Arthur Rackham, Peter Pan
“Man, the central pillar of the world must be upright and straight; around him all the trees and beasts and elements and devils may crook and curl like smoke if they choose. All really imaginative literature is only the contrast between the weird curves of Nature and the straightness of the soul.”
(Originally appeared in The Daily News, Oct. 16, 1909, and in Alarms and Discursions, NY: Dodd, Mead. 1911)
A SUNSET of copper and gold had just broken down and gone to pieces in the west, and grey colours were crawling over everything in earth and heaven; also a wind was growing, a wind that laid a cold finger upon flesh and spirit. The bushes at the back of my garden began to whisper like conspirators; and then to wave like wild hands in signal. I was trying to read by the last light that died on the lawn a long poem of the decadent period, a poem about the old gods of Babylon and Egypt, about their blazing and obscene temples, their cruel and colossal faces.
“When existence destroys the flower it is not sufficient for us to say that we admired it. The question is not whether we admired the flower; the question is whether we could in the primal darkness of nonentity have imagined a flower, and then by the spasm of divine creation, made it.”
“The Philosophy of Gratitude”
by G.K. Chesterton
This uncollected Chesterton article first appeared in The Daily News, June 20, 1903.
Chesterton: “I received a little while ago a letter, to which no name or address was attached, which touched me beyond expression. A great deal of it was too personal to treat of here, and for this reason especially I regret the concealment of its origin. But the more generally discussable part concerned itself chiefly with a query as to my meaning when I said in this paper something to this effect: “No one can be miserable who has known anything worth being miserable about.” The remark was written as remarks in daily papers ought, in my opinion, to be written, in a wild moment; but it happens, nevertheless, to be more or less true. What I meant was that our attitude towards existence, if we have suffered deprivation, must always be conditioned by the fact that deprivation implies that existence has given us something of immense value. To say that we have lost in the lottery of existence is to say that we have gained: for existence gives us our money beforehand. It is quite impossible to imagine ourselves as really calling, as Huxley expressed it, the Cosmos to the bar.
Arthur Rackham, Cinderella
Not only can these fairy-tales be enjoyed because they are moral, but morality can be enjoyed because it puts us in fairyland, in a world at once of wonder and of war.
by G.K. Chesterton, from All Things Considered, 1915
“Some solemn and superficial people (for nearly all very superficial people are solemn) have declared that the fairy-tales are immoral; they base this upon some accidental circumstances or regrettable incidents in the war between giants and boys, some cases in which the latter indulged in unsympathetic deceptions or even in practical jokes. The objection, however, is not only false, but very much the reverse of the facts. The fairy-tales are at root not only moral in the sense of being innocent, but moral in the sense of being didactic, moral in the sense of being moralising. It is all very well to talk of the freedom of fairyland, but there was precious little freedom in fairyland by the best official accounts. Mr. W.B. Yeats and other sensitive modern souls, feeling that modern life is about as black a slavery as ever oppressed mankind (they are right enough there), have especially described elfland as a place of utter ease and abandonment—a place where the soul can turn every way at will like the wind. Science denounces the idea of a capricious God; but Mr. Yeats’s school suggests that in that world every one is a capricious god. Mr. Yeats himself has said a hundred times in that sad and splendid literary style which makes him the first of all poets now writing in English (I will not say of all English poets, for Irishmen are familiar with the practice of physical assault), he has, I say, called up a hundred times the picture of the terrible freedom of the fairies, who typify the ultimate anarchy of art—
“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” ~G.K. Chesterton
I need not say I love you yet
You know how doth my heart oppress
The intolerable tenderness
That broke my body when we met.
I need not say I love you yet.
But let me say I fear you yet
You the long years not vulgarise,
You open your immortal eyes
And we for the first time have met.
Cover your face; I fear you yet.
—G.K. Chesterton, writing to his wife Frances to commemorate their silver anniversary
“The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle” – cave paintings from 25,000 years ago.
“The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one. He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.” ― The Everlasting Man
“I generally make my New Year resolutions somewhere towards the end of May, for I belong to that higher order of beings who not only forget to keep promises, but forget even to make them. Besides, my birthday is somewhere about then; and I like to be born again at the time I was born.” -G.K. Chesterton, “Daily News” (London), January 11, 1913
“The Enchanted Man” by G.K. Chesterton from A Miscellany of Men.
When I arrived to see the performance of the Buckinghamshire Players, who acted Miss Gertrude Robins’s POT LUCK at Naphill a short time ago, it is the distressing, if scarcely surprising, truth that I entered very late. This would have mattered little, I hope, to any one, but that late comers had to be forced into front seats. For a real popular English audience always insists on crowding in the back part of the hall; and (as I have found in many an election) will endure the most unendurable taunts rather than come forward. The English are a modest people; that is why they are entirely ruled and run by the few of them that happen to be immodest. In theatrical affairs the fact is strangely notable; and in most playhouses we find the bored people in front and the eager people behind.
“A Prayer in Darkness” by G.K. Chesterton
THIS much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.
“Gratitude comes with a price, says Chesterton, ‘and the price is Truth.’ Facing reality is the best way to avoid either the low of despair or the high of presumption. Coming to grips with the truth is the best way to cultivate a sense of hope and savor an experience, because truth places before us exactly what we have and avoids mistaken comparisons about how we deserve better (or worse). Comparisons kill happiness.” ~Fr. Michael Rennier
Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a little article on Chesterton’s wonderful (and wonder-filled) insights on the power of gratitude.
“How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Like G.K. Chesterton”
“… boundaries are the most beautiful things in the world. To love anything is to love its boundaries … for when we have come to the end of a thing we have come to the beginning of it.” ~G.K. Chesterton
“The Lion” by G.K. Chesterton (from Tremendous Trifles, 1909)
In the town of Belfort I take a chair and I sit down in the street. We talk in a cant phrase of the Man in the Street, but the Frenchman is the man in the street. Things quite central for him are connected with these lamp-posts and pavements; everything from his meals to his martyrdoms. When first an Englishman looks at a French town or village his first feeling is simply that it is uglier than an English town or village; when he looks again he sees that this comparative absence of the picturesque is chiefly expressed in the plain, precipitous frontage of the houses standing up hard and flat out of the street like the cardboard houses in a pantomime—a hard angularity allied perhaps to the harshness of French logic. When he looks a third time he sees quite simply that it is all because the houses have no front gardens. The vague English spirit loves to have the entrance to its house softened by bushes and broken by steps. It likes to have a little anteroom of hedges half in the house and half out of it; a green room in a double sense. The Frenchman desires no such little pathetic ramparts or halting places, for the street itself is a thing natural and familiar to him.