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14. Odds and Ends.

Did you ever trace back a reverie, reach by reach, to its source—toilsomely ascend the stream, running now in sun and now in shade, with waters of ever-varying purity and depth, down which your mind had floated seemingly at its “own sweet will?” The links of such a Seiris are curiously conjoined. The logical nexus is of the airiest. And yet there is a nexus. Despite the wild caprice of Fancy roaming hither and thither, like a truant schoolboy or a mountain kid, it is possible to track the associations of thought and word that give the secret of the daydream's genesis. It often, however, requires a red man's eye to mark the trail; and only in the case of some Plato or Coleridge, I think, would the fruit of the toil be worth the trouble.

A translation, however faithful, when compared with the original, is but as sickly attar, contrasted with the dewy fragrance of the living rose.

Ferrier insinuates that the brutes are “incarnate absurdities, gazing on unredeemed contradiction.” The son-in-law of the owner of Brontë ought to be ashamed of himself for having even hinted such a slander. With what scorn would Miss Brontë—patting the bullet head of her sister's keeper—have scouted the libel. The dog, at all events, has an ego as self-conscious and creative as any man's. Watch a dog's eye—you will see thoughts floating, rising, flashing, and timidly hurrying back in it, like fishes in a clear, deep rock-pool.

The little that I have read of Göethe has sadly tantalised me. Truth plays bo-peep with you throughout his pages. You can never catch all that he means to say. Most modern books, however, are such squeezed oranges when you have once perused them, that it is pleasant, after all, to have an author that you cannot exhaust—that you can milk daily like a cow.

I read Emerson as I eat a strawberry ice: I read Carlyle for the same reason that I drink brandy. The one, with his calm, unpractical transcendentalism, cools me when fevered by the flurry of the world; the other, with his fiery objurgations, stimulates me to work. Who ever got a rule of life from Emerson? Who ever got even a definite idea? Thoughts shimmer through the haze of his beautiful language half revealed, like snowy sails emerging for a moment, and but for a moment, from sunlit mist. Ask Emerson's most intelligent admirer what it is that he finds so admirable in his favourite author, and what kind of answer do you get? A Persian apologue aptly typifies my experiences in this line: “A holy

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man bowed his head on the bosom of contemplation, and was immersed in the ocean of mystic reverie. When he recovered from his vision, one of his friends said to him, ‘From that garden, where you have been, what gift have you brought for us?’ He answered, ‘I purposed in my heart, that, when I reached the rosebush, I would fill my lap with the flowers, and bring them as a present to my friends; but when I came there, the scent of the rose so intoxicated me, that my garment slipped from my hands.’ ”

Fame, fame, thou art to me
But as a virgin in a eunuch's arms:
I fiercely long, but when I drink thy breath,
A cruel scorn forth flashes from thine eyes;
“Unhand me, impotent!” I hear thee cry,
And, sunk in shame, more fiercely long for death!

Love at first sight is lust! 'Tis only this
Should dare to deck it with that holy name:
The feeling that, like flower in forest nook,
Grows daily with a gentle, unseen growth;
Silently nourished by the dew of deeds,
The soft spring breezes of pure, playful words,
And smiles that are its sunshine, till, at length,
We marvel to behold the full-blown rose.

Certain barbarians smear their captive foes with honey, and then expose them to the torment of the creeping things the luscious unction has been laid on to lure. Extravagant eulogists—however kindly their praises may be meant—are guilty of a like cruelty to their friends.

Quiet people remind me of the tranquil waters that deposited the chalk group. Silently they showered down the impalpable powder that was to bury, without bruising, fragile shells for ages. Folks who go through the world like cats upon carpet, have a very similar knack of locking up frailties. You've forgotten all about the peccadilloes of your youth, but a kind friend has treasured them, and the due season for the apocalypse having arrived, the mnemosynal chalk tomb opens, and you see your misdeeds perfect to a spine. With my blackest hate do I detest these bland, unfussy busybodies; these amateur Recording Angels.

Old wine is the richest,
And old friends are best;
O'er a fresh heart we flutter,
The tried is our nest.

Some friends perform their function; then
Cry “off,” when trouble comes agen.
Give me the man whose love lives on,—
What e'er the chance, for ever ready
With arm for mate to lean upon,
Or stout or frail, so it be steady;

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A friend like Myrtilus's shield
That screened him in the battle-field,
And when he fell into the sea,
Still bore him up triumphantly.

On a green mountain-top in Wales—propped upon splinters of lichen-spotted granite—stands Arthur's Stone. Beneath it lie the cool, clear waters of a well, of power to heal—no matter how dire their diseases—all who may dip therein. The sole physician's fee—gaily given by departing gratitude—is a pebble, to be dropt upon the ring of pebbles that, thickening generation after generation, circles the gray, solitary stone.

There are men as stern in outward seeming as that lonely rock, who have hearts as pure and beneficent as its spring. They, too, are generally lonely, but the sick and the sorrowful find them out, and ere the pilgrims take up their staves again, they gird their soothers and saviours with a cordon of grateful prayers.

The Fairy of the Flowers should use the Arum for her correspondence. The pure petal is an ivory tablet ready to her hand, and let her pluck the pistil for her golden style. Dew for her ink, and pollen for her pounce, the rhetoric of her periods must needs be appropriately florid.

Young Quakeresses, like iodine, when they become volatile, drop their grey and put on purple.

A gifted Tory is a Cancer fulgens.

Jeremy Taylor says that those who made gods of garlick and a quartan ague still never stooped so low as to deify money. We Christian English have made ample amends for their imperfect Paganism. How we bow down to Cash! There really is a dash of the sublime in the unselfish mammon-worship with which, though hopeless of obtaining any favour from the wealthy, still do we toady them. Speaking for myself, individually, I must confess that it is a feeling I cannot comprehend. I would as soon reverence a pig for getting fat as a man simply for getting rich. In the latter case, as well as in the former, it is often, I imagine, merely the “nature of the beast;” and my stock of admiration is too scanty for me to squander any of it on such meagre marvels.

No man can be a moral ambidexter. When you can use your ethical left hand as well as your right, you can use it a great deal better.

The hand grows hard with toil,
And foul with earthy soil:
The strife without works change within;
The soul, too, takes a thicker skin,
And stains defile its purity—
Ah me, that ever this should be!

Some memories are anaglyphic, others diaglyphs. The cameo is carved by Joy, the intaglio by Grief.