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Full Online Book HomeEssaysThe Silent Isle - Chapter 57
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The Silent Isle - Chapter 57 Post by :Yeraj Category :Essays Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :3127

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The Silent Isle - Chapter 57

CHAPTER LVII

To-day was oppressively hot, brooding, airless; or rather, not so much without air, as that the air was thick and viscous like honey, without the thin, fine quality. One drank rather than breathed it. Yet nature revelled and rejoiced in it with an almost shameless intoxication; the trees unfolded their leaves and shook themselves out, crumpled by the belated and chilly spring. The air was full of clouds of hurrying, dizzy insects, speeding at a furious rate, on no particular errand, but merely stung with the fierce joy of life and motion. In the road crawled stout bronze-green beetles, in blind and clumsy haste, pushing through grass-blades, tumbling over stones, waving feeble legs as they lay helpless on their backs, with the air of an elderly clergyman knocked down by an omnibus--and, on recovering their equilibrium, struggling breathlessly on. The birds gobbled fiercely in all directions, or sang loud and sweet upon the hedges. I saw half-a-dozen cuckoos, gliding silvery grey and beating the hedges for nests. Everything was making the most of life, in a prodigious hurry to live.

Indeed, I was very well content with the world myself as I sauntered through the lanes. I found a favourite place, an old clunch-quarry, on the side of a hill, where the white road comes sleepily up out of the fen. It is a pretty place, the quarry; it is all grass-grown now, and is full of small dingles covered with hawthorns. It is a great place for tramps to camp in, and half the dingles have little grey circles in them where the camping fires have been lit. I did not mind that evidence of life, but I did not like the cast-off clothing, draggled hats, coats, skirts, and boots that lay about. I never can fathom the mystery of tramps' wardrobes. They are never well-dressed exactly, but wherever they encamp they appear to discard clothing enough for two or three persons, clothing which, though I should not personally like to make use of it, still appears to be serviceable enough. I suppose it is a part of the haphazard life of the open air, and that if a tramp gets an old coat given him which is better than his own, he just leaves the old one behind him at the next halting-place.

The chalk-pit to-day was full of cowslips and daisies, the former in quite incredible profusion. I suppose it is a cowslip year. The common plants seem to have cycles, and almost each year has a succession of characteristic flowers, which have found, I suppose, the particular arrangements of the season suit them; or rather, I suppose that an outburst of a particular flower in a particular year shows that the previous year was a good seeding-time. This year has been remarkable for two plants so far, a sort of varnished green ground-weed, with a small white flower, and a dull crimson dead-nettle; both of them have covered the ground in places in huge patches. This is both strange and pleasant, I think.

I loitered about in my chalk-pit for a while; noted a new flower that sprinkled the high grassy ledges that I had never seen there before; and then sate down in a little dingle that commanded a wide view of the fen. The landscape to-day was dark with a sort of indigo-blue shadows; the clouds above big and threatening, as though they were nursing the thunder--the distance veiled in a blue-grey haze. Field after field, with here and there a clump of trees, ran out to the far horizon. A partridge chirred softly in the pastures up above me, and a wild screaming of sparrows came at intervals from a thorn-thicket, where they seemed to be holding a fierce and disorderly meeting.

I should like to be able to recover the thread of my thoughts in that quiet grassy place, because they ran on with an equable sparkle, quite without cause or reason. I had nothing particularly pleasing to think about; but the mood of retrospect and anticipation seemed to ramble about, picking sweet-smelling flowers from the past and future alike. I seemed to desire nothing and to regret nothing. My cup was full of a pleasant beverage, neither cloying nor intoxicating, and the glad spring-time tempered it nicely to my taste. There seemed to brood in the air a quiet benevolence as of a Father watching His myriad children at play; and yet as I saw a big blackbird, with a solemn eye, hop round a thorn-bush with a writhing worm festooned round his beak, I realised that the play was a deadly tragedy to some of the actors. I suppose that such thoughts ought to have ruffled the tranquil mood, but they did not, for the whole seemed so complete. I suppose that man walks in a vain shadow; but to-day it only seemed that he disquiets himself in vain. And it was not a merely selfish hedonism that thrilled me, for a large part of my joy was that we all seemed to rejoice together. As far as the eye could see, and for miles and miles, the flowers were turning their fragrant heads to the light, and the birds singing clear. And I rejoiced with them too, and shared my joy with all the brave world.

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