Welty’s words give pause to moment

Published 12:51 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

Three hundred years ago Wednesday, the French dedicated their fort just a couple blocks down the street. The National Park Service has unveiled its site plans for what will be the Fort Rosalie national park, the final segment of the ongoing bluff projects. That is big news for old Natchez!

But Eudora Welty’s words have been in mind this week, and well, the day cannot pass without at least remembering “… before the music, there were drums” — a passage from Welty’s 1944 essay “Some Notes on River Country.”

It is not strange to think that a unique nation among Indians lived in this beautiful country. The origin of the Natchez is still in mystery. But their people, five villages in the 17th century, were unique in this country, and they were envied by the other younger nations — the Choctaws helped the French in their final dissolution.

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In Mississippi, they were remnants surely of medievalism. They were proud and cruel, gentle-mannered and ironic, handsome, extremely tall, intellectual, elegant, pacific and ruthless. Fire, death, sacrifice formed the spirit of the Natchez’s worship. They did not, however, make war.

When Iberville came, the Natchez had diminished to 1,200. They laid it to the fact that the fire had once been allowed to go out and that a profane fire burned now in its place. Perhaps they had the prescience of their end — the only part of their history we really know.

The town of Natchez was named after this nation, although the French one day, in a massacre for a massacre, slew or sent into slavery at Santo Domingo every one of its namesakes, and the history of the nation was done in 1773.

… before the music, there were drums.


Jamey Hudnall

Natchez resident