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day, even to visit the cave of sculls ; he made no apology for hurrying us away ; . . there was danger in our remaining ; the Indians were already inquiring what we came there for, and he could not answer for our safety ; in a few months, perhaps, the excitement would pass away, and then we could return."
Instead of gratifying our readers, as we might have done, by giving them freer extracts from Mr. Stephens's work, in the place of comments of our own, we have thought it to be due to him to point out particularly the ample additions he has made to the existing knowledge on this exceedingly attractive subject. This is its merit, and this is what, in the present little advanced stage of the investigation, is much the most to be desired. The merit of philosophical analysis of, and deduction from, the facts, the work certainly bas not; and it must be owned, that it were to be wished the writer had approached his task with better preparation of whatever there is, that may be properly called learning, bearing upon it. It is likely that among the things that fell under his notice, there were some either not recorded, or passed lightly over, which then would have assumed a different importance in bis view, and analogies yet unobserved would have suggested themselves to his mind. But the observations which he has reported are a rich fund for thought, and the minuteness of his descriptions, and their coincidence to which we have alluded) with those of independent witnesses, as well as their manifest good faith, are conclusive vouchers for their substantial accuracy.
What we have to say upon the curious archæological questions presented by these investigations, we propose to reserve till the appearance of Mr. Prescott's expected work on the “Conquest of Mexico"; - a work for which we patiently wait its distinguished author's time, since it is understood that it will survey that great range of inquiry, which relates to the condition of the inhabitants of the central region of the New World, contemporaneously with, and prior to, the Spanish invasion. At present, we are content to remark, that the reasons of Mr. Stephens for assigning to the monuments visited by him, the very modern date which he proposes, do not strike us as by any means sufficient. He expresses the opinion, “ that they are not the work of people who have passed away, and whose history is lost,” but " creations of the same races who inhabited the country at
But it appears
the time of the Spanish conquest, or some not very distant progenitors ;" an opinion in which we are inclined to accord with him as far as respects the ruins at Patinamit, Utatlan, and Gueguetenango, but not at all in respect to those, of so different a character, at the five other places.
He says, that, “ exposed for six months every year to the deluge of tropical rains, and with trees growing through the door ways of buildings and on the tops, it seems impossible, that, asier a lapse of two or three thousand years, a single edifice would now be standing. We think there is force in this consideration, and that it would be unreasonable to attribute to them an antiquity so remote. from his account, (Vol. 1. pp. 103, 133; 11. 258, 310, 337, and other places,) that they have by no means escaped this occasion of injury, and he furnishes no evidence to show that they might not resist the rankness of tropical vegetation, for a period from five hundred to a thousand years, as well as the structures of Greece and Italy have resisted, for a much longer time, the influences of their different climate. He is disposed to lay much stress on " the existence of wooden beams, and at Uxmal in a perfect state of preservation.” But, as he correctly observes, “the durability of wood will depend upon its quality and exposure,” to which he might have added, upon iis mode of preparation ; and he impairs, instead of adding to, the force of this argument, when he notes, (Vol. 11. p. 259,) that the wooden lintel observed at Ocosingo, “ was so hard, that, on being struck, it rang like metal,” and that those at Uxmal, (p. 430,) were “ very hard, and rang under the blow of the machete,” while those at Palenque, (pp. 312, 313,) being probably prepared with less art, had actually gone to decay, and left their places vacant in the stone. Another argument he would draw from descriptions, by the early Spanish writers, of buildings which they had seen in Yucatan and its vicinity ; but this fails, for want of the necessary correspondence between those descriptions and the ruins now in question. He urges a resemblance between the Mexican Calendar in basalt, described by Humboldt, (“Researches,” Vol. 1. p. 276,) and the mask represented in the frontispiece to his own second volume, as indicating an identity of the races to which the two belonged; but the differences are so great, or rather the supposed likeness is so merely fanciful, as not to admit any
such conclusion. And he proposes the same inference from a comparison between the hieroglyphics (which he assumes to be Mexican) on what is called the Dresden manuscript, and those upon the upper face of the remarkable altar at Copan ; but, in the first place, the similarity is too imperfect to serve any such purpose, and, in the second, though Humboldt gave the Dresden hieroglyphics as Mexican, we conceive that he did so without evidence, and that the scroll was really of Central- American origin. As to Palenque, we hold it to be out of the question to suppose that it was an inhabited city at the time of the Spanish invasion. Cortez passed within twenty or thirty miles of its site; it would have been just the kind of place he was in search of; and yet he certainly knew nothing of it. And such was Mr. Stephens's own opinion, while on the spot (Vol. 11. pp. 356, 357.) He does not appear to bave adopted a different one, till a late period in the preparation of his work.
The similarity of the bieroglyphics at Copan, Palenque, Quirigua, and perhaps Uxmal, (Vol. 11. p. 433,) is one very salient fact. The difference of other objects at Copan, Palenque, and Uxmal, is not less so. As to the babits and character of these lost nations, we readily yield to Mr. Siephens bis proposed use of the more recent Sacrificatorio at Utatlan (Vol. 11. p. 184). But we cannot allow that he is warranted in his opinion of a destination of the beautiful altars at Copan to a sanguinary purpose (Vol. 1. pp. 152, 154). These, our guess is, were sacred to the worship of an earlier and nuilder race; to offerings, such as of fruits and flowers, to genial and benignant deities.
We have treated Mr. Stephens's volumes merely as the record of an archæological tour. But they are by no means that alone ; and, if all the portion of them which bears this character were withdrawn, there would still remain a work, than which none has lately fallen in our way more rich in entertaininent and instruction. His personal adventures, always one of the most agreeable topics of such a book, when a good understanding is once established between a tourist and bis reader, are related with a never-flagging vivacity and bonhommie. His unwearied curiosity and ready observation, his courage and amplitude of resource, his goodnature, cheerfulness, and patience, make him a companion with whom one hates to part. His style of narration, with VOL. LIII. NO. 113.
some abatements (particularly for too much bad Spanish), is graceful, perspicuous, natural, and lively. Not a few parts of his book, which we have passed over in ulter silence, will have a permanent value. The character and political condition of a large family of our sister republics receive important illustration from his comments. His sketches of the rich scenery which he visited are traced with a vigorous hand; his remarks upon the scheme for crossing the isthmus by a ship-canal through the Lake Nicaragua, are full of useful information and judicious hints concerning that interesting enterprise ; and there is very spirited history and characterdrawing in his account of the course of the Indian Buonapartino, Carrera. For the greater interest of this part of his work, as well as the rest, we may remark, by the way, that his publishers should by all means have afforded him a better map; a thing which it is not even now too late to do, and which, from the great popularity of the work, they can now better than ever afford.
We take leave of him, for the present, with the most friendly wishes, in return for the gratification he has afforded and with the special wish for ourselves,
• When he next doth ride abroad,
May we be there to see!”
ART. VIII. - Fables of LA FONTAINE. Illustrated by J.
J. Grandville. Translated from the French, by ELIZUR
Boston : Tappan & Dennett. 1841.
pp. 245, 339.
The fable has, from the earliest times, been a favorite form of inculcating moral and philosophical truth. The curious analogies, between the varieties of the human character and the varieties in the animal world, noted by physiological observers, no doubt lie at the foundation of the pleasure, which all ages have taken, in attributing to beasts and birds the thoughts and actions of men. The science of heraldry, — of national, as well as individual escutcheons, is but a perpetual commentary upon the same general fact. Names assigned to the distinguished heroes of savage tribes, . or of nations in their early youth, Hawkeye, Snake, Panther,
This was a
and Richard Lion-heart, are standing collateral facts, illustrative of this singular tendency in the mind of man. Fables and apologues have always been the vehicle, through which the Oriental intellect, in particular, has conveyed its teachings to the world ; the genius of Greece early caught the strain, and the name of Æsop is consecrated as the symbol of wit and wisdom for all times. Modern writers, of every nation, have tried their hands at this. To say nothing of the fables and apologues of the Middle Ages, the Germans, French, and English of later times have had distinguished writers of this class. Lessing's fables are known to all students of German literature ; the easy, graceful style of Gay has made him a universal favorite ; but the palm must be yielded, undoubtedly, to the great French fabulist, La Fontaine. No one has seized, with such unerring, instinctive accuracy, the characteristics of the animal world, and turned them to such admirable account, in the illustration of the passions, hopes, fears, and weaknesses of man. natural gift ; no education could have produced it. It was like the irresistible propensity of the landscape or cattle painter, which may be strengthened and improved by study and refined by practice, but can be created by no other power than the Creator of all. The consciousness of this inestimable gift came over La Fontaine, not until a comparatively late period, and then like a sudden inspiration ; and what French inspiration has ever left more genuine results, or made a deeper impression on contemporary and succeeding intellects ?
A great and peculiar genius, like La Fontaine, would have moulded any language to his purposes. Had be been of German birih, the language of Goethe and Schiller would have thrown aside its elephantine awkwardness half a century before it actually did. But still it must be regarded as one of the singular felicities of his position, that the polished language of France was his mother tongue. Step by step that admirable language had grown to be the most refined in Europe, the language of polite society, of letters, and diplomacy, all over Christendom ; the conversation and writings of the best wits of the modern world had enriched it with the most expressive idioms and the most inimitable graces.
The genius of wit and repartee had selected it for his own. An almost Athenian fastidiousness of taste had removed every trace of rusticity and barbarism, and that unequalled clearness of per