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It would not be very consistent to regret the diminished and diminishing numbers of the bittern, a bird which, wherever it appears, proclaims that there the resources of the country are running to waste; for such is the indication given by the bird. It is not an indication of hopeless sterility. It does not inhabit the naked height on which the fertilising rain not only falls without producing fertility, but washes away the small quantity of mould which the few starveling plants produce. The elements of a more profitable crop are always in existence in the abode of the bittern; and, though the quantity of skill and labour required from man varies much, those elements can always to a certain extent be claimed to man's use. The place where I used to hear the bittern every evening during the first month after the storm broke, for it began before the short supplemental winter, the fleeting storm of flaking snow which used to season the lapwing, has been in great part under crop for years. Where that is not the case, it has been planted; and the partridge and the ring-dove have come close upon the margin of what remains of the mere. The winding stream—"the burnie wimplin doon the glen," with its little daisied meadows, its primrosed banks, its tangled thickets, its dimpling pools, and its dark nooks, each having a name, and altogether clear to trout, to bird, and to boyhood, has become a straight ditch between bushless banks, and runs so low and shallow in the dry season, as hardly to have depth for the minnow and the stickle-back, and the very tadpoles lie stranded, dead, and dry, by the little runs of sand. There might be more breadth in the country; but to me, at least, there seemed to be, in every sense of the word, less depth. The crops, too, were thin and stunted, and the domestic beasts which were nibbling among the stems of the scattered ray-grass, which looked very like a thin bristling of copper wire, had certainly as many and as easily counted bones as the smaller breed which were wont to roam at freedom over the moor. To me, the plaint of the dove brought more of melancholy than the booming of fifty bitterns, even with the gloom of the twilight, and a lingering dread of beings of the darkness to boot. But change is the course of nature, and the foundation of art; and in all places, and under all circumstances, mors janua vitæ.
198.-A RILL FROM THE TOWN PUMP.
HAWTHORNE. (NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE is a living American writer, born about 1807. He is the author of several volumes of Tales and Essays.]
(Scene~the corner of two principal Streets. The Town Pump talking through its nose.) Noon, by the north clock! Noon, by the east ! High noon, too, by these hot sun-beams, which fall, scarcely aslope, upon my head, and almost make the water bubble and smoke in the trough under my nose. Truly we public characters have a tough time of it! And among all the town officers, chosen at March meeting, where is he that sustains, for a single year, the burden of such manifold duties as are imposed, in perpetuity, upon the Town Pump? The title of “ town treasurer” is rightfully mine, as guardian of the best treasure that the town has. The overseers of the poor ought to make me their chairman, since I provide bountifully for the pauper, without expense to him that pays taxes. I am at the head of the fire department, and one of the physicians to the board of health. As a keeper of the peace, all water-drinkers will confess me equal to the constable. I perform some of the duties of the town clerk, by promulgating public notices, when they are pasted on my front. To speak within bounds, I am the chief person of the municipality, and exhibit, moreover, an admirable pattern to my brother officers, by the cool, steady, upright, downright, and impartial discharge of my business, and the constancy, with which í stand to my post. Summer or winter, nobody seeks me in vain ; for, all day long, I am seen at the busiest corner, just above the market, stretching out my arms to rich and poor alike ; and at night, I hold a lantern over my head, both to show where I am, and keep people out of the gutters.
At this sultry noontide I am cupbearer to the parched populace, for whose benefit an iron goblet is chained to my waist. Like a dram-seller on the mall, at musterday, I cry aloud to all and sundry in my plainest accents, and at the very tiptop of my voice—Here it is, gentlemen! Here is the good liquor! Walk up, walk up, gentlemen, walk up, walk up! Here is the superior stuff! Here is the unadulterated alo of father Adam-better than Cognac, Hollands, Jamaica, strong beer, or wine of any price, here it is by the hogshead or the single glass, and not a cent to pay! Walk up, gentlemen, walk up, and help yourselves !
It were a pity if all this outery should draw no customers. Here they come. A hot day, gentlemen! Quaff, and away again, so as to keep yourselves in a nice cool sweat. You, my friend, will need another cupful, to wash the dust out of your throat, if it be as thick there as it is on your cow-hide shoes. I see that you have trudged half a score of miles to-day; and, like a wise man, have passed by the taverns, and stopped at the running brooks and well-curbs. Otherwise, betwixt heat without and a fire within, you would have been burnt to a cinder, or melted down to nothing at all in the fashion of a jelly-fish. Drink, and make room for that other fellow, who seeks my aid to quench the fiery fever of last night's potations, which he drained from no cup of mine. Welcome, most rubicund sir! You and I have been great strangers hitherto ; nor, to express the truth, will my nose be anxious for a closer intimacy, till the fumes of your breath be a little less potent. Mercy on you, man! the water absolutely hisses down your red-hot gullet, and is converted quite to steam, in the miniature tophet which you mistake for a stomach. Fill again, and tell me, on the word of an honest toper, did you ever, in cellar, tavern, or any kind of a dram-shop, spend the price of your children's food for a swig half so delicious ? Now, for the first time these ten years, you know the flavour of cold water. Good by; and, whenever you are thirsty, remember that I keep a constant supply, at the old stand. Who next? Oh, my little friend, you are let loose from school, and come hither to scrub your blooming face, and drown the memory of certain taps of the ferule, and other school-boy troubles, in a draught from the Town Pump. Take it, pure as the current of your young life. Take it, and may your heart and tongue never be scorched with a fiercer thirst than now! There, my dear chiid, put down the cup, and yield your place to this elderly gentleman, who treads so tenderly over the stones, that I suspect he is afraid of breaking them. What ! he limps by without so much as thanking me, as if my hospitable offers were meant only for people who have no wine
cellars. Well, well
, sir-no harm done, I hope ! Go draw the cork, tip the decanter ; but when your great toe shall set you a-roaring, it will be no affair of mine. If gentlemen love the pleasant titillation of the gout, it is all one to the Town Pump. This thirsty dog, with his red tongue lolling out, does not scorn my hospitality, but stands on his hind legs, and laps eagerly out of the trough. See how lightly he capers away again ! Jowler, did your worship ever have the gout ?
Are you all satisfied ? Then wipe your mouths, my good friends ; and while my spout has a moment's leisure, I will delight the town with a few historical reminiscences. In far antiquity, beneath a darksome shadow of venerable boughs, a spring bubbled out of the leaf-strown earth, in the very spot where you now behold me on the sunny pavement. The water was as bright and clear, and deemed as precious, as liquid diamonds. The Indian Sagamores drank of it from time immemorial, till the fearful deluge of fire-water burst upon the red-men, and swept their whole race away from the cold fountains. Endicott and his followers came next,
and often knelt down to drink, dipping their long beards in the spring. The richest goblet then was of birch bark. Governor Winthrop, after a journey afoot from Boston, drank here, out of the hollow of his hand. The elder Higginson here wet his palm, and laid it on the brow of the first town-born child. For many years it was the watering-place, and, as it were, the wash-bowl of the vicinity,—whither all decent folks resorted, to purify their visages and gaze at them afterwards---at least the pretty maidens did in the mirror which it made. On Sabbath days, whenever a babe was to be baptized, the sexton filled his basin here, and placed it on the communion table of the humble meeting-house, which partly covered the site of Fonder stately brick one. Thus one generation after another was consecrated to heaven by its waters, and cast their waxing and waning shadows into its glassy bosom, and vanished from the earth, as if mortal life were but a flitting image in a fountain. Finally, the fountain vanished also. Cellars were dug on all sides, and cart-loads of gravel flung upon its source, whence oozed a turbid stream, forming a mud-puddle at the corner of two streets. In the hot months, when its refreshment was most needed, the dust flew in clouds over the forgotten birth-place of the waters, now their grave. But, in the course of time, a town pump was sunk into the source of the ancient spring; and when the first decayed, another took its place -and then another, and still another--till here stand I, gentlemen and ladies, to serve you with my iron goblet. Drink, and be refreshed ! The water is pure and cold as that which slaked the thirst of the red Sagamore beneath the aged boughs, though now the gem of the wilderness is treasured under these hot stones, where no shadow falls but from the brick buildings. And be it the moral of my story, that, as the wasted and long-lost fountain is now known and prized again, so shall the virtues of cold water, too little valued since your father's days, be recognised by all.
Your pardon, good people; I must interrupt my stream of eloquence and spout forth a stream of water, to replenish the trough for this teamster and his two yoke of oxen, who have come from Topsfield, or somewhere along that way. No part of my business is pleasanter than the watering of cattle. Look ! how rapidly they lower the water-mark on the sides of the trough, till their capacious stomachs are moistened with a gallon or two a-piece, and they can afford time to breathe it in, with sighs of calm enjoyment. Now they roll their quiet eyes around the brim of their monstrous drinking-vessel. An ox is your true toper.
But I perceive, my dear auditors, that you are impatient for the remainder of my discourse. Impute it, I beseech you, to no defect of modesty, if I insist a little longer on so fruitful a topic as my own multifarious merits. It is altogether for your good. The better you think of me, the better men and women will you find yourselves. I shall say nothing of my all important aid on washing days ; though, on that account alone, I might call myself the household god of a hundred families. Far be it from me also to hint, my respectable friends, at the show of dirty faces which you would present without my pains to keep you clean. Nor will I remind you how often, when the midnight bells make you tremble for your combustible town, you have fled to the Town Pump, and found me always at my post, firm amid the confusion, and ready to drain my vital current in your behalf. Neither is it worth while to lay much stress on my claims to a medical diploma, as the physician whose simple rule of practice is preferable to all the nauseous lore which has found men sick, or left them so, since the days of Hippocrates. Let us take a broader view of my beneficial influence on mankind.
No; these are trifles compared with the merits which wise men concede to me if not in my single self, yet as the representative of a class—of beivg the grand reformer of the age. From my spout, and such spouts as mine, must flow the stream that shall cleanse our earth of the vast portion of its crime and anguish, which has gushed from the fiery fountains of the still. In this mighty enterprise the cow shall be my great confederate. Milk and water ! The Town Pump and the Coro ! Such is the glorious copartnership that shall tear down the distilleries and brewhouses, uproot the vineyards, shatter the ciderpresses, ruin the tea and coffee trade, and finally monopolise the whole business of quenching thirst. Blessed consummation! Then, Poverty shall pass away from the land, finding Do hovel so wretched, where her squalid form may shelter itself. Then disease, for lack of other victims, shall gnaw its own heart, and die. Then Sin, if she do not die, shall lose half her strength. Until now, the frenzy of hereditary fever has raged in the human blood, transmitted from sire to son, and rekindled, in every generation, by fresh draughts of liquid flame. When that inward fire shall be extinguished, the heat of passion cannot but grow cool, and war—the drunkenness of nations-perhaps will cease. At least, there will be no war of households. The husband and wife, drinking deep of peaceful joy—a calm bliss of temperate affections-shall pass hand in hand through life, and lie down, not reluctantly, at its protracted close. To them, the past will be no turmoil of mad dreams, nor the future an eternity of such moments as follow the delirium of the drunkard. Their dead faces shall express what their spirits were, and are to be, by a lingering smile of memory and hope.
Ahem! Dry work, this speechifying; especially to an unpractised orator. I never conceived, till now, what toil the temperance lecturers undergo for my sake. Hereafter, they shall have the business to themselves. Do, some kind Christian, pump a stroke or two, just to wet my whistle. Thank
sir ! My dear hearers, when the world shall have been regenerated by my instrumentality, you will collect your useless vats and liquor casks into one great pile, and make a bonfire in honour of the Town Pump. And when I shall have decayed, like my predecessors, then, if you revere my memory, let a marble fountain, richly sculptured, take my place upon the spot. Such monuments should be erected everywhere, and inscribed with the names of the distinguished champions of my cause. Now listen ; for something very important is to come next.
There are two or three honest friends of minemand true friends I know they are --who, nevertheless, by their fiery pugnacity in my behalf, do put me in fearful hazard of a broken nose, or even a total overthrow upon the pavement, and the loss of the treasure which I guard. I pray you, gentlemen, let this fault be amended. Is it decent, think you, to get tipsy with zeal for temperance, and take up the honourable cause of the Town Pump, in the style of a toper fighting for his brandy bottle? Or can the excellent qualities of cold water be no otherwise exemplified than by plunging, slap dash, into hot water, and wofully scalding yourself and other people ? Trust me, they may. In the moral warfare which you are to wage—and indeed in the whole conduct of your lives—you cannot choose a better example than myself, who have never permitted the dust and sultry atmosphere, the turbulent and manifold disquietudes of the world around me, to reach that deep calm well of purity, which may be called my soul. And whenever I pour out that soul, it is to cool earth's fever, or cleanse its stains.
One o'clock ! Nay, then, if the dinner-bell begins to speak, I may as well hold my peace. Here comes a pretty young girl of my acquaintance, with a large stone pitcher for me to fill. May she draw a husband, while drawing her water, as Rachael did of old. Hold out your vessel, my dear! There it is, full to the brim ; so now run home, peeping at your sweet image in the pitcher as you go ; and forget not, in a glass of my own liquor, to drink—“SUCCESS TO THE TOWN PUMP!"
199.—THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, & I.
With sloping masts and dipping prow, It is an ancient mariner,
As who pursued with yell and blow And he stoppeth one of three,
Still treads the shadow of his foe, “By thy long gray beard and glittering And forward bends his head, eye
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me? And southward aye we fled. “The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, And now there came both mist and snow And I am next of kin ;
And it grew wondrous cold : The guests are met, the feast is set : And ice, mast-high, came floating by, May'st hear the merry din.”
As green as emerald. He holds him with a skinny hand, And through the drifts the snowy clifts “ There was a ship,” quoth he.
Did send a dismal sheen : “Hold off! unhand me, gray-beard loon!" Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken~ Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
The ice was all between.
The ice was all around:
Like noises in a swound !
At length did cross an albatross,
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew. Below the lighthouse top.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ; The sun came up upon the left,
The helmsman steered us through ! Out of the sea came he!
Anda good south wind sprung up behind; And he shone bright, and on the right,
The albatross did follow, Went down into the sea.
And every day, for food or play, Higher and higher every day,
Came to the mariner's hollo ! Till over the mast at noon
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, The wedding guest here beat his breast, It perched for vespers nine ; For he heard the loud bassoon.
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke
white, The bride hath paced into the hall,
Glimmered the white moonshine,
From the fiends, that plague thec thus !
Why look'st thou so ?”—With my crossThe wedding guest he beat his breast,
bow Yet he cannot choose but hear ;
I shot the albatross.
Out of the sea came he,
Went down into the sea.