The Renascence of Wonder
George H. Morrison
There died not long ago in London a gentleman of whom the public knew but little, but who exercised no inconsiderable influence upon the literature of our time. Mr. Watts Dunton1 was a poet, and as a poet he sought to be remembered. He was a novelist, one of whose novels were very widely read, and are read still. And he had such delicate and loving insight into all that is true and good in literature that Rossetti2 thought him the first critic of all time. Whether his poems will live or not is questionable, but there is one phrase he coined which certainly will live. It was he who gave us the now familiar phrase the renascence of wonder. His death has constrained some of us to meditate again on the rebirth of wonder.
One of the hopeful features of the present day-and we ought to note it amid much that is discouraging-one of the hopeful features of the present day is just that wonder is coming to its own again. Some of us here tonight are old enough to remember a time when it was different. As with Mr. Gradgrind in Hard Times,3 the motto of thirty years ago was, "Never wonder." And it would be a very interesting study, though one scarcely congenial to the pulpit, to trace the causes in science and society of that hard, unwondering, temper. It is enough to say, with profound gratitude, that that temper is disappearing now. Silently-almost imperceptibly-there has come a renascence of the sense of wonder. Men are awakening to the mystery of things, to the reality of the unknowable; to the fact that there are great and vital truths which it is quite beyond our power to prove.
Of course there is a wonder born of ignorance which must inevitably pass away. It is what Crabbe calls in his grim poem "the rustic wonder of the village boy."4 You show a savage a Geneva watch, and in his eyes it is a miracle. He will call the village in intense excitement to share in the wonder of his ignorance. And naturally, as ...
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