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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No. 87, January, 1865

92 pages
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No. 87, January, 1865, by Various
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Title: The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 15, No. 87, January, 1865
Author: Various
Release Date: July 13, 2008 [EBook #26047]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Josephine Paolucci and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by Cornell University Digital Collections.)
ATLANTIC MONTHLY, A MAGAZINE OF Literature, Art, and Politics.
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
American Metropolis, The Andersonville, At Anno Domini Authors, Memories of Battle-Laureate, Our Birds, With the
Chimney-Corner, The
Cobden, Richard Cruikshank, George, in Mexico Dely's Cow Doctor Johns Dolliver Romance, Another Scene from the England, A Letter about Europe and Asia, Between Everett, Edward Fair Play the Best Policy Five Sisters Court at Christmas-Tide Foreign Enmity to the United States, Causes of Great Lakes, The
Grit Hofwyl, My Student-Life at Ice and Esquimaux "If Massa put Guns into our Han's" John Brown's Raid Lecture, The Popular Lincoln, Abraham, The Place of, in History Lone Woman, Adventures of a Mining, Ancient, on the Shores of Lake Superior Modern Improvements and our National Debt Needle and Garden Officer's Journal, Leaves from
Out of the Sea
Painter, Our First Great, and his Works Pettibone Lineage, The Pianist, Notes of a
Pleiades of Connecticut, The Prose Henriade, A
Page Fitz-Hugh Ludlow
Gail Hamilton Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall Oliver Wendell Holmes John Burroughs
Mrs. H. B. Stowe
M. C. Conway
Rose Terry Donald G. Mitchell Nathaniel Hawthorne John Weiss Bayard Taylor E. E. Hale T. W. Higginson
E. P. Whipple
Samuel C. Clarke E. P. Whipple Robert Dale Owen D. A. Wasson Fitz-Hugh Ludlow John G. Rosengarten J. G. Holland George Bancroft Jane G. Austin Albert D. Hagar
E. B. Bigelow
T. W. Higginson Author of "Life in the Iron-Mills" Sarah Clarke
Louis M. Gottschalk F. Sheldon
Gail Hamilton
73 285 116 97, 223, 330, 477 589 513 109, 221, 353, 490, 602, 732 724
54 665 141, 296, 449, 591, 681
1 641
8 342 623 22
693 407 550 39, 201, 437, 564
504 711 362 757 385
729 88, 165, 316, 464, 613, 673 65
129 419 177, 350, 573 187 653
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Regnard Revolution, Diplomacy of the Richmond, Late Scenes in
St. Mary's, Up the Sanitary, A Fortnight with the Schumann's Quintette in E Flat Major Taney, Roger Brooke Year, The Story of a
F. Sheldon Prof. George W. Greene C. C. Coffin T. W. Higginson G. Reynolds Anne M. Brewster Charles M. Ellis Henry James, Jr.
W. C. Bryant
Autumn Walt, My Carolina Coronado, To Castles Down! First Citizen, Our Frozen Harbor, The Garnaut Hall God Save the Flag Going to Sleep Gold Egg.—A Dream Fantasy Grave by the lake, The Harpocrates Hour of Victory, The Jaguar Hunt, The Kallundborg Church Mantle of St. John de Matha, The Mr. Hosea Biglow to the Editor of the Atlantic Monthly Oldest Friend, Our Old House, The Poet, To a, on his Birthday, Pro Patria
Rubin Badfellow Seventy-Six, On Board the Spaniards' Graves at the Isles of Shoals, The Wind over the Chimney, The
20 698 T. B. Aldrich622 Henry H. Brownell756 Oliver Wendell Holmes462 J. T. Trowbridge281 T. B. Aldrich182 O. W. Holmes115 Elizabeth A. C. Akers680 James Russell Lowell528 John G. Whittier561 Bayard Taylor662 371 J. T. Trowbridge742 John G. Whittier51 John G. Whittier162 James Russell Lowell501 O. W. Holmes340 Alice Cary213 315 Epes Sargent232 T. B. Aldrich437 James Russell Lowell107 406 Henry W. Longfellow7
Harriet Hosmer's ZenobiaFitz-Hugh Ludlow248
Beecher's Autobiography Bushnell's Christ and His Salvation Chamberlain's Autobiography of a New England Farm-House Child's Looking toward Sunset Cobbe's Broken Lights De Vries, Collection. German Series
Dewey's Lowell Lectures
Frothingham's Philosophy
631 377 255 255 124 379 286 251
700 576 744 422 233 718 151 257
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Hodde's Cradle of Rebellions Hosmer's Morrisons
Hunt's Seer Ingelow's Studies for Stories Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's Letters Murdoch's Patriotism in Poetry and Prose Reynard the Fox
Russell's Review of Todleben's History Sabine's Loyalists of the American Revolution Seaside and Fireside Fairies Thackeray's Vanity Fair Thoreau's Cape Cod Tuckerman's America and her Commentators Recent American Publications
380 378 376 378 126 250 380 638 123 640 639 381 122 128, 382, 640, 764
A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDSin the Clerk's Office of the, District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
We may now suppose Grandsir Dolliver to have finished his breakfast, with a better appetite and sharper perception of the qualities of his food than he has generally felt of late years, whether it were due to old Martha's cookery or to the cordial of the night before. Little Pansie had also made an end of her bread and milk with entire satisfaction, and afterwards nibbled a crust, greatly enjoying its resistance to her little white teeth. How this child came by the odd name of Pansie, and whether it was really her baptismal name, I have not ascertained. More probably it was one of those pet appellations that grow out of a child's character, or out of some keen thrill of affection in the parents, an unsought-for and unconscious felicity, a kind of revelation, teaching them the true name by which the child's guardian angel would know it,—a name with playfulness and love in it, that we often observe to supersede, in the practice of those who love the child best, the name that they carefully selected, and caused the clergyman to plaster indelibly on the poor little forehead at the font, —the love-name, whereby, if the child lives, the parents know it in their hearts, or by which, if it dies, God seems to have called it away, leaving the sound lingering faintly and sweetly through the house. In Pansie's case, it may have been a certain pensiveness which was sometimes seen under her childish frolic, and so translated itself into French, (penséemother having been of Acadian kin; or, quite as probably, it alluded,) her merely to the color of her eyes, which, in some lights, were very like the dark petals of a tuft of pansies in the Doctor's garden. It might well be, indeed, on account of the suggested pensiveness; for the child's gayety had example to sustain it, no sympathy of other children or grown people,—and her melancholy, had it been so dark a feeling, was but the shadow of the house and of the old man. If brighter sunshine came, she would brighten with it. This morning, surely, as the three companions, Pansie, puss, and Grandsir Dolliver, emerged from the shadow of the house into the small adjoining enclosure, they seemed all frolicsome alike. The Doctor, however, was intent over something that had reference to his life-long business of drugs. This little spot was the place where he was wont to cultivate a variety of herbs supposed to be endowed with medicinal virtue. Some of them had been long known in the pharmacopœia of the Old World; and others, in the early days of the country, had been adopted by the first settlers from the Indian medicine-men, though with fear and even contrition, because these wild doctors were supposed to draw their pharmaceutic knowledge from no gracious source, the Black Man himself being the principal professor in their medical school. From his own experience, however, Dr. Dolliver had long since doubted, though he was not bold enough quite to come to the conclusion, that Indian shrubs, and the remedies re ared from them, were much less erilous
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than those so freely used in European practice, and singularly apt to be followed by results quite as propitious. Into such heterodoxy our friend was the more liable to fall because it had been taught him early in life by his old master, Dr. Swinnerton, who, at those not infrequent times when he indulged a certain unhappy predilection for strong waters, had been accustomed to inveigh in terms of the most cynical contempt and coarsest ridicule against the practice by which he lived, and, as he affirmed, inflicted death on his fellow-men. Our old apothecary, though too loyal to the learned profession with which he was connected fully to believe this bitter judgment, even when pronounced by his revered master, was still so far influenced that his conscience was possibly a little easier when making a preparation from forest herbs and roots than in the concoction of half a score of nauseous poisons into a single elaborate drug, as the fashion of that day was. But there were shrubs in the garden of which he had never ventured to make a medical use, nor, indeed, did he know their virtue, although from year to year he had tended and fertilized, weeded and pruned them, with something like religious care. They were of the rarest character, and had been planted by the learned and famous Dr. Swinnerton, who on his death-bed, when he left his dwelling and all his abstruse manuscripts to his favorite pupil, had particularly directed his attention to this row of shrubs. They had been collected by himself from remote countries, and had the poignancy of torrid climes in them; and he told him, that, properly used, they would be worth all the rest of the legacy a hundred-fold. As the apothecary, however, found the manuscripts, in which he conjectured there was a treatise on the subject of these shrubs, mostly illegible, and quite beyond his comprehension in such passages as he succeeded in puzzling out, (partly, perhaps, owing to his very imperfect knowledge of Latin, in which language they were written,) he had never derived from them any of the promised benefit. And to say the truth, remembering that Dr. Swinnerton himself never appeared to triturate or decoct or do anything else with the mysterious herbs, our old friend was inclined to imagine the weighty commendation of their virtues to have been the idly solemn utterance of mental aberration at the hour of death. So, with the integrity that belonged to his character, he had nurtured them as tenderly as was possible in the ungenial climate and soil of New England, putting some of them into pots for the winter; but they had rather dwindled than flourished, and he had reaped no harvests from them, nor observed them with any degree of scientific interest. His grandson, however, while yet a school-boy, had listened to the old man's legend of the miraculous virtues of these plants; and it took so firm a hold of his mind, that the row of outlandish vegetables seemed rooted in it, and certainly flourished there with richer luxuriance than in the soil where they actually grew. The story, acting thus early upon his imagination, may be said to have influenced his brief career in life, and, perchance, brought about its early close. The young man, in the opinion of competent judges, was endowed with remarkable abilities, and according to the rumor of the people had wonderful gifts, which were proved by the cures he had wrought with remedies of his own invention. His talents lay in the direction of scientific analysis and inventive combination of chemical powers. While under the pupilage of his grandfather, his progress had rapidly gone quite beyond his instructor's hope,—leaving him even to tremble at the audacity with which he overturned and invented theories, and to wonder at the depth at which he wrought beneath the superficialness and mock-mystery of the medical science of those days, like a miner sinking his shaft and running a hideous peril of the earth caving in above him. Especially did he devote himself to these plants; and under his care they had thriven beyond all former precedent, bursting into luxuriance of bloom, and most of them bearing beautiful flowers, which, however, in two or three instances, had the sort of natural repulsiveness that the serpent has in its beauty, compelled against its will, as it were, to warn the beholder of an unrevealed danger. The young man had long ago, it must be added, demanded of his grandfather the documents included in the legacy of Professor Swinnerton, and had spent days and nights upon them, growing pale over their mystic lore, which seemed the fruit not merely of the Professor's own labors, but of those of more ancient sages than he; and often a whole volume seemed to be compressed within the limits of a few lines of crabbed manuscript, judging from the time which it cost even the quick-minded student to decipher them. Meantime these abstruse investigations had not wrought such disastrous effects as might have been feared, in causing Edward Dolliver to neglect the humble trade, the conduct of which his grandfather had now relinquished almost entirely into his hands. On the contrary, with the mere side results of his study, or what may be called the chips and shavings of his real work, he created a prosperity quite beyond anything that his simple-minded predecessor had ever hoped for, even at the most sanguine epoch of his life. The young man's adventurous endowments were miraculously alive, and connecting themselves with his remarkable ability for solid research, and perhaps his conscience being as yet imperfectly developed, (as it sometimes lies dormant in the young,) he spared not to produce compounds which, if the names were anywise to be trusted, would supersede all other remedies, and speedily render any medicine a needless thing, making the trade of apothecary an untenable one, and the title of Doctor obsolete. Whether there was real efficacy in these nostrums, and whether their author himself had faith in them, is more than can safely be said; but at all events, the public believed in them, and thronged to the old and dim sign of the Brazen Serpent, which, though hitherto familiar to them and their forefathers, now seemed to shine with auspicious lustre, as if its old Scriptural virtues were renewed. If any faith was to be put in human testimony, many marvellous cures were really performed, the fame of which spread far and wide, and caused demands for these medicines to come in from places far beyond the precincts of the little town. Our old apothecary, now degraded by the overshadowing influence of his grandson's character to a position not much above that of a shop-boy, stood behind the counter with a face sad and distrustful, and yet with an odd kind of fitful excitement in it, as if he would have liked to enjoy this new prosperity, had he dared. Then his venerable figure was to be seen dispensing these questionable compounds by the single bottle and by the dozen, wronging his simple conscience as he dealt out what he feared was trash or worse, shrinking from the reproachful eyes of every ancient physician who might chance to be passing by, but withal examining closely the silver or the New En land coarsel rinted bills which he took in a ment, as if a rehensive that the delusive character of the
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commodity which he sold might be balanced by equal counterfeiting in the money received, or as if his faith in all things were shaken. Is it not possible that this gifted young man had indeed found out those remedies which Nature has provided and laid away for the cure of every ill? The disastrous termination of the most brilliant epoch that ever came to the Brazen Serpent must be told in a few words. One night, Edward Dolliver's young wife awoke, and, seeing the gray dawn creeping into the chamber, while her husband, it should seem, was still engaged in his laboratory, arose in her night-dress, and went to the door of the room to put in her gentle remonstrance against such labor. There she found him dead, —sunk down out of his chair upon the hearth, where were some ashes, apparently of burnt manuscripts, which appeared to comprise most of those included in Doctor Swinnerton's legacy, though one or two had fallen near the heap, and lay merely scorched beside it. It seemed as if he had thrown them into the fire, under a sudden impulse, in a great hurry and passion. It may be that he had come to the perception of something fatally false and deceptive in the successes which he had appeared to win, and was too proud and too conscientious to survive it. Doctors were called in, but had no power to revive him. An inquest was held, at which the jury, under the instruction, perhaps, of those same revengeful doctors, expressed the opinion that the poor young man, being given to strange contrivances with poisonous drugs, had died by incautiously tasting them himself. This verdict, and the terrible event itself, at once deprived the medicines of all their popularity; and the poor old apothecary was no longer under any necessity of disturbing his conscience by selling them. They at once lost their repute, and ceased to be in any demand. In the few instances in which they were tried the experiment was followed by no good results; and even those individuals who had fancied themselves cured, and had been loudest in spreading the praises of these beneficent compounds, now, as if for the utter demolition of the poor youth's credit, suffered under a recurrence of the worst symptoms, and, in more than one case, perished miserably: insomuch (for the days of witchcraft were still within the memory of living men and women) it was the general opinion that Satan had been personally concerned in this affliction, and that the Brazen Serpent, so long honored among them, was really the type of his subtle malevolence and perfect iniquity. It was rumored even that all preparations that came from the shop were harmful,—that teeth decayed that had been made pearly white by the use of the young chemist's dentifrice,—that cheeks were freckled that had been changed to damask roses by his cosmetics,—that hair turned gray or fell off that had become black, glossy, and luxuriant from the application of his mixtures,—that breath which his drugs had sweetened had now a sulphurous smell. Moreover, all the money heretofore amassed by the sale of them had been exhausted by Edward Dolliver in his lavish expenditure for the processes of his study; and nothing was left for Pansie, except a few valueless and unsalable bottles of medicine, and one or two others, perhaps more recondite than their inventor had seen fit to offer to the public. Little Pansie's mother lived but a short time after the shock of the terrible catastrophe; and, as we began our story with saying, she was left with no better guardianship or support than might be found in the efforts of a long superannuated man. Nothing short of the simplicity, integrity, and piety of Grandsir Dolliver's character, known and acknowledged as far back as the oldest inhabitants remembered anything, and inevitably discoverable by the dullest and most prejudiced observers, in all its natural manifestations, could have protected him in still creeping about the streets. So far as he was personally concerned, however, all bitterness and suspicion had speedily passed away; and there remained still the careless and neglectful good-will, and the prescriptive reverence, not altogether reverential, which the world heedlessly awards to the unfortunate individual who outlives his generation. And now that we have shown the reader sufficiently, or at least to the best of our knowledge, and perhaps at tedious length, what was the present position of Grandsir Dolliver, we may let our story pass onward, though at such a pace as suits the feeble gait of an old man. The peculiarly brisk sensation of this morning, to which we have more than once alluded, enabled the Doctor to toil pretty vigorously at his medicinal herbs,—his catnip, his vervain, and the like; but he did not turn his attention to the row of mystic plants, with which so much of trouble and sorrow either was, or appeared to be, connected. In truth, his old soul was sick of them, and their very fragrance, which the warm sunshine made strongly perceptible, was odious to his nostrils. But the spicy, homelike scent of his other herbs, the English simples, was grateful to him, and so was the earth-smell, as he turned up the soil about their roots, and eagerly snuffed it in. Little Pansie, on the other hand, perhaps scandalized at great-grandpapa's neglect of the prettiest plants in his garden, resolved to do her small utmost towards balancing his injustice; so, with an old shingle, fallen from the roof, which she had appropriated as her agricultural tool, she began to dig about them, pulling up the weeds, as she saw grandpapa doing. The kitten, too, with a look of elfish sagacity, lent her assistance, plying her paws with vast haste and efficiency at the roots of one of the shrubs. This particular one was much smaller than the rest, perhaps because it was a native of the torrid zone, and required greater care than the others to make it nourish; so that, shrivelled, cankered, and scarcely showing a green leaf, both Pansie and the kitten probably mistook it for a weed. After their joint efforts had made a pretty big trench about it, the little girl seized the shrub with both hands, bestriding it with her plump little legs, and giving so vigorous a pull, that, long accustomed to be transplanted annually, it came up by the roots, and little Pansie came down in a sitting posture, making a broad impress on the soft earth. "See, see, Doctor!" cries Pansie, comically enough giving him his title of courtesy,—"look, grandpapa, the big, naughty weed!" Now the Doctor had at once a peculiar dread and a peculiar value for this identical shrub, both because his grandson's investigations had been applied more ardently to it than to all the rest, and because it was associated in his mind with an ancient and sad recollection. For he had never forgotten that his wife, the early lost, had once taken a fancy to wear its flowers, day after day, through the whole season of their bloom, in her bosom where the lowed like a em and dee ened her somewhat allid beaut with a richness never
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before seen in it. At least such was the effect which this tropical flower imparted to the beloved form in his memory, and thus it somehow both brightened and wronged her. This had happened not long before her death; and whenever, in the subsequent years, this plant had brought its annual flower, it had proved a kind of talisman to bring up the image of Bessie, radiant with this glow that did not really belong to her naturally passive beauty, quickly interchanging with another image of her form, with the snow of death on cheek and forehead. This reminiscence had remained among the things of which the Doctor was always conscious, but had never breathed a word, through the whole of his long life,—a sprig of sensibility that perhaps helped to keep him tenderer and purer than other men, who entertain no such follies. And the sight of the shrub often brought back the faint, golden gleam of her hair, as if her spirit were in the sun-lights of the garden, quivering into view and out of it. And therefore, when he saw what Pansie had done, he sent forth a strange, inarticulate, hoarse, tremulous exclamation, a sort of aged and decrepit cry of mingled emotion. "Naughty Pansie, to pull up grandpapa's flower!" said he, as soon as he could speak. "Poison, Pansie, poison! Fling it away, child!" And dropping his spade, the old gentleman scrambled towards the little girl as quickly as his rusty joints would let him,—while Pansie, as apprehensive and quick of motion as a fawn, started up with a shriek of mirth and fear to escape him. It so happened that the garden-gate was ajar; and a puff of wind blowing it wide open, she escaped through this fortuitous avenue, followed by great-grandpapa and the kitten. "Stop, naughty Pansie, stop!" shouted our old friend. "You will tumble into the grave!" The kitten, with the singular sensitiveness that seems to affect it at every kind of excitement, was now on her back. And, indeed, this portentous warning was better grounded and had a more literal meaning than might be supposed; for the swinging gate communicated with the burial-ground, and almost directly in little Pansie's track there was a newly dug grave, ready to receive its tenant that afternoon. Pansie, however, fled onward with outstretched arms, half in fear, half in fun, plying her round little legs with wonderful promptitude, as if to escape Time or Death, in the person of Grandsir Dolliver, and happily avoiding the ominous pitfall that lies in every person's path, till, hearing a groan from her pursuer, she looked over her shoulder, and saw that poor grandpapa had stumbled over one of the many hillocks. She then suddenly wrinkled up her little visage, and sent forth a full-breathed roar of sympathy and alarm. "Grandpapa has broken his neck now!" cried little Pansie, amid her sobs. "Kiss grandpapa, and make it well, then," said the old gentleman, recollecting her remedy, and scrambling up more readily than could be expected. "Well," he murmured to himself, "a hair's-breadth more, and I should have been tumbled into yonder grave. Poor little Pansie! what wouldst thou have done then?" "Make the grass grow over grandpapa," answered Pansie, laughing up in his face. "Poh, poh, child, that is not a pretty thing to say," said grandpapa, pettishly and disappointed, as people are apt to be when they try to calculate on the fitful sympathies of childhood. "Come, you must go in to old Martha now." The poor old gentleman was in the more haste to leave the spot because he found himself standing right in front of his own peculiar row of gravestones, consisting of eight or nine slabs of slate, adorned with carved borders rather rudely cut, and the earliest one, that of his Bessie, bending aslant, because the frost of so many winters had slowly undermined it. Over one grave of the row, that of his gifted grandson, there was no memorial. He felt a strange repugnance, stronger than he had ever felt before, to linger by these graves, and had none of the tender sorrow mingled with high and tender hopes that had sometimes made it seem good to him to be there. Such moods, perhaps, often come to the aged, when the hardened earth-crust over their souls shuts them out from spiritual influences. Taking the child by the hand,—her little effervescence of infantile fun having passed into a downcast humor, though not well knowing as yet what a dusky cloud of disheartening fancies arose from these green hillocks, —he went heavily toward the garden-gate. Close to its threshold, so that one who was issuing forth or entering must needs step upon it or over it, lay a small flat stone, deeply imbedded in the ground, and partly covered with grass, inscribed with the name of "Dr. John Swinnerton, Physician " . "Ay," said the old man, as the well-remembered figure of his ancient instructor seemed to rise before him in his grave-apparel, with beard and gold-headed cane, black velvet doublet and cloak, "here lies a man who, as people have thought, had it in his power to avoid the grave! He had no little grandchild to tease him. He had the choice to die, and chose it." So the old gentleman led Pansie over the stone, and carefully closed the gate; and, as it happened, he forgot the uprooted shrub, which Pansie, as she ran, had flung away, and which had fallen into the open grave; and when the funeral came that afternoon, the coffin was let down upon it, so that its bright, inauspicious flower never bloomed again.
See July number, 1864, of this Magazine, for the first chapter of the story. The portion now published was not revised by the author, but is printed from his first draught.
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See, the fire is sinking low, Dusky red the embers glow, While above them still I cower,— While a moment more I linger, Though the clock, with lifted finger, Points beyond the midnight hour.
Sings the blackened log a tune Learned in some forgotten June From a school-boy at his play, When they both were young together, Heart of youth and summer weather Making all their holiday.
And the night-wind rising, hark! How above there in the dark, In the midnight and the snow, Ever wilder, fiercer, grander, Like the trumpets of Iskander, All the noisy chimneys blow!
Every quivering tongue of flame Seems to murmur some great name, Seems to say to me, "Aspire!" But the night-wind answers,—"Hollow Are the visions that you follow, Into darkness sinks your fire!"
Then the flicker of the blaze Gleams on volumes of old days, Written by masters of the art, Loud through whose majestic pages Rolls the melody of ages, Throb the harp-strings of the heart.
And again the tongues of flame Start exulting and exclaim,— "These are prophets, bards, and seers; In the horoscope of nations, Like ascendant constellations, They control the coming years."
But the night-wind cries,—"Despair! Those who walk with feet of air Leave no long-enduring marks; At God's forges incandescent Mighty hammers beat incessant, These are but the flying sparks.
"Dust are all the hands that wrought; Books are sepulchres of thought; The dead laurels of the dead Rustle for a moment only, Like the withered leaves in lonely Church-yards at some passing tread."
Suddenly the flame sinks down; Sink the rumors of renown; And alone the night-wind drear Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,— "'T is the brand of Meleager Dying on the hearth-stone here!"
And I answer,—"Though it be, Why should that discomfort me? No endeavor is in vain; Its reward is in the doing, And the rapture of pursuing Is the prize the vanquished gain?"
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"Pushed off from one shore, and not yet landed on the other." Russian Proverb.
The railroad from Moscow to Nijni-Novgorod had been opened but a fortnight before. It was scarcely finished, indeed; for, in order to facilitate travel during the continuance of the Great Fair at the latter place, the gaps in the line, left by unbuilt bridges, were filled up with temporary trestle-work. The one daily express-train was so thronged that it required much exertion, and the freest use of the envoy's prestige, to secure a private carriage for our party. The sun was sinking over the low, hazy ridge of the Sparrow Hills as we left Moscow; and we enjoyed one more glimpse of the inexhaustible splendor of the city's thousand golden domes and pinnacles, softened by luminous smoke and transfigured dust, before the dark woods of fir intervened, and the twilight sank down on cold and lonely landscapes. Thence, until darkness, there was nothing more to claim attention. Whoever has seen one landscape of Central Russia is familiar with three fourths of the whole region. Nowhere else—not even on the levels of Illinois—are the same features so constantly reproduced. One long, low swell of earth succeeds to another; it is rare that any other woods than birch and fir are seen; the cleared land presents a continuous succession of pasture, rye, wheat, potatoes, and cabbages; and the villages are as like as peas, in their huts of unpainted logs, clustering around a white church with five green domes. It is a monotony which nothing but the richest culture can prevent from becoming tiresome. Culture is to Nature what good manners are to man, rendering poverty of character endurable. Stationing a servant at the door to prevent intrusion at the way-stations, we let down the curtains before our windows, and secured a comfortable privacy for the night, whence we issued only once, during a halt for supper. I entered the refreshment-room with very slender expectations, but was immediately served with plump partridges, tender cutlets, and green peas. The Russians made a rush for the greatsamovar(tea-urn) of brass, which shone from one end of the long table; and presently each had his tumbler of scalding tea, with a slice of lemon floating on the top. These people drink beverages of a temperature which would take the skin off Anglo-Saxon mouths. My tongue was more than once blistered, on beginning to drink after they had emptied their glasses. There is no station without its steaming samovar; and some persons, I verily believe, take their thirty-three hot teas between Moscow and St. Petersburg. There is not much choice of dishes in the interior of Russia; but what one does get is sure to be tolerably good. Even on the Beresina and the Dnieper I have always fared better than at most of the places in our country where "Ten minutes for refreshments!" is announced day by day and year by year. Better a single beef-steak, where tenderness is, than a stalled ox, all gristle and grease. But then our cooking (for the public at least) is notoriously the worst in the civilized world; and I can safely pronounce the Russian better, without commending it very highly. Some time in the night we passed the large town of Vladimir, and with the rising sun were well on our way to the Volga. I pushed aside the curtains, and looked out, to see what changes a night's travel had wrought in the scenery. It was a pleasant surprise. On the right stood a large, stately residence, embowered in gardens and orchards; while beyond it, stretching away to the south-east, opened a broad, shallow valley. The sweeping hills on either side were dotted with shocks of rye; and their thousands of acres of stubble shone like gold in the level rays. Herds of cattle were pasturing in the meadows, and the peasants (serfs no longer) were straggling out of the villages to their labor in the fields. The crosses and polished domes of churches sparkled on the horizon. Here the patches of primitive forest were of larger growth, the trunks cleaner and straighter, than we had yet seen. Nature was half conquered, in spite of the climate, and, the first time since leaving St. Petersburg, wore a habitable aspect. I recognized some of the features of Russian country-life, which Puschkin describes so charmingly in his poem of "Eugene Onägin." The agricultural development of Russia has been greatly retarded by the indifference of the nobility, whose vast estates comprise the best land of the empire, in those provinces where improvements might be most easily introduced. Although a large portion of the noble families pass their summers in the country, they use the season as a period of physical and pecuniary recuperation from the dissipations of the past, and preparation for those of the coming winter. Their possessions are so large (those of Count Scheremetieff, for instance, contain one hundred and thirty thousand inhabitants) that they push each other too far apart for social intercourse; and they consequently liveen déshabillé, careless of the great national interests in their hands. There is a class of our Southern planters which seems to have adopted a very similar mode of life, —families which shabbily starve for ten months, in order to make a lordly show at "the Springs" for the other two. A most accomplished Russian lady, the Princess D——, said to me,—"The want of an active, intelligent country society is our greatest misfortune. Our estates thus become a sort of exile. The few, here and there, who try to improve the condition of the people, through the improvement of the soil, are not supported by their neighbors, and lose heart. The more we gain in the life of the capital, the more we are oppressed by the solitude and stagnation of the life of the country." This open, cheerful region continued through the morning. The railroad was still a novelty; and the peasants everywhere dropped their scythes and shovels to see the train pass. Some bowed with the profoundest gravity. They were a fine, healthy, strapping race of men, only of medium height, but admirably developed in chest and limbs, and with shrewd, intelli ent faces. Content, not stu idit , is the cause of their stationar
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condition. They are not yet a people, but the germ of one, and, as such, present a grand field for anthropological studies. Towards noon the road began to descend, by easy grades, from the fair, rolling uplands into a lower and wilder region. When the train stopped, women and children whose swarthy skin and black eyes betrayed a mixture of Tartar blood made their appearance, with wooden bowls of cherries and huckleberries for sale. These bowls were neatly carved and painted. They were evidently held in high value; for I had great difficulty in purchasing one. We moved slowly, on account of the many skeleton bridges; but presently a long blue ridge, which for an hour past had followed us in the south-east, began to curve around to our front. I now knew that it must mark the course of the Oka River, and that we were approaching Nijni-Novgorod. We soon saw the river itself; then houses and gardens scattered along the slope of the hill; then clusters of sparkling domes on the summit; then a stately, white-walled citadel; and the end of the ridge was levelled down in an even line to the Volga. We were three hundred miles from Moscow, on the direct road to Siberia. The city being on the farther side of the Oka, the railroad terminates at the Fair, which is a separate city, occupying the triangular level between the two rivers. Our approach to it was first announced by heaps of cotton-bales, bound in striped camel's-hair cloth, which had found their way hither from the distant valleys of Turkestan and the warm plains of Bukharia. Nearly fifty thousand camels are employed in the transportation of this staple across the deserts of the Aral to Orenburg,—a distance of a thousand miles. The increase of price had doubled the production since the previous year, and the amount which now reaches the factories of Russia through this channel cannot be less than seventy-five thousand bales. The advance of modern civilization has so intertwined the interests of all zones and races, that a civil war in the United States affects the industry of Central Asia! Next to these cotton-bales, which, to us, silently proclaimed the downfall of that arrogant monopoly which has caused all our present woe, came the representatives of those who produced them. Groups of picturesque Asians—Bashkirs, Persians, Bukharians, and Uzbeks—appeared on either side, staring impassively at the wonderful apparition. Though there was sand under their feet, they seemed out of place in the sharp north-wind and among the hills of fir and pine. The train stopped: we had reached the station. As I stepped upon the platform, I saw, over the level lines of copper roofs, the dragon-like pinnacles of Chinese buildings, and the white minaret of a mosque. Here was the certainty of a picturesque interest to balance the uncertainty of our situation. We had been unable to engage quarters in advance: there were two hundred thousand strangers before us, in a city the normal population of which is barely forty thousand; and four of our party were ladies. The envoy, indeed, might claim the Governor's hospitality; but our visit was to be so brief that we had no time to expend on ceremonies, and preferred rambling at will through the teeming bazaars to being led about under the charge of an official escort. A friend at Moscow, however, had considerately telegraphed in our behalf to a French resident of Nijni, and the latter gentleman met us at the station. He could give but slight hope of quarters for the night, but generously offered his services. Droshkies were engaged to convey us to the old city, on the hill beyond the Oka; and, crowded two by two into the shabby little vehicles, we set forth. The sand was knee-deep, and the first thing that happened was the stoppage of our procession by the tumbling down of the several horses. They were righted with the help of some obliging spectators; and with infinite labor we worked through this strip of desert into a region of mud, with a hard, stony bottom somewhere between us and the earth's centre. The street we entered, though on the outskirts of the Fair, resembled Broadway on a sensation-day. It was choked with a crowd, composed of the sweepings of Europe and Asia. Our horses thrust their heads between the shoulders of Christians, Jews, Moslem, and Pagans, slowly shoving their way towards the floating bridge, which was a jam of vehicles from end to end. At the corners of the streets, the wiry Don Cossacks, in their dashing blue uniforms and caps of black lamb's-wool, regulated, as best they could, the movements of the multitude. It was curious to notice how they, and their small, well-knit horses,—the equine counterparts of themselves,—controlled the fierce, fiery life which flashed from every limb and feature, and did their duty with wonderful patience and gentleness. They seemed so many spirits of Disorder tamed to the service of Order. It was nearly half an hour before we reached the other end of the bridge, and struck the superb inclined highway which leads to the top of the hill. We were unwashed and hungry; and neither the tumult of the lower town, nor the view of the Volga, crowded with vessels of all descriptions, had power to detain us. Our brave little horses bent themselves to the task; for task it really was,—the road rising between three and four hundred feet in less than half a mile. Advantage has been taken of a slight natural ravine, formed by a short, curving spur of the hill, which encloses apocketof the greenest and richest foliage,—a bit of unsuspected beauty, quite invisible from the other side of the river. Then, in order to reach the level of the Kremlin, the road is led through an artificial gap, a hundred feet in depth, to the open square in the centre of the city. Here, all was silent and deserted. There were broad, well-paved streets, substantial houses, the square towers and crenellated walls of the old Kremlin, and the glittering cupolas of twenty-six churches before us, and a lack of population which contrasted amazingly with the whirlpool of life below. Monsieur D., our new, but most faithful friend, took us to the hotel, every corner and cranny of which was occupied. There was a possibility of breakfast only, and water was obtained with great exertion. While we were lazily enjoying a tolerable meal, Monsieur D. was bestirring himself in all quarters, and came back to us radiant with luck. He had found four rooms in a neighboring street; and truly, if one were to believe De Custine or Dumas, such rooms are impossible in Russia. Charmingly clean, elegantly furnished, with sofas of green leather and beds
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of purest linen, they would hive satisfied the severe eye of an English housekeeper. We thanked both our good friend and St. Macarius (who presides over the Fair) for this fortune, took possession, and then hired fresh droshkies to descend the hill. On emerging from the ravine, we obtained a bird's-eye view of the whole scene. The waters of both rivers, near at hand, were scarcely visible through the shipping which covered them. Vessels from the Neva, the Caspian, and the rivers of the Ural, were here congregated; and they alone represented a floating population of between thirty and forty thousand souls. The Fair, from this point, resembled an immense flat city,—the streets of booths being of a uniform height,—out of which rose the great Greek church, the Tartar mosque, and the curious Chinese roofs. It was a vast, dark, humming plain, vanishing towards the west and north-west in clouds of sand. By this time there was a lull in the business, and we made our way to the central bazaar with less trouble than we had anticipated. It is useless to attempt an enumeration of the wares exposed for sale: they embraced everything grown, trapped, or manufactured, between Ireland and Japan. We sought, of course, the Asiatic elements, which first met us in the shape of melons from Astrachan, and grapes from the southern slopes of the Caucasus. Then came wondrous stuffs from the looms of Turkestan and Cashmere, turquoises from the Upper Oxus, and glittering strings of Siberian topaz and amethyst, side by side with Nuremberg toys, Lyons silks, and Sheffield cutlery. About one third of the population of the Fair was of Asiatic blood, embracing representatives from almost every tribe north and west of the Himalayas. This temporary city, which exists during only two months of the year, contained two hundred thousand inhabitants at the time of our visit. During the remaining ten months it is utterly depopulated, the bazaars are closed, and chains are drawn across the streets to prevent the passage of vehicles. A single statement will give an idea of its extent: the combined length of the streets is twenty-five miles. The Great Bazaar is substantially built of stone, after the manner of those in Constantinople, except that it encloses an open court, where a Government band performs every afternoon. Here the finer wares are displayed, and the shadowed air under the vaulted roofs is a very kaleidoscope for shifting color and sparkle. Tea, cotton, leather, wool, and the other heavier and coarser commodities, have their separate streets and quarters. The several nationalities are similarly divided, to some extent; but the stranger, of course, prefers to see them jostling together in the streets,—a Babel, not only of tongues, but of feature, character, and costume. Our ladies were eager to inspect the stock of jewelry, especially those heaps of exquisite color with which the Mohammedans very logically load the trees of Paradise; for they resemble fruit in a glorified state of existence. One can imagine virtuous grapes promoted to amethysts, blueberries to turquoises, cherries to rubies, and green-gages to aqua-marine. These, the secondary jewels, (with the exception of the ruby,) are brought in great quantities from Siberia, but most of them are marred by slight flaws or other imperfections, so that their cheapness is more apparent than real. An amethyst an inch long, throwing the most delicious purple light from its hundreds of facets, quite takes you captive, and you put your hand in your pocket for the fifteen dollars which shall make you its possessor; but a closer inspection is sure to show you either a broad transverse flaw, or a spot where the color fades into transparency. The white topaz, known as the "Siberian diamond," is generally flawless, and the purest specimens are scarcely to be distinguished from the genuine brilliant. A necklace of these, varying from a half to a quarter of an inch in diameter, may be had for about twenty-five dollars. There were also golden and smoky topaz and beryl, in great profusion. A princely Bashkir drew us to his booth, first by his beauty and then by his noble manners. He was the very incarnation of Boker's "Prince Adeb."
The girls of Damar paused to see me pass, I walking in my rags, yet beautiful. One maiden said, 'He has a prince's air!' I am a prince; the air was all my own.
This Bashkir, however, was not in rags; he was elegantly attired. His silken vest was bound with a girdle of gold-thread studded with jewels; and over it he wore a caftan, with wide sleeves, of the finest dark-blue cloth. The round cap of black lamb's-wool became his handsome head. His complexion was pale olive, through which the red of his cheeks shone, in the words of some Oriental poem, "like a rose-leaf through oil"; and his eyes, in their dark fire, were more lustrous than smoky topaz. His voice was mellow and musical, and his every movement and gesture a new revelation of human grace. Among thousands, yea, tens of thousands, of handsome men, he stood preëminent. As our acquaintance ripened, he drew a pocket-book from his bosom, and showed us his choicest treasures: turquoises, bits of wonderful blue heavenly forget-me-nots; a jacinth, burning like a live coal, in scarlet light; and lastly, a perfect ruby, which no sum less than twenty-five hundred dollars could purchase. From him we learned the curious fluctuations of fashion in regard to jewels. Turquoises were just then in the ascendant; and one of the proper tint, the size of a parsnip-seed, could not be had for a hundred dollars, the full value of a diamond of equal size. Amethysts of a deep plum-color, though less beautiful than the next paler shade, command very high prices; while jacinth, beryl, and aqua-marine—stones of exquisite hue and lustre—are cheap. But then, in this department, as in all others, Fashion and Beauty are not convertible terms. In the next booth there were two Persians, who unfolded before our eyes some of those marvellous shawls, where you forget the barbaric pattern in the exquisite fineness of the material and the triumphant harmony of the colors. Scarlet with palm-leaf border,—blue clasped by golden bronze, picked out with red,—browns, greens, and crimsons struggling for the mastery in a war of tints,—how should we choose between them? Alas! we were not able to choose: they were a thousand dollars apiece! But the Persians still went on unfolding, taking our admiration in pay for their trouble, and seeming even, by their pleasant smiles, to
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