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    Deus Terminus

    by Kenneth Grahame
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    The practical Roman, stern constructor of roads and codes, when he
    needs must worship, loved a deity practical as himself; and in his
    parcelling of the known world into plots, saying unto this man, Bide
    here, and to that, Sit you down there, he could scarce fail to evolve
    the god Terminus: visible witness of possession and dominion, type of
    solid facts not to be quibbled away. We Romans of this latter day --
    so hailed by others, or complacently christened by ourselves -- are
    Roman in nothing more than in this; and, as much in the less tangible
    realms of thought as in our solid acres, we are fain to set up the
    statue which shall proclaim that so much country is explored, marked
    out, allotted, and done with; that such and such ramblings and
    excursions are practicable and permissible, and all else is exploded,
    illegal, or absurd. And in this way we are left with naught but a
    vague lingering tradition of the happier days before the advent of the
    ruthless deity.

    The sylvan glories of yonder stretch of woodland renew themselves each
    autumn, regal as ever. It is only the old enchantment that is gone;
    banished by the matter-of-fact deity, who has stolidly settled exactly
    where Lord A.'s shooting ends and Squire B.'s begins. Once, no such
    petty limitations fettered the mind. A step into the woodland was a
    step over the border -- the margin of the material; and then, good-bye
    to the modern world of the land-agent and the ''Field'' advertisement!
    A chiming of little bells over your head, and lo! the peregrine, with
    eyes like jewels, fluttered through the trees, her jesses catching in
    the boughs. 'Twas the favourite of the Princess, the windows of whose
    father's castle already gleamed through the trees, where honours and
    favours awaited the adventurous. The white doe sprang away through the
    thicket, her snowy flank stained with blood; she made for the
    enchanted cot, and for entrance you too had the pass-word. Did you
    fail on her traces, nor fox nor mole was too busy to spare a moment
    for friendly advice or information. Little hands were stretched to
    trip you, fairy gibe and mockery pelted you from every rabbit-hole;
    and O what Dryads you have kissed among the leaves, in that brief
    blissful moment ere they hardened into tree! 'Tis pity, indeed, that
    this sort of thing should have been made to share the suspicion
    attaching to the poacher; that the stony stare of the boundary god
    should confront you at the end of every green ride and rabbit-run;
    while the very rabbits themselves are too disgusted with the altered
    circumstances to tarry a moment for so much as to exchange the time of
    day.

    Truly this age is born, like Falstaff, with a white head and something
    a round belly: and will none of your jigs and fantasies. The golden
    era of princesses is past. For your really virtuous 'prentices there
    still remain a merchant's daughter or two, and a bottle of port o'
    Sundays on the Clapham mahogany. For the rest of us, one or two decent
    clubs, and plenty of nice roomy lunatic asylums. ''Go spin, you jade,
    go spin!'' is the one greeting for Imagination. And yet -- what a lip
    the slut has! What an ankle! Go to: there's nobody looking; let us
    lock the door, pull down the blinds, and write us a merry ballad.

    'Tis ungracious, perhaps, to regret what is gone for ever, when so
    much is given in return. A humour we have, that is entirely new; and
    allotments that shall win back Astræa. Our Labor Program stands for
    evidence that the Board School, at least, has done enduring work; and
    the useless race of poets is fast dying out. Though we no longer
    conjecture what song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed
    when he hid himself among women, yet many a prize (of guineas galore)
    awaits the competitor who will stoop, week by week, to more practical
    research. ''Le monde marche,'' as Renan hath it, ''vers une sorte
    d'americanisme.... Peut-être la vulgarité générale sera-t-elle un jour
    la condition du bonheur des élus. Nous n'avons pas le droit d'etre
    fort difficiles.'' We will be very facile, then, since needs must;
    remembering the good old proverb that ''scornful dogs eat dirty
    puddings.'' But, ere we show Terminus the door, at least let us fling
    one stone at the shrieking sulphureous houses of damnation erected as
    temples in his honour, and dignified with his name! There, 'mid
    clangour, dirt, and pestilence of crowding humanity, the very spirit
    of worry and unrest sits embodied. The old Roman was not such a bad
    fellow. His deity of demarcation at least breathed open air, and knew
    the kindly touch of sun and wind. His simple rites were performed amid
    flowers and under blue sky, by sunny roads or tranquil waters; and on
    this particular altar the sacrifice was ordained to be free from any
    stain of gore. Our hour of sacrifice, alas, has not yet come. When it
    does -- ( et haud procul absit!) -- let the offering be no bloodless
    one, but let (for choice) a fat and succulent stationmaster smoke and
    crackle on the altar of expiation!
    If you're writing a Deus Terminus 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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