Page images

ailments, heard their complaints, and often relieved their necessities. These are the bright features of those good old times, when

"All things that love the sun were out of doors; "

and of which, in sentimental poetry and idyllic politics, we hear so much; and of which, when looking. only on this aspect of its life, we almost regret the irrevocable departure, and mourn over the civilization which, in its ruthless progress, has swept them away.

But, as we well know, every medal has its reverse. Our good old forefathers were more renowned for their hearty, bluff manners, and for their generous hospitality, than for the amenities and kindlier feelings which make life a social delight and pleasure. The same age that witnessed the sports we have mentioned above, and which inspired Jonson, Herrick, and other of our old poets, to sing some of their finest lyrics, rejoiced also in the fullest display of the more brutal pastimes, calculated only to engender cruelty and indifference to the infliction of pain on some of the most useful of our domestic animals. Then flourished bear, bull, and badger-baiting, cockfighting, and other similar barbarous amusements. In those days kings wrote books of sport, and virgin queens amused their leisure hours in beholding dogs. and bears rend each other to pieces.

With the growth of our large towns, the developments of our modern civilization, and the spread and increase of education, and the consequent refinement

and elevation of the national tastes, these things have passed away; and with them the better and more praiseworthy practices. It is, however, useless and fruitless to mourn over their loss. We may regret that out-door exercise and field sports are not more cultivated than they are in our present social arrangements; we may and do regret our intense activity, and our entire engrossment in the mere getting of the daily bread; but we cannot regret that we have left the past so far behind us, that in our haste to escape from it, we have left much of its good unappropriated, and forsaken even some of its fair examples and worthy precepts. To seek for a restoration of the amusements of our ancestors would be vain. Each age must have its own: they must be in relation with the thoughts, the feelings, and the life of the people; and this is perhaps the reason why all modern dilettanti attempts to erect May-poles, to re-introduce morris-dancings and other such old festivities and amusements, have failed. They were not in accordance with the wants and requirements of the day, and did not, therefore, take root in the uncongenial soil in which it was sought to plant them.

We said that we did not mourn over the loss of these harmless and health-giving sports of our ancestors, and gave our chief reason why: while acknowledging to the full their benefits, we knew they could not be restored. The very nature of our civilization has changed. From an agricultural we have become a manufacturing nation. From a thoughtless, ignorant, and somewhat childlike people,

we are rapidly becoming a thoughtful, educated, and grown-up community. Notwithstanding the attempts of some modern historians to show the contrary, the mass of the nation were never in so good a condition as they are in the present time. Their health is better, their lives are worth more, and mortality is at a lower rate. In education they have made almost marvellous progress, although still much and dense ignorance remains. I, for one, have no belief in that perpetually recurring cry, that this is a degenerate age. It has always been so. Homer calls his a degenerate age; and no period of history can be found in which men were free from this tendency to praise an imaginary golden past at the expense of the present. In this calumniation of our own times we have no part; but firmly believe that the world never had a nobler, braver, finer, freer, and wiser age than this in which our lot is cast. With every other advancement are naturally coming the means of out-door recreation, in accordance with the spirit and feelings of the times. To keep up footballing in the centre of towns as their populations increased so much, and as the demands for every bit of ground so augmented, was out of the question. The requirement was to provide a means for such recreation as should not interfere with the new wants of society; and, after long waiting and much devising, this is being done. We are now bringing out public parks, arboretums, botanic gardens, and gymnasia; building baths and wash-houses; and providing many sources by which the people can take their families,

and sun themselves, amid the glorious and famous scenes of their glorious and famous England; getting health, strength, enjoyment, and love for the richlydeserving fatherland, without in anywise running the danger of being hardened by witnessing cruel sports, and sharing in brutal recreations.

We in no wise depreciate the means which are now happily being brought to the people's doors for their exercise and improvement. Of these they can partake daily; and the habit of doing so, either by a run in a park, a round at football, a game at cricket, quoits, or bowls, will be a blessing to the artisan and mechanic, almost equal in its good effects to that of a daily bath. Still we have our pet source of recreation, and that is the ramble. To make it possible for all to enjoy this thoroughly, and for all to ramble to the "Pleasant Spots and Famous Places" of our country, the railway comes with its blessed ministration of linking town to country, and of making the most distant friends join hands. This is our principal instrument of out-door enjoyment, and this source will furnish us with the means of advising all "what to do with fine weather."

It need scarcely be said that one of the chief characteristics, and probably the very chief advantage, of the present time, is the speed and care with which we are borne from place to place, and introduced to the wonders of nature lying far out of our usual sphere of existence. For all the purposes of social intercourse London and Edinburgh are closer neighbours than Birmingham and London once were. Great

Britain may now be truly said to be a land of one family, whose members, though scattered far from each other, are not without the means of speedy intercommunication; so that the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, may be sent to each other faster than the bird flies. In olden times men rarely left the village in which they were born; or, if perchance some one were compelled, for the purpose of seeking subsistence, to desert the old home, and bid farewell to the dear associations of childhood, it was almost an impossibility that he should ever behold them again, so difficult was travelling in those days. But now all classes of people go to and fro, and knowledge is increased. Places, which at one period of our history even the wealthy could never hope to see, are now thrown open to the means of the mechanic and the artisan. The myriads who visited the Great Exhibition, and who now visit the Crystal Palace every year, prove the services and the uses made of the railway by the people. In no other age could such structures have been raised, surpassing all that fairy tales tell us of Aladdin and others of their favourite heroes; and in no other age could any remunerative use have been made of them, even if their erection had been possible. Sydenham is a constant invitation to the people, and a permanent suggestion of "what to do with fine weather."

This is a long out for many; and can only be enjoyed at rare intervals. The busy man and the worker ask for less difficult means of employing their leisure in fine weather; and they have them.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »