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The Kingdom Of Matter
by [?]

In a preceding essay we were compelled to admit that, eager as man might be to discover in the universe a sanction for his virtues, neither heaven nor earth displayed the least interest in human morality; and that all things would combine to persuade the upright among us that they merely are dupes, were it not for the fact that they have in themselves an approval words cannot describe, and a reward so intangible that we should in vain endeavour to portray its least evanescent delights. Is that all, some may ask, is that all we may hope in return for this mighty effort of ours, for our constant denial and pain, for our sacrifice of instincts, of pleasures, that seemed so legitimate, necessary even, and would certainly have added to our happiness had there not been within us the desire for Justice–a desire arising we know not whence, belonging, perhaps, to our nature, and yet in apparent conflict with the vaster nature whereof we all form part? Yes, it is open to you, if you choose, to regard as a very poor thing this unsubstantial justice: since its only reward is a vague satisfaction, and that this satisfaction even grows hateful, and destroys itself, the moment its presence becomes too perceptibly felt. Bear in mind, however, that all things that happen in our moral being must be equally lightly held, if regarded from the point of view whence you deliver this judgment. Love is a paltry affair, the moment of possession once over that alone is real and ensures the perpetuity of the race; and yet we find that as man grows more civilised, the act of possession assumes ever less value in his eyes if there go not with it, if there do not precede, accompany, and follow it, the insignificant emotion built up of our thoughts and our feelings, of our sweetest and tenderest hours and years. Beauty, too, is a trivial matter: a beautiful spectacle, a beautiful face, or body, or gesture: a melodious voice, or noble statue–sunrise at sea, flowers in a garden, stars shining over the forest, the river by moonlight–or a lofty thought, an exquisite poem, an heroic sacrifice hidden in a profound and pitiful soul. We may admire these things for an instant; they may bring us a sense of completeness no other joy can convey; but at the same time there will steal over us a tinge of strange sorrow, unrest; nor will they give happiness to us, as men use the word, should other events have contrived to make us unhappy. They produce nothing the eye can measure, or weigh; nothing that others can see, or will envy; and yet, were a magician suddenly to appear, capable of depriving one of us of this sense of beauty that may chance to be in him, possessed of the power of extinguishing it for ever, with no trace remaining, no hope that it ever will spring into being again–would we not rather lose riches, tranquillity, health even, and many years of our life, than this strange faculty which none can espy, and we ourselves can scarcely define? Not less intangible, not less elusive, is the sweetness of tender friendship, of a dear recollection we cling to and reverence; and countless other thoughts and feelings, that traverse no mountain, dispel no cloud, that do not even dislodge a grain of sand by the roadside. But these are the things that build up what is best and happiest in us; they are we, ourselves; they are precisely what those who have them not should envy in those who have. The more we emerge from the animal, and approach what seems the surest ideal of our race, the more evident does it become that these things, trifling as they well may appear by the side of nature’s stupendous laws, do yet constitute our sole inheritance; and that, happen what may to the end of time, they are the hearth, the centre of light, to which mankind will draw ever more and more closely.