Page images
PDF
EPUB

the distant sail flits into indistinctness, and the duck, poising its wing on the western gale, skims the blue ridges in the south-east like the messenger of a spirit, dropping ever and anon to float in its nest on the billow, and turn its quick iris to the smoky craft, gliding like a sea chimera' on the distant waste.

The approach to Baltimore was likest to magic. A long pile of rosy clouds — whether the incense of the city, or the offspring of the bay — clung to the base of the town, steeped in the gushes of the sunset, and extending for miles on either hand. Above these clouds rose the domes of cathedrals, churches, and minsters ; and over all, the slender but simple and majestic shaft, at which whosoever looketh, he shall be instantly reminded of the Father of his Country, the immortal WASHINGTON. It springs toward the heavens with a plain but a commanding austerity. There, around the crowning statue, breathes the air of freedom; there circulates the sunlight which gilds the pinion of the eagle, or lights the plumage of the dove, as she sails to her rest.

The City of Monuments is worth a week of observation. When thou touchest that spot, oh, Tourist ! rest thee there awhile. Go forth into the town. Remain not too long at morn over Barnum's rich coffee and cakes, nor at noon over his wines, those succulent, magical things, but get thee out into the thoroughfares. Convey yourself to the Holiday-street Temple : and if the gas be dubiously fragrant, thou wilt get respectable dramatics, and thine evening shall be well nigh spent ere it seem begun.

BALTIMORE, like Boston, is a city of ups and downs. It is memorable to me ; for it was in that city of monuments that I had well nigh lost my life. That spice of the adventurous which has accompanied me from my earliest days, led me to ascend the long ladder, said to have been some seventy feet high, placed on the outside of the great dome of the cathedral, then undergoing repairs. The upward distance lent an enchantment to my eye, which was irresistible. I fancied that the view from the topmost round' of those tapering ladders, tied together with ropes, would be magnificent. I was not disappointed. The bay melted afar into the iris-blue of air — that golden edging, which hangs over forest tops and waters in summer, whose tremulousness makes the eye ache with gazing, and fills the heart with happy and ethereal feelings. Lændward, the country spread brightly around, seamed with brown roads, and fading afar into apparent ridges, and swells of cedar-green. It was a calm and cheerful day, and every object in unison one with another. The air was rarified and sweet; the last odor of the latest flowers of summer seemed floating by in the sunshine ; and I fancied that the voices of summer-birds, taking their farewells for distant climes, were mingling with them. The shipping in the harbor sent every pennon to the gale; the flag-staffs waved their signals, and, what

with the fresh breeze, and the beauty of the morning, it really seemed a gala-day.

After having fed my eyes with the beauty of the scene, from the extreme height of the ladder the voices of the workmen in the cupola, or on the ballustrade above, making a pleasant hum in my ear - I prepared to descend. But the moment I looked toward the earth, a dizziness came upon me, which almost led me to instantaneous self-abandonment." My brain reeled, my eyes grew dim — a sleepy sensation crept over me - the whole cathedral seemed to recede from my gaze — and for a moment I seemed as if sailing in the air. I had not descended more than a dozen rounds, when my tottering steps and trembling hands really seemed to refuse their office. My sickness increased, and a languor crept over my perceptions, like the effect of an anodyne. I felt myself absolutely becoming indifferent to my peril, though I knew it well. I was in truth as if in a dream ; and I can safely aver, that I felt myself losing all consciousness, when I heard one of the laborers above — and the words came to my ear as if from the supernatural lips of a spirit — exclaim, My God! that young gentleman is going to fall !'

This sentence went like fire to my brain, and rolled like a flood of lava over every nerve. It restored me instantly to a full perception of my case, and my course. I grasped the rounds of the ladder with the firmness which a drowning man exhibits when clutching, in the bubbling groan of his last agony, at the slenderest spar. Every foot-fall shook the ladder from end to end; and when I touched the ground, I felt precisely as if rescued from the grave.

From Baltimore to Washington, the route is what one might call dull Such, at least, was the impression of the road upon our party of three and a servant, as we wheeled over the yellow line, y'clept a turnpike. The view therefrom is limited, being confined to a few brown landscapes, describing, as it were, a stone's-throw radius on either hand. One stirring scene, however, I must needs except. There is a point, as you go from Baltimore, Washington-ward, where the former city lifts itself in supreme beauty along the line of the horizon. Dome, tower, and temple, point their glowing indices toward that heaven to which their ministering spirits guide the way; a wide lapse of silver bounds the view ; and over all, like a pyramid above the plains of Memphis or of Thebes, or like to the Needles, named of her who wooed an ANTHONY to her bosom, and who fod from those fair orbs the scorpion which killed her - rose that thin shaft which commemorates the fame of WASHINGTON the Saviour of his Country. As I turned my head, (thrust forth in search of the picturesque, from the window of our extra,) to survey the parting glories of that tall white column, my heart swelled into my throat; for, my dear American reader, I am peculiarly susceptible of patriotic influences. A sign-post, with WASHINGTON at its top, calls forth my admiration. I have wept at the plaudits of an audience at the theatre, when the falling of a new drop-curtain has disclosed the form or features of the Pater Patriæ. Simple, republican, austere in honor, sublime in war, beloved in peace — when shall we look

upon his like again? I am not of those who fancy that any eulogy can be misused upon his memory; nor do I think that terms and tributes, though often repeated, can ever grow familiar or aged, when applied to his name. Therefore I offer, as the best synopsis of his merits, a stanza which may be familiar to many, and yet new to the majority of those who now follow my words:

His was Octavian's prosperous star -
The rush of Cæsar's conquering car,

At Battle's call;
His Scipio's virtue; his the skill
And the indomitable will

Of Hannibal :
His was Aurelius' soul divine,
The clemency of Antonine,

And generous will :
In tented field and bloody fray,
An Alexander's vigorous sway,

And stern command ;
The faith of Constantine - ay, more →
The fervent love Camillus bore

His native land.'

his The sun had gone to bed in a pile of fleecy and feathery clouds, flushed like the heart of a summer rose, long before we had reached the Great Capital. A storm came on; the rain pattered heavily against our carriage-window; and when we first caught the reflection of lights against them from the lamps in the vicinity of the capitol, it seemed as if we had embarked in a vehicle, chartered by Phảeton, to be conveyed whithersoever his eccentric whipship would.

[ocr errors]

A PRESENTATION at the American court, at a private audience, and with a foreign functionary, is not an ordinary matter of your working-day world. With anticipations of this sort, so it was that I was awakened by our attendant in a crowded sky-parlor at GADSBY'S, through whose uppermost casement I looked, and saw the splendors of an autumnal morning sun streaming over the capitol, at the distant end of Pennsylvania Avenue. But, what a strange mélange of town and country between! Fields near at hand; rural waters twinkling nigh; and at long intervals, the indications of a city. One finds no direct chance of deciding upon his whereabout. At first, he fancies it may be rus in urbe ; at the next moment, he concludes himself surrounded cum urbs in rure. Thenceforth, those abstruse mysteries, the points of a compass — properly belonging to the shipman's card, and not manipulated by lubbers o'the land — become to him inexplicable enigmas. He knows the contradistinction of head and heels, barely: all facts beyond outventure his philosophy.

There is a halo of glorification,' after all, about a functionary, high in office and place, which makes the heart of your humble denizen beat quicker, as he approaches the imperial den. Thus it was with me, as our coach wheeled up to the mansion where le Compte was to find himself accredited. The ceremonies on such occasions are

53

VOL. IX.

pleasant to the spectator, and though simple, are imposing. A group of gray-heads and time-worn forms; expressions of polite regards, in different accents and various language; bows and kind assurances, are the staple scenes and sounds on such occasions.

At the same time, it is right republican to see the President, with a free-and-easy air, ask his Secretary of State to light a paper that he may convey the blaze thereof to a pipe, the stem of which would not measure in length more than three inches, and the smoke from the bowl thereof would coil up within a hair's breadth of the presidential nose. It reminds one of those calm and luxurious times, signalized in the reign of WouteR VAN TWILLER, in the days when the KNICKERBOCKERS — pryamids of their day and generation towered aloft in Dutch and daring dignity.

[ocr errors]

**** L

Among the fair women of that day and hour, was the gifted and accomplished

- Song, it was said, had breathed around her footsteps from lyres of fame; and one devoted bard - (so Rumor breathes) — poured after her, when abroad, the song that ensueth. He had heard, erroneously, that she was dead :

[blocks in formation]

'I SAng to thee my matin hymn

In life's auspicious hour,
Ere the sunlight of joy grew dim,

O'er beauty's vernal bower:
For all the wealth of heaven above,

And all beneath the sea,
I would not then have sold the love
Thou freely gav'st to me.

II.
When youth's bright hopes began to fail,

I sung an altered strain
The farewell to the fading sai!

That bore thee o'er the main :
And as I pressed thy gentle form,

And heard thy parting vow,
Thy kisses on my lips were warm,

Thy tears were on my brow!

[ocr errors][merged small]

Nothing can well be prettier, or more pathetic, than this effusion : yet the catastrophe part, as my friend of the Albany Argus would say, was 'gratuitous. The parties afterward, mayhap, read it together, and pointed out the chronological inaccuracies : which reminds me, or might remind me, of a circumstance lately related in one of the western papers, where a gentleman who had been advertised as deceased, wrote a polite note to the editor of the journal,

1837.)

Premature Obituary -'Strict Construction.'

411

(who had thus among his personal ship-news recorded a false clearance for eternity,) somewhat as follows :

"My Dear Sir: Will you allow me to correct a slight statement in your last, with reference to my death? I am grateful for the compliments to my character in your obituary notice, and I believe them deserved. That I tried to do ihe handsome thing while I lived, is most true; true, 100, is it, that I never backed out of a fight, and never saw the man that could whip me, when alive ; and I say the same yet, being dead,' according to your story. But when you state, that I left my affairs unsettled, and my widow and those eleven children unprovided for, I have only to state, that you lie in your throat! I mean no offence in what I say; I speak in the aggregate sense of the term. Being a dead man, and printed down as such in your columns, I am incapable of mortal resentments ; but I leave as my avengers, Cain, Adel, and SIMPKINS, printers and publishers of the Occidental Trumpet und Mississippi Battle-A.re. To the editor of that paper, I submit my fame. To his indomitable coolness, never yet ruffled by repeated contumely, and invulnerable to contempi, I confide my reputation : feeling certain that one who has never found satisfaction for any insult, (nor sought it indeed, can fail to be a champion in my cause. That he may be in peril in my advocacy, is possible; but he knows how to shun it. He is independent, for he is unknown; he is fearless, for no man will touch a hair of his head. Tthat immortal Gulliver, in whatsoever cave or fastness he may dwell, I surrender my fame. Yours, 'ull death,

RosWELL ADAMS GREENE.'

But I wander - and I recall my rambling spirit back to the American capital.

ATTENDED church. 'T is a dull business in Washington. One's devotional feelings, that in ordinary cities kindle and rise heavenward, at the anthems of the choir, or the pealing of the organ, come down, in the metropolis of the republic, to the shallow and factitious distinctions of this common sphere of earth. The preachers at Washington have been variously described. Just before the session of the National Legislature, as at the period of which I speak, crowds of the reverend cloth convene, for the chaplaincy of Congress, and other purposes. Of course, as many of these as can, accomplish the entre to the metropolitan desk, to display their powers. The divine I had the happiness to hear, in some respects resembled the man whom my dear lamented Sands described in his · Scenes al Washington.' . Argument was his hobby; and he would curtail a sentence of its dimensions, and subvert all gleanings, scriptural, historical, or political, to fortify the same. He reminded me of that queer and rural divine, of whom I have heard in Massachusetts, who found his congregation indulging in all the extravagances of provincial fashion, and rebuked them en masse, (especially the fairer part, who indulged in flaunting top-knots, and dresses of the head,) by choosing for one of his sermons the following text : * Top-knot come down !' From this text he deduced a world of sacred ratiocination : He expatiated upon the uselessness of top-knots, and enlarged upon the scriptural injunction that they should come down. Toward the close of his sermon, he confessed that he had merely adopted a clause ; but he said that any detached sentence, even, from Holy Writ, was profitable for reproof and for instruction. •The context of the clause,' he added, “Ì will now join with the text. It is thus written : ‘Let him that is on the house-top not come down.'

Com. ment is unnecessary!'

« PreviousContinue »