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THE VOLCANIC REGIONS OF ITALY.
Of all the countries of Europe, Italy is that in which volcanoes have existed for the longest period, and have produced the most important effects. Traces of very ancient volcanoes are still visible in Tuscany, Latium, and tho Venetian territory; the delightful coast of Posilippo, and the adjacent Phlegrean Fields, are volcanic productions, and Vesuvius still spreads desolation and horror over the smiling plains of theCampagna Felice. If we extend our observations to the southern extremity of the Peninsula, we find the straits by which Italy is separated from Sicily studded with islands, almost all of volcanic origin; and in Sicily, Mount Etna rises, the most important of all volcanoes, venerable for its antiquity, and wdnderful for the effects of its eruptions, of which centuries have not been able to exhaust the fury. There is an opinion of some antiquity, that Sicily was once joined to the opposite Continent: the very narrow space which now separates them, the similarity of their soils, and the evident inclination of the extreme Apennines in Calabria towards Sicily, tend to strengthen this opinion.
Sicily, anciently called Trtquetra, and Trinacria, from its triangular form and its three Promontories, was for many ages a flourishing state, and rivalled Greece (the most polished and the greatest of nations,) whence Sicily derived civilization and the arts, and afterwards surpassed in magnificence and power. Syracuse was called the most powerful, and the most splendid, of the cities of Greece. The grandeur of this island has now passed away, and time, which changes all things, has crushed the priil*. and pomp of this empress of the seas. Some scanty but beautiful remains of its former prosperity, its delightful climate, and the stupendous spectacle of Mount Etna, are now its principal attractions to the traveller.
Mount Etna rises from the valley of Valdemone, not far from the Straits of Messina; it is not only the loftiest mountain in Sicily, but, with one or two exceptions, the most lofty in Europe. The name of the valley was derived from this volcano, which was, in ancient times, bupposcd to be the abode of demons, and the seat of eternal fire; absurd ideas which are not yet entirely eradicated from the minds of the people.
Etna, according to some learned men, derives its name from a Greek word, signifying to burn. When the Saracens had possession of Sicily, this mountain was called Gebel el Nar, (Mountain of Fire,) and from this was derived the name of Mongihello, which Etna still retains. It rises about 12,000 feet above the level of the sea; it is isolated from every chain of mountains; it differs from all others in its form and nature, being entirely composed of volcanic rocks; and its shape is that of a large cone, placed upon an irregular base, about 180 miles in circumference. It is- bounded by the sea on the East and the South, and on the West and North, by the rivers Simcto and Alcantara.
The great body of the mountain is divided into Three Regions, or Zones: the first, which commences at the foot of the mountain, is called the Cultivated Region; the second is called the Woody Region; and the third is the Naked, or Desert Region. These three regions differ so entirely from each other in climate and in productions, that they may be compared to the three great zones of the earth • thus, the first may be compared to the Torrid zone the second to the Temperate zone, and the third to the Arctic, or Frozen zone; so that this great father of mountains may be considered as a compendium of our globe.
The Cultivated Region, which occupies the whole of the base, and extends about fourteen miles towards the summit, is the most fruitful district in Sicily, and one of the most prolific and delightful spots in the world. Towns and villas, peopled by 300,000 inhabitants, are dispersed over it in every direction. Tho soil is entirely composed of volcanic products, covered by decomposition with a fertile earth, .except where furrowed up by torrents of lava which still resist the action of time, and offer a striking and cruel contrast to the softness and smiling aspect of the adjacent cultivation. The productions of this region the most important of which is wine, are numerous and abundant. The olive thrives in this volcanic soil, and may be found with the vine at the height of 3000 feet above the level of the sea. Some kinds of grain are cultivated with success, as also almond, pistachio, and mulberry, trees; the silk procured from the mulberry, forms an important brauch of the trade of Catania, This
favoured region is watered by the rivers Siineto and Alcantara, and by numerous streams which descend through hidden channels from the showy summits of Etna.
The Simeto, now called the Giannetta, is the most important of the Sicilian rivers; after fertilizing a great part of the base of the mountain, it falls into the sea about eight miles from Catania. Catania, or the city of Etna, is the most important town in the Cultivated Region; it was founded by the ancient Sicani, and is situated on the banks of the river Amennno, which Hows secretly through the recesses of Etna, and rises suddenly from the earth near the sea-shore. Thucwlides, who records three very ancient eruptions of this volcano, speak ing of the third, which took place in the eighty eighth Olympiad, says, that it laid waste the lands of the Cata nians; since that time, this city has been frequently destroyed by the fires of Etna, but, phosnix-like, 1ms as often risen from its ashes. The present city, whirl contains about 40,000 inhabitants, was rebuilt in I66!i after having been nearly annihilated by an eruption whirl look place m that year.
An immense forest, like a large belt, forms the Second Region; its circumference is about seventy miles, mid it extends more than half-way up the sides of Etna. These inexhaust.ble forests furnished materials for the numerous Ueets which, in former times, ruled the seas, an 1 pro claimed the proud grandeur of the Syracusan tyrants. Oaks and chesuuts grow in great abundance, and are often found of an extraordinary size; some kin.Is of fir, from which large quantities of resin are exh acted, and beech, juniper, broom, and many other trees also abound. The "chesnut of a hundred horses," so railed, because a hundred men on horseback could be shltered under its huge branches, has long been celebrated: i (thing now remains of this ancient tree, except the in mense hollow trunk, which time and the elements have at length opened in several places. Its circumference is 2fl feet, and it will contain 300 sheep, and 27 men on horsel tick.
Towards the extremity of this zone, the trees kegin to decrease in size and in number, vegetation languishes, and the Third Region, called Naked, or Barren, commenres. It is composed of lava and of ice, and from its extremity rises the great cone of the crater, formed by the accumulations of sand, ashes, and other volcanic scoria, propelled to this immense height by the internal power of the volcano. This cone is sometimes depressed, and sometimes even entirely disappears in the interior of the mountain, to be reproduced afterwards by the same means; when it is thus depressed and swallowed up, the mountain is no longer visible from certain points, to mariners, to whom the summit usually serves as a beacon. The present cone was reproduced about the middle of the seventeenth century. Its height is about 1800 feet, and the interior is like a funnel, about 600 feet in depth; the chief aperture is about nine miles in circumference, and there is also a smaller one. When the volcano is in a state of tranquillity, the descent to the bottom of the cone is practicable, but difficult; the sides are then seen covered with beautiful crystallizations of salt and sulphur, which temper in some degree the horrors of this abyss.
From the middle of November to the end of May, the whole of the Desert Region and part of the Woody Region are covered with snow, and Etna is almost inaccessible. The average temperature of the summit, in July and August, is 37 degrees, whilst at Catania it is 84. From the south side of the island, Etna presents itself in majesty, rearing its proud front to the skies, and stretching on one side into the depths of the sea, and on the other beyond the centre of the island. It is from this side that the mountain is ascended, and the most favourable time for this undertaking is between the months of May and August.
Departing from Catania, at the foot of the mountain, the traveller usually arrives at the summit some hours before sunrise. The distance is about 28 or 30 miles, and the road, traversing the three zones, is nearly direct from the foot to the summit of the mountain. The tract of land, which is crossed in the cultivated region, bears on every side the appearance of a smiling and variegated garden. At ISecastagne, a little village, nine miles from Catania, the traveller begins to enjoy a beautiful and extensive view of the surrounding country; he then proceeds to Niccolosi, another beautiful village, four miles further, an 1 more than 3000 feet above the level of the sea. A litthJ further, at a place called S, Niccolo 1'Arena, the traveller enters tho Woody Region; leu gmrlmg, it is true, but not lesB beautiful and variegated than the first.
In the depth of the night, he at last finds himself in the Desert Region, facing the great smoking cone of Etna, which he approaches with dread and wonder. In truth, the objects which present themselves to his view are wonderful: the stupendous mountain, upon which he finds himself, is so isolated, that his bewildered imagination knows not how to prepare for a descent to the regions of the earth; beneath him is an ocean of darkness, and above him the immense vault of heaven, covered with millions of twinkling stars; a solemn silence pervades the universe, unbroken except by hollow sounds from the mountain; and at his feet is a deep abyss, from which the eye and the mind alike recoil. At length he beholds the star of day, the first rays of which pierce the thick mantle of night, and gradually unfold the splendid view, as it were, of a new creation.
To the east, illuminated by the sun, rising from the opposite mountains of Calabria, he beholds the coast of Italy stretching out into the sea, and finally vanishing into the air; the Straits of Messina at his feet, resembling a broad and majestic river, gradually expanding; to the south, an immense expanse of ocean, with the island of Malta dimly seen through the misty horizon; and to the west the whole of Sicily spread out, like an immense map, obscured by the huge shadow of Etna, through which, however, every part is distinctly seen,—mountains, valleys, rivers with their long serpentine courses, and the houses and animals on their banks. To the north, the little group of the Eolian Islands, the abode of the fabulous Eolus; and amongst them the flaming Stromboli,—which, at the moment of sunrise, seems starting from the waves,—and the vast tract of sea which separates Sicily from the Bay of Naples. At length, the eye turns to the mountain itself, of which it beholds- at once the three great zones; its enormous flanks, furrowed by deep valleys, and rendered harsh and rough by immense rivers of lava, and by more than eighty volcanic mounts or hillocks, the progeny of this great father of volcanoes.
According to some writers, the visible horizon of Etna embraces a circumference of more than 2000 miles; and some Sicilian authors affirm, that from its summit the African and the Neapolitan coasts have sometimes been discerned; but the sense of sight is too feeble to comprehend the extreme limits of so vast a circle.
Such are the wonders which Etna, in repose, offers to the contemplation of the traveller; but far more wonderful, though very different, is the spectacle of Etna in activity.
The first indication of an approaching eruption is a thick smoke, which issues impetuously for several days from the mouth of the crater, and ascends in a column to an immeasurable height, where it spreads and dilates itself in the air in the form of a tree; when the wind is high, the smoke sometimes extends over a tract of 100 miles. This column of smoke is succeeded by clouds of ashes and sand, which the wind disperses on all sides, and drives to a great distance, sometimes to Malta, to Sardinia, to Corfu, and to many parts of Italy and the coast of Africa; then the air becomes dark, and these ashes and the showers of sand cover every object, weigh down the roofs of houses, prevent respiration, and fill the hearts of the inhabitants with terror. In the mean time, the interior of the volcano is agitated and convulsed; the mountain shakes from its very foundations; horrible bellowings are heard, with echoes, which, by degrees, are lost in the deep recesses of the earth; enormous masses of burning lava are shot upwards with terrific force, sometimes ascending to the height of 7000 feet. At length the sides of the mountain are split, and torrents of smoke issue, followed by streams of lava, which descend like rivers of red liquid iron, to inundate the adjacent country. Sometimes the burning streams flow towards the sea, into which they fall with a horrible sound, and prescribe new limits to the adverse element; sometimes over elevated tracts of ice, and then rivers of water rush down with tremendous noise. Deep valleys on the ridge of the mountain have been suddenly filled up by these floods of lava; and, in this manner, in the eruption in 1381, the Port of Ulysses, mentioned by Virgil, now buried at a distance of three miles from the sea, was filled up. Some of these streams have extended to thirty miles in length, five or six miles in breadth, and 300 feet in depth, and retain their internal beat for many years
The eruptions of Etna are often accompanied by singular
accidents. One of these burning rivers, descending the mountain, came in contact with a volcanic hill, covered with trees and verdure, and, having torn it from its foundations, transported it, like a floating island, to another part of the country, where it fell to pieces. The fate of Mai Passi, a delightful spot on the flank of Etna, not far from the ancient Hybla, is not less remarkable. An eruption overwhelmed it with lava, and entirely destroyed its beauty, and it was then called Mai Passi; soon afterwards it was again fertilized by a shower of cinders; it flourished for several years, and was called Bel Passi; at last, in the eruption of 1G69, it was again inundated by lava, and then resumed the name of Mai Passi, which it still retains.
The hills which clothe the great body of Etna are produced during the eruptions, when the earth opens, and sends forth great quantities of cinders and of stones; these materials fall to the ground, accumulate, and gradually assume the form of cones.
The nature of the different kinds of lava is very various, according to the materials which compose them; but all kinds act upon the magnetic-needle, in consequence of the iron with which they are impregnated; they are almost all very hard, and decomposed with great difficulty. The soil with which they become covered by the process of decomposition is favourable, above all other soils, to vegetation; and it is, principally, on this account, that the lands of Etna are the most fertile in Sicily, perhaps, in the whole world.
The operations of time are sometimes aided by sudden showers of ashes, which accelerate and favour the decomposition of the streams of lava; they become clothed, first, with a variety of lichens, then with other little plants, which, from their nature, adhere to the soil; and are thus soon covered with verdure.
Fifty-nine eruptions of this volcano are recorded in history; of these eleven took place before the birth of our Saviour. History records the name of Empedocles, who first fixed his abode on the most elevated part of this volcano, and afterwards precipitated himself into its jaws, in order to make others believe that he had been carried up to heaven; but an eruption of the mountain threw out one of the bronze sandals of the philosopher, and thus manifested at once his vanity and his death.
When we contemplate the wonderful works of Nature, and walking about at leisure, gaze upon this ample theatre of the world, considering the stately beauty, constant order, and sumptuous furniture thereof; the glorious splendour, and uniform motion of the heavens; the pleasant fertility of the earth; the curious figure and fragrant sweetness of plants; the exquisite frame of animals; and all other amazing miracles of nature, wherein the glorious attributes of God, especially his transcendant goodness, are more conspicuously displayed: so that by them, not only large acknowledgments, but even gratulatory hymns, as it were, of praise have been extorted from the mouths of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and such like men, never suspected guilty of an excessive devotion: then should our hearts be affected
with thankful sense, and our lips break forth in praise.
Recreation is intended to the mind as whetting is to the scythe, to sharpen the edge of it, which otherwise would grow dull and blunt. He, therefore, that spends his whole time in recreation, is ever whetting, never mowing; his grass may grow, and his steed starve: as contrarily, he that always toils and never recreates, is ever mowing, never whetting; labouring much to little purpose. As good no scythe as no edge. Then only doth the work go forward, when the scythe is so seasonably and moderately whetted, that it may cut, and so cuts, that it may have the help of sharpening.—Bishop Hall.
Those who are themselves truly religious, who have felt the comfort, the happiness, which a just view of religion inspires; how much it heightens all our pleasures, and softens all our pains; cannot fail to inspire their children with a due love and reverence for those principles, of which they have themselves felt the value. The best instruction will, however, be of little use, if the example of the teacher is at variance with his precepts. Of all the lessons you can give your children, none will be of so great importance as your owri example.
No. VII. The Victory Of Salamanca. When the British army captured Badajoz, Marshal Soult was moving up quickly to its support, and had already arrived within two marches, when he learnt that it had been taken only two days before. The Marshal was much chagrined at the news, but he contented himself, as report says, with breaking all the plates and dishes in his immediate reach, and lost no time in returning to Seville. Marmont too, who had invested Ciudad Rodrigo, in order to make a diversion in favour of Badajoz, retreated the day after its capture, and fell back to Salamanca.
Lord Wellington's first object was to interrupt the communication between the two French generals, by destroying their works and bridge of boats across the Tagus, at Almaraz, an operation gallantly and ably performed by Sir Rowland Hill, (at present Lord Hill, and Commander in Chief.) He then advanced towards Salamanca in the middle of June, and the French withdrew beyond the river Tormes, on whose right bank it stands; the British entered the city, and having reduced several strong forts ■which the enemy had there constructed, pursued Marmont and his army to the Douro. But the marshal being strongly reinforced, soon advanced again, and caused the British general in his turn to retire. And now began a brilliant contest of skill, between the two commanders, in which each displayed all the resources of his art, and wielded them with consummate ability. Marmont's object, was evidently to cut off the allies from their communication with Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo, and not to fight a battle, unless at such advantage as might seem to render his success certain; to frustrate this design was of course the purpose of Lord Wellington. The manoeuvres of the French marshal were met by corresponding movements on the part of the British general, and thus rendered of no avail; and for six days did this game of skill continue. "It was an awful sight," says Mr. Southey, " to behold two great armies in an open and level country,
moving in parallel lines in full march, and frequently within half cannon-shot of each other, each waiting for some favourable moment, in which the antagonist might be found at fault." Nor was it long before it came.
Early on the morning of the 22nd of July, the British army was posted, with its left resting on the river Tormes, and its right, near two remarkably bold rocky heights, called the Dos Arapiles; the enemy being immediately in front, and covered by a thick wood. About eight o'clock, a column of French soldiers issued from the wood, and advancing rapidly, seized the outer and most extensive of those strong points; the other was instantly occupied by the British. Marshal Marmont collected behind the Arapiles a large force, and having great reliance on his skill as a tactician, commenced manceuvreing on a range of easy heights, about a thousand yards in front of his opponents. In this manner the early part of the day was spent; but about two o'clock in the afternoon, the marshal with much show, and amidst great noise caused by the firing of his artillery, and the muskets of a cloud of skirmishers thrown out from his front and flank, rapidly extended his left, and moved forward his troops, " apparently," said Lord Wellington in his despatch, "with an intention to embrace, by the position of his troops, and by his fire, our post on that of the two Arapiles which we possessed, and from thence to attack and break our line; or at all events, to render difficult any movement of ours to our right." This manoeuvre of Marmont's, offered the British general an opportunity of attack, for which he had been anxiously looking. He was at dinner, when informed of it; but at once perceiving his advantage, he rose in such haste as to overturn the table, exclaiming "Marmont's good genius has forsaken him;" in an instant he was on horseback, issuing those orders which won the battle of Salamanca.
The French had dangerously weakened their left by too greatly extending it. It rested originally, as we have observed, upon one of two remarkable rocky points, called the Dos Araplles, oh the other of which was posted the British right; but it was now prolonged oh the heights beyond that point. The British General resolved on three simultaneous attacks upon this part of Marmont's army: one upon its front; a second to support the first by assailing the Arapilcs Hill which the enemy held; and the other to turn their left upon the heights. The divisions of Generals Leith and Cole, with Bradford's brigade, and Sir Stapleton Cotton's cavalry were charged with the first; General Pack's, and two Portuguese regiments, with the second; and the third division under Pakenham, with D'Urban's cavalry, and two squadrons of dragoons under Colonel Hervey were directed upon the third.
Pakenham's force moved briskly over the intervening valley, and passing beyond the enemy's extended left, almost before they were aware of his intention, formed across their flank, drove them back in disorder, and overthrew every thing that presented itself. The cavalry charged, and breaking in gallantly among the confused masses of infantry, put numbers to the sword. The attack in front was equally successful; the British troops had been lying stretched on the ground, to avoid the effects of the heavy cannonade to which they were exposed for about an hour, when the welcome orders came, which bade them advance against the enemy. "The distance," says Mr. Southey, " was more than a mile, up a steep height crowned by twenty pieces of cannon, and their left had to pass through the village, which formed a considerable obstruction; they advanced in perfect order, not firing a shot till they had gained the summit, from whence the guns which had annoyed them were hastily withdrawn, nor till they had received the fire of the enemy who were formed into squares to resist them. When they were within some thirty yards, the word was given to fire and charge; this instantly threw the squares into disorder; the heavy cavalry coming up on the right increased their confusion; they fled then, and in their flight, fell in with the remains of their extreme left, flying beforeMajor-Gencral Pakenham's division." The French were driven successively from one height to another; and a large number of them made prisoners.
But the British soon experienced a check, in consequence of the failure of Pack's attack upon the Arapiles, enabling the enemy to throw some troops upon the left of the force which had attacked their front. Cole's division was obliged to give way, after a severe contest, in which their general was wounded. But the promptitude of Marshal Beresford, and the opportune aid afforded by a fresh division which had been-kept in reserve, and which Lord Wellington now ordered up, soon restored the success of the British. The enemy's right, however, reinforced by the troops which had fled from his left, and by those which had now retired from the Arapiles, still continued to resist; they re-formed and took up their ground with great quickness and skill, almost at right angles to their original front, the infantry along the crest of the hill in line, supported by heavy close columns in reserve, the cavalry in masses on their flanks, and the artillery posted at the advanced knolls, so as to sweep the whole face of the height. But all their resistance was vain; they were driven back, and soon fled through the woods towards the Tormes, cavalry, infantry, and baggage, all mixed together. They were briskly pursued; . but the darkness of the night was highly advantageous to them, and under its cover many escaped, who must otherwise have fallen into the hands of the victors.
The loss in this battle was severe on both sides, and particularly on that of the French. Besides the dead and wounded, they left 7000 prisoners on the field; and eleven pieces of cannon, with several ammunition-waggons, two eagles, and six colours, were taken from them. Of the allies, nearly a 000 were killed and wounded; among the latter were Generals Cole and Leith, and Marshal Beresford; and among the former was General Le Marchant, whose loss, the Earl of Wellington regretted as that of "a most noble officer." On the French side, Marmont himself was disabled early in the action; his second also was wounded, and three generals were killed.
The victory thus gained at Salamanca, was the most memorable and decisive which had hitherto crowned the British arms in the peninsula.
A VOYAGE TO ENGLAND,
BY AN AMERICAN.
To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an excellent preparative. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy until you step upon the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another world.
I have said that at sea all is vacancy. I should correct the expression. To one given up to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea-voyage is full of subjects for meditation; but then they are the wonders of the deep, and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the mind from worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the quarter-railing, or to climb to the main-top on a calm day, and to muse for hours together on the tranquil bosom of a summer's sea; or to gaze upon the piles of golden clouds just peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy realms, and people them with a creation of my own, or to watch the gentle undulating billows rolling their silver volumes, as if to die away on those happy shores.
There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe, with which I looked down from my giddy height on the monsters of the deep at their uncouth gambols. Shoals of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship: the grampus slowly heaving his huge form above the surface, or the ravenous shark, darting like a spectre through the blue waters. My imagination would conjure up all that I had heard or read of the watery world beneath me, of the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys; of the shapeless monsters that lurk among the very foundations of the earth; and those wild phantasms which swell the tales of fishermen and sailors.
Sometimes a distant sail gliding along the edge of the ocean would be another theme for idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a world hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence! What a glorious monument of human invention, that has thus triumphed over the wind and wave; has brought the ends of the earth to communion, has established an interchange of blessings, pouring into the steril regions of the north all the luxuries of the south; diffused the light of knowledge and the charities of cultivated life; and has thus bound together those scattered portions of the human race, between which nature seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier!
We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a distance. At sea every thing that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse attracts the attention, ll proved to be the mast of a ship that must have been completely wrecked; for there were the remains of handkerchiefs by which some of the crew had fastened themselves to this spar to prevent their being washed off by the waves. There was no trace by which the name of the ship could be ascertained. The wreck had evidently drifted about many months; clusters of shell-fish had fastened about it, and long sea-weeds flaunted at its sides. But where, thought I, is the crew? Their struggle has long been over;—they have gone down amidst the roar of the tempest:—their bones lie wbitening in the caverns of the deep. Silence—oblivion, like the waves have closed over them, and no one can tell the story of their end.
What sighs have been wafted after that ship! what prayers offered up at the deserted fire-side of home t 11 ow ofteu has the mother, the sister, and the wife, pored. o\«r. the daily news, to catch some casual intelligence of this rover of the deep 1 How has expectation darkened into anxiety—anxiety into dread—and dread into despair! Alas! not one memento shall ever return for love to cherish. All that shall ever be known is that she sailed from her port, "and was never heard of more."
The sight of the wreck, as usual, gave rise to many dismal anecdotes. This was particularly the case in the evening, when the weather, which had hitherto been fair, began to look wild and threatening, and gave indications of one of those sudden storms that will sometimes break in upon the serenity of a summer voyage. As we sat around the dull light of a lamp, in the cabin, that made the gloom more ghastly, every one had his tale of shipwreck and disaster. I was particularly struck with a short one related by the captain.
"As I was once sailing," said he, "in a fine stout ship, across the banks of Newfoundland, one of the heavy fogs that prevail in those parts rendered it impossible for me to see far ahead, even in the daytime; but at night the weather was so thick, that we could not distinguish any object at twice the length of our ship. I kept lights at the mast-head, and a constant watch forward to look out for fishing-smacks, which are accustomed to lie at anchor on the banks. The wind was blowing a smacking breeze, and we were going at a great rate through the water. Suddenly the watch gave the alarm of ' a sail ahead!' but it was scarcely uttered till we were upon her. She was a small schooner at anchor, with her broadside toward* us. The crew were all asleep, and had neglected to hoiit a light. We struck her just amid-ships. The force, the size, and weight of our vessel, bore her down below the waves; we passed over her, and were hurried on our course.
"As the crashing wreck was sinking beneath us, I had a glimpse of two or three half-naked wretches, rushing from her cabin; they had just started from their cabins to be swallowed, shrieking, by the waves. I heard their drowning cry mingled with the wind. The blast that bore it to our ears swept us out of all farther hearing. I shall never forget that cry! It was some time before we could put the ship about, she was under such headway. We returned, as nearly as we could guess, to the place where the ship was anchored. Wo cruised about for several hours in the dense fog. We fired several guns, and listened if we might hear the hallo of any survivors; but all was silent— we never heard nor saw any thing of them more!"
It was a fine sunny morning when the thrilling cry of *' land" was given from the mast-head. I question whether Columbus, when he discovered the new world, felt a more delicious throng of sensations than rush into an American's bosom when he first comes in sight of Europe. There is a volume of associations in the very name. It is that land of promise, teeming with every thing of which his childhood has heard, or on which his studious years have pondered.
From that time until the period of our arrival it was all feverish excitement. The ships of war that prowled like guardian giants round the coast; the headlands of Ireland stretching out into the channel; the Welsh mountains towering into the clouds; all were objects of intense interest. As we sailed up the Mersey, I reconnoitred the shores with a telescope. My eye dwelt with delight on neat cottages, with their trim shrubberies and green grass-plots. I saw the mouldering ruins of an abbey overrun with ivy, and the taper spire of a village church rising from the brow of a neighbouring hill—all were characteristic of England.
The tide and wind were so favourable, that the ship was enabled to come at once at the pier. It was thronged with people;.some idle lookers-on, others eager expectants of gome friends or relatives. I could distinguish the merchant to whom the ship belonged. I knew him by his calculating brow and restless air. His hands were thrust into his pockets; he was whistling thoughtfully, and walking to and fro, a small space having been accorded to him by the crowd, in deference to his temporarv importance. There were repeated cheerings and salutations interchanged between the shore and the ship, as friends happened to recognise each other.
But I particularly noted one young woman, of humble dress but interesting demeanor. She was leaning forward from among the crowd, her eye hurried over the ship as it Beared the shore, to catch some wished-for countenance. She seemed disappointed and agitated, when I heard a /tint voice caliber name. It was from a poor sailor who
had been ill all the voyage, and had excited the sympathy, of every one on board. When the weather was fine, his messmates had spread a mattress for him on deck in the shade, hut of late his illness had so increased, that he had taken to his hammock, and had only breathed a wish that he might see his wife before he died.
He had been helped on deck as we came up the river, and was now leaning against the shrouds, with a countenance so wasted, so pale, and so ghastly, that it is no wonder the eye of affection did not recognise him. But at the sound of his voice her eye darted on his features, it read at once the whole volume of sorrow; she clasped her hands, uttered a faint shriek, and stood wringing them in silent agony.
All was now hurry and bustle. The meeting of acquaintances—the greeting of friends—the consultations of men of business. I alone was solitary and idle. I had no friend to meet, no cheering to receive. I stepped upon the land of my forefathers—but felt that I was a stranger in that land.—Washington Irving.
Oft on a plat of rising ground
1 hear the far-off Curfew sound
Over some wide-watered shore,
Swinging slow with sullen roar.—Milton.
The word Curfew is derived from the Norman word, carrefou, or couvrefeu, and is now considered by us to mean the signal for extinguishing fires. Pasquier says it is derived from curfou, or garefou, as being intended to advertise the people to secure themselves from the robbers and revellers of the night.
The Curfew Bell is commonly, though I think erroneously, supposed to have been introduced in England by William the Conqueror. It is true, that one of his laws ordered all his subjects to extinguish their fires and lights, and retire to rest, at eight o'clock, at which hour the Curfew was appointed to be rung, but the regulation existed in the monasteries long before his time; and although it was not, perhaps, obligatory on the inhabitants of the adjoining villages, yet was highly conducive to the general safety, when the cottages were composed entirely of timber. Henry, in his History of Great Britain, says there is sufficient evidence that the same custom prevailed in most parts of Europe at this period, and wras intended as a precaution against fires, which were then very frequent and very fatal, when so many houses were built of wood; and Peshall, in his History of the City of Oxford, affirms that the custom of ringing the bell, at Carfax, every night at eight o'clock (called Curfew Bell, or Cover-ffre Bell), was by order of King Alfred, the restorer of our University, who ordained that all the inhabitants of Oxford should, at the ringing of that bell, cover up their fires and go to bed; which custom is observed to this day: and the bell as constantly rings at eight as Great Tom tolls at nine. In order to reconcile these accounts of Henry and Peshall with the assertions set forth by most other writers, of its introduction by the Norman conqueror, we may, I tHink, be justified in supposing that the custom existed in England prior to his reign, but that, under the loose and careless sway of the Saxon monarchs, it had fallen gradually into disuse, and was eagerly revived by William, as a means of securing his usurpation, by enervating the habits of the people, and of suppressing all attempts at domestic rebellion, by preventing any nightly meetings of the disaffected.
Of the causes which led to the establishment of a custom at first sight so tyrannical, we know nothing for certain, and the opinions of modern historians differ widely with regard to them. Some affirm that the Conqueror, regarding bis British subjects with »