A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)

_____________________

"The Speaker" Articles

A book I published containing 112 pieces Chesterton wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" at the beginning of his career.

They are also available for free electronically on another blog of mine here, if you wish to read them that way.




Thursday, May 23, 2013

"...the ordinary man in the street when he says that there is no poetry in a pig or a post-office is, in fact, merely intoxicated with literary style."

Some time ago Mr C. F. G. Masterman led a vigorous attack upon my timid and humble optimism, and declared in effect that when I maintained a poetry in all things it was I who supplied it. I wish I could claim that I had ever supplied poetry to anything; it seems to me that I am at the very best a humdrum scientific student noting it down. The sentimentalists, the sons of a passionate delusion, are those who do not think everything poetical. For they are wholly under the influence of words, of the vague current phraseology, which thinks `castle' a poetical word and 'Post-office' an unpoetical word, which thinks `knight' a poetical word and `policeman' an unpoetical word, which thinks `eagle' a poetical ward and `pig' an unpoetical word. I do not say that there is not truth in this as a matter of literature; I do not say that in pure technical style there is not a difference between eagles and pigs. All I wish to point out is that the ordinary man in the street when he says that there is no poetry in a pig or a post-office is, in fact, merely intoxicated with literary style. He is not looking at the thing itself; if he did that he would see that it was not only poetical, but obviously and glaringly poetical. He thinks a railway-signal, let us say, must be prosaic, because the word sounds funny, and there is no rhyme in it. But if he looked straight and square at what a railway-signal is, he would realise that it was, to take a casual case, a red fire or light kindled to keep people from death, as poetical a thing as the spear of Britomart or the lamp of Aladdin. It is, in short, the man who thinks ordinary things common who is really the man living in an unreal world.

But of all the examples of this general fact that have recently been called to my notice, there is none more peculiar and interesting than that of the family name of Smith, in which we have a splendid example of the fact that the poetry of common things is a mere fact, while the commonplace character of common things is a mere delusion. For, if we look at the name Smith in a casual and impressionable way, remembering how we commonly hear it, what is commonly said about it, we think of it as something funny and trivial; we think of pictures in Punch, of jokes in comic songs, of all the cheapness and modernity which seem to centre round a Mr Smith. But, if we look at the plain word itself, we suddenly behold a poem. It is the name of a great rugged and primeval craft, a trade that is in the bones of every great epic of antiquity, a trade on which the `arma virumque' have everlastingly depended, and which they have repeatedly acclaimed. It is a craft so poetical that even the babies of village yokels stand and stare into the cavern of its creative violence, with a dim sense that the dancing sparks and the deafening blows are in some way wonderful, as the shops of the village cobbler and the village baker are not wonderful. The mystery of flame, the mystery of metals, the fight between the hardest of earthly things and the weirdest of earthly elements, the defeat of the unconquerable iron by its only conqueror, the brute calm of Nature, the passionate cunning of man, the origin of a thousand sciences and arts, the ploughing of fields, the hewing of wood, the arraying of armies, and the whole beginning of arms, these things are written with brevity indeed, but with perfect clearness, on the visiting card of Mr Smith. The Smiths are a house of arrogant antiquity, of prehistoric simplicity. It would not be at all remarkable if a certain contemptuous carriage of the head, a certain curl of the lip, marked people whose name was Smith. Yet novelists, when they wish to describe a hero as strong and romantic, persistently call him Vernon Aylmer, which means nothing, or Bertrand Vallance, which means nothing; while all the time it is in their power to give him the sacred name of Smith, this name made of iron and fire. From the very beginnings of history and fable this clan has gone forth to battle; their trophies are in every hand, their name is everywhere; they are older than the nations, and their sign is the Hammer of Thor.

-The Apostle and the Wild Ducks (collection of essays published posthumously in 1975)

No comments: