Monday, January 16, 2012

Pleasures of a polar winter

But, to enter fully into the enjoyments of a polar winter, we should pass the time with the Finlander in his cabin, or the Laplander in his hut. Sunk into the ground some feet, by way of protection from the penetrating power of frost; and presenting but a mere conical point to the weight of snow, and the power of wind, the dwelling bids defiance to the rigour of the season: while the family within find themselves assembled, and alive to social enjoyment. This is the season for conversation and intercourse. While all abroad is frozen, the mind may expand. The parents have laid in their stores ; they have made provision for the winter's consumption ; the young men, under their direction, have set their traps, and they tend them, to see, from time to time, what further support they furnish. This is, now, their chief occupation ; and the rest of their time they spend in forming those connexions which are hereafter to become their constant enjoyments. Young women are then engaged in kindnesses. The fact is, that these people are removed from those fascinations by which the desire of accumulation impels natives of more temperate climates. They value the productions, the natural productions of their own country: these are their wealth. Artificial riches, the gains arising from calculations, and profits by means of the precious metals, they are not, indeed, strangers to; but are indifferent about. They have, no doubt, among them, different dispositions and characters : the worthy and the unworthy, the generous and the selfish. They have their hard hearts, and their miserly spirits. But these, acting within narrow limits, the infelicities they occasion are narrow also. They show, indeed, that under all climates, and seasons, man is the cause of his own disappointments and vexations. Not the circumstances that surround him, whether he be placed amid the fervent plains of India, the sandy desarts of Arabia, the temperate vales of Europe, or the snow-clad regions of the poles, are to blame. Man is not, therefore, either happy or unhappy, whether he enjoy the perpetual spring of Quito, the verdant summer of Britain, the rich autumn of Italy, or,the winter—the long, long winter of Lapland, and the Arctick circle. They are all equally indifferent to his real happiness.

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