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Communipaw-by Washington Irving-novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Communipaw

Written by: Wahington Irving

Category:Essays

 

Page 1:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER.

Sir,

I observe, with pleasure, that you are performing from time to time a pious duty, imposed upon you, I may say, by the name you have adopted as your titular standard, in following in the footsteps of the venerable KNICKERBOCKER, and gleaning every fact concerning the early times of the Manhattoes which may have escaped his hand. I trust, therefore, a few particulars, legendary and statistical, concerning a place which figures conspicuously in the early pages of his history, will not be unacceptable. I allude, Sir, to the ancient and renowned village of Communipaw, which, according to the veracious Diedrich, and to equally veracious tradition, was the first spot where our ever-to-be-lamented Dutch progenitors planted their standard and cast the seeds of empire, and from whence subsequently sailed the memorable expedition under Oloffe the Dreamer, which landed on the opposite island of Manhatta, and founded the present city of New-York, the city of dreams and speculations.

Communipaw, therefore, may truly be called the parent of New-York; yet it is an astonishing fact, that though immediately opposite to the great city it has produced, from whence its red roofs and tin weather-cocks can actually be descried peering above the surrounding apple orchards, it should be almost as rarely visited, and as little known by the inhabitants of the metropolis, as if it had been locked up among the Rocky Mountains. Sir, I think there is something unnatural in this, especially in these times of ramble and research, when our citizens are antiquity-hunting in every part of the world. Curiosity, like charity, should begin at home; and I would enjoin it on our worthy burghers, especially those of the real Knickerbocker breed, before they send their sons abroad to wonder and grow wise among the remains of Greece and Rome, to let them make a tour of ancient Pavonia, from Weehawk even to the Kills, and meditate, with filial reverence, on the moss-grown mansions of Communipaw. Sir, I regard this much neglected village as one of the most remarkable places in the country. The intelligent traveller, as he looks down upon it from the Bergen Heights, modestly nestled among its cabbage-gardens, while the great flaunting city it has begotten is stretching far and wide on the opposite side of the bay, the intelligent traveller, I say, will be filled with astonishment; not, Sir, at the village of Communipaw, which in truth is a very small village, but at the almost incredible fact that so small a village should have produced so great a city. It looks to him, indeed, like some squat little dame, with a tall grenadier of a son strutting by her side; or some simple-hearted hen that has unwittingly hatched out a long-legged turkey.

But this is not all for which Communipaw is remarkable. Sir, it is interesting on another account. It is to the ancient province of the New-Netherlands and the classic era of the Dutch dynasty, what Herculaneum and Pompeii are to ancient Rome and the glorious days of the empire. Here every thing remains in status quo, as it was in the days of Oloffe the Dreamer, Walter the Doubter, and the other worthies of the golden age; the same broad-brimmed hats and broad-bottomed breeches; the same knee-buckles and shoe-buckles; the same close-quilled caps and linsey-woolsey short-gowns and petticoats; the same implements and utensils and forms and fashions; in a word, Communipaw at the present day is a picture of what New-Amsterdam was before the conquest. The “intelligent traveller” aforesaid, as he treads its streets, is struck with the primitive character of every thing around him. Instead of Grecian temples for dwelling-houses, with a great column of pine boards in the way of every window, he beholds high peaked roofs, gable ends to the street, with weather-cocks at top, and windows of all sorts and sizes; large ones for the grown-up members of the family, and little ones for the little folk. Instead of cold marble porches, with close-locked doors and brass knockers, he sees the doors hospitably open; the worthy burgher smoking his pipe on the old-fashioned stoop in front, with his “vrouw” knitting beside him; and the cat and her kittens at their feet sleeping in the sunshine.

Astonished at the obsolete and “old world” air of every thing around him, the intelligent traveller demands how all this has come to pass. Herculaneum and Pompeii remain, it is true, unaffected by the varying fashions of centuries; but they were buried by a volcano and preserved in ashes. What charmed spell has kept this wonderful little place unchanged, though in sight of the most changeful city in the universe? Has it, too, been buried under its cabbage-gardens, and only dug out in modern days for the wonder and edification of the world? The reply involves a point of history, worthy of notice and record, and reflecting immortal honor on Communipaw.

At the time when New-Amsterdam was invaded and conquered by British foes, as has been related in the history of the venerable Diedrich, a great dispersion took place among the Dutch inhabitants. Many, like the illustrious Peter Stuyvesant, buried themselves in rural retreats in the Bowerie; others, like Wolfert Acker, took refuge in various remote parts of the Hudson; but there was one staunch, unconquerable band that determined to keep together, and preserve themselves, like seed corn, for the future fructification and perpetuity of the Knickerbocker race. These were headed by one Garret Van Horne, a gigantic Dutchman, the Pelayo of the New-Netherlands. Under his guidance, they retreated across the bay and buried themselves among the marshes of ancient Pavonia, as did the followers of Pelayo among the mountains of Asturias, when Spain was overrun by its Arabian invaders.

The gallant Van Horne set up his standard at Communipaw, and invited all those to rally under it, who were true Nederlanders at heart, and determined to resist all foreign intermixture or encroachment. A strict non-intercourse was observed with the captured city; not a boat ever crossed to it from Communipaw, and the English language was rigorously tabooed throughout the village and its dependencies. Every man was sworn to wear his hat, cut his coat, build his house, and harness his horses, exactly as his father had done before him; and to permit nothing but the Dutch language to be spoken in his household.

As a citadel of the place, and a strong-hold for the preservation and defence of every thing Dutch, the gallant Van Horne erected a lordly mansion, with a chimney perched at every corner, which thence derived the aristocratical name of “The House of the Four Chimneys.” Hither he transferred many of the precious reliques of New-Amsterdam; the great round-crowned hat that once covered the capacious head of Walter the Doubter, and the identical shoe with which Peter the Headstrong kicked his pusillanimous councillors down-stairs. St. Nicholas, it is said, took this loyal house under his especial protection; and a Dutch soothsayer predicted, that as long as it should stand, Communipaw would be safe from the intrusion either of Briton or Yankee.

In this house would the gallant Van Home and his compeers hold frequent councils of war, as to the possibility of re-conquering the province from the British; and here would they sit for hours, nay, days, together smoking their pipes and keeping watch upon the growing city of New-York; groaning in spirit whenever they saw a new house erected or ship launched, and persuading themselves that Admiral Van Tromp would one day or other arrive to sweep out the invaders with the broom which he carried at his mast-head.

Years rolled by, but Van Tromp never arrived. The British strengthened themselves in the land, and the captured city flourished under their domination. Still, the worthies of Communipaw would not despair; something or other, they were sure, would turn up to restore the power of the Hogen Mogens, the Lord States-General; so they kept smoking and smoking, and watching and watching, and turning the same few thoughts over and over in a perpetual circle, which is commonly called deliberating. In the mean time, being hemmed up within a narrow compass, between the broad bay and the Bergen hills, they grew poorer and poorer, until they had scarce the wherewithal to maintain their pipes in fuel during their endless deliberations.

And now must I relate a circumstance which will call for a little exertion of faith on the part of the reader; but I can only say that if he doubts it, he had better not utter his doubts in Communipaw, as it is among the religious beliefs of the place. It is, in fact, nothing more nor less than a miracle, worked by the blessed St. Nicholas, for the relief and sustenance of this loyal community.

It so happened, in this time of extremity, that in the course of cleaning the House of the Four Chimneys, by an ignorant housewife who knew nothing of the historic value of the reliques it contained, the old hat of Walter the Doubter and the executive shoe of Peter the Headstrong were thrown out of doors as rubbish. But mark the consequence. The good St. Nicholas kept watch over these precious reliques, and wrought out of them a wonderful providence.

The hat of Walter the Doubter falling on a stercoraceous heap of compost, in the rear of the house, began forthwith to vegetate. Its broad brim, spread forth grandly and exfoliated, and its round crown swelled and crimped and consolidated until the whole became a prodigious cabbage, rivalling in magnitude the capacious head of the Doubter. In a word, it was the origin of that renowned species of cabbage known, by all Dutch epicures, by the name of the Governor’s Head, and which is to this day the glory of Communipaw.

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