Poetic Living

From The Green Round, by Arthur Machen (1933):

“Has it ever been your fortune, courteous reader,” the author enquired, “to rise in the earliest dawning of a summer day, ere yet the radiant beams of the sun have done more than touch with light the domes and spires of the great city? Have you risen from your couch, weary, perchance, of sleepless hours of tossing to and fro, or, it may be, impelled by the call of business, and gone forth through the familiar street where your abode is situated, the street which had known your steps by day and by night, but never before at the hour of dawn? If this has been your lot, have you not observed that magic powers have apparently been at work? The accustomed scene has lost its familiar appearance. The houses which you have passed daily, it may be for many years, as you have issued forth on your avocations or your amusements, now seem as if you beheld them for the first time. They have suffered a mysterious change, into something rich and strange. Though they may have been designed by no extraordinary exertion of the art of architecture, though their materials may be of common brick and stone and piaster, though neither Pentelicus nor Ferrara has assisted in the adornment of these edifices; yet you have been ready to affirm that they now ‘stand in glory, shine like stars, apparelled in a light serene’. They have become magical habitations, supernal dwellings; more desirable to the eye than the fabled pleasure dome of the Eastern potentate, or the bejewelled hall built by the Genie for Aladdin in the Arabian Tale.” And so forth, and so forth: “And if the boughs of a tree chance to extend over a garden wall, you are ready to vow that its roots must flourish in the soil of Paradise. . . . Your perspective may be closed by the heights of Hampstead or of Highgate; but in the light of the Aurora these hills rise in the land that is very far off.” A good deal in this vein; and then a curious passage: “But all these are transitory effects that soon disappear. As the sun mounts in the sky, the vision fades into the light of common day; buildings, trees, objects close at hand and distant vistas resume their ordinary aspect; the whole enchanting scene is now a sullen street of common clay. You may, perhaps, reproach yourself with having allowed your senses to be beguiled and your imagination to be overcome by the mere fad: that you have gazed on a familiar scene in unusual circumstances. Yet, some have declared that it lies within our own choice to gaze continually upon a world of like beauty, or even greater.”

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