Monday, March 05, 2007

The Black Swamp: Part 12

Here is the major portion of a letter that decribes the episode:

"So on that Sunday my son and I took the stage for Chepachet, and in due time alighted before the Tavern ... In the tap-room they had never heard of Dark Swamp, but the landlord told us to ask the Town Clerk, two houses down the road beyond the White Church {Chepachet Union Church}, who knows everything in the parish. He told us, that the Dark Swamp had a very queer reputation, and that men had gone in who never came out; but confest he knew little of it, and had never been near it. At his suggestion we went across the road to the cottage of a very intelligent yeoman nam’d Sprague, whom he reported to have guided a party of gentlemen from Brown University thro’ parts of the swamp in a quest of botanick specimens some twelve years gone."

"Sprague dwells in a trim colonial with pleasing doorway and good interior mantels and paneling; and tho’ it turned out that ‘twas not he who guided the gentlemen, he prov’d uncommon genial and drew us a map by which we might reach the house of Fred Barnes, who did guide them. After a long walk over the same highroad travers’d by Mortonius [ James F. Morton and H.P.L. set out on the September journey to climb Durfee Hill but finding it too late, they decided to go to Pascoag instead.] and me, we came to Goodman Barnes’ place; and found him after waiting all of thirty-five minutes in his squalid kitchen. When he did arrive, he had not much to say; but told us to find ‘Squire James Reynolds, who dwells at the fork of the back road beyond the great reservoir, {Bowdish Reservoir} south of the turnpike."

"Again in motion, we stopt not till we came to Cody’s Tavern, built in 1683, and still affording best entertainment for man and beast. Tho’ Eddy much feared that the coach-passengers wou’d engross all the landlord’s attention, in preference to mere foot travellers, we were receiv’d with proper civility and given excellent food … The tavern lyes on the main Putnam Pike; but shortly after quitting it and passing the reservoir we turn’d south into the backwoods, coming in proper season to Squire Reynolds’ estate. He told us, that we had better take the right fork of the road, over the hills to Ernest Law’s farm; declaring that Mr. Law owns Dark Swamp, and that it was his son who had cut wood at the edge of it."

"Following the Squire’s directions, we ascended a narrow rutted road betwixt picturesque woods and stone walls; coming at last to a crest that stood mysteriously limned against the fire and gold of a late afternoon sky. Another moment and we had spied the stretch beyond it: to the right the antient farmhouse of Mr. Law, and to the left the most gorgeous and spectacular agrestic panorama that either of us had been beheld or indeed conceiv’d to exist."
"Were this Prodigious prospect anywhere within the easie reach and knowledge of the town, ‘twould be flockt with and noisy revellers on every Sunday and bank-holiday; but obscurity hath effected that unusually’d preservation which is impotent to achieve, this region being far from any great road, and north of a district very flat and notable for its want of pleasing scenes. I doubt that ten men in Providence are sensible it is on the globe. Here, surely, is the inmost spirit of antient New-England; that vivid woos of Mother Earth which our forefathers, and the Indian savages before them, knew and understood so well. We found Mr. Law … [who]…informed us, that Dark Swamp lyes in the distant bowl betwixt two of the hills we saw; and that ‘tis two miles from his house to the nearest part of it, by a winding road and a cart-path. He said, the peasants have a little exaggerated its fearful singularities, tho’ it is yet a very odd place, and ill to visit at night."

{HPL's Poem written at top of hill}

Far as the Eye can see, behold outspread
The serried Hills that own no Traveler’s Tread;
Dome behind Dome, and on each flaming Side
The hanging Forests in their virgin Pride.

Here dips a Vale, and here a Mead extends,
Whilst tho’ the piny Strath a Brooklet bends:
Yon farther Slopes to violet Aether fade,
And sunset Splendour gilds the nearer Glade:

Rude Walls of Stone in pleasing Zig-zag run
Where well-plac’d Trees salute the parting Sun;
Vext with the Arts that puny Men proclaim,
Nature speaks once, and puts them all the shame!

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