The Smile Of La Joconde
( Originally Published 1916 )
WHEN Leonardo's Mona Lisa finally got back to her place upon the walls of the Louvre all the world came to see her—at least on the first day of her home-coming some twenty thousand trooped by to have a look at the most famous of paintings.
And there, with those placid hands upon her lap, she sat in her frame, regarding the passers by with her amused and superior smile, very much as you would look upon the antics of your pet kitten.
-"Why worry?" she seemed to say. "Here I am, as you see. I came back, of course, since it is written. It was destiny. All of us but follow our programme. I am the original predestinarian. I am the cheerful fatalist. Men and women struggle and fume, but always by and by they do what is set down for them to do, in the book of fate. It is to smile!
"I am the companion of Omar Khayyam. For I am the Looker-On. I do not mingle with the energies of men. I am the Bystander.
"My Maker was the Many-Minded One. He was a Philosopher. Philosophy is aloofness. I 22
am the daughter of the Aloof. Leonardo smiled at men in his heart, and made me that I might smile at them forever.
"I am the Eternal Feminine. I do not labor. I sit. I judge. I smile.
"I know, hence I am amused. I am in the secret of things, and that is always rather funny; it is so different from the appearance of things.
"In the core of wisdom is laughter. In the secret springs of history there is grim humor. Underneath the intense activities, the fierce rivalries, the burning passions of men, back of the de-bates of senates, the thunder of wars, the display of wealth, and the earnestness of reformers, there is something that makes me smile. I cannot tell you what it is. You would have to be a Leonardo to understand.
"Wisdom is Jocund as it nears Perfection. God is Glad.
"This at least I can hint to you. You are fretting over nothing at all. The universe is Kind. It means well by man. When you get through with life, and pass through revealing death, and see what it all means, the first thing you will do will be to have a good laugh.
"Tragedy is the greatest of humbugs. I have peeped behind the veil. I know that every Jack will have his Jill, every wrong be righted, and the Short Story called Life will have a happy ending.
"I have seen the end of the world. It is pleasant. That is why all through the Revolution and Tyranny, the flow and ebb of progress,, Louis the Luxurious, and Robespierre the Terrible, I have sat so contented and unruffled.
"I smiled to see how long it took men to discover Gravitation, Steam, Electricity, Evolution, Democracy. The race is so stupid, so awkward, and amusing.
"I am Nature. Look at me and you see how self-satisfied and smiling Nature goes about her business.
"I am Mankind, playing, procreating, joking, planting trees, building houses, and going away.
"I am Death, which is the most delightful surprise, and not at all the horrible catastrophe you fancy.
"I am Everything and Everybody. Some things and some people are morbid and vicious, but, in the All, cheer predominates.
"I am in the Secret of God, and the Secret of God is--a smile.
"Men take themselves so seriously. They think they do things. In reality they are leaves upon the streams, clouds in the sky, motes in the sunbeam. They are but chess-men. He who moves is God, who smiles.
"I am the Soul of kittens that play with their tails, of puppies that frisk, of little lambs that gambol, of all things newborn. I am Youth forever recurrent.
"If I could speak I should utter the greatest words ever spoken, and recall to you that the world's Master said : `I am the Resurrection and the Life. "
It is said that the crowd that viewed Mona Lisa that day were of "a light gayety, with a decided tendency to crack jokes." Even the police guarding her were smiling.
The incomparable Leonardo, full of strange and cunning secrets, embodied his whole wisdom in a Smile, that it might infect the world.