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    Chapter 21

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    Chapter 21
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    A conviction that the world was now but a bundle of fragments
    possessed me without ceasing. I had tried this conviction on 'The
    Rhymers,' thereby plunging into greater silence an already too
    silent evening. 'Johnson,' I was accustomed to say, 'you are the
    only man I know whose silence has beak & claw.' I had lectured on
    it to some London Irish society, and I was to lecture upon it
    later on in Dublin, but I never found but one interested man, an
    official of the Primrose League, who was also an active member of
    the Fenian Brotherhood. 'I am an extreme conservative apart from
    Ireland,' I have heard him explain; and I have no doubt that
    personal experience made him share the sight of any eye that saw
    the world in fragments. I had been put into a rage by the
    followers of Huxley, Tyndall, Carolus Duran and Bastien-Lepage,
    who not only asserted the unimportance of subject, whether in art
    or literature, but the independence of the arts from one another.
    Upon the other hand I delighted in every age where poet and artist
    confined themselves gladly to some inherited subject matter known
    to the whole people, for I thought that in man and race alike
    there is something called 'unity of being,' using that term as
    Dante used it when he compared beauty in the _Convito_ to a
    perfectly proportioned human body. My father, from whom I had
    learned the term, preferred a comparison to a musical instrument
    so strong that if we touch a string all the strings murmur
    faintly. There is not more desire, he had said, in lust than in
    true love; but in true love desire awakens pity, hope, affection,
    admiration, and, given appropriate circumstance, every emotion
    possible to man. When I began, however, to apply this thought to
    the State and to argue for a law-made balance among trades and
    occupations, my father displayed at once the violent free-trader
    and propagandist of liberty. I thought that the enemy of this
    unity was abstraction, meaning by abstraction not the distinction
    but the isolation of occupation, or class or faculty--

    'Call down the hawk from the air
    Let him be hooded, or caged,
    Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
    For larder and spit are bare,
    The old cook enraged,
    The scullion gone wild.'

    I knew no mediaeval cathedral, and Westminster, being a part of
    abhorred London, did not interest me; but I thought constantly of
    Homer and Dante and the tombs of Mausolus and Artemisa, the great
    figures of King and Queen and the lesser figures of Greek and
    Amazon, Centaur and Greek. I thought that all art should be a
    Centaur finding in the popular lore its back and its strong legs.
    I got great pleasure too from remembering that Homer was sung, and
    from that tale of Dante hearing a common man sing some stanza from
    'The Divine Comedy,' and from Don Quixote's meeting with some
    common man that sang Ariosto. Morris had never seemed to care for
    any poet later than Chaucer; and though I preferred Shakespeare to
    Chaucer I begrudged my own preference. Had not Europe shared one
    mind and heart, until both mind and heart began to break into
    fragments a little before Shakespeare's birth? Music and verse
    began to fall apart when Chaucer robbed verse of its speed that he
    might give it greater meditation, though for another generation or
    so minstrels were to sing his long elaborated 'Troilus and
    Cressida;' painting parted from religion in the later Renaissance
    that it might study effects of tangibility undisturbed; while,
    that it might characterise, where it had once personified, it
    renounced, in our own age, all that inherited subject matter which
    we have named poetry. Presently I was indeed to number character
    itself among the abstractions, encouraged by Congreve's saying
    that 'passions are too powerful in the fair sex to let humour,' or
    as we say character, 'have its course.' Nor have we fared better
    under the common daylight, for pure reason has notoriously made
    but light of practical reason, and has been made but light of in
    its turn, from that morning when Descartes discovered that he
    could think better in his bed than out of it; nor needed I
    original thought to discover, being so late of the school of
    Morris, that machinery had not separated from handicraft wholly
    for the world's good; nor to notice that the distinction of
    classes had become their isolation. If the London merchants of our
    day competed together in writing lyrics they would not, like the
    Tudor merchants, dance in the open street before the house of the
    victor; nor do the great ladies of London finish their balls on
    the pavement before their doors as did the great Venetian ladies
    even in the eighteenth century, conscious of an all enfolding
    sympathy. Doubtless because fragments broke into even smaller
    fragments we saw one another in a light of bitter comedy, and in
    the arts, where now one technical element reigned and now another,
    generation hated generation, and accomplished beauty was snatched
    away when it had most engaged our affections. One thing I did not
    foresee, not having the courage of my own thought--the growing
    murderousness of the world.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
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