صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

And there, in constant murmurs fell

The placid, shining main ;
A haunting sound, a mighty spell,

To lull the aching brain.
To lay the fev'rish thought to rest

To hush the rising groan,
And harmonise man's jarring breast

With Nature's solemn tone.
And still the bounteous Ocean threw

Its treasures to the day;
A thousand shells of burnish'd hue,

Made glorious the way.
And when the light of starry skies

Was trembling on the sea,
The Mermaid from her cave would rise

And warble melody.
And oft across the main would float

A strange and solemn swell-
The wild, fantastic, fitful note

Of Triton's breathing shell.
And sounding still that music sweet,

The sea in silver spray
Would break beneath the sea-nymphs' feet,

And glitter in the ray.
In ev'ry star, in every air,

In ev'ry sound and sight,
A look and voice of love was there,

And peacefullest delight.
And pond'ring on that lovely scene

Of land and sea and sky,
The dearest, fondest thought had been,

To ebb away and die.
That dying, we might seek the spring

Whence flow'd the tide of good-
And bathe the spirit's earth-clogg'd wing

In that immortal flood.

Oh! Nature, beautiful and wise!

Thus, be it ever givin-
That we may read within thine eyes

The promises of Heav'n.

That with a love, as deep, as true,

As sinless and intense
As ever youthful bridegroom knew

For plighted innocence-
We still may woo thy truthful gaze,

May listen to thy voice ;
Assured the bliss of after-days

In thee, our early choice.
So, loving thee, this life 's a feast

By Peace and Plenty spread ;-
And Death himself a Holy Priest,

The grave-a bridal bed.




A GENTLEMAN travelling, about a dozen years ago, among the picturesque but seldom-trodden wilds of the mountains of Cibao, in the interior of Haiti, stopped, at the close of evening, to rest his horse and refresh and shelter himself for the night, at a small inn by the roadside. This inn proved to be the property of a Mustee woman, about fifty years of age, who had formerly been a mistress of the first black Emperor of Haiti, Jean Jacques Dessalines ; and who, on the traveller entering into conversation with her, told him some striking incidents in Dessalines' life not generally known. Her story, such as it was, is now laid before the reader, interlarded with other facts, heard from the natives of Haiti, concerning the Emperor's co-labourers, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Christophe, and others.

It is necessary to preface anything relating to Dessalines with some short account of the state of the island of St. Domingo before the breaking out of the Revolution in 1791. When the colonists elected themselves to legislative functions, on the dismemberment of France, the mulattoes, on account of their colour, were excluded from all share in the government of the island, though many were men of property and of the highest education ; and this, more than the slavery of the negroes (as is generally supposed), was the cause of those horrible events which subsequently occurred. A great many of the yellow people leaving the colony settled in the mother country, and in Paris enrolled themselves into a society called “ Amis des Noirs." Those who remained in St. Domingo, devoted entirely to the race of their mothers, repeatedly expressed to the blacks their anxious desire to see them free. This conduct caused many negroes to rebel, and sundry mulattoes were, there. fore, brought to trial, and executed. Among the first of those who thus suffered was Ogé. He had particularly endeared himself to the sons and daughters of Africa, by taking a very active part to procure their emancipation ; and he had been long and early loved by Dessalines. On the morning that he was hanged, Dessalines was one of the throng of blacks collected on the Plaine du Nord to witness his execution. The poor negroes fell overwhelmed by the stroke of Ogé's death ; one in particular, overcome by the misfortune, had broken out into a fit of weeping, when a short, stout negro, about forty years of age, with something very remarkable in his appearance, came up behind him and touched him on his shoulder. Looking up, the negro met the glance of the stranger's meditative eye.

“ Why do they hang that man ? ” said the other, pointing towards Ogé.

The negro replied that he did not know, but he believed because the lawyers said that he had stolen, or, rather, got things that the negroes had stolen, and bought with them a small country-house.

“ What then?” exclaimed the other, in a commanding but stern tone of voice. Do you not think that white men also buy stolen things? There stands your master ; go and tell the constable Run-hold-him-fast!' He knew you were stolen from your father and mother, yet he bought you. Well, if the black rascal is to be hanged for stolen things, I hope the white rascal will be hanged too, for the same thing,—when we catch him.

Uttering the last few words in a significant tone, he turned on his heel and disappeared.

It was Dessalines- ma man-as the above speech is sufficient to prove him to have been-of a wild and flighty mind, but yet of a composed and melancholy behaviour. His spirits, at this period, were much relaxed by his heart resting entirely on the vague and shadowy, but strong and overpowering, hope of the independence of Haiti and universal liberty. He worked pensively at his tasks,

and was at times unboundedly irritable-sickening with impatience at the delay of that relief for the negroes which he so ardently coveted. Whenever he was from home and he was often absent from his master-he was rendering himself romantically intimate with negroes of similar dispositions, and to them he laid bare his whole heart. So time rolled on.

It was the noon of May-day, 1791, and the sun was blazing on the deserted quay which overlooks the bay of Cape Français. The sea-breeze was rustling through the foliage of the tall palm and cocoa-nut trees which shaded the pleasant Esplanade, and the gay tri-coloured flag was fluttering round the Vigie, or signal post on one of the summits of Morne du Cap. Suddenly a negro, of a highly intelligent expression of countenance, drest in a linen shirt and trousers, and carrying a basket of fruit on his head, descended the hill side, from one of the pretty country-houses along the road to the village of Limbé. Arrived on the spacious and well-paved quay, he stationed himself under the shade of a tamarind tree, and, standing still for several seconds, examined every object carefully, when suddenly casting up his eyes, he saw on the roof of a small house, at the corner of the Rue St. Joseph, a middle-aged negro, short, stout, and with a strongly-made frame, driving nails into boards, and hammering shingles on to the roofing of the edifice. Recognising Dessalines in the black carpenter, he entered into conversation with him. He spoke of the hanging of Ogé, and of the breaking on the wheel of Chavane ; of 4000 negroes rising and making a stand in behalf of their race against the French soldiers on the plantation of Monsieur Latour on the plain of Cul-de-Sac ; of 2000 more rebelling in the same cause in the parish of Mirelabbais, burning sugar, cotton, and coffee plantations, and killing the whites indiscriminately.

* continued the negro, they are going to Port-au-Prince, to burn that also, and, as my master says, to grab hold of everything they can.'”

So it is always,” here exclaimed, in a fiery manner, Dessalines, who had hitherto been listening with patience to what his friend had been saying to him. “ When black men go together in a body, the white men say they steal everything. Well; and the white men-Do they steal nothing? Your master, now, I will be bound, does not give you food enough. Say to him, — Sir, you starve me ; give me more.' He will tell you the American privateers steal all the vessels laden with provisions.

“ He says so.”

- And now,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Ay; and a very good story 'tis, when told twice or thrice ; but, told over again and again, for a hundred times, who believes the truth of it? Your master is a robber of your provisions. Hearken !" continued Dessalines, striking the shingles passionately with his hammer, “if the American privateer every day steals the vessel with herrings and salt-fish, why does he never steal the vessel with the grabbing-hoe and the pick-axe, the saw and the hammer?

A new light flashed across his countenance.

- There! I have done with the work of masters for ever!” he cried, in a loud angry tone, and tossing, furiously, his hammer into the middle of the street beneath him, and commencing to descend the ladder. “Come,” said he to the other, “ do you, too, leave

your master's work, and join with me these black men who steal everything. And woe to the white men and the masters of St. Domingo!

Early next morning, these two negroes having effected their escape from their masters, and assumed (what is common among the blacks) their proprietors' names, which were Dessalines and Christophe, were climbing the sides of the lofty mountains, near the source of the river La Trouble, on the verge of the Spanish possessions. It was about an hour before daybreak, and the air was perfectly calm. Occasionally, a sudden and confused noise, like the shrieks of women and children, spread up from the neighbouring villages and plantations at the foot of the mountains. Suddenly Christophe stopped, and laying his hand on the other's


“Hush !” said he, “Listen !

Dessalines (as we must henceforth call the black carpenter) listened attentively. Through the breathless air, sounds, like the barking of powerful dogs, proceeding from a great distance, burst from the opposite side of the mountains.

“ Here come bloodhounds! he observed, in a subdued but excited tone of voice. “We are certainly lost unless we climb some tree.

Here is a wild fig. In its boughs only can we hope for safety. Climb."

They clambered up into the tree with nimble agility, and reached almost the topmost boughs. Scarcely had they laid themselves down straight on one of the vast limbs of the gigantic wild tig, keeping their heads against the bark, and entirely concealing their bodies from the sight of any one below, when some unhappy

« السابقةمتابعة »