Immagini della pagina

but terribly suggestive. The defeats and victories, the ebbs and flows and surges of public opinion during those eventful years, what other barometer so well indicated them? The holder of gold on the 30th of June, 1864, could hardly have described his sensations. He would not have cared to describe them a few hours afterwards.

When travelling in the East, I one night asked our dragoman to interpret for me one of those marvellous storiesarabesques of imagination woven upon some tradition of Scripture or of patriarchal life-with which the Bedouins still love to draw out the long hours of the night under the dreamy stars of Palestine. It referred to King Solomon, who from small beginnings, according to the story-teller, had become so enormously rich that it required a hundred camels to carry the keys wherewith to lock his treasures. A little fly, sent by Allah, entered into his brain, and rapidly increasing in size, soon caused such intolerable pain that he could get relief only by having his head constantly pounded with mallets. Finally, a swarm of flies burst forth that soon turned into innumerable worms and utterly consumed his possessions. "Behold," said Allah, "what an insignificant thing hath caused thy ruin!"

Within twenty-four hours after my arrival from New Orleans I noticed, in a remote portion of one of the fields, a little cluster of cotton-plants whose leaves were strangely perforated. Dismounting, I could find upon the plants only a few slender, greenish worms, with gray stripes on the back, and perhaps an inch in length. "Dey is grass-wums, sare," said the freedman with me, who claimed great wisdom in plantationcraft.

"'Cause, you see, dey don't doubles 'emself up and jump, like the ginwine cotton-wums, when I'se done touch't 'em." There was plenty of excellent grass, but the preference of the worms for cotton-leaves was unmistakeable as their appetite was



I directed the chief-overseer to leave off picking cotton on the morrow, and

be ready with all hands for this new emergency. Although the worms multiplied enormously during the next few days, they were still confined to a single field. In this vermicular wa fare we gave no quarter. The least of the one hundred and fifty freedmen must have slain his myriads, but I could not see that any impression whatever was made upon the number of living worms. We had outlived raids and surprises, the loathsome small-pox, the drought and rain what strategy could avail against these new enemies, more vindictive than rebels, and multiplying like forest-leaves in the spring!

Some one had told me that the armyworm would not in its advances cross a ditch. Most of my freedmen had helped throw up the rebel earthworks of Port Hudson; and they went to work with a will upon this new defence against the creeping host. Notwithstanding the terrible heat, we soon completed a ditch, entirely cutting off the affected portion from the rest of the plantations. Vain delusion! Uncle Toby's famous parallels and salients would have been quite as effective.

It was positively dreadful to watch those crawling armies. They covered the plants and the earth. Nor was it necessary to see them. A dull metallic sound, very like the falling of rain on the leaves, indicated their devouring presence. And the smell of them! With a sort of breathless wonder, as in the terrible conflicts of the elements, one can look upon the destruction of his property by consuming whirlwinds of flame, by engulfing waves, or the blasts of a tornado-but to see it devoured by loathsome worms !

After several days there was still one field, of about fifty acres, in which not a worm was to be seen, nor one of those black moth-like flies that deposit their eggs on the under side of the cottonleaves, and then wrap themselves up in a single leaf, as in a shroud, to die. I telegraphed to the city for thirty barrels of coal-tar. It arrived the next morning. The freedmen, provided with basins, buckets, and skillets, deposited

a little coal-tar near the foot of every plant. Should this bucolic engine prove effective, I would become a believer in Stephen H. Branch's vermicular theory of success.

The next morning I rode out to see the result. There were the worms more numerous than ever, unchecked in their devouring march by the dreadful heat and the vile odors wafted by the south wind.

"Sirocco of the Desert " I have ever since regarded as a weak and commonplace figure of speech.

"Innocent worms!" do you say?

When witnessing the worse than gladiatorial combats to be seen in a drop of water, where microscopic monsters devour each other, and in reflecting that, perhaps, all the bloody campaigns in history, all the tortures of martyrs and burnings of heretics, have caused less suffering than we thoughtlessly inflict, every meal, upon millions of animalculae exquisitely sensitive to pain, it may be, in proporțion as they are minute, I may have indulged for the worm in my path a sentiment of pity. But what a grim and ghastly satire upon such mere sentiment was the sight

of those fields stripped of their beauty, like forests in winter, and consumed as by the breath of a demon!

Still the loss was not complete. Like Sennacherib's hosts, the armies of worms disappeared even more suddenly and mysteriously than they came. Excepting the almost mature cotton-bolls, they left not a green thing behind. Had they come a month earlier, there would have been no cotton-a month later, the crop would not have been injured. As it was, the hot sun shining directly upon the swelling bolls, opened them nearly all at once; and the great fields quickly became white as the driven snow. They usually remain green until the tender plants are killed by the frost, and the picking then continues until Christmas. We gathered two hundred and fifty-six bales, which, at the enormous price of cotton, brought one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars. The entire expense of making the crop, including losses and revenue taxes, was about one hundred and five thousand dollars. But the physical and mental wear and tear of such a cottoncampaign was positively dreadful.


YEARS make not age; the head may gleam in white
Yet youth twine verdure round the heart; below
The drift may smile the flowers; the genial glow
Of Spring-tide melting even the Winter's might.
White hairs may come in youth; the heart be old;
No blossoms deck the early-frozen mould.
Keep the heart young! the conscience crystal-ciear!
So shall sweet Summer smile throughout the year!
Faint not because of trouble! let the sun

Be present to thy thought, though clouds be black!
To-morrow haply on the present's track

Shall glide, and radiance and thy life be one!

Were pleasure but thy handmaid all thy hours,

Her smile would pall! the couch soon sickens piled with flowers!


In the hilly suburbs of the quaint old city of Aschaffenburg, there stood, twenty years ago, a grim and stately stone building. This building was the celebrated "Rheinhardt Acad emy." Here I was imprisoned, in the year 1848, in company with over a hundred other youths between thirteen and twenty years of age. Within walls, the severe and unchanging discipline of daily study was interrupted only by occasional exercise in the enclosed play ground attached to the building, and the yearly four-weeks' vacation. Our knowledge of the world outside was limited to the glimpses caught through the narrow framework of our win dows; and many a youthful imagination kindled at the distant panorama of the river Main, with its ever-shifting motion and light. Here, a dry and monotonous existence poetized to two young lads by one of those impassioned friendships peculiar to school-life, and which has the couleur de rose of Love, without its suspicions or its pangs. Herman Ehrthal, who was three years my senior, had completed his mathematical studies, and was almost exclusively occupied in the musical department when I entered the Academy. Many a time, after school-hours, have I crouched outside his door to listen to the delicious harmonies that fell from his fingers, and which seemed to interpret for me all the bright dreams of that future which lay in its glowing perspective beyond the present cold and cheerless life. It was here he found me one night, in tears, and took me to his heart. From that moment wo understood each other. Through the six following years, he was color and sunshine to me in the shade of those grim old walls. In 1854 he left the Academy and went to Vienna, where he pursued his musical studies exclusively during a residence of six years. From Vienna he went to London, where he resided five years. In 1865 he returned to Germany, and informed his friends that he should leave the following month for America. Before he sailed, we agreed mutually to keep journals, and, upon reunion, exchange them, so that each might possess the record of the other's experiences, objective and subjective, during separation. Two years after his departure for the New World I joined him there. When we met, the Journals were exchanged according to promise. His now lies before me. The few leaves which I have selected for publication are precisely as I find them, except in the substitution of fictitious names. The story of these pages is neither dramatic nor sensational. The reader will find none of those startling events which quicken circulation-none of those dark mysteries which provoke shudders and pique expectation. To those who enjoy the intense shadow and intricacy of plots à la Wilkie Collins, the possible-to-every-one history of Herman Ehrthal will prove but tame amusement. But to those born to music, these pages, will hold a peculiar interest; for, enclosed in the simple framework of this simple story, is woven the subtle, subjective experiences peculiar to the artist-life. That finer discrimination in music which is born not so much of acquired as instinctive knowledge, will be passed by unheeded by many. That rapturous enthusiasm which is as irrepressible to the artist-nature as song to birds, and which in its most eloquent expression seems to him but a feeble counterpart of that which burns within him, will be smiled at by this same many as puerile rhapsody. But those whose souls have kindled at the same fires, will read aright the language, and will feel with the artist its entire inadequacy to its sublime theme. To these I offer these pages.

October 24th.-Well, here I am home again! Home! a narrow, carpetless room; cot bed, rude chair, and washstand; in one corner, a trunk; in the other, an upright piano. My apartment is certainly not elegant, yet it is not without ornamentation; witness: four excellent engraved portraits of the following composers, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Schumann; the rosewood

piano left in my charge by H- till his return, and on the window-sill the bunch of roses I bought to-day of the pale little girl at the corner. Alacka-day! my efforts to gain work have been so far unsuccessful, and a dolce far niente life is my present prospect. What a weary day this has been! Will it ever be thus ? Must I barter my holy Muse, whose white garment I am un

worthy to kiss, for "filthy lucre?" Filthy lucre! I would not despise the base article in practical cents and shillings as I sit here to-night with only half-satisfied stomach. This afternoon I went to the Seminary in

street, but met with no success. Luck does not seem to follow me. Later I repaired to Mrs. B's, whose daughter is my only pupil-a young lady of average capacity. Wishing to be in the fashion, she requested me to give her some German music. I brought her one of Mendelssohn's "Lieder ohne Worte." She has learned to play the notes correctly, but they have no significance to her. She is very pretty, however, has liquid dark eyes and a rich bloom. I watched her, this afternoon, as she fingered the exquisite Tone-poem. The pretty features never quivered, the eyes neither quickened nor softened. She sat in statuesque passivity, quite unconscious of the tender yearning and melancholy that throbbed in fitful pulses among the notes. Pretty doll! Nature made you very neatly-only forgot to put a soul into you. Perhaps you are none the less happy. Heigh ho! my purse is getting sadly thin, but I shall not ask Mrs. B to advance my pay. I ate my scanty meal with relish this evening, for the keen air had sharpened my appetite, and my body is still so young and strong. My evenings are certainly solitary, but it is then that I have my happiest hours-then that my tone-wings raise themselves from the clogging mire, and soar and bear me to blessed regions where I hear primeval warblings and catch the perfumes of heavenly gardens. To-night I was bitter, almost despairing. Was it unnatural that my mood should have dissolved into the prelude No. 4 of Chopin? I repeated it again and again with a lingering, torturing satisfaction, and in that smothered cry for hope and help I plead for love, for free air, for sunshine, for some way out of this hateful imprisonment. No human being was ever more entirely a victim to dyspepsia than Chopin-a dyspepsia -a dyspepsia that disordered soul and stomach, and

had its whine somewhere in nearly all his creations. In a number of noble instances he left the narrow circle of the meum, and, fired by a great idea or a fine enthusiasm-forgot his own personality; but these are the exceptions. Exquisitely keen to joy and pain, and hungry for happiness, with all an artist's passion, he revelled in the outpouring of his glowing, quivering sensibilities through Tone, whose dictionary his marvellous genius commanded and enlarged at will. The egotism of a selfcentred, morbid being was never before hidden under such bewildering modulations; the complaints of a sick brain and body never before clothed themselves in so seductive a garb; the passion of personal joys, pangs, and longings was never before told in so eloquent and fascinating a language. But, though his music flatters, bewilders, intoxicates, there are in it no outlets into celestial space. This evening I enjoyed it with a peculiar keenness-made many a morbid, melancholy romance of which I was myself of course, the hero, and rose from the piano a more bitter and selfish man. Awaking suddenly from the absorbing dream, the close walls stifled me, and I went to the window for air. The city below looked cold and spectral; its inhabitants were stupid grubs, and I, fancying myself one of the great élite, looked down from my garret-window upon their fine dwellings and despised them. Misérable homme incompris ! What cares the

busy world, with mighty questions on its big brain, for thy private gnarlings? But I am weary, and must seek rest. I will be true to my best self through every counter wind and tide. Knowing that my art is divine, and meant to serve the highest purposes of the soul, I shall not sacrifice my artistic conscience to a threadbare coat, but will guard my ideal as the sacred host in the purest tabernacle of my inmost soul. Ah! beloved mother, far in the fatherland, fold thine arms again about thy boy, and soothe him to rest. Thou shalt never know of the scanty meal and desolate hours. I forget them all now,

Mütterchen; thy soft touch lingers tenderly on my brow; thy loving eyes bend over me! I am not ashamed of these tears before thee, mother. God bless thee! God bless thee, and keep thy son as worthy of thee as in the pure, blessed days gone by.

October 29th.-A note came to me from Dr. A- to-day, enclosing the address of a friend of his, a Mrs. Irving, who is looking for a music-teacher for her niece. The Doctor said a good word for me, and the lady expressed a desire to see me. Towards evening I repaired to her residence. When I entered the parlor, the gas was not yet lit, and the atmosphere of the room was subdued and mystical. I slid abstractedly into the nearest seat, for I was surprised and awed by the opening strains of a song of Robert Franz-a song little known, and knowable only to the few. It begins with the following stanza, the words of which were enunciated with a wonderfully pure accent:

"Nun die Schalten dunkeln,

Stern an Stern erwacht,
We'ch' ein Hauch der Sehnsucht
Flutet durch die Nacht!"

The song tells the story of the twilight hour. We wander out into Nature, and at the first step stop in awe, for we find ourselves on the threshold of a land so mysterious and holy that we feel we need baptism before we pass the sacred portal. The first vivid glow of the sunset has gone; we pass into a realm of delicate, intangible beauty, where every atom of atmosphere floats on ethereal, golden wings. The opalesque sky bends tenderly towards the yearning earth; the purple shadows descend softly in the dreamy air, and mystical depths of lustre melt away in the violet light. The first notes of this matchless song breathe the very awe we feel as we enter the mysterious sunset realm, and at last, through ever-quickening modulations, the impassioned soul soars and floats away beyond the veil! And here is the peculiar province of the German "Lied." Its best mission is to translate into Tone, not so much a nameable sentiment, or emotion, as the vague, inquir

ing bliss, or melancholy, of a mood. It demands not so much a framework, as an atmosphere-outline, as color. It is one of the prophetic messengers that Beauty has at her will, and expresses not so much what is said as suggested, possessed as perceived. I had heard this song before, given with a mere sensuous enthusiasm (how often mistaken for an intelligent conception!) that a pleasing melody produces on a discriminating ear; but now for the first time I listened to it from the lips of a poetess, who entered into the very spirit of its inspiration. And that delicious voice! The tone was aromatic, and held its peculiar quality as purely as a flower its perfume, -a quality rich, searching, and lazy,the luscious indolence of tropical skies, hammocks, and pomegranates, in whose dream and languor slumber fire and color. As I listened, my sympathy with the song and singer became so intimate, that I moved unconsciously nearer; but the last strain was hardly finished, when the hands fell in broken, startled chords upon the keys (had I spoken?), and the figure vanished through the open door beyond. I had hardly regained my seat, when the servant entered and lit the gas. Every thing in the room took now a positive outline, and that moment of free joy seemed already like a dream. Before I left the house, satisfactory arrangements were made, and to-morrow I give the first lesson. I discovered, too, that my future pupil and the poet-songstress are identical. A pleasant prospect is in view for me. Once in the street and alone, imagination filled her framework with many a pleasing picture. I saw a delicious landscape to-day, and longed to buy it. It would have been like hanging perpetual summer on my walls; but, alas! one must have banknotes to exchange for summer. Ah, poverty is a wretched companion! A philosopher can endure it, perhaps, and moralize over it; but to the luxuriant nature of the artist it is sickening. It lays an icy finger on his warm, free pulses-stands ugly and gaunt at every door of his soul, and with sour visage

« IndietroContinua »