Page images
PDF
EPUB

meditating (but cheerfully) upon the miseries of human nature, I received notice of your arrival in the Barra.

“So you have at last gained that 'lodge' so long pictured in the vista of imagination. You are at last in that Promised Land-a land flowing with caxáca and farinha ; 1 a land where a man may literally, and safely, sleep without breeches-a luxury which must be enjoyed to be appreciated.

"I am now waiting for a passage to Para, from thence to return to England. There is a vessel caulking here I expect will go in two or three weeks. I have a small collection of birds and butterflies, but new species of the latter are very scarce.

“The Christmas festa is now over, and this little village has resumed its wonted tranquillity. I suppose you intend soon to proceed up the Rio Negro; no doubt my brother is now glorying in ornithological rarities, and revelling amid the sweets of lepidopterous loveliness. But enough! A little while and the wintry sea is roaring around my pillow; then shall I envy you in your snug redés far from the restless billow; then, whilst vainly endeavouring to swallow preserved salmon or other ship luxury, I shall long for my Amazonian appetite and roasted pirarucú; then— But I will not anticipate hours which are inevitable. I hope yourself and Mr. King are in good health. In this respect I have no cause to complain. Wishing you both a prosperous and a pleasant time, I must now remain,

"Yours sincerely,

“EDWARD WALLACE.”

It is evident from this letter that the usual dilatoriness and difficulties of Amazonian travel delayed his arrival at Para about four months beyond the time he calculated on. The answer to the enigma in the first letter, which he says he has enclosed, I did not receive ; but I have no doubt it is as follows: "Because it is a corpse (copse) sloping away from

· Native rum and mandioca meal.

the town." “Slope," "sloping,” were at that time slang words for escaping or running away, “understanded by the people," which perhaps they may not be now. I may add here that he did not like the name Herbert (his first name), and so took to his second-Edward.

The friends of temperance often complain of the want of a good song. I think the following, written by my brother about 1848, may perhaps be considered suitable till a better one is written :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

When man, begun to know himself,

Shall maddening bowls resign,
And Temperance, with a mighty hand,

'Dash down the Samian wine.'
Here's to the death of Alcohol !

And still our song shall be,
Oh, fill me up the sober cup,

The social cup of Tea.'”

The next verses, suggested by a well-known old song, show his early love of humanity and aspirations for an improved social state. It was probably written at Neath about 1847 or 1848.

THE LIGHT OF DAYS TO COME.

“ The light of other days is faded,

But we will not repine,
Nor waste the precious hours as they did,

The dwellers in that time.
We will not sign in gloom and sadness

O’er what can ne'er return,
But rather share the mirth and gladness

In the light we now discern.

“The past brought luxury and pleasure

To few beneath the sun,
But equal all shall share the treasure

Of the light of days to come.
Knowledge shall strengthen each endeavour

To set the future right,
And Justice with her sword shall sever

The iron hand of Might.

“ The fields where warriors have commanded,

And men have fought for fame,
Shall in a future age be branded

With an inglorious name.
Bright souls who perish unassuming,

Your work is not yet done,
Like scattered seed your deeds shall bloom in

The Light of days to come.”

I preserve the following fantastic little poem because it so well describes the mode of house-building of the dwellers in

the grand equatorial forests which supply so many of man's wants in a way unknown in the colder climes.

“ THE INDIAN'S HUT.

“ 'Twas on the mighty Amazon,

We floated with the tide,
While steep and flowery were the banks

That rose on either side,
And where the green bananas grow,

An Indian's cot I spied.

“ Like to the halls of Solomon,

Yon humble dwelling rose,
Without the grating of the saw

Or echoing hammers blows ;
For all its parts are bound with rope,

Which in the forest grows.

“Those wild fantastic slender cords

Which hang from branches high,
The place of staple, screw, and nail,

With equal strength supply,
And pole and rafter firm and fast

All silently they tie.

“All silently, for stake and pole

Were sharpened where they grew;
And where the house was built, no axe

Was lifted up to hew,
But slow and still the Indian worked,

His wife and children too.

“Oh, for a lodge !'thus Cowper cried ;

And here's a peaceful home,
A quiet spot, a calm retreat,

Where care can seldom come.
Adieu ! thou silent Indian cot,

My fate it is to roam."

I give the following verses on the Cayman or Alligator of the Amazon because I remember how pleased my brother was with the quotation from Macbeth, which so aptly applies to this dangerous reptile.

“SONG OF THE CAYMAN.

(Written, 1850.)
“ Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold :
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with.'

“I bask in the waveless waters

When the sun is shining on high,
Watching the Indian children

With a grim and greedy eye;
Woe to the careless bather

Who ventures where I lie.

“ I float on the midnight waters

With my deathly demon head;
My skin is an iron armour

Which flattens the hunter's lead;
And my eyes are a living terror,

Glassy as those of the dead.

“ I hear the house-dog prowling,

And without a ripple sink ;
Down to the stream he cometh

And enters the water to drink,
I rise again as noiseless

And seize him on the brink.

“ I dwell not in rushing waters,

But in woodland pool and lake,
Where the cowfish and the turtle

Lie sleeping 'neath the brake ;
I seize the senseless dreamers,

And a merry meal I make.

“ Midnight deeds have I witness'd,

But never shudder'd to see.
Tremble not, thou murderer pale !

Go ! leave the corpse to me,
And not a hair or a whiten'd bone

I'll leave to speak of thee."

I preserve the next little poem because I feel sure that the first three verses were inspired by the memories of his childhood, while the conclusion indicates those deeper feelings still more dominant in that which follows it.

« EelmineJätka »