But, to be sure, mind, wit and originality are just as rare in children as in adults. All this, however, does not belong here, and is leading me beyond the bounds of my purpose. For this sketch proposes merely to portray an ideal, an ideal which I would ever keep before my eyes, so that in this little artistic volume of beautiful and elegant philosophy I may not wander away from the delicate line of propriety; and so that you will forgive me in advance for the audacious liberties that I am going to take, or at least you will be able to judge them from a higher viewpoint.
Am I wrong, think you, in seeking for morality in children—for delicacy and prettiness of thought and word?
Now look! Dear little Wilhelmina often finds inexpressible delight in lying on her back and kicking her little legs in the air, unconcerned about her clothes or about the judgment of the world. If Wilhelmina does that, what is there that I may not do, since I, by Heaven, am a man and under no obligation to be more modest than this most modest of all feminine creatures? Oh, enviable freedom from prejudice! Do you, too, dear friend, cast it from you, all the remnants of false modesty; just as I have often torn off your odious clothes and scattered them about in lovely anarchy. And if, perhaps, this little romance of my life should seem to you too wild, just think to yourself: He is only a child—and take his innocent wantonness with motherly forbearance and let him caress you.
If you will not be too particular about the plausibility and inner significance of an allegory, and are prepared for as much awkwardness in it as one might expect in the confessions of an awkward man, provided only that the costume is correct, I should like to relate to you here one of my waking dreams, inasmuch as it leads to the same result as my sketch of little Wilhelmina.
“Behold, I am my own teacher, and a god hath planted all sorts of melodies in my soul.” This I may boldly say, now that I am not talking about the joyous science of poetry, but about the godlike art of idleness. And with whom indeed should I rather talk and think about idleness than with myself. So I spoke also in that immortal hour when my guardian genius inspired me to preach the high gospel of true joy and love: “Oh, idleness, idleness! Thou art the very soul of innocence and inspiration. The blessed spirits do breathe thee, and blessed indeed is he who hath and cherisheth thee, thou sacred jewel, thou sole and only fragment of godlikeness brought forth by us from Paradise.”