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The Intellectual Ecstasy

            “Hinc Stygias ebrius hausit aquas”
                        DIOGENES LAERTIUS


            OF Epicurus it is told
            That growing weak and faint and cold,
            And falling towards that frigid state
            By doctors held as desperate,
            He drowned his senses in a flood
            Of th’ ancient vine’s ebullient blood,
            Ingurgitating draughts of fire
            To lull his fear and his desire.


            But was he sober when he died?—
            Whereto an epigram replied:
            “He was too drunk to taste or care
            How bitter Stygian waters were;
            Blest was he therefore.” Can we draw
            A sweetness from this cynic saw,
            Or of this mithridate distil
            An antidote for life’s long ill?


            Perchance: since, as we linger thus,
            ’Twixt dawn and dark swung pendulous,
            Supported through our irksome state
            By fond illusions of past date,
            The mind within itself retires,
            And there inspects its dead desires—
            A soothsayer, revolving thrice
            Around the ambiguous sacrifice.


            In vain we toil to waken flame
            Where once without a breath it came;
            In vain old auguries invoke
            Of swarming bees and stricken oak;

                                        The Venture

            The spirit feels no secret stir
            O’ the exquisite remembrancer,
            And into depths, unsealed in vain,
            Drop hollow-sounding tears like rain.


            But still, in philosophic sense,
            A purple cluster glows intense,
            And from an intellectual vine
            Rich madness gushes, half divine;
            Droops the dull vein in chill eclipse?
            A heavenly beaker slakes our lips,
            And cups of thrilling freshness lend
            Fantastic aid as we descend.


            So, drunk with knowledge, only fed
            With rapture from the fountain-head,
            Until the bells of God shall call
            The flush’d, insatiate bacchanal,
            Let her go smiling toward her rest
            On tottering footsteps, faintly blest,
            And, in that fair delirium dight,
            Walk down to darkness in great light.

                                                             EDMUND GOSSE

MLA citation:

Gosse, Edmund. “The Intellectual Ecstasy.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 2, 1905, pp. 1-2. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2022. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Toronto Metropolitan University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2022,