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By Merryn Williams (auth.)

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Their forms had lost all semblance to the graceful curve of women; their faces were hard, wrinkled and angular, drawn with pain and labour ... All things green and lovely were spread around them ... but the magic of it touched them not, for their hearts were pinched with poverty. As so often in Jefferies, the beauty of nature is directly contrasted with the degradation of man. It turns out later that Fisher was dead at the time - 'the wearyful women as they passed the window had curtsied to the dead' - and his house is robbed by the people he had exploited.

Altogether a realistic picture painted in actual dark oak, actual brass, actual red china, and actual yellow flowers. Art cannot be cut off from ordinary life; it is not something static, as the wealthy philistines in The Dewy Morn imagine. It is the life-force which creates art; in a sense, certain kinds of life are works of art. Felise represents the principle behind art at its purest, unsatisfactory character though she is. As for the condition of English agriculture, Jefferies is deeply pessimistic.

The green buds of spring, the flowers of summer ... all the beauty and glory of nigh on a century touched him not. Towards the end of the book there is an impressive scene when the women workers file past his window on their way back from the fields in the glorious red sunset, bowing to him as they pass: Do you suppose these women moved in rhythmic measures to Bacchanalian song and pastoral pipe? Do you suppose their brows were wreathed with the honeysuckle's second autumn bloom, with streaked convolvulus and bronzed ears of wheat?

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