Not sure where this came from or what it was. It appears to be a literary magazine but is not the literary magazine The Open Window published in London by Locke Ellis from 1910 onwards with contributions by Edward Thomas, E.M. Forster, George Bourne, Katherine Mansfield, Maxwell Armfield, Douglas Goldring, W.H. Davies, Geoffrey Whitworth, Lord Dunsany, John Drinkwater, Walter de la Mare and Vivian Locke Ellis etc., The article, of some competence, quotes among other George Borrow, Kipling, W.E. Henley and F. Marion Crawford...
There could hardly be a more fitting time to say something about this primitive impulse than now, when maps and guide-books are taken down from shelves; when bicycles, botanical vascular, and geological hammers are brought out from their places of concealment, and we lift up our eyes to the hills.
The true “joie de vivre” I take to be the satisfaction of an instinct for communion with Nature, an instinct which, implanted in the bosoms of our ancestors during the long ages before cities were existent, has not yet died completely away in their more artificial descendants, and which, at certain periods, seizes upon some of us with an almost irresistible power.
After living during many months in dingy offices or class-rooms, poring over musty tomes, and hearing through our windows nothing but the lugubrious cry of the coal man, the discordant tinkle of the barrel-organ, or other of the multiform phases of the “brouhaha des rues”–sounds having relation to nothing more than the distracting life of this “man-made” town–suddenly some small note may be heard, or an odor of spring may be felt, or a green blade seen growing in a cranny of the wall–some sight or sound, small in itself, but mighty in the mental effect it evokes; for, in a moment, this ancient primaeval instinct grips us by the heart-strings, and we resolve–to take a holiday.
In Marion Crawford’s “Cigarette Maker’s Romance” there is a wonderful passage describing the annual wild rush of the reindeer to drink the salt water of the Arctic Sea. As their blood cries out for the essential chloride, so in spring does that of the city-dweller for the ozone of the hills.
I hear lake-water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway or on the pavement gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
It is a problem whether eventually this Nature-impulse may not die away completely; if Nature be finally eclipsed by Art, and if life be, as Spencer says, nothing more than “the continual adjustment of internal to external relations,” a day will come when there will be no room for the man who wants to feel this “joie de vivre,” when he will be eliminated by the hard heel of Natural Selection. Happily for us, that day, if it come at all, will not be in our time; the man who loves Nature, and gives some of his spare time to her cult, can still hold his own in the struggle for existence. Indeed, we would go further, and say that in many, if not most walks of life, the man who can afford a regular, even if short, daily period of “return to Nature” is more fitted for his complex social duties than are his brethren who never quit the asphalt.
To many this instinct is so strong that they cannot abide the town even for the working months of the year; they may come into town for holiday, or to meet their friends, but during the time of their sojourn therein they are filled with a constant vague unrest–the “Call of the Wild”–which can only be allayed by a return to the hills and fields.
Urban civilisation is still too much in a transition stage; its elements are simmering in a heterogenous and ever-changing maze, whereof no man can yet trace with any confidence what will be the final and organic form. Indeed, this civilisation of ours is not merely in the process of adapting itself to a fixed and definite milieu–the milieu is itself constantly changing, and, in its wake, our civilisation can only follow with faltering and groping steps.
To the suburban shopkeeper, to the man in the street, whose outlook is bounded by the narrow horizon of his trade interests, who practices, with complete satisfaction, the narrowest forms of egoism for six days in the week, flavoured by the profession of absolute love for all men on the seventh–to such a one, no doubt, civilisation can hardly be said to offer any “problems” at all–that is to say, he is little troubled by doubts; his whole “problem” is to make money–for self and family–and to that end he applies his whole vital energy.
But there are others–of finer mould–to whom this concept of “town”–an attempt to understand the phenomena comprehended in that word, to realise the true duties involved in its citizenship–is too oppressive to be borne. Unable to arrive at a moment’s mental rest among its thronging questions, they flee for peace to a more simple and comprehensible civilisation–to a country community.
Some, then, are driven to live in the country by an ancestral impulse, some by fear of the town. The average sensible man, if his calling leads him to reside during his working days in the city, will realise that an occasional excursion out with the walls, even if, possibly, it be slightly prejudicial to the immediate task of money-making, will have the effect of making him an infinitely better man; it will strengthen him physically; it will suggest to him a hundred new and interesting problems; it will kindle the spark of his dormant aesthetic appreciations into a glow; it will teach him that he has a soul–in short, it will give him a taste of the “joie de vivre.”
How near to Nature were Borrow’s heroes the gipsies! Listen how Jasper reasoned with the despondent Lavengro.
“Life is sweet, brother.”
“Do you think so?”
“Think so! There’s a night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun moon, and stars, brother all sweet things; there’s likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?”
“I would wish to die.”
“You talk like a gorgio–which is the same as talking like a fool; were you a Romany Chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die indeed! A Romany Chal would wish to live for ever!”
“In sickness, Jasper?”
“There’s the sun and stars, brother.”
“In blindness, Jasper?”
“There’s the wind on the heath, brother.”
How poor Henley, lying in his sick-bed in the Old Edinburgh Infirmary, felt the impulse grip him as the year awoke:
Thro’ my grimy little window,
And a shaft of sunshine pushes
Thro’ the shadows in the square.
Dogs are tracing thro’ the grass,
Crows are cawing round the chimneys.
O, the Spring–the Spring–the Spring.”
An extension of this mere longing for country life is the wandering impulse–Kipling’s “go-fever,” the “Drang in die Ferne”–that which first impelled the Vikings to our coasts, which drove the Elizabethan mariners all through the Seven Seas, and which now lures the fur-clad explorer across the northern ice-fields towards “the realm of the boreal pole.”
I would suggest that the mere love of Nature, so marked in the Briton, is of Celtic origin, while his well-known travelling proclivities are rather inherited from his Germanic ancestors: the Celt is sensuous, poetical, aesthetic; the Teuton is curious, scientific, logical, precise.
Kipling well expressed that “Wanderlust” which becomes rejuvenated in the spring:
“Now the Four-way Lodge is opened, now the hunting winds are loose,
Now the smokes of spring go up to clear the brain;
Now the young men’s hearts are troubled for the whisper of the trues,
Now the Red Gods make their medicine again!
He must go–go–go away from here!
On the other side the world he’s overdue.
Your road is clear before you when the old spring-fret comes o’er you,
And the Red Gods call for you!”