Gold Leaves

Lo! I am come to autumn
When all the leaves are gold;
Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out,
The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men,
Captain in cosmic wars,
Our Titan, even the weeds would show
Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street
Seems any human nod,
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower
Hidden in wood or wold,
But I am come to autumn
When all the leaves are gold.

(ca. 1897)

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Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

“One woman”

Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman.

Orthodoxy (1910).

Published in: on June 22, 2011 at 6:41 am  Comments (4)  

War and peace

The point I wished to put to the admirable peace propagandist is this — that since these conflicts arise from real desires, good or bad, there are only two ways in which they can be permanently overcome. One is to say that people shall not have these particular attachments to an island or a valley, to a costume or a creed. The other is to say that they shall have them, but shall also have some other very vivid and almost concrete attachment that can cover and control them all, as the worship of a particular god, or the crusade against a common enemy, or the admission of a common code of conscience. I say to the peace propagandist, “Either an Irishman must love Ireland, or you must invent something that he can love more than Ireland. I shall be interested to see you try.” But certainly it is utterly useless to talk about peace and the mere absence of hatred. It is useless to introduce German editors to English editors and ask them not to hate each other. They don’t hate each other. The life of an editor leaves little place for such powerful emotions. But in some foggy way the English editor does love England; and in his own blinking style the German editor does love Germany. Neither of them knows at what moment all that they like most may be menaced by something that they don’t in the least understand. The one remedy is to remove the affections; let the Englishman no longer like heavy breakfasts, rambling roads, irregular villages, personal liberty. Let the German no longer like long serious meals, long glasses of light beer, elaborate birthday formalities, and the habit of sitting quite still with a radiant face. The other method is that they should hold some other definite thing more sacred even than these. I can see no third method.

I have written this article by way of reply to numberless correspondents who seem to imagine that I revel in human carnage and drink hot blood. I wish to point out that, so far from being opposed to peace, I have taken the pains to think out the only two possible ways in which it could be achieved. One is by the Buddhist experiment of the elimination of all desires. The other, I think, is by the Christian expedient of a common religion.

The Illustrated London News, 28 January 1911.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 6:32 am  Comments (1)  

“A common religion”

There was hugely more sense in the old people who said that a wife and husband ought to have the same religion than there is in all the contemporary gushing about sister souls and kindred spirits and auras of identical colour. As a matter of fact, the more the sexes are in violent contrast the less likely they are to be in violent collision. The more incompatible their tempers are the better. Obviously a wife’s soul cannot possibly be a sister soul. It is very seldom so much as a first cousin. There are very few marriages of identical taste and temperament; they are generally unhappy. But to have the same fundamental theory, to think the same thing a virtue, whether you practise or neglect it, to think the same thing a sin, whether you punish or pardon or laugh at it, in the last extremity to call the same thing duty and the same thing disgrace — this really is necessary to a tolerably happy marriage; and it is much better represented by a common religion than it is by affinities and auras.

A Miscellany of Men (1912).

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 6:47 am  Comments (2)  

“Except as a little child”

The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose; and the text of Scripture which he now most commonly quotes is, ‘The kingdom of heaven is within you.’ That text has been the stay and support of more Pharisees and prigs and self-righteous spiritual bullies than all the dogmas in creation; it has served to identify self-satisfaction with the peace that passes all understanding. And the text to be quoted in answer to it is that which declares that no man can receive the kingdom except as a little child. What we are to have inside is the childlike spirit; but the childlike spirit is not entirely concerned about what is inside. It is the first mark of possessing it that one is interested in what is outside. The most childlike thing about a child is his curiosity and his appetite and his power of wonder at the world. We might almost say that the whole advantage of having the kingdom within is that we look for it somewhere else.

What I Saw in America (1922).

Published in: on June 1, 2011 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment