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intemperate and brutal man whom we would redeem? If anything ail a man, so that he does not perform his functions, if he have a pain in his bowels even,-for that is the seat of sympathy,-he forthwith sets about reforming—the world. Being a microcosm himself, he discovers, and it is a true discovery, and he is the man to make it,—that the world has been eating green apples; to his eyes, in fact, the globe itself is a great green apple, which there is danger awful to think of that the children of men will nibble before it is ripe; and straightway his drastic philanthropy seeks out the Esquimaux and the Patagonian, and embraces the populous Indian and Chinese villages; and, thus, by a few years of philanthropic activity, the powers in the meanwhile using him for their own ends, no doubt, he cures himself of his dyspepsia, the globe acquires a faint blush on one or both of its cheeks, as if it were beginning to be ripe, and life loses its crudity and is once more sweet and wholesome to live. I never dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed. I never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.
I believe that what so saddens the reformer is not his sympathy with his fellows in distress, but, though he be the holiest son of God, is his private ail. Let this be righted, let the spring come to him, the morning rise over his couch, and he will forsake his generous companions without apology. My excuse for not lecturing against the use of tobacco is, that I never chewed it; that is a penalty which reformed tobacco-chewers have to pay; though there are things enough I have chewed which I could lecture against. If you should ever be betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not worth knowing. Rescue the drowning and tie your shoe-strings. Take your tirne, and set about some free labour.
Our manners have been corrupted by communication with the saints. Our hymn-books resound with a melodious cursing of God and enduring him forever. One would say that even the prophets and redeemers had rather consoled the fears than confirmed the hopes of man. There is nowhere recorded a simple and irrepressible satisfaction with the gift of life, any memorable praise of God. All health and success does me good, however far off and withdrawn it may appear; all disease and failure helps to make me sad and does me evil, however much sympathy it may have with me or I with it. If, then, we would indeed restore mankind by truly Indian, botanic, netic, or natural means, let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our own brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavour to become one of the worthies of the world.
I read in the Gulistan, or Flower Garden, of Sheik Sadi of Shiraz, that “They asked a wise man, saying, Of the many celebrated trees which the Most High God has created lofty and umbrageous, they call none azad, or free, excepting the cypress, which bears no fruit; what mystery is there in this? He replied, Each has its appropriate produce, and appointed season, during the continuance of which it is fresh and blooming, and during their absence dry and withered; to neither of which states is the cypress exposed, being always flourishing; and of this nature are the azads, or religious independents.-Fix not thy heart on that which is transitory; for the Dijlah, or Tigris, will continue to flow through Bagdad after the race of caliphs is extinct: if thy hand has plenty, be liberal as the date tree; but if it affords nothing to give away, be an azad, or free man, like the cypress.”
MY COPY OF KEATS 1
Richard Dowling 2
The only copy of Keats I ever owned is a modest volume published by Edward Moxon & Co. in the year 1861. By writing on its yellow fly-leaf I find it was given to me four years later in September, 1865. At that time it was clean and bright, opened with strict impartiality when set upon its back, and had not learned to respond with alacrity to hasty researches for favourite passages.
The binding is now racked and feeble from use; and if, as in army regulations, service under warm suns is to be taken for longer service in cooler climes, it may be said that to the exhaustion following overwork have been added the prejudices of premature age.
It is not bound as books were bound once upon a time, when they outlasted the tables and chairs, even the walls; ay, the very races and names of their owners.
The cover is simple plain blue cloth; on the back is a little patch of printing in gold, with the words Keats’ Poetical Works in
Reprinted from Ignorant Essays, by Richard Dowling, by permission of Messrs. D. Appleton & Co.
2 Richard Dowling, born June 3, 1846, died July 28, 1898, commenced life as a journalist. In 1870 he joined the staff of The Nation, a Dublin publication conducted by Mr. A. M. Sullivan; for some years he edited Zozimus, and was the founder of a weekly, Ireland's Eye. In 1875 he went to London, where he joined The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, and started a weekly paper, Yorick, which lived six months. In 1878 his first novel, The Mystery of Killiard, was brought out by Tinsley Brothers, which was followed up by The Weird Sisters, The Sport of Fate, etc. An obituary notice which appeared in one of the most important of London weeklies, said of him, “He was one of the kindest-hearted of men, and an admirable talker, whose wit and vivacity remained unimpaired almost to the end." His two most important volumes are Indolent Essays and Ignorant Essays, of which the latter is the best, from which our selection is taken.
the centre of a twined gilt ribbon and twisted gilt flowers. The welt at the back is bleached and frayed; the corners of the cover are battered and turned in. There is a chink between the cover and the arched back; and the once proud Norman line of that arc is flattened and degraded, retaining no more of its pristine look of sturdy strength than a wheaten straw after the threshing. ...
If any owner of a cart of old books in Farringdon Street asked you a shilling for such a copy of Keats as mine, you would smile at him. You would think he had acquired the books merely to satisfy his own taste, and now displayed them to gratify a vanity that was intelligible; you would feel assured no motive toward commerce could underlie ever so deeply such a preposterous demand.
My copy will, I think, last my time. Already it has been in my hands more than half the years of a generation; and I feel that its severest trials are over. In days gone by it made journeys with me by sea and land, and paid long visits to some friends, both when I went myself, and when I did not go. Change of air and scene have had no beneficial effect upon it. Journey after journey, and visit after visit, the full cobalt of the cloth grew darker and dingier, the boards of the cover became limper and limper, and the stitching at the back more apparent between the sheets, like the bones and sinews growing outward through the flesh of a hand waxing old. .
My Keats has suffered from many pipes, many thumbs, many pencils, many quills, many pockets. Not one stain, one gape, one blot of these would I forego for a spick and span copy in all the gorgeous pomp of the bookbinder's millinery. These blemishes are aureolæ to me. They are nimbi around the brows of the gods and demi-gods, who walk in the triumph of their paternal despot on the clouds metropolitan that embattle the heights of Parnassus.
What a harvest of happy memories is garnered in its leaves! How well I remember the day it got that faint yellow stain on the page where begins the Ode on a Grecian Urn. It was a clear, bright, warm, sunshiny afternoon late in the month of May. Three of us took a boat and rowed down a broad blue river, ran the nose of the boat ashore on the gravel beach of a sequestered island and landed. Pulling was warm work, and we all climbed a slope, reached the summit, and cast ourselves down on the long lush cool grass, in the shade of whispering sycamores, and in a stream of air that came fresh with the cheering spices of the hawthorn blossom.
One of our company was the best chamber reader I have ever heard. His voice was neither
melodious nor very full. Perhaps he was all the better for this because he made no effort at display. As he read, the book vanished from his sight, and he leaned over the poet's shoulder, saw what the poet saw, and in a voice timid with the sense of responsibility, and yet elated with a kind of fearing joy, told of what he saw in words that never hurried, and that, when uttered, always seemed to hang substantially in the air like banners.
He discovered and related the poet's vision rather than simulated passion to suit the scene. I remember well his reading of the passage:
“Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
He rehearsed the whole of the ode over and over again as we lay on the grass watching the vast chestnuts and oaks