April in Town



    AS April draws to an end one finds the encompassment of streets and walls more and more irksome. As the sweet wind goes over the city roofs of a morning you look up into the pale warm spring sky and say, “Somewhere there is more of this; I remember a world whose horizon was round and vague and far away; I recall the real red colour of the earth — yes, red and green, not this sickly gray of granite and asphalt. Where is that country?” And there comes to you Whitman’s great phrase, “Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road.” The ancient immemorial joy of a thousand departed Aprils stirs from its lurking sleep in those placid veins of yours, and would lure you away [Page 121] beyond the limits of the town. It is the old spring fret that moved myriads of your fellows long before, and will move others when we are gone. But for the ample moment, the large sufficient now, our glad elasticity of spirit, our rapturous exhilaration of life, are as keen as if they were to be eternal. Indeed, they are the eternal part of us, of which we partake in these rare instants of existence.
    Then as the dim desire for change, the wilding wander-lust, shapes the spring-madness in our brain, the longing grows definite. The slumbering love of sea or mountain, marsh or dune or orchard land — places we have known, where we have really lived — puts off the lethargy of winter and kindles the pulses of the soul anew. How fruitless and wrong and ineffectual our tawdry city lives appear! Of what use is it to toil with so much diligence, to dress with such elaborate care? Surely we have been spending months in vain, when one soft spring morning can give our whole scheme of living the lie! Where is that [Page 122] bright hour when we loitered by the idle was of a June tide along the coast of Maine, or that other memorable breathing-spell when we saw the frail circle of the harvest moon among the tall hill-birches? What became of the hermit thrush we once heard sending his anthem down the twilight of the firs, while the air was burdened with apple bloom? And where are those changing sea-pictures, with the white-sailed moving ships, which we used to watch from deep verandas through the lilac-trees? Ah, that is the greatest memory of all, – the summer sea! All its wonder is calling to us to-day, as we tarry in grimy routine and dyspeptic indolence. It almost seems as if one would be justified in breaking all obligations for the sake of a day by the shore, when the buds are unfolding. But if so great a rebellion as that cannot be excused, there are always the docks and the ferries and the ocean liners unlading in the East River. You may get a breath of freedom there at the expense of an idle hour any afternoon [Page 123].