Roaming Over Fields and Shores
My first liberty was used in roaming over the neighboring fields and shores; and, amid this glorious nature, that love of liberty sprang up which has gained strength within me to this hour. I early received impressions of the great and the beautiful, which I believe have had no small influence in determining my modes of thought and habits of life.
In this town I pursued for a time my studies of theology. I had no professor or teacher to guide me; but I had two noble places of study. One was yonder beautiful edifice, now so frequented and so useful as a public library, then so deserted that I spent day after day, and sometimes week after week, amidst its dusty volumes, without interruption from a single visitor.
The other place was yonder beach, the roar of which has so often mingled with the worship of this place, my daily resort, dear to me in the sunshine, still more attractive in the storm. Seldom do I visit now without thinking of the work which there, in the sight of that beauty, in the sound of those waves, was carried on in my soul.
No spot on earth has helped to form me so much as that beach. There I lifted up my voice in praise amidst the tempest. There, softened by beauty, I poured out my thanksgiving and contrite confessions. There, in reverential sympathy with the mighty power around me, I became conscious of power within. These struggling thoughts and emotions broke forth, as if moved to utterance by nature’s eloquence of the winds and waves. There began a happiness surpassing all worldly pleasure, all gifts of fortune – the happiness of communing with the works of God.
— William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)