- Nature and society.
If Nature abounds in the country, the city is the kingdom of art. In every age, man has expressed his love for the objects of Nature, especially, in their softer and milder aspects. This is, indeed a universal passion. Different people, however, have differently explained it. Some have ascribed it to the natural beauty of the objects themselves; some explain it as due to the care-free atmosphere of the country-side, some attribute it to the peace and quite which the country-side offers but the city lacks; others explain man’s attachment to the country-side as a longing for the simple customs and manners of the village-folk, devoid of the artificial conventionality of city-life. When Cowper said in The Task that ‘God made the country, man made the town; he put the case for the country-side, though with feeling yet somewhat vaguely, for God in fact made alike the country and the town. What Cowper obviously intends is that the country-side is less artificial and more natural than the city.
Hazlitt in his essay on ‘Love of the Country analyses man’s longing for the country-side more accurately. In Hazlitt’s view, love of the country-side is duet to the association of ideas. In early life, every boy and girl sees the rising sun, the beautiful flowers and trees, the hills, mountains, lakes and rivers. As he grows in years and begins to live in the crowded city, he naturally seeks to review his early associations with these familiar’ objects of nature. The busy thoroughfares of the city, the congested market-places and the Stock Exchanges of Karachi or Chittagong give him little opportunity to enjoy the lovely scenes of nature. In the city, Natures object’s are severely rationed; in a big city like Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lyallpur or Lahore there are few open spaces and parks and wide fields are more of a luxury. The Corporation has to preserve and protect them for public health against greedy, grabbing land agents. Naturally, city-bred people often like and move away to the country-side and feel at home amidst the bounties of nature.
There are, in the main, three stages in the progress of civilization, the agricultural, the pastoral and the industrial. At the agricultural or pastoral stage when men till the soil or graze their cattle to earn their livelihood there were no cities with the modern amenities of life; therefore they did not feel the difference in life and atmosphere between the city and the country. The industrial stage witnessed the rise of big cities where capitalists flocked and built factories for large scale manufactures of goods. Steel and electricity are in fact the stuff of which city life is made; city life in Pakistan or in the West is, therefore, more or less mechanized. In spite of a hundred diversions offered by the screen or the stage, people are often tired of the monotony of city life. It is but natural that city folk eagerly look forward to taking a day of leisure and throw themselves in the midst of rural scenes of liveliness and beauty.
At the present day, industrial advance in varying degrees all over the world has drawn most of the village folk to the cities. Between the village and the city there is the town. The town which stands midway between the two is a kind of halfway house in which pleasures of the country-side are found alongside of the amenities of city life like those of Karachi or Chittagong such as electricity and electrically controlled conveniences of life. In the industrial areas; there have sprung up in every part of the world numerous mills and factories by the side of the bigger cities. In the village, Nature is bountiful; in the town she is shy and has to be sought and wooed.
There is, as Hazlitt observes, one great difference between the associations of Nature and those of society. In the club and the restaurant, one meets divers specimens of men and women; they always act differently according to their different tastes, ideals and judgments. But the objects of Nature, in spite of their bewildering variety, are constant in their appeal. The sea with its billows running mountains as well as brcakers, the hills rising around a valley like an amphitheatre, the rays of the morning sun printing their first fresh kisses on the trees and hedgerows, the moon peaping behind thin layers of cloud and the river-bickering at one time and murmuring at another, washing away the sins of human life and blessing either bank with luxuriant vegetation, they are all constant in their appeal; they are in fact an unfailing source of inspiration to men and women, weary of the storm and stress of modern life. This constancy of appeal is one of the reasons why man in the earlier periods of history personified and deified most the universal objects of nature such as wind and rain, the sun and the moon. In India as in old Greece, the sun is worshipped as a God and is conceived as a deity; Varuna is the god of wind in the Hindu mythology and Indra figures as the god of the heavens above.
English poets like Goldsmith, Cowper and others have sung in verse of the pleasures of the country side.
Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer’d the labouring swain.
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting Summer’s lingering blooms delay’d.
This is how Goldsmith begins his famous, widely read poem, The Deserted Village. In this poem, the poet describes in picturesque detail the cottage and the form “the never failing brook and the busy mill” and “the hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade” where old gossips, as well as lovers, meet and exchange notes in private. The simple sports and the simpler dances of boys and girls of the countryside, not regulated by judges, umpires or referees as at the modern Olympic games have a great fascination for the poet.
Wordsworth also, whose poems are widely read by the students of the world Universities at all stages, resi onds to the call of Nature and the country -side. In several poems such as Nutting, The Solitary Reper, The Daffodils, Simon Lee, The Lecehgatherer, Wordsworth portrays the pleasures which the country-side-far ren uvid from the rush and tear of the city-has to offer in their manifold spects. Many of us must have, like the poet himself, gone out in early life a nutting crook in hind and wandered far afield in sc rch of hazelnuts, straw-berries or blackberries. The more imaginative among us may have been struck by the suggestive tunes which the village girls hum as they reap the harvest in the glare of the sun.
Some city-bred critics might condemn love of the country-side as mere sentimentalism; others might object that poets, too often idealize the village and the village scenes. It is true that some poets have drawn ideal pictures of rustic life. But in calmer moments, one feels that the pleasures of the country-side are natural and free from artificiality and love of such pleasures is a normal, healthy exercise of emotion. Lakhs of villages may not be ideal spots. But back to Nature’ is a healthy cry in Pakistani life, as it was in the life of Europe, when Rousseau, the Great French man of letters of the 18th century, insisted on a greater appreciation of Nature and the English poets, like Wordsworth of the early 19th century, practised it in verse in a romantic mood of deep sympathy.