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which I once felt about the ruins of Kenilworth Castle. For thousands of years this piece of ground hath wrought its tasks. Old slumberous forests used to darken it; innumerable deer have trampled across it; foxes have blinked through its bushes; and wolves have howled and growled as they pattered along its rustling leaves with empty maws. How many birds; how many flocks of pigeons, thousands of years ago; how many hawks dashing wildly among them; how many insects, nocturnal and diur. nal; how many mailed bugs, and limber serpents gliding among mossy stones, have had possession here before my day! It will not be long before I too shall be as wasted and recordless as they.
Doubtless the Indians made this a favorite resort. Their sense of beauty in natural scenery is proverbial. Where else, in all this region, could they find a more glorious amphitheatre? But thick-studded forests may have hidden from them the scenic glory, and left it to solace another race. I walk over the ground wondering what lore of wild history I should read if all that ever lived upon this round and sloping hill had left an invisible record, unreadable except by such eyes as mine, that seeing, see not, and not seeing, do plainly see.
Then, while I stand upon the crowning point of the hill, from which I can behold every foot of the hundred acres, and think what is going on, what gigantic powers are silently working, I feel as if all the workmanship that was stored in the Crystal Palace was not to be compared with the subtle machinery all over this round. What chemists could find solvents to liquefy these rocks? But soft rains and roots small as threads dissolve them and recompose them into stems and leaves.
What an uproar as if a hundred stone quarries were being wrought, if one should attempt to crush with hammers all the flint and quartz which the stroke of the dew powders noiselessly! All this turf is but a camp of soldier-roots, that wage their battle upon the elements with endless victory. There is a greater marvel in this defiant thistle, which wearies the farmer's wits, taxed for its extermination, than in all the repositories of New York or London. And these mighty trees, how easily do they pump up and sustain supplies of moisture that it would require scores of rattling engines to lift! This farm, it is a vast laboratory, full of expert chemists. It is a vast shop, full of noiseless machinists. And all this is mine! These rocks that lie in bulk under the pasture trees, and all this moss that loves to nestle in its crevices and clasp the invisible projections with its little clinging hands, and all these ferns and sumach, these springs and trickling issues, are mine!
Let me not be puffed up with sudden wealth! Let me rule discreetly among my tenants. Let me see what tribes are mine. There are the black and glossy crickets; the gray crickets; the grasshoppers of every shape and hue; the silent, prudent toad, type of conservative wisdom, wise looking, but slow hopping; the butterflies by day, and the moths and millers by night; all birds, -wrens, sparrows, kingbirds, bluebirds, robins, and those unnamed warblers that make the forests sad with their melancholy whistle. Besides these, who can register the sappers and miners that are always at work in the soil; angleworms, white grubs, and bugs that carry pick and shovel on the head?
Who can muster all the mice that nest in the barn or nibble in the stubblefield, and all the beetles that sing bass in the wood's edge to the shrill treble of gnats and myriad mosquitoes? These are all mine!
Are they mine? Is it my eye and hand that mark their paths and circuits ? Do they hold their life from me, or do I give them their food in due season? Vastly as my bulk is greater than theirs, am I so much superior that I can despise, or even not admire ? Where is the strength of muscle by which I can spring fifty times the length of my body? That grasshopper's thigh lords it over mine. Spring up now in the evening air, and fly towards the lights that wink from yonder hillside! Ten million wings of despised flies and useless insects are mightier than hand or foot of mine. Each mortal thing carries some quality of distinguishing excellence by which it may glory, and say: “In this, I am first in all the world! »
Since the same hand made me that made them, and the same care feeds them that spreads my board, let there be fellowship between us. There is.
There is. I have signed articles of peace even with the abdominal spiders, who carry their fleece in their belly, and not on their back. It is agreed that they shall not cross the Danube of my doors, and I, on the other hand, will let them camp down, without wanton disturbance, in my whole domain beside! I, too, am but an insect on a larger scale. Are there not those who tread with unsounding feet through the invisible air, of being so vast, that I seem to them but a mite, a Aitting insect ? And of capacities so noble and eminent, that all the stores which I could bring of thought and feeling to them would be but as the communing of a grasshopper with me, or the chirp of a sparrow?
No. It is not in the nature of true greatness to be exclusive and arrogant. If such noble shadows fill the realm, it is their nature to condescend and to spread their power abroad for the loving protection of those whose childhood is little, but whose immortal manhood shall yet, through their kind teaching, stand unabashed, and not ashamed, in the very royalty of heaven. Only vulgar natures employ their superiority to task and burden weaker natures. He whose genius and wisdom are but instruments of oppression, however covered and softened with lying names, is the beginning of a monster. The line that divides between the animal and the divine is the line of suffering. The animal, for its own pleasure, inflicts suffering. The divine endures suffering for another's pleasure. Not then when he went up to the proportions of original glory was Christ the greatest; but when he descended, and wore our form, and bore our sins and sorrows, that by his stripes we might be healed!
I have no vicarious mission for these populous insects. But I will at least not despise their littleness, nor trample upon their lives. Yet, how may I spare them ? At every step I must needs crush scores, and leave the wounded in my path! Already I have lost my patience with that intolerable fly, and slapped him out of being, and breathed out fiery vengeance against those mean conspirators that, night and day, suck my blood, hypocritically singing a grace before their meal!
The chief use of a farm, if it be well selected, and of a proper soil, is to lie down upon. Mine is an excellent farm for such uses, and I thus cultivate it every day. Large crops are the consequence,- of great delights and fancies more than the brain can hold. My industry is exemplary. Though but a week here, I have lain down more hours and in more places than that hard-working brother of mine in the whole year that he has dwelt here. Strange that industrious lying down should come so naturally to me, and standing up and lazing about after the plow or behind his scythe, so naturally to him! My eyes against his feet! It takes me but a second to run down that eastern slope, across the meadow, over the road, up to that long hillside (which the benevolent Mr. Dorr is so beautifully planting with shrubbery for my sake -- blessings on him!), but his feet could not perform the task in less than ten minutes. I can spring from Gray Lock in the north, through the hazy air, over the wide sixty miles to the dome of the Taconic Mountains in the south, by a simple roll of the eyeball, a mere contraction of a few muscles. Now let any one try it with his feet, and two days would scant suffice! With my head I can sow the ground with glorious harvests; I can build barns, fill them with silky cows and nimble horses; I can pasture a thousand sheep, run innumerable furrows, sow every sort of seed, rear up forests just wherever the eye longs for them, build my house, like Solomon's Temple, without the sound of a hammer. Ah! a mighty worker is the head! These farmers that use the foot and the hand are much to be pitied. I can change my structures every day, without expense.
I can enlarge that gem of a lake that lies yonder, twinkling and rippling in the sunlight. I can pile up rocks where they ought to have been found, for landscape effect, and clothe them with the very vines that ought to grow over them. I can transplant every tree that I meet in my rides, and put it near my house without the drooping of a leaf.
But of what use is all this fanciful using of the head ? It is a mere waste of precious time!
But, if it give great delight, if it keep the soul awake, sweet thoughts alive and sordid thoughts dead; if it bring one a little out of conceit with hard economies, and penurious reality, and stingy self-conceit; if it be like a bath to the soul, in which it washes away the grime of human contacts, and the sweat and dust of life among selfish, sordid men; if it make the thoughts more supple to climb along the ways where spiritual fruits do grow; and, especially, if it introduce the soul to a fuller conviction of the Great Unseen, and teach it to esteem the visible as less real than things which no eye can see, or hands handle, it will have answered a purpose which is in vain sought among stupid conventionalities.
At any rate, such a discourse of the thoughts with things which are beautiful, and such an opening of the soul to things which are sweet-breathed, will make one joyful at the time, and tranquil thereafter. And if one fully believes that the earth is the Lord's, and that God yet walks among leaves and trees, in the cool of the day, he will not easily be persuaded to cast away the belief that all these vagaries and wild communings are but those of a child in his father's house, and that the secret springs of joy which they open are touched of God!
Complete. From the “Star Papers.”