Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

The Europeans were hardly less amazed at the scene now before them. Every herb and shrub was different from those which flourished in Europe. The soil seemed rich, but bore few marks of cultivation. The climate, even to the Spaniards, felt warm, though extremely delightful. The inhabitants appeared in the simple innocence of nature, entirely naked. Their black hair, long and uncurled, floated upon their shoulders, or was bound in tresses on their heads. They had no beards, and every part of their bodies was perfectly smooth. Their complexion was of a dusty copper colour, their features singular rather than disagreeable, their aspect gentle and timid. Though not tall, they were well shaped and active. Their faces, and several parts of their bodies, were fantastically painted with glaring colours. They were shy at first with fear, but soon became familiar with the Spaniards, and with transports of joy received from them hawk-bells, glass beads, or other baubles ; in return for which they gave such provisions as they had, and some cotton-yarn, the only commodity of value which they could produce. Thus, in the first interview between the inhabitants of the Old and New Worlds, everything was conducted amicably and to their mutual satisfaction. The former, enlightened and ambitious, formed already vast ideas with regard to the advantages which they might derive from the regions which began to open on their view. The latter, simple and undiscerning, had no foresight of the calamities and desolation which were approaching their country.

ROBERTSON, History of America.

COLUMBUS AT THE SIGHT OF LAND.

The thoughts and feelings of Columbus at the sight of land must have been tumultuous and intense. At length, in spite of every difficulty and danger, he had accomplished his object. The great mystery of the ocean was revealed ; his theory, which had been the scoff of sages, was triumphantly established ; he had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world. It is difficult even for the imagination to conceive the feelings of such a man, at the moment of so sublime a discovery. What a bewildering crowd of conjectures must have thronged upon his mind, as to the land which lay before him, covered with darkness ! That it was fruitful, was evident from the vegetables which floated from its shores. He thought, too, that he perceived in the balmy air the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light which he had beheld proved that it was the residence of man. But what were its inhabitants ? Were they like those of other parts of the globe; or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination in those times was prone to give to all remote and unknown regions ? Had he come upon some wild island far in the Indian Seas; or was this the famed Cipango itself, the object of his golden fancies ? A thousand speculations of the kind must have swarmed upon him as he watched for the night to pass away; wondering whether the morning light would reveal a savage wilderness, or dawn upon spicy groves, and glittering fanes, and gilded cities, and all the splendours of Oriental civilization.

WASHINGTON IRVING, Life of Columbus."

PARALLEL BETWEEN DRYDEN AND POPE.

Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied; that of Pope is cautious and uniform. Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle.

Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.

Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet, that quality without which judgment is cold and knowledge is inert, that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates, the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more; for every

other writer since Milton must give place to Pope; and even of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce or chance supply. If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.

JOHNSON, “Lives of the Poets."

THE POWER OF LANGUAGE.

a

Language is fossil history as well. What a record of great social revolutions—revolutions in nations and in the feelings of nations—the one word “frank" contains; which is used, as we all know, to express aught that is generous, straightforward, and free. The Franks, I need not remind you, were a powerful German tribe, or association of tribes, which at the breaking up of the Roman empire possessed themselves of Gaul, to which they gave their own name. They were the ruling conquering people, honourably distinguished from the Gauls and degenerate Romans, among whom they established themselves, by their independence, their love of freedom, their scorn of a lie; they had, in short, the virtues which belong to a conquering and dominant race in the midst of an inferior and conquered one. And thus it came to pass that by degrees the name “ frank,” which may have originally indicated merely a national, came to

a

[ocr errors]

involve a moral, distinction as well; and a “frank"

a man was synonymous not merely with a man of the conquering German race, but was an epithet applied to a person possessed of certain high moral qualities, which for the most part appertained to, and were found only in, men of that stock; and thus in men's daily intercourse, when they speak of a person as being "frank,” or when they use the words "frarchise," enfranchisement,” to express civil liberties and immunities, their language here is the outgrowth, the record, and the result of great historic changes, and bears testimony to facts of history, whereof it may well happen that the speakers have never heard....

Language is full of instruction, because it is the embodiment, the incarnation, if I may so speak, of the feelings and thoughts and experiences of a nation, yea, often of many nations, and of all which through long centuries they have attained to and won. It stands like the pillars of Hercules, to mark how far the moral and intellectual conquests of mankind have advanced, only not like those pillars, fixed and immoveable, but ever itself advancing with the progress of these. The mighty moral instincts which have been working in the popular mind have found therein their unconscious voice; and the single kinglier spirits that have looked deeper into the heart of things, have oftentimes gathered up all they have seen into some one word, which they have launched upon the world, and with which they have enriched it for ever-making in that new word a new region of thought to be henceforward in some sort the common heritage of all. Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts have been

.

« AnteriorContinuar »