Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/274

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Nobody, on this side of the water, has ever written such charming books about this charming sport as O'Reilly. English readers had learned something of its delights through the pleasant books of Mr. MacGregor, and Robert Louis Stevenson's incomparable "Inland Voyage" has made the sport immortal in literature. O'Reilly's enjoyment of canoeing was almost as intensely mental as physical. There only was he absolutely free; away from all the stifling conventionalities of life; divested of professional cares; joyful in the simplest of raiment; more joyful yet when he could shed even that for hours, swimming behind his canoe, or, as he called it, "coasting" down the long stretch of swift-running water; sleeping on the softest of all beds, the mossy carpet of a pine grove; basking bareheaded in the sun, half a day at a stretch, letting the tense nerves relax, and the overworked brain lie fallow; drinking in the pare air of the glorious country; living, in short, for a brief, sweet hour, the natural life which all sane men love. There is no other joy in life equal to this; neither honor, nor fame, nor riches; for to a properly constituted mind there is pleasure even in its discomforts. This, perhaps, needs a qualification; the pleasure is found only by those to whom the joys are a rare luxury.

O'Reilly canoed the Merrimac, the Connecticut, the Delaware, the Susquehanna, and the wild depths of the Dismal Swamp. He wrote of his adventures with what some thought poetic exaggeration; but this was an injustice. All canoeists feel the same delight, according to their capacity for feeling; but he had the gift of expressing it.

His Papyrus Club had another red-letter night in this year, when the ex-presidents held a memorial festival at the old place of its birth, Park's Tavern, on Saturday, May 19. O'Reilly read a poem, which he entitled "Alexander Young's Feast," beginning:

Why are we here, we graybeards? what is this?
What Faust among us brings this old-time bliss,