Page images
PDF
EPUB

Who has not stood at Morning's dawn,

When all the eastern sky was gold, When pearly dew bedropt the lawn,

And shone on waving wood and wold, When dappled clouds were blue and white, And felt his soul move like the light?

How sweetly Evening, robed in grey,

Steals star-clad down the whisp'ring hill,
When the round moon is on her way,

Moving with footsteps hush'd and still,
Gliding o'er earth, and sky, and sea,
And looking downward tranquilly!

England has many a flowery vale,

Wild heath, and hill, and twilight grove, Where yet the lute-tongued nightingale

Makes answer to the low-voiced dove: Oh leave your towns, and go with me Under the shady greenwood tree !

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

" And when the Sun begins to fling

His flaring beams, me, goddess, bring
To arched walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown, that Sylvan loves,
Of pine, or monumental oak,
Where the rude axe, with heaved stroke,
Was never heard the nymphs to daunt,
Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt.
There in close covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from day's garish eye,
While the bee with honied thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring,
With such consort as they keep,
Entice the dewy-feather'd Sleep;
And let some strange, mysterious dream
Wave at his wings in airy stream
Of lively portraiture display'd,
Softly on my eyelids laid.
And, as I wake, sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath,
Sent by some spirit to mortal good,
Or the unseen genius of the wood.”

MILTON. .

THERE are scarcely any in-dwellers of cities, having spent a portion of their lives in the country, or by any other means made themselves acquainted with the beauties of English scenery,

whose minds do not wander thither when the sunshine is sleeping upon the sultry streets. What thousands in summer sigh for the shade of green trees, the breezy banks of rivers, valleys waving with their armies of flowers, and still lanes where the lazy wind is filled with the per

fume of hawthorns! There is many a green glen where the violet sleeps buried in its own fragrance; and many a broad meadow, white with daisies ; and many a stream over which the flowers bend to kiss the murmuring waters, which bring greater pleasure to the heart than all the sights and sounds of cities. The love of Nature is implanted within us. Take a child who can just run-one who has never before set foot upon the beautiful fields, and see with what delight it will tumble among the long grass, and with what gleeful eagerness it will pluck up the wild flowers. Nor is this love ever wholly erased from the bosom, though the more exciting but less pleasurable objects of fashionable adoration may for a time bury the feeling, as the withered leaves of winter gather around the pale primrose and conceal its blowing beauty. But watch some old man walking forth into the suburbs of our great metropolis in summer-even one who has been the votary of fashion: how eagerly he returns to the worship of Nature ! how gladly he treads upon the greensward !--nay, he bounds over it with all the eagerness of boyhood, for his pleasure is the same, but what was before wild enjoyment is now subdued. How many there are residing in large towns, portions of whose lives have passed away in the country! Listen to their conversation, how often they “ babble o green fields!” They cannot forget the old mill with its wooden bridge, the lane where they gathered woodbines, the high hills and old trees, and the stream that ran by the village in which they were born. How many are there also who work extra hours for days and weeks, that they may afford to spend a little time in the country! The heaviness of fatigue is partly forgotten in anticipated pleasures, for their thoughts are far away, in the hoary woods, with old companions whom they have not seen for many a year. These are feelings that grow around the heart, and throw out a bright halo, a holy light,—the cluster of lonely flowers that start out from the brow of the rock, and leave it not altogether desolate. From my

heart I believe that if a greater number of pleasant walks and quiet, shady places were to be found nearer to our large towns, thousands whom distance keeps within their own doors, or who attend tavern-meetings, would prefer the lovely haunts of field and forest to the places where they now congregate. Free access to woods and meadows, open hills and wide heaths, would do more good to the morals of the people than may be imagined : for there but little of evil dwells, and “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Man was never yet driven to Heaven; but how often has he been lifted to the contemplation of its goodness and its glory while communing with his own heart in the silent walks of Nature, in the still twilight that rests upon old forests, and in the thoughtful moonlight, that is as solemn now as when it reigned over Eden! In a warning voice I call upon those who are daily voting away the remnant of our green fields to desist: our free walks over hills and valleys are of more value than fine gold : let alone the range of the forest-paths, the peaceful places where we can yet mark the changes of the seasons, and see the finger of God in his works, that set at nought the power of man. I venerate our old customs, our old churches, and our old footpaths—those free, brown, winding ways that lead over mountain and moor to the ivied temple whence issues the sound of holy hymns : but, oh! how I pity the folly of those who think that by chalking out the circle in which man is to walk he will be walled in from vice ! Religion cannot be measured by law, no more than a field can be saved from invasion by the magical word “ Trespass :” men will not be driven to the church on a Sabbath ; and it will be far better to leave the fields open to them, than tempt them to spend their Sundays in a worse manner.

I have no wish to see English sports on the Sabbath-day. The shouts of cricket-players and the huzzas of foot-ball parties would but ill accord with the solemn music of our church-bells, and the quiet, picturesque groups that emerge from long lanes and ancient footpaths to kneel like one family before the

Almighty. There is nothing more delightful than for a poor man to have the right of walking over some rich gentleman's estate. He enjoys the wealth of his neighbour without envying him; he feels it is his own for the time, and lays the same claim to the fragrant breeze and the cool shade of the venerable trees as the lord of the estate. He sees the stately deer troop before him with as much pleasure as the owner of the soil ; he enjoys a wealth which leaves the proprietor no poorer, and partakes of the happiness that renders others happy without diminishing the store ; he feels that he has a share in the property, free from the fear of lawyers and title-deeds. And how little it costs the hereditary lord to give pleasure to thousands in a year! His gamekeepers and groundkeepers need not be increased to look after depredators, and no respectable individual would wantonly commit an offence that might endanger so valuable a privilege. The poacher could make no use of it at daytime; and if he is bent upon mischief in the night, gates, and walls, and painted warnings will not deter him from entering. Look even now at the princely domains of Greenwich and Hyde Parks. What hundreds visit the latter on a Sunday, and almost every day in the week! Deer run loose ; there are numbers of magnificent trees; yet, standing as it does upon the very verge of the metropolis, open to the invasion of nearly two millions of individuals, how very few misconduct themselves, or either by word or deed call for the interference of the keepers ! Think not that scenes like these can be always traversed without giving rise to a holy thought. The distant view of the country, London appearing distinctly, and looked upon with its deafening din unheard—the majestic Thames flowing like sheeted silver, and bearing on its bosom ships from every quarter of the globe, -all these stir the soul to contemplation ; and as the eye wanders the heart seems hushed, and there is a tranquillity about the mind which almost every one feels without investigating its cause. Let it not be supposed for a moment that I think lightly of our religion, or am advocating a neg

« PreviousContinue »