The realities of the world are few and small; the illusions many and vast. Not a sense that we possess, and hardly a faculty of the mind, but serves to deceive us; wholly in some cases, and partially in all. Yet, strip nature and life of these deceits, and what would earth become?--what our existence here? See a small fly stepping over the irregularities of a looking-glass and thinking the polished surface but a rough and rugged plain, and we have some idea of what the world would be, if we saw it as perhaps it is.
Amongst the sweetest and most friendly delusions, of all the many, is the landscape-painting of imagination. Love, himself, I believe, does not cheat us more, or more pleasantly. Let any traveller ask himself, when he sets eyes upon a scene which he pronounces, at once, most beautiful, how much of the loveliness is added by fancy. It may be a grand, an expansive view, over a wide and varied country; but what is the mind doing while the eye is contemplating it? Peopling it with villages--laying it out in corn-fields and vineyards--filling it with busy life and gay enjoyment; not distinctly, not tangibly; but still the associations rise up in a golden mist, and spread a lustre over all. It may be, on the contrary, a narrower scene: a cottage in a deep glen, with old oaks overshadowing, and the thin blue smoke rising up amongst the green leaves. There too, is imagination busy, with the thoughts of calm retirement from a troublous world, and still, quiet contemplation--the labourer's repose after his labour--the sweet domestic home--the tender joy of tongues and faces loving and beloved.
There is but one great magician left on earth, and that is Imagination.
Reader, I very often draw from my own heart and its experience--more often than the world knows; and even now, I can conceive the sensations of those two horsemen as they come at a foot pace over the edge of the hill, where the splendid valley of the Neckar, with its castled town and ancient woods, and giant mountains, first breaks upon the eye. See how the sunshine of the summer evening, softened by the light smoke of the city, pours through the long tall streets and over the high walls and towers of massive stone: see how it catches on each rocky point or prominent crag, as rounding the granite mass of the King's Seat, in its decline towards the west, it covers the brows of all his mountain peers with coronets of gold; and lo! where high raised above the town, upon its platform of stone, stands out the lordly castle in bright light and shade. The green, green Neckar, flowing along in the midst, winds on through the long waving valley, showing ripples of gold wherever, in the sunshine, the winds stir it or the rocks obstruct, and, at each calmer spot, serves as a mirror to the loveliness around; giving back the bright tints of hills and woods, and town and bridge, with a lustrous clearness no other stream can match. Even that boat, with its many coloured crew of peasantry, shines out upon the face of the river in red and blue, and white and brown, as if the very hues acquired a finer dye from the water that but reflects them; and the fishing eagle, swooping down upon his finny prey, strikes at it the more fiercely when he sees the image of himself rushing to seize it also from below.