Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/599

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

embroidery, has been probably more affected by geographic environment than any other forms. Commerce had a distinct influence here. The crusades brought the new world into contact with the east, and European manuscripts became beautifully illumined after oriental style. Climate, here, too, exerts no little influence. In dry, clear countries the people can see great distances, everything stands out in bold relief, and paintings are apt to be very bright in color, quite different from the work in moist, foggy lands. The Japanese, Chinese and Hindoos possess a natural artistic skill probably greatly determined by their geographical wealth—gold, metal, precious stones and ivory, the silk-worm, and the many vegetable paints and dyes that could be made from the soils. The making of carpets and tapestries goes hand in hand with such climatic conditions as will produce wool and silk. The pearl carvings are most beautiful among people living near the warm waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. There is a great predominence of yellow and red in Indian designs—because iron compounds are plentiful in the earth. The refinement of Greek detail would never have been possible without her fine marble quarries. Indeed, climate and the prevailing materials in any country determine much the character of the finished building. The towers, minarets, fine tracery and carving of the cathedrals and churches of Europe owe their existence to a great extent to the use of soft limestone and caenstone. There are flat roofs in dry countries, pitched roofs where there is little rain, and steep ones in snowy regions. In dealing with literature in this connection, people may shake their heads. If one attempts to trace the influence of sea, mountain, desert, river, seasons, climate, they might say "Of course. That is nature. Of course our literature reflects those things." But, if literature were permeated with expositions of and similes concerning the mechanics of solids and fluids, would it not be interesting at least to trace the relation between physics and literature? The first literary themes of peoples are always songs of the sea, the river, the night, the mountain. In the songs of Indian, American and African savages there is an endless maze of themes to the winds and erosive forces of nature. Many of our literary monuments are merely recitals of geographical exploration and discovery—from Ulysses to Gulliver. The seasons have been sung by Shelley and more others than there is space to name. All stories of Wanderlust are associated with the spring time. Literature of specific areas is definitely stamped. Italy, because of her geographic condition, has been a distinct influence not only upon her own writers, but upon all writers who have journey there—Bryon, Goethe, Shelley, Browning, Keats, Milton. The influence of the north—how absolutely can we trace it! Beowulf is a mirror, almost, of the grimness of the north. Fiona Macleod, Ibsen, are essentially of the north. Pick up Brand. Where else could it have been produced? The desert, the river, the sea, the mountain, have been inspirations of many literary efforts.