« ZurückWeiter »
carving; his intention was, that the wood-cuts should present an exact fac-simile of what they copy, with every blemish, all rudeness of outline, and all awkwardness in filling up carefully preserved. The artist may have sometimes departed from this rigorous rule; we are led to suspect that he did not always do as badly as the original required. As the artist ought to have done in all instances, and as we believe his employer intended he should do, so we believe Mr. Schoolcraft meant to do with all these tales.
The tradition we have alluded to, as given in this Report, is the following. Mr. Schoolcraft is speaking of the Senecas, when he says,
"The term by which they call themselves is Nundowaga, or the People of the Hill; a name that leads us at once to consider the accounts of their own origin. Various relations of this story have been given, differing in some of their details, but all coinciding in the main events, namely: that they originated and lived on a well-known hill, at the head of the Canandaigua lake, where they were put in imminent peril of utter destruction by a monstrous serpent, which circled itself about the fort, and lay with its mouth open at the gate. The following is given from a native source, and has some novel details to recommend it.
"While the tribe had its seat and council-fire on this hill, a woman and her son were living near it, when the boy one day caught a small two-headed serpent, called Kaistowanea, in the bushes. He brought it home as a pet to amuse himself, and put it in a box, where he fed it on bird's flesh, and other dainties. After some time it had become so large that it rested on the beams of the lodge, and the hunters were obliged to feed it with their deer; but it soon went out and made its abode on a neighbouring hill, where it maintained itself. It often went out and sported in the lake, and in time became so large and mischievous that the tribe were put in dread of it. They consulted on the subject one evening, and determined to fly the next morning; but with the light of the next morning the monster had encircled the hill, and lay with his double mouth extended before the gate. Some attempted to pass out, but were driven back; others tried to climb over its body, but were unable. Hunger at last drove them to desperation, and they made a rush at the pass, but only rushed into the monster's double jaws. All were devoured but a warrior and his sister, who waited in vain expectancy of relief. At length, the warrior had a dream, in which he was showed that if he would fledge his arrows with the hair of his sister, the charm
would prevail over the enemy. He was warned not to heed the frightful heads and hissing tongues, but shoot at the heart. Accordingly, the next morning, he armed himself with his keenest weapons, charmed as directed, and boldly shot at the serpent's heart. The instantaneous recoiling of the monster proved that the wound was mortal. He began in great agony to roll down the hill, breaking down trees and uttering horrid noises, until he rolled into the lake. Here he slaked his thirst, and tried by water to mitigate his agony, dashing about in fury. At length he vomited up all the people he had eaten, and immediately expired, and sank to the bottom.' pp. 60, 61.
This tradition is doubtless given as it was received. It has all the marks of Indian crudeness and extravagance about it, and may therefore be regarded as genuine. Mr. Schoolcraft hazards an interpretation of it, which is not objectionable as far as it goes, but seems to fall far short of what might be warranted by the scope of the tradition. It has relation, without doubt, to an important event in the early history of the Senecas; a dim shadow cast forward into subsequent times, showing an obscure outline of some great revolution. It would be no stretch of Indian phraseology, even at the present day, to narrate a similar modern event in equally figurative language. The Indian families are designated, as Mr. Schoolcraft has largely explained in his various works, by totems, or names of certain animals, birds, &c. The serpent in this case may signify a chief who was adopted, while young, into the bosom of an alien tribe, and who, when he had become strong, returned the kindness, serpent-like, with ingratitude and injury, bringing his benefactors to the brink of ruin. The elevation of the serpent to the "beams" is probably only a mode of intimating the elevation of the stranger to superiority and power in the friendly tribe; the change of diet from bird's flesh to deer's meat bespeaks the increase of his exactions. All the steps from secret enmity to open hostility are shadowed forth. The siege is plain enough, and the destruction of all the tribe, excepting a warrior and his sister, in the course of it, is equally so. The mode in which the relief is effected is not equally clear, and fancy has a wide field to play in. The agency of the woman in bringing it about-an agency so common in the troubles of life-is exerted in a strange way.
We are left to conjecture how her "hair" over
came the enemy. Fledging arrows with it, unless they were Cupid's darts, gives us no clew. "Golden locks," and even raven hair," have had a large share in catastrophes ; but not such raven hair, — the black, coarse, lank locks, that invariably cover the squaw's head. The white man's fancy cannot comprehend this; but the red man's may.
We have less to do, however, with interpretations of this tradition, than with its merit in comparison with similar proofs of intellectual invention exhibited by the ancients of our own color. This tradition will compare advantageously, in most points, with the stories which set forth, in at like allegorical manner, the early events of the Grecian and Roman history. They are not more figurative or romantic, and only less susceptible of interpretation because the early Indian history is utterly unknown. Grecian and Roman history began in fable, and might have ended in obscurity, had the same ignorance prevailed in after times as at the beginning. The allegory of the Golden Fleece has covered over with a sort of classic beauty an expedition that was probably not less predatory, nor more daring, than numberless Indian expeditions that lie concealed under their allegorical coverings, which have not become classical only because the Indians never became civilized. The light of letters fortunately shone on our ancients as they advanced in growth. It was not so with the Indians; they have had no records. Nations have risen and sunk, and left no memorial behind them. Individuals have acquired fame, which, like a deep and strong sound, has vibrated through the air far and wide, catching the attention of every ear, and calling forth the admiration of every mind; but which, like a mere sound, sooner or later, gradually died away into silence. Perhaps a vague tradition, like that we are considering, might give it an uncertain existence, but without lineament or distinctness, liable to any appropriation, and bearing down with it, from generation to generation, no proof of persons, and but a misty proof of an event.
It is a subject for deep reflection, this difference of fate that marks the achievements of civilization and barbarism. The one has a perpetuity that may end only with civilized man; the others die with the generation that witnessed them. Probably the degree of merit or splendor has been the same; a nation may have been saved, or a nation may have been
destroyed; but whether the latter event be a subject of regret is a different question. The good examples of history are valuable, but the bad ones work mischief. And what is the proportion that the former bear to the latter? That of the good to the bad men in Sodom.
We have heard it intimated, that the national legislature proposes to follow the lead of New York, and have a census taken of the Indians under the guardian care of the government. We hope this will prove to be true, for many reasons, which our limits do not permit us to enumerate. And we also hope that Mr. Schoolcraft's valuable services will be secured in the work.
W. B. O. Prabody.
ART. III. The Life of Joseph Addison. By Lucy AIKIN. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart. 1846. 12mo. pp. 279.
We had not ventured to promise ourselves an opportunity of bringing this great man in review before us; and we are not without misgivings lest the world, which, like poor Lear, is apt to be somewhat disordered in mind, should ask as he did, which is the justice and which the culprit. But we are grateful to Miss Aikin for writing this unpretending life of Addison, and still more so, for doing it in her quiet and sensible manner, contenting herself with a likeness, and not trying to make it fascinating with paint and gilding, after the fashion of the present day. Indeed, there is hardly a subject in the whole range of literature, where affectation and display would be more out of place. Those attractive arts, which snatch at impossible graces, sacrificing truth to effect, and simple nature to quick impression, would be reproved to silence, if not to shame, by the presence of this great master. The very thought of such treatment is enough to make one wish he were on earth again, exerting the authority which a powerful, refined, and graceful genius like his would have, wherever it existed. It would be a sport to see how many popular authors, who are read and admired by thousands now, would, like the swine in Scripture, which they resemble in coarseness and the spirit that
has entered into them, soon be seen running violently down a steep place to perish in the sea of oblivion, those blessed waters which, it is to be hoped, will never dry away.
There is something in the literary fame of this writer which it is always refreshing to remember; like the Parthenon, it retains its charm, though for ages unvisited by the traveller, laid waste by the barbarian, and weatherstained by time; so far transcending the adventurous antics of modern art, that, as long as a fragment of pillar or peristyle remains, it will be impossible to doubt the perfection of that which the world of taste adores. Writing always from a full mind, and never for the sake of writing, he is always rich to overflowing in his resources, and, however excellent the work may be, gives the impression that he is able to produce something better. His memory was full of information, all the particulars of which had found their places in his mind in harmony and order, so that classical allusions and suggestions from what he had seen and read presented themselves when they were wanted, giving him power to select the best. Like most other calm and quiet observers of life, he found in his own experience incidents and intimations which, playfully introduced, gave spirit and life to his writings. His movements were so easy and graceful, that no one thought of the hard study and self-discipline by which alone he could have gained so complete a mastery of his own powers. Every thing seemed to be thrown off without an effort, and so indeed it was; the effort came earlier in the history of his mind; and certain it is, that, without long and patient thought, such as requires great concentration of the intellectual powers, he never could have acquired a logical exactness so entirely free from all the appearance of art, nor a habit of active and earnest thought so much resembling revery in the familiarity and carelessness of its flow.
One of the most striking traits of Addison's mind was his humor, a quality of writing which is enjoyed more generally than it is understood. It is commonly supposed to be a gift, something belonging to the native constitution of the mind; but if so, the birthright would be found of little advantage without that ready tact and intuitive discernment of the right time and place, which give humor its principal charm. The untimely jest is like the stamp of an awkward man upon a gouty toe; it is apt to be received with a gratitude bordering