“A mother-in-law”

The jokes about a mother-in-law are scarcely delicate, but the problem of a mother-in-law is extremely delicate. A mother-in-law is subtle because she is a thing like the twilight. She is a mystical blend of two inconsistent things — law and a mother. The caricatures misrepresent her; but they arise out of a real human enigma.

What’s Wrong with the World (1910).

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Song of Four Fancies

Is the world a Tree, love,
Measureless of girth,
Every flower a sun, love,
Every fruit an earth?
If it be a Tree, love,
Trackless as a maze,
Then to Him whose garden grew it,
Be indeed mighty praise.

Is the world a House, love,
Sunshine laid for thatch,
Darkness for the corner stone,
Daybreak for the latch?
If it be a House, love,
Huge of height and store,
Then to Him who builded it,
Be glory evermore.

Is the world a Man, love,
A giant broad and bare,
Limbs the formless forces,
Blood the streaming air?
If it be a Man, love,
Filling void and earth,
Then to Him whose nostrils quickened,
Praise: an awful mirth.

Is the world a Song, love,
That a spirit sings,
Full of sun and seasons,
Tales and living things?
If it be a Song, love,
We may lie and heed,
Then to lute and string and singer
Be a praise indeed.

— (c.1894)

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 12:35 am  Leave a Comment  

“The English will have destroyed England”

The English had missed many other things that men of the same origins had achieved or retained. Not to them was given, like the French, to establish eternal communes and clear codes of equality; not to them, like the South Germans, to keep the popular culture of their songs; not to them, like the Irish, was it given to die daily for a great religion. But a spirit had been with them from the first which fenced, with a hundred quaint customs and legal fictions, the way of a man who wished to walk nameless and alone. It was not for nothing that they forgot all their laws to remember the name of an outlaw, and filled the green heart of England with the figure of Robin Hood. It was not for nothing that even their princes of art and letters had about them something of kings incognito, undiscovered by formal or academic fame; so that no eye can follow the young Shakespeare as he came up the green lanes from Stratford, or the young Dickens when he first lost himself among the lights of London. It is not for nothing that the very roads are crooked and capricious, so that a man looking down on a map like a snaky labyrinth, could tell that he was looking on the home of a wandering people. A spirit at once wild and familiar rested upon its woodlands like a wind at rest. If that spirit be indeed departed, it matters little that it has been driven out by perversions it had itself permitted, by monsters it had idly let loose. Industrialism and Capitalism and the rage for physical science were English experiments in the sense that the English lent themselves to their encouragement; but there was something else behind them and within them that was not they — its name was liberty, and it was our life. It may be that this delicate and tenacious spirit has at last evaporated. If so, it matters little what becomes of the external experiments of our nation in later time. That at which we look will be a dead thing alive with its own parasites. The English will have destroyed England.

— Eugenics and Other Evils  (1922).

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 6:33 am  Comments (2)  

Sexual liberty in the modern state

They work for a centralised discipline in every department. They erect a vast apparatus of supervision and inspection; they support all the modern restrictions touching drink and hygiene. They may be called the friends of temperance or even of happiness; but even their friends would not call them the friends of freedom. There is only one form of freedom which they tolerate; and that is the sort of sexual freedom which is covered by the legal fiction of divorce. If we ask why this liberty is alone left, when so many liberties are lost, we shall find the answer in the summary of this chapter. They are trying to break the vow of the knight as they broke the vow of the monk. They recognise the vow as the vital antithesis to servile status, the alternative and therefore the antagonist. Marriage makes a small state within the state, which resists all such regimentation. That bond breaks all other bonds; that law is found stronger than all later and lesser laws. They desire the democracy to be sexually fluid, because the making of small nuclei is like the making of small nations. Like small nations, they are a nuisance to the mind of imperial scope. In short, what they fear, in the most literal sense, is home rule.

— The Superstition of Divorce (1920).

Published in: on June 6, 2012 at 12:28 am  Comments (2)