nation on the face of the earth," by immediately offering Dickens a hundred thousand dollars to superintend his exhibition of dogs, and Florence Nightingale a half a million to appear at his exhibition of babies.
The French bookseller also piqued the curiosity of the universal public by a story that Victor Hugo wrote "Les Misérables" twenty-five years ago, but, being bound to give a certain French publisher all his works after his first celebrated novel, he would not delight the world with this product of his genius until he had forced the said publisher into a compliance with his terms. The publisher shrank aghast from the sum which the author demanded, and this sum was yearly increased in amount, as years rolled away and as Victor Hugo's reputation grew more splendid. At last the publisher died, probably from vexation, and Victor Hugo was free. Then he condescended to allow the present publisher to issue "Les Misérables" on the payment of eighty thousand dollars. It is not surprising, that, to get his money back, this publisher has been compelled to resort to tricks which exceed everything known in the whole history of literature.
"Fantine," therefore, comes before us, externally, as the most desperate of bookselling speculations. The publisher, far from drinking his wine out of the skull of his author, is in danger of having neither wine nor ordinary cup, and is forced into the most reckless _charlatanerie_ to save himself from utter ruin and complete loss of the generous fluid. Internally, "Fantine" comes before us as an attempt both to include and to supersede the Christian religion. Wilkinson, in a preface to one of his books, stated that he thought that "Christendom was not the error of which _Chapmandom_ was the correction,"--Chapman being then the English publisher of a number of skeptical books. In the same way we may venture to affirm that Christendom is not the beginning of which _Hugoism_ is the complement and end. We think that the revelation made by the publisher of "Les Misérables" sadly interferes with the revelation made by Victor Hugo. Saint Paul may be inferior to Saint Hugo, but everybody will admit that Saint Paul would not have hesitated a second in deciding, in the publication of _his_ epistles, between the good of mankind and his own remuneration. Saint Hugo confessedly waited twenty-five years before he published his new gospel. The salvation of Humanity had to be deferred until the French saviour received his eighty thousand dollars. At last a bookselling Barnum appears, pays the price, and a morality which utterly eclipses that of Saint Paul is given to an expectant world.
This morality, sold for eighty thousand dollars, is represented by Bishop Myriel. The character is drawn with great force, and is full both of direct and subtle satire on the worldliness of ordinary churchmen. The portion of the work in which it figures contains many striking sayings. Thus, we are told, that, when the Bishop "had money, his visits were to the poor; when he had none, he visited the rich." "Ask not," he said, "the name of him who asks you for a bed; it is especially he whose name is a burden to him who has need of an asylum." This man, who embodies all the virtues, carries his goodness so far as to receive into his house a criminal whom all honest houses reject, and, when robbed by his infamous guest, saves the life of the latter by telling the officers who had apprehended the thief that he had given him the silver. This so works on the criminal's conscience, that, like Peter Bell, he "becomes a good and pious man," starts a manufactory, becomes rich, and uses his wealth for benevolent purposes. Fantine, the heroine, after having been seduced by a Parisian student, comes to work in his factory. She has a child that she supports by her labor. This fact is discovered by some female gossip, and she is dismissed from the factory as an immoral woman, and descends to the lowest depths of prostitution,--still for the purpose of supporting her child. Jean Valjean, the reformed criminal, discovers her, is made aware that her debasement is the result of the act of his foreman, and takes her, half dead with misery and sickness, to his own house. Meanwhile he learns that an innocent person, by being confounded with himself, is in danger of being punished for his former deeds. He flies from the bedside of Fantine, appears before the court, announces himself as the criminal, is arrested, but in the end escapes from the officers who have him in charge. Fantine dies. Her child is to be the heroine of Novel Number Two of "Les Misérables," and will doubtless have as miserable an end as her mother. From this bare abstract, the story does not seem to promise much pleasure to novel-readers, yet it is all alive with the fiery genius of Victor Hugo, and the whole representation is so intense and vivid that it is impossible to escape from the fascination it exerts over the mind. Few who take the book up will leave it until they have read it through. It is morbid to a degree that no eminent English author, not even Lord Byron, ever approached; but its morbid elements are so combined with sentiments abstractly Christian that it is calculated to wield a more pernicious influence than Byron ever exerted. Its tendency is to weaken that abhorrence of crime which is the great shield of most of the virtue which society possesses, and it does this by attempting to prove that society itself is responsible for crimes it cannot prevent, but can only punish. To legislators, to Magdalen societies, to prison-reformers, it may suggest many useful hints; but, considered as a passionate romance, appealing to the sympathies of the ordinary readers of novels, it will do infinitely more harm than good. The bigotries of virtue are better than the charities of vice. On the whole, therefore, we think that Victor Hugo, when he stood out twenty-five years for his price, did a service to the human race. The great value of his new gospel consisted in its not being published. We wish that another quarter of a century had elapsed before it found a bookseller capable of venturing on so reckless a speculation.
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_Christ the Spirit_: being an Attempt to state the Primitive View of Christianity. By the Author of "Remarks on Alchemy and the Alchemists," and "Swedenborg a Hermetic Philosopher." 2 vols. New York: James Miller.
Tins remarkable work is said to be by Major-General Hitchcock, of the United States Army, whose important services in the Mexican campaign and in our war with the Florida Indians will always command for him the grateful remembrance of his country. It presents many striking views, and at first glance appears to sweep somewhat breezily through the creeds and ceremonies of the external church. The danger, however, may not be great. The work is written in a spirit of forbearance and moral elevation that cannot fail to do good, if it is only to teach theologians that bitter warfare is no way to convince the world of the divinity of their opinions. The author affirms that he seeks to reestablish Christianity upon, its true basis. In opposition to existing churches, he places himself in the position of Saint Paul as opposed to the Pharisees, and says, with him, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,"--or again, with the Spirit of Truth itself, he declares, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." General Hitchcock believes that the New Testament was written by the Essene philosophers, a secret society well known to the Jews as dividing the religious world of Judea with the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was written for the instruction of the novitiates, and in symbolism and allegories, according to the oath by which they were solemnly bound. Whatever may be said of the truth of this theory, the interpretations it gives rise to are exceedingly interesting and instructive.
The law of Moses, which all the Jews regarded as divine, the Essenes thought contained a twofold signification. They saw in it a letter and a spirit. As a letter it was the Son of Man, because written by man; as spirit it was the Son of God, because it proceeded from God. They held that the Pharisees murdered the spirit through adhering to the letter; and in the books which the Essenes themselves wrote--the Four Gospels--they taught this doctrine. In Jesus Christ they personified the law of Moses,--Christ representing in his double character both the spirit and the letter of the Law; John the Baptist, the witness of the spirit, representing the letter exclusively; the Virgin Mary the "wisdom" constantly personified in the Old Testament. She is also the Church, the bride of Christ, and that "invisible nature" symbolized in all mythologies as divine. The Father is the Spirit of the Law and the Spirit of Nature,--the infinite God from whom all life proceeds and in whom it abides.
From this brief statement it will be seen that General Hitchcock takes a view of Christianity widely different from that of theologians. Jesus of Nazareth, as a person, he regards simply as a great teacher of this sect of philosophers; and in the Christ of the New Testament, a being endowed with supernatural powers, he sees a personification of the Spirit of Truth. The literal history of a series of supernatural events occurring in Judea two thousand years ago he transforms into sublime teachings of the great truths inherent in human nature, and which, wherever man is, are there forever reënacting the same drama,--in the assumed history of Jesus, divinely portrayed,--not, if rightly understood, as an actual history of any one man, but as a symbolic narration, representing the spiritual life of all men.
Many grave reflections are forced upon us in contemplating a view so original of a subject upon which apparently nothing more remained to be said. It becomes not only the question, How will this work be received by the religious world? but, How, in a true spirit of inquiry, _ought_ it to be received? The theory of the author is peculiarly simple, but in its simplicity lies an exceeding beauty. The idea that the Scriptures are symbolical has always found adherents, but never such an advocate. Swedenborg affirmed this truth, and invented a formal mode of interpretation, upon which he wrote his multitudinous octavos, themselves mystical volumes, and whose effect has been to involve a subject already obscure in still deeper darkness, and to transfer the adoration of a small portion of the Christian world from the letter of the Scriptures to the letter of Swedenborg,--a questionable benefit to his followers, in spite of the many important truths which this great man advocated. The radical difference between such a system and that which we are now considering is evident. Not Swedenborg alone, but many others, through artificial systems of their own, have sought to interpret the mysteries of the Bible; but it has remained for the author of "Christ the Spirit" to attempt a discovery of the key unlocking the symbolism of the New Testament, as it was understood by the gospel writers themselves.
_The Pearl of Orr's Island._ A Story of the Coast of Maine. By MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "The Minister's Wooing," etc. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.
Mrs. Stowe is never more in her element than in depicting unsophisticated New-England life, especially in those localities where there is a practical social equality among the different classes of the population. "The Pearl of Orr's Island," the scene of which is laid in one of those localities, is every way worthy of her genius. Without deriving much interest from its plot, it fastens the pleased attention of the reader by the freshness, clearness, and truth of its representations, both of Nature and persons. The author transports us at once to the place she has chosen as the scene of her story, makes us as familiarly acquainted with all its surroundings as if we had been born and bred there, introduces us to all the principal inhabitants in a thoroughly "neighborly" way, and contrives to impress us with a sense of the substantial reality of what she makes us mentally see, even when an occasional improbability in the story almost wakes us up to a perception that the whole is a delightful illusion.
This foundation of the story in palpable realities, which every Yankee recognizes as true the moment they are presented to his eye, enables the writer to develop the ideal character of Mara Lincoln, the heroine of the book, without giving any sensible shock to the prosaic mind. In the type of womanhood she embodies, she is almost identical with Agnes, in the beautiful romance which Mrs. Stowe has lately contributed to this magazine: the difference is in time and circumstance, and not in essential nature. The Puritan maiden, with all her homely culture and rough surroundings, is really as poetic a personage as any of Spenser's exquisite individualizations of abstract feminine excellence; perhaps more so, as the most austere and exalted spiritualities of Christianity enter into the constitution of her nature, and her soul moves in a sphere of religious experience compared with which "fairy-land" is essentially low and earthy. She is an angel as well as a woman; yet the height of her meditations does not interfere with, but rather aids her performance of the homeliest human duties; and the moral beauty of her nature lends a peculiar grace to her humblest ministries to human affections and needs. The vivid delineation of this character, from her childhood to her death, we cannot but rank among Mrs. Stowe's best claims to be considered a woman of true imaginative genius.
In the rest of the population of Orr's Island the reader cannot fail to take a great interest, with but two exceptions. These are Moses, the hero of the novel, and Sally Kittredge, who, in the end, marries him. But "Cap'n" Kittredge and his wife, Miss Roxy and Miss Ruey, and Zephaniah Pennel, are incomparably good. Each affords matter enough for a long dissertation on New England and human character. Miss Roxy, especially, is the typical old maid of Yankee-land, and is so thoroughly lovable, in spite of her idiom, her crusty manners, and her eccentricities, that the only wonder is that she should have been allowed to remain single. But the same wonder is often expressed, in actual life, in regard to old maids superior to Miss Roxy in education, accomplishments, and beauty, and her equals in vital self-sacrifice and tenderness of heart.
We have referred to Moses as a failure, but in this he is no worse than Mrs. Stowe's other heroes. They are all unworthy of the women they love; and the early death of Mara, in this novel, though very pathetic, is felt by every male reader to be better than a long married life with Moses. The latter is "made happy" in the end with Sally Kittredge. Mrs. Stowe does not seem conscious of the intense and bitter irony of the last scenes. She conveys the misanthropy of Swift without feeling or knowing it.
In style, "The Pearl of Orr's Island" ranks with the best narratives in American literature. Though different from the style of Irving and Hawthorne, it shows an equal mastery of English in expressing, not only facts, events, and thoughts, but their very spirit and atmosphere. It is the exact mirror of the author's mind and character. It is fresh, simple, fluent, vigorous, flexible, never dazzling away attention from what it represents by the intrusion of verbal felicities which are pleasing apart from the vivid conceptions they attempt to convey. The uncritical reader is unconscious of its excellence because it is so excellent,--that is, because it is so entirely subordinate to the matter which it is the instrument of expressing. At times, however, the singular interest of the things described must impress the dullest reader with the fact that the author possesses uncommon powers of description. The burial of James Lincoln, the adventure of little Mara and Moses on the open sea, the night-visit which Mara makes to the rendezvous of the outlaws, and the incidents which immediately precede Mara's death, are pictured with such vividness, earnestness, and fidelity, that nobody can fail to feel the strange magic communicated to common words when they are the "nimble servitors" of genius and passion. In conclusion we may say, that, in the combination of accurate observation, strong sense, and delicate spiritual perception,--in the union of humor and pathos, of shrewdness and sentiment,--and in the power of seizing character in its vital inward sources, and of portraying its outward peculiarities,--"The Pearl of Orr's Island" does not yield to any book which Mrs. Stowe has heretofore contributed to American literature.
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