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Mushrooms On The Moor
by [?]

The nightingales–the singers of the night!

The mushrooms–the children of the night!

These singers of the night, and these ‘ children of the night,’ almost remind me of Faber:

Angels of Jesus, angels of light,
Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night!

But Mr. Chesterton does not like ‘the children of the night.’

Now we must really learn better manners. It will not do to treat things contemptuously either because they spring up suddenly, or because they spring up in the night. In this matter we Australians live in glass houses and must not throw stones. Mr. Chesterton is treading on our pet corns. For Australia and America are the two most ‘monstrous mushrooms’ on the face of the earth! Like the nations of which the prophet wrote, they were ‘born in a day.’ Think of what happened in America in the ten short years between 1830 and 1840! No nation in the history of the world can produce so astounding a record! In 1830 America had 23 miles of railway; in 1840 she had 800. In 1830 the country presented all the wilder characteristics of early colonial settlement; in 1840 it was a great and populous nation. In 1830 Chicago was a frontier fort; in 1840 Chicago was a city. In 1830 the population of Michigan was 32,000; in 1840 it was 212,000. It was during this sensational decade, too, that the first steamships crossed the Atlantic. And the spirit of the age reflected itself in the literary wealth of which America became possessed at that extraordinary time. Whittier and Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emerson and Bancroft, Poe and Prescott, all arose during that eventful period, and made for themselves names that have become classical and immortal. Here is a monstrous mushroom for you! Or, to pass from the things of yesterday to the things of to-day, see how, under the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Canadian cities are in our own time shooting up with positively incredible swiftness. No, no; Mr. Chesterton must not speak disparagingly of mushrooms!

And look at the rapidity at which these young nations beneath the Southern Cross sprang into existence! I remember standing on the sea-shore in New Zealand talking to a couple of old whalers, who told me of the times they spent before the first emigrant ships arrived, when they were the only white men for hundreds of miles around. And now! Why, in their own lifetime these men had seen a great nation spring into being! Here, I say again, are mushrooms for you!

But do mushrooms really spring up as suddenly as they appear to do? Dan Crawford tells us that, in Central Africa, if a young missionary attempts to prove the existence of God, the natives laugh, and, pointing to the wonders of Nature around, exclaim, ‘ No rain, no mushrooms!‘ In effect they mean to say, without some adequate cause. If there were no God, whence came the forest and the fauna? Now that African proverb is very suggestive. ‘No rain, no mushrooms.’ The mushroom, that is to say, has its roots away back in old rainstorms, in fallen forests, and in ancient climatic experiences too subtle to trace. I have been reading Dr. Cooke’s text-book, and he and Mr. Cuthill have convinced me that it takes about a million years to grow a mushroom. The conditions out of which the fungus suddenly springs are as old as the world itself. And that same consideration saves America and Australia from contempt. For both America and Australia–these mushroom nations–are very, very old. Dr. Stanley Hall, the President of the Clark University, was speaking on this aspect of things the other day. ‘In a very pregnant psychological sense,’ he said, ‘ours is an unhistoric land. Our very constitution had a Minerva birth.’ (That is a classical way of saying that it had a mushroom birth.) ‘Our literature, customs, fashions, institutions, and legislation were inherited or copied, and our religion was not a gradual indigenous growth, but both its spirit and its forms were imported ready-made from Holland, Rome, England, and Palestine. No country is so precociously old for its years.’ It follows, therefore, that Australia is as old as the Empire. And the Empire has its roots away back where the first man delved. We must not allow ourselves to be duped by the trickery of appearances. These new things are very ancient. ‘How long did it take you to paint that picture?’ somebody asked Sir Joshua Reynolds. ‘ All my life!‘ he replied.