« PreviousContinue »
Utica. Our ancient countryman, who committed suicide, without the benefit of a coroner's jury, near the olden place last mentioned, would scarcely credit the modern synonyme of that capital; expressing as it does so little in comparison with that of by-gone days.
But I digress. Fate has brought us both to America; you in a steam-boat, myself in a packet steerage. Exchanging my paoli for what are called ' levies' and 'fips' in some parts of this new world, I embarked, with a light heart, from Livorno for this distant region. It were useless to speak of my trials; suffice it to say, that the sickness of the sea, as I fondly hoped, resulted in no economy of
finances; the captain of the vessel not only refusing to throw off' the charge for breakfasts, which my eccentric epigastrium had yielded daily to the dependants of Neptune, and piscatory tide-waiters, but mingled contumely with misfortune, by observing, that I could n't come over him, any way I could fix it.' I give his remark as he spake it, referring you to the commentators for its precise meaning.
How I came to visit this capital, I cannot stop to declare. It is enough that, like one of our people, I can say, ' Veni, vidi.' All that I saw, would require a library larger than the Vatican ; I shall therefore touch lightly upon main particulars. Believe me, my Betsey, prolixity is not to my taste. To be verbose, is not only to be tedious, but to be guilty of amplification; and when we expand without substance, we collapse without sound; like the air, which refuses to antedate the roll of the neglected drum-head, or the clang of unsmitten cymbal; which echoes not the sackbut, when nobody touches it, and rejects the sound-board of the organ, when he who commands its ventiges is laid up with an injured hand, burnt by a hallelujah on the fore-finger, or blistered with a disorderly selah.*
To enumerate the curious wonders of this capital, would indeed surpass the blazon of human pen. You know how often we have admired the verdure which springs amid the ruins of the Colosseum ; the towering Basilica de Santa Pietro, and the fragments of timehonored fabrics, which decay has neglected to gnaw upon, and the mould refused to stain ; but you can have no conception of what I am about to relate to you. Imagine to yourself, my Betsey, a long, wide street, with houses on either side, and now and then a citizen wending along the thorougfare, intent as it were upon traffic, and forgetful of the gorgeous splendors by which he is surrounded. Fancy the expanse of that renowned work of art, the Erie canal ; the placid waters greeting the eye, now turbid with the passage of a * liner's keel, fragrant with the steams from an errant kitchen; now green with solemn stagnation, or its quietude broken by the plunge of some ancient bull-frog, bathing at the evening tide. Behold the flouring mills, where the spirit rises into sublime speculations upon the prices of meal per barrel, or sinks into melancholy reflections upon the mutability of wheat. These subjects, my Betsey, are those which come home to the business and bowels of men; and as I have mused upon them, ' taking umbrage of some shadowy elm, I have thought that our own Virgil was right, when he peopled its foliage with images, and endowed every branch with a shadowy vision.
* See a figure of speech, by the clever poet 'under a bridge.'
The fine arts those brilliant remnants spared by Time and Cambyses - here flourish in their native wildness and grandeur. Even the handicraftsmen of the hour bring in the art of painting to illustrate their calling. This morning, my attention was arrested by a mercer's sign, displaying the counterparts of the implements, a goose and shears. My thoughts irresistibly turned to the cackling of those webbed fowl, which are said, by our noble chroniclers, to have once saved the mistress of the world; while the uncertainty of life, and the inexorable nature of the fates, were symbolized by the united edges, which, safe themselves, impair the integrity of all that is called upon to pass between them. You will not wonder that I was overcome with the deep associations thus provoked in
soul. Various, indeed, are the modes in which pictorial divinity manifests itself to the world. There is a species of beverage common to this region, denominated beer; and its action is sometimes represented in appropriate still life, where it is seen describing an aërial semicircle, some two feet apart, leaping from bottle to tumbler, with the most effervescent impatience.
Among the themes upon which my admiration often exhausts itself, the topic of botany has considerable prominence. Of the vegetable tribe, I am a diligent spectator. In this respect, the fields in the suburbs of Palmyra have afforded me abundant consolation. The ambitious tendrils of a plant bearing a long verdant sheath, apparently pregnant with seeds, frequently attracted my attention; and upon asking one of the natives what manner of fruit they were, he replied to me, in the courteous brevity of the region, Stranger, them is beans.' Some fields are filled with regular rows of tiny mounds, partially cone-like in form, and from the apex of each of which there bursts forth a collection of herbs, called small potatoes' by the populace, and yielding a curious esculent, with eyes to it, and a thin skin; like a sensitive poet, all seeing, but shrinking from the rougher contacts of life. A train of severe reflection, accompanied and fed by much research, has convinced me that this fruit, existing under another name, is the identical minima 'tateria, mentioned by Plutarch, and confirmed by many contemporaries of that highly respectable citizen.
I had intended, my Betsey, to dilate more extensively upon the various topics which arrest my intellect on every side ; but the limits of this epistle forbid the high endeavor. I shall address you soon again. Meantime, salute for me Sally Johnson and Zenobia Tompkins. I send to the former, in the care of the latter, a specimen of the gummy wood, (hackmatak of Bartram,) so common to the western region. In the language of the people here, 'It's good to chaw.' I have sought eagerly to find the root of this word 'chaw,' but in vain. Sometimes it is used with reference to the discomfiture of individuals, as thus : ‘I will chaw you up;' a threat involving defeat. One person, lately speaking to this point with me, observed that the phrase is equivalent to licking.' He contends that it was the original meaning of that word in Scripture ; and that Lazarus, in the New Testament dispensation, probably received the severest licking,' from the dogs of Dives, ever bestowed upon an unfortunate person in his situation. VOL. XIII.
PostSCRIPTUM. I salute you again herein, remote yet ever present Betsey, to advise, that a new sect has elaborated or is elaborating itself into notice here, which I fear will make a dismal inroad into the belief which we so long have loved and reverenced. This sect denominates itself the Mormon tribe or party. Deeply anxious to know the principles of its founder, (whose name is that of the Smith family, with the antecedent prefix of Jo,) I asked a person, who was vending esculents at a grocery, concerning them. He said he did n't know for sartin, but he believed he went ag'in the United States' Bank, although he did not approve of General Jackson.? I saw nothing to excite the noisy levity in which this American citizen afterward indulged; but it left upon my mind, my Betsey, an evidence of the extreme ease which sometimes attends the spread of
I have since found, that the sect is likely to flourish in this union, since its foundation-precepts are written, not, as was the case with those hard old stone laws of Moses, upon a comparatively worthless medium, but are said to be engraved upon plates of gold — an article highly valued in this western world, and worshipped with a devotion which reminds me of the enthusiasm mentioned by our fathers, as prevalent among the devotees of Syria, when they worshipped a deity, a reverence of whom has been pronounced impossible with the true in heart. Once more, implicit Betsey, I confide to you my parting Farewell !
BY WILLIAM PITT PALMER.
How many moons, fair stream! have passed away,
Since, standing on this oft-remembered height,
The east all bathed in morning's rosy light,
My foolish heart from all it held most dear;
Home and the old familiar forms that ne'er
Bright with affection's chiding smiles, they shone
With fond regret and unavailing moan,
In crowds may sigh to feel himself alone!
So have I felt, dear stream! and here once more
Most gladly stand I in thy cheering sight,
With heart made wiser by the froward slight Of thy fond teachings for the world's stern lore, That all its blushing
honors to the core Are but poor painted vanities, and fame
The dying echo of an air-born name, A bubble bursting on oblivion's shore !
Enough of these sad nothings ! be it mine Henceforth to hoard the blest rememberings Of kindness shown to all of breathing things
In yon dear vale, and taste those joys divine Which Duty feels, when Conscience, smiling, sings
Her sweet 'well done,' at every day's decline!
'Unrivalled attraction! grand entrée ! feats of the ring! ground and lofty tumbling! still vaulting by the whole company!
I know of some villages, which are happy in an unusual seclusion, whose situation protects them from the intrusion of the world. So surrounded are they by hills, and so embosomed in forests, so "remote from cities, and from public highways, that the heart of Zimmerman might envy their solitude. The most violent tempests in the political world can hardly affect them. They are like mountains whose summits are basking in the sunbeams, while their base is uprooted by the storm. •The wind and the hurricane rage in the distance; the destruction is beyond their horizon of peace.'
Thither, by the eternal impediments of nature, no post-routes or rail-ways can ever come, to work out their magical changes; no manufactories stun with their clatter, or darken the atmosphere with smoke. The spirit of utility, which is abroad in the country, which levels to the earth so many monuments of affection, and forbids any thing to stand as it is, cannot come here. There are few changes except the ever-recurring ones of nature and mortality. The aspect of to-day remains the same to-morrow; and the solitary spire which pierces the blue skies now, will fifty years hence look down upon the peaceful abodes of men 'whose fathers worshipped in this mountain.'
The primeval silence of these places remains almost unbroken ; scarcely is echo awakened among the rocks. Their situation is not marked
the maps, and their existence is a secret to the world. Perhaps a few quiet gentlemen come there in the summer, to sail on the clear lakes, or drop their lines for the golden-speckled trout. But they are wily fishermen; and when
'The melancholy days return, the saddest of the year,' and they go back to the marts of commerce, careful are they not to reveal the pleasant spots where they laid in wait for the scaly people.'
One might suppose that the current of life ran along almost too sleepily, and that the inhabitants of such places would be ready to die with weariness and disgust. But let it be remembered, that they do not live in idleness, nor are their sickly natures fed with excitement, as a food. They have sports and pastimes in abundance, and incidents which the bustling world would deem unworthy of notice are continually occurring, to relieve them from monotony, and to create a spicy variety of life. Sometimes a pedlar comes along, and is a welcome visiter. He opens doors without knocking, and enters with the familiarity of a friend. His variegated wares are spread out; brass buttons, and tortoise-shell combs, and suspenders, and ear-rings, and jewelry of pure gold. The housewives find it to their advantage to purchase his salves and essences, and his o-pod-eldoc, as he terms it, which is a 'sartin cure for the rhumatiz,'
Ever and anon, there is a show of dancing puppets, and a barrelorgan turned by some worn-out soldier, whose simple airs a fat, rosyfaced woman acco
ccompanies, while in a very sweet voice, but a raw accent, she sings, rolling her dark, supplicating eyes to the windows:
'I'd be a butterfly, horn in a bow'r,
Where roses and lilies and violets meet,
Kissing all things that is pretty, a-n-d sweet.
I'd never sigh to see slaves at my feet.' And not in vain does she expend her melody. For soon her eyes are refreshed by a pattering shower of silver coin, which honest boys
а collect from the earth, and place in her hands, while some kind. hearted spirit crowns the whole with a goblet of sparkling water. She inhales the draught, more delicious than wine of the old vintage, and passes on to the next cottage, leaving a God's blessing, sweet to the rustic ear as the lately-expired music. A few moments elapse, and her distant voice is again heard; for having detected in a window a golden-haired, beautiful girl, peeping from behind the jalousies of the honeysuckle, she sings of the 'minstrel's return,' or of a youth now far, far away, but whom at midsummer the propitious fates will restore to the embrace of his mistress. And again, in a song not excelled for a simplicity which touches the heart, she declares the enduring attachments of home :
Midst pleasures and palaces though I may roam,
Be it ever so bumble, ihere's no place like home. I charge all persons, and especially husbandmen, that they reward most generously these only relics of the troubadours. Many a weary mile do they walk, the messengers of music. Small is the boon which they ask or desire, and entirely unequal to their deserts. Treat them kindly, treat them tenderly, and they will repay you ten-fold; neglect them, and the doric muse has perished.
There are few wandering fortune-tellers in the country, nor are our villages rendered animate by the scene of a gipsey encampment. Let those arrant poachers remain in England; their absence is certainly to be regretted, on the score of the picturesque. Yet we cannot accord with the solemn exclamation of the nursery song :
'Lo! mother Shipton and her cal
Quite full of conjuration;
'T were better for the nation.'
A travelling caravan is an integral portion of the great institute in the metropolis. When the summer comes, it is broken up into parts, which are dispersed in every section of the country, that the imprisoned beasts may have the benefit of pure air. These consist, for the most part, of a lion, a tiger, a black bear, a camel, a wild cat, a hyena, some torpid snakes, coiled up in a box, and in a separate apartment a panorama, and a man who sings Jim Crow.' This latter is the most noxious beast of the whole clan. Beside these, a great number of monkeys, apes, and ring-tailed babboons, are shut up in a commu.