— I often wish that every one made use of a sort of “ mind-cure ” which some persons have found invaluable. Nature has a wondrous power of ministry to a mind diseased, and through avenues of sense can reach and touch and heal the soul. If there are times when grief is too new and its pang too poignant, or when anxiety presses too urgently, for us to find relief in calm communion with the world of unconscious life about us, and we need a human voice to speak and a human hand stretched out to help us, yet there are seasons of very real and special trouble, when Nature may give a sore and wounded spirit a comfort all her own. Pure joy, whatever its source, is a healing essence, and the gladness arising from the perception of beauty is Nature’s oil and wine for the soothing and strengthening of our souls. She has infinite means at command, and stores up delights in things small as well as great, so that none need be without them. If it takes money and leisure to compass a visit to Niagara, the Alps, or Como, there are simpler yet choice pleasures to be had nearer home. I go out into the world of a fresh morning, and stray along the country road between the rough walls half hidden with wild vines, and over beyond them see the fields thick with daisies reflecting the sun, and buttercups catching and holding it; and winging his light way before me goes a butterfly, clad in black velvet with trimmings of glittering blue ; and I dip down into a bit of woodland among tlie ferns and violets, and look about till I find my special darling, the little wind-flower, poised airily on its delicate stem ; and then I stretch myself on some sun-warmed old boulder, clothed with lovely mosses, gray and green, and lie there and drink in rest and cheer. An apple-tree throws out an arm to shield my head from the sun, and I thank it; for I like the whole brotherhood, and am sure that if I could have speech with them they would have something to say, in their plain fashion, that would be worth listening to for its sense and originality. Close by, on a slope beside me, stand some great full-leaved chestnuts, and I look down into their masses of green steeped with golden sunshine, and up above to where their shining heads lift into the limitless blue, and my eye has just time to catch the swift flight of a bird across the clear spaces. My mind throws off the burden and fret it may have brought there ; it is bathed and refreshed in the lavish light and beauty ; its tangle of cares seem swept out of it, as the clouds from the stainless sky, and it rises blithe and free with the breeze and the bird’s song.
I think Nature’s cure is very helpful, when the patient is suffering from that complaint which may be dignified as the Dejection to which poets write odes, or called in homely phrase “ the blues,” — a really serious affliction when it tends to become chronic. I believe it is wiser, when we are seeking Nature’s aid and comfort, not to analyze our impressions, but to take them as she gives them, in their wholeness and simplicity. Do not ask what it is that charms you in the grouping of those trees on yonder hillside, or why it is you find pleasure in the soft rush of these feathery meadow grasses before the pursuant breeze ; the fact of delight is enough ; accept it and be thankful.
Cheap and accessible as this naturecure seems, yet after all it is not to be had but upon conditions. Few persons are without some feeling for the beauty of the external world, but it is one thing to admire Nature as a superficial acquaintance, and another to know and love her dearly as an intimate and friend ; and it is only those who have given her their eyes, their time, their heart, to whom she in turn will give the consolation of her joy. Like all our worthiest loves, this love grows in us by loving, and the enjoyment that in youth was mainly sensuous becomes in riper years a closer, more intense, and spiritualized passion. We cannot hope wholly from “ outward forms to win the passion and the life whose fountains are within.”But the outward form ceases to be merely such to one whose soul’s eye has been opened to vision of the divine within the natural life.
And knowing that is love, and love is duty.”
Such is the message Nature brings to Browning, and others too have heard it and found it authentic. We know and feel, though we cannot demonstrate it to the deaf and blind of soul, that beauty is joy, and joy is, because it must be, at the heart of things. Love gives the beauty and the joy, and makes the spirit of man to feel them, and to answer love with love’s free service.