Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.

Yet, although all these contrasts are included in the English scene, it is not of solitude or grandeur that we think when we speak of the English countryside.  They are the exceptions to the rule of a gentler, more humanized natural beauty, in which the village church and the ivy-clad ruin play their part.  Perhaps some such formula as this would represent the typical scene that springs to the mind’s eye with the phrase “the English countryside”:  a village green, with some geese stringing out across it.  A straggle of quaint thatched cottages, roses climbing about the windows, and in front little, carefully kept gardens, with hollyhocks standing in rows, stocks and sweet-williams and such old-fashioned flowers.  At one end of the village, rising out of a clump of yews, the mouldering church-tower, with mossy gravestones on one side and a trim rectory on the other.  At the other end of the village a gabled inn, with a great stable-yard, busy with horses and waggons.  Above the village, the slopes of gently rising pastures, intersected with footpaths and shadowed with woodlands.  A little way out of the village, an old mill with a lilied mill-pond, a great, dripping water-wheel, and the murmur of the escaping stream.  And winding on into the green, sun-steeped distance, the blossom-hung English lanes.

XVII

LONDON—­CHANGING AND UNCHANGING

I find it an unexpectedly strange experience to be in London again after ten years in New York.  I had no idea it could be so strange.  Of course, there are men to whom one great city is as another—­commercial travellers, impresarios, globe-trotting millionaires.  Being none of these, I am not as much at home in St. Petersburg as in Buda-Pesth, in Berlin as in Paris, and, while once I might have envied such plastic cosmopolitanism, I am realizing, this last day or two in London, that, were such an accomplishment mine, it had been impossible for me to feel as deeply as I do my brief reincarnation into a city and a country with which I was once so intimate, and which now seems so romantically strange, while remaining so poignantly familiar.  The man who is at home everywhere has nowhere any home.  My home was once this London—­this England—­in which I am writing; but nothing so much as being in London again could make me realize that my home now is New York, and how long and how instinctively, without knowing it, I have been an American.  It is not indeed that I love New York and America more than I love London and England.  In fact, London has never seemed so wonderful to me in the past as she has seemed during these days of my wistful momentary return to her strange great heart.  But this very freshness of her marvel to one who once deemed that he knew her so well proves but the completeness of my spiritual acclimatization into another land.  I seem to be seeing her face, hearing her voice, for the first time; while, all the while, my heart is

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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