ON THE DISASTROUS SPREAD OF AESTHETICISM IN ALL CLASSES
Impetuously I sprang from bed,
Long before lunch was up,
That I might drain the dizzy dew
From the day's first golden cup.
In swift devouring ecstasy
Each toil in turn was done;
I had done lying on the lawn
Three minutes after one.
For me, as Mr. Wordsworth says,
The duties shine like stars;
I formed my uncle's character,
Decreasing his cigars.
But could my kind engross me? No!
Stern Art-what sons escape her?
Soon I was drawing Gladstone's nose
On scraps of blotting paper.
Then on-to play one-fingered tunes
Upon my aunt's piano.
In short, I have a headlong soul,
I much resemble Hanno.
(Forgive the entrance of the not
Too cogent Carthaginian.
It may have been to make a rhyme;
I lean to that opinion.)
Then my great work of book research
Till dusk I took in hand-
The forming of a final, sound
Opinion on The Strand.
But when I quenched the midnight oil,
And closed the Referee,
Whose thirty volumes folio
I take to bed with me,
I had a rather funny dream,
Intense, that is, and mystic;
I dreamed that, with one leap and yell,
The world became artistic.
The Shopmen, when their souls were still,
Declined to open shops-
And Cooks recorded frames of mind
In sad and subtle chops.
The stars were weary of routine:
The trees in the plantation
Were growing every fruit at once,
In search of sensation.
The moon went for a moonlight stroll,
And tried to be a bard,
And gazed enraptured at itself:
I left it trying hard.
The sea had nothing but a mood
Of 'vague ironic gloom,'
With which t'explain its presence in
My upstairs drawing-room.
The sun had read a little book
That struck him with a notion:
He drowned himself and all his fires
Deep in a hissing ocean.
Then all was dark, lawless, and lost:
I heard great devilish wings:
I knew that Art had won, and snapt
The Covenant of Things.
I cried aloud, and I awoke,
New labours in my head.
I set my teeth, and manfully
Began to lie in bed.
Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
So I my life conduct.
Each morning see some task begun,
Each evening see it chucked.
But still, in sudden moods of dusk,
I hear those great weird wings,
Feel vaguely thankful to the vast
Stupidity of things.
Clear was the night: the moon was young
The larkspurs in the plots
Mingled their orange with the gold
Of the forget-me-nots.
The poppies seemed a silver mist:
So darkly fell the gloom.
You scarce had guessed yon crimson streaks
Were buttercups in bloom.
But one thing moved: a little child
Crashed through the flower and fern:
And all my soul rose up to greet
The sage of whom I learn.
I looked into his awful eyes:
I waited his decree:
I made ingenious attempts
To sit upon his knee.
The babe upraised his wondering eyes,
And timidly he said,
"A trend towards experiment
In modern minds is bred.
"I feel the will to roam, to learn
By test, experience, nous,
That fire is hot and ocean deep,
And wolves carnivorous.
"My brain demands complexity,"
The lisping cherub cried.
I looked at him, and only said,
"Go on. The world is wide."
A tear rolled down his pinafore,
"Yet from my life must pass
The simple love of sun and moon,
The old games in the grass;
"Now that my back is to my home
Could these again be found?"
I looked on him and only said,
"Go on. The world is round."
Up to G.K.Chesterton's Works on the Web.
Last modified: 18th December, 1999
De Montfort University, Leicester.