William Black: Better small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell of the fierceness of war
From Sunrise (1881)
“Well, at all events, you don’t find it very picturesque as compared with other countries. Evelyn tells me you have travelled a great deal.”
“Perhaps I am not very fond of picturesqueness,” Natalie said, modestly. “When I am travelling through a country I would rather see plenty of small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that tell only of oppression and extravagance, and the fierceness of war.”
No one spoke; so she made bold to continue – but she addressed Lady Evelyn only.
“No doubt it is very picturesque, as you go up the Rhine, or across the See Kreis, or through the Lombard plains, to see every height crowned with its castle. Yes, one cannot help admiring. They are like beautiful flowers that have blossomed up from the valleys and the plains below. But who tilled the land, that these should grow there on every height? Are you not forced to think of the toiling wretches who labored and labored to carry stone by stone up the crest of the hill? They did not get much enjoyment out of the grandeur and picturesqueness of the castles.”
“But they gave that labor for their own protection,” Lady Evelyn said, with a smile. “The great lords and barons were their protectors.”
“The great lords and barons said so, at least,” said the girl, without any smile at all, “and I suppose the peasantry believed them; and were quite willing to leave their vineyards and go and shed their blood whenever the great lords and barons quarrelled among themselves.”