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Wild Jutland's wives and Lochlin's daughters
QUIET THOUGHTS ON PASTORAL LIFE.
VILLIERS, Duke of Buckingham, annoyed by a dog that barked at his Grace while walking in Hyde-Park, and that seemed disposed to bite, turned upon the cur, and said to him, “I wish to were married, and settled in the country!'
I have often thought that there was a great deal of sound practical wisdom, and quite as much philosophy as good-nature in the wish. Men talk of marrying and settling in the country, or of closing their days by a tranquil country life, as if it required nothing more than a simple aspiration to accomplish a change of this sort; and as if they could pack up their habits along with their clothes, and move all their old associations bodily on to a farm by one of these modern applications of steam-power.
My dear Sir, this is a sad mistake! Most men of a certain age might as rationally attempt to fold up their shadows, and carry them into the country in an empty claret-box, as undertake with any hope of success to change a town-life for the enduring gratification of these bucolical propensities. There may possibly be found one instance; indeed one solitary instance rises before me at this moment, of a highly gifted Gentleman retiring into a passage of country that his own pen had made classical, and establishing an abode of true affection, hospitality, and joy. This might be cited as an exception; but then here is a spirit that has a world of its own, and that in the words of Dan Spenser, might make a sunshine in a shadie place.'
But speaking of ordinary men and things, I never yet knew the experiment permanently to succeed. I allude of course to the scheme of existence in these United States; and I am led to this expression of my thoughts from the distressing fact that several of my friends, with whom it has been delightful to interchange the courtesies of life, and who gave excellent dinners in civilized society, are at this time sitting beneath the shade of melancholy boughs,' or contemplating a total removal into the dark and untried regions of a country life.
The project is beautiful in the perspective. A certain degree of pleasurable excitement is kept up during the choice of the place of repose; in the purchase of the estate; in the refitting or building of the house; in changing the lawn from gorse and white-weed into rolled and cropped velvet
, and pampering and caressing the Earth into its lightest imaginable green. We like also to spend money, and it is well to have an excuse for doing so; and then there is a charm in the shuttle-cock motion betwixt the two scenes of town and country; but all this cannot last long. The house is finished in the course of one year; the farm stocked in two; the money gone in three; and the dream ended quite as soon as the money.
The motion to and from town by the way is very apt to continue. A Reverend Gentleman of my acquaintance, who lives in the most beautiful parish perhaps in the state, told me that when he wanted a meeting of his Vestry, he went on board the steam-boat. He found them all there, wardens, vestrymen, clerk, sexton, and precentor, all in raptures with the beauty of the country, and all shooting out of it into town at the rate of eighteen miles an hour, the finest morning
of the year.
* Reverend Sir,' said I, humbly, 'what may the cause be that should induce this frequently-recurring appetite for our great Babel? Some of your parishioners are, I know, altogether beyond the reach of wordly care in reference to their estates, and others again have none now left to look after ?
* Why faith, my dear John,' said he NO, I am wrong! His Reverence very discreetly replied, that he knew nothing of the condition of their estates; but he believed that some of his flock, if he might call them such without exciting animadversion, came frequently to town to vary the scene and read the papers of the morning; visiting perhaps before the return of the boat, the markets at either end of Fulton-street.
• So, so,' said I, “these markets of ours have still some charm left for them then; and yet they hold forth in praise of their three village butchers, as if no cibarious want were left ungratified.'
My friend,' said the Rector, ‘the objection to our butchers is simply this, that at one season of the year their three carts are filled with veal and veal only; at another with lamb and only lamb; and at another exclusively with beef or mutton. Now the markets in question are
And then we are all — for why should we deny it?— of the same race as was the father of Esau, and love that perfume of the pathless wood, or that vivacious relish of the sea-shore, that one sometimes traces in the well-dressed dish of game.'
* But it cannot be that they come to town for this only, or even principally, Doctor, for I understand that hardly any attention is paid in the country to the game-laws, and that your parishioners shoot right and left at snipe, woodcock, and partridge, with the most reckless disregard of the day of the month, and often of the month itself.'
You are severe, John, indeed you are; a few brace of partridges before the day perhaps, and an occasional young woodcock of much promise for a broil at breakfast, not overdone, but tasting of the hickory coals; and this at the close possibly of June, instead of waiting quite until the very fourth day of July; no, no, 'I confess the cape, I confess two sleeves,' but, as honest Grumio says, “There's error i the bill, error i' the bill !'
* Well, it may be so, my good Sir, it may be so; but I think it augurs very little for the spiritual condition of the flock’that they should be darting down the river as they do to get hold of the first shad, and keep up the price of salmon in the early season. With us poor citizens, the case is different. • Treason lay in our way, and we found it.' Our daily course is through the market, and we may occasionally indulge a little without compunction; but it is far different to come down forty miles with malice prepense after a dish of fish or game, when one ought to be at home studying the Practical Agriculturalist and Complete System of Husbandry, or Davy's Chemistry as applied to the amelioration of soils.'
• It has not been without a certain degree of surprise and regret,' said the Rector, 'that I have observed the restlessness of some of my
friends when at their country-seats. At their first arrival and for a short time afterward, their enjoyment seems like the indulgence of a natural taste ; but the zest wears off with the novelty, and ennui, which is merely an incidental disorder in town, is a mortal disease when it attacks man in the shades of Retirement. The great Falkland used to say, that`he pitied unlearned gentlemen in the country on a rainy day;' but there is a listlessness, and an inaptitude for occupation, that no sunbeam can at all times dispel from the mind even of the learned, and against which the country has beyond doubt fewer expedients than the town.'
* Have you ever known an instance of an individual bred to a city life, who, after his improvements as they are called were completed, could remain upon them the year round in contentment and repose ?'
Contentment and repose,' my dear John !' said the Rector; 'I might parry your question by asking you to define the meaning of the two words as applied to mortal man, but I will meet the matter boldly. Yes, I have known such an Instance. It certainly is not an every-day occurrence to meet with such an one, but I am safe in saying that there is a class of mind capable of it. It is the class, the small class, “to whom no note is dissonant that tells of life. It is the ‘not many wise, not many learned,' of the Scripture; the spiritual ; the pure of heart; the class to whom the highest promise of futurity is given. As to the instances I have known, I grant that they are few; but as these pass over the field of my recollection my thoughts dwell upon one individual with unfading interest, who came to reside at a beautiful place, that bordered upon my parish so closely as to give me frequent opportunities of an acquaintance with her, and I did not fail to cultivate it. How shall I describe her to you, and yet escape the danger of enthusiasm ? •She had passed the bloom of youth before she came among us,
and yet her face was like the morning of an April day; and pleasure, and delight, hope, intelligence, truth, sympathy, came of their own accord, and beamed over it. I have walked with her in the fields; and flowers that were hidden from my sight, or that entirely escaped the notice of my unpractised eye, revealed themselves to her, almost at every step; and as often as she plucked one, she seemed to draw from the bosom of the earth a fresh argument for the love of God; so exquisite were the order, the usefulness and beauty that she exhibited, in all its parts, as she divided the plant with her graceful and discriminative touch. Her cheerfulness was unfailing, and it sprang from a well-regulated, enlarged, and cultivated mind, active in the performance of every duty with quiet, unostentatious zeal, and drawn by this activity of good away from all those selfish purposes
that trol and possess the unoccupied spirit.
The farm they had purchased was on the outskirts of one of our few remaining manors, and while she passed in silence through the primæval woods which cover parts of that extensive domain, I could see that she realized the beautiful expression of the poet :
"Sure there's a hidden power, Mid the lone majesty of untam'd nature, Controlling sober reason!'
•You remember the verses, John
Certainly, I do,' I replied; they contain almost the finest line in the language.'
• It appeared,' continued the Rector, “as if she held converse with the latent power that the poet imagines to exist in those deep recesses of nature; and though nothing could be more simple and unstudied than her language, infinite thought dwelt upon the confines of her imagination, and long-sustained passages of light, like those that radiate from the Aurora of the North, glowed in her manner and expression.'
• You are figurative, my good Rector,' said I, “and yet you give me the idea of a delightful spirit.'
She was one of the few, John, that are suited to the retirement of a COUNTRY LIFE.'
S T A N Z AS
IN THE COUNTRY: COMMUNICATED BY THE RECTOR TO JOHN WATERS.