The Garden of Survival HTML version
ALL this I have told to you because we have known together the closest intimacy possible to
human beings--we have shared beauty.
They said, these many days ago, that you had gone away, that you were dead. The wind on the
Downs, your favourite Downs, your favourite southwest wind, received your dust, scattering it
like pollen into space. No sign has come to me, no other sign than this I tell you now in my long
letter. It is enough. I know.
There were thus two loves, one unrecognized till afterwards, the other realized at the time. . . . In
the body there was promise. There is now accomplishment.
It is very strange, and yet so simple. Beauty, I suppose, opens the heart, extends the
consciousness. It is a platitude, of course. You will laugh when I tell you that afterwards I tried
to reason it all out. I am not apparently intellectual. The books I read would fill your empty
room--on aesthetics, art, and what not. I got no result from any of them, but rather a state of
muddle that was, no doubt, congestion. None of the theories and explanations touched the root of
the matter. I am evidently not "an artist"--that at any rate I gathered, and yet these learned people
seemed to write about something they had never "lived." I could almost believe that the writers
of these subtle analyses have never themselves felt beauty--the burn, the rapture, the regenerating
fire. They have known, perhaps, a reaction of the physical nerves, but never this light within the
soul that lifts the horizons of the consciousness and makes one know that God exists, that death
is not even separation, and that eternity is now.
Metaphysics I studied too. I fooled myself, thirty years after the proper time for doing so, over
the old problem whether beauty lies in the object seen or in the mind that sees the object. And in
the end I came back hungrily to my simple starting-point--that beauty moved me. It opened my
heart to one of its many aspects--truth, wisdom, joy, and love--and what else, in the name of
I sold the books at miserable prices that made Mother question my judgment: coloured plates,
costly bindings, rare editions, and all. Aesthetics, Art, rules and principles might go hang for all I
cared or any good they did me. It was intellect that had devised all these. The truth was simpler
far. I cared nothing for these scholarly explanations of beauty's genesis and laws of working,
because I felt it. Hunger needs no analysis, does it? Nor does Love. Could anything be more
stultifying? Give to the first craving a lump of bread, and to the second a tangible man or
woman--and let those who have the time analyse both cravings at their leisure.
For the thrill I mean is never physical, and has nothing in common with that acute sensation
experienced when the acrobat is seen to miss the rope in mid-air as he swings from bar to bar.
There is no shock in it, for shock is of the nerves, arresting life; the thrill I speak of intensifies
and sets it rising in a wave that flows. It is of the spirit. It wounds, yet marvellously. It is
unearthly. Therein, I think, lies its essential quality; by chance, as it were, in writing this intimate