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    Chapter 20

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    Chapter 20
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    I generalized a great deal and was ashamed of it. I thought that
    it was my business in life to bean artist and a poet, and that
    there could be no business comparable to that. I refused to read
    books, and even to meet people who excited me to generalization,
    but all to no purpose. I said my prayers much as in childhood,
    though without the old regularity of hour and place, and I began
    to pray that my imagination might somehow be rescued from
    abstraction, and become as pre-occupied with life as had been the
    imagination of Chaucer. For ten or twelve years more I suffered
    continual remorse, and only became content when my abstractions
    had composed themselves into picture and dramatization. My very
    remorse helped to spoil my early poetry, giving it an element of
    sentimentality through my refusal to permit it any share of an
    intellect which I considered impure. Even in practical life I only
    very gradually began to use generalizations, that have since
    become the foundation of all I have done, or shall do, in Ireland.
    For all I know, all men may have been as timid; for I am persuaded
    that our intellects at twenty contain all the truths we shall ever
    find, but as yet we do not know truths that belong to us from
    opinions caught up in casual irritation or momentary phantasy. As
    life goes on we discover that certain thoughts sustain us in
    defeat, or give us victory, whether over ourselves or others, & it
    is these thoughts, tested by passion, that we call convictions.
    Among subjective men (in all those, that is, who must spin a web
    out of their own bowels) the victory is an intellectual daily
    recreation of all that exterior fate snatches away, and so that
    fate's antithesis; while what I have called 'The mask' is an
    emotional antithesis to all that comes out of their internal
    nature. We begin to live when we have conceived life as a tragedy.
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