— Diane Setterfield , The Thirteenth Tale
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
— Amos Oz
My 'morals' were sound, even a bit puritanic, but when a hidebound old deacon inveighed against dancing I rebelled. By the time of graduation I was still a 'believer' in orthodox religion, but had strong questions which were encouraged at Harvard. In Germany I became a freethinker and when I came to teach at an orthodox Methodist Negro school I was soon regarded with suspicion, especially when I refused to lead the students in public prayer. When I became head of a department at Atlanta, the engagement was held up because again I balked at leading in prayer. I refused to teach Sunday school. When Archdeacon Henry Phillips, my last rector, died, I flatly refused again to join any church or sign any church creed. From my 30th year on I have increasingly regarded the church as an institution which defended such evils as slavery, color caste, exploitation of labor and war..
Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
But let me tell you this: sometimes at night, when I look up at the stars, an see the whole sky jus laid out there, don't you think I ain't rememberin it all. I still got dreams like anybody else, an ever so often, I am thinkin about how things might of been. An then, all of a sudden, I'm forty, fifty, sixty years ole, you know?
Well, so what? I may be a idiot, but most of the time, anyway, I tried to do the right thing-- an dreams is jus dreams, ain't they? So whatever else has happened, I am figgerin this: I can always look back an say, at least I ain't led no hum-drum life.
You know what I mean?
I have loved in life and I have been loved.
I have drunk the bowl of poison from the hands of love as nectar,
and have been raised above life's joy and sorrow.
My heart, aflame in love, set afire every heart that came in touch with it.
My heart has been rent and joined again;
My heart has been broken and again made whole;
My heart has been wounded and healed again;
A thousand deaths my heart has died, and thanks be to love, it lives yet.
I went through hell and saw there love's raging fire,
and I entered heaven illumined with the light of love.
I wept in love and made all weep with me;
I mourned in love and pierced the hearts of men;
And when my fiery glance fell on the rocks, the rocks burst forth as volcanoes.
The whole world sank in the flood caused by my one tear;
With my deep sigh the earth trembled, and when I cried aloud the name of my beloved,
I shook the throne of God in heaven.
I bowed my head low in humility, and on my knees I begged of love,
"Disclose to me, I pray thee, O love, thy secret."
She took me gently by my arms and lifted me above the earth, and spoke softly in my ear,
"My dear one, thou thyself art love, art lover,
and thyself art the beloved whom thou hast adored.