A Prodigy of Parsimony
December 25, 2012 10:31 AM   Subscribe

I have known him profess himself a man-hater, while his cheek was glowing with compassion; and, while his looks were softened into pity, I have heard him use the language of the most unbounded ill-nature. Some affect humanity and tenderness, others boast of having such dispositions from nature; but he is the only man I ever knew who seemed ashamed of his natural benevolence.
From "The Man in Black," by Oliver Goldsmith, author of She Stoops to Conquer and The Vicar of Wakefield.
posted by Iridic (2 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Johnny Cash, Time Lord.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The ending of the piece, where [MILD SPOILER] the man in black finds his pockets devoid of money, put me in mind of the ending of a short story by Kenneth Grahame, wherein the narrator (a small child) has spent the afternoon in the company of an elderly clergyman (who seems not to notice that the child is not quite the Greek scholar he is). With thanks to gutenberg.org and HathiTrust, and apologies for my Greek transliteration:

To us at parley in an arbour over the high road, there entered, slouching into view, a dingy tramp, satellited by a frowsy woman and a pariah dog; and, catching sight of us, he set up his professional whine; and I looked at my friend with the heartiest compassion, for I knew well from Martha—it was common talk—that at this time of day he was certainly and surely penniless. Morn by morn he started forth with pockets lined; and each returning evening found him with never a sou. All this he proceeded to explain at length to the tramp, courteously and even shamefacedly, as one who was in the wrong; and at last the gentleman of the road, realising the hopelessness of his case, set to and cursed him with gusto, vocabulary, and abandonment. He reviled his eyes, his features, his limbs, his profession, his relatives and surroundings; and then slouched off, still oozing malice and filth. We watched the party to a turn in the road, where the woman, plainly weary, came to a stop. Her lord, after some conventional expletives demanded of him by his position, relieved her of her bundle, and caused her to hang on his arm with a certain rough kindness of tone, and in action even a dim approach to tenderness; and the dingy dog crept up for one lick at her hand.

"See," said my friend, bearing somewhat on my shoulder, "how this strange thing, this love of ours, lives and shines out in the unlikeliest of places! You have been in the fields in early morning? Barren acres, all! But only stoop—catch the light thwartwise—and all is a silver network of gossamer! So the fairy filaments of this strange thing underrun and link together the whole world. Yet it is not the old imperious god of the fatal bow -- eros anikate maxan -- not that -- nor even the placid respectable storge -- but something still unnamed, perhaps more mysterious, more divine! Only one must stoop to see it, old fellow, one must stoop!"

posted by uosuaq at 11:47 AM on December 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

« Older Prometheus Redux   |   Hey everybody, let's bob rhythmically! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments