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The Summer tourist, or the traveller from foreign lands, often finds himself embarrassed by the great variety and exquisite beauty of American scenery. In such a moment of doubt, let him decide in favor of that matchless valley declared by Colonel Stone to be superior in its real charms even to Dr. Johnson's ideal of the Happy Valley of Amhara, which he describes as the perfection of an earthly abode.
The decision being made, the traveller has looked in vain for a little hand-book to serve as an intelligent guide to the natural curiosities and beauties, bloody fields and antiquities, of Wyoming. He could hardly find a separate copy of Campbell's imaginative and exquisite poem. He was fain either to supply himself with the voluminous and exhaustive pages of Miner, and similar works, or he must trust himself to the disjointed and sometimes rhapsodized legends of the cicerones of the valley.
This little volume, which has not the slightest claim to be either a history or a study of romance, is presented as just such a hand-book as the tourist will need. The visitor to Wyoming will find it a guide to his feet, and the visitors of former years may in its pages renew the charming itinerary at their own firesides.
In the extracts here presented may be found the true romance of the history of Wyoming, most romantic because simply true.
The brief compilation given will serve to interest the visitor, and the slight sketch of men and events will need no very vivid imagination to reproduce for him the figures of the early colonists, to conjure up the desperate conflicts, the Indian war-whoop, the shrieking women and children, the smoking desolation.
The great poem of Campbell has been appended; for although it is not entirely true to external nature, it is most delicately true to human nature, and appeals directly to the human heart. It, more than veritable history, has made known the sad story of Wyoming wherever the English language is read; and it will perpetuate that story where histories are unknown, and when histories shall be forgotten. "Oh, happy privilege of genius,” says Leigh Hunt, in speaking of Priam before Achilles, “ that can reach out its hand from a thousand years back, and touch our eyelids with tears !”
It is worthy to be remembered in passing, that the beauty of “Susquehanna's side,” as depicted by Campbell, gave to the great Lakers their idea of selecting it as a spot upon which to try their wild scheme of Pantisocracy at the beginning of this century, a scheme abandoned while in embryo.
Nor is this the only poetic garland hung among the wild flowers on her ruined wall. Our own Halleck, dreaming in the happy valley, one day wakened into sudden song, declaring, as he gazed :
“ Nature hath made thee lovelier than the power
Even of Campbell's pen hath pictured.”
A few other poems, chiefly of local and antiquarian value, have been added for the tourist's behoof, and he may thus move among the Wyoming people to the songs of their own making.
New YORK, 1866.
WYOMING! who has not heard the name of the beautiful valley through which the Susquehanna glides, “fair Wyoming,” with her mountain walks, her storytelling glens, her founts and brooks, and maids as dewdrops pure and fair, which the soul with grandeur fill, and melody and love?
Who has not heard, too, her sad story? It has been elaborated by the pen of the historian, and immortalized in the lofty rhyme of the poet. Wyoming ! thine, indeed, was the fatal gift of beauty, that dowry which is so often fraught with woe to its inheritor. For its possession and enjoyment contending tribes of the red men fought ; and when wrenched from their grasp by force, or fraud, or treachery, and white men, bearing the casket of a better civilization, had come within her borders, and she had received the baptism of blood as a seal, even then followed contentions, and tumults, and bloody wars between factions of the pale faces: the issue was to decide which should have her to hold and to enjoy. It is not to be wondered at that the poor Indian, untaught, selfish by intuition, and believing in the law of might, should have fought long and well to retain the possession of that which to him was a terrestrial paradise.
There were no nobler hunting-grounds, nor a more beautiful wigwam-home. Nature was lavish of supply, and prodigal of health and happiness.
Here was the mountain, the plain, and the river, each of its kind the noblest; the mountain for hunting, the river for fishing, and the plain for planting. But why, after its possession by the white man had been secured, brothers with brothers should contend, it is not designed in this compilation fully to explain. A few brief facts we shall give, and let our readers gather the philosophy for themselves.* It is the old paradox of pundit and poet :
“ Strange—that where nature loved to trace,
As if for gods a dwelling-place,
* For the materials from whence this brief compilation is derived, we are mainly indebted to Miner's, Chapman's, and Stone's Histories of Wyoming.