Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

“Yes sir; about nine o'clock in the boom geared the other ship, you know, morning--the sea being smooth and the in maneuvering to get headway." ship running, as I should think, about “But supposing he could have got seven knots—you came up into the main- here that fashion, which is quite impostop, where I belong, and was pleased to sible under all the circumstarces-what ask my opinion about the best way to motive could have induced him volunset a top gallant stu'n'-sail."

tarily to jump among enemies ?” “He's mad! He's mad !" said the “Let him answer for himself," said officer, with delirious conclusiveness. the officer, turning suddenly upon Israel, “Také him away, take him away-put with the view of taking him off his him somewhere, master-at-arms. Stay, guard, by the matter of course assumpone test more. What mess do you be- tion of the very point at issue. long to?"

" Answer, sir. Why did you jump on “Number 12, sir."

board here, last night, from the enemy?" “Mr. Tidds,” to a midshipman, “send “Jump on board, sir, from the enemy? mess No. 12 to the mast."

Why, sir, my station at general quarTen sailors replied to the summons, ters is at gun No. 3, of the lower deck, and arranged themselves before Israel. here."

“Men, does this man belong to your “He's cracked—or else I am turned mess ?"

-or all the world is ;-take him away?" “No, sir; never saw him before this “But where am I to take him, sir!" morning."

said the master-at-arms. “He don't “ What are those men's names ?” he

seem to belong anywhere, sir, Wheredemanded of Israel.

where am I to take him?" “Well, sir, I am so intimate with all “Take him out of sight,” said the of them,” looking upon them with a officer, now incensed with his own perkindly glance, “I never call them by plexity. “Take him out of sight, I say." their real names, but by nick-names. “Come along, then, my ghost," said So, never using their real names, I have the master-at-arms. And, collaring the forgotten them. The nick-names that phantom, he led it hither and thither, I know them by, are Towser, Bowser, not knowing exactly what to do with it. Rowser, Snowser."

Some fifteen minutes passed, when the “Enough. Mad as a March hare. captain coming from his cabin, and Take him away. Hold," again added observing the master-at-arms leading the officer, whom some strange fascina- Israel about in this indefinite style, detion still bound to the bootless investi- manded the reason of that procedure, gation. “What's my name, sir ?" adding that it was against his express

“Why, sir, one of my messmates here orders for any new and degrading puncalled you Lieutenant Williamson, just ishments to be invented for his men, now,

and I never heard you called by “Come here, master-at-arms. To what any other name."

end do you lead that man about ?" « There's method in his madness," “To no end in the world, sir. I keep thought the officer to himself. “What's leading him about because he has no the captain's name?"

final destination.” “ Why, sir, when we spoke the enemy, “Mr. officer of the deck, what does last night, I heard him say, through his this mean? Who is this strange man? trumpet, that he was Captain Parker; and I don't know that I remember him. very likely he knows his own name.”' Who is he? And what is signified by

“I have you now. That ain't the his being led about?" captain's real name."

Hereupon, the officer of the deck, * He's the best judge himself, sir, of throwing himself into a tragical posturo, what his name is, I should think." set forth the entire mystery; much to

“Were it not,” said the officer, now the captain's astonishment, who at once turning gravely upon his juniors, “were indignantly turned upon the phantom. it not, that such a supposition were on “You rascal-don't try to deceive me. other grounds absurd, I should certainly Who are you? and where did you come conclude that this man, in some unknown from last ?" way, got on board here from the enemy “Sir, my name is Peter Perkins, and last night.”

I last came from the forecastle, where “How could he, sir?" asked the sailing- the master-at-arms last led ine, before master.

coming here." “Heaven knows. But our spanker- “No joking, sir, no joking."

ago ?”

“Sir, I'm sure it's too serious a busi- have been the time; I had the brain Less to joke about.”

fever, and lost my mind for a while." * Do you have the assurance to say, “ Master-at-arms, take this man away." that you, as a regularly shipped man, " Where shall I take him, sir ?" touchhave been on board this vessel ever since

ing his cap. she sailed from Falmouth, ten months “Go, and air him on the forecastle."

So they resumed their devious wan. “Sir, anxious to secure a berth under derings. At last, they descended to the so good a commander, I was among the berth-deck. It being now breakfastfirst to enlist."

time, the master-at-arms, & good-humor“What ports have we touched at, ed man, very kindly introduced our hero sir?" said the captain, now in a little to his mess, and presented him with softer tone.

breakfast; during which he in vain en"Ports, sir, ports ?"

deavored, by all sorts of subtle blandish** Yes, sir, ports.”

ments, to worm out his secret. Israel began to scratch his yellow hair. At length Israel was set at liberty; What ports, sir?"

and whenever there was any important "Well, sir:-Boston, for one." duty to be done, volunteered to it with

“Right there,” whispered a midship- such cheerful alacrity, and approved man.

himself so docile and excellent a seaman, * What was the next port, sir?" that he conciliated the approbation of all

* Why, sir, I was saying Boston was the officers, as well as the captain; the first port, I believe; wasn't it?- while his general sociability served in and"

the end, to turn in his favor the suspi** The second port, sir, is what I want." cious hearts of the mariners. Perceiv** Well-New York."

ing his good qualities, both as a sailor Right again," whispered the mid- and man, the captain of the main-top shipman.

applied for his admission into that sec- And what port are we bound to, tion of the ship; where, still improving now?"

upon his former reputation, our bero did ** Let me see-homeward-bound-Fal- daty for the residue of the voyage. mouth, sir."

One pleasant afternoon, the last of the - What sort of a place is Boston ?" passage, when the ship was nearing the * Pretty considerable of a place, sir." Lizard, within a few hours' sail of her ** Very straight streets, ain't they ?” port, the officer of the deck, happering

* Yes, sir; cow-paths, cut by sheep- to glance upwards towards the inain-top, walks, and intersected with hen-tracks.” descried Israel there, leaning very leis

** When did we fire the first gun?" urely over the rail, looking mildly down

* Well, sir, just as we were leaving Fal- where the officer stood. mouth, ten months ago-signal-gun, sir." “Well, Peter Perkins, you seem to

- Where did we fire the first shotted belong to the main-top, after all." gun, sir?-and what was the name of the “I always told you so, sir," smiled privateer we took upon that occasion ?” Israel, benevolently down upon him,

** 'Pears to me, sir, at that time I was “though, at first, you remember, sir, on the sick list. Yes, sir, that must you would not believe it."

PSYCHAURA.

Tax wind of an autumn midnight

Is moaning around my door
The curtains wave at the window,

The carpet lists on the floor.
There are sounds, like startled footfalls,

In the distant chambers now,
And the touching of airy fingers

Is busy on hand and brow.
Tis thus, in the Soul's dark dwelling-
By the moody host unsought-
Through the chambers of memory wander

The invisible airs of Thought.
For it bloweth where it listeth,

With a murmur loud or low;

Whence it cometh-whither it goeth

None tell us, and none may know. Now wearying round the portals

of the vacant, desolate mindAs the doors of a rnined mansion,

That creak in the cold night wind. And anon an awful memory

Sweeps over it fierce and highLike the roar of a mountain forest,

When the midnight gale goes by.
Then its voice subsides in wailing,

And, ere the dawning of day,
Murmuring fajnter and Painter,

In the distance dies away.

NEGRO MINSTRELSY - ANCIENT AND MODERN.

IT

is now some eighteen or twenty raptore, throwing her weiglit alternately years since an enterprising Yankee, upon the tendon Achillis of the ore, and actuated, it is but charitable to suppose, the toes of the other foot, her left hand by the purest love of musical art, by the resting upon her hip, her right, like that enthusiasm of a discoverer, or by a of some prophetic sybil, extended aloft, proper and praiseworthy desire for post- gyrating as the exigencies of the song humous fame, produced upon the boards required, and singing Jim Orow at the of one of our metropolitan theatres, a top of her voice. Popularity like this musical sketch entitled “Jim Crow." laughs at anathemas from the pulpit, or Beyond the simple fact of its production sneers from the press. The song which by the estimable gentleman above re- is sung in the parlor, hummed in the ferred to, the origin of this ancient and kitchen, and whistled in the stable, may peculiar melody is beyond the reach of defy oblivion. But such signal and trimodern antiquarian lore. Whether it umphant success can produce but one was first sung upon the banks of the result. Close upon the heels of Jim Alatamaha, the Alabama, or the Missis- Crow, came treading, one after the other, sippi; or, whether it is pre-American, "Zip Coon," " Long-tailed Blue," " Ole and a relic of heathen rites in Congo, or Virginny neber tire," "Settin' on a Rail,” in that mysterious heart of Africa, which and a host of others, all of superior foot oi civilized man has never trod, is a merit, though unequal alike in their inproblem whose solution must be left to trinsic value, and in their participation the zeal and research of some future in public approval. The golden Age of Ethiopian Oldbuck. It is sufficient for negro literature had commenced. Thencethe present disquisition to know that it forward for several years the appearance appeared in the manner above stated. of a new melody was an event whose To those (if there can be any such) who importance can hardly be appreciated are unacquainted with its character and by the coming generation. It flew from general scope, it may be proper to re- mouth to mouth, and from hamlet to mark that " Jim Orow" is what may be hamlet, with a rapidity which seemed called a dramatic song, depending for its miraculous. The stage-driver dropped a success, perhaps more than any play stave or two of it during a change of the ever written for the stage, upon the ac- mails at some out of the way tavern; it tion and mimetic powers of the per- was treasured up and remembered, and former. Its success was iminediate and added to from day to day, till the whole marked. It touched a chord in the became fa niliar as household words. American heart which had never before Yankee Doodle went to town with a load vibrated, but which now responded to of garden vegetables. If upon his ears the skilful fingers of its first expounder, there fell the echo of a new plantation like the music of the Bermoothes to the song, barter and sight-seeing were semagic wand of Prospero. The school- condary objects till he had mastered both boy whistled the melody on his unwilling its words and music. Thereafter, and way to his daily tasks. The ploughman until supplanted by some equally enthuchecked his oxen in mid-furrow, as he siastic and enterprising neighbor, Yankee reached its chorus, that the poetic ex- Doodle was the hero of his native vale, hortation to “ do just so," might have of Todd Hollow, Like the troubadours the action suited to the word. Mer- and minstrels of ancient days, he found chants and staid professional men, to open doors and warm hearts wherever whom a joke was a sin, were sometimes he went. Cider, pumpkin pie, and the seen by the eyes of prying curiosity in smiles of the fair were bestowed upon private to unbend their dignity to that him with an unsparing hand. His song weird and wonderful posture, now, alas ! was for the time to him the wand of seldom seen but in historic pictures, or Fortunatus. upon the sign of a tobacconist; and of The prevailing characteristics of the the thoroughly impressive and extraor- melodies which this period produced dinary sights which the writer of this are their perfect and continual lightarticle has in his lifetiine beheld, the ness, spirit, and good humor; but the most memorable and noteworthy was true secret of their favor with the world that of a young lady in a sort of inspired is to be found in the fact that they

are genuine and real. They are no further illustration of this subject I cansenseless and ridiculous imitations not forbear quoting a portion of a banjo forged in the doll brain of some north- song from a volume now lying before ern self-styled minstrel, but the veritable me. Its genuineness, no one at all famj tanes and words which have lightened liar with negro literature will presume le the labor of some weary negro in the question, while its intrinsic worth and cotton Eelds, amused his moonlight excellence will be perceived by the hours as he fished, or waked the spirits most indifferent or prejudiced observer. of the woods as he followed in the track It is hardly possible to peruse it withof the wary racoon. It is as impossible out thinking of Gil Maurice or Sy: to counterfeit, or successfully imitate, Charles Bawdin. Not inferior to the one of these songs, as it would be for a foriner in its simplicity and truthfulness modern poet to produce a border ballad it is far above the feeble imitation of like Chery Chase or Lord Jamie Dou- Chatterton in dramatic effect and ar. glas. It is not alone the patient and tistic construction. laborious student of negro minstrelsy that can detect the ring of the false "Oh, my boys I'm bound to tell you; metal. The shameless imitations carry

Oh! Oh!

Listen awhile, and I will tell you; their impostare upon their face. Wal

Oh! Oh! pole, with all his credulity, would never I'll tell you little 'bout Uncle Gabriel ; have been deceived, had Chatterton Oh, boys, I've just begun. tarned his attention to manufacturing Hard times in old Virginny. plantation songs.

The allusion to ancient English and "Oh, don't you know old Uncle Gabriel ? Scottish ballads cannot fail to bring

Oh! Oh! to the mind of the poetical scholar, the

Oh, he was a darkey General,

Oh! Oh! striking similarity that exists between

He was the chief of the insurgents, many of the “specimens” of Percy, Way down in Southampton. Ritson and others, and the most ap- Hard times in old Virginny. proved poetry of the African school. In the terseness and fitness of the lan- " It was a little boy betrayed him, guage, the oft repeated idiomatic expres

Oh! Oh! sions, the occasional looseness and

A little boy by the name of Daniel

Oh! Oh! Degligence in respect to rhyme, the

Betrayed him at the Norfolk landing; carelessness and license in the metre, Oh, boys I'm getting done. and, above all, in the incoherence of the Hard Times in old Virginny. constantly recurring refrain; the lover of negro minstrelsy is continually re- " Says he, How d'ye do, my Uncle Gabriel ? minded of the old, plain songs which

Oh! Oh! Shakespeare loved, and “the spinsters

I am not your Uncle Gabriel,

Oh! Oh! and the knitters in the sun" did use

My name it is Jim McCullen; to chant. I quote almost at random Some they calls me Archy Mullin. from Motherwell.

Hard times in old Virginny.

[blocks in formation]

the advent of the coming poet who is to with an arck leer upon his face : "I'clar take away from America the sin and the Maussa," replied be, "I'se so near-sighted, shame of never having produced an epic, dis mornin?, I can't 'stinguish de letor a lyric, commensurate with Niagara ters." and the Rocky Mountains, will do well Reading Othello one warm and quie! to get up a subscription and buy the au- afternoon, in the shade of a spreading thor of this song, if his owner can be fig-tree, I became suddenly aware of the persuaded to part with him. His noble, bright eyes of Quash, which were turned poetic nature must chafe in the cotton with a curious gaze upon me and my field like Pegasus in harness. The speci- book, as if he were wondering at that men above given, is simple, grand, and strange and awful science, which disclog. expressive. The picture it presents to es to us the thoughts and feelings of the the imagination is natural and life-like. dead. “Quash,” said I, wishing to get, The stream of song runs in a straight from a mind totally unbiased by the channel, and conducts us swiftly and di- conflicting opinions of critics, a "first rectly to the catastrophe. There is no impression" upon a disputed passage, turning aside for flowery metaphors, or “which reading do you prefer, 'Put out forcible expressions—no straining for ef- the light, and then-Put out the light,' fect--no lugubrious whining over the or, 'Put out the light, and then-put out hero's downfall—no moralizing his un- the light'?" Quash scratched his woolly happy fate. Even the jingle of rhyme head, and putting on that same indeis wanting. And yet, for severe beauty, scribable leer again, solved the difficulty perfect dramatic structure, and succinct at once. “I tink, Maussa,” replied he, impressive narration, it would be difficult " I should make um blow de light out in the whole range of ancient and mo- de fuss time.” If the student of Shakesdern ballad poetry, to find a worthy rival peare ponders as long and as deeply upon to “Uncle Gabriel."

this answer as I did, the covert satire The lightness and prevailing good hu- and the Æsopian wisdom which it dismor of the negro songs, have been before plays will not be lost upon him. Alexremarked upon. A true southern melo- ander's solution of the Gordian knot was dy is seldom sentimental, and never me- not more witty or more wise. But that lancholy. And this results directly from rascal Quash is at his old trick, again, I the character and habits of the colored find, of causing me to neglect my busirace. No hardships or troubles can de- ness. Let us return. stroy, or even check their happiness and In or about the year 1841, a descriplevity. As I pen these words, the grin- tive ballad, entitled “ Ole Dan Tucker," ning image of the boy Quasli rises up first made its appearance, and speedily before me like a phantom. Light-heart- acquired a renown and popularity hard ed, witty, and gay, he was the very ly excelled, even by that of " Jim Crow." type of his race. His jests, his laughter, This may be partly attributable to the and his songs linger with me yet, though fact that less histrionic talent is required many a long year has passed since I to give it a fitting interpretation, and gazed upon liis shining face. It is but partly to its intrinsio worth. In soine fitting that I should embalm his memory respects Ole Dan Tucker may be regardin these pages. Watching one day the ed as the best of what I have denomiembarkation of a few bales of cotton, I nated the ancient negro ballads. The noticed Quash in the shadow of the melody * was far superior to anything steamboat as she lay alongside the dock. that had preceded it.

In its vivacity A foolish whim induced me to say, and liveliness, the music occasionally “Quash, what is the name of that boat su reminds us of some of Donizetti's hapQuash stepped deliberately up to the side piest efforts, while its simplicity and of the boat, gazed knowingly at the quaintness at times breathe of Auber. large black letters on the wheel-house, The words, too, came more deariy home shaded his eyes with his hand, and to the heart of the American people, looked again, dropped his head between than those of its predecessors. The his shoulders, and peered earnestly into song, it is needless to say, consists of a the unknown characters, stepped a few series of vivid pictures, disconnected paces back, and went through the same in themselves, varying as rapidly as the manæuvres, and at last turned to me changes in a kaleidoscope, and yet pre

• I ha 'e hitherto given to the word melody its technical signification of a negrois song. Of course, here It has its ordinary meaning.

« AnteriorContinuar »