The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke: With a Memoir/Memoir/Part V
On May 22nd he started for New York on a year's travels. "You won't see me again till I'm a bold, bad, bearded broncho-buster in a red shirt and riding-breeches," he wrote to Miss Sybil Pye. His plans were vague, and at that time he expected to be back by the end of 1913. He had written to his mother in February, to explain: "I think, now my physical health is quite all right, I shall go off to America or somewhere. I feel just as I did in the autumn, that it's no good going on in England. . . . . . . It is only wasting time to go on without lxxxdoing proper work. I think of going off to California or somewhere, and doing some kind of work, or tramping. I shall take what money I have, and if they don't give me a fellowship, I can capitalise £200 or so, and that'll last me for as long as I want to be abroad. I have no fear about being able to make a living now, for there are so many papers that'll print anything by me whenever I like."
"We may meet again in this world," he wrote to the Raverats, "I brown and bearded, you mere red round farmers. When that'll be, I know not. Perhaps in six months. Perhaps in six years. Or we may only find each other in a whiter world, nighty-clad, harped, winged, celibate.
Shall we go walks along the hills of Heaven,
Here is his farewell to England, in a letter to a friend from the s.s. Cedric: "I arrived solitary on the boat. After it started I went to the office, more to show that I existed than in the dimmest hope of getting anything—and there was stuck up a list called 'Unclaimed Mail.' (I thought it sounded as if a lot of the Knights who had promised to equip themselves for the Quest of the Holy Grail had missed the train, or married a wife, or overslept, or something). And at the top of the list 'Mr Rupert Brooke,' . . . . . .
lxxxi"—— day. Time is no more. I have been a million years on this boat. I don't know if it's this month or last or next. Sometime, remotely, in a past existence, I was on land. But this is another existence. . . . I have my joys. Today I ate clam-chowder. That's romance, isn't it? I ordered it quite recklessly. I didn't know what it was. I only knew that anything called clam-chowder must be strange beyond words.
If you were like clam-chowder
(But you don't know Swinburne.) 'Clam-chowder,' my God! what am I coming to ? . . .
"I haven't told you much about my voyage, have I? There's not much to tell. I felt, before I got your letter, a trifle lonely at Liverpool. Everybody else seemed to have people to see them off. So I went back on shore and found a dirty little boy, who was unoccupied, and said his name was William. 'Will you wave to me if I give you sixpence, William?' I said. 'Why yes,' said William. So I gave him sixpence, and went back on board. And when the time came he leaned over his railing on the landing-stage, and waved. And now and then lxxxiihe shouted indistinct messages in a shrill voice. And as we slid away, the last object I looked at was a small dot waving a white handkerchief, or nearly white, faithfully. So I got my sixpenn'orth and my farewell—Dear William!"
For his travels in America and Canada, his letters to the Westminster Gazette, since republished, must be allowed in the main to speak; but these may be supplemented by scraps of his letters to his Mother and his friends. "America hasn't changed me much yet," he wrote from New York. "I've got the adorablest little touch of an American accent, and I'm a bit thinner." He wasn't very happy at first. "When I'm alone," he wrote to me on June 29th from the Montreal Express, "I sink into a kind of mental stupor which may last for months. I shan't be really right till I get back to you all." And again from Ottawa, ten days later, "I don't get very miserable, or go to pieces (save for occasional bursts of home-sickness just before meals); but my whole level of life descends to an incredible muddy flatness. I do no reading, no thinking, no writing. And very often I don't see many things. The real hell of it is that I get so numb that my brain and senses don't record fine or clear impressions. So the time is nearly all waste. I'm very much ashamed of it all. For I've always beforehand a picture of myself dancing through foreign cities, drinking in novelty, hurling off letters to the W.G., breaking into song and sonnet, dashing off plays and novels. . . . Lord, Lord! . . . . . .
lxxxiii"American 'hospitality' means that with the nice ones you can be at once on happy and intimate terms. Oh dear, the tears quite literally well up into my eyes when I think of a group of young Harvard people I tumbled into—at Harvard. They had the charm and freshness and capacity for instantly creating a relation of happy and warm friendliness that, for instance, Denis has. It's a nice thing . . . . . .
"You, at home, have no conception how you're all getting a sanctity and halo about you in my mind. I dwell so much and so sentimentally on all the dear dead days that I am beginning to see no faults and all virtues in all of you. You, my dear, appear perfection in every part. Your passion for anagrams is a lovable and deeply intellectual taste. Your acquaintance with [a bête noire of his] a beautiful thing. Your lack of sympathy with the Labour Party turns to a noble and picturesque Toryism. Even your preference for gilded over comfortable chairs loses something of its ugliness in my heart. Of you and Norton and Duncan [Grant]and —— and even —— I think incessantly, devotedly, and tearfully. Even of figures who, to be frank, have hovered but dimly on the outskirts of my consciousness, I am continually and fragrantly memorial. . . . . . . I make up little minor, pitiful songs, the burden of which is that I have a folk-longing to get back from all this Imperial luxury to the simplicity of the little places and quiet folks I knew and loved. One very beautiful one has the chorus—
Would God I were eating plover's eggs,
His next letter was from Toronto, a fortnight later: "I've found here an Arts and Letters Club of poets, painters, journalists, etc., where they'd heard of me, and read G.P., and, oh Eddie, one fellow actually possessed my 'Poems.' Awful Triumph. Every now and then one comes up and presses my hand and says, 'Wal Sir, you cannot know what a memorable Day in my life this is.' Then I do my pet boyish-modesty stunt and go pink all over; and everyone thinks it too delightful. One man said to me, 'Mr Brooks' (my Canadian name), 'Sir, I may tell you that in my opinion you have Mr Noyes skinned.' That means I'm better than him: a great compliment. But they're really quite an up-to-date lot; and very cheery and pleasant. I go tomorrow to the desert and the wilds."
The desert and the wilds suited him much better than the cities. "Today," he wrote to Miss Nesbitt on the 3rd of August from Lake George, about 70 miles from Winnipeg, "I'm 26 years old—and I've done so little. I'm very much ashamed. By God, I am going to make things hum though—but that's lxxxvall so far away. I'm lying quite naked on a beach of golden sand, 6 miles away from the hunting-lodge, the other man near by, a gun between us in case bears appear, the boat pulled up on the shore, the lake very blue and ripply, and the sun rather strong. . . . . . . We caught two pike on the way out, which lie picturesquely in the bows of the boat. Along the red-gold beach are the tracks of various wild animals, mostly jumping-deer and caribou. One red-deer we saw as we came round the corner, lolloping along the beech, stopping and snuffling the wind, and then going on again. Very lovely. We were up-wind and it didn't see us, and the meat wasn't needed, so we didn't shoot at it (I'm glad, I'm no 'sportsman'). We bathed off the beach, and then lit a fire of birch and spruce, and fried eggs, and ate cold caribou-heart, and made tea, and had, oh! blueberry pie. Cooking and eating a meal naked is the most solemnly primitive thing one can do; and—this is the one thing which will make you realise that I'm living far the most wonderfully and incredibly romantic life you ever heard of, and infinitely superior to your miserable crawling London existence—the place we landed at is an Indian Camp. At any moment a flotilla of birchbark canoes may sweep round the corner, crowded with Indians, braves and squaws and papooses—and not those lonely half-breeds and stray Indians that speak English, mind you, but the Real Thing! Shades of Fenimore Cooper!"
But he was quite able to cope with civilisation when he got back to it. The next letter is ten days lxxxvilater, from Edmonton: "I find I'm becoming very thick-skinned and bold, and the complete journalist. I've just been interviewed by a reporter. I fairly crushed him. I just put my cigar in the corner of my mouth, and undid my coat-buttons, and put my thumbs under my armpits, and spat, and said, 'Say, Kid, this is some town.' He asked me a lot of questions to which I didn't know the answers, so I lied. . . . . . .
"Also I am become very good at bearding people. I just enter railway offices and demand free passes as a journalist, and stamp into immense newspaper buildings and say I want to talk for an hour to the Chief Editor, and I can lean across the counter with a cigarette and discuss the Heart with the young lady who sells cigars, newspapers, and stamps. I believe I could do a deal in Real Estate, in the bar, over a John Collins, with a clean-shaven Yankee with a tremulous eyelid and a moist lower lip. In fact, I am a Man."
He stayed some days at Vancouver, where he wrote his mother a letter which gives me occasion to stand in a very white sheet. "I'm glad you like the Westminster articles. They're not always very well written, but I think they're the sort of stuff that ought to interest an intelligent W.G. reader more than the ordinary travel stuff one sees. I hope they won't annoy people over this side. Canadians and Americans are so touchy. But it's absurd to ladle out indiscriminate praise, as most people do. I heard from Eddie about the proofs. I was very sad at one thing. In my first or second lxxxviiarticle I had made an American say 'You bet your'——which is good American slang. Eddie thought a word was left out and inserted 'boots.' I only hope the W.G. omitted it. I suppose it'll be printed by now. If not, 'phone the W.G. or write— But it must be too late. Alas! Alas!
"Vancouver is a queer place, rather different from the rest of Canada. More oriental. The country and harbour are rather beautiful, with great violet mountains all round, snow-peaks in the distance. They interviewed me and put (as usual) a quite inaccurate report of it in the paper, saying I'd come here to investigate the Japanese question. In consequence about five people rang me up every morning at 8 o'clock (British Columbians get up an hour earlier than I) to say they wanted to wait on me and give me their views. Out here they always have telephones in the bedrooms. One old sea-captain came miles to tell me that the Japanese—and every other—trouble was due to the fact that British Columbia had neglected the teaching of the Gospels on the land question. He wasn't so far out in some respects."
He sailed for Hawaii from San Francisco, where he was warmly welcomed at Berkeley University by Professor Gayly and Professor Wells, and made many friends among the undergraduates. "California," he wrote to me on the 1st of October, "is nice, and the Californians a friendly bunch. There's a sort of goldenness about 'Frisco and the neighbourhood. It hangs in the air, and about the people. lxxxviiiEveryone is very cheery and cordial and simple. They are rather a nation apart, different from the rest of the States. Much more like the English. As everywhere in this extraordinary country, I am welcomed with open arms when I say I know Masefield and Goldie! It's very queer. I can't for the life of me help moving about like a metropolitan among rustics, or an Athenian in Thrace. Their wide-mouthed awe at England is so touching—they really are a colony of ours still. That they should be speaking to a man who knows Lowes Dickinson, has met Galsworthy, who once saw Belloc plain! . . . What should we feel if we could speak with an habitué of the theatre at Athens, Fifth Century, or with Mine Host of the Mermaid? All that they have with me, the dears! Yet I don't know why I write this from California, the one place that has a literature and tradition of its own.
"On Tuesday—the Pacific. I'll write thence, but God knows when it'll get to you."
He wrote no letters to the Westminster from the South Seas, chiefly because the life there was too absorbing, but partly perhaps from doubt whether they would be used. He had got a letter from which he inferred, wrongly, that only one series of six letters was wanted from him. "Isn't it beastly?" he wrote. "I supposed I was going on once a week for months and years. I could read me once a week for ever, couldn't you?" But there are plenty of letters to friends. "The Pacific," he wrote from the steamer on October 12th, "has been very lxxxixpacific, God be thanked—so I've had a pleasant voyage. Three passionate Pacific women cast lustrous eyes towards me, but, with a dim remembrance of the fate of Conrad characters who succumbed to such advances, I evade them. I pass my hand wearily through my long hair, and say, 'Is not the soul of Maurya a glimmering wing in the moth-hour?' or words to that effect. The Celtic method is not understood in this part of the world."
The first stop was at Honolulu, where he stayed on Waikiki beach, the scene of the sonnet beginning "Warm perfumes like a breath from vine and tree." He wrote to his Mother without enthusiasm: "Honolulu itself is a dreadfully American place, just like any city in the States or Canada"; and he found little better to say of the country round about than that "it really is tropical in character, like some of the gardens and places at Cannes, on an immense scale."
But this is what he wrote to me about Samoa from the steamer taking him to Fiji: "It's all true about the South Seas! I get a little tired of it at moments, because I am just too old for Romance. But there it is; there it wonderfully is; heaven on earth, the ideal life, little work, dancing and singing and eating; naked people of incredible loveliness, perfect manners, and immense kindliness, a divine tropic climate, and intoxicating beauty of scenery. I wandered with an 'interpreter'—entirely genial and quite incapable of English—through Samoan villages. The last few days I stopped in one, where xca big marriage feast was going on. I lived in a Samoan house (the coolest in the world) with a man and his wife, nine children ranging from a proud beauty of 18 to a round object of 1 year, a dog, a cat, a proud hysterical hen, and a gaudy scarlet and green parrot who roved the roof and beams with a wicked eye, choosing a place whence to —— twice a day, with humorous precision, on my hat and clothes.
"The Samoan girls have extraordinarily beautiful bodies, and walk like goddesses. They're a lovely brown colour, without any black Melanesian admixture. Can't you imagine how shattered and fragmentary a heart I'm bearing away to Fiji and Tahiti? And, oh dear! I'm afraid they'll be just as bad.
"And it's all true about, for instance, cocoanuts. You tramp through a strange, vast, dripping, tropical forest for hours, listening to weird liquid hootings from birds and demons in the branches above. Then you feel thirsty. So you send your boy up a great perpendicular palm. He runs up with utter ease and grace, cuts off a couple of vast nuts, and comes down and makes holes in them. And they're chock-full of the best drink in the world. Romance! Romance! I walked 15 miles through mud and up and down mountains, and swam three rivers, to get this boat. But if ever you miss me, suddenly, one day, from lecture-room B in King's, or from the Moulin d'Or at lunch, you'll know that I've got sick for the full moon on these little thatched roofs, and the palms against the morning, and the Samoan boys and girls diving thirty feet into a green sea or xcia deep mountain pool under a waterfall—and that I've gone back."
The next place was Fiji, where he wrote to Edmund Gosse from Suva on November 19th. "I've just got into this place, from Samoa. I said to myself, 'Fiji is obviously the wildest place I can get to round here. The name, and pictures of the inhabitants, prove it.' And lo! a large English town, with two banks, several churches, dental surgeons, a large gaol, auctioneers, bookmakers, two newspapers, and all the other appurtenances of civilisation! But I fancy I'll be able to get some little boat and go off to some smaller wilder islands. . . . . . .
"Perplexing country! At home everything is so simple, and choice is swift, for the sensible man. There is only the choice between writing a good sonnet and making a million pounds. Who could hesitate? But here the choice is between writing a sonnet, and climbing a straight hundred-foot cocoanut palm, or diving forty feet from a rock into pellucid blue-green water. Which is the better, there? One's European literary soul begins to be haunted by strange doubts and shaken with fundamental, fantastic misgivings. I think I shall return home. . . . . . .
"Oh, it's horribly true, what you wrote, that one only finds in the South Seas what one brings there. Perhaps I could have found Romance if I'd brought it. Yet I do not think one could help but find less trouble than one brings. The idea of the South Seas as a place of passion and a Mohammedan's paradise is but a sailor's yarn. It is nothing near xciiso disturbing. It's rather the opposite of alcohol according to the Porter's definition: for it promotes performance but takes away desire. Yet I can understand Stevenson finding—as you put it—the Shorter Catechism there. One keeps realising, however unwillingly, responsibility. I noticed in myself, and in the other white people in Samoa, a trait that I have remarked in Schoolmasters. You know that sort of slightly irritated tolerance, and lack of irresponsibility, that mark the pedagogue? One feels that one's a White Man (vide Kipling passim)—ludicrously. I kept thinking I was in the Sixth at Rugby again. These dear good people, with their laughter and friendliness and crowns of flowers—one feels that one must protect them. If one was having an evening out with Falstaff and Bardolph themselves, and a small delightful child came up with 'Please I'm lost and I want to get home,' wouldn't one have to leave good fellowship and spend the evening in mean streets tracking its abode? That's, I fancy, how the white man feels in these forgotten—and dissolving—pieces of heaven. And that perhaps is what Stevenson felt—I don't know enough about him. His memory is sweet there, in Samoa; especially among the natives. The white men, mostly traders, who remain from his time, have—for such people—very warm recollections of his personality; but with a touch of pathos—avow themselves unable to see any merit in his work. Such stuff as the Wrong Box they frankly can't understand a grown man writing . . . I went up the steep hill above Vailima, where the grave is. xciiiIt's a high and lonely spot. I took a Samoan of about 20 to guide me. He was much impressed by Stevenson's fame. 'That fellow,' he said, 'I think every fellow in world know him.' Then he looked perplexed. 'But my father say,' he went on, 'Stevenson no big man—small man.' That a slight man of medium height should be so famous, puzzled him altogether. If he had been seven feet high, now! Fame is a curious thing. . . . . . . Oh, do forgive the envelope. My own, in this awful climate, are all fast stuck, though never filled, like an English churchman's mind. And I'm reduced to these fantastic affairs."
Other letters add touches to his picture. To me he wrote: "Suva is a queer place; much civilised; full of English people who observe the Rules of Etiquette, and call on third Thursdays, and do not speak to the 'natives.' Fiji's not so attractive as Samoa, but more macabre. Across the bay are ranges of inky, sinister mountains, over which there are always clouds and darkness. No matter how fine or windy or hot or cheerful it may be in Suva, that trans-sinutic region is nothing but forbidding and terrible. The Greeks would have made it the entrance of the other world—it is just what I've always imagined Avernus to be like. I'm irresistibly attracted by them, and when I come back from my cruise, I intend to walk among them. Shall I return? If not, spill some blood in a trench—you'll find the recipe in Homer—and my wandering shade will come for an hour or two to lap it. . . . . . . The sunsets here! the colour of the xcivwater over the reef! the gloom and terror of those twisted mountains! and the extraordinary contrasts in the streets and the near country—for there are fifty thousand Hindoos, indentured labour, here, emaciated and proud, in Liberty-coloured garments, mournful, standing out among these gay, pathetic, sturdy children the Fijians. The Hindoos, who were civilised when we were Fijians; and the Fijians, who will never be civilised. And amongst them, weedy Australian clerks, uncertain whether they most despise a 'haw-haw Englishman' or a 'dam nigger,' and without the conscience of the one or the charm of the other; secret devil-worshippers, admirers of America, English without tradition and Yankees without go. Give me a landed gentry, ten shillings on wheat, and hanging for sheep-stealing; also the Established Church, whence I spring."
To Denis Browne he wrote about the dancing and the music: "I prefer watching a Siva-Siva to observing Nijinsky. Oh dear, I so wish you'd been with me for some of these native dances. I've got no ear, and can't get the tunes down. They're very simple—just a few bars with a scale of about 5 notes, repeated over and over again. But it's the Rhythm that gets you. They get extraordinarily rhythmic effects, everybody beating their hands, or tapping with a stick; and the dancers swaying their bodies and tapping with their feet. None of that damned bounding and pirouetting. Just stylisierte pantomime, sometimes slightly indecent. But most exciting. Next time I get sick of England, xcvI'm going to bring you along out here, and work the whole thing out.
"You won't know me when—if ever—I return. Many things I have lost; my knowledge of art and literature, my fragmentary manners, my acquaintance with the English tongue, and any slight intelligence I ever had; but I have gained other things; a rich red-brown for my skin, a knowledge of mixed drinks, an ability to talk or drink with any kind of man, and a large répertoire of dirty stories. Am I richer or poorer? I don't know. I only regret that I shall never be able to mix in your or any intelligent circles again. I am indistinguishable (except by my poverty) from a Hall man."
"Dear Miss Asquith," he wrote in mid-December from 'somewhere in the mountains of Fiji,' "Forgive this paper. Its limpness is because it has been in terrific thunderstorms, and through most of the rivers in Fiji, in the last few days. Its marks of dirt are because small naked brown babies will crawl up and handle it. And any blood-stains will be mine. The point is, will they . . . ? It's absurd, I know. It's twenty years since they've eaten anybody, and far more since they've done what I particularly and unreasonably detest—fastened the victim down, cut pieces off him one by one, and cooked and eaten them before his eyes. To witness one's own transubstantiation into a naked black man, that seems the last indignity. Consideration of the thoughts that pour through the mind of the ever-diminishing remnant of a man, as it sees its xcvilate limbs cooking, moves me deeply. I have been meditating a sonnet, as I sit here, surrounded by dusky faces and gleaming eyes:—
Dear, they have poached the eyes you loved so well—
It'd do well for No. 101 and last, in a modern sonnet-sequence, wouldn't it? I don't know how it would go on. The fourth line would have to be
And all my turbulent lips are maître-d'hotel—
I don't know how to scan French. I fancy that limps. But 'all' is very strong in the modern style.
"The idea comes out in a slighter thing:—
Oh, dear! I suppose it ought to end on the Higher Note, the Wider Outlook. Poetry has to, they tell xcviime. You may caress details, all the main parts of the poem, but at last you have to open the window and turn to God, or Earth, or Eternity, or any of the Grand Old Endings. It gives Uplift, as we Americans say. And that's so essential. (Did you ever notice how the Browning family's poems all refer suddenly to God in the last line? It's laughable if you read through them in that way. 'What if that friend happened to be—God?' 'What comes next? Is it—God?' 'And with God be the rest.' 'And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.' . . . etc. etc. I forget them all now. It shows what the Victorians were.)
"So must I soar:—
It's too dull. I shall go out and wander through the forest paths by the grey moonlight. Fiji in moonlight is like nothing else in this world or the next. It's all dim colours and all scents. And here, where it's high up, the most fantastically-shaped mountains in the world tower up all around, and little silver clouds and wisps of mist run bleating up and down the valleys and hillsides like lambs looking for their mother. There's only one thing on earth as beautiful; and that's Samoa by moonlight. That's utterly different, merely Heaven, sheer loveliness. You lie on a mat in a cool Samoan hut, and look out on the white sand under the high palms, and a gentle xcviiisea, and the black line of the reef a mile out, and moonlight over everything, floods and floods of it, not sticky, like Honolulu moonlight, not to be eaten with a spoon, but flat and abundant, such that you could slice thin golden-white shavings off it, as off cheese. And then among it all are the loveliest people in the world, moving and dancing like gods and goddesses, very quietly and mysteriously, and utterly content. It is sheer beauty, so pure that it's difficult to breathe in it—like living in a Keats world, only it's less syrupy—Endymion without sugar. Completely unconnected with this world.
"There is a poem:
I know an Island
It ends, after many pages:
I know an Island
xcixI forget. And I've not written the middle part. And it's very bad, like all true poems. I love England; and all the people in it; but oh, how can one know of heaven on earth and not come back to it? I'm afraid I shall slip away from that slithery, murky place you're (I suppose) in now, and return—Ridiculous.
"I continue in a hot noon, under an orange tree. We rose at dawn and walked many miles and swam seven large rivers and picked and ate many oranges and pineapples and drank cocoanuts. Now the two 'boys' who carry my luggage are asleep in the shade. They're Fijians of twenty-three or so who know a few words of English. One of them is the finest-made man I've ever seen; like a Greek statue come to life; strong as ten horses. To see him strip and swim a half-flooded river is an immortal sight.
"Last night we stayed in the house of a mountain chief who has spasmodic yearnings after civilisation. When these grow strong, he sends a runner down to the coast to buy any illustrated papers he can find. He knows no English, but he pastes his favourite pictures up round the wall and muses over them. I lectured on them—fragments of the Sketch and Sphere for several years—to a half-naked reverent audience last night (through my interpreter of course). The Prince of Wales, looking like an Oxford undergraduate, elbows two ladies who display 1911 spring-fashions. A golf champion in a most contorted position occupies a central place. He is regarded, I fancy, as a rather potent and violent cdeity. To his left is 'Miss Viola Tree, as Eurydice,' to his right Miss Lillah M'Carthy as Jocasta, looking infinitely Mycenaean. I explained about incest, shortly, and Miss M'C. rose tremendously in Fijian estimation. Why do people like their gods to be so eccentric, always? I fancy I left an impression that she was Mr H. H. Hilton's (is that right? You're a golfer) mother and wife. It is so hard to explain our civilisation to simple people. Anyhow, I disturbed their theology and elevated Lillah to the top place. How Eurydice came in puzzled them and me. I fancy they regard her as a Holy Ghostess, in some sort.
"It's very perplexing. These people—Samoans and Fijians—are so much nicer, and so much better-mannered, than oneself. They are stronger, beautifuller, kindlier, more hospitable and courteous, greater lovers of beauty, and even wittier, than average Europeans. And they are—under our influence—a dying race. We gradually fill their lands with plantations and Indian coolies. The Hawaians, up in the Sandwich Islands, have almost altogether gone, and their arts and music with them, and their islands are a replica of America. A cheerful thought, that all these places are to become indistinguishable from Denver and Birmingham and Stuttgart, and the people of dress and behaviour precisely like Herr Schmidt, and Mr Robinson, and Hiram O. Guggenheim. And now they're so . . . it's impossible to describe how far nearer the Kingdom of Heaven—or the Garden of Eden—these good, naked, laughing people are than oneself or one's cifriends. . . . But I forget. You are an anti-socialist, and I mustn't say a word against our modern industrial system. I beg your pardon.
"I go down to the coast to catch a boat to New Zealand, where I shall post this. Thence to Tahiti, to hunt for lost Gauguins. Then back to barbarism in America. God knows when I shall get home. In the spring, I hope. Is England still there? Forgive this endless scrawl.
"I suppose you're rushing from lunch-party to lunch-party, and dance to dance, and opera to political platform. Won't you come and learn how to make a hibiscus-wreath for your hair, and sail a canoe, and swim two minutes under water catching turtles, and dive forty feet into a waterfall, and climb a cocoanut-palm? It's more worth while."
Sometimes the desire for England and his friends came uppermost. "I'd once thought it necessary to marry," he wrote to Jacques Raverat from Fiji. "I approve of marriage for the world. I think you're all quite right, so don't be alarmed. But not for me. I'm too old. The Point of Marriage is Peace—to work in. But can't one get it otherwise? Why, certainly, when one's old. And so I will. I know what things are good: friendship and work and conversation. These I shall have. How one can fill life, if one's energetic and knows how to dig! I have thought of a thousand things to do, in books and poems and plays and theatres and societies and housebuilding and dinner-parties, ciiwhen I get Home. We shall have fun. Now we have so painfully achieved middle-age, shall we not reap the fruits of that achievement, my dyspeptic friend? By God, yes! Will you come and walk with me in Spain next summer? And will you join me on the Poet's Round?—a walk I've planned. One starts from Charing Cross, in a south-easterly direction, and calls on de la Mare at Anerley, and finds Davies at Sevenoaks—a day's march to Belloc at King's Head, then up to Wibson on the borders of Gloucestershire, back by Stratford, Rugby, and the Chilterns, where Masefield and Chesterton dwell. Wouldn't it give one a queer idea of England?
"Three months a year I am going to live with you and Gwen, three with Dudley and Anne, three with the Ranee, and three alone. A perfect life. I almost catch the next boat to 'Frisco at the thought of it." (At this point in the letter there is a constellation of blots, explained as 'Tears of Memory.')
"There is nothing in the world like friendship. And there is no man who has had such friends as I, so many, so fine, so various, so multiform, so prone to laughter, so strong in affection, and so permanent, so trustworthy, so courteous, so stern with vices and so blind to faults or folly, of such swiftness of mind and strength of body, so apt both to make jokes and to understand them. Also their faces are beautiful, and I love them. I repeat a long list of their names every night before I sleep. Friendship is always exciting, and yet always safe. There is no lust in it, and therefore no poison. It is cleaner ciiithan love, and older; for children and very old people have friends, but they do not love. It gives more and takes less, it is fine in the enjoying, and without pain when absent, and it leaves only good memories. In love all laughter ends with an ache, but laughter is the very garland on the head of friendship. I will not love, and I will not be loved. But I will have friends round me continually, all the days of my life, and in whatever lands I may be. So we shall laugh and eat and sing, and go great journeys in boats and on foot, and write plays and perform them, and pass innumerable laws taking their money from the rich. . . . I err. I praise too extravagantly, conveying an impression that friendship always gives peace. And even at the moment I feel a hunger, too rending for complete peace, to see all your faces again and to eat food with you."
Home thoughts from abroad of a different order were sent to Miss Nesbitt:—"I see I'm going to have the hell of an uncomfortable life," he wrote. "I want too many different things. I keep now pining after London. I want to talk, talk, talk. Is there anything better in the world than sitting at a table and eating good food and drinking great drink, and discussing everything under the sun with wise and brilliant people? . . . . . .
"Oh but I'm going to have such a time when I get back. I'm going to have the loveliest rooms in King's, and I'm going to spend 5 days a week there, and 3 in London (that's 8, stoopid), and in King's I'm going to entertain all the mad and lovely people in the world, and I'm never going to sit down civto dinner without a philosopher, a poet, a musician, an actress, a dancer, and a bishop at table with me. I'm going to get up such performances as will turn Cambridge upside down. I'm going to have Yeats and Cannan and Craig and Barker to give a lecture each on modern drama. I'm going to have my great play in the Grantchester garden. I'm going—oh, hell, I don't know what I'm going to do—but every morning I shall drift up and down the backs in a punt, discussing anything in the world with anybody who desires."
He left Fiji in December. "Life's been getting madder and madder," he wrote from Auckland on December 17th. "I tumbled into Fiji without a friend or an introduction, and left it a month later amidst the loud grief of the united population, white and black. The two 'boys ' (aged 23 or 24) I took with me when I went walking through the centre of the island, to carry my bags, are my sworn and eternal friends. One of them ('Ambele,' under which I, but not you, can recognise 'Abel') was six foot high, very broad, and more perfectly made than any man or statue I have ever seen. His grin stretched from ear to ear. And he could carry me across rivers (when I was tired of swimming them, for we crossed vast rivers every mile or two) for a hundred yards or so, as I should carry a box of matches. I think of bringing him back with me as a servant or bodyguard to England. He loved me because, though I was far weaker than he, I was far braver. The cvFijians are rather cowards. And on precipices I am peculiarly reckless. The boys saved me from rolling off to perdition about thirty times, and respected me for it, though thinking me insane. What would you say if I turned up with two vast cannibal servants, black-skinned and perpetually laughing—all of us attired only in loin-cloths, and red flowers in our hair? I think I should be irresistible.
"Why, precisely, I'm here, I don't know. I seem to have missed a boat somewhere, and I can't get on to Tahiti till the beginning of January. Damn. And I hear that a man got to Tahiti two months ahead of me, and found—and carried off—some Gauguin paintings on glass. Damn!
"New Zealand turns out to be in the midst of summer, and almost exactly like England. I eat strawberries, large garden strawberries, every day; and it's the middle of December! It feels curiously unnatural, perverse, like some frightful vice out of Havelock Ellis. I blush and eat secretively.
"I'll describe New Zealand another day. It's a sort of Fabian England, very upper-middle-class and gentle and happy (after Canada), no poor, and the Government owning hotels and running char-à-bancs. All the women smoke, and dress very badly, and nobody drinks. Everybody seems rather ugly—but perhaps that's compared with the South Seas."
The Englishness of New Zealand made home affairs vivid to him again, and he wrote vehemently to his mother about the Dublin Strike. "I feel cviwild about Dublin. I always feel in strikes that 'the men are always right,' as a man says in Clayhanger. Of course the poor are always right against the rich, though often enough the men are in the wrong over some point of the moment (it's not to be wondered at). But Dublin seems to be one of the clearest cases on record. . . . . . . When the Times begins saying that the employers are in the wrong, they must be very unpardonably and rottenly so indeed. I do hope people are contributing for the wives and children in Dublin. Could you send two guineas in my name? I'll settle when I get back. But I'd like it done immediately. I expect you will have sent some yourself. . . . . . .
"The queer thing [about New Zealand]," he goes on, "is that they've got all the things in the Liberal or mild Fabian programme:—eight hour day (and less), bigger old age pensions, access to the land, minimum wage, insurance, etc. etc., and yet it's not Paradise. The same troubles exist in much the same form (except that there's not much bad poverty). Cost of living is rising quicker than wages. There are the same troubles between unions and employers, and between rich and poor. I suppose there'll be no peace anywhere till the rich are curbed altogether."
On the voyage from New Zealand to Tahiti he made great friends with a Lancashire business man, Mr Harold Ashworth, who wrote after his death to Mrs Brooke. The letters show the kind of impression that he made on those who met him at this time. "I am happy to believe," says Mr Ashworth, cvii"that he and I became real friends, and many a time I would invoke his aid when my rather aggressive Radicalism brought the 'Smoke-room' men at me en masse. I never met so entirely likeable a chap, and when I could 'get him going' about his wanderings, or provoke him into discussions about Literature, I was one walking ear! . . . . . . I almost wept to know I could never again see that golden head and kindly smile—'Young Apollo,' I used to dub him in my mind, whilst the fresh wind tossed his hair, and his boyish eyes lit up with pleasure at some of my anecdotes of strange people and places. . . . . . . Your son was not merely a genius; what is perhaps more important, he had a charm that was literally like Sunshine. To say his manner was perfect is putting it quite inadequately. . . . . . . His memory is blessed by hundreds of men like me who were so fortunate as to meet him and were the better for that happy adventure."
Another friend made on his travels was Reginald Berkeley, who was his chief companion on his excursions in Fiji. Rupert sent him from the s.s. Niagara a long letter about the technique of writing. "One can only advise people two or three years younger," he says. "Beyond that, one has forgotten." The end of it shows him insisting on the importance for artists of the attitude which he had recommended for everyone in his letter to Ben Keeling of three years before. "Finally," he says, "I charge you, be kind to life; and do not bruise her with the bludgeon of the a priori. Poor dirty cviiiwoman, she responds to sympathy. Sympathetic imagination with everybody and everything is the artist's one duty. He should be one with every little clergyman, and the stockbroker's most secret hope should be his hope. In the end, the words of Strindberg's heroine are the only motto, 'The race of man is greatly to be pitied.' Isn't that true? Hatred should be given out sparingly. It's too valuable to use carelessly. And, misused, it prevents understanding. And it is our duty to understand; for if we don't, no one else will."
His next stay was about three months in Tahiti. "I've decided to stay here another month," he wrote to Miss Nesbitt in February, "for two very good reasons: (1) that I haven't enough money to get out, (2) that I've found the most ideal place in the world to live and work in. A wide verandah over a blue lagoon, a wooden pier with deep clear water for diving, and coloured fish that swim between your toes. There also swim between your toes, more or less, scores of laughing brown babies from two years to fourteen. Canoes and boats, rivers, fishing with spear net and line, the most wonderful food in the world—strange fishes and vegetables perfectly cooked. Europe slides from me terrifyingly. . . . . . . Will it come to your having to fetch me? The boat's ready to start; the brown lovely people in their bright clothes are gathered on the old wharf to wave her away. Everyone has cixa white flower behind their ear. Mamua has given me one. Do you know the significance of a white flower worn over the ear? A white flower over the right ear means 'I am looking for a sweetheart.' And a white flower over the left ear means 'I have found a sweetheart.' And a white flower over each ear means 'I have one sweetheart, and am looking for another.' A white flower over each ear, my dear, is dreadfully the most fashionable way of adorning yourself in Tahiti.
"Bon voyage to the travellers. Good luck to everybody else. Love to the whole world. Tonight we will put scarlet flowers in our hair, and sing strange slumbrous South Sea songs to the concertina, and drink red French wine, and dance, and bathe in a soft lagoon by moonlight, and eat great squelchy tropical fruits, custard-apples, papaia, pomegranate, mango, guava and the rest. Urana. I have a million lovely and exciting things to tell you—but not now."
How thoroughly he became imbued with the life, the feeling, and the philosophy of the islands, appears from a sociological epistle which he wrote to Jacques Raverat after his return to England. "As for Land, my Frog, we must have a great deal held in common. It is good for men to work of themselves, but not too much for themselves. In my part of the world, if we want to build a canoe, we all put wreaths in our hair, and take the town hatchet, and Bill's axe, and each his own hunting-knife, and have a bit of pig each for luck, and a drink, and go out. And as we go we sing. And when we have got to cxa large tree we sit round it. And the two biggest men take the axes and hit the tree in turn. And the rest of us beat our hands rhythmically and sing a song saying 'That is a tree—cut down the tree—we will make a boat,' and so on. And when those two are tired, they drink and sit, and other two take their places . . . and later the hollowing of the canoe, and the fashioning of an out-rigger, and the making of benches and the shaping of paddles. And when all's done, we go home and sing all night, and dance a great deal. For we have another canoe.
"And when you have got a lot of other Goddites together and started to build a Cathedral, why, you'll see what fun it is working together, instead of in a dirty little corner alone, suspicious, greedy, competitive, hating all the world, like a modern artist or a French peasant or a money-lender or a golfer."
He had begun writing verse again, and in the 'wide verandah' he wrote or finished Tiare Tahiti, Retrospect, and the Great Lover, which he sent me (he had appointed me his 'literary agent or grass-executor' during his travels) for New Numbers. cxiThis publication had been planned in July by correspondence with Lascelles Abercrombie, John Drinkwater and Wilfrid Gibson. They meant at first to call it The Gallows Garland, after The Gallows, Abercrombie's cottage in Gloucestershire, from which it was to be published; and Rupert thought the change very stupid. He had sketched the contents of the first number. Abercrombie was to contribute a short epic on Asshurbanipal and Nebuchadnezzar, Drinkwater an ode called The Sonority of God, and Gibson two narrative poems, Poor Bloody Bill and The Brave Poor Thing, from a series named Gas-Stoves. Rupert himself did not expect to manage more than one sonnet, to be entitled Oh dear! Oh dear! The first number came out in February 1914; and after three more issues it was discontinued because of the war, before his death had broken the fair companionship.
To illustrate his method of work at this time, it may be of interest to print the first draft of the Psychical Research sonnet, with his corrections:
, when we're beyond the sun,
cxiiiBut to return to Tahiti. "I've been ill," he wrote to me on March 7th. "I got some beastly coral-poisoning into my legs, and a local microbe on the top of that, and made the places worse by neglecting them, and sea-bathing all day (which turns out to be the worst possible thing). I was in the country when it came on bad, and tried native remedies, which took all the skin off, and produced such a ghastly appearance that I hurried into town. . . . . . . I've got over it now, and feel very spry. I'm in a hovel at the back of the hotel, and contemplate the yard. The extraordinary life of the place flows round and through my room—for here no one, man or woman, scruples to come through one's room at any moment, if it happens to be a short cut. By day nothing much happens in the yard except when a horse tried to eat a hen the other afternoon. But by night, after ten, it's filled with flitting figures of girls, with wreaths of white flowers, keeping assignations. Occasionally two rivals meet, and fill the darker corners with cursings and scratchings. Or occasionally a youth intercepts a faithless lady, and has a pretty operatic scene under my window. It is all—all Papeete—like a Renaissance Italy, with the venom taken out. No, simpler, light-come and light-go, passionate and forgetful, like children, and all the time South Pacific, that is to say unmalicious and good-tempered. . . . . . .
"I really do feel a little anchorless. I shall be glad to be back among you all, and tied to somewhere in England. I'll never, never, never go to sea again. All I want in life is a cottage, and leisure cxivto write supreme poems and plays. I can't do it in this vagabondage."
I don't know what happened between this letter and the next to produce the gloom it shows about his work. He had always, at school and onwards, been apt to have fits of thinking that he would never write again, but this time the foreboding seems more serious than usual. He begins cheerfully 'some time in March': "It's so funny; getting a letter of January 25, and not having heard anything from anybody since October. Your letter of November, announcing your marriage with [someone very improbable]; your kindly Christmas information about the disastrous fire in Bilton Road and the disposal of the Ranee's and Alfred's cinders; your New Year's epistle announcing your, Wilfrid's and Albert's Knighthoods; the later letter that recounted your conversations with Shaw, the Earthquake, the War with Germany, the Chinese Ballet, Stravinsky's comic opera, the new El Greco, Gilbert [Cannan]'s trial, Masefield's latest knock-about farce, Arthur Benson's duel . . . all these I have not yet had. They await me in 'Frisco. So I take up the threads at the 25th of January—now itself some way down in the heap of yesterday's seven thousand years—and study them rather confusedly. Flecker—Wilfrid—poetry—plays—Moulin d'Or—Hullo Tango! they all stir, these names, some dusty memories away in the back of my subconsciousness. Somewhere they must have meant something to me, in another life. A vision of taxis slides across the orange and green of the cxvsunset. For a moment the palms dwindle to lamp-posts.
So a poor ghost beside his misty streams
"I must come back and see if I can take to it again. Plan out a life for me for next year, Eddie. (Here follows another sketch for living at Cambridge, much the same as the one already given.) The other half of the week I shall reside with you—I warn you.
"But, my dear, I doubt if you'll have me. The Game is Up, Eddie. If I've gained facts through knocking about with Conrad characters in a Gauguin entourage,—I've lost a dream or two. I tried to be a poet. And because I'm a clever writer, and because I was forty times as sensitive as anybody else, I succeeded a little. Es ist vorüber; es ist unwiederruflich zu Ende. I am what I came out here to be. Hard, quite quite hard. I have become merely a minor character in a Kipling story.
"I'll never be able to write anything more, I think; or perhaps I can do plays of a sort. . . . I think I'll have to manage a theatre. I feel very energetic; and very capable. Is that a great cxvicome-down? I think that what I really feel like is living. I want to talk and talk and talk . . . and in the intervals have extraordinary adventures. Perhaps this, too, is a come-down. But haven't I, at 26, reached the age when one should begin to learn? An energy that had rushed on me with the cessation of my leprous skin-disease, and the approaching end of six months' peace of soul, is driving me furiously on. This afternoon I go fishing in a canoe with a native girl on a green and purple reef. Tonight from ten to two, spearing fish in the same lagoon by torchlight. Tomorrow at dawn, up into the mountains on foot with a mad Englishman, four natives, and a half-caste, to a volcanic lake in the interior. There we build a house and stay for two days. The natives return, and the M.E. and myself push on for and pass down to the other coast. Perhaps we get it. Perhaps not.
"In any case we hope to see some ghosts—they abound in the interior. They come to you by night, and as you watch them their bellies burst, and their entrails fall to the ground, and their eyes—unpupilled balls of white—fall out too, and they stink and shine. This morning I've been reading The Triumph of Time, and Bartholomew Fair. . . . . . .
"Learning, learning, learning. . . . Is there anything else to do except taste? Will you come with me to Morocco, Persia, Russia, Egypt, Abyssinia, and the Aran Islands? I'm afraid I shan't be able to settle down at home. It'll be an advantage that I can come to England through America. For then, cxviiI'll find it so lovely that I won't be hankering after sunlight and brown people and rainbow-coloured fish. At least, I won't for some months, or a year.
"I'll learn at home, a bit. There's so much to learn there—if only one's sensible enough to know it. And I feel hard enough to make the attempt. I want to love my friends and hate my enemies, again. Both greatly—but not too much. Which brings me round to [an enemy] and Clubs. . . . . . . I want a club to take an occasional stranger into, for a drink, and to read the papers in, and sometimes to have a quiet meal in. Where do you think I should go? I want somewhere I needn't always be spick and span in, and somewhere I don't have to pay a vast sum. Alas, why are there no decent clubs? What do the jolly people all do? I want to belong to the same club as de la Mare. Where does de la Mare go? To Anerley, S.E., I suppose.
There was once an a-metrist of Anerley,
"I'll post this and send off my bundle of MSS. from 'Frisco."
He left Tahiti in April. "Last night," he wrote on the steamer, "I looked for the Southern Cross as usual, and looked for it in vain—like the moon for Omar Khayyam—it had gone down below the horizon. It is still shining and wheeling for those good brown people in the islands—and cxviiithey're laughing and kissing and swimming and dancing beneath it—but for me it is set; and I don't know that I shall ever see it again. It's queer. I was sad at heart to leave Tahiti. But I resigned myself to the vessel, and watched the green shores and rocky peaks fade with hardly a pang. I had told so many of those that loved me, so often, 'oh yes, I'll come back—next year perhaps, or the year after'—that I suppose I'd begun to believe it myself. It was only yesterday, when I knew that the Southern Cross had left me, that I suddenly realised I had left behind those lovely places and lovely people, perhaps for ever. I reflected that there was surely nothing else like them in this world, and very probably nothing in the next, and that I was going far away from gentleness and beauty and kindliness, and the smell of the lagoons, and the thrill of that dancing, and the scarlet of the flamboyants, and the white and gold of other flowers; and that I was going to America, which is full of harshness and hideous sights, and ugly people, and civilisation, and corruption, and bloodiness, and all evil. So I wept a little, and very sensibly went to bed. . . . . . .
"Certain reprehensible corners of my heart whisper to me, 'There's a village in Samoa, with the moonlight on the beach'—or 'I've heard of a hill in Japan'—or 'one said there's an inn in Thibet over a sheer precipice'—or 'the Victoria Nyanza is an attractive lake'—or 'that trail in the North-West up the Mackenzie—Morris said he'd go whenever I wanted'—or 'I wonder if it's true about that cxixflower in the Andes that smells like no other flower upon earth, and when once a man has smelt it he can't but return there to live in those hills in the end, though he come back from the ends of the earth.' . . . . . .
"I'll be Wordsworth's lark, that soars but doesn't roam, true to the kindred points of heaven and home. These scraps of English poetry start whispering within me—that means I'm North of the Equator, doesn't it? It's a good sign, perhaps. English thoughts are waking in me. They'll fetch me back. Call me home, I pray you. I've been away long enough. I'm older than I was. I've left bits of me about—some of my hair in Canada, and one skin in Honolulu, and another in Fiji, and a bit of a third in Tahiti, and half a tooth in Samoa, and bits of my heart all over the place. I'm deader than I was. Partir, c'est toujours mourir un peu—you know that admirable and true proverb, don't you? A little old Frenchman, a friend of mine, told it me as we leaned over the rail and watched the waving crowds and the red roofs and the hills and the clouds dwindle and vanish. He was going home to France for a year for his health. 'Home,' he'd be angry at that. 'Mon home c'est ici,' he told me repeatedly. He is married to a native woman these fifteen years—no children of his own, but plenty adopted. She was so much finer than a white woman, he sighed—so lovely, so faithful, so competent, so charming and happy, and so extraordinarily intelligent. I told him what Tagore told me about white women compared with Indian, and cxxhe gave me his observations, and we entirely agreed, and forgot our sorrows in inventing bilingual insults to the swarms of ugly American and Colonial girls on board."
"Oh, God! Oh, God!" his next letter to me began, from San Francisco in April. "How I hate civilisation and houses and trams and collars." But the shock was tempered to him. "I've found good friends in the quieter parts of this region, who live in a garden filled with roses and hyacinths and morning-glory. So I'll rest a day or two and try to get over the effects of my first re-entry into civilisation. And then I'll sneak away East and come home. I want to live in a hut by a river and pretend I'm Polynesian. Will you come and see me o' week-ends?. . . . . . . Oh! Oh! I am old as death. Urana!" And from the train: "I read books on Indirect Primaries, just to get the South Seas out of my blood. One must remember one has trousers on again. I had a faint thought of going to Mexico. But I guess it won't be much of a war. You'll be vanishing for Whitsuntide soon. A yachting trip to Ulster? I do hope you're going to let the Orangemen slit all the priests' throats first; and then shoot them. I'll enlist on either side, any day. Your nostic,
"It's eleven months," he wrote to Miss Nesbitt from Arizona, "that I've not been looked after, cxxiand my clothes are in an awful state, and my hair not cut, and I rarely shave. I'm so tired of it. Comprenny? Do you get me? I shall—(prepare your ears and hold tight)—shall sail from New York on June 6th, and by June 15th I shall be in London. My dear, one thing I would implore you. It's very silly. But don't tell anybody the exact day I'm coming back. It's my fancy to blow in on them unexpected—just to wander into Raymond Buildings and hear Eddie squeak 'Oh, my dear, I thought you were in Tahiti!' It's awfly silly and romantic, but the thought does give me the keenest and most exquisite pleasure. Don't give away one of the first poets in England—but there is in him still a very very small portion that's just a little childish."
"I have such news," he wrote in his next letter. "It begins with Maurice Browne and his wife going to Europe a week sooner than I had planned to. We squabbled, I saying they should defer their departure a week for the pleasure of going with me; they, ridiculously, that I should hasten my leaving this land some seven days for the honour of their companionship. Neither side would yield; so we parted in wrath. They pettily, I with some dignity. Coming here, I found two engagements fallen through; and last night I dreamed very vividly that I arrived in England, and telephoned to everybody I knew, and they were awfully nice, and then went round and saw them, and they were lovely. Friends I had known long ago, between whom and myself evil and pain has come, greeted me in the cxxiiold first way; and other friends who have stayed friends were wonderfully the same; and there were new friends. . . . . . . I woke laughing and crying. I felt I must get back. I telephoned to Browne, flew to some agents, and in consequence I sail from New York on May 29th, and reach Plymouth—oh blessed name, oh loveliness! Plymouth—was there ever so sweet and droll a sound? Drake's Plymouth, English Western Plymouth, city where men speak softly, and things are sold for shillings, not for dollars; and there is love, and beauty, and old houses; and beyond which there are little fields, very green, bounded by small piled walls of stone; and behind them—I know it—the brown and black, splintered, haunted moor. By that the train shall go up; by Dartmouth, where my brother was—I will make a litany; by Torquay, where Verrall stayed; and by Paignton, where I have walked in the rain; past Ilsington, where John Ford was born, and Appledore, in the inn of which I wrote a poem against a commercial traveller; by Dawlish, of which John Keats sang; within sight of Widdicombe, where old Uncle Tom Cobley rode a mare; not a dozen miles from John Galsworthy at Manaton; within sight almost of that hill at Drewsteignton on which I lay out all one September night, crying—and to Exeter, and to Ottery St Mary where Coleridge sojourned; and across Wiltshire, where men built and sang many centuries before the Aquila. Oh noble train, oh glorious and forthright and English train! I will look round me at the English faces, and out at the English fields, and I will pray—reach cxxiiiPlymouth, as I was saying when I was interrupted, on Friday, June 5th."
I got wind of his design to arrive like a bolt from the blue, and represented the disaster it would be if he came and found the door closed against him. He yielded, and at 2.45 a.m. on June 6th (for the forthright English train was very late) Denis Browne and I met him at Paddington.
- Denis Browne, of whom more hereafter.
- Georgian Poetry
- G. Lowes Dickinson
- Miss Violet Asquith, now Lady Bonham-Carter.
- These lines appear again, considerably altered, in the essay called Some Niggers, printed in Letters from America.
- Wilfred Gibson
- His name for his mother.
- This was at Mataiea, about 30 miles from the chief town, Papeete.
- A postscript to a letter to his mother elucidates a line in this poem. "They call me Pupure here—it means 'fair' in Tahitian—because I have fair hair! "
- Speculation has been aroused by the line in this poem praising 'the comfortable smell of friendly fingers.' When asked whose fingers, he said his nurse's; and admitted that it might have been the soap.
- He took large views of my duties. "Damn it," he had written from Vancouver, "what's the good of a friend if he can't sit down and write off a few poems for one at a pinch? That's what I count on your doing, if the editors press."
I hope this note will not start a vain hunt for spuria among the published poems.
- Though there are no changes in the concluding lines, I print them for the sake of a parallel, shown me by John Drinkwater, in Andrew Marvell's Dialogue between Soul and Body, where Soul says:
O, who shall from this dungeon raise
A soul enslaved so many ways,
With bolts of bones, that fettered stands
In feet, and manacled in hands;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear?
- An unrevised form of part of the sonnet Hauntings.
- He was also reading Boswell. "I've discovered," he wrote, "that Dr Johnson is the only man I love. An Englishman, by God'"
- Director of the Little Theatre at Chicago.