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Title: Under the Trees and Elsewhere
Author: Mabie, Hamilton Wright, 1845-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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UNDER THE TREES AND ELSEWHERE


BY

HAMILTON WRIGHT MABIE



NEW YORK: PUBLISHED BY

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

MDCCCCIV



Copyright, 1891 and 1893

BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

All rights reserved



TO

MY FRIENDS IN ARDEN

C. B. Y.

AND

M. Y. W.



Contents


CHAPTER

     I. AN APRIL DAY
    II. UNDER THE APPLE BOUGHS
   III. ALONG THE ROAD--I
    IV. ALONG THE ROAD--II
     V. THE OPEN FIELDS
    VI. EARTH AND SKY
   VII. THE MYSTERY OF NIGHT
  VIII. OFF SHORE
    IX. A MOUNTAIN RIVULET
     X. THE EARLIEST INSIGHTS
    XI. THE HEART OF THE WOODS
   XII. BESIDE THE RIVER
  XIII. AT THE SPRING
   XIV. ON THE HEIGHTS
    XV. UNDER COLLEGE ELMS
   XVI. A SUMMER MORNING
  XVII. A SUMMER NOON
 XVIII. EVENTIDE
   XIX. THE TURN OF THE TIDE
    XX. A MEMORY OF SUMMER
   XXI. IN THE FOREST OF ARDEN, I-XI
  XXII. AN UNDISCOVERED ISLAND, I-VI



Under the Trees and Elsewhere


Chapter I

An April Day

My study has been a dull place of late; even the open fire, which still
lingers on the hearth, has failed to exorcise a certain gray and weary
spirit which has somehow taken possession of the premises.  As I was
thinking this morning about the best way of ejecting this unwelcome
inmate, it suddenly occurred to me that for some time past my study has
been simply a workshop; the fire has been lighted early and burned
late, the windows have been closed to keep out all disturbing sounds,
and the pile of manuscript on the table has steadily grown higher and
higher.  "After all," I said to myself, "it is I that ought to be
ejected."  Acting on this conclusion, and without waiting for the
service of process of formal dislodgment, I have let the fire go out,
opened the windows, locked the door, and put myself into the hands of
my old friend, Nature, for refreshment and society.  I find that I have
come a little prematurely, although my welcome has been even warmer
than it would have been later.

"This is what I like," my old friend seemed to say.  "You have not
waited until I have set my house in order and embellished my grounds.
You have come because you love me even more than my surroundings.  I
have a good many friends who know me only from May to October: the rest
of the year they give me cold glances of surprised recognition, or they
pass me by without so much as a look.  Their ardent devotion in summer
fills me with a deep disdain; their admiration for great masses of
colour, for high, striking effects, and for the general lavishness and
prodigality of my passing mood, betrays their lack of discernment,
their defect of taste, and their slight acquaintance with myself.  I
should much prefer that they would leave my woods and fields untrodden,
and not disturb my mountain solitudes with their ignorant and vulgar
raptures.  The people who really know me and love me seek me oftener at
other seasons, when I am more at leisure, and can bid them to a more
intimate companionship.  They come to understand my finer moods and
deeper secrets of beauty; the elusive loveliness which I leave behind
me to lure on my true friends through the late autumn, they find and
follow with the eye and heart of love; the rare and splendid aspects in
which I often discover my presence in midwinter they enjoy all the more
because I have withdrawn myself from the gaze of the crowd; and the
first faint touches of colour and soft breathings of life, which
announce my return in the early spring, they greet with the deep joy of
true lovers.  Those only who discern the beauty of branches from which
I have stripped the leaves to uncover their exquisite outline and
symmetry, who can look over bare fields and into the faded copse and
find there the elusive beauty which hides in soft tones and low
colours, are my true friends; all others are either pretenders or
distant acquaintances."

I was not at all surprised to hear my old friend express sentiments so
utterly at variance with those held by many people who lay claim to her
friendship; in fact, they are sentiments which I find every year
becoming more and more my own convictions.  In every gallery of
paintings you will find the untrained about the pictures on which the
artist has lavished the highest colours from his palette; those whose
taste for art has had direction and culture will look for very
different effects in the works which attract them.  It is among the
rich and varied low colours of this season, in wood and field, that a
true lover of nature detects some of her rarest touches of loveliness;
the low western sun, falling athwart the bare boughs and striking a
kind of subdued bloom into the brown hill-tops and across the furze and
heather, sometimes reveals a hidden charm in the landscape which one
seeks in vain when skies are softer and the green roof has been
stretched over the woodland ways.  In fact, one can hardly lay claim to
any intimacy with Nature until he loves her best when she discards her
royalty, and, like Cinderella, clad only in the cast-off garments of
sunnier days, she crouches before the ashes of the faded year.  The
test of friendship is its fidelity when every charm of fortune and
environment has been swept away, and the bare, undraped character alone
remains; if love still holds steadfast, and the joy of companionship
survives in such an hour, the fellowship becomes a beautiful prophecy
of immortality.  To all professions of love Nature applies this
infallible test with a kind of divine impartiality.  With the first
note of the bluebird, under the brief flush of an April sky, her
alluring invitation goes forth to the world; day by day she deepens the
blue of her summer skies and fills them with those buoyant clouds that
float like dreams across the vision of the waking day; night after
night she touches the stars with a softer radiance, and breathes upon
her roses so that they are eager for the dawn, that they may lay their
hearts open to her gaze; the forests take on more and more the lavish
mood of the summer, until they have buried their great trunks in
perpetual shade.  The splendid pageant moves on, gathering its votaries
as it passes from one marvellous change to another; and yet the
Mistress of the Revels is nowhere visible.  The crowds press from point
to point, peering into the depths of the woods and watching stealthily
where the torrent breaks from its dungeon in the hills, and leaps, mad
with joy, in the new-found liberty of light and motion; but not a
flutter of her garment betrays to the keenest eye the Presence which is
the soul of all this visible, moving scene.

And now there is a subtle change in the air; premonitions of death
begin to thrust themselves in the midst of the revelry; there is a
brief hush, a sudden glow of splendour, and lo! the pageant is
seemingly at an end.  The crowd linger a little, gather a few faded
leaves, and depart; a few--a very few--wait.  Now that the throngs have
vanished and the revelry is over, they are conscious of a deep,
pervading quietude; these are days when something touches them with a
sense of near and sacred fellowship; Nature has cast aside her gifts,
and given herself.  For there is a something behind the glory of
summer, and they only have entered into real communion with Nature who
have learned to separate her from all her miracles of power and beauty;
who have come to understand that she lives apart from the singing of
birds, the blossoming of flowers, and the waving of branches heavy with
leaves.

The Greeks saw some things clearly without seeing them deeply; they
interpreted through a beautiful mythology all the external phenomena of
Nature.  The people of the farther East, on the other hand, saw more
obscurely, but far more deeply; they looked less at the visible things
which Nature held out to them, and more into the mysteries of her
hidden processes, her silent but universal mutations; the subtle
vanishings and reappearings of her presence; they seemed to hear the
mighty loom on which the seasons are woven, to feel through some
primitive but forgotten kinship the throes of the birth-hour, the
vigils of suffering, and the agonies of death.  Was there not in such
an attitude toward Nature a hint of the only real fellowship with her?



Chapter II

Under the Apple Boughs

For weeks past I have been conscious of some mystery in the air; there
have been fleeting signs of secret communication between earth and sky,
as if the hidden powers were in friendly league and some great
concerted movement were on foot.  There have been soft lights playing
upon the tender grass on the lawn, and caressing those delicate hues
through which each individual tree and shrub searches for its summer
foliage; the mornings have slipped so quietly in through the eastern
gates, and the afternoons have vanished so softly across the western
hills, that one could not but suspect a plot to avert attention and
lull watchful eyes into negligence while all things were made ready for
the moment of revelation.  At times a subdued light has filled the
broad arch of heaven, and, later, a fringe of rain has moved gently
across the low hills and fallow fields, rippling like a wave from that
upper sea which hangs invisible in golden weather, but becomes
portentous and vast as the nether seas when the clouds gather and the
celestial watercourses are unlocked.  One day I thought I saw signs of
a falling out between the conspirators, and I set myself to watch for
some disclosure which might escape from one side or the other in the
frankness of anger.  The earth was sullen and overcast, the sky dark
and forbidding, the clouds rolled together and grew black, and the
shadows deepened upon the grass.  At last there was a vivid flash of
lightning, a crash of thunder, and the sudden roar of rain.  "Now," I
said to myself, "I shall learn what all this secrecy has been about."
But I was doomed to disappointment; after a few minutes of angry
expostulation the sky suddenly uncovered itself, the clouds piled
themselves against the horizon and disclosed their silver linings, and
over the whole earth there spread a broad smile, as if the hypocritical
performance had been part of the original deception.  I am confident
now that it was, for that brief drenching of trees and sward was almost
the last noticeable preparation before the curtain rose.  The next day
there was a deep, unbroken quiet across our piece of world, as if a
fragment of eternity had been quietly slipped into the place of one of
our brief, noisy days.  The trees stood motionless, as if awaiting some
signal, and I listened in vain for that inarticulate and half-heard
murmur of coming life which, day and night, had filled my thoughts
these past weeks, and set the march of the hours to a sublime rhythm.

The next morning a faint perfume stole into my room.  I rose hastily,
ran to the window, and lo! the secret was out: the apple trees were in
bloom!  Three days later, and the miracle so long in preparation was
accomplished; the slowly rising tide of life had broken into a foam of
blossoms and buried the world in a billowy sea.  There will come days
of greater splendour than this, days of deeper foliage, of waving grain
and ripening fruit, but no later day will eclipse this vision of
paradise which lies outspread from my window; life touches to-day the
zenith of its earliest and freshest bloom; to-morrow the blossoms will
begin to sift down from the snowy branches, and the great movement of
summer will advance again; but for one brief day the year pauses and
waits, reluctant to break the spell of this perfect hour, to mar by the
stir of a single leaf the stainless loveliness of this revelation of
nature's unwasted youth.

I do not care to look through these great masses of bloom; it is enough
simply to live in an hour which brings such an overflow of beauty from
the ancient fountains; but Nature herself lures one to deeper thoughts,
and, through the vision which spreads like a mirage over the landscape,
hints at some hidden loveliness at the root of this riotous blossoming,
some diviner vision for the eye of the spirit alone.  "Look," she seems
to say, as I stand and gaze with unappeased hunger of soul, "this is my
holiday.  In the coming weeks I have a whole race to feed, and over the
length of the world men are imploring my help.  They do their little
share of work, and while they wait, waking and sleeping, anxiously
watching winds and clouds, I vitalise their toil and turn all my forces
to their bidding.  The labour of the year is at hand and on its
threshold I take this holiday.  To-day I give you a glimpse of
paradise; a garden in which all manner of loveliness blooms simply from
the overflow of life, without thought, or care, or toil.  This was my
life before men came with their cries of hunger and nakedness; this
shall be my life again when they have passed beyond.  This which lies
before you like a dream is a glimpse of life as it is in me, and shall
be in you; immortal, inexhaustible fulness of power and beauty,
overflowing in frolic loveliness.  This shall be to you a day out of
eternity, a moment out of the immortal youth to which all true life
comes at last, and in which it abides."

I cannot say that I heard these words, and yet they were as real to me
as if they had been audible; in all fellowship with Nature silence is
deeper and more real than speech.  As I stood meditating on these deep
things that lie at the bottom of this sea of bloom, I understood why
men in all ages have connected the flowering of the apple with their
dreams of paradise; I saw at a glance the immortal symbolism of these
blossoming fields and hillsides.  I did not need to lift my eyes to
look upon that garden of Hesperides, lying like a dream of heaven under
the golden western skies, whence Heracles brought back the fruit of
Juno; I asked no aid of Milton's imagination to see the mighty hero in

  . . . the gardens fair
  Of Hesperus and his daughters three,
  That sing about the golden tree;

and as I gazed, the vision of that other and nobler hero came before
me, whose purity is more to us than his prowess, and who waits in
Avilion, the "Isle of Apples," for the call that shall summon him back
from Paradise.

        I am going a long way
  With these thou seest--if indeed I go
  (For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)--
  To the island-valley of Avilion;
  Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
  Nor even wind blows loudly; but it lies
  Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
  And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,
  Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.



Chapter III

Along the Road

I

Since I turned the key on my study I have almost forgotten the familiar
titles on which my eye rested whenever I took a survey of my
book-shelves.  Those friends stanch and true, with whom I have held
such royal fellowship when skies were chill and winds were cold, will
not forget me, nor shall I become unfaithful to them.  I have gone
abroad that I may return later with renewed zest and deeper insight to
my old companionships.  Books and nature are never inimical; they
mutually speak for and interpret each other; and only he who stands
where their double light falls sees things in true perspective and in
right relations.

The road along whose winding course I have been making a delightful
pilgrimage to-day has the double charm of natural beauty and of human
association; it is old, as age is reckoned in this new world; it has
grown hard under the tread of sleeping generations, and the great
figures of history have passed over it in their journeys between the
two great cities which mark its limits.  In the earlier days it was the
king's highway, and along its up-hill and down-dale course the
battalions of royal troops marched and counter-marched to the call of
bugles that have gone silent these hundred years and more.  It is a
road of varied fortunes, like many of those who have passed over it; it
is sometimes rich in all manner of priceless possessions, and again it
is barren, poverty-stricken, and desolate.  It climbs long hills,
sometimes in a roundabout, hesitating, half-hearted way, and sometimes
with an abrupt and breathless ascent; at the summit it seems to pause a
moment as if to invite the traveller to survey the splendid domain
which it commands.  On one side, in such a restful moment, one sees the
wide circle of waters, stretching far off to a horizon which rests on
clusters of islands and marks the limits of the world; in the
foreground, and sweeping around the other points of the compass, a
landscape rich in foliage, full of gentle undulations, and dotted here
and there with fallow fields, spreads itself like another sea that has
been hushed into sudden immutability, and then sown, every wave and
swell of it, with the seeds of exhaustless fertility.

From such points of eminence as these the road sometimes runs with
hurried descent, as if longing for solitude, into the heart of the
woodlands, and there winds slowly and solemnly under the overshadowing
branches; there are no fences here, and the sharp lines of separation
between road-bed and forest were long ago erased in that quiet
usurpation of man's work, which Nature never fails to make the moment
she is left to herself.  The ancient spell of the woods is unbroken in
this leafy solitude, and no traveller in whom imagination survives can
hope to escape it.  The deep breathings of primeval life are almost
audible, and one feels in a quick and subtle perception the long past
which unites him with the earliest generations and the most remote ages.

Passing out from this brief worship under the arches of the most
venerable roof in Christendom, the road takes on a frolic mood and
courts the open meadows and the flooding sunshine; green, sweet, and
strewn with wild flowers, the open fields call one from either side,
and arrest one's feet at every turn with solicitations to freedom and
joyousness.  The white clouds in the blue sky and the long sweep of
these radiant meadows conspire together to persuade one that time has
strayed back to its happy childhood again, and that nothing remains of
the old activities but play in these immortal fields.  Here the carpet
is spread over which one runs with childish heedlessness, courting the
disaster which brings him back to the breast of the old mother, and
makes him feel once more the warmth and sweetness out of which all
strength and beauty spring.  A little brook crosses the road under a
rattling bridge, and wanders on across the fields, limpid and rippling,
running its little strain of music through the silence of the meadows.
Its voice is the only sound which breaks the stillness, and that itself
seems part of the solitude.  By day the clouds marshal their shadows on
it, and when night comes the heavens sow it with stars, until it flows
like a dissolving belt of sky through the fragrant darkness.
Sometimes, as I have come this way after nightfall, I have heard its
call across the invisible fields, and in the sound I have heard I know
not what of deep and joyous mystery; the long-past and the far-off
future whispering together, under cover of the night, of those things
which the stars remember from their youth, and to which they look
forward in some remote cycle of their Shining.

Past old and well-worked farms, into which the toil and thrift of
generations have gone, the old road leads me, and brings my thoughts
back from elemental forces and primeval ages to these later centuries
in which human life has overlaid these hills and vales with rich
memories.  Wherever man goes Nature makes room for him, as if prepared
for his coming, and ready to put her mighty shoulder to the wheel of
his prosperity.  The old fences, often decayed and fallen, are not
spurned; the movement of universal life does not flow past them and
leave them to rot in their ugliness; year by year time stains them into
harmony with the rocks, and every summer a wave out of the great sea of
life flings itself over them, and leaves behind some slight and seemly
garniture of moss and vine.  The old farm-houses have grown into the
landscape, and the hurrying road widens its course, and sometimes makes
a long detour, that it may unite these outlying folk with the great
world.  There stands the old school-house, sacred to every traveller
who has learned that childhood is both a memory and a prophecy of
heaven.  One pauses here, and hears, in the unbroken stillness, the
rush of feet that have never grown weary with travel, and the clamour
of voices through which immortal youth still shouts to the kindred
hills and skies.  Into those windows Nature throws all manner of
invitations, and through them she gets only glances of recognition and
longing.  There are the fields, the woods, and the hills in one
perpetual rivalry of charm; the bird sings in the bough over the
window, and on still afternoons the brook calls and calls again.  Here
one feels anew the eternal friendship between childhood and Nature, and
remembers that they only can abide in that fellowship who carry into
riper years the self-forgetfulness, the sweet unconsciousness, the open
mind and heart of a child.



Chapter IV

Along the Road

II

I have found that walking stimulates observation and opens one's eyes
to movements and appearances in earth and sky, which ordinarily escape
attention.  The constant change of landscape which attends even the
slow progress of a loitering gait puts one on the alert for discoveries
of all kinds, and prompts one to suspect every leafy covert and to peer
into every wooded recess with the expectation of surprising Nature as
Actaeon surprised Diana--in the moment of uncovered loveliness.  On the
other hand, when one lounges by the hour in the depths of the forest,
or sits, book in hand, under the knotted and familiar apple tree, on a
summer afternoon, the faculty of observation is lulled into a dreamless
sleep; one ceases to be far enough away from Nature to observe her; one
becomes part of the great, silent movements in the midst of which he
sits, mute and motionless, while the hours slip by with the peace of
eternity already upon them.

When I reached the end of my walk, and paused for a moment before
retracing my steps, I was conscious of the inexhaustible richness of
the world through which I had come; a thousand voices had spoken to me,
and a thousand sights of wonder moved before me; I was awake to the
universe which most of us see only in broken and unintelligent dreams.
Through all this realm of truth and poetry men have passed and repassed
these many years, I said to myself; and I began to wonder how many of
those now long asleep really saw or heard this great glad world of sun
and summer!  I began slowly to retrace my steps, and as I reached the
summit of the hill and looked beyond I saw the cattle standing
knee-deep in the brook that loiters across the fields, and I heard the
faint bleating of sheep borne from a distant pasturage.

These familiar sights and sounds touched me with a sudden pathos; there
is nothing in human associations so venerable, so familiar, as the
lowing of the home-coming kine and the bleating of the flocks.  They
carry one back to the first homes and the most ancient families.  Older
than history, more ancient than civilisation, are these familiar tones
which unite the low-lying meadows and the upland pastures with the fire
on the hearthstone and the nightly care of the fold.  When the shadows
deepen over the country-side, the oldest memories are revived and the
oldest habits recalled by the scenes about the farm-house.  The same
offices fall to the husbandman, the same sights reveal themselves to
the housewife, the same sounds, mellow with the resonance of uncounted
centuries, greet the ears of the children as in the most primitive ages.

The highway itself stands as a memorial of the most venerable customs
and the most ancient races.  As I lift my eyes from its beaten
road-bed, and look out upon it through the imagination, it escapes all
later boundaries and runs back through history to the very dawn of
civilisation; it marks the earliest contact of men with a world which
was wrapped in mystery.  The hour that saw a second home built by human
hands heard the first footfall on the first highway.  That narrow
foot-path led to civilisation, and has broadened into the highway
because human fellowships and needs have multiplied and directed the
countless feet that have beaten it into permanency.  Every new highway
has been a new bond between Nature and men, a new evidence of that
indissoluble fellowship into which they are forever united.

I have sometimes tried to recall in imagination the world of Nature
before a human voice had broken the silence or a human foot left its
impress on the soil; but when I remember that what I see in this sweep
of force and beauty is largely what I myself put into the vision, that
Nature without the human ear is soundless, and without the human eye
colourless, I understand that what lies spread before me never was
until a human soul confronted it and became its interpreter.  This
radiant world upon which I look was without form and void until the
earliest man brought to the vision of it that creative power within
himself which touched it with form and colour and relations not its
own.  Nature is as incomplete and helpless without man as man would be
without Nature.  He brought her varied and inexhaustible beauty, and
clothed her with a garment woven on we know not what looms of divine
energy; and she fed, sheltered, and strengthened him for the life which
lay before him.  Together they have wrought from the first hour, and
civilisation, with all the circle of its arts, is their joint handiwork.

In the atmosphere of our rich modern fellowship with Nature, the
unwritten poetry to which every open heart falls heir, we forget our
earliest dependence on the great mother and the lessons she taught when
men gathered about her knee in the childhood of the world.  Not a spade
turned the soil, not an axe felled a tree, not a path was made through
the forest, that did not leave, in the man whose arm put forth the
toil, some moral quality.  In the obstacles which she placed in their
pathway, in the difficulties with which she surrounded their life, the
wise mother taught her children all the lessons which were to make them
great.  It was no easy familiarity which she offered them, no careless
bestowal of bounty upon dependents; she met them as men, and offered
them a perpetual alliance upon such terms as great and equal sovereigns
proffer and accept.  She gave much, but she asked even more than she
offered, and in the first moment of intercourse she struck in men that
lofty note of sovereignty which has never ceased to thrill the race
with mysterious tones of power and prophecy.  Men have stood erect and
fearless in the presence of the most awful revelations of the forces of
Nature, affirming by their very attitude a supremacy of spirit which no
preponderance of power can overshadow.  Face to face through all his
history man has stood with Nature, and to each generation she has
opened some new page of her inexhaustible story.  Beginning in the
hardest toil for the most material rewards, this fellowship has
steadily added one province of knowledge and intimacy after another,
until it has become inclusive of the most delicate and hidden recesses
of character as well as those which are obvious and primary.  In
response to spirits which have continually come into a closer contact
with her life, Nature has added to her gifts of food and wine, poetry
and art, far-reaching sciences, occult wisdoms and skills; she has
invited the greatest to become her ministers, and has rewarded their
unselfish service by sharing with them the mighty forces that sleep and
awake at her bidding; one after another the poets of truest gift have
forsaken the beaten paths of cities and men, and found along her
untrodden ways the vision that never fades; her voice, now that men
begin to understand it again as their forefathers understood it, is a
voice of worship.  So, from their first work for food and shelter, men
have steadily won from Nature gifts of insight and knowledge and
prophecy, until now the mightiest secrets are whispered by the trees to
him who listens, and the winds sometimes take up the burden of prophecy
and sing of a fellowship in which all truth shall be a common
possession.

As I walk along the old highway, the deepening shadows touch the
familiar landscape with mystery; one landmark after another vanishes
until the lights in the scattered farm-houses gleam like reflected
constellations.  A deep silence fills the great heavens and broods over
the wide earth; all things have become dim and strange; and yet I feel
no loneliness in the midst of this star-lit solitude.  The heavens
shining over me, and the scattered household fires declare to me that
fellowship of light in which Nature holds out her hand to man and leads
him, step by step, to the unspeakable splendours of her central sun.



Chapter V

The Open Fields

One of the sights upon which my eyes rest oftenest and with deepest
content is a broad sweep of meadow slowly climbing the western sky
until it pauses at the edge of a noble piece of woodland.  It is a
playground of wind and flowers and waving grasses.  There are, indeed,
days when it lies cold and sad under inhospitable skies, but for the
most part the heavens are in league with cloud and sun to protect its
charm against all comers.  When the turf is fresh, all the promise of
summer is in its tender green; a little later, and it is sown thick
with daisies and buttercups; and as the breeze plays upon it these
frolicsome flowers, which have known no human tending, seem to chase
each other in endless races over the whole expanse.  I have seen them
run breathlessly up the long slope, and then suddenly turn and rush
pell-mell down again.  If the wind had only stopped for a moment its
endless gossip with the leaves, I am sure I should have heard the
gleeful shouts, the sportive cries, of these vagrant flowers whose
spell is rewoven over every generation of children, and whose unstudied
beauty and joy recall, with every summer, some of the clews which most
of us have lost in our journey through life.  Even as I write, I see
the white and yellow heads tossing to and fro in a mood of free and
buoyant being, which has for me, face to face with the problems of
living, an unspeakable pathos.

What a depth of tender colour fills the arch of heaven as it bends over
this playground of the blooming and beauty-laden forces of nature!  The
great summer clouds, shaping their courses to invisible harbours across
the trackless aerial sea, love to drop anchor here and slowly trail
their mighty shadows, vainly groping for something that shall make them
fast.  The winds, that have come roaring through the woodlands, subdue
their harsh voices and linger long in their journey across this sunny
expanse.  It is true, they sing no lullabies as in the hollow under the
hill where they themselves often fall asleep, but the music to which
they move has a magical cadence of joy in it, and sets our thought to
the dancing mood of the flowers.

Sometimes, on quiet afternoons, when the great world of work has
somehow seemed to drop its burdens into space, and carries nothing but
rest and quietude along its journey under the summer sky, I have seen a
pageant in the open fields that has made me doubt whether a dream had
not taken me unawares.  I have seen the first sweet flowers of spring
rise softly out of the grass where they had been hiding and call gently
to each other, as if afraid that a single loud word would dissolve the
charm of sun and warm breeze for which they had waited so long.  After
their dreamless sleep of months, these beautiful children of Mother
Earth seemed almost afraid to break the stillness from which they had
come, and strayed about noiselessly, with subdued and lovely mien,
exhaling a perfume as delicate as themselves.  Then, with a rush and
shout, the summer flowers suddenly burst upon the scene, overflowing
with life and merriment; in lawless troops they ran hither and thither,
flinging echoes of their laughter over the whole country-side, and soon
overshadowing entirely their older and more sensitive fellows; these,
indeed, soon vanish altogether, as if lonely and out of place under the
broad glare and high colours of mid-summer.  And now for weeks together
the game went on without pause or break; the revelry grew fast and
furious, until one suspected that some night the Bacchic throng had
passed that way and left their mood of wild and lawless frolic behind.

At last a softer aspect spread itself over the glowing sky and earth.
The nights grew vocal with the invisible chorus of insect life; there
was a mellow splendour in the moonlight, which touched the distant
hills and wide-spreading waters with a pathetic prophecy of change.
And now, ripe, serene, and rich with the accumulated beauty of the
summer, the autumn flowers appeared.  Their movement was like the
stately dances of olden times; youth and its overflow were gone
forever; but in the hour of maturity there remained a noble beauty,
which touched all imaginations and communicated to all visible things a
splendour of which the most radiant hours of early summer had been only
faintly prophetic.  In the calm of these golden days the autumn flowers
reigned with a more than regal state, and when the first cold breath of
winter touched them, they fell from their great estate silently and
royally as if their fate were matched to their rank.  And now the
fields were bare once more.

From such a dream as this I often awake joyfully to find the drama
still in its first act, and to feel still before me the ever-deepening
interest and ever-widening beauty of the miracle play to which Nature
annually bids us welcome.  Across this noble playground, with its sweep
of landscape and its arch of sky, I often wander with no companions but
the flowers, and with no desire for other fellowship.  Here, as in more
secluded and quiet places.  Nature confides to those who love her some
deep and precious truths never to be put into words, but ever after to
rise at times over the horizon of thought like vagrant ships that come
and go against the distant sea line, or like clouds that pass along the
remotest circle of the sky as it sleeps upon the hills.  The essence of
play is the unconscious overflow of life that seeks escape in perfect
self-forgetfulness.  There is no effort in it, no whip of the will
driving the unwilling energies to an activity from which they shrink;
one plays as the bird sings and the brook runs and the sun shines--not
with conscious purpose, but from the simple overflow.  In this sense
Nature never works, she is always at play.  In perfect unconsciousness,
without friction or effort, her mightiest movements are made and her
sublimest tasks accomplished.  Throughout the whole range of her
activity one never comes upon any trace of effort, any sign of
weariness; one is always impressed--as Ruskin said long ago of works of
genius--that he is standing in the presence, not of a great effort, but
of a great power; that what has been done is only a single
manifestation of the play of an inexhaustible force.  There is
somewhere in the universe an infinite fountain of life and beauty which
overflows and floods all worlds with divine energy and loveliness.
When the tide recedes it pauses but a moment, and then the music of its
returning waves is heard along all shores, and its shining edges move
irresistibly on until they have bathed the roots of the solitary flower
on the highest Alp.

It is this divine method of growth which Nature opposes to our
mechanisms; it is this inexhaustible life, overflowing in
unconsciousness and boundless fulness, that she forever reveals.  The
truth which underlies these two great facts needs no application to
human life.  Blessed, indeed, are they who live in it, and have caught
from it something of the joy, the health, and the perennial beauty of
Nature.



Chapter VI

Earth and Sky

In nature, as in art, it is the sky which makes the landscape.  Given
the identical fields, woods, and retreating hills, and every change of
sky, every modulation of light, will produce a new landscape; in light
and atmosphere are concealed those mysteries of colour, of distance,
and of tone which clothe the changeless features of the visible world
with infinite variety and charm.  This fruitful marriage of the upper
and the lower firmaments is perhaps the oldest fact known to men; it
was the earliest discovery of the first observer, it still is the most
illusive and beautiful mystery in nature.  The most ancient mythologies
began with it, the latest books of science and natural observation are
still dealing with it.  Myths that are older than history portray it in
lofty symbolism or in splendid histories that embody the primitive
ideals of divinity and humanity; the latest poets and painters would
fain touch their verse or their canvas with some luminous gleam from
the heart of this perpetual miracle.  The unbroken procession of the
seasons changes month by month the relations of earth and sky; day and
night all the water-courses of the world rise in invisible moisture to
a fellowship with the birds that have passed on swift wing above their
currents; the great outlying seas, that sound the notes of their vast
and passionate unrest upon the shores of every continent, are
continually drawn upward to swell the invisible upper ocean which, out
of its mighty life, feeds every green and fruitful thing upon the bosom
of the earth.  This movement of the oceans upon the continents through
the illimitable channels of the sky is, in some ways, the most
mysterious and the most sublime of those miracles which each day
testify to the presence and majesty of that Spirit behind Nature of
whom the greatest of modern poets thought when he wrote:

  Thus at the roaring loom of time I ply
  And weave for God the robe thou seest Him by.


The vast inland grain fields, that stretch in unbroken procession from
horizon to horizon, have the seas at their roots not less truly than
the fertile soil out of which they spring; the verdure upon the
mountain ranges, that keep unbroken solitude at the heart of the
continents, speaks forever of the distant oceans which nourish it, and
spread it like a vesture over the barren heights.  No traveller, deep
in the recesses of the remotest inland, ever passes beyond the voice of
that encircling ocean which never died out of the ears of the ancient
Ulysses in the first Odyssey of wandering.

Two months ago the apple trees were white with the foam of the upper
sea; to-day the roses have brought into my little patch of garden the
hues with which sun and sea proclaimed their everlasting marriage in
the twilight of yester even.  In the deep, passionate heart of these
splendid flowers, fragrant since they bloomed in Sappho's hand
centuries ago, this sublime wedlock is annually celebrated; earth and
sky meet and commingle in this miracle of colour and sweetness, and
when I carry this lovely flower into my study all the poets fall
silent; here is a depth of life, a radiant outcome from the heart of
mysteries, a hint of unimagined beauty, such as they have never brought
to me in all their seeking.  They have had their visions and made them
music; they have caught faint echoes of rushing seas and falling tides;
the shadows of mountains have fallen upon them with low whisperings of
unspeakable things hidden in the unexplored recesses of their
solitudes; they have searched the limitless arch of heaven when it was
sown with stars, and glittered like "an archangel full panoplied
against a battle day;" but in all their quest the sublime unity of
Nature, the fellowship of force with force, of sea with sky, of
moisture with light, of form with colour, has found at their hands no
such transcendent demonstration as this fragile rose, which to-night
brings from the great temple to this little shrine the perfume and the
royalty of obedience to the highest laws, and reverence for the
divinest mysteries.  Here sky and earth and sea meet in a union which
no science can dissolve, because God has joined them together.  Could I
but penetrate the mystery which lies at the heart of this fragile
flower, I should possess the secret of the universe; I should
understand the ancient miracle which has baffled wisdom from the
beginning and will not discover itself to the end of time.

If I permit my thought to rest upon this fragrant flower, to touch
petal and stem and root, and unite them with the vast world in which,
by a universal contribution of force, they have come to maturity, I
find myself face to face with the oldest and the deepest questions men
have ever sought to answer.  Elements of earth and sea and sky are
blended here in one of those forms of radiant and vanishing beauty with
which the unseen life of Nature crowns the years in endless and
inexhaustible profusion.  As it budded and opened into full flower in
the garden, how complete it seemed in itself, and how isolated from all
other visible things!  But in reality how dependent it was, how
entirely the creation of forces as far apart as earth and sky!  The
great tide from the Unseen cast it for a moment into my possession; for
an hour it has filled a human home with its far-brought sweetness;
to-morrow it will fall apart and return whence it came.  As I look into
its heart of passionate colour, the whole visible universe, that seems
so fixed and stable, becomes immaterial, evanescent, vanishing; it is
no longer a permanent order of seas and continents and rounded skies;
it is a vision painted by an unseen hand against a background of
mystery.  Dead, cold, unchangeable as I see it in the glimpses of a
single hour, it becomes warm, vital, forever changing as I gaze upon it
from the outlook of the centuries.  It is the momentary creation of
forces that stream through it in endless ebb and flow, that are to-day
touching the sky with elusive splendour, and to-morrow springing in
changeful loveliness from the depths of earth.  The continents are
transformed into the seas that encircle them; the seas rise into the
skies that overarch them; the skies mingle with the earth, and send
back from the uplifted faces of flowers greetings to the stars they
have deserted.  Mountains rise and sink in the sublime rhythm to which
the movement of the universe is set; that song without words still
audible in the sacred hour when the morning stars announce the day, and
the birds match their tiny melodies with the universal harmony.

In the unbroken vision of the centuries all things are plastic and in
motion; a divine energy surges through all; substantial for a moment
here as a rock, fragile and vanishing there as a flower; but everywhere
the same, and always sweeping onward through its illimitable channel to
its appointed end.  It is this vital tide on which the universe gleams
and floats like a mirage of immutability; never the same for a single
moment to the soul that contemplates it: a new creation each hour and
to every eye that rests upon it.  No dead mechanism moves the stars, or
lifts the tides, or calls the flowers from their sleep; truly this is
the garment of Deity, and here is the awful splendour of the Perpetual
Presence.  It is the old story of the Greek Proteus translated into
universal speech.  It is the song of the Persian poet:

  The sullen mountain, and the bee that hums,
    A flying joy, about its flowery base,
  Each from the same immediate fountain comes,
    And both compose one evanescent race.

  There is no difference in the texture fine
    That's woven through organic rock and grass,
  And that which thrills man's heart in every line,
    As o'er its web God's weaving fingers pass.

  The timid flower that decks the fragrant field,
    The daring star that tints the solemn dome,
  From one propulsive force to being reeled;
    Both keep one law and have a single home.



Chapter VII

The Mystery of Night

Every day two worlds lie at my door and invite me into mysteries as far
apart as darkness and light.  These two realms have nothing in common
save a certain identity of form; colour, relation, distance, are lost
or utterly changed.  In the vast fields of heaven a still more complete
and sublime transformation is wrought.  It is a new hemisphere which
hangs above me, with countless fires lighting the awful highways of the
universe, and guiding the daring and reverent thought as it falters in
the highest empyrean.  The mind that has come into fellowship with
Nature is subtly moved and penetrated by the decline of light and the
oncoming of darkness.  As the sun is replaced by the stars, so is the
hot, restless, eager spirit of the day replaced by the infinite calm
and peace of the night.  The change does not come abruptly or with the
suddenness of violent movement; no dial is delicate enough to register
the moment when day gives place to night.  With that amplitude of power
which accompanies every movement, with that sublime quietude of energy
which pervades every action, Nature calls the day across the hills and
summons the night that has been waiting at the eastern gates.  No stir,
no strife, no noise of great activities, put forth on a vast scale,
break the spell of an hour which is the daily witness of a miracle, and
waits, hushed and silent, in a world-wide worship, while the altar
fires blaze on the western hills.

In that unspeakable splendour, earth and air and sea are for the moment
one, and through them all there flashes a divine radiance; time is not
left without the witness of its sanctity as it fades off the dials of
earth and slips like a shining rivulet into the shoreless sea of light
beyond.  The day that was born with seas and suns at its cradle is
followed to its grave by the long procession of the stars.  And now
that it has gone, with its numberless activities, and the heat and
stress of their contentions, how gently and irresistibly Nature summons
her children back to herself, and touches the brow, hot with the fever
of work, with the hand of peace!  An infinite silence broods over the
fields and upon the restless bosom of the sea.  Insensibly there steals
into thought, spent and weary with many problems, a deep and sweet
repose; the soul does not sleep; it returns to the ancient mother, and
at her breast feels the old hopes revived, the old aspirations
quickened, the old faiths relight their dying fires.  The fever of
agonising struggle yields to the calm of infinite trust; the clouds
fall apart and reveal the vision, that seemed lost, inviolate forever;
the brief, fierce, fruitless strife for self is succeeded by an
unquestioning trust in that universal good, above and beyond all
thought, for which the universe stands.  Who shall despair while the
fields of earth are sown with flowers and the fields of heaven blossom
with stars?  The open heart knows, in a revelation which comes to it
with every dawn and sunset, that life does not mock its children when
it holds this cup of peace to their anguished lips, and that into this
tideless sea of rest and beauty every breathless and turbulent
streamlet flows at last.

In the silence of night how real and divine the universe becomes!
Doubt and unbelief retreat before the awful voices that were silenced
by the din of the day, but now that the little world of man is hushed,
seem to have blended all sounds into themselves.  Beyond the circle of
trees, through which a broken vision of stars comes and goes with the
evening wind, the broad earth lies hushed and hidden.  Along the
familiar road a new and mysterious charm is spread like a net that
entangles the feet of every traveller and keeps him loitering on where
he would have passed in unobservant haste by day.  The great elms
murmur in low, inarticulate tones, and the shadows at their feet hide
themselves from the moon, moving noiselessly through all the summer
night.  The woods in the distance stand motionless in the wealth of
their massed foliage, keeping guard over the unbroken silence that
reigns in all their branching aisles.  Beyond the far-spreading waters
lie white and dreamlike, and tempt the thought to the fairylands that
sleep just beyond the line of the horizon.  A sweet and restful
mystery, like a bridal veil, hides the face of Nature, and he only can
venture to lift it who has won the privilege by long and faithful
devotion.

If the night be starlit the shadows are denser, the outlook narrower,
the mystery deeper; but what a vision overhangs the world and makes the
night sublime with the poetry of God's thought visible to all eyes!
Who does not feel the passage of divine dreams over his troubled life
when the infinite meadows of heaven are suddenly abloom with light?  On
such a night immortality is written on earth and sky; in the silence
and darkness there is no hint of death; a sweet and fragrant life seems
to breathe its subtle, inaudible music through all things.  In the
depths of the woods one feels no loneliness; no liquid note of hermit
thrush is needed to make that silence music.  The harmony of universal
movement, rounded by one thought, carried forward by one power, guided
to one end, is there for those who will listen; the mighty activities
which feed the century-girded oak from the invisible chambers of air
and the secret places of the earth are so divinely adjusted to their
work that one shall never detect their toil by any sound of struggle or
by any sight of effort.  Noiselessly, invisibly, the great world
breathes new life into every part of its being, while the darkness
curtains it from the fierce ardour of the day.

In the night the fountains are open and flowing; a marvellous freshness
touches leaf and flower and grass, and rebuilds their shattered
loveliness.  The stars look down from their inaccessible heights on a
new creation, and as the procession of the hours passes noiselessly on,
it leaves behind a dewy fragrance which shall exhale before the rising
sun, like a universal incense, making the portals of the morning sweet
with prophecies of the flowers which are yet to bloom, and the birds
whose song still sleeps with the hours it shall set to music.  The
unbroken repose of Nature, born not of idleness but of the perfect
adjustment of immeasurable forces to their task, becomes more real and
comprehensible when the darkness hides the infinitude of details, and
leaves only the great massive effects for the eye to rest upon.  While
men sleep, the world sweeps silently onward under the watchful stars,
in a flight which makes no sound and leaves no trace.  Through the deep
shadows the mountains loom in solitary and awful grandeur; the wide
seas send forth and recall their mighty tides; the continents lie
veiled in rolling mists; the immeasurable universe glitters and burns
to the farthest outskirts of space; and yet, nestled amid this sublime
activity, the little flower dreams of the day, and in its sleep is
ministered to as perfectly as if it were the only created thing.

When one stands on the shores of night and looks off on that mighty sea
of darkness in which a world lies engulfed, there is no thought but
worship and no speech but silence.  Face to face with immensity and
infinity, one travels in thought among the shining islands that rise up
out of the fathomless shadows, and feels everywhere the stir of a life
which knows no weariness and makes no sound, which pervades the
darkness no less than the light, and makes the night glorious as the
day with its garniture of constellations; and even as one waits,
speechless and awestruck, the morning star touches the edges of the
hills, and a new day breaks resplendent in the eastern sky.



Chapter VIII

Off Shore

Who has not heard, amid the heat and din of cities, the voice of the
sea striking suddenly into the hush of thought its penetrating note of
mystery and longing?  Then work and the fever which goes with it
vanished on the instant, and in the crowded street or in the narrow
room there rose the vision of unbroken stretches of sky, free winds,
and the surge of the unresting waves.  That invitation never loses its
alluring power; no distance wastes its music, and no preoccupation
silences its solicitation.  It stirs the oldest memories, and awakens
the most primitive instincts; the long past speaks through it, and
through it the buried generations snatch a momentary immortality.
History that has left no record, rich and varied human experiences that
have no chronicle, rise out of the forgetfulness in which they are
engulfed, and are puissant once more in the intense and irresistible
longing with which the heart answers the call of the sea.  Once more
the blood flows with fuller pulse, the eye flashes with conscious
freedom and power, the heart beats to the music of wind and wave, as in
the days when the fathers of a long past spread sail and sought home,
spoil, or change upon the trackless waste.  Into every past the sea has
sometime sounded its mighty note of joy or anguish, and deep in every
memory there remains some vision of tossing waves that once broke on
eyes long sealed.

All day the free winds have filled the heavens, and flung here and
there a handful of foam upon the surface of the deep.  No cloud has
dimmed the splendour of a day which has filled the round heavens with
soft music and touched the sea with strange and changeful beauty.  It
has been enough to wait and watch, to forget self, to escape the
limitations of personality, and to become part of the movement, which,
hour by hour, has passed through one marvellous change after another,
until now it seems to pause under the sleepless vigilance of the stars.
They look down from their immeasurable altitudes on the vast expanse of
which only a miniature hemisphere stretches before me.  How wide and
fathomless seems the ocean, even from a single isolated point!  What
infinite distances are only half veiled by the distant horizon line!
What islands and continents and undiscovered worlds lie beyond that
faint and ever receding circle where the sight pauses, while the
thought travels unimpeded on its pathless way?  There lies the untamed
world which brooks no human control, and preserves the primeval
solitude of the epochs before men came; there are the elemental forces
mingling and commingling in eternal fellowships and rivalries.  There
the winds sweep, and the storms marshal their shadows as on the first
day; there, too, the sunlight sleeps on the summer sea as it slept in
those forgotten summers before a sail had ever whitened the blue, or a
keel cut evanescent furrows in the trackless waste.

Every hour has brought its change to make this day memorable; hour by
hour the lights have transformed the waters and hung over them a sky
full of varied and changeful radiance.  Across the line of the distant
horizon white sails have come and gone in broken and mysterious
procession, and the imagination has followed them far in their unknown
journeyings.  As silently as they passed from sight, all human history
enacted in this vast province of nature's empire has vanished, and left
no trace of itself save here and there a bit of driftwood.  There lies
the unconquered and forever inviolate kingdom of forces over which no
human skill will ever cast the net of conquest.

The sea speaks to the imagination as no other aspect of the natural
world does, because of its vastness, its immeasurable and overwhelming
power, its exclusion from human history, its free, buoyant, changeful
being.  It stands for those strange and unfamiliar revelations with
which Nature sometimes breaks in upon our easy relation with her, and
brings back on the instant that sense of remoteness which one feels
when in intimate fellowship a friend suddenly lifts the curtain from
some great experience hitherto unsuspected.  In the vast sweep of life
through Nature there must always be aspects of awful strangeness; great
realms of mystery will remain unexplored, and almost inaccessible to
human thought; days will dawn at intervals in which those who love most
and are nearest Nature will feel an impenetrable cloud over all things,
and be suddenly smitten with a sense of weakness; the greatest of all
her interpreters are but children in knowledge of her mighty activities
and forces.  On the sea this sense of remoteness and strangeness comes
oftener than in the presence of any other natural form; even the
mountains make sheltered places for our thought at their feet, or along
their precipitous ledges; but the sea makes no concessions to our human
weakness, and leaves the message which it intones with the voice of
tempest and the roar of surge without an interpreter.  Men have come to
it in all ages, full of a passionate desire to catch its meaning and
enter into its secret, but the thought of the boldest of them has only
skirted its shores, and the vast sweep of untamed waters remains as on
the first day.  Homer has given us the song of the landlocked sea, but
where has the ocean found a human voice that is not lost and forgotten
when it speaks to us in its own penetrating tones?  The mountains stand
revealed in more than one interpretation, touched by their own
sublimity, but the sea remains silent in human speech, because no voice
will ever be strong enough to match its awful monody.

It is because the sea preserves its secret that it sways our
imagination so royally, and holds us by an influence which never
loosens its grasp.  Again and again we return to it, spent and worn,
and it refills the cup of vitality; there is life enough and to spare
in its invisible and inexhaustible chambers to reclothe the continents
with verdure, and recreate the shattered strength of man.  Facing its
unbroken solitudes the limitations of habit and thought become less
obvious; we escape the monotony of a routine, which blurs the senses
and makes the spirit less sensitive to the universe about it.  Life
becomes free and plastic once more; a deep consciousness of its
inexhaustibleness comes over us and recreates hope, vigour, and
imagination.  Under the little bridges of habit and theory, which we
have made for ourselves, how vast and fathomless the sea of being is!
What undiscovered forces are there; what unknown secrets of power; what
unsearchable possibilities of development and change!  How fresh and
new becomes that which we thought outworn with use and touched with
decay!  How boundless and untravelled that which we thought explored
and sounded to its remotest bound!

At night, when the vision of the waters grows indistinct, what voices
it has for our solitude!  The "eternal note of sadness," to which all
ages and races have listened, and the faint echoes of which are heard
in every literature, fills us with a longing as vast as the sea and as
vague.  Infinity and eternity are not too great for the spirit when the
spell of the sea is on it, and the voice of the sea fills it with
uncreated music.



Chapter IX

A Mountain Rivulet

This morning the day broke with a promise of sultry heat which has been
faithfully kept.  The air was lifeless, the birds silent; the landscape
seemed to shrink from the ardour of a gaze that penetrated to the very
roots of the trees, and covered itself with a faint haze.  All things
stood hushed and motionless in a dream of heat; even the harvest fields
were deserted.  On such a day nature herself becomes voiceless; she
seems to retreat into those deep and silent chambers where the sources
of her life are hidden alike from the heat and cold, from darkness and
light.  A strange and foreboding stillness is abroad in the earth, and
one hides himself from the sun as from an enemy.

In this unnatural hush there was one voice which made the silence less
ominous, and revived the spent and withered freshness of the spirit.
To hear that voice seemed to me this morning the one consolation which
the day offered.  It called me with cool, delicious tones that seemed
almost audible, and I braved the deadly heat as the traveller urges his
way over the desert to the oasis that promises a draught of life.  As I
passed along the broad aisle of the village street, arched by the
venerable trees of an older generation, I seemed to be in dreamland; no
sound broke the repose of midday, no footstep echoed far or near; the
cattle stood motionless in the fields beneath the sheltering branches.
I turned into the dusty country road, and saw the vision of the great
encircling hills, remote, shadowless, and dreamlike, against the white
August sky.  I sauntered slowly on, pausing here and there at the foot
of some sturdy oak or wide-branched apple, until I reached the little
stream that comes rippling down from the mountain glen.  A short walk
across the fields under the burning sun brought me into the shadow of
the trees that skirt the borders of the woodland.  The brook loitered
between its green and sloping banks and broke in tiny billows over the
smooth stones that lay in its bed; the shadows grew denser as I
advanced, and a delicious coolness from the depths of the woods touched
the sultry atmosphere.  A moment later, and I stood within the glen.
The world of human activity had vanished, shut out of sight and sound
by the deepening foliage of the trees behind me.  Overhead hardly a
leaf stirred, but the branching boughs spread a marvellous roof between
the heavens and the woodland paths, and suffered only a stray flash of
light here and there to strike through.  As I advanced slowly along the
well-worn path beside the brook, the glen grew more and more narrow,
the hillsides more and more precipitous.  In the dusky light that
sifted down through the great trees I felt the delicious relief of low
tones after the glare of the summer day.  It was another world into
which I had come; a world of unbroken repose and silence, a world of
sweet and fragrant airs cooled by the mountain rivulet and shielded by
the mountain summits and the arching umbrage.

The path vanished at last and nothing remained but the narrow channel
of the brook itself, the smooth stones making a precarious and
uncertain footing for the adventurous explorer.  How soothing was the
ceaseless plash of that little stream, fretting its moss-grown banks
and dashing in miniature surge against the stones in its path!  What
infinite peace reigned in this place, around which the brotherhood of
mountains had gathered, to hold it inviolate against all comers!  The
great rocks were moss-covered, the steep slopes on either side were
faintly flecked with light, and one saw here and there, through the
clustered trunks of trees, a gleam of blue sky.  Sometimes the brook
narrowed to a tiny stream, rushing with impetuous current between the
rocky walls that formed its channel; then it spread out shallow and
noisy over some broader expanse of white sand and polished pebble; then
it loitered in the shadow of a great rock and became a deep, silent
pool, full of shadows and the mysteries which lurk in such remote and
dusky places.

It was beside such a pool that I paused at last, and seated myself with
infinite content.  Before me the glen narrowed into a rocky chasm, over
which the adventurous trees that clung to the precipitous hillsides
spread a dense roof of foliage.  The dark pool at my feet was full of
mysterious shadows and seemed to cover epochs of buried history.  As I
studied its motionless surface the old mediaeval legends of black,
fathomless pools came back to me, and I felt the air of enchantment
stealing over me, lulling my latter-day scepticism into sleep, and
making all mysteries rational and all marvels probable.  In these
silent depths no magical art had ever submerged cities or castles; on
the stillest of all quiet afternoons no muffled echoes, faint and far,
float up through the waveless waters.  But who knows what shadows have
sunk into these sunless depths; what reflections of waving branches,
what sittings of subdued light, what hushed echoes of the forgotten
summers that perished here ages ago?

In such a place, at such an hour, one feels the most subtle and the
most searching spell which Nature ever throws over those that seek her;
a spell woven of many charms, magical potions, and powerful
incantations.  The quiet of the place, awful with the unbroken silence
of centuries; the soft, half light, which conceals more than it
discloses; the retreating trunks of trees interlacing their branches
against invasion from light or heat or sound; the steep ravine,
receding in darker and darker distance, until it seems like one of the
fabled passages to the under world: the wide, shadowy pool, into which
no sunlight falls, and in which night itself seems to sleep under the
very eyes of day--all these things speak a language which even the
dullest must understand.  As I sit musing, conscious of the darkest
shadows and deepest mysteries close at hand, and yet undisturbed by
them, I recall that one of the noblest poems on Death ever written was
inspired in this place; and I note without surprise, as its solemn
lines come back to me, that there is no horror in it, no ignoble fear,
but awe and reverence and the sublimity of a great and hopeful thought.
The organ music of those slow-moving verses seems like the very voice
of a place out of which all dread has gone from the thought of death,
and where the brief span of life seems to arch the abyss of death with
immortality.



Chapter X

The Earliest Insights

The heaven which lies about us in our infancy, like every other heaven
of which men have dreamed, lies mainly within us; it is the heaven of
fresh instincts, of unworn receptivity, of expanding intelligence.  It
is a heaven of faith and wonder, as every heaven must be; it is a
heaven of recurring miracle, of renewing freshness, of deepening
interest.  Into such a heaven every child is born who brings into life
that leaven of the imagination which later on is to penetrate the
universe and make it one in the sublime order of truth and of beauty.

As I write, the merry shouts of children come through the open window,
and seem part of that universal sound in which the stir of leaves, the
faint, far song of birds, and the note of insect life are blended.
When I came across the field a few moments ago, a voice called me from
under the apple trees, and a little figure, with a flush of joy on her
face and the fadeless light of love in her eyes, came running with
uneven pace to meet me.  How slight and frail was that vision of
childhood to the thought which saw the awful forces of nature at work,
or rather at play, about her!  And yet how serene was her look upon the
great world dropping its fruit at her feet; how familiar and at ease
her attitude in the presence of these sublime mysteries!  She is at one
with the hour and the scene; she has not begun to think of herself as
apart from the things which surround her; that strange and sudden sense
of unreality which makes me at times an alien and a stranger in the
presence of Nature, "moving about in world not realised," is still far
off.  For her the sun shines and the winds blow, the flowers bloom and
the stars glisten, the trees hold out their protecting arms and the
grass waves its soft garment, and she accepts them without a thought of
what is behind them or shall follow them; the painful process of
thought, which is first to separate her from Nature and then to reunite
her to it in a higher and more spiritual fellowship, has hardly begun.
She still walks in the soft light of faith, and drinks in the immortal
beauty, as the flower at her side drinks in the dew and the light.  It
is she, after all, who is right as she plays, joyously and at home, on
the ground which the earthquake may rock, and under the sky which
storms will darken and rend.  The far-brought instinct of childhood
accepts without a question that great truth of unity and fellowship to
which knowledge comes only after long and agonising quest.  Between the
innocent sleep of childhood in the arms of Nature and the calm repose
of the old man in the same enfolding strength there stretches the long,
sleepless day of question, search, and suffering; at the end the wisest
returns to the goal from which he set out.

To the little child, Nature is a succession of new and wonderful
impressions.  Coming he knows not whence, he opens his eyes upon a
world which is as new to him as is the virgin continent to the first
discoverer.  It matters not that countless eyes have already opened and
closed on the same magical appearances, that numberless feet have
trodden the same paths; for him the morning star still shines on the
first day, and the dew of the primeval night is still on the flowers.
Day by day light and shadow fall in unbroken succession on the
sensitive surface of his mind, and gradually an elementary order
discovers itself in the regularity of these recurring impressions.
Form, colour, distance, size, relativity of position are felt rather
than seen, and the dim and confused mass of sensations discovers
something trustworthy and stable behind.  Nature is now simple
appearance; thought has not begun to inquire where the lantern is
hidden which throws this wonderful picture on the clouds, nor who it is
that shifts the scenes.  Day and night alternately spread out a
changeful succession of wonders simply that the young eyes may look
upon them; and grass is green and sky blue that young feet may find
soft resting-places and the young head a beautiful roof over it.  Every
day is a new discovery, and every night receives into its dreams some
new object from the world of sights and sounds.

Nature surrounds her child with invisible teachers, and makes even its
play a training for the highest duties.  Gradually, imperceptibly, she
expands the vision and suffers here and there a hint of something
deeper and more wonderful to stir and direct the young discoverer.  He
sees the apple tree let fall its blossoms, and, lo! the fruit grows day
by day to a mellow and enticing ripeness under his eyes.  Suddenly he
detects a hidden sequence between flower and fruit!  The rose bush is
covered with buds, small, green, unsightly; a night passes, and,
behold! great clusters of blossoming flowers that call him by their
fragrance, and when he has come reward him with a miracle of colour.
Here is another mystery; and day by day they multiply and grow yet more
wonderful.  These varied and marvellous appearances are no longer
detached and changeless to him; they are alive, and they change moment
by moment.  Ah, the young feet have come now to the very threshold of
the temple, and fortunate are they if there be one to guide them whose
heart still speaks the language of childhood while her thought rests in
the great truths which come with deep and earnest living.  Childhood is
defrauded of half its inheritance when no one swings wide before it the
door into the fairyland of Nature; a land in which the most beautiful
dreams are like visions of the distant Alps, cloud-like, apparently
evanescent, yet eternally true; in which the commonest realities are
more wonderful than visions.  How many children live all their
childhood in the very heart of this realm, and are never so much as
told to look about them.  The sublime miracle play is yearly performed
in their sight, and they only hear it said that it is hot or cold, that
the day is fair or dark!

And now there come sudden insights into still larger and more awful
truths; a sense of wonder and awe makes the night solemn with mystery.
Who does not recall some starlit night which suddenly, alone on a
country road, perhaps, seemed to flash its splendour into his very soul
and lift all life for a moment to a sublime height?  The trees stood
silent down the long road, no other footstep echoed far or near, one
was alone with Nature and at one with her; suspecting no strange
nearness of her presence, no sudden revelation of her inner self, and
yet in the very mood in which these were both possible and natural.
The boy of Wordsworth's imagination would stand beneath the trees "when
the earliest stars began to move along the edges of the hills," and,
with fingers interwoven, blow mimic hootings to the owls:

        And they would shout
  Across the watery vale, and shout again,
  Responsive to his call--with quivering peals,
  And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud,
  Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild
  Of mirth and jocund din.  And when it chanced
  That pauses of deep silence mock'd his skill,
  Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
  Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
  Has carried far into his heart the voice
  Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene
  Would enter unawares into his mind
  With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
  Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received
  Into the bosom of the steady lake.


It is in such moods as this, when all things are forgotten, and heart
and mind are open to every sight and sound, that Nature comes to the
soul with some deep, sweet message of her inner being, and with
invisible hand lifts the curtain of mystery for one hushed and fleeting
moment.

As I write, the memory of a summer afternoon long ago comes back to me.
The old orchard sleeps in the dreamy air, the birds are silent, a
tranquil spirit broods over the whole earth.  Under the wide-spreading
branches a boy is intently reading.  He has fallen upon a bit of
transcendental writing in a magazine, and for the first time has
learned that to some men the great silent world about him, that seems
so real and changeless, is immaterial and unsubstantial--a vision
projected by the soul upon illimitable space.  On the instant all
things are smitten with unreality; the solid earth sinks beneath him,
and leaves him solitary and awestruck in a universe that is a dream.
He cannot understand, but he feels what Emerson meant when he said,
"The Supreme Being does not build up Nature around us, but puts it
forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and
leaves."  That which was fixed, stable, cast in permanent forms
forever, was suddenly annihilated by a revelation which spoke to the
heart rather than the intellect, and laid bare at a glance the unseen
spiritual foundations upon which all things rest at last.  From that
moment the boy saw with other eyes, and lived henceforth in things not
made with hands.

If we could but revive the consciousness of childhood, if we could but
look out once more through its unclouded eyes, what divinity would sow
the universe with light and make it radiant with fadeless visions of
beauty and of truth!



Chapter XI

The Heart of the Woods

There are certain moods in which my feet turn, as by instinct, to the
woods.  I set out upon the winding road with a zest of anticipation
whose edge no repetition of the after-experience ever dulls; I loiter
at the shaded turn, watched often by the bright, quick eye of the
squirrel peering over the old stone wall, and sometimes uttering a
chattering protest against my invasion of his hereditary privacy.  Here
and there along the way of my familiar pilgrimage a great tree stands
at the roadside and spreads its far-reaching shadow over the traveller;
and these are the places where I always throw myself on the ground and
wait for the spirit of the hour and the scene to take possession of me.
One needs preparation for the sanctities and solemnities of the woods,
and in the slow progress which I always make hitherward the world slips
away with the village that sinks behind the hill at the first turn and
reminds me no longer by sight or sound that life is fretting its
channels there and everywhere with its world-old pathos and onward
movement, caught on the sudden by unseen currents and swept into wild
eddies, or flung over a precipice in a mist of tears.  As I go on I
feel a return of emotions which I am sure have their root in my
earliest ancestry, a freshening of sense which tells me that I am
nearing again those scenes which the unworn perceptions of primitive
men first fronted.  The conscious, self-directed intellectual movement
within me seems somehow to cease, and something deeper, older, fuller
of mystery, takes its place; the instincts assert themselves, and I am
dimly conscious of an elder world through which I once walked--and yet
not I, but some one whose memory lies back of my memory, as the
farthest, faintest hills fade into infinity on the boundaries of the
world.  I am ready for the woods now, for I am escaping the limitations
of my own personality, with its narrow experience and its short memory,
and I am entering into consciousness of a race life and dimly surveying
the records of a race memory.

At last the road turns abruptly from the hillside to which it clings
with the loyalty of ancient association, and, running straight across a
low-lying meadow, enters a deep wood, and vanishes from sight for many
a mile.  It is with a deep sigh of content that I find myself once more
in that dim wonderland whose mysteries I would not fathom if I could.
I am at one with the genius of the place; I have escaped customs,
habits, conventions of every sort; the false growths of civilisation
have fallen away and left me in primitive strength and freshness once
more; my own personality disappears, and I am breathing the universal
life; I have gone back to the far beginning of things, and I am once
more in that dim, rich moment of primeval contact with Nature out of
which all mythologies and literatures have grown.  How profound and
all-embracing is the silence, and yet how full of inarticulate sound!
The faint whisperings of the leaves touch me first with a sense of
melody, and then, later, with a sense of mystery.  These are the most
venerable voices to which men have ever listened; and when I think of
the immeasurable life that seems to be groping for utterance in them, I
remember with no consciousness of scepticism that these are the voices
which men once waited upon as oracles; nay, rather, wait upon still;
for am I not now listening for the word which shall speak to me out of
these shadowy depths and this mysterious antique life?  I am ready to
listen and to follow if only these vagrant sounds shall blend into one
clear note and declare to me that secret which they have kept so well
through the centuries.  I wait expectant, as I have waited so often
before; there is unbroken stillness, then a faint murmur slowly rising
and spreading until I am sure that the moment of revelation has come,
then a slow recession back to silence.  I am not discouraged; sooner or
later that multitudinous rustle of the wild woods will break into
clear-voiced speech.  I am sure, too, that some great movement of life
is about to display itself before me.  Is not this hush the sudden
stillness of those whom I have surprised and who have, on the instant,
sprung to their coverts and are waiting impatiently until I have gone,
to resume their interrupted frolic!  I have often watched and waited
here before in vain, but surely to-day I shall beguile these hidden
folk into revelation of that wonderful life they have suddenly
suspended!  So I throw myself at the foot of a great pine, and wait;
the minutes move slowly across the unseen dial of the day, and I have
become so still and motionless that I am part of this secluded world.
The sun shines abroad, but I have forgotten it; there are clouds
passing all day in their aerial journeyings, but they cast no shadow
over me; even the flight of the hours is unnoticed.  Eternity might
come and I should be no wiser, I should see no change; for does it not
already hold these vast dim aisles and solitudes within its peaceful
empire?  And is there not here the slow procession of birth, decay, and
death, in that sublime order of growth which we call immortality?

I wait and watch, and I can wait forever if need be.  Suddenly from the
depths of the forest there comes a note of penetrating sweetness, wild,
magical, ethereal; I slowly raise myself and wait.  Surely this is the
signal, and in a moment I shall see the dim spaces between the trees
peopled and animate.  There is a moment's pause, and then again that
strange, mysterious song rings through the listening forest.  It
touches me like a sudden revelation; I forget that for which I have
waited; I only know that the woods have found their voice, and that I
have fallen upon the sacred hour when the song is a prayer.  Who shall
describe that wild, strange music of the hermit-thrush?  Who will ever
hear it in the depths of the forest without a sudden thrill of joy and
a sudden sense of pathos?  It is a note apart from the symphony to
which the summer has moved across the fields and homes of men; it has
no kinship with those flooding, liquid melodies which poured from
feathered throats through the long golden days; there is a strain in it
that was never caught under blue skies and in the safe nesting of the
familiar fields; it is the voice of solitude suddenly breaking into
sound; it is the speech of that other world so near our doors, and yet
removed from us by uncounted centuries and unexplored experiences.

The spell of silence has been broken, and I venture softly toward the
hidden fountain from which this unworldly song has flowed; but I am too
slow and too late, and it remains to me a disembodied voice singing the
"old, familiar things" of a past which becomes more and more distinct
as I linger in the shadows of this ancient place.  As I walk slowly on,
there grows upon me the sense of a life which for the most part makes
no sound, and is all the deeper and richer because it is inarticulate.
The very thought of speech or companionship jars upon me; silence alone
is possible for such hours and moods.  The great movement of life which
builds these mighty trunks and sends the vital currents to their
highest branches, which alternately clothes and denudes them, makes no
sound; cycle after cycle have the completed centuries made, and yet no
sign of waning power here, no evidence of a finished work!  Here life
first dawned upon men; here, slowly, it discovered its meaning to them;
here the first impressions fell upon senses keen with desire for
untried sensations; here the first great thoughts, vast as the forest
and as shadowy, moved slowly on toward conscious clearness in minds
that were just beginning to think; here and not elsewhere are the roots
of those earliest conceptions of Nature and Life, which again and again
have come to such glorious blossoming in the literatures of the race.
This is, in a word, the world of primal instinct and impression; and,
therefore, forever the deepest, most familiar, and yet most marvellous
world to which men may come in all their wanderings.

As these thoughts come and go, unclothed with words and unsought by
will, I grasp again the deep truth that the truest life is unconscious
and almost voiceless; that there is no rich, true, articulate life
unless there flows under it a wide, deep current of unspoken, almost
unconscious, thought and feeling; that the best one ever says or does
is as a few drops flung into the sunlight from a swift, hidden stream,
and shining for a moment as they fall again into a current inaudible
and invisible.  The intellectual life that is all expressive, that is
all conscious and self-directed, is but a shallow life at best; he only
lives deeply in the intellect whose thought begins in instinct, rises
slowly through experience, carrying with it into consciousness the
noblest, truest one has felt and been, and finds speech at last by
impulse and direction of the same law which summons the seed from the
soil and lifts it, growth by growth, to the beauty and the sweetness of
the flower.  Under the same law of unconscious growth every true poem,
every great work of art, and every genuine noble character, has
fashioned itself and come at last to conscious perfectness and
recognition.  Genius is nearer Nature than talent; it is only when it
strays away from Nature, and loses itself in mere dexterities, that it
degenerates into skill and becomes a tool with which to work, and not a
gift from heaven.  The silence of the deep woods is pregnant with
mighty growths.  Says Maurice de Guérin, true poet and lover of Nature:
"An innumerable generation actually hangs on the branches of all the
trees, on the fibres of the most insignificant grasses, like babes on
the mother's breast.  All these germs, incalculable in their number and
variety, are there suspended in their cradle between heaven and earth,
and given over to the winds, whose charge it is to rock these beings.
Unseen amid the living forests swing the forests of the future.  Nature
is all absorbed in the vast cares of her maternity."

But while I walk and meditate, letting the forest tell its story to my
innermost thought, and recalling here only that which is most obvious
and superficial (who is sufficient for the deeper things that lie like
pearls in the depths of his being?), the light grows dimmer, and I know
that the day has gone.  I retrace my steps until through the clustered
trunks of the trees I see once more the green meadows soft in the light
of sunset.  As I pass over the boundary line of the forest once more,
faint and far the song of the thrush searches the wood, and, finding
me, leaves its ethereal note in my memory--a note wild as the forest,
and thrilling into momentary consciousness I know not what forgotten
ages of awe and wonder and worship.



Chapter XII

Beside the River

All day long the river has moved through my thought as it rolls through
the landscape spread out at my feet.  There it lies, winding for many a
mile within the boundaries of this noble outlook; by day flecked with
sails approaching and receding, and at night shining under the full
moon like a girdle of silver, clasping mountains and broad meadow lands
in a varied but harmonious landscape.  From the point at which I look
out upon its long course, the stream has a setting worthy of its volume
and its history.  In the distant background a mountain range, of noble
altitude and outline, has today an ethereal strength and splendour; a
slight haze has obliterated all details, and left the great hills soft
and dream-like in the September sunshine; at first sight one waits to
see them vanish, but they remain, wrought upon by sunlight and
atmosphere, until the twilight touches them with purple and night turns
them into mighty shadows.  On either hand, in the middle ground of the
picture, long lines of hills shut the river within a world of its own,
and shelter the green meadows, the fallow fields, and the stretches of
woodland that cover the broad sweep from the river's edge to their own
bases.  Below me the quiet current enters the heart of another group of
mountains, flowing silently between the precipitous and rocky heights
that lift themselves on either hand, indifferent alike to the frowning
summits when the sun warms them with smiles, and to the black and
portentous shadows which they often cast across the channel at their
feet.  The solitude and awe which belong to mountain passes through
which great rivers flow clothe this place with solemnity and majesty as
with a visible garment, and fill one with a sense of indescribable awe.

The river which lies before me moves through a mist of legend and
tradition as well as through a landscape of substantial history.  It
has been called an epical river because of the varied and sustained
beauty through which it sweeps from its mountain sources to the sea;
but as I turn from it, and the visible loveliness of its banks fades
from sight, I recall that other landscape of history and legend through
which it rolls, and that, for the moment, is the reality, and the other
the shadow.  A web of human associations spreads itself over this long
valley like a richer atmosphere; the fields are ripe with action and
achievement; every projecting point has its story, every gentle curve
and quiet inlet its memory; for many and many a decade of years life
has touched this silent stream and humanised its power and beauty until
it has become part of the vast human experience wrought out between
these mountain boundaries.  As I think of these things and of the world
of dear past things which they recall, another great river sweeps into
the vision of memory, but how different!  There comes with it no warmth
of human emotion, but only the breath of the unbroken woods, the awful
aspect of the great precipitous cliffs, the vast solitude out of which
it rolls, with troubled current, to mingle its mysterious waters with
the northern gulf.  It is a stream which Nature still keeps for
herself, and suffers no division of ownership with men; a stream as
wild and solitary as the remote and unpeopled land through which it
moves.  This river, on the other hand, bears every hour the wealth of a
great inland commerce upon its wide current; it flows past cities and
villages scattered thickly along its course, past countless homes whose
lights weave a shining net along its banks at night; on still Sabbath
mornings the bells answer each other in almost unbroken peal along its
course.  Emerging from an unknown past in the earliest days of
discovery, human interests have steadily multiplied along its shores,
and spread over it the countless lines of human activity.  To-day the
Argo, multiplied a thousand times, seeks the golden fleece of commerce
at every point along its shores; and of the countless Jasons who make
the voyage few return empty-handed.  Hour after hour the white sails
fly in mysterious and changing lines, messengers of wealth and trade
and pleasure, whose voyages are no sooner ended than they begin again.
It is this wealth of action and achievement which make the names of
great rivers sonorous as the voices of the centuries; the Nile, the
Danube, the Rhine, the Hudson--how weighty are these words with
associations old as history and deep as the human heart!

The rivers are the great channels through which the ceaseless
interchange of the elements goes on; they unite the heart of the
continents and the solitary places of the mountains with the universal
sea which washes all shores and beats its melancholy refrain at either
pole.  Into their currents the hills and uplands pour their streams; to
them the little rivulets come laughing and singing down from their
sources in the forest depths.  A drop falling from a passing shower
into the lake of Delolo may be carried eastward, through the Zambesi,
to the Indian Ocean, or westward, along the transcontinental course of
the Congo, to the Atlantic.  The mists that rise from great streams,
separated by vast stretches of territory, commingle in the upper air,
and are carried by vagrant winds to the wheat-fields of the far
Northwest or the rice-fields of the South.  The ocean ceaselessly makes
the circuit of the globe, and summons its tributaries along all shores
to itself.  But it gives even more lavishly than it receives; day and
night there rise over its vast expanse those invisible clouds of
moisture which diffuse themselves through the atmosphere, and descend
at last upon the earth to pour, sooner or later, into the rivers, and
be returned whence they came.  This subtle commerce, universal
throughout the whole domain of nature, animate and inanimate, tells us
a common truth with the rose, and corrects the false report of the
senses that all things are fixed and isolated.  It discloses a
communion of matter with matter, a fellowship of continent with
continent, an interchange of forces which throws a broad light on
things still deeper and more marvellous.  It affirms the unity of all
created things and predicts the dawn of a new thought of the kinship of
races; there is in it the prophecy of new insights into the universal
life of men, of fellowships that shall rise to the recognition of new
duties, and of a well-being which shall bind the weakest to the
strongest, the poorest to the richest, the lowest to the highest, by
the golden bond of a diviner love.



Chapter XIII

At the Spring

The path across the fields is so well worn that one can find his way
along its devious course by night almost as easily as by day.  I have
gone over it at all hours, and have never returned without some fresh
and cheering memory for other and less favoured days.  The fields
across which it leads one, with the unfailing suggestion of something
better beyond, are undulating and dotted here and there with browsing
cattle.  The landscape is full of pastoral repose and charm--the charm
of familiar things that are touched with old memories, and upon whose
natural beauty there rests the reflected light of days that have become
idyllic.  No one can walk along a country road over which as a boy he
heard the daily invitation of the schoolhouse bell without discovering
at every turn some loveliness never revealed save to the glance of
unforgotten youth.  The path which leads to the spring has this
unfailing charm for me, and for many who have long ceased to follow its
winding course.  At this season it is touched here and there by the
autumnal splendour, and fairly riots in the profusion of the
golden-rod, whose yellow plumes are lighting the retreating steps of
summer across the fields.  Great masses of brilliant wood-bine cover
the stone walls and hang from the trees along the fences.  The corn,
cut and stacked in orderly lines, is not without its transforming touch
of colour; and while the trees still wait for the coronation of the
year Nature seems to have passed along this path and turned it into a
royal highway.  As it approaches the woods, one gets glimpses of the
village spires in the distance, and finds a new charm in this
borderland between sunlight and shadow, between solitude and the
companionship of human life.  A little distance along the edges of the
woods, with an occasional detour of the path into the shades of the
forest, brings one to the spring.  A great, rudely-cut stone marks the
place, and makes a kind of background for the cool, limpid pool into
which a few leaves fall from the woods, but which belongs to the open
sky and fields.  There is certainly no more gentle, reposeful scene
than this; so secluded from the dust and whirl of cities and
thoroughfares, and yet so near to ancient homes, so sweet and
life-giving in its service to them, so often and so eagerly sought at
all seasons and by men of all conditions.  Here oftenest come the
restless feet of children, and their shouts are almost the only sounds
that ever break this solitude.

To me there is something inexpressibly sweet and refreshing in the
familiar and yet unfailing loveliness of this place.  The fields are
always peaceful, and the slow motions of the cattle grouped here and
there under the shadows of solitary trees, or of the sheep browsing in
long, irregular lines across the further meadows, give the landscape
that touch of pastoral life which unites us with Nature in the oldest
and most homelike relations.  Here, on still summer afternoons, one
seems to have come upon a sleeping world; a world over whose slumber
the clouds are passing like peaceful dreams.  In such an hour the
limpid water of the spring seems to rise out of the very heart of the
earth, and to bring with it an unfailing refreshment of spirit.  The
white sand through which it finds its way makes its transparent
clearness more apparent, and the great stone seems to hold back the
woods from an approach that would overshadow it.  It rises so silently
into the visible world from the unseen depths that one cannot but feel
some illusion of sentiment thrown over it, some disclosure of truth
escaping with it from the darkness beneath.  Whence does it flow, and
what has its journey been?  Did some remote mountain range gather its
waters from the clouds and send them down through long and winding
channels deep in its heart?  Is there far below an invisible stream
flowing, like the river Alphaeus, unseen and unheard beneath the earth?
The spring is mute when these questions rise to lips which it is always
ready to moisten from its cool depths.  It is enough that in this quiet
place the bounty of Nature never ceases to overflow, and that here she
holds out the cup of refreshment with royal indifference to gratitude
or neglect.  Here she ministers to every comer as if her whole life
were a service.  One forgets that behind this cup of cold water, held
out to the humblest, there sweep sublime powers, and that the same hand
which serves him here moves in their courses the planets, whose faint
reflections shine in this silent pool by night.

Springs have been natural centres of life from the earliest times.
Deep in the solitude of forests, or fringed with foliage in the heart
of deserts, they have alike served the needs and appealed to the
sentiment of men.  Around the wells cluster the most venerable
associations of the ancient patriarchal families; the beautiful
pastoral life of the Old Testament, full of deep, unwritten poetry,
discovers no scenes more characteristic and touching than those which
were enacted beside these sources of fertility.  Green and fruitful in
the memory of the most sacred history repose these cool, refreshing
pools under the burning glance of the tropical sun.  Here, too, as in
those distant lands, life is kept in constant freshness around the
borders of the spring.  The grass grows green and dense here the whole
summer through, and here there is always a breath of cooler air when
the fields glow with intense heat.  In such places Nature waits to
touch the fevered spirit with something of her own peace, and to keep
alive forever in the hearts of men that faith in things unseen which
rises like a spring from the depths, and makes a centre of fruitful and
beautiful life.



Chapter XIV

On the Heights

Nature creates days for special insights and outlooks--days whose
distinctive qualities make them part of the universal revelation of the
year.  There are days for the deep woods, and for the open fields; days
for the beach, and for the inland river; days for solitary musing
beside some secluded rivulet, and days for the companionship and
movement of the highways.  Each day is fitted by some subtle magic of
adaptation to the place and the aspect of nature which it is to reveal
with a clearness denied to other hours.  There came such a day not long
ago to me; a day of tonic atmosphere--clear, cloudless, inspiring;
there was no audible invitation in the air, but I knew by some instinct
that the day and the mountains were parts of one complete whole.  The
morning itself was a new birth of nature, full of promise and prophecy;
one of those hours in which only the greatest and noblest things are
credible, in which one rejects unfaith and doubt and all lesser and
meaner things as dreams of a night from which there has come an eternal
awakening; a day such as Emerson had in thought when he wrote: "The
scholar must look long for the right hour for Plato's Timaeus.  At last
the elect morning arrives, the early dawn--a few lights conspicuous in
the heaven, as of a world just created and still becoming--and in its
wide leisure we dare open that book.  There are days when the great are
near us, when there is no frown on their brow, no condescension even;
when they take us by the hand, and we share their thought."  When such
a morning dawns, one demands, by right of his own nature, the pilotage
of great thoughts to some height whence the whole world will lie before
him; one knows by unclouded insight that life is greater than all his
dreams, and that he is heir, not only of the centuries, but of eternity.

Such days belong to the mountains; and when I opened my window on this
morning, I was in no doubt as to the invitation held forth by earth and
sky.  There was exhilaration in the very thought of the long climb, and
at an early hour I was fast leaving the village behind me.  The road
skirted the base of the mountain, and struck at once into the heart of
the wilderness, which the clustering peaks have preserved from any but
the most fleeting associations with the peopled world around.  A
barrier of ancient silence and solitude soon separated me even in
thought from the familiar scenes I had left.  A virginal beauty rested
upon the road, and sank deep into my own heart as I passed along; to be
silent and open-minded was enough to bring one into fellowship with the
hour and the scene.  The clear, bracing air, the rustling of leaves
slowly sifting down through the lower branches, the solemn quietude,
filled the morning with a deep joy that touched the very sources of
life, and made them sweet in every thought and emotion.  It was like a
new beginning in the old, old story of time; the stains of ancient
wrong, the blights of sorrow, the wrecks of hope, were gone; sweet with
the untrodden freshness of a new day lay the earth, and looked up to
the heavens with a gaze as pure and calm as their own.  Somehow all
life seemed sublimated in that golden sunshine; the grosser elements
had vanished, the material had become the transparent medium of the
spiritual, the discords had blended into harmony, and one would have
heard without surprise the faint, far song of the stars.  The whole
world was one vast articulate poem, and human life added its own strain
of penetrating sweetness.  At last, after all these years of struggle
and failure, one was really living!

The road, slowly ascending the long wooded slope, wound its way through
the forest until it brought me to the mountain path which climbs, with
many a halt and pause, to the very summit.  Dense foliage overshadows
it, a little thinner now that the hand of autumn has begun to disrobe
the trees.  Great rocks often lie in the course of the path and send it
in a narrow curve around them.  Sometimes one comes upon a bold ascent
up the face of a projecting cliff; sometimes one plunges into the very
heart of the shadows as they gather over the rocky channel of the brook
that later will run foaming down to the valley.  Step by step one
widens his horizon, although it is only at intervals that he is able to
note his progress upward.  At the base of the mountain one saw only a
circle of hills, and the long sweep of wooded slopes which converge in
the valley; gradually the horizon widens as one climbs beyond the
summit lines of the lower hills; at turns in the path, where it crosses
some rocky declivity, one looks out upon a landscape into which some
new feature enters with every new outlook; one range of hills after
another sinks below the level of vision, and discloses another strip of
undiscovered country beyond; and so one climbs, step by step, into the
glory of a new world.  The solitude, the silence, the radiant beauty of
the morning, the expanding sweep of hills and valleys at one's feet,
fill one with eager longing for the unbroken circle of sky at the
summit, and prepare one for the thrill of joy with which the soul
answers the outspread vision.

At last only a few rocks interpose between the summit and the last
resting-place.  I wait a moment longer than I need, as one pushes back
for an instant the cup from which he has long desired to drink.  I even
shun the noble vistas that open on either side, postponing to the
moment of perfect achievement the partial successes already won.  But
the rocks are soon climbed, the summit is reached!  The world is at my
feet--the mountain ranges like great billows, and the valleys, deep,
far, and shadowy, between; and overhead the unbroken arch of sky
melting into illimitable space through infinite gradations of blue.
The vision which has haunted me so long with illusive hints of range
and splendour is mine at last, and I have no greeting for it but the
breathless eagerness with which I turn from point to point, as if to
drink all in with one compelling glance.  But the landscape does not
yield its infinite variety to the first nor to the second glance; the
agitation of the first outlook gives place to a deep, calm joy; the
eager desire to possess on the instant what has been won by long toil
and patience is followed by a quiet mood which banishes all thought of
self, and waits upon the hour and the scene for the revelation they
will make in their own good time.  Slowly the noble landscape reveals
itself to me in its vast range and its marvellous variety.  The sombre
groups of mountains to the west become distinct and majestic as I look
into their deep recesses; far off to the north the massive bulk and
impressive outlines of a solitary peak grow upon me until it seems to
dominate the whole country-side.  A kingly mountain truly, of whose
"night of pines" our saintly poet has sung; from this distance a vast
and softened shadow against the stainless sky.  To the east one sees
the long uplands, with slender spires rising here and there from
clustered homes; to the south, a vast stretch of fertile fields,
rolling like a fruitful sea to the horizon; within the mighty circle,
groups of lower hills, wooded valleys shadowy and mysterious in the
distance, villages and scattered homes.

It was a deep saying of Goethe's that "on every height there lies
repose."  A Sabbath stillness and solemnity reign in this upper sphere,
where the sound of human toil never comes and the cry of humanity never
penetrates.  The boundaries that confine and baffle the vision along
the walks of ordinary life have all faded out; great States lie
together in this outlook without visible lines of division or
separation.  The obstacles to sight which hourly baffle and confuse are
gone; from horizon to horizon all things are clear and visible, and the
world is vast and beautiful to its remotest boundaries.  The repose
which lies on the heights of life is born of the vast and unclouded
vision which looks down upon all obstacles, over all barriers, and
takes in at a glance the mighty scope of human activity and the
unbroken sky which overhangs it continually like a visible infinity.
On such heights it is the blessed reward of a few elect souls to live;
but the paths thither are open to every traveller.



Chapter XV

Under College Elms

Stretched under the spreading branches of this noble elm, which has
seen so many college generations come and go, I have well-nigh
forgotten that life has any limitations of space or time; work,
anxiety, weariness fade out of thought under a heaven from which every
cloud has vanished, and the eye pierces everywhere the infinite depths
of the upper firmament.  Days are not always radiant here, and the
stream of life as it flows through this tranquil valley is flecked with
shadows; but all sweet influences have combined to touch this passing
hour with unspeakable peace.  Here are the old familiar footpaths
trodden so often with hurrying feet in other years; here are the
well-worn seats about which familiar groups have so often gathered and
sent the echoes of their songs flying heavenward; here are the rooms
which will never lose the sense of home because of those who have lived
in them.  The chapel bell tolls as of old, and the crowd comes hurrying
along like the generations before them, but the eye sees no familiar
faces among them.  It is a place of intense and rich living, and yet
to-day, and for me, it is a place of memory.  The life once lived here
is as truly finished as if eternity had placed the impassable gulf
between it and this quiet hour.  These are the shores through which the
river once passed, these the green fields which encircled it, these the
mountains which flung their shadows over it, but the river itself has
swept leagues onward.

Mr. Higginson has written charmingly about "An Old Latin Text-Book,"
and there is surely something magical in the power with which these
well-worn volumes lay their spell upon us, and carry us back to other
scenes and men.  I have a copy of Virgil from which all manner of
old-time things slip out as I open its pages.  The eager enthusiasm of
the first dawning appreciation of the undying beauty of the old poet,
faintly discerned in the language which embalms it, comes back like a
whiff of fragrance from some by-gone summer.  The potency of college
memories lies in the fact that in those years we made the most
memorable discoveries of our lives; the unknown river may widen and
deepen beyond our thought, but the most noteworthy moment in all our
wanderings with it will always be the moment when we first came upon
it, and there dawned upon us the sense of something new and great.  To
most boys this rich and never-to-be-forgotten experience comes in
college.  Except in cases of rare good fortune, a boy is not ripe for
the literary spirit in the classic literature until the college
atmosphere surrounds him.  To many it never discovers itself at all,
and the languages which were dead at the beginning of study are dead at
the end; but to those in whom the instinct of scholarship is developed
there comes a day when Virgil lives as truly as he lived in Dante's
imagination, and, like Boccaccio, they light a fire at his tomb which
years do not quench.

Who that has ever gone through the experience will forget the hour when
he discovered the Greeks in Homer's pages, and felt for the first time
the grand impulse of that noble race stir his blood and fill his brain
with the far-reaching aspiration for a life as rich as theirs in
beauty, freedom, and strength!  It is told of an English scholar that
he devoted his winters to the "Iliad" and his summers to the "Odyssey,"
reading each several times every year.  One could hardly reconcile such
self-indulgence with the claims of to-day on every man's time and
strength; but I have no doubt all Grecians have a secret envy for such
a career.  The Old-World charm of the "Odyssey" is one of the priceless
possessions of every fresh student, and to feel it for the first time
is like discovering the sea anew.  It is, indeed, the Epic of the Sea;
the only poem in all literature which gives the breadth, the movement,
the mighty sweep of sky belted with stars, the unspeakable splendours
of sunrise and sunset,--the grand, free life of the sea.  I would place
the "Odyssey" in every collection of modern books for the tonic quality
that is in it.  The dash of wave and the roar of wind play havoc with
our melancholy, and fill us with shame that we have so much as asked
the question, "Is Life Worth Living?"

There is no grander entrance gate to the great world of thought than
the Greek Literature.  Universities are broadening their courses to
meet the multiplied demands of modern knowledge and to fit men for the
varied pursuits of modern life, but for those who desire familiarity
with human life in its broadest expression, and especially for those
who seek familiarity with the literary spirit and mastery of the
literary art, Greek must hold its place in the curriculum to the end of
time.  This implies no disparagement of our own literature--a
literature which spreads its dome over a wider world of feeling and
knowledge than the Greek ever saw within the horizon of his experience;
but the Greek, like the Hebrew, will remain to the latest generation
among the great teachers of men.  He was born into the first rank among
nations; he had an eye quick to see, a mind clear, open, and bold to
grasp facts, set them in order, and generalise their law; an instinct
for art that turned all his observation and thinking into literature.
Whether he looked at the world about him or fixed his gaze upon his own
nature, his insight was from the very beginning so direct, so
commanding, so perfectly allied with beauty, that his speculations
became philosophy and his emotions poetry.  There was hardly any aspect
of life which he did not see, no question which he did not ask, and few
which he failed to answer with more or less of truth.  He walked
through an untrodden world of sights and sounds, and reproduced the
vast circle of his life in a literature to which men will look as long
as the world stands for models of sweetness, beauty, and power.  Greek
literature holds its place, not because scholars have combined to keep
alive its traditions and make familiarity with it the bond of the
fellowship of culture, but because it is the faithful reflection of the
life of a race who faced the world on all sides with masterly
intelligence and power.  It is a liberal education to have travelled
from Aeschylus, with his almost Asiatic splendour of imagination, to
Theocritus, under whose exquisite touch the soft outlines of Sicilian
life took on idyllic loveliness!

And then there were those unbroken winter evenings, when one began
really to know the great modern masters of literature.  What would one
not give to have them back again, with their undisturbed hours ending
only when the fire or the lamp gave out!  Those were nights of royal
fellowships, of introduction into the noblest society the world has
ever known, and it is the recollection of this companionship which
gives those days under college roofs a unique and perennial charm.
Then first the spirit of our own race was revealed to us in Chaucer,
Shakespeare, and Milton; then first we thrilled to that music which has
never faltered since Caedmon found his voice in answer to the heavenly
vision.  There are days which will always have a place by themselves in
our memory, nights whose stars have never set, because they brought us
face to face with some great soul, and struck into life in an instant
some new and mighty meaning.  The ferment of soul which Hazlitt
describes on the night when he walked home from his first talk with
Coleridge is no exceptional experience; it comes to most young men who
are susceptible to the influence of great thoughts coming for the first
time into consciousness.  A lonely country road comes into view as I
write these words, and over it the heavens bend with a new and
marvellous splendour, because the boy who walked along its winding
course had just finished for the first time, and in a perfect tumult of
soul, Schiller's "Robbers;" it was the power of a great master, felt
through his crudest work, that filled the night with such magical
influences.

The hours in which we come in contact with great souls are always
memorable in our history, often the crises in our intellectual life; it
is the recollection of such hours that gives those bending elms an
imperishable charm, and lends to this landscape a deathless interest.



Chapter XVI

A Summer Morning

I do not understand how any one who has watched the breaking of a
summer day can question the noblest faiths of man.  William Blake, with
that integrity of insight which is often the possession of the true
mystic, declared that when he was asked if he saw anything more in a
sunset than a round disk of fire, he could only answer that he saw an
innumerable company of the heavenly host crying "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
God Almighty!"  The birth of a day is a diviner miracle even than its
death.  They were true poets who wrote the old Vedic hymns and sang
those wonderful adorations when the last stars were fading in the
splendour of the dawn.  Beside the glory of the sun's announcement all
royal progresses are tawdry and mean; beside the beauty of the dawn,
slowly unveiling the day while the heavens wait in silent worship, all
poetry is idle and empty.  It is the divinest of all the visible
processes of Nature, and the sublimest of all her marvellous symbolism.

On such a morning as this, twelve years ago, Amiel wrote in his diary:
"The whole atmosphere has a luminous serenity, a limpid clearness.  The
islands are like swans swimming in a golden stream.  Peace, splendour,
boundless space! . . .  I long to catch the wild bird, happiness, and
tame it.  These mornings impress me indescribably.  They intoxicate me,
they carry me away.  I feel beguiled out of myself, dissolved in
sunbeams, breezes, perfumes, and sudden impulses of joy.  And yet all
the time I pine for I know not what intangible Eden."  In these few
words this master of poetic meditation suggests without expressing the
indescribable impression which a summer carries into every sensitive
nature.

Last night the world was sorrowful, worn, and dulled; but lo! the new
day has but touched it and all the invisible choirs are heard again;
the old hope returns like a tide, and out of the unseen depths a new
life breaks soundless upon the unseen shores and sends its hidden
currents into every dried and empty channel and pool.  The worn old
world has been created anew, and God has spoken again the word out of
which all living things grow.  In the silence and peace and freshness
of this morning hour one feels the inspiration of nature as a direct
and personal gift; the inbreathing, which has renewed the beauty and
fertility about him, renews his spirit also.  He responds to the fresh
and invigorating atmosphere with a soul sensitive with sudden return of
zest to every beautiful sight and sound.  No longer an alien in this
world which has never known human care and regret, he enters by right
of citizenship into all its privileges of unwatched freedom and
unclouded serenity.  One is not absorbed by the glory of the morning,
but set free by it.  There are times when Nature permits no rivalry;
she claims every thought and gives herself to us only as we give
ourselves to her.  She effaces us and takes complete possession of our
souls.  Not so, however, does she usurp the throne of our own personal
life in those early hours when the sun, the master artist, whose touch
has coloured every leaf and tinted every flower, demands her adoration.
Then it is, perhaps, that she turns her thoughts from all lesser
companionships and, rapt in universal worship, suffers us to pass and
repass as unnoticed as the idlers in the cathedral by those who kneel
at the chancel rail.

I confess I never find myself quite unmoved in this sacred hour,
announced only by the stars veiling their faces and the birds breaking
the silence with their tumultuous song.  The universal faith becomes
mine also, and from the common worship I am not debarred.  My thought
rises whither the mists, parted from the unseen censers, are rising: I
feel within me the revival of aspirations and faiths that were fast
overclouding; the stir of old hopes is in my heart; the thrill of old
purposes is in my soul.  Once more Nature is serving me in an hour of
need; serving me not by drawing me to herself, but by setting me free
from a world that was beginning to master and make me its slave.

Now all that insensibly growing servitude slips from me; once more I am
free and my own.  The inexhaustible life that is behind all visible
things, constantly flowing in upon us when we keep the channels open,
recreates whatever was noblest and truest in me.  With Nature, I
believe; and believing, I also share in the universal worship.

Emerson somewhere says, writing about the most difficult of Plato's
dialogues, that one must often wait long for the hour when one is
strong enough to grapple with and master it, but sooner or later the
fitting morning will come.  It is the morning which gives us faith in
the most arduous achievements, and invigorates us to undertake them.
In the morning all things are possible because the heavens and the
earth are so visibly united in the fellowship of common life; the one
pouring down a measureless and penetrating tide of vitality, the other
eagerly, worshipfully receptive.  Nature has no more inspiring truth
for us than this constant and complete enfolding of our life by a
higher and vaster life, this unbroken play of a diviner purpose and
force through us.  Nothing is lost, nothing really dies; all things are
conserved by an energy which transforms, reorganises, and perpetuates
in new and finer forms all visible things.  The silence of winter
counterfeits the repose of death, but it is not even a pause of life;
invisibly to us the great movement goes on in the earth under our feet.
While we watch by our household fires, the unseen architects are
planning the summer, and the sublime march of the stars is noiselessly
bringing back the bloom and the perfume that seem to have vanished
forever.  Every morning restores something we thought lost, recalls
some charm that seemed to have escaped.

In all noble natures there is an ineradicable idealism which constantly
interprets life in its higher aspects.  In the dust of the road the
mountains sometimes disappear from our vision, but we know that they
still loom in undiminished majesty against the horizon; the gods
sometimes hide themselves, but there is something within which affirms
that we shall again look on their serene faces, calm amid our
turbulence and unchanging amid our vicissitudes.  It is this heavenly
inheritance of insight and faith which makes Nature so divinely
significant to us, and matches all its forms and phenomena with
spiritual realities not to be taken from us by time or change or by
that mysterious angel of the last great transformation which we call
death.  The morning is always breaking over the low horizon lines of
some sea or continent; voices of birds are always "carolling against
the gates of day;" and so, through unbroken light and song, our life is
solemnly and sublimely moved onward to the dawn in which all the faint
stars of our hope shall melt into the eternal day.



Chapter XVII

A Summer Noon

The stir of the morning has given place to a silence broken only by the
shrill whir of the locust.  The distant shore lines that ran clear and
white against the low background of green have become dim and
indistinct; all things are touched by a soft haze which changes the
sentiment of the landscape from movement to repose, from swift and
multitudinous activity to the hush of sleep.  The intense blue of the
morning sky is dimmed and the great masses of trees are motionless.
The distant harvest fields where the rhythmic lines of the mowers have
moved alert and harmonious through the morning hours are deserted.  On
earth silence and rest, and in the great arch of the sky a sea of light
so full and splendid that it seems almost to dim the fiery effluence of
the sun itself.  In such an hour one stretches himself under the trees,
and in a moment the spell is on him, and he cares neither to think nor
act; he rejoices to lose himself in the universal repose with which
Nature refreshes herself.  The heat of the day is at its height, but
for an hour the burden slips from the shoulders of care, and the rest
comes in which the gains of work are garnered.

The whir of the locust high overhead, by some earlier association,
always recalls that matchless singer, some of whose notes Nature has
never regained in all these later years.  The whir of the cicada and
the white light on the remote country road are real to us today, though
one went silent and the other faded out of Sicilian skies two thousand
years and more ago, because both are preserved in the verse of
Theocritus.  The poet was something more than a mere observer of
Nature, and the beautiful repose of his art more than the native grace
and ease of one to whom life meant nothing more strenuous than a dream
of a blue sea and fair sky.  He had known the din of the crowded street
as well as the silence of the country road, the forms and shows of a
royal court as well as the simplicity and sincerity of tangled vines
and gnarled olives on the hillside.  He had seen, with those eyes which
overlooked nothing, the pomps and vanities of power, the fret and fever
of ambition, the impotence and barrenness of much of that activity in
which multitudes of men spend their lives under the delusion that mere
stir and bustle mean progress and achievement.  Out of Syracuse, with
its petty court about a petty tyrant, Theocritus had come back to the
sea and the sky and the hardy pastoral life with a joy which touches
some of his lines with penetrating tenderness.  Better a thousand times
for him and for us the long, tranquil days under the pine and the olive
than a great position under Hiero's hand and the weary intrigue and
activity which made the melancholy semblance of a successful life for
men less wise and genuine.  The lines which the hand of Theocritus has
left on the past are few and marvellously delicate, but they seem to
gain distinctness from the remorseless years that have almost
obliterated the features of the age in which he lived.  It is better to
see clearly one or two things in life than to move confused and blinded
in the dust of an impotent activity; it is better to hear one or two
notes sung in the overshadowing trees than to spend one's years amid a
murmur in which nothing is distinctly audible.  Theocritus, shunning
courts and cities, sought to assuage the pain of life at the heart of
Nature, and did not seek in vain.  He gave himself calmly and sincerely
to the sweet and natural life which surrounded him, and in his tranquil
self-surrender he gained, unsuspecting, the immortality denied his
eager and restless cotemporaries [Transcriber's note: contemporaries?].
Life is so vast, so unspeakably rich, that to have reported accurately
one swift glimpse, or to have preserved the melody of one rarely heard
note, is to have mastered a part of the secret of the Immortals.

Struggle and anguish have their place in every genuine life, but they
are the stages through which it advances to a strength which is full of
repose.  The bursting of the calyx announces the flower; but the beauty
of the perfect blossoming obliterated the very memory of its earlier
growth.  The climb upward is often a long anguish, but the dust and
weariness are forgotten when once the eye rests on the vast outlook.
"On every height there lies repose" is the sublime declaration of one
who had looked into most things deeper than his fellows, and had
learned much of the profounder processes of life.  Emerson long ago
noted that even in action the forms of the Greek heroes are always in
repose; the crudity of passion, the distorting agony of half-mastered
purpose, are lost in a self-forgetfulness which borrows from Olympus
something of the repose of the gods.  The sublime calm which imparts to
great works of art a hint of eternity is born of complete mastery of
life; all the stages of evolution have been accomplished, the whole
movement of growth has been fulfilled, before the hand of art sets the
seal of perfection on the thing that is done.  Shadow and light, heat
and cold, tempest and quiet days, have all wrought together before the
blooming of the flower which in its perfect grace and beauty gives no
hint of its troubled growth.  As the consummation of all toil and
struggle and anguish, there comes at last that deep repose, born not of
idleness and indifference, but of the harmony of all the elements in
their last and finest form.

In the unbroken silence of the noon-tide such thoughts come unbidden
and almost unnoticed to one who surrenders himself to the hour and the
scene.  Nature has her tempests, but her harvests are gathered amid the
calm of days that often seem filled with the peace of heaven, and the
mighty and irresistible movement of her life goes on in unbroken
silence.  The deepest thoughts are always tranquillising, the greatest
minds are always full of calm, the richest lives have always at heart
an unshaken repose.



Chapter XVIII

Eventide

When the shadows lengthen and the landscape becomes indistinct, the
common life of men seems to touch the life of Nature most closely and
sympathetically.  The work of the day is accomplished; the sense of
things to be done loses its painful tension; the mind, freed from the
cares which engrossed it, opens unconsciously to the sights and sounds
of the quiet hour.  The fields are given over to silence and the
gathering darkness; the roads cease to be thoroughfares of toil; and
over all things the peace of night settles like an unspoken
benediction.  To the most preoccupied there comes a consciousness that
the world has changed, and that, while the old framework remains
intact, a strange and transforming beauty has touched and spiritualised
it.  At eventide one feels the soul of Nature as at no other hour.  Her
labours have ceased, her birds are silent; she, too, rests, and in
ceasing to do for us she gives us herself.  One by one the silvery
points of light break out of the darkness overhead, and the faithful
stars look down on the little earth they have watched over these
countless years.  The very names they bear recall the vanished races
who waited for their appearing and counted them friends.  Now that the
lamps are lighted and the work of the day is done, is it strange that
the venerable mother, whose lullabies have soothed so many generations
into sleep, should herself appeal to us in some intimate and personal
way?

With the fading out of shore and sea and forest line something deeper
and more spiritual rises in the soul as the mists rise on the lowlands
and over the surface of the waters.  We surrender ourselves to it
silently, reverently, and a change no less subtle and penetrating is
wrought in us.  Our personal ambitions, the sharply defined aims of our
working hours, the very limitations of our individuality, are gone; we
lose ourselves in the larger life of which we are part.  After the fret
of the day we surrender ourselves to universal life as the bather, worn
and spent, gives himself to the sea.  There is no loss of personal
force, but for an hour the individual activity is blended with the
universal movement and the peace and quiet of infinity calm and restore
the soul.  Meditation comes with eventide as naturally as action with
the morning; our soul opens to the soul of Nature, and we discover anew
that we are one.  In the noblest passage in Latin poetry Lucretius
invokes the universal spirit of Nature, and identifies it with the
creative force which impels the stars and summons the flowers to strew
themselves in the path of the sun.  There is nothing so refreshing, so
reinvigorating, as fresh contact with the fountain whence all visible
life flows, as a renewed sense of oneness with the mighty appearance of
things in which we live.  Now that all outlines are softened, all
distinctive features are lost.  Nature loses its materialism, and
becomes to our thought the vast, silent, unbroken flow of force which
the later science has substituted for an earlier and cruder conception.
And this invisible stream leads us back, as our thoughts unconsciously
follow it, to One whose thought it is and whose mind shares with our
mind something of the unsearchable mystery of its purpose and nature.

Some one has said that a man is great rather by reason of his
unconscious thought than by reason of his deliberate and self-directed
thinking.  Released from meditation on definite and special themes, the
thought of a great man instinctively returns to the mystery of life.
No poet creates a Hamlet unless he has brooded long and almost
unconsciously on the deeper things that make up the inner life; such a
figure, forever externalising the profounder and more obscure phases of
being, is born of secret and habitual contact with the deepest
experiences and the most fundamental problems.  The mind of a
Shakespeare must often, forsaking the busy world of actuality, meditate
in the twilight which seems to release the soul of things seen, and,
veiling the actual, reveal the realities of existence.

Revery becomes of the highest importance when it substitutes for
definite thinking that deep and silent meditation in which alone the
soul comes to know itself and pierces the wonderful movement of things
about it to its source and principle.  One of Amiel's magical phrases
is that in which he describes revery as the Sunday of the soul.  Toil
over, care banished, the world forgotten, one communes with that which
is eternal.  In the long course of centuries the forests are as
short-lived as the flowers; all visible forms are but momentary
expressions of the creative force.  In the work of the greatest mind
all spoken and written thoughts are but partial and passing utterances
of a life of whose volume and movement they afford only
half-comprehended hints.  After a Shakespeare has written thirty
immortal plays he must still feel that what was deepest in him is
unuttered.  There is that below all expression of life which remains
forever unspoken and unspeakable; it is ours, but we cannot share it
with others; we drop our plummets into its depths in vain.  It is
deeper than our thought, and it is only at rare moments, when we
surrender ourselves to ourselves, that the sense of what it contains
and means fills us with a sudden and overpowering consciousness of
immortality.  Out of this deeper life all great thoughts rise into
consciousness, losing much by imprisonment in any form of speech, but
still bringing with them indubitable evidence of their more than royal
birth.  From time to time, like the elder race of prophets, they enter
into our speech and renew the fading sense of the divinity of life, and
so, through individual souls, the deeper truths are retold from
generation to generation.

As one meditates in this evening hour, the darkness has gathered over
the world and folded it out of sight.  The few faint stars have become
a shining host, and the immeasurable heavens have substituted for the
near and familiar beauty of the earth their own sublime and awful
commingling of unsearchable darkness and unquenchable light.  So in
every human life the near and the familiar is overarched by infinity
and eternity.



Chapter XIX

The Turn of the Tide

For days past there have been intangible hints of change in earth and
air; the birds are silent, and the universal strident note of insect
life makes more musical to memory the melodies of the earlier season.
The sense of overflowing vitality which pervaded all things a few days
ago, when the tide was at the flood, has gone; the tide has turned, and
already one sees the receding movement of the ebb.  Through all the
vanished months of flower and song, one's thought has travelled fast
upon the advancing march of summer, trying to keep pace with it as it
pushed its fragrant conquest northward; to-day there is a brief
interval of pause before the same thought, following the sunshine,
turns south again, and seeks the tropics.  A little later the spell of
an indescribable peace will rest upon the earth, but a peace that will
be but a brief truce between elements soon to close in struggle again.
To-day, however, one feels the repose of a finished work before the
first mellow touch of decay has come.  The full, rich foliage still
shelters the paths upon which the leaves have not yet fallen; the
meadows are green; the skies soft and benignant.  The conquest of
summer is still intact, but here and there one sees slight but
unmistakable evidence that the garrison, under cover of night, is
beginning its long retreat.  In such a moment one feels a sudden sense
of loneliness, as if a friend were secretly preparing to desert one to
his foes.

In this pause of the season one finds the subtle beauty and
completeness of the summer growing upon him more and more.  While the
work was going forward, there was such profound interest in the process
that one watched the turn and direction of the chisel rather than the
surface of the marble slowly answering, line by line, the overmastering
thought; but now that the months of toil are past, and all the
implements of labour are cast aside, the finished work absorbs all
thought and fills all imaginations.  So vast is it, and on such a scale
of magnitude, that one hardly saw before the delicacy and exquisite
adjustment of parts, the marvellous art that framed the smallest leaf
and touched the vagrant wild flower still blooming on the edges of the
woodland.  It is, after all, when the great festival days are over and
the thronging crowds have gone, that the true worshipper finds the
temple beautiful with the highest visions of worship, and in the
silence of deserted aisles and shrines sees with new wonder the
workmanship of the Deity.  For all such this is the most solemn of all
the recurring Sabbaths of the year; the hush at noonday and at even is
itself an unspoken prayer.  The moment of completion in the history of
any great work is always sacred.  When the noise and dust of the
working days are gone, the great illuminating thought shines out
unobscured; and in the perception of this universal element, which on
the instant wins recognition from every mind, the personal element
vanishes; the mere skill of the workman is forgotten in the new
revelation of soul which it has given the world.  For the same reason
Nature takes on in these few and peaceful days a spiritual aspect, and
the most careless finds himself touched, perhaps saddened, he knows not
how or why.

Now again is the old mystery and deep secret of life forced upon
thought: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it
abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit."  When
the tide was at the flood it was enough to breathe the air and listen
to the magical music of advancing life; but now, when the tide begins
to recede and leave the vast shores bare and silent, one must think,
whether he will or not.  Nature, that was careless poet, flower-crowned
and buoyant with the promise of eternal youth, turns teacher, and will
not suffer us to escape the deeper truths, the more searching and awful
lessons.  As the physical falls away the spiritual comes into clear and
compelling distinctness.  Who that goes abroad in these quiet days, and
feels the subtle change from the grosser to the ethereal which pervades
the very air, can escape the threefold thought of Life, Death, and
Immortality?

The silence that has already fallen upon the jubilant voices of summer
will extend and deepen day by day until even the thoughtless babbling
of the brooks ceases and the hush becomes universal.  The earth, that a
little time ago was producing such an endless variety of forms of life
and beauty, will give birth to a myriad thoughts, deep, spiritual, and
far-reaching; translating into the language of spirit the vast movement
of the year, and completing its mysterious cycle with a vision of the
sublime ends for which Nature stands, and to the consummation of which
all things are borne forward.  And when the time is ripe there will
come a transformation like the descent of the heavens upon the earth,
flooding the dying world with unspeakable splendours; the sunset which
closes the long summer day and leaves through the night of winter the
fadeless promise of another dawn.



Chapter XX

A Memory of Summer

In the pine woods, or floating under overhanging branches on the silent
and almost motionless river, I have had visions of my study fire during
the summer months, and, now that I find myself once more within the
cheerful circle of its glow, the time that has passed since it was
lighted for the last time in the spring seems like a long, delightful
dream.  I recall those charming days, some of them full of silence and
repose from dawn to sunset, some of them ripe with effort and
adventure, with a keen delight in the feeling of possession which comes
with them; they were brief, they have gone, but they are mine forever.
The beauty and freshness that touched them morning after morning as the
dew touches the flower are henceforth a part of my life; they have
entered into my soul as their light and heat entered into the ripening
fruits and grains.  I have come back to my friendly fire richer and
wiser for my absence from its cheer and warmth; my life has been
renewed at those ancient sources whence all our knowledge has come; I
have felt again the solitude and sanctity of those venerable shades
where the voices of the oracles were once heard, and fleeting glimpses
of shy divinities made a momentary splendour in the dusky depths.

Wordsworth's sonnets are always within reach of those who never get
beyond the compelling voice of nature, and who are continually
returning to her with a sense of loss and decline after every
wandering.  As I take up the little, well-worn book, it opens of itself
at a familiar page, and I read once more that sonnet which comes to one
at times with an unspeakable pathos in its lines--a sense of permanent
alienation and loss:

  The world is too much with us; late and soon,
  Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
  Little we see in Nature that is ours;
  We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.
  This sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
  The winds that will be howling at all hours,
  And are up-gathered now like springing flowers--
  For this, for everything, we are out of tune.
  It moves us not.  Great God!  I'd rather be
  A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
  So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
  Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
  Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
  Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.


Almost unconsciously I repeat these lines aloud, and straightway the
fire, breaking into flame where it has been only glowing before,
answers them with a sudden outburst of heat and light that make a brief
summer in my study.  When one goes back to the woods and streams after
long separation and absorption in books and affairs, he misses
something which once thrilled and inspired him.  The meadows are
unchanged, but the light that touched them illusively, but with a
lasting and incommunicable beauty, is gone; the woodlands are dim and
shadowy as of old, but they are vacant of the presence that once filled
them.  There is something painfully disheartening in coming back to
Nature and finding one's self thus unwelcomed and uncared for, and in
the first moment of disappointment an unspoken accusation of change and
coldness lies in the heart.  The change is not in Nature, however; it
is in ourselves.  "The world is too much with us."  Not until its
strife and tumult fade into distance and memory will those finer
senses, dulled by contact with a meaner life, restore that which we
have lost.  After a little some such thought as this comes to us, and
day after day we haunt the silent streams and the secret places of the
forest; waiting, watching, unconsciously bringing ourselves once more
into harmony with the great, rich world around us, we forget the tumult
out of which we have come, a deep peace possesses us, and in its
unbroken quietness the old sights and sounds return again.  Youth,
faith, hope, and love spring again out of a soil which had begun to
deny them sustenance; old dreams mingle with our waking hours; the
old-time channels of joy, long silent and bare, overflow with streams
that restore a lost world of beauty in our souls.  We have come back to
Nature, and she has not denied us, in spite of our disloyalty.

I know of nothing more full of deep delight than this return of the old
companionship, this restoration of the old intimacy.  How much there is
to recall, how many confidences there are to be exchanged!  The days
are not long enough for all we would say and hear.  Such hours come in
the pine woods; hours so full of the strange silence of the place, so
unbroken by customary habits and thoughts, that no dial could divide
into fragments a day that was one long unbroken spell of wonder and
delight.  So remote seemed all human life that even memory turned from
it and lost herself in silent meditation; so vast and mysterious was
the life of Nature that the past and the future seemed part of the
changeless present.  The light fell soft and dim through the thickly
woven branches and among the densely clustered trunks; underneath, the
deep masses of pine needles and the rich moss spread a carpet on which
the heaviest footfall left the silence unbroken.  It was a place of
dreams and mysteries.

  Heed the old oracles,
    Ponder my spells;
  Song wakes in my pinnacles
    When the wind swells.
  Soundeth the prophetic wind,
  The shadows shake on the rock behind,
  And the countless leaves of the pine are strings
  Tuned to the lay the wood-god sings.
      Hearken! hearken!
  If thou wouldst know the mystic song
  Chanted when the sphere was young,
  Aloft, abroad, the paean swells;
  O wise man! hear'st thou half it tells?


Sitting there, with the deep peace of the place sinking into the soul,
the solitude was full of companionship; the very silence seemed to give
Nature a tone more commanding, an accent more thrilling.  At intervals
the gusts of wind reaching the borders of the wood filled the air with
distant murmurs which widened, deepened, approached, until they broke
into a great wave of sound overhead, and then, receding, died in
fainter and ever fainter sounds.  There was something in this sudden
and unfamiliar roar of the pines that hinted at its kinship with the
roar of the sea; but it had a different tone.  Waste and trackless
solitudes and death are in the roar of the sea; remoteness, untroubled
centuries of silence, the strange alien memories of woodland life, are
in the roar of the pines.  The forgotten ages of an immemorial past
seem to have become audible in it, and to speak of things which had
ceased to exist before human speech was born; things which lie at the
roots of instinct rather than within the recollection of thought.  The
pines only murmur, but the secret which they guard so well is mine as
well as theirs; I am no alien in this secluded world; my citizenship is
here no less than in that other world to which I shall return, but to
which I shall never wholly belong.  The most solitary moods of Nature
are not incommunicable; they may be shared by those who can forget
themselves and hold their minds open to the elusive but potent
influences of the forest.  He who can escape the prison of habit and
work and routine can say with Emerson:

  When I am stretched beneath the pines,
  When the evening star so holy shines,
  I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
  At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
  For what are they all, in their high conceit,
  When man in the bush with God may meet?



IN THE FOREST OF ARDEN

  Go with me: if you like, upon report,
  The soil, the profit, and this kind of life,
  I will your very faithful factor be,
  And buy it with your gold right suddenly.



"AND I FOR ROSALIND"



Chapter XXI

In the Forest of Arden.

I

    Under the greenwood tree,
    Who loves to lie with me,
    And turn his merry note
    Unto the sweet bird's throat,
  Come hither, come hither, come hither.


Rosalind had just laid a spray of apple blossoms on the study table.

"Well," I said, "when shall we start?"

"To-morrow."

Rosalind has a habit of swift decision when she has settled a question
in her own mind, and I was not surprised when she replied with a single
decisive word.  But she also has a habit of making thorough preparation
for any undertaking, and now she was quietly proposing to go off for
the summer the very next day, and not a trunk was packed, not a seat
secured in any train, not a movement made toward any winding up of
household affairs.  I had great faith in her ability to execute her
plans with celerity, but I doubted whether she could be ready to turn
the key in the door, bid farewell to the milkman and the butcher, and
start the very next day for the Forest of Arden.  For several past
seasons we had planned this bold excursion into a country which few
persons have seemed to know much about since the day when a poet of
great fame, familiar with many strange climes and peoples, found his
way thither and shared the golden fortune of his journey with all the
world.  Winter after winter before the study fire, we had made merry
plans for this trip into the magical forest; we had discussed the best
methods of travelling where no roads led; we had enjoyed in
anticipation the surmises of our neighbours concerning our unexplained
absence, and the delightful mystery which would always linger about us
when we had returned, with memories of a landscape which no eyes but
ours had seen these many years, and of rare and original people whose
voices had been silent in common speech so many generations that only a
few dreamers like ourselves even remembered that they had ever spoken.
We had looked along the library shelves for the books we should take
with us, until we remembered that in that country there were books in
the running streams.  Rosalind had gone so far as to lay aside a
certain volume of sermons whose aspiring note had more than once made
music of the momentary discords of her life; but I reminded her that
such a work would be strangely out of place in a forest where there
were sermons in stones.  Finally we had decided to leave books behind
and go free-minded as well as free-hearted.  It had been a serious
question how much and what apparel we should take with us, and that
point was still unsettled when the apple trees came to their
blossoming.  It is a theory of mine that the chief delight of a
vacation from one's usual occupations is freedom from the tyranny of
plans and dates, and thus much Rosalind had conceded to me.

There had been an irresistible charm in the very secrecy which
protected our adventure from the curious and unsympathetic comment of
the world.  We found endless pleasure in imagining what this and that
good neighbour of ours would say about the folly of leaving a
comfortable house, good beds, and a well-stocked larder for the hard
fare and uncertain shelter of a strange forest.  "For my part," we
gleefully heard Mrs. Grundy declare,--"for my part, I cannot understand
why two people old enough to know better should make tramps of
themselves and go rambling about a piece of woods that nobody ever
heard of in the heat of the midsummer."  Poor Mrs. Grundy!  We could
well afford to laugh merrily at her scornful expostulations; for while
she was repeating platitudes to overdressed and uninteresting people at
Oldport, we should be making sunny play of life with men and women
whose thoughts were free as the wind, and whose hearts were fresh as
the dew and the stars.  And often when our talk had died into silence,
and the wind without whistled to the fire within, we had fallen to
dreaming of those shadowy aisles arched by the mighty trees, and of the
splendid pageant that should make life seem as great and rich as Nature
herself.  I confess that all my dreams came to one ending; that I
should suddenly awake in some golden hour and really know Rosalind.  Of
course I had been coming through all these years to know something
about Rosalind; but in this busy world, with work to be done, and bills
to be paid, and people to be seen, and journeys to be made, and
friction and worry and fatigue to be borne, how can we really come to
know one another?  We may meet the vicissitudes and changes side by
side; we may work together in the long days of toil; our hearts may
repose on a common trust, our thoughts travel a common road; but how
rarely do we come to the hour when the pressure of toil is removed, the
clouds of anxiety melt into blue sky, and in the whole world nothing
remains but the sun on the flower, and the song in the trees, and the
unclouded light of love in the eyes?

I dreamed, too, that in finding Rosalind I should also find myself.
There were times when I had seemed on the very point of making this
discovery, but something had always turned me aside when the quest was
most eager and promising; the world pressed into the seclusion for
which I had struggled, and when I waited to hear its faintest murmur
die in the distance, suddenly the tumult had risen again, and the dream
of self-communion and self-knowledge had vanished.  To get out of the
uproar and confusion of things, I had often fancied, would be like
exchanging the dusty midsummer road for the shade of the woods where
the brook calms the day with its pellucid note of effortless flow, and
the hours hide themselves from the glances of the sun.  In the forest
of Arden I felt sure I should find the repose, the quietude, the
freedom of thought, which would permit me to know myself.  There, too,
I suspected Nature had certain surprises for me; certain secrets which
she has been holding back for the fortunate hour when her spell would
be supreme and unbroken.  I even hoped that I might come unaware upon
that ancient and perennial movement of life upon which I seemed always
to happen the very second after it had been suspended; that I might
hear the note of the hermit thrush breaking out of the heart of the
forest; the soulful melody of the nightingale, pathetic with
unappeasable sorrow.  In the Forest of Arden, too, there were unspoiled
men and women, as indifferent to the fashion of the world and the folly
of the hour as the stars to the impalpable mist of the clouds; men and
women who spoke the truth, and saw the fact, and lived the right; to
whom love and faith and high hopes were more real than the crowns of
which they had been despoiled and the kingdoms from which they had been
rejected.  All this I had dreamed, and I know not how many other brave
and beautiful dreams, and I was dreaming them again when Rosalind laid
the apple blossoms on the study table, and answered, decisively,
"To-morrow."

"To-morrow," I repeated; "to-morrow.  But how are you going to get
ready?  If you sit up all night you cannot get through with the
packing.  You said only yesterday that your summer dressmaking was
shamefully behind.  My dear, next week is the earliest possible time
for our going."

Rosalind laughed archly, and pushed the apple blossoms over the wofully
interlined manuscript of my new article on Egypt.  There was in her
very attitude a hint of unsuspected buoyancy and strength; there was in
her eyes a light which I have never seen under our uncertain skies.
The breath of the apple blossoms filled the room, and a bobolink,
poised on a branch outside the window, suddenly poured a rapturous song
into the silence of the sweet spring day.  I laid down my pen, pushed
my scattered sheets into the portfolio, covered the inkstand, and laid
my hand in hers.  "Not to-morrow," I said, "not to-morrow.  Let us go
now."



II

  Now go we in content
  To liberty and not to banishment.


I have sometimes entertained myself by trying to imagine the
impressions which our modern life would make upon some sensitive mind
of a remote age.  I have fancied myself rambling about New York with
Montaigne, and taking note of his shrewd, satirical comment.  I can
hardly imagine him expressing any feeling of surprise, much less any
sentiment of admiration; but I am confident that under a masque of
ironical self-complacency the old Gascon would find it difficult to
repress his astonishment, and still more difficult to adjust his mind
to evident and impressive changes.  I have ventured at times to imagine
myself in the company of another more remote and finely organised
spirit of the past, and pictured to myself the keen, dispassionate
criticism of Pericles on the things of modern habit and creation; I
have listened to his luminous interpretations of the changed conditions
which he saw about him; I have noted his unconcern toward the merely
material advances of society, his penetrative insight into its
intellectual and moral developments.  A mind so capacious and open, a
nature so trained and poised, could not be otherwise than
self-contained and calm even in the presence of changes so vast and
manifold as those which have transformed society since the days of the
great Athenian; but even he could not be quite unmoved if brought face
to face with a life so unlike that with which he had been familiar;
there must come, even to one who feels the mastery of the soul over all
conditions, a certain sense of wonder and awe.

It was with some such feeling that Rosalind and I found ourselves in
the Forest of Arden.  The journey was so soon accomplished that we had
no time to accustom ourselves to the changes between the country we had
left and that to which we had come.  We had always fancied that the
road would be long and hard, and that we should arrive worn and spent
with the fatigues of travel.  We were astonished and delighted when we
suddenly discovered that we were within the boundaries of the Forest
long before we had begun to think of the end of our journey.  We had
said nothing to each other by the way: our thoughts were so busy that
we had no time for speech.  There were no other travellers; everybody
seemed to be going in the opposite direction; and we were left to
undisturbed meditation.  The route to the Forest is one of those open
secrets which whosoever would know must learn for himself; it is
impossible to direct those who do not discover for themselves how to
make the journey.  The Forest is probably the most accessible place on
the face of the earth, but it is so rarely visited that one may go half
a lifetime without meeting a person who has been there.  I have never
been able to explain the fact that those who have spent some time in
the Forest, as well as those who are later to see it, seem to recognise
each other by instinct.  Rosalind and I happen to have a large circle
of acquaintances, and it has been our good fortune to meet and
recognise many who were familiar with the Forest and who were able to
tell us much about its localities and charms.  It is not generally
known, and it is probably wise not to emphasise the fact, that the
fortunate few who have access to the Forest form a kind of secret
fraternity; a brotherhood of the soul which is secret because those
alone who are qualified for membership by nature can understand either
its language or its aims.  It is a very strange thing that the dwellers
in the Forest never make the least attempt at concealment, but that, no
matter how frank and explicit their statements may be, nobody outside
the brotherhood ever understands where the Forest lies or what one
finds when he gets there.  One may write what he chooses about life in
the Forest, and only those whom Nature has selected and trained will
understand what he discloses; to all others it will be an idle tale or
a fairy story for the entertainment of people who have no serious
business in hand.

I remember well the first time I ever understood that there is a Forest
of Arden, and that they who choose may wander through its arched aisles
of shade and live at their will in its deep and beautiful solitude; a
solitude in which Nature sits like a friend from whose face the veil
has been withdrawn, and whose strange and foreign utterance has been
exchanged for the most familiar speech.  Since that memorable afternoon
under the apple trees I have never been far from the Forest, although
at times I have lost sight of the line which its foliage makes against
the horizon.  I have always intended to cross that line some day and to
explore the Forest; perhaps even to make a home for myself there.  But
one's dreams must often wait for their realisation, and so it has come
to pass that I have gone all these years without personal familiarity
with these beautiful scenes.  I have since learned that one never comes
to the Forest until he is thoroughly prepared in heart and mind, and I
understand now that I could not have come earlier even if I had made
the attempt.  As it happened, I concerned myself with other things, and
never approached very near the Forest, although never very far from it.
I was never quite happy unless I caught frequent glimpses of its
distant boughs, and I searched more and more eagerly for those who had
left some record of their journeys to the Forest, and of their life
within its magical boundaries.  I discovered, to my great joy, that the
libraries were full of books which had much to say about the delights
of Arden: its enchanting scenery; the music of its brooks; the sweet
and refreshing repose of its recesses; the noble company that frequent
it.  I soon found that all the greater poets have been there, and that
their lines had caught the magical radiance of the sky; and many of the
prose writers showed the same familiarity with a country in which they
evidently found whatever was sweetest and best in life.  I came to know
at last those whose knowledge of Arden was most complete, and I put
them in a place by themselves; a corner in the study to which Rosalind
and I went for the books we read together.  I would gladly give a list
of these works but for the fact I have already hinted--that those who
would understand their references to Arden will come to know them
without aid from me, and that those who would not understand could find
nothing in them even if I should give page and paragraph.  It was a
great surprise to me, when I first began to speak of the Forest, to
find that most people scouted the very idea of such a country; many did
not even understand what I meant.  Many a time, at sunset, when the
light has lain soft and tender on the distant Forest, I have pointed it
out, only to be told that what I thought was the Forest was a splendid
pile of clouds, a shining mass of mist.  I came to understand at last
that Arden exists only for a few, and I ceased to talk about it save to
those who shared my faith.  Gradually I came to number among my friends
many who were in the habit of making frequent journeys to the Forest,
and not a few who had spent the greater part of their lives there.  I
remember the first time I saw Rosalind I saw the light of the Arden sky
in her eyes, the buoyancy of the Arden air in her step, the purity and
freedom of the Arden life in her nature.  We built our home within
sight of the Forest, and there was never a day that we did not talk
about and plan our long-delayed journey thither.

"After all," said Rosalind, on that first glorious morning in Arden,
"as I look back I see that we were always on the way here."



III

  Well, this is the Forest of Arden.


The first sensation that comes to one who finds himself at last within
the boundaries of the Forest of Arden is a delicious sense of freedom.
I am not sure that there is not a certain sympathy with outlawry in
that first exhilarating consciousness of having gotten out of the
conventional world--the world whose chief purpose is that all men shall
wear the same coat, eat the same dinner, repeat the same polite
commonplaces, and be forgotten at last under the same epitaph.  Forests
have been the natural refuge of outlaws from the earliest time, and
among the most respectable persons there has always been an
ill-concealed liking for Robin Hood and the whole fraternity of the men
of the bow.  Truth is above all things characteristic of the dwellers
in Arden, and it must be frankly confessed at the beginning, therefore,
that the Forest is given over entirely to outlaws; those who have
committed some grave offence against the world of conventions, or who
have voluntarily gone into exile out of sheer liking for a freer life.
These persons are not vulgar law-breakers; they have neither blood on
their hands nor ill-gotten gains in their pockets; they are, on the
contrary, people of uncommonly honest bearing and frank speech.  Their
offences evidently impose small burden on their conscience, and they
have the air of those who have never known what it is to have the
Furies on one's track.  Rosalind was struck with the charming
naturalness and gaiety of every one we met in our first ramble on that
delicious and never-to-be-forgotten morning when we arrived in Arden.
There was neither assumption nor diffidence; there was rather an entire
absence of any kind of self-consciousness.  Rosalind had fancied that
we might be quite alone for a time, and we had expected to have a few
days to ourselves.  We had even planned in our romantic moments--and
there is always a good deal of romance among the dwellers in Arden--a
continuation of our wedding journey during the first week.

"It will be so much more delightful than before," suggested Rosalind,
"because nobody will stare at us, and we shall have the whole world to
ourselves."  In that last phrase I recognised the ideal wedding
journey, and was not at all dismayed at the prospect of having no
society but Rosalind's for a time.  But all such anticipations were
dispelled in an hour.  It was not that we met many people--it is one of
the delights of the Forest that one finds society enough to take away
the sense of isolation, but not enough to destroy the sweetness of
solitude; it was rather that the few we met made us feel at once that
we had equal claim with themselves on the hospitality of the place.
The Forest was not only free to every comer, but it evidently gave
peculiar pleasure to those who were living in it to convey a sense of
ownership to those who were arriving for the first time.  Rosalind
declared that she felt as much at home as if she had been born there;
and she added that she was glad she had brought only the dress she
wore.  I was a little puzzled by the last remark; it seemed not
entirely logical.  But I saw presently that she was expressing the
fellowship of the place which forbade that one should possess anything
that was not in use, and that, therefore, was not adding constantly to
the common stock of pleasure.  Concerning the feeling of having been
born in Arden, I became convinced later that there was good reason for
believing that everybody who loved the place had been born there, and
that this fact explained the home feeling which came to one the instant
he set foot within the Forest.  It is, in fact, the only place I have
known which seemed to belong to me and to everybody else at the same
time; in which I felt no alien influence.  In our own home I had
something of the same feeling, but when I looked from a window or set
foot from a door I was instantly oppressed with a sense of foreign
ownership.  In the great world how little could I call my own!  Only a
few feet of soil out of the measureless landscape; only a few trees and
flowers out of all that boundless foliage!  I seemed driven out of the
heritage to which I was born; cheated out of my birthright in the
beauty of the field and the mystery of the Forest; put off with the
beggarly portion of a younger son when I ought to have fallen heir to
the kingdom.  My chief joy was that from the little space I called my
own I could see the whole heavens; no man could rob me of that splendid
vision.

In Arden, however, the question of ownership never comes into one's
thoughts; that the Forest belongs to you gives you a deep joy, but
there is a deeper joy in the consciousness that it belongs to everybody
else.

The sense of freedom, which comes as strongly to one in Arden as the
smell of the sea to one who has made a long journey from the inland,
hints, I suppose, at the offence which makes the dwellers within its
boundaries outlaws.  For one reason or another, they have all revolted
against the rule of the world, and the world has cast them out.  They
have offended smug respectability, with its passionless devotion to
deportment; they have outraged conventional usage, that carefully
devised system by which small natures attempt to bring great ones down
to their own dimensions; they have scandalised the orthodoxy which,
like Memnon, has lost the music of its morning, and marvels that the
world no longer listens; they have derided venerable prejudices--those
ugly relics by which some men keep in remembrance their barbarous
ancestry; they have refused to follow flags whose battles were won or
lost ages ago; they have scorned to compromise with untruth, to go with
the crowd, to acquiesce in evil "for the good of the cause," to speak
when they ought to keep silent and to keep silent when they ought to
speak.  Truly the lists of sins charged to the account of Arden is a
long one, and were it not that the memory of the world, concerned
chiefly with the things that make for its comfort, is a short one, it
would go ill with the lovers of the Forest.  More than once it has
happened that some offender has suffered so long a banishment that he
has taken permanent refuge in Arden, and proved his citizenship there
by some act worthy of its glorious privileges.  In the Forest one comes
constantly upon traces of those who, like Dante and Milton, have found
there a refuge from the Philistinism of a world that often hates its
children in exact proportion to their ability to give it light.  For
the most part, however, the outlaws who frequent the Forest suffer no
longer banishment than that which they impose on themselves.  They come
and go at their own sweet will; and their coming, I suspect, is
generally a matter of their own choosing.  The world still loves
darkness more than light; but it rarely nowadays falls upon the
lantern-bearer and beats the life out of him, as in "the good old
times."  The world has grown more decent and polite, although still at
heart no doubt the bad old world which stoned the prophets.  It sneers
where it once stoned; it rejects and scorns where it once beat and
burned.  And so Arden has become a refuge, not so much from persecution
and hatred as from ignorance, indifference, and the small wounds of
small minds bent upon stinging that which they cannot destroy.



IV

  . . .  Fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the
  golden world.


Rosalind and I have always been planning to do a great many pleasant
things when we had more time.  During the busy days when we barely
found opportunity to speak to each other we were always thinking of the
better days when we should be able to sit hours together with no knock
at the door and no imperative summons from the kitchen.  Some man of
sufficient eminence to give his words currency ought to define life as
a series of interruptions.  There are a good many valuable and
inspiring things which can only be done when one is in the mood, and to
secure a mood is not always an easy matter; there are moods which are
as coy as the most high-spirited woman, and must be wooed with as much
patience and tact: and when the illusive prize is gained, one holds it
by the frailest tenure.  An interruption diverts the current, cuts the
golden thread, breaks the exquisite harmony.  I have often thought that
Dante was far less unfortunate than the world has judged him to be.  If
he had been courted and crowned instead of rejected and exiled, it
might have been that his genius would have missed the conditions which
gave it immortal utterance.  Left to himself, he had only his own
nature to reckon with; the world passed him by, and left him to the
companionship of his sublime and awful dreams.  To be left alone with
one's self is often the highest good fortune.  Moreover, I detest being
hurried: it seems to me the most offensive way in which we are reminded
of our mortality; there is time enough if we know how to use it.
People who, like Goethe, never rest and never haste, complete their
work and escape the friction of it.

One of the most delightful things about life in Arden is the absence of
any sense of haste; life is a matter of being rather than of doing, and
one shares the tranquillity of the great trees that silently expand
year by year.  The fever and restlessness are gone, the long strain of
nerve and will relaxed; a delicious feeling of having strength and time
enough to live one's life and do one's work fills one with a deep and
enduring sense of repose.

Rosalind, who had been busy about so many things that I sometimes
almost lost sight of her for days together, found time to take long
walks with me, to watch the birds and the clouds, and talk by the hour
about all manner of pleasant trifles.  I came to feel after a time that
just what I anticipated would happen in Arden had happened.  I was fast
becoming acquainted with her.  We spent days together in the most
delightful half-vocal and half-silent fellowship; leaving everything to
the mood of the hour and the place.  Our walks took us sometimes into
lovely recesses, where mutual confidences seemed as natural as the air;
sometimes into solitudes where talk seemed an impertinence, and we were
silent under the spell of rustling leaves and thrilling melodies coming
from we knew not what hidden minstrelsy.  But whether silent or
speaking, we were fast coming to know each other.  I saw many traits in
her, many characteristic habits and movements which I had never noted
before; and I was conscious that she was making similar discoveries in
me.  These mutual revelations absorbed us during our first days in the
Forest; and they confirmed the impression which I brought with me that
half the charm of people is lost under the pressure of work and the
irritation of haste.  We rarely know our best friends on their best
side; our vision of their noblest selves is constantly obscured by the
mists of preoccupation and weariness.

In Arden life is pitched on the natural key; nobody is ever hurried;
nobody is ever interrupted; nobody carries his work like a pack on his
back instead of leaving it behind him as the sun leaves the earth when
the day is over and the calm stars shine in the unbroken silence of the
sky.  Rosalind and I were entirely conscious of the transformation
going on within us, and were not slow to submit ourselves to its
beneficent influence.  We felt that Arden would not put all its
resources into our hand until we had shaken off the dust and parted
from the fret of the world we had left behind.

In those first inspiring days we went oftenest to the heart of the
pines, where the moss grew so deep that our movements were noiseless;
where the light fell in subdued and gentle tones among the closely
clustered trees; and where no sound ever reached us save the organ
music of the great boughs when the wind evoked their sublime harmonies.
Many a time, as we have sat silent while the tones of that majestic
symphony rose and fell about us, we seemed to become a part of the
scene itself; we felt the unfathomed depth of a music produced by no
conscious thought, wrought out by no conscious toil, but akin, in its
spontaneity and naturalness, with the fragrance of the flower.  And
with these thrilling notes there came to us the thought of the calm,
reposeful, irresistible growth of Nature; never hasting, never at rest;
the silent spreading of the tree, the steady burning of the star, the
noiseless flow of the river!  Was not this sublime unconsciousness of
time, this glorious appropriation of eternity, something we had missed
all our lives, and, in missing it, had lost our birthright of quiet
hours, calm thought, sweet fellowship, ripening character?  The fever
and tumult of the world we had left were discords in a strain, that had
never yielded its music before.

  For nature beats in perfect tune,
  And rounds with rhyme her every rune,
  Whether she work in land or sea,
  Or hide underground her alchemy.
  Thou canst not wave thy staff in air,
    Or dip thy paddle in the lake,
  But it carves the bow of beauty there,
    And the ripples in rhymes the oars forsake.


After one of these long, delicious days in the heart of the pines,
Rosalind slipped her hand in mine as we walked slowly homeward.

"This is the first day of my life," she said.



V

  And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
  Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
  Sermons in stones, and good in everything.


It was one of those entrancing mornings when the earth seems to have
been made over under cover of night, and one drinks the first draught
of a new experience when he sees it by the light of a new day.  Such
mornings are not uncommon in Arden, where the nightly dews work a
perpetual miracle of freshness.  On this particular morning we had
strayed long and far, the silence and solitude of the woods luring us
hour after hour with unspoken promises to the imagination.  We had come
at length to a place so secluded, so remote from stir and sound, that
one might dream there of the sacredness of ancient oracles and the
revels of ancient gods.

Rosalind had gathered wild flowers along the way, and sat at the base
of a great tree intently disentangling her treasures.  With that figure
before me, I thought of nearer and more sacred things than the old
woodland gods that might have strayed that way centuries ago; I had no
need to recall the vanished times and faiths to interpret the spirit of
an hour so far from the commonplaces of human speech, so free from the
passing moods of human life.  The sweet unconsciousness of that face,
bent over the mass of wild flowers, and akin to them in its unspoiled
loveliness, was to that hour and place like the illuminated capital in
the old missal; a ray of colour which unlocked the dark mystery of the
text.  When one can see the loveliness of a wild flower, and feel the
absorbing charm of its sentiment, one is not far from the kingdom of
Nature.

As these fancies chased one another across my mind, lying there at full
length on the moss, I, too, seemed to lose all consciousness that I had
ever touched life at any point than this, or that any other hour had
ever pressed its cup of experience to my lips.  The great world of
which I was once part disappeared out of memory like a mist that
recedes into a faint cloud and lies faint and far on the boundaries of
the day; my own personal life, to which I had been bound by such a
multitude of gossamer threads that when I tried to unloose one I seemed
to weave a hundred in its place, seemed to sink below the surface of
consciousness.  I ceased to think, to feel; I was conscious only of the
vast and glorious world of tree and sky which surrounded me.  I felt a
thrill of wonder that I should be so placed.  I had often lain thus
under other trees, but never in such a mood as this.  It was as if I
had detached myself from the hitherto unbroken current of my personal
life, and by some miracle of that marvellous place become part of the
inarticulate life of Nature.  Clouds and trees, dim vistas of shadow
and flower-starred space of sunlight, were no longer alien to me; I was
akin with the vast and silent movement of things which encompassed me.
No new sound came to me, no new sight broke on my vision; but I heard
with ears, and I saw with eyes, to which all other sounds and sights
had ceased to be.  I cannot translate into words the mystery and the
thrill of that hour when, for the first time, I gave myself wholly into
the keeping of Nature, and she received me as her child.  What I felt,
what I saw and heard, belong only to that place; outside the Forest of
Arden they are incomprehensible.  It is enough to say that I had parted
with all my limitations, and freed myself from all my bonds of habit
and ignorance and prejudice; I was no longer worn and spent with work
and emotion and impression; I was no longer prisoned within the iron
bars of my own personality.  I was as free as the bird; I was as little
bound to the past as the cloud that an hour ago was breathed out of the
heart of the sea; I was as joyous, as unconscious, as wholly given to
the rapture of the hour as if I had come into a world where freedom and
joy were an inalienable and universal possession.  I did not speculate
about the great fleecy clouds that moved like galleons in the ethereal
sea above me; I simply felt their celestial beauty, the radiancy of
their unchecked movement, the freedom and splendour of the
inexhaustible play of life of which they were part.  I asked no
questions of myself about the great trees that wove the garments of the
magical forest about me; I felt the stir of their ancient life, rooted
in the centuries that had left no record in that place save the added
girth and the discarded leaf; I had no thought about the bird whose
note thrilled the forest save the rapture of pouring out without
measure or thought the joy that was in me; I felt the vast irresistible
movement of life rolling, wave after wave, out of the unseen seas
beyond, obliterating the faint divisions by which, in this working
world, we count the days of our toil, and making all the ages one
unbroken growth; I felt the measureless calm, the sublime repose, of
that uninterrupted expansion of form and beauty, from flower to star
and from bird to cloud; I felt the mighty impulse of that force which
lights the sun in its track and sets the stars to mark the boundaries
of its way.  Unbroken repose, unlimited growth, inexhaustible life,
measureless force, unsearchable beauty--who shall feel these things and
not know that there are no words for them!  And yet in Arden they are
part of every man's life!

And all the time Rosalind sat weaving her wild flowers into a loose
wreath.

"I must not take them from this place," she said, as she bound them
about the venerable tree, as one would bind the fancy of the hour to
some eternal truth.

"Yesterday," she added, as she sat down again and shook the stray
leaves and petals from her lap--"yesterday was the first day of my
life; to-day is the second."

It is one of the delights of Arden that one does not need to put his
whole thought into words there; half the need of language vanishes when
we say only what we mean, and what we say is heard with sympathy and
intelligence.  Rosalind and I were thinking the same thought.
Yesterday we had discovered that an open mind, freedom from work and
care and turmoil, make it possible for people to be their true selves
and to know each other.  To-day we had discovered that Nature reveals
herself only to the open mind and heart; to all others she is deaf and
dumb.  The worldling who seeks her never sees so much as the hem of her
garment; the egotist, the self-engrossed man, searches in vain for her
counsel and consolation; the over-anxious, fretful soul finds her
indifferent and incommunicable.  We may seek her far and wide, with
minds intent upon other things, and she will forever elude us; but on
the morning we open our windows with a free mind, she is there to break
for us the seal of her treasures and to pour out the perfume of her
flowers.  She is cold, remote, inaccessible only so long as we close
the doors of our hearts and minds to her.  With the drudges and slaves
of mere getting and saving she has nothing in common; but with those
who hold their souls above the price of the world and the bribe of
success she loves to share her repose, her strength, and her beauty.
In Arden Rosalind and I cared as little for the world we had left as
children intent upon daisies care for the dust of the road out of which
they have come into the wide meadows.



VI

  Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
  The season's difference, as the icy fang
  And churlish chiding of the winter wind,
  Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
  Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,
  This is no flattery: these are counsellors
  That feelingly persuade me what I am.


If the ideal conditions of life, of which most of us dream, could be
realised, the result would be a padded and luxurious existence,
well-housed, well-fed, well-dressed, with all the winds of heaven
tempered to indolence and cowardice.  We are saved from absolute shame
by the consciousness that if such a life were possible we should
speedily revolt against the comforts that flattered the body while they
ignored the soul.  In Arden there is no such compromise with our
immoral desires to get results without work, to buy without paying for
what we receive.  Nature keeps no running accounts and suffers no man
to get in her debt; she deals with us on the principles of immutable
righteousness; she treats us as her equals, and demands from us an
equivalent for every gift or grace of sight or sound she bestows.  She
rejects contemptuously the advances of the weaklings who aspire to
become her beneficiaries without having made good their claim by some
service or self-denial; she rewards those only who, like herself, find
music in the tempest as well as in the summer wind; joy in arduous
service as well as in careless ease.  A world in which there were no
labours to be accomplished, no burdens to be borne, no storms to be
endured, would be a world without true joy, honest pleasure, or noble
aspiration.  It would be a fool's paradise.

The Forest of Arden is not without its changes of weather and season.
Rosalind and I had fancied that it was always summer there, and that
sunlight reigned from year's end to year's end; if we had been told
that storms sometimes over-shadowed it, and that the icy fang of winter
is felt there, we should have doubted the report.  We had a good deal
to learn when we first went to Arden; in fact, we still have a great
deal to learn about this wonderful country, in which so many of the
ideals and standards with which we were once familiar are reversed.  It
is one of the blessed results of living in the Forest that one is more
and more conscious that he does not know and more and more eager to
learn.  There are no shams of any sort in Arden, and all pride in
concealing one's ignorance disappears; one's chief concern is to be
known precisely as he is.  We were a little sensitive at first, a
little disposed to be cautious about asking questions that might reveal
our ignorance; but we speedily lost the false shame we had brought with
us from a world where men study to conceal, as a means of protecting,
the things that are most precious to them.  When we learned that in the
Forest nobody vulgarises one's affairs by making them matter of common
talk, that all the meannesses of slander and gossip and
misinterpretation are unknown, and that charity, courtesy, and honour
are the unfailing law of intercourse, we threw down our reserves and
experienced the refreshing freedom and sympathy of full knowledge
between man and man.

After a long succession of golden days we awoke one morning to the
familiar sound of rain on the roof; there was no mistake about it; it
was raining in Arden!  Rosalind was so incredulous that I could see she
doubted if she were awake; and when she had satisfied herself of that
fact she began to ask herself whether we had been really in the Forest
at all; whether we had not been dreaming in a kind of double
consciousness, and had now come to the awakening which should rob us of
this golden memory.  At last we recognised the fact that we were still
in Arden, and that it was raining.  It was a melancholy awakening, and
we were silent and depressed at breakfast; for the first time no birds
sang, and no sunlight flickered through the leaves and brought the day
smiling to our very door.  The rain fell steadily, and when the wind
swept through the trees a sound like a sob went up from the Forest.
After breakfast, for lack of active occupation, we lighted a few sticks
in the rough fireplace, and found ourselves gradually drawn into the
circle of cheer in the little room.  The great world of Nature was for
a moment out of doors, and there seemed no incongruity talking about
our own experiences; we recalled the days in the world we had left
behind; we remembered the faces of our neighbours; we reminded each
other of the incidents of our journey; we retold, in antiphonal
fashion, the story of our stay in the Forest; we grew eloquent as we
described, one after another, the noble persons we had met there; our
hearts kindled as we became conscious of the wonderful enrichment and
enlargement of life that had come to us; and as the varied splendours
of the days and scenes of Arden returned in our memories, the spell of
the Forest came upon us, and the mysterious cadence of the rain,
falling from leaf to leaf, added another and deeper tone to the harmony
of our Forest life.  The gloom had gone; we had all the delight of a
new experience in our hearts.

"I am glad it rains," Rosalind said, as she gave the fire one of her
vigorous stirrings; "I am glad it rains: I don't think we should have
realised how lovely it is here if we were not shut in from time to
time.  One is played upon by so many impressions that one must escape
from them to understand how beautiful they are.  And then I'm not sure
that even dark days and rain have not something which sunshine and
clear skies could not give us."  As usual, Rosalind had spoken my
thought before I had made it quite clear to myself; I began to feel the
peculiar delight of our comfort in the heart of that great forest when
the storm was abroad.  The monotone of the rain became rhythmic with
some ancient, primeval melody, which the woods sang before their
solitude had been invaded by the eager feet of men always searching for
something which they do not possess.  I felt the spell of that mighty
life which includes the tempest and the tumult of winds and waves among
the myriad voices with which it speaks its marvellous secret.  Half the
meaning would go out of Nature if no storms ever dimmed the light of
stars or vexed the calm of summer seas.  It is the infinite variety of
Nature which fits response to every need and mood, renews forever the
freshness of contact with her, and holds us by a power of which we
never weary because we never exhaust its resources.

"After all, Rosalind," I said, "it was not the storms and the cold
which made our old life hard, and gave Nature an unfriendly aspect; it
was the things in our human experience which gave tempest and winter a
meaning not their own.  In a world in which all hearts beat true, and
all hands were helpful, there would be no real hardship in Nature.  It
is the loss, sorrow, weariness, and disappointment of life which give
dark days their gloom, and cold its icy edge, and work its bitterness.
The real sorrows of life are not of Nature's making; if faithlessness
and treachery and every sort of baseness were taken out of human lives,
we should find only a healthy and vigorous joy in such hardship as
Nature imposes upon us.  Upon men of sound, sweet life, she lays only
such burdens as strength delights to carry, because in so doing it
increases itself."

"That is true," said Rosalind.  "The day is dark only when the mind is
dark; all weathers are pleasant when the heart is at rest.  There are
rainy days in Arden, but no gloomy ones; there are probably cold days,
but none that chill the soul."

I do not know whether it was Rosalind's smile or the sudden breaking of
the sun through the clouds that made the room brilliant; probably it
was both.  Rosalind opened the lattice, and I saw that the rain had
ceased.  The drops still hung on every leaf, but the clouds were
breaking into great shining masses, and the blue of the sky was of
unsearchable purity and depth.  The sun poured a flood of light into
the heart of the Forest, and suddenly every tiny drop, that a moment
ago might have seemed a symbol of sorrow, held the radiant sun on its
little disk, and every sphere shone as if a universe of fairy creation
had been suddenly breathed into being.  And the splendour touched
Rosalind also.



VII

  . . .  Pray you, if you know,
  Where in the purlieus of this forest stands
  A sheep-cote fenc'd about with olive trees?
        *      *      *      *      *
  The rank of osiers by the murmuring stream
  Left on your right hand, brings you to the place.
  But at this hour the house doth keep itself.


Years ago, when we were planning to build a certain modest little
house, Rosalind and I found endless delight in the pleasures of
anticipation.  By day and by night our talk came back to the home we
were to make for ourselves.  We discussed plan after plan and found
none quite to our mind; we examined critically the houses we visited;
we pored over books; we laid the experience of our friends under
contribution; and when at last we had agreed upon certain essentials we
called an architect to our aid, and fondly imagined that now the
prelude of discussion and delay was over, we should find unalloyed
delight in seeing our imaginary home swiftly take form and become a
thing of reality.  Alas for our hopes!  Expense followed fast upon
expense and delay upon delay.  There were endless troubles with masons
and carpenters and plumbers; and when our dream was at last realised,
the charm of it had somehow vanished; so much anxiety, care, and
vexation had gone into the process of building that the completed
structure seemed to be a monument of our toil rather than a refuge from
the world.

After this sad experience, Rosalind and I contented ourselves with
building castles in Spain; and so great has been our devotion to this
occupation that we are already joint owners of immense possessions in
that remote and beautiful country.  It is a singular circumstance that
the dwellers in Arden, almost without exception, are holders of estates
in Spain.  I have never seen any of these splendid properties; in fact,
Rosalind and I have never seen our own castles; but I have heard very
full and graphic descriptions of those distant seats.  In imagination I
have often seen the great piles crowning the crests of wooded hills,
whence noble parks and vast landscapes lay spread out; I have been
thrilled by the notes of the hunting-horn and discerned from afar the
cavalcade of beautiful women and gallant men winding its way to the
gates of the courtyard; I have seen splendid banners afloat from turret
and casement; I have seen lights flashing at night and heard faint
murmurs of music and laughter.  Truly they are fortunate who own
castles in Spain!

In the Forest of Arden there is no such brave show of battlement and
rampart.  In all our rambles we never came upon a castle or palace; in
fact, so far as I remember, no one ever spoke of such structures.  They
seem to have no place there.  Nor is it hard to understand this
singular divergence from the ways of a world whose habits and standards
are continually reversed in the Forest.  In castle and palace, the
wealth and splendour of life--everything that gives it grace and beauty
to the eye--are treasured within massive walls and protected from the
common gaze and touch.  Every great park, with its reaches of inviting
sward and its groups of noble trees, seems to say to those who pass
along the highway: "We are too rare for your using."  Every stately
palace, with its wonderful paintings and hangings, its sculpture and
furnishings, locks its massive gates against the great world without,
as if that which it guards were too precious for common eyes.  In Arden
no one dreams of fencing off a lovely bit of open meadow or a cluster
of great trees; private ownership is unknown in the Forest.  Those who
dwell there are tenants in common of a grander estate than was ever
conquered by sword, purchased by gold, or bequeathed by the laws of
descent.  There are homes for privacy, for the sanctities of love and
friendship; but the wealth of life is common to all.  Instead of
elegant houses, and a meagre, inferior public life, as in the great
cities of the world, there are modest homes and a noble common life.
If the houses in our cities were simple and home-like in their
appointments, and all their treasures of art and beauty were lodged in
noble structures, open to every citizen, the world would know something
of the habits of those who find in Arden that satisfying thought of
life which is denied them among men.  Moderation, simplicity, frugality
for our private and personal wants; splendid profusion, noble
lavishness, beautiful luxury for that common life which now languishes
because so few recognise its needs.  When will the world learn the real
lesson of civilisation, and, for the cheap and ignoble aspect of modern
cities, bring back the stateliness of Rome and the beauty of that
wonderful city whose poetry and art were but the voices of her common
life?

The murmuring stream at our door in Arden whispered to us by day and by
night the sweet secret of the happiness in the Forest, where no man
strives to outshine his neighbour or to encumber the free and joyous
play of his life with those luxuries which are only another name for
care.  Our modest little home sheltered but did not enslave us; it held
a door open for all the sweet ministries of affection, but it was
barred against anxiety and care; birds sang at its flower-embowered
windows, and the fragrance of the beautiful days lingered there, but no
sound from the world of those that strive and struggle ever entered.
We were joyous as children in a home which protected our bodies while
it set our spirits at liberty; which gave us the sweetness of rest and
seclusion, while it left us free to use the ample leisure of the Forest
and to drink deep of its rich and healthful life.  Vine-covered,
overshadowed by the pine, with the olive standing in friendly
neighbourhood, our home in Arden seemed at the same time part of the
Forest and part of ourselves.  If it had grown out of the soil, it
could not have fitted into the landscape with less suggestion of
artifice and construction; indeed, Nature had furnished all the
materials, and when the simple structure was complete she claimed it
again and made it her own with endless device of moss and vine.
Without, it seemed part of the Forest; within, it seemed the visible
history of our life there.  Friends came and went through the unlatched
door; morning broke radiant through the latticed window; the seasons
enfolded it with their changing life; our own fellowship of mind and
heart made it unspeakably sacred.  Love and loyalty within; noble
friends at the hearthstone; soft or shining heavens above; mystery of
forest and music of stream without: this is home in Arden.



VIII

  . . . books in the running brooks.


In the days before we went to Arden, Rosalind and I had often wondered
what books we should find there, and we had anticipated with the
keenest curiosity that in the mere presence or absence of certain books
we should discover at last the final principle of criticism, the
absolute standard of literary art.  Many a time as we sat before the
study fire and finished the reading of some volume that had yielded us
unmixed delight, we had said to each other that we should surely find
it in Arden, and read it again in an atmosphere in which the most
delicate and beautiful meanings would become as clear as the exquisite
tracery of frost on the study windows.  That we should find all the
classics there we had not the least doubt; who could imagine a
community of intelligent persons without Homer and Dante and
Shakespeare and Wordsworth!  How the volumes would be housed we did not
try to divine; but that we should find them there we did not think of
doubting.  Our chief thought was of the principle of selection, long
sought after by lovers of books but never yet found, which we were
certain would be easily discovered when we came to look along the
shelves of the libraries in Arden.  With what delight we anticipated
the long days when we should read together again, and amid such novel
surroundings, the books we loved!  For, although our home contained few
luxuries, it had fed the mind; there was not a great soul in literature
whose name was not on the shelves of our library, and the
companionships of that room made our quiet home more rich in gracious
and noble influences than many a palace.

And yet we had been in the Forest several months before we even thought
of books; so absorbed were we in the noble life of the place, in the
inspiring society about us.  There came a morning, however, when, as I
looked out into the shadows of the deep woods, I recalled a wonderful
line of Dante's that must have come to the poet as he passed through
some silent and sombre woodland path.  Suddenly I remembered that
months had passed since we had opened a book; we whose most inspiring
hours had once been those in which we read together from some familiar
page.  For an instant I felt something akin to remorse; it seemed as if
I had been disloyal to friends who had never failed me in any time of
need.  But as I meditated on this strange forgetfulness of mine, I saw
that in Arden books have no place and serve no purpose.  Why should one
read a translation when the original work lies open and legible before
him?  Why should one watch the reflections in the shadowy surface of
the lake when the heavens shine above him?  Why should one linger
before the picturesque landscape which art has imperfectly transferred
to canvas when the scene, with all its elusive play of light and shade,
lies outspread before him?  I became conscious that in Arden one lives
habitually in the world which books are always striving to portray and
interpret; that one sees with his own eyes all that the eyes of the
keenest observer have ever seen; that one feels in his own soul all the
greatest soul has ever felt.  That which in the outer world most men
know only by report, in Arden each one knows for himself.  The stories
of travellers cease to interest us when we are at last within the
borders of the strange, far country.

Books are, at the best, faint and imperfect transcriptions of Nature
and life; when one comes to see Nature as she is with his own eyes, and
to enter into the secrets of life, all transcriptions become
inadequate.  He who has heard the mysterious and haunting monotone of
the sea will never rest content with the noblest harmony in which the
composer seeks to blend those deep, elusive tones; he who has sat hour
by hour under the spell of the deep woods will feel that spell shorn of
its magical power in the noblest verse that ever sought to contain and
express it; he who has once looked with clear, unflinching gaze into
the depths of human life will find only vague shadows of the mighty
realities in the greatest drama and fiction.  The eternal struggle of
art is to utter these unutterable things; the immortal thirst of the
soul will lead it again and again to these ancient fountains, whence it
will bring back its handful of water in vessels curiously carven by the
hands of imagination.  But no cup of man's making will ever hold all
that fountain has to give, and to those who are really athirst these
golden and beautifully wrought vessels are insufficient; they must
drink of the living stream.

In Arden we found these ancient and perennial fountains; and we drank
deep and long.  There was that in the mystery of the woods which made
all poetry seem pale and unreal to us; there was that in life, as we
saw it in the noble souls about us, which made all records and
transcriptions in books seem cold and superficial.  What need had we of
verse when the things which the greatest poets had seen with vision no
clearer than ours lay clear and unspeakably beautiful before us?  What
had fiction or history for us, upon whom the thrilling spell of the
deepest human living was laid!  Rosalind and I were hourly meeting
those whose thoughts had fed the world for generations, and whose names
were on all lips, but they never spoke of the books they had written,
the pictures they had painted, the music they had composed.  And,
strange to say, it was not because of these splendid works that we were
drawn to them; it was the quality of their natures, the deep,
compelling charm of their minds, which filled us with joy in their
companionship.  In Arden it is a small matter that Shakespeare has
written "Hamlet," or Wordsworth the "Ode on Immortality;" not that
which they have accomplished but that which they are in themselves
gives these names a lustre in Arden such as shines from no crown of
fame in the outer world.  Rosalind and I had dreamed that we might meet
some of those whose words had been the food of immortal hope to us, but
we almost dreaded that nearer acquaintance which might dispel the
illusion of superiority.  How delighted were we to discover that not
only are great souls, really understood, greater than all their works,
but that the works were forgotten and nothing was remembered but the
soul!  Not as those who are fed by the bounty of the king, but as kings
ourselves, were we received into this noble company.  Were we not born
to the same inheritance?  Were not Nature and life ours as truly as
they were Shakespeare's and Wordsworth's?  As we sat at rest under the
great arms of the trees, or roamed at will through the woodland paths,
the one thought that was common to us all was, not how nobly these
scenes had been pictured and spoken, but how far above all language of
art they were, and how shallow runs the stream of speech when these
mysterious treasures of feeling and insight are launched upon it!



IX

  . . . every day
  Men of great worth resorted to this forest.


The friendship of Nature is matched in Arden with human friendships, as
sincere, as void of disguise and flattery, as stimulating and
satisfying.  There are times when every sensitive person is wounded by
misunderstanding of motives, by lack of sympathy, by indifference and
coldness; such hours came not infrequently to Rosalind and myself in
the old days before we set out for the Forest.  We found unfailing
consolation and strength in our common faith and purpose, but the
frigidity of the atmosphere made us conscious at times of the effort
one puts forth to simply sustain the life of his ideals, the charm and
sweetness of those secret hopes which feed the soul.  What must it be
to live among those who are quick to recognise nobility of motive, to
conspire with aspiration, to believe in the best and highest in each
other?  It was to taste such a life as this, to feel the consoling
power of mutual faith and the inspiration of a common devotion to the
ideals that were dearest to us, that our thoughts turned so often and
with such longing to Arden.  In such moments we opened with delight
certain books which were full of the joy and beauty of the Forest life;
books which brought back the dreams that were fading out and touched us
afresh with the unsearchable charm and beauty of the Ideal.  Surely
there could no better fortune befall us than to be able to call these
great ministering spirits our friends.

But, strong as was our longing, we were not without misgivings when we
first found ourselves in Arden.  In this commerce of ideas and hopes,
what had we to give in exchange?  How could we claim that equality with
those we longed to know which is the only basis of friendship?  We were
unconsciously carrying into the Forest the limitations of our old life,
and among all the glad surprises that awaited us, there was none so
joyful as the discovery that our misgivings vanished as soon as we
began to know our neighbours.  Neither of us will ever forget the
perfect joy of those earliest meetings; a joy so great that we wondered
if it could endure.  There is nothing so satisfying as quick
comprehension of one's hopes, instant sympathy with them, absolute
frankness of speech, and the brilliant and stimulating play of mind
upon mind where there is complete unconsciousness of self and complete
absorption in the idea and the hour.  There was something almost
intoxicating in those first wonderful talks in Arden; we seemed
suddenly not only to be perfectly understood by others, but for the
first time to understand ourselves; the horizons of our mental world
seemed to be swiftly receding and new continents of truth were lifted
up into the clear light of consciousness.  All that was best in us was
set free; we were confident where we had been uncertain and doubtful;
we were bold where we had been almost cowardly.  We spoke our deepest
thought frankly; we drew from their hiding-places our noblest dreams of
the life we hoped to live and the things we hoped to achieve; we
concealed nothing, reserved nothing, evaded nothing; we were desirous
above all things that others should know us as we knew ourselves.  It
was especially restful and refreshing to speak of our failures and
weaknesses, of our struggles and defeats; for these experiences of ours
were instantly matched by kindred experiences, and in the common
sympathy and comprehension a new kind of strength came to us.  The
humiliation of defeat was shared, we found, by even the greatest; and
that which made these noble souls what they were was not freedom from
failure and weakness, but steadfast struggle to overcome and achieve.
As the life of a new hope filled our hearts, we remembered with a
sudden pain the world out of which we had escaped, where every one
hides his weakness lest it feed a vulgar curiosity, and conceals his
defeats lest they be used to destroy rather than to build him up.

With what delight did we find that in Arden the talk touched only great
themes, in a spirit of beautiful candour and unaffected earnestness!
To have exchanged the small personal talk from which we had often been
unable to escape for this simple, sincere discourse on the things that
were of common interest was like exchanging the cloud-enveloped lowland
for some sunny mountain slope, where every breath was vital and one
mused on half a continent spread out at his feet.  There is no food for
the soul but truth, and we were filled with a mighty hunger when we
understood for how long a time we had been but half fed.  A new
strength came to us, and with it an openness of mind and a
responsiveness of heart that made life an inexhaustible joy.  We were
set free from the weariness of old struggles to make ourselves
understood; we were no longer perplexed with doubts about the reality
of our ideas; we had but to speak the thought that was in us, and to
live fearlessly and joyously in the hour that was before us.  Frank
speaking, absolute candour, that would once have wounded, now only
cheered and stimulated; the spirit of entire helpfulness drives out all
morbid self-consciousness.  Differences no longer embitter when
courtesy and faith are universal possessions.

There is nothing more sacred than friendship, and it is impossible to
profane it by drawing the veil from its ministries.  The charm of a
perfectly noble companionship between two souls is as real as the
perfume of a flower, and as impossible to convey by word or speech;
Nature has made its sanctity inviolable by making it forever impossible
of revelation and transference.  I cannot translate into any language
the delicate charm, the inexhaustible variety, the noble fidelity to
truth, the vigour and splendour of thought, the unfailing sympathy, of
our Arden friendships; they are a part of the Forest, and one must seek
them there.  It would vulgarise these fellowships to catalogue the
great names, always familiar to us, and yet which gained another and a
better familiarity when they ceased to recall famous persons and became
associated with those who sat at our hearthstone or gathered about our
simple board.  Rosalind was sooner at home in this noble company than
I: she had far less to learn; but at last I grew into a familiarity
with my neighbours which was all the sweeter to me because it
registered a change in myself long hoped for, often despaired of, at
last accomplished.  To be at one with Nature was a joy which made life
seem rich beyond all earlier thought; but when to this there was added
the fellowship of spirits as true and great as Nature herself, the wine
of life overflowed the exquisite cup into which an invisible hand
poured it.  The days passed like a dream as we strayed together through
the woodland paths; sometimes in some deep and shadowy glen silence
laid her finger on our lips, and in a common mood we found ourselves
drawn together without speech.  Often at night, when the magic of the
moon has woven all manner of enchantments about us, we have lingered
hour after hour under that supreme spell which is felt only when soul
speaks with soul.



X

  . . . there's no clock in the forest.


There were a great many days in Arden when we did absolutely nothing;
we awoke without plans; we fell asleep without memories.  This was
especially true of the earlier part of our stay in the Forest; the
stage of intense enjoyment of new-found freedom and repose.  There was
a kind of rapture in the possession of our days that was new to us; a
sense of ownership of time of which we had never so much as dreamed
when we lived by the clock.  Those tiny ornamental hands on the
delicately painted dial were our taskmasters, disguised under forms so
dainty and fragile that, while we felt their tyranny, we never so much
as suspected their share in our servitude.  Silent themselves, they
issued their commands in tones we dared not disregard; fashioned so
cunningly, they ruled us as with iron sceptres; moving within so small
a circle, they sent us hither and yon on every imaginable service.
They severed eternity into minute fragments, and dealt it out to us
minute by minute like a cordial, given drop by drop to the dying; they
marked with relentless exactness the brief periods of our leisure and
indicated the hours of our toil.  We could not escape from their
vigilant and inexorable surveillance; day and night they kept silent
record beside us, measuring out the golden light of summer in their
tiny balances, and doling out the pittance of winter sunshine with
niggardly reluctance.  They hastened to the end of our joys, and moved
with funereal slowness through the appointed times of our sorrow.  They
ruled every season, pervaded every day, recorded every hour, and, like
misers hoarding a treasure, doled out our birthright of leisure second
by second; so that, being rich, we were always impoverished; inheritors
of vast fortune, we were put off with a meagre income; born free, we
were servants of masters who neither ate nor slept, that they might
never for a second surrender their overseership.

There are no clocks in Arden; the sun bestows the day, and no
impertinence of men destroys its charm by calculating its value and
marking it with a price.  The only computers of time are the great
trees whose shadows register the unbroken march of light from east to
west.  Even the days and nights lost that painful distinctness which
they had for us when they gave us a constant sense of loss, an
incessant apprehension of change and age.  Their shining procession
leaves no such records in Arden; they come like the waves whose
ceaseless flow sings of the boundless sea whence they come.  They bring
no consciousness of ebbing years and joys and strength; they bring
rather a sense of eternal resource and beneficence.  In Arden one never
feels in haste; there is always time enough and to spare; in fact, the
word "time" is never used in the vernacular of the Forest except when
reference is made to the enslaved world without.  There were moments at
the beginning when we felt a little bewildered by our freedom, and I
think Rosalind secretly longed for the familiar tones of the cuckoo
clock which had chimed so many years in and out for us in the old days.
One must get accustomed even to good fortune, and after one has been
confined within the narrow limits of a little plot of earth the
possession of a continent confuses and perplexes.  But men are born to
good fortune if they but knew it, and we were soon reconciled to the
possession of inexhaustible wealth.  We felt the delight of a sudden
exchange of poverty for richness, a swift transition from bondage to
freedom.  Eternity was ours, and we ceased to divide it into fragments,
or to set it off into duties and work.  We lived in the consciousness
of a vast leisure; a quiet happiness took the place of the old anxiety
to always do at the moment the thing that ought to be done; we accepted
the days as gifts of joy rather than as bringers of care.

It was delightful to fall asleep lulled by the rustle of the leaves,
and to awake, without memory of care or pressure of work, to a day that
had brought nothing more discordant into the Forest than the singing of
birds.  We rose exhilarated and buoyant, and breakfasted merrily under
a great oak; sometimes we lingered far on into the morning, yielding
ourselves to the spell of the early day when it no longer proses of
work and duty, but sings of freedom and ease and the strength that
makes a play of life.  Often we strayed without plan or purpose, as the
winding paths of the Forest led us; happy and care-free as children
suddenly let loose in fairyland.  We discovered moss-grown paths which
led into the very heart of the Forest, and we pressed on silently from
one green recess to another until all memory of the sunnier world faded
out of mind.  Sometimes we emerged suddenly into a wide, brilliant
glade; sometimes we came into a sanctuary so overhung with great masses
of foliage, so secluded and silent, that we took the rude pile of
moss-grown stones we found there as an altar to solitude, and our
stillness became part of the universal worship of silence which touched
us with a deep and beautiful solemnity.  Wherever we strayed the same
tranquil leisure enfolded us; day followed day in an order unbroken and
peaceful as the unfolding of the flowers and the silent march of the
stars.  Time no longer ran like the few sands in a delicate hourglass
held by a fragile human hand, but like a majestic river fed by
fathomless seas.  The sky, bare and free from horizon to horizon, was
itself a symbol of eternity, with its infinite depth of colour, its
sublime serenity, its deep silence broken only by the flight and songs
of birds.  These were at home in that ethereal sphere, at rest in that
boundless space, and we were not slow to learn the lesson of their
freedom and joy.  We gave ourselves up to the sweetness of that
unmeasured life, without thought of yesterday or to-morrow; we drank
the cup which to-day held to our lips, and knew that so long as we were
athirst that draught would not be denied us.



XI

        . . . every of this happy number
  That have endur'd shrewd nights and days with us,
  Shall share the good of our returned fortune,
  According to the measure of their states.


There is this great consolation for those who cannot live continually
in the Forest of Arden: that, having once proven one's citizenship
there, one can return at will.  Those who have lived in Arden and have
gone back again into the world, are sustained in their loneliness by
the knowledge of their fellowship with a nobler community.  Aliens
though they are, they have yet a country to which they are loyal, not
through interest, but through aspiration, imagination, faith, and love.
Rosalind and I found the months in Arden all too brief; our life there
was one long golden day, whose sunset cast a soft and tender light on
our whole past and made it beautiful for us.  It is one of the delights
of the Forest that only the noblest aspects of life are visible there;
or, rather, that the hard and bare details of living, seen in the
atmosphere of Arden, yield some truth of character or experience which,
like the rose, makes even the rough calyx which encased it beautiful.
We had sometimes spoken together of our return to the world we had
left, but we put off as long as possible all definite preparations.  I
am not sure that I should ever have come back if Rosalind had not taken
the matter into her own hands.  She remembered that there was work to
be done which ought not to be longer postponed; that there were duties
to be met which ought not to be longer evaded; and when did Rosalind
fail to be or to do that which the hour and the experience commanded?
We treasured the last days as if the minutes were pure gold; we
lingered in talk with our friends as if we should never again hear such
spoken words; we loitered in the woods as if the spell of that
beautiful silence would never again touch us.  And yet we knew that,
once possessed, these things were ours forever; neither care, nor
change, nor time, nor death, could take them from us, for henceforth
they were part of ourselves.

We stood again at length on the little porch, covered with dust, and
turned the key in the unused lock.  I think we were both a little
reluctant to enter and begin again the old round of life and work.  The
house seemed smaller and less home-like, the furniture had lost its
freshness, the books on the shelves looked dull and faded.  Rosalind
ran to a window, opened it, and let in a flood of sunshine.  I confess
I was beginning to feel a little heartsick, but when the light fell on
her I remembered the rainy day in Arden, when the first rays after the
storm touched her and dispelled the gloom, and I realised, with a joy
too deep for words or tears, that I had brought the best of Arden with
me.  We talked little during those first days of our home-coming, but
we set the house in order, we recalled to the lonely rooms the old
associations, and we quietly took up the cares and burdens we had
dropped.  It was not easy at first, and there were days when we were
both heartsore; but we waited and worked and hoped.  Our neighbours
found us more silent and absorbed than of old, but neither that change
nor our absence seemed to have made any impression upon them.  Indeed,
we even doubted if they knew that we had taken such a journey.  Day by
day we stepped into the old places and fell into the old habits, until
all the broken threads of our life were reunited and we were apparently
as much a part of the world as if we had never gone out of it and found
a nobler and happier sphere.

But there came to us gradually a clear consciousness that, though we
were in the world, we were not of it, nor ever again could be.  It was
no longer our world; its standards, its thoughts, its pleasures, were
not for us.  We were not lonely in it; on the contrary, when the first
impression of strangeness wore off, we were happier than we had ever
been in the old days.  Our reputation was no longer in the breath of
men; our fortune was no longer at the mercy of rising or falling
markets; our plans and hopes were no longer subject to chance and
change.  We had a possession in the Forest of Arden, and we had friends
and dreams there beyond the empire of time and fate.  And when we
compared the security of our fortunes with the vicissitudes to which
the estates of our neighbours were exposed; when we compared our
noble-hearted friends with their meaner companionships; when we
compared the peaceful serenity of our hearts with their perplexities
and anxieties, we were filled with inexpressible sympathy.  We no
longer pierced them with the arrows of satire and wit because they
accepted lower standards and found pleasure in things essentially
pleasureless; they had not lived in Arden, and why should we berate
them for not possessing that which had never been within their reach?
We saw that upon those whom an inscrutable fate has led through the
paths of Arden a great and noble duty is laid.  They are not to be the
scorners and despisers of those whose eyes are holden that they cannot
see, and whose ears are stopped that they cannot hear, the vision and
the melody of things ideal.  They are rather to be eyes to the blind
and ears to the deaf.  They are to interpret in unshaken trust and
patience that which has been revealed to them; servants are they of the
Ideal, and their ministry is their exceeding great reward.  So long as
they see clearly, it is small matter to them that their message is
rejected, the mighty consolation which they bring refused; their joy
does not hang on acceptance or rejection at the hands of their fellows.
The only real losers are those who will not see nor hear.  It is not
the light-bringer who suffers when the torch is torn from his hands; it
is those whose paths he would lighten.

And more and more, as the days went by, Rosalind and I found the life
of the Forest stealing into our old home.  The old monotony was gone;
the old weariness and depression crossed our threshold no more.  If
work was pressing, we were always looking through and beyond it; we saw
the fine results that were being accomplished in it; we recognised the
high necessity which imposed it.  If perplexities and cares sat with us
at the fireside, we received them as friends; for in the light of Arden
had we not seen their harsh masks removed, and behind them the
benignant faces of those who patiently serve and minister, and receive
no reward save fear and avoidance and misconception?  In fact, having
lived in Arden, and with the consciousness that we might seek shelter
there as in another and securer home, the world barely touched us, save
to awaken our sympathies and to evoke our help.  It had little to give
us; we had much to give it.  There was within and about us a peace and
joy which were not for us alone.  Our little home was folded within
impalpable walls, and beyond it lay a vision of green foliage and
golden masses of cloud that never faded off the horizon.  There were
benignant presences in our rooms visible to no eyes but ours; for our
Arden friends did not forsake us.  There were memories between us which
made all our days beautiful with the consciousness of immortal faith
and love; there were hopes which, like celestial beings, looked upon us
with eyes deep with unspeakable prophecy as they waited at the doors of
the future.


It is an autumn afternoon, and the sun lies warm on the ripening vines
that cover the wall, and on the late flowers that bloom by the
roadside.  As I write these words I look up from my portfolio, and
Rosalind sits there, work in hand, smiling at me over her flying
needle.  My glance rests on her a moment, and a strange uncertainty
comes over me.  Have I really been in Arden, or have I dreamed these
things, looking into Rosalind's eyes?  It matters little whether I have
travelled or dreamed; where Rosalind is, there, for me at least, lies
the Forest of Arden.



  AN UNDISCOVERED ISLAND

  Where should this music be? i' the air, or th' earth?
  It sounds no more: and, sure, it waits upon
  Some god o' the island.



Chapter XXII

An Undiscovered Island

I

  Come unto these yellow sands,
  And then take hands;
  Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
  The wild waves whist,
  Foot it featly here and there;
  And, sweet sprites, the burden bear.


One winter evening, some time after the memorable year of our first
visit to the Forest of Arden, Rosalind and I were planning a return to
that enchanting place, and in the glow of the fire on the hearth were
picturing to ourselves the delights that would be ours again, when the
clang of the knocker suddenly recalled us from our dreams.  Hospitably
inclined, as I trust and believe we are, at that moment an interruption
seemed like an intrusion.  But our momentary annoyance was speedily
dispelled when the library door opened, and, with the freedom which
belongs to old friendship, the Poet entered unannounced.  No one could
have been more welcome on that wintry night than this genial and human
soul, bound to us by many ties of familiar association as well as by
frequent neighbourliness in the woods of Arden.  It had happened again
and again that we had found ourselves together in the recesses of the
Forest, and enchanting beyond all speech had been those days and nights
of mingled talk and dreams.

The Poet is one of the friends whose coming is peculiarly welcome
because it always harmonises with the mood of the moment, and no speech
is needed to bring us into agreement.  Rosalind took the visitor into
our plan at once, and urged him to go with us on this mysterious
journey; whereupon he told us that, by one of those delightful
coincidences which are always happening to people of kindred tastes and
aims, this very errand had brought him to our door.  The time had come,
he said, when he could no longer resist the longing for Arden!  We all
smiled at that sudden outburst; how well we knew what it meant!  After
months of going our ways dutifully in the dust and heat of the world,
the longing for Arden would on the instant become irresistible.  Come
what might, the hunger for perfect comprehension and fellowship, the
thirst for the beauty and repose of the deep woods, must be satisfied,
and forsaking whatever was in hand we fled incontinently across the
invisible boundaries into that other and diviner country.  No sooner
had the Poet made his confession than we hastened to make ours, and,
without further consideration, we resolved the very next day to shake
the dust from our feet and escape into Arden.  This question settled, a
great gaiety seized us, and we began to plan new journeys for the years
to come; journeys which had this peculiar charm--that they belonged to
a few kindred spirits; the world knows nothing of them, and when some
obscure reference brings them to mind, smiles its sceptical smile, and
goes on with its money-getting.  Rosalind drew from its hiding-place
the chart of this world of the imagination which we were given to
studying on long winter evenings, and of which only a few copies exist.
These charts are among the few things not to be had for money; if they
fall into alien hands they are incomprehensible.  It is true of them,
as of the books which describe the Forest of Arden, that they have a
kind of second meaning, only to be discerned by those whose eyes detect
the deeper things of life.  It is another peculiarity of these charts
that while science has indirectly done not a little for their
completeness, the work of preparing them has fallen entirely into the
hands of the poets; not, of course, the writers of verse alone, but
those who have had the vision of the great world as it lies in the
imagination, and who have heard that deep and incommunicable music
which sings at the heart of it.

Rosalind spread this chart on the table, and we drew our chairs around
it, noting now one and now another of the famous places of which all
men have heard, but which to most men are mere figments of dreams.
Here, for instance, in a certain latitude plainly marked on the margin,
is that calm sweet land of the Phaeacians where reigns Alcinoüs the
great-souled king, and the white-armed Nausicaä sings after her bath on
the river's brink:

  Without the palace court and near the gate
  A spacious garden of four acres lay;
  A hedge inclosed it round, and lofty trees
  Flourished in generous growth within--the pear
  And the pomegranate, and the apple tree
  With its fair fruitage, and the luscious fig,
  And olive always green.  The fruit they bear
  Falls not, nor ever fails in winter time
  Nor summer, but is yielded all the year.
  The ever-blowing west wind causes some
  To swell and some to ripen; pear succeeds
  To pear; to apple, apple, grape to grape,
  Fig ripens after fig.


Here, as Rosalind moves her finger, lies the valley of Avalon, whither
Arthur went to heal his overmastering sorrow, and where the air is
always sweet with the smell of apple blossoms.  In this deep wood lives
Merlin, still weaving, as of old, the magic spells.  There is the
castle of the Grail, and as our eyes fall on it, suddenly there comes a
hush, and we seem to hear the sublime antiphony, choir answering choir
in heavenly melody, as Parsifal raises the cup, and the light from
above smites it into sudden glory.  We are travelling eastward,
touching here and there those names which belong only to the greatest
poetry, when Rosalind's finger--the index of our wanderings--suddenly
pauses and rests on an island, not large, as it lies amid that silent
sea, but wonderful above all islands to which thought has ever wandered
or where imagination has ever made its home.  Under the light of the
lamp, with Rosalind's face bending over it, no island ever slept in a
deeper calm than this little circle of land about which the greatest of
the poets once evoked the most marvellous of tempests.  Rosalind's
finger does not move from that magical point, and, peering on the
chart, our eyes suddenly meet, and a single thought is in them all.
Why not postpone Arden for the moment and explore the isle of Miranda's
morning beauty and Prospero's magical wisdom?

"Why not?" says Rosalind, speaking aloud, and instead of answering her
question the Poet and I are wondering why we have never gone before.
Straightway we fall to studying the map more closely; we note the
latitude and longitude; it is but a little way from the mainland where
stretches the green expanse of the Forest of Arden.  We might have gone
long ago if we had been a little more adventurous; at least we think we
might at the first blush; but when we talk it over, as we proceed to do
when Rosalind has rolled up the chart and put it in its place, we are
not quite so sure about it.  It is one of the singular things about
this kind of journeying that one learns how to travel and where to go
only by personal observation.  Before we went to Arden, for instance,
we had no clear knowledge of any of these countries; we had often heard
of them; their names were often on our lips; but they were not real to
us.  That happy day when Arden ceased to be a dream to us was the
beginning of a rapid growth of knowledge concerning these invisible
countries; one by one they seemed to rise within the circle of our
expanding experience until we became aware that we were masters of a
new kind of geography.  That delightful discovery was not many years
behind us, but this new knowledge had already become so much a part of
our lives that we often confused it with the knowledge of commoner
things.

That night, before we parted, our plans were completed; on the morrow,
when night came, the fire on the hearth would be unlighted, for we
should be on Prospero's island.



II

          O, rejoice
  Beyond a common joy; and set it down
  With gold on lasting pillars: in one voyage
  Did Claribel her husband find at Tunis;
  And Ferdinand, her brother, found a wife
  Where he himself was lost; Prospero, his dukedom,
  In a poor isle; and all of us, ourselves,
  Where no man was his own.


"Honest Gonzalo never spoke truer word," said the Poet, answering
Rosalind, who had been quoting the old counsellor's summing up of the
common good fortune on the island when Prospero dispelled his
enchantments and the shipwrecked company found themselves saved as by
miracle.  It was our first evening on the island; one of those
memorable nights when all things seem born anew into some larger
heritage of beauty.  The moon hung low over the quiet sea, sleeping now
under the spell of the summer night, as if no storm had ever vexed it.
So silent, so hushed was it that but for the soft ripple on the sand we
should have thought it calmed in eternal repose.  Far off along the
horizon the stars hung motionless as the sea; overhead they shone out
of the measureless depths of space with a soft and solemn splendour.
Not a branch moved on the great trees behind us, folded now in the
universal mystery of the night.  The little stretch of beach, over
whose yellow sands the song of the invisible Ariel once floated, lay in
the soft light fit for the feet of fairies, or the gentle advance and
retreat of the sea.  The very air, suffused through all that vast
immensity with a mysterious light, seemed like a dream of peace.

In such a place, at such an hour, one shrinks from speech as from the
word that breaks the spell.  When one is so much a part of the sublime
order of things that the universal movement of force that streams
through all things embraces and thrills him with the consciousness of
common fellowship, how vain is all human utterance!  The greatest of
poems, the sublime harmony in which all things are folded, has never
been spoken, and never will be.  No lyre in any human hand will ever
make those divine chords audible.  The poets hear them, know them, live
by them; but no verse contains them.  So much a part of that wondrous
night were we that any speech would have seemed like a severance of
things that were one; all the deep meaning of the hour was clear to us
because we were included in it.  How long we sat in that silence I do
not know; we had forgotten the world out of which we had escaped, and
the route by which we came; we knew only that an infinite sea of beauty
and wonder rippled on the beach at our feet, and that over us the
heavens were as a delicate veil, beyond which diviner loveliness seemed
waiting on the verge of birth.

It was Rosalind who spoke at last, and spoke in words which flashed the
human truth of the hour into our thoughts.  On this island we had found
ourselves; so often lost, at times so long forgotten, in the busy world
that lay afar off.  And then we fell a-talking of the island and of all
the kindred places where men have found homes for their souls; sweet
and fragrant retreats whence the noise of strife and toil died into a
faint murmur, or was lost in some vast silence.  At Milan, Prospero
found the cares of state so irksome, the joy of "secret studies" so
alluring, that, despairing of harmonising things so alien, he took
refuge with his books, and found his "library was dukedom large
enough."  But the problem was not solved by this surrender; out of the
library, as out of the dukedom, he was set adrift, homeless and
friendless, until he set foot on the island where he was to rule with
no divided sway.  Here was his true home; here the spirits of the air
and the powers of the earth were his ministers; here his word seemed
part of the elemental order; he spoke and it was done, for the winds
and the sea obeyed him.  And when, in the working out of destiny which
he himself directed, he returns to the dukedom from which he had been
thrust out, he is no longer the Prospero of ineffective days.
Henceforth he will rule Milan as he rules the quiet dukedom of his
books; he has become a master of life and time, and his sovereignty
will never again be disputed.

Prospero did not find the island; he created it.  It was the necessity
of his life that he should fashion this bit of territory out of the
great sea, that here his soul might learn its strength and win its
freedom; that here, far from dukedom and courtiers, he might discover
that a great soul creates its own world and lives its own life.  Milan
may cast him out, as did Florence another of his kind, but this human
rejection will but bring him into that empire which no enmity may
touch, in the calm of whose divinely ordered government treasons are
unknown.  No man finds himself until he has created a world for his own
soul; a world apart from care and weakness and the confusions of
strife, in which the faiths that inspire him and the ideals that lead
him are the great and lasting verities.  To this world-building all the
great poetic minds are driven; within this invisible empire alone can
they reconcile the life that surrounds them with the life that floats
like a dream before them.  No great mind is ever at rest until in some
way the Real and the Ideal are found to be one.  Literature is full of
these beautiful homes of the soul, reared without the sound of chisel
or hammer by the magic of the Imagination--divinest of the faculties,
since it is the only one which creates.  The other faculties observe,
record, compare, combine; the imagination alone uses the brush, the
chisel, or the pen!

If one were to record these kingdoms of the mind, how long and luminous
would be the catalogue!  The golden age and the fabled Atlantis of the
elder poets; the "Republic" of the broad-browed Athenian; the secret
gardens, impregnable castles, sweet and inaccessible retreats of the
mediaeval fancy; the Paradise of Dante; the enchanting world through
which the Fairy Queen moves; the "Utopia" of the noble More; the Forest
of Arden--what visions of peace, what glimpses of beauty, accompany
every name!  To all these worlds of supernal loveliness there is a
single key; fortunate among men are they who hold it!



III

  Be not afraid; the isle is full of noises,
  Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
  Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
  Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
  That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
  Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
  The clouds methought would open, and show riches
  Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked,
  I cried to dream again.


When the sun rose the next morning, we rose with it, eager to explore
our little world about which the sea never ceased to sing its mighty
hymn of solitude and mystery.  There was something impressive in the
consciousness of our isolation; between us and any noise of human
occupation the waters were stretched as a barrier against which all
sound died into silence.  There was something enchanting in the beauty
and strangeness of this tiny continent, unreported by any geography,
unmarked on any chart save that which a few possess as a kind of sacred
heritage, untravelled as yet by our eager feet.  There was something
thrilling in the associations that touched the island with such a light
as never fell from sun or star.  With beating hearts we set out on that
wondrous exploration.  Who does not remember the thrill of the first
discovery of a new world; that joy of the soul in possession of a great
new truth which passes all speech?  There are hours in this troubled
life when the mists are lifted and float away like faint clouds against
the blue, and the great world lies like a splendid vision before us,
and "the immeasurable heavens break open to the highest," and in a
sudden rift of human limitation the whole sublime order opens before
us, sings to us out of the fathomless depths of its harmony, thrills us
with a sudden sense of God and of the undiscovered range and splendour
of our lives; and when they have passed, these hours remain with us in
the afterglow of clearer vision and deeper faith.  Such hours are the
peculiar joy of those who hold the key of the Imagination in their
grasp and are able to unlock the gate of dreams, or make themselves the
companion of the great explorers in the realms of truth and beauty.
These are the secret joys which people solitude and make the quiet days
one long draught of inspiration.

In such a mood our quest began and ended.  We skirted the beach; we
plunged deep into the recesses of the woods; we stretched ourselves on
the broad expanse of greensward in the shade of the great boughs; we
followed the rivulet to the hushed and shadowy solitude where it issued
from the moss-grown rock; wherever we bent our step the song of the sea
followed us, and the day was calm and cool as with its breadth and
freshness.  The island had its own beauty; the beauty of virgin forests
and untrodden paths, of a certain fragrant sweetness gathered in years
of untroubled solitude, of a certain pastoral repose such as comes to
Nature when man is remote but that which gave us the thrill of
something strangely sweet and satisfying, something apart from the
world we had left, was not anything we saw with eye.  All that was
visible was beautiful, but it was a loveliness not unfamiliar; it was
the invisible continually breaking in upon our consciousness that laid
us under a spell.  We were conscious of something lovelier than we saw;
a world not to be discerned by sight, but real and unspeakably
beautiful to the soul.  Even to Caliban the isle was "full of noises;"
"sounds and sweet airs that give delight" did not escape his brutish
sense.  Sometimes "a thousand twangling instruments" hummed about his
ears; sometimes voices whose soft music was akin to sleep floated about
him; and sometimes the clouds "would open and show riches ready to drop
upon" him.  There was a sweet enchantment in the air to which the
dullest could not be indifferent.  It hovered over us like some finer
beauty, just beyond the vision of sense, and yet as real, almost as
tangible, as the things we touched and saw.

Alone as we were upon the little island, we felt the diviner world of
which that tiny bit of earth was part; we knew the higher beauty of
which all that visible loveliness was but a sign and symbol.  The song
of the sea, breathed from we knew not what depths of space, was not
more real than this melody, haunting the island and dropping from the
air like blossoms from a ripening tree.  Turn where we would, this
music went with us; it mingled with the murmur of the trees; it blended
with the limpid note of the rivulet; it melted with the breeze that
swept across the grassy places.  All day, and for many another day, we
were conscious of a larger world of harmony and beauty folding in our
little world of tree and soil; we lived in it as freely and made it
ours as fully as the bit of earth beneath our feet.  Through all our
talk this thread of melody was run, and our very thoughts were set to
this unfailing music.  In those days the Poet wrote no verses; what
need of verse when poetry itself, that deep and breathing beauty of the
soul of things, filled every hour and overflowed all the channels of
thought and sense!

But if we were dumb in the hearing of a music beyond our mastery, we
were not blind to the parable conveyed in every sound and sight; in
those delicious days and nights a great truth cleared itself forever in
our minds.  We know henceforth how all dream-worlds, all beautiful
hopes and visions and ideals, are fashioned.  They are not of human
making; they but make visible things which already exist unseen; they
but make audible sounds which are already vocal unheard.  He who
dreams, sleeps, and another fills the chamber of his brain with moving
figures; he who aspires, hopes and believes, unlocks the door, and
another world, already furnished with beauty, lies before him.  Our
ideals are God's realities.  We build the new worlds of our knowledge
out of the dust of worlds already swinging in space; the stately homes
of our imagination, rise on foundations of the common earth.
Prospero's island was made of common soil; flowers, trees, and grass
grow on it as they grow about the homes of work and care.  The same sea
washes its shores which beats upon the coasts of ancient continents;
over it bends that same sky which enfolds all the generations of men.
Prospero's island is no mirage, hovering unreal and evanescent on the
far horizon; no impalpable phantom of reality floating like some
strayed flower on the lovely sea of dreams.  It is as solid as the
earth, as real as the soul that fashioned it.  No miracle was wrought,
no law violated, in its making.  Beautiful, true, and enduring, it lies
upon the waters; a haven for men in the storms that beat upon the high
seas of this troubled life.  That which is strange and wonderful about
it is the music which forever hovers about it; that which makes it
enchanted ground is the sound of voices sweet as the quietness of
sleep, the vision of clouds ready to drop unmeasured riches!  An island
solid as the great world out of which it was fashioned, but sweet with
heavenly voices and sublime with heavenly visions--such is the island
of Prospero's enchantments.  And such are all true ideals, dreams, and
aspirations.  They have their roots in the same earth whence the
commonest weed grows; but the light and life of the heavens are theirs
also.  In them the visible and the invisible are harmonised; in them
the real finds its completion in the ideal.  The common earth is common
only to those who are deaf to the voices and blind to the visions which
wait on it and make its flight a music and its path a light.  Out of
these common things the great artists build the homes of our souls.
Rock-founded are they, and broad-based on our mother earth; but they
have windows skyward, and there, above the tumult of the little earth,
the great worlds sing.



IV

          You do yet taste
  Some subtilities o' the isle, that will not let you
  Believe things certain.


One brilliant morning, the sky cloudless and the sea singing under a
freshening wind, we sat under a great tree, with a bit of soft sward
before us, and talked of Prospero.  In that place the master presence
was always with us; there was never an hour in which we did not feel
the spell of his creative spirit.  We were always secretly hoping that
we should come upon him in some secluded place, his staff unbroken, and
his book undrowned.  But what need had we of sight while the island
encompassed us and the multitudinous music filled the air?

On that fair morning the magical beauty of the world possessed us, and
our talk, blending unconsciously with the music of the invisible choir,
was broken by long pauses.  The Poet was saying that the world thought
of Prospero as a magician, a wonder-worker, whose thought borrowed the
fleetness of Ariel, whose staff unleashed the tempest and sent it back
to its hiding-place when its work was done, and in whose book were
written all manner of charms and incantations.  This was the Prospero
whom Caliban knew, and this is the Prospero whom the world remembers.
"For myself," said he, "I often try to forget the miracles, so stained
and defiled seem the great artists by this homage which is only another
form of materialism.  The search for signs and wonders is always
vulgar; it defiles every great spirit who compromises with it, because
it puts the miracle in place of the truth.  That which gives a wonder
its only dignity and significance is the spiritual power which it
evidences and the spiritual knowledge which it conveys.  To the
greatest of teachers this hunger for miracles was a bitter experience;
he who came with the mystery of the heavenly love in his soul must have
felt defiled by the homage rendered as to a necromancer, a doer of
strange things.  The curiosity which draws men to the masters of the
arts has no real honour in it; the only recognition which is real and
lasting is that which springs from the perception of truth and beauty
disclosed anew in some noble form.  Prospero was a magician, but he was
much more and much greater than a wonder-worker; not Caliban, but
Ferdinand and Miranda and Gonzalo, are the true judges of his power.
Prospero was the master spirit of the world which moved about him.  He
alone knew its secret and used its forces; on him alone rested the
government of this marvellous realm.  His command had stirred the seas
and sent the winds abroad which brought Milan and Naples within his
hand; at his bidding the isle was full of sounds; Ariel served him with
tireless devotion; he read the sweet thought that flashed from Miranda
to Ferdinand; he unearthed the base conspiracy of Caliban, Trinculo,
and Stephano; he read the treacherous hearts of Antonio and Sebastian;
in his hand all these threads were gathered, and upon all these lives
his will was imposed.  In that majestic drama of human character and
action, powers of air and earth, the highest and the lowest alike
serving, it is a lofty soul and a noble mind possessed by a great
purpose, which control and triumph.  The magical arts are simply the
means by which a great end is served; when the work is accomplished,
the staff will be broken and the book sunk beneath the sea, lower than
any sounding of plummet."

"Yes," said Rosalind impulsively, carrying the thought another step
forward, "Prospero deals with natural, substantial things for great,
real ends, not with magical powers for fantastic purposes.  When it
falls in his way, he evokes forces so unusual that they seem
supernatural to those who do not understand his power, but the end
which lies before him is always real, enduring, and noble; something
which belongs to the eternal order of things."

"For that matter," I interrupted, "it grows more and more difficult to
distinguish between the forces and the achievements that we have
thought real and possible, and those which have seemed only dreams and
visions.  Men are doing things every day by mechanical agencies which
the most famous of the old magicians failed to accomplish.  The visions
of great minds are realities discovered a little in advance of their
universal recognition."

"As I was saying," continued the Poet, "most men hold Prospero to be a
mere wonder-worker, a magician who puts his arts on and off with his
robe; they do not know that he stands for the greatest force in the
world.  For the Imagination is not only the inspiring leader of men in
their strange journey through life, but their nearest, most constant,
and most practical helper and sustainer.  That our souls would have
starved without the Imagination we are all, I think, agreed; without
Imagination we should have seen and remembered nothing on our long
journey but the path at our feet.  The heavens above us, the great,
mysterious world about us, would have meant no more to us than to the
birds and the beasts that have perished without thought or memory of
the beauty which has encompassed them.  All this the Imagination has
interpreted for us.  It has fashioned life for us, and the dullest mind
that plods and counts and dies is ministered to and enriched by it.  It
does magical things.  It puts on its robe and opens its book, and
straightway the heavens rain melody and drop riches upon us.  But this
is its play.  In these displays of its art it hints at the resources at
its command, at the marvels it will yet bring to pass.  Meanwhile it
has made the earth hospitable for us and taught men how to live above
the brutes."

The Poet stopped abruptly, as if he had been caught in the act of
preaching, and Rosalind gave the sermon a delightful ending.

"I wonder," she said, "if love would be possible without the
Imagination?  For the heart of love is the perception of a deep and
genuine fellowship of the soul, and the end of love is the happiness
which comes through ministry.  Could we understand a human soul or
serve it if the Imagination did not aid us with its wonderful light?
Is it not the Imagination which enables me to put myself in another's
place, and so to sympathise with another's sorrow and share another's
joy?  Could a man feel the sufferings of a class or a race or the world
if the Imagination did not open these things to him?  And if he did not
understand, could he serve?"

No one answered these questions, for they made us aware on the instant
how dependent are all the deep and beautiful relations of life on this
wonderful faculty.  But for this "master light of all our seeing," how
small a circle of light would lie about our feet, how vast a darkness
would engulf the world!



V

          O wonder!
  How many goodly creatures are there here!
  How beauteous mankind is!  O brave new world,
  That has such people in 't!


We had never thought of the island in the old days save as lashed by
tempests; but now the suns rose and set, dawn wore its shining veil and
night its crest of stars and not a cloud darkened the sky; we seemed to
be in the heart of a vast and changeless calm.  There was no monotony
in the unbroken succession of the days, but the changes were wrought by
light, not by darkness.  The singing of the sea, never rising into
those shrill upper notes which bode disaster, nor sinking into the deep
lower tones through which the awful thunder of the elements breaks,
came to us as out of the depths of an infinite repose.  The youth of an
untroubled world was in it.  The joy of effortless activities breathed
through it.  We felt that we were once more in the morning of the
world's day, and hope gave the keynote to all our thought.  Life is
divided between hope and memory; when memory holds the chief place, the
shadows are lengthening and the day declining.

It was one of the pleasures of the island that we were alone upon it.
There was no trace of any other human occupation, although we never
forgot those who had been before us in these enchanting scenes.  One
morning, when we had been talking about the delight of seclusion,
Rosalind said that, although the silence and repose were really
medicinal, people had never seemed so attractive to her as now when she
remembered them under the spell of the island.  It seemed to her, as
she recalled them now, that the dull people had an interest of their
own, the vulgar people were not without dignity, nor the bad people
without noble qualities.  The Poet, who had evidently been giving
himself the luxury of dreaming, declared that we cannot know people
save through the Imagination, and that lack of Imagination is at the
bottom of all pessimism in philosophy, religion, and personal
experience.  A  fact taken by itself and detached from the whole of
which it is part is always hard, bare, repellent; it must be seen in
its relations if one would perceive its finer and inner beauty; and it
is the Imagination alone which sees things as a whole.  The theologians
who have stuck to what they call logic have spread a veil of sadness
over the world which the poets must dissipate.  "I do not mean," he
added, "that there are not sombre and terrible aspects of life, but
that these things have been separated from the whole, and discerned
only in their bare and crushing isolated force.  The real significance
of things lies in their interpretation, and the Imagination is the only
interpreter."

I had often had the same thought, and found infinite consolation in it;
indeed, I rested in it so securely that I would trust myself with far
more confidence to the poets than to the logicians.  The guess of a
great poetic mind has as solid ground under it as the speculation of a
scientist; it differs from the scientific theory only in that it is an
induction from a greater number of significant facts.  The Imagination
follows the arc until it "comes full circle;" observation halts and
waits for further sight.

Rosalind thought it very beautiful that Miranda's first glance at men
should have discovered them so fair and noble; there was evil enough in
some of them, but standing beside Prospero Miranda saw only the "brave
new world."  I remembered at that moment that even Caliban discloses to
the Imagination the germ of a human development; has not another poet
written his later story and recorded the birth of his soul?  It was
characteristic of Rosalind that she should see the people in the
marvellous drama through Miranda's eyes, and that straightway the whole
world of men and women should reveal itself to her in a new light.  "To
see the good in people," she said, "is not so much a matter of charity
as of justice.  Our judgments of others fail oftenest through lack of
Imagination.  We fail to see all the facts; we see one or two very
clearly, and at once form an opinion.  To see the whole range of a
human character involves an intellectual and spiritual quality which
few of us possess.  There is so little justice among us because we
possess so little intelligence.  I ought not to pronounce judgment on a
fellow-creature until I know all that enters into his life; until I can
measure all the forces of temptation and resistance; until I can give
full weight to all the facts in the case.  In other words, I am never
in a position to judge another."

The Poet evidently assented to this statement, and I could not gainsay
it; is there not the very highest authority for it?  The time will come
when there will be a universal surrender of that authority which we
have been usurping all these centuries.  We shall not cease to
recognise the weakness and folly of men, but we shall cease to decide
the exact measure of personal responsibility.  That is a function for
which we were never qualified; it is a task which belongs to infinite
wisdom.  The Imagination helps us to understand others because it
reveals the vast compass of the influences that converge on every human
soul like the countless rivulets that give the river its volume and
impetus.  To look at men and women through the vision of the
Imagination is to see a very different race than that which meets our
common sight.  To this larger vision, within which the past supplements
the present, the great army of men and women moves to a solemn and
appealing music.  The pathos of life touches them with an indescribable
dignity; the work of life gives them an unspeakable nobility.  Under
the meanest exterior there are one knows not what tragedies of denied
hopes and unappeased longings; behind the mask of evil there shines one
knows not what struggling virtue overborne by impulses that flow from
the past like irresistible torrents.  Hidden under all manner of
disguises--weakness, poverty, ignorance, vulgarity--there waits a world
of ideals never realised but never lost; the fire of aspiration burns
in a thousand thousand souls that are maimed and broken, bruised and
baffled, but which still survive.  Is not this the unquenchable spark
that some day, in freer air, shall break into white flame?  It is the
Imagination only that discerns in a thousand contradictions, a thousand
obscurities, the large design to be revealed when the ring of the
hammer has ceased, the dust of toil been laid, the scaffolding removed,
and the finished structure suddenly discloses the miracle wrought among
those who were blind.



VI

          I might call him
  A thing divine; for nothing natural
  I ever saw so noble.


Rosalind was deeply interested in Prospero; and when the Poet and I had
talked long and eagerly about him, she often threw into the current
some comment or suggestion that gave us quite another and clearer view
of his genius and work.  But at heart Rosalind's chief interest was in
Miranda and Ferdinand.  The presence of Prospero had given the island a
solemn and far-reaching significance in the geography of the world;
Miranda and Ferdinand had left an unfailing and beguiling charm about
the place.  If we could have known the point where these two fresh and
unspoiled natures met, I am confident we should have stayed there by
common but unspoken consent.  After all our discoveries in this
mysterious world, youth and love remain the first and sweetest in our
thoughts: there is nothing which takes their place, nothing which
imparts their glow, nothing which conveys such deep and beautiful hints
of the better things to be.  Miranda had known no companionship but her
father's, no world but the sea-encircled island, no life but the
secluded and eventless existence in that wave-swept solitude.  She had
had the rare good fortune to ripen under the spell of pure, high
thoughts, and so near to Nature that no grosser currents of influence
had borne her away from the most wholesome and consoling of all
companionships.  Ferdinand came from the shows of royalty and small
falsities of courtiers; the palace, the city, the crowded,
self-seeking, hypocritical world had encompassed him from youth, robbed
him of privacy, cheated him of that repose which brings a man to a
knowledge of himself, and despoils him of those sweet and
tranquillising memories which grow out of a quiet childhood as the wild
flowers spring along the edges of the woods.

Coming, one from the stillness of a solitary island and the other from
the roar and rush of a court and a city, these two met, and there
flashed from one to the other that sudden and thrilling intelligence
which on the instant gives life a new interpretation and the world an
all-conquering loveliness.  Nowhere, surely, has the eternal romance
found more significant setting than on this magical island, about which
sea and sky, day and night, weave and weave again those vanishing webs
of splendour in which day-break and evening stars are snared; with such
music throbbing on the air as invisible spirits make when the command
of the master is on them!  Here, surely, was the home of this drama of
the soul, the acting of which on the troubled stage of life is a
perpetual appeal to faith and hope and joy!  For youth and love are
shining words in the vocabulary of the Imagination--words which contain
the deepest of present and predict the sweetest of future happiness.
So deeply interwoven is the real significance of these words with the
Imagination that, separated from it, they lose all their magical glow
and beauty.  Youth moves in no narrow territory; its boundary lines
fade out into infinity.  It feels no iron hand of limitation; it
discerns no impassable wall of restriction.  Life stretches away before
and about it limitless as space and full of unseen splendours as the
stars that crowd and brighten it.  The great wings of hope, unbruised
yet by any beatings of the later tempests, shine through the air,
lustrous and tireless, as if all flights were possible.  And far off,
on the remote horizon lines where sight fails, the mirage of dreams
dissolves and reappears in a thousand alluring forms.

Love knows even less of limitation and infirmity.  Its eyes, sometimes
oblivious of the things most obvious, pierce the remotest future, read
the innermost soul, discern the last and highest fruitions.  The seed
in its hand, hard, black, unbroken, is already a flower to its thought;
out of the bare, stern facts of the present its magical touch brings
one knows not what of joy and loveliness.  And when youth and love are
one, the heavens are not bright enough for their thoughts, nor eternity
long enough for their deeds.  Amid the shadows of life they seem to
have caught a momentary radiance from beyond the clouds; amid sorrows
and sins and all manner of weariness they are the recurring vision and
revelation of the eternal order.  All the world waits on them and
rejoices in them; and the bitter knowledge of what lies before the
eager feet, waiting with passionate hope on the threshold, does not
lessen the perennial interest in that fair picture; for in youth and
love are realised the universal ideals of men.  Youth and love are the
mortal synonyms of immortality; all that freshness of spirit, buoyancy
of strength, energy of hope, boundlessness of joy, completeness and
glory of life, imply, are typified in these two things, always
vanishing and yet always reappearing among men.  Wearing the beautiful
masks of youth and love, the gods continually revisit the earth, and in
their luminous presence faith forever rebuilds its shattered temples.

That which makes youth and love so precious to us is the play they give
to the Imagination; indeed, the better part of them both is compounded
of Imagination.  The horizons recede from their gaze because the second
sight of Imagination is theirs--that prescience which pierces the mists
which enfold us, and discerns the vaster world through which we move
for the most part with halting feet and blinded eyes.  Youth knows that
it was born to life and power and exhaustless resources; love knows
that it has found and shall forever possess those beautiful ideals
which are the passion of noble natures.

Are they blind, these flower-crowned, joy-seeking figures; or are we
blind who smile through tears at their illusions?  On this island there
is but one answer to that question; for do we not know that they only
who believe and trust discern the truth, and that to faith and hope
alone is true vision given?  "As yet lingers the twelfth hour and the
darkness, but the time will come when it shall be light, and man will
awaken from his lofty dreams and find--his dreams all there, and that
nothing is gone save his sleep."





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