26 September 2013

Mental Mountaineering

Richard Le Gallienne, How to Get the Best Out of Books (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1904), pp. 6-7:
Some of the books that give us the finest pleasure need the closest application for their enjoyment. There is always a certain spiritual and mental effort necessary to be made before we tackle the great books. One might compare it to the effort of getting up to see the sun rise. It is no little of a tug to leave one's warm bed, — but once we are out in the crystalline morning air, wasn't it worth it? Perhaps our finest pleasures always demand some such austerity of preparation. That is the secret of the truest epicureanism. Books like Dante's "Divine Comedy," or Plato's dialogues, will not give themselves to a lounging reader. They demand a braced, attentive spirit. But when the first effort has been made, how exhilarating are the altitudes in which we find ourselves, what a glow of pure joy is the reward which we are almost sure to win by our mental mountaineering.
Lawren Harris, Mount Thule, Bylot Island  (1930)