WALK TO OAKHAM - THE ENGLISH AND AMERICAN SPRING - THE ENGLISH GENTRY - A SPECIMEN OF THE CLASS - MELTON MOWBRAY AND ITS SPECIALITIES - BELVOIR VALE AND ITS BEAUTY - THOUGHTS ON THE BLIND PAINTER.
From Stamford to Oakham was an afternoon walk which I greatly enjoyed. This was the first week of harvest, and the first of August. How wonderfully the seasons are localised and subdivided. How diversified is the economy of light and heat! That field of wheat, thick, tall and ripe for the sickle, was green and apparently growing through all the months of last winter. What a phenomenon it would have been, on the first of February last, to a New England farmer, suddenly transported from his snow-buried hills to the view of this landscape the same day! Not a spire of grass or grain was alive when he left his own homestead. All was cold and dead. The very earth was frozen to the solidity and sound of granite. It was a relief to his eye to see the snow fall upon the scene and hide it two feet deep for months. He looks upon this, then upon the one he left behind. This looks full of luxuriant life, as green as his in May. It has three months' start of his dead and buried crop. He walks across it; his shoes sink almost to the instep in the soft soil. He sees birds hopping about in it without overcoats. Surely, he says to himself, this is a favored land. Here it lies on the latitudes of Labrador, and yet its midwinter fields are as green as ours in the last month of Spring. At this rate the farmers here must harvest their wheat before the ears of mine are formed. But he counts without Nature. The American sun overtakes and distances the English by a full month. Here is the compensation for six consecutive months in which the New England farmer must house his plough and not turn a furrow.
Doubtless, as much light and heat brighten and warm one country as the other in the aggregate of a year. But there is a great difference in the economy of distribution. In England, the sun spreads its warmth more evenly over the four seasons of the year. What it withholds from Summer it gives to Winter, and makes it wear the face of Spring through its shortest and coldest days. But then Spring loses a little from this equalising dispensation. It is not the resurrection from death and the grave as it is in America. Children are not waiting here at the sepulchre of the season, as with us, watching and listening for its littleBluebird angel to warble from the first budding tree top, "It is risen!" They do not come running home with happy eyes, dancing for joy, and shouting through the half open door, "O, mother, Spring has come! We've heard the Bluebird! Hurrah! Spring has come. We saw the Phebee on the top of the saw-mill!" Here Spring makes no sensation; takes no sudden leap into the seat of Winter, but comes in gently, like the law of primogeniture or the British Constitution. It is slow and decorous in its movements. It is conservative, treats its predecessor with much deference, and makes no sudden and radical changes in the face of things. It comes in with no Lord Mayor's Day, and blows no trumpets, and bends no triumphal arches to grace its entree. Few new voices in the tree-tops hail its advent. No choirs of tree-toads fiddle in the fens. No congregation of frogs at twilight gather to the green edges of the unfettered pond to sing their Old Hundred, led by venerable Signor Cronker, in his bright, buskin doublet, mounted on a floating stump, and beating time with a bulrush. No Shad-spirits with invisible wings, perform their undulating vespers in the heavens, to let the fishermen know that it is time to look to their nets. Even the hens of the farm-yard cackle with no new tone of hope and animation at the birth of the English Spring. The fact is, it is a baby three months old when it is baptised. It is really born at Christmas instead of Easter, and makes no more stir in the family circle of the seasons than any familiar face would at a farmer's table.