The Colour of Life; and other essays on things seen and heard eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 70 pages of information about The Colour of Life; and other essays on things seen and heard.
was certainly not for marble.  Shelley’s death had no significance, except inasmuch as he died young.  It was a detachable and disconnected incident.  Ah, that was a frost of fancy and of the heart that used it so, dealing with an insignificant fact, and conferring a futile immortality.  Those are ill-named biographers who seem to think that a betrayal of the ways of death is a part of their ordinary duty, and that if material enough for a last chapter does not lie to their hand they are to search it out.  They, of all survivors, are called upon, in honour and reason, to look upon a death with more composure.  To those who loved the dead closely, this is, for a time, impossible.  To them death becomes, for a year, disproportionate.  Their dreams are fixed upon it night by night.  They have, in those dreams, to find the dead in some labyrinth; they have to mourn his dying and to welcome his recovery in such a mingling of distress and of always incredulous happiness as is not known even to dreams save in that first year of separation.  But they are not biographers.

If death is the privacy of the woods, it is the more conspicuously secret because it is their only privacy.  You may watch or may surprise everything else.  The nest is retired, not hidden.  The chase goes on everywhere.  It is wonderful how the perpetual chase seems to cause no perpetual fear.  The songs are all audible.  Life is undefended, careless, nimble and noisy.

It is a happy thing that minor artists have ceased, or almost ceased, to paint dead birds.  Time was when they did it continually in that British School of water-colour art, stippled, of which surrounding nations, it was agreed, were envious.  They must have killed their bird to paint him, for he is not to be caught dead.  A bird is more easily caught alive than dead.

A poet, on the contrary, is easily—­too easily—­caught dead.  Minor artists now seldom stipple the bird on its back, but a good sculptor and a University together modelled their Shelley on his back, unessentially drowned; and everybody may read about the sick mind of Dante Rossetti.


During a part of the year London does not see the clouds.  Not to see the clear sky might seem her chief loss, but that is shared by the rest of England, and is, besides, but a slight privation.  Not to see the clear sky is, elsewhere, to see the cloud.  But not so in London.  You may go for a week or two at a time, even though you hold your head up as you walk, and even though you have windows that really open, and yet you shall see no cloud, or but a single edge, the fragment of a form.

Guillotine windows never wholly open, but are filled with a doubled glass towards the sky when you open them towards the street.  They are, therefore, a sure sign that for all the years when no other windows were used in London, nobody there cared much for the sky, or even knew so much as whether there were a sky.

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The Colour of Life; and other essays on things seen and heard from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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