Saturday, August 29, 2015

Enchantment of Gorse

Early summer - gorse in bloom
A fresh wind blew from the sea; the path led at a varying level along the down broken every here and there with projecting crags, boulders fallen from a crag above, and sudden walls of rock, where the sea has carved a narrow inlet. It was a pleasant path, but I had seen such views before in Devon, Yorkshire, or maybe elsewhere; nothing was strange save the aromatic whiffs of some thymy perfume that seemed to come from 
"The underflowers, which did enrich the ground 
With sweeter scents than in Arabia found." 
But somehow the path tempted me to a distance beyond my strength. I was tired of wide views that seemed just like what one had seen and known all one's life ; they seemed to remind me tiresomely of what I was trying to forget, that life itself was like to be hard and tiresome when I got back to it anon. I wanted to escape from this remembrance, and in another moment I should have been caught regretting the weird spirits of the shore. A stronger gust of wind, that it was a labour to battle with, put the crowning touch to my discontent. Just in front the down sank a little, a steep, green semi-circular arena faced the sea, and I struggled on to reach its shelter. Only a step or two beyond the ridge and the air was warm and still, like a June evening. I threw myself on the slope and felt the rapture of repose. I was under the lee of a flaming gorse bush, and the sweet shadowy fragrance stole upon the senses unawares; something ineffably sweet and subtle seemed to prevade the moveless air, the subtle sweetness was strange and new—were there spirits of the earth here as well as of the sea?
I forgot the weariness, and half raised myself to see whence this new wonder came. The clump that sheltered me was ablaze with the deepest orange-yellow bloom; each flowering spiky head was an abyss of warm, deep, odorous colour; furze like this, indeed, I had never seen before, every blossom large and open wide, and countless full open blossoms, jostling each other upon every stem, and the flowering stems jostling each other on the burning bush. I drew a big branch towards me, and drank like nectar a great draught of the pure sweet scent. But the sweet gorse is a treasure, not a mystery, and the first breath I drew on this spot was laden with a mystery of sweetness. I lay back upon the grass again with closed eyes, inviting the ethereal messenger, and my heart sank as for half a moment I waited in vain for the perplexing fragrance. I moved impatiently, and threw my arm back to make a pillow ; at the very moment something like fairy fingers seemed to pull my hair, and in a breath the scent was there again, and the simple magic of its being read. Mingled with the gorse, half choked by the robuster clumps, but thrusting its tender green leaves triumphantly through the cushions of the younger  plants, a very thicket of sweetbriar was growing all round, and the shoots I had crushed unknowingly were sending out their sweetest fragrance to mix with the simple nectar of the whin-bloom in a cunning draught of unearthly delicacy. Those may laugh at me who will, and count it strange to be thus moved by the breath of a passing scent, but my heart grew warm with love for those children of the warm, lone earth; they had shed.
The sunlit waves came to me with a startling and happy message that the outer world was fair, whether I saw it or no; bat the sweet-briar among the prickles challenged me to own a spiritual truth—the world was lovable, whether I saw why or no, and whether its sweetness was beloved—as by me to-day—or left unseon, undreamt of, through the lonely years.
Littell's Living Age, Volume 150
 edited by Eliakim Littell, Robert S. Littell

Beauty of the Grand Canyon from The Grand Canyon of Arizona By Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Hither, to this point of the chasm whence I am writing, long ago came Thomas Moran, the painter, and painted for the people of the United States that great scene which hangs in the capitol, and which only a few can as yet appreciate—the few who have beheld the wonderful spectacle. All others are bound to regard it as a luxurious lotus-dream of color and mystery.
Moran's great picture tells the truth as one sees the truth, gazing upon the scene with the poet's eyes and feeling its frightful grandeur with a poet's soul. Any other conception of it is worse than nothing—measurements, calculations, note-book loquacity, kodak mementos, all these vulgarize the impression of a thing too stupendous and too completely unique to furnish the mind with any direct and definite expression; and no one, save only Moran—certainly no artist of the pen—has found even approximate expression for the unique splendors, the fascination and the awe of this unparalleled scene.
But for a truth the finest effects here are altogether uncommunicable by brush or pen. They give themselves up only to the personal presence, and no painter or writer can do more than suggest what they are by indicating how they make him feel. You cannot paint a silence, nor a sound, nor an odor, nor an emotion, nor a sob. If you are skillful you may suggest them to the imagination but that is all, and Moran's fine picture does that admirably. It gives one sublime glimpse of that mysterious and abysmal repose, one irresistible suggestion of those vast and sublime silences, one amazing flash of that marvelous scheme of color, suggesting melody and fragrance. And that is all which human skill can convey by brush or pen.
This is certainly no scene to be boggled by your sign-painting blockhead of an artist, with complacent reliance on his compasses and perspective scale, and paint pot and palette. There is a great tragic soul in the scene, which the soul in the artist must clasp or fail utterly.

It is not the matchless immensity of it, I think, that overcomes you, but that your senses cannot quite encompass and analyze its unique and elusive quality. This great impassive thing that frightens you by its appalling immensity, that enthralls your imagination by the magic of its matchless beauty, that bewilders and mystifies your senses by the vague suggestion of fragrance and melody in its gorgeous purples, and by the vast, echoless silences of its Pompeiian reds and yellows, is inexorable and unresponsive to your puny emotions. That is what fills you with a nameless longing, a divine regret. That is what makes you sob unconsciously as you gaze off" into the abysmal, chromatic splendors of the scene. Your soul hungers for a sympathy which the great spectacle is too impassive, too inexorable, to yield. The inexorable always affects us like that in our psychic moods. The generous mind receives always a sensation of diffused pain from any spectacle or any emotion that baffles complete expression, and the divine pathos of this is as undefinable, as inexorable, as resistless as death—and as lovely as the hope of lifceverlasting.