A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
all night but caught nothing. We try to amass a little money, but
succeed simultaneously in amassing many cares. Everything has its
price, 'tis true, but few things have their value; we have yet to learn
the higher prudence.
Even Shakespeare is on my side. Has he not written:
"TTiere's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness."
I should like to add a gigantic exclamation mark after those
words, for the support of England's premier poet and language's
gifted lord is support indeed; it is an intoxicating idea but I dare not
tamper with his work. True, a knowing critic might rise in ill-
suppressed fury and point out that I have arrived at this plausible
(and to me, perfect) quotation (or misquotation, he might term it)
first by decapitating the sentence and then by chopping off its feet.
But I would reply that the whole art of quotation is to wring a few
apposite words from their context and reject the rest. What have I
done but that?
Yet I fear that the critic would retire annoyed, seething with
indignation at my heresies, Shakespearian, spiritual and otherwise.
I could even quote to my correspondent from the book which
she holds in such respect a further statement: "Consider the lilies
of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin."
The result of my consideration is this incursion into Himalaya!
But she will adjure me to descend from these metaphysical clouds
and perceive the real world around us.
To tell the truth, I have made no great renunciation in fleeing
to my idle retreat. I am not indifferent to social pleasures, but I
can do without them. I am not afraid to sit lazily upon a mountain-
side and gaze upon the stage below. We must worship at the feet
of the goddess of wisdom in utter loneliness, if we would win her.
Although I have always enjoyed sipping tea at Florian's in Venice
or watching the passing crowd beneath a cafe awning in France,
these places are not necessary to my existence. Nature, however,
is. I may leave her for a time, but always I must return, like an erring
yet loving husband.
Nor can I resist a final quotation which sticks in my memory
like a leech. "Someone should teach that while, in the opinion of
society, contemplation is the gravest sin of which any citizen can
be guilty, in the opinion of the highest culture it is the proper
occupation of man." I am glad to accept Wilde's suggestion and so
adopt the tutorial role!
The artist who wants to paint a really fine inspired picture and