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Copyright, 1891, 1893, 1898, by Dcdd, Mead, and Company

The University Press, Cambridge, U. S. A.


Go with me : if you like, upon report,
The soil, the profit, and this kind of life,
I will your very faithful factor be,
And buy it with your gold right suddenly




Under the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither

Rosalind had just laid a spray of
apple blossoms on the study table*

"Well," I said, "when shall we
start ?"

44 To-morrow/'

Rosalind has a habit of swift deci
sion when she has settled a question
in her own mind, and I was not sur
prised when she replied with a single
decisive word* But she also has a
habit of making thorough preparation
for any undertaking, and now she was
quietly proposing to go off for the
summer the very next day, and not a
trunk was packed, not a seat secured
in any train, not a movement made
toward any winding up of household
affairs. I had great faith in her ability
to execute her plans with celerity,
but I doubted whether she could be
ready to turn the key in the door, bid
farewell to the milkman and the
butcher, and start the very next day

for the Forest of Arden. For several
past seasons we had planned this bold
excursion into a country which few
persons have seemed to know much
about since the day when a poet of
great fame, familiar with many strange
climes and peoples, found his way
thither and shared the golden fortune of
his journey with all the world. Winter
after winter, before the study fire, we
had made merry plans for this trip
into the magical forest; we had dis
cussed the best methods of travelling
where no roads led; we had enjoyed
in anticipation the surmises of our
neighbours concerning our unexplained
absence, and the delightful mystery
which would always linger about us
when we had returned, with memories
of a landscape which no eyes but ours
had seen these many years, and of
rare and original people whose voices
had been silent in common speech so

many generations that only a few
dreamers like ourselves even remem
bered that they had ever spoken. We
had looked along the library shelves
for the books we should take with us,
until we remembered that in that coun
try there were books in the running
streams. Rosalind had gone so far as
to lay aside a certain volume of ser
mons whose aspiring note had more
than once made music of the momen
tary discords of her life ; but I reminded
her that such a work would be strangely
out of place in a forest where there were
sermons in stones. Finally we had de
cided to leave books behind and go free-
minded as well as free-hearted. It had
been a serious question how much and
what apparel we should take with us,
and that point was still unsettled when
le trees came to their blossom-


ing. It is a theory of
chief delight of a

that the

vacation from one's

usual occupations is freedom from
the tyranny of plans and dates, and
thus much Rosalind had conceded to


There had been an irresistible charm
\ in the very secrecy which protected our
> adventure from the curious and unsym-
) pathetic comment of the world. We
found endless pleasure in imagining
| what this and that good neighbour of
I ours would say about the folly of leav-
| ing a comfortable house, good beds, and
v a well-stocked larder for the hard fare
| and uncertain shelter of a strange forest.
" For my part," we gleefully heard Mrs.
Grundy declare, "for my part, I can
not understand why two people old
enough to know better should make
tramps of themselves and go rambling
about a piece of woods that nobody
ever heard of, in the heat of the mid
summer." Poor Mrs. Grundy! We
could well afford to laugh merrily at

her scornful expostulations; for while
she was repeating platitudes to over
dressed and uninteresting people at Old-
port, we should be making sunny play
of life with men and women whose
thoughts were free as the wind, and
whose hearts were fresh as the dew
and the stars. And often when our talk
had died into silence, and the wind with
out whistled to the fire within, we had
fallen to dreaming of those shadowy
aisles arched by the mighty trees, and
of the splendid pageant that should
make life seem as great and rich as
Nature herself* I confess that all my
dreams came to one ending; that I
should suddenly awake in some golden
hour and really know Rosalind* Of
course I had been coming, through all
these years, to know something about
Rosalind; but in this busy world, with
work to be done, and bills to be paid,
and people to be seen, and journeys to

be made, and friction and worry and
fatigue to be borne, how can we really
come to know one another ? We may
meet the vicissitudes and changes side
by side ; we may work together in the
long days of toil ; our hearts may repose
on a common trust, our thoughts travel
a common road ; but how rarely do we
come to the hour when the pressure of
toil is removed, the clouds of anxiety
melt into blue sky, and in the whole
world nothing remains but the sun on
the flower, and the song in the trees,
and the unclouded light of love in the

I dreamed, too, that in finding Rosa
lind I should also find myself. There
were times when I had seemed on the
very point of making this discovery, I
but something had always turned me |
aside when the quest was most eager
and promising ; the world pressed into
the seclusion for which I had struggled,

and when I waited to hear its faintest
murmur die in the distance, suddenly the
tumult had risen again, and the dream
of self-communion and self-knowledge
had vanished* To get out of the uproar
and confusion of things, I had often fan
cied, would be like exchanging the dusty
mid-summer road for the shade of the
woods where the brook calms the day
with its pellucid note of effortless flow,
and the hours hide themselves from
the glances of the sun* In the Forest of
Arden I felt sure I should find the repose,
the quietude, the freedom of thought,
which would permit me to know my
self* There, too, I suspected Nature
had certain surprises for me; certain
secrets which she has been holding
back for the fortunate hour when her
spell would be supreme and unbroken.
I even hoped that I might come una
ware upon that ancient and perennial
movement of life upon which I seemed



always to happen the very second after
it had been suspended; that I might
hear the note of the hermit thrush
breaking out of the heart of the forest ;
the soulful melody of the nightingale,
pathetic with unappeasable sorrow. In
the Forest of Arden, too, there were
unspoiled men and women, as indiffer
ent to the fashion of the world and
I the folly of the hour as the stars to the
| impalpable mist of the clouds ; men and
| women who spoke the truth, and saw
the fact, and lived the right; to whom
I love and faith and high hopes were
more real than the crowns of which
they had been despoiled, and the king-
|doms from which they had been re
jected. All this I had dreamed, and I
know not how many other brave and
beautiful dreams, and I was dreaming
them again when Rosalind laid the
apple blossoms on the study table, and
answered, decisively, " To-morrow."

" To-morrow," I repeated, "to-mor
row* But how are you going to
get ready ? If you sit up all night you
cannot get through with the packing.
You said only yesterday that your
summer dressmaking was shame
fully behind* My dear, next week
is the earliest possible time for our

Rosalind laughed archly, and pushed
the apple blossoms over the wofully
interlined manuscript of my new article
on Egypt* There was in her very
attitude a hint of unsuspected buoyancy
and strength; there was in her eyes
a light which I have never seen under
our uncertain skies. The breath of the
apple blossoms filled the room, and a
bobolink, poised on a branch outside
the window, suddenly poured a rap
turous song into the silence of the
sweet spring day* I laid down my
pen, pushed my scattered sheets into

the portfolio, covered the inkstand, and mKXSi ^-
laid my hand in hers, " Not to-mor
row/' I said, "not to-morrow. Let us

Now go we in content

To liberty and not to banishment

I have sometimes entertained myself
by trying to imagine the impressions
which our modern life would make
upon some sensitive mind of a remote
age. I have fancied myself rambling
about New York with Montaigne,
and taking note of his shrewd, satirical
comment* I can hardly imagine him
expressing any feeling of surprise, much
less any sentiment of admiration; but
I am confident that under a masque of
ironical self-complacency the old Gascon
would find it difficult to repress his
astonishment, and still more difficult to
adjust his mind to evident and impres
sive changes. I have ventured at times
to imagine myself in the company of
another more remote and finely organ
ised spirit of the past, and pictured to
myself the keen, dispassionate criticism of
Pericles on the things of modern habit
and creation; I have listened to his
luminous interpretations of the changed

conditions which he saw about him; I
have noted his unconcern toward the
merely material advances of society, his
penetrative insight into its intellectual
and moral developments. A mind so

; capacious and open, a nature so trained
and poised, could not be otherwise

' than self-contained and calm even in


the presence of changes so vast and
t manifold as those which have trans-
: formed society since the days of the
I great Athenian; but even he could not
I be quite unmoved if brought face to
I face with a life so unlike that with
which he had been familiar; there
must come, even to one who feels
|jj| the mastery of the soul over all con
ditions, a certain sense of wonder and

It was with some such feeling that
Rosalind and I found ourselves in the
Forest of Arden. The journey was so
soon accomplished that we had no time I

to accustom ourselves to the changes
between the country we had left and
that to which we had come. We had
always fancied that the road would be
long and hard, and that we should
arrive worn and spent with the fatigues
of travel. We were astonished and de
lighted when we suddenly discovered
that we were within the boundaries of
the Forest long before we had begun
to think of the end of our journey. We
had said nothing to each other by the
way; our thoughts were so busy that
we had no time for speech. There were
no other travellers; everybody seemed
to be going in the opposite direction;
and we were left to undisturbed medi
tation. The route to the Forest is one
of those open secrets which whosoever
would know must learn for himself; it
is impossible to direct those who do not
discover for themselves how to make
the journey. The Forest is probably

the most accessible place on the face
of the earth, but it is so rarely visited
that one may go half a lifetime without
meeting a person who has been there,
I have never been able to explain the
fact that those who -have spent some
time in the Forest, as well as those
who are later to see it, seem to recog
nise each other by instinct, Rosalind
and I happen to have a large circle of
acquaintances, and it has been our good
fortune to meet and recognise many who
were familiar with the Forest, and who
were able to tell us much about its
localities and charms. It is not gener
ally known, and it is probably wise
not to emphasise the fact, that the for
tunate few who have access to the
Forest form a kind of secret fraternity;
a brotherhood of the soul which is secret
because those alone who are qualified for
membership by nature can understand
either its language or its aims. It is a

very strange thing that the dwellers in
the Forest never make the least attempt
at concealment, but that, no matter how
frank and explicit their statements may
be, nobody outside the brotherhood ever
(understands where the Forest lies, or
| what one finds when he gets there.
One may write what he chooses about
life in the Forest, and only those whom
Nature has selected and trained will
understand what he discloses; to all
others it will be an idle tale or a fairy
story for the entertainment of peo
ple who have no serious business in

I remember well the first time I ever

understood that there is a Forest of

Arden, and that they who choose may

wander through its arched aisles of

[shade and live at their will in its deep

; and beautiful solitude; a solitude in

: which nature sits like a friend from

whose face the veil has been with-

drawn, and whose strange and foreign
utterance has been exchanged for the
most familiar speech. Since that memo
rable afternoon under the apple trees I
have never been far from the Forest,
although at times I have lost sight of
the line which its foliage makes against
the horizon. I have always intended
to cross that line some day, and to ex
plore the Forest; perhaps even to make
a home for myself there. But one's
dreams must often wait for their reali
sation, and so it has come to pass that
I have gone all these years without
personal familiarity with these beautiful
scenes. I have since learned that one
never comes to the Forest until he is
thoroughly prepared in heart and mind,
and I understand now that I could not
have come earlier even if I had made
the attempt. As it happened, I con
cerned myself with other things, and
never approached very near the Forest,

although never very far from it. I was
never quite happy unless I caught fre
quent glimpses of its distant boughs,
and I searched more and more eagerly
for those who had left some record of
their journeys to the Forest, and of
their life within its magical boundaries.
I discovered, to my great joy, that the
libraries were full of books which had
much to say about the delights of
Arden: its enchanting scenery; the
music of its brooks; the sweet and
refreshing repose of its recesses; the
noble company that frequent it. I soon
found that all the greater poets have
been there, and that their lines had
caught the magical radiance of the sky;
and many of the prose writers showed
the same familiarity with a country in
which they evidently found whatever
was sweetest and best in life. I came
to know at last those whose knowledge
of Arden was most complete, and I put

them in a place by themselves; a cor
ner in the study to which Rosalind
and I went for the books we read to
gether* I would gladly give a list of
these works but for the fact I have
already hinted that those who would
understand their references to Arden
will come to know them without aid
from me. and that those who would
not understand could find nothing in
them even if I should give page and
paragraph. It was a great surprise to
me, when I first began to speak of the
Forest, to find that most people scouted
the very idea of such a country; many
did not even understand what I meant.
Many a time, at sunset, when the light
has lain soft and tender on the distant
Forest, I have pointed it out, only to be
told that what I thought was the Forest
was a splendid pile of clouds, a shining
mass of mist. I came to understand at
last that Arden exists only for a few,

and I ceased to talk about it save to
:j those who shared my faith. Gradually
1 1 came to number among my friends
many who were in the habit of making
*| frequent journeys to the Forest, and
Jjnot a few who had spent the greater
| part of their lives there, I remember
lithe first time I saw Rosalind I saw
nthe light of the Arden sky in her

jieyes, the buoyancy of the Arden air
Kin her step, the purity and freedom of
I the Arden life in her nature. We built
iour home within sight of the Forest,

[and there was never a day that we
jdid not talk about and plan our long-
^J delayed journey thither,

"After all/' said Rosalind, on that

| first glorious morning in Arden, "as I

jlook back I see that we were always

'on the way here."


Well, this is the Forest of Arden

The first sensation that comes to
one who finds himself at last within
the boundaries of the Forest of Arden
is a delicious sense of freedom. I am
not sure that there is not a certain
sympathy with outlawry in that first
exhilarating consciousness of having
gotten out of the conventional world,
the world whose chief purpose is
that all men shall wear the same coat,
eat the same dinner, repeat the same
polite commonplaces, and be forgotten
at last under the same epitaph. Forests
have been the natural refuge of outlaws
from the earliest time, and among the
most respectable persons there has al
ways been an ill-concealed liking for
Robin Hood and the whole fraternity
of the men of the bow. Truth is above
all things characteristic of the dwellers
in Arden, and it must be frankly con
fessed at the beginning, therefore, that
the Forest is given over entirely to

outlaws; those who have committed
some grave offence against the world
of conventions, or who have voluntarily
gone into exile out of sheer liking for a
freer life* These persons are not vulgar
law-breakers ; they have neither blood
on their hands nor ill-gotten gains in
their pockets ; they are, on the contrary,
people of uncommonly honest bearing
and frank speech. Their offences evi
dently impose small burden on their
conscience, and they have the air of
those who have never known what it
is to have the Furies on one's track.
Rosalind was struck with the charming
naturalness and gaiety of every one
we met in our first ramble on that
delicious and never-to-be-forgotten morn
ing when we arrived in Arden. There
was neither assumption nor diffidence;
there was rather an entire absence of
any kind of self-consciousness. Rosa
lind had fancied that we might be quite




to have a few days to ourselves. We
had even planned in our romantic mo
ments and there is always a good
deal of romance among the dwellers in
Arden a continuation of our wedding
journey during the first week.

"It will be so much more delightful
than before/' suggested Rosalind, "be
cause nobody will stare at us, and we
shall have the whole world to our
selves." In that last phrase I recog
nised the ideal wedding journey, and
was not at all dismayed at the prospect
of having no society but Rosalind's for
a time. But all such anticipations were
dispelled in an hour. It was not that
we met many people, it is one of the
delights of the Forest that one finds
society enough to take away the sense
of isolation, but not enough to destroy
the sweetness of solitude ; it was rather
that the few we met made us feel at

once that we had equal claim with
themselves on the hospitality of the!
place. The Forest was not only freefl
to every comer, but it evidently gave|
peculiar pleasure to those who were!
living in it to convey a sense of owner
ship to those who were arriving for
the first time* Rosalind declared that
she felt as much at home as if she
had been born there; and she added
that she was glad she had brought
only the dress she wore. I was a
little puzzled by the last remark; it
seemed not entirely logical. But I
saw presently that she was expressing
the fellowship of the place, which for
bade that one should possess anything!
that was not in use, and that, there-:
fore, was not adding constantly to the;
common stock of pleasure. Concerning
the feeling of having been born in
Arden, I became convinced later that!
there was good reason for believing



that everybody who loved the place
had been born there, and that this fact
explained the home feeling which came
to one the instant he set foot within
the Forest. It is, in fact, the only place
I have known which seemed to belong
to me and to everybody else at the
same time; in which I felt no alien
influence. In our own home I had
something of the same feeling, but
when I looked from a window or set
foot from a door I was instantly op
pressed with a sense of foreign owner
ship. In the great world how little
could I call my own! Only a few
feet of soil out of the measureless land
scape; only a few trees and flowers
out of all that boundless foliage! I
seemed driven out of the heritage to
which I was born; cheated out of my
birthright in the beauty of the field and
the mystery of the Forest ; put off with
the beggarly portion of a younger son

when I ought to have fallen heir to
the kingdom. My chief joy was that
from the little space I called my own
I could see the whole heavens ; no
man could rob me of that splendid

In Arden, however, the question of
ownership never comes into one's
thoughts; that the Forest belongs to
you gives you a deep joy, but there
is a deeper joy in the consciousness
that it belongs to everybody else.

The sense of freedom, which comes
as strongly to one in Arden as the
smell of the sea to one who has made
a long journey from the inland, hints,
I suppose, at the offence which makes
the dwellers within its boundaries out
laws* For one reason or another, they
have all revolted against the rule of
the world, and the world has cast
them out. They have offended smug
respectability, with its passionless de-

votion to deportment; they have out
raged conventional usage, that carefully
devised system by which small natures
attempt to bring great ones down to
their own dimensions; they have scan
dalised the orthodoxy which, like Mem-
non, has lost the music of its morning,
and marvels that the world no longer
listens; they have derided venerable
prejudices, those ugly relics by which
some men keep in remembrance their
barbarous ancestry; they have refused
to follow flags whose battles were won
or lost ages ago; they have scorned to
compromise with untruth, to go with
the crowd, to acquiesce in evil " for the
good of the cause/* to speak when they
ought to keep silent, and to keep silent
when they ought to speak. Truly the
lists of sins charged to the account of
Arden is a long one, and were it not
that the memory of the world, concerned
chiefly with the things that make for

its comfort, is a short one, it would go
ill with the lovers of the Forest* More
than once it has happened that some
offender has suffered so long a banish^
ment that he has taken permanent
refuge in Arden, and proved his citi
zenship there by some act worthy of
Hits glorious privileges. In the Forest
one comes constantly upon traces of
$j those who, like Dante and Milton, have
\ I found there a refuge from the Philis-
IJtinism of a world that often hates its
I children in exact proportion to their
lability to give it light. For the most
i part, however, the outlaws who frequent
'the Forest suffer no longer banishment
'than that which they impose on them-
i selves. They come and go at their
iown sweet will; and their coming, I
isuspect, is generally a matter of their i
[own choosing. The world still loves
! darkness more than light ; but it rarely
i nowadays falls upon the lantern-bearer


and beats the life out of him, as in
the good old times/' The world has
grown more decent and polite, although
still at heart no doubt the bad old world
which stoned the prophets. It sneers
where it once stoned; it rejects and
scorns where it once beat and burned.
And so Arden has become a refuge,
I not so much from persecution and
I hatred as from ignorance, indifference,
i and the small wounds of small minds
| bent upon stinging that which they
! cannot destroy.


. . . Fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the
golden world

Rosalind and I have always been
planning to do a great many pleasant
things when we had more time* Dur
ing the busy days when we barely
found opportunity to speak to each
other we were always thinking of the
better days when we should be able to
sit hours together with no knock at the
door and no imperative summons from
the kitchen. Some man of sufficient
eminence to give his words currency
ought to define life as a series of inter
ruptions. There are a good many
valuable and inspiring things which
can only be done when one is in the

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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieIn the forest of Arden → online text (page 1 of 4)