The tale of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving is so entrenched within our American consciousness that it yet remains something of a cultural reference in the many years since the story has been published. Myself, I have enjoyed this tale since my youth – for, like any good yarn, it has the ability to capture the imagination of both the young and the old on a variety of different aspects.
“…At the foot of these fair mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village, of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant, (may he rest in peace!) and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weather-cocks…”
As with many early American writers, a profound and elegant overstatement of the raw beauty of the land accompanies Washington Irving`s establishment of the setting of the piece. By means of the bucolic local historian Diedrich Knickerbocker, Irving is permitted such an elaborate prologue – whereas without such literary license, detail in this degree might be considered ponderous.
However, as this narrative is coyly framed as “authentic” folk history, Irving (via his assumed nom de plume) can indulge heartily in a lavish elucidation.