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SHADOWS OF THE PINE FOREST;
SIX LETTERS FROM THE COUNTRY.
wise and necessary laws, and finally to die in his
Of Pocahontas I might speak in the highest sheltering still the families of the race who raised terms that admiration and reverence could in- their massive walls. And why should I point spire; her fame is as well known as it will be you to that beautiful valley which lies like a rich everlasting, and simply to mention her name is jewel in the embrace of the Blue Ridge and the to speak her praises. great North Mountain; which is traversed by the
I accept her as a glorious type of Virginia wo-bright waters of the Shenandoah and a dozen manhood. And while the spirit of Powhatan other sparkling streams; and where the healthresisting foreign oppression and invasion, and the ful and bracing airs wander over a region a spirit of Bacon overcoming domestic tyranny and thousand times more beautiful than the virgin internal misrule will ever characterize the men; land which Spotswood first gazed upon when he the gentle virtues, the active self-denying kind- led thither the adventurous Knights of the Horse ness and the pure disinterested love of Pocahon-Shoe. tas will always belong to the women of Virginia.
A mournful message unto me hath come-
Might but this blessing unto me be given! But once again thy fading lips to press
I might perchance, then yield thee back to heaven! Have mercy on this anguish deep, my God!
And listen to this stricken heart's appealing,
And on his young life pour the oil of healing!
Observe how I wander from the pine-forest here around me to those other forests which have so often gladdened my sight. But this beautiful day in August is dreamy in its influence. The airs faint and die away in the pine tops yonder, and scarcely bring to my ear the lazy "caw! caw!" of the crow who flaps his black wings on the topmost bough of the tall oak which rises,—— across the fields-to the right of the old gate; scarcely is there breeze enough to move along the large mass of snowy clouds which August has piled up against the deep blue sky in careless magnificence. You do not breathe this air in town, O unfortunate and busy, (which is thrice unfortunate.) denizen of streets! These woodland odors never come to assail your eager nostrils, and the green leaves which the sunlight is
gleaming through around my window, do not rating gusto, the exploits of all men, horses and move for you in that dreamy and musical rustle dogs who have been distinguished on the turf; which revives slowly but by sure degrees all the wherein you read of astonishing feats in boxing, life and splendor and passion-partly the sadness miraculous wind and speed in men, infinite swifttoo of the beautiful past! Heaven must have ness and sagacity in dogs and horses. The peomeant it as a punishment that you behold not try too is very striking-in fact far more original that cloud-shadow floating over the fields, rapid than any we find in these degenerate days when as a flying herd of buffalo, indistinct in the our ungallant bards leave "Chloes" "Auroras" distance that you hear not the multitudinous and other fair ones quite untoasted. I should whisper of the pines--the pipa of Theocri- like to quote you "Chloe's Vexation"; in which tus-which murmur and wail and laugh in the that young lady demands, with well feigned surwarm and sparkling sunlight! prise, why her Colin rose so early, and receiving But it is not all things in this region that the the explanation, turns on her couch with "Oh mind, however disposed to agree with Pangloss deuce take the first of September!" but I must that this is the "best of all possible worlds," allow the gem to remain in its present antique can turn to and dwell upon with pleasure. Afar setting, lest having transferred it to the pages of yonder, in the distance where the fallow-land the Messenger its shape should challenge surceases as though man had been suddenly warn- prise and criticism.
ed to desist by some of the Immortals who Beside these two works I have well-stored had there their dwelling-place-yonder where shelves to amuse my idle hours, which perhaps the sunlight lies as fair and rosy as elsewhere; I may show you should a rainy day inflict its where the winds play as gaily as over the silken ennui on the household-though assuredly at corn-there the vision embraces that sad and Pinewood that word is merely a word, nothing disheartening sight, the waving fields of the more. Now the caw of the crow yonder impabroom-straw. Oh! how these vast fields shock tiently calls me. To the woods! to the woods!— the sight, how the very heart turns away from to the pine-forests where the shadows play, and this mournful and desolate expanse over which the leaves glitter and rustle;-but not as the rise at intervals the stunted but vigorous firs, thoughts of men-those leaves of the mindwhich have come here to point out to man the which flash and glitter and rustle along the evil of the pine-barren! pathways of passion and ambitious desires !
And why does this poor plant so shock the vision? Because it is the evidence-the unmistakable evidence-of utter exhaustion;-where it springs up nothing else will take root, as it only appears where no other vegetation can find nourishment.
PINEWOOD, 1 September.
You would not to-day find amusement in my scribblings, and I much fear, these "Shadows But let me abandon so disheartening a sub- of the Pine Forest" will partake much too largely ject,-turn my eyes from that sad spot in the of their title,-be merest shadows, in truth. landscape. Before me is the "Farmer's Reg- Therefore my letter shall not be long, and though ister," a very famous work in its day, before it shall take you to the woods, and though your "The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil," "The companion will not be gay, it shall be full of no American Farmer," and other agricultural jour- murmurings but the murmur of the trees, which nals became its rivals for public favor. wake up from their inmost depths at the rumor of the coming wind, and soon are vocal with those unwritten melodies which are the music of the woods.
Mr. Ruffin the Editor, you know by his volume on Calcareous Manures, but his editorial notices here are equally valuable, and now the closely printed pages in which his sapience and It is not in every mood of the mind that you that of his correspondents was recorded are my can enjoy and appreciate in their fullest extent amusement on this idle forenoon of the year of the beauties and the harmonies of nature-much grace 1851. For all those things which are more is this the case when those beauties are swallowed up in the irrevocable past, we are the monotonous and simpler ones of the Lowland. ever ready with a “sic transit gloria mundi," but In the vast mountains there is something for the "Register" is an exception; for not only are every mood of the mind;-grandeur for lofty the volumes preserved with care and regularly thoughts,-beauty for poetical dreams, which consulted, but as I perceive from the papers- rejoice in every shadow that gallops along the a "set" of the work was the other day offered belts of pine,-dimness and misty outlines for as a premium. Yet I prefer to the "Farmer's curious thought and wandering speculation. Register" Pierce Egan's "Sporting Anecdotes," Here in this lowland country you have pine wherein are detailed with profound and exhila-woods and oak, hills slightly rolling, and low
PINEWOOD, 2 September.
grounds in which the broad-leafed tobacco basks in the sun, or waves in the wind its banner-like leaves, which some heavy rain has turned up- Has your imagination ever discerned in that ward. Yet this land is beautiful and attractive nocturnal diversion called a "coon-hunt" anyas I have before said; and in the forest yonder, thing of the picturesque? And here let me pause are those winding roads which remind you of to observe that it is a vulgar error that there exEnglish park-roads; and great oaks which will ist such animals as Raccoons and Opossumsgive us misletoe at Christmas to hang up and a mistake which one is apt to fall into in readkiss under; and a thousand birds from the sway-ing those compilations of learned pedantry and deing boughs add their warblings to the rustle of ductions from imaginary facts called Natural Histhe leaves. tories. In spite of Cuvier and Buffon and Goldsmith, and all the historians who have followed and imitated them, I aver, without hesitation, that the actual names of these animals so miscalled by the learned are not Raccoon and Opos
Come there with me in thought, and stretched on the green turf we will beguile the time with any indolent converse which the dry and languid day will suffer to bubble to the lips. See! through that vista, far, between the straight sum, but simply Coon and Possum; and I have
accordingly written most vulgarly coon-hunt witḥ no apologetic particle of elision before it.
These few words of explanation having been gone through with, permit me to repeat my question, that is to say, have you ever been struck with the fact that a coon-hunt affords much interest to the hunter of the picturesque as well as the coon?
trunks of tall and shapely pines, you catch a glimpse of a county road, which nevertheless is a mere woodland path. Ask yourself how many happy wedding parties have gone like fair ships which leave a trail of light aud foam in their track, over that sylvan highway; and how many funerals have gone too, with nodding mourners on the hearse and the horses' heads; and sobs of those other, the real mourners, who Let me sketch for you the scene which I scarce. press white handkerchiefs to their eyes and think ly ever fail to take part in when I visit the counthe sunlight black; and the various but ever try, that is throw aside musty books and clerkly monotonous accompaniments of death. And then | MSS., and allowing the tide of town life to flow when you have gone back behind all-behind onward,-that tide upon which I am but a leaf the funeral, behind the wedding party, and seen tossed hither and thither,-bury myself for a the young girl in the first bloom of her pure and time in the quiet retreats where smiling faces and innocent life give her hand to the one she loves warm hearts await my coming. in the shadow of some such pine as we now rest under; when you have seen the beginning-which is joy and rapture-and the end which after all words of consolation and hope is despair and stupor, perhaps you may ask yourself with suffused eyes that question which has so deep a meaning, "What is life?" Does not the clod upon the lid shut out-when a little time has passed-that strong and terrible grief which we dreamt would be the horrible bosom-friend of our existence :—and yet, did we not wonder that on the quiet day when "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" came from the clergyman's lips, the lark could sing so joyously close by, the sparrow hop and twitter so carelessly on the boughs that threw their shadow on the grave?
At three in the morning you are awaken by a respectful shake which is administered by Jupiter, Apollo, or any other of the immortal gods specially commissioned on the night preceding to perform that duty.
Soon you are standing near the "quarters," and the Horn-blower is calling his dogs who come baying from the darkness. Yet it is not wholly dark, for over the western forest, poised like a red-hot shield hurled into the air, the moon may be plainly seen-though in an hour, even less, she will have sunk.
The air-though the days are warm—is chill, and a cool wind makes one shrug his shoulders. One of your companions, (possibly you agree with him) thinks it cold. The amiable "good fellow" of the company who has thought of every thing produces a vessel which much re
Then the languid afternoon will lull you to sleep, wearied with thought, and you will dream of beauty and love and joy, of grief and despair sembles a flask in outline but is undeniably a and everlasting farewells;" and finally the roar basket. Nevertheless this is passed round and of the pines through which the strong evening the party strike into the corn-field (it leads to the wind is gamboling will awake you, and that roar river low-grounds where raccoons "most do will take the voice of joy and despair of happy congregate") without further complaint. The meetings and "everlasting farewells," and say to younger portion are apt to be enthusiastic on the you," we work together for an end." subject of the dogs; but to all their comments the Horn-blower, who is an aged negro, with true African physiognomy, a nondescript dress be
longing to no age or nation, and a most extraor-[about to behold the crowning scene of the nedinary thing which was a straw hat-returns no gro's crowning pleasure-a coon-bunt. Nearer reply. He is perfectly respectful-his answer and nearer roar the dogs-musical as the crookbeing generally "yes sir," "just so, master"-but kneed "Thessalian breed" which Shakespeare he is also dignified, for is he not the Napoleon, vaunts-and their baying stirs the blood. The inthe Cæsar of that adventurous party who are by experienced attempt the "whoop! hark, hark !” this time plunging through the low grounds, with and miserably fail. Hats are lost-long green many a shout and song meant to beguile the hands from the oak and pine trees have lifted time? The dogs have long ago disappeared but them with a jerk-but there is no time to wait. as yet are not heard from; they are far off with For the ear of the Horn-blower does not deceive noses close to the ground which they are ques-him-and he knows that Ranger never utters tioning for the scent. that quiet, satisfied, subdued note before "treeing" his game. From that moment Napoleon is at his ease;-before it was doubt,-that is excitement; now it is certainty,—that is quiet.
Ranger at the head of his obedient forces is
Napoleon pauses thoughtfully on the bank of a "branch" which they are about to cross and looks around him earnestly: he wishes to know if the coon has been there feeding. This is shown by the absence or presence of the corn-barking and whining and coursing round a large shucks which the animal leaves behind him when oak which towers far aloft in the deep night: he devours the milky grain. the younger dogs bite at the roots and scratch with their paws-Ranger is by far too intelligent and eminently practical to be guilty of such folly. He waits, and so on strong arms are levelling the refuge of the hunted animal. A fire is kindled and its red glow illumines two ebon-colored figures flourishing aloft bright axes, which the next moment are buried in the oak's strong heart.
Napoleon with quiet and thoughtful mien calls the dogs to him, and calculates how the tree should fall: this is important, for should the oak strike in falling against another, presto! is the animal in another sanctuary and the trouble is to be gone over again.
The oak falls as Napoleon-calm as the Emperor at the great battle, but not taking snuffhas directed; and with fiery eyes, panting breasts and furious barking the dogs fly into the fallen
The younger portion of the company decide that they had "better get on for there's nothing there," but Napoleon continues prying by the last blood-red rays of the moon. Then he rises, up and puts his horn-a well-scraped and variegated natural trumpet-to his lips and "toots the horn" for his dogs. Ranger, the first arrived, seems to rise from beneath your feet, but his breath is quick and his tongue hangs out. The rest soon come in and in a moment are on the trail. The moon sinks and all is dark-not a star glimmers in the sky; but the pole star of the party is the distant baying-now faint and low for the scent is feeble on the dry ground, then loud and prolonged like the roar of the Cuban blood-hound when he treads on the heels of the flying runaway negro, for the trail is on moist ground and is "warm."
Suddenly the baying ceases and no sound moves the bracing and chilly air but the chirp of the night insects, the mellowed and melodious serenade of the frogs, and afar, from the deep bamboo swamp, the ha, ha, ha! tuhoo!" of the screech owl; for here the monarch of night laughs most unmistakably.
"Yelp! yelp!" and one of the young hounds springs back from that black ball with bright eyes which is turning, twisting, and rolling among the dogs. The young hound's ear is split as neatly as a razor could accomplish that feat. Another retreats with a wound in the neck-the coon has worried him; and now the persecuted but thoroughly game animal clears the "press" with a jump and throws himself into the stream which runs below. You see him for the first time, large, heavy, strong and courageous-the Yankee Sullivan of coons. The young bound burning for revenge throws himself at a leap upon the swimming coon. They sink together the dog is
Napoleon cheers on the silent dogs with a long "hark-hark-hark!" and soon the bay rolls up from the deep bottom. Then comes the tug of war-for the party must follow that sound, and their way lies through a tangled jungle where the trees are wholly invisible-I mean their trunks-and the thorns take tribute of their garments. But never mind! On! we are now drowned-the coon rises. nearer!--the dogs bay more loudly and regularly for the trail is warm. The Horn-blower is in furious ecstasy "hark-hark-hark! to him Ranger!" bursts from his lips as we may imagine ciated" as our auctioneers say in their advertise"up guards and at 'em" broke from the lips of ments. Under water, out of water, the coon Wellington on the day of Waterloo-for Na- tearing the dog, the dog worrying the coon, poleon the Second, that is our Napoleon is now speeds the fight.
Then Ranger comes to the rescue, cheered on by the Horn-blower, and an infuriated combat commences which must be "seen to be appre
At last it is ended. Ranger has killed his ene- the most absurd thing possible to be conceived my-simply and purely bitten him to death—and of, that the actions, or words-the defeat or the there's an end of it. Dragging him from the victory-of politicians, off a hundred or a thouwater he stretches him on the bank, and with sand miles, should affect one. What a wearipanting breast and hanging tongue gazes well-ness to occupy the mind with all those annoysatisfied. ances you say! And often when I am drawn into
Morn breaks then above the trees and you be- a political discussion, I am ready to exclaim hold all around you a dense forest which you can-with Louis XV.-"Come let us bore each other!" not imagine how you have passed; but you enter Heaven has sent me suddenly an illustration again in triumph, and that morning at the break- than which a better I could not desire. On the fast table you do not stop long to talk and send smooth green turf, before the window, whereat I your plate a third time for ham. trace for you these idle and wandering thoughts ("meandering" I should say, as a better word, but that Dickens on the first page of his “Copperfield" has consigned it to eternal ridicule,) under my window I repeat on the green sward my illustration is furnished in two youthful and belligerant cocks who are joined in mortal combat. They are not yet the crested birds who clap their wings at dawn," as Mr. Tennyson so prettily paraphrases it, but their youth is perhaps more courageous than their maturer years will be when they shall strut in serene dignity in the barn-yard.
And now if I have not conveyed to you an idea of the picturesque in Raccoon hunting-as I know I have not-you have only to look for yourself on your next trip to the country, or, better still, summon up as a coloring and an illustration of my hasty sketch those recollections of boyhood which circle most around such rude natural sports, because those sports impressed it far more forcible than all other things.
PINEWOOD, 3 September.
The flashing and hurrying pageantry of city life dies into silence and obscurity before its light and noise have penetrated far into the pine-forests. All the envies, the rivalries, the heartburnings and unworthy jealousies of town existence pass over the heads of the country denizens like an idle wind, which scarcely rustles onward before it is forgotten.
The hum, the din and the roar of metropolitan life, I have said, is not heard here in the quiet country, and we not only smile at all those items of "important intelligence" and "advices still later"-those editorial fencings, and the political scalpings which our "able editors" inflict on each other-but even the tremendous news from Cuba has fallen here upon calm foreheads, and I have seen no eye flash, or lip tremble at that disastrous execution in Havana.
Why do they fight? It is either love or ambition, or possibly, as Themistocles thought, the love of fighting itself. They have broad, green turf, many companions, a charming day and a full crop; why must they fight-the cocks?"
Ah, but—you say-the newspapers! Why are the newspapers such a treasure in the countryhow is it that post-evening is looked forward to with so much eagerness, and the possession of "the paper" coveted so warmly? I answer "it is thou O man of the city who hast felt within thy quiet breast at times, when buried in the country, that yearning for the "news"-that "pleasant" worry each other on the public stump daily quantum of excitement, occupation of for the public amusement; why must they fightmind, which is from habit a necessity; and natu- the politicians?
The country gentleman has peace, competence, happiness and serene pleasure to wait upon his steps. Why have the false glitter and glory of the Federal city weaned his thoughts from his beautiful rural place? Why do these worthy men whose "lines are cast" in places so
rally thou welcomest the courier of news." Thus But I see a large fowl with stately tread apit is the townsman who has no business to occu-proach them-survey them quietly-approach py his hours in the country, who covets the another threatening step. The combat is over news-with the country gentleman it is a much in an instant and they ignominiously retreat with more subdued sentiment. ignoble haste.
But not to-day shall politics be my theme. Here in the cool shade or balmy sunlight it is
It amuses me much to see them leap up, strike out with their feet and subside again with depressed heads into a lynx-eyed vigilance on each other's movements.