Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

made a further move in the Oriental direction, and robed himself from head to foot in some white material which looked like thick calico. Again I remonstrated strongly, but the more I said the more he laughed; and at last I weakly consented to give him the countenance of my company and to take 'my share of the derisive howls with which he was greeted by the juvenile population of the unsophisticated villages through which we passed.

In spite of his little eccentricities, perhaps to some extent because of them, Pelican was the very best companion in a rural excursion I ever knew. Some pedestrian ramblers throw all their energies into their limbs and relapse into gloomy silence, but to this terrible class he never belonged. Nature stimulated him like wine, and he was intellectually at his best when the grass was under his feet and the air of God was blowing about his head. In fact, he had a theory which I always laughed at as one of his extravagances, but which I am inclined to think better of now, that no man could arrive at absolutely right views, particularly of moral and social subjects, who did not spend most of his time in the unadulterated country. He used to support this thesis by very ingenious arguments; but he never made any impression upon the members of our somewhat unimaginative circle at Brookfield. Except as the only available place for a picnic, they leaned to the opinion of Lord Dundreary, that “the countwy ith a mithtake;" which was exactly what Pelican thought of the town, until he saw the truth of a verdict of a wise friend of ours who had lived long enough to learn “the falsehood of extremes.” “It is not quite right," said good Dr. Hto Pelican and me one day, “to say, as Cowper says, ‘God made the country, and man made the town :' the fact is, God made both, and man has spoiled both; but there is something of the Divine still left everywhere."

Pelican had at one time a large book filled with sketches of our travels, which he entitled, “The Peregrinations of Paul and Solomon;" but it does not seem to have been preserved, for it is not to be found in the black box. The Solomon was of course the writer of these reminiscences. Pelican was fond of giving nicknames, more or less appropriate, to people whom he liked; but I never knew exactly why I was associated in his mind with the philosophical king. I fear there may have been some latent irony in the name, but on this matter prolonged speculation might be painful.

Though the “Peregrinations” are gone, I find a memento of one of our excursions in the shape of a short essay and a couple of sonnets, written during a brief holiday we spent together on the banks of Windermere, at the latter end of the first summer of our acquaintance. We had just begun to enjoy ourselves, when I was unexpectedly compelled by business to leave him for two or three days, and when I returned I found (to use his own words) that he had flown for consolation to the bottle

F

the ink-bottle--and one of the main results of the outbreak was this paper, which he called, —

IN THE WOOD: A WINDERMERE REVERIE.

I have been here at Windermere for a week; and never, I think, has a week seemed so strangely short or so strangely long. I know that were I to go home tomorrow I should feel as if I had never left it, but had merely been visited by a sweet day-dream of purple hills, and glancing wavelets, and rustling leaves. And yet I seem to be separated from those quiet uneventful home-days by a long age of strange, rapturous, vivid existence. Trite enough is the saying that a lifetime of bliss or agony may be crowded into an hour ; but the triteness vanishes when the hour comes, and he to whom it comes finds the old commonplace all at once transformed into a new truth. Parrot-like, he has been repeating the familiar formula all his life; man-like, he has been fancying that he understood it: but some new experience becomes his, and a hidden revelation flashes out upon him from the ancient household words. All commonplaces seem dead, but they have a latent vitality; and we never know at what hour of our existence the dry bony aphorism or proverb, which we have flippantly tossed about since childhood, may start into unsuspected life. As our life becomes wider, and deeper, and more intense, our list of commonplaces becomes shorter and shorter; for a commonplace is a truth acknowledged but not realized,-a thread of familiar colour not yet cast by the flying shuttle of destiny across the lengthening web of our individual history. Mrs. Browning, in one of her wonderfully vivid poems, writes,

I said in under breath

All our life is mixed with death ;" and it is just because we lack complete vitality of nature that so many things are commonplace to us. There is but one Being in whom life is not thus mixed with death; and it is as certain that to God nothing is commonplace, as it is that with Him nothing is impossible.

I came here to rest, and I have thoroughly made up my mind to give myself over to delicious idleness. I think it simply painful to feel it a duty to “do” the regular tourist round. I have no sympathy with the man who says perdidi diem at the end of every day which has not made him acquainted with half a dozen lakes, or hills, or waterfalls, which he has never seen before, and does not care ever to see again. I do not value such chance introductions either to men or places, for their only effect is to fill the mind with a throng of confused, featureless images. The real man does not unveil himself in the first five minutes of ceremonious conversation, and the “open secret” of nature is not often read from the top of a stage-coach. Any man may at any time go, like Mahomet, to the mountain ; but if he would have the mountain come to him—that is, if he would feel the spirit of the mountain enter into his

spirit and possess it—he must yield himself up to what Wordsworth, with exquisite accuracy of expression, calls a “wise passiveness."

This wise passiveness I have endeavoured to cultivate. I have discovered two or three of the pleasantest of walks, and I find that familiarity, instead of breeding contempt, increases the love with which I regard every tree, or cluster of fern, or distant shimmer of sunlighted waters. An ever-increasing delight in the simplest natural objects grows upon me day by day, and I find myself scrutinizing with a loving eye the clinging growth of the wild ivy which clothes with beauty the ruinous wall of weather-beaten stone, and extracting, somehow or other, a new and strange pleasure from the contemplation of waving grasses and gurgling streamlets.

But my favourite haunt is the wood, where all the day long I often lie, stretched out upon the mossy turf, and shaded by the drooping ferns; my limbs subdued by a pleasant lassitude; my soul steeped in an all-controlling sense of delicious inactivity, undisturbed by perplexing thought or exciting emotion, conscious of naught but a vague indescribable satisfaction—the deep, exquisite, painless joy of calm. This painlessness of joy is one of the essential characteristics of woodland repose. There have been times when, coming all at once upon some sublime or marvellously beautiful piece of scenery, I have experienced a feeling of delight so intense as to be almost agonizing. It is possible to be blinded by excess

« НазадПродовжити »