Cynically, I said; for indeed sometimes, as one ponders the lavish heartless use life seems to make of all its divinely precious material—were it but the flowers in one meadow, or the butterflies of a single summer day—it does seem as though a cruel cynicism inhered somewhere in the scheme of things, delighting to destroy and disillusionize, to create loveliness in order to scatter it to the winds, and inspire joy in order to mock it with desolation. Sometimes it seems as though the mysterious spirit of life was hardly worthy of the vessels it has called into being, hardly treats them fairly, uses them with an ignoble disdain. For, how generously we give ourselves up to life, how innocently we put our trust in it, do its bidding with such fine ardours, striving after beauty and goodness, fain to be heroic and clean of heart—yet “what hath man of all his labours, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun.” Yea, dust, and fallen rose-leaves, and last year’s snow.
And yet and yet, for all this drift and dishonoured decay of things, that retrospective mood of ours will sometimes take another turn, and, so rare and precious in the memory seem the treasure that it has lost, and yet in imagination still holds, that it will not resign itself to mortal thoughts of such manifest immortalities. The snows of yester-year! Who knows if, after all, they have so utterly vanished as they seem. Who can say but that there may be somewhere in the universe secret treasuries where all that has ever been precious is precious still, safely garnered and guarded for us against some wonderful moment which shall gather up for us in one transfiguring apocalypse all the wonderful moments that have but preceded us into eternity. Perhaps, as nothing is lost in the world, so-called, of matter, nothing is lost too in the world of love and dream.
vanished loveliness of flowers and faces,
Treasure of hair, and great immortal eyes,
Are there for these no safe and secret places?
And is it true that beauty never dies?
Soldiers and saints, haughty and lovely names,
Women who set the whole wide world in flames,
Poets who sang their passion to the skies,
And lovers wild and wise:
Fought they and prayed for some poor flitting gleam
Was all they loved and worshipped but a dream?
Is Love a lie and fame indeed a breath?
And is there no sure thing in life—but death?
Ah! perhaps we shall find all such lost and lovely things when we come at length to the Land of Last Year’s Snow.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GOSSIP
According to the old Scandinavian fable of the cosmos, the whole world is encircled in the coils of a vast serpent. The ancient name for it was the Midgard serpent, and doubtless, for the old myth-maker, it had another significance. Today, however, the symbol may still hold good of a certain terrible and hideous reality.