But I never really understood them till I lived among scenes similar to those in which they were composed. And the organ by which they were interpreted was not the mind so much as the senses, quickened and invigorated by solitude. I presented a more sensitive surface to Nature, and the instant result was the perception of Nature as of something alive. In the silence of the night, as I stood at my door, I felt the palpitation of a real life around me; the sense, as I have said, of a breathing movement, of pulsation, of a beating heart, and then I knew that Wordsworth wrote with strict scientific accuracy, and not with vague mysticism as is commonly supposed, when he described Nature as a living Presence.
The sum of these sensations was for me a state of physical beatitude. I was often reminded of the grim confession of the poor wastrel, who, when asked where he lived, replied, ‘I don’t live, I linger.’ I had never really lived; I had lingered. I had trodden the path of the days and years with reluctant feet. Now every daybreak was a new occasion of joy to me. I was rejuvenated not only in mind, but in the very core and marrow of my body. I had put myself in right relation to Nature; I had established contact, as electricians would say; and as a consequence all the electric current of Nature flowed through me, vitalising and quickening me in every nerve. Men who live in cities are but half alive. They mistake infinite contortion for life. Life consists in the efficient activity of every part of us, each part equally efficient, and moving in a perfect rhythm. For the first time, since I had been conscious of myself, I realised this entire efficiency.
Many times I had coveted what is called ‘rude health,’ but I had been led to believe that rude health implies lack of sensitiveness. I now found the reverse to be the case. Perfect health and perfect sensitiveness are the same thing. I felt, enjoyed, and received sensations more acutely simply because my health was perfect. It may be said that the sensations afforded by such a life as mine were not upon a grand scale. They were not to be compared with the acute and poignant sensations afforded—perhaps I should say inflicted—by a city. I can only say they were enough for me. All pleasures are relative, and the simplest pleasure is capable of affording as great delight as the rarest. The sight of a flower can produce as keen a pleasure as a Coronation pageant, and the song of a bird may become to the sensitive ear as fine a music as a sonata by Beethoven. May I not also say that the simplest pleasures are the most enduring, the commonest delights are the most invigorating, the form of happiness which is the most easily available is the best? The further we stray from Nature the harder are we to please, and he knows the truest pleasure who can find it in the simplest forms.