What seems to me the highest achievement of art (and the most difficult) is not to make you laugh, or to make you cry, nor to arouse your lust or excite your anger, but to operate like nature – which is to make you dream. Thus all the most beautiful works present this character; their outlook is serene and incomprehensible; as to their method: they are immobile like cliffs, turbulent like the ocean, full of deep, green, murmuring foliages like a forest, sad as the desert, blue as the sky. Homer, Rabelais, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Goethe all seem ruthless to me. They are unfathomable, infinite, many sided. They afford sudden glimpses into abysses – deep down it is dark and vertiginous, and yet a strange sweetness bathes it all! It has the brilliance of light, the smile of the sun, and it is calm! so calm! and powerful like a huge and majestic ox.


Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own. They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, comic, or merely piquant. Literature gives the entrée to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense, but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me … Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee, more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog. In reading good literature, I become a thousand men, and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and I am never more myself than when I do.

C. S. Lewis

Ahh, the beauty of the written word, done well!
There is truly no frigate like a book, as how Emily Dickinson puts it.

So…… read any good literature lately, dear readers? 🙂


2 thoughts on “Friday Feature: On Reading Good Literature

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