That Transcendent Experience

I’m currently reading a biography of Bram Stoker, The Man Who Wrote Dracula. This is taken from a moment when Stoker witnessed Henry Irving recite for a dozen friends the poem The Dream of Eugene Aram:

That night Irving was inspired. Many times since then I saw and heard him – for such an effort eyes as well as ears are required – recite that poem and hold audiences, big or little, spellbound till the moment came for the thunderous outlet of their pent-up feelings; but that particular vein I never met again. Art can do much; but in all things even in art there is a summit somewhere. That night for a brief time in which the rest of the world seemed to sit still, Irving’s genius floated in blazing triumph above the summit of art. There is something in the soul which lifts it above all that has its base in material things. If once only in a lifetime the soul of man can take wings and sweep for an instant into mortal gaze, then that ‘once’ for Irving was on that, to me, ever memorable occasion. (Farson 30)

That’s an experience every theatre-goer hunts for. They are rare. They are elusive. But they’re out there.

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