I have never been able to understand why certain forms of art should be

marked off as something debased and trivial. A comedy is spoken of as

'degenerating into farce'; it would be fair criticism to speak of it

'changing into farce'; but as for degenerating into farce, we might

equally reasonably speak of it as degenerating into tragedy. Again, a

story is spoken of as 'melodramatic,' and the phrase, queerly enough, is

not meant as a compliment. To speak of something as 'pantomimic' or

'sensational' is innocently supposed to be biting, Heaven knows why, for

all works of art are sensations, and a good pantomime (now extinct) is

one of the pleasantest sensations of all. 'This stuff is fit for a

detective story,' is often said, as who should say, 'This stuff is fit

for an epic.'

Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of this mode of classification,

there can be no doubt about one most practical and disastrous effect of

it. These lighter or wilder forms of art, having no standard set up for

them, no gust of generous artistic pride to lift them up, do actually

tend to become as bad as they are supposed to be. Neglected children of

the great mother, they grow up in darkness, dirty and unlettered, and

when they are right they are right almost by accident, because of the

blood in their veins. The common detective story of mystery and murder

seems to the intelligent reader to be little except a strange glimpse of

a planet peopled by congenital idiots, who cannot find the end of their

own noses or the character of their own wives. The common pantomime

seems like some horrible satiric picture of a world without cause or

effect, a mass of 'jarring atoms,' a prolonged mental torture of

irrelevancy. The ordinary farce seems a world of almost piteous

vulgarity, where a half-witted and stunted creature is afraid when his

wife comes home, and amused when she sits down on the doorstep. All this

is, in a sense, true, but it is the fault of nothing in heaven or earth

except the attitude and the phrases quoted at the beginning of this

article. We have no doubt in the world that, if the other forms of art

had been equally despised, they would have been equally despicable. If

people had spoken of 'sonnets' with the same accent with which they

speak of 'music-hall songs,' a sonnet would have been a thing so

fearful and wonderful that we almost regret we cannot have a specimen; a

rowdy sonnet is a thing to dream about. If people had said that epics

were only fit for children and nursemaids, 'Paradise Lost' might have

been an average pantomime: it might have been called 'Harlequin Satan,

or How Adam 'Ad 'em.' For who would trouble to bring to perfection a

work in which even perfection is grotesque? Why should Shakespeare write

'Othello' if even his triumph consisted in the eulogy, 'Mr. Shakespeare

is fit for something better than writing tragedies'?

The case of farce, and its wilder embodiment in harlequinade, is

especially important. That these high and legitimate forms of art,

glorified by Aristophanes and Moliere, have sunk into such contempt may

be due to many causes: I myself have little doubt that it is due to the

astonishing and ludicrous lack of belief in hope and hilarity which

marks modern aesthetics, to such an extent that it has spread even to

the revolutionists (once the hopeful section of men), so that even those

who ask us to fling the stars into the sea are not quite sure that they

will be any better there than they were before. Every form of literary

art must be a symbol of some phase of the human spirit; but whereas the

phase is, in human life, sufficiently convincing in itself, in art it

must have a certain pungency and neatness of form, to compensate for its

lack of reality. Thus any set of young people round a tea-table may have

all the comedy emotions of 'Much Ado about Nothing' or 'Northanger

Abbey,' but if their actual conversation were reported, it would

possibly not be a worthy addition to literature. An old man sitting by

his fire may have all the desolate grandeur of Lear or Pere Goriot, but

if he comes into literature he must do something besides sit by the

fire. The artistic justification, then, of farce and pantomime must

consist in the emotions of life which correspond to them. And these

emotions are to an incredible extent crushed out by the modern

insistence on the painful side of life only. Pain, it is said, is the

dominant element of life; but this is true only in a very special sense.

If pain were for one single instant literally the dominant element in

life, every man would be found hanging dead from his own bed-post by the

morning. Pain, as the black and catastrophic thing, attracts the

youthful artist, just as the schoolboy draws devils and skeletons and

men hanging. But joy is a far more elusive and elvish matter, since it

is our reason for existing, and a very feminine reason; it mingles with

every breath we draw and every cup of tea we drink. The literature of

joy is infinitely more difficult, more rare and more triumphant than the

black and white literature of pain. And of all the varied forms of the

literature of joy, the form most truly worthy of moral reverence and

artistic ambition is the form called 'farce'--or its wilder shape in

pantomime. To the quietest human being, seated in the quietest house,

there will sometimes come a sudden and unmeaning hunger for the

possibilities or impossibilities of things; he will abruptly wonder

whether the teapot may not suddenly begin to pour out honey or

sea-water, the clock to point to all hours of the day at once, the

candle to burn green or crimson, the door to open upon a lake or a

potato-field instead of a London street. Upon anyone who feels this

nameless anarchism there rests for the time being the abiding spirit of

pantomime. Of the clown who cuts the policeman in two it may be said

(with no darker meaning) that he realizes one of our visions. And it may

be noted here that this internal quality in pantomime is perfectly

symbolized and preserved by that commonplace or cockney landscape and

architecture which characterizes pantomime and farce. If the whole

affair happened in some alien atmosphere, if a pear-tree began to grow

apples or a river to run with wine in some strange fairyland, the effect

would be quite different. The streets and shops and door-knockers of the

harlequinade, which to the vulgar aesthete make it seem commonplace, are

in truth the very essence of the aesthetic departure. It must be an

actual modern door which opens and shuts, constantly disclosing

different interiors; it must be a real baker whose loaves fly up into

the air without his touching them, or else the whole internal excitement

of this elvish invasion of civilization, this abrupt entrance of Puck

into Pimlico, is lost. Some day, perhaps, when the present narrow phase

of aesthetics has ceased to monopolize the name, the glory of a farcical

art may become fashionable. Long after men have ceased to drape their

houses in green and gray and to adorn them with Japanese vases, an

aesthete may build a house on pantomime principles, in which all the

doors shall have their bells and knockers on the inside, all the

staircases be constructed to vanish on the pressing of a button, and all

the dinners (humorous dinners in themselves) come up cooked through a

trapdoor. We are very sure, at least, that it is as reasonable to

regulate one's life and lodgings by this kind of art as by any other.

The whole of this view of farce and pantomime may seem insane to us; but

we fear that it is we who are insane. Nothing in this strange age of

transition is so depressing as its merriment. All the most brilliant men

of the day when they set about the writing of comic literature do it

under one destructive fallacy and disadvantage: the notion that comic

literature is in some sort of way superficial. They give us little

knick-knacks of the brittleness of which they positively boast, although

two thousand years have beaten as vainly upon the follies of the 'Frogs'

as on the wisdom of the 'Republic.' It is all a mean shame of joy. When

we come out from a performance of the 'Midsummer Night's Dream' we feel

as near to the stars as when we come out from 'King Lear.' For the joy

of these works is older than sorrow, their extravagance is saner than

wisdom, their love is stronger than death.

The old masters of a healthy madness, Aristophanes or Rabelais or

Shakespeare, doubtless had many brushes with the precisians or ascetics

of their day, but we cannot but feel that for honest severity and

consistent self-maceration they would always have had respect. But what

abysses of scorn, inconceivable to any modern, would they have reserved

for an aesthetic type and movement which violated morality and did not

even find pleasure, which outraged sanity and could not attain to

exuberance, which contented itself with the fool's cap without the


* * * * *


The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has to-day all the

exhilaration of a vice. Moral truisms have been so much disputed that

they have begun to sparkle like so many brilliant paradoxes. And

especially (in this age of egoistic idealism) there is about one who

defends humility something inexpressibly rakish.

It is no part of my intention to defend humility on practical grounds.

Practical grounds are uninteresting, and, moreover, on practical grounds

the case for humility is overwhelming. We all know that the 'divine

glory of the ego' is socially a great nuisance; we all do actually value

our friends for modesty, freshness, and simplicity of heart. Whatever

may be the reason, we all do warmly respect humility--in other people.

But the matter must go deeper than this. If the grounds of humility are

found only in social convenience, they may be quite trivial and

temporary. The egoists may be the martyrs of a nobler dispensation,

agonizing for a more arduous ideal. To judge from the comparative lack

of ease in their social manner, this seems a reasonable suggestion.

There is one thing that must be seen at the outset of the study of

humility from an intrinsic and eternal point of view. The new philosophy

of self-esteem and self-assertion declares that humility is a vice. If

it be so, it is quite clear that it is one of those vices which are an

integral part of original sin. It follows with the precision of

clockwork every one of the great joys of life. No one, for example, was

ever in love without indulging in a positive debauch of humility. All

full-blooded and natural people, such as schoolboys, enjoy humility the

moment they attain hero-worship. Humility, again, is said both by its

upholders and opponents to be the peculiar growth of Christianity. The

real and obvious reason of this is often missed. The pagans insisted

upon self-assertion because it was the essence of their creed that the

gods, though strong and just, were mystic, capricious, and even

indifferent. But the essence of Christianity was in a literal sense the

New Testament--a covenant with God which opened to men a clear

deliverance. They thought themselves secure; they claimed palaces of

pearl and silver under the oath and seal of the Omnipotent; they

believed themselves rich with an irrevocable benediction which set them

above the stars; and immediately they discovered humility. It was only

another example of the same immutable paradox. It is always the secure

who are humble.

This particular instance survives in the evangelical revivalists of the

street. They are irritating enough, but no one who has really studied

them can deny that the irritation is occasioned by these two things, an

irritating hilarity and an irritating humility. This combination of joy

and self-prostration is a great deal too universal to be ignored. If

humility has been discredited as a virtue at the present day, it is not

wholly irrelevant to remark that this discredit has arisen at the same

time as a great collapse of joy in current literature and philosophy.

Men have revived the splendour of Greek self-assertion at the same time

that they have revived the bitterness of Greek pessimism. A literature

has arisen which commands us all to arrogate to ourselves the liberty of

self-sufficing deities at the same time that it exhibits us to ourselves

as dingy maniacs who ought to be chained up like dogs. It is certainly a

curious state of things altogether. When we are genuinely happy, we

think we are unworthy of happiness. But when we are demanding a divine

emancipation we seem to be perfectly certain that we are unworthy of


The only explanation of the matter must be found in the conviction that

humility has infinitely deeper roots than any modern men suppose; that

it is a metaphysical and, one might almost say, a mathematical virtue.

Probably this can best be tested by a study of those who frankly

disregard humility and assert the supreme duty of perfecting and

expressing one's self. These people tend, by a perfectly natural

process, to bring their own great human gifts of culture, intellect, or

moral power to a great perfection, successively shutting out everything

that they feel to be lower than themselves. Now shutting out things is

all very well, but it has one simple corollary--that from everything

that we shut out we are ourselves shut out. When we shut our door on the

wind, it would be equally true to say that the wind shuts its door on

us. Whatever virtues a triumphant egoism really leads to, no one can

reasonably pretend that it leads to knowledge. Turning a beggar from the

door may be right enough, but pretending to know all the stories the

beggar might have narrated is pure nonsense; and this is practically

the claim of the egoism which thinks that self-assertion can obtain

knowledge. A beetle may or may not be inferior to a man--the matter

awaits demonstration; but if he were inferior by ten thousand fathoms,

the fact remains that there is probably a beetle view of things of which

a man is entirely ignorant. If he wishes to conceive that point of view,

he will scarcely reach it by persistently revelling in the fact that he

is not a beetle. The most brilliant exponent of the egoistic school,

Nietszche, with deadly and honourable logic, admitted that the

philosophy of self-satisfaction led to looking down upon the weak, the

cowardly, and the ignorant. Looking down on things may be a delightful

experience, only there is nothing, from a mountain to a cabbage, that is

really seen when it is seen from a balloon. The philosopher of the ego

sees everything, no doubt, from a high and rarified heaven; only he sees

everything foreshortened or deformed.

Now if we imagine that a man wished truly, as far as possible, to see

everything as it was, he would certainly proceed on a different

principle. He would seek to divest himself for a time of those personal

peculiarities which tend to divide him from the thing he studies. It is

as difficult, for example, for a man to examine a fish without

developing a certain vanity in possessing a pair of legs, as if they

were the latest article of personal adornment. But if a fish is to be

approximately understood, this physiological dandyism must be overcome.

The earnest student of fish morality will, spiritually speaking, chop

off his legs. And similarly the student of birds will eliminate his

arms; the frog-lover will with one stroke of the imagination remove all

his teeth, and the spirit wishing to enter into all the hopes and fears

of jelly-fish will simplify his personal appearance to a really alarming

extent. It would appear, therefore, that this great body of ours and all

its natural instincts, of which we are proud, and justly proud, is

rather an encumbrance at the moment when we attempt to appreciate things

as they should be appreciated. We do actually go through a process of

mental asceticism, a castration of the entire being, when we wish to

feel the abounding good in all things. It is good for us at certain

times that ourselves should be like a mere window--as clear, as

luminous, and as invisible.

In a very entertaining work, over which we have roared in childhood, it

is stated that a point has no parts and no magnitude. Humility is the

luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or

a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the

cosmic things are what they really are--of immeasurable stature. That

the trees are high and the grasses short is a mere accident of our own

foot-rules and our own stature. But to the spirit which has stripped off

for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting

forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as

incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like

gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on

their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other.

Between one stake of a paling and another there are new and terrible

landscapes; here a desert, with nothing but one misshapen rock; here a

miraculous forest, of which all the trees flower above the head with the

hues of sunset; here, again, a sea full of monsters that Dante would not

have dared to dream. These are the visions of him who, like the child in

the fairy tales, is not afraid to become small. Meanwhile, the sage

whose faith is in magnitude and ambition is, like a giant, becoming

larger and larger, which only means that the stars are becoming smaller

and smaller. World after world falls from him into insignificance; the

whole passionate and intricate life of common things becomes as lost to

him as is the life of the infusoria to a man without a microscope. He

rises always through desolate eternities. He may find new systems, and

forget them; he may discover fresh universes, and learn to despise them.

But the towering and tropical vision of things as they really are--the

gigantic daisies, the heaven-consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of

strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of dust like the wreck

of temples, and thistledown like the ruin of stars--all this colossal

vision shall perish with the last of the humble.

* * * * *


The aristocrats of the nineteenth century have destroyed entirely their

one solitary utility. It is their business to be flaunting and arrogant;

but they flaunt unobtrusively, and their attempts at arrogance are

depressing. Their chief duty hitherto has been the development of

variety, vivacity, and fulness of life; oligarchy was the world's first

experiment in liberty. But now they have adopted the opposite ideal of

'good form,' which may be defined as Puritanism without religion. Good

form has sent them all into black like the stroke of a funeral bell.

They engage, like Mr. Gilbert's curates, in a war of mildness, a

positive competition of obscurity. In old times the lords of the earth

sought above all things to be distinguished from each other; with that

object they erected outrageous images on their helmets and painted

preposterous colours on their shields. They wished to make it entirely

clear that a Norfolk was as different, say, from an Argyll as a white

lion from a black pig. But to-day their ideal is precisely the opposite

one, and if a Norfolk and an Argyll were dressed so much alike that they

were mistaken for each other they would both go home dancing with joy.

The consequences of this are inevitable. The aristocracy must lose their

function of standing to the world for the idea of variety, experiment,

and colour, and we must find these things in some other class. To ask

whether we shall find them in the middle class would be to jest upon

sacred matters. The only conclusion, therefore, is that it is to

certain sections of the lower class, chiefly, for example, to

omnibus-conductors, with their rich and rococo mode of thought, that we

must look for guidance towards liberty and light.

The one stream of poetry which is continually flowing is slang. Every

day a nameless poet weaves some fairy tracery of popular language. It

may be said that the fashionable world talks slang as much as the

democratic; this is true, and it strongly supports the view under

consideration. Nothing is more startling than the contrast between the

heavy, formal, lifeless slang of the man-about-town and the light,

living, and flexible slang of the coster. The talk of the upper strata

of the educated classes is about the most shapeless, aimless, and

hopeless literary product that the world has ever seen. Clearly in this,

again, the upper classes have degenerated. We have ample evidence that

the old leaders of feudal war could speak on occasion with a certain

natural symbolism and eloquence that they had not gained from books.

When Cyrano de Bergerac, in Rostand's play, throws doubts on the reality

of Christian's dulness and lack of culture, the latter replies:

'Bah! on trouve des mots quand on monte a l'assaut;

Oui, j'ai un certain esprit facile et militaire;'

and these two lines sum up a truth about the old oligarchs. They could

not write three legible letters, but they could sometimes speak

literature. Douglas, when he hurled the heart of Bruce in front of him

in his last battle, cried out, 'Pass first, great heart, as thou wert

ever wont.' A Spanish nobleman, when commanded by the King to receive a

high-placed and notorious traitor, said: 'I will receive him in all

obedience, and burn down my house afterwards.' This is literature

without culture; it is the speech of men convinced that they have to

assert proudly the poetry of life.

Anyone, however, who should seek for such pearls in the conversation of

a young man of modern Belgravia would have much sorrow in his life. It

is not only impossible for aristocrats to assert proudly the poetry of

life; it is more impossible for them than for anyone else. It is

positively considered vulgar for a nobleman to boast of his ancient

name, which is, when one comes to think of it, the only rational object

of his existence. If a man in the street proclaimed, with rude feudal

rhetoric, that he was the Earl of Doncaster, he would be arrested as a

lunatic; but if it were discovered that he really was the Earl of

Doncaster, he would simply be cut as a cad. No poetical prose must be

expected from Earls as a class. The fashionable slang is hardly even a

language; it is like the formless cries of animals, dimly indicating

certain broad, well-understood states of mind. 'Bored,' 'cut up,'

'jolly,' 'rotten,' and so on, are like the words of some tribe of

savages whose vocabulary has only twenty of them. If a man of fashion

wished to protest against some solecism in another man of fashion, his

utterance would be a mere string of set phrases, as lifeless as a string

of dead fish. But an omnibus conductor (being filled with the Muse)

would burst out into a solid literary effort: 'You're a gen'leman,

aren't yer ... yer boots is a lot brighter than yer 'ed...there's

precious little of yer, and that's clothes...that's right, put yer cigar

in yer mouth 'cos I can't see yer be'ind it...take it out again, do yer!

you're young for smokin', but I've sent for yer mother.... Goin'? oh,

don't run away: I won't 'arm yer. I've got a good 'art, I 'ave.... "Down

with croolty to animals," I say,' and so on. It is evident that this

mode of speech is not only literary, but literary in a very ornate and

almost artificial sense. Keats never put into a sonnet so many remote

metaphors as a coster puts into a curse; his speech is one long

allegory, like Spenser's 'Faerie Queen.'

I do not imagine that it is necessary to demonstrate that this poetic

allusiveness is the characteristic of true slang. Such an expression as

'Keep your hair on' is positively Meredithian in its perverse and

mysterious manner of expressing an idea. The Americans have a well-known

expression about 'swelled-head' as a description of self-approval, and

the other day I heard a remarkable fantasia upon this air. An American

said that after the Chinese War the Japanese wanted 'to put on their

hats with a shoe-horn.' This is a monument of the true nature of slang,

which consists in getting further and further away from the original

conception, in treating it more and more as an assumption. It is rather

like the literary doctrine of the Symbolists.

The real reason of this great development of eloquence among the lower

orders again brings us back to the case of the aristocracy in earlier

times. The lower classes live in a state of war, a war of words. Their

readiness is the product of the same fiery individualism as the

readiness of the old fighting oligarchs. Any cabman has to be ready with

his tongue, as any gentleman of the last century had to be ready with

his sword. It is unfortunate that the poetry which is developed by this

process should be purely a grotesque poetry. But as the higher orders of

society have entirely abdicated their right to speak with a heroic

eloquence, it is no wonder that the language should develop by itself in

the direction of a rowdy eloquence. The essential point is that somebody

must be at work adding new symbols and new circumlocutions to a


All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. If we paused for a

moment to examine the cheapest cant phrases that pass our lips every

day, we should find that they were as rich and suggestive as so many

sonnets. To take a single instance: we speak of a man in English social

relations 'breaking the ice.' If this were expanded into a sonnet, we

should have before us a dark and sublime picture of an ocean of

everlasting ice, the sombre and baffling mirror of the Northern nature,

over which men walked and danced and skated easily, but under which the

living waters roared and toiled fathoms below. The world of slang is a

kind of topsy-turveydom of poetry, full of blue moons and white

elephants, of men losing their heads, and men whose tongues run away

with them--a whole chaos of fairy tales.

* * * * *


The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are,

first, that they are very serious, and, secondly, that they are in

consequence very happy. They are jolly with the completeness which is

possible only in the absence of humour. The most unfathomable schools

and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of

a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the

universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a

transcendent common-sense. The fascination of children lies in this:

that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put

again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those

delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark

these human mushrooms, we ought always primarily to remember that within

every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on

the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system

of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

There is always in the healthy mind an obscure prompting that religion

teaches us rather to dig than to climb; that if we could once understand

the common clay of earth we should understand everything. Similarly, we

have the sentiment that if we could destroy custom at a blow and see the

stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse. This is

the great truth which has always lain at the back of baby-worship, and

which will support it to the end. Maturity, with its endless energies

and aspirations, may easily be convinced that it will find new things to

appreciate; but it will never be convinced, at bottom, that it has

properly appreciated what it has got. We may scale the heavens and find

new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not

found--that on which we were born.

But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling

effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel

our conduct in accordance with this revolutionary theory of the

marvellousness of all things. We do (even when we are perfectly simple

or ignorant)--we do actually treat talking in children as marvellous,

walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as

marvellous. The cynical philosopher fancies he has a victory in this

matter--that he can laugh when he shows that the words or antics of the

child, so much admired by its worshippers, are common enough. The fact

is that this is precisely where baby-worship is so profoundly right. Any

words and any antics in a lump of clay are wonderful, the child's words

and antics are wonderful, and it is only fair to say that the

philosopher's words and antics are equally wonderful.

The truth is that it is our attitude towards children that is right, and

our attitude towards grown-up people that is wrong. Our attitude towards

our equals in age consists in a servile solemnity, overlying a

considerable degree of indifference or disdain. Our attitude towards

children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an

unfathomable respect. We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them,

refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them

properly. We make puppets of children, lecture them, pull their hair,

and reverence, love, and fear them. When we reverence anything in the

mature, it is their virtues or their wisdom, and this is an easy

matter. But we reverence the faults and follies of children.

We should probably come considerably nearer to the true conception of

things if we treated all grown-up persons, of all titles and types, with

precisely that dark affection and dazed respect with which we treat the

infantile limitations. A child has a difficulty in achieving the miracle

of speech, consequently we find his blunders almost as marvellous as his

accuracy. If we only adopted the same attitude towards Premiers and

Chancellors of the Exchequer, if we genially encouraged their stammering

and delightful attempts at human speech, we should be in a far more wise

and tolerant temper. A child has a knack of making experiments in life,

generally healthy in motive, but often intolerable in a domestic

commonwealth. If we only treated all commercial buccaneers and bumptious

tyrants on the same terms, if we gently chided their brutalities as

rather quaint mistakes in the conduct of life, if we simply told them

that they would 'understand when they were older,' we should probably be

adopting the best and most crushing attitude towards the weaknesses of

humanity. In our relations to children we prove that the paradox is

entirely true, that it is possible to combine an amnesty that verges on

contempt with a worship that verges upon terror. We forgive children

with the same kind of blasphemous gentleness with which Omar Khayyam

forgave the Omnipotent.

The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we

feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious

reason, we do not feel ourselves or our own ways to be supernatural. The

very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels;

we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to be seen through a

microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see

the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to

think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like

imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the

leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small, we

feel as if we ourselves were enlarged to an embarrassing bigness of

stature. We feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that a

deity might feel if he had created something that he could not


But the humorous look of children is perhaps the most endearing of all

the bonds that hold the Cosmos together. Their top-heavy dignity is

more touching than any humility; their solemnity gives us more hope for

all things than a thousand carnivals of optimism; their large and

lustrous eyes seem to hold all the stars in their astonishment; their

fascinating absence of nose seems to give to us the most perfect hint of

the humour that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven.

* * * * *