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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 2411

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


How gray seem the words of poets in the presence is Nature!... The enormous silent poem of color and light-(you who know only the North do not know color, do not know light!)-of sea and sky, of the woods and the peaks, so far surpasses imagination as to paralyze it-mocking the language of admiration, defying all power of expression. That is before you which never can be painted or chanted, because there is no cunning of art or speech able to reflect it. Nature realizes your most hopeless ideals of beauty, even as one gives toys to a child. And the sight of this supreme terrestrial expression of creative magic numbs thought. In the great centres of civilization we admire and study only the results of mind,-the products of human endeavor: here one views only the work of Nature,-but Nature in all her primeval power, as in the legendary frostless morning of creation. Man here seems to bear scarcely more relation to the green life about him than the insect; and the results of human effort seem impotent by comparison son with the operation of those vast blind forces which clothe the peaks and crown the dead craters with impenetrable forest. The air itself seems inimical to thought,-soporific,

and yet pregnant with activities of dissolution so powerful that the mightiest tree begins to melt like wax from the moment it has ceased to live. For man merely to exist is an effort; and doubtless in the perpetual struggle of the blood to preserve itself from fermentation, there is such an expenditure of vital energy as leaves little surplus for mental exertion.

... Scarcely less than poet or philosopher, the artist, I fancy, would feel his helplessness. In the city he may find wonderful picturesqueness to invite his pencil, but when he stands face to face alone with Nature he will discover that he has no colors! The luminosities of tropic foliage could only be imitated in fire. He who desires to paint a West Indian forest,-a West Indian landscape,-must take his view from some great height, through which the colors come to his eye softened and subdued by distance,-toned with blues or purples by the astonishing atmosphere.

... It is sunset as I write these lines, and there are witchcrafts of color. Looking down the narrow, steep street opening to the bay, I see the motionless silhouette of the steamer on a perfectly green sea,-under a lilac sky,-against a prodigious orange light.

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