There is a breath of fragrance on the cool shady air beside our little stream, that seems familiar. It is the first week of September. Can it be that the twin-flower of June, the delicate Linnaea borealis, is blooming again? Yes, here is the threadlike stem lifting its two frail pink bells above the bed of shining leaves. How dear an early flower seems when it comes back again and unfolds its beauty in a St. Martin’s summer! How delicate and suggestive is the faint, magical odour! It is like a renewal of the dreams of youth.
“And need we ever grow old?” asked my lady Greygown, as she sat that evening with the twin-flower on her breast, watching the stars come out along the edge of the cliffs, and tremble on the hurrying tide of the river. “Must we grow old as well as gray? Is the time coming when all life will be commonplace and practical, and governed by a dull ’of course’? Shall we not always find adventures and romances, and a few blossoms returning, even when the season grows late?”
“At least,” I answered, “let us believe in the possibility, for to doubt it is to destroy it. If we can only come back to nature together every year, and consider the flowers and the birds, and confess our faults and mistakes and our unbelief under these silent stars, and hear the river murmuring our absolution, we shall die young, even though we live long: we shall have a treasure of memories which will be like the twin-flower, always a double blossom on a single stem, and carry with us into the unseen world something which will make it worth while to be immortal.”
A SONG AFTER SUNDOWN
“There’s no music like a little river’s. It plays the same tune (and that’s the favourite) over and over again, and yet does not weary of it like men fiddlers. It takes the mind out of doors; and though we should be grateful for good houses, there is, after all, no house like god’s out-of-doors. And lastly, sir, it quiets a man down like saying his prayers.”—Robert Louis Stevenson: Prince Otto.
THE WOOD-NOTES OF THE VEERY
The moonbeams over Arno’s vale in silver flood were pouring, When first I heard the nightingale a long-lost love deploring: So passionate, so full of pain, it sounded strange and eerie, I longed to hear a simpler strain, the wood-notes of the veery.
The laverock sings a bonny lay, above the Scottish heather, It sprinkles from the dome of day like light and love together; He drops the golden notes to greet his brooding mate, his dearie; I only know one song more sweet, the vespers of the veery.
In English gardens green and bright, and rich in fruity treasure, I’ve heard the blackbird with delight repeat his merry measure; The ballad was a lively one, the tune was loud and cheery, And yet with every setting sun I listened for the veery.