Seaboard and Hillward



    IF it ever happens to you to pass quickly from the sea to the mountains, and if you care to note the subtler psychical phenomena, I am sure you must have experienced more than the gross change of air; you must have been conscious of a translation from the emotional realm to the realm of pure thought, from the region of feeling to the region of mentality.
    That there are three and only three zones of life, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual, is quite certain; and that the last two of these correspond to the zones of ocean and hill, I think very probable; but whether the other, the physical zone, corresponds to the zone of plain and level, I am not so sure [Page 157]. Think, however, how evidently true it is that the sea is the great nourisher of imagination, the stimulator of romance, and how all her border people have been the originators and creative artists of the world. There is something in the sea’s air which breeds emotion; it is strong and vitalizing; those who breathe it have bulk and stamina; while the dwellers on mountains must content themselves with the thin dry stimulant which blows between their pine slopes. Your hillsman is proverbially lanky, more a creature of moods than of passions; and in the elemental sorrow which seems to invest him, you may detect the overweight of thought, the lack of emotion. For generations aloof from the business of the world below him, he has maintained the solitary and egocentric life; he has found little outlet for his selfhood either in action or passion; the free intercourse with his kind has been lacking; and that portion of his nature which flourishes most easily alone, the mental part of him, has held its own undiminished [Page 158] and undiverted existence, commenting with the lofty solitude about it and brooding through vast stretches of leisurely silence on its own being. He is become the shy, sensitive, individualized creature to whom sociability is a panic, and achievement a miracle. He undertakes almost nothing and accomplishes still less. A hunter and trapper all his days, he is willing to do with a bare subsistence, if only he be not forced to mingle with men, to merge his identity with that of his fellow, to pass from his own wilding sphere, into the hurly-burly of competition and association. The advance of civilization leaves him out; he watches with bright eyes from his roadside solitude, while the pageant of progress goes by with dust and blare. If he ever found a voice, he would be the prince of critics. That cold, dry nature would sit unmoved to judge the tumultuous events about him. He would see the outcome and significance of that strenuous process of development, which he is so ill-fitted to share. Others [Page 159], with their full, ruddy life, would originate a thousand works of beauty and utility, while he still dreamed; but at the last their hasty activities and imperfect aims would come under his judicial view for blame or commendation, — the affairs of action and the affairs of sentiment brought to the ultimate test of implacable reason.
    Not so with your dweller by the bountiful sea. With the world’s blue highway leading past his door, with the traffic of the nations of the earth going forward continually under his blue eyes, this man is no solitary. His power of detachment is small. He is a spectator, indeed, of the tragedies of storm and the endless drama of the tideways of the deep, but he seldom can refrain from taking part in that fascinating and enormous play. From a child he is accustomed to ships, and his nursery tales are stories of adventure. The sunlit and limitless highroads call him eternally to vaster chances and unexplored lands. The strange new tokens of foreign people [Page 160] come home in his father’s chests; his daily walk is among innumerable reminders of civilizations and customs not his own. To live the inward, secluded life solely is not possible to this child of seafarers; his emotions are enlisted strongly in the doings of his kind at home and over sea; the life he knows is not a mere tissue of mental phenomena, a panorama running before his mind; it has a grip on his vitals; his emotional experience is full; and from that fulness of rich being there spring the unnumbered creations of the active spirit. It were impossible for so abundant an enrichment of the character not to find vent in the flowering of expression, not to embody itself in art.
    The Greeks, the Venetians, the French, the English, — these masters of the sea have been the masters of artistic creation as well. And their wonderful contributions to the treasure-house of the world are not to be matched by any mountain folk whatever [Page 161]. So much one may deduce from history; and I am inclined to believe that a careful consideration of personal experience would confirm an idea which may seem a trifle fanciful at first [Page 162].