New England is the battle-ground of the seasons. It is La Vendee.
To conquer it is only to begin the fight. When it is completely
subdued, what kind of weather have you? None whatever.
What is this New England? A country? No: a camp. It is alternately
invaded by the hyperborean legions and by the wilting sirens of the
tropics. Icicles hang always on its northern heights; its seacoasts
are fringed with mosquitoes. There is for a third of the year a
contest between the icy air of the pole and the warm wind of the
gulf. The result of this is a compromise: the compromise is called
Thaw. It is the normal condition in New England. The New-Englander
is a person who is always just about to be warm and comfortable.
This is the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are made. A person
thoroughly heated or frozen is good for nothing. Look at the Bongos.
Examine (on the map) the Dog-Rib nation. The New-Englander, by
incessant activity, hopes to get warm. Edwards made his theology.
Thank God, New England is not in Paris!
Hudson's Bay, Labrador, Grinnell's Land, a whole zone of ice and
walruses, make it unpleasant for New England. This icy cover, like
the lid of a pot, is always suspended over it: when it shuts down,
that is winter. This would be intolerable, were it not for the Gulf
Stream. The Gulf Stream is a benign, liquid force, flowing from
under the ribs of the equator, - a white knight of the South going up
to battle the giant of the North. The two meet in New England, and
have it out there.
This is the theory; but, in fact, the Gulf Stream is mostly a
delusion as to New England. For Ireland it is quite another thing.
Potatoes ripen in Ireland before they are planted in New England.
That is the reason the Irish emigrate - they desire two crops the same
year. The Gulf Stream gets shunted off from New England by the
formation of the coast below: besides, it is too shallow to be of any
service. Icebergs float down against its surface-current, and fill
all the New-England air with the chill of death till June: after that
the fogs drift down from Newfoundland. There never was such a
mockery as this Gulf Stream. It is like the English influence on
France, on Europe. Pitt was an iceberg.
Still New England survives. To what purpose? I say, as an example:
the politician says, to produce "Poor Boys." Bah! The poor boy is
an anachronism in civilization. He is no longer poor, and he is not
a boy. In Tartary they would hang him for sucking all the asses'
milk that belongs to the children: in New England he has all the
cream from the Public Cow. What can you expect in a country where
one knows not today what the weather will be tomorrow? Climate makes
the man. Suppose he, too, dwells on the Channel Islands, where he
has all climates, and is superior to all. Perhaps he will become the
prophet, the seer, of his age, as he is its Poet. The New-Englander
is the man without a climate. Why is his country recognized? You
won't find it on any map of Paris.
And yet Paris is the universe. Strange anomaly! The greater must
include the less; but how if the less leaks out? This sometimes
And yet there are phenomena in that country worth observing. One of
them is the conduct of Nature from the 1st of March to the 1st of
June, or, as some say, from the vernal equinox to the summer
solstice. As Tourmalain remarked, "You'd better observe the
unpleasant than to be blind." This was in 802. Tourmalain is dead;
so is Gross Alain; so is little Pee-Wee: we shall all be dead before
things get any better.
That is the law. Without revolution there is nothing. What is
revolution? It is turning society over, and putting the best
underground for a fertilizer. Thus only will things grow. What has
this to do with New England? In the language of that flash of social
lightning, Beranger, "May the Devil fly away with me if I can see!"
Let us speak of the period in the year in New England when winter
appears to hesitate. Except in the calendar, the action is ironical;
but it is still deceptive. The sun mounts high: it is above the
horizon twelve hours at a time. The snow gradually sneaks away in
liquid repentance. One morning it is gone, except in shaded spots
and close by the fences. From about the trunks of the trees it has
long departed: the tree is a living thing, and its growth repels it.
The fence is dead, driven into the earth in a rigid line by man: the
fence, in short, is dogma: icy prejudice lingers near it.
The snow has disappeared; but the landscape is a ghastly sight,
- bleached, dead. The trees are stakes; the grass is of no color; and
the bare soil is not brown with a healthful brown; life has gone out
of it. Take up a piece of turf: it is a clod, without warmth,
inanimate. Pull it in pieces: there is no hope in it: it is a part
of the past; it is the refuse of last year. This is the condition to
which winter has reduced the landscape. When the snow, which was a
pall, is removed, you see how ghastly it is. The face of the country
is sodden. It needs now only the south wind to sweep over it, full
of the damp breath of death; and that begins to blow. No prospect
would be more dreary.
And yet the south wind fills credulous man with joy. He opens the
window. He goes out, and catches cold.