Page images

Now we turned to look from our elevated position of ten thousand feet, and behold! one vast expanse, like a field of purest new-fallen snow, which the wind has rolled in drifts and ridges, covering all the mountain, plain, and sea, and reflecting the sunbeams with a dazzling splendor.

"Now and then a place would be rent or excavated in the showy masses, or the curtain of cloud would be lifted, and the form of the Island of Lanai would be visible away over the mountains of Lahaina, six thousand feet high, and sometimes a portion of the bay and shore of Wailuku, whitened by the noiseless surf.

Then trending off to the horizon, a hundred miles, was the blue Pacific, lifted up ten thousand feet by a familiar optical illusion, to a plane of vision as high as the very summit of Ilale-a-ka-la; and rising out of it was the glorious dome of Mauna Loa, on the great Island of Hawaii, its snow-capped summit flashing in the sun like a bank of alabaster. The clouds, and their shadows upon other clouds far beneath, could be seen 'hovering over the blue abyss, and sometimes they seemed to float in it in separate masses like great icebergs.

The longer one looked, the greater grew the wonder and glory. What with the vast height, the pure, rarified air, the solemn stillness like as in creation's prime, the absence of every thing human and artificial, the smooth envelope of vapor in which every thing below was hid, it was as if we were looking down from some place in the heavens upon the bare convex of the REACH AND GRANDEUR OF THE PROSPECT. 113

earth; • and one of our party remarked, that there was constantly in his mind the description of Milton's angel

Alighting on the firm, opacous globe

Of this round world, whose first convex divides

The luminous inferior orbs, inclosed

From chaos and the inroad of darkness old.

I fairly wanted to leap down into the soft lap of the clouds, clear as chalcedony, and smooth and white as the breast of an eider-duck; and we thought the sight might tempt the flight of angels from the battlements of heaven, to sport on the bosom of that beautiful sea.

The extent of vision on each of three sides was at least two hundred miles. To the west, the base of the mountain, the bay and plains of Wailuku, the mountains of West Maui, and over them the islands of Lanai and Molokai, as if suspended in the sky, and the great Pacific. To the north, the vast ocean of clouds in midair, and of sea below. To the south, looking across the crater, and forty miles over the channel between Maui and Hawaii, could be seen, within an opening of the clouds, the surf-whitened shore of the latter island; and seventy or eighty miles further, towering up in majestic grandeur fourteen thousand feet above ^he ocean of clouds, were the blue summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the former revealing a snow-bank on its top, shining like the battlements of heaven, as seen in the Apocalypse.

The view this side had a reach and immensity of distance that was indescribably grand. It forms au impression, and lixes an image in the mind, that recurs and visits one again and again, with all the vividness of a dream.*

While we were gazing with delight, now on one side, now on the other, vast masses of vapor began to roll into the crater through the sluice-way on the north, but still so low, that we were between two and three thousand feet above it In descending, we were more than an hour before arriving at the cloudy belt, or having the sun at all obscured.

* We find it said very justly, and from a real experience and a true poetic insight, by a writer in the New York "Independent," as follows :—One who stands upon the summit of Mount Washington, there takes in an idea of vastness, sublimity, and power, which thenceforth is incorporated with his spiritual being, and which will ofttimes dilate his soul when he has returned to the common level of earth. One who stands at the base of Niagara, or peers into its abyss from the overhanging cliff, receives an impression of the grand, the beautiful, the terrible, which thenceforth lives within him, and reproduces itself with its first ecstasy amid all the changes of place and time. One who gazes enraptured upon a beautiful picture, transfers it to the texture of his mind, and, whoever may possess it, he carries it ever with him as his own treasure. One who listens to an enchanting strain of music, thenceforth feels it in every pulse of his soul. One who hears an eloquent oration, is raised by it to a height of intellectual enjoyment to which he oft returns in aftermeditation. And though these impressions cannot be conveyed to others in words, their influence is shared through the higher tone of power, of beauty, of love in him who has experienced them. There is,' moreover, a peculiar sympathy between those who have received like impressions, which attracts them to each other, and enables them to commune together in that mysterious soul-language which has no outward exponent.



The feelings of a man the first time he gets so far above, the limits of human habitation are peculiar and new. One wants to be some time alone, and to give himself silently up to the sight, in order to multiply and deepen by meditation the impressions which it is fitted to produce.

The unfortunate Scotch naturalist, Douglass, who was found dead in a bullock-trap on Hawaii, describing in one of his letters a place on Hawaii somewhat similar to Hale-a-ka-la, very justly remarks, that "were the traveller permitted to express the emotions he feels while placed on such an astonishing part of the earth's surface, cold indeed must his heart be to the great operations of nature, and still colder towards nature's God, by whose wisdom and power such wonderful scenes were created, if he could behold them without deep humility, mingled with reverential awe. Man feels himself as nothing—as if standing on the verge of another world. A death-like stillness of the place, not an animal nor an insect to be seen, far removed from the din and bustle of the world, impresses on his mind with double force the extreme helplessness of his condition—an object of pity and compassion, utterly unworthy to stand in the presence of a great and good Saviour and holy God, and to contemplate the'diversified works of his hands."

On the authority of this traveller, there was an active crater on the summit of Mauna Loa, on Hawaii, when he visited it, like this extinct one of Hale-a-ka-la, twenty-four miles in circumference, "five miles square of which is a lake of liquid fire, in a state of ebullition, sometimes tranquil, at other times rolling its blazing waves with furious agitation, and casting them up in columns from thirty to one hundred and seventy feet high. In places the hardened lava assumes the form of Gothic arches in a colossal building, piled one above another in terrific magnificence, through and among which the fiery fluid forces its way in a current that proceeds three and a quarter miles per hour, or loses itself in fathomless chasms at the bottom of the caldron. This volcano is twelve hundred and seventy-two feet deep down to the fire. Its chasms and caverns can never be measured."*

It is a fit employment, when standing on the brink of the giant crater of Hale-a-ka-la, to give one's imagination scope, and attempt to conceive the vast force and intensity of those mineral fires that, ages back, had this for their play-ground and place of disemboguement. With all the helps afforded in the rugged features of the scene, and the visual evidence you have of the terrible volcanic agency that here had sweep, imagination falls far short of the reality. But it gives to the conceptive faculty vividness and amplitude to visit such spots, and to venture out on such imaginary excursions. And a man finds the material he gets there an element of power, sustaining the imagination in a longer flight, and giving its pinions strength and endurance.

* Hawaiian Spectator, voL II. p. 405.

« PreviousContinue »