Abbildungen der Seite

little door-yard of flowers—all these are evidences of healthful instincts. But another, and very striking proof of the existence of the love of nature in our people may be found in the character of American verse. A very large proportion of the poetical writing of the country partakes of this spirit; how many noble passages, how many pleasing lines, will immediately recur to the mind as the remark suggests itself; scarce a poet of note among us who has not contributed largely to our national riches in this way; and one often meets, in some village paper or inferior magazine, with very pleasing verses of this kind, from pens quite unknown. Probably if an experienced critic were called upon to point out some general characteristic of American poetry, more marked than any other, he would, without hesitation, declare it to be a deeplyfelt appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.

But although as a people we have given ample evidence of an instinctive love of nature, yet we have only made a beginning in these pleasant paths. There still remains much for us to do. This natural taste, like all others, is capable of much healthful cultivation ; it would be easy to name many steps by which, both as individuals and as communities, it lies in our power to advance the national progress in this course ; but to do so would carry us beyond the limits allotted to our present task. It is hoped, however, that we may be forgiven for detaining the reader a moment longer, while we allude at least to one view of the subject which is not altogether without importance. The social condition of Christendom has, in many respects, very materially changed within the last fifty years. Town and country no longer fill what for ages seemed the unalterable relative position of each. A countryman is no longer inevitably a boor, nor a townsman necessarily a cockney ; all have, in their turn, trod the pavement and the green turf. This is especially the case in America ; the life, the movement in which our people delight, is constantly bringing all classes into contact, one with another, and diffusing the same influences throughout the entire population. Something of that individuality which gives interest and variety to the face But yet,

of society is lost in this way; but, on the other hand, we gain many facilities for general improvement by these means. The interchange between town and country has become rapid, ceaseless, regular, as the returns of dawn and dusk. in spite of the unbroken communication, the perpetual intermingling, there still remains to each a distinctive, inalienable character ; the moving spirit of the town must always continue artificial, while that of the country is, by a happy necessity, more natural. We believe that the moment has come when American civilization may assume, in this respect, a new aspect. The wonderful increase of commercial and manufacturing luxury, which is characteristic of the age, must inevitably produce a degree of excess in the cities; all the follies of idle ostentation and extravagant expenditure will, as a matter of course, flourish in such an atmosphere, until, as they expand right and left, they overshadow many things of healthier growth, and give a false glare of coloring to the whole society which fosters them. There are many reasons why our own towns are especially in danger from this state of things; they have no Past; they lack Experience; Time for them has no individual teachings beyond those of yesterday; there are no grave monuments of former generations standing in the solemn silence of a thousand warning years along their streets.

Probably there never has been a social condition in which the present is more absolutely absorbing, more encroaching, in fact, than in our American towns. The same influences may extend into the country ; but it is impossible for them to be equally powerful in the open fields, where they are weakened by the want of concentration, and by many counteracting circumstances. The situation of the countryman is in this sense favorable ; he is surrounded by great natural teachers, by noble monitors, in the works of the Deity; many are the salutary lessons to be learned on the mountain-tops, within the old groves beside the flowing stream. The everlasting hills—the ancient woods—these are his monuments—these tell him of the past, and not a seed drops from his hand but

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

prophesies of the future. The influences which surround the countryman are essentially ennobling, elevating, civilizing, in fact. Strange as the remark might have appeared a hundred years ago, we shall venture deliberately to repeat it at the present hour: We conceive that the spirit which pervades country life to-day, to be more truly civilizing in its nature than that which glitters in our towns. All that is really desirable of the facilities of life may now be readily procured in the fields, while the excesses of luxury and frivolous fashion are more easily avoided there. Many different elements are blended in the composition of true elegance, and some of these are of a very homely, substantial nature; plain common sense, and even a vein of sterner wisdom are requisite ; that moderation which avoids excess is absolutely indispensable ; order and harmony of combination are needed; dignity and self-respect are essentials ; natural feeling must be there, with all its graceful shades of deference and consideration for the rights and tastes of others; intellectual strength, which has no sympathy with the merely vapid and frivolous, is a matter of course; and while cheerfulness and gayety, easy and unforced as the summer breezes, should not fail, yet a spirit of repose is equally desirable ; it is evident, also, that a healthful moral tone is requisite, since, where this is wanting, the semblance of it is invariably assumed; and to all these must be added that high finish of culture which years and reflection can alone give. What element is there among

these which may not be readily fostered in country life? On the other hand, that very concentration which was formerly so favorable to the progress of the towns, is now producing injurious effects by leading to excesses, and perversion of healthful tastes. The horizon of the townsman becomes fictitiously narrowed; he needs a wider field for observationgreater space for movement-more leisure for reflection. He learns to attach too much importance by far to the trappings of life ; he has forgotten, in short, the old adage : "Non è l'abito che il monaco !" It can scarcely, therefore, be an error of judgment to believe that while in past generations thu

« ZurückWeiter »