Skip to main content

Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

See other formats

should yet deny himself his rare delights, and add to his
frequent pains, and live for an ideal, however misconceived,
Nor can we stop with man.   A new doctrine, received with
screams a little while ago by canting moralists, and still
not properly worked into the body of our thoughts, lights
us a step farther into the heart of this rough but noble
universe.    For nowadays the   pride   of   man   denies  in
vain his kinship with the original dust.    He stands no
longer like a thing apart.   Close at his heels we see the
dog, prince of another genus :   and in him too, we see
dumbly testified the same cultus of an unattainable ideal,
the same constancy in failure.   Does it stop with the dog ?
We look at our feet where the ground is blackened with
the swarming ant:  a creature so small, so far from us in
the hierarchy of brutes, that we can scarce trace and scarce
comprehend his doings ;   and here also, in his ordered
politics and rigorous justice, we see confessed the law of
duty and the fact of individual sin.    Does it stop, then,
with the ant ?    Rather this desire of well-doing and this
doom of frailty run through all the grades of life : rather
is this earth, from the frosty top of Everest to the next
margin of the internal fire, one stage of ineffectual virtues
and. one temple of pious tears and perseverance.   The
whole creation groaneth and travaileth together.   It is
the common and the god-like law of life.    The browsers,
the biters, the barkers, the hairy coats of field and forest,
the squirrel in the oak, the thousand-footed creeper in the""
dust, as they share with us the gift of Me, share with us
the love of an ideal:  strive like us—like us are tempted
to grow weary of the struggle—to do well; like us receive
at  times  unmerited  refreshment,   visitings  of  support,
returns of courage ;   and are condemned like us to be
crucified between that double law of the members and the
will.   Are they like us, I wonder, in the timid hope of
some reward, some sugar with the drug ? do they, too,
stand aghast at unrewarded virtues, at the sufferings of
those whom, in our partiality, we take to be just, and the
prosperity of such as, in our blindness, we call wicked ?
It may be, and yet God knows what they should look for.
Even while they look, even while they repent, the foot of