Life is within: a mass of towering emotions and untranslatable secrets. It is heroic poetry that is like life, that attunes itself to this terrible orchestra, that lets our life rush out like the gas out of a balloon. An ordinary modern man shaking with righteous anger against a fool or a tyrant might, as a matter of fact, only stammer out some such fatuous and trivial protest....But that has nothing to do with his “life.” He would curse like Homer if he could.
There are few things, therefore, that we should more seriously protest against than an attempt to translate a monumental poem from the language of the passions which is song, to the vast system of verbal ritual which is called casual conversation. If this were done with some other piece of haunting simplicity, let us say the immortal vow of Ruth—if “thy people shall be my people ” were to become “I will try and get on with your set,” and “thy God my God,” “church or chapel, I don’t mind,” the effect would not be more human and familiar, but less so. The “realist” seems unable to grasp (being a person of no genial arrogance) that there are things that lose everything in merely losing size. It is as if a cockney put in his front garden a miniature model of St. Peter’s, all the proportions being correct.
-January 19, 1901, The Speaker