I came to love you too late, Oh Beauty, so ancient and so new. Yes, I came to love you too late. What did I know? You were inside me, and I was out of my body and mind, looking for you. I drove like an ugly madman against the beautiful things andbeings you made. You were in fact inside me, but I was not inside you. Those same things kept me at some distance from you, even though those things, had they not been inside you, would not have existed at all. You called to me and cried to me; you broke the bowl of my deafness; you uncovered your beams, and threw them at me; you rejected my blindness; you blew afragrant wind on me, and I sucked in my breath and wanted you; I tasted you and now I want you as I want food and water; you touched me, and I have been burning ever since to have your peace.
Where is my dwelling place? Where I can never stand.
Where is my final goal, toward which I should ascend?
It is beyound all place. What should my quest then be?
I must, transcending God, into the desert flee.
You who celebrate bygones!
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races—the life that has exhibited itself;
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests;
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself, in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself;)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.
My terminus near,
The clouds already closing in upon me,
The voyage balk’d—the course disputed, lost,
I yield my ships to Thee.
Steersman unseen! henceforth the helms are Thine;
Take Thou command—(what to my petty skill Thy navigation?)
My hands, my limbs grow nerveless;
My brain feels rack’d, bewilder’d; Let the old timbers part—I will not part!
I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me;
Thee, Thee, at least, I know.
Is it the prophet’s thought I speak, or am I raving?
What do I know of life? what of myself?
I know not even my own work, past or present;
Dim, ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
Of newer, better worlds, their mighty parturition,
Mocking, perplexing me.
And these things I see suddenly—what mean they?
As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal’d my eyes,
Shadowy, vast shapes, smile through the air and sky,
And on the distant waves sail countless ships,
And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.
It sheds a shy solemnity,
This lamp in our poor room.
O grey and gold amenity, —
Silence and gentle gloom!
Wide from the world, a stolen hour
We claim, and none may know
How love blooms like a tardy flower
Here in the day’s after-glow.
And even should the world break in
With jealous threat and guile,
The world, at last, must bow and win
Our pity and a smile.
But enough poetry! I shed tears; well, then, let me cry. Maybe everyone will laugh at this foolishness, but you won’t. Your eyes are shining, too. Enough poetry. I want to tell you now about the ‘insects,’ about those to whom God gave sensuality:
I am that very insect, brother, and those words are precisely about me. And all of us Karamazovs are like that, and in you, an angel, the same insect lives and stirs up storms in your blood. Storms, because sensuality is a storm, more than a storm! Beauty is a fearful and terrible thing! Fearful because it’s undefinable, and it cannot be defined, because here God gave us only riddles. Here the shores converge, here all contradictions live together. I’m a very uneducated man, brother, but I’ve thought about it a lot. So terribly many mysteries! Too many riddles oppress man on earth. Solve them if you can without getting your feet wet. Beauty! Besides, I can’t bear it that some man, even with a lofty heart and the highest mind, should start from the ideal of the Madonna and end with the ideal of Sodom. It’s even more fearful when someone who already has the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not deny the ideal of the Madonna either, and his heart burns with it, verily, verily burns, as in his young, blameless years. No, man is broad, even too broad, I would narrow him down. Devil knows even what to make of him, that’s the thing! What’s shame for the mind is beauty all over for the heart. Can there be beauty in Sodom? Believe me, for the vast majority of people, that’s just where beauty lies—did you know that secret? The terrible thing is that beauty is not only fearful but also mysterious. Here the devil is struggling with God, and the battlefield is the human heart. But, anyway, why kick against the pricks? Listen, now to real business.
The Brothers Karamazov