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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

Lovers and Landscape

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Far be it from me to fall into such a desiccated and supercilious mood. My small olive-branch of fancy will be withered, in truth, and ready to drop budless from the tree, when I cease to feel a mild delight in the billings and cooings of the little birds that separate from the flocks to fly together in pairs, or in the uninstructive but mutually satisfactory converse which Strephon holds with Chloe while they dally along the primrose path.

I am glad that even the stony and tumultuous city affords some opportunities for these amiable observations. In the month of April there is hardly a clump of shrubbery in the Central Park which will not serve as a trysting-place for yellow warblers and catbirds just home from their southern tours. At the same time, you shall see many a bench, designed for the accommodation of six persons, occupied at the sunset hour by only two, and apparently so much too small for them that they cannot avoid a little crowding.

These are infallible signs. Taken in conjunction with the eruption of tops and marbles among the small boys, and the purchase of fishing-tackle and golf-clubs by the old boys, they certify us that the vernal equinox has arrived, not only in the celestial regions, but also in the heart of man.

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I have been reflecting of late upon the relation of lovers to the landscape, and questioning whether art has given it quite the same place as that which belongs to it in nature. In fiction, for example, and in the drama, and in music, I have some vague misgivings that romantic love has come to hold a more prominent and a more permanent position than it fills in real life.

This is dangerous ground to venture upon, even in the most modest and deprecatory way. The man who expresses an opinion, or even a doubt, on this subject, contrary to the ruling traditions, will have a swarm of angry critics buzzing about him. He will be called a heretic, a heathen, a cold-blooded freak of nature. As for the woman who hesitates to subscribe all the thirty-nine articles of romantic love, if such a one dares to put her reluctance into words, she is certain to be accused either of unwomanly ambition or of feminine disappointment.

Let us make haste, then, to get back for safety to the ornithological aspect of the subject. Here there can be no penalties for heresy. And here I make bold to avow my conviction that the pairing season is not the only point of interest in the life of the birds; nor is the instinct by which they mate altogether and beyond comparison the noblest passion that stirs their feathered breasts.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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