Emma Goldman's Tribute to Voltarine de Clyre
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on several occasions, she was arrested and tried on others, but never convicted. On the whole, her activities went on comparatively smoothly and undisturbed. Her struggles were of psychologic nature, her bitter disappointments having their roots in her own strange being. To understand the tragedy of her life, one must try to trace its inherent causes.
Voltairine herself has given us the key to her nature and inner conflicts. In several of her essays and, specifically, in her autobiographical sketches. In THE MAKING OF AN ANARCHIST we learn, for instance, that if she were to attempt to explain her Anarchism by the ancestral vein of rebellion, she would be, even though at bottom of convictions are temperamental, “a bewildering error in my logic; for, by early influences and education I should have been a nun, and spent my life glorifying Authority in its most concentrated form.”
There is no doubt that the years in the Convent had not only undermined her physique but had also lasting effect upon her spirit; they killed the mainsprings of joy and gaiety in her. Yet there must have been an inherent tendency to asceticism, because even four years in the living tomb could not have laid such a crushing hand upon her entire life. Her whole nature was that of an ascetic. Her approach to life and ideals was that of the old-time saints who flagellated herself, as if in penance for our Social Sins; her poor body was covered with ungainly clothes and she denied herself even the simplest joys, not only because of lack of means, but because to do otherwise would have been against her principles.
Every social and ethical movement had had its ascetics, of course, the difference between them and Voltairine was that they worshipped no other gods and had no need of any, excepting their particular ideal. Not so Voltairine. With all her devotion to her social ideals, she had another god--- the god of Beauty. Her life was a ceaseless struggle between the two; as ascetic determinedly stifling her longing for beauty, but the poet in her was determinedly yearning for it,