These are excerpts of thoughts and poems from Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an early twentieth century writer and poet, written in his early twenties while he was immersed in the dark pessimism of his time (the 1890’s) in art college. He wrote these as he struggled with his own existential questions, and this is the start of his journey to a life of writing on the important things in life. Beautiful stuff.
You Say Grace
You say grace before meals
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in ink.
Here Dies Another Day
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
“… no man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to what ever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonders; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy.”
“Mere existence reduced to its most primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting. Anything was magnificent as compared with nothing. Even if the very daylight were a dream, it was a day-dream; it was not a nightmare. THe mere fact that one could wave one’s arms and legs about… showed that it had not the mere paralysis of a nightmare. Or if it was a nightmare, it was an enjoyable nightmare. In fact, I had wandered to a position not very far from the phrase of my puritan grandfather, when he said that would thank God for his creation if he were a list soul. I hung on to the remains of my religion by one thread of thanks. I [had discovered a] way of looking at things, with a sort of mystical minimum of gratitude.”
He wrote the following poem for his wife when they got married.
Between the perfect marriage day
And that fierce future proud, and furled,
I only stole six days – six days
Enough for God to make the world.
For us is a creation made
New moon by night, new sun by day,
That ancient elm that holds the heavens
Sprang to its stature yesterday –
Dearest and first of all things free,
Alone as bride and queen and friend,
Brute facts may come and bitter truths,
But here all doubts shall have an end.
Never again with cloudy talk
Shall life be tricked or faith undone,
The world is many and is mad,
But we are sane and we are one.