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The Drama of Love and Death Edward Carpenter

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The Drama of Love and Death

by Edward Carpenter

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And so we seem to find—in the farthest and loftiest reaches of life, as in its first beginnings—Love and Death strangely linked and strangely related. Changing their form but not their essence they accompany us to the last; and we forebode them, in the final account, as no longer the tyrannous and often terrible over-lords of our mortal days, but rather our most indispensable companions without whom life in its higher ranges could not well be maintained.

For a time, certainly, we cling to our limited and tiny self-life and consciousness; and deem that all good resides in the careful guarding of the same. But again there comes a time when the bounds of personality confine and chafe beyond endurance, when an immense rage sweeps us far out into the great ocean; when to save our lives we deliberately lose them; when Death becomes a passion even as Love is.

The mystery of mortal life clears, or dissolves away, by our passing in a sense beyond personality; and the hour arrives when we look down on these local days, these self-limitations, as 285 phases—phases of some far vaster state of being. Death is the necessary door by which we pass from one such phase to another; and Love is even a similar door.

Growing silently within there emerges at last something which has its home in the great spaces, which dives under and through Death, and is the companion of Titanic and Cosmic beings; something strangely surpassing all barriers and limits, and strangely finding identity by fusing and losing it in the life of others; something which at times seems almost mockingly to abandon its own identity and rise creative in new forms—sporting in the great ocean; and yet can somehow instantly recall its past and the tiny limits from which it first sprang—trailing forever with it the wonderful cloud-wreaths of earth-memory and association, and the myriad fragrance of personal remembrance. “What are thou then?? says the poet, addressing his departed friend:—

“What art thou then?—I cannot guess;

  But tho’ I seem in star and flower

  To feel thee some diffusive power

I do not therefore love thee less.?

Even in the farthest spheres the poignant syllables ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ will surely still be heard; and a thousand deaths shall not avail to exhaust their meaning or to make of Love a pale and cold abstraction.

The memory of the earth-life and of personal 286 identity is never lost; but it passes out into that far greater form, the memory and resumption into a coherent Whole of many lives, and the sense of an Individuality which has value because it is merged in and is an expression of the All. Memory indeed changes from being the faint dream-shadow that we know, of things in the past, to being the things themselves, actual and ever present at our command; and with this finding of the inner soul and heart’s core of all beings it becomes possible to live over again with them the days gone by, in all detail and with ever deeper understanding of their true meaning.

The supra-liminal returns into harmony with the subliminal; the individual life and the mass-life are reunited. With the overpassing of the local and terrestrial self we are liberated into a fluid region where a thousand personalities yield their secrets and their co-operation into our hands. With the releasing of our attention from personal objects and terrestrial gains, materials and people correspondingly cease to obstruct. They find nothing which they can obstruct! The body moves freely about the world; life ceases to be the ‘obstacle race’ and the queer perpetual vista of barricades which it mostly now is; and a fortiori the soul moves freely, because truly for the redeemed soul it is possible to feel that all things and creatures are friendly, all beings a part of itself. These and many other such realizations are indeed possible now—even in our present terrestrial state—under those rare conditions when 287 the divine creature which is within the mortal body achieves a momentary deliverance, and under which we sometimes pass out of our little mundane dream into that other land where the great Voices sound and Visions dwell.

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