On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.
the record that Alcibiades went somewhere and suffered something—­but truth to the Universal, the superior demand of our conscience.  In such a way only we know that “The Tempest” or “Paradise Lost” or “The Ancient Mariner” or “Prometheus Unbound” can be truer than any police report.  Yet we know that they are truer in essence, and in significance, since they appeal to eternal verities—­since they imitate the Universal—­whereas the police report chronicles (faithfully, as in duty bound, even usefully in its way) events which may, nay must, be significant somehow but cannot at best be better to us than phenomena, broken ends and shards.


I return to the child.  Clearly in obeying the instinct which I have tried to illustrate, he is searching to realise himself; and, as educators, we ought to help this effort—­or, at least, not to hinder it.

Further, if we agree with Aristotle, in this searching to realise himself through imitation, what will the child most nobly and naturally imitate?  He will imitate what Aristotle calls ’the Universal,’ the superior demand.  And does not this bring us back to consent with what I have been preaching from the start in this course—­that to realise ourselves in What Is not only in degree transcends mere knowledge and activity, What Knows and What Does, but transcends it in kind?  It is not only what the child unconsciously longs for:  it is that for which (in St Paul’s words) ’the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’; craving for this (I make you the admission) as emotionally, as the heart may be thrilled, the breast surge, the eyes swell with tears, at a note drawn from the violin:  feeling that somewhere, beyond reach, we have a lost sister, and she speaks to our soul.


Who, that has been a child, has not felt this surprise of beauty, the revelation, the call of it?

     The sounding cataract
     Haunted me like a passion ...

—­yes, or a rainbow on the spray against a cliff; or a vista of lawns between descending woods; or a vision of fish moving in a pool under the hazel’s shadow?  Who has not felt the small surcharged heart labouring with desire to express it?

I preach to you that the base of all Literature, of all Poetry, of all Theology, is one, and stands on one rock:  the very highest Universal Truth is something so simple that a child may understand it. This, surely, was in Jesus’ mind when he said `I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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