There is such a thing as taking ourselves and the world too seriously, or at any rate too anxiously. Half of the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order of things, or projecting some plan for its improvement. And the other half comes from the greedy notion that a man’s life does consist, after all, in the abundance of the things that he possesses, and that it is somehow or other more respectable and pious to be always at work making a larger living, than it is to lie on your back in the green pastures and beside the still waters, and thank God that you are alive.
Come, then, my gentle reader, (for by this time you have discovered that this chapter is only a preface in disguise,—a declaration of principles or the want of them, an apology or a defence, as you choose to take it,) and if we are agreed, let us walk together; but if not, let us part here with out ill-will.
You shall not be deceived in this book. It is nothing but a handful of rustic variations on the old tune of “Rest and be thankful,” a record of unconventional travel, a pilgrim’s scrip with a few bits of blue-sky philosophy in it. There is, so far as I know, very little useful information and absolutely no criticism of the universe to be found in this volume. So if you are what Izaak Walton calls “a severe, sour-complexioned man,” you would better carry it back to the bookseller, and get your money again, if he will give it to you, and go your way rejoicing after your own melancholy fashion.
But if you care for plain pleasures, and informal company, and friendly observations on men and things, (and a few true fish-stories,) then perhaps you may find something here not unworthy your perusal. And so I wish that your winter fire may burn clear and bright while you read these pages; and that the summer days may be fair, and the fish may rise merrily to your fly, whenever you follow one of these little rivers.
A LEAF OF SPEARMINT
Recollections of A boy and A rod.
“It puzzles me now, that I remember all these young impressions so, because I took no heed of them at the time whatever; and yet they come upon me bright, when nothing else is evident in the gray fog of experience.”—B. D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone.
Of all the faculties of the human mind, memory is the one that is most easily “led by the nose.” There is a secret power in the sense of smell which draws the mind backward into the pleasant land of old times.