Paradise is Somewhere

“I mean,” he said with increasing vehemence, “that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all.” (109)

-Innocent Smith as quoted by Louis Hara in his letter about having met Smith in the Sierra Mountains in California.

 

Source

Chesterton, G. K. Manalive. 1912. Dover, 2000.

Forgetting What You Know

“You know the house, then?” I said.

“Too well,” he answered, and with a sadness so strange as to have something eerie about it. “I am always trying to forget what I know–and to find what I don’t know” (90).

–Innocent Smith stealing his own wine from his own house, having led a clergyman to believe that he’s stealing from a complete stranger.

 

Source

Chesterton, G. K. Manalive. 1912. Dover, 2000.

Domestic Justice

“…It is really true that human beings might often get some sort of domestic justice where just now they can only get legal injustice–oh, I am a lawyer, too, and I know that as well. It is true that there’s too much official and indirect power. Often and often the thing a whole nation can’t settle is just the thing a family could settle. Scores of young criminals have been fined and sent to jail when they ought to have been thrashed and sent to bed. Scores of men, I am sure have had a lifetime at Hanwell when they only wanted a week at Brighton. There is something in Smith’s notion of domestic self-government; and I propose that we put it in practice. You have the prisoner, you have the documents. Come, we are a company of free, white, Christian people, such as might be besieged in a town or cast up on a desert island. Let us do this thing ourselves. Let us go into that house there and sit down and find out with our own eyes and ears whether this thing is true or not; whether this Smith is a man or a monster. If we can’t do a little thing like that, what right have we to put crosses on ballot papers?” (48)

-Michael arguing that Innocent Smith should be tried privately instead of publicly.

 

Source

Chesterton, G. K. Manalive. 1912. Dover, 2000.

 

Imprudent Marriages

“Imprudent marriages!” roarded Michael. “And pray where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages? Might as well talk about prudent suicides. You and I have dawdled round each other long enough, and are we any safer than Smith and Mary Gray who met last night? You never know a husband till you marry him. Unhappy! Of course you’ll be unhappy! Who the devil are you that you shouldn’t be unhappy, like the mother that bore you? Disappointed! Of course we’ll be disappointed! I, for one, don’t expect till I die to be so good a man as I am at this minute, for just now I’m fifty thousand feet high, a tower with all the trumpets shouting.” (31)

–Michael Moon proposing marriage to Rosamund Hunt in the novel Manalive by G. K. Chesterton

 

Source

Chesterton, G. K. Manalive. 1912. Dover, 2000.

Dryads and Trees

It turns out that I’ve been wrongly attributing a quotation to C. S. Lewis for the past few years. I was reading G. K. Chesteron’s book Orthodoxy with my senior high school students when I ran across this sentence:

Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads. (“Ethics of Elfland”)

In my defense, I’m sure Lewis has said something like this somewhere. I originally thought it came from The Discarded Image where he addresses the changing human experience of the cosmos over the course of history. It’s a fascinating idea, one that’s received a fair amount of attention from people like Lewis’ good friend Owen Barfield to the contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor. I hope to write more about it in the future. But for now, I’m happy to correct an error and to bookmark the Chesterton quotation for later use.

Sabbath Poetry: G.K. Chesterton

I’m reading (and teaching!) G.K. Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you’re willing to set aside things like “historical accuracy” and revel in the idea and legends of Alfred the Great.

In typical Chestertonian fashion, here’s a great section on the differences between pride and humility:

Pride flings frail palaces at the sky,

As a man flings up sand,

But the firm feet of humility

Take hold of heavy land.

 

Pride juggles with her toppling towers,

They strike the sun and cease,

But the firm feet of humility

They grip the ground like trees. (IV.256-63)