Sometimes, in looking from the window of his railway car-riage, the tourist sees the fluted towers of an old cathedral, as stately and imposing as the battlements of a Norman castle. England is proud of her cathedrals, and her inhabitants gladly tax themselves to keep them in repair. Perhaps, comparatively few of those who thus support them worship there. They may prefer their individual parishes, or may be Dissenters from the Church of England; but they regard these grand old minsters as priceless illustrations of their national life, which must not be destroyed. In fact, how different English history must seem to children or adults, who study it amid such surroundings, looking upon creations of inspired art, touching the relics of past centuries, and standing by the graves of those whom history records!
No one can travel far in England without observing with delight its universal verdure. This cannot be too highly praised. When other lands are white with dust, the fields of England are fresh and moist, and all its wealth of foliage is undimmed. In summer the entire island seems to be covered with a beautiful green carpet, of which the hedges, trees, and flowers are the figured patterns. The very walls are cushioned with soft turf; the rustic houses veil themselves with vines; wild roses twine above the porches, and honeysuckles climb adventurously to the eaves. Truly the fogs of London are abundantly atoned for by the rural beauty of this island gem.
Farming in England is done on so small a scale that to a laborer on the western prairies of the United States it would seem absurd; yet nowhere in the world does harvesting present a prettier picture. Almost all English landscapes seem to have been finished with a brush and pencil, and even the hillsides look well-groomed. There are no lofty mountains; for, as Mrs. Browning said, "God's finger touched, but did not press, In making England"; but Britain's beautifully rounded slopes and the perpetual verdure of its fields harmonize perfectly with the subdued light that filters through its customary canopy of clouds. We must console ourselves for frequent showers here, since it is England's copious rain that renders it thus fresh and green, and makes of it the garden of the world. It is not strange, then, that where such results can be obtained from moisture, Englishmen often prefer the clouds of their own island to the clear skies of southern Europe. "These blue Italian skies are well enough in theory," a Briton once exclaimed, "but their incessant glare oppresses me. I want moisture," he continued, "I want rain; yes," he added, with a tender emphasis, "nice, warm, muggy rain".
Farming In England.
The Izaak Walton Inn, Dovedale.
Another glory of the Mother Country is her trees. Ideal specimens of them greet us everywhere, looking as sturdy as the race they shelter, yet often as symmetrical as if produced by art. They usually stand alone in isolated majesty; and even when they seem to be in groups, they still maintain a cold reserve and distance from their fellows, suggestive of the men who planted them. The German Empire has more extensive forests than Old England, and we on our Pacific slope possess arboreal giants of much larger growth; but in no country in the world that I have ever visited, save, possibly, our own Connecticut valley, do noble oaks and elms form such a frequent and delightful feature of the landscape as in England.
A Rose-Covered Cottage.
An English Oak.
Another charm of English scenery is the finished, well-kept character of everything we see. The fences are not made of zigzag rails, nor yet of stumps of trees, which sometimes in America's rural districts line the roads for miles, like the extracted teeth of prehistoric monsters. The English fields are usually framed with hedges; the roads are neat and tasteful as a garden walk; and winding lanes, all bright with flowers, constitute ideal walks for lovers. There are no traces here of hasty growth, and we perceive at last that all this rustic loveliness is the result of centuries of civilization. Whether an energetic young American would like to live in such a fixed environment is one thing, but certainly to an American traveler it is both novel and delightful.