WHY ENGLAND IS BEAUTIFUL. -|- Educational Philosophy Theory


No Comment - Post a comment

As I strolled across the moor this afternoon towards Waverley, I saw Jones was planting out that bare hillside of his with Douglas pines and Scotch firs and new strains of silver birches. They will improve the landscape. And I thought as I scanned them, "How curious that most people entirely overlook this constant betterment and beautifying of England! You hear them talk much of the way bricks and mortar are invading the country; you never hear anything of this slow and silent process of planting and developing which has made England into the prettiest and one of the most beautiful countries in Europe."

What's that you say? "Astonished to find I have a good word of any sort to put in for England!" Why, dear me, how irrational you are! I just love England. Can any man with eyes in his head and a soul for beauty do otherwise? England and Italy—there you have the two great glories of Europe. Italy for towns, for art, for man's handicraft; England for country, for nature, for green lanes and lush copses. Was it not one that loved Italy well who sighed in Italy—

"Oh, to be in England now that April's there?"

And who that loves Italy, and knows England, too, does not echo Browning's wish when April comes round again on dusty Tuscan hilltops? At Perugia, last spring, through weeks of tramontana, how one yearned for the sight of yellow English primroses! Not love England, indeed! Milton's England, Shelley's England; the England of the skylark, the dog-rose, the honeysuckle! Not love England, forsooth! Why, I love every flower, every blade of grass in it. Devonshire lane, close-cropped down, rich water-meadow, bickering brooklet: ah me, how they tug at one's heartstrings in Africa! No son of the soil can love England as those love her very stones who have come from newer lands over sea to her ivy-clad church-towers, her mouldering castles, her immemorial elms, the berries on her holly, the may in her hedgerows. Are not all these bound up in our souls with each cherished line of Shakespeare and Wordsworth? do they not rouse faint echoes of Gray and Goldsmith? Even before I ever set foot in England, how I longed to behold my first cowslip, my first foxglove! And now, I have wandered through the footpaths that run obliquely across English pastures, picking meadowsweet and fritillaries, for half a lifetime, till I have learned by heart every leaf and every petal. You think because I dislike one squalid village—"The Wen," stout English William Cobbett delighted to call it—I don't love England. You think because I see some spots on the sun of the English character, I don't love Englishmen. Why, how can any man who speaks the English tongue, and boasts one drop of English blood in his veins, not be proud of England? England, the mother of poets and thinkers; England, that gave us Newton, Darwin, Spencer; England, that holds in her lap Oxford, Salisbury, Durham; England of daisy and heather and pine-wood! Are we hewn out of granite, to be cold before England?

Upon my soul, your unseasonable interruption has almost made me forget what I was going to say; it has made me grow warm, and drop into poetry.

England, I take it, is certainly the prettiest country in Europe. It is almost the most beautiful. I say "almost," because I bethink me of Norway and Switzerland. I say "country," because I bethink me of Rome, Venice, Florence. But, taking it as country, and as country alone, nothing else approaches it. Have you ever thought why? Man made the town, says the proverb, and God made the country. Not so in England. There, man made the country, and beautified it exceedingly. In itself, the land of south-eastern England is absolutely the same as the land of Northern France—that hideous tract about Boulogne and Amiens which we traverse in silence every time we run across by Calais to Paris. Chalk and clay and sandstone stretch continuously under sea from Kent and Sussex to Flanders and Picardy. The Channel burst through, and made the Straits of Dover; but the land on either side was and still is geologically and physically identical. What has made the difference? Man, the planter and gardener. England is beautiful by copse and hedgerow, by pine-clad ridge and willow-covered hollow, by meadows interspersed with great spreading oaks, by pastures where drowsy sheep, deep-fleeced and ruddy-stained, huddle under the shade of ancestral beech-trees. Its loveliness is human. In itself, I believe, the actual contour of England cannot once have been much better than the contour of northern France—though nowadays it is hard indeed to realise it. Judicious planting, and a constant eye to picturesque effect in scenery, have made England what she is—the garden of Europe.

Of course there are parts of the country which owed, and still owe, their beauty to their wildness—Dartmoor, Exmoor, the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Surrey hills, the Peak in Derbyshire. Yet even these depend more than you would believe, when you take them in detail, on the art of the forester. The view from Leith Hill embraces John Evelyn's woods at Wotton: the larches that cover one Jura-like gorge were set there well within your and my memory. But elsewhere in England the hand of man has done absolutely everything. The American, when he first visits England, is charmed on his way up from Liverpool to London by the exquisite air of antique cultivation and soft rural beauty. The very sward is moss-like. Thoroughly wild country, indeed, unless bold and mountainous, does not often please one. It is apt to be bare, unattractive, and desolate. Witness the Veldt, the Steppes, the prairies. You may go through miles and miles of the States and Canada, where the wildness for the most part rather repels than delights you. I do not say everywhere; in places the wilderness will blossom like a rose; boggy margins of lakes, fallen trunks in the forest overgrown with wild flowers, make scenes unattainable in our civilised England. Even our roughest scenery is comparatively man-made: our heaths are game preserves; our woodlands are thinned of superfluous underbrush; our moors are relieved by deliberate plantations. But England in her own way is unique and unrivalled. Such parks, such greensward, such grassy lawns, such wooded tilth, are wholly unknown elsewhere. Compare the blank fields and long poplar-fringed high roads of central France with our Devon or our Warwickshire, and you get at once a just measure of the vast, the unspeakable difference.

And man has done it all. Alone he did it. Often as I take my walks abroad—and when I say abroad I mean in England—I see men at work dotting about exotics of variegated foliage on some barren hillside, and I say to myself, "There, before my eyes, goes on the beautifying of England." Thirty years ago, the North Downs near Dorking were one bare stretch of white chalky sheep-walk; half of them still remain so; the other half has been planted irregularly with copses and spinneys, which serve to throw up and enhance the beauty of the unaltered intervals. Beech and larch in autumn tints set off smooth patches of grass and juniper. Within the last few years, the downs about Leatherhead have been similarly diversified. Much of the loveliness of rural England is due, one must frankly confess, to the big landlords. Though the great houses love us not, we must allow at least that the great houses have cared for the trees in the hedge-rows, and for the timber in the meadows, as well as for the covert that sheltered their pheasants, their foxes, and their gamekeepers. But almost as much of England's charm is due to individual small owners or occupiers. 'Tis they who have planted the grounds about villa or cottage; they who have stocked the sweet old gardens of yew and box, of hollyhock and peony; they who have given us the careless rustic grace of the English village. Still, one way or another, man has done it all, whether in grange or in manor-house, in palatial estate or in labourer's holding. Look at the French or Belgian hamlet by the side of the English one; look at the French or Belgian farm by the side of our English wealth in wooded glen or sheltered homestead. Bricks and mortar are not covering the whole of England. That is only true of the squalid purlieus and outliers of London, whither Londoners gravitate by mutual attraction. If you will go and live in a dingy suburb, you can't reasonably complain that all the world's suburban. Being the most cheerful of pessimists, a dweller in the country all the days of my life, I have no hesitation in expressing my profound conviction that within my memory more has been done to beautify than to uglify England. Only, the beautification has been quiet and unobtrusive, while the uglification has been obvious and concentrated. It takes half a year to jerry-build a dingy street, but it takes a decade for newly-planted trees to give the woodland air by imperceptible stages to a stretch of country.

This Post has No Comment Add your own!

Yorum Gönder