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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos


"Terrible: watch his feats in proof! One hurricane will spoil six good months' hope, He hath a spite against me, that I know, Just as He favors Prospero; who knows why? So it is all the same as well I find. . . . So much for spite."

There is no after-life.

"He doth His worst in this our life, Giving just respite lest we die through pain, Saving last pain for worst--with which, an end. Meanwhile, the best way to escape His ire Is, not to seem too happy."

Poor Caliban, not to have known that in the summer of man's joy our God grows glad! All he hopes is,

"Since evils sometimes mend, Warts rub away and sores are cured with slime, That some strange day, will either the Quiet catch And conquer Setebos, or likelier he Decrepit may doze, doze, as good as die."

This is tragic as few tragedies know how to be. Setebos is mean, revengeful, fitful, spiteful, everything but good and noble; and his votary will live to hope that he will either be conquered by a mightier or will slumber forever!

So Caliban creates a god, a cosmogony, a theology; gets no thought of goodness from God or for himself; gets no sign of reformation in character; rises not a cubit above the ground where he constructs his monologue; puts into God only what is

in Caliban; has no faint hint of love toward him from God, or from him toward God, when suddenly

"A curtain o'er the world at once! Crickets stop hissing; not a bird--or, yes, There scuds His raven that has told Him all! It was fool's play, this prattling! Ha! The wind Shoulders the pillared dust, death's house o' the move, And fast invading fires begin! White blaze-- A tree's head snaps--and there, there, there, there, there, His thunder follows! Fool to gibe at Him! Lo! 'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos!"

And there, like a groveling serpent in the ooze, there lies Caliban, abject in fear, with not a ray of love. Hopeless, loveless, see him lie--a spectacle so sad as to make the ragged crags of ocean weep!

So pitiful a theology, yet no more pitiful than theologies created in our own epoch. Men, not brutal but opinionated, assume to comprehend all things, God included. They destroy and create theologies with the flippant egotism of a French chevalier of the days of the Grand Monarch. They settle matters with a "Thus it is, and thus it is not." Would not those men do well to read the parable, "Caliban upon Setebos?" Grant Allen and Huxley would be generously helped; for the more they would lose in dogmatism, so much the more would they gain in wisdom. And what is true of them is true of others of their fraternity. This irony of Browning's is caustic, but very wholesome. Barren as Caliban's theology is, certain contemporary theologies are not less so. A day to suffer and enjoy--and then the night, long, dark, dreamless, eternal!


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