Valor! Love! Virtue! Compassion! Splendor! Kindness! Wisdom! Beauty!

I read the following last night, in the middle of a thunderstorm.

The entry is from 1971. “The original journals are small, looseleaf notebooks, approximately one to a year, into which Cheever typed his entries (badly), although there are also some passages written in longhand,” writes Robert Gottlieb in his editor’s note. “He did not date most of the entries, which is why we didn’t.”

I drink gin and read some stories of mine. There is the danger of repetition. Walking in the woods, I heard a man shouting, “Love! Valor! Compassion!” I followed the voice until I saw him. He was standing on a rock shouting the names of virtues to no one. He must have been mad. The difficulty here is that I wrote that scene ten years ago. Oh-ho.

—John Cheever, The Journals of John Cheever, p. 277

Google brings up Terrence McNally’s Author’s Note to Love! Valour! Compassion!: “The title,” he writes, “comes from an entry in John Cheever’s journals.”

The story Cheever refers to is “A Vision of the World” (I Google-triangulated via here, here, and here). The story was originally published in the 29 September 1962 New Yorker. Here’s the second half of the last graf:

Then either I awake in despair or am waked by the sound of rain on the palms. I think of some farmer who, hearing the noise of rain, will stretch his lame bones and smile, feeling that the rain is falling into his lettuce and his cabbages, his hay and his oats, his parsnips and his corn. I think of some plumber who, waked by the rain, will smile at a vision of the world in which all the drains are miraculously cleansed and free. Right-angle drains, crooked drains, root-choked and rusty drains all gurgle and discharge their waters into the sea. I think that the rain will wake some old lady, who will wonder if she has left her copy of “Dombey and Son” in the garden. Her shawl? Did she cover the chairs? And I know that the sound of the rain will wake some lovers, and that its sound will seem to be a part of that force that has thrust them into one another’s arms. Then I sit up in bed and exclaim aloud to myself, “Valor! Love! Virtue! Compassion! Splendor! Kindness! Wisdom! Beauty!” The words seem to have the colors of the earth, and as I recite them I feel my hopefulness mount until I am contented and at peace with the night.