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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/369

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355
ÆSTHETIC EVOLUTION IN MAN.

develop itself. Still less could it do so during the perpetual state of siege in the middle ages, or the constant warfare of the little Hellenic republics, when no man could travel a few miles from home save on urgent business and with due precautions. A lovely pass or a frowning gorge can hardly become beautiful in the eyes of those who see in it everywhere a lurking brigand.

On the other hand, when traveling becomes easier, a taste for scenery naturally arises. All the mental elements of the taste are already present; only their combination is wanted to complete the aesthetic growth. Tastes educated and refined by the arts of the city must find beauty ready to hand in much of the country. The garden and park, the Italian terrace and the Versailles avenues, the ornamental grounds and artificial lakes of the last century, formal as they seem to us now, show the gradual growth of the taste. A view from the castle or the hall becomes a desideratum. To look out upon fresh green fields and trees rather than upon the walls and narrow streets of a city must always have been pleasant to all but the most restrictedly anthropinistic minds—though even in our own day there are many townsmen who would find more to interest them in a crowd of people than in the loveliest scenery on earth. Again, only highly cultivated minds can thoroughly enjoy the beauty of places which have been always familiar from childhood: and we can hardly expect a taste for scenery to develop among people who necessarily live (like all but the most civilized) in one narrow place for all their days. Under such circumstances, the perception of its beauty can never arise. The habit of making tours, at first confined to the very wealthy, but gradually spreading down to the middle classes and the mass, has undoubtedly had an immense effect in strengthening the love of nature. Those who only know the stereotyped features of their own suburban fields, often flat and unlovely, can not acquire any deep interest in scenery. But when Wales and Scotland, Auvergne and Brittany, Switzerland and the Tyrol are thrown open for us all, the habit of comparing, observing, and admiring grows upon us unawares. Those railways which Mr. Ruskin so cordially despises have probably done a thousand times more for promoting a love of beauty in nature than the most eloquent word-painting that was ever penned even by his own cunning and graceful hand.

If one may trust an individual experience, it is not the first waterfall that charms the most. Niagara itself, when seen in early youth, does not produce nearly so strong an impression as the little Swallow-Fall at Bettws-y-coed in later years. The more one sees, the more one learns what to expect, what to observe, what to admire. Here it is the wind-shaken foam-streak of the Staubbach; there, the little dancing cascades of the Giesbach; and here again, the vast unbroken emerald-green sheet of the Horseshoe Fall, pouring in ceaseless majesty into the seething turmoil of waters at its mist-begirt feet. Each