Page images
PDF
EPUB

believe), to deserve such a distinction ; even as I have done, so would I be done unto.

For more than eighteen months have the volume of Poems, entitled SIBYLLINE LEAVES, and the present volumes, up to this page, been printed, and ready for publication. But, ere I speak of myself in the tones, which are alone natural to me under the circumstances of late years, I would fain present myself to the Reader as I was in the first dawn of my literary life :

When Hope grew round me, like the climbing vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seem'd mine I*

For this purpose I have selected from the letters, which I wrote home from Germany, those which appeared likely to be most interesting, and at the same time most pertinent to the title of this work.

* (Coleridge's Poetical Works, p. 181.-S. C.
Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma. Georg. II. v. 82.-Ed.]

SATYRANE'S LETTERS.

LETTER I.

On Sunday morning, September 16, 1798, the Hamburg packet set sail from Yarmouth : and I, for the first time in my life, beheld

my

native land retiring from me. At the moment of its disappearance-in all the kirks, churches, chapels, and meeting. houses, in which the greater number, I hope, of my countrymen were at that time assembled, I will dare question whether there was one more ardent prayer offered up to heaven, than that which I then preferred for my country. "Now then,” (said I to a gentleman who was standing near me), “we are out of our country.” “Not yet, not yet !" he replied, and pointed to the sea ; " This, too, is a Briton's country.” This bon mot gave a fillip to my spirits, I rose and looked round on my fellow-passengers, who were all on the deck. We were eighteen in number, videlicet, five Englishmen, an English lady, a French gentleman and his servant, an Hanoverian and his servant, a Prussian, a Swede, two Danes, and a Mulatto boy, a German tailor and his wife (the smallest couple I ever beheld), and a Jew. We were all on the deck ; but in a short time I observed marks of dismay. The lady retired to the cabin in some confusion, and many of the faces round me assumed a very doleful and frog-colored appearance; and within an hour the number of those on deck was lessened by one half. I was giddy, but not sick, and the giddiness soon went away, but left a feverishness and want of appetite, which I attributed, in great measure, to the sæva Mephitis of the bilge-water; and it was certainly not decreased by the exportations from the cabin. However, I was well enough to join the able-bodied passengers, one of whom observed not inaptly, the VOL. II.

Y

Momus might have discovered an easier way to see a man's inside, than by placing a window in his breast. He needed only have taken a salt-water trip in a packet-boat.

I am inclined to believe, that a packet is far superior to a stagecoach, as a means of making men open out to each other. In the latter the uniformity of posture disposes to dozing, and the definitiveness of the period, at which the company will separate, makes each individual think more of those to whom he is going, than of those with whom he is going. But at sea, more curiosity is excited, if only on this account, that the pleasant or unpleasant qualities of your companions are of greater importance to you, from the uncertainty how long you may be obliged to house with them. Besides, if you are countrymen, that now begins to form a distinction and a bond of brotherhood ; and if of different countries, there are new incitements of conversation, more to ask and more to communicate. I found that I had interested the Danes in no common degree. I had crept into the boat on the deck and fallen asleep; but was awakened by one of them, about three o'clock in the afternoon, who told me that they had been seeking me in every hole and corner, and insisted that I should join their party and drink with them. He talked English with such fluency, as left me wholly unable to account for the singular and even ludicrous incorrectness with which he spoke it. I went, and found some excellent wines and a dessert of grapes with a pine-apple. The Danes had christened me Doctor Teology, and dressed as I was all in black, with large shoes and black worsted stockings, I might certainly have passed very well for a Methodist missionary. However I disclaimed my title. What then may you be ? A man of fortune ? No!-A merchant ? No!-A merchant's traveller ? No!-A clerk ? No!-Un Philosophe, perhaps? It was at that time in my life, in which of all possible names and characters I had the greatest disgust to that of “un Philosophe." But I was weary of being questioned, and rather than be nothing, or at best only the abstract idea of a man, I submitted by a bow, even to the aspersion implied in the word “

un Philosophe.—The Dane then informed me, that all in the present party were Philosophers likewise. Certes we were not of the Stoic school. For we drank and talked and sung, till we talked and sung all together; and then we rose and danced on the deck a set of dances, which in one sense of the word at

least, were very intelligibly and appropriately entitled reels. The passengers, who lay in the cabin below in all the agonies of sea-sickness, must have found our bacchanalian merriment

a tune Harsh and of dissonant mood from their complaint.* I thought so at the time; and (by way, I suppose, of supporting my newly assumed philosophical character) I thought too, how closely the greater number of our virtues are connected with the fear of death, and how little sympathy we bestow on pain, where there is no danger.

The two Danes were brothers. The one was a man with a clear white complexion, white hair, and white eyebrows; looked silly, and nothing that he uttered gave the lie to his looks. The other, whom, by way of eminence, I have called the Dane, had likewise white hair, but was much shorter than his brother, with slender limbs, and a very thin face slightly pock-fretten. This man convinced me of the justice of an old remark, that many a faithful portrait in our novels and farces has been rashly censured for an outrageous caricature, or perhaps nonentity. I had retired to my station in the boat-he came and seated himself by my side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the conversation in the most magnific style, and, as a sort of pioneering to his own vanity, he flattered me with such grossness! The parasites of the old comedy were modest in the comparison. His language and accentuation were so exceedingly singular, that I determined for once in my life to take notes of a conversation. Here it follows somewhat abridged, indeed, but in all other respects as accurately as my memory permitted.

THE DANE. Vat imagination! vat language! vat vast science ! and vat eyes ! vat a milk-vite forehead! 0

my
heafen!

vy, you're a Got!

ANSWER. You do me too much honor, Sir.

THE DANE. O me! if you should dink I is flattering you ! No, no, no! I haf ten tousand a year-yes, ten tousand a yearyes, ten tousand pound a year! Vell—and vat is dhat ? a mere trife! I 'ouldn't gif my sincere heart for ten times dhe money. Yes, you're a Got! I a mere man! But, my dear friend ! dhink of me, as a man! Is, is-I mean to ask you now, my dear

* [Milton's Samson Agonistes, i. 661.-S. C.]

friend—is I not very eloquent? Is I not speak English very fine ?

Answ. Most admirably! Believe, me, Sir! I have seldom heard even a native talk so fluently.

THE DANE. (Squeezing my hand with great vehemence.) My dear friend! vat an affection and fidelity ve have for each odher! But tell me, do tell me,- Is I not, now and den, speak some fault? Is I not in some wrong?

Answ. Why, Sir! perhaps it might be observed by nice critics in the English language, that you occasionally use the word “is” instead of "am." In our best companies we generally say I am, and not I is or I'se. Excuse me, Sir! it is a mere trifle.

THE DANE. 0!_is, is, am, am, am. Yes, yes I know, I know.

Answ. I am, thou art, he is, we are, ye are, they are.

THE DANE. Yes, yes—I know, I know-Am, am, am, is dhe præsens, and is is dhe perfectum-yes, yes—and are is dhe plusquam perfectum.

ANSW. And art, Sir! is ?

THE DANE. My dear friend ! it is dhe plusquam perfectum, no, no-dhat is a great lie; are is dhe plusquam perfectumand art is dhe plusquam plue-perfectum(then, swinging my hand to and fro, and cocking his little bright hazel eyes at me, that danced with vanity and wine)-You see, my dear friend' that I too have some lehrning.

Answ. Learning, Sir? Who dares suspect it? Who can listen to you for a minute, who can even look at you, without perceiving the extent of it?

THE DANE. My dear friend -(then with a would-be humble look, and in a tone of voice as if he was reasoning) I could not talk so of præsens and imperfectum, and futurum and plusquamplue perfectum, and all dhat, my dear friend! without some lehrning?

Answ. Sir! a man like you can not talk on any subject without discovering the depth of his information.

THE DANE. Dhe grammatic Greek, my friend ; ha! ha! ha! (laughing, and swinging my hand to and fromthen with a sudden transition to great solemnity.) Now I will tell you, my dear friend ! Dhere did happen about me vat de whole historia of Denmark record no instance about nobody else. Dhe

« PreviousContinue »