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Oscar Wilde



DE PROFUNDIS

 

 

 

 

. . .Suffering is one very long moment.  We cannot divide it byseasons. We can only record its moodsand chronicle their return. With ustime itself does not progress.  It revolves.  It seems tocircleround one centre of pain.  The paralysing immobility of alife everycircumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeablepatternso that we eat and drink and lie down and prayor kneelat leastfor prayeraccording to the inflexible laws of an ironformula: this immobile qualitythat makes each dreadful day inthe veryminutest detail like its brotherseems to communicateitself tothose external forces the very essence of whose existenceisceaseless change.  Of seed-time or harvestof the reapersbendingover the cornor the grape gatherers threading through thevinesofthe grass in the orchard made white with broken blossomsor strewnwith fallen fruit:  of these we know nothing and can knownothing.

For usthere is only one seasonthe season of sorrow.  The verysun andmoon seem taken from us.  Outsidethe day may be blue andgoldbutthe light that creeps down through the thickly-muffledglass ofthe small iron-barred window beneath which one sits isgrey andniggard.  It is always twilight in one's cellas it isalwaystwilight in one's heart.  And in the sphere of thoughtnoless thanin the sphere of timemotion is no more.  The thing thatyoupersonally have long ago forgottenor can easily forgetishappeningto me nowand will happen to me again to-morrow. Rememberthisand you will be able to understand a little of why Iamwritingand in this manner writing. . . .

A weeklaterI am transferred here.  Three more months go over andmy motherdies.  No one knew how deeply I loved and honoured her. Her deathwas terrible to me; but Ionce a lord of languagehaveno wordsin which to express my anguish and my shame.  She and myfather hadbequeathed me a name they had made noble and honourednot merelyin literatureartarchaeologyand sciencebut in thepublichistory of my own countryin its evolution as a nation.  Ihaddisgraced that name eternally.  I had made it a low by-wordamong lowpeople.  I had dragged it through the very mire.  I hadgiven itto brutes that they might make it brutaland to foolsthat theymight turn it into a synonym for folly.  What I sufferedthenandstill sufferis not for pen to write or paper to record. My wifealways kind and gentle to merather than that I shouldhear thenews from indifferent lipstravelledill as she wasallthe wayfrom Genoa to England to break to me herself the tidings ofsoirreparableso irremediablea loss.  Messages of sympathyreached mefrom all who had still affection for me.  Even peoplewho hadnot known me personallyhearing that a new sorrow hadbrokeninto my lifewrote to ask that some expression of theircondolenceshould be conveyed to me. . . .

Threemonths go over.  The calendar of my daily conduct and labourthat hangson the outside of my cell doorwith my name andsentencewritten upon ittells me that it is May. . . .

Prosperitypleasure and successmay be rough of grain and commonin fibrebut sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things. There isnothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to whichsorrowdoes not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation.  Thethinbeaten-out leaf of tremulous gold that chronicles thedirectionof forces the eye cannot see is in comparison coarse.  Itis a woundthat bleeds when any hand but that of love touches itand eventhen must bleed againthough not in pain.

Wherethere is sorrow there in holy ground.  Some day people willrealisewhat that means.  They will know nothing of life till theydo- andnatures like his can realise it.  When I was brought downfrom myprison to the Court of Bankruptcybetween two policemen-waited inthe long dreary corridor thatbefore the whole crowdwhom anaction so sweet and simple hushed into silencehe mightgravelyraise his hat to meashandcuffed and with bowed headIpassed himby.  Men have gone to heaven for smaller things thanthat. It was in this spiritand with this mode of lovethat thesaintsknelt down to wash the feet of the pooror stooped to kissthe leperon the cheek.  I have never said one single word to himabout whathe did.  I do not know to the present moment whether heis awarethat I was even conscious of his action.  It is not athing forwhich one can render formal thanks in formal words.  Istore itin the treasure-house of my heart.  I keep it there as asecretdebt that I am glad to think I can never possibly repay.  Itisembalmed and kept sweet by the myrrh and cassia of many tears. Whenwisdom has been profitless to mephilosophy barrenand theproverbsand phrases of those who have sought to give meconsolationas dust and ashes in my mouththe memory of thatlittlelovelysilent act of love has unsealed for me all thewells ofpity:  made the desert blossom like a roseand brought meout of thebitterness of lonely exile into harmony with thewoundedbrokenand great heart of the world.  When people areable tounderstandnot merely how beautiful -'s action wasbutwhy itmeant so much to meand always will mean so muchthenperhapsthey will realise how and in what spirit they shouldapproachme. . . .

The poorare wisemore charitablemore kindmore sensitive thanwe are. In their eyes prison is a tragedy in a man's lifeamisfortunea casualitysomething that calls for sympathy inothers. They speak of one who is in prison as of one who is 'introuble'simply.  It is the phrase they always useand theexpressionhas the perfect wisdom of love in it.  With people ofour ownrank it is different.  With usprison makes a man apariah. Iand such as I amhave hardly any right to air and sun. Ourpresence taints the pleasures of others.  We are unwelcome whenwereappear.  To revisit the glimpses of the moon is not for us. Our verychildren are taken away.  Those lovely links with humanityarebroken.  We are doomed to be solitarywhile our sons stilllive. We are denied the one thing that might heal us and keep usthat mightbring balm to the bruised heartand peace to the soulin pain. .. .

I must sayto myself that I ruined myselfand that nobody great orsmall canbe ruined except by his own hand.  I am quite ready tosay so. I am trying to say sothough they may not think it at thepresentmoment.  This pitiless indictment I bring without pityagainstmyself.  Terrible as was what the world did to mewhat Idid tomyself was far more terrible still.

I was aman who stood in symbolic relations to the art and cultureof myage.  I had realised this for myself at the very dawn of mymanhoodand had forced my age to realise it afterwards.  Few menhold sucha position in their own lifetimeand have it soacknowledged. It is usually discernedif discerned at allby thehistorianor the criticlong after both the man and his age havepassedaway.  With me it was different.  I felt it myselfandmadeothersfeel it.  Byron was a symbolic figurebut his relationswere tothe passion of his age and its weariness of passion.  Minewere tosomething more noblemore permanentof more vital issueof largerscope.

The godshad given me almost everything.  But I let myself be luredinto longspells of senseless and sensual ease.  I amused myselfwith beinga FLANEURa dandya man of fashion.  I surroundedmyselfwith the smaller natures and the meaner minds.  I became thespendthriftof my own geniusand to waste an eternal youth gave mea curiousjoy.  Tired of being on the heightsI deliberately wentto thedepths in the search for new sensation.  What the paradoxwas to mein the sphere of thoughtperversity became to me in thesphere ofpassion.  Desireat the endwas a maladyor a madnessor both. I grew careless of the lives of others.  I took pleasurewhere itpleased meand passed on.  I forgot that every littleaction ofthe common day makes or unmakes characterand thatthereforewhat one has done in the secret chamber one has some dayto cryaloud on the housetop.  I ceased to be lord over myself.  Iwas nolonger the captain of my souland did not know it.  Iallowedpleasure to dominate me.  I ended in horrible disgrace. There isonly one thing for me nowabsolute humility.

I havelain in prison for nearly two years.  Out of my nature hascome wilddespair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even tolook at;terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguishthat weptaloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that wasdumb. I have passed through every possible mood of suffering. Betterthan Wordsworth himself I know what Wordsworth meant when hesaid -

 

'Sufferingis permanentobscureand dark
And hasthe nature of infinity.'

 

But whilethere were times when I rejoiced in the idea that mysufferingswere to be endlessI could not bear them to be withoutmeaning. Now I find hidden somewhere away in my nature somethingthat tellsme that nothing in the whole world is meaninglessandsufferingleast of all.  That something hidden away in my naturelike atreasure in a fieldis Humility.

It is thelast thing left in meand the best:  the ultimatediscoveryat which I have arrivedthe starting-point for a freshdevelopment. It has come to me right out of myselfso I know thatit hascome at the proper time.  It could not have come beforenorlater. Had any one told me of itI would have rejected it.  Hadit beenbrought to meI would have refused it.  As I found itIwant tokeep it.  I must do so.  It is the one thing that has in ittheelements of lifeof a new lifeVITA NUOVA for me.  Of allthings itis the strangest.  One cannot acquire itexcept bysurrenderingeverything that one has.  It is only when one has lostallthingsthat one knows that one possesses it.

Now I haverealised that it is in meI see quite clearly what Iought todo; in factmust do.  And when I use such a phrase asthatIneed not say that I am not alluding to any externalsanctionor command.  I admit none.  I am far more of anindividualistthan I ever was.  Nothing seems to me of the smallestvalueexcept what one gets out of oneself.  My nature is seeking afresh modeof self-realisation.  That is all I am concerned with. And thefirst thing that I have got to do is to free myself fromanypossible bitterness of feeling against the world.

I amcompletely pennilessand absolutely homeless.  Yet there areworsethings in the world than that.  I am quite candid when I saythatrather than go out from this prison with bitterness in myheartagainst the worldI would gladly and readily beg my breadfrom doorto door.  If I got nothing from the house of the rich Iwould getsomething at the house of the poor.  Those who have muchare oftengreedy; those who have little always share.  I would nota bit mindsleeping in the cool grass in summerand when wintercame onsheltering myself by the warm close-thatched rickor underthepenthouse of a great barnprovided I had love in my heart. Theexternal things of life seem to me now of no importance at all. You cansee to what intensity of individualism I have arrived - oramarriving ratherfor the journey is longand 'where I walkthere arethorns.'

Of courseI know that to ask alms on the highway is not to be mylotandthat if ever I lie in the cool grass at night-time it willbe towrite sonnets to the moon.  When I go out of prisonR- willbe waitingfor me on the other side of the big iron-studded gateand he isthe symbolnot merely of his own affectionbut of theaffectionof many others besides.  I believe I am to have enough tolive onfor about eighteen months at any rateso that if I may notwritebeautiful booksI may at least read beautiful books; andwhat joycan be greater?  After thatI hope to be able to recreatemycreative faculty.

But werethings different:  had I not a friend left in the world;were therenot a single house open to me in pity; had I to acceptthe walletand ragged cloak of sheer penury:  as long as I am freefrom allresentmenthardness and scornI would be able to facethe lifewith much more calm and confidence than I would were mybody inpurple and fine linenand the soul within me sick withhate.

And Ireally shall have no difficulty.  When you really want loveyou willfind it waiting for you.

I need notsay that my task does not end there.  It would becomparativelyeasy if it did.  There is much more before me.  Ihave hillsfar steeper to climbvalleys much darker to passthrough. And I have to get it all out of myself.  Neitherreligionmoralitynor reason can help me at all.

Moralitydoes not help me.  I am a born antinomian.  I am one ofthose whoare made for exceptionsnot for laws.  But while I seethat thereis nothing wrong in what one doesI see that there issomethingwrong in what one becomes.  It is well to have learnedthat.

Religiondoes not help me.  The faith that others give to what isunseenIgive to what one can touchand look at.  My gods dwellin templesmade with hands; and within the circle of actualexperienceis my creed made perfect and complete:  too completeitmay befor like many or all of those who have placed their heavenin thisearthI have found in it not merely the beauty of heavenbut thehorror of hell also.  When I think about religion at allIfeel as ifI would like to found an order for those who CANNOTbelieve: the Confraternity of the Faithlessone might call itwhere onan altaron which no taper burneda priestin whoseheartpeace had no dwellingmight celebrate with unblessed breadand achalice empty of wine.  Every thing to be true must become areligion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less thanfaith. It has sown its martyrsit should reap its saintsandpraise Goddaily for having hidden Himself from man.  But whetherit befaith or agnosticismit must be nothing external to me.  Itssymbolsmust be of my own creating.  Only that is spiritual whichmakes itsown form.  If I may not find its secret within myselfIshallnever find it:  if I have not got it alreadyit will nevercome tome.

Reasondoes not help me.  It tells me that the laws under which Iamconvicted are wrong and unjust lawsand the system under whichI havesuffered a wrong and unjust system.  ButsomehowI havegot tomake both of these things just and right to me.  And exactlyas in Artone is only concerned with what a particular thing is ataparticular moment to oneselfso it is also in the ethicalevolutionof one's character.  I have got to make everything thathashappened to me good for me.  The plank bedthe loathsome foodthe hardropes shredded into oakum till one's finger-tips grow dullwith painthe menial offices with which each day begins andfinishesthe harsh orders that routine seems to necessitatethedreadfuldress that makes sorrow grotesque to look atthe silencethesolitudethe shame - each and all of these things I have totransforminto a spiritual experience.  There is not a singledegradationof the body which I must not try and make into aspiritualisingof the soul.

I want toget to the point when I shall be able to say quitesimplyand without affectation that the two great turning-pointsin my lifewere when my father sent me to Oxfordand when societysent me toprison.  I will not say that prison is the best thingthat couldhave happened to me:  for that phrase would savour oftoo greatbitterness towards myself.  I would sooner sayor hearit said ofmethat I was so typical a child of my agethat in myperversityand for that perversity's sakeI turned the goodthings ofmy life to eviland the evil things of my life to good.

What issaidhoweverby myself or by othersmatters little.  Theimportantthingthe thing that lies before methe thing that Ihave todoif the brief remainder of my days is not to be maimedmarredand incompleteis to absorb into my nature all that hasbeen doneto meto make it part of meto accept it withoutcomplaintfearor reluctance.  The supreme vice is shallowness. Whateveris realised is right.

When firstI was put into prison some people advised me to try andforget whoI was.  It was ruinous advice.  It is only by realisingwhat I amthat I have found comfort of any kind.  Now I am advisedby othersto try on my release to forget that I have ever been in aprison atall.  I know that would be equally fatal.  It would meanthat Iwould always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgraceand thatthose things that are meant for me as much as for anybodyelse - thebeauty of the sun and moonthe pageant of the seasonsthe musicof daybreak and the silence of great nightsthe rainfallingthrough the leavesor the dew creeping over the grass andmaking itsilver - would all be tainted for meand lose theirhealingpowerand their power of communicating joy.  To regretone's ownexperiences is to arrest one's own development.  To denyone's ownexperiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's ownlife. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

For justas the body absorbs things of all kindsthings common andunclean noless than those that the priest or a vision hascleansedand converts them into swiftness or strengthinto theplay ofbeautiful muscles and the moulding of fair fleshinto thecurves andcolours of the hairthe lipsthe eye; so the soul inits turnhas its nutritive functions alsoand can transform intonoblemoods of thought and passions of high import what in itselfis basecruel and degrading; naymoremay find in these its mostaugustmodes of assertionand can often reveal itself mostperfectlythrough what was intended to desecrate or destroy.

The factof my having been the common prisoner of a common gaol Imustfrankly acceptandcurious as it may seemone of the thingsI shallhave to teach myself is not to be ashamed of it.  I mustaccept itas a punishmentand if one is ashamed of having beenpunishedone might just as well never have been punished at all. Of coursethere are many things of which I was convicted that I hadnot donebut then there are many things of which I was convictedthat I haddoneand a still greater number of things in my lifefor whichI was never indicted at all.  And as the gods arestrangeand punish us for what is good and humane in us as much asfor whatis evil and perverseI must accept the fact that one ispunishedfor the good as well as for the evil that one does.  Ihave nodoubt that it is quite right one should be.  It helps oneor shouldhelp oneto realise bothand not to be too conceitedabouteither.  And if I then am not ashamed of my punishmentas Ihope notto beI shall be able to thinkand walkand live withfreedom.

Many menon their release carry their prison about with them intothe airand hide it as a secret disgrace in their heartsand atlengthlike poor poisoned thingscreep into some hole and die. It iswretched that they should have to do soand it is wrongterriblywrongof society that it should force them to do so. Societytakes upon itself the right to inflict appalling punishmenton theindividualbut it also has the supreme vice of shallownessand failsto realise what it has done.  When the man's punishmentis overit leaves him to himself; that is to sayit abandons himat thevery moment when its highest duty towards him begins.  It isreallyashamed of its own actionsand shuns those whom it haspunishedas people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot payorone onwhom they have inflicted an irreparablean irremediablewrong. I can claim on my side that if I realise what I havesufferedsociety should realise what it has inflicted on me; andthat thereshould be no bitterness or hate on either side.

Of courseI know that from one point of view things will be madedifferentfor me than for others; must indeedby the very natureof thecasebe made so.  The poor thieves and outcasts who areimprisonedhere with me are in many respects more fortunate than Iam. The little way in grey city or green field that saw their sinis small;to find those who know nothing of what they have donethey needgo no further than a bird might fly between the twilightand thedawn; but for me the world is shrivelled to a handsbreadthandeverywhere I turn my name is written on the rocks in lead.  ForI havecomenot from obscurity into the momentary notoriety ofcrimebutfrom a sort of eternity of fame to a sort of eternity ofinfamyand sometimes seem to myself to have shownif indeed itrequiredshowingthat between the famous and the infamous there isbut onestepif as much as one.

Stillinthe very fact that people will recognise me wherever Igoandknow all about my lifeas far as its follies goI candiscernsomething good for me.  It will force on me the necessityof againasserting myself as an artistand as soon as I possiblycan. If I can produce only one beautiful work of art I shall beable torob malice of its venomand cowardice of its sneerand topluck outthe tongue of scorn by the roots.

And iflife beas it surely isa problem to meI am no less aproblem tolife.  People must adopt some attitude towards meandso passjudgmentboth on themselves and me.  I need not say I amnottalking of particular individuals.  The only people I wouldcare to bewith now are artists and people who have suffered: those whoknow what beauty isand those who know what sorrow is: nobodyelse interests me.  Nor am I making any demands on life. Inall that Ihave said I am simply concerned with my own mentalattitudetowards life as a whole; and I feel that not to be ashamedof havingbeen punished is one of the first points I must attaintoforthe sake of my own perfectionand because I am soimperfect.

Then Imust learn how to be happy.  Once I knew itor thought Iknew itby instinct.  It was always springtime once in my heart. Mytemperament was akin to joy.  I filled my life to the very brimwithpleasureas one might fill a cup to the very brim with wine. Now I amapproaching life from a completely new standpointandeven toconceive happiness is often extremely difficult for me.  Irememberduring my first term at Oxford reading in Pater'sRENAISSANCE- that book which has had such strange influence overmy life -how Dante places low in the Inferno those who wilfullylive insadness; and going to the college library and turning tothepassage in the DIVINE COMEDY where beneath the dreary marsh liethose whowere 'sullen in the sweet air' saying for ever and everthroughtheir sighs -

 

'Tristifummo
Nellaer dolce che dal sol s'allegra.'

 

I knew thechurch condemned ACCIDIAbut the whole idea seemed tome quitefantasticjust the sort of sinI fancieda priest whoknewnothing about real life would invent.  Nor could I understandhow Dantewho says that 'sorrow remarries us to God' could havebeen soharsh to those who were enamoured of melancholyif anysuch therereally were.  I had no idea that some day this wouldbecome tome one of the greatest temptations of my life.

While Iwas in Wandsworth prison I longed to die.  It was my onedesire. When after two months in the infirmary I was transferredhereandfound myself growing gradually better in physical healthI wasfilled with rage.  I determined to commit suicide on the veryday onwhich I left prison.  After a time that evil mood passedawayandI made up my mind to livebut to wear gloom as a kingwearspurple:  never to smile again:  to turn whatever house Ienteredinto a house of mourning:  to make my friends walk slowlyin sadnesswith me:  to teach them that melancholy is the truesecret oflife:  to maim them with an alien sorrow:  to mar themwith myown pain.  Now I feel quite differently.  I see it would bebothungrateful and unkind of me to pull so long a face that whenmy friendscame to see me they would have to make their faces stilllonger inorder to show their sympathy; orif I desired toentertainthemto invite them to sit down silently to bitter herbsandfuneral baked meats.  I must learn how to be cheerful andhappy.

The lasttwo occasions on which I was allowed to see my friendshereItried to be as cheerful as possibleand to show mycheerfulnessin order to make them some slight return for theirtrouble incoming all the way from town to see me.  It is only aslightreturnI knowbut it is the oneI feel certainthatpleasesthem most.  I saw R- for an hour on Saturday weekand Itried togive the fullest possible expression of the delight Ireallyfelt at our meeting.  And thatin the views and ideas I amhereshaping for myselfI am quite right is shown to me by thefact thatnow for the first time since my imprisonment I have arealdesire for life.

There isbefore me so much to dothat I would regard it as aterribletragedy if I died before I was allowed to complete at anyrate alittle of it.  I see new developments in art and lifeeachone ofwhich is a fresh mode of perfection.  I long to live so thatI canexplore what is no less than a new world to me.  Do you wantto knowwhat this new world is?  I think you can guess what it is. It is theworld in which I have been living.  Sorrowthenand allthat itteaches oneis my new world.

I used tolive entirely for pleasure.  I shunned suffering andsorrow ofevery kind.  I hated both.  I resolved to ignore them asfar aspossible:  to treat themthat is to sayas modes ofimperfection. They were not part of my scheme of life.  They hadno placein my philosophy.  My motherwho knew life as a wholeused oftento quote to me Goethe's lines - written by Carlyle in abook hehad given her years agoand translated by himI fancyalso:-

 

'Whonever ate his bread in sorrow
Whonever spent the midnight hours
Weepingand waiting for the morrow-
Heknows you notye heavenly powers.'

 

They werethe lines which that noble Queen of PrussiawhomNapoleontreated with such coarse brutalityused to quote in herhumiliationand exile; they were the lines my mother often quotedin thetroubles of her later life.  I absolutely declined to acceptor admitthe enormous truth hidden in them.  I could not understandit. I remember quite well how I used to tell her that I did notwant toeat my bread in sorrowor to pass any night weeping andwatchingfor a more bitter dawn.

I had noidea that it was one of the special things that the Fateshad instore for me:  that for a whole year of my lifeindeedIwas to dolittle else.  But so has my portion been meted out to me;and duringthe last few months I haveafter terrible difficultiesandstrugglesbeen able to comprehend some of the lessons hiddenin theheart of pain.  Clergymen and people who use phrases withoutwisdomsometimes talk of suffering as a mystery.  It is really arevelation. One discerns things one never discerned before.  Oneapproachesthe whole of history from a different standpoint.  Whatone hadfelt dimlythrough instinctabout artis intellectuallyandemotionally realised with perfect clearness of vision andabsoluteintensity of apprehension.

I now seethat sorrowbeing the supreme emotion of which man iscapableis at once the type and test of all great art.  What theartist isalways looking for is the mode of existence in which souland bodyare one and indivisible:  in which the outward isexpressiveof the inward:  in which form reveals.  Of such modes ofexistencethere are not a few:  youth and the arts preoccupied withyouth mayserve as a model for us at one moment:  at another we maylike tothink thatin its subtlety and sensitiveness ofimpressionits suggestion of a spirit dwelling in external thingsand makingits raiment of earth and airof mist and city alikeand in itsmorbid sympathy of its moodsand tonesand coloursmodernlandscape art is realising for us pictorially what wasrealisedin such plastic perfection by the Greeks.  Musicin whichallsubject is absorbed in expression and cannot be separated fromitis acomplex exampleand a flower or a child a simple exampleof what Imean; but sorrow is the ultimate type both in life andart.

Behind joyand laughter there may be a temperamentcoarsehardandcallous.  But behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Painunlikepleasurewears no mask.  Truth in art is not anycorrespondencebetween the essential idea and the accidentalexistence;it is not the resemblance of shape to shadowor of theformmirrored in the crystal to the form itself; it is no echocomingfrom a hollow hillany more than it is a silver well ofwater inthe valley that shows the moon to the moon and NarcissustoNarcissus.  Truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself: theoutward rendered expressive of the inward:  the soul madeincarnate: the body instinct with spirit.  For this reason thereis notruth comparable to sorrow.  There are times when sorrowseems tome to be the only truth.  Other things may be illusions ofthe eye orthe appetitemade to blind the one and cloy the otherbut out ofsorrow have the worlds been builtand at the birth of achild or astar there is pain.

More thanthisthere is about sorrow an intensean extraordinaryreality. I have said of myself that I was one who stood insymbolicrelations to the art and culture of my age.  There is nota singlewretched man in this wretched place along with me who doesnot standin symbolic relation to the very secret of life.  For thesecret oflife is suffering.  It is what is hidden behindeverything. When we begin to livewhat is sweet is so sweet tousandwhat is bitter so bitterthat we inevitably direct all ourdesirestowards pleasuresand seek not merely for a 'month ortwain tofeed on honeycomb' but for all our years to taste nootherfoodignorant all the while that we may really be starvingthe soul.

I remembertalking once on this subject to one of the mostbeautifulpersonalities I have ever known:  a womanwhose sympathyand noblekindness to meboth before and since the tragedy of myimprisonmenthave been beyond power and description; one who hasreallyassisted methough she does not know itto bear the burdenof mytroubles more than any one else in the whole world hasandallthrough the mere fact of her existencethrough her being whatshe is -partly an ideal and partly an influence:  a suggestion ofwhat onemight become as well as a real help towards becoming it; asoul thatrenders the common air sweetand makes what is spiritualseem assimple and natural as sunlight or the sea:  one for whombeauty andsorrow walk hand in handand have the same message.  Ontheoccasion of which I am thinking I recall distinctly how I saidto herthat there was enough suffering in one narrow London lane toshow thatGod did not love manand that wherever there was anysorrowthough but that of a childin some little garden weepingover afault that it had or had not committedthe whole face ofcreationwas completely marred.  I was entirely wrong.  She told mesobut Icould not believe her.  I was not in the sphere in whichsuchbelief was to be attained to.  Now it seems to me that love ofsome kindis the only possible explanation of the extraordinaryamount ofsuffering that there is in the world.  I cannot conceiveof anyother explanation.  I am convinced that there is no otherand thatif the world has indeedas I have saidbeen built ofsorrowithas been built by the hands of lovebecause in no otherway couldthe soul of manfor whom the world was madereach thefullstature of its perfection.  Pleasure for the beautiful bodybut painfor the beautiful soul.

When I saythat I am convinced of these things I speak with toomuchpride.  Far offlike a perfect pearlone can see the city ofGod. It is so wonderful that it seems as if a child could reach itin asummer's day.  And so a child could.  But with me and suchasme it isdifferent.  One can realise a thing in a single momentbut oneloses it in the long hours that follow with leaden feet. It is sodifficult to keep 'heights that the soul is competent togain.' We think in eternitybut we move slowly through time; andhow slowlytime goes with us who lie in prison I need not tellagainnorof the weariness and despair that creep back into one'scellandinto the cell of one's heartwith such strangeinsistencethat one hasas it wereto garnish and sweep one'shouse fortheir comingas for an unwelcome guestor a bittermasterora slave whose slave it is one's chance or choice to be.

Andthough at present my friends may find it a hard thing tobelieveit is true none the lessthat for them living in freedomandidleness and comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons ofhumilitythan it is for mewho begin the day by going down on myknees andwashing the floor of my cell.  For prison life with itsendlessprivations and restrictions makes one rebellious.  The mostterriblething about it is not that it breaks one's heart - heartsare madeto be broken - but that it turns one's heart to stone. Onesometimes feels that it is only with a front of brass and a lipof scornthat one can get through the day at all.  And he who is ina state ofrebellion cannot receive graceto use the phrase ofwhich theChurch is so fond - so rightly fondI dare say - for inlife as inart the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of thesoulandshuts out the airs of heaven.  Yet I must learn theselessonshereif I am to learn them anywhereand must be filledwith joyif my feet are on the right road and my face set towards'the gatewhich is called beautiful' though I may fall many timesin themire and often in the mist go astray.

This NewLifeas through my love of Dante I like sometimes to callitis ofcourse no new life at allbut simply the continuancebymeans ofdevelopmentand evolutionof my former life.  I rememberwhen I wasat Oxford saying to one of my friends as we werestrollinground Magdalen's narrow bird-haunted walks one morning inthe yearbefore I took my degreethat I wanted to eat of the fruitof all thetrees in the garden of the worldand that I was goingout intothe world with that passion in my soul.  And soindeedIwent outand so I lived.  My only mistake was that I confinedmyself soexclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-litside ofthe gardenand shunned the other side for its shadow anditsgloom.  Failuredisgracepovertysorrowdespairsufferingtearseventhe broken words that come from lips in painremorsethat makesone walk on thornsconscience that condemnsself-abasementthat punishesthe misery that puts ashes on its headtheanguish that chooses sack-cloth for its raiment and into itsown drinkputs gall:- all these were things of which I was afraid. And as Ihad determined to know nothing of themI was forced totaste eachof them in turnto feed on themto have for a seasonindeednoother food at all.

I don'tregret for a single moment having lived for pleasure.  Idid it tothe fullas one should do everything that one does. There wasno pleasure I did not experience.  I threw the pearl ofmy soulinto a cup of wine.  I went down the primrose path to thesound offlutes.  I lived on honeycomb.  But to have continued thesame lifewould have been wrong because it would have beenlimiting. I had to pass on.  The other half of the garden had itssecretsfor me also.  Of course all this is foreshadowed andprefiguredin my books.  Some of it is in THE HAPPY PRINCEsome ofit in THEYOUNG KINGnotably in the passage where the bishop saysto thekneeling boy'Is not He who made misery wiser than thouart'? aphrase which when I wrote it seemed to me little more thana phrase;a great deal of it is hidden away in the note of doomthat likea purple thread runs through the texture of DORIAN GRAY;in THECRITIC AS ARTIST it is set forth in many colours; in THESOUL OFMAN it is written downand in letters too easy to read; itis one ofthe refrains whose recurring MOTIFS make SALOME so like apiece ofmusic and bind it together as a ballad; in the prose poemof the manwho from the bronze of the image of the 'Pleasure thatliveth fora moment' has to make the image of the 'Sorrow thatabidethfor ever' it is incarnate.  It could not have beenotherwise. At every single moment of one's life one is what one isgoing tobe no less than what one has been.  Art is a symbolbecauseman is a symbol.

It isifI can fully attain to itthe ultimate realisation of theartisticlife.  For the artistic life is simply self-development. Humilityin the artist is his frank acceptance of all experiencesjust aslove in the artist is simply the sense of beauty thatreveals tothe world its body and its soul.  In MARIUS THEEPICUREANPater seeks to reconcile the artistic life with the lifeofreligionin the deepsweetand austere sense of the word. But Mariusis little more than a spectator:  an ideal spectatorindeedand one to whom it is given 'to contemplate the spectacleof lifewith appropriate emotions' which Wordsworth defines as thepoet'strue aim; yet a spectator merelyand perhaps a little toomuchoccupied with the comeliness of the benches of the sanctuaryto noticethat it is the sanctuary of sorrow that he is gazing at.

I see afar more intimate and immediate connection between the truelife ofChrist and the true life of the artist; and I take a keenpleasurein the reflection that long before sorrow had made my daysher ownand bound me to her wheel I had written in THE SOUL OF MANthat hewho would lead a Christ-like life must be entirely andabsolutelyhimselfand had taken as my types not merely theshepherdon the hillside and the prisoner in his cellbut also thepainter towhom the world is a pageant and the poet for whom theworld is asong.  I remember saying once to Andre Gideas we sattogetherin some Paris CAFEthat while meta-physics had but littlerealinterest for meand morality absolutely nonethere wasnothingthat either Plato or Christ had said that could not betransferredimmediately into the sphere of Art and there find itscompletefulfilment.

Nor is itmerely that we can discern in Christ that close union ofpersonalitywith perfection which forms the real distinctionbetweenthe classical and romantic movement in lifebut the verybasis ofhis nature was the same as that of the nature of theartist -an intense and flamelike imagination.  He realised in theentiresphere of human relations that imaginative sympathy which inthe sphereof Art is the sole secret of creation.  He understoodtheleprosy of the leperthe darkness of the blindthe fiercemisery ofthose who live for pleasurethe strange poverty of therich. Some one wrote to me in trouble'When you are not on yourpedestalyou are not interesting.'  How remote was the writer fromwhatMatthew Arnold calls 'the Secret of Jesus.'  Either would havetaught himthat whatever happens to another happens to oneselfandif youwant an inscription to read at dawn and at night-timeandforpleasure or for painwrite up on the walls of your house inlettersfor the sun to gild and the moon to silver'Whateverhappens tooneself happens to another.'

Christ'splace indeed is with the poets.  His whole conception ofHumanitysprang right out of the imagination and can only berealisedby it.  What God was to the pantheistman was to Him.  Hewas thefirst to conceive the divided races as a unity.  Before histime therehad been gods and menandfeeling through themysticismof sympathy that in himself each had been made incarnatehe callshimself the Son of the one or the Son of the otheraccordingto his mood.  More than any one else in history he wakesin us thattemper of wonder to which romance always appeals.  Thereis stillsomething to me almost incredible in the idea of a youngGalileanpeasant imagining that he could bear on his own shouldersthe burdenof the entire world; all that had already been done andsufferedand all that was yet to be done and suffered:  the sinsof Neroof Caesar Borgiaof Alexander VI.and of him who wasEmperor ofRome and Priest of the Sun:  the sufferings of thosewhosenames are legion and whose dwelling is among the tombs: oppressednationalitiesfactory childrenthievespeople inprisonoutcaststhose who are dumb under oppression and whosesilence isheard only of God; and not merely imagining this butactuallyachieving itso that at the present moment all who comein contactwith his personalityeven though they may neither bowto hisaltar nor kneel before his priestin some way find that theuglinessof their sin is taken away and the beauty of their sorrowrevealedto them.

I had saidof Christ that he ranks with the poets.  That is true. Shelleyand Sophocles are of his company.  But his entire life alsois themost wonderful of poems.  For 'pity and terror' there isnothing inthe entire cycle of Greek tragedy to touch it.  Theabsolutepurity of the protagonist raises the entire scheme to aheight ofromantic art from which the sufferings of Thebes andPelops'line are by their very horror excludedand shows how wrongAristotlewas when he said in his treatise on the drama that itwould beimpossible to bear the spectacle of one blameless in pain. Nor inAEschylus nor Dantethose stern masters of tendernessinShakespearethe most purely human of all the great artistsin thewhole ofCeltic myth and legendwhere the loveliness of the worldis shownthrough a mist of tearsand the life of a man is no morethan thelife of a floweris there anything thatfor sheersimplicityof pathos wedded and made one with sublimity of tragiceffectcan be said to equal or even approach the last act ofChrist'spassion.  The little supper with his companionsone ofwhom hasalready sold him for a price; the anguish in the quietmoon-litgarden; the false friend coming close to him so as tobetray himwith a kiss; the friend who still believed in himandon whom ason a rock he had hoped to build a house of refuge forMandenying him as the bird cried to the dawn; his own utterlonelinesshis submissionhis acceptance of everything; and alongwith itall such scenes as the high priest of orthodoxy rending hisraiment inwrathand the magistrate of civil justice calling forwater inthe vain hope of cleansing himself of that stain ofinnocentblood that makes him the scarlet figure of history; thecoronationceremony of sorrowone of the most wonderful things inthe wholeof recorded time; the crucifixion of the Innocent Onebefore theeyes of his mother and of the disciple whom he loved;thesoldiers gambling and throwing dice for his clothes; theterribledeath by which he gave the world its most eternal symbol;and hisfinal burial in the tomb of the rich manhis body swathedinEgyptian linen with costly spices and perfumes as though he hadbeen aking's son.  When one contemplates all this from the pointof view ofart alone one cannot but be grateful that the supremeoffice ofthe Church should be the playing of the tragedy withouttheshedding of blood:  the mystical presentationby means ofdialogueand costume and gesture evenof the Passion of her Lord;and it isalways a source of pleasure and awe to me to rememberthat theultimate survival of the Greek choruslost elsewhere toartis tobe found in the servitor answering the priest at Mass.

Yet thewhole life of Christ - so entirely may sorrow and beauty bemade onein their meaning and manifestation - is really an idyllthough itends with the veil of the temple being rentand thedarknesscoming over the face of the earthand the stone rolled tothe doorof the sepulchre.  One always thinks of him as a youngbridegroomwith his companionsas indeed he somewhere describeshimself;as a shepherd straying through a valley with his sheep insearch ofgreen meadow or cool stream; as a singer trying to buildout of themusic the walls of the City of God; or as a lover forwhose lovethe whole world was too small.  His miracles seem to meto be asexquisite as the coming of springand quite as natural. I see nodifficulty at all in believing that such was the charm ofhispersonality that his mere presence could bring peace to soulsinanguishand that those who touched his garments or his handsforgottheir pain; or that as he passed by on the highway of lifepeople whohad seen nothing of life's mysterysaw it clearlyandothers whohad been deaf to every voice but that of pleasure heardfor thefirst time the voice of love and found it as 'musical asApollo'slute'; or that evil passions fled at his approachand menwhose dullunimaginative lives had been but a mode of death rose asit werefrom the grave when he called them; or that when he taughton thehillside the multitude forgot their hunger and thirst andthe caresof this worldand that to his friends who listened tohim as hesat at meat the coarse food seemed delicateand thewater hadthe taste of good wineand the whole house became fullof theodour and sweetness of nard.

Renan inhis VIE DE JESUS - that gracious fifth gospelthe gospelaccordingto St. Thomasone might call it - says somewhere thatChrist'sgreat achievement was that he made himself as much lovedafter hisdeath as he had been during his lifetime.  And certainlyif hisplace is among the poetshe is the leader of all thelovers. He saw that love was the first secret of the world forwhich thewise men had been lookingand that it was only throughlove thatone could approach either the heart of the leper or thefeet ofGod.

And aboveallChrist is the most supreme of individualists. Humilitylike the artisticacceptance of all experiencesismerely amode of manifestation.  It is man's soul that Christ isalwayslooking for.  He calls it 'God's Kingdom' and finds it ineveryone.  He compares it to little thingsto a tiny seedto ahandful ofleavento a pearl.  That is because one realises one'ssoul onlyby getting rid of all alien passionsall acquiredcultureand all external possessionsbe they good or evil.

I bore upagainst everything with some stubbornness of will andmuchrebellion of naturetill I had absolutely nothing left in theworld butone thing.  I had lost my namemy positionmyhappinessmy freedommy wealth.  I was a prisoner and a pauper. But Istill had my children left.  Suddenly they were taken awayfrom me bythe law.  It was a blow so appalling that I did not knowwhat todoso I flung myself on my kneesand bowed my headandweptandsaid'The body of a child is as the body of the Lord:  Iam notworthy of either.'  That moment seemed to save me.  I sawthen thatthe only thing for me was to accept everything.  Sincethen -curious as it will no doubt sound - I have been happier.  Itwas ofcourse my soul in its ultimate essence that I had reached. In manyways I had been its enemybut I found it waiting for me asa friend. When one comes in contact with the soul it makes onesimple asa childas Christ said one should be.

It istragic how few people ever 'possess their souls' before theydie. 'Nothing is more rare in any man' says Emerson'than an actof hisown.'  It is quite true.  Most people are other people. Theirthoughts are some one else's opinionstheir lives a mimicrytheirpassions a quotation.  Christ was not merely the supremeindividualistbut he was the first individualist in history. Peoplehave tried to make him out an ordinary philanthropistorranked himas an altruist with the scientific and sentimental.  Buthe wasreally neither one nor the other.  Pity he hasof coursefor thepoorfor those who are shut up in prisonsfor the lowlyfor thewretched; but he has far more pity for the richfor thehardhedonistsfor those who waste their freedom in becomingslaves tothingsfor those who wear soft raiment and live inkings'houses.  Riches and pleasure seemed to him to be reallygreatertragedies than poverty or sorrow.  And as for altruismwhoknewbetter than he that it is vocation not volition thatdeterminesusand that one cannot gather grapes of thorns or figsfromthistles?

To livefor others as a definite self-conscious aim was not hiscreed. It was not the basis of his creed.  When he says'Forgiveyourenemies' it is not for the sake of the enemybut for one'sown sakethat he says soand because love is more beautiful thanhate. In his own entreaty to the young man'Sell all that thouhast andgive to the poor' it is not of the state of the poor thathe isthinking but of the soul of the young manthe soul thatwealth wasmarring.  In his view of life he is one with the artistwho knowsthat by the inevitable law of self-perfectionthe poetmust singand the sculptor think in bronzeand the painter makethe worlda mirror for his moodsas surely and as certainly as thehawthornmust blossom in springand the corn turn to gold atharvest-timeand the moon in her ordered wanderings change fromshield tosickleand from sickle to shield.

But whileChrist did not say to men'Live for others' he pointedout thatthere was no difference at all between the lives of othersand one'sown life.  By this means he gave to man an extendedaTitanpersonality.  Since his coming the history of each separateindividualisor can be madethe history of the world.  Ofcourseculture has intensified the personality of man.  Art hasmade usmyriad-minded.  Those who have the artistic temperament gointo exilewith Dante and learn how salt is the bread of othersand howsteep their stairs; they catch for a moment the serenityand calmof Goetheand yet know but too well that Baudelaire criedto God -

 

'OSeigneurdonnez moi la force et le courage
Decontempler mon corps et mon coeur sans degout.'

 

Out ofShakespeare's sonnets they drawto their own hurt it maybethesecret of his love and make it their own; they look withnew eyeson modern lifebecause they have listened to one ofChopin'snocturnesor handled Greek thingsor read the story ofthepassion of some dead man for some dead woman whose hair waslikethreads of fine goldand whose mouth was as a pomegranate. But thesympathy of the artistic temperament is necessarily withwhat hasfound expression.  In words or in coloursin music or inmarblebehind the painted masks of an AEschylean playor throughsomeSicilian shepherds' pierced and jointed reedsthe man and hismessagemust have been revealed.

To theartistexpression is the only mode under which he canconceivelife at all.  To him what is dumb is dead.  But to Christit was notso.  With a width and wonder of imagination that fillsone almostwith awehe took the entire world of the inarticulatethevoiceless world of painas his kingdomand made of himselfitseternal mouthpiece.  Those of whom I have spokenwho are dumbunderoppressionand 'whose silence is heard only of God' hechose ashis brothers.  He sought to become eyes to the blindearsto thedeafand a cry in the lips of those whose tongues had beentied. His desire was to be to the myriads who had found noutterancea very trumpet through which they might call to heaven. Andfeelingwith the artistic nature of one to whom suffering andsorrowwere modes through which he could realise his conception ofthebeautifulthat an idea is of no value till it becomesincarnateand is made an imagehe made of himself the image of theMan ofSorrowsand as such has fascinated and dominated art as noGreek godever succeeded in doing.

For theGreek godsin spite of the white and red of their fairfleetlimbswere not really what they appeared to be.  The curvedbrow ofApollo was like the sun's disc crescent over a hill atdawnandhis feet were as the wings of the morningbut he himselfhad beencruel to Marsyas and had made Niobe childless.  In thesteelshields of Athena's eyes there had been no pity for Arachne;the pompand peacocks of Hera were all that was really noble abouther; andthe Father of the Gods himself had been too fond of thedaughtersof men.  The two most deeply suggestive figures of GreekMythologywerefor religionDemeteran Earth Goddessnot one oftheOlympiansand for artDionysusthe son of a mortal woman towhom themoment of his birth had proved also the moment of herdeath.

But Lifeitself from its lowliest and most humble sphere producedone farmore marvellous than the mother of Proserpina or the son ofSemele. Out of the Carpenter's shop at Nazareth had come apersonalityinfinitely greater than any made by myth and legendand onestrangely enoughdestined to reveal to the world themysticalmeaning of wine and the real beauties of the lilies of thefield asnoneeither on Cithaeron or at Ennahad ever done.

The songof Isaiah'He is despised and rejected of mena man ofsorrowsand acquainted with grief:  and we hid as it were our facesfrom him'had seemed to him to prefigure himselfand in him theprophecywas fulfilled.  We must not be afraid of such a phrase. Everysingle work of art is the fulfilment of a prophecy:  forevery workof art is the conversion of an idea into an image. Everysingle human being should be the fulfilment of a prophecy: for everyhuman being should be the realisation of some idealeither inthe mind of God or in the mind of man.  Christ found thetype andfixed itand the dream of a Virgilian poeteither atJerusalemor at Babylonbecame in the long progress of thecenturiesincarnate in him for whom the world was waiting.

To me oneof the things in history the most to be regretted is thattheChrist's own renaissancewhich has produced the Cathedral atChartresthe Arthurian cycle of legendsthe life of St. Francisof Assisithe art of Giottoand Dante's DIVINE COMEDYwas notallowed todevelop on its own linesbut was interrupted andspoiled bythe dreary classical Renaissance that gave us PetrarchandRaphael's frescoesand Palladian architectureand formalFrenchtragedyand St. Paul's Cathedraland Pope's poetryandeverythingthat is made from without and by dead rulesand doesnot springfrom within through some spirit informing it.  Butwhereverthere is a romantic movement in art there somehowandunder someformis Christor the soul of Christ.  He is in ROMEOANDJULIETin the WINTER'S TALEin Provencal poetryin theANCIENTMARINERin LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCIand in Chatterton'sBALLAD OFCHARITY.

We owe tohim the most diverse things and people.  Hugo's LESMISERABLESBaudelaire's FLEURS DU MALthe note of pity in RussiannovelsVerlaine and Verlaine's poemsthe stained glass andtapestriesand the quattro-cento work of Burne-Jones and Morrisbelong tohim no less than the tower of GiottoLancelot andGuinevereTannhauserthe troubled romantic marbles of MichaelAngelopointed architectureand the love of children and flowers- for bothof whichindeedin classical art there was but littleplacehardly enough for them to grow or play inbut whichfromthetwelfth century down to our own dayhave been continuallymakingtheir appearances in artunder various modes and at varioustimescoming fitfully and wilfullyas childrenas flowersareapt todo:  spring always seeming to one as if the flowers had beenin hidingand only came out into the sun because they were afraidthat grownup people would grow tired of looking for them and giveup thesearch; and the life of a child being no more than an Aprilday onwhich there is both rain and sun for the narcissus.

It is theimaginative quality of Christ's own nature that makes himthispalpitating centre of romance.  The strange figures of poeticdrama andballad are made by the imagination of othersbut out ofhis ownimagination entirely did Jesus of Nazareth create himself. The cry ofIsaiah had really no more to do with his coming than thesong ofthe nightingale has to do with the rising of the moon - nomorethough perhaps no less.  He was the denial as well as theaffirmationof prophecy.  For every expectation that he fulfilledthere wasanother that he destroyed.  'In all beauty' says Bacon'there issome strangeness of proportion' and of those who areborn ofthe spirit - of thosethat is to saywho like himself aredynamicforces - Christ says that they are like the wind that'blowethwhere it listethand no man can tell whence it cometh andwhither itgoeth.'  That is why he is so fascinating to artists. He has allthe colour elements of life:  mysterystrangenesspathossuggestionecstasylove.  He appeals to the temper ofwonderand creates that mood in which alone he can be understood.

And to meit is a joy to remember that if he is 'of imagination allcompact'the world itself is of the same substance.  I said inDORIANGRAY that the great sins of the world take place in thebrain: but it is in the brain that everything takes place.  Weknow nowthat we do not see with the eyes or hear with the ears. They arereally channels for the transmissionadequate orinadequateof sense impressions.  It is in the brain that thepoppy isredthat the apple is odorousthat the skylark sings.

Of late Ihave been studying with diligence the four prose poemsaboutChrist.  At Christmas I managed to get hold of a GreekTestamentand every morningafter I had cleaned my cell andpolishedmy tinsI read a little of the Gospelsa dozen versestaken bychance anywhere.  It is a delightful way of opening theday. Every oneeven in a turbulentill-disciplined lifeshoulddo thesame.  Endless repetitionin and out of seasonhas spoiledfor us thefreshnessthe naivetethe simple romantic charm of theGospels. We hear them read far too often and far too badlyandallrepetition is anti-spiritual.  When one returns to the Greek;it is likegoing into a garden of lilies out of somenarrow anddarkhouse.

And to methe pleasure is doubled by the reflection that it isextremelyprobable that we have the actual termsthe IPSISSIMAVERBAused by Christ.  It was always supposed that Christ talkedinAramaic.  Even Renan thought so.  But now we know that theGalileanpeasantslike the Irish peasants of our own daywerebilingualand that Greek was the ordinary language of intercourseall overPalestineas indeed all over the Eastern world.  I neverliked theidea that we knew of Christ's own words only through atranslationof a translation.  It is a delight to me to think thatas far ashis conversation was concernedCharmides might havelistenedto himand Socrates reasoned with himand Platounderstoodhim:  that he really said egv eimi o poimhn o kalosthat when he thought of the lilies of the field andhow theyneither toil nor spinhis absolute expression was katamaqeteta krina tou agrou pvs auxanei ou kopiaoude nhqeiand that his last word when hecried out'my life has been completedhas reached its fulfilmenthas beenperfected' was exactly as St. John tells us it was:  tetelestai- no more.

While inreading the Gospels - particularly that of St. Johnhimselfor whatever early Gnostic took his name and mantle - I seethecontinual assertion of the imagination as the basis of allspiritualand material lifeI see also that to Christ imaginationwas simplya form of loveand that to him love was lord in thefullestmeaning of the phrase.  Some six weeks ago I was allowed bythe doctorto have white bread to eat instead of the coarse blackor brownbread of ordinary prison fare.  It is a great delicacy. It willsound strange that dry bread could possibly be a delicacyto anyone.  To me it is so much so that at the close of each mealIcarefully eat whatever crumbs may be left on my tin plateorhavefallen on the rough towel that one uses as a cloth so as notto soilone's table; and I do so not from hunger - I get now quitesufficientfood - but simply in order that nothing should be wastedof what isgiven to me.  So one should look on love.

Christlike all fascinating personalitieshad the power of notmerelysaying beautiful things himselfbut of making other peoplesaybeautiful things to him; and I love the story St. Mark tells usabout theGreek woman - gunh ellhnis-whowhen as a trial of her faith he said toher thathe could not give her the bread of the children of Israelansweredhim that the little dogs - kunaria'little dogs' it should be rendered) - who are underthe tableeat of the crumbs that the children let fall.  Mostpeoplelive for love and admiration.  But it is by love andadmirationthat we should live.  If any love is shown us we shouldrecognisethat we are quite unworthy of it.  Nobody is worthy to beloved. The fact that God loves man shows us that in the divineorder ofideal things it is written that eternal love is to begiven towhat is eternally unworthy.  Or if that phrase seems to bea bitterone to bearlet us say that every one is worthy of loveexcept himwho thinks that he is.  Love is a sacrament that shouldbe takenkneelingand DOMINENON SUM DIGNUS should be on the lipsand in thehearts of those who receive it.

If ever Iwrite againin the sense of producing artistic workthere arejust two subjects on which and through which I desire toexpressmyself:  one is 'Christ as the precursor of the romanticmovementin life':  the other is 'The artistic life considered initsrelation to conduct.'  The first isof courseintenselyfascinatingfor I see in Christ not merely the essentials of thesupremeromantic typebut all the accidentsthe wilfulnessesevenofthe romantic temperament also.  He was the first personwho eversaid to people that they should live 'flower-like lives.' He fixedthe phrase.  He took children as the type of what peopleshould tryto become.  He held them up as examples to their elderswhich Imyself have always thought the chief use of childrenifwhat isperfect should have a use.  Dante describes the soul of aman ascoming from the hand of God 'weeping and laughing like alittlechild' and Christ also saw that the soul of each one shouldbe A GUISADI FANCIULLA CHE PIANGENDO E RIDENDO PARGOLEGGIA.  Hefelt thatlife was changefulfluidactiveand that to allow itto bestereotyped into any form was death.  He saw that peopleshould notbe too serious over materialcommon interests:  that tobeunpractical was to be a great thing:  that one should not bothertoo muchover affairs.  The birds didn'twhy should man?  He ischarmingwhen he says'Take no thought for the morrow; is not thesoul morethan meat? is not the body more than raiment?'  A Greekmight haveused the latter phrase.  It is full of Greek feeling. But onlyChrist could have said bothand so summed up lifeperfectlyfor us.

Hismorality is all sympathyjust what morality should be.  If theonly thingthat he ever said had been'Her sins are forgiven herbecauseshe loved much' it would have been worth while dying tohave saidit.  His justice is all poetical justiceexactly whatjusticeshould be.  The beggar goes to heaven because he has beenunhappy. I cannot conceive a better reason for his being sentthere. The people who work for an hour in the vineyard in the coolof theevening receive just as much reward as those who have toiledthere allday long in the hot sun.  Why shouldn't they?  Probablyno onedeserved anything.  Or perhaps they were a different kind ofpeople. Christ had no patience with the dull lifeless mechanicalsystemsthat treat people as if they were thingsand so treateverybodyalike:  for him there were no laws:  there wereexceptionsmerelyas if anybodyor anythingfor that matterwaslike aughtelse in the world!

That whichis the very keynote of romantic art was to him theproperbasis of natural life.  He saw no other basis.  And whentheybrought him onetaken in the very act of sin and showed himhersentence written in the lawand asked him what was to be donehe wrotewith his finger on the ground as though he did not hearthemandfinallywhen they pressed him againlooked up and said'Let himof you who has never sinned be the first to throw thestone ather.'  It was worth while living to have said that.

Like allpoetical natures he loved ignorant people.  He knew thatin thesoul of one who is ignorant there is always room for a greatidea. But he could not stand stupid peopleespecially those whoare madestupid by education:  people who are full of opinions notone ofwhich they even understanda peculiarly modern typesummedup byChrist when he describes it as the type of one who has thekey ofknowledgecannot use it himselfand does not allow otherpeople touse itthough it may be made to open the gate of God'sKingdom. His chief war was against the Philistines.  That is thewar everychild of light has to wage.  Philistinism was the note ofthe ageand community in which he lived.  In their heavyinaccessibilityto ideastheir dull respectabilitytheir tediousorthodoxytheir worship of vulgar successtheir entirepreoccupationwith the gross materialistic side of lifeand theirridiculousestimate of themselves and their importancethe Jews ofJerusalemin Christ's day were the exact counterpart of the BritishPhilistineof our own.  Christ mocked at the 'whited sepulchre' ofrespectabilityand fixed that phrase for ever.  He treated worldlysuccess asa thing absolutely to be despised.  He saw nothing in itat all. He looked on wealth as an encumbrance to a man.  He wouldnot hearof life being sacrificed to any system of thought ormorals. He pointed out that forms and ceremonies were made formannotman for forms and ceremonies.  He took sabbatarianism as atype ofthe things that should be set at nought.  The coldphilanthropiesthe ostentatious public charitiesthe tediousformalismsso dear to the middle-class mindhe exposed with utterandrelentless scorn.  To uswhat is termed orthodoxy is merely afacileunintelligent acquiescence; but to themand in their handsit was aterrible and paralysing tyranny.  Christ swept it aside. He showedthat the spirit alone was of value.  He took a keenpleasurein pointing out to them that though they were alwaysreadingthe law and the prophetsthey had not really the smallestidea ofwhat either of them meant.  In opposition to their tithingof eachseparate day into the fixed routine of prescribed dutiesas theytithe mint and ruehe preached the enormous importance oflivingcompletely for the moment.

Those whomhe saved from their sins are saved simply for beautifulmoments intheir lives.  Mary Magdalenwhen she sees Christbreaks therich vase of alabaster that one of her seven lovers hadgiven herand spills the odorous spices over his tired dusty feetand forthat one moment's sake sits for ever with Ruth and Beatricein thetresses of the snow-white rose of Paradise.  All that Christsays to usby the way of a little warning is that every momentshould bebeautifulthat the soul should always be ready for thecoming ofthe bridegroomalways waiting for the voice of theloverPhilistinism being simply that side of man's nature that isnotillumined by the imagination.  He sees all the lovelyinfluencesof life as modes of light:  the imagination itself isthe worldof light.  The world is made by itand yet the worldcannotunderstand it:  that is because the imagination is simply amanifestationof loveand it is love and the capacity for it thatdistinguishesone human being from another.

But it iswhen he deals with a sinner that Christ is most romanticin thesense of most real.  The world had always loved the saint asbeing thenearest possible approach to the perfection of God. Christthrough some divine instinct in himseems to have alwaysloved thesinner as being the nearest possible approach to theperfectionof man.  His primary desire was not to reform peopleany morethan his primary desire was to a relieve suffering.  Toturn aninteresting thief into a tedious honest man was not hisaim. He would have thought little of the Prisoners' Aid Societyand othermodern movements of the kind.  The conversion of apublicaninto a Pharisee would not have seemed to him a greatachievement. But in a manner not yet understood of the world heregardedsin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holythings andmodes of perfection.

It seems avery dangerous idea.  It is - all great ideas aredangerous. That it was Christ's creed admits of no doubt.  That itis thetrue creed I don't doubt myself.

Of coursethe sinner must repent.  But why?  Simply becauseotherwisehe would be unable to realise what he had done.  Themoment ofrepentance is the moment of initiation.  More than that: it is themeans by which one alters one's past.  The Greeks thoughtthatimpossible.  They often say in their Gnomic aphorisms'Eventhe Godscannot alter the past.'  Christ showed that the commonestsinnercould do itthat it was the one thing he could do.  Christhad hebeen askedwould have said - I feel quite certain about it- that themoment the prodigal son fell on his knees and wepthemade hishaving wasted his substance with harlotshis swine-herdingand hungering for the husks they atebeautiful and holymoments inhis life.  It is difficult for most people to grasp theidea. I dare say one has to go to prison to understand it.  If soit may beworth while going to prison.

There issomething so unique about Christ.  Of course just as thereare falsedawns before the dawn itselfand winter days so full ofsuddensunlight that they will cheat the wise crocus intosquanderingits gold before its timeand make some foolish birdcall toits mate to build on barren boughsso there wereChristiansbefore Christ.  For that we should be grateful.  Theunfortunatething is that there have been none since.  I make oneexceptionSt. Francis of Assisi.  But then God had given him athis birththe soul of a poetas he himself when quite young had inmysticalmarriage taken poverty as his bride:  and with the soul ofa poet andthe body of a beggar he found the way to perfection notdifficult. He understood Christand so he became like him.  We donotrequire the Liber Conformitatum to teach us that the life ofSt.Francis was the true IMITATIO CHRISTIa poem compared to whichthe bookof that name is merely prose.

Indeedthat is the charm about Christwhen all is said:  he isjust likea work of art.  He does not really teach one anythingbut bybeing brought into his presence one becomes something.  Andeverybodyis predestined to his presence.  Once at least in hislife eachman walks with Christ to Emmaus.

As regardsthe other subjectthe Relation of the Artistic Life toConductit will no doubt seem strange to you that I should selectit. People point to Reading Gaol and say'That is where theartisticlife leads a man.'  Wellit might lead to worse places. The moremechanical people to whom life is a shrewd speculationdependingon a careful calculation of ways and meansalways knowwhere theyare goingand go there.  They start with the idealdesire ofbeing the parish beadleand in whatever sphere they areplacedthey succeed in being the parish beadle and no more.  A manwhosedesire is to be something separate from himselfto be amember ofParliamentor a successful groceror a prominentsolicitoror a judgeor something equally tediousinvariablysucceedsin being what he wants to be.  That is his punishment. Those whowant a mask have to wear it.

But withthe dynamic forces of lifeand those in whom thosedynamicforces become incarnateit is different.  People whosedesire issolely for self-realisation never know where they aregoing. They can't know.  In one sense of the word it is of coursenecessaryas the Greek oracle saidto know oneself:  that is thefirstachievement of knowledge.  But to recognise that the soul ofa man isunknowableis the ultimate achievement of wisdom.  Thefinalmystery is oneself.  When one has weighed the sun in thebalanceand measured the steps of the moonand mapped out thesevenheavens star by starthere still remains oneself.  Who cancalculatethe orbit of his own soul?  When the son went out to lookfor hisfather's asseshe did not know that a man of God waswaitingfor him with the very chrism of coronationand that hisown soulwas already the soul of a king.

I hope tolive long enough and to produce work of such a characterthat Ishall be able at the end of my days to say'Yes! this isjust wherethe artistic life leads a man!'  Two of the most perfectlives Ihave come across in my own experience are the lives ofVerlaineand of Prince Kropotkin:  both of them men who have passedyears inprison:  the firstthe one Christian poet since Dante;the othera man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ whichseemscoming out of Russia.  And for the last seven or eightmonthsinspite of a succession of great troubles reaching me fromtheoutside world almost without intermissionI have been placedin directcontact with a new spirit working in this prison throughman andthingsthat has helped me beyond any possibility ofexpressionin words:  so that while for the first year of myimprisonmentI did nothing elseand can remember doing nothingelsebutwring my hands in impotent despairand say'What anendingwhat an appalling ending!' now I try to say to myselfandsometimeswhen I am not torturing myself do really and sincerelysay'Whata beginningwhat a wonderful beginning!'  It may reallybe so. It may become so.  If it does I shall owe much to this newpersonalitythat has altered every man's life in this place.

You mayrealise it when I say that had I been released last MayasI tried tobeI would have left this place loathing it and everyofficialin it with a bitterness of hatred that would have poisonedmy life. I have had a year longer of imprisonmentbut humanityhas beenin the prison along with us alland now when I go out Ishallalways remember great kindnesses that I have received herefromalmost everybodyand on the day of my release I shall givemanythanks to many peopleand ask to be remembered by them inturn.

The prisonstyle is absolutely and entirely wrong.  I would giveanythingto be able to alter it when I go out.  I intend to try. But thereis nothing in the world so wrong but that the spirit ofhumanitywhich is the spirit of lovethe spirit of the Christ whois not inchurchesmay make itif not rightat least possible tobe bornewithout too much bitterness of heart.

I knowalso that much is waiting for me outside that is verydelightfulfrom what St. Francis of Assisi calls 'my brother thewindandmy sister the rain' lovely things both of themdown totheshop-windows and sunsets of great cities.  If I made a list ofall thatstill remains to meI don't know where I should stop: forindeedGod made the world just as much for me as for any oneelse. Perhaps I may go out with something that I had not gotbefore. I need not tell you that to me reformations in morals areasmeaningless and vulgar as Reformations in theology.  But whileto proposeto be a better man is a piece of unscientific canttohavebecome a deeper man is the privilege of those who havesuffered. And such I think I have become.

If after Iam free a friend of mine gave a feastand did notinvite meto itI should not mind a bit.  I can be perfectly happybymyself.  With freedomflowersbooksand the moonwho couldnot beperfectly happy?  Besidesfeasts are not for me any more. I havegiven too many to care about them.  That side of life isover formevery fortunatelyI dare say.  But if after I am freea friendof mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share itI shouldfeel it most bitterly.  If he shut the doors of the houseofmourning against meI would come back again and again and begto beadmittedso that I might share in what I was entitled toshare in. If he thought me unworthyunfit to weep with himIshouldfeel it as the most poignant humiliationas the mostterriblemode in which disgrace could be inflicted on me.  But thatcould notbe.  I have a right to share in sorrowand he who canlook atthe loveliness of the world and share its sorrowandrealisesomething of the wonder of bothis in immediate contactwithdivine thingsand has got as near to God's secret as any onecan get.

Perhapsthere may come into my art alsono less than into my lifea stilldeeper noteone of greater unity of passionanddirectnessof impulse.  Not width but intensity is the true aim ofmodernart.  We are no longer in art concerned with the type.  Itis withthe exception that we have to do.  I cannot put mysufferingsinto any form they tookI need hardly say.  Art onlybeginswhere Imitation endsbut something must come into my workof fullermemory of words perhapsof richer cadencesof morecuriouseffectsof simpler architectural orderof some aestheticquality atany rate.

WhenMarsyas was 'torn from the scabbard of his limbs' - DELLAVAGINADELLA MEMBRE SUEto use one of Dante's most terribleTaciteanphrases - he had no more songthe Greek said.  Apollo hadbeenvictor.  The lyre had vanquished the reed.  But perhaps theGreekswere mistaken.  I hear in much modern Art the cry ofMarsyas. It is bitter in Baudelairesweet and plaintive inLamartinemystic in Verlaine.  It is in the deferred resolutionsofChopin's music.  It is in the discontent that haunts Burne-Jones'swomen.  Even Matthew Arnoldwhose song of Callicles tellsof 'thetriumph of the sweet persuasive lyre' and the 'famousfinalvictory' in such a clear note of lyrical beautyhas not alittle ofit; in the troubled undertone of doubt and distress thathaunts hisversesneither Goethe nor Wordsworth could help himthough hefollowed each in turnand when he seeks to mourn forTHYRSIS orto sing of the SCHOLAR GIPSYit is the reed that he hasto takefor the rendering of his strain.  But whether or not thePhrygianFaun was silentI cannot be.  Expression is as necessaryto me asleaf and blossoms are to the black branches of the treesthat showthemselves above the prison walls and are so restless inthe wind. Between my art and the world there is now a wide gulfbutbetween art and myself there is none.  I hope at least thatthere isnone.

To each ofus different fates are meted out.  My lot has been oneof publicinfamyof long imprisonmentof miseryof ruinofdisgracebut I am not worthy of it - not yetat any rate.  Irememberthat I used to say that I thought I could bear a realtragedy ifit came to me with purple pall and a mask of noblesorrowbut that the dreadful thing about modernity was that it puttragedyinto the raiment of comedyso that the great realitiesseemedcommonplace or grotesque or lacking in style.  It is quitetrue aboutmodernity.  It has probably always been true aboutactuallife.  It is said that all martyrdoms seemed mean to thelookeron.  The nineteenth century is no exception to the rule.

Everythingabout my tragedy has been hideousmeanrepellentlacking instyle; our very dress makes us grotesque.  We are thezanies ofsorrow.  We are clowns whose hearts are broken.  We arespeciallydesigned to appeal to the sense of humour.  On November13th1895I was brought down here from London.  From two o'clocktillhalf-past two on that day I had to stand on the centreplatformof Clapham Junction in convict dressand handcuffedforthe worldto look at.  I had been taken out of the hospital wardwithout amoment's notice being given to me.  Of all possibleobjects Iwas the most grotesque.  When people saw me they laughed. Each trainas it came up swelled the audience.  Nothing couldexceedtheir amusement.  That wasof coursebefore they knew whoI was. As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more. For halfan hour I stood there in the grey November rain surroundedby ajeering mob.

For a yearafter that was done to me I wept every day at the samehour andfor the same space of time.  That is not such a tragicthing aspossibly it sounds to you.  To those who are in prisontears area part of every day's experience.  A day in prison onwhich onedoes not weep is a day on which one's heart is hardnota day onwhich one's heart is happy.

WellnowI am really beginning to feel more regret for the peoplewholaughed than for myself.  Of course when they saw me I was noton mypedestalI was in the pillory.  But it is a veryunimaginativenature that only cares for people on their pedestals. A pedestalmay be a very unreal thing.  A pillory is a terrificreality. They should have known also how to interpret sorrowbetter. I have said that behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Itwere wiserstill to say that behind sorrow there is always a soul. And tomock at a soul in pain is a dreadful thing.  In thestrangelysimple economy of the world people only get what theygiveandto those who have not enough imagination to penetrate themereoutward of thingsand feel pitywhat pity can be given savethat ofscorn?

I writethis account of the mode of my being transferred heresimplythat it should be realised how hard it has been for me togetanything out of my punishment but bitterness and despair.  Ihavehoweverto do itand now and then I have moments ofsubmissionand acceptance.  All the spring may be hidden in thesinglebudand the low ground nest of the lark may hold the joythat is toherald the feet of many rose-red dawns.  So perhapswhateverbeauty of life still remains to me is contained in somemoment ofsurrenderabasementand humiliation.  I canat anyratemerely proceed on the lines of my own developmentandacceptingall that has happened to memake myself worthy of it.

Peopleused to say of me that I was too individualistic.  I must befar moreof an individualist than ever I was.  I must get far moreout ofmyself than ever I gotand ask far less of the world thanever Iasked.  Indeedmy ruin came not from too greatindividualismof lifebut from too little.  The one disgracefulunpardonableand to all time contemptible action of my life was toallowmyself to appeal to society for help and protection.  To havemade suchan appeal would have been from the individualist point ofview badenoughbut what excuse can there ever be put forward forhavingmade it?  Of course once I had put into motion the forces ofsocietysociety turned on me and said'Have you been living allthis timein defiance of my lawsand do you now appeal to thoselaws forprotection?  You shall have those laws exercised to thefull. You shall abide by what you have appealed to.'  The resultis I am ingaol.  Certainly no man ever fell so ignoblyand bysuchignoble instrumentsas I did.

ThePhilistine element in life is not the failure to understandart. Charming peoplesuch as fishermenshepherdsploughboyspeasantsand the likeknow nothing about artand are the verysalt ofthe earth.  He is the Philistine who upholds and aids theheavycumbrousblindmechanical forces of societyand who doesnotrecognise dynamic force when he meets it either in a man or amovement.

Peoplethought it dreadful of me to have entertained at dinner theevilthings of lifeand to have found pleasure in their company. But thenfrom the point of view through which Ias an artist inlifeapproach them they were delightfully suggestive andstimulating. The danger was half the excitement. . . . My businessas anartist was with Ariel.  I set myself to wrestle with Caliban.. . .

A greatfriend of mine - a friend of ten years' standing - came tosee mesome time agoand told me that he did not believe a singleword ofwhat was said against meand wished me to know that heconsideredme quite innocentand the victim of a hideous plot.  Iburst intotears at what he saidand told him that while there wasmuchamongst the definite charges that was quite untrue andtransferredto me by revolting malicestill that my life had beenfull ofperverse pleasuresand that unless he accepted that as afact aboutme and realised it to the full I could not possibly befriendswith him any moreor ever be in his company.  It was aterribleshock to himbut we are friendsand I have not got hisfriendshipon false pretences.

Emotionalforcesas I say somewhere in INTENTIONSare as limitedin extentand duration as the forces of physical energy.  Thelittle cupthat is made to hold so much can hold so much and nomorethough all the purple vats of Burgundy be filled with wine tothe brimand the treaders stand knee-deep in the gathered grapesof thestony vineyards of Spain.  There is no error more commonthan thatof thinking that those who are the causes or occasions ofgreattragedies share in the feelings suitable to the tragic mood: no errormore fatal than expecting it of them.  The martyr in his'shirt offlame' may be looking on the face of Godbut to him whois pilingthe faggots or loosening the logs for the blast the wholescene isno more than the slaying of an ox is to the butcherorthefelling of a tree to the charcoal burner in the forestor thefall of aflower to one who is mowing down the grass with a scythe. Greatpassions are for the great of souland great events can beseen onlyby those who are on a level with them.

* * * * *

I know ofnothing in all drama more incomparable from the point ofview ofartnothing more suggestive in its subtlety ofobservationthan Shakespeare's drawing of Rosencrantz andGuildenstern. They are Hamlet's college friends.  They have beenhiscompanions.  They bring with them memories of pleasant daystogether. At the moment when they come across him in the play heisstaggering under the weight of a burden intolerable to one ofhistemperament.  The dead have come armed out of the grave toimpose onhim a mission at once too great and too mean for him.  Heis adreamerand he is called upon to act.  He has the nature ofthe poetand he is asked to grapple with the common complexity ofcause andeffectwith life in its practical realisationof whichhe knowsnothingnot with life in its ideal essenceof which heknows somuch.  He has no conception of what to doand his follyis tofeign folly.  Brutus used madness as a cloak to conceal thesword ofhis purposethe dagger of his willbut the Hamletmadness isa mere mask for the hiding of weakness.  In the makingof fanciesand jests he sees a chance of delay.  He keeps playingwithaction as an artist plays with a theory.  He makes himself thespy of hisproper actionsand listening to his own words knowsthem to bebut 'wordswordswords.'  Instead of trying to be thehero ofhis own historyhe seeks to be the spectator of his owntragedy. He disbelieves in everythingincluding himselfand yethis doubthelps him notas it comes not from scepticism but from adividedwill.

Of allthis Guildenstern and Rosencrantz realise nothing.  They bowand smirkand smileand what the one says the other echoes withsickliestintonation.  Whenat lastby means of the play withinthe playand the puppets in their dallianceHamlet 'catches theconscience'of the Kingand drives the wretched man in terror fromhisthroneGuildenstern and Rosencrantz see no more in his conductthan arather painful breach of Court etiquette.  That is as far asthey canattain to in 'the contemplation of the spectacle of lifewithappropriate emotions.'  They are close to his very secret andknownothing of it.  Nor would there be any use in telling them. They arethe little cups that can hold so much and no more. Towardsthe close it is suggested thatcaught in a cunning springset foranotherthey have metor may meetwith a violent andsuddendeath.  But a tragic ending of this kindthough touched byHamlet'shumour with something of the surprise and justice ofcomedyisreally not for such as they.  They never die.  Horatiowho inorder to 'report Hamlet and his cause aright to theunsatisfied'

'Absentshim from felicity a whileAnd inthis harsh world draws his breath in pain'

diesbutGuildenstern and Rosencrantz are as immortal as AngeloandTartuffeand should rank with them.  They are what modern lifehascontributed to the antique ideal of friendship.  He who writesa new DEAMICITIA must find a niche for themand praise them inTusculanprose.  They are types fixed for all time.  To censurethem wouldshow 'a lack of appreciation.'  They are merely out oftheirsphere:  that is all.  In sublimity of soul there is nocontagion. High thoughts and high emotions are by their veryexistenceisolated.

 

I am to bereleasedif all goes well with metowards the end ofMayandhope to go at once to some little sea-side village abroadwith R-and M-.

The seaas Euripides says in one of his plays about Iphigeneiawashesaway the stains and wounds of the world.

I hope tobe at least a month with my friendsand to gain peaceandbalanceand a less troubled heartand a sweeter mood.  I havea strangelonging for the great simple primeval thingssuch as theseato meno less of a mother than the Earth.  It seems to me thatwe alllook at Nature too muchand live with her too little.  Idiscerngreat sanity in the Greek attitude.  They never chatteredaboutsunsetsor discussed whether the shadows on the grass werereallymauve or not.  But they saw that the sea was for theswimmerand the sand for the feet of the runner.  They loved thetrees forthe shadow that they castand the forest for its silenceat noon. The vineyard-dresser wreathed his hair with ivy that hemight keepoff the rays of the sun as he stooped over the youngshootsand for the artist and the athletethe two types thatGreecegave usthey plaited with garlands the leaves of the bitterlaurel andof the wild parsleywhich else had been of no serviceto men.

We callours a utilitarian ageand we do not know the uses of anysinglething.  We have forgotten that water can cleanseand firepurifyand that the Earth is mother to us all.  As a consequenceour art isof the moon and plays with shadowswhile Greek art isof the sunand deals directly with things.  I feel sure that inelementalforces there is purificationand I want to go back tothem andlive in their presence.

Of courseto one so modern as I am'Enfant de mon siecle' merelyto look atthe world will be always lovely.  I tremble withpleasurewhen I think that on the very day of my leaving prisonboth thelaburnum and the lilac will be blooming in the gardensand that Ishall see the wind stir into restless beauty the swayinggold ofthe oneand make the other toss the pale purple of itsplumessothat all the air shall be Arabia for me.  Linnaeus fellon hisknees and wept for joy when he saw for the first time thelong heathof some English upland made yellow with the tawnyaromaticbrooms of the common furze; and I know that for metowhomflowers are part of desirethere are tears waiting in thepetals ofsome rose.  It has always been so with me from myboyhood. There is not a single colour hidden away in the chaliceof afloweror the curve of a shellto whichby some subtlesympathywith the very soul of thingsmy nature does not answer. LikeGautierI have always been one of those 'pour qui le mondevisibleexiste.'

StillIam conscious now that behind all this beautysatisfyingthough itmay bethere is some spirit hidden of which the paintedforms andshapes are but modes of manifestationand it is withthisspirit that I desire to become in harmony.  I have grown tiredof thearticulate utterances of men and things.  The Mystical inArttheMystical in Lifethe Mystical in Nature this is what I amlookingfor.  It is absolutely necessary for me to find itsomewhere.

All trialsare trials for one's lifejust as all sentences aresentencesof death; and three times have I been tried.  The firsttime Ileft the box to be arrestedthe second time to be led backto thehouse of detentionthe third time to pass into a prison fortwoyears.  Societyas we have constituted itwill have no placefor mehas none to offer; but Naturewhose sweet rains fall onunjust andjust alikewill have clefts in the rocks where I mayhideandsecret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She willhang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in thedarknesswithout stumblingand send the wind over my footprints sothat nonemay track me to my hurt:  she will cleanse me in greatwatersand with bitter herbs make me whole.




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