Robert of The Solitary Walker (see my blog list) wrote such an interesting post yesterday. He wrote of the history, landscape and literature and how they continually influence his view of the English Countryside and were the gateways" to his understanding of it. If you haven't already read it, do pop over and have a read - it is such food for thought. It certainly put me in pensive mood for the rest of the day. I do so agree with him.
Had it not been for the birth of the Romantic movement in the mid eighteenth century, which in part was a reaction against The Enlightenment, then I suppose we would not feel like this. That revolt against classicism and all things authoritarian and utiliterian, that movement towards liberty and freedom of creativity has done us all a great service.
It is interesting how in The Cultural Revolution in China, which took place between 1966 and 1969, all such thoughts and freedoms of thinking were stamped on - half a million people were killed in the name of cleansing the country of such liberty of thought. I was in China in 1984 and from the few conversations I had with English speakers the persecution was still very fresh in most peoples' minds.
But here we are lucky. Nobody tries to control our thinking, our creativity, our listening. And certainly for me personally history, landscape and literature have shaped the entire way I live and think. The poet, the writer, the composer, the painter - all those quinessential elements they have added to my way of life - have become a part of this country for me just as much as the flora and fauna.
Elgar (forget Pomp and Circumstance, that is not the real Elgar), Vaughan-Williams, Britten, Delius ARE England for me. "On hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" is Spring to me. I don't have to be listening to the music, or hearing a cuckoo (pretty rare these days); it just says everything there is to say about Spring, in the same way as Browning's "Home Thoughts from Abroad" and Housman's "Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now". I know them off by heart and they are an intrinsic part of England just as much as the first Summer swallow is.
And if I stand in the water meadows by Salisbury cathedral, or on the river bank by Flatford Mill - I am in a Constable painting.
I can climb the steps up the tower of Lincoln Cathedral, steps worn and hollowed out over a thousand years, and I am adding my footfall to history, to the passage of time. I am becoming part of it.
Similary in US - going through New England one goes in the company of Robert Frost and Thoreau. Visiting Frost's grave in Old Bennington this year made me realise how deeply his words are ingrained in my thinking. "Something there is that does not love a wall" and "Good fences make good neighbours" says all there is to say in a very few words as far as sheep farming here in the Yorkshire Dales in concerned. And standing looking at the distant Appalachian mountains as few years ago was just like listening to Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
Yes - thanks to that Romantic movement we can assimilate everything we see, hear and read and make it all a part of ourselves. And when we are gone, our dust will contribute to the whole wonderful world of which we have been a small part.
# The photographs are of Robert Frost's grave in Old Bennington and of two flowers growing by the side of the grave.