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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

XVI
PULVIS ET UMBRA

WE look for some reward of our endeavours and are
disappointed; not success, not happiness, not even peace
of conscience, crowns our ineffectual efforts to do well.
Our frailties are invincible, our virtues barren ; the battle
goes sore against us to the going down of the sun. The
canting moralist tells us of right and wrong; and we
look abroad, even on the face of our small earth, and find
them change with every climate, and no country where
some action is not honoured for a virtue and none where
it is not branded for a vice; and we look in our experience,
and find no vital congruity in the wisest rules, but at
the best a municipal fitness. It is not strange if we are
tempted to despair of good. We ask too much. Our
religions and moralities have been trimmed to flatter us,
till they are all emasculate and sentimentalized, and
only please and weaken. Truth is of a rougher strain.
In the harsh face of life, faith can read a bracing gospel
The human race is a thing more ancient than the ten
commandments; and the bones and revolution of the
Kosmos, in whose joints we are but moss and fungus, more
ancient still.

I

Of the Kosmos in the last resort, science reports many
doubtful things and all of them appalling. There seems
no substance to this solid globe on which we stamp:
nothing but symbols and ratios. Symbols and ratios
carry us and bring us forth and beat us down; gravity
that swings the incommensurable suns and worlds through
space, is but a figment varying inversely as the squares of

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