FOREWORDIt was a French story-teller who said: "We must lay up a stock of enthusiasms in our youth, or else we shall reach the end of our journey with an empty heart, for we lose a great many of them by the way."
It is the finest part of education to fill the mind of youth with these enthusiasms, to teach him to know the world about him because he loves it -- to love the world about him because he knows it -- to make friends with all the things of nature, great and small, he meets when he goes forth every day -- to know and love the little world about him which is after all the fairer part of the great world we call the Universe of God.
And the joys of seeing and knowing and doing are the real joys of life. We may know a real joy from a spurious pleasure by this -- it leaves no sting, it brings no weakness, it clears the way for more joys and more strength. Moreover, as Agassiz used to say: "This is the charm of Nature herself. She brings us back to absolute Truth -- every time we wander."
This is a word of greeting to an unique Nature book, the work of a young woman who is a real lover of Nature. It is an effort to give our boys and girls a right start in the joys of life. It opens their eyes to the charms and glories shown all around them. It draws them toward a sympathy with the problems of life which beset every man and beast and bird among us and which one way or another we are called on to solve. It swells the stock of these youthful enthusiasms which so long as they last keep the heart young and make life the better worth living.
It is a beautiful thing to have been livingly interested from childhood in the "Fairyland Around Us." It is still more beautiful to have followed it up to years of maturity, and to desire, and to be able to, impart the same love of Nature to other children. This has been the good fortune of the good feeling of Miss Whiteley, whose book I have watched in process of construction and can understand pretty thoroughly in its scope and quality. It is very real, and very inspiring. It springs from a genuine love and understanding, and it is fortified by conscientious and thorough study. I think there is nothing like it in the English language; and that even the beautiful French books for the same purpose are not so helpful.
God's Wonder-world is very largely wasted on us, nowadays, because we pay no attention to it. We don't see the beauty in the blade of grass, nor in the drop of rain, nor in the love-making of the flower, nor in the industry of the bee, nor the reason why some birds have beautiful songs and others beautiful coats. We could not turn around even a city lot without finding something to fascinate us, if we had either the knowledge or the imagination to see what is there.
This book of this earnest young woman is one I can gladly commend to the parents of boys and girls of any age. Normal children of six or seven are quite old enough to appreciate it, and those of 18 or 20 none too old. I know parents so farsighted that they are taking the book for the future of their children now only a few months old. Miss Whiteley has kept the child's point of view of Nature -- which means the poet's point of view. I don't see how she can fail to interest any wholesome child in the Little Next-door Neighbors.
It is a book of lasting value and charm in the education of the young generation. Dr. David Starr Jordan examined the book in my house, very carefully, and his fine forward would carry weight anywhere. Entirely aside from this spiritual and educational value of this beautiful book, it is of a very serious material worth. As every mother knows, the way to keep youngsters out of "mischief" is to employ their minds and hands. Any youngster who becomes interested in the birds and flowers and beasties will have a lot of mental occupation and no real excuse for getting into "mischief". For this utilitarian reason alone, the book will pay for itself many times over.
Anyone who studied Nature in any sense, or knows the Outdoors, must welcome everything that in an honest, competent way calls any attention in the wonder-world right under our noses, to which we have become nearly blind. And this book is very worthy in this important responsibility.
The fact that this tireless young woman has financed the book by her own efforts, has been her own publisher and circulator, adds interest. It is a notable achievement for a girl of 20.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile,
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings with a mild
And healing sympathy that steals away
Their sharpness ere he is aware.
The great man is he who does
not lose his child's heart.
In contemplation of created things
By steps we may ascend to God.
Go forth under the open sky, and listen
To nature's teachings.
Spring! Spring! Beautiful Spring!
Laden with glory and light you come;
With the leaf, the bloom and the butterfly's wing,
Making our earth a fairy home.
There are more things in heaven and earth
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
In nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little can I read.
Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth; ... well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse
The guide, the guardian of my heart and soul,
Of all my moral being.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.
"Nature is given as the great matrix with which we are to create, and to go through life with no attempt to gain a knowledge of it, with no effort to learn its possibilities, is dull, dead atheism. The child that puts forth creative effort to make the world better, the child that plants a seed or cares for the life of an animal, is working hand in hand with nature and the Creator, and what higher religious development can we desire than that he become the "reflected image of God".