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I KNOW that it is now too late in the world's history for description; that for the narrator, this is a used-up planet. Men have scaled its precipices, dug into its bowels, fathomed its oceans, penetrated its caverns, traversed its deserts, threaded its wildernesses, and clambered over its icebergs, until the unknown has become a shadow; a sickly seething of the poet's brain. They have hammered its rocks, gathered its pebbles, dug up its bones, and afflicted its cuticle, until they have proved to a demonstration (but how, I am sure I don't know,) that the earth is a hundred thousand years old, and created by volcanoes; that Moses, with all his piety and potency, was a bit of a humbug, and that his deluge was, on the whole, rather a small affair. No wonder a world so old should be worn out; the real marvel is, that it should still be enabled to shuffle along at the rate of-I forget how many thousand miles an hour. It is high time that we poor superficial observers should stand back, and let the philosophers come, who can say something worth listening to. For myself, however, before making my bow, I would crave a word with you, reader, concerning the Shakers, and their singular worship. You have been bored with the subject a dozen times already; I know it, and will discourse to you so tamely, in such harmony with

the spirit of modern literature, which should be popular, that you shall not be driven to the fatigue of thinking, from beginning to end of my brief narration.

The morning was deliciously cool and bracing, for the season, the last Sabbath in May, as my friend and I rolled over the sandy and rather uninteresting country between Albany and Niskayuna. It was just on the heel of a violent and long-continued rain-storm, which had brought the Hudson over the Albany docks, and put the sandy roads of the surrounding country in the best possible condition. The late foliage of the spring-time seemed just commencing to lend the pines its countenance in repelling the too violent or inquisitive sunshine; the fields of the husbandman looked still bare or backward, even on that warm soil; the rich unfolding blossoms of the apple-tree were alone in nature, save that the humble yet gay dandelion spread every where its petals beneath. It seemed rather the first than the last of May. No matter; 'June with its roses' could hardly have afforded us an air so pure and yet fragrant; she could not have given us an hour so cool and yet grateful. The forest minstrels seemed to have just found their voices, and to be determined to make the most of the acquisition.

The first token we had of the vicinity of the Shakers, was on the whole prepossessing a row of venerable willows, on each side of the road. They would have shown better taste by planting elms or maples; but they make little pretension to that quality, and philanthropy is nobler than taste. It was something in their favor, moreover, to find the roads visibly improving, as we neared their settlement -as any man who has been dragged over a western 'corduray' in its dotage, or forded a southern creek, in a leaky stage-coach, will cheerfully testify. But the village itself is at length in sight, its few modest but comfortable dwellings situated upon a smooth and velvet lawn, which a monarch might envy. A monarch? And why not a democrat? Here are no pampered and purse-proud nobles — no famished and pining beggars. Here no widow clasps in anguish her shivering babes, and looks despairingly to her empty cupboard and fireless hearth; no slave of business, scarcely less to be pitied, hurries from hollow friend to friend, imploring, in a perspiration of agony, for the means of taking up the note which must be met before the inexorable three, or he is a bankrupt. Here experiments have no potency, lawyers no business, sheriffs no terror. Happy, happy community! Who shall say that Arcadia is but a reverie, and the Golden Age a fiction of the poets those brethren in veracity to the terrible-accident-makers?

---

Trees reared their verdure above, thick grass spread its carpet beneath, as we walked to the house dedicated to the worship of the Father of All. A wicket admitted us to the enclosure within which the houses are situated; and here a neat flagging conducts to the door of the temple. I may as well mention our meeting three of the sisters conducting a fourth female, who, as we were informed by the young girl in advance of the others with perfect modesty and propriety, but without a particle of that shrinking diffidence with which a maiden elsewhere would have voluntarily accosted two total strangers was a strange woman, whom they were inducing to leave the tabernacle, but who was evidently deranged, and pouring forth incoherently such snatches of sacred melodies as were upper

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most in her wreck of mind. We passed them, and entered. But few of the brethren had assembled, though the seats allotted to the profane were already full. They did not serve for half who came, but that mattered little, since those who had been seated got upon their feet, and eventually upon the benches, to look over the heads of those standing in front; and the number was so great, that we rather trenched upon the portion of the house reserved by the worshippers for their devotions.

At length all were assembled, and the exercises began. A brief address was delivered by one of the brethren - very sensible and proper. Then a hymn by all the faithful animated, stirring, devotional. The execution of this and the two or three succeeding, might have been better. The vile nasal twang that too many better instructed persons contrive to throw into music of this cast, is insufferable. And yet if I ever feel strongly the impulse of devotion, it is when I hear one of these quick, unstudied, home-bred songs pealed forth by a whole congregation. In a camp-meeting or a Methodist conference-ay, or a Shaker gathering- these are the airs, if any, to bring the warm tear to the eye of manhood. The homeliness of the whole affair is just what renders it irresistible. A hundred instruments and educated voices, trilling some harmony of Handel or Beethoven, might better please the taste; but that very pleasure would be purchased at the expense of the heart. You could perceive how the whole thing was made up: how the effect was produced by the organ here, the viol there, and the prima donna next. The idea of human beings engaged in the fervent and engrossing worship of their Maker, is the last to enter the mind. I confess I labor under so utter a want of taste, as to like a lively, homely, spirited, unsephisticated hymn, gushing straight forth from the heart, better than a scientific performance. Old Hundred' reminds me of the rear of cannon on a distant battle-field, at which the patriot indeed grasps his musket for the fray, while the indifferent or the craven takes to his cellar or his heels; but a quick hymn is like the inspiring band of a recruiting regiment, which wakes a glow even in the stolid bosom that throbbed never before.

'Absurd!' says the cynic; 'a handful of miserable fools and bedlamites making themselves ridiculous in a Shaker meeting what has that to do with exciting devotional feelings in the breast of any rational being!'

Softly, my good Sir; it is the shadow only that is presented, when the actor struts his hour upon the stage,' and yet who that has seen him, has not been affected? You know, moreover, that with him all is hollowness. His trappings are the merest tinsel; his crown is paste-board; his rant is affectation; his mouthing is mockery. And yet a thousand hearts are hanging on his breath a thousand sighs respond to his pretended misery. The Unreal inspires the True. But who shall decide that this which I now see is mockery? Who shall pronounce these actors hypocrites? Nay, who shall say that their worship is all displeasing to the Great Being to whom words are nothing, and who knows no other offering than the broken and contrite spirit? We will worship according to the dictates of a more rational but colder sentiment: let us not too rashly nor too

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loudly condemn what we esteem our brother's error. He has made little progress in the path of righteousness, who has not learned the exercise of that charity which covereth all mistakes, and some transgressions.

'Peace be with all, whate'er their varying creeds -
With all who send up holy thoughts on high.'

-

I am sadder if not wiser than when, some five years since, 1 first attended a Shaker meeting. To-day is my second visit, but to another society. Then, it may be, I smiled with the rest at the eccentricities of Shaker devotion. Now a blush for human nature is prompted, when a grave elder addresses the gentiles to remind them of the obvious truths, that this is a house and an occasion of public worship; that those who do not like the mode, may stay away; but that there can be no excuse for merriment in those who voluntarily intrude upon such worship. This is pertinent unanswerable. And yet, to the unthinking, there is a spice of the ludicrous in the look of things, when, after half an hour's intermingled exhortation and singing the whole congregation of the chosen not only joining in the latter, but keeping time to it with their hands- the suggestion let us begin to labor' is made, and the brethren proceed to divest themselves of their drab frock-coats, as though the work were just commencing in earnest. I should have stated before, that the brethren and sisters come in at separate doors, and take seats at the opposite ends of the hall, facing each other. When they rise to engage in worship, the seats are all removed and piled against the walls. The two parties are now formed, each in a sort of half moon, the right line within two or three feet of each other. The men have at first laid away their wide-brimmed drab hats, which could not be kept on during service; the women have put away their nice plain bonnets, and appear in close-fitting caps, of snowy purity and whiteness.

And now, at a signal, the music' strikes up, to a wild, irregular chant, and the 'labor' begins. The first movement is very simple, consisting of a lively dancing march by the whole company, up to the farther wall of the temple, and then back to the close vicinity of the spectators. The evolutions are performed with extreme regularity and dexterity. I would have said 'surprising,' but it is not surprising that people do that to perfection which they have been doing every week, and perhaps every day, of their lives. We all know that habit gives great dexterity to the artist and the mechanic, as well as the juggler and the sharper. But I, who have none of this skill in Shakerism, may better spare myself the attempt to describe all the doings of which I was a patient and deeply interested spectator.

The only thing strongly provocative of the ludicrous, was the disparity of age among the performers. To see ponderous and solemn three-score-and-ten executing a vigorous and quick gallopade, or double-shuffle, for the glory of God, side by side with sedate fifty, athletic thirty, nimble sixteen, and the tender disciple of but eight or ten years—all in perfect time and exact accordance with the movements of matrons no, maidens is the legitimate presumption of discreet fifty, mature six-and-thirty, and damsels of winning

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sixteen - was a spectacle at which to smile or sigh, as the heart should dictate. I may have smiled once or twice, but I am sure I sighed much oftener. They tell me (for I did not look that way) that the daughters of men who were there as spectators, indulged to excess their constitutional propensity to giggle, at what they esteemed the absurdities of Shakerism. Let me assure you, damsels, that this evinced neither good taste nor right feeling. It puts you, beside, in very undesirable company. I have seen blockheads so dull, so gross, so wholly animal, as to aggravate their uncouth features into a grin, at the spectacle of a water baptism.

Wilder and louder swells the music; quicker and more intricate becomes the 'labor.' Now all are prancing around the room, in double file, to a melody as lively as Yankee Doodle; now they perform a series of dexterous but indescribable manœuvres; now they balance; now whirl one another round in a fashion that I could describe, if I knew any thing of our Pagan amusement of dancing. But here is a hiatus in my education. I only know that some of the 'labor'* here performed, would do no discredit to the few ball rooms I have glanced into; far exceeding the performances in those, in point of regularity and precision, and not falling short in grace. The ball-dress is of course rather in contrast; but the unmistakable earnestness and devotion of these self-mortifying worshippers renders theirs by far the most interesting, and I will hope edifying, performance. We hear of people crucifying their sinful affections, every where; it is here alone that we are permitted to observe the process. Here alone do we overlook the battle-ground of a war against all carnal impulses; the holy war of King Shaddai upon Diabolus; the sanctifying devotions of a community of men and women who have cast from them for ever the master passion of humanity, and esteem themselves already enrolled in the company of the just made perfect. Tell me not, Skeptic, that this may be a pretence or a delusion; say not to me that beneath those homely garments beat hearts susceptible of other fires than those of devotion; pretend not that, beneath yon close-fitting cap and dainty green spectacles, you catch the twinkle of an unquiet eye. Out on your false judgment, Sir Skeptic! You are but looking into the depths of your own spirit, where all impurities luxuriate in rank profusions; and that maiden, as she swells with her gentle voice the sounding chorus,

'This is the path our Saviour trod,
This is the only way to God!'

is as certain that she has crucified all earthly affections, and is indeed in the 'only way to God,' (bigot, blush not for her, but for yourself!)

·

*APROPOS of the 'labor' of dancing. A kind friend, (the prince-regent of story-tellers, who— a murrain on him!-always forestalls the market with the latest and best,) having our personal welfare much at heart, gave us, on a recent occasion, the annexed admonitory anecdote, as we stood waiting for a side-couple,' in a quadrille, at a private evening party: A sumptuous ball,' said he, 'was once given by the English officers and residents at Canton, at which the Chinese officers, civil and military, were guests. The mandarins, and other dignified disciples of Confucius, looked on, with the gravity of so many oysters. They understood nothing of the poetry of motion,' and the rigadoons and pirouettes, the gallopades and mazourkas, appeared to them altogether too laborious for amusement. They could in no wise comprehend it; and finally, after great consideration, a solemu Taou-kwang inquired, with evident commiseration, of one of the English officers, why the barbarians' did not make their servants do that! One should see, of a winter's evening, (from the street, without hearing the music,) the curled and plumed male and female heads bobbing up and down, through the frost-covered windows of Masonic Hall, to realize fully the celestial spectator's idea of labor lost.' EDS. KNICKERBOCKER.

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