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Harvard Classics Volume 28

That Snowdon is your Parnassus


Thus, then, of literature as her help, and thus of art. There is one more help which we cannot do without--one which, alone, has sometimes done more than all other influences besides,--the help of wild and fair nature. Hear this of the education of Joan of Arc:--

"The education of this poor girl was mean according to the present standard; was ineffably grand, according to a purer philosophic standard; and only not good for our age, because for us it would be unattainable. . . .

"Next after her spiritual advantages, she owed most to the advantages of her situation. The fountain of Domremy was on the brink of a boundless forest; and it was haunted to that degree by fairies, that the parish priest (_cure_) was obliged to read mass there once a year, in order to keep them in any decent bounds. . . .

"But the forest of Domremy--those were the glories of the land; for in them abode mysterious powers and ancient secrets that towered into tragic strength. Abbeys there were, and abbey windows,'--'like Moorish temples of the Hindoos,' that exercised even princely power both in Touraine and in the German Diets. These had their sweet bells that pierced the forests for many a league at matins or vespers, and each its own dreamy legend. Few enough, and scattered enough, were these abbeys, so as in no degree to disturb the deep solitude of the region; yet many enough to spread a network

or awning of Christian sanctity over what else might have seemed a heathen wilderness." [5]

Now you cannot, indeed, have here in England, woods eighteen miles deep to the centre; but you can, perhaps, keep a fairy or two for your children yet, if you wish to keep them. But _do_ you wish it? Suppose you had each, at the back of your houses, a garden large enough for your children to play in, with just as much lawn as would give them room to run,--no more--and that you could not change your abode; but that, if you choose, you could double your income, or quadruple it, by digging a coal-shaft in the middle of the lawn, and turning the flower-beds into heaps of coke. Would you do it? I hope not. I can tell you, you would be wrong if you did, though it gave you income sixty-fold instead of four-fold.

83. Yet this is what you are doing with all England. The whole country is but a little garden, not more than enough for your children to run on the lawns of, if you would let them _all_ run there. And this little garden you will turn into furnace-ground, and fill with heaps of cinders, if you can; and those children of yours, not you, will suffer for it. For the fairies will not be all banished; there are fairies of the furnace as of the wood, and their first gifts seem to be "sharp arrows of the mighty"; but their last gifts are "coals of juniper."

84. And yet I cannot--though there is no part of my subject that I feel more--press this upon you; for we made so little use of the power of nature while we had it, that we shall hardly feel what we have lost. Just on the other side of the Mersey you have your Snowdon, and your Menai Straits, and that mighty granite rock beyond the moors of Anglesea, splendid in its heatherly crest, and foot planted in the deep sea, once thought of as sacred--a divine promontory, looking westward; the Holy Head or Headland, still not without awe when its red light glares first through storm. These are the hills, and these the bays and blue inlets, which, among the Greeks, would have been always loved, always fateful in influence on the national mind. That Snowdon is your Parnassus; but where are its Muses? That Holyhead mountain is your Island of Aegina, but where is its Temple to Minerva?

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