The Yemassee

By William Gilmore Simms; Alexander Cowie | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXXIV

" And war is the great Moloch; for his feast,
Gather the human victims he requires,
With an unglutted appetite. He makes
Earth his grand table, spread with winding-sheets,
Man his attendant, who, with madness fit,
Serves his own brother up, nor heeds the prayer,
Groaned by a kindred nature, for reprieve."

BLOOD makes the taste for blood we teach the hound to hunt the victim, for whose entrails he acquires an appetite. We acquire such tastes ourselves from like indulgences. There is a sort of intoxicating restlessness in crime that seldom suffers it to stop at a solitary excess. It craves repetition and the relish so expands with indulgence, that exaggeration becomes essential to make it a stimulant. Until we have created this appetite, we sicken at its bare contemplation. But once created, it is impatient of employment, and it is wonderful to note its progress. Thus, the young Nero wept when first called upon to sign the warrant commanding the execution of a criminal. But the ice once broken, he never suffered it to close again. Murder was his companion blood his banquet his chief stumulant licentiousness horrible licentiousness. He had found out a new luxury.

The philosophy which teaches this, is common to experience all the world over. It was not unknown to the Yemassees. Distrusting the strength of their hostility to the English, the chief instigators of the proposed insurrection, as we have seen, deemed it necessary to appeal to this appetite, along with a native superstition. Their battle-god called for a victim, and the prophet promulgated the decree. A chosen band of warriors was despatched to secure a white man; and in subjecting him to the fire-torture, the Yemassees were to feel the provocation of that thirsting impulse which craves a continual renewal of its stimulating indulgence. Perhaps one of the most natural and necessary agents of man, in his progress through life, is the desire to destroy. It is this which subjects the enemy it is this that prompts him to adventure which enables him to contend with danger, and to

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