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objects of Roman art which remains — the Piscina mirabile - was only an enormous cistern, intended to hold fresh water for the use of the Roman fleet ; even the common-sewer of Rome, the cloaca maxima, is pointed out to the traveler as an object of great interest. Thus it is that time, while it destroys the works of man, confers additional value upon the small remnants which it leaves, just as the Sybil of old placed the same price upon her three mystic volumes which she had at first demanded for nine.
How much, then, will there be in our land two thousand years from this time, which the traveler will visit and muse upon with the same feeling of reverence and solemnity, with which he now contemplates the time-hallowed structures of Greece and Rome! I could not but think, as I crossed the viaduct on the Boston and Providence railroad, that the arcades of the Roman aqueducts were not more stupendous nor enduring; the far-famed bridge of Caligula is not a work of the same magnitude as the western avenue; the pyramids themselves do not seem destined to a longer existence than the monument on Bunker's Hill. If we are to have ruins, too — which God forbid, for they are more the work of war than of time — if we are to have ruins, they will not be less astonishing and beautiful that those which we visit in the old world. We smile at the notion of a manufactory in ruins ; yet, invest it with all the charms which a ruin in England or Scotland gathers around it, and it becomes at once romantic and beautiful. The traveler of twenty centuries hence arrives in the neighborhood of some one of these celebrated remains, hires his guide from the town, and leaving the high road, takes his path through the richly cultivated meadow shaded by venerable elms and oaks, till he reaches the banks of a beautiful stream, pouring down its bed in leaping cascades ; at the point where the waterfall is most striking, stands the stupendous ruin, the crumbling and vinecovered walls, rising from the water's edge ; he passes the broken door-way and pauses in the enclosure, in which are standing trees of the growth of centuries ; and on one side he looks down into a chasm deeper than the subterranean dungeons of the feudal castle, at the bottom of which he discerns the dark waters of the stream, rushing furiously by : no remains of the huge water-wheel are there to tell him why such a gulf was excavated ; he wanders around the adjacent grounds, and ponders over the remnants of stone bridges and the dried and half-choked beds of canals, and still finds other ruins and other wonders, till he is lost in speculation and bewilderment, and exclaims that a mightier race must have once held the soil. If he visits what will then remain of our naval amphitheatres — the dry-docks ; if he penetrates into the interior till he reaches that superb piece of masonry, which time itself can hardly destroy, the stone bridge by which the Erie canal crosses the Genessee, at Rochester ; if he goes still farther
west, and observes the solid and enduring work of the great national road, extending to the banks of the Mississippi, — he will not cease to be impressed with the power, energy and wealth of the ancients.
In the meantime, our villages will grow up into cities ; our cities will be adorned with architecture and sculpture ; our lands will teem with the richness of full cultivation, and universal wealth will display its creative and beautifying power over the whole country.
Such are the dreams in which a lover of his country will occasionally indulge, though wild they be ; but there certainly seems to be no portion of the land of America, which is more likely to realize them, than that beautiful tract which lies between the upper falls of the Mohawk and the lakes which form the western boundary of the State of New-York. Enough has been said, again and again, of the lovely scenery and the productive soil of this tract, and I will not attempt to echo the praises. It does, indeed, seem formed to be the garden of America, as Lombardy is the garden of Europe ; and Joseph Bonaparte remarked, a few years ago, that it reminded him more of Lombardy than any tract he had ever seen. But there is, in the heart of this extensive region, a sweet valley, which does not appear to me to be sufficiently known and prized. The tourist on his way to Niagara, passes, not long after leaving Canandaigua, the little village of Avon, famous for its sulphur-springs; and continues on his journey through Batavia to Buffalo. But it is unknown to many that, in keeping straight on through Avon, they leave unexplored, on the left hand, one of the sweetest spots in the western world. Between two chains of bills, extending in a southward direction from Avon to the distance of about thirty miles, is a valley which varies from a mile to two miles in width, through which meanders the Genessee. It seems originally to have been the bed of a lake; and the surface is a perfect level, covered with the richest vegetation, and spreading away in fair fields, some planted with Indian corn, some reserved for pasturage, over which the herds of cattle are scattered, and some waiting the scythe. The soil is too rich for any kind of grain. The earliest settlers found this valley unwooded, and the grass growing so high as to conceal a man on horseback. Clusters of oaks and elms are scattered over it, and give it the soft and rich appearance of an English park; and the banks of the river are fringed with alder bushes and sycamores. The hills — which rise up on each side, and form the shores, as it were, of this verdant lake -- are covered with pretty villages and waving fields of grain, or deep and dark forests.
The county-town, and the prettiest town in the county, Geneseo, is about ten miles from Avon ; and I recommend to all travellers who are not in a great hurry, to turn aside from the
high road to Niagara and stop a day or two in this town, not only for the sake of the fine scenery which it contains within its precincts, but for the beautiful drives in every direction about it. One of the pleasantest excursions is to a spot about nine miles from the village of Geneseo, called the high banks,' where the Genessee bursts through the western range of hills and finds its way to the valley. After crossing the flats from Geneseo, you follow the parallel of the valley for some distance, and then ascending to the highest point of the range of bills, you find yourself in a vast grove of oaks, clear from underwood; and wandering through this, you come suddenly upon the verge of a precipice at least twice the height of Niagara. Far, far down beneath your feet rolls the river, on the opposite side of which rises another bank similar to the one upon which you are standing. These banks seem absolutely perpendicular — yet such is their height, that although their inclination from the margin of the water is almost imperceptible, the strongest man standing on the brink cannot throw a stone so that it will fall into the water. I boat
pass by one day as I stood upon the bank ; it looked no larger than the cradle of an infant and the men who rowed it seemed like puppets. Next to Niagara I think this water gap the most majestic scene in the western land.
Geneseo is about sixty miles from Buffalo. On the 24th of Dec. 182–, I started early in the morning with one companion, resolved to witness what few travelers see viz. the falls of Niagara in winter, and to eat our Christmas dinner within sound of their roar.
We reached Buffalo at night, and pursuing our journey the next morning arrived at Niagara on the American side at 12 o'clock, having performed nearly the whole distance in a sleigh. As it was our first visit, we were both eager to behold this wonder of nature, and as soon as we had established ourselves at the inn we went to the bank just below the cataract and gazed upon a scene which for desolate and awful grandeur has not its equal in the world ; the rushing of the rapids, the majestic roll of the waterfall, the rising spray and the roar were the same that the summers tourist finds, but in all other respects the scene was entirely changed. The trickling water at the edge of the cataract freezes as it falls and constantly increasing in size now stood in immense collonades, a hundred and fifty feet high, of glittering ice, each pillar from ten to twenty feet in diameter. The spray wafted down by the breeze had gathered and frozen on each bank below the falls, and there it hung like the most graceful drapery in festoons and folds, the winter curtains of nature's palace; and becoming opaque from their thickness presented the appearance of white muslin. The evergreens and other trees on the banks were completely frosted with the spray and hung in silver fringework over the abyss. But how can pen describe the gorgeous
magnificence with which Goat Island was clad! It looked like one vast grove of chrystal! Every tree covered — trunk and branch, with ice, every spear of grass and every shrub glittering like silver and the outer edge of the island where it divides the fall, supported by the gigantic columns which I have already described and bristling with pendent icicles which resembled the most florid Gothic sculpture! In the distance were the shores and hills of Canada, as far as the eye could reach — one bleak and dreary waste of snow. The next morning, we descended the steps to the water's edge, a somewhat perilous task as they were covered with ice, and a false step might have been fatal — we crossed to the Canada side, and with much ado, mounted up to the plain — our guide would not allow us to go upon table rock as it was so slippery that it was almost certain destruction to approach its edge. Having viewed the falls from the best accessible points, we returned to the American side to visit Goat-Island. As we were re-crossing, we observed another canoe also approaching the American shore with a large and gay looking party. It happened to be an Irish wedding party who were coming to this side to have the marriage ceremony performed in order to avoid the expense of a license in Canada. The bridegroom was however, as Sir Walter expresses it, most particularly drunk’ and did not at all like the prospect of mounting up the slippery stair-way. After some consultation at the spot of landing, one of the party very respectfully approached my companion (a most grave looking man in spectacles,) and begged him to perform the service for them where they stood. He had some difficulty in persuading them that he was not a parson nor even a magistrate, so much did his looks give the lie to his words : and he was very sorry not to be able to gratify their wish — a wedding on the shore of the Niagara in mid-winter is a scene very rarely witnessed.
Having ascended the bank we crossed the bridge to Goat Island and traversing the whole distance, descended upon the little foot-bridge which runs out towards the Canada side, and projects over the abyss. The sun had been obscured all the morning till this moment ; but as we were standing on the little bridge, it came out in full splendor and our eyes were blessed with beholding a scene compared with which the mountains of gold and the vallies of diamonds in the fairy tale are tame. Every tree was radiant with all the hues of the prism, the Sun was reflected from the immense pillars of ice, the spray fell in showers of diamonds and a rainbow
forming almost a complete circle stood in the middle of the river below the fall. I have since that time visited the falls in summer and found the scenery far lovelier than when I first saw it. But I have never in any land, beheld a scene so truly sublime as Niagara in winter.
When fervid Summer crisps the shrinking nerve,
_ 'Tis well to talk with Ocean. Man may cast
L. H. SIGOURNEY.
Nahant, August 3, 1835.