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´╗┐Title: De Profundis
Author: Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "De Profundis" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcribed from the 1913 Methuen & Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Note that later editions of De Profundis contained
more material.  The most complete editions are still in copyright in the


. . . Suffering is one very long moment.  We cannot divide it by seasons.
We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return.  With us time
itself does not progress.  It revolves.  It seems to circle round one
centre of pain.  The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance
of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and
drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to
the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes
each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to
communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose
existence is ceaseless change.  Of seed-time or harvest, of the reapers
bending over the corn, or the grape gatherers threading through the
vines, of the grass in the orchard made white with broken blossoms or
strewn with fallen fruit: of these we know nothing and can know nothing.

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow.  The very sun and
moon seem taken from us.  Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the
light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small
iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard.  It is
always twilight in one's cell, as it is always twilight in one's heart.
And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion
is no more.  The thing that you personally have long ago forgotten, or
can easily forget, is happening to me now, and will happen to me again to-
morrow.  Remember this, and you will be able to understand a little of
why I am writing, and in this manner writing. . . .

A week later, I am transferred here.  Three more months go over and my
mother dies.  No one knew how deeply I loved and honoured her.  Her death
was terrible to me; but I, once a lord of language, have no words in
which to express my anguish and my shame.  She and my father had
bequeathed me a name they had made noble and honoured, not merely in
literature, art, archaeology, and science, but in the public history of
my own country, in its evolution as a nation.  I had disgraced that name
eternally.  I had made it a low by-word among low people.  I had dragged
it through the very mire.  I had given it to brutes that they might make
it brutal, and to fools that they might turn it into a synonym for folly.
What I suffered then, and still suffer, is not for pen to write or paper
to record.  My wife, always kind and gentle to me, rather than that I
should hear the news from indifferent lips, travelled, ill as she was,
all the way from Genoa to England to break to me herself the tidings of
so irreparable, so irremediable, a loss.  Messages of sympathy reached me
from all who had still affection for me.  Even people who had not known
me personally, hearing that a new sorrow had broken into my life, wrote
to ask that some expression of their condolence should be conveyed to me.
. . .

Three months go over.  The calendar of my daily conduct and labour that
hangs on the outside of my cell door, with my name and sentence written
upon it, tells me that it is May. . . .

Prosperity, pleasure and success, may be rough of grain and common in
fibre, but sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things.  There is
nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not
vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation.  The thin beaten-out leaf of
tremulous gold that chronicles the direction of forces the eye cannot see
is in comparison coarse.  It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but
that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in

Where there is sorrow there in holy ground.  Some day people will realise
what that means.  They will know nothing of life till they do,--and
natures like his can realise it.  When I was brought down from my prison
to the Court of Bankruptcy, between two policemen,--waited in the long
dreary corridor that, before the whole crowd, whom an action so sweet and
simple hushed into silence, he might gravely raise his hat to me, as,
handcuffed and with bowed head, I passed him by.  Men have gone to heaven
for smaller things than that.  It was in this spirit, and with this mode
of love, that the saints knelt down to wash the feet of the poor, or
stooped to kiss the leper on the cheek.  I have never said one single
word to him about what he did.  I do not know to the present moment
whether he is aware that I was even conscious of his action.  It is not a
thing for which one can render formal thanks in formal words.  I store it
in the treasure-house of my heart.  I keep it there as a secret debt that
I am glad to think I can never possibly repay.  It is embalmed and kept
sweet by the myrrh and cassia of many tears.  When wisdom has been
profitless to me, philosophy barren, and the proverbs and phrases of
those who have sought to give me consolation as dust and ashes in my
mouth, the memory of that little, lovely, silent act of love has unsealed
for me all the wells of pity: made the desert blossom like a rose, and
brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the
wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.  When people are able to
understand, not merely how beautiful ---'s action was, but why it meant
so much to me, and always will mean so much, then, perhaps, they will
realise how and in what spirit they should approach me. . . .

The poor are wise, more charitable, more kind, more sensitive than we
are.  In their eyes prison is a tragedy in a man's life, a misfortune, a
casuality, something that calls for sympathy in others.  They speak of
one who is in prison as of one who is 'in trouble' simply.  It is the
phrase they always use, and the expression has the perfect wisdom of love
in it.  With people of our own rank it is different.  With us, prison
makes a man a pariah.  I, and such as I am, have hardly any right to air
and sun.  Our presence taints the pleasures of others.  We are unwelcome
when we reappear.  To revisit the glimpses of the moon is not for us.  Our
very children are taken away.  Those lovely links with humanity are
broken.  We are doomed to be solitary, while our sons still live.  We are
denied the one thing that might heal us and keep us, that might bring
balm to the bruised heart, and peace to the soul in pain. . . .

I must say to myself that I ruined myself, and that nobody great or small
can be ruined except by his own hand.  I am quite ready to say so.  I am
trying to say so, though they may not think it at the present moment.
This pitiless indictment I bring without pity against myself.  Terrible
as was what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more
terrible still.

I was a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my
age.  I had realised this for myself at the very dawn of my manhood, and
had forced my age to realise it afterwards.  Few men hold such a position
in their own lifetime, and have it so acknowledged.  It is usually
discerned, if discerned at all, by the historian, or the critic, long
after both the man and his age have passed away.  With me it was
different.  I felt it myself, and made others feel it.  Byron was a
symbolic figure, but his relations were to the passion of his age and its
weariness of passion.  Mine were to something more noble, more permanent,
of more vital issue, of larger scope.

The gods had given me almost everything.  But I let myself be lured into
long spells of senseless and sensual ease.  I amused myself with being a
_flaneur_, a dandy, a man of fashion.  I surrounded myself with the
smaller natures and the meaner minds.  I became the spendthrift of my own
genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy.  Tired of
being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for
new sensation.  What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought,
perversity became to me in the sphere of passion.  Desire, at the end,
was a malady, or a madness, or both.  I grew careless of the lives of
others.  I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on.  I forgot
that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character,
and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some
day to cry aloud on the housetop.  I ceased to be lord over myself.  I
was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it.  I allowed
pleasure to dominate me.  I ended in horrible disgrace.  There is only
one thing for me now, absolute humility.

I have lain in prison for nearly two years.  Out of my nature has come
wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at;
terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept
aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb.  I have
passed through every possible mood of suffering.  Better than Wordsworth
himself I know what Wordsworth meant when he said--

   'Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark
   And has the nature of infinity.'

But while there were times when I rejoiced in the idea that my sufferings
were to be endless, I could not bear them to be without meaning.  Now I
find hidden somewhere away in my nature something that tells me that
nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all.
That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is

It is the last thing left in me, and the best: the ultimate discovery at
which I have arrived, the starting-point for a fresh development.  It has
come to me right out of myself, so I know that it has come at the proper
time.  It could not have come before, nor later.  Had any one told me of
it, I would have rejected it.  Had it been brought to me, I would have
refused it.  As I found it, I want to keep it.  I must do so.  It is the
one thing that has in it the elements of life, of a new life, _Vita
Nuova_ for me.  Of all things it is the strangest.  One cannot acquire
it, except by surrendering everything that one has.  It is only when one
has lost all things, that one knows that one possesses it.

Now I have realised that it is in me, I see quite clearly what I ought to
do; in fact, must do.  And when I use such a phrase as that, I need not
say that I am not alluding to any external sanction or command.  I admit
none.  I am far more of an individualist than I ever was.  Nothing seems
to me of the smallest value except what one gets out of oneself.  My
nature is seeking a fresh mode of self-realisation.  That is all I am
concerned with.  And the first thing that I have got to do is to free
myself from any possible bitterness of feeling against the world.

I am completely penniless, and absolutely homeless.  Yet there are worse
things in the world than that.  I am quite candid when I say that rather
than go out from this prison with bitterness in my heart against the
world, I would gladly and readily beg my bread from door to door.  If I
got nothing from the house of the rich I would get something at the house
of the poor.  Those who have much are often greedy; those who have little
always share.  I would not a bit mind sleeping in the cool grass in
summer, and when winter came on sheltering myself by the warm
close-thatched rick, or under the penthouse of a great barn, provided I
had love in my heart.  The external things of life seem to me now of no
importance at all.  You can see to what intensity of individualism I have
arrived--or am arriving rather, for the journey is long, and 'where I
walk there are thorns.'

Of course I know that to ask alms on the highway is not to be my lot, and
that if ever I lie in the cool grass at night-time it will be to write
sonnets to the moon.  When I go out of prison, R--- will be waiting for
me on the other side of the big iron-studded gate, and he is the symbol,
not merely of his own affection, but of the affection of many others
besides.  I believe I am to have enough to live on for about eighteen
months at any rate, so that if I may not write beautiful books, I may at
least read beautiful books; and what joy can be greater?  After that, I
hope to be able to recreate my creative faculty.

But were things different: had I not a friend left in the world; were
there not a single house open to me in pity; had I to accept the wallet
and ragged cloak of sheer penury: as long as I am free from all
resentment, hardness and scorn, I would be able to face the life with
much more calm and confidence than I would were my body in purple and
fine linen, and the soul within me sick with hate.

And I really shall have no difficulty.  When you really want love you
will find it waiting for you.

I need not say that my task does not end there.  It would be
comparatively easy if it did.  There is much more before me.  I have
hills far steeper to climb, valleys much darker to pass through.  And I
have to get it all out of myself.  Neither religion, morality, nor reason
can help me at all.

Morality does not help me.  I am a born antinomian.  I am one of those
who are made for exceptions, not for laws.  But while I see that there is
nothing wrong in what one does, I see that there is something wrong in
what one becomes.  It is well to have learned that.

Religion does not help me.  The faith that others give to what is unseen,
I give to what one can touch, and look at.  My gods dwell in temples made
with hands; and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made
perfect and complete: too complete, it may be, for like many or all of
those who have placed their heaven in this earth, I have found in it not
merely the beauty of heaven, but the horror of hell also.  When I think
about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for
those who _cannot_ believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might
call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose
heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a
chalice empty of wine.  Every thing to be true must become a religion.
And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith.  It has sown
its martyrs, it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having
hidden Himself from man.  But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must
be nothing external to me.  Its symbols must be of my own creating.  Only
that is spiritual which makes its own form.  If I may not find its secret
within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it
will never come to me.

Reason does not help me.  It tells me that the laws under which I am
convicted are wrong and unjust laws, and the system under which I have
suffered a wrong and unjust system.  But, somehow, I have got to make
both of these things just and right to me.  And exactly as in Art one is
only concerned with what a particular thing is at a particular moment to
oneself, so it is also in the ethical evolution of one's character.  I
have got to make everything that has happened to me good for me.  The
plank bed, the loathsome food, the hard ropes shredded into oakum till
one's finger-tips grow dull with pain, the menial offices with which each
day begins and finishes, the harsh orders that routine seems to
necessitate, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at,
the silence, the solitude, the shame--each and all of these things I have
to transform into a spiritual experience.  There is not a single
degradation of the body which I must not try and make into a
spiritualising of the soul.

I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say quite simply, and
without affectation that the two great turning-points in my life were
when my father sent me to Oxford, and when society sent me to prison.  I
will not say that prison is the best thing that could have happened to
me: for that phrase would savour of too great bitterness towards myself.
I would sooner say, or hear it said of me, that I was so typical a child
of my age, that in my perversity, and for that perversity's sake, I
turned the good things of my life to evil, and the evil things of my life
to good.

What is said, however, by myself or by others, matters little.  The
important thing, the thing that lies before me, the thing that I have to
do, if the brief remainder of my days is not to be maimed, marred, and
incomplete, is to absorb into my nature all that has been done to me, to
make it part of me, to accept it without complaint, fear, or reluctance.
The supreme vice is shallowness.  Whatever is realised is right.

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget
who I was.  It was ruinous advice.  It is only by realising what I am
that I have found comfort of any kind.  Now I am advised by others to try
on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all.  I know
that would be equally fatal.  It would mean that I would always be
haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that
are meant for me as much as for anybody else--the beauty of the sun and
moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence
of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping
over the grass and making it silver--would all be tainted for me, and
lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy.  To
regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development.  To deny
one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life.  It
is no less than a denial of the soul.

For just as the body absorbs things of all kinds, things common and
unclean no less than those that the priest or a vision has cleansed, and
converts them into swiftness or strength, into the play of beautiful
muscles and the moulding of fair flesh, into the curves and colours of
the hair, the lips, the eye; so the soul in its turn has its nutritive
functions also, and can transform into noble moods of thought and
passions of high import what in itself is base, cruel and degrading; nay,
more, may find in these its most august modes of assertion, and can often
reveal itself most perfectly through what was intended to desecrate or

The fact of my having been the common prisoner of a common gaol I must
frankly accept, and, curious as it may seem, one of the things I shall
have to teach myself is not to be ashamed of it.  I must accept it as a
punishment, and if one is ashamed of having been punished, one might just
as well never have been punished at all.  Of course there are many things
of which I was convicted that I had not done, but then there are many
things of which I was convicted that I had done, and a still greater
number of things in my life for which I was never indicted at all.  And
as the gods are strange, and punish us for what is good and humane in us
as much as for what is evil and perverse, I must accept the fact that one
is punished for the good as well as for the evil that one does.  I have
no doubt that it is quite right one should be.  It helps one, or should
help one, to realise both, and not to be too conceited about either.  And
if I then am not ashamed of my punishment, as I hope not to be, I shall
be able to think, and walk, and live with freedom.

Many men on their release carry their prison about with them into the
air, and hide it as a secret disgrace in their hearts, and at length,
like poor poisoned things, creep into some hole and die.  It is wretched
that they should have to do so, and it is wrong, terribly wrong, of
society that it should force them to do so.  Society takes upon itself
the right to inflict appalling punishment on the individual, but it also
has the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has
done.  When the man's punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; that
is to say, it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty
towards him begins.  It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns
those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they
cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an
irremediable wrong.  I can claim on my side that if I realise what I have
suffered, society should realise what it has inflicted on me; and that
there should be no bitterness or hate on either side.

Of course I know that from one point of view things will be made
different for me than for others; must indeed, by the very nature of the
case, be made so.  The poor thieves and outcasts who are imprisoned here
with me are in many respects more fortunate than I am.  The little way in
grey city or green field that saw their sin is small; to find those who
know nothing of what they have done they need go no further than a bird
might fly between the twilight and the dawn; but for me the world is
shrivelled to a handsbreadth, and everywhere I turn my name is written on
the rocks in lead.  For I have come, not from obscurity into the
momentary notoriety of crime, but from a sort of eternity of fame to a
sort of eternity of infamy, and sometimes seem to myself to have shown,
if indeed it required showing, that between the famous and the infamous
there is but one step, if as much as one.

Still, in the very fact that people will recognise me wherever I go, and
know all about my life, as far as its follies go, I can discern something
good for me.  It will force on me the necessity of again asserting myself
as an artist, and as soon as I possibly can.  If I can produce only one
beautiful work of art I shall be able to rob malice of its venom, and
cowardice of its sneer, and to pluck out the tongue of scorn by the

And if life be, as it surely is, a problem to me, I am no less a problem
to life.  People must adopt some attitude towards me, and so pass
judgment, both on themselves and me.  I need not say I am not talking of
particular individuals.  The only people I would care to be with now are
artists and people who have suffered: those who know what beauty is, and
those who know what sorrow is: nobody else interests me.  Nor am I making
any demands on life.  In all that I have said I am simply concerned with
my own mental attitude towards life as a whole; and I feel that not to be
ashamed of having been punished is one of the first points I must attain
to, for the sake of my own perfection, and because I am so imperfect.

Then I must learn how to be happy.  Once I knew it, or thought I knew it,
by instinct.  It was always springtime once in my heart.  My temperament
was akin to joy.  I filled my life to the very brim with pleasure, as one
might fill a cup to the very brim with wine.  Now I am approaching life
from a completely new standpoint, and even to conceive happiness is often
extremely difficult for me.  I remember during my first term at Oxford
reading in Pater's _Renaissance_--that book which has had such strange
influence over my life--how Dante places low in the Inferno those who
wilfully live in sadness; and going to the college library and turning to
the passage in the _Divine Comedy_ where beneath the dreary marsh lie
those who were 'sullen in the sweet air,' saying for ever and ever
through their sighs--

   'Tristi fummo
   Nell aer dolce che dal sol s'allegra.'

I knew the church condemned _accidia_, but the whole idea seemed to me
quite fantastic, just the sort of sin, I fancied, a priest who knew
nothing about real life would invent.  Nor could I understand how Dante,
who says that 'sorrow remarries us to God,' could have been so harsh to
those who were enamoured of melancholy, if any such there really were.  I
had no idea that some day this would become to me one of the greatest
temptations of my life.

While I was in Wandsworth prison I longed to die.  It was my one desire.
When after two months in the infirmary I was transferred here, and found
myself growing gradually better in physical health, I was filled with
rage.  I determined to commit suicide on the very day on which I left
prison.  After a time that evil mood passed away, and I made up my mind
to live, but to wear gloom as a king wears purple: never to smile again:
to turn whatever house I entered into a house of mourning: to make my
friends walk slowly in sadness with me: to teach them that melancholy is
the true secret of life: to maim them with an alien sorrow: to mar them
with my own pain.  Now I feel quite differently.  I see it would be both
ungrateful and unkind of me to pull so long a face that when my friends
came to see me they would have to make their faces still longer in order
to show their sympathy; or, if I desired to entertain them, to invite
them to sit down silently to bitter herbs and funeral baked meats.  I
must learn how to be cheerful and happy.

The last two occasions on which I was allowed to see my friends here, I
tried to be as cheerful as possible, and to show my cheerfulness, in
order to make them some slight return for their trouble in coming all the
way from town to see me.  It is only a slight return, I know, but it is
the one, I feel certain, that pleases them most.  I saw R--- for an hour
on Saturday week, and I tried to give the fullest possible expression of
the delight I really felt at our meeting.  And that, in the views and
ideas I am here shaping for myself, I am quite right is shown to me by
the fact that now for the first time since my imprisonment I have a real
desire for life.

There is before me so much to do, that I would regard it as a terrible
tragedy if I died before I was allowed to complete at any rate a little
of it.  I see new developments in art and life, each one of which is a
fresh mode of perfection.  I long to live so that I can explore what is
no less than a new world to me.  Do you want to know what this new world
is?  I think you can guess what it is.  It is the world in which I have
been living.  Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world.

I used to live entirely for pleasure.  I shunned suffering and sorrow of
every kind.  I hated both.  I resolved to ignore them as far as possible:
to treat them, that is to say, as modes of imperfection.  They were not
part of my scheme of life.  They had no place in my philosophy.  My
mother, who knew life as a whole, used often to quote to me Goethe's
lines--written by Carlyle in a book he had given her years ago, and
translated by him, I fancy, also:--

   'Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
   Who never spent the midnight hours
   Weeping and waiting for the morrow,--
   He knows you not, ye heavenly powers.'

They were the lines which that noble Queen of Prussia, whom Napoleon
treated with such coarse brutality, used to quote in her humiliation and
exile; they were the lines my mother often quoted in the troubles of her
later life.  I absolutely declined to accept or admit the enormous truth
hidden in them.  I could not understand it.  I remember quite well how I
used to tell her that I did not want to eat my bread in sorrow, or to
pass any night weeping and watching for a more bitter dawn.

I had no idea that it was one of the special things that the Fates had in
store for me: that for a whole year of my life, indeed, I was to do
little else.  But so has my portion been meted out to me; and during the
last few months I have, after terrible difficulties and struggles, been
able to comprehend some of the lessons hidden in the heart of pain.
Clergymen and people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of
suffering as a mystery.  It is really a revelation.  One discerns things
one never discerned before.  One approaches the whole of history from a
different standpoint.  What one had felt dimly, through instinct, about
art, is intellectually and emotionally realised with perfect clearness of
vision and absolute intensity of apprehension.

I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable,
is at once the type and test of all great art.  What the artist is always
looking for is the mode of existence in which soul and body are one and
indivisible: in which the outward is expressive of the inward: in which
form reveals.  Of such modes of existence there are not a few: youth and
the arts preoccupied with youth may serve as a model for us at one
moment: at another we may like to think that, in its subtlety and
sensitiveness of impression, its suggestion of a spirit dwelling in
external things and making its raiment of earth and air, of mist and city
alike, and in its morbid sympathy of its moods, and tones, and colours,
modern landscape art is realising for us pictorially what was realised in
such plastic perfection by the Greeks.  Music, in which all subject is
absorbed in expression and cannot be separated from it, is a complex
example, and a flower or a child a simple example, of what I mean; but
sorrow is the ultimate type both in life and art.

Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and
callous.  But behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Pain, unlike
pleasure, wears no mask.  Truth in art is not any correspondence between
the essential idea and the accidental existence; it is not the
resemblance of shape to shadow, or of the form mirrored in the crystal to
the form itself; it is no echo coming from a hollow hill, any more than
it is a silver well of water in the valley that shows the moon to the
moon and Narcissus to Narcissus.  Truth in art is the unity of a thing
with itself: the outward rendered expressive of the inward: the soul made
incarnate: the body instinct with spirit.  For this reason there is no
truth comparable to sorrow.  There are times when sorrow seems to me to
be the only truth.  Other things may be illusions of the eye or the
appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow
have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there
is pain.

More than this, there is about sorrow an intense, an extraordinary
reality.  I have said of myself that I was one who stood in symbolic
relations to the art and culture of my age.  There is not a single
wretched man in this wretched place along with me who does not stand in
symbolic relation to the very secret of life.  For the secret of life is
suffering.  It is what is hidden behind everything.  When we begin to
live, what is sweet is so sweet to us, and what is bitter so bitter, that
we inevitably direct all our desires towards pleasures, and seek not
merely for a 'month or twain to feed on honeycomb,' but for all our years
to taste no other food, ignorant all the while that we may really be
starving the soul.

I remember talking once on this subject to one of the most beautiful
personalities I have ever known: a woman, whose sympathy and noble
kindness to me, both before and since the tragedy of my imprisonment,
have been beyond power and description; one who has really assisted me,
though she does not know it, to bear the burden of my troubles more than
any one else in the whole world has, and all through the mere fact of her
existence, through her being what she is--partly an ideal and partly an
influence: a suggestion of what one might become as well as a real help
towards becoming it; a soul that renders the common air sweet, and makes
what is spiritual seem as simple and natural as sunlight or the sea: one
for whom beauty and sorrow walk hand in hand, and have the same message.
On the occasion of which I am thinking I recall distinctly how I said to
her that there was enough suffering in one narrow London lane to show
that God did not love man, and that wherever there was any sorrow, though
but that of a child, in some little garden weeping over a fault that it
had or had not committed, the whole face of creation was completely
marred.  I was entirely wrong.  She told me so, but I could not believe
her.  I was not in the sphere in which such belief was to be attained to.
Now it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible
explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the
world.  I cannot conceive of any other explanation.  I am convinced that
there is no other, and that if the world has indeed, as I have said, been
built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love, because in no
other way could the soul of man, for whom the world was made, reach the
full stature of its perfection.  Pleasure for the beautiful body, but
pain for the beautiful soul.

When I say that I am convinced of these things I speak with too much
pride.  Far off, like a perfect pearl, one can see the city of God.  It
is so wonderful that it seems as if a child could reach it in a summer's
day.  And so a child could.  But with me and such as me it is different.
One can realise a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long
hours that follow with leaden feet.  It is so difficult to keep 'heights
that the soul is competent to gain.'  We think in eternity, but we move
slowly through time; and how slowly time goes with us who lie in prison I
need not tell again, nor of the weariness and despair that creep back
into one's cell, and into the cell of one's heart, with such strange
insistence that one has, as it were, to garnish and sweep one's house for
their coming, as for an unwelcome guest, or a bitter master, or a slave
whose slave it is one's chance or choice to be.

And, though at present my friends may find it a hard thing to believe, it
is true none the less, that for them living in freedom and idleness and
comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons of humility than it is for
me, who begin the day by going down on my knees and washing the floor of
my cell.  For prison life with its endless privations and restrictions
makes one rebellious.  The most terrible thing about it is not that it
breaks one's heart--hearts are made to be broken--but that it turns one's
heart to stone.  One sometimes feels that it is only with a front of
brass and a lip of scorn that one can get through the day at all.  And he
who is in a state of rebellion cannot receive grace, to use the phrase of
which the Church is so fond--so rightly fond, I dare say--for in life as
in art the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of the soul, and
shuts out the airs of heaven.  Yet I must learn these lessons here, if I
am to learn them anywhere, and must be filled with joy if my feet are on
the right road and my face set towards 'the gate which is called
beautiful,' though I may fall many times in the mire and often in the
mist go astray.

This New Life, as through my love of Dante I like sometimes to call it,
is of course no new life at all, but simply the continuance, by means of
development, and evolution, of my former life.  I remember when I was at
Oxford saying to one of my friends as we were strolling round Magdalen's
narrow bird-haunted walks one morning in the year before I took my
degree, that I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden
of the world, and that I was going out into the world with that passion
in my soul.  And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived.  My only mistake
was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to
me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its
shadow and its gloom.  Failure, disgrace, poverty, sorrow, despair,
suffering, tears even, the broken words that come from lips in pain,
remorse that makes one walk on thorns, conscience that condemns, self-
abasement that punishes, the misery that puts ashes on its head, the
anguish that chooses sack-cloth for its raiment and into its own drink
puts gall:--all these were things of which I was afraid.  And as I had
determined to know nothing of them, I was forced to taste each of them in
turn, to feed on them, to have for a season, indeed, no other food at

I don't regret for a single moment having lived for pleasure.  I did it
to the full, as one should do everything that one does.  There was no
pleasure I did not experience.  I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup
of wine.  I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes.  I lived
on honeycomb.  But to have continued the same life would have been wrong
because it would have been limiting.  I had to pass on.  The other half
of the garden had its secrets for me also.  Of course all this is
foreshadowed and prefigured in my books.  Some of it is in _The Happy
Prince_, some of it in _The Young King_, notably in the passage where the
bishop says to the kneeling boy, 'Is not He who made misery wiser than
thou art'? a phrase which when I wrote it seemed to me little more than a
phrase; a great deal of it is hidden away in the note of doom that like a
purple thread runs through the texture of _Dorian Gray_; in _The Critic
as Artist_ it is set forth in many colours; in _The Soul of Man_ it is
written down, and in letters too easy to read; it is one of the refrains
whose recurring _motifs_ make _Salome_ so like a piece of music and bind
it together as a ballad; in the prose poem of the man who from the bronze
of the image of the 'Pleasure that liveth for a moment' has to make the
image of the 'Sorrow that abideth for ever' it is incarnate.  It could
not have been otherwise.  At every single moment of one's life one is
what one is going to be no less than what one has been.  Art is a symbol,
because man is a symbol.

It is, if I can fully attain to it, the ultimate realisation of the
artistic life.  For the artistic life is simply self-development.
Humility in the artist is his frank acceptance of all experiences, just
as love in the artist is simply the sense of beauty that reveals to the
world its body and its soul.  In _Marius the Epicurean_ Pater seeks to
reconcile the artistic life with the life of religion, in the deep,
sweet, and austere sense of the word.  But Marius is little more than a
spectator: an ideal spectator indeed, and one to whom it is given 'to
contemplate the spectacle of life with appropriate emotions,' which
Wordsworth defines as the poet's true aim; yet a spectator merely, and
perhaps a little too much occupied with the comeliness of the benches of
the sanctuary to notice that it is the sanctuary of sorrow that he is
gazing at.

I see a far more intimate and immediate connection between the true life
of Christ and the true life of the artist; and I take a keen pleasure in
the reflection that long before sorrow had made my days her own and bound
me to her wheel I had written in _The Soul of Man_ that he who would lead
a Christ-like life must be entirely and absolutely himself, and had taken
as my types not merely the shepherd on the hillside and the prisoner in
his cell, but also the painter to whom the world is a pageant and the
poet for whom the world is a song.  I remember saying once to Andre Gide,
as we sat together in some Paris _cafe_, that while meta-physics had but
little real interest for me, and morality absolutely none, there was
nothing that either Plato or Christ had said that could not be
transferred immediately into the sphere of Art and there find its
complete fulfilment.

Nor is it merely that we can discern in Christ that close union of
personality with perfection which forms the real distinction between the
classical and romantic movement in life, but the very basis of his nature
was the same as that of the nature of the artist--an intense and
flamelike imagination.  He realised in the entire sphere of human
relations that imaginative sympathy which in the sphere of Art is the
sole secret of creation.  He understood the leprosy of the leper, the
darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure,
the strange poverty of the rich.  Some one wrote to me in trouble, 'When
you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting.'  How remote was
the writer from what Matthew Arnold calls 'the Secret of Jesus.'  Either
would have taught him that whatever happens to another happens to
oneself, and if you want an inscription to read at dawn and at
night-time, and for pleasure or for pain, write up on the walls of your
house in letters for the sun to gild and the moon to silver, 'Whatever
happens to oneself happens to another.'

Christ's place indeed is with the poets.  His whole conception of
Humanity sprang right out of the imagination and can only be realised by
it.  What God was to the pantheist, man was to Him.  He was the first to
conceive the divided races as a unity.  Before his time there had been
gods and men, and, feeling through the mysticism of sympathy that in
himself each had been made incarnate, he calls himself the Son of the one
or the Son of the other, according to his mood.  More than any one else
in history he wakes in us that temper of wonder to which romance always
appeals.  There is still something to me almost incredible in the idea of
a young Galilean peasant imagining that he could bear on his own
shoulders the burden of the entire world; all that had already been done
and suffered, and all that was yet to be done and suffered: the sins of
Nero, of Caesar Borgia, of Alexander VI., and of him who was Emperor of
Rome and Priest of the Sun: the sufferings of those whose names are
legion and whose dwelling is among the tombs: oppressed nationalities,
factory children, thieves, people in prison, outcasts, those who are dumb
under oppression and whose silence is heard only of God; and not merely
imagining this but actually achieving it, so that at the present moment
all who come in contact with his personality, even though they may
neither bow to his altar nor kneel before his priest, in some way find
that the ugliness of their sin is taken away and the beauty of their
sorrow revealed to them.

I had said of Christ that he ranks with the poets.  That is true.  Shelley
and Sophocles are of his company.  But his entire life also is the most
wonderful of poems.  For 'pity and terror' there is nothing in the entire
cycle of Greek tragedy to touch it.  The absolute purity of the
protagonist raises the entire scheme to a height of romantic art from
which the sufferings of Thebes and Pelops' line are by their very horror
excluded, and shows how wrong Aristotle was when he said in his treatise
on the drama that it would be impossible to bear the spectacle of one
blameless in pain.  Nor in AEschylus nor Dante, those stern masters of
tenderness, in Shakespeare, the most purely human of all the great
artists, in the whole of Celtic myth and legend, where the loveliness of
the world is shown through a mist of tears, and the life of a man is no
more than the life of a flower, is there anything that, for sheer
simplicity of pathos wedded and made one with sublimity of tragic effect,
can be said to equal or even approach the last act of Christ's passion.
The little supper with his companions, one of whom has already sold him
for a price; the anguish in the quiet moon-lit garden; the false friend
coming close to him so as to betray him with a kiss; the friend who still
believed in him, and on whom as on a rock he had hoped to build a house
of refuge for Man, denying him as the bird cried to the dawn; his own
utter loneliness, his submission, his acceptance of everything; and along
with it all such scenes as the high priest of orthodoxy rending his
raiment in wrath, and the magistrate of civil justice calling for water
in the vain hope of cleansing himself of that stain of innocent blood
that makes him the scarlet figure of history; the coronation ceremony of
sorrow, one of the most wonderful things in the whole of recorded time;
the crucifixion of the Innocent One before the eyes of his mother and of
the disciple whom he loved; the soldiers gambling and throwing dice for
his clothes; the terrible death by which he gave the world its most
eternal symbol; and his final burial in the tomb of the rich man, his
body swathed in Egyptian linen with costly spices and perfumes as though
he had been a king's son.  When one contemplates all this from the point
of view of art alone one cannot but be grateful that the supreme office
of the Church should be the playing of the tragedy without the shedding
of blood: the mystical presentation, by means of dialogue and costume and
gesture even, of the Passion of her Lord; and it is always a source of
pleasure and awe to me to remember that the ultimate survival of the
Greek chorus, lost elsewhere to art, is to be found in the servitor
answering the priest at Mass.

Yet the whole life of Christ--so entirely may sorrow and beauty be made
one in their meaning and manifestation--is really an idyll, though it
ends with the veil of the temple being rent, and the darkness coming over
the face of the earth, and the stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre.
One always thinks of him as a young bridegroom with his companions, as
indeed he somewhere describes himself; as a shepherd straying through a
valley with his sheep in search of green meadow or cool stream; as a
singer trying to build out of the music the walls of the City of God; or
as a lover for whose love the whole world was too small.  His miracles
seem to me to be as exquisite as the coming of spring, and quite as
natural.  I see no difficulty at all in believing that such was the charm
of his personality that his mere presence could bring peace to souls in
anguish, and that those who touched his garments or his hands forgot
their pain; or that as he passed by on the highway of life people who had
seen nothing of life's mystery, saw it clearly, and others who had been
deaf to every voice but that of pleasure heard for the first time the
voice of love and found it as 'musical as Apollo's lute'; or that evil
passions fled at his approach, and men whose dull unimaginative lives had
been but a mode of death rose as it were from the grave when he called
them; or that when he taught on the hillside the multitude forgot their
hunger and thirst and the cares of this world, and that to his friends
who listened to him as he sat at meat the coarse food seemed delicate,
and the water had the taste of good wine, and the whole house became full
of the odour and sweetness of nard.

Renan in his _Vie de Jesus_--that gracious fifth gospel, the gospel
according to St. Thomas, one might call it--says somewhere that Christ's
great achievement was that he made himself as much loved after his death
as he had been during his lifetime.  And certainly, if his place is among
the poets, he is the leader of all the lovers.  He saw that love was the
first secret of the world for which the wise men had been looking, and
that it was only through love that one could approach either the heart of
the leper or the feet of God.

And above all, Christ is the most supreme of individualists.  Humility,
like the artistic, acceptance of all experiences, is merely a mode of
manifestation.  It is man's soul that Christ is always looking for.  He
calls it 'God's Kingdom,' and finds it in every one.  He compares it to
little things, to a tiny seed, to a handful of leaven, to a pearl.  That
is because one realises one's soul only by getting rid of all alien
passions, all acquired culture, and all external possessions, be they
good or evil.

I bore up against everything with some stubbornness of will and much
rebellion of nature, till I had absolutely nothing left in the world but
one thing.  I had lost my name, my position, my happiness, my freedom, my
wealth.  I was a prisoner and a pauper.  But I still had my children
left.  Suddenly they were taken away from me by the law.  It was a blow
so appalling that I did not know what to do, so I flung myself on my
knees, and bowed my head, and wept, and said, 'The body of a child is as
the body of the Lord: I am not worthy of either.'  That moment seemed to
save me.  I saw then that the only thing for me was to accept everything.
Since then--curious as it will no doubt sound--I have been happier.  It
was of course my soul in its ultimate essence that I had reached.  In
many ways I had been its enemy, but I found it waiting for me as a
friend.  When one comes in contact with the soul it makes one simple as a
child, as Christ said one should be.

It is tragic how few people ever 'possess their souls' before they die.
'Nothing is more rare in any man,' says Emerson, 'than an act of his
own.'  It is quite true.  Most people are other people.  Their thoughts
are some one else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a
quotation.  Christ was not merely the supreme individualist, but he was
the first individualist in history.  People have tried to make him out an
ordinary philanthropist, or ranked him as an altruist with the scientific
and sentimental.  But he was really neither one nor the other.  Pity he
has, of course, for the poor, for those who are shut up in prisons, for
the lowly, for the wretched; but he has far more pity for the rich, for
the hard hedonists, for those who waste their freedom in becoming slaves
to things, for those who wear soft raiment and live in kings' houses.
Riches and pleasure seemed to him to be really greater tragedies than
poverty or sorrow.  And as for altruism, who knew better than he that it
is vocation not volition that determines us, and that one cannot gather
grapes of thorns or figs from thistles?

To live for others as a definite self-conscious aim was not his creed.  It
was not the basis of his creed.  When he says, 'Forgive your enemies,' it
is not for the sake of the enemy, but for one's own sake that he says so,
and because love is more beautiful than hate.  In his own entreaty to the
young man, 'Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor,' it is not of
the state of the poor that he is thinking but of the soul of the young
man, the soul that wealth was marring.  In his view of life he is one
with the artist who knows that by the inevitable law of self-perfection,
the poet must sing, and the sculptor think in bronze, and the painter
make the world a mirror for his moods, as surely and as certainly as the
hawthorn must blossom in spring, and the corn turn to gold at harvest-
time, and the moon in her ordered wanderings change from shield to
sickle, and from sickle to shield.

But while Christ did not say to men, 'Live for others,' he pointed out
that there was no difference at all between the lives of others and one's
own life.  By this means he gave to man an extended, a Titan personality.
Since his coming the history of each separate individual is, or can be
made, the history of the world.  Of course, culture has intensified the
personality of man.  Art has made us myriad-minded.  Those who have the
artistic temperament go into exile with Dante and learn how salt is the
bread of others, and how steep their stairs; they catch for a moment the
serenity and calm of Goethe, and yet know but too well that Baudelaire
cried to God--

   'O Seigneur, donnez moi la force et le courage
   De contempler mon corps et mon coeur sans degout.'

Out of Shakespeare's sonnets they draw, to their own hurt it may be, the
secret of his love and make it their own; they look with new eyes on
modern life, because they have listened to one of Chopin's nocturnes, or
handled Greek things, or read the story of the passion of some dead man
for some dead woman whose hair was like threads of fine gold, and whose
mouth was as a pomegranate.  But the sympathy of the artistic temperament
is necessarily with what has found expression.  In words or in colours,
in music or in marble, behind the painted masks of an AEschylean play, or
through some Sicilian shepherds' pierced and jointed reeds, the man and
his message must have been revealed.

To the artist, expression is the only mode under which he can conceive
life at all.  To him what is dumb is dead.  But to Christ it was not so.
With a width and wonder of imagination that fills one almost with awe, he
took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain,
as his kingdom, and made of himself its eternal mouthpiece.  Those of
whom I have spoken, who are dumb under oppression, and 'whose silence is
heard only of God,' he chose as his brothers.  He sought to become eyes
to the blind, ears to the deaf, and a cry in the lips of those whose
tongues had been tied.  His desire was to be to the myriads who had found
no utterance a very trumpet through which they might call to heaven.  And
feeling, with the artistic nature of one to whom suffering and sorrow
were modes through which he could realise his conception of the
beautiful, that an idea is of no value till it becomes incarnate and is
made an image, he made of himself the image of the Man of Sorrows, and as
such has fascinated and dominated art as no Greek god ever succeeded in

For the Greek gods, in spite of the white and red of their fair fleet
limbs, were not really what they appeared to be.  The curved brow of
Apollo was like the sun's disc crescent over a hill at dawn, and his feet
were as the wings of the morning, but he himself had been cruel to
Marsyas and had made Niobe childless.  In the steel shields of Athena's
eyes there had been no pity for Arachne; the pomp and peacocks of Hera
were all that was really noble about her; and the Father of the Gods
himself had been too fond of the daughters of men.  The two most deeply
suggestive figures of Greek Mythology were, for religion, Demeter, an
Earth Goddess, not one of the Olympians, and for art, Dionysus, the son
of a mortal woman to whom the moment of his birth had proved also the
moment of her death.

But Life itself from its lowliest and most humble sphere produced one far
more marvellous than the mother of Proserpina or the son of Semele.  Out
of the Carpenter's shop at Nazareth had come a personality infinitely
greater than any made by myth and legend, and one, strangely enough,
destined to reveal to the world the mystical meaning of wine and the real
beauties of the lilies of the field as none, either on Cithaeron or at
Enna, had ever done.

The song of Isaiah, 'He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows
and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him,' had
seemed to him to prefigure himself, and in him the prophecy was
fulfilled.  We must not be afraid of such a phrase.  Every single work of
art is the fulfilment of a prophecy: for every work of art is the
conversion of an idea into an image.  Every single human being should be
the fulfilment of a prophecy: for every human being should be the
realisation of some ideal, either in the mind of God or in the mind of
man.  Christ found the type and fixed it, and the dream of a Virgilian
poet, either at Jerusalem or at Babylon, became in the long progress of
the centuries incarnate in him for whom the world was waiting.

To me one of the things in history the most to be regretted is that the
Christ's own renaissance, which has produced the Cathedral at Chartres,
the Arthurian cycle of legends, the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the
art of Giotto, and Dante's _Divine Comedy_, was not allowed to develop on
its own lines, but was interrupted and spoiled by the dreary classical
Renaissance that gave us Petrarch, and Raphael's frescoes, and Palladian
architecture, and formal French tragedy, and St. Paul's Cathedral, and
Pope's poetry, and everything that is made from without and by dead
rules, and does not spring from within through some spirit informing it.
But wherever there is a romantic movement in art there somehow, and under
some form, is Christ, or the soul of Christ.  He is in _Romeo and
Juliet_, in the _Winter's Tale_, in Provencal poetry, in the _Ancient
Mariner_, in _La Belle Dame sans merci_, and in Chatterton's _Ballad of

We owe to him the most diverse things and people.  Hugo's _Les
Miserables_, Baudelaire's _Fleurs du Mal_, the note of pity in Russian
novels, Verlaine and Verlaine's poems, the stained glass and tapestries
and the quattro-cento work of Burne-Jones and Morris, belong to him no
less than the tower of Giotto, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tannhauser, the
troubled romantic marbles of Michael Angelo, pointed architecture, and
the love of children and flowers--for both of which, indeed, in classical
art there was but little place, hardly enough for them to grow or play
in, but which, from the twelfth century down to our own day, have been
continually making their appearances in art, under various modes and at
various times, coming fitfully and wilfully, as children, as flowers, are
apt to do: spring always seeming to one as if the flowers had been in
hiding, and only came out into the sun because they were afraid that
grown up people would grow tired of looking for them and give up the
search; and the life of a child being no more than an April day on which
there is both rain and sun for the narcissus.

It is the imaginative quality of Christ's own nature that makes him this
palpitating centre of romance.  The strange figures of poetic drama and
ballad are made by the imagination of others, but out of his own
imagination entirely did Jesus of Nazareth create himself.  The cry of
Isaiah had really no more to do with his coming than the song of the
nightingale has to do with the rising of the moon--no more, though
perhaps no less.  He was the denial as well as the affirmation of
prophecy.  For every expectation that he fulfilled there was another that
he destroyed.  'In all beauty,' says Bacon, 'there is some strangeness of
proportion,' and of those who are born of the spirit--of those, that is
to say, who like himself are dynamic forces--Christ says that they are
like the wind that 'bloweth where it listeth, and no man can tell whence
it cometh and whither it goeth.'  That is why he is so fascinating to
artists.  He has all the colour elements of life: mystery, strangeness,
pathos, suggestion, ecstasy, love.  He appeals to the temper of wonder,
and creates that mood in which alone he can be understood.

And to me it is a joy to remember that if he is 'of imagination all
compact,' the world itself is of the same substance.  I said in _Dorian
Gray_ that the great sins of the world take place in the brain: but it is
in the brain that everything takes place.  We know now that we do not see
with the eyes or hear with the ears.  They are really channels for the
transmission, adequate or inadequate, of sense impressions.  It is in the
brain that the poppy is red, that the apple is odorous, that the skylark

Of late I have been studying with diligence the four prose poems about
Christ.  At Christmas I managed to get hold of a Greek Testament, and
every morning, after I had cleaned my cell and polished my tins, I read a
little of the Gospels, a dozen verses taken by chance anywhere.  It is a
delightful way of opening the day.  Every one, even in a turbulent, ill-
disciplined life, should do the same.  Endless repetition, in and out of
season, has spoiled for us the freshness, the naivete, the simple
romantic charm of the Gospels.  We hear them read far too often and far
too badly, and all repetition is anti-spiritual.  When one returns to the
Greek; it is like going into a garden of lilies out of some, narrow and
dark house.

And to me, the pleasure is doubled by the reflection that it is extremely
probable that we have the actual terms, the _ipsissima verba_, used by
Christ.  It was always supposed that Christ talked in Aramaic.  Even
Renan thought so.  But now we know that the Galilean peasants, like the
Irish peasants of our own day, were bilingual, and that Greek was the
ordinary language of intercourse all over Palestine, as indeed all over
the Eastern world.  I never liked the idea that we knew of Christ's own
words only through a translation of a translation.  It is a delight to me
to think that as far as his conversation was concerned, Charmides might
have listened to him, and Socrates reasoned with him, and Plato
understood him: that he really said [Greek text], that when he thought of
the lilies of the field and how they neither toil nor spin, his absolute
expression was [Greek text], and that his last word when he cried out 'my
life has been completed, has reached its fulfilment, has been perfected,'
was exactly as St. John tells us it was: [Greek text]--no more.

While in reading the Gospels--particularly that of St. John himself, or
whatever early Gnostic took his name and mantle--I see the continual
assertion of the imagination as the basis of all spiritual and material
life, I see also that to Christ imagination was simply a form of love,
and that to him love was lord in the fullest meaning of the phrase.  Some
six weeks ago I was allowed by the doctor to have white bread to eat
instead of the coarse black or brown bread of ordinary prison fare.  It
is a great delicacy.  It will sound strange that dry bread could possibly
be a delicacy to any one.  To me it is so much so that at the close of
each meal I carefully eat whatever crumbs may be left on my tin plate, or
have fallen on the rough towel that one uses as a cloth so as not to soil
one's table; and I do so not from hunger--I get now quite sufficient
food--but simply in order that nothing should be wasted of what is given
to me.  So one should look on love.

Christ, like all fascinating personalities, had the power of not merely
saying beautiful things himself, but of making other people say beautiful
things to him; and I love the story St. Mark tells us about the Greek
woman, who, when as a trial of her faith he said to her that he could not
give her the bread of the children of Israel, answered him that the
little dogs--([Greek text], 'little dogs' it should be rendered)--who are
under the table eat of the crumbs that the children let fall.  Most
people live for love and admiration.  But it is by love and admiration
that we should live.  If any love is shown us we should recognise that we
are quite unworthy of it.  Nobody is worthy to be loved.  The fact that
God loves man shows us that in the divine order of ideal things it is
written that eternal love is to be given to what is eternally unworthy.
Or if that phrase seems to be a bitter one to bear, let us say that every
one is worthy of love, except him who thinks that he is.  Love is a
sacrament that should be taken kneeling, and _Domine, non sum dignus_
should be on the lips and in the hearts of those who receive it.

If ever I write again, in the sense of producing artistic work, there are
just two subjects on which and through which I desire to express myself:
one is 'Christ as the precursor of the romantic movement in life': the
other is 'The artistic life considered in its relation to conduct.'  The
first is, of course, intensely fascinating, for I see in Christ not
merely the essentials of the supreme romantic type, but all the
accidents, the wilfulnesses even, of the romantic temperament also.  He
was the first person who ever said to people that they should live
'flower-like lives.'  He fixed the phrase.  He took children as the type
of what people should try to become.  He held them up as examples to
their elders, which I myself have always thought the chief use of
children, if what is perfect should have a use.  Dante describes the soul
of a man as coming from the hand of God 'weeping and laughing like a
little child,' and Christ also saw that the soul of each one should be _a
guisa di fanciulla che piangendo e ridendo pargoleggia_.  He felt that
life was changeful, fluid, active, and that to allow it to be stereotyped
into any form was death.  He saw that people should not be too serious
over material, common interests: that to be unpractical was to be a great
thing: that one should not bother too much over affairs.  The birds
didn't, why should man?  He is charming when he says, 'Take no thought
for the morrow; is not the soul more than meat? is not the body more than
raiment?'  A Greek might have used the latter phrase.  It is full of
Greek feeling.  But only Christ could have said both, and so summed up
life perfectly for us.

His morality is all sympathy, just what morality should be.  If the only
thing that he ever said had been, 'Her sins are forgiven her because she
loved much,' it would have been worth while dying to have said it.  His
justice is all poetical justice, exactly what justice should be.  The
beggar goes to heaven because he has been unhappy.  I cannot conceive a
better reason for his being sent there.  The people who work for an hour
in the vineyard in the cool of the evening receive just as much reward as
those who have toiled there all day long in the hot sun.  Why shouldn't
they?  Probably no one deserved anything.  Or perhaps they were a
different kind of people.  Christ had no patience with the dull lifeless
mechanical systems that treat people as if they were things, and so treat
everybody alike: for him there were no laws: there were exceptions
merely, as if anybody, or anything, for that matter, was like aught else
in the world!

That which is the very keynote of romantic art was to him the proper
basis of natural life.  He saw no other basis.  And when they brought him
one, taken in the very act of sin and showed him her sentence written in
the law, and asked him what was to be done, he wrote with his finger on
the ground as though he did not hear them, and finally, when they pressed
him again, looked up and said, 'Let him of you who has never sinned be
the first to throw the stone at her.'  It was worth while living to have
said that.

Like all poetical natures he loved ignorant people.  He knew that in the
soul of one who is ignorant there is always room for a great idea.  But
he could not stand stupid people, especially those who are made stupid by
education: people who are full of opinions not one of which they even
understand, a peculiarly modern type, summed up by Christ when he
describes it as the type of one who has the key of knowledge, cannot use
it himself, and does not allow other people to use it, though it may be
made to open the gate of God's Kingdom.  His chief war was against the
Philistines.  That is the war every child of light has to wage.
Philistinism was the note of the age and community in which he lived.  In
their heavy inaccessibility to ideas, their dull respectability, their
tedious orthodoxy, their worship of vulgar success, their entire
preoccupation with the gross materialistic side of life, and their
ridiculous estimate of themselves and their importance, the Jews of
Jerusalem in Christ's day were the exact counterpart of the British
Philistine of our own.  Christ mocked at the 'whited sepulchre' of
respectability, and fixed that phrase for ever.  He treated worldly
success as a thing absolutely to be despised.  He saw nothing in it at
all.  He looked on wealth as an encumbrance to a man.  He would not hear
of life being sacrificed to any system of thought or morals.  He pointed
out that forms and ceremonies were made for man, not man for forms and
ceremonies.  He took sabbatarianism as a type of the things that should
be set at nought.  The cold philanthropies, the ostentatious public
charities, the tedious formalisms so dear to the middle-class mind, he
exposed with utter and relentless scorn.  To us, what is termed orthodoxy
is merely a facile unintelligent acquiescence; but to them, and in their
hands, it was a terrible and paralysing tyranny.  Christ swept it aside.
He showed that the spirit alone was of value.  He took a keen pleasure in
pointing out to them that though they were always reading the law and the
prophets, they had not really the smallest idea of what either of them
meant.  In opposition to their tithing of each separate day into the
fixed routine of prescribed duties, as they tithe mint and rue, he
preached the enormous importance of living completely for the moment.

Those whom he saved from their sins are saved simply for beautiful
moments in their lives.  Mary Magdalen, when she sees Christ, breaks the
rich vase of alabaster that one of her seven lovers had given her, and
spills the odorous spices over his tired dusty feet, and for that one
moment's sake sits for ever with Ruth and Beatrice in the tresses of the
snow-white rose of Paradise.  All that Christ says to us by the way of a
little warning is that every moment should be beautiful, that the soul
should always be ready for the coming of the bridegroom, always waiting
for the voice of the lover, Philistinism being simply that side of man's
nature that is not illumined by the imagination.  He sees all the lovely
influences of life as modes of light: the imagination itself is the world
of light.  The world is made by it, and yet the world cannot understand
it: that is because the imagination is simply a manifestation of love,
and it is love and the capacity for it that distinguishes one human being
from another.

But it is when he deals with a sinner that Christ is most romantic, in
the sense of most real.  The world had always loved the saint as being
the nearest possible approach to the perfection of God.  Christ, through
some divine instinct in him, seems to have always loved the sinner as
being the nearest possible approach to the perfection of man.  His
primary desire was not to reform people, any more than his primary desire
was to a relieve suffering.  To turn an interesting thief into a tedious
honest man was not his aim.  He would have thought little of the
Prisoners' Aid Society and other modern movements of the kind.  The
conversion of a publican into a Pharisee would not have seemed to him a
great achievement.  But in a manner not yet understood of the world he
regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy things
and modes of perfection.

It seems a very dangerous idea.  It is--all great ideas are dangerous.
That it was Christ's creed admits of no doubt.  That it is the true creed
I don't doubt myself.

Of course the sinner must repent.  But why?  Simply because otherwise he
would be unable to realise what he had done.  The moment of repentance is
the moment of initiation.  More than that: it is the means by which one
alters one's past.  The Greeks thought that impossible.  They often say
in their Gnomic aphorisms, 'Even the Gods cannot alter the past.'  Christ
showed that the commonest sinner could do it, that it was the one thing
he could do.  Christ, had he been asked, would have said--I feel quite
certain about it--that the moment the prodigal son fell on his knees and
wept, he made his having wasted his substance with harlots, his swine-
herding and hungering for the husks they ate, beautiful and holy moments
in his life.  It is difficult for most people to grasp the idea.  I dare
say one has to go to prison to understand it.  If so, it may be worth
while going to prison.

There is something so unique about Christ.  Of course just as there are
false dawns before the dawn itself, and winter days so full of sudden
sunlight that they will cheat the wise crocus into squandering its gold
before its time, and make some foolish bird call to its mate to build on
barren boughs, so there were Christians before Christ.  For that we
should be grateful.  The unfortunate thing is that there have been none
since.  I make one exception, St. Francis of Assisi.  But then God had
given him at his birth the soul of a poet, as he himself when quite young
had in mystical marriage taken poverty as his bride: and with the soul of
a poet and the body of a beggar he found the way to perfection not
difficult.  He understood Christ, and so he became like him.  We do not
require the Liber Conformitatum to teach us that the life of St. Francis
was the true _Imitatio Christi_, a poem compared to which the book of
that name is merely prose.

Indeed, that is the charm about Christ, when all is said: he is just like
a work of art.  He does not really teach one anything, but by being
brought into his presence one becomes something.  And everybody is
predestined to his presence.  Once at least in his life each man walks
with Christ to Emmaus.

As regards the other subject, the Relation of the Artistic Life to
Conduct, it will no doubt seem strange to you that I should select it.
People point to Reading Gaol and say, 'That is where the artistic life
leads a man.'  Well, it might lead to worse places.  The more mechanical
people to whom life is a shrewd speculation depending on a careful
calculation of ways and means, always know where they are going, and go
there.  They start with the ideal desire of being the parish beadle, and
in whatever sphere they are placed they succeed in being the parish
beadle and no more.  A man whose desire is to be something separate from
himself, to be a member of Parliament, or a successful grocer, or a
prominent solicitor, or a judge, or something equally tedious, invariably
succeeds in being what he wants to be.  That is his punishment.  Those
who want a mask have to wear it.

But with the dynamic forces of life, and those in whom those dynamic
forces become incarnate, it is different.  People whose desire is solely
for self-realisation never know where they are going.  They can't know.
In one sense of the word it is of course necessary, as the Greek oracle
said, to know oneself: that is the first achievement of knowledge.  But
to recognise that the soul of a man is unknowable, is the ultimate
achievement of wisdom.  The final mystery is oneself.  When one has
weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and
mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself.
Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?  When the son went out to
look for his father's asses, he did not know that a man of God was
waiting for him with the very chrism of coronation, and that his own soul
was already the soul of a king.

I hope to live long enough and to produce work of such a character that I
shall be able at the end of my days to say, 'Yes! this is just where the
artistic life leads a man!'  Two of the most perfect lives I have come
across in my own experience are the lives of Verlaine and of Prince
Kropotkin: both of them men who have passed years in prison: the first,
the one Christian poet since Dante; the other, a man with a soul of that
beautiful white Christ which seems coming out of Russia.  And for the
last seven or eight months, in spite of a succession of great troubles
reaching me from the outside world almost without intermission, I have
been placed in direct contact with a new spirit working in this prison
through man and things, that has helped me beyond any possibility of
expression in words: so that while for the first year of my imprisonment
I did nothing else, and can remember doing nothing else, but wring my
hands in impotent despair, and say, 'What an ending, what an appalling
ending!' now I try to say to myself, and sometimes when I am not
torturing myself do really and sincerely say, 'What a beginning, what a
wonderful beginning!'  It may really be so.  It may become so.  If it
does I shall owe much to this new personality that has altered every
man's life in this place.

You may realise it when I say that had I been released last May, as I
tried to be, I would have left this place loathing it and every official
in it with a bitterness of hatred that would have poisoned my life.  I
have had a year longer of imprisonment, but humanity has been in the
prison along with us all, and now when I go out I shall always remember
great kindnesses that I have received here from almost everybody, and on
the day of my release I shall give many thanks to many people, and ask to
be remembered by them in turn.

The prison style is absolutely and entirely wrong.  I would give anything
to be able to alter it when I go out.  I intend to try.  But there is
nothing in the world so wrong but that the spirit of humanity, which is
the spirit of love, the spirit of the Christ who is not in churches, may
make it, if not right, at least possible to be borne without too much
bitterness of heart.

I know also that much is waiting for me outside that is very delightful,
from what St. Francis of Assisi calls 'my brother the wind, and my sister
the rain,' lovely things both of them, down to the shop-windows and
sunsets of great cities.  If I made a list of all that still remains to
me, I don't know where I should stop: for, indeed, God made the world
just as much for me as for any one else.  Perhaps I may go out with
something that I had not got before.  I need not tell you that to me
reformations in morals are as meaningless and vulgar as Reformations in
theology.  But while to propose to be a better man is a piece of
unscientific cant, to have become a deeper man is the privilege of those
who have suffered.  And such I think I have become.

If after I am free a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me
to it, I should not mind a bit.  I can be perfectly happy by myself.  With
freedom, flowers, books, and the moon, who could not be perfectly happy?
Besides, feasts are not for me any more.  I have given too many to care
about them.  That side of life is over for me, very fortunately, I dare
say.  But if after I am free a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to
allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly.  If he shut the
doors of the house of mourning against me, I would come back again and
again and beg to be admitted, so that I might share in what I was
entitled to share in.  If he thought me unworthy, unfit to weep with him,
I should feel it as the most poignant humiliation, as the most terrible
mode in which disgrace could be inflicted on me.  But that could not be.
I have a right to share in sorrow, and he who can look at the loveliness
of the world and share its sorrow, and realise something of the wonder of
both, is in immediate contact with divine things, and has got as near to
God's secret as any one can get.

Perhaps there may come into my art also, no less than into my life, a
still deeper note, one of greater unity of passion, and directness of
impulse.  Not width but intensity is the true aim of modern art.  We are
no longer in art concerned with the type.  It is with the exception that
we have to do.  I cannot put my sufferings into any form they took, I
need hardly say.  Art only begins where Imitation ends, but something
must come into my work, of fuller memory of words perhaps, of richer
cadences, of more curious effects, of simpler architectural order, of
some aesthetic quality at any rate.

When Marsyas was 'torn from the scabbard of his limbs'--_della vagina
della membre sue_, to use one of Dante's most terrible Tacitean
phrases--he had no more song, the Greek said.  Apollo had been victor.
The lyre had vanquished the reed.  But perhaps the Greeks were mistaken.
I hear in much modern Art the cry of Marsyas.  It is bitter in
Baudelaire, sweet and plaintive in Lamartine, mystic in Verlaine.  It is
in the deferred resolutions of Chopin's music.  It is in the discontent
that haunts Burne-Jones's women.  Even Matthew Arnold, whose song of
Callicles tells of 'the triumph of the sweet persuasive lyre,' and the
'famous final victory,' in such a clear note of lyrical beauty, has not a
little of it; in the troubled undertone of doubt and distress that haunts
his verses, neither Goethe nor Wordsworth could help him, though he
followed each in turn, and when he seeks to mourn for _Thyrsis_ or to
sing of the _Scholar Gipsy_, it is the reed that he has to take for the
rendering of his strain.  But whether or not the Phrygian Faun was
silent, I cannot be.  Expression is as necessary to me as leaf and
blossoms are to the black branches of the trees that show themselves
above the prison walls and are so restless in the wind.  Between my art
and the world there is now a wide gulf, but between art and myself there
is none.  I hope at least that there is none.

To each of us different fates are meted out.  My lot has been one of
public infamy, of long imprisonment, of misery, of ruin, of disgrace, but
I am not worthy of it--not yet, at any rate.  I remember that I used to
say that I thought I could bear a real tragedy if it came to me with
purple pall and a mask of noble sorrow, but that the dreadful thing about
modernity was that it put tragedy into the raiment of comedy, so that the
great realities seemed commonplace or grotesque or lacking in style.  It
is quite true about modernity.  It has probably always been true about
actual life.  It is said that all martyrdoms seemed mean to the looker
on.  The nineteenth century is no exception to the rule.

Everything about my tragedy has been hideous, mean, repellent, lacking in
style; our very dress makes us grotesque.  We are the zanies of sorrow.
We are clowns whose hearts are broken.  We are specially designed to
appeal to the sense of humour.  On November 13th, 1895, I was brought
down here from London.  From two o'clock till half-past two on that day I
had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress,
and handcuffed, for the world to look at.  I had been taken out of the
hospital ward without a moment's notice being given to me.  Of all
possible objects I was the most grotesque.  When people saw me they
laughed.  Each train as it came up swelled the audience.  Nothing could
exceed their amusement.  That was, of course, before they knew who I was.
As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more.  For half an
hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob.

For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour
and for the same space of time.  That is not such a tragic thing as
possibly it sounds to you.  To those who are in prison tears are a part
of every day's experience.  A day in prison on which one does not weep is
a day on which one's heart is hard, not a day on which one's heart is

Well, now I am really beginning to feel more regret for the people who
laughed than for myself.  Of course when they saw me I was not on my
pedestal, I was in the pillory.  But it is a very unimaginative nature
that only cares for people on their pedestals.  A pedestal may be a very
unreal thing.  A pillory is a terrific reality.  They should have known
also how to interpret sorrow better.  I have said that behind sorrow
there is always sorrow.  It were wiser still to say that behind sorrow
there is always a soul.  And to mock at a soul in pain is a dreadful
thing.  In the strangely simple economy of the world people only get what
they give, and to those who have not enough imagination to penetrate the
mere outward of things, and feel pity, what pity can be given save that
of scorn?

I write this account of the mode of my being transferred here simply that
it should be realised how hard it has been for me to get anything out of
my punishment but bitterness and despair.  I have, however, to do it, and
now and then I have moments of submission and acceptance.  All the spring
may be hidden in the single bud, and the low ground nest of the lark may
hold the joy that is to herald the feet of many rose-red dawns.  So
perhaps whatever beauty of life still remains to me is contained in some
moment of surrender, abasement, and humiliation.  I can, at any rate,
merely proceed on the lines of my own development, and, accepting all
that has happened to me, make myself worthy of it.

People used to say of me that I was too individualistic.  I must be far
more of an individualist than ever I was.  I must get far more out of
myself than ever I got, and ask far less of the world than ever I asked.
Indeed, my ruin came not from too great individualism of life, but from
too little.  The one disgraceful, unpardonable, and to all time
contemptible action of my life was to allow myself to appeal to society
for help and protection.  To have made such an appeal would have been
from the individualist point of view bad enough, but what excuse can
there ever be put forward for having made it?  Of course once I had put
into motion the forces of society, society turned on me and said, 'Have
you been living all this time in defiance of my laws, and do you now
appeal to those laws for protection?  You shall have those laws exercised
to the full.  You shall abide by what you have appealed to.'  The result
is I am in gaol.  Certainly no man ever fell so ignobly, and by such
ignoble instruments, as I did.

The Philistine element in life is not the failure to understand art.
Charming people, such as fishermen, shepherds, ploughboys, peasants and
the like, know nothing about art, and are the very salt of the earth.  He
is the Philistine who upholds and aids the heavy, cumbrous, blind,
mechanical forces of society, and who does not recognise dynamic force
when he meets it either in a man or a movement.

People thought it dreadful of me to have entertained at dinner the evil
things of life, and to have found pleasure in their company.  But then,
from the point of view through which I, as an artist in life, approach
them they were delightfully suggestive and stimulating.  The danger was
half the excitement. . . . My business as an artist was with Ariel.  I
set myself to wrestle with Caliban. . . .

A great friend of mine--a friend of ten years' standing--came to see me
some time ago, and told me that he did not believe a single word of what
was said against me, and wished me to know that he considered me quite
innocent, and the victim of a hideous plot.  I burst into tears at what
he said, and told him that while there was much amongst the definite
charges that was quite untrue and transferred to me by revolting malice,
still that my life had been full of perverse pleasures, and that unless
he accepted that as a fact about me and realised it to the full I could
not possibly be friends with him any more, or ever be in his company.  It
was a terrible shock to him, but we are friends, and I have not got his
friendship on false pretences.

Emotional forces, as I say somewhere in _Intentions_, are as limited in
extent and duration as the forces of physical energy.  The little cup
that is made to hold so much can hold so much and no more, though all the
purple vats of Burgundy be filled with wine to the brim, and the treaders
stand knee-deep in the gathered grapes of the stony vineyards of Spain.
There is no error more common than that of thinking that those who are
the causes or occasions of great tragedies share in the feelings suitable
to the tragic mood: no error more fatal than expecting it of them.  The
martyr in his 'shirt of flame' may be looking on the face of God, but to
him who is piling the faggots or loosening the logs for the blast the
whole scene is no more than the slaying of an ox is to the butcher, or
the felling of a tree to the charcoal burner in the forest, or the fall
of a flower to one who is mowing down the grass with a scythe.  Great
passions are for the great of soul, and great events can be seen only by
those who are on a level with them.

* * * * *

I know of nothing in all drama more incomparable from the point of view
of art, nothing more suggestive in its subtlety of observation, than
Shakespeare's drawing of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  They are Hamlet's
college friends.  They have been his companions.  They bring with them
memories of pleasant days together.  At the moment when they come across
him in the play he is staggering under the weight of a burden intolerable
to one of his temperament.  The dead have come armed out of the grave to
impose on him a mission at once too great and too mean for him.  He is a
dreamer, and he is called upon to act.  He has the nature of the poet,
and he is asked to grapple with the common complexity of cause and
effect, with life in its practical realisation, of which he knows
nothing, not with life in its ideal essence, of which he knows so much.
He has no conception of what to do, and his folly is to feign folly.
Brutus used madness as a cloak to conceal the sword of his purpose, the
dagger of his will, but the Hamlet madness is a mere mask for the hiding
of weakness.  In the making of fancies and jests he sees a chance of
delay.  He keeps playing with action as an artist plays with a theory.  He
makes himself the spy of his proper actions, and listening to his own
words knows them to be but 'words, words, words.'  Instead of trying to
be the hero of his own history, he seeks to be the spectator of his own
tragedy.  He disbelieves in everything, including himself, and yet his
doubt helps him not, as it comes not from scepticism but from a divided

Of all this Guildenstern and Rosencrantz realise nothing.  They bow and
smirk and smile, and what the one says the other echoes with sickliest
intonation.  When, at last, by means of the play within the play, and the
puppets in their dalliance, Hamlet 'catches the conscience' of the King,
and drives the wretched man in terror from his throne, Guildenstern and
Rosencrantz see no more in his conduct than a rather painful breach of
Court etiquette.  That is as far as they can attain to in 'the
contemplation of the spectacle of life with appropriate emotions.'  They
are close to his very secret and know nothing of it.  Nor would there be
any use in telling them.  They are the little cups that can hold so much
and no more.  Towards the close it is suggested that, caught in a cunning
spring set for another, they have met, or may meet, with a violent and
sudden death.  But a tragic ending of this kind, though touched by
Hamlet's humour with something of the surprise and justice of comedy, is
really not for such as they.  They never die.  Horatio, who in order to
'report Hamlet and his cause aright to the unsatisfied,'

   'Absents him from felicity a while,
   And in this harsh world draws his breath in pain,'

dies, but Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are as immortal as Angelo and
Tartuffe, and should rank with them.  They are what modern life has
contributed to the antique ideal of friendship.  He who writes a new _De
Amicitia_ must find a niche for them, and praise them in Tusculan prose.
They are types fixed for all time.  To censure them would show 'a lack of
appreciation.'  They are merely out of their sphere: that is all.  In
sublimity of soul there is no contagion.  High thoughts and high emotions
are by their very existence isolated.

* * * * *

I am to be released, if all goes well with me, towards the end of May,
and hope to go at once to some little sea-side village abroad with R---
and M---.

The sea, as Euripides says in one of his plays about Iphigeneia, washes
away the stains and wounds of the world.

I hope to be at least a month with my friends, and to gain peace and
balance, and a less troubled heart, and a sweeter mood.  I have a strange
longing for the great simple primeval things, such as the sea, to me no
less of a mother than the Earth.  It seems to me that we all look at
Nature too much, and live with her too little.  I discern great sanity in
the Greek attitude.  They never chattered about sunsets, or discussed
whether the shadows on the grass were really mauve or not.  But they saw
that the sea was for the swimmer, and the sand for the feet of the
runner.  They loved the trees for the shadow that they cast, and the
forest for its silence at noon.  The vineyard-dresser wreathed his hair
with ivy that he might keep off the rays of the sun as he stooped over
the young shoots, and for the artist and the athlete, the two types that
Greece gave us, they plaited with garlands the leaves of the bitter
laurel and of the wild parsley, which else had been of no service to men.

We call ours a utilitarian age, and we do not know the uses of any single
thing.  We have forgotten that water can cleanse, and fire purify, and
that the Earth is mother to us all.  As a consequence our art is of the
moon and plays with shadows, while Greek art is of the sun and deals
directly with things.  I feel sure that in elemental forces there is
purification, and I want to go back to them and live in their presence.

Of course to one so modern as I am, 'Enfant de mon siecle,' merely to
look at the world will be always lovely.  I tremble with pleasure when I
think that on the very day of my leaving prison both the laburnum and the
lilac will be blooming in the gardens, and that I shall see the wind stir
into restless beauty the swaying gold of the one, and make the other toss
the pale purple of its plumes, so that all the air shall be Arabia for
me.  Linnaeus fell on his knees and wept for joy when he saw for the
first time the long heath of some English upland made yellow with the
tawny aromatic brooms of the common furze; and I know that for me, to
whom flowers are part of desire, there are tears waiting in the petals of
some rose.  It has always been so with me from my boyhood.  There is not
a single colour hidden away in the chalice of a flower, or the curve of a
shell, to which, by some subtle sympathy with the very soul of things, my
nature does not answer.  Like Gautier, I have always been one of those
'pour qui le monde visible existe.'

Still, I am conscious now that behind all this beauty, satisfying though
it may be, there is some spirit hidden of which the painted forms and
shapes are but modes of manifestation, and it is with this spirit that I
desire to become in harmony.  I have grown tired of the articulate
utterances of men and things.  The Mystical in Art, the Mystical in Life,
the Mystical in Nature this is what I am looking for.  It is absolutely
necessary for me to find it somewhere.

All trials are trials for one's life, just as all sentences are sentences
of death; and three times have I been tried.  The first time I left the
box to be arrested, the second time to be led back to the house of
detention, the third time to pass into a prison for two years.  Society,
as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer;
but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have
clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence
I may weep undisturbed.  She will hang the night with stars so that I may
walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my
footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in
great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.

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