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friday dccxlvii


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
charity.

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.

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jones_casey
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