Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde.
day with all its gold and shadow.  For them, as for us, the flowers bloom and wither, and the Earth, that Green-tressed Goddess as Coleridge calls her, alters her raiment for their pleasure.  The statue is concentrated to one moment of perfection.  The image stained upon the canvas possesses no spiritual element of growth or change.  If they know nothing of death, it is because they know little of life, for the secrets of life and death belong to those, and those only, whom the sequence of time affects, and who possess not merely the present but the future, and can rise or fall from a past of glory or of shame.  Movement, that problem of the visible arts, can be truly realised by Literature alone.  It is Literature that shows us the body in its swiftness and the soul in its unrest.—­The Critic as Artist.

THE CRITIC AND HIS MATERIAL

Who cares whether Mr. Ruskin’s views on Turner are sound or not?  What does it matter?  That mighty and majestic prose of his, so fervid and so fiery-coloured in its noble eloquence, so rich in its elaborate symphonic music, so sure and certain, at its best, in subtle choice of word and epithet, is at least as great a work of art as any of those wonderful sunsets that bleach or rot on their corrupted canvases in England’s Gallery; greater indeed, one is apt to think at times, not merely because its equal beauty is more enduring, but on account of the fuller variety of its appeal, soul speaking to soul in those long-cadenced lines, not through form and colour alone, though through these, indeed, completely and without loss, but with intellectual and emotional utterance, with lofty passion and with loftier thought, with imaginative insight, and with poetic aim; greater, I always think, even as Literature is the greater art.  Who, again, cares whether Mr. Pater has put into the portrait of Monna Lisa something that Lionardo never dreamed of?  The painter may have been merely the slave of an archaic smile, as some have fancied, but whenever I pass into the cool galleries of the Palace of the Louvre, and stand before that strange figure ’set in its marble chair in that cirque of fantastic rocks, as in some faint light under sea,’ I murmur to myself, ’She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her:  and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as St. Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.’  And I say to my friend, ’The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the waters is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years man had come to desire’; and he answers me, ’Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary.’

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Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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