« AnkstesnisTęsti »
HOMES OF THE PEOPLE.
winter storms, how charming is it to the artist's eye! Pictorially speaking, such an old cottage is far more picturesque and delightful to look upon than the finest palace the world can show. But it is not given to all to see the beauty of the commonplace; to reveal such to those who cannot see it (even though before their eyes), is the privilege of the artist.
Leaving the old mill we soon came to another charming village, with a fine old half-timbered house standing by the wayside in a companionable manner, not hidden by envious high walls from the gaze of the passer-by. One of the ancient homes of the people this, standing in its own garden, self-contained. Not a grand mansion nor yet an humble dwelling-a house that a decayed nobleman might live in and not be ashamed. Then as we drove along we passed several picturesque cottages. One of these had some yew trees in front of it, each one cut into quaint shapes, stiff and prim these; very different indeed from what Nature intended a tree to be, quaint shapes like those that were in vogue long years ago in the ancient gardens of our forefathers, when sundials, terraces, nut-walks, bowling-greens, and simple flowers were the fashion. The greenhouse has given. us rarer plants, at more expense, but to my mind none so beautiful as the homely hardy flowers that contented our ancestors. Then in this delightful old-time village we passed another ancient home, built of flint, with a timber and brick gable story boldly projecting in the centre over the porch, both affording shelter and adding a pleasant feature to the building. These old houses are often, though not
always, simple in construction, but their outlines are certain to be vigorous; high-pitched roofs, great gables, clustering chimney-stacks, and an ample porch give even a yeoman's abode an expression of dignity that the mere costly piling up of stones and mortar never can impart.
Journeying on, at the top of another hill a glorious prospect of far-stretching country opened before us; a vast expanse of wooded landscape, fading away from the freshest greens close at hand to the palest blue in the dim dreamy distance. What wonderful revelations of scenery were presented to our forefathers, who travelled by coach or posted through the pleasant land-scenes of rare bewildering beauty that now are seen by hardly any but the very leisured and fortunate few, since everyone is compelled to go by the speedy but unromantic railway! How we pitied the railway traveller that day! The iron way, as it was termed in its early days, is useful and convenient; in this restless age of eternally rushing about hither and thither, we could not exist without it; but it does seem a pity that the fates have so ordained that it should monopolise all the traffic, so that the unequalled loveliness of rural England is now only glanced at by the modern traveller. A hundred-mile drive along the deserted highways will afford to many a revelation of scenery and an experience not readily to be forgotten. To those who have travelled the world over and have seen every country but their own, here is a suggestion. Try England; take one of the old coaching roads and follow it the whole of its length, say from London
THE VIRTUE OF DISTANCE.
to the Land's End, or from London to Edinburghor do not follow it, but drive somehow from the former city to one of those destinations, only being careful as far as possible to avoid the neighbourhood of large commercial towns-and I make bold to say that no toilsome wanderings in far-off lands will return such an ample reward of beauty, for in all the world there is not such a lovely country as rural England, nor one that so well repays exploring!
Were Great Britain only three thousand miles away across the stormy Atlantic, how Englishmen of leisure would rush to see it! But as it is here with us at home we leave it for wealthy Americans to take coaching journeys throughout the length and breadth of it, and wonder at their enthusiasm; one of whom said, coming to the end of his pleasant wanderings, that he had been driving through Paradise!
Writing about railways as I have done, I do not wish it to be considered that I am an enemy to them, far from it. I frankly acknowledge their necessity today; they are ugly blessings. I only regret that they should have so ruined road travel that the few who would, have no chance of journeying along the pleasant highways and beholding the beauty of the land; it is only the wealthy who can do that now. What a novel and delightful holiday excursion it would make, if the old coaches were only running, to get on one of them and be spun along over hill and dale, stopping now and again at a rural hostel for a change of horses, going, say, to Gloucester and back! It verily makes one's mouth water to think
what a treat such an outing would be. Speaking of railways, perhaps I may be allowed here to quote a letter of Mr. Ruskin's upon them, written in 1887. 'I do not write now further concerning railways, here or elsewhere. They are to me the loathsomest form of devilry now extant; animated and deliberate earthquakes, destructive of all wise social habit or possible natural beauty, carriages of damned souls riding on the ridges of their own graves. Ever faithfully yours, John Ruskin.' All of which saying makes my feeble protests against their ugliness, not their utility, seem like milk-and-water. Perhaps whilst we are on the subject it may be of interest to hear how another famous sage, Carlyle, expressed himself concerning a railway journey. Speaking first of the locomotive, he wrote: What is it but a metallic devil? whilst the screaming and howling of steam-whistles are like as if a million fiends were running to and fro over the earth.' In respect of Mr. Ruskin it would be interesting to know, when he travels to London from his quiet retreat amongst the mountains, whether he ventures into one of the 'carriages of damned souls,' and is whirled to town by an iron monster breathing fire and smoke, or whether he drives the whole way. If Mr. Ruskin is in no hurry, the drive is a most beautiful one, as we who have gone over the ground by road can testify, and he could spend the spare evenings profitably at the pleasant inns on the way by composing those charming accounts of scenery cunningly interwoven with Art that we all so much enjoy; though why Mr. Ruskin should write certain pamphlets and books