The path is there - the hedge of high hornbeams,
Grey-stemmed, brown-leaved, and then the gate, and then The little wood we called the Wood of Dreams : That wood our hearts will never find again. Nous n'irons plus au bois, for well we know Les lauriers sont coupes, long, long, long ago.
In that green place the woodland sunlight streams
On windflowers white, and every April day Paints bluer violets. But our fair-faced Dreams As shadows came, as ghosts have passed away. Nous n'irons plus au bois ; nor here nor there Our dreams abide, and all the wood is bare.
The path is there - the sudden silver gleams
Of birch-boughs through the dusk. New eyes will see June foxgloves blossom ; to the Wood of Dreams New dreamers and new dreams will come - but we - Nous n'irons plus au bois, ah no, ah no ; Les lauriers sont coupes - even, even so.
I heard the other day of an American couple visiting one of the most beautiful and typical of our south-country places, with broad, soft, velvety green lawns. They were wild with astonishment and admiration. At last the wife exclaimed, 'Oh! Jack, however do they get these lawns here ? I can't understand it. We can't do it.' Her husband replied, ' Well, my dear, I guess we can't have the two centuries of mowing which these places have had; that may have something to do with it.' He was, in a sense, right: some of our old places have had over three centuries of mowing. But the climate, too, is answerable for a great deal. The cold winters, even of the centre of Europe, entirely prevent grass from growing as it does with us. We could get a better lawn in three years than they could ever have. There is no doubt that the British Isles have a quite wonderful climate for gardening, though it is little suited for sitting out, which many people seem to think is the chief use of a garden.
As I am always planning and planting imaginary gardens, or thinking how I should alter the gardens of my friends, so I am always building imaginary houses. Nothing I see satisfies my ideas of what a modern ' health house ' should be - that is to say, a house which is not only a home, but a model-dwelling for acquiring the highest degree of physical health compatible with our modern life. In small houses and great houses, in villadom and in hall, the first thought seems to be that the outside of the house should be pretty, or ornamental, or picturesque. Now, no one admires beauty more than I do, but the first law I should lay down to myself would be that the inside of the house, both as regards comfort and health, should come before any structural external beauty. I do not deny that every house must be adapted to its owner, and, of new houses, the one that fulfils this best of any that I know is the one which Miss Jekyll lives in, which she describes in her first two books. My house would of course have to be quite different. The outside appearances would have to be very simple and very plain. White walls with a red-tiled roof for modest houses such as I am speaking of seem to me most suited to the English climate. My house should be low, only two storeys, but covering a good deal of ground. Beautiful brick chimneys, and many of them for the sake of having my fireplaces in the part of the room best suited to its requirements, would be the principal additional outside expense. By beautiful chimneys, I mean such as stand out good in form against a clear sky, like those which were built to farmhouses three hundred years ago. The roof over the windows might have eaves, but there must be no eaves where creepers are to be grown. Eaves were used before gutters were invented to carry the rain-water from the roof and away from the walls. In those days, the drip fell on the roots of the plants; now there is no drip, so the plants must receive the rain as it falls if they are to be healthy. The absence of eaves being ugly, the difficulty might perhaps be solved by having a slightly perforated gutter which would allow enough water through for the needs of the plants below, but would carry off the bulk of the rain-water, but I fear this would make the walls damp. But could my little white house ever be pretty, whether it cost much or little, seeing that it would have to be nearly all windows - enormous windows, tall and broad ? I hear most people saying 'How frightful - and how uncomfortable !' It is not only a matter of air, as that can be got more or less by small windows if intelligently placed and made to open easily, but to catch all the sun possible in our sunless climate. In the sitting-rooms the windows must be in part glass doors reaching to the ground; for to live in the country and not be able to watch nature, the birds pecking, the flowers growing, &c, when sitting in a room, seems to meagreatdrawback.Not only must it bepossible for me -
While safe beneath the roof, To hear with drowsy ear the plash of rain, but I must see it: I must also, without getting up from my employment, be able to see the great storm-clouds roll up from the horizon, and the sun rise and set - all this with firm big windows that do not rattle in the wind and that a child or an invalid could open or shut easily. What have I ever seen that comes nearest to these ideas ? All old English cottages have small windows, and the tall windows of the beautiful old Jacobean houses are generally very narrow, and the leaded panes do not open enough.Perhapssomeof theGeorgianhousesbuilt quite at the end of the eighteenth century, full of the recollection of their simple Dutch origin, are most like what I want, but even these have not enough window space for me. I think I should like my drawing-room something like the old Queen Anne orangeries, only not of course nearly so high or large, and the morning-room might have circular windows like some of the old Brighton houses. The woodwork would have to be strong, and there comes in either initial expense or endless painting. I am even Philistine enough now and then to like a large pane of plate glass over a fireplace let into the wall, like a window without a frame, provided the view is good. The flue is led up on each side.