The irritating action of the brain is set at rest; we think in a plain, unfeverish temper; little things seem big enough, and great things no longer portentous; and the world is smilingly accepted as it is.

*

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite under foot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future?

*

A SONG OF THE ROAD

The gauger walked with willing foot, And aye the gauger played the flute: And what should Master Gauger play But OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY?

Whene'er I buckle on my pack And foot it gaily in the track, O pleasant gauger, long since dead, I hear you fluting on ahead.

You go with me the selfsame way-- The selfsame air for me you play; For I do think and so do you It is the tune to travel to.

For who would gravely set his face To go to this or t'other place? There's nothing under Heav'n so blue That's fairly worth the travelling to.

On every hand the roads begin, And people walk with zeal therein; But wheresoe'er the highways tend, Be sure there's nothing at the end.

Then follow you, wherever hie The travelling mountains of the sky. Or let the streams in civil mode Direct your choice upon a road;

For one and all, or high or low, Will lead you where you wish to go; And one and all go night and day OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY!

*

A walking tour should be gone upon alone, because freedom is of the essence; because you should be able to stop and go on, and follow this way or that, as the freak takes you; and because you must have your own pace, and neither trot alongside a champion walker, nor mince in time with a girl. And then you must be open to all impressions and let your thoughts take colour from what you see. You should be as a pipe for any wind to play upon.

*

It must not be imagined that a walking tour, as some would have us fancy, is merely a better or worse way of seeing the country. There are many ways of seeing landscape quite as good; and none more vivid, in spite of canting dilettantes, than from a railway train. But landscape on a walking tour is quite accessory. He who is indeed of the brotherhood does not voyage in quest of the picturesque, but of certain jolly humours--of the hope and spirit with which the march begins at morning, and the peace and spiritual repletion of the evening's rest. He cannot tell whether he puts his knapsack on, or takes it off, with more delight. The excitement of the departure puts him in key for that of the arrival. Whatever he does is not only a reward in itself, but will be further rewarded in the sequel; and so pleasure leads on to pleasure in an endless chain.

*

Nor does the scenery any more affect the thoughts than the thoughts affect the scenery. We see places through our humours as through differently-coloured glasses. We are ourselves a term in the equation, a note of the chord, and make discord or harmony almost at will. There is no fear for the result, if we can but surrender ourselves sufficiently to the country that surrounds and follows us, so that we are ever thinking suitable thoughts or telling ourselves some suitable sort of story as we go. We become thus, in some sense, a centre of beauty; we are provocative of beauty, much as a gentle and sincere character is provocative of sincerity and gentleness in others.

*

There is nobody under thirty so dead but his heart will stir a little at sight of a gypsies' camp. 'We are not cotton-spinners all;' or, at least, not all through.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 04

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book