Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

men either of little education or degraded character, or who were raving under the half-insanity of some political infatuation. It is certain also, that these representations, or misrepresentations, have been invited, exaggerated, and promulgated, with more industry than conscience, and that they have been received, we might say devoured among us, with that sort of indiscriminate readiness which betrays the influence both of sordid fear and malignant agitation in the public mind.

We cannot but think, for instance, that in a better and calmer condition of the public judgment, a much less eager and unquestioning hearing would have been given to the reports of a recent traveller in the United States, who, by his own account of himself, evidently went out perverted and inflated with theories, and who returned in ill temper with facts. A man who has been puffed across the Atlantic in a balloon, and having had the silken bubble pricked, and the ill-flavoured and inflammatory gas exhaled, comes trailing back, battered and ragged, in the boat, is not the calm observer to whom we shall listen with deep regard. Wild speculations may have been dissipated, absurd anticipations disappointed, the bilious mislikings may have changed their objects, and so far, the individual may deserve to be congratulated by his friends on occasion of his happy restoration to common sense; but in all this the public have little concern. We want not to listen to tales of extraordinary cures in desperate cases, while seeking authentic information relative to important facts. It is not enough that a traveller comes home with a save mind; he merits little regard unless it be apparent that he set out with a sane mind. We want neither city declaimers, nor recluse illuminati, to give us their reports of a people's moral and political condition. This very difficult task can be competently performed only by that class of men, who, as the writer before us justly observes, have hitherto not been tempted to cross the Atlantic,-nen, not merely of comprehensive minds, and endowed with the talent of observation, but who, by their superior education, their good taste, their habits, and their rank in society at home, are likely to be free from vulgarities of opinion and the temptations of temper. · But our business is not now with Mr. Fearon: his book has afforded some valuable information, much entertainment, and much food to party and national prejudice. It will sink, however, upon the well-forgotten heap, towards which every thing gravitates that is not sustained by sound and liberal sentiment, and well-instructed and enlarged thinking.

We profess not to have the means of judging competently, how far from sober truth, passion, prejudice, and state policy have betrayed opinions in this country, relative to the character, disposition, and condition of the people of the United States; but this we 'may certainly say, that the sources of this opinion, bear upon them almost all the marks that can entitle them to suspicion.

a (Mr. Fearon.

[From the New Monthly Magazine.—Lond. Feb. 1820.)

Art. IX.-" T'OTHER SIDE OF THE Ohio.”

In the present ardour for emigration to the western world, those who have retained any rational ideas on the subject, have deemed it prudent to inquire respecting the eligibility of two points; whether they should emigrate at all; and, if expatriation be determined upon, to what point of the country their course should be directed. Most of our countrymen, on their first landing in the civilized parts of America, have found the usual concomitants of civilized society; selfishness, chicanery, and injustice. -- The frontiers evidently are not the paradise which their fancy had led them to expect; it is then to be looked for in the back settlements if it is not to be found among a number of men, it happily may exist where there are comparatively few--if it dwell not with the luxuries of life, it may perhaps be hidden among its privations. The haunts of man are therefore to be exchanged for the wild prairies, and the wilder the better, where human footsteps have scarcely trodden, and where there is certainly one consolation to human pride, that if disappointment and misery wring a lamentation from human weakness

, there is no one to listen to it; no one to reproach the unhappy sufferer with the failure of his views, except the few who have been mistaken and disappointed like himself.

The passion for emigrating to the back settlements is so prevalent among the Americans themselves, that the rational part of the community have lately been anxious to save the Morris Birkbecks of their countrymen from so ruinous a delusion. The trials and hardships to which the “Backwoodsman” is subjected, have formed the subject of a poem bearing that title by Mr. Paulding, which affords one of the most favourable specimens of native poetical ability that we have yet been presented with by transatlantic genius. The account of the setting out of the hero of the piece, from Hudson to the banks of the Ohio, with his wife and infant family, cannot be read without sympathy in the hopes by which it is prompted, the fears it is calculated to awaken, and the difficulties by which it is certain to be attended.

“ The house was lifeless, not a breathing wight
Abided there, at earliest peep of light;
Clos'd were the windows, barr'd the rustic door,
The fire was quench’d, to lighten never more.

The wite and little ones together rode,
While Basil walk'd, for heavy was the load,
And meet it was to spare the nag the while,
Whose pilgrimage was many a weary mile.
The mother's heart was like to die away,
As looking on the nestling one that lay
Sleeping, in smiles, fast in her circling arms,
And budding forth in all its infant charms;
The brisk boys laugh'd to think they'd have a ride,
Nor seek’d whatever else might pass beside;
While on the father's brow sat anxious care,
And brave resolve his fatal lot to bear,
Whether mishap betide, or bright success
With full fruition bis high purpose bless.

*

" 'Twas sweet the morning minstrelsy to hear,
And Basil felt it to his heart most dear,
Although it was no bright unsullied joy,
But deeply tinctur'd with a sad alloy;
For as with painful effort, faint and slow,
He gain'd the height that look'd o'er all below,
And stopt to rest, and turn'd to gaze behind,
A thousand tender thoughts throng’d on his mind.
Home look'd so happy in the morning's smile,
He quite forgot his sufferings there erewhile,
And but for honest shame, that makes us fear
The pointed finger and the taunting sneer,
That never fail to greet the wav'ring man
Who weakly swerves from any settled plan,
He had return'd, though certain there again

To meet his old associates, Want and Pain." The journey through the haunts of men is well, though briefly, delineated, and some wild flowers of description are scattered on the way, which speak much in favour of the author's poetic feelings, but it is in proportion as these haunts are left behind, that the route becomes, at every step, more important to poor Basil, and more interesting to those who trace it with him in imagination.

" As down Ohio's ever-ebbing tide,
Oarless and sailless, silently they glide,
How still the scene, how lifeless, yet how fair
Was the lone land that met the strangers there !
No smiling villages, or curling smoke,
The busy haunts of busy men bespoke :
No solitary hut, the banks along,
Sent forth blithe Labour's homely rustic song;

No urchin gambolld on the smooth white sand,
Or hurl'd the skipping stone with playful hand,
While playmate dog plung'd in the clear blue wave,
And swam, in vain, the sinking prize to save.
Where now are seen along the river side,
Young busy towns in buxom painted pride,
And fleets of gliding boats with riches crown'd,
To distant Orleans or St. Louis bound.
Nothing appear'd, but Nature unsubdued,
One endless, noiseless, woodland solitude, a
Or boundless prairie that aye seem'd to be
As level, and as lifeless as the sea;
They seemed to breathe in this wide world alone,
Heirs of the earth-the land was all their own.
'Twas evening now—the hour of toil was o'er,
Yet still they durst not seek the fearful shore,
Lest watchful Indian crew should silent creep,
And spring upon, and murder them in sleep;
So through the livelong night they held their way,
And 'twas a night might shame the fairest day,
So still, so bright, so tranquil was its reign,
They car'd not though the day ne'er came again.
The Moon high wheel'd the distant hills above,
Silver'd the fleecy foliage of the grove,
That as the wooing zephyrs on it fell,
Whisper'd it lov'd the gentle visit well-
That fair-fac'd orb alone to move appear'd,
That zephyr was the only sound they heard.

“In such a scene the soul oft walks abroad,
For silence is the energy of God!
Not in the blackest Tempest's midnight scowl,
The earthquake's rocking, or the whirlwind's howl,
Not from the crashing thunder-rifted cloud,
Does his immortal mandate speak so loud,
As when the silent night around her throws
Her star-bespangled mantle of repose.
Thunder, and whirlwind, and the earth's dread shake,
The selfish thoughts of man alone awake;
His lips may prate of Heaven, but all his fears
Are for himself, though pious he appears.
But when all Nature sleeps in tranquil smiles,

What sweet yet lofty thought the soul beguiles ! a [The reviewer should have remarked, that this description applies to the first days of settlement, and has no application to the present day, except in the reverse.]

There's not an object 'neath the moon's bright beam,
There's not a shadow dark’ning on the stream,
There's not a star that jewels yonder skies,
Whose bright reflection on the water lies,
That does not in the lifted mind awake
Thoughts that of love and heaven alike partake ;
While all its newly waken'd feelings prove
That Love is Heaven, and God the Soul of Love.
In such sweet times the spirit rambles forth
Beyond the precincts of this grov'ling earth,
Expatiates in a brighter world than this,
And plunging in the Future's dread abyss,
Proves an existence separate and refind,
By leaving its frail tenement behind.
So felt our Basil, as he sat' the while,
Guiding his boat, beneath the moonbeam's smile,
For there are thoughts which God alike has given

To high and low—and these are thoughts of Heaven." We consider this extract as a favourable specimen both of the genius and the tone of feeling evinced in the poem of the Backwoodsman, but we introduce them more as connected, in some measure, with an ingenious little prose performance, written likewise by an American; and which, under the disguise of a critique upon a poetical article, displays the fallacy of those expectations which look for plenty, comfort, ease, innocence, and happiness, amid all the wildness of uncultivated nature, and all the barbarism of unenlightened man. The work we allude to is published at Hartford in Connecticut, under the title of “ T'other side of Ohio; or, a Review of a 'Poem in Three Cantos.' By J. Oldfield;" and as it has not yet travelled to this country, we believe, beyond the single copy which has fallen within our observation, we have great pleasure in laying its brief and pithy contents before our readers, as some check, and from a source, too, the sincerity of which cannot be doubted, to the rage for emigration.

“ T'OTHER SIDE OF OHIO ;''--Or, a Review, loc. " In looking over this work we are reminded of the Alchymists ; who, after all their torturings of nature, were unable to find the Philosopher's stone : yet from their labours has resulted to man, benefits, which by far exceeds that, which would have turned all things to gold. Our author, although he seems to have utterly failed in bis attempts at poetry, yet in his notes has accumulated facts, which should not be lost to the people of New-England. In reference to that part of the work, which to our author “ seemed a song,” we would observe, a poem, even though it were professedly doggerel, should be comprehensible by the vulgar, yet satisfactory to cultivated taste ; something amusing, or severe ; pointed yet lively. We can with approbation, observe a reduced man labour for his bread, although he

« ForrigeFortsæt »