Cowper, who was the author of the well-known saying that “God made the country and man made the town,” sighs for “a lodge in some vast wilderness with boundless contiguity of shade.”
In his “Task” and other poems he dilates upon the happiness of life in the country, and expresses his dislike for the hot crowded theatre, the ballroom, the luxurious banquet, and the continual round of so-called pleasures, for which many men sacrifice health, wealth, and happiness.
It is no wonder that literary men, as a rule, prefer the country to the town. They are generally very sensitive to noises and other disturbances, such as so often jar upon their nerves when they try to write amid the turmoil and bustle of great cities.
In the country they find peace and quietness, and can more easily concentrate their thoughts. Poets also find a perennial source of inspiration in field, forest, and river and in the simple idyllic life of the shepherds and the tillers of the soil.
Most business men are forced by circumstances to spend the greater part of their lives in cities. All the more do they enjoy their brief holidays in the country, where entire change of scene enables them to forget all the worries of commercial and official life.
They derive perhaps as much enjoyment from the beauties of nature as the poets, although they have not the power of expressing their admiration in immortal verse. It is not unnatural that they should envy the simple countryman, whom they see living a placid life in a beautiful country district far away from the bustle and anxiety and wickedness of great cities.
But it is probable that they and also the poets overrate the happiness of the countryman’s lot. They attribute to peasants the same feelings of delight in country scenes that they themselves enjoy, forgetting that for a thorough appreciation of the beauties of nature a certain amount of education is needed, and that the poor villagers are very ignorant.
Also a good deal of the pleasure derived from country life is due to contrast with the disagreeable sights and smells and sounds of great cities, of which permanent residents in the country have had no experience.
On these grounds we may come to the conclusion, that rural life has most charms, not for those who always live in the country, but for the inhabitants of cities who pay the country occasional visits in the intervals of a busy life.