But a miracle had been revealed to me, the incalculable, the amazing beauty which could exist in the sound of verses. My prosodical instinct was awakened quite suddenly that dim evening, as my Father and I sat alone in the breakfast-room after tea, serenely accepting the hour, for once, with no idea of exhortation or profit. Verse, ‘a breeze mid blossoms playing’, as Coleridge says, descended from the roses as a moth might have done, and the magic of it took hold of my heart forever. I persuaded my Father, who was a little astonished at my insistence, to repeat the lines over and over again. At last my brain caught them, and as I walked in Benny’s garden, or as I hung over the tidal pools at the edge of the sea, all my inner being used to ring out with the sound of
Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvan.
IN the previous chapter I have dwelt on some of the lighter conditions of our life at this time; I must now turn to it in a less frivolous aspect. As my tenth year advanced, the development of my character gave my Father, I will not say anxiety, but matter for serious reflection. My intelligence was now perceived to be taking a sudden start; visitors drew my Father’s attention to the fact that I was ‘coming out so much’. I grew rapidly in stature, having been a little shrimp of a thing up to that time, and I no longer appeared much younger than my years. Looking back, I do not think that there was any sudden mental development, but that the change was mainly a social one. I had been reserved, timid and taciturn; I had disliked the company of strangers. But with my tenth year, I certainly unfolded, so far as to become sociable and talkative, and perhaps I struck those around me as grown ‘clever’, because I said the things which I had previously only thought. There was a change, no doubt, yet I believe that it was mainly physical, rather than mental. My excessive fragility—or apparent fragility, for I must have been always wiry—decreased; I slept better, and therefore, grew less nervous; I ate better, and therefore put on flesh. If I preserved a delicate look—people still used to say in my presence, ’That dear child is not long for this world!’—it was in consequence of a sort of habit into which my body had grown; it was a transparency which did not speak of what was in store for me, but of what I had already passed through.
The increased activity of my intellectual system now showed itself in what I behove to be a very healthy form, direct imitation. The rage for what is called ‘originality’ is pushed to such a length in these days that even children are not considered promising, unless they attempt things preposterous and unparalleled. From his earliest hour, the ambitious person is told that to make a road where none has walked before, to do easily what it is impossible for others to do at all, to create new forms of thought