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  • THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving

  • FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.

  • A pleasing land of drowsy head it was, Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;

  • And of gay castles in the clouds that pass, Forever flushing round a summer sky.

  • CASTLE OF INDOLENCE.

  • In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson,

  • at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan

  • Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas

  • when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called

  • Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.

  • This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent

  • country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village

  • tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert

  • to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two

  • miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one

  • of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just

  • murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of

  • a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

  • I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove

  • of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime,

  • when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it

  • broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes.

  • If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions,

  • and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this

  • little valley.

  • From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants,

  • who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been

  • known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys

  • throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over

  • the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a

  • High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian

  • chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country

  • was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under

  • the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people,

  • causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous

  • beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear

  • music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and

  • twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any

  • other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it

  • the favorite scene of her gambols.

  • The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief

  • of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head.

  • It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away

  • by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever

  • and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the

  • wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the

  • adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed,

  • certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting

  • and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the

  • trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle

  • in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes

  • along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry

  • to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

  • Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has furnished materials

  • for many a wild story in that region of shadows; and the spectre is known at all the country

  • firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

  • It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native

  • inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for

  • a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they

  • are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to

  • grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.

  • I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch

  • valleys, found here and there embosomed in the great State of New York, that population,

  • manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement,

  • which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps

  • by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still water, which border a rapid

  • stream, where we may see the straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving

  • in their mimic harbor, undisturbed by the rush of the passing current. Though many years

  • have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I

  • should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered

  • bosom.

  • In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that

  • is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned,

  • or, as he expressed it, “tarried,” in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing

  • the children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the

  • Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its

  • legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable

  • to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and

  • legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels,

  • and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with

  • huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a

  • weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him

  • striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering

  • about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth,

  • or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.

  • His schoolhouse was a low building of one large room, rudely constructed of logs; the

  • windows partly glazed, and partly patched with leaves of old copybooks. It was most

  • ingeniously secured at vacant hours, by a withe twisted in the handle of the door, and

  • stakes set against the window shutters; so that though a thief might get in with perfect

  • ease, he would find some embarrassment in getting out,—an idea most probably borrowed

  • by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of an eelpot. The schoolhouse stood

  • in a rather lonely but pleasant situation, just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook

  • running close by, and a formidable birch-tree growing at one end of it. From hence the low

  • murmur of his pupils' voices, conning over their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy

  • summer's day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative

  • voice of the master, in the tone of menace or command, or, peradventure, by the appalling

  • sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge.

  • Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the golden maxim, “Spare

  • the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod Crane's scholars certainly were not spoiled.

  • I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel potentates of the

  • school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with

  • discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and

  • laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish

  • of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice were satisfied by

  • inflicting a double portion on some little tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin,

  • who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called

  • doing his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted a chastisement without

  • following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting urchin, thathe would remember

  • it and thank him for it the longest day he had to live.”

  • When school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of the larger boys;

  • and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to

  • have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard.

  • Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from

  • his school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily

  • bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda;

  • but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded

  • and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived

  • successively a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his

  • worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.

  • That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are

  • apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones,

  • he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers

  • occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences,

  • took the horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire.

  • He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it

  • in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He found

  • favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and

  • like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child

  • on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.

  • In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the neighborhood, and

  • picked up many bright shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter

  • of no little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery,

  • with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm

  • from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation;

  • and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be

  • heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the millpond, on a still Sunday morning,

  • which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers

  • little makeshifts, in that ingenious way which is commonly denominatedby hook and by

  • crook,” the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood

  • nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.

  • The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural

  • neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior

  • taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning

  • only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the

  • tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats,

  • or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly

  • happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the churchyard,

  • between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overran

  • the surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones;

  • or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent millpond;

  • while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance

  • and address.

  • From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the

  • whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted

  • with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition,

  • for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather's