Emma Goldman's Tribute to Voltarine de Clyre
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worshipping it in utter abandonment, only to be dragged back by the ascetic to the other deity, her social ideal, her devotion to humanity. It was not given to Voltairine to combine them both; hence the inner lacerating struggle.
Nature has been very generous towards Voltairine, endowing her with a singularly brilliant mind, with a rich and sensitive soul. But physical beauty and feminine attraction were withheld from her, their lack made more apparent by ill-health and her abhorrence of artifice. No one felt this more poignantly that she did herself. Anguish over her lack of physical charm speak in her hauntingly autobiographical sketch, THE REWARD OF AN APOSTATE:
“. . . Oh, that my god will none of me ! That is in old sorrow ! My god was Beauty, and I am all unbeautiful, and ever was, There is no grace in there harsh limbs if mine, nor was at any time. I, to whom the glory of a lit eye was as the shining of stars in a deep well, have only dull and faded eyes, and always had, the chiselled lip and chin wherever runs the radiance of life in bubbling gleams, the cup of living wine was never mine to taste or kiss. I am earth-colored and for my own ugliness sit in the shadows, that the sunlight may not see me, not the beloved of my god. But, once, in my sudden corner, behind a curtain of shadows, I blinked at the glory of the world, and such joy of it as only the ugly know, sitting silent and worshipping. forgetting themselves and forgotten. Here in my brain it glowed, the shimmering of the dying sun upon the shore, the long world line between the sand and sea, where the sliding foam caught fire and burned to death . . .
Here in my brain, my silent unrevealing brain, were the eyes I loved, the lips I dared not kiss, the sculptured head and tendrilled hair. They were here always in my wonder-house, my house of Beauty. The temple of m god. I shut the door on common life and worshipped here. And no bright, living, flying thing in whose body beauty dwells as guest can guess the ecstatic joy of a brown, silent creature, a toad-thing, squatting on the shadowed ground, self-blotted, motionless, thrilling with the presence of All-Beauty, though it has no part therein.”
This is complemented by a description of her other god, the god of physical strength, the maker and breaker of things, the re-moulder of the world. Now she followed him and would have to run abreast because she loved him so. ---
“not with that still ecstasy of plodding joy wherewith my own god filled me of old, but with impetuous, eager fired, that burned and beat through all the blood-threads of me. ‘I love you, love me back’, I cried, and would have flung myself upon his neck. Then he turned on me with a ruthless blow, and fled away over the world, leaving me crippled, stricken, powerless, a fierce pain driving through my veins --- gusts of pain! --- and I crept back into my own cavern,