Page images
PDF
EPUB

and true, shouldst thou hope to find me, in yonder image of the divine ?"

The poet spoke sadly, and his eyes were dim with tears. So, likewise, were those of Ernest. 5 At the hour of sunset, as had long been his frequent custom,

Ernest was to discourse to an assemblage of the neighboring inhabitants in the open air. He and the poet, arm in arm, still talking together as they went along, proceeded to the spot. It

was a small nook among the hills, with a gray precipice behind, 10 the stern front of which was relieved by the pleasant foliage of

many creeping plants that made a tapestry for the naked rock, by hanging their festoons from all its rugged angles. At a small elevation above the ground, set in a rich framework of

verdure, there appeared a niche, spacious enough to admit a 15 human figure, with freedom for such gestures as spontaneously

accompany earnest thought and genuine emotion. Into this natural pulpit Ernest ascended, and threw a look of familiar kindness around upon his audience. They stood, or sat, or

reclined upon the grass, as seemed good to each, with the depart20 ing sunshine falling obliquely over them, and mingling its sub

dued cheerfulness with the solemnity of a grove of ancient trees, beneath and amid the boughs of which the golden rays were constrained to pass. In another direction was seen the Great Stone

Face, with the same cheer, combined with the same solemnity, 25 in its benignant aspect.

Ernest began to speak, giving to the people of what was in his heart and mind. His words had power, because they accorded with his thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and

depth, because they harmonized with the life which he had always 30 lived. It was not mere breath that this preacher uttered; they

were the words of life, because a life of good deeds and holy love was melted into them. Pearls, pure and rich, had been dissolved into this precious draught. The poet, as he listened, felt

that the being and character of Ernest were a nobler strain of 35 poetry than he had ever written. His eyes glistening with tears,

he gazed reverentially at the venerable man, and said within himself that never was there an aspect so worthy of a prophet and a sage as that mild, sweet, thoughtful countenance, with the

glory of white hair diffused about it. At a distance, but dis5 tinctly to be seen, high up in the golden light of the setting sun,

appeared the Great Stone Face, with hoary mists around it, like the white hairs around the brow of Ernest. Its look of grand beneficence seemed to embrace the world.

At that moment, in sympathy with a thought which he was 10 about to utter, the face of Ernest assumed a grandeur of expres

sion, so imbued with benevolence, that the poet, by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms aloft, and shouted,

"Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face !"

Then all the people looked, and saw that what the deepsighted poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled. But Ernest, having finished what he had to say, took the poet's arm, and walked slowly homeward, still hoping that some wiser

and better man than himself would by and by appear, bearing a 20 resemblance to the GREAT STONE FACE.

15

HELPS TO STUDY

Notes and Questions

What part of the description of the Great Stone Face do you

like the best? What influence had this Face upon

the valley? Upon the clouds ?

Upon the sunshine ?
Show how each of the four char-

acters failed to realize the ideal. What purpose do you think Haw

thorne had in creating these characters?

Why did so many people think that

each of these men was the image

of the Great Stone Face? Why did not Ernest think so? What were the eharacteristics of

the ideal ? What words name

them? What does the Great Stone Face

symbolize?
What words tell you the source of

Ernest's power?
What lines tell you of his humility!

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Words and Phrases for Discussion “infusing its tenderness into the "the mountain visage had found sunshine"

its human counterpart” "transform himself into an angel "a kind of illuminated fogof beneficence"

"the prophecy was fulfilled”

MY VISIT TO NIAGARA

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

Never did a pilgrim approach Niagara with deeper enthusiasm than mine. I had lingered away from it, and wandered to other scenes, because my treasury of anticipated enjoyments, comprising

all the wonders of the world, had nothing else so magnificent, and I 5 was loath to exchange the pleasures of hope for those of memory so

soon. At length the day came. The stage-coach, with a Frenchman and myself on the back seat, had already left Lewiston, and in less than an hour would set us down in Manchester. I began to

listen for the roar of the cataract, and trembled with a sensation 10 like dread, as the moment drew nigh, when its voice of ages must

roll, for the first time, on my ear. The French gentleman stretched himself from the window, and expressed loud admiration, while, by a sudden impulse, I threw myself back and closed my eyes. When

the scene shut in, I was glad to think, that for me the whole burst 15 of Niagara was yet in futurity. We rolled on, and entered the village of Manchester, bordering on the falls.

I am quite ashamed of myself here. Not that I ran like a madman to the falls, and plunged into the thickest of the spray,never stopping to breathe, till breathing was impossible; not that

I committed this, or any other suitable extravagance. On the contrary, I alighted with perfect decency and composure, gave my cloak to the black waiter, pointed out my baggage, and inquired, not

the nearest way to the cataract, but about the dinner-hour. The 5 interval was spent in arranging my dress. Within the last fifteen

minutes, my mind had grown strangely benumbed, and my spirits apathetic, with a slight depression, not decided enough to be termed sadness. My enthusiasm was in a deathlike slumber. Without

aspiring to immortality, as he did, I could have imitated that Eng10 lish traveller, who turned back from the point where he first heard

the thunder of Niagara, after crossing the ocean to behold it. Many a Western trader, by the by, has performed a similar act of heroism with more heroic simplicity, deeming it no such wonderful feat

to dine at the hotel and resume his route to Buffalo or Lewiston, 15 while the cataract was roaring unseen.

Such has often been my apathy, when objects, long sought, and earnestly desired, were placed within my reach. After dinner-at which an unwonted and perverse epicurism detained me longer than

usual--I lighted a cigar and paced the piazza, minutely attentive 20 to the aspect and business of a very ordinary village. Finally, with

reluctant step, and the feeling of an intruder, I walked towards Goat Island. At the toll-house, there were farther excuses for delaying the inevitable moment. My signature was required in a

huge ledger, containing similar records innumerable, many of which 25 I read. The skin of a great sturgeon, and other fishes, beasts, and

reptiles; a collection of minerals, such as lie in heaps near the falls; some Indian moccasins, and other trifles, made of deer-skin and embroidered with beads; several newspapers, from Montreal,

New York, and Boston,-all attracted me in turn. Out of a num30 ber of twisted sticks, the manufacture of a Tuscarora Indian, I

selected one of curled maple, curiously convoluted, and adorned with the carved images of a snake and a fish. Using this as my pilgrim's staff, I crossed the bridge. Above and below me were the

rapids, a river of impetuous snow, with here and there a dark rock 35 amid its whiteness, resisting all the physical fury, as any cold spirit

did the moral influences of the scene. On reaching Goat Island, which separates the two great segments of the falls, I chose the right-hand path, and followed it to the edge of the American cas

cade. There, while the falling sheet was yet invisible, I saw the 5 vapor that never vanishes, and the Eternal Rainbow of Niagara.

It was an afternoon of glorious sunshine, without a cloud, save those of the cataracts. I gained an insulated rock, and beheld a broad sheet of brilliant and unbroken foam, not shooting in a

curved line from the top of the precipice, but falling headlong 10 down from height to depth. A narrow stream diverged from the

main branch, and hurried over the crag by a channel of its own, leaving a little pine-clad island and a streak of precipice between itself and the larger sheet. Below arose the mist, on which was

painted a dazzling sunbow with two concentric shadows,-one, 15 almost as perfect as the original brightness; and the other, drawn faintly round the broken edge of the cloud.

Still I had not half seen Niagara. Following the verge of the island, the path led me to the Horseshoe, where the real, broad St.

Lawrence, rushing along on a level with its banks, pours its whole 20 breadth over a concave line of precipice, and thence pursues its

course between lofty crags towards Ontario. A sort of bridge, two or three feet wide, stretches out along the edge of the descending sheet, and hangs upon the rising mist, as if that were the founda

tion of the frail structure. Here I stationed myself in the blast 25 of wind, which the rushing river bore along with it. The bridge

was tremulous beneath me, and marked the tremor of the solid earth. I looked along the whitening rapids, and endeavored to distinguish a mass of water far above the falls, to follow it to their

verge, and go down with it, in fancy, to the abyss of clouds and 30 storm. Casting my eyes across the river, and every side, I took in

the whole scene at a glance, and tried to comprehend it in one vast idea. After an hour thus spent, I left the bridge, and by a staircase, winding almost interminably round a post, descended to the

base of the precipice. From that point, my path lay over slippery 35 stones, and among great fragments of the cliff, to the edge of the

« PreviousContinue »