all, Nature takes very little thought of herself. It is
our human minds that are retrospective, brooding, careworn.
One may question whether it were not better largely to
forsake our habit of questioning and live more like the
creatures. If wisdom lies inside the door of studious
thought, madness is also sleeping there; and the mortal
who knocks does so at his peril. We may become as gods
to know good from evil; but are we sure that happiness
inheres in that knowledge?
Once having turned his gaze inward,
and discovered himself, man is in the perplexity of those
adventurous souls who leave the old world and emigrate
to the new. Having come to their destination, the novelty
and [Page 127] spirit and brightness
of the fresh life fascinate and hold them for a time;
then they tire of it, and long for the old home, where
they are sure they will be happy once more. The same restless
longing that sent them forth on the quest, sends them
back again, seekers still. So “over the sea the
thousand miles” they fare after a few years, with
their hearts set on the old ways, the old customs, the
old friendships, the old simple life. Do they find it?
Not at all. The old country is not only different from
the new; it is different from its old self; it has changed,
they think, while they were away. And yet it has not changed;
it is they themselves who have been changed by their experience.
For it is not altogether true that “coelum non
animum mutant qui trans mare currunt;” and
travel does unfold and modify the mind. Having beheld
new worlds, we cannot be as we were before. So our emigrants
find themselves as dissatisfied with the old home as they
were with the new. Thenceforth they live for ever the
victims of distraction [Page 128], touched
with uneasiness if they remain in the old world, not wholly
at rest if they reëmigrate to the new.
Is this our mortal predicament
since we left the green world of nature and entered the
gray world of thought? Do we not every day long to return,
and tell ourselves tales of the sweet simplicity of that
natural life? Do we not profess to despise the self-conscious
and introspective existence? And what is our love of the
trees and the birds, the sea and the hills and out-of-doors,
but a hankering for the old creature life?
Go into the park or the woods
any morning now, and listen until you hear a single rainbird
soloing plaintively above the dimmer sounds. At that one
touch of wild wood magic, how uncontemporaneous and primitive
we become! How little matter our worldly state, our clothes
and carriages, our bills and bank accounts! That is a
strain which pierces to the heart and plays upon the soul.
It finds us as we are, not as we seem [Page 129].
And unless we are wholly corrupted and sodden with civilization,
it wakens glimmerings of the golden age within us, making
the earth in rapture;
those who catch God’s secret
much more prize their capture.”
As that pealing cadence thrills
on the damp air, the world is renewed for us; we pass
backward a thousand years to the morning of earth, before
care and sorrows were begotten, before ever we bethought
ourselves of retrospect or inquiry [Page 130].