HotFreeBooks.com
Recreation
by Edward Grey
Home - Random Browse

RECREATION

BY

VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON, K.G.

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge

COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

* * * * *

The Riverside Press CAMBRIDGE - MASSACHUSETTS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.



ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE HARVARD UNION DECEMBER 8, 1919



RECREATION

It is sometimes said that this is a pleasure-seeking age. Whether it be a pleasure-seeking age or not, I doubt whether it is a pleasure-finding age. We are supposed to have great advantages in many ways over our predecessors. There is, on the whole, less poverty and more wealth. There are supposed to be more opportunities for enjoyment: there are moving pictures, motor-cars, and many other things which are now considered means of enjoyment and which our ancestors did not possess, but I do not judge from what I read in the newspapers that there is more content. Indeed, we seem to be living in an age of discontent. It seems to be rather on the increase than otherwise and is a subject of general complaint. If so it is worth while considering what it is that makes people happy, what they can do to make themselves happy, and it is from that point of view that I wish to speak on recreation.

Let it be admitted that recreation is only one of the things that make for happiness in life. I do not even recommend it as the most important. There are at least four other things which are more or less under our own control and which are essential to happiness. The first is some moral standard by which to guide our actions. The second is some satisfactory home life in the form of good relations with family or friends. The third is some form of work which justifies our existence to our own country and makes us good citizens. The fourth thing is some degree of leisure and the use of it in some way that makes us happy. To succeed in making a good use of our leisure will not compensate for failure in any one of the other three things to which I have referred, but a reasonable amount of leisure and a good use of it is an important contribution to a happy life. How is this happy use of leisure to be ensured? We sometimes meet people who do not seem to know what to do with their spare time. They are like the man of whom it was said, "He doesn't know what he wants, and he won't be happy till he gets it." The first thing, therefore, is to take ourselves out of that category, to know definitely what we want, and to make sure it is something that will make us happy when we get it; and that is the beginning of recreation. You are entitled to say to me, "That is all very well as a general piece of advice, but tell us how you have followed and applied it yourself"; and it would not be fair for me to shrink from answering that question. In one respect I must plead failure. I have been a failure as regards golf, not because I did not succeed, but because I did not want to succeed. I have a great respect for golf. I am sure it is very good for many people; I know very many good people who play golf; but it so happens that it does not give me a good time, and so I leave the recommendation of it to people who can speak of it with more appreciation.

But I do recommend some game or games as a part of recreation. As long as I could see to play and had sufficient leisure, I enjoyed immensely the game of real or court tennis, a very ancient game, requiring activity as well as skill, a game in which Americans may take interest and some pride, because for the first time, at any rate, in the recent history of the game, an amateur is champion of the world and that amateur is an American. The English are sometimes criticised for paying too much attention to games. A British officer whom I know well, who happened to be in Africa at the outbreak of the war and took part in the fighting there, tells me that in one of the German posts captured by the British there was found a map made by the Germans and showing Africa as it was to be when the war was over. The greater part of Africa had become German, and there was nothing left for the British excepting a small patch in the middle of the Sahara Desert which was marked "Footballplatz for the English." Football is a national game in America as well as in England, but I do not suppose that either you or we think that our soldiers fought any worse in the war for having been fond of football. I put games definitely as a desirable part of recreation, and I would say have one or more games of which you are fond, but let them, at any rate in youth, be games which test the wind, the staying power, and the activity of the whole body, as well as skill.

Sport shall be mentioned next. I have had a liking for more than one form of sport, but an actual passion for salmon and trout fishing. Perhaps the following little confidence will give some idea how keen the passion has been. The best salmon and trout fishing in Great Britain ends in September. The best salmon fishing begins again in March. In my opinion the very best of all is to be had in March and April. In October I used to find myself looking forward to salmon fishing in the next March and beginning to spend my spare time thinking about it. I lay awake in bed fishing in imagination the pools which I was not going to see before March at the earliest, till I felt I was spending too much time, not in actual fishing, but in sheer looking forward to it. I made a rule, therefore, that I would not fish pools in imagination before the first of January, so that I might not spend more than two months of spare time in anticipation alone. Salmon fishing as I have enjoyed it, fishing not from a boat, but from one's feet, either on the bank or wading deep in the stream, is a glorious and sustained exercise for the whole body, as well as being an exciting sport; but many of my friends do not care for it. To them I say, as one who was fond of George Meredith's novels once said to a man who complained that he could not read them, "Why should you?" If you do not care for fishing, do not fish. Why should you? But if we are to be quits and you are to be on the same happy level as I have been, then find something for yourself which you like as much as I like fishing.

There are many other subjects for recreation. I cannot even mention them all, much less discuss any of them adequately. But I must mention for a high place in recreation the pleasure of gardening, if you are fond of it. Bacon says, "God Almighty first planted a garden, and indeed it is the purest of human pleasures." It is one of those pleasures which follow the law of increasing and not of diminishing returns. The more you develop it and the more you know about it, the more absorbing is the interest of it. There is no season of the year at which the interest ceases and no time of life, so long as sight remains, at which we are too old to enjoy it.

I have now mentioned games, sport, and gardening. No one perhaps has time or opportunity to enjoy all three to the full. A few people may have sufficient range of temperament to care for all three, but many people—I would say most people—who have opportunity may find, at any rate in one of them, something that will contribute to their happiness. I will pass now to a subject which is more important still.

Books are the greatest and the most satisfactory of recreations. I mean the use of books for pleasure. Without books, without having acquired the power of reading for pleasure, none of us can be independent, but if we can read we have a sure defence against boredom in solitude. If we have not that defence, we are dependent on the charity of family, friends, or even strangers, to save us from boredom; but if we can find delight in reading, even a long railway journey alone ceases to be tedious, and long winter evenings to ourselves are an inexhaustible opportunity for pleasure.

Poetry is the greatest literature, and pleasure in poetry is the greatest of literary pleasures. It is also the least easy to attain and there are some people who never do attain it. I met some one the other day who did not care for poetry at all; it gave her no pleasure, no satisfaction, and only caused her to reflect how much better the thought, so it seemed to her, could be expressed in prose. In the same way there are people who care nothing for music. I knew one Englishman of whom it was said that he knew only two tunes: one was the national anthem, "God Save the King," and the other wasn't. We cannot help these people if they do not care for poetry or music, but I may offer you one or two suggestions founded on my own experience with regard to poetry. There is much poetry for which most of us do not care, but with a little trouble when we are young we may find one or two poets whose poetry, if we get to know it well, will mean very much to us and become part of ourselves. Poetry does not become intimate to us through the intellect alone; it comes to us through temperament, one might almost say enters us through the pores of the skin, and it is as if when we get older our skin becomes dry and our temperament hard and we can read only with the head. It is when we are young, before we reach the age of thirty-five, that we must find out the great poet or poets who have really written specially for us; and if we are happy enough to find one poet who seems to express things which we have consciously felt in our own personal experience, or to have revealed to us things within ourselves of which we were unconscious until we found them expressed in poetry, we have indeed got a great possession. The love for such poetry which comes to us when we are young will not disappear as we get older; it will remain in us, becoming an intimate part of our own being, and will be an assured source of strength, consolation, and delight.

There is another branch of literature to which I must make a passing reference: it is that of philosophy. I am bound to refer to it here because I know two men, both of them distinguished in public life, who find real recreation and spend leisure time when they have it in reading and writing philosophy. They are both living and I have not their permission to mention their names, but as I admire them I mention their recreation, though with an admiration entirely untinged by envy. An Oxford professor is alleged to have said that every one should know enough philosophy to find that he can do without it. I do not go quite so far as that. When I was an undergraduate at Oxford I read Plato because I was made to read it. After I left Oxford I read Plato again to see if I liked it. I did like it so much that I have never found the same pleasure in other philosophical writers. I hope you will not think that I am talking flippantly. I am talking very seriously—about recreation, and I feel bound to mention philosophy in connection with it out of respect to my friends, but I do not lay much stress upon it as a means of recreation.

I come now to the main source of literary recreation in reading: the great books of all time on which one generation after another has set the seal of excellence so that we know them certainly to be worth reading. There is a wide and varied choice, and it is amongst the old books that the surest and most lasting recreation is to be found. Some one has said, "Whenever a new book comes out read an old one." We need not take that too literally, but we should give the old and proved books the preference. Some one, I think it was Isaac Disraeli, said that he who did not make himself acquainted with the best thoughts of the greatest writers would one day be mortified to observe that his best thoughts are their indifferent ones, and it is from the great books that have stood the test of time that we shall get, not only the most lasting pleasure, but a standard by which to measure our own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and the excellence of the literature of our own day. Some years ago, when I was Secretary for Foreign Affairs in England, when holidays were often long in coming, short and precious when they did come, when work was hard and exhausting and disagreeable, I found it a good plan when I got home to my library in the country to have three books on hand for recreation. One of them used to be one of those great books of all time dealing with great events or great thoughts of past generations. I mention Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" as an instance of one such book, which had an atmosphere of greatness into which one passed right out of the worries of party politics and official work. Such books take one away to another world where one finds not only pleasure, but rest. "I like large still books," Tennyson is reported to have said. And great books not only give pleasure and rest, but better perspective of the events of our own time. I must warn you that Gibbon has been called dull. It is alleged that Sheridan, a man of brilliant wit, said so, and when a friend reminded him that in a famous speech he had paid Gibbon the compliment of speaking of the "luminous page of Gibbon," Sheridan said he must have meant to say "voluminous." If you take the same view of Gibbon, find some other great author whom you do not find dull. There is a host of great writers to choose from. There are plenty of signposts to direct us to old books of interest and value. They have well-known names, and so they stand out and are known like great peaks in mountain ranges of the human intellect.

The second of my books would also be an old book, a novel which had been approved by successive generations. The third would be some modern book, whether serious or light, and in modern books the choice is not so easy. There are many that are excellent, but there are many in which we may find neither pleasure nor profit. If our leisure is short we have not much time to experiment. The less spare time we have, the more precious it is, and we do not want to waste any of it in experimenting with modern books which we do not find profitable. It is worth while to cultivate a few friends whose intelligence we can respect and whose taste is sympathetic and who read, and to get from them from time to time the names of modern books which they have read and found good. I have had too little time for reading, but that my advice may not be entirely academic I will recommend you, at any rate, one good modern novel. Its name is "The Bent Twig," the authoress is Dorothy Canfield, and I can tell you nothing except that she is an American, but the book seems to me one of the best pieces of work in novel writing that has happened to come under my own observation recently. There are others, no doubt, in plenty, and if you get half a dozen friends who are fond of reading each to recommend you one book as I have done, you will have provision for a little time to come.

To conclude my suggestions about reading I would urge this. Like all the best things in life, the recreation of reading needs a little planning. When we have a holiday in prospect we make plans beforehand so that when the time comes we may know exactly where we want to go, what we want to do, how the holiday is to be spent, and have all our preparations ready. If we do not do that the holiday finds us unprepared and the greater part of it is wasted. So with our spare time, our casual leisure. Do not let it find us unprepared. It is a good plan to make a list of books which either from our own thought, our own experience, or the recommendation of friends, we feel a desire to read. We should have one or two of these books always at hand, and have them in mind, too, as something which we are longing to read at the first opportunity. I think some people lose the habit and pleasure of reading because they do not take this trouble and make no plan, and when the spare evening or the long railway journey or the wet day comes it finds them without any book in anticipation, and they pick up a newspaper or a magazine, not because they specially want to read it, but because they have nothing present to their minds or at hand which they really care for. The habit of planning ahead is essential to real cultivation of the pleasure of reading, just as essential as planning is for sport or travel or games or any of the other pleasures of life. I know friends who are fond of sport. They choose a long time beforehand the river they will fish or the sort of shooting they will pursue. Another friend likes travel and plans months in advance where he will go and what he will see. Without this fore-thought and planning they would not get their pleasure, and so it is with reading. If we once acquire the habit of planning, we find out increasingly what it is that we like, and our difficulty at any spare moment is not to find some book that we are longing to read, but to choose which book of those to which we are looking forward in anticipation we shall take first.

I have spoken about planning for a holiday, and I will give an instance of how thoroughly President Roosevelt planned for a holiday. Several years ago when I was at the Foreign Office in London, I got a letter from Mr. Bryce, who was then British Ambassador at Washington, saying that President Roosevelt intended to travel as soon as he was out of office. He was going to travel in Africa, to visit Europe, and to come to England, and he was planning his holiday so minutely as to time his visit to England for the spring, when the birds would be in full song and he could hear them. For this purpose he wanted it to be arranged that somebody who knew the songs of the English birds should go for a walk with him in the country, and as the songs were heard tell him what the birds were. That is a pretty good instance of thorough planning in advance for a holiday. It seemed to me very attractive that the executive head of the most powerful country in the world should have this simple, healthy, touching desire to hear the songs of birds, and I wrote back at once to Mr. Bryce to say that when President Roosevelt came to England I should be delighted to do for him what he wanted. It is no more a necessary qualification for the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in London than it is for the President of the United States that he should know the songs of the birds, and it is an amusing coincidence that we should have been able to arrange this little matter satisfactorily between us as if it were part of our official duties, without feeling obliged to call in experts.

Time passed, and when the President retired from office he went to Africa and had much big-game shooting and travel there. Then he came by way of the Sudan and Egypt to Europe. The leading countries of Europe were stirred to do him honour, England not less than others. He had a great reception and everywhere a programme of great and dignified character was arranged for him. European newspapers were full of it long before he got to England, and I thought this little walk to hear the songs of English birds suggested some two years previously would be forgotten and crowded out by greater matters. But it was not so. Without any reminder on my part I got an intimation from the English friend who was to be Colonel Roosevelt's host in London that Colonel Roosevelt had written to him to say that this promise had been made and that he wished time to be found for the fulfilment of it. I saw Colonel Roosevelt once soon after he came to London. The day was arranged and at the appointed time we met at Waterloo Station. We had to ask the newspaper reporters not to go with us, not because it made any difference to Colonel Roosevelt, but because birds are not so tame, or perhaps I should say are more self-conscious than public men and do not like to be photographed or even interviewed at close quarters, and it was necessary, not only that Colonel Roosevelt and I should be alone, but that we should make ourselves as inconspicuous and unobtrusive as possible.

So we went alone, and for some twenty hours we were lost to the world. We went by train to a country station where a motor was awaiting us. Thence we drove to the little village of Titchborne in Hampshire, and got there soon after midday. In the village of Titchborne there lives also the family of Titchborne, and in the old village church there is a tomb with recumbent figures of one of the Titchbornes and his wife who lived in the time of James the First; on it is inscribed the statement that he chose to be buried with his wife in this chapel, which was built by his ancestor in the time of Henry the First. That shows a continuous record of one family in one place for some eight hundred years. I forget whether we had time to go into the church and look at it, but the songs of the birds which we had come to hear are far more ancient. They must be the same songs that were heard by the inhabitants of England before the Romans came, for the songs of birds come down unchanged through great antiquity, and we are listening to-day, in whatever part of the world we may be, to songs which must have been familiar to races of men of which history has no knowledge and no record.

I was a little apprehensive about this walk. I had had no personal acquaintance with Colonel Roosevelt before he came to England in 1910, and I thought to myself, "Perhaps, after all, he will not care so very much about birds, and possibly after an hour or so he will have had enough of them. If that be so and he does not care for birds, he will have nothing but my society, which he will not find sufficiently interesting for so long a time." I had relied upon the birds to provide entertainment for him. If that failed, I doubted my own resources. I need have had no fear about his liking for birds. I found, not only that he had a remarkable and abiding interest in birds, but a wonderful knowledge of them. Though I know something about British birds I should have been lost and confused among American birds, of which unhappily I know little or nothing. Colonel Roosevelt not only knew more about American birds than I did about British birds, but he knew about British birds also. What he had lacked was an opportunity of hearing their songs, and you cannot get a knowledge of the songs of birds in any other way than by listening to them.

We began our walk, and when a song was heard I told him the name of the bird. I noticed that as soon as I mentioned the name it was unnecessary to tell him more. He knew what the bird was like. It was not necessary for him to see it. He knew the kind of bird it was, its habits and appearance. He just wanted to complete his knowledge by hearing the song. He had, too, a very trained ear for bird songs, which cannot be acquired without having spent much time in listening to them. How he had found time in that busy life to acquire this knowledge so thoroughly it is almost impossible to imagine, but there the knowledge and training undoubtedly were. He had one of the most perfectly trained ears for bird songs that I have ever known, so that if three or four birds were singing together he would pick out their songs, distinguish each, and ask to be told each separate name; and when farther on we heard any bird for a second time, he would remember the song from the first telling and be able to name the bird himself.

He had not only a trained ear, but keen feeling and taste for bird songs. He was quick to express preferences, and at once picked out the song of the English blackbird as being the best of the bird songs we heard. I have always had the same feeling about the blackbird's song. I do not say it is better than the songs of American birds, which I have not heard, and I think Colonel Roosevelt thought one or two of the American bird songs were better than anything we had in England; but his feeling for the English blackbird's song I found confirmed the other day in a book published by Dr. Chapman, of the Natural History Museum at New York. He has written a chapter on English birds and picks out the song of the blackbird for excellence because of its "spiritual quality." Colonel Roosevelt liked the song of the blackbird so much that he was almost indignant that he had not heard more of its reputation before. He said everybody talked about the song of the thrush; it had a great reputation, but the song of the blackbird, though less often mentioned, was much better than that of the thrush. He wanted to know the reason of this injustice and kept asking the question of himself and me. At last he suggested that the name of the bird must have injured its reputation. I suppose the real reason is that the thrush sings for a longer period of the year than the blackbird and is a more obtrusive singer, and that so few people have sufficient feeling about bird songs to care to discriminate.

One more instance I will give of his interest and his knowledge. We were passing under a fir tree when we heard a small song in the tree above us. We stopped and I said that was the song of a golden-crested wren. He listened very attentively while the bird repeated its little song, as its habit is. Then he said, "I think that is exactly the same song as that of a bird that we have in America"; and that was the only English song that he recognized as being the same as any bird song in America. Some time afterwards I met a bird expert in the Natural History Museum in London and told him this incident, and he confirmed what Colonel Roosevelt had said, that the song of this bird would be about the only song that the two countries had in common. I think that a very remarkable instance of minute and accurate knowledge on the part of Colonel Roosevelt. It was the business of the bird expert in London to know about birds. Colonel Roosevelt's knowledge was a mere incident acquired, not as part of the work of his life, but entirely outside it. I remember thinking at the time how strange it seemed that the golden-crested wren, which is the very smallest bird which we have in England, should be the only song bird which the great continent of North America has in common with us.

But points of view are different in different countries. We may find ourselves looking, not only at political questions, but at incidents in natural history from a different point of view when we are on different sides of an ocean. The other day I was in a contemplative mood not far from Washington. I was thinking what a great country I was in, how much larger the rivers were and how vast the distances, and generally working up in my own mind an impression of the great size of the country. Then I happened to recall this incident of the golden-crested wren, and I found myself thinking, of course, in a tiny little island like Great Britain, where one cannot go in an express train at fifty miles an hour from east to west or from north to south in a straight line for more than fifteen hours without falling into the sea, the only song we could have in common with a great continent like this would be the song of the smallest bird.

One trivial incident there was in our walk which gave us some amusement. We were going by footpaths down a river valley, a very beautiful, but a very tame and settled country, where anything like an adventure seemed impossible. We were on a path which I had known for many years, and along which I had walked many times, not only without adventure, but without even incident. Suddenly we found ourselves stopped—the path was flooded, some weeds had blocked the river close by, and instead of a dry path we had about twenty yards of water in front of us. The water was not very deep, certainly not above our knees, but I had not intended that there should be any wading in our walk nor had I prepared for it. I asked if he would mind going through the water, to which, of course, he replied that he would not. So we went through, got wet, and in the course of the afternoon got dry again as we walked. Nothing of the same kind had happened there before; nothing has happened since. I think there was some magnetism about Colonel Roosevelt's personality which created incidents.

After going a few miles down the valley we got into our motor, which was waiting at a village inn, and drove to what is called the New Forest, though it is more than eight hundred years old. We were now in a country of wild heath, quite uncultivated, and the part we went through was mostly natural forest. Here we heard some birds different from any we had heard in the valley of the Itchen, and got to a little inn standing on the open heath about nine o'clock in the evening. We had dinner, and next morning we breakfasted together and went to Southampton, whence Colonel Roosevelt returned to America.

I am not attempting here a full appreciation of Colonel Roosevelt. He will be known for all time as one of the great men of America. I am only giving you this personal recollection as a little contribution to his memory, as one that I can make from personal knowledge and which is now known only to myself. His conversation about birds was made interesting by quotations from poets. He talked also about politics, and in the whole of his conversation about them there was nothing but the motive of public spirit and patriotism. I saw enough of him to know that to be with him was to be stimulated in the best sense of the word for the work of life. Perhaps it is not yet realised how great he was in the matter of knowledge as well as in action. Everybody knows that he was a great man of action in the fullest sense of the word. The Press has always proclaimed that. It is less often that a tribute is paid to him as a man of knowledge as well as a man of action. Two of your greatest experts in natural history told me the other day that Colonel Roosevelt could, in that department of knowledge, hold his own with experts. His knowledge of literature was also very great, and it was knowledge of the best. It is seldom that you find so great a man of action who was also a man of such wide and accurate knowledge. I happened to be impressed by his knowledge of natural history and literature and to have had first-hand evidence of both, but I gather from others that there were other fields of knowledge in which he was also remarkable. Not long ago when an English friend of mine was dying, his business agent came over to see him. One of the family asked the agent whether he had come on important business. "No," he said, "I have come for a little conversation because I was feeling depressed this morning and I wanted to be made to feel two inches taller." That saying would, I think, have been specially applicable to Colonel Roosevelt also. He could make people feel bigger and stronger and better.

And now my last discourse shall be on one sentence from Colonel Roosevelt which I saw quoted the other day. It is this: "He is not fit to live who is not fit to die, and he is not fit to die who shrinks from the joy of life or from the duty of life." Observe that the joy of life and the duty of life are put side by side. Many people preach the doctrine of the duty of life. It is comparatively seldom that you find one who puts the joy of life as something to be cultivated, to be encouraged on an equal footing with the duty of life. And of all the joys of life which may fairly come under the head of recreation there is nothing more great, more refreshing, more beneficial in the widest sense of the word, than a real love of the beauty of the world. Some people cannot feel it. To such people I can only say, as Turner once said to a lady who complained that she could not see sunsets as he painted them, "Don't you wish you could, madam?" But to those who have some feeling that the natural world has beauty in it I would say, Cultivate this feeling and encourage it in every way you can. Consider the seasons, the joy of the spring, the splendour of the summer, the sunset colours of the autumn, the delicate and graceful bareness of winter trees, the beauty of snow, the beauty of light upon water, what the old Greek called the unnumbered smiling of the sea.

In the feeling for that beauty, if we have it, we possess a pearl of great price. I say of great price, but it is something which costs us nothing because it is all a part of the joy which is in the world for everybody who cares for it. It is the "joy in widest commonalty spread"; it is a rich possession for us if we care for it, but in possessing it we deprive nobody else. The enjoyment of it, the possession of it, excites neither greed nor envy, and it is something which is always there for us and which may take us out of the small worries of life. When we are bored, when we are out of tune, when we have little worries, it clears our feelings and changes our mood if we can get in touch with the beauty of the natural world. There is a quaint but apposite quotation from an old writer which runs as follows: "I sleep, I drink and eat, I read and meditate, I walk in my neighbour's pleasant fields and see all the varieties of natural beauty ... and he who hath so many forms of joy must needs be very much in love with sorrow and peevishness, who loseth all these pleasures and chooseth to sit upon his little handful of thorns."

There is a story of a man whom others called poor, and who had just enough fortune to support himself in going about the country in the simplest way and studying and enjoying the life and beauty of it. He was once in the company of a great millionaire who was engaged in business, working at it daily and getting richer every year, and the poor man said to the millionaire, "I am a richer man than you are." "How do you make that out?" said the millionaire. "Why," he replied, "I have got as much money as I want and you haven't."

But it is not only in the small worries of life that we may be saved by a right use of recreation. We all realize how in the Great War your nation and our nation and others engaged in the war were taken out of themselves, I was going to say lost themselves, but I ought rather to say found themselves. It was a fine thing on your part to send two million soldiers across the sea in so short a time to risk their lives for an ideal. It was even more impressive to us when we heard that in this country you had adopted conscription, and that your millions of people, distributed over so vast an extent of continent, were so moved by one public spirit and one patriotism and one desire to help the Allies in the war that they were rationing themselves voluntarily with food and fuel. That voluntary action by so many millions over so great an extent of country was a tremendous example, showing what an ideal and a public spirit and a call to action can do for people in making them forget private interests and convenience and making them great.

That was an example of what could be done by not shrinking from the duty of life; but you can get greatness, too, from some of the joys of life, and from none more than from a keen sense of the beauty of the world and a love for it. I found it so during the war. Our feelings were indeed roused by the heroism of our people, but they were also depressed by the suffering. In England every village was stricken, there was grief in almost every house. The thought of the suffering, the anxiety for the future, destroyed all pleasure. It came even between one's self and the page of the book one tried to read. In those dark days I found some support in the steady progress unchanged of the beauty of the seasons. Every year, as spring came back unfailing and unfaltering, the leaves came out with the same tender green, the birds sang, the flowers came up and opened, and I felt that a great power of nature for beauty was not affected by the war. It was like a great sanctuary into which we could go and find refuge for a time from even the greatest trouble of the world, finding there not enervating ease, but something which gave optimism, confidence, and security. The progress of the seasons unchecked, the continuance of the beauty of nature, was a manifestation of something great and splendid which not all the crimes and follies and misfortunes of mankind can abolish or destroy. If, as years go on, we can feel the beauty of the world as Wordsworth felt it and get from it

"Authentic tidings of invisible things, Of ebb and flow and ever during power, And central peace subsisting at the heart Of endless agitation,"

then we have, indeed, a recreation which will give us, not merely pleasure, but strength, refreshment, and confidence. Something of the same feeling we may get from an appreciation of great music, beautiful pictures, splendid architecture, and other things that stir us with an impression of everlasting greatness. Enjoy these and cultivate the appreciation of them, but especially, if you can, cultivate the enjoyment of the beauty of nature, because it costs nothing and is everywhere for everybody; and if we can find recreation in such things as these, then, indeed, we may make the joy of life great as well as the duty of life, and we may find that the joy of life and the duty of life are not things adverse or even to be contrasted, but may be, as Colonel Roosevelt puts them, companions and complements of each other.

THE END

Home - Random Browse