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    The Lost Centaur

    by Kenneth Grahame
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    It is somewhere set down (or does the legend only exist in the great
    volume of ought-to-be-writ?) that the young Achilles, nurtured from
    babyhood by the wise and kindly Cheiron, accustomed to reverence an
    ideal of human skill and wisdom blent with all that was best and
    noblest of animal instinct, strength and swiftness, found poor
    humanity sadly to miss, when at last the was sent forth among his
    pottering little two-legged peers. Himself alone he had hitherto
    fancied to be the maimed one, the incomplete; he looked to find the
    lords of earth even such as these Centaurs; wise and magnanimous atop:
    below, shod with the lightning, winged with the wind, terrible in the
    potentiality of the armed heel. Instead of which -- ! How fallen was
    his first fair hope of the world! And even when reconciled at last to
    the dynasty of the forked radish, after he had seen its quality tested
    round the clangorous walls of Troy -- some touch of an imperial
    disdain ever lingered in his mind for these feeble folk who could
    contentedly hail him -- him, who had known Cheiron! -- as hero and
    lord!

    Achilles has passed, with the Centaurs and Troy; but the feeling
    lingers.

    Of strange and divers strands is twisted the mysterious cord that,
    reaching back ''through spaces out of space and timeless time,''
    somewhere joins us to the Brute; a twine of mingled yarn, not utterly
    base. As we grow from our animal infancy, and the threads snap one by
    one at each gallant wing-stroke of a soul poising for flight into
    Empyrean, we are yet conscious of a loss for every gain, we have some
    forlorn sense of a vanished heritage. Willing enough are we to ''let
    the ape and tiger die''; but the pleasant cousins dissembled in hide
    and fur and feather are not all tigers and apes: which last vile folk,
    indeed, exist for us only in picture-books, and chiefly offend by
    always carrying the Sunday School ensign of a Moral at their tails.
    Others -- happily of less didactic dispositions -- there be; and it is
    to these unaffected, careless companions that the sensible child is
    wont to devote himself; leaving severely alone the stiff, tame
    creatures claiming to be of closer kin. And yet these playmates, while
    cheerfully admitting him of their fellowship, make him feel his
    inferiority at every point. Vainly, his snub nose projected
    earthwards, he essays to sniff it with the terrier who (as becomes the
    nobler animal) is leading in the chase; and he is ready to weep as he
    realises his loss. And the rest of the Free Company, -- the pony, the
    cows, the great cart-horses, -- are ever shaming him by their
    unboastful exercise of some enviable and unattainable attribute. Even
    the friendly pig, who (did but parents permit) should eat of his bread
    and drink of his cup, and be unto him as a brother, -- which among all
    these unhappy bifurcations, so cheery, so unambitious, so purely
    contented, so apt to be the guide, philosopher, and friend of boyhood
    as he? What wonder that at times, when the neophyte in life begins to
    realise that all these desirable accomplishments have had to be
    surrendered one by one in the process of developing a Mind, the course
    of fitting out a Lord of Creation, he is wont -- not knowing the
    extent of the kingdom to which he is heir -- to feel a little
    discontented?

    Ere now this ill-humour, taking root in a nature wherein the animal is
    already ascendant, has led by downward paths to the Goat-Foot, in whom
    the submerged human system peeps out but fitfully, at exalted moments.
    He, the peevish and irascible, shy of trodden ways and pretty
    domesticities, is linked to us by little but his love of melody; but
    for which saving grace, the hair would soon creep up from thigh to
    horn of him. At times he will still do us a friendly turn: will lend a
    helping hand to poor little Psyche, wilfully seeking her own
    salvation; will stand shoulder to shoulder with us on Marathon plain.
    But in the main his sympathies are first for the beast: to which his
    horns are never horrific, but, with his hairy pelt, ever natural and
    familiar, and his voice (with its talk of help and healing) not harsh
    nor dissonant, but voice of very brother as well as very god.

    And this declension -- for declension it is, though we achieve all the
    confidences of Melampus, and even master with him the pleasant argot
    of the woods -- may still be ours if we suffer what lives in us of our
    primal cousins to draw us down. On the other hand, let soul inform and
    irradiate body as it may, the threads are utterly shorn asunder never:
    nor is man, the complete, the self-contained, permitted to cut himself
    wholly adrift from these his poor relations. The mute and stunted
    human embryo that gazes appealingly from out the depths of their eyes
    must ever remind him of a kinship once (possibly) closer. Nay, at
    times, it must even seem to whelm him in reproach. As thus: ''Was it
    really necessary, after all, that we two should part company so early?
    May you not have taken a wrong turning somewhere, in your long race
    after your so-called progress, after the perfection of this be-lauded
    species of yours? A turning whose due avoidance might perhaps have
    resulted in no such lamentable cleavage as is here, but in some
    perfect embodiment of the dual nature: as who should say a being with
    the nobilities of both of us, the basenesses of neither? So might you,
    more fortunately guided, have been led at last up the green sides of
    Pelion, to the ancestral, the primeval, Centaur still waiting majestic
    on the summit!'' It is even so. Perhaps this thing might once have
    been, O cousin outcast and estranged! But the opportunity was long
    since lost. Henceforth, two ways for us for ever!
    If you're writing a The Lost Centaur essay and need some advice, post your Kenneth Grahame essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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