you through this garrulous preface that it may not be your lot, when

mirth is fastest and most furious, to feel the sharp pang, or the

deadly faintness, which heralds the final crisis–to see, with vague

wonder, anxious friends bending over you to hear their troubled

whispers perhaps yourself to shape the question, with trembling lips,

“Is it serious?”, and to be told “Yes: the end is near” (and oh, how

different all Life will look when those words are said!)–how do you

know, I say, that all this may not happen to you, this night?

And dare you, knowing this, say to yourself “Well, perhaps it is an

immoral play: perhaps the situations are a little too ‘risky’, the

dialogue a little too strong, the ‘business’ a little too suggestive.

I don’t say that conscience is quite easy: but the piece is so clever,

I must see it this once! I’ll begin a stricter life to-morrow.”

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and tomorrow!

“Who sins in hope, who, sinning, says,

‘Sorrow for sin God’s judgement stays!’

Against God’s Spirit he lies; quite stops

Mercy with insult; dares, and drops,

Like a scorch’d fly, that spins in vain

Upon the axis of its pain,

Then takes its doom, to limp and crawl,

Blind and forgot, from fall to fall.”

Let me pause for a moment to say that I believe this thought, of the

possibility of death–if calmly realised, and steadily faced would be

one of the best possible tests as to our going to any scene of

amusement being right or wrong. If the thought of sudden death

acquires, for you, a special horror when imagined as happening in a

theatre, then be very sure the theatre is harmful for you, however

harmless it may be for others; and that you are incurring a deadly

peril in going. Be sure the safest rule is that we should not dare to

live in any scene in which we dare not die.

But, once realise what the true object is in life–that it is not

pleasure, not knowledge, not even fame itself, ‘that last infirmity of

noble minds’–but that it is the development of character, the rising

to a higher, nobler, purer standard, the building-up of the perfect

Man–and then, so long as we feel that this is going on, and will

(we trust) go on for evermore, death has for us no terror; it is not a

shadow, but a light; not an end, but a beginning!

One other matter may perhaps seem to call for apology–that I should

have treated with such entire want of sympathy the British passion for

‘Sport’, which no doubt has been in by-gone days, and is still, in some

forms of it, an excellent school for hardihood and for coolness in

moments of danger. But I am not entirely without sympathy for genuine

‘Sport’: I can heartily admire the courage of the man who, with severe

bodily toil, and at the risk of his life, hunts down some ‘man-eating’

tiger: and I can heartily sympathize with him when he exults in the

glorious excitement of the chase and the hand-to-hand struggle with the

monster brought to bay. But I can but look with deep wonder and sorrow

on the hunter who, at his ease and in safety, can find pleasure in what

involves, for some defenceless creature, wild terror and a death of

agony: deeper, if the hunter be one who has pledged himself to preach

to men the Religion of universal Love: deepest of all, if it be one of

those ‘tender and delicate’ beings, whose very name serves as a symbol

of Love–‘thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women’–

whose mission here is surely to help and comfort all that are

in pain or sorrow!

‘Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.’

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis