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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"



THE world in which we live has been variously said and
sung by the most ingenious poets and philosophers, these
reducing it to formulae and chemical ingredients, those
striking the lyre in high-sounding measures for the handi-
work of God. What experience supplies is of a mingled
tissue, and the choosing mind has much to reject before
it can get together the materials of a theory. Dew and
thunder, destroying Attila and the Spring lambkins, belong
to an order of the contrasts which no repetition can
assimilate. There is an uncouth, outlandish strain through-
out the web of the world, as from a vexatious planet in
the house of life. Things are not congruous and wear
strange disguises ; the consummate flower is fostered out
of dung, and after nourishing itself awhile with heaven's
delicate distillations, decays again into indistinguishable
soil; and with Caesar's ashes, Hamlet tells us, the urchins
make dirt pies and filthily besmear their countenances.
Nay, the kindly shine of summer, when tracked home with
the scientific spy-glass, is found to issue from the most
portentous nightmare of the universe—the great, con-
flagrant sun : a world of hell's squibs, tumultuary, roaring
aloud, inimical to life. The sun itself is enough to disgust
a human being of the scene which he inhabits; and you
would not fancy there was a green or habitable spot in
a universe thus awfully lighted up. And yet it is by the
blaze of such a conflagration, to which the fire of Rome
was but a spark, that we do all our fiddling, and hold
domestic tea-parties at the arbour door.

The Greeks figured Pan, the god of Nature, now terribly
stamping his foot, so that armies were dispersed; now