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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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Table Of Contents: The Ruling Passion

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There was also a little morocco-bound book of manuscript notes. This I begged permission to carry away with me, hoping to find in it something which would throw light upon my picture, perhaps even some message to be carried, some hint or suggestion of something which the writer would fain have had done for him, and which I promised myself faithfully to perform, as a test of an imagined friendship-- imagined not in the future, but in the impossible past.

I read the book in this spirit, searching its pages carefully, through the long afternoon, in the solitary cabin of my boat. There was nothing at first but an ordinary diary; a record of the work and self-denials of a poor student of art. Then came the date of his first visit to Larmone, and an expression of the pleasure of being with his own people again after a lonely life, and some chronicle of his occupations there, studies for pictures, and idle days that were summed up in a phrase: "On the bay," or "In the woods."

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After this the regular succession of dates was broken, and there followed a few scraps of verse, irregular and unfinished, bound together by the thread of a name--"Claire among her Roses," "A Ride through the Pines with Claire," "An Old Song of Claire's" "The Blue Flower in Claire's Eyes." It was not poetry, but such an unconscious tribute to the power and beauty of poetry as unfolds itself almost inevitably from youthful love, as naturally as the blossoms unfold from the apple trees in May. If you pick them they are worthless. They charm only in their own time and place.

A date told of his change from Larmone to the village, and this was written below it: "Too heavy a sense of obligation destroys freedom, and only a free man can dare to love."

Then came a number of fragments indicating trouble of mind and hesitation; the sensitiveness of the artist, the delicate, self- tormenting scruples of the lonely idealist, the morbid pride of the young poor man, contending with an impetuous passion and forcing it to surrender, or at least to compromise.

"What right has a man to demand everything and offer nothing in return except an ambition and a hope? Love must come as a giver, not as a beggar."

"A knight should not ask to wear his lady's colours until he has won his spurs."

"King Cophetua and the beggar-maid--very fine! but the other way-- humiliating!"

"A woman may take everything from a man, wealth and fame and position. But there is only one thing that a man may accept from a woman--something that she alone can give--happiness."

"Self-respect is less than love, but it is the trellis that holds love up from the ground; break it down, and all the flowers are in the dust, the fruit is spoiled."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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