OLD PORTRAITS AND MODERN SKETCHES

 PERSONAL SKETCHES AND TRIBUTES

 

HISTORICAL PAPERS by JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

 

 

NATHANIEL PEABODY ROGERS.

 

"And Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,

Has vanished from his kindly hearth."

 

So, in one of the sweetest and most pathetic of his poems touching the

loss of his literary friends, sang Wordsworth.  We well remember with

what freshness and vividness these simple lines came before us, on

hearing, last autumn, of the death of the warm-hearted and gifted friend

whose name heads this article; for there was much in his character and

genius to remind us of the gentle author of Elia.  He had the latter's

genial humor and quaintness; his nice and delicate perception of the

beautiful and poetic; his happy, easy diction, not the result, as in the

case of that of the English essayist, of slow and careful elaboration,

but the natural, spontaneous language in which his conceptions at once

embodied themselves, apparently without any consciousness of effort.  As

Mark Antony talked, he wrote, "right on," telling his readers often what

"they themselves did know," yet imparting to the simplest commonplaces of

life interest and significance, and throwing a golden haze of poetry over

the rough and thorny pathways of every-day duty.  Like Lamb, he loved his

friends without stint or limit.  The "old familiar faces" haunted him.

Lamb loved the streets and lanes of London--the places where he oftenest

came in contact with the warm, genial heart of humanity--better than the

country.  Rogers loved the wild and lonely hills and valleys of New

Hampshire none the less that he was fully alive to the enjoyments of

society, and could enter with the heartiest sympathy into all the joys

and sorrows of his friends and neighbors.

 

In another point of view, he was not unlike Elia.  He had the same love

of home, and home friends, and familiar objects; the same fondness for

common sights and sounds; the same dread of change; the same shrinking

from the unknown and the dark.  Like him, he clung with a child's love to

the living present, and recoiled from a contemplation of the great change

which awaits us.  Like him, he was content with the goodly green earth

and human countenances, and would fain set up his tabernacle here.  He

had less of what might be termed self-indulgence in this feeling than

Lamb.  He had higher views; he loved this world not only for its own

sake, but for the opportunities it afforded of doing good.  Like the

Persian seer, he beheld the legions of Ormuzd and Ahriman, of Light and

Darkness, contending for mastery over the earth, as the sunshine and

shadow of a gusty, half-cloudy day struggled on the green slopes of his

native mountains; and, mingled with the bright host, he would fain have

fought on until its banners waved in eternal sunshine over the last

hiding-place of darkness.  He entered into the work of reform with the

enthusiasm and chivalry of a knight of the crusades.  He had faith in

human progress,--in the ultimate triumph of the good; millennial lights

beaconed up all along his horizon.  In the philanthropic movements of the

day; in the efforts to remove the evils of slavery, war, intemperance,

and sanguinary laws; in the humane and generous spirit of much of our

modern poetry and literature; in the growing demand of the religious

community, of all sects, for the preaching of the gospel of love and

humanity, he heard the low and tremulous prelude of the great anthem of

universal harmony.  "The world," said he, in a notice of the music of the

Hutchinson family, "is out of tune now.  But it will be tuned again, and

all will become harmony."  In this faith he lived and acted; working, not

always, as it seemed to some of his friends, wisely, but bravely,

truthfully, earnestly, cheering on his fellow-laborers, and imparting to

the dullest and most earthward looking of them something of his own zeal

and loftiness of purpose.

 

"Who was he?" does the reader ask?  Naturally enough, too, for his name

has never found its way into fashionable reviews; it has never been

associated with tale, or essay, or poem, to our knowledge.  Our friend

Griswold, who, like another Noah, has launched some hundreds of American

poets and prose writers on the tide of immortality in his two huge arks

of rhyme and reason, has either overlooked his name, or deemed it

unworthy of preservation.  Then, too, he was known mainly as the editor

of a proscribed and everywhere-spoken-against anti-slavery paper.  It had

few readers of literary taste and discrimination; plain, earnest men and

women, intent only upon the thought itself, and caring little for the

clothing of it, loved the _Herald of Freedom_ for its honestness and

earnestness, and its bold rebukes of the wrong, its all-surrendering

homage to what its editor believed to be right.  But the literary world

of authors and critics saw and heard little or nothing of him or his

writings.  "I once had a bit of scholar-craft," he says of himself on one

occasion, "and had I attempted it in some pitiful sectarian or party or

literary sheet, I should have stood a chance to get quoted into the

periodicals.  Now, who dares quote from the _Herald of Freedom_?"  He

wrote for humanity, as his biographer justly says, not for fame.  "He

wrote because he had something to say, and true to nature, for to him

nature was truth; he spoke right on, with the artlessness and simplicity

of a child."

 

He was born in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in the sixth month of 1794,--

a lineal descendant from John Rogers, of martyr-memory.  Educated at

Dartmouth College, he studied law with Hon. Richard Fletcher, of

Salisbury, New Hampshire, now of Boston, and commenced the practice of it

in 1819, in his native village.  He was diligent and successful in his

profession, although seldom known as a pleader.  About the year 1833, he

became interested in the anti-slavery movement.  His was one of the few

voices of encouragement and sympathy which greeted the author of this

sketch on the publication of a pamphlet in favor of immediate

emancipation.  He gave us a kind word of approval, and invited us to his

mountain home, on the banks of the Pemigewasset,--an invitation which,

two years afterwards, we accepted.  In the early autumn, in company with

George Thompson, (the eloquent reformer, who has since been elected a

member of the British Parliament from the Tower Hamlets,) we drove up the

beautiful valley of the White Mountain tributary of the Merrimac, and,

just as a glorious sunset was steeping river, valley, and mountain in its

hues of heaven, were welcomed to the pleasant home and family circle of

our friend Rogers.  We spent two delightful evenings with him.  His

cordiality, his warm-hearted sympathy in our object, his keen wit,

inimitable humor, and childlike and simple mirthfulness, his full

appreciation of the beautiful in art and nature, impressed us with the

conviction that we were the guests of no ordinary man; that we were

communing with unmistakable genius, such an one as might have added to

the wit and eloquence of Ben Jonson's famous club at the _Mermaid_, or

that which Lamb and Coleridge and Southey frequented at the _Salutation

and Cat_, of Smithfield.  "The most brilliant man I have met in America!"

said George Thompson, as we left the hospitable door of our friend.

 

In 1838, he gave up his law practice, left his fine outlook at Plymouth

upon the mountains of the North, Moosehillock and the Haystacks, and took

up his residence at Concord, for the purpose of editing the _Herald of

Freedom_, an anti-slavery paper which had been started some three or four

years before.  John Pierpont, than whom there could not be a more

competent witness, in his brief and beautiful sketch of the life and

writings of Rogers, does not overestimate the ability with which the

Herald was conducted, when he says of its editor: "As a newspaper writer,

we think him unequalled by any living man; and in the general strength,

clearness, and quickness of his intellect, we think all who knew him well

will agree with us that he was not excelled by any editor in the

country."  He was not a profound reasoner: his imagination and brilliant

fancy played the wildest tricks with his logic; yet, considering the way

by which he reached them, it is remarkable that his conclusions were so

often correct.  The tendency of his mind was to extremes.  A zealous

Calvinistic church-member, he became an equally zealous opponent of

churches and priests; a warm politician, he became an ultra non-resistant

and no-government man.  In all this, his sincerity was manifest.  If, in

the indulgence of his remarkable powers of sarcasm, in the free antics of

a humorous fancy, upon whose graceful neck he had flung loose the reins,

he sometimes did injustice to individuals, and touched, in irreverent

sport, the hem of sacred garments, it had the excuse, at least, of a

generous and honest motive.  If he sometimes exaggerated, those who best,

knew him can testify that he "set down naught in malice."

 

We have before us a printed collection of his writings,--hasty

editorials, flung off without care or revision, the offspring of sudden

impulse frequently; always free, artless, unstudied; the language

transparent as air, exactly expressing the thought.  He loved the common,

simple dialect of the people,--the "beautiful strong old Saxon,--the talk

words."  He had an especial dislike of learned and "dictionary words."

He used to recommend Cobbett's Works to "every young man and woman who

has been hurt in his or her talk and writing by going to school."

 

Our limits will not admit of such extracts from the Collection of his

writings as would convey to our readers an adequate idea of his thought

and manner.  His descriptions of natural scenery glow with life.  One can

almost see the sunset light flooding the Franconia Notch, and glorifying

the peaks of Moosehillock, and hear the murmur of the west wind in the

pines, and the light, liquid voice of Pemigewasset sounding up from its

rocky channel, through its green hem of maples, while reading them.  We

give a brief extract from an editorial account of an autumnal trip to

Vermont:

 

"We have recently journeyed through a portion of this, free State; and it

is not all imagination in us that sees, in its bold scenery, its

uninfected inland position, its mountainous but fertile and verdant

surface, the secret of the noble predisposition of its people.  They are

located for freedom.  Liberty's home is on their Green Mountains.  Their

farmer republic nowhere touches the ocean, the highway of the world's

crimes, as well as its nations.  It has no seaport for the importation of

slavery, or the exportation of its own highland republicanism.  Should

slavery ever prevail over this nation, to its utter subjugation, the last

lingering footsteps of retiring Liberty will be seen, not, as Daniel

Webster said, in the proud old Commonwealth of Massachusetts, about

Bunker Hill and Faneuil Hall; but she will be found wailing, like

Jephthah's daughter, among the 'hollows' and along the sides of the Green

Mountains.

 

"Vermont shows gloriously at this autumn season.  Frost has gently laid

hands on her exuberant vegetation, tinging her rock-maple woods without

abating the deep verdure of her herbage.  Everywhere along her peopled

hollows and her bold hillslopes and summits the earth is alive with

green, while her endless hard-wood forests are uniformed with all the

hues of early fall, richer than the regimentals of the kings that

glittered in the train of Napoleon on the confines of Poland, when he

lingered there, on the last outposts of summer, before plunging into the

snow-drifts of the North; more gorgeous than the array of Saladin's life-

guard in the wars of the Crusaders, or of 'Solomon in all his glory,'

decked in, all colors and hues, but still the hues of life.  Vegetation

touched, but not dead, or, if killed, not bereft yet of 'signs of life.'

'Decay's effacing fingers' had not yet 'swept the hills' 'where beauty

lingers.' All looked fresh as growing foliage.  Vermont frosts don't seem

to be 'killing frosts.' They only change aspects of beauty.  The mountain

pastures, verdant to the peaks, and over the peaks of the high, steep

hills, were covered with the amplest feed, and clothed with countless

sheep; the hay-fields heavy with second crop, in some partly cut and

abandoned, as if in very weariness and satiety, blooming with

honeysuckle, contrasting strangely with the colors on the woods; the fat

cattle and the long-tailed colts and close-built Morgans wallowing in it

up to the eyes, or the cattle down to rest, with full bellies, by ten in

the morning.  Fine but narrow roads wound along among the hills, free

almost entirely of stone, and so smooth as to be safe for the most rapid

driving, made of their rich, dark, powder-looking soil.  Beautiful

villages or scattered settlements breaking upon the delighted view, on

the meandering way, making the ride a continued scene of excitement and

admiration.  The air fresh, free, and wholesome; the road almost dead

level for miles and miles, among mountains that lay over the land like

the great swells of the sea, and looking in the prospect as though there

could be no passage."

 

To this autumnal limning, the following spring picture may be a fitting

accompaniment:--

 

"At last Spring is here in full flush.  Winter held on tenaciously and

mercilessly, but it has let go.  The great sun is high on his northern

journey, and the vegetation, and the bird-singing, and the loud frog-

chorus, the tree budding and blowing, are all upon us; and the glorious

grass--super-best of earth's garniture--with its ever-satisfying green.

The king-birds have come, and the corn-planter, the scolding bob-o-link.

'Plant your corn, plant your corn,' says he, as he scurries athwart the

ploughed ground, hardly lifting his crank wings to a level with his back,

so self-important is he in his admonitions.  The earlier birds have gone

to housekeeping, and have disappeared from the spray.  There has been

brief period for them, this spring, for scarcely has the deep snow gone,

but the dark-green grass has come, and first we shall know, the ground

will be yellow with dandelions.

 

"I incline to thank Heaven this glorious morning of May 16th for the

pleasant home from which we can greet the Spring.  Hitherto we have had

to await it amid a thicket of village houses, low down, close together,

and awfully white.  For a prospect, we had the hinder part of an ugly

meeting-house, which an enterprising neighbor relieved us of by planting

a dwelling-house, right before our eyes, (on his own land, and he had a

right to,) which relieved us also of all prospect whatever.  And the

revival spirit of habitation which has come over Concord is clapping up a

house between every two in the already crowded town; and the prospect is,

it will be soon all buildings.  They are constructing, in quite good

taste though, small, trim, cottage-like.  But I had rather be where I can

breathe air, and see beyond my own features, than be smothered among the

prettiest houses ever built.  We are on the slope of a hill; it is all

sand, be sure, on all four sides of us, but the air is free, (and the

sand, too, at times,) and our water, there is danger of hard drinking to

live by it.  Air and water, the two necessaries of life, and high, free

play-ground for the small ones.  There is a sand precipice hard by, high

enough, were it only rock and overlooked the ocean, to be as sublime as

any of the Nahant cliffs.  As it is, it is altogether a safer haunt for

daring childhood, which could hardly break its neck by a descent of some

hundreds of feet.

 

"A low flat lies between us and the town, with its State-house, and body-

guard of well-proportioned steeples standing round.  It was marshy and

wet, but is almost all redeemed by the translation into it of the high

hills of sand.  It must have been a terrible place for frogs, judging

from what remains of it.  Bits of water from the springs hard by lay here

and there about the low ground, which are peopled as full of singers as

ever the gallery of the old North Meeting-house was, and quite as

melodious ones.  Such performers I never heard, in marsh or pool.  They

are not the great, stagnant, bull-paddocks, fat and coarse-noted like

Parson, but clear-water frogs, green, lively, and sweet-voiced.  I

passed their orchestra going home the other evening, with a small lad,

and they were at it, all parts, ten thousand peeps, shrill, ear-piercing,

and incessant, coming up from every quarter, accompanied by a second,

from some larger swimmer with his trombone, and broken in upon, every now

and then, but not discordantly, with the loud, quick hallo, that

resembles the cry of the tree-toad.  'There are the Hutchinsons,' cried

the lad.  'The Rainers,' responded I, glad to remember enough of my

ancient Latin to know that Rana, or some such sounding word, stood for

frog.  But it was a 'band of music,' as the Miller friends say.  Like

other singers, (all but the Hutchinsons,) these are apt to sing too much,

all the time they are awake, constituting really too much of a good

thing.  I have wondered if the little reptiles were singing in concert,

or whether every one peeped on his own hook, their neighbor hood only

making it a chorus.  I incline to the opinion that they are performing

together, that they know the tune, and each carries his part, self-

selected, in free meeting, and therefore never discordant.  The hour rule

of Congress might be useful, though far less needed among the frogs than

among the profane croakers of the fens at Washington."

 

Here is a sketch of the mountain scenery of New Hampshire, as seen from

the Holderness Mountain, or North Hill, during a visit which he made to

his native valley in the autumn of 1841:--

 

"The earth sphered up all around us, in every quarter of the horizon,

like the crater of a vast volcano, and the great hollow within the

mountain circle was as smoky as Vesuvius or Etna in their recess of

eruption.  The little village of Plymouth lay right at our feet, with its

beautiful expanse of intervale opening on the eye like a lake among the

woods and hills, and the Pemigewasset, bordered along its crooked way

with rows of maples, meandering from upland to upland through the

meadows.  Our young footsteps had wandered over these localities.  Time

had cast it all far back that Pemigewasset, with its meadows and border

trees; that little village whitening in the margin of its inter vale; and

that one house which we could distinguish, where the mother that watched

over and endured our wayward childhood totters at fourscore!

 

"To the south stretched a broken, swelling upland country, but champaign

from the top of North Hill, patched all over with grain-fields and green

wood-lots, the roofs of the farm-houses shining in the sun.  Southwest,

the Cardigan Mountain showed its bald forehead among the smokes of a

thousand fires, kindled in the woods in the long drought.  Westward,

Moosehillock heaved up its long back, black as a whale; and turning the

eye on northward, glancing down the while on the Baker's River valley,

dotted over with human dwellings like shingle-bunches for size, you

behold the great Franconia Range, its Notch and its Haystacks, the

Elephant Mountain on the left, and Lafayette (Great Haystack) on the

right, shooting its peak in solemn loneliness high up into the desert

sky, and overtopping all the neighboring Alps but Mount Washington

itself.  The prospect of these is most impressive and satisfactory.  We

don't believe the earth presents a finer mountain display.  The Haystacks

stand there like the Pyramids on the wall of mountains.  One of them

eminently has this Egyptian shape.  It is as accurate a pyramid to the

eye as any in the old valley of the Nile, and a good deal bigger than any

of those hoary monuments of human presumption, of the impious tyranny of

monarchs and priests, and of the appalling servility of the erecting

multitude.  Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh does not more finely resemble a

sleeping lion than the huge mountain on the left of the Notch does an

elephant, with his great, overgrown rump turned uncivilly toward the gap

where the people have to pass.  Following round the panorama, you come to

the Ossipees and the Sandwich Mountains, peaks innumerable and nameless,

and of every variety of fantastic shape.  Down their vast sides are

displayed the melancholy-looking slides, contrasting with the fathomless

woods.

 

"But the lakes,--you see lakes, as well as woods and mountains, from the

top of North Hill.  Newfound Lake in Hebron, only eight miles distant,

you can't see; it lies too deep among the hills.  Ponds show their small

blue mirrors from various quarters of the great picture.  Worthen's Mill-

Pond and the Hardhack, where we used to fish for trout in truant,

barefooted days, Blair's Mill-Pond, White Oak Pond, and Long Pond, and

the Little Squam, a beautiful dark sheet of deep, blue water, about two

miles long, stretched an id the green hills and woods, with a charming

little beach at its eastern end, and without an island.  And then the

Great Squam, connected with it on the east by a short, narrow stream, the

very queen of ponds, with its fleet of islands, surpassing in beauty all

the foreign waters we have seen, in Scotland or elsewhere,--the islands

covered with evergreens, which impart their hue to the mass of the lake,

as it stretches seven miles on east from its smaller sister, towards the

peerless Winnipesaukee.  Great Squam is as beautiful as water and island

can be.  But Winnipesaukee, it is the very 'Smile of the Great Spirit.'

It looks as if it had a thousand islands; some of them large enough for

little towns, and others not bigger than a swan or a wild duck swimming

on its surface of glass."

 

His wit and sarcasm were generally too good-natured to provoke even their

unfortunate objects, playing all over his editorials like the thunderless

lightnings which quiver along the horizon of a night of summer calmness;

but at times his indignation launched them like bolts from heaven.  Take

the following as a specimen.  He is speaking of the gag rule of Congress,

and commending Southern representatives for their skilful selection of a

proper person to do their work:--

 

"They have a quick eye at the South to the character, or, as they would

say, the points of a slave.  They look into him shrewdly, as an old

jockey does into a horse.  They will pick him out, at rifle-shot

distance, among a thousand freemen.  They have a nice eye to detect

shades of vassalage.  They saw in the aristocratic popinjay strut of a

counterfeit Democrat an itching aspiration to play the slaveholder.  They

beheld it in 'the cut of his jib,' and his extreme Northern position made

him the very tool for their purpose.  The little creature has struck at

the right of petition.  A paltrier hand never struck at a noble right.

The Eagle Right of Petition, so loftily sacred in the eyes of the

Constitution that Congress can't begin to 'abridge' it, in its pride of

place, is hawked at by this crested jay-bird.  A 'mousing owl' would have

seen better at midnoon than to have done it.  It is an idiot blue-jay,

such as you see fooling about among the shrub oaks and dwarf pitch pines

in the winter.  What an ignominious death to the lofty right, were it to

die by such a hand; but it does not die.  It is impalpable to the

'malicious mockery' of such vain blows.' We are glad it is done--done by

the South--done proudly, and in slaveholding style, by the hand of a

vassal.  What a man does by another he does by himself, says the maxim.

But they will disown the honor of it, and cast it on the despised 'free

nigger' North."

 

Or this description--not very flattering to the "Old Commonwealth"--of

the treatment of the agent of Massachusetts in South Carolina:--

 

"Slavery may perpetrate anything, and New England can't see it.  It can

horsewhip the old Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and spit in her

governmental face, and she will not recognize it as an offence.  She sent

her agent to Charleston on a State embassy.  Slavery caught him, and sent

him ignominiously home.  The solemn great man came back in a hurry.  He

returned in a most undignified trot.  He ran; he scampered,--the stately

official.  The Old Bay State actually pulled foot, cleared, dug, as they

say, like any scamp with a hue and cry after him.  Her grave old Senator,

who no more thought of having to break his stately walk than he had of

being flogged at school for stealing apples, came back from Carolina upon

the full run, out of breath and out of dignity.  Well, what's the result?

Why, nothing.  She no more thinks of showing resentment about it than she

would if lightning had struck him.  He was sent back 'by the visitation

of God;' and if they had lynched him to death, and stained the streets of

Charleston with his blood, a Boston jury, if they could have held inquest

over him, would have found that he 'died by the visitation of God.' And

it would have been crowner's quest law, Slavery's crowners."

 

Here is a specimen of his graceful blending of irony and humor.  He is

expostulating with his neighbor of the New Hampshire Patriot, assuring

him that he cannot endure the ponderous weight of his arguments, begging

for a little respite, and, as a means of obtaining it, urging the editor

to travel.  He advises him to go South, to the White Sulphur Springs, and

thinks that, despite of his dark complexion, he would be safe there from

being sold for jail fees, as his pro-slavery merits would more than

counterbalance his colored liabilities, which, after all, were only prima

facie evidence against him.  He suggests Texas, also, as a place where

"patriots" of a certain class "most do congregate," and continues as

follows:--

 

"There is Arkansas, too, all glorious in new-born liberty, fresh and

unsullied, like Venus out of the ocean,--that newly discovered star, in

the firmament banner of this Republic.  Sister Arkansas, with her bowie-

knife graceful at her side, like the huntress Diana with her silver bow,

--oh it would be refreshing and recruiting to an exhausted patriot to go

and replenish his soul at her fountains.  The newly evacuated lands of

the Cherokee, too, a sweet place now for a lover of his country to visit,

to renew his self-complacency by wandering among the quenched hearths of

the expatriated Indians; a land all smoking with the red man's departing

curse,--a malediction that went to the centre.  Yes, and Florida,--

blossoming and leafy Florida, yet warm with the life-blood of Osceola and

his warriors, shed gloriously under flag of truce.  Why should a patriot

of such a fancy for nature immure himself in the cells of the city, and

forego such an inviting and so broad a landscape?  Ite viator.  Go forth,

traveller, and leave this mouldy editing to less elastic fancies.  We

would respectfully invite our Colonel to travel.  What signifies?

Journey--wander--go forth--itinerate--exercise--perambulate--roam."

 

He gives the following ludicrous definition of Congress:--

 

"But what is Congress?  It is the echo of the country at home,--the

weathercock, that denotes and answers the shifting wind,--a thing of

tail, nearly all tail, moved by the tail and by the wind, with small

heading, and that corresponding implicitly in movement with the broad

sail-like stern, which widens out behind to catch the rum-fraught breath

of 'the Brotherhood.' As that turns, it turns; when that stops, it stops;

and in calmish weather looks as steadfast and firm as though it was

riveted to the centre.  The wind blows, and the little popularity-hunting

head dodges this way and that, in endless fluctuation.  Such is Congress,

or a great portion of it.  It will point to the northwest heavens of

Liberty, whenever the breezes bear down irresistibly upon it, from the

regions of political fair weather.  It will abolish slavery at the

Capitol, when it has already been doomed to abolition and death

everywhere else in the country.  'It will be in at the death.'"

 

Replying to the charge that the Abolitionists of the North were "secret"

in their movements and designs, he says:--

 

"'In secret!' Why, our movements have been as prominent and open as the

house-tops from the beginning.  We have striven from the outset to write

the whole matter cloud-high in the heavens, that the utmost South might

read it.  We have cast an arc upon the horizon, like the semicircle of

the polar lights, and upon it have bent our motto, 'Immediate

Emancipation,' glorious as the rainbow.  We have engraven it there, on

the blue table of the cold vault, in letters tall enough for the reading

of the nations.  And why has the far South not read and believed before

this?  Because a steam has gone up--a fog--from New England's pulpit and

her degenerate press, and hidden the beaming revelation from its vision.

The Northern hierarchy and aristocracy have cheated the South."

 

He spoke at times with severity of slaveholders, but far oftener of those

who, without the excuse of education and habit, and prompted only by a

selfish consideration of political or sectarian advantage, apologized for

the wrong, and discountenanced the anti-slavery movement.  "We have

nothing to say," said he, "to the slave.  He is no party to his own

enslavement,--he is none to his disenthralment.  We have nothing to say

to the South.  The real holder of slaves is not there.  He is in the

North, the free North.  The South alone has not the power to hold the

slave.  It is the character of the nation that binds and holds him.  It

is the Republic that does it, the efficient force of which is north of

Mason and Dixon's line.  By virtue of the majority of Northern hearts and

voices, slavery lives in the South!"

 

In 1840, he spent a few weeks in England, Ireland, and Scotland.  He has

left behind a few beautiful memorials of his tour.  His Ride over the

Border, Ride into Edinburgh, Wincobank hall, Ailsa Craig, gave his paper

an interest in the eyes of many who had no sympathy with his political

and religious views.

 

Scattered all over his editorials, like gems, are to be found beautiful

images, sweet touches of heartfelt pathos,--thoughts which the reader

pauses over with surprise and delight.  We subjoin a few specimens, taken

almost at random from the book before us:--

 

"A thunder-storm,--what can match it for eloquence and poetry?  That rush

from heaven of the big drops, in what multitude and succession, and how

they sound as they strike!  How they play on the old home roof and the

thick tree-tops!  What music to go to sleep by, to the tired boy, as he

lies under the naked roof!  And the great, low bass thunder, as it rolls

off over the hills, and settles down behind them to the very centre, and

you can feel the old earth jar under your feet!"

 

"There was no oratory in the speech of the _Learned Blacksmith_, in the

ordinary sense of that word, no grace of elocution, but mighty thoughts

radiating off from his heated mind, like sparks from the glowing steel of

his own anvil."

 

"The hard hands of Irish labor, with nothing in them,--they ring like

slabs of marble together, in response to the wild appeals of O'Connell,

and the British stand conquered before them, with shouldered arms.

Ireland is on her feet, with nothing in her hands, impregnable,

unassailable, in utter defencelessness,--the first time that ever a

nation sprung to its feet unarmed.  The veterans of England behold them,

and forbear to fire.  They see no mark.  It will not do to fire upon men;

it will do only to fire upon soldiers.  They are the proper mark of the

murderous gun, but men cannot be shot."

 

"It is coming to that [abolition of war] the world over; and when it does

come to it, oh what a long breath of relief the tired world will draw, as

it stretches itself for the first time out upon earth's greensward, and

learns the meaning of repose and peaceful sleep!"

 

"He who vests his labor in the faithful ground is dealing directly with

God; human fraud or weakness do not intervene between him and his

requital.  No mechanic has a set of customers so trustworthy as God and

the elements.  No savings bank is so sure as the old earth."

 

"Literature is the luxury of words.  It originates nothing, it does

nothing.  It talks hard words about the labor of others, and is reckoned

more meritorious for it than genius and labor for doing what learning can

only descant upon.  It trades on the capital of unlettered minds.  It

struts in stolen plumage, and it is mere plumage.  A learned man

resembles an owl in more respects than the matter of wisdom.  Like that

solemn bird, he is about all feathers."

 

"Our Second Advent friends contemplate a grand conflagration about the

first of April next.  I should be willing there should be one, if it

could be confined to the productions of the press, with which the earth

is absolutely smothered.  Humanity wants precious few books to read, but

the great living, breathing, immortal volume of Providence.  Life,--real

life,--how to live, how to treat one another, and how to trust God in

matters beyond our ken and occasion,--these are the lessons to learn, and

you find little of them in libraries."

 

"That accursed drum and fife!  How they have maddened mankind!  And the

deep bass boom of the cannon, chiming in in the chorus of battle, that

trumpet and wild charging bugle,--how they set the military devil in a

man, and make him into a soldier!  Think of the human family falling upon

one another at the inspiration of music!  How must God feel at it, to see

those harp-strings he meant should be waked to a love bordering on

divine, strung and swept to mortal hate and butchery!"

 

"Leave off being Jews," (he is addressing Major Noah with regard to his

appeal to his brethren to return to Judaea,) "and turn mankind.  The

rocks and sands of Palestine have been worshipped long enough.

Connecticut River or the Merrimac are as good rivers as any Jordan that

ever run into a dead or live sea, and as holy, for that matter.  In

Humanity, as in Christ Jesus, as Paul says, 'there is neither Jew nor

Greek.' And there ought to be none.  Let Humanity be reverenced with the

tenderest devotion; suffering, discouraged, down-trodden, hard-handed,

haggard-eyed, care-worn mankind!  Let these be regarded a little.  Would

to God I could alleviate all their sorrows, and leave them a chance to

laugh!  They are, miserable now.  They might be as happy as the blackbird

on the spray, and as full of melody."

 

"I am sick as death at this miserable struggle among mankind for a

living.  Poor devils! were they born to run such a gauntlet after the

means of life?  Look about you, and see your squirming neighbors,

writhing and twisting like so many angleworms in a fisher's bait-box, or

the wriggling animalculae seen in the vinegar drop held to the sun.  How

they look, how they feel, how base it makes them all!"

 

"Every human being is entitled to the means of life, as the trout is to

his brook or the lark to the blue sky.  Is it well to put a human 'young

one' here to die of hunger, thirst, and nakedness, or else be preserved

as a pauper?  Is this fair earth but a poor-house by creation and intent?

Was it made for that?--and these other round things we see dancing in

the firmament to the music of the spheres, are they all great shining

poor-houses?"

 

"The divines always admit things after the age has adopted them.  They

are as careful of the age as the weathercock is of the wind.  You might

as well catch an old experienced weathercock, on some ancient Orthodox

steeple, standing all day with its tail east in a strong out wind, as the

divines at odds with the age."

 

But we must cease quoting.  The admirers of Jean Paul Richter might find

much of the charm and variety of the "Flower, Fruit, and Thorn Pieces" in

this newspaper collection.  They may see, perhaps, as we do, some things

which they cannot approve of, the tendency of which, however intended, is

very questionable.  But, with us, they will pardon something to the

spirit of liberty, much to that of love and humanity which breathes

through all.

 

Disgusted and heart-sick at the general indifference of Church and clergy

to the temporal condition of the people,--at their apologies for and

defences of slavery, war, and capital punishment,--Rogers turned

Protestant, in the full sense of the term.  He spoke of priests and

"pulpit wizards" as freely as John Milton did two centuries ago,

although with far less bitterness and rasping satire.  He could not

endure to see Christianity and Humanity divorced.  He longed to see the

beautiful life of Jesus--his sweet humanities, his brotherly love, his

abounding sympathies--made the example of all men.  Thoroughly

democratic, in his view all men were equal.  Priests, stripped of their

sacerdotal tailoring, were in his view but men, after all.  He pitied

them, he said, for they were in a wrong position,--above life's comforts

and sympathies,--"up in the unnatural cold, they had better come down

among men, and endure and enjoy with them."  "Mankind," said he, "want

the healing influences of humanity.  They must love one another more.

Disinterested good will make the world as it should be."

 

His last visit to his native valley was in the autumn of 1845.  In a

familiar letter to a friend, he thus describes his farewell view of the

mountain glories of his childhood's home:--

 

"I went a jaunt, Thursday last, about twenty miles north of this valley,

into the mountain region, where what I beheld, if I could tell it as I

saw it, would make your outlawed sheet sought after wherever our Anglo-

Saxon tongue is spoken in the wide world.  I have been many a time among

those Alps, and never without a kindling of wildest enthusiasm in my

woodland blood.  But I never saw them till last Thursday.  They never

loomed distinctly to my eye before, and the sun never shone on them from

heaven till then.  They were so near me, I could seem to hear the voice

of their cataracts, as I could count their great slides, streaming adown

their lone and desolate sides,--old slides, some of them overgrown with

young woods, like half-healed scars on the breast of a giant.  The great

rains had clothed the valleys of the upper Pemigewasset in the darkest

and deepest green.  The meadows were richer and more glorious in their

thick 'fall feed' than Queen Anne's Garden, as I saw it from the windows

of Windsor Castle.  And the dark hemlock and hackmatack woods were yet

darker after the wet season, as they lay, in a hundred wildernesses, in

the mighty recesses of the mountains.  But the peaks,--the eternal, the

solitary, the beautiful, the glorious and dear mountain peaks, my own

Moosehillock and my native Haystacks,--these were the things on which eye

and heart gazed and lingered, and I seemed to see them for the last time.

It was on my way back that I halted and turned to look at them from a

high point on the Thornton road.  It was about four in the afternoon.  It

had rained among the hills about the Notch, and cleared off.  The sun,

there sombred at that early hour, as towards his setting, was pouring his

most glorious light upon the naked peaks, and they casting their mighty

shadows far down among the inaccessible woods that darken the hollows

that stretch between their bases.  A cloud was creeping up to perch and

rest awhile on the highest top of Great Haystack.  Vulgar folks have

called it Mount Lafayette, since the visit of that brave old Frenchman in

1825 or 1826.  If they had asked his opinion, he would have told them the

names of mountains couldn't be altered, and especially names like that,

so appropriate, so descriptive, and so picturesque.  A little hard white

cloud, that looked like a hundred fleeces of wool rolled into one, was

climbing rapidly along up the northwestern ridge, that ascended to the

lonely top of Great Haystack.  All the others were bare.  Four or five of

them,--as distinct and shapely as so many pyramids; some topped out with

naked cliff, on which the sun lay in melancholy glory; others clothed

thick all the way up with the old New Hampshire hemlock or the daring

hackmatack,--Pierpont's hackmatack.  You could see their shadows

stretching many and many a mile, over Grant and Location, away beyond the

invading foot of Incorporation,--where the timber-hunter has scarcely

explored, and where the moose browses now, I suppose, as undisturbed as

he did before the settlement of the State.  I wish our young friend and

genius, Harrison Eastman, had been with me, to see the sunlight as it

glared on the tops of those woods, and to see the purple of the

mountains.  I looked at it myself almost with the eye of a painter.  If a

painter looked with mine, though, he never could look off upon his canvas

long enough to make a picture; he would gaze forever at the original.

 

"But I had to leave it, and to say in my heart, Farewell!  And as I

travelled on down, and the sun sunk lower and lower towards the summit of

the western ridge, the clouds came up and formed an Alpine range in the

evening heavens above it,--like other Haystacks and Moosehillocks,--so

dark and dense that fancy could easily mistake them for a higher Alps.

There were the peaks and the great passes; the Franconia Notches among

the cloudy cliffs, and the great White Mountain Gap."

 

His health, never robust, had been gradually failing for some time

previous to his death.  He needed more repose and quiet than his duties

as an editor left him; and to this end he purchased a small and pleasant

farm in his loved Pennigewasset valley, in the hope that he might there

recruit his wasted energies.  In the sixth month of the year of his

death, in a letter to us, he spoke of his prospects in language which

even then brought moisture to our eyes:--

 

"I am striving to get me an asylum of a farm.  I have a wife and seven

children, every one of them with a whole spirit.  I don't want to be

separated from any of them, only with a view to come together again.  I

have a beautiful little retreat in prospect, forty odd miles north, where

I imagine I can get potatoes and repose,--a sort of haven or port.  I am

among the breakers, and 'mad for land.' If I get this home,--it is a mile

or two in among the hills from the pretty domicil once visited by

yourself and glorious Thompson,--I am this moment indulging the fancy

that I may see you at it before we die.  Why can't I have you come and

see me?  You see, dear W., I don't want to send you anything short of a

full epistle.  Let me end as I begun, with the proffer of my hand in

grasp of yours extended.  My heart I do not proffer,--it was yours

before,--it shall be yours while I am N. P. ROGERS."

 

Alas! the haven of a deeper repose than he had dreamed of was close at

hand.  He lingered until the middle of the tenth month, suffering much,

yet calm and sensible to the last.  Just before his death, he desired his

children to sing at his bedside that touching song of Lover's, _The

Angel's Whisper_.  Turning his eyes towards the open window, through

which the leafy glory of the season he most loved was visible, he

listened to the sweet melody.  In the words of his friend Pierpont,--

 

     "The angel's whisper stole in song upon his closing ear;

     From his own daughter's lips it came, so musical and clear,

     That scarcely knew the dying man what melody was there--

     The last of earth's or first of heaven's pervading all the air."

 

He sleeps in the Concord burial-ground, under the shadow of oaks; the

very spot he would have chosen, for he looked upon trees with something

akin to human affection.  "They are," he said, "the beautiful handiwork

and architecture of God, on which the eye never tires.  Every one is

a feather in the earth's cap, a plume in her bonnet, a tress on her

forehead,--a comfort, a refreshing, and an ornament to her."  Spring has

hung over him her buds, and opened beside him her violets.  Summer has

laid her green oaken garland on his grave, and now the frost-blooms of

autumn drop upon it.  Shall man cast a nettle on that mound?  He loved

humanity,--shall it be less kind to him than Nature?  Shall the bigotry

of sect, and creed, and profession, drive its condemnatory stake into his

grave?  God forbid.  The doubts which he sometimes unguardedly expressed

had relation, we are constrained to believe, to the glosses of

commentators and creed-makers and the inconsistency of professors, rather

than to those facts and precepts of Christianity to which he gave the

constant assent of his practice.  He sought not his own.  His heart

yearned with pity and brotherly affection for all the poor and suffering

in the universe.  Of him, the angel of Leigh Hunt's beautiful allegory

might have written, in the golden book of remembrance, as he did of the

good Abou Ben Adhem, "He loved his fellow-men."

 

 

 

 

 

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