Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do you see the dragons?

You may know there are real dragons in our world, such as those called "Komodo"... (see here for more!) but dragons are even more real if you don't look quite so hard for them.

Every Chestertonian knows that famous line, one of the most gorgeous of all GKC's "verbal fireworks":
The Dragon is the most cosmopolitan of impossibilities.
[GKC quoted in Ward Gilbert Keith Chesterton 40]
There are also other useful facts to be acquired, such as this:
If there was a dragon, he had a grandmother.
[GKC "The Dragon's Grandmother" in Tremendous Trifles]
And this, a succinct guide to Story, should you need one:
In every romance there must be the three characters: there must be the Princess, who is a thing to be loved; there must be the Dragon, who is a thing to be fought; and there must be St. George, who is a thing that both loves and fights.
[GKC Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens CW15:255]
Three more, just for the delight of the thing:
An allegory nowadays means taking something that does not exist as a symbol of something that does exist. We believe, at least most of us do, that sin does exist. We believe (on highly insufficient grounds) that a dragon does not exist. So we make the unreal dragon an allegory of the real sin.
[GKC William Blake]

St. George knew very well what all real soldiers know; that the only way to be even approximately likely to kill a dragon is to give the dragon a heavy chance of killing you. And this method, which is the only one, is much too unpleasant to be talked about.
[GKC ILN May 12 1906 CW27:187]

When we dip into an old book, say of what some call the Dark Ages, what strikes us most is that the mystical part is rational, while the scientific part is mad. From Dante to the most dingy page of secondary scholasticism, it is the faith that seems to be sane and the facts that seem to have gone all crazy. Some quaint old scribe will often write something like this: "We know by divine revelation that love causeth all mothers to care for their young; but this appears to be contradicted by experience, for experience tells us that the dragon bites off the tails of all infant dragons at the fourth full moon." Or we may read: "It is of the nature of the mercy of God to provide grass to be the food of horses; but some have denied this, urging that the Three-Legged Horse of Tartary, that standeth on one leg in the attempt to eat the birds as they fly, is an object apparent to our senses." Now it is a complete error to suppose that the mediaevals thought lightly of the authority of the senses - and still more of an error to suppose that they thought lightly of the authority of the reason. Every mediaeval writer repeated to the point of monotony that the rights of the reason must be respected, and that it was among the rights of the reason to deal with such things of the senses. The only explanation is that they had fallen into the habit of accepting some of their facts at second-hand, and still thinking of them as facts even when they were fables. In other words, it must be conceded that mediaeval philosophy allowed itself to drift into one of the commonest errors of modern popular science. They said lightly enough, "We see the dragon," without stopping to specify who saw the dragon. All our popular science is based on the same principle.
[GKC ILN Apr 7 1923 CW33:77]


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