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The Centaur   By: (1869-1951)

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THE CENTAUR

ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

1911

I

"We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all."

WILLIAM JAMES, A Pluralistic Universe

"... A man's vision is the great fact about him. Who cares for Carlyle's reasons, or Schopenhauer's, or Spencer's? A philosophy is the expression of a man's intimate character, and all definitions of the Universe are but the deliberately adopted reactions of human characters upon it."

Ibid

"There are certain persons who, independently of sex or comeliness, arouse an instant curiosity concerning themselves. The tribe is small, but its members unmistakable. They may possess neither fortune, good looks, nor that adroitness of advance vision which the stupid name good luck; yet there is about them this inciting quality which proclaims that they have overtaken Fate, set a harness about its neck of violence, and hold bit and bridle in steady hands.

"Most of us, arrested a moment by their presence to snatch the definition their peculiarity exacts, are aware that on the heels of curiosity follows envy. They know the very things that we forever seek in vain. And this diagnosis, achieved as it were en passant , comes near to the truth, for the hallmark of such persons is that they have found, and come into, their own. There is a sign upon the face and in the eyes. Having somehow discovered the 'piece' that makes them free of the whole amazing puzzle, they know where they belong and, therefore, whither they are bound: more, they are definitely en route . The littlenesses of existence that plague the majority pass them by.

"For this reason, if for no other," continued O'Malley, "I count my experience with that man as memorable beyond ordinary. 'If for no other,' because from the very beginning there was another. Indeed, it was probably his air of unusual bigness, massiveness rather, head, face, eyes, shoulders, especially back and shoulders, that struck me first when I caught sight of him lounging there hugely upon my steamer deck at Marseilles, winning my instant attention before he turned and the expression on his great face woke more woke curiosity, interest, envy. He wore this very look of certainty that knows, yet with a tinge of mild surprise as though he had only recently known. It was less than perplexity. A faint astonishment as of a happy child almost of an animal shone in the large brown eyes "

"You mean that the physical quality caught you first, then the psychical?" I asked, keeping him to the point, for his Irish imagination was ever apt to race away at a tangent.

He laughed good naturedly, acknowledging the check. "I believe that to be the truth," he replied, his face instantly grave again. "It was the impression of uncommon bulk that heated my intuition blessed if I know how leading me to the other. The size of his body did not smother, as so often is the case with big people: rather, it revealed. At the moment I could conceive no possible connection, of course. Only this overwhelming attraction of the man's personality caught me and I longed to make friends. That's the way with me, as you know," he added, tossing the hair back from his forehead impatiently," pretty often. First impressions. Old man, I tell you, it was like a possession."

"I believe you," I said. For Terence O'Malley all his life had never understood half measures.

II

"The friendly and flowing savage, who is he? Is he waiting for civilization, or is he past it, and mastering it?"

WHITMAN

"We find ourselves today in the midst of a somewhat peculiar state of society, which we call Civilization, but which even to the most optimistic among us does not seem altogether desirable. Some of us, indeed, are inclined to think that it is a kind of disease which the various races of man have to pass through... Continue reading book >>




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