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Title: Fresh Fields
Author: Burroughs, John, 1837-1921
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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FRESH FIELDS


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FRESH FIELDS

by

JOHN BURROUGHS



Boston and New York
Houghton, Mifflin and Company
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1896

Copyright, 1884, 1895,
By John Burroughs.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



CONTENTS


                                                      PAGE
        I. NATURE IN ENGLAND                             1

       II. ENGLISH WOODS: A CONTRAST                    35

      III. IN CARLYLE'S COUNTRY                         45

       IV. A HUNT FOR THE NIGHTINGALE                   77

        V. ENGLISH AND AMERICAN SONG-BIRDS             113

       VI. IMPRESSIONS OF SOME ENGLISH BIRDS           131

      VII. IN WORDSWORTH'S COUNTRY                     147

     VIII. A GLANCE AT BRITISH WILD FLOWERS            159

       IX. BRITISH FERTILITY                           175

        X. A SUNDAY IN CHEYNE ROW                      199

       XI. AT SEA                                      267

           INDEX                                       277



FRESH FIELDS



I

NATURE IN ENGLAND


I

The first whiff we got of transatlantic nature was the peaty breath of
the peasant chimneys of Ireland while we were yet many miles at sea.
What a homelike, fireside smell it was! it seemed to make something long
forgotten stir within one. One recognizes it as a characteristic Old
World odor, it savors so of the soil and of a ripe and mellow antiquity.
I know no other fuel that yields so agreeable a perfume as peat. Unless
the Irishman in one has dwindled to a very small fraction, he will be
pretty sure to dilate his nostrils and feel some dim awakening of memory
on catching the scent of this ancestral fuel. The fat, unctuous
peat,--the pith and marrow of ages of vegetable growth,--how typical it
is of much that lies there before us in the elder world; of the slow
ripenings and accumulations, of extinct life and forms, decayed
civilizations, of ten thousand growths and achievements of the hand and
soul of man, now reduced to their last modicum of fertilizing mould!

With the breath of the chimney there came presently the chimney swallow,
and dropped much fatigued upon the deck of the steamer. It was a still
more welcome and suggestive token,--the bird of Virgil and of
Theocritus, acquainted with every cottage roof and chimney in Europe,
and with the ruined abbeys and castle walls. Except its lighter-colored
breast, it seemed identical with our barn swallow; its little black cap
appeared pulled down over its eyes in the same manner, and its glossy
steel-blue coat, its forked tail, its infantile feet, and its cheerful
twitter were the same. But its habits are different; for in Europe this
swallow builds in chimneys, and the bird that answers to our chimney
swallow, or swift, builds in crevices in barns and houses.

We did not suspect we had taken aboard our pilot in the little swallow,
yet so it proved: this light navigator always hails from the port of
bright, warm skies; and the next morning we found ourselves sailing
between shores basking in full summer sunshine. Those who, after ten
days of sorrowing and fasting in the desert of the ocean, have sailed up
the Frith of Clyde, and thence up the Clyde to Glasgow, on the morning
of a perfect mid-May day, the sky all sunshine, the earth all verdure,
know what this experience is; and only those can know it. It takes a
good many foul days in Scotland to breed one fair one; but when the
fair day does come, it is worth the price paid for it. The soul and
sentiment of all fair weather is in it; it is the flowering of the
meteorological influences, the rose on this thorn of rain and mist.
These fair days, I was told, may be quite confidently looked for in May;
we were so fortunate as to experience a series of them, and the day we
entered port was such a one as you would select from a hundred.

The traveler is in a mood to be pleased after clearing the Atlantic
gulf; the eye in its exuberance is full of caresses and flattery, and
the deck of a steamer is a rare vantage-ground on any occasion of
sight-seeing; it affords just the isolation and elevation needed. Yet
fully discounting these favorable conditions, the fact remains that
Scotch sunshine is bewitching, and that the scenery of the Clyde is
unequaled by any other approach to Europe. It is Europe, abridged and
assorted and passed before you in the space of a few hours,--the
highlands and lochs and castle-crowned crags on the one hand; and the
lowlands, with their parks and farms, their manor halls and matchless
verdure, on the other. The eye is conservative, and loves a look of
permanence and order, of peace and contentment; and these Scotch shores,
with their stone houses, compact masonry, clean fields, grazing herds,
ivied walls, massive foliage, perfect roads, verdant mountains, etc.,
fill all the conditions. We pause an hour in front of Greenock, and
then, on the crest of the tide, make our way slowly upward. The
landscape closes around us. We can almost hear the cattle ripping off
the lush grass in the fields. One feels as if he could eat grass
himself. It is pastoral paradise. We can see the daisies and buttercups;
and from above a meadow on the right a part of the song of a skylark
reaches my ear. Indeed, not a little of the charm and novelty of this
part of the voyage was the impression it made as of going afield in an
ocean steamer. We had suddenly passed from a wilderness of waters into a
verdurous, sunlit landscape, where scarcely any water was visible. The
Clyde, soon after you leave Greenock, becomes little more than a large,
deep canal, inclosed between meadow banks, and from the deck of the
great steamer only the most charming rural sights and sounds greet you.
You are at sea amid verdant parks and fields of clover and grain. You
behold farm occupations--sowing, planting, plowing--as from the middle
of the Atlantic. Playful heifers and skipping lambs take the place of
the leaping dolphins and the basking swordfish. The ship steers her way
amid turnip-fields and broad acres of newly planted potatoes. You are
not surprised that she needs piloting. A little tug with a rope at her
bow pulls her first this way and then that, while one at her stern
nudges her right flank and then her left. Presently we come to the
ship-building yards of the Clyde, where rural, pastoral scenes are
strangely mingled with those of quite another sort. "First a cow and
then an iron ship," as one of the voyagers observed. Here a pasture or a
meadow, or a field of wheat or oats, and close beside it, without an
inch of waste or neutral ground between, rise the skeletons of
innumerable ships, like a forest of slender growths of iron, with the
workmen hammering amid it like so many noisy woodpeckers. It is doubtful
if such a scene can be witnessed anywhere else in the world,--an
enormous mechanical, commercial, and architectural interest, alternating
with the quiet and simplicity of inland farms and home occupations. You
could leap from the deck of a half-finished ocean steamer into a field
of waving wheat or Winchester beans. These vast shipyards appear to be
set down here upon the banks of the Clyde without any interference with
the natural surroundings of the place.

Of the factories and foundries that put this iron in shape you get no
hint; here the ships rise as if they sprouted from the soil, without
waste or litter, but with an incessant din. They stand as thickly as a
row of cattle in stanchions, almost touching each other, and in all
stages of development. Now and then a stall will be vacant, the ship
having just been launched, and others will be standing with flags flying
and timbers greased or soaped, ready to take to the water at the word.
Two such, both large ocean steamers, waited for us to pass. We looked
back, saw the last block or wedge knocked away from one of them, and the
monster ship sauntered down to the water and glided out into the current
in the most gentle, nonchalant way imaginable. I wondered at her slow
pace, and at the grace and composure with which she took to the water;
the problem nicely studied and solved,--just power enough, and not an
ounce to spare. The vessels are launched diagonally up or down stream,
on account of the narrowness of the channel. But to see such a brood of
ships, the largest in the world, hatched upon the banks of such a placid
little river, amid such quiet country scenes, is a novel experience. But
this is Britain,--a little island, with little lakes, little rivers,
quiet, bosky fields, but mighty interests and power that reach round the
world. I was conscious that the same scene at home would have been less
pleasing. It would not have been so compact and tidy. There would not
have been a garden of ships and a garden of turnips side by side;
haymakers and shipbuilders in adjoining fields; milch-cows and iron
steamers seeking the water within sight of each other. We leave wide
margins and ragged edges in this country, and both man and nature sprawl
about at greater lengths than in the Old World.

For the rest I was perhaps least prepared for the utter tranquillity,
and shall I say domesticity, of the mountains. At a distance they appear
to be covered with a tender green mould that one could brush away with
his hand. On nearer approach it is seen to be grass. They look nearly as
rural and pastoral as the fields. Goat Fell is steep and stony, but even
it does not have a wild and barren look. At home, one thinks of a
mountain as either a vast pile of barren, frowning rocks and precipices,
or else a steep acclivity covered with a tangle of primitive forest
timber. But here, the mountains are high, grassy sheep-walks, smooth,
treeless, rounded, and as green as if dipped in a fountain of perpetual
spring. I did not wish my Catskills any different; but I wondered what
would need to be done to them to make them look like these Scotch
highlands. Cut away their forests, rub down all inequalities in their
surfaces, pulverizing their loose bowlders; turf them over, leaving the
rock to show through here and there,--then, with a few large black
patches to represent the heather, and the softening and ameliorating
effect of a mild, humid climate, they might in time come to bear some
resemblance to these shepherd mountains. Then over all the landscape is
that new look,--that mellow, legendary, half-human expression which
nature wears in these ancestral lands, an expression familiar in
pictures and in literature, but which a native of our side of the
Atlantic has never before seen in gross, material objects and open-air
spaces,--the added charm of the sentiment of time and human history, the
ripening and ameliorating influence of long ages of close and loving
occupation of the soil,--naturally a deep, fertile soil under a mild,
very humid climate.

There is an unexpected, an unexplained lure and attraction in the
landscape,--a pensive, reminiscent feeling in the air itself. Nature has
grown mellow under these humid skies, as in our fiercer climate she
grows harsh and severe. One sees at once why this fragrant Old World
has so dominated the affections and the imaginations of our artists and
poets: it is saturated with human qualities; it is unctuous with the
ripeness of ages, the very marrowfat of time.


II

I had come to Great Britain less to see the noted sights and places than
to observe the general face of nature. I wanted to steep myself long and
well in that mellow, benign landscape, and put to further tests the
impressions I had got of it during a hasty visit one autumn, eleven
years before. Hence I was mainly intent on roaming about the country, it
mattered little where. Like an attic stored with relics and heirlooms,
there is no place in England where you cannot instantly turn from nature
to scenes and places of deep historical or legendary or artistic
interest.

My journal of travel is a brief one, and keeps to a few of the main
lines. After spending a couple of days in Glasgow, we went down to
Alloway, in Burns's country, and had our first taste of the beauty and
sweetness of rural Britain, and of the privacy and comfort of a little
Scotch inn. The weather was exceptionally fair, and the mellow Ayrshire
landscape, threaded by the Doon, a perpetual delight. Thence we went
north on a short tour through the Highlands,--up Loch Lomond, down Loch
Katrine, and through the Trosachs to Callander, and thence to Stirling
and Edinburgh. After a few days in the Scotch capital we set out for
Carlyle's country, where we passed five delightful days. The next week
found us in Wordsworth's land, and the 10th of June in London. After a
week here I went down into Surrey and Hants, in quest of the
nightingale, for four or five days. Till the middle of July I hovered
about London, making frequent excursions into the country,--east, south,
north, west, and once across the channel into France, where I had a long
walk over the hills about Boulogne. July 15 we began our return journey
northward, stopping a few days at Stratford, where I found the Red Horse
Inn sadly degenerated from excess of travel. Thence again into the Lake
region for a longer stay. From Grasmere we went into north Wales, and
did the usual touring and sight-seeing around and over the mountains.
The last week of July we were again in Glasgow, from which port we
sailed on our homeward voyage July 29.

With a suitable companion, I should probably have made many long
pedestrian tours. As it was, I took many short but delightful walks both
in England and Scotland, with a half day's walk in the north of Ireland
about Moville. 'Tis an admirable country to walk in,--the roads are so
dry and smooth and of such easy grade, the footpaths so numerous and so
bold, and the climate so cool and tonic. One night, with a friend, I
walked from Rochester to Maidstone, part of the way in a slow rain and
part of the way in the darkness. We had proposed to put up at some one
of the little inns on the road, and get a view of the weald of Kent in
the morning; but the inns refused us entertainment, and we were
compelled to do the eight miles at night, stepping off very lively the
last four in order to reach Maidstone before the hotels were shut up,
which takes place at eleven o'clock. I learned this night how fragrant
the English elder is while in bloom, and that distance lends enchantment
to the smell. When I plucked the flowers, which seemed precisely like
our own, the odor was rank and disagreeable; but at the distance of a
few yards it floated upon the moist air, a spicy and pleasing perfume.
The elder here grows to be a veritable tree; I saw specimens seven or
eight inches in diameter and twenty feet high. In the morning we walked
back by a different route, taking in Boxley Church, where the pilgrims
used to pause on their way to Canterbury, and getting many good views of
Kent grain-fields and hop-yards. Sometimes the road wound through the
landscape like a footpath, with nothing between it and the rank-growing
crops. An occasional newly-plowed field presented a curious appearance.
The soil is upon the chalk formation, and is full of large fragments of
flint. These work out upon the surface, and, being white and full of
articulations and processes, give to the ground the appearance of being
thickly strewn with bones,--with thigh bones greatly foreshortened. Yet
these old bones in skillful hands make a most effective building
material. They appear in all the old churches and ancient buildings in
the south of England. Broken squarely off, the flint shows a fine
semi-transparent surface that, in combination with coarser material, has
a remarkable crystalline effect. One of the most delicious bits of
architectural decoration I saw in England was produced, in the front
wall of one of the old buildings attached to the cathedral at
Canterbury, by little squares of these flints in brick panel-work. The
cool, pellucid, illuminating effect of the flint was just the proper
foil to the warm, glowing, livid brick.

From Rochester we walked to Gravesend, over Gad's Hill; the day soft and
warm, half sunshine, half shadow; the air full of the songs of skylarks;
a rich, fertile landscape all about us; the waving wheat just in bloom,
dashed with scarlet poppies; and presently, on the right, the Thames in
view dotted with vessels. Seldom any cattle or grazing herds in Kent;
the ground is too valuable; it is all given up to wheat, oats, barley,
hops, fruit, and various garden produce.

A few days later we walked from Feversham to Canterbury, and from the
top of Harbledown hill saw the magnificent cathedral suddenly break upon
us as it did upon the footsore and worshipful pilgrims centuries ago. At
this point, it is said, they knelt down, which seems quite probable, the
view is so imposing. The cathedral stands out from and above the city,
as if the latter were the foundation upon which it rested. On this walk
we passed several of the famous cherry orchards of Kent, the thriftiest
trees and the finest fruit I ever saw. We invaded one of the orchards,
and proposed to purchase some of the fruit of the men engaged in
gathering it. But they refused to sell it; had no right to do so, they
said; but one of them followed us across the orchard, and said in a
confidential way that he would see that we had some cherries. He filled
my companion's hat, and accepted our shilling with alacrity. In getting
back into the highway, over the wire fence, I got my clothes well tarred
before I was aware of it. The fence proved to be well besmeared with a
mixture of tar and grease,--an ingenious device for marking trespassers.
We sat in the shade of a tree and ate our fruit and scraped our clothes,
while a troop of bicyclists filed by. About the best glimpses I had of
Canterbury cathedral--after the first view from Harbledown hill--were
obtained while lying upon my back on the grass, under the shadow of its
walls, and gazing up at the jackdaws flying about the central tower and
going out and in weather-worn openings three hundred feet above me.
There seemed to be some wild, pinnacled mountain peak or rocky ledge up
there toward the sky, where the fowls of the air had made their nests,
secure from molestation. The way the birds make themselves at home about
these vast architectural piles is very pleasing. Doves, starlings,
jackdaws, swallows, sparrows, take to them as to a wood or to a cliff.
If there were only something to give a corresponding touch of nature or
a throb of life inside! But their interiors are only impressive
sepulchres, tombs within a tomb. Your own footfalls seem like the echo
of past ages. These cathedrals belong to the pleistocene period of man's
religious history, the period of gigantic forms. How vast, how
monstrous, how terrible in beauty and power! but in our day as empty and
dead as the shells upon the shore. The cold, thin ecclesiasticism that
now masquerades in them hardly disturbs the dust in their central
aisles. I saw five worshipers at the choral service in Canterbury, and
about the same number of curious spectators. For my part, I could not
take my eyes off the remnants of some of the old stained windows up
aloft. If I worshiped at all, it was my devout admiration of those
superb relics. There could be no doubt about the faith that inspired
those. Below them were some gorgeous modern memorial windows: stained
glass, indeed! loud, garish, thin, painty; while these were like a
combination of precious stones and gems, full of depth and richness of
tone, and, above all, serious, not courting your attention. My eye was
not much taken with them at first, and not till after it had recoiled
from the hard, thin glare in my immediate front.

From Canterbury I went to Dover, and spent part of a day walking along
the cliffs to Folkestone. There is a good footpath that skirts the edge
of the cliffs, and it is much frequented. It is characteristic of the
compactness and neatness of this little island, that there is not an
inch of waste land along this sea margin; the fertile rolling landscape,
waving with wheat and barley, and with grass just ready for the scythe,
is cut squarely off by the sea; the plow and the reaper come to the very
brink of the chalky cliffs. As you sit down on Shakespeare's Cliff, with
your feet dangling in the air at a height of three hundred and fifty
feet, you can reach back and pluck the grain heads and the scarlet
poppies. Never have I seen such quiet pastoral beauty take such a sudden
leap into space. Yet the scene is tame in one sense: there is no hint of
the wild and the savage; the rock is soft and friable, a kind of chalky
bread, which the sea devours readily; the hills are like freshly cut
loaves; slice after slice has been eaten away by the hungry elements.
Sitting here, I saw no "crows and choughs" winging "the midway air," but
a species of hawk, "haggards of the rocks," were disturbed in the niches
beneath me, and flew along from point to point.

             "The murmuring surge,
     That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
     Cannot be heard so high."

I had wondered why Shakespeare had made his seashores pebbly instead of
sandy, and now I saw why: they are pebbly, with not a grain of sand to
be found. This chalk formation, as I have already said, is full of flint
nodules; and as the shore is eaten away by the sea, these rounded masses
remain. They soon become worn into smooth pebbles, which beneath the
pounding of the surf give out a strange clinking, rattling sound. Across
the Channel, on the French side, there is more sand, but it is of the
hue of mud and not pleasing to look upon.

Of other walks I had in England, I recall with pleasure a Sunday up the
Thames toward Windsor: the day perfect, the river alive with row-boats,
the shore swarming with pedestrians and picnickers; young athletic
London, male and female, rushing forth as hungry for the open air and
the water as young mountain herds for salt. I never saw or imagined
anything like it. One shore of the Thames, sometimes the right,
sometimes the left, it seems, belongs to the public. No private grounds,
however lordly, are allowed to monopolize both sides.

Another walk was about Winchester and Salisbury, with more
cathedral-viewing. One of the most human things to be seen in the great
cathedrals is the carven image of some old knight or warrior prince
resting above his tomb, with his feet upon his faithful dog. I was
touched by this remembrance of the dog. In all cases he looked alert and
watchful, as if guarding his master while he slept. I noticed that
Cromwell's soldiers were less apt to batter off the nose and ears of the
dog than they were those of the knight.

At Stratford I did more walking. After a row on the river, we strolled
through the low, grassy field in front of the church, redolent of cattle
and clover, and sat for an hour on the margin of the stream and enjoyed
the pastoral beauty and the sunshine. In the afternoon (it was Sunday)
I walked across the fields to Shottery, and then followed the road as
it wound amid the quaint little thatched cottages till it ended at a
stile from which a footpath led across broad, sunny fields to a stately
highway. To give a more minute account of English country scenes and
sounds in midsummer, I will here copy some jottings in my note-book,
made then and there:--

"_July 16._ In the fields beyond Shottery. Bright and breezy, with
appearance of slight showers in the distance. Thermometer probably about
seventy; a good working temperature. Clover--white, red, and yellow
(white predominating)--in the fields all about me. The red very ruddy;
the white large. The only noticeable bird voice that of the
yellow-hammer, two or three being within ear-shot. The song is much like
certain sparrow songs, only inferior: _Sip, sip, sip, see-e-e-e_; or,
_If if, if you ple-e-ease_. Honey-bees on the white clover. Turf very
thick and springy, supporting two or three kinds of grass resembling
red-top and bearded rye-grass. Narrow-leaved plantain, a few buttercups,
a small yellow flower unknown to me (probably ladies' fingers), also a
species of dandelion and prunella. The land thrown into marked swells
twenty feet broad. Two Sunday-school girls lying on the grass in the
other end of the field. A number of young men playing some game, perhaps
cards, seated on the ground in an adjoining field. Scarcely any signs of
midsummer to me; no ripeness or maturity in nature yet. The grass very
tender and succulent, the streams full and roily. Yarrow and cinquefoil
also in the grass where I sit. The plantain in bloom and fragrant. Along
the Avon, the meadow-sweet in full bloom, with a fine cinnamon odor. A
wild rose here and there in the hedge-rows. The wild clematis nearly
ready to bloom, in appearance almost identical with our own. The wheat
and oats full-grown, but not yet turning. The clouds soft and fleecy.
Prunella dark purple. A few paces farther on I enter a highway, one of
the broadest I have seen, the roadbed hard and smooth as usual, about
sixteen feet wide, with grassy margins twelve feet wide, redolent with
white and red clover. A rich farming landscape spreads around me, with
blue hills in the far west. Cool and fresh like June. Bumblebees here
and there, more hairy than at home. A plow in a field by the roadside is
so heavy I can barely move it,--at least three times as heavy as an
American plow; beam very long, tails four inches square, the mould-board
a thick plank. The soil like putty; where it dries, crumbling into
small, hard lumps, but sticky and tough when damp,--Shakespeare's soil,
the finest and most versatile wit of the world, the product of a sticky,
stubborn clay-bank. Here is a field where every alternate swell is
small. The large swells heave up in a very molten-like way--real turfy
billows, crested with white clover-blossoms."

"_July 17._ On the road to Warwick, two miles from Stratford. Morning
bright, with sky full of white, soft, high-piled thunderheads. Plenty
of pink blackberry blossoms along the road; herb Robert in bloom, and a
kind of Solomon's-seal as at home, and what appears to be a species of
goldenrod with a midsummery smell. The note of the yellow-hammer and the
wren here and there. Beech-trees loaded with mast and humming with
bumblebees, probably gathering honey-dew, which seems to be more
abundant here than with us. The landscape like a well-kept park dotted
with great trees, which make islands of shade in a sea of grass. Droves
of sheep grazing, and herds of cattle reposing in the succulent fields.
Now the just felt breeze brings me the rattle of a mowing-machine, a
rare sound here, as most of the grass is cut by hand. The great
motionless arms of a windmill rising here and there above the horizon. A
gentleman's turnout goes by with glittering wheels and spanking team;
the footman in livery behind, the gentleman driving. I hear his brake
scrape as he puts it on down the gentle descent. Now a lark goes off.
Then the mellow horn of a cow or heifer is heard. Then the bleat of
sheep. The crows caw hoarsely. Few houses by the roadside, but here and
there behind the trees in the distance. I hear the greenfinch, stronger
and sharper than our goldfinch, but less pleasing. The matured look of
some fields of grass alone suggests midsummer. Several species of mint
by the roadside, also certain white umbelliferous plants. Everywhere
that royal weed of Britain, the nettle. Shapely piles of road material
and pounded stone at regular distances, every fragment of which will go
through a two-inch ring. The roads are mended only in winter, and are
kept as smooth and hard as a rock. No swells or 'thank-y'-ma'ams' in
them to turn the water; they shed the water like a rounded pavement. On
the hill, three miles from Stratford, where a finger-post points you to
Hampton Lucy, I turn and see the spire of Shakespeare's church between
the trees. It lies in a broad, gentle valley, and rises above much
foliage. 'I hope and praise God it will keep foine,' said the old woman
at whose little cottage I stopped for ginger-beer, attracted by a sign
in the window. 'One penny, sir, if you please. I made it myself, sir. I
do not leave the front door unfastened' (undoing it to let me out) 'when
I am down in the garden.' A weasel runs across the road in front of me,
and is scolded by a little bird. The body of a dead hedgehog festering
beside the hedge. A species of St. John's-wort in bloom, teasels, and a
small convolvulus. Also a species of plantain with a head large as my
finger, purple tinged with white. Road margins wide, grassy, and
fragrant with clover. Privet in bloom in the hedges, panicles of small
white flowers faintly sweet-scented. 'As clean and white as privet when
it flowers,' says Tennyson in 'Walking to the Mail.' The road and avenue
between noble trees, beech, ash, elm, and oak. All the fields are
bounded by lines of stately trees; the distance is black with them. A
large thistle by the roadside, with homeless bumblebees on the heads as
at home, some of them white-faced and stingless. Thistles rare in this
country. Weeds of all kinds rare except the nettle. The place to see the
Scotch thistle is not in Scotland or England, but in America."


III

England is like the margin of a spring-run, near its source,--always
green, always cool, always moist, comparatively free from frost in
winter and from drought in summer. The spring-run to which it owes this
character is the Gulf Stream, which brings out of the pit of the
southern ocean what the fountain brings out of the bowels of the
earth--a uniform temperature, low but constant; a fog in winter, a cloud
in summer. The spirit of gentle, fertilizing summer rain perhaps never
took such tangible and topographical shape before. Cloud-evolved,
cloud-enveloped, cloud-protected, it fills the eye of the American
traveler with a vision of greenness such as he has never before dreamed
of; a greenness born of perpetual May, tender, untarnished, ever
renewed, and as uniform and all-pervading as the rain-drops that fall,
covering mountain, cliff, and vale alike. The softened, rounded, flowing
outlines given to our landscape by a deep fall of snow are given to the
English by this depth of vegetable mould and this all-prevailing verdure
which it supports. Indeed, it is caught upon the shelves and projections
of the rocks as if it fell from the clouds,--a kind of green snow,--and
it clings to their rough or slanting sides like moist flakes. In the
little valleys and chasms it appears to lie deepest. Only the peaks and
broken rocky crests of the highest Scotch and Cumberland mountains are
bare. Adown their treeless sides the moist, fresh greenness fairly
drips. Grass, grass, grass, and evermore grass. Is there another country
under the sun so becushioned, becarpeted, and becurtained with grass?
Even the woods are full of grass, and I have seen them mowing in a
forest. Grass grows upon the rocks, upon the walls, on the tops of the
old castles, on the roofs of the houses, and in winter the hay-seed
sometimes sprouts upon the backs of the sheep. Turf used as capping to a
stone fence thrives and blooms as if upon the ground. There seems to be
a deposit from the atmosphere,--a slow but steady accumulation of a
black, peaty mould upon all exposed surfaces,--that by and by supports
some of the lower or cryptogamous forms of vegetation. These decay and
add to the soil, till thus in time grass and other plants will grow. The
walls of the old castles and cathedrals support a variety of plant life.
On Rochester Castle I saw two or three species of large wild flowers
growing one hundred feet from the ground and tempting the tourist to
perilous reachings and climbings to get them. The very stones seem to
sprout. My companion made a sketch of a striking group of red and white
flowers blooming far up on one of the buttresses of Rochester Cathedral.
The soil will climb to any height. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of
finer soil floating in the air. How else can one account for the general
smut of the human face and hands in this country, and the impossibility
of keeping his own clean? The unwashed hand here quickly leaves its mark
on whatever it touches. A prolonged neglect of soap and water, and I
think one would be presently covered with a fine green mould, like that
upon the boles of the trees in the woods. If the rains were not
occasionally heavy enough to clean them off, I have no doubt that the
roofs of all buildings in England would in a few years be covered with
turf, and that daisies and buttercups would bloom upon them. How quickly
all new buildings take on the prevailing look of age and mellowness! One
needs to have seen the great architectural piles and monuments of
Britain to appreciate Shakespeare's line,--

     "That unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish Time."

He must also have seen those Scotch or Cumberland mountains to
appreciate the descriptive force of this other line,--

     "The turfy mountains where live the nibbling sheep."

The turfy mountains are the unswept stones that have held and utilized
their ever-increasing capital of dirt. These vast rocky eminences are
stuffed and padded with peat; it is the sooty soil of the housetops and
of the grimy human hand, deepened and accumulated till it nourishes the
finest, sweetest grass.

It was this turfy and grassy character of these mountains--I am tempted
to say their cushionary character--that no reading or picture viewing of
mine had prepared me for. In the cut or on canvas they appeared like
hard and frowning rocks; and here I beheld them as green and succulent
as any meadow-bank in April or May,--vast, elevated sheep-walks and
rabbit-warrens, treeless, shrubless, generally without loose bowlders,
shelving rocks, or sheer precipices; often rounded, feminine, dimpled,
or impressing one as if the rock had been thrust up beneath an immense
stretch of the finest lawn, and had carried the turf with it heavenward,
rending it here and there, but preserving acres of it intact.

In Scotland I ascended Ben Venue, not one of the highest or ruggedest of
the Scotch mountains, but a fair sample of them, and my foot was seldom
off the grass or bog, often sinking into them as into a saturated
sponge. Where I expected a dry course, I found a wet one. The thick,
springy turf was oozing with water. Instead of being balked by
precipices, I was hindered by swamps. Where a tangle of brush or a chaos
of bowlders should have detained me, I was picking my way as through a
wet meadow-bottom tilted up at an angle of forty-five degrees. My feet
became soaked when my shins should have been bruised. Occasionally, a
large deposit of peat in some favored place had given way beneath the
strain of much water, and left a black chasm a few yards wide and a yard
or more deep. Cold spring-runs were abundant, wild flowers few, grass
universal. A loping hare started up before me; a pair of ringed ousels
took a hasty glance at me from behind a rock; sheep and lambs, the
latter white and conspicuous beside their dingy and all but invisible
dams, were scattered here and there; the wheat-ear uncovered its white
rump as it flitted from rock to rock, and the mountain pipit displayed
its larklike tail. No sound of wind in the trees; there were no trees,
no seared branches and trunks that so enhance and set off the wildness
of our mountain-tops. On the summit the wind whistled around the
outcropping rocks and hummed among the heather, but the great mountain
did not purr or roar like one covered with forests.

I lingered for an hour or more, and gazed upon the stretch of mountain
and vale about me. The summit of Ben Lomond, eight or ten miles to the
west, rose a few hundred feet above me. On four peaks I could see snow
or miniature glaciers. Only four or five houses, mostly humble shepherd
dwellings, were visible in that wide circuit. The sun shone out at
intervals; the driving clouds floated low, their keels scraping the
rocks of some of the higher summits. The atmosphere was filled with a
curious white film, like water tinged with milk, an effect only produced
at home by a fine mist. "A certain tameness in the view, after all," I
recorded in my note-book on the spot, "perhaps because of the trim and
grassy character of the mountain; not solemn and impressive; no sense of
age or power. The rock crops out everywhere, but it can hardly look you
in the face; it is crumbling and insignificant; shows no frowning
walls, no tremendous cleavage; nothing overhanging and precipitous; no
wrath and revel of the elder gods."

Even in rugged Scotland nature is scarcely wilder than a mountain sheep,
certainly a good way short of the ferity of the moose and caribou. There
is everywhere marked repose and moderation in the scenery, a kind of
aboriginal Scotch canniness and propriety that gives one a new
sensation. On and about Ben Nevis there is barrenness, cragginess, and
desolation; but the characteristic feature of wild Scotch scenery is the
moor, lifted up into mountains, covering low, broad hills, or stretching
away in undulating plains, black, silent, melancholy, it may be, but
never savage or especially wild. "The vast and yet not savage solitude,"
Carlyle says, referring to these moorlands. The soil is black and peaty,
often boggy; the heather short and uniform as prairie grass; a
shepherd's cottage or a sportsman's "box" stuck here and there amid the
hills. The highland cattle are shaggy and picturesque, but the moors and
mountains are close cropped and uniform. The solitude is not that of a
forest full of still forms and dim vistas, but of wide, open, sombre
spaces. Nature did not look alien or unfriendly to me; there must be
barrenness or some savage threatening feature in the landscape to
produce this impression; but the heather and whin are like a permanent
shadow, and one longs to see the trees stand up and wave their branches.
The torrents leaping down off the mountains are very welcome to both
eye and ear. And the lakes--nothing can be prettier than Loch Lomond and
Loch Katrine, though one wishes for some of the superfluous rocks of the
New World to give their beauty a granite setting.


IV

It is characteristic of nature in England that most of the stone with
which the old bridges, churches, and cathedrals are built is so soft
that people carve their initials in it with their jack-knives, as we do
in the bark of a tree or in a piece of pine timber. At Stratford a card
has been posted upon the outside of the old church, imploring visitors
to refrain from this barbarous practice. One sees names and dates there
more than a century old. Often, in leaning over the parapets of the
bridges along the highways, I would find them covered with letters and
figures. Tourists have made such havoc chipping off fragments from the
old Brig o' Doon in Burns's country, that the parapet has had to be
repaired. One could cut out the key of the arch with his pocket-knife.
And yet these old structures outlast empires. A few miles from Glasgow I
saw the remains of an old Roman bridge, the arch apparently as perfect
as when the first Roman chariot passed over it, probably fifteen
centuries ago. No wheels but those of time pass over it in these later
centuries, and these seem to be driven slowly and gently in this land,
with but little wear and tear to the ancient highways.

England is not a country of granite and marble, but of chalk, marl, and
clay. The old Plutonic gods do not assert themselves; they are buried
and turned to dust, and the more modern humanistic divinities bear sway.
The land is a green cemetery of extinct rude forces. Where the highway
or the railway gashed the hills deeply, I could seldom tell where the
soil ended and the rock began, as they gradually assimilated, blended,
and became one.

And this is the key to nature in England: 'tis granite grown ripe and
mellow and issuing in grass and verdure; 'tis aboriginal force and
fecundity become docile and equable and mounting toward higher
forms,--the harsh, bitter rind of the earth grown sweet and edible.
There is such body and substance in the color and presence of things
that one thinks the very roots of the grass must go deeper than usual.
The crude, the raw, the discordant, where are they? It seems a
comparatively short and easy step from nature to the canvas or to the
poem in this cozy land. Nothing need be added; the idealization has
already taken place. The Old World is deeply covered with a kind of
human leaf-mould, while the New is for the most part yet raw, undigested
hard-pan. This is why these scenes haunt one like a memory. One seems to
have youthful associations with every field and hilltop he looks upon.
The complete humanization of nature has taken place. The soil has been
mixed with human thought and substance. These fields have been
alternately Celt, Roman, British, Norman, Saxon; they have moved and
walked and talked and loved and suffered; hence one feels kindred to
them and at home among them. The mother-land, indeed. Every foot of its
soil has given birth to a human being and grown tender and conscious
with time.

England is like a seat by the chimney-corner, and is as redolent of
human occupancy and domesticity. It has the island coziness and unity,
and the island simplicity as opposed to the continental diversity of
forms. It is all one neighborhood; a friendly and familiar air is over
all. It satisfies to the full one's utmost craving for the home-like and
for the fruits of affectionate occupation of the soil. It does not
satisfy one's craving for the wild, the savage, the aboriginal, what our
poet describes as his

     "Hungering, hungering, hungering for primal energies and Nature's
          dauntlessness."

But probably in the matter of natural scenes we hunger most for that
which we most do feed upon. At any rate, I can conceive that one might
be easily contented with what the English landscape affords him.

The whole physiognomy of the land bespeaks the action of slow, uniform,
conservative agencies. There is an elemental composure and moderation in
things that leave their mark everywhere,--a sort of elemental sweetness
and docility that are a surprise and a charm. One does not forget that
the evolution of man probably occurred in this hemisphere, and time
would seem to have proved that there is something here more favorable to
his perpetuity and longevity.

The dominant impression of the English landscape is repose. Never was
such a restful land to the eye, especially to the American eye, sated as
it is very apt to be with the mingled squalor and splendor of its own
landscape, its violent contrasts, and general spirit of unrest. But the
completeness and composure of this outdoor nature is like a dream. It is
like the poise of the tide at its full: every hurt of the world is
healed, every shore covered, every unsightly spot is hidden. The circle
of the horizon is brimming with the green equable flood. (I did not see
the fens of Lincolnshire nor the wolds of York.) This look of repose is
partly the result of the maturity and ripeness brought about by time and
ages of patient and thorough husbandry, and partly the result of the
gentle, continent spirit of Nature herself. She is contented, she is
happily wedded, she is well clothed and fed. Her offspring swarm about
her, her paths have fallen in pleasant places. The foliage of the trees,
how dense and massive! The turf of the fields, how thick and uniform!
The streams and rivers, how placid and full, showing no devastated
margins, no widespread sandy wastes and unsightly heaps of drift
bowlders! To the returned traveler the foliage of the trees and groves
of New England and New York looks thin and disheveled when compared with
the foliage he has just left. This effect is probably owing to our
cruder soil and sharper climate. The aspect of our trees in midsummer is
as if the hair of their heads stood on end; the woods have a wild,
frightened look, or as if they were just recovering from a debauch. In
our intense light and heat, the leaves, instead of spreading themselves
full to the sun and crowding out upon the ends of the branches as they
do in England, retreat, as it were, hide behind each other, stand
edgewise, perpendicular, or at any angle, to avoid the direct rays. In
Britain, from the slow, dripping rains and the excessive moisture, the
leaves of the trees droop more, and the branches are more pendent. The
rays of light are fewer and feebler, and the foliage disposes itself so
as to catch them all, and thus presents a fuller and broader surface to
the eye of the beholder. The leaves are massed upon the outer ends of
the branches, while the interior of the tree is comparatively leafless.
The European plane-tree is like a tent. The foliage is all on the
outside. The bird voices in it reverberate as in a chamber.

     "The pillar'd dusk of sounding sycamores,"

says Tennyson. At a little distance, it has the mass and solidity of a
rock. The same is true of the European maple, and when this tree is
grown on our side of the Atlantic it keeps up its Old World habits. I
have for several years taken note of a few of them growing in a park
near my home. They have less grace and delicacy of outline than our
native maple, but present a darker and more solid mass of foliage. The
leaves are larger and less feathery, and are crowded to the periphery of
the tree. Nearly every summer one of the trees, which is most exposed,
gets the leaves on one side badly scorched. When the foliage begins to
turn in the fall, the trees appear as if they had been lightly and
hastily brushed with gold. The outer edges of the branches become a
light yellow, while, a little deeper, the body of the foliage is still
green. It is this solid and sculpturesque character of the English
foliage that so fills the eye of the artist. The feathery, formless,
indefinite, not to say thin, aspect of our leafage is much less easy to
paint, and much less pleasing when painted.

The same is true of the turf in the fields and upon the hills. The sward
with us, even in the oldest meadows, will wear more or less a ragged,
uneven aspect. The frost heaves it, the sun parches it; it is thin here
and thick there, crabbed in one spot and fine and soft in another. Only
by the frequent use of a heavy roller, copious waterings, and
top-dressings, can we produce sod that approaches in beauty even that of
the elevated sheep ranges in England and Scotland.

The greater activity and abundance of the earthworm, as disclosed by
Darwin, probably has much to do with the smoothness and fatness of those
fields when contrasted with our own. This little yet mighty engine is
much less instrumental in leavening and leveling the soil in New England
than in Old. The greater humidity of the mother country, the deep
clayey soil, its fattening for ages by human occupancy, the abundance of
food, the milder climate, etc., are all favorable to the life and
activity of the earthworm. Indeed, according to Darwin, the gardener
that has made England a garden is none other than this little obscure
creature. It plows, drains, airs, pulverizes, fertilizes, and levels. It
cannot transport rocks and stone, but it can bury them; it cannot remove
the ancient walls and pavements, but it can undermine them and deposit
its rich castings above them. On each acre of land, he says, "in many
parts of England, a weight of more than ten tons of dry earth annually
passes through their bodies and is brought to the surface." "When we
behold a wide, turf-covered expanse," he further observes, "we should
remember that its smoothness, on which so much of its beauty depends, is
mainly due to all the inequalities having been slowly leveled by worms."

The small part which worms play in this direction in our landscape is, I
am convinced, more than neutralized by our violent or disrupting
climate; but England looks like the product of some such gentle,
tireless, and beneficent agent. I have referred to that effect in the
face of the landscape as if the soil had snowed down; it seems the snow
came from the other direction, namely, from below, but was deposited
with equal gentleness and uniformity.

The repose and equipoise of nature of which I have spoken appears in the
fields of grain no less than in the turf and foliage. One may see vast
stretches of wheat, oats, barley, beans, etc., as uniform as the surface
of a lake, every stalk of grain or bean the size and height of every
other stalk. This, of course, means good husbandry; it means a mild,
even-tempered nature back of it, also. Then the repose of the English
landscape is enhanced, rather than marred, by the part man has played in
it. How those old arched bridges rest above the placid streams; how
easily they conduct the trim, perfect highways over them! Where the foot
finds an easy way, the eye finds the same; where the body finds harmony,
the mind finds harmony. Those ivy-covered walls and ruins, those
finished fields, those rounded hedge-rows, those embowered cottages, and
that gray, massive architecture, all contribute to the harmony and to
the repose of the landscape. Perhaps in no other country are the grazing
herds so much at ease. One's first impression, on seeing British fields
in spring or summer, is that the cattle and sheep have all broken into
the meadow and have not yet been discovered by the farmer; they have
taken their fill, and are now reposing upon the grass or dreaming under
the trees. But you presently perceive that it is all meadow or
meadow-like; that there are no wild, weedy, or barren pastures about
which the herds toil; but that they are in grass up to their eyes
everywhere. Hence their contentment; hence another element of repose in
the landscape.

The softness and humidity of the English climate act in two ways in
promoting that marvelous greenness of the land, namely, by growth and by
decay. As the grass springs quickly, so its matured stalk or dry leaf
decays quickly. No field growths are desiccated and preserved as with
us; there are no dried stubble and seared leaves remaining over the
winter to mar and obscure the verdancy of spring. Every dead thing is
quickly converted back to vegetable mould. In the woods, in May, it is
difficult to find any of the dry leaves of the previous autumn; in the
fields and copses and along the highways, no stalk of weed or grass
remains; while our wild, uplying pastures and mountain-tops always
present a more or less brown and seared appearance from the dried and
bleached stalks of the growth of the previous year, through which the
fresh springing grass is scarcely visible. Where rain falls on nearly
three hundred days in the year, as in the British islands, the
conversion of the mould into grass, and _vice versa_, takes place very
rapidly.



II

ENGLISH WOODS: A CONTRAST


One cannot well overpraise the rural and pastoral beauty of England--the
beauty of her fields, parks, downs, holms. In England you shall see at
its full that of which you catch only glimpses in this country, the
broad, beaming, hospitable beauty of a perfectly cultivated landscape.
Indeed, to see England is to take one's fill of the orderly, the
permanent, the well-kept in the works of man, and of the continent, the
beneficent, the uniform, in the works of nature. It is to see the most
perfect bit of garden lawn extended till it covers an empire; it is to
see the history of two thousand years written in grass and verdure, and
in the lines of the landscape; a continent concentrated into a state,
the deserts and waste places left out, every rood of it swarming with
life; the pith and marrow of wide tracts compacted into narrow fields
and recruited and forwarded by the most vigilant husbandry. Those fields
look stall-fed, those cattle beam contentment, those rivers have never
left their banks; those mountains are the paradise of shepherds; those
open forest glades, half sylvan, half pastoral, clean, stately, full of
long vistas and cathedral-like aisles,--where else can one find beauty
like that? The wild and the savage flee away. The rocks pull the green
turf over them like coverlids; the hills are plump with vegetable mould,
and when they bend this way or that, their sides are wrinkled and
dimpled like the forms of fatted sheep. And fatted they are; not merely
by the care of man, but by the elements themselves; the sky rains
fertility upon them; there is no wear and tear as with our alternately
flooded, parched, and frozen hilltops; the soil accumulates, the mould
deepens; the matted turf binds it and yearly adds to it.

All this is not simply because man is or has been so potent in the
landscape (this is but half the truth), but because the very mood and
humor of Nature herself is domestic and human. She seems to have grown
up with man and taken on his look and ways. Her spirit is that of the
full, placid stream that you may lead through your garden or conduct by
your doorstep without other danger than a wet sill or a soaked
flower-plot, at rare intervals. It is the opulent nature of the southern
seas, brought by the Gulf Stream, and reproduced and perpetuated here
under these cool northern skies, the fangs and the poison taken out;
full, but no longer feverish; lusty, but no longer lewd.

Yet there is a certain beauty of nature to be had in much fuller measure
in our own country than in England,--the beauty of the wild, the
aboriginal,--the beauty of primitive forests,--the beauty of
lichen-covered rocks and ledges. The lichen is one of the lowest and
humblest forms of vegetable growth, but think how much it adds to the
beauty of all our wild scenery, giving to our mountain walls and drift
bowlders the softest and most pleasing tints. The rocky escarpments of
New York and New England hills are frescoed by Time himself, painted as
with the brush of the eternal elements. But the lichen is much less
conspicuous in England, and plays no such part in her natural scenery.
The climate is too damp. The rocks in Wales and Northumberland and in
Scotland are dark and cold and unattractive. The trees in the woods do
not wear the mottled suit of soft gray ours do. The bark of the British
beech is smooth and close-fitting, and often tinged with a green mould.
The Scotch pine is clad as in a ragged suit of leather. Nature uses
mosses instead of lichens. The old walls and housetops are covered with
moss--a higher form of vegetation than lichens. Its decay soon
accumulates a little soil or vegetable mould, which presently supports
flowering plants.

Neither are there any rocks in England worth mentioning; no granite
bowlders, no fern-decked or moss-covered fragments scattered through the
woods, as with us. They have all been used up for building purposes, or
for road-making, or else have quite dissolved in the humid climate. I
saw rocks in Wales, quite a profusion of them in the pass of Llanberis,
but they were tame indeed in comparison with such rock scenery as that
say at Lake Mohunk, in the Shawangunk range in New York. There are
passes in the Catskills that for the grandeur of wildness and savageness
far surpass anything the Welsh mountains have to show. Then for
exquisite and thrilling beauty, probably one of our mottled rocky walls
with the dicentra blooming from little niches and shelves in April, and
the columbine thrusting out from seams and crevices clusters of its
orange bells in May, with ferns and mosses clinging here and there, and
the woodbine tracing a delicate green line across its face, cannot be
matched anywhere in the world.

Then, in our woods, apart from their treasures of rocks, there is a
certain beauty and purity unknown in England, a certain delicacy and
sweetness, and charm of unsophisticated nature, that are native to our
forests.

The pastoral or field life of nature in England is so rank and full,
that no woods or forests that I was able to find could hold their own
against it for a moment. It flooded them like a tide. The grass grows
luxuriantly in the thick woods, and where the grass fails, the coarse
bracken takes its place. There was no wood spirit, no wild wood air. Our
forests shut their doors against the fields; they shut out the strong
light and the heat. Where the land has been long cleared, the woods put
out a screen of low branches, or else a brushy growth starts up along
their borders that guards and protects their privacy. Lift or part away
these branches, and step inside, and you are in another world; new
plants, new flowers, new birds, new animals, new insects, new sounds,
new odors; in fact, an entirely different atmosphere and presence. Dry
leaves cover the ground, delicate ferns and mosses drape the rocks, shy,
delicate flowers gleam out here and there, the slender brown wood-frog
leaps nimbly away from your feet, the little red newt fills its
infantile pipe, or hides under a leaf, the ruffed grouse bursts up
before you, the gray squirrel leaps from tree to tree, the wood pewee
utters its plaintive cry, the little warblers lisp and dart amid the
branches, and sooner or later the mosquito demands his fee. Our woods
suggest new arts, new pleasures, a new mode of life. English parks and
groves, when the sun shines, suggest a perpetual picnic, or Maying
party; but no one, I imagine, thinks of camping out in English woods.
The constant rains, the darkened skies, the low temperature, make the
interior of a forest as uninviting as an underground passage. I wondered
what became of the dry leaves that are such a feature and give out such
a pleasing odor in our woods. They are probably raked up and carried
away; or, if left upon the ground, are quickly resolved into mould by
the damp climate.

While in Scotland I explored a large tract of woodland, mainly of Scotch
fir, that covers a hill near Ecclefechan, but it was grassy and
uninviting. In one of the parks of the Duke of Hamilton, I found a deep
wooded gorge through which flowed the river Avon (I saw four rivers of
this name in Great Britain), a branch of the Clyde,--a dark, rock-paved
stream, the color of brown stout. It was the wildest bit of forest
scenery I saw anywhere. I almost imagined myself on the headwaters of
the Hudson or the Penobscot. The stillness, the solitude, the wild
boiling waters, were impressive; but the woods had no charm; there were
no flowers, no birds; the sylvan folk had moved away long ago, and their
house was cold and inhospitable. I sat a half-hour in their dark
nettle-grown halls by the verge of the creek, to see if they were
stirring anywhere, but they were not. I did, indeed, hear part of a
wren's song, and the call of the sandpiper; but that was all. Not one
purely wood voice or sound or odor. But looking into the air a few yards
below me, there leapt one of those matchless stone bridges, clearing the
profound gulf and carrying the road over as securely as if upon the
geological strata. It was the bow of art and civilization set against
nature's wildness. In the woods beyond, I came suddenly upon the ruins
of an old castle, with great trees growing out of it, and rabbits
burrowing beneath it. One learns that it takes more than a collection of
trees to make a forest, as we know it in this country. Unless they house
that spirit of wildness and purity like a temple, they fail to satisfy.
In walking to Selborne, I skirted Wolmer Forest, but it had an
uninviting look. The Hanger on the hill above Selborne, which remains
nearly as it was in White's time,--a thrifty forest of beeches,--I
explored, but found it like the others, without any distinctive woodsy
attraction--only so much soil covered with dripping beeches, too dense
for a park and too tame for a forest. The soil is a greasy, slippery
clay, and down the steepest part of the hill, amid the trees, the boys
have a slide that serves them for summer "coastings." Hardly a leaf,
hardly a twig or branch, to be found. In White's time, the poor people
used to pick up the sticks the crows dropped in building their nests,
and they probably do so yet. When one comes upon the glades beyond the
Hanger, the mingling of groves and grassy common, the eye is fully
content. The beech, which is the prevailing tree here, as it is in many
other parts of England, is a much finer tree than the American beech.
The deep limestone soil seems especially adapted to it. It grows as
large as our elm, with much the same manner of branching. The trunk is
not patched and mottled with gray, like ours, but is often tinged with a
fine deep green mould. The beeches that stand across the road in front
of Wordsworth's house, at Rydal Mount, have boles nearly as green as the
surrounding hills. The bark of this tree is smooth and close-fitting,
and shows that muscular, athletic character of the tree beneath it which
justifies Spenser's phrase, "the warlike beech." These beeches develop
finely in the open, and make superb shade-trees along the highway. All
the great historical forests of England--Shrewsbury Forest, the Forest
of Dean, New Forest, etc.--have practically disappeared. Remnants of
them remain here and there, but the country they once occupied is now
essentially pastoral.

It is noteworthy that there is little or no love of woods as such in
English poetry; no fond mention of them, and dwelling upon them. The
muse of Britain's rural poetry has none of the wide-eyedness and
furtiveness of the sylvan creatures; she is rather a gentle, wholesome,
slightly stupid divinity of the fields. Milton sings the praises of

     "Arched walks of twilight groves."

But his wood is a "drear wood,"

     "The nodding horror of whose shady brows
      Threats the forlorn and wandering passenger."

Again:--

                             "Very desolation dwells
     By grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid shade."

Shakespeare refers to the "ruthless, vast, and horrid wood,"--a fit
place for robbery, rapine, and murder. Indeed, English poetry is pretty
well colored with the memory of the time when the woods were the
hiding-places of robbers and outlaws, and were the scenes of all manner
of dark deeds. The only thing I recall in Shakespeare that gives a faint
whiff of our forest life occurs in "All's Well That Ends Well," where
the clown says to Lafeu, "I am a woodland fellow, sir, that always loved
a great fire." That great fire is American; wood is too scarce in
Europe. Francis Higginson wrote in 1630: "New England may boast of the
element of fire more than all the rest; for all Europe is not able to
afford to make so great fires as New England. A poor servant, that is
to possess but fifty acres, may afford to give more wood for fire, as
good as the world yields, than many noblemen in England." In many parts
of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, the same royal fires may
still be indulged in. In the chief nature-poet of England, Wordsworth,
there is no line that has the subtle aroma of the deep woods. After
seeing his country, one can recognize its features, its spirit, all
through his poems--its impressive solitudes, its lonely tarns, its
silent fells, its green dales, its voiceful waterfalls; but there are no
woods there to speak of; the mountains appear to have always been
treeless, and the poet's muse has never felt the spell of this phase of
nature--the mystery and attraction of the indoors of aboriginal
wildness. Likewise in Tennyson there is the breath of the wold, but not
of the woods.

Among our own poets, two at least of the more eminent have listened to
the siren of our primitive woods. I refer to Bryant and Emerson. Though
so different, there is an Indian's love of forests and forest-solitudes
in them both. Neither Bryant's "Forest Hymn" nor Emerson's "Woodnotes"
could have been written by an English poet. The "Woodnotes" savor of our
vast Northern pine forests, amid which one walks with distended pupil,
and a boding, alert sense.

     "In unploughed Maine he sought the lumberers' gang,
      Where from a hundred lakes young rivers sprang;
      He trode the unplanted forest floor, whereon
      The all-seeing sun for ages hath not shone;
      Where feeds the moose, and walks the surly bear,
      And up the tall mast runs the woodpecker.
      He saw beneath dim aisles, in odorous beds,
      The slight Linnæa hang its twin-born heads,
      And blessed the monument of the man of flowers,
      Which breathes his sweet fame through the northern bowers.
      He heard, when in the grove, at intervals,
      With sudden roar the aged pine-tree falls,--
      One crash, the death-hymn of the perfect tree,
      Declares the close of its green century."

Emerson's muse is urbane, but it is that wise urbanity that is at home
in the woods as well as in the town, and can make a garden of a forest.

     "My garden is a forest ledge,
        Which older forests bound;
      The banks slope down to the blue lake-edge,
        Then plunge to depths profound."

On the other hand, we have no pastoral poetry in the English sense,
because we have no pastoral nature as overpowering as the English have.
When the muse of our poetry is not imitative, it often has a piny,
woodsy flavor, that is unknown in the older literatures. The gentle muse
of Longfellow, so civil, so cultivated; yet how it delighted in all
legends and echoes and Arcadian dreams, that date from the forest
primeval. Thoreau was a wood-genius--the spirit of some Indian poet or
prophet, graduated at Harvard College, but never losing his taste for
the wild. The shy, mystical genius of Hawthorne was never more at home
than when in the woods. Read the forest-scenes in the "Scarlet Letter."
They are among the most suggestive in the book.



III

IN CARLYLE'S COUNTRY


In crossing the sea a second time, I was more curious to see Scotland
than England, partly because I had had a good glimpse of the latter
country eleven years before, but largely because I had always preferred
the Scotch people to the English (I had seen and known more of them in
my youth), and especially because just then I was much absorbed with
Carlyle, and wanted to see with my own eyes the land and the race from
which he sprang.

I suspect anyhow I am more strongly attracted by the Celt than by the
Anglo-Saxon; at least by the individual Celt. Collectively the
Anglo-Saxon is the more impressive; his triumphs are greater; the face
of his country and of his cities is the more pleasing; the gift of
empire is his. Yet there can be no doubt, I think, that the Celts, at
least the Scotch Celts, are a more hearty, cordial, and hospitable
people than the English; they have more curiosity, more raciness, and
quicker and surer sympathies. They fuse and blend readily with another
people, which the English seldom do. In this country John Bull is
usually like a pebble in the clay; grind him and press him and bake him
as you will, he is still a pebble--a hard spot in the brick, but not
essentially a part of it.

Every close view I got of the Scotch character confirmed my liking for
it. A most pleasant episode happened to me down in Ayr. A young man whom
I stumbled on by chance in a little wood by the Doon, during some
conversation about the birds that were singing around us, quoted my own
name to me. This led to an acquaintance with the family and with the
parish minister, and gave a genuine human coloring to our brief sojourn
in Burns's country. In Glasgow I had an inside view of a household a
little lower in the social scale, but high in the scale of virtues and
excellences. I climbed up many winding stone stairs and found the family
in three or four rooms on the top floor: a father, mother, three sons,
two of them grown, and a daughter, also grown. The father and the sons
worked in an iron foundry near by. I broke bread with them around the
table in the little cluttered kitchen, and was spared apologies as much
as if we had been seated at a banquet in a baronial hall. A Bible
chapter was read after we were seated at table, each member of the
family reading a verse alternately. When the meal was over, we went into
the next room, where all joined in singing some Scotch songs, mainly
from Burns. One of the sons possessed the finest bass voice I had ever
listened to. Its power was simply tremendous, well tempered with the
Scotch raciness and tenderness, too. He had taken the first prize at a
public singing bout, open to competition to all of Scotland. I told his
mother, who also had a voice of wonderful sweetness, that such a gift
would make her son's fortune anywhere, and found that the subject was
the cause of much anxiety to her. She feared lest it should be the
ruination of him--lest he should prostitute it to the service of the
devil, as she put it, rather than use it to the glory of God. She said
she had rather follow him to his grave than see him in the opera or
concert hall, singing for money. She wanted him to stick to his work,
and use his voice only as a pious and sacred gift. When I asked the
young man to come and sing for us at the hotel, the mother was greatly
troubled, as she afterward told me, till she learned we were stopping at
a temperance house. But the young man seemed not at all inclined to
break away from the advice of his mother. The other son had a sweetheart
who had gone to America, and he was looking longingly thitherward. He
showed me her picture, and did not at all attempt to conceal from me, or
from his family, his interest in the original. Indeed, one would have
said there were no secrets or concealments in such a family, and the
thorough unaffected piety of the whole household, mingled with so much
that was human and racy and canny, made an impression upon me I shall
not soon forget. This family was probably an exceptional one, but it
tinges all my recollections of smoky, tall-chimneyed Glasgow.

A Scotch trait of quite another sort, and more suggestive of Burns than
of Carlyle, was briefly summarized in an item of statistics which I used
to read in one of the Edinburgh papers every Monday morning, namely,
that of the births registered during the previous week, invariably from
ten to twelve per cent. were illegitimate. The Scotch--all classes of
them--love Burns deep down in their hearts, because he has expressed
them, from the roots up, as none other has.

When I think of Edinburgh the vision that comes before my mind's eye is
of a city presided over, and shone upon as it were, by two green
treeless heights. Arthur's Seat is like a great irregular orb or
half-orb, rising above the near horizon there in the southeast, and
dominating city and country with its unbroken verdancy. Its greenness
seems almost to pervade the air itself--a slight radiance of grass,
there in the eastern skies. No description of Edinburgh I had read had
prepared me for the striking hill features that look down upon it. There
is a series of three hills which culminate in Arthur's Seat, 800 feet
high. Upon the first and smaller hill stands the Castle. This is a
craggy, precipitous rock, on three sides, but sloping down into a broad
gentle expanse toward the east, where the old city of Edinburgh is
mainly built,--as if it had flowed out of the Castle as out of a
fountain, and spread over the adjacent ground. Just beyond the point
where it ceases rise Salisbury Crags to a height of 570 feet, turning to
the city a sheer wall of rocks like the Palisades of the Hudson. From
its brink eastward again, the ground slopes in a broad expanse of
greensward to a valley called Hunter's Bog, where I thought the hunters
were very quiet and very numerous until I saw they were city riflemen
engaged in target practice; thence it rises irregularly to the crest of
Arthur's Seat, forming the pastoral eminence and green-shining disk to
which I have referred. Along the crest of Salisbury Crags the thick turf
comes to the edge of the precipices, as one might stretch a carpet. It
is so firm and compact that the boys cut their initials in it, on a
large scale, with their jack-knives, as in the bark of a tree. Arthur's
Seat was a favorite walk of Carlyle's during those gloomy days in
Edinburgh in 1820-21. It was a mount of vision to him, and he apparently
went there every day when the weather permitted.[Note: See letter to his
brother John, March 9, 1821.]

There was no road in Scotland or England which I should have been so
glad to have walked over as that from Edinburgh to Ecclefechan,--a
distance covered many times by the feet of him whose birth and burial
place I was about to visit. Carlyle as a young man had walked it with
Edward Irving (the Scotch say "travel" when they mean going afoot), and
he had walked it alone, and as a lad with an elder boy, on his way to
Edinburgh college. He says in his "Reminiscences" he nowhere else had
such affectionate, sad, thoughtful, and, in fact, interesting and
salutary journeys. "No company to you but the rustle of the grass under
foot, the tinkling of the brook, or the voices of innocent, primeval
things." "I have had days as clear as Italy (as in this Irving case);
days moist and dripping, overhung with the infinite of silent gray,--and
perhaps the latter were the preferable, in certain moods. You had the
world and its waste imbroglios of joy and woe, of light and darkness, to
yourself alone. You could strip barefoot, if it suited better; carry
shoes and socks over shoulder, hung on your stick; clean shirt and comb
were in your pocket; _omnia mea mecum porto_. You lodged with shepherds,
who had clean, solid cottages; wholesome eggs, milk, oatmeal porridge,
clean blankets to their beds, and a great deal of human sense and
unadulterated natural politeness."

But how can one walk a hundred miles in cool blood without a companion,
especially when the trains run every hour, and he has a surplus
sovereign in his pocket? One saves time and consults his ease by riding,
but he thereby misses the real savor of the land. And the roads of this
compact little kingdom are so inviting, like a hard, smooth surface
covered with sand-paper! How easily the foot puts them behind it! And
the summer weather,--what a fresh under-stratum the air has even on the
warmest days! Every breath one draws has a cool, invigorating core to
it, as if there might be some unmelted, or just melted, frost not far
off.

But as we did not walk, there was satisfaction in knowing that the
engine which took our train down from Edinburgh was named Thomas
Carlyle. The cognomen looked well on the toiling, fiery-hearted,
iron-browed monster. I think its original owner would have contemplated
it with grim pleasure, especially since he confesses to having spent
some time, once, in trying to look up a shipmaster who had named his
vessel for him. Here was a hero after his own sort, a leader by the
divine right of the expansive power of steam.

The human faculties of observation have not yet adjusted themselves to
the flying train. Steam has clapped wings to our shoulders without the
power to soar; we get bird's-eye views without the bird's eyes or the
bird's elevation, distance without breadth, detail without mass. If such
speed only gave us a proportionate extent of view, if this leisure of
the eye were only mated to an equal leisure in the glance! Indeed, when
one thinks of it, how near railway traveling, as a means of seeing a
country, comes, except in the discomforts of it, to being no traveling
at all! It is like being tied to your chair, and being jolted and shoved
about at home. The landscape is turned topsy-turvy. The eye sustains
unnatural relations to all but the most distant objects. We move in an
arbitrary plane, and seldom is anything seen from the proper point, or
with the proper sympathy of coordinate position. We shall have to wait
for the air ship to give us the triumph over space in which the eye can
share. Of this flight south from Edinburgh on that bright summer day, I
keep only the most general impression. I recall how clean and naked the
country looked, lifted up in broad hill-slopes, naked of forests and
trees and weedy, bushy growths, and of everything that would hide or
obscure its unbroken verdancy,--the one impression that of a universe of
grass, as in the arctic regions it might be one of snow; the mountains,
pastoral solitudes; the vales, emerald vistas.

Not to be entirely cheated out of my walk, I left the train at
Lockerbie, a small Scotch market town, and accomplished the remainder of
the journey to Ecclefechan on foot, a brief six-mile pull. It was the
first day of June; the afternoon sun was shining brightly. It was still
the honeymoon of travel with me, not yet two weeks in the bonnie land;
the road was smooth and clean as the floor of a sea beach, and firmer,
and my feet devoured the distance with right good will. The first red
clover had just bloomed, as I probably would have found it that day had
I taken a walk at home; but, like the people I met, it had a ruddier
cheek than at home. I observed it on other occasions, and later in the
season, and noted that it had more color than in this country, and held
its bloom longer. All grains and grasses ripen slower there than here,
the season is so much longer and cooler. The pink and ruddy tints are
more common in the flowers also. The bloom of the blackberry is often of
a decided pink, and certain white, umbelliferous plants, like yarrow,
have now and then a rosy tinge. The little white daisy ("gowan," the
Scotch call it) is tipped with crimson, foretelling the scarlet
poppies, with which the grain fields will by and by be splashed.
Prunella (self-heal), also, is of a deeper purple than with us, and a
species of cranesbill, like our wild geranium, is of a much deeper and
stronger color. On the other hand, their ripened fruits and foliage of
autumn pale their ineffectual colors beside our own.

Among the farm occupations, that which most took my eye, on this and on
other occasions, was the furrowing of the land for turnips and potatoes;
it is done with such absolute precision. It recalled Emerson's statement
that the fields in this island look as if finished with a pencil instead
of a plow,--a pencil and a ruler in this case, the lines were so
straight and so uniform. I asked a farmer at work by the roadside how he
managed it. "Ah," said he, "a Scotchman's head is level." Both here and
in England, plowing is studied like a fine art; they have plowing
matches, and offer prizes for the best furrow. In planting both potatoes
and turnips the ground is treated alike, grubbed, plowed, cross-plowed,
crushed, harrowed, chain-harrowed, and rolled. Every sod and tuft of
uprooted grass is carefully picked up by women and boys, and burned or
carted away; leaving the surface of the ground like a clean sheet of
paper, upon which the plowman is now to inscribe his perfect lines. The
plow is drawn by two horses; it is a long, heavy tool, with double
mould-boards, and throws the earth each way. In opening the first furrow
the plowman is guided by stakes; having got this one perfect, it is
used as the model for every subsequent one, and the land is thrown into
ridges as uniform and faultless as if it had been stamped at one stroke
with a die, or cast in a mould. It is so from one end of the island to
the other; the same expert seems to have done the work in every plowed
and planted field.

Four miles from Lockerbie I came to Mainhill, the name of a farm where
the Carlyle family lived many years, and where Carlyle first read
Goethe, "in a dry ditch," Froude says, and translated "Wilhelm Meister."
The land drops gently away to the south and east, opening up broad views
in these directions, but it does not seem to be the bleak and windy
place Froude describes it. The crops looked good, and the fields smooth
and fertile. The soil is rather a stubborn clay, nearly the same as one
sees everywhere. A sloping field adjoining the highway was being got
ready for turnips. The ridges had been cast; the farmer, a courteous but
serious and reserved man, was sprinkling some commercial fertilizer in
the furrows from a bag slung across his shoulders, while a boy, with a
horse and cart, was depositing stable manure in the same furrows, which
a lassie, in clogs and short skirts, was evenly distributing with a
fork. Certain work in Scotch fields always seems to be done by women and
girls,--spreading manure, pulling weeds, and picking up sods,--while
they take an equal hand with the men in the hay and harvest fields.

The Carlyles were living on this farm while their son was teaching
school at Annan, and later at Kirkcaldy with Irving, and they supplied
him with cheese, butter, ham, oatmeal, etc., from their scanty stores. A
new farmhouse has been built since then, though the old one is still
standing; doubtless the same Carlyle's father refers to in a letter to
his son, in 1817, as being under way. The parish minister was expected
at Mainhill. "Your mother was very anxious to have the house done before
he came, or else she said she would run over the hill and hide herself."

From Mainhill the highway descends slowly to the village of Ecclefechan,
the site of which is marked to the eye, a mile or more away, by the
spire of the church rising up against a background of Scotch firs, which
clothe a hill beyond. I soon entered the main street of the village,
which in Carlyle's youth had an open burn or creek flowing through the
centre of it. This has been covered over by some enterprising citizen,
and instead of a loitering little burn, crossed by numerous bridges, the
eye is now greeted by a broad expanse of small cobble-stone. The
cottages are for the most part very humble, and rise from the outer
edges of the pavement, as if the latter had been turned up and shaped to
make their walls. The church is a handsome brown stone structure, of
recent date, and is more in keeping with the fine fertile country about
than with the little village in its front. In the cemetery back of it,
Carlyle lies buried. As I approached, a girl sat by the roadside, near
the gate, combing her black locks and arranging her toilet; waiting, as
it proved, for her mother and brother, who lingered in the village. A
couple of boys were cutting nettles against the hedge; for the pigs,
they said, after the sting had been taken out of them by boiling. Across
the street from the cemetery the cows of the villagers were grazing.

I must have thought it would be as easy to distinguish Carlyle's grave
from the others as it was to distinguish the man while living, or his
fame when dead; for it never occurred to me to ask in what part of the
inclosure it was placed. Hence, when I found myself inside the gate,
which opens from the Annan road through a high stone wall, I followed
the most worn path toward a new and imposing-looking monument on the far
side of the cemetery; and the edge of my fine emotion was a good deal
dulled against the marble when I found it bore a strange name. I tried
others, and still others, but was disappointed. I found a long row of
Carlyles, but he whom I sought was not among them. My pilgrim enthusiasm
felt itself needlessly hindered and chilled. How many rebuffs could one
stand? Carlyle dead, then, was the same as Carlyle living; sure to take
you down a peg or two when you came to lay your homage at his feet.

Presently I saw "Thomas Carlyle" on a big marble slab that stood in a
family inclosure. But this turned out to be the name of a nephew of the
great Thomas. However, I had struck the right plat at last; here were
the Carlyles I was looking for, within a space probably of eight by
sixteen feet, surrounded by a high iron fence. The latest made grave was
higher and fuller than the rest, but it had no stone or mark of any kind
to distinguish it. Since my visit, I believe, a stone or monument of
some kind has been put up. A few daisies and the pretty blue-eyed
speedwell were growing amid the grass upon it. The great man lies with
his head toward the south or southwest, with his mother, sister, and
father to the right of him, and his brother John to the left. I was glad
to learn that the high iron fence was not his own suggestion. His father
had put it around the family plat in his lifetime. Carlyle would have
liked to have it cut down about half way. The whole look of this
cemetery, except in the extraordinary size of the headstones, was quite
American, it being back of the church, and separated from it, a kind of
mortuary garden, instead of surrounding it and running under it, as is
the case with the older churches. I noted here, as I did elsewhere, that
the custom prevails of putting the trade or occupation of the deceased
upon his stone: So-and-So, mason, or tailor, or carpenter, or farmer,
etc.

A young man and his wife were working in a nursery of young trees, a few
paces from the graves, and I conversed with them through a thin place in
the hedge. They said they had seen Carlyle many times, and seemed to
hold him in proper esteem and reverence. The young man had seen him
come in summer and stand, with uncovered head, beside the graves of his
father and mother. "And long and reverently did he remain there, too,"
said the young gardener. I learned this was Carlyle's invariable custom:
every summer did he make a pilgrimage to this spot, and with bared head
linger beside these graves. The last time he came, which was a couple of
years before he died, he was so feeble that two persons sustained him
while he walked into the cemetery. This observance recalls a passage
from his "Past and Present." Speaking of the religious custom of the
Emperor of China, he says, "He and his three hundred millions (it is
their chief punctuality) visit yearly the Tombs of their Fathers; each
man the Tomb of his Father and his Mother; alone there in silence with
what of 'worship' or of other thought there may be, pauses solemnly each
man; the divine Skies all silent over him; the divine Graves, and this
divinest Grave, all silent under him; the pulsings of his own soul, if
he have any soul, alone audible. Truly it may be a kind of worship!
Truly, if a man cannot get some glimpse into the Eternities, looking
through this portal,--through what other need he try it?"

Carlyle's reverence and affection for his kindred were among his most
beautiful traits, and make up in some measure for the contempt he felt
toward the rest of mankind. The family stamp was never more strongly set
upon a man, and no family ever had a more original, deeply cut pattern
than that of the Carlyles. Generally, in great men who emerge from
obscure peasant homes, the genius of the family takes an enormous leap,
or is completely metamorphosed; but Carlyle keeps all the paternal
lineaments unfaded; he is his father and his mother, touched to finer
issues. That wonderful speech of his sire, which all who knew him
feared, has lost nothing in the son, but is tremendously augmented, and
cuts like a Damascus sword, or crushes like a sledge-hammer. The
strongest and finest paternal traits have survived in him. Indeed, a
little congenital rill seems to have come all the way down from the old
vikings. Carlyle is not merely Scotch; he is Norselandic. There is a
marked Scandinavian flavor in him; a touch, or more than a touch, of the
rude, brawling, bullying, hard-hitting, wrestling viking times. The
hammer of Thor antedates the hammer of his stone-mason sire in him. He
is Scotland, past and present, moral and physical. John Knox and the
Covenanters survive in him: witness his religious zeal, his depth and
solemnity of conviction, his strugglings and agonizings, his
"conversion." Ossian survives in him: behold that melancholy retrospect,
that gloom, that melodious wail. And especially, as I have said, do his
immediate ancestors survive in him,--his sturdy, toiling, fiery-tongued,
clannish yeoman progenitors: all are summed up here; this is the net
result available for literature in the nineteenth century.

Carlyle's heart was always here in Scotland. A vague, yearning
homesickness seemed ever to possess him. "The Hill I first saw the Sun
rise over," he says in "Past and Present," "when the Sun and I and all
things were yet in their auroral hour, who can divorce me from it?
Mystic, deep as the world's centre, are the roots I have struck into my
Native Soil; no _tree_ that grows is rooted so." How that mournful
retrospective glance haunts his pages! His race, generation upon
generation, had toiled and wrought here amid the lonely moors, had
wrestled with poverty and privation, had wrung the earth for a scanty
subsistence, till they had become identified with the soil, kindred with
it. How strong the family ties had grown in the struggle; how the
sentiment of home was fostered! Then the Carlyles were men who lavished
their heart and conscience upon their work; they builded themselves,
their days, their thoughts and sorrows, into their houses; they leavened
the soil with the sweat of their rugged brows. When James Carlyle, his
father, after a lapse of fifty years, saw Auldgarth bridge, upon which
he had worked as a lad, he was deeply moved. When Carlyle in his turn
saw it, and remembered his father and all he had told him, he also was
deeply moved. "It was as if half a century of past time had fatefully
for moments turned back." Whatever these men touched with their hands in
honest toil became sacred to them, a page out of their own lives. A
silent, inarticulate kind of religion they put into their work. All this
bore fruit in their distinguished descendant. It gave him that
reverted, half mournful gaze; the ground was hallowed behind him; his
dead called to him from their graves. Nothing deepens and intensifies
family traits like poverty and toil and suffering. It is the furnace
heat that brings out the characters, the pressure that makes the strata
perfect. One recalls Carlyle's grandmother getting her children up late
at night, his father one of them, to break their long fast with oaten
cakes from the meal that had but just arrived; making the fire from
straw taken from their beds. Surely, such things reach the springs of
being.

It seemed eminently fit that Carlyle's dust should rest here in his
native soil, with that of his kindred, he was so thoroughly one of them,
and that his place should be next his mother's, between whom and himself
there existed such strong affection. I recall a little glimpse he gives
of his mother in a letter to his brother John, while the latter was
studying in Germany. His mother had visited him in Edinburgh. "I had
her," he writes, "at the pier of Leith, and showed her where your ship
vanished; and she looked over the blue waters eastward with wettish
eyes, and asked the dumb waves 'when he would be back again.' Good
mother."

To see more of Ecclefechan and its people, and to browse more at my
leisure about the country, I brought my wife and youngster down from
Lockerbie; and we spent several days there, putting up at the quiet and
cleanly little Bush Inn. I tramped much about the neighborhood, noting
the birds, the wild flowers, the people, the farm occupations, etc.;
going one afternoon to Scotsbrig, where the Carlyles lived after they
left Mainhill, and where both father and mother died; one day to Annan,
another to Repentance Hill, another over the hill toward Kirtlebridge,
tasting the land, and finding it good. It is an evidence of how
permanent and unchanging things are here that the house where Carlyle
was born, eighty-seven years ago, and which his father built, stands
just as it did then, and looks good for several hundred years more. In
going up to the little room where he first saw the light, one ascends
the much-worn but original stone stairs, and treads upon the original
stone floors. I suspect that even the window panes in the little window
remain the same. The village is a very quiet and humble one, paved with
small cobble-stone, over which one hears the clatter of the wooden
clogs, the same as in Carlyle's early days. The pavement comes quite up
to the low, modest, stone-floored houses, and one steps from the street
directly into most of them. When an Englishman or a Scotchman of the
humbler ranks builds a house in the country, he either turns its back
upon the highway, or places it several rods distant from it, with sheds
or stables between; or else he surrounds it with a high, massive fence,
shutting out your view entirely. In the village he crowds it to the
front; continues the street pavement into his hall, if he can; allows no
fence or screen between it and the street, but makes the communication
between the two as easy and open as possible. At least this is the case
with most of the older houses. Hence village houses and cottages in
Britain are far less private and secluded than ours, and country houses
far less public. The only feature of Ecclefechan, besides the church,
that distinguishes it from the humblest peasant village of a hundred
years ago, is the large, fine stone structure used for the public
school. It confers a sort of distinction upon the place, as if it were
in some way connected with the memory of its famous son. I think I was
informed that he had some hand in founding it. The building in which he
first attended school is a low, humble dwelling, that now stands behind
the church, and forms part of the boundary between the cemetery and the
Annan road.

From our window I used to watch the laborers on their way to their work,
the children going to school, or to the pump for water, and night and
morning the women bringing in their cows from the pasture to be milked.
In the long June gloaming the evening milking was not done till about
nine o'clock. On two occasions, the first in a brisk rain, a bedraggled,
forlorn, deeply-hooded, youngish woman, came slowly through the street,
pausing here and there, and singing in wild, melancholy, and not
unpleasing strains. Her voice had a strange piercing plaintiveness and
wildness. Now and then some passer-by would toss a penny at her feet.
The pretty Edinburgh lass, her hair redder than Scotch gold, that waited
upon us at the inn, went out in the rain and put a penny in her hand.
After a few pennies had been collected the music would stop, and the
singer disappear,--to drink up her gains, I half suspect, but do not
know. I noticed that she was never treated with rudeness or disrespect.
The boys would pause and regard her occasionally, but made no remark, or
gesture, or grimace. One afternoon a traveling show pitched its tent in
the broader part of the street, and by diligent grinding of a hand-organ
summoned all the children of the place to see the wonders. The admission
was one penny, and I went in with the rest, and saw the little man, the
big dog, the happy family, and the gaping, dirty-faced, but orderly
crowd of boys and girls. The Ecclefechan boys, with some of whom I
tried, not very successfully, to scrape an acquaintance, I found a
sober, quiet, modest set, shy of strangers, and, like all country boys,
incipient naturalists. If you want to know where the birds'-nests are,
ask the boys. Hence, one Sunday afternoon, meeting a couple of them on
the Annan road, I put the inquiry. They looked rather blank and
unresponsive at first; but I made them understand I was in earnest, and
wished to be shown some nests. To stimulate their ornithology I offered
a penny for the first nest, twopence for the second, threepence for the
third, etc.,--a reward that, as it turned out, lightened my burden of
British copper considerably; for these boys appeared to know every nest
in the neighborhood, and I suspect had just then been making Sunday
calls upon their feathered friends. They turned about, with a bashful
smile, but without a word, and marched me a few paces along the road,
when they stepped to the hedge, and showed me a hedge-sparrow's nest
with young. The mother bird was near, with food in her beak. This nest
is a great favorite of the cuckoo, and is the one to which Shakespeare
refers:--

     "The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long
      That it's had it head bit off by it young."

The bird is not a sparrow at all, but is a warbler, closely related to
the nightingale. Then they conducted me along a pretty by-road, and
parted away the branches, and showed me a sparrow's nest with eggs in
it. A group of wild pansies, the first I had seen, made bright the bank
near it. Next, after conferring a moment soberly together, they took me
to a robin's nest,--a warm, mossy structure in the side of the bank.
Then we wheeled up another road, and they disclosed the nest of the
yellow yite, or yellow-hammer, a bird of the sparrow kind, also upon the
ground. It seemed to have a little platform of coarse, dry stalks, like
a door-stone, in front of it. In the mean time they had showed me
several nests of the hedge-sparrow, and one of the shilfa, or chaffinch,
that had been "harried," as the boys said, or robbed. These were
gratuitous and merely by the way. Then they pointed out to me the nest
of a tomtit in a disused pump that stood near the cemetery; after which
they proposed to conduct me to a chaffinch's nest and a blackbird's
nest; but I said I had already seen several of these and my curiosity
was satisfied. Did they know any others? Yes, several of them; beyond
the village, on the Middlebie road, they knew a wren's nest with
eighteen eggs in it. Well, I would see that, and that would be enough;
the coppers were changing pockets too fast. So through the village we
went, and along the Middlebie road for nearly a mile. The boys were as
grave and silent as if they were attending a funeral; not a remark, not
a smile. We walked rapidly. The afternoon was warm, for Scotland, and
the tips of their ears glowed through their locks, as they wiped their
brows. I began to feel as if I had had about enough walking myself.
"Boys, how much farther is it?" I said. "A wee bit farther, sir;" and
presently, by their increasing pace, I knew we were nearing it. It
proved to be the nest of the willow wren, or willow warbler, an
exquisite structure, with a dome or canopy above it, the cavity lined
with feathers and crowded with eggs. But it did not contain eighteen.
The boys said they had been told that the bird would lay as many as
eighteen eggs; but it is the common wren that lays this number,--even
more. What struck me most was the gravity and silent earnestness of the
boys. As we walked back they showed me more nests that had been harried.
The elder boy's name was Thomas. He had heard of Thomas Carlyle; but
when I asked him what he thought of him, he only looked awkwardly upon
the ground.

I had less trouble to get the opinion of an old road-mender whom I fell
in with one day. I was walking toward Repentance Hill, when he overtook
me with his "machine" (all road vehicles in Scotland are called
machines), and insisted upon my getting up beside him. He had a little
white pony, "twenty-one years old, sir," and a heavy, rattling
two-wheeler, quite as old I should say. We discoursed about roads. Had
we good roads in America? No? Had we no "metal" there, no stone? Plenty
of it, I told him,--too much; but we had not learned the art of
road-making yet. Then he would have to come "out" and show us; indeed,
he had been seriously thinking about it; he had an uncle in America, but
had lost all track of him. He had seen Carlyle many a time, "but the
people here took no interest in that man," he said; "he never done
nothing for this place." Referring to Carlyle's ancestors, he said, "The
Cairls were what we Scotch call bullies,--a set of bullies, sir. If you
crossed their path, they would murder you;" and then came out some
highly-colored tradition of the "Ecclefechan dog fight," which Carlyle
refers to in his Reminiscences. On this occasion, the old road-mender
said, the "Cairls" had clubbed together, and bullied and murdered half
the people of the place! "No, sir, we take no interest in that man
here," and he gave the pony a sharp punch with his stub of a whip. But
he himself took a friendly interest in the schoolgirls whom we overtook
along the road, and kept picking them up till the cart was full, and
giving the "lassies" a lift on their way home. Beyond Annan bridge we
parted company, and a short walk brought me to Repentance Hill, a grassy
eminence that commands a wide prospect toward the Solway. The tower
which stands on the top is one of those interesting relics of which this
land is full, and all memory and tradition of the use and occasion of
which are lost. It is a rude stone structure, about thirty feet square
and forty high, pierced by a single door, with the word "Repentance" cut
in Old English letters in the lintel over it. The walls are loopholed
here and there for musketry or archery. An old disused graveyard
surrounds it, and the walls of a little chapel stand in the rear of it.
The conies have their holes under it; some lord, whose castle lies in
the valley below, has his flagstaff upon it; and Time's initials are
scrawled on every stone. A piece of mortar probably three or four
hundred years old, that had fallen from its place, I picked up, and
found nearly as hard as the stone, and quite as gray and lichen-covered.
Returning, I stood some time on Annan bridge, looking over the parapet
into the clear, swirling water, now and then seeing a trout leap.
Whenever the pedestrian comes to one of these arched bridges, he must
pause and admire, it is so unlike what he is acquainted with at home. It
is a real _viaduct_; it conducts not merely the traveler over, it
conducts the road over as well. Then an arched bridge is ideally
perfect; there is no room for criticism,--not one superfluous touch or
stroke; every stone tells, and tells entirely. Of a piece of
architecture, we can say this or that, but of one of these old bridges
this only: it satisfies every sense of the mind. It has the beauty of
poetry, and the precision of mathematics. The older bridges, like this
over the Annan, are slightly hipped, so that the road rises gradually
from either side to the key of the arch; this adds to their beauty, and
makes them look more like things of life. The modern bridges are all
level on the top, which increases their utility. Two laborers, gossiping
on the bridge, said I could fish by simply going and asking leave of
some functionary about the castle.

Shakespeare says of the martlet, that it

     "Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
      Even in the force and road of casualty."

I noticed that a pair had built their nest on an iron bracket under the
eaves of a building opposite our inn, which proved to be in the "road of
casualty;" for one day the painters began scraping the building,
preparatory to giving it a new coat of paint, and the "procreant cradle"
was knocked down. The swallows did not desert the place, however, but
were at work again next morning before the painters were. The Scotch, by
the way, make a free use of paint. They even paint their tombstones.
Most of them, I observed, were brown stones painted white. Carlyle's
father once sternly drove the painters from his door when they had been
summoned by the younger members of his family to give the house a coat
"o' pent." "Ye can jist pent the bog wi' yer ashbaket feet, for ye'll
pit nane o' yer glaur on ma door." But the painters have had their
revenge at last, and their "glaur" now covers the old man's tombstone.

One day I visited a little overgrown cemetery about a mile below the
village, toward Kirtlebridge, and saw many of the graves of the old
stock of Carlyles, among them some of Carlyle's uncles. This name occurs
very often in those old cemeteries; they were evidently a prolific and
hardy race. The name Thomas is a favorite one among them, insomuch that
I saw the graves and headstones of eight Thomas Carlyles in the two
graveyards. The oldest Carlyle tomb I saw was that of one John Carlyle,
who died in 1692. The inscription upon his stone is as follows:--

"Heir Lyes John Carlyle of Penerssaughs, who departed this life ye 17 of
May 1692, and of age 72, and His Spouse Jannet Davidson, who departed
this life Febr. ye 7, 1708, and of age 73. Erected by John, his son."

The old sexton, whom I frequently saw in the churchyard, lives in the
Carlyle house. He knew the family well, and had some amusing and
characteristic anecdotes to relate of Carlyle's father, the redoubtable
James, mainly illustrative of his bluntness and plainness of speech. The
sexton pointed out, with evident pride, the few noted graves the
churchyard held; that of the elder Peel being among them. He spoke of
many of the oldest graves as "extinct;" nobody owned or claimed them;
the name had disappeared, and the ground was used a second time. The
ordinary graves in these old burying places appear to become "extinct"
in about two hundred years. It was very rare to find a date older than
that. He said the "Cairls" were a peculiar set; there was nobody like
them. You would know them, man and woman, as soon as they opened their
mouths to speak; they spoke as if against a stone wall. (Their words hit
hard.) This is somewhat like Carlyle's own view of his style. "My
style," he says in his note-book, when he was thirty-eight years of age,
"is like no other man's. The first sentence bewrays me." Indeed,
Carlyle's style, which has been so criticised, was as much a part of
himself, and as little an affectation, as his shock of coarse yeoman
hair and bristly beard and bleared eyes were a part of himself; he
inherited them. What Taine calls his barbarisms was his strong mason
sire cropping out. He was his father's son to the last drop of his
blood, a master builder working with might and main. No more did the
former love to put a rock face upon his wall than did the latter to put
the same rock face upon his sentences; and he could do it, too, as no
other writer, ancient or modern, could.

I occasionally saw strangers at the station, which is a mile from the
village, inquiring their way to the churchyard; but I was told there had
been a notable falling off of the pilgrims and visitors of late. During
the first few months after his burial, they nearly denuded the grave of
its turf; but after the publication of the Reminiscences, the number of
silly geese that came there to crop the grass was much fewer. No real
lover of Carlyle was ever disturbed by those Reminiscences; but to the
throng that run after a man because he is famous, and that chip his
headstone or carry away the turf above him when he is dead, they were
happily a great bugaboo.

A most agreeable walk I took one day down to Annan. Irving's name still
exists there, but I believe all his near kindred have disappeared.
Across the street from the little house where he was born this sign may
be seen: "Edward Irving, Flesher." While in Glasgow, I visited Irving's
grave, in the crypt of the cathedral, a most dismal place, and was
touched to see the bronze tablet that marked its site in the pavement
bright and shining, while those about it, of Sir this or Lady that, were
dull and tarnished. Did some devoted hand keep it scoured, or was the
polishing done by the many feet that paused thoughtfully above this
name? Irving would long since have been forgotten by the world had it
not been for his connection with Carlyle, and it was probably the lustre
of the latter's memory that I saw reflected in the metal that bore
Irving's name. The two men must have been of kindred genius in many
ways, to have been so drawn to each other, but Irving had far less hold
upon reality; his written word has no projectile force. It makes a vast
difference whether you burn gunpowder on a shovel or in a gun-barrel.
Irving may be said to have made a brilliant flash, and then to have
disappeared in the smoke.

Some men are like nails, easily drawn; others are like rivets, not
drawable at all. Carlyle is a rivet, well _headed_ in. He is not going
to give way, and be forgotten soon. People who differed from him in
opinion have stigmatized him as an actor, a mountebank, a rhetorician;
but he was committed to his purpose and to the part he played with the
force of gravity. Behold how he toiled! He says, "One monster there is
in the world,--the idle man." He did not merely preach the gospel of
work; he was it,--an indomitable worker from first to last. How he
delved! How he searched for a sure foundation, like a master builder,
fighting his way through rubbish and quicksands till he reached the
rock! Each of his review articles cost him a month or more of serious
work. "Sartor Resartus" cost him nine months, the "French Revolution"
three years, "Cromwell" four years, "Frederick" thirteen years. No surer
does the Auldgarth bridge, that his father helped build, carry the
traveler over the turbulent water beneath it, than these books convey
the reader over chasms and confusions, where before there was no way, or
only an inadequate one. Carlyle never wrote a book except to clear some
gulf or quagmire, to span and conquer some chaos. No architect or
engineer ever had purpose more tangible and definite. To further the
reader on his way, not to beguile or amuse him, was always his purpose.
He had that contempt for all dallying and toying and lightness and
frivolousness that hard, serious workers always have. He was impatient
of poetry and art; they savored too much of play and levity. His own
work was not done lightly and easily, but with labor throes and pains,
as of planting his piers in a weltering flood and chaos. The spirit of
struggling and wrestling which he had inherited was always uppermost. It
seems as if the travail and yearning of his mother had passed upon him
as a birthmark. The universe was madly rushing about him, seeking to
engulf him. Things assumed threatening and spectral shapes. There was
little joy or serenity for him. Every task he proposed to himself was a
struggle with chaos and darkness, real or imaginary. He speaks of
"Frederick" as a nightmare; the "Cromwell business" as toiling amid
mountains of dust. I know of no other man in literature with whom the
sense of labor is so tangible and terrible. That vast, grim, struggling,
silent, inarticulate array of ancestral force that lay in him, when the
burden of written speech was laid upon it, half rebelled, and would not
cease to struggle and be inarticulate. There was a plethora of power: a
channel, as through rocks, had to be made for it, and there was an
incipient cataclysm whenever a book was to be written. What brings joy
and buoyancy to other men, namely, a genial task, brought despair and
convulsions to him. It is not the effort of composition,--he was a rapid
and copious writer and speaker,--but the pressure of purpose, the
friction of power and velocity, the sense of overcoming the demons and
mud-gods and frozen torpidity he so often refers to. Hence no writing
extant is so little like writing, and gives so vividly the sense of
something _done_. He may praise silence and glorify work. The
unspeakable is ever present with him; it is the core of every sentence:
the inarticulate is round about him; a solitude like that of space
encompasseth him. His books are not easy reading; they are a kind of
wrestling to most persons. His style is like a road made of rocks: when
it is good, there is nothing like it; and when it is bad, there is
nothing like it!

In "Past and Present" Carlyle has unconsciously painted his own life and
character in truer colors than has any one else: "Not a May-game is this
man's life, but a battle and a march, a warfare with principalities and
powers; no idle promenade through fragrant orange groves and green,
flowery spaces, waited on by the choral Muses and the rosy Hours: it is
a stern pilgrimage through burning, sandy solitudes, through regions of
thick-ribbed ice. He walks among men; loves men with inexpressible soft
pity, as they _cannot_ love him: but his soul dwells in solitude, in the
uttermost parts of Creation. In green oases by the palm-tree wells, he
rests a space; but anon he has to journey forward, escorted by the
Terrors and the Splendors, the Archdemons and Archangels. All heaven,
all pandemonium, are his escort." Part of the world will doubtless
persist in thinking that pandemonium furnished his chief counsel and
guide; but there are enough who think otherwise, and their numbers are
bound to increase in the future.



IV

A HUNT FOR THE NIGHTINGALE


While I lingered away the latter half of May in Scotland, and the first
half of June in northern England, and finally in London, intent on
seeing the land leisurely and as the mood suited, the thought never
occurred to me that I was in danger of missing one of the chief
pleasures I had promised myself in crossing the Atlantic, namely, the
hearing of the song of the nightingale. Hence, when on the 17th of June
I found myself down among the copses near Hazlemere, on the borders of
Surrey and Sussex, and was told by the old farmer, to whose house I had
been recommended by friends in London, that I was too late, that the
season of the nightingale was over, I was a good deal disturbed.

"I think she be done singing now, sir; I ain't heered her in some time,
sir," said my farmer, as we sat down to get acquainted over a mug of the
hardest cider I ever attempted to drink.

"Too late!" I said in deep chagrin, "and I might have been here weeks
ago."

"Yeas, sir, she be done now; May is the time to hear her. The cuckoo is
done too, sir; and you don't hear the nightingale after the cuckoo is
gone, sir."

(The country people in this part of England _sir_ one at the end of
every sentence, and talk with an indescribable drawl.)

But I had heard a cuckoo that very afternoon, and I took heart from the
fact. I afterward learned that the country people everywhere associate
these two birds in this way; you will not hear the one after the other
has ceased. But I heard the cuckoo almost daily till the middle of July.
Matthew Arnold reflects the popular opinion when in one of his poems
("Thyrsis") he makes the cuckoo say in early June,--

     "The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I!"

The explanation is to be found in Shakespeare, who says,--

             "The cuckoo is in June
     Heard, not regarded,"

as the bird really does not go till August. I got out my Gilbert White,
as I should have done at an earlier day, and was still more disturbed to
find that he limited the singing of the nightingale to June 15. But
seasons differ, I thought, and it can't be possible that any class of
feathered songsters all stop on a given day. There is a tradition that
when George I. died the nightingales all ceased singing for the year out
of grief at the sad event; but his majesty did not die till June 21.
This would give me a margin of several days. Then, when I looked further
in White, and found that he says the chaffinch ceases to sing the
beginning of June, I took more courage, for I had that day heard the
chaffinch also. But it was evident I had no time to lose; I was just on
the dividing line, and any day might witness the cessation of the last
songster. For it seems that the nightingale ceases singing the moment
her brood is hatched. After that event, you hear only a harsh chiding or
anxious note. Hence the poets, who attribute her melancholy strains to
sorrow for the loss of her young, are entirely at fault. Virgil,
portraying the grief of Orpheus after the loss of Eurydice, says:--

     "So Philomela, 'mid the poplar shade,
      Bemoans her captive brood; the cruel hind
      Saw them unplumed, and took them; but all night
      Grieves she, and, sitting on a bough, runs o'er
      Her wretched tale, and fills the woods with woe."

But she probably does nothing of the kind. The song of a bird is not a
reminiscence, but an anticipation, and expresses happiness or joy only,
except in those cases where the male bird, having lost its mate, sings
for a few days as if to call the lost one back. When the male renews his
powers of song, after the young brood has been destroyed, or after it
has flown away, it is a sign that a new brood is contemplated. The song
is, as it were, the magic note that calls the brood forth. At least,
this is the habit with other song-birds, and I have no doubt the same
holds good with the nightingale. Destroy the nest or brood of the wood
thrush, and if the season is not too far advanced, after a week or ten
days of silence, during which the parent birds by their manner seem to
bemoan their loss and to take counsel together, the male breaks forth
with a new song, and the female begins to construct a new nest. The
poets, therefore, in depicting the bird on such occasions as bewailing
the lost brood, are wide of the mark; he is invoking and celebrating a
new brood.

As it was mid-afternoon, I could only compose myself till nightfall. I
accompanied the farmer to the hay-field and saw the working of his
mowing-machine, a rare implement in England, as most of the grass is
still cut by hand, and raked by hand also. The disturbed skylarks were
hovering above the falling grass, full of anxiety for their nests, as
one may note the bobolinks on like occasions at home. The weather is so
uncertain in England, and it is so impossible to predict its complexion,
not only from day to day but from hour to hour, that the farmers appear
to consider it a suitable time to cut grass when it is not actually
raining. They slash away without reference to the aspects of the sky,
and when the field is down trust to luck to be able to cure the hay, or
get it ready to "carry" between the showers. The clouds were lowering
and the air was damp now, and it was Saturday afternoon; but the farmer
said they would never get their hay if they minded such things. The farm
had seen better days; so had the farmer; both were slightly down at the
heel. Too high rent and too much hard cider were working their effects
upon both. The farm had been in the family many generations, but it was
now about to be sold and to pass into other hands, and my host said he
was glad of it. There was no money in farming any more; no money in
anything. I asked him what were the main sources of profit on such a
farm.

"Well," he said, "sometimes the wheat pops up, and the barley drops in,
and the pigs come on, and we picks up a little money, sir, but not much,
sir. Pigs is doing well naow. But they brings so much wheat from
Ameriky, and our weather is so bad that we can't get a good sample, sir,
one year in three, that there is no money made in growing wheat, sir."
And the "wuts" (oats) were not much better. "Theys as would buy hain't
got no money, sir." "Up to the top of the nip," for top of the hill, was
one of his expressions. Tennyson had a summer residence at Blackdown,
not far off. "One of the Queen's poets, I believe, sir." "Yes, I often
see him riding about, sir."

After an hour or two with the farmer, I walked out to take a survey of
the surrounding country. It was quite wild and irregular, full of bushy
fields and overgrown hedge-rows, and looked to me very nightingaly. I
followed for a mile or two a road that led by tangled groves and woods
and copses, with a still meadow trout stream in the gentle valley below.
I inquired for nightingales of every boy and laboring-man I met or saw.
I got but little encouragement; it was too late. "She be about done
singing now, sir." A boy whom I met in a footpath that ran through a
pasture beside a copse said, after reflecting a moment, that he had
heard one in that very copse two mornings before,--"about seven o'clock,
sir, while I was on my way to my work, sir." Then I would try my luck in
said copse and in the adjoining thickets that night and the next
morning. The railway ran near, but perhaps that might serve to keep the
birds awake. These copses in this part of England look strange enough to
American eyes. What thriftless farming! the first thought is; behold the
fields grown up to bushes, as if the land had relapsed to a state of
nature again. Adjoining meadows and grain-fields, one may see an
inclosure of many acres covered with a thick growth of oak and chestnut
sprouts, six or eight or twelve feet high. These are the copses one has
so often heard about, and they are a valuable and productive part of the
farm. They are planted and preserved as carefully as we plant an orchard
or a vineyard. Once in so many years, perhaps five or six, the copse is
cut and every twig is saved; it is a woodland harvest that in our own
country is gathered in the forest itself. The larger poles are tied up
in bundles and sold for hoop-poles; the fine branches and shoots are
made into brooms in the neighboring cottages and hamlets, or used as
material for thatching. The refuse is used as wood.

About eight o'clock in the evening I sallied forth, taking my way over
the ground I had explored a few hours before. The gloaming, which at
this season lasts till after ten o'clock, dragged its slow length along.
Nine o'clock came, and, though my ear was attuned, the songster was
tardy. I hovered about the copses and hedge-rows like one meditating
some dark deed; I lingered in a grove and about an overgrown garden and
a neglected orchard; I sat on stiles and leaned on wickets, mentally
speeding the darkness that should bring my singer out. The weather was
damp and chilly, and the tryst grew tiresome. I had brought a rubber
water-proof, but not an overcoat. Lining the back of the rubber with a
newspaper, I wrapped it about me and sat down, determined to lay siege
to my bird. A footpath that ran along the fields and bushes on the other
side of the little valley showed every few minutes a woman or girl, or
boy or laborer, passing along it. A path near me also had its frequent
figures moving along in the dusk. In this country people travel in
footpaths as much as in highways. The paths give a private, human touch
to the landscape that the roads do not. They are sacred to the human
foot. They have the sentiment of domesticity, and suggest the way to
cottage doors and to simple, primitive times.

Presently a man with a fishing-rod, and capped, coated, and booted for
the work, came through the meadow, and began casting for trout in the
stream below me. How he gave himself to the work! how oblivious he was
of everything but the one matter in hand! I doubt if he was conscious of
the train that passed within a few rods of him. Your born angler is
like a hound that scents no game but that which he is in pursuit of.
Every sense and faculty were concentrated upon that hovering fly. This
man wooed the stream, quivering with pleasure and expectation. Every
foot of it he tickled with his decoy. His close was evidently a short
one, and he made the most of it. He lingered over every cast, and
repeated it again and again. An American angler would have been out of
sight down stream long ago. But this fisherman was not going to bolt his
preserve; his line should taste every drop of it. His eager, stealthy
movements denoted his enjoyment and his absorption. When a trout was
caught, it was quickly rapped on the head and slipped into his basket,
as if in punishment for its tardiness in jumping. "Be quicker next time,
will you?" (British trout, by the way, are not so beautiful as our own.
They have more of a domesticated look. They are less brilliantly marked,
and have much coarser scales. There is no gold or vermilion in their
coloring.)

Presently there arose from a bushy corner of a near field a low,
peculiar purring or humming sound, that sent a thrill through me; of
course, I thought my bird was inflating her throat. Then the sound
increased, and was answered or repeated in various other directions. It
had a curious ventriloquial effect. I presently knew it to be the
nightjar or goatsucker, a bird that answers to our whip-poor-will. Very
soon the sound seemed to be floating all about me,--_Jr-r-r-r-r_ or
_Chr-r-r-r-r_, slightly suggesting the call of our toads, but more
vague as to direction. Then as it grew darker the birds ceased; the
fisherman reeled up and left. No sound was now heard,--not even the
voice of a solitary frog anywhere. I never heard a frog in England.
About eleven o'clock I moved down by a wood, and stood for an hour on a
bridge over the railroad. No voice of bird greeted me till the
sedge-warbler struck up her curious nocturne in a hedge near by. It was
a singular medley of notes, hurried chirps, trills, calls, warbles,
snatched from the songs of other birds, with a half-chiding,
remonstrating tone or air running through it all. As there was no other
sound to be heard, and as the darkness was complete, it had the effect
of a very private and whimsical performance,--as if the little bird had
secluded herself there, and was giving vent to her emotions in the most
copious and vehement manner. I listened till after midnight, and till
the rain began to fall, and the vivacious warbler never ceased for a
moment. White says that, if it stops, a stone tossed into the bush near
it will set it going again. Its voice is not musical; the quality of it
is like that of the loquacious English house sparrows; but its song or
medley is so persistently animated, and in such contrast to the gloom
and the darkness, that the effect is decidedly pleasing.

This and the nightjar were the only nightingales I heard that night. I
returned home, a good deal disappointed, but slept upon my arms, as it
were, and was out upon the chase again at four o'clock in the morning.
This time I passed down a lane by the neglected garden and orchard,
where I was told the birds had sung for weeks past; then under the
railroad by a cluster of laborers' cottages, and along a road with many
copses and bushy fence-corners on either hand, for two miles, but I
heard no nightingales. A boy of whom I inquired seemed half frightened,
and went into the house without answering.

After a late breakfast I sallied out again, going farther in the same
direction, and was overtaken by several showers. I heard many and
frequent bird-songs,--the lark, the wren, the thrush, the blackbird, the
whitethroat, the greenfinch, and the hoarse, guttural cooing of the
wood-pigeons,--but not the note I was in quest of. I passed up a road
that was a deep trench in the side of a hill overgrown with low beeches.
The roots of the trees formed a network on the side of the bank, as
their branches did above. In a framework of roots, within reach of my
hand, I spied a wren's nest, a round hole leading to the interior of a
large mass of soft green moss, a structure displaying the taste and
neatness of the daintiest of bird architects, and the depth and warmth
and snugness of the most ingenious mouse habitation. While lingering
here, a young countryman came along whom I engaged in conversation. No,
he had not heard the nightingale for a few days; but the previous week
he had been in camp with the militia near Guildford, and while on
picket duty had heard her nearly all night. "'Don't she sing splendid
to-night?' the boys would say." This was tantalizing; Guildford was
within easy reach; but the previous week,--that could not be reached.
However, he encouraged me by saying he did not think they were done
singing yet, as he had often heard them during haying-time. I inquired
for the blackcap, but saw he did not know this bird, and thought I
referred to a species of tomtit, which also has a black cap. The
woodlark I was also on the lookout for, but he did not know this bird
either, and during my various rambles in England I found but one person
who did. In Scotland it was confounded with the titlark or pipit.

I next met a man and boy, a villager with a stove-pipe hat on,--and, as
it turned out, a man of many trades, tailor, barber, painter,
etc.,--from Hazlemere. The absorbing inquiry was put to him also. No,
not that day, but a few mornings before he had. But he could easily call
one out, if there were any about, as he could imitate them. Plucking a
spear of grass, he adjusted it behind his teeth and startled me with the
shrill, rapid notes he poured forth. I at once recognized its
resemblance to the descriptions I had read of the opening part of the
nightingale song,--what is called the "challenge." The boy said, and he
himself averred, that it was an exact imitation. The _chew, chew, chew_,
and some other parts, were very bird-like, and I had no doubt were
correct. I was astonished at the strong, piercing quality of the
strain. It echoed in the woods and copses about, but, though oft
repeated, brought forth no response. With this man I made an engagement
to take a walk that evening at eight o'clock along a certain route where
he had heard plenty of nightingales but a few days before. He was
confident he could call them out; so was I.

In the afternoon, which had gleams of warm sunshine, I made another
excursion, less in hopes of hearing my bird than of finding some one who
could direct me to the right spot. Once I thought the game was very
near. I met a boy who told me he had heard a nightingale only fifteen
minutes before, "on Polecat Hill, sir, just this side the Devil's
Punch-bowl, sir!" I had heard of his majesty's punch-bowl before, and of
the gibbets near it where three murderers were executed nearly a hundred
years ago, but Polecat Hill was a new name to me. The combination did
not seem a likely place for nightingales, but I walked rapidly
thitherward; I heard several warblers, but not Philomel, and was forced
to conclude that probably I had crossed the sea to miss my bird by just
fifteen minutes. I met many other boys (is there any country where boys
do not prowl about in small bands of a Sunday?) and advertised the
object of my search freely among them, offering a reward that made their
eyes glisten for the bird in song; but nothing ever came of it. In my
desperation, I even presented a letter I had brought to the village
squire, just as, in company with his wife, he was about to leave his
door for church. He turned back, and, hearing my quest, volunteered to
take me on a long walk through the wet grass and bushes of his fields
and copses, where he knew the birds were wont to sing. "Too late," he
said, and so it did appear. He showed me a fine old edition of White's
"Selborne," with notes by some editor whose name I have forgotten. This
editor had extended White's date of June 15 to July 1, as the time to
which the nightingale continues in song, and I felt like thanking him
for it, as it gave me renewed hope. The squire thought there was a
chance yet; and in case my man with the spear of grass behind his teeth
failed me, he gave me a card to an old naturalist and taxidermist at
Godalming, a town nine miles above, who, he felt sure, could put me on
the right track if anybody could.

At eight o'clock, the sun yet some distance above the horizon, I was at
the door of the barber in Hazlemere. He led the way along one of those
delightful footpaths with which this country is threaded, extending to a
neighboring village several miles distant. It left the street at
Hazlemere, cutting through the houses diagonally, as if the brick walls
had made way for it, passed between gardens, through wickets, over
stiles, across the highway and railroad, through cultivated fields and a
gentleman's park, and on toward its destination,--a broad, well-kept
path, that seemed to have the same inevitable right of way as a brook. I
was told that it was repaired and looked after the same as the highway.
Indeed, it was a public way, public to pedestrians only, and no man
could stop or turn it aside. We followed it along the side of a steep
hill, with copses and groves sweeping down into the valley below us. It
was as wild and picturesque a spot as I had seen in England. The
foxglove pierced the lower foliage and wild growths everywhere with its
tall spires of purple flowers; the wild honeysuckle, with a ranker and
coarser fragrance than our cultivated species, was just opening along
the hedges. We paused here, and my guide blew his shrill call; he blew
it again and again. How it awoke the echoes, and how it awoke all the
other songsters! The valley below us and the slope beyond, which before
were silent, were soon musical. The chaffinch, the robin, the blackbird,
the thrush--the last the loudest and most copious--seemed to vie with
each other and with the loud whistler above them. But we listened in
vain for the nightingale's note. Twice my guide struck an attitude and
said, impressively, "There! I believe I 'erd 'er." But we were obliged
to give it up. A shower came on, and after it had passed we moved to
another part of the landscape and repeated our call, but got no
response, and as darkness set in we returned to the village.

The situation began to look serious. I knew there was a nightingale
somewhere whose brood had been delayed from some cause or other, and who
was therefore still in song, but I could not get a clew to the spot. I
renewed the search late that night, and again the next morning; I
inquired of every man and boy I saw.

     "I met many travelers,
        Who the road had surely kept;
      They saw not my fine revelers,--
        These had crossed them while they slept;
      Some had heard their fair report,
      In the country or the court."

I soon learned to distrust young fellows and their girls who had heard
nightingales in the gloaming. I knew one's ears could not always be
depended upon on such occasions, nor his eyes either. Larks are seen in
buntings, and a wren's song entrances like Philomel's. A young couple of
whom I inquired in the train, on my way to Godalming, said Yes, they had
heard nightingales just a few moments before on their way to the
station, and described the spot, so I could find it if I returned that
way. They left the train at the same point I did, and walked up the
street in advance of me. I had lost sight of them till they beckoned to
me from the corner of the street, near the church, where the prospect
opens with a view of a near meadow and a stream shaded by pollard
willows. "We heard one now, just there," they said, as I came up. They
passed on, and I bent my ear eagerly in the direction. Then I walked
farther on, following one of those inevitable footpaths to where it cuts
diagonally through the cemetery behind the old church, but I heard
nothing save a few notes of the thrush. My ear was too critical and
exacting. Then I sought out the old naturalist and taxidermist to whom I
had a card from the squire. He was a short, stout man, racy both in look
and speech, and kindly. He had a fine collection of birds and animals,
in which he took great pride. He pointed out the woodlark and the
blackcap to me, and told me where he had seen and heard them. He said I
was too late for the nightingale, though I might possibly find one yet
in song. But he said she grew hoarse late in the season, and did not
sing as a few weeks earlier. He thought our cardinal grosbeak, which he
called the Virginia nightingale, as fine a whistler as the nightingale
herself. He could not go with me that day, but he would send his boy.
Summoning the lad, he gave him minute directions where to take me,--over
by Easing, around by Shackerford church, etc., a circuit of four or five
miles. Leaving the picturesque old town, we took a road over a broad,
gentle hill, lined with great trees,--beeches, elms, oaks,--with rich
cultivated fields beyond. The air of peaceful and prosperous human
occupancy which everywhere pervades this land seemed especially
pronounced through all this section. The sentiment of parks and lawns,
easy, large, basking, indifferent of admiration, self-sufficing, and
full, everywhere prevailed. The road was like the most perfect private
carriage-way. Homeliness, in its true sense, is a word that applies to
nearly all English country scenes; homelike, redolent of affectionate
care and toil, saturated with rural and domestic contentment; beauty
without pride, order without stiffness, age without decay. This people
love the country, because it would seem as if the country must first
have loved them. In a field I saw for the first time a new species of
clover, much grown in parts of England as green fodder for horses. The
farmers call it trifolium, probably _Trifolium incarnatum_. The head is
two or three inches long, and as red as blood. A field of it under the
sunlight presents a most brilliant appearance. As we walked along, I got
also my first view of the British blue jay,--a slightly larger bird than
ours, with a hoarser voice and much duller plumage. Blue, the tint of
the sky, is not so common, and is not found in any such perfection among
the British birds as among the American. My boy companion was worthy of
observation also. He was a curious specimen, ready and officious, but,
as one soon found out, full of duplicity. I questioned him about
himself. "I helps he, sir; sometimes I shows people about, and sometimes
I does errands. I gets three a week, sir, and lunch and tea. I lives
with my grandmother, but I calls her mother, sir. The master and the
rector they gives me a character, says I am a good, honest boy, and that
it is well I went to school in my youth. I am ten, sir. Last year I had
the measles, sir, and I thought I should die; but I got hold of a bottle
of medicine, and it tasted like honey, and I takes the whole of it, and
it made me well, sir. I never lies, sir. It is good to tell the truth."
And yet he would slide off into a lie as if the track in that direction
was always greased. Indeed, there was a kind of fluent, unctuous,
obsequious effrontery in all he said and did. As the day was warm for
that climate, he soon grew tired of the chase. At one point we skirted
the grounds of a large house, as thickly planted with trees and shrubs
as a forest; many birds were singing there, and for a moment my guide
made me believe that among them he recognized the notes of the
nightingale. Failing in this, he coolly assured me that the swallow that
skimmed along the road in front of us was the nightingale! We presently
left the highway and took a footpath. It led along the margin of a large
plowed field, shut in by rows of noble trees, the soil of which looked
as if it might have been a garden of untold generations. Then the path
led through a wicket, and down the side of a wooded hill to a large
stream and to the hamlet of Easing. A boy fishing said indifferently
that he had heard nightingales there that morning. He had caught a
little fish which he said was a gudgeon. "Yes," said my companion in
response to a remark of mine, "they's little; but you can eat they if
they _is_ little." Then we went toward Shackerford church. The road,
like most roads in the south of England, was a deep trench. The banks on
either side rose fifteen feet, covered with ivy, moss, wild flowers, and
the roots of trees. England's best defense against an invading foe is
her sunken roads. Whole armies might be ambushed in these trenches,
while an enemy moving across the open plain would very often find
himself plunging headlong into these hidden pitfalls. Indeed, between
the subterranean character of the roads in some places and the
high-walled or high-hedged character of it in others, the pedestrian
about England is shut out from much he would like to see. I used to envy
the bicyclists, perched high upon their rolling stilts. But the
footpaths escape the barriers, and one need walk nowhere else if he
choose.

Around Shackerford church are copses, and large pine and fir woods. The
place was full of birds. My guide threw a stone at a small bird which he
declared was a nightingale; and though the missile did not come within
three yards of it, yet he said he had hit it, and pretended to search
for it on the ground. He must needs invent an opportunity for lying. I
told him here I had no further use for him, and he turned cheerfully
back, with my shilling in his pocket. I spent the afternoon about the
woods and copses near Shackerford. The day was bright and the air balmy.
I heard the cuckoo call, and the chaffinch sing, both of which I
considered good omens. The little chiffchaff was chiffchaffing in the
pine woods. The whitethroat, with his quick, emphatic _Chew-che-rick_ or
_Che-rick-a-rew_, flitted and ducked and hid among the low bushes by the
roadside. A girl told me she had heard the nightingale yesterday on her
way to Sunday-school, and pointed out the spot. It was in some bushes
near a house. I hovered about this place till I was afraid the woman,
who saw me from the window, would think I had some designs upon her
premises. But I managed to look very indifferent or abstracted when I
passed. I am quite sure I heard the chiding, guttural note of the bird I
was after. Doubtless her brood had come out that very day. Another girl
had heard a nightingale on her way to school that morning, and directed
me to the road; still another pointed out to me the whitethroat and said
that was my bird. This last was a rude shock to my faith in the
ornithology of schoolgirls. Finally, I found a laborer breaking stone by
the roadside,--a serious, honest-faced man, who said he had heard my
bird that morning on his way to work; he heard her every morning, and
nearly every night, too. He heard her last night after the shower (just
at the hour when my barber and I were trying to awaken her near
Hazlemere), and she sang as finely as ever she did. This was a great
lift. I felt that I could trust this man. He said that after his day's
work was done, that is, at five o'clock, if I chose to accompany him on
his way home, he would show me where he had heard the bird. This I
gladly agreed to; and, remembering that I had had no dinner, I sought
out the inn in the village and asked for something to eat. The unwonted
request so startled the landlord that he came out from behind his
inclosed bar and confronted me with good-humored curiosity. These
back-country English inns, as I several times found to my discomfiture,
are only drinking places for the accommodation of local customers,
mainly of the laboring class. Instead of standing conspicuously on some
street corner, as with us, they usually stand on some byway, or some
little paved court away from the main thoroughfare. I could have plenty
of beer, said the landlord, but he had not a mouthful of meat in the
house. I urged my needs, and finally got some rye-bread and cheese. With
this and a glass of home-brewed beer I was fairly well fortified. At the
appointed time I met the cottager and went with him on his way home. We
walked two miles or more along a charming road, full of wooded nooks and
arbor-like vistas. Why do English trees always look so sturdy, and
exhibit such massive repose, so unlike, in this latter respect, to the
nervous and agitated expression of most of our own foliage? Probably
because they have been a long time out of the woods, and have had plenty
of room in which to develop individual traits and peculiarities; then,
in a deep fertile soil, and a climate that does not hurry or overtax,
they grow slow and last long, and come to have the picturesqueness of
age without its infirmities. The oak, the elm, the beech, all have more
striking profiles than in our country.

Presently my companion pointed out to me a small wood below the road
that had a wide fringe of bushes and saplings connecting it with a
meadow, amid which stood the tree-embowered house of a city man, where
he had heard the nightingale in the morning; and then, farther along,
showed me, near his own cottage, where he had heard one the evening
before. It was now only six o'clock, and I had two or three hours to
wait before I could reasonably expect to hear her. "It gets to be into
the hevening," said my new friend, "when she sings the most, you know."
I whiled away the time as best I could. If I had been an artist, I
should have brought away a sketch of a picturesque old cottage near by,
that bore the date of 1688 on its wall. I was obliged to keep moving
most of the time to keep warm. Yet the "no-see-'ems," or midges, annoyed
me, in a temperature which at home would have chilled them buzzless and
biteless. Finally, I leaped the smooth masonry of the stone wall and
ambushed myself amid the tall ferns under a pine-tree, where the
nightingale had been heard in the morning. If the keeper had seen me, he
would probably have taken me for a poacher. I sat shivering there till
nine o'clock, listening to the cooing of the wood-pigeons, watching the
motions of a jay that, I suspect, had a nest near by, and taking note of
various other birds. The song-thrush and the robins soon made such a
musical uproar along the borders of a grove, across an adjoining field,
as quite put me out. It might veil and obscure the one voice I wanted to
hear. The robin continued to sing quite into the darkness. This bird is
related to the nightingale, and looks and acts like it at a little
distance; and some of its notes are remarkably piercing and musical.
When my patience was about exhausted, I was startled by a quick,
brilliant call or whistle, a few rods from me, that at once recalled my
barber with his blade of grass, and I knew my long-sought bird was
inflating her throat. How it woke me up! It had the quality that
startles; it pierced the gathering gloom like a rocket. Then it ceased.
Suspecting I was too near the singer, I moved away cautiously, and stood
in a lane beside the wood, where a loping hare regarded me a few paces
away. Then my singer struck up again, but I could see did not let
herself out; just tuning her instrument, I thought, and getting ready to
transfix the silence and the darkness. A little later, a man and boy
came up the lane. I asked them if that was the nightingale singing; they
listened, and assured me it was none other. "Now she's on, sir; now
she's on. Ah! but she don't stick. In May, sir, they makes the woods all
heccho about here. Now she's on again; that's her, sir; now she's off;
she won't stick." And stick she would not. I could hear a hoarse
wheezing and clucking sound beneath her notes, when I listened intently.
The man and boy moved away. I stood mutely invoking all the gentle
divinities to spur the bird on. Just then a bird like our hermit thrush
came quickly over the hedge a few yards below me, swept close past my
face, and back into the thicket. I had been caught listening; the
offended bird had found me taking notes of her dry and worn-out pipe
there behind the hedge, and the concert abruptly ended; not another
note; not a whisper. I waited a long time and then moved off; then came
back, implored the outraged bird to resume; then rushed off, and slammed
the door, or rather the gate, indignantly behind me. I paused by other
shrines, but not a sound. The cottager had told me of a little village
three miles beyond, where there were three inns, and where I could
probably get lodgings for the night. I walked rapidly in that direction;
committed myself to a footpath; lost the trail, and brought up at a
little cottage in a wide expanse of field or common, and by the good
woman, with a babe in her arms, was set right again. I soon struck the
highway by the bridge, as I had been told, and a few paces brought me to
the first inn. It was ten o'clock, and the lights were just about to be
put out, as the law or custom is in country inns. The landlady said she
could not give me a bed; she had only one spare room, and that was not
in order, and she should not set about putting it in shape at that hour;
and she was short and sharp about it, too. I hastened on to the next
one. The landlady said she had no sheets, and the bed was damp and unfit
to sleep in. I protested that I thought an inn was an inn, and for the
accommodation of travelers. But she referred me to the next house. Here
were more people, and more the look and air of a public house. But the
wife (the man does not show himself on such occasions) said her daughter
had just got married and come home, and she had much company and could
not keep me. In vain I urged my extremity; there was no room. Could I
have something to eat, then? This seemed doubtful, and led to
consultations in the kitchen; but, finally, some bread and cold meat
were produced. The nearest hotel was Godalming, seven miles distant, and
I knew all the inns would be shut up before I could get there. So I
munched my bread and meat, consoling myself with the thought that
perhaps this was just the ill wind that would blow me the good I was in
quest of. I saw no alternative but to spend a night under the trees with
the nightingales; and I might surprise them at their revels in the small
hours of the morning. Just as I was ready to congratulate myself on the
richness of my experience, the landlady came in and said there was a
young man there going with a "trap" to Godalming, and he had offered to
take me in. I feared I should pass for an escaped lunatic if I declined
the offer; so I reluctantly assented, and we were presently whirling
through the darkness, along a smooth, winding road, toward town. The
young man was a drummer; was from Lincolnshire, and said I spoke like a
Lincolnshire man. I could believe it, for I told him he talked more like
an American than any native I had met. The hotels in the larger towns
close at eleven, and I was set down in front of one just as the clock
was striking that hour. I asked to be conducted to a room at once. As I
was about getting in bed there was a rap at the door, and a waiter
presented me my bill on a tray. "Gentlemen as have no luggage, etc.," he
explained; and pretend to be looking for nightingales, too!
Three-and-sixpence; two shillings for the bed and one-and-six for
service. I was out at five in the morning, before any one inside was
astir. After much trying of bars and doors, I made my exit into a paved
court, from which a covered way led into the street. A man opened a
window and directed me how to undo the great door, and forth I started,
still hoping to catch my bird at her matins. I took the route of the day
before. On the edge of the beautiful plowed field, looking down through
the trees and bushes into the gleam of the river twenty rods below, I
was arrested by the note I longed to hear. It came up from near the
water, and made my ears tingle. I folded up my rubber coat and sat down
upon it, saying, Now we will take our fill. But--the bird ceased, and,
tarry though I did for an hour, not another note reached me. The prize
seemed destined to elude me each time just as I thought it mine. Still,
I treasured what little I had heard.

It was enough to convince me of the superior quality of the song, and
make me more desirous than ever to hear the complete strain. I continued
my rambles, and in the early morning once more hung about the
Shackerford copses and loitered along the highways. Two schoolboys
pointed out a tree to me in which they had heard the nightingale, on
their way for milk, two hours before. But I could only repeat Emerson's
lines:--

     "Right good-will my sinews strung,
      But no speed of mine avails
      To hunt up their shining trails."

At nine o'clock I gave over the pursuit and returned to Easing in quest
of breakfast. Bringing up in front of the large and comfortable-looking
inn, I found the mistress of the house with her daughter engaged in
washing windows. Perched upon their step-ladders, they treated my
request for breakfast very coldly; in fact, finally refused to listen to
it at all. The fires were out, and I could not be served. So I must
continue my walk back to Godalming; and, in doing so, I found that one
may walk three miles on indignation quite as easily as upon bread.

In the afternoon I returned to my lodgings at Shotter Mill, and made
ready for a walk to Selborne, twelve miles distant, part of the way to
be accomplished that night in the gloaming, and the rest early on the
following morning, to give the nightingales a chance to make any
reparation they might feel inclined to for the neglect with which they
had treated me. There was a footpath over the hill and through Leechmere
bottom to Liphook, and to this, with the sun half an hour high, I
committed myself. The feature in this hill scenery of Surrey and Sussex
that is new to American eyes is given by the furze and heather, broad
black or dark-brown patches of which sweep over the high rolling
surfaces, like sable mantles. Tennyson's house stands amid this dusky
scenery, a few miles east of Hazlemere. The path led through a large
common, partly covered with grass and partly grown up to furze,--another
un-American feature. Doubly precious is land in England, and yet so
much of it given to parks and pleasure-grounds, and so much of it left
unreclaimed in commons! These commons are frequently met with; about
Selborne they are miles in extent, and embrace the Hanger and other
woods. No one can inclose them, or appropriate them to his own use. The
landed proprietor of whose estates they form a part cannot; they belong
to the people, to the lease-holders. The villagers and others who own
houses on leased land pasture their cows upon them, gather the furze,
and cut the wood. In some places the commons belong to the crown and are
crown lands. These large uninclosed spaces often give a free-and-easy
air to the landscape that is very welcome. Near the top of the hill I
met a little old man nearly hidden beneath a burden of furze. He was
backing it home for fuel and other uses. He paused obsequious, and
listened to my inquiries. A dwarfish sort of man, whose ugliness was
redolent of the humblest chimney corner. Bent beneath his bulky burden,
and grinning upon me, he was a visible embodiment of the poverty,
ignorance, and, I may say, the domesticity of the lowliest peasant home.
I felt as if I had encountered a walking superstition, fostered beside a
hearth lighted by furze fagots and by branches dropped by the nesting
rooks and ravens,--a figure half repulsive and half alluring. On the
border of Leechmere bottom I sat down above a straggling copse, aflame
as usual with the foxglove, and gave eye and ear to the scene. While
sitting here, I saw and heard for the first time the black-capped
warbler. I recognized the note at once by its brightness and strength,
and a faint suggestion in it of the nightingale's. But it was
disappointing: I had expected a nearer approach to its great rival. The
bird was very shy, but did finally show herself fairly several times, as
she did also near Selborne, where I heard the song oft repeated and
prolonged. It is a ringing, animated strain, but as a whole seemed to me
crude, not smoothly and finely modulated. I could name several of our
own birds that surpass it in pure music. Like its congeners, the garden
warbler and the whitethroat, it sings with great emphasis and strength,
but its song is silvern, not golden. "Little birds with big voices," one
says to himself after having heard most of the British songsters. My
path led me an adventurous course through the copses and bottoms and
open commons, in the long twilight. At one point I came upon three young
men standing together and watching a dog that was working a near
field,--one of them probably the squire's son, and the other two habited
like laborers. In a little thicket near by there was a brilliant chorus
of bird voices, the robin, the song-thrush, and the blackbird, all vying
with each other. To my inquiry, put to test the reliability of the young
countrymen's ears, they replied that one of the birds I heard was the
nightingale, and, after a moment's attention, singled out the robin as
the bird in question. This incident so impressed me that I paid little
attention to the report of the next man I met, who said he had heard a
nightingale just around a bend in the road, a few minutes' walk in
advance of me. At ten o'clock I reached Liphook. I expected and half
hoped the inn would turn its back upon me again, in which case I
proposed to make for Wolmer Forest, a few miles distant, but it did not.
Before going to bed, I took a short and hasty walk down a
promising-looking lane, and again met a couple who had heard
nightingales. "It was a nightingale, was it not, Charley?"

If all the people of whom I inquired for nightingales in England could
have been together and compared notes, they probably would not have been
long in deciding that there was at least one crazy American abroad.

I proposed to be up and off at five o'clock in the morning, which seemed
greatly to puzzle mine host. At first he thought it could not be done,
but finally saw his way out of the dilemma, and said he would get up and
undo the door for me himself. The morning was cloudy and misty, though
the previous night had been of the fairest. There is one thing they do
not have in England that we can boast of at home, and that is a good
masculine type of weather: it is not even feminine; it is childish and
puerile, though I am told that occasionally there is a full-grown storm.
But I saw nothing but petulant little showers and prolonged juvenile
sulks. The clouds have no reserve, no dignity; if there is a drop of
water in them (and there generally are several drops), out it comes. The
prettiest little showers march across the country in summer, scarcely
bigger than a street watering-cart; sometimes by getting over the fence
one can avoid them, but they keep the haymakers in a perpetual flurry.
There is no cloud scenery, as with us, no mass and solidity, no height
nor depth. The clouds seem low, vague, and vapory,--immature,
indefinite, inconsequential, like youth.

The walk to Selborne was through mist and light rain. Few bird voices,
save the cries of the lapwing and the curlew, were heard. Shortly after
leaving Liphook the road takes a straight cut for three or four miles
through a level, black, barren, peaty stretch of country, with Wolmer
Forest a short distance on the right. Under the low-hanging clouds the
scene was a dismal one,--a black earth beneath and a gloomy sky above.
For miles the only sign of life was a baker's cart rattling along the
smooth, white road. At the end of this solitude I came to cultivated
fields, and a little hamlet and an inn. At this inn (for a wonder!) I
got some breakfast. The family had not yet had theirs, and I sat with
them at the table, and had substantial fare. From this point I followed
a footpath a couple of miles through fields and parks. The highways for
the most part seemed so narrow and exclusive, or inclusive, such
penalties seemed to attach to a view over the high walls and hedges that
shut me in, that a footpath was always a welcome escape to me. I opened
the wicket or mounted the stile without much concern as to whether it
would further me on my way or not. It was like turning the flank of an
enemy. These well-kept fields and lawns, these cozy nooks, these stately
and exclusive houses that had taken such pains to shut out the public
gaze,--from the footpath one had them at an advantage, and could pluck
out their mystery. On striking the highway again, I met the
postmistress, stepping briskly along with the morning mail. Her husband
had died, and she had taken his place as mail-carrier. England is so
densely populated, the country is so like a great city suburb, that your
mail is brought to your door everywhere, the same as in town. I walked a
distance with a boy driving a little old white horse with a cart-load of
brick. He lived at Hedleigh, six miles distant; he had left there at
five o'clock in the morning, and had heard a nightingale. He was sure;
as I pressed him, he described the place minutely. "She was in the large
fir-tree by Tom Anthony's gate, at the south end of the village." Then,
I said, doubtless I shall find one in some of Gilbert White's haunts;
but I did not. I spent two rainy days at Selborne; I passed many chilly
and cheerless hours loitering along those wet lanes and dells and
dripping hangers, wooing both my bird and the spirit of the gentle
parson, but apparently without getting very near to either. When I think
of the place now, I see its hurrying and anxious haymakers in the field
of mown grass, and hear the cry of a child that sat in the hay back of
the old church, and cried by the hour while its mother was busy with her
rake not far off. The rain had ceased, the hay had dried off a little,
and scores of men, women, and children, but mostly women, had flocked to
the fields to rake it up. The hay is got together inch by inch, and
every inch is fought for. They first rake it up into narrow swaths, each
person taking a strip about a yard wide. If they hold the ground thus
gained, when the hay dries an hour or two longer, they take another
hitch, and thus on till they get it into the cock or "carry" it from the
windrow. It is usually nearly worn out with handling before they get it
into the rick.

From Selborne I went to Alton, along a road that was one prolonged
rifle-pit, but smooth and hard as a rock; thence by train back to
London. To leave no ground for self-accusation in future, on the score
of not having made a thorough effort to hear my songster, I the next day
made a trip north toward Cambridge, leaving the train at Hitchin, a
large picturesque old town, and thought myself in just the right place
at last. I found a road between the station and the town proper called
Nightingale Lane, famous for its songsters. A man who kept a
thrifty-looking inn on the corner (where, by the way, I was again
refused both bed and board) said they sang night and morning in the
trees opposite. He had heard them the night before, but had not noticed
them that morning. He often sat at night with his friends, with open
windows, listening to the strain. He said he had tried several times to
hold his breath as long as the bird did in uttering certain notes, but
could not do it. This, I knew, was an exaggeration; but I waited eagerly
for nightfall, and, when it came, paced the street like a patrolman, and
paced other streets, and lingered about other likely localities, but
caught nothing but neuralgic pains in my shoulder. I had no better
success in the morning, and here gave over the pursuit, saying to
myself, It matters little, after all; I have seen the country and had
some object for a walk, and that is sufficient.

Altogether I heard the bird less than five minutes, and only a few bars
of its song, but enough to satisfy me of the surprising quality of the
strain.

It had the master tone as clearly as Tennyson or any great prima donna
or famous orator has it. Indeed, it was just the same. Here is the
complete artist, of whom all these other birds are but hints and
studies. Bright, startling, assured, of great compass and power, it
easily dominates all other notes; the harsher _chur-r-r-r-rg_ notes
serve as foil to her surpassing brilliancy. Wordsworth, among the poets,
has hit off the song nearest:--

     "Those notes of thine,--they pierce and pierce;
      Tumultuous harmony and fierce!"

I could easily understand that this bird might keep people awake at
night by singing near their houses, as I was assured it frequently does;
there is something in the strain so startling and awakening. Its start
is a vivid flash of sound. On the whole, a high-bred, courtly,
chivalrous song; a song for ladies to hear leaning from embowered
windows on moonlight nights; a song for royal parks and groves,--and
easeful but impassioned life. We have no bird-voice so piercing and
loud, with such flexibility and compass, such full-throated harmony and
long-drawn cadences; though we have songs of more melody, tenderness,
and plaintiveness. None but the nightingale could have inspired Keats's
ode,--that longing for self-forgetfulness and for the oblivion of the
world, to escape the fret and fever of life.

     "And with thee fade away into the forest dim."



V

ENGLISH AND AMERICAN SONG-BIRDS


The charm of the songs of birds, like that of a nation's popular airs
and hymns, is so little a question of intrinsic musical excellence, and
so largely a matter of association and suggestion, or of subjective
coloring and reminiscence, that it is perhaps entirely natural for every
people to think their own feathered songsters the best. What music would
there not be to the homesick American, in Europe, in the simple and
plaintive note of our bluebird, or the ditty of our song sparrow, or the
honest carol of our robin; and what, to the European traveler in this
country, in the burst of the blackcap, or the redbreast, or the whistle
of the merlin! The relative merit of bird-songs can hardly be settled
dogmatically; I suspect there is very little of what we call music, or
of what could be noted on the musical scale, in even the best of them;
they are parts of nature, and their power is in the degree in which they
speak to our experience.

When the Duke of Argyll, who is a lover of the birds and a good
ornithologist, was in this country, he got the impression that our
song-birds were inferior to the British, and he refers to others of his
countrymen as of like opinion. No wonder he thought our robin inferior
in power to the missel thrush, in variety to the mavis, and in melody to
the blackbird! Robin did not and could not sing to his ears the song he
sings to ours. Then it is very likely true that his grace did not hear
the robin in the most opportune moment and season, or when the contrast
of his song with the general silence and desolation of nature is the
most striking and impressive. The nightingale needs to be heard at
night, the lark at dawn rising to meet the sun; and robin, if you would
know the magic of his voice, should be heard in early spring, when, as
the sun is setting, he carols steadily for ten or fifteen minutes from
the top of some near tree. There is perhaps no other sound in nature;
patches of snow linger here and there; the trees are naked and the earth
is cold and dead, and this contented, hopeful, reassuring, and withal
musical strain, poured out so freely and deliberately, fills the void
with the very breath and presence of the spring. It is a simple strain,
well suited to the early season; there are no intricacies in it, but its
honest cheer and directness, with its slight plaintive tinge, like that
of the sun gilding the treetops, go straight to the heart. The compass
and variety of the robin's powers are not to be despised either. A
German who has great skill in the musical education of birds told me
what I was surprised to hear, namely, that our robin surpasses the
European blackbird in capabilities of voice.

The duke does not mention by name all the birds he heard while in this
country. He was evidently influenced in his opinion of them by the fact
that our common sandpiper appeared to be a silent bird, whereas its
British cousin, the sandpiper of the lakes and streams of the Scottish
Highlands, is very loquacious, and the "male bird has a continuous and
most lively song." Either the duke must have seen our bird in one of its
silent and meditative moods, or else, in the wilds of Canada where his
grace speaks of having seen it, the sandpiper is a more taciturn bird
than it is in the States. True, its call-notes are not incessant, and it
is not properly a song-bird any more than the British species is; but it
has a very pretty and pleasing note as it flits up and down our summer
streams, or runs along on their gray, pebbly, and bowlder-strewn
shallows. I often hear its calling and piping at night during its spring
migratings. Indeed, we have no silent bird that I am aware of, though
our pretty cedar-bird has, perhaps, the least voice of any. A lady
writes me that she has heard the hummingbird sing, and says she is not
to be put down, even if I were to prove by the anatomy of the bird's
vocal organs that a song was impossible to it.

Argyll says that, though he was in the woods and fields of Canada and of
the States in the richest moment of the spring, he heard little of that
burst of song which in England comes from the blackcap, and the garden
warbler, and the whitethroat, and the reed warbler, and the common
wren, and (locally) from the nightingale. There is no lack of a burst of
song in this country (except in the remote forest solitudes) during the
richest moment of the spring, say from the 1st to the 20th of May, and
at times till near midsummer; moreover, more bird-voices join in it, as
I shall point out, than in Britain; but it is probably more fitful and
intermittent, more confined to certain hours of the day, and probably
proceeds from throats less loud and vivacious than that with which our
distinguished critic was familiar. The ear hears best and easiest what
it has heard before. Properly to apprehend and appreciate bird-songs,
especially to disentangle them from the confused murmur of nature,
requires more or less familiarity with them. If the duke had passed a
season with us in some _one_ place in the country, in New York or New
England, he would probably have modified his views about the silence of
our birds.

One season, early in May, I discovered an English skylark in full song
above a broad, low meadow in the midst of a landscape that possessed
features attractive to a great variety of our birds. Every morning for
many days I used to go and sit on the brow of a low hill that commanded
the field, or else upon a gentle swell in the midst of the meadow
itself, and listen to catch the song of the lark. The maze and tangle of
bird-voices and bird-choruses through which my ear groped its way
searching for the new song can be imagined when I say that within
hearing there were from fifteen to twenty different kinds of songsters,
all more or less in full tune. If their notes and calls could have been
materialized and made as palpable to the eye as they were to the ear, I
think they would have veiled the landscape and darkened the day. There
were big songs and little songs,--songs from the trees, the bushes, the
ground, the air,--warbles, trills, chants, musical calls, and squeals,
etc. Near by in the foreground were the catbird and the brown thrasher,
the former in the bushes, the latter on the top of a hickory. These
birds are related to the mockingbird, and may be called performers;
their songs are a series of vocal feats, like the exhibition of an
acrobat; they throw musical somersaults, and turn and twist and contort
themselves in a very edifying manner, with now and then a ventriloquial
touch. The catbird is the more shrill, supple, and feminine; the
thrasher the louder, richer, and more audacious. The mate of the latter
had a nest, which I found in a field under the spreading ground-juniper.
From several points along the course of a bushy little creek there came
a song, or a melody of notes and calls, that also put me out,--the
tipsy, hodge-podge strain of the polyglot chat, a strong, olive-backed,
yellow-breasted, black-billed bird, with a voice like that of a jay or a
crow that had been to school to a robin or an oriole,--a performer sure
to arrest your ear and sure to elude your eye. There is no bird so
afraid of being seen, or fonder of being heard.

The golden voice of the wood thrush that came to me from the border of
the woods on my right was no hindrance to the ear, it was so serene,
liquid, and, as it were, transparent: the lark's song has nothing in
common with it. Neither were the songs of the many bobolinks in the
meadow at all confusing,--a brief tinkle of silver bells in the grass,
while I was listening for a sound more like the sharp and continuous hum
of silver wheels upon a pebbly beach. Certain notes of the
red-shouldered starlings in the alders and swamp maples near by, the
distant barbaric voice of the great crested flycatcher, the jingle of
the kingbird, the shrill, metallic song of the savanna sparrow, and the
piercing call of the meadowlark, all stood more or less in the way of
the strain I was listening for, because every one had a touch of that
burr or guttural hum of the lark's song. The ear had still other notes
to contend with, as the strong, bright warble of the tanager, the richer
and more melodious strain of the rose-breasted grosbeak, the distant,
brief, and emphatic song of the chewink, the child-like contented warble
of the red-eyed vireo, the animated strain of the goldfinch, the softly
ringing notes of the bush sparrow, the rapid, circling, vivacious strain
of the purple finch, the gentle lullaby of the song sparrow, the
pleasing "wichery," "wichery" of the yellow-throat, the clear whistle of
the oriole, the loud call of the high-hole, the squeak and chatter of
swallows, etc. But when the lark did rise in full song, it was easy to
hear him athwart all these various sounds, first, because of the sense
of altitude his strain had,--its skyward character,--and then because of
its loud, aspirated, penetrating, unceasing, jubilant quality. It cut
its way to the ear like something exceeding swift, sharp, and copious.
It overtook and outran every other sound; it had an undertone like the
humming of multitudinous wheels and spindles. Now and then some turn
would start and set off a new combination of shriller or of graver
notes, but all of the same precipitate, out-rushing and down-pouring
character; not, on the whole, a sweet or melodious song, but a strong
and blithe one.

The duke is abundantly justified in saying that we have no bird in this
country, at least east of the Mississippi, that can fill the place of
the skylark. Our high, wide, bright skies seem his proper field, too.
His song is a pure ecstasy, untouched by any plaintiveness, or pride, or
mere hilarity,--a well-spring of morning joy and blitheness set high
above the fields and downs. Its effect is well suggested in this stanza
of Wordsworth:--

     "Up with me! up with me into the clouds!
        For thy song, Lark, is strong;
      Up with me, up with me into the clouds!
        Singing, singing,
      With clouds and sky about thee ringing,
        Lift me, guide me till I find
      That spot which seems so to thy mind!"

But judging from Gilbert White's and Barrington's lists, I should say
that our bird-choir was a larger one, and embraced more good songsters,
than the British.

White names twenty-two species of birds that sing in England during the
spring and summer, including the swallow in the list. A list of the
spring and summer songsters in New York and New England, without naming
any that are characteristically wood-birds, like the hermit thrush and
veery, the two wagtails, the thirty or more warblers, and the solitary
vireo, or including any of the birds that have musical call-notes, and
by some are denominated songsters, as the bluebird, the sandpiper, the
swallow, the red-shouldered starling, the pewee, the high-hole, and
others, would embrace more names, though perhaps no songsters equal to
the lark and nightingale, to wit: the robin, the catbird, the Baltimore
oriole, the orchard oriole, the song sparrow, the wood sparrow, the
vesper sparrow, the social sparrow, the swamp sparrow, the purple finch,
the wood thrush, the scarlet tanager, the indigo-bird, the goldfinch,
the bobolink, the summer yellowbird, the meadowlark, the house wren, the
marsh wren, the brown thrasher, the chewink, the chat, the red-eyed
vireo, the white-eyed vireo, the Maryland yellow-throat, and the
rose-breasted grosbeak.

The British sparrows are for the most part songless. What a ditty is
that of our song sparrow, rising from the garden fence or the roadside
so early in March, so prophetic and touching, with endless variations
and pretty trilling effects; or the song of the vesper sparrow, full of
the repose and the wild sweetness of the fields; or the strain of the
little bush sparrow, suddenly projected upon the silence of the fields
or of the evening twilight, and delighting the ear as a beautiful scroll
delights the eye! The white-crowned, the white-throated, and the Canada
sparrows sing transiently spring and fall; and I have heard the fox
sparrow in April, when his song haunted my heart like some bright, sad,
delicious memory of youth,--the richest and most moving of all
sparrow-songs.

Our wren-music, too, is superior to anything of the kind in the Old
World, because we have a greater variety of wren-songsters. Our house
wren is inferior to the British house wren, but our marsh wren has a
lively song; while our winter wren, in sprightliness, mellowness,
plaintiveness, and execution, is surpassed by but few songsters in the
world. The summer haunts of this wren are our high, cool, northern
woods, where, for the most part, his music is lost on the primeval
solitude.

The British flycatcher, according to White, is a silent bird, while our
species, as the phœbe-bird, the wood pewee, the kingbird, the little
green flycatcher, and others, all have notes more or less lively and
musical. The great crested flycatcher has a harsh voice, but the
pathetic and silvery note of the wood pewee more than makes up for it.
White says the golden-crowned wren is not a song-bird in Great Britain.
The corresponding species here has a pleasing though not remarkable
song, which is seldom heard, however, except in its breeding haunts in
the north. But its congener, the ruby-crowned kinglet, has a rich,
delicious, and prolonged warble, which is noticeable in the Northern
States for a week or two in April or May, while the bird pauses to feed
on its way to its summer home.

There are no vireos in Europe, nor birds that answer to them. With us,
they contribute an important element to the music of our groves and
woods. There are few birds I should miss more than the red-eyed vireo,
with his cheerful musical soliloquy, all day and all summer, in the
maples and locusts. It is he, or rather she, that builds the exquisite
basket nest on the ends of the low, leafy branches, suspending it
between two twigs. The warbling vireo has a stronger, louder strain,
more continuous, but not quite so sweet. The solitary vireo is heard
only in the deep woods, while the white-eyed is still more local or
restricted in its range, being found only in wet, bushy places, whence
its vehement, varied, and brilliant song is sure to catch the dullest
ear.

The goldfinches of the two countries, though differing in plumage, are
perhaps pretty evenly matched in song; while our purple finch, or
linnet, I am persuaded, ranks far above the English linnet, or lintie,
as the Scotch call it. In compass, in melody, in sprightliness, it is a
remarkable songster. Indeed, take the finches as a family, they
certainly furnish more good songsters in this country than in Great
Britain. They furnish the staple of our bird-melody, including in the
family the tanager and the grosbeaks, while in Europe the warblers
lead. White names seven finches in his list, and Barrington includes
eight, none of them very noted songsters, except the linnet. Our list
would include the sparrows above named, and the indigo-bird, the
goldfinch, the purple finch, the scarlet tanager, the rose-breasted
grosbeak, the blue grosbeak, and the cardinal bird. Of these birds, all
except the fox sparrow and the blue grosbeak are familiar summer
songsters throughout the Middle and Eastern States. The indigo-bird is a
midsummer and an all-summer songster of great brilliancy. So is the
tanager. I judge there is no European thrush that, in the pure charm of
melody and hymn-like serenity and spirituality, equals our wood and
hermit thrushes, as there is no bird there that, in simple lingual
excellence, approaches our bobolink.

The European cuckoo makes more music than ours, and their robin
redbreast is a better singer than the allied species, to wit, the
bluebird, with us. But it is mainly in the larks and warblers that the
European birds are richer in songsters than are ours. We have an army of
small wood-warblers,--no less than forty species,--but most of them have
faint chattering or lisping songs that escape all but the most attentive
ear, and then they spend the summer far to the north. Our two wagtails
are our most brilliant warblers, if we except the kinglets, which are
Northern birds in summer, and the Kentucky warbler, which is a Southern
bird; but they probably do not match the English blackcap, or
whitethroat, or garden warbler, to say nothing of the nightingale,
though Audubon thought our large-billed water-thrush, or wagtail,
equaled that famous bird. It is certainly a brilliant songster, but most
provokingly brief; the ear is arrested by a sudden joyous burst of
melody proceeding from the dim aisles along which some wild brook has
its way, but just as you say "Listen!" it ceases. I hear and see the
bird every season along a rocky stream that flows through a deep chasm
amid a wood of hemlock and pine. As I sit at the foot of some cascade,
or on the brink of some little dark eddying pool above it, this bird
darts by me, up or down the stream, or alights near me, upon a rock or
stone at the edge of the water. Its speckled breast, its dark
olive-colored back, its teetering, mincing gait, like that of a
sandpiper, and its sharp _chit_, like the click of two pebbles under
water, are characteristic features. Then its quick, ringing song, which
you are sure presently to hear, suggests something so bright and silvery
that it seems almost to light up, for a brief moment, the dim retreat.
If this strain were only sustained and prolonged like the nightingale's,
there would be good grounds for Audubon's comparison. Its cousin, the
wood wagtail, or golden-crowned thrush of the older ornithologists, and
golden-crowned accentor of the later,--a common bird in all our
woods,--has a similar strain, which it delivers as it were
surreptitiously, and in the most precipitate manner, while on the wing,
high above the treetops. It is a kind of wood-lark, practicing and
rehearsing on the sly. When the modest songster is ready to come out
and give all a chance to hear his full and completed strain, the
European wood-lark will need to look to his laurels. These two birds are
our best warblers, and yet they are probably seldom heard, except by
persons who know and admire them. If the two kinglets could also be
included in our common New England summer residents, our warbler music
would only pale before the song of Philomela herself. The English
redstart evidently surpasses ours as a songster, and we have no bird to
match the English wood-lark above referred to, which is said to be but
little inferior to the skylark; but, on the other hand, besides the
sparrows and vireos, already mentioned, they have no songsters to match
our oriole, our orchard starling, our catbird, our brown thrasher
(second only to the mockingbird), our chewink, our snowbird, our
cow-bunting, our bobolink, and our yellow-breasted chat. As regards the
swallows of the two countries, the advantage is rather on the side of
the American. Our chimney swallow, with his incessant, silvery, rattling
chipper, evidently makes more music than the corresponding house swallow
of Europe; while our purple martin is not represented in the Old World
avifauna at all. And yet it is probably true that a dweller in England
hears more bird-music throughout the year than a dweller in this
country, and that which, in some respects, is of a superior order.

In the first place, there is not so much of it lost "upon the desert
air," upon the wild, unlistening solitudes. The English birds are more
domestic and familiar than ours; more directly and intimately
associated with man; not, as a class, so withdrawn and lost in the great
void of the wild and the unreclaimed. England is like a continent
concentrated,--all the waste land, the barren stretches, the
wildernesses, left out. The birds are brought near together and near to
man. Wood-birds here are house and garden birds there. They find good
pasturage and protection everywhere. A land of parks, and gardens, and
hedge-rows, and game preserves, and a climate free from violent
extremes,--what a stage for the birds, and for enhancing the effect of
their songs! How prolific they are, how abundant! If our songsters were
hunted and trapped by bird-fanciers and others, as the lark, and
goldfinch, and mavis, etc., are in England, the race would soon become
extinct. Then, as a rule, it is probably true that the British birds as
a class have more voice than ours have, or certain qualities that make
their songs more striking and conspicuous, such as greater vivacity and
strength. They are less bright in plumage, but more animated in voice.
They are not so recently out of the woods, and their strains have not
that elusiveness and plaintiveness that ours have. They sing with more
confidence and copiousness, and as if they, too, had been touched by
civilization.

Then they sing more hours in the day, and more days in the year. This is
owing to the milder and more equable climate. I heard the skylark
singing above the South Downs in October, apparently with full spring
fervor and delight. The wren, the robin, and the wood-lark sing
throughout the winter, and in midsummer there are perhaps more vocal
throats than here. The heat and blaze of our midsummer sun silence most
of our birds.

There are but four songsters that I hear with any regularity after the
meridian of summer is past, namely, the indigo-bird, the wood or bush
sparrow, the scarlet tanager, and the red-eyed vireo, while White names
eight or nine August songsters, though he speak of the yellow-hammer
only as persistent. His dictum, that birds sing as long as nidification
goes on, is as true here as in England. Hence our wood thrush will
continue in song over into August if, as frequently happens, its June
nest has been broken up by the crows or squirrels.

The British songsters are more vocal at night than ours. White says the
grasshopper lark chirps all night in the height of summer. The
sedge-bird also sings the greater part of the night. A stone thrown into
the bushes where it is roosting, after it has become silent, will set it
going again. Other British birds, besides the nightingale, sing more or
less at night.

In this country the mockingbird is the only regular night-singer we
have. Other songsters break out occasionally in the middle of the night,
but so briefly that it gives one the impression that they sing in their
sleep. Thus I have heard the hair-bird, or chippie, the kingbird, the
oven-bird, and the cuckoo fitfully in the dead of the night, like a
schoolboy laughing in his dreams.

On the other hand, there are certain aspects in which our songsters
appear to advantage. That they surpass the European species in
sweetness, tenderness, and melody I have no doubt; and that our
mockingbird, in his native haunts in the South, surpasses any bird in
the world in fluency, variety, and execution is highly probable. That
the total effect of his strain may be less winning and persuasive than
the nocturne of the nightingale is the only question in my mind about
the relative merits of the two songsters. Bring our birds together as
they are brought together in England, let all our shy wood-birds--like
the hermit thrush, the veery, the winter wren, the wood wagtail, the
water wagtail, the many warblers, the several vireos--become birds of
the groves and orchards, and there would be a burst of song indeed.

Bates, the naturalist of the Amazon, speaks of a little thrush he used
to hear in his rambles that showed the American quality to which I have
referred. "It is a much smaller and plainer-colored bird," he says,
"than our [the English] thrush, and its song is not so loud, varied, or
so long sustained; here the tone is of a sweet and plaintive quality,
which harmonizes well with the wild and silent woodlands, where alone it
is heard in the mornings and evenings of sultry, tropical days."

I append parallel lists of the better-known American and English
song-birds, marking in each with an asterisk, those that are probably
the better songsters; followed by a list of other American songsters,
some of which are not represented in the British avifauna:--

     _Old England._             _New England._
     *Wood-lark.                Meadowlark.
     Song-thrush.               *Wood thrush.
     *Jenny Wren.               House wren.
     Willow wren.               *Winter wren.
     *Redbreast.                Bluebird.
     *Redstart.                 Redstart.
     Hedge-sparrow.             *Song sparrow.
     Yellow-hammer.             *Fox sparrow.
     *Skylark.                  Bobolink.
     Swallow.                   Swallow.
     *Blackcap.                 Wood wagtail.
     Titlark.                   Titlark (spring and fall).
     *Blackbird.                Robin.
     Whitethroat.               *Maryland yellow-throat.
     Goldfinch.                 Goldfinch.
     Greenfinch.                *Wood sparrow.
     Reed-sparrow.              *Vesper sparrow.
     Linnet.                    *Purple finch.
     *Chaffinch.                Indigo-bird.
     *Nightingale.              Water wagtail.
     Missel thrush.             *Hermit thrush.
     Great titmouse.            Savanna sparrow.
     Bullfinch.                 Chickadee.

New England song-birds not included in the above are:--

     Red-eyed vireo.
     White-eyed vireo.
     Brotherly love vireo.
     Solitary vireo.
     Yellow-throated vireo.
     Scarlet tanager.
     Baltimore oriole.
     Orchard oriole.
     Catbird.
     Brown thrasher.
     Chewink.
     Rose-breasted grosbeak.
     Purple martin.
     Mockingbird (occasionally).

Besides these, a dozen or more species of the Mniotiltidæ, or
wood-warblers, might be named, some of which, like the black-throated
green warbler, the speckled Canada warbler, the hooded warbler, the
mourning ground-warbler, and the yellow warbler, are fine songsters.



VI

IMPRESSIONS OF SOME ENGLISH BIRDS


The foregoing chapter was written previous to my last visit to England,
and when my knowledge of the British song-birds was mainly from report,
and not from personal observation. I had heard the skylark, and briefly
the robin, and snatches of a few other bird strains, while in that
country in the autumn of 1871; but of the full spring and summer chorus,
and the merits of the individual songsters, I knew little except through
such writers as White, Broderip, and Barrington. Hence, when I found
myself upon British soil once more, and the birds in the height of their
May jubilee, I improved my opportunities, and had very soon traced every
note home. It is not a long and difficult lesson; there is not a great
variety of birds, and they do not hide in woods and remote corners. You
find them nearly all wherever your walk leads you. And how they do sing!
how loud and piercing their notes are! Not a little of the pleasure I
felt arose from the fact that the birds sang much as I expected them to,
much as they ought to have sung according to my previous views of their
merits and qualities, when contrasted with our own songsters.

I shall not soon forget how my ears were beset that bright May morning,
two days after my arrival at Glasgow, when I walked from Ayr to Alloway,
a course of three miles in one of the most charming and fertile rural
districts in Scotland. It was as warm as mid-June, and the country had
the most leafy and luxuriant June aspect. Above a broad stretch of
undulating meadow-land on my right the larks were in full song. These I
knew; these I welcomed. What a sound up there, as if the sunshine were
vocal! A little farther along, in a clover field, I heard my first
corn-crake. "Crex, crex, crex," came the harsh note out of the grass,
like the rasping sound of some large insect, and I knew the bird at
once. But when I came to a beautiful grove or wood, jealously guarded by
a wall twelve feet high (some fine house concealed back there, I saw by
the entrance), what a throng of strange songs and calls beset my ears!
The concert was at its height. The wood fairly rang and reverberated
with bird-voices. How loud, how vivacious, almost clamorous, they
sounded to me! I paused in delightful bewilderment.

Two or three species of birds, as I afterwards found, were probably
making all the music I heard, and of these, one species was contributing
at least two thirds of it. At Alloway I tarried nearly a week, putting
up at a neat little inn

     "Where Doon rins, wimplin', clear,"

and I was not long in analyzing this spirited bird-choir, and tracing
each note home to its proper source. It was, indeed, a burst of song,
as the Duke of Argyll had said, but the principal singer his grace does
not mention. Indeed, nothing I had read, or could find in the few
popular treatises on British ornithology I carried about with me, had
given me any inkling of which was the most abundant and vociferous
English song-bird, any more than what I had read or heard had given me
any idea of which was the most striking and conspicuous wild flower, or
which the most universal weed. Now the most abundant song-bird in
Britain is the chaffinch, the most conspicuous wild flower (at least in
those parts of the country I saw) is the foxglove, and the most
ubiquitous weed is the nettle. Throughout the month of May, and probably
during all the spring months, the chaffinch makes two thirds of the
music that ordinarily greets the ear as one walks or drives about the
country. In both England and Scotland, in my walks up to the time of my
departure, the last of July, I seemed to see three chaffinches to one of
any other species of bird. It is a permanent resident in this island,
and in winter appears in immense flocks. The male is the prettiest of
British song-birds, with its soft blue-gray back, barred wings, and pink
breast and sides. The Scotch call it shilfa. At Alloway there was a
shilfa for every tree, and its hurried and incessant notes met and
intersected each other from all directions every moment of the day, like
wavelets on a summer pool. So many birds, and each one so persistent and
vociferous, accounts for their part in the choir. The song is as loud
as that of our orchard starling, and is even more animated. It begins
with a rapid, wren-like trill, which quickly becomes a sharp jingle,
then slides into a warble, and ends with an abrupt flourish. I have
never heard a song that began so liltingly end with such a quick, abrupt
emphasis. The last note often sounds like "whittier," uttered with great
sharpness; but one that used to sing in an apple-tree over my head, day
after day there by the Doon, finished its strain each time with the
sharp ejaculation, "Sister, right here." Afterwards, whenever I met a
shilfa, I could hear in its concluding note this pointed and almost
impatient exclamation of "Sister, right here." The song, on the whole,
is a pleasing one, and very characteristic; so rapid, incessant, and
loud. The bird seemed to be held in much less esteem in Britain than on
the Continent, where it is much sought after as a caged bird. In
Germany, in the forest of Thuringia, the bird is in such quest that
scarcely can one be heard. A common workman has been known to give his
cow for a favorite songster. The chaffinch has far less melody and charm
of song than some of our finches, notably our purple finch; but it is so
abundant and so persistent in song that in quantity of music it far
excels any singer we have.

Next to the chaffinch in the volume of its song, and perhaps in some
localities surpassing it, is the song-thrush. I did not find this bird
upon the Doon, and but rarely in other places in Scotland, but in the
south of England it leads the choir. Its voice can be heard above all
others. But one would never suspect it to be a thrush. It has none of
the flute-like melody and serene, devotional quality of our thrush
strains. It is a shrill whistling polyglot. Its song is much after the
manner of that of our brown thrasher, made up of vocal attitudes and
poses. It is easy to translate its strain into various words or short
ejaculatory sentences. It sings till the darkness begins to deepen, and
I could fancy what the young couple walking in the gloaming would hear
from the trees overhead. "Kiss her, kiss her; do it, do it; be quick, be
quick; stick her to it, stick her to it; that was neat, that was neat;
that will do," with many other calls not so explicit, and that might
sometimes be construed as approving nods or winks. Sometimes it has a
staccato whistle. Its performance is always animated, loud, and clear,
but never, to my ear, melodious, as the poets so often have it. Even
Burns says,--

     "The mavis mild and mellow."

Drayton hits it when he says,--

     "The throstle with shrill sharps," etc.

Ben Jonson's "lusty throstle" is still better. It is a song of great
strength and unbounded good cheer; it proceeds from a sound heart and a
merry throat. There is no touch of plaintiveness or melancholy in it; it
is as expressive of health and good digestion as the crowing of the cock
in the morning. When I was hunting for the nightingale, the thrush
frequently made such a din just at dusk as to be a great annoyance. At
Kew, where I passed a few weeks, its shrill pipe usually woke me in the
morning.

A thrush of a much mellower strain is the blackbird, which is our robin
cut in ebony. His golden bill gives a golden touch to his song. It was
the most leisurely strain I heard. Amid the loud, vivacious, workaday
chorus, it had an easeful, _dolce far niente_ effect. I place the song
before that of our robin, where it belongs in quality, but it falls
short in some other respects. It constantly seemed to me as if the bird
was a learner and had not yet mastered his art. The tone is fine, but
the execution is labored; the musician does not handle his instrument
with deftness and confidence. It seems as if the bird were trying to
whistle some simple air, and never quite succeeding. Parts of the song
are languid and feeble, and the whole strain is wanting in the decision
and easy fulfillment of our robin's song. The bird is noisy and tuneful
in the twilight like his American congener.

Such British writers on birds and bird life as I have been able to
consult do not, it seems to me, properly discriminate and appreciate the
qualities and merits of their own songsters. The most melodious strain I
heard, and the only one that exhibited to the full the best qualities of
the American songsters, proceeded from a bird quite unknown to fame, in
the British Islands at least. I refer to the willow warbler, or willow
wren, as it is also called,--a little brown bird, that builds a
dome-shaped nest upon the ground and lines it with feathers. White says
it has a "sweet, plaintive note," which is but half the truth. It has a
long, tender, delicious warble, not wanting in strength and volume, but
eminently pure and sweet,--the song of the chaffinch refined and
idealized. The famous blackcap, which I heard in the south of England
and again in France, falls far short of it in these respects, and only
surpasses it in strength and brilliancy. The song is, perhaps, in the
minor key, feminine and not masculine, but it touches the heart.

     "That strain again; it had a dying fall."

The song of the willow warbler has a dying fall; no other bird-song is
so touching in this respect. It mounts up round and full, then runs down
the scale, and expires upon the air in a gentle murmur. I heard the bird
everywhere; next to the chaffinch, its voice greeted my ear oftenest;
yet many country people of whom I inquired did not know the bird, or
confounded it with some other. It is too fine a song for the ordinary
English ear; there is not noise enough in it. The whitethroat is much
more famous; it has a louder, coarser voice; it sings with great
emphasis and assurance, and is a much better John Bull than the little
willow warbler.

I could well understand, after being in England a few days, why, to
English travelers, our songsters seem inferior to their own. They are
much less loud and vociferous, less abundant and familiar; one needs to
woo them more; they are less recently out of the wilderness; their songs
have the delicacy and wildness of most woodsy forms, and are as
plaintive as the whistle of the wind. They are not so happy a race as
the English songsters, as if life had more trials for them, as doubtless
it has in their enforced migrations and in the severer climate with
which they have to contend.

When one hears the European cuckoo he regrets that he has ever heard a
cuckoo clock. The clock has stolen the bird's thunder; and when you hear
the rightful owner, the note has a second-hand, artificial sound. It is
only another cuckoo clock off there on the hill or in the grove. Yet it
is a cheerful call, with none of the solitary and monkish character of
our cuckoo's note; and, as it comes early in spring, I can see how much
it must mean to native ears.

I found that the only British song-bird I had done injustice to in my
previous estimate was the wren. It is far superior to our house wren. It
approaches very nearly our winter wren, if it does not equal it. Without
hearing the two birds together, it would be impossible to decide which
was the better songster. Its strain has the same gushing, lyrical
character, and the shape, color, and manner of the two birds are nearly
identical. It is very common, sings everywhere, and therefore
contributes much more to the general entertainment than does our bird.
Barrington marks the wren far too low in his table of the comparative
merit of British song-birds; he denies it mellowness and plaintiveness,
and makes it high only in sprightliness, a fact that discredits his
whole table. He makes the thrush and blackbird equal in the two
qualities first named, which is equally wide of the mark.

The English robin is a better songster than I expected to find him. The
poets and writers have not done him justice. He is of the royal line of
the nightingale, and inherits some of the qualities of that famous bird.
His favorite hour for singing is the gloaming, and I used to hear him
the last of all. His song is peculiar, jerky, and spasmodic, but abounds
in the purest and most piercing tones to be heard,--piercing from their
smoothness, intensity, and fullness of articulation; rapid and crowded
at one moment, as if some barrier had suddenly given way, then as
suddenly pausing, and scintillating at intervals, bright, tapering
shafts of sound. It stops and hesitates, and blurts out its notes like a
stammerer; but when they do come they are marvelously clear and pure. I
have heard green hickory branches thrown into a fierce blaze jet out the
same fine, intense, musical sounds on the escape of the imprisoned
vapors in the hard wood as characterize the robin's song.

One misses along English fields and highways the tender music furnished
at home by our sparrows, and in the woods and groves the plaintive cries
of our pewees and the cheerful soliloquy of our red-eyed vireo. The
English sparrows and buntings are harsh-voiced, and their songs, when
they have songs, are crude. The yellow-hammer comes nearest to our
typical sparrow, it is very common, and is a persistent songster, but
the song is slight, like that of our savanna sparrow--scarcely more than
the chirping of a grasshopper. In form and color it is much like our
vesper sparrow, except that the head of the male has a light yellow
tinge.

The greenfinch or green linnet is an abundant bird everywhere, but its
song is less pleasing than that of several of our finches. The goldfinch
is very rare, mainly, perhaps, because it is so persistently trapped by
bird-fanciers; its song is a series of twitters and chirps, less musical
to my ear than that of our goldfinch, especially when a flock of the
latter are congregated in a tree and inflating their throats in rivalry.
Their golden-crowned kinglet has a fine thread-like song, far less than
that of our kinglet, less even than that of our black and white creeper.
The nuthatch has not the soft, clear call of ours, and the various
woodpeckers figure much less; there is less wood to peck, and they seem
a more shy and silent race. I saw but one in all my walks, and that was
near Wolmer Forest. I looked in vain for the wood-lark; the country
people confound it with the pipit. The blackcap warbler I found to be a
rare and much overpraised bird. The nightingale is very restricted in
its range, and is nearly silent by the middle of June. I made a
desperate attempt to find it in full song after the seventeenth of the
month, as I have described in a previous chapter, but failed. And the
garden warbler is by no means found in every garden; probably I did not
hear it more than twice.

The common sandpiper, I should say, was more loquacious and musical than
ours. I heard it on the Highland lakes, when its happy notes did indeed
almost run into a song, so continuous and bright and joyful were they.

One of the first birds I saw, and one of the most puzzling, was the
lapwing or pewit. I observed it from the car window, on my way down to
Ayr, a large, broad-winged, awkward sort of bird, like a cross between a
hawk and an owl, swooping and gamboling in the air as the train darted
past. It is very abundant in Scotland, especially on the moors and near
the coast. In the Highlands I saw them from the top of the stage-coach,
running about the fields with their young. The most graceful and
pleasing of birds upon the ground, about the size of the pigeon, now
running nimbly along, now pausing to regard you intently, crested,
ringed, white-bellied, glossy green-backed, with every movement like
visible music. But the moment it launches into the air its beauty is
gone; the wings look round and clumsy, like a mittened hand, the tail
very short, the head and neck drawn back, with nothing in the form or
movement that suggests the plover kind. It gambols and disports itself
like a great bat, which its outlines suggest. On the moors I also saw
the curlew, and shall never forget its wild, musical call.

Nearly all the British bird-voices have more of a burr in them than ours
have. Can it be that, like the people, they speak more from the throat?
It is especially noticeable in the crow tribe,--in the rook, the jay,
the jackdaw. The rook has a hoarse, thick caw,--not so clearly and
roundly uttered as that of our crow. The swift has a wheezy, catarrhal
squeak, in marked contrast to the cheery chipper of our swift. In Europe
the chimney swallow builds in barns, and the barn swallow builds in
chimneys. The barn swallow, as we would call it,--chimney swallow, as it
is called there,--is much the same in voice, color, form, flight, etc.,
as our bird, while the swift is much larger than our chimney swallow and
has a forked tail. The martlet, answering to our cliff swallow, is not
so strong and ruddy looking a bird as our species, but it builds much
the same, and has a similar note. It is more plentiful than our swallow.
I was soon struck with the fact that in the main the British song-birds
lead up to and culminate in two species, namely, in the lark and the
nightingale. In these two birds all that is characteristic in the other
songsters is gathered up and carried to perfection. They crown the
series. Nearly all the finches and pipits seem like rude studies and
sketches of the skylark, and nearly all the warblers and thrushes point
to the nightingale; their powers have fully blossomed in her. There is
nothing in the lark's song, in the quality or in the manner of it, that
is not sketched or suggested in some voice lower in the choir, and the
tone and compass of the warblers mount in regular gradation from the
clinking note of the chiffchaff up to the nightingale. Several of the
warblers sing at night, and several of the constituents of the lark sing
on the wing. On the lark's side, the birds are remarkable for gladness
and ecstacy, and are more creatures of the light and of the open spaces;
on the side of the nightingale there is more pure melody, and more a
love for the twilight and the privacy of arboreal life. Both the famous
songsters are representative as to color, exhibiting the prevailing gray
and dark tints. A large number of birds, I noticed, had the two white
quills in the tail characteristic of the lark.

I found that I had overestimated the bird-music to be heard in England
in midsummer. It appeared to be much less than our own. The last two or
three weeks of July were very silent: the only bird I was sure of
hearing in my walks was the yellow-hammer; while, on returning home
early in August, the birds made such music about my house that they woke
me up in the morning. The song sparrow and bush sparrow were noticeable
till in September, and the red-eyed vireo and warbling vireo were heard
daily till in October.

On the whole, I may add that I did not anywhere in England hear so fine
a burst of bird-song as I have heard at home, and I listened long for it
and attentively. Not so fine in quality, though perhaps greater in
quantity. It sometimes happens that several species of our best
songsters pass the season in the same locality, some favorite spot in
the woods, or at the head of a sheltered valley, that possesses
attraction for many kinds. I found such a place one summer by a small
mountain lake, in the southern Catskills, just over the farm borders, in
the edge of the primitive forest. The lake was surrounded by an
amphitheatre of wooded steeps, except a short space on one side where
there was an old abandoned clearing, grown up to saplings and brush.
Birds love to be near water, and I think they like a good auditorium,
love an open space like that of a small lake in the woods, where their
voices can have room and their songs reverberate. Certain it is they
liked this place, and early in the morning especially, say from half
past three to half past four, there was such a burst of melody as I had
never before heard. The most prominent voices were those of the wood
thrush, veery thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak, winter wren, and one of
the vireos, and occasionally at evening that of the hermit, though far
off in the dusky background,--birds all notable for their pure melody,
except that of the vireo, which was cheery, rather than melodious. A
singular song that of this particular vireo,--"_Cheery, cheery, cheery
drunk! Cheery drunk!_"--all day long in the trees above our tent. The
wood thrush was the most abundant, and the purity and eloquence of its
strain, or of their mingled strains, heard in the cool dewy morning from
across that translucent sheet of water, was indeed memorable. Its liquid
and serene melody was in such perfect keeping with the scene. The eye
and the ear both reported the same beauty and harmony. Then the clear,
rich fife of the grosbeak from the tops of the tallest trees, the simple
flute-like note of the veery, and the sweetly ringing, wildly lyrical
outburst of the winter wren, sometimes from the roof of our
butternut-colored tent--all joining with it--formed one of the most
noteworthy bits of a bird symphony it has ever been my good luck to
hear. Often at sundown, too, while we sat idly in our boat, watching the
trout break the glassy surface here and there, the same soothing melody
would be poured out all around us, and kept up till darkness filled the
woods. The last note would be that of the wood thrush, calling out
"_quit_," "_quit_." Across there in a particular point, I used at night
to hear another thrush, the olive-backed, the song a slight variation of
the veery's. I did hear in England in the twilight the robin, blackbird,
and song-thrush unite their voices, producing a loud, pleasing chorus;
add the nightingale and you have great volume and power, but still the
pure melody of my songsters by the lake is probably not reached.



VII

IN WORDSWORTH'S COUNTRY


No other English poet had touched me quite so closely as Wordsworth. All
cultivated men delight in Shakespeare; he is the universal genius; but
Wordsworth's poetry has more the character of a message, and a message
special and personal, to a comparatively small circle of readers. He
stands for a particular phase of human thought and experience, and his
service to certain minds is like an initiation into a new order of
truths. Note what a revelation he was to the logical mind of John Stuart
Mill. His limitations make him all the more private and precious, like
the seclusion of one of his mountain dales. He is not and can never be
the world's poet, but more especially the poet of those who love
solitude and solitary communion with nature. Shakespeare's attitude
toward nature is for the most part like that of a gay, careless reveler,
who leaves his companions for a moment to pluck a flower or gather a
shell here and there, as they stroll

     "By paved fountain, or by rushy brook,
      Or on the beachéd margent of the sea."

He is, of course, preëminent in all purely poetic achievements, but his
poems can never minister to the spirit in the way Wordsworth's do.

One can hardly appreciate the extent to which the latter poet has
absorbed and reproduced the spirit of the Westmoreland scenery until he
has visited that region. I paused there a few days in early June, on my
way south, and again on my return late in July. I walked up from
Windermere to Grasmere, where, on the second visit, I took up my abode
at the historic Swan Inn, where Scott used to go surreptitiously to get
his mug of beer when he was stopping with Wordsworth.

The call of the cuckoo came to me from over Rydal Water as I passed
along. I plucked my first foxglove by the roadside; paused and listened
to the voice of the mountain torrent; heard

     "The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;"

caught many a glimpse of green, unpeopled hills, urn-shaped dells,
treeless heights, rocky promontories, secluded valleys, and clear,
swift-running streams. The scenery was sombre; there were but two
colors, green and brown, verging on black; wherever the rock cropped out
of the green turf on the mountain-sides, or in the vale, it showed a
dark face. But the tenderness and freshness of the green tints were
something to remember,--the hue of the first springing April grass,
massed and widespread in midsummer.

Then there was a quiet splendor, almost grandeur, about Grasmere vale,
such as I had not seen elsewhere,--a kind of monumental beauty and
dignity that agreed well with one's conception of the loftier strains of
its poet. It is not too much dominated by the mountains, though shut in
on all sides by them; that stately level floor of the valley keeps them
back and defines them, and they rise from its outer margin like rugged,
green-tufted, and green-draped walls.

It is doubtless this feature, as De Quincey says, this floor-like
character of the valley, that makes the scenery of Grasmere more
impressive than the scenery in North Wales, where the physiognomy of the
mountains is essentially the same, but where the valleys are more
bowl-shaped. Amid so much that is steep and rugged and broken, the eye
delights in the repose and equilibrium of horizontal lines,--a bit of
table-land, the surface of the lake, or the level of the valley bottom.
The principal valleys of our own Catskill region all have this stately
floor, so characteristic of Wordsworth's country. It was a pleasure
which I daily indulged in to stand on the bridge by Grasmere Church,
with that full, limpid stream before me, pausing and deepening under the
stone embankment near where the dust of the poet lies, and let the eye
sweep across the plain to the foot of the near mountains, or dwell upon
their encircling summits above the tops of the trees and the roofs of
the village. The water-ouzel loved to linger there, too, and would sit
in contemplative mood on the stones around which the water loitered and
murmured, its clear white breast alone defining it from the object upon
which it rested. Then it would trip along the margin of the pool, or
flit a few feet over its surface, and suddenly, as if it had burst like
a bubble, vanish before my eyes; there would be a little splash of the
water beneath where I saw it, as if the drop of which it was composed
had reunited with the surface there. Then, in a moment or two, it would
emerge from the water and take up its stand as dry and unruffled as
ever. It was always amusing to see this plump little bird, so unlike a
water-fowl in shape and manner, disappear in the stream. It did not seem
to dive, but simply dropped into the water, as if its wings had suddenly
failed it. Sometimes it fairly tumbled in from its perch. It was gone
from sight in a twinkling, and, while you were wondering how it could
accomplish the feat of walking on the bottom of the stream under there,
it reappeared as unconcerned as possible. It is a song-bird, a thrush,
and gives a feature to these mountain streams and waterfalls which ours,
except on the Pacific coast, entirely lack. The stream that winds
through Grasmere vale, and flows against the embankment of the
churchyard, as the Avon at Stratford, is of great beauty,--clean,
bright, full, trouty, with just a tinge of gypsy blood in its veins,
which it gets from the black tarns on the mountains, and which adds to
its richness of color. I saw an angler take a few trout from it, in a
meadow near the village. After a heavy rain the stream was not roily,
but slightly darker in hue; these fields and mountains are so turf-bound
that no particle of soil is carried away by the water.

Falls and cascades are a great feature all through this country, as they
are a marked feature in Wordsworth's poetry. One's ear is everywhere
haunted by the sound of falling water; and, when the ear cannot hear
them, the eye can see the streaks or patches of white foam down the
green declivities. There are no trees above the valley bottom to
obstruct the view, and no hum of woods to muffle the sounds of distant
streams. When I was at Grasmere there was much rain, and this stanza of
the poet came to mind:--

     "Loud is the Vale! The voice is up
      With which she speaks when storms are gone,
      A mighty unison of streams!
      Of all her voices, one!"

The words "vale" and "dell" come to have a new meaning after one has
visited Wordsworth's country, just as the words "cottage" and "shepherd"
also have so much more significance there and in Scotland than at home.

     "Dear child of Nature, let them rail!
      --There is a nest in a green dale,
        A harbor and a hold,
      Where thou, a wife and friend, shalt see
      Thy own delightful days, and be
        A light to young and old."

Every humble dwelling looks like a nest; that in which the poet himself
lived had a cozy, nest-like look; and every vale is green,--a cradle
amid rocky heights, padded and carpeted with the thickest turf.

Wordsworth is described as the poet of nature. He is more the poet of
man, deeply wrought upon by a certain phase of nature,--the nature of
those sombre, quiet, green, far-reaching mountain solitudes. There is a
shepherd quality about him; he loves the flocks, the heights, the tarn,
the tender herbage, the sheltered dell, the fold, with a kind of
poetized shepherd instinct. Lambs and sheep and their haunts, and those
who tend them, recur perpetually in his poems. How well his verse
harmonizes with those high, green, and gray solitudes, where the silence
is broken only by the bleat of lambs or sheep, or just stirred by the
voice of distant waterfalls! Simple, elemental yet profoundly tender and
human, he had

             "The primal sympathy
     Which, having been, must ever be."

He brooded upon nature, but it was nature mirrored in his own heart. In
his poem of "The Brothers" he says of his hero, who had gone to sea:--

               "He had been rear'd
     Among the mountains, and he in his heart
     Was half a shepherd on the stormy seas.
     Oft in the piping shrouds had Leonard heard
     The tones of waterfalls, and inland sounds
     Of caves and trees;"

and, leaning over the vessel's side and gazing into the "broad green
wave and sparkling foam," he

     "Saw mountains,--saw the forms of sheep that grazed
      On verdant hills."

This was what his own heart told him; every experience or sentiment
called those beloved images to his own mind.

One afternoon, when the sun seemed likely to get the better of the soft
rain-clouds, I set out to climb to the top of Helvellyn. I followed the
highway a mile or more beyond the Swan Inn, and then I committed myself
to a footpath that turns up the mountain-side to the right, and crosses
into Grisedale and so to Ulleswater. Two schoolgirls whom I overtook put
me on the right track. The voice of a foaming mountain torrent was in my
ears a long distance, and now and then the path crossed it. Fairfield
Mountain was on my right hand, Helm Crag and Dunmail Raise on my left.
Grasmere plain soon lay far below. The haymakers, encouraged by a gleam
of sunshine, were hastily raking together the rain-blackened hay. From
my outlook they appeared to be slowly and laboriously rolling up a great
sheet of dark brown paper, uncovering beneath it one of the most fresh
and vivid green. The mown grass is so long in curing in this country
(frequently two weeks) that the new blades spring beneath it, and a
second crop is well under way before the old is "carried." The long
mountain slopes up which I was making my way were as verdant as the
plain below me. Large coarse ferns or bracken, with an under-lining of
fine grass, covered the ground on the lower portions. On the higher,
grass alone prevailed. On the top of the divide, looking down into the
valley of Ulleswater, I came upon one of those black tarns, or mountain
lakelets, which are such a feature in this strange scenery. The word
"tarn" has no meaning with us, though our young poets sometimes use it
as they do this Yorkshire word "wold;" one they get from Wordsworth, the
other from Tennyson. But when you have seen one of those still, inky
pools at the head of a silent, lonely Westmoreland dale, you will not be
apt to misapply the word in future. Suddenly the serene shepherd
mountain opens this black, gleaming eye at your feet, and it is all the
more weird for having no eyebrow of rocks, or fringe of rush or bush.
The steep, encircling slopes drop down and hem it about with the most
green and uniform turf. If its rim had been modeled by human hands, it
could not have been more regular or gentle in outline. Beneath its
emerald coat the soil is black and peaty, which accounts for the hue of
the water and the dark line that encircles it.

     "All round this pool both flocks and herds might drink
      On its firm margin, even as from a well,
      Or some stone basin, which the herdsman's hand
      Had shaped for their refreshment."

The path led across the outlet of the tarn, and then divided, one branch
going down into the head of Grisedale, and the other mounting up the
steep flank of Helvellyn. Far up the green acclivity I met a man and two
young women making their way slowly down. They had come from Glenridding
on Ulleswater, and were going to Grasmere. The women looked cold, and
said I would find it wintry on the summit.

Helvellyn has a broad flank and a long back, and comes to a head very
slowly and gently. You reach a wire fence well up on the top that
divides some sheep ranges, pass through a gate, and have a mile yet to
the highest ground in front of you; but you could traverse it in a
buggy, it is so smooth and grassy. The grass fails just before the
summit is reached, and the ground is covered with small fragments of the
decomposed rock. The view is impressive, and such as one likes to sit
down to and drink in slowly,--a

           "Grand terraqueous spectacle,
     From centre to circumference, unveil'd."

The wind was moderate and not cold. Toward Ulleswater the mountain drops
down abruptly many hundred feet, but its vast western slope appeared one
smooth, unbroken surface of grass. The following jottings in my
notebook, on the spot, preserve some of the features of the scene: "All
the northern landscape lies in the sunlight as far as Carlisle,

     "A tumultuous waste of huge hilltops;"

not quite so severe and rugged as the Scotch mountains, but the view
more pleasing and more extensive than the one I got from Ben Venue. The
black tarns at my feet,--Keppel Cove Tarn one of them, according to my
map,--how curious they look! I can just discern the figure of a man
moving by the marge of one of them. Away beyond Ulleswater is a vast
sweep of country flecked here and there by slowly moving cloud shadows.
To the northeast, in places, the backs and sides of the mountains have a
green, pastoral voluptuousness, so smooth and full are they with thick
turf. At other points the rock has fretted through the verdant carpet.
St. Sunday's Crag to the west, across Grisedale, is a steep acclivity
covered with small, loose stones, as if they had been dumped over the
top, and were slowly sliding down; but nowhere do I see great bowlders
strewn about. Patches of black peat are here and there. The little
rills, near and far, are white as milk, so swiftly do they run. On the
more precipitous sides the grass and moss are lodged, and hold like
snow, and are as tender in hue as the first April blades. A multitude of
lakes are in view, and Morecambe Bay to the south. There are sheep
everywhere, loosely scattered, with their lambs; occasionally I hear
them bleat. No other sound is heard but the chirp of the mountain pipit.
I see the wheat-ear flitting here and there. One mountain now lies in
full sunshine, as fat as a seal, wrinkled and dimpled where it turns to
the west, like a fat animal when it bends to lick itself. What a
spectacle is now before me!--all the near mountains in shadow, and the
distant in strong sunlight; I shall not see the like of that again. On
some of the mountains the green vestments are in tatters and rags, so to
speak, and barely cling to them. No heather in view. Toward Windermere
the high peaks and crests are much more jagged and rocky. The air is
filled with the same white, motionless vapor as in Scotland. When the
sun breaks through,--

     "Slant watery lights, from parting clouds, apace
      Travel along the precipice's base,
      Cheering its naked waste of scatter'd stone."

Amid these scenes one comes face to face with nature,

     "With the pristine earth,
      The planet in its nakedness,"

as he cannot in a wooded country. The primal, abysmal energies, grown
tender and meditative, as it were, thoughtful of the shepherd and his
flocks, and voiceful only in the leaping torrents, look out upon one
near at hand and pass a mute recognition. Wordsworth perpetually refers
to these hills and dales as lonely or lonesome; but his heart was still
more lonely. The outward solitude was congenial to the isolation and
profound privacy of his own soul. "Lonesome," he says of one of these
mountain dales, but

     "Not melancholy,--no, for it is green
      And bright and fertile, furnished in itself
      With the few needful things that life requires.
      In rugged arms how soft it seems to lie,
      How tenderly protected."

It is this tender and sheltering character of the mountains of the Lake
district that is one main source of their charm. So rugged and lofty,
and yet so mellow and delicate! No shaggy, weedy growths or tangles
anywhere; nothing wilder than the bracken, which at a distance looks as
solid as the grass. The turf is as fine and thick as that of a lawn. The
dainty-nosed lambs could not crave a tenderer bite than it affords. The
wool of the dams could hardly be softer to the foot. The last of July
the grass was still short and thick, as if it never shot up a stalk and
produced seed, but always remained a fine, close mat. Nothing was more
unlike what I was used to at home than this universal tendency (the same
is true in Scotland and in Wales) to grass, and, on the lower slopes, to
bracken, as if these were the only two plants in nature. Many of these
eminences in the north of England, too lofty for hills and too smooth
for mountains, are called fells. The railway between Carlisle and
Preston winds between them, as Houghill Fells, Tebay Fells, Shap Fells,
etc. They are, even in midsummer, of such a vivid and uniform green that
it seems as if they must have been painted. Nothing blurs or mars the
hue; no stalk of weed or stem of dry grass. The scene, in singleness and
purity of tint, rivals the blue of the sky. Nature does not seem to
ripen and grow sere as autumn approaches, but wears the tints of May in
October.



VIII

A GLANCE AT BRITISH WILD FLOWERS


The first flower I plucked in Britain was the daisy, in one of the parks
in Glasgow. The sward had recently been mown, but the daisies dotted it
as thickly as stars. It is a flower almost as common as the grass; find
a square foot of greensward anywhere, and you are pretty sure to find a
daisy, probably several of them. Bairnwort--child's flower--it is called
in some parts, and its expression is truly infantile. It is the favorite
of all the poets, and when one comes to see it he does not think it has
been a bit overpraised. Some flowers please us by their intrinsic beauty
of color and form; others by their expression of certain human
qualities: the daisy has a modest, lowly, unobtrusive look that is very
taking. A little white ring, its margin unevenly touched with crimson,
it looks up at one like the eye of a child.

     "Thou unassuming Commonplace
      Of Nature, with that homely face,
      And yet with something of a grace,
      Which Love makes for thee!"

Not a little of its charm to an American is the unexpected contrast it
presents with the rank, coarse ox-eye daisy so common in this country,
and more or less abundant in Britain, too. The Scotch call this latter
"dog daisy." I thought it even coarser, and taller there than with us.
Though the commonest of weeds, the "wee, modest, crimson-tippit flower"
sticks close at home; it seems to have none of the wandering,
devil-may-care, vagabond propensities of so many other weeds. I believe
it has never yet appeared upon our shores in a wild state, though
Wordsworth addressed it thus:--

     "Thou wander'st this wild world about
      Unchecked by pride or scrupulous doubt."

The daisy is prettier in the bud than in the flower, as it then shows
more crimson. It shuts up on the approach of foul weather; hence
Tennyson says the daisy closes

     "Her crimson fringes to the shower."

At Alloway, whither I flitted from Glasgow, I first put my hand into the
British nettle, and, I may add, took it out again as quickly as if I had
put it into the fire. I little suspected that rank dark-green weed there
amid the grass under the old apple-trees, where the blue speedwell and
cockscombs grew, to be a nettle. But I soon learned that the one plant
you can count on everywhere in England and Scotland is the nettle. It is
the royal weed of Britain. It stands guard along every road-bank and
hedge-row in the island.

Put your hand to the ground after dark in any fence corner, or under any
hedge, or on the border of any field, and the chances are ten to one you
will take it back again with surprising alacrity. And such a villainous
fang as the plant has! it is like the sting of bees. Your hand burns and
smarts for hours afterward. My little boy and I were eagerly gathering
wild flowers on the banks of the Doon, when I heard him scream, a few
yards from me. I had that moment jerked my stinging hand out of the
grass as if I had put it into a hornet's nest, and I knew what the
youngster had found. We held our burning fingers in the water, which
only aggravated the poison. It is a dark green, rankly growing plant,
from one to two feet high, that asks no leave of anybody. It is the
police that protects every flower in the hedge. To "pluck the flower of
safety from the nettle danger" is a figure of speech that has especial
force in this island. The species of our own nettle with which I am best
acquainted, the large-leaved Canada nettle, grows in the woods, is shy
and delicate, is cropped by cattle, and its sting is mild. But
apparently no cow's tongue can stand the British nettle, though, when
cured as hay, it is said to make good fodder. Even the pigs cannot eat
it till it is boiled. In starvation times it is extensively used as a
pot-herb, and, when dried, its fibre is said to be nearly equal to that
of flax. Rough handling, I am told, disarms it, but I could not summon
up courage to try the experiment. Ophelia made her garlands

     "Of crow-flowers, daisies, nettles, and long purples."

But the nettle here referred to was probably the stingless dead-nettle.

A Scotch farmer, with whom I became acquainted, took me on a Sunday
afternoon stroll through his fields. I went to his kirk in the forenoon;
in the afternoon he and his son went to mine, and liked the sermon as
well as I did. These banks and braes of Doon, of a bright day in May,
are eloquent enough for anybody. Our path led along the river course for
some distance. The globe-flower, like a large buttercup with the petals
partly closed, nodded here and there. On a broad, sloping, semi-circular
bank, where a level expanse of rich fields dropped down to a springy,
rushy bottom near the river's edge, and which the Scotch call a brae, we
reclined upon the grass and listened to the birds, all but the lark new
to me, and discussed the flowers growing about. In a wet place the
"gillyflower" was growing, suggesting our dentaria, or crinkle-root.
This is said to be "the lady's smock all silver-white" of Shakespeare,
but these were not white, rather a pale lilac. Near by, upon the ground,
was the nest of the meadow pipit, a species of titlark, which my friend
would have me believe was the wood-lark,--a bird I was on the lookout
for. The nest contained six brown-speckled eggs,--a large number, I
thought. But I found that this is the country in which to see
birds'-nests crowded with eggs, as well as human habitations thronged
with children. A white umbelliferous plant, very much like wild carrot,
dotted the turf here and there. This, my companion said, was pig-nut, or
ground-chestnut, and that there was a sweet, edible tuber at the root
of it, and, to make his words good, dug up one with his fingers,
recalling Caliban's words in the "Tempest":--

     "And I, with my long nails, will dig thee pig-nuts."

The plant grows freely about England, but does not seem to be
troublesome as a weed.

In a wooded slope beyond the brae, I plucked my first woodruff, a little
cluster of pure white flowers, much like that of our saxifrage, with a
delicate perfume. Its stalk has a whorl of leaves like the galium. As
the plant dries its perfume increases, and a handful of it will scent a
room.

The wild hyacinths, or bluebells, had begun to fade, but a few could yet
be gathered here and there in the woods and in the edges of the fields.
This is one of the plants of which nature is very prodigal in Britain.
In places it makes the underwoods as blue as the sky, and its rank
perfume loads the air. Tennyson speaks of "sheets of hyacinths." We have
no wood flower in the Eastern States that grows in such profusion.

Our flowers, like our birds and wild creatures, are more shy and
retiring than the British. They keep more to the woods, and are not
sowed so broadcast. Herb Robert is exclusively a wood plant with us, but
in England it strays quite out into the open fields and by the roadside.
Indeed, in England I found no so-called wood flower that could not be
met with more or less in the fields and along the hedges. The main
reason, perhaps, is that the need of shelter is never so great there,
neither winter nor summer, as it is here, and the supply of moisture is
more uniform and abundant. In dampness, coolness, and shadiness, the
whole climate is woodsy, while the atmosphere of the woods themselves is
almost subterranean in its dankness and chilliness. The plants come out
for sun and warmth, and every seed they scatter in this moist and
fruitful soil takes.

How many exclusive wood flowers we have, most of our choicest kinds
being of sylvan birth,--flowers that seem to vanish before the mere
breath of cultivated fields, as wild as the partridge and the beaver,
like the yellow violet, the arbutus, the medeola, the dicentra, the
claytonia, the trilliums, many of the orchids, uvularia, dalibarda, and
others. In England, probably, all these plants, if they grew there,
would come out into the fields and opens. The wild strawberry, however,
reverses this rule; it is more a wood plant in England than with us.
Excepting the rarer variety (_Fragaria vesca_), our strawberry thrives
best in cultivated fields, and Shakespeare's reference to this fruit
would not be apt,--

     "The strawberry grows underneath the nettle;
      And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best,
      Neighbor'd by fruit of baser quality."

The British strawberry is found exclusively, I believe, in woods and
copses, and the ripened fruit is smaller or lighter colored than our
own.

Nature in this island is less versatile than with us, but more constant
and uniform, less variety and contrast in her works, and less
capriciousness and reservation also. She is chary of new species, but
multiplies the old ones endlessly. I did not observe so many varieties
of wild flowers as at home, but a great profusion of specimens; her lap
is fuller, but the kinds are fewer. Where you find one of a kind, you
will find ten thousand. Wordsworth saw "golden daffodils,"

     "Continuous as the stars that shine
      And twinkle on the milky way,"

and one sees nearly all the common wild flowers in the same profusion.
The buttercup, the dandelion, the ox-eye daisy, and other field flowers
that have come to us from Europe, are samples of how lavishly Nature
bestows her floral gifts upon the Old World. In July the scarlet poppies
are thickly sprinkled over nearly every wheat and oat field in the
kingdom. The green waving grain seems to have been spattered with blood.
Other flowers were alike universal. Not a plant but seems to have sown
itself from one end of the island to the other. Never before did I see
so much white clover. From the first to the last of July, the fields in
Scotland and England were white with it. Every square inch of ground had
its clover blossom. Such a harvest as there was for the honey-bee,
unless the nectar was too much diluted with water in this rainy climate,
which was probably the case. In traveling south from Scotland, the
foxglove traveled as fast as I did, and I found it just as abundant in
the southern counties as in the northern. This is the most beautiful
and conspicuous of all the wild flowers I saw,--a spire of large purple
bells rising above the ferns and copses and along the hedges everywhere.
Among the copses of Surrey and Hants, I saw it five feet high, and amid
the rocks of North Wales still higher. We have no conspicuous wild
flower that compares with it. It is so showy and abundant that the
traveler on the express train cannot miss it; while the pedestrian finds
it lining his way like rows of torches. The bloom creeps up the stalk
gradually as the season advances, taking from a month to six weeks to go
from the bottom to the top, making at all times a most pleasing
gradation of color, and showing the plant each day with new flowers and
a fresh, new look. It never looks shabby and spent, from first to last.
The lower buds open the first week in June, and slowly the purple wave
creeps upward; bell after bell swings to the bee and moth, till the end
of July, when you see the stalk waving in the wind with two or three
flowers at the top, as perfect and vivid as those that opened first. I
wonder the poets have not mentioned it oftener. Tennyson speaks of "the
foxglove spire." I note this allusion in Keats:--

               "Where the deer's swift leap
     Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell,"

and this from Coleridge:--

                           "The fox-glove tall
     Sheds its loose purple bells or in the gust,
     Or when it bends beneath the upspringing lark,
     Or mountain finch alighting."

Coleridge perhaps knew that the lark did not perch upon the stalk of the
foxglove, or upon any other stalk or branch, being entirely a ground
bird and not a percher, but he would seem to imply that it did, in these
lines.

A London correspondent calls my attention to these lines from
Wordsworth,--

                         "Bees that soar
     High as the highest peak of Furness Fells,
     Yet murmur by the hour in foxglove bells;"

and adds: "Less poetical, but as graphic, was a Devonshire woman's
comparison of a dull preacher to a 'Drummle drane in a pop;' Anglicè, A
drone in a foxglove,--called a pop from children amusing themselves with
popping its bells."

The prettiest of all humble roadside flowers I saw was the little blue
speedwell. I was seldom out of sight of it anywhere in my walks till
near the end of June; while its little bands and assemblages of deep
blue flowers in the grass by the roadside, turning a host of infantile
faces up to the sun, often made me pause and admire. It is prettier than
the violet, and larger and deeper colored than our houstonia. It is a
small and delicate edition of our hepatica, done in indigo blue and
wonted to the grass in the fields and by the waysides.

     "The little speedwell's darling blue,"

sings Tennyson. I saw it blooming, with the daisy and the buttercup,
upon the grave of Carlyle. The tender human and poetic element of this
stern rocky nature was well expressed by it.

In the Lake district I saw meadows purple with a species of wild
geranium, probably _Geranium pratense_. It answered well to our wild
geranium, which in May sometimes covers wettish meadows in the same
manner, except that this English species was of a dark blue purple.
Prunella, I noticed, was of a much deeper purple there than at home. The
purple orchids also were stronger colored, but less graceful and
pleasing, than our own. One species which I noticed in June, with habits
similar to our purple fringed-orchis, perhaps the pyramidal orchis, had
quite a coarse, plebeian look. Probably the most striking blue and
purple wild flowers we have are of European origin, as succory,
blue-weed or bugloss, vervain, purple loosestrife, and harebell. These
colors, except with the fall asters and gentians, seem rather unstable
in our flora.

It has been observed by the Norwegian botanist Schübeler that plants and
trees in the higher latitudes have larger leaves and larger flowers than
farther south, and that many flowers which are white in the south become
violet in the far north. This agrees with my own observation. The
feebler light necessitates more leaf surface, and the fewer insects
necessitate larger and more showy flowers to attract them and secure
cross-fertilization. Blackberry blossoms, so white with us, are a
decided pink in England. The same is true of the water-plantain. Our
houstonia and hepatica would probably become a deep blue in that
country. The marine climate probably has something to do also with this
high color of the British flowers, as I have noticed that on our New
England coast the same flowers are deeper tinted than they are in the
interior.

A flower which greets all ramblers to moist fields and tranquil
watercourses in midsummer is the meadow-sweet, called also queen of the
meadows. It belongs to the Spiræa tribe, where our hardhack, nine-bark,
meadow-sweet, queen of the prairie, and others belong, but surpasses all
our species in being sweet-scented,--a suggestion of almonds and
cinnamon. I saw much of it about Stratford, and in rowing on the Avon
plucked its large clusters of fine, creamy white flowers from my boat.
Arnold is felicitous in describing it as the "blond meadow-sweet."

They cultivate a species of clover in England that gives a striking
effect to a field when in bloom, _Trifolium incarnatum_, the long heads
as red as blood. It is grown mostly for green fodder. I saw not one
spear of timothy grass in all my rambles. Though this is a grass of
European origin, yet it seems to be quite unknown among English and
Scotch farmers. The horse bean, or Winchester bean, sown broadcast, is a
new feature, while its perfume, suggesting that of apple orchards, is
the most agreeable to be met with.

I was delighted with the furze, or whin, as the Scotch call it, with its
multitude of rich yellow, pea-like blossoms exhaling a perfume that
reminded me of mingled cocoanut and peaches. It is a prickly,
disagreeable shrub to the touch, like our ground juniper. It seems to
mark everywhere the line of cultivation; where the furze begins the plow
stops. It covers heaths and commons, and, with the heather, gives that
dark hue to the Scotch and English uplands. The heather I did not see in
all its glory. It was just coming into bloom when I left, the last of
July; but the glimpses I had of it in North Wales, and again in northern
Ireland, were most pleasing. It gave a purple border or fringe to the
dark rocks (the rocks are never so lightly tinted in this island as ours
are) that was very rich and striking. The heather vies with the grass in
its extent and uniformity. Until midsummer it covers the moors and
uplands as with a dark brown coat. When it blooms, this coat becomes a
royal robe. The flower yields honey to the bee, and the plant shelter to
the birds and game, and is used by the cottagers for thatching, and for
twisting into ropes, and for various other purposes.

Several troublesome weeds I noticed in England that have not yet made
their appearance in this country. Coltsfoot invests the plowed lands
there, sending up its broad fuzzy leaves as soon as the grain is up, and
covering large areas. It is found in this country, but, so far as I have
observed, only in out-of-the-way places.

Sheep sorrel has come to us from over seas, and reddens many a poor
worn-out field; but the larger species of sorrel, _Rumex acetosa_, so
common in English fields, and shooting up a stem two feet high, was
quite new to me. Nearly all the related species, the various docks, are
naturalized upon our shores.

On the whole the place to see European weeds is in America. They run
riot here. They are like boys out of school, leaping all bounds. They
have the freedom of the whole broad land, and are allowed to take
possession in a way that would astonish a British farmer. The Scotch
thistle is much rarer in Scotland than in New York or Massachusetts. I
saw only one mullein by the roadside, and that was in Wales, though it
flourishes here and there throughout the island. The London
correspondent, already quoted, says of the mullein: "One will come up in
solitary glory, but, though it bears hundreds of flowers, many years
will elapse before another is seen in the same neighborhood. We used to
say, 'There is a mullein coming up in such a place,' much as if we had
seen a comet; and its flannel-like leaves and the growth of its spike
were duly watched and reported on day by day." I did not catch a glimpse
of blue-weed, Bouncing Bet, elecampane, live-for-ever, bladder campion,
and others, of which I see acres at home, though all these weeds do grow
there. They hunt the weeds mercilessly; they have no room for them. You
see men and boys, women and girls, in the meadows and pastures cutting
them out. A species of wild mustard infests the best grain lands in
June; when in bloom it gives to the oat-fields a fresh canary yellow.
Then men and boys walk carefully through the drilled grain and pull the
mustard out, and carry it away, leaving not one blossom visible.

On the whole, I should say that the British wild flowers were less
beautiful than our own, but more abundant and noticeable, and more
closely associated with the country life of the people; just as their
birds are more familiar, abundant, and vociferous than our songsters,
but not so sweet-voiced and plaintively melodious. An agreeable
coarseness and robustness characterize most of their flowers, and they
more than make up in abundance where they lack in grace.

The surprising delicacy of our first spring flowers, of the hepatica,
the spring beauty, the arbutus, the bloodroot, the rue-anemone, the
dicentra,--a beauty and delicacy that pertains to exclusive wood
forms,--contrasts with the more hardy, hairy, hedge-row look of their
firstlings of the spring, like the primrose, the hyacinth, the wood
spurge, the green hellebore, the hedge garlic, the moschatel, the
daffodil, the celandine, and others. Most of these flowers take one by
their multitude; the primrose covers broad hedge banks for miles as with
a carpet of bloom. In my excursions into field and forest I saw nothing
of the intense brilliancy of our cardinal flower, which almost baffles
the eye; nothing with the wild grace of our meadow or mountain lilies;
no wood flower so taking to the eye as our painted trillium and
lady's-slipper; no bog flower that compares with our calopogon and
arethusa, so common in southeastern New England; no brookside flower
that equals our jewel-weed; no rock flower before which one would pause
with the same feeling of admiration as before our columbine; no violet
as striking as our bird's-foot violet; no trailing flower that
approaches our matchless arbutus; no fern as delicate as our
maiden-hair; no flowering shrub as sweet as our azaleas. In fact, their
flora presented a commoner type of beauty, very comely and pleasing, but
not so exquisite and surprising as our own. The contrast is well shown
in the flowering of the maples of the two countries,--that of the
European species being stiff and coarse compared with the fringe-like
grace and delicacy of our maple. In like manner the silken tresses of
our white pine contrast strongly with the coarser foliage of the
European pines. But what they have, they have in greatest profusion. Few
of their flowers waste their sweetness on the desert air; they throng
the fields, lanes, and highways, and are known and seen of all. They
bloom on the housetops, and wave from the summits of castle walls. The
spring meadows are carpeted with flowers, and the midsummer
grain-fields, from one end of the kingdom to the other, are spotted with
fire and gold in the scarlet poppies and corn marigolds.

I plucked but one white pond-lily, and that was in the Kew Gardens,
where I suppose the plucking was trespassing. Its petals were slightly
blunter than ours, and it had no perfume. Indeed, in the matter of
sweet-scented flowers, our flora shows by far the more varieties, the
British flora seeming richer in this respect by reason of the abundance
of specimens of any given kind.

It is, indeed, a flowery land; a kind of perpetual spring-time reigns
there, a perennial freshness and bloom such as our fierce skies do not
permit.



IX

BRITISH FERTILITY


I

In crossing the Atlantic from the New World to the Old, one of the first
intimations the traveler has that he is nearing a strange shore, and an
old and populous one, is the greater boldness and familiarity of the
swarms of sea-gulls that begin to hover in the wake of the ship, and
dive and contend with each other for the fragments and parings thrown
overboard from the pantry. They have at once a different air and manner
from those we left behind. How bold and tireless they are, pursuing the
vessel from dawn to dark, and coming almost near enough to take the food
out of your hand as you lean over the bulwarks. It is a sign in the air;
it tells the whole story of the hungry and populous countries you are
approaching; it is swarming and omnivorous Europe come out to meet you.
You are near the sea-marge of a land teeming with life, a land where the
prevailing forms are indeed few, but these on the most copious and
vehement scale; where the birds and animals are not only more numerous
than at home, but more dominating and aggressive, more closely
associated with man, contending with him for the fruits of the soil,
learned in his ways, full of resources, prolific, tenacious of life, not
easily checked or driven out,--in fact, characterized by greater
persistence and fecundity. This fact is sure, sooner or later, to strike
the American in Britain. There seems to be an aboriginal push and heat
in animate nature there, to behold which is a new experience. It is the
Old World, and yet it really seems the New in the virility and hardihood
of its species.

The New Englander who sees with evil forebodings the rapid falling off
of the birth-rate in his own land, the family rills shrinking in these
later generations, like his native streams in summer, and who
consequently fears for the perpetuity of the race, may see something to
comfort him in the British islands. Behold the fecundity of the parent
stock! The drought that has fallen upon the older parts of the New World
does not seem to have affected the sources of being in these islands.
They are apparently as copious and exhaustless as they were three
centuries ago. Britain might well appropriate to herself the last half
of Emerson's quatrain:--

     "No numbers have counted my tallies,
        No tribes my house can fill;
      I sit by the shining Fount of Life,
        And pour the deluge still."

For it is literally a deluge; the land is inundated with humanity.
Thirty millions of people within the area of one of our larger States,
and who shall say that high-water mark is yet reached? Everything
betokens a race still in its youth, still on the road to empire. The
full-bloodedness, the large feet and hands, the prominent canine teeth,
the stomachic and muscular robustness, the health of the women, the
savage jealousy of personal rights, the swarms upon swarms of children
and young people, the delight in the open air and in athletic sports,
the love of danger and adventure, a certain morning freshness and
youthfulness in their look, as if their food and sleep nourished them
well, together with a certain animality and stupidity,--all indicate a
people who have not yet slackened speed or taken in sail. Neither the
land nor the race shows any exhaustion. In both there is yet the
freshness and fruitfulness of a new country. You would think the people
had just come into possession of a virgin soil. There is a pioneer
hardiness and fertility about them. Families increase as in our early
frontier settlements. Let me quote a paragraph from Taine's "Notes:"--

"An Englishman nearly always has many children,--the rich as well as the
poor. The Queen has nine, and sets the example. Let us run over the
families we are acquainted with: Lord ---- has six children; the Marquis
of ----, twelve; Sir N----, nine; Mr. S----, a judge, twenty-four, of
whom twenty-two are living; several clergymen, five, six, and up to ten
and twelve."

Thus is the census kept up and increased. The land, the towns and
cities, are like hives in swarming time; a fertile queen indeed, and
plenty of brood-comb! Were it not for the wildernesses of America, of
Africa, and Australia, to which these swarms migrate, the people would
suffocate and trample each other out. A Scotch or English city, compared
with one of ours, is a kind of duplex or compound city; it has a double
interior,--the interior of the closes and alleys, in which and out of
which the people swarm like flies. Every country village has its closes,
its streets between streets, where the humbler portion of the population
is packed away. This back-door humanity streams forth to all parts of
the world, and carries the national virtues with it. In walking through
some of the older portions of Edinburgh, I was somehow reminded of
colonies of cliff swallows I had seen at home, packed beneath the eaves
of a farmer's barn, every inch of space occupied, the tenements crowding
and lapping over each other, the interstices filled, every coign of
vantage seized upon, the pendent beds and procreant cradles ranked one
above another, and showing all manner of quaint and ingenious forms and
adaptability to circumstances. In both London and Edinburgh there are
streets above streets, or huge viaducts that carry one torrent of
humanity above another torrent. They utilize the hills and depressions
to make more surface room for their swarming myriads.

One day, in my walk through the Trosachs in the Highlands, I came upon a
couple of ant-hills that arrested my attention. They were a type of the
country. They were not large, scarcely larger than a peck measure, but
never before had I seen ant-hills so populous and so lively. They were
living masses of ants, while the ground for yards about literally
rustled with their numbers. I knew ant-hills at home, and had noted them
carefully, hills that would fill a cart-box; but they were like empty
tenements compared with these, a fort garrisoned with a company instead
of an army corps. These hills stood in thin woods by the roadside. From
each of them radiated five main highways, like the spokes of a wheel.
These highways were clearly defined to the eye, the grass and leaves
being slightly beaten down. Along each one of them there was a double
line of ants,--one line going out for supplies and the other returning
with booty,--worms, flies, insects, a constant stream of game going into
the capitol. If the ants, with any given worm or bug, got stuck, those
passing out would turn and lend a helping hand. The ground between the
main highways was being threaded in all directions by individual ants,
beating up and down for game. The same was true of the surface all about
the terminus of the roads, several yards distant. If I stood a few
moments in one place, the ants would begin to climb up my shoes and so
up my legs. Stamping them off seemed only to alarm and enrage the whole
camp, so that I would presently be compelled to retreat. Seeing a big
straddling beetle, I caught him and dropped him upon the nest. The ants
attacked him as wolves might attack an elephant. They clung to his
legs, they mounted his back, and assaulted him in front. As he rushed
through and over their ranks, down the side of the mound, those clinging
to his legs were caught hold of by others, till lines of four or five
ants were being jerked along by each of his six legs. The infuriated
beetle cleared the mound, and crawled under leaves and sticks to sweep
off his clinging enemies, and finally seemed to escape them by burying
himself in the earth. Then I took one of those large, black, shelless
snails with which this land abounds, a snail the size of my thumb, and
dropped it upon the nest. The ants swarmed upon it at once, and began to
sink their jaws into it. This woke the snail up to the true situation,
and it showed itself not without resources against its enemies. Flee,
like the beetle, it could not, but it bore an invisible armor; it began
to excrete from every pore of its body a thick, whitish, viscid
substance, that tied every ant that came in contact with it, hand and
foot, in a twinkling. When a thick coating of this impromptu bird-lime
had been exuded, the snail wriggled right and left a few times, partly
sloughing it off, and thus ingulfing hundreds of its antagonists. Never
was army of ants or of men bound in such a Stygian quagmire before. New
phalanxes rushed up and tried to scale the mass; most of them were mired
like their fellows, but a few succeeded and gained the snail's back;
then began the preparation of another avalanche of glue; the creature
seemed to dwindle in size, and to nerve itself to the work; as fast as
the ants reached him in any number he ingulfed them; he poured the vials
of his glutinous wrath upon them till he had formed quite a rampart of
cemented and helpless ants about him; fresh ones constantly coming up
laid hold of the barricade with their jaws, and were often hung that
way. I lingered half an hour or more to see the issue, but was finally
compelled to come away before the closing scene. I presume the ants
finally triumphed. The snail had nearly exhausted its ammunition; each
new broadside took more and more time and was less and less effective;
while the ants had unlimited resources, and could make bridges of their
sunken armies. But how they finally freed themselves and their mound of
that viscid, sloughing monster I should be glad to know.

But it was not these incidents that impressed me so much as the numbers
and the animation of the ants, and their raiding, buccaneering
propensities. When I came to London, I could not help thinking of the
ant-hill I had seen in the North. This, I said, is the biggest ant-hill
yet. See the great steam highways, leading to all points of the compass;
see the myriads swarming, jostling each other in the streets, and
overflowing all the surrounding country. See the underground tunnels and
galleries and the overground viaducts; see the activity and the
supplies, the whole earth the hunting-ground of these insects and
rustling with their multitudinous stir. One may be pardoned, in the
presence of such an enormous aggregate of humanity as London shows, for
thinking of insects. Men and women seem cheapened and belittled, as if
the spawn of blow-flies had turned to human beings. How the throng
stream on interminably, the streets like river-beds, full to their
banks! One hardly notes the units,--he sees only the black tide. He
loses himself, and becomes an insignificant ant with the rest. He is
borne along through the galleries and passages to the underground
railway, and is swept forward like a drop in the sea. I used to make
frequent trips to the country, or seek out some empty nook in St.
Paul's, to come to my senses. But it requires no ordinary effort to find
one's self in St. Paul's, and in the country you must walk fast or
London will overtake you. When I would think I had a stretch of road all
to myself, a troop of London bicyclists would steal up behind me and
suddenly file by like spectres. The whole land is London-struck. You
feel the suction of the huge city wherever you are. It draws like a
cyclone; every current tends that way. It would seem as if cities and
towns were constantly breaking from their moorings and drifting
thitherward and joining themselves to it. On every side one finds
smaller cities welded fast. It spreads like a malignant growth, that
involves first one organ and then another. But it is not malignant. On
the contrary, it is perhaps as normal and legitimate a city as there is
on the globe. It is the proper outcome and expression of that fertile
and bountiful land, and that hardy, multiplying race. It seems less the
result of trade and commerce, and more the result of the domestic
home-seeking and home-building instinct, than any other city I have yet
seen. I felt, and yet feel, its attraction. It is such an aggregate of
actual human dwellings that this feeling pervades the very air. All its
vast and multiplex industries, and its traffic, seem domestic, like the
chores about the household. I used to get glimpses of it from the
northwest borders, from Hampstead Heath, and from about Highgate, lying
there in the broad, gentle valley of the Thames, like an enormous
country village--a village with nearly four million souls, where people
find life sweet and wholesome, and keep a rustic freshness of look and
sobriety of manner. See their vast parks and pleasure grounds; see the
upper Thames, of a bright Sunday, alive with rowing parties; see them
picnicking in all the country adjacent. Indeed, in summer a social and
even festive air broods over the whole vast encampment. There is squalor
and misery enough, of course, and too much, but this takes itself away
to holes and corners.


II

A fertile race, a fertile nature, swarm in these islands. The climate is
a kind of prolonged May, and a vernal lustiness and raciness are
characteristic of all the prevailing forms. Life is rank and full.
Reproduction is easy. There is plenty of sap, plenty of blood. The salt
of the sea prickles in the veins; the spawning waters have imparted
their virility to the land. 'Tis a tropical and an arctic nature
combined, the fruitfulness of one and the activity of the other.

The national poet is Shakespeare. In him we get the literary and
artistic equivalents of this teeming, racy, juicy land and people. It
needs just such a soil, just such a background, to account for him. The
poetic value of this continence on the one hand, and of this riot and
prodigality on the other, is in his pages.

The teeming human populations reflect only the general law: there is the
same fullness of life in the lower types, the same push and hardiness.
It is the opinion of naturalists that the prevailing European forms are
a later production than those of the southern hemisphere or of the
United States, and hence, according to Darwin's law, should be more
versatile and dominating. That this last fact holds good with regard to
them, no competent observer can fail to see. When European plants and
animals come into competition with American, the latter, for the most
part, go to the wall, as do the natives in Australia. Or shall we say
that the native species flee before the advent of civilization, the
denuding the land of its forests, and the European species come in and
take their place? Yet the fact remains, that that trait or tendency to
persist in the face of obstacles, to hang on by tooth and nail, ready in
new expedients, thriving where others starve, climbing where others
fall, multiplying where others perish, like certain weeds, which if you
check the seed, will increase at the root, is more marked in the forms
that have come to us from Europe than in the native inhabitants. Nearly
everything that has come to this country from the Old World has come
prepared to fight its way through and take possession. The European or
Old World man, the Old World animals, the Old World grasses and grains,
and weeds and vermin, are in possession of the land, and the native
species have given way before them. The honey-bee, with its greed, its
industry, and its swarms, is a fair type of the rest. The English house
sparrow, which we were at such pains to introduce, breeds like vermin
and threatens to become a plague in the land. Nearly all our troublesome
weeds are European. When a new species gets a foothold here, it spreads
like fire. The European rats and mice would eat us up, were it not for
the European cats we breed. The wolf not only keeps a foothold in old
and populous countries like France and Germany, but in the former
country has so increased of late years that the government has offered
an additional bounty upon their pelts. When has an American wolf been
seen or heard in our comparatively sparsely settled Eastern or Middle
States? They have disappeared as completely as the beavers. Yet is it
probably true that, in a new country like ours, a tendency slowly
develops itself among the wild creatures to return and repossess the
land under the altered conditions. It is so with the plants, and
probably so with the animals. Thus, the chimney swallows give up the
hollow trees for the chimneys, the cliff swallows desert the cliffs for
the eaves of the barns, the squirrels find they can live in and about
the fields, etc. In my own locality, our native mice are becoming much
more numerous about the buildings than formerly; in the older settled
portions of the country, the flying squirrel often breeds in the houses;
the wolf does not seem to let go in the West as readily as he did in the
East; the black bear is coming back to parts of the country where it had
not been seen for thirty years.

I noticed many traits among the British animals and birds that looked
like the result both of the sharp competition going on among themselves
in their crowded ranks and of association with man. Thus, the partridge
not only covers her nest, but carefully arranges the grass about it so
that no mark of her track to and fro can be seen. The field mouse lays
up a store of grain in its den in the ground, and then stops up the
entrance from within. The woodcock, when disturbed, flies away with one
of her young snatched up between her legs, and returns for another and
another. The sea-gulls devour the grain in the fields; the wild ducks
feed upon the oats; the crows and jackdaws pull up the sprouts of the
newly-planted potatoes; the grouse, partridges, pigeons, fieldfares,
etc., attack the turnips; the hawk frequently snatches the wounded game
from under the gun of the sportsman; the crows perch upon the tops of
the chimneys of the houses; in the East the stork builds upon the
housetops, in the midst of cities; in Scotland the rats follow the birds
and the Highlanders to the herring fisheries along the coast, and
disperse with them when the season is over; the eagle continues to breed
in the mountains with the prize of a guinea upon every egg; the rabbits
have to be kept down with nets and ferrets; the game birds--grouse,
partridges, ducks, geese--continue to swarm in the face of the most
inveterate race of sportsmen under the sun, and in a country where it is
said the crows destroy more game than all the guns in the kingdom.

Many of the wild birds, when incubating, will allow themselves to be
touched by the hand. The fox frequently passes the day under some
covered drain or under some shelving bank near the farm buildings. The
otter, which so long ago disappeared from our streams, still holds its
own in Scotland, though trapped and shot on all occasions. A mother
otter has been known boldly to confront a man carrying off her young.

Thomas Edward, the shoemaker-naturalist of Aberdeen, relates many
adventures he had during his nocturnal explorations with weasels,
polecats, badgers, owls, rats, etc., in which these creatures showed
astonishing boldness and audacity. On one occasion, a weasel actually
attacked him; on another, a polecat made repeated attempts to take a
moor-hen from the breast pocket of his coat while he was trying to
sleep. On still another occasion, while he was taking a nap, an owl
robbed him of a mouse which he wished to take home alive, and which was
tied by a string to his waistcoat. He says he has put his walking stick
into the mouth of a fox just roused from his lair, and the fox worried
the stick and took it away with him. Once, in descending a precipice, he
cornered two foxes upon a shelf of rock, when the brutes growled at him
and showed their teeth threateningly. As he let himself down to kick
them out of his way, they bolted up the precipice over his person. Along
the Scottish coast, crows break open shell-fish by carrying them high in
the air and letting them drop upon the rocks. This is about as
thoughtful a proceeding as that of certain birds of South Africa, which
fly amid the clouds of migrating locusts and clip off the wings of the
insects with their sharp beaks, causing them to fall to the ground,
where they are devoured at leisure. Among the Highlands, the eagles live
upon hares and young lambs; when the shepherds kill the eagles, the
hares increase so fast that they eat up all the grass, and the flocks
still suffer.

The scenes along the coast of Scotland during the herring-fishing, as
described by Charles St. John in his "Natural History and Sport in
Moray," are characteristic. The herrings appear in innumerable shoals,
and are pursued by tens of thousands of birds in the air, and by the
hosts of their enemies of the deep. Salmon and dog-fish prey upon them
from beneath; gulls, gannets, cormorants, and solan geese prey upon them
from above; while the fishermen from a vast fleet of boats scoop them up
by the million. The birds plunge and scream, the men shout and labor,
the sea is covered with broken and wounded fish, the shore exhales the
odor of the decaying offal, which also attracts the birds and the
vermin; and, altogether, the scene is thoroughly European. Yet the
herring supply does not fail; and when the shoals go into the lochs, the
people say they contain two parts fish to one of water.

One of the most significant facts I observed while in England and
Scotland was the number of eggs in the birds'-nests. The first nest I
saw, which was that of the meadow pipit, held six eggs; the second,
which was that of the willow warbler, contained seven. Are these British
birds, then, I said, like the people, really more prolific than our own?
Such is, undoubtedly, the fact. The nests I had observed were not
exceptional; and when a boy told me he knew of a wren's nest with
twenty-six eggs in it, I was half inclined to believe him. The common
British wren, which is nearly identical with our winter wren, often does
lay upward of twenty eggs, while ours lays five or six. The long-tailed
titmouse lays from ten to twelve eggs; the marsh tit, from eight to ten;
the great tit, from six to nine; the blue-bonnet, from six to eighteen;
the wryneck, often as many as ten; the nuthatch, seven; the brown
creeper, nine; the kinglet, eight; the robin, seven; the flycatcher,
eight; and so on,--all, or nearly all, exceeding the number laid by
corresponding species in this country. The highest number of eggs of the
majority of our birds is five; some of the wrens and creepers and
titmice produce six, or even more; but as a rule one sees only three or
four eggs in the nests of our common birds. Our quail seems to produce
more eggs than the European species, and our swift more.

Then this superabundance of eggs is protected by such warm and compact
nests. The nest of the willow warbler, to which I have referred, is a
kind of thatched cottage upholstered with feathers. It is placed upon
the ground, and is dome-shaped, like that of our meadow mouse, the
entrance being on the side. The chaffinch, the most abundant and
universal of the British birds, builds a nest in the white thorn that is
a marvel of compactness and neatness. It is made mainly of fine moss and
wool. The nest of Jenny Wren, with its dozen or more of eggs, is too
perfect for art, and too cunning for nature. Those I saw were placed
amid the roots of trees on a steep bank by the roadside. You behold a
mass of fine green moss set in an irregular framework of roots, with a
round hole in the middle of it. As far in as your finger can reach, it
is exquisitely soft and delicately modeled. When removed from its place,
it is a large mass of moss with the nest at the heart of it.

Then add to these things the comparative immunity from the many dangers
that beset the nests of our birds,--dangers from squirrels, snakes,
crows, owls, weasels, etc., and from violent storms and tempests,--and
one can quickly see why the British birds so thrive and abound. There is
a chaffinch for every tree, and a rook and a starling for every square
rod of ground. I think there would be still more starlings if they could
find places to build, but every available spot is occupied; every hole
in a wall, or tower, or tree, or stump; every niche about the farm
buildings; every throat of the grinning gargoyles about the old churches
and cathedrals; every cranny in towers and steeples and castle parapet,
and the mouth of every rain-spout and gutter in which they can find a
lodgment.

The ruins of the old castles afford a harbor to many species, the most
noticeable of which are sparrows, starlings, doves, and swallows.
Rochester Castle, the main tower or citadel of which is yet in a good
state of preservation, is one vast dove-cote. The woman in charge told
me there were then about six hundred doves there. They whitened the air
as they flew and circled about. From time to time they are killed off
and sent to market. At sundown, after the doves had gone to roost, the
swifts appeared, seeking out their crannies. For a few moments the air
was dark with them.

Look also at the rooks. They follow the plowmen like chickens, picking
up the grubs and worms; and chickens they are, sable farm fowls of a
wider range. Young rooks are esteemed a great delicacy. The
four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie, and set before the king, of
the nursery rhyme, were very likely four-and-twenty young rooks.
Rook-pie is a national dish, and it would seem as if the young birds are
slaughtered in sufficient numbers to exterminate the species in a few
years. But they have to be kept under, like the rabbits; inasmuch as
they do not emigrate, like the people. I had heard vaguely that our
British cousins eschewed all pie except rook-pie, but I did not fully
realize the fact till I saw them shooting the young birds and shipping
them to market. A rookery in one's grove or shade-trees may be quite a
source of profit. The young birds are killed just before they are able
to fly, and when they first venture upon the outer rim of the nest or
perch upon the near branches. I witnessed this chicken-killing in a
rookery on the banks of the Doon. The ruins of an old castle crowned the
height overgrown with forest trees. In these trees the rooks nested,
much after the fashion of our wild pigeons. A young man with a rifle was
having a little sport by shooting the young rooks for the gamekeeper.
There appeared to be fewer than a hundred nests, and yet I was told that
as many as thirty dozen young rooks had been shot there that season.
During the firing the parent birds circle high aloft, uttering their
distressed cries. Apparently, no attempt is made to conceal the nests;
they are placed far out upon the branches, several close together,
showing as large dense masses of sticks and twigs. Year after year the
young are killed, and yet the rookery is not abandoned, nor the old
birds discouraged. It is to be added that this species is not the
carrion crow, like ours, though so closely resembling it in appearance.
It picks up its subsistence about the fields, and is not considered an
unclean bird. The British carrion crow is a much more rare species. It
is a strong, fierce bird, and often attacks and kills young lambs or
rabbits.

What is true of the birds is true of the rabbits, and probably of the
other smaller animals. The British rabbit breeds seven times a year, and
usually produces eight young at a litter; while, so far as I have
observed, the corresponding species in this country breeds not more than
twice, producing from three to four young. The western gray rabbit is
said to produce three or four broods a year of four to six young. It is
calculated that in England a pair of rabbits will, in the course of four
years, multiply to one million two hundred and fifty thousand. If
unchecked for one season, this game would eat the farmers up. In the
parks of the Duke of Hamilton, the rabbits were so numerous that I think
one might have fired a gun at random with his eyes closed and knocked
them over. They scampered right and left as I advanced, like leaves
blown by the wind. Their cotton tails twinkled thicker than fireflies in
our summer night. In the Highlands, where there were cultivated lands,
and in various other parts of England and Scotland that I visited, they
were more abundant than chipmunks in our beechen woods. The revenue
derived from the sale of the ground game on some estates is an
important item. The rabbits are slaughtered in untold numbers throughout
the island. They shoot them, and hunt them with ferrets, and catch them
in nets and gins and snares, and they are the principal game of the
poacher, and yet the land is alive with them. Thirty million skins are
used up annually in Great Britain, besides several million hare skins.
The fur is used for stuffing beds, and is also made into yarn and cloth.

But the Colorado beetle is our own, and it shows many of the European
virtues. It is sufficiently prolific and persistent to satisfy any
standard; but we cannot claim all the qualities for it till it has
crossed the Atlantic and established itself on the other side.

There are other forms of life in which we surpass the mother country. I
did not hear the voice of frog or toad while I was in England. Their
marshes were silent; their summer nights were voiceless. I longed for
the multitudinous chorus of my own bog; for the tiny silver bells of our
hylas, the long-drawn and soothing _tr-r-r-r-r_ of our twilight toads,
and the rattling drums, kettle and bass, of our pond frogs. Their insect
world, too, is far behind ours; no fiddling grasshoppers, no purring
tree-crickets, no scraping katydids, no whirring cicadas; no sounds from
any of these sources by meadow or grove, by night or day, that I could
ever hear. We have a large orchestra of insect musicians, ranging from
that tiny performer that picks the strings of his instrument so daintily
in the summer twilight, to the shrill and piercing crescendo of the
harvest-fly. A young Englishman who had traveled over this country told
me he thought we had the noisiest nature in the world. English midsummer
nature is the other extreme of stillness. The long twilight is unbroken
by a sound, unless in places by the "clanging rookery." The British
bumblebee, a hairy, short-waisted fellow, has the same soft, mellow bass
as our native bee, and his habits appear much the same, except that he
can stand the cold and the wet much better (I used to see them very
lively after sundown, when I was shivering with my overcoat on), and
digs his own hole like the rabbit, which ours does not. Sitting in the
woods one day, a bumblebee alighted near me on the ground, and, scraping
away the surface mould, began to bite and dig his way into the earth,--a
true Britisher, able to dig his own hole.

In the matter of squirrel life, too, we are far ahead of England. I
believe there are more red squirrels, to say nothing of gray squirrels,
flying squirrels, and chipmunks, within half a mile of my house than in
any county in England. In all my loitering and prying about the woods
and groves there, I saw but two squirrels. The species is larger than
ours, longer and softer furred, and appears to have little of the
snickering, frisking, attitudinizing manner of the American species. But
England is the paradise of snails. The trail of the snail is over all. I
have counted a dozen on the bole of a single tree. I have seen them
hanging to the bushes and hedges like fruit. I heard a lady complain
that they got into the kitchen, crawling about by night and hiding by
day, and baffling her efforts to rid herself of them. The thrushes eat
them, breaking their shells upon a stone. They are said to be at times a
serious pest in the garden, devouring the young plants at night. When
did the American snail devour anything, except, perhaps, now and then a
strawberry? The bird or other creature that feeds on the large black
snail of Britain, if such there be, need never go hungry, for I saw
these snails even on the tops of mountains.

The same opulence of life that characterizes the animal world in England
characterizes the vegetable. I was especially struck, not so much with
the variety of wild flowers, as with their numbers and wide
distribution. The ox-eye daisy and the buttercup are good samples of the
fecundity of most European plants. The foxglove, the corn-poppy, the
speedwell, the wild hyacinth, the primrose, the various vetches, and
others grow in nearly the same profusion. The forget-me-not is very
common, and the little daisy is nearly as universal as the grass.
Indeed, as I have already stated in another chapter, nearly all the
British wild flowers seemed to grow in the open manner and in the same
abundance as our goldenrods and purple asters. They show no shyness, no
wildness. Nature is not stingy of them, but fills her lap with each in
its turn. Rare and delicate plants, like our arbutus, certain of our
orchids and violets, that hide in the woods, and are very fastidious
and restricted in their range, probably have no parallel in England. The
island is small, is well assorted and compacted, and is thoroughly
homogeneous in its soil and climate; the conditions of field and forest
and stream that exist have long existed; a settled permanence and
equipoise prevail; every creature has found its place, every plant its
home. There are no new experiments to be made, no new risks to be run;
life in all its forms is established, and its current maintains a steady
strength and fullness that an observer from our spasmodic hemisphere is
sure to appreciate.



X

A SUNDAY IN CHEYNE ROW


I

While in London I took a bright Sunday afternoon to visit Chelsea, and
walk along Cheyne Row and look upon the house in which Carlyle passed
nearly fifty years of his life, and in which he died. Many times I paced
to and fro. I had been there eleven years before, but it was on a dark,
rainy night, and I had brought away no image of the street or house. The
place now had a more humble and neglected look than I expected to see;
nothing that suggested it had ever been the abode of the foremost
literary man of his time, but rather the home of plain, obscure persons
of little means. One would have thought that the long residence there of
such a man as Carlyle would have enhanced the value of real estate for
many squares around, and drawn men of wealth and genius to that part of
the city. The Carlyle house was unoccupied, and, with its closed
shutters and little pools of black sooty water standing in the brick
area in front of the basement windows, looked dead and deserted indeed.
But the house itself, though nearly two hundred years old, showed no
signs of decay. It had doubtless witnessed the extinction of many
households before that of the Carlyles.

My own visit to that house was in one autumn night in 1871. Carlyle was
then seventy-six years old, his wife had been dead five years, his work
was done, and his days were pitifully sad. He was out taking his
after-dinner walk when we arrived, Mr. Conway and I; most of his walking
and riding, it seems, was done after dark, an indication in itself of
the haggard and melancholy frame of mind habitual to him. He presently
appeared, wrapped in a long gray coat that fell nearly to the floor. His
greeting was quiet and grandfatherly, and that of a man burdened with
his own sad thoughts. I shall never forget the impression his large,
long, soft hand made in mine, nor the look of sorrow and suffering
stamped upon the upper part of the face,--sorrow mingled with yearning
compassion. The eyes were bleared and filmy with unshed and unshedable
tears. In pleasing contrast to his coarse hair and stiff, bristly,
iron-gray beard, was the fresh, delicate color that just touched his
brown cheeks, like the tinge of poetry that plays over his own rugged
page. I noted a certain shyness and delicacy, too, in his manner, which
contrasted in the same way with what is alleged of his rudeness and
severity. He leaned his head upon his hand, the fingers thrust up
through the hair, and, with his elbow resting upon the table, looked
across to my companion, who kept the conversation going. This attitude
he hardly changed during the two hours we sat there. How serious and
concerned he looked, and how surprising that hearty, soliloquizing sort
of laugh which now and then came from him as he talked, not so much a
laugh provoked by anything humorous in the conversation, as a sort of
foil to his thoughts, as one might say, after a severe judgment, "Ah,
well-a-day, what matters it!" If that laugh could have been put in his
Latter-day Pamphlets, where it would naturally come, or in his later
political tracts, these publications would have given much less offense.
But there was amusement in his laugh when I told him we had introduced
the English sparrow in America. "Introduced!" he repeated, and laughed
again. He spoke of the bird as a "comical little wretch," and feared we
should regret the "introduction." He repeated an Arab proverb which says
Solomon's Temple was built amid the chirping of ten thousand sparrows,
and applied it very humorously in the course of his talk to the human
sparrows that always stand ready to chirrup and cackle down every great
undertaking. He had seen a cat walk slowly along the top of a fence
while a row of sparrows seated upon a ridge-board near by all pointed at
her and chattered and scolded, and by unanimous vote pronounced her this
and that, but the cat went on her way all the same. The verdict of
majorities was not always very formidable, however unanimous.

A monument had recently been erected to Scott in Edinburgh, and he had
been asked to take part in some attendant ceremony. But he had refused
peremptorily. "If the angel Gabriel had summoned me I would not have
gone," he said. It was too soon to erect a monument to Scott. Let them
wait a hundred years and see how they feel about it then. He had never
met Scott: the nearest he had come to it was once when he was the bearer
of a message to him from Goethe; he had rung at his door with some
trepidation, and was relieved when told that the great man was out. Not
long afterwards he had a glimpse of him while standing in the streets of
Edinburgh. He saw a large wagon coming drawn by several horses, and
containing a great many people, and there in the midst of them, full of
talk and hilarity like a great boy, sat Scott. Carlyle had recently
returned from his annual visit to Scotland, and was full of sad and
tender memories of his native land. He was a man in whom every beautiful
thing awakened melancholy thoughts. He spoke of the blooming lasses and
the crowds of young people he had seen on the streets of some northern
city, Aberdeen, I think, as having filled him with sadness; a kind of
homesickness of the soul was upon him, and deepened with age,--a
solitary and a bereaved man from first to last.

As I walked Cheyne Row that summer Sunday my eye rested again and again
upon those three stone steps that led up to the humble door, each
hollowed out by the attrition of the human foot, the middle one, where
the force of the footfall would be greatest, most deeply worn of
all,--worn by hundreds of famous feet, and many, many more not famous.
Nearly every notable literary man of the century, both of England and
America, had trod those steps. Emerson's foot had left its mark there,
if one could have seen it, once in his prime and again in his old age,
and it was perhaps of him I thought, and of his new-made grave there
under the pines at Concord, that summer afternoon as I mused to and fro,
more than of any other visitor to that house. "Here we are shoveled
together again," said Carlyle from behind his wife, with a lamp high in
his hand, that October night thirty-seven years ago, as Jane opened the
door to Emerson. The friendship, the love of those two men for each
other, as revealed in their published correspondence, is one of the most
beautiful episodes in English literary history. The correspondence was
opened and invited by Emerson, but as years went by it is plain that it
became more and more a need and a solace to Carlyle. There is something
quite pathetic in the way he clung to Emerson and entreated him for a
fuller and more frequent evidence of his love. The New Englander, in
some ways, appears stinted and narrow beside him; Carlyle was much the
more loving and emotional man. He had less self-complacency than
Emerson, was much less stoical, and felt himself much more alone in the
world. Emerson was genial and benevolent from temperament and habit;
Carlyle was wrathful and vituperative, while his heart was really
bursting with sympathy and love. The savagest man, probably, in the
world in his time, who had anything like his enormous fund of
tenderness and magnanimity. He was full of contempt for the mass of
mankind, but he was capable of loving particular men with a depth and an
intensity that more than makes the account good. And let me say here
that the saving feature about Carlyle's contempt, which is such a
stumbling-block till one has come to understand it, is its perfect
sincerity and inevitableness, and the real humility in which it has its
root. He cannot help it; it is genuine, and has a kind of felicity. Then
there is no malice or ill-will in it, but pity rather, and pity springs
from love. We also know that he is always dominated by the inexorable
conscience, and that the standard by which he tries men is the standard
of absolute rectitude and worthiness. Contempt without love and humility
begets a sneering, mocking, deriding habit of mind, which was far enough
from Carlyle's sorrowing denunciations. "The quantity of sorrow he has,
does it not mean withal the quantity of _sympathy_ he has, the quantity
of faculty and victory he shall yet have? 'Our sorrow is the inverted
image of our nobleness.' The depth of our despair measures what
capability, and height of claim we have, to hope." (Cromwell.) Emerson
heard many responding voices, touched and won many hearts, but Carlyle
was probably admired and feared more than he was loved, and love he
needed and valued above all else. Hence his pathetic appeals to Emerson,
the one man he felt sure of, the one voice that reached him and moved
him among his contemporaries. He felt Emerson's serenity and courage,
and seemed to cling to, while he ridiculed, that New World hope that
shone in him so brightly.

The ship that carries the most sail is most buffeted by the winds and
storms. Carlyle carried more sail than Emerson did, and the very winds
of the globe he confronted and opposed; the one great movement of the
modern world, the democratic movement, the coming forward of the people
in their own right, he assailed and ridiculed in a vocabulary the most
copious and telling that was probably ever used, and with a concern and
a seriousness most impressive.

Much as we love and revere Emerson, and immeasurable as his service has
been, especially to the younger and more penetrating minds, I think it
will not do at all to say, as one of our critics (Mr. Stedman) has
lately said, that Emerson is as "far above Carlyle as the affairs of the
soul and universe are above those of the contemporary or even the
historic world." Above him he certainly was, in a thinner, colder air,
but not in any sense that implies greater power or a farther range. His
sympathies with the concrete world and his gripe upon it were far less
than Carlyle's. He bore no such burden, he fought no such battle, as the
latter did. His mass, his velocity, his penetrating power, are far less.
A tranquil, high-sailing, fair-weather cloud is Emerson, and a massive,
heavy-laden storm-cloud is Carlyle. Carlyle was never placidly sounding
the azure depths like Emerson, but always pouring and rolling
earthward, with wind, thunder, rain, and hail. He reaches up to the
Emersonian altitudes, but seldom disports himself there; never loses
himself, as Emerson sometimes does; the absorption takes place in the
other direction; he descends to actual affairs and events with fierce
precipitation. Carlyle's own verdict, written in his journal on
Emerson's second visit to him in 1848, was much to the same effect, and,
allowing for the Carlylean exaggeration, was true. He wrote that Emerson
differed as much from himself "as a gymnosophist sitting idle on a
flowery bank may do from a wearied worker and wrestler passing that way
with many of his bones broken."

All men would choose Emerson's fate, Emerson's history; how rare, how
serene, how inspiring, how beautiful, how fortunate! But as between
these two friends, our verdict must be that Carlyle did the more unique
and difficult, the more heroic, piece of work. Whether the more valuable
and important or not, it is perhaps too early in the day to say, but
certainly the more difficult and masterful. As an artist, using the term
in the largest sense, as the master-worker in, and shaper of, the
Concrete, he is immeasurably Emerson's superior. Emerson's two words
were truth and beauty, which lie, as it were, in the same plane, and the
passage from one to the other is easy; it is smooth sailing. Carlyle's
two words were truth and duty, which lie in quite different planes, and
the passage between which is steep and rough. Hence the pain, the
struggle, the picturesque power. Try to shape the actual world of
politics and human affairs according to the ideal truth, and see if you
keep your serenity. There is a Niagara gulf between them that must be
bridged. But what a gripe this man had upon both shores, the real and
the ideal! The quality of action, of tangible performance, that lies in
his works, is unique. "He has not so much written as spoken," and he has
not so much spoken as he has actually wrought. He experienced, in each
of his books, the pain and the antagonism of the man of action. His
mental mood and attitude are the same; as is also his impatience of
abstractions, of theories, of subtleties, of mere words. Indeed, Carlyle
was essentially a man of action, as he himself seemed to think, driven
by fate into literature. He is as real and as earnest as Luther or
Cromwell, and his faults are the same in kind. Not the mere _saying_ of
a thing satisfies him as it does Emerson; you must _do_ it; bring order
out of chaos, make the dead alive, make the past present, in some way
make your fine sayings point to, or result in, fact. He says the
Perennial lies always in the Concrete. Subtlety of intellect, which
conducts you, "not to new clearness, but to ever-new abstruseness, wheel
within wheel, depth under depth," has no charms for him. "My erudite
friend, the astonishing intellect that occupies itself in splitting
hairs, and not in twisting some kind of cordage and effectual
draught-tackle to take the road with, is not to me the most astonishing
of intellects."

Emerson split no hairs, but he twisted very little cordage for the rough
draught-horses of this world. He tells us to hitch our wagon to a star;
and the star is without doubt a good steed, when once fairly caught and
harnessed, but it takes an astronomer to catch it. The value of such
counsel is not very tangible unless it awakes us to the fact that every
power of both heaven and earth is friendly to a noble and courageous
activity.

Carlyle was impatient of Emerson's fine-spun sentences and
transcendental sleight-of-hand. Indeed, from a literary point of view,
one of the most interesting phases of the published correspondence
between these two notable men is the value which each unwittingly set
upon his own methods and work. Each would have the other like himself.

Emerson wants Emersonian epigrams from Carlyle, and Carlyle wants
Carlylean thunder from Emerson. Each was unconsciously his own ideal.
The thing which a man's nature calls him to do,--what else so well worth
doing? Certainly nothing else to him,--but to another? How surely each
one of us would make our fellow over in our own image! Carlyle wants
Emerson more practical, more concrete, more like himself in short. "The
vile Pythons of this Mud-world do verily require to have sun-arrows shot
into them, and red-hot pokers stuck through them, according to
occasion;" do this as I am doing it, or trying to do it, and I shall
like you better. It is well to know that nature will make good compost
of the carcass of an Oliver Cromwell, and produce a cart-load of
turnips from the same; but it is better to appreciate and make the most
of the live Oliver himself. "A faculty is in you for a _sort_ of speech
which is itself _action_, an artistic sort. You _tell_ us with piercing
emphasis that man's soul is great; _show_ us a great soul of a man, in
some work symbolic of such; this is the seal of such a message, and you
will feel by and by that you are called to do this. I long to see some
concrete Thing, some Event, Man's Hope, American Forest, or piece of
Creation, which this Emerson loves and wonders at, well _Emersonized_,
depicted by Emerson, filled with the life of Emerson and cast forth from
him, then to live by itself." Again: "I will have all things condense
themselves, take shape and body, if they are to have my sympathy; I have
a _body_ myself; in the brown leaf, sport of the Autumn winds, I find
what mocks all prophesyings, even Hebrew ones." "Alas, it is so easy to
screw one's self up into high and even higher altitudes of
Transcendentalism, and see nothing under one but the everlasting snows
of Himmalayah, the Earth shrinking to a Planet, and the indigo firmament
sowing itself with daylight stars; easy for you, for me; but whither
does it lead? I dread always, to inanity and mere injuring of the
lungs!"--with more of the same sort.

On the other hand, Emerson evidently tires of Carlyle's long-winded
heroes. He would have him give us the gist of the matter in a few
sentences. Cremate your heroes, he seems to say; get all this gas and
water out of them, and give us the handful of lime and iron of which
they are composed. He hungered for the "central monosyllables." He
praises Cromwell and Frederick, yet says to his friend, "that book will
not come which I most wish to read, namely, the culled results, the
quintessence of private conviction, a _liber veritatis_, a few
sentences, hints of the final moral you drew from so much penetrating
inquest into past and present men."

This is highly characteristic of Emerson; his bid for the quintessence
of things. He was always impatient of creative imaginative works; would
sublunate or evaporate them in a hurry. Give him the pith of the matter,
the net result in the most pungent words. It must still be picture and
parable, but in a sort of disembodied or potential state. He fed on the
marrow of Shakespeare's sentences, and apparently cared little for his
marvelous characterizations. One is reminded of the child's riddle:
Under the hill there is a mill, in the mill there is a chest, in the
chest there is a till, in the till there is a phial, in the phial there
is a drop I would not give for all the world. This drop Emerson would
have. Keep or omit the chest and the mill and all that circumlocution,
and give him the precious essence. But the artistic or creative mind
does not want things thus abridged,--does not want the universe reduced
to an epigram. Carlyle wants an actual flesh-and-blood hero, and, what
is more, wants him immersed head and ears in the actual affairs of this
world.

Those who seek to explain Carlyle on the ground of his humble origin
shoot wide of the mark. "Merely a peasant with a glorified intellect,"
says a certain irate female, masquerading as the "Day of Judgment."

It seems to me Carlyle was as little of a peasant as any man of his
time,--a man without one peasant trait or proclivity, a regal and
dominating man, "looking," as he said of one of his own books, "king and
beggar in the face with an indifference of brotherhood and an
indifference of contempt." The two marks of the peasant are stolidity
and abjectness; he is dull and heavy, and he dare not say his soul is
his own. No man ever so hustled and jostled titled dignitaries, and made
them toe the mark, as did Carlyle. It was not merely that his intellect
was towering; it was also his character, his will, his standard of
manhood, that was towering. He bowed to the hero, to valor and personal
worth, never to titles or conventions. The virtues and qualities of his
yeoman ancestry were in him without doubt; his power of application, the
spirit of toil that possessed him, his frugal, self-denying habits, came
from his family and race, but these are not peasant traits, but heroic
traits. A certain coarseness of fibre he had also, together with great
delicacy and sensibility, but these again he shares with all strong
first-class men. You cannot get such histories as Cromwell and Frederick
out of polished _littérateurs_; you must have a man of the same heroic
fibre, of the same inexpugnableness of mind and purpose. Not even was
Emerson adequate to such a task; he was fine enough and high enough, but
he was not coarse enough and broad enough. The scholarly part of
Carlyle's work is nearly always thrown in the shade by the manly part,
the original raciness and personal intensity of the writer. He is not in
the least veiled or hidden by his literary vestments. He is rather
hampered by them, and his sturdy Annandale character often breaks
through them in the most surprising manner. His contemporaries soon
discovered that if here was a great writer, here was also a great man,
come not merely to paint their picture, but to judge them, to weigh them
in the balance. He is eminently an artist, and yet it is not the
artistic or literary impulse that lies at the bottom of his works, but a
moral, human, emotional impulse and attraction,--the impulse of justice,
of veracity, or of sympathy and love.

What love of work well done, what love of genuine leadership, of
devotion to duty, of mastery of affairs, in fact what love of man pure
and simple, lies at the bottom of "Frederick," lies at the bottom of
"Cromwell"! Here is not the disinterestedness of Shakespeare, here is
not the Hellenic flexibility of mind and scientific impartiality Mr.
Arnold demands: here is espousal, here is vindication, here is the moral
bias of the nineteenth century. But here also is _reality_, here is the
creative touch, here are men and things made alive again, palpable to
the understanding and enticing to the imagination. Of all histories
that have fallen into my hands, "Frederick" is the most vital and real.
If the current novels were half so entertaining, I fear I should read
little else. The portrait-painting is like that of Rembrandt; the eye
for battles and battle-fields is like that of Napoleon, or Frederick
himself; the sifting of events, and the separating of the false from the
true, is that of the most patient and laborious science; the descriptive
passages are equaled by those of no other man; while the work as a
whole, as Emerson says, "is a Judgment Day, for its moral verdict, on
the men and nations and manners of modern times." It is to be read for
its honest history; it is to be read for its inexhaustible wit and
humor; it is to be read for its poetic fire, for its felicities of
style, for its burden of human sympathy and effort, its heroic
attractions and stimulating moral judgments. All Carlyle's histories
have the quick, penetrating glance, that stroke of the eye, as the
French say, that lays the matter open to the heart. He did not write in
the old way of a topographical survey of the surface: his "French
Revolution" is more like a transverse section; more like a geologist's
map than like a geographer's; the depths are laid open; the abyss yawns;
the cosmic forces and fires stalk forth and become visible and real. It
was this power to detach and dislocate things and project them against
the light of a fierce and lurid imagination that makes his pages unique
and matchless, of their kind, in literature. He may be deficient in the
historical sense, the sense of development, and of compensation in
history; but in vividness of apprehension of men and events, and power
of portraiture, he is undoubtedly without a rival. "Those devouring eyes
and that portraying hand," Emerson says.

Those who contract their view of Carlyle till they see only his faults
do a very unwise thing. Nearly all his great traits have their shadows.
His power of characterization sometimes breaks away into caricature; his
command of the picturesque leads him into the grotesque; his eloquent
denunciation at times becomes vituperation; his marvelous power to name
things degenerates into outrageous nicknaming; his streaming humor,
which, as Emerson said, floats every object he looks upon, is not free
from streaks of the most crabbed, hide-bound ill-humor. Nearly every
page has a fringe of these things, and sometimes a pretty broad one, but
they are by no means the main matter, and often lend an additional
interest. The great personages, the great events, are never caricatured,
though painted with a bold, free hand, but there is in the border of the
picture all manner of impish and grotesque strokes. In "Frederick" there
is a whole series of secondary men and incidents that are touched off
with the hand of a master caricaturist. Some peculiarity of feature or
manner is seized upon, magnified, and made prominent on all occasions.
We are never suffered to forget George the Second's fish eyes and
gartered leg; nor the lean May-pole mistress of George the First; nor
the Czarina's big fat cheek; nor poor Bruhl, "vainest of human
clothes-horses," with his twelve tailors and his three hundred and
sixty-five suits of clothes; nor Augustus, "the dilapidated strong,"
with his three hundred and fifty-four bastards. Nor can any reader of
that work ever forget "Jenkins' Ear,"--the poor fraction of an ear of an
English sailor snipped off by the Spaniards, and here made to stand for
a whole series of historical events. Indeed, this severed ear looms up
till it becomes like a sign in the zodiac of those times. His portrait
of the French army, which he calls the Dauphiness, is unforgettable, and
is in the best style of his historical caricature. It makes its exit
over the Rhine before Duke Ferdinand, "much in rags, much in disorder,
in terror, and here and there almost in despair, winging their way like
clouds of draggled poultry caught by a mastiff in the corn. Across
Weser, across Ems, finally across the Rhine itself, every feather of
them,--their long-drawn cackle, of a shrieky type, filling all nature in
those months." A good sample of the grotesque in Carlyle, pushed to the
last limit, and perhaps a little beyond, is in this picture of the
Czarina of Russia, stirred up to declare war against Frederick by his
Austrian enemies: "Bombarded with cunningly-devised fabrications, every
wind freighted for her with phantasmal rumors, no ray of direct daylight
visiting the poor Sovereign Woman; who is lazy, not malignant, if she
could avoid it; mainly a mass of esurient oil, with alkali on the back
of alkali poured in, at this rate for ten years past, till, by pouring
and by stirring, they get her to the state of _soap_ and froth."

Carlyle had a narrow escape from being the most formidable blackguard
the world had ever seen; was, indeed, in certain moods, a kind of divine
blackguard,--a purged and pious Rabelais, who could bespatter the devil
with more telling epithets than any other man who ever lived. What a
tongue, what a vocabulary! He fairly oxidizes, burns up, the object of
his opprobrium, in the stream of caustic epithets he turns upon it. He
had a low opinion of the contemporaries of Frederick and Voltaire: they
were "mere ephemera; contemporary eaters, scramblers for provender,
talkers of acceptable hearsay; and related merely to the butteries and
wiggeries of their time, and not related to the Perennialities at all,
as these two were." He did not have to go very far from home for some of
the lineaments of Voltaire's portrait: "He had, if no big gloomy devil
in him among the bright angels that were there, a multitude of ravening,
tumultuary imps, or little devils, very _ill-chained_, and was lodged,
he and his restless little devils, in a skin far too thin for him and
them!"

Of Frederick's cynicism he says there was "always a kind of vinegar
cleanness in it, _except_ in theory." Equally original and felicitous is
the "albuminous simplicity" which he ascribes to the Welfs. Newspaper
men have never forgiven him for calling them the "gazetteer owls of
Minerva;" and our Catholic brethren can hardly relish his reference to
the "consolations" the nuns deal out to the sick as "poisoned
gingerbread." In "Frederick" one comes upon such phrases as
"milk-faced," "bead-roll histories," "heavy pipe-clay natures," a
"stiff-jointed, algebraic kind of piety," etc.

Those who persist in trying Carlyle as a philosopher and man of ideas
miss his purport. He had no philosophy, and laid claim to none, except
what he got from the German metaphysicians,--views which crop out here
and there in "Sartor." He was a preacher of righteousness to his
generation, and a rebuker of its shams and irreverences, and as such he
cut deep, cut to the bone, and to the marrow of the bone. That piercing,
agonized, prophetic, yet withal melodious and winsome voice, how it
rises through and above the multitudinous hum and clatter of
contemporary voices in England, and alone falls upon the ear as from out
the primal depths of moral conviction and power! He is the last man in
the world to be reduced to a system or tried by logical tests. You might
as well try to bind the sea with chains. His appeal is to the
intuitions, the imagination, the moral sense. His power of mental
abstraction was not great; he could not deal in abstract ideas. When he
attempted to state his philosophy, as in the fragment called "Spiritual
Optics," which Froude gives, he is far from satisfactory. His
mathematical proficiency seemed to avail him but little in the region of
pure ideality. His mind is precipitated at once upon the concrete, upon
actual persons and events. This makes him the artist he is, as
distinguished from the mystic and philosopher, and is perhaps the basis
of Emerson's remark, that there is "more character than intellect in
every sentence;" that is, more motive, more will-power, more stress of
conscience, more that appeals to one as a living personal identity,
wrestling with facts and events, than there is that appeals to him as a
contemplative philosopher.

Carlyle owed everything to his power of will and to his unflinching
adherence to principle. He was in no sense a lucky man, had no good
fortune, was borne by no current, was favored and helped by no
circumstance whatever. His life from the first was a steady pull against
both wind and tide. He confronted all the cherished thoughts, beliefs,
tendencies, of his time; he spurned and insulted his age and country. No
man ever before poured out such withering scorn upon his contemporaries.
Many of his political tracts are as blasting as the Satires of Juvenal.
The opinions and practices of his times, in politics, religion, and
literature, were as a stubbly, brambly field, to which he would fain
apply the match and clean the ground for a nobler crop. He would purge
and fertilize the soil by fire. His attitude was one of warning and
rebuking. He was refused every public place he ever aspired to,--every
college and editorial chair. Every man's hand was against him. He was
hated by the Whigs and feared by the Tories. He was poor, proud,
uncompromising, sarcastic; he was morose, dyspeptic, despondent,
compassed about by dragons and all manner of evil menacing forms; in
fact, the odds were fearfully against him, and yet he succeeded, and
succeeded on his own terms. He fairly conquered the world; yes, and the
flesh and the devil. But it was one incessant, heroic struggle and
wrestle from the first. All through his youth and his early manhood he
was nerving himself for the conflict. Whenever he took counsel with
himself it was to give his courage a new fillip. In his letters to his
people, in his private journal, in all his meditations, he never loses
the opportunity to take a new hitch upon his resolution, to screw his
purpose up tighter. Not a moment's relaxation, but ceaseless vigilance
and "desperate hope." In 1830 he says in his journal: "Oh, I care not
for poverty, little even for disgrace, nothing at all for want of
renown. But the horrible feeling is when I cease my own struggle, lose
the consciousness of my own strength, and become positively quite
worldly and wicked." A year later he wrote: "To it, thou _Taugenichts_!
Gird thyself! stir! struggle! forward! forward! Thou art bundled up here
and tied as in a sack. On, then, as in a sack race; running, not
raging!" Carlyle made no terms with himself nor with others. He would
not agree to keep the peace; he would be the voice of absolute
conscience, of absolute justice, come what come might. "Woe to them that
are at ease in Zion," he once said to John Sterling. The stern,
uncompromising front which he first turned to the world he never
relaxed for a moment. He had his way with mankind at all times; or
rather conscience had its way with him at all times in his relations
with mankind. He made no selfish demands, but ideal demands. Jeffries,
seeing his attitude and his earnestness in it, despaired of him; he
looked upon him as a man butting his head against a stone wall; he never
dreamed that the wall would give way before the head did. It was not
mere obstinacy; it was not the pride of opinion: it was the thunders of
conscience, the awful voice of Sinai, within him; he _dared_ not do
otherwise.

A selfish or self-seeking man Carlyle in no sense was, though it has so
often been charged upon him. He was the victim of his own genius; and he
made others its victims, not of his selfishness. This genius, no doubt,
came nearer the demon of Socrates than that of any modern man. He is
under its lash and tyranny from first to last. But the watchword of his
life was "_Entsagen_," renunciation, self-denial, which he learned from
Goethe. His demon did not possess him lightly, but dominated and drove
him.

One would as soon accuse St. Simeon Stylites, thirty years at the top of
his penitential pillar, of selfishness. Seeking his own ends, following
his own demon, St. Simeon certainly was; but seeking his ease or
pleasure, or animated by any unworthy, ignoble purpose, he certainly was
not. No more was Carlyle, each one of whose books was a sort of pillar
of penitence or martyrdom atop of which he wrought and suffered, shut
away from the world, renouncing its pleasures and prizes, wrapped in
deepest gloom and misery, and wrestling with all manner of real and
imaginary demons and hindrances. During his last great work,--the
thirteen years spent in his study at the top of his house, writing the
history of Frederick,--this isolation, this incessant toil and
penitential gloom, were such as only religious devotees have voluntarily
imposed upon themselves.

If Carlyle was "ill to live with," as his mother said, it was not
because he was selfish. He was a man, to borrow one of Emerson's early
phrases, "inflamed to a fury of personality." He must of necessity
assert himself; he is shot with great velocity; he is keyed to an
extraordinary pitch; and it was this, this raging fever of
individuality, if any namable trait or quality, rather than anything
lower in the scale, that often made him an uncomfortable companion and
neighbor.

And it may be said here that his wife had the same complaint, and had it
bad, the feminine form of it, and without the vent and assuagement of it
that her husband found in literature. Little wonder that between two
such persons, living childless together for forty years, each
assiduously cultivating their sensibilities and idiosyncrasies, there
should have been more or less frictions. Both sarcastic, quick-witted,
plain-spoken, sleepless, addicted to morphia and blue-pills, nerves all
on the outside; the wife without any occupation adequate to her genius,
the husband toiling like Hercules at his tasks and groaning much louder;
both flouting at happiness; both magnifying the petty ills of life into
harrowing tragedies; both gifted with "preternatural intensity of
sensation;" Mrs. C. nearly killed by the sting of a wasp; Mr. C. driven
nearly distracted by the crowing of a cock or the baying of a dog; the
wife hot-tempered, the husband atrabilarious; one caustic, the other
arrogant; marrying from admiration rather than from love--could one
reasonably predict, beforehand, a very high state of domestic felicity
for such a couple? and would it be just to lay the blame all on the
husband, as has generally been done in this case? Man and wife were too
much alike; the marriage was in no sense a union of opposites; at no
point did the two sufficiently offset and complement each other; hence,
though deeply devoted, they never seemed to find the repose and the
soothing acquiescence in the society of one another that marriage
should bring. They both had the great virtues,--nobleness, generosity,
courage, deep kindliness, etc.,--but neither of them had the small
virtues. Both gave way under small annoyances, paltry cares, petty
interruptions,--bugs, cocks, donkeys, street noises, etc. To great
emergencies, to great occasions, they could oppose great qualities;
there can be no doubt of that, but the ordinary every-day hindrances and
petty burdens of life fretted their spirits into tatters. Mrs. C. used
frequently to return from her trips to the country with her "mind all
churned into froth,"--no butter of sweet thought or sweet content at
all. Yet Carlyle could say of her, "Not a bad little dame at all. She
and I did aye very weel together; and 'tweel, it was not every one that
could have done with her," which was doubtless the exact truth. Froude
also speaks from personal knowledge when he says: "His was the soft
heart and hers the stern one."

We are now close on to the cardinal fact of Carlyle's life and
teachings, namely, the urgency of his quest for heroes and heroic
qualities. This is the master key to him; the main stress of his
preaching and writing is here. He is the medium and exemplar of the
value of personal force and prowess, and he projected this thought into
current literature and politics, with the emphasis of gunpowder and
torpedoes. He had a vehement and overweening conceit in man. A sort of
anthropomorphic greed and hunger possessed him always, an insatiable
craving for strong, picturesque characters, and for contact and conflict
with them. This was his ruling passion (and it amounted to a passion)
all his days. He fed his soul on heroes and heroic qualities, and all
his literary exploits were a search for these things. Where he found
them not, where he did not come upon some trace of them in books, in
society, in politics, he saw only barrenness and futility. He was an
idealist who was inhospitable to ideas; he must have a man, the flavor
and stimulus of ample concrete personalities. "In the country," he said,
writing to his brother in 1821, "I am like an alien, a stranger and
pilgrim from a far-distant land." His faculties were "up in mutiny, and
slaying one another for lack of fair enemies." He must to the city, to
Edinburgh, and finally to London, where, thirteen years later, we find
his craving as acute as ever. "Oct. 1st. This morning think of the old
primitive Edinburgh scheme of _engineership_; almost meditate for a
moment resuming it _yet_! It were a method of gaining bread, of getting
into contact with men, my two grand wants and prayers."

Nothing but man, but heroes, touched him, moved him, satisfied him. He
stands for heroes and hero-worship, and for that alone. Bring him the
most plausible theory, the most magnanimous idea in the world, and he is
cold, indifferent, or openly insulting; but bring him a brave, strong
man, or the reminiscence of any noble personal trait,--sacrifice,
obedience, reverence,--and every faculty within him stirs and responds.
Dreamers and enthusiasts, with their schemes for the millennium, rushed
to him for aid and comfort, and usually had the door slammed in their
faces. They forgot it was a man he had advertised for, and not an idea.
Indeed, if you had the blow-fly of any popular ism or reform buzzing in
your bonnet, No. 5 Cheyne Row was the house above all others to be
avoided; little chance of inoculating such a mind as Carlyle's with your
notions,--of _blowing_ a toiling and sweating hero at his work. But
welcome to any man with real work to do and the courage to do it;
welcome to any man who stood for any real, tangible thing in his own
right. "In God's name, what _art_ thou? Not Nothing, sayest thou! Then,
How much and what? This is the thing I would know, and even _must_ soon
know, such a pass am I come to!" ("Past and Present.")

Caroline Fox, in her Memoirs, tells how, in 1842, Carlyle's sympathies
were enlisted in behalf of a Cornish miner who had kept his place in the
bottom of a shaft, above a blast the fuse of which had been prematurely
lighted, and allowed his comrades to be hauled up when only one could
escape at a time. He inquired out the hero, who, as by miracle, had
survived the explosion, and set on foot an enterprise to raise funds for
the bettering of his condition. In a letter to Sterling, he said there
was help and profit in knowing that there was such a true and brave
workman living, and working with him on the earth at that time. "Tell
all the people," he said, "that a man of this kind ought to be
hatched,--that it were shameful to eat him as a breakfast egg!"

All Carlyle's sins of omission and commission grew out of this terrible
predilection for the individual hero: this bent or inclination
determined the whole water-shed, so to speak, of his mind; every rill
and torrent swept swiftly and noisily in this one direction. It is the
tragedy in Burns's life that attracts him; the morose heroism in
Johnson's, the copious manliness in Scott's, the lordly and regal
quality in Goethe. Emerson praised Plato to him; but the endless
dialectical hair-splitting of the Greek philosopher,--"how does all this
concern me at all?" he said. But when he discovered that Plato hated the
Athenian democracy most cordially, and poured out his scorn upon it, he
thought much better of him. History swiftly resolves itself into
biography to him; the tide in the affairs of men ebbed and flowed in
obedience to the few potent wills. We do not find him exploiting or
elucidating ideas and principles, but moral qualities,--always on the
scent, on the search of the heroic.

He raises aloft the standard of the individual will, the supremacy of
man over events. He sees the reign of law; none see it clearer. "Eternal
Law is silently present everywhere and everywhen. By Law the Planets
gyrate in their orbits; by some approach to Law the street-cabs ply in
their thoroughfares." But law is still personal will with him, the will
of God. He can see nothing but individuality, but conscious will and
force, in the universe. He believed in a personal God. He had an inward
ground of assurance of it in his own intense personality and vivid
apprehension of personal force and genius. He seems to have believed in
a personal devil. At least he abuses "Auld Nickie-Ben" as one would
hardly think of abusing an abstraction. However impractical we may
regard Carlyle, he was entirely occupied with practical questions; an
idealist turned loose, in the actual affairs of this world, and intent
only on bettering them. That which so drew reformers and all ardent
ideal natures to him was not the character of his conviction, but the
torrid impetuosity of his belief. He had the earnestness of fanaticism,
the earnestness of rebellion; the earnestness of the Long Parliament and
the National Convention,--the only two parliaments he praises. He did
not merely see the truth and placidly state it, standing aloof and apart
from it; but, as soon as his intellect had conceived a thing as true,
every current of his being set swiftly in that direction; it was an
outlet at once for his whole pent-up energies, and there was a flood and
sometimes an inundation of Carlylean wrath and power. Coming from
Goethe, with his marvelous insight and cool, uncommitted moral nature,
to the great Scotchman, is like coming from dress parade to a battle,
from Melancthon to Luther. It would be far from the truth to say that
Goethe was not in earnest: he was all eyes, all vision; he saw
everything, but saw it for his own ends and behoof, for contemplation
and enjoyment. In Carlyle the vision is productive of pain and
suffering, because his moral nature sympathizes so instantly and
thoroughly with his intellectual; it is a call to battle, and every
faculty is enlisted. It was this that made Carlyle akin to the reformers
and the fanatics, and led them to expect more of him than they got. The
artist element in him, and his vital hold upon the central truths of
character and personal force, saved him from any such fate as overtook
his friend Irving.

Out of Carlyle's fierce and rampant individualism come his grasp of
character and his power of human portraiture. It is, perhaps, not too
much to say, that in all literature there is not another such a master
portrait-painter, such a limner and interpreter of historical figures
and physiognomies. That power of the old artists to paint or to carve a
man, to body him forth, almost re-create him, so rare in the moderns,
Carlyle had in a preëminent degree. As an artist it is his
distinguishing gift, and puts him on a par with Rembrandt, Angelo,
Reynolds, and with the antique masters of sculpture. He could put his
finger upon the weak point and upon the strong point of a man as
unerringly as fate. He knew a man as a jockey knows a horse. His
pictures of Johnson, of Boswell, of Voltaire, of Mirabeau, what
masterpieces! His portrait of Coleridge will doubtless survive all
others, inadequate as it is in many ways; one fears, also that poor Lamb
has been stamped to last. None of Carlyle's characterizations have
excited more ill-feeling than this same one of Lamb. But it was plain
from the outset that Carlyle could not like such a verbal acrobat as
Lamb. He doubtless had him or his kind in view when he wrote this
passage in "Past and Present:" "His poor fraction of sense has to be
perked into some epigrammatic shape, that it may prick into me,--perhaps
(this is the commonest) to be topsy-turvied, left standing on its head,
that I may remember it the better! Such grinning insanity is very sad to
the soul of man. Human faces should not grin on one like masks; they
should look on one like faces! I love honest laughter as I do sunlight,
but not dishonest; most kinds of dancing, too, but the St. Vitus kind,
not at all!"

If Carlyle had taken to the brush instead of to the pen, he would
probably have left a gallery of portraits such as this century has not
seen. In his letters, journals, reminiscences, etc., for him to mention
a man is to describe his face, and with what graphic pen-and-ink
sketches they abound! Let me extract a few of them. Here is Rousseau's
face, from "Heroes and Hero Worship:" "A high but narrow-contracted
intensity in it; bony brows; deep, straight-set eyes, in which there is
something bewildered-looking,--bewildered, peering with lynx-eagerness;
a face full of misery, even ignoble misery, and also of an antagonism
against that; something mean, plebeian, there, redeemed only by
_intensity_; the face of what is called a fanatic,--a sadly _contracted_
hero!" Here a glimpse of Danton: "Through whose black brows and rude,
flattened face there looks a waste energy as of Hercules." Camille
Desmoulins: "With the face of dingy blackguardism, wondrously irradiated
with genius, as if a naphtha lamp burned in it." Through Mirabeau's
"shaggy, beetle-brows, and rough-hewn, seamed, carbuncled face there
look natural ugliness, smallpox, incontinence, bankruptcy, and burning
fire of genius; like comet fire, glaring fuliginous through murkiest
confusions."

On first meeting with John Stuart Mill he describes him to his wife as
"a slender, rather tall, and elegant youth, with small, clear,
Roman-nosed face, two small, earnestly smiling eyes; modest, remarkably
gifted with precision of utterance; enthusiastic, yet lucid, calm; not a
great, yet distinctly a gifted and amiable youth."

A London editor, whom he met about the same time, he describes as "a
tall, loose, lank-haired, wrinkly, wintry, vehement-looking flail of a
man." He goes into the House of Commons on one of his early visits to
London: "Althorp spoke, a thick, large, broad-whiskered, farmer-looking
man; Hume also, a powdered, clean, burly fellow; and Wetherell, a
beetle-browed, sagacious, quizzical old gentleman; then Davies, a
Roman-nosed dandy," etc. He must touch off the portrait of every man he
sees. De Quincey "is one of the smallest men you ever in your life
beheld; but with a most gentle and sensible face, only that the teeth
are destroyed by opium, and the little bit of an under lip projects like
a shelf." Leigh Hunt: "Dark complexion (a trace of the African, I
believe); copious, clean, strong black hair, beautifully shaped head,
fine, beaming, serious hazel eyes; seriousness and intellect the main
expression of the face (to our surprise at first)."

Here is his sketch of Tennyson: "A fine, large-featured, dim-eyed,
bronze-colored, shaggy-headed man is Alfred; dusty, smoky, free and
easy, who swings outwardly and inwardly with great composure in an
inarticulate element of tranquil chaos and tobacco smoke. Great now and
then when he does emerge,--a most restful, brotherly, solid-hearted
man."

Here we have Dickens in 1840: "Clear blue intelligent eyes; eyebrows
that he arches amazingly; large, protrusive, rather loose mouth; a face
of most extreme _mobility_, which he shuttles about--eyebrows, eyes,
mouth, and all--in a very singular manner while speaking. Surmount this
with a loose coil of common-colored hair, and set it on a small compact
figure, very small, and dressed à la D'Orsay rather than well,--this is
Pickwick."

Here is a glimpse of Grote, the historian of Greece: "A man with
straight upper lip, large chin, and open mouth (spout mouth); for the
rest, a tall man, with dull, thoughtful brow and lank, disheveled hair,
greatly the look of a prosperous Dissenting minister."

In telling Emerson whom he shall see in London, he says: "Southey's
complexion is still healthy mahogany brown, with a fleece of white hair,
and eyes that seem running at full gallop; old Rogers, with his pale
head, white, bare, and cold as snow, with those large blue eyes, cruel,
sorrowful, and that sardonic shelf chin."

In another letter he draws this portrait of Webster: "As a logic-fencer,
advocate, or parliamentary Hercules, one would incline to back him, at
first sight, against all the extant world. The tanned complexion; that
amorphous crag-like face; the dull black eyes under their precipice of
brows, like dull anthracite furnaces, needing only to be _blown_; the
mastiff-mouth accurately closed: I have not traced as much of _silent
Berserker rage_, that I remember of, in any other man." In writing his
histories Carlyle valued, above almost anything else, a good portrait of
his hero, and searched far and wide for such. He roamed through endless
picture-galleries in Germany searching for a genuine portrait of
Frederick the Great, and at last, chiefly by good luck, hit upon the
thing he was in quest of. "If one would buy an indisputably authentic
_old shoe_ of William Wallace for hundreds of pounds, and run to look at
it from all ends of Scotland, what would one give for an authentic
visible shadow of his face, could such, by art natural or art magic, now
be had!" "Often I have found a Portrait superior in real instruction to
half a dozen written 'Biographies,' as Biographies are written; or,
rather, let me say, I have found that the Portrait was a small lighted
_candle_ by which the Biographies could for the first time be _read_,
and some human interpretation be made of them."


II

Carlyle stands at all times, at all places, for the hero, for power of
will, authority of character, adequacy, and obligation of personal
force. He offsets completely, and with the emphasis of a clap of
thunder, the modern leveling impersonal tendencies, the "manifest
destinies," the blind mass movements, the merging of the one in the
many, the rule of majorities, the no-government, no-leadership,
_laissez-faire_ principle. Unless there was evidence of a potent,
supreme, human will guiding affairs, he had no faith in the issue;
unless the hero was in the saddle, and the dumb blind forces well bitted
and curbed beneath him, he took no interest in the venture. The cause of
the North, in the War of the Rebellion, failed to enlist him or touch
him. It was a people's war; the hand of the strong man was not
conspicuous; it was a conflict of ideas, rather than of personalities;
there was no central and dominating figure around which events revolved.
He missed his Cromwell, his Frederick. So far as his interest was
aroused at all, it was with the South, because he had heard of the
Southern slave-driver; he knew Cuffee had a master, and the crack of his
whip was sweeter music to him than the crack of antislavery rifles,
behind which he recognized only a vague, misdirected philanthropy.

Carlyle did not see things in their relation, or as a philosopher; he
saw them detached, and hence more or less in conflict and opposition. We
accuse him of wrong-headedness, but it is rather inflexibleness of mind
and temper. He is not a brook that flows, but a torrent that plunges and
plows. He tried poetry, he tried novel-writing in his younger days, but
he had not the flexibility of spirit to succeed in these things; his
moral vehemence, his fury of conviction, were too great.

Great is the power of reaction in the human body; great is the power of
reaction and recoil in all organic nature. But apparently there was no
power of reaction in Carlyle's mind; he never reacts from his own
extreme views; never looks for the compensations, never seeks to place
himself at the point of equilibrium, or adjusts his view to other
related facts. He saw the value of the hero, the able man, and he
precipitated himself upon this fact with such violence, so detached it
and magnified it, that it fits with no modern system of things. He was
apparently entirely honest in his conviction that modern governments and
social organizations were rushing swiftly to chaos and ruin, because the
hero, the natural leader, was not at the head of affairs,--overlooking
entirely the many checks and compensations, and ignoring the fact that,
under a popular government especially, nations are neither made nor
unmade by the wisdom or folly of their rulers, but by the character for
wisdom and virtue of the mass of their citizens. "Where the great mass
of men is tolerably right," he himself says, "all is right; where they
are not right, all is wrong." What difference can it make to America,
for instance, to the real growth and prosperity of the nation, whether
the ablest man goes to Congress or fills the Presidency or the second or
third ablest? The most that we can expect, in ordinary times at least,
is that the machinery of universal suffrage will yield us a fair sample
of the leading public man,--a man who fairly represents the average
ability and average honesty of the better class of the citizens. In
extraordinary times, in times of national peril, when there is a real
strain upon the state, and the instinct of self-preservation comes into
play, then fate itself brings forward the ablest men. The great crisis
makes or discovers the great man,--discovers Cromwell, Frederick,
Washington, Lincoln. Carlyle leaves out of his count entirely the
competitive principle that operates everywhere in nature,--in your field
and garden as well as in political states and amid teeming
populations,--natural selection, the survival of the fittest. Under
artificial conditions the operation of this law is more or less checked;
but amid the struggles and parturition throes of a people, artificial
conditions disappear, and we touch real ground at last. What a sorting
and sifting process went on in our army during the secession war, till
the real captains, the real leaders, were found; not Fredericks, or
Wellingtons, perhaps, but the best the land afforded!

The object of popular government is no more to find and elevate the
hero, the man of special and exceptional endowment, into power, than the
object of agriculture is to take the prizes at the agricultural fairs.
It is one of the things to be hoped for and aspired to, but not one of
the indispensables. The success of free government is attained when it
has made the people independent of special leaders, and secured the free
and full expression of the popular will and conscience. Any view of
American politics, based upon the failure of the suffrage always, or
even generally, to lift into power the ablest men, is partial and
unscientific. We can stand, and have stood, any amount of mediocrity in
our appointed rulers; and perhaps in the ordinary course of events
mediocrity is the safest and best. We could no longer surrender
ourselves to great leaders, if we wanted to. Indeed, there is no longer
a call for great leaders; with the appearance of the people upon the
scene, the hero must await his orders. How often in this country have
the people checked and corrected the folly and wrong-headedness of their
rulers! It is probably true, as Carlyle says, that "the smallest item of
human Slavery is the oppression of man by his Mock-Superiors;" but shall
we accept the other side of the proposition, that the grand problem is
to find government by our Real Superiors? The grand problem is rather to
be superior to all government, and to possess a nationality that finally
rests upon principles quite beyond the fluctuations of ordinary
politics. A people possessed of the gift of Empire, like the English
stock, both in Europe and in America, are in our day beholden very
little to their chosen rulers. Otherwise the English nation would have
been extinct long ago.

"Human virtue," Carlyle wrote in 1850, "if we went down to the roots of
it, is not so rare. The materials of human virtue are everywhere
abundant as the light of the sun." This may well offset his more
pessimistic statement, that "there are fools, cowards, knaves, and
gluttonous traitors, true only to their own appetite, in immense
majority in every rank of life; and there is nothing frightfuller than
to see these voting and deciding." If we "went down to the roots of it,"
this statement is simply untrue. "Democracy," he says, "is, by the
nature of it, a self-canceling business, and gives, in the long run, a
net result of _zero_."

Because the law of gravitation is uncompromising, things are not,
therefore, crushed in a wild rush to the centre of attraction. The very
traits that make Carlyle so entertaining and effective as a historian
and biographer, namely, his fierce, man-devouring eyes, make him
impracticable in the sphere of practical politics.

Let me quote a long and characteristic passage from Carlyle's Latter-Day
Pamphlets, one of dozens of others, illustrating his misconception of
universal suffrage:--

"Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The
ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most
harmonious, exquisitely constitutional manner; the ship, to get round
Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for and fixed
with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely
careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting,
ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get
around the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian winds will blow you ever
back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy-councilors from Chaos,
will nudge you with most chaotic 'admonition;' you will be flung half
frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or admonished into shivers by your
iceberg councilors and sent sheer down to Davy Jones, and will never get
around Cape Horn at all! Unanimity on board ship;--yes, indeed, the
ship's crew may be very unanimous, which, doubtless, for the time being,
will be very comfortable to the ship's crew and to their Phantasm
Captain, if they have one; but if the tack they unanimously steer upon
is guiding them into the belly of the Abyss, it will not profit them
much! Ships, accordingly, do not use the ballot-box at all; and they
reject the Phantasm species of Captain. One wishes much some other
Entities--since all entities lie under the same rigorous set of
laws--could be brought to show as much wisdom and sense at least of
self-preservation, the _first_ command of nature. Phantasm Captains with
unanimous votings,--this is considered to be all the law and all the
prophets at present."

This has the real crushing Carlylean wit and picturesqueness of
statement, but is it the case of democracy, of universal suffrage fairly
put? The eternal verities appear again, as they appear everywhere in our
author in connection with this subject. They recur in his pages like
"minute-guns," as if deciding, by the count of heads, whether Jones or
Smith should go to Parliament or to Congress was equivalent to sitting
in judgment upon the law of gravitation. What the ship in doubling Cape
Horn would very likely do, if it found itself officerless, would be to
choose, by some method more or less approaching a count of heads, a
captain, an ablest man to take command, and put the vessel through. If
none were able, then indeed the case were desperate; with or without the
ballot-box, the abyss would be pretty sure of a victim. In any case
there would perhaps be as little voting to annul the storms, or change
the ocean currents, as there is in democracies to settle ethical or
scientific principles by an appeal to universal suffrage. But Carlyle
was fated to see the abyss lurking under, and the eternities presiding
over, every act of life. He saw everything in fearful gigantic
perspective. It is true that one cannot loosen the latchet of his shoe
without bending to forces that are cosmical, sidereal; but whether he
bends or not, or this way or that, he passes no verdict upon them. The
temporary, the expedient,--all those devices and adjustments that are of
the nature of scaffolding, and that enter so largely into the
administration of the coarser affairs of this world,--were with Carlyle
equivalent to the false, the sham, the phantasmal, and he would none of
them. As the ages seem to have settled themselves for the present and
the future, in all civilized countries,--and especially in
America,--politics is little more than scaffolding; it certainly is not
the house we live in, but an appurtenance or necessity of the house. A
government, in the long run, can never be better or worse than the
people governed. In voting for Jones for constable, am I voting for or
against the unalterable laws of the universe,--an act wherein the
consequences of a mistake are so appalling that voting had better be
dispensed with, and the selection of constables be left to the
evolutionary principle of the solar system?

Carlyle was not a reconciler. When he saw a fact, he saw it with such
intense and magnifying eyes, as I have already said, that it became at
once irreconcilable with other facts. He could not and would not
reconcile popular government, the rule of majorities, with what he knew
and what we all know to be popular follies, or the proneness of the
multitude to run after humbugs. How easy for fallacies, speciosities,
quackeries, etc., to become current! That a thing is popular makes a
wise man look upon it with suspicion. Are the greatest or best books the
most read books? Have not the great principles, the great reforms, begun
in minorities and fought their way against the masses? Does not the
multitude generally greet its saviors with "Crucify him, crucify him"?
Who have been the martyrs and the persecuted in all ages? Where does the
broad road lead to, and which is the Narrow Way? "Can it be proved that,
since the beginning of the world, there was ever given a universal vote
in favor of the worthiest man or thing? I have always understood that
true worth, in any department, was difficult to recognize; that the
worthiest, if he appealed to universal suffrage, would have but a poor
chance."

Upon these facts Carlyle planted himself, and the gulf which he saw open
between them and the beauties of universal suffrage was simply immense.
Without disputing the facts here, we may ask if they really bear upon
the question of popular government, of a free ballot? If so, then the
ground is clean shot away from under it. The world is really governed
and led by minorities, and always will be. The many, sooner or later,
follow the one. We have all become abolitionists in this country, some
of us much to our surprise and bewilderment; we hardly know yet how it
happened; but the time was when abolitionists were hunted by the
multitude. Marvelous to relate, also, civil service reform has become
popular among our politicians. Something has happened; the tide has
risen while we slept, or while we mocked and laughed, and away we all go
on the current. Yet it is equally true that, under any form of
government, nothing short of events themselves, nothing short of that
combination of circumstances which we name fate or fortune, can place
that exceptional man, the hero, at the head of affairs. If there are no
heroes, then woe to the people who have lost the secret of producing
great men.

The worthiest man usually has other work to do, and avoids politics.
Carlyle himself could not be induced to stand for Parliament. "Who would
govern," he says, "that can get along without governing? He that is
fittest for it is of all men the unwillingest unless constrained." But
constrained he cannot be, yet he is our only hope. What shall we do? A
government by the fittest can alone save mankind, yet the fittest is
not forthcoming. We do not know him; he does not know himself. The case
is desperate. Hence the despair of Carlyle in his view of modern
politics.

Who that has read his history of Frederick has not at times felt that he
would gladly be the subject of a real king like the great Prussian, a
king who was indeed the father of his people; a sovereign man at the
head of affairs with the reins of government all in his own hands; an
imperial husbandman devoted to improving, extending, and building up his
nation as the farmer his farm, and toiling as no husbandman ever toiled;
a man to reverence, to love, to fear; who called all the women his
daughters, and all the men his sons, and whom to see and to speak with
was the event of a lifetime; a shepherd to his people, a lion to his
enemies? Such a man gives head and character to a nation; he is the head
and the people are the body; currents of influence and of power stream
down from such a hero to the life of the humblest peasant; his spirit
diffuses itself through the nation. It is the ideal state; it is
captivating to the imagination; there is an artistic completeness about
it. Probably this is why it so captivated Carlyle, inevitable artist
that he was. But how impossible to us! how impossible to any
English-speaking people by their own action and choice; not because we
are unworthy such a man, but because an entirely new order of things has
arrived, and arrived in due course of time, through the political and
social evolution of man. The old world has passed away; the age of the
hero, of the strong leader, is gone. The people have arrived, and sit in
judgment upon all who would rule or lead them. Science has arrived,
everything is upon trial; private judgment is supreme. Our only hope in
this country, at least in the sphere of governments, is in the
collective wisdom of the people; and, as extremes so often meet, perhaps
this, if thoroughly realized, is as complete and artistic a plan as the
others. The "collective folly" of the people, Carlyle would say, and
perhaps during his whole life he never for a moment saw it otherwise;
never saw that the wisdom of the majority could be other than the
no-wisdom of blind masses of unguided men. He seemed to forget, or else
not to know, that universal suffrage, as exemplified in America, was
really a sorting and sifting process, a search for the wise, the truly
representative man; that the vast masses were not asked who should rule
over them, but were asked which of two candidates they preferred, in
selecting which candidates what of wisdom and leadership there was
available had had their due weight; in short, that democracy alone makes
way for and offers a clear road to natural leadership. Under the
pressure of opposing parties, all the political wisdom and integrity
there is in the country stand between the people, the masses, and the
men of their choice.

Undoubtedly popular government will, in the main, be like any other
popular thing,--it will partake of the conditions of popularity; it
will seldom elevate the greatest; it will never elevate the meanest; it
is based upon the average virtue and intelligence of the people.

There have been great men in all countries and times who possessed the
elements of popularity, and would have commanded the suffrage of the
people; on the other hand, there have been men who possessed many
elements of popularity, but few traits of true greatness; others with
greatness, but no elements of popularity. These last are the reformers,
the innovators, the starters, and their greatness is a discovery of
after-times. Popular suffrage cannot elevate these men, and if, as
between the two other types, it more frequently seizes upon the last, it
is because the former is the more rare.

But there is a good deal of delusion about the proneness of the
multitude to run after quacks and charlatans: a multitude runs, but a
larger multitude does not run; and those that do run soon see their
mistake. Real worth, real merit, alone wins the permanent suffrage of
mankind. In every neighborhood and community the best men are held in
highest regard by the most persons. The world over, the names most
fondly cherished are those most worthy of being cherished. Yet this does
not prevent that certain types of great men--men who are in advance of
their times and announce new doctrines and faiths--will be rejected and
denied by their contemporaries. This is the order of nature. Minorities
lead and save the world, and the world knows them not till long
afterward.

No man perhaps suspects how large and important the region of
unconsciousness in him, what a vast, unknown territory lies there back
of his conscious will and purpose, and which is really the controlling
power of his life. Out of it things arise, and shape and define
themselves to his consciousness and rule his career. Here the influence
of environment works; here the elements of race, of family; here the
Time-Spirit moulds him and he knows it not; here Nature, or Fate, as we
sometimes name it, rules him and makes him what he is.

In every people or nation stretches this deep, unsuspected background.
Here the great movements begin; here the deep processes go on; here the
destiny of the race or nation really lies. In this soil the new ideas
are sown; the new man, the despised leader, plants his seed here, and if
they be vital they thrive, and in due time emerge and become the
conscious possession of the community.

None knew better than Carlyle himself that, whoever be the ostensible
potentates and lawmakers, the wise do virtually rule, the natural
leaders do lead. Wisdom will out: it is the one thing in this world that
cannot be suppressed or annulled. There is not a parish, township, or
community, little or big, in this country or in England, that is not
finally governed, shaped, directed, built up by what of wisdom there is
in it. All the leading industries and enterprises gravitate naturally to
the hands best able to control them. The wise furnish employment for
the unwise, capital flows to capital hands as surely as water seeks
water.

     "Winds blow and waters roll
      Strength to the brave."

There never is and never can be any government but by the wisest. In all
nations and communities the law of nature finally prevails. If there is
no wisdom in the people, there will be none in their rulers; the virtue
and intelligence of the representative will not be essentially different
from that of his constituents. The dependence of the foolish, the
thriftless, the improvident, upon his natural master and director, for
food, employment, for life itself, is just as real to-day in America as
it was in the old feudal or patriarchal times. The relation between the
two is not so obvious, so intimate, so voluntary, but it is just as
vital and essential. How shall we know the wise man unless he makes
himself felt, or seen, or heard? How shall we know the master unless he
masters us? Is there any danger that the real captains will not step to
the front, and that we shall not know them when they do? Shall we not
know a Luther, a Cromwell, a Franklin, a Washington?

"Man," says Carlyle, "little as he may suppose it, is necessitated to
obey superiors; he is a social being in virtue of this necessity; nay,
he could not be gregarious otherwise; he obeys those whom he esteems
better than himself, wiser, braver, and will forever obey such; and ever
be ready and delighted to do it." Think in how many ways, through how
many avenues, in our times, the wise man can reach us and place himself
at our head, or mould us to his liking, as orator, statesman, poet,
philosopher, preacher, editor. If he has any wise mind to speak, any
scheme to unfold, there is the rostrum or pulpit and crowds ready to
hear him, or there is the steam power press ready to disseminate his
wisdom to the four corners of the earth. He can set up a congress or a
parliament and really make and unmake the laws, by his own fireside, in
any country that has a free press. "If we will consider it, the
essential truth of the matter is, every British man can now elect
_himself_ to Parliament without consulting the hustings at all. If there
be any vote, idea, or notion in him, or any earthly or heavenly thing,
cannot he take a pen and therewith autocratically pour forth the same
into the ears and hearts of all people, so far as it will go?" ("Past
and Present.") Or, there is the pulpit everywhere waiting to be worthily
filled. What may not the real hero accomplish here? "Indeed, is not this
that we call spiritual guidance properly the soul of the whole, the life
and eyesight of the whole?" Some one has even said, "Let me make the
songs of a nation and I care not who makes the laws." Certainly the
great poet of a people is its real Founder and King. He rules for
centuries and rules in the heart.

In more primitive times, and amid more rudely organized communities, the
hero, the strong man, could step to the front and seize the leadership
like the buffalo of the plains or the wild horse of the pampas; but in
our time, at least among English-speaking races, he must be more or less
called by the suffrage of the people. It is quite certain that, had
there been a seventeenth or eighteenth century Carlyle he would not have
seen the hero in Cromwell, or in Frederick, that the nineteenth century
Carlyle saw in each. In any case, in any event, the dead rule us more
than the living; we cannot escape the past. It is not merely by virtue
of the sunlight that falls now, and the rain and dew that it brings,
that we continue here; but by virtue of the sunlight of æons of past
ages.

"This land of England has its conquerors, possessors, which change from
epoch to epoch, from day to day; but its real conquerors, creators, and
eternal proprietors are these following and their representatives, if
you can find them: all the Heroic Souls that ever were in England, each
in their degree; all the men that ever cut a thistle, drained a puddle
out of England, contrived a wise scheme in England, did or said a true
and valiant thing in England." "Work? The quantity of done and forgotten
work that lies silent under my feet in this world, and escorts and
attends me and supports and keeps me alive, wheresoever I walk or stand,
whatsoever I think or do, gives rise to reflections!" In our own
politics, has our first President ever ceased to be President? Does he
not still sit there, the stern and blameless patriot, uttering counsel?

Carlyle had no faith in the inherent tendency of things to right
themselves, to adjust themselves to their own proper standards; the
conservative force of Nature, the checks and balances by which her own
order and succession is maintained; the Darwinian principle, according
to which the organic life of the globe has been evolved, the higher and
more complex forms mounting from the lower, the true _palingenesia_, the
principle or power, name it Fate, name it Necessity, name it God, or
what you will, which finally lifts a people, a race, an age, and even a
community above the reach of choice, of accident, of individual will,
into the region of general law. So little is life what we make it, after
all; so little is the course of history, the destiny of nations, the
result of any man's purpose, or direction, or will, so great is Fate, so
insignificant is man! The human body is made up of a vast congeries or
association of minute cells, each with its own proper work and function,
at which it toils incessantly night and day, and thinks of nothing
beyond. The shape, the size, the color of the body, its degree of health
and strength, etc.,--no cell or series of cells decides these points; a
law above and beyond the cell determines them. The final destiny and
summing up of a nation is, perhaps, as little within the conscious will
and purpose of the individual citizens. When you come to large masses,
to long periods, the law of nature steps in. The day is hot or the day
is cold, the spring is late or the spring is early; but the inclination
of the earth's axis makes the winter and summer sure. The wind blows
this way and blows that, but the great storms gyrate and travel in one
general direction. There is a wind of the globe that never varies, and
there is the breeze of the mountain that is never two days alike. The
local hurricane moves the waters of the sea to a depth of but a few
feet, but the tidal impulse goes to the bottom. Men and communities in
this world are often in the position of arctic explorers, who are making
great speed in a given direction while the ice-floe beneath them is
making greater speed in the opposite direction. This kind of progress
has often befallen political and ecclesiastical parties in this country.
Behind mood lies temperament; back of the caprice of will lies the fate
of character; back of both is the bias of family; back of that, the
tyranny of race; still deeper, the power of climate, of soil, of
geology, the whole physical and moral environment. Still we are free men
only so far as we rise above these. We cannot abolish fate, but we can
in a measure utilize it. The projectile force of the bullet does not
annul or suspend gravity; it uses it. The floating vapor is just as true
an illustration of the law of gravity as the falling avalanche.

Carlyle, I say, had sounded these depths that lie beyond the region of
will and choice, beyond the sphere of man's moral accountability; but in
life, in action, in conduct, no man shall take shelter here. One may
summon his philosophy when he is beaten in battle, and not till then.
You shall not shirk the hobbling Times to catch a ride on the
sure-footed Eternities. "The times are bad; very well, you are there to
make them better." "The public highways ought not to be occupied by
people demonstrating that motion is impossible." ("Chartism.")


III

Caroline Fox, in her "Memoirs of Old Friends," reports a smart saying
about Carlyle, current in her time, which has been current in some form
or other ever since; namely, that he had a large capital of faith
uninvested,--carried it about him as ready money, I suppose, working
capital. It is certainly true that it was not locked up in any of the
various social and religious safe-deposits. He employed a vast deal of
it in his daily work. It took not a little to set Cromwell up, and
Frederick. Indeed, it is doubtful if among his contemporaries there was
a man with so active a faith,--so little invested in paper securities.
His religion, as a present living reality, went with him into every
question. He did not believe that the Maker of this universe had retired
from business, or that he was merely a sleeping partner in the concern.
"Original sin," he says, "and such like are bad enough, I doubt not; but
distilled sin, dark ignorance, stupidity, dark corn-law, bastile and
company, what are they?" For creeds, theories, philosophies, plans for
reforming the world, etc., he cared nothing, he would not invest one
moment in them; but the hero, the worker, the doer, justice, veracity,
courage, these drew him,--in these he put his faith. What to other
people were mere obstructions were urgent, pressing realities to
Carlyle. Every truth or fact with him has a personal inclination, points
to conduct, points to duty. He could not invest himself in creeds and
formulas, but in that which yielded an instant return in force, justice,
character. He has no philosophical impartiality. He has been broken up;
there have been moral convulsions; the rock stands on end. Hence the
vehement and precipitous character of his speech,--its wonderful
picturesqueness and power. The spirit of gloom and dejection that
possesses him, united to such an indomitable spirit of work and
helpfulness, is very noteworthy. Such courage, such faith, such unshaken
adamantine belief in the essential soundness and healthfulness that lay
beneath all this weltering and chaotic world of folly and evil about
him, in conjunction with such pessimism and despondency, was never
before seen in a man of letters. I am reminded that in this respect he
was more like a root of the tree of Igdrasil than like a branch; one of
the central and master roots, with all that implies, toiling and
grappling in the gloom, but full of the spirit of light. How he delves
and searches; how much he made live and bloom again; how he sifted the
soil for the last drop of heroic blood! The Fates are there, too, with
water from the sacred well. He is quick, sensitive, full of tenderness
and pity; yet he is savage and brutal when you oppose him, or seek to
wrench him from his holdings. His stormy outbursts always leave the
moral atmosphere clear and bracing; he does not communicate the gloom
and despondency he feels, because he brings us so directly and
unfailingly in contact with the perennial sources of hope and faith,
with the life-giving and the life-renewing. Though the heavens fall, the
orbs of truth and justice fall not. Carlyle was like an unhoused soul,
naked and bare to every wind that blows. He felt the awful cosmic chill.
He could not take shelter in the creed of his fathers, nor in any of the
opinions and beliefs of his time. He could not and did not try to fend
himself against the keen edge of the terrible doubts, the awful
mysteries, the abysmal questions and duties. He lived and wrought on in
the visible presence of God. This was no myth to him, but a terrible
reality. How the immensities open and yawn about him! He was like a man
who should suddenly see his relations to the universe, both physical and
moral, in gigantic perspective, and never through life lose the awe, the
wonder, the fear, the revelation inspired. The veil, the illusion of the
familiar, the commonplace, is torn away. The natural becomes the
supernatural. Every question, every character, every duty, was seen
against the immensities, like figures in the night against a background
of fire, and seen as if for the first time. The sidereal, the cosmical,
the eternal,--we grow familiar with these or lose sight of them
entirely. But Carlyle never lost sight of them; his sense of them became
morbidly acute, preternaturally developed, and it was as if he saw
every movement of the hand, every fall of a leaf, as an emanation of
solar energy. A "haggard mood of the imagination" (his own phrase) was
habitual with him. He could see only the tragical in life and in
history. Events were imminent, poised like avalanches that a word might
loosen. We see Jeffries perpetually amazed at his earnestness, the
gradations in his mind were so steep; the descent from the thought to
the deed was so swift and inevitable that the witty advocate came to
look upon him as a man to be avoided.

"Daily and hourly," he says (at the age of thirty-eight), "the world
natural grows more of a world magical to me; this is as it should be.
Daily, too, I see that there is no true poetry but in _reality_."

"The gist of my whole way of thought," he says again, "is to raise the
natural to the supernatural." To his brother John he wrote in 1832: "I
get more earnest, graver, not unhappier, every day. The whole creation
seems more and more divine to me, the natural more and more
supernatural." His eighty-five years did not tame him at all, did not
blunt his conception of the "fearfulness and wonderfulness of life."
Sometimes an opiate or an anæsthetic operates inversely upon a
constitution, and, instead of inducing somnolence, makes the person
wildly wakeful and sensitive. The anodyne of life acted this way upon
Carlyle, and, instead of quieting or benumbing him, filled him with
portentous imaginings and fresh cause for wonder. There is a danger that
such a mind, if it takes to literature, will make a mess of it. But
Carlyle is saved by his tremendous gripe upon reality. Do I say the
ideal and the real were one with him? He made the ideal _the_ real, and
the only real. Whatever he touched he made tangible, actual, and vivid.
Ideas are hurled like rocks, a word blisters like a branding-iron, a
metaphor transfixes like a javelin. There is something in his sentences
that lays hold of things, as the acids bite metals. His subtle thoughts,
his marvelous wit, like the viewless gases of the chemist, combine with
a force that startles the reader.

Carlyle differs from the ordinary religious enthusiast in the way he
bares his bosom to the storm. His attitude is rather one of gladiatorial
resignation than supplication. He makes peace with nothing, takes refuge
in nothing. He flouts at happiness, at repose, at joy. "There is in man
a _higher_ than love of happiness; he can do without happiness, and
instead thereof find blessedness." "The life of all gods figures itself
to us as a sublime sadness,--earnestness of infinite battle against
infinite labor. Our highest religion is named the 'Worship of Sorrow.'
For the Son of Man there is no noble crown, well worn or even ill worn,
but is a crown of thorns." His own worship is a kind of defiant
admiration of Eternal Justice. He asks no quarter, and will give none.
He turns upon the grim destinies a look as undismayed and as
uncompromising as their own. Despair cannot crush him; he will crush it.
The more it bears on, the harder he will work. The way to get rid of
wretchedness is to despise it; the way to conquer the devil is to defy
him; the way to gain heaven is to turn your back upon it, and be as
unflinching as the gods themselves. Satan may be roasted in his own
flames; Tophet may be exploded with its own sulphur. "Despicable biped!"
(Teufelsdrökh is addressing himself.) "What is the sum total of the
worst that lies before thee? Death? Well, death; and say the pangs of
Tophet, too, and all that the devil and man may, will, or can do against
thee! Hast thou not a heart? Canst thou not suffer what so it be, and as
a child of freedom, though outcast, trample Tophet itself under thy feet
while it consumes thee? Let it come, then; I will meet it and defy it."
This is the "Everlasting No" of Teufelsdrökh, the annihilation of self.
Having thus routed Satan with his own weapons, the "Everlasting Yea" is
to people his domain with fairer forms; to find your ideal in the world
about you. "Thy condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same
ideal out of; what matters whether such stuff be of this sort or of
that, so the form thou give it be heroic, be poetic?" Carlyle's
watchword through life, as I have said, was the German word _Entsagen_,
or renunciation. The perfect flower of religion opens in the soul only
when all self-seeking is abandoned. The divine, the heroic attitude is:
"I ask not Heaven, I fear not Hell; I crave the truth alone,
withersoever it may lead." "Truth! I cried, though the heavens crush me
for following her; no falsehood, though a celestial lubberland were the
price of apostasy." The truth,--what is the truth? Carlyle answers: That
which you believe with all your soul and all your might and all your
strength, and are ready to face Tophet for,--that, for you, is the
truth. Such a seeker was he himself. It matters little whether we agree
that he found it or not. The law of this universe is such that where the
love, the desire, is perfect and supreme, the truth is already found.
That is the truth, not the letter but the spirit; the seeker and the
sought are one. Can you by searching find out God? "Moses cried, 'When,
O Lord, shall I find thee? God said, Know that when thou hast sought
thou hast already found me.'" This is Carlyle's position, so far as it
can be defined. He hated dogma as he hated poison. No direct or dogmatic
statement of religious belief or opinion could he tolerate. He abandoned
the church, for which his father designed him, because of his inexorable
artistic sense; he could not endure the dogma that the church rested
upon, the pedestal of clay upon which the golden image was reared. The
gold he held to, as do all serious souls, but the dogma of clay he
quickly dropped. "Whatever becomes of us," he said, referring to this
subject in a letter to a friend when he was in his twenty-third year,
"never let us cease to behave like honest men."


IV

Carlyle had an enormous egoism, but to do the work he felt called on to
do, to offset and withstand the huge, roaring, on-rushing modern world
as he did, required an enormous egoism. In more senses than one do the
words applied to the old prophet apply to him: "For, behold, I have made
thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls
against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes
thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the
land." He was a defenced city, an iron pillar, and brazen wall, in the
extent to which he was riveted and clinched in his own purpose and aim,
as well as in his attitude of opposition or hostility to the times in
which he lived.

Froude, whose life of Carlyle in its just completed form, let me say
here, has no equal in interest or literary value among biographies since
his master's life of Sterling, presents his hero to us a prophet in the
literal and utilitarian sense, as a foreteller of the course of events,
and says that an adequate estimate of his work is not yet possible. We
must wait and see if he was right about democracy, about America,
universal suffrage, progress of the species, etc. "Whether his message
was a true message remains to be seen." "If he was wrong he has misused
his powers. The principles of his teaching are false. He has offered
himself as a guide upon a road of which he had no knowledge; and his
own desire for himself would be the speediest oblivion both of his
person and his works."

But the man was true; there can be no doubt about that, and when such is
the case the message may safely be left to take care of itself. We have
got the full force and benefit of it in our own day and generation,
whether our "cherished ideas of political liberty, with their kindred
corollaries," prove illusions or not. All high spiritual and prophetic
utterances are instantly their own proof and justification, or they are
naught. Does Mr. Froude really mean that the prophecies of Jeremiah and
Isaiah have become a part of the permanent "spiritual inheritance of
mankind" because they were literally fulfilled in specific instances,
and not because they were true from the first and always, as the
impassioned yearnings and uprisings and reachings-forth of high
God-burdened souls at all times are true? Regarded merely as a
disturbing and overturning force, Carlyle was of great value. There
never was a time, especially in an era like ours, when the opinion and
moral conviction of the race did not need subsoiling, loosening up from
the bottom,--the shock of rude, scornful, merciless power. There are ten
thousand agencies and instrumentalities titillating the surface,
smoothing, pulverizing, and vulgarizing the top. Chief of these is the
gigantic, ubiquitous newspaper press, without character and without
conscience; then the lyceum, the pulpit, the novel, the club,--all
_cultivating_ the superficies, and helping make life shallow and
monotonous. How deep does the leading editorial go, or the review
article, or the Sunday sermon? But such a force as Carlyle disturbs our
complacency. Opinion is shocked, but it is deepened. The moral and
intellectual resources of all men have been added to. But the literal
fulfillment and verification of his prophecies,--shall we insist upon
that? Is not a prophet his own proof, the same as a poet? Must we summon
witnesses and go into the justice-court of fact? The only questions to
be asked are: Was he an inspired man? was his an authoritative voice?
did he touch bottom? was he sincere? was he grounded and rooted in
character? It is not the stamp on the coin that gives it its value,
though on the bank-note it is. Carlyle's words were not promises, but
performances; they are good now if ever. To test him by his political
opinions is like testing Shakespeare by his fidelity to historical fact
in his plays, or judging Lucretius by his philosophy, or Milton or Dante
by their theology. Carlyle was just as distinctively an imaginative
writer as were any of these men, and his case is to be tried on the same
grounds. It is his utterances as a seer touching conduct, touching duty,
touching nature, touching the soul, touching life, that most concern
us,--the ideal to be cherished, the standard he held to.

Carlyle was a poet touched with religious wrath and fervor, and he
confronted his times and country as squarely and in the same spirit as
did the old prophets. He predicts nothing, foretells nothing, except
death and destruction to those who depart from the ways of the Lord, or,
in modern phrase, from nature and truth. He shared the Hebraic sense of
the awful mystery and fearfulness of life and the splendor and
inexorableness of the moral law. His habitual mood was not one of
contemplation and enjoyment, but of struggle and "desperate hope." The
deep biblical word fear,--fear of the Lord,--he knew what that meant, as
few moderns did.

He was antagonistic to his country and his times, and who would have had
him otherwise? Let him be the hammer on the other side that clinches the
nail. He did not believe in democracy, in popular sovereignty, in the
progress of the species, in the political equality of Jesus and Judas;
in fact, he repudiated with mingled wrath and sorrow the whole American
idea and theory of politics: yet who shall say that his central doctrine
of the survival of the fittest, the nobility of labor, the exaltation of
justice, valor, pity, the leadership of character, truth, nobility,
wisdom, etc., is really and finally inconsistent with, or inimical to,
that which is valuable and permanent and formative in the modern
movement? I think it is the best medicine and regimen for it that could
be suggested,--the best stay and counterweight. For the making of good
democrats, there are no books like Carlyle's, and we in America need
especially to cherish him, and to lay his lesson to heart.

It is his supreme merit that he spoke with absolute sincerity; not
according to the beliefs, traditions, conventionalities of his times,
for they were mostly against him, but according to his private and
solemn conviction of what the will of his Maker with reference to
himself was. The reason why so much writing and preaching sounds hollow
and insincere compared with his is that the writers and speakers are
mostly under the influence of current beliefs or received traditions;
they deliver themselves of what they have been taught, or what is
fashionable and pleasant; they draw upon a sort of public fund of
conviction and sentiment and not at all from original private resources,
as he did. It is not their own minds or their own experience they speak
from, but a vague, featureless, general mind and general experience. We
drink from a cistern or reservoir and not from a fountain-head. Carlyle
always takes us to the source of intense personal and original
conviction. The spring may be a hot spring, or a sulphur spring, or a
spouting spring,--a geyser, as Froude says, shooting up volumes of steam
and stone,--or the most refreshing and delicious of fountains (and he
seems to have been all these things alternately); but in any case it was
an original source and came from out the depths, at times from out the
Plutonic depths.

He bewails his gloom and loneliness, and the isolation of his soul in
the paths in which he was called to walk. In many ways he was an exile,
a wanderer, forlorn or uncertain, like one who had missed the road,--at
times groping about sorrowfully, anon desperately hewing his way through
all manner of obstructions. He presents the singular anomaly of a great
man, of a towering and unique genius, such as appears at intervals of
centuries, who was not in any sense representative, who had no
precursors and who left no followers,--a man isolated, exceptional,
towering like a solitary peak or cone set over against the main ranges.
He is in line with none of the great men, or small men, of his age and
country. His message is unwelcome to them. He is an enormous reaction or
rebound from the all-leveling tendencies of democracy. No wonder he
thought himself the most solitary man in the world, and bewailed his
loneliness continually. He was the most solitary. Of all the great men
his race and country have produced, none, perhaps, were quite so
isolated and set apart as he. None shared so little the life and
aspirations of their countrymen, or were so little sustained by the
spirit of their age. The literature, the religion, the science, the
politics of his times were alike hateful to him. His spirit was as
lonely as a "peak in Darien." He felt himself on a narrow isthmus of
time, confronted by two eternities,--the eternity past and the eternity
to come. Daily and hourly he felt the abysmal solitude that surrounded
him. Endowed with the richest fund of sympathy, and yet sympathizing
with so little; burdened with solicitude for the public weal, and yet in
no vital or intimate relation with the public he would serve; deeply
absorbed in the social and political problems of his time, and yet able
to arrive at no adequate practical solution of them; passionately
religious, and yet repudiating all creeds and forms of worship;
despising the old faiths, and disgusted with the new; honoring science,
and acknowledging his debt to it, yet drawing back with horror from
conclusions to which science seemed inevitably to lead; essentially a
man of action, of deeds, of heroic fibre, yet forced to become a "writer
of books;" a democrat who denounced democracy; a radical who despised
radicalism; "a Puritan without a creed."

These things measure the depth of his sincerity; he never lost heart or
hope, though heart and hope had so little that was tangible to go upon.
He had the piety and zeal of a religious devotee, without the devotee's
comforting belief; the fiery earnestness of a reformer, without the
reformer's definite aims; the spirit of science, without the scientific
coolness and disinterestedness; the heart of a hero, without the hero's
insensibilities; he had strugglings, wrestlings, agonizings, without any
sense of victory; his foes were invisible and largely imaginary, but all
the more terrible and unconquerable on that account. Verily was he
lonely, heavy laden, and at best full of "desperate hope." His own work,
which was accomplished with such pains and labor throes, gave him no
satisfaction. When he was idle, his demon tormented him with the cry,
"Work, work;" and when he was toiling at his tasks, his obstructions,
torpidities, and dispiritments nearly crushed him.

It is probably true that he thought he had some special mission to
mankind, something as definite and tangible as Luther had. His stress
and heat of conviction were such as only the great world-reformers have
been possessed of. He was burdened with the sins and follies of mankind,
and _must_ mend them. His mission was to mend them, but perhaps in quite
other ways than he thought. He sought to restore an age fast
passing,--the age of authority, the age of the heroic leader; but toward
the restoration of such age he had no effect whatever. The tide of
democracy sweeps on. He was like Xerxes whipping the sea. His real
mission he was far less conscious of, for it was what his search for the
hero implied and brought forward that he finally bequeathed us. If he
did not make us long for the strong man to rule over us, he made us love
all manly and heroic qualities afresh, and as if by a new revelation of
their value. He made all shallownesses and shams wear such a face as
they never before wore. He made it easier for all men to be more
truthful and earnest. Hence his final effect and value was as a fountain
of fresh moral conviction and power. The old stock truths perpetually
need restating and reapplying on fresh grounds and in large and
unexpected ways. And how he restated them and reinforced them! veracity,
sincerity, courage, justice, manliness, religiousness,--fairly burning
them into the conscience of his times. He took the great facts of
existence out of the mouths of priests, out of their conventional
theological swathing, where they were fast becoming mummified, and
presented them _quick_ or as living and breathing realities.

It may be added that Carlyle was one of those men whom the world can
neither make nor break,--a meteoric rock from out the fiery heavens,
bound to hit hard if not self-consumed, and not looking at all for a
convenient or a soft place to alight,--a blazing star in his literary
expression, but in his character and purpose the most tangible and
unconquerable of men. "Thou, O World, how wilt thou secure thyself
against this man? Thou canst not hire him by thy guineas, nor by thy
gibbets and law penalties restrain him. He eludes thee like a Spirit.
Thou canst not forward him, thou canst not hinder him. Thy penalties,
thy poverties, neglects, contumelies: behold, all these are good for
him."



XI

AT SEA


One does not seem really to have got out-of-doors till he goes to sea.
On the land he is shut in by the hills, or the forests, or more or less
housed by the sharp lines of his horizon. But at sea he finds the roof
taken off, the walls taken down; he is no longer in the hollow of the
earth's hand, but upon its naked back, with nothing between him and the
immensities. He is in the great cosmic out-of-doors, as much so as if
voyaging to the moon or to Mars. An astronomic solitude and vacuity
surround him; his only guides and landmarks are stellar; the earth has
disappeared; the horizon has gone; he has only the sky and its orbs
left; this cold, vitreous, blue-black liquid through which the ship
plows is not water, but some denser form of the cosmic ether. He can now
see the curve of the sphere which the hills hid from him; he can study
astronomy under improved conditions. If he was being borne through the
interplanetary spaces on an immense shield, his impressions would not
perhaps be much different. He would find the same vacuity, the same
blank or negative space, the same empty, indefinite, oppressive
out-of-doors.

For it must be admitted that a voyage at sea is more impressive to the
imagination than to the actual sense. The world is left behind; all
standards of size, of magnitude, of distance, are vanished; there is no
size, no form, no perspective; the universe has dwindled to a little
circle of crumpled water, that journeys with you day after day, and to
which you seem bound by some enchantment. The sky becomes a shallow,
close-fitting dome, or else a pall of cloud that seems ready to descend
upon you. You cannot see or realize the vast and vacant surrounding;
there is nothing to define it or set it off. Three thousand miles of
ocean space are less impressive than three miles bounded by rugged
mountains walls. Indeed, the grandeur of form, of magnitude, of
distance, of proportion, are only upon shore. A voyage across the
Atlantic is an eight or ten day sail through vacancy. There is no
sensible progress; you pass no fixed points. Is it the steamer that is
moving, or is it the sea? or is it all a dance and illusion of the
troubled brain? Yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, you are in the same
parenthesis of nowhere. The three hundred or more miles the ship daily
makes is ideal, not real. Every night the stars dance and reel there in
the same place amid the rigging; every morning the sun comes up from
behind the same wave, and staggers slowly across the sinister sky. The
eye becomes a-hunger for form, for permanent lines, for a horizon wall
to lift up and keep off the sky, and give it a sense of room. One
understands why sailors become an imaginative and superstitious race;
it is the reaction from this narrow horizon in which they are
pent,--this ring of fate surrounds and oppresses them. They escape by
invoking the aid of the supernatural. In the sea itself there is far
less to stimulate the imagination than in the varied forms and colors of
the land. How cold, how merciless, how elemental it looks!

The only things that look familiar at sea are the clouds. These are
messengers from home, and how weary and disconsolate they appear,
stretching out along the horizon, as if looking for a hill or
mountain-top to rest upon,--nothing to hold them up,--a roof without
walls, a span without piers. One gets the impression that they are grown
faint, and must presently, if they reach much farther, fall into the
sea. But when the rain came, it seemed like mockery or irony on the part
of the clouds. Did one vaguely believe, then, that the clouds would
respect the sea, and withhold their needless rain? No, they treated it
as if it were a mill-pond, or a spring-run, too insignificant to make
any exceptions to.

One bright Sunday, when the surface of the sea was like glass, a long
chain of cloud-mountains lay to the south of us all day, while the rest
of the sky was clear. How they glowed in the strong sunlight, their
summits shining like a bouquet of full moons, and making a broad, white,
or golden path upon the water! They came out of the southwest, an
endless procession of them, and tapered away in the east. They were the
piled, convoluted, indolent clouds of midsummer,--thunder-clouds that
had retired from business; the captains of the storm in easy undress.
All day they filed along there, keeping the ship company. How the eye
reveled in their definite, yet ever-changing, forms! Their under or base
line was as straight and continuous as the rim of the ocean. The
substratum of air upon which they rested was like a uniform layer of
granite rock, invisible, but all-resisting; not one particle of these
vast cloud-mountains, so broken and irregular in their summits, sank
below this aerial granite boundary. The equilibrium of the air is
frequently such that the under-surface of the clouds is like a ceiling.
It is a fair-weather sign, whether upon the sea or upon the land. One
may frequently see it in a mountainous district, when the fog-clouds
settle down, and blot out all the tops of the mountains without one
fleck of vapor going below a given line which runs above every valley,
as uniform as the sea-level. It is probable that in fair weather the
atmosphere always lies in regular strata in this way, and that it is the
displacement and mixing up of these by some unknown cause that produces
storms.

As the sun neared the horizon these cloud-masses threw great blue
shadows athwart each other, which afforded the eye a new pleasure.

Late one afternoon the clouds assumed a still more friendly and welcome
shape. A long, purple, irregular range of them rose up from the horizon
in the northwest, exactly stimulating distant mountains. The sun sank
behind them, and threw out great spokes of light as from behind my
native Catskills. Then gradually a low, wooded shore came into view
along their base. It proved to be a fog-bank lying low upon the water,
but it copied exactly, in its forms and outlines, a flat, umbrageous
coast. You could see distinctly where it ended, and where the water
began. I sat long on that side of the ship, and let my willing eyes
deceive themselves. I could not divest myself of the comfortable feeling
inspired by the prospect. It was to the outward sense what dreams and
reveries are to the inward. That blind, instinctive love of the land,--I
did not know how masterful and involuntary the impulse was, till I found
myself warming up toward that phantom coast. The empty void of the sea
was partly filled, if only with a shadow. The inhuman desolation of the
ocean was blotted out for a moment, in that direction at least. What
phantom-huggers we are upon sea or upon land! It made no difference that
I knew this to be a sham coast. I could feel its friendly influence all
the same, even when my back was turned.

In summer, fog seems to lie upon the Atlantic in great shallow fleeces,
looking, I dare say, like spots of mould or mildew from an elevation of
a few miles. These fog-banks are produced by the deep cold currents
rising to the surface, and coming in contact with the warmer air. One
may see them far in advance, looking so shallow that it seems as if the
great steamer must carry her head above them. But she does not quite do
it. When she enters this obscurity, there begins the hoarse bellowing of
her great whistle. As one dozes in his berth or sits in the cabin
reading, there comes a vague impression that we are entering some port
or harbor, the sound is so welcome, and is so suggestive of the
proximity of other vessels. But only once did our loud and repeated
hallooing awaken any response. Everybody heard the answering whistle out
of the thick obscurity ahead, and was on the alert. Our steamer
instantly slowed her engines and redoubled her tootings. The two vessels
soon got the bearing of each other, and the stranger passed us on the
starboard side, the hoarse voice of her whistle alone revealing her
course to us.

Late one afternoon, as we neared the Banks, the word spread on deck that
the knobs and pinnacles of a thunder-cloud sunk below the horizon, and
that deeply and sharply notched the western rim of the sea, were
icebergs. The captain was quoted as authority. He probably encouraged
the delusion. The jaded passengers wanted a new sensation. Everybody was
willing, even anxious, to believe them icebergs, and some persons would
have them so, and listened coldly and reluctantly to any proof to the
contrary. What we want to believe, what it suits our convenience, or
pleasure, or prejudice, to believe, one need not go to sea to learn what
slender logic will incline us to believe. To a firm, steady gaze, these
icebergs were seen to be momently changing their forms, new chasms
opening, new pinnacles rising: but these appearances were easily
accounted for by the credulous; the ice mountains were rolling over, or
splitting asunder. One of the rarest things in the average cultivated
man or woman is the capacity to receive and weigh evidence touching any
natural phenomenon, especially at sea. If the captain had deliberately
said that the shifting forms there on the horizon were only a school of
whales playing at leap-frog, all the women and half the men among the
passengers would have believed him.

In going to England in early May, we encountered the fine weather, the
warmth and the sunshine as of June, that had been "central" over the
British Islands for a week or more, five or six hundred miles from
shore. We had come up from lower latitudes, and it was as if we had
ascended a hill and found summer at the top, while a cold, backward
spring yet lingered in the valley. But on our return in early August,
the positions of spring and summer were reversed. Scotland was cold and
rainy, and for several days at sea you could in the distance hardly tell
the sea from the sky, all was so gray and misty. In mid-Atlantic we ran
into the American climate. The great continent, basking there in the
western sun, and glowing with midsummer heat, made itself felt to the
centre of this briny void. The sea detached itself sharply from the sky,
and became like a shield of burnished steel, which the sky surrounded
like a dome of glass. For four successive nights the sun sank clear in
the wave, sometimes seeming to melt and mingle with the ocean. One night
a bank of mist seemed to impede his setting. He lingered a long while
partly buried in it, then slowly disappeared as through a slit in the
vapor, which glowed red-hot, a mere line of fire, for some moments
afterward.

As we neared home the heat became severe. We were going down the hill
into a fiery valley. Vast stretches of the sea were like glass bending
above the long, slow heaving of the primal ocean. Swordfish lay basking
here and there on the surface, too lazy to get out of the way of the
ship:--

     "The air was calm, and on the level brine
      Sleek Panope with all her sisters played."

Occasionally a whale would blow, or show his glistening back, attracting
a crowd to the railing. One morning a whale plunged spitefully through
the track of the ship but a few hundred yards away.

But the prettiest sight in the way of animated nature was the shoals of
dolphins occasionally seen during these brilliant torrid days, leaping
and sporting, and apparently racing with the vessel. They would leap in
pairs from the glassy surface of one swell of the steamer across the
polished chasm into the next swell, frisking their tails and doing their
best not to be beaten. They were like fawns or young kine sporting in a
summer meadow. It was the only touch of mirth, or youth and jollity, I
saw in the grim sea. Savagery and desolation make up the prevailing
expression here. The sea-fowls have weird and disconsolate cries, and
appear doomed to perpetual solitude. But these dolphins know what
companionship is, and are in their own demesne. When one sees them
bursting out of the waves, the impression is that school is just out;
there come the boys, skipping and laughing, and, seeing us just passing,
cry to one another: "Now for a race! Hurrah, boys! We can beat 'em!"

One notices any change in the course of the ship by the stars at night.
For nearly a week Venus sank nightly into the sea far to the north of
us. Our course coming home is south-southwest. Then, one night, as you
promenade the deck, you see, with a keen pleasure, Venus through the
rigging dead ahead. The good ship has turned the corner; she has scented
New York harbor, and is making straight for it, with New England far
away there on her right. Now sails and smoke-funnels begin to appear.
All ocean paths converge here: full-rigged ships, piled with canvas, are
passed, rocking idly upon the polished surface; sails are seen just
dropping below the horizon, phantom ships without hulls, while here and
there the black smoke of some steamer tarnishes the sky. Now we pass
steamers that left New York but yesterday; the City of Rome--looking,
with her three smoke-stacks and her long hull, like two steamers
together--creeps along the southern horizon, just ready to vanish behind
it. Now she stands in the reflected light of a great white cloud which
makes a bright track upon the water like the full moon. Then she slides
on into the dim and even dimmer distance, and we slide on over the
tropic sea, and, by a splendid run, just catch the tide at the moment of
its full, early the next morning, and pass the bar off Sandy Hook
without a moment of time or an inch of water to spare.



INDEX


     Alloway, 8, 133-134, 160.

     Anemone. _See_ Rue-anemone.

     Angler, an English, 83-85.

     Anglo-Saxon, the, 45.

     Annan, 72.

     Annan bridge, 68, 69.

     Ants, 178-181.

     Arbutus, trailing, 164, 172, 173.

     Arethusa, 172.

     Argyll, Duke of, on the comparative merits of British and
         American song-birds, 113-116, 119.

     Arnold, Matthew, quotations from, 78, 169, 212.

     Arthur's Seat, 48, 49.

     Ash, 19.

     Asters, 196.

     Audubon, John James, 123, 124.

     Avon, the Scottish river, 39.

     Ayr, 46.

     Azaleas, 173.


     Barrington, Dames, 119, 126, 138.

     Bean, horse _or_ Winchester, 169.

     Bear, black (_Ursus americanus_), 186.

     Bee. _See_ Bumblebee _and_ Honey-bee.

     Beech, European, 18, 19, 40, 41, 97.

     Beetle, ants and, 179, 180.

     Beetle, Colorado, 194.

     Ben Lomond, 24.

     Ben Nevis, 25.

     Ben Venue, 23, 24, 155.

     Birds, blue not a common color among British, 93;
       voices of British, 105, 142;
       source of the charm of their songs, 113;
       the Duke of Argyll on the comparative merits of British and
           American song-birds, 113-116;
       the American bird-choir larger and embracing more good
           songsters than the British, 119-129;
       British more familiar, prolific, and abundant than American,
           125, 126;
       superior vivacity and strength of voice in British, 126;
       hours and seasons of singing of British and American, 126,
           127, 143;
       superior sweetness, tenderness, and melody in the songs of
           American, 128, 143-145;
       the two classes of British song-birds, 142, 143;
       certain localities favored by, 144;
       British more prolific than American, 189, 190;
       warm and compact nests of British, 190;
       abundance of British, 190-192.

     Blackberry, 18, 52, 168.

     Blackbird, European, song of, 86, 90, 105, 114, 129, 136, 139,
         145;
       nest of, 66.

     Blackbird, red-winged. _See_ Starling, red-shouldered.

     Blackcap, _or_ black-capped warbler, 87, 92;
       song of, 105, 115, 123, 129, 137, 140.

     Bloodroot, 172.

     Bluebell. _See_ Hyacinth, wild.

     Bluebird (_Sialia sialis_), notes of, 120, 123, 129.

     Blue-bonnet, 189.

     Blue-weed, _or_ viper's bugloss, 168, 171.

     Bobolink (_Dolichonyx oryzivorus_), song of, 118, 120, 123,
         125, 129.

     Bob-white. _See_ Quail.

     Bouncing Bet, 171.

     Boys, at Ecclefechan, 64-66;
       a Godalming boy, 92-95.

     Bridges, arched, 68, 69.

     Brig o' Doon, 26.

     Britain. _See_ Great Britain.

     Bryant, William Cullen, as a poet of the woods, 43.

     Bugloss, viper's. _See_ Blue-weed.

     Building-stone, softness of British, 26.

     Bullfinch, notes of, 129.

     Bumblebee, 17-19, 195.

     Bunting, indigo. _See_ Indigo-bird.

     Burns, Robert, the Scotch love of, 48;
       quotation from, 135, 225.

     Buttercup, 16, 165, 196.


     Calopogon, 172.

     Campion, bladder, 171.

     Canterbury, 10, 11;
       the cathedral of, 11-13.

     Cardinal. _See_ Grosbeak, cardinal.

     Carlyle, James, father of Thomas Carlyle, 55, 59, 60, 69-71,
         73.

     Carlyle, Mrs. James, 55, 61.

     Carlyle, Jane Baillie Welsh, 221-223.

     Carlyle, Thomas, quotations from, 25, 49, 50, 58, 60, 61, 71,
         73, 75, 204, 206-209, 211, 215-217, 219, 223-226, 228-232,
         234, 236-238, 240, 241, 246-248, 251, 254-259, 266;
       residences of, 49-51, 54, 55;
       the grave of, 56, 57;
       at the graves of his father and mother, 57, 58;
       his reverence and affection for his kindred, 58;
       his family traits, 58, 59;
       his love of Scotland, 59, 60;
       his affection for his mother, 61;
       an old road-mender's opinion of, 67;
       his style, 71, 75;
       his connection with Irving, 72;
       an indomitable worker, 73-75;
       his house in Chelsea, 199, 200;
       a call on, 200-202;
       on Scott, 201, 202;
       his correspondence with Emerson, 203, 204, 208-210;
       his friendship with Emerson, 203, 204;
       compared and contrasted with Emerson, 203-210, 212;
       his magnanimous wrathfulness, 203, 204;
       a man of action, 207;
       a regal and dominating man, 211, 212;
       as an historical writer, 213, 214;
       his power of characterization, 214, 215;
       his vocabulary of vituperation, 216, 217;
       not a philosopher, 217, 218;
       his struggle against odds, 218-220;
       his unselfishness, 220, 221;
       his relations with his wife, 221-223;
       his passion for heroes, 223-226, 232-234;
       his glorification of the individual will, 226;
       his earnestness, 227;
       a master portrait-painter, 228-232;
       the value he set on painted portraits, 232;
       his hatred of democracy, 232-251;
       his large capital of faith, 251-253;
       his religious belief, 251-257;
       his attitude of renunciation, 255, 256;
       his search for the truth, 256, 257;
       his egoism, 258;
       value of his teaching, 258-266;
       his isolation of soul, 262-264;
       his mission, 265;
       his _Oliver Cromwell_, 211, 212;
       his _Frederick the Great_, 211-217, 242.

     Carlyle family, the, 56-61, 67, 70, 71.

     Catbird (_Galeoscoptes carolinensis_), notes of, 117, 120,
         125, 129.

     Cathedrals, Canterbury, 11-13;
       images in, 15;
       soil collected on the walls of, 21;
       Rochester, 21;
       St. Paul's, 182.

     Catskill Mountains, contrasted with the mountains of Scotland,
         7;
       scenery in, 38;
       the valleys of, 149.

     Cattle, of the Scotch Highlands, 25.

     Cedar-bird, _or_ cedar waxwing (_Ampelis cedrorum_), notes of,
         115.

     Celandine, 172.

     Celts, the, 45.

     Chaffinch, or shilfa, 133, 134, 191;
       song of, 79, 90, 95, 129, 133, 134;
       nest of, 65, 190.

     Chat, yellow-breasted (_Icteria virens_), 117;
       song of, 117, 120, 125.

     Chewink, _or_ towhee (_Pipilo erythrophthalmus_), notes of,
         118, 120, 125, 129.

     Chickadee (_Parus atricapillus_), notes of, 129.

     Chiffchaff, notes of, 95, 143.

     Chipmunk (_Tamias striatus_), 195.

     Chippie. _See_ Sparrow, social.

     Cicada, _or_ harvest-fly, 194, 195.

     Cinquefoil, 17.

     Claytonia, _or_ spring beauty, 164, 172.

     Clematis, wild, 17.

     Clouds, in England, 107;
       at sea, 269-273.

     Clover (_Trifolium incarnatum_), 93, 169.

     Clover, red, 16, 52.

     Clover, white, 16, 17, 165.

     Clover, yellow, 16.

     Clyde, the, sailing up, 2-7.

     Cockscomb, 160.

     Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, quotation from, 166, 167, 228.

     Coltsfoot, 170.

     Columbine, 38, 173.

     Commons, in England, 104.

     Convolvulus, 19.

     Copses, in England, 82.

     Cormorants, 189.

     Corn-crake, notes of, 132.

     Cow-bunting, _or_ cowbird (_Molothrus ater_), notes of, 125.

     Cranesbill, 53.

     Creeper, European brown, 189.

     Crow, carrion, 193.

     Cuckoo (_Coccyzus_ sp.), notes of, 127.

     Cuckoo, European, 65;
       notes of, 77, 78, 95, 123, 138, 148.

     Curlew, European, 107;
       notes of, 141.


     Daffodils, 165, 172.

     Daisy, English, 52, 159, 160, 196.

     Daisy, ox-eye, 160, 165, 196.

     Dalibarda, 164.

     Dandelion, 16, 165.

     Danton, Georges Jacques, 229.

     Darwin, Charles, 31, 32.

     Dead-nettle, 161.

     Democracy, Carlyle's opinion of, 232-251.

     De Quincey, Thomas, 230.

     Desmoulins, Camille, 229.

     Devil's Punch-Bowl, the, 88.

     Dicentra, 38, 164, 172.

     Dickens, Charles, 231.

     Dock, sorrel (_Rumex acetosa_), 170.

     Docks, 171.

     Dog-fish, 188.

     Dolphins, 274, 275.

     Doon, the, 46, 132, 134, 161, 162.

     Dover, the cliffs of, 13, 14.

     Ducks, wild, 186.


     Eagle, 187, 188.

     Earthworm, as a cultivator of the soil, 31, 32.

     Easing, 94, 103.

     Ecclefechan, 39;
       the journey from Edinburgh to, 49-55;
       in the village and churchyard of, 55-58, 61-64;
       birds'-nesting boys of, 64-66;
       walks about, 67-72;
       the "dogfight," 67.

     Edinburgh, 48, 49, 178.

     Edward, Thomas, 187, 188.

     Elder, English, 10.

     Elecampane, 171.

     Elm, English, 19, 97.

     Emerson, Ralph Waldo, as a poet of the woods, 43, 44;
       quotations from, 43, 44, 102, 176, 210, 213, 214, 218, 221;
       statement on fields, 53;
       his friendship with Carlyle, 203, 204;
       compared and contrasted with Carlyle, 203-210, 212;
       his correspondence with Carlyle, 203, 204, 208-210, 225.

     England, tour in, 9;
       walks in, 9-20;
       the green turf of, 20-23, 29, 31, 32;
       building-stone of, 26;
       humanization of nature in, 27, 28;
       repose of the landscape in, 29-34;
       foliage in, 29-31;
       cultivated fields of, 32, 33;
       grazing in, 33;
       the climate as a promoter of greenness, 33, 34;
       pastoral beauty of, 35, 36;
       lack of wild and aboriginal beauty in, 36, 37;
       no rocks worth mentioning in, 37;
       woods in, 38-43;
       plowing in, 53, 54;
       country houses and village houses in, 62, 63;
       haying in, 80, 108, 109, 153;
       a farm and a farmer in the south of, 77, 80, 81;
       sunken roads of, 94, 95;
       inns of, 96, 97, 100-103;
       sturdiness and picturesqueness of the trees in, 97;
       commons in, 104;
       weather of, 106, 107;
       the bird-songs of, compared with those of New York and New
           England, 113-129;
       impressions of some birds of, 131-145;
       stillness at twilight in, 194, 195.
       _See_ Great Britain.

     English, the, contrasted with the Scotch, 45;
       a prolific people, 176-178.

     Europe, animals and plants of, more versatile and dominating
         than those of America, 184-186.


     Farming in the south of England, 80, 81.

     Fells, in the north of England, 158.

     Fern, maiden-hair, 173.

     Fieldfare, 186.

     Finch, purple (_Carpodacus purpureus_), song of, 118, 120,
         123, 129.

     Finches, songs of, 122, 123.

     Fir, Scotch, 39.

     Flicker. _See_ High-hole.

     Flowers, wild, American more shy and retiring than British,
         163, 164, 196;
       species fewer but individuals more abundant in Great Britain
           than in America, 165;
       effect of latitude on the size and color of, 168;
       effect of proximity to the sea on, 168, 169;
       British less beautiful but more abundant and noticeable than
           American, 172, 173;
       British and American sweet-scented, 173;
       abundance of British, 196.

     Flycatcher, British, 121, 189.

     Flycatcher, great crested (_Myiarchus crinitus_), notes of,
         118, 121.

     Flycatcher, little green or green-crested (_Empidonax
         virescens_), notes of, 121.

     Fog, at sea, 271, 272.

     Foliage, in England and America, 29-31.
       _See_ Trees.

     Footpath, an English, 89, 90.

     Forget-me-not, 196.

     Fox, European red, 187, 188.

     Foxglove, 90, 133, 148, 165;
       a beautiful and conspicuous flower, 166;
       in poetry, 166, 167, 196.

     Frederick the Great, 242.

     Frogs, 194.

     Froude, James Anthony, his _Thomas Carlyle_, 258, 259.

     Furze, _or_ whin, 169, 170.


     Gannets, 189.

     Garlic, hedge, 172.

     Geranium, wild, 168.

     Gillyflower, 162.

     Glasgow, 2, 8, 9, 46, 47, 72.

     Globe-flower, 162.

     Goat Fell, 6.

     Godalming, 89, 91, 92, 101, 102.

     Goethe, 225, 227.

     Goldenrod, 18, 196.

     Goldfinch, American (_Spinus tristis_), notes of, 118, 120,
         122, 123, 129.

     Goldfinch, European, 140;
       song of, 122, 129, 140.

     Goose, solan, 189.

     Grasmere, 148-151.

     Grasshoppers, 194.

     Graves, "extinct," 70, 71.

     Great Britain, wild flowers of, 159-174, 196;
       species less numerous than in America but individuals more
           abundant, 164, 165;
       weeds in, 170, 171;
       prolific life of, 175-197.
       _See_ England, Scotland, _and_ Wales.

     Greenfinch, _or_ green linnet, 140;
       notes of, 18, 86, 129, 140.

     Greenock, Scotland, 3, 4.

     Grosbeak, blue (_Guiraca cœrulea_), song of, 123.

     Grosbeak, cardinal, _or_ cardinal (_Cardinalis cardinalis_),
         song of, 92, 123.

     Grosbeak, rose-breasted (_Habia ludoviciana_), notes of, 118,
         120, 123, 129, 144, 145.

     Grote, George, 231.

     Ground-chestnut. _See_ Pig-nut.

     Grouse, 186.

     Grouse, ruffed (_Bonasa umbellus_), 39.

     Gudgeon, 94.

     Gulls, European, 175, 186, 189.


     Haggard falcon, 14.

     Hairbird. _See_ Sparrow, social.

     Hamilton, Duke of, his parks, 39, 40, 193.

     Hanger, the, 40, 41, 104.

     Harbledown hill, 11, 12.

     Hare, European, 23, 188, 194.

     Harebell, 168.

     Harvest-fly. _See_ Cicada.

     Hawk, 186.

     Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 44.

     Haymaking in England, 80, 108, 109, 153.

     Hazlemere, 89.

     Heather, 170.

     Hedgehog, 19.

     Hedge-sparrow, 65;
       notes of, 129;
       nest of, 65.

     Hellebore, green, 172.

     Helvellyn, 153-156.

     Hepatica, 172.

     Herb Robert, 18, 163.

     Herring, on the coast of Scotland, 188, 189.

     High-hole, _or_ flicker (_Colaptes auratus_), notes of, 118, 120.

     Hitchin, 109, 110.

     Honey-bee, 185.

     Honeysuckle, wild, 90.

     House-martin, _or_ martlet, _or_ window-swallow, 142;
       notes of, 142;
       nest of, 69, 142.

     Hummingbird, ruby-throated (_Trochilus colubris_), notes of,
         115.

     Hunt, Leigh, 230.

     Hyacinth, wild, _or_ bluebell, 163, 172, 196.

     Hyla, 194.


     Indigo-bird, _or_ indigo bunting (_Passerina cyanea_), song
         of, 120, 123, 127, 129.

     Inns, English, 96, 97, 100-103.

     Insects, music of, 194, 195.

     Ireland, the peat of, 1.

     Irving, Edward, 72, 227.


     Jackdaw, 12, 186;
       notes of, 142.

     Jay, British, 93, 98;
       notes of, 142.

     Jewel-weed, 173.

     Johnson, Samuel, 225.

     Junco, slate-colored. _See_ Snowbird.


     Katydids, 194.

     Keats, John, quotations from, 111, 166.

     Kent, walks in, 9-14.

     Kingbird (_Tyrannus tyrannus_), notes of, 118, 121, 127.

     Kinglet, European golden-crested, _or_ golden-crested wren,
         121, 189;
       song of, 140.

     Kinglet, golden-crowned, _or_ golden-crowned wren (_Regulus
         satrapa_), song of, 121.

     Kinglet, ruby-crowned (_Regulus calendula_), 122;
       song of, 121, 122.


     Lady's-slipper, 172.

     Lake district, the, 148-158.

     Lake Mohunk, 37.

     Lamb, Charles, 228.

     Lapwing, or pewit, 141;
       cry of, 107.

     Lark. _See_ Skylark _and_ Wood-lark.

     Lark, grasshopper, notes of, 127.

     Leechmere bottom, 103-105.

     Lichens, in America and in England, 36, 37.

     Linnet, English, song of, 122, 123, 129.

     Linnet, green. _See_ Greenfinch.

     Liphook, 106, 107.

     Live-for-ever, 171.

     Lockerbie, 52.

     London, streets above streets in, 178;
       overflowing life of, 181, 182;
       a domestic city, 182, 183.

     Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 44.

     Loosestrife, purple, 168.


     Maidstone, 10.

     Mainhill, 54, 55.

     Maple, European, 30, 31, 173.

     Marigold, corn, 173.

     Martin, purple (_Progne subis_), 125;
       notes of, 129.

     Martlet. _See_ House-martin.

     Mavis. _See_ Thrush, song.

     Meadowlark (_Sturnella magna_), notes of, 118, 120, 129.

     Meadow-sweet, 17, 169.

     Medeola, 164.

     Midges, 98.

     Mill, John Stuart, 229, 230.

     Milton, John, quotations from, 42.

     Mirabeau, Comte de, 228, 229.

     Mockingbird (_Mimus polyglottos_), song of, 127-129.

     Moschatel, 172.

     Mountains, of Scotland, 6, 7, 21-25;
       of the Lake district, 153-158.

     Mouse, European field, 186.

     Mullein, 171.

     Mustard, wild, 171.


     Nettle, 18, 20, 160, 161.

     Nettle, Canada, 161.

     Newt, red, 39.

     Nightingale, a glimpse of, 99;
       at the head of a series of British song-birds, 142, 143;
       notes of, 77-79, 87, 89, 92, 96, 99, 102, 110, 111, 114,
           116, 123, 124, 128, 129, 140, 145.

     Nightjar, notes of, 84.

     Nuthatch, European, 140, 189.


     Oak, English, 19, 97.

     Ocean, the, voyage across, 267-269;
       clouds, 269-273;
       fog, 271, 272;
       the weather, 273, 274;
       animal life, 274, 275;
       the end of the voyage, 275, 276.

     Orchids, purple, 168.

     Oriole, Baltimore (_Icterus galbula_), notes of, 118, 120,
         125, 129.

     Oriole, orchard, _or_ orchard starling (_Icterus spurius_),
         song of, 120, 125.

     Otter, 187.

     Ousel, ringed, 24.

     Ousel, water, 149, 150.

     Oven-bird. _See_ Wagtail, wood.

     Owl, 188.


     Pansy, wild, 65.

     Partridge, European, 186;
       nest of, 186.

     Peat, 1.

     Pewee, wood (_Contopus virens_), notes of, 39, 121.

     Pewit. _See_ Lapwing.

     Phœbe-bird (_Sayornis phœbe_), notes of, 121.

     Pig-nut, _or_ ground-chestnut, 162, 163.

     Pine, white, 173.

     Pipit, American, _or_ titlark (_Anthus pensilvanicus_), song
         of, 129.

     Pipit, meadow, nest and eggs of, 162, 189.

     Pipit, mountain, 24.

     Plane-tree, European, 30.

     Plantain, 19.

     Plantain, narrow-leaved, 16, 17.

     Plato, 225, 226.

     Plowing, in England and Scotland, 53, 54.

     Polecat, 187.

     Polecat Hill, 88.

     Pond-lily, European white, 173.

     Poppy, 52, 165, 173, 196.

     Primrose, 172, 196.

     Privet, 19.

     Prunella, 16, 17, 53, 168.


     Quail, _or_ bob-white (_Colinus virginianus_), 190.


     Rabbit, European, 187, 193, 194.

     Railway-trains, the view from, 51.

     Rats, 187.

     Redbreast. _See_ Robin redbreast.

     Redstart, American (_Setophaga ruticilla_), song of, 129.

     Redstart, European, notes of, 129.

     Reed-sparrow, song of, 129.

     Repentance Hill, 67, 68.

     Road-mender, an old, 67.

     Robin, American (_Merula migratoria_), song of, 114, 120, 129,
         136.

     Robin redbreast, 189;
       song of, 90, 98, 105, 123, 127, 129, 139, 145;
       nest of, 65.

     Rochester Castle, 21, 191.

     Rochester Cathedral, 21.

     Rogers, Samuel, 231.

     Rook, 191, 192;
       notes of, 142;
       nest of, 192.

     Rook-pie, 191, 192.

     Rose, wild, 17.

     Rothay, the river, 149, 150.

     Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 229.

     Rue-anemone, 172.

     _Rumex acetosa_, 170.

     Rydal Mount, 41.


     St. John's-wort, 19.

     St. Paul's Cathedral, 182.

     Salisbury Crags, 48, 49.

     Salmon, 188.

     Sandpiper, European, notes of, 40, 115, 141.

     Sandpiper, spotted (_Actitis macularia_), notes of, 115, 120.

     Scotch, the, contrasted with the English, 45;
       acquaintances among, 46, 47;
       a trait of, 47, 48;
       their love for Burns, 48.

     Scotland, first sight of, 2-7;
       mountains of, 6, 7, 21-25;
       tour through, 8;
       moorlands of, 25;
       streams and lakes of, 25, 26;
       plowing in, 53, 54;
       work of women and girls in the fields in, 54;
       country houses and village houses in, 62, 63;
       free use of paint in, 69, 70.
       _See_ Great Britain.

     Scotsbrig, 62.

     Scott, Sir Walter, Carlyle on, 201, 202, 225.

     Sea. _See_ Ocean.

     Sedge-warbler, song of, 85.

     Selbourne, 40, 103-105, 108, 109.

     Shackerford, 94-102.

     Shakespeare, quotations from, 42, 69, 78, 147, 161-164, 184;
       and other authors, 147, 210, 212.

     Shakespeare's Cliff, 14.

     Shawangunk Mountains, 37.

     Shilfa. _See_ Chaffinch.

     Ship-building on the Clyde, 4-6.

     Shottery, the fields about, 16, 17.

     Skylark, 80;
       in America, 116;
       at the head of a series of British song-birds, 142, 143;
       song of, 4, 11, 18, 86, 114, 116, 118, 119, 126, 129, 132.

     Snails, ants and snail, 180, 181;
       abundance of, in England, 195, 196.

     Snowbird, _or_ slate-colored junco (_Junco hyemalis_), song
         of, 125.

     Solomon's-seal, 18.

     Sorrel, sheep, 170. _See_ Dock.

     Southey, Robert, 231.

     Sparrow, bush _or_ wood _or_ field (_Spizella pusilla_), song
         of, 118, 120, 121, 127, 129, 143.

     Sparrow, English (_Passer domesticus_), 185;
       Carlyle on, 201.

     Sparrow, fox (_Passerella iliaca_), song of, 121, 129.

     Sparrow, savanna (_Ammodramus sandwichensis savanna_), notes
         of, 118, 129.

     Sparrow, social _or_ chipping, _or_ hair-bird, _or_ chippie
         (_Spizella socialis_), song of, 120, 127.

     Sparrow, song (_Melospiza fasciata_), notes of, 118, 120, 129,
         143.

     Sparrow, swamp (_Melospiza georgiana_), song of, 120.

     Sparrow, vesper (_Poöcœtes gramineus_), song of, 120, 129.

     Sparrow, white-crowned (_Zonotrichia leucophrys_), song of,
         121.

     Sparrow, white-throated (_Zonotrichia albicollis_), song of,
         121.

     Sparrows, songs of, 120, 121.

     Speedwell, blue, 160, 167, 196.

     Spring beauty. _See_ Claytonia.

     Spurge, wood, 172.

     Squirrel, European, 195.

     Squirrel, flying (_Sciuropterus volans_), 186, 195.

     Squirrel, gray (_Sciurus carolinensis_ var. _leucotis_), 39,
         195.

     Squirrel, red (_Sciurus hudsonicus_), 195.

     Starling, European, 191;
       nest of, 191.

     Starling, orchard. _See_ Oriole, orchard.

     Starling, red-shouldered, _or_ red-winged blackbird (_Agelaius
         phœniceus_), notes of, 118, 120.

     Stone. _See_ Building-stone.

     Stork, nest of, 187.

     Stratford-on-Avon, 15, 17, 19, 26, 169.

     Strawberry, wild, 164.

     Succory, 168.

     Swallow, barn (_Chelidon erythrogaster_), 2.

     Swallow, chimney, _or_ chimney swift (_Chætura pelagica_),
         190;
       notes of, 125, 142;
       nest of, 186.

     Swallow, cliff (_Petrochelidon lunifrons_), nests of, 178,
         186.

     Swallow, European chimney, 2, 142;
       notes of, 2;
       nest of, 2, 142.

     Swallow, window. _See_ House-martin.

     Swift, chimney. _See_ Swallow, chimney.

     Swift, European, notes of, 142;
       nest of, 2, 191.

     Swordfish, 274.


     Tanager, scarlet (_Piranga erythromelas_), song of, 118, 120,
         123, 127, 129.

     Tarns, 153-155.

     Teasel, 19.

     Tennyson, Alfred, quotations from, 30, 160, 163, 166, 167;
       residences, 43, 81, 103;
       Carlyle's portrait of, 230, 231.

     Thames, up the, 15.

     Thistle, Scotch, 20, 171.

     Thoreau, Henry D., 44.

     Thrasher, brown (_Harporhynchus rufus_), notes of, 117, 120,
         125, 129;
       nest of, 117.

     Throstle. _See_ Thrush, song.

     Thrush, hermit (_Turdus aonalaschkæ pallasii_), 120;
       song of, 123, 128, 129.

     Thrush, missel, song of, 114, 129.

     Thrush, song, _or_ mavis, _or_ throstle, song of, 98, 105,
         114, 129, 134-136, 139, 145.

     Thrush, Wilson's. _See_ Veery.

     Thrush, olive-backed or Swainson's (_Turdus ustulatus
         swainsonii_), song of, 145.

     Thrush, wood (_Turdus mustelinus_), notes of, 80, 118, 120,
         123, 127, 129, 144, 145;
       nest of, 79, 80.

     Timothy grass, 169.

     Tit, great. _See_ Titmouse, great.

     Tit, marsh, 189.

     Titlark. _See_ Pipit, American.

     Titlark, European, notes of, 129.

     Titmouse, great, _or_ great tit, 189;
       notes of, 129.

     Titmouse, long-tailed, 189.

     Toad, 194.

     Tomtit, nest of, 65.

     Towhee. _See_ Chewink.

     Tree-cricket, 194.

     Trees, sturdiness and picturesqueness of English, 97.
       _See_ Foliage.

     Trillium, painted, 172.

     Trilliums, 164.

     Trosachs, the, 178.

     Trout, British, 84.

     Turf, of England and Scotland, 20-26, 29, 31, 32.


     Ulleswater, 153-155.

     Uvularia, 164.


     Valleys, 149.

     Veery, _or_ Wilson's thrush (_Turdus fuscescens_), 120;
       song of, 128, 144, 145.

     Vervain, 168.

     Vetches, 196.

     Violet, bird's-foot, 173.

     Violet, yellow, 164.

     Vireo, brotherly love _or_ Philadelphia (_Vireo philadelphicus_),
         song of, 129.

     Vireo, red-eyed (_Vireo olivaceus_), song of, 118, 120, 122,
         127, 129, 143.

     Vireo, solitary _or_ blue-headed (_Vireo solitarius_), 120,
         122;
       song of, 129.

     Vireo, warbling (_Vireo gilvus_), song of, 122, 143.

     Vireo, white-eyed (_Vireo noveboracensis_), 122;
       song of, 120, 122, 129.

     Vireo, yellow-throated (_Vireo flavifrons_), notes of, 129.

     Vireos, songs of, 122, 128.

     Virgil, quotation from, 79.


     Wagtail, water. _See_ Water-thrush, large-billed.

     Wagtail, wood, _or_ golden-crowned thrush, _or_ golden-crowned
         accentor, _or_ oven-bird (_Seiurus aurocapillus_), song
         of, 124, 125, 127-129.

     Wales, rock scenery in, 37.

     Warbler, black-capped. _See_ Blackcap.

     Warbler, black-throated green (_Dendroica virens_), song of,
         129.

     Warbler, Canada (_Sylvania canadensis_), song of, 129.

     Warbler, garden, 141;
       song of, 105, 115, 123.

     Warbler, hooded (_Sylvania mitrata_), song of, 129.

     Warbler, Kentucky (_Geothlypis formosa_), song of, 123.

     Warbler, mourning (_Geothlypis philadelphia_), song of, 129.

     Warbler, reed, notes of, 116.

     Warbler, willow, _or_ willow-wren, song of, 129, 136, 137;
       nest and eggs of, 66, 137, 189, 190.

     Warbler, yellow. _See_ Yellowbird, summer.

     Water-lily. _See_ Pond-lily.

     Water-plantain, 168.

     Water-thrush, large-billed _or_ Louisiana, _or_ water wagtail
         (_Seiurus motacilla_), 124;
       song of, 123-125, 129.

     Waxwing, cedar. _See_ Cedar-bird.

     Weasel, 19, 187.

     Webster, Daniel, 231.

     Weeds, in Great Britain and in America, 170, 171.

     Westmoreland, 148-158.

     Whale, 274.

     Wheat-ear, 24, 156.

     Whin. _See_ Furze.

     White, Gilbert, 78, 85, 89, 119-122, 127, 137.

     Whitethroat, song of, 86, 95, 105, 115, 123, 129, 137.

     Wolf, 185, 186.

     Wolmer Forest, 40, 107.

     Woodbine, 38.

     Woodcock, European, 186.

     Wood-frog, 39.

     Wood-lark, 87, 92, 140;
       song of, 125, 127, 129.

     Wood-pigeon, notes of, 86, 98.

     Woodruff, 163.

     Woods, of America, 38;
       of England, 38-43;
       in poetry, 42-44.

     Wordsworth, William, 43;
       quotations from, 110, 119, 151, 152, 157, 160, 165, 167;
       the poet of those who love solitude, 147;
       his house at Grasmere, 151;
       his attitude toward nature, 151, 152;
       his lonely heart, 157.

     Wren, British house, _or_ Jenny Wren, 66;
       notes of, 18, 40, 86, 116, 121, 127, 129, 138;
       nest of, 86, 189, 190.

     Wren, European golden-crested. _See_ Kinglet, European
         golden-crested.

     Wren, golden-crowned. _See_ Kinglet, golden-crowned.

     Wren, house (_Troglodytes aëdon_), song of, 120, 121, 129.

     Wren, long-billed marsh (_Cistothorus palustris_), song of,
         120, 121.

     Wren, willow. _See_ Warbler, willow.

     Wren, winter (_Troglodytes hiemalis_), 121;
       song of, 121, 128, 129, 144, 145.

     Wrens, songs of, 121.

     Wryneck, 189.


     Yarrow, 17, 52.

     Yellowbird, summer, _or_ yellow warbler (_Dendroica æstiva_),
         song of, 120, 129.

     Yellow-hammer, _or_ yellow yite, notes of, 16, 18, 127, 129,
         140, 143;
       nest of, 65.

     Yellow-throat, Maryland (_Geothlypis trichas_), song of, 118,
         120, 129.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been left as in the
original.

The following corrections have been made to the text:

     Page 83: conscious of the train that passed[original has
     "paased"]

     Page 103: continue my walk back to Godalming[original has
     "Goldalming"]

     Page 204: far enough from Carlyle's sorrowing[original has
     "sorowing"] denunciations

     Page 215: he calls the Dauphiness, is unforgettable[original
     has "unforgetable"]

     Page 220: pillar of penitence or martyrdom[original has
     "martydom"]

     Page 230: great composure in an inarticulate[original has
     "inartlculate"] element

     Page 278, under "Carlyle, Thomas": residences of[subentry
     title added by transcriber], 49-51, 54, 55

     Page 279, under "Emerson, Ralph Waldo": statement on
     fields[subentry title added by transcriber], 53

     Page 282, under "Shakespeare": and other authors[subentry
     title added by transcriber], 147, 210, 212.

     Page 283, under "Tennyson, Alfred": residences[subentry title
     added by transcriber], 43, 81, 103

The following index entries have been changed to reflect the spelling
used in the main text:

     Page 277: Bloodroot[original has "Blood-root"], 172.

     Page 278: Cranesbill[original has "Crane's-bill"], 53.

     Page 280: Goldenrod[original has "Golden-rod"], 18, 196.

     Page 283: Swordfish[original has "Sword-fish"], 274.

     Page 284: Yellow-hammer[original has "Yellowhammer"], or
     yellow yite

Punctuation has been standardized in the Index.





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