Washington and its Romance

Washington and its Romance – Thomas Nelson Page

The capitals of most countries are the especial pride of their people. It is not so with us—at least, it has not been so in the past. Happily, it appears as though this condition were changing. It has, indeed, ever appeared to me strange that Americans know so little of and care so little for the capital of their own country. Nature, prodigal of gracious slope and curve and tone, has endowed it with, perhaps, more charm than any other national capital—at least, than any large European capital—and its founders laid it off on a generous plan which has left the opportunity of furthering what Nature presented, in a way to appeal to the pride of our people. Yet how large a proportion of Americans turn their eyes and their steps, not toward its majestic buildings, but to some foreign capital with its gaudy shops and commercial allurements, returning with an alien’s ideas on many subjects and boasting of beauties which are not comparable to those of our own capital city.

Washington and its Romance

Washington and its Romance

Format: eBook.

Washington and its Romance.

ISBN: 9783849652814.

 

Excerpt from the introductory chapter:

 

From Babel down a certain romance appears to attach to the rising of capitals.

On through the years in which to the music of Apollo’s lute, great “Ilion, like a mist, rose into towers”; on through those when Dido encircled the Bursa with the Bull’s Hide; and those in which Rome sprang on her Seven Hills above the She-wolf’s Den, down to the founding of Washington, hovers something of this romance.

The capitals of most countries are the especial pride of their people. It is not so with us—at least, it has not been so in the past. Happily, it appears as though this condition were changing. It has, indeed, ever appeared to me strange that Americans know so little of and care so little for the capital of their own country. Nature, prodigal of gracious slope and curve and tone, has endowed it with, perhaps, more charm than any other national capital—at least, than any large European capital—and its founders laid it off on a generous plan which has left the opportunity of furthering what Nature presented, in a way to appeal to the pride of our people. Yet how large a proportion of Americans turn their eyes and their steps, not toward its majestic buildings, but to some foreign capital with its gaudy shops and commercial allurements, returning with an alien’s ideas on many subjects and boasting of beauties which are not comparable to those of our own capital city.

Not long since, in a club in our chief commercial city, a group of gentlemen were discussing foreign cities with the familiarity of regular habitués, and a provincial visitor from a small territory on the banks of the Potomac suggested that in the spring, at least, Washington might vie with any capital that he had ever seen.

“I have never been to Washington,” said a member of the club, who was an annual visitor to nearly every European capital, and had, indeed, a familiarity with them second only to his familiarity with his native city.

“You mean that you have never visited Washington?”

“No! I have passed through Washington frequently going back and forth to Florida or some other Southern winter resort, but I have never spent an hour there.”

“Come with me to-night, man, and see the most beautiful city in the world!” exclaimed his guest, gathering courage.

But he did not go.

Washington with its noble buildings; its charming parks; its sunlit stretches and shady avenues; its majestic monument bathed now in the sunshine, now reflecting the moonlight, now towering amid the clouds, meant nothing to him. Washington and its charming society, its cosmopolitan flavor; its interesting circles, social, political, scientific, artistic, diplomatic, meant nothing to him. Why was it?

“I have never been able to read a history of the United States,” said one, not long since. “It is so dull.”

Is this the answer? Has the history of Washington been too dull to interest our people? “Happy that people whose annals are dull!”

Washington has a unique life, though how long it will remain so, no one can tell. Fresh with the beauty of youth, situated at the pleasant mean between the extremes of heat and cold, possessing a climate which throughout the greater portion of the year admits of the only proper life—life in the open air, with sunshine as sparkling and skies as blue as Italy’s—it presents, according to one’s wishes, political, scientific, and social life, and soon it will offer a literary and artistic life, which, second to none in the New World, may possibly, in no long time, be equal to that of any in the whole world. In Washington one may, according to taste, hear discussed the most advanced theories of science in every field, the political news of every country and enjoy a society as simple, cultured, and refined—or, if one prefers it, as pretentious, as empty and diverting— as in any capital of the globe.

It has a social life, if not as brilliant, at least as agreeable as that of any other national capital.

Commerce, we are assured by those interested in it, covers as wide if not as extensive a field as in any other metropolis, and we are promised soon an increase of manufacture, so that those who love it need not despair of having in time substituted for our present pure and uncontaminated air as filthy an atmosphere as that of the greatest manufacturing city in the country. As to the spirit which produces this, we already have that in abundance.

In fact, Washington naturally demands consideration from every standpoint. Historically, politically, and socially, it is a field for the investigator, the student, the lounger. And he will be hard to please who cannot find in its various and diverse activities as many varied objects of pursuit as he will find in the varied scenes amid its elegant avenues, lined with trees of every kind and variety.

Crossing the Potomac in a railway train, not long ago, as it reached the Washington side, with its broad green park along the river, bathed in the sunshine, with the White House beyond on one side, and the noble dome of the capitol on the other, while above the whole, towered the noble shaft of Washington—a splendid bar of snowy marble reaching to the heavens—a traveler exclaimed to the strangers about him, “What a wonderful city this will be fifty years from now. Think what the people who will come here then will see!”

“What a wonderful city it is now!” replied another.

“Think what we see. You may travel the world over and see nothing like this. More splendid cities perhaps, but none so beautiful and charming.” And he was right. Fifty years ago, travelers from abroad returned home with lurid accounts of slave auctions and highwaymen; with impressions of mud-holes and squalor and mediaeval barbarism. Travelers from all over the world go home to-day with impressions of a capital city set in a park, still unfinished, yet endowed by Nature with beauties which centuries of care would not equal and beginning to show the greatness which, designed by the founders of its plan, has, though often retarded by folly, been promoted from time to time by the far-sightedness of some of the great statesmen and by the genius of some of the great artists of our generation. Yet, even fifty years ago, the place must have had a beauty of its own, a beauty of trees and gracious slopes, which must have appealed to those who, unlike Mammon, were willing to lift their eyes from the pavements to the skies.

 

Dieser Beitrag wurde unter American History (English), District of Columbia veröffentlicht. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert.