Volume 1, Chapter 01
Volume 1, Chapter 01
I WAS the only son of my father. I was very young at the period of the death of my mother, and have retained scarcely any recollection of her. My father was so much affected by the loss of the amiable and affectionate partner of his days, that he resolved to withdraw forever from those scenes, where every object he saw was ssociated with the ideas of her kindness, her accomplishments, and her virtues: and, being habitually a lover of the sublime and romantic features of nature, he fixed upon a spot in Merionethshire, near the foot of Cader Idris, for the habitation of his declining life.
Here I was educated. And he settled melancholy of my father's mind, and the wild and magnificent scenery by which I was surrounded, had an eminent share in deciding upon the fortunes of my future life. My father loved me extremely; his actions toward me were tender and indulgent; he recognized in me all that remained of the individual he had loved more than all the other persons in the world. But he was as enamored of solitude; he spent whole days and nights in study and contemplation. Even when he went into company, or received visitors in his own house, he judged too truly of the temper and propensities of boyish years, to put much restraint upon me, or to require that I should either render myself subservient to the habits of my elders, or, by a ridiculous exhibition of artificial talents, endeavor to extract from their politeness nourishment for his paternal vanity or pride.
I had few companions. They very situation which gave us a fell enjoyment of the beauties of nature, inevitably narrowed both the extent and variety of our intercourse with our own species. My earliest years were spent among mountains and precipices, amid the roaring of the ocean and the dashing of waterfalls. A constant familiarity with these objects gave a wildness to my ideas, and an uncommon seriousness to my temper. My curiosity was ardent, and my disposition persevering. Often have I climbed the misty mountain's top, to hail the first beams of the orb of day, or to watch his refulgent glories as he sunk beneath the western ocean. There was no neighboring summit that I did not ascend, anxious to see what mountains, vallies, river and cities were placed beyond. I gazed upon the populous haunts of men as objects that pleasingly diversified my landscape; but without the desire to behold them in a nearer view. I had a presentiment that the crowded streets and the nosy mart contained larger materials for constituting my pain than pleasure. The jarring passions of men, their loud contentions, their gross pursuits, their crafty delusions, their boisterous mirth, were objects which, even in idea, my mind shrunk from with horror. I was a spoiled child. I had been little used to contradiction, and felt like a tender flower of the garden, which the blast of the east wind nips, and impresses with the token of a sure decay.
With such a tone of mind the great features of nature are particularly in accord. In her chosen retreats every thing is busy and alive; nothing is in full repose. All is diversity and change. The mysterious power of vegetation continually proceeds; the trees unfold their verdure, and the fields are clothed with grass and flowers. Life is every where around the solitary wanderer; all is health and bloom; the sap circulates, and the leaves expand. the stalk of the flower, the trunk of the tree, and the limbs of animals dilate, and assume larger dimensions. The cattle breathe, and the vegetable kingdom consumes the vital air; the herds resort to the flowing stream and the grass drinks the moisture of the earth and the dew of heaven. Even the clouds, the winds, and the streams present us with the image of life, and talk to us of that venerable power, which is operating every where, and never sleeps. But their speech is dumb; their eloquence is unobtrusive; if they tear s from ourselves, it is with a gentle and a kindly violence, which, while we submit to, we bless.
Here begins the contrast and disparity between youth and age. My father was a lover of nature; but he was not the companion of my studies in the scenes of nature. He views her from his window, or from the terrace of earth he had raised at the extremity of his garden; he mounted his horse for a tranquil excursion, and kept along the road which was sedulously formed for the use of travelers. His limbs were stiffened with age; and the was held in awe by the periodical intrusions of an unwelcome visitor, the gout. My limbs on the contrary were full of the springiness which characterizes the morning of life. I bounded along the plains, and climbed the highest eminences' I descended the most frightful declivities, and often penetrated into recesses which had perhaps never before felt the presence of a human creature. I rivaled the goat, the native of the mountains, in agility and daring. My only companion was a dog, who by familiarity had acquired habits similar to mine. In our solitary rambles we seemed to have a certain sympathy with each other; and, when I rested occasionally from the weariness of my exertions, he came and lay down at my feet, and I often found relief in dalliance with this humble companion amid the uninhabited wilds which received me. Sometimes, when I foresaw an excursion of more than usual daring, I confined him at home; but then he would generally break loose in my absence, seek me among the mountains, and frequently meet me in my return. Sometimes I would tie him to a tree or a shrub, an leave him for hours: in theses cases he seemed to become a party in the implied compact between us, and waited in mute resignation till he saw me again.
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