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Our choice season is the Autumn. The mountains and sloping hills being now decked in their choicest rural imagery, sered by the mellowing year;' the deep yellow poplar, and purpled oak, and beech of vivid red, and the infinite lighter hues blending sweetly with the pine; the mourning of summer, and dress of winter, the green and never-fading pine! The picture is embellished, too, with the most fanciful sunsets, and an ever-changing and luxuriant drapery of clouds; now scattered in gray specks, or blots upon the firmament, and now piled upon the horizon in a compilation of huge mountains, jutting out into craggy cliffs and promontories; and now hanging on the west, fleecy or azure, fringed richly with the sun, and turning their silver lining on the night;' a landscape that would have tempted Claude himself to forsake his beloved Italian skies; and one that should least of all be discredited by hobbling and irreverent prose.
The village puts on its snowy mantle in November, proud as a maiden of her bridal robes. Now sleighs course up and down, with jingling bells; and school boys and girls, instinct with new life, fill up the plains and avenues. Some drag their sleds slow to the summit of a long hill, and some skim the oblique plain, rapid as the birds' flight; others skate on the thick-ribbed ice; or arrayed in squads, awaiting the signal, stand armed with the frozen element,
'While Jove descends in magazines of snow.'
Their loud whoop falls upon the ear as the voice of one's childhood. The season, with the new year, grows more dismal; the woods now are bare and desolate, stripped by the rude fingers of the Storms. The sky looks grim, and frowns like an angry demon over head. Eolus has opened wide the portals of his cave; Boreas, his hair crisped with frosts, and moustached in icicles, grins from the flanks of the Sharp Mountain; and Notus and his blustering brother, and all the family of the Winds, rushing from the north, with their brooms sweep off the snows from the hill-tops, and mischievous pile them on the high-ways and miners' sheds. Men are frozen in bed at the side of their cold wives. You look out upon the disconsolate prospect, and are oppressed; the heart quails, and the tear hangs frozen on the cheek. The marble of the grave-yard seems colder, and now and then a ghost rises up in the terrified fancy, and shakes its winding sheet! At other times, it is sweet to sit by your window, and look out upon a snow-storm among the pines; now dropping in a slow and constant monotony through the branches; now raving and blustering with the north-west winds, and now coursing and crossing playfully, or quivering and reposing as light feathers in the air; sometimes retrograding, and then falling softly and silently upon the earth. He has missed seeing one of the prettiest exhibitions of the elements, who has not seen a snow-storm at Pine Hill.
Nor is less enchanting the spectacle of the grove emerging from a wintry rain; its branches incrusted with the pure crystal; its long hair hanging in icicles, and fretted with the hoar frosts, glittering and gorgeous as an Eastern tale; or of the night, when the moonlight reposes upon the snow and piny leaves; when the stars seem set in
the pure marble of the sky; and the village lights, kindled at the unclosed windows, have set up their little rivalship with the starry firmament; the miners, too, coursing about the hills with lamps upon their brows, and the smelting-furnace vomiting flames from its top, and glowing from its liquid hearth. All which I would sing in a divine strain; but alas! what can I do? Our Castalian springs are frozen over seven months of the year.
And now, with what pleasures of the village shall I tempt you? What dishes shall I set for you upon this pure napery of winter? There are dances; will you flutter to an air of Rossini? There are village fêtes, where the chatty villeggiatura sits over her tea and gossips. The pheasant perches upon the shumac, awaiting the sportsman; the rabbit puts his nibbling snout into the noose, and is hung; and the dappled deer sweeps through the forests of the Broad Mountain, about to figure on your chafing-dishes, with currant-jelly. Or do you affect sleigh-matches in the night, when Cynthia, as a lady in her furs, walks in fleecy clouds through the milky way? Believe me, it is not a pleasure to be despised, to scud along the summit of these wild hills, wrapped warm; you in a buffalo, and your sweetheart in the downy wool that once grew upon the pastures of Cashmere, and look out upon the wide and wintry desolation of snow. will sip the spicy bowl of mulled-cider, or wine, upon the Broad Mountain top, with our companions, who will have flown in on all sides in sleighs, laden with ladies and minstrels; and there dance out the stars of heaven, and return home repentant in the morning. If you will allow my grateful Muse, she will relate to you the death of Negro Sam an event of two winters ago. Till night had clomb midway in the heaven, he had cheered the dance, and bowed his fiddle, and kept time with his right leg; but returning home, and wandering from his way, he was smothered by the storm and died. After many days, he was found immersed, save one arm, in the snow; and this arm, outstretched, (the ruling passion strong in death,) grasped the fiddle. It was saved from the elements, and the winds sighing in sweet Æolian notes among the strings, sang the funeral dirge of Negro Sam. Poor Negro! for the joy he afforded the nimble feet of men and women; for his skill in his art, (for he had 'a reasonable good ear for jigs,' though for sonatas, and such like, they gave him, the spleen,) and for his untimely end, he merits from all who visit this mountain the tribute of a tear!
When March comes, the snows, yielding to returning spring, descend through the Schuylkill, sweeping away bridges, dams, and the hopes of the husbandman, and sometimes houses and their tenants, in the impetuous torrent. The clown stands upon the bank, amazed to see the tiny stream he had played with as a kitten, now raging like a roaring bull. The brooks babble as loud as any gossip's tongue, and a thousand streamlets are drilling their little gullies along the mountain flanks. March is not safe for ladies in prunellas. They had better bring their parabous, or clogs. To cross the streets formerly, when yet pavements were not, a sturdy youth bore the slender maid, feet and legs dangling, upon his shoulder- his bust only out of the mud. Alas, rosy-bosomed May! Winter retires reluctant to his den, and rallies often his ruffians, and the most forward buds are bitten.
June confirms the year, and sets off the mountains in all the painted pomp of rhododendrons. Now Hymen walks forth in his yellow sock and saffron robe, and the shepherd sings bucolics on his oaten straw. The gardens are spruce and trim, and lift their shrubby bosoms to the morning dew, and the air is aromatic with fragrant flowers. You would wish, like Catullus, (talking of his mistress,) to be all nose, to smell them :
Totum ut te faciant, Fabelle, nasum.'
July and August bring the dog-star raging; but the hot day is followed by refreshing nights; asking for bachelors and maids the protection of a blanket. It is tempered too by frequent showers, and purified by the electric fluid; the thunder now riving the oak into splinters, with a vertical crash; now growling or muttering along the horizontal flinty ribs of the mountain; and now in a continuous roar, as if Jove drove his car overhead; and sometimes in echoes, bandied from hill to hill, and expiring at length in almost a whisper in the low and distant valley. Dust, the thirsty sister of mud,' as somebody calls it, now usurps the tyranny of Centre-street, spoiling ladies' tempers and their furniture; and the heat descends upon the village roofs unmitigated. Not a leaf interposes between them and the angry heavens; yet the village stands where ten years ago one crept hardly through the intricate wood; where the spreading chestnut sheltered the traveller under its leafy canopy, and the tall pine hung its green hair, fanned by the luxurious gales. The hills too in the vicinity are every year growing more bald and deformed; the stately oak and hemlock being inhumanly felled to supply props for the mines, or into
'ignoble broomsticks made,
To sweep the alleys they were born to shade.'
Instead of a forest, rich in all its virgin beauties, we have a field of deadened trees that never die, or a black and dismal prospect of unrooted stumps. The melancholy heath that covers Hownslow has yet its flowers in August. Necessity in part justifies this ravage; but trees, destined to be the pride of the forest, are daily cut into peasticks, and to prop as many beans as would make a supper for Pythagoras; and entire woods are prostrated, to gratify a mad propensity to destructiveness. He must have fed his infancy upon garlic, who dared fell them thus wantonly. The wretch! no cypress or willow shall hang upon his grave: his bones shall bleach upon the commons!
Now is the time to wake with the morning's opening eye-lids, the dew hanging in pearls upon the rose, and cull posies for the village maids; or at noon sit in a bower of honey-suckles, to read,
'Or sport with Armarillis in the shade,
or stroll by the Tumbling Run, trickling over the smooth pebbles, or tumbling down from rock to rock, in murmuring cascades: not Mincius, or Arethusa, or the Pierian springs gushing from the side of Helicon, are sweeter than the Tumbling Run; or to stand upon a
rock, thrusting its beak over the stream, and fish the sly trout from the quiet Mill-creek; or wander where fire-spitting furnaces light up the lonely vale of the Catawissa.
But what region will bear unqualified praise for July and August? Not even Pottsville. Our literary employments are almost in total suspense; offering perhaps a lecture of Combe upon heads at the Lyceum, or a debate at the Students' Club to settle up such knotty questions as past ages have left perplexed and undetermined. And social amusements are in no better condition. Patriotism only, which stands the dog-days better than any of our virtues, pretends to assemble a few of our gravest citizens. These gather daily about the door of The National,' ready to die in a minute for their bleeding country and a fat office; and in the cool of the evening, squint Suspicion and Scandal, her tongue well glibbed with lies, go out, hand in hand, to The mid-day air, too, is singed; and the bats with their leathern pinnions grapple to the walls of the dripping mines, or fly about the summer chambers, terrifying out of their wits the squalling fair sex. The streams grow lean and sickly; the Schuylkill, the father of rivers, has scarce strength to run down a hill; the miner's wives use him up in washing the dishes. Scouts are sent nightly from Guinea-Hill to rob your milk-houses; they leave you but your eyes to weep your strawberries, and sell you your own fatted turkeys next morning, impaled in the market.
There are still delights enough, however, to reward your visit, even at this season. If you are pious, we have all the religions, down to the 'Jumpers;' or if you have learned, like me, the secret of finding sermons in stones, there is literally no place in which you can be so independent of the church. You will have rides and drives in pleasant equipages, or the high-climbing mountain will conduct you on foot, where the earth touches heaven; and the miner rooting up the bellies of the hills, approaches the stygian darkness,
You can descend thither, or send your card. We count also among our miracles a volcano, where sulphurous smoke oozes through the earthy pores, withering the trees; it burns like a maiden's love, with concealed fires. The flame is visible at night, and would be famous in a more poetic latitude. It would be famous, if some Lord Nelvil and Corinne would but pay it a visit. We have no water scenery above the dignity of a dam; but a dappled mist sleeps in the low valleys, seeming, in early morning and moonlight, to be an arm of the sea, or a lake. It is pleasant to see this vapor at sunrise, in its retreat up the flanks of the Sharp Mountain. You may hear the roar of ocean among the pines. A thunder-storm, now 'roules' across the heaven with such convulsive fits, that both poles, as the poet Nabbes elegantly expresses it,
'Do seem to kiss each other's ends.'
One more temptation. There is no place you August, with such sober certainty of being well.
can visit in July and Health drops down
among these piny hills, as manna once in the happy Araby. The
Should you stay
grave-yards are bankrupt, for want of customers. in New-York till age snows upon you, come hither, and you are young again, as if you had got into Medea's kettle. Come then, speedily, and bring GEOFFREY CRAYON with you. I will set sofas under the trees, and lamps to glitter the night long in their branches. I will teach the birds a sweeter minstrelsy, and softer murmurs to the wizard Schuylkill. But, read you no farther; the rest I design exclusively for himself. Dear Geoffrey! By what arts shall I dare to entice you from the romance of your 'Sleepy Hollow,' to our scraggy hills? I will give you two oxen broken to the plough, a hive of fragrant bees, a calf ready to be weaned, and two tamed pigeons, who will teach you, if you know not, how to love. Do not despise us because we are rustics, and inhabit the rough mountains. The muses too, inhabit the mountains, and the gods sometimes left their ambrosial heaven for the mountains of Arcadia.' Nor because we are men of iron. The fair queen of Love had for her husband an Iron-master. The iron itself draws the adamant:
'Placidosque Chalybs cognoscit armores.'
I will introduce you to Roxalana, and it is no slander to the eglantine to say she is sweeter.
If the Muses delight you more, you shall have books, and a chamber that looks down through the silvery pines upon the village-roofs. Thais shall bring you flowers in full baskets; ivy for your brows, and a sprig of laurel; and for a bouquet, the merry snow-drop, and sweet savory violets. We have the mignionette too, sweeter than Cytherea's breath, and we have lilies that neither sew nor spin;' and, sleeping in ten thousand buds, the incomparable rose :
'Dal verde suo modesta, e virginella,
Che mezzo aperta ancora, e mezzo ascosa;
Or, if you would woo the sad nymph Solitude, I will conduct you where the grove hangs its long piny hair, softly fanned by the little Winds; where the earth is covered with a leafy carpet, and not a footstep is heard upon its silent walks; a grove yet in its untouched virginity, unviolated by the axe, unvisited by the sun. Or you may,
set insphered with the angels upon the heaven of the Sharp Mountain, or wander by the rock-bosomed Schuylkill, which, as if walking in its sleep, moves cautiously along, where the chestnut stoops its branches, and the oriel swings its cob-web hammock on the stream, rocked by the idle winds.
Here are no galleries of paintings; no Dolchis, nor Caracchis, nor Domenichinos; but we will make Nature sit to herself with the Daguerreotype. Here are no Italian warblers, no Grisis, no Caradoris, nor Rubinis; but there is music in the whispering breezes, in the waters when they meet in the still night, in the virgin's voice, that babies lulls to sleep,' and music of the grove, no where sweeter. Early up, the restless robin bids you 'sweet good morrow;' the blackbird salutes your window with his 'chink! chink!' and the pe-wee, pe-wit, and plover, his voice louder than the bull's, and