Ode To The Comic Spirit by George Meredith

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"Sword Of Common Sense"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Because of the turmoil in nineteenth century thought–the conflict of science and religion, the clash of contrasting values, the general crisis of rapid industrialization–men often found themselves in the situation of having no arguments against the critics who threatened their very existences. One of the remarkable features of Victorian England was its ability to maintain political and social stability while the rest of Europe was torn by revolutions and civil wars. Asking himself why his country should have such stability, George Meredith came to understand the strong roles that ridicule and common sense played in England. As he describes it in this poem, common sense–the consensus of middle-class opinion–overcomes the outlandish by laughing at the false pretenses of change; in fact, the comic spirit, so important in England at that time, was the strength that made the good and just prevail.

Sword of Common Sense!–
Our surest gift: the sacred chain
Of man to man: firm earth for trust
In structures vowed to permanence:–
Thou guardian issue of the harvest brain!