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That shall outlive my death.
To make of it the fragrance of my soul
Will not remember that I once did bloom,
The maidens that to-morrow come this way
Laden with fragrance of the days gone by.
And as my soul, so too their soul will be
That are to come.
Must even so make way for all the maids
The maidens, too, that sang me to my death
The shroud of my last dew.
The moon looks down and sees me in my shroud,
And I have drunk my last sweet draught of dew.
Qualities of Literature.
The first significant thing is the essentially artistic quality of all literature. All art is the expression of life in forms of truth and beauty; or rather, it is the reflection of some truth and beauty which are in the world, but which remain unnoticed until brought to our attention by some sensitive human soul, just as the delicate curves of the shell reflect sounds and harmonies too faint to be otherwise noticed. A hundred men may pass a hayfield and see only the sweaty toil and the windrows of dried grass; but here is one who pauses by a meadow, where girls are making hay and singing as they work. He looks deeper, sees truth and beauty where we see only dead grass, and he reflects what he sees in a little poem in which the hay tells its own story:
Yesterday's flowers am I,
Young maidens came and sang me to my death;
Yesterday's flowers that are yet in me
Must needs make way for all to-morrow's flowers.
My breath is sweet as children's prattle is;
I drank in all the whole earth's fruitfulness,
One who reads only that first exquisite line, "Yesterday's flowers am I," can never again see hay without recalling the beauty that was hidden from his eyes until the poet found it.
In the same pleasing, surprising way, all artistic work must be a kind of revelation. Thus architecture is probably the oldest of the arts; yet we still have many builders but few architects, that is, men whose work in wood or stone suggests some hidden truth and beauty to the human senses.
So in literature, which is the art that expresses life in words that appeal to our own sense of the beautiful, we have many writers but few artists. In the broadest sense, perhaps, literature means the written records of the race, including all its history and sciences, as well as its poems and novels; in the narrower sense literature is the artistic record of life, and most of our writing is excluded from it, just as the mass of our buildings, mere shelters from storm and from cold, are excluded from architecture.
A history or a work of science may be and sometimes is literature, but only as we forget the subject-matter and the presentation of facts in the simple beauty of its expression.
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