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the main kind, and certainly never thought of being severe beyond what was necessary to maintain a proper degree of order in the family.
“ The other boys in that part of the country, my schoolmates and playfellows, were educated on the same system. Yet there were at that time some indications that this very severe discipline was beginning to relax. With my father and mother I was on much easier terms than with my grandfather. If a favor was to be asked of my grandfather, it was asked with fear and trembling ; the request was postponed to the last moment, and then made with hesitation and blushes and a confused utterance.
“One of the means of keeping the boys of that generation in order was a little bundle of birchen rods, bound together by a small cord, and generally suspended on a nail against the wall in the kitchen. This was esteemed as much a part of the necessary furniture as the crane that hung in the kitchen fireplace, or the shovel and tongs. It sometimes happened that the boy suffered a fate similar to that of the eagle in the fable, wounded by an arrow fledged with a feather from his own wing ; in other words, the boy was made to gather the twigs intended for his own castigation.
The awe in which the boys of that time held their parents extended to all elderly persons, toward whom our behavior was more than merely respectful, for we all observed a hushed and subdued demeanor in their presence. Toward the ministers of the Gospel this behavior was particularly marked. At that time every township in Massachusetts, the State in which I lived, had its minister, who was settled there for life, and when he once came ainong his people was understood to have entered into a connection with them scarcely less lasting than the marriage-tie. The community in which he lived regarded him with great veneration, and the visits which from time to time he made to the district schools seemed to the boys important occasions, for which special preparation was made. When he came to visit the school which I attended, we all had on our Sunday clothes, and were ready for him with a few answers to the questions in the 'Westminster Catechism.' He heard us recite our lessons, examined us in the catechism, and then began a little address, which I remember was the same on every occasion. He told us how much greater were the advantages of education which we enjoyed than those which had fallen to the lot of our parents, and exhorted us to make the best possible use of them, both for our own sakes and that of our parents, who were ready to make any sacrifice for us, even so far as to take the bread out of their own mouths to give us. I remember being disgusted with this illustration of parental kindness, which I was obliged to listen to twice at least in every year.
The good man had, perhaps, less reason than he supposed to magnify the advantages of education enjoyed in the common schools at that time. Reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic, with a little grammar and a little geography, were all that was taught, and these by persons much less qualified, for the most part, than those who now give instruction. Those, however, who wished to proceed further took lessons from graduates of the colleges, who were then much more numerous in proportion to the population than they now are.
“One of the entertainments of the boys of my time was what were called the 'raisings,' meaning the erection of the timber-frames of houses or barns, to which the boards were to be afterward nailed. Here the minister made a point of being present, and hither the ablebodied men of the neighbərhood, the young men especially, were summoned, and took part in the work with great alacrity. It was a spectacle for us next to that of a performer on the tight-rope to see the young men walk steadily on the narrow footing of the beams at a great height from the ground, or as they stood to catch in their hands the wooden pins and the braces flung to them from below. They vied with each other in the dexterity and daring with which they went through with the work, and when the skeleton of the building was put together, some one among them generally capped the climax of fearless activity by standing on the ridge-pole with his head downward and his heels in the air. At that time even the presence of the minister was no restraint upon the flow of milk-punch and grog, which, in some cases, was taken to excess. The practice of calling the neighbors to these
raisings ’ is now discontinued in the rural neighborhoods ; the carpenters provide their own workmen for the business of adjusting the timbers of the new building to each other, and there is no consumption of grog.
“Another of the entertainments of rustic life in the region of which I am speaking was the making of maple sugar. This was a favorite frolic of the boys.
“In autumn, the task of stripping the husks from the ears of Indian corn was made the occasion of social meetings, in which the boys took a special part. A farmer would appoint what was called ' a husking,' to which he invited his neighbors. The ears of maize in the husk, sometimes along with part of the stalk, were heaped on the barn floor. In the evening lanterns were brought, and, seated on piles of dry husks, the men and boys stripped the ears of their covering, and, breaking them from the stem with a sudden jerk, threw them into baskets placed for the purpose. It was often a merry time : the gossip of the neighborhood was talked over, stories were told, jests went round, and at the proper hour the assembly adjourned to the dwelling-house, and were treated to punipkin-pie and cider, which in that season had not been so long from the press as to have parted with its sweetness.
Quite as cheerful were the 'apple-parings,' which on autumn evenings brought together
young people of both sexes in little circles. The fruit of the orchards was pared and quartered and the core extracted, and a supply of apples in this state provided for making what was called ' apple-sauce,' a kind of preserve of which every family laid in a large quantity every year.
“The cider-making season in autumn was, at the time of which I am speaking, somewhat correspondent to the vintage in the wine countries of Europe. Large tracts of land in New England were overshadowed by rows of apple-trees, and in the month of May a journey through that region was a journey through a wilderness of bloom. In the month of October the whole population was busy gathering apples under the trees, from which they fell in heavy showers as the branches were shaken by the strong arms of the farmers. The creak of the cider-mill, turned by a horse moving in a circle, was heard in every neighborhood as one of the most common of rural sounds. The freshly-pressed juice of the apples was most agreeable to boyish tastes, and the whole process of gathering the fruit and making the cider came in among the more laborious rural occupations in a way which diversified them pleasantly, and which made it seem a pastime. The time that was given to making cider, and the number of barrels made and stored in the cellars of the farm-houses, would now seem incredible. A hundred barrels to a single farm was no uncommon proportion, and the quantity swallowed by the men of that day led to the habits of intemperance which at length alarmed the more thoughtful part of the community, and gave occasion to the formation of temperance societies and the introduction of better habits.
“ The streams which bickered through the narrow glens of the region in which I lived were much better stocked with trout in those days than now, for the country had been newly opened to settlement. The boys all were anglers. I confess to having felt a strong interest in that 'sport,' as I no longer call it. I have long since been weaned from the propensity of which I speak; but I have no doubt that the instinct which inclines so many to it, and some of them our grave divines, is a remnant of the original wild nature of man.
“I have not mentioned other sports and games of the boys of that day ; that is to say, of seventy or eighty years since—such as wrestling, running, leaping, base-ball, and the like, for in these there was nothing to distinguish them from the same pastimes at the present day. There were no public lectures at that time on subjects of general interest ; the profession of public lecturer was then unknown, and eminent men were not solicited, as they now are, to appear before audiences in distant parts of the country, and gratify the curiosity of strangers by letting them hear the sound of their voices. But the men of those days were far more given to attendance on public worship than those who now occupy their place, and of course they took their boys with them.
“Every parish had its tything-men, two in number generally, whose business it was to maintain order in the church during divine service, and who sat with a stern countenance through the sermon, keeping a vigilant eye on the boys in the distant pews and in the galleries. Sometimes, when he detected two of them communicating with each other, he went to one of them, took him by the button, and, leading him away, seated him beside himself. His power extended to other delinquencies. He was directed by law to see that the Sabbath was not profaned by people wandering in the fields and angling in the brooks. At that time a law, no longer in force, directed that any person who absented himself unnecessarily from public worship for a certain length of time should pay a fine into the treasury of the county. I remember several persons of whom it was said that they had been compelled to pay this fine, but I do not remember any of them who went to church afterward.”
Bryant's education was continued under his uncle the Rev. Thomas Snell,* of Brookfield, in whose family he lived and studied for one year; and by the Rev. Moses Hallock, of Plainfield, he was prepared for college. One of his surviving brothers remembers that when the young poet came home on visits from his uncle Snell's
“Parson Hallock's,'' he was in the habit of playing at games with them, and of amusing them in various ways; that he excelled as a runner and had many successful running contests with his college classmates ; also that he was accustomed on his home visits to declaim, for the entertainment of the family circle, some of his own compositions, both in prose and verse. He was when studying with the pastor, a small, delicate, and handsome youth, very shy and reserved, and a great reader, devouring every volume that he could meet with, and resembling the hero of Waverley in " driving through a sea of books like a vessel without pilot or rudder." IIe was, I am also told by one who studied with him at that time, —now nearly seventy years ago, ----a natural scholar like his father, and although but fifteen, he had already accumulated a vast stock of information. In a letter to the Rev. H. Seymour, of Northampton, Massachusetts, published since Mr. Bryant's death, he speaks as follows of his early studies of Greek. “I began with the Greek alphabet, passed to the declensions and conjugations, which I committed to memory, and was put into the Gospel of St. John. In two calendar months from the time of beginning with the powers of the Greek alphabet I had read every book in the New Testament. I supposed, at the time, that I had made pretty good progress, but do not even now know whether that was very extraordinary.” He found more pleasure in books, and in silent rambles among the hills and valleys, than in the usual sports and pastimes of youth of that age.
In October, 1810, when in his sixteenth year, he entered the sophomore class of Williams College. He continued his studies there during one winter with the same
* Dr. Snell was pastor of the North Parish of Brookfield for sixty-four years.
ardor as before, but not with the same enthusiasm or pleasure. He did not like
Judge Sedgwick, under date Sharon, July 3d, writes :
“I have your favor asking me to give you some of my recollections of the college life of my classmate W. C. Bryant. It gives me great pleasure to comply with your request, so far as I am able ; but the short time during which he remained a member of the college could not be productive of many events of very great interest. Since his decease, many incorrect statements in relation to this portion of his history have gone forth, most of them intimating that he was a member of the college for two years.
The truth is that, having entered the sophomore class in October, 1810, and then having continued his membership for two terms, he took a dismission in May, 1811, intending to complete his collegiate education at Yale College. As stated above, he entered our class at the commencement of the sophomore year. His room-mate was John Avery, of Conway, Mass., who was some eight years his senior in age. Bryant had not then attained to the physical dimensions which he afterwards reached, but his bodily structure was remarkably regular and systematic. He had a prolific growth of dark brown hair, and I do not remember ever to have known a person in whom the progress of years made so great a difference in personal appearance as it did in the case of Mr. Bryant. I met him twice near the close of his life at Williams College Commencements, and if I had not seen pictures of him as he appeared in old age, I would hardly have been persuaded of his identity with the Bryant I knew in early life.
“When he entered college, it was known that he was the reputed author of two or three short poems which had recently been published, and which indicated decidedly promising talent on the part of their author. When spoken to in relation to these poetical effusions, he was reticent and modest, and in fact his modesty in everything was a peculiar trait of his character. It was very difficult to obtain from him any specimens of his talent as a poet. One exercise demanded of the students was the occasional writing of a composition, to be read to the tutor in presence of the class, and once Bryant, in fulfilling this requirement, read a short poem which received the decided approval of the tutor, and once he translated one of the Odes of Horace which he showed to a few personal friends. Those were the only examples of his poetry that I now remember of his furnishing during his college life. It may be stated here that the tutor who instructed Mr. Bryant in college was the Rev. Orange Lyman, who was afterwards the Presbyterian clergyman at Vernon, Oneida County, N. Y.
Bryant, during all his college experience, was remarkably quiet, pleasant, and unobtrusive in his manners, and studious in the literary course. His lessons were all well mastered, and not a single event occurred during his residence which received the least disapproval of the faculty.
' Your letter reminds me of the fact that there are but very few persons left who knew Mr. Bryant in college. 'The Flood of Years' has swept them all away except the Rev.
Herman Halsey, of the class of 1811, who yet survives in Western New York, and my classmate the Rev. E. D. Barrett, of Missouri, and myself. If I live to see the first day of September, I shall have completed eighty-three years of life."
The Rev. E. D. Barrett, under date Sedalia, Missouri, July 9th, writes :
“I well remember Bryant's first appearance at college in my sophomore year. Many of the class were assembled in one of our rooms when he presented himself. A friendly greeting passed round the circle, and all seemed to enjoy the arrival of the young stranger and poet. News of Mr. Bryant's precocious intellect, his poetical genius, and his literary taste had preceded his arrival. He was looked up to with great respect, and regarded as an honor to the class of which he had become a member, and to the college which had now received him as his alma mater. I was the poet's senior by more than four years, having been born in January, 1790, and am, with the single exception of Charles F. Sedgwick, the sole survivor of the Williams College class of 1813.”
No American poet has equalled Bryant in early poetic development. In that particular he surpassed Pope and Cowley and Byron. * At the age of nine we find him composing tolerably clever verses, and four years later writing "The Embargo,” a political as well as a poetical satire upon the Jeffersonian party of that day. The poem is also remarkable as having manifested at that early age a political order of mind which continued to develop in an equal ratio with his poetical nature through life. That mind, indeed, taking higher range, was not active in the turmoils and schemes of politicians ; but it investigated the great questions of political economy, and grappled with principles of the gravest moment to society and humanity.
“ The Embargo ; or, Sketch of the Times, a Satire,” we could easily imagine had been written in 1878, instead of seventy-one years ago, when, our fathers tell us, demagogism was unknown :
“E'en while I sing, see Faction urge her claim,
Mislead with falsehood, and with zeal inflame;
This poem, printed in Boston, attracted the public attention, and the edition was soon sold. To the second edition, containing “The Spanish Revolution" and several other juvenile pieces, f was prefixed this curious advertisement, dated February, 1809 :
* The Saturday Review of June 22d says, The death of Bryant does not indeed deprive America of her oldest poet-for the memorable Dana still survives—but even Mr. Dana can hardly have published verses earlier than the ‘Infantalia’ of Mr. Bryant. He lisped in numbers which were duly printed when he was but ten years of age, and in his early lines, published in 1804, shows a precocity as great as that of the late Bishop of St. David's” _Dr. Connop Thirlwall.
† Mr. Bryant, in a note to the writer, says, “ the first edition of my poem called 'The Embargo' did not contain any other poems. They were added in the second edition.”