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commune with fancy and catch poetic fervour from the everliving sources of inspiration. Man and his passions, the forms, and the holy and unsearchable power that fashioned the forms of nature, are all elements of poetry, and have been always be
If the grey streaks of morning are now breaking upon us, we still wonder at their late and tardy approach. We can make no such defence as in the former case; we can only acknowledge that the mind of the Americans has been more practical than poetical-and that the active pursuits of life have diverted their imagination from the contemplation of ideal and possible perfection, to the cold and absorbing calculations of real and necessary utility.
We have not space to pursue this subject further, nor to notice more in detail the travels of Mr. Dwight. In the department to which his attention was particularly directed, he has been altogether satisfactory. His political observations are generally correct and liberal. In his criticisms, he is superficial; he speaks about a subject, but does not analyze it; he carries our expectations and attention repeatedly to some topic or work, as for instance, the Faust of Goethe, but falters and turns aside just when we expect a critical analysis. His views of the religious opinions of Germany are not altogether as full as we expected; and those of her schools of philosophy still more defective. We are, however, indebted to him for information far more important, and we are willing at present to leave the philosophy of Fichte, Schelling and Kant, to a future day, and to more profound and more thoroughly initiated adepts.
We should have been pleased to notice some of his observations on the musical taste, and skill and habits of the Germans. Their love of music is almost unbounded, and their proficiency, as we might expect from the reputation of their great masters, of the highest order. It is heard in its sweetest tones and in the most perfect harmony not only in the palaces of the monarch, but amidst the humble avocations and pastimes of the labouring classes. Almost every one is a musician in the real and appropriate meaning. This is another point in which our country most widely differs from Germany. If we were to judge from the crowds that throng our public places on gala days, that choak our streets and lanes whenever a cracked fife or unstrung drum, or even a jewsharp is heard along the pavements, it would be supposed we were among the most musical or at least music-loving people in the universe. If we should judge from the performance or real knowledge of our performers (we speak of our native productions) what could we say? It is now forty years since we have heard our halls resounding with instruments,
organ and harp and piano, violin and flute, cymbal and psaltery-yet in that time we have not produced a musician nor a celebrated performer. We may go further and say, we have never educated one who understood the principles of music as a science, or the fundamental doctrines upon which all musical composition must be founded. Every thing has partaken of the superficial nature of our schemes of education--every thing for ease or momentary effect. It is time that the day of reformation should approach.
Art. V.- Letters written in the Interior of Cuba, between the
Mountains of Arcana, to the East, and of Cusco, to the West, in the months of February, March, April and May, 1828. By the late Rev. ABIEL A BBOT, D. D. Pastor of the First Church in Beverly, in Massachusetts: Boston. Bowles & Dearborn. 1829.
This little work, as its title indicates, was written during a residence of nearly four months in the Island of Cuba. Baron Humboldt's account of this island, we believe, has not been translated into English. Huber, who has likewise, described this portion of the West Indies, is a loose, if not a superficial and careless writer. It is, therefore, with pleasure that we direct the attention of our readers to an authority like Dr. Abbot's, upon which, as we have every reason to believe, they may place implicit reliance. The author enjoyed opportunities and facilities for acquiring information, with which even the most fortunate tourists are rarely favoured. At the same time that his “Letters" embrace a range of objects, of all others, perhaps, best fitted to gratify the awakened public curiosity in regard to this interesting and magnificent island. They do not present us with any profound speculations about its political condition as it is, or as it promises to become. To such subjects he has scarcely alluded at all--but he compensates for the omission, by a very lively and discriminating account of whatever concerns the religion, manners, customs, economy and productions of the country. The graphic minuteness and vivacity of his descriptions, strike us not only as a great beauty,
but as furnishing internal evidence of their fidelity and accuracy. No reader can fail to be charmed with them. We felt ourselves unconsciously carried along by the narrative, and seemed to share with the author, by a sort of ideal presence, in all the interests and pleasures of his tour.
As the principal purpose of the few remarks which we have to make upon this volume, is to call the public attention to an American work of real merit, we shall proceed, without further preface, to make some extracts from it.
“ Carolina in its general appearance is lifeless and dull, compared with almost any spot, since the plantations commenced. You often see a beautiful white stone wall, and sometimes faced, inclosing the plantation from the highway; sometimes a picket fence, withed to a single slab, by a cord cut from the forest, as big as your finger, and drawn as neatly as a cord of hemp; sometimes a living hedge of stakes driven like our willows in a wet place; sometimes a beautiful lime hedge is the fence, and rarely the awkward zigzag Virginia fence, as it is called in the United States, employed as a lively figure to indicate the course of one who sees double. The road is often adorned by a row of those charming and invaluable trees, the palm. These grow to a great height, with a trunk as smooth and polished as if it came from the turner's lathe, from the root to the top, where a few feet of the stem are of a rich, green colour, surmounted by a tuft of leaves, which remind you of the plumes adorning the bonnet of a knight of high degree. These often line the broad avenue which leads from the highway to the planter's mansion. They take infinitely more pains to adorn these avenues, than in South Carolina, a few at Goose-Creek excepted. I observed one avenue of lofty bamboos, thickly set, in such a manner as to form a beautiful Gothic arch. For beauty nothing could exceed it, except the live oak."
Dr. Abbot resided for a short time in Charleston, and in the country on John's Island, and on the banks of Cooper river. In the course of his remarks on Cuba, he has frequent occasion to compare objects there with others of a similar character in South-Carolina. The sublime scenery of our mountainous region he never saw; hence he is to be understoood as referring in the paragraph just quoted, exclusively to the low country. Strangers to the latter should likewise understand, that during nearly half the year, the planters are debarred from a personal inspection of their plantations, by reason of the fatal effects of its malaria. This circumstance has prevented them from bestowing that attention on the ornamental improvements of their country seats, to which a constant residence is indispensable. The avenues of live-oak alluded to, were planted at a period when strangers resided safely in the low country, during what are now called the “sickly months.” This insalubrity and its
effects, have caused the decay, and not in a few instances, the total destruction of some of the most costly edifices in the state, which were, perhaps, equal to any in Cuba. There are few objects of more melancholy contemplation than the country seats upon the banks of the two rivers, which form the peninsula of Charleston. They tell us of important changes, both in the moral and physical condition of the state. The single fact that a proprietor of one of the most splendid of them, did not visit the city until he was a well-grown boy, and that he could not now venture to pass a single night there without the most imminent risk of life speaks volumes. But if it is painful to compare the country in this vicinity, with what it once was, what Carolinian can bear even to imagine the difference between its present condition, and that to which it would certainly have attained under a more auspicious climate?
The comparison of slave labour as it is performed in Cuba and in Carolina, results in favour of our method of tasking. Dr. Abbot does not think the assertion extravagant, when he assures us that the Cuba negroes perform one-third more work than is required of ours. The Cuba planters exact the whole time of their slaves from day-break until dark, (except parts of Saturday and Sunday) and frequently compel them to renew their labours by the light of the moon or stars.
On the Spanish sugar estates, during the grinding season, they have but two watches in the twenty-four hours, a severity of exaction, which we hope will never be introduced into the management of American plantations. These matches of life against time are attended on some plantations with the annual loss of from 10 to 15 per cent. of the labourers! This is not less impolitic than barbarous, since the increase in the number of the slaves under gentler treatment, would probably be more than an equivalent to the superabundance of the crop produced by such unmitigated and unfeeling discipline.
This course of management, no doubt, has its origin in the facility with which slaves could be obtained from Africa. We are told that on some of the estates, none but males are purchased or employed, as they are better capable than females of sustaining the effects of extraordinary physical exertion. Since the abolition of the slave trade by law, the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of them being greatly increased, the planters are now pursuing such a policy as will increase the number of their Creoles. Notwithstanding the penalties of the law, however, the slave trade is still prosecuted to a certain extent, by a class of men, desperate enough to hazard the consequences of detection. The vessels commonly used for the
purpose, are the small, sharp schooners of the Baltimore model, remarkable for fast sailing. The fact is well known, that under pretence of pursuing the gold and ivory trade, they enter our ports ostensibly in distress, but in reality to obtain such supplies as may be had at a cheaper rate in the United States than in Cuba.
Dr. Abbot tells us that the Cuba negroes “are not generally so stout and muscular as those in South-Carolina," while at the same time, he informs us that their food is more varied, and perhaps, upon the whole, better. This would seem to countenance the opinion, that the difference is altogether owing to a difference in the manner of treatment. It cannot fairly be attributed to climate, since the interior of Cuba is remarkable for its salubrity, while the low country of South-Carolina, where the great mass of our black population resides, is precisely the reverse. It has been urged, that the latter, being nearly assimilated, in point of climate, to the negro regions of Africa, is the best possible locality for maintaining the health of negroes. But we oppose to this the evidence of our upper country, where the negroes are remarkable for vigorous frames.
Cock-fighting and bull-baiting are the all-engrossing popular amusements of this island as of other parts of the Spanish dominions. The pitch of extravagance to which this passion is carried, is almost incredible. Scarcely a town but has its commodious edifice appropriated to this barbarous pastime. No spectator but is absorbed in the interest of the scene. The planter and his slave—the halt, the dumb and the lame-even the governor himself—all mix equally together in the grotesque assemblage that forms the ring of the cock-pit. The government, Dr. Abbot believes, interests itself in the practice, so far as to appoint the judge of the pit. We offer no apology for extracting the following very striking picture of one of these
It exhibits the author's graphic powers in a happy light:
“ After leaving the stable, we saw, a few rods further on the street, a volante, orange boys, men and boys and bustle, as if some extraordinary business was in hand. It was the hour of cock-fighting, and there was the pit or theatre. As this is a scandalous trait in the Spanish character, and observable in every town and village, and seems the passion of this people, it was proposed we should look in. In every point of view but one, I could detest the thought of leaving a footprint on such ground; but as a Christian philosopher, studying mankind, in the Spanish species, and this barbarous diversion reflects a baleful light on the subject, I consented. It is a round building sixty feet diameter, well covered, with circular seats and boxes rising from the area one above another,