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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Mist at Newport
By George William Curtis (1824–1892)
 
From ‘Lotus Eating’

I RODE one afternoon with Undine along the southern shore of the Island, by the lonely graves of which I have spoken. We could see only a few feet over the water, but the ocean constantly plunged sullenly out of the heavy fog, which was full of hoarse roars and wailings,—the chaotic sound of the sea. We took the homeward path through the solitary fields, just unfamiliar enough to excite us with a vague sense of going astray. At times, gleams of sunlight, bewildered like ourselves, struggled, surprised, through the mist and disappeared. But strange and beautiful were those estrays; and I well understand why Turner studied vapors so long and carefully.  1
  Two grander figures are not in contemporary biography than that of Coleridge, in Carlyle’s ‘Sterling,’ looking out from Highgate over the mingled smoke and vapor which buries London, as in lava Pompeii is buried; and that of Turner, in some anonymous but accurate sketches of his latter days, at his cottage on the edge of London, where, apart from his fame and under a feigned name, he sat by day and night upon the housetop, watching the sun glorify the vapors and the smoke with the same splendor that he lavishes upon the evening west, and which we deemed the special privilege of the sky. Those two men, greatest in their kind among their companions, illustrate with happy force what Wordsworth sang:—
  “In common things that round us lie,
  Some random truths he can impart,—
The harvest of a quiet eye
  That broods and sleeps on his own heart.”
  2
  Gazing from his Highgate window with “large gray eye,” did Coleridge see more than the image of his own mind and his own career, in that limitless city, wide-sparkling, many-turreted, fading and mingling in shining mist,—with strange voices calling from its clouds,—the solemn peal of cathedral chimes and the low voice of the vesper bell; and out of that London fog with its irresistible splendors, and out of the holy vapors which float serene amid the Alps, has Turner quarried his colossal fame. There is no grander lesson in any history of any art than the spectacle of the greatest painter of our time, sitting upon his house-top, and from the mist which to others was but a clog and inconvenience, and associated in all men’s minds only with link-boys and lanterns, plucking the heart of its mystery and making it worshiped and remembered.  3
 
 
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