Obrázky stránek


knowledge, somewhat ambitious—a quality not at all uncommon in these times, and in all times, must have discovered, when more advanced in life, that youth and inexperience, at first starting, directed his course rapidly, unsystematically, and frequently in a very headstrong and unsatisfactory

The traveller, then, in taking a retrospective view of his early rovings, must, I think, in every case, whether he be a finished scholar, a naturalist, a philosopher, a man of ordinary talent and tact, or a good-natured man, or the reverse of that amiable disposition, an ignorant man whose want of brains has been amply remunerated with a well-supplied purse, must naturally come to the conclusion (if at all a reflective being) that he has lost much time, squandered away a good deal of money, pursued very frequently a bad system, drawn many false conclusions in regard to men, women, manners, institutions, and countries, and that if, after an interval of twenty years' additional experience and training, he were to go over his ground a second time, he would scarcely persuade himself that he was the same individual travelling over the same ground he had previously visited.

This state of things would naturally arouse in the mind of the individual so placed a discussion with himself as to whether he or the countries had changed most. The mountains, lakes, seas, and rivers, with towns, cathedrals, and public edifices, would stand pretty much in the same place, with here and there certain alterations; but many other differences in regard to the people, their habits, their manners, their commerce, their civilization, their arts and manufactures, would be viewed quite in another and a different light, from the fact of the mind during the first visit of the youthful traveller failing to notice them but very imperfectly, or perhaps not at all. This difference of opinion in regard to the same country visited in after life by the mature and full-grown man (if he be a man of average capacity), by applying this difference of opinion as a kind of mental guage by which he would be enabled to take and calculate the growth (mental growth, of course) and calibre of his own brain and intellect, and in such case to turn his calculations and second journey to a profitable account.

The object sought by travellers in their various excursions is as various as the motives that actuate and govern the many multitudes of men that reside upon the habitable globe. Let us take a glance at some of the very obvious and leading ones.

If the motive be to obtain valuable information that may be turned to good account by its practical application in after life, calculated to advance the morals of the man, or that of the community to which he belongs, as well as an amelioration of the social and commercial position of himself or his country, it cannot be doubted for a moment that the motive is a very high and valuable one, its relative value, however, depending upon the subject sought after, and the manner in which it is performed. For example, morals would stand first as being more valuable than either social economy or commerce. Then comes the naturalist, who, if at all imbued with a taste for poetry, and who, if he should happen to possess the spirit of a philosopher, and be also well versed in history, literature, and not unacquainted with the fine arts, nor ignorant of the manufacturing interest—to such a traveller I should say, you start well, whatever may be the result of your journeyings.

How delightful to gaze upon that tall and wellproportioned youthful figure, first setting out on his 'travels, with a face full of intellect, which at the same time pourtrays the heart that can feel for another ; with a head well stored with every kind of useful information, united to many accomplishments, and sufficiently provided with moral ballast to keep his bark from striking upon the rocks as he sails along the stormy ocean, and to prevent his feet from falling when surrounded by the many temptations and dangers of the land-surely such a man is much to be envied, for he starts well, with a fair wind, a bright sky, and every prospect of a favourable result.

The above are examples of the minority; the majority, consisting of pleasure-seekers, having no other motive uppermost, in many instances, but that of seizing on all the endless variety of charming, as well as curious things that come across their path, in every shape and form, to gratify their passion, their taste, and their curiosity. To the pleasure-seeker, the country, unless it contain all the elements of fine scenery, consisting of undulating valleys, with the necessary distribution of land, wood, and water, in such proportions as to enable the visitor to exclaim, “Here is a beautiful scene!" is usually otherwise considered as uninteresting. If, on the other hand, he happen to be a botanist, what a vast field of inquiry lies open to him both for his instruction and improvement !

To the ignorant man, the pursuit of botany possesses but few charms; and I have met with persons who have been tolerably educated, who look upon the occupation of gathering weeds out of a ditch as a suitable employment for silly women who have nothing better to do, or idle boys who are very fond of pelting the frogs.

Let us go a little into the subject, in order to see if we cannot come to some very satisfactory and interesting conclusions concerning it. Taking a view of the wide canopy of heaven, the beholder looks through the atmosphere extending to an altitude of forty-five miles, beyond which is space-or, in other words, the heavenly bodies, æther and air; add to these land and water, which constitute the terraqueous globe, with its animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, we are then capable of drawing the very valuable inference, that the simple word and trisyllable, botany, rises to a vast and magnificent importance in being constituted by the Great Author of Nature the seventh part of universal creation. The surface of the earth comprising land and water, hill and valley, mountain and plain, prairie and desert, wood and swamp, lake and river, on all, or in all, the vegetable world is found in all its endless variety. The great ocean has its own

rticular flora of algæ, or sea-weeds, growing upon the various rocks, islands, coasts, and estuaries, which act as a barrier to its proud and ever-flowing majestic waves; and even on its surface is produced the fucus vesicolosus, a curious sea-weed, covering a considerable portion of the Atlantic known as the Sea of Saragossa, whose surface, according to the views of some navigators, is believed to form a gradual and slight concavity in which this very curious plant is found. From the Sea of Saragossa, the gulf-weed, as it is properly termed, accompanies the gulf stream, and consequently is found in various and distant parts of the world. Lakes and rivers have likewise their respective floras, found both on their surfaces, shores, and banks.

Next comes the desert, with its flat and extensive accumulation of sand-sand so fine that its particles are driven by the action of the wind, like the spray of the ocean, in such showers, that some fearful people have conjectured at one time that the beautiful town of Sydney, in Australia, might be covered and ruined by its constant and successive accumulation. On this, another grand and startling division of the earth's suface, when the eye rests upon an interminable plain, bereft of trees and grass, flat and wide as the ocean itself, with its particles of sand ebbing and flowing—in this wonderful and monotonous district, this ocean of sand, whose presence infuses into the mind of the contemplative traveller the same awe and sublime emotion as when he sails upon the great ocean itself-even here in this sterile world the vegetable kingdom has a habitation and a name, although thinly scattered through its extensive domain. On the desert, the ocean, the lake, and the river, the vegetable world is found only sparingly, and occasionally dotting here and there a locality with its presence, remarkable in many instances for their singularity of shape, not possessing the ordinary beauty of the prairie or the plain.

And what shall we say of the great American prairie, which unfolds to the eye of the traveller an ocean of verdant grass, ornamented with flowers of various kinds in all their beauteous shape and colour and when the wind blows, saluting each other and the surrounding grass with graceful acknowledgments, with every variety of movement, from the complete low bow of the dancingmaster to the slight nod of the head of a fashionable ladyand when the wind blows strong, undulating somewhat similar to the waves of the ocean, then dancing and capering in all their gay and variegated habiliments like the fairy damsels of the ballroom—then, as the wind changes in force, they become impetuous in the dance, now less excited, afterwards motionless, and at last a calm pervades the assembly of this gay dancing vegetable world. Such is an American prairie. In this scene the entire surface of the ground is occupied with vegetable matter. And not the least beautiful display of the finger Divine in these extensive meadows is the circumstance of each season of the year having its peculiar tribe of plants, all gay and dressed in

« PředchozíPokračovat »