Friday, April 17, 2009

My dear Chesterteens

What ho!

How are you all? Healthy? Happy? Discussing Fine Literature?

I am very sorry for my absence, and my only excuse is that I have no excuse! Not one that you would believe any way. ;-)

For any of the newer members who are feeling at a loss, I am an intermediate member; that is, a member who is generation younger (in terms of Chesterteens-ness) then the really old, founding Chesterteens (e.g. Ria, Gigi, etc.), and older then those who joined around the time of the last conference.

But back to Chesterton, don't you love the way he puts things? Read this:

[from the Wind and the Trees]

I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars in something that is at once exultation and agony.I feel, in fact, as if I were actually sitting at the bottom of the sea among mere anchors and ropes, while over my head and over the green twilight of water sounded the everlasting rush of waves and the toil and crash and shipwreck of tremendous ships.The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try yet another desperate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy,the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.
As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind.I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees.He did not like the wind at all; it blew in his face too much;it made him shut his eyes; and it blew off his hat, of which he was very proud. He was, as far as I remember, about four.After complaining repeatedly of the atmospheric unrest, he said at last to his mother, "Well, why don't you take away the trees,and then it wouldn't wind."
Nothing could be more intelligent or natural than this mistake.Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say,could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, the belief is so human and excusable that it is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers,sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live.My small friend was, in fact, very like the principal modern thinkers;only much nicer.
. . . . .
In the little apologue or parable which he has thus the honour of inventing, the trees stand for all visible thing and the wind for the invisible. The wind is the spirit which bloweth where it listeth; the trees are the material things of the world which are blown where the spirit lists.The wind is philosophy, religion, revolution; the trees are cities and civilisations. We only know that there is a wind because the trees on some distant hill suddenly go mad.We only know that there is a real revolution because all the chimney-pots go mad on the whole skyline of the city.



Love2Learn Mom said...

Welcome back!

Wonderful quote - reminds me of a certain young fellow we both know who likes to tweak noses and... ahem... steal soda from the basement when he thinks no one will notice.

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

There's another Tremendous Trifles essay, 'The Great Man' where being under trees is compared to being under sea, though not so explicitly as in The Wind and the Trees. I think the reason Chesterton employs the metaphor so much is that it is quite true, and quite un-obvious.

By the way, the essay "The Great Man" is an anecdote about a hermit in the middle of a forest who is filled with just as much creative energy as many authors, but a shorter attention span and an unpopularly powerful taste for melodrama who writes philosophically profound but unpublished stories.

Algernon said...

Thanks! Glad to be back.

It does!


Rather unobvious! Wish I was around that many trees more often.

It is interesting, though, that GK begins many of his esseys with a metaphorical description of his surroundings.

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

Yes, I think he often uses his surroundings as an allegory for his main point...sort of a pleasantly unnoticable thesis statement (hint hint English teachers).

Algernon said...

I don't have any, are they as bad as all that?

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

Oh, sorry...In America, what we call English teachers means English Literature teachers. And even when that is your parents and not that horrid, unchestertonian thing called an English Literature specialist, they sometimes follow a method that insists on direct thesis statements. Quite uncreative and boring.