Jul 19 2013

What the Soul Requires

Published by at 10:40 am under John Cowper Powys

From Suspended Judgments (1916), by John Cowper Powys.

For a flawless work of art is a thing for a moment, while that more penetrating projection of an original personality which one calls a mental or aesthetic atmosphere, is a thing that floats and flows and drifts and wavers, far beyond the boundaries of any limited creation. Such an atmosphere, such a vague intellectual music, in the air about us, is the thing that really challenges the responsive spirit in ourselves; challenges it and rouses it to take the part which it has a right to take, the part which it alone can take, in recreating the world for us in accordance with our natural fatality.

It is only by the process of gradual disillusionment that we come at last to recognise what we ourselves—-undistracted now by any external authority—-need and require from the genius of the past. For my own part, looking over the great names included in the foregoing essays, I am at this moment drawn instinctively only to two among them all—to William Blake and to Paul Verlaine; and this is an indication to me that what my own soul requires is not philosophy or psychology or wit or sublimity, but a certain delicate transmutation of the little casual things that cross my way, and a certain faint, low, sweet music, rumouring from indistinguishable horizons, and bringing me vague rare thoughts, cool and quiet and deep and magical, such as have no concern with the clamour and brutality of the crowd.

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