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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoon And Sixpence - Chapter 2
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Moon And Sixpence - Chapter 2 Post by :Jill_Kane Category :Long Stories Author :W. Somerset Maugham Date :March 2011 Read :802

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Moon And Sixpence - Chapter 2

When so much has been written about Charles Strickland, it may
seem unnecessary that I should write more. A painter's
monument is his work. It is true I knew him more intimately
than most: I met him first before ever he became a painter,
and I saw him not infrequently during the difficult years he
spent in Paris; but I do not suppose I should ever have set
down my recollections if the hazards of the war had not taken
me to Tahiti. There, as is notorious, he spent the last years
of his life; and there I came across persons who were familiar
with him. I find myself in a position to throw light on just
that part of his tragic career which has remained most obscure.
If they who believe in Strickland's greatness are right,
the personal narratives of such as knew him in the
flesh can hardly be superfluous. What would we not give for
the reminiscences of someone who had been as intimately
acquainted with El Greco as I was with Strickland?

But I seek refuge in no such excuses. I forget who it was
that recommended men for their soul's good to do each day two
things they disliked: it was a wise man, and it is a precept
that I have followed scrupulously; for every day I have got up
and I have gone to bed. But there is in my nature a strain of
asceticism, and I have subjected my flesh each week to a more
severe mortification. I have never failed to read the Literary
Supplement of The Times. It is a salutary discipline to
consider the vast number of books that are written, the fair
hopes with which their authors see them published, and the
fate which awaits them. What chance is there that any book
will make its way among that multitude? And the successful
books are but the successes of a season. Heaven knows what
pains the author has been at, what bitter experiences he has
endured and what heartache suffered, to give some chance
reader a few hours' relaxation or to while away the tedium of
a journey. And if I may judge from the reviews, many of these
books are well and carefully written; much thought has gone to
their composition; to some even has been given the anxious
labour of a lifetime. The moral I draw is that the writer
should seek his reward in the pleasure of his work and in
release from the burden of his thought; and, indifferent to aught
else, care nothing for praise or censure, failure or success.

Now the war has come, bringing with it a new attitude.
Youth has turned to gods we of an earlier day knew not, and it
is possible to see already the direction in which those who come
after us will move. The younger generation, conscious of
strength and tumultuous, have done with knocking at the door;
they have burst in and seated themselves in our seats.
The air is noisy with their shouts. Of their elders some, by
imitating the antics of youth, strive to persuade themselves
that their day is not yet over; they shout with the lustiest,
but the war cry sounds hollow in their mouth; they are like
poor wantons attempting with pencil, paint and powder, with
shrill gaiety, to recover the illusion of their spring.
The wiser go their way with a decent grace. In their chastened
smile is an indulgent mockery. They remember that they too
trod down a sated generation, with just such clamor and with
just such scorn, and they foresee that these brave torch-bearers
will presently yield their place also. There is no last word.
The new evangel was old when Nineveh reared her greatness
to the sky. These gallant words which seem so novel to those
that speak them were said in accents scarcely changed a hundred
times before. The pendulum swings backwards and forwards.
The circle is ever travelled anew.

Sometimes a man survives a considerable time from an era in
which he had his place into one which is strange to him, and
then the curious are offered one of the most singular
spectacles in the human comedy. Who now, for example, thinks
of George Crabbe? He was a famous poet in his day, and the
world recognised his genius with a unanimity which the greater
complexity of modern life has rendered infrequent. He had
learnt his craft at the school of Alexander Pope, and he wrote
moral stories in rhymed couplets. Then came the French
Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and the poets sang new songs.
Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets.
I think he must have read the verse of these young
men who were making so great a stir in the world, and I fancy
he found it poor stuff. Of course, much of it was. But the
odes of Keats and of Wordsworth, a poem or two by Coleridge, a
few more by Shelley, discovered vast realms of the spirit that
none had explored before. Mr. Crabbe was as dead as mutton,
but Mr. Crabbe continued to write moral stories in rhymed couplets.
I have read desultorily the writings of the younger generation.
It may be that among them a more fervid Keats, a more
ethereal Shelley, has already published numbers the world
will willingly remember. I cannot tell. I admire their
polish -- their youth is already so accomplished that it seems
absurd to speak of promise -- I marvel at the felicity of
their style; but with all their copiousness (their vocabulary
suggests that they fingered Roget's Thesaurus in their
cradles) they say nothing to me: to my mind they know too
much and feel too obviously; I cannot stomach the heartiness
with which they slap me on the back or the emotion with which
they hurl themselves on my bosom; their passion seems to me a
little anaemic and their dreams a trifle dull. I do not like them.
I am on the shelf. I will continue to write moral stories in
rhymed couplets. But I should be thrice a fool if I did it for
aught but my own entertainment.

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