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Touch is seldom well managed by his master, as is shown by his exceptional excellence in exceptional cases : and as to Taste, I scarce dare venture to mention him in days when Bruce is in the ascendant. Still, Sir Toby's immortal question will find its reply. Perhaps Smell is worse treated than any of his brothers—a thing not remarkable in days of infinite and innumerable stenches. In half a minute, in the Strand, you may walk past a pickle-shop, a cook-shop, and a scent-shop: the blended odours of the three are sufficient to demoralize ordinary noses, even as the Bonapartist army was demoralized. But Soul seldom educates Smell ... which is curious, when his dogs might teach him better. A dog-ay, or even a bee-knows a gentleman from a cad by his odour. Men seldom know honeysuckle from beans, and are quite unaware that in the hyacinth and the onion you strike the same note of perfume, with just an octave between.
However, not to be too digressive and desultory, it just comes to this. The five Senses are not over well treated; they like amusement: they want the sympathy and direction of their master, who indeed can do very little without them. For although in his mansion he has noble windows of fancy on the first floor, and sometimes a right regal outview of imagination from a tower that overlooks the world, even these are valueless unless his serfs clean the windows, and so give him cognizance of all which surrounds him. When left to their own devices, when unshown the work they have to do, they take the common advantage of their master's periodical absence—and there is High Life Below Stairs. The man who in his dreams sees monsters, hears owls hoot, tastes salts and senna, smells asafetida, touches corpselike palms, is punished because the soul has never subjugated the senses.
Hence my aphorism : if you want sweet, , you have to
sound, sufficing sleep, let the soul be paramount. Let no sense either shirk its duty or do more than its duty. Keep always alive to all influences, yet be greater than them all. Have you not seen one man the slave of music, another of pictures, another of his dinner ... &c.? Verily it is almost worse to be the slave of your own senses than of an alien master. If stand behind a counter for coin you are to be pitied: but if, with no necessity forcing, you put yourself under the thumb of some one of your senses, and allow Sight or Taste, or any other of the five, to govern Soul, you deserve to be kicked And kicked
will be, certes.
Be the master. Make every sense do its work, and do it thoroughly. Miss not enjoyment of a rare sunset, a chorus of nightingales, a hedge of Portugal laurel, a splash in the sea, a bottle of good claret perfected with asperula odorata.
But always let these things, and such as these, be secondary. The primary power lies in idea. Thought makes us godlike, sense earthlike. The man who has once thought a great thought might be content if his existence were at once cut short: it is felicitous that existence is, on the other hand, lengthened for the men who think. But I am not just now sanguine of a crowded
Yes, we await it, but it still delays,
Who most has suffered, takes dejectedly
Lays bare of wretched days;
And how the dying spark of hope was fed,
The reference here, I assume, is to the In Memoriam of Tennyson—a work which certainly appears to me by no means as healthy as the grief of a great poet ought to be. The whole passage in The Scholar Gipsy is worth study as showing the evil influence of diseased