Chesterton on Romanticism and Realism

imsis750-197From “On Gargoyles,” the January 1909-penned introduction to Daylight and Nightmare, a collection of short pieces by G. K. Chesterton:

Realism is simply Romanticism that has lost its reason.  This is so not merely in the sense of insanity but of suicide.  It has lost its reason; that is its reason for existing.  The old Greeks summoned godlike things to worship their god.  The mediaeval Christians summoned all things to worship theirs, dwarfs and pelicans, monkeys and madmen.  The modern realists summon all these creatures to worship their god; and then have not god for them to worship.  Paganism was in art a pure beauty; that was the dawn.  Christianity was a beauty created by controlling a million monsters of ugliness; and that in my belief was the zenith and the noon.  Modern art and science practically mean having the million monsters and being unable to control them; and I will venture to call that the disruption and the decay.  The finest lengths of the Elgin marbles consist of splendid horses going to the temple of a virgin.  Christianity, with its gargoyles and grotesques, really amounted to saying this: that a donkey could go before all of the horses of the world when it was really going to the temple.  Romance means a holy donkey going to the temple.  Realism means a lost donkey going nowhere.

By the end of the introduction, the gargoyle also becomes a picture for Chesterton’s own work.  You can also find the introduction under the title “The Three Temples.”

(image from Getty Images via the Huffington Post)

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