“WHY don’t you read?” the hero of a recent novel inquires of the heroine, who is supposed to be a creature of delight.
“Read? I hate it!” she cries. “Why should I wade through pages of poetry about nature when I can look out of the window here? Why waste time on some poet’s impression of a storm when nearly any week in summer I can stand there and watch the swish of the rain along the mountains ? ”
The novel in question is one of those — somewhat rare in modern annals — whose gentle flow of narrative makes it possible for the reader to pause and consider the status of a heroine who, loving nature and loathing books, is able to look upon the world around her with something of the primal emotion which our Mother Eve must have felt when she saw the “pleasant soil ” of Paradise stretch green before her wondering eyes, a paradise rich in hope, but untouched by memory; the emotion which Wordsworth describes as
That had no need of a remoter charm
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.”
I am no heroine, though I would dearly like to be one, and I knew as I mused upon my sister of the novel that I should never be able to imitate her self-sufficiency. All my world of nature is underlaid and permeated by my world of books; all my world of books is sweet with vernal breezes and interfused with that something,
And the round ocean and the living air
And the blue sky.”
It is strange by what process of selection — or election — we choose the scenes and memories that shall stay with us, round which
Our pastime and our happiness will grow.”
Almost invariably in my life when some epoch-marking book or poem has risen like a new star above my soul’ s horizon, it has shone forth for me against the background of the visible heavens. From childhood to womanhood none of the libraries I have loved best have ever been bounded arbitrarily by four walls. They have been places where the morning sunlight brought a double vision, where the world without mingled itself indistinguishably with the world within ; above them one mighty arch of sky domed itself over all the continents, and their windows looked alike into the Gardens of Solomon and the Forest of Arden, New England and Arcady.
The library where I wandered at will in my girlhood days boasted of no costly editions. Most of its standard books had been collected in the early manhood of a struggling young student who loved books and gleaned them where they were most easily accessible. There were many small volumes printed, not later than 1828 or 1829, on yellow-edged paper, with pasteboard covers also of a yellowish tint. These had been re-covered, for purposes of preservation, with strong, coarse gray paper, on whose durability time has made little impression.
They were convenient in size, light to the hand, and I loved them so well that no other form or binding has ever seemed to me equally desirable.
It was a west room where the bookcases stood, and from its windows one saw the green Hallowell hills climbing upward toward the setting sun. There, in the old bookcases, they are still, that flock of gray books, like a flight of doves, each bringing its olive branch of greenness and beauty from the teeming world outside.
My father was a man who had decided ideas about the sort of reading which should be permitted to his children, ideas which in those bygone years of girlhood often conflicted unpleasantly with my own. Now I wish that there were more such wisely obdurate parents. There was a circulating library in my native town, and from time to time hooks were added to it, which obtained great popularity among my schoolmates. Once, I remember, it was The Barclays of Boston, by Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis, that was being passed from one to another and pronounced “ perfectly elegant. ”
When I pleaded to be allowed to read it, my mother broke through her usual rule of non-interference to suggest to my father that there was at least no harm in the book.
“ It is nothing but wishwash, ” that stern critic declared, “and the people who read wishwash think wishwash.”
It was a golden Saturday afternoon in early summer; no Saturday afternoons in these latter days can be quite so fair as the old ones. There was no school, and though I might not be permitted the joy of acquaintance with The Barclays of Boston, at least the hours were all my own to use at my will. Even one who feels herself the victim of an untoward fate need not go mourning all her days.
I knew on just what shelf they had their home, the four little volumes that had often tempted me. I stood before the bookcase, shut my eyes, and chose. It is so hard to tell of deliberate will just what one does desire. The fates decided in favor of The Antiquary, and with volume I. in my hand I sought the old-fashioned garden below the house.
The “August apple tree ” spread out its lower brandies into a seat made for readers and dreamers; it stood close beside the brook that in springtime was a rushing torrent and the rest of the year a slender stream with a liquid gurgle in its note. I knew that brook in its remotest windings; three gardens back it flowed through the neglected pleasure grounds of what had once been a well-kept estate. Those terraced lawns where weeds tangled with gay flowers in the untended beds, the dark circle of trees among which a mossgrown fountain played, had for me all the charm of an Italian garden, and the brook came to me with a fresh delight for having lingered through that spot of romance. Just beyond our boundary fence, where a little fall of water formed a pool, two bombshells that had been brought from Key West by an old sea captain in the time of the civil war had found a permanent resting-place. They were not likely to explode after so many years of thorough soaking, yet there was always the fearful joy of dreaming that they might.
Beside this beloved brook, which had in its day served every purpose to which the imagination of childhood could bend it, I perched myself in the old apple tree, opened my book, and in the twinkling of an eye was off and away over the Scottish Border. Here for the first time I encountered the Magician of the North, to me a magician indeed, and the gateway to that land of burns and braes has always in my dreams opened out of the old childhood garden of the singing brook. Edie Ochiltree’s blue gown haunts its waters still, the ancient manor house of Knockwinnock finds a setting among my neighbor’s neglected terraces, and I know the gloomy hollow where of old dwelt Elspeth of the Craigburnfoot. Recent statistics claim to show that at least 100,000 volumes of Walter Scott’s works will be sold during the current year. I wish every one of those volumes might be read with as much joy to the reader as they have given and still give to me.
Beside my desk, as I write, lies a spray of purple heather, crushed and dry, yet purple still. It came to me not long ago from that
Land of the mountain and the flood,”
which my bodily eyes have never seen. But for books that faded blossom would have little significance for me; by the aid of books it becomes a thing of magic: —
Its tender stems turned brown,
It brings romantic Highlands
Into prosaic town ;
The clans are on the border,
The chiefs are in the fray,
We ’re keen upon their footsteps
With Walter Scott to-day.”
Above that heather - decked moorland they sing, the warbling birds that “break the heart” because they
Departed never to return ;”
the air is astir with the echo of immortal ballads that thrill the pulses still, the cry of loyal hearts to the king over the water;
“ Wha ’ll be king but Charlie ? ” they ask, and the wide moorland calls back, —
King o’ the Highland hearts, bonny Prince Charlie ! ”
There bonny Kilmeny wanders with the Flower of Yarrow, and David Balfour finds Catriona and The Little Minister; there, too, the beloved wraith of him who, exiled from the land he loved, dreamed of Scotland, and longed for her, and wrote of her, comes from his tropic mountain grave to tread the heather at last.
There is an old-fashioned New England farmhouse which I used to know well, an unpainted cottage now seldom inhabited, sitting in a green meadow, and staring at the highroad which it fronts through wide, many-paned windows.
At the back of the house a deep lane bordered with gnarled old apple trees leads to the pasture half a mile away. A stream runs through the pasture, so wide that one must spring from stepping-stone to stepping-stone in order to cross. A few paces farther on one finds the grove and knows it at once for a place of enchantment.
There is no undergrowth in that grove; only vernal and mossy sward where the lichen and the sundew and the tiny yellow oxalis weave their embroideries. All the trees are tall and stately growths, and have stories to tell; succeeding generations of birds come back year after year to the same nesting places. It is a place in which to dream nobly, to resolve strongly, to gain new surety that truth and love and loyalty are steadfast realities. One day I found that death and change had entered even that paradise. A giant tree lay just as it fell to earth, with all its crown of foliage wreathing around it. Near the base the ground was strewn with chips, as if drops of lifeblood had fallen there.
I walked along the mighty trunk of the fallen monarch, and found a seat on its broad bulk just where the branching limbs began to make an airy chamber, whose green roof did not altogether shut out the arch of the sky.
I held in my hand a book written by one who had in his lifetime intimate acquaintance with all the deities of wave and wind, of star and cloud. If a bird sang in the far treetops, I could find him interpreted and glorified in the book; if the stream in its turn sang through the little valley, the book was aware of its crystal flow, and found in it “the force of the ice, the wreathing of the clouds, the gladness of the sky, and the continuance of Time; ” its writer was himself one of those “strange people ” of whom this book tells us, who “had other loves than those of wealth, and other interests than those of commerce.” He drew all beautiful things of earth and air into his thought “as you trace threads through figures on a silken damask.”
I opened the book and read the reasons why one man loved the things of nature and beauty, and why because of that love the light of morning yet shone for him upon the hills.
“ He took pleasure in them ” — so I read from the open page — “because he had been bred among English fields and hills; because the gentleness of a great race was in his heart and its powers of thought in his brain; because he knew the stories of the Alps and of the cities at their feet; because he had read the Homeric legends of the clouds, and beheld the gods of dawn and the givers of dew to the fields; because he knew the faces of the crags and the imagery of the passionate mountains as a man knows the face of his friend; because he had in him the wonder and sorrow concerning life and death which are the inheritance of the Gothic soul from the days of its first sea-kings; and also the compassion and the joy that are woven into the innermost fabric of every great imaginative spirit born now in countries that have lived by the Christian faith with any courage or truth.”
If it requires all this to enable one to see the full glory of the morning light upon the hills, it is yet a blessed thing to know that intimations of that light — vague imaginings of what its effulgence may be — are given to those of narrower vision, who are only dimly struggling toward it,
It may be a part of the heaven that “lies about us in our infancy” that children so often seem instinctively to recognize not only what is most beautiful in nature, but also what is most admirable in literature.
When I turn the pages of the Iliad now the old Homeric tales are all penetrated with a fresher and more human interest than of old because they are inseparably associated in my memory with the picture of a green lawn where, amid the falling leaves, four little figures — two of them the dearest in the world for me — are valiantly besieging Troy. It is all very real to them. Under the big elm tree Hector parts from Andromache.
That grimly nodded from the lofty crest ”
of that mighty warrior is a sight to make the beholder weep tears of joy. I hear myself told sternly, “If you laugh this time at the death of Patroclus you will have to go into the house! ”
Near the scene of those funeral obsequies stands a great old apple tree whose arching top forms a fascinating audience room, with low, wide-spreading limbs whereon those who gather to listen may find seats delightfully insecure. Here it was, within the circle of this New England tree, that the voyages of Ulysses found at last a happy ending. The little group who kept time with swinging feet while the “oars of Ithaca,”
had little patience with Penelope’s procrastinating methods with her suitors.
“Why didn’t she just tell ’em that she would n’t have ’em ? ” they inquired scornfully; but on that day,— it was in apple-blossom time, I remember,— when the sad queen, listening, heard the music
of the old songs floating up into the chamber where she sat apart, and called in sudden anguish : —
. . . the sweet words of it have hurt my heart.
Others return, the other husbands, but
Never for me that sail on the sea-line,
Never a sound of oars beneath the moon,
Nor sudden step beside me at midnight,
Never Ulysses! ”
on that apple-blossom day we felt very gloomy over Ulysses’ tardiness. There were differences of opinion among us as to whether the afflicting old song would most probably have been The Old Oaken Bucket, or Home, Sweet Home, or even — who could tell ? — Way Down Upon the Swanee River; but whether we believed it to be Greek or American mattered little compared with our recognition of the fact that it must in some way, however imperfect, be touched with the primal emotions and reflect the eternal soul of things. When that is once understood, Greece and New England become common territory and the minstrels’ strain echoes the cry of the heart in all ages.
Not long ago I asked a grammarschool teacher which one among the short poems her pupils were taught to recite really appealed to them most. She told me that, when the children were allowed to select for themselves, the choice almost always fell on that poem of Browning’s which begins, —
Till, that May-morn,
Blue ran the flash across :
Violets were born ! ”
The three stanzas of this poem are full of subtle meaning; they are condensed, crammed full of implied action, whose processes the reader must supply for himself. The children, without grasping the subtlety, feel the action and get an uplift from it. They are assisting at the birth of violets and stars, and, as they recite, their voices tremble with the fervor of the impulse.
A certain lonely road where I often drive has its entrance through one of the poorer quarters of the town. In the springtime, when the wild flowers begin to blossom, groups of children from those humble homes may be found all along the way, bending over the newsprung grass, and filling their hands and hearts with the beauty which is nature’s gift to rich and poor alike. Even the smallest toddlers are there, their chubby fists painfully clasped around too rich a store of treasures.
Once, as I drew near the spot where a cluster of these childish faces hung over a bank thick strewn with violets, I heard a musing little voice begin to murmur, —
then others took up the strain, until at the end a sounding chorus echoed the tidings of the birth of violets. Emerson rejoices in the man who has “ Loved the woodrose and left it on its stalk,” but there is another gospel, that of the gathered flower. No matter what was the final fate of those plucked violets, whether they were carefully set in water, or withered where the warm little fingers had idly dropped them, they had fulfilled their mission, — into those starved young lives
I took with me on one of my drives a poor soul who has always found this world a workaday spot. I learned, anew, what I had often been taught before, that it is not necessarily safe to judge people prosaic because they are compelled to lead prosaic lives.
My companion drank in the beauty of earth and sky with the eagerness of one who has long been athirst. Presently from the top of a high hill we looked down into a meadow whose green expanse was zigzagged back and forth by the silver windings and doublings of a brook. “For all the world like a silver braidin’ pattern on green velvet, ” commented the voice by my side. I stopped the horse that the eager eyes might satisfy themselves with gazing, and in the stillness the voice of the waters spoke to us from afar.
“I was thinking of something,” my companion said, “something I read in a book, but it kind of escapes me. I can’t quite get hold of it.”
“What book was it? ” I asked.
“Well, I seem to have lost the title too. Strange, why I can’t remember things. It’s a book about an old sailor, and the cost mark on it was seven dollars and fifty cents. Of course, ” she explained, “I did n’t pay any such price for it. It come to me from a girl that had it for a Christmas present, and when her mother come to read it she put her foot down that ’t was the kind of stuff she wouldn’t have in the house. So I was doing some sewing for the girl, and she said I could have the book for what I ’d done, and if I ’d call it square she would. It is a curious kind of a story, but sometimes I ’ve sat up till most morning reading it, when I ’d ought to be abed too. It gets hold of me so I can’t leave it.”
“Who wrote the book? ” I inquired, anxious to identify this fascinating volume.
“Well,” she replied doubtfully, “I have an idea it was one of Dant’s.”
After a time the quotation she was seeking came back to my friend bit by bit, so that between us we were able to piece it together, and this was it: —
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.”
It was the Ancient Mariner that had held her with his glittering eye, and she had felt his power without being able to analyze the spell.
“ I always wanted a chance to read, ” she said, with a sigh, “and if there wa’n’t so many buttonholes in the world perhaps life would be more worth while, — but, there! there’s a better world to look forward to, when we get through with this one. ”
Yes, poor soul of the starved longings, there must be, there is, a better world to come, and in that world, if one may trust the prophetic vision of the Old Masters, there are no buttonholes ; all the angelic draperies I have ever seen depicted were either tumbling off altogether or simply hanging by a thread. In that blessed and buttonholeless country may you, a happy Wedding Guest, find all that you have missed here on earth and — if you so desire — sit in some green nook of the Elysian meadows reading the livelong day!
There is a certain college library whose delights often woo me, especially during the quiet of the vacation season. Then, in the summer mornings, I not infrequently have the great room to myself, save for the quiet presence of the portraits and busts.
Around his placid temples curled,”
often speaks to me from his pedestal, and from the shelves the crowding voices of the masters call, but the green slopes and lawns of the campus are so silent that one may hear the trees that grow close to the windows whisper “their green felicity,” as if the babble of term time had never knowm existence and the ancient nymphs and dryads were murmuring there still.
It is owing to the relation of this library to the outside world that the silver loop of water with which the Kennebec here bounds the eastern slope takes on such chameleon shapes.
Now it becomes the Ilissus, on whose banks sit Socrates and Phædrus “in some quiet spot.” The tall tree which Phædrus has chosen because of its shade is plainly visible from the window.
“Yes,” he tells Socrates, “this is the tree.”
“Yes, indeed,” says Socrates, “and a fair and shady resting-place, full of summer sounds and scents; moreover, there is a sweet breeze and the grasshoppers chirrup; and the greatest charm of all is the grass, like a pillow gently sloping to the head. My dear Phædrus, you have been an admirable guide, ” and then he ceases to “babble of green fields,” and returns to that “bait of discourse, by whose spell, ” he tells Phædrus, “you may lead me all round Attica and over the wide world.”
Now, as if by magic, the scene changes, and it is Edmund Spenser whom one hears, calling across English meadows, —
or, perchance, it is the echoing sigh of Burns’s lament over “bonny Doon, ” or Wordsworth singing by the banks of Yarrow.
From the window of this southern alcove, where one sees the full curve of the river as it plunges toward the falls, the shining stream becomes the Rhone as Ruskin saw it “alike through bright day and lulling night, the never-pausing plunge, and never-fading flash, and never-hushing whisper. ”
In the golden dusk of twilight comes the fairest metamorphosis of all, for then the great mill that stretches along the eastern river-bank becomes a Venetian palace on the Grand Canal, with myriad lights reflecting in the glancing waters; there, in the vague distance, looms the shadowy bulk of St. Mark’s, and in the little crumbling vestibule room, where the marble doge sleeps under the window, the last shaft of dying light falls full upon his unanswering face. Inside the library the close-filled shelves open out into unending vistas. From this upper shelf to which I first raise my eyes the way leads to an English country house, upon the bowling green of which, “shut off from the garden by a thick yew hedge, ” my Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim surmount the difficulties of the siege of Namur.
“‘ Summer is coming on,’ declares Trim ; ‘ your honor might sit out of doors and give me the nography of the town or citadel your honor was pleased to sit down before, and I ’ll be shot by your honor upon the glacis of it, if I do not fortify it to your honor’s mind. ’
“ ‘ I dare say thou would’st, Trim, ’ ” my uncle replies.
Farther along on the same shelf a row of faded volumes of De Quincey — faded? nay, rather let us say time-mellowed — exhale a breath from the Lake Country where their author lived. On what depths these volumes open, — depths of the visible heavens, depths of the skies of dreams!
Here is that exquisite twilight atmosphere through which the child De Quincey views for the first time the pale and silent pomp of Death; here the midnight skies of London loom with a shadowed radiance over that rare and tender idyl of Oxford Street; here, “in the broad light of the summer evening,” we start from London to carry the news of Talavera to the waiting country-side. This is no opium mirage, but a glorious reality. “Dressed in laurels and flowers, oak leaves and ribbons, ” we thunder along, “kindling at every instant new successions of burning joy, ” every heart leaping at our approach. The pomp of the night goes with us, the heavens exult above our heads, and when we meet the poor mother whose son’s regiment was all but annihilated in the fight, we lift for her no funeral banners, no laurels overshadowing the bloody trench, but we tell her “how these dear children of England, privates and officers, leaped their horses over all obstacles as gayly as hunters to the morning chase, ” how they rode into the mists of death as children to a mother’s knee.
As we read the story the old thrill leaps into our pulses, — the thrill that woke at our moment of victory. It was not for Talavera, not even, perhaps, for Gettysburg or San Juan, but whether the triumph were a tangible or intangible one, the uplift that came with it marked an instant of supreme emotion, and from that upper shelf in the library bookcase the whole horizon of life widens toward eternal nobleness.
It was in the alcove where the elm and maple trees stand nearest the window that I chanced for the first time on Casimir Delavigne’s Toilette de Constance. It happened on one of those dazzling summer mornings when all the landscape seems to sparkle with light. The tall trees waved their boughs like banners, and the procession of college willows marched down the slope toward the shining river reaches, as if they celebrated a triumph. The story began with all the joy of the gay morning. There was the sparkling young face in the mirror, decking itself into more radiant beauty, impatient for the adjustment of the necklace, the ribbon, that should make a fair form fairer still. She hastened the maid, —
Plus vite, Anna ! ”
Then the dance music began to throb through the measure;
Et je vais au bal ce soir
Chez l’ambassadeur de France.”
Now Love entered, —
En y peasant, à peine je respire ! ”
The toilette of Constance was finished. (Hark 1 how just at that moment through the open alcove window the river plashed a liquid note of joy.) Just one more glance in the mirror — the last — “ J’ai l’assurance, ” she cried, —
Chez l’ambassadeur de France.”
Then — and it seemed almost incredible amidst that laughing pageant of nature which surrounded me as I read — Death entered the scene. Constance, admiring herself, stepped near the hearth; a flying spark fell on her light robe; oh, how few those breathless moments till it was all ended!
Ses bras, son sein, et l’entoure et s’élève,
Et sans pitie dévoure sa beauté,
Ses dix-huit ans, hélas, et son doux réve ! ”
That one untranslatable word volupté marked the crisis of the tragedy; then came the summing up: —
On disait, Pauvre Constance !
Et on dansait jusqu’au jour
Chez l’ambassadeur de France.”
I stood this morning in the same library alcove, and the swaying boughs weaving quaint patterns on the springtime grass moved to and fro to that old strain of dance music. The college willows, which have looked down on so many generations of youth, seemed full of the echo, —
for in those swift-moving stanzas, without one superfluous word or line, all was there, the philosophy and the tragedy of life.
When one mounts to the gallery of the library one finds a different world. Here are the curious old memoirs and biographies, the superfluous and unused driftwood of literature, the old editions that have served their time and passed into dignified retirement. In this shady nook dwell Evelina and Pamela, hobnobbing in stilted, ceremonious fashion with Sir Charles Grandison, and looking askance at Miss Edgeworth’s heroes and heroines. Odd volumes of the minor poets congregate here, and musty smelling folios where long f’s hold sway. Yet in the midst of these worthies one may chance upon a thumb-marked copy of Spare Hours, and, opening at random, find himself suddenly climbing to “ high Minchmoor, ” along the same road where Montrose’s troopers once fled. Past the great house of Traquair you go, where the bears of Bradwardine stand sentinel, and the path you tread is full of the lilt of song: —
In the bush aboon Traquair,
Or what did ye hear that was worth your heed ?
I heard the cushies croon
Through the gowden afternoon,
And the Quair burn singing down to the vale o’ Tweed.”
And so, as you look from the high window, that silver loop of the Kennebec finds another transformation.
In the dim corner under the stairs, in a quiet, conservative, English-seeming atmosphere, long rows of Littell’s magazines dwell in the shadow of decorum. He who browses here will enter many Old World homes and become acquainted with the dwellers therein. It was one of these quaint gentlewomen who first read to me — I sat on a Chippendale chair the while, and looked out upon the verdant stretches of an ancestral park — that exquisite poem of Moore’s,—
Touches all hearts.”
Into that dark library corner she came, poor, sinning, beautiful Mary, and lighted all the dusk
(So oft the gaze of Bethany.) ”
Here have I foregathered in the intimacy of home life with the Brownings, the Carlyles, and many another English writer of note, have darned stockings with Mrs. John Taylor of Norwich, and fallen in love with the seventh Lord Shaftesbury in an intimacy which began beside a humble grave in a quiet English churchyard.
Standing the other day before the shelves of another alcove in this Protean library, I took down one by one the bound volumes of the Atlantic Monthly during the war years from 1861 to 1865. The time was the 28th of May; another Memorial Day was soon to dawn, and here I found the whole intimate story of the civil war, from the time of Charleston Under Arms, and Washington As a Camp to The Death of Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction period.
If I sought a garland to lay upon the graves of our unforgotten heroes, what a splendid bouquet of verse lay shut within these pages! Poems at first hand, fresh-blooming, to he read by eyes that kindled with new and vivid emotions, —
To deck our girls for gay delights ! ”
— here we begin with a whole shining parterre of blossoms. Place this deephued peony next, —
And solemn marches fill the nights.”
Now Holmes gathers a handful of starry petals, —
Its hues from heaven so freshly born ? ”
Dew-washed, we find it “where lonely sentries tread, ” and touch its wreathing colors tenderly,—
Here are the Biglow Papers where Lowell tells us,—
Some blooms to make the season suit the mind,”
and then he showers them upon us, wild flowers that never grow tame, —
Bloodroots, whose rolled-up leaves ef you
Each on ’em’s cradle to a baby-pearl,” —
stout dandelions, snapdragon, touch-menot, fire-weed, deepening by and by where a scarlet king-cup shines, to —
On War’s red techstone rung true metal,
Who ventered life an’ love an’ youth
For the gret prize o’ death in battle ?
To him who, deadly hurt, agen
Flashed on afore the charge’s thunder,
Tippin’ with fire the bolt o’ men
That rived the Rebel line asunder ? ”
Now wreathe in a long spray of trumpet-flowers, —
The charging trumpets blow,”
never call retreat.”
Add a royal fleur-de-lis for the Washers of the Shroud, —
Death’s royal purple in the foeman’s lines.”
Next a handful of Brownell’s tiger-lilies ; cypress and rue for martyred Lincoln, to mark where
Blooms in the fadeless fields; ”
then blood-stained chalices from the Ode to Freedom, —
Her raiment is, but round the hem
Last of all, before we lay our completed garland upon the graves that have been green with the verdure of many a returning springtime, let us pluck anew Whittier’s olive bough of peace fair as when it was first gathered, —
Bells of joy ! On morning’s wing
Send the song of praise abroad !
With a sound of broken chains
Tell the nations that He reigns
Who alone is God and Lord ! ”
This memorial wreath, which we have twined leaf by leaf from the printed leaves where it first blossomed, is not one which can be shut within four library walls. Its flowery chain links the green mounds on innumerable hillsides to the hearts of living men wherever hearts heat for sacrifice and honor.
We belong to a nation of “great readers.” We devour popular novels with an unfailing appetite and a literary range which extends from the known to the unknown, and does not necessarily discriminate greatly between Mrs. Ward and Bertha M. Clay.
We are fast becoming an out of doors people. Not only our heroines and heroes of fiction,but our “real folks ” sigh continually for “the open.” Nature, to many of us, is a deity to be approached with bared head, thick shoes, and rolled-up sleeves ; to be propitiated with golf clubs and fishing rods; to be entertained with athletic sports of varying kinds and degrees; and in return for our devotion she bestows on us a hearty appetite for beefsteak, and lends increased zest to a soothing pipe in hours of meditation or stupor.
We are a practical people, much inclined to believe that there are few things in heaven or earth which cannot be reduced to a scientific formula.
Yet outside this world of superficiality and robustness and “common sense ” there is another universe, whose meanings no formulas can ever express, whose bounds can never be measured by sea or star or space, a world of immortalities that differs from the other as “the consecration and the poet’s dream ” differ from the multiplication table, and it is as true of this world as of the other that “to him that hath shall be given.”
Martha Baker Dunn .