THE DIAL NO III MDCCCXCIII
Full-page Illustrations “CENTAURS” AN EXPERIMENT IN LINE
DRAWN AND ENGRAVED ON THE WOOD BY
CHARLES S. RICKETTS
“A ROMANTIC LANDSCAPE” AN ORIGINAL LITHO-
GRAPH DRAWN UPON THE STONE BY
CHARLES HAZELWOOD SHANNON
“PHÆDRA AND ARIADNE”,—“AND YOU WILL SEE
ARIADNE GAZING AT HER SISTER PHÆDRA WHO
HANGS BY A ROPE” PAUSANIAS ❧ A REPRO-
DUCTION OF A PEN DRAWING BY
“WHITE NIGHTS” AN ORIGINAL LITHOGRAPH BY
“PAN MOUNTAIN” AN ORIGINAL WOODCUT DE-
SIGNED AND ENGRAVED ON THE WOOD BY
T. STURGE MOORE
“IN THE THEBAID” AN ILLUSTRATION TO A POEM
“THE SPHINX” BY OSCAR WILDE TO BE PUBLISHED
AT THE SIGN OF THE BODLEY HEAD ❧ A REPRO-
DUCTION OF A PEN DRAWING BY
AN INTRUDER” AN ORIGINAL LITHOGRAPH DRAWN
UPON THE STONE BY
“SOLITUDE” AN ORIGINAL WOODCUT DRAWN AND
ENGRAVED ON THE WOOD BY
“THE TOPMOST APPLE” AN ORIGINAL WOODCUT
FROM THE VALE EDITION OF DAPHNIS AND CHLOE
DESIGNED AND ENGRAVED ON THE WOOD BY
“THE LOTOS-EATERS” ❧ A REPRODUCTION OF A
PEN DRAWING BY
T. STURGE MOORE
“A NOTE ON GUSTAVE MOREAU” BY
CHARLES R. STURT
“SOME SHADOWS OF A THOUGHT” “SONNET AFTER
RONSARD” “THE PIMPERNEL” “ENFANCE” AND
“THROUGH A CHILDS EYES” AFTER RIMBAUD
“CHORUS OF GREEK GIRLS” BY
T. STURGE MOORE
“OLD KITTY” BY
T. STURGE MOORE
“A HYMN TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN OF
ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI” BY
THE WRAPPER AND INITIAL LETTERPIECES IN THE
TEXT HAVE BEEN DESIGNED AND ENGRAVED ON
THE WOOD BY CHARLES RICKETTS. THE SMALL
WOODCUT ON PAGE 20 IS BY T. STURGE MOORE.
THREE FULL PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS MARKED ABOVE
WITH A DEVICE HAVE BEEN REPRODUCED BY
MESSRS. WALKER AND BOUTALL
“POEMS DRAMATIC AND LYRICAL” THE PLATE
FACING PAGE 200 AND APPEARING TO ILLUSTRATE
THE POEM “THE PRODIGAL (AFTER ALBERT
DURER)” WAS DONE AS AN ILLUSTRATION TO A
DIFFERENT POEM BY LORD DE TABLEY ON THE
SAME SUBJECT “THE PRODIGAL” PAGE 189 “RE-
HEARSALS.” THROUGH INADVERTENCE NO MEN-
TION WAS MADE OF THIS MISTAKE IN THE SECOND
EDITION OF “POEMS DRAMATIC AND LYRICAL”
Still, brilliant with bright brass, the tower derides
The sun’s gold shafts ; which strike and on all sides,
Like ridicule-lit laughter, spread ; and some
In bravery bend back whence they have come,
And try their strength with those that come direct,
With first impetuous potency unchecked,
From the god’s bow. For this the heat is great
O’er all the land of Argolis of late.
The king, Acrisius, hopes his tower may prove
Impregnable to liquid light and love
Rolled round it in a golden ocean-tide
Whose ebb is a June night : and so all dried
And dusty have the ways become ; the fields,
They wind among, with grain a rich soil yields
Should glow, not thus discover to the eye,
Between scant straws, their crops, what black cracks lie
And lengthen snake-like on baked brittle earth.
Nor dewed nor girlish comes the Dawn, a birth
Militant ; not a sole dwarfed hare-bell dares
To laugh : Night’s tearless glitter naught repairs.
Old Inachus scarce finds the strength to stretch
On his hot bed—stirs like a fevered wretch,
And limps round stones—so feebly seaward creeps.
While in the tower-top small Danae sleeps,
Unconscious how a god close, closer steals
Across her painted prison-floor, nor feels
His burning kiss the hand he reaches first.
She sleeps half-swooned: with sweat her brow has burst;
Pale lips apart show teeth like maids in bower,
Nor past them has her sweet breath stirred this hour.
Leaves lap and overlap, and trees ; the lily,
Deep-delled and fragile, grows up very stilly,
Decked with bead-bells adroop, yet so abashed,
She sees but couch-moss by rill-frolic splashed.
So silken shade and shawls of varied hue
Hid Danaë’s limbs which whiter daily grew;
And nothing saw she, save her room’s few things,
Beside the well-conned window-view; and brings
Each year no increase to her life’s thin store
Of sights—the only one not known before
A larger loveliness, that might be found
By searching the great mirror’s polished round :
Which had advent so imperceptible
It dwelt unnoticed there ; although, whimful,
She loved to see—no soil of levity
In her fresh silent mind—in nudity,
No flush-faced shame dared hinder to enjoy,
Her beauty—purely with no least alloy
Of vanity, since she had never seen
Eyes like to those which modest maidens screen
Themselves from, neither knew that any girls
There were less fair than she, or who wore curls
Less copious or of poorer purple sheen
On lustre-lacking black. Oft would she lean
As through a thunder-rain, while combing it,
Nor then alone before her mirror sit;
For when—cool after washing with well-water,
Nurse daily stooping up the steep stair brought her—
She gravely sat to musingly commune
With her companion-self a June forenoon,
To gain a smile’s return sometimes she smiled.
Since off her nurse’s knee at first, beguiled,
When little, by the bright resemblance to
Her young glad life, she tottered towards the new-
Perceived child, whose fresh rosy limbs resembled
Eros’ own in deep-dimpled mould, and trembled
Like cress-framed skies gladdened to recognise
Another blue,—deception friendly-wise
Lingered, though she no longer patted, pleased
To meet a pud like hers, and, seized
With love, put out her lips to join the lips
Out-thrust to them: no Years’ hand quite down-strips
The veil with child-dreams broidered ; in her head
Still someway separate existence led
The twin, and not so much more silent, sister
With her up-grown. Not once had she yet missed her,
As o’er their earliest chubby limbs had come
A gradual change, a whimsical, winsome
Awkwardness peeping out till plumpness went :
O’er salient points a certain tightness lent
A peevish pinched appearance; in sight too
Their shoulder-blades moved looselier ; a new
Sly meagreness had crept o’er them ; as shoots,
They sprouted up to taller growth ; like roots
Sent down into dark mould, grew whiter daily.
Strange inner effervescence sparkled gaily
Out through their eyes. The undecided place
Of budding breasts, dissimulating grace
As March flakes feign the snowdrop’s calm, shows forms
Hazy like mushrooms when the night-time warms,
That globe and gleam, yet leave the stars in doubt
If on the dewy slopes they shift about.
When moulds the potter on his whirling wheel
Dumb clay, a hint of final curves will steal
From clever hands in sapience sure ; just so
Quaint querulous suggestions of a flow
Of contour simpler, more capacious, slips
From God’s thumb when he moulds a woman’s hips.
Her thighs will lengthen faster than they round,
Till their delightful devious line be found.
The heels, too narrow, of the little feet
Will give her steps a wayward wav’ring sweet.
As when, unpropped, the heavy dahlias lean,
Her head nods, nods. A mere caged white-mouse, seen
Through close-strung wires, will writhe its sleek length high,
And hold with pinky paws, and seem to sigh
As, sniffing tainted air, it seeks a vent
From prison ; and then scurries back, as bent
On finding in the oft-searched farther end
Some small escape ; and, since its birth there penned,
Yet lives on, never losing childish hope
Somehow eventually its sense may cope
With most perplexing life-imprisonment:
Thus Danaë, with like hopeful discontent,
Led to and fro her white shape in her life’s
Wall-hampered home ; and still this useless strife’s
Fatigue can barely disappoint a mind
So scantly versed in freedom, or unblind
To fate’s fell force eyes closed by charity
To real and might-be sights’ disparity.
Now, like whole fallen statues on old lawns,
Deep puzzles for the country-minded fauns
Who peep, the sisters sleep. While mimic sun
Up one outstretched arm, cautious, crawls, up one
Real sun-lips yearn, aquiver yet to scare,
So lose, their prize; who Zeus is well aware
Lies not apurpose in his path. From fear,
He e’en forbids the swallows twitter near.
For daily—when, bold grown, some hour entered
In at her casement high, he has e’en dared
Come close up to the tall embroid’ring frame—
Just as his fingers set her wools aflame,
She started up to move more in the shade ;
Still on he crept, and still she was afraid
To feel his touch ; so his light widened, till
Was left, except beneath the window-sill,
No shade ; there crouched she in the broad’ning belt
And watched the crimson of his last rays melt.
She liked to see and dodge him round the room,
Which was great fun ; he gone, all grew to gloom.
’Twas then of old her nurse would lift her where
She might well watch old darkness overbear
The youthful light whom all things plead for—sheep
Who bleat and lowing herds and, half asleep,
Birds, ever loath to note how day’s cup fills
With joy ; and stables, then, and woods and hills
Hush up ; nymphs, centaurs, folk with tails and horns,
Settle themselves in nooks near lulling bourns.
Then, floated to her head, came children’s chatter,
And she, it may be, startled by such clatter,
Would let her eyes droop down to dark’ning earth,
And watch them playing in their noisy mirth.
Perchance they, quarrelling, fell by the ears
For some small sudden play-chance ; then her tears
Ran fast, and such upheaving sobs would rend
Her slight frail frame as would not know an end,
Till she was tucked up in her neat white bed;
When would commence a coursing through her head
Of wond’ring queries, how their love and hate
Were roused, till stunned by sleep importunate.
So tall and slender later on she grew
That, planted on a footstool, she could view
The many lanes that led up through the fields,
In which—towards where a deeper shadow shields
First-fallen leaves, while the withdrawing sky
Pities feet slow in dust—two wandered by
Who late, in most reposeful country life,
Have found unrest and something of the strife
Of hearts, which cruel Eros loves to see.
What balm was theirs to soothe? as peacefully
They went, arm-linked, what made them so content
In silence thus to walk, together leant?
Boundless and vague, deep wishes welled in her;
Wide grew her eyes ; and through the echoing air
A memory—sad, single, precious scrap
Of love-lore—sang,—while round her eyes she’ld wrap
Her hair to blind them,—what she once had heard
A poor girl sing:—so sorrow’s tide recurred.
“Haste thee, haste thee to my arms;
Hang they, voided of thy charms.
Like some sick leaf, a fierce wind hunts alone
Proving its gold rings false on stem and stone,
This feather from Love’s wing to Danaë blew.
Ignorant of his name was she, nor knew
Aught of his antic gambols with the maids,
As, when she questions, her old nurse upbraids.
For the crook’d crone has had instruction strict,
To see how ’tis she lets herself be tricked
To talk of love, men’s manners, women’s wiles;
Therefore, well-taught how innocence beguiles
The weak lips to unwise discovery,
Has bound her tongue to stay most silently
Within her mouth, till grown so taciturn
Her gossip’s-heart has learnt to never yearn
For converse, though she truly loves the child—
Who, the song sung, let loose her hair and smiled.
Soon lifted eyes were tempted off anew
Among the stars, those eyes most simply true,
Thought but small holes drilled through a roof, the sky:
What should she know of gods or destiny,
Of Zeus, sky-king, or Kypris and her doves ?
What was to tell of them except their loves ?
No prayer she said ; nor had she learnt to muse
How life’s a dream, or of the soul that sues
For speech from out the frigid lips of fate ;
Nor knew she aught of the omniscience great,
Or how her small mind some w r ould father so.
Yet there of mystery was what she might know,
Who had found tokens in her tiny round,
That little limit of her life was ground
Sufficient for a larger lovelier growth,
Attaching meanings to the light: how loath
It was to shine, she thought, by such small holes,
When the vast void, through which the day’s sun rolls,
It could flood, driving forth the sad dark sea
Of night ; yet could not clothe her sweet fancy
In words. Since her vocabulary small,
Drafted from out her nurse’s, could not call
Her thoughts by name, she smiled them to her side,
A mind’s eye-harvest sweeter, not more wide,
Than filled a miser barrel’s critic-round
Of sky-blue. Disentangled and unwound,
Her idea of the home of blessedness,
Whence stars shone, could not bind such vague distress
As bosky gardens feed in glow-worm eyes,
Peering through gloom, whence if a tuft arise,
’Tis shown by light which haunts them like a ghost,
Those few tufts just the things her life loves most.
Her swoon’s dream is, that she, transported thither,
Loves, wanders, close-companioned, near a river;
Un-characterized the friend, whose arms embrace her
Slow pacing down a path star-daisies trace there.
Meanwhile, at home and far from such a place,
The sun, stretched o’er her, showers on her face
Kisses, that meet no blush, nor dint the snow :
Thus summer wastes, for all the high peaks know.
Her life, love-stinted over-much,—for, save
Her nurse, no one to love, or that could crave
Her love, she knew—had let heart-worship fall
Portioned to dead things—as some silken shawl,
That she would hold against her cheek, kiss it,
Space out, and bid its folds her fancy fit;
Till thus an afternoon was whiled away,
Fondling its foolish yards. Another day
Brought flowers that came in pitchers, or a load
Plumping an apron, or else singly stowed
In with the butter, sprinkled o’er the fruit,
Or making dewy nests for eggs. First mute
For gladness, next with clapping hands on feet
That totter with impatience, see her greet
With airy kisses little friends—small eyes
Glorious with gazing on the liberal skies,
Sent by the open-hearted folk who wonder
“How fares small prisoner princess penned up yonder?”
Next in her favour stood some exile shells—
Large lips, agape with wonder-working spells
Which the ear hearing, vainly the mind strove
To dredge a meaning from. So, oft she wove
With nets and toils of hair one to her ear,
Deep in that cushion sunk she found most dear,
Her feet out-thrust on th’ mat most to her mind
Because, ’mid green waved lines, it showed a kind
Of ready needle-pictured likeness to
Her whole bare body, over which there flew
Much smaller portraits of herself, as she
Is to her mind brought back by memory.
As thus she sits, her treasures piled about,
Words foil her ears that, in a sailor’s, shout—
Each wave mothers
It each breeze,
Thee to please,
And to tease
All thy lovers.”
Sun down, the thick swoon from her body lifted:
So, with trailed wings, is some slow eagle shifted
By fed uneasiness. A vivid grey
Blinded her ; night’s cold coming drove away
Her sense once more : she slept, while pain did drum
With muffled hands her temples dull and numb.
Confusedly capricious dreams have wrung
Those tones from her with which that girl had sung,
While, like sea-chants climb twisted stairs to bed,
Male words through dainty doors have reached her head.
And from that night, as some fond woman sits
Beside her love, she with the sun, when its
First matin wealth plunged on her shoulder, till,
Having bathed and blessed her, it slipped o’er the sill.
So changed she was, life wholly seemed becalmed.
All summer-wonts, too, lingered unalarmed ;
For the fierce forest-fires of autumn sped
Slower, glowed larger with less hectic red,
To equal the great glow of July gold.
It seemed that ne’er, they fallen low, their cold
White ashes would be huddling round the farms
And choking in at doors. On false alarms
Birds flew to sea: still the bland weather stayed;
Oft, too, the roof of clouds, rent through or frayed,
On winter’s lap let warm boons drop, to cheer
Men’s hearts. Such fondling had the tower dear,
Where each and all those gleams are welcomed like
A lover’s letter.
When young breezes strike
A tune, and Spring, spry wanton, comes, her nurse
Looks puzzled, makes her pinched up lips to purse
And her eyes blink, bewildered, at the maid,
Who goldly glimmers in the gleam,—afraid
They have not told her of the thing aright.
She falls to rubbing them with all her might;
For, what! a woman with child, no maid, she saw
Sit where the maid had sat a year before.
She fain had got to scolding but delayed,
So clear the eyes she met; and then she prayed
She might be much mistaken, and still knew
She was not; such a queer knot how undo?
For she had ne’er an instant left the tower,
Scarcely the room for much more than an hour.
Who could have done this thing ? O ye great gods!
Walls, locks, and all man’s cares make little odds
To you, when once ye have a mind a thing
Shall be: well may a man stare, whistle, sing,
And blow upon his nails, if ye have entered
With him a race on which perhaps had centered
Dozens of spangled hopes—or life ; ’tis one,
And the race won before ’tis ever run.
So, when a boy-child came to light, her father
Had to be told he was grandsire; though rather
His ears had heard his daughter, pined away
In prison lone, was gone to swell, that day,
The dim ranks of his dead, who wait in earth’s
Strongholds, all kings, or issue by their births
Of kings, or queens, or queenly-motheréd.
He felt as though an ire-forged bolt o’erhead
Was hurtling with intention, like the disc
Young men in rivalry hurl, whereby great risk
Is run by such as watch : so, all at once,
Fear, worst midwife for action, did ensconce
Herself within the unheroic head
Of king Acrisius. Thus, straightway, from bed
They drag poor Danaë, waked to foreign sights:—
The dead night bruised and wounded by torch-lights;
Rooms loud with jest, where girls dance wagers bare,
Where wine-cups crashing wound no thrifty care ;
Close-huddled houses, lanes whence unfed howls
Of unowned dogs disturb. All, which befouls
A town, behind at length is left; the heels
Of the guard, arm-weighted, clog in clay; she feels
A fresh wet wind, and hears the weltering wash
Of waters ; then is lifted up, feet splash,
And, when, set down again, she raised her eyes,
She saw the simple stars, that in surprise
Were crowded close together, and she, dazed,
Lay like a fallen wing’d-thing ; while the raised
Male voices dwindled till the dipping oars
Could make their rhythm felt. Then low-banked shores
Parade black blotted groups of ilex-trees
(The chest was hewn from such stout trunks as these,
She floats in)—pyramids processional
Of night-obliterated leaves, ranged tall
Like mutes ; while, like white lines of silent tombs,
On either side behind the night-mist glooms;
And like some broken-hearted woman bent,
That heaves her hair with sobs,—as on she went—
8 A willow
A willow kneels among them here and there.
The water wakes and louder wails to her—
Nay, wails with old choked sorrows now no more:
Triumphant shouts, borne from a sonorous shore,
Break on her ears; and happy hurried airs
Make haste—lest she, when shaken unawares
On Aphrodite’s cradle-rockers, fear—
To whisper good-will tidings in her ear.
A boat had laboured with the chest in tow:
Dull wooden sounds faint; homeward it does go.
All this long time she held her baby tight,
And stared the poor stars out with all her might:
Now, looking down, she sees his waking eyes
Claim—as his curled gold locks the sun—the skies
In parentage. She dandles in the air
The pretty wanton; who then clips her hair
In fist-fulls, crows, and o’er her shoulder spies
Hermes with Zephyrs wing’d like dragon-flies,
Who, watchful how such frolic crew behaves,
Pilots them o’er blue inly-varied waves.
So many blues, yet each unlike the other,
Grow all greens, when a Zephyr flies his brother.
In vain the gallant Hermes doffs his hat;
For jealous Zeus gave strict commandment, that
His messenger should do his duty, dight
In form impalpable to mortal sight:
Yet, well seen of the baby demi-god,
He from the merry knave receives a nod
Now and again. The far grey tower stands
Against the north, as left by Night’s rash hands
On brilliant-breasted Dawn a bruise of blue,
To fade as her hale pulse revives anew.
This god-freed, god-loved woman hail aloud,
Breezes ! your king the sun mounts o’er a cloud.
Swell your big-chested conchs, strain trumpet-throats;
He hears and knows you, though she little notes.
Still the sad silent home, that distance veils,
Each moment bears behind, as on she sails
To new life, lit with large affinities ;
And for her son Perseus what destinies
Await, beyond the sounding straits that sunder
Dead past from future life! Still sailing under
The blood-thick blue, at length Seriphos, reared
Above a million moving waves, appeared.
T. STURGE MOORE
A NOTE ON GUSTAVE MOREAU.
IT is at first necessary to separate some of Gustave Moreau’s
characteristics from the loose admiration they have brought
about. A dim recognition of his excellence has been caught
by the current of opinion, for it has root in an old longing,
that touch of nostalgic unrest we have, wrapped among the
habits and renunciations forming our ways—in that truly
spiritual leaven, to push circumstances at times beyond their common scope,
in our craving for manna, at least, upon the alien sand. But whatever in the
present finds self-expression in his work has, after all, gathered there into
some special thing, lifted out and beyond the capacities of his surroundings ;
and the existence of so complete, so finished an art utterance amid the
unkind haste of to-day becomes strange if one forgets for the moment how
irresistible is all art growth, whatever may be its everyday conditions, how
separate is always its real achievement, contemporary opinion concerning it
being merely a matter of accident. If an air of pallour in its fruition marks
this obstinacy in growth, art, nevertheless, has become gifted by the effort
with a new sense of beauty, or one, that, for its degree, seems different from
the older sense that was only enamoured of health; the temptation to see
things by this newer knowledge will in part explain the fascinated return
of the art mind to the past, for we watch it in perspective, conscious of
its calm (tinged possibly with weariness), through an atmosphere coloured
by the atoms of our many experiences and ways of thought,—through a
subtile apperception of our weakness, become a subject also of interest in our
half-longing return to that past, so divine in shoulder, so youthful in its
immunity from failure. Yet such retrospective curiosity may prove new
only for its present degree; one may be tempted to imagine it part of all
art effort, in revolt from the immediate, were not opposition too partial, too
limited in work, too separate from the grave sense of growth and expansion,
that is art, to be of serious value as suggestion.
In a characteristic phrase Gautier once sketched this desire to possess
the past with the added charm it now has for us; he ends with a mention
of Flaubert as incurable in this matter, and Flaubert’s correspondence teems
with revealing touches evoked at the actual contact with facts meaningless
to others as mere loose rubble or dust of the past, but, to his gift of divina-
tion, redolent of rare sensations, intense, even to the verge of awe; so that
a stray aroma of rose or balm from the rent in some sepulchre conjured
up to him the shapes, the passions of a world whose being, passed into his
books, yields the essence of that magic he felt so keenly, with much, to the
reader, of that sunset glamour, of nostalgia.
This love of forgotten things joined to Flaubert’s admiration for Moreau’s
pictures, has led to obvious comparison between the two artists, though a
slight pause in judgment might show how false all such comparisons
must be. With Flaubert that haunting force was vivid to create the
real light of a possible past with each detail cast out into clearness, or
troubled only by the emotions of his actors to whom these realities become
strange at times, as so many things must have been in those periods of
With the painter the case is all different, for Gustave Moreau remains a
lover of mythical half-light, light not yet lost in the encroaching night nor
absorbed by the approach of day, of emotions in a morning twilight when
Cerberus, forgetting his chain, may wander beside dark pools, near ghostly
reeds ; for time, a thing so present with the author, has become suspended
to the moment when neither ship nor god need be gone yet; and nothing
is importunate with its reality. We are in a world only of mid-distances,
bounded by low-breathing seas, with littoral towns against the sky ; in a
place where the passing of a bird, for its suddenness, is an emotion. Here
are flowers with strings of crystals made sharp in hue and texture, for
appeal to our visual-touch, to forbid the conviction that all this may be
mirage, that his mystic creatures must soon vanish with the perfumes
ceasing to breathe in those censers, and leave with us but a handful of
aromatic dust, the dust of hair, dust of laurel leaf, and the glimmer in
the grey of forgotten things ; as, in ancient urns, we find a tarnished coin
among the faded ash, a gilded siren as symbol of some story it is unable to
recall. Thus all resemblance to Flaubert lies only in the compass of their
hatred for the commonplace.
In a book of impressions on art (Certains) Monsieur Huysmans lays too
great stress on the element of contrast in some designs Gustave Moreau
executed toward the illustration of La Fontaine. With him, for the
sake of critical emphasis, much of the painter’s work becomes too para-
doxical in means not to be somewhat mechanical. His descriptions else-
where of other pictures, as well as this note, abound, it is true, with acuteness
of feeling; they have unfortunately over-influenced subsequent criticisms
more general in tone. It is through these, possibly, that Monsieur Huysmans’
statements become annoying ; nevertheless, in justification of him, Gustave
Moreau’s consent to become involved in such a task was strange it must
be admitted, in some degree unlucky, none of the fables suggesting a subject
fitted to his great, but entirely lyrical scope. Animals under unaccustomed
conditions—at the best, persons sententious on manners—lay outside the
world of his vision ; not to seem purposeless, they had to be clothed with
a new air of unreality, to move in the flora and cloud of a fairyland empty
of those gracious figures that meet him there half-way, for his great know-
ledge of them. The number of these drawings became troublesome, and,
despite the beauty of many, one turned with a sense of relief to other works
where his handling, with its virile nervousness, moved with more freedom ;
where motives dear to him made quick his hand and pleasured his vision,
realising those instants so suggestive, when the fury of an act has passed
or gathers into new purpose beneath skies flushed by an aftermath of sun
that recall for their touches of orange and bands of brooding purple these
words, “quelles violettes frondaisons vont descendre?”—words so expressive
of that hush in nature, become strange in expectation of some countersign
pregnant for the future.
It is against a sky like this an all-persuasive figure moves away, the
head of Orpheus lies between her hands, and one scarcely knows if her
fastidious dress, decked with so many outlandish things, has been clasped
to her wrists and chaste throat in real innocence of the burden she holds
mystically ; but this hint of sentiment is too slight, too fugitive in the
picture to become heavy or morbid. Enigmatic forms in contemplation
move through other works; the Salomé, for instance, where she is already
conscious of the doom between her and this face whose nimbus grows in
the declining daylight, as the dawn might grow on a blind when the lamp
goes out ; the sky centres to a blood-like spot, half cloud, half garment of
the executioner passing beyond, a fearful messenger to God. It is a spot
of blood like this, in the shape of a little cloud above the sea—clasping in
its most secret blue the future Rhodes,—that gives to the picture of Helen
an undercurrent of doom to which the actors in it are half or all indifferent.
This picture, unless my memory deceives me as to its execution, confirms
his tendencies in one effort whose elements of beauty had haunted him
before, but, till then, not achieved so supreme an aspect. From the brow
of a cliff that is a town Helen moves, pedestailed on broken colours that
creep upward across her dress in a succession of amulets and fronds, to
twine and twist into frail leaves, with stray spilths of ruby towards the
chalice of a blossom she holds near her face whose flesh is luminous against
the samite sky. And below her rainbow garments in which the colours of
the clouds and earth are married, so grouped and so clasped together to form
part of the ramparts, are the wan faces and faded hands of those who, for
her sake, have been won to Death ; and their mouths smile yet, for, at the
moment of death, when the lips grow wreathed, and the eyes profound,
they have sunk into the arrested sleep of some Elysian place, to wait, with
“that touch of irony that must have been Persephone’s,” their return to
life, or the prolonging of their rest into this hour plucked from out of
time. Thus, leaves of laurel and gathered buds are still in their hands,
or the swords whose edge was fashioned against themselves. And that
silent brotherhood, this buttress to the house that must not stand, is
clothed with wreaths and incense haze, as if about a mystic sacrifice for
which nothing can be too good, too strong, nothing too fair. What touch
of foreboding may linger here smoulders, away in the cloud and horizon,
for the artist does not tell if she, who found nothing but praise between
the lips of man, and praise gazing from his eyes, is capable of happiness
even ; if hand over hand she is about to leave this place whose nights and
days have become bitter with the ache of love and grief ; if this phantom
knows herself to be more than woman, a symbol in some divine semblance,
and would exult could she know laughter or tears. In this picture Baude-
laire’s hymn to beauty has become visible, but purged of whatever, through
the limitations of a language, may be touched by posture, epigram ; and
her eyes know they have no need to see.
Moreau has shown her elsewhere (in a small water-colour drawing,
L’Enlèvement) under the closer light of actuality, imaginative actuality, but
wrapped always in her separateness from blame. She leans softly in an
amorous bend against Paris, on the foppery of whose Phrygian dress the
artist has dwelt with minutest care, making it a delicate setting to her half-
nakedness ; the flight of their chariot drawn by willing horses is past a
landscape of crags, the sky burns its passion out above the sea becoming
black ; and in the blue, among the rocks, the Dioscuri still on horseback
are accomplices. The artist has abandoned the strenuous finish in work-
manship of his masterpiece, to become rapid of hand in the pencilling of
cloud and form, and by an afterthought, half poetic intuition, half sheer
pleasure in colour, he has added a bird dipped in crimson as a stray envoy
of Venus, accentuating by its aerial flight the buoyancy of the lines in the
picture; for he is always lucky in such suggestive touches, and his shrewd
sense of literary suggestion in painting never fails him.
Literature, by gradual process of appeal to the imagination, the sense of
growth through which it brings things about, may show any incident,
implying its degree of import in a hundred ways, conveying a sensation all
pleasurably subtil, where the eye, called to view only a result, might find
mere fact in illustration. Take the sonnet by Ronsard, whose subject at
first sight would appear almost pictorial with its implied winter light and
mirror gleam in which Helen, become old and wrinkled, muses sadly on
her vanished beauty. Imagine it translated in painting with the implied
splendour once hers only dimly shadowed forth, how uncertain would be
the result dramatically ; outside the field of words her momentary bitterness,
or harlot’s petulant frivolity, or whatever might make her more real to us,
would become a record only of that mood.
In an early phase of his art one great painter has succeeded in painted
narrative. When taking up the tangled threads of a remote legend, Rossetti
has cast together under the search-light of an intense and generous imagina-
tion, not only the incidents of a story interwoven with new poetic additions
and suggestions, but the almost digressive element of personal predilec-
tions (predilections with a touch of surprise, discovery) in circumstances
and counter-incidents ; shrinking from no complexity for his certainty of
grasp in close-knit design and handling whose expressiveness never flagged.
With Gustave Moreau, the dramatic element is entirely evocative; one of
undoubted intensity, but under lyrical and ornamental conditions his
creatures would become troubled and shadowy indeed ; if brought face to
face with facts and real passions, they would swoon upon themselves,
called back by some sudden Lethean murmur, or inner portent ; their
realities are confined to a few fair things fostered in the shadow of palaces
and ravines, in the mists from rivers, where light, water and air have
become resolved into the cold limpid colours of the topaz. The evidence
of separate life, of the without, so hotly insisted on by Rossetti, is reduced
to the half-fascinated wheeling, the circular-flight of a bird, fraught at
times with great realistic point, as in the shrieking seamew that flashes
across the fall of Sappho from the rocks. His choice is of half-mystic
things, things of ritual ; in this and his partiality for certain colour har-
monies will be found his greatest limitation ; yet in this lies also a sense
of voluptuous melancholy so attractive to the spectator if unbiassed by the
conventions of French and English habits.
The danger is great by over-emphasis to deprive a living thing in art,
with its variety and many phases, of lifelikeness and freedom, as bad
painters deprive their subject of all “undulation” by a rule of thumb they
are pleased to consider completeness of rendering. The art of Gustave
Moreau is living, varied and, like all living things, capable of that counter-
change in virtue or personal force that is allowed even to divisions in nature,
through force of will, desire, or in mere reaction and fatigue.
Therefore among his pictures some will be found very different in temper,
pictures impetuous in dramatic feeling, as the Diomède dévoré par ses chevaux,
in which the feet of the tortured man bend back with suffering, and his whole
body is borne from the ground in its fall by a vehement gesture of cursing
and the rush of his horses ; the Phaéton, L’Hydre de Lerne, Le Retour
d’Ulysse, the Sapho expirante. But these are largely a reaction from too
long a brooding in his charmed habitual mood, and in a score of things they
have a sense of nervous refinement, an implied languor in their rage, that
groups them in his enigmatic world of terrible silences. Yet it is odd, not
a little illustrative of the real lack of artistic activity now prevalent, that
such works should be the only pictures that recall the autocratic, the over-
bearing impetuosity of Delacroix, produced by one whose temperament might
well have been averse to this frenzy.
To-day accusations of plagiarism are broadcast against very ordinary per-
formances even, lest, in the hurry, one man should fortunately escape. With
this great artist none of these accusations is reconcileable to the authentic
stamp of his personality, drifting as they do between Mantegna, Turner,
Blake! or vaguely the Italian masters.
Such questions are hopeless, such similitudes would have puzzled King
Solomon himself; had it been on the subject of art similitudes that the
bright queen wished to be enlightened, his wisdom might—who knows?—
have been tasked beyond the powers of his divining ring, and that amulet
of his, for the control of “loose spirits in their places and the very insects
whose ways are in the sand.”
An influence of Chasseriau has been put forward ; an early picture,
belonging, like the Jason et Médée, to a period of transition (of youthful
ingenuity), will largely explain this critical impression, for Moreau inscribes
it, in a dedication near the frame, to the memory of this dead artist. But
the youth (in Le Jeune Homme et La Mort) who crowns himself on the
threshold of Death’s house, a handful of plucked flowers in his hand, is far
removed in purpose from anything seen hitherto in French art, though some
accents to the drawing remind one that Gustave Moreau was once the
winner of a now forgotten Prix de Rome ; and there is a difference of more
than two art centuries between his shape and the passive figure of Death,
whose work of destruction is left to an Anteros, too young, extinguishing a
torch tricked with nightshade.
It might be difficult to account for so many opinions concerning the
genesis of his pictures, did one not know the tendency in most people to
discover similitudes through a lack of some genuine test to their impressions.
With the unaccustomed passer, trailing his feet about a gallery of antiques,
all remain alike as unaccountable things in stone ; this casts an oblique
light into much criticism that, before work fastidious in its expression,
jealous of its point of view, will recognise the uniform stamp of refinement
on imitation, and, till the word be found by others, expressing our indebted-
ness for this new knowledge, knows but the word Plagiarism, so smooth
to the ears of indifference.
There are many unusual influences blent in the fabric of his creations,
influences of many moods and memories, playing on them, drawing expres-
sion where they strike in some delightful iridescence of tone and thought.
None would resolve the beauty of a crystal into known gases, in some
arrangement of angles ; and art, unlike natural products, besides its
elements of composition, contains some of the divine initial force that brings
it about in emanation, as it were, whose quality calls force to force. To
experience the sense of fascination holding him at work; for its sake, to com-
bine, to hoard, towards that season when this end is achieved, weaving positive
time and emotions into it, must be the only way of enjoying work like his, cer-
tainly of no use to persons of acquired feelings, to whom all new effort remains
objectionable and obscure. Yet the penetration of this obscurity is to find it
enchanted with “ spirit eyes”; this strangeness outside our immediate expe-
rience becomes a simple possession for to-morrow, winding as a stirring
freshness might among the leaves, in that which each day brings of bud to
bloom. In the wrack of the past (“ that approximate eternity certainly
ours ”) this artist has plunged, to bring with his return the evocative chime
on chime of a new thing or message. One sentence of De Guérin’s recalls
to my mind not only this, his great gift, but, very curiously, the possible
aspect of a picture by him ; the lines describe a young fisherman whose
body, for a moment swayed against the sky, plunges among the trouble of
the waters, to return, his head sometimes radiant with wreaths.
His gift of renewing our interest in old, outworn subjects is revealed in many
works—Moïse exposé sur le Nil, La naissance de Vénus, David. It would be
difficult to imagine a more noble picture than this last for invention, yet
more intimate, with all its splendour of detail, though, to some, the
handling might seem thin, for the colour scheme growing into an evening
silver. Each touch is indeed fortunate, from the waning of the incense to
the faded lily David holds in guise of sceptre; this hush over all seems
the soul of the dying man become mystery and colour, wherein a lamp
burns whiter every instant; as each cloud sinks, the weight of a crown
bends the royal head towards the hands whose grasp is loose ; between the
pillars with their symbols moulded in gold, against the marge of the horizon,
a bird sings. But, at the foot of the throne, nestling like a dove upon a
shrine, its limbs and body folded among the kingly vestments, is a visible
spirit of God, clothed with the androgynous garments of the angels ; the
face has, with its awful joy, some suggestion of a Christ at the age when he
disputed with the Doctors, and, by a touch of the imagination really inspired,
the fingers of this apparition pass across the harp whose strings the king
can no longer know.
Hantise is the word by which a new critic has conveyed the secret note
whose obsession strikes so weird a sweetness through the work of Gustave
Moreau. And his art is verily haunted by that fantastic and goading
spirit of perfection, who dwells always in the centremost chamber of the
past ; but his personal way of bringing this near to others remains his
grave achievement. In a train of delicate purposes he passes a sponge across
the lost hues of some ancient picture of passion, making it visible, not
only for that moment but for many moments of return; he makes actual
that which must be too frequently but the echo of a remote recollection,
nostalgia, for lack of a better word, an emotion naturally decried of those
passers, whose bread is the wreck and refuse from the sea of circumstance,
and to whom this strange activity seems hectic, even dangerous.
CHARLES R. STURT
SOME SHADOWS OF A THOUGHT.
Now, like the silence at the heart of song,
Art mars to make, hope’s bow on life’s rain-fall;
A gilly-flower, she tops the garden-wall
And shames the scare-crow weeds which, stunted, throng
In peace their paddock; she, the seed of wrong,
Maketh life’s beauty’s presence keen; a rope
Of seven sinful withes, she wards the slope
Which pilgrims to perfection climb along.
Her fittest likeness is a looking-glass :
To seize on beauty as life’s pageants pass
She coldly, with a crystal ease, is skilled.
She deigns nor toil nor in the work-shed swelt
And strain ; yet must gross metals glow and melt
Before her latest freak of form be filled.
SONNET DE RONSARD POUR HELENE. LIVRE II., NOS. XLII.
When you, quite old, by night with candles, well
Up to the fire, wind skeins or spin, you’ll keep
Crooning my verse and, plunged in wonder deep,
Say “ Ronsard fames days when I was a belle.”
And you will have no servant hearing tell
Such news, though bowed with labour half-asleep,
But shall, at sound of Ronsard, waking leap,
Blessing your name by praise made durable.
I, under ground and with nor bones nor thew,
A shade shall rest near shadow myrtles; you
Will by the hearth, old, crouching, scarce be blithe,
My love, your proud disdain for constant sorrows.
Live now, believe me, wait for no to-morrows;
Pluck even to-day the roses of your life.
The little pink pimpernel,
That border the way to the well,
They saw, they knew, and gazed their fill,
Though sorely against their will
Tied by their stalks to the earth;
And the angel who ruled o’er their birth
Forgot, it is said,
A tongue to each head,
So they had to keep dumb ;
But they all blushed red
Like the nail of a girly’s thumb,
When you bite it a bit
That a kiss may be
The healing of it.
And what did they see?
Why, from the well a woman all white
A woman all naked, fled out of sight!
SUGGESTED BY THE PROSE OF ARTHUR RIMBAUD “ENFANCE.”
Parentless, without court, and nobler far
In every land than gods in fables are,
Has azure and verdure insolently fair
For kingdom stretching forth till waves which bear
No vessels, breaking, name its shores by fame’s
Ferociously Greek, Slav, or Celtic names.
In forest-borders—dream’s own blossoms there
Like bells chime softly till they, opening, shine—
Is the girl, orange-lipped ; her knees she yields
Doubled to clear floods welling o’er the fields,
Nakedness shadowed, flecked, and clothed in fine
By rainbow-bands, the flora, and the sea,—
Such insolence and such immensity.
THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES.
Ladies, who there and back again still pace
On terraces close neighbouring the sea,
Fairies and giantesses. Vert-de-gris,
A foam of verdure billows round the place ;
Forbidding, proud, each woman-jewel’s grace
Stands upright on rich soil in shrubbery
Or tiny garden’s sun-nursed liberty—
Young mothers and grown sisters whose deep gaze
Far pilgrimages have with ‘by-gones’ filled,
Sultanas, princesses, tyrannical
In bearing and in costume how self-willed,
Little foreigners and folk amiable
Through mild unhappiness. Last, boredom’s part,
The chat’s hour of “dear body” and “dear heart.”
CHORUS OF GRECIAN GIRLS. (VASE E. 783. BM.)
We maidens are older than most sheep,
Though not so old as the rose-bush is;
We are only as pretty as that.
We are gay as the weather. Our minds are deep
Like wells, as any boy tells
By the blushes, he dares not kiss.
The hills are fond of our chat.
We dance and shake like ringing bells,
Till our hair tumbles out of our hoods.
Our feet are bare, our feet are bare ;
But we don’t care, we don’t care,
For the boys are away in the woods,
Hunting the boar or bear.
We pretend to fly
Up into the sky,
Jumping with both feet together,
Holding out like wings
Our sleeves and things.
Feeling as light as a feather,
We don’t wonder whether
The day is long
Or the night short,
Since all our thought,
Is but big as the song
Of a brown fussy bee,
And just fills the flower which we
Each call me.
T. STURGE MOORE.
JAMES JOHN GARTH WILKINSON, born so early as
January 1812, still lives; and still his tall strong frame
wears a memory of the robustness of his long youth. The
most of his life abnormally active, the harvest of it is little
“sensational.” For the physician sows seeds of which
others gather the fruit; an exponent of spiritual science
writes for obscurity (and who gives himself with passion to an exalted
materialism, as Emanuel Swedenborg’s, wraps a veil about obscurity itself);
the dilettante has his circle of literary friends and is like to pass with them.
Yet in the New Church Dr. Wilkinson has a great worth, a position
almost apostolic in its dignity ; the man of virtue and knowledge is noble
in spirit circles.
Dr. Wilkinson’s literary labour has been great. His are many of the
accepted translations of Swedenborg into English, and he has written much
commentatory of that seer’s system: works indeed only to be received as
ultimate by a New Churchman, but surely not the exclusive property of the
Swedenborgian in their ultimate value. Their titles speak, wanting only
the small knowledge of Swedenborg’s writings which is universal to explain
them, and indicate their purpose: Epidemic Man; The African and the
True Christian Religion his Magna Charta. Also derived from
Swedenborg, but infinitely expanded, is the marvellous book, not authorised
I think by the College of Surgeons, called The Human Body and its
Connexion with Man, laying down a new scientific method, purporting to
be a beginner’s book of physiology.
These facts merely interesting to a narrower interest.
“The book attracted the attention of Rossetti,” criticism will say, whenever
hunger drives it to Improvisations from the Spirit. The volume is
uncut, thickish; of the size known technically as 24mo. It contains one
hundred and nine poems. It is bound in cloth of a cold piercing green
colour. Its date is 1857.
The poems vary in length from eight verses to fourteen pages: their form
is in all cases rudimentary, without technical ingenuity; especially in the
rhymes. They are narrative and philosophical, the lyric character all but
absent. Some, the most virile and free, have abstractions for subject:
Newness, Gentleness, Uncertainty. Many are addressed to persons, to the
members of the writer’s family and circle, to W. M. Wilkinson, the writer
of the book upon Spirit-drawing, a dozen or so of them. Many again
describe the notable, in remotest symbolic terms; poets, philosophers and
scientific men: Poe, Turner, Hahnemann, Finden the engraver, Berzelius,
Chatterton, Tegnér, taken at random. High ethical and religious dicta are
hung, for the rest, upon a variety of topics, surgical, biblical, physiological,
political and religious; the object of the writer seeming to be to look at all
the world from the very original standpoint he was able to reach, as it lay
around him, radiating from his own heart and brain and soul.
Breadth, fearlessness and indifference give the first shock in the Im-
provisations. These qualities perhaps the best excuse for the comparison
to Blake’s poems one sees inevitable; better than similarity of strange
epithet and symbol, derived from a common source, let us not say the
spiritual world, (at least yet) but disposition towards it.
Occasionally the impression, the mere vibration produced by the work as
literary composition, is like that produced by some of Wordsworth’s most
lyrical work, the Lucy poems a good instance: where doggerel will break
suddenly into a cry, so shrill and clear and passionate, that the doggerel
becomes an essential to the song’s worth: fusion of idea in Wilkinson
corresponding to fusion of emotion in Wordsworth.
A little extract from Madness will illustrate much at this point:
He lies down to sleep:
Purring from the deep,
From the Demon home:
Purring cats of hell,
Mousing for the mad:
They have left their shell,
For a season glad.
And he dreams their dream:
’Tis a woven lie:
Runneth from on high:
They do ride the stream:
They are Kings of God:
And the sun world’s gleam
Issues from their nod.
In great honesty, quotations must not be made from the book except
with reference to subject. The injustice is best annulled by a further
quotation, on the understanding that these extracts from Madness and
Solitude are to represent two poles of expression (moderation has guided
the choice in each case):
I see it now: it lies upon the plain,
Like the big drops of summer’s pregnant rain,
And o’er the city hovers, in the breeze,
And windeth like a river through the trees.
The darkness doth espy it where it lies:
And the night loveth it thro’ many eyes:
And jewels of the morning come and play
Around the footsteps of its wintry way:
It is a shape in starry garments clad;
It is a joy whose feet are ever sad:
And in its hands it holds a book of light,
Whose leaves are anthems of creation’s height.
Here the element of imagination is sufficient : the cat serpents which
wait upon the mad, and the personification of solitude; but the pulse beats
low in these passages against the quick-following strokes of The Birth of
Adam, where brain and spirit are quick in every verse. Criticism of
Wilkinson will never need to lose itself in eulogy ; but certain summits in
the Improvisations are signal attainments of imagination : The Birth of
Adam among these, and in Patience the mighty image where the vaulted
back of the ass Christ rode into the State of God is become in heaven the
bridge that angels walk. A further point must be touched upon (for a chief
reason of respect to the poet, and others): Dr. Wilkinson’s assertion that
the poems were written by impression. To say no word on this subject
beyond what Dr. Wilkinson has said in the note at the end of Improvisa-
tions is the only way to escape the necessity of going back to radical
principles of sciences not yet fully orthodox.
“A theme,” says Dr. Wilkinson, describing his essays of writing from
Influx, “is chosen and written down.* So soon as this is done, the first
“impression upon the mind which succeeds the act of writing the title, is
“the beginning of the evolution of that theme; no matter how strange
“or alien the word or phrase may seem. That impression is written down
“and then another, and another until the piece is concluded.”
“However odd the introduction may be, I have always found it lead by
“an infallible instinct into the subject.”
“The depth of treatment is in strict proportion to the warmth of heart,
“elevation of mind, and purity of feeling existing at the time.”
“In placing reason and will in the second place, it is indispensable for
“man, whose highest present faculties these are, to be well assured what
“is put in the first place. Hence, Writing from an Influx which is really
“out (-side) of your Self, or so far within your Self as to amount to the
“same thing, is either a religion or a madness. In allowing your faculties
“to be directed to ends you know not of, there is only One Being to whom
“you dare entrust them: only the Lord.† Of consequence, before writing
“by Influx, your prayer must be to Him, for His Guidance, Influx, and
The argument following exhibits Dr. Wilkinson’s view that the character
of his inspiration was pentecostal, as he proceeds to demonstrate his ortho-
doxy as a New Churchman. “Suffice it to say,” a further explanation
adds, “ that every piece was produced without premeditation or preconcep-
* Sometimes accompanied by a prayer or spell, invariably trash :
First shall his state be sung : (Turner’s)
Then his art’s bell be rung.
† Cf. Jakob Böhme, Sämmtliche Werke, Vol. vi. page 445 : “Davon weiss ich zu sagen, was das für ein
Licht und Bestättigung sei, wer das Centrum Naturä erfindet. Aber keine eigene Vernunft erlanget es ; Gott
versperret es zwar Niemandem, aber es muss in Gottesfurcht mit stetem Anhalten und Beten gefunden werden
. . . .sage ich treulich, als ich hoch im Centro Naturä und im Principio des Lebens erkannt habe.”
“tion: had these processes stolen in, such production would have been
“impossible. The longest pieces in the volume occupied from thirty to
“forty-five minutes.* The production was attended by no feeling, and by
“no fervour, but only by an anxiety of all the circumstant faculties, to
“observe the unlooked for evolution, and to know what would come of it.”
An isolated individual opinion has only a limited worth ; another critic
or occasion may develop the suggestion that the phenomenon of the Wil-
kinson poems is that of Ecstatic Memory. The experience of all poets,
the sharply defined periods of their power, and the links between the life of
thought and the moment of creation, shall come in aid to that intent. For
a heavenly development there are two general requisites. The first is, an
unremitting assiduity in all that naturally concerns the subject: the entire
knowledge and manipulation and progress of the thing as far as industry
can attain them. The second is, the heart’s Prayer to the Lord, in New
Church language, as good for the moment as any other name for spiritual
Concerning the speech of angels with man, Swedenborg lays down that
the thought of man coheres with his memory, and his speech flows from it,
therefore, when an angel or spirit is turned to him and conjoined with him.
This is one of a thousand such definitions of Swedenborg which cover
more or less completely, and invest such results as the Improvisations with
authority, in the sense of spiritual knowledge.
P.S.—As an afterthought perhaps there may be no harm in printing out
The Birth of Adam in extenso:
From the rock a sound went forth :
’Twas an echo of the north :
On the sea much people stood :
’Twas the archangelic brood.
There was silver silence heard :
Sound as of creation’s bird,
When with noiselessness of wing,
He doth wake the morning’s string.
Ever and anon the noon
Glowed with deeper presence down,
And the archangelic band,
Mated heart, and clasped hand.
Came a finger o’er the sea,
Shoulder in eternity,
Where the palace infinite
Darkens with excess of light.
* The poem called The Second Vüluspá, the longest in the book (336 unrhymed
two-footed verses) occupied from fifty to sixty minutes.
And it stooped to rock of earth,
Touched it with a loving girth ;
Spanned it betwixt finger span.
Where a lightning river ran.
Where a love-eternal ray
From each finger-tip did play,
And the rock between was changed,
Where the loving lightning ranged.
And the mood of many things,
Rose into the air on wings,
And the river-lightning ran,
Music in creation-plan.
Then the rock perceived its glow,
And the rock began to flow,
And the image of the skies,
Slowly from the rock did rise.
And the finger-tips alone,
Were applied unto the stone,
And the builded Adam rose,
Like a man of outward shows.
And the mystery now lay
In a second finger-ray,
For the Adam incomplete,
Wanted all his bosom’s heat.
So the fingers once again,
Sprinkled on a lightning rain :
And the mystery of love,
Through Adamic heart did move.
But the fingers wandered now
To his vacancy of brow,
And the place of thought was filled
With the light those fingers willed.
Then his feet were next correct :
And no station circumspect,
But was put within their palms,
Fit for terra firma’s calms.
And his fingers, chosen joints,
That the oil of skill anoints,
Were the last completed tools :—
Over these the spirit rules.
So was Adam planned and made,
And his form and figure ’rayed
In the heaven, law after law,
In the firmamental jaw.
But no life was yet within :
For the heaven is but a skin:
And Archangels are but flies,
Save for that within them lies.
So in wonder silences,
Moved in rest eternal breeze,
And did mould without all ken
Body-soul in spirit men.
And then Adam lived : and life
Rolled down orders’ stages rife :
And the rock of earth that stood,
Sailed for time on primal flood.
“Femme qui n’a filé toute sa vie
Tâche à passer bien des choses sans bruit.”—La Fontaine.
THE sun’s good-will to shine even usually on the place
favoured heavenly origin. A hill, too, each red-cheeked
dawn perchance found tell-tale ; for of it half appeared to
have been crushed by three streets piled against the raw
side of the remnant—mere one-storey cottages the loftiest
gables seemed, seen from the land, while ships, in which
many men might pass months not over-cramped, shadowed with sails the
doorways, and”scrawled with rigging the outlook toward the river.
“ But old women’s tales stumble beginning ; they know the end better,”
so the folk themselves said, who should have been well-informed ; certain it
is children pick flowers, and girls even among green fruit find some sweet.
Kitty’s crib next beneath the sky was made bright by sun-flowers turned
to gaze over the roof ; the fronts being so gay that wharf-loungers got
cricked necks, unable to take eyes off dancing windows attractive as though
a buxom wench were at toilette behind every lattice.
Scattered on several hills, the town showed a general tendency to huddle
in the bottoms, leaving grass, pasture for single donkeys and goats, above,
where wind bullied butterflies.
Each morning old Kitty clattered down, basket on arm, and took her way
through the market ; not that she had, but lacked, business : so from
morning to night went odd-jobbing for anyone.
There was bustle, as when ant-hills stand base to base, on stone steps, on
wooden, through streets which had better have been stairs, of scandal-
mongers who spiced jolly lives with small malice. One stood face to face
with heaven, as did drunkards and idiots, at street-corners; so many the
ups and downs were.
A dwarf innocent started from the wharves at nightfall to climb between
the houses, a great labour foredoomed of unsuccess, yet with smiles
attempted. “ Luck to you ” lads shouted, hurrying past to their sweet-
hearts; or, with a girl, dawdled, and whispering laughed : she coyly looked
pity. Endless steps, on which at length weakly his body found rest : the
dew-moist slab inducing dreams, Kitty, benignant as he whom Jacob saw
from the foot of a ladder mounting higher still, was revealed.
“ I had supper alone last night”—“When none talks in the dark, one
counts every turn between cold sheets,” mornings and evenings, going or
returning, she said to this almost dumb beast, who, adoring through vague
years, had grown as faithful as habit. Crude expectancies of bliss, such as,
inspired by the lubber’s chaff in his vacant head, made song, she, plain of
speech as person, fostered ; thus beer-begotten the drama grew ; rivals
appeared—David, a mason, whose Welsh name was made difficult by
redundance of consonants beyond a legend’s retention (on this simple one
he even wished some grafted), who had come to learn what might be from
foreign stone-cutters at work on the new St. Mary’s church.
Gay fellows, noisy as birds, their jargoning not better understood, like a
colony of over-sea daws, busily they laboured and had nigh filled the build-
ing with saints, and covered it in devils. One of them made a second
rival ; after a fortnight of silent acquaintance-making, they would chat
each day, when she passed, for as much as twenty minutes, neither of them
repaid save by the outflow.
To work, of all but a loin-cloth he jauntily stripped himself. So much
coquetry, however, a dandy never got from a fine suit ; such artifice was in
a napkin, neither girl nor matron could pass without her eye being drawn
thither and thus led to contemplation of splendid nudity.
The chips sprang in the sun ; merrily the ring of the chisel on the stone
followed the short thud of the mallet ; industrious, he never turned but for
Kitty and a tavern-wench with flagon, which was perhaps his secret.
David had come, silent man, from mountains. Not caring to ask ques-
tions, he put up at a wharf-side lodging : all gay wags knew the house ;
the riff-raff sneaked thither when honest folk and rooks went home ; damp
dust stank between slatternly scrubbed boards. Fagged, he sat down
(economy lit no candle) and dozed ; laughter hung round him drowsily,
grew harsher, and broke through his nap ; from the next room, up ram-
shackle hoarding, light climbed in lines to the rafters, blotted out evidently
by a huge wardrobe near the door.
Women, who talked loudly to be overheard, using what words ! David
knew he was fallen among harlots. David was pious ; still pious men are
tempted. He was ; and remembered how much had been forgiven to Solo-
mon and that great king his namesake. They were kings.
No curtain hid the stars. These women might not be clean, so many
lewd men as there are in towns. Starting, he discovered they were naked ;
some leant against the planks,’bending them, broadening the chinks, through
which they peeped joking of his sleep’s soundness. The boards so bulged
that light, creeping round, suggested features, hints to discovery; ambi-
guity of indication lured David, as it used old geographers, through slight-
ness of positive knowledge, to locate in unknown parts mountains, fertile
districts, and where rivers ran : sudden fear lest the hoarding give dissi-
pated these studies. Hurriedly, while they, remiss, flagged, he crept
tip-toe, lifting his stool to within the blank caused by the press, got
up, and began working the nails, which held the top where was the most
strain, with strong leathery finger and thumb, till they came out ; with the
third it would do. Descending he set ajar the door, during a burst of
uproar. Just when again his board yearned like a tree about to bring forth
a dryad, ready, he gave the last wrench. The dwarf, sleeping, was passed,
before, slackening speed, he shook the nail free from his indented thumb,
which he put in his mouth. Still with each step a bare arm and leg shot
after the leaning plank awkwardly : uncanny; he almost fancied claws.
Arrived in the fine summer night, he met a meadow-sweet land-breeze, and
saw Kitty awaiting her lover ; dazed, from the stars she turned towards him:
over his stony-passive self, as, after drought, rains revivify the dusty track
of a hill-stream, trust washed ; he asked, as of a mother, a bed.
At his open lattice next morning, smiling that his bundle had not been
lost in his hurry, he saw her arrive from the well on the second terrace ;
as she lifted her yoke, firm, beaded shoulders, a contrast to last night’s lewd
gleam, shone blithely.
He became her lodger, and giant anxiety to the little half-man far below ;
but returned to his hills and kith, without having once quickened Kitty’s
Still well-conditioned, old rather by familiarity than age, her days, like
those of a plant, long ago had, like genet’s trot, kept up and down constantly
not evenly. The blood has a tricksy itch during the teens, which keeps one
a-tip-toe ; lively as a sea-cave all day long, would she laugh like its echoes.
On the road to a bean-feast once she had found every seat taken. When
the going began to jerk, making a confusion of impetus, and balance diffi-
cult to be kept, every one offered their knees, of course ; nearly all somehow
were fellows in that waggon. An uncle who had her in charge sat outside
on the rail singing with no savour of tune ; good man, he had thought
himself equally disgraced not to get drunk on saints’ days and like occa-
sions as to be anything but sober the rest of the year. She tried first one
then another of the proffered laps, none suiting till at last, lured by gay
dark eyes, she settled on knees of a foreign lad ; his jacket he had doubled
across them, though naturally a plump cushion, the whole made to exactly
suit the little romp by his keeping his heels off the ground : so that, in those
lie-a-bed times, no queen’s carriage had such capital springs ; while his
gibberish, sparely sprinkled with recognisable English, kept her in fits.
Suddenly the good uncle, still quite sober, was shot from his precarious
position into a hedge-bank.
Everybody got down in the roused dust to pick him up, his wrist broken,
his neck, wryed by bending above the lasts, only saved by a thick clump
of weeds, partly nettles ; their revenge distracted his attention from the
more serious disaster.
They put him under charge of an ill-grown loon. Then Kitty in tears
drew notice ; vainly was she assured, he would soon get better, this not
being her trouble ; now, she must go back. Such innocent fears were soon
laid : all vowed to take care of her ; the foreign friend repeating “ take
care” so funnily, she had to laugh.
An hour later those two words, so endearingly protective, kept purring
to her ears from amid sleek Gascon. He climbed like a monkey till fear
betrayed her, chased damsel-flies, or brought sprigs of bryony, their budded
green soft as love-bird down, to enrich her hair ; spider-webs, from which
shadows withdrew, shone like wide white disks, till she felt unsafely tall
and wished to sit down. Noon had stilled her limbs’ buoyancy, though
beneath saucy strays of hair her eyes continued dancing. All bodily per-
fections of errant knight and ballad hero—such an upset her young blood,
gaining no due expression in skipping feet, put her wits in—got jolted over
to his account ; every virtue of saint or bible story became part and parcel
of this unintelligible boy ; neither saint or angel stayed her, but she must
even draft from the blessed Lord himself, none else possessing sufficience.
What wonder she made small objection, when he kissed and they found
themselves alone deep in the sunshine ; nay, into the wood followed him
through mysterious places, which stir has quitted as the tide does caves
where a constant drip seems the faint pulse which tells that some one lives?
Here no heart beat but their own, passing down shady ways even to the
strange land of sleep—birthlike, dawnlit, as baby dreams long obliterated.
Inside the door, just beyond midnight, her mother and a candle first woke
her. The hasty run through late twilight for the waggon, drunken roys-
tering jolted through the night, all far-away : only those cooing unknown
words near, beneath a stuffy cloak : even when, parting, a neighbour dragged
her wrist, it seemed but some waif rudeness, pitiful in heaven.
“I’m in love, and we’ve slept together in the wood,” then questions, then
tears. Noticing the light, the good priest stepped in; taken into confidence,
he thought, seeing she loved him so, reporting with such high eulogy, it
were best to marry them, and undertook to hunt up the bridegroom, whose
name even was not known ; but the description was vivid. After visiting
two or three inns, he found him heavy with sleep as a winter dormouse,
turned the key, and took it away.
In time a new life, from no one knows where, was expected as witness
and consummation to this oddly arranged marriage.
A sharp fellow ; clever at his craft, wood-carving for the new choir;
gaining sufficient to pacify the mother : though often out at nights, drunk
—“ and worse” neighbours said. Winter drawing to a close, he grew dis-
contented, by no will of his married, mewed up with a girl unable to talk
with him ; till, returning one night to find mother-in-law and midwife
installed, being not more sober than uncle Ben on saint days, there ensued
a skirmish; he staggered upstairs into the room that she with a shriek filled:
all resulting in the small life’s return to its place.
Seemingly, she lay dead. When his wits came together, he could hear
neighbours below called by the infuriated beldames ; so let himself out of
window and by backways, hunted of accusing cries ; scuttled down to the
wharves, with fox-like wariness ; smuggled himself aboard a vessel which
stole silently seaward before dawn ; and thenceforth was drifted by un-
stable elements safely home to the unreflecting shallows of a blithe life.
T. STURGE MOORE
A HYMN TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI.
Love setteth me a-burning.
When my new Spouse had won me;
My piteous state discerning,
Had set His ring upon me:
The conqueror’s prize returning,
Love’s knife had all undone me,
All my heart broke with yearning.
Love setteth me a-burning.
My heart was broke asunder:
Earthward my body sprawling,
The arrow of Love’s wonder
From out the crossbow falling,
Like to a shaft of thunder
Made war of peace, enthralling
My life for passion’s plunder.
Love setteth me a-burning.
I die of very sweetness.
Yet be thou not astounded.
That lance of Love’s completeness
So sorrowfully wounded!
Oh, broad the iron’s meetness!
Not one arm’s length, a hundred
Has pierced me with its fleetness.
Love setteth me a-burning.
Then were the lances scattered
The ballister was flinging;
And aye the blows which battered
Upon my shield were ringing.
What could protect me, tattered,
Before that engine sinking?
So was I wholly shattered.
Love setteth me a-burning.
Assailed with such instruction
That all my bulwarks bevelled,*
Well nigh was I destruction
And shamefully dishevelled.
Still hear my sorrow’s fiction:
Anew a crossbow levelled
Vouchsafed me new affliction.
Love setteth me a-burning.
* Dr. Swift.
Such perils did it vomit,
Great stones with metal weighted;
And every missile from it
With pounds a thousand freighted.
Plummet on awful plummet,
Urged with an aim consummate.
Love setteth me a-burning.
None missed; and nought defended
My breast from their unerring.
To earth I fell, distended,
No pulse within me stirring:
No longer I pretended
To meet the blows recurring;
I lay like one expended.
Love setteth me a-burning.
Not dead, but with a vernal
Surpassing joy made splendid;
Revived from my heart’s kernel,
With strength and purpose blended,
I followed those eternal
Pathways which surely ended
Within the lists supernal.
Love setteth me a-burning.
Then my new forces verging,
In helm and harness sightly,
All His dominion scourging,
On Christ I warred right knightly.
Great skill against Him urging,
I grappled with Him tightly,
The dastard in me purging.
Love setteth me a-burning.
My wounds avenged, we plighted
Our troth of truce and leisure
For Love’s sake sorely slighted;
Love lavished without measure.
To Christ at length united,
Made fit to bear its treasure
My heart is warmed and lighted.
Love setteth me a-burning.
The Dial, vol. 3, 1893. Dial Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020. https://1890s.ca/dialv3-all/