of the community have ‘summered and wintered’ the universe pretty regularly, one would think, for a good many years; and yet nine persons out of ten in the town or city, and two out of three even in the country, seriously suppose, for instance, that the buds upon trees are formed in the spring; they have had them within sight all winter, and never seen them.
So people suppose, in good faith, that a plant grows at the base of the stem, instead of at the top: that is, if they see a young sapling in which there is a crotch at five feet from the ground, they expect to see it ten feet from the ground by and by,—confounding the growth of a tree with that of a man or animal.
But perhaps the best of us could hardly bear the system of tests unconsciously laid down by a small child of my acquaintance.
The boy's father, a college-bred man, had early chosen the better part, and employed his fine faculties in rearing laurels in his own beautiful nursery-gardens, instead of in the more arid soil of court-rooms or state-houses.
Of course the young human scion knew the flowers by name before he knew his letters, and used their symbols more readily; and after he got the command of both, he was one day asked by his younger brother what the word ‘idiot’ meant,—for somebody in the parlor had been saying that somebody else was an idiot.
‘Don't you know?’
quoth Ben, in his sweet voice: ‘an idiot is a person who doesn't know an arbor-vitae from a pine,—he doesn't know anything.’
When Ben grows up to maturity, bearing such terrible definitions in his unshrinking hands, which of us will be safe?
The softer aspects of Nature, especially, require time and culture before man can enjoy them.
To rude races her processes bring only terror, which is very slowly outgrown.
has best exhibited the scantiness of finer natural perceptions in Greek
and Roman literature, in spite of the grand oceanic rhythm of Homer
, and the delicate water-coloring of the Greek Anthology
and of Horace.
and the Norse sacred books are full of fresh and beautiful allusions; but the Greek saw in Nature only a framework for Art, and the Roman
only a camping-ground for men. Even Virgil describes the grotto of Aeneas
merely as a ‘black grove’ with ‘horrid shade,’—‘Horrenti atrum nemus imminet umbra
points out, that, even in English literature, the ‘Windsor Forest’ of Anne, Countess
of Winchelsea, was the first poem which represented Nature as a thing to be consciously enjoyed; and as she was almost the first English poetess, we might be tempted to think that we owe this appreciation, like some other good things, to the participation of woman in literature.
But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the voluminous Duchess
, in her ‘Ode on Melancholy,’ describes among the symbols of hopeless gloom ‘the still moonshine night’ and ‘a mill where rushing waters run about,’—the sweetest natural images.
In our own country, the early explorers seemed to find only horror in its woods and waterfalls.
, in 1672, could only describe the summer