The Borzoi 1920/Part 3
HOW HE DIED
By Conrad Aiken
When Punch had roared at the inn for days
The walls went round in a ringing haze,
Miriam, through the splendour seen,
Twinkled and smiled like Sheba's Queen,
Jake was the devil himself, the host
Scratched in a book like a solemn Faust;
And the lights like birds went swiftly round
With a soft and feathery whistling sound.
He seized the table with one great hand
And a thousand people helped him stand,
"Good-night!" a thousand voices said,
The words like gongs assailed his head,
And out he reeled, most royally,
Singing, amid that company.—
Luminous clocks above him rolled,
Bells in the darkness heavily tolled,
The stars in the sky were smoothly beating
In a solemn chorus, all repeating
The tick of the great heart in his breast
That tore his body, and would not rest.
Singing, he climbed the elusive street,
And heard far off his footsteps beat;
Singing, they pushed him through the door,
And he fell full length on the darkened floor ...
But his head struck sharply as he fell
And he heard a sound like a broken bell;
And then, in the half-light of the moon,
The twittering elvish light of June,
A host of folk came round him there,—
Sheba, with diamonds in her hair,
Solomon, thumming a psaltery,
Judas Iscariot, dark of eye,
Satan and Faustus and Lorraine,
And Celiogabalus with his train ...
The air was sweet with a delicate sound
Of silk things rustling on the ground,
Jewels and silver twinkled, dim,
Voices and laughter circled him ...
After a while the clock struck two,
A whisper among the audience flew,
And Judy before him came and knelt
And kissed him; and her lips, he felt,
Were wet with tears ... She wore a crown,
And amethysts, and a pale green gown ...
After a while the clock struck three
And Polly beside him, on one knee,
Leaned above him and softly cried,
Wearing a white veil like a bride.
One candle on the sill was burning,
And Faustus sat in the corner, turning
Page after page with solemn care
To count the immortal heartbeats there.
Slow was the heart, and quick the stroke
Of the pen, and never a word he spoke;
But watched the tears of pale wax run
Down from the long flame one by one.
Solomon in the moonlight bowed,
The Queen of Sheba sobbed aloud;
Like a madonna carved in stone
Judy in starlight stood alone:
Tears were glistening on her cheek,
Her lips were awry, she could not speak.
After a while the clock struck four,
And Faustus said "I can write no more:
I've entered the heartbeats, every one,
And now the allotted time is done."
He dipped his pen, made one more mark,
And clapped his book. The room grew dark.
At four o'clock Punch turned his head
And "I forgive you all," he said....
At five o'clock they found him dead.
FROM "YOUTH AND EGOLATRY"
By Pío Baroja
If a militia of genius should be formed on Parnassus, Goethe would be the drum-major. He is so great, so majestic, so serene, so full of talent, so abounding in virtue, and yet, so antipathetic!
A skin of Lacrymae Christi that has turned sour. At times the good Viscount drops molasses into the skin to take away the taste of vinegar; at other times, he drops in more vinegar to take away the sweet taste of the molasses. He is both moth-eaten and sublime.
Victor Hugo, the most talented of rhetoricians! Victor Hugo, the most exquisite of vulgarians! Victor Hugo—mere common sense dressed up as art.
A nightmare, a dream produced by indigestion, a chill, rare acuteness, equal obtuseness, a delirium of splendours, cheap hardware, of pretence and bad taste. Because of his ugliness, because of his genius, because of his immorality, the Danton of printers' ink.
A mysterious sphinx who makes one tremble with lynx-like eyes, the goldsmith of magical wonders.
At once a mystic and a sad clown. The Saint Vincent de Paul of the loosened string, the Saint Francis of Assisi of the London Streets. Everything is gesticulation, and the gesticulations are ambiguous. When we think he is going to weep, he laughs; when we think he is going to laugh, he cries. A remarkable genius who does everything he can to make himself appear puny, yet who is, beyond doubt, very great.
Sainte Beuve writes as if he had always said the last word, as if he were precisely at the needle of the scales. Yet I feel that this writer is not as infallible as he thinks. His interest lies in his anecdote, in his malevolent insinuation, in his bawdry. Beyond these, he has the same Mediterranean features as the rest of us.
He impresses me as the Prince of Upstarts, grandiloquent and at the same time unctuous, a General in a Salvation Army of Art, or a monk who is a devotee of an esthetic Doctrine which has been drawn up by a Congress of Tourists.
A Word from Kuroki, the Japanese
"Gentlemen," said General Kuroki, speaking at a banquet tendered to him in New York, "I cannot aspire to the applause of the world, because I have created nothing, I have invented nothing. I am only a soldier."
If these are not his identical words, they convey the meaning of them.
This victorious, square-headed Mongolian had gotten into his head what the dolichocephalic German blond, who, according to German anthropologists is the highest product of Europe, and the brachycephalic brunette of Gaul and the Latin and the Slav have never been able to understand.
Will they ever be able to understand it? Perhaps they never will be able.
Love of the Workingman
To gush over the workingman is one of the commonplaces of the day which is utterly false and hypocritical. Just as in the 18th century sympathy was with the simple hearted citizen, so today we talk about workingman. The term workingman can never be anything but a grammatical common denominator. Among workingmen, as among the bourgeoisie, there are all sorts of people. It is perfectly true that there are certain characteristics, certain defects, which may be exaggerated in a given class, because of its special environment and culture. The difference in Spanish cities between the labouring men and the bourgeoisie is not very great. We frequently see the workingman leap the barrier into the bourgeoisie, and then disclose himself as a unique flower of knavery, extortion and misdirected ingenuity. Deep down in the hearts of our revolutionists, I do not believe that there is any real enthusiasm for the workingman.
When the bookshop of Fernando Fé was still in the Carrera de San Jerónimo, I once heard Blasco Ibáñez say with the cheapness that is his distinguishing trait, laughing meanwhile ostentatiously, that a republic in Spain would mean the rule of shoemakers and of the scum of the streets.
FROM "THE ROMANTIC WOMAN"
By Mary Borden
Now that I've got back to the beginning, the night of the 10th of September, 1913, I find that I've told you all sorts of things, almost everything of importance, except just what happened that night. I'm afraid, in telling the story, I've got into rather a muddle. It's so difficult to keep distinct what I felt and knew at various times, and what I feel and know now. Now the war is on us, and my chief feeling is one of fear, not any definite fear of Zeppelins or invasions, but a vague, dreadful fear, an acute sense of insecurity. The world is shaking, and its convulsions give one a feeling of having, to put it vulgarly, gone dotty. It's as though I saw all the tables and chairs in my room moving about and falling over. Everything that was stable and was made to hang on to, and sit down upon, and lean against, is lurching. The great business of life seems to be to sit tight, but one has a suspicion that even the law of gravity may be loosed and that we shall find ourselves falling off the earth. Before the 4th of August, people in their secure little houses were enjoying their miseries and making capital out of their difficulties, and splendidly gambling on the future the dark future—that seemed so possible. Now it is all changed. It appears that the conduct of life is largely a matter of unconscious calculations. One says good-bye and calculates that the chances are a hundred to one, that one will meet this friend again. But when I said good-bye to Binky the other day at the one o'clock from Victoria, the chances were a hundred to one against his coming back. It's a curious thing to have all the mathematics of life upset. It makes one feel like being in a mad-house. The laughter of Arch and Humpy rising in shrieks from the gardens seems incredible and wonderful. The security of childhood becomes the most precious thing on earth.
So you see how difficult it is to remember what my feelings were in 1913. I have told you about how the American quartette descended on us at Saracens, and I've told you about my clairvoyant moment at dinner, when I saw through them all as though an X-ray machine had been turned on them. I don't want to go into all the complex impressions of their personalities and the queer, surcharged atmosphere that their minds altogether there, created in the house, because Louise's wretched mind dominated them all for me as the evening went on, just as her voice drowned their voices and her tragedy eclipsed their little troubles. Phyllis and Binky may have been under a strain; no doubt they were. Pat may have been uncomfortable, though I don't believe he was. Claire, undoubtedly, drew a certain sinister satisfactionAnd yet, if we are immortals, all of us, then it was, of course, much more than that, and the amount of pain that was mine afterward, and the cowardly giving in to the hopeless boredom of life that resulted from it, all that will be balanced up against me, I suppose. I suppose my giving in Phil's helplessness. But all those things scarcely count at all compared to the dreadful tension stretched over Louise and Jim. I had a feeling of something drawn round them, very tight, enclosing them in a space like the inside of a balloon, where the gases of their misery and distrust swelled to bursting. And the final act was just the bursting of a bubble that had been strained too long. And it seems, now, scarcely more important in the sum total of the world's tragedy than the bursting of a toy balloon, buyable for a penny, and in competition with the roar of armaments, scarcely more noisy.
to Ruffles, when I knew there was nothing in it, will be laid up against me. I don't know. I don't care very much. It's so difficult to decide whether that sort of thing really matters. To my father it would matter so terribly, and to Binky it would—it did—matter so little. I could never tell from his manner whether he accepted it in knowledge or was altogether unaware. But it's curious that Louise should have accused me of the thing that hadn't happened and was not going to, because my father came to see us.
April adance in play
met with his lover May
where she came garlanded.
The blossoming boughs o'erhead
were thrill'd to bursting by
the dazzle from the sky
and the wild music there
that shook the odorous air.
Each moment some new birth
hasten'd to deck the earth
in the gay sunbeams.
Between their kisses dreams:
And dream and kiss were rife
with laughter of mortal life.
But this late day of golden fall
is still as a picture upon a wall
or a poem in a book lying open unread.
Or whatever else is shrined
when the Virgin hath vanished;
Footsteps of eternal Mind
on the path of the dead.
"LETTERS OF A JAVANESE PRINCESS"
By Louis Couperus
When the letters of Raden Adjeng Kartini were published in Holland, they aroused much interest and awakened a warm sympathy for the writer. She was the young daughter of a Javanese Regent, one of the "princesses" who grow up and blossom in sombre obscurity and seclusion, leading their monotonous and often melancholy lives within the confines of the Kaboepatin, as the high walled Regent's palaces are called.
The thought of India, or as we now say, perhaps more happily, Java, had a strange fascination for me even as a child. I was charmed by the weird mystery of its stories which frightened even while they charmed me. Although I was born in Holland, our family traditions had been rooted in Java. My father began his official career there as a Judge, and my mother was the daughter of a Governor General, while my older brothers had followed their father's example and were officials under the Colonial Government.
At nine years of age I was taken to the inscrutable and far off land round which my early fancy had played; and I passed five of my school years in Batavia. At the end of those five years I felt the same charm and the same mystery. The thought of Java became almost an obsession. I felt that while we Netherlanders might rule and exploit the country, we should never be able to penetrate its mystery. It seemed to me that it would always be covered by a thick veil, which guarded its Eastern soul from the strange eyes of the Western conqueror. There was a quiet strength "Een Stille Kracht" unperceived by our cold business-like gaze. It was something intangible, and almost hostile, with a silent, secret hostility that lurked in the atmosphere, in nature and above all, in the soul of the natives. It menaced from the slumbering volcanoes, and lay hidden in mysterious shadows of the rustling bamboos. It was in the bright, silver moonlight when the drooping palm trees trembled in the wind until they seemed to play a symphony so gentle and so complaining that it moved me to my soul. I do not know whether this was poetic imagination ever prone to be supersensitive, or in reality the "Quiet Strength," hidden in the heart of the East and eternally at war with the spirit of the West. It is certainly true that the Javanese has never been an open book to the Netherlander. The difference of race forms an abyss so deep that though they may stand face to face and look into each other's eyes, it is as though they saw nothing.
The Javanese woman of noble birth is even more impenetrable. The life of a Raden Adjeng or a Raden Adjoe is a thing apart. Even the Dutch officials and rulers of the country know nothing of the lives of these secluded "princesses," as we like to call the wives and daughters of the Regents, though they themselves lay no claim to a title which in Europe ranks so high.
Suddenly a voice was heard from the depths of this unknown land. It rose from behind the high protecting wall that had done its work of subjection and concealment through the ages. It was gentle, like the melodious song of a little bird in a cage—in a costly cage it is true, and surrounded by the tenderest care, but still in a cage that was also a prison. It was the voice of Raden Adjeng Kartini, which sounded above the walls of the close-barred Kaboepatin. It was like the cry of a little bird that wanted to spread its wings free in the air, and fly towards life. And the sound grew fuller and clearer, till it became the rich voice of a woman.
She was shut in by aristocratic traditions and living virtually imprisoned as became a young "princess" of Java; but she sang of her longing for life and work and her voice rose clearer and stronger. It penetrated to the distant Netherlands, and was heard there with wonder and with delight. She was singing a new song, the first complaint that had ever gone forth from the mysterious hidden life of the Javanese woman. With all the energy of her body and soul she wanted to be free, to work and to live and to love.
Then the complaint became a song of rejoicing. For she not only longed to lead the new life of the modern woman, but she had the strength to accomplish it, and more than that, to win the sympathy of her family and of her friends for her ideals. This little "princess" lifted the concealing veil from her daily life and not only her life, her thoughts were revealed. An Oriental woman had dared to fight for feminism, even against her tenderly loved parents. For although her father and mother were enlightened for noble Javanese, they had at first strongly opposed her ideas as unheard of innovations.
She wanted to study and later to become a teacher to open a school for the daughters of Regents, and to bring the new spirit into their lives. She battled bravely, she would not give up; in the end she won.
Raden Adjeng Kartini freed herself from the narrow oppression of tradition, and the simple language of these letters chants a paean "From Darkness into Light." The mist of obscurity is cleared away from her land and her people. The Javanese soul is shown simple, gentle, and less hostile than we Westerners had ever dared to hope. For the soul of this girl was one with the soul of her people, and it is through her that a new confidence has grown up between West and the East, between the Netherlands and Java. The mysterious "Quiet Strength" is brought into the light, it is tender, human and full of love and Holland may well be grateful to the hand that revealed it.
This noble and pure soul was not destined to remain long upon earth. Had she lived, who knows what Raden Adjeng Kartini might not have accomplished for the well being of her country and her people; above all, for the Javanese women and the Javanese child. She was the first Regent's daughter to break the fixed tradition in regard to marriage; it was customary to give the bride to a strange bridegroom, whom she had never seen, perhaps never even heard of, until her wedding day. Kartini chose her own husband, a man whom she loved, but her happy life with him was cut short by her early death.
It is sometimes granted to those whom the gods love to bring their work to fruition in all the splendour of youth, in the springtime or the summer of their lives. To have worked and to have completed a great task, when one is young, so that the world is left richer for all time—is not that the most beautiful of all the gifts of the gods?
When April scatters coins of primrose gold
Among the copper leaves in thickets old,
And singing skylarks from the meadows rise,
To twinkle like black stars in sunny skies;
When I can hear the small woodpecker ring
Time on a tree for all the birds that sing;
And hear the pleasant cuckoo, loud and long—
The simple bird that thinks two notes a song;
When I can hear the woodland brook, that could
Not drown a babe, with all his threatening mood:
Upon whose banks the violets make their home,
And let a few small strawberry blossoms come;
When I go forth on such a pleasant day,
One breath outdoors takes all my care away;
It goes like heavy smoke, when flames take hold
Of wood that's green and fill a grate with gold.
By this time, it was plain, Thimble and Thumb had found something to raise them to the window-hole, for Nod, as he glanced up, saw half of both their astonished faces (one eye of each) peering in at the window. He waved his lean little arms, and their faces vanished.
"Why do you wave your long thumbs in the air?" said the old Gunga uneasily.
"I wave to Tishnar," said Nod, "who watches over her wandering Princes, and will preserve them from thieves and cunning ones. And as for your filthy green-weed soup, how should a Mulla-mulgar soil his thumbs with gutting fish? And as for the Water-midden's song, that I cannot teach you, nor would I teach it you if I could, Master Fish-catcher. But I can catch fish with it."
The old Gunga squatted close on his stool, and grinned as graciously as he could. "I am poor and growing old," he said, "and I cannot catch fish as once I could. How is that done, O Royal Traveller?"
A PAGE FROM THE THREE MULLA-MULGARS,
BY WALTER DE LA MARE,
ILLUSTRATED BY DOROTHY P. LATHROP.
BURBANK WITH A BAEDEKER;
BLEISTEIN WITH A CIGAR
By T. S. Eliot
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-laire—nil nisi divinum stabile est; caetera fumus—the gondola stopped, the old place was there, how charming its grey and pink—goats and monkeys, with such hair too!—so the countess passed on until she came through the little park, where Niobe presented her with a cabinet, and so departed.
Burbank crossed a little bridge
- Descending at a small hotel;
Princess Volupine arrived,
- They were together, and he fell.
Defunctive music under sea
- Passed seaward with the passing bell
Slowly: the God Hercules
- Had left him, that had loved him well.
The horses, under the axletree
- Beat up the dawn from Istria
With even feet. Her shuttered barge
- Burned on the water all the day.
But this or such was Bleistein's way:
- A saggy bending of the knees
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
- Chicago Semite Viennese.
A lustreless protrusive eye
- Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canalotto.
- The smoky candle end of time
Declines. On the Rialto once.
- The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.
- Money in furs. The boatman smiles,
Princess Volupine extends
- A meagre, blue-nailed, phthisic hand
To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights,
- She entertains Sir Ferdinand
Klein. Who clipped the lion's wings
- And flea'd his rump and pared his claws;
Thought Burbank, meditating on
- Time's ruins, and the seven laws.
Harriet, meanwhile, had been coughing ominously at the drop-scene, which presently rose on the grounds of Ravenswood, and the chorus of Scotch retainers burst into cry. The audience accompanied with tappings and drummings, swaying in the melody like corn in the wind. Harriet, though she did not care for music, knew how to listen to it. She uttered an acid "Shish!"
"Shut it," whispered her brother.
"We must make a stand from the beginning. They're talking."
"It is tiresome," murmured Miss Abbott; "but perhaps it isn't for us to interfere."
Harriet shook her head and shished again. The people were quiet, not because it is wrong to talk during a chorus, but because it is natural to be civil to a visitor. For a little time she kept the whole house in order, and could smile at her brother complacently.
Her success annoyed him. He had grasped the principle of opera in Italy—it aims not at illusion but at entertainment—and he did not want this great evening-party to turn into a prayer-meeting. But soon the boxes began to fill, and Harriet's power was over. Families greeted each other across the auditorium. People in the pit hailed their brothers and sons in the chorus, and told them how well they were singing. When Lucia appeared by the fountain there was loud applause, and cries of "Welcome to Monteriano!"
"Ridiculous babies!" said Harriet, settling down in her stall.
"Why, it is the famous hot lady of the Apennines," cried Philip; "the one who had never, never before—"
"Ugh! Don't. She will be very vulgar. And I'm sure it's even worse here than in the tunnel. I wish we'd never—"
Lucia began to sing, and there was a moment's silence. She was stout and ugly; but her voice was still beautiful, and as she sang the theatre murmured like a hive of happy bees. All through the coloratura she was accompanied by sighs, and its top note was drowned in a shout of universal joy.
So the opera proceeded. The singers drew inspiration from the audience, and the two great sextettes were rendered not unworthily. Miss Abbott fell into the spirit of the thing. She, too, chatted and laughed and applauded and encored, and rejoiced in the existence of beauty. As for Philip, he forgot himself as well as his mission. He was not even an enthusiastic visitor. For he had been in this place always. It was his home.
Harriet, like M. Bovary on a more famous occasion, was trying to follow the plot. Occasionally she nudged her companions, and asked them what had become of Walter Scott. She looked round grimly. The audience sounded drunk, and even Caroline, who never took a drop, was swaying oddly. Violent waves of excitement, all arising from very little, went sweeping round the theatre. The climax was reached in the mad scene. Lucia, clad in white, as befitted her malady, suddenly gathered up her streaming hair and bowed her acknowledgment to the audience. Then from the back of the stage—she feigned not to see it—there advanced a kind of bamboo clothes-horse, stuck all over with bouquets. It was very ugly, and most of the flowers in it were false. Lucia knew this, and so did the audience; and they all knew that the clothes-horse was a piece of stage property, brought in to make the performance go year after year. None the less did it unloose the great deeps. With a scream of amazement and joy she embraced the animal, pulled out one or two practicable blossoms, pressed them to her lips, and flung them into her admirers. They flung them back, with loud melodious cries, and a little boy in one of the stage-boxes snatched up his sister's carnations and offered them. "Che carino!" exclaimed the singer. She darted at the boy and kissed him. Now the noise became tremendous. "Silence! silence!" shouted many old gentlemen behind. "Let the divine creature continue!" But the young men in the adjacent box were imploring Lucia to extend her civility to them. She refused, with a humorous, expressive gesture. One of them hurled a bouquet at her. She spurned it with her foot. Then, encouraged by the roars of the audience, she picked it up and tossed it to them. Harriet was always unfortunate. The bouquet struck her full in the chest, and a little billet-doux fell out of it into her lap.
"Call this classical!" she cried, rising from her seat. "It's not even respectable! Philip! take me out at once."
"THE GOLDEN BIRD"
The sketch is, I take it, commonly supposed to be the easiest form that a writer can use, and the bad sketch probably is. The good sketch, on the other hand, is about the hardest, for there is no time to go wrong, or, rather, in which to recover if one does go wrong. Moreover, it demands a very faithful objectivity, and a rare sensitiveness of touch. The good sketcher does not bite off more than he or she can chew, does not waste a word, and renders into writing that alone which is significant. To catch the flying values of life, and convey them to other minds and hearts in a few pages of picture may seem easy to the lay reader, but is, I do assure him, mortal hard.
The sketches in this, the first book of a young writer, are so really good, that they should require no preliminary puff. But the fact is that the reading public in America and England get so few good sketches, indeed so few volumes of sketches at all, that even the best work of this kind has unfairly little chance.
If I know anything and I am not alone in my opinion, the writer of this book has a sympathetic apprehension of life, and a perfection in rendering it which is altogether out of the common. Those readers who want not snapshots but little pictures, entirely without preciosity, extraordinarily sensitive and faithful, and never dull, because they have real meaning and truth, will appreciate this volume.
Those who don't know the southern countryside of England, and the simpler people thereof, will make a real acquaintanceship with it through some of these unpretentious pages. And the French sketches, especially, by their true flavour of French life, guarantee the writer's possession of that spiritual insight without which art is nothing worth.
I will beat the drum no more; for if the reader likes not this mental fare, no noise of mine will make him.
—Foreword to "The Golden Bird."
WAR AND THE SMALL NATIONS
Once, high above a pasture, where a sheep and a lamb were grazing, an eagle was circling and gazing hungrily down upon the lamb. And as he was about to descend and seize his prey, another eagle appeared and hovered above the sheep and her young with the same hungry intent. Then the two rivals began to fight, filling the sky with their fierce cries.
The sheep looked up and was much astonished. She turned to the lamb and said,
"How strange, my child, that these two noble birds should attack one another. Is not the vast sky large enough for both of them? Pray, my little one, pray in your heart that God may make peace between your winged brothers."
And the lamb prayed in his heart.
Love, Fear and Hate and Childish Toys
Are here discreetly blent;
Admire, you ladies, read, you boys,
My Country Sentiment.
But Kate says, "Cut that anger and fear,
True love's the stuff we need!
With laughing children and the running deer,
That makes a book indeed."
Then Tom, a hard and bloody chap,
Though much beloved by me,
"Robert, have done with nursery pap,
Write like a man," says he.
Hate and Fear are not wanted here,
Nor Toys nor Country Lovers,
Everything they took from my new poem book
But the flyleaf and the covers.
By E. W. Howe
I was lately making a little automobile journey and met Joe Ward, a high-priced man. We were passing through the town of Centerville and stopped a moment to inquire the road to Fairview.
It happened that the man we addressed was Joe Ward himself, who said he was just about to leave for Fairview and would show us the way if we would give him a ride.
So he sat beside the driver and turned round and told us about the farms we passed. He knew every farmer on the way; how his crops were turning out and many other interesting facts, for this man was a clerk in the New York Store in Centerville and had been so employed nine years.
When we came to a crossroad he would say "Straight ahead" or "Turn to the right" to the driver and then tell us something of interest about his work in the New York Store. It seemed he was a very popular clerk; so popular, indeed, that the proprietor of the Boston Store, the principal opposition, had long wanted him.
"But I said to him frankly," Joe Ward explained, "if you get me you'll have to pay a man's wages. I'm no cheap skate. I was born over on Cow Creek and no citizen of that neighbourhood would think of going to Centerville without trading with me."
"Here," I thought, "is a very high-priced man."
I began wondering how much would induce him to leave the New York Store. And he proceeded to tell us—he couldn't keep a secret.
"Besides the pull I have on Cow Creek, my grandfather is the leading farmer out the Fairview way and everybody knows I control the best trade round Fairview. So I says to Persinger, of the Boston Store: 'If you get me you'll get the best, but you'll have to pay me. I'm human like everybody else; if you pay me I'll work for you and do you all the good I can, but we might as well understand each other first as last—if you get me you'll have to pay me. I'm no amateur. If you get me you'll have to pay me twelve dollars a week.'"
But it developed before we reached the next town that Persinger, of the opposition store, wouldn't stand an innovation like that, so Joe Ward got out at Fairview and said he was going back next morning to resume his work at the New York Store.
I have noticed that the people take as much delight in praising a worthless man as they take in abusing a respectable one. People say Doc Robinson, the town drunkard, was once a noted surgeon in London; that he was engaged to a beautiful young lady of New York, but gave her up because his parents objected, and thus went to the dogs; that he has the best education of any man in town; that he is a man of fine intellect; that he is a younger son of a titled family in England, and that when his brother dies he will become a duke.
I looked Doc up and discovered that the only notable thing that ever happened in his life was that he attended a veterinary college in Canada, where he was born on a farm and where he lived until he came to this country to make horse liniment, the basis of which, alcohol, he sweetened and drank, and thus became a drunkard.
A travelling man yesterday gave John Davis, the grocer, a twenty-cent cigar. John Davis has been selling cigars at his grocery store and smoking twenty years—and a good cigar made him sick.
CONCERNING "A LITTLE BOY LOST"
A Letter from W. H. Hudson
Dear Mr. Knopf:
Your request for a Foreword to insert in the American reprint of the little book worries me. A critic on this side has said that my Prefaces to reprints of my earlier works are of the nature of parting kicks, and I have no desire just now to kick this poor innocent. That evil-tempered old woman, Mother Nature, in one of her worst tantrums, has been inflicting so many cuffs and blows on me that she has left me no energy or disposition to kick anything—even myself.
The trouble is that I know so little about it. Did I write this book? What then made me do it?
In reading a volume of Fors Clavigera I once came upon a passage which sounded well but left me in a mist, and it relieved me to find a footnote to it in which the author says: "This passage was written many years ago and what I was thinking about at the time has quite escaped my memory. At all events, though I let it stand, I can find no meaning in it now."
Little men may admire but must not try to imitate these gestures of the giants. And as a result of a little quiet thinking it over I seem able to recover the idea I had in my mind when I composed this child's story and found a title for it in Blake. Something too of the semi-wild spirit of the child hero in the lines:
Naught loves another as itself ...
And, father, how can I love you
Or any of my brothers more?
I love you like the little birds
That pick up crumbs about the door."
There nature is, after picking up the crumbs to fly away.
A long time ago I formed a small collection of children's books of the early years of the nineteenth century; and looking through them, wishing that some of them had fallen into my hands when I was a child I recalled the books I had read at that time—especially two or three. Like any normal child I delighted in such stories as the Swiss Family Robinson, but they were not the books I prized most; they omitted the very quality I liked best—the little thrills that nature itself gave me, which half frightened and fascinated at the same time, the wonder and mystery of it all. Once in a while I got a book with something of this rare element in it, contained perhaps in some perfectly absurd narrative of animals taking human shape or using human speech, with such like transformations and vagaries; they could never be too extravagant, fantastic and incredible, so long as they expressed anything of the feeling I myself experienced when out of sight and sound of my fellow beings, whether out on the great level plain, with a glitter of illusory water all round me, or among the shadowy trees with their bird and insect sounds, or by the waterside and bed of tall dark bull-rushes murmuring in the wind.
These ancient memories put it in my mind to write a book which, I imagined, would have suited my peculiar taste of that early period, the impossible story to be founded on my own childish impressions and adventures, with a few dreams and fancies thrown in and two or three native legends and myths, such as the one of the Lady of the Hills, the incarnate spirit of the rocky Sierras on the great plains, about which I heard from my gaucho comrades when on the spot—the strange woman seldom viewed by human eye who is jealous of man's presence and is able to create sudden violent tempests to frighten them from her sacred haunts.
That's the story of my story, and to the question in your publisher's practical mind, I'm sorry to have to say I don't know. I have no way of finding out, since children are not accustomed to write to authors to tell them what they think of their books. And after all these excuses it just occurs to me that children do not read forewords and introductions; they have to be addressed to adults who do not read children's books, so that in any case it would be thrown away. Still if a foreword you must have, and from me, I think you will have to get it out of this letter.
W. H. Hudson.
November 14, 1917.
Winter is icummen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
Note.—This is not folk music, but Dr. Ker writes that the tune is to be found under the Latin words of a very ancient canon.
FIRE AND THE HEART OF MAN
By J. C. Squire
It was eleven o'clock at night. I was preparing to write an essay. I was going to write it about a book. The book was a good and a beautiful book; it filled me with the noblest thoughts, made me a better man and fit for the most heroic actions. It was full of sagacity, of sound reasoning, of imagination checked by sense, of reflection shot through with vision. It was not only a good book, but a large and solid book, a book to be chewed like the cud, remembered and returned to, a virtuous and courageous book, a book of mettle, a book of weight. Unfortunately, or fortunately, just as I had finished reading the book and was biting the end of my fountain-pen, wondering how in God's name I was to do it justice, I looked out of my attic window. The trees stood dark across the road; the river lay dark beyond the trees; but the light of the stars was not the only light. On the horizon, behind some trees and a house, glowing, reddening, rolling, there was a Fire.
There may be people who, when they see Fire in the distance, say, "Oh, what a pity! I hope the Insurance Company will not suffer heavily"; or "What a waste of material." There may be people who say, "There is a Fire"—and then go to bed. There may even be people who say, "Well, what if there is a Fire?"—and turn grumpily to resume their discussion about the Ethics of Palaeontology or the Finances of a Co-operative Kitchen. If such people exist, I am not among them. When I saw this Fire I ran downstairs as hard as I could pelt and knocked up a neighbour. I said to him, "There is a Fire. Look!" He answered, "By Jove! so there is." I said, "It may be twenty miles away or two miles away. The farther the bigger. If it is a long walk the compensation is proportionate." He said, "Wait a minute till I put on my boots." I said, "All right; but buck up or the Fire may die down." He hurried; and we started walking. We did not know whither we were walking. All we knew was, and this thought slightly depressed us, that the direction of the Fire put out of the question any hope that it was the Albert Memorial or the Queen Victoria Memorial that was in process of combustion.
We walked along the river, past the terrace and the cocoa-butter factory, and the nuns' school, and the creek, and the boathouses. The glare increased steadily as we went. When we reached the bridge it was in full view. An enormous factory was blazing away on the edge of the river below the bridge; the great span cut dark across the flames and the glow. As we climbed to the bridge we saw that there was a thin row of silent people leaning over the ironwork—looking at the Fire. The stars were above them and the velvet dark sky; the river flowed below them; a few hundred yards away great flames and intervolved clouds of smoke poured out of a huge building, the top windows of which were almost intolerably bright. The roof had gone and the pillars of stonework between the windows looked like the pillars of some ruined Greek temple against a magnificent gold sunset. It was all gold and blue; the moving gold and the still, all-embracing blue; and the crowd said nothing at all. There was no sound except when a great stretch of masonry fell in, and then there was a swelling sigh like that which greets the ascent of a rocket at a firework display. There was a wind, and it was chill; we passed on over the bridge and descended to the tow-path on the opposite bank. Along that path we went until we were opposite the Fire. About eight people, very indistinct in the gloom, were scattered amongst the waterside bushes. In front of us a fire-boat took up its position. Below and around the Fire little lights flashed; there were lights above the river (which was at low tide); voices shouted terrifically from the other bank; voices, addressed to 'Arry, answered from the boat, and made reference to a line. An engine began working; hoses could be seen sending rising and falling sprays of water against a blaze that seemed capable of defying all the water in all the seas.
There we stood, watching. Only one sentence did we hear from our awed neighbours. There was a man who in the darkness looked portly and moustached. He took his pipe out of his mouth and said, optimistically, "Nice breeze; it ought to fan it along." "Along" meant an enormous oil warehouse and wharf. Overhearing that remark, I told myself the truth. The moral man in me, the citizen, the patriot, were all fighting hard for supremacy. I was trying to say to myself: "This may mean ruin to somebody; you ought to pray that it should be got under at once"; and "How can you bear to see so much painfully-won material wastefully consumed!" and "This stuff would probably be useful at the Front; it has employed labour; its loss may be serious; its replacement may be difficult; Germany, Germany, Germany, Germany...." But all that company of virtuous selves fought a losing battle. Aloud or in quietness I (or they) could say all this and much more; but the still, small voice kept on repeating, "Don't you be a humbug. It's too good. You want this Fire to spread. You want to forget what it all means. You will be disappointed if the firemen got it under. You would like to see the next place catch fire, and the next place, and the next place, for it would be a devil of a great display." Peccavi; that was certainly so.
They got it under. They cornered it. Flames gave way to a great smoke; the smoke grew and grew; the path and the bushes faded from red into the indistinct hue of the starlit night. The mental glow died down; we felt cold, and moved, and walked towards home. And as we walked I meditated on the glory of Fire, fit subject for a poet, refreshment for the human spirit and exaltation for the soul. My emotions, when looking at it, had not been entirely base; I had felt, not merely a sensuous pleasure in the glories of that golden eruption under the blue roof of night, but wonder at the energies we keep under, their perpetuity and their source, and the grandeur of man, living amid so much vastness and power, valiantly struggling to cope with things greater than himself, save that they have no souls. And I thought that in the perfect and hygienic State where the firemen would find water, water everywhere, where the Super-Hose would be in use, where everything would be built of fireproof materials, and where extinguishers of a capacity not conceived by us would be available as a last resort, the wise sovereign would set apart beautiful large buildings, all made of timber, filled with oil, tar and sugar, surrounded with waste land and fronted by a wide reflecting river, which would periodically be set on fire for the consolation and the uplifting of men. I don't want a big Fire made impossible.
And I wondered why it was that fire on a huge scale had never yet adequately inspired a poet. And then I thought that poets had, after all, done as yet very little, considering the materials that are daily displayed before them; and then I found great comfort and courage in the thought that the commonplace things, the things we all see and know, live by and live with, have so far merely been skirted, and that the provinces which remain to be explored and described and celebrated by imaginative writers are endless, and that only corners have as yet been spied into.
PREFACE TO "DELIVERANCE"
By E. L. Grant Watson
When I had completed my first book, I had a desire to write a preface, but was so strongly advised to let the book carry its own message that I refrained: with the result that only one reviewer saw what I was driving at. Later when the book was published in America, I was asked by my American publisher to write the preface which at first I had desired to write. Eighty per cent. of the American reviewers were not only sympathetic, but intelligent. Having been given the key, they read the book in the mood in which it was written. It seems to me permissible to provide such a key.
In writing this my third book, I have tried to portray a process of spiritual emancipation, of a freedom which is not content to find itself by any premature or artificial way of denial. Emancipation of this kind is difficult enough even for men; and for women, whose lives are, by nature of their biological functions, more closely interwoven in the material process, it is almost impossible. Yet sometimes it is achieved; perhaps most frequently through long or intense suffering. Yet all suffering ultimately entails joy; and so, also, through joy. Such a form of deliverance from the difficult complex of material things is not incompatible with the acceptance of life. Indeed the mistake has too often been made, that through any haphazard form of renunciation the spirit could find a short cut to its own freedom. Only through the acceptance of life can be attained a confidence strong enough for the happiness and that deliverance.
In this story I have chosen a woman so sensitive to the beauty of existence as to be conscious, through all her youth and adolescence, of that veiled terror that lurks at the very heart of beauty. Through fear she learns first humility, then courage and at last attains the spiritual power that raises its possessor above accident. And at each step her love for the increasing light of her own spirit grows stronger. It becomes more precious than even the unique love of woman for man. It becomes the arbiter of life, determining with a confidence unshaken by pity or desire the material limitations through which it can best find expression.
- From "Punch: The Immortal Liar." To be published May, 1921.
- See Bibliography.
- See Bibliography.
- From "October." See Bibliography.
- See page 138.
- See Couperus' novel "Een Stille Kracht."
- "Door Duisternis tot Licht"—title under which Kartini's Letters were first published in Holland.
- From "Collected Poems of W. H. Davies." See Bibliography.
- From "Poems of T. S. Eliot." See Bibliography.
- See Bibliography and page 142.
- See Bibliography.
- From "The Forerunner." See Bibliography.
- From "Country Sentiment." See Bibliography.
- This and the following two sketches are from Mr. Howe's "The Anthology of Another Town." See page 139.
- When I arranged with Mr. Hudson for the publication of an American Edition of "A Little Boy Lost" (see page 136), I asked him to write a special foreword to his American readers. He replied with this characteristic letter.
- From "Lustra and Earlier Poems." See Bibliography.
- From "Books in General: Second Series." See Bibliography.
- See Bibliography.