A Walk from London to John O'Groat's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 348 pages of information about A Walk from London to John O'Groat's.
psychological feats ascribed to it in that most edifying picture emblazoned on the arms of Banking Companies, Insurance Offices, and Quack Doctors.  He is not sure that dying swans have not sung a mournful hymn over their last moments, under an affecting and human sense of their mortality.  He has believed in the English lark to the same point of pleasing credulity.  Why should he not give its existence the same faith?  The history of its life is as old as the English alphabet, and older still.  It sang over the dark and hideous lairs of the bloody Druids centuries before Julius Caesar was born, and they doubtless had a pleasant name for it, unless true music was hateful to their ears.  It sang, without loss or change of a single note of this morning’s song, to the Roman legions as they marched, or made roads in Britain.  It rang the same voluntaries to the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, through the long ages, and, perhaps, tended to soften their antagonisms, and hasten their blending into one great and mighty people.  How the name and song of this happiest of earthly birds run through all the rhyme and romance of English poetry, of English rural life, ever since there was an England!  Take away its history and its song from her daisy-eyed meadows, and shaded lanes, and hedges breathing and blooming with sweetbrier leaves and hawthorn flowers—­from her thatched cottages, veiled with ivy—­from the morning tread of the reapers, and the mower’s lunch of bread and cheese under the meadow elm, and you take away a living and beautiful spirit more charming than music.  You take away from English poetry one of its pleiades, and bereave it of a companionship more intimate than that of the nearest neighborhood of the stars above.  How the lark’s life and song blend, in the rhyme of the poet, with “the sheen of silver fountains leaping to the sea,” with morning sunbeams and noontide thoughts, with the sweetest breathing flowers, and softest breezes, and busiest bees, and greenest leaves, and happiest human industries, loves, hopes, and aspirations!

The American has read and heard of all this from his youth up to the day of setting his foot, for the first time, on English ground.  He has tried to believe it, as in things seen, temporal and tangible.  But in doing this he has to contend with a sense or suspicion of unreality—­a feeling that there has been great poetical exaggeration in the matter.  A patent fact lies at the bottom of this incredulity.  The forefathers of New England carried no wild bird with them to sing about their cabin homes in the New World.  But they found beautiful and happy birds on that wild continent, as well-dressed, as graceful in form and motion, and of as fine taste for music and other accomplishments, as if they and their ancestors had sung before the courts of Europe for twenty generations.  These sang their sweet songs of welcome to the Pilgrims as they landed from the “Mayflower.”  These sang to them cheerily, through the first years and the later years of their stern trials and tribulations.  These built their nests where the blue eyes of the first white children born in the land could peer in upon the speckled eggs with wonder and delight.  What wonder that those strong-hearted puritan fathers and mothers, who

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A Walk from London to John O'Groat's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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