Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

See other formats

the miracles of sight, of hearing, of the projection of sound,
things that bridge space; the miracles of memory and
reason, by "which the present is conceived, and when it is
gone its image kept living in the brains of man and brute;
the miracle of reproduction, with its imperious desires
and staggering consequences. And to put the last touch
upon this mountain mass of the revolting and the incon-
ceivable, all these prey upon each other, lives tearing other
lives in pieces, cramming them inside themselves, and by
that summary process, growing fat : the vegetarian, the
whale, perhaps the tree, not less than the lion of the
desert; for the vegetarian is only the eater of the dumb.

Meanwhile our rotatory island loaded with predatory
life, and more drenched with blood, both animal and
vegetable, than ever mutinied ship, scuds through space
with unimaginable speed, and turns alternate cheeks to the
reverberation of a blazing world, ninety million miles


What a monstrous spectre is this man, the disease of
the agglutinated dust, lifting alternate feet or lying drugged
with slumber; killing, feeding, growing, bringing forth
small copies of himself ; grown upon with hair-like grass,
fitted with eyes that move and glitter in his face ; a thing
to set children screaming;—and yet looked at nearer,
known as "his fellows know him, how surprising are his
attributes ! Poor soul, here for so little, cast among so
many hardships, rilled with desires so incommensurate and
so inconsistent, savagely surrounded, savagely descended,
irremediably condemned to prey upon his fellow lives :
who should have blamed him had he been of a piece
with his destiny and a being merely barbarous ? And
we look and behold him instead filled with imperfect
virtues : infinitely childish, often admirably valiant, often
touchingly kind ; sitting down, amidst his momentary life,
to debate of right and wrong and the attributes of the
deity ; rising up to do battle for an egg or die for an idea ;
singling out his friends and his mate with cordial affection;
bringing forth in pain, rearing with long-suffering solicitude,