« AnteriorContinuar »
THE AMERICAN DUTCH.
My meaning, in saying he is a good man, is, to have
you understand sufficient.-SHAKSPEARE.
Sir, he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he has not eat paper, as it were; he has not drunk ink; his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal-only sensible in the duller parts.- Ib.
It is not uncommon to hear the opinion expressed, that in spite of the great influx of foreigners, which seems to increase with every year, they must soon loose their identity as a distinct community, since they are everywhere surrounded by the American population, and after a few years of residence will always intermingle with them, and completely lose their individual character. Those, however, who hold that opinion, can know but little with how exclusive a spirit most of the emigrants rest not until they have arrived in the neighborhood of those who are similar to them in language and habits, and how the unfavorable influences of such isolated portions of society continue to operate, though for more than a century past there may have been no further emigration from the native land of their fathers.
The present state of the Dutch population in the State of New York partly suggested, and partly con
firmed in my mind, the general truth of the view here expressed. However I might feel inclined to see in them but the living monuments of the past, which by the creative power of a great writer seem to have been elevated to his poetical sphere, and to have been surrounded with a bright halo, which you would almost think had emanated from them, I yet could not possibly forget that they are living monuments, and as such do not deserve only the attention of the poet.
Although I had never before approached the majestic Hudson, I had of course not remained an entire stranger to the various associations which its classical banks must excite in the heart of every true American. You cannot but remember the unfortunate Antony, the sounder of brass, when you pass the place of his last exploit, where his restless ghost, according to the Dutch historian, is still said to haunt the surrounding solitudes, and to mingle the sounds of his trumpet with the howling of the blast; though after you have passed the promontory which derives its name from Anthony's nose, and the various places, which owe their celebrity to Peter Stuyvesant of headstrong memory, you will more readily dwell on the historical events of which the Highlands remind you, and which then serve to throw all poetical associations into shade. This was at least the case with me when I was passing on from the spot, where the traitor's plans were frustrated by
the capture of Andre, to the important post where these plans had been conceived and developed. I lingered for some time near this beautiful though sombre retreat of the Polish patriot, amid the ruins of the past-so rare an enjoyment in this youthful land,—and in the sight of so beautiful prospects, that even now, after having completed many other and extensive journeys, I cannot think of a place to which I would more willingly return than to West Point. I continued my journey up the Hudson in the evening, and could therefore quietly enjoy the beautiful visions of the past. Forests and cities, and all the pleasant views which the banks of the river present in the day-time, were now covered by the dark veil of night; and but here and there some feeble, flickering light might be seen, which from time to time directed us to some new landing place.
It is at such moments, when the outward world gradually recedes from our view, when the objects which belong to external nature present themselves in dim and indistinct outlines, and serve only to afford new materials for the boundless activity of our imagination,-it is at such moments that the inward, the unseen world rises before us with all the glow and splendor of its infinite nature. The spirits of our beloved, who for a time seemed to have parted with us, as they have parted with all earthly joys, are mingling with the forms of far
distant friends, whom our mortal eyes may never meet again, but who are near us, as soon as we are ready to approach them; and they bring with them the beautiful thoughts and never-dying hopes, by which we have become forever united. As the exhalations which rise from the earth are often collected in dense and far-extending clouds, and in sending down refreshing rains on the parched fields, prove grateful children of her who gave them birth, so do such glances into the past show us how, by the developement of our own immortal being, we have become entwined with the lives of those who are dear to us, how we have grown rich ourselves in adding to their growth, and with a feeling of peace which surpasses all knowledge, we exclaim in the language of the poet
“Say, what binds us friend to friend,
But that soul with soul can blend ?
Nor does the light of by-gone days and past joys only rend asunder the mists of the present; it throws at the same time many of its rays on the path before us; it teaches us to flee from the touch of all that is foreign and repulsive to our nature, and to preserve the chain unbroken which with a thousand sacred links unites us to the hour of the past. “ The Prophet's mirror hangs far behind him !"
My musings were suddenly interrupted by the cry of "Coxsakie landing," which reminded me that my turn of leaving the steam-boat had now
Together with two or three other passengers, I was placed in the boat, lowered with incredible rapidity into the river, rowed to the shore, landed with my baggage, and helped into the wagon which was to convey me two miles farther. A few minutes after, the noise to which our arrival had given rise in the little village subsided, the several lights were extinguished, the fire-spouting "nostrils" of our steam-boat could hardly be discerned in the far distance, and I was left at full liberty to admire the combination of great speed and comprehensive arrangement by which the traveller in America is preserved free from many of the vexatious details which impede his course on the continent.
The stillness of the night, and the smooth road on which our wagon now was moving along on the banks of the Hudson, seemed favorable to conversation if my driver should prove a social companion. I opened our intercourse by inquiring whether he could carry me to a Dutch landlord. He replied, there was a German tavern-keeper of high repute in Saugerties, the place of my destination, who was a very wealthy and industrious man, and having resided for a very long time in this part of the country, he would no doubt be