Sunday, August 24, 2014

brought about by that power of gentleness

Reading over Daniel Deniehy again I imagine him coming back at me like this (but in his own words, not these): “That's not true. My Song for the Night doesn't exist for 'no reason.' Night is sweet and charming and I love those things, I value those things, I have dedicated myself to kindness” (tears seriously in his eyes), “kindness and fairness – no hereditary aristocrats! I argued in parliament when Wentworth wanted to create a peerage in Australia. 'It is yours to offer them a land where man is bountifully rewarded for his labour, and where a just law no more recognises the supremacy of a class than it does the predominance of a creed,' I said. Bountifully rewarded. People will be good if you're good to them; we should offer education to all adults in the Mechanics' Institutes, but you teachers, don't patronise the students.

'As if two-thirds of those who never rank themselves at all with what is specially termed “the working classes” are not as thoroughly illiterate, in every true and deep sense, as the most culture-lorn mechanic who planes cedar or hammers leather; and as if every human being is not going through a course of education from the cradle to the grave.

'I was educated in sorrow myself, as I got older: 'she whom De Quincey called ‘Our Lady of Darkness’ has laid her awful hand upon my heart,' I told my wife in a letter, and we should fight back against that 'Mater Tenebarum,' as he calls her: 'she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all;' my fight is so little – my weapon is so little – poor Night. Leigh Hunt, another weapon of mine.

'There was too much boyish goodness and sweetness in him to sympathise very heartily with the fiercer struggles of men. At his heart was for ever the whispering consciousness that things might be better brought about by that power of gentleness of which he has sung with a grace more delicate than the graces of the Sicilian muse he so loved. He was right, if men would only look upon the thing as the loving poet did. But, meanwhile, Leigh Hunt had philosophy as well as pleasure on his side. “Nothing,” says Goethe, “is an illusion that makes us happy.”

'Suggestive mysticism, that's what Night is, not time-wasting, and if Wordsworth thought it was worth it then so do I. 'One of the best things in the essay is a defence of Wordsworth's suggestive mysticism against Jeffrey's unfair demand for absolute definiteness and perspicuity in poetry,' I said in my review of Walter Bagehot's Essays. Read my poem Love in a Cottage. I respect the simple pleasures that suggest a larger principle at work: 'A cottage small be mine,' that's the crux of everything; my wife in To His Wife might be pretty or she might not but I don't talk about it because the important thing is her kindness. She is 'solace for this wrung and rifted heart' from go to whoa.

'For me, who for this thronging world’s hot strife
A prize hath brought to be
Among the known—but sweet too dearly earned;
Ah, pray for me.

'Be moved by me: I drank myself to death in Bathurst. 'Occasionally, at night, I feel more depressed and wretched than I think any human being, in Australia at all events, ever before felt. I keep at home, not going out or visiting anywhere, entering no hotels, and if from intense depression I take a little brandy, it is only in my own room at night,' is what I wrote to my wife fifteen days before I vomited blood and collapsed in the street. I was promising, I was witty, I was charismatic; they still remember me today when they use the words, 'bunyip aristocracy.' My phrase! 'Few would recognise the once gay and genial Member for Argyle in the poor, broken, prematurely aged man, tottering with feeble steps and staggering gait along the least frequented paths of the city where his bright, hopeful boyhood had been passed.' (E.L. Martin in Life and Speeches of Daniel Henry Deniehy (1884) quoting a character sketch by 'an impartial and kindly eye-witness — the Hon. Geoffrey Eagar.') De Quincey in Levana: 'Therefore it is that Levana often communes with the powers that shake a man’s heart: therefore it is that she dotes on grief.'”

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