While the young summer is just on the bloom, it will not be amiss to make use of this lovely time for a little homily pertaining to a personal matter — a dangerous subject — as between vanity on one part and to do justice on the other, and at the same time cover up a terrible defeat inflicted many years ago. The circumstances are recorded in one of the chapters on “Politics,” and will be fresh in the memory of the reader. At the time I was awfully cut up that the friends of my youth, the working-men of the Colne Valley, should join the wealthy men of the place to keep out one of their own order. I suppose it always was and always will be so. A prophet hath no honour in his own country; reward is not often given for honest work; and, worst of all, it seems as if the workers will never learn to help or support one of their own order, lest he should either get up or get on.
The men of England must give up this mean policy, and if they will and could but trust one another and do right, and ask only for reasonable things, then the destiny of England might be left in their hands for good. This it will be said is problematical. Very likely so; but one would like, in the sere and yellow leaf of life, to go down to the great unknown with a. sure and certain hope of better things, for the greatest happiness for the greatest number. And, above all, that the latter would have sense to be just, not only to each other, but to every other class in society. Reasonable in their demands, to do nothing to injure, but everything to improve or reform, and to let well alone. When they do this, one can depart in peace, but until that time comes let us rejoice together in the glories of a summer time, the length of days, the warmth of the sun, the sweetness of the flowers, and the melodious songs of the birds, who come from far and near to build their nests and watch their young, to sweeten our lovely valley, at once teaching us lessons of purity, honourable struggles with great difficulties, and determined perseverance to overcome them all.
Lives of great men (as well as little birds) all remind us that we can make life sublime if we only follow in the footsteps indicated, so that many a down-trodden soul just seeing may take heart again. In the sense of all who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to enjoy, what a happy land this would be! Some men are always after four pennyworth of copper, as if this were the end or ideal of life. Some will do anything to get it, and it is most painful what men will resort to for this purpose. Nothing could be more mistaken, for there is not one thing that lowers the human mind so much as when a poor mortal gets so low down as to make sordid metal his only god. Remember the rich and many of the so-called poor need grace to guard against this great danger. Happily one can say for the Colne Valley that many in all ranks of society have worked hard to promote the prosperity of the place; and what matters it if a little more of this world’s gear has stuck more to one than another? A good mind can richly “thoil” it, and a bad one is not worth considering.
Let us then get back to nature, all smiling, that we can hail each morn with rapture as the dawn ushers in each live-long day to witness our most beautiful scenery, which is a natural inheritance, belonging to the inhabitants of the earth. The lord in the mansion, the manufacturer in the hall, the professional in his woodbine cottage, and the worker at the loom, and all that is therein in this united combination are just as one. The open air is free. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. What a wonderful republic, the truest in the world, and that because Jehovah reigns in mercy, and nature is his true handmaid!
It is now in the merry month of May. How many garlands will be woven by nature’s own web to the universal delight of the whole world. How puny man’s vain efforts are compared with the joys of this delightful time! Carpets in the hall have no charm with these on nature’s own floor, and lose all their attraction, for in the open air all find one charm, new life, fresh hopes, and get sights of better things, that make this earth a heaven to those who will but see. Take just one little flower in June, viz., that of the wild rose found in our hedges. Could anything be so beautiful or sweet, so delicate or more lovely tinted, proving as it does that love in a cottage can be as pure and as sweet as that in the hall. Indeed, nature is the grand leveller of all human pretensions, making us all of one common stock, liable to the same sorrows, dividing the same joys, and driven to one common end or destiny.
Then let us drink and be merry while the summer lasts, for winter will come again with its colds, thick mists, drenching rain, wintry winds, and dark nights, to try the delicate, test the strong, sober the young, and perhaps finish the aged. No matter how, this will go on for ever as Tennyson says of the brook: —
“I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.
I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.
And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river;
For men may come and men may go.
But I go on for ever.”
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden