FOUNTAINS AND SPRINGS

Is it true that our fountains and springs of sweet water are about to perish? A writer in Country Life says "Yes," that in parts of the Southern counties the hidden cisterns of the springs are now sucked dry, and that the engineers employed to bring the waters from these natural sources to the village or the farm lament that where formerly streams gushed out unbidden, they are now at pains to raise the needed water by all the resources of modern machinery. When the old fountains fail new sources are eagerly sought, and where science fails the diviner's art is called in to aid. At the Agricultural Show the water-diviner sits installed, surrounded by votive tablets picturing the springs discovered by his magic art; and County Councils quarrel with the auditors of local expenditure over sums paid for the successful employment of his mysterious gift.

It is not strange that the springs of England should still suggest a faint echo of Nature-worship. If rivers have their gods, fountains and springs have ever been held to be the home of divinities, beings who were by right of birth gods, even though, owing to circumstances, they did not move exactly in their circle. Procul a Jove, procul a fulgure may have been the thought ascribed by Greek fancy to the gracious beings who made their home by the springs, for whether in ancient Greece or in our Western island, they breathe the sense of peace, security, and quiet, and to them all living things, animal and human, come by instinct to enjoy the sense of refreshment and repose. A spring is always old and always new. It is ever in movement, yet constant, seldom greater and seldom less, in the case of most natural upspringing waters, syphoned from the deep cisterns of earth. Absolutely material, with no mystery in its origin, it impresses the fancy as a thing unaccountable, like the source of life embodied, something self-engendered. It has pulses, throbbing like the ebb and flow of blood. Its dancing bubbles, rising and bursting, image emotion. It is the only water always clear and sparkling. Streams gather mud, springs dispel it. They come pure from the depths, and never suffer the earth to gather where they leap from ground. They are the brightest and the cleanest things in Nature. From all time the polluter of a spring has been held accursed.

One of the sources of the Thames was a real spring, rising from the earth in a meadow, until the level of the subterranean water was reduced.

These suddenly uprising springs are not common in our country, and need seeking. Our poets, who borrowed from the classics all their epithets for natural fountains, wrongly applied them to our modest springs welling gently from the bosom of the earth. The springs of old Greece and Italy gushed spouting from the rocks or flowed like the fountains of Tivoli in falling sheets over dripping shoots of stone. Even a Greek of to-day never speaks of a "spring," because he seldom sees one. "Fountain" is the word used for all waters flowing from the earth, and the difference of words corresponds to a difference of fact. The springs of his land are fountains, waters gushing from the rock or flowing from caverns and channels in the hills. The fountains of Greece flow down from above, and do not bubble up from below. These are the waters that tell their presence by sound, and have been the natural models of all the drinking fountains ever built, - jets that, spouting in a rainbow curve, hollow out basins below them, cut in the marble floor, cool cisterns ever running over, at which demi-gods watered their horses, and the white feet of the nymphs were seen dancing at sundown.