17 November 2012

All The Power of Their Souls

Most fearful they are to contemplate, the expenses of this entertainment. They will certainly be over two hundred dollars and maybe three hundred; and three hundred dollars is more than the year's income of many a person in this room. 

. . . And then to spend such a sum, all in a single day of your life, at a wedding feast! (For obviously it is the same thing, whether you spend it at once for your own wedding, or in a long time, at the weddings of all your friends.)

It is very imprudent, it is tragic—but, ah, it is so beautiful! Bit by bit these poor people have given up everything else; but to this they cling with all the power of their souls—they cannot give up the veselija! To do that would mean, not merely to be defeated, but to acknowledge defeat—and the difference between these two things is what keeps the world going.

The veselija has come down to them from a far-off time; and the meaning of it was that one might dwell within the cave and gaze upon shadows, provided only that once in his lifetime he could break his chains, and feel his wings, and behold the sun; provided that once in his lifetime he might testify to the fact that life, with all its cares and its terrors, is no such great thing after all, but merely a bubble upon the surface of a river, a thing that one may toss about and play with as a juggler tosses his golden balls, a thing that one may quaff, like a goblet of rare red wine.

Thus having known himself for the master of things, a man could go back to his toil and live upon the memory all his days.

— Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Painting: Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)


  1. Poetic, isn't it? Reading this passage is like dining on a gourmet meal of exotic foods. I have to work to enjoy the new flavors, detecting and appreciate foreign tastes. But the end result is a delight and surprise.

    1. A hardcover copy of the The Jungle was on display at the library so I picked it up, turned to a page in the middle and read a paragraph. I immediately decided this is a book I should read. It's a free download on Amazon. I'm not sure why it's in the public domain since Sinclair died relatively recently (1968).

      I've been hearing about this book forever. And yes, there are a few lines of poetry in it.


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