Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 329 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.
and as many “wrongs” as there are individuals; and to be happy in our own way, instead of somebody else’s, is one of the first laws of nature, health, and virtue.  Many an ancient restriction on personal vitality is going the way of the old sumptuary laws.  We have all of us amusing memories of those severe old housekeepers who for no inclemency of the weather would allow a fire in the grate before the first of October, and who regarded a fire before that date as a positive breach of the moral law.  Such old wives are a type of certain old-fashioned moralists whose icy clutch on our warm-blooded humanity we no longer suffer.  Nowadays we light our fires as we have a mind to, and if we prefer to keep them going all the year round, it is no one’s business but our own.  Happy is the man who, when the end comes, can say with Landor: 

          I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
          It sinks and I am ready to depart.

Such a one will have little need to fear that last call of which I have been writing.  In Kipling’s phrase, he has taken his fun where he found it, and his barns are well stocked with the various harvests of the years.  Not his the wild regret for having “safely got away.”  Rather he laughs to remember how often he was taken captive by the enchantments of the world, how whenever there was any piece of wildness afoot he was always found in the thick of it.  When the bacchantes were out on Mount Cithaeron, and the mad Evoe!  Evoe! rang through the moonstruck woods, be sure he was up and away, with ardent hands clutched in the flying tresses.  Ah! the vine leaves and the tiger skins and the ivory bodies, the clash of the cymbals and the dithyramb shrilling up to the stars!  “If I forget thee, O golden Aphrodite!” He is no hypocrite, no weary “king ecclesiast,” shaking his head over the orgies of sap and song in which he can no longer share.  He frankly acknowledges that then came in the sweet o’ the year, and he is still as young as the youngest by virtue of having drunk deep of the only elixir, the Dionysiac cup of life.

At the same time, while he may not ungratefully rejoice with Sophocles at being “set free from service to a band of madmen,” that ripening of his nature which comes most fruitfully of a generous exercise of its powers will have instinctively taught him that secret of the transmutation of the passions which is one of the most precious rewards of experience.  It is quite possible for a lifelong passion for fair women to become insensibly and unregretfully transmuted into a passion for first editions, and you may become quite sincerely content that a younger fellow catch the flying maiden, if only you can catch yon flitting butterfly for your collection.  And, strangest of all, your grand passion for your own remarkable self may suffer a miraculous transformation into a warm appreciation for other people.  It is true that you may smile a little sadly to find them even more interesting than yourself.  But such passing sadness has the relish of salvation in it.  Self is a weary throne, and the abdication of the ego is to be free of one of the burdens rather than the pleasures of existence.

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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