The Return of the Native HTML version

BOOK III: The Fascination
1 - "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is"
In Clym Yeobright's face could be dimly seen the typical countenance of the
future. Should there be a classic period to art hereafter, its Pheidias may produce
such faces. The view of life as a thing to be put up with, replacing that zest for
existence which was so intense in early civilizations, must ultimately enter so
thoroughly into the constitution of the advanced races that its facial expression
will become accepted as a new artistic departure. People already feel that a man
who lives without disturbing a curve of feature, or setting a mark of mental
concern anywhere upon himself, is too far removed from modern perceptiveness
to be a modern type. Physically beautiful men--the glory of the race when it was
young--are almost an anachronism now; and we may wonder whether, at some
time or other, physically beautiful women may not be an anachronism likewise.
The truth seems to be that a long line of disillusive centuries has permanently
displaced the Hellenic idea of life, or whatever it may be called. What the Greeks
only suspected we know well; what their Aeschylus imagined our nursery
children feel. That old-fashioned revelling in the general situation grows less and
less possible as we uncover the defects of natural laws, and see the quandary
that man is in by their operation.
The lineaments which will get embodied in ideals based upon this new
recognition will probably be akin to those of Yeobright. The observer's eye was
arrested, not by his face as a picture, but by his face as a page; not by what it
was, but by what it recorded. His features were attractive in the light of symbols,
as sounds intrinsically common become attractive in language, and as shapes
intrinsically simple become interesting in writing.
He had been a lad of whom something was expected. Beyond this all had been
chaos. That he would be successful in an original way, or that he would go to the
dogs in an original way, seemed equally probable. The only absolute certainty
about him was that he would not stand still in the circumstances amid which he
was born.
Hence, when his name was casually mentioned by neighbouring yeomen, the
listener said, "Ah, Clym Yeobright--what is he doing now?" When the instinctive
question about a person is, What is he doing? it is felt that he will be found to be,
like most of us, doing nothing in particular. There is an indefinite sense that he
must be invading some region of singularity, good or bad. The devout hope is
that he is doing well. The secret faith is that he is making a mess of it. Half a
dozen comfortable market-men, who were habitual callers at the Quiet Woman
as they passed by in their carts, were partial to the topic. In fact, though they