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Essays in Rebellion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 277 pages of information about Essays in Rebellion.
abstract and hate his neighbour at the back door, but that was not Swift’s way.  He has been called an inverted hypocrite, as one who makes himself out worse than he is.  I should rather call him an inverted idealist, for, with high hopes and generous expectations, he entered into the world, and lacerated by rage at the cruelty, foulness, and lunacy he there discovered, he poured out his denunciations upon the crawling forms of life whose filthy minds were well housed in their apelike and corrupting flesh—­a bag of loathsome carrion, animated by various lusts.

“Noli aemulari,” sang the cheerful Psalmist; “Fret not thyself because of evildoers.”  How easy for most of us it is to follow that comfortable counsel!  How little strain it puts upon our popularity or our courage!  And how amusing it is to watch the course of human affairs with tolerant acquiescence!  Yes, but, says Swift, “amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think,” and may we not say that acquiescence is the cowardice of those who dare not feel?  There will always be some, at least, in the world whom savage indignation, like Swift’s, will continually torment.  It will eat their flesh and exhaust their spirits.  They would gladly be rid of it, for, indeed, it stifles their existence, depriving them alike of pleasure, friends, and the objects of ambition—­isolating them in the end as Swift was isolated.  If only the causes of their indignation might cease, how gladly they would welcome the interludes of quiet!  But hardly is one surmounted than another overtops them like a wave, nor have the stern victims of indignation the smallest hope of deliverance from their suffering, until they lie, as Swift has now lain for so many years, where cruel rage can tear the heart no more—­“Ubi saeva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit.”

VII

THE CHIEF OF REBELS

“It is time that I ceased to fill the world,” said the dying Victor Hugo, and we recognise the truth of the saying, though with a smile.  For each generation must find its own way, nor would it be a consolation to have even the greatest of ancient prophets living still.  But yet there breathes from the living a more intimate influence, for which an immortality of fame cannot compensate.  When men like Tolstoy die, the world is colder as well as more empty.  They have passed outside the common dangers and affections of man’s warm-blooded circle, lighted by the sun and moon.  Their spirit may go marching on; it may become immortal and shine with an increasing radiance, perpetual as the sweet influences of the Pleiades.  But their place in the heavens is fixed.  We can no longer watch how they will meet the glorious or inglorious uncertainties of the daily conflict.  We can no longer make appeal for their succour against the new positions and new encroachments of the eternal adversary.  The sudden splendour of action is no longer theirs, and if we would know the loss implied

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