Chesterton's fantasies reflect his overall philosophy of life, proclaiming the need for wonder in the face of the world of fact. His view of reality penetrates to the roots of these fruitful fantasies, which simultaneously hide and reveal truth: "The Disadvantage of Having Two Heads," a cautionary tale about a young giant-killer; "The Wild Goose Chase," a search for the elusive goals that make life worth living; and "Half-Hours in Hades," an amusing handbook of demonology. Colorfully illustrated poems include "Stilton and Milton," a witty meditation on the relative appeal and durability of cheese and literature. A perfect introduction for readers unacquainted with Chesterton as well as a treat for long-time aficionados, this new edition features an Afterword by Martin Gardner, a leading authority on the author
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The COLOURED LANDS
FAIRY STORIES, COMIC VERSE AND FANTASTIC PICTURES
By G. K. CHESTERTON
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Martin Gardner
All rights reserved.
THE FIVE PRIMARY TYPES
Is it not wonderful that so few persons should know anything about the habits and appearance of those whose names are so often on their lips, and who exert so great an influence over all our lives? For those who love the study of Demonology (and I pity the man or woman who does not) it possesses an interest which will remain after health, youth and even life have departed.
It is not my intention in this simple little work to puzzle the young student with any of those dark technicalities of the Science which are only intelligible to such as have studied it for some time. I merely try to put before him, in language as simple as possible, the various species of Demon with which he is most likely to meet, and to explain the organism of any he may have already encountered.
To proceed at once to business, I will first introduce to my young readers the Common, or "Garden" serpent, so-called because its first appearance in the world took place in a Garden. Since that time its proportions have dwindled considerably, but its influence and power have largely increased; it is found in almost everything.
The prejudice entertained by clergymen and others against this insect is most unreasonable and cruel. Were it not for the creature they destroy, their occupation would be gone, like Othello's. Yet they do all they can to stamp out and crush down this little creature, wherever he may show his hoof.
The next in importance of the specimens of this interesting branch of science is the Mediaeval Demon, whose horns, tail and claws form a remarkable contrast to the serpentine formation of our first type. So wide is the divergence between the two that many modern authorities on the subject put it in an entirely different class to the Common or Garden species, connecting it with an extinct animal of similar formation known as the Faun or Pan, which found its home in many parts of Arcadia. Be this as it may, the Mediaeval Demon is, of all the species, perhaps the one with which we are most familiar; in fact so accustomed are we to the traits and appearance of this remarkable creature that we have more or less taken it under our patronage. It is in a domesticated state the subject rather of playfulness and household merriment than of abhorrence, while the far cleverer and more graceful serpent is the object of a cruel and unreasoning persecution. But useful as the mediaeval species is found at the present day as a general source of amusement, it has of late somewhat failed to stir public interest, which is turned towards newer and more elegant varieties: some of which we shall pass briefly in review. Mr. J. Milton, in his interesting and valuable work on this subject, has discussed at some length the leading characteristics of a fine species of which he was primarily the discoverer, and of which Fig. A. is a sketch. This magnificent animal measures at least four roods, and when floating full length on the warm gulf, of which it is an inhabitant, has been compared by its discoverer to a whale.
According to Mr. Milton's theory, this animal is practically identical with the creature represented in Plate I, but, however ably supported, his view has been abandoned by most later authorities. This species is an inhabitant of warm latitudes like most of its kind, being originally found in the burning lakes and dark wildernesses of the most remote parts of the world. Its colour is, generally speaking, dark, but, like most of these creatures, this peculiarity has been much overrated, and Mr. Milton has justly pointed out the "faded splendour wan" which imparts a lighter shade to many parts of its exterior.
We now come to the discussion of a very remarkable species which are vulgarly known for the most part by their colour.
The Red Devil (Diabolus Mephistopheles) was discovered by that learned and enterprising German naturalist, Mr. Wolfgang von Goethe, who has published an interesting story of a specimen kept in a domesticated state in the house of his learned fellow-countryman, Dr. Faust. In a domestic state this creature is playful and active, but mischievous and impossible to trust. The learned doctor found it a useful and entertaining companion for many years, but was finally persuaded to part with it, on which it sought the seclusion of its native surroundings. Its colour, as suggested by its name, is, with the exception of its face and hands, a uniform red. Its height is about six feet.
Very different in appearance, yet possessed of one or two of the same habits, is the Blue Devil (Caeruleus Lugubrius). These creatures are gregarious, being usually seen and spoken of in the plural. Though formed by Super-Nature in their habits and exterior apparently for the filling of waste moors, mountains, churchyards and other obsolete places, these animals, like the Red Devil, have frequently been domesticated in rich and distinguished houses, and many of the wealthiest aristocrats and most successful men of commerce may be seen with a string of these blue creatures led by a leash in the street or seated round him in a ring on his own fireside. The noise made by this creature is singularly melancholy and depressing, and its general appearance is far from lively. But though less agile and intelligent than the Red Devil, the sobriety of its habits and demeanour have made it a suitable pet for the houses of clergymen and other respectable persons. To such an extent indeed has this domestication of the Blue Devil been carried, that many persons have denied its connection with the great class we are discussing. There can, however, be no doubt about its origin.CHAPTER 2
THE EVOLUTION OF DEMONS
ON what perhaps is the most intricate and interesting part of Demonology it is impossible to say much in a work of small size and pretensions. It is unnecessary to go through the elaborate proof given by Mr. Darwin and transfer it to the supernatural world, but only to make a few remarks on some of the most interesting examples of diabolical evolution. When the young student grows older he will meet with others in his own experience.CHAPTER 3
WHAT WE SHOULD ALL LOOK FOR
"BUT, mamma, can we all see devils? "
"Certainly, Charlotte, if we will take the trouble. They are constantly in our path and it is only the lazy and careless that pass them by. The human race might well learn a lesson from these little creatures, and in fact it not infrequently does. Harry here will tell you that only this morning he found a most interesting specimen while coming from church, and how pleased I was that he should have been so diligent. We can all see the common varieties in any country walk, or even in the city, where they are occasionally found, but at the same time it is to be remembered that we cannot expect to see all this great field of interest in this life. Dr. Brown, the vicar, who knows more about these things than you or I, children, will, I am sure, take great pleasure in some day showing you over his collection, where you will see some very rare species, not to be found in everyday life, and which are the fruits of a long career of diligent research. He possesses, I believe, the only known variety of the Pelagian ever seen in this country and will be pleased to show it you and make it vainly talk. The Boasting Anabaptist (Anabaptiste Falsegloriator) has also its representatives in his collection and he is the author of many clever works on the subject."
"But, mamma, does Dr. Brown love his little pets?"
"I have reason to believe that he is fondly attached to them. They are never out of his sight and he has often said that he has gleaned many useful lessons from their habits. In fact he says that he would not be the man he is but for them, and one glance at Dr. Brown will make it clear that this is no exaggeration."
"Mamma, dear, do you remember what Cousin George found when he was staying with us last summer?"
"I recollect it extremely well, Albert, and I am glad indeed to find that your memory is as vivid as mine. It had always been my belief that Cousin George would alight upon some such discovery, for I well know him as a keen observer of Supernature and I hope, my children, that you may ever be as clever Demonologists as he. I remember even as a little boy he would be always found in the haunts of these creatures among which he may almost be said to have been brought up. I predict a great future for Cousin George."
"And, mamma dear, remember that you promised to show us some experiments this evening."
"Well, children, you shall have some. Will you turn out the gas, Albert? while you Jane, will ask cook to lend us the large kettle. Harry will fetch the long wand from its place in the umbrella stand. Thank you, that is right. Now, children, for our first experiment I have here the eye of the common newt or eft, the left toe of the edible frog, the jaw of one of the blue sharks, a portion of the root of the hemlock plant, which I took no little trouble to dig up quite late last night, the liver of a blaspheming Jew, and other interesting specimens: round about the cauldron go, children, in the poisoned entrails throw. That is right. Now we will see what happens——Ah, I thought so. Do you see those two round green orbs of light, Jane? Those are the eyes of a very interesting species, and its form will soon become apparent to us. Do not scream, Charlotte, for that would be naughty, and would perhaps frighten the little creatures, as they are very timid. By this time, children, you may perceive the outline of an attenuated figure, resembling in some respects that of a skeleton, though the ears, which you can now see moving, show that this is not the case. Lift little Harry up, James, since he is too small to see over the edge of the cauldron."
THERE can be comparatively little question that the place ordinarily occupied by dreams in literature is peculiarly unreal and unsatisfying. When the hero tells us that "last night he dreamed a dream," we are quite certain from the perfect and decorative character of the dream that he made it up at breakfast. The dream is so reasonable that it is quite impossible. An angel came to him and opened before him a scroll inscribed with some tremendous moral truth; a knight in armour rode past him declaring some ideal quest; the phantom of his mother arose to warn him from some imminent sin. Dreams like these are (with occasional exceptions) practically unknown in the lawless kingdoms of the night. A dream is scarcely ever rounded to express faultlessly some faultless idea. An angel might indeed open a scroll before the dreamer, but it would probably be inscribed with some remark about excursion trains to Brighton; a knight in armour might ride by him, but it would be impossible to deny that the most salient fact about that warrior was the fact that he was wearing three hats; his mother might indeed appear to the dreamer, and give him the tenderest and most elevated counsel, but it would be impossible for the loftiest ethical comfort to entirely obscure the fact that her nose was growing longer and longer every minute. Dreams have a kind of hellish ingenuity and energy in the pursuit of the inappropriate; the most omniscient and cunning artist never took so much trouble or achieved such success in finding exactly the word that was right or exactly the action that was significant, as this midnight lord of misrule can do in finding exactly the word that is wrong and exactly the action that is meaningless. The object of art is to subordinate the detail that is incidental to the tendency which is general. The object of a dream appears to be so to develop itself that some utterly futile and half-witted detail shall gradually devour all the other details of the vision. The flower upon the wall-paper just behind the head of Napoleon Buonaparte becomes brighter and brighter until we see nothing but a flower; the third waistcoat button of our best friend grows larger and larger until it is the great round sun of a revolving cosmos.
Thus at first sight it would seem that the lord of dreams was the eternal opponent of art. He seems to be to the æsthetic system what Satan is to the religious system, an unconquerable enemy, an irreducible minimum. The prigs of art who in this period erect their impeccable edifice, with even more than the gravity of the prigs of religion, have to deal with this mighty underworld of man in which their new rules are set as much at naught as the old ones, which is as careless of the modern canons of pleasure as of the ancient canons of pain. Asleep the artist is in the hands of an enchantress of ugliness who makes him love the discordant and hate the beautiful. In that realm the landscape painter paints monstrous landscapes, mingling scarlet and purple; in that realm the musician devises torturing melodies, and the architect top-heavy cathedrals.
So far as the forms and modes of art are concerned this is indeed true. The translucently allegorical dreams so often narrated in romance are essentially inconceivable. When the aged priest in a story narrates his dream, in which the imagery is dignified and the message plain, we are free to yield finally to a conviction that must have long been growing on us, and conclude that he is a somewhat distinguished liar. Dreams may have infinite meanings, but those meanings are not conveyed obviously by communicative mothers and candid angels. The Bible is an excellent place to look for a wisdom and morality older than mere words and ideals, and there is certainly far more truth in the old Biblical version of the nature of dreams which made them inscrutable and somewhat grotesque parables requiring particular persons to interpret them. If great spiritual truths are conveyed by dreams, they must certainly be conveyed as they were to Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar by farcical mysteries of clay-footed images and lean cows eating fat ones.
But there is another and far deeper manner in which dreams definitely correspond to art. Nothing is more remarkable in some of the great artistic masterpieces of the world than their startling deficiency in much of that sense of grace and proportion which goes nowadays by the name of art. If art were really what some contemporary critics represent it, a matter of the faultless arrangement of harmonies and transitions, Shakespeare would certainly not be anything like so great an artist as the last poetaster in Fleet Street who published a series of seven sonnets on seven varieties of grey sunset. Shakespeare often suffers from too much inventiveness; that which clogs us and trips us up in his masterpieces is not so much inferior work as irrelevant brilliancy; not so much failures as fragments of other masterpieces. Dickens was designless without knowing or caring; Sterne was designless by design. Yet these great works which mix up abstractions fit for an epic with fooleries not fit for a pantomime, which clash the sword with the red-hot poker, which present such a picture of literary chaos as might be produced if the characters in every book from Paradise Lost to Pickwick broke from their covers and mingled in one mad romance—these great works have assuredly a unity of their own or they would not be works of art. The unity which they have is a unity which when properly understood gives us the key of almost the whole of literary æsthetics: it is the same unity that we find in dreams. There is one unity which we do find in dreams. It binds together all their brutal inconsequence and all their moonstruck anti-climaxes. It makes the unimaginable nocturnal farce which begins with a saint choosing parasols and ends with a policeman shelling peas, as rounded and single a harmony as some poet's roundel upon a passion flower. This unity is the absolute unity of emotion. If we wish to experience pure and naked feeling we can never experience it so really as in that unreal land. There the passions seem to live an outlawed and abstract existence, unconnected with any facts or persons. In dreams we have revenge without any injury, remorse without any sin, memory without any recollections, hope without any prospect. Love, indeed, almost proves itself a divine thing by the logic of dreams; for in a dream every material circumstance may alter, spectacles may grow on a baby, and moustaches on a maiden aunt, and yet the great sway of one tyrannical tenderness may never cease. Our dream may begin with the end of the world, and end with a picnic at Hampton Court, but the same rich and nameless mood will be expressed by the falling stars and by the crumbling sandwiches. In a dream daisies may glare at us like the eyes of demons. In a dream lightning and conflagration may warm and soothe us like our own fireside. In this sub-conscious world, in short, existence betrays itself; it shows that it is full of spiritual forces which disguise themselves as lions and lamp-posts, which can as easily disguise themselves as butterflies and Babylonian temples. The essential unity of a dream, which is never broken or impaired, is the unity of its attitude towards God, wistful or vacant, or grateful, or rebellious or assured.
Excerpted from The COLOURED LANDS by G. K. CHESTERTON. Copyright © 2009 Martin Gardner. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of ContentsCONTENTS INTRODUCTION BY MAISIE WARD THE COLOURED LANDS (ABOUT 1912) BOB-UP-AND-DOWN (1931) THE WHALE'S WOOING BALLADE OF KINDNESS TO MOTORISTS THE JAZZ HALF-HOURS IN HADES (SCHOOL PERIOD 1891) DREAMS (1901) STILTON AND MILTON IN THE EVENING (1894) TRIOLET (1928) THE END OF THE ANECDOTE (1925) THE WILD GOOSE CHASE (SCHOOL PERIOD ABOUT 1892) THE ARTISTIC SIDE (1930) A BALLADE OF THE GROTESQUE A SONG OF WILD FRUIT (1929) PAINTS IN A PAINT-BOX (1901) A FRAGMENT (ABOUT 1896) LES BOILEAUX THE TWO TAVERNS (1926) TAGTUG AND THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE (1919) BALLADE OF THE TEA-POT THE PROFESSOR AND THE COOK (1926) GIRL GUIDES WONDER AND THE WOODEN POST (1912) A BALLADE OF DEAD MEN THE TAMING OF THE NIGHTMARE (SCHOOL PERIOD ABOUT 1892) ON HOUSEHOLD GODS AND GOBLINS (1922) THE PHANTOM BUTLER (1926) THE JOYS OF SCIENCE (1900) THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD (1928) PLAKKOPYTRIXOPHYLISPERAMBULANTIOBATRIX (1910) CHRISTMAS AND THE FIRST GAMES (1934) A BALLADE OF A STOIC A NIGHTMARE (1907) HOMESICK AT HOME (ABOUT 1896) AFTERWORD BY MARTIN GARDNERCOLOR ILLUSTRATIONS A BLUE DEVIL A BLUE STOCKING THE GREEN MAN THE GREEN-GROCER THE DISADVANTAGE OF HAVING TWO HEADS THE ROSE-COLORED SPECTACLES PICTURES FROM THE PAINT-BOX THE MISSING LINKBLACK AND WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS G. K. C.'S DRAWING OF HIMSELF WHILE STILL AT THE SLADE SCHOOL (AGED ABOUT 20) JOB PLAYING PATIENCE LITTLE BO-PEEP HALF-HOUR IN HADES IMMORTAL IDIOTS 1-ABEL STILTON & MILTON THE DESPAIR OF HEROD IMMORTAL IDIOTS 2-WAT TILER AS I WOULD LIKE TO BE, AS I AM POKER PATIENCE MRS CHESTERTON'S DONKEYS IMMORTAL IDIOTS 3-CHARLES I DIOGENES TEACHES ALEXANDER PATIENCE A TRUE VICTORIAN CUTS A DISREPUTABLE AUTHOR IMMORTAL IDIOTS 4-NELSON PUBLISHERS ARRIVING AND FLEEING NATURAL ANNOYANCE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE JUST INDIGNATION OF QUEEN VICTORIA SIGNS OF THE LAST DAYS THREE ACRES AND A COW