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XII.-AN AMERICAN WILDERNESS.
In the year 1831, two young Frenchmen, De Tocqueville and Beaumont. traveled from Pontiac, in Michigan, to Saginaw, through what was then an uncleared wilderness. The fidelity of the following description, by the former, of an American "forest primeval," will be recognized by all who have witnessed a similar scene.
1. As we proceeded we gradually lost sight of the traces of man. Soon all proofs even of savage life disappeared, and before us was the scene that we had so long been seeking—a virgin forest. Growing in the middle of the thin brushwood, through which objects are perceived at a considerable distance, was a single clump of full-grown trees, almost all pines or oaks. Confined to so narrow a space and deprived of sunshine, each of these trees had run up rapidly in search of air and light. As straight as the mast of a ship, the most rapid grower had overtopped every surrounding object; only when it had attained a higher region did it venture to spread out its branches and clothe itself with leaves. Others followed quickly in this elevated sphere, and the whole group, interlacing their boughs, formed a sort of immense canopy. Underneath this damp, motionless vault the scene is different.
2. Majesty and order are overhead-near the ground all is chaos and confusion; aged trunks, incapable of supporting any longer their branches, are shattered in the middle, presenting nothing but a sharp, jagged point. Others, long loosened by the wind, have been thrown unbroken on the ground. Torn up from the earth, their roots form a natural barricade behind which several men might easily find shelter. Huge trees, sustained by the surrounding branches, hang in mid-air and crumble into dust without reaching the ground.
3. There is no district in France so scantily peopled as to make it possible for a forest to be so completely abandoned that the trees, after quietly fulfilling the purpose of their existence, attain old age undisturbed, and at last perish from natural decay. Civilized man strikes them while yet in their prime, and clears the ground of their remains. In the solitude of America all-powerful Nature is the only instrument
of ruin, as well as of reproduction. Here, as well as in the forests over which man rules, death strikes continually, but there is no one to clear away the remains; they accumulate day by day. They fall, they are heaped upon one another. Time alone does not work fast enough to reduce them to dust, so as to make way for their successors. Side by side lie several generations of the dead. Some, in the last stage of dissolution, have left on the grass a long line of red dust as the only trace of their presence; others, already half consumed by time, still preserve their outward shape. Others, again, fallen only yesterday, stretch their long branches over the traveler's path.
4. I have often at sea enjoyed one of the calm, serene evenings, when the sails, flapping idly against the mast, leave the crew in ignorance even of the quarter whence the breeze will rise. The perfect repose of nature is as striking in the wilderness as on the ocean. When at noonday the sun's rays penetrate the forest, there is often heard a long sob, a kind of plaintive cry echoing in the distance. It is the last breath of the expiring breeze. Deep silence ensues, and such absolute stillness as fills the mind with a kind of superstitious awe. The traveler stops to contemplate the scene.
5. Pressed against one another, their boughs interlaced, the trees seem to form one vast indestructible edifice, under whose arches reigns perpetual darkness. Around are violence and destruction, shattered trees and torn trunks, the traces of long elemental war. But the struggle is suspended. It seems to have been suddenly arrested, as if by the fiat of a supernatural Being. Half-broken branches seem to hold by some invisible link to the trunk that no longer supports them; trees torn from their roots hang in the air as if they had not had time to reach the ground.
6. The traveler holds his breath to catch the faintest sound of life. No noise, not even a whisper, reaches him. You may be lost in a European forest, but some noise belonging to life is audible. You hear a church-bell, or a woodman's axe, or the report of a gun, or the barking of a dog, or, at any rate, the indistinct hum of civilized life. Here, not only man is absent, but
the voice of no animal is to be heard. The smaller ones have sought the neighborhood of human dwellings, and the larger have fled to a still greater distance; the few that remain hide in the shade. Thus all is motionless, all is silent, beneath the leafy arch. It seems as if the Creator had for a moment withdrawn his countenance and all nature had become paralyzed.
7. This was not the only time that we noticed the resemblance of the forest to the ocean. In each case the idea of immensity besets you. The succession of similar scenes, their continual monotony, overpowers the imagination. Perhaps even the sensation of loneliness and desolation, which op-pressed us in the middle of the Atlantic, was felt by us still more strongly and acutely in the deserts of the New World. At sea the voyager sees the horizon to which he is steering. He sees the sky. His view is bounded only by the powers of the human eye. But what is there to indicate a path across the leafy ocean? In vain you may climb the lofty trees; others still higher will surround you. In vain you climb a hill; everywhere the forest follows you the forest which extends before you to the Arctic Pole and to the Pacific Ocean. You may travel thousands of miles beneath its shade, and, though always advancing, never appear to stir from the same spot. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
SELECT ETYMOLOGIES.-Absolute, unconditional, self-existent, etc.: L. absolu'tus, p. p. of absolvo, I loose from; fr. ab and sol'vo, solu'tum, to loose; h., ab-solve, dis-solve, dis-solute, in-soluble, in-solvent, re-solve, solve, solvent, etc. . . . Accumulate: L. ad and cum'ulo, I heap. Attain: L. at-ad and ten'eo, I hold: v. TENURE. . . . Barricade: Fr. barrique, a cask; an entrenchment originally made of casks. Canopy L. cano'pium, a net of gauze to keep off gnats. . . . Confine: L. con and fi'nis, boundary, end: v. DEFINITE. . . . Desolation: L. de and sol'us, alone. . . . Destruction: L. destru'o, destruc'tum, to pull or tear down; fr. de and stru'o, I pile up.... Horizon: Gr. hōri'zein, to bound. . . . Immense: L. immen'sus; fr. im- in-, not, and men'sus, p. p. of me'tior, I measure; mensu'ra, a measure; h., com-mensurate, di-mension, measure, mete, meter, etc. Monotony: Gr. mon'õs, only, and tŏn'õs, tone. . . . Paralysis: Gr. para and lu’ein, to loosen. Penetrate: L. pen'etro, penetra'tum; fr. pen'itus, inward; h., im-penetrable. Perfect: L. perfec'tum; fr. per, through, fă'cio, factum, to make. . . . Proceed: L. pro, forward, ce'do, I move. . . . Superstition: L. supersti'tio; fr. su'per, over, sto, I stand; orig., a standing over something as if in awe; h., false reverence.