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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

Lovers and Landscape

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This train of thought was illuminated, the other night, by an incident which befell me at a party. It was an assembly of men, drawn together by their common devotion to the sport of canoeing. There were only three or four of the gentler sex present (as honorary members), and only one of whom it could be suspected that she was at that time a victim or an object of the tender passion. In the course of the evening, by way of diversion to our disputations on keels and centreboards, canvas and birch-bark, cedar-wood and bass-wood, paddles and steering-gear, a fine young Apollo, with a big, manly voice, sang us a few songs. But he did not chant the joys of weathering a sudden squall, or running a rapid feather-white with foam, or floating down a long, quiet, elm-bowered river. Not all. His songs were full of sighs and yearnings, languid lips and sheep's-eyes. His powerful voice informed us that crowns of thorns seemed like garlands of roses, and kisses were as sweet as samples of heaven, and various other curious sensations were experienced; and at the end of every stanza the reason was stated, in tones of thunder--

"Because I love you, dear."

Even if true, it seemed inappropriate. How foolish the average audience in a drawing-room looks while it is listening to passionate love-ditties! And yet I suppose the singer chose these songs, not from any malice aforethought, but simply because songs of this kind are so abundant that it is next to impossible to find anything else in the shops.

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In regard to novels, the situation is almost as discouraging. Ten love-stories are printed to one of any other kind. We have a standing invitation to consider the tribulations and difficulties of some young man or young woman in finding a mate. It must be admitted that the subject has its capabilities of interest. Nature has her uses for the lover, and she gives him an excellent part to play in the drama of life. But is this tantamount to saying that his interest is perennial and all-absorbing, and that his role on the stage is the only one that is significant and noteworthy?

Life is much too large to be expressed in the terms of a single passion. Friendship, patriotism, parental tenderness, filial devotion, the ardour of adventure, the thirst for knowledge, the ecstasy of religion,--these all have their dwelling in the heart of man. They mould character. They control conduct. They are stars of destiny shining in the inner firmament. And if art would truly hold the mirror up to nature, it must reflect these greater and lesser lights that rule the day and the night.

How many of the plays that divert and misinform the modern theatre-goer turn on the pivot of a love-affair, not always pure, but generally simple! And how many of those that are imported from France proceed upon the theory that the Seventh is the only Commandment, and that the principal attraction of life lies in the opportunity of breaking it! The matinee-girl is not likely to have a very luminous or truthful idea of existence floating around in her pretty little head.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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