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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

90                   THE  LANTERN-BEARERS

are moments. With, no more apparatus than an ill-
smelling lantern I have evoked him on the naked links,
All life that is not merely mechanical is spun out of two
strands : seeking for that bird and hearing him. And it
is just this that makes life so hard to value, and the delight
of each so incommunicable. And just a knowledge of
this, and a remembrance of those fortunate hours in which
the bird has sung to us, that fills us with such wonder when
we turn the pages of the realist. There, to be sure, we
find a picture of life in so far as it consists of mud and of
old iron, cheap desires and cheap fears, that which we
are ashamed to remember and that which we are careless
whether we forget; but of the note of that time-devouring
nightingale we hear no news.

The case of these writers of romance is most obscure.
They have been boys and youths ;   they have lingered
outside the window of the beloved, who was then most
probably writing to some one else ;  they have sat before
a sheet of paper, and felt themselves mere continents of
congested poetry, not one line of which would flow ; they
have walked alone in the woods, they have walked in
cities under the countless lamps ; they have been to sea,
they have hated, they have feared, they have longed to
knife a man, and maybe done it; the wild taste of life
has stung their palate.    Or, if you deny them all the
rest,  one pleasure at least they have tasted to the full
—their books are there to prove it—the keen pleasure"
of successful literary composition.    And yet they fill the
globe with volumes, whose cleverness inspires me with
despairing admiration, and whose consistent falsity to all
I care to call existence, with despairing wrath.    If I had
no better hope than to continue to revolve among the
dreary and petty businesses, and to be removed by the
paltry hopes and fears with which they surround and
animate their heroes, I declare I would die now.   But
there has never an hour of mine gone quite so dully yet;
if it were spent waiting at a railway junction, I would
have some scattering thoughts, I could count some grains
of memory, compared to which the whole of one of these
romances seems but dross.