Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for another place of work, to them it appeared that I had found idleness indoors wearisome and had just come forth to exchange it for another idleness. They saw no end to their labour; they had worked from childhood, and could see no possible end to labour until limbs failed or life closed. Why should they be like this? Why should I do nothing? They were as good as I was, and they hated me. Their indignant glances spoke it as plain as words, and far more distinctly than I can write it. You cannot read it with such feeling as I received their looks.

Beautiful golden-brown, superb health, what would I not give for these? To be the thrice-blessed and chosen of nature, what inestimable fortune! To be indifferent to any circumstances—to be quite thoughtless as to draughts and chills, careless of heat, indifferent to the character of dinners, able to do well on hard, dry bread, capable of sleeping in the open under a rick, or some slight structure of a hurdle, propped on a few sticks and roughly thatched with straw, and to sleep sound as an oak, and wake strong as an oak in the morning-gods, what a glorious life! I envied them; they fancied I looked askance at their rags and jags. I envied them, and considered their health and hue ideal. I envied them that unwearied step, that firm uprightness, and measured yet lazy gait, but most of all the power which they possessed, though they did not exercise it intentionally, of being always in the sunlight, the air, and abroad upon the earth. If so they chose, and without stress or strain, they could see the sunrise, they could be with him as it were—unwearied and without distress—the livelong day; they could stay on while the moon rose over the corn, and till the silent stars at silent midnight shone in the cool summer night, and on and on till the cock crew and the faint dawn appeared. The whole time in the open air, resting at mid-day under the elms with the ripple of heat flowing through the shadow; at midnight between the ripe corn and the hawthorn hedge on the white wild camomile and the poppy pale in the duskiness, with face upturned to the thoughtful heaven.

Consider the glory of it, the life above this life to be obtained from constant presence with the sunlight and the stars. I thought of them all day, and envied them (as they envied me), and in the evening I found them again. It was growing dark, and the shadow took away something of the coarseness of the group outside one of the village "pothouses.” Green foliage overhung them and the men with whom they were drinking; the white pipes, the blue smoke, the flash of a match, the red sign which had so often swung to and fro in the gales now still in the summer eve, the rude seats and blocks, the reaping-hooks bound about the edge with hay, the white dogs creeping from knee to knee, some such touches gave an interest to the scene. But a quarrel had begun; the men swore, but the women did worse. It it impossible to give a hint of the language they used, especially the elder of the three whose hollow face was blackened by time and exposure. The two golden-brown girls where so heavily intoxicated they could but stagger to and fro and mouth and gesticulate, and one held a quart from which, as she moved, she spilled the ale.

WILD FLOWERS.

A FIR-TREE is not a flower, and yet it is associated in my mind with primroses. There was a narrow lane leading into a wood, where I used to go almost every day in the early months of the year, and at one corner it was overlooked by three spruce firs. The rugged lane there began to ascend the hill, and I paused a moment to look back. Immediately the high fir-trees guided the eye upwards, and from their tops to the deep azure of the March sky over, but a step from the tree to the heavens. So it has ever been to me, by day or by night, summer or winter, beneath trees the heart feels nearer to that depth of life the far sky means. The rest of spirit found only in beauty, ideal and pure, comes there because the distance seems within touch of thought. To the heaven thought can reach lifted by the strong arms of the oak, carried up by the ascent of the flameshaped fir. Round the spruce top the blue was deepened, concentrated by the fixed point; the memory of that spot, as it were, of the sky is still fresh-I can see it distinctly—still beautiful and full of meaning. It is painted in bright colour in my mind, colour thrice laid, and indelible; as one passes a shrine and bows the head to the Madonna, so I recall the picture and stoop in spirit to the aspiration it yet arouses. For there is no saint like the sky, sunlight shining from its face.

The fir-tree flowered thus before the primrosesthe first of all to give me a bloom, beyond reach but visible, while even the hawthorn buds hesitated to open. Primroses were late there, a high district and thin soil; you could read of them as found elsewhere in January; they rarely came much before March, and but sparingly then. On the warm red sand (red, at least, to look at, but green by geological courtesy, I think) of Sussex, round about Hurst of the Pierrepoints, primroses are seen soon after the year has turned. In the lanes about that curious old mansion, with its windows reaching from floor to roof, that stands at the base of Wolstanbury Hill, they grow early, and ferns linger in sheltered overhung banks. The South Down range, like a great wall, shuts off the sea, and has a different climate on either hand; south by the sea-hard, harsh, flowerless, almost grassless, bitter, and cold; on the north side, just over the hill-warm, soft, with primroses and fern, willows budding and birds already busy. It is a double England there, two countries side by side.

On a summer's day Wolstanbury Hill is an island in sunshine ; you may lie on the grassy rampart, high up in the most delicate air-Grecian air, pellucid alone, among the butterflies and humming bees at the thyme, alone and isolated; endless masses of hills on three sides, endless weald or valley on the fourth ; all warmly lit with sunshine, deep under liquid sun

shine like the sands under the liquid sea, no harshness of man-made sound to break the insulation amid nature, on an island in a far Pacific of sunshine. Some people would hesitate to walk down the staircase cut in the turf to the beech-trees beneath; the woods look so small beneath, so far down and steep, and no handrail. Many go to the Dyke, but none to Wolstanbury Hill. To come over the range

reminds one of what travellers say of coming over the Alps into Italy; from harsh sea-slopes, made dry with salt as they sow salt on razed cities that naught may grow, to warm plains rich in all things, and with great hills as pictures hung on a wall to gaze at. Where there are beech-trees the land is always beautiful; beech-trees at the foot of this hill, beechtrees at Arundel in that lovely park which the Duke of Norfolk, to his glory, leaves open to all the world, and where the anemones flourish in unusual size and number; beech-trees in Marlborough Forest; beechtrees at the summit to which the lane leads that was spoken of just now. Beech and beautiful scenery go together.

But the primroses by that lane did not appear till late; they covered the banks under the thousand thousand ash-poles ; foxes slipped along there frequently, whose friends in scarlet coats could not endure the pale flowers, for they might chink their spurs homewards. In one meadow near primroses were thicker than the grass, with gorse interspersed, and the rabbits that came out fed among flowers. The primroses last on to the celandines and cowslips, through the time of the bluebells, past the violets

« AnteriorContinuar »