« 上一页继续 »
to me, can listen to this opera, sustained in all its parts with the ability it was this night, without imbibing a fresh reverence for virtue, and a deeper detestation of vice.
Carlo Felici, as an edifice, reflects credit on the present taste of the Genoese. It is rich and stately, and free from the meretricious ornaments which disfigure their earlier architecture. The arrangements and ornaments of the interior are elegant and chaste, while many of the stage decorations are truly superb. In finishing and furnishing a theatre, there is usually a wide departure from the simplicity of good taste. It would seem as if some reeling vision of delight had dazzled and confounded the judgment of the artist; and he heaps one ornament upon another, until the beauty of the original design is lost in a maze of gilding and false devices. Nor does the sanctuary, with all its high and sacred associations, often escape entirely the effects of this frivolous, fantastic spirit. Not only are the churches in Genoa, and in Catholic communities generally, scandalized in this form, but they seldom escape, even where they have been reared and consecrated by the iconoclastic spirit of protestantism. You will find, even in a Methodist meeting-house, where the seats have scarcely the comfort of a back, a red velvet cushion on the pulpit, with its showy embroidery, long fringe, and prodigal tassels, falling far down over the many colored-pannels; all the work of some young ladies, who, it would seem, had hit upon this mode of displaying to the best advantage their handicraft, in the hope that it may attract the eye of the young expounder, or of some one else, in want of a quiet, industrious, and excellent wife. What a pity our sprigs of divinity lose, as they usually do, all the advantage to be derived from these unerring intimations, by getting a wife before they get a pulpit, or by entering into engagements, which, by the way, they sometimes break, and without any other provocation than the superior attractions of another; a breach of trust for which they ought to be broken themselves. If one of them ever enters the pulpit of a church where I am, though my seat should be in the upper gallery, I would get out of the building, if I had to let myself down by the lightningrod. But something too much of this.'
At the close of the opera, we departed, and took rooms at the Hotel de Ville, one of the many excellent establishments of the kind to be met with in Genoa. Here you have nothing to annoy you, save at night a little fellow, who springs from his covert with an uncertainty and ubiquity of motion, which the most dexterous politician, in all his shifts for office, can never surpass. He is more subtle than the musquito, who foolishly sounds his little horn at his approach, for the only warning he gives, is in the injury he inflicts; and if you attack him, he is off at some other point, where perhaps he was least expected, till at last, wearied with this unavailing warfare, you resign yourself unconditionally to his rapacity; for pity he has none, since the most tender of the other sex are most thoroughly his victims. Still there is something to admire about the little fellow; his selection of Italy as the favorite place of his abode, his choice of the ladies in his piratical adventures, and the soft hour of night, in which he moves, are all indications of a refined taste, and an exquisite classic turn. At Paris, they treat him with a rudeness utterly at variance
with the urbanity which we are accustomed to accord to this most polite people. I saw four of them harnessed into a carriage, which they rolled about with a quick well-regulated step; others were dancing a quadrille, in which they balanced and exchanged partners with the most unexceptionable ease and grace; the waltz appeared to make them giddy, or perhaps its want of delicacy offended them, for they never could be coaxed or compelled to excel in it; others, who had been less favored of nature, were on a tread-mill, where, step by step, upon the ever-deceiving wheel, they were compelled to turn a complication of machinery, which none but a Frenchman could ever have adapted to the energies of a flea!
The next morning, taking with us a cicerone, who was rather an honorable exception to the usual characteristics of his frail fraternity, we sallied forth on a tour of palaces, and occupation in which we were agreeably entertained for several days. These admired edifices though rarely constructed of the most precious materials, and often disparaged by architectural imitations, painted on the façade, are yet not deficient in solidity and grandeur. The spacious court, around which the whole is built, with its marble porticos, towering up through the centre of the vast pile; the marble steps on which you ascend to the successive lofts; the projecting balconies, from which you survey the busy streets below; the lofty terrace, waving with the orange, oleander, and lemon, which here strike their roots deep and strong in a soil sustained by spreading arches, and refreshed by the play of sparkling fountains; the liberal arrangement and extent of the apartments; the magnificent saloons, with their floors of smooth and beautifully stained mastic; the arched ceilings, covered with classic frescoes; the walls hung with tapestries, mirrors, and gold, or adorned with the still richer triumphs of art; all excite a deep, enduring admiration. These princely mansions are not only to be found separately, in different sections of the city, but they border three of the principal streets so continuously, that scarcely an intervening object occurs to break the overpowering impression. Captious criticism may indeed find in their architecture faults sufficient to stir its supercilious spleen, but to one who forgets minor defects in prevailing excellences, they will ever be objects of admiring regard.
The proprietor of such a princely mansion is often encountered by the visitor, gliding softly through the apartments, and presenting in his dress and person an evidence of abstemiousness and simplicity, that would more appropriately become the cell of an anchorite. His incurious look leads you to regard him as some poor stranger, incapable of appreciating the objects of art around him; or as some dreaming enthusiast, whose thoughts have run on more exalted and subtle themes, till he has ceased to be affected by these less ethereal forms of magnificence and beauty; yet before you have finished this comment, you will find him, perhaps, suddenly pausing before some half-perished painting, which to you is little more than a blank, and with steadfast look, prying into its dim shadows, as if he were penetrating the mysteries of death. Would that he could penetrate the realities of that untried change, and bring forth its moral map! But the secrets of the shroud lie beyond the mental reach of man! What we were, before embodied in this breathing world, and what we are
to become, when we pass out of it, are to him alike unknown. Life, death, the past, and the future, are all a deep and solemn mystery; yet we are gay, as if we knew from whence we came, and whither we are going. We are but bubbles, which the stream of time bears on its ruffled breast to the engulfing ocean of eternity!
'THE bride of El Sirat, which extends over the midst of Hades, finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword, over which all must pass, and from which the wicked must fall into hell.' LANE'S MODERN EGYPTIANS."
METHOUGHT a countless crowd were thronging o'er
Restless and curious, to the brink I drew,
With mask and dagger, FALSEHOOD ventured o'er
Next on the harsh ordeal, ANGER Stood,
With bloated visage, next INTEMPERANCE came;
Dreadful the doom of the repining crowd,
They touched the brink, and reeling, headlong, fell
But did no pilgrims pass victorious o'er
HOPE flew on buoyant wing, by FAITH upheld,
TRUTH, though reviled and scorned, that pathway trod,
THE FIRST LOCOMOTIVE.
BY ONE WHO SAW IT.
It is now very generally conceded, that of all the inventions of man, none holds any comparison with the steam-boat. The mind can scarcely combine a calculation which may measure its importance. Some vague estimate may indeed be formed of it, by imagining what would be the state and condition of the world, at the present day, were there no steam-boats; were we still to find ourselves on board sloops, making an average passage of a week to Albany, exposed to all the disasters of flaws from the 'downscomer,' and discomfiture of close cabins; or ascending the Mississippi in a keel-boat, pushed every inch of the way against its mighty current, by long poles, at the rate of fourteen miles in sixteen hours.'
It is now just thirty years, since the first steam-boat ascended the Hudson, being the first practical application of a steam-engine to water-conveyance. Then, no other river had ever seen a steam-boat; and now, what river, capable of any kind of navigation, has not been bepaddled with them? It is not my purpose to enter the list of disputants, lately sprung up, striving to prove that the immortal FULTON was not the first succesful projector of a steam-boat. In common with the world, I can but mourn over the poverty of history, that tells not of any previous successful effort of the kind. Steam, no doubt, was known before. The first tea-kettle that was hung over a fire, furnished a clear development of that important agent. But all I can say now, is, that I never heard of a steam-boat, before the 'North River' moved her paddles on the Hudson; and very soon after that period, when it was contemplated to send a steam-boat to Southern Russia, a distinguished orator of that day, in an address before the Historical Society of this city, eloquently said, in direct allusion to the steam-boat: The hoary genius of Asia, high throned on the peaks of Caucasus, his moist eye glistening as he glances over the destruction of Palmyra and Persepolis, of Jerusalem and of Babylon, will bend with respectful deference to the inventive spirit of this
western world;' thus proving conclusively, that the invention was not only of this country, but that no other country yet knew of it. In fact, the invention had not yet even reached the Mississippi; for it was not until a year after, that a long-armed, high-shouldered keel-boatman, who had just succeeded in doubling a bend in the river, by dint of hard pushing, and run his boat in a quiet eddy, for a resting spell, saw a steam-boat gallantly paddling up against the centre current of that 'Father of Rivers;' and gazing at the scene with mingled surprise and triumph, he threw down his pole, and slapping his hands together in ecstacy, exclaimed: 'Well done, old Massassippi! May I be etarnally smashed, if you ha' n't got your match at last!'
But, as before hinted, it is not my design to furnish a conclusive history of the origin of steam-boats. My text stands at the head of this article; and I purpose here to record, for the information of all future time, a faithful history of THE FIRST LOCOMOTIVE.' I am determined, at least, that that branch of the great steam family shall know its true origin.
In the year 1808, I enjoyed the never-to-be-forgotten gratification of a paddle up the Hudson, on board the aforesaid first steam-boat that ever moved on the waters of any river, with passengers. Among the voyagers, was a man I had known for some years previous, by the name of Jabez Doolittle. He was an industrious and ingenious worker in sheet-iron, tin, and wire; but his greatest success lay in wire-work, especially in making rat-traps;' and for his last and best invention in that line, he had just secured a patent; and with a specimen of his work, he was then on a journey through the state of New-York, for the purpose of disposing of what he called county rights; or, in other words, to sell the privilege of catching rats, according to his patent trap. It was a very curious trap, as simple as it was ingenious; as most ingenious things are, after they are invented. It was an oblong wire box, divided into two compartments; a rat entered one, where the bait was hung, which he no sooner touched, than the door at which he entered, fell. His only apparent escape was by a funnel-shaped hole into the other apartment, in passing which, he moved another wire, which instantly re-set the trap; and thus rat after rat was furnished the means of 'following in the foot-steps of his illustrious predecessor,' until the trap was full. Thus it was not simply a trap to catch a rat, but a trap by which rats trapped rats, ad infinitum. And now that the recollection of that wonderful trap is recalled to my memory, I would respectfully recommend it to the attention of the treasury department, as an appendage to the subtreasury system. The specification' may be found on file in the patent office, number eleven thousand seven hundred and forty-six.
This trap, at the time to which I allude, absolutely divided the attention of the passengers; and for my part, it interested me quite as much as did the steam-engine; because, perhaps, I could more easily comprehend its mystery. To me, the steam-engine was Greek; the trap was plain English. Not so, however, to Jabez Doolittle. I found him studying the engine with great avidity and perseverance, insomuch that the engineer evidently became alarmed, and declined answering any more questions.
'Why, you need n't snap off so tarnal short,' said Jabez; a body