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THE KING'S MESSENGER.
J- SHOULD like to say at once that the simile is not -*- to be pressed too far. What simile indeed is there that will bear, as logicians phrase it, "to go on allfours"? We could scarcely expect the poor Beast himself, to do that, at least not in the presence of Beauty. It is sufficient for my purpose that in its simple outline the story of " Beauty and the Beast" is the story that I have to tell; the story of one who, although the son of a king, and dwelling in a palace of more than regal splendour, yet lies there prone and debased, the only graceless thing amidst all manifestations of loveliness, until a form of infinite beauty stands before him, bends over him, stoops as Diana stooped to kiss Endymion, and with a touch awakens him to life and to the rich inheritance of his birthright. This is the story of "Beauty and the Beast." This is the story of the King's Messenger. This is the story of the influence of Poetry and Art upon our lives.
Now the word "Beast" is an ugly word, and I do not intend to fling it at any man's head, any more than I would accept it myself. But thinking of the many faces that may bend over these pages, faces radiant with intelligence and culture, I dare to ask, is it not true that for us there might have been—that for many of our race there still is—a darkness as black and terrible as was that of the king's son in the legend? That just as it was with the Beast, who would have remained a Beast for ever had not Beauty stooped down and kissed him, so it has been with us—a presence has stood before us, has bent over us; and lifting our eyes to her face we have seen that she is none other than the King's Messenger?
And here let me say that there shall be no mystery as to my meaning, nor doubt as to my purpose. My meaning is that the Ethics of ^Esthetics are Divine; that Art is not a plaything, but an influence upon our lives, real and distinct; and my purpose is to show that this influence is altogether for our good.
I know, indeed, that the King has many messengers, and, in speaking of Beauty as the King's Messenger, I do not forget those other who have told us of Virtue or of Truth. Have we not all of us found that we are surrounded by influences, not of good only, but of evil also; and that we have to choose between them; and having chosen, to make a bold stand for that which is right, on the faith of the Divine Precepts being messages from the great King? Have we not also found that knowledge is not ours by inheritance? It comes to us in the form of message after message, which we must learn patiently and master thoroughly. These messages we may call Science or Philosophy, but they also come from the same King, and we must again choose between obedience and a bright intelligence, or neglect with a darkened mind.
So there are other messengers, as Beauty had other sisters; and if I do not speak of them it is because they do not come within my subject, and not that they are lightly esteemed by me. To say that Art is a great and living influence for good is not to exalt it above Science or Theology. It is enough for me to deliver the one message with which I am charged, the Message of Art, believing it to be from the King, to His children, and about the Beautiful.
And not only are there many messengers, but each messenger has many things to tell us; in other words, Beauty comes to us in many different forms. Homer was blind, so Beauty must have stood beside him and whispered in his ear; but now, after three thousand years, her whispers have not ceased to echo through the world. Phidias must have seen her face to face, and until marble crumbles into dust we shall know something of the vision he beheld. Her footsteps