Monday, May 22, 2006

An impossible thankgiving

Today is the feast of St. Rita, and my parents' 52nd wedding anniversary - no doubt they are celebrating with St. Rita as we speak!

So I will post something to express impossible thanksgiving - which means I will post from the ancient archives of our Uncle Gilbert Chesterton, commonly known as Collected Works volume 14....
--Dr. Thursday

One thing only could Marjory recognise of the poet she had known. He misbehaved himself like a schoolboy; he cut capers like an acrobat, he talked nonsense like a clown, but through all, while his limbs were going like a jumpingjack, his blue eyes had the same unfathomable solemnity. They were stiller than of old: the look of strife had gone out of them, and there was nothing but a look of unutterably grave surprise, which she had seen somewhere else, though it was graver than any poet or scientist she had ever seen. Had she remembered it, it was the look in the eyes of children at about two years old. She might then perhaps have understood that this man had gained the child's secret: he enjoyed everything because he took
everything seriously.

"You'll hardly believe it," he said, slapping the table, as they sat at tea, "but it's five weeks since I've had a game at Hunt-the-Slipper."

"I shall believe with comparatively little effort," said Norman, "in my case it is about fifteen years."

"Then let's have one after tea," said Petersen, beaming and addressing Willis Hope, who nearly fell off his chair.

"Better have Oranges and Lemons," said Muriel Hope, taking the matter as a joke.

"Pardon me," said Petersen, turning upon her, "I do not think the comparison can be maintained. Oranges and Lemons is ceremonial in its nature: it does not give the many-coloured excitement: the comedy of personalities, the thrilling stratagems, the unexpected escapes of Hunt-the-Slipper. A still stronger case, of course, is to be
found in Hide and Seek, a pure game of adventure, in which every hiding-place is a poem, a legend of the old Earth who is always the ally of the crafty, and whose never-ending fairy-tale, of Ulysses and Brer Rabbit, gains a new page with every game."

There was a silence. Petersen imagined himself surrounded with a ring of the offended adherents of Oranges and Lemons. Addressing himself to Willis Hope, apparently the chief priest of the pastime, he added:

"Do not mistake me. I have no desire to underrate the noble ritual of Oranges and Lemons, a pageant as beautiful as its orchard name. Those really do it harm who seek unwisely to force upon it a comparison that it will not bear. Hunt-the-Slipper is essentially dramatic."

"I think a clergyman might be better employed," said Marion, acidly.

"Miss Dent," said Petersen, turning upon her with a flush, "it was probably the rules of Hunt-the-Slipper that the child taught the wise men in the Temple."

Marion was speechless.

Marjory was watching him keenly: she had just had a gleam of hope. His eyes were slowly filling with the pale blue fire she knew well: it was so he used to look when she read him a poem, or when the sunset grew red and gold over the wooded hill. At such moments he would say something which she couldn't understand.

At length the words came, with a kind of timid radiance.

"May I have jam?"

"Certainly," she said, raising her eyebrows wearily.

He only smiled ravenously, but she felt sure that if any earthly chair had been high enough he would have kicked his legs. There was another silence.

"Some fellows like butter and jam," said the religious enthusiast of the morning's conversation. "I think that's beastly."

"The main benefit of existence," said Marjory bitterly, "seems to be eating."

"Hardly the main benefit surely," said Petersen calmly, "though I agree with you that it is a neglected branch of the poetry of daily life. The song of birds, the sight of stars, the scent of flowers, all these weak. admit are a divine revelation, why not the taste of jam?"

"Not very poetical to my fancy," said Marjory, scornfully.

"It is uncultivated," said Petersen, "but a time may come when it will be elaborated into an art as rich and varied as music or painting. People will say, 'There is an undercurrent of pathos in this gravy, despite its frivolity,' or 'Have you tasted that passionate rebellious pudding? Ethically I think it's dangerous.' After all, eating has a grander basis than the arts of the others senses, for it is absolutely necessary to existence: it is the bricks and mortar of the Temple of the Spirit."

And he took a large bite out of the bread and jam.

[GKC CW14:785-7]


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