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The Pleasures of Ignorance   By: (1879-1949)

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First Page:

THE PLEASURES OF IGNORANCE

BY ROBERT LYND

LONDON

GRANT RICHARDS LTD.

ST MARTIN'S STREET

1921

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED

EDINBURGH

TO JAMES WINDER GOOD

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE PLEASURES OF IGNORANCE 11

II. THE HERRING FLEET 19

III. THE BETTING MAN 29

IV. THE HUM OF INSECTS 40

V. CATS 51

VI. MAY 61

VII. NEW YEAR PROPHECIES 70

VIII. ON KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE 82

IX. THE INTELLECTUAL SIDE OF HORSE RACING 91

X. WHY WE HATE INSECTS 102

XI. VIRTUE 114

XII. JUNE 123

XIII. ON FEELING GAY 132

XIV. IN THE TRAIN 141

XV. THE MOST CURIOUS ANIMAL 149

XVI. THE OLD INDIFFERENCE 158

XVII. EGGS: AN EASTER HOMILY 167

XVIII. ENTER THE SPRING 176

XIX. THE DAREDEVIL BARBER 186

XX. WEEDS: AN APPRECIATION 195

XXI. A JUROR IN WAITING 205

XXII. THE THREE HALFPENNY BIT 215

XXIII. THE MORALS OF BEANS 224

XXIV. ON SEEING A JOKE 233

XXV. GOING TO THE DERBY 243

XXVI. THIS BLASTED WORLD 253

Acknowledgments are due to "The New Statesman," in which all but one of these essays appeared. "Going to the Derby" appeared in "The Daily News." R.L.

I

THE PLEASURES OF IGNORANCE

It is impossible to take a walk in the country with an average townsman especially, perhaps, in April or May without being amazed at the vast continent of his ignorance. It is impossible to take a walk in the country oneself without being amazed at the vast continent of one's own ignorance. Thousands of men and women live and die without knowing the difference between a beech and an elm, between the song of a thrush and the song of a blackbird. Probably in a modern city the man who can distinguish between a thrush's and a blackbird's song is the exception. It is not that we have not seen the birds. It is simply that we have not noticed them. We have been surrounded by birds all our lives, yet so feeble is our observation that many of us could not tell whether or not the chaffinch sings, or the colour of the cuckoo. We argue like small boys as to whether the cuckoo always sings as he flies or sometimes in the branches of a tree whether Chapman drew on his fancy or his knowledge of nature in the lines:

When in the oak's green arms the cuckoo sings, And first delights men in the lovely springs.

This ignorance, however, is not altogether miserable. Out of it we get the constant pleasure of discovery. Every fact of nature comes to us each spring, if only we are sufficiently ignorant, with the dew still on it. If we have lived half a lifetime without having ever even seen a cuckoo, and know it only as a wandering voice, we are all the more delighted at the spectacle of its runaway flight as it hurries from wood to wood conscious of its crimes, and at the way in which it halts hawk like in the wind, its long tail quivering, before it dares descend on a hill side of fir trees where avenging presences may lurk. It would be absurd to pretend that the naturalist does not also find pleasure in observing the life of the birds, but his is a steady pleasure, almost a sober and plodding occupation, compared to the morning enthusiasm of the man who sees a cuckoo for the first time, and, behold, the world is made new.

And, as to that, the happiness even of the naturalist depends in some measure upon his ignorance, which still leaves him new worlds of this kind to conquer... Continue reading book >>




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