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ALLAN CUNNINGHAM, ESQ.
HONEST Allan Cunningham! Such is the flattering sobriquet by which the worthy fellow who sits on the opposite page is generally known; and no tiile is better deserved. We think that his very face is almost a sufficient guarantee for its justice.
Allan's biography is sufficiently known, to excuse us from the task of writing it over again. Like Ben Jonson, he began with trowel and mallet, which he abandoned for divine poetry ;-not, however, abandoned as completely as Rare Ben, because he has wielded them, or superintended their wielding, in a higher department; and, instead of helping to build up houses for the savages of Nithisdale and the adjoining districts, acting now as aid-de-camp to Chantrey, it is his province to assist in bringing forth the features of those distinguished individuals whom the public delighteth to honor, or who delight to honor themselves, by setting up graven images of heads, frequently as brainless and impenetrable as the marble out of which they are hewn, for no small consideration. In this post we believe that Allan has found a restingplace for his maturing years, more comfortable than those in which the Muses are too often fond of quartering their votaries.
He has himself expressed his dissatisfaction with his own Scotch novels, as compared with those of Sir Walter Scott; but we must not allow him to make a comparison so odious. 'Who,' says the Greek proverb, ' is to compete with Apollo in the bow?' We admit with, or rather without pleasure, that we do not exactly recollect what all the novels of our friend Allan are about; but we have a misty recollection of their being very fine matters, full of chivalry, and Scotland, and clouds, and warriors, and Cameronians, in the most approved Caledonian fashion ; and of Paul Jones we have already recorded a most favorable opinion, which we have no idea of retracting in this our infallible magazine. Nor, though we have reviewed his Maid of Elvar, and read with sinqular delight his Sir Marmaduke Marwell, and other dramatic compositions, full, as Sir Walter says, of 'fine passages that lead to nothing,' are these more lengthy compositions impressed with much vivid distinctness upon our mental retina. But his songs, who shall forget? Who that has any taste for ballad poetry will have let slip from his memory those beautiful specimens of that style of composition in its most exquisite perfection, which, under the pretence of being fragments of Galloway and Nithisdale songs, were published by an especial ass of the name of Cromek, on whom Allan-in that particular, not honest Allan, but about as dishonest as Chatterton-palmed them as genuine. They are simply chefs d'auvre, and are almost, but not entirely, equalled by the Jacobite relics, which he at another period, but in a similar mood of humbug and inspiration, gave to the not-altogether-unsuspecting, nor the altogether-in-such-arts-unpractised Hogg. It is foolish to compare either him or Hogg with Burns—they are all three Scotch, and all three makers of verses; but there the similarity ends. Cunningham has his own merits—he will never be able to write a song with Burns; but Burns never could have turned off a ballad like him.
So far for Allan's inner man. In his outer, he is one of the Anakim of literature-Doric in the proportions of his frame as in his poetry-a strapping specimen of Caledonia stern and wild, who, if he be not a great deceiver, would be as well able to maintain his claim to the crown of the causey as Dandie Dinmont himself; and, if we do not mistake, he takes care that every one of his heroes, in all his works, both of prose and verse, should be as ably built as himself—all well-qualified members of the six-feet club, et supra. In all other matters he is a good-natured, good-humored, good-hearted fellow, jogging on through the world with merited good fortune, increasing every year, and, we are happy to say, seeing those who are to follow him in his name raising themselves to well-won honors, and launching in the career of life with every hope and prospect of deserved success.
And sae gude night, my bonny man!
And sae gude night, quo’she :
Ye'll never live to see.
LIFE OF PIZARRO.*
Francisco Pizarro was born of an unknown mother, and his birth, the old birth of the founders of kingdoms, was, like that of an ancient hero, adorned with romance. It was said that he had been left exposed at the gate of a church in Truxillo, and in that state was found and suckled by a sow: His first occupation was that of a swineherd ; but it is more certain that his education was totally neglected. To his last hour he could not write his own name; he probably could not read. It was said, too, as an extraordinary instance of the chances of life, that his first idea of the Western World arose from his fear of returning to the owner of the swine which he tended, some of them having strayed. He found four travellers on the road, who were going to Seville, then the emporium of all Spanish discovery. He followed them, formed his resolution, embarked for St. Domingo, and commenced his sanguinary but splendid career.
But Gurcilosa, more jealous for the fame of his distinguished countryman, declares him to have been the son of Captain Pizarro, by a known mother, though a dishonored one, Francisca Gonzales, a native of Truxillo. It is also affirmed that he began his career in the Italian wars. Like many of the famous men of Europe in his birth, he was unlike them in his long obscurity. Pizarro, though involved in the most enterprising of all services, was unheard of till he was past thirty ; when, in the last expedition of Ojedo to Terra Firma, he was appointed to command, as his lieutenant, in the colony of Urabà. He was now at length emerging, for the trust implies known fidelity and courage. Still, for fourteen years, he continued active, acquiring experience, unconsciously fitting his mind for his great acbievement, but still subordinate.
* Life of Francisco Pizarro, from the Spanish of Don Manuel Josef Quintana. By Mrs. Hodson. London. 1832.
The Spaniards, as we have seen, had already crossed the Isthmus of Darien, andl, under Balboa, one of the most gallant adventurers of a iime of universal adventure, had looked down from the mountains upon the mighty expanse of the Pacific. The discovery of a new ocean was next in grandeur to the discovery of a new world ; but the romantic imagination of the time had filled this ocean with wonders. The Spaniards now looked upon waters which washed the golden shores of Cathay. India, the mother of splendid monsters, lay under the setting sun which they daily saw covering the sky and the deep with an effulgence before unknown to European eyes, and of itself filling the mind with visions of unmeasured opulence and beauty. The land of silk, diamonds, and pearls, lay only awaiting the first bold prow that plunged into the noble expanse beneath their feet, and whose singular serenity was a new wonder, and pledge of those new laws of nature which seemed to govern all this enchanted region. An old tradition of the settlement of the Ten Tribes in the mountains and valleys of Hindostan, the masters in a region which was described as formed in the prodigality of nature, but guarded from the unhallowed feet of the surrounding paganism by something of a Divine protection, increased the mystery with which all ages had delighted to invest India. A tradition, still more interesting to the fierce faith of the Spaniards, placed a mighty empire in the North, governed by an imperial priest, professing Christianity, and combining in his government the pomps of the East with the policy of Europe and the principles of Rome.
But what was to set bounds to the imagination of men once let loose to wander among the dreams of the New World? Far to the west, among a group of islands worthy of the primeval innocence of man, lay a central island, in whose depths, embosomed in groves of indescribable beauty and perpetual fragrance, an Eden in the midst of an unstained creation, glittered a fountain that recalled the lost paradise, a fountain of immortality. The lip that tasted of its waters, instantly felt a more delicious sense of existence from the touch ; the frame, in the last stage of decay, suddenly felt a more vivid life rushing through its veins. Unfading youth, beauty superior to time, and existence which defied the grave, were the gifts of this mysterious draught ; and mankind were at last within reach of a true treasure, worth all gold and gems, which extinguished all that was painful in the casualties of human nature, ennobled and elevated the human form, and transmuted the troubled, disordered, and brief career of life, into exhaustless tranquillity, delight, and duration.
In this tradition, said to have been derived from the Indians themselves, we may recognise the native knowledge of those groups of islands studding the Southern Pacific, which we attribute to modern discovery. The old Platonic visions of the Atlantic Island, added their share to ihe description of this region of enchantment, if even those visions were not the result of those rumors of another world in the west, which seem to have reached Europe in the earliest ages of navigation. The question of the first discovery of America is still involved in the clouds that have fallen on almost the whole of ancient science; but some new explorer of the records of Phænicia or Carthage, or the opening of some tomb of the Hannos and Hamilcars, may yet put us in the possession of the truth, and give a rival even to Columbus.
The Pacific Ocean, and the path which led through it to the sbores of India, was the grand object of all Spanish aspirations ; but gold was the first essential to their immediate existence." The Indians whom Bal. boa found on the western side of the hills of Darien, pointed to the immense sweep of country visible froin their summits as filled with gold ; the course of adventure instantly rushed towards this famous and fortunate region. But the barriers which guarded the treasure were formidable. The Spanish sword was irresistible against the rude weapons, and ruder discipline of the natives; but they found sterner enemies in the climate, the soil, and the storms of a region which seems made to display all the beauties and all the terrors of nature. They were withered by intolerable sunshine, congealed hy cold, against which no contrivance of man could find a defence ; tempests, that seemed to mingle heaven and earth, blasted, deluged, and slew them ; diseases of the most hideous kind lurked round them at every step; and fatigue and famine followed them. A multitude of the boldest explorers of the time thus perished, until even Spanish intrepidity became disheartened, the love of fame died away, and the love of gold, the most insatiable and indefatigable passion of the human heart, and the especial idol of the Spanish heart in America, seems to have slept. Mammon saw bis altar" almost left without a worshipper. But the flood-gates of gold and gore were to be speedily thrown open, and for ages.
Pizarro, who had retired to Panamà, after years of thankless service was suddenly roused from his obscurity by the proposal of a contract for a voyage of adventure in the south. His partners were an ecclesiastic, Hernando du Lucque, who supplied the money for the expedition, 20,000 ouzas of gold, and Diego de Almagro, a soldier of remarkable spirit, sagacity, and daring. A few volunteers were soon procur ed among the disbanded adventurers who still lingered on the shores of Darien ; but their first attempts were baffled by a sucoession of storms, which reduced them to the extremities of famine. The governor of Panamà, moved by the remonstrances of the sufferers, sent a vessel to the Island of Gallo, to bring back all who were willing to return.
On this occasion Pizarro proved himself, by one of those striking acts which characterise the man, made for great enterprises. He stood in front of the soldiers, already tumultuous with the hope of escaping the horrors of their situation.
‘Go! he exclaimed, “to Panamà, you who desire the labor, the indigence, and the contempt, that will there be your portion. I grieve that you should thus cast away the fruits of your struggle, at the moment when the land, announced to us by the Indians of Tuinbez, awaits your appearance to load you with wealth and glory. Go, then, but never say that your Captain was not the first to confront all your dangers and hardships, and was not always watchful of your safety at the expense of his own.'
This gallant appeal failed. The recollections of the islands were fearful. Pizarro saw that he was on the point of being abandoned, and he made a last effort, at least to save himself from being involved in the general shame. Unsheathing bis sword, he drew a line with it on the sand from east to west, and pointing southward, exclaimed, This way leads to Peru and to gold-that to Panamà and beggary. Let all good Castilians make their choice.'
With these words he strode across the line. Thirteen only followed. There are few facts more striking in history, than the simple means by which an imperishable fame may sometimes be obtained." The names of these thirteen obscure men are recorded as those of heroes ; to this hour they share the homage of their country.
At the close of a year spent in desperate effort, in unparalleled hardship, and continual anxieties from the restless and disaffected spirit of bis crews, Pizarro returned to Panamà as poor as at the commencement of bis voyage, but with all the merit due to skill and courage, and with the incomparable hope of having at length achieved the discovery of the true land of the precious metals, Peru.
The narratives of those eccentric and stirring days spread rapidly through Europe, and formed a substitute for the decaying glories of the tales of chivalry. The human imagination has seldom been left without a supply of its natural banquet, from the earliest periods of mankind. Even the first settlers in the Assyrian plains had the terrors and changes of the Deluge for their recollection, and, mingling with those the rich conceptions of the antediluvian world, they forıned a mythology at once the most vivid and appalling, the most magnificent and the inost inysterious, ever transmitted to man. The second era of human progress, the discoveries of the Phænician voyagers, combining with the wild adventurers of the first colonists of Greece, half Asiatic, and half Egyptiau, formed a tissue of traditions pre-eminently subtle, captivating, and susceptible of poetic beauty. When these perished under the influence of a new religion, the Crusades once again reinforced the mind of Europe with the achievements, the voluptuousness, and the barbarian grandeur of Eastern despotism; yet all turned into fantasy and loveliness by the Persian traditions of fairies and genii. But the age of reality was approaching. The East was exhausted, the new stream of imagery was to flow from the West, and the romancers of Europe, wearied with the languid repetitions of Oriental dreams, found a vigorous and animated refreshment in the stern trials, bold ambition, and boundless discovery, that characterised the career of the Spaniard in the New World.
It may be hopeless now to trace the fictions on which the inost illustrious of all bards raised his eternal temple ; but on what treasure of fancy did not Shakspeare seize, ar.d transmute it into the material of immortality? Yet, in his Tempest, of all the sports of his genius, the fullest of the most delicate and picturesque loveliness, the very caprice of poetic beauty, he probably had in view the Isle of the South Seas, and for its inhabitants some of those unsettled and insubordinate beings, of whom every voyage to the South supplied examples, and of whom every Spanish story of the time is full. Pedro Alcon probably gave the first idea of Trinculo.
On Pizarro's return along the coast towards Panamà, he had been received with signal hospitality by the Indians of a tribe bordering on the ocean. Their queen, Capillana, welcomed Pizarro, the chieftain, and his companions, with delight and wonder; and, as it was his policy to avoid offence for the time, he repaid their courtesy with all the resources of European gratitude. But the scene maddened one of his warriors, Pedro Alcon, a man of some personal attractions, which he cultivated with a care that had often excited the ridicule of his fellow-adventurers. On his landing, he instantly fell in love with the Indian queen, by whom he imagined that his passion was returned. To leave a queen to despair was