The Defendant eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 95 pages of information about The Defendant.
actually persuade himself that this abominable noise resembled his lady-love’s name.  Has the poet, for whom Nature means only roses and lilies, ever heard a pig grunting?  It is a noise that does a man good—­a strong, snorting, imprisoned noise, breaking its way out of unfathomable dungeons through every possible outlet and organ.  It might be the voice of the earth itself, snoring in its mighty sleep.  This is the deepest, the oldest, the most wholesome and religious sense of the value of Nature—­the value which comes from her immense babyishness.  She is as top-heavy, as grotesque, as solemn and as happy as a child.  The mood does come when we see all her shapes like shapes that a baby scrawls upon a slate—­simple, rudimentary, a million years older and stronger than the whole disease that is called Art.  The objects of earth and heaven seem to combine into a nursery tale, and our relation to things seems for a moment so simple that a dancing lunatic would be needed to do justice to its lucidity and levity.  The tree above my head is flapping like some gigantic bird standing on one leg; the moon is like the eye of a Cyclops.  And, however much my face clouds with sombre vanity, or vulgar vengeance, or contemptible contempt, the bones of my skull beneath it are laughing for ever.

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It is a very significant fact that the form of art in which the modern world has certainly not improved upon the ancient is what may roughly be called the art of the open air.  Public monuments have certainly not improved, nor has the criticism of them improved, as is evident from the fashion of condemning such a large number of them as pompous.  An interesting essay might be written on the enormous number of words that are used as insults when they are really compliments.  It is in itself a singular study in that tendency which, as I have said, is always making things out worse than they are, and necessitating a systematic attitude of defence.  Thus, for example, some dramatic critics cast contempt upon a dramatic performance by calling it theatrical, which simply means that it is suitable to a theatre, and is as much a compliment as calling a poem poetical.  Similarly we speak disdainfully of a certain kind of work as sentimental, which simply means possessing the admirable and essential quality of sentiment.  Such phrases are all parts of one peddling and cowardly philosophy, and remind us of the days when ‘enthusiast’ was a term of reproach.  But of all this vocabulary of unconscious eulogies nothing is more striking than the word ‘pompous.’

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The Defendant from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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