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Wild Horses. — Flint.
The day before we came in view of the Rocky mountains, I saw in the greatest perfection that impressive, and, to me, almost sublime spectacle, an immense drove of wild horses, for a long time hovering around our path across the prairie. I had often seen great numbers of them before, mixed with other animals, apparently quiet, and grazing like the rest. Here there were thousands unmixed, unemployed; their motions, if such a comparison might be allowed, as darting^ and as wild as those of humming birds on the flowers.
The tremendous snorts, with which the front columns of the phalanx made known their approach to us, seemed to be their wild and energetic way of expressing their pity and disdain, for the servile lot of our horses, of which they appeared to be taking a survey. They were of all colors, mixed, spotted, and diversified with every hue, from the brightest white to clear and shining black; and of every form and structure, from the long and slender racer, to those of firm-' er limbs and heavier mould; and of all ages, from the curvetting coft, to the range of patriarchal steeds, drawn up in a line, and holding their high heads for a survey or us, in the rear.
Sometimes they curved their necks, and made no more progress than just enough to keep pace with our advance. Then there was a kind of slow and walking minuet, in which they performed various evolutions, with the precision of the figures of a country dance. Then a rapid movement shifted the front to the rear. But still, in all their evolutions and movements, like the flight of sea-fowl, their lines were regular, and free from all indications of confusion.
At times a spontaneous and sudden movement towards us, almost inspired the apprehension of an united attack upon us. After a moment's advance, a snort and a rapid retrograde movement seemed to testify their proud estimate of their wild independence. The infinite variety of their rapid movements, their tamperings and manoeuvres, were of such a wild and almost terrific character, that it required but a moderate stretch of fancy, to suppose them the genii of these grassy plains.
At one period they were formed, for an immense depth in
front of us. A wheel, executed almost with the rapidity of thought, presented them hovering on our flanks. Then, again, the cloud of dust, that enveloped their movements, cleared away, and presented them in our rear. They evidently operated as a great annoyance to the horses and mules of our cavalcade. The frighted movements, the increased indications of fatigue, sufficiently evidenced, with their frequent neighings, what unpleasant neighbors they considered their wild compatriots to be.
So much did our horses appear to suffer from fatigue and terror, in consequence of their vicinity, that we were thinking of some way in which to drive them off; when on a sudden, a patient and laborious donkey of the establishment, who appeared to have regarded all their movements with philosophic indifference, pricked up his long ears, and gave a loud and most sonorous bray from his vocal shells. Instantly this prodigious multitude, and there were thousands of them, took what the Spanish call the 'stompado.' With a trampling like the noise of thunder, or still more like that of an earthquake, a noise that was absolutely appalling, they took to their heels, and were all in a few moments invisible in the verdant depths of the plains, and we saw them no more.
National Recollections the foundation of National Character. E. Everett.
And how is the spirit of a free people to be formed, and animated, and cheered, but out of the store-house of its historic recollections? Are we to be eternally ringing the changes upon Marathon and Thermopylae; and going back to read in obscure texts of Greek and Latin of the exemplars of patriotic virtue?
I thank God that we can find them nearer home, in our own country, on our own soil;—that strains of the noblest sentiment that ever swelled in the breast of man, are breathing to us out of every page of our country's history, in the native eloquence of our mother tongue;—that the colonial and provincial councils of America exhibit to us models of the spirit and character which gave Greece and Rome their name and their praise among the nations. Here we ought, to go for our instruction;—the lesson is plain, it is clear, it is applicable.
When we go to ancient history, we are bewildered with the difference of manners and institutions. We are willing to pay our tribute of applause to the memory of Leonidas. who fell nobly for his country, in the face of his foe. But, when we trace him to his home, we are confounded at the reflection, that the same Spartan heroism, to which he sacrificed himself at Thermopylae, would have led him to tear his own child, if it had happened to be a sickly babe,—the very object for which all that is kind and good in man rises up to plead,—from the bosom of its mother, and carry it out to be eaten by the wolves of Taygetus.
We feel a glow of admiration at the heroism displayed at Marathon, by the ten thousand champions of invaded Greece; but we cannot forget that the tenth part of the number were slaves, unchained from the workshops and doorposts of their masters, to go and fight the battles of freedom.
I do not mean that these examples are to destroy the interest with which we read the history of ancient times; they possibly increase that interest by the very contrasts they exhibit. But they do warn us, if we need the warning, to seek our great practical lessons of patriotism at home; out of the exploits and sacrifices of which our own country is the theatre; out of the characters of our own fathers.
Them we know,—the high-souled, natural, unaffected, the citizen heroes. We know what happy firesides they left for the. cheerless camp. We know with what pacific habits they dared the perils of the field. There is no mystery, no romance, no madness, under the name of chivalry, about them. It is all resolute, manly resistance for conscience' and liberty's sake, not merely of an overwhelming power, but of all the force of long-rooted habits, and native love of order and peace.
Above all, their blood calls to us from the soil which we tread; it beats in our veins; it cries to us not merely in the thrilling words of one of the first victims in this cause,— 'My sons, scorn to be slaves!'—but it cries with a still more moving eloquence^— ' My sons, forget not your fathers!' Fast, oh! too fast, with all our efforts to prevent it, their precious memories are dying away. Notwithstanding our numerous written memorials, much of what is known of those eventful times dwells but in the recollections of a few revered survivors, and with them is rapidly perishing unrecorded and irretrievable.
How many prudent counsels, conceived in perplexed times; how many heart-stirring words, uttered when liberty was treason; how many brave and heroic deeds, performed when the halter, not the laurel, was the promised meed of patriotic daring,—are already lost and forgotten in the graves of their authors! How little do we,—although we have been permitted to hold converse with the venerable remnants of that day,—how little do we know of their dark and anxious hours; of their secret meditations; of the hurried and perilous events of the momentous struggle!
And while they are dropping around us like the leaves of autumn, while scarce a week passes that does not call away some member of the veteran ranks, already so sadly thinned, shall we make no effort to hand down the traditions of their day to our children; to pass the torch of liberty,—which we received in all the splendor of its first enkindling,—bright and flaming, to those who stand next us on the line; so that, when we shall come to be gathered to the dust where our fathers are laid, we may say to our sons and our grandsons, 'If we did not amass, we have not squandered your inheritance of glory?'
Passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge.
The passage of the Potomac, through the Blue Ridge, is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Potomac, seeking a passage also. In the moment of their junction, they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea.
The first glance at this scene hurries our senses into the opinion, that this earth has been created in time; that the mountains were formed first; that the rivers began to flow afterwards; that, in this place particularly, they have been dammed up by the Blue Ridge of mountains, and have formcd an ocean which filled the whole valley; that, continuing to rise, they have at length broken over at this spot, and have torn the mountain down from its summit to its base.
The piles of rock on each hand, but particularly on the Shenandoah, the evident marks of their disrupture and avulsion from their beds by the most powerful agents of nature, corroborate the impression. But the distant finishing, which Nature has given to the picture, is of a very different character. It is a true contrast to the foreground. It is as placid and delightful as that is wild and tremendous.
For, the mountain being cloven asunder, she presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the breach, and participate of the calm below. Here the eye ultimately composes itself; and that way, too, the road happens actually to lead.
You cross the Potomac above its junction, pass along its side through the base of the mountain for three miles, its terrible precipices hanging in fragments over you, and within about twenty miles reach Fredericktown, and the fine country round that.
This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.. Yet here, as in the neighborhood of the Natural Bridge, are people who have passed their lives within half a dozen miles, and have never been to survey these monuments of a war between rivers and mountains, which must have shaken the earth itself to its centre.
The Emigrant's Abode in Ohio.—Flint.
In making remoter journeys from the town, beside the rivulets, and in the little bottoms not yet in cultivation, I discerned the smoke rising in the woods, and heard the strokes of the axe, the tinkling of bells, and the baying of dogs, and saw the newly-arrived emigrant either raising his log cabin, or just entered into possession.
It has afforded me more pleasing reflections, a happier train of associations, to contemplate these beginnings of social toil in the wide wilderness, than, in our more cultivated regions, to come in view of the most sumptuous mansion