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Oldport Days Thomas Wentworth Higginson


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Time would fail to tell of that wandering path which leads to the Mine Mountain near Brattleborough, where you climb the high peak at last, and perhaps see the showers come up the Connecticut till they patter on the leaves beneath you, and then, swerving, pass up the black ravine and leave you unwet. Or of those among the White Mountains, gorgeous with great red lilies which presently seem to take flight in a cloud of butterflies that match their tints,--paths where the balsamic air caresses you in light breezes, and masses of alder-berries rise above the waving ferns. Or of the paths that lead beside many a little New England stream, whose bank is lost to sight in a smooth green slope of grape-vine: the lower shoots rest upon the quiet water, but the upper masses are crowned by a white wreath of alder-blooms; beside them grow great masses of wild-roses, and the simultaneous blossoms and berries of the gaudy nightshade. Or of those winding tracks that lead here and there among the flat stones of peaceful old graveyards, so entwined with grass and flowers that every spray of sweetbrier seems to tell more of life than all the accumulated epitaphs can tell of death.

And when the paths that one has personally traversed are exhausted, memory holds almost as clearly those which the poets have trodden for us,--those innumerable by-ways of Shakespeare, each more real than any high-road in England; or Chaucer's

"Little path I found
Of mintes full and fennell greene";

or Spenser's

"Pathes and alleies wide
With footing worne";

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or the path of Browning's "Pippa"

"Down the hillside, up the glen,
Love me as I love!"

or the weary tracks by which "Little Nell" wandered; or the haunted way in Sydney Dobell's ballad,

    "Ravelstone, Ravelstone,
    The merry path that leads
    Down the golden morning hills,
    And through the silver meads";

or the few American paths that genius has yet idealized; that where Hawthorne's "David Swan" slept, or that which Thoreau found upon the banks of Walden Pond, or where Whittier parted with his childhood's playmate on Ramoth Hill. It is not heights, or depths, or spaces that make the world worth living in; for the fairest landscape needs still to be garlanded by the imagination,--to become classic with noble deeds and romantic with dreams.

Go where we please in nature, we receive in proportion as we give. Ivo, the old Bishop of Chartres, wrote, that "neither the secret depth of woods nor the tops of mountains make man blessed, if he has not with him solitude of mind, the sabbath of the heart, and tranquillity of conscience." There are many roads, but one termination; and Plato says, in his "Republic," that the point where all paths meet is the soul's true resting-place and the journey's end.

The End.

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Oldport Days
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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