The Homes of the New World/Letter III.

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LETTER III.

On the Hudson, Oct. 11, 1849.

My dear Heart!—We went to the wedding at nine o'clock in the morning. We drove to the house of the bride in pouring rain. All the guests, about a hundred in number, were already assembled. The bride's father, an elderly gentleman of a remarkably agreeable appearance, offered me his arm to lead me into the room where the marriage was to take place. It was the only daughter of the house who was to be married. The elder sister had been dead about a year, and that the mother still grieved for her loss might be seen by her pale, sorrowful, countenance. The wedding company was very silent. One might rather have believed oneself in a house of mourning than at a joyful festival. And as the eldest daughter had died soon after her marriage, and in consequence of it, namely, when she was about to become a mother, it was not without cause that this festival was regarded with serious thoughts.

Ladies and gentlemen were introduced to me one after another, and then again the whole circle became silent. Presently it was whispered round that the marriage ceremony was about to commence. A door opened, and a young gentleman entered, leading in a young lady in her bonnet and travelling dress. They took their places side by side at the bottom of the room, a venerable old clergyman stepped forward to the young couple, and—they were united in holy wedlock or ever by a short prayer, a short admonition, and a short benediction. Friends and relations then came forward, and kissed and congratulated the new-married pair; I also went forward, leaning on the father's arm, kissed the bride and shook hands with the young husband. He looked happy and perfectly self-possessed. She also looked pleased, and besides that, very pretty; nay, she would have appeared really handsome if she had been in bridal attire, and not dressed as for a journey, and that evidently less with regard to looking handsome than to the rainy weather in which the new married couple would commence their journey through life; that is to say, immediately after the marriage ceremony they would set sail for Niagara, and must therefore hasten away to the steam-boat. Champagne and cake was handed round.

One saw the bridal presents arranged upon a table; they were looked at, and each wedding-guest received a little pasteboard box, tied round with white ribbon, in which was a piece of bride-cake. After that every one set off, even the young couple, they to return, after a few weeks pleasure-tour, to reside with the parents. It all took place in the twinkling of an eye.

This marriage ceremony seemed to me characteristic of that haste and precipitation for which I have often heard the Americans reproached. Life is short, say they, and therefore they hurry along its path, dispensing with all needless forms and fashions which might impede the necessary business of life, and perform even this as rapidly as possible, making five minutes suffice to be married in, and receiving even the marriage benediction in travelling costume, that they may instantly set off on a journey—to Niagara, or somewhere else.

But I must acknowledge that on this occasion it was merely the form which was hurried. It was evident that earnestness lay at the bottom of every heart, and even the short marriage-blessing bore the impression of deep and solemn earnestness. One could easily see that it was not a matter of jest, not a matter of passing interest, but one of great importance. Many persons were affected, some wept—they thought probably of the former marriage in this family. The old servant, a negro, who handed about refreshments, had one of those countenances in which may be read a whole volume of the inner life of the family, and which shows that it is a life of affection, in which the servant feels himself to be a member of the family.

Many people disapprove of these marriages in travelling attire, and at the moment of setting out for a journey, and insist on their being conducted with greater solemnity. Nor are they the only customary mode here. They have also evening marriages, when the bride is dressed pretty much as with us, and everything is conducted with about the same solemnity, with the exception of exhibiting the bride to the people, surrounded by lights, marshals, and bridemaids, as is usual with us in Sweden, and I believe in Sweden alone.

Saturday, Oct. 20th.—I have not now written for several days, the time having been occupied by many people, and many engrossing engagements. I shall now, however, note down the more important of the late occurrences.

Hitherto I have not received any letter; I long, I long, so much!

I have greatly enjoyed this period of my new life, and the Hesperian fruits, and whether it is the effect of these or of the new world's youthful, lively atmosphere (we have had for some time the most beautiful weather) or of the new impressions which daily flow in upon me, but I feel the strings of life vibrate as it were more strongly, and my pulse beat at times almost feverishly. I feel myself to be drinking nectar spiritually and bodily; it is a divine drink, but almost too potent for a weak mortal, at least as an everyday beverage. The excess of social intercourse is also too exciting, however charming and agreeable it may be. Mr. and Mrs. Downing, who have no children, seem to live for the beautiful and the agreeable in life amid a select circle of friends and neighbours, who for the most part reside on the lovely banks of the Hudson, and a cheerful and unembarrassed social intercourse seems to characterise the life of this circle. They are continually visiting one another. The banks of the Hudson are now in all the pomp of autumn, and the foliage of the woods which clothe the shores and the heights, and which consist of a great variety of trees, is now brilliant with the most splendid variation of colour, from light yellow to intense scarlet; but it is too gorgeous and chaotic a splendour to be truly agreeable to my eye, which requires more uniformity of colour.

Of fruit there is here the greatest abundance; the most beautiful peaches, although their season is properly over; pears, plums, grapes, that is to say, hot-house grapes and many other. The Downings table is ornamented every day with a basket filled with the most glorious fruit—really Hesperian—and beautiful flowers arranged with the most exquisite taste. The breakfasts here, in the country, are much more substantial than with us in Sweden. Besides coffee and tea the table is supplied with fish, fresh meat, buckwheat cakes, omelets, and so on. Besides which here is bread of Indian corn and a kind of sweet potato, which is peculiar to the country, and which is an extremely good and palatable fruit. It is long, soft, and mealy, yellow and very sweet. It is commonly brought to table unpeeled, and is eaten with butter. At dinner there is meat, in the same way as in England, together with various vegetables and fruit peculiar to America. In the afternoon but little is eaten; they have commonly tea, and bread-and-butter or tea-bread, and after that preserved fruits, mostly peach, and cream. One custom, which appears to me to be especially excellent, is to place little tables beside the guests, one to each two persons, before the tea is handed round. In this way people place themselves together, two and two, and have the most delicious little tête-à-têtes, and that you know I am very fond of. I cannot converse well except when tête-à-tête.

My happiest hours here are those which I spend alone in the forenoon, in my own room, with American books, which Mr. Downing lends me, and those passed in the evening with my host and hostess, sitting in the little darkened parlour with bookcases and busts around us, and the fire quietly glimmering in the large fire-place. There, by the evening lamp, Mr. Downing and his wife read to me by turns passages from their most esteemed American poets. The books I afterwards carry with me up into my chamber; in this way I have become acquainted with Bryant, Lowell, and Emerson, all of them representatives, in however dissimilar a manner, of the life of the New World. Bryant sings especially of its natural life, of its woods, its prairies, its peculiar natural scenes and phenomena—and his song breathes the quiet fresh inspiration of natural life. One feels the sap circulating through the growth of the tree, and the leaves shooting forth. His ‘Thenatopsis,’ or night-song, is a largely conceived although a short poem, in which the whole earth is regarded as a huge burial-place. Lowell is inspired by the great social questions of the new world, by the ideal life of the new world, which he calls forth into existence in his songs about freedom, about the bliss of a free and contented, noble life, and about the honour and beauty of labour. Again and again I beg Mr. Downing to read to me that beautiful little poem, “The Poor Man's Son,” which charms me by its melody, and by its impartial spirit—which is moral melody, and by that cheerful truth which it utters in the prospects for the poor man's son on the soil of the new world. Would that I could translate for you that beautiful poem, and that Mr. Downing could read it to you with his musical voice! His little wife, Caroline, prefers reading a short epic poem, called “Sir Launfall's Vision.” Lowell's ideas are purely moral, and a deep vein of religious feeling runs through them. One of his most beautiful songs, in which burns a strong and noble patriotism, is directed against a political measure in Congress favourable to the maintenance of slavery in the United States. By this and many anti-slavery songs has this young poet taken his place among the leaders of that great party in the country which calls itself Abolitionist, and which insists upon the abolition of slavery. He must express himself in verse—he does not make the verse, he sings it, and in his song there is that overflowing sentiment which makes the heart overflow, and the mind spread forth her wings.

Waldo Emerson, rather a philosopher than poet, yet poetical in his prose philosophical essays, strikes me as a new and peculiar character, the most unusual of the three. He seems to me as an American Thorild, who by his own strong, powerful nature would transform the world, seeking for law and inspiration merely within his own breast. Strong and pure, self-collected and calm, but at the same time fantastical, he puts forth from his transcendental point of view aphorisms on nature and history, on God (whom he does not regard as a personal God, but as a superior soul in harmony with laws), and on men, criticising men and their works from the ideal of the highest truth and the highest beauty. “The world,” says Emerson, “has not seen a man,” and he looks forward with longing to that man, the man of the New World, in whose advent he believes. What this new man shall really be, and what he is to do, is somewhat undecided,—merely that he shall be true and beautiful, and further, I suspect, he must be very handsome and tall of stature, if he is to find favour with Emerson, who is himself, they say, a man of singular beauty, and who regards any personal defect as a sort of crime. The new man regards no laws but those within his own breast; but there he finds the unfalsified wells of truth and beauty. The new man believes in himself alone; he demands everything from himself, and does all for himself, reposes upon himself and in himself. The new man is a stoic, but not stern as such; he is beautiful and gentle. "Wherever he comes life blooms: in the circle of friends it becomes as a holy day; nectar and ambrosia pour forth at his approach; but he himself needs no friend. He needs none, not even God; he himself becomes godlike, inasmuch as that he does not need him. He conquers heaven, inasmuch as he says to heaven, “I desire thee not!” He descends down into nature as a restorer, governs and places it under the spell of his influence, and it—is his friend. In it he has that which suffices him; the divinities of the woods whisper to him their peace and their self-sufficingness; there is not a mole-hill which has not a star above it; there is no sorrow which the healing life of nature cannot heal. He says farewell to the proud world; he tramples upon the greatness of Rome and Greece in this little rural home where he in the trees can see God. Emerson's language is compressed and strong, simple, but singularly plastic. His turns of thought are original; old ideas are reproduced in so new and brilliant a manner that one fancies them heard for the first time. The divining-rod of genius is in his hand. He is master in his own domain. His strength seems to me peculiarly to be that of the critic, a certain grand contempt and scorn of the mediocre of the weak and paltry wherever he sees it, and he sees it in much and in many things. He chastises it without mercy; but, at the same time, with wonderful address. Emerson's performances in this way are really quite regal. They remind me of our King Gustavus Adolphus the Great, when he took the criminal soldier by the hair, and delivered him over to punishment, with the friendly words, “Come, my lad, it is better that thy body now suffer chastisement than that thy soul go to hell.” Yet there is more in Emerson even than the intention of chastisement. The writings of this scorner of imperfection, of the mean and the paltry, this bold exacter of perfection in man, have for me a fascination which amounts almost to magic! I often object to him; I quarrel with him; I see that his stoicism is one-sidedness, his pantheism an imperfection, and I know that which is greater and more perfect, but I am under the influence of his magical power. I believe myself to have become greater through his greatness, stronger through his strength, and I breathe the air of a higher sphere in his world, which is indescribably refreshing to me. Emerson has more ideality than is common among thinkers of the English race, and one might say that in him the idealism of Germany is wedded to the realism of Britain.

I have, as yet, never gone a step to see a literary lion: but Waldo Emerson, this pioneer in the moral woods of the New World, who sets his axe to the roots of the old trees to hew them down, and to open the path for new planting; I would go a considerable way to see this man. And see him I will, him, who, in a society as strictly evangelical as that of Massachusetts and Boston (Emerson was the minister of a Unitarian congregation in Boston), had the courage openly to resign his ministration, his church, and the Christian faith, when he had come to doubt of its principal doctrines; who was noble enough, nevertheless, to retain universal esteem, and old friends; and strong enough, while avoiding all polemical controversy and bitterness of speech, to withdraw into silence, to labour alone for that truth which he fully acknowledged, for those doctrines which the heathen and the Christian alike acknowledge. Emerson has a right to talk about strength and truth, because he lives for these virtues. And it will benefit the world which is slumbering in the Church from the lack of vital Christianity, to be roused up by such fresh winds from the Himalaya of heathenism. But how can Emerson overlook ——— ? Yet I will not ask about it. Emerson is just and true. Would that many were like him!

But now I must tell you something of my late doings in society. Miss Catherine Sedgwick, the author of “Redwood,”; came here, together with her young niece, Susan, a few days after my arrival. Mr. Downing, who greatly esteems her, wished me to make her acquaintance. She is between fifty and sixty, and her countenance indicates a very sensible, kind, and benevolent character. Her figure is beautifully feminine, and her whole demeanor womanly, sincere, and frank, without a shadow of affectation. I felt my soul a little slumbrous while with her for the first few days; but this feeling was, as it were, blown quite away in a moment by a touching and beautiful expression of cordiality on her side, which revealed us to each other; and since then I have felt that I could live with her as with a heavenly soul, in which one has the most undoubting trust. I derived pleasure, also, from her highly sensible conversation, and from her truly womanly human sympathies. She has a true and gentle spirit; and I feel that I could really depend upon her. Of late years she has written much for, what I will call, the people of lower degree in society; because here, where almost every person works for their living, one cannot properly speak of a working-class, but quite correctly of people of small means and narrow circumstances—a class which has not yet worked itself up. Franklin, himself a workman, and one who worked himself upwards, wrote for this class. Miss Sedgwick writes for the same; and her little novels and stories are much liked, and produce a great deal of good. People praise, in particular, a story called “Home,” which I shall endeavour to read. Miss Sedgwick was at this time occupied in preparing a new edition of her collected works. She consulted me about some proposed alterations in some of these works, and I told her that I, for my own part, never would alter anything in the works which I had written long since, even where I saw their faults, and could easily correct them; because, where an author lives and writes through a long course of years, his or her works constitute a history of that author's development, which ought to remain unaltered as a history in itself, alike instructive to him as to others. An author's works are portions of an autobiography, which he must write whether he will or not.

Miss Sedgwick invited me to her house in Lennox, in the western part of Massachusetts, during the next summer, and promised to visit with me a Shaker establishment in New Lebanon, which lies at no great distance from her house.

Whilst Miss Sedgwick has been here the Downings have made an excursion with us to the top of South Beacon, one of the highest hills in the highlands of this district. Mr. Downing drove me, and for this mountain-road a skilful driver and a good horse were really needful, because the road was steep, and rather an apology for a road than anything else. But we stumbled and struggled over stock and stone in our light carriage, until we had ascended about nine hundred feet, and from the top of the wood-covered hill looked down upon half the world, as it seemed to me, but which presented the appearance of a billowy chaos of wooded heights and valleys, in which human dwellings were visible, merely as specks of light, scarcely discernible to the naked eye. Man, so great in his suffering, in his combat, vanished into nothing, seen from this material hill-top, and therefore I thought not about him. That which was most refreshing to me in this landscape was the view of the Hudson, which, like a clear thought bursting from chaos, makes for itself a path through the woods, and flows brilliantly forth into the infinite. Our party was a little too large and a little too merry for me. I know not how it is that a thoughtful silence should always come over me in such gay parties, amid natural scenes. And here I ought to have been alone with the magnificence of Nature. One little moment, partly alone and partly with Mr. Downing, who knows how to be gay and jocular with the gay, and silent with the silent, was to me the crowning luxury of the excursion, during which there was no lack of champagne and joke, and more substantial fare yet for the palate, together with polite gentlemen and lovely ladies, both young and old. Yes, lovely ladies there certainly are here, but rather pretty and delicate than, properly speaking, beautiful. A really beautiful woman I have not yet seen here, but neither have I seen a single ill-favoured countenance or deformed person. That which especially pleases me is the easy, unembarrassed, and yet modestly kind intercourse which exists between the young of both sexes.

Completely weary were we when, after our excursion to the hills, we reached home in the evening, and beautiful was rest in that lovely quiet home with the kind Downings. That which my mind has retained of the excursion is the view of that bright river, bursting forth from the gloomy forests of earth. It gleams, as it were, within me.

I parted from Miss Sedgwick with the feeling that I should never like to part with her. Her niece, Susan, was an agreeable well-educated girl. A young gentleman, who is said to be her lover, followed her hither.

A few days after our excursion to South Beacon we went up the Hudson to visit a family of the name of D., who belong to the aristocracy of these shores. We set off in good time in the morning; the air was delicious; the wind still, and the shores shone out in the utmost splendour of their autumnal pomp beneath a somewhat subdued sunshine. The sails on the river scarcely moved, and above the heights lay a sort of sunny mist, a light haze which is said to distinguish this period of the year, and that state of the atmosphere which is here called “the Indian Summer.” It commences, they say, at the end of October, and extends often through the whole of November into December, and is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the year. And if I am to judge by these days, one can scarcely imagine more perfect weather; warm and calm, the purest, most delicious atmosphere, sunshine softened by that light haze which seems to cast a mystical romantic veil over the landscape brilliant with the splendour of autumn. Whence comes this Egyptian veil of mist? “It comes from the Indians who are now smoking their pipes at their great Pahaws,” replied the cheerful Mrs. Downing; “I wish you to have an accurate idea of things here.” The accurate truth however is that nobody can say what is the real cause of this smoke-like mist, or of this summer in the midst of autumn.

But to return to our excursion, which was charming. We left the highlands of the Hudson; the shores now became lower and the river wider, embracing islands on its bosom. But soon we perceived in the distance a yet higher and more massive range of hills than I had hitherto seen, the magnificent thousand-feet-high Katskill mountains, which are a portion of the great Alleghany chain, which divides North America from north to south.

The banks of the river, which were scattered with houses, appeared rich and well cultivated. There were no castles, no ruins here, but often very tasteful houses with terraces and orchards, whole parks of peach trees. The only historical legends of these shores are a few traditions of wars with the Indians. I did not seem to miss the ruins and the legends of the Rhine. I like these fresh new scenes which have a vast future. We have ruins enough in the Old World. Among the company on board was a Shaker in drab clothes, and a hat with broad brim; in countenance he looked like a cross old fellow, not at all a good representative of the Shaker establishment. After a sail of about three hours we reached Blithewood, the beautiful seat of the D.'s, whither we were invited to a great breakfast. Here, as in many other places, I observed how they exclude the daylight from the rooms. This troubles me, who am accustomed to our light rooms in Sweden, and who love the light. But they say that the heat of the sun is too powerful here for the greater part of the year, and that they are obliged as much as possible to exclude its light from the rooms. A handsome, stately lady, whose figure was of remarkably beautiful proportions, and much rounder than is common among the ladies I have yet seen, received us kindly. This was Mrs. D. She is a Catholic, and is, I believe, of an Irish family, and her sisters are Calvinists. They manage however to agree together remarkably well, both in affection and good deeds—that central Church in which all sects may unite in the name of the same Lord.

We were conducted to our room, refreshed and dressed ourselves; then came breakfast and all the neighbours, and I had to shake from sixty to seventy kindly extended hands, which would not have been a difficult task if a deal of small talk had not followed, which, through the repetition of the same word and thing, became wearisome, and made me feel like a parrot. The assembly was beautiful and gay, and the breakfast, which was magnificent, was closed by a dance. It was a pleasure to me to see so many lovely and lively young girls,—delicate figures, though deficient in strength. The ladies dress with taste; have small hands and feet, and remind one of the French, but are more lovely than they. Something however is wanting in their countenances, but what I do not rightly know—I fancy it is expression. I was not quite in spirits, and felt to-day somewhat fatigued. When, however, in the evening, I came forth into the open air, and, accompanied by the silent Mr. Downing, wandered quietly beside the glorious calm river, and contemplated the masses of light and soft velvet-like shadow, which lay on the majestic Katskill mountains, behind which the sun sank in cloudless splendour; then did the heart expand itself and breathe freely in that sublime and glorious landscape; then did I drink from the mountain-springs; then did I live for the first time that day.

In the evening I enjoyed an unusual pleasure. Mrs. D. played on the harp and piano, and sang remarkably well, with extraordinary power, like a real musician, which I believe is a rare thing in this country. There were both words and expression in her singing, and so there is also in her demeanour; hers is a noble figure, with a free and independent carriage; “she sustains herself,” as you would say. She neither sings nor talks by rote. She sings and talks out of her own independent, feeling, and thinking soul. Her eldest son, a boy of thirteen, has, it appears to me, a real genius for music, even though he broke off and was not able to sing to the end—and I believe that he really could not—a little fantastic song, the first notes of which, however, were sufficient to foretell a something beyond talent in the boy. He was not in the mood, and in that state he could not sing. Mrs. D. told me, during our conversation at table, that her son was to learn a handicraft trade, because, although they were now wealthy, the time might come when they would be so no longer, but when it might be necessary for him to earn his bread as a common workman; so uncertain is the stability of wealth in America;—why so, I could not rightly understand.

The following day I again saw a crowd of people, who came to see the Swedish stranger. In the afternoon I visited two or three beautiful places in the neighbourhood. On one of these, a point projecting into the river, has a ruin been built, in which are placed various figures and fragments of walls and columns, which have been brought from the remarkable ruins lately discovered in Central America or Mexico. The countenances and the head-dresses resembled greatly those of Egyptian statues: I was struck in particular with a sphynx-like countenance, and a head similar to that of a priest of Isis. This ruin and its ornaments in the midst of a wild, romantic, rocky, and wooded promontory, was a design in the best taste.

In the evening we left this beautiful Blithewood, its handsome mistress and our friendly entertainers. We returned home in the night. The cabin in which we sate was close and very hot. Just beside us sate two young men, the one of whom, smoked and spat incessantly just before Mrs. Downing and myself. “That gentleman needs a Dickens!” said I softly to Mr. Downing. “But then,” replied Mr. Downing, in the same under tone, “Dickens would have committed the mistake of supposing him to be a gentleman!”

Of my Blithewood visit I retain the Katskill mountains and Mrs. D. I made a little sketch of her profile in my album (I took one also of Miss Sedgwick), and she gave me at parting a beautiful purse, made with an unusual kind of beads.

Another festivity at which I was present during this time was at Mrs. Downing's grandmother's. It was a family party, on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday. She lives on the opposite shore; and there assembled this day in her honour, children and grandchildren, and grandchildren's children, as well as other near connections, an assembly of from fifty to sixty persons. The little old lady of ninety was still lively and active, almost as much so as a young girl. We ate and drank, and some toasts were proposed: I gave one for “The Home” in America as well as in Sweden. In the afternoon we had a little music. I played Swedish polskas; and a young artist, a Mr. C., properly a landscape painter, son-in-law of one of the sons or granddaughters of the family, sang an Italian bravura aria, so beautifully, and with such an exquisite voice, that it was really a refreshment to hear him, and one was sure that he had learned the art in Italy.

I have been entertained at two other houses on the Hudson, and saw in the one a beautiful, animated hostess, and many beautiful articles of luxury, but without that elegant arrangement which distinguishes the house of the Downings; and in the other an original old lady, who has been compared among the neighbours to “ma chère Mère” in “The Neighbours,” and who really gives occasion for the comparison; besides which, we met there a remarkably excellent man, Dr. H., a firm Swedenborgian, and a more agreeable person to talk with than the generality of Swedenborgians whom I have met with. He has built a house for himself upon one of the terraces of the Hudson. A splendid lodge, of grey stone, is already complete, and people are a little curious to know whether a lady is not coming into the house; and it is maintained that the heart of an amiable young girl in the neighbourhood is interested in the question.

N.B. Dr. H. is very much esteemed and liked, especially by the ladies; but he has hitherto exhibited a heart of stone to their charms.

I have been much pleased at this moment by a visit from Bergfalk, as well as by witnessing his state of mind, and the fresh, unprejudiced view which he takes of the good and evil in this New World; and by his warm feeling for Sweden, and the strong hope which he entertains of her future development. He is fresh and vigorous, and has a pleasure in communicating his thoughts. And although his English is every now and then the most wonderful gihberish that ever was heard, yet his thoughts find their way through it, and by it, and sometimes in a brilliant manner. Thus, for example: last evening, when characterising the faults and the merits of Macaulay's historical work, this was so striking as to cause the otherwise undemonstrative Mr. Downing to exclaim repeatedly, “Excellent! delightful!”

Mr. Downing was interested by Bergfalk in a high degree, and invited him to spend the night there; but he had already engaged rooms in the town. We accompanied him to his inn; and I gave him Lowell's and Emerson's works to bear him company.

To-day, Sunday the 21st, as I continue my letter, Bergfalk is again here, and with him a Swedish doctor, Uddenberg, living at Barthelemi, and who came to pay his respects to me. The morning has been intellectually rich to me in a conversation on Lowell's poem of “Prometheus;” and the manner in which an American poet has treated this primeval subject of all ages and all poets. Bergfalk again distinguished himself by his power of discriminating the characteristics of the subjects; and nothing like this is ever thrown away upon Mr. Downing. At my request he read that fine portion of Prometheus's defiance of the old tyrants, in which the poet of the New World properly stands forth in opposition to those of the Old World, because it is not, as in the Prometheus of Æschylus, the joy of hatred and revenge, in the consciousness that the power of the tyrant will one day come to an end; nor as in Shelley, merely the spirit of defiance, which will not yield, which knows itself to be mightier than Zeus in the strength of suffering and of will,—no: it is not a selfish joy which gives power to the newly-created Prometheus; it is the certainty which defies the tyrant, and by his strength has prepared freedom and happiness for the human race. That threat with which he arms himself against his executioner, that defiance by which he feels that he can crush him, is prophetic of the ideal future of the new world of America; for much suffering has rendered keen his inner vision, and made of him a seer, and he beholds—


“A sceptre and a throne;
The pipings of glad shepherds on the hills,
Tending the flocks no more to bleed for thee;
The songs of maidens pressing with white feet
The vintage, on thine altars poured no more;
The murmurous bliss of lovers underneath
Dim grape-vine bowers, whose rosy branches press
Not half so close as their warm cheeks untouched
By thoughts of thy brute lust;—the hive-like hum
Of peaceful commonwealths, where sunburnt toil
Reaps for itself the rich earth made its own
By its own labour, lightened with glad hymns
To an omnipotence which thy mad bolts
Would cope with as a spark with the vast sea,—
Even the spirit of free love and peace,
Duty's own recompense through life and death;
These are such harvests as all master-spirits
Reap, haply not on earth, but reap no less
Because the sheaves are bound by hands not theirs;
These are the bloodless daggers wherewithal
They stab fallen tyrants, this their high revenge:
For their best part of life on earth is when
Long after death, prisoned and pent no more,
Their thoughts, their wild dreams even, have become
Part of the necessary air men breathe;
When, like the moon herself behind a cloud,
They shed down light before us on life's sea,
That cheers us to steer onward, still in hope;
Earth with her twining memories ivies o'er
Their holy sepulchres; the chainless sea,
In tempest, or wide calm, repeats their thoughts,
The lightning and the thunder, all free things
Have legends of them for the ears of men.
All other glories are as falling stars,
But universal nature watches theirs:
Such strength is won by love of human kind.”


After this came Caroline Downing, with her favourite bard Bryant, the poet of nature. But Bryant's song also is warm with patriotism, with faith in the future of America, and in her sublime mission. Thus, in that beautiful epic poem, “The Prairies,” in which he paints, as words can seldom paint, the illimitable western fields, in their sunbright, solitary beauty and grandeur, billowy masses of verdure and flowers waving in the wind; above these the vagrant clouds; and, higher still, the sunshine, gleaming above the vast scene, paradisaic, splendid, and rich, but silent and desolate as the desert. The silence, however, is broken. The poet hears a low humming. What is it? It is a bee, which flies forth over the flowery plain, and sucks the honey of the flowers. The busy bee becomes a prophet to the poet; and in its humming flight and its quiet activity he hears the advancing industry of the human race, which will extend itself over the prairies, transform them into a new Paradise, and cause new and yet more beautiful flowers to spring up:—


“From the ground
Comes up the laugh of children, the soft voice,
Of maidens, and the sweet and solemn hymn
Of sabbath worshippers. The low of herds
Blends with the rustling of the heavy grain
Over the dark-brown furrows.”


Last of all, I come to the poems of Waldo Emerson, small in dimensions, but great in their spirit and tone; and read aloud a little dithyrambic poem, which is characteristic of the individuality of the poet. Other American poets speak to society; Emerson always merely to the individual; but they all are to me as a breeze from the life of the New World, in a certain illimitable vastness of life, in expectation, in demand, in faith, and hope—a something which makes me draw a deeper breath, and, as it were, in a larger, freer world. Thus says Emerson's poem:—


GIVE ALL TO LOVE.

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame;

Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.
****
For it is a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.

’Tis not for the mean;
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valour unbending;
Such ’twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were
And ever ascending.

Yet hear me, yet
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavour,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise
Vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go
The Gods arrive.


This is noble stoicism. Among Emerson's poems are some which bear witness to a less noble spirit,—to a self-consciousness which rejoices in its contempt of the world; that knows itself to have enough, whilst the world perishes of hunger; a something which reminds one of the answer of the ant to the grasshopper, in La Fontaine's fable. But this shadow passes away, as do all clouds, from the clear heaven of the poet, having not there their abiding home. One strongly prominent feature in him is his love of the strong and the great. Thus he speaks in his poem, “The World-Soul:”—


“Thanks to the morning light,
Thanks to the seething sea,
To the uplands of New Hampshire,
To the green-haired forest free;
Thanks to each man of courage,
To the maids of holy mind,
To the boy with his games undaunted
Who never looks behind.”


But nobler even than this is the song of our Geijer:—


“I greet with love each field and grove,
And thou, blue billowy sea, I love;
Life-giving light in depth and height,
Thou heavenly sun, art my delight!
But more than all earth's fair array,
More than the blue waves dancing play,
Love I
The dawning light of heavenly rest
Within a trembling human breast!”


Of this light Emerson knows nothing. Emerson has, in other respects, many points of resemblance with Geijer, but he stands as much below him as heathenism stands below Christianity.

I cannot, perhaps, do full justice to Emerson's poems by my translation; I never was very clever at translation; and I fancy it almost impossible to render the poetic element of Emerson into another tongue, because it is of so peculiar a kind, and has, like the character of the poet, its own extraordinary rhythm and spirit.

Henry Longfellow, the author of “Evangeline,” is perhaps the best read and the most popular of the poets of America, but this is owing to qualities which are common alike to the elder poets of all countries, rather than to any peculiar characteristics of the New World's poets. Those sentiments, whether happy or sorrowful, which exist in the breast of every superior human being, are peculiarly his domain, and here he exercises his sway; and in particular, in his delineation of the more delicate changes of feeling. In “Evangeline” alone has he dealt with an American subject, and described American scenery.

But enough now, my sweet sister, of this poesy of morning. We will now have our dinner. Men of the two countries are invited, and yet a third, namely, the Swedish Consul, from Boston, Mr. Benzon, who is coming to see me.

In the Evening.—The day is ended with its changing scenes and impressions. If I could only take everything more coolly! But I am too ardent, too easily excited. Every impression goes directly to my heart—and there it remains too strongly impressed. I am alone in my room, and see from my window, through the dark yet star-bright night the steamboats which pass along the Hudson, and send forth from their chimneys sulphur-blue and yellow flames.

To-morrow morning I am going with the Downings to visit some of their best friends, a family of the name of H., who live on the Hudson, in the neighbourhood of Washington Irving. And next week I return to New York, there to begin my campaign, for which this little taste of rural life and society is merely a prelude.

Among the people who, during this time, have come to see me are in particular a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. S., who came hither with their little baby from New York, solely to offer me their house as my home when there. They were so beautiful and so earnestly kind; there appeared to me to be something so pure, so single-minded about them; they seemed to speak so entirely from their own honest hearts, that I was glad to accept their invitation, and to arrange to go to them before I took up my quarters in any other homes, as I had promised to do for a time. Among others that of Miss Lynch. It seems as if I should scarcely be obliged to pay anything for my living in this country, if I am to continue being thus entertained. But I must not expect that it will be thus everywhere. Besides, it has its disadvantages, as well as its advantages and its great pleasures.

Mr. and Mrs. S., who are of the class called Socialists and Abolitionists, and who belong to the Liberal Movement Party in the country, are universally acknowledged to be remarkably noble and estimable people. “From them,” said Mr. Downing, “you will hear what is going forward in this party, and you will probably see at their house William Henry Channing, one of our most distinguished lecturers and extempore speakers, and through him you may become acquainted with Emerson.”

I cannot tell you, my Agatha, how fortunate I esteem myself, that immediately at the commencement of my visit here, I have come into contact with so profoundly thinking and so universally comprehensive a mind as that of Mr. Downing, and who, besides, is so indescribably kind to me, and so careful that I shall derive every possible advantage from my journey, and see everything, both good and bad, in their true light. He never dictates, never instructs me, but now and then, and as if by chance, he mentions to me the names of persons who are active for the future of the New World in one way or another, and makes me observant of what is going on in the country. I notice, among other things, with what precision all branches of intellectual labour seem to be carried on; and how easily ability and talent make their way, find their place and their sphere of action, become known and acknowledged.

Mr. Downing has mentioned to me Horace Mann as one of the persons who have most effectually laboured for the future; as an individual who has brought about, by his enthusiasm and determination, a great reform in the work of instruction; who has laboured for the erection of beautiful new schools in all parts of the country, and has infused a new life into the organisation of schools. It appears that the reformers and the lecturers who develope the spiritual and intellectual life in America, and call forth its ideal, come from the northern states, from New England, and in particular from Massachusetts, the oldest home of the Pilgrims and the Puritans.

Of that which he himself has done, Mr. Downing speaks with the utmost modesty; but I heard from Miss Sedgwick that few men in the United States are so universally known, or so generally influential as he. His works on architecture, on gardening, on flowers and fruits—and all of which are calculated to ennoble the taste, to make the purest productions in their branches of science and art accessible to every man—these works are to be found everywhere, and nobody, whether he be rich or poor, builds a house or lays out a garden without consulting Downing's works. Every young couple who sets up housekeeping buys them.

“It happens,” said Mr. Downing modestly, “that I came at a time when people began universally to feel the necessity of information about building houses and laying out gardens.”

He is what people call here “a self-made man,” that is to say, a man who has less to thank education for what he is than his own endeavours. “He is one of our hest men,” said Miss Sedgwick.

It will readily be supposed that it was painful to me to leave him and his truly sweet and kind little wife. Mr. Downing has drawn up for me a proposed route of travel—the plan of a journey for one year through the United States, as well as furnished me with letters to his friends in the different States. I still had a deal to say to you about my happiness in being here, my happiness in the new vitality which seems given to me, although I feel that the outer life is a little wearisome sometimes; and I expect to have to pay for it one of these days. But ah! how few there are who have to complain of having too many objects of interest, of experiencing too much good will! My beloved Agatha, think of me in thy prayers; and that I know thou dost, and thank God for me that He has so abundantly fulfilled my secret prayers, has satisfied my hunger and my thirst, and nourished me with His riches and His goodness!

In the Morning.—Yet once more a greeting from the beautiful banks of the Hudson from the heights of Newburgh, before I leave them, perhaps for ever. Mr. Downing says, indeed, that I must return to them next year; but it is long till then, and I must travel far and see very much.

Again a beautiful morning. The river is bright as a mirror; hundreds of little vessels glide softly, like swimming sea-gulls, on the bosom of the water between the lofty hills. I wonder how they are able to move. The wind seems to sleep. Over the river and the mountains, over the golden woods, which assume every day a yet more golden hue, over the white glittering villages with their church spires, and in the bosom of the wooded hills rests the thin, white misty veil of the Indian summer. It is a scene of which the character is grand and calmly romantic. I feel and see it, but not merely in external nature. This Indian summer with its mystical life, its thin veil cast over the golden woods and mountains—I feel it in my soul. I look around me on nature, and ask, “Is it I who live in thee, or dost thou awaken this life in my soul?”

I see the beautiful well-built little houses, with their orchards and grounds which lie like pearls set in the emerald green frame of the river! How much is contained in them of that which is most valuable in the life of the new world. How beautiful and perfect seems here private life, engrafted as it is into public life; and what a pleasure it is to me that I have become acquainted with many of the families inhabiting these small homes on the banks of this great and glorious river!

Not far from Mr. Downing's villa is a beautiful country seat, inhabited by four sisters, all unmarried. A good brother, who had become wealthy by trade, built this house, and bought the land around it for his sisters. Some years afterwards, the brother fell into misfortunes: he lost all that he was possessed of. The sisters now took upon themselves the education of his children,—he has now his home with them. They are excellent and agreeable women, who know equally well how to converse seriously or merrily. On the other side of the river a brickmaker has built himself a lovely villa. This honourable man—for so he seems to be, and so he really is—has been here two or three times to present me with flowers, and invite me to his villa. Mr. Downing has called my attention to a beautiful little house, a frame-house, with green verandah and garden just in this neighbourhood. “It belongs,” said he, “to a man who in the day drives cart-loads of stone and rubbish for making the roads. In this is the working-man of the new world superior to him of the old. He can here by the hard labour of his hands obtain the more refined pleasures of life, a beautiful home, and the advantages of education for his family much more quickly. And here he may obtain these if he will. In Europe the greater number of workpeople cannot obtain them do what they will.

At this moment an explosion thunders from the other side of the Hudson, and I see huge blocks of stone hurled into the air, and then fall into the water, which foams and boils in consequence: it is a rock, which is being blasted with gunpowder on a line of railway now in progress along the banks of the river, and where the power of steam on land will compete with the power of steam on water. To hurl mountains out of the way; to bore through them; to form tunnels; to throw mountains into the water as a foundation for roads in places where it is necessary for it to go over the water; all this these Americans regard as nothing. They have a faith to remove mountains.

Now come the steam-boats thundering like tempest in the mountains. Two or three chase each other like immense meteors; one amongst them comes along heavily, labouring and puffing, dragging along a large fleet of larger and smaller craft. New York receives butter, and cheese, and cattle, and many other good things from the country; and the country, with its towns and rural abodes, receives coffee and tea, and wine, and wearing-apparel, and many other things from New York, and through New York, from Europe. The little town of Newburgh maintains alone by its trade from the country and back two or three steam-boats. When one sees the number, and the magnificence of the steam-boats on the Hudson, one can scarcely believe the fact, that it is not more than thirty years since Fulton made here his first experiment with steam-power on the river, and that amid general distrust of the undertaking. He says himself, when speaking on this subject:—

“When I was about to build my first steam-boat, the public of New York in part regarded it with indifference, in part with contempt, as an entirely foolish undertaking. My friends were polite, but they were shy of me. They listened with patience to my explanations, but with a decided expression of disbelief in their countenances. As I went daily to and from the place where my boat was building, I often lingered unknown near the idle groups of strangers who were collected there, and listened to their remarks respecting the new locomotive. Their language was always that of scorn and persecution. People laughed aloud, and made jokes at my expense; and reckoned up the fallacy and loss of money on ‘Mr. Fulton's Folly,’ as the undertaking was constantly called. Never did I meet with an encouraging remark, an animating hope, or a warm wish.

“At length came the day when the experiment was to be tried. To me it was a moment of the utmost importance. I had invited many of my friends to go on board and witness the first successful voyage. Many of these did me the kindness to come, but it was evident that they did so reluctantly, and in the belief that they should become the witnesses of my humiliation, and not of my triumph; and I know very well that there was sufficient reason to doubt of my success. The machinery was new, and ill made. A great portion of it was prepared by artisans unaccustomed to such work; and difficulties might easily arise, also, from other causes. The hour arrived at which the boat was to begin to move. My friends stood in groups on deck. Their looks indicated uneasiness, mingled with fear: they were silent and dejected. The signal was given, and the boat was put in motion; it advanced a short distance, then stopped, and became immovable. The former silence now gave place to murmurs and displeasure, and disquiet whisperings, and shrugging of shoulders. I heard on all sides ‘I said it would be so;’ ‘It is a foolish undertaking;’ ‘I wish we were all well out of it.’

“I mounted on the platform, and told my friends that I did not know what was the cause of the stoppage, but that if they would be calm, and give me half an hour's time, I would either continue the voyage or give it up entirely. I went down to the engine, and very soon discovered an unimportant oversight in the arrangement: this was put to rights. The boat began to move once more. We left New York; we passed through the Highlands; we arrived at Albany! But even then was mistrust stronger than positive proof. It was doubted whether the thing could be carried through, and if so, whether it would ever lead to any great advantage.”

This was about thirty years since; and now half the human race flies over land and sea upon Fulton's wings! But even in the New World first discoveries have to contend with trouble and opposition.

The dew of morning lies upon the soft grass-plat before my window, and the beautiful groups of flowers and trees are glittering with it; among these is the little magnolia, with beautiful light-red seed-vessels; everything is beautiful and peaceful, and—that great, rich scene, the life upon the river below! I should like to live beside a large river like this. What great thoughts, what life is there not in it, from its commencement in the fountains of the clouds, in the cradle of the hills, and during its course through the valleys and the fields of earth, growing ever mightier as it advances!


As guests the affluent cities it inviteth,
And flowery meadows gather round its knees.—Tegnér.


It is a benefactor wherever it goes; it salutes and makes festive; confers benefits and blessings; but it takes no notice of this; it pauses not, neither rests.


Lands it baptises with its name and flows on;


A hero's life! Then hastens he onward to his goal, the ocean: there he finds rest—rest worthy of a heroic soul—peace in the infinite, the great: sufficient for all.

I would willingly live by the Hudson if I did not know a river yet dearer to me: it is called Götha River. Our Årsta is charming beside its salt waves. But I would rather have a little place beside the river Götha; and I fancy that you would be better there, on the western coast of Sweden, than on the eastern, and the colder.

I must now leave you, to write other letters. Mr. Downing will also write a few words to you and to mamma. I yesterday proposed a toast, your health, and we drank it in champagne.

Kind greeting to relations and friends, and say something especially cordial to Beata Afzelius from me.