We went out into the garden and found the web. But the little green corpse had gone, and the spider was digesting his meal somewhere out of sight.
(Note.—This article should be read in connection with that entitled “On the Downs.”)
I was reading an American journal just now when I came across the remark that “one would as soon think of drinking beer out of porcelain as of slapping Nietzsche on the back.” Drinking beer out of porcelain! The phrase amused me, and set me idly wondering why you don’t drink beer out of porcelain. You drink it (assuming that you drink it at all) with great enjoyment out of a thick earthenware mug or a pewter pot or a vessel of glass, but out of china, never. If you were offered a drink of beer out of a china basin or cup you would feel that the liquor had somehow lost its attraction, just as, if you were offered tea out of a pewter pot, you would feel that the drink was degraded and unpleasant. The explanation that the one drink is coarse and the other fine does not meet the case. People drink beer out of glass, and the finer the glass the better they like it. But there is something fundamentally discordant between beer and porcelain.
It is not, I imagine, that porcelain actually affects the taste or quality of the liquor. It is that some subtle sense of fitness is outraged by the association. The harmony of things is jangled. Touch and taste are no longer in sympathy, and we are conscious of a jar to some remote and inexplicable fibre of our being. It is in the realm of the palate that we get the miracle of these affinities and antipathies in their most elementary shape. Who was it who discovered that two such curiously diverse things as mutton and red-currant jelly make a perfect gastronomic chord? By what stroke of inspiration or luck did some unknown cook first see that apple sauce was just the thing to make roast pork sublime? Who was the Prometheus who brought to earth the tidings that a clove was the lover for whom the apple pudding had pined through all the ages?
Seen in the large, this world is just an inexhaustible mine of materials out of which that singular adventurer, man, is eternally bringing to light new revelations of harmony. The musician gathers together the vibrations of the air and discovers the laws of musical agreement, and out of that discovery emerges the stupendous mystery of song. The poet takes words, and out of their rhythms finds the harmonious vehicle for ideas. The scientist sees the apple fall and has the revelation of a universe moving in a symphony before which the mind stands mute and awestruck. The cook takes the pig from the stye and the apple from the tree and makes a pretty lyric for the dinner-table. The Great Adventure, in short, is just this passionate pursuit of the soul of harmony in things, great and small, spiritual and material. We are all in the quest and our captains are those who lead us to the highest peaks of revelation—Bach fashioning that immortal Concerto for Two Violins that takes us out like unsullied children into fields of asphodel; Wordsworth looking out over Tintern Abbey and capturing for us that