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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

14             Lord, What is Man ?

And yet I do not know—I could not keep myself going at
all if I did not believe that I was likely to inherit a good average
three-score years and ten of immortality. There are very
few workers who are not sustained by this belief, or at least
hope, but it may well be doubted whether this is not a sign
that they are not going to be immortal—and I am content
(or try to be) to fare as my neighbours.

The World Made to Enjoy

When we grumble about the vanity of all human things,
inasmuch as even the noblest works are not eternal but must
become sooner or later as though they had never been, we
should remember that the world, so far as we can see, was
made to enjoy rather than to last. Come-and-go pervades
everything of which we have knowledge, and though great
things go more slowly, they are built up of small ones and
must fare as that which makes them.

Are we to have our enjoyment of Handel and Shakespeare
weakened because a day will come when there will be no
more of either Handel or Shakespeare nor yet of ears to hear
them ? Is it not enough that they should stir such countless
multitudes so profoundly and kindle such intense and affec-
tionate admiration for so many ages as they have done and
probably will continue to do ? The life of a great thing may
be so long as practically to come to immortality even now,
but that is not the point. The point is that if anything was
aimed at at all when things began to shape or to be shaped,
it seems to have been a short life and a merry one, with an
extension of time in certain favoured cases, rather than a
permanency even of the very best and noblest. And, when
one comes to think of it, death and birth are so closely cor-
related that one could not destroy either without destroying
the other at the same time. It is extinction that makes
creation possible.

If, however, any work is to have long life it is not
enough that it should be good of its kind. Many
ephemeral things are perfect in their way. It must be of
a durable kind as well.