Do you enjoy giving yourself Brownie points for sensitivity and imagination every time you walk your mystic way down a country road? Well, John Stewart Collis will double your self-congratulation; he is the sort of writer who never ceases to proclaim his own profundity, particularly on occasions which might appear, to the uninstructed gaze of us ordinary philitines, tenuous to the point of evaporation. The mere sight of a woodpecker can send him into an eruption of soggy aphorisms and magniloquent cadences. The mantle of Whitman, Thoreau, and Sir Thomas Browne sits self-consciously on his shoulders as he coos and harrumphs through the wonders of creation, hymning leaf and earthworm, ant and baobab tree. ""Sometimes,"" he murmurs, ""I could wish that my love of the sun were less genuine."" In fairness, one must say that Collis seems to belong to a gentler era; the two short works which comprise this book were apparently written in the early 1940's. The first (Down to Earth) is a collection of brief meditations on assorted natural phenomena; the second (The Wood) is a loose set of reminiscences about a few months spent in thinning out an overgrown ash-wood in Dorsetshire. Not for the frankly escapist, but for educated people who like to persuade themselves that there is something clever about eschewing science and intellectual system -- particularly when it is done by British dons.