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purity and justice and intelligence of the courts of their countries, although they may not have been as extravagant or as exclusive as the Senator, and that their reports and decisions are read, as ours are, in all our courts, both supreme and state, except in a very few instances, even if they now exist,
where ignorance has excluded them. In matters of account between man and man, however complicated, supposing the structure and object of the government not to be concerned, -our Supreme Court and the Court of Queen's Bench would, in all probability, decide alike. Here they would act on the same ground of doing justice between men, without any temptation to warp their opinion. But if there were submitted to them the question: Which is the best, that is, the most reasonable, form of government for man? they would, without hesitation, give the preference to that under which they live -under which, in spite of its imperfections, they had attained the zenith of their profession, and enjoyed the honors they possessed. In this case, we suppose them equally honest -equally conscientious in coming to their conclusions; but, at last, they are conclusions fashioned by the influence of those around us, by habits of thinking, and by education in its extended sense, which neither religion, nor reflection on the nature of man in their case, has been sufficiently strong to cure. It is very certain that they both cannot be right. Indeed, they approach right only as far as their respective governments allow the powers of men to have their natural sway.
But these two sets of Judges, although they differ as to government, agree in thinking polygamy not only opposed to the letter and spirit of Christianity, but especially to the permanent strength and advancement of any people in civilization. If now, with a single view to benefit the government, the abolition of the harems throughout the empire were proposed to the rulers of Turkey, they would say with one accord, that they do not see how polygamy is connected with national weakness and ignorance, or how a people can be so well governed when the rulers and the rich have but one wife as when they have many. Yet these persons, we will suppose, have an unblemished reputation for honesty at home, and are exemplary in all their dealings with their fellow-men.
These instances of men being right although they differ from other men having equal honesty and intelligence, on the most important subjects, may be so endlessly multiplied, that we have but little confidence in any tribunal which impels us to
do unto others as we would not have them do to us. This tribunal, erected in every man's heart, always speaks the truth to him, however he may force it to tell a falsehood to others. Believing in it, we must say that our trust is small in the honesty of any one south of Mason and Dixon's line.
Some of our foregoing remarks may properly lead to the belief, that we intended what we have said of the speeches of certain Senators only as introductory to a more important subject. But as we advanced, we found so many wrong notions to set right, that what we projected only as our vestibule has become our temple.
ART. II. — A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. By HENRY D. THOREAU. Boston and Cambridge: James Monroe & Company. 1849. pp. 413.
WE stick to the sea-serpent. Not that he is found in Concord or Merrimack, but like the old Scandinavian snake, he binds together for us the two hemispheres of Past and Present, of Belief and Science. He is the link which knits us seaboard Yankees with our Norse progenitors, interpreting between the age of the dragon and that of the railroad-train. We have made ducks and drakes of that large estate of wonder and delight bequeathed to us by ancestral irkings, and this alone remains to us unthrift heirs of Linn. We give up We give up the Kraken, more reluctantly the mermaid, for we once saw one, no mulier formosa, superne, no greenhaired maid with looking-glass and comb, but an adroit compound of monkey and codfish, sufficiently attractive for purposes of exhibition till the suture where the desinit in piscem began, grew too obtrusively visible.
We feel an undefined respect for a man who has seen the sea-serpent. He is to his brother-fishers what the poet is to his fellow-men. Where they have seen nothing better than a school of horsemackerel, or the idle coils of ocean around Halfway Rock, he has caught authentic glimpses of the withdrawing mantlehem of the Edda-age. We care not for the monster himself. It is not the thing, but the belief in the thing, that is dear to us. May it be long before Professor Owen is comforted with the sight of his unfleshed vertebræ, long before they stretch many a rood behind Kimball's or
Barnum's glass, reflected in the shallow orbs of Mr. and Mrs. Public, which stare but see not! When we read that Captain Spalding of the pink-stern Three Pollies has beheld him rushing through the brine like an infinite series of bewitched mackerel-casks, we feel that the mystery of old Ocean, at least, has not yet been sounded, that Faith and Awe survive there unevaporate. We once ventured the horsemackerel theory to an old fisherman, browner than a tomcod. "Hosmackril!" he exclaimed indignantly, "hosmackril be" (here he used a phrase commonly indicated in laical literature by the same sign
which serves for Doctorate in Divinity,) "don't yer spose I
know a hosmackril?" The intonation of that "I" would have silenced professor Monkbairns Owen with his provoking phoca forever.
What if one should ask him if he knew a
The fault of modern travellers is that they see nothing out of sight. They talk of eocene periods and tertiary formations, and tell us how the world looked to the plesiosaur. They take science (or nescience) with them, instead of that soul of generous trust their elders had. All their senses are skeptics and doubters, materialists reporting things for other skeptics to doubt still further upon. Nature becomes a reluctant witness upon the stand, badgered with geologist hammers and phials of acid. There have been no travellers since those included in Hakluyt and Purchas, except Martin, perhaps, who saw an inch or two into the invisible at the Orkneys. We have peripatetic lecturers, but no more travellers. Travellers' stories are no longer proverbial. We have picked nearly every apple (wormy or otherwise,) from the world's tree of Knowledge, and that without an Eve to tempt us. Two or three have hitherto hung luckily beyond reach on a lofty bough shadowing the interior of Africa, but there is a Doctor Bialloblotzky at this very moment pelting at them with sticks and stones. It may be only next week, and these, too, bitten by geographers and geologists, will be thrown away. We wish no harm to this worthy Sclavonian, but his name is irresistibly suggestive of boiled lobster, and some of the natives are not so choice in their animal food.
Analysis is carried into everything. Even Deity is subjected to chemic tests. We must have exact knowledge, a cabinet stuck full of facts pressed, dried, or preserved in spirits, instead of a large, vague world our fathers had. Our modern Eden is a hortus siccus. Tourists defraud rather than enrich
They have not that sense of æsthetic proportion which characterized the elder traveller. Earth is no longer the fine work of art it was, for nothing is left to the imagination. Job Hortop, arrived at the height of the Bermudas, thinks it full time to throw us in a merman, 66 we discovered a monster in the sea who showed himself three times unto us from the middle upwards, in which parts he was proportioned like a man, of the complection of a mulatto or tawny Indian." Sir John Hawkins is not satisfied with telling us about the merely sensual Canaries, but is generous enough to throw us in a handful over: "About these islands are certain flitting islands, which have been oftentimes seen, and when men approached near them they vanished, and therefore it should seem he is not yet born to whom God hath appointed the finding of them." Henry Hawkes describes the visible Mexican cities, and then is not so frugal but that he can give us a few invisible ones. "The Spaniards have notice of seven cities which the old men of the Indians show them should lie toward the N. W. from Mexico. They have used, and use daily, much diligence in seeking of them, but they cannot find any one of them. They say that the witchcraft of the Indians is such that when they come by these towns they cast a mist upon them so that they cannot see them." Thus do these generous ancient mariners make children of us again. Their successors show us an earth effete and past bearing, tracing out with the eyes of industrious fleas every wrinkle and crowfoot.
The journals of the elder navigators are prose Odyssees. The geographies of our ancestors were works of fancy and imagination. They read poems where we yawn over items. Their world was a huge wonder-horn, exhaustless as that which Thor strove to drain. Ours would scarce quench the small thirst of a bee. No modern voyager brings back the magical foundation stones of a Tempest. No Marco Polo, traversing the desert beyond the city of Lok, would tell of things able to inspire the mind of Milton with
"Calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire
It was easy enough to believe the story of Dante, when two thirds of even the upper-world were yet untraversed and unmapped. With every step of the recent traveller our inheritance of the wonderful is diminished. Those beautifully pictured notes of the Possible are redeemed at a ruinous dis
count in the hard and cumbrous coin of the actual. How are we not defrauded and impoverished? Does California vie with El Dorado, or are Bruce's Abyssinian Kings a set-off for Prester John? A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand. And if the philosophers have not even yet been able to agree whether the world has any existence independent of ourselves, how do we not gain a loss in every addition to the catalogue of Vulgar Errors? Where are the fishes which nidificated in trees? Where the monopodes sheltering themselves from the the sun beneath their single umbrella-like foot, umbrella-like in every thing but the fatal necessity of being borrowed? Where the Acephali, with whom Herodotus, in a kind of ecstasy, wound up his climax of men with abnormal top-pieces? Where the Roc whose eggs are possibly boulders, needing no far-fetched theory of glacier or iceberg to account for them? Where the tails of the Britons? Where the no legs of the bird of Paradise? Where the Unicorn with that single horn. of his, sovereign against all manner of poisons? Where the fountain of Youth? Where that Thessalian spring which, without cost to the county, convicted and punished perjurers? Where the Amazons of Orellana? All these, and a thousand other varieties we have lost, and have got nothing instead of them. And those who have robbed us of them have stolen that which not enriches themselves. It is so much wealth cast into the sea beyond all approach of diving bells. We owe no thanks to Mr. J. E. Worcester, whose Geography we studied enforcedly at school. Yet even he had his relentings, and in some softer moment vouchsafed us a fine, inspiring print of the Maelstrom, answerable to the twenty-four mile diameter of its suction. Year by year, more and more of the world gets disenchanted. Even the icy privacy of the arctic and antartic circles is invaded. Our youth are no longer ingenious, as indeed no ingenuity is demanded of them. Every thing is accounted for, every thing cut and dried, and the world may be put together as easily as the fragments of a dissected map. The Mysterious bounds nothing now on the North, South, East, or West. We have played Jack Horner with our earth, till there is never a plum left in it.
Since we cannot have back the old class of voyagers, the next best thing we can do is to send poets out a-travelling. These will at least see all that remains to be seen, and in the way it ought to be seen. These will disentangle nature for us from the various snarls of man, and show us the mighty mother