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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

CHILD'S  PLAY

cine; but children may be pure spirits, if they "will, and
take their enjoyment in a world of moonshine. Sensation
does not count for so much in our first years as afterwards ;
something of the swaddling numbness of infancy clings
about us ; we see and touch and hear through a sort of
golden mist. Children, for instance, are able enough to
see, but they have no great faculty for looking ; they do
not use their eyes for the pleasure of using them, but for
by-ends of their own ; and the things I call to mind seeing
most vividly, were not beautiful in themselves, but merely
interesting or enviable to me as I thought they might be
turned to practical acqotaiit in play, ^^or isjthe sense of
touch so clean and "poignant in children" »a& it is in-a man.
If you will turn over your old memories, I think the sensa-
tions of this sort you remember will be somewhat vague,
and come to not much more than a blunt, general sense of
heat on summer days, or a blunt, general sense of well-being
in bed. And here, of course, you will understand pleasur-
able sensations ; for overmastering pain—the most deadly
and tragical element in life, and the true commander of
man's soul and body—alas ! pain has its own way with all
of us ; it breaks in, a rude visitant, upon the fairy garden
where the child wanders in a dream, no less surely than it
rules upon the field of battle or sends the immortal war-god
whimpering to his father; and innocence, no more than
philosophy, can protect us from this sting. As for taste,
when we bear in mind the excesses of unmitigated sugar
which delight a youthful palate, ' it is surely no very
cynical asperity' to think taste a character of the maturer
growth. Smell and hearing are perhaps more developed;
I remember many scents, many voices, and a great deal
of spring singing in the woods. But hearing is capable
of vast improvement as a means of pleasure ; and there
is all the world between gaping wonderment at the jargon
of birds, and the emotion with which a man listens to
articulate music.                            ' (£#* 7 -

At the same time, and step by step with this increase
in the definition and intensity of what we feel which
accompanies our growing age, another change takes place
in the sphere of intellect, by which all things are trans-