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G.  K.   CHESTERTON                            2J
claims, which cannot of their nature have been the claims
merely of a great ethical teacher. Either these words are
words of a deranged man or they are the words of Al-
mighty God. There is no third choice.
Certainly it is not for us to blame anybody who should find
that first wild whisper merely impious and insane. On the
contrary, stumbling on that rock of scandal is the first step.
Stark staring incredulity is a far more loyal tribute to that truth
than a modernist metaphysic that would make it out merely a
matter of degree. It were better to rend our robes with a great
cry against blasphemy, like Caiaphas in the judgement, or to lay
hold of the man as a maniac possessed of devils like the kinsmen
and the crowd, rather than to stand stupidly debating fine shades
of pantheism in the presence of so catastrophic a claim. There
is more of the wisdom that is one with surprise in any simple
person, full of the sensitiveness of simplicity, who should expect
the grass to wither and the birds to drop dead out of the air>
when a strolling carpenter's apprentice said calmly and almost
carelessly, like one looking over his shoulder : ' Before
Abraham was, I am'.
Psychologists sometimes tell us that his art is often a
compensation to the artist. So far from expressing himself
in his art in the straightforward sense of writing of these
things which he does in his practical life, on the contrary
in his art he gives expression to those needs of his spirit—
to that side of life—of which his conduct starves him.
Timid men put on paper and put into fiction the brave things
that they are unable to do in real life. The quarrelsome,
sighing subconsciously, it may be, for a tranquillity that
they never allow themselves to know, write in their verse,
* I strove with none, for none was worth my strife'. In
this sense there was a good deal of compensation in Chester-
ton's art. Abnormally clumsy even as a boy, in manhood
growing to a corpulence that soon became a national joke,
appreciated by everybody and most uproariously by himself,
he was quite incapable at all times of his life of anything in
the nature of an athletic feat. He quite frankly loathed