Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

staking his fictions against her realities, and when he has won by the counterfeit, triumphing in the cheat, and exulting over the loser ? ... The Lines commencing. There's Poetry in Erery Thing,' completely refute the truth of the writer's premises. There is no poetry in his communication, 'for one thing.' And we must say the same of the Stanzaa on a Recent Visit to Niagara Falls.' Indeed, we rather prefer, to the hard rhymes thus entitled, the eloqueat verdict of a recent English visiter : ' The Falls are clever, certainly 1- quite clever ; but they are unpleasant to examine closely. I got my coat thoroughly soaked, and lost my 'at. The guide led me under tbe Great Fall. The water made mu shut my eyes all the time. I got very wet and uncomfortable. He led me on some paces, and then be led me back; and when we were oul, he asked me for two dulars. Altogether, I prefer a picture of the Catract, that 'angs up on the wall, in the Ouse!'

... We find the subjoined comments upon Mr. Irving's sketch of 'Ralph Ringwood,' in a late number of the · Saint Joseph's (Florida) Times.' What do they mean?

"Man of our Florida friends have heard these details orally from Ralph himself. This spirited auto-biographist is now a candidate for the Senate from Middle Florida ; has drank ihe good old vernacular, talked politica, religions, love, and poetry, as the case might be, with almost every man, woman, and child in Middle Florida. The Inn, the frolic, and the indomitable enterprise of his youth, is as sparkling and fresh yet, as when he first set for the buttalo, or tracked the wild deer to his covert. Time, though it has occasionally blighted a hope, and crushed a flower by his side, yet in the main has dealt kindly with our friend Ralph, realizing that beautiful conception of Moore's about the sunshine of love illudining our youth, and the moonlight of friendship consolug its decline. Ralph, now in a matured age, exhibits in his person none of the angular lines of the cross-grained ascetic, but the plump development of a rotund and rubicund gentleman. all of the olden time. His love for the Olympics continues to the last and though in bis own peculiar language he cannot now run up a hill as fast as he could in his younger days, he can roll doen it with any man in the land.' And she, too, ibe. star. light of his boyhood;'' the pretty girl with thai white dress, and those auburn ringlets and tlue eyes, and delicate looks' sickness, and sorrow, and disappointment, have paled that cheek, and dimmed the lustre of those eyes, which madelened the young. Hunter of Kentucky. All who have visited Middle Florida, and partaken of the hospitality of its most open minsion, will recognize in the quiet, lady.like, and graceful partner of alph's, one who in her youth might well have pariomed a stolen kiss : for if the fault was a grievous one, the temptation was far greater. The blush, tbe bloom, has passed away ; that white dress is exchanged for a brown, dark brown; but nature as fresh now in her works as when time was young, has contrived to engrast on our Florida sol fair scions, as beautiful as was the parent stem in its own Kentucky. Tbe union of Ralph and his lady, and their life, is a happy realization of the poet's dreain, a first and last love.''

We should like an interview with L.P. T.,' whose communication reaches us through the Post-office. There is one correction to be made in his article, which will cause even him, we think, no little amusement. The faux pas is admirable; and with his permission, we will print hie favor as it is. Some loyal jenitentiars keeper once put. Welcome Here l'in evergreen, over the door of his prison, past which the King of Hanover was to ride. L.P. T.' will see, on a noment's reflection, that he has perpetrated a blunder precisely similar. We couhl not avoid thinking of Matthew's kind-hearted Frenchman, remonstrating from the window of a diligence with a peasant who was beating an ox over the head : 'It is beastly,' he exclaimed, with great energy, ' to beat an animal over the horns !' And appealing to his fellow passengers, who were less moved, although some of them were of the softer sex, ' Ladies and gentlemen, how would you like it your. selves!' Tootle-Toole' should apply to the daily journals for a redress of his alleged grivances. He is dread. fully annoyed, he says, by a distinguished flutist'who lodges in his vicinity, and whom he describes as sitting at the window day and night,' rolling down his nether lip, and spitting into the side-bole of a hollow cylinder, which continually distils water at ita nether end !'

Harpers' 'SCHOOL District LIBRARY.' – A mere reference to this invaluable series, is all that has yet appeared in the KNICKERBOCKER. We purpose now to make our readers aware of its distinguished merits, and the advantages which it presents for the easy acceptance of millions of young persons in our American schools. Three series have already appeared ; and so widely popular have they become, from their excellence and astonishing cheapness, that a fourth has been demanded, and is now in active preparation. In their subjects, thus far, they embrace history, voyages and travels, biography, natural history, the physical sciences, agriculture, manufactures, arts, commerce, belles-lettres, the history and philosophy of education, etc. The first series consists of fifty, the second of ninety-five, and the third of an hundred voluines, neatly printed and bound; and yet each series, in a handsome library-case, may be obtained for TWENTY DOLLARS ! — and single volumes for thirty-eight cents! The annals of book-making afford no instance of similar cheapness, when the execution and excellence of the works are considered. Hon. John C. Spencer, Secretary of State, and superintendent of Common Schools, has recommended them to every school-district in the state of New. York; and other states throughout the Union are following the example of our own. "The introduction of libraries,' says Mr. Spencer, in a letter to the publishers, “is a new and highly valuable feature in the system of popular education. The character of the books which you have published for this purpose, and their exceedingly low price, will facilitate the establishment of these libraries throughout our country. I can safely recommend your whole collection, as superior to any other for the same purpose within my knowledge. While you have consulted novelty in having some original works, you have not sacrificed utility, but have studied to promote it. The cheap price at which it is afforded, is I believe entirely unparalleled. No person who purchases it, either for a district circulating library or for his family use, will ever regret the bargain. There is not a book in the collection which would not adorn any private library.'

[blocks in formation]

The North American continent, in its impenetrable forests, its fertile prairies, its magnificent lakes, its variety of rivers with their falls, is the richest portion of our globe. Many of these wonderful exhibitions of nature are already shrines where pilgrims from every land assemble to admire and marvel at the surpassing wonders of a new world. So numerous indeed are the objects presented, so novel and striking is their character, that the judgment is confused in endeavoring to decide which single one is worthy of the greatest admiration, and the forests, the prairies, the lakes, the rivers, and falls, each in turn dispute the supremacy. But to us, the Mississippi ranks first in importance; and thus we think must it strike all, when they consider the luxurious fertility of the valley through which it flows, its vast extent, and the charm of mystery that rests upon its waters. The Niagara Falls, with its fearful depths, its rocky heights, its thunder, and · bows of promise,' addresses itself to the ear, and the eye, and through these alone impresses the beholder with the greatness of its character. The Mississippi, on the contrary, although it may have few or no tangible demonstrations of power, although it has no language with which it can startle the senses, yet in a 'still small voice’ it addresses the mind, with its terrible lessons of strength and sublimity, more forcibly than any other object in nature.

The name Mississippi was derived from the aborigines of the country, and has been poetically rendered the Father of Waters.' There is little truth in this translation, and it gives no idea, or scarcely none, of the river itself. The literal meaning of the Indian compound Mississippi, as is the case with all Indian names in this country, would have been much better, and every way more characteristic. From the most numerous Indian tribe in the South-west we derive the name; and it would seem that the same people who gave the name to the Mississippi, at different times possessed nearly half the continent; judging from the fact that the Ohio in the north, and many of the most southern points of the peninsula of Florida, are from the Choctaw language. With that tribe the two simple adjectives, Missah and Sippah, are used when describing the most familiar

61

VOL. XVI.

things; but these two words, though they are employed thus familiarly when separated, when compounded, form the most characteristic name we can get of this wonderful river. Missah, literally Old big, Sippah, strong, OLD-BIG-STRONG; and this name is eminently appropriate to the Mississippi.

The country through which this river flows is almost entirely alluvial. Not a stone is to be seen, save about its head waters; but a dark rich earth ‘looks eager for the hand of cultivation, and in its wildness sports with its own strength; for vegetation lies piled upon • its surface with a luxuriant wastefulness that beggars all description, and finds no comparison for its extent, except in the mighty river from which it receives its support. This alluvial soil forms frail banks to confine the swift current of the Mississippi; and as might be imagined, they are continually altering their shape and location. The channel is capricious and wayward in its course. The needle of the compass turns round and round upon its axis, as it marks the bearings of your craft, and in a few hours will frequently point due north, west, east, and south, delineating those tremendous bends in the stream which nature seems to have formed to check the headlong current, and keep it from rushing too madly to the ocean. But the stream does not always tamely circumscribe these bends : gathering strength from resistance, it will form new and more direct channels ; and thus it is that large tracts of country once on the river, become inland, or are entirely swept away by the current; and so frequently does this happen, that` cut-offs' are almost as familiar to the eye on the Mississippi as its muddy waters. When the Mississippi, in making its cut-offs,' is ploughing its way through the virgin soil, there float upon the top of this destroying tide thousands of trees, that covered the land, and lined its carving banks. These gigantic wrecks of the primitive forests are tossed about by the invisible power of the current, as if they were straws; and they find no rest, until with associated thousands they are thrown upon some projecting point of land, where they lie rotting for miles, their dark forms frequently shooting into the air like writhing serpents, presenting one of the most desolate pictures the mind can conceive.

These masses of timber are called “rafts.' Other trees become attached to the bottom of the river, and yet by some elasticity of the roots they are loose enough to be affected by the strange and powerful current, which will bear them down under the surface ; and the tree, by its own strength, will come gracefully up again, to be again engulphed ; and thus they wave upward and downward with a gracefulness of motion which would not disgrace a beau of the old school. Boats frequently pass over these 'sawyers,' as they go down stream, pressing them under by their weight; but let some unfortunate child of the genius of Robert Fulton, as it passes up stream, be saluted by the visage of one of these polite gentry, as it rises ten or more feet in the air, and nothing short of irreparable damage, or swift destruction ensues, while the cause of all this disaster, after the concussion, will rise above the ruin as if nothing had happened, shake the dripping water from its forked limbs, and sink again, as if rejoicing in its strength. Other trees will fasten themselves firmly in the bottom of the river; and their long trunks, shorn of their limbs,

present the most formidable objects to navigation. A rock itself, sharpened and set by art, could be no more dangerous than these dread snags. Let the bows of the strongest vessel come in contact with them, and the concussion will drive through its timbers as if they were paper; and the noble craft will sometimes tremble for a moment like a thing of life, when suddenly struck to its vitals, and then sink into its grave.

Such are the cut-offs,' 'rafts,' sawyers,' and 'snags' of the Mississippi ; terms significant to the minds of the western boatman and hunter, of qualities which they apply to themselves and their heroes, whenever they wish to express themselves strongly; and we presume the beau ideal of a political character with them, would be one who would come at the truth by a 'cut-off,' separate and pile up falsehood for decay, like the trees of a 'raft,' and do all this with the politeness of a sawyer,' and with principles unyielding as a 'snag.'

The vast extent of the Mississippi is almost beyond belief. The stream which

may

bear you gently along in mid-winter so far south that the sun is oppressive, finds its beginnings in a country of eternal snows. Follow it in your imagination thousands of miles, as you pass on from its head waters to its mouth, and you find it flowing through almost every climate under heaven : nay more, the comparatively small stream on which you look, receives within itself the waters of four rivers alone; Arkansas, Red, Ohio, and Missouri ; whose united lengths, without including their tributaries, is over eight thousand miles : yet this mighty flood is swallowed up by the Mississippi, as if it possessed within itself the very capacity of the ocean, and disdained in its narrow limits to acknowledge the accession of strength.

The color of this tremendous flood of water is always turbid. There seems no rest for it that will enable it to become quiet or clear. In all seasons, the same muddy water meets the eye; and this strange peculiarity, associated with the character and form of the banks, strikes the mind at once as the dark-sediment which has for centuries settled upon the river's edge, and thus formed the 'ridges' through which it runs; or in other words, it has confined itself: and in this we behold one of its most original features. On the Mississippi we have no land sloping down in gentle declivities to the water's edge; but a bank just high enough, where it is washed by the river, to protect the back country from inundation, in the ordinary rises of the stream ; for whenever, from an extensive flood, it rises above the top of this feeble barrier, the water runs down into the country. This singular fact shows how all the land on the Mississippi, south of the thirty-fourth degree of latitude, is liable to inundation, since nearly all the inhabitants on the shores of the river find its level, in ordinarily high water, running above the land on which they reside. To prevent this easy and apparently natural inundation, there seems to be a power constantly exerted to hold the flood in check, and bid it' go so far and no farther;' and but for this interposition of divine power, here so signally displayed, the fair fields of the south would become sand-bars upon the shores of the Atlantic, and the country which might now support the world, would only bear the angry ocean wave. Suppose, for an instant, that an universal spring should beam

upon our favored continent, and that the thousands of streams which are tributary to the Mississippi, were to become at once unloosed : the mighty flood in its rushing course would destroy the heart of the north-western continent. But mark the goodness and wisdom of Providence. Early in the spring, the waters of the Ohio rise with its tributaries, and the Mississippi bears them off, without injuriously overflowing its banks. When summer sets in, its own head waters about the lakes, and the swift Missouri, with its melting ice from the Rocky Mountains, come down, and thus each, in order, makes the Mississippi its outlet to the Gulf of Mexico. But were all these streams permitted to come together in their strength, what, again we ask, would save the Eden gardens of the south ?

In contemplations like these, carried out to their fullest extent, we may arrive at the character of this mighty river. It is in the thoughts it suggests, and not in the breadth or length, visible at any given point to the eye. Depending on the senses alone, we should never think of being astonished, or even feeling the least degree of admiration. You may float upon its bosom, and be lost amid its world of waters, and yet you will see nothing of its vastness ; for the river has no striking beauty : its waves run scarce as high as a child can reach: upon its banks we find no towering precipices, no cloud-capped mountains. All, all is dull — I might say tame. But let us float day after day upon its apparently sluggish surface, and by contemplation and comparison, once begin to comprehend its magnitude, and the mind is overwhelmed with fearful admiration. There seems to rise up from its muddy waters a spirit, robed in mystery, that points back for its beginning to the deluge, and whispers audibly: "I roll on, and on, altering, but not altered, while time exists !! Here, too, we behold a power terrible in its loneliness ; for on the Mississippi a sameness weets your eye every where, without a single change of scene. A river incomprehensible, illimitable, and mysterious, flows ever onward, tossing to and fro under its depths, in its own channel, as if fretting in its ordered limits; swallowing its banks here, and disgorging them elsewhere so suddenly, that the attentive pilot, as he repeats his frequent route, feels that he knows not where he is, and often hesitates fearfully along in the mighty flood by the certain lead; and again and again is he startled by the ominous cry, * Less fathom deep!' where but yesterday the lead would have gone down where never plumet sounded.' Such is the great Aörta of the continent of North America ; alone and unequalled in its majesty; proclaiming in its course the wisdom and power of God, who only can measure its depths, and turn them about as a very little thing.'

T. B. T.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »