500 AP English Language Questions to know by test day

CHAPTER 5. Journalists and Science and Nature Writers

 

Passage 5a: Margaret Fuller, At Home and Abroad; or, Things and Thoughts in America and Europe

 

In the afternoon we went on shore at the Manitou Islands, where the boat stops to wood. No one lives here except wood-cutters for the steamboats. I had thought of such a position, from its mixture of profound solitude with service to the great world, as possessing an ideal beauty. I think so still, even after seeing the woodcutters and their slovenly huts.

In times of slower growth, man did not enter a situation without a certain preparation or adaptedness to it. He drew from it, if not to the poetical extent, at least in some proportion, its moral and its meaning. The wood-cutter did not cut down so many trees a day, that the Hamadryads had not time to make their plaints heard; the shepherd tended his sheep, and did no jobs or chores the while; the idyl had a chance to grow up, and modulate his oaten pipe. But now the poet must be at the whole expense of the poetry in describing one of these positions; the worker is a true Midas to the gold he makes. The poet must describe, as the painter sketches Irish peasant-girls and Danish fishwives, adding the beauty, and leaving out the dirt.

I come to the West prepared for the distaste I must experience at its mushroom growth. I know that, where “go ahead” is tire only motto, the village cannot grow into the gentle proportions that successive lives and the gradations of experience involuntarily give. In older countries the house of the son grew from that of the father, as naturally as new joints on a bough, and the cathedral crowned the whole as naturally as the leafy summit the tree. This cannot be here. The march of peaceful is scarce less wanton than that of warlike invasion. The old landmarks are broken down, and the land, for a season, bears none, except of the rudeness of conquest and the needs of the day, whose bivouac-fires blacken the sweetest forest glades. I have come prepared to see all this, to dislike it, but not with stupid narrowness to distrust or defame. On the contrary, while I will not be so obliging as to confound ugliness with beauty, discord with harmony, and laud and be contented with all I meet, when it conflicts with my best desires and tastes, I trust by reverent faith to woo the mighty meaning of the scene, perhaps to foresee the law by which a new order, a new poetry, is to be evoked from this chaos, and with a curiosity as ardent, but not so selfish, as that of Macbeth, to call up the apparitions of future kings from the strange ingredients of the witch’s caldron. Thus I will not grieve that all the noble trees are gone already from this island to feed this caldron, but believe it will have Medea’s virtue, and reproduce them in the form of new intellectual growths, since centuries cannot again adorn the land with such as have been removed.