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As it enters its rest; but alas ! alas !
I hasten away over mountain and flood,
Miss H. F. GOULD.
LESSON LX X XVI.
DESCRIPTION OF PRAIRIES, The attraction of the prairie consists in its extent, its carpet of verdure and flowers, its undulating surface, its groves, and the fringe of timber by which it is surrounded. Of all these, the latter is the most expressive feature. It is that which gives character to the landscape, which imparts the shape, and marks the boundary of the plain. If the prairie be small, its greatest beauty consists in the vicinity of the surrounding margin of woodland, which resembles the shore of a lake, indented with deep vistas, like bays and inlets, and throwing out long points, like capes and headlands; while occasionally these points approach each other so close, that the traveler passes through a narrow avenue or strait, where the shadows of the woodland fall upon his path, and then again emerges into another prairie.
Where the plain is large, the forest outline is seen in the far perspective, like the dim shore when beheld at a distance from the ocean. The eye sometimes roams uver the
green meadow, without discovering a tree, a shrub, or any object in the immense expanse, but the wilderness of grass and flowers; while at another time, the prospect is enlivened by the groves, which are seen interspersed like islands, or the solitary tree, which stands alone in the blooming desert.
If it is in the spring of the year, and the young grass has just covered the ground with a carpet of delicate green, and especially if the sun is rising from behind a distant swell of the plain, and glittering upon the dew-drops, no scene can be more lovely to the eye. The deer is seen grazing quietly upon the plain; the bee is on the wing ; the wolf, with his tail drooped, is sneaking away to his covert with the felon tread of one who is conscious that he has disturbed the peace of nature; and the grouse feeding in flocks, or in pairs, like the domestic fowl, cover the whole surface.
When the eye roves off from the green plain, to the groves, or points of timber, these also are found to be at this season robed in the most attractive hues. The rich undergrowth is in full bloom. The red-bud, the dog-wood, the crab-apple, the wild plum, the cherry, the wild rose, are abundant in all the rich lands; and the grape vine, though its blossom is unseen, fills the air with fragrance. The variety of the wild fruit, and flowering shrubs, is so great, and such the profusion of the blossoms with which they are bowed down, that the eye is regaled almost to satiety.
The gayety of the prairie, its embellishments, and the absence of the gloom and savage wildness of the forest, all contribute to dispel the feeling of lonesomeness, which usually creeps over the mind of the solitary traveler in the wilderness. Though he may not see a house, nor a human being, and is conscious that he is far from the habitations of men, he can scarcely divest himself of the idea that he is traveling through scenes embellished by the hand of art. The flowers, so fragile, so delicate, and so ornamental, seem to have been tastefully disposed to adorn the scene. T'he
groves and clumps of trees appear to have been scattered over the lawn to beautify the landscape, and it is not easy to avoid that illusion of the fancy, which persuades the beholder, that such scenery has been created to gratify the refined taste of civilized man.
Europeans are often reminded of the resemblance of this scenery to that of the extensive parks which they have been accustomed to admire, in the old world. The lawn, the avenue, the grove,
which are there produced by art, are here prepared by nature; a splendid specimen of massy architecture, and the distant view of villages, are alone wanting to render the similitude complete.
In the summer, the prairie is covered with long, coarse grass, which soon assumes a golden hue, and waves in the wind like a ripe harvest. Those who have not a personal knowledge of the subject, would be deceived by the accounts which are published of the hight of the grass.
It is seldom so tall as travelers have represented, nor does it attain its highest growth in the richest soil. In the low, wet prairies, where the substratum of clay lies near the surface, the center or main stem of this grass, which bears the seed, acquires great thickness, and shoots up to the hight of eight or nine feet, throwing out a few, long, coarse leaves or blades, and the traveler often finds it higher than his head, as he rides through it on horseback.
The first coat of grass is mingled with small flowers, the violet, the bloom of the strawberry, and others of the most minute and delicate texture. As the grass increases in size, these disappear, and others, taller and more gaudy, display their brilliant colors upon the green surface, and still later, a larger and coarser succession rises with the rising tide of verdure. The whole of the surface of these beautiful plains, is clad throughout the season of verdure, with every imaginable variety of color, “ from grave to gay.” It is impossible to conceive a more infinite diversity, or a richer profusion of hues, or to detect any predominating tint, except the green, which forms the beautiful ground, and relieves the exquisite brilliancy of all the others. In the winter, the prairies present a gloomy and desolate
The fire has passed over them, and consumed every vegetable substance, leaving the soil bare, and the surface perfectly black. That gracefully waving outline, which was so attractive to the eye when clad in green, is now disrobed of all its ornaments; its fragrance, its notes of joy, and the graces of its landscape, have all vanished, and the bosom of the cold earth, scorched and discolored, is alone visible. The wind sighs mournfully over the black plain; but there is no object to be moved by its influence; not a tree to wave its long arms in the blast, nor a reed to bend its fragile stem; not a leaf, nor even a blade of grass tó tremble in the breeze.
There is nothing to be seen but the cold, dead earth and the bare mound, which move not; and the traveler with a singular sensation, almost of awe, feels the blast rushing over him, while not an object visible to the eye, is seen to stir. Accustomed as the mind is to associate with the action of the wind its operation upon surrounding objects, and to see nature bowing and trembling, and the fragments of matter mounting upon the wind, as the storm passes, there is a novel effect produced on the mind of one who feels the current of air rolling heavily over him, while nothing moves around. JAMES HALL.
LESSON L X X X VII.
These are the gardens of the desert, these
Breezes of the South !
With herbage, planted them with island groves,
As o'er the verdant waste I guide my steed,
A race that long has passed away
The red man came,