the spring only is the time of miracles in the natural
world, but the year round, day and night. The moon comes
up behind the spruce-trees like a great bubble of crimson
glass, swelling and rolling slowly southward, until it
is detached ever so imperceptibly from the edges of the
dark hill-caldron where it was born, and floats away toward
the bluish roof of stars. When the trees have done their
gracious tasks of summer, gradually they suffer change
from one glory to another, put off the green, put on the
festal liveries of autumn, sanguine and yellow and bronze.
How is the transformation accomplished? And all the teeming
ephemeral creatures of marsh and twilight, what becomes
of them [Page 35], when the time of croaking
and buzzing and zizzing is over? Where do they go and
how do they return?
Theses are child’s questions.
Science knows many things about them, and by and by will
tell us more. But always, even to science, there is a
margin of unknown which makes the known seem to wear the
guise of the miraculous; while for the humbler eyes of
the toiling world the lovely ordered rotations of nature
must keep their actually miraculous seeming still.
It is a religious feeling, this
special love of the natural world, and entirely modern.
Perhaps it is our contribution to the evolution of spirit
through spheres of religion, our step in the long process
of emancipation, as little by little we grow toward that
service which is perfect freedom. Lanier has a significant
paragraph in one of his lately published papers, which
bears on this consideration.
“Nothing strikes the thoughtful
observer of modern literature more quickly or more [Page
36] forcibly than the great yearning therein
displayed for intimate companionship with nature. And
this yearning, mark, justifies itself upon far other authority
than that which one finds in, for example, the Greek nature-seeking.
Granted the instinctive reverence for nature common to
both parties: The Greek believed the stream to be inhabited
by a nymph, and the stream was wonderful to him because
of this nymph, but the modern man believes no such thing.
One has appeared who continually cried love, love, love
– love God, love neighbours, and these ‘neighbours’
have come to be not only men-neighbours, but tree-neighbours,
am not quite sure that the Greek’s personification
of the stream was so different from our own; I fancy his
imaginary divinity in it was much the same as ours; but
we are glad to extend that universal gospel of love to
our patient fellows in the sub-human dominions and to
the half-animate and inanimate [Page 37] apparitions
of beauty in a still lower realm.
there are the miracles of art, not so common as those
of nature, more clouded by failures and mistakes, but
just as marvellous, just as potent, and more significant
as well. There comes a master, unheralded, from an obscure
corner of the globe; the clay is living in his hands,
or the colours take life at his touch, or he marshals
the tones and syllables of sound, and at once a new creation
springs into almost immortal existence for our delighted
senses. The tune or the story spreads across two continents
like the sun, and every mortal heart beats faster for
keen zest, renewed and invigorated as at some miracle
of nature. Our enjoyment of art is a religion, too, for
it is the worship of the manifestations of spirit taking
shape in forms of beauty, just as our enjoyment of nature
is the worship of spirit manifested in the plasticity
of sap and cell, – the lovely forms of the outer
two religions are the worship of nature [Page
38] and the worship of art, – the reverence
of the form and the adoration of the spirit behind the
form. Art, if you care to say so, is all made of metaphors,
– is itself the universal metaphor of the soul.
And who shall prove that nature is not a metaphor, too?
The metaphor of miracles in nature is only supplemented
by the miracle of metaphors in art. To each this striving,
diligent, eager soul in us gives allegiance [Page