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is often as high as the head of a man on horseback, burns with a fierce and terrible rapidity, and extends the flames for miles in a few minutes, impressing the beholder with the idea of a general conflagration. If the wind chances to be high, tufts of the burning material dart like flaming meteors through the air; and, far as the eye can reach, a pall of black smoke stretches to the horizon and overhangs the scene, while all below is lighted up, and blazing with furious intensity; and ever and anon, flaming wisps of grass flash up, revolving and circling in the glowing atmosphere, and lending to the imagination a semblance of convict-spirits tossing in a lake of fire. The birds, startled and bewildered, scream wildly, and tumble and roll about above the flames; the affrighted deer leaps from his covert and courses madly away, and the terrified wolf, forgetful of the chase, runs howling in an adverse direction.
When an experienced hunter finds himself upon a prairie, to which fire has been applied, he immediately kindles a fire near him (as did the old trapper in Cooper's novel of The Prairie,') and the wind bears the flames onward, burning a path before him, which he follows to a place of safety, and thus escapes a horrid fate, that but for his sagacity would have been inevitable. A prairie on fire can sometimes be seen at a distance of fifty miles. The fire continues until the grass is all consumed, and not unfrequently it is carried by the wind into the adjacent forest, which it blasts and devastates, until checked by a water
Early in the spring, the prairies renew their verdant clothing, and long before their next autumnal burning, all vestiges of the prece. ding conflagrations are gone, unless perhaps some worm-eaten and sapless tree, in one of the island-like clusters, may show by its blackened trunk and leafless branches that the flames have been there.
In no possible condition can the prairies be seen, without exciting feel. ings of a peculiar and most lively interest. They are gloriously beautiful or awfully terrible, according to the times and seasons in which they are beheld. When viewed in the broad glare of day, they seem like large lakes, gently undulating in the breeze, and their variegated flowers flash in the sun like phosphorescent sparkles on the surface of the water. Seen by moonlight, they appear calm and placid as the lagunes of Venice, and the beholder almost wonders why they do not reflect back the starry glories of the sky above them In storms, the clouds that hang over them seem to come more near the earth than is their wont' in other places, and the lightning sweeps closely to their surface, as if to mow them with a fiery scythe ; while, as the blast blows through them, the tall grass bends and surges before it, and gives forth a shrill whistling sound, as if every fibre were a harp-string of Æolus. In the spring they put forth their rich verdure, embossed with the early wild-flowers of many hues, spreading a gorgeous carpeting, which no Turkish fabric can equal. At this season, in the early dawn, while the mists hang upon their borders, curling in folds like curtains, through which the morning sheds a softened light, “ half revealed half concealed' by the vapory shadows that float fitfully over the scene, they appear now light, now shaded, and present a panorama ever varying, brightening and darkening, until the mists roll up, and the uncurtained sun re
veals himself in the full brightness of his rising. In the summer, the long grass stoops and swells with every breath of the breeze, like the waves of the heaving ocean, and the bright blossoms seem to dance and laugh in the sunshine, as they toss their gaudy heads to the rustling mu. sic of the passing wind. The prairies are however most beautiful when the first tints of autumn are upon them; when their lovely flowers, in ten thousand varieties, are decked in their gorgeous foliage; when the gold and purple blossoms are contrasted with the emerald-green surface and silver linings of their rich leaves, and all the hues of the iris, in every modification, show themselves on all sides, to dazzle, bewilder and amaze. Bleak, desolate, and lonely as a Siberian waste, the prai. rie exhibits itself in winter, pathless and trackless ; one vast expanse of snow, seemingly spread out to infinity, like the winding-sheet of a world.
The traveller to the Rocky Mountains may rise with the early morning, from the centre of one of the great prairies, and pursue his solitary journey until the setting of the sun, and yet not reach its confines, which recede into the dim, distant horizon, that seems its only boundary. He will hear, however, the busy hum of the bee, and mark the myriads of parti-colored butterflies and other insects, that flit around him; he will behold tens of thousands of buffaloes grazing in the distance, and the savage but now peaceful Indian intent upon the hunt; and he will see troops of wild horses speeding over the plain, shaking the earth with their unshod hoofs, tossing their free manes like streamers in the wind, and snorting fiercely with distended nostrils; the feet deer will now and then dart by him; the wolf will rouse from his lair, and look askance and growl at him; and the little prairie-dog will run to the top of its tiny mound and bark at him before it retreats to its den within it. No human being may be the companion of the traveller in the immense solitude, yet will he feel that he is not alone; the wide expanse is populous with myriads of creatures; and, in the emphatic language of the red man, “The GREAT Spirit is upon the Prairie !
The following lines, found at the bottom of a chest of ancient and long-neglected manuscripts, have been at some cost of time rendered into legible words; the original orthography being partially retained.
Yn Malden, on a wayve of lande,
A slope, a calme declivitie,
Gone was ye tree: both stocke, and limbe ;
Leafe, verdoure, branche, lyse, harte, and core;
The Waters of a livynge fountayne!
Cleare? - as dyamonde of Golconda ;
High bendynge o'er, fro' heighte above,
The willowe wayves its rychestte shade ;
Dropp'd leafe, or wythe, or stalke, or branche,
Yppon y' pure, deepe, dyamonde Fonte ?
How stoode ye cattelle in yshayde,
Moyst’ning their hoofes in ye coole streame !
The traveller bless'd it as hee came;
Prays'd ye flatte stones yt rounde it stoode;
And alle was goode ; arounde, above;
Verdounte ye moysten'd meades; ye trees
Oft beam'th this vision o'er my harte,
For soche is Cyra. As ye leaf,
As Fountayne to ye parchéd soule
Of pilgrim-manne o'er aryde Earth, –
Eight or ten years ago, when I was a Freshman in college, a classmate took me off one summer to his home in the west of Massachusetts, to help him catch trout and get up pic-nics; both amusements equally novel and agreeable to a raw Boston boy. Though quite inexperienced, I had a relish for oddities, and some quickness of observation, so that I could appreciate that singular collection of characters common in NewEngland country villages. There was the old negro, staunch in his advocacy of temperance, and regarding the rising generation with a uni. versal paternal interest. Though now twisted out of all proportion by a fifty years' rheumatism, he had once been a soldier, alternately shoul. dering his musket and cooking the officers' dinners; and had endless stories to tell about Gates and Burgoyne; always dwelling with peculiar gusto on details of the hideous wounds he had seen, and whereof he had assisted in the cure, by holding the sufferers during the operations of the camp-surgeon. Then there was a self-taught geologist, who had filled a back room of his old farm-house with several tons of specimens, gathered from the mountains far and wide; and who, dexterously placing his chair against the door, would entertain bis imprisoned guests with geological discussions, and theories of the earth, new alike to the Vulcanians and the Neptunians. Beside these, there was the travelling book pedlar, better acquainted with the world, but not less eccentric and amusing than the others; and more likewise, who need not be dwelt on.
One hot Sunday afternoon, excusing ourselves from church, we scan. dalously solaced our leisure with Marryat's sea novels, then in high vogue at Harvard ; heedless of the glances of the spectacled old lady, who was reading her Bible at the next window. When we thought the service must be almost over, we resolved to walk out and meet the girls as they came from church. So we sauntered a long time about the little white meeting-house ; now stealing under the windows to catch the deep tones of Parson Smith's voice; now sitting on the fence listening to the locusts, and the refreshing tumble of the river Agawam down in the sultry meadow. The longer we waited the more loud and earnest grew the minister's exhortation. In those days, neither of us had as yet learned patience; we were too true collegians for that; so my friend
proposed to go and see old Dr. Blank, as the mode of killing time the most agreeable to me that he could think of.
The doctor was the oldest man in town. His tottering, double-roofed, unpainted house, stood on a hill, with two ancient elms before it, and a well hard by, from which the water was raised by a sweep instead of a windlass. I readily consented to go, glad to see any thing in the shape of a "curiosity,' for as such my friend described the doctor; so we painfully climbed the hill, gazing back at times upon the quiet and sultry landscape.
One of his numerous grand-daughters opened the door, with a stout infant of her own in her arms. The old man was, as usual, in his pri. vate sanctum, to which my friend led me, through various lumbering passages; and respectfully knocking, entered. It was a long narrow room, with a very venerable and somewhat dilapidated air. side was a little counter, with a pair of rusty scales hung over it, and behind a number of shelves of dusty vials and gallipots. At the farther end, which was rather dark, appeared a low bedstead, with a faded cur. tain, supported by a ricketty frame, the whole scarce big enough to accommodate a Lilliputian. There was a fire-place at one side, in which were stowed two enormous yellow pumpkins, with expanded cheeks, bright as the flame that roared up the wide chimney in December. Over head hung bunches of parching.corn, and various natural curiosities, while some antediluvian pictures garnished the walls.
The tenant of this extraordinary apartment seemed as true a fragment of the old world as the place itself
. He was a very small old man, with long white hair falling to his shoulders. He wore the gray breeches and buckled shoes of the olden time, which very well became a pair of exceedingly good-looking little legs. His face though thin, was emi. nently handsome, considering that it had weathered more than ninety years, which had sunk his large lively eyes deep in their blackened sockets. He had some papers on a desk before him, which he was turning over when we came in.
My friend, putting his mouth to the doctor's ear, roared out my name in a voice that made the dust fly, and filled the old man with indignation at the implied reflection on his powers of hearing. He soon got over his displeasure however, and in a quarter of an hour was sweeping along on the full tide of reminiscences, delighted at finding so atten. tive a listener as myself. He needed no spur, but talked on without a pause, except at intervals of fifteen or twenty minutes, when he would bury his countenance in a large mug of molasses-and-water for a few moments; then set it down, draw a long breath, and resume the thread of his story with, · Well now, what was I telling yer on ?' Had I the enviable power of recording his tales in his own phraseology I think, Mr. Editor, that your readers would confess themselves edified, as I certainly was ; although it must be acknowledged that certain passages of his discourse were particularly long-winded and monotonous. He well repaid us when he spoke of his personal experiences; for the withered disciple of Galen had been a soldier in his youth, and the martial spirit had not quite deserted his shrivelled carcass yet. One of his sto