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teresting phenomena as immediately influenced by an omnipotent hand, and advancing one step farther, penetrate within the veil, and find ourselves alone with God.
With regard to the mere amusements of the country, it is very natural for townspeople-such as are accustomed to games of skill and hazard-to dress-parties, plays, and concerts, to ask in what they can possibly consist. Let us in the first place observe a group of children at play beneath the flowery hawthorn, their cheeks suffused with the rosy hue of health, and their bright eyes sparkling with that inward joy which naturally animates the infant mind. Nobody can tell what they are playing at-they do not know themselves. They have no names or set rules by which their gambols are restrained; but when they start off from their sequestered retreat, bounding over the grass like young fawns, you see at once that it is the fresh air, the glowing health, and above all, the glorious liberty of the country which constitutes their enjoyment. Then they have an intimate and familiar acquaintance with every thing around them, with the woods and the winding paths, the song of the different birds, and the course of the streams that come down from the hills. Upon all or most of these the seasons have considerable influence, and the welcome appearance of spring, the withering of autumn, the heat of summer, and the winter's snow, have trains of association in the youthful mind, which supply them with a perpetual source of amusement, blended with instruction. Added to which, they not unfrequently have the care of domestic animals, and feel almost as much interest in their fate as in that of their fellow-creatures. They soon learn that their kindness allures, and that their rebukes repel. This makes them observant of the happiness and the misery of the creatures committed to their charge, and lays the foundation of social and benevolent feelings, which continue with them through the rest of their lives. As the mind acquires strength and begins to investigate, what a field of inquiry then lies before them-the fall of the rains-the density of the atmosphere-the gathering of clouds-the fertility of the earth-the principles of vegetation
and vitality-the production of flowers and fruits-the source of streams-the planetary system-chemical agency-and the study of electricity, that mighty and mysterious power, which operates through earth and air in a manner yet but partially understood, though producing some of the most wonderful and sublime phenomena in nature.
Are these amusements of a kind to be neglected or contemned by a rational and intellectual being? Are they not rather such as we ought to seek every possible means of rendering familiar and attractive to the youthful mind? And surely there can be no means more likely than to retire sometimes within the bosom of nature, where the development of Almighty power is obvious above, around, and beneath us.
But above almost all other peculiarities belonging to a country life, I would place that homefeeling which has the power through the whole course of our lives to bring back the wandering affections, and centre them in one point of space-one point of importance, to a very limited portion of the community, but a portion consisting of our nearest and dearest connexions. In towns there can be comparatively little of this feeling. A man steps out of his door immediately upon common ground. The house he lives in is precisely like his neighbour's, one of a number which he returns to without attachment, and leaves without regret. But in the country, not only the grass we tread on, the paths, the trees, the birds that sing above our heads, and the flowers that bloom beneath our feet, but the very atmosphere around us, seem to be our own. There is a feeling of possession in our fields, our gardens, and our home, which nothing but a cruel separation can destroy; and when absent, far away upon the deep sea, travelling in foreign lands, or driven from that home for ever, we pine to trace again the familiar walks, and wonder whether the woods and the green lawn are looking the same as when they received our last farewell. In the haunts of busy life, the music of our native streams comes murmuring again upon our ear; we pause beneath the cage of the prisoned bird, because its voice is the same as that which cheered our infan
cy; and we love the flowers of a distant country when they resemble those which bloomed in our own.
There are other wanderers besides those who stray through foreign realms-wanderers from the ways of God. Perchance we have spurned the restrictions of parental authority, and cast away the early visitations of a holier love; but the homefeeling which neither change of place nor character can banish from our bosoms, renews the memory of our social ties, and draws us back to the deserted hearth. Along with that memory, associated with the soothing of affection which we have lived to want, and the wisdom of sage counsel which experience has proved true, the tide of conviction rushes in upon the burdened heart, and the prodigal rousing himself from the stupor of despair, exclaims, "I will arise and go to my father!"
It is difficult for those whose hearts and homes are in the city, fully to appreciate the enjoyment arising from rural scenery; but there are others whose homes are there, yet whose hearts are not wholly absorbed in city news, and scenes, and customs. These have probably, at some time or other of their lives, known what it was, not merely to make an excursion to Richmond, Hampstead, or Windsor, but to go far away into the country, amongst the hills, and the valleys, where the rattling of wheels, or the crack of the coachman's whip, was never heard. What, let me ask, were their sensations, as they rose higher and higher up the side of the mountain, at every step taking in a wider view of the landscape, until it lay beneath them like a garden, in which the ancient woods were fairy groves, and the rivers threads of silver, now seen, now lost, but never heard, even in their floods and falls, at that far height. What are the feelings of the traveller, when standing on the topmast ridge, a mere speck in that stupendous solitude, while the fresh breezes of an unknown atmosphere sweep past him, and he muses upon the past, and feels the impressive truth, that not only the firm rock on which he stands, but the surrounding hills, with their beetling brows, and rugged pinnacles, and hollow caves, are the same as on that great day when the waters of the
deluge disappeared from the face of the earth-that the art of man is impotent against the imperishable fabric upon which he rests-that the ploughshare never has been there-nor track of wandering beast, nor nest of soaring bird, nor hum of laden bee-nothing but the winds, the rolling clouds, the lightning and thunder, those tremendous agents of eternal Power, before whom the boasted sovereign of creation lies trembling in the dust.
What are his feelings when he reflects that such as this new and mighty world appears to him, such it will remain when he and his, with their ambitious hopes and envied honours, are buried and forgotten! These are sensations peculiar to the situation, which words are inadequate to describe. Too deep for utterance, too powerful for language, they teach a wisdom more profound than is to be acquired in all the schools of man's devise. I would ask again, how the wanderer on the mountain's summit has looked back to the narrow sphere of social life which he has been wont to call the world? Its laws, conventional but arbitrary, by which his past conduct has been influenced, what are they here? Scarcely more important than those which regulate the movements of a community of insects, confined within the limits of a little mound of earth. Where now is the tremendous and potent voice of public opinion, resounding in authoritative tones from house to house, from heart to heart? Upon the mountain's brow, beneath the blue arch of heaven, it is silent, lost, and forgotten. Where are the toils, the anxieties, the heartaches, which consume the vitality of our existence, in the lower region of our sordid and selfish avocations? Already they have assumed a different character; and, despising the nothingness-the worse than nothingness of their ultimate end, he resolves to give them to the winds, and henceforth to live for some more exalted and noble purpose.
There is no danger that man should feel himself too little, or his Maker too great. If there were, he would do well to confine himself to a sphere, in which nothing is so obvious as the operation of man's ingenuity and power. But since we are all too much
or if from inclination, settle themselves at a time of life when they are incapable of judging of the privileges peculiar to either, it is not to be supposed that they will always make the best use of the advantages around them; and those which abound in great number and variety in the country, certainly add weight to the moral culpability of such individuals as live stupidly beneath the open sky, in the midst of fields, and woods, and gardens, without exhibiting more mental energy than is displayed by their own flocks and herds.
engaged in the strife, and the bustle, and the eagerness which is necessary to insure an average of material comforts; since individuality of character is too much sacrificed to the arbitrary rules of polished life; since by associating exclusively with man in an artificial state of being, the generous too frequently become selfish, the gentle hardened, and the noble debased: it is good to shake off occasionally the unnatural bondage by which the aspiring spirit is kept down, to go forth into the woods and the wilds, and to feel, though but for a day or an hour, that man was born for something better than to be the slave of his own bodily wants. Each time that we experience this real in-vious in the country, we must in common dependence of mind, we ascend one step higher in the scale of moral existence; and if circumstance or dire necessity should prevent the frequent recurrence of such feelings, we may at least secure a solid and lasting good, by learning in this way to appreciate the mental elevation of others.
I am not, even on this subject, so blind an enthusiast, as to attempt to support my argument in favour of rural life on the ground of the greater appearance of vice in the town than in the country; because I am one of those who believe that the vacancy of mind, the gross bodily existence, the moral apathy, which too frequently prevail amongst persons who lead an isolated life, are quite as much at variance with the Divine law, as vices which are more obvious, and which consequently fall under the cognizance of human statutes. If amongst congregated multitudes we are shocked to find so much of riotous indulgence, treachery, outrage, and crime of every description, we are, on the other hand, cheered with the earnest zeal, the perseverance, the disinterestedness, which are brought into exercise to counteract these evils. While in the country, where men sit still and wonder alike at both extremes, the average of moral good is certainly not higher, because vice being less obvious, the fear of its fatal consequences does not stimulate to those meritorious exertions which proceed from true Christian love. The country may be abused as well as the town; and since the inhabitants of both, for the most part, fall into their stations from circumstances rather than inclination,
After remarking with regret upon the inertness and apathy of disposition too ob
justice observe, that where there does exist sufficient mental energy for the display of peculiar traits of character, such traits have a degree of strength and originality seldom found amongst the inhabitants of the city, where social institutions have a tendency to bring individuals together upon common terms, and thus to render them more like each other; and where the frequent contact of beings similarly circumstanced rubs off their eccentricities, and wears them down to the level of ordinary men.
The friendships and acquaintances of the country are formed upon a system essentially different from that which holds society together in more compact and congregated masses. The ordinary style of visiting in towns does little towards making people acquainted with each other. Commonplace remarks upon general topics-remarks which derive no distinctive character from the lips which utter them, fill up the weary hours of each succeeding visit; while the same education, and the same style of living, are observable in every different set, of which each individual is but a part-separate but not distinct. But in the country, where people meet more casually, and with less of common purpose and feeling, where they often spend a considerable time together under the same roof, thrown entirely upon their own resources, and unacquainted with any general or prevailing topic of conversation, they necessarily become more intimately acquainted with each other's natural character, with their individual bias of disposition, and peculiar trains of thought.
may appear almost too homely and commonplace to be admitted under the character of poetical; but in their relation to the social affections, and to the principles of happiness
Dwelling apart from the tide of public opinion, they know nothing of its influence or power, and having established their own opinions, formed for themselves from their personal observation, their sentiments and re--that happiness which is rational, intellecmarks are characterised by their originality, tual, and moral, they are in themselves and their affections by their depth. They highly poetical, and must often be recurred are in fact, though less polished, less artifi- to with tenderness and interest; at the same cial, and less learned in mere facts than time that they supply the bard with subjects their brethren and sisters of the city, infi- of pathos and pictures of delight. nitely more poetical, because their expressions convey more meaning, their sentiments are more genuine, and their feelings more fresh from the heart.
In speaking of the intimate knowledge of individual character which rural life affords abundant opportunities of obtaining, we must not omit to mention the sum of happiness derived from this knowledge when it extends amongst our domestics, labourers, and dependent poor. The master of a family in the country resembles a little feudal lord, and if he makes a generous use of his authority, may be served as faithfully, and obeyed as implicitly through love, as any old English baron ever was through fear. The agricultural labourer becomes attached to the soil which he cultivates. He feels as if he had a property in the fields of his master, and this feeling extends not only to the produce of his toil, but, through many links of natural connection, to the interest of his master and the general good of his family; while on the other hand, his own wants and afflictions, and those of his wife and children, are made known through the kind visitations of charity, and soothed and relieved, with a familiarity and unison of feeling which goes almost as far as almsgiving towards alleviating the distresses of the poor. There can be no distrust between families that have dwelt together upon the same soil, in the mutual relation of master and servant, from generation to generation. Both parties are intimately acquainted with the characters they have to deal with, and each esteeming the other's worth, can look upon their little peculiarities with kindness, and even with affection; while the mutual confidence, good will, and clear understanding which subsist between them, constitute a sure foundation for substantial and lasting comfort.
Perhaps it may better please the fanciful reader to turn to themes of a more imaginary and unsubstantial nature, of which we find an endless variety in the associations afforded by rural habits, pursuits, and scenes. We have observed in the former part of this work, that scarcely a beast, a bird, a tree, a flower, or any other visible object exists, without an ideal as well as a real character; but we have not yet entered upon that region of poetic thought which is peopled with the imaginary beings of heathen superstition, and which to the mind that is deeply impressed with the beautiful imagery of classic lore, is perpetually associated with rural scenery. No sooner are the gates of fancy opened for the admission of these ethereal beings, than we behold them gliding in upon our favorite haunts, now floating upon the sea of air, dancing in the sunbeams, or reposing upon beds of violets; and then rushing forth upon the destructive elements, riding on the crested waves, or directing the bolts of death.
Wandering in our fields and gardens, Flora, with h ever-blooming cheek and coronet of unfading flowers, becomes our sweet companion, while with her ambrosial pencil, dipped in the hues of heaven, she tints the velvet leaves of the rose, scatters perfume over the snowy bosom of the lily, or turns in playful tenderness to meet the smiles of her wayward and wandering lover, the sportive and uncertain Zephyrus. We penetrate into the depth of the forest, and the vestal Huntress flits across our path with her attendant nymphs. While seated under the cool shadow of the leafy trees, or stooping over the margin of the crystal stream, the Dryads bind their flowing hair. The harvest smiles before us with the glad promise of the waning year, and joyfully the yel
These advantages, peculiar to rural life, low grain is gathered in; but we see the
There is scarcely any human being so selfish as to wish to feed upon joy alone; and what a privilege it is, separated from those who could rejoice with us, that we can share our happiness with nature! The soar
deity of rural plenty, with her unextinguishable torch and crown of golden ears, wandering from field to field, heart-stricken, and alone; too mortal in her sufferings-too desolate in her divinity. We hail the purple morning, Aurora rises in her rosy car, driving lark, the bounding deer, and the sportive ing her snowy steeds over the cloud-capped mountains, separating the hills from their misty canopy, and scattering flowers and dew over her fresh untrodden pathway through the verdant valleys. We turn to the glorious sun as he rises from his couch of golden waves, and ask the inspiration of Apollo for the verse or for the lyre. We sail upon the ruffled sea, where the Nereides, sporting with the dolphins, lave their shining hair; or where Neptune, striking his trident on the foaming waters, bids the deep be still. We hear the bellowing of the stormy blast, and call on Æolus to spare us; or we listen to the thunder as it rolls above our heads, echoing from shore to shore, and tremble lest the forked lightning should burst forth from the sovereign hand of Jove.
Fanciful as these associations are, (almost too fanciful to afford us any real enjoyment,) they unquestionably supply the poet with images of beauty not to be found in real life; and they have also an important claim upon our consideration, from the place they occupy both in ancient and modern literature; as well as from the effect which this system of imperfect and dangerous theology produced, in promoting the refinements of art, and softening the habits and feelings of a barbarous people.
It is pleasant to turn from such visionary sources of gratification to those which are more tangible and true-to the smypathy which every feeling mind believes it possible to experience in nature. There is no state of feeling to which we may not find something in the elements, or in the natural world, so nearly corresponding, as to give us the idea of companionship in our joys and sorrows. True, it would be more congenial to our wishes, could we find this companionship amongst our fellow-creatures; but who has not asked for it in vain? and turning to the woods, and the winds, and the blue skies, has not believed for a moment there was more sympathy in them than in the heart of
lamb, animated with a joy like ours, become our brethren and our sisters; while the same light buoyant spirit that fills our bosoms, smiles upon us from the shining heavens, glows beneath us in the fruitful earth, or whispers around us in the fresh glad gales of spring. But, under the pressure of grief, this sympathy is most perceptible and most availing, because sorrow has a greater tendency than joy to excite the imagination, and thus it multiplies its own associations by identifying itself with every thing that wears the slightest shadow of gloom.
I will not say that the world in general is more productive of images of sadness than of pleasure; but from the misuse of our own faculties, and the consequent tendency of our own minds, we are more apt to look for such amongst the objects around us; and thus in our daily observation, passing over what is lovely, and genial, and benign, we fix our minds upon the desolating floods, the anticipated storm, the early blight, the cankered blossom, the faded leaf, the broken bough, or the premature decay of autumn fruit. This, however, is no fault of nature's, but our own; nor does it prove anything against the argument, that, whether happy or miserable, we may find a responding voice in nature, to echo back our gladness, and to answer to our sighs; that every feeling of which we are capable, in its purest and least vitiated state, may meet with similitude, and companionship, and association in the natural world; and above all, that he who desires to rise out of the low cares of artificial life, whose soul aspires above the gross elements of mere bodily existence, and whose highest ambition is to render up that soul, purified rather than polluted, may find in nature a congenial, faithful, and untiring friend.
I cannot better conclude these remarks, than by quoting a passage from the writings of one, who possessed the enviable art of combining science with sublimity, and philosophy with poetic feeling.