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A West Indian Landscape.-MALTE-Brun.
In order to make our readers better acquainted with this country, we shall attempt to describe a morning in the Antil'les. For this purpose, let us watch the moment when the sun, appearing through a cloudless and serene atmosphere, illumines with his rays the summits of the mountains, and gilds the leaves of the plantain and orange trees. The plants are spread over with gossamer of fine and transparent silk, or gemmed with dew-drops and the vivid hues of industrious insects, reflecting unnumbered tints from the rays of the sun.
The aspect of the richly cultivated valleys is different, but not less pleasing; the whole of nature teems with the most varied productions. It often happens, after the sun has dissipated the mist above the crystal expanse of the ocean, that the scene is changed by an optical illusion. The spectator observes sometimes a sand-bank rising out of the deep, or distant canoes in the red clouds, floating in an aerial sea, while their shadows, at the same time, are accurately delineated below them. This phenomenon, to which the French have given the name of mirage,* is not uncommon in equatorial climates.
Europeans may admire the views in this archipelagot during the cool temperature of the morning: the lofty mountains are adorned with thick foliage; the hills, from their summits to the very borders of the sea, are fringed with plants of never-fading verdure; the mills, and sugarworks near them, are obscured by their branches, or buried in their shade.
The appearance of the valleys is remarkable. To form even an imperfect idea of it, we must group; together the palm tree, the cocoa nut, and mountain cabbage, with the tamarind, the orange, and the waving plumes of the bamboo cane. Fields of sugar-cane, the houses of the planters, the huts of the negroes, and the distant coast lined with ships, add to the beauty of a West Indian landscape. At sun-rise, when no breeze ripples the surface of the ocean, it is frequently so transparent that one can perceive, as if there were no intervening medium, the channel of the water, and observe the shell-fish scattered on the rocks or reposing on the sand.
* Pron. me-răzhe.
A hurricane is generally preceded by an awful stillness of the elements; the air becomes close and heavy; the sun is red; and the stars at night seem unusually large. Frequent changes take place in the thermometer, which rises sometimes from eighty to ninety degrees. Darkness extends over the earth; the higher regions gleam with lightning.
The impending storm is first observed on the sea: foaming mountains rise suddenly from its clear and motionless surface. The wind rages with unrestrained fury: its noise may be compared to distant thunder. The rain descends in torrents; shrubs and losty trees are borne down by the mountain stream; the rivers overflow their banks, and submerge the plains.
Terror and consternation seem to pervade the whole of animated nature; land birds are driven into the ocean, and those whose element is the sea, seek for refuge in the woods. The frighted beasts of the field herd together, or roam in vain for a place of shelter. It is not a contest of two opposite winds, or a roaring ocean that shakes the earth : all the elements are thrown into confusion; the equilibrium of the atmosphere seems as if it were destroyed; and nature appears to hasten to her ancient chaos.
Scenes of sudden desolation have often been disclosed in these islands to the morning's sun : uprooted trees, branches shivered from their trunks, and the ruins of houses, have been strewed* over the land. The planter is sometimes unable to distinguish the place of his former possessions. Fertile valleys are changed in a few hours into dreary wastes, covered with the carcasses of domestic animals and the fowls of heaven.
Influences of Natural Scenery favourable to Devotional
WHATEVER leads our minds habitually to the Author of the universe; whatever mingles the voice of nature with the revelation of the Gospel; whatever teaches us to see, in all the changes of the world, the varied goodness of Him, in whom “we live, and move, and have our being," brings us nearer to the spirit of the Saviour of mankind. But it is not only as encouraging a sincere devotion, that these reflections are favourable to Christianity; there is something, moreover, peculiarly allied to its spirit in such observations of external nature.
* Pron. strowed.
When our Saviour prepared himself for his temptation, his agony, and death, he retired to the wilderness of Judea, to inhale, we may venture to believe, a holier spirit amidst its solitary scenes, and to approach to a nearer communion with his father, amidst the sublimest of his works. It is with similar feelings, and to worship the same Father, that the Christian is permitted to enter the temple of nature; and, by the spirit of his religion, there is a language infused into the objects which she presents, unknown to the worshipper of former times.
To all, indeed, the same objects appear, the same sun shines, the same heavens are open; but to the Christian alone it is permitted to know the Author of these things; to see his spirit move in the breeze and blossom in the spring;” and to read, in the changes which occur in the material world, the varied expression of eternal love. It is from the influence of Christianity, accordingly, that the key has been given to the signs of nature. It was only when the spirit of God moved on the face of the deep, that order and beauty were seen in the world.
It is, accordingly, peculiarly well worthy of observation, that the beauty of nature, as felt in modern times, seems to have been almost unknown to the writers of antiquity. They described, occasionally, the scenes in which they dwelt; but,-if we except Virgil, whose gentle mind seems to have anticipated, in this instance, the influence of the Gospel, never with any deep feeling of their beauty. Then, as now, the citadel of Athens looked upon the evening sun, and her temples flamed in his setting beam; but what Athenian writer ever described the matchless glories of the scene? Then, as now, the silvery clouds of the Ægéan Sea rolled round her verdant isles, and sported in the āzure vault of heaven; but what Grecian poet has been inspired by the sight?
The Italian lakes spread their waves beneath a cloudless sky, and all that is lovely in nature was gathered around them; yet even Eustace tells us, that a few detached lines is all that is left in regard to them by the Roman poets. The Alps themselves,
“The palaces of nature, whose vast walls
The avalanche--the thunderbolt of snow," even these, the most glorious objects which the eye of man can behold, were regarded by the ancients with sentiments only of dismay or horror; as a barrier from hostile nations, or as the dwelling of barbarous tribes. The torch of religion had not then lightened the face of nature; they knew not the language which she spoke, nor felt that holy spirit, which, to the Christian, gives the sublimity of these
There is something, therefore, in religious reflections on the objects, or the changes of nature, which is peculiarly fitting in a Christian teacher. No man will impress them on his heart without becoming happier and better,—without feeling warmer gratitude for the beneficence of nature, and deeper thankfulness for the means of knowing the Author of this beneficence which revelation has afforded.
“Behold the lilies of the field,” says our Saviour; “they toil not, neither do they spin : yet, verily I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these." In these words, we perceive the deep sense which be entertained of the beauty even of the minutest of the works of nature. If the admiration of external objects is not directly made the object of his precepts, it is not, on that account, the less allied to the spirit of religion, it springs from the revelation which he has made, and grows with the spirit which he inculcates.
The cultivation of this feeling, we may suppose, is purposely left to the human mind, that man may be induced to follow it from the charms which novelty confers; and the sentiments which it awakens are not expressly enjoined, that they may be enjoyed as the spontaneous growth of our own imagination. While they seem, however, to spring up unbidden in the mind, they are, in fact, produced by the spirit of religion; and those who imagine that they are not the fit subject of Christian instruction, are ignorant of the secret workings, and finer analogies, of the faith which they profess.
Passage of the Potomac and Shen'ăndāăh Rivers through the
Blue Ridge.- JEFFERSON.
The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge, is, perhaps, one of the most stupendous scenes in nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles, to seek a vent. On
left approaches the Potomac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder, and pass off to the sea.
The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion, that this earth has been created in time; that the mountains were formed first; that the rivers began to flow afterwards; that, in this place particularly, they have been dammed up by the Blue Ridge of mountains, and have formed an ocean, which filled the whole valley ; that, continuing to rise, they have, at length, broken over at this spot, and have torn the mountain down, from its summit to its base. The piles of rock on each hand, but particularly on the Shenandoah, the evident marks of their disrupture and avulsion from their beds, by the most powerful agents of nature, corroborate this impression.
But the distant finishing, which nature has given to the picture, is of a very different character. It is a true contrast to the fore-ground. That is as placid and delightful, as this is wild and tremendous. For the mountain, being cloven asunder, presents to your eye, through the cleft, a small catch of smooth blue horizon, at an infinite distance in the plain country, inviting you, as it were, from the riot and tumult roaring around, to pass through the breach and participate of the calm below.
Here the eye ultimately composes itself; and that way, too, the road happens 'actually to lead. You cross the Potomac above the junction, pass along its side through the base of the mountain, for three miles; its terrible precipices hanging in fragments over you.' This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic. Yet here, as in the neighbourhood of the Natural Bridge, are people, who have passed their lives within half a dozen miles, and have never been to