Page:Satires and profanities -microform- (1884).djvu/110

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has drugged all its higher powers, and only the rudest shocks can arouse them from their torpor. We have still, indeed, by the inscrutable bounty of nature, three or four great writers, the peers of the greatest in Europe; but they stand like so many forest-trees, antique oaks of Old England, in a boundless flat of kitchen-gardens—cabbage and lettuce, radishes and onions, and all the many-leaved "pot-boilers," fit only to be soddened and seethed in a pot, and "to pot," thank goodness, they all quickly go.

Our literature should be the clear and faithful mirror of our whole world of life, but at present there are vast realms of thought and imagination and passion and action, of which it is not allowed to give any reflex at all, or is allowed only to give a reflex so obscure and distorted as to be worse than none. But, it may be objected, suppose Satyrs come leering into your mirror and Bacchantes whirl before it? I answer that the business of a mirror is clear reflection: if it does not faithfully image the Satyr, how can it faithfully image Hyperion? And do you dread that the Satyr will be preferred to Hyperion, when both stand imaged in clear light before us? It is only when the windows are curtained, when the mirror is a black gulph and its portraitures are vague dark shadows, that the beautiful and the noble can pass undistinguished from the hideous and the vile.

If, indeed, the realities not reflected became unrealities, were annihilated, then there would be some sense in veiling those portions of the mirror in front of which certain features of our life are exposed. And if that which sees not could not be seen, it would be very sensible of the hunted ostrich to hide its head in the sand. But we all know that in darkness what is filthy and vile grows ever filthier and viler, what is pure and sweet sickens and decays.

"We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us."