Two Years in the French West Indies (Part One – A Midsummer Trip to the Tropics, Part Two – Martinique Sketches), by Lafcadio Hearn (New York : Interlink Books (Lost and Found series), 2001)
In October 1887 Lafcadio Hearn sailed from New York to Martinique. Anticipating a stay of only a few months, Hearn remained in Martinique for two years, immersing himself in the daily lives of the people and the beauty that surrounded him. In 1890 Hearn published Two Years in the French West Indies, a book that invited, and continues to invite, readers into the tropical landscape, prior to Mt. Pelée’s violent 1902 eruption, that seduced him.
“The feathery beauty of the tree-ferns shadowing each brook, the grace of bamboo and arborescent grasses, seem to decrease as the road descends, --but the palms grow taller. Often the way skirts a precipice dominating some marvellous valley prospect; again it is walled in by high green banks or shrubby slopes which cut off the view; and always it serpentines so that you cannot see more than a few hundred feet of the white track before you. About the fifteenth kilometre a glorious landscape opens to the right, reaching to the Atlantic; --the road still winds very high; forests are billowing hundreds of yards below it, and rising miles away up the slopes of mornes, beyond which, here and there, loom strange shapes of mountain, --shading off from misty green to violet and faintest gray. And through one grand opening in this multicolored surging of hills and peaks you perceive the gold-yellow of cane-fields touching the sky-colored sea. Grande Anse lies somewhere in that direction....” – from Two Years in the French West Indies, by Lafcadio Hearn