The procession of the flowers
there is a blossoming shrub whose multitudinous crimson flowers are so seductive to the hummingbirds that they hover all day around it, buried in its blossoms until petal and wing seem one.
At first upright, the gorgeous bells droop downward, and fall unwithered to the ground, and are thence called by the Creoles ‘Cupid
relates that daily she brought home handfuls of these blossoms to her chamber, and nightly they all disappeared.
One morning she looked toward the wall of the apartment, and there, in a long crimson line, the delicate flowers went ascending one by one to the ceiling, and passed from sight.
She found that each was borne laboriously onward by a little, colorless ant much smaller than itself: the bearer was invisible, but the lovely burdens festooned the wall with beauty.
To a watcher from the sky, the march of the flowers of any zone across the year would seem as beautiful as that West-Indian pageant.
These frail creatures, rooted where they stand, a part of the ‘still life’ of Nature, yet share her ceaseless motion.
In the most sultry silence of summer noons, the vital current is coursing with desperate speed through the innumerable veins of every leaflet, and the apparent stillness, like the sleeping of a child's top, is in truth the very ecstasy of perfected motion.
Not in the tropics only, but even in England
, whence most of our floral associations and traditions come, the march of the flowers is in an endless circle, and, unlike our experience, something is always in bloom.
In the Northern United States
, it is said, the active growth of most plants is condensed into ten weeks, while in the mother country the full activity is maintained through sixteen.
But even the English
winter does not seem to be a winter, in the same sense as ours, appearing more like a chilly and comfortless autumn.
There is no month in the English
year when some special plant does not bloom: the Colt
's-foot there opens its fragrant flowers from December to February; the yellowflowered Hellebore, and its cousin, the sacred Christmas Rose of Glastonbury
, extend from January to March; and the Snowdrop and Primrose often come before the first of February.
Something may be gained, much lost, by that perennial
succession; those links, however slight, must make the floral period continuous to the imagination; while our year gives a pause and an interval to its children, and after exhausted October has effloresced into Witch-Hazel
, there is an absolute reserve of blossom until the Alders wave again.
No symbol could so well represent Nature's first yielding in spring-time as this blossoming of the Alder, the drooping of the tresses of these tender things.
Before the frost is gone, and while the new-born season is yet too weak to assert itself by actually uplifting anything, it can at least let fall these blossoms, one by one, till they wave defiance to the winter on a thousand boughs.
How patiently they have waited!
Men are perplexed with anxieties about their own immortality; but these catkins, which hang, almost full-formed, above the ice all winter, show no such solicitude, though when March wooes them they are ready.
Once relaxing, their pollen is so prompt to fall that it sprinkles your hand as you gather them; then, for one day, they are the perfection of grace upon your table, and next day they are weary and emaciated, and their little contribution to the spring is done.
Then many eyes watch for the opening of the May-flower, day by day, and a few for the Hepatica.
So marked and fantastic are the local preferences of all our plants, that, with miles of woods and meadows open to their choice, each selects only some few spots for its accustomed abodes, and some one among them all for its very earliest blossoming.
There is often a single chosen nook, which you might almost cover with your handkerchief, where each flower seems to bloom earliest, without variation, year by year.
I know one such place for Hepatica a mile northeast, —another for May-flower two miles southwest; and each year the whimsical creature is in bloom on that little spot when not another flower can be found open through the whole country round.
Accidental as the choice may appear, it is undoubtedly based on laws more eternal than the stars; yet why all subtle influences conspire to bless that undistinguishable knoll no man can say. Another and similar puzzle offers itself in the distribution of the tints of flowers,—in these two species among the rest.
There are certain localities, near by, where the Hepatica is all but white, and others where the May-flower is sumptuous in pink; yet it is not traceable to wet or dry, sun or shadow, and no agricultural chemistry can disclose the secret.
Is it by some Darwinian law of selection that the white Hepatica has utterly overpowered the blue, in our Cascade Woods, for instance, while yet in the very midst of this pale plantation a single clump will sometimes bloom with all heaven on its petals?
Why can one recognize the Plymouth
May-flower, as soon as seen, by its wondrous depth of color?
Perhaps it blushes with triumph to see how Nature has outwitted the Pilgrims, and even succeeded in preserving her deer like
an English duke, still maintaining the deepest woods in Massachusetts
precisely where those sturdy immigrants first began their clearings.
The Hepatica (called also Liverwort, Squirrel-Cup, or Blue Anemone) has been found in Worcester
as early as March seventeenth, and in Danvers
on March twelfth,—dates which appear almost the extreme of credibility.
Our next wild-flower in this region is the Claytonia, or Spring-Beauty, which is common in the Middle States
, but here found in only a few localities.
It is the Indian Miskodeed
, and was said to have been left behind when mighty Peboan, the Winter, was melted by the breath of Spring.
It is an exquisitely delicate little creature, bears its blossoms in clusters, unlike most of the early species, and opens in gradual succession each white and pink-veined bell.
It grows in moist places on the sunny edges of woods, and prolongs its shy career from about the tenth of April until almost the end of May.
A week farther into April, and the Bloodroot opens,—a name of guilt, and a type of innocence.
This fresh and lovely thing appears to concentrate all its stains within its ensanguined root, that it may condense all purity in the peculiar whiteness of its petals.
It emerges from the ground with each shy blossom wrapped in its own pale-green leaf, then doffs the cloak and spreads its long petals round a group of yellow stamens.
The flower falls apart so easily, that when in full bloom it will hardly bear transportation, but with a touch the stem stands naked, a bare, goldtipped sceptre amid drifts of snow.
And the contradiction of its hues seems carried into its habits.
One of the most shy of wild plants, easily banished from its locality by any invasion, it yet takes to the garden with unpardonable readiness, doubles its size, blossoms earlier, repudiates its love of water, and flaunts its great leaves in the unnatural confinement, until it elbows out the exotics.
Its charm is gone, unless one find it in its native haunts, beside some cascade which streams over rocks that are dark with moisture, green with moss, and snowy with white bubbles.
Each spray of dripping feather-moss exudes a tiny torrent of its own, or braided with some tiny neighbor, above the little water-fonts which sleep sunless in ever-verdant caves.
Sometimes along these emerald canals there comes a sudden rush and hurry, as if some anxious housekeeper upon the hill above were afraid that things were not stirring fast enough,— and then again the waving and sinuous lines of water are quieted to a serener flow.
The delicious red thrush and the busy little yellow-throat are not yet come to this their summer haunt; but all day long the answering field-sparrows trill out their sweet, shy, accelerating lay.
In the same localities with the Bloodroot, though some days later, grows the Dog-Tooth Violet
,—a name hopelessly inappropriate, but likely never to be changed.
These hardy and prolific creatures have also many localities of their
own; for, though they do not acquiesce in cultivation, like the sycophantic Bloodroot, yet they are hard to banish from their native haunts, but linger after the woods are cleared and the meadow drained.
The bright flowers blaze back all the yellow light of noonday, as the gay petals curl and spread themselves above their beds of mottled leaves; but it is always a disappointment to gather them, for in-doors they miss the full ardor of the sunbeams, and are apt to go to sleep and nod expressionless from the stalk.
And almost on the same day with this bright apparition one may greet a multitude of concurrent visitors, arriving so accurately together that it is almost a matter of accident which of the party shall first report himself.
Perhaps the Dandelion
should have the earliest place; indeed, I once found it in Brookline
on the seventh of April.
But it cannot ordinarily be expected before the twentieth, in Eastern Massachusetts
, and rather later in the interior; while by the same date I have also found near Boston
, or Marsh
, the Spring
-Saxifrage, the Anemones, the Violets, the Bellwort, the Houstonia, the Cinquefoil, and the Strawberry-blossom.
Varying, of course, in different spots and years, the arrival of this coterie is yet nearly simultaneous, and they may all be expected hereabouts before May-day at the very latest.
After all, in spite of the croakers, this festival could not have been much better timed; for the delicate blossoms which mark the period are usually in perfection on this day, and it is not long before they are past their prime.
Some early plants which have now almost disappeared from Eastern Massachusetts
are still found near Worcester
in the greatest abundance,—as the larger Yellow Violet, the Red Trillium
, the dwarf Ginseng.
the Clintonia or Wild Lily-of-the-Valley, and the pretty fringed Polygala, which Miss Cooper
Others, again, are now rare near Worcester
, and growing rarer, though still abundant a hundred miles farther inland.
In several bits of old, swampy wood one may still find, usually close together, the Hobble-Bush
and the Painted Trillium
, the Mitella, or Bishop
's-Cap, and the snowy Tiarella
Others still have entirely vanished within ten years, and that in some cases without any adequate explanation.
The dainty white Corydalis, profanely called ‘Dutchman's Breeches,’ and the quaint, woolly Ledum, or Labrador
Tea, have disappeared within that time.
The beautiful Linnaea
is still found annually, but flowers no more; as is also the case, in all but one distant locality, with the once abundant Rhododendron.
Nothing in Nature has for me a more fascinating interest than these secret movements of vegetation,—the sweet, blind instinct with which flowers cling to old domains until absolutely compelled to forsake them.
How touching is the fact, now well known, that salt-water plants still flower beside the Great Lakes
, yet dreaming of the time when those waters were briny as the sea!
Nothing in the demonstrations of Geology seem grander than the light lately thrown by Professor Gray
, from the analogies
between the flora of Japan
and of North America
, upon the successive epochs of heat which led the wandering flowers along the Arctic
lands, and of cold which isolated them once more.
Yet doubtless these humble movements of our local plants may be laying up results as important, and may hereafter supply evidence of earth's changes upon some smaller scale.
May expands to its prime of beauty; the summer birds come with the fruit-blossoms, the gardens are deluged with bloom, and the air with melody, while in the woods the timid spring flowers fold themselves away in silence and give place to a brighter splendor.
On the margin of some quiet swamp a myriad of bare twigs seem suddenly overspread with purple butterflies, and we know that the Rhodora is in bloom.
never immortalized a flower more surely than Emerson
this, and it needs no weaker words; there is nothing else in which the change from nakedness to beauty is so sudden, and when you bring home the great mass of blossoms they appear all ready to flutter away again from your hands and leave you disenchanted.
At the same time the beautiful Cornel-tree is in perfection; startling as a tree of the tropics, it flaunts its great flowers high up among the forest-branches, intermingling its long, slender twigs with theirs, and garnishing them with alien blooms.
It is very available for household decoration, with its four great, creamy petals,—flowers they are not, but floral involucres,—each with a fantastic curl and stain at its tip, as if the fire-flies had alighted on them and scorched them; and yet I like it best as it peers out in barbaric splendor from the delicate green of young Maples
And beneath it grows often its more abundant kinsman, the Dwarf Cornel
, with the same four great petals enveloping its floral cluster, but lingering low upon the ground,—an herb whose blossoms mimic the statelier tree.
The same rich, creamy hue and texture show themselves in the Wild Calla
, which grows at this season in dark, sequestered watercourses, and sometimes well rivals, in all but size, that superb whiteness out of a land of darkness, the Ethiopic Calla
of the conservatory.
At this season, too, we seek another semi-aquatic rarity, whose homely name cannot deprive it of a certain garden-like elegance, the Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata
). This is one of the shy plants which yet grow in profusion within their own domain.
I have found it of old in Cambridge
, and then upon the pleasant shallows of the Artichoke
, that loveliest tributary of the Merrimack
, and I have never seen it where it occupied a patch more than a few yards square, while yet within that space the multitudinous spikes grow always tall and close, reminding one of Hyacinths, when in perfection, but more delicate and beautiful.
The only locality I know for it in this vicinity lies seven miles away, where a little inlet from the lower, winding bays of Lake Quinsigamond
goes stealing up
among a farmer's hay-fields, and there, close beside the public road and in full view of the farm-house, this rare creature fills the water.
But to reach it we commonly row down the lake to a sheltered lagoon, separated from the main lake by a long island, which is gradually forming itself like the coral isles, growing each year denser with alder thickets where the king-birds build;--there we leave the boat among the lily-leaves, and take a lane which winds among the meadows and gives a fitting avenue for the pretty thing we seek.
It is not safe to vary many days from the twentieth of May, for the plant is not long in perfection, and is past its prime when the lower blossoms begin to wither on the stem.
But should we miss this delicate adjustment of time, it is easy to console ourselves with bright armfuls of Lupine, which bounteously flowers for six weeks along our lakeside, ranging from the twenty-third of May to the sixth of July.
The Lupine is one of our most travelled plants; for, though never seen off the American
continent, it stretches to the Pacific
, and is found upon the Arctic coast
On these banks of Lake Quinsigamond
it grows in great families, and should be gathered in masses and placed in a vase by itself; for it needs no relief from other flowers, its own soft leaves afford background enough, and though the white variety rarely occurs, yet the varying tints of blue upon the same stalk are a perpetual gratification to the eye. I know not why shaded blues should be so beautiful in flowers, and yet avoided as distasteful in ladies' fancy-work; but it is a mystery like that which repudiates blue
from all well-regulated costumes.
while Nature yet evidently prefers it to any other combination in her wardrobe.
Another constant ornament of the end of May is the large pink Lady
's-Slipper, or Moccason-Flower, the ‘Cypripedium not due till to-morrow,’ which Emerson
attributes to the note-book of Thoreau
,—to-morrow, in these parts, meaning about the twentieth of May.
It belongs to the family of Orchids, a high-bred race, fastidious in habits, sensitive as to abodes.
Of the ten species named as rarest among American endogenous plants by Dr. Gray
, in his valuable essay on the statistics of our Northern Flora
, all but one are Orchids.
Even an abundant species, like the present, retains the family traits in its person, and never loses its high-born air and its delicate veining.
I know a grove where it can be gathered by the hundred within a half-acre, and yet I never can divest myself of the feeling that each specimen is a choice novelty.
But the actual rarity occurs, at least in this region, when one finds the smaller and more beautiful Yellow Moccason-Flower,—Cypripedium parviflorum
,--which accepts only our very choicest botanical locality, the ‘Rattlesnake Ledge’ on Tatessit Hill, and may, for aught I know, have been the very plant which Elsie Venner
laid upon her schoolmistress's desk.
June is an intermediate month between the spring
Of the more delicate early blossoms, the Dwarf Cornel
, the Solomon
's-Seal, and the Yellow Violet
still linger in the woods, but rapidly make way for larger masses and more conspicuous hues.
The meadows are gorgeous with Clover, Buttercups, and Wild Geranium; but Nature is a little chary for a week or two, maturing a more abundant show.
Meanwhile one may afford to take some pains to search for another rarity, almost disappearing from this region,—the lovely Pink Azalea.
It still grows plentifully in a few sequestered places, selecting woody swamps to hide itself; and certainly no shrub suggests, when found, more tropical associations.
Those great, nodding, airy, fragrant clusters, tossing far above one's head their slender cups of honey, seem scarcely to belong to our sober zone, any more than the scarlet tanager which sometimes builds its nest beside them.
They appear bright exotics, which have wandered into our woods, and are too happy to feel any wish for exit.
And just as they fade, their humble sister in white begins to bloom, and carries on through the summer the same intoxicating fragrance.
But when June is at its height, the sculptured chalices of the Mountain
Laurel begin to unfold, and thenceforward, for more than a month, extends the reign of this our woodland queen.
I know not why one should sigh after the blossoming gorges of the Himalaya, when our forests are all so crowded with this glowing magnificence,—rounding the tangled swamps into smoothness, lighting up the underwoods, overtopping the pastures, lining the rural lanes, and rearing its great, pinkish masses till they meet overhead.
The color ranges from the purest white to a perfect rose-pink, and there is an inexhaustible vegetable vigor about the whole thing which puts to shame those tenderer shrubs that shrink before the progress of cultivation.
There is the Rhododendron, for instance, a plant of the same natural family with the Laurel
and the Azalea
, and looking more robust and woody than either; it once grew in many localities in this region, and still lingers in a few, without consenting either to die or to blossom.
There is only one remote place from which any one now brings into our streets those large, luxuriant flowers, waving white above the dark green leaves, and bearing ‘just a dream of sunset on their edges, and just a breath from the green sea in their hearts.’
The Laurel, on the other hand, maintains its ground, imperturbable and almost impassable, on every hillside, takes no hints, suspects no danger, and nothing but the most unmistakable onset from spade or axe can diminish its profusion.
Gathering it on the most lavish scale seems only to serve as wholesale pruning; nor can I conceive that the Indians, who once ruled over this whole county from Wigwam Hill
, could ever have found it more inconveniently abundant than now. We have perhaps no single spot where it grows in such perfect picturesqueness as at ‘The Laurels,’ on the Merrimack
, just above Newburyport
—a whole hillside scooped out and the hollow piled solidly with flowers, and pines curving around it above, and the river encircling it below, on which your boat glides along, while you look up through glimmering arcades of bloom.
But for the last half of June it monopolizes everything in the Worcester woods,—no one picks anything else; and it fades so slowly that I have found a perfect blossom on the last day of July.
At the same time with this royalty of the woods, the queen of the water ascends her throne, for a reign as undisputed and far more prolonged.
The extremes of the Water-Lily
in this vicinity, so far as I have known, are the eighteenth of June and the thirteenth of October,—a longer range than belongs to any other conspicuous wild-flower, unless we except the Dandelion
It is not only the most fascinating of all flowers to gather, but more available for decorative purposes than almost any other, if it can only be kept fresh.
The best method for this purpose, I believe, is to cut the stalk very short before placing in the vase; then, at night, the lily will close and the stalk curl upward; refresh them by changing the water, and in the morning the stalk will be straight and the flower open.
From this time forth Summer has it all her own way. After the first of July the yellow flowers begin, matching the yellow fire-flies: Hawkweeds, Loosestrifes, Primroses bloom, and the bushy Wild Indigo.
The variety of hues increases; delicate purple Orchises bloom in their chosen haunts, and Wild Roses blush over hill and dale.
On peat-meadows the Adder
(now called Pogonia
) flowers profusely, with a faint, delicious perfume,—and its more elegant cousin, the Calopogon, by its side.
In this vicinity we miss the blue Harebell, the identical harebell of Ellen Douglass
, which I remember as waving its exquisite flowers along the banks of the Merrimack
, and again at Brattleborough, below the cascade in the village, where it has climbed the precipitous sides of old buildings, and nods inaccessibly from their crevices, in that picturesque spot, looking down on the hurrying river.
But, with this exception, there is nothing wanting here of the familiar flowers of early summer.
The more closely one studies Nature, the finer her adaptations grow.
For instance, the change of seasons is analogous to a change of zones, and summer assimilates our vegetation to that of the tropics.
In those lands, Humboldt
has remarked, one misses the beauty of wild-flowers in the grass, because the luxuriance of vegetation develops everything into shrubs.
The form and color are beautiful, ‘but, being too high above the soil, they disturb that harmonious proportion which characterizes the plants of our European
Nature has, in every zone, stamped on the landscape the peculiar type of beauty proper to the locality.’
But every midsummer reveals the same tendency.
In early spring, when all is bare, and small objects are easily made prominent, the wild-flowers are generally delicate.
Later, when all
verdure is profusely expanded, these miniature strokes would be lost, and Nature then practises landscape-gardening in large, lights up the copses with great masses of White Alder, makes the roadsides gay with Aster
and Golden-Rod, and tops the tall, coarse Meadow-Grass with nodding Lilies and tufted Spiraea.
One instinctively follows these plain hints, and gathers bouquets sparingly in spring and exuberantly in summer.
The use of wild-flowers for decorative purposes merits a word in passing, for it is unquestionably a branch of high art in favored hands.
It is true that we are bidden, on high authority, to love the wood-rose and leave it on its stalk; but against this may be set the saying of Bettine Brentano
, that ‘all flowers which are broken become immortal in the sacrifice;’ and certainly the secret harmonies of these fair creatures are so marked and delicate that we do not understand them till we try to group floral decorations for ourselves.
The most successful artists will not, for instance, consent to put those together which do not grow together; Nature understands her business, and distributes her masses and backgrounds unerringly.
Yonder soft and feathery Meadow-Sweet longs to be combined with Wild Roses: it yearns towards them in the field, and, after withering in the hand most readily, it revives in water as if to be with them in the vase.
In the same way the White Spiraea
serves as natural background for the Field
These lilies, by the way, are the brightest adornment of our meadows during the short period of their perfection.
We have two species: one slender, erect, solitary, scarlet, looking up to heaven with all its blushes on; the other clustered, drooping, pale-yellow.
I never saw the former in such profusion as on the bare summit of Wachusett.
The granite ribs have there a thin covering of crisp moss, spangled with the white, starry blossoms of the Mountain
Cinquefoil ; and as I lay and watched the red lilies that waved their innumerable urns around me, it needed but little imagination to see a thousand altars, sending visible flames forever upward to the answering sun.
August comes: the Thistles are in bloom, beloved of butterflies; deeper and deeper tints, more passionate intensities of color, prepare the way for the year's decline.
A wealth of gorgeous Golden-Rod waves over all the hills, and enriches every bouquet one gathers ; its bright colors command the eye, and it is graceful as an elm. Fitly arranged, it gives a bright relief to the superb beauty of the Cardinal-Flowers, the brilliant blue-purple of the Vervain, the pearlwhite of the Life-Everlasting, the delicate lilac of the Monkey-Flower, the soft pink and white of the Spiraeas,— for the white yet lingers,— all surrounded by trailing wreaths of blossoming Clematis.
But the Cardinal-Flower is best seen by itself, and, indeed, needs the surroundings of its native haunts to display its fullest beauty.
Its favorite abode is along the dank, mossy stones of some black and winding brook, shaded with
overarching bushes, and running one long stream of scarlet with these superb occupants.
It seems amazing how anything so brilliant can mature in such a darkness.
When a ray of sunlight strays in upon it, the bright creature seems to hover on the stalk ready to take flight, like some lost tropic bird.
There is a spot whence I have in ten minutes brought away as many as I could hold in both arms, some bearing fifty blossoms on a single stalk ; and I could not believe that there was such another mass of color in the world.
Nothing cultivated is comparable to them ; and, with all the talent lately lavished on wild-flower painting, I have never seen the peculiar sheen of these petals in the least degree delineated.
It seems some new and separate tint, equally distinct from scarlet and from crimson, a splendor for which there is as yet no name, but only the reality.
It is the signal of autumn, when September exhibits the first Barrel-Gentian by the roadside ; and there is a pretty insect in the meadows—the Mourning-Cloak Moth
it might be called—which gives coincident warning.
The innumerable Asters mark this period with their varied and wide-spread beauty ; the meadows are full of rose-colored Polygala, of the white spiral spikes of the Ladies
'-Tresses, and of the fringed loveliness of the Gentian.
This flower, always unique and beautiful, opening its delicate eyelashes every morning to the sunlight, closing them again each night, has also a thoughtful charm about it as the last of the year's especial darlings.
It lingers long, each remaining blossom growing larger and more deep in color, as with many other flowers ; and after it there is nothing for which to look forward, save the fantastic Witch-Hazel
On the water, meanwhile, the last White Lilies are sinking beneath the surface, and the last gay Pickerel-Weed
is gone, though the rootless plants of the delicate Bladder-Wort, spreading over acres of shallows, still impurple the wide, smooth surface.
Harriet Prescott Spofford
says that some souls are like the Water-Lilies
, fixed, yet floating.
But others are like this graceful purple blossom, floating unfixed, kept in place only by its fellows around it, until perhaps a breeze comes, and, breaking the accidental cohesion, sweeps them all away.
The season reluctantly yields its reign, and over the quiet autumnal landscape everywhere, even after the glory of the trees is past, there are tints and fascinations of minor beauty.
Last October, for instance, in walking, I found myself on a little knoll, looking northward.
Overhead was a bower of climbing Waxwork, with its yellowish pods scarce disclosing their scarlet berries,— a wild Grape-vine, with its fruit withered by the frost into still purple raisins, —and yellow Beech-leaves, detaching themselves with an effort audible to the ear. In the foreground were blue Raspberry-stems, yet bearing greenish leaves,—pale-yellow Witch-Hazel
, almost leafless,— purple Viburnum-berries,— the
silky cocoons of the Milkweed,—and, amid the underbrush, a few lingering Asters and Golden-Rods, Ferns still green, and Maiden-hair bleached white.
In the background were hazy hills, white Birches bare and snow-like, and a Maple half-way up a sheltered hillside, one mass of canary-color, its fallen leaves making an apparent reflection on the earth at its foot,—and then a real reflection, fused into a glassy light intenser than itself, upon the smooth, dark stream below.
The beautiful disrobing suggested the persistent and unconquerable delicacy of Nature, who shrinks from nakedness and is always seeking to veil her graceful boughs,—if not with leaves, then with feathery hoar-frost, ermined snow, or transparent icy armor.
After all, the fascination of summer lies not in any details, however perfect, but in the sense of total wealth that summer gives.
Wholly to enjoy this, one must give one's self passively to it, and not expect to reproduce it in words.
We strive to picture heaven, when we are barely at the threshold of the inconceivable beauty of earth.
Perhaps the truant boy who simply bathes himself in the lake and then basks in the sunshine, dimly conscious of the exquisite loveliness around him, is wiser, because humbler, than is he who with presumptuous phrases tries to utter it. There are moments when the atmosphere is so surcharged with luxury that every pore of the body becomes an ample gate for sensation to flow in, and one has simply to sit still and be filled.
In after years the memory of books seems barren or vanishing, compared with the immortal bequest of hours like these.
Other sources of illumination seem cisterns only; these are fountains.
They may not increase the mere quantity of available thought, but they impart to it a quality which is priceless.
No man can measure what a single hour with Nature may have contributed to the moulding of his mind.
The influence is self-renewing, and if for a long time it baffles expression by reason of its fineness, so much the better in the end.
The soul is like a musical instrument: it is not enough that it be framed for the most delicate vibration, but it must vibrate long and often before the fibres grow mellow to the finest waves of sympathy.
I perceive that in the veery's carolling, the clover's scent, the glistening of the water, the waving wings of butterflies, the sunset tints, the floating clouds, there are attainable infinitely more subtile modulations of thought than I can yet reach the sensibility to discriminate, much less describe.
If in the simple process of writing one could physically impart to this page the fragrance of this spray of Azalea beside me, what a wonder would it seem!-and yet one ought to be able, by the mere use of language, to supply to every reader the total of that white, honeyed, trailing sweetness, which summer insects haunt and the Spirit of the Universe loves.
The defect is not in language, but in men. There is no conceivable
beauty of blossom so beautiful as words,—none so graceful, none so perfumed.
It is possible to dream of combinations of syllables so delicious that all the dawning and decay of summer cannot rival their perfection, nor winter's stainless white and azure match their purity and their charm.
To write them, were it possible, would be to take rank with Nature; nor is there any other method, even by music, for human art to reach so high.