Experiences of Richard Jefferies
naturalist, novelist, and essayist whose prophetic vision
came from detailed observation of nature and his own life.
Unappreciated in his own Victorian age, his writings are
now embraced by those who are closely affiliated with
the nature movement. The son of a yeoman farmer, Jefferies
in 1866 became a reporter on the North Wilts Herald, and
went on to produce many essays, a book for boys, and his
most famous work, The Story of My Heart.
(1848 - 1887
story of my heart commences seventeen years ago. I
was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric
meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe,
and undefinable aspirations filled me.
was utterly alone with the sun and the earth. Lying
down on the grass, I spoke in my soul to the earth,
the sun, the air, and the distant sea far beyond sight.
I thought of the earth's firmness---I felt it bear
me up; through the grassy couch there came an influence
as if I could feel the great earth speaking to me.
I thought of the wandering air---its pureness, which
is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me something
of itself. By all these I prayed; I felt an emotion
of the soul beyond all definition.
thought of my inner existence that consciousness which
is called the soul. These---that is, myself---I threw
into the balance to weigh the prayer the heavier.
My strength of body, mind and soul, I flung into it;
I put forther my strength; I wrested and labored and
toiled in might of prayer. The prayer, this soul-emotion,
was in itself---not for an object---it was a passion.
I hid my face in the grass, I was wholly prostrated,
I lost myself in the wrestle, I was rapt and carried
any shepherd accidentally seen me lying on the turf
he would only have thought that I was resting a few
minutes; I made no outward show. Who could have imagined
the whirlwind of passion that was going on within
me as I reclined there! I was greatly exhausted when
I reached home.
drunk deeply of the heaven above and felt the most
glorious beauty of the day, and remembering the old,
old sea, which was but just yonder at the edge, I
now became lost, and absorbed into the being or existence
of the universe. I felt down deep into the earth under,
and high above into the sky, and farther still to
the sun and stars. Still farther beyond the stars
into the hollow of space, and losing thus my separateness
of being came to seem like a part of the whole.
all that time and power I prayed that I might have
in my soul the intellectual part of it---the idea
the thought. Now, this moment gives me all the thought,
all the idea, all the soul expressed in the Cosmos
around me. Gives me fullness of life like to the sea,
and the sun, to the earth and the air; gives me fullness
of physcial life, mind, equal and beyond their fullness;
gives me a greatness and perfection of soul higher
than all things; gives me my inexpressible desire
which swells in me like a tide---gives it to me with
all the force of the sea. I realize a soul-life illimitable;
I realize the existence of a Cosmos of thought."
Jefferies, Richard. The Story of My Heart, (London:
Longmans, Green & Co., 1883) quoted in R.M. Bucke's
Cosmic Consciousness, 319-320
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