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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883)


From “Poems in Prose”

WHATEVER a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: “Great God, grant that twice two be not four.”

Only such a prayer is a real prayer from person to person. To pray to the Cosmic Spirit, to the Higher Being, to the Kantian, the Hegelian, quintessential, formless God, is impossible and unthinkable.

But can even a personal, living, imaged God make twice two not to be four?

Every believer is bound to answer “He can,” and is bound to persuade himself of it.

But what if reason sets him revolting against his unreasonableness?

Then Shakespeare comes to his aid: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,” etc.

And if they set about confuting him in the name of truth, he has but to repeat the famous question: “What is truth?”

And so let us eat, drink, and be merry—and say our prayers.