Marginalia, no.17

O who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite
By bare imagination of a feast?
Or wallow naked in December snow
By thinking on fantastic summer’s heat?
O no!  The apprehension of the good
Gives but the greater feeling to the worse.

~ Shakespeare, Richard II

In 1971’s Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the incomparable Gene Wilder, as Wonka, sings in praise of pure imagination: “If you want to view paradise / Simply look around and view it / Anything you want to, do it / Want to change the world / There’s nothing to it…”  Imagine you’re there, in other words, and there you are.  Pace Mr Wonka, his elder namesake begs to differ.  But Shakespeare is always insufferably realistic about the limits of self-deception.

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