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code is austere and stoical; in religion, they incline to Calvinism; as critics, they are apt to treat their cotemporaries with too much contempt; they sometimes maintain that the world degenerates, though they hold, that it was always too bad to degenerate much. The Croakers are generally shrewd men; very good at an argument; and often what they affect to be-a little wiser than their neighbors. But they look forever at the dark side of the picture, and seem to hold sadness another name for wisdom.
The Perfectionists are a very growing sect. It was once held almost universally, that these modern ages were but the aftergrowth of antiquity; that the ancients were giants, and the moderns, pigmies. The famous controversy as to the comparative merits of the ancients and moderns, first betrayed the heresy of the Perfectionists; and Voltaire, with the other French philosophers, did much toward converting the world to that doctrine. But it is only in our times, that the sect has become predominant. It is the prevailing opinion of the Perfectionists, that the present inhabitants of the earth, and themselves in particular, are the wisest people that ever existed. Not content, however, with their present attainments, they aim at still loftier heights of wisdom, and, not satisfied with enlightening themselves alone, they seem determined that all men shall know all, that can be known. They appear to hold knowledge a cure for all evil, and to believe that education can supply all the deficiencies of nature. They are generally ardent and enthusiastic men, who feel much, but reason little; and, as some writers have held that no man can be a great poet without being a little mad, so it seems impossible to be a great Perfectionist, without the brain being a little cloudy.
Tom Puffball is a great Perfectionist. I heard him lecture the other day at a Lyceum to which we both belong. His subject was the recent discoveries in Africa. After talking a full hour about Park, Clappertoon, Timbuctoo and the Landers, he closed his discourse, with the following burst of eloquence :-"It is impossible, my friends, to anticipate the result of these great discoveries. No doubt, it will be prodigious. Within a year, we shall see steam-boats stemming the tides of the Niger, and within ten years there will be a great city at the mouth of the river, and trading towns scattered along its banks. The civilization of Europe will be introduced into the heart of Africa; and the merchants of America will delight to instruct, to Christianize, and to enlighten their negro brethren. We, who are assembled here, may live to see a great and polished empire arise in Nigritia. Schools, lyceums, and other literary institutions will be founded; the English language will be introduced; a republican government will be established; Negroland will partake of the spirit of the age, and join with Europe and America, in helping on the march of mind, and the great triumph of mind over matter."
The third sect is that of the Skeptics. Compared with the other two, this sect is very small. Men hate to doubt; and to doubt is the philosophy of the Skeptics. They are held too in very bad repute, and both the other sects have a great dread of their cool-headed logic. The true Skeptics are generally very superior men; though now and then a dunce will pretend to be of the party. Yet, as they are alone, few, without enthusiasm, and, by principle and temper disqualified from
playing upon the imaginations of men, they commonly make but little figure in the world, and never become conspicuous but as the ally of one of the other sects. They commonly side with the weaker party. Formerly they joined the Perfectionists, but now, for the most part, they unite with the Croakers.
And to which of these sects does the Limping Philosopher belong?not to the Skeptics ;-Heaven shield me from such an imputation; and not always to the Croakers; nor yet, altogether, to the Perfectionists. Before dinner, I am apt to be a Croaker; and all my forenoon specu lations are tinged with a certain degree of acerbity. After dinner, and over a comfortable bottle of claret, my heart gradually relaxes. I grow pleased with myself and with the world. It is then, that my bosom swells with universal benevolence, and I begin to grow a Perfectionist.
ICELAND AND ICELANDERS.
THE study of man under every aspect of his existence has an interest, which belongs to no other subject that can engage enlightened curiosity. We are naturally desirous to learn, how far he is the master of his own destiny, or if he does but rough hew the course which is shaped for him by a power beyond his control. We desire to know, if it is indeed in the power of a tropical sun, to enervate the moral force of nations, and unfit them for the enjoyment of liberty and the delights of invention; and again, if the intensity of the cold at the remote north can, indeed, make the blood flow lazily, and chill the passions that stimulate to enterprise.
For ourselves we believe that man, if not wholly the master of himself, is yet not subservient to the elements, to time, or to climate. We believe, that very much the same feelings throbbed under the breast of the ancient Greek and the modern republican; that the well-springs of the affections flowed as abundantly and as purely under the skies of Latium as now on the banks of the Miami; and the burdens patiently endured beneath the turrets of Babel, produced very much the same servility as is now visible in the serfs of Russia. Man is essentially the same, though the circumstances of his age may somewhat modify his character. Nor does climate necessarily control his destiny. The same wild laugh bursts from the peasant girls of Sweden when they greet the return of May, as from the Tuscans when they celebrate their early festivals; and Iceland had trafficked for centuries with America, or at least had fished in its waters, before Genoa produced a pilot, to carry the Southern European across the ocean.
It was as to an asylum, that men, in the ninth century, made their escape from the excessive tyranny of the despot of Norway to the remote coasts of Iceland. It was to fly from persecution and intolerable oppression, to gain a safe emancipation from the dominion of injustice, that men made their way to the island, whose name might have struck terror into the minds of brave men, and whose position on the very verge of the Arctic region seemed to threaten nothing but inhos
pitable sterility; it was to this place of night and solitude, that men came, to dispute the possession of the desert with the ferocious brutes of the Polar regions, and the still more fearful climate. Strange that no kindlier asylum should have offered for the reception of emigrants, who asked so little of fortune. But the place of refuge of the unfortunate is sure to thrive. A republic soon started into being, and the country became famous for its civil organization as well as for the contented prosperity of its inhabitants.
We have said that the land, which is the asylum for the unfortunate, will always prosper. It is the sturdy minds, the choice and daring spirits, who resist the evils of accident and fortune, and fly from the scenes that are embittered by oppression or hardship, to regions, where their enterprise may expand, and their abilities gather round them the safe reward of action. Hence it is, that civilization makes progress most rapidly, where such spirits meet together; and as they are able to contemplate life under a simple aspect, remote from the influence of prescriptive abuse, and unmolested by the menaces of surrounding prejudices, so their institutions and their works usually exhibit evidence of the most successful application of human activity and wisdom. Is it surprising, then, that the refugees who had fled to the verge of Europe, should have been distinguished by astonishing deeds? Is it wonderful, that the Icelanders were the first to make their way across the Atlantic, and return to announce the discovery of the new world? Such is the fact, and centuries elapsed after the first voyages of these unpretending islanders to the American continent, before the daring of the Genoese mariner ventured on the enterprise, which has secured to him immortality. True, the successful seamen, who had anchored in the bays of Newfoundland, and had been the first from the old world to take fish on the Grand Bank, did not promulgate the tidings to the rest of Europe. Why should they have done so? They were but exiles from the kingdoms of the continent; they had crept away into the realms of frost, to be safe and independent. Their moderate views did not aim at glory; as for the nations whom they had left, they asked only for peace, and desired only to live unknown and unnoticed. It was enough for them, that their own curiosity was gratified. So their knowledge remained confined among themselves; and as for emigrating to America, it seems not to have occurred to them. Their entire contentment with the spot where heaven had blessed them with the undisturbed possession of liberty, left them no sufficient inducement to change their abode.
Is it remarkable, that under such favoring circumstances an original and highly valuable literature should have sprung up in a state of society so admirably suited to encourage and to reward? This, also, is the just distinction of the Icelanders. The rivals of the Troubadours appeared in the authors of the Edda; the bards of the gay South found nowhere so powerful, so original, so excellent competitors, none so worthy of engaging permanent attention, as the poets who lived where moss grows instead of violets and flowers, and where there are icebergs for fountains The poets, whose minds were ripened by the contemplation of the wrecks of antiquity, and by the genial influences of a Southern sun, were rivalled, nay, were surpassed, by those who lived where there was no shade but of the rock and the mountain, no
communing with other men but across the ocean, no inspiration but such as existed in the hearts of the bards. The Icelandic literature is superior in independence of character to all the antiquities of the Gothic nations, and surpasses them all in fervid excellence. The ancients represented the god of poetry as also the god of light, radiant in youth and joy; here everything was reversed. In a climate "Where summer, shivering, hurries through the sky,"
where, in the depths of winter, the sun is hardly seen, a literature bloomed, and the various productions of poetry came into existence in wild abundance among the rocks that resist the Arctic seas. Tell us then,-Is not the mind of man master of circumstances? Cannot the mind triumphantly resist the influence of climate? Here, in the land which produces neither wine nor corn, no fruits, no trees, almost no esculent vegetables, the land of volcanoes and ice, high honors for intellectual culture have been won by this rude offset of the family of the Gothic nations. The thing would be incredible; if the evidence were not complete. And what a life of privations and hardships these early Icelanders must have led? Their maritime adventurers were so charmed with the aspect of Greenland, that, anticipating the Spaniards in the case of Florida, they gave it a name indicative of its lovely appearance. Much in the same manner, at a later period, the Swedes having found their way to the Southern promontory of Delaware, named it Paradise Point; it was such a heaven compared with their native marshes. And when the Icelandic adventurers approached Newfoundland, they were enraptured with its enticing appearance. But, ascending the St. Lawrence, to where the waters are brackish, they found, on the shores of what seemed to them a vast lake, enormous wild grape vines, and, in an extasy of admiration, they called it the Land of the Grape. Ye inhabitants of Anticosta, (we believe two or three contrive to live on that island,) do but enjoy the thought, that your climate was an object of envy! They say, that man, having been created in the evening, did homage to the stars, till the moon rose, and then he worshipped the moon till the sun came forth upon the Eastern hills. So it was with our worthy Icelanders; Labrador was admirable, till they saw Newfoundland, and Newfoundland delightful, till Cape Rosier was discovered. But when that Cape was once passed, admiration could rise no hig ; the splendid visions of the luxuriant South appeared to be more than realized.
Times are changed. The Icelanders no longer take the lead in maritime enterprise; their commerce is shackled by the restrictions of monopolies; their fountains of inspiration are dried up; their independence has been lost; their ancient diets superseded or dissolved, and now, politically and intellectually, their country might seem but subordinate to the Danish court. So true it is, that freedom, and freedom only, is the nurse of greatness.
But if the political character of the Icelanders has declined, the rugged features of nature still remain, furnishing the strangest incongruities and the wildest and sublimest contrasts. Here we have glaciers of many miles extent, with rivers gushing impetuously from their sides, and near them, perhaps, the earth heaves with subterranean fires, and the mountain is pouring forth its liquid torrents of fire. All that there is of surprising and of grand in the rugged scenery and the
chilling aspect of the Arctic regions, and all that nature can accumulate of the wonders of volcanic energies, exhausted or in action, are here crowded together into one island, whose harbors are sometimes blocked up with the ice from Greenland, and sometimes by the currents of lava. The traveler is now stopped in his career by the encroachment of an ice mountain on the usual path, and is now compelled to make his way across fields of sulphur. A thin crust only divides him from the subterranean heats; and as he moves onward, he is compelled to lead his horse in the gentlest manner, lest that thin crust be broken. If by chance he breaks through, he is in danger of being scorched by the intensity of the enduring heat; and where the hoofs of his horse have indented the surface, a flame bursts forth; smoke issues; and the path of the lean animal is marked by fiery footsteps. At one time, a lake or a morass may impede the progress of the wanderer; or it may be a burning quagmire, which offers no safe resting-place for the foot. The cold and the heat are perpetually transforming the face of nature. The "cold, resistless mass " of the glacier is perpetually stealing into the valley; and, in one instance, field of ice has extended for a distance of twenty miles, and is still advancing, till now it has almost reached the sea-shore, and promises soon to present the rare phenomenon of a river of solid ice, discharging itself into the ocean in a frozen state. And, perhaps, in the depths of that very ocean, the heavings of earthquakes are preparing new islands, and the volcanic activity of nature laying the foundations of new abodes for man. Nay; in 1783, a new island was sent up from the depths of the ocean; and was of such magnitude and promise, as to excite the cupidity of his Danish majesty. It was accordingly claimed and seized upon in his name; but a decree went forth from a higher power, and it was not long before the sea resumed its own again.
In the midst of such scenes the quiet of nature strikes terror into the soul; and the silence of the valleys, which are sheltered behind the ramparts of lava, is appalling. Nature seems to sleep amidst the wrecks of her own creating. The stillness of death rests among the ruins of former forms of being. The very mountains decay; the very rocks melt with fire; the earth itself is consumed and wasted. The traveler shudders, as he winds his way among these relics of former existence. Why should he muse on the vanity of human life, on the transient nature of human enjoyments? when, behold Nature herself is changing, and the very hills, which he had deemed everlasting, are wasting away.
If from this fearful quiet, he turns in quest of motion, he can hardly find it, except where he finds it in turbulent excess. The waves of the surrounding seas are never still; now dashing against each other in sullen majesty; now breaking on the immoveable rocks; now making their way in eddies far into the interior, and indenting the coast with infinite irregularities; and now throwing upon the shore masses of drift wood, the relics of a former creation, or, it may be, the plunder of the ocean from some undiscovered shore; or the restoration of forests which, ages ago, were buried in the sea. All is mystery. At times the winds rage so furiously, and the billows rise with such power, that the masses of Greenland ice on the waters are hurled against each