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harder to understand the more we think do not love life, in the sense that we are about them. It is a well-known fact greatly preoccupied about its conservathat an immense proportion of boat tion; that we do not, properly speaking, accidents would never happen if people love life at all, but living. Into the [240 held the sheet in their hands instead of views of the least careful there will enter making it fast; and yet, unless it be some some degree of providence; no man's eyes martinet of a professional mariner or are fixed entirely on the passing hour; some landsman with shattered nerves, (190 but although we have some anticipation every one of God's creatures makes it of good health, good weather, wine, acfast. A strange instance of man's un- tive employment, love, and self-approval, concern and brazen boldness in the face the sum of these anticipations does not of death!
amount to anything like a general view We confound ourselves with metaphys- of life's possibilities and issues; nor are ical phrases, which we import into daily those who cherish them most vividly (250 talk with noble inappropriateness. We at all the most scrupulous of their perhave no idea of what death is, apart from sonal safety. To be deeply interested in its circumstances and some of its conse- the accidents of our existence, to enjoy quences to others; and although we (200 keenly the mixed texture of human exhave some experience of living there is perience, rather leads a man to disregard not a man on earth who has flown so precautions, and risk his neck against a high into abstraction as to have any straw. For surely the love of living is practical guess at the meaning of the stronger in an Alpine climber roping over word life. All literature, from Job and a peril, or a hunter riding merrily at Omar Khayyam to Thomas Carlyle or a stiff fence, than in a creature who (260 Walt Whitman, is but an attempt to look lives upon a diet and walks a measured upon the human state with such large distance in the interest of his constituness of view as shall enable us to rise from tion. the consideration of living to the Def- (210 There is a great deal of very, vile inition of Life. And our sages give us nonsense talked upon both sides of the about the best satisfaction in their power matter: tearing divines reducing life to when they say that it is a vapor, or a the dimensions of a mere funeral processhow, or made out of the same stuff with sion, so short as to be hardly decent, dreams. Philosophy, in its more rigid and melancholy unbelievers yearning for sense, has been at the same work for the tomb as if it were a world too (270 ages; and after a myriad bald heads far away. Both sides must feel a little have wagged over the problem, and piles ashamed of their performances now and of words have been heaped one upon again when they draw in their chairs to another into dry and cloudy volumes (220 dinner. Indeed, a good meal and a bottle without end, philosophy has the honor of wine is an answer to most standard of laying before us, with modest pride, works upon the question. When a man's her contribution towards the subject: heart warms to his viands, he forgets a that life is a Permanent Possibility of great deal of sophistry, and soars into a Sensation. Truly a fine result! A man rosy zone of contemplation. Death may may very well love beef, or hunting, or a be knocking at the door, like the (280 woman; but surely, surely, not a Perma- Commander's statue; we have something nent Possibility of Sensation! He may be else in hand, thank God, and let him afraid of a precipice, or a dentist, or a knock. Passing bells are ringing all the large enemy with a club, or even an (230 world over. All the world over, and undertaker's man; but not certainly of every hour, some one is parting company abstract death. We may trick with the with all his aches and ecstasies. For us word life in its dozen senses until we are also the trap is laid. But we are so fond weary of tricking; we may argue in terms of life that we have no leisure to entertain of all the philosophies on earth, but one the terror of death. It is a honeymoon fact remains true throughout-that we with us all through, and none of the (290
longest. Small blame to us if we give his own carcass, has most time to conour whole hearts to this glowing bride of sider others. That eminent chemist who ours, to the appetites, to honor, to the took his walks abroad in tin shoes, and hungry curiosity of the mind, to the subsisted wholly upon tepid milk, had pleasure of the eyes in nature, and the all his work cut out for him in considerate pride of our own nimble bodies.
dealings with his own digestion. So (350 We all of us appreciate the sensations; soon as prudence has begun to grow up in but as for caring about the Permanence the brain, like a dismal fungus, it finds of the Possibility, a man's head is gener- its first expression in a paralysis of
generally very bald, and his senses very dull, [300 ous acts. The victim begins to shrink before he comes to that. Whether we spiritually; he develops a fancy for parregard life as a lane leading to a dead lors with a regulated temperature, and wall-a mere bag's end, as the French takes his morality on the principle of say or whether we think of it as a vesti- tin shoes and tepid milk. The care of bule or gymnasium, where we wait our one important body or soul becomes so turn and prepare our faculties for some engrossing, that all the noises of the 1360 more noble destiny; whether we thunder outer world begin to come thin and faint in a pulpit, or pule in little atheistic into the parlor with the regulated tempoetry-books, about its vanity and brev- perature; and the tin shoes go equably ity; whether we look justly for years (310 forward over blood and rain. To be otherof health and vigor, or are about to mount wise is to ossify; and the scruple-monger into a Bath-chair
, as a step towards the ends by standing stockstill. Now the hearse; in each and all of these views and man who has his heart on his sleeve, and situations there is but one conclusion a good whirling weathercock of a brain, possible: that a man should stop his ears who reckons his life as a thing to be against paralysing terror, and run the dashingly used and cheerfully haz- 1370 race that is set before him with a single arded, makes a very different acquaintmind. No one surely could have recoiled ance of the world, keeps all his pulses with more heartache and terror from going true and fast, and gathers impetus the thought of death than our re- [320 as he runs, until, if he be running towards spected lexicographer; and yet we know anything better than wildfire, he may how little it affected his conduct, how shoot up and become a constellation in the wisely and boldly he walked, and in end. Lord, look after his health, Lord, what a fresh and lively vein he spoke of have a care of his soul, says he; and he life. Already an old man, he ventured has at the key of the position, and smashes on his Highland tour; and his heart, through incongruity and peril towards (380 bound with triple brass, did not recoil his aim. Death is on all sides of him with before twenty-seven individual cups of pointed batteries, as he is on all sides of tea. As courage and intelligence are the all of us; unfortunate surprises gird him two qualities best worth a good (330 round; mim-mouthed friends and relaman's cultivation, so it is the first part of tions hold up their hands in quite a little intelligence to recognize our precarious elegiacal synod about his path: and what estate in life, and the first part of courage cares he for all this? Being a true lover to be not at all abashed before the fact. of living, a fellow with something pushing A frank and somewhat headlong carriage, and spontaneous in his inside, he must, not looking too anxiously before, not like any other soldier, in any other (390 dallying in maudlin regret over the past, stirring, deadly warfare, push on at his stamps the man who is well armored for best pace until he touch the goal. “A this world.
peerage or Westminster Abbey!” cried And not only well armored for him- (340 Nelson in his bright, boyish, heroic self, but a good friend and a good citizen manner. These are great incentives; not to boot. We do not go to cowards for for any of these, but for the plain satistender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as faction of living, of being about their panic; the man who has least fear for business in some sort or other, do the brave, serviceable men of every nation with hope, and their mouths full of tread down the nettle danger, and (400 boastful language, they should be at once pass flyingly over all the stumbling-blocks tripped up and silenced: is there not of prudence. Think of the heroism of something brave and spirited in such Johnson, think of that superb indifference a termination? and does not life go down to mortal limitation that set him upon with a better grace, foaming in full body his dictionary, and carried him through over a precipice, than miserably stragtriumphantly until the end! Who, if gling to an end in sandy deltas? (460 he were wisely considerate of things at When the Greeks made their fine saying large, would ever embark upon any work that those whom the gods love die young, much more considerable than a half- I cannot help believing they had this sort penny post-card? Who would project [410 of death also in their eye. For surely, a serial novel, after Thackeray and at whatever age it overtake the man, Dickens had each fallen in mid-course?
this is to die young.
Death has not Who would find heart enough to begin been suffered to take so much as an illuto live, if he dallied with the considera- sion from his heart. In the hot-fit of life, tion of death?
a-tiptoe on the highest point of being, And, after all, what sorry and pitiful he passes at a bound on to the other (470 quibbling all this is! To forego all the side. The noise of the mallet and chisel issues of living in a parlor with a regu- is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are lated temperature—as if that were not hardly done blowing, when, trailing with to die a hundred times over, and for [420 him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, ten years at a stretch!
As if it were not full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual to die in one's own lifetime, and without land. even the sad immunities of death! As if it were not to die, and yet be the patient spectators of our own pitiable change! The Permanent Possibility is preserved, ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE but the sensations carefully held at arm's
(1837–1909) length, as if one kept a photographic plate in a dark chamber. It is better to THE GARDEN OF PROSERPINE lose health like a spendthrift than to (430 waste it like a miser. It is better to live Here, where the world is quiet, and be done with it, than to die daily in Here, where all trouble seems the sick-room. By all means begin your Dead winds' and spent waves' riot folio; even if the doctor does not give In doubtful dreams of dreams; you a year, even if he hesitates about a I watch the green field growing month, make one brave push and see For reaping folk and sowing, what can be accomplished in a week. It For harvest-time and mowing, is not only in finished undertakings that A sleepy world of streams. we ought to honor useful labor. A spirit goes out of the man who means (440 I am tired of tears and laughter, execution, which outlives the most un- And men that laugh and weep; timely ending. All who have meant good Of what may come hereafter work with their whole hearts, have done
For men that sow to reap: good work, although they may die before I am weary of days and hours, they have the time to sign it. Every Blown buds of barren flowers, heart that has beat strong and cheerfully Desires and dreams and powers 15 has left a hopeful impulse behind it in And everything but sleep. the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind. And even if death catch Here life has death for neighbor, people, like an open pitfall, and in (450 And far from eye or ear mid-career, laying out vast projects, and Wan waves and wet winds labor, planning monstrous foundations, flushed Weak ships and spirits steer;
With a noise of winds and many rivers, The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair With clamor of waters, and with might;
Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes; 50 Bind on thy sandals, 0 thou most fleet, The wild vine slipping down leaves bare Over the splendor and speed of thy feet; Her bright breast shortening into sighs; For the faint east quickens, the wan west The wild vine slips with the weight of its shivers,
leaves, Round the feet of the day and the feet But the berried ivy catches and cleaves of the night.
To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare
55 Where shall we find her, how shall we sing The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies.
to her, Fold our hands round her knees, and
BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF YEARS cling? O that man's heart were as fire and could Before the beginning of years spring to her,
There came to the making of man Fire, or the strength of the streams that Time, with a gift of tears; spring!
Grief, with a glass that ran; For the stars and the winds are unto her Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
5 As raiment; as songs of the harp-player; Summer, with flowers that fell; For the risen stars and the fallen cling Remembrance fallen from heaven, to her,
And madness risen from hell; And the southwest-wind, and the west- Strength without hands to smite; wind sing.
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And all the season of snows and sins; And the high gods took in hand
Fire, and the falling of tears, The light that loses, the night that wins; And a measure of sliding sand And time remembered is grief forgotten, 29 From under the feet of the years; And frosts are slain and flowers begotten, And froth and drift of the sea; And in green underwood and cover
And dust of the laboring earth; Blossom by blossom the spring begins. And bodies of things to be
In the houses of death and of birth; 20 The full streams feed on flower of rushes, And wrought with weeping and laughter,
Ripe grasses trammel a traveling foot, And fashioned with loathing and love, The faint fresh flame of the young year With life before and after flushes
And death beneath and above, From leaf to flower and flower to fruit; For a day and a night and a morrow,
25 And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire, That his strength might endure for a And the oat is heard above the lyre,
span And the hoofèd heel of a satyr crushes
With travail and heavy sorrow, The chestnut-husk at the chestnut- The holy spirit of man. root.
From the winds of the north and the And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night, south
Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid, They gathered as unto strife; Follows with dancing and fills with de- They breathed upon his mouth, light
They filled his body with life; The Mænad and the Bassarid;
Eyesight and speech they wrought And soft as lips that laugh and hide
For the veils of the soul therein, The laughing leaves of the trees divide, A time for labor and thought,
35 And screen from seeing and leave in A time to serve and to sin; sight
They gave him light in his ways, The god pursuing, the maiden hid. And love, and a space for delight,