Idealists

This is the blunder of the cynics when they say that idealists do not succeed. Idealists, consistent idealists, succeed much better than anyone else, because no man can be at ease in the presence of his own neglected ideal. Men are always fidgeting and shifting a little nearer to the high seat where the fanatic sits. When once a man has been called an impracticable visionary, he is practically bound to be a success. The moment a thing has been called impossible, something sporting in the soul of man takes the bet and resolves to bring the thing about.

The Illustrated London News, 29 June 1912.

(Hat-tip: Irish Chesterton Society)

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Published in: on March 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm  Comments (4)  

Everyman and the miracle play

It is right that men should have houses, right that they should have land, right that they should have laws to protect the land; but all these things are only machinery to make leisure for the labouring soul. The house is only a stage set up by stage carpenters for the acting of what Mr. J. B. Yeats has called “the drama of the home.” All the most dramatic things happen at home, from being born to being dead. What a man thinks about these things is his life; and to substitute for them a bustle of electioneering and legislation is to wander about among screens and pulleys on the wrong side of pasteboard scenery; and never to act the play. And that play is always a miracle play; and the name of its hero is Everyman.

Irish Impressions (1919).

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

“There are real things”

A Ballade of Theatricals

Though all the critics’ canons grow –
Far seedier than the actors’ own –
Although the cottage-door’s too low –
Although the fairy’s twenty stone –
Although, just like the telephone,
She comes by wire and not by wings,
Though all the mechanism’s known –
Believe me, there are real things.

Yes, real people – even so –
Even in a theatre, truth is known,
Though the agnostic will not know,
And though the gnostic will not own,
There is a thing called skin and bone,
And many a man that struts and sings
Has been as stony-broke as stone . . .
Believe me, there are real things.

There is an hour when all men go;
An hour when man is all alone.
When idle minstrels in a row
Went down with all the bugles blown –
When brass and hymn and drum went down,
Down in death’s throat with thunderings –
Ah, though the unreal things have grown,
Believe me, there are real things.

ENVOY.

Prince, though your hair is not your own
And half your face held on by strings,
And if you sat, you’d smash your throne –
– Believe me, there are real things.

(1912).

(Hat-tip: There Are Real Things)

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 7:25 am  Comments (2)  

Past and present

The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living. Without some such contrast or comparison, without some such shifting of the point of view, we should see nothing whatever of our own social surroundings. We should take them for granted, as the only possible social surroundings. We should be as unconscious of them as we are, for the most part, of the hair growing on our heads or the air passing through our lungs. It is the variety of the human story that brings out sharply the last turn that the road has taken, and it is the view under the arch of the gateway which tells us that we are entering a town.

All I Survey (1933).

Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment  

By the Babe Unborn

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

The Wild Knight and Other Poems (1900).

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 8:25 am  Comments (1)