THE FREEDOM OF THE HILLS

freedom of hills

Source: http://l.rgbimg.com/cache1nDItq/users/m/mz/mzacha/600/mhiBkbc.jpg

Simon Coleman

The following quotation comes from Jefferies’ essay, ‘Clematis Lane’. The scenes described are from the Sussex downs.

“Here it was pleasant to look back upon the beech woods at the foot of the great Downs, and far over the endless fields of the Weald or plain. Thirty fields could be counted in succession, one after the other, like irregular chess-squares, some corn, some grass, and these only extended to the first undulation, where the woods hid the fields behind them. But beyond these, in reality, succeeded another series of fields to the second undulation, and still a third series to the farthest undulation visible. Yet farther there was a faint line of hills, a dark cloud-like bank in the extreme distance. To the right and to the left were similar views. Reapers were at work in the wheat below, but already much of the corn had been carried, and the hum of a threshing engine came up from the ricks. A woodpecker called loudly in the beech wood; a “wish-wish” in the air overhead was caused by the swift motion of a wood-pigeon passing from “holt” to “hurst,” from copse to copse. On the dry short turf of the hill-top even the shadow of a swallow was visible as he flew but a few yards high.

In a little hollow where the rougher grasses grew longer a blue butterfly fluttered and could not get out. He was entangled with his own wings, he could not guide himself between the grass tops; his wings fluttered and carried him back again. The grass was like a net to him, and there he fluttered till the wind lifted him out, and gave him the freedom of the hills. One small green orchis stood in the grass, alone; the harebells were many. It is curious that, if gathered, in a few hours (if pressed between paper) they become a deeper blue than when growing. Another butterfly went over, large and velvety, flying head to the wind, but unable to make way against it, and so carried sidelong across the current. From the summit of the hill he drifted out into the air five hundred feet above the flowers of the plain. Perhaps it was a peacock; for there was a peacock-butterfly in Clematis Lane. The harebells swung, and the dry tips of the grass bent to the wind which came over the hills from the sea, but from which the sun had dried the sea-moisture, leaving it twice refined—once by the passage above a hundred miles of wave and foam and again by the grasses and the hills, which forced the current to a higher level, where the sunbeams dried it. Twice refined, the air was strong and pure, sweet like the scent of a flower. If the air at the sea-beach is good, that of the hills above the sea is at least twice as good, and twice as strengthening. It possesses all the virtue of the sea air without the moisture which ultimately loosens the joints, and seems to penetrate to the very nerves. Those who desire air and quick recovery should go to the hills, where the wind has a scent of the sunbeams.”

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