The Feast of Snow

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the Child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

— (1900).

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 11:20 am  Leave a Comment  

“The greatest of all blessings is the boomerang”

The return of old things in new times, by an established and automatic machinery, is the permanent security of men who like to be sane. The greatest of all blessings is the boomerang. And all the healthiest things we know are boomerangs — that is, they are things that return. Sleep is a boomerang. We fling it from us at morning, and it knocks us down again at night. Daylight is a boomerang. We see it at the end of the day disappearing in the distance; and at the beginning of the next day we see it come back and break the sky. I mean, we see it if we get up early enough — which I have done once or twice. The same sort of sensational sanity (truly to be called sensational because it braces and strengthens all the sensations) is given by the return of religious and social festivals. To have such an institution as a Christmas is, I will not say to make an accident inevitable, but I will say to make an adventure recurrent — and therefore, in one sense, to make an adventure everlasting.

Illustrated London News, 20 December 1913.

Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm  Comments (1)  

“Any antics in a lump of clay”

We do (even when we are perfectly simple or ignorant)—we do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. The cynical philosopher fancies he has a victory in this matter—that he can laugh when he shows that the words or antics of the child, so much admired by its worshippers, are common enough. The fact is that this is precisely where baby-worship is so profoundly right. Any words and any antics in a lump of clay are wonderful, the child’s words and antics are wonderful, and it is only fair to say that the philosopher’s words and antics are equally wonderful.

— The Defendant (1901).

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 12:53 am  Leave a Comment  

“Such phrases do not impress me”

I have often heard and read, we have all often heard and read, such phrases as “the common herd,” “the exceptional man,” “a morality suited to the multitude,” “a morality not suitable to men of genius,” “the superior intelligence has outgrown such useful conventions,” and so on. Such phrases do not impress me. They will never even begin to impress me until I hear something added to them; something for which I am waiting and for which I always wait in vain. I should begin to feel the force of such remarks if ever a man said, “the common herd, to which I belong,” or “the exceptional man, which I can never hope to be,” or “This morality is suitable to the multitude, and therefore I am going to observe it,” or “The morality is not suited to genius; so my cousin Tom may get drunk, but I mayn’t,” or “The superior intelligence has outgrown conventions, but for me they are still useful.” In short, I shall believe in the extreme philosophy of superiors and inferiors when I hear a little more about the latter. When a man calls himself inferior, I will call him a serious anti-egalitarian. So long as he always calls himself superior, I shall always continue to call him a silly braggart.

The Illustrated London News, 13 April 1912.

Published in: on December 10, 2014 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

On public monuments

Properly speaking, of course, a public monument ought to be pompous. Pomp is its very object; it would be absurd to have columns and pyramids blushing in some coy nook like violets in the woods of spring. And public monuments have in this matter a great and much-needed lesson to teach. Valour and mercy and the great enthusiasms ought to be a great deal more public than they are at present. We are too fond nowadays of committing the sin of fear and calling it the virtue of reverence. We have forgotten the old and wholesome morality of the Book of Proverbs, ‘Wisdom crieth without; her voice is heard in the streets.’ In Athens and Florence her voice was heard in the streets. They had an outdoor life of war and argument, and they had what modern commercial civilization has never had — an outdoor art.

— The Defendant (1901).

Published in: on December 3, 2014 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment