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Distinct as a passing footstep's fall,
“Forever — never!
Through days of sorrow and of mirth,
“ Forever — never!
There groups of merry children played ;
“ Forever — never!
From that chamber, clothed in white,
There, in that silent room below,
Forever — never!
All are scattered now and fled,
“Forever — never!
V.- RIP VAN WINKLE.
IRVING, WASHINGTON IRVING, the most popular of American authors, and one of the most popular writers in the English language during his time, was born in New York, April 8, 1783, and died November 28, 1859. His numerous works are too well known to need enumeration; and his countrymen are so familiar with the graces of his style and the charm of his delightful genius, that any extended criticism would be superfluous. His writings are remarkable for their combination of rich and original humor with great refinement of feeling and delicacy of sentiment. His humor is unstained by coarseness, and his sentiment is neither mawkish nor morbid. His style is carefully finished, and in his most elaborate productions the uniform music of his cadences approaches monotony. He is an accurate observer, and his descriptions are correct, animated, and beautiful. In his biographical and historical works his style is flowing, easy, and transparent. His personal character was affectionate and amiable, and these traits penetrate his writings, and constitute no small portion of their charm. Few writers have ever awakened stronger personal interest than Irving; and the sternest critic could not deal harshly with an author who showed himself to be so gentle and kindly a man.
The following extract is from “Rip Van Winkle," one of the papers in “ The Sketch Book.” Rip is an indolent, good-humored fellow, living in a village on the Hudson River. While shooting among the Catskill Mountains, he meets with a mysterious party engaged in rolling ninepins, drinks deeply of the liquor they furnish him, and falls into a sleep which lasts twenty years, during which our Revolutionary War takes place. After waking, he returns to the village, which he finds busied with an election.]
He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village inn — but it too was gone. A large, rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great
gaping windows, some of them broken, and mended with 5 old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted,
“ The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree that used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, with
something on the top that looked like a red nightcap, and 10 from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular as
semblage of stars and stripes — all this was strange and incomprehensible.
He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe ; but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath
was painted in large characters, GENERAL WASHINGTON. 20 There was, as usual, a crowd about the door, but none
that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity.
He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Vedder, with
his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco smoke instead of idle speeches; or VanBummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of an
ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean, bilious look5 ing fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was har.
anguing vehemently, about rights of citizens — elections — members of congress — liberty — Bunker's hill — heroes of seventy-six—and other words, which were a perfect
Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle. 10 The appearance of Rip, with his long grizzled beard,
his rusty fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and an army of women and children at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded round
him, eying him from head to foot with great curiosity. 15 The orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired “ on which side he voted ?”
Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising on tiptoe,
inquired in his ear, “ whether he was Federal or Demo20 crat?” Rip was equally at a loss to comprehend the
question; when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as
he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with 25 one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen
eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, “what brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob
at his heels, and whether he meant to breed a riot in the 30 village ? ”
“Alas! gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, " I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King, God bless him!”
Here a general shout burst from the by-standers — “A 35 tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee ! hustle him! away with
him!” It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and, having assumed a tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown culprit, what he came there for, and whom
he was seeking 5 The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no
harm, but merely came there in search of some of his neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern.
“Well — who are they ? — name them.”
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, “Where's 10 Nicholas Vedder ?”.
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin piping voice, “ Nicholas Vedder! why, he's dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a
wooden tombstone in the church-yard that used to tell all 15 about him, but that's rotten and gone too.”
“ Where's Brom Dutcher ?”
“Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony
Point — others say he was drowned in a squall at the 20 foot of Antony's Nose. I don't know — he never came back again.”
“Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster ?”
“ He went off to the wars too, was a great militia genOral, and is now in Congress.” 25 Rip's heart died away at hearing of these sad changes
in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer puzzled him too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he
could not understand : war — congress — Stony-Point; — 30 he had no courage to ask after any more friends, but
cried out in despair, “ Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?”
“Oh, Rip Van Winkle!” exclaimed two or three, “Oh, to be sure! that's Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against 35 the tree.”
Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself