He who undertakes to change the face of nature must needs have patience. Monarchs like Nebuchadnezzar may hang gardens in the air in a few months, or a Louis Fourteenth may construct a pleasure-ground like Versailles, by the aid of forty millions and the genius of Lendtre, in a few years; but one who has not the resources of an empire at command must imitate more closely Nature's own deliberate and tortuous methods, often seeing the labor of years destroyed in a moment by an unforeseen freak of the old dame, who resents being interfered with, or finding to his dismay that his own scheme has been a mistaken one, and must be revised.
An illustrious townsman of ours started like ourselves with a bit of salt meadow, in which he laboriously constructed a pond, spending his hours of ease from the cares of state in building a wall about it, to make a neat and appropriate curb. But after this was accomplished, with much trouble, it proved not to be at all what he wanted, so that there was nothing for it but to fill the hole, and with months of labor bring the meadow into a smoothly turfed field.
Our day of repentance has not yet dawned, but we have a fear that it lurks somewhere behind the horizon. Some modern Metius Curtius may yet have to be found to help fill up the marsh with a horse and wagon, for that Charybdis has already taken toll more than once from a dump-cart, though she has not yet succeeded in swallowing it up in spite of various malicious efforts. She has designs upon the cow, only frustrated by careful watchfulness, and to her deep treachery there is no end. The family purse she long ago put in her pocket, and her mouth yawns for all the future revenues that may accrue for her benefit. She has eaten up a large part of a neighbor's hill, besides taking most unbecoming bites out of our own, and if ever future generations weave a legend about the ancient dragon of Overlea, which demanded a victim every summer, it will be traced by the unraveler of myths of the period, to the unremitting appetite of this hungry meadow.
But who, looking out on some sweet spring day upon that beguiling distance, could believe ill of anything so softly lovely as the picturesque marsh of which our field is the fag-end. In the foreground, the richest tones of green are gently blending in the grass; in the middle distance a point runs out towards the stream, laden with fruit-trees in snowy bloom; the Willows near and far are putting on their gray-green coats, making a tender shimmer around their swaying branches and graceful twigs. The little river winds, blue and full, here and there amid the grassy stretches, and the distant hills are full of opalescent hues of emerald and pearl, with red of tree-stems, and faintest green hints of foliage, such as Monet would love to paint. The houses of the port, not yet quite veiled by leaves, make spots of white and yellow and red against the deepening background of Elms and Maples. A streak of blue still indicates the harbor; by to-morrow it will have disappeared, for the vision changes like a kaleidoscope, - the white of Pear blossoms passing like a cloud,.to be succeeded by the rosy blush of Apple buds. Each day some well-known feature of the winter landscape grows fainter as the leaves expand, till of a sudden you look for it and it has gone, and in its stead are the fullrobed trees. Over all domes a blue sky streaked with faint white cirrus clouds, only the azure reflected in the placid stream below.
An impressionist alone could catch this fleeting beauty of early May - to-day one thing, to-morrow another - and fix it eternally upon his canvas. The tender grace of early spring, and the glowing glory of autumn are alike evanescent and wonderful expressions on this smiling meadow face. Like a dream, this hint of ineffable beauty melts away, and the impression gives place to a reality of vivid green field and dark blue water, which will make but a pleasant inland landscape until the August sun burnishes it into ruby and gold, and makes it once more a vision for a painter.
The exquisite must perforce be evanescent, that no touch of commonness may mar its distinction. "The tender grace of a day that is dead" haunts many a spot, otherwise tame enough, with a memory and a knowledge of its capabilities, that make it forever dear and beautiful to him who has seen it under that enchanting glamour lent by a season, or an hour, which imprints upon the brain a picture that can never be forgotten. And when at other times of year I look upon this far reach of often-changing meadow, there abides with it always a memory of the soft and tender charm of early spring, that no reality of November-brown or winter-snow can wholly drive away.