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salted fish, in their barrel ; or weltering, shall I
like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggling to get its head above the others : such work goes on under that smoke-counterpane ! — But I sit above it all; I am alone with the Stars !
THE REIGN OF TERROR.
We are now, therefore, got to that black precipitous abyss, whither all things have long been tending; where, having now arrived on the giddy verge, they hurl down, in confused ruin; headlong, pellmell, down, down ;— till Sansculottism have consummated itself; and in this wondrous French Revolution, as in a Doomsday, a World have been rapidly, if not born again, yet destroyed and engulfed. Terror has long been terrible ; - but to the actors themselves it has now become manifest that their appointed course is one of Terror; and they say, “Be it so.” So many centuries had been adding together, century transmitting it with increase to century, the sum of Wickedness, of Falsehood, Oppression of man by man. Kings were sinners, and Priests were, ard People. Open-Scoundrels rode triumphant, bediademed, be-coronetted, be-mitcred; or the still fataller species of Secret-Scoundrels, in their fair-sounding formulas, speciosities, respectabilities, hollow within : the race of quacks was grown many as the sands of the sea. Till at length such a sum of quackery had accumulated itself as, in brief, the Earth and the Heavens were weary of. Slow seemed the Day of Settlement; coming on, all imperceptible, across the bluster and fanfaronade of Courtierisms, ConqueringHeroisms, Most Christian Grand Monarqueisms, Well-beloved Pompadourisms : yet, behold, it was always coming : behold, it has come, suddenly, unlooked for by any man! The harvest of long centuries was ripening and whitening so rapidly of late; and now it is grown white, and is reaped rapidly, as it were, in one day --- reaped in this Reign of Terror; and carried home to Hades and the Pit! Unhappy Sons of Adam ! it is ever so; and never do they know it, nor will they know it. With cheerfully-smoothed countenances, day after day, and generation after generation, they, calling cheerfully to one another “Well-speed-ye,” are at work sowing the wind. And yet, as God lives, they shall reap the whirlwind ; no other thing, we say, is possible, since God is a Truth and His World is a Truth.
1796 – 1859.
WILLIAM HICKLING PRESCOTT, grandson of Colonel William Prescott, commander of the patriot troops at the battle of Bunker ilill, was born at Salem, Mass., in 1796, and died in 1859. He graduated at Harvard in 1814, laring won distinction by l.is attainments in classical lcarning. An accident during his college course occasioned an injury to his eye, which resulted finally in almost total blindness. He spent two years in Europe, and returned with the purpose of devoting himself to historical labors. His first work, The History of Ferdinand und Isabella, was published in 1837, and was almost immediately reprinted in France, Germany, and Spain. The author was overwhelmed with compliments, one of the most notable of which was his election to membership of the Spanislı Röyal Acadenıy of History. In 1843 lle gave to the world his History of the Conquest of Mexico, and in 1817 the History of the Conquest of Peru. In 1850 Mr. Prescott visited Europe, trareling in Great Britain and on the Continent. Five years later the first two volumes, and in 1878 the third, of the History of the Reign of Philip the Second of Spain were issued; but he did not live to complete the work. In addition to the histories named above, Mr. Prescott contributed to our literature a volume of Biographical and Critical Miscellanies, which includes a very valuable essay on Spanish Literature. Ilis style is admirably suited to historical composition, presenting a happy compound of the majesty, brilliancy, and elegance which singly characterizc those whom the world esteems its greatest historians. His unfinished work, The History of Philip the Second, is generally accounted his best. He was a man of kindly nature, and his generous encouragement of younger writers, conspicuous among whom was John Lothrop Motley, was convincing proof of his true nobility.
THE VALLEY AND CITY OF MEXICO.
The troops, refreshed by a night's rest, succeeded, early on the following day, in gaining the crest of the sierra of Ahualco, which stretches like a curtain between the two great mountains on the north and south. Their progress was now comparatively easy, and they marched forward with a buoyant step as they felt they were treading the soil of Montezuma.*
They had not advanced far, when, turning an angle of the sierra, they suddenly came on a view which more than compensated the toils of the preceding day. It was that of the Valley of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, as more commonly called by the natives ; which, with its picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and cultivated plains, its shining cities, and shadowy hills, was spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before them. In the highly rarcfied atmosphere of these upper regions, even remote objects have a brilliancy of
* MONTEZUMA. The Montezumas were the Aztec, or native, Emperors of Mexico (1437 – 1519), and extended the boundaries of their domains by the conquest of sereral adjacent nations. They built fine cities and temples, and were able and powerful monarchs. In 1519 Cortes with an army of Spaniards invaded the country and conquered it. The extract is from Mr. Prescott's charming work, The Conquest of Mexico.
coloring and a distinctness of outline which seem to annihilate distance. Stretching far away at their feet were seen noble forests of oak, sycamore, and cedar, and beyond, yellow fields of maize and the towering maguey, intermingled with orchards and blooming gardens; for flowers, in such demand for their religious festivals, were even more abundant in this populous valley than in other parts of Anahuac. In the center of the great basin were beheld the lakes, occupying then a much larger portion of its surface than at present; their borders thickly studded with towns and hamlets, and, in the midst, like some Indian empress with her coronal of pearls, the fair city of Mexico, with her white towers and pyramidal temples, reposing, as it were, on the bosom of the waters, the far-famed “ Venice of the Aztecs." High over all rose the royal bill of Chapultepec, the residence of the Mexican monarchs, crowned with the same grove of gigantic cypresses which at this day fling their broad shadows over the land. In the distance beyond the blue waters of the lake, and nearly screened by intervening foliage, was seen a shining speck, the rival capital of Tezcuco, and still farther on, the dark belt of porphyry, girdling the valley around, like a rich setting which Nature had devised for the fairest of her jewels.
Such was the beautiful vision which broke on the eyes of the Conquerors. And even now, when so sad a change has come over the scene; when the stately forests have been laid low, and the soil, unsheltered from the fierce radiance of a tropical sun, is in many places abandoned to sterility; when the waters have retired, leaving a broad and ghastly margin white with the incrustation of salts, while the cities and hamlets on their borders have moldered into ruins ; even now that desolation broods over the landscape, so indestructible are the lines of beauty which Nature has traced on its features, that no traveler, however cold, can gaze on them with any other emotions than those of astonishment and rapture.
What, then, must have been the emotions of the Spaniards, when, after working their toilsome way into the upper air, the cloudy tabernacle parted before their eyes, and they beheld these fair scenes in all their pristine magnificence and beauty? It was like the spectacle which greeted the eyes of Moses from the summit of Pisgah, and, in the warm glow of their feelings, they cried, out, “It is the promised land !”
But these feelings of admiration were soon followed by others of a very different complexion ; as they saw in all this the evidences of a civilization and power far superior to anything they had yet encountered. The more timid, disheartened by the prospect, shrunk from a contest so unequal, and demanded, as they had done on some former occasions, to be led back again to Vera Cruz. Such was not the effect produced on the sanguine spirit of the general. His avarice was sharpened by the display of the dazzling spoil at his feet ; and, if he felt a natural anxiety at the formidable odds, his confidence was renewed, as he gazed on the lines of his veterans, whose weather-beaten visages and battered armor told of battles won and difficulties surmounted, while his bold barbarians, with appetites whetted by the view of their enemies' country, seemed like eagles on the mountains, ready to pounce upon their prey. By argument, entreaty, and menace, he endeavored to restore the faltering courage of the soldiers, urging them not to think of retreat, now that they had reached the goal for which they had panted, and the golden gates were opened to receive them. In these efforts he was well seconded by the brave cavaliers, who held honor as dear to them as fortune ; until the dullest spirits caught somewhat of the enthusiasm of their leaders, and the general had the satisfaction to see his hesitating columns, with their usual buoyant step, once more on their march down the slopes of the sierra.
THE COLONIZATION OF AMERICA.
It is not easy at this time to comprehend the impulse given to Europe by the discovery of America. It was not the gradual acquisition of some border territory, a province or a kingdom, that had been gained, but a new world that was now thrown open to the European. The races of animals, the mineral treasures, the vegetable forms, and the varied aspects of nature, man in the different phases of civilization, filled the mind with entirely new sets of ideas, that changed the habitual current of thought, and stimulated it to indefinite conjecture. The eagerness to explore the wonderful secrets of the new hemisphere became so active, that the principal cities of Spain were, in a manner, depopulated, as emigrants thronged one after another to take their chance upon the deep. It was a world of romance that was thrown open ; for, whatever might be the luck of the adventurer, his reports on his return were tinged with a coloring of romance that stimulated still higher the sensitive fancies of his countrymen, and nourished the chimerical sentiments of an age of chivalry. They listened with attentive ears to tales of Amazons, which seemed to realize the classic legends of antiquity; to stories of Patagonian giants; to flaming pictures of an El Dorado (Golden Land), where the sands sparkled with gems, and golden pebbles as large as birds' eggs were dragged in nets out of the rivers.
Yet that the adventurers were no impostors, but dupes, too easy dupes, of their own credulous fancies, is shown by the extravagant character of their enterprises ; by expeditions in search of the magical Fountain of Health, of the golden Temple of Doboyba, of the golden Sepulchres of Yenu, — for gold was ever floating before their distempered vision, and the name of Castilla del Oro (Golden Castle), the most unhealthy and unprofitable region of the Isthmus, held out a bright promise to the unfortunate settler, who too frequently instead of gold found there only his grave.
In this realm of enchantment all the accessories served to maintain the illusion. The simple natives, with their defenseless bodies and rude weapons, were no match for the European warrior, armed to the teeth in mail. The odds were as great as those found in any legend of chivalry, where the lance of the good knight overturned hundreds at a touch. The perils that lay in the discoverer's path, and the sufferings he had to sustain, were scarcely inferior to those that beset the knight-errant. Hunger and thirst and fatigue, the deadly efiluvia of the morass, with its swarms of venomous insects, the cold of mountain snows, and the scorching sun of the tropics, - these were the lot of every cavalier who came to seek his fortunes in the New World. It was the reality of romance.
The life of the Spanish adventurer was one chapter more, and not the least remarkable, in the chronicles of knight-errantry.
The character of the warrior took somewhat of the exaggerated coloring shed over his exploits. Proud and vainglorious, swelled with lofty anticipations of his destiny, and an invincible confidence in his own resources, no danger could appall and no toil could tire him. The greater the danger, indeed, the higher the charm; for his soul reveled in excitement, and the enterprise without peril wanted that spur of romance which was necessary to rouse his energies into action. Yet in the motives of action meaner influences were strangely mingled with the loftier, the temporal with the spiritual. Gold was the incentive and the recompense, and in the pursuit of it his inflexible