September 12

Saturday, September 12th.—Rien à dire. Tous les jours même chose—on attend des ordres, ce qui ne viennent jamais.

September Twelfth

In conclusion, the Battle of North Point saved Baltimore from a pre-determined fate; it encouraged the rest of the country; it, with Plattsburg, caused the English Ministry to suggest that the Duke of Wellington should take command in America, and it influenced the terms of the treaty of Ghent in favor of the United States.

Frederick M. Colston

 

Battle of North Point, Md., 1814

 

 

September 12

September 12, 1876.--What is your own particular absurdity? Why, simply that you exhaust yourself in trying to understand wisdom without practicing it, that you are always making preparations for nothing, that you live without living. Contemplation which has not the courage to be purely contemplative, renunciation which does not renounce completely, chronic contradiction--there is your case. Inconsistent skepticism, irresolution, not convinced but incorrigible, weakness which will not accept itself and cannot transform itself into strength--there is your misery.

The comic side of it lies in capacity to direct others, becoming incapacity to direct one's self, in the dream of the infinitely great stopped short by the infinitely little, in what seems to be the utter uselessness of talent. To arrive at immobility by excess of motion, at zero from abundance of numbers, is a strange farce, a sad comedy; the poorest gossip can laugh at its absurdity.

We are having a nice long time in camp, but will probably make up for it when Grant and Sheridan get this little army fixed to suit them. I have been in fights thus far with Companies B, D, and K, having commanded the two latter in a number of hot places, and now I am First Lieutenant Commanding Company E. I don't stay with a Company long enough to learn all the men's names, but they impress me with the idea that they are not dissatisfied with me even if I only know them by sight. Company B is from Barre, Montpelier and Waterbury. D from Burlington, E from Bennington, and K from Derby Line, and the men are splendid  fighters, at any rate with me. I don't try to drive them into a fight but am lucky to keep up with the intrepid leaders and most of the rest follow. Except the bravest of them, the others are not apt to go where their Commander won't, and I get better work out of them by keeping ahead of them if I only can. Some of them are so dauntlessly courageous they inspire me.

September 12, 1862

The storm came. A soaking rain in the night; it soaked every one of us. I suppose the officers fared better, for they have tents like houses, but we, the shelter-tent brigade, certainly took all that came. I got up from a puddle of water. The water ran down the hill, under our tents, and under us. This softened the ground so we sank right in. The ground is a red color, and we are a sight to behold. By looking at a man's trousers it is easy to tell whether he slept on his back or on his side. In one case he has one red leg, and in the other, two. I think it would improve the appearance if the whole trousers were soaked in the mud. This sickly blue is about the meanest color I can think of. I guess the Government had more cloth than color. One fellow says there was only one kettle of dye. The officers' clothes were dipped first, then the privates' coats, and last the pantaloons. No matter what question comes up there are some who can explain and make it all clear. A part of Company B was sent out on picket duty to-day. I don't know where or what their duties are. All sorts of war stories are in the air. One paper tells of a great battle and the next one contradicts it. I guess it is done to make sale for papers. Newsboys rush into camp yelling "Extra" and we rush at them and buy them out. But it gives us something to talk about, and that is worth much to us.

September 12

September 12, 1861.--In me an intellect which would fain forget itself in things, is contradicted by a heart which yearns to live in human beings. The uniting link of the two contradictions is the tendency toward self-abandonment, toward ceasing to will and exist for one's self, toward laying down one's own personality, and losing--dissolving--one's self in love and contemplation. What I lack above all things is character, will, individuality. But, as always happens, the appearance is exactly the contrary of the reality, and my outward life the reverse of my true and deepest aspiration. I whose whole being--heart and intellect--thirsts to absorb itself in reality, in its neighbor man, in nature and in God, I, whom solitude devours and destroys, I shut myself up in solitude and seem to delight only in myself and to be sufficient for myself. Pride and delicacy of soul, timidity of heart, have made me thus do violence to all my instincts and invert the natural order of my life. It is not astonishing that I should be unintelligible to others. In fact I have always avoided what attracted me, and turned my back upon the point where secretly I desired to be.

"Deux instincts sont en moi: vertige et déraison; J'ai l'effroi du bonheur et la soif du poison."

It is the Nemesis which dogs the steps of life, the secret instinct and power of death in us, which labors continually for the destruction of all that seeks to be, to take form, to exist; it is the passion for destruction, the tendency toward suicide, identifying itself with the instinct of self-preservation. This antipathy toward all that does one good, all that nourishes and heals, is it not a mere variation of the antipathy to moral light and regenerative truth? Does not sin also create a thirst for death, a growing passion for what does harm? Discouragement has been my sin. Discouragement is an act of unbelief. Growing weakness has been the consequence of it; the principle of death in me and the influence of the Prince of Darkness have waxed stronger together. My will in abdicating has yielded up the scepter to instinct; and as the corruption of the best results in what is worst, love of the ideal, tenderness, unworldliness, have led me to a state in which I shrink from hope and crave for annihilation. Action is my cross.

September 12

September 12, 1870 (Basle ).--The old Rhine is murmuring under my window. The wide gray stream rolls its great waves along and breaks against the arches of the bridge, just as it did ten years or twenty years ago; the red cathedral shoots its arrow-like spires toward heaven; the ivy on the terraces which fringe the left bank of the Rhine hangs over the walls like a green mantle; the indefatigable ferry-boat goes and comes as it did of yore; in a word, things seem to be eternal, while man's hair turns gray and his heart grows old. I came here first as a student, then as a professor. Now I return to it at the downward turn of middle age, and nothing in the landscape has changed except myself.

The melancholy of memory may be commonplace and puerile--all the same it is true, it is inexhaustible, and the poets of all times have been open to its attacks.

At bottom, what is individual life? A variation of an eternal theme--to be born, to live, to feel, to hope, to love, to suffer, to weep, to die. Some would add to these, to grow rich, to think, to conquer; but in fact, whatever frantic efforts one may make, however one may strain and excite one's self, one can but cause a greater or slighter undulation in the line of one's destiny. Supposing a man renders the series of fundamental phenomena a little more evident to others or a little more distinct to himself, what does it matter? The whole is still nothing but a fluttering of the infinitely little, the insignificant repetition of an invariable theme. In truth, whether the individual exists or no, the difference is so absolutely imperceptible in the whole of things that every complaint and every desire is ridiculous. Humanity in its entirety is but a flash in the duration of the planet, and the planet may return to the gaseous state without the sun's feeling it even for a second. The individual is the infinitesimal of nothing.

What, then, is nature? Nature is Maïa--that is to say, an incessant, fugitive, indifferent series of phenomena, the manifestation of all possibilities, the inexhaustible play of all combinations.

And is Maïa all the while performing for the amusement of somebody, of some spectator--Brahma? Or is Brahma working out some serious and unselfish end? From the theistic point of view, is it the purpose of God to make souls, to augment the sum of good and wisdom by the multiplication of himself in free beings--facets which may flash back to him his own holiness and beauty? This conception is far more attractive to the heart. But is it more true? The moral consciousness affirms it. If man is capable of conceiving goodness, the general principle of things, which cannot be inferior to man, must be good. The philosophy of labor, of duty, of effort, is surely superior to that of phenomena, chance, and universal indifference. If so, the whimsical Maïa would be subordinate to Brahma, the eternal thought, and Brahma would be in his turn subordinate to a holy God.

Midnapore, September 12, 1842

JOURNEY TO MIDNAPORE.

On the 14th of August I sent two boats full of furniture to Midnapore, and on the 16th we started ourselves in a boat with two large cabins and one small. I had nine Indians to manage it. Another smaller boat contained our palanquins, two servants, and a little sort of kitchen.

In going down the Hoogly river we met with an accident, and were nearly overturned; the wind drove us with great force against a large ship in a severe squall. We however reachedOoloberriab, a native village on Hoogly, in safety. Here we turned into a canal, up which we journeyed for some miles, and then anchored for the night. The next morning, having slept on board, we proceeded on our course, and reached the Khatah Ghat, or landing-place (pronounced gaut), at about twelve o'clock. Here we remained until four in the afternoon, entered our palanquins, a kind of square boxes, which are carried on men's shoulders, handsomely painted outside, with soft cushions inside, and lamps like a carriage. In this sort of thing we move about everywhere, and in crossing a river do not wet our feet. To each palanquin there are eight bearers, four of whom are employed at a time; one mussuaulchee, or torch-bearer, runs by the side, along with one baugh-whaller, to carry boxes made of tin, and called patarahs. Each man carries two slung to a stick over his shoulder.

My wife travels in one palanquin, and I in another. We had taken care to write beforehand that a dâk, or men, might be in readiness to carry us on at each stage; and we therefore proceeded rapidly through the whole night.

ARRIVAL.

Soon after leaving Khatah Ghat we found the road for two miles under water, which reached far above the men's knees; and at one time, indeed, I was afraid it would have entered the palanquin; but the only accident that actually happened was the breaking of one of the baughley-whaller's sticks, and the tin patarah, containing clothes, floated away, but, after some trouble, was again secured. We slept most comfortably in our palanquins during our journey, and arrived at Midnapore early in the morning. Here we stayed at the house of the judge until I could choose a home for myself, in which we are now at last settled. Everybody here is most kind and hospitable, and, indeed, it is necessary it should be so, for, excepting in Calcutta, there are no inns, and travellers would fare very badly were the houses of the principal people closed against them. But when you go on a visit you must be careful to take your own servants, sheets, towels, and soap. My house is called a bungalow, which I chose as being the most economical. A bungalow is a thatched cottage, with only one ground story.

The floors of the rooms are not made of wood, but a sort of cement which looks like stone. The house stands in the midst of a large field called a compound, which belongs to me, and the servants' dwellings are scattered around.

I have a flower and kitchen garden, fowl-house and place for goats, kitchen, stable, cowhouse, and a banyan-tree. The pathways through the grass are of fine gravel, and the hedges are composed almost entirely of aloes and cactuses, mixed with a very sweet-smelling flowering shrub, and here and there a bamboo, which is a most beautiful tree, resembling a very tall weeping-willow. The sensitive-plant grows wild about the compound, and bears a very pink flower resembling that of the red cloves.

The banyan-tree is abundant here. Each branch projects stalks downwards, which take root in the earth, and after a few years one tree resembles a cluster, and covers a large space of ground. I have several aloes in my garden, which are just flowering. They have thrown up a straight stalk about twenty feet high. A large cactus is now in bloom. It is about ten feet high, and each stem or leaf is thicker round than my leg. This kind bears a very beautiful large white flower, which opens only at night. In my kitchen-garden are the mango, the plantain, Indian corn, pine-apple trees, and many others.

Carpets are not used here, but the floors are covered instead with India matting. In each room is a punkah, which I have before described.

We procure water for drinking from a large tank or pond; and as we cannot purchase meat, I have provided myself with thirty-five ducks, sixty fowls, four goats, and three kids, which last are almost ready to eat; the goats we shall keep for their milk. The judge made me a present of a beautiful fawn of the spotted deer, which is becoming very tame. I am just going to join a mutton-club. Four persons enter into partnership, and agree to keep a small flock of sheep; one of which is killed twice a week, and then each partner is provided with a quarter of mutton, and each in turn has the liver, heart, and head. A gentleman yesterday sent me four guinea-fowls, and another has promised me six pigeons as soon as I have a place to keep them in.

INSECTS.

I have just begun to make a collection of insects, snakes, and butterflies and moths, of the most beautiful kind. The chameleon is very common, and changes its colour according to the temper it is in. I have one which is generally of a brilliant green; but if its anger be roused, it becomes covered with large black spots, and when hungry with white spots. These are the only changes in its colour I have as yet observed: but I have seen others yellow; others, again, black, with yellow spots. It is said that each chameleon has ten different variations of colour. There is to be seen here a light-brown lizard, called the bloodsucker, which is constantly running about the walls in the rooms. Whenever we take up a paper or a book, we are sure to find two or three cockroaches under it—not such cockroaches as you may see in England, but great ones three or four inches long. The grasshoppers come into the house in numbers, and grow to an uncommon size. You may hear them chirruping half a mile off. The ants, of which there are three sorts, are a great nuisance. Every house swarms with them; and unless the legs of tables, drawers, &c., are kept constantly standing in jars of water, they attack the dinner-cloths, and in fact everything they can reach: 1st, there is a very small red ant, whose bite causes a very hard red swelling, which continues very painful for some days; 2nd, a great black ant, about the size of an English wasp, which bites, but does not sting; 3rd, the white ant, rather larger than the common English ant, which come in a swarm, and in one night will devour a table or a shelf full of books. You may come down in the morning and find your table and books apparently all right, but no sooner do you touch them than they all crumble away to powder.

REPTILES.

There are a great number of snakes about here, though I have not yet seen one. I suspect that my mungoose or ichneumon keeps them away, as he is an inveterate enemy to all vermin. A venomous lizard, about a foot long, black, with yellow stripes down the sides, often comes into our verandah, but as soon as it hears the mungoose it disappears with all possible despatch; as do also the poisonous centipedes, of which there are several in the house. The noise of the mungoose is very peculiar,generally purring like a cat, but when angry it barks short and snappishly, while every hair on its long tail stands on end.

I have already mentioned to you that there are here the tiger, the lion, the monkey, the leopard, the buffalo, the elephant (tame), the spotted deer, the jackal, the flying fox: all these I shall describe as the opportunities offer; now I shall tell you something about the monkey.

I was walking out early in the morning, and reached a very large pepul-tree, covered with its red berries. Presently I heard some one chattering over my head, and looking up beheld an enormously long ape as tall as myself, with a white face and great whiskers. He gazed at me for a moment, and then chattered again. The noise becoming louder and louder, I ran from under the tree, and soon saw a great number of these animals of different sizes come leaping down, and, after a stare, as much as to say "don't follow us," they made a few tremendous leaps, and escaped into the jungle.

The Indian buffalo has no hump on its back. It is like an immense black cow, but exceedingly fierce. As yet I have seen only tame ones. A gentleman who lives here was walking out in the jungle the other evening, with the intention of shooting some birds, when he saw before him a large bull buffalo. When alone these creatures are much more fierce than when with the herd. He did not, therefore, much relish his close acquaintance; and, turning round, strove to creep quietly away. Hearing a loud roar behind him, he looked back, and beheld the buffalo in full chase after him, tossing his head most furiously. The gentleman scarcely knew what to do, as there was no tree near into which he might climb; but he was surrounded by low bushes. Turning suddenly round, therefore, he stood still, and, looking steadfastly at the buffalo, loaded his gun. On came the animal, nearer and nearer, looking fiercer and fiercer. At last, when about twenty yards off, he stopped one minute as if in hesitation, and then, with a loud roar, turned his head, and, tearing up the ground with his hoofs, was on the point of rushing onward, when the gentleman raised his gun as a last resource, and fired. The ball entered through the eye into the brain, and the monster rolled over the plain.

I have since seen the skull and the horns, which are of great size. The elephants are very large, and there are none but tame ones here. The major of the regiment quartered at this place has offered to lend us one whenever we are inclined for a ride.

The jackals are a source of great annoyance at night: they come into the compound and howl round the house, and make a dreadful noise, but are not dangerous. There are swarms of wild dogs too here, called pariah dogs—quite harmless. They resemble a hairy greyhound with a fox's head. The flying-fox is a sort of bat. Its large black wings are nearly four feet from tip to tip, and the body is like a small fox. They fly about the trees at night, and pick the fruit and berries. The birds are very beautiful. There are many sorts of doves and pigeons. One sort of the last-named is quite green; as is also the fly-catcher, which has a long single feather in the middle of his tail. The mango is about the size of a pigeon, yellow, with green stripes. There are also the pretty little amadavad, and many others.

I am making a collection of large beetles.

SOIL—CLIMATE.

Midnapore is situated on a high table-land, or flat-topped hill, about six miles across, and is much cooler than the greater part of India. The soil is about a foot deep, and underneath it is a volcanic rock, so porous that the rain soaks into it as soon as it falls, thus rendering the place dry and healthy. From the middle of June to the middle of October there are tremendous storms of rain almost every day. Then it is cool and pleasant till February. After that time the heat increases, and the weather is quite dry until April; from which time until June it is intensely hot, with occasional hurricanes and thunderstorms, of which we have had several most magnificent ones lately; and from the height of the hills we seem almost to be in the midst of them.

PRODUCTIONS.

Indigo, rice, and grain are plentiful. The first is obtained by soaking the leaves of the plant in water until they are rotten, when they deposit a thick blue sediment, which is formed into cakes, and is used for dyeing cloths.

We have some wild silkworms, from which the natives manufacture a coarse sort of silk. The rice grows in fields which are under water, and looks like barley. These fields beautifully illustrate the expression in the Bible about casting your seed upon the waters, and after many days you shall find it again.

The greatest expenses here are servants and house-rent. I pay for my house, which is one of the cheapest in Midnapore, forty rupees a-month; a rupee is two shillings. I keep as few domestics as I can; but am obliged to have eleven men and one woman. The men are—

  • 1 consummar, or headman.
  • 1 kitmajar, or waiter at table.
  • 1 sirdar, who attends to lamps, furniture, &c.
  • 1 bearer, who works the punkah and helps the sirdar.
  • 1 dirgee, or tailor, who mends stockings, and makes gowns, coats, shirts, &c.
  • 2 maistrees, or carpenters.
  • 2 mollees, or gardeners.
  • 1 motee, who sweeps the rooms and keeps them in order.
  • 1 beastee, or water-carrier.

We neither feed nor clothe them: indeed their food consists of nothing but rice, except the consummar and kitmajar, who are Mussulmans. Their pay varies from three to ten rupees a-month. Many people keep forty or fifty men. The sirdar, or bearer, sleeps on a mat in the verandah; the others in houses in the compound. They are all forbidden by their religion to do the work of any other; their fathers and grandfathers performed the same duties, and so will their sons and grandsons also. They are a thievish set, and we dare not leave anything in their way that they can steal.

There is at this moment a little grey squirrel hopping about in the verandah,—facing the gate of the compound are several tame buffaloes,—and a little beyond is an elephant lying down basking in the sun and lashing his trunk about upon the grass.

There is an insect here called the flying-bug; it resembles in appearance a very large ant with wings, and, if one of them flies through the room, it leaves so disagreeable a smell that it can hardly be borne for an hour afterwards.