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Excerpt from The Poetry of Common Life
Stevenson's correction contains much the truer statement. Not that each one of us could have been a poet in the ordinary sense, if we had tried hard enough. But every man, - or almost every man, is born with some ear for rythm, some feeling for the beauty of ideas and the music of words, - some instinct for poetry and idealism; and though the search for knowledge, and the pursuit of wealth, and the cares of this life dry him up tremendously as time goes on, it is seldom that they can choke this side of his nature entirely out.
Well do I remember the time when I had heard that there was such a thing as poetry, but had no knowledge what it was, when I stumbled, of all books in the world, upon Pope's Essay on Man. I do not suppose I could read it now for wages. I do not know why I should have read it then. Per haps it was merely the jingle in the words; perhaps it was the introduction to a new set of ideas and to a truly great mind. Whatever it was, I read the Essay on Man straight through. I went about inquiring of this person and of that, whether he had read Pope's Essay on Man. I was a tri e daunted by the fact that no one, - not even my own father, appeared to have done so. I urged the neighbors to take up this task at once, though I never received evidence that any of them had followed my exhorta tion. But at all events, I had come through, by way of this decidedly unpromising door, into a new world.
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