Fragrance in Travel Literature-Incidents of travel in the southern states and Cuba by Carlton Rogers

Incidents of travel in the southern states and Cuba. With a description of the Mammoth Cave .. (1862)
Rogers, Carlton Holmes

Since writing you last, I have become somewhat
familiar with the environs of Havana, and have spent
many pleasant hours upon the green sloping hills
which lie adjacent to the cit}^ Castle Principe stands
upon one of the highest elevations, and the view
from its massive battlements is one of the finest that
I ever witnessed. The city and its suburbs lie, as it
were, a host at its very feet ; and the land-locked bay
with its myriads of vessels sleeping on the tide, as
well as the crescent-shaped hills beyond, covered with
perennial foliage, are distinctly visible from this
elevation, and form a living picture on which the
eye delights to linger. A pleasant drive is through the
Tacon Paseo (over a road as smooth as a pebbly
beach, and lined on each side with double rows of
giant palms) to that romantic suburb known as the
Cerro, with its quaint little villas and unpretentious
cottages overburdened with shade, and redolent of
the perfume of flowers.

During my rambles I came to a spot of such quiet
beauty and loveliness, that I stopped and gazed upon
it for a long time in silent admiration. It was an
inclosure of two or three acres, on w^hose swelling
bosom of velvet softness reposed a modest little cot-
tage almost buried in a wilderness of foliage and
flowers. Standing near were two parental oaks, the
protecting deities of the place, whose gigantic, out-
stretched limbs, gnarled and defiant, strove in vain to
meet above, and hide their offspring from the face of
the over-arching sky. Encircling this classic retreat
was a perennial hedge almost smothered in the
embrace of creeping vines and plants in full bloom.
Koses of various hues, and the fragrant honeysuckle
and yellow flowering jasmine, were intermingled,
yielding alike their perfume to the breeze, and filling
the surrounding air with the purest life.

On my return to the city, I repaired to the cathe-
dral, where I witnessed a scene entirely different from
the one I had just been contemplating. Here was a
display of priests and pageantry, of incense and ado-
ration. Here were beautiful ladies in rich attire,
redining upon gav bits of carpet spread on the
marble floor. Here were spruce-looking senors in
black dress-coats and white gloves, bowing before the
altar, but evidently more interested in their fair fellow-
worshippers than in the prosy patcr-nosters of the
portly bishops and sanctimonious priests. The inte-
rior of the church was profusely decorated with gold
and silver ornaments and artificial flowers. The
gilded trappings of the various altars glistened in the
light of innumerable wax candles, and the air was
fragrant with incense from censers borne about by
young novitiates, in embroidered caps and sacerdotal
robes. These, together with the festal costumes of
the audience, who were constantly coming and going,
presented rather an undevout aspect to a stranger
and a Protestant.

My last letter was written from Montgomery, that
lovely city in the green heart of Alabama, where I
spent a few days very pleasantly. My route from
there lay in an easterly direction, for nearly a hun-
dred miles, to the Chattahoochee River, and being
diversified by hill and dale, woodland and stream,
was highly picturesque. I was surprised to see so
many varieties of trees, shrubs, and creeping vines in
the forests and swamps through which we passed.
There was the stately live-oak, the melancholy elm,
the mournful cj-press, the green-leaved laurel, the
white-canopied dog-wood, and the scarlet-flowering
red-wood, with its leafless branches thickl}^ covered
with delicate rose-tinted flowers. Conspicuous among
the shrubs and vines was the wild honeysuckle with
its odorous breath, and the yellow-flowering jasmine
overburdened with fragrance and wreathing with
graceful festoons the stately oak and lonely shrub.

The country around Charleston is generally too
level and monotonous to be really beautiful, yet
there are a number of pleasant drives, and many
interesting places in the vicinity. On the banks of
the Cooper river, two or three miles distant, is the
Magnolia Cemetery. This " city of the dead " was
once a private estate, bearing the appropriate name of
** Magnolia Umbra." It is a quiet, lovely spot, with
its mingled woods and waters ; its silence and shade ;
its patriarchal oaks and noble magnolias ; its mourn-
ful cypresses and fragrant jasmines. "Within its
sacred precincts, " wrapped in the shades of peaceful
quietude," was heard no sound,
Save what still Nature in her worship breathes,
And that Unspoken lore with which the dead
Do commune with the living."

Notwithstanding the somewhat dilapidated appear-
ance of this cafetal^ it contained much that to me was
novel and interesting ; and I could imagine that in
its prosperous day's — when the innumerable trees
which dot its squares were bending beneath the
weight of their golden fruitage, and the various
climbing plants, which now revel on tree-top and
hedo^e, were covered with flowers of almost every
hue and odor, and the coffee-shrub in full bloom,
with its rich evergreen foliage profusely covered
with snow-white flowers — • it must indeed have
been a beautiful sight, and pleasurably suggestive
of the spot where our " first parents " passed the