« PreviousContinue »
mile or two long. The higher ledges of other suitable cliffs would certainly be lined with white-breasted puffins, murres and razor-billed auks. The auks and murres stand up as if they were at a real review; but the puffins, or 'sea-parrots,' with their grotesque red beaks-like false noses at a fancy-dress ball-and pursy bodies set low on stumpy red legs, always look like a stage army in comic opera. And there's a deal of talking in the ranks; the puffins croak, the auks grunt, and the murres keep repeating their guttural name-'murre, murre.'
Now look along the sanctuary shore, where you have been hearing the plaintive 'ter-lee' of the plover, the triple whistle of the yellowleg, and the quick 'peet-weet' of the sandpiper or 'alouette.' In the season you will always find the little sandpipers running about like nimble atoms of the grey-brown beach, as if its very pebbles bred them. No birds have a more changeful appearance on the wing. Some distance off, with their backs to you, they are a mere swarm of black midges. But when, at the inner end of their loop of flight, they see you and turn, all together, they instantly flash white as gulls and large as swallows.
If you have a stealthy foot and a quick eye you will have a good chance of getting near my Great Blue Heron, when he is stooping forward over promising water, intent as any other angler over a likely pool. He is a splendid fellow, tall as you are when he stands on tip-toe looking out for danger. And I always enjoy his high disdain for the company of intrusive man, when he flaps silently away, with his grand head thrown back, his neck curved down, and his legs listlessly trailing. A very different bird is the clamorous Canada goose, or 'Outarde,' during migration. I would choose a likely spot for the lines of migration to pass over. On a still day you can hear the vibrant, penetrating honk! honk! long before the black, spreading V of the hurrying flock appears on the horizon. As they get nearer they sound more like a pack in full cry; and when they are overhead they might be a massmeeting ripe for a riot.
Very different, again, are the hawks and eagles. They would be represented by the osprey, which we call the 'fish hawk,' and the bald-headed eagle, who surely ought to be a sacred bird in the United States, because his image
appears on their adorable money. Of course, I would protect both killers and eagles, to give the same spice to sea and sky as the old robber barons used to give to the land. Besides, they help to preserve the balance of Nature, by destroying the weaklings; unlike the sportsman, who upsets it by killing off the finest specimens. It is a common sight enough, but one of unfailing interest, to watch an osprey hover expectantly, and then plunge, like a javelin, straight into the back of the fish he has marked down, checking his impetuous way, just as he reaches the water, by a tremendous downsweep of his wings and a simultaneous curve of his fanned-out tail. But the eagle beats this by swooping for the fish he makes the osprey drop, and catching it easily before it has reached the surface. Our eagles, however, do most of their own hunting, and prey on anything up to a goose three feet long and bulky in proportion. But it is not close at hand that the eagle looks his kingly best. I like to see him majestically at home in the high heavens, and to think of him as resting on nothing lower than a mountain peak lofty enough to wear the royal blue by right divine.
Such is the sanctuary I dream of-a place where man is passive and the rest of Nature active. But on each side of it I would have model game preserves, where man should not be allowed to interfere with the desirable natural balance of the species, but where, within this limit, he could exercise in sport that glorious instinct of the chase which he once had to exercise in earnest for his daily food. And first among all forms of sport I would choose harpooning-I mean real harpooning by hand alone; as I would entirely forbid the use of the modern battery or any other implement of commercial butchery. If you want proper sport, with a minimum of dependence on machinery and a maximum of demand on your own strong arm, clear eye and steady nerve, then try harpooning the white whale from a North-Shore canoe. To begin with, the canoe is, of all possible craft, the nearest to Nature. There is no apparatus between you and it and the water, except a paddle, and the paddle gets its fulcrum and leverage directly from your own body. Every motion-fast or slow, ahead, astern, or
veering is also directly due to your own bodily self. And your pleasure, your sport, and often your very life, entirely depend upon the courage, skill and strength with which you use your muscles. The canoe must be seaworthy enough to ride out a storm; yet light enough for two men to handle in all circumstances, and for one man to handle alone when working for a throw. If you would see man to perfection as a beast of prey, take the stern paddle and watch the harpooner forward -his every faculty intent, his every muscle full-charged for a spring, and his whole tense body the same to the harpoon as the bow is to the arrow. But if you would actually feel what it is to be this human bow and arrow, you had better begin by making sure that you are absolutely at home in a canoe in all emergencies. Then take the harpoon and poise it so that the rocking water, your comrade in the stern, the mettlesome canoe, yourself, your line and your harpoon can all become one single point of energy whenever that sudden white-domed gleam tells you the whale is head-on and close-to for just one thrilling flash of a second.
Thus sanctuaries and game preserves have each their own peculiar interests and delights. But there is one supreme interest and delight they share together. This is the Pageant of Evolution-a pageant now being played under the eye of the flesh, but only as part of an infinitely greater whole, that began we know not when or where, that is tending we know not whither, and that will end we know not how. It is a pageant always growing greater and greater, as the mind's eye finds higher and ever higher points of view. And it is a pageant with the same setting all over the world-except on the St Lawrence. I have dwelt on this difference before; but I return to it because it gives us one deep note of significance that is lacking everywhere else. It consists, of course, in the immeasurable age of the Laurentians, which, being older than Life, are, therefore, a land coeval with the sea and sky. Think of this triune stage of sky and sea and primal land, set up by God so long before He put His creatures here, those millions of years ago! Then watch the actors. First, and slowest of all in their simplicity, the plants; and animals so lowly that they have hardly got beyond the frontiers of the
vegetable kingdom. Next, the rest of the immense subkingdom of Invertebrata. And, after them, the fishes and reptilia, and the birds, who are directly of reptilian origin. And then the mammals, who, after infinite travail, have produced one species which we, in our human conceit, call homo sapiens.
With man we come back again to history. And the St Lawrence is historic, so historic, indeed, that the mere names on its roll of honour are alone enough to stir the hearts of all who live along its shores. Think of the names-Cabot, who raised St George's Cross over the Laurentian seaboard before Columbus ever saw the mainland of America; Cartier, who discovered, explored, and named the St Lawrence itself, then and long afterwards known to all Indians by the magnificently simple titles of The Great River' and 'The River of Canada'; Champlain, who founded Quebec and New France; Wolfe and Montcalm, the heroes of the fight for French or British empire; Frontenac, Carleton and Brock, the three saviours of Canada from three American invasions; the 'Fathers of Confederation,' who nearly made a Kingdom of Canada instead of a Dominion; the men of the South African contingents, who helped to wage the first allGreater-British war. These are the men and events whose names will go down to posterity, when all the merely material triumphs over which we make so much ado will be as totally forgotten as such triumphs have always been before, except in so far as they formed part of things beyond and above themselves.
Not many Laurentian devotees believe that any great love of higher ends will soon grow out of the lower means of to-day. But still these few work on in the faith that an appreciative posterity may be brought a little nearer by what they are doing now, that this 'Great River,' this 'River of Canada,' will some time give birth to the genius who will reveal its soul, and that its people will then divine its presences of Nature, see the visions of its everlasting hills, and be themselves regenerate in the consecration and the dream of it for ever.
Vol. 216.-No. 431.
Art. 6.-THACKERAY AND THE ENGLISH NOVEL.
THE historical development of the story, whether it take the form of epic, drama or novel, has been one from incident to character. In the matter of drama, Aristotle, as is well known, laid the main stress on plot, whereas it is the function of a modern critic, like Prof. C. E. Vaughan, in his admirable work, Types of Tragic Drama,' to point out that the balance has now shifted, and that in the drama of the modern world the main interest is not that of plot but that of character. And this is true whether we look at Shakespeare and the Romantics or at the classical tragedy of Racine or Alfieri. But the general law is really not so conspicuous in drama as it is in poetry and the novel. It is even obvious, for instance, that there is more study of character in Aeschylus and Sophocles, to say nothing of Euripides, than there is in the drama of Victor Hugo. The truth is that we do not possess any important drama-if any ever existed-of the period before character became an important interest. Directly Aeschylus, in the famous chorus, denied the accepted theory that prosperity causes the wrath of the gods and produces ruin, directly he proclaimed the new doctrine that it was never wealth or happiness, but always and only sin, that brought upon men the Divine anger, the really decisive step was taken. Man had become the architect of his own fate; character had become destiny; and incident, the fact or event in itself, the thing that just happens to a man irrespective of what he is, had been displaced by the greater interest of the deed which issues from a man's personality and results in his weal or woe, his life or death. No doubt the lesson was very insufficiently learned. The plays of the Middle Age, for instance, were, on the whole, childish things. But the very compactness of its form makes it more difficult for the drama than for the story in verse or prose to be satisfied with what one may call externality. It is on too small a scale to be able, like the medieval