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"Friends! we have lived too long.—I never heard Sounds such as these, so worthy to be feared. Could I believe that winds, for ages pent In earth's dark womb, have found at last a vent, And, from their prison-house below, arise, With all these hideous howlings to the skies, I could be much composed; nor should appear, For such a cause, to feel the slightest fear. Yourselves have seen what time the thunders rolled All night, me resting quiet in the fold. Or, heard we that tremendous bray alone, I could expound the melancholy tone; Should deem it by our old companion made, The ass; for he, we know, has lately strayed, And, being lost perhaps, and wandering wide, Might be supposed to clamor for a guide. But ah! those dreadful yells what soul can hear, That owns a carcass, and not quake for fear! Demons produce them doubtless, brazen-clawed, And, fang'd with brass, the demons are abroad :— I hold it, therefore, wisest and most fit, That, life to save, we leap into the pit."
Him answered then his loving mate and true,
"How! leap into the pit, our life to save?
And rush those other sounds, that seem by tongues
While thus she spake, I fainter heard the peals,
The flock grew calm again, and I, the road
Beware of desperate steps. The darkest day,
Forest Trees.-W. IRVING.
I HAVE paused more than once in the wilderness of America, to contemplate the traces of some blast of wind, which seemed to have rushed down from the clouds, and ripped its way through the bosom of the woodlands; rooting up, shivering, and splintering the stoutest trees, and leaving a long track of desolation.
There is something awful in the vast havoc made among these gigantic plants; and in considering their magnificent remains, so rudely torn and mangled, hurled down to perish prematurely on their native soil, I was conscious of a strong movement of sympathy with the wood-nymphs, grieving to be dispossessed of their ancient habitations. I recollect also hearing a traveller of poetical temperament, expressing the kind of horror which he felt in beholding, on the banks of the Missouri, an oak of prodigious size, which had been in a manner overpowered by an enormous wild grape-vine. The vine had clasped its huge folds round the trunk, and from thence had wound about every branch and twig, until the mighty tree had withered in its embrace. It seemed like Lao'coön struggling ineffectually in the hideous coils of the monster Python. It was the lion of trees perishing in the embraces of a vegetable Boa.
I am fond of listening to the conversation of English gentlemen on rural concerns, and of noticing with what taste and discrimination, and what strong, unaffected interest, they will discuss topics, which, in other countries, are abandoned to mere woodmen or rustic cultivators. I have heard a noble earl descant' on park and forest scenery, with the science and feeling of a painter. He dwelt on the shape
and beauty of particular trees on his estate, with as much pride and technical precision as though he had been discussing the merits of statues in his collection. I found that he had gone considerable distances to examine trees which were celebrated among rural amateurs'; for it seems that trees, like horses, have their established points of excellence, and that there are some in England which enjoy very extensive celebrity from being perfect in their kind.
There is something nobly simple and pure in such a taste. It argues, I think, a sweet and generous nature, to have this strong relish for the beauties of vegetation, and this friendship for the hardy and glorious sons of the forest. There is a grandeur of thought connected with this part of rural economy. It is, if I may be allowed the figure, the heroic line of husbandry. It is worthy of liberal, and freeborn, and aspiring men. He who plants an oak looks forward to future ages, and plants for posterity. Nothing can be less selfish than this. He cannot expect to sit in its shade nor enjoy its shelter; but he exults in the idea that the acorn which he has buried in the earth shall grow up into a lofty pile, and shall keep on flourishing, and increasing, and benefiting mankind, long after he shall have ceased to tread his paternal fields.
Indeed, it is the nature of such occupations to lift the thought above mere worldliness. As the leaves of trees are said to absorb all noxious qualities of the air, and breathe forth a purer atmosphere, so it seems to me as if they drew from us all sordid and angry passions, and breathed forth peace and philanthropy. There is a serene and settled majesty in woodland scenery that enters into the soul, and dilates and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. The ancient and hereditary groves, too, that embower this island,* are most of them full of story. They are haunted by the recollections of the great spirits of past ages, who have sought for relaxation among them, from the tumult of arms, or the toils of state, or have wooed the muse beneath their shade.
It is becoming, then, for the high and generous spirits of an ancient nation to cherish these sacred groves that surround their ancestral mansions, and to perpetuate them to their descendants. Brought up, as I have been, in republiean habits and principles, I can feel nothing of the servile reverence for titled rank, merely because it is titled. But
*This piece, though it is the production of an American, was written in England.
I trust I am neither churl nor bigot in my creed. I do see and feel how hereditary distinction, when it falls to the lot of a generous mind, may elevate that mind into true nobility. It is one of the effects of hereditary rank, when it falls thus happily, that it multiplies the duties, and, as it were, extends the existence of the possessor. He does not feel himself a mere individual link in creation, responsible only for his own brief term of being. He carries back his existence in proud recollection, and he extends it forward in honorable anticipation. He lives with his ancestry, and he lives with his posterity. To both does he consider himself involved in deep responsibilities. As he has received much from those that have gone before, so he feels bound to transmit much to those who are to come after him.
His domestic undertakings seem to imply a longer existence than those of ordinary men. None are so apt to build and plant for future centuries, as noble spirited men who have received their heritages from foregoing ages.
I can easily imagine, therefore, the fondness and pride with which I have noticed English gentlemen, of generous temperaments, but high aristocratic feelings, contemplating those magnificent trees, which rise like towers and pyramids from the midst of their paternal lands. There is an affinity between all natures, animate and inanimate. The oak, in the pride and lustihood of its growth, seems to me to take its range with the lion and the eagle, and to assimilate, in the grandeur of its attributes, to heroic and intellectual
With its mighty pillar rising straight and direct toward heaven; bearing up its leafy honors from the impurities of earth, and supporting them aloft in free air and glorious sunshine, it is an emblem of what a true nobleman should be; a refuge for the weak, a shelter for the oppressed,— a defence for the defenceless; warding off from them the peltings of the storm, or the scorching rays of arbitrary power. He who is this, is an ornament and a blessing to his native land. He who is otherwise, abuses his eminent advantages;-abuses the grandeur and prosperity which he has drawn from the bosom of his country. Should tempests arise, and he be laid prostrate by the storm, who would mourn over his fall?-Should he be borne down by the oppressive hand of power, who would murmur at his fate?— "Why cumbereth he the ground?"
Old Mortality-TALES OF MY LANDLORD.
Most readers must have witnessed with delight the joyous burst which attends the dismissing of a village-school, on a fine summer evening. The buoyant spirit of childhood, repressed with so much difficulty during the tedious hours of discipline, may then explode, as it were, in shout, and song, and frolic, as the little urchins join in groups on their playground, and arrange their matches of sport for the evening. But there is one individual who partakes of the relief afforded by the moment of dismission, whose feelings are not so obvious to the eye of the spectator, or so apt to receive his sympathy.
I mean, the teacher himself, who, stunned with the hum, and suffocated with the closeness of his school-room, has spent the whole day (himself against a host) in controlling petulance, exciting indifference to action, striving to enlighten stupidity, and laboring to soften obstinacy; and whose very powers of intellect have been confounded by hearing the same dull lesson repeated a hundred times by rote, and only varied by the various blunders of the reciters.
Even the flowers of classic genius, with which his solitary fancy is most gratified, have been rendered degraded, in his imagination, by their connexion with tears, with errors, and with punishment: so that the Eclogues of Virgil, and Odes of Horace, are each inseparably allied in association with the sullen figure and monotonous recitation of some blubbering school-boy. If to these mental distresses are added a delicate frame of body, and a mind ambitious of some higher distinction than that of being the tyrant of childhood, the reader may have some slight conception of the relief which a solitary walk, in the cool of a fine summer evening, affords to the head which has ached, and the nerves which have been shattered for so many hours, in plying the irksome task of public instruction.
To me, these evening strolls have been the happiest hours of an unhappy life; and if any gentle reader shall hereafter find pleasure in pursuing these lucubrations, I am not unwilling he should know, that the plan of them has been usually traced in those moments, when relief from toil and clamor, combined with the quiet scenery around me, has disposed my mind to the task of composition.