Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/368

This page has been validated.

lar neatness would naturally set up a new feeling. Straight rows of vines or olives, trim meadows, well-kept hedges, level fields of corn, excite the farmer's admiration. This is about the level ordinarily reached (though often surpassed) by the "Georgics." In the "Iliad," when a place is mentioned with any allusion to scenery, it is generally because it is "fertile," "horse-feeding," or "rich in corn"; with Virgil, it is the careful tillage of Italian peasants that provokes attention. But wild hills and rocks are mere barren, good-for-nothing wastes to the agricultural eye. A few days before writing this paper I was wandering among the beautiful wooded heights of the Maurettes near Hyères, when I came across a party of peasants taking their lunch on a little plateau outside their cottage. Wishing to apologize for my intrusion, I said a few words about the singularly lovely view which their house commanded across the mountains and the sea. "Ah, yes," said one of the peasants in his Provençal patois, "there isn't much to see this way except the forest; but down there," pointing behind him in the opposite direction, toward the great cabbage-garden which covers the alluvial plain of Hyères—"down there one sees a magnificent country." The one view was like a bit of miniature Switzerland; the other, like a huge market-garden, as flat as this page.

Even in our own time and place, among our own race, one may see a similar æsthetic level with farmers and laborers. "So you're going to Devonshire," said a Lincolnshire yeoman to his minister (from whom I have the story); "you'll find it a poor sort of country after this. You'll never see a field of corn like ours down there, I take it." "Your country, sir," says a distinguished American visitor in England, "is very beautiful. In many parts you may go for miles together, and never see a tree except in a hedge. Nothing more beautiful can be conceived." (I take the words down from the report of an "interviewer.") To the farmer, hills like those of Devonshire were mere obstructions to ploughing: in the eyes of the practical American, trees were simply objects to be stumped and annihilated in the interest of good farming.

So long as communications are difficult and roads bad, this agricultural aspect of natural beauty will remain uppermost. It is difficult to appreciate scenery in the midst of practical discomforts. The Alps were naturally mere barriers of snow to Hannibal and Cæsar. The Scotch Highlands were less beautiful to Lowlanders when they were inhabited by hostile clansmen with a taste for cattle-lifting. Even in the last century, one is struck by the many serious discomforts which Johnson suffered in going to the Hebrides or traveling through Wales. Telford's Holyhead road must have done much to quicken the æsthetic sensibilities of the eighteenth century in England. I have myself noted in Jamaica how much the appreciation of really beautiful scenery is spoiled by the discomforts of the climate and the difficulties of transport. In such circumstances, an æsthetic feeling for scenery can hardly