Images de page
PDF
ePub

and I have heard of a disappointed lover, who chose such a scene to drown himself in, as the most agreeable mode of committing suicide. The hills, the vallies, the trees, the earth, and the sky, seem to float in fairy vision before the inspection of the delighted spectator; and yet like all other earthly objects, eminently fair, its beauty is founded partly on delusion. This pictured world is always tranquil, because a storm can never disturb without completely destroying it.

Although this beautiful image has long been hackneyed by poets and other pilfering writers, yet there is one use I do not remember to have seen made of it. We shall find, if we examine, that a smooth expanse of waters always represents the scenery actually around it, so that it is a lively instance of reflection, borrowing her beauties from local nature. A loch in Scotland can never represent the banks of a pond in America, any more than it can roll the waves of our Lake Superior. The waters of all countries are at least original; whether they return from their bosoms the peaks of some barren mount, the arid wastes of Palestine, the steppes of central Asia, or, frozen by a northern winter, the stars of a polar night. Such are the Lakes; and such should be the poets and moral writers of every tongue and people. Such must be the character of all those pages, which are destined to last, because they are felt to profit and to please. It is the writer, who

takes his scenes and characters, his incidents and images, fresh from life; and life as modified in his own land, that will attract readers by mixing the useful with the sweet. O, I should have no doubt that my book would float to a literary immortality, if I could only make it as original as the waters of our Lakes!

When an author invites the attention of the reader, his first duty seems to be, to afford some proof that he is competent to the subject. I have styled myself a Puritan; and my readers may fairly ask me what title I have to that venerable name. Had I called myself a Greek, it had been sufficient, perhaps, to bring some document that I was born in sight of Hymettus, and had tinctured my lips with the honey of its classical bees; but to be born in New England, will hardly be allowed sufficient, to entitle one to the appellation of a full-blooded Puritan. Such is the influx of foreigners on our native soil; such the innovations of time, that our primitive manners are fast fading away. I will give some account of my descent, by which it will appear that my name is not an usurpation. I am a Puritan of the straightest

sect.

I was born of a line of ancestors, who came over from England in 1640, and were immediately made freemen of the country. Whether my grandfather, or great grandfather, prefixed to his name a good man or a Mr., I am not able to say; but I have often

heard my father boast that none of our race ever got into the general court or the workhouse, which he considers as the Scylla and Charybdis of modern society. If they escaped the laurels of political life, they sunk to no inexpiable disgrace. We all trod the middle path; that very condition which all wise men, since the days of Horace, have considered as the golden mean. Two of my progenitors, I believe, were selectmen; one was a deacon, and one a ruling elder in the church. I do not mention this to boast of my high family, for I abhor vanity; but it seems necessary to give weight to my speculations. They all devoutly believed the Assembly's Catechism; and were acquainted with painting and the fine arts, enough to have contemplated with devout admiration, the burning of Mr. John Rogers in the New England Primer; and they abhorred the tyranny that brought that good man to the stake. They were perfectly initiated into the mysteries of Hoder's arithmetic; and had passed regularly through the then prevalent grades of learning; that is, they had gone from the Primer to the Psalter, and from the Psalter to the Testament, and from the Testament to the book where all this elementary wisdom was combined-the Bible. My great grandfather had an income of about four hundred pounds a year, old tenor. My ancestors were chiefly ploughmen, cultivating their own free-hold; and in certain legal instruments which I have seen, some were called cordwainers, some yeo

men, and one of them bore the title of gentleman. I remember in looking over some old leases between my grandfather and his elder brother, my boyish indignation was greatly moved, on finding my grandfather called a yeoman, and my great uncle a gentleman. I set myself to inquire what made this distinction in the family. I found that the elder brother had received a commission from Governor Hutchinson to command a militia company; had actually spoken to that great man, as he passed by his house, in his gubernatorial chariot, most respectfully taking off his hat and bowing to the ground; and was consequently entitled to be considered as a born gentleman ever after. But I must confess the captain was not my grandfather; he was only my great uncle; and, as the Scripture says, I would not exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

I was educated in the house of my grandfather. -Dear, dear spot, how art thou imprinted on my memory! how closely is every weed around that old cellar, entwined around my heart! I see the place, the dear, sacred abode; it rises in vision; it rolls. back the flood of years; it rebuilds the dilapidated edifice, and recalls to life the departed dead; it places before me, in the eye of imagination, the scenes in which I sported so freely, and which I loved so well. There is the old mansion, with every story jutting out, contrary to all the rules of modern

architecture, wider at the top than at the foundation; there is the tall well-pole, rising towards the sky, with a good quantity of old iron on the farther end, to balance the bucket when full of water; there is the pear-tree, with the huge grindstone under it; there is the meadow, with its maple grove, from whose recesses on some summer evening, I used to hear the Whippowil; the sun-dial, the pasture, the great rock, the barberry bushes, the lilacs, the sprigs of mullen and elecampane, all, all are present to the mental eye, and are seen through the mist of years with a deeper interest than ever. If the reader will step in with me into the house, I will show him the best room, with its homemade carpet, carefully woven with strips of cloth, in which the red, blue, and yellow, are nicely adjusted to produce the best effect. I will show him the kitchen, with its vast fireplace, an apartment in itself, collected in which the family was wont to huddle in a cold winter evening, to hear stories of olden time. I can show him the red dresser, with its well-scoured platters, made of pewter, but bright as silver, lessening in rows one above the other. I can present him with a family Bible, bound in buff leather, and printed at Oxford by his Majesty's special command. I can show him the old worn hourglass, standing in two leather loops on a shelf above the fireplace, which my grandfather used to turn exactly at eight o'clock in the evening, that we might be sure to go to bed duly at nine. I can show

« PrécédentContinuer »