Puslapio vaizdai

lying beside the tandem-wheels on the turf, marvel with the ever-fresh adoration of the savage at the wonderful economy of mechanical forces which has enabled one to achieve such feats of locomotion with so little muscular effort. To a large proportion of the youth of this island it is here to be observed, howsoever little the poets may have observed it, there is a time when cycling is a passion, and when an incident of this passion, which comes with the cuckoo, is an almost frenzied desire to possess a first-grade machine ("costly thy cycle as thy purse can buy" is the saw of the cycling Polonius), gleaming with fresh enamel, glittering with polished nickel, and with all the latest improvements. such moments of May one says to oneself that March is the wheelman's broom, April is his sprinkler; and that, if it is "a good thing to be a tree in April," it is still better to be awheel in the months that ensue. In such moments even a philosopher may be hard put to it to combat lawless impulses. One of the first thoughts of that excellent Mr. Kipps on coming into a fortune-twelve hundred a-year, bit over, if anything-was, "I could buy a cycle and a cycling suit." This is a touch true to our insular nature.


Riding through the sunset and the long-deferred dusk of a summer-long day in the heart of rural England, when everything looks delectable, and the heart for a brief moment is perfectly happy, who has not caught something of the poet's deep longing for beauty the ideal, for an art that shall thrill the souls of men, the beauty of the bride, of young boys laughing as they sing, of the adorable English landscape into which one longs to melt. No pastime cultivates this kind of

vision of the beauté du saison and the transforming atmosphere of our homeland so much as the least celebrated. No form of recreation is so inarticulate

as bicycling. If you meet two or more cyclists in an inn after a day's run you will hear, it is more than likely, little save tiresome references to miles and to machinery, to times and distances, and it will need something of an effort, some discernment to discover behind all this trivial, and probably clumsy, chatter of cranks and spindles that, after all, much has been felt, and, it may be, that better part which can never be expressed, of the romance of the open road. The obscure and profound sensations aroused by the wedding of oxygen and hot braced muscle, the large horizons of the upland, the verdurous gloom of the dingles, the rush of the air around and of the road beneath, the flight of the hedgerows, the whisper and whirr of the harddriven wheel, the masterful pace and comradeship of the highway, the victorious struggle with the rising road, the steady intentness of effort, and gradual conquest of distance by one's own exertion-all these things, and many more, have sought without finding expression, and gradually translated themselves into a "tedious, brief," practical colloquy upon the "points" of visible wonder in the machine to which all these sensations are due. Such sensations, as one knows, are felt most vividly in youth, when the greensward of England is as yet a terra incognita to the hardy wheelman, adventurous in setting forth. The full joy and lustre of such emotions, when a finely wooded gorge or a landscape of that supreme kind which overlooks a whole panorama evokes the sensation best expressed in the ejaculation of the Psalmist, "O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer!"-all this cannot be completely recaptured. Sombre thoughts will invade the most cheerful.

"Round me, too, the night

In ever nearing circles weaves her shade.

I see her veil drawn soft across the day,

I feel her slowly chilling breath invade The cheek grown thin, the brown hair sprent with gray;

I feel her finger light Laid pausefully upon life's headlong train,

The foot less prompt to meet the

morning dew,

The heart less bounding at emotion new,

And hope, once crushed, less quick to spring again.”

A time must come to all of us when we too realize for the first time that ours also is "the common lot." That we cannot jump so high or squat so low as we could once upon a time. That a pace of nine miles an hour is rather reckless even upon a bicycle. And yet I maintain, that even here a bicycle (which is in so many other respects the best anodyne to passing depressions) is also the least cruel of disenchanters. Its joys are less confined to the sunny side of forty than those of almost any other form of athletic recreation. There is of course the gospel of youth-of "sweet and twenty," a "fine young speed-man" of two-andtwenty, or possibly one-and-thirty. But many enterprises rich and rare have commenced at forty. The cyclist' of fifty may still do his "hundred." One begins to value these late starters adequately as the gray hairs appear. Who can fail to appreciate the undimmed achievement at forty, nay, at twice forty, of Titian, Cardinal Fleury, Leo XIII., Mark Twain, Lord Wemyss, Lord Roberts? The "old high" machine, it is true, was an inveterate enemy to old age. To learn it at all was hardly practicable. The great, high horse of which Lord Herbert of Cherbury so fondly proclaims his mastery were not so formidable. But the therapeutic properties of the modern bicycle as a renewer of youth and prolonger of age deserve far more celebra

tion than they have yet received, and it might well be maintained that the wheel should be added as a new symbol to the serpent of Esculapius. The historical side of cycling is not wholly negligible, as we may (hereafter) have occasion to show; but, whether we approach it from the practical, scientific, or sentimental side, the subject is as great as it is prolific, and one has been on the look out for a literary organon of cycling for years and years.


It is something, therefore, of an announcement to be able to make that the man and the book have at last been discovered. But so it is, as I think that all readers of Mr. Allen's recently appeared "Wheel Magic" will agree with me in concluding. A little book of a couple of hundred pages all told, which will go into a pocket, has for the first time definitely savored and appraised the mood of the joyous cyclist. The scientific critics, the austere commentators of the "Cycling Tourists' Club Gazette," have already hailed it from afar as an undoubted first at tempt to express the aspirations, the humor and philosophy, of the wheelman in a form compatible with the severe limitations of Belles Lettres. An Izaak Walton of cycling at best would probably be an anachronism; but what Robert Louis Stevenson achieved for donkey travel and canotage, that it may fairly be contended that Mr. Allen has attempted with equal success for the man whose music is to be found in the hum o' the wheel. Such light freightage is inadequate, of course, as our philosopher himself observes. "How feebly do these essays reflect the delight I have found on the road." That joy, like all the things that are really worth communicating, is incommunicable by mere words. And yet it all seems so simple. "I hear the sirens singing. I ride out into

1 "Wheel Magic; or Revolutions of an Impressionist." By J. W. Allen. The Bodley Head. 1909.

the country." And Mr. Allen is an optimist. He is not one of those who inquire, "Quel crime avons-nous fait pour mériter de naître!"

Here is the mood generated in him by one of his expeditions awheel:

"Once upon a time, on a July day, I rode from Winchester by Romsey through the New Forest to Wimborne. It was one of those days on which even the unworthy may enter a temporary heaven. For the time I attained the bliss of the perfect cyclist.

"The perfect cyclist is a wandering spirit, full of eyes, like the beast in the Revelation. All the burden of humanity falls from him as he mounts. He has no past, neither does his future extend beyond the flying day. If he looks at all beyond the next turning, it is to the crowning satisfaction of supper. For him one lane is enough at a time. His is the zenith of optimism. The flower by the wayside is for him the sweetness of the world made visible. His easy downward glide is the very movement of life. Sorrow and pain are far-off accidental things, as irrelevant as death. All toil and vanity his wheels have left behind. The abodes of poverty are bright with his happiness. A puncture, a patch of stones in the roadway, a dust-compelling motor, these are the worst of life's troubles. The goodness of God is manifest in the sunshine.

"To some such mood I attained that day. Coming to Stony Cross, I turned aside for the sake of the round by Lyndhurst and Emery Down, returning to the road I had left near Picket Post. Riding slowly through the bowery woodland, life seemed a simple thing. If only men would cease to worry themselves about things of no importance, how easy it would all be! Food and shelter and some sort of clothing cannot be foregone; but after these what more does a man need than the visible beauty of the world? The luxuries of Art, the luxury of Literature, seemed no less superfluous than purple raiment and sumptuous fare. In a right-minded society every man would be his own poet.

"The woods were murmurous with life, lively with bird-cries and flittings. At one point, where the forest opened a glade on my left, I perceived, for the first time in my life, a living pair of White Admiral butterflies. I felt as I dismounted hastily something of the thrill with which as a boy I should have beheld these rarities. But as a boy I was a 'collector' of such beings, and used to kill them and 'set' them with pins on cork, and regard them as specimens.' Specimens they were of the human power of transforming beauty into hideousness. The two little fairies were dancing about a clump of trees. In their manner of flight there was none of the laboring, uncertain flutter of the Whites, nor the jerkiness of the Blues, or the fussiness of the Skippers. Not so strong as the flight of the Red Admiral, theirs was more daintily graceful. Certain of themselves, they rose or sank at will, they floated about the tree-tops, they glided almost to the ground on long sweeping curves down the steeps of air, with hardly a beat of wings. There are, naturally, no human words expressive of such motion. Passing and repassing continually, they would suddenly, now and again, whirl round each other so quickly that when, in an instant, they had separated one could not tell which had been which. Sometimes that little whirligig turned into a chase, and with flashing, effortless twists and turns they would follow each other for a space closely about the branches. For half an hour I watched them, and the cup of life brimmed over at my lips. I perceived the perfect fitness of things. There was no need, I saw, to qualify my gladness with an 'if.' Life must need be beautiful in a world where every woodland glade holds such wonders. Those who do not feel it so can hardly be said to be alive.

"Later, after some hard riding in the heat. I set foot at a wayside publichouse for a long draught of beer. No one but a cyclist or a serious walker quite knows the quality of beer. It was a glorious moment, that in which I held to my lips the frothy tankard. And who but a solitary cyclist or a

solitary walker knows quite such moments? He is hot, he is dusty, he is, perhaps a little fatigued. But he is mellow and strong as his liquor: he is powerful and free. He is no struggler for existence, but has a lien on the solid earth and stands upon it squarely with a sense of possession. above human weakness and knows himself immortal. Speak to him of teetotallers and he will burst out laughing.

He is

"Later still, when the shadows had grown long, I entered a vague and vast contentment. The trivial round, the common task, were as things that were not for me. The business I had left, my cares and worries, my ambitions, I saw them at a vast distance as trivial and absurd things to obscure my vision, to come between my soul and the world! And it was not only my own affairs that I thought thus of. All the anxieties and sorrows, all the toil and pain and disappointment of other people's lives, seemed to me equally trivial. It is our pettiness, our vanity, our piggishness and dulness that work all the mischief. Why all this fuss about betterment and progress, all this political outcry, this socialism and what not? It is all a pursuit of things that don't matter. It is all a fuss about nothing. Why all this din about education? Life is good and there's an end of it. We have only to live. We have only to open our eyes. If a man is not happy and interested in this wonderful world, how do you propose to better his condition? There is but one way of salvation."

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best and one fails. One achieves failure. But the experience remains: the vision one has had; the revelation one Success is of the does not forget. body..." But far too much is talked of success and its factors, and of suca work. cess that crowns a life or There is no such thing as success. "No

man ever succeeded in doing anything worth doing. The greatest artists know this best." For the present, after reading the passage cited, we are satisfied with Mr. Allen's attempts to give expression to the joy that wells up from the heart that knows what it is to wander on wheels! and one's reflections upon the muteness of cycling as a pastime will need modification more as one peruses the great variety which is contained within the dozen papers of this little volume.


Mr. Allen is certainly a cheerful philosopher. Like Dr. Johnson's old college acquaintance, Oliver Edwards, he finds cheerfulness constantly and irresistibly breaking in. There are many dangers lying in wait for the wheelEvery rider knows a road-reach or two which he regards, with a kind of superstition, as unlucky, places that need special care, quite apart from the bits of glass, rusty nails, greasy patches, drunken carters, and wanton automobiles that are in ambush for all. To write faithfully and with magisterial fulness and philosophy of the causes, qualities, and consequences of the accidents that befall those who trust themselves on bicycles were to fill a volume with sad presages. vivid picture is presented to us in "Wheel Magic" of the revolting suddenness and unexpectedness of the common fall, whereby we leave our machines abruptly and in disorder, senselessly wooing our mother-earth. "The misused machine lies prone. The grit is biting my mouth. I prize myself up and give three rapid leaps of intense pain, obliquely, so as to fall again, if need be, upon the long grass by the wayside." Yet compensation and refreshment are drawn by way of moral even from the changes and chances of our transitory equilibrium.


"One of the finest qualities of cycling is just that it involves an element of difficulty and even danger. Our or

dinary comings and goings are sadly lacking in this ingredient of happiness. There is a certain danger in railway travelling; but on the railway, so far as you are personally concerned, you are almost completely at the mercy of brute chance. On a bicycle it is your own skill and coolness and power that must overcome difficulties and carry you in safety. You are braced not only to energy, but to prudence and foresight and a nice balance. Your motion demands not mere muscular exertion, but an exertion of mind, an alertness and resource, that gives you, in fruition, a sense of complex difficulties overcome. And anything that happens amiss, unless the results be very serious, is only a new incentive. If you cannot repair the damage yourself you must find your repairer. You must perhaps walk some miles. You are in doubt as to whether it will now be possible to reach your determined end. You are defeated this time; and you have the pleasure of devising what is best now to do. You discover that happiness consists not in doing what you intended, but in doing something. Perhaps you have fallen into a ditch, and are all over mud, and acutely conscious of folly. Shake off quickly that sense of humiliation, and cease to be a rebel against facts! You are a foolwhat of it? Did you not know that before? Regard yourself as one fallen on a battlefield, and rejoice that you live to fight still. Those mud stains are the marks victorious Nature has set on you for your folly, visible as such to all. But she overcomes us all, sooner or later. Rejoice that this time her marks will brush off. Shake yourself like a man and go forward. Before long you will be looking back tenderly on this comfort. It has been so before. Are not all the rides on which something of this kind has fallen marked with red letters in your memory, as days of pleasant adventure? So it will be now. The world is still before you. If not to the haven you foresaw at starting, yet to one inn or another you will come at last. And there, with all the more zest because of this mishap, with a sense that you have wrested victory from defeat and

plucked up drowned honor by the locks, you will regale yourself and take your ease, and all that is now dark will be lightened, all that is now pain will be peace."

One more touch of our wheel-magician's philosophy and we shall have done with our borrowings. They have already sufficed to show that Mr. Allen has a nervous style, a logical consistency, a pleasant fancy, and a rambling "cosmogony" of his own. He has known how to console those who fall by the wayside. But there are other impediments which loom large sometimes in the imaginations of those whose legitimate ambition it is to travel fast and far. A far-away goal is an object of real desire; and desire is life. To start early and catch the world dreaming, to traverse four or five separate zones of scenic England, to run one's course like the sun-such thoughts make a temporary god of the strenuous wheelman, who reels fifty or sixty miles from his wheel without knowing it.

"The first fifty miles or so go with a snap. After that, I find, there is a change. The aspect of things slowly becomes forbidding. The dust gets vicious; the heat becomes a weight on one's back. A certain mental weariness is apparent before the muscles feel it. The machine wants oil; the baggage is working loose. Even to the longest distance rider there comes, I imagine, a time when the wheels begin to drag and the innervation of muscle falls on the conscious will. Gradually the joy fades out of our riding. Then comes a struggle, at first stimulating, then exasperating, finally grim.

"I remember how soon it was after the triumphant reading of my cyclometer that that change began. The stopping for that steep little slope must. I think, have been ominous. Yet for the next thirty miles, though the pace fell of a little and I felt a tug, there was no painful strain. It was a case of increasing, but of continuously victorious effort. And then, just beyond

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