Silas Marner HTML version

Chapter 2
Even people whose lives have been made various by learning, sometimes find it
hard to keep a fast hold on their habitual views of life, on their faith in the
Invisible, nay, on the sense that their past joys and sorrows are a real
experience, when they are suddenly transported to a new land, where the beings
around them know nothing of their history, and share none of their ideas-- where
their mother earth shows another lap, and human life has other forms than those
on which their souls have been nourished. Minds that have been unhinged from
their old faith and love, have perhaps sought this Lethean influence of exile, in
which the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the
present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories. But even their
experience may hardly enable them thoroughly to imagine what was the effect on
a simple weaver like Silas Marner, when he left his own country and people and
came to settle in Raveloe. Nothing could be more unlike his native town, set
within sight of the widespread hillsides, than this low, wooded region, where he
felt hidden even from the heavens by the screening trees and hedgerows. There
was nothing here, when he rose in the deep morning quiet and looked out on the
dewy brambles and rank tufted grass, that seemed to have any relation with that
life centring in Lantern Yard, which had once been to him the altar-place of high
dispensations. The whitewashed walls; the little pews where well-known figures
entered with a subdued rustling, and where first one well-known voice and then
another, pitched in a peculiar key of petition, uttered phrases at once occult and
familiar, like the amulet worn on the heart; the pulpit where the minister delivered
unquestioned doctrine, and swayed to and fro, and handled the book in a long
accustomed manner; the very pauses between the couplets of the hymn, as it
was given out, and the recurrent swell of voices in song: these things had been
the channel of divine influences to Marner--they were the fostering home of his
religious emotions--they were Christianity and God's kingdom upon earth. A
weaver who finds hard words in his hymn-book knows nothing of abstractions; as
the little child knows nothing of parental love, but only knows one face and one
lap towards which it stretches its arms for refuge and nurture.
And what could be more unlike that Lantern Yard world than the world in
Raveloe?--orchards looking lazy with neglected plenty; the large church in the
wide churchyard, which men gazed at lounging at their own doors in service-
time; the purple-faced farmers jogging along the lanes or turning in at the
Rainbow; homesteads, where men supped heavily and slept in the light of the
evening hearth, and where women seemed to be laying up a stock of linen for
the life to come. There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that
would stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain. In the early ages of
the world, we know, it was believed that each territory was inhabited and ruled by
its own divinities, so that a man could cross the bordering heights and be out of
the reach of his native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and
the groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And poor Silas
was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling of primitive men, when