Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

precipice meet, that the deepest and most powerful sheet of water falls ; but it is here, also, just where the hand of omnipotence is performing its greatest wonders, that the consummation of the work is hid.

What the phenomena are, where this stupendous torrent strikes at the foot of the falls, no mortal eye hath seen : a mist, rising to nearly half the height of the fall, is the veil beneath which the Almighty performs his wonders alone, and there is the hiding of his power. This is the spot upon which the eye wishfully fixes, and tries in vain to penetrate ; over which imagination hovers, but cannot catch even a glimpse to sketch with her pencil. This deep recess is the most sublime and awful scene upon which my eye was ever fixed. There, amid thunderings, and in solitude and darkness, from age to age, Jehovah has proclaimed, I am the ALMIGHTY GOD.

LESSON IX.

RURAL LIFE.

The taste of the English in the cultivation of land, and in what is called landscape gardening, is unrivaled. They have studied Nature intently, and discovered an exquisite sense of her beautiful forms and harmonious combinations. Those charms which, in other countries, she lavishes in wild solitudes, are here assembled round the haunts of domestic life. They seem to have caught her coy and furtive graces, and spread them, like witchery, about their rural abodes.

Nothing can be more imposing than the magnificence of English park scenery. Vast lawns that extend like sheets of vivid green, with here and there clumps of gigantic trees, heaping up rich piles of foliage. The solemn pomp of groves and woodland glades, with the deer trooping in silent herds across them; the hare, bounding away to the covert; or the pheasant, suddenly bursting upon the wing. The brook, taught to wind in natural meanderings, or expand into a glassy lakethe sequestered pool, reflecting the quivering trees, with the yellow leaf sleeping on its bosom, and the trout roaming fearlessly about its limpid waters: while sume rustic temple, or sylvan statue, grown green and dank with age, gives an air of classic sanctity to the seclusion.

These are but a few of the features of park scenery; but what most delights me, is the creative talent with which the English decorate the unostentatious abodes of middle life. The rudest habitation, the most unpromising and scanty portion of land, in the hands of an Englishman of taste, becomes a little paradise. With a nicely discriminating eye, he seizes at once upon its capabilities, and pictures in his mind the future landscape. The sterile spot grows into loveliness under his hand; and yet the operations of art which produce the effect are scarcely to be perceived. The cherishing and training of some trees; the cautious

pruning of others; the nice distribution of flowers and plants of tender and graceful foliage; the introduction of a green slope of velvet turf; the partial opening to

a

a peep of blue distance, or silver gleam of waterall these are managed with a delicate tact, a pervading yet quiet assiduity, like the magic touchings with which a painter finishes up a favorite picture.

The residence of people of fortune and refinement in the country, has diffused a degree of taste and elegance in rural economy, that descends to the lowest class. The very laborer, with his thatched cottage and narrow slip of ground, attends to their embellishment. The trim hedge, the grass-plot before the door, the little flower-bed bordered with snug box, the woodbine trained up against the wall, and hanging its blossoins about the lattice; the pot of flowers in the window; the holly, providently planted about the house, to cheat winter of its dreariness, and to throw in a semblance of green summer to cheer the fireside: all these bespeak the influence of taste, flowing down from high sources, and pervading the lowest levels of the public mind. If ever Love, as poets sing, delights to visit a cottage, it must be the cottage of an English peasant.

In rural occupation, there is nothing mean and debasing. It leads a man forth among scenes of natural grandeur and beauty; it leaves him to the workings of his own mind, operated upon by the purest and most elevating of external influences. Such a man may be simple and rough, but he cannot be vulgar. The man of refinement, therefore, finds nothing revolting in an intercourse with the lower orders in rural life, as he does when he casually-mingles with the lower orders of cities. He lay's aside his distance and reserve, and is glad to waive the distinctions of rank, and to enter into the honest, heart-felt enjoyments of common life. Indeed, the very amusements of the country bring men more and more together; and the sound of the hound and horn blend all feelings into harmony.

To this mingling of cultivated and rustic society, may also be attributed the rural feeling that runs through British literature; the frequent use of illustrations from rural life; those incomparable descriptions of Nature, that abound in the British poets—that have continued down from the Flower and the Leaf” of Chaucer, and have brought into our closets all the freshness and fragrance of the dewy landscape. The pastoral writers of other countries appear as if they had paid Nature an occasional visit, and become acquainted with her general charms; but the British poets have lived and reveled with her -- they have wooed her in her most secret haunts--they have watched her minutest caprices. A spray could not tremble in the breeze-a leaf could not rustle to the ground—a diamond drop could not patter in the stream--a fragrance could not exhale from the humble violet, nor a daisy unfold its crimson tints to the morning, but it has been noticed by these impassioned and delicate observers, and wrought up into some beautiful morality.

The effect of this devotion of elegant minds to rural occupations, has been wonderful on the face of the country. A great part of the island is rather level, and would be monotonous, were it not for the charms of culture; but it is studded and gemmed, as it were, with castles and palaces, and embroidered with parks and gardens. It does not abound in grand and sublime prospects, but rather in little home scenes of rural repose and sheltered quiet. Every antique farm-house and moss-grown cottage is a picture; and as the roads are continually winding, and the view is shut in by groves and hedges, the eye is delighted by a continual succession of small landscapes of captivating loveliness.

The great charm, however, of English scenery, is the moral feeling that seems to pervade it. It is associated in the mind with ideas of order, of quiet, of sober, well-established principles, of hoary usage and reverend custom. Every thing seems to be the growth of ages of regular and peaceful existence.

The old church, of remote architecture, with its low massive portal ; its gothic tower; its windows, rich with tracery and painted glass, in scrupulous preservation-its stately monuments of warriors and worthies of the olden time, ancestors of the present lords of the soil-its tombstones, recording successive generations of sturdy yeomanry, whose progeny still plough the same fields, and kneel at the same altar—the neighboring village, with its venerable cottages, its public green, sheltered by trees, under which the forefathers of the present race have sported the antique family mansion, standing apart in some little rural domain, but looking down with a protecting air on the surrounding scene--all these common features of English landscape evince a calm and settled security, a hereditary transmission of home-bred virtues and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly for the moral character of the nation.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »