The Berkshire Hills

The Berkshire Hills

The Berkshire Hills

The Berkshire Hills

Excerpt

The Berkshire Hills geographically are merely that portion of the great Appalachian chain which lies in western Massachusetts. But no hills amid which people have lived long can be considered merely as geography, nor even chiefly as geography. They color the life which goes on in their valleys and on their slopes, and that life in turn colors them. Before Wordsworth and his fellows made famous and romantic the hills and vales of northwestern England, the Lake Country had done something to the poets. Before the Berkshire Barrier--that high plateau which separates the Connecticut valley from the valleys of the Housatonic and Hoosac Rivers--was much more than a wilderness, a little boy grew up in Cummington and while still in his teens wrote Thanatopsis and To a Wild Fowl. Bryant, to be sure, was not the first literary light in the Berkshires. Half a century earlier, while preacher to the Stockbridge Indians, Jonathan Edwards wrote The Freedom of the Will. But that great work, after all, contributed little to our appreciation of Nature, nor drew its inspiration from the local scene. Jonathan was too concerned with the next world to bother about this one.

William Cullen Bryant in verse, Catherine Sedgwick in fiction, were the first to make effective use of our local scene in literature and thus to draw attention to the local flavors and to color the future. Neither of them, to be sure, did so thoroughly efficient a job as Washington Irving at the same time did for the Catskills. Ninety-nine out of every one hundred Americans to this day see the Catskills as Irving colored them, and the fact that they aren't a bit like that any more doesn't trouble most of us merely because we don't go there. If Bryant had created as vivid a legend for the Berkshires as Irving did for those mountains which we can see from our Taconic divide, huddled blue against the west, I suppose we would resent the General Electric plant in Pittsfield, the Lenox villas, the cement highways, and all the other marks of the later nineteenth and this twentieth century. (Some of them, may I remark parenthetically, some of us do resent.) But no . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.