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A Few months since, when exhausted by hard labor, I visited West Point to breathe a little fresh air among the hospitable inhabitants of that delightful spot. After a fatiguing walk to Fort Putnam, a ruin examined by every visitor at the Point, I sought the retreat called KosciUSZKO'S GARDEN. I had seen it in former years, when it was nearly inaccessible to all but clambering youths. It was now a different sort of place. It had been touched by the hand of taste, and afforded a pleasant nook for reading and contemplation. The garden is situated in the shelvy rocks which form the right bank of the Hudson, about fifty or sixty rods southerly from the point on which the monument erected by the Cadets to the memory of Kosciuszko now stands. You descend by a well gravelled path-way, about eighty feet, not uncomfortably steep, then by flights of steps forty feet more, when you reach the garden—which is a surface of rock, through the fissures of which spring a scanty and stunted vegetation. The garden is about thirty feet in length, and in width, in its utmost extent, not more than twenty feet, and in some parts much less. Near the centre of the garden there is a beautiful marble basin, from whose bottom through a small perforation, flows upward a spring of sweet water, which is carried off by overflowing on the east side of the basin towards the river, the surface of which is about eighty feet below the gar
den. In the afternoon, and in fact for a greater part of the day, the retreat is sunless, and if the wind is southerly, a breeze comes up the river to make the spot delightfully cool. It was here, when in its rude state, that the Polish soldier and patriot sat in deep contemplation on the loves of his youth, and the ills his country had to suffer. It would be a grateful sight to him if he could visit it now, and find that a band of youthful soldiers had, as it were, consecrated the whole military grounds to his fame. His martial spirit would take fire in beholding such exact military maneuvers, as are exhibited by the scientific corps; and in the pride of his soul he would declare that a country who gave her sons such an education could never be conquered or enslaved. In a moody frame of mind I spent several hours, occasionally glancing on the pages of an old magazine I had taken to amuse myself in this retreat.
As I pored over it, my eye caught a page containing some sketches of the genius and peculiarities of Raphael. Among other things, it was stated that when that great artist was engaged in embellishing with his pencil the three apartments of the Vatican, which are now the glory of Rome, that he sought relaxation and found relief by changing the subjects of his art. After having labored on his great Scripture piece, which he was unable to finish without penetrating the empyrean to catch a sight of celestial beings, or entering deep into the infernal regions to portray some friend, stretched "on the burning marle of hell,” he threw aside all the sublime agonies of composition, and came down to light and playful subjects. He would often sketch a likeness of some singular looking person on his thumb nail, as the traveller passed his window; or call up to his mind the features of some loved maid, and leave her image on the margin of
a favorite book ;---then, perhaps, he threw down his pencil, to catch up his pen, to write a sonnet to the eye-brow he had painted. By this course he acquired mental vigor to again reach “ the heaven of invention" exhibited in his “TRANSFIGURATION," and other mighty works. In this moment of dreamy lassitude, the thought struck me forcibly, that this was true philosophy, and should be pursued by all who felt enfeebled by exertion, whether corporal or mental. The example indeed was a lofty one, but if in morals we are bound to take infinite perfection as a standard, and to imitate all the imitable portions of the character of the Author of the Christian religion, is there a want of modesty in following an illustrious example of manners and habits among men? The thought no sooner entered my mind, than I resolved to try the experiment of recruiting myself by writing a series of short tales, and brief sketches, and before I left the garden, my subjects were all noted down.
These tales are mostly founded on incidents in real life, and several of them are not as singular or romantic as the facts or the chronicles from which they were drawn would warrant. A part of one of these tales, “The Lost Child," was written several years since, but circumstances prevented me from finishing it until now. The rest of them are as fresh as the blossoms of June were when I conceived the thought of writing them, whatever may be their beauty or perfume.
In a quotation I have made in “The Acllahua," from an article on the Last of the Incas," it will be perceived that the spelling of several names is different from the one I have adopted, but I did not feel at liberty to alter any thing coming from the pen of such an accurate and classical scholar as Caleb Cushing
It is a maxim that every man should be devoted to some duty, as life is short; but most assuredly these duties ought not all to be severe exertions of mind. There should be some indulgence given to the imagination; some revelling in creations of our own : or why should God have given us the power of creating in the manner he has ? Nor is it always the labor which most exhausts the body and mind, that is the most beneficial to society.
The botanist who discovers some new plant for food or medicine, does his duty as well as the sturdy artisan who fells the august pine destined for "the mast of some great amiral.”
It is not the heaviest work that requires the most mind to execute; the elegantly little often requires more skill than the vast and magnificent. It is unnecessary to say any thing more upon these little efforts of my leisure, as they contain no equivocal morals, nor advocate any strange doctrines.