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The City Of A Day
by [?]

Wrong, pain, and sin, being in his view but the results of our physical necessities, ill-gratified desires, and natural yearnings for a better state, were to vanish before the millennium of mechanism. “It would be,” said he, “as ridiculous then to dispute and quarrel about the means of life as it would be now about water to drink by the side of mighty rivers, or about permission to breathe the common air.” To his mind the great forces of Nature took the shape of mighty and benignant spirits, sent hitherward to be the servants of man in restoring to him his lost paradise; waiting only for his word of command to apply their giant energies to the task, but as yet struggling blindly and aimlessly, giving ever and anon gentle hints, in the way of earthquake, fire, and flood, that they are weary of idleness, and would fain be set at work. Looking down, as I now do, upon these huge brick workshops, I have thought of poor Etzler, and wondered whether he would admit, were he with me, that his mechanical forces have here found their proper employment of millennium making. Grinding on, each in his iron harness, invisible, yet shaking, by his regulated and repressed power, his huge prison-house from basement to capstone, is it true that the genii of mechanism are really at work here, raising us, by wheel and pulley, steam and waterpower, slowly up that inclined plane from whose top stretches the broad table-land of promise?

Many of the streets of Lowell present a lively and neat aspect, and are adorned with handsome public and private buildings; but they lack one pleasant feature of older towns,–broad, spreading shade-trees. One feels disposed to quarrel with the characteristic utilitarianism of the first settlers, which swept so entirely away the green beauty of Nature. For the last few days it has been as hot here as Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace or Monsieur Chabert’s oven, the sun glaring down from a copper sky upon these naked, treeless streets, in traversing which one is tempted to adopt the language of a warm-weather poet:

“The lean, like walking skeletons, go stalking pale and gloomy;
The fat, like red-hot warming-pans, send hotter fancies through me;
I wake from dreams of polar ice, on which I’ve been a slider,
Like fishes dreaming of the sea and waking in the spider.”

How unlike the elm-lined avenues of New Haven, upon whose cool and graceful panorama the stranger looks down upon the Judge’s Cave, or the vine-hung pinnacles of West Rock, its tall spires rising white and clear above the level greenness! or the breezy leafiness of Portland, with its wooded islands in the distance, and itself overhung with verdant beauty, rippling and waving in the same cool breeze which stirs the waters of the beautiful Bay of Casco! But time will remedy all this; and, when Lowell shall have numbered half the years of her sister cities, her newly planted elms and maples, which now only cause us to contrast their shadeless stems with the leafy glory of their parents of the forest, will stretch out to the future visitor arms of welcome and repose.

There is one beautiful grove in Lowell,–that on Chapel Hill,–where a cluster of fine old oaks lift their sturdy stems and green branches, in close proximity to the crowded city, blending the cool rustle of their leaves with the din of machinery. As I look at them in this gray twilight they seem lonely and isolated, as if wondering what has become of their old forest companions, and vainly endeavoring to recognize in the thronged and dusty streets before them those old, graceful colonnades of maple and thick-shaded oaken vistas, stretching from river to river, carpeted with the flowers and grasses of spring, or ankle deep with leaves of autumn, through whose leafy canopy the sunlight melted in upon wild birds, shy deer, and red Indians. Long may these oaks remain to remind us that, if there be utility in the new, there was beauty in the old, leafy Puseyites of Nature, calling us back to the past, but, like their Oxford brethren, calling in vain; for neither in polemics nor in art can we go backward in an age whose motto is ever “Onward.”