“Bear, like the Turk, no brother
near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caused himself to rise.
* * * * *
Like Cato give his little Senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause.
While wits and templars every sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise.”
This is the kind of thing which really goes to the mark at which it aims. It is penetrated with sorrow and a kind of reverence, and it is addressed directly to a man. This is no mock-tournament to gain the applause of the crowd. It is a deadly duel by the lonely seashore.
In current political materialism there is everywhere the assumption that, without understanding anything of his case or his merits, we can benefit a man practically. Without understanding his case and his merits, we cannot even hurt him.
Asceticism is a thing which, in its very nature, we tend in these days to misunderstand. Asceticism, in the religious sense, is the repudiation of the great mass of human joys because of the supreme joyfulness of the one joy, the religious joy. But asceticism is not in the least confined to religious asceticism: there is scientific asceticism which asserts that truth is alone satisfying: there is aesthetic asceticism which asserts that art is alone satisfying: there is amatory asceticism which asserts that love is alone satisfying. There is even epicurean asceticism, which asserts that beer and skittles are alone satisfying. Wherever the manner of praising anything involves the statement that the speaker could live with that thing alone, there lies the germ and essence of asceticism. When William Morris, for example, says that “love is enough,” it is obvious that he asserts in those words that art, science, politics, ambition, money, houses, carriages, concerts, gloves, walking-sticks, door-knockers, railway-stations, cathedrals, and any other things one may choose to tabulate are unnecessary. When Omar Khayyam says:
“A book of verses underneath the
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness—
O wilderness were Paradise enow.”
It is clear that he speaks fully as much ascetically as he does aesthetically. He makes a list of things and says that he wants no more. The same thing was done by a mediaeval monk. Examples might, of course, be multiplied a hundred-fold. One of the most genuinely poetical of our younger poets says, as the one thing certain, that
“From quiet home and first beginning
Out to the undiscovered ends—
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends.”
Here we have a perfect example of the main important fact, that all true joy expresses itself in terms of asceticism.