Wolfert's Roost and Miscellanies by Washington Irving


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Page 3

I have become possessor of the Roost! I have repaired and renovated it
with religious care, in the genuine Dutch style, and have adorned and
illustrated it with sundry reliques of the glorious days of the New
Netherlands. A venerable weathercock, of portly Dutch dimensions,
which once battled with the wind on the top of the Stadt-House of New
Amsterdam, in the time of Peter Stuyvesant, now erects its crest on
the gable end of my edifice; a gilded horse in full gallop, once the
weathercock of the great Vander Heyden Palace of Albany, now glitters in
the sunshine, and veers with every breeze, on the peaked turret over
my portal; my sanctum sanctorum is the chamber once honored by the
illustrious Diedrich, and it is from his elbow-chair, and his identical
old Dutch writing-desk, that I pen this rambling epistle.

Here, then, have I set up my rest, surrounded by the recollections of
early days, and the mementoes of the historian of the Manhattoes, with
that glorious river before me, which flows with such majesty through his
works, and which has ever been to me a river of delight.

I thank God I was born on the banks of the Hudson! I think it an
invaluable advantage to be born and brought up in the neighborhood of
some grand and noble object in nature; a river, a lake, or a mountain.
We make a friendship with it, we in a manner ally ourselves to it for
life. It remains an object of our pride and affections, a rallying
point, to call us home again after all our wanderings. "The things which
we have learned in our childhood," says an old writer, "grow up with our
souls, and unite themselves to it." So it is with the scenes among which
we have passed our early days; they influence the whole course of our
thoughts and feelings; and I fancy I can trace much of what is good and
pleasant in my own heterogeneous compound to my early companionship with
this glorious river. In the warmth of my youthful enthusiasm, I used to
clothe it with moral attributes, and almost to give it a soul. I admired
its frank, bold, honest character; its noble sincerity and perfect
truth. Here was no specious, smiling surface, covering the dangerous
sand-bar or perfidious rock; but a stream deep as it was broad, and
bearing with honorable faith the bark that trusted to its waves. I
gloried in its simple, quiet, majestic, epic flow; ever straight
forward. Once, indeed, it turns aside for a moment, forced from its
course by opposing mountains, but it struggles bravely through them, and
immediately resumes its straightforward march. Behold, thought I, an
emblem of a good man's course through life; ever simple, open, and
direct; or if, overpowered by adverse circumstances, he deviate into
error, it is but momentary; he soon recovers his onward and honorable
career, and continues it to the end of his pilgrimage.

Excuse this rhapsody, into which I have been betrayed by a revival of
early feelings. The Hudson is, in a manner, my first and last love; and
after all my wanderings and seeming infidelities, I return to it with a
heart-felt preference over all the other rivers in the world. I seem
to catch new life as I bathe in its ample billows and inhale the pure
breezes of its hills. It is true, the romance of youth is past, that
once spread illusions over every scene. I can no longer picture an
Arcadia in every green valley; nor a fairy land among the distant
mountains; nor a peerless beauty in every villa gleaming among the
trees; but though the illusions of youth have faded from the landscape,
the recollections of departed years and departed pleasures shed over it
the mellow charm of evening sunshine.

Permit me, then, Mr. Editor, through the medium of your work, to
hold occasional discourse from my retreat with the busy world I have
abandoned. I have much to say about what I have seen, heard, felt, and
thought through the course of a varied and rambling life, and some
lucubrations that have long been encumbering my portfolio; together with
divers reminiscences of the venerable historian of the New Netherlands,
that may not be unacceptable to those who have taken an interest in his
writings, and are desirous of any thing that may cast a light back upon
our early history. Let your readers rest assured of one thing, that,
though retired from the world, I am not disgusted with it; and that if
in my communings with it I do not prove very wise, I trust I shall at
least prove very good-natured.

Which is all at present, from

Yours, etc.,

GEOFFREY CRAYON.

* * * * *

TO THE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Dec 2019, 21:37