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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 3502

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


At Georgetown, steamers entering the river can lie close to the wharf;-we can enter the Government warehouses without getting wet. In fifteen minutes the shower ceases; and we leave the warehouses to find ourselves in a broad, palm-bordered street illuminated by the most prodigious day that yet shone upon our voyage. The rain has cleared the air and dissolved the mists; and the light is wondrous.

My own memory of Demerara will always be a memory of enormous light. The radiance has an indescribable dazzling force that conveys the idea of electric fire;-the horizon blinds like a motionless sheet of lightning; and you dare not look at the zenith.... The brightest summer-day in the North is a gloaming to this. Men walk only under umbrellas, or with their eyes down-and the pavements, already dry, flare almost unbearably.

... Georgetown has an exotic aspect peculiar to itself,-different from that of any West Indian city we have seen; and this is chiefly due to the presence of palm-trees. For the edifices, the plan, the general idea of the town, are modern; the white streets, laid out very broad to the sweep of the sea-breeze, and drained by canals running through their centres, with bridges at cross-streets, display the value of nineteenth-century knowledge regarding house-building with a view to coolness as well as to beauty. The architecture might be described as a tropicalized Swiss style-Swiss eaves are developed into veranda roofs, and Swiss porches prolonged and lengthened into beautiful piazzas and balconies. The men who devised these large cool halls, these admirably ventilated rooms, these latticed windows opening to the ceiling, may have lived in India; but the physiognomy of the town also reveals a fine sense o

f beauty in the designers: all that is strange and beautiful in the vegetation of the tropics has had a place contrived for it, a home prepared for it. Each dwelling has its garden; each garden blazes with singular and lovely color; but everywhere and always tower the palms. There are colonnades of palms, clumps of palms, groves of palms-sago and cabbage and cocoa and fan palms. You can see that the palm is cherished here, is loved for its beauty, like a woman. Everywhere you find palms, in all stages of development, from the first sheaf of tender green plumes rising above the soil to the wonderful colossus that holds its head a hundred feet above the roofs; palms border the garden walks in colonnades; they are grouped in exquisite poise about the basins of fountains; they stand like magnificent pillars at either side of gates; they look into the highest windows of public buildings and hotels.

... For miles and miles and miles we drive along avenues of palms-avenues leading to opulent cane-fields, traversing queer coolie villages. Rising on either side of the road to the same level, the palms present the vista of a long unbroken double colonnade of dead-silver trunks, shining tall pillars with deep green plume-tufted summits, almost touching, almost forming something like the dream of an interminable Moresque arcade. Sometimes for a full mile the trees are only about thirty or forty feet high; then, turning into an older alley, we drive for half a league between giants nearly a hundred feet in altitude. The double perspective lines of their crests, meeting before us and behind us in a bronze-green darkness, betray only at long intervals any variation of color, where some dead leaf droops like an immense yellow feather.

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