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William Johnson Dawson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 147 pages of information about The Quest of the Simple Life.
there would have been little or no emigration, for never was there race that left the land of its fathers with such bitter and entire reluctance as the Irish.  The English peasant shares the same reluctance, though his slower nature is incapable of expressing it with the same volubility of anguish.  Give him enough land to live upon; make him a proprietor instead of a serf; let him have fair railway rates, so that his produce can fetch its proper price in the markets, and there were no man so proud and so content as he.  But this is just what the feudal laws of England will not do for him; and so millions of acres fall out of cultivation and farms go a-begging because the men who could have kept them prosperous have been forced to sell their thews and muscles to be prostituted in the dismal drudgeries of cities.

There is an even worse result.  Earth-hunger has been displaced by Money-hunger.  Simple ideas of life must needs perish where the nature of a nation’s life makes them difficult or impossible of attainment.  A country-born youth might keep to the soil, if he saw the slightest hope that the soil would keep him; when he sees that this is impossible he files to cities, because he believes that there is more gold to be picked up in the city mire in a month than can be won from the ploughed fallow in a year.  It is not until the altars of Pan are overthrown that the worship of Mammon is triumphant, and the mischief is that when the great god Pan is driven away he returns no more.  When once Money-hunger seizes on a nation, that primitive and wholesome Earth-hunger—­old as the primal Eden, where man’s life began—­is stifled at the birth; the spade and harrow rust, and instead of swords being beaten to ploughshares, ploughshares are beaten into swords for the use of soldiers who are the gladiators of commercial avarice; the wealth of the country runs into the swamp of speculation; the scripture of Nature is cast aside for the blotted pages of the betting-book; sport becomes not a means of recreation but of gambling; and instead of sturdy races bred upon the soil, and drawing from the soil solid qualities of mind and body, you have blighted and anaemic races, bred amid the populous disease of cities, and incapable of any task that shall demand steady energy, continuous thought, or sober powers of reflection or of will.

CHAPTER V

HEALTH AND ECONOMICS

Enough has been said to show that I never heartily settled to a town life, and that the obstacle to content was my own character.  Mere discontent with one’s environment, however useful it may be as an irritant to prevent stagnation and brutish acquiescence, obviously does not carry one very far.  Men may chafe for years at the conditions of their lot without in any way attempting to amend them.  I soon came to see that I was in danger of falling into this condition of futility.  I was, therefore, forced to face

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