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Title: The taste of honey

The note book of a linguist

Author: Edna Worthley Underwood

Release date: October 15, 2023 [eBook #71882]
Most recently updated: December 9, 2023

Language: English

Original publication: Portland, ME: The Mosher Press, 1930

Credits: Tim Lindell, John Campbell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.

Original cover








Manufactured in the United States of America




The Taste of Honey is a genuine diary, of somewhat the same kind as De Vigny’s Journal d’un Poète, or Diary of a Kentish Gentleman, in that it was not written for public approval, but for personal pleasure. It is not dated nor arranged in order, partly because it was jotted down upon loose leaves which were threaded upon a string; partly because of the period of years covered and the vicissitudes that befall perishable substances such as paper.

Part was written at the age of sixteen, eighteen; part recently. Many pages have been lost; indeed as recently as the spring of 1928 a manuscript of over three hundred pages disappeared from the office of a New York magazine. Some notes from this are included however.

Selections from the Note Book have been published, in both French and English, Le Disque Vert of Belgium carried pages, when Hellens was director. American papers have carried other pages.

It has not been edited nor changed for publication. It is the unreserved expression of what was in the reader’s mind, set down with malice toward none and always with sincerity.


[Pg 3]



Goethe wrote: Was ich litt und was ich lebte, sind hier Blumen nur im Strausz. I paraphrase: Was ich lese und was ich denke, hab ich hier bewahrt für mich. (What I read and what I think I have stored up here for myself.)

This sentence from one of Concha Espina’s novels pleased me: Acaso han huido para siempre en el mundo las aves altarnaras de la Humanidad. (Perhaps vanished forever from the earth are the heavenly wings of humanity.) That is what Spanish thinkers declare that we lack more than anything else, human values.

Byron and Shelley created merely to console themselves for the fact that they could not learn how to live. To them a man of action was something strange, something enviable.

Maurois’s Ariel (Shelley) is satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time. I feel some of it might be better. It lacks substance, and yet it is pleasant reading enough. The book is semi-fiction; it was not meant to be yard-wide fact. But I keep the feeling of being forced to look at a water-color when I am longing for a rich, deep-pigmented oil. There is something I want and can not find. It is bad form however to look a fact too firmly in the face.

What was really wrong with the lives of Shelley and Byron, and some of their delightful friends, was the influence in cold, Saxon England, with its peculiar ability to cling to a straight line and ignore the nimble necessity of corners, of the French Eighteenth Century. It made the duller English mad. They did not put on well the mental clothes of French thought and philosophy. As a race they have never been too successful in putting on any clothes.


They lacked humor and a kind of emotional release in the wearing. The clothes did not fit. But they thundered ahead with desperate earnestness, and neglected the gay occasional dandying trot. British seriousness minus Gallic salt.

An English woman of cultivation and good intent, in America, recently showed the same peculiarity. She started a movement to suppress Mother Goose. She insisted the book would teach children to lie, to distrust their elders. The following is one of her quoted illustrations:

The little dog laughed to see such a farce
And the cow jumped over the moon.

The estimable, (and as it happens good looking woman), asserts truthfully, that cows have not the habit of jumping over the moon and that it is wrong to tell it to children.

She writes an article on the subject. She asks intervention of the Press to back her statement that she has never seen a cow jump over the moon. No one doubted her!

It did not occur to her the line is nonsense. Such writing is escape from the prison of fact. Mother Goose is art of its kind. In a subway city, of course, it is not easy to think of such exhibits—nor of anything the other side of wit. It is being witty in good form—which is the good form the polite English have overlooked. It registers by what it is not—like English wit. Referring again to Maurois’ book, one can not help being grateful for another glimpse of the bodily beauty of Byron, of Shelley.

That delightful short story writer of Venezuela—Pedro-Emilio Coll, was influenced deeply in boyhood by the sensuous, the finished prose-technique of d’Annunzio. Who would not be, who could both read and appreciate it? Coll could not forget it. It may have helped to the commendable control he holds.

In the Eighteen Eighties, Venezuela had some cuentistas, whose style, whose imaginative reach, was above the ordinary. Some of these men could command a prose-surface greater than anyone save Hearne, who was not American, but Irish and Greek. Latin people of the South keep an art-sense, a kind of finura, that we of more mixed blood to the north, have not. Spanish blood is having a second, a royal flowering down there.


Opopomax, by Coll, is the story of a perfume. Aside from owning an idea, this and his other stories have trained workmanship. It is well done. I sometimes wonder if the novel ever reaches quite the same intensity—the perfect fluidity of dissolving vision, as the short story.

On this pallid, dove-grey morning of winter, I have finished Blanco-Fombona’s Man of Iron, (El Hombre de Hierro). Fombona was born in Venezuela too, like Coll, but now he is living in Europe. He was in prison in Ciudad, Bolivia—1905, when he wrote this book.

In France they say of him:—“A tender soul whom no emotion leaves indifferent.” Fombona remarks that Herbert Spencer calls us hybrid beings, with all the defects of hybridism. Once Rubén Darío wrote a glorious appreciation of Fombona, as Rodo wrote one equally fine of Darío. He declared: “My friend, Rufino, was born only to realize great things.” Darío is dead now; when he was writing so eloquently about his friend he was in Mallorca—and happy. Alas!

There is a Portuguese critic in South America—in Rio—by name José Verissimo, who remarks that America was colonized at one of the most powerful moments of European mind, and that this nature of explorers, conquistadores, the something epic that makes poets, still lives in Blanco-Fombona.

His novels have conquered two worlds; the Old and the New. Spain was enthusiastic. Like Columbus, Fombona set her dreaming of a New World. A young Spaniard says: “... When I think of Fombona I connect his name with the charm of the city where he lived, Caracas ... the name of that city remains a mythological place to me—remote, perfumed, mysterious, a city which Fate will have it, that I shall sometime see. How I have lingered over Fombona’s pages, when they picture the sun of gold in that sky of azure; dawn-fresh, mountain mornings that are chill; the romantic song of old bells in old towers; the iced-water Americans drink ... lots and lots of things that suit my dream-city, city made for adventure and love, and ill luck....”

Hear Blanco-Fombona for a moment himself: (I am translating from memory)—... “and more important than everything else, more important than people, than events, that brilliant sun of America, toward which the breath of our lives ascends continually, like prayer....”

It is not true that the characters of Man of Iron are commonplace as the critics keep calling them. It is because Fombona has looked down[6] upon them from a great height. From such height, perhaps, all the little figures in the game—life—are small and commonplace.

I can not forget his sentences. They sing on and on in my mind. They have the charm of smooth satin. They feel good upon my tongue. La luna—de esas claras lunas.... The moon—one of those clear moons of tropic nights—was laughing down upon the water. Here is another:

In the sky the little stars were twinkling, while afar I could hear the night-thunder of the Carib Sea.

Fombona’s life has been worth while; poetic, enriched with vision, with conscious power—in Caracas, the city of his delight. It is something I like to think about. I can measure its invigorating pulse in his prose. I have esteem for the artist, and admiration for the man and brave fighter, who has never been a coward.

In Man of Iron, Fombona makes the character which is both pitiful and noble, a man, just as Manuel Galvez does in one of his latest novels—La Pasión de la Pampa. And Fombona like Manuel Galvez registered so many of the apparently trifling, overlooked facts that knit up the confusing surface of the present; it resembles the difficult-to-catch, changeful, spread-out shimmer upon a sea.

South Americans picture youth, and the joys of youth, as no one else. One can live over one’s own youth, and then multiple other youths by proxy, in the reading. And every once in a while I come upon a sentence that shakes me with its splendor.

I am impressed by the fact that the literatures that Fombona reads and likes best are French, Italian, Russian. He sought literatures which could inspire him, which held the contagion of heat, Saxon races are colder, weaker perhaps in art-sense. They peg along diligently—more pedantically—with the consuming of many words like a faulty engine giving out smoke. I am carrying along as I say this, an undercurrent of memory of the stories of the English Buchan, which are so deadly dull; uninspired; devoid of artistry, of life. To me his books are sediment ... after sometime, somewhere, the pure, the sparkling wine has been withdrawn. Only rare humorless Americans could read them.

The great earthquake in Caracas as Blanco-Fombona shows it to us, is masterly. And over it, the calm of night, and the yellow, resplendent moon of the tropics. I had a thrill from this chapter.


Fombona was fascinated by the racial problem of the Americas, just as I have been. He insists the great problem here is racial. To quote him: “There is no racial unity, and consequently no national ideal.... We may not depend upon them of mixed blood, because now one element predominates, and now another, which education breaks up and still more confuses. Out of three Venezuelans—white, negro, and Indian, who could tell what could blend their energies into one? In each case the ideals are different; they have different tastes, different political impulses. We have no national soul.”

One of Fombona’s friends in old Spain, tells us how greatly Fombona is repelled by a commercial, highly mechanized civilization, because such things go against the grain of his exalted subjectivity, his belief in the spiritual elite. He says Fombona hates equally what he calls Teutonic force and prosaic, Yankee-loving money-grubbing. And especially he hates democracies, because they are arbitrary, leveling, destructive of the aristocrat—and North Americans. La Lámpara de Aladino might be termed the breviary of his prejudices.

Somehow it makes me think—The Man of Iron—of youthful books by Turgéniev, such as Father and Sons, Spring Floods ... all show drawing without obtruding outline. There is some similar spiritual quality in the minds that were creating. In his two novels, he is the equal of the great Russian. I like the sheer power of the man! His steel-sharp delineations are memorable. And it has some of the same kind of power as Balzac.

The companion novel—Man of Gold, (El Hombre de Oro).

The chapter in which the three old ladies take pitiful farewell of the grand home of their ancestors, the rich, many-roomed, ancient colonial mansion, with its courts, with its flowers, is a fine piece of writing. It moved me deeply. Not many see the world we are forced to live in as clearly as Fombona, with all the different parts in reasonable and logical relation, not to mention the fine flashing forth to others, the lifting power of vision, that dazzles, then creates. There is both grandeur and fury in the soul of Fombona.

There was a short story writer in Venezuela-Caracas, in the late Eighties, whom I liked. Alejandro Fernandez Garcia. I am still on the watch for the short story of power. Hear this description of music from a story by Garcia. (Again I am translating and quoting from memory.)


“They played a joropo. From the rough, coarse, toil-worn fingers there spread out across the sensitive chords of the instrument, the flower of Venezuelan music. A flower made of race-blood, old age and its dreams; music that had come from very far away, from the inexplainable melancholy of our Carib Fathers—music, indolent and brutal, love-lustful, and cruel; music dripping through the clear nights of tropic moons like tears down the black faces of fugitive women ... plaintive, filled with rebellion and energy, like flame of hatred across the fragile cane, then again thunderous, a fitting call of bronze for war across the spaces.... In the joropo dwells the soul of our fatherland.... It is a sepulchre to guard the ashes of our dead.”

Again Garcia, enamored of music, writes: “Listen I tell you! Here comes a Creole waltz-song. Ah—how many times I have heard this song float languid and ardent like our Creole women on the sad and indifferent arms of lovers, heard it float on like a sparkling diamond-gas, across the surface of sleeping night-water ... seen it take on life and glow in the deep eyes of ranchmen at the rodeo ... in the dimming twilights of the solemn pampa.”

Passion, emotion, such as this is what I seek in story art. Cheap work does not know it. Garcia has written two books I commend. They are Búcares en Flor and Oro de Alquimia. These books hold the prose, great poets make sometimes in youth ... but seldom twice. Never in the twilight of years, because regret, although it may own a light all its own, can not gild like joy.

De Cela writes interestingly of Lima:

Lima! Your legends and your women are beautiful. Your palaces romance-freighted and imposing; your cathedrals mysterious and solemn. In your streets dwell the Middle Age, and the age-old soul of Spain.”

The New World seems to embrace Old Spain. In Humos de Rey, by León, an old nobleman soliloquizes:

“... No one understands me. Everyone speaks an unknown tongue, and people look at me as if I were a fossil. It is not easy to find a single individual who thinks, feels, or judges as I do....

“Another age has come, with other men; there is a new world which is more than strange and inimical; more than indifferent.


“I do not need to go to cities to feel the winds of change strike me. Right here in this poor, little, old, Castilian village, dozing in shade of the tall cathedrals, where eternities have dreamed the same dream, the strangeness of a New World begins to play about me—a world that is materialistic, speed-dizzy; a peculiar life lived all on the outside; of bestial appetites of the flesh; sterile; filled with foolish emotions, plebeian ideals; and an alarming and useless scattering of spiritual energy.”

León belongs to the Royal Academy of Spain. I have read him long, but I did not expect just this of him.

When I take Italian, Spanish, or Russian books from the Public Library in New York, they show by their worn, marked pages, their general appearance of hard usage, that they have been read more intimately, more emotionally, than English books by English readers. It is evident that the passion on the pages has met and blended with a corresponding passion, with a new kind of level of comprehension, in the readers.

Books by other races (than American) still talk once in a while of honor, nobility. They acknowledge that such things have been. They accept the lofty realm of the spirit; bravery, sacrifice, virtues of the soul. American books have neither time nor inclination to mention such things which few seem to know anything about. Our books show existence, dry, exterior, concerned with money, mechanics, rapid physical movement from place to place, restlessness; cheapened pleasures. With the Latins there is heat of utterance. There is eloquence too. And rich native ability.

This novel by León, Humos de Rey, is well made. It commands respect like honest work by a person who knows how to work. He wrote it because he had something to say, and not for applause nor an itch for limelight. As a piece of portraiture it is exceptional. And there is the contrast between the Spain of great centuries dead, and the Spain being standardized, commercialized, mechanized—in short Americanized. This is going forward too speedily at the moment, and other writers besides León are taking careful note of it. It is the tragic motive in several books from Madrid and Barcelona which I have bought recently.

León creates in a higher key than colder Saxon races of the North can keep. There is intensely centered light. There is a different tempo—and selection of portrayal. And he writes of course, for a different public.


In the foreign books I am reading continually, the idea has been creeping in more and more in the last few years, that ideals are dying. In periodicals in North America, to one who reads many other literatures, one is impressed, by the overstressing of two things: money, efficiency. It is stupid, the recurring and recurring, of the words. Next comes speed. León’s book is far away, in inception, from such things. Faith breathes from it; bravery, and endurance. It upholds the nobler banner of the past, before the present decadence had set in, which is evident in printed art.

Don Carlos de Araoz, the nobleman in León’s novel, is a person. Collective living has not touched him. He has made no compromise with ideals. He is erect, fine, free. And brave. When he fights, he fights openly, face to face. He does not strike, like the coward in the night, in the back. Zurburan might well have painted him. The book should have been called The Last of the Caballeros. There are not many finer portraits than his.

Padecia Don Carlos la decadencia.... Don Carlos suffered because of the falling away of power in his family, whose minds and energies were turned toward base things, shabby results. The men of his family were taking to wild and futile paths. They no longer had ideals nor robust faith; nor in the heart the power of creative goodness. They had no objective that was worth while; they were neither noble nor generous, but dull, mentally blind, and lukewarm toward the things of tradition. They could neither comprehend great things nor face bravely the future....”

It seems that Spain, just as in Columbus’ day can still show New Worlds to us.

Zorilla has flung forth this sketch of Toledo: “A place black, ruined, sad, and forgotten amid the sands—Great Toledo. Abandoned now, at mercy of the winds, Toledo, and not sufficiently protected by the mantle of royalty. Broken down, furrowed with sorrow and care, a slave, without soldiers to protect it, nor laws, it sleeps wrapped in its glory.

“All it owns is the great name of old, a kind of parody, with which it attempts to wrap then cover its shame—Toledo, once the sumptuous, the[11] free. It has a great temple hid in a hollow, two bridges, and between the ruins and the marble of old armorial blazons, a stupid little village that sleeps on and on....”

Venice pleases me infinitely. I might have written this instead of De Regnier—I, who love Venice.

Like De Regnier, I love its climate, its color, its light. The kind of life men live there is the life that suits my taste.

There I have a happiness I never know elsewhere, a peculiar physical well-being, and in the midst of a great variety of objects that take up pleasantly the space of days. Both my eyes and my thoughts are busy. Even the old history of commerce of Venice is a thing of delight. Not many romances can equal it.

Nowhere else do days drop away so delightedly. Nowhere else is loneliness wholly without bitterness. There is no other spot in the world where I am myself—where neither years nor place, nor people can touch me. There is no other city where I can so happily support the necessary boredom of living.

My first sight of Venice gave me the greatest emotion, I think I have ever felt. I was tired. I had just journeyed through the Austrian Alps, the Bavarian Alps, and a corner of Switzerland. The train into Venice was late. It was cold. It was threatening rain.

We got in at exactly twelve o’clock, at night. It took long to get traveling bags through the customs. We left the trunks for the next day’s struggle.

Long ago the little steamers and the noisy water boats had gone to bed. We signalled a gondola with two oarsmen.

Then began the most amazing ride. We swung suddenly into the black, mirroring water of the Grand Canal, which Napoleon called the finest street in the world.

I saw a wide space of silent water. It was tideless, motionless, with a strange scent of decay hanging over it. On either side, seeming to slip farther and farther away—great, dim, tinted palaces that kept memories of the architecture of the East, rich India, radiant Arabia. And the grave Goth.

No glare of electric lights. There were dim little lamps swinging in front of fabulous façades, sometimes painted. There was no sound save[12] the hiss of our long black oars against blacker water. I all but lost my senses at the beauty and the strangeness of it—this divine, dead city which seemed dropping away, on the point of disappearing forever, beneath the water of the Adriatic.

For hours in the heart of the night, we swung noiselessly along cold, black, shining canals. We slipped under the Bridge of the Rialto. We slipped under the Bridge of Sighs. We saw dim ghosts of loveliness of every conceivable color and form, tower above us in the darkness, and the majesty of it and the beauty, combined with silence, kept a kind of terror. Not a sound anywhere. Not a sign of life.

For a little while we lived in one of the old yellow, faded palaces. And in the daylight again we drifted down this unrivaled street, whose pictured palaces represent every period of Venetian history; on some were placards telling who had lived there; such men as Wagner, Byron, Murger, Maupassant.

Then we moved to the Royal Daniele, the famous hostelry of Venice, once the home of a great family. It was built about the year 800. Any of these renowned mansions are worth a trip across the Atlantic to see. I remembered Ruskin said, that beauty began to die in the world after the Eleventh Century. And I was pleased to think I had discovered that fact myself.

Here again I was following the trail of Loti. Just before Carmen Sylva, Queen of Rumania, died, she came to the Royal Daniele to stay for a time. And she invited Loti to be her guest.

Its list of patrons down the ages is a rosary of great names. George Sand has been here, Chopin, D’Annunzio; and Duse exclaimed over its charm.

In an old Venetian garden, one day, I saw a dignified patrician woman taking tea, with her servants bringing the food, while she stood plucking those great, white ghostly roses which I have seen only in Venice, and dreaming over the green water of the Grand Canal.

Everywhere delight for the eye! Such comprehension of the possibilities of perfected living. Prince Metternich used to say when he visited Italy: God—what men it was who built these palaces! No one today would know how to live in them, because the great life is gone forever.

Democracies, plus money, can not make beautiful cities. It takes something altogether different. It takes the pride, the petulance of kings,[13] slow centuries, and the caprice, the unreasoning love of poets and men. As examples—Mad Louis of Bavaria, the Great Builder of India, and the Pharaohs with their pyramids.

I dined at Florian’s whose fêtes such artists as Guardi and Canalletto painted; the center once of la vielle finesse venitienne. What a place was Venice in the old days with its love of elegant and impassioned life, and the ripeness and perfection of its senses!

I have read The Mandarin by Eça de Queiroz. It brought back to memory charming old restaurants of Lisbon, such as Martinho, in the Largo de Camões, not far from the national theatre, and Campo de Santa Clara, which reminds me of the Thieves Market in Mexico City, the Volador.

Latin mind is substantially different from Saxon mind. The Saxon mind flowers at contact with older, more impassioned races. The spark must be struck by something of greater power. But Mediterranean mind flowers richly all alone.

De Queiroz knows how to say charming things. He speaks of—the penetrating peace of old monastery gardens of Portugal, in some deep valley at the sweet, sad end of evening, when one can listen to a river’s voice.

There is a merriment, a lifting joy of the moment in speech, the same kind of joy in life, in the gay, more facile Portuguese, the stately, graver Spaniard does not have. And the Portuguese have racial humor not unlike the Irish, which differentiates them again. This quality is evident in their city, Lisbon; something there that ensnares the heart of even the careless traveler. Only gay-spirited, friendly people could have built it and then known how to keep its care-free atmosphere complete. There is a rhythm of mental release, a power outside command of will, in Portuguese poets and prosateurs I do not find in many races. This novel, The Mandarin, by De Queiroz, seems to be about the same story as Brewster’s Millions, peculiarly enough.

I first heard the ancient, singing speech in the Azores, one day in late spring. But the Azores were cold and drenched with rain, which was as sad as if they had been drenched with tears. The gardens were spacious and numerous, but minus that astounding, glad greenness one thinks of in the tropics.


Along the black and water-soaked garden paths were quaint, old wooden settles, romantic in shape, painted green, streaked with plaintive, faded violet, beside which tall lilies tried to hold their petals in the rough, cold wind, old settles which looked as if they might have been made for the romantic lovers of Julia Romano.

There are two ancient churches, one the Matriz, which touched my heart, keeping perfectly some loving tenderness in line of long ago, churches built in the great age of conquest. The word Azore (açor) means falcon. They are the Islands of the Falcons—warlike birds hovering above lonely seas.

As we sailed away the wind brought to me that strange odor I have noticed in island towns before. How can I name it? Spices, perishing vegetation mingled with wetness, and the odors of many things that are dying.

Then the old cathedral bells rang out. But the sea muffled them with velvet. Night began to come. And the splendor of the sea grew grey. The mountain tops looked black and lonely as I said good-bye to them, and veiled with the long floating ribbons of the rain. Three days later I was in Portugal.

The weather had been rough and stormy. There was rain, mist, and continued cold. Then suddenly there blossomed out of the mist and the sea a rich, vari-tinted city—Lisbon. The sun began to shine.

It is a city of glowing gardens, narrow streets, whose painted, stucco dwellings are more than charming—gem-pink, sulphur-yellow, weary violet. They jostle each other in little square places of flowers.

Barefoot women go from door to door to sell fish, carried in baskets upon their heads; slim seminary students in long black, eloquent capes, move about, statues in ivory and jet. And children and girls have the charm of Latin youth.

The Avenida de la Liberdad—wide, tree and flower bordered, paved in black and white stone (from which Rio de Janeiro copied Rio Branco), lined with fanciful, sugar-frosted, gay palaces, is a street of which all Portuguese are proud. It ranks among the lovely thoroughfares of the world.

Because cities possess personality, I say that Lisbon is lovable. It strikes the senses like some forgotten melody of delight. I found an old buff-colored hotel, with black iron-grilled windows and tall green doors,[15] set far back in a quaintly old-world garden, facing a tiny Praça, where I wish I could have lingered—and then been forgotten, and so stayed on forever.

Architecturally speaking, the two loveliest things in Lisbon are the Tower of Belem and the Convent of San Jerónimo, both tributes to the great explorer, Vasco da Gama. The pallid, ivory carven surface of the Convent is not less lovely than the Taj Mahal. It has minarets, too, from which muezzins might have called. The entire building owns a kind of perfection.

In one of its little interior chapels, sleep side by side, Vasco da Gama and the proud poet of Portugal, who wrote in Homeric verse his history—Camoens. And Camoens was not only poet, but warrior, explorer and one of the world’s bravest adventurers. Camoens lived many lives, and all of them were great. The world was his playground. His fiery spirit, which none own today, longed to give his Emperor continents for gifts. He is still Portugal’s great poet; the years have not permitted him to be surpassed.

To refer again to our novelist, De Queiroz, he was a memorable figure in Lisbon in his youth. He was tall, very thin, with an eagle-beak for a nose. He was immaculate in dress. He had his clothes made in London and he always wore a monocle. He was likewise a figure on the Boulevards of Paris. He had unusually fine eyes, with an expression of kindness, quick comprehension, and deep intelligence. His two commanding traits were an Irish sense of humor and the imagination of a poet; this last kept him from joining the ranks of Zola as novelist. This was in 1880.

It was from Lisbon that Madame de Stael’s last famous lover came, when she was trying to console herself for the death of Benjamin Constant. I refer to the Duke of Palmella—one of the men who had most influence over this woman whom Napoleon hated. The Duke of Palmella was at the Congress of Vienna; he was companion of Metternich. Who knows what this too intelligent French woman inspired him to think—and then to say—that had influence upon the now dwindling good-luck of the Man of Destiny. But he forgot her easily; brilliant as she was, to him she was just a pleasant toy—something to fling aside when days of idleness or loneliness were over.

The Portuguese insist that he was the hero of Madame de Stael’s Corinne, and that in that book, the portrait of him is true, and very carefully[16] drawn from life—once when they were happy together and free, away from war-torn France.

Delightful short stories are written in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, but almost never in America. The reason is not that Americans can not write them or are less talented. The fault lies with the editors. The good short story, as its creator made it, and God, can not get through to the reading public. First it has to be changed to suit the policy of the magazine. It may be a magazine which prints square purple stories with pink corners; or, round green stories with yellow dots. Secondly, it has to be changed to suit the personal inclination of the editor. He may like only oblong white stories with crimson points. Thirdly, the editor must change it a little to comply with his dignity, and carry out what he considers duty. What is the result? A kind of ruin for which there is no name. Then the story has to suit the season of the year, and religious, social, and political conditions of the community.

All this à propos of many books of short stories from old Spain, and the Spanish lands to the south, which I have had recently. Calderon shows an enticing geographical background, in remote South American places, especially interior Peru. But he does not write so well as Coll, and some of the older Venezuelans.

Down there not so many people who can not write, but who want to, are able to get past Spanish editors, who sometimes love art for its own sake. They do not so often try to put off upon cultivated readers astonishingly advertised books of short stories, written by prize fighters, long-distance swimmers, bronco-busters, aviators, prize-winning high-jumpers, telling you gravely at the same time, that if they do these things well, it follows logically, they write short stories well, which is part of America’s original procedure in destroying genuine ability.

Calderon has some sentence-pictures which I have remembered, showing savage mountain land and lonely jungle.

“... aquel poblado solitario ... that lonely little settlement, where life kept the golden color of autumn mornings—in some barbarous land.” What side-glancing, plaintive light he has shivered across the words!


I am changing my opinion of Baroja. I have been hasty. In his later books many of which I read at one time, I stumble upon something that makes me think of nuggets of unknown metal, which scientists have neither named nor been able to classify, rolled up perhaps by clear water of streams in lonely mountains, in some lonely land. But still I feel that just as his life may lack some combined joy and interest to weld it firmly into use and unity, effect the miracle of—Let there be life!—his written art lacks the same thing, some fiercer flame of love, to let it hold together, resist the forces that crumble. It lacks the glue of art’s practiced and perfected, surface-logic.

Just as the mother of Redon—painter of exotic, super-terrestrial flowers—was born in Martinique, and then moved to Marseilles where the painter first saw the light, and began to feel force of her baffled homesick dreams of unseen—but too vividly remembered—tropic nights, tropic days, over seas that are hauntingly lovely, so the grandfather of Francis Jammes—poet and short story writer—lived in the Antilles, Guadalupe, in the village of Point-à-Pitre, and here the poet’s father was born, heir to certain antique memories and haunting comprehensions.

As for Francis Jammes himself, he lived always in France, between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic, or as he expresses it, between a grain of sand and a drop of water. It is a tiny Pyrenean village—Orthez.

Yet in the soul of Jammes there were inherited moments of homesickness for something he had never seen, for that glamourous giddy sun that gilds the seas of the south.

The word-craft of Jammes, in prose, is lovely. His stories are delicate and delightful. There is one called Manzana de Onis, which gives me exactly the same emotion as the canvasses (flower-pieces) of Redon. In both prose writer and painter, the tendrils of living had struck deep, gone far. Unconscious flesh-memory, uncoiling and uncoiling. I have seen French water-colors by masters, or flower gardens by that engaging Spaniard, Rusiñol ... corners of blonde gardens of summers of long ago, which gave the same emotion. It is something I would not like to lose.

This story aroused, too, the nerves of taste, of scent. There were charming passages of writing. There were evocations of luxurious, of finished living—such as only old races know.


I happened to be reading these stories of Jammes in a Spanish translation—the translation of a man (Canedo), who can press both grief and beauty into words. Sometimes he makes words weep like the superfine strings of old violins, as for example, in the opening lines of this story—Almaida de Etremont. When I finished the first paragraph I felt overwhelmed by some gold-hued, guilty, sudden grief.

I wonder if this Spaniard writes better prose than the original French? I can not recall Jammes being (before) so lusciously phrased. Perhaps Spanish, however, is the proper dress for his soul. As I progress, I think how many are writing in America today without the slightest natural ability to write.

These three short stories are exquisite. They have a delicately graded, shaded surface. They are permeated with beauty. They are buried in richness, and a kind of soul-splendor. I am glad that there is such writing somewhere in the world.

I can not help but regret the short stories of my land. But editors, we must remember, have this in common with cats; a pulse of free life maddens them. It impels them to pounce down, destroy.

Since the Great War everything is out of place. This naturally, with no malice intended, includes the editor. He has outgrown the limits of his chair. He resembles Longfellow’s first poem of Mr. Phinney’s Turnip—which grew and grew until it could grow no taller. Then Mr. Phinney took it up and put it in the cellar. Here is hoping that the number of black, freezing, and never-again-to-be-opened cellars increase!

There are too many writers. There are too many poor, anæmic books. Paper could be put to better use. Every round dot you see upon the ground and might mistake for something else, is a stone, under which sits a too energetic would-be writer, who tells you work, experience, and native ability are not necessary.

Alas! I can say nothing. Cicero’s invectives have given out. And Shakespeare cursed satisfactorily only for the English. An English curse upon American lips would resemble the British matron’s earnest disapproval of moon-jumping cows.

Amy Lowell was never really a writer. She wanted to write. She had leisure and money. She put words upon paper. But she never projected[19] the powerful phrase, produced ideas, nor kept in key. As a scholar she was slipshod, of slight importance. She was merely another rich wholly American problem in addition. And the bloodless, numbing sun of New England summers had shone too long, too coldly upon her.

Catullus was beauty, youth, joy, and the delight of a lovely city of long ago, and my enduring outpost of pleasure. I read him daily. He helps correct for me the barren, fleeting years, which are sweeping me away from all the things for which I have ever cared.

To me the greatest love-poem in existence is that pitiful one:

Si qua recordanti benefacta priora voluptas.

To procure pleasure from reading, I must have some of the perfection pitiful Catullus kept. I must have passion and word-craft, and penetration, power, and the deep, quick sensing of truths. In these days of art-predatory pedants, jazz-extras, circus-advertising, and writing-schools, I turn to the Roman; I turn to the Greek Anthology; the old dreaming masters of the East. Beauty belonged to the elder world, story-telling wisdom, and the careless phrase of completeness. The antique world ... that understood form. The scientific world upon whose threshold we stand will not need the old arts. It will have new ones all its own. That is why they are dying. And so when I say anything derogatory, it is not I who speak, but the age, through me.

What a tragic, bitter love was that which ate up the heart of Catullus! His cry pierced the centuries. It has even silenced the multiple voice of mighty cities.

You took away from me all my joy!

But when he ceased to love and suffer, he ceased to write. He was most brilliant and compelling when he was lifted upon the brutal edge of great emotion. To me he has cut words with keener lament than Sappho. When he reached the height of the fury of youth, the poet died. Or did the sadness of the Christian centuries—now swinging near—shadow his sensitiveness? But how every little broken fragment of his days still shines! Only the sincere, the unforced, has vitality.

What a delightful maker of the mind’s gay moments, was Pliny the Younger! As I read along, the comprehension is forced upon me, that in my day the human mind is not so fine, or I am living at a period of time[20] when something vastly different is being projected. I am conscious of a process of deterioration going forward rapidly in the present. Leaving the firmness and the power of his thinking out of the question, in grace of letter-writing, he equals Madame de Sévigné, whose genius was born of her heart.

That letter to Canino Rufo makes me happy, with its freshness of emotion, its ease, its carefreeness. And that gay beginning! Quid agit Comum, tuae meaequae deliciae?

What are you doing at Como, lovely village we both like so well? Right away with the words a bright butterfly wing brushes me. And yet that letter gives me a kind of grief, too, something resembling homesickness for something I never could have seen (as in his day), and always wanted to.

And there is the letter to Tacitus, in which he explains to him how good are hunting, physical exercise—the outdoor world—for the mind. Listen to the beginning:

Ridebis et licet rideas—Laugh all you want to! I give you lief!

Then he proceeds to tell Tacitus, how, when he goes hunting, he takes his writing material along. This letter has peculiar freedom from blemishes, which almost nothing under the sun can escape. It has richly that something which keeps me reading Latin masters throughout the years. It gratifies and helps keep alive a submerging passion for perfection.

How near in time he seems to us—Pliny! Here is a letter which might have been written from New York today. It is to Fundanus. Mirum est quamvis singulis diebus.... It is amazing how swiftly time passes here in our Rome. And how we waste our days over trifles.... Here in the country I amuse myself only with my books. O delightful existence that injures no one! Run away from the city, Fundanus! Break all the foolish, frivolous chains which bind you! It is infinitely better to be idle, than to work so hard at doing nothing.

Pliny speaks reverently of the vast genius of Plato. Platonicam illam sublimitatem et latitudinem. This old Latin mind originated the art of the critic.

And there is a brief note of a few words to a friend, which keeps airy grace, while yet preserving precision and fact. You say you have nothing[21] to write to me? Very well, then write me that! At least you can jot down what our ancestors placed at opening of their letters. Si vales, bene est; ego valeo.

This year—Pliny goes on to explain—we have a surfeit of poets. There has not been a day of the month of April, without its new poem, new poet. But he feels forced to complain that people no longer like to hear the poets recite.

Pliny believes it is better to love honest laziness than distinguished place and embarrassment. The Roman had his appreciation of virtues. And the cultivated Roman could appreciate all the exquisiteness of words. He tells us how he loves Catullus.

Of a good book, Pliny declares: The longer it is, the better! When only a few, as in his day, were educated, had leisure, money, idleness, luxurious living, they surpassed the men of my day, in range of pleasure, in mental power, in completeness.

Speaking of Suetonius wishing to buy a house, he writes: These writers and students need only a little place, because they are so mentally absorbed. They need a place to walk, a little scenery to refresh their eyes, a grape-vine or two, and some trees to count.

All the great prose to come, of Latin races, is in Pliny in little. Here is something fascinating. He says that a man of Cadiz, touched to such deep emotion by the glory of Livy, traveled from the ends of the earth just once to look upon his face. And then—content—he turned right around and traveled back again. What books today fire the blood like that! And where is the blood to be fired?

England made better use of Latin, of Greek mind, than other races, by incorporating them into daily life. She made of them an integral part of the nation. Wide-spread mental contact, with such great races, which were both old and enriched with much experience, ripened her ahead of time, strengthened her, gave her most of what she has best. England set about forming life and mind upon some of the finest thinkers the world has seen. That was her master-stroke of diplomacy. She transposed geniuses into living, breathing ideals. She claimed them as her own realities. England was first attracted, not by their mental power, but by gravity, their dignity; their very genuine weight.


One can see in Pliny just how lovely Roman homes looked, both in city and country. He owned several, he built. He describes them with engaging zest and frank detail.

Among the poorest books—most inadequate translations—printed in the United States, is The Wanderer, by Fournier, delightful, satisfying worker in his own tongue. And I must add to this, Mrs. Ayscough’s verses from the Chinese, in collaboration with Amy Lowell. (This last is the judgment of Chinese-reading poetry-scholars and Chinese themselves who know the originals by heart.) Mrs. Ayscough has no natural gift for words. She ought to play with something else.

Fournier’s Wanderer—in translation—is a masterpiece of wrong doing. It reminds me of this passage from the Prayer Book: We have done those things we ought not to have done, and we have left undone those things we ought to have done. And there is no health in us.

It is amazing how loveliness and charm have evaporated! I wonder why it is so bad? I suppose there are publishers’ readers and editors-in-chief, once in a while, who are word-deaf; insensitive; dull; not to be reached by genuine fineness. Not to mention beauty! To sense beauty surely, a certain amount of nobility of nature is necessary. The translation suggests to the mind what a picture would be painted by a person who was color-blind. I can not recall who published the books, merely memory of awkward writing remains.

Tarascon, Nicaragua, fantastic name of fancy and fable, is where Rubén Darío was born. Once, in Paris, Darío, with another delightful South American poet—Leopoldo Lugones—were together in the house of a doctor. They both declare solemnly that they saw there the spirit of a dead man walking about. Darío asserts, that two or three times during his life, he saw beyond the boundaries of the ordinary—beyond our materialism—and confronted existences upon another plane.

Yo habia desde muy joven tenedos occasion, si bien rares veces, de observar la presencia y la accion de las fuerzas misteriosas y extraños....

“Several times during my life I have had the opportunity to take note of the presence and action of forces beyond this world of ours.... In Caros y Caretos I have written about them. There, I told once how, in the Square of the Cathedral of León in Nicaragua, in the early dawn, I[23] saw and touched one who had passed beyond.... At the moment I was sane and in complete possession of my powers of mind and judgment.” Darío and Lugones talked often together about the occult sciences.

It was in July, 1890, that Darío came to Guatamala. He had been hired to edit a paper. On this paper his collaborator was young Gomez Carrillo, of whom Darío wrote at that moment, as follows: ... he was a young fellow with brilliant eyes and a sensual face, touched with the hue of tropic suns—and he was enjoying his first love affairs.

Darío, and three other poets, had a comical experience. In a most amusing manner, they prevented the Cathedral of San Juan from being destroyed by a cannon. The General in command was eager to show how well he could shoot.

He summoned his friends for the exhibition—among them Darío—and the poets. Down there—poets are everywhere! He gave a dinner. Darío suggested that he put off the shooting until each improvised a poem. The General agreed. They spun the poems out one entire night. They improvised and improvised. After a time the General fell asleep, and in the morning he awoke so hungry, and so tired, that he forgot about the Cathedral. It was saved.

The prose of Carillo is good. An immense charm coupled with immense primeval fury, is in Chocano, who calls himself—el almo primitivo de los Andes. Once I just missed Chocano, by an half-hour, at a South American hotel—I have regretted it many half-hours. He has, in excelsis, just what the poets of our north do not have.

We should like and enjoy our Latin neighbors to the South greatly, if we knew their tongue better, and through that, their rich and varied art.

Remy de Gourmont writes of Silvá (José Asuncion—the poet and prose writer of Bogotá) as follows: “The old eloquent tongue of Castile has been born again and made more virile in the colonies of South America. The Spanish which Silvá writes is more subtile, flexible, clear, than harsh classical Spanish.” He goes on to say that Silvá’s reading of French has helped him construct a new tongue, with memories of French sentence structure and more sensitive to the rhythm of thought.

It is now more than a quarter of a century since I translated for my own countrymen, who had no interest in it—Silvá’s immortal poem, The Nocturn—which every cultivated South American knows by heart.


Traveling once—when I was young—in the South West, near the Rio Grande, I met on a night train into some hot, lonely city, a homesick old man who spoke Spanish. His clothing indicated poverty. In his pocket he had a piece of dirty paper upon which he had copied down a poem, which he kept reading over and over. And sometimes when he read, he cried. I was puzzled. After awhile I told him I could read Spanish, and asked to see it. It was The Nocturn—before it had ever been printed. How I wish I had asked him about Silvá, and why he cried! (Many disputed editions of it exist today, because not so long after this, Silvá killed himself.) My translation was approved by English reading, Spanish and French critics, but Americans had little interest in it. None of them had heard of Silvá; and fewer knew that his poem was one of the greatest written on the Twin Americas. Later—some years—the Mercure de France sent a representative all the way to Colombia, to gain information about the life of Silvá. To the United States he still remains terra ignota. The greatest critics of the Continent have raved over this one exquisite creation of Silvá, the great Colombian. Silvá was the first of the new and the last of the old. Pedro-Emilio Coll declared he had never met a more comprehensive intelligence, nor one more hospitable to every phase of thought.

Years later, going up the pea-soup-hued, gloomy, shadowed Magdalena River in Colombia, it was not the strangely engaging tropic world about me that I thought of, but Silvá, exquisite creator, who like Catullus, died in his youth. In my heart, to him I was saying ... Hail! And farewell.

It is a peculiar thing that Mrs. Asquith should write. It is something for which she has no ability. In her case it is one of the multiple shadows of conceit, too long, too unearned material well-being. She has nothing to say. And she does not know how to say nothing well.

Frequently she seems ungrammatical. Her power is personality, speech; nerve. Another example of Mr. Phinney’s Turnip growing beyond its boundaries, in a period of time made for turnips. Only an age when art is dying could have printed her. But when the house threatens to fall, who can prophecy what will rush in!

In reading her books I do not recall finding one commanding idea, sentence, not to mention beauty of any kind. In print her mind is harsh,[25] cruel, insensitive. One does not see the majestic moving forward of that which charms, interests.

But such writing from England as Charles M. Doughty did makes up for what Mrs. Asquith has inflicted upon a helpless public. How glorious is this from Doughty’s Arabia:

“This vast Arabian upland is, in a word, a seered and wasteful wilderness full of fear, where every man’s hand is ready against another; a lean, wild, grit and dust, stiffened with everlasting drouth, where running water lacks, and whose sun-stricken face is seamed from of old, here and there, with shallow, dry water courses....”

There Great England speaks! And I all but weep because I fear it is for the last time ... in my day. England has given the world prose. I am glad Doughty’s books are fat and many. They will hold out—perhaps. Metal that rings. No base alloy!

There were sentences, phrases of De Gourmont, in his great, gay, unshadowed, before-the-war days which I like to remember; they keep that silken, warm, sun-penetrated and protected luminousness, I seek continually and find seldom. It may be he was somewhat of an æsthetic pedant—at times, too! Life escaped him. But he was the last fine flower of something unnameable, now dead in a mechanized world, which only rich European civilization could lift to fine, free blooming. Such patient priests of beauty will not be numerous in a scientific world, because there can be none to listen—none to praise. For a New World, a new art. There are pages and pages of De Gourmont soaked through and through with beauty. There are too few left to create like him.

Hear what he writes of style: Le style peut se fatiger, comme l’homme même. Il veillira de même que l’intelligence et la sensibilité dont il est le signe; mais pas plus que l’individu, il ne changera de personalité a moins d’un cataclysme psychologique.

He declares again that style is being able to see, think, feel, and nothing more.

Now that I am no longer young the prose of Loti has the same power, the same almost fateful charm over me, it had in my youth. How he keeps words in place! I did not see my own youth; I saw only his. By it I have kept a proxy perhaps by means of which I shall not grow old.


I wonder if there is anything in the fact that we were born almost upon the same day, month, and the stars keep for us still the fervent memory of rare emotional moments which have perished!

I have never seen anyone else who could do the same thing to words. He can spread apart their boundaries, then crowd and crush them edgefull with meaning. He can make them glowing and magnificently iridescent, like the necks of the wild ducks he used to hunt in the misty autumn in Camargue.

He has loved the things I have loved. And among them Sicily. Hear what he writes of this island over which almost all great civilizations have at one time or another swept.

He was in Siracusa at the time; in January, the month of his birth and mine; and almost the day. The year was in his diary:

“A classic land; ancient olive trees; and always snowy Ætna sparkling above the clouds. I see again before me landscapes of old Italian painters; ruins, pastoral scenes, shepherds, goats. I feel the sad charm of winter. But it is a winter so gentle I am not surprised to see palms, flowers, cacti. Siracusa keeps the melancholy, the expanding mystery, of the Middle Age.

“Tonight I saw upon the Gulf a sunset of Italy. High up, Ætna kept glowing like a brasier. When I came back to the ship I carried a bouquet of wild anemones, the hue of pale violets, plucked by some ancient temple.”

I am glad to have an opportunity to see the remainder of the diaries of Loti’s youth. And what a youth it was! Do you know of another so splendid? It was enhanced by contact (comprehension) with the beauties of creation. And while he was writing his account of it, I, in a far, lonely, wind-swept prairie village was living his youth with him. I was caring almost nothing for the people or the things about me. Instead, I was climbing the mountain highways of Persia, with Loti, to look upon Persepolis, and dream of the face of that Greek courtesan for whom Alexander the Great gave order that it be burned.

I was slipping along hot jungle-ways, by night, to look for the first time, with startled senses, upon fabulous Angor. J’ai vu l’étoile de soir se lever sur les ruines d’Angor. Angor, too, under the swift light of Eastern dawns, when the stealthy tigers come. I have lived intensely in many lands through the prose of many masters.


I saw plum blossoms fall like rain in rare forgotten spring times of Japan, and listened to the clear falling of sweet water in South Sea Isles, where are men whose bodies keep black gleams like bronze.

I saw Pekin, with its gold and jade; perishing temples of Egypt, in sumptuous and brilliant evocations, and deserted rose-marble cities upon the highlands of India. I climbed the Street of the Kasbah, in windless African nights, when scent of almond blossoms hung heavy on the air. The too troublante beauty of Africa brushed my senses. And I enjoyed the rare, early African spring creeping northward over the Sea, to Sicily, whose little old villages were literally buried in flowers, and where there were violets as rich, as deeply fragrant, and as purple, as the mists of England make. How I have loved night and sunset on his distant seas, and chaste, too ardent tropic dawns.

I have not found my own country so lovely. Nothing has moved me here in the same degree save human life, and for that I have kept something resembling a scientist’s interest, because of our racial complexity. We are the New World’s newly made people. Loti said he was afraid of Dame Reality. Perhaps I am, too.

He was fortunate in being able to go from dream to dream. But if for the briefest time this precious, inspired wandering were interrupted, he suffered. He cried out: “Il y a dans la vie de ces périodes d’ennui que l’on traverse ... en compagnie de Dame Réalité.

(There are periods of boredom which one is forced to traverse in life ... in company with Dame Reality.)”

The more ancient, the more manifold, the life of a city, the lovelier I always find it. That is why Sicily has delighted me. Certain villages, certain streets, in Sicily, and canals in Venice, are the only perfectly satisfying things I have known. They are greater than love, because they keep twice its intensity. Love may be a vulgarity, but an enchanting city—never. And men are about the same, while cities change.

Loti was so busy in the only genuine kind of living there is, which is storing up emotion, subtile comprehensions, that life became so exquisite a thing at last, he felt grief for each moment that sped.

Whenever I am in Paris I go to a bench beside the Medici Fountain, in the Gardens of the Luxembourg, to sit a little while where Loti used to sit and look out happily upon his blond, beloved Paris.


The individual is passing so rapidly in America, and collective living being substituted, that we can not expect to enjoy again such an exquisite personality. Here the daily paper thinks for us, the Movie feels for us, the radio talks us deaf and dumb, and the department stores put upon us what clothes they wish, while we remain limp and unresisting. Collective living where mind and senses grow dull.

The old arts are dying. They have no place in a mechanical civilization. Man has procured a strangely noisy set of grown-up toys that engross his energies.

I hope that in the struggle for world supremacy which is plainly threatening, the older mind of Asia will triumph sometimes, instead of American mind. A purely commercial civilization is dangerous.

Just as the good go to heaven, it is supposed, sometime, the painters, poets, people who have given me greatest pleasure, go to Sicily.

Pedro-Emilio Coll, that delightful Venezuelan, writes about it. He says: The king starts out to enjoy himself—meaning Blanco-Fombona. For pleasure he went to Palermo to dwell a time under the azure shell of the Sicilian sky confronting an azure sea. Coll goes on to say that ever afterward, Fombona experienced something like homesickness for Sicily.

I myself would much rather live and go to Palermo, than die and go to Heaven. To everyone his Heaven! I wonder why no one thought before of likening Palermo’s rich, old Moorish palaces to the dwellings of Paradise!

Once I wrote to engage rooms in an hotel in Palermo. I had just replied to a publisher a few days before, to a request asking me what my next novel would be, telling him that I had one in mind which I heard in the music of Parsifal. I learned, later, that in the Hotel Des Palms where I had engaged rooms, Wagner finished writing the music of Parsifal, and his last really great writing, on Friday, at the eleventh hour, January 13—almost at the exact moment when I was born.

To reach Sicily I sailed south past Sardinia. Naples, the night before from the sea, looked lovelier than from land. It was hot. There was scent of sulphur in the air. But I bought, in Naples, some charming cameos, to look at, not to wear, because on them were poignant little figures copied from the painted walls of Pompeii. The one I like best is of a dancing girl. I remember well her tomb.


From Naples it was at the edge of sunset we sailed past the islands south. One is Procida, where Lamartine wrote Graziella; Capri, with its ancient Phœnician stairway, cut in solid rock. With deepening twilight, we passed such shore places as Sorrento, Torre del Greco. Then away for the open sea and the night.

The next morning when I opened my port-hole we were anchored in front of dazzling white and pink mountains of stone, wild-lined, lofty. This was Sicily. We anchored far out. Little pink and violet-blue boats, roughly and heavily made, came for us and our luggage.

When at length we landed, the glare of light on white chalk-soil was terrifying, and I recalled swiftly that one of Sicily’s other names is Island of the Sun. Suddenly the buildings of a very ancient world swept around me. The Greeks made settlements here almost a thousand years before the Birth of Christ.

Palermo is a large city. It has wide and spacious streets, bordered with palaces of beauty—proud palaces of the Houses of Aragon, Bourbon, Orleans, Guise. Solemn, dignified, magnificent. It was here the Bourbons came for their last wild fling at power. The city is almost as lovely as Venice, which is all I am able to say, the highest praise I know.

One reason that the architecture of Sicily is alluring, is because at one time or another, almost all great races have owned it, so all lovelinesses are united. And since it does not rain from May to October, the light was dazzling.

Civilizations reached heights. The Greeks settled it at a dizzy number of centuries before Christ. The Romans held it awhile; the Norsemen. Once it was a center of Moorish culture. And then there was French, Spanish, and Italian rule.

Roger of Sicily, of song and story, built fairy palaces, and then helped bring the learning of the Orient into Europe. He inspired and caused to be built three buildings which are wonders of beauty, among them Mon Reale whose interior is covered with pictures made of gold and precious marble mosaics.

Mon Reale is several miles from the city, on the side of one of the towering, treeless, forbidding, pink-hued mountains of rock. The road that led to it was suffocating, white with dust, and the sun made me know that Africa was only eighty miles away. Barefoot women bearing burdens on their heads the size of their bodies, and leading donkeys,[30] toiled along beside us. Every moment the view grew more astonishing, and greater the dazzle of unshaded light. At our feet lay the famous Concha d’Oro, (Shell of Gold), the fruitful plain that frames Palermo, filled with groves of oranges, figs, palms, and the bright blue curve of the shore, with the giant pink mountains of rock that mark it at either end.

On the road to Mon Reale we visited Villa Tasca, a palace of rose-tinted marble. Its garden is famous. Out of the dust-white road into a paradise of flowers! Only oriental people, like the Arab, who have known the desert and thirst and the sun’s too direct heat, know how to make gardens. It was one of their perfected arts. And in these gardens they knew how to set pleasure places of unbelievable charm.

All the old gardens of the South, of Latin races, are among the richest enchantments. It takes centuries and wars and changing kings, caprice and madness, and love, to ripen gardens. Money and haste can not do it. A garden, in the finest acceptance of the term, will be impossible in our country for centuries. Even the flowers are lovelier in Latin gardens of the South, because they seem to be freighted with so many memories.


If Love could build a place for pure delight
’Twould be like this—pink marble, stone-white lace,
Within a garden grave and gay, kind both to bird and flower,
With friendly paths, curved, perfume-bordered ways,
And plaintive settles princely lover chose;
With water-mirrors, with the fountain’s spray.
Some lovely, ancient land like Sicily,
Since centuries alone make gardens rich—
Caprices, memories—royal death—and love.
Who boasts he can buy beauty with bare gold
Is like the fool whom God gives back to Fate.

As long ago as the Twelfth Century, the brilliant, unfettered mind of the Eighteenth Century was active in Sicily. The Renaissance would have begun earlier, if Europe had been able to comprehend, and then seize the astonishing intellectual development of this little island.


I used to wonder where Wagner drew the impetus, the power, for the sacred music of the close of Parsifal, with its dizzy heights of impassioned vision. Now I know. It was from religious paintings done in gold and gems, by inspired Twelfth Century builders, here in Sicily. He caught fire from a great age of faith.

Goethe, in the middle of the Eighteenth Century, knew that this was a land drenched with a kind of power that was passing. He lived here long. And daily he went to write in a lovely garden, called Villa Giulia, and he, too, had hard work to drag himself away. Hence the fable, perhaps, of the Sirens. The Square of the Great Cathedral (partly Moorish) is perhaps the loveliest thing I ever looked upon, save old Venetian Palaces. And it haunts me still, like the Grand Canal of Venice, under some unforgettable light.

The giant-bodied, blond, Norse sea-kings who came were robbers. But that which was Greece and the Orient touched them mightily. They became followers of the Christ, planned Crusades, married princesses of France, and all the time dwelled in a Moorish Court and spoke both the tongues of the East and the West. Here East and West met, then blended. A superstition was shattered.

We visited the graveyard where sleep Roger of Sicily and his descendant, Manfred, of whom Byron wrote, men who helped make the civilization of Europe. Here again I am on the trail of Loti. He declared this graveyard is the loveliest in the world save one—Eyoub—in Stamboul.

It is a long hot journey by rail to cross Sicily in summer. It is a day spent amid pale yellow fields of ripening grain. They shimmered like canary-hued satin. I recalled that it was to raise grain for the Caesars, and forget his long sad years of service in the East, that Pontius Pilate came here to end his days. A French writer makes him say: “Il me fallut ... sous le coup d’une disgrace immeritée....

I was held by the blow of unmerited disgrace. Swallowing my tears, my heart filled with bitterness, I retired to my Sicilian estates, where I should have died of loneliness, if my daughter Pontia had not come to console me. Here I raised grain, the finest in the land. Today life is over. Let the future judge between me and Vitellius.”

The man who was talking with Pontius Pilate in the French story, says to him after awhile, this man had known him, been a companion, when the older was Prefect of Judea. They are talking together of old[32] days of youth in Asia. The younger confesses: ... It was harder for me to do without a beautiful woman whom I knew there, than even the wines of Greece. A long time later I learned that this mistress of mine had joined a little band of men and women who followed a Galilean Prophet. They called him Jesus the Nazarene, and for some deed he was put to the cross. Do you happen to remember this man, my friend Pontius?

Pontius Pilate drew his brows together. He frowned. He thought and thought. His reply was simple and sincere. Jesus, you say his name was? Jesus, the Nazarene? No, I can’t seem to recall any such name.

After a time, above the satin-yellow of the grain fields, towered Ætna, white with ice, with snow. I recalled the songs of Greek poets written on this very plain. I recalled the pride and joy in the lines of Theocritus who dwelled just where we were spinning along:—These lines have always thrilled me.

I, Thêtis of Ætna, have come! I, Thêtis of Ætna, will sing! It was in Siracusa that Theocritus was born. Ah! how long ago, and his lines so fresh today. Three hundred B. C.

South of Siracusa, upon this radiantly blue sea, Greece fought some of her greatest battles, and it was here, and on these waters to the south, that the twilight first began to fall upon perhaps the most perfect civilization the world has seen.

The Greek Theatre, in the hillside, where the plays of Æschylus and Aristophanes were produced, is still in good condition. They had just given a play. It seats twenty thousand. The old Roman Theatre is close beside it. It is not so lovely.

Just a step from the theatres, in another of these unforgettable gardens of long ago, the Villa Landolina, the German poet, Count Von Platen, is buried. And in the Museum of Siracusa there is a lovely object, likewise from this same garden, the Landolina Venus. Headless, without arms, she stands upon a pedestal in a dim, pink room in which there is no other object. After you look at it in the twilight, they open a window and fling the day upon it, and the marble is of a texture so unusual it seems upon the moment to palpitate, to breathe, to live again, because beauty never dies. It is form divine. It was made in an age when there were still many people who could appreciate form. It is said to have been one[33] of the treasures of Heliogabulus who gave it to Siracusa, a city he loved. What heart-fire in the antique world! And in how many ancient tongues we have heard men say they loved cities.

The next morning early I went back again to the Museum. I offered my entrance fee, five lire. The keeper shook his head. Are you not going to let me see it? I gasped. Yes Madame. But you who know beauty may go in always free.

Over Siracusa, in summer, bends a sky of blue enamel as unbroken and changeless in hue as the sky of Africa. And along the streets and country ways are flowering trees, wisteria-blue, gold and white, and hibiscus-pink, which add to the enchantment.

It was to a friend in Sicily, I think his name was Lucillus, that Seneca wrote letters of wisdom. And once in a while he used to mention what he termed the world renowned mountain, Ætna.

Seneca wrote to him: If you would be free you must be poor, or else you must make yourself like unto the poor. Wisdom is a peculiar treasure, Seneca goes on to explain; you begin to acquire it as you lose everything else.

And Tu Fu, a Chinese poet of the Eighth Century, wrote:

It is only the beggar who sings.

That kind of perception and that freedom of mind is lost. One finds the minds of these great thinkers of old something firm among the shifting ages. In the present flux they are safe to anchor to. As a nation, as a people, we are not old enough to appreciate such statements. Money can not buy anything that is genuinely fine. Only the invisible coin of the soul can purchase the genuine. The age that worships money, measures with money, is an age both base and stupid.

José Maria de Heredia wrote some of his most splendid sonnets about Sicily. He says in one of them, that it is Ætna that ripens best the purple and gold of the wine. We learn that here Greek blood unites in the veins with Saracen fury, and imperial pride of France. But time passes and everything dies. Even marble grows old and worn. Agrigenti (Girgenti) is nothing but a shadowy ruin, and Great Siracusa, (once most populous and powerful city of the Mediterranean world), dozes dully under the too blue sky. But metal lives. And today metal coins keep the rare perfection of profile of Sicilian maids.


Loti has moulded upon Sicily phrases lovely and indestructible as the coins of Siracusa, which preserve the unforgettable beauty of youth. It is surpassing strange that I who was always moved to emotion by the prose of Loti, who tried so many times and failed to look upon his face, should receive almost the last letter he wrote, and that he should sign his name to his calling card to send me, just before he died. Love, perhaps, is a powerful magnet. The avenues of the air are now plotted and mapped, the trackless roads of the sea, the land, but the roads of the spirit are still free, unmarked, and sure-leading. Baedeker, thank God, has neglected to chart them! Loti called this young girl’s diary charming. He said it made him want to read other things.

Ada Negri went to Sicily a few years ago, in a journey she made to Italian places of pleasure. She writes of this journey in a prose book called Le Strade (Streets). Delightful poet that she is, with lines that flame in memory, her prose is commonplace. Not many have written well both prose and verse.

Calzini was quite mad over Sicily. He tarried longest in Siracusa, to worship at the feet of the Landolina Venus. Somewhere he exclaims, thinking of the statue, “we have come to you across nations and across time; we have come from a civilization which has put so much despair, so much sadness and worry into love. Let us learn to worship again in you the power of creating, generating, profound and eternal as the sun of Sicily.”

Sicily gave birth to two delightful composers, one of whom was Scarlatti. It pleases me to know that Wagner wrote his greatest love music, the music of Isolda, by the canals of Venice, and his music of inspired spiritual vision, when he flashed forth in tone, sublime knowledge of a life that surpasses death, in Sicily.

Hear Andrew Lang:

Ah! Leave the smoke, the wealth, the roar
Of London and the bustling street,
For still by the Sicilian shore
The murmur of the Muse is sweet,

And shepherds still their songs repeat
Where breaks the blue Sicilian Sea.


How England has loved lands of sun! There was a young English clergyman, by name Lefroy, who in the Eighties went to Sicily and wrote some memorable verses there. I can recall the first line of one:

On shores of Sicily a shape of Greece!

That is just what men can find there today, the vivid memory of something perfect.

Few things happened to mar the long hot monotony of the sun-swept plains. Few people of importance came. Dude-ranching was of the future.

But when I was in my first teens the Great Salvini came, and with him a son. They played The Three Musketeers, in what popular pride, somewhat feeble in fact, called the Opera House. The dramatic production here was of slight importance to them. What they really came for was to go quail hunting in the Indian Territory. My father, as it happened, was the best wing-shot in the State. I had inherited a little of his ability; I was permitted to go along.

The two Italians were impressed with the eloquence, the space-surprise of the unmarked land-levels, where roads were just anywhere you wished to go, and the sweep of light unimpeded. I was impressed with the beauty, the charm of the young Italian. In addition to genius, there was upon him the seal of an ancient rich, finely tempered living.

The winter that followed I was in a university in the north, lonely and homesick for the sun, for the south. Then I saw that Salvini was billed.

After the first performance I went behind the scenes to renew acquaintance with my gay hunting companion of the autumn. This was the beginning of a week of delight such as my child’s soul had not known, a week when I saw daily this engaging Italian youth, so unlike the young men of the plains whom I had known. I, who even then, was peculiarly sensitive to beauty, was all but stricken dumb by this alluring personality. I sensed the splendid things he had known which were unknown to me.

When at length he had to go away, I wept. He was beauty and youth and love and charm. He was all the things I liked and dumbly wanted. What remained was the snow-bound, duty-filled Michigan winter, where day was too short, too quickly black-rimmed with dusk and night. As in the case of Adonis of old, beauty was dead and my heart was lamenting.


Years passed. Life like an uncontrollable tidal-wave swept in, bearing the things I hated or had no interest in. In short, I grew old with the years.

Then, one night in New York, in a little moving-picture theatre on a cheap side street, one night of winter, when the snow outside was deeply white, just as it used to be by black forest edges, in those long forgotten Michigan winters, I saw laughing down upon me from the silver screen, in a luxurious Roman garden-scene from Quo Vadis, a face I seemed to have known. What dimly remembered delight was there! In the eyes, mouth, the careless gesture of the head, the trained grace of hands! It was the face of a man no longer in his first youth, but keeping still youth’s slenderness, youth’s lines. A face more eloquent, made more impassioned and moving by the years, and crowned with the flowers I always loved, the fragile flowers of an Italian spring. The background was an old, rich garden of the south, and beyond—the Immortal City, Rome. Into the eyes as they looked upon me crept a look I seemed to remember. Salvini!

The years rolled back. I was sixteen again. I was mounting my mustang under swaying trees, in a windy dawn of early autumn. Shining and resplendent was the outspread circle of the plains, and beside me, moving along at speed, over the gold-hued grasses of dying summer, a youth I liked, with the face of Italy; a dark impassioned face; eloquent; and a voice speaking in my ear, with luscious, singing phrase I never forgot. The young Salvini!

There is only one other thing I remember with equal delight, equal vividness. It is night. And likewise a night of long ago. It is near a Latin land, by the Mexican Gulf; a sultry night of summer; a silent, outspread, sullen water, with faint, far stars winking down into it, and the white gleam, and the drunken, too heavy scent of magnolia blossoms. These two memories sway my senses.

Now I know that the reason is because they keep securely the same emotional height.

I have found something in a French writer I like: Only Cezanne knew the color of Provençe. I have been fluttering, mentally, long, around that idea, searching for it, trying to seize it like a bird its nest, at night.

Why was Margaret of Navarre the helpless sport of fate and accident? Whenever I re-read The Heptameron I wonder more. She had beauty,[37] youth, health, intelligence above the ordinary, something that resembled the gift of genius, and in her old French world none were more highly placed. She was born and lived beside a throne. Yet she had no power of direction over days. She was as helpless on the current of years as driftwood. What was lacking? Was it the saving grain of salt of the commonplace? Or are human beings sport of deep tides of time, and the so-called lucky ones, who get what they want the way they want it, grow conceited, and cry out like the little fat boy in Mother Goose: See what a plum I found! The fact is, they had nothing to do with it.

A delusion is not a bad thing to grow. It is superior to reality because it is out of range of attack and can not wear out. It transcends time and accelerates action.

When one is young one wants happiness to last. When one grows old one finds it was made to taste of, never to keep. Happiness is merely the wholesale price of wisdom.

The mind that is perfectly clear, if such a thing were conceivable, would not be the mind to succeed. A certain amount of prejudice (little wrongs for alloy with pure gold) is necessary. It guides.

To one deprived of it, whose crystal-clear, dispassionate intelligence sees all sides at once, whose brain is weakened in its progress toward choice by weighing infinitesimal differences, selections, resolute action, would not be easy. We keep many unpaid debts to wrong. That is where right gets its crown. As brevity is the soul of wit, delusion is the fiber of life.

A curiosity in America today is the insistent effort to make the dollar rule ideas and ideals.

Keeping house resembles a clock. You wind it up on Saturday night and it puts in the rest of the week in running down.

Life is about as satisfactory in its attempts as the thrusts of swordsmen fencing with blindfolded eyes.

One of my greatest regrets has been that life has no back door.


Necessity is quite as often the mother of goodness as invention.

In the old wars recorded eloquently in tapestries, marbles, canvasses, men died and kept their faith. The coming wars will be wars of science. They will be fought largely by the brain, in lonely rooms. Men will die just the same, but they will not keep their faith. Sacrifices will be heaped to a new God—Super-Mechanics.

Yet the Greeks used to write songs to Apollo in which they called him both Destroyer and Healer. If circles of time are vast, still they are circles.

Republics have been the world’s dream of justice. Now Science is shaking them sadly. What is there Science is not shaking? Is there a field of mind not attacked?

The thinking of France, the philosophical dreaming of Germany, the peculiarly destructive quality in the brain of the Hebrew, have together been helpful in hastening change. There is no value not suffering transformation.

Hear what De Tocqueville writes about democracy in America. He had one of the most dangerously penetrating minds the world has known: I think that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever existed before ... men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy but it prevents existence.

The gentle, the humanity loving philosophizing of the painter, Redon, in his notes, is good to know. It tells us, too, how great his heart was. He insists continually upon something I have always believed, that, in supreme creating, the heart, nobility of nature, play a not yet credited part.

As the Bhagavad Gita is a breviary for the soul, some of the notes of Redon are a breviary for art and its making. Few can read him without feeling an impulse to be better, loftier visioned. His brief notes, his diary jottings, are a kind of New Testament of Beauty.

A Biblical soul, flinging forth proud, powerful phrases! A prophet painting super-terrestrial flowers, too ripe in color, too wise, graceful, lovely, but weighted with divine regret!


Redon could see and feel. Sometimes his words are poetry, especially when he addresses the sea. In words he snares amazing, unexpected revelations. In his unselfconscious hours of meditation, sometimes he is a thinker. Again I am impressed with the fact that they who are great, keep within untapped deeps of good. He declares that that which comes from the heart can not die. Goethe said something similar. And that was the teaching of Faust. The last resolve of its united modern and mediæval wisdom was the heart’s supremacy. Beethoven asserted it. Redon, as it happened, adored Beethoven. As I recall the musician’s words they were these: “Man’s title to nobility is his heart.” Now I recall Goethe’s words: Nur was vom Herzen kommt, zum Herzen geht. This completing of logic in word-phrase is a characteristic, I think, of the great German.

Redon goes on to say that if on some centenary of Michael Angelo he were chosen to make the address, he would speak only of the great soul of the man.

There were long periods when Michael Angelo neither painted nor modeled. In these between spaces his sonnets were written. I recall at this moment a sonnet in that old Italian tongue I have loved so long, which tells how he likes sleep and the substance of stone:

Caro m’è ’l sonno, e piu esser di sasso.

The woman whom Michael Angelo loved declared she wrote only to give vent to inner grief:—

Scrivo sol per sfogar l’interna doglia.

He was greater. He wrote selflessly.

It was in Bordeaux, a letter informs me, that Redon was born, instead of Marseilles.... He seems to have possessed a noble nature, with a peculiarly personal quality of penetration. He stood face to face with basic emotions.

He declares the dilettante amuses himself, while the artist, going through agony, produces grain for broader sowing. Mixed with his love, his knowledge of art, there was reverence.

He explains how memories of what his father used to tell him in childhood helped him. Of his father, he remarks: “He loved the outdoor world. He talked often about the pleasure the great spaces of America gave him, and forests, where once he was lost for days. He liked to recall[40] the wild life of his youth, this daring follower of luck and liberty.” His father was in New Orleans at time of the Wars of the First Empire.

In his sensitive childhood, Brittany made him sad. He explains that in Celtic lands the human soul has accumulated too much emotion. The passion of days, of years, is piled there, until material things become uncannily imbued. Hence the wealth of legends. Legends and poetry become the permanent safety vault of the agony, of the desires, of a race.

Once he pauses to praise the wines of France. He blesses men who grow the grape, who make precious liquid to dilute bitter fate with a little optimism. He calls it liquid of dreams. He rejoices that there is something that can exalt mind.

He tells of his first art teacher who did not try to teach. He kept still and rejoiced when the boy went mad over the canvasses of Delacroix. From that man, he declares, I learned the essentials of creation.

I have found another reason for his devotion to flowers. In his impressionable boyhood he became companion of a famous botanist, Clavand. This man was fascinated by the imperceptible, unsteady boundary line which separates flower-life from human-life. In the plastic arts, Clavand could appreciate both the serenity of Greece and the riotous Middle Age. He loved Delacroix just as Redon did. He kept telling Redon, the boy, of the intensity of life, the vital irradiation of the canvasses of Delacroix. He compared them to the plays of Shakespeare, because they held the same quality. In stored up depth of life they were Elizabethan.

Redon expresses belief that there is no such thing as art until pressure of idea, vision, force then form speech.

Remy de Gourmont applies the word metaphore to the paintings of Redon. They live by logic of imagination.

His reflections are always illuminating. Speechless nature, (plants, flowers), have normal, secret life-laws which landscape painters must feel to express. There is an art of design freed from burden of details.

In life there is suffering. Art is made to console. He insists Rembrandt created clair-obscur just as Phidias created line. New art, outside law and vision of pagan Greece, must derive from Rembrandt.

He thinks that the power to put into a work of art more significance than the creator suspects is done by them whose hearts are perfectly true, they who hold in the soul something greater than art. This means it is the rich heritage of them who have lived.


Redon remarked: “When I am alone I can love the highways.” Tu Fu, a poet of Eighth Century China, sang:

“I find that I like to walk alone.”

Thinking, evidently, is a thing outside of time. Redon says that with God, he can enjoy natural things. I prefer rough ways, uncultivated spaces, untouched by the human hand. I even love black woods when they are sad. I love wild storms, abundant rain, cold, snow and the frost. I love these harsh things men grumble over. They even keep a language which enchants me.

Long ago Redon felt sensitively the coming of the dangerous, scientifically minded New World; an age dry of emotion. He exclaimed in words touched with both grief and fear: “Plastic art is dead, because the wind of the infinite has blown upon it.” That is exactly what science will prove to be; the wind of the infinite.

Somewhere else I recall, he declares that the superiority of the Christ is the fact that all loved Him without argument. Over the memory of man there floated the candor of His smile, and the fact that He could love every one who approached Him.

This makes me remember a poet’s portrait of Christ, drawn by Leconte de Lisle. It is too lovely ever to forget:

“Figure aux cheveux roux, d’ombre et de paix voilée,
Errante aux bords des lacs sous son nimbe de feu,
Salut! L’humanité dans ta tombe scellée
O jeune Esseinien, cherche son dernier dieu!

The boyish Christ, a halo of flame about His head, wandering along the shores of Galilee. Humanities last God.”

The dilettante plays. The great artist learns to suffer; creating is the pendant of unselfish anguish.

“How good it is to read in a quiet room!” Redon exclaims—“with a window upon a forest.” He could say that, because he had not permitted the tumult of the world to touch his heart. That was a finer thing to do than to collect dollars. Success, what is popularly called so, is more or less vulgar, and a little too noisy now-a-days.


Redon is a poet in words without suspecting it. Hear him!

Painters—go look upon the sea!
There you will find color, find light;
And a deep sky that lives.
There you will catch song of the sands,
Countless imperceptible shadowings,
You will come strengthened back from the sea,
Until the great word will be yours.

It is under the charm of autumn evenings that I resume my memories. There is something in this season that turns my thoughts toward the past. It is sad, a little. It helps recall that which is gone. In my soul it makes silence; sweet and discreet, like autumn leaves that drop.

Once Redon met a man named Chenavard who had known Delacroix. This was in 1878. The man’s memories of the great painter gave him impulse to paint, he states. Delacroix always stood at his easel, or else he walked rapidly back and forth, whistling an opera of Rossini’s. The man could not forget the abandon, fertility, power of invention, the fury, of Delacroix.

Redon insists that success can destroy and then pervert an artist’s sense of beauty. And he was of the opinion that it is in winter when music has its greatest influence. It belongs to the skies of the evenings of winter, with their silence. Music is art of night and its dreams. But painting belongs to day and the sun!

Exactitude, truth, action, are of the domain of words. Therefore not native to Germany, land of music, abstract thought, visions. It is most at home in France, in England. He dislikes the music of England.

He loved the Basque Country. The soil seemed an ancient fatherland where he must have lived, loved, suffered. There the wandering winds of summer, the slightest motion of water, sound of the human voice, awoke imperious memories. Everything touched his heart.

In life we may be always stumbling upon our ancient and forgotten dwelling places, where in some other dress of flesh we played. One life for the manifold mind is inconceivable, for its uselessness, its injustice. Lives are multiple. Science will teach us how, some day, to remember.


In Holland he was unhappy. He felt fear like a child, in that melancholy country, filled with the inexplainable silences of water; strange, too dim shadow-lighting; and a sky where rain clouds shift.

The brush of Franz Hals won him. He says that if genius ever proved itself nature’s outlaw, it is in the paintings Hals made after eighty. Then to Hals came fresh fluency, supreme disdain of details. Then genius deluged him with the power to fling forth reality.

He refuses to worship Rubens, because Rubens never suffered. He who has not suffered can not attain excellence. But Rubens touched his painter’s sense to emotion. Rubens has all greatnesses, all richnesses. But he has not suffered! Therefore I refuse to place him among the few. Masters are always alone, bowed beneath weight of lofty power.

He dwells upon the prolific exuberance of the few who take no account of creative energy. At length they sweep beyond human, beyond material limits. Dürer was one of these, when, to illustrate little books, he made designs too grandiose for walls of antique palaces, vainly dreaming there would be at least a few who could comprehend him.

Redon lived the life worth while. What a vulgar stupidity is money beside it! It can give neither ideas, emotions, nor even comprehension or appreciation of what money can buy. The pure joy of the heart is honey. It dwells hidden in deep centers of flower-gold. It is not easy to find nor procure. God has to send his winged messengers to collect the honey of the heart.

Seeing is supposed to be something of general possession. The fact is, it is unusual. It is not eyes which keep men from being blind. Once some savages from Tierra del Fuego came to France. Redon looked at them. He called them proud, haughty, cruel, powerful, grotesque. They made him vision the perished primitive world. He found in them grandeur. He saw all the other grandeurs of civilization, too, shine in their eyes. He enjoyed their uncorrupted, plastic beauty. They were rare bronzes; fine, firm. They had not learned the error of decoration.

He found nudity sublime. He compared them with luxurious, motionless, royally expanded, radiant flowers of tropic India. He longed to see their bronzed and splendid flesh encircled with monstrous forest growths, or stretched out on sand that is hard and smooth.


Chamfort thought that people with cold, reasoning minds exist, but only the impassioned know how to live; I too am most grateful for the rare times I have had strength to leap petty, picket fences which shut in the too safe, the usually relied upon; when I have dared, kept to faith of self.

They do wrong who mock the testimony of the saints, the seers, such as Saint Teresa of Avila. There must be facts beyond the registering of commonplace faculties. Just as there are musicians and painters, with their special endowments, there are people great in soul-power, possessing, perhaps, extra-terrestrial vision.

Goethe’s mind was clear and fine. He always wished he could have had more details about the statements of St. John, which allured then troubled him. But Goethe was too great to deny the unknown or mock the unmeasured genuine. He could guess what wonders might dwell there. They who go ahead, go guided by something greater than man’s reason.

Redon speaks of his art as a little door opening upon mystery. He insists thinking people are crushed by the grandeur of problems they try to solve. Sometimes such people possess heart, however, then they begin to comprehend.

Redon admired Degas. But he declared that the admiration of Degas for Ingres was of the head not of the heart. He thinks Degas marks the first halt in the journey to New World art. He calls him free, joyous, exultant artist.

Once Redon exclaims fretfully: “I can’t speculate about Alsace-Lorraine. How could I? Art is the refuge of the peace-loving, where can be no disputed frontiers. Wars are made by dull, imperfect, fragmentary minds, minds incapable of lofty logic, where suddenly a part assumes the false significance of a whole. In short, merely a loss of mental perspective.”

I do not often procure pleasure from reading Proust. His thoughts, the meat of the matter, are substantial, satisfying enough, if not alluring. But I do not like stumbling through so many twisting, cluttered alleys. His prose is dowdy. I do not call Proust a neglected genius. In the human realm (in word art) he is a plant which did not possess that which permits to flower. Proust’s Swan helps date the death of creative art.


Among the things I regret, such as not looking upon the face of Loti, is not having had the opportunity to listen to the conversation of Anatole France, or rather, his monologues. They who had that opportunity tell me he was even greater there than in his writing, whose finished, scornful, scholarly paganism, gives me little, shining gold grains of joy. Nicholas Ségur writes enchantingly of the conversation of France.

Great artists, perhaps, possess the power to live always on the crest of emotions, which create or transform worlds for them at will. That is an element of genius. Other people rise to it under pressure of something extraordinary.

I have found pleasure in looking upon the backs of athletes, in bronze, marble, flesh, and the bodies of great beasts, such as tigers, lions, panthers. I have loved them partly for their beauty, and partly for their intensity. They are proud, powerful moments made tangible. They are highly perfected things where power focusses. Sometimes they are terrible. Then they possess the too keen beauty of bewilderment.

The sculptor Bourdelle has caught this fascinating something which fascinates, by blending beauty with terror. Then the two are elevated to uncontested power.

I saw some prose of Bourdelle, just a few lines, which charmed me more than the work of his chisel. He was holidaying in happiness. I surprised him.

Sometimes Millet’s letters are finer than his paintings or etchings. And I know Fromentin’s work with the pen surpassed the brush.

Another person I longed to look upon in the flesh was Vivekânanda, who left a princely life of mediæval splendor in the Orient to come to America to teach The Way.

In his young manhood, in India, when the insensitive, dazzled crowd caught sight of him in the street, they thought that he must be a God, because no human being could be at once so superb and so beautiful. And with one acclaim they shouted: SIVA!

All gifts had been lavished upon him, both physical and mental. He danced the sacred dances of his magic and ancient land like a master. His singing voice was glorious and trained, and beyond normal in range and power. His stature and strength were unusual. He was brilliant and learned. And he renounced everything to become a priest.


I took long journeys and went to far places, where he was announced to lecture, only to find that that day some one else lectured in his stead. For me to look upon him was not to be. He was example of a kind of mind the West has not produced.

He admired the Christ. It chanced to be upon Christmas Eve when he determined to renounce the world. During his early preaching days he used to say to his followers: Go ye and become Christs! Around camp fires, at night, in remote, lonely, Indian settlements, he related the story of The Crucified.

I did see Duse, however, whom I had longed to see, although it was when she was old. Like Vivekânanda she was great of soul. To her and her power, years were inconsequential.

I did not admire Bernhardt. Deep in her nature there was too much that was vulgar, coarse—not fine. She had a too keen eye for the box office. She was, of course, an accomplished technician. Duse possessed that which made the art of primitive people supreme, the pleasure-and-pain-distilled honey of the heart.

Flaubert insists that art is to speculation what heroism is to morality—something useless.

Of Flaubert’s books, of which I am a reader, I like L’Education Sentimentale best. Flaubert was in the Orient two years. What must he not have seen, he who owned amazing color sense! From oriental mind he gained new splendors, fresh conceptions, all of which we can sense in his salon-piece, Salammbô, and in Herodias. Palaces and ruins he saw in India aided him in building those tremendous architectural backgrounds of his Carthage. His eyes had seen, in the marvelous East, such things realized.

It is only in case of weak, inconsequential books that men can argue about realism, romanticism, schools. Great things are above mind-mapping distinctions. They are all things at once. God has touched them. He has said: Let there be life!

Chateaubriand declared that we paint well only our hearts, and genius is merely assembled memory. Of course he meant memory distributed through many different lives, in æons of time. In his haste he condensed explanation.


I wonder in how many other lives I saw some such city as Venice drifting with magic eloquence upon an opal sea! Venice, like Venus, is a God and sea-born.

It is passing strange, this combination of memory and allurement from which I can not get free. It is peril. It is unsealing a too deep past, and then stealing the forgotten.

I even love summer in Venice. I love the hot Italian nights and the glamour, the strangely irritating scent of the green lagoons. I love the consciousness of all the glowing, unseen paintings in its closed, vast palaces, and the beauty of its people made to paint, and the giant magnolias which light dark, windless nights like mimic moons. I never before measured accurately the torture of something one can not forget.

What a background was Venice for such men as Titian, Marco Polo, Aretino, and Casanova who made a profession of love and delight, not to mention all the patricians of the 16th Century whom Yriarte reproduced in words for us! Pompeo Molmenti has written gloriously of Venice; all its grandeur he has shown; its gilt, dramatic decadence. Albert Dürer was in Venice once. Think what his eyes could see there! Dürer loved the sumptuous just as Rembrandt did. Dürer was one of the first Europeans to try to learn about, then exploit, the loveliness of great Indian palaces. A soul as rich as his always spends lavishly for poorer fellow men. It maddened De Regnier just the same as it maddens me. And for quarter of a century he wrote about it.

The sight of night falling upon Venice shakes me. It keeps the eloquence of dim fatality. Night should not fall there!

I wish I could have seen Goldoni’s Venice! That was the rich, the marvelously expanding Eighteenth Century. Or the Byzantine Venice of the earlier Middle Age! And then there was Renaissance Venice, violent and splendid, purple and dramatic, and Roccoco Venice which Emma Ciardi has painted with languorous, emotional light, and much lavish, clown-white satin.

La Rosalba painted there. Gabriel Soulages wrote this of La Rosalba:

La Rosalba disdaining for a day his paints and brushes
Took up a drop of gold.
One single drop of gold:
With it he drew upon the flank of this great antique vase the Muses Nine.


Venice where men painted with gold and dreamed with gems. Sumptuous, dead Capital City of an Old World that now too is dying! A symbol of loveliness! When the Spanish Conquerors first caught sight of what is now Mexico City they exclaimed: The Venice of the Aztecs!

As soon as time began to be considered something that could be measured, controlled, then sold for counted pieces of silver, the property of man in short, the making of things fine began to come to an end. Books were rare possessions in days care-free of time, when there was but one objective, quality.

I recall a CICERO made in Venice in 1495, with a cover design by Julien des Jardins, which for sheer loveliness is something to linger over. In the center of the cover there is a panel of St. Yves, surrounded by a border of mingled roses and lilies. One could sit and hold it for days, to gain comprehension of the soul of design.

There is a THUCYDIDES printed in Italy in 1483, in a Neapolitan gilt binding, that holds in middle of the cover something that simulates a gold expanding sun—superb and surprising, with its rich seeming of dazzling, scattered light. This was made as gift for an Aragon King.

There were printing presses in an early day in Sicily, Messina, where now, since Ætna’s repeated earth shakings, America is busy in building rows of useful and remarkably ugly dwellings.

How arts sprang up and then flowered in early Sicily! The soil seemed to suit them. When Cardinal Bembo was Secretary to Pope Leo X, he wrote a little book about Ætna, which fascinated him, and which the Aldine Press was pleased to dress lavishly in print.

From Sicily, Girgenti (now a dim poignantly lovely ruin), there came, in the old days, a monk, by name Nicolas Valla, who rewrote in resonant, heroic, Latin verse the Little Flowers of St. Francis. Then he printed them with adorable wood-cuts, in Florence, in 1498. I vaguely remember, too, that there was a vagabond mediæval printer, from Sicily, by that name, Valla, who did a few rare books on his little press, in old Italian cities, through which he wandered.

Rare books of Germany, rich in variety and number of their wood-cuts, all bear about the same date. Hrotsvitha, printed in Nuremburg in 1501, with cuts by Albrecht Dürer. Saint Brigitta, Nuremburg, 1481. A book by Jornandes, a kind of history of Gothic people, was made in Augsburg[49] in 1515. The wood-cuts are remarkable, by several hands, and some of them signed. Many German cities put out these exquisite things before time began to be considered. Anyone of them can fill even an humble dwelling with beauty, like the sun the fields.

But what is significant in the fact, is that the making of things supremely fine reached height and then began to decline at time of discovery of the Americas. As soon as the Twin Continents were flung so suddenly upon the Markets of Time, when gold, emeralds, pearls, silver of a New World, began to distend European pockets, with means to measure then buy the unbuyable, Time, the making of objects of beauty slowly ceased. Even Venice and Genoa began to lose prestige, to shrink to small subsidiary ports. A new, a surprisingly different turn was given to the human mind.

The Americas are the fateful Continents. Slowly they have destroyed the great living that existed before. And now they are forming the background for the New World, the dangerous scientific world, when values will be made over, and nothing will be as it was before, not even gods. The discovery of America marked the beginning of the death of beauty.

Some of the new and extreme schools of writing, of art in general, are merely expressions of weakness. The mind is registering wonder, uncertainty, and fear, at tremendous change. A close-up that is too sudden has caused temporary loss of mental poise. And with it has come the slower comprehension, that the old arts are dying, that they can not live on, because they will not be needed nor able to interest anyone, nor even amuse, in a scientific world.

I have read novels in German all my life and now I am asking myself why I do not have the impulse to write about them. There must be a reason. But I can not find it. I do not think that the English tongue carries German printed art any too well, when it is translated.

It is silly to say that people love different things. But sometimes it is necessary. Our friends love us only when we are foolish and they can look down upon us. A dangerous gesture always.

Some women when they are young love kittens, dogs, dolls or men, and always themselves, because they can not see themselves. As for me, I have loved words. Only words could give me the supreme emotion,[50] because they were suffering strange and inexplainable change, which enchanted then puzzled me; transformations of sound, sense, down long alley-ways of time and living; and calling with voices changefully beautiful and broken, keeping always beyond the magic of perfect realization, and in addition, like a false love, prodigal of promises, infinite and unkept. The emotion of words, with their different rhythmic passions, in many races, in many lands, lured me. Following etymological laws, I have watched them, like gay actors on a stage in a play that never ends, put swiftly on varying vowel and consonant raiment. I have held my breath at the capricious orders of change. I have felt delight at their fresh grotesqueness.

Words are our oldest playmates. There is nothing else save the air we breathe with which so long we have been in contact.

At this moment, as a civilization changes, a period of time comes to an end, (and all else is useless and time-stained), women who play Bridge, patronize Beauty Parlors, fly in aeroplanes, use the root-words their Ayrian ancestors used, upon Indian highlands, at time of the dispersal of races, when they say sew—Indian siv. Since then the physical body has been made over in some degree, gods and religions have come and gone, the human voice has circled the globe and man learned to fly like the birds, but the little, helpless, drifting word with which we cry remains the same.

In El Modernismo, Poetas Modernistas, R. Blanco-Fombona has written an interesting, comprehensive, and necessary book about South American poets, and poets of old Spain.

He has related some facts which explain the discussed mystery of the meaning of the Great Nocturn of Silvá. He says that where the poet speaks of their shadows (Silvá and his sister, Elvira) meeting, he is relating, in his grief, a memory of their childhood. Once they went, in summer, to a dwelling, high in the Andes, for cooler air. At night upon a balcony, with the house lights behind them, Silvá and Elvira were standing, while the flickering lamp’s flame painted their gigantic, grotesque shadows across the night-black mountains.

My translation was made long ago, the first translation of Silvá into any language.



It was night time,
Night time lonely,
It was night time filled with murmurings of sweetness,
With faint perfumes, and the music dim of birds’ wings,
It was night time,
It was night time, and the darkness hymeneal, deep and dewy,
Shone fantastical with fire-flies.
By my side then, slowly, slowly, by my side then silent, pallid,
As if to you there came knowledge of a future dark and bitter,
Troubling hidden, secret, soul-depths and the fibers of your being,
By my side along the pathway of the flowers across the pale plain,
You were walking,
And the full moon
Then up-swinging through the sweet sky’s serene azure shed upon us its white light;
And your shadow,
Graceful, languid,
And my shadow
From the moon’s pale light out-floating,
On the sand-plain sad and lonely
Where the path wound, were united
And made one there,
Were united in one lone and somber shadow,
Were united in one lone and somber shadow,
Were united in one lone and somber shadow.
It was night time,
Night time lonely,
And my heart held naught save memory of your death and agony;
Separated now forever, separated by time from you, by space, by the tomb forever,
And by shadows black and blacker,
Where my voice can never reach you,
Silent, dumb, sad and alone
By the pathway I was walking....
At the lone moon dogs were baying,
At the moon so sad and lone;
I heard harsh and ghostly croaking
Of the frogs beneath the moon....
I felt chilly, and the chill was that which held you in your chamber,
Held in your white, ghostly chamber, hands and breasts and cheeks I loved.
Held between the snowy marble
Of the pale, dim plain of death.
’Twas the chill of things sepulchral, ’twas the ancient chill of death,
’Twas the chill of nothingness,
And my shadow,
From the moon’s pale light out-floating,
Walked there lonely,
Walked there lonely,
Lonely walked the pale plain o’er,
And your shadow grown more lovely,
Graceful, languid,
As upon that night of spring-time—fleeting spring of long ago;
As that night time filled with murmurings of sweetness,
With faint perfumes, and the music dim of birds’ wings,
Reached my shadow and swept with it,
Reached my shadow and swept with it,
Reached my shadow and swept with it—O! twin shadows interlacing!
O the interlacing shadows of twin bodies reuniting with the shadows of their souls!
O those interlacing shadows which are seeking, still are seeking,
Through all night times, on, forever, for each other in their tears!

In Bogotá, city of old churches, patrician pride, grave gray stone palaces, the room in which Silvá killed himself was found filled with books, in many tongues, collections of precious perfumes, and rare orchids.

How vastly learned was Tertullian! How eloquent! And how bronze muscled was his prose! As I read, I recall sharply old, resonant bronzes of Han, black and polished archaic pottery from fabulous dead cities upon the slopes of the Andes, in Peru, such as that fluent painter and[53] distinguished scientist and explorer, A. Hyatt Verrill, discovered, where in the long black night of time forgotten civilizations flowered then disappeared, and tides of Spanish conquest and exploration rose and fell, the black marble of the Baiæan pleasure-palaces of Tiberius Caesar, and black pearls from the Indian Ocean.

In truth Tertullian’s prose is black and splendid. It glows with the magic light of poignant drowned moons in perished Egyptian midnights, and the pictured onyx pendants that chilled the cruel breasts of Herodias. It moves me tremendously. And what power to swing the great sentence, then make it humbly sinuous, simple, and supple! Hear him:

“O tardy messengers! O sleepy despatches, through whose fault Cybele had not an earlier knowledge of the Imperial decease, that the Christians might have no occasion to ridicule a goddess so unworthy!...”

“And yet the Romans have never done such homage to the Fates which gave them Carthage against the purpose and the will of Juno, as to the abandoned harlot Larentina. It is not undoubted that not a few of your gods have reigned on earth as men.”

“If from the beginning of the world the Milesians sheared sheep, and the Serians spun trees, and the Tyrians dyed, and the Phrygians embroidered with the needle and the Babylonians with the loom, and pearls gleamed and onyx-stones flashed, if gold had issued with the cupidity which accompanies it from the ground, if the mirror had license to lie so largely, Eve, expelled from Paradise, already dead, would have coveted these things!”

The preachments of Tertullian keep the interest of romance and the exciting, restless intrigue of the novel. It is not surprising that a few books could satisfy so well the elder world: It is because each of the few kept the power of many. In the confusing complexity of today, Tertullian and Procopius could take the place of many for me. The long breath of power was theirs.

The sentences of Procopius are packed richly with meaning. Each has meat for meditation. And it is that rare writing that I love, because I keep the illusion of it being chiseled upon metal. It is firm. And it keeps a gleam in my mind. The attack of the first lines of his chapters is frequently magnificent. Here is an example:


“The Taurus mountain range of Cilicia passes first Cappadocia and Armenia and the land of the so-called Persarmenians, then Albania and Iberia both independent or subject to Persia. It extends a great distance, and as one proceeds along its range, it spreads out to extraordinary breadth, rises to imposing height....”

What an eminence from which to view the outspread plain of events of the chapter, and what harmony of mind and emotion he has given us, by the powerful placing of words and the unfolding of idea.

The old writing has kinship with plastic art; it was of line and form and surface, instead of color, emotion, nerves. Thought is a plastic thing when it is not chipped, sliced thin, like cheap cheese. That sense of plasticity, the need of a different moulding process, is something lost in word-craft. It helps give that which is deathless to much antique art. That, and a sincerity which is priceless.

I can read Tertullian and Procopius over and over. They are always new; they are filled with the essential of thought, which is something inexhaustible. They inspire. They give comfort and courage.

But the old writers wrote because they had something to say, not for applause, popularity, nor money.

The Bible tells us somewhere, that in the end of the world there will be many gods. As writing, as an art, a conveyance of thought, of idea, comes to an end, before all writing is used for purely scientific matter, there are many writers.

It is too bad they do not make children’s books for grown people today, delightful, unreal fables for adults, to temper the prosaic duties of living, to make them forget the regrettable, cast off care, and be joyous. There are none who need such books more than grown people. I am thinking of Ariosto, his Orlando Furioso. How long ago Ariosto was born! Before the discovery of America.

I like the name an old Italian historian applied to him in his youth, uno gentiluomo ferrarese. His charm of manner won him appointment as gentleman in waiting at the Court of Cardinal Hippolyte of Este. He was grateful for this. It meant life among lettered men, nobles, beauties, at Court of a powerful Cardinal.


In the first Canto of the Furioso he thanks him.

Ippolito aggradír questo che vuole
e darvi sol puo l’úmil sérvo vostro
Quel ch’io vi debbo, posso di parole
Pagare in parte, e d’opere d’inchióstro.

He can pay only in part and with words; with pen and ink, he declares humbly.

The story-telling splendor of the world is in this glowing, complex, impossible fable, written when chivalry was in flower, in Italy.

Its remote forebears were great Indian Epics, the heroic tales of Firdusi, who was the Persian Homer; and its relative in time in his own land, was Virgil’s Æneid. All this accomplished invention went to its grace.

The opening is from Virgil:

Le donne, i cavalier, l’arme, gli amóri,
Le cortesie, l’audaci imprese io canto.

One of this book’s gay far descendants (It has many!) wandered from Italy northward, to fields of France. There it was known as The Three Musketeers. It has had rollicking, gay followers, imitators in the art of letters, throughout the world; not only merry, entire book-sequences, like the romance of Dumas père, but individual lines have been re-written down the centuries.

Tennyson was a renowned borrower from Latin, from Italian masters. It is difficult indeed to estimate his debt to Horace.

Here are descriptions of castles like that impregnable one of the Niebelungs. Here are lines that tally with Dante—

Come i gru van cantando lor lai.

Here is the modern storehouse of romance, in short, from which scholars, from which poets, drew material. Here are pictures in words which Watteau painted again in colors. Here is an art of writing rich, fluent, as the countless carven marbles of Italy.

No one can write such books today. It belongs to the mammoth, the monumental past. We are little. Its fluency, ease, grace, its inventive power, are incomparable.


There lingers about it the tapestried leisure of ancient monarchies. Not many books keep so securely the atmosphere in which they were first read. The atmosphere that created it dominates.

It belonged to a period that did not know subways nor moving pictures.

It belonged to sheltered corners of old-world gardens, graveled, bordered gravely with cypress, with ilex, where fountains played, where the yellow marbles of Greece, of Rome, were not out of place.

It belonged to luxurious drawing rooms, lighted by long oriel-topped windows, where furniture was slenderly shapen, gilt, and where hundreds of tall white tapers glimmered crisply in the twilight. It belonged to dim corners of walnut or oak, wainscoated libraries, where the early, pale, precious celadon of China gleamed, and ancient pink and blue globes stood, mounted in silver, mounted in crystal.

How different was the place where I read it! How far removed from nobly beautiful, romantic Italy!

I read it in the hot summers of the plains, with all the curtains drawn down tightly, with just one exception, which permitted a narrow strip to be open, through which filtered sunlight yellower than the peach’s heart, while outside through deep sand, green farm wagons rumbled heavily, laden with ripe melons, or painted Indians pranced on limber-legged ponies, which bright floating blankets covered.

To me the romance of Italy was a golden arabesque, covered with gems, covered with glowing enamels, a noble, far-reaching arabesque of art, which generously connected me in my little dwelling upon the plains with the gracious, the splendid thinking of gifted Mediterranean peoples.

I can renew youth and delight by opening its worn, finger-printed covers.

From the court-romances of Italy, much of the art of France came, when a daughter of the luxury loving Medici condescended to become Queen of France.

Ah!—what did she not teach these younger, these more ingenuous people of the north, of art, of crime, of subtlety, of luxurious thinking!

The long tradition of the Caesars was in her blood. Her heart had ripened for crime in palaces whose far architectural ancestry had been in Nineveh, Babylon, Egypt, while over her cumulative consciousness there had drifted all the sins of Asia. I would like to look into her eyes! I would like to peer into those deep wells of the past.


There is a book that is chiseled in bronze. Do you know it? It has splendid, bare monotonous spaces where echoes beat like iron. It has resonance. It responds like metal struck by savages for battle. It is richly hued, deepened in splendor, with the dusty accumulated gold of centuries.

It is Xenophon’s story of The Expedition of Cyrus. Not in Greek, thunderous and splendid, I regret to tell you, but in Latin: De Cyri Expeditione. Oxford Edition. The translation made by Thomas Hutchinson. (What Latin scholars they made in England in the days of the Oxford Press!) My edition was printed in 1735.

There are no false strokes. There are no vacillations. There are no explanations. It marches onward with the iron feet of warriors. It is proud as the crests upon their helmets.

This sure, this masterly carving upon metal, which only Time is permitted to shade, is a lost art. It proceeded from a mental equipment different from that with which the modern artist works.

The old writers put down what they knew. The modern writers put down loosely, and sometimes eloquently, what they do not know. Always in the vague, weedy, word-garden of the present, I miss this unequivocating directness; clearness, firmness; this chiseled accuracy.

No roads have been so clear in my mind as the road the warriors of Cyrus traveled on the expedition which Xenophon recounts. No cities have been so firmly situated beside the roads, alluringly, so glowingly. No expanse of plain, of meadow or mountain, so reliably bounded. After the Latin and Greek historians ceased writing, it seemed suddenly to me that there were no roads left leading to Great Asia. A part of the world had fallen into space.

They did not say anything for effect. Space upon bronze was too precious to waste in filling in.

There are no vague foolishnesses. There are no indefinite horizons. Words were serious, expressive things. They were treated like gold, like silver. They did not throw them away.

They were majestic, these historians, like the Hebrew Prophets. They force respect. The vision I keep in my eye of them is something the same. They too were white robed, stately, brave, and eloquent.


I like the picture of the Persian princes,

Darii et Parysatidis duo fuere filii,

the two royal sons, come from that fabulous, painted palace of Persepolis, upon the highlands of Persia, down, down, steep mountain passes to the plains. Just where, Xenophon is careful not to tell us. But we know it was not far from Babylon. These two sons were Artaxerxes and Cyrus. Their names filled the known world.

I should like to look upon urbes Ionicæ illæ, about which he tells us, those seductive Ionian cities, which the youthful eyes of Cyrus saw. The cities of the past, spread out impressively upon the Syrian plain which lay between Europe and Asia, have held the charm of magic for me.

I should like to have looked upon Cyrus, too, in his young manhood, moving upon Sardis. What a sight that must have been!

Cyrus autem cum iis copiis Sardibus movit, Xenophon begins to relate.

Ovid, I think it was among the Romans, remembered it and alluded to it. It teased his mind, too, with the perishing beauty of the past. He saw in fancy, probably, the crisp curls of black, the crisp, black, pointed, shining beard; the daring eyes whose gleam matched gold; the lithe, arrow-like erectness; and the barbaric gemming of Asia.

Even in his sumptuous Rome, which still kept something of the vanishing greatness of vast ages that were perishing, it made him tremble. His artist’s eyes loved the retrospective splendor of the vision of black-eyed Asia moving in battle upon the proud, blond race of the south, and giving it its death blow.

That is all history has been, will ever be, the swaying tides of a human sea, now toward Asia, toward Europe. History is a wave lifted by cosmic urge.

Today they go to battle wearing hideous clothing and disguising head gear.

In the old days they moved in the pomp of purple and gold, semi-naked and splendid, glittering with gems, under canopies of crocus silk, while clarions shrieked and long plumes caressed the air.

Go refresh your eyes with a picture of it upon the bronze pages of Xenophon! It is fortunate it was written in bronze. Otherwise it might fade.


How lonely will they be in that new, scientific, commercially-minded future, so rapidly approaching, whose eyes have kept a memory of the picture which was the past.

The scholiast of Aristophanes tells us, among other interesting things, that Timandra, who was born at Hykkara, in Sicily, was given by the Tyrant Dionysius, to Philoxenus, the poet. With Philoxenus he goes on to say, she journeyed farther. She came at length as far as Corinth. Here she lived for a considerable time and was beloved of many.

This is the kind of novel I like, one that I can expand at leisure, to suit myself, one that unfolds long, radiant, geographical vistas. In 1843, De Musset published a book called Voyage ou il vous plaira, (Travel Wherever You Wish). How I should like that! And how I now wish it were a part of life realized. In fancy I shall see the antique world. The notes of the scholiasts contain fascinating information.

“... of the wind always louder and bleaker, of the black roaring winters, of the gloom of high-lying old stone cities, imminent on the windy seaboard.

This quotation from Stevenson’s Edinburgh, Picturesque Notes illustrates something not unworthy notice.

Its beauty, which no one will dispute, is not a spiritual question, nor one of mind wholly. It is founded upon the flesh.

Stylists play with vowels, with consonants, just as the pianist plays with black and white keys of his instrument. He, indeed, is not a dissimilar musician.

To return to the sentence in question. The underlined letters, i, a, oo, in the words wind, black and gloom mean the opening wider and wider of the back of the throat to emit sound, going from a short i, to long oo, a skillful climax, a physical emotion where muscles of the body are the instrument played upon.

The use of alternating vowels is remarkable. It is witchery. After height of stressed sound is reached in the word gloom, he glides gently down to rest, satisfied sound-completeness, in the slightly muted final s of the word cities.

The sentence gives pleasant sense of slipping quietly into a blue, smiling harbor, after storm.


Stevenson performed miracles in handling sound. His verse, however, was merely graceful, which is a word good to apply to him.

Lafcadio Hearn was another master of the same kind, working with a sentence-line of keener, sharper, spirit-winged beauty. Few literatures of the world can show anything to surpass Hearn at his best.

It is possible to diagram with something approaching accuracy the effect of a sentence upon the muscles of the body.

A fine sentence is a geometrical sound-picture affecting the body as line affects the eye, built up out of vowels, soft padding of consonants packed between, to keep them from bruising each other in their expanding ecstacy, their lift, their lyric laugh.

The greatest rhythms are personal rhythms, that conform to no rule save deeps of self, consciousness of world-currents, the moment’s inspired emotion.

Lafcadio Hearn is a delicate, learned, vowel-musician. No language has a master who surpasses him. Listen to this, (I quote from memory): “So I wait for the poet’s Pentecost, the inspiration of nature, the descent of the Tongues of Fire. And I think they will come when the wild skies brighten and the Sun of the Mexican Gulf reappears for his worshipper, with hymns of wind and sea, and the prayers of birds.”

Learned, exquisite, infinitely wise in construction. He has worked magic.

Hear this from Aristophanes: “Our splendid dithyrambs are misty and duskyish, and dark gleaming, and high flown.”

This from Euripedes, from one of the choruses of Electra:

“In ancient song is the tale yet told,
How Pan the master of forest and mead,
Unearthly sweet while the melody rolled,
From his pipes of cunningly linked reed,
Did of yore from the mountains of Argus lead
From the midst of the tender ewes of the fold....”

The construction shines through the none too skillful turning into a modern tongue, in both examples. And in both we still feel recurrence of balanced sound that can not be reproduced in English, and unmapped spaces of loveliness.


Goethe declares, thinking, perhaps, of this: “Man studiere nicht die Mitgeborenen und Mitstrebenden, sondern grosse Menschen der Vorseit, deren Werke seit Jahrhunderten gleichen Wert und gleiches Ansehen behalten haben.... Man studiere Molière, man studiere Shakespeare, aber vor allen Dingen, die alten Griechen, und immer die alten Griechen.

(Study not always men of your own age and those engaged in the same occupation as yourself, but likewise the great men of antiquity whose works have kept the same worth for centuries.... Study Molière, study Shakespeare, above all things study the ancient Greeks, and always the ancient Greeks.)

The choruses of Euripedes are among the loveliest things in existence, an undying beauty, which not time nor change mar. Do you happen to recall this?

The long white reach of Achilles’ Beach
Where his ghost feet shine on the sand.

After centuries, after wasted ink and paper, the thundering, the fault-finding of teachers, we know no more about words than the Attic Greeks, centuries before the birth of Christ. No more did I say? We do not know as much.

The age of Attic splendor antidated, I believe, the Birth of the Saviour by some five hundred years. In nobility of form, in beauty of tone, they are masters. We do not learn easily.

I wonder if beauty is a pagan thing which Christianity helped to kill? Has anything so supremely lovely been done since? And I am quoting at random, and always from memory. Memory, of course, is not a storehouse for so great a treasure as the past.

They say the cedars of Lebanon can not grow in the modern world. There is something that kills them as soon as the city, modern civilization, begin to approach. Their last stronghold is the slopes of the Atlas Mountains in Africa. Now they tell us, the French, who are trying to change ways of living there, that few young trees are springing up and the old are showing rapid signs of decay, the same decay that ruined their beauty in the Holy Land.

The Cedars of Lebanon and Beauty! Can they exist only in a pre-Christian world? It will never be possible to harmonize the Hellenic and the Hebraic spirit.


There has been no poet in these calm centuries of Catholic Spain to compare in quality with the poets under reign of the Moor, and the proud Prophet of Islam.

The Hellenic spirit and the Hebraic spirit are oil and water. We do not know how to mingle them. We can not perform the miracle. The alkahest is missing.


In rummaging among writers on Russia the other day I came upon a forgotten article by Dumas the Elder, whose native charm and great story-telling power have made critics forget his scholarly traits and his usually sure and reliable information. As long ago as the Eighteen-fifties Dumas père was telling mentally receptive France of Russian writers which America would begin to think about an half century later. This article contained a poem by Dumas, who is not known as writer of verse.

Dumas journeyed across Crimea, the Caucasus. Dumas was a diligent world-explorer long before days of steam and Pullmans. He went to Baku, on his homeward way from Russia, where oil had already been discovered. He visited Derbend, too, historic city of the iron gates, so fateful strategetically, for the East and the West.

Baku and Derbend have always been points of dispute between Russia, Persia, and the Caucasus. Baku was taken over by Catherine the Great just before she died. It was one of her last acts of diplomatic plundering. It was a small place then, and insignificant. It was merely a Tartar aul of a few hundred houses.

It is Derbend that is the gateway between Europe and Asia, Derbend, perched like an eagle high among mountains that guard dramatically the passes to productive Baku, and the plains. Through this ancient gateway of narrow, goat-like defiles, the invading Mongols came. And the Scythians. Through this same ancient Pass of Derbend, Mithridates the Great, with his entire army, disappeared, as if by magic, from astonished eyes of the pursuing Greeks.

Here Dumas the Elder came when he was rich with years and honors. He was accompanied by Moynet, the artist, who was at work upon his now famous book of costumes. They spent several years together in Russia. When Dumas started home for France, he sailed from Baku,[63] after having explored both Crimea and Caucasia. But he was forced to wait several days for a steamer. Moynet put in his time sketching the old Tartar town, while Dumas finished the novel called Ball of Snow, then he hunted ducks, and arranged his Russian cook-book, remarking while he worked upon it, that the French were the only people who still knew how to dine, and converse. Young Prince Bagration joined them here. It was his mother who had once been mistress of the Great Metternich, and one of the first woman spies whom that statesman employed.

Dumas started for Baku from interior Russia, from Novogorod, to be exact. Here the connoisseurship of Dumas was delighted by two jewels made of iron, a ring and a bracelet, which he considered gems of metal work. On inquiring about their origin, he was told that they had been made by Bestushev-Marlinski, the Russian poet, goldsmith, romancer, artist, and member of the epoch-making Decembrist Conspiracy, while in Siberia, where he had been exiled for life, by Nicholas the First. The jewels were the property of Countess Annenkov, and had been made from the hand-cuffs and shackles of her handsome husband, Count Annenkov, likewise condemned to exile. Countess Annenkov was a French woman, of humble birth, who had followed Count Annenkov, then her lover, to the mines of Siberia. About this incident Dumas made another novel, The Master of Arms, and the story related in it is true.

Some of the finest descriptions of Petersburg in the last days of Alexander, in any language, are in this book. From Novogorod, Dumas and his cook-book journeyed happily southward, and at length came to Derbend of the Iron Gates, the city from which the astounding Tartar Wall starts wandering prodigiously over great mountains, and unscalable hillsides, proving, beyond doubt, the blood-kinship of its ancient builders with the race that conceived and executed the great Wall of China.

He tells us his first warning that he was approaching the historic gate between the old world of the perishing East and the new commercial, more enterprising world of Europe, was a Tartar cemetery, perched upon an amphitheatre-like hill overtopping the Caspian Sea. Prince Bagration, who was still accompanying him, exclaimed:

Look! That is the tomb of Sultanetta!” pointing enthusiastically toward a monument of rose color and green towering conspicuously among the sacred graves turned toward the East.

“Who is she?” queried Dumas.


“Once the mistress of a Tartar Prince, and renowned throughout the entire Caucasian country for her beauty ... and her adventures,” he added.

“Perhaps you will hear the story at Derbend.”

At Derbend they found an invitation awaiting them from the Commandant of the Fortress, to take dinner on the following day. While at dinner the wife of the Commandant remarked:

“Monsieur Dumas, just outside the window here”—pointing with her hand—“near where you are sitting, is the grave of Oline Nesterzof!” “And who is she?” inquired again the great romancer, scenting avidly, as was his habit, a novelty for his eager, prolific pen. “She was the mistress of Bestushev-Marlinski.”

“Ah! that name again! Poet, goldsmith, artist, romancer, revolutionist!” he enumerated with relish and excitement.

“I heard of him first at Novogorod, and saw the jewels he made of iron. Unavoidably I seem to be setting out on the trail of Marlinski.”

After dinner was over, the Commandant’s wife guided them up a steep hillside, to a little lowly mound, marked by one humble stone. “Bestushev-Marlinski, you know,” she went on to explain, “was condemned to be quartered alive by Nicholas the First, for his share in the Decembrist Uprising, which he steadily refused to disavow. But by some caprice in the heart of him who never knew mercy, he changed the sentence to exile for life in Siberia, and wrote under it the now famous—So be it, Nicholas! That was early in the summer of 1826, before the crowning of Nicholas.

“In 1828, the young Czar was beginning fresh wars in his new Caucasian possessions, for peace and safety here at Derbend, and also for the city of newly discovered wealth in oil, over the mountains, Baku. He had need of trained officers. He remembered Bestushev who had refused to disavow his guilt. Above all things Nicholas revered the truth. He changed his sentence again. He sent him, this time, to the Caucasus. But lest he be accounted too merciful, he stripped him of military honors, and made him a soldier in the ranks.

“In the bloody and perilous warfare that was being waged continually here, Bestushev, who had now changed his name to Bestushev-Marlinski, rapidly won promotion and became an officer again. Then he came to live right here, in the old bullet-shattered, smoke-blackened Fortress of Derbend,” pointing to walls above their heads marked by many sieges.


“Not long after his promotion, he fell in love with a young and beautiful girl, of poor family, in the village, by name, Oline Nesterzof. After a time she came to live with the writer.

“One night some Russian officers from Petersburg, were being banquetted in the very room where we have just been dining. When they were well under influence of wine, a friend of Bestushev, who had drunk too heavily, laughing, wagered he could prove the lovely Oline Nesterzof was untrue to her poet-lover. This enraged Bestushev to such degree he lost his head and took the wager. For days thereafter the friend of Bestushev spied upon the young and innocent girl, who was barely nineteen at that time, in order to win his wager. Finding it impossible to do so by fair means, he made a plot with other young friends of the poet—who had been present at the banquet—in order to play a trick upon him, and gave to Bestushev, at length, the ‘framed’ proof of her falsity.

“The emotional, unrestrained nature of Bestushev was deeply affected by treachery of the girl he sincerely loved. The very next day when Oline Nesterzof, ignorant of what had happened, and Bestushev were alone together in a room of this old Fortress of Derbend, a shot was heard. Bestushev, palled, disheveled, ran out to the courtyard, waving his arms wildly, calling for help. Oline Nesterzof was found upon the floor dying, having been shot through the breast. She was still able to speak, however. In her great and forgiving love for Bestushev, she declared that in attempting to clean his pistol she had shot herself by accident. This noble declaration of the dying girl, made in the presence of a priest, under the last rites of the Church, saved Bestushev from the death penalty.”

“And this is her grave, you say?” asked Dumas with emotion, looking down upon the humble marker of stone, which Bestushev had made. The only adornment upon the piece of marble was a rose, which the poet carved there, and which was now blackened with powder, broken. Beneath the rose one Russian word, sondba, was engraved, which means an Act of Fate. On the other side were her name and age.

Here lies the body of
Mademoiselle Oline Nesterzof
Born 1814. Died 1833.

Dumas was deeply touched by the humble grave and its story. He stood silent some time beside the pitiful, lonely, little mound of the ill-fated[66] girl, hidden beneath grim walls of the Fortress of Derbend. Then he took his note book. He wrote a verse, something rare from hands of that single-hearted prosateur. He handed it to Commandant of the Fortress, asking him to have it engraved beneath the word fatality, with his name attached, as lasting memory of his visit to Derbend. Dumas said he loved poetry but he left the writing of it to other people.

The following proves sufficiently it was excessive modesty that impelled him to do it.

She had lived twenty years. She was loved, she was fair,
On a twilight she fell like a rose on the wind;
Where she sleeps with the dead, earth, press lightly there,
For her weight was so light upon human-kind.

After the tragedy of Oline Nesterzof, melancholy madness fell upon the brilliant Bestushev, who, by the way, was distantly related to Russia’s great and extraordinary Chancellor, Bestushev-Rjumin, of the days of Catherine the Great.

He courted death. He was in the front of the battle. And always as if by magic he escaped. Bullets whizzed past him, but they did not touch him. Unscathed he emerged from combat.

In the spring of 1838, a particularly unsettled period for the Caucasus, the commanding officer, Captain Alberand, had been told to capture some mutinous mountaineers. They were said to be in hiding in a little piece of woods. Just before order to attack was given, a messenger rode up in haste to tell them the woods were filled with concealed soldiers, and to enter meant death to every man. The Captain ordered retreat. Bestushev-Marlinski disobeyed the order. He put spurs to his horse. He rode into the woods and out of sight. He was never seen nor heard from again.

Fifty Mingrelian Chasseurs were sent by the Captain to rescue his valiant officer whom he loved, and to bring him back. But nothing was ever heard of him. With entry of the forest he disappeared from face of the earth. He had hastened to self-chosen death.

On return to the Fortress, the daughter of the Commandant showed the room which Bestushev-Marlinski had occupied, to Dumas, and to his surprise and delight, pointing to a chest of drawers, she said: “Some unpublished writing of the poet, done after the sad murder of Oline, is still there.”


The next day Dumas’ Russian secretary, a young student of literature from the University of Moscow, read aloud in French, to the great romancer, the last writing of the tragic Russian. One of these forgotten manuscripts was a novel, Sultanetta, (the woman whose picturesque grave of rose color and green, Prince Bagration had pointed out with emotion, in the little Tartar Cemetery that crowned the hill, on their arrival). Dumas was so delighted with the faithful, colorful story of adventure and love among Tartar peoples of the mountains, that he rewrote the novel himself, and published it later in Paris, under the same name Bestushev-Marlinski himself had given it.

During the weeks Dumas spent in Derbend, he devoted himself to this rewriting, and to collecting recipes for his cook-book, which he tried and perfected with pleasure. He found here a ragout of lamb which pleased his epicurean knowledge of food. Also he sampled with delight the white wine of Erivan and the red wine of Kislar. He enjoyed himself tremendously. The only drawback to perfect contentment was that he could not procure, in the humble shops of Derbend, blue paper of an especial tint, which was what he used for his work. But he added vastly to his collection of splendid weapons, almost more than he was able to transport. Some were historic, and bore names of great warriors, or blessings from the Koran, in gold, along the blade. And he jotted down in his diary: “I wrote like a God all the time I was in Derbend!” Moynet, his friend and companion, was making the first colored pictures of costumes worn in the Caucasus, which are familiar today in authoritative works on dress.

The second manuscript which the daughter of the Commandant of the Fortress brought to the attention of Dumas was Bestushev-Marlinski’s Ode to a Nose, which Dumas asserts is not only one of the most original things that has been written, but one of the most delightful. We append this poem in Dumas’ prose translation, taking no credit ourselves, remarking at the same time, as inconsequential aside, that in one of Dumas’ later novels he gives another, a freer version of The Nose, without taking the trouble to refer to the dead Russian poet as author.

But only tolerance can be meted to one so great, so invariably delightful. Dumas writes: “In addition to other interesting things about the Georgians, there is one thing of which I have not spoken, and not to do so would be to do them wrong. They have noses such as no other race in[68] the world have. Bestushev-Marlinski, the romancer, made an ode about the Georgian nose, which I quote since I can not hope to do better than he.”

“Have you reflected, dear readers, about what an admirable thing a nose is?

A nose? Yes, a nose!

And how useful to every individual, who, as Ovid says, lifts his face to heaven!

It is indeed a strange and unheard of ingratitude; not a poet has had the idea of making an ode to a nose.

It has remained for me, who am not poet at all, or who at least make no pretensions except to follow humbly the footsteps of great poets, to have originated the idea.

In truth the nose has had that misfortune!

Man had invented many things for pleasure of the eyes. They have made songs, compliments, kaleidoscopes, pictures, decorations, glasses,

And for the ears!

First in order, come earrings, Robert le Diable, William Tell, Fra Diavolo, the violins of Stradivarius, the pianos of Erard, the trumpets of Sax.

And for the mouth!

Carême, la cuisinière bourgeoise, the Almanach of the Gastronomists. They have made soups of all kinds, from Russian batwigne to the cabbage soup of France. The mouth feeds upon the reputation of the greatest men, from cutlets à la Soubise to black pudding à la Richelieu. Its lips have been compared to coral, its teeth to pearls, its breath to benzoin. It has been served with pheasants in plumage, and wood-cocks served whole. It has even been promised roasted skylarks.

What on the other hand has been invented for the nose?

Oil of roses. And tobacco.

Ah! ... what ingratitude, Philosophers my Masters, and Poets my Brothers!

And yet how faithful is this member.... It is not a member, the savants cry at me. Pardon, gentlemen, I make good the mistake. And yet how faithful is this appendix, Ah!... Moreover, I insist that this appendix serves us faithfully.

The eyes sleep; the mouth closes; the ears become deaf.


The nose alone is always busy and on guard.

It watches over our sleep. It contributes to our health. The other parts of the body do stupid things; the hands, the feet. The hands permit themselves to be caught in a sack like fools they are. The feet stumble, make the body fall, by their awkwardness. And in this last instance who suffers most? The feet do the wrong. It is the nose that suffers.

How common is this expression: such and such a man has broken his nose. Many noses have been broken since beginning of the world. But be so kind as to mention one nose broken by its own fault! No, you can not! All things fall upon the poor nose. Let it be so. It bears everything with saintly patience. Sometimes, to be sure, it makes bold to snore. But, when did you hear it complain? Let us forget that nature created it an instrument of admiration, a speaking trumpet to increase or diminish the voice. Let us say nothing of the service it has rendered in making itself the intermediary between our souls and the souls of flowers. Let us suppress the fame of its utility and consider only its æsthetic claims, its beauty.

Cedar of Lebanon, it tramples beneath its feet the hyssop of the mustache. Central column, it serves as base for the double arch of the brows. Upon its capital rests the eagle which is thought; round about it smiles flourish. With what pride the nose of Ajax was lifted against the storm when he declared: I will escape despite the gods!

With what bravery the nose of the Great Condé (who was really great only because of his nose) with what bravery the nose of the Great Condé preceded every one, even the Great Condé himself, in the intrenchments of the Spaniards! With what assurance the nose of Dugazon, which had forty-two different movements, each more amusing than the other, presented itself to the public!

No indeed, I do not believe the nose will remain in the obscurity in which up to now, the ingratitude of man has left it.

But what are you thinking of! These are all noses of the occident. There are oriental noses—And they are handsome ones.

Gentlemen of Vienna, of Paris, of Saint Petersburg, do you doubt the superiority of the nose of the East, over your own?

In that case, Viennese, take the Danube! Parisians, take the steamboat, and people of Petersburg, the pericladnoi, and say these simple words: To Georgia!


Ah! ... but I must announce to you in advance a deep humiliation. If you should take to Georgia one of the largest noses in Europe, the nose of Alcide Tousez, of Schiller, at the boundary of Tiflis, they would look at you in surprise and say: “Poor man ... he lost his nose on the way! What a pity!”

When you entered the first street.... (What am I saying!) ... when you passed the first house of the suburbs, you would be convinced that all the Greek, Roman, German, French, Spanish, and even Neapolitan noses, would wish to hide in shame, in the depths of the earth, at sight of the nose of Georgia.

Ah!... Good Heavens ... the beautiful noses of Georgia! The robust noses, the magnificent noses! And there are noses of all shapes; round, large, long, wide. There are noses of all colors: White, rose, red, and violet. There are noses mounted with rubies, others mounted with pearls. I even saw one mounted with turquoises. You have only to press them between your fingers and the little one will spout a pint of wine of Kaketie.

In Georgia a law of Vacktang IV had abolished the unit measure; it has kept only the nose. Rich weaves are measured by the nose. They say: “I brought seventeen noses of tarmalama to make a dressing gown, seven noses of Kanaos for making trousers, one nose and a half of sateen for a cravat.”

And they say that the women of Georgia consider this measure superior to all others, especially the measures of Europe.”

Supreme lyric poetry (despite Robbie Burns) belongs to the Orient. It can be produced only by a race with a long past, a race that has warred much, enjoyed much, suffered much, loved much, made and unmade gods. Such mighty things go to weaving of the tissue-thin lyric.

Lord Byron’s poetic ancestry goes far back to the sagamakers of Iceland. He is child of the Nibelungs. Byron was the last fine flowering of that which was England, for Great England now is of the past. Slowly she has been drifting with the rest of the world toward the piled up civilizations of yester year.

The slow, ripening of time must go to making of lyric poetry. I do not believe many will contradict me when I state that Heine, Hafiz, Anacreon,[71] and Tu Fu, are the supreme lyric poets of the world—the Jew, the Persian, the Greek, and the Man of China.

It is said that the best champagne is made from grapes grown upon land that has been cultivated for ages. A similar statement might be made in regard to lyric poetry. The greatest lyric poets of the world, they who represent it at its purest and best, Heine, Hafiz, Tu Fu, and Anacreon, represent the oldest races of Asia. Each is rich with the memory of a past that is glorious in achievement as history tells us, and remains among great traditions today. Not one was of the Christian race. In their veins there was either the blood of oriental Asia, or, as in the case of Anacreon, its tradition, having been born in Teos, one of the voluptuous Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Time was needed for ripening and perfecting of the races that bore them, because great poets are not born of unripe races. Their blood must be tempered by time. Slow centuries intervened between them.

Anacreon lived somewhere in the neighborhood of five hundred years before Christ; Hafiz about thirteen hundred years after Christ. The exact date is uncertain. It is known, however, that in the year 1389, according to our reckoning of time, he was living in his beloved Shiraz, where he died and that at that time he was very old. Tu Fu lived in Eighth Century China, under Emperors of Tang. And Heine lived well on into the nineteenth century of our own day.

The age of each was made turbulent and restless by great conquerors. Each knew the domination of warriors whose armies shook the earth. Anacreon knew the devastating wars of Cyrus the Great; Hafiz, the brutal Tamerlane who was the scourge of God, and who made towers of human heads to rival in height the tower of Babel; Tu Fu saw Turkish rebels destroy Ch’ang-an, one of earth’s loveliest dream-cities; and Heine was born on the very day that Napoleon was made First Consul of France.

The best source of information concerning them is their words, although the outward facts of Heine’s life are told accurately enough by history, and a literature has grown up about his art. Few definite facts remain of Anacreon or Hafiz. Old Chinese writers tell us of Tu Fu with eloquence, with emotion. We do know, however, that each saw the splendid historical panorama of a world in transition unroll before his eyes; and that each saw the dominant forces in action that resulted in making the world of today. None has been circumscribed by the age in which he lived[72] because his appeal has been universal, to humanity, whose heart beats responsively under chlamys of caftan. The lyrics of Tu Fu are as fresh and readable as if they had been written yesterday.

Perhaps the preservation of the elder writers is somewhat worthy of remark when we consider the periods in which they lived and the centuries that have intervened, since lyric poets have not been beloved of their contemporaries, nor indeed of conventional scholars of the ages, because of unrestraint of utterance, and their untamable fire. Their souls are revolutionary. They do not follow the established order. Too frequently they utter the naked thought. Someone has said that degeneracy and prudery go together. The history of creative ages seems to prove it.

In addition, lyric poets have always loved life for its own sake, unenlivened of faith and unsanctified of the spirit. Their sense and appreciation of the present has been so real, vivid, that there was left neither room nor desire to ask for anything beyond. Upon earth, in their brains, they were given the vision of a heaven.

Anacreon was the blithe Greek; Heine the bitter Hebrew; and Hafiz the fiery-hearted Persian. Tu Fu was the sensitive, sumptuous souled, supercivilized oriental, haunted with the richness of a past that was too great. Anacreon was the Greek whom thought of death could not terrify, who was ready to meet it with a smile. To him the beautiful present was so satisfying, sufficient, that it was anodyne of ill. And he loved the beautiful present blithely, without regret or anger that it could not last. He gave his heart to it and was happy. He asked no more.

To be sure he has no fiery strain of passion. This, critics have counted to his discredit. And he gave us the light side of Greek nature. His enthusiasms were no more permanent than his roses. But they were as lovely, and inimitable. He was an intellectual sensualist.

He praised love, wine, for the Tyrant of Samos. Despite it all he was a great artist in surity of modeling and lightness of touch. A graceful fancy was his, a courtier’s polished wit. He has kept the favor of the ages. The world has loved him. What Anacreon sang in wanton splendor long ago, time has not destroyed, says Horace.

Nec ... quid olim lusit Anacreon delevit ætas. And both Plato and Ovid have praised him.

The fastidious, the scholarly Bodenstedt imitated him as well as Hafiz, in his Songs of Mirza Schaffy. A book could be written of them[73] who loved him, who attempted to make his charm their own. A fluent ease was his. He is a bird in careless singing. What grace! He gives closely the sensation of natural things. His effect is indeed nature’s, that of something without a soul, irresponsible. With him intellect had not become the two-edged sword that cuts the hand. His note of joy is pure, unmixed of care, as that of a boy. He was of the fine free ages when the spirit was unfettered. Coming to him fresh from reading writers of today, is like stepping from a heated yellow ball room, filled with dizzy whirling figures, out into the fresh, pure air of dawn.

Heine worshipped with his soul the divinity of Anacreon, the pagan Venus, but the fear of the Hebrew God of Wrath was in his heart, and that consuming modern quality called grief had set its seal upon him. What unfortunate combination of gifts for a lyric genius!

All his life he fled them, until his strength was gone, he fell ill, and died, fled them wildly in pitiful attempt to reach just once the shelter of Anacreon’s Greek Garden of Pleasure, there to chase butterflies among the roses. Centuries had passed since the serene day of Anacreon. Heine’s frail body tried to bridge the ages. It was impossible. He could not right the wrong of having been born out of time. Death was the result.

To be sure he created a miniature world of grace, of beauty, but into it he put a tragic heart. Tu Fu was both beloved vagabond and eloquent minstrel, under the dying moons of Cathay.

Each of these lyrists at periods of their lives gave themselves to dissipation in futile attempt to catch, to hold the fleeting joy-world. It embittered the heart of the Hebrew, burnt up his life and hastened his death. It saddened deeply the Persian. It saddened Tu Fu and killed him. But the Greek it could not touch. He was of the Brotherhood of Pan who may not grieve.

The day of each was a day when old things were changing, giving place to new. It was a period indeed that has no little in common with today with which important parallels might be drawn. The Persians under Cyrus were devastating the seductive Ionian cities of Asia. Anacreon, who was about eighteen at this time, fled with his parents to Thrace, thence to Samos, part of the way, it is pleasant to fancy, along the beautiful road that bordered the shore of Asia Minor, between white-walled cities and the sea. The Greek world was being remodeled. Decisive[74] battles were recorded, and Tu Fu fought long years in the wars which destroyed a proud civilization.

Heine’s day was one of popular upheaval, revolution. It knew the eloquent speech of La Salle, the denunciative writing of Börne. A change of spirit was coming over Europe. Class prejudice was dying a hard death. The right of the individual was being born.

Hafiz’ period was similar. And yet he paid as little attention to it as did Goethe, in the days when the Revolution was sweeping on. Dynasty after dynasty had succeeded each other in Persia whose members made either Shiraz, the home of Hafiz, their place of residence, or Ispahan, or Kirman, until at length Tamerlane came along and beheaded them all. Hafiz’ political horizon was like to Heine’s in its uncertainty, and in its change of outlook. Like Heine, he saw world-conquerors sweep away the firm ground from beneath his feet, and he glimpsed far vision of a world in which there should be no inequality. He had the poet’s vision of the future’s justice. The definite facts of Hafiz’ life are few, unsatisfactory.

One reason we know so little of him is that, with him, thought took place of action. Verse was his way of leading an active life. An idea was action. The eyes of his fellow men might not make this interpretation. His real name was Schems-eddin-Muhammed. Hafiz is his proud poet’s name of praise, meaning Mighty in Memory. It is fabled indeed that he knew the Koran by heart.

He was born in Shiraz, which is situated in the fertile valley of the Roknabad, a river he likens to the River of Paradise. Here life was pleasant just as it was with Heine in the merry Rhineland, and with Tu Fu in his youth, in the marvelous palaces of Ch’ang-an, amid moonlight carven jade and gold. The time was the early fourteenth century, making him for a little while a contemporary of Dante, Hafiz’ youth and the Italian’s old age coinciding. In his youth, or perhaps early manhood, (We are reasonably sure 1389 approximates the date of his death.) there must have been a season of peace in the valley of the river, even if it were breathing space in midst of wars.

The Mongolian power had fallen. Persia was coming to her own. Sultan Sedscha, son of the conquering Mosaffer, was friend and companion poet of Hafiz. During this lull in war’s alarms each gave himself to the joy of living, and life in the blessed city of Shiraz was good to remember. He says that nowhere did roses bloom so luxuriantly. And we are[75] glad to believe him. Sultan Sedscha was the man to value Hafiz. He, too, liked better flower-faced, almond-eyed beauties of the harem, dance, song, than fast, meditation or the swinging prayers of the mystics. Religion was the worn-out side of pleasure. It was the old clothes of men’s pleasures gone to rags. For a little while there was general inclination among the people to turn to real life and give over vain dreaming.

Of this healthful, sane impulse, Hafiz was poet, uniting as he did the imaginative reach of Rûmi, with the firm grasp on material things, the worldly wisdom of Saadi. But he was greater than either in artistic sense of form, which in the quatrain attained grace and distinction comparable with Anacreon. After the winter of war this was fertile spring, when life blossomed, and with it, genius.

Genghis Khan preceded Hafiz. Tamerlane came along in his old age and devastated the valley whose charm transferred to literature is unique in history, which lay between the peaks of purple, monstrous Persian mountains, and which he loved so greatly he never wished to go elsewhere. After fall of the Mongolian power, founded by Genghis Khan, the cities of Persia, Shiraz, Jesd, Ispahan, Bagdad, Hormus, became independent cities after the manner of independent cities of Italy, in the Middle Age. And like them, too, centers of art, of dominant thought.

Hafiz belonged to religious order of the Sufis, which he is said to have joined in youth. Later it is probable he became their head, although we know his free, vigorous mind could not long be bound by tenets of an order. The Vizier, Kiwam-eddin, founded a public school for him that he might have an assured income. These duties Hafiz discharged more faithfully than the founder who acquired the disagreeable habit of forgetting pay day, and the fact that poets share with the world the vulgar need of eating. The following is Hafiz’ effective manner of reminding him of negligence:

Thou jingling rhyme with the kernel of wit
Away to the master! Make quick work of it!
When the place shall be right and with it the hour
From your eloquent lips let a gay jest flower.
In case it should please him, brighten his heart,
Within it conceal this question with art:
Does it seem to him right (Oh! light be your tone!)
That the slave who well serves him receive but a stone?


Here is another poetic remonstrance showing that the great in his day had interesting peculiarities.


(On finding his ass in the sultan’s stable)

Through spirit voices thou hast learned
How into night my day is turned,
All in three years thou gavest me,
Or that thy Vizier gave for thee
Was taken from me in a trice,
And vanished stealthily as mice.
I found myself but yesterday
In dreams, in thy broad stable way
And trusted not my eyes to see
An ass eating who thus to me
Up-looking from his manger there:
Hast thou seen me, pray, anywhere?
Now since I am not wise enough
To understand dream-written stuff,
And none in wisdom equal thee,
Great Sultan, explain, pray to me!

Not only the ruler of Shiraz, but rulers of other Persian cities knew Hafiz, gave proofs of favor, and invited him to court. But the traveling! No one ever had greater distaste for it. He did not even make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The thought of leaving his beloved city made him miserable. This attitude recalls Horace, and Keats, too, with his love for the green English country. It is commonly written that he went to Jesd once on the invitation of Shah Jehja, tempted by hope and need of money. But money was not forthcoming. He writes philosophically, glad to get home:

This is the way of a Shah, Hafiz;
Therefore be not grieved.

The historian Muhammed Kasim Firischteh disputes the story of his never having left Shiraz, save on one occasion, for the fruitless journey to[77] Jesd. He relates how he went on ship board, on invitation of some distant Sultan, and how a storm came up just as they were ready to sail. Hafiz was in terror. He made hasty pretext of a forgotten farewell in the city. He left the ship, and started post haste back to Shiraz.

Of his family life we know one fact, that on December 23, 1362, he lost a grown son. For this we have his words. He wrote a poem about it. The story is current that in his old age Timur the Conqueror came to Shiraz and destroyed the dynasty of the Muzaffer, then angrily summoned Hafiz: “With my sword have I conquered the greater part of the earth, put the inhabitants of cities, entire provinces to death, in order that my two cities Bokhara and Samarcand might be more splendid. Now how dare you say you would give them both for the mole upon your sweetheart’s cheek!” Hafiz bent to the ground in salutation, replying: “Oh Lord of the World! It is because of such generosity that you see me poor, my robe full of holes.

Timur was so delighted with the witty answer he not only forgave him, but sent him away with a gift.

The songs of Hafiz are illustrative of the fact that whatever comes from the heart has independent life, regardless of friend or foe. He did not collect his poems. He seems to have given no thought to their preservation. He made them for joy of the making. He gave them carelessly to his disciples, friends. Shortly after his death Muhammed Sulandem, a friend, gathered seven hundred verses which he named The Divan. But without this friendly intervention they would have lived. They had become property of the people of Persia. They were preserved by word of mouth. They were on all tongues. They could have been suppressed no more than the wind which bloweth where it listeth. Like the wind they, too, were a natural force and would have their way.

He is the most widely read poet of the world. Hafiz is the favorite of the Mohammedan Orient. He found the heart of the people. And he kept it. He is sung by the tiller of the field, camel driver of the desert, the boatmen upon the Red Sea. When the religious zealots found it was impossible to suppress his poems, they set about making them innocuous. They said they were allegories; that the writer was a master of double entendre, that he wrote one thing and meant another. With this object in view they called him the mystic tongue, and the translator of the unseen. Indeed an attempt was made in Turkey to suppress The Divan, in Constantinople,[78] under pretext of heresy. The Mufti Abu Su’ud rescued it by saying that when it was read one should keep the good and throw away the evil. It was a Turk who, in the sixteenth century, wrote the first intelligent commentary, showing people its true, long forgotten meaning.

Hafiz lies buried, it is good to know, where he loved to be, Mosella, the pleasure place by Shiraz. Loti, the eloquent, has told us about it in Ver Ispahan. He made a journey there. He did some of his most charming writing. In the year 1451, a conquering Sultan erected a splendid tomb in his honor, which has since been neglected and fallen to ruin. But the grave remains a place of pleasant pilgrimage for Persians, just as it was for Loti, and especially for the people of Shiraz. There is kept a holiday spirit in memory of the man who loved, then glorified life.

When that accomplished linguist, Friedrich von Bodenstedt, was living in Tiflis he learned Persian. He wrote of Hafiz:

“I have received and taken up Hafiz as I would an old and honored guest, in order to free him from dust of the highway and introduce him worthily to my circle of friends. He will sing them songs of quite peculiar beauty and voice thoughts of cryptic wisdom that are pleasanter to listen to than those of the blasé Solomon.” M. Carrier exclaims joyously at the name: “A blessing upon thy pleasure, dear inspired drunkard! Thy pleasure is fruit of freedom of the spirit, of deep, noble feeling, of confidence in God whom he had seen face to face. Unceasingly he praises spring, love, wine. He is always offering gems in new settings, but he lacks the epic, the organic. He is purely lyrist, one meant to attune, then harmonize emotion. The zealots have written Hafiz down in the black book of their disapproval. He advised them to pawn their priestly cowls for wine. Silver and gold are to him negligible things in comparison with freedom of soul. He desired greater, better things. And he found them! He brought heaven down upon earth. In intoxication of the spirit he found the flowing light of revelation. In wine he found truth. This is the way to look at Hafiz. Not as a wine tippler after the manner of Falstaff, but as wine’s high priest, crowned with vine-leaves, and its singer.”

Among nations of today the influence of Hafiz has been greatest in Germany, just as the English Byron’s influence was greatest in Russia. And there it is interesting to note the effect upon Goethe. He was an old man as years count, (He who was never old.), in the early seventies, when he first read Hafiz. Straightway he wrote memorable things of[79] him: “That you can not end, that makes you great.... Your song is like the whirling star-set sky, on and on, the same.... And should the entire world perish and pass away, with you, with you, Hafiz, I will emulously strive. Let Joy and Pain, the twins, be yours and mine alone! To love, to live, to drink like you, be that my pride!”

This from Goethe, the calm, olympic God! This from Goethe, who believed in Greek standards of unemotional excellence! What was the result? In Hafiz, Goethe found another youth. He bathed in the spring of oriental love, life, was renewed and grew young. And he gave us again a poet’s book of youth, fire, fancy, Der West-Östlicher Divan. This book we owe to Hafiz! It has the fresh charm that distinguishes the Vita Nuova. It has all that delights in books of youth, without defects.

Goethe exclaimed with joy: “I will grow young! I will mingle with the herds’ boys in the desert! I will refresh myself in the oasis, in the waste places!”

Sometimes we are forced to think he borrowed from this Eastern poet. But he did not try to conceal it. He was great enough to borrow without bowed head. Hafiz’ meters and somewhat of his manner have become naturalized in Germany, thanks to men like Platen, Rückert. The Germans, too, have translated Hafiz better than other nations. There we find him freest from foreign substance, clearer, less betrübt.

Hafiz has the conversational freedom, fluency, which distinguish Tu Fu, and which give his poems freshness. Sometimes they have effect of brilliant improvisation, that promptitude of the moment, which fastidious Watteau held to be the essential of art. He has primal fire. His sunlight dazzles us. It is too strong for eyes accustomed to dilutions, to tempered shadows. His roses are brilliant, richly scented, and of the East; they are unlike pale, pastel tinted shadows into which Eighteenth Century art conventionalized them. He had not learned to like the mixing of light with shadow. He paints as Watteau painted his Italian Clown, under direct hard light, straight fronting us. We must learn to see with a painter’s trained eye the modulations of white. He knew how to harmonizer le blanc. Watteau, the lyric painter, is his kin in plastic art of the brush. He is likewise his kin in scornful, contemptuous creation of beauty, and in his scorn of things that perish. But it is not wise to write of one art in terms of another.


Strong indeed must have been the personality that burst priestly restraint six hundred years ago! And sure indeed was his realization of self.

What capability for suffering! What a tender heart in the midst of joy that is pagan! He was a tearful jester, a scornful, sardonic romancer, a gentle, heroic reader of the riddle of life. In his plaint there is perhaps something of Verlaine, of Villon. But nothing of their manner. His grief never became the melancholy of a less vigorous age. Always in it there was joy of the struggle, strength to endure. A peculiar mental combination in truth; mediæval seriousness from which thought of death is seldom absent, combined with the reasoned blitheness of a Greek.

Hafiz was a jovial fellow with a host of friends. They played part in his life, we gather from his poems. There we see the shadowy, unnamed forms of a merry, talented company. Youths, handsome as Antinous of old, but of whose name we have no slightest hint, lure us with charm of mystery.

It would be interesting to know the youthful friends with whom he jested, made merry. Like the Greeks, the Persians loved the beauty of men in youth. They have written about them, as the Greeks wrote. There are lines which are made more acceptable by changing the personal pronoun to feminine gender.

In poetry today friendship is seldom celebrated. Nor more do we find eloquence of denunciative wrath. Such elements of power, of rebellion, belong to an earlier age, to the day when Cicero was orating against Cataline, or when Firdusi was writing his splendid satire to Sultan Mahmud. Our poetry, symbolically speaking, is what autumn says to the rose. Hafiz’ poetry is what spring says to the same immortal flower. And the difference is the difference between things that live and things that die ... and rise not.

Many and varied qualities go to this lyric supremacy: the natural art of Petofi, its characteristic lyric freedom, the golden fluency of Puschkin; the pitiful sweetness of Catullus; the intellectual reach of Rûmi, the mystic; the limpid racial charm of Mistral, all are here, but made more direct, informed with fiercer fire.

Hafiz was last of the great ones. After him came imitation, insincerity, mental decay. Dschami, who lived in the century after Hafiz, writing of it says: “The new scholars have invented to be sure verse and rhyme, but[81] except bare verse and rhyme everything else has vanished. No one troubles himself whether it contains phantasie, truth, or falsehood. And yet Oh! Great God, how splendid is poetry! How exalted, how dignified! Oh that I were a poet! Where is there an art more splendid, that more mightily ensnares!” Dschami came after the great ones. It has been wittily remarked of him that he possessed all their qualities except their originality. Rückert says of him: Dschami hat nah daran gedichtet, referring to the masters of Persian poetry.

The heart of every Persian echoes to Hafiz, just as Germany, and indeed Europe, has echoed to the music of Heine. It is interesting to note in passing, that in 1814 a poet was born in Shiraz, Hussein Ali Mirza, who has been accused of imitating Heine. We translate from an orientalist: “... either the translator has frisiert à la Europa too greatly, the new Iranian poet, Prince Hussein Ali, or else he has read Heine. This kind of sentiment does not belong to the East.”

Heine and Hafiz were most alike perhaps in their consuming fear of death. They were so vivid the thought of not being was terrifying.

It is felt in whatever they wrote. It did not enervate them. It inspired them to eloquence, to rebellion. In technical equipment the poets stand shoulder to shoulder. In grace, in fanciful invention, they were likewise equal. But the Hebrew and the Persian possessed in greater degree the power of passion, anger, and the strength to use them. Tu Fu was a lyric genius, of whom years of training made a master. Yet it seems to us that none has made art so absolute a thing as did Anacreon, in the days when his race were making models for remaining time to copy. However, this is matter of temperament, which helps render criticism uncertain.

There was an interesting superstition in the long ago regarding the two older, Hafiz and Anacreon, to the effect that to read them brought madness. Its origin is as deeply veiled in mystery as origin of the wandering quatrains of Persia. But we recognize gladly a tribute to power.

Both Hafiz and Heine, with Tu Fu, have that inexplainable quality that touches the heart. They say the things we can not forget. But there was an elfish caprice in Heine which Hafiz did not have, just as there was a mystic yearning in the Persian the Hebrew did not know. And in Tu Fu there were heights of lyric rapture none have surpassed. They were not lonely geniuses, seeking solitude, meditation. They lived in the whirl of[82] life. They learned wisdom of its sadness. Heine had the beauty-loving soul of an ancient Greek, the restless pitiful heart of a modern, and the passionate vengeance, the hate of the Hebrew. He realized in his life, in the few years of health granted him, the fierce, furious ideals of pleasure of Anacreon and Hafiz. He lived like a God. And he received the punishment of a God, in a consuming Promethean fire of pain, that crippled him, then burned up his life. Each lived in an age of mental expansion, when minds were creative. The Paris of Heine was the most brilliant age of that gay city by the Seine, when she best deserved the proud appellation of the step-mother of genius. Poland had fallen. Paris was filled with a crowd of brilliant Slav exiles. It was the day, too, of Eugene Sue, Berlioz, George Sand, de Musset, Dumas, Gautier, the Goncourt Brothers, Gavarni, Saint Beuve, Liszt, Chopin, Felix Mendelssohn, Ary, Sheffer, Delacroix, Horace Vernet. Mickiewicz was there, too, editing the fourth volume of his poetry. And Julius Slowacki, and Count Krasinski. After the period of these men had passed there was no more writing whose inspiration came from deep conviction, and which was indifferent to gold and to the praise of the world. Tu Fu lived at the time lyric verse reached its height under art loving Emperors of Tang, and when one of the proudest periods of plastic art was beginning, the Period of Sung Emperors.

Anacreon was borne on the crest of the wave that was sweeping on to the sublime heights of Greek culture. And Hafiz, who wrote in the divine, high piping Pehlevi of old Omar, the language of heroes, crowns the crest of the great age of Persian lyric poetry.

Anacreon is product of soft, sensuous Ionia, home of art and song. Hafiz is product of the mystic imagination of India, of her unreckoned centuries of culture and meditation, and the dominant clear thinking wisdom of Persia. Tu Fu was the mental product of three thousand years of intensive cultivation.

Heine is product of the prophetic fury and eloquence of Israel and the grace of France. Heine and Hafiz had no little in common. They are to be added to the list of inspired teachers who have come out of Asia. Each was born into a received religion, but neither bore its limitation nor its restraint. Each was receptively tolerant of the religion of others, while having none of his own. Heine said proudly: I am the freest man since Goethe! Hafiz said equally proudly, in his Rubaiyat: “Only he is happy[83] who draws inspiration from all things beautiful just so long as he shall be permitted to live!”

Heine loved the Orient. He longed for it. Heine has written a lyric of a pine in the north girdled with snow and ice, dreaming of a palm in the Orient. Like Gautier he dreamed of life under a bluer sky, its splendor of light. He read and loved the poets of Persia, Hafiz, Firdusi, Rûmi, Nizami. Schlegel was just telling the German world of that day of the literary treasures of Asia. In Heine he found a receptive listener. The oriental blood in his veins answered to call of the Persian poets. He, too, was of the East.

At the same time both Heine and Hafiz are modern, because of their free, their inquiring souls. No other writers have so eloquently expressed grief at the vanity of life. The lyric poets of other races and ages have not had their tragic fire, power of denunciation, nor their philosophic depth. None have so rebelled against life’s briefness, its inexorableness. None have so sounded hollowness of all things human.

At the same time the mind of each has been rainbow-prismed with joy. It is people of Asiatic blood who are capable of transitions from grief to joy. The fog bound lands of Europe can not shelter such chameleon-like changefulness.

The throb of warring ages in which they lived was in their blood. It beat in their verses. It modeled their measures. They were indebted to its storm, its stress for vivid vitality. And they were indebted likewise for warmer blood. Great lyric poets must come of impassioned, Asiatic races. Something hinders their European brothers, binds their utterance. They can not make of their souls a torch of joy to light a moment. They lack the passionate conviction that makes them great.

Each was born upon crest of an age of transition that resembles the one in which we live. A period that followed wars! Heine was born the last year of the Great Century, 1799. He saw blind worship of royal power, prerogative, give way to the modern spirit of freedom. Hafiz was born at end of a period of religious intensity which gave way during his life to a genial culture. Both felt the battling, invigorating influences of two distinct ages, each of which was strongly marked.

In Heine’s day art and letters reached highest development in Europe, just as lyric verse did in Persia in the age of Hafiz. And again in China, under Tang Emperors. After them came le déluge, which took guise of a[84] wide-spread dilettantism, form without matter. Both Heine and Hafiz were pagans in that they clung to world of the senses; but they were modern in their lack of calmness, their restlessness, and in their dramatic dissatisfaction. Their hearts were lutes upon which the winds of the world blew. And with them love and hate were the destructive passions of an Asiatic race. Both were past masters of the art of expression. They knew how to say much in little. They could condense history or a romance into a quatrain, a couplet. Both were great and fluent artists. And they fought in their own way as best they could the battle of enlightenment of the human spirit. Each hated cant, hypocrisy, cowardliness, and vain seeming. Each felt and suffered the scorn, the hatred of his fellow men, then learned sadly to know that he who wishes to accomplish anything whatsoever, or has ideals of any kind to fight for, must know that the wings of his spirit are strong.

Each clung pitifully while the world abused and reviled him, to the only real thing he could find, to the only thing that gave pleasure, that intoxicating world of the senses whose too frequent kiss, like that of the Slavic Venus, brings death.

The Greek had the sanest view of this world’s life, the surest sense of beauty. The Hebrew had such a pitiful thirst for love, for something stable amid change, it stung him to desperation. The Persian thought most deeply, most logically of the mystery of life. The result of his thinking was, We can not know. We can not know. In expression each was an artist. And each was great because he was sincere. Palmam qui meruit ferat.

I read Horace first in an old university town in the north. Each night as I walked home from lectures, autumn leaves were being burned in fragrant piles, under long rows of trees that still were faintly amber, faintly crimson. I came from the burned plains where there were no trees. And at night over these same richly tree-shaded streets, and over the broad lonely campus where dark pointed evergreens grew, the Hunter’s Moon hung, large and lustrous.

Because of this, and likewise because of something in the nature of the Roman poet, it has always seemed to me that Horace is read best in the autumn. There is something in his mind that is native to the season. He came from the ripe, mellow autumn of a rich, a prodigious civilization[85] that time was just beginning to touch with the shadows of age. Quintillian takes pains to tell us old Latin writers were stronger in genius than art. The opposite was true of Horace. With him poetry was not inspiration. He did not know its self-forgetful fury. Instead, it was one of the ornaments of a well-tempered life, out of which he wished to procure as much comfort as he could. In his verse there is nothing wonderful. At the same time it has an immortal touch. He was not a great imaginative poet. He was not a gifted dramatic poet. He seldom stirs the blood. But he has a smooth, even excellence, a companionableness, a marvelous proportion of word to thought. He is master of felicitous expression.

What was he to the Rome of his day? Was he what through accomplished Latin lecturers and study, he has become to us? Was he great as an artist? Or have years colored him, and the modern mind thrown over him a romantic halo? Or do we find him charming because he opens a door into the vanished world of Rome, where existed so many alluring pictures of memory, which we have loved, then dumbly longed for? Did he ripen with years? Did the smoke of time do for him what it did for Sabine wine, sweeten, mellow? Are there poets read best centuries after their day?

In him there is no restless modernity, no futile chasing of rainbows. Yet this serene art could not picture our world. We can measure changes which have come. It requires something tumultuous, less smooth, equable; less definite in outline. The model is at fault for sketchiness of written art, and a certain unsatisfactoriness as regards presentation. The reproduction must be nervous, with harsh lights, crude shadows. In the finished product absolutism is lacking. There is something that is trivial, infinitesimal, that sees darkly. Art has become uncertain. It no longer moves boldly. It has become a thing of temperament, instead of mind. The art of the pagan world was firmer. It approached life differently. Roman poets praise the masculine sound of the Latin lyre.

The philosophy, the thinking, of that antique day was muscled. It was sure, unwavering in line, as marbles. They had a firmer grasp upon life, the fact. We find Horace firm amid the shifting present. We can not find poetry so satisfying as his calm surveyal of things as they are. The pagan’s philosophic view of the inevitable, the nothingness which confronts man, tempered their natures. It made them truer, fonder, more pitiful. Regret for loss by death was greater. They lived like guests[86] flower-crowned at a banquet, unseen above whose head Fate shoots death’s arrows down. Therefore it was pleasant to grasp hands, feel sympathy. Christianity has weakened friendship. Strangely enough it has made us love each other less. Having God we do not need man.

At times Horace is soberly meditative, but he is seldom sad with haunting modern sadness. Perhaps blitheness was pagan sadness, too deep for tears. He was not subject to blues, ill temper. A cultivated pagan did not take these liberties with himself or others. Byronic madness had not come. Reason still had power. Time was precious. There was not a heaven in which to find it restored. We are misers with dollars, in addition to being foolish egoists. They were wiser misers with time, with its joy.

It is pleasant, occasionally, to dream back into this serene age, to move, a little space, among calm, griefless white Wedgewood-figures that have given over regret, that neither hope nor fear, yet whose joy was tempered by clear consciousness of the end. No one can see all things from the beginning. We must be satisfied with the day’s vision.

Horace had a calm, disillusioned mind, without ideals. Life was too short to grow vain things. Ideals were insistent, therefore bad taste. The world was as it was. He could remake, change nothing. For this reason he decided to be the poet of things as they are.

In the literatures of Greece and Rome there are no diseases of the spirit. There is no questioning of the supreme facts of existence. They are sane. They are models of right seeing. No energy is wasted in rebellion. Their charm is not that of a wild, erratic view point for the glorifying of self. A thing to be good had to be something besides new. L’art nouveau would have met disdain.

They are sane with nature’s unchanging sanity which we are losing. They do not strain the mind to acrobatic seeing. Novelty was not synonymous with quality. This body, this life, belong to earth where they are placed. It is well not to tamper things that do not concern us. Not without reason was the box of Pandora closed. Whenever we open it, we find a new ill. Take things as they are. Be happy. It is sad we can not make pagan sanity contagious as our questioning restlessness.

In Horace there is no madness of the crusader, no fantastic gallantry of knighthood. We are glad of their absence. Pagan literature is a place of mental rehabilitation. To be en rapport with a pagan of Horace’s day[87] it was necessary to enjoy with him. To be en rapport with a modern it is necessary to weep with him. We play the comédie larmoyante. Modern art cares for sensations. Heart-throbs are the thing! It might take for its motto:—Fac me tecum plangere. Today it is only the artist (whose soul is always pagan) who finds life good. Anatole France says that without him (the artist) we might doubt the fact.

Surely there is no one more fit to read in a garden, under the moon of autumn, than city-bred Horace with his plea for rustic merriment. He loved country life. He pictured it. They had in his day a fresher feeling for simple things, a nymph-like nearness and affection; delight in fresh grass, cool running water, young flowers with dew on them. Simple things were precious enough to be mentioned on equality with chosen guests to make happy a holiday. To the poet is given clearer vision of such things. He is equipped by nature to take pleasure in them. In addition, Latin races have had vivid sense of reality. It is one source of their strength.

Horace loved the banks of Tiber, as Keats the green English Thames-side, Hafiz, valley of the Roknabad, and Tu Fu his bamboo-shaded rivers. Each has been emphatic in dislike of going elsewhere. Each painted the home country he loved.

There are scenes among the poets, bits of landscape, more real, more endeared to me than any I see in life. They are changeless. They are superior to time. They give illusion of things that do not grow old. By sympathetic folly I remain young with them. They are always waiting for me untouched by the season. I know just where to find them. After time has made me old, to go back to them, affects me like going home. In fact, one of my ideals has been realized in the changeless things of art.

How different were the adjectives which Horace applied to natural objects from those we use! In them I can see the clear, unvexed mind that observed. He seized description by a different corner. His impressions were fresher, quicker. To him clouds were steep clouds, (nubibus arduis). He saw first the striking thing. For this reason his descriptions give the sensation of looking at an etching, crisp, sure, before repeated reproductions have blurred it. An advantage was with him. He had the world before it became second-hand. He has shown attractive scenes.

In Book III, Carmen xxix, what dainty, stepping through measures! What fastidious choosing! What fragile-pointed penciling! Sharp indeed,[88] fine leaved, were the bristling thickets which hid the God, Sylvanus. Here is delicately modeled detail of French line engravers, such as Edelinck. Nowhere else is there such inspiring swinging up and slow, pensive drooping of moons, with such calm vistas. Moons are red gold. The sky is lapis, a Byzantine enamel. The delight when they swing to sight! Nowhere do they rise more majestically than with Latin poets. I like, too, his swift painting of forests, fields, herds and the black hills of Acadia, lofty Tusculum where wealthy Romans had country houses, and he went to banquet with his friends, or cool Lucanian pastures overlooking the Tuscan Sea; the ocean flowing among the shining Cyclades. His pictures are sure of line as an etching by Braquemond. They give some the same pleasure. They are crisp. They are oftenest of the outdoor world. Artists of all time have been indebted to this plastic picturing. When he describes wine foaming around white feet of laughing girls, we see a group by Donatello. When he paints Autumn crowned with vine-leaves, lifting his head above level plains, we see the richly colored, fluent art of Boucher. Might not the oxen with weary necks dragging the inverted plowshare be from brush of Breton or L’Hermitte? Latin blood is there!

In Horace there is appreciation of rustic life which French art realized. The order of descriptions is beautiful. One moment does not rush upon another. This is a Latin quality; nothing superimposed; nothing hurried. The influence of Horace, his spirit, is in art of France, Spain, Italy; but not in Holland or the north. There it met a counter current, which swept it back. In the north the spirit triumphed.

It is sanity of Latin races that periodically reclaims art from the crowded vagueness of the north, then shows it the way back to life, which is nature.

Landscape painters of France, Italy, and Spain are spiritual descendants of Roman word-painters. Like them they have united love for the thing they saw with sufficient mental detachment to insure truth. The spirit of Horace is in landscapes of Rousseau, Harpignies, Daubigny, Corot. The same nature looks from the canvasses; the same truth. Love of thing they painted, singleness of purpose, with no momentary side-glancing, stamped success. Love, sincerity, were there, coupled with fidelity that outweighed price. Over these landscapes with their artistic well-being, rests sure tradition of Roman ancestry.


In Horace, in Quintillian, we see beginning that perspicuity, sense of distinctions, that made Latin races—France in particular, supreme in criticism. There is in Horace a likeness to the French mind that blossomed in 1830.

Who can help loving this antique world Horace shows, which keeps so much that is fine? We love it too because it had no shadows. It was content. We love its persistent search for joy, its disdain of the unworthy. We love conviction that life is supreme. Puritanism, a narrow morality, have driven it away. They have given nothing worth while in return. The reformer has driven out the uninsistent Greek. The worshippers of the spirit have done violence to worshippers of the flesh. Beauty is one of the few values. We should be grateful for any reality. Perfection of line is not bad morality. It is at least substitute for folly. In most modern art except that which France created, there is something crude, unseizable. Some wild homesickness! At heart, republican France has always been pagan, aristocratic. It has led nations in the arts.

One reason the human race is no more beautiful is because men have ceased to desire it. It is becoming a negligible quality. Beauty was commoner in pagan days because men loved it.

Who would not prefer the swiftly sketched picture of a vanished city made by such happy observers as Horace, Seneca, Catullus, to travelers’ descriptions! The best picture of Rome of Augustus is in his verse. It would be interesting to know what material world the reader pictures from the verses. No two see alike. One sees, as Heine remarked, with bitter glance of an Archenholz, one with inspired eyes of a Corinne, rarely one with clear Greek eyes of a Goethe.

Who can not picture the circus, shows, baths, the ex-slave Menas made knight, dragging a robe three ells long? Syrian flute-players, and cameo-faced Roman women hastening stealthily to the temple of forbidden, alluring Egyptian gods! He gives good reproduction of the age. He saw its pomp. He enjoyed frivolities. He measured the fleeting shadows of change that were sweeping over it, without caring what the end might be. He lived and loved and he did not regret. I have caught vivid, delightful glimpses of Augustan Rome. I am grateful for the clear, unprejudiced eyes which preserved it. He had no bias of mind to make things other than they are. For him, in joy, there were no regrets. These unemotional poems are the one door that lets us into the Imperial City, that Augustus[90] and Virgil, and Faustine of the unforgettable face and cruel heart, and dissolute Verus, knew.

At other times reading Horace is like holding marble miniatures. No matter how subjectively he may write of his occupations, description makes him a plastic artist. Some of the poems are little cameo chains strung upon a ribbon. Such for instance as the faun who chases fleeing nymphs. (Carmen xviii, Book III.), Cytherean Venus dancing by moonlight, surrounded by Graces. (Ode IV.)

“Pallas fitting her helmet, shield, and her fury.”

“The Corybantes, redoubling strokes upon the cymbals.”

“Chloris, shining with fair shoulders in the midnight sea.”

“Bacchus dictating strains among the rocks, while the nymphs, the goat-footed satyrs, listen.”

“The Thracian Priestess upon the mountain, her knotted hair bound with vipers.”

The carver of gems could find inspiration as frequently as poets. To prove he did, we have only to look into cabinets of collectors. The poets who copied him have been many. There were Ronsard, the Pleiad, in old French days. Tennyson, Ernest Dowson, in our own day, and in English, to mention few.

He left indelible trace upon poets of Italy. They found a model ready made in a tongue their own. There are lines of d’Annunzio that suggest Horace because they keep interest in natural things; fresh, loving vision. However, it is not Latin poets who influenced d’Annunzio, but Greek. He drank from the fountain from which Horace drank when he boasted he was first to attune Greek meters to the Latin lyre. D’Annunzio likes better the Greeks of a later day, in Alexandria, who were softer muscled, more luxurious, although his tragedies show the fatemotif of a sterner, artistically speaking, purer age. Carducci dreamed architecturally of the Rome of Horace and Augustus. He has built pictures in the Odi Barbare that are memorable, splendid.

As society poet Horace set a model which has been imitated but never equaled. He brought to it polished, perfect expression, and the savoir faire of a courtier. The most perfect society verse in the world is the Ode to Pyrrha (Ode V), because of equilibrium between matter and form, grace of poise, bantering lightness. In such verse no one has said more endearing things, more gracefully insincere. We may presume his social[91] gift was considerable. In the portraits we find a touch at times, that is almost Japanesque; the habit of fixing fleeting, inconsequential thoughts without logical beginning. They are airy fancies that strike the mind obliquely in rapid flight. Centuries ago he sounded, tentatively, the shrill clarions of today.

Two of Horace’s admirable qualities were capability for friendship and just estimate of self. A gentle unenvious kindness radiates toward his friends. There was no condescension, superiority, no literary posing. Friends! How old-fashioned the word! Are they something that vanished with the manhood of Rome? Who loves his friends! Many memories of pleasant days with them his verse recalls! We judge of their importance by the fact he deemed them worth his art. Today friendship plays slight part in life. There are spaces of the self where there is not any judgment of wrong, of right, where there remains only the observing mind. We have grown narrow, selfish, enlarged of ego. We can love only those united by ties of blood. Is there less heart? Is that a reason there are few poets? Great, ennobling pitifulness which could shelter the world and his neighbor is not of today. We imitate. We do not create. At the test there is sound of something broken. Poetry is language of the emotions. When they are enfeebled they cannot speak. Where is the poet who pays tribute to a brother, a friend? Who is capable of feeling that sways the heart! We are tin toys. Love is of the heart. Without it the intellect can not create. Love was mainspring of those fluent opening lines of Horace, love that vibrated richly in his heart, then attuned it to sympathetic singing.

We have become drier, less inclined to giving. We are old with the world. We have less to give! At least writers can no longer picture life fatly. We have lost sight of so many things. The tide of time has swept us upon a barren shore where nothing is important save gold.

The philosophic poise of Horace was universal love, perhaps, too great to be given to an individual. It touched all evenly, like light. We have missed the sunny, friendly way. We must go back. We must find it if we can, before it is too late.

They who have been great, have been so by loving something better than self. The heart has share in fame. Love is productive of creative qualities such as vigor, joy. Vigor, joy, beat behind the lines of Horace.


No other writer has taken his measure so justly. Common sense was basis of his genius. With pride he insists it is his province to sing lightly. He was greater for the justice of his mind than for his poetry. Many have written poetry as good, but where is the person who has seen with vision nothing could dim! He understood he was neither an imaginative nor dramatic poet when he writes: I am only a little bee gathering thyme by the dewy shores of Tiber. This is memorable for unenvious grace. Nor did he permit himself to philosophize long enough to forget it is a poet’s province to amuse. There have been few of such balance. And he had been child of fortune, too. He had become friend of Ruler of the World. There was only one world, then, and its center was Rome. Yet upon his face we feel sure there was none of that pallor which Juvenal declares is engendered by wretched friendship with the great.

He resisted the invitation of Augustus to live at court. He knew simple life was better. He realized that to create, it would be well to live humbly, dream richly.

After he became star of the court of Augustus, he did not grow scornful nor inclined to underrate the homely middle-class. He was gracious. There is no better preacher than Horace against money-mad modernness, its absence of leisure, false standards. He is teacher of the simple life. As he grew older he preached it. He proclaimed it boldly to decadent Rome. To be sure, as Juvenal scornfully says: Well plied with food and wine was Horace when he shouts his evoe! Evidently meaning to insinuate that well he might be happy, whom the tragedy of life could not touch. Yet it was a small income, the Sabine farm, gift of Maecenas. But he had become rich in the developed resources of mind. He knew wealth is not without, but within. He valued taste above gold. So plain, so persistent was his consciousness of this, that wealth beyond satisfaction of daily needs was folly, useless wasting of life to acquire. It was base prostitution of energy. The life bounded by horizon of the dollar can see no vast horizon. The poet’s gift was superior to what gold gives. One of his illuminating sayings is: One may be poor amid great wealth.

At the same time he had no high ideals; no passionate convictions. He was not interested enough in anything to struggle because he felt struggle useless. As satirist he is inferior to Juvenal and Persius. As philosopher, as artist, he is greater. But as a satirist he lacked conviction. He lacked decision. The satires of Horace have neither the eloquence,[93] fire, nor the stern scorn of Juvenal. Bitterness was not in his heart. They are better art but less powerful humanly. Juvenal reaches heights that equal Tyrtæus. Juvenal and Persius wished to make the world better. Horace did not care. He was artist, social exquisite; not moralist, nor reformer. He cared about men’s taste, their appreciation of beauty, the things that make for refined living. He cared nothing about morals if manners were good. He looked at everything with laughing, indifferent disdain. He believed nothing mattered since the end is alike for all. Therefore be kind to your neighbor. Be happy if you can. He was critic of art, not morals. Even to the dissipations of that luxurious age he gave himself with good humored disdain. He lent himself to dissipation with a tolerant smile, without caring one way or the other.

Horace lacked the commanding power of greatness, its one sidedness. He never compels us. He wins by grace, good temper. He is a charming companion for the rich. I can fancy him an admirable causeur, perhaps an ideal talker, whose conversation was greater, imaginatively, more fancifully attractive, than the written word. His temperament needed stimulus of admiration, applause, the moment. He needed candles and love and pretty women and music and wine. He could have said of himself with the oriental lyrist: None know thee, Hafiz, save when candles shine!

Horace insists on nothing. He has no interest in teaching. He tells us, to be sure, that gold is a false standard, that there are better things. Life and manners were simpler, in an early age, as Dante told his Florentines. But he does not care whether we believe it or not. Life was more beautiful when less complicated; money multiplies bad taste, is the extent of his interest. He did not get far from beauty as standard.

His philosophizing is that of a graceful dilettante. But in knowing, in understanding this, he preserved his Epicurean existence, freedom from work. Perhaps there was another Horace whom his writing dared not show. Perhaps this serene, laughing existence was the price paid for ease. Horace’s age, we must remember, was one when men were busy forgetting the bloody wars of Augustus; they were bowing to a tyrannical demi-god.

Early a note of weariness creeps into his verses, a regretful, late-autumn splendor. It is like light upon rich fields of grain that have been reaped. His life was loveless, given over to men. This was not unusual in his age. Was it this that made his nature cold, and nothing worth while? Love was possible in pagan days and wrought havoc. Catullus knew how[94] to love. So did Propertius, Tibullus. It was not wholly the age. We get impression that he feels old and is weary, even of pleasure, song, when we know he must have been under fifty. Was it because his body was delicate, frail, as we find hint now and then, or were his senses superfine, easily sated? Or had the excessive dissipation of the age made him old before his time?

When he says, somewhere in last of the Epistles, that the only way to be happy is to admire nothing, we know what years have done. Cultivation had enervated him. It had weakened zest for life, or he echoed the age that was growing weary with too much living. That is why Christianity overpowered the pagan world. It was worn out with joy. It had lived too much. It was ready for penitence. It was weakened with luxurious learning.

There is more love, more understanding of home, in Propertius, Tibullus, than in Horace. Each had had his dream. If Horace had, his words give no hint. He hides from us. Persius says of him: Sly Horace does not give us his heart to sift. It may have been his dream was too tenderly cherished to unveil for a greedy world. His emotions, his longings are as carefully concealed as the veiled face of Isis.

It is not often we find a poet without enthusiasms. Horace had none. He is the only poet of the world without an ideal. He believed, in his indifferent way, with Goethe, that life is more important than art. He could have said with Wilde: “To my life I have given my genius, to my writing, my talent.” He saw it clearly. He judged sanely. It is true, perhaps, that he had toward it, as was his habit, an air of de haut en bas.

His Satires tell his real life. They, strangely enough, are poetry of fact, something which (the poetry of fact) has not been invented again until our day, and Verhaeren. Horace set about making life a work of art in the same calm way Goethe did. With both, the thing to be lived was superior to the thing created.

He is never confidential. With him, the world is present. He wears a charming manner of indifference. He was too worldly to show his heart. The human interest element is lacking. He would scorn the heart-throbs upon which inquisitive modernity insists.

There is a sensuous spirituality in poets of the Augustan Age, in scorn of gold, in clear understanding it can not buy the best, because genuine[95] things belong to all. With them spirituality was striving for the best of earth. There is its sadness, in lack of conception of anything beyond.

But how grateful, how appreciative were they for pleasant things! Having no heaven they had kindlier nearness to earth. They were brothers to the trees, streams. Among them Catullus and Propertius are most modern. In their technique, their emotional view point, there is something that startles. Their heart cry, their rebellion against time and its ravages, shiver with new iridescence, the pagan calm. It plays over their poems like rainbow-shimmer across Murano glass, in contrast to the calm of chiseled marble. Some fretful, wandering wind of modernity touched them, then made them tremble with prophetic wisdom in the comfort of their gay, Greek garden.

Most sonnet writers in America, except George Sterling, overweight the sonnet line, just as in my opinion Brangwyn, delightful draftsman, when he leaves paint brush and colors, overweights the etched line. This crowding of the small, clean room of the sonnet, is the chief fault of that accomplished sonneteer, Mahlon Leonard Fisher. The sonnet line should be noble, clean, and of gracious curve. It should be pure, unvexed, like skies of great etchers, Rembrandt for example.

The American sonnet writer, again excepting Sterling, who to my mind has written the best sonnets in our country, (see his Sequence to Oblivion), is like a pretty debutante, a very pretty debutante, who, in addition to being pretty, insists upon being brilliant, insists upon using a mouth so lovely that is evidently what God made it for, to say clever things. This is worse than mixing metaphors. It is like insisting upon putting furniture that belongs by right to a large house into one small room, one very small room, the sonnet-room.

The world is mad about information, about knowing everything there is to know, and it insists upon displaying it. No one has courage to admit ignorance. Everyone pretends wisdom that surpasses Solomon. One should learn to wear learning lightly, as a jester his bells. And for the same good reason, to mark the ways of joy.

Modern sonnet writing is becoming an exhibition of acrobatics, of how to put the greatest possible number of objects dangling, pirouetting, balancing, upon one little line until its loveliness, its clean, clear profile is obscured. Art is not made to astonish. It is not an acrobat who performs[96] feats upon lines either long or short. It is made to charm, to ennoble, bring refreshment to the spirit. It is divine play. It is cream-skimming joy. It is plucking the invisible flower of the heart, for a moment’s showing. Assuredly an unvexed thing, from which imperfections have been taken!

England did not do any too well by the sonnet in the early days when she took it from Italy. She roughened it. She coarsened it. She made it a trifle pot-bellied. She taught it to drink ale, instead of wine. She took the classic, Latin profile and gave it two round eyes and a turn-up nose.

And yet I know English sonnets that are lovely. Milton wrote one. Keats wrote one. Mrs. Browning wrote more than one. George Pellew wrote three, three great ones, on Greek subjects, I seem to remember. To do it he made himself, in spirit, un-English. He slipped upon his shoulder the graceful garment of another race and turned back, for rare creative moments, toward the red, wine-making south. Mrs. Browning did something similar, although she only went as far as Italy. She was prodigiously instructed, however, in both Greek and Latin.

The calm spaces between words in Italian sonnet writers is vastly more difficult of realizing than people think. It is harder to sit perfectly still than to stand upon your head at stated intervals, wearing bells and motley. You can not catch Art, (with either a large or a small letter) by running after her and sprinkling salt upon her tail. Genuine Success is something besides a large noise and a yellow electric light.

The calm gliding into the first line of an accomplished sonnet writer of old Italy, gives me the same sensation as, after noise, discomfort of a storm, the calm gliding into a harbor, blue, safe, sheltered, smiling, serene. I have felt this strongly in opening lines of Dante’s Vita Nuova. They recur to me again and again.

Ballata i voi che tu ritrovi Amore

Consider the jeweled setting of vowels, their wise interlining, the grace, consider, the beginning, that does not disturb the poise of silence, nor invade harshly its suave secrecy.


Tutti li miei penser parlare d’Amore
Donne ch’avete intellette d’Amore,
i vo’con voi de la mia donna dire.


Italy is almost as rich in dignified, nobly chiseled sonnets as in chiseled marbles. Today we are trying to belittle the sonnet. Frequently we make it tawdry. The sonnet is akin to the eye which is one of the windows of the soul. It is not an up-heaped bargain-counter, for a noisy bargain sale.

Heredia, despite his varied story-telling in sonnet form, did not overcrowd the line. He was too reliable an artist. He knew what a frame is silence. Nor did d’Annunzio! Both were too sensitive for this indelicate wrong.

Very likely the chief difficulty lies in the fact that the sonnet does not suit the life of the present. New art-form must be invented for our restless, changing existence. The old bottles are not strong enough for the heavy, strange effervescences, from grapes, of this crowded, disconcerting, wild Garden of Time.

Goethe expatriated the soul of him astonishingly in that war-vexed Germany that knew the wild ways of Napoleon, when he wrote The Roman Elegies. (Die Römische Elegien.) They are calm. They are chiseled like marbles of Attica. They are sincere, noble, firm, truly visioned; the kind of art we shall not see soon again. They have given me unvarying pleasure throughout the years because of the perfection they keep. Their wholeness is source of strength. I read them over and over.

And yet it is the same as reading Tibullus, Propertius, or the Amores. It is the same art, happening merely to be written in a northern tongue.

Goethe was a unique, powerful figure in history of letters for one whose manhood saw the French Revolution. One of the strangest things in literature is that it did not move him. When it was sweeping grandly on, for freeing man from trammels of the past, Goethe wrote a scholarly friend in Paris about the good news. The friend supposed of course he meant the Revolution. Goethe, however, had no such thought. He was merely referring to praise the French Academy had given his scientific discoveries.

I have read Brandes’ book about Goethe, and with interest, because practically every idea projected was given long ago by the late Professor Calvin Thomas, who very likely is the most trustworthy authority on the Man of Weimar. A comparison of the two books about the German writer is interesting. There has seldom been, perhaps, so much rehashing of[98] projected thought of the past as now, so many evidences that limitation has come, and that reconstructed mental clothes are considered good enough.

The etched line of Whistler, especially in the first Italian series, is peculiarly like the sentence-line of Loti in his earlier books on the East. There is the same rare distinguished attack, of which not two in a generation are capable. The same wistful, intensified, highly personal beauty, flashed upon the dazzled senses by a moment of tremendous seeing. The same tremulous sensitiveness, that only the exquisitely dowered possess. Mingled with all, witchcraft, the vanishing essential of art, which none may seize easily with words.

I can recall passages in etchings of those dim, night-palaces of Venice, up which the sad-lighted sea sends faint, equivocating shivers, that give me the exact sensation of lines of Loti. They rise to mind from depths of consciousness. And without volition. Now that Loti is traveling and writing of what he sees no more, and Whistler’s etching needle is stilled, there are two joys fewer in the world for me.

I have heard Kubelik! He is young, boyish. When he came upon the platform he was a timid little boy, parading his grandfather’s long black coat. A melancholy boy, buttoned to the chin in black. Beside me sat an old man, who at sight of him exclaimed: To think he is father of twins! Every once in a while, as the concert progressed, he gave expression to the exclamation.

While his body is graceful, aristocratic, in his head, expression of face, there is good deal of the peasant. The face is sombre, gloomy, with touch of the pure Slav, in the modelling. That Slav land is unique because genius has been pleased to illumine it. No race have so understood tragedy of the soul, tyranny of material things. What other literature can show such revealing wisdom as stories of Potapenko, the short sketches of the two Tolstoy’s? Such tales as Nemirovitch Dankschenko wrote, in Under the Earth! The criminal pictures of Dostoievsky, the stories Chekov made with the surgeon’s scalpel, the work of Kuprin, or Garshin!

When Kubelik made his appearance he received tremendous welcome. No trace of pleasure, sympathetic response, showed upon his face. Bohemian Paganini is a good name for him, only he is an intellectual player, not an emotional one. He is great, exact.


I should like to know the history of his violin. It set me dreaming of rare Cremona’s, for wood of which master-makers roamed forests of Tuscany, tapping trees, testing resonance, on the south side, listening subtly to song of sap. A marvelous instrument for depth, richness!

Music is an independent world, whose diameter no scientist can measure. A vast world of delight, placed conveniently near.

I do not imagine it was insupportable to Beethoven to be deaf. He merely lived more fully in that other world. It was superior. He could not hear other men’s music to be sure. But there were none so great as he.

As the physical organ which reproduced sound became frailer, more perfect, because undisturbed, was the inner sound-vision. It was purified. The world of music is filled with astonishing buildings, towers of tone, buildings such as Painter Turner, dreamed when centuries after they vanished, he tried to realize with his brush, for us of slighter vision, the Palaces of Caesar.

The architecture of Handel was religious, of Hebraic sternness; while Mozart built fairy palaces of delight, gleaming, white-sugar fantasies of form, palaces of Zucker und Zauber. We can not see these buildings on our own initiative, we of little faith. We are forced to wait for masters to fling open gates. They alone possess the key.

Those little sound-arabesques in Beethoven, of superb decorative beauty, I like to fancy, are the condensed sweetness, in memory, of days of youth, spent in the merry Rhineland. The happy heart of harvesters is there, the subdued joy of laughter. The desire for money, fame, the world’s applause, can never be mainspring of such rare arabesques.

I know a little old Jewish gentleman. Little indeed! Not larger than a Brownie, which he resembles. He has pale, grey, colorless eyes, so crossed they spend their time looking into each other. He has a huge, bristling, up-standing mustache, which looks as if it were futilely engaged in pulling his poor, hump-backed figure up to height, straightness.

After lunch he starts for a walk, wearing a tall hat, coquettishly tip-tilted over his nose. On one of his home-comings I met him. He told me he had been to the grave of his wife, that during the twenty years since her death he had seldom missed a day. He told me this in such dignified tone, and one withal sad, earnest, that his shriveled figure took on the importance, the size of a hero.


Who but member of the race, with indelible blood of centuries of persecution in its veins, would be capable of such devotion! To the Jew, family, home, mean more than to the Gentile. (But free, easy, get-rich-quick America is not good for him. It is breeding out, rapidly, the fine qualities of the race.) The Jew has been helpful, in various ways, to America. He has helped destroy provincialism. He makes for enlightened cosmopolitanism, because the cultivation of the world has touched the race-mind.

This old man regaled me with stories of youth spent in Austria, Bavaria. He was a beau, he declared, in old Bavarian days. But of all the women he saw, Viennese are the prettiest, most spirited. They have figures of sylphs. They are never twice alike.

In childhood, he explained, I lived in sight of Munich. A beautiful city! I remember when Mad Louis was King. He tried to make it another Athens, center of art. The dream was delusive. As delusive as the name he chose for his fairy palace, Wahnfried.

But he taught Germans music. He was patron of Wagner.

When summer comes to the plains, air is hot, dry, and I can not breathe comfortably, nor sleep, I dream of the air I used to smell in Bavaria, as it blew across snowy Alps, sweet with spruce, with fir. I like America! It has been good to my people. My old friend is like March weather; upon the surface snow, chill, while underneath, unseen, the warmth of spring.

Members of the old man’s race have stood at head of art, letters and every science. In the Middle Age, at dawn of the Renaissance, it was Jewish wanderers, traveling from country to country on multifarious business errands, whose linguistic nimbleness formed links between Greece and Rome, between Spaniard and Moor, between Occident and Orient. They had no little to do in dissemination of Greek culture, a culture which in its essence is antagonistic to them.

They were translators for the ancient world. They were numbered among scholars of mediæval days. It was they who helped unlock treasures of Moorish culture for the ungrateful Spaniard.

In the realm of medicine their sway was undisputed. In this profession they held positions of honor in Italian, in Spanish Courts.


They carried songs of Italy to France, to Provençe, inspiring the Troubadours. They had powerful poets, originators of their own, too. Most talented perhaps of whom, in mediæval days, was Jehuda ben Halevy, whose mistress and lady of sorrows, (to whom he dedicated his heart in song), was Jerusalem the Fallen, just as in a later day, Italy, the discrowned, dismantled Queen, was the mistress of inspiration of Poggio.

During Moorish rule, in Spain, before the Inquisition, there was no position of honor, influence, where intellectual worth counted, where the Jew was not found. He was held in like esteem at Court of Robert of Naples, at time gay Boccacio was there paying poetical devoir, at the same time, both to Queen Joanna and Fiammetta.

The world’s great wit and lyric poet, Heine, was a Jew. So were the philosophers, Moses Mendelssohn, Spinoza. Of the same race were the composers, Meyerbeer, Felix Mendelssohn. And there may have been Jewish blood in Wagner. No one can prove there was not. Of this race were Auerbach, Heyse, Marcel Schwob, Daudet, Halevy, Mendes, Beaconsfield, Nordau, Brandes, Bernhardt, Rachel, and Jorge Isaacs, who wrote Maria, a South American classic, mentioning a few at random. And once, so the story goes, a Jew was king of Poland for a night. Perhaps the most remarkable feat, however, recorded of this race, is that when the Christian religion, like a tidal-wave, swept over Europe, destroying civilizations, the pagan world, where joy was king, they were the one race that did not succumb. Every other race has borne the imprint of its ideals. Who could dream an humble shepherd band from Judea could set at naught the tides of the world!

The Renaissance does not equal the pagan world in beauty. Its madonnas, its units of architectural design, its saints of noble bodies, are but borrowings from the past. They are not original creation. The old beauty which was poignant because it was unselfconscious, because it kept the heart of man, its canary-throated joy, its hours of song, went out of the world then like a candle that is snuffed by a wind that is chill.

Ideal beauty can not enter the House of Grief.

Perhaps wisdom of perception is in this line. We who work today, work crippled, sad, limping, in comparison with them of long ago. Worst of all, confused! Dust covered, perhaps, but still taking space in the room[102] of the mind, are too many irrelevant, accumulating objects. Too many foolish and cheap amusements. The free, yellow, sunlighted clean space of the whispering winds is not there.

How ancient are words! When we play with them carelessly, we do not realize how freighted they are with history. They are queer unsteady little sail boats carrying all kinds of baggage of the soul. They fly merrily, briskly, down interminable rivers of Time.

They have come from remotest periods. They have come from the night of history. There is nothing else in the world man has contact with that is so old, except the red earth beneath his feet, or so much part of his life. How they originated we know little more than of the beginning to be of the same red earth. Theories have been put forward. None have been agreed upon.

We know primitive tongues were monolithic. They were built in gigantic squares, like the stone buildings of primitive peoples, the temples upon the Andes, in Peru, in Honduras for example, Yucatan, the pre-historic buildings of Guatamala, India, Egypt. Primitive men hurled at each other blocks of unhewn thought. The change that was in progress from that day to this was one of making little, disintegration. The rocks were wearing slowly away to sand. Now speech is broken. It is filled with tiny paste-like particles, inconsequential connectives, the worn, floating, detritus of years.

In everyday speech we make use of sounds which our Aryan ancestors used at foot of the Himalayan Mountains in the childhood of man. Sanskrit vritta (turn); Latin vertire; English verse. Sanskrit Deva (God); Latin deus; English divine.

These are very near the forms we use. As I explained before, I, of course, have no right to the word linguist. I read too few tongues. It has been used merely to explain interest in foreign literature, and because we have no intermediate word for exchange.

Sir John Bowring boasted he could speak one hundred tongues and read fluently still another hundred. With it all he was a poor translator. To translate well there must be generous admixture of artist and native writer in the scholar.

John Gregory in the English Seventeenth Century, read easily almost all the languages of the Orient in which a literature has been written; and[103] Ethiopean, too, for good measure. There was a period in England of something resembling encyclopedic mind—like the Russian Eighteenth Century, to which there seemed to be no limit of acquirement. After that (to me) there came another and a seemingly different England, both in mind and nature. Its rare moment of creative power passed. Very likely I have no right to the following opinion. My guess, however, would be that languages had a common origin. Then came migration of peoples, life in widely separated localities, under different areas of pressure of changing climates, bringing new demands upon the body. This modified speech. This caused the word to be spoken differently. In this way, in long periods of time, regularly appearing, cumulative differences arose.

In the first place, word was uttered to give imitation in sound of emotion. It was gesture made through another bodily medium. It was mind gesture through the throat.

In almost all languages the word for mother expresses the same gesture. Arabic, oom. Russian matushka. Latin mater. English mother, and so forth.

This is true likewise of the word for water, and others I might mention, and certain emotions such as joy, fear. I have traced words with interest and pleasure through many languages, I usually come back with increased belief in basic oneness, far away, but findable. Words that express suffering, fear, grow grim and gaunt in any tongue. Their surfaces are shriveled with emotion. Those on the contrary that express love, call with singing softness of vowel liquids.

Words are the patient camels of the grey, lonely deserts of the mind, bearing carefully for increased knowledge, increased welfare, the treasured burdens of intellect.

You can feel the atmosphere in which a word was born, brought up, so to speak, no matter in what tongue it happens to be incorporated. Words have personality. They keep securely the aroma of the past.

Many years ago when I was learning Spanish a word in that tongue puzzled me. My Spanish teacher was not a scholar; he knew nothing about it. I felt sensitively fluttering over its surface the atmosphere of another race, the thinking of a different people. Later I found it came from the East, from Persia. It meant master. Then I understood. It had been brought to Spain by the Moors. It had pride, dignity, patriarchal sternness, a peculiar harsh browed aloofness to my ear that Spanish[104] words did not have. It was a memory incorporated in daily speech of Spain of the four hundred years of Moorish rule.

It belongs in the Court of the Lions of the Alhambra. It is draped, turban-crowned. It has nothing in common with the pale, long-faced, ascetic, Spaniard who created the Inquisition.

I think it was an Arab poet who declared words are the thin, embroidered veil in which we wrap thoughts. Races have loved them. In their structure, after the crumbling of ages, may still be felt the stress of composite emotions, ancient, semi-cosmic loves. Words are as near reality as anything life possesses. There are words that for me keep peculiar qualities. The word Delhi, for instance, is a carved pendant made of amethyst. It is richly hued, lovely. It could not be any kind of jewel save pendant. Nor made of anything save amethyst. The word Agra, on the contrary, is a stone-white cameo, hard, sharp, cold of line.

It is not impossible that words, in effort to catch plastic beauty, may possess extentions not readily catalogueable; that they may build (for sensation) with vowels, with consonants interwoven like a fugue, with guarded emphasis of recurrent letters, similar sound-pictures that echo the sensation of objects of art, rebuild them, in short, in the mind, in a different medium.

We have not explored all the properties of words any more than of matter. There are shores waiting for Columbus. We can not determine exactly their psycho-plasm, so to speak. We do not know all the phosphoric, ancient visions that enveloped them, and still cling to them. Their boundaries are always changing. They can not be definitely measured. They possess degrees of being potently visible. For incalculable time the souls of races have wrapped them with love. They have borne intact, to today, the dreams of the world.

In England, in days of Shakespeare, words were fat, red-blooded, unctuous. In America they have been growing leaner and leaner. We lack greatly the rich variety of the older country. Our speech has lost a kind of vigor, sweetness, substantiality. As late as Stevenson, this quality remained in English prose. It has never been transplanted, successfully, to America.

We are losing, too, some of our fine, former pride in Saxon strength, which is our heritage. We are less faithful to ideals. We are falling away from its precepts. We are losing sight of belief in the desirability of its[105] future power over our race. We are turning rather briskly toward foreign gods, toward false standards.

We are losing, too, the homely faith and friendliness of English social life, which is something whose strength we can not estimate; its merriment, uncomplaining courage, in the heart. We have nothing to substitute, or worse, things not our own.

They who loved words best, and perhaps understood best their varying values, were decadent Greek and Roman writers, who looked upon them as gems, who knew all their tints, their shades, and certain French writers, a little later (roughly estimating) than 1830. Callimichus loved them in the ancient world. He spoke of them as the Arab loved and spoke of Saïf, the sword. Something clean, cruel, powerful, decisive, uncompromising. Mallarmé, of the moderns, I think has loved them best. Hokusai, the Japanese print-maker, cried with sincerity: Write me down as the old man who is mad about line. With equal sincerity I exclaim: Write me down as the woman who is mad about words.

Cubism, so-called, does not necessarily belong to plastic art, nor verse. A new mind which may be termed cubism of the spirit has come; a spirit of destruction largely, brought about by the increasing passion of the individual for self, expression of self, assertion of self. The three points of time, that led to this, widely separated, different as they are, were (first) Christ and his teachings; (second) the Eighteenth Century in revolt against government forms and established standards; and the present, its equally great revolt against reverence of all kinds, its deification of the ego, its passion for destruction and the dawning scientific mind. This has brought a condition which might be termed the golden age of the commonplace, when people who can neither write nor think, paint nor carve, dance nor make music, insist upon the sacredness, the necessity of expression. The ego of the individual is enlarged. This is one cause of the increase in crime. It is inflamed. Everyone is convinced he has rights that bear no relation to his ability. Moral fiber is breaking. Ambition and talent are not the same.

This may be herald of a cycle of time, a new, a different world civilization. When such change has come, history tells us, art begins to die first, before morals or manners. The spirit of destruction is directed toward ideals.


In the plastic arts the careless, blithe, fine laughter is gone. The moment’s creative joy. There is less real beauty, but more nerve, daring. When the sculptor boasts either of modernism, or primitive vision, he harks back to things Assyrian, not Greek. The last touch in the world of that serenity we found in Greek marbles, is in the figures of Clodion. Afterward, it comes no more. When art and letters feel breath of decay, nations have gone a long way toward that decay. As proof, review the history of antiquity. Is that what is setting in? Is that what is going to result in remaking the world, in creating a new order of mind? Transition is startling. Everything is changing. Art and letters are changing rapidly; music too, the political outlook, morals, religions. Nothing is left untouched. A period of rebellion is here. Love, sincerity, friendliness, are disappearing. Another civilization is heaving to sight with the wild, brawling winds, the harsh atmospheric disturbance of birth of a star.

Some quality, usually in solution in life of our planet, and to us indispensable, disappeared. Since this has been evident.

It was after the Peloponnesian war, we must remember, that disintegration began in Greece. Consider, too, the slow dissolving of the Roman Empire, beginning in the West, then progressing, like political paralysis, toward the East. Consider the ruin, annihilation, of the powerful, the richly cultivated Han Dynasty, the change, decay, brought by war. Wars are to established civilizations what cancers are to the healthy body. They destroy tissue that can not be rebuilt. Sometime a law can be stated between war and decay.

In Cubism of the Spirit, as I have named it, revolts are many. This tragic, asserting of self is revolting now against death. When you divide the forces of the enemy you lessen his strength. Carrel divided the forces of Death, into general and elemental. That is a beginning. Who knows what the end will be?

It is a period of shattering of ideals, when all things, even of the spirit, are being bent to forms of material gain, of foolish, self-flattering assertion, shorthand, incompetent stating. Christian Science is product of the age because it is an age of self-delusion. The power is lost to distinguish between things that are and things as we wish they were. Man is breaking trammels, and in the triumphant emergence, he sees himself greater than he is. The prophets have been many who heralded reaction against restraints of the past. There was the Christ. Before the coming of Christianity[107] there was Greek philosophy. In the early Nineteenth Century there was German philosophy. There were Kant, Wagner. Wagner was an eloquent preacher of revolt. Like the warring angels of Milton who were cast out of Heaven, Wagner in rebellion, scaled again the battlements. This found its way to the brain of man in preachment more dangerous than words. It heralded gloriously the era whose disconcerting, unsuspected changes are upon us, making us shiver with presage of unmeasured things. No longer shall the golden, fluent splendor, life, be expressed in stale formulas. For new day a new robe. Who can guess what the result will be? While we live, while change progresses, what will be our attitude toward things we loved? Books, art, music, the world of the spirit?

Cubism was brought about in some degree, too, by focussing for purpose of quick, personal vision, of the art, the science, of the world. Some of them who were great in the past were great because of limitations. Dante was one whose nature possessed depth not breadth. Will art resolve itself into expression of untrammeled personality? In throwing away form are leaders nearer essence? Are we peeling to the skin, like wrestlers, for the Games, leaving nothing proud, superfluous? Surely there must be luxurious languor, foolish recreation, the fine, idle space for the unexpected, in addition to defiant assertion.

The lower class, peculiarly enough, under pressure of new ways of living, is disappearing, just as in the Eighteenth Century there was no effective middle-class. A social chasm results with disappearing at top of the aristocrat. Fromentin wrote some time ago: “Vers 1828 on vit du nouveau” and “le dixhuitième siècle brisa beaucoup de formules.” It was the sensitive artists, not thinkers, who felt it first. In serious consideration of facts of living, the artist is not to be despised. The decay of the great age of Louis XIV was heralded by great artists beginning to lessen in number or lose their luster.

In this general destruction, excesses must be expected. In the on-rushing tidal-wave of mediocrity against the Lords, wrong will be done. Sometimes Cubism of the Spirit will insist pearls are the best food for hogs. It will not be easy to find that absolute, that prepared outspread level of mind, suitable for pearls to roll on. Some of the pearls may melt, become invisible forever, such as pity, sympathy, old-fashioned kindliness. I suppose it is significant that Marquis de Sade was writing, in prison, his[108] book Le Roman Philosophique, which shows a cruel mind, just one year before the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Changes that come so stealthily they could not be chronicled, preceded this. The human skull, the physical eye, have been gradually formed differently.

The old, carefully drawn, punctiliously painted figure, with details insisted upon, hurts the modern eye trained to stenographic seeing. It does not wish to be pelted with fact that way. Seeing is not to be done alone by the painter but partly by the looker on! Increasingly insistent self demands share. The picture is to be a starting point, instead of an end. It is to be something for the seer to help make.

Before the Great War line and color began to disintegrate, to feel their way back to primal selves; this was a step toward new creation, beginning over. The end of a cycle had come. New standards followed. There was a re-valuation. The middle age of the modern man had begun. The old tenements of the mind were being torn down and swept away. When one reaches the top of the hill, there is nothing to do except to find the path that leads down. This is not genius. It does not deserve praise for perception or novelty. It has too great resemblance to necessity. If change means destruction, it likewise means growth, or the level upon which change is permitted to begin, on the other, the south side, of the hill. But Dostoievsky exclaimed when he was living in Germany: “In der neuen Menschheit ist also die æsthetische Idee volkommen betrübt.” Dostoievsky was not only an artist, but a sensitive one. He felt quickly the chill breath of the new order.

New art comes closer to man than the old. We are better mental tailors. In a close-up we must remember figures loom large. We see details we do not wish to see. We are getting a close-up of life. In addition, the old, carefully draped toga is large.

Art being sensitive, heralded approach of the new cycle, and close of the cycle passing. Disintegration of color, line, was not the only change. The bonds that unite people in social intercourse, friendship, family ties, weakened. This was followed by exploitation of self, an increasingly shifting standard. The ego became diseased. In the critical faculty there was discernible a lessening sense of values. The general reading public no longer knew good from bad. There was, too, breaking down, decay, of sociological tissues, just as bodily tissue breaks, with stress of years,[109] or warning of insidious disease. People who had reached forty when the change began, awoke to find themselves in a world they did not know. Everyone became Rip Van Winkle.

Like the trapeze performer, they had forsaken the safe ring, without being sure of the next. New World art picks up and saves crumbs from the wasteful banquet-table. It finds neglected things, minor things, apparently insignificant things beautiful, and with demands, with rights. It says so, if it does not believe it.

A new era is here. Educational ideals are overturned. Some things man created he finds not good. As counterweight there is inclination not to observe rules of the game, unless perchance some game be greater than the rules. In this counterweight there is inclination to translate theorizing into action, and do it quickly. The new world disregards the charm of idle thought. Sometimes it has bad taste to do things not meant to be done, but merely to be talked about. Occasionally it is dull, lacks perception. It has misunderstood the poetry and politeness of the Arab host, who declares: All I own is yours. With present dramatic seriousness and belief in the divine right of self, lack of humor, we would move in, and show the Arab the door.

The impulse back of living is changed. There is indication of a dying in the human race of what was called divine. A red apple rotting at the core!

New religions, moral ideals, are dawning which surprise in form, in substance.

Living is less fine. It is a rush for self exploitation. It is giving over rest, sunny leisure. The idea of work, of dispensing energy for display, decoration of front elevation of Sunday papers, is penetrating the upper classes. In being useful, they plan social achievements. They have found a game in which to star.

The opening of the Twin Americas, Africa, meant, demanded, a tremendous amount of practical work, exploiting; expanding technical skill. Under progressive conquest of things material, increasing manual dexterity, increasing technical achievement, the idealizing spirit of a smaller world, content with fewer things for the few, was in abeyance. Whatever happens or threatens to happen is not final. A glimpse, if imperfect, beyond the age helps steady us. Time has no model of perfection meant to be copied forever.


The more modern the unit of art, the more unrest, that nameless something that disturbs. In activities of the rapid present, there is not sufficient place for gentle things. Not all flowers bloom best when the storms rage. But in a future, far perhaps, after the material conquest has been carried through, there will come, I have faith to believe, a nobler conquest, loftier. Now artists are merely trying to explore, then map a new world. We can not travel always upon mountains. Meadow lands have to be crossed. We can not sweep all the new with vision at any one moment.

Wrapped in Christianity, which taught sacredness of the individual, lay undeveloped seed of socialism, the French Revolution, world-upheavals. At inception of new faith, no one can measure expansion. Vast processes of change are in progress all about us everywhere.

The restlessness in the United States has varied causes, one, the possibility (soon to become desire) of individuals leaving the class in which they were born. Restlessness welcomes change. Anything different is good. It is not necessary it be better. Life is a game. Concept is cheapened. Every small boy is given one ideal; namely, to get out of the class in which he was born and become President. It is like considering life as being poised upon the crest of excitement. The object of life should be to widen the horizon of intelligence, preserve kindness in the heart, and keep a margin of security for comfortable living. He lives most who thinks best, not he who has the largest accumulation of dollars, and moves about upon wheels in the air.

The Great War was the demolishing blow to the vast, antique structure, the marble columns of whose first falling echoed thunderously in May, 1787, in France.

In the West there exists dramatic, political idealism; inexperience, youth, together with lack of international outlook. In the West there is still youth, its desire, its progress, a dream suitable for a rich, young, unexploited country permitted for a century to develop undisturbed. Wealth has too often become end, instead of aid to larger living. It has habit of shrinking the horizon of the one who possesses it. It might provide broad spaces of leisure, instead of a mad, noisy movie program, which resembles destructive fury of the mastodons, the monsters, when they dashed ahead to escape the approaching ice cap. The ideal, however unrealizable, is not wasted because it forms compensating pendant to the practical.


When, in America, the poor become rich too speedily, the perspective of living is changed over night, there is boiling, seething. The new rich can not enjoy what money buys. In fact, they are still poor. True-judging, poised living, is not easy.

It is too bad a race should get so it can not support a moment without amusement. We have much to learn from the European emigrant. Civilization, what we agree to call by that name, becomes disease. The hardy, patient fibre disappears. The newspaper helps. It sets ideal of greed, haste. It preaches ambition, conquest. This destroys stable social basis. Each individual longs to grow to size of a monstrous cabbage in overstimulated soil. There was always inclination in the Saxon to stubborn independence. Too quick material advancement is balanced by moral letting down. It is a pity modernity should be afraid of plain spaces. It is too bad every State has not a Vachel Lindsay to preach the religion of beauty. May his tribe increase!

We have applied Kultur to money-getting. In doing it we were copying Germany. It was Germany that discovered the modern world and no one was at fault for the War. Its cause was cosmic; biological, an impulse of world-growth not to be turned aside. Cosmic impulses lift nations like waves, hurl them against other nations, lightly as helpless fish, and tangled sea-weeds, shells, in season of tides and storms. It was merely a mighty migration of peoples. It was dumb forces turning over races, with results we can not know.

The world felt the cataclysm coming. This is proven by the many writing nervously about spirit of the times. The increase, too, in knowledge, wealth, material power, knowledge poured into the human mind too swiftly and in quantities too great for assimilation. Lack of balance resulted. There was top-heavy overturning. Re-adjustments had to be made too soon. A different basis of morals became effective without being recognized in mind. Things merely fine began to be looked down upon as superfluities. The changing moral self began to wear a new garment, which was ill-fitting.

De Hoc—Cubism of the Spirit.

I trust there will not be silence eternal when the Troubadours are no more.


In reading many years in many languages, merely for pleasure, a peculiar unmentioned fact has come to notice. Most creative artists in whom imagination plays predominant part, (writers, musicians, painters), are born in the months of the fall and winter. It is true of all ages and nations. To prove conclusively the statement would be to fill pages with lists of names.

This occurred to me when I was studying Russian, reading Russian poets. There the list born in fall and winter is astonishing: Chemnitzer, Kapnist, Neledinski-Meletzki, Karamsin, Krylov, Schukowski, Ryleiev, Griboiedow, Baratinsky, Kolzow, Lermontov, Countess Rostoptchchin, Tjutchew, Benedikkow, Schevtschenko, Nikitin, Nekrassow, Turgenev, Aksakow, Pleschtschejow, Polonsky, Minajew. To be sure the greatest Russian writers are the exception that prove the rule, Puschkin and Gogol. In other countries I recall just at this moment, Rimbaud, Racine, Heine, Poe, Alexander Petofi, the fluent lyric poet of the Magyar race, Bobby Burns, Cervantes, Milton, André Chenier, Flaubert, Kolomon Mikszáth, the Hungarian of ironical fantastic prose and José Asuncion Silvá and Blanco-Fombona, born in grey November. Unexplored scientific fact underlies this. January and December claim those of maddest mind. And March has been the birth month of the greatest number of murderers.

The more I read Goethe the more conscious I am of the depth of untapped power he held in reserve. He was never written out.

Today the period of a writer’s productivity is brief. Life saps him. Its interests are too complex. Kipling has been written out for years. I could name others. Goethe was last of the great. After him there are no monumental figures.

He worked, off and on, at his Faust for sixty years. The general reading public has no comprehension of what a unique, powerful, creation of the mind that is, nor what unplumbed depth is in it. Byron, in his Manfred, had it in mind. Manfred is a copy. So is the Russian Lermontov’s Demon, which is superior, considered as poetry, to Manfred.

Someone accused Byron of imitating Faust. His reply was: “I did not follow Goethe, but both Goethe and I followed the Book of Job.” It is about the same resemblance as that which exists between passages of the New Testament and Epictetus. Not personal but merely expressive of the distributed thought of a period, a kind of thought, (in case of Goethe),[113] following in the wake of the French Revolution. It was a fashion people had of wearing minds, in disturbing days of reconstruction. Stillings declared that Goethe’s heart, which few knew, was as great as his mind, which all knew.

The time will come when the insistence of the East, written in the most ancient documents known, that life is one, will be proven. The deep heart-dream, the poetic fancy, of one age becomes the fact of another, and the cheap commonplace of a third. We shall find that the despised weed of the garden, the bullfrog in the pool, and Napoleon on the throne of France, are one manifestation of life. The most interesting thing the world has done, or will do, is slow turning of the ponderous pages of science, each leaf of which represents an age. One of my regrets is that I can not watch the turning leaves of all the future.

Sanskrit teaches that in the tree and in man dwell the same spirit. What a thing it was to do, to be able, by abstract thought, to reach that conclusion! An ancient Vedic hymn sings of Aranyani, spirit of the trees. Some of the words I have forgotten. These I recall:

Desire then at the first arose within it,
Desire which is the earliest seed of spirit,
The Lord of Being, in non-being ages.

The Rig Veda describes how offerings were made to plants because they were powers of life. The plant that has climbed nearest to human life, shown best what possibilities are there, and sometime probably will reward the observations of scientists, is the orchid. The only thing Darwin had interest in, he who was eager to solve the mystery of man, was that other mystery, life of the orchid. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, declared: The tree is thy brother! It was while standing under a palm tree, in the garden of Padua, that the idea of metamorphosis of plants came to Goethe. Perhaps Goethe thought noble palms above his head were exclamation points of wisdom! I am not sure he did not say something like that. Linnæus insisted that luxuriant flowers are none natural but all monsters.

Modern scientists tell us that when biologists write of the principle of life, they find illustrations among plants as often as among animals. The germ from which a human being is evolved differs in no wise from germ from which a plant is evolved.


What is life? Schelling, Comte, Lamarck, De Blainville, Spencer, have tried in vain to define it. Is it easy to know the exact difference between animal and vegetable protoplasm? In both are life. Life means progress, change. It is not impossible that the fragile lines marking a flower carry sensation. A nerve is protoplasm.

Nerve sensation is a line of molecules conducting impression. It is contraction and expansion. Evolution is the changing distribution of matter and motion, extending through periods of time.

We ourselves, once, were little more than dull, outspread leaf-surfaces. Sensation is not unthinkable development of plants. From sensation, the step to active mind is not impossible, nor out of range of seeing. Mind may not be anything but some form of matter. Matter is a witch wearing masks. It may be accumulated expression of force, reflected from matter.

The cells of plants focus light like eyes. A scientist in Europe has taken pictures with them. Cell-eyes may know love and hate. Without weariness, for measureless time, what have they not reflected? Poised upon the edge of tremendous heights, they survey chasms of transformation. They survey the circle of created things. Who knows what they have seen which the human eye may not record? There may be an amazing new botany awaiting us some day. It will not be bare mathematical computation. It will not drily number petals, stamens. In unthinkable distances of time, apparently dull, yet sleepless cell-eyes will be photographed. Upon these photographs there will be found the strangest, most astonishing moving-picture, the unfolding history of the world. The triumph, the tragedy, of cell-progress, throughout the measureless black night of time, will become possession of all. There we shall read the past. There we shall read the passions, adventures of the orchid, in its long climb upward, toward more powerfully sentient life.

Thinking does not necessarily wear one fashion of flesh. All things can not be seen from one view point. This is true of planes of life, which are an endless spiral, filling heights of years. There are planes seen only with the brain, when it brings to action high powers of thought-projection.

Pan and the nymphs symbolized Greek belief in the life-spirit of trees. In pagan days the names given to the orchid signified life. They were names of lovely women: Alba, Rosa, Aurea. Within this nomenclature of the ancients, it may be a scientific fact lies hidden. Facts are felt dimly by many before they are stated broadly by one.


The orchid expresses intensity. The modern world has loved it, because it is restless, perplexing, like the modern soul. The pagan world preferred calmer flowers. It was satisfied with the rose. The rose is an early Victorian.

Plants are not different from people. There are plant-villages that lead a busy life. There are plant-colonies that hate the invader. They protect themselves against him. There are vagabond-plants that run away, impelled to wander.

The orchid is an adventuress, reaching out greedily between planes of existence. It has become most superb in strength wherever there have been perished civilizations, wherever an unknown past has been prodigious.

In the land where the Inca ruled they riot. They thrive in Mexico, in steaming valleys the Aztecs knew. In Central America, Guatamala in particular, they mark effectively the disappearing outline of Mayan temples. Where the world was earliest populated, we find them. In Ceylon, on the ruins of Anuradapura, where palaces towered at a date when European man was living in holes in the ground like an hairy animal, they throng like flocked phantoms of delight. The forests of Siam and Cambodia know them, and overflowing rivers which wash dead marble-cities, such as Angor, whose ruins of a perished civilization fascinate me. There, orchids flash like flame. They light the night wherever the dim, sluggish, tropic rivers swing. In deserted, rose-hued, marble cities such as Amber upon the Highlands of India, where man comes no more, where no more there is pageant, peacock, nor king, savage orchids cling. They cling wildly; life, which refuses death. They are lured by lands where memories are many, where there is the dust of millenniums and ruins of the fabulous mansions of men.

It is appropriate that the man who has arisen to prove capability of plants for sensation, to prove they feel fear, suffer agony, should come from India, (Bose), where the idea was projected. And now we are on the threshold of truth that lies ahead.

The romances of the future will be more thrilling than the old commonplace of a man falling in love with a woman, or vice versa. The romances of the future, when the novel as we know it now must disappear, will be written by that sleepless, fiery-eyed Demon, Science. How tame, silly, will the old novels, plays, seem of Priscilla, (say), meeting Paul in the garden! What a ridiculous thing in which to be interested!


In this period of fashion not reason, which is to aim one’s heavy cannons, one’s best made spit balls, at the gods of yesteryear, it is well to read books of criticism for novelty, pleasure of mental exercise, and not trouble about believing what they say. Look upon it as a mental stunt! I have read recently that Flaubert was mediocre, and could not write, that Balzac had no ability of any kind, Maupassant lacked the short-story sense, and Shakespeare should be done over by someone who knows his rich Elizabethan England better than he did.

Very likely the age we are living in is sterile save scientific mind. How can it go on, when it can not see the road? Probably little, or nothing, being written in this feverish period, will last. It is the bridge that leads from one shore to another. We may find pleasure in the shores, but the bridge will be forgotten.

An impulse to besmirch what no one dared to besmirch is not genius. Its fineness, originality, value as attitude of mind, are questionable. Yet I can not dispute the fact that a large spot of black shows on a white surface. It can be observed at a distance. People see it. A thing that is new is not necessarily better, not to mention best.

I am thinking, among other things, of critical discoveries of Croce. Sometimes his discoveries are like the originality of finding how much more comfortable to live in is a house without a roof than one with a roof. Here is hoping Signor Croce always had his umbrella or lived in a land where rain did not fall!

Marsden Hartley is a poet. He is sometimes prosy with his brush, but when he takes to pen and ink, he blossoms. There is the making of a charming stylist in Hartley, which is just what he would like to have us believe he disdains.

Among his pictures, I have liked his tragic New England farms, black with accumulated terrors of puritan winters. I have liked his slender vases of crystal, holding a flower visioned to disappearing outline, where loveliness alone remains. This is gold. But gold circulates, is most useful, with admixture of alloy.

Art is stenographic mind-reading of the trembling soul. It is the truth which living obscures, or makes us unable to see, because we are insensitive. One who has gentleness, sensitiveness, which are other names for fineness, feels and responds. It is not dependent upon intellect, sharpness[117] of wit. It has to do with nobility. It is this critics neglect. It does not need book-learning. It needs the fine human instrument.

This is about what Tolstoi meant when he declared it was for the people. Tolstoi spoke at a good time. It will not be long before all things will be for the people. The future belongs to them. There will no more be walled gardens.

The idea for Rostand’s Chanticleer was inspired largely by The Birds of Aristophanes. Rostand was a borrower. Likewise from the same comedy, Leopardi, incomparable Greek scholar, took the idea for his essay on birds, in which he tries to fancy theirs the ideal life.

The Greeks knew how to set words so they glow. Every time I re-read him I am surer there is nothing new. In The Frogs, in the journey of disguised Bacchus across Land of the Dead, we find initial idea of Dante’s Inferno; to be exact the Pilgrimage Through Purgatory. It is the same only under guise of another religion. There are a few books in which most printed art has its roots. Solomon was right. There is nothing new. There are only a few Homeric laughers.

The exotic grace, the honeyed charm of Swinburne, came from Greek and French poets. No wonder the perfection of Swinburne made would-be poets take to new verse. It was hopeless to contend with him. When you reach the top of the hill there is nothing to do but go down. Swinburne reached the top of the mountain.

The long winged dapple swallows, (Aristophanes), is a Swinburnian phrase. From the choruses of Euripides, he learned music, swift-swinging resonant movement. That breathless on-rushing, which no poet of today has, came from here. They are astonishingly alike in sound-quality. A poet is like what he admires. Love is a magnet in the world of mind.

Maeterlinck, in his book about bees, borrowed from Fabre. In philosophical articles he has shown indebtedness to India. I recall a series of these articles in which he uses the words, the unknown guest, literally translated from Sanskrit. He has been praised for the phrase. It is a fine phrase. But it does not belong to Maeterlinck.

Alfred Noyes, in Drake, leaned lightly upon a narrative poem by Spencer, describing South America.

An Arabic poet, on his way to exile in Africa, sang sadly:

It’s a long white road to Mekinez!

That was before the days of Tipperary.


There are writers, (ideas) whose attraction, influence, has been for people of distant races, who have leaped across national boundaries. Song, like the wind, keeps a way of its own.

English Byron’s influence was greatest in Russia. There it moulded a race of poets. It set seal upon a movement in letters. Both Puschkin and Lermontov, the two most gifted poets of the country, have been nicknamed The Russian Byron. In Germany, on the contrary, Byron’s influence was slight, just as the influence of the French Revolution was slight there, and spread out helplessly, like sea water across marsh-land.

The romantic movement, whatever and whenever may have been its origin, reached height, became rotten, over-ripe, in Poland, in Hungary, in prose and verse. No poets have so gone the limit in creation of romantic verse as Slowacki, Mickiewicz, and Krasinski, in Poland. And no romantic prose, (I mean in realm of the story), can equal that of Paul Gyulai, the Hungarian, as reliable as he was in criticism, and less romantic, although still tainted with it, the novels of Csiky, likewise of Hungary.

The character of Merlin, and the Forest of Broceliande, has had fascination for French mind. French poets refer to it often. They try to re-create its appeal in their tongue.

Apollinaire wrote a book about it, a book magnificently illustrated with wood-cuts by Derain. He called it L’Enchanteur Pourrissant. The subject allured that delightful poet, Paul Fort. His book, part of which sings the song of the misty north over again, is called Les Enchanteurs.

Jaroslav Vrchlicky wrote sonnets to Merlin, who teased his Bohemian fancy. English poets have not cared so greatly, aside from Tennyson. The idea has a sumptuousness a trifle un-English, a twist of mind not usual with the race.

Although the Russians, in the old days, read French prodigiously and spoke it, their mind was influenced by England, by Germany. The philosophy of the latter ploughed furrows through the race which time has not been able to efface. The effect of France over the mind of Russia was greatest in the Eighteenth Century. The educated Russian was always comparatively free to choose mental food, because it was easy for him to read other tongues. Right here is mark of kinship with the Orient, whose subtle thinking fell so easily into different moulds.

Pio Baroja’s Juventud Egolatria (read in Spanish. I have not seen the English version), shows a man who has genius for going wrong. After[119] reading it, one does not have increased respect for his head or his heart. It is too bad to be able to enjoy few things, in any department of art, life. Envy, hatred, have eaten like rust. One might perhaps guess him to be victim of some concealed, incurable physical ill which blasts life.

In addition to individual hatreds, he is generous enough to share those of the rest of the world. He remarks: “Respecto a la hostilidad que Nietzsche siente por la teatrocracia de Wagner, la comparto.” In regard to hostility I fancy Baroja would always be generous enough to say la comparto, I share it.

His mind is peculiar in its reaction to ideas. But his modesty we admit. I noticed a line in which he confesses the opposite of what Loti happens to say in his last book, Prime Jeunesse.

No la quiero conservar: que corra, que se pierda. Siempre he tenido entusiasmo por lo que huye.” (I do not care to preserve anything: let it hasten away, let it be lost. Always I have felt enthusiasm for that which was fleeting.) Loti declared he had devoted life to preventing anything from perishing, even memory.

In Baroja there is visible joy in destruction. With it, insensibility to beauty. A nature harsh, dry, cold. He is narrow, dogmatic. He steps nimbly in a little circle where everywhere are marks of poverty. He is not grandly gloomy, tragic, like Leopardi, nor can he, like the Italian, create impeccable art. He suffers from lack of sympathy, vision. He has neither the generosity nor expansive spirit that permits him to enjoy, admire, learn. There is something about the book which is crabbed, petty. In addition, words do not come fluently. He is what Germans call wortkarg. His critical ability is slight. He recalls faintly now Leopardi, Dostoievsky, as to constant inclemency of mental weather. They, however, were moved by genius. He hates splendor, the fury of great spirits with which he has little in common. They make him feel small, cold, old.

He accuses Balzac of stupidity, delirium. That very likely is the way the mountain looks to the mouse. Victor Hugo is rhetoric, vulgarity. No wonder he was dazed by Hugo’s vocabulary! He can not admire the prose of Flaubert. He is like a person who having lived in darkness, has dwarfed eyes unable to respond to light. Again he seems a naughty boy who stands in middle of the street for purpose of spattering passers-by with mud, taking account neither of age, infancy, his interest being to bespatter.

What he writes of Dostoievsky is rather brilliant. That is seldom ascribed to Baroja. He says (translating as I quote): “In the spiritual[120] fauna of the Twentieth Century he will be something like the Diplodocus.” He is perhaps an uncatalogueable monster, but a monster of genius not easily to be equalled or imitated.

He could appreciate neither Sainte Beuve nor Taine. He read them like a blind man. When he read Ruskin he had no comprehension that whatever that critic’s opinions as criticism, as stylist he is worth while. Baroja talks something like the conceited fop of an isolated village. He may be scientist gone wrong, who uses a scalpel, where his present profession calls for a pen. He makes attempt to vaccinate his readers with his peculiar virus.

Baroja’s opinion of the Latin historians, Sallust, Tacitus, shows an inclination to baseness. He thinks evil persistently. In these two cases judgment and scholarship are weak. He grudges Tacitus posthumous fame. But it must be admitted he can appreciate Caesar’s Commentaries, and that his word of them is juste. It may be he does not know how to envy them.

Baroja is not even pleased with the place where he was born, something regarded with affection by people in general. He wishes, plaintively, peevishly, it had been elsewhere. He wishes it had been among the mountains or else beside the sea. He is displeased it was a city where foreign people come. He treats his fellow townsmen, Sarasate, with disdain.

Stylists have been men of charm, kindliness. The lack of these qualities, suavity of surface, is marked in Baroja. There is seldom a sentence that gives pleasure.

Yet if he disavows ability of other men we must give him credit of disavowing his own ability as frankly. That points to crabbed honor. He does not forget to say a good word about Azorin, the critic. A Yankee eye to business! But heaven forbid me from accusing him! None could have the heart to wish him a disagreeable trait with which he is not endowed.

Baroja boasts he is modern. This is something of which he is proud. With him it has a local, countrified application, meaning that he is not emotional, that he reserves accelerated motion for his feet. He has a limited outlook. An unchanging view point.

The Spaniard, no matter what his condition in life, worships the aristocratic idea, and is more or less guided by it. No race cherishes more deeply ideal of class.


Baroja does have disconcerting directness. The result perhaps of constitutional disillusion, motived by dislike for what charms others. Steel-edged seeing, however, is his! It may be he is disgusted with the sham men call life.

I would like to believe something akin to the pity of Dostoievsky is mainspring of his hatreds, or a sense of justice which he sees violated. And perhaps he regrets that life is becoming scientific, collective, and must suppress the individual.

War we know has lost dramatic beauty. It is merely scientific slaughter. We can not guess what science will do to transform life.

La Busca (novel), by Pio Baroja. In the novel I find the same sad, gloomy mind, with no sense of structure, of reasoned novel-building. Once in a while, in this book, he has forgotten himself and written a resonant sentence, (page 30, the top), which I feel sure if he knew, he would pluck out, to throw away.

The novel shows that Baroja, in his mediæval Spain, has felt urge of new forms, new bottles for wine of the spirit, but which he himself is unable to procure because of imperfect technique. He has, too, affiliation for filth. But he does not paint it well. He should read Rachilde. La Busca is a saving in too permanent print, of trivialities.

I have read two novels for which it is not easy to find justification. One is La Busca, the other Duhamel’s Confession de Minuit. The latter shows, however, the miracle of writing three hundred pages about nothing. That takes skill. You can not find a better example. It is an attempt in abnormal psychology, providing mind magnified sufficiently to find the idea.

The Tour, by Louis Couperus, is another disappointing book. But the advertising agent of the House that published it is not disappointing. I commend him. He deserves increase in salary. I bought it upon his recommendation. I rose to the bait.

The book is full of missed opportunities. This may be fault of the translation. I have read many translations, however, by De Mattos, a veteran translator, which were splendid. I regret I did not read Couperus in the original! I looked forward to glorious renewal of joy in the rich past of Egypt, its astonishing architecture. What an opportunity Couperus missed in describing that pilgrimage of people to roof of the Temple of Serapis, where, under witchery of an African moon, they were to sleep,[122] royally robed, in honor of the god, then garner dreams! I, myself, then began to dream hungrily of Africa, amazing land which man has never conquered any more than the ocean; of Tunis, in the barren wastes behind which, the Colossus of Thêbes used to burst into radiant song when the sun came up and the burning rays touched it. The book possesses neither beauty of portrayal nor scholarly exposition, to lure the weary, discriminating epicure of things of the mind.

There is a poised, a praiseworthy calm about René Bazin. There is something that comes from nobility of nature that I like. He has observed the good brown earth, the humble trees with happy little leaves, in an intimate, loving, painstaking way that recalls Hardy’s forests of Wessex.

I recall an autumn in the forests of Wessex, where the importance of each gold-brown leaf that fell was lifted to power of romance. Most subtly, delicately felt, then adequately reported. When I read the early tales of Hardy, I regret that in America we have lost so many rich Anglo-Saxon word-forms, that American English has become anæmic. It has grown thin, showy. The novels of Hardy are England, the fibre of England, while American novels are not of any land. They might have been written in comfortable ingrain, or Brussels carpeted places, where there is noise and a phonograph, in Fez or Ispahan. It is a pity to miss savor of the soil. It is a pity to be flowers grown in dry, movable, windowpots, instead of in the Earth’s brown, wrinkled breast.

The soul of René Bazin is preeminently Christian, with seal of the Christian ages. He can not conceive beauty for itself. For him it must become morality. He speaks of the grand refroidissement de l’art national, which has been called The Renaissance.

The soul of him belongs to the world in which pity was born, and this, if I mistake not, is trait of his nature. Even in objective seeing it threatens to become paramount.

In Redemption, Le Blé qui Lève, Bazin belongs to the group of Millet, Rousseau, and Breton, only he happens to use words instead of oil and brush.

The overflowing Loire in spring, (Redemption), the broad mist-dim meadows it feeds, are magnificent. The great landscape art of France is there. I felt a thrill of pleasure, sense of thirst for beauty satisfied, as when I look upon a canvas. In this canvas, it seemed to me the light was finely managed; balanced massing of shadow with sun. The effect was[123] ennobling. There was something that made one believe again in one’s fellow men. It is good for the heart of the world to read books like his.

I fancy Hardy regrets poetry was going out of fashion when he began to write, or he would have been a poet. Like two other novelists, Paul Bourget and Anatole France, he was born with gift for it. The delicately woven texture of his thoughts belongs more to poetry than prose. His brush is a poet’s brush, his are a poet’s observations. And he has read them prodigiously, great and little. English and Latin poetry few know better. He is too sensitive for the broad blare of prose.

Hardy does not know women. His women are monotonous, undeveloped. They are little more than sketches. To be sure it may be objected that the peasant type he prefers does not lend itself to shading, to differences. But I will venture to assert, without definite knowledge of any kind on the subject, that he himself did not know women. If there had been anything of Burns in his nature it would have come to the surface, either in life or in books.

But no one has described inanimate, humble life of the fields as he has; the lonely downs, grass, furze, the forsaken sea’s edge; the desertion and chill of winter or early autumn, on lonely settlements and isolated homesteads. To read him is good as taking a vacation, he gives so truly the freshness of open spaces. He paints in words the same type in England that Millet painted with brush in France. In both is reverence, sincerity. Like Millet he lived among the people he pictured.

His observation of the fields, the folds is loving, fine. The total effect is that his novels are rooted somewhere; they have definite place. They are homely, solid, instead of brilliant, detached. Now almost everything is superficially observed. I enjoy contact with a mind that knows basic things of the land written about, and I like his scholarly respect for old English and Latin masters. I like all that dissevers from cheap, showy, tinsel, blatant novelty.

Hardy said once that the speaking age is passing for the writing age. Now the writing age is passing for the seeing (Movie) Age. It is too bad suns insist upon shining singly! As for me I shall remain, perhaps all my time, in the first two ages, finding in them, as I do, pleasure.

In the world of Hardy, the amusements of his characters are things that are no more. Imagine, if you can, a novelist of today having characters[124] play chess. It seems a thousand years ago! It relegates them to the Romans. And the puritan manners, outlook, of his women are something inconceivable, even in strait-laced little-town places. This narrowness, puritan prejudice, which covers the lives of his characters, seems old. It gives us means by which to measure changes which have swept life of English speaking peoples since he wrote. And years have been few. We have been going at cyclonic speed. We are on the down-hill spin of civilization.

Hardy’s books bespeak leisure; leisure to observe, think, live, write. They are to be read, leisurely, with loving attention to small details. They are made to sip like wine whose supply is not great and may not be made again. He does not believe in art written in shorthand.

I like to contemplate his England: England of stately, ordered living, great country homes; of love of forests and fields; and the sustained interest in noble scholarly things, in extensive knowledge of masters of Greek and Latin.

The feeling for caste is strong, reflecting truthfully the England he knew, that feeling for class, which the new civilization will destroy.

Old age comes soon in Hardy’s novels, and lessening of courage. He lacks faith in life through excessive sensitiveness. His men are middle aged at thirty.

Sometimes there is Miltonic ring to a sentence of Hardy’s. This, for instance: “Grimness was in every feature and to its very bowels the universal shape (cliff) was desolation.”

The words Milton used have lost edge in today’s speaking, I notice by observing afresh the above. We do not feel as Milton did, the full, far ring of their meaning. We use a lot of words we partially sense, instead of few we sense in entirety. When I read books of English writers of long ago I have sensation of handling bright, crisp coins. The words of Milton are large, clear, round, beautiful.

The story of the youth of England as Hardy depicts it is story of martyrdom transferred from Rome to Victorian England. It is not easy to believe it could have changed so since Merrie England. This, joy-destroying puritanism is as out of reason as licentiousness.

Fate strikes in the Hardy novels with inexorableness of Greek tragedy. Did he learn this from life? Or did he imbibe it as rule of creation from careful, classical training? The physical world Hardy shows is lovely.[125] The spiritual world is stern and life difficult, where natural right wears garb of wrong.

Hardy believes in fickleness of women. To him they remain Biblical characters, creatures under a curse, workers of woe, whom he has seen at a distance and not well. He lavishes phrases upon them, careful meticulous description, but still he does not paint them understandingly. Only a roué could do that, who had found favor with them, and who knew their hearts. I do not believe he admired women greatly, except those whom he created to suit himself, and only fleetingly then, as one admires, then regrets, beautiful glass which is broken. Hardy has seen life and judged it, in light of the puritan Scriptures.

In conversation among workers on thriving Wessex farms, men of the field, forest, there is something Shakespearian. There again is the tough, dependable fibre of England, England of conquest. And no one has loved better than he its fields, spring-time and harvest; and its brave, mist-covered, protecting sea. How many dawns, how many sweet noons of summer, he has patiently watched it, or observed with critical eyes of connoisseurship, then loved it deeply!

His sense of humor must not be neglected. Not kindly American humor be it said, nor brilliant, crackling Irish humor, like hoar frost on clear, thin crystal, but one that is English, like an English sun, shining persistently (which is the habit of suns), but, never burning with brightness, something, however, we ought to be grateful for, because of reliability, as English people are grateful for niggard, hard-fought living. The happiness, grief, discreet merriment of his stories are framed just as the life of England is framed, against background of ancient churches. They are a series of pictures within eloquent curves of mullioned, Gothic windows.

Human love (with Hardy) got mixed with religion. He expected women to resemble saints. Life did not come to his expectation. He could not love where he could not reverence. So he passed it by. He had puritan inability to make concessions. Puritanism, without his knowledge, ingrained life, until it fashioned dreams. He could not forget and be happy, in the present beauty of a thing as it is, without inquiring minutely into condition of its soul, both before and after. The pagan put in practice this, forget. The puritan never learned the noblest teaching of his faith, forgive.


I have enjoyed vastly traveling with Hardy along fresh, green, sea-bound highways of the land he loved, with the bracing sea breeze in my face, my hair, and lazy, long winged sea-birds wheeling over head. I have enjoyed the peace of old-fashioned country gardens under high heat of noon, and his quaint, careful naming of old time garden-flowers. And I have liked, too, sometimes feared, the tragic lonely blackness of the downs at night, with only the wild, steel-grey flash of the far away sea and above my head dim, forgotten stars. He has flashed moments of sensation upon me which I treasure. He is always sincere, and sometimes great, because he can both think and feel. The keenest memory he has left with me, is of the roads and the forests of Wessex.

In the novel of the mid Nineteenth Century the Jew has been too often exploited as the modern roué. This is injustice. Neither history nor observation justify it. To mention a few books because they are important and led the way, which prove this, I call attention to The Harlot’s Progress, by Balzac, Zola’s Nana, Paul Bourget’s Cosmopolis, and many a short story by Maupassant. In each a rich Jewish banker uses wealth to buy women. And in each the character of the Jew is so similar it could be lifted from one book to the other without injury to the mise-en-scène. They are Jews from Germany. They have similar names, Steiner, Hafner. Their methods of procedure, business enterprises, amusements, ambition, home life are the same. This is true likewise of La Garçonne, the book by Victor Margueritte, of which France has expressed disapproval. The Jew in Zola’s Nana, seems lifted over, with this new book.

The blond courtesans in all are alike, too. It is peculiar that courtesans of the world of fiction, women who have been thoroughly bad, have been blonde.

The history of the antique world happens to corroborate this. She has been the type without heart, soul; most lustful, mercenary, cruel, uncaring. What was back of this? Was it borrowed impulse handed on, or was it reason founded upon observation?

The vocabulary of Hugo and Zola is tremendous. No other French writers are comparable. Hugo of course is the greater. Coming from their fluent range to moderns, Duhamel for instance, is like coming to one-syllable words on a baby’s blocks. The range of the two older writers is[127] prodigious. One can not help but be impressed by virtuousity. It is astonishing, the swinging around the head of the dictionary of a race.

Only French and Russians have understood, then portrayed faithfully in fiction, the natures of women. Beside Zola and Balzac, Turgenev, Dostoievsky, Tolstoi, the best of the English are cold, and a little dull. The bonfire of vision which illuminates is seldom at their command; the thin-edged penetration. Restraint of soul hinders. Some insufficiency hobbles, keeps the writer poised in a safe, less poignant place. In the seeing he is seldom able to forget, then create from the unmeasured which is beyond self. He stands in his shadow. There is a habit not to carry the novel to its logical end as was way with the great Frenchmen. In brittle, new-world atmosphere, the subject crumbles long before the supreme moment. Now our novelists are writing dull imitations of difficult, melancholy, sad-skied Russian novels, trying to make believe they suit our light, bright, lyrically dramatic atmosphere, and our young land, where promise is paramount, and experience and wisdom slight.

In the person of Nana, the courtesan, proud Venus of the modern world, Zola symbolized the ultimate fall, then decay of France through unrestrained living. Powerful prose is here. It is style founded upon plasticity of logically marshalled fact. It is great in reach, conviction, resonance.

The balanced exigencies of life Zola could feel, then express. His exposition resembles the regal unfolding of a rose. It is full, natural, complete. The result is fine, intellectual satisfaction.

Zola, in Nana, speaks of the forties as the dangerous age for women. This may have suggested the novel by that name: Das Gefährliche Alter. (The Dangerous Age.)

Zola’s unfolding an idea, then pushing logical progression on, in sequence after sequence, is remarkable. With security he steps from the individual to the universal. His novel construction resembles an uncoiling spiral; tiny at first, scarcely larger than a dot; at last, huge enough to embrace the universe. Nana is a little outcast of the Parisian gutter. When he finishes the novel she has been lifted to represent not only Paris, then France, but the devouring sin of Latin peoples; passion, debauchery, lust. And still he is not satisfied with sublime expanding of idea. On, on he[128] goes, a god now, marching toward unseen worlds! Before our astonished eyes we see Nana symbolizing the world-force the Greeks named Venus, which the pagan soul of Zola believes still to rule.

In his Rome, too, he shows world forces again, again expanding, magnificently triumphant. Over them, queening it as of yore, stands the glorified Venus of the Greeks, meaning that natural impulses in the heart outlast laws made to subdue them, just as after building, destroying again what is built, the red earth remains, insolent, sullen, but always dominant.

History tells how poor people of Rome went, for generations, to the crumbling Colosseum for material with which to build humble homes. Just so today lesser novelists go to these massive creative monuments, such as Zola’s Rome, for purpose of a similar quarrying. The tiny germ for little novels, stories, is concealed in these giant accumulations. We find what may have been initial impulse for Imperial Purple, by Saltus. We recall Zola saying, in this book, that the imperial purple of the Caesars has slipped down upon the shoulders of the priests. Here is the ghost of Bourget’s Cosmopolis. In the labyrinths of Zola’s rich, masterful Rome not only these books, but others I might name, float, disembodied shadows.

There are only a few novelists counting all races. They can be counted on fingers of the hand. Other novels are woven out of the floating, uncounted richly wasteful threads of the great. In the little popular story tellers of any day or race, there are few ideas, seldom profound seeing nor anything worth while. There are few originators. The works of Zola marked the death of the old novel. Zola is not using imagination, but the cold observation of the scientist. The scientific mind is dawning.

The fear which was to make Maupassant mad is the hidden, dramatic motif in his stories. It sat in his brain weaving patiently a Penelope-web, which, at last, smothered him. Maupassant was cynic, sensualist, and sumptuous master of the hidden soul. He touches the heart, the intellect, and the senses.

Timon le Magnifique, (Max Daireaux), is a merited satire upon today, its playthings, its vain, but would-be serious toys, a clever synthesis, usually false, of how something may be made out of nothing. It is written in a cold, detached manner. But I should not be surprised if it were aimed at individuals of Paris. Cubist, futurist art, is skillfully enough interpreted.[129] There is sincerity. Often there is perception. And there does not seem to be more malice than necessary. The temper of mind of the central personality is characterized by lukewarmness. The frail story gives opportunity to display reflections about life, which have, as motive persistent disillusion, and no small amount of scorn of that human animal, man. It is the tragic skepticism of a world, once eloquent, at fire heat, now tepid, among men who are weaker, who have fewer moments of grandeur. There were things said brilliantly but without emotion. Fine food, served cold. Take it or leave it, I do not care. If you can think, you will see I am right.

It would have been as well if the author of Timon le Magnifique had hung up his cold shining observations in an essay instead of a story. The display room would have been less obstructed.

Occasionally these observations are commonplaces said backwards. He likes to reverse the engine of living. He likes to watch wheels work. To every person his own wheels!

A pessimist without passion. A competent observer without conviction. The reading makes me feel that in France the prose of masters is no more. The greater number of French novels I have read recently, and they are many, are unforceful muddy rivulets trickling along slowly, with difficulty, where once roared the diamond-glittering torrents.

De Wandelende Jood (The Wandering Jew), by the Flemish writer and critic, August Vermeylen, is worth reading, then remembering. The description of the Crucifixion is superb. It moved me. I felt afresh the world’s Great Drama. It held my mind fascinated for days. It banished inclination to read anything else.

The book recalls the powerful painting of old Holland Masters. It is formed plastically like a play, cast in four undivided parts, and it possesses some singular plastic force, something that depends upon form alone.

The second part is very fine. It opens with a picture of Ahasuerus after the Crucifixion. It is clean and grim. In some magic heightening of the etched word it shows us the beginning of the curse of wandering, and the indelible flicker across his heart, his mind, of the gentle, the unforgettable smile of Christ: “Hij ging, het hoofd naar de aschgrauwe aarde gebogen; de hemel daarboven was er mit meer moor hem, hij wilde nietz meer zien. Maar onafwendbaar brande in hem de zachte vlam van Christus.” This[130] shadows forth—this story of the Wandering Jew—the something persistent, super-enduring in the Hebrew race.

It is interesting to compare novelists who have written of Rome: Zola’s Rome. Serao’s Conquista de Roma. Lagerlof’s Rome. Pater’s Rome in Marius, with its memories of the wolves and snow of winter upon the Alban Hills, and the yellow, luxurious, too lovely winter roses from Carthage; the book’s sumptuous, peculiar spirituality. And the Rome each one builds for himself when he reads Suetonius, the Twelve Caesars. Ricarda Huch’s Rome. Niebuhr’s Rome is a colossus and the work of a colossus. Bourget’s Cosmopolis, which is Rome again.

Serao shows us Rome in Lettere d’una Viaggiatrice, a splendid piece of the kind of resonant prose, she only knew how to make. Goethe’s pictures in letters to friends in Germany, and in that remarkable verse-sequence, Die Römische Elegien, and Winklemann’s Rome, cold, plastic, devoid of color. I refer to what Winklemann called his little writings of Greek and Roman art, and the majestic, almost too glorious Rome of d’Annunzio. It is interesting to follow reactions of such people of power as these to the call of the Eternal City. In the opening lines of d’Annunzio’s Il Piacere, there are sentences so luxurious, silken, they remind me of rich reflections upon old Venetian velvet.

Loti, accomplished savoureur of all that was exquisite in space or in time, steered carefully from Rome the Mighty. Rome, divine and immortal, lured the immortals. Other superb cities have known and felt the magic of his art. But Rome he left untouched.

Edward Lucas White’s novel of Rome, Andivius Hedulio, is a moving-picture scenario printed in book form. It is a large and attractive skeleton, wearing a little more flesh than skeletons in good society have been in the habit of wearing, even in New York.

The most brilliant author’s introductions I know are those Nietzsche, Poet of Philosophy, has written for books of his epoch-making thinking. No one has been able to throw surer, more far-reaching noose over the problematical future. His Jenseits v. Gut u. Böse he called philosophy of the future. That is daring. It may be true. It is conceivable at least, a world in which good and evil, as we understand them, may not be standardized. Life cast huge shadows for Nietzsche, like childhood’s flickering[131] fireplace-shadows, on the wall. His philosophy is these stalking shadows, terrifying sometimes, astonishing and always superhuman, these shadows of men who live.

Truth does not stand still and let us build clean, white, picket fences around it, and label it Exhibit A. It changes, takes new forms, under new suns. There is nothing fixed, eternal, except the pitiful drama of man, and the hopeless hope in his heart. It may be real; at the same time, it is unstable as the sea.

It would not be easy to be happy, even keep sane, and look upon existence with the scorn with which Nietzsche viewed it. A bitter, laughing tongue with deadly penetrating power, was his. As the French Revolution cleared the air for different social, economical living, the philosophy of Nietzsche (by surprising power to destroy), helps clear the atmosphere for less prejudiced thinking.

Nietzsche is the mischievous boy in school of the old philosophers. He insists upon knocking down with hard, well-made paper balls, the idols they set up. He is brilliant phrase maker. He transforms the heavy, slightly ponderous German tongue to frothiness of French. He stands behind it with up-lifted whip, cruelly lashing it to fresh agilities. His word acrobatics are worth considering. Yet he is seldom pleased with the result. He can not, like little people, rejoice in what he himself has done. The outlines of words as they are do not suit him. He shades them. He sets them differently. He cuts off edges. He insists they no longer falsify his thought. No written statement suits him. He wishes it a little different. The exactitude of his thinking is superb. It is difficult for words, whose sense boundaries are not exact, to express it.

Wonderful, lightening clear, shining, far, problematical glimpses he flashes forth. In certain, to him inconsequential asides, he is Prophet of Hebraic height. It is in words like these, of great thinkers, with prodigious power of self-projection, that living men gain idea of the civilizations that are on the way.

There are few more distinguished literary critics than Nietzsche. His seeing is revealing. He has few superiors in sympathetic appreciation of the printed word in hands of a master. He has fine ear for music of the sentence, too. No subtlety, no fineness, is lost. What he says about Petronius makes me long to read him again after the years. It fills me with zest, with pleasure. “Wer endlich dürfte gar eine deutsche Übersetzung des[132] Petronius wagen der mehr als irgend ein grosser Musiker bisher der Meister des presto gewesen ist, in Erfindung, Einfallen, Worten:—was liegt zuletzt an allen Sumpfen der kranken, schlimmen Welt, auch der Alten Welt, wenn man wie er, die Füsse eines Windes hat, den Zug und Athen, den Befreienden Hohn eines Windes, der alles gesund macht indem er alles laufen macht!” Nietzsche wants to know who would dare make a translation into German of this book by Petronius, who more than any other of the great musicians, was master of the presto! What magnificent things Nietzsche writes about him! He insists he had the swift feet of the wind, and the wind’s breath, which clears and makes clean, with a scorn that sets free, and so forth. Here I found again that Feast of Trimalchion I stumbled through dully in school days, and later read with zest, while glorious visions of Rome brought from Latin poets, likewise from etchings of Piranesi, crowded my memory as I read.

Nietzsche makes the same statement Hardy makes. There is no writing today for the ear. There are no architects of the sonorous sentence, sculptured phrase, hinting at vast resources, wherein a multitude of minds could swarm and find safety; no sentence of mighty curve, powerful sweep. Cicero wrote such sentences. So did Demosthenes. Speech is crumbling. The rock is fretting itself back again to sand. It is no longer strong enough to contend with the forces of creation, chaos, the desolating forces so rapidly destroying the old, it is suitable now for petty writers, the little men, and the wilful winds. A force of disintegration is at work. That is why the little men with swollen ego are able to handle it, then feel proud.

Nietzsche impresses me as an artist gone wrong rather than philosopher sang pur. He makes reasoning conform to eye-delight in noble line, distinguished color. He feels, he enjoys first, thinks afterward. Sometimes he impresses me as an artist who did not have courage to try his artist’s wings, who felt, feared, perhaps, they were feeble. So he fell back upon brilliant, learned, fault-finding. He became the distinguished spier-out of men’s weaknesses. It is not easy for Nietzsche to see without passion. To see with passion is not of the philosopher. His seeing is bound too closely to the emotions of self. His hatreds, his envies, play commanding part. His hatred, for example, for Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Spencer, Locke, Carlyle, and so forth, and so forth. And his envy of Wagner and the Songs of Schumann. A strange combination of opposites for a man of his gifts!


But it is a powerful, outreaching comprehension such as is not given to two of one race in a generation. In Nietzsche I think sometimes I found what the word comprehension means, (namely), a wide reaching out, then a skillful pulling together of many far powers, with the quick, firm, magic welding into one; the swift, clean focus.

However important Nietzsche may be as philosopher, I am sure his greatest merit is as master of words. In the German tongue, his is virtuosity. He recreates the language, as a Pope once said d’Annunzio had done with Italian. He has made possible a new, a different tempo. He has increased too its flexibility. Ruskin has not written with greater joy of art of Turner, than Nietzsche of music that charmed him. Nietzsche can do such things with words as Wagner with tone. The power of the two has kinships broader than racial, the kinship of men who had climbed patiently to heights.

Nietzsche declares that the appearance of Napoleon in the world made Goethe change his opinion of man. Evidently Napoleon demonstrated something that not even the imagination of a Goethe could reach. The Little Grandson of the Great Revolution made men of genius open their eyes. In few has there been such will to power.

Wagner in music, and Nietzsche in Also Sprach Zarathustra, were among originators of modern art. Zarathustra was perhaps the first new verse. The movement has been carried on by other nations. I am not sure that Germany did not discover the modern world. England seldom originates.

Nietzsche speaks of loving the south as a school of healing. There we hear the poet. He thinks music in the north grows pale, yellow, sick for the sun. There his longing burst forth. There was something resplendent, tropical, luxurious, in Nietzsche, which the north could not let flower. The soul of Nietzsche resembled glowing canvasses of Turner. It was filled with the same bursts of light. He needed, to be happy, effective, some equatorial land of the soul, lighted by greater suns of forthcoming strange civilizations, whose boundaries are non-geographical, where his superhuman dreams could find encouragement. While his body was bounded by Germany, his mind lived anywhere, at will.

In modern art, even France is borrower, like England. France habituated to lead the way, because her new art came from Wagner, and the north. It was in the glowing, resplendent mirror of his music, that brilliant,[134] receptive France, surprised at first and not a little vexed, caught the thought, vision, of strange, revolutionary, æsthetic ways, which later she tried to persuade herself she found first, then pursued alone. Wagner, in short, taught expression, something different. He was first to fit closely, and with skill, another garment to the soul, the soul that had changed after the Great Revolution, and was no more capable of holding proudly the princely toga.

The range of emotions, expressions, is greater in modern art than in classic art. And certainly more richly, subtly shaded. Modern art does not let a fragment slip away. It takes account of the ugly, brutal, disgusting, obscene. Classical art preserved only beauty. It skimmed the cream, then threw the milk away. The ages have made us poor. Now we must take care of the milk beneath. Now we must set about making cheese. Now we must not disdain peasant work.

Among early ones to take firm stand against the classic order, were Wagner with tone, Nietzsche with words, Delacroix with color. Classic art was a straight line. Modern art is a line infinitely curved. But fresh complexities were creeping into life, with gradual rise to power of the masses of voracious appetite, multiple mood. Art is not now for aristocrats of superb culture. It is not made for a lonely Petronius in the silence, the secrecy of a violet-perfumed palace.

I enjoyed greatly the noble, chiseled art of Greeks and Romans. I enjoy in a different way the emotional whirlwind of the rough undistinguished moderns, with blinding dust, noisy upheavals, less accomplished expression, childish uncertainties, and the knowledge that no one knows where it may sweep us. But it may be merely a prolongation of habit of reading! I have faith that developments are to be prodigious. I know complexities will be considerable. In light of what has been accomplished, the prose of Landor is as remote, as delicately carved Alexandrian gems from the commodities of Woolworth. The new art is for the masses; the old art was for the intellectual aristocrats, the people of trained taste.

The youth of mankind rings in the trumpets of Wagner. Youth means achievement. And hope! The music of Wagner is a conquest of Rome. It is another down-pouring of the barbarian from the troubled, sad, mist-covered north.


That which is finest of the old civilization that is passing, of the culture, wisdom, faith, love, of two thousand years, is stored in the prose, the verse of France.

There slips into the best prose of French writers of great periods, phrases, sentences, from deeps of the subconscious, the world-soul, dwelling, in the powerful, seldom seen, creative places, that other races have neither been able to see, seize, nor make visible; a superb letting go of the ego. This is something we do not find. Our land is too new, young, too devoted to the fleeting thing self, which has progressed no further than today, than that reasoning mind with which as children we used to learn the multiplication table. The creating of art has no little in common with teaching of Eastern philosophies, the death of self. It, too, is an effect of time. It is proof of rich ripening, under multiple suns. Old World nations possess this in some degree. The sorrows of much living and contending faiths have taught them. In addition, Good wears many faces. Deeper spiritual revelation is theirs, enveloping, then penetrating the subject under discussion, with something sweeter, more eloquent, than the sumptuous sunsets of Lorraine, something to be sought among masters, as wild honey is sought in the forest. To the mind, indeed, that is what it resembles, The Taste of Honey. It is something that all but shatters with delight, blinds with unshakable truth. It is a lightning flash from the racial soul.

Among Greek writers I have thought of this. It has occurred to me most often perhaps when reading Aristophanes, a joy whose memory remains. Again it is in the superb, cumulative, spendthrift, piling of adjectives of Homer. It is in that on-rushing, resistless, cataract of verbal music of Æschylus.

I recall it in Quintillian. I recall it in Tertullian. And occasionally, but rarer, in Latin historians. It was in Catullus. And Virgil, the Eclogues, Georgics. It was something in solution in the world of that day, honey from the heart of man. Horace was too modern. Art was becoming fashionable, facile. He wrote with eye to what people would think, later say. But Virgil kept the seasoned sweetness of the past.

In writers of modern Spain I have seen it. In Galdós, the Episodios Nacionales, and its springing up again in the Spanish tongue, in South America.


In Italy, Italy of the great ages, it has been rich; d’Annunzio has been too proud perhaps to suffer, to learn with the patient anguish of the soul.

It has flowered best in France, the wild thyme, which goes to the making of honey. Consider Maurice de Guerin. Recall lines of Verlaine, Heredia! The great Balzac, Bazin, Bertrand, Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet, Baudelaire, Flaubert the Magnificent, letters of peasant Millet, the diary of Fromentin in Africa, Huysman, Mallarmé, and the Little Grandson of the Great Renan, Ernest Psichari, in the book about Africa, The Centurion.

I recall an occasional line Rimbaud wrote before he was twenty, which gleams in my mind today like cut steel; hard, perfect, indestructible, cruel. The great poetry of France is prose, which is the world’s best.

When this rare quality is found in English writers, it is usually in those who have loved Greece, and expatriated their souls, except in case of early writers such as Chaucer, Swift, Spencer. Then there was another, a different England from that of today. As examples Pater, John Addington Symonds, Arthur Symons, Hewlett, the Brownings, Keats, Dowson, and so forth. England has written prose. In the calm, the repose, of her fields, her lovely, flower-girdled villages, her sea-sweet mornings, where she was able to order life as she wished, she should have written better. But we must admit her prose has been monumental. Today haste, (imported), a not well digested modernism, which does not become her, are working their will.

The distillation of living, wisdom learned from suffering, is in Russia, youngest of the European political family. Here emotion enriched the soul. Suffering has given it the ripened ivory of centuries. In Russia it is prose writers instead of poets, who have seized it.

I recall certain of Russia’s stern revealers of national life, in the prose novel, before whose pages I have sat spell-bound, shaken, tortured, by undeviating vision, while the Russian landscape swept swiftly before my eyes. As stylist no one surpasses Gogol. Poor, half mad, peasant Gogol of the magnificent phrase! The surface of the verse of Puschkin is words’ lightest fabric. It is moonlight enfolding thought. To touch it is to destroy it. Translating at best is doing the impossible.

I recall reading long ago, in a German translation, Die Familie Golowlef, by Scheschedrin, a novel whose strength lay in its monotony. It conquered, it became grand, terrifying, by the same power by which the[137] African desert grows grand, monotony, a level unenlivened by hill, tree. It is a masterpiece. I remembered it vividly for years.

I have read them all, the novelists of Russia. They have saddened me. They have made me hopeless. They have made me, I trust, a little wiser. I am not big enough, to be sure, to face truth, their terrific revelations, I flee away to the glamour of the south, weakly I know, to songs born by shore of the blue Mediterranean, to light of a yellower sun, a land of white sculptured marble.

In Russia the human soul has been stripped, left naked, to ride the blast. The reading of Dostoievsky all but made me ill. The blinding light of that tortured, violent, revealing brain! The terrors he found in hearts of men. The added terror of cold, filth, disease, hunger! The sure, unswerving seeing that made no compromises.

Truth comes out of Russia. One must have suffered to face fact. Most people are brave because they ignore what they do not wish to see. People tell me they have never been the same, talked nor felt the same, after reading Dostoievsky. I, too, pagan that I am, have been sadder. I have glimpsed spaces of which I am afraid. I know now that the deserts of the mind are vast and terrifying. I have kept oftener, in pleasure, the arrière pensée. Before that, the Merrie England, gay France, (Italy), of Latin ancestors dwelled within me. I thought at least that peace might be, such peace as one finds amid the fairy fields, the flowers of England.

If any one should ask me to name my greatest pleasures, the things that give me unvarying joy, I should say immediately one is French prose. Then I should feel false and a traitor to symphonic music, rare textiles (for which I have a veritable passion), and old weaving, ancient Chinese drawing, made in ink of India, (Sumiye), and the sea.

But when I am ill, when I am sad, there are lines of French prose I repeat for sheer delight, with the dumb instinct of bringing joy back. Only once in a while down the ages can a man breathe such delight into words as Alphonse Daudet. The supremely great sentence can only be written through the great forgetting. One slight touch of the proud moment’s foolish consciousness destroys it.

In Daudet’s Contes du Lundi I usually begin with the words: Cette nuit le mistral était en colère. What a charmeur was Daudet! Vigorous, animated, lovable, and brilliant. The light and power of divine creative[138] energy touches me, makes me clean, whole. Art like his has the life-giving power of God. The weak, the false, the broken, fade beside it, disappear. Then I go on to the description of the boats on the sunny Loire in Spring in Le Pape est Morte, the morning he ran away from school, and told his mother a lie about the Pope’s being dead, to escape a thrashing. I have always been glad he ran away! Next, Flaubert’s L’Education Sentimentale. The opening lines of short stories by Maupassant, where words have the fine, evocative precision of etching, with that beauty beyond no one can name: “Down there across the bay, that is Corsica you see fading away into the mist.” Maupassant’s story of love in the Eighteenth Century, that eloquent piece of unmoral scorn. I read Chateaubriand, whom Prince Metternich declared was in the habit of saying foolish things in noble prose. Passages from de Guerin, the one beginning. My old age regrets the rivers. Loti’s descriptions of the Orient.

Passages from the monumental Balzac, who, by the way, was not made for the ear, but for the mind. Sentences of André Gide, and the essays of Nicolas Ségur, the verses of Verlaine which I love:

Rimbaud mort,
Mon grand, peché radieux.

Certain frail, pitiful phrases of forgotten love, from Mme. de Sévigné, dead long ago, but whose heart still beats. Mme. de Stael, whom Napoleon hated, never achieved the supreme phrase. She was logical, clear cut, sure, a problem in geometry. And plaintive, poignant Villon. Some of Manuel Galvez’ descriptions of the Argentine, in his novels about South America which are so fine, and Coelho Netto’s word-paintings of Brazil, and the fabulously luxurious life led on vast estates there.

The greatness of art of a race, is dependent upon the amount of joy, sweetness, heat stored in its heart by happiness. It can give only what is there. The joy of the ringing, triumphant clarions of the Roman legions, and the passion of Christ, echo in grand creative souls of France.

Perhaps great editors, competent critics, had something to do with making word-artists of France. If we have not had great writers in our country, neither have we great editors, at this moment, to sponsor them, great, judging from the power of perceiving, (the artist in the editor), not considering regularity of incoming dollars. Here an editor seldom passes[139] judgment upon the thing per se. There must be an appetizer, so to speak, to lure him. More or less violent usually. And then there are his personal feelings toward the writer. The writing, itself, counts little.

One editor, for instance, finds a convict in a prison who can scribble. There is glory in discovery. He proclaims him. Commercialized publicity begins. He is likened to Dante in exile, and Ugo Foscolo. Country papers, having no opinions, copy abundantly, then praise. Soon it falls flat, because considered as poetry, its value was nil. The editor was not interested in poetry, but only in himself. The writing good or bad was not of the slightest importance, in his judging.

If a girl broncho buster on an Arizona plain is good at broncho busting, she is asked to write her opinion of the Apollo Belvedere. This is excellent illustration of what is meant; the thing per se does not count. In France it is the thing that does count.

I once knew a plaintive, romantic lady whose ambition was to be heir to something or somebody. Editors in America have the same romantic itch, only in their case, it is itch to be a discoverer.

I am interested in Conrad in criticism. He is troubled by Balzac, penetrated by the perfection of Maupassant, haunted by the heights of Flaubert. He could not accommodate himself to looking upon his own work in the furious emotions they create. But why should he wish to drag Conrad into such company? Only the Latin mind, I suppose, and Bielinsky, have achieved impersonal criticism.

I had a wonderful time reading Heine! In my cheap edition the books cost three cents, or five. I wish I could have it over again!

My mother knew that I was good-for-nothing, so she did not try to make anything out of me. It was good sense on her part. She let me idle and read. In reading I was out of the way, quiet, and as usual, useless. At the same time I was the scandal of a reasonable, hard-headed family who liked to work, and who knew without doubt in which direction to go. When I was learning Russian minus a teacher, at eighteen, they, my aunts, cousins, used to peer at me through windows, door cracks, then whisper tragically to each other: “She has looked at one page an hour! No one but a fool would do that!”


To them I have remained a fool. My grandmothers loved me too much to call me that. I have since wondered if in love there be not wisdom, distilled genius of perception. Love always dwells somewhere in the realms of light. What was reading Russian at eighteen, in comparison with making buttonholes that were not round like hogs’ eyes at both corners, or cream puffs that did not split? When the women could not think of any fresh gossip, they fabricated a new story about me, my laziness. To them work was hand-work.

Happy days of life, however, were spent in a lonely, ugly, sun-and-wind-beaten, prairie village, reading in a dozen or more languages, the word-masters of the world, while the neighbors invented hair-raising tales of my laziness. I was scandal of the village! Sense of justice, very likely, is rare!

There I read Heine, all of him, every word. And over and over! I wish I could have the joy of it back. Those were memorable years in Europe when Heine, Goethe, Chopin, were in their prime.

Germany helped enlarge boundaries of the human mind, when she began putting out cheap editions of the world’s printed art. Here, for a few pennies, one can procure in scholarly renderings, classic writers of India. Kausika’s Zorn, (a play) by Kschemisvara; Savîtri, a dramatic story of the supremacy of love from the Mahabharata, Mudrarakschasa (The Chancellor’s Seal Ring), a play of the ancient Indian Drama, Malati u. Madhava, Urvasi, a dramatic piece by popular Kalidasa.

In reading these books, I found where Goethe procured short, surprising meters that do not belong to Germany, (despite the Stab-Reim), which he uses in Faust. They were a borrowing from Indian Drama. Goethe borrowed from Persian writers too. He was enchanted with this newly presented art of the East, this world of beauty and blazing light. And so was Heine! Heine was akin to it. The Orient was in his blood. The soul of him dwelled under its mighty sun. I fancy his dream of the Orient was more superb than realization could have been, had he had health and money at the same time, to make the journey. Blessed be poverty! Poverty is still the nobile donna, of the divine dream of Dante. Her road is straight. Her road is narrow. But it leads far.

Occasionally pages of Indian literature are richly studded with color, like their white lace-work marbles. The Peacock Throne, for example, with gems! The same lavishness! The same piling of richness upon[141] richness, that not even their astounding sun could destroy, and which their black eyes, deep and disconcerting as pools of ebony, knew how to love.

Compare this, (to return to Goethe’s borrowing), from the Hitopadesa, with Faust:

Grausam zart,
Sanft und hart,
Falsch und wahr
Spenden Gabe,
Suchend Habe,
Immer gebend,

Would you not think you were reading Faust? Goethe’s West-Östlicher Divan is merely a divine way, a proud impenitent poet’s way, of translating Firdusi, Hafiz, Saadi. He declared that in reading life-giving books of the East, he had cast off years, grown young. Somewhere in The Divan he cries: Once more I will be young! I will mingle with the herdsmen on the plains. I will travel with the caravan!

I expected a revel of delight from Verhaeren’s Helen. I did not get it. At the same time I admired its reason, logical unfolding, keeping in key; few lines of color and great passion, wisely distributed. Verhaeren is best in lyrics, occasional poems, which picture Flanders. In this, if I mistake not, he is great. Les Flamands is a masterpiece. And so is Villes Tentaculaires. What can equal those portraits of the monks! He paints with words as Flemish artists painted, The van Ostade, (Adrian and Isaac), the Brothers Maris, later, for example. Nothing too humble.

He has given me pleasure. For forty years Flanders has had an increasingly talented company of men, in the novel, short story, verse, and in the history of art and art criticism, they have such commanding and accomplished figures as Dr. Josef Muls, whose books are available in most of the countries of the Continent in adequate translations. They are too little known, on this side the Atlantic. No one can count, it seems, the vagaries of editors who accept translations. Couperus, the Hollander, and Ibañez, the Spaniard, are not representative of the races to which they belong. Both, however, have been heralded as that by American editors.


As an editor Mr. Kreymborg is not a success. But I admire his individual work. It is genuine. It is original. It is unblushingly itself. I think Mr. Kreymborg a man of power in a new field. He has a strange, queer, colorless daintiness. He fine-foots it, with muffled vowels like a learned fugue of long ago. He is as afraid of their bold, gay, brass blatancy, as a small boy of a scare-crow, in a cherry garden. A quaint, low-voiced, dull-hued, crotchety, somewhat ill-tempered little figure, dreaming of conjuring worlds into vision, with dim, small gestures. May he multiply and grow fat!

Stuart Merrill dedicates a volume of poems to Verhaeren, whom I admire, with two lines so noble they should not be forgotten. He speaks of him as a

Nom qui sonne comme un fracas d’armes
Qu’un roi barbare aurait laissé choir dans la nuit.

Albert Samain gives me something the sensation of those warmly lucid, those golden, early evenings of Lorraine which hold out life’s pitiful false promise of perfection. The same distilled imagined richness of the past! The picture of the pagan world snared his heart. His verse keeps the sensations of un beau soir d’Italie. It is a magnificent antique world he saw, and knows how to show.

Chariot d’Or, by Samain, presents a way to journey with the mind, a little while, delightfully. Imagine if you can that this book of his went through eighteen editions, with speed, in France. What kind of verse-book could do that in America? Not one of this class! You can not serve your soul and an editor’s taste, at the same time. And greed! In America gold must be served. And then family!

Of his sonnet sequences I enjoy the Versailles Sequence best. He learned how to make it from Heredia. But a good thing is good, bastard or honest-born. Lines cling to memory. Such for instance as:

Ce mépris de la mort, comme une fleur aux levres!

But it should not have closed with an exclamation point. Perhaps it did not! My memory is at fault. There is no need of blowing a trumpet after such a line.


Silvá, like Venice, is a phantom of delight, I can never forget. He was an exquisite, on a level with Petronius, and he lived in a city to which patrician memories and the royal pride, of that royal race, the Spanish, had been transplanted, Bogotá.

He loved butterflies and childhood and the first early nights of May; fleeting things, light lovelinesses which pause only long enough to die. He loved the flight of swallows which he liked to call the wings of Spring.

I have read verses of his which give me exactly the same sensation as verses of the Greek Anthology.

Old windows were another passion of his. Very frequently occur the words, vieja ventana.

En la estrecha calle una muy vieja ventana colonial
Penetrando al traves de los rejas
de antigua ventana
El cantor ...
de la vieja ventana se asiò a la barra
Per la antigua ventana que de sobre al jardin—
... del espacio la negra sombre
flitran por la ventana rayos de luna ...

I think of him as the poet of windows. I wonder why they fascinated him so? Were they symbols of escape? Or did they spread out vistas for him? Always in his lines, for me, there is some maddening, unseizable beauty, which holds me helpless like a magnet, makes me a speechless, but willing prisoner.

His little posthumous book of verse (The greater number of his poems together with all his short stories and most of his prose, were lost in shipwreck on the Venezuelan coast.) is a musicale diary of his days, alas! so few. Here transformed, then preserved in beauty, we find fact.

A new use of recurrent sound, with him wholly personal, spots phrases with weird echoes, insistent wild, wayward emotion. There slips over us continually the sad shiver of faint, far fairy bells.


There are rhythms like the clash of armor-resonant; and rhythms like the shrill song of little yellow birds at dawn. He says that among verse-forms, the sonnet is king.

He can give perfectly the aroma of the season of the year. A few words.... I smell the winds of autumn in a high mountain-land and taste the purpling grape. All from three chained words of Silvá! Then I see white mist distort the meadows and feel the frost. He witches back the spirit of what has vanished, and with a lordly gesture. The past, perhaps, perfumed his dreams. The trembling fragility of his sensations is something almost beyond comprehension. I have received tremendous emotion from the haunting beauty of old windows, in old grey, stone-stucco, tinted, crumbling palaces of the conquistadores—after Silvá has taught me to see.

Silvá’s Nocturns are as rich as the twilights of Chopin. I wish I knew how to hand on his charm to others, in my colder English tongue! But no one will ever do it. Behind each word lie layer after layer of emotion, vision, all the hauntingly sweet, indefinite horizons of great poets, who have suffered.

No one could snare twice (I am thinking of the work of the translator) the suggestive charm of all these unseen landscapes of the soul, of space, of time, and over them the perfume of divine, unspeakable regret. The Nocturns are windows, the windows of his soul, open upon forlorn and fanciful worlds, which allure too greatly, with some sad, not sufficiently forbidden fatality. The greater the poet, the richer his evocativeness.

He loved the faint blue light of tardy twilights; and white luminous August, with its restless clouds. He kept always a lingering backward glance toward the magic valleys of childhood.

In many languages I have read the poets of the world, but none have touched me quicker to the keen emotion which blasts the present, and whirls on toward the deeps. Like Goya in painting, he was one of the first to take the important step from the old to the new. In verse-forms, he was one of the path makers. Coll said he had built Silvá an altar in his heart.

I do not understand how a man could write such a charming book as Jacques Blanche wrote in De David à Degas, and follow it with such inane useless things as the Cahiers d’un Artiste. I regret I wasted money on a copy of the last set. I haven’t money to waste.


He wrote the art criticisms for love. He knew what he was talking about. He talked well.

He wrote the last for money, bolstered up by a questionable sense of duty to say something about war. He said it. His friends regret it.

The introduction to the book on art, is by Marcel Proust. It is delightful; fresh, spontaneous, joyous. I read it three times.

De David à Degas is a book of perceptions, just appreciations, knowledge. I was surprised, however, in his article on Whistler that he should omit the influence of incomparable Chinese and Japanese draftsmen. He can see but one influence, of course, France. He does not relish the genius of Whistler; he gives us to understand he was not so much, in Paris. He feels about Whistler as Conrad feels when he thinks of Balzac, Hugo, Flaubert, Maupassant. Conrad was never really great. He merely coquetted with greatness. No page of Conrad ever satisfied my thirst for beauty! Perhaps English was not the proper garment with which to dress his soul!

Blanche writes entertainingly of two Englishmen: Beardsley and Condor. One can not be too gracious to Condor! He was an unacknowledged point de départ for modernism. There is some unexplained law operative why a man of such genius as Condor can not grasp what is his during life. Is it envy of the base? Is it envy of the little ones? The little are always so greatly in the voting majority.

The portraits by Jacques Blanche in oil, are not more alluring than some he draws with pen. For instance, listen to this about Manet: ... ce joli homme blond, gracieux, elegant, à la cravate Lavalière bleue, à pois blancs. Does not that make you feel as if a friend said hello over the telephone, or a speckled trout nibbled your bait, on a bright blond morning of May? He makes delightful Fantin live again. He declares that after Courbet, Manet was the last painter of tradition.

Papini, wild-eyed Italian youth, with surprised up-standing hair, who edited Lionardo in Florence is, in my opinion of slight consequence as poet, prose writer, philosopher. To put the cart before the horse, his philosophising is acute indigestion from too much Nietzsche, Kant, Jungs-Stilling, Hegel, et cetera ad infinitum. In this melange of German mind and northern morals, he was unable to see his surprised way, or anybody’s way. He read. He suffered. He vomited words. His philosophy is[146] account of the peregrenations of a nostalgic, young and ambitious mind. His early verse might be called pretty, puerile, powerless. Lines like these are not great poetry:

Quaderno bianco, principio di giorno,
Conto vergine pagina prima—
non si parli di ritorno
che in cima all’ultima cima.

His verse is weak. His twenty little reasonings about verse are no better. There does not seem to be reason for being. They possess neither logic of art nor life, nor discrimination for the dull. However, in South America, in Buenos Aires (or as they say down there, B. A.), and in Rio, they prize him. I respect their opinion, those Spanish and Portuguese literati. It may be mea culpa! They are ahead of us in appreciation of arts of the Old World.

I enjoy André Gide. And he lacks sense of form which belongs to Frenchmen. Few have written better of Verlaine. His Les Nourritures Terrestres contained lines I liked. Once in a while there flashes from his pages, a touch of the fine prose of France.

Nene which won a Prix Goncourt, is finely simple, without pose. It is sincere. The rejuvenating breath of fields is in this story of peasant life. Perhaps that is what French prose must do, like the giant in the fable of antiquity, go back to the soil, in order to leap up renewed, strengthened. The descriptions of nature have an unsought charm: Le soir tombait, un soir d’octobre....

Evening fell, an evening of October, lovely as an evening of summer, but holding keener, more grievous beauty, something more intimate that makes the soul shiver.

It has the poignancy, poetry I recall in early peasant scenes by Cazin, the same glory of yellowing fields; the same sadly serene peace of the sky.

El Encanto de Buenos Aires, by Gomez Carillo, is attractive. He is the Spanish Loti. Not so wonderful as master of words, of course, but worth consideration. He was one of that band of brilliant Spaniards who helped Rubén Darío edit Mundial, in Paris, the lamented Amado Nervo being of the number.


The book is well printed, pleasing typographically. Carillo, like Loti, loves the souls of far cities. He says in the introduction: ... mi alma siente la gracia de ciertas ciudades con una intensidad que los grandes ministros y los grandes periodistos desdeñan. Like Loti, he is a stylist, if not such a commanding one. I have followed him in various quarters of the globe. One I recall happily, is Egypt. He says he likes to watch resplendent stars he has never seen, rise from the lonely depths of oceans. Sometimes he forgets and becomes sentimental. It is easy to forgive, because so many times he forgets and then becomes artist. He has more than a little of Loti’s distinguished manner. He has sympathy, too!

His impression of New York pleases me. By New York I suppose he means America in general. The educated Spaniard, as a rule, keeps fine disdain of us, what he terms those new uncultivated people, up north, known as Americans. Hear him: La vida ahi es un vertigo, y el hombre un iluminado o un automata, una maquina, o un delirio. De arte, de gusto, de armonia, de medida, de distincion, ni siquiera una idea tiene la metropoli norte americana en su existio callejero. There is some truth in this!

What makes this more interesting is that nowhere is there more what he calls vertigo, than in B. A., Rio. I read all their magazines. They are brilliant, just as aggregated diamonds are brilliant. This, what he has just been saying, is what Spanish and Portuguese neighbors think of us. I could not count the number who have said something similar to me. In it there is unconscious aristocratic disdain of king-lovers for a young, ill-bred, free, and too noisy people who boast of democracy when they do not boast of dollars. We bow our heads to the superiority of Latin culture. They swung a long time from Caesar’s coat-tail. We did not. In fact, we are just beginning to swing. And not from Caesar’s. The Spanish-Americans write noble, flexible prose. Carillo’s prose has rhythms both ample and fine.

He sends stinging arrows, some of which hit, at New York, Chicago, America. He is of the opinion that cities that are beautiful, (meaning those of the Old World), are dirty and uncomfortable. Our comfortable clean cities, on the other hand, are ugly. They are something with which he does not like to profane fine, sensitive eyes. He hates Broadway. His sensuous, sumptuous soul loves the lasting summer of rich hued tropic lands, their languid, their sapphire seas, and perfected luxury of living.


His description of what he calls Oxford of the Argentine, makes me wish I were a boy, young, so I could go there. It is a magnificent idea, which the Spaniards have put into execution in this school, an idea worthy the dramatic genius of Latin peoples.

He becomes lyric over the avenues, parks, of Buenos Aires, in one of which he remembers to tell us he found Rodin’s Thinker.

Carillo is learned. He possesses charm with power of distinguished seeing. I have read him for years. He is seldom disappointing, unless he writes a story. In the story he lacks architectural sense-structure.

La Lampara Maravillosa, by Valle-Inclán is a charming piece of book-making; richly illustrated, printed in two colors, red and black, and from the Sociedad General Española de Libreria, Madrid. I have seen lovely books from there! I wish I could buy them all. Even if one could not read them, they are pleasant to look at, like objects of art.

Valle-Inclán is a dreamer, a maker of poetic prose. I recall a merry caricature of his long, thin, black, owl-eyed, glasses-berimmed Spanish face in a magazine of Mexico. Probably the magazine was Tricolor.

The Magic Lamp, in this book, renews memory, a memory rich with the accumulation of a thousand years. It has charm, inventive grace. There is a touch to be sure here and there in the prose of the Spanish church-fathers; something monastic, shadowed, hieratic, a trifle pedantic. The gesture of a priest, in short, a lingering, regretful, graceful gesture, for beauty of a world which is passing, and which he should not pause too often to see. His prose is great enough to serve as a model for writers.

He visited Mexico. I read his articles. His reactions to the new country interested me. This dreaming scholar sees best with eyes of the mind. The eyes of his body have weakened. In his heart he loves the beauty of Greece, Rome, the pagan world. At the same time, by birth, he is a priest of the Inquisition. He has their face, too; long, thin, pale ascetic. A long list of books, sensitive, delicately and powerfully written, stand to his credit. He is one of the most accomplished stylists.

Villaespesa, of El Espejo Encantado, was in Mexico at about the same time. His fancy was touched to furious flame by pre-historic, Toltec Mexico; the Indian past. He wrote sonnets about it. He reconstructed the romantic twilights of long ago, by fanciful, flower-burdened lakes in[149] that land of fabulous forgotten wealth, and prodigious palaces where, from ears of stone statues, scattered carelessly in gardens, pink pearls hung the size of pecans; and emeralds, gold, gems, had no value. He seemed especially able to savor its sumptuousness, then to pass on the sensation to others. He has written well, too, of the African desert. He writes novels, plays, verse. Villaespesa is poet of old Spain, España vieja. He might be great. I do not know why he is not. He has power over words, and vision.

L’Atlantide, whose originality or non-originality they have quarreled over happily in French journals, is a peculiar novel for a Frenchman to write, because it is excellent example of what is known as Teutonic imagination. As to originality, referring to his idea of injecting something into bodies of living people which would turn them to stone, this was subject of a story by myself, called The Painter of Dead Women. It was first printed in the Smart Set many years ago and later made one of a book of short stories called Dear Dead Women, published by Little, Brown & Company. It is the same thing, even in details, in which it is carried out. And my book, of course, never came to notice of the Frenchman. It is a case of two people having the same idea, which is not impossible. Many of us bend at the same moment over the great grey, shining, reflecting pool which is universal mind across which, in time, all pageants pass.

There are good sentences in Benoit’s novel, pleasant pictures of Africa. The old story of Lost Atlantis continues to fascinate like the faces of blond women. It is a dream of vanished delight which has floated over the world. In both that novel and Pour Don Carlos, Benoit proves he knew better than almost any Frenchman today, how to handle the gripping moment.

I have had happiness with André Salmon’s L’Art Vivante. It is not a great book. Instead it is a satisfying one. I commend it to people who care to know painters of the new school.

He knows how to characterize. Please listen to this about Van Dongen, the Hollander who paints women so luxuriously: Anacreon venu de pays des Kermesses, petit-neveu de Ruben’s, ignorant des mythologies, matelot ivre fournissant une pacotille galant aux sirènes, Van Dongen est un peu tout cela.


I hope I shall never by accident, as I know I shall not by intention, wander into sad village streets of Vlaminck! They are things of astonishing power. The first one I saw made me suffer like a nightmare. Some stern, grief-tempered soul I trust I shall be spared the misery of meeting, looks out of his canvasses. The vision of Vlaminck is hard, cruel, tears the world to pieces. The tragedies that have been written can not equal the imagined terrors of what must go on within those shabby dwellings whose sad exteriors, he doubles, then redoubles, by hard reflection in cold, clear surfaces of ill-kept canals, or lonely rivers.

The water is deep, clean, magnificently reflecting. The sky is angry, threatening, or else profoundly sad, as if from many tears. But the colors are fresh, insistent, ringing, proud. The brushing is joyous. It is sure and powerful. The structural similarity of his pictures is unusual. But his range is slight, and limited. His blues, greens, have primitive simplicity that contrasts with the too sophisticated structure. The inelasticity of melancholy, of depressing winters by sullen unhappy seas of the north that wearily await spring is here.

I found, the other day, a Gauguin, that is magnificently savage. Two standing women; fine, bare, brown bodies, wearing twisted about the waist, one dark blue, the other high, haunting red that keep the key of their flesh. An acrid yellow-green background with a dark, gum-pink hill. Splendid color pattern! There is something about it that renews the senses. I can drink of it with my eyes then feel good. In this same collection there was a luscious autumn by Guillamin. It reminded me of delicate flesh of tropic melons which I have seen but could not name, in lonely islands, by the Carib Sea. A level foreground, delicately tufted; dry, dull orange-yellow; faint, red-touched violet. A line of plaintive trees; one or two green, round, fat, the others faint; fragile ghosts of gold. A sky that balances daintily but deliberately both green and blue; with trailing, regretful clouds of autumn; grey, yellow, violet.

The harsh, quick assertiveness of Matisse was here; large-patterned, aggressive in hue; but strong, resonant.

Toulouse Lautrec has four portraits which are infinitely sophisticated of line, quick of touch, crisp. Memorable work; too disillusioned, but kept carefully in a low key.

Salmon, writing usually in the grand manner of French prose of the past, about men in paint of the present, who do not believe in the grand[151] manner (stage sweat and swagger), nor the great gesture, says startling things. Hear! Hear! Et dans sa demi-retraite André Derain achevant les œuvres peut-être les plus vastes de son temps and so forth. (André Derain putting the finishing touches to works which perhaps are the most vast of the age.) Derain’s figure paintings are unlike his landscapes. The figure paintings are of the past; the landscapes of today.

I recall a canvas by Derain I saw in Paris: A road in the south of France somewhere, magic in simplicity; not easily disentangled charm. I carry it in my memory. It is massive, with God-like mastery of some vast disturbing chaos. Troubling! The world’s new eyes are sometimes things to consider. And with care.

Adonis is dead and the Loves are lamenting!

I quote Greek song in honor of Apollinaire, to whose pen-magic moderns in the plastic arts owe introduction first to fame, secondly, to dollars, then dinners, in regular, non-dwindling succession.

Ah, Apollinaire! delightful vagabond of art. Apollo’s second son and namesake! I regret you! My consolation must be to buy as many of your earlier writings as I can. Nineveh I long for as the hungry for food. Please page Nineveh, Apollinaire, for me in your bright Paradise! I am sure Nineveh is there. And you too!

Strangest of contrasts in Apollinaire, is that he, leader of the moderns, should have liked old-fashioned, sentimental, romantic writers of Germany such as Chamisso.... The longing for something afar....

Maurice Barrés’ Greco, Le Secret de Tolède, has firm, accurate upbuilding; architectural drawing. It gives surety, poise, reliability. Finely done, clear, precise, nobly visioned, with no yawning gaps to be filled futilely. He writes delightfully. He is an old friend, he who tried to establish le culte du moi, something old as the hills, because it is what all artists set out to do, but which he succeeded in doing better perhaps than the rest.

The prose of Barrés resembles mural paintings by de Chavannes: bleu de ciel, against which white intellectualized figures move. There is an occasional shred of gleaming gold.


The golden age of the colored race is right ahead of us. The concept, superiority, is something strange. That joy which civilization has been for centuries draining out of the white race, is stored in them; civilization has killed. If we are to continue to create, something will have to come to light our hearts, and then later on to warm them.

We shall soon have good writing from them, the colored race, painting, music, art, in every department of creative accomplishment. The work is begun.

When the colored mind flowered in the past, the result has been something original, or of rare quality. Stored within them is supply of that joy without which no one can create. In joy, art is rooted.

Two fluent writers had negro blood, Puschkin and Dumas. There may have been negro blood in Heredia, of The Sonnets. There may have been a trace of it in the ancestry of Hearne, whose mother was born on one of the islands south of Greece, across which tides of conquest for centuries drifted. The contrary indeed can not be proved. Negro blood influenced the brush of some of Spain’s greatest painters, and it may have been mingled in its Moorish poets. Is it not more than probable that it formed part of the racial inheritance of Matisse, Gauguin? There may have been a trace of negro blood in El Poeta de America, Darío, who is not so much poet of America as of the world, because of cosmopolitan training. An astonishing example of receptivity, he, who came from South America to France, and at one gulp swallowed, digested, the cultivation of Europe. In this receptivity I can think of but one parallel: Russian minds of the Eighteenth Century, like Lomonosov’s.

It is too bad there is no good translation of Darío! Could square-toed Saxon reproduce such a poem as his Aire Suave with its fluted, fairy-like fine-stepping?

Era un aire suave, de pausados giros;
El hada Harmonia ritmaba sus vuelos;
E iban frases vagas y tenues suspiros
Entre los sollozes de los violoncelos.

It was a quarter of a century ago, I believe, that the part-negro poet of Venezuela, Mata, put out Pentelicas. Since, his output has been considerable, Grito Bohemio, Idilio Tragico. The last is called Arias Sentimentales. From this volume I quote a verse of the Nocturn:


Al tragico reproche
de la sombra a la luz, la flor secreta
de la esperanza recogio su broche,
cual recoge su broche la violeta.
La noche al fine, poeta!
Poeta, al fin la noche!

The years have made him gloomy. He is tragic, sad. He is a man of cultivation.

At end of the Third and beginning of the Fourth Century of our era, there was a scholar, a Rhetorician, of Negro blood, living in Africa, who was a man of power. His name was Arnobe. He wrote the Latin tongue from the slopes of the Atlas Mountains. It is from him we know best how far south from the Mediterranean, the prodigious cultivation of Rome penetrated. He had the instincts, some of the training, of a scholar. He made attempt to classify dialects of the people among whom he lived, to show in what condition Latin, as spoken language, survived. His contribution to linguistic knowledge has not been slight. There was a man called Leo the African, who about 1511, traveled extensively in the Black Continent, and wrote in Arabic descriptions of Fez, Timbuctoo, the great rivers, and his experiences in crossing the Sahara. Early in the Seventeenth Century he was translated into French and I seem to remember the Elzevir Press published his books. I recall another interesting book (Seventeenth Century) about the Great Black Merchant, Buchor Sano, who declared there were still houses in his country with roofs of gold.

Olandah Egniano was an African; his moving story of how he was kidnapped, then brought to America in a slave ship, is more than interesting. The date was 1793. One of the earliest dramatic voyages to the African West Coast was made long before the discovery of America, by that indefatigable Portuguese explorer, Gomes Azurara, who was born in 1434. Other valiant Portuguese adventurers, such as Filippo Pigafetta, made many charming maps, some of them heightened with color, of Africa, in the early days. The first Hollander to describe the coast of the Great Black Continent was Marees, in 1617.

As long ago as 1808 a History of the Literature of the Negro was published, somewhat lavishly, in France. The book adds a rather long list of Negroes who have written upon science and art.


Stored in the Negro, there is an unexpanded race-soul, which will be one of the future’s gifts. Whatever art in the U. S. of North America happens to be, in that the Negro will have part credit as originator.

I have visited a collection of works of Degas. Marvellous, luscious color, clothing bodies that are ugly, drawn with scorn, rage; contempt for that which is women. The walls flashed colors that make the heart ache; masterly drawing, drawing that contains the skill of surgeon and observer.

No. 64—A green we dream in English springs. Fresh, impatient brushing in! The usual daring, unplanned arrangement. The intrepidity of individual vision united with quaint, appealing ugliness of costume.

No. 59—An interior with two women. Neither is young nor beautiful. Both are soberly clad. They wear black bonnets. Superb assurance of brush lends interest. The white of a curtained window back of them, rich with faint shadow-modeling, tones in which one feels jade, sad pink. A dull rose on front of a bonnet gleams derisively. Painted in high, fine rhythm.

No. 1—Masterly drawing in black of an ugly woman, whose hair keeps royal shades of red-amber. In the line that shows it there is the joy of great Chinese masters. But it does not equal them because nothing can do that.

No. 14—A small picture of three women. Drawn sharply, crisply; and with black. Marvellous brushing in of yellow fluted ballet skirts. It gives sensation of a chrysanthemum torn in a too cold wind of autumn. Behind the body of the standing woman, a wash of red, dramatic, splendid. It has effect of one of the prolonged, prodigious notes of Caruso. A fine, angry, dominant note, like an outflung cloud of storm. There is one touch of green; subtle, wondrous.

No. 63—A woman seated, combing red hair. She wears a yellow robe. Behind her a dash of blue of unequalled depth. The general effect upon the senses is of luscious, tropical fruit one may not name. Over all superb, dry surface light.

No. 39—Large canvas. Two dancers. Drawn in black against vague green. Upon the skirt of the first dancer, a dash of magenta, of orange, so splendid it recalls wild audacities of South American orchids. Something to dream over forever! Intensities, that could have been born only in the mind of a solitary genius like Degas.


No. 60—Long picture of two seated dancers. They wear skirts of pink that make one commit sudden infidelity to the memory of Watteau. This, against a yellow, rare, too lovely.

The color-key of each picture catches, then holds you with emotion, as music does. Imperative, inescapable things, made so seldom we can afford to take time to consider them.

Brushing in as beautiful, blond, unforgettable, as summer over northern seas.

No. 4—Figures of three dancers. They make a striking ensemble. They have the firm totality of carved jade. Blue of a haunting but slightly acid tint. The daring emphasis of ugly things.

No. 26—The picture keeps the effect of blown flame in some boisterous wind of spring, or neglected nasturtiums in a burnished, overturned British garden. With beauty, one somehow remembers England! A group of ballet girls; gay spirits.

No. 40—Again ballet girls. Sober. Restrained. Distinguished. A wall of sullen, silken yellow. A yellow that only Arabian or Indian textiles know. Gauguin would have loved it.

Degas sometimes shows pale, regretful blue that attunes the mind like a melody of Schumann, heard when November snows begin to fall, then filter flower-bought sunlight. Like chalcedony! Colors personal, that expressed the lonely soul that could find no pleasure in people. His pleasure, his companionship, was in tone the rainbow knows in unreachable heavens.

He knew purples, pinks, that quickened his heart. He knew talkative, loquacious yellows that were like sensations. He knew savage, slashing reds, hues of crime and temptation, that gave him the feeling of languorous liaisons, flattered, foolish gayety with women; love; delightful debauchery. He knew greys that kept the self-commendatory feeling of discipline and restraint.

This was the way he was active and energetic. In imagination he dashed across lush, green hunting fields, with the wet, warm wind on his mouth, hounds at his heels, and gay companions, and grew dizzy at the scent of the grasses. This was life. This was society for him. He never allowed anything to divert him from his one joy, painting.

Never for a moment was he unfaithful. There was nothing that could tempt him. Therefore his reward was great. He spilled the gold[156] coin of his heart like a dazzled spendthrift. His buying was commensurate. Only the generous, the self-forgetful, can buy as he did.

Art critics have given scant attention, and measured scantily, their courtesy to Tami Koume, Japanese extremist in painting. But sometimes there are more things concealed in painting than even in the philosophy of critics, good in concealing or great in ignorance.

Here modernism is manipulated by a wizard Eastern hand, and seen, then estimated through the ancient trained mind of the Orient. He expresses what he thinks by line, color, without confusing form, without complexity of object; telltale, indiscreet fact. In this way it is art purified.

He gives his brush, sensations music gives. He has done well. He has a spiritual subtlety that did not belong to French and Italians who did the same thing, something of a more exquisite, older race. Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter. Koume has brought unheard melodies.

Essentials of sensation, line, color, have become revolutionists, forsworn allegiance to fact. They have started independent existence. Like lost ships on uncharted oceans, they are careening toward the unknown.

No. 7—Only the deep sea when it weaves pearls can equal the dumb loveliness of this, by Koume. This spirit was working in painting on silk, made in China, centuries ago. It would not have astonished Sung Masters. They knew rhythms like these, they understood weight, and unweighable excellences of structure, felt subtly by ancient people, who have known Loveliness long enough not to be vexed with her, in any mood. And always at least, on friendly terms.

At last I have seen paintings by Ilya Repin! I thought the time would never come when I could. To see them means a trip to Russia. They are full of enjoyment and feeling. They are vehement, passionate, proud; and pagan in beauty; rich in firm characterization. His famous Black Sea Pirates (large canvas) does not need a frame. Curiously enough the pale green foam of the pictured sea frames it. It is as important as the boat, or its occupants.

The portrait of his son, Yuri, likewise a painter whose canvasses of the Finnish Sea I have seen, is eloquent. Picture to yourself a face pale, dark, expressive, impassioned. It might symbolize Russia’s poet of tragic days, in youth, Puschkin. I could with difficulty look away.


The head is slightly turned to the left, a pose frequently chosen by Repin. He wears a coffee-colored caftan, bordered dully with white. He has dark brown eyes; large, beautiful, soulful. He has brown, dark, wavy hair; thick, a trifle long. The gesture of the folded arm and shoulder-line is arresting, peculiarly noble. The poetry of the Don Cossack country, the songs Schevschenko wrote in youth by the shores of rivers great as seas, are in the face. I recalled a song I translated years ago, from this Cossack poet, while I was looking at it:

When I die I pray you bury
Me upon a hill,
Where the great steppe’s circles widest
My Ukraine Land fill,
That the broad out-spreading meadows,
The great river’s shore,
And the bright on-rushing Dneiper
I may see, and hear the roar,
When it sweeps the foreign soldiers—
The red blood of them we slew—
Far away where skies are blandest
Where my dear Ukraine lies blue.

The face has the warm, slightly sensual pallor, we see in painted dreams of proud Italian masters. An eloquent, impassioned brush caresses it to life. Yuri died during The War. Not long after this memorable portrait was made by his father! It stands for an ideal of Cossack youth.

Repin is a portraitist! Russian subtlety combined with forceful line. His portrait of Kerensky is interesting. It shows a blond, youthful figure with indecision in it. He is painted sitting by an open window, through which falls light strangely ruddy; a little wild. The line is sure, quick.

The single portrait of a Black Sea Pirate is superb. Dramatically poised; brutal. It keeps wise contrast of pale blue and angry red, between which the brown, naked body rises; strong, muscled, slender. There is hint of Greece in this Black Sea body.

Repin has a brownish-yellow that is his. It is a dream of the deserts of his ill-fated Eastern forbears, under some slanting, despairing sun of desert autumn. His other Black Sea Pirate has a different face, one of[158] Mongol type, with controlled, still, ill-concealed ferocity of Asia. Past ages speak dazzlingly here.

The Bandoura Player is gorgeous! A noble bit of color, with strength of some sublime, some savage past. There is red in it which totals the cruel splendor of a century of lost Black Sea sunsets. It fires muscular edge of arms, shoulders. It blazes, a sun which can not set, upon the head. There is something in form of the standing musician that is tantamount to defiance of death, destiny. There is, too, the flash of white teeth in song! The line of youth, and lift of love. Behind, a sky troubled, indeterminate; a sky with something of the sweet souplesse of sound. A figure of glorious daring, unequalled spontaneity. Proud! Resentful! There is redoubling of rose-hues at end of the bandoura. It is echo of his song. With the brush Repin is a profound historian. History, perhaps, is written most weakly with words.

It is not easy to estimate what the poetry of such a technician, such a powerful virtuoso in words as d’Annunzio, was to me in an isolated village upon the plains, where everything was ugly, cheap, except the magnificent land-levels, and the sunsets. And it is not easy to estimate either how hard it was to get money to buy the books. New Italian writers came high. They were not procurable in the inexpensive outputs of older men. And then the long waiting for books to come. I ordered from Italy. When they did come, I literally wore out the pages of Canto Novo, Intermezzo.

I went around like a sleep walker for days. I forgot to eat. I sat up at night. I increased, if possible, the disapproval, the ill-concealed hatred of my relatives. It burst upon my thirsty, surprised senses like stars at midnight. The beating beauty of broken worlds was flung about me. It dazzled me. I published in obscure newspapers, the first translations from d’Annunzio to be printed in English.

My money reached only to buy one more verse-book—Isottea, and one novel: Le Vergini della Rocce. To read, where I lived, in the daytime, was one shade less criminal than stealing. I was a convicted culprit of long standing. The neighbors looked at me with untranslatable expressions in depths of their eyes, just as you look at people who have recently served a prison term.


I bought Leopardi (his verse), next. He was an older writer. He did not cost so much. I could procure a copy for a few lire. I waited all one long hot summer for that book to come. I read his magnificent Ode to the Moon by light of a prairie moon no whit less lovely, in a sky no less purple tinged and cloudless, than that of Italy.

Dove vai silenziosa luna?

When I read it over again today, and the Hymn to an Asiatic Shepherd, I see the superb, languid moons of autumn above the plains, as they looked long ago. I sweep back the years; I become young again, and happy. That is one of the great poems of the world. And written by one of the world’s exquisite artists.

Leopardi was a favorite of Gladstone. I translated then and published, Gladstone’s favorite among his verses, The Infinite.

Gladstone ranked him with masters of antiquity, Greeks of flawless technique. It was from the Greeks he learned his technique, lofty standards, unswerving measure of judgment.

When I finished reading what was inside the book, I read all the advertisements on both covers, over and over. There is no shabby writing done by people who have been thoroughly thrashed through their Greek and Latin.

One can sit in reverence before the great soul of Leopardi, as one sits at foot of Attic marbles, dumb, worshipful, dazed with unreachable beauty. Someone should coin a phrase for him as fine as Gautier coined for Tertullian. I wrote to Italian publishers to send me lists of their new books. Out of these lists I got the same pleasure a hungry cat gets out of a canary in a lovely, gold, glittering, swinging cage.

It was months before I could buy another book. When at length the pennies were scraped together, the selection was careful and painstaking, like that of a miner sifting gold. I at length decided upon the Odi Barbare of Carducci, to whom Dante’s words apply without strain: Degli alti poeti ognore e lume.

Reading Carducci gives something the sensation of looking at the etchings which Piranesi made of Rome; noble, imperial, history-freighted, unforgettable.


The only difference is that Piranese made his pictures upon paper, while Carducci chiseled upon resisting stone. I have always liked best the ode to Rome, entitled merely Roma.

Roma ne l’aer tuo lancio l’anima altira Volante,
accogli o Roma e avvolgi l’anima mia di luce,
Non curioso a te de le cosa piccole io vengo,
Chi le farfalle cerca sotto l’arco di Tito?

To be sure, who would pause to chase fire-flies under the Arch of Titus? Who would care what one’s neighbors, what one’s relatives thought, when one could stand beneath that same Arch, and look up at the sky of Italy?

Carducci, like poets of the south, such as Apollinaire, (whose real name I believe savored of the north, being Ostrowsky) liked the romantic, serious minded German poets of long ago. He read and translated some of Klopstock, Platen, while a friend of Carducci’s translated him back again into Latin, where he really belongs.

If your pocketbook refuses a ticket to Italy, do not be unhappy. Read Carducci! Read d’Annunzio! There is usually somewhere an Ersatz, something to set, without discord, in place of the thing desired.

I wished to read English, American books, but they cost too much. They were seldom procurable at a price less than a dollar. There were almost none in the village. The few who owned books would not lend them. I read Shakespeare and Poe first in German. Admirable, adequate translations they were! The cheaply-priced books of the old world, of Italy, France, Germany, are a blessing. They are the well in the desert to them who are thirsty. I recall buying some plays of Alfieri, put out by Georgio Franz, Monaco, bearing the publishing date of 1846; tiny, tiny books they were, printed on grey newspaper paper with no separate outer cover. They cost about four pennies each. And I bought a large cheap Ariosto, on similar unbleached paper, which was priced at a quarter. The Orlando Furioso is a charming fable. I can not commend it too highly. It has delighted me just as Alice in Wonderland delights a child. It is a gracious, bright-hued, arabesque, that has kept color throughout the centuries.

Then I learned northern tongues from printed advertisements sent by a clothing house, for the purpose of selling men’s clothing. A pile of little[161] books they sent; one in English, the others, literal translations into various northern tongues, to sell to untamed Westerners, whom New York’s more untamed imagination had evidently given wild tongues, civilized, conventional clothes. It was of course an incomparable piece of humor. But it was useful to me. It is a poor sail-boat indeed that can not take advantage of an opposing wind or any wind that happens to blow.

I used to hope, every New Year’s Day, to be able to subscribe to Century, or Harper’s, our leading magazines. But I never reached such height of reckless extravagance. I read Dante the oftener instead. I knew pages by heart. Repeating him aloud was all the music there was in the lonely place in which I lived. There was hardly a wheezy asthmatic melodian. Luck, you see, was not wholly absent.

Once an old Italian priest, noble of heart and mind, came to the lonely, white chapel of his faith, that had been erected upon the plains. He used to recite Dante with resonance, and a kind of regretful, tragic fury, in which unuttered homesickness centered. He was very old then. It must have been an half century since he had seen Italy. He could say superbly, too, the sonnets of Petrarch. He said oftenest the one beginning:

La vita fugge e non s’arresta un’ora,
e la morte vien dietro a gran giornate,
e le cose presenti e le passate
mi danno guerra, e le future ancora:

I used to wonder what things, in the past, he was remembering when he said it. Because even a priest must remember! If his body dies, his mind does not.

Someone asked me one day why I read so much.

Are you ambitious?


Why then?

For pleasure perhaps! I have no desire to know anything.

Then why?

It may be this. Some one asked the giraffe why his neck was long. He replied: Because the distance from head to body is great. I read because the distance from birth to death is great. Some way, it has to be filled in.


I wish now I knew those beautifully written tongues of the Orient, which scribes of old traced upon vellum, ribbon-books of Persia, the things hidden in alphabets which are lovely to the eye. I have seen pictures of Persian calligraphers as enchanting as paintings. Hand writing, as art, is dead. It belongs to the past. Perhaps sometime printed books will be just as dead, and replaced by something else, some diminutive form of moving-picture, some mechanical device attached to the head which will tell stories aloud for the ear, in the manner of a graphophone, and reflect them in pictures upon a paper fan. When we fly around the world in twenty-four hours, we can not waste time in anything so slow, old-fashioned, as reading. Taste will be perverted until something new is made. Something new will always be made. The possibilities of science are like time, endless. Perhaps nothing lovelier will be made for an older generation. But something new is sure to be. In twenty years there will be few book shops.

Talking about stylists, there are none that surpass the scientists. They have accuracy. They have economical fitting of word to thought, leaving no surplussage, shortage. I read them partly for this.

Changes are near. We are poised on edge of the old. It will not be long before man will live centuries, instead of a few paltry years. Then his brain will change more. It will make discards for the long game ahead. In the length of time I have lived, I can see the human skull is different. Its tendency is to grow higher above the ears, broader in front, shorter in length toward the rear. One of the things being discarded is fear.

Sympathy, many old exquisitenesses, went long ago. Fear would be bad baggage to carry in the prodigious transportation feats of the future, when man sets out to make week-end visits to the stars, look in upon Mars, shake hands with Madam Venus. Imagination, of the artistic kind, a kind of bastard first cousin of fear, will be eliminated. Imagination is practically gone now. Fact will so surpass it, it will be useless. It will be a kindergarten pupil in the school of kings.

There will not be need of fiction, nor fiction writers, when Science gets booted, spurred, ready for conquest. Fiction writers belong to the world’s generously believing childhood. Its mature, reasoning manhood is here. The simplest fact of Science will dim the shabby glamour of romance. It will put out its light, as the sun puts out the stars. Ah—the stories Science will tell! Science will unravel the long adventurous past of the lily, the[163] rose, the orchid, the story of which will be unfolded logically from cells. The memories of the rose, the meditations of the lily, the pensive regrets of the violet, in days of the future, will make novels like Jack the Giant Killer, again children’s toys.

People are losing interest in novel-reading. And the stage is dead. I have watched it gradually grow weak year by year. Great novels and great plays are not being written. One of the causes of new writing, both verse and prose, is merely exhibition of disintegration. It is one more dropped stitch in the past. The rock is crumbling to sand. The inescapable alternating progression of the ages is at work visibly.

The speech of primitive peoples was monolithic. They hurled at each other boulders of uncut thought. From crumbling boulders, prepositions, conjunctions, tiny connective sand-like particles out of which we have made what we call speech was born. Even written Latin was blocks of uncompromising marble, in comparison with our written word.

Science will give power to look down vistas of time. It will poise us upon unthinkable heights. Perhaps too we shall learn to unchain the soul, then make it obedient messenger until it flies, Mercury like, through dead, forgotten days. Each human being will be his own novel. There can be nothing superior. There will be neither great nor little. We shall see, then talk at the same time, with friends on the other side of the globe, sitting comfortably in an easy chair. And perhaps upon other globes, across space! We shall live lonely lives of terrific cerebral power, which will change even shape of the skull, until to man of today we would look stranger than Martians. We are near that surprising future. In Metchnikow’s Prolongation of Life we glimpse this romance quality. It is time for novelists to stop sharpening goosequills and join the scientists. Science is rose of a million petals, in whose unfolding the future lies. In that future the novelist, professional story teller, playwright, will be as useful as a bootjack to an old maid. Upon the outspread shop-counter of the mind will be found goods never seen, nor dreamed.

Art is dying. Something else must be made to light the heart. Only people with the wonder, the love of little children within them, can create it now, or understand it. They will perforce join the discards.

There are three pictures by Manet I saw in Paris which I have thought about too much. One, a woman in grey skirt, loose coat of the same color,[164] her hand to her lips. She wears a small dark toque upon dark hair. A strange puritan grey for Manet to love, dominates the picture; a grey sensitive, fastidious, his somewhat English tempered soul created in midst of orgies of pagan Paris—Paris of unrestraint, aesthetic sensuality, intellectual freedom. It is an ascetic color that recalls old Spanish masters. It has the chill, the sternness of Cathedral cloisters. Spanish masters used similar grey, but from dissimilar impulse.

Manet was exquisite. He was the conversationally charming. But into depths of his soul no friend was permitted to peep. There is hint of this sensitive secretiveness in these three pictures, I remember. The gossiping, disclosing shorthand of self is in colors he chose. The picture of the woman is what one might call artistically wise. It keeps a reticence of brush which the maker’s facile, dissembling tongue did not have. Likewise it has something in common with Chinese portraits, whose distinguished personages wore woven robes of sad metallic hues. More than is grasped at a glance! Here is the direct transcribing! The same dignity. Here are sober colors Chinese noblemen wore. The picture is notable for absence of what is meretricious. Nothing for show. Nothing for compromise. It has the reliability of faith.

Soap Bubbles, by Manet. The same grey, but paler for youth; slightly sun-enriched. A truthful piece a Hollander might have signed. A boy by a table. He is blowing bubbles, whose airy grace delighted the maker. Dark, unrelieved background. Hues in the foreground that recall preciousness of ivory.

Still Life—Manet. Apples, pears; one dull, grey-green; one yellow rose; a black bottle; a tall white glass. Sober, against a dull background. Painted in low key, a key chosen for grey-yellow he loved.

How far removed from the blue-grey of Whistler! It is founded upon gift for reality of the Latin, his basic vision for things as they are.

Manet was gloomy beneath the flowering of his moods. An interesting article could be written on the greys of great masters; upon colors that are coefficients of mind. I see difference between those used by Velasquez, Greco, Goya, and those used in France, in the period of 1830, or in Holland, in the Seventeenth Century. Or the grey created by Manet.

I saw the other day a large, lovely Cazin, kept in higher key than is customary, which is Schumannesque. We do not find the dull, wet grass we know; the grey, sage-green of some sad world’s end he has made his.


This picture shows a blond, sun-dusted field on a hot day. A field whose gold, whose perpendicular light is dulled by its own splendor. The field forms the foreground. The background one end of a low farm house, whose coral roof all but touches the ground. A low, green tree makes out the house-line, with aid of one of his windmills. Above, blue heat of noon; happy, white, harvest clouds.

No. 59—A Schreyer. White Arab horses; mettlesome, fine. Eloquent outline of horsemen. A red bournous that lights the picture. A heavy, heat-smoking Algerian sky.

Diaz and Harpignies are represented. Rousseau has a ruddy-tinted Forest of Fontainbleau.

Ziem is here! This is a charming canvas. Venice of my dreams—in the distance! One large building; cream, rose flushed. Foreground—the sea. A bold, lovely, cobalt sea. Sky of gold. The rich effect of enamel, and muted music.

No. 31—An unusual Harpignies. Trees in middle distance. Under them, ripe level grain, with cold, clear light. In foreground little figures; clear cut, in brown, in dull red.

Diaz shows merry grouped women in a wood. They wear rich costumes. The jeweled splendor of Monticelli is here. Ballard Williams looked upon pictures like this.

There are portraits from England. But I am not in the mood for them. I prefer tawny, rolling, desert hills, the blue harbor of Algiers as Fromentin paints them, or rich autumn woodlands of Rousseau.

No. 48—The dull, storm beaten, resentful black-green of Jacque. Splendid!

No. 58—Ziem again! Stately old Venetian palaces I love. They border a canal of cool, even flowing water. On the right, a red building, which peculiarly enough brings touch of the exactitude, coldness of Canaletto, and which I do not like. The sky is happy. Sun flecked, dappled ... this sky bends over Venice!

No. 54—Ziem. Again superb. At his best. In distance the long, elegant, aristocratic line of the Sea’s Queen City, Venice, which he knew better than any one else. White buildings flushed rosy. Beyond, violet-blue. High above, a sky, clear, sweet, but touched with quiver of heat. In the foreground a grassy space and there a tree, (superbly painted) whose top is touched with rose-hued light. Beneath the tree, happy figures wearing vivid colors. High, light, lyric note. Love.


The Corots are of his late manner, when he had grown sentimental, and thought retrospectively. I like best the pictures of Italy he did in youth.

No. 5—A small Pasini. It makes me regret my pocket holds doughnuts not dollars. Delightful picture! A Moorish doorway; white, eloquently curved, bordered with mosaics in faded blue. In front, an Arab, whose red upper garment outdazzles the ruby when the sun pierces its heart. A laugh of color! Pure, delicious, lyric.

Quintillian is a fine phrase maker. He speaks of the milky exuberance of Livy. What could be more juste! If one could forget the Latin text, one would think it the printed page of some incisive French critic. Writers who come at end of periods that have been æsthetically productive, are alike, just as, perhaps, peaches and pears, in the youth of Nero, or William the Silent. Few make figures of speech more startlingly brilliant, vigorous in casting light, than Quintillian. They are exploding suns.

Quintillian declares the evenly sustained mediocrity of Apollonious is not to be despised. To quote him verbatim: “The old comedy retains alone the pure grace of Attic diction.” He means Aristophanes, Eupolis, Cratinus.

The power to distinguish, differentiate, at command of Quintillian is marvellous. I seldom have greater pleasure than his pages have been giving me. Quintillian knows how to balance meaning. He splits an hair evenly with the thin edge of wit. He possessed calm, dispassionate, critical, penetrating intellect. There are few more reliable judges of men’s minds. He does not become color of the thing he reads, as small worms take color of what they feed upon. Writers of the antique world stimulate mind. Modern writers seldom do this. They are more likely to enervate me, or make me weary. The old are life giving.

That sensitive prose of Loti is expression of a tradition that goes far back in Latin life. It is in Ovid. It is in the early Italians. It is in songs of Provençe. It is in early French prosateurs. From Chateaubriand the road to him lies clear. There is no great stylist who leaps up unheralded. The mind must form a chain with some past, to which self-forgetful love has welded him.


Loti has been faithful to the garden of the soul God gave him. He kept out of it things foreign. Nothing ugly grows there. But it sheltered the beauty of the world.

I have not cared a picayune to see the kings, potentates, princes, who have come to America on various successfully disguised errands of selfishness, to visit, and at the same time to gather stray dollars. I did long to see the face of Loti. I wanted to look into eyes that had looked understandingly upon the earth’s loveliness. I wanted, too, to look upon the man who can weave such superb tissue out of words.

I stood gladly outside the Waldorf in the rain. I waited for hours. I watched across the street from the public school he was going to visit. But I did not see him. My consolation had to be what I read in the papers when I reached home that night, his farewell to America: All the winds of winter cry me home to Turkestan! Such a sentence ought to be consolation enough for any one.

Loti has seen the world. Its poets, princes, have entertained him. His eyes have rested upon the fallen glory of the monarchies of the past. Now, like Alexander, he sighs for new ones.

What a delight in the long ago, upon the burnt, barren plains, where Presbyterianism thrived like a green bay tree in Purgatory, were the early books of Loti: Pécheur d’Island, Pasquala Ivanovich, Madame Chrysanthème, Fleurs d’Ennui, and an earlier one about an adventure in the South Seas, the name of which I can not recall. It was Loti’s first published book.

I was always vexed that Presbyterianism thrived upon sand. It was connected, in my mind, with unloveliness, both of matter and spirit. There was never a surface that refracted so bitterly the light, as the white front of that church. It had three sharp points, in a row, that stuck up ready and willing to impale sinners. The priests of Presbyterianism are stormy and iron hearted.

Once Lily Langtry came here, to the plains, in a private car, with Frederick Gebhardt. They remained a number of days, to go hunting in the Indian Territory. I used to follow her around upon the street, for the joy of looking up at her face. I lived in the desert you know! Her face looked, in those days, like blue-eyed flowers that grow upon the fields of England, where rain falls without stress, and mists come.


Salvini, the younger, came likewise to go hunting. I was overjoyed to meet him. He was hero of Les Trois Mousquetaires, come to life. Brown, supple, gay, and young! Nothing ever came again after that, except the wind, sand....

But hope grew astonishingly. The less soil there is, the better hope grows. Hope is what you might call the indestructible mushroom of the soul. If I were a poet, instead of faultfinder, it might impel me to an ode to courage. But here’s the rub! I might find difficulty in distinguishing between courage and folly.

Everyone was a prospective millionaire, in good old days of wind and sand. The strangest thing was that the entire state was drunk. What was it drunk upon? You see Kansas was like the Isle of Champagne, in the story by that name, where each individual was intoxicated. Only here they were drunk on air instead of champagne. Air came cheap and did not have to be bottled. Champagne cost money, and a bottle. The State was drunk on glittering, mirage-making air. It enfolded the minds with rosy glamour just as it enfolded the landscape. Prohibiting fact lost power. The penniless wanderer in his prairie schooner, felt magic of it, as readily as the dweller in the village. It inflamed the brain through the eye. It wrapped the mind in rosy vision. Just beyond the next land-fold, lay prosperity, the culmination of dreams.

That is the reason Kansas grew wild political fads, long-haired and long-legged, soap-box orators. It was upon air like this, upon which oratory could thrive. No one could see realities. Corn, cabbages, and cranks grew to monstrous size. Being poor today did not matter, because tomorrow we were going to tickle Caesar under the chin.

There was unworn power in the untilled earth that gave vigor. It keeps some of it still. Today there is something there of youth that can not grow old, joy that does not become tinsel, or cheap, an unfading fire in the heart. What can humanity do without youth?

It leaked out through the post office, which was one small unpainted room with a hole in the wall, for things to go into or come out of, that I was buying packages of wicked books from Europe. The neighbors called to investigate. They carried away the startling report that it was packages of yellow-back novels. Probably, highly immoral! One of these books disappeared. It happened to be a volume of Bossuet’s Funeral Orations. It did not come back. They burned it for safety’s sake. The town, however, was saved.


Bossuet, whose silenced voice helped mark the decline of the great age of Louis XIV, had been confessor, in court circles, to fair ladies of France. But I will wager that even he would have been surprised at human inventiveness in the fields of sin, at what happened to his orations for the dead bodies of these same ladies. They felt the red rag of revolution was as evident in these books they could not read, as the red flannel around the lantern the old, bent, fat Santa Fé night-watchman carried, which spotted the long, lonely streets with round dots of light. After that I became a dangerous person. The eyes that were in the habit of glancing at me sideways were bright and shining with disapproval.

But I was deliriously happy through it all, as long as pennies held out with which to buy books, and those magnificent, low, yellow moons of summer swung majestically out of the unknown to poise above the plains. I have never forgotten the feel of the warm winds of those nights of summer so long ago, upon my arms, upon my shoulders. It is one of the things I would like to know again.

The way to study pictures is not to study them, not to try to know history, nor making, but just to look at them, then keep on looking. The beginning of joy is the beginning of wisdom. The eye trains itself. Like an independent organism, it searches, chooses, judges, until it has distinguished good from bad. Looking at pictures, making no attempt to interpret, to explain, trains vision, until everywhere we turn our heads, we make pictures for ourselves. The eye, without command, instruction, selects, adjusts, keys itself to the artist’s trained seeing.

The more we enjoy a picture, the more, for that fleeting moment, we are in harmony with the mind that produced it. Pictures flash us out of our dull selves into clear, unvexed dominance. There is healing, health, in beauty. It represents that from which imperfections have been taken. Pictures are temperamental tuning forks.

Small, paper-bound, cheaply-priced books containing prints should be as common upon reading tables as papers. It is not easy to measure the good of contact with the silent things of art.

I like prints. I have something that resembles affection for them. That is why I regret that the skies of Piranesi are troubled. I wanted them to be glowing, clear.


The simply treated skies of Le Père please me. They are barely marked.

The etched line of Pennell is feminine. When he etched the Panama Series he forced it to Brangwyn bravoura, for which it is not suited. They are not art, these plates, whether the initial be large or small.

The etchings of Piranesi resemble the musical compositions of Handel. Both made temples stern, lofty, with mystery in the depths.

The etchings of Daubigny recall Virgil, in the Bucolics. The lovely, Latin land where cities are not near, fields are cultivated, and little rivers draw water birds! The line of Daubigny is gentle, loving. It is of the unforced rhythm of Virgil.

The line of Haden is cold, pure.

The line of Whistler is fretful, nervous, capricious. But marvellously sensitive! If he is not big, genial, he is exquisite. For one fretful moment Whistler could love gleam of a surface. He never at any time cared what was beneath. He could not hold calmness long enough to love anything into serenity. He possessed audacity, as much as skill. There floated before his keen, sensitive mind, memory of mighty Japanese, Chinese craftsmen, who outdistanced him by force of love, that self-sacrificing humility, which makes men great. He liked to startle. He liked to shock by technical surprises. He liked to lash observers with virtuosity.

He was a Czar bent upon forcing submission. With his genius there was commingled the trickster, mountebank. Nothing Whistler etched had weight. He could not bother with a vulgar thing. Instead it had witchery. The butterfly in flight!

I like the wet streets of Buhot when restless clouds are reflected on them, or the fleeting carriage of some Parisian mondaine. They are refreshing. He loves rain as Hiroshige loved it. But he shows it differently because he is of a different race. He has not the childlike sincerity of the Japanese. The sad wisdom of the decadent Latin is in him. Shadows are black which speeding wheels of Parisian beauties leave. But memory fills distance with magic, with wistfulness.


In the dim streets, the twilight corners of the Paris of Meryon, dwells old French romance. Gay, interesting, pathetic figures of Balzac! Dumas the Elder, Hugo! It is the Paris that inspired Baudelaire, Gautier.

Etching has humming-bird grace; it has poignancy and intimacy. One holds it to the heart like a violin. It catches the moment which vanishes. It holds cruelly, derisively, the flash of sunlight that caressed some surface we regret but love. Etching is near the soul.

There is a print of an actor by Kiyotsune which shows pink of Watteau made strange by being seen by the Orient’s black beetle eyes. This same artist has a red dark, bronzed, brutal, that rings with metal blare.

Looking at the collection of Japanese prints, large and fine, in the Boston Museum, I have had a good time. I found browns etherealized to grey, with vast, uncanny, spacial suggestiveness. This is background of Horunobu. He has an orange I remember. It has lost its fire, to be sure, with years; vicissitudes of change. Now it keeps merely memory of some sun of summer of long ago. He combines this with what a prosaic person would call green, but which is a Roman olive orchard in the autumn. He has colors that float with maddening indecision between pink, yellow, brown, grey, blue, green, to unite the shores of the unseen, to surprise then delight.

Koriusai has the weary, meditative violet of gay fête-days that fail. And a red, full of joy as throat of a thrush. I wish they could sing me back, these music-winged colors, out of the sad, beseiging, present, through radiant centuries, to some fabulous, gold-lacquered Palace of Tang!

Kiyonaga made a print where cherry blossoms veil with pink mist the shores of the Sumida, and women wear plain robes of faded hues while their faces keep archaic calm.

Kiyonaga is unique for reds. He has widened with them the gamut of emotion. Some reds are tragic; some terrible. Some are hesitating. Some are sullen, brooding, regretful. Some weigh heavily with memory of deeds not forgotten. Some indiscreet, too full of meaning.


I know a print by Shunsho that makes me cool. It is green, black, grey. There is an old man with twist of coral silk about his waist. The green, one faint stain, gives refreshing sensation of accumulated springs. In the grey I have watched the monstrous blackening clouds of midsummer tempests swing.

I know an Utamaro, which is the loveliest thing in existence! Two tall women. One wears enchanting faded pink, one of the unforgettable colors of poet-print-makers; the misty brown that floats above paper with silken shining threads, only Japan could make. The added splendor of incomparable accents of black. The pauses in South American tango dancers, are like these black accents in Eastern art.

If you think black is just black, go to the East. Learn! There are blacks that surpass in depth, mystery, a thousand nights of Egypt.

Inexplainable, dreadful, has been the fate of the dreamers of the world who have carried to heights the power of vision. A curse followed them, because they dared cross boundaries of the commonplace. To look long upon the sun, is to go blind. I am thinking of Heine.

Heine liked his place of exile, France. It was a Promised Land for Children of the Spirit. He hated England, because England did not possess mental flexibility. Lermontov, the Russian poet, disliked England too, and for the same reason.

In Heine there was the broad culture of Germany, lightness of the Latin, and the commanding passion of the Hebrew. The first thing I did in Paris, was to search out his grave. No one in Paris was more alive, more real, than he.

He blended the sad, serious, comic, light, in much the same way as Gogol. This too is trait of Hungarians.

There were many men of stormy revolutionary mind in Heine’s day. The spirit of Byron was abroad in the world. That which we call modernism, was breaking through prejudice.

The last time Heine went out of doors, he staggered to the Louvre, in order to look once more upon his beloved Venus. He burst into tears at the sight. I wonder if he recalled then his youth’s proud, boastful words: “I have never had but two loves: Venus, and the French Revolution![173] What did he think when worn to a ghost he lay dying, and they intoned beside him the hoary desert songs of Judea?

Heine and Goethe, when they met repelled each other. How could two men be more dissimilar! Goethe was Greek; Heine, first of the moderns. The Hebrew is the only man who is ever able accurately to estimate the day in which he lives. Not geographical spaces, but centuries lay between Goethe and Heine. He is the only one who can focus, with perspective, the present.

Paris was full of commanding figures during Heine’s exile. There were Ary Scheffer, and Delacroix. Horace Vernet was exhibiting for the first time. Felix Mendelssohn, an old friend of Heine’s from Berlin, was here; Malebran, Rossini, Meyerbeer. There was a brilliant crowd of exiled Poles. Liszt and Chopin were both here. It was an engaging Paris. It has at no time been greater. And Heine was not least; slender, handsome, blond, young, reading aloud his verses in the salons of fashion, the verses whose structure he had learned from Uhland. He knew Victor Hugo, de Musset, Eugene Sue, George Sand, and Beranger. Since Heine died, the world has had no great idealist.

As wit, Heine ranks with Voltaire, Cervantes, Swift. Of such superb ability there can be but one to a race. These four men I have mentioned represent Judea, France, Spain, and England. Heine reached two heights; wit and lyric poet. He knew how to take what was best in artistic France, intellectual Germany, and then blend them.

Brandes compares Goethe with Heine, to detriment of the latter. What he is really comparing without seeing it, is two ages of time.

Liszt said, in describing rare evenings spent at Chopin’s, when Chopin consented to play to his friends: “Heine, the saddest of humorists listened with the interest of a fellow countryman to the narrations made by Chopin of the mysterious country which haunted his ethereal fancy, and of which he, too, had explored the beautiful shores. At a word, at a glance, at a tone, Chopin and Heine could understand each other: The musician replied to questions murmured in his ear by the poet, giving in tones the most surprising revelations from unknown regions, about that glorious goddess, Genius.” Ziem used to look in upon these evenings at the home of Chopin, whenever he could tear himself away, for any length of time, from the alluring City by the Adriatic, he painted again and again.


The enemies who resist us help us more than the friends who flatter us. They perform the service of unpaid gardeners.

The art madness of Germany was astonishing about the time of Heine. The young wife of Stieglitz, the poet, killed herself so that grief might make her husband great. This gives us key to that gloomy, melancholy north from which a new, a more complex art, was to come, first to oppose and then to surprise the clean-lined Mediterranean classicism, with its plasticity, its reasoned assurance.

People of genius are people of intuition. Plodders are the intellectual. Now scientists rule. They are trying first to isolate self, then exploit it. This is a period of egotism, when man keeps the importance of the microbe, while he feels like the mountain. Money has no meaning as a measure of excellence.

In a city of huge size like New York, pressure upon the individual is great. It equals ocean pressure, upon deep-sea life. It deforms. It makes shapeless.

Gigantic pieces of engineering shock the senses. People suffer from surfeit of everything. They can not indulge the luxury of longing. They are overfed. They have mental indigestion. Satiety comes. Individuals, in so large a city, become sea sand; uniform, uninteresting, individually inconsequential. Such center of prodigious living becomes the wilderness, in spite of law, a place where savages may roam, the most terrible, civilization’s savages; men who prey upon men. They have become beasts. They people solitudes. Heights, depths, touch then blend. Ambition, inspiration, self-respect, die. No poet can live here, then write poetry. (Only the painter, the etcher, seem to survive.) Look at Percy McKaye for example! When he came from his wooded New England hills, he had gifts of a poet. What does he write now? I would not like to name it. To be humble I do not think I could. It is bare of poetry. His Washington is not a creditable high school performance. It is almost as bad as Drinkwater’s Lincoln! Success kills too often today. George Sterling was wise enough to get out of New York, to Carmel, the blue sea, the mountains. I recall a sonnet-sequence of his, which is the best of American make.


Consider, too, Tarkington after he wrote Beaucaire, and turned to New York, quick dollars. Beaucaire was writing. Compare it with his later prose!

When conflict for life is keen, not only is love between man and man impossible, but kindliness, justice, friendship. Man becomes prey of man. His emotions are those of the beast that destroys. For the body to live, the soul dies.

In well advertised benevolent institutions, the normal feelings of humanity are shut, in order to keep them alive. Soon we shall go to institutions sight-seeing, on Sunday, as we go to the Zoo, to observe queer, useless appendages, that once belonged to man. À la incubator method, they are kept alive. They are as surprising to Twentieth Century eyes as the One Horse Shay. In the future noble feelings, (like exotic flowers) will be kept under glass of hot-houses. In no other way can they survive.

In New York the mean is sacrificed. There is nothing that is good. It is best or else it is worst. The people live, breathe, and have their being in superlatives. We have become a poster art, where everything is black or white. Intermediary shading disappears. Values are not considered. Distinctions are lost. In such a multitude, mind, manners, levels, disappear. Compilation takes place of life.

We pose as the world’s Wunderkind. We are looked over, called l’enfant terrible, while we throw bouquets, dollars at them and waste champagne we ought to save. The doings of this self-conscious Wunderkind occupy the front elevation of illustrated papers.

Other cities permit you to be yourself. New York does not. It begins to set seal upon you. It makes changes in body, in mind. Its distances, its streets, its miles of gallery floors, exhaust the flesh. Its emotional appeal is great. After weariness has done wrong to body, brain, it dulls with superfluity. Buildings of excessive size stun instead of stimulate. They who endure it, survive, become of a separate race; a highly specialized race. They are deformed like athletes who manned the triremes of Caesar. It is a city without national stamp of any people. It is made, to wonder at.

It is so huge the individual is inconsequential. He feels this. It reacts upon him. He loses hope. A less fine pride envelopes him. Cabbages of course grow largest in gardens. There is no other city where money, its power, is so worshipped. There is no other, where life is discounted, where the young so speedily become the old. There is no other[176] place where life just as life, counts so little. Here labor loses dignity, because it is looked down upon. It becomes ignoble. It slips back too soon to that thing called servitude. Visions of useless, unearned wealth breed discontent. Into the port of New York the splendors of the world are poured. Superlatives are standards: highest buildings, the largest shops, greatest park, the most expensive houses. Taste, discrimination, weaken.

Races, religions are poured together like left-overs from a boardinghouse table, to make soup for beggars. Honor is lessened. The premium is so high man cannot buy. Even if man has not honor, he must have meat. Honor is old-fashioned, a rag. Before the eyes that see, minds that judge, merit is nothing; system everything. In his palmiest days Louis the Fourteenth was not acclaimed as New York, city of democratic America, acclaims the dollar, and only what the dollar buys.

I can not read Romain Rolland, Claudel, nor O. Henry. If I had to be punished with one of the three I think I should choose Rolland.

It is too bad that in the letters of Seneca, in which he mentions Pompeii, he does not describe the city. He saw it in its heydey. What a picture he could draw! Not one single glimpse can I get from his letters, however I search. What a Rome it was that had passed in long, glittering pageant before his eyes! He is old, weary of life, as he writes. He tries to prop himself up with stoic mind. Like the majority of thinkers, he learned poverty is best. He declares a life of continued prosperity is a Dead Sea. Lao Tzu on one side of the globe, the Roman thinker on the other declare: He is not poor who has little, but he who desires much.

Again Seneca writes: Riches keep you from wisdom. But poverty is free and without care. The Latin letters of Seneca, and Cicero, have given me a kind of courage I can not procure elsewhere. Cicero is master stylist. There are climaxes in the orations not to be surpassed. I have liked the winged, broad visioned, eagle-mind that contemplated old age in De Senectute.

There will be no more essays like De Amicitia, because friendship does not exist. It perished with the toga virilis, the muscular manhood of Rome. Powerful dramatic anger is gone. And glittering, sword-swinging satire! Where is a Firdusi to write against Sultan Mahmoud? Small,[177] base, worm-like, eating envies crawl in, in place of kings. Not the noble, fearless lion, but the crawling lizard keeps assuredly today the palaces where Mahmoud gloried.

Greek and Latin are out of fashion. However, I do not know of many things of which I should be so proud, as to be called, Greek Scholar. And then merit the name.

The finest piece of translating in modern English is Curtin’s translation of the Polish Trilogy of Sienkiewicz. It can not be adequately praised nor the publisher who has issued it worthily again and again.

There are few better judges of weight of words, stretch of margins. Sienkiewicz has merry characters as waggish as Falstaff, as boisterously humorous as Rabelais, and quite as hilarious as Abu-l-Hasan, who delighted in disguising grotesques and the threading of long mysterious alley-ways, in gay Arabian Nights, in which famous story collection there are no greater characterizations than Sienkiewicz’ Zagloba, Prince of Liars. Almost all literatures that have been great have produced, in art, one immortal liar. We are not great. But we have George Washington and a cherry tree, which I have always considered one of the divinely stupid stories of the world. This has, in America, one parallel in stupidity, Henry Ford’s collection of pumps.

To revert to Sienkiewicz and the Nights of Araby, the Orient is filled with marvels and magic and mystery; with strategy; and beauty that is strange and deadly. The Occident is used to mental food that is colder, and not so highly seasoned. Sienkiewicz has grandeur of conception akin to the East. Only the East with a past that is measureless can be at one and the same moment, bitter and tender, cruel and impassioned. Thousands and thousands of years are necessary to ripen to perfection that rare fruit of Time, the human mind. To twist a Russian proverb to the moment’s need. A young race is not strong; a young apple not sweet.

What an amazing piece of mental architecture Somadeva built long ago, in India in his Ocean of Story. To measure exactly just how petty the art-creative mind of today is, read it! The entire Human Comedy of Balzac would be one little drop to the ocean. It is not properly speaking an Ocean at all; it is greater: It is a world.


Probably the best Voyages are the purely imaginary. Gulliver wrote one, Cyrano de Bergerac another, and Xavier de Maistre a third. One went to the rim of the mind’s nimble making, the second to the moon, and the third merely journeyed around his chamber. But the distances were all equal, and enchanting.

I am heartbroken that I could not have seen the palaces of Nineveh. It is eye-delight that keeps me alive.

Fancy lofty walled interiors completely covered, (or built rather), of a substance resembling precious porcelain, with the blazing surface of a gem. But pictured, colored! Esarhaddon declared that his palace interiors surpassed the rainbow. These glazed fragments are found today in Assyria. Why could I not have seen it? Thêbes, too! And Babylon! I have always hated economy, petty things, and cold hearts. Shabbiness. Not my kingdom for a horse—but all boasted Fifth Avenue for Babylon. And the gardens of Asia!

Petofi was a lonely, but a good deal madder, a more impetuous, Heine, who lived in Hungary, but he was of Slav descent and his original family name was Petrovich. Like Heine, he felt out of harmony with Goethe. In one of his letters to Friedrich Kerenyi he declares: “... I say it right out. I do not like Goethe. I can not stand him! His head is a diamond, his heart a pebble.”

Petofi’s days suffered from lack of that which Goethe had in abundance, wise guidance. There may be envy mixed with hatred. He goes on to exclaim in this letter: “Bury me in the north. Plant an orange tree upon my grave and you will see how my heart will warm it into bloom.”

“Goethe is one of the great poets. A giant, but a giant made of stone.”

He declares impetuously: “When I read George Sand, I am mad to think she could write like that! She was a man, not a woman.”

He adored Dumas. Poor Petofi had only twenty-six years in which to conquer life and art. In addition, the wars claimed him. A pitiful measure, truly! That was the length of life of Lermontov, the Russian poet. The natures of both were stormy, unreasoning, impassioned. They made foes as rapidly as other men make friends. Every brilliant word they uttered made an enemy. And they did not care. Both wrote prose and verse with high, fine rhythm.


Petofi exclaims gayly, carelessly: “If there were no critics, there is nothing in this world I should hate like horse-radish with cream.”

“Hortobagy—Blessed Plain! You are the brow of God. I stand in the center and look about me with delight, a delight the Swiss can not have upon his Alps. Only the Bedouin in heart of the Arabian desert can feel as I feel. Only he knows how my heart expands.”

“My poor Hungary, which the Turks, the Tartars, the grasshoppers, and the politicians have helped destroy! Perhaps, however, a bad poet is the last drop of Vermouth in the bottle—And then one can hope for a better future.”

“For years almost my only reading, my morning, evening prayer, was the French Revolution. It is daily bread. It is the world’s new Bible.”

“We people like to celebrate—we Hungarians. When there aren’t individuals left to celebrate, we shall set about giving festivals for the moon. That is why we are poor, ragged, because we insist upon shining.”

“It has always hurt my feelings to think Shakespeare was an Englishman.” (I think Heine said these words too.)

“Oh divine Art, why is it your priests are devils?”

“In the dark night of my Hungarian Fatherland I am a little flickering flame. But I am flame just the same! By my light, the future Hungary will be forced to read the Book of Fate. Hope is written there.”

“What is a rule? A crutch for feeble, limping, commonplace people.”

Poor, pitiful, proud, impassioned Petofi! He disappeared from the world like Bestushev-Marlinski, as if by magic. No one knows what became of him. As adjutant to the commanding officer he accompanied his general into battle. After the battle was over, he was not seen. His body was never found. About his tragic end there are stories, and romantic stories. Some say he died a prisoner in the mines of Siberia. Some say[180] he became a Russian subject, learned the Russian tongue, and that one of Russia’s famous writers, is Petofi grown old. He was born in 1823.

Hungary has had other spirited story tellers, but none perhaps informed with such peculiarly tragic fire, surely none with such unspoiled lyric gift. Her short story tellers, as a rule possess grace, irony, gaiety. These are qualities that belong to the race. There is a whimsical imagination found among story writers of Hungary, no other nation I know of has. Mikszáth had it richly; and Molnar illustrates the same kind of mind and writing. Other Hungarian story writers are Herczeg, Rakosi, Arpad von Derczik, Jokai, to mention a few, at random, whom I happen to recall.

I found something interesting in Montesquieu’s Persian Letters. He writes: C’est la sagesse des Orientaux, de chercher des remèdes contre la tristesse avec autant de soin que contre les maladies le plus dangereuses. Orientals seek medicaments for sadness as frequently as for ills of the body. This is indicative of the fact that in the Orient they still believe in things of the spirit, of which the West has lost sight. And also that they are older and wiser. Riper. Montesquieu goes on to say: We ought to weep for a man when he is born, not when he dies. What could be more characteristic of Gallic mind? French wit is Oriental philosophy turned inside out.

One of the sayings of La Rochefoucauld which delighted me is: “The evil we do can not begin to draw upon us the persecution our superiorities draw.” How many personal disillusions, how many sad, surprising visions into man’s heart, went to make that!

I enjoy the Satires of Boileau. They play generous part in building that penetrating, discriminating French mind. Especially do I enjoy the prose introduction to the satires, where he speaks of Horace living at a period when it was most dangerous for man to laugh. A strange thing, that, to observe! A dangerous time to laugh! Did something similar occur to Boileau in his own life? Did he learn to know what is the arrogant power, then the selfish pride, of a king?

Condorcet’s Life of Voltaire is fine writing of history. To me it is enthralling romance. In it the same mind is visible, in action, that we find in Taine, Quintillian, Saint Beuve. Taine was novelist and story teller. But his merits as an original creator are overshadowed by that vast, amazing critical writing, which is his work on the literature of England.[181] When I read it I marvel why no Englishman knew himself as this Frenchman, Taine, knew him.

I read Lamennais: Paroles d’un Croyant. He writes like an inspired prophet, to stir masses to unrest, rebellion. His sentences ring like clarions. Magnificently curses fall. It is peculiar how he gives words the quality of metal. Other people use the same words. They are nothing at all.

It has been said that there has been no name so execrated as Machiavelli. He is the supremely hated. An Italian critic writing of him declares: “Voltaire hated him, and Frederick the Great; the Jesuits, and Cardinal Polo. He could only be right in a world in which there are no spiritual truths.” It is a strange thing that living in Italy, at a period when the Church dominated it, he should have written just that book.

There is not necessarily anything important in a likeness. There are resemblances in the world for which in our present condition of knowledge we are unable to account.

When José Asuncion Silvá, poet of Bogotá, who wrote a poem that recalls Poe’s Raven, was in Paris sight-seeing with friends, he happened to pause, by accident, one day in the Louvre, beside the marble bust of Lucius Verus. To their amazement, his friends found that the head of Silvá and that of the dissolute Roman lover of Faustine, were identical. A photograph of Silvá with hair and beard dressed like the statue, was made the next day, and the result is something that no one can explain. They are as alike as two peas. I have the pictures.

Years ago the Mercure de France sent its representative all the way to South America, and then on to Bogotá, city no railroad has succeeded approaching, to secure information about The Nocturn which critics call the greatest poem written in the Americas. The only notice of him in the U. S. was my translation of the poem of which the dead poet’s publishers approved.

If you wish to revel in the beauties of the tropics, minus the long voyage to South America, weeks perhaps of sea-sickness, read Chocano, who laughingly calls himself the spirit of the Andes. He has pictured, in ringing verse, this glowing, romantic continent, from which, in days of old, clipper ships, used to go back to Europe with scuppers awash with emeralds, gold, with amethysts. Reading Chocano gives the rich sensations of the tropics. It is like wandering through vast gardens filled with[182] flaming orchids, curious in shape, amazing in color. Just so evocative is he, varied. Just so seemingly inexhaustible.

Another poet, but in the Portuguese tongue, to the south, is Machado de Assis, of the celebrated poems which all Brazilians know: Uma Creatura, Suave Mare Magno, No Alto. The sonnet which he wrote to his wife is one of the noblest in the Portuguese tongue.

Machado de Assis was telling South America of Chinese poets, translating and publishing versions of them, an half century ago. We are just getting around to it. They have kept over us of the north, the æsthetic superiority of Mediterranean peoples among whom they originated.

We are forced to admit that the outlook of Germany is vast. It is not easy to comprehend how vast. In it, individual welfare has been sacrificed as ruthlessly as the Samurai Creed sacrificed it, centuries ago, in Japan. We call this barbarism. Germany has been cut latest of the European nations by the disease, civilization. As smallpox, other ills of flesh, are more fatal in a young, fresh race, not before visited by it, so young Germany fresh from the forests, the fens, felt the disease, civilization. For her it has been most deadly.

I recall the school on the plains. School is probably too important a word. It was a few bare rooms over a business block. No building for the purpose had been put up. From the windows we could look across the Main Street into upper rooms of other buildings. These rooms had been rented to houses of ill fame. Any time we could turn from our lessons and see the painted creatures lolling in the rooms, with their lovers. They were fat, greasy, disheveled, and clad in gay, cotton Mother Hubbards.

Beneath one of these houses there was a saloon. From the windows we could look over tops of screens that cut the too plain view from the sidewalk, and see Greasers, Indians, the stragglers of the plains, drinking, gambling. They quarreled frequently. Occasionally they fought with knives, with pistols. But the thrust of a knife that killed, in the lonely silence of the circling prairie was unimportant.

It was as if I saw it all far off through sheets of crystal. There was nothing I wanted. It represented the forces from which I longed to get away. As I walked about the streets of this settlement on the plains, drenched with sun and breeze-swept, I was conscious of an unknown[183] world of art. I used to say to myself: I can not know the heights of life, wealth, power. I can not have things that do not depend upon myself. But, with my brain, I can know the heights of art. I can know all men have dreamed. I learned languages as other women learn to sew. For me they kept few difficulties. My foreign tutor, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude, who knew many tongues, was introducing me to books of the Old World. He had a library of his own, of which he was good enough to give me use. His name was Arnold Jeannerett.

I was dazed at first, breathless, at this introduction to the sumptuous Palaces of Thought. Less and less I saw the world about me. It faded away with its crudity, harsh, noisy contrasts; discomforts; its persistent attempt to make life miserable for me. Nothing remained but a place of enchantment where there were no imperfections, and everything was as I wished.

I read Ariosto. I learned to know Petrarch, and the classics of Italy. I read the splendid prose of France; Bossuet, Fenelon, Chateaubriand, Rousseau. I read the lyric poets of Germany. Hidden upon my person somewhere, either in a pocket in my calico petticoat, or else within the lining of my hat, was some tiny book of the Old World.

But an unexpected complication arose. It made the women of the village angry. And in no slight degree. What right had I to amuse myself in ways not theirs? There was nothing left undone within their inventive range, which I soon learned to my sorrow was considerable, to make me understand their displeasure.

Sweeping past my eyes there was the picturesque panorama of the plains. Interesting things peculiar to isolation were happening.

Chief Joseph, with the warriors who murdered Custer, with their squaws and children, were being removed to a northern Reservation. They stopped in our village. Chief Joseph made a speech which one of the tribal interpreters put into English. The old chief described the massacre. He did it with relish. I sat in front of him, on a board upheld by two nail kegs. When he came to the horrors of it, over his dull eyes, which years had given singular expressionlessness, grey mists floated like spring across black winter. The memory was sweet.

The Main Street with its ugly, flat-topped buildings stretched from north to south. Through this artificial canal swept the wind, having come across desolate plains. Drifting through this street until midnight,[184] moved a strangely assorted crowd, laughing, talking, drinking, quarreling. There were buck Indians in beaded moccasins, a striped calico about their loins, and tin bracelets upon thin, muscled arms. They walked with dignity. Sleek squaws, who toed in, toddled after them. Tin rings were in their ears. There were Mexicans with black, wide faces and white hats; Greasers, whom on-rushing civilization would soon annihilate; cowboys with fringed leggings and high heels, and gamblers with angular, prairie faces. There were soldiers from nearby forts and a few great-hearted pioneers who loved lonely places and who lived their adventures instead of writing them.

The thing I loved best was the clouds that rose high above the levels. They painted pictures. They satisfied my longing to get away.

I loved them when they were white, glittering mountains looking down upon some fairy land.

I used to ride out upon the levels, stop my horse, observe them, feeling happily upon face and arms, the warm, rollicking wind of the south, from unknown spaces where perhaps flowers grew. One longed sometimes here for the lonely comfort of long rains.

Then I would turn my horse and ride home through the twilight, when the little stars first began to prick the day. I like to think of it all again. And the moons of my youth, which poised so superbly above the plains.

I said nothing ever came again. I was wrong. The Strip Opening came.



Earl Underwood

Then the little place resembled any cow-town at time of the county fair or the reunion of the Veterans of the Civil War, except that the crowd did not have a carnival spirit. The crowd was made up of cattle-men driven from their former pasture land, old adventurers still looking for a fortune, wanderers of all kinds, professional gamblers who resembled human buzzards, homeless stragglers from everywhere. There were old men with weather beaten faces from the Klondike, from the gold fields[185] of Arizona, and old Mexico. There were poor, honest, but unsuccessful farmers from other states looking for new homes and considering this a kind of Promised Land for inability of all kinds. They came in boomer wagons. They came from every point of the compass. There were some successful Middle West farmers who had just sold their own land for a large price and brought their family here, hoping to get a new start for their sons. The crowd slept in boomer wagons; they slept on the ground; they slept on cots along the streets; they slept on the floors of empty buildings. Seventy-five thousand people were poured into a little village that had barely accommodations for ten thousand.

It was hot. Everyone suffered. The ground was sun-baked until it cracked open in wide fissures. There had been no rain for four months. Daily the south wind blew until the atmosphere kept the hue of a twilight that did not change. The corn was burned and sere. The leaves withered; all the vegetation was colorless and dry. The intense heat was unchanging. The day was followed by a night without dew. The continued milling of horses, wagons, people on foot, ground up the dirt until it became an impalpable powder that penetrated everywhere, even the sides of the houses. And through all this dry, parching heat there was an agonizing lack of water. There were poor families here who had waited, in wagons, for years for the gift of this free land. There were legitimate people who really wanted homes and were willing to work for them. There was a large class too of shiftless, chronic boomers from the entire West, whose lives had been spent in looking for something for nothing. There were chronic wanderers seeking sensation. After this Strip Opening was over, they would sadly turn away, hoping for similar, fresh excitement somewhere else.

It was a prohibition country, but saloons and gambling houses and houses of prostitution were open day and night. Everyone went armed. A man who did not have a gun upon his hip was something to remark about.

The scarcity of water increased from day to day. Horses, dogs, and mules went about sadly with their swollen tongues hanging out. The entire prairie was parched like another Sahara. Over it bent a sky that was just as blue, just as cloudless, just as brazen and wind beaten.

Along with the gamblers came the prostitutes, the Three Card Monte men, from the deserts of Arizona, from the deserts of New Mexico, from[186] Arkansas, and Texas. The prostitutes were not segregated nor isolated. They occupied the second story, front, of the business houses along the one Main Street. Among them were two Cherokee Indian girls, sisters; Violet and May. May was built like the Venus. She was her little sister in the flesh, as far as beauty went. She had thin, fine lined features, coal black hair that reached her ankles, and a complexion the color of a cape-jessamine. The only marks of the Indian were her silence and suppleness; and the grace of her body. Both had been convent bred. After these years of forced and disagreeable restraint in the convent, they turned to the easiest way, or else some law of atavism asserted itself, and swept upon them the insistent instincts of their Indian past.

The streets looked like a scene from a comic opera. Red blanketed Indians mixed freely with the whites, and Mexicans, wearing a fortune in a silver hat band that glittered like a coiled snake around their pointed-crowned, broad-brimmed, white hats. Notwithstanding the fact that the Indian is a stoic and seldom gets excited himself, he gravitates toward a crowd like a fly toward a bowl of sugar, instinctively rebelling against the accumulated loneliness of the past. He does not take any part to be sure, nor does he join in the fun and the noise, but he has his own, ancient, silent, devious ways of pleasure. He did not know of course, the silent watchful Indian, that he was helping to celebrate his own funeral. All these tens of thousands of white men congregated here, were at a given signal, going to leap over the line of the Indian Territory and cut up, into the checker-board squares of little farms, the old, happy hunting ground of his ancestors.

The line-up was on the southern Kansas line. For weeks, for months, they had been getting ready for this race; Texans on their long winded cow-ponies, Kentuckians on their thoroughbreds, Illinois farmers on their fat, overfed, pot-bellied horses, and Missouri farmers driving wagons with mules. It was just like getting ready for a world Marathon, which had fifty thousand entries, and no rules and no judges. They trained hundreds of horses here for weeks; for endurance, for speed, for that first great leap forward. Some had picked out the land they wanted in advance and had a definite objective. The rich paid fabulous sums for horses; tall, gaunt, clean limbed Kentucky racers, or Virginia thoroughbreds, thin and nimble bodied. There were fat mule teams that could not make twenty miles in a day. But everyone was eager for a little square of that rich land.


On the morning of the big day, this entire mass moved to the State Line which was only four miles away, where each one tried for first place. From then until noon it surpassed Pandemonium itself or any congregation of the lost in Purgatory. For a hundred miles this great crowd was held back only by a little group of cavalry-men spread out at intervals that were too great. High noon was the opening hour. It was announced by a cannon. The announcement was passed down the line by the echoing firing of troopers.

By noon the red, sun-baked plain was veiled with a blue haze of heat. There was almost no vegetation. The great drought had killed it. There was no grass, no weeds, no trees that were green, because of months of wind and rainlessness. Nowhere was there a sign of water. All the little cricks were dry. Clouds of sand kicked up by the wind curled derisively over all the former trickling water courses. The thirst was terrible. It all but made men mad.

When at length the signal came, when the cannon roared, instantly that long, black, wavering line became alive, leaped forward like a long supple serpent, then separated into individual units that spread out across the plain. Men on thoroughbreds who knew horses, and even the riders of the humble cow-ponies, husbanded their strength wisely and held their horses down to the long swinging lope of the prairies, which the trained cow-pony can keep up all day. Less experienced riders, senseless with haste and greed, many with expensive horses which they had bought for the occasion, lashed into top speed at the outset, and before two miles were covered they were down and out. Prairie schooners, thousands of them, broke like a huge covey of awkward quail, set out at speed over the levels, and then dropped back to their old lumbering gait. Some had strong horses that pulled vigorously, some, horses that were weary and old and harnessed with ropes. There were even teams of oxen in this long, mad race. One man went in on a thousand dollar Kentucky thoroughbred, and when he reached the land he had picked out, he found a sooner calmly ploughing with his oxen. It occurred to no one that land just over the line was as good as land twenty miles ahead. It was a woman on foot who realized this. When the cannon boomed and the long black line dashed away, she took one step forward, and stuck down in the ground a stake on which she had whittled her name. She sat down on the ground under a large black cotton umbrella and drank her bottled lemonade,[188] while the rest rushed away in the heat, for a claim or a town lot. Cities were built in six hours.

Then came night in these cities of a few hours. What had been bare, red ground at noon, was at night well ordered cities of tents. The next day they elected a mayor and municipal officers and formed a government. In a week there were hundreds of lumber buildings. The second week they had electric lights. And the second day they had a daily paper.

The first census showed people from every state in the Union and from far away Australia. There were petty aristocrats from Europe. There was an Hungarian nobleman whose name it is not best to give, because there is just one chance in a thousand that it might have been his own name. Too bad, for it was an imposing name, made up of a title, five given names and a double-deck family name. He resembled a captain of cuirassiers. He was a hero of romance in real life; tall, spare, dark; pointed mustache, snappy black eyes, and a very distinguished manner; the cosmopolitan manner. He was an accomplished linguist, who had disembarked at every great port of the world. He knew Shanghai, Frisco, Rio, and the Straits Settlements. He came as a respectable adventurer, because being an adventurer was a profession here. He probably had no definite aim. Because however, collectively, among such a crowd of people there must be money it was an opportunity for him. And if they had money, his wits were keen enough to get some of it, because that was his objective in life. He lived lightly and easily upon the money which other people worked to earn. He waited patiently and happily until they earned it. And then he took it away from them. He used to relate to circles of open-mouthed listeners, under the round white moon of those first warm nights, when the dewless air was glittering and clear, how once he had circled the world with a prince of the blood royal. The prince had incurred his father’s displeasure so his father had decreed to punish him by temporary banishment. By way of banishment he chartered a yacht for a number of years, gave the boy a fortune in spending money, and sent him away to look the world over.

Here, for a living, this Hungarian nobleman did the people. And he did them successfully. To the German settlers he was a German; to the Hungarian a Hungarian; to the French a Frenchman. To the townspeople in general he was an international lawyer who had never seen the inside of a law book in his life. He sold legal advice for cash. His knowledge[189] of all trickery was profound and worthy of respect. When business in a legal line was dull, he sold clothing to measure. In addition, he dealt in real estate. He was a broker of everything who never failed to leave the person he dealt with broke. He was royal in one thing, in the generous way he knew how to spend other people’s money. Even in this isolated place he contrived to look like a fashion plate. He had a large and elegantly selected wardrobe. He never knew where the next meal was coming from, but he always got a meal.

The superannuated politician from other states, who had worn out the patience of all his constituents at home, was here. There were Georgia colonels, Kentucky captains, with goatees or huge mustaches, and narrow, down hanging, black, string ties. There were judges, generals, old and passés, a conglomeration of ambition and proud failure, looking hopefully for another chance from Fate. To dispute with any one of them that his town would not have a hundred thousand inhabitants in a year meant gun play.

Food was from the usual western lunch counter. Here every one swung himself to a tall stool and ate. Food was reduced largely to beefsteak, canned tomatoes, wet, soggy bread, and black creamless coffee.

Night, in the towns, with the electric lights beating down upon dry sand, was hard and cruel and white. The business streets were one frame shack after another, each shack with an enormous front built up high to make it look imposing. One town’s most popular and crowded corner, was Reece Brothers’ Gambling House. Here roulette, faro, craps, stud poker, kept the restless crowd busy throughout the night. Of the Reece Brothers, Bill was what you would call the typical gambler, an ideal movie gambler of today. Grey-eyed, thin-lipped, with a mouth like a steel trap, at the ends of which there dangled a long, pointed, limp, corn-silk, yellow mustache. He wore a poetic Lord Byron collar, a flowing tie, a hugely plaided suit, and the largest and most expensive sombrero in town. This was a dry country because it was still under government control; an Indian country. Notwithstanding this fact, however, enormous amounts of liquor were sold openly over a regular bar.

Sam Reece was of a deeply religious bent. When Sunday morning came, after his night shift at the faro table, as lookout, he put on his long, black Prince Albert, tall, silk-plush hat ten years out of date, worn black kid gloves with fancy stitching along the back, and looking like an undertaker[190] at a dry convention, he took his stately way to church. The church was an oblong tent. It was unbearably hot in summer, and in winter of course there was no heat in it. Sam had various aspirations in life. His greatest aspiration was to sing solos in the choir. It was his one genuine pleasure.

With night fall, the lonely little towns began to get busy. By eight o’clock the unpaved dusty streets were packed with a crowd of men and women milling back and forth, back and forth, from one gambling house to another. Many of these people back home were not gamblers, but church deacons, conservative business men, farmers, whom the loneliness forced to seek excitement or companionship. Any one from a corn doctor to an anarchist, could have a crowd of applauding listeners about him, if he mounted the empty sugar barrel which stood upon the Public Acre, and stood up to make a speech.

Nearly always the wind blew. It blew throughout the night, throughout the day. The air was so dry it was something glittering, sweeping continually past. The arc lights swinging wildly in the boisterous wind, cast strange and grotesque shadows upon the unpainted shacks, and the people who were moving about. The church and the gambling houses and that long, black, restless ribbon which was the incoming Santa Fé train, were the only civilizing forces that welded men together, and helped drive away distance, homesickness, and loneliness.

Each city’s idea of a celebration of any kind was noise. The ideal of noise was guns and tin pans. Every man carried one gun. The greater number carried two. Since there was no law but martial law, the population’s first desire was for territorial government. When Senator ——? of Washington, Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, arose in the Senate, stuck his hand in the lapel of his coat and said: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands, I demand for the future citizens of Oklahoma, those honest, hard-working Americans that they be given self government, and so forth, and so forth. The speech went on the wire to Oklahoma. The telegraph operator, who was likewise ticket agent, depot master, and a half a dozen other things, got it first. By way of letting the town know that good news was coming, he ran out on the platform and fired a round from his six-shooter. The proprietor of First Chance Saloon, a two-gun man from Texas, stepped out of his shack and let go both guns. He did not know the news but he felt that it must be good. And he believed in helping on a good thing. If it were good he[191] voiced his approval. If, however, it turned out to be bad it meant that he had been voicing his disapproval. When his guns began to bark, the Feed Store Man, next door, began with his, and before another minute had elapsed the entire town was in the street firing up into the sky. It was like magic. Men leaped from shacks. Men leaped from dugouts, and saloons, everywhere. A firing squad began to march up and down the streets, firing by volley, by individuals, by twos and threes. Most of them did not know what for, but when the telegraph operator ran up the hill to deliver his message to the mayor, who, standing on the empty sugar barrel in the Government Acre, read it aloud, the crowd went mad. The celebration lasted all night. If the news happened to prove disappointing on the morrow, no one was vexed, because soon some other news of some kind would come and then they could have another celebration. Occasionally a citizen had an eye knocked out, or a half a dozen teeth, by a spent bullet. Window glass was broken nightly. No one of course minded such trifles. They were merely the by-product of frequent and joyous celebrations.

Mr. Mencken is a pugilist, not an artist. He has always been in the wrong ring. It is safer to take blows, however, which make you blue instead of black.

Mr. William Lyon Phelps is the most art-predatory of non-æsthetic pedants.

It is good to be interested in everything, from the history of pins to the color of pills preferred by potentates, pugilists, or pedagogues.

Coelho Netto, of Rio, is a person. There are not too many! He is peculiarly versatile. He has been physician and surgeon, lawyer, lecturer upon art and letters in great universities, politician, reporter, and writer of many volumes of successful plays which still hold the stage in both Brazil and Portugal. In addition, he is a novelist and prolific short story writer, and one of the first in his tongue, in South America, to gain a livelihood solely by art.

The difficulty of living by the pen, in Rio, in an early day was set down by a Portuguese journalist as follows:


“They say Brazil has thirteen millions of people. Of these twelve millions eight hundred thousand can not read. Of the two hundred thousand that remain, one hundred and fifty thousand read only daily papers; fifty thousand, only French books; thirty thousand, translations. The other fifteen thousand read the Catechism and the Prayer Book; two thousand study Comte. And one thousand read Portuguese books made in Brazil.”

He was one of the earliest artists to show the native life of the land outside the cities, together with man’s effort to contend with the resisting tropic wilderness. He has shown every class of this richly varied life in his extensive country.

Tormenta is a novel of a young physician, which perhaps is reminiscent of his own youth. Sertão is a collection of prose acquarelles of Brazil’s colonizing days, with interesting pictures of the vast, the varied interior. Here we see storms so violent, they are almost unbelievable, like a deluge, and which last for days; then the long dry seasons, and the measureless, solitary pastures; the encrusted gold of sunsets unimpeded over disconcerting levels; and the grey and melancholy dawns.

One of his most powerful novels, the one I perhaps admire most, is Rei Negro. It shows life on a lonely estate in the interior and the confusing conflict, then blending, of black and white races. It is a pathetic, moving story one is forced to remember, of a beautiful woman of the tropics cursed with double race blood and a Negro who was a hero.

O Capital Federal contains enchanting sketches of Rio, and likewise detailed descriptions of existence on a fazenda, in the country, where the luxury is so great, so unexpected, it sets one dreaming of the pleasure places of Tiberius, in the south of Italy. This novel, O Capital Federal, is dedicated to his uncle as follows: “My Uncle: In this book there are pages that belong to you, because I never should have written them had not my Good Fairy guided me to the ascetic but voluptuous retreat where you live in happy tranquility, following the moral law of Epicurus, and treasuring your flowers.”

This alluring place of residence was isolated in a grave garden of roses. It fronted the green, refreshing foam of the sea, where towered two black rocks. In construction it was a Swiss chalet. Steps of marble, polished and rare, led to it. The drawing rooms were ample, luxurious, and filled with objects of art. The bath, in this country home in Brazil, recalls the[193] Baths of Nero. It would have satisfied the sumptuous Ruler of Rome. How he would have enjoyed pushing the buttons which filled the bath room with pink mist of attar of roses or the purple breath of violets! The dining-room, all the other rooms, were equally splendid. There were precious wines in priceless crystal. There was rare and astonishing food. And flowers, dazzling and huge.

In Rei Negro, Netto’s descriptions of dawn and sunset, and the blinding yellow midday, are both lovely and unforgettable. I keep this book at hand in order to renew my delight in them. There is freshness and exquisiteness in his paintings of the spaces of this unknown land.

His books are many. All of them are excellent. His is no slight talent.

Esphinge (a novel). Immortalidade, (likewise a novel). Treva, a book of five novelettes; Fabulario (short stories). As Sete Dores De N. Senhora, a noble, uplifting book of faith. Saudades, many very brief stories, all of which are attractive and charm with originality. Scenas e Perfis, short stories, too, and O Paraiso.

I am sorry books are advertised as they are in America today. It both lessens interest in buying and reading. Publishers ought to get together, like nations, and arrange a general disarmament plan. At least we might float, occasionally, the white flag of truce.

Every reader has his peculiarities of taste, touched always with emotion, which is something not amenable to reason. I personally prefer for pleasure, a book on falconry written by some acute and sensual oriental, to the detailed facts, marshalled accurately and dated of, say, the Newgate Calendar.

Ships fascinate me, the beginnings of navigation, Strabo’s Geography, maps, old globes, and the Hakluyt Voyages. When I read about a drawing made of a ship a thousand years old, I shiver as at some line of immortal verse. The great emotion sweeps me. Russel Clark wrote: The most beautiful expression of the hand of man is the sailing ship. Old shipping books interest me. And the adventures of whaling days. The mischances that befell the Whaling Barque, George Henry, kept me awake nights. And the wild-tongued, great Elizabethan Voyagers! I hope pictures have been kept of all the great old ships that ever sailed the seas!


I love gardens. But I do not enjoy reading about them. I hate to see words fade and die. I learn of gardens from painters, etchers. And then I try to remember them without words. In Persian and Indian Miniatures I have loved them best. And the flowers Renoir painted when he was old. Yet that old book Gerard’s Herbal still gives out some of the spiced sweetness of all gardens.

I doubt if in novel making there is such thing as Romanticism, Classicism. Critics, like creations of God He forgot to call good, may be little men, who see in part only, or else through a glass darkly. The two terms merely classify different degrees of visibility.

It is not strange that Dr. Jozef Muls, born in one of the world’s richest art cities, Antwerp, a city that knew Rubens, Quentin Matsys, and Breughel, should write about art. And he has written well.

His Modern Art, The Twilight of Flemish Art Cities, and From Greco to Cubism, (Van El Greco Tot Het Cubisme), give him indisputable rank among the foremost critics of the day. Not only are they penetrating and profound as criticism, but accurately documented, and sensitive, and written in delightful, sympathetic prose. He writes in two languages, French and Flemish; and in speech, he is master of many.

He has not only written books of art but books of travel, short stories, and books of verse. I keep in memory two pleasant booklets about cities. One is Rouen, by André Maurois, the other is Het Levende Oud-Antwerpen, by Jozef Muls. The latter has eight etchings by Vaes. Both books have the indescribable charm which love of the thing written about gives to words. He writes again of the city of his birth in De Val Van Antwerpen.

A work of his which has given me hours of enjoyment is still another book about cities. This is called Steden. The chapters on Constantinople and Venice are alluring. He came across from Trieste to Venice one hot August night, over night-black water, to be confronted at dawn with a golden city floating upon a lapis sea. It looked to him like something fabulous from the depths of the ocean. The decaying palaces resembled splendors seen only in a dream. The Bridge of Sighs made him think of melancholy Byron whose heart, he insists, lives on in Venice. He rejoiced in all the eloquent memories of Tintoretto, connoisseur of art that he is, and the past glories of the Republic.

The great canals were merely the mirrors of Venice, Queen of Cities.


Albert Besnard, the distinguished painter, after being for many years director of the school of art in Italy where the coveted Prix de Rome is given, turned to writing after he was an old man. And the book, properly enough, is about Rome: Sous le ciel de Rome. For this he was made an Académicien. And he deserves the honor. Only one or two other men, for a single work’s grace, have become members of L’Académie Française. Books of travel written by sensitive painters like Besnard are things rare and charming. In one place I recall, he exclaims: “I am standing alone at foot of stairway of the Capitol. Rome under the stars—what delight!” I think Besnard is quite as fine in prose as in the bejeweled, gauze-robed, almond-eyed beauties he painted in India.

Besnard remembers Marie Bashkirtseff, as he saw her once in her youth, standing beside a fountain in the gardens of the Villa Medici. She reminded him of a little golden, furred cat. He considered her fine instead of beautiful. His trained eyes found her arms too short. She was exquisite and fashionable, but she was too cold, and in her face there was no joy. Her originality, to him, was in her peculiar physical attractiveness, her elegance, and not in her conversation. He called her a poor, little child whose only pleasure was to design, then wear wonderful gowns, briefly, for the eye-pleasure of the Great Julian. He always remembered her own too cold, sharply expressive blue eyes.

His observations are arresting. He thinks it is the fatality of order and equilibrium with which modern youth can not put up. A balance is lost. Somewhere else he declares that grief is the ransom of genius. Only they who can suffer, arrive. Whenever he returns to Rome, he likes to pause a moment before entering his dwelling, on one of the hills, just for the pleasure of penetrating first with his eyes, the rich, grey, sculptured mass, which is the world’s incomparable wonder, Rome. He savored with pleasure the beauty of the sky that bends over the Deathless City; the grandeur, the severity of outline of Roman horizons; the deserted campagna; the mystery of magnificent palaces with their murmuring fountains, and above everything else, the peculiar charm of the people, who throughout the centuries have known how to keep vehement passions, the grace of the inspiring gesture, and beauty.

Writing from Rome again, he speaks of the winds of art which blow freshly in one’s face, to renew ideas, then strengthen intelligence. Besnard’s book is so alluring, every page of it, (and his book about India, too), that[196] I should not like anyone to miss them. He is a great admirer of D’Annunzio. He writes of the splendor of the Italian poet’s soul on a par with the century-reinforced splendor of the Eternal City.

Sometimes when I read D’Annunzio I feel that he has moulded sentences, phrases, upon the proud painted canvasses of the past of his native land. His prose approaches the sumptuous completeness of Veronese. His old gardens of Rome have the poignancy of personal regret. Listen to this: “Even the garden was dull and sleep held. It was imbued with silence as rich as honey, as thick and heavy as wax, as precious gums. There was abandon and sadness, which exhausted themselves in belated perfume ... from here one could glimpse a pallid swamp with too tall lilies; yellow, heavy with pollen.”

Once when D’Annunzio was ill with fever he dreamed nightly of the rich gardens of Rome, with their fountains.

Of the kind of writing D’Annunzio does, there is not another example in the world today. I fancy there will not be another, until the age of mechanism, scientific mind, reaches its height, and passes. All things perish after they flower, even the ages.

Henry Bordeaux once exclaimed: “Here I am in Rome again after seventeen years!” Then he recalls his youth: O those morning walks in the perfumed gardens on the Pincian! (Rodriguez, the South American novelist, says in Idolos Rotos: “I can not forget the tardy twilights on the Pincian!”) Bordeaux remarks as an aside, that even humble people, in Rome, have the gift of eloquence.

Italy! Enchanting land, which still holds the heart of the world, and all its youth!

A soundly made novel that deserves consideration from thinkers, is Idolos Rotos (Broken Idols), by Manuel Diaz Rodriguez, published long ago in Venezuela. It is powerful in sense of sociological, economical, and political forces. It is a possessive reproduction of locality. I do not know of any other one book in which an idle reader can learn to understand so well, the differing values, the changing present condition of a great race, suddenly thrust into new material backgrounds, undergoing the too rapid physiological pressure of an untried climate. The book has mental detachment. It has balance of ideas. It has calm, unprejudiced observation. It is brilliant, subtle, and penetrating. And it has fine sincerity. The[197] writer carries forward fearlessly the logic of a visioned idea. The prose is always good and sometimes great.

Few have been able to look upon the civilizations that grew up with mushroom swiftness in the new lands of the West, the Americas, with clearer eyes. We meet here the mind of South American youth. And the book has stable novel architecture.

Victimas de un sistema.... Victims of an educational system which is wholly speed and with which they pretend to ripen brains and polish intelligence, just as heavy machinery is moved about by electricity or steam ... harmonious development is impossible,” writes Rodriguez.

It is a story of a wealthy young South American, educated for years in Europe, who comes home and tries to take up again the life he knew in childhood.

Of April in Caracas, he is enthusiastic: “It is a spectacle worthy of admiration, when the acacias flower, and trees wear crowns of purple and robes of flame!”

Sometimes Rodriguez warns against the dangers of democracies in words which remind us of León Daudet or De Tocqueville. There is no national soul, he says. And nothing is done to develop it. In Venezuela there are three ethnic unities which are hostile to any united progress.

He has written glowingly of the days of tropic summer. Again I translate from memory: “The cicadas sang. From every tree, every bush, rang their shrill announcement of summer. Near and far, every spot of green, every twig, leaf, was a strident trill, inescapable, like the high, glorious notes of crystal chords vibrating with frenzy until they snap. From the scanty vegetation on the edge of gorges, which, toward the north, divide capriciously the city ... swelled monotonous, sharp song.... From all points of the compass it came. And in Caracas, from every patio, surged the deafening song of the penetrating choir.”

Albert, idle in his studio, thought it was the tortured cry of a land sick with fever, praying the implacable blue for rain. The land was burned. This heat of fever quivered everywhere like a thirst. The fever leaped with violent color-cry to top boughs of the búcares. It leaped in blinding bloom to tall tolu-trees, to the acacias, which were breaking with blossoms. Nowhere in the city nor the forests could one see trees that were not[198] covered with flowers, purple, red, and the hues of flame. From his window he confronted tolu-trees completely enveloped like armor in purple petals.

Both Loti and Barrés suffered from a consuming fear of death, says Daudet. They were constantly preoccupied with the thought that some-time life for them would be no more. Loti fought the fear with change of place, traveling; Barrés, with political affairs. Both were fêted and flattered while they suffered continual boredom. That accomplished Portuguese, Fidelino de Figueiredo, declares that it was boredom which caused the death of Louis Cotter, historian, who wrote Splendor and Decay of the House of Austria.

He died of mental weariness because he could not adapt himself to the mediocrity of a provincial town, its petty quarrels, its local injustice, its horror and hatred of any kind of superiority.

The brilliant Portuguese goes on to say that it was this attitude of mind which caused the French Revolution, and which is now beginning to afflict the minds of men again, with close of a period of time. People sense dumbly that the treasures of emotion, treasures stored by rich soul life (being rapidly destroyed) can never be reassembled. The result means death of culture. Marie Henrietta once wrote that to live does not mean to be upon the Earth either a brief time or a long time, but to be able to feel, to register a great range of sensations.

Evidently lovely Marie Henrietta did not sense the leanness of the long, thin years. Nor the New World that was coming.

A most satisfying and illuminating writer upon art is the Spaniard, Ballesteros de Martos. His Artistas Españoles Contemporaneos is a gem of its kind. It is splendidly illustrated. There is some quality in the prose of De Martos which recalls to my mind the great sculptors of his country who work direct from life in hard stone. It is economy; some unusual direct, swift power of expression. He is not only art critic but novelist and editor. One of his late novels is Luz en el Camino. He was one of the editors of that brilliant Spanish review, Cervantes.

I like this from Bacon’s Advancement of Learning: “The images of men’s wits and knowledge remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to[199] be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking actions and opinions in succeeding ages.”

Charm can come again, even in this dull day! It must be born, however, of brilliant mind united with nobility. Professor Jay William Hudson, in Abbé Pierre’s People, owns that graceful, alluring, polished-surfaced prose, and kindly seeing, Stevenson taught us to know in his short stories, and Charles C. D. Roberts, the Canadian, in little word-canvasses that witched before us French Canada, white winter, and the delicate, blossom-touched, brief spring of the north. He is not only novelist, story writer, but distinguished philosopher, thinker.

Pleasure has disappeared. Now to illumine tædiam vitæ we have gain, efficiency, and a desire for swifter and swifter movement from place to place, physical restlessness. Monkeys in tropic forests move swiftly, daylong, from bough to bough. They are restless because they have no mind and can not live. The people whose physical movements are swiftest and most continual, we ask to write books, philosophize for us, become models of intellect. A rare item, this, in the Great Confusion!

There are pleasures that are, of course, seemingly foolish. One of mine is just to hold in my hands old books printed in Venice.

I suppose there is some difference between peasants on a money-holiday that lasts too long, and nimble-tailed monkeys aswing from tall tropic trees.

Ellis Parker Butler declares pigs is pigs. Then monkeys must be monkeys, tails long or short.

I used to know a little shop in Paris where they kept only books about imaginary travels, travels that never existed. This kind of writing seems to have been done for a little while in the Eighteenth Century. One is about an imaginary trip to the pole and published in Amsterdam in 1723. Abbé Bordelon published a little earlier, a book about a hypochondriac who was forced to travel all the time whether he wanted to or not. Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe belongs to this period. Louis Holberg wrote, about the[200] middle of the Eighteenth Century, describing a strange journey to the interior of the earth. There was an Arab philosopher, by name Ibn Tophail, earlier by a century, in the late Seventeenth Century, who wrote one of the most fascinating travel books in the world. It tells about a boy shipwrecked on a desert island south of Asia, who by means of travel and contemplation, trained his mind to comprehension of the verities, and scientific knowledge. The writer himself had an amazing life spent partly in Africa and partly as Secretary to the Governor of Granada.

Novels which give us the souls of races and the ancient historical progression of peoples such as: Reymont’s Peasants, Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil, are precious, powerful things. In no other way can we know thoroughly other lands and them who dwell there. A series of novels is being published in South America by that accomplished artist and man of letters, Manuel Galvez, which does just that. He is writing a series of fascinating historical novels of the wars in Paraguay, and of life in that great rich country Argentina. At this moment the Paraguay Trilogy is ready. The books are Los caminos de la muerte, Humaitá and Tierra de espectos. One of his earlier books, El solar de la raza, won the Argentine Prize. It is a travel book of old Spain. There are eloquent pages about Castile, strong, proud, noble, profound, whose glories Galvez says he has faith to believe will be duplicated again in Argentina. In this, Galvez has written as eloquently of time-stained, tragic Toledo as Zorilla, or Blanco-Fombona. As prelude to his description of the old stronghold of Spanish cities he says: “Now we are living in an epoch of transition; it is the imperialism of energy under two expressions, namely, will and muscle, while the older civilization of Spain was founded upon imperialism of the spirit. There the soul dominated. In modern cities of the New World people live preoccupied exclusively with material things; sensual pleasures, health, fashion, the acquiring of wealth. In the old days, in old cities such as Toledo, people were preoccupied with questions of the soul, God. Today we have the combative man, the pioneer, the self-made. We have epics of multitudes, whose interests are wholly material.”

“Toledo affirms for us the indelible quality of grief. It is one more illustration of the sudden end of things human. Even the stones of Toledo keep telling that life is continuous death. Cities, philosophies, glories of empire, books—everything—die. In time the civilization of Europe will[201] pass into oblivion too. Later, American civilization will disappear, and with it the civilization of Argentina. Then some writer a thousand years hence will make a soulful and elegiac description of the end. He will find in the abandoned streets of my beloved Buenos Aires the same lofty sorrow, the same memories of the past, which, in nights I can now never forget, the stones of Great Toledo have revealed to me.”

Galvez is the author of many powerful novels of Argentina of today. Among them El mal metafísico, La vida multiple, La sombra del convento, La tragedia de un hombre fuerte, Nacha Regules. To me his most powerful book is El cántico espiritual. A book that has qualities which permit it to rank with the great novels of the world. It is the story of a young South American artist who goes to Paris to live, to continue his profession. There he falls in love with a rich, beautiful, but married woman from his own Argentina. For many years this love dominates his life. He pays court to her. He tries to make her his mistress, but without success. There are pages and pages of noble and inspired writing, rich revelations into the depths of an impassioned heart. After the years they both go back to Argentina again, to Buenos Aires, and here he finds out that she is ready to yield to his pleas and become his mistress. Then he finds his love for her is a thing of the spirit not of the flesh. He finds that she was merely the protective star that watched over his ambitions, his art. These years of sorrow had without his knowing it become years of progression for him, in which he had left behind forever his longing for the inferior beauty and had passed on to a nobler thing. Beauty Absolute, which is divine. In El cántico espiritual, Galvez writes (the close of the novel) the triumph of the spirit over the material, the triumph of an ideal world over a world of reality. It is the long pilgrimage of the soul toward the Absolute, the love of Dante for Beatrice, the philosophy of Socrates in the Banquet. It should be the hymn of a love that was pure, love eternal, a thing of comprehension of the soul, powerful enough to disdain the flesh. At their last meeting when he takes farewell of her, Suzanna, in his studio in Buenos Aires, he says: (This is the close of the novel.) I quote: “For this work which I wish to create, Suzanna, we must be pure. We must forget the flesh and the body. We must be able to life up our souls to the Great Beauty.”

“The darkness was drawing closer about them. They did not light the light. After Morris touched her brow fleetingly with his lips, his face[202] again wore its noble ecstatic expression, his eyes too were strangely revealing of some richer happiness that seemed foreign, far.... With the eyes of the spirit he had confronted the Beauty which is Absolute. He had progressed from the love of one woman toward love of all human things, and from old art which was limited, to a comprehension of the essence of all art, the Divine.”

This book is nobly felt, nobly executed.


Quotation marks have been added to the following paragraphs to be consistent with similar occurrences within the text:
Pg 7: “There is ... national soul.”
Pg 8: “Lima! Your ... of Spain.”
Pg 27: “Il y a dans ... Dame Reality.)”
Pg 31: “Il me fallut ... and Vitellius.”
Pg 41: “Figure aux ... last God.”

Some hyphens in words have been silently removed, some added, when a predominant preference was found in the original book.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

Pg 3: ‘Eightheenth Century’ replaced by ‘Eighteenth Century’.
Pg 5: ‘a Portugese critic’ replaced by ‘a Portuguese critic’.
Pg 7: ‘some the same’ replaced by ‘some of the same’.
Pg 11: ‘of great variety’ replaced by ‘of a great variety’.
Pg 17: ‘the Pyranees and’ replaced by ‘the Pyrenees and’.
Pg 17: ‘Pyranean village’ replaced by ‘Pyrenean village’.
Pg 25: ‘a sered and wasteful winderness’ replaced by
‘a seered and wasteful wilderness’.
Pg 26: ‘irridescent, like the’ replaced by ‘iridescent, like the’.
Pg 29: ‘Lamertine wrote’ replaced by ‘Lamartine wrote’.
Pg 30: ‘unbelieveable charm’ replaced by ‘unbelievable charm’.
Pg 31: ‘of Eighteenth’ replaced by ‘of the Eighteenth’.
Pg 32: ‘Gallilean Prophet’ replaced by ‘Galilean Prophet’.
Pg 35: ‘English clerygman’ replaced by ‘English clergyman’.
Pg 41: ‘shores of Gallilee’ replaced by ‘shores of Galilee’.
Pg 46: ‘Salâmmbo’ replaced by ‘Salammbô’.
Pg 64: ‘by many seiges’ replaced by ‘by many sieges’.
Pg 69: ‘the hysop of the’ replaced by ‘the hyssop of the’.
Pg 74: ‘Heine’ day was’ replaced by ‘Heine’s day was’.
Pg 75: ‘in the quartrain’ replaced by ‘in the quatrain’.
Pg 79: ‘exclamed with joy’ replaced by ‘exclaimed with joy’.
Pg 79: ‘thanks to me like’ replaced by ‘thanks to men like’.
Pg 81: ‘quartrains of Persia’ replaced by ‘quatrains of Persia’.
Pg 82: ‘After period of’ replaced by ‘After the period of’.
Pg 82: ‘born on the crest’ replaced by ‘borne on the crest’.
Pg 82: ‘in his Rubiayat’ replaced by ‘in his Rubaiyat’.
Pg 84: ‘into a quartrain’ replaced by ‘into a quatrain’.
Pg 87: ‘loved banks of’ replaced by ‘loved the banks of’.
Pg 95: ‘with new irridescence’ replaced by ‘with new iridescence’.
Pg 96: ‘at stated intervales’ replaced by ‘at stated intervals’.
Pg 97: ‘Man of Weimer’ replaced by ‘Man of Weimar’.
Pg 98: ‘Pagannini is a good’ replaced by ‘Paganini is a good’.
Pg 99: ‘Zucker und Zaubar’ replaced by ‘Zucker und Zauber’.
Pg 101: ‘Marcel Schwab’ replaced by ‘Marcel Schwob’.
Pg 112: ‘accused Bryon of’ replaced by ‘accused Byron of’.
Pg 113: ‘of metamorphasis’ replaced by ‘of metamorphosis’.
Pg 115: ‘dust of milleniums’ replaced by ‘dust of millenniums’.
Pg 117: ‘Aristophenes’ replaced by ‘Aristophanes’ (twice).
Pg 118: ‘L’Enchanteur Pourissant’ replaced by
‘L’Enchanteur Pourrissant’.
Pg 119: ‘que Nietzche’ replaced by ‘que Nietzsche’.
Pg 119: ‘entusiasm por’ replaced by ‘entusiasmo por’.
Pg 125: ‘of connoiseurship’ replaced by ‘of connoisseurship’.
Pg 128: ‘crumbling Colisseum’ replaced by ‘crumbling Colosseum’.
Pg 130: ‘Riccarda Huch’ replaced by ‘Ricarda Huch’.
Pg 132: ‘die Fusze eines’ replaced by ‘die Füsse eines’.
Pg 133: ‘his is virtuousity’ replaced by ‘his is virtuosity’.
Pg 135: ‘Aristophenes’ replaced by ‘Aristophanes’.
Pg 142: ‘laisser choir dans’ replaced by ‘laissé choir dans’.
Pg 148: ‘he is priest’ replaced by ‘he is a priest’.
Pg 149: ‘in French journels’ replaced by ‘in French journals’.
Pg 149: ‘It is case’ replaced by ‘It is a case’.
Pg 152: ‘in ancestry of’ replaced by ‘in the ancestry of’.
Pg 159: ‘been throughly’ replaced by ‘been thoroughly’.
Pg 161: ‘Are you ambitions’ replaced by ‘Are you ambitious’.
Pg 164: ‘is Schumanesque’ replaced by ‘is Schumannesque’.
Pg 166: ‘quote him verbatum’ replaced by ‘quote him verbatim’.
Pg 166: ‘Aristophenes’ replaced by ‘Aristophanes’.
Pg 166: ‘From Chauteaubriand’ replaced by ‘From Chateaubriand’.
Pg 182: ‘the Saumurai Creed’ replaced by ‘the Samurai Creed’.
Pg 183: ‘Chauteaubriand’ replaced by ‘Chateaubriand’.
Pg 189: ‘The superanuated’ replaced by ‘The superannuated’.
Pg 194: ‘as critisicm, but’ replaced by ‘as criticism, but’.
Pg 195: ‘almon-eyed beauties’ replaced by ‘almond-eyed beauties’.
Pg 200: ‘Hanson’ replaced by ‘Hamsun’.