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Nothing particular occurred farther, until we came to Weehawk. I noticed, however, that the hogs (sues immundi of the ancients) are in these parts particularly stupid. An instance which fell under our own observation, is very surprising. One of them had a yoke on his neck, to which was conjoined a stick parallel to the front of his head, perpendicularly directed. This prevented his getting between the bars of the fence; but the stupid beast continued bruising his nose, without reflecting that, by laying on his side, he might with facility have insinuated himself into the delightful bed of clover which tantalized his inability to enjoy it.
We arrived at the Weehawk inn, and stimulated with punch and crackers. These last were great curiosities, as they appeared, from the taste and inscription upon them, to have been baked in the year 1741. They were probably brought over from Holland by the present burgomaster of Weehawk. The dog ate them, apparently with much satisfaction, by which we discovered that he was a country dog, as those belonging to the city are not partial to such food.
We again set out on our pilgrimage, in order to survey the envi. rons of this extensive and populous town, and struck into a different road. We saw two heifers lying on the grass, who did not seem to know what to do with themselves. Here we reflected on the darkness of the middle ages, and the glorious consequences of the invention of printing.
We heard something singing, and concluded it was a bird, the ‘aris volucris' of Linnæus. We turned out of the road here to enjoy the prospect afforded by a romantic glen, with a brook in it, and cascades according. The dog washed his feet, and we reflected on the source of the Nile.
We discovered an island in this stream, covered with tansies, bullfrogs, and one straight tall walnut-tree. We shook the latter in hopes of procuring some fruit; but as none descended, I suppose it was not the season for them. The withered leaves which covered the ground, while the trees above were in all their verdure, naturally led our contemplations to a comparison between youth and age, life and death, prosperity and adversity.
We returned to Weehawk through a juniper wood, and remarked two particularities in the inhabitants; one is, that they use pockethandkerchiefs on no day of the week but the first, by any chance whatever. They are then, however, only worn for ornament — the wearer making a pretence of employing his clean and neatly-folded piece of muslin after he has performed the nasal emunction with his fingers. This is unquestionably a much cleanlier practice than that of the Europeans and Neo-Eboracians.
The other singularity is, that they wear no gallowses, or suspenders. There is an antiquity before the door of the mansion, the date of which we were unable to ascertain. It is a gallows. Whenever any of the male inhabitants walked under this, we observed that they bowed gracefully, at the same time holding the waistband of their bracchæ with their left hand; and by this we discovered the origin of the custom already mentioned. Peter Stuyvesant is recorded, in the chronicle of KNICKERBOCKER, to have punished minor offences by tying a rope round the criminal's middle, and letting him swim in
vacuo on a high gallows. Doubtless this indignity was ill brooked by the generous souls of the Dutchmen; and their posterity have inherited their feelings, though they are ignorant of the cause which makes them, as it were, involuntarily perform the feat aforesaid, and forswear gallowses as a memorial of their stigma.
We were here witnesses of a very interesting scene, the last fisherman's adieus and departure. All the rest had left the river long since; and this man, whose personal appearance was by no means deficient in the grotesque and picturesque, was taking his leave of the scene, and of the companions of many a carousal and festivity. They showed much less sympathy than he did, however, and refused to take off his hands a basket of codfish, the savor whereof was not indeed very inviting. Prose is too cold for this scene; I have therefore done it into verse.
LAY OF THE LAST FISHERMAN.
The sun was sinking in his glory, | Gape all thy wounds, and break thy rudder,
Behind the dark bluff's shaggy brow, And midway let them ruin meei! His ruddy rays stream'd thro' its verdure, I go where ocean darkly rages,
And streak'd with fire the wave below. I go to ride the billowy wave; Lit by his sad and parting radiance Farewell! farewell! I must not linger, Was every tint of varying green ;
If I the ocean storms would brave.
If for ever, fare thee well!
The white sails o'er the water mov'd, Bear it on thy murinuring swell!
Fare thee well, thou fir-clad Weehawk! To bid adieu to scenes he loved.
Bend thy dark leaves in the gale;
Like sea-weeds wild dishevell’d spread; As they seem to bid farewell !
Fare thee well, my host, who kindly
Still for me bid cheerers foam,
Driving on the deep I roam.
Thus spoke the latest FISHERMAN: Oh! my heart is failing now --'
To wend where tempests furious blow; As he rush'd from Weehawk's brow! Last of my race I fondly linger'd, Till hope hath fled-and I must go.
Then methought that by the river
Bless'd Saint Anthony had stood, "Deserted now, too lovely river !
Calling to a second sermon The bare poles o'er thy waters stand, All the fishes of the flood! And soon the winds and waves careering, For the wave was hid, where swarming, Shall root them from the treacherous Wild with joy's delicious power, sand.
Big and litile, porpoise, killie, Moor'd in yon gentle creek securely,
Tumbled on its top that hour! My little bark, how wilt thou hide? Sport a while, ye gentle fishes, Will thine own element destroy thee? While ye may, for soon ve'll mourn -Will strangers bear thee o'er the tide ? One destroyer now hath left ye,
But a thousand will return ! 'O! if their grasp, with hands unhallow'd, Should bear thee from that loved retreat |
(Hiatus ralde deflendus.)
I KNOW that it is now too late in the world's history for description ; that for the narrator, this is a used-up planet. Men have scaled its precipices, dug into its bowels, fathomed its oceans, penetrated its caverns, traversed its deserts, threaded its wildernesses, and clambered over its icebergs, until the unknown has become a shadow; a sickly seething of the poet's brain. They have hammered its rocks, gathered its pebbles, dug up its bones, and afflicted its cuticle, until they have proved to a demonstration (but how, I am sure I do n't know,) that the earth is a hundred thousand years old, and created by volcanoes; that Moses, with all his piety and potency, was a bit of a humbug, and that his deluge was, on the whole, rather a small affair. No wonder a world so old should be worn out; the real marvel is, that it should still be enabled to shuffle along at the rate of - I forget how many thousand miles an hour. It is high time that we poor superficial observers should stand back, and let the philosophers come, who can say something worth listening to. For myself, however, before making my bow, I would crave a word with you, reader, concerning the Shakers, and their singular worship. You have been bored with the subject a dozen times already; I know it, and will discourse to you so tamely, in such harmony with
the spirit of modern literature, which should be popular, that you shall not be driven to the fatigue of thinking, from beginning to end of my brief narration.
The morning was deliciously cool and bracing, for the season, the last Sabbath in May, as my friend and I rolled over the sandy and rather uninteresting country between Albany and Niskayuna. It was just on the heel of a violent and long-continued rain-storm, which had brought the Hudson over the Albany docks, and put the sandy roads of the surrounding country in the best possible condition. The late foliage of the spring-time seemed just commencing to lend the pines its countenance in repelling the too violent or inquisitive sunshine; the fields of the husbandman looked still bare or backward, even on that warm soil; the rich unfolding blossoms of the apple-tree were alone in nature, save that the humble yet gay dandelion spread every where its petals beneath. It seemed rather the first than the last of May. No matter; 'June with its roses' could hardly have afforded us an air so pure and yet fragrant; she could not have given us an hour so cool and yet grateful. The forest minstrels seemed to have just found their voices, and to be determined to make the most of the acquisition.
The first token we had of the vicinity of the Shakers, was on the whole prepossessing a row of venerable willows, on each side of the road. They would have shown better taste by planting elms or maples; but they make little pretension to that quality, and philanthropy is nobler than taste. It was something in their favor, moreover, to find the roads visibly improving, as we neared their settlement as any man who has been dragged over a western ‘corduray' in its dotage, or forded a southern creek, in a leaky stage-coach, will cheerfully testify. But the village itself is at length in sight, its few modest but comfortable dwellings situated upon a smooth and velvet lawn, which a monarch might envy. A monarch? And why not a democrat? Here are no pampered and purse-proud nobles – no famished and pining beggars. Here no widow clasps in anguish her shivering babes, and looks despairingly to her empty cupboard and fireless hearth; no slave of business, scarcely less to be pitied, hurries from hollow friend to friend, imploring, in a perspiration of agony, for the means of taking up the note which must be met before the inexorable three, or he is a bankrupt. Here experiments have no potency, lawyers no business, sherif!s no terror. Happy, happy coinmunity! Who shall say that Arcadia is but a reverie, and the Golden Age a fiction of the poets those brethren in veracity to the terrible-accident-makers ?
Trees reared their verdure above, thick grass spread its carpet beneath, as we walked to the house dedicated to the worship of the Father of All. A wicket admitted us to the enclosure within which the houses are situated; and here a neat flagging conducts to the door of the temple. I may as well mention our meeting three of the sisters conducting a fourth female, who, as we were informed by the young girl in advance of the others — with perfect modesty and propriety, but without a particle of that shrinking diffidence with which à maiden elsewhere would have voluntarily accosted two total strangers was a strange woman, whom they were inducing to leave the tabernacle, but who was evidently deranged, and pouring forth incoherently such snatches of sacred melodies as were uppermost in her wreck of mind. We passed them, and entered. But few of the brethren had assembled, though the seats allotted to the profane were already full. They did not serve for half who came, but that mattered little, since those who had been seated got upon their feet, and eventually upon the benches, to look over the heads of those standing in front; and the number was so great, that we rather trenched upon the portion of the house reserved by the worshippers for their devotions.
At length all were assembled, and the exercises began. A brief address was delivered by one of the brethren — very sensible and proper. Then a hymn by all the faithful - animated, stirring, devotional. The execution of this and the two or three succeeding, might have been better. The vile nasal twang that too many better instructed persons contrive to throw into music of this cast, is insufferable. And yet if I ever feel strongly the impulse of devotion, it is when I hear one of these quick, unstudied, home-bred songs pealed forth by a whole congregation. In a camp-meeting or a Methodist conference - ay, or a Shaker gathering — these are the airs, if any, to bring the warm tear to the eye of manhood. The homeliness of the whole affair is just what renders it irresistible. A hundred instruments and educated voices, trilling some harmony of Handel or Beethoven, might better please the taste ; but that very pleasure would be purchased at the expense of the heart. You could perceive how the whole thing was made up; how the effect was produced by the organ here, the viol there, and the prima donna next. The idea of human beings engaged in the fervent and engrossing worship of their Maker, is the last to enter the mind. I confess I labor under so utter a want of taste, as to like a lively, homely, spirited, unsophisticated hymn, gushing straight forth from the heart, better than a scientific performance. Old Hundred' reminds me of the roar of cannon on a distant battle-field, at which the patriot indeed grasps his musket for the fray, while the indifferent or the craven takes to his cellar or his heels; but a quick hymn is like the inspiring band of a recruiting regiment, which wakes a glow even in the stolid bosom that throbbed never before.
* Absurd !' says the cynic; ‘a handful of miserable fools and bedlamites making themselves ridiculous in a Shaker meeting - what has that to do with exciting devotional feelings in the breast of any rational being !
Softly, my good Sir; it is the shadow only that is presented, when the actor'struts his hour upon the stage,' and yet who that has seen him, has not been affected ? You know, moreover, that with him all is hollowness. His trappings are the merest tinsel; his crown is paste-board ; his rant is affectation; his mouthing is mockery. And yet a thousand hearts are hanging on his breath - a thousand sighs respond to his pretended misery. The Unreal inspires the True.
But who shall decide that this which I now see is mockery? Who shall pronounce these actors hypocrites ? Nay, who shall say that their worship is all displeasing to the Great Being to whom words are nothing, and who knows no other offering than the broken and contrite spirit? We will worship according to the dictates of a more rational but colder sentiment: let us not too rashly nor too