January 2

January 2, 1863

Friday. Peter Carlo, the one who went through the medical examination at Hudson with me, died last night. He was found dead this morning and appeared to have suffered terribly. His eyes and mouth were staring wide open and his face looked as if he had been tortured to death. Companies A and B keep in advance on the sick list.

January 2, 1864

Saturday. As might have been expected, our half-burned tent kept out but little of the cold. To-day we have drawn a new one and put it up in a place more protected from the wind, and have left the old one standing for a store room. It has been a busy day in camp, for all hands have been trying to make themselves comfortable in any way they can think of. Tactic school again to-night, and that is all there is to say for the miserable day it has been.

Another day of the new year has passed but a very busy one for me. It has been very cold all day. This afternoon I have been papering my hut so our quarters are quite comfortable now. The band has been out this evening and played some very pretty pieces, and I am thankful for it relieves the monotony of dull camp life. This evening Lieut. D. G. Hill and Captain Goodrich, the brigade Quartermaster, called; they were in fine spirits. It is bitter cold, but no wind as last night; have received no letters which of course is provoking.

Saturday, January 2nd, 12 noon.—Just loading up for Havre with many of the same men we brought down from Béthune on Sunday; it seems as if we might just as well have taken them straight down to Havre. They look clean now, and have lost the trench look.

Have been asked to say how extra-excellent the Xmas cake was; we finished it yesterday, ditto the Tiptree jam.

It is a week on Monday since we had any mails.

There is a Major of ours on the train, getting a lift to Havre, who is specialist in pathology, and he has been investigating the bacillus of malignant œdema and of spreading gangrene. They are hunting anærobes (Sir Almroth Wright at Boulogne and a big French Professor in Paris) for a vaccine against this, which has been persistently fatal. This man knew of two cases who were, as he puts it, "good cases for dying," and therefore good cases for trying his theory on. Both got well, began to recover within eight hours. And one of them was my re-enlisted Warwickshire man with the arm amputated, who was got out by the wounded officer and the Padre.

January 2

January 2, 1875. (Hyères.)--In spite of my sleeping draught I have had a bad night. Once it seemed as if I must choke, for I could breathe neither way.

Could I be more fragile, more sensitive, more vulnerable! People talk to me as if there were still a career before me, while all the time I know that the ground is slipping from under me, and that the defense of my health is already a hopeless task. At bottom, I am only living on out of complaisance and without a shadow of self-delusion. I know that not one of my desires will be realized, and for a long time I have had no desires at all. I simply accept what comes to me as though it were a bird perching on my window. I smile at it, but I know very well that my visitor has wings and will not stay long. The resignation which comes from despair has a kind of melancholy sweetness. It looks at life as a man sees it from his death-bed, and judges it without bitterness and without vain regrets.

I no longer hope to get well, or to be useful, or to be happy. I hope that those who have loved me will love me to the end; I should wish to have done them some good, and to leave them a tender memory of myself. I wish to die without rebellion and without weakness; that is about all. Is this relic of hope and of desire still too much? Let all be as God will. I resign myself into his hands.

January Second

... In a word,
Mars and Minerva both in him concurred
For arts, for arms, whose pen and sword alike,
As Cato's did, may admiration strike
Into his foes; while they confess withal
It was their guilt styled him a criminal....
From Epitaph by “His Man”

 

In this epitaph we have what is in all probability the single poem in any true sense—the single product of sustained poetic art—that was written in America for a hundred and fifty years after the settlement of Jamestown.

William P. Trent

 

Nathaniel Bacon, “The First American Rebel,” born, 1647

 

 

January 2

January 2, 1880.--A sense of rest, of deep quiet even. Silence within and without. A quietly-burning fire. A sense of comfort. The portrait of my mother seems to smile upon me. I am not dazed or stupid, but only happy in this peaceful morning. Whatever may be the charm of emotion, I do not know whether it equals the sweetness of those hours of silent meditation, in which we have a glimpse and foretaste of the contemplative joys of paradise. Desire and fear, sadness and care, are done away. Existence is reduced to the simplest form, the most ethereal mode of being, that is, to pure self-consciousness. It is a state of harmony, without tension and without disturbance, the dominical state of the soul, perhaps the state which awaits it beyond the grave. It is happiness as the orientals understand it, the happiness of the anchorite, who neither struggles nor wishes any more, but simply adores and enjoys. It is difficult to find words in which to express this moral situation, for our languages can only render the particular and localized vibrations of life; they are incapable of expressing this motionless concentration, this divine quietude, this state of the resting ocean, which reflects the sky, and is master of its own profundities. Things are then re-absorbed into their principles; memories are swallowed up in memory; the soul is only soul, and is no longer conscious of itself in its individuality and separateness. It is something which feels the universal life, a sensible atom of the Divine, of God. It no longer appropriates anything to itself, it is conscious of no void. Only the Yogis and Soufis perhaps have known in its profundity this humble and yet voluptuous state, which combines the joys of being and of non-being, which is neither reflection nor will, which is above both the moral existence and the intellectual existence, which is the return to unity, to the pleroma, the vision of Plotinus and of Proclus--Nirvana in its most attractive form.

It is clear that the western nations in general, and especially the Americans, know very little of this state of feeling. For them life is devouring and incessant activity. They are eager for gold, for power, for dominion; their aim is to crush men and to enslave nature. They show an obstinate interest in means, and have not a thought for the end. They confound being with individual being, and the expansion of the self with happiness--that is to say, they do not live by the soul; they ignore the unchangeable and the eternal; they live at the periphery of their being, because they are unable to penetrate to its axis. They are excited, ardent, positive, because they are superficial. Why so much effort, noise, struggle, and greed?--it is all a mere stunning and deafening of the self. When death comes they recognize that it is so--why not then admit it sooner? Activity is only beautiful when it is holy--that is to say, when it is spent in the service of that which passeth not away.

January 2, 1843

NATIVE LEGEND.

Yesterday was New Year's day. I have just heard the origin of these hills, and will put it down while I remember it. The story is from one of the natives here.

"Many, many years ago there lived a giant in Ceylon, and this giant fell in love with the daughter of another giant at Lucknow, in Bengal, so he asked her father to let him marry her. But he said No, as the other lived in a little island, and was no real gentleman at all. Upon this Master Ceylon determined that, as her father said No, he would take her without leave, and off he started, seized the young lady, put her on his shoulders, and carried her across to Ceylon. But when the papa found that his daughter was gone, he got into a tremendous rage, and determined to go and punish the Ceyloney. So off he hurried, until he came to the straits which separate the island from the mainland. But when he tried to cross over, he found that he was not quite so tall as the Ceylonese gentleman by a few hundred yards, and that the water was too deep for him. So he stood still, and he scratched his head and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, and thought and pondered what he should do to get across and punish the wicked thief. At last an idea struck him, and he trotted back all up India until he reached the Himalaya mountains, and, snatching up two of the largest of them, one in each hand, threw them into the straits, and thus made them shallow enough for him to pass over. But as he went along some of the rocks and earth slipped through his fingers, for you may suppose his hands were rather full; and the chains of hills which extend from Balasore for nearly three hundred miles are the pieces which he dropped as he went along." The tale does not inform us whether the giant's daughter was restored to him.

NESTS OF WHITE ANTS.

I have not been up the hills to-day, because some of the party were frightened at the number of bears and tigers which are said to be there; but I am in hopes we shall go in a few days. I have been looking about me a good deal lately, and have noticed one very curious thing. The ground for five or six miles from our house in one direction seems to be covered with mounds of earth and small bushes; on examining these closely, however, I find they are all the nests of white ants. The green ones are those that are deserted, and over which the grass has grown—the others are still inhabited. In the plain visible from my window there must be many hundreds of thousands of these hills, varying in height from three feet to ten or twelve, and many of them six feet in diameter; and all of these are formed by little insects no larger than the common English ant. One part of their manner of building is most extraordinary: their nests are always completely covered in, so that without kicking them you cannot see a single ant inside; there are one or two doors in different parts of the building, but they are seldom used.

Their mode of building is as follows:—One day, perhaps, you will perceive a single pinnacle of an ants' nest. You go and see it one day, and you find it slightly raised, but curved, like a headstone. So it increases daily until it reaches the size I have described. It is like a man building a house—as if he made a little closet with a roof on it, and then went inside and stayed there, while the closet swelled and swelled until it became a perfect house. At the foot of these ant-hills are a number of large black ants on the watch for any straggling white ants, which they kill and eat. These creatures abound in all our houses, and run about the floors: they are about an inch in length, and bite, but do not sting.

Cuttack, January 2, 1844

I have been to Pooree; but what I am going to relate now is an adventure, not of my own, but of some valiant officers of the regiment stationed here. The Captain, the Lieutenant, the Ensign, and a Serjeant, went out for a day's shooting; and I had the story from two separate individuals of the party. They rode to the ground, and then skirted for some time along the side of the dense jungle. At last the Captain says—"Well, I am tired; I shan't go any farther. Bring me my camp-stool." Fancy a man's taking a camp-stool when he goes out to hunt or shoot! However, down he sat; and the other three proceeded some way farther. At length the Lieutenant says—"Well, I am tired; I shan't go any farther. Give me my camp-stool." Down he sat; and on went the other two, until the Ensign said—"Well, I am tired; I shan't go any farther. Give me my camp-stool." And he sat down.

The Serjeant, with one native, now proceeded down a narrow path which led into the jungle. He had not been gone more than five minutes when the Ensign heard the report of a gun, and the next instant the Serjeant rushed out of the jungle, without his hat, without his gun, with his mouth wide open, eyes staring, and hair all on end. "What's the matter, Serjeant?" cries the Ensign. "A tiger, sir," says the other, without stopping. "A tiger?" "Ay." Down goes the Ensign's gun over his camp-stool, and off he starts after the Serjeant as fast as his legs can carry him. "Hulloh!" exclaims the Lieutenant, as they came rushing towards him: "why, what's in the wind now?" "A tiger! a tiger!" they shout. Down goes the Lieutenant's gun, and he quickly joins in the race. "What in the world are you all after?" cries the Captain, as they came to where he was comfortably sitting, drinking a bottle of beer, and smoking a cigar. "A tiger! a tiger! a tiger!" is again the reply. "Pooh, pooh, nonsense!" said the Captain, moving slowly towards his horse. "Nonsense!" answered the fugitives; "we tell you there is a tiger down there: go and see yourself." "No, I am tired," says the Captain; "I shall go home." And he jumped on his horse, and, followed by his brave comrades, galloped back to Cuttack. How the natives did grin and chuckle. They, too, had seen the frightful monster, and knew that it was a poor harmless jackal which had put to flight the Captain, and the Lieutenant, and the Ensign, and the Serjeant!!!

But there is moral to this tale. Another officer asked the Serjeant afterwards why he ran away? The answer was, that he ran at first because he was alone and unsupported, and that he ran afterwards because he saw the officers run. And this will ever be the case. If the officers show a firm front, so will the men: if the officers waver or hesitate, it will naturally strike a panic into the minds of those who are accustomed to look up to them for guidance. Remarkable instances of both these positions we have recently had at Jellalabad and Kabul.

COSTUME REGULATIONS.

I start on Friday next for Balasore. I go principally for the sake of exercise and shooting. There are a great many bears there. My wife has just hired a new woman-servant. She is of the Ooriah Mehanee caste, and therefore may not wear petticoats, but only the common native dress. Now, all ladies like their own personal servants to wear petticoats; but here it is so strictly forbidden, that the woman, if she were once to put them on, would be deserted by her husband and children, and never be suffered to eat with any of her tribe. But then the Hindu law, whilst it is thus severe on any breach of caste, provides an easy mode of getting over the difficulty. My wife gives the woman eight shillings: the woman gives half of this to the priest, and with the other half she provides a feast for her tribe. After this she may wear her petticoats in peace and security.