“The Nightmare” by G.K. Chesterton

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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.

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“The Philosophy of Gratitude” by G.K. Chesterton

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“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.

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Chesterton on Love

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“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

Human Exceptionalism

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“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.” ― G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

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The Song of Quoodle

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This poem by G.K. Chesterton was a favorite of J.R.R. Tolkien’s. Written from a dog’s perspective, it was one of several that he knew by heart from Chesterton’s brilliant and rollicking “The Flying Inn”.

“The Song of Quoodle” by G.K. Chesterton from The Flying Inn

“They haven’t got no noses
The fallen sons of Eve,
Even the smell of roses
Is not what they supposes,
But more than mind discloses,
And more than men believe.
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Happy New Year!

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“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

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“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.

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