AN ILLUSTRATED MONTHLY
THE SAVOY—N° VII
CHISWICK PRESS:—CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO, TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.
I HAVE to announce that with the next number,
completing a year’s existence, the present issue of
“The Savoy” will come to an end. It has done
something of what I intended it should do : it has
made warm friends and heated enemies : and I am
equally content with both. It has, in the main, conquered the pre-
judices of the press ; and I offer the most cordial thanks to those
newspaper critics who have had the honesty and the courtesy to
allow their prejudices to be conquered. But it has not conquered
the general public, and, without the florins of the general public, no
magazine such as “The Savoy,” issued at so low a price, and
without the aid of advertisements, can expect to pay its way. We
therefore retire from the arena, not entirely dissatisfied, if not a
trifle disappointed, leaving to those who care for it our year’s work,
which will be presented to you in three volumes, in a cover of Mr.
Beardsley’s designing. When we come before you again, it will be
in a more luxurious form, for which you shall pay more, but less
MORAG OF THE GLEN. A Story by FIONA MACLEOD . . . . 13
THE UNLOVED. A Poem by ARTHUR SYMONS . . . . . 37
CASANOVA. An Essay by HAVELOCK ELLIS . . . . . 41
CATULLUS: CARMEN CI. A Verse Translation from the Latin by
AUBREY BEARDSLEY . . . . . . . . . 52
IN SLIGO: Rosses Point and Glencar. An Essay by ARTHUR SYMONS . . 55
WINDLE-STRAWS. 1. O’Sullivan Rua to the Curlew. 2. Out of the Old Days.
Poems by W.B. YEATS . . . . . . . . 62
EMILE VERHAEREN. An Essay by OSMAN EDWARDS . . . . 65
THE TABLES OF THE LAW. A Story by W.B. YEATS . . . . 79
EPILOGUE. A Poem by ERNEST DOWSON . . . . . . 87
A LITERARY CAUSERIE:—On the “Invectives” of Verlaine By ARTHUR
SYMONS . . . . . . . . . . . 88
COVER . . Designed by AUBREY BEARDSLEY . . . 1
TITLE PAGE . . Designed by AUBREY BEARDSLEY . . 5
PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR SYMONS. After the Oil Painting by JACQUES E.
BLANCHE . . . . . . . . . . . 11
A PLEASAUNCE. After a Pen-and-Ink Sketch by FRED HYLAND . . 35
“Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upont he midnight with no pain.”
After a Pen-and-Ink Sketch by W.T. HORTON. . . . . 39
AVE ATQUE VALE. After a Pen-and-Ink Drawing by AUBREY BEARDSLEY 53
PAN-PIPES. After a Pen-and-Ink Sketch by MRS. PERCY DEARMER . . 66
A LADY READING. After a Pen-and=Ink Sketch by A.K. WOMRATH . 77
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. After a Pen-and-Ink Sketch by AUBREY
BEARDSLEY . . . . . . . . . . 91
MORAG OF THE GLEN
IT was a black hour for Archibald Campbell of Gorromalt in
Strathglas, and for his wife, and for Morag their second
daughter, when the word came that Muireall had the sorrow
of sorrows. What is pain, and is death a thing to fear ? But
there is a sorrow that no man can have and yet go free for
evermore of a shadow upon his brow : and there is a sorrow
that no woman can have, and keep the moonshine in her eyes. And when a
woman has this sorrow, it saves or mars her : though, for sure, none of us may
discern just what that saving may be, or from whom or what, or what may be
that bitter or sweet ruin. We are shaped as clay in the potter’s hand : ancient
wisdom, that we seldom learn till the hand is mercifully still, and the vessel,
finished for good or evil, is broken.
It is a true saying that memory is like the seaweed when the tide is in—
but the tide ebbs ! Each frond, each thick spray, each fillicaun or pulpy globe,
lives lightly in the wave : the green water is full of strange rumour, of sea-
magic and sea-music : the hither flow and thither surge give continuity and
connection to what is fluid and dissolute. But when the ebb is far gone, and
the wrack and the weed lie sickly in the light, there is only one confused inter-
tangled mass. For most of us, memory is this tide-left strand : though for
each there are pools, or shallows which even the ebb does not lick up in its
thirsty way depthward,—narrow overshadowed channels to which we have the
intangible clues. But for me there will never be any ebb-tide of memory, for
one black hour, and one black day.
A wild lone place it was where we lived : among the wet hills, in a
country capped by slate-black mountains. To the stranger the whole scene
must have appeared grimly desolate. We, dwellers there, and those of our clan,
and the hill folk about and beyond, knew that there were three fertile straths
hidden among the wilderness of rock and bracken : Strathmòr, Strathgorm,
and Strathglas. It was in the last we lived. All Strathglas was farmed
by Archibald Campbell, and he had Strathgorm to where the Gorromalt
14 THE SAVOY
Water cut it off from the head of Glen Annet The house we lived in was a
long two-storied whitewashed building with two projecting flanks. There was
no garden, but only a tangled potato-acre, and a large unkempt space where
the kail and the bracken flourished side by side, with the kail perishing day by
day under the spreading strangling roots of the usurper. The rain in Strath-
glas fell when most other spots were fair. It was because of the lie of the land, I
have heard. The gray or black cloud would slip over Ben-Bhreac or Melbèinn,
and would become blue-black while one were wondering if the wind would lift
it on to Maol-Dunn. whose gloomy ridge had two thin lines of pine-trees which,
from Strathglas, stood out like bristling eyebrows. But. more likely than not,
it would lean slowly earthward, and sometimes lurch like a water-logged vessel,
and then spill, through a rising misty vapour, a dreary downfall. Oh ! the rain
—the rain—the rain ! how weary I grew of it, there : and of the melancholy
méh’ing of the sheep, that used to fill the hills with a lamentation, terrible, at
times, to endure.
And yet, I know, and that well, too, that I am thinking this vision of
Teenabrae, as the house was called, and of its dismal vicinage, in the light of
tragic memory. For there were seasons when the rains suspended, or came
and went like fugitive moist shadows : days when the sunlight and the wind
made the mountains wonderful, and wrought the wild barren hills nearer us to
take on a softness and a dear familiar beauy : hours, even, when, in the
hawthorn-time, the cuckoo called joyously across the pine-girt scaurs and
corries on Melbèinn, or, in summer, the swallows filled the straths as with the
thridding of a myriad shuttles.
Sure enough, I was too young to be there : though, indeed, Morag was no
more than a year older, being twenty ; but when my mother died, and my
father went upon the seas upon one of his long whaling voyages, I was glad
to leave my lonely home in the Carse o’ Gowrie and go to Teenabrae in
Strathglas, and to be with my aunt, that was wife to Archibald mac Alasdair
Ruadh—Archibald Campbell, as he would be called in the lowland way—or
Gorromalt as he was named by courtesy, that being the name of his sheep-
farm that ran into the two straths where the Gorromalt Water surged
turbulently through a narrow wilderness of wave-scooped, eddy-hollowed
stones and ledges.
I suppose no place could be called lifeless that had always that sound of
Gorromalt Water, that ceaseless lamentation of the sheep crying upon the
hills, that hoarse croaking of the corbies which swam black in the air betwixt
us and Maol-Dunn, that mournful plaining of the lapwings as they wheeled
MORAG OF THE GLEN 15
querulously for ever and ever and ever. But, to a young girl, the whole of
this was an unspeakable weariness.
Beside the servant-folk—not one of whom was to me anything, save a girl
called Maisie, who had had a child and believed it had become a “pee-wit”
since its death, and that all the lapwings were the offspring of the sorrow of
joy—there were only Archibald Campbell, his wife, who was my aunt,
Muireall the elder daughter, and Morag. These were my folk : but Morag I
loved. In appearance she and I differed wholly. My cousin Muireall and I
were like each other ; both tall, dark-haired, dark-browed, with dusky dark
eyes, though mine with no flame in them ; and my face too, though comely I
am glad to know, without that touch of wildness which made Muireall’s so
strangely attractive, and at times so beautiful. Morag, however, was scarce
over medium height. Her thick wavy hair always retained the captive gold
that the sunshine had spilled there ; her soft, white, delicate, wild-rose face
was like none other that I have ever seen : her eyes, of that heart-lifting blue
which spring mornings have, held a living light that was fair to see, and gave
pain too, perhaps, because of their plaintive hillside wildness. Ah, she was a
fawn, Morag ! . . . soft and sweet, swift and dainty and exquisite as a fawn in
the green fern.
Gorromalt himself was a gaunt stern man. He was 6 feet 3 inches, but
looked less, because of a stoop. It always seemed to me as if his eyes pulled
him forward : brooding, sombre, obscure eyes, of a murky gloom. His hair
was iron-gray and matted ; blacker, but matted and tangled, his thick beard,
and his face was furrowed like Ben Scorain of the Corries. I never saw him
in any other garb than a gray shepherd tweed with a plaid, though no
Campbell in Argyll was prouder than he, and he allowed no plaid or tunag
anywhere on his land or in his house that was not of the tartan of MacCailin
Mòr. He was what, there, they called a black protestant ; for the people in
that part held to the ancient faith. True enough, for sure, all the same : for
his pity was black, and the milk of kindness in him must have been like
Gorromalt Water in spate. Poor Aunt Elspeth ! my heart often bled for her. I
do not think Archibald Campbell was unkind to his wife, but he was harsh, and
his sex was like a blank wall to her, against which her shallow waters surged
or crawled alike vainly. There was to her something at once terrible and
Biblical in this wall of cruel strength, this steadfast independence of love or
the soft ways or the faltering speech of love. There are women who hate
men with an unknowing hatred, who lie by their husband night after night,
year after year ; who fear and serve him ; who tend him in life and minister
16 THE SAVOY
to him in death ; who die, before or after, with a slaying thirst, a consuming
hunger. Of these unhappy housemates, of desolate hearts and unfrequented
lips, my aunt Elspeth was one.
It was on a dull Sunday afternoon that the dark hour came of which I
have spoken. The rain fell among the hills. There was none on the north
side of Strathglas, where Teenabrae stood solitary. The remembrance is on
me keen just now : how I sat there, on the bench in front of the house, side
by side with Morag, in the hot August damp, with the gnats pinging overhead,
and not a sound else save the loud raucous surge of Gorromalt Water, thirty
yards away. In a chair near us sat my aunt Elspeth. Beyond her, on a
milking-stool, with his chin in his hands and his elbows on his knees, was her
There was a gloom upon all of us. The day before, as soon as Gorromalt
had returned from Castle Avale, high up in Strathmòr, we had seen the black
east wind in his eyes. But he had said nothing. We guessed that his visit to
the Englishman at Castle Avale, who had bought the Three Straths from
Sir Ewan Campbell of Drumdoon, had proved fruitless, or at least unsatis-
factory. It was at the porridge on the Sabbath morning that he told us.
“And . . . and . . . must we go, Archibald ?” asked his wife, her lips
white, and the deep withered creases on her neck ashy gray.
He did not answer, but the tumbler cracked in his grip, and the splintered
glass fell into his plate. The spilt milk trickled off the table on to the end of
his plaid, and so to the floor. Luath, the collie, slipped forward, with her tongue
lolling greedily : but her eye caught the stare of the silent man, and with a
whine, and a sudden sweep of her tail, she slunk back.
It must have been nigh an hour later, that he spoke.
“No, Elspeth,” he said. “There will be no going away from here, for you
and me, till we go feet foremost.”
Before the afternoon we had heard all : how he had gone to see this
English lord who had “usurped” Drumdoon : how he had not gained an
interview, and had seen no other than Mr. Laing, the East Lothian factor.
He had had to accept bitter hard terms. Sir Ewan Campbell was in Madras,
with his regiment, a ruined man : he would never be home again, and, if he
were, would be a stranger in the Three Straths, where he and his had lived,
and where his kindred had been born and had died during six centuries back.
There was no hope. This Lord Greyshott wanted more rent, and he also
wanted Strathgorm for a deer-run.
We were sitting, brooding on these things : in our ears the fierce words
MORAG OF THE GLEN 17
that Gorromalt had said, with bitter curses, upon the selling of the ancient
land and the betrayal of the people.
Morag was in one of her strange moods. I saw her, with her shining eyes,
looking at the birch that overhung the small foaming linn beyond us, just as
though she saw the soul of it, and the soul with strange speech to it.
“Where is Muireall ?” she said to me suddenly, in a low voice.
“Muireall ?” I repeated, “Muireall ? I am not for knowing, Morag. Why
do you ask ? Do you want her ?”
She did not answer, but went on :
“Have you seen him again ?”
“Him ? . . . Whom ?”
“Jasper Morgan, this English lord’s son.”
A long silence followed. Suddenly Aunt Elspeth started. Pointing to
a figure coming from the peat-moss at the hither end of Strathmòr, she
asked who it was, as she could not see without her spectacles. Her husband
rose, staring eagerly. He gave a grunt of disappointment when he recognized
Mr. Allan Stewart, the minister of Strathmòr parish.
As the old man drew near we watched him steadfastly. I have the thought
that each one of us knew he was coming to tell us evil news ; though none
guessed why or what, unless Morag mayhap.
When he had shaken hands, and blessed the house and those within it,
Mr. Stewart sat down on the bench beside Morag and me. I am thinking he
wanted not to see the eyes of Gorromalt, nor to see the white face of Aunt
I heard him whisper to my dear that he wanted her to go into the house
for a little. But she would not. The birdeen knew that sorrow was upon
us all. He saw “no” in her eyes, and forbore.
“And what is the thing that is on your lips to tell, Mr. Stewart ?” said
Gorromalt at last, half mockingly, half sullenly.
“And how are you for knowing that I have anything to tell, Gorro-
“Sure, man, if a kite can see the shadow of a mouse a mile away, it can
see a black cloud on a hill near by !”
“It’s a black cloud I bring, Archibald Campbell : alas, even so. Ay, sure,
it is a black cloud it is. God melt the pain of it !”
“Speak, man !”
“There is no good in wading in heather. Gorromalt, and you, Mrs.
18 THE SAVOY
Campbell, and you, my poor Morag, and you too, my dear, must just be
brave. It is God’s will.”
“Speak, man, and don’t be winding the shroud all the time ! Let us be
hearing and seeing the thing you have brought to tell us.”
It was at this moment that Aunt Elspeth half rose, and abruptly reseated
herself, raising the while a deprecatory feeble hand.
“Is it about Muireall ?” she asked quaveringly. “She went away, to the
church at Kilbrennan, at sunrise : and the water’s in spate all down Strathgorm.
Has she been drowned ? Is it death upon Muireall ? Is it Muireall ? Is it
“She is not drowned, Mrs. Campbell.”
At that she sat back, the staring dread subsiding from her eyes. But
at the minister’s words, Gorromalt slowly moved his face and body so that he
fronted the speaker. Looking at Morag, I saw her face white as the canna.
Her eyes swam in wet shadow.
“It is not death, Mrs. Campbell,” the old man repeated, with a strange,
uneasy, furtive look, as he put his right hand to his stiff white necktie and
flutteringly fingered it.
“In the name o’ God, man, speak out !”
“Ay, ay, Campbell : ay, ay, I am speaking . . . I am for the telling . . .
but . . . but, see you, Gorromalt, be pitiful . . . be . . .”
Gorromalt rose. I never realized before how tall he was. There was
height to him, like unto that of a son of Anak.
“Well, well, well, it is just for telling you I’ll be. Sit down, Gorromalt,
sit down, Mr. Campbell, sit down, man, sit down ! . . . Ah, sure now, that is
better. Well, well, God save us all from the sin that is in us : but . . . ah,
mothering heart, it is saving you I would be if I could, but . . . but . . .”
“But what !” thundered Gorromalt, with a voice that brought Maisie and
Kirsteen out of the byre, where they were milking the kye.
“He has the mercy : He only ! And it is this, poor people : it is this.
Muireall has come to sorrow.”
“What sorrow is the sorrow that is on her ?”
“The sorrow of woman.”
A terrible oath leapt from Gorromalt’s lips. His wife sat in a stony
silence, her staring eyes filming like those of a stricken bird. Morag put her
left hand to her heart.
Suddenly Archibald Campbell turned to his daughter.
“Morag, what is the name of that man whom Muireall came to know
MORAG OF THE GLEN 19
when she and you went to that Sodom, that Gomorrha, which men call
“His name was Jasper Morgan.”
“Has she ever seen him since?”
“I think so.”
“You think? What will you be thinking for, girl! Think! There
will be time enough to think while the lichen grows gray on a new-fall’n
rock! Out with it! Out with it! Have they met. . . . Has he been here
… is he the man ?”
There was silence then. A plover wheeled by, plaining aimlessly. Maisie
the milk-lass ran forward, laughing.
“Ah, ’tis my wee Seorsa,” she cried. “Seorsa ! Seorsa ! Seorsa !”
Gorromalt took a stride forward, his face shadowy with anger, his eyes
“Get back to the kye, you wanton wench !” he shouted savagely. “Get
back, or it is getting my gun I’ll be and shooting that pee-wit o’ yours, that
Then, shaking still, he turned to Morag.
“Out with it, girl ! What do you know ?”
“I know nothing.”
“It is a lie, and it is knowing it I am !”
“It is no lie. I know nothing. I fear much.”
“And what do you know, old man ?” And, with that, Archibald Campbell
turned like a baited bull upon Mr. Stewart.
” She was misled, Gorromalt, she was misled, poor lass ! The trouble
began last May, when she went away to the south, to that evil place. And
then he came after her. And it was here he came . . . and . . . and . . .”
“And who will that man be?”
“Morag has said it : Jasper Morgan.”
“And who will Jasper Morgan be ?”
“Are you not for knowing that, Archibald Campbell, and you Gorro-
“Why, what meaning are you at?” cried the man, bewildered.
“Who will Jasper Morgan be but the son of Stanley Morgan ?”
“Stanley Morgan! . . . Stanley Morgan! . . . I am no wiser. Do you
wish to send me mad, man ! Speak out ! . . . out with it !”
“Why, Gorromalt, what is Drumdoon’s name ?”
“Drumdoon . . . Why, Sir Ewan . . . Ah no, for sure ’tis now that
20 THE SAVOY
English bread-taker, that southern land-snatcher, who calls himself Lord
Greyshott. And what then ? . . . will it be for . . .”
“Aren’t you for knowing his name? . . . No? . . . Campbell, man, it is
Morgan . . . Morgan.”
All this time Aunt Elspeth had sat silent. She now gave a low cry.
Her husband turned and looked at her. “Go into the house,” he said harshly ;
“this will not be the time for whimpering ; no, by God ! it is not the time for
She rose, and walked feebly over to Mr. Stewart.
“Tell me all,” she said. Ah, grief to see, the pain in her old, old eyes—
and no tears there at all, at all.
“When this man Jasper Morgan, that is son to Lord Greyshott, came
here, it was to track a stricken doe. And now all is over. There is this note
only. It is for Morag.”
Gorromalt leaned forward to take it. But I had seen the wild look in
Morag’s eyes, and I snatched it from Mr. Stewart, and gave it to my dear,
who slipped it beneath her kerchief.
Sullenly her father drew up, scowled, but said nothing.
“What else ?” he asked, turning to the minister.
“She is dying.”
“Ay, alas, alas—tha cèo air a bheinn—the mist is on the hill—and she so
young, too, and so fair, ay, and so sweet and——”
“That will do, Allan Stewart ! That will do ! . . . It is dying she is, you
are for telling us ! Well, well, now, and she the plaything o’ Jasper Morgan,
the son of the man there at Drumdoon, the man who wants to drive me away
from here . . . this new man . . . this, this lord … he … to drive me
away, and who have the years and years to go upon, ay, for more than six
hundred weary long years——”
“Muireall is dying, Alexander Campbell. Will you be coming to see
her, who is your very own ?”
“And for why is she dying ?”
“She could not wait.”
“Wait ! Wait ! She could wait to shame me and mine ! No, no, no,
Allan Stewart, you go back to Lord Greyshott’s son and his leannan, and say
that neither Gorromalt nor any o’ Gorromalt’s kith or kin will have aught to
do with that wastrel-lass. Let her death be on her ! But it ‘s a soon easy
death it is ! . . . she that slept here this very last night, and away this
MORAG OF THE GLEN 21
morning across the moor like a louping doe, before sunburst and an hour to
“She is at the ‘Argyll Arms’ in Kilbrennan. She met the man there.
An hour after he had gone, they found her, lying on the deerskin on the
hearth, and she with the death-sickness on her, and grave-white, because of
the poison there beside her. And now, Archibald Campbell, it is not refusing
you will be to come to your own daughter, and she with death upon her, and
at the edge o’ the silence !”
But with that Gorromalt uttered wild, savage words, and thrust the old
man before him, and bade him begone, and cursed Muireall, and the child she
bore within her, and the man who had done this thing, and the father that had
brought him into the world, latest adder of an evil brood !
Scarce, however, was the minister gone, and he muttering sore, and
frowning darkly at that, than Gorromalt reeled and fell.
The blood had risen to his brain, and he had had a stroke. Sure, the
sudden hand of God is a terrifying thing. It was all we could do, with the
help of Maisie and Kirsteen, to lift and drag him to his bed.
But an hour after that, when the danger was over, I went to seek Morag.
I could find her nowhere. Maisie had seen her last. I thought that she had
taken one of the horses from the stable, and ridden towards Kilbrennan : but
there was no sign of this. On the long weary moor-road that led across
Strathglas to Strathgorm, no one could have walked without being seen by
some one at Teenabrae. And everyone there was now going to and fro, with
whispers and a dreadful awe.
So I turned and went down by the linn. From there I could see three
places where Morag loved to lie and dream : and at one of these I hoped to
And, sure, so it was. A glimpse I caught of her, across the spray of the
linn. She was far up the brown Gorromalt Water, and crouched under a
When I reached her she looked up with a start. Ah, the pain of those
tear-wet May-blue eyes—deep tarns of grief to me they seemed.
In her hand she clasped the letter that I had won for her.
“Read it, dear,” she said, simply.
It was in pencil, and, strangely, was in the Gaelic : strangely, for though,
when with Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, Morag and I spoke the language we all
loved, and that was our own, Muireall rarely did. The letter ran somewhat
22 THE SAVOY
“When you get this I shall not be your living sister any more, but
only a memory. I take the little one with me. You know my trouble.
Forgive me. I have only one thing to ask. The man has not only betrayed
me, he has lied to me about his love. He loves another woman. And that
woman, Morag, is you : and you know it. He loved you first. And now,
Morag, I will only tell you one thing. Do you remember the story that old
Sheen Mclan told us—that about the twin sisters of the mother of our
mother—one that was a Morag too ?
“I am thinking you do : and here—where I shall soon be lying dead,
with that silence within me, where such a wild clamouring voice has been,
though inaudible to other ears than mine—here, I am thinking you will be
remembering, and realizing, that story !
” If, Morag, if you do not remember—but ah, no, we are of the old race
of Siol Dhiarmid, and you will remember !
“Tell no one of this, except F.—at the end.
“Morag, dear sister, till we meet——
“I do not understand, Morag-my-heart,” I said. Even now, my hand
shook because of these words : “and that woman, Morag, is you : and you
“Not now,” she answered, wearily. “I will tell you to-night : but
And so we went back together, she too tired and stricken for tears, and I
with so many in my heart that there none for my hot eyes.
As we passed the byre we heard Kirsteen finishing a milking song, but
we stopped when Maisie suddenly broke in, with her strange, wild, haunting-
I felt Morag’s fingers tighten in their grasp on my arm as we stood silent,
with averted eyes, listening to an old Gaelic ballad of “Morag of the Glen.”
When Morag of the Glen was fëy
They took her where the Green Folk stray :
And there they left her, night and day,
A day and night they left her, fëy.
And when they brought her home again,
Aye of the Green Folk was she fain :
They brought her leannan, Roy McLean,
She looked at him with proud disdain.
MORAG OF THE GLEN 23
“For I have killed a man,” she said,
“A better man than you to wed :
I slew him when he claspt my head,
And now he sleepeth with the dead.
“And did yott see that little wren ?
My sister dear it was, flew then !
That skull her home, that eye her den,
Her song is, Morag o’ the Glen!
“For when she went I did not go,
But washed my hands in blood-red woe :
O wren, trill out your sweet song’s flow,
Morag is white as the driven snow !”
That night the wind had a dreadful soughing in its voice—a lamentable
voice that came along the rain-wet face of the hills, with a prolonged moaning
Down in the big room, that was kitchen and sitting-room in one, where
Gorromalt sat—for he had risen from his bed, for all that he was so weak and
giddy—there was semi-darkness. His wife had pleaded for the oil-lamp,
because the shadows within and the wild wind without—though, I am think-
ing, most the shadows within her brain—filled her with dread ; but he would
not have it, no, not a candle even. The peats glowed, red-hot ; above them the
small narrow pine-logs crackled in a scarlet and yellow blaze.
Hour after hour went by in silence. There were but the three of us.
Morag? Ah, did Gorromalt think she would stay at Teenabrae, and Muireall
near by, and in the clutch of the death-frost, and she, her sister dear, not go to
her ? He had put the ban upon us, soon as the blood was out of his brain,
and he could half rise from his pillow. No one was to go to see her, no one
was to send word to her, no one was to speak of her.
At that, Aunt Elspeth had fallen on her knees beside the bed, and prayed
to him to show pity. The tears rained upon the relentless heavy hand she
held and kissed. “At the least,” she moaned, “at the least, let some one go to
her, Archibald ; at least a word, only one word !”
“Not a word, woman, not a word. She has sinned, but that ‘s the way
o’ women o’ that kind. Let her be. The wind’ll blow her soul against God’s
heavy hand, this very night o’ the nights. It’s not for you nor for me. But
I’m saying this, I am : curse her, ay, curse her again and again, for that she let
24 THE SAVOY
the son of the stranger, the son of our enemy, who would drive us out of the
home we have, the home of our fathers, ay, back to the time when no English
foot ever trod the heather of Argyll, that she would let him do her this shame
and disgrace, her and me, an’ you too, ay, and all of our blood, and the Strath
too, for that—ay, by God, and the clan, the whole clan !”
But though Gorromalt’s word was law there, there was one who had the
tide coming in at one ear and going out at the other. As soon as the rainy
gloom deepened into dark, she slipped from the house ; I wanted to go with
her, but she whispered to me to stay. It was well I did. I was able to keep back
from him, all night, the story of Morag’s going. He thought she was in her
bed. So bitter on the man was his wrath, that, ill as he was, he would have
risen, and ridden or driven over to Kilbrennan, had he known Morag was
Angus Macallum, Gorromalt’s chief man, was with the horses in the
stable. He tried to prevent Morag taking out Gealcas, the mare, she that
went faster and surer than any there. He even put hand upon the lass,
and said a rough word. But she laughed, I am told ; and I am thinking
that whoever heard Morag laugh, when she was “strange,” for all that she
was so white and soft, she with her hair o’ sunlight, and the blue, blue
eyes o’ her !—whoever heard that would not be for standing in her way.
So Angus had stood back, sullenly giving no help, but no longer daring
to interfere. She mounted Gealcas, and rode away into the dark rainy
night where the wind went louping to and fro among the crags on the
braes as though it were mad with fear or pain, and complaining wild, wild
—the lamentable cry of the hills.
Hour after hour we sat there. We could hear the roaring sound of
Gorromalt Water as it whirled itself over the linn. The stream was in
spate, and would be boiling black, with livid clots of foam flung here and
there on the dripping heather overhanging the torrent. The wind’s endless
sough came into the house, and wailed in the keyholes and the chinks.
Rory, the blind collie, lay on a mat near the door, and the long hair of his
felt was blown upward, and this way and that, by the ground-draught
Once or twice Aunt Elspeth rose, and stirred the porridge that seethed
and bubbled in the pot. Her husband took no notice. He was in a daze,
and sat in his flanked leathern armchair, with his arms laid along the sides,
and his down-clasping hands catching, the red gleam of the peats, and his
face, white and set, like that of a dead man looking out of a grated prison.
Once or twice, an hour or so before, when she had begun to croon some
MORAG OF THE GLEN 25
hymn, he had harshly checked her. But now when she hummed, and at last
openly sang the Gaelic version of “The Lord ‘s my Shepherd,” he paid no
heed. He was not hearing that, or anything she did. I could make nothing
of the cold bitterness that was on his face. He brooded, I doubt not, upon
doom for the man, and the son of the man, who had wrought him this evil.
His wife saw this, and so had her will at last. She took down the great
Gaelic Bible, and read Christ’s words about little children. The rain slashed
against the window-panes. Beyond, the wind moaned, and soughed, and
moaned. From the kennel behind the byre a mournful howling rose and
fell ; but Gorromalt did not stir.
Aunt Elspeth looked at me despairingly. Poor old woman ; ah, the
misery and pain of it, the weariness and long pain of starved hearts and
barren hope. Suddenly an idea came to her. She rose again, and went
over to the fire. Twice she passed in front of her husband. He made no
“He hates those things,” she muttered to me, her eyes wet with pain, and
with something of shame, too, for admitting that she believed in incantations.
And why not, poor old woman ? Sure there are stranger things than sean or
rosad, charm or spell ; and who can say that the secret old wisdom is mere
foam o’ thought. “He hates those things, but I am for saving my poor lass if
I can. I will be saying that old ancient eolas, that is called the Eolas an
“What is that, Aunt Elspeth ? What are the three threads ?”
“That eolas killed the mother of my mother, dearie ; she that was a
woman out of the isle of Benbecula.”
“Killed her!” I repeated, awe-struck.
“Ay ; ’tis a charm for the doing away of bewitchment, and sure it is my
poor Muireall who has been bewitched. But my mother’s mother used the eolas
for the taking away of a curse upon a cow that would not give milk. She
was saying the incantation for the third time, and winding the triple thread
round the beast’s tail, when in a moment all the ill that was in the cow came
forth and settled upon her, so that she went back to her house quaking and
sick with the blight, and died of it next day, because there was no one to take
it from her in turn by that or any other eolas.”
I listened in silence. The thing seemed terrible to me then ; no, no, not
then only, but now, too, whenever I think of it.
“Say it then, Aunt Elspeth,” I whispered ; “say it, in the name of the
26 THE SAVOY
With that she went on her knees, and leaned against her chair, though
with her face towards her husband, because of the fear that was ever in her.
Then in a low voice, choked with sobs, she said this eolas, after she had first
uttered the holy words of the “Pater Noster” :
“Chi suil thu,
Labhraidh bial thu ;
Smuainichidh cridhe thu.
Tha Fear an righthighe
An t-Athair, am Mac, ‘s an Spiorad Naomh.
“Ceathrar a rinn do chron—
Fear agus bean, />
Gille agus nighean.
Co tha gu sin a thilleadh ?
Tri Pearsannan na Trianaid ro-naomh.
An t-Athair, am Mac, ‘s an Spioraid Naomh.
“Tha mi ‘cur fianuis gu Moire, agus gu Brighde,
Ma ‘s e duine rinn do chron,
Le droch run,
No le droch shuil,
No le droch chridhe,
Gu’m bi thusa, Muireall gu math
Ri linn so a chur mu ‘n cuairt ort.
An ainm an Athar, a’ Mhic, ‘s an Spioraid Naoimh !’ />
(“An eye will see you,
Tongue will speak of you
Heart will think of you
The Man of Heaven
The Father. Son, and Holy Ghost.
“Four caused your hurt—
Man and Wife,
Young man, and maiden.
Who is to frustrate that?
The three Persons of the most Holy Trinity,
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
“I call the Virgin Mary and St. Bridget to witness
That if your hurt was caused by man.
Through ill will.
Or the evil eye.
Or a wicked heart,
That you, Muireall, my daughter, may be whole—
And this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!”)
MORAG OF THE GLEN 27
Just as she finished, and as she was lingering on the line, “Gu’m bi thusa,
Muireall, gu math,” Rory, the blind collie, rose, whimpered, and stood with
Strangely enough, Gorromalt heard this, though his ears had been deaf to
all else, or so it seemed, at least.
“Down, Rory ! down, beast !” he exclaimed, in a voice strangely shrill and
But the dog would not be still. His sullen fear grew worse. Suddenly
he sidled and lay on his belly, now snarling, now howling, his blind eyes dis-
tended, his nostrils quivering, his flanks quaking. My uncle rose and stared
at the dog.
“What ails the beast?” he asked angrily, looking now at Rory, now at
us. “Has any one come in ? Has any one been at the door ?”
“No one, Archibald.”
“What have you been doing, Elspeth ?”
“Woman, I heard your voice droning at your prayers. Ah, I see—you
have been at some of your sians and eolais again. Sure, now, one would be
thinking you would have less foolishness, and you with the grayness upon
your years. What eolas did she say, lass?”
I told him. “Aw, silly woman that she is, the eolas an t-Snaithnean !
madness and folly . . . Where is Morag ?”
“In bed.” I said this with truth in my eyes. God’s forgiveness for that
good lie !
“And it’s time you were there also, and you too, Elspeth. Come now,
no more of this foolishness. We have nothing to wait for. Why are we
waiting here ?”
At that moment Rory became worse than ever. I thought the poor blind
beast would take some dreadful fit. Foam was on his jaws ; his hair bristled.
He had sidled forward, and crouched low. We saw him look again and again
towards the blank space to his right, as if, blind though he was, he saw some
one there, some one that gave him fear, but no longer a fierce terror. Nay,
more than once we saw him swish his tail, and sniff as though longingly. But
when he turned his head towards the door his sullen fury grew, and terror shook
upon every limb. It was now that Gorromalt was speaking.
Suddenly the dog made a leap forward—a terrible bristling wolf he
seemed to me, though no wolf had I ever seen, or imagined any more fear-
some, than Rory, now.
28 THE SAVOY
He dashed himself against the door, snarling and mouthing, with his snout
nosing the narrow slit at the bottom.
Aunt Elspeth and I shook with fear. My uncle was death-white, but
stood strangely brooding. He had his right elbow upon his breast, and sup-
ported it with his left arm, while with his right hand he plucked at his
“For sure,” he said at last, with an effort to seem at ease ; “for sure the
dog is fëy with his age and his blindness.” Then, more slowly still, “and if
that were not so, it might look as though he had the fear on him, because of
someone who strove to come in.”
“It is Muireall,” I whispered, scarce above my breath.
“No,” said Aunt Elspeth, and the voice of her now was as though it had
come out of the granite all about us, cold and hard as that. “No ! Muireall
is already in the room.”
We both turned and looked at her. She sat quite still, on the chair be-
twixt the fire and the table. Her face was rigid, ghastly, but her eyes were
large and wild.
A look first of fear, then almost of tenderness, came into her husband’s
“Hush, Elspeth,” he said, “that is foolishness.”
“It is not foolishness, Archibald,” she resumed in the same hard, unemo-
tional voice, but with a terrible intensity. “Man, man, because ye are blind, is
there no sight for those who can see ?”
“There is no one here but ourselves.”
But now Aunt Elspeth half rose, with supplicating arms :
“Muireall ! Muireall ! Muireall ! O Muirnean, muirnean !”
I saw Archibald Campbell shaking as though he were a child and no
strong man. “Will you be telling us this, Elspeth,” he began in a hoarse
voice—”will you be telling me this : if Muireall is in the room, beyond
Rory there, who will be at the door ? Who is trying to come in at the door ?”
“It’s a man. I do not know the man. It is a man. It is Death, maybe.
I do not know the man. O Muirnean, mo muirnean !”
But now the great gaunt black dog—terrible in his seeing blindness
he was to me—began again his savage snarling, his bristling insensate fury.
He had ceased a moment while our voices filled the room, and had sidled
a little way towards the place where Aunt Elspeth saw Muireall, whining
low as he did so, and swishing his tail furtively along the whitewashed
MORAG OF THE GLEN 29
I know not what awful thing would have happened. It seemed to me that
Death was coming to all of us.
But at that moment we all heard the sound of a galloping horse. There
was a lull in the wind, and the rain lashed no more like a streaming whistling
whip. Even Rory crouched silent, his nostrils quivering, his curled snout
showing his fangs.
Gorromalt stood, listening intently.
“By the living God,” he exclaimed suddenly, his eyes like a goaded bull’s
—”I know that horse. Only one horse runs like that at the gallop. ‘Tis the
grey stallion I sold three months ago to the man at Drumdoon—ay, ay, for
the son of the man at Drumdoon ! A horse to ride for the shooting—a good
horse for the hills—that was what he wanted ! Ay, ay, by God, a horse for the
son of the man at Drumdoon ! It’s the grey stallion : no other horse in the
Straths runs like that—d’ye hear ? d’ye hear ? Elspeth woman, is there hear-
ing upon you for that ? Hey, tlot-a-tlot, tlot-a-tlot, tlot-tlot-tlot-tlot, tlot-a-tlot,
tlot-tlot-tlot ! I tell you, woman, it’s the grey stallion I sold to Drumdoon : it’s
that and no other ! Ay, by the Sorrow, it’s Drumdoon’s son that will be riding
By this time the horse was close by. We heard his hoofs clang above the
flagstones round the well at the side of the house. Then there was a noise as
of scattered stones, and a long scraping sound : then silence.
Gorromalt turned and put his hand to the door. There was murder
in his eyes, for all the smile, a grim terrible smile, that had come to his
Aunt Elspeth rose and ran to him, holding him back. The door shook.
Rory the hound tore at the splinters at the base of the door, his fell again
bristling, his snarling savagery horrible to hear. The pine-logs had fallen into
a smouldering ash. The room was full of gloom, though the red sullen eye of
the peat-glow stared through the semi-darkness.
“Don’t be opening the door! Don’t be opening the door !” she cried, in
a thin screaming voice.
“What for no, woman ? Let me go ! Hell upon this dog—out o’ the way,
Rory—get back ! Down wi’ ye !”
“No, no, Archibald ! Wait ! Wait !”
Then a strange thing happened.
Rory ceased, sullenly listened, and then retreated, but no longer snarling
Gorromalt suddenly staggered.
30 THE SAVOY
“Who touched me just now ?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
No one answered.
“Who touched me just now ? Who passed? Who slid past me?” His
voice rose almost to a scream.
Then, shaking off his wife, he swung the door open.
There was no one there. Outside could be heard a strange sniffling and
whinnying. It was the grey stallion.
Gorromalt strode across the threshold. I had time only to prevent Aunt
Elspeth from falling against the lintel in a corner, but in a moment’s interval I
saw that the stallion was riderless.
“Archibald !” wailed his wife faintly out of her weakness. “Archibald,
come back ! Come back !”
But there was no need to call. Archibald Campbell was not the man to
fly in the face of God. He knew that no mortal rider rode that horse to
its death that night. Even before he closed the door we heard the rapid,
sliding, catching gallop. The horse had gone : rider or riderless I know
He was ashy-grey. Suddenly he had grown quite still. He lifted his
wife, and helped her to her own big leathern armchair at the other side of
“Light the lamp, lass,” he said to me, in a hushed strange voice. Then
he stooped, and threw some small pine-logs on the peats, and stirred the
blaze till it caught the dry splintered edges.
Rory, poor blind beast, came wearily and with a low whine to his side,
and then lay down before the warm blaze.
“Bring the Book,” he said to me.
I brought the great leather-bound Gaelic Bible, and laid it on his
He placed his hand in it, and opened at random.
“With Himself be the word,” he said.
“Is it Peace ?” asked Aunt Elspeth in a tremulous whisper.
“It is Peace,” he answered, his voice gentle, his face stern as a graven
rock. And what he read was this, where his eye chanced upon as he opened
at the place where is the Book of the Vision of Nahum the Elkoshite :
“What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make a full end.”
After that there was a silence. Then he rose, and told me to go and lie
down and sleep ; for, on the morrow, after dawn, I was to go with him to
where Muireall was.
MORAG OF THE GLEN 31
I saw Aunt Elspcth rise and put her arms about him. They had peace.
I went to my room, but after a brief while returned, and sat, in the quietness
there, by the glowing peats, till dawn.
The greyness came at last ; with it, the rain ceased. The wind still
soughed and wailed among the corries and upon the rocky braes; with low-
moans sighing along the flanks of the near hills, and above the stony water-
course where the Gorromalt surged with swirling foam and loud and louder
My eyes had closed in my weariness, when I heard Rory give a low
growl, followed by a contented whimper. Almost at the same moment the
door opened. I looked up, startled.
It was Morag.
She was so white, it is scarce to be wondered at that I took her at first
for a wraith. Then I saw how drenched she was, chilled to the bone too.
She did not speak as I led her in, and made her stand before the fire, while I
took off her soaked dress and shoes. In silence she made all the necessary
changes, and in silence drank the tea I brewed for her.
“Come to my room with me,” she whispered, as with quiet feet we
crossed the stone flags and went up the wooden stair that led to her room.
When she was in bed she bade me put out the light and lie down beside
her. Still silent, we lay there in the darkness, for at that side of the house
the hill-gloom prevailed, and moreover the blind was down-drawn. I thought
the weary moaning of the wind would make my very heart sob.
Then, suddenly, Morag put her arms about me, and the tears streamed
warm about my neck.
“Hush, Morag-aghray, hush, mo-rùn,” I whispered in her ear. “Tell me
what it is, dear ! Tell me what it is !”
“Oh, and I loved him so ! I loved him.”
“I know it, dear ; I knew it all along.”
I thought her sobs would never cease till her heart was broken, so I
questioned her again.
“Yes,” she said, gaspingly, “yes, I loved him when Muireall and I were
in the South together. I met him a month or more before ever she saw him.
He loved me, and I promised to marry him ; but I would not go away with
him, as he wished : for he said his father would never agree. And then he
was angry, and we quarrelled. And I—Oh ! I was glad too, for I did not wish
to marry an Englishman—or to live in a dreary city ; but . . . but . . . and
32 THE SAVOY
then he and Muireall met, and he gave all his thought to her ; and she, her
love to him.”
“And now ?”
“Now ? . . . Now Muireall is dead.”
“Dead ? O Morag, dead ? O poor Muireall that we loved so ! But did
you see her ? was she alive when you reached her ?”
“No ; but she was alone. And now, listen. Here is a thing I have
to tell you. When Ealasaid Cameron, that was my mother’s mother, was a
girl, she had a cruel sorrow. She had two sisters whom she loved with all
her heart. They were twins, Silis and Morag. One day an English officer at
Fort William took Silis away with him as his wife ; but when her child was
heavy within her she discovered that she was no wife, for the man was already
wedded to a woman in the south. She left him that night. It was bitter
weather, and midwinter. She reached home through a wild snowdrift. It
killed her ; but before she died she said to Morag, ‘He has killed me and the
child.’ And Morag understood. So it was that before any wind of spring
blew upon that snow, the man was dead.”
When Morag stopped here, and said no more, I did not at first realize
what she meant to tell me. Then it flashed upon me.
“O Morag, Morag !” I exclaimed, terrified. “But, Morag, you do not
. . . you will not. . . .”
“Will not !” she repeated, with a strange catch in her voice.
“Listen,” she resumed suddenly after a long, strained silence. “While I
lay beside my darling Muireall, weeping and moaning over her, and she so
fair, with such silence where the laughter had always been, I heard the door
open. I looked up. It was Jasper Morgan.
“‘You are too late,’ I said. I stared at the man who had brought her,
and me, this sorrow. There was no light about him at all, as I had always
thought. He was only a man as other men are, but with a cold selfish heart
and loveless eyes.
“‘She sent for me to come back to her,’ he answered, though I saw
his face grow ashy-grey as he looked at Muireall and saw that she was dead.
“‘She is dead, Jasper Morgan.’
“‘Dead . . . Dead ?’
“‘Ay, dead. It is upon you, her death. Her you have slain, as though
with your sword that you carry : her, and the child she bore within her, and
that was yours.’
“At that he bit his lip till the blood came.
MORAG OF THE GLEN 33
“‘It is a lie,’ he cried. ‘It is a lie, Morag. If she said that thing, she
“‘Why do you laugh, Morag ?’ he asked, in a swift anger.
“Once more I laughed.
“‘Why do you laugh like that, girl ?’
“But I did not answer. ‘Come,’ I said, ‘come with me. I have some-
thing to say to you. You can do no good here now. She has taken poison,
because of the shame and the sorrow.’
“‘Poison !’ he cried, in horror ; and also, I could see in the poor cowardly
mind of him, in a sudden sick fear.
“But when I rose to leave the room he made ready to follow me. I kissed
Muireall for the last time. The man approached, as though to do likewise.
I lifted my riding-whip. He bowed his head, with a deep flush on his face,
and came out behind me.
“I told the inn-folk that my father would be over in the morning. Then
I rode slowly away. Jasper Morgan followed on his horse, a grey stallion
that Muireall and I had often ridden, for he was from Teenabrae farm.
“When we left the village it was into a deep darkness. The rain and the
wind made the way almost impassable at times. But at last we came to the
ford. The water was in spate, and the rushing sound terrified my horse.
I dismounted, and fastened Gealcas to a tree. The man did the same.
“‘What is it, Morag ?’ he asked in a quiet steady voice—’Death ?’
“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Death.’
“Then he suddenly fell forward, and snatched my hand, and begged me
to forgive him, swearing that he had loved me and me only, and imploring me
to believe him, to love him, to . . . Ah, the hound!
“But all I said was this :
“‘Jasper Morgan, soon or late I would kill you, because of this cruel wrong
you did to her. But there is one way : best for her . . . best for me . . . best
“‘What is that ?’ he said hoarsely, though I think he knew now. The
roar of the Gorromalt Water filled the night.
“‘There is one way. It is the only way . . .Go!’
“He gave a deep quavering sigh. Then without a word he turned, and
walked straight into the darkness.”
Morag paused here. Then, in answer to my frightened whisper, added
34 THE SAVOY
“They will find his body in the shallows, down by Drumdoon. The
spate will carry it there.”
After that we lay in silence. The rain had begun to fall again, and
slid with a soft stealthy sound athwart the window. A dull light grew
indiscernibly into the room. Then we heard someone move downstairs. In
the yard, Angus, the stableman, began to pump water. A cow lowed, and the
cluttering of hens was audible.
I moved gently from Morag’s side. As I rose, Maisie passed beneath the
window on her way to the byre. As her wont was, poor wild wildered lass,
she was singing fitfully. It was the same ballad again. But we heard a
single verse only.
“For I have killed a man,” she said,
“A better man than you to wed :
I slew him when he clasped my head.
And now he sleepeth with the dead.”
Then the voice was lost in the byre, and in the sweet familiar lowing of
the kine. The new day was come.
THESE are the women whom no man has loved.
Year after year, day after day has moved
These hearts with many longings, and with tears,
And with content ; they have received the years
With empty hands, expecting no good thing ;
Life has passed by their doors, not entering.
In solitude, and without vain desire,
They have warmed themselves beside a lonely fire ;
And, without scorn, beheld as in a glass
The blown and painted leaves of Beauty pass.
Their souls have been made fragrant with the spice
Of costly virtues lit for sacrifice ;
They have accepted Life, the unpaid debt,
And looked for no vain day of reckoning.
They too in certain windless summer hours
Have felt the stir of dreams, and dreamed the powers
And the exemptions and the miracles
And the cruelty of Beauty. Citadels
Of many-walled and deeply-moated hearts
Have suddenly surrendered to the arts
Of so compelling magic ; entering,
They have esteemed it but a little thing
To have won so great a conquest ; and with haste
They have cast down, and utterly laid waste,
Tower upon tower, and sapped their roots with flame ;
And passed on that eternity of shame
Which is the way of Beauty on the earth.
And they have shaken laughter from its mirth,
To be a sound of trumpets and of horns
Crying the battle-cry of those red morns
Against a sky of triumph.
38 THE SAVOY
On some nights
Of delicate Springtide, when the hesitant lights
Began to fade, and glimmer, and grow warm,
And all the softening air is quick with storm,
And the ardours of the young year, entering in,
Flush the gray earth with buds ; when trees begin
To feel a trouble mounting from their roots,
And all their green life blossoming into shoots,
They too, in some obscure, unblossoming strife,
Have felt the stirring of the sap of life.
And they have wept, with bowed heads ; in the street
They hear the twittering of little feet,
The rocking of the cradles in their hearts.
This is a mood, and, as a mood, departs
With the dried tears ; and they resume the tale
Of the dropt stitches : these must never fail
For a dream’s sake ; nor, for a memory,
The telling of a patient rosary.
THERE are few more delightful books in the world than
Casanova’s “Mémoires.”—That is a statement I have long
vainly sought to see in print. It is true, one learns casually
that various eminent literary personages have cherished a
high regard for this autobiography, have even considered it
the ideal autobiography, that Wendell Holmes was once
heard defending Casanova, that Thackeray found him good enough to borrow
from. But these eminent personages—and how many more we shall never
know—locked up the secret of their admiration for this book in some remote
casket of their breasts ; they never confided it to the cynical world. Every
properly constituted ” man of letters ” has always recognized that any public
allusion to Casanova should begin and end with lofty moral reprobation of
his unspeakable turpitude.
No doubt whatever—and this apart from the question as to whether his
autobiography should be counted as moral or immoral literature—Casanova
delivered himself bound into the hands of the moralists. He may or may not
have recognized this. He wrote at the end of a long and full life, in the
friendly seclusion of a lonely Bohemian castle, when all things had become
indifferent to him save the vivid memories of the past. It mattered little to
him that the whirlwind of 1789 had just swept away the eighteenth century
together with the moral maxims that passed current in that century. We
have to accept this cardinal fact at the outset when we approach Casanova.
And if a dweller in the highly respectable nineteenth century may be forgiven
a first exclamation of horror at Casanova’s wickedness, he has wofully failed
in critical insight if he allows that exclamation to be his last word concerning
There are at least three points of view from which Casanova’s “Mémoires”
are of deep and permanent interest. In the first place they constitute a docu-
ment of immense psychological value as the full and veracious presentation of a
certain human type in its most complete development. In the second place,
as a mere story of adventure and without reference to their veracity, the
42 THE SAVOY
“Mémoires” have never been surpassed, and only equalled by books written on
a much smaller scale. In the third place, we here possess an unrivalled picture
of the eighteenth century in its most characteristic aspects throughout Europe.
Casanova lived in an age which seems to have been favourable for the
spontaneous revelation of human nature in literature. It was not only the
age in which the novel reached full development ; it was the age of diaries
and autobiographies. Pepys, indeed, though he died in the eighteenth century,
had written his diary long before ; but during Casanova’s lifetime Boswell was
writing that biography which is so wonderful largely because it is so nearly
an autobiography. Casanova’s communicative countryman, Gozzi, was also
his contemporary. Rousseau’s “Confessions” only preceded Casanova’s
“Mémoires” by a few years, and a little later Restif de la Bretonne
wrote “Monsieur Nicolas,” and Madame Roland her “Mémoires Particulières.”
All these autobiographies are very unlike Casanova’s. They mostly seem
to present the coulisses of otherwise eminent and respectable lives. The
highly-placed government official of versatile intellectual tastes exhibits him-
self as a monster of petty weaknesses ; the eloquent apostle of the return
to Nature uncovers the corroding morbidities we should else never suspect ;
the philanthropic pioneer in social reform exposes himself in a state of almost
maniacal eroticism ; the austere heroine who was nourished on Plutarch con-
fesses that she is the victim of unhappy passion. We are conscious of no
such discords in Casanova’s autobiography. Partly it may be because we
have no other picture of Casanova before our eyes. Moreover, he had no
conventional ideals to fall short of ; he was an adventurer from the first. ” I
am proud because I am nothing,” he used to say. He could not boast of
his birth ; he never held high position ; for the greatest part of his active
career he was an exile ; at every moment of his life he was forced to rely
on his own real and personal qualities. But the chief reason why we feel
no disturbing discord in Casanova’s “Mémoires” lies in the admirable skill
with which he has therein exploited his unquestionable sincerity. He is
a consummate master in the dignified narration of undignified experiences.
Fortified, it is true, by a confessed and excessive amour propre, he never loses
his fine sense of equilibrium, his power of presenting his own personality
broadly and harmoniously. He has done a few dubious things in his time,
he seems to say, and now and again found himself in positions that were
ridiculous enough ; but as he looks back he feels that the like may have
happened to any of us. He views these things with complete human tolerance
as a necessary part of the whole picture, which it would be idle to slur over
or apologize for. He records them simply, not without a sense of humour,
but with no undue sense of shame. In his heart, perhaps, he is confident that
he has given the world one of its greatest books, and that posterity will
require of him no such rhetorical justification as Rousseau placed at the head
of his “Confessions.”
In the preface to the “Mémoires,” Casanova is sufficiently frank. He has
not scrupled, he tells us, to defraud fools and rascals, “when necessary,” and
he has never regretted it. But such incidents have been but episodes in his
life. He is not a sensualist, he says, for he has never neglected his duty—
“when I had any”—for the allurements of sense ; yet the main business of
his life has ever been in the world of sense ; “there is none of greater import-
ance.” “I have always loved women and have done my best to make them love
me. I have also delighted in good cheer, and I have passionately followed
whatever has excited my curiosity.” Now in old age he reviews the joys of
his life. He has learnt to be content with one meal a day, in spite of a sound
digestion, but he recalls the dishes that delighted him : Neapolitan macaroni,
Spanish olla podrida, Newfoundland cod, high-flavoured game, old cheese (has
he not collected material for a “Dictionnaire des Fromages?”), and without any
consciousness of abrupt transition he passes on to speak of the sweetness of
the women he had loved. Then with a smile of pity he turns on those who
call such tastes depraved, the poor insensate fools who think the Almighty is
only able to enjoy our sorrow and abstinence, and bestows upon us for nought
the gift of self-respect, the love of praise, the desire to excel, energy, strength,
courage, and the power to kill ourselves when we will. And with the strain of
Stoicism which is ever present to give fibre to his Epicureanism, he quotes the
maxim which might well belong to both philosophies : “Nemo laeditur nisi a
The fact that Casanova was on one side a Venetian must count for some-
thing in any attempt to explain him. Not indeed that Venice ever produced
more than one Casanova ; I would imply no such disrespect to Venice—or to
Casanova ; but the racial soil was favourable to such a personality. The
Venetians are a branch of a northern people— allied by race as well as in art
and commerce to the full-bodied, fair-haired people of the Rhine valley—
who long since settled by the southern sea to grow mellow in the sunshine.
It suited them well, for they expanded into one of the finest races in Christen-
dom, and certainly one of the least Christian races there, a solid, well-tempered
race, self-controlled and self-respecting. The Venetian genius is the genius of
sensuous enjoyment, of tolerant humanity, of unashamed earthliness. What-
44 THE SAVOY
ever was sane and stable in Casanova, and his instinctive distaste for the
morbid and perverse, he owes to his Venetian maternal ancestry. If it is
true that he was not a mere sensualist, it was by no means because of his
devotion to duty—”when I had any,”—but because the genuine sensualist is
only alive on the passive side of his nature, and in Casanova’s nervous system
the development of the sensory fibres is compensated and held in balance by
the equal vigour of the motor fibres ; what he is quick to enjoy he is strong
and alert to achieve. Thus he lived the full and varied life that he created for
himself at his own good pleasure out of nothing, by the sole power of his own
magnificent wits. And now the self-sufficing Venetian sits down to survey his
work and finds that it is good. It has not always been found so since. A
“self-made” man, if ever there was one, Casanova is not beloved of those who
worship self-help. The record of his life will easily outlive the largest fortune
ever made in any counting house, but the life itself remains what we call a
“wasted” life. Thrift, prudence, modesty, scrupulous integrity, strict attention
to business—it is useless to come to Casanova for any of these virtues. They
were not even in his blood ; he was only half Venetian.
The Casanova family was originally Spanish. The first Casanova on
record was a certain Don Jacobo, of illegitimate birth, who in the middle of
the fifteenth century became secretary to King Alfonso. He fell in love with
Dona Anna Palafox, who was destined to the religious life, and the day after
she had pronounced her vows he carried her off from her convent to Rome,
where he finally obtained the forgiveness and benediction of the Pope. The son
of this union, Don Juan, killed an officer of the King of Naples, fled from Rome,
and sought fortune with Columbus, dying on the voyage. Don Juan’s son,
Marcantonio, secretary to a cardinal, was noted in his day as an epigrammatic
poet ; but his satire was too keen, and he also had to flee from Rome. His son
became a colonel, but, unlike his forefathers, he died peacefully, in extreme old
age, in France. In this soldier’s grandson, Casanova’s father, the adventurous
impulsiveness of the family again came out ; he ran away from home at nineteen
with a young actress, and himself became an actor ; subsequently he left the
actress and then fell in love with a young Venetian beauty of sixteen, Zanetta
Farusi, a shoemaker’s daughter. But a mere actor could find no favour in a
respectable family, so the young couple ran away and were married ; the hero
of these “Mémoires,” born on the 2nd April, 1725, was their first-born. There is
probably no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of this family history, but
if one desired to invent an ancestry for Casanova one could scarcely better it.
His race helps to account for Casanova, but the real explanation of the
man can only lie in his own congenital organization. That he was a radically
abnormal person is fairly clear. Not that he was morbid either in body or
mind. On the contrary, he was a man of fine presence, of abounding health—
always looking ten years younger than his age—of the most robust appetites,
a great eater, who delighted to see others, especially women, eat heartily also,
a man of indubitable sexual vigour; however great the demands he made upon
his physical energy it seldom failed to respond, and his capacity for rest was
equally great ; he could sleep nineteen hours at a stretch. His mental health
was not less sound. The most punctilious alienist, with this frank and copious
history before him, could not commit Casanova to an asylum. What-
ever offences against social codes he may have committed, Casanova can
scarcely be said to have sinned against natural laws. He was only abnormal
because so natural a person within the gates of civilization is necessarily
abnormal and at war with his environment. Far from being the victim of
morbidities and perversities, Casanova presents to us the natural man
in excelsis. He was a man for whom the external world existed, and who
reacted to all the stimuli it presents to the healthy normal organism. His in-
telligence was immensely keen and alert, his resourcefulness, his sagacious
audacity, his presence of mind, were all of the first order. He was equally swift
to feel, to conceive, and to act. His mental organization was thus singularly
harmonious, and hence his success in gratifying his eager and immense
appetite for the world, an appetite unsatiated and insatiable even to the last, or
he would have found no pleasure in writing these “Mémoires.” Casanova has
been described as a psychological type of instability. That is to view him
superficially. A man who adapts himself so readily and so effectively to any
change in his environment or in his desires only exhibits the instability which
marks the most intensely vital protoplasm. The energy and ability which
Casanova displayed in gratifying his instincts would have sufficed to make a
reputation of the first importance in any department, as a popular statesman, a
great judge, a merchant prince, and enabled him to die worn out by the
monotonous and feverish toil of the senate, the court, or the counting-house.
Casanova chose to live. A crude and barbarous choice, it seems to us with our
hereditary instinct to spend our lives in wasting the reasons for living. But it
is certain that Casanova never repented his choice. Assuredly we need not,
for few judges, statesmen, or merchants have ever left for the joy of humanity
any legacy of their toil equal to these “Mémoires.”
But such swift energy of vital action and reaction, such ardour of deed in
keeping pace with desire, are in themselves scarcely normal. Casanova’s
46 THE SAVOY
abnormality is suggested by the tendency to abnormality which we find in his
family. We have seen what men his ancestors were ; in reading the
“Mémoires” we gather incidentally that one of his brothers had married,
though impotent, and another brother is described as a somewhat feeble-minded
ne’er-do-well. All the physical and mental potency of the family was intensely
concentrated in Casanova. Yet he himself in early childhood seems to have
been little better than an idiot either in body or mind. He could recall
nothing that happened before he was eight years of age. He was not
expected to live ; he suffered from prolonged haemorrhages from the nose, and
the vision of blood was his earliest memory. He habitually kept his mouth
open, and his face was stupid. “Thickness of the blood,” said the physicians
of those days ; it seems probable that he suffered from growths in the nose
which, as we now know, produce such physical and mental inferiority as
Casanova describes. The cure was spontaneous. He was taken to Padua,
and shortly afterwards began to develop wonderfully both in stature and
intelligence. In after years he had little cause to complain either of health or
intellect. It is notable, however, that when, still a boy, he commenced his
ecclesiastical training (against his wishes, for he had chosen to be a doctor) he
failed miserably as a preacher, and broke down in the pulpit; thus the Church
lost a strange ornament. Moreover, with all his swift sensation and alert
response, there was in Casanova an anomalous dullness of moral sensibility.
The insults to Holy Religion which seem to have brought him to that prison
from which he effected his marvellous escape, were scarcely the serious protests
of a convinced heretic ; his deliberate trickery of Mme. d’Urfe was not only
criminal but cruel. His sense of the bonds of society was always somewhat
veiled, and although the veil never became thick, and might be called the natural
result of an adventurer’s life, it might also, perhaps, be said that it was a certain
degree of what is sometimes called moral imbecility that made Casanova an
adventurer. But while we thus have to recognize that he was a man of dulled
moral sensibility, we must also recognize that he possessed a vigorous moral
consciousness of his own, or we misunderstand him altogether. The point to
be remembered is that the threshold of his moral sensibility was not easily
reached. There are some people whose tactile sensibility is so obtuse that
it requires a very wide separation of the æsthesiometer to get the right
response. It was so with Casanova’s moral sensitiveness. But, once aroused,
his conscience responded energetically enough. It seems doubtful whether,
from his own point of view, he ever fell into grave sin, and therefore he
is happily free from remorse. No great credit is thus due to him ; the same
psychological characteristic is familiar in all criminals. It is not difficult
to avoid plucking the apples of shame when so singularly few grow on your
Casanova’s moral sensibility and its limits come out, where a man’s moral
sensibility will come out, in his relations with women. As in the life of the
natural man generally, women played a large part in Casanova’s life. He
was always in love. We may use the word “love” here in no euphemistic
sense, for although Casanova’s passions grew and ripened with the rapidity
born of long experience in these matters, so great is the fresh vitality of the
man that there is ever a virginal bloom on every new ardour. He was as far
removed from the cold-blooded libertine typified in Laclos’s Valmont, un-
scrupulously using women as the instruments of his own lust, as from Laura’s
sonneteering lover. He had fully grasped what the latest writer on the
scientific psychology of sex calls the secondary law of courting, namely, the
development in the male of an imaginative attentiveness to the psychical and
bodily states of the female, in place of an exclusive attentiveness to his own
gratification. It is not impossible that in these matters Casanova could have
given a lesson to many virtuous husbands of our own highly moral century.
He never sank to the level of the vulgar maxim that “all ‘s fair in love and
war.” He sought his pleasure in the pleasure, and not in the complaisance, of
the women he loved, and they seem to have gratefully and tenderly recognized
his skill in the art of love-making. Casanova loved many women, but broke
few hearts. The same women appear again and again through his pages, and
for the most part no lapse of years seems to deaden the gladness with which
he goes forth to meet them anew. That he knew himself well enough never
to take either wife or mistress must be counted as a virtue, such as it was, in
this incomparable lover of so many women. A man of finer moral fibre could
scarcely have loved so many women ; a man of coarser fibre could never have
left so many women happy.
This very lack of moral delicacy which shuts Casanova off from the finest
human development is an advantage to the autobiographer. It insures his
sincerity because he is unconscious of offence ; it saves us from any
wearisome self-justification, because, for all his amused self-criticism, he sees
no real need for justification. In Rousseau’s “Confessions” we hear the
passionate pleader against men at the tribunal of God ; here we are conscious
neither of opponent nor tribunal. Casanova is neither a pillar of society nor
yet one of the moral Samsons who delight to pull down the pillars of society
he has taken the world as it is, and he has taken himself as he is, and he has
48 THE SAVOY
enjoyed them both hugely. So he is free to set forth the whole of himself, his
achievements, his audacities, his failures, his little weaknesses and superstitions,
his amours, his quarrels, his good fortune and his bad fortune in the world
that on the whole he has found so interesting and happy a place to dwell in.
And his book remains an unending source of delightful study of the man of
impulse and action in all his moods. The self-reliant man, immensely apt for
enjoyment, who plants himself solidly with his single keen wit before the
mighty oyster of the world has never revealed himself so clearly before.
What manner of man Casanova seemed to his contemporaries has only
been discovered of recent years ; and while the picture which we obtain of
him has been furnished by his enemies, and was not meant to flatter, it ad-
mirably supports the “Mémoires.” In 1755 a spy of the Venetian Inquisition
reported that Casanova united impiety, imposture, and wantonness to a degree
that inspired horror. It was in that same year that Casanova was arrested,
chiefly on the charge of contempt for Holy Religion, and sentenced to five
years imprisonment Fifteen months later he had effected his famous escape,
and was able to pursue his career as an assured and accomplished adventurer
who had brilliantly completed his apprenticeship. It is not until many years
later, in 1772, when his long efforts to obtain pardon from his country still
remained unsuccessful, that we obtain an admirable picture of him from the
Venetian agent at Ancona. “He comes and goes where he will,” the agent
reports, “with open face and haughty mien, always well equipped. He is a
man of some forty- years at most [really about forty-eight, thus confirming
Casanova’s statement that he was always taken for some ten years younger
than his years], of lofty stature, of fine and vigorous aspect, with bright eyes
and very brown skin. He wears a short chestnut-coloured peruke. I am
told that his character is bold and disdainful, but especially that he is full of
speech, and of witty and well-instructed speech.” Two years later Casanova
was at last permitted to return to Venice. He there accepted the post of
secret agent of the State Inquisition for service within the city. Like Defoe
and Toland, who were also secret political agents, he attempted to justify
himself on grounds of public duty. In a few years, however, he was dismissed,
perhaps, as Baschet suggests, on account of the fact that his reports contained
too much philosophy and not enough espionage ; probably it was realized that
a man of such powerful individuality and independence was not fitted for
servile uses. Finally, in 1782, he was banished from Venice for an offence
to which the blood of the Casanovas had always been easily inclined—he
published an audacious satire against a patrician. From Venice he went to
Trieste, and thence to Vienna. There he met Count Waldstein, a fervent
adept of Kabbalistic science, a subject in which Casanova himself was pro-
ficient ; he had found it useful in certain dealings with credulous people. In
1784 the count offered him the post of librarian, with a salary of one thousand
florins, at his castle of Dux, near Teplitz, in Bohemia. It is said to be a fine
castle, and is still noted for its charming park. Here this prince of Bohemians
spent the remainder of his life, devoting seven years to the “Mémoires,” on which
he was still engaged at his death. A tcrra-cotta bust discovered at the castle
(and etched some years ago for “Le Livre”) shows him in mature age, a
handsome, energetic, and imposing head, with somewhat deep-set eyes ; it is
by no means the head of a scamp, but rather that of a philosopher, a philo-
sopher with unusual experience of affairs, a successful statesman, one might
say. A medallion portrait, of later date, which has also been reproduced,
shows him at the age of sixty-three with lean, eager face, and lofty, though
receding forehead, the type of the man of quick perception and swift action,
the eagle type of man. The Prince de Ligne has also left a description of
him as he appeared in old age, now grown very irritable, ready to flare up
at any imagined insult, engaged in perpetual warfare with domestics, but
receiving the highest consideration from those who knew how to appreciate
the great qualities of the man and his unequalled experiences, and who knew
also how to indulge his susceptibilities and smile at his antique fashions.
Once he went off in a huff to Weimar, and was graciously received by the
Duke, but he soon came back again ; all the favours there were showered on
a certain court favourite, one Goethe. It is clear, as we read the Prince de
Ligne’s detailed description, that the restless old adventurer had need, even in
the peaceful seclusion of Dux, of all the consolation yielded by Socrates,
Horace, Seneca, and Boethius, his favourite philosophers. Here, at Dux, on
the 4th of June, 1798, Casanova died, at the age of sixty-eight. “Bear
witness that I have lived as a philosopher and die as a Christian ;” that, we
are told, was his last utterance after he had taken the sacraments.
From that moment Casanova and everything that concerned him was
covered by a pall of oblivion. He seems to have been carelessly cast aside,
together with the century of which he was so characteristic, and, as it now
appears, so memorable a child. The world in which he had lived so joyously
and completely had been transformed by the Revolution. The new age of
strenuous commercialism and complacent philosophy was in its vigorous
youth, a sword in its right hand and a Bible in its left The only adventurer
who found favour now was he who took the glad news of salvation to the
50 THE SAVOY
heathen, or mowed them down to make new openings for trade. Had he
been born later, we may be well assured, Casanova would have known how to
play his part ; he would not have fallen short of Borrow, who became an agent
of the Bible Society. But as it was, what had the new age to do with
Casanova ? No one cared, no one even yet has cared, so much as to
examine the drawers and cupboards full of papers which he left behind at
Dux. Only on the 13th of February, 1820, was the oblivion a little stirred.
On that date a certain Carlo Angiolieri appeared at Leipzig in the office of
the famous publisher, Brockhaus, bearing a voluminous manuscript in the
handwriting (as we now know) of Casanova, and bearing the title, “Histoire de
ma Vie jusqu’à l’an 1797.”
But even the appearance of Carlo Angiolieri failed to dissipate the gloom
. Fifty years more were to pass before the figure of Casanova again became
clear. This man, so ardently alive in every fibre, had now become a myth.
The sagacious world—which imparts the largest dole of contempt to the
pilgrim who brings back to it the largest gifts—refused to take Casanova
seriously. The shrewd critic wondered who wrote Casanova, just as he has
since wondered who wrote Shakespeare. Paul Lacroix paid Stendhal the
huge compliment of suggesting that he had written the “Mémoires,” a
sufficiently ingenious suggestion, for in Stendhal’s Dauphiny spirit there is
something of that love of adventure which is supremely illustrated in Casanova.
But we now know that, as Armand Baschet first proved, Casanova himself
really wrote his own “Mémoires.” Moreover, so far as investigation has
yet been able to go, he wrote with strict regard to truth. Wherever it
is possible to test Casanova, his essential veracity has always been vindi-
cated. In the nature of things it is impossible to verify much that he
narrates. When, however, we remember that he was telling the story of his
life primarily for his own pleasure, it is clear that he had no motive for
deception ; and when we consider the surpassingly discreditable episodes
which he has recorded, we may recall that he has given not indeed positive
proof of sincerity, but certainly the best that can be given in the absence of
direct proof. It remains a question how far a man is able to recollect the
details of the far past—the conversations he held, the garments he wore, the
meals he ate—so precisely as Casanova professes to recollect them. This is a
psychological problem which has not yet been experimentally examined.
There are, however, great individual differences in memory, and there is
reason to believe that an organization, such as Casanova’s, for which the
external world is so vivid, is associated with memory-power of high quality.
That this history is narrated with absolute precision of detail Casanova
himself would probably not have asserted. But there is no reason to doubt
his good faith, and there is excellent reason to accept the substantial accuracy
of his narrative. It remains a personal document of a value which will
increase rather than diminish as time goes by. It is one of the great auto-
biographical revelations which the ages have left us, with Augustine’s, Cellini’s,
Rousseau’s, of its own kind supreme.
BY ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb :
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta’en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenchèd with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell !
ROSSES POINT AND GLENCAR
ROSSES POINT is a village of pilots and fishing people,
stretching out seawards in a long thin single line of thatched
and whitewashed houses along the branch of the sea which
goes from the little harbour of Sligo to broaden out into the
bay beyond the edge of Dorren’s or Coney Island, and the
rocks of Dead Man’s Point. It is a lazy village, where no
one is very rich or very poor, but all are able, without too much exertion, to
make just enough not to need to work any harder. The people are slow,
sturdy, contented people, with a singular dislike of doing anything for money,
except that they let rooms during the summer to the people of Sligo, who
make it their watering-place ; going in and out daily, when needful, on the
little paddle-steamer which plies backward and forward between Sligo and
the Point, or on the long car which takes in their messages and their market-
ing-baskets. Very few people from the outer world ever find their way here ;
and there are peasants living at the far end of the village who have never been
so far as the village of Lower Rosses, on the other side of the green lands. They
know more of the coast of Spain, the River Plate, and the Barbadoes, than
they know of the other side of their own mountains ; for sea-faring men go far.
I have just been talking with a seaman, now a pilot here, who has told me of
Venice, and of the bull-fights he saw at Huelva, and of Antwerp, and the Riga,
and Le Havre ; and of the coast of Cornwall, and Milford Haven, and the
Firth of Forth ; and of America, and the West Indies. Yesterday I saw a
bright green parrot on a child’s hand ; they have been telling me of “the
black girl” who came here from some foreign ship, and lived here, and knew
better than anyone else where to find the plovers’ eggs ; and I have seen the
rim of a foreign ship, rising out of the sand at low tide, which was wrecked
here seventy years ago, and is now turning green under the water.
Men and women, here at the Point, loiter about all day long ; there are
benches outside most of the cabins, and they sit there, or on the low, rough
56 THE SAVOY
wall which skirts the road, or on the big stones at the edge of the water, or
upon the green lands. Most of the women are bare-headed, none go barefoot,
and only a few of the poorer children. And the children here are very proud.
They will row you about all day for nothing, but they will not bring you a can
of water from the well if you pay them for it. That is a point of view they
have learnt from their parents, and it seems to me a simple and sufficing one.
For these people have attained comfort, a certain dignity (that dignity which
comes from concerning yourself only with what concerns you), and they have
the privilege of living in a beautiful, harmonious place, without any of the
distractions which harass poorer or less contented people in towns, and keep
them from the one thing worth living for, the leisure to know oneself. This
fine laziness of theirs in the open air, with the constant, subduing sense of
the sea’s peril, its hold upon their lives and fortunes, moulds them often into
a self-sufficing manliness, a hardy womanhood ; sometimes it makes them
dreamers, and they see fairies, and hear the fairy piper calling in the caves.
How, indeed, is it possible that they should not see more of the other
world than most folk do, and catch dreams in their nets ? For it is a place of
dreams, a gray, gentle place, where the sand melts into the sea, the sea into
the sky, and the mountains and the clouds drift one into the other. I have
never seen so friendly a sea, nor a sea so full of the ecstasy of sleep. On one
of those luminous gray days, which are the true atmosphere of the place, it is
like being in an eternal morning of twilight to wander over the undulating
green lands, fringed at the shore by a soft rim of bent, a pale honey-coloured
green, and along the delicate gray sands, from Dead Man’s Point to the point
of the Third Rosses. The sea comes in softly, rippling against the sand with
a low plashing, which even on very warm days has a cool sound, and a certain
gentleness even on days of rough weather. The headland of Roughley
O’Byrne runs on, a wavering line of faint green, from the dark and cloudy
masses of the Lissadell woods into the hesitating line of the gray waters. On
the other side of the bay Dorren’s Island curves around, almost like part of
the semicircle of the mainland, its sickle-point leaning out towards the white
lighthouse, which rises up out of the water like a phantom, or the stone image
of a wave that has risen up out of the sea on a day of storm. Faint mountains
glimmer out to sea, many-coloured mountains close in upon the land, shutting
it off from the world of strange cities. And if you go a little in from the sea-
edge, over the green lands, you will come to a great pool, where the waters
are never troubled, nor the reeds still ; but there is always a sighing of wind
in the reeds, as of a very gentle and melancholy peace.
IN SLIGO 57
Go on a little further still, and you come to the fighting village of
Magherow, where the men are red-bearded, fierce, great shouters, and not
readier to row than to do battle with their oars. They come into Rosses
Point, generally, at the regatta ; and at that time the Point is at its liveliest,
there is much whiskey drunk, and many quarrels flame up. There is a great
dance, too, most years, at the time of the regatta. It is known as the cake
dance, and not so long ago a cake and a bottle of whiskey were hung out of
a window by green ribbons, the cake for the best woman dancer, and the
bottle of whiskey for the best man dancer. Now there is no cake at all, and
if there is much whiskey, it is handed over the counter in big glasses, and not
hung out of the window by green ribbons. The prize now is money, and so
the people of the Point, with their fine, independent objection to doing any-
thing for money, are less ready to show off their notable powers of dancing ;
and the women, who, besides, are getting to prefer the waltzes and quadrilles
of the towns, will not take part in the dance at all.
The regatta this year was not too well managed, having passed out of the
hands of the village pilots ; and it was unwisely decided that the dance should
be held the same evening, outside the door of a public-house where the crews
of the losing boats had been drinking at the expense of the captains of the
winning boats. It was very dark, and there was a great crowd, a great
confusion. A somewhat battered door had been laid down for the dancing,
and the press of people kept swaying in upon the narrow limits of the door,
where only a few half-tipsy fellows pounded away, lurching into one another’s
arms. Everybody swayed, and yelled, and encouraged, and expostulated, and
the melodion sounded fitfully ; and presently the door was pulled from under
the feet of the dancers, and the police shouldered into the midst of what would
soon have been a very pretty fight. The dance was postponed to Monday,
when some of the boats were to race again.
On Monday, at about half-past six, I met eight small boys carrying a
large door upon their shoulders. They were coming up through the village
to the green lands, where they laid down the door on the grass. About an
hour afterwards, as it began to get very dark, the people came slowly up from
the village, and a wide ring was made by a rope carried around stakes set in
the earth, and the people gathered about the ring, in the middle of which lay
the door, lit on one side by a ship’s lantern and on the other by the lamp of
a bicycle. A chair was put for the judge, who was a pilot and a publican, and
one of the few Gaelic speakers in the village, and a man of few words, and a
man of weight ; and another chair was put for the musician, who played on
58 THE SAVOY
the melodion, an instrument which has long since replaced the fiddle as the
national instrument of Ireland. A row of very small children lay along the
grass inside the rope, the girls in one place, the boys in another. It was so dark
that I could only vaguely distinguish, in a curve of very black shadow, the
people opposite to me in the circle ; and presently it began to rain a little ;
and still we waited. At last a man came forward, and the musician began to play
a lively tune on his melodion, keeping time with his feet ; and there was a
great cry of “Gallagher ! Gallagher !” and much shouting and whistling.
It was a shepherd from Lower Rosses, a thin and solemn young man, who
began to dance with great vigour and regularity, tapping heavily on the rough
boards with very rough and heavy boots. He danced several step-dances, and
was much applauded. Then, after a pause, an old man from the Point, Red-
mond Bruen by name, a pilot, who had very cunningly won the duck-hunt at the
regatta, stepped forward unevenly, and began to walk about on the door,
shuffling his feet, bowing to right and left, and waving a stick that he held in
his hand. “When he’s sober, he’s a great dancer,” we were assured. He was
not sober, and at first did no more than shuffle. Then he stopped, seemed to
recollect himself, and the reputation he had to keep up, and with more bowing
to the public, began to sing, with variations, a song popular among the Irish
peasants, “On the Rocky Road to Dublin.” It is a dramatic song, and after
every stanza he acted, in his dance, the fight on the road, the passage from
Holyhead, and the other stirring incidents of the song. The old man swayed
there in the vague light, between the two lanterns, a whimsical and pathetic
figure, with his gray beard, his helpless gestures, and the random gaiety of his
legs ; he danced with a wonderful lightness, and one could but just hear his
boots passing over the boards.
We applauded him with enthusiasm, and he came and sat on the grass
inside the ring, near the children, who were gradually creeping closer in ; and
his place was taken by the serious Gallagher, who was quite sober, and who
pounded away like clockwork, holding his body quite stiff, and rattling his
boots with great agility. The old man watched him keenly, and presently
got up and made for the door again. He began to dance, stopped, flung off
his coat, and set off again with a certain elaboration, variety, and even
delicacy in his dancing, which would have won him the prize, I think, if he
had been sober enough to make the most of his qualities. He at least
thoroughly appreciated his own skill. “That’s a good reel,” he would say,
when he halted for breath and emphasis.
Meanwhile Gallagher was looking for a partner, and one or two young
IN SLIGO 59
fellows took the boards, and did each a single dance, in pairs or singly. Then
a young man who, like Bruen, was “a grand dancer” when sober, but who was
even less sober than Bruen, reeled across the grass, kicked over one of the
lanterns, and began to dance opposite Gallagher. Then he pushed Gallagher
off the board, and danced by himself. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and without
hat or collar, and much of his dance was merely an unsteady walking. He
stopped frequently, and appeared to think ; and, after much thinking, it
occurred to him that it was the music which would not keep time with his
dancing. So he walked up to the musician, snatched the melodion away from
him, and marched off with it, I suppose to find another player. He passed
into the darkness ; the melodion in his hands squealed out of the darkness.
Then he came back dangling it, and was told to give it back again, which he
did sulkily, with exactly the look and gesture of a naughty child who
has been called to order. And then Gallagher came forward again, and,
taking off his hat, said he would sing a song. He got through a verse
or two, chanting gravely in a kind of sing-song, and then, coming to the
line, “And he said to the landlord,” paused, and said, “I am not able to
do any more.” There was a great laugh, and Gallagher returned to his
dancing, in which he was presently joined by a new rival. Gallagher got
I was told that so poor a dance had not been seen before at Rosses Point,
and the blame was laid on new ways, and the coming of the waltzes and
quadrilles, and the folly of young people who think old things not good
enough for them. And the old people shook their heads that night over the
turf fires in their cabins.
Seven miles inland from Rosses Point, the mountains open ; and, entering
a great hollow called the Windy Gap, you come upon a small lake with green
fields around it, and mountains full of woods and waterfalls rising up behind
it. This is Glencar, and there is a cabin by the side of the lake where I spent
a few enchanted days of rain and sunshine, wandering over the mountain-
side, and among the wild and delicate woods. .Above the cabin there is a
great mountain, and the woods climb from about the cabin to almost the
summit of the mountain. Fir-trees rise up like marching banners, line upon
line ; between them the foliage is softer, green moss grows on the tree-trunks
and ferns out of the moss ; quicken-berries flame on the heights above the
streams ; the many-coloured green of leaves is starred with bright orange,
shadowed with spectral blue, clouded with the exquisite ashen pallor of
60 THE SAVOY
decaying heather. Rocky steps lead from height to height along the edge of
chasms veiled with leafy branches, and there is always a sound of many
waters, falling in torrents down black stairways of rock, and rushing swiftly
along narrow passages between grass and ferns. Here and there a bridge of
fallen trunks, set roughly together, and covered with the adventurous soil,
which, in these parts, bears fruit wherever it has an inch to cling to, crosses a
waterfall, just above the actual descent. Winding paths branch off in every
direction, and in the soft earth of these narrow and precipitous ways one can
see little hoof-prints, and occasionally one meets a donkey going slowly up-
hill, with the creels on its back, to fetch turf from the bog. And always there
is the sound of water, like the cool singing voice of the rocks, above the sound
of rustling leaves, and birds piping, and the flapping of great wings, which are
the voices of the many-instrumented orchestra of the woods. Here one is in
the heart of the mountains, and in the heart of the forest ; and, wandering
along a grassy path at evening, one seems to be very close to something very
ancient and secret.
The mountains here are whole regions, and when you have climbed to
their summit through the woods, you find yourself on a vast plain, and this
plain stretches so far that it seems to fill the horizon, and you cannot see any-
thing on the other side of it. Looking down into the valley, which seems
scooped out of the solid mountains, you can see, on the other side of the
Windy Gap, the thin line of Rosses Point going out into the sea, and the sea
stretches out so far before it reaches the horizon, that you can catch a yellow
glimmer of sunlight, lying out beyond the horizon visible from the shore.
The fields, around and beyond the polished mirror of the lake, seem, in their
patchwork of greens and browns, like a little map of the world. The
mountain-top, which you have fancied from below to be such solid ground,
proves, if you try to cross it, to be a great yielding bog, with intervals of rock
or hard soil. To walk over it is to move in short jumps, with an occasional
longer leap across a dried-up water-course. I like the voluptuous softness of
the bog, for one’s feet sink luxuriously into even the pale golden mounds of
moss which rise between the rusty heather and starveling grasses of the sheer
morass. And it has the treachery which is always one of the allurements of
voluptuous things. Nor is it the bog only which is treacherous on these
mountains. The mist comes down on them very suddenly, and in that white
darkness even the natives sometimes lose their way, and are drawn over the
sheer edge of the mountain. My host has just come in to tell me that last
night there was a great brewing of poteen on Ben Bulben, and that many of
IN SLIGO 61
the drinkers wandered all night, losing their way in the mist, and that one of
them, not having the drunkard’s luck, fell over a rocky place, and is now lying
dead on the mountain.
I had been thinking of such possibilities yesterday, as I climbed, peak
after peak, the mountains on the other side of the lake, Cope’s Mountain,
Lugnagall, Cashlagall, Cragnamoona. They are bare and treeless, crossed by
a few donkey-tracks ; and I sometimes deserted these looped and coiling ways
for the more hazardous directness of the dry water-courses which seam
the mountains from head to foot. Once at the top, you look over almost the
whole county, lying out in a green plain, ridged with hedges, clustered with
woods, glittering with lakes ; here and there a white cabin, a scattered village,
and just below, in the hollow of the land and water, the little curving gray town
of Sligo, with its few ships resting in harbour, and beyond them the long black
line which is Rosses Point, and then the sea, warm with sunlight, and, as
if islanded in the sea, the hills of Mayo. I have never seen anything
resembling the view from these mountains ; I have never seen anything, in its
way, more beautiful. And when, last night, after a tossed and blood-red sun-
set, the white mist curdled about the heads of Ben Bulben and Knocknarea,
and a faint, luminous mist filled the whole hollow of the valley, there seemed
to be a mingling of all the worlds ; and the world in which ships went out from
the harbour of Sligo, and the poteen-makers wandered over the mountain,
was not more real than the world of embodied dreams in which the fairies
dance in their forts, or beat at the cabin doors, or chuckle among the reeds.
I. O’SULLIVAN RUA TO THE CURLEW
O CURLEW, cry no more in the air,
Or only to waters in the west ;
Because your crying brings to my mind
Passion-dimmed eyes and long heavy hair
That was shaken out over my breast :
There is enough evil in the crying of wind.
2. OUT OF THE OLD DAYS
BE you still, be you still, trembling heart ;
Remember the wisdom out of the old days :
Who trembles before the flame and the flood,
And the winds blowing through the starry ways,
And blowing us evil and good ;
Let the starry winds and the flame and the flood
Cover over and hide, for he has no part
With the lonely, proud, wingèd multitude.
W. B. YEATS.
THE frontiers of literature, independent of political dissension
or civil authority, are fixed by language alone. Indeed, it
will often happen that those most divided by conditions of
race, place, and government, but possessed of a common
tongue, can boast a more richly-stored treasure-house of letters
than their homogeneous neighbours. How continually is our
broad Anglo-Saxon river nourished by widely-severed tributaries ! Now it is
a Celtic current, now an Anglo-Indian, now an American, which brings new
wealth of observed experience to the mother-stream. France, too, may well
be consoled for the loss of Alsace and Lorraine by the annexation of Belgium,
since no three men among the younger writers of Paris can be named as the
equals of Maeterlinck, Rodenbach, and Verhaeren. Not that Paris has shown
any disposition to slight her step-children ; on the contrary, it was M. Octave
Mirabeau, who happily discovered (and unhappily labelled) the author of
“L’Intruse” and “Tintagiles,” while George Rodenbach’s mystical “béguine”
made her début in “Le Voile” at the “Comédie Française.” If Emile Ver-
haeren is not yet as familiarly known, it is because the playbill advertises more
rapidly than the catalogue, and because a poet, whose taste is fastidious and
whose themes are difficult, must wait for recognition, until the public standard
has approximated to his own. Portents of recognition are at hand : brilliant
and weighty appreciations by Mallarmé, de Régnier, Albert Mockel, and Vielé-
Griffin, the widely-promoted banquet at Brussels and the decoration of the
Order of Leopold (not to speak of simultaneous publication in the “Revue
des deux Mondes” and “The Fortnightly Review”) will set people reading
him, and asking themselves, whether a worthy successor has not been found to
Hugo, Leconte de Lisle, and Verlaine.
In seeking to define this poet’s genius the comparative method is peculiarly
futile. One critic, with a weakness for epigram, was pleased to hail “l’enfant
sauvage de Hugo,” and another was reminded of Henry de Groux, by the
tumultuous and epic largeness of particular poems, but, in truth, if parallels
must be sought, they are best found in the work of certain Flemish and Spanish
66 THE SAVOY
painters, for, like these, M. Verhaeren invests monstrous or mean subjects with
tragic grandeur, and appals or allures the eye with sombre magnificence. Un-
paralleled is his faculty of expressing intense, obscure emotion ; his way of
presenting a landscape or a passion is paroxysmal ; the words cease to be
words, that is, to veil their meaning ; an almost direct appeal is made to the
senses, to the nerves, even, without the intervention of intelligence. For
instance, what actual glimpse of storm-tortured trees, silhouetted by a lightning-
flash, could be more vivid than this ?
“Un supplice d’arbres écorchés vifs
Se tord, bras convulsifs,
En façade, sur le bois proche.”
And cannot you feel a gnashing of teeth in this counsel of an obstinate sufferer
agonized to frenzy?
“Exaspere sinistrement ta toute exsangue
Carcasse, et pousse au vent en des sols noirs, rougis
De sang, ta course, et flaire et léche avec ta langue
Ta plaie et lutte et butte et tombe—et ressurgis !”
It is impossible, however, to convey by excerpt any idea of those poems,
and they form the majority, which hammer, hammer, hammer, or drip, drip,
drip, through a hundred lines or more of a metre, elaborately yet inevitably
adapted to the repercussion of a single note, the representation of a single
scene. One would suppose that an effect, based so largely on metrical artifice
and protracted by however masterly skill, must repel and tire. And, in fact,
to read through “Les Débâcles” or “Les Villes Tentaculaires” is like sitting
out the “Meistersinger” or “Götterdämmerung.” But the reward is great for
those who have the patience to follow and the intelligence to apprehend.
Each poem is so enriched with gorgeous colouring, the mind is stimulated by
such fine and pregnant images, that one is carried at a rush from start to
finish without having occasion or desire to elude its overmastering spell.
The potency and complexity of this rather cryptic art has passed through
three stages of marked development both in chosen subject and means
employed. When a political and forensic disciple of the eminent Brussels
barrister, M. Edmond Picard, published “Les Flamandes” in 1883, and “Les
Moines” in 1886, the critics were forced to ransack the vocabulary of the
studio to appraise those pictorial revelations of Flemish peasant and monastic
life. A painter with as avid an eye for colour and shape as Gautier, a realist
EMILE VERHAEREN 67
with as keen a sense of the dismal and horrific as Zola, had co-operated,
it would seem, to depict the bestialities of the kermesse, the beatitudes of the
cloister. But sonnet succeeded alexandrine and four-lined stanza succeeded
sonnet with academic regularity. Nor was docility of form atoned for by
depth of vision. The figures were painted in with extraordinary vigour and
truth ; not a pose was omitted, not a possible light or shade wanting ; but
one felt that it was all superficial, external. It was the work of a strong and
haughty colourist, whose heart and brain were all in his task, absorbed by and
concentrated on execution, more concerned with efficient workmanship than
moved by that intimate, humane sympathy, from which the most living
art springs. More particularly was this the case with the second volume,
in which the exterior aspects of the trappist life—its labour, its legend,
its ceremonial—were celebrated without a pang or throb of spiritual sympathy.
Neither the brutal vigour of the labourer’s struggle for life nor the ascetic
rigour of a life withdrawn from struggle, struck deep enough root in the seed-
plot of a soul, destined to bring forth more rare and splendid flowers in due
season. The eye had been caught and the fancy fired, but that was all.
Perhaps at this time “La Jeune Belgique” and “l’Art Moderne” gained what
the poems lacked, the whole-hearted enthusiasm which championed and
expounded with lucid force the art of Manet, Moreau, Fernand Khnopff, Odilon
Redon, Van Rysselberghe. In the midst of ardent battle for his ideals,
the young poet was prostrated by a shattering illness, which seems to have
torn away the veils, concealing his inmost “ego” from himself. The pains
were birth-pains, setting free a psychologist of relentless daring and patience,
a seer of unexampled gravity and grandeur. If the psychology stopped
at self-analysis, if the visions came through a gate of ebony, they are none the
less authentic. Of the sombre trilogy, which appeared between 1887 and 1891,
the author has been anxious to describe “Les Soirs” as “les decors du cri,”
“Les Débâcles” as “le cri,” and “Les Flambeaux Noirs,” as the echoes of the
cry in the thinking-chamber of his brain. What is more important for us
—since the terse distinction compresses with Procrustean violence the quiver-
ing bodies of live poems—is that now Emile Verhaeren had found himself,
had found the necessity and the faculty of declaring his bitterest and bravest
thoughts ; had found, above all, a novel instrument of surprising delicacy and
strength in the warmly-abused and warmly-defended vers libre.
The quarrels which rend foreign coteries on questions of .technique
must always seem a little wasteful to English spectators. Instinct prompts
the skilled craftsman in selecting his tool ; if he so wield it as to satisfy his
68 THE SAVOY
judgment and accomplish his design, no amount of theoretic disputation will
arrest or affect him. Baudelaire had appropriated the sonnet, Hugo had
exhausted the thousand and one variations of the alexandrine, Banville had
reduced rhyming to a juggler’s trick of deftly manipulated balls : it was felt
that the time-honoured stricture of regular sound-recurrence and equivalent
feet fettered the writer and reminded the reader too persistently of an art
which lacked art to hide itself. More difficult, perhaps, but more supple, more
free to catch and render the actual rhythms of life, would be the ” free verse ”
in a master’s hand, for only a master could supply the balance, the lilt, that
gratification of the ear, associated with old metres. In a letter of congratulation
on the appearance of “Les Soirs,” M. Mallarmé wrote in praise of its metrical
innovations, “l’ouvrier disparaît, le vers agît ;” and it is not too much to say
that, at its best, the verse moves with apt, active spontaneity, leaps or sinks,
exalts or moans, rushes or drags, in accordance with its theme. An excellent
object-lesson, consisting of two poems from the same pen on the same subject,
“Les Plaines,” enables one to compare the two methods and gauge their
relative value. The first poem begins thus :
“Partout, d’herbes en Mai, d’orges in Juillet pleines,
De lieue et lieue, au loin, depuis le sable ardent
Et les marais sur la Campine s’étendant,
Des plaines, jusqu’ aux mers du Nord, partout des plaines !
* * * * *
Partout, soit champ d’avoine, où sont les marjolaines,
Coins de seigle, carrés de lins, arpents de prés,
Partout, bien au-delà des horizons pourprés,
La verte immensité des plaines et des plaines !”
The second, written ten years later, thus :
“Sous la tristesse et l’angoisse des cieux
S’en vont autour des plaines ;
Sous les cieux bas
Dont les nuages trâinent,
Immensement les lieues
* * * * *
C’est la plaine, la plaine blême,
Interminablement toujours la même.”
The intrinsic importance, however, of the poet’s “cry,” for those who had
ears to hear, outweighed its extrinsic variety of modulation. It was the cry of
a violent fighter, of an iron will, grappling with Death. The sick bed, which
EMILE VERHAEREN 69
generally silences or softens the voice of a singer, braced and inspired its
prisoner with an obstinate, victorious song, half dirge and half pæan, re-
cording every incident of the long fight, every change of mood through the
whole gamut of suffering, doubt, defiance, ennui, pride, dizziness, and delirium.
The only other instance that occurs to me of malady so successfully trans-
muted to melody is furnished by James Thomson’s “In the Room,” and “To
our Ladies of Death,” apart from exercises in hymnology, which seldom rise
to the level of literature. The resultant emotion, in one reader, at least, of
this melancholy and sometimes maniacal verse, is not compassion with the
racked body, though the flesh ache and the nerves tingle to read, but rather
exultant sympathy with a valorous spirit, which, scorning the cheap virtues of
humility and faith, meets and beats the leagued mysteries of dissolution and
eternity, as though conscious of an immortality, equal to theirs. It must be
noted, too, that not only had proximity to destruction evoked its utmost
ounce of energy from an adamantine will, but the conditions and the field of
battle were exactly suited to the peculiar bent of racial imagination. The
greatest art of the Netherlands has ever been haunted by the sombre, the
saturnine, the macabre ; if we cannot read Van Vondel’s “Lucifer” we have
all observed this trait in certain pictures of Rubens, Jordaens, Gerard David,
Jan Bosch, Jan Luijken, and Wiertz. Small wonder, then, that a black-
wanded Prospero, in temporary servitude to powers of darkness, turned their
very terrors to artistic account and twisted their sharpest thorns into a crown.
To characterize concisely the three phases of disorder, the three facets of a
gem, bearing the carver’s portrait, which diversify and justify the triune design
of the whole, one might hazard the assertion, that in “Les Soirs” a sick poet
draws from nature the evening-coloured pictures which are in keeping with his
state, desolate country, decadent town, the fall of the year ; that, in “Les
Debâcles,” a sick hero draws from disease its sting ; that, in ‘Flambeaux
Noirs,” a sick thinker draws from pitifully naked premisses his negative
conclusions about the universe. It is always a sick man who speaks, a
détraqué ; but this détraqué has a strange power of clothing general ideas,
abstractions, with vivid, plausible words, so that his ebbing philosophy wakes
in us as much concern as his ebbing life. And this brings me to the last stage
of development in the writer, whose line of work I am endeavouring to trace.
The highest quality, perceptible in “Les Flamandes,” and brought to
greater perfection in each subsequent volume, is the result of inner, not outer,
vision, betokening less the painter’s eye for difference than the seer’s eye for
analogy ; indeed, for as keen a sense of the applicability of symbol, for such
70 THE SAVOY
striking co-ordination of pictorial and psychical terms one must go back to
Shelley, perhaps to Plato. Not that Verhaeren ever uses verse as a vehicle
for philosophic or political doctrine ; he tries to translate the sacred works,
which we call by the names of Nature, Mind, Society, without editorial inter-
polation. Above all, when striking the stars, he is careful not to lose his head
in, the clouds. To quote his own wise words : “You can never dispense
entirely with the real for the same reason that you can never escape entirely
from what lies beyond. Art is a two-faced unity ; as the catholic divinity
consists of three persons, art consists of two. You must feel your footing
from time to time, and use the ground as a spring-board. The vague is as
dangerous as the terre-à-terre is lugubrious.” Disregard of this danger has
swamped many a French poet’s fragile barque in floods of incomprehensible
metaphor, and brought discredit on the Symbolist movement.
This is not the place to assign respective measures of merit to the first
Symbolists, to Mallarmé, to Arthur Rimbaud, or to Gustave Kahn ; but I
cannot refrain from quoting at some length the clear statement of what
Symbolism seeks to achieve, on the testimony of its most gifted exponent.
Speaking of the Naturalism, which preceded it, M. Verhaeren writes : “This
was descriptive decomposition, a microscopic and minute analysis, without
résumé, without an attempt to concentrate or generalize. You studied a
corner, an anecdote, an individual, and the whole school was based on the
science of the day, and, consequently, on positive philosophy. Symbolism
will do the opposite. It follows the German philosophy of Kant and Fichte,
as Naturalism followed the French philosophy of Comte and Littré. And
this is perfectly logical. With us, the fact and the world serve simply as
pretext for the idea ; they are treated as phenomena, condemned to perpetual
variation, and they appear to be, in fine, merely the figments of our brain. It
is the idea which determines them by adaptation or evocation. If Naturalism
accorded so much space to objectivity in art, Symbolism will restore as much
and more to subjectivity. We enthrone the idea in absolute sovereignty.
Our art, then, is one of thought, reflection, combination, will. In it is no
place for improvisation, for that sort of literary fever, which carried the pen
across enormous and inextricable subjects. Every word, every sound must
be weighed, examined, willed. Every phrase must be regarded as a thing,
endowed with life of its own, independent, owing its existence to the words,
its movement to their subtle, artful, sensitive juxtaposition.” Elsewhere he
contrasts modern with Greek Symbolism. The Greek sought to materialize
the abstract, to incarnate force in Zeus, love in Aphrodite, wisdom in Athene ;
EMILE VERHAEREN 71
the modern aims at abstracting the idea from matter, at evoking the soul and
suggesting the whole by electric, quintessential phrase. Here there is a
warning of what we shall find in the poet’s mature work : not “a substitute
for a glass of wine and a cigarette,” not an excuse for sentimental reverie, not
empty rhetoric or “sensual caterwauling,” but a strenuous attempt to make
the empire of poetry conterminous with the empire of modern thought, to turn
the lyric muse from a mistress to a priestess.
Ambitious as it is, this scheme of establishing platonic friendship between
platonic foes, mimicry and philosophy, has enriched French literature with at
least three noteworthy books, “Les Campagnes Hallucinées,” “Les Villes
Tentaculaires,” and “Les Villages Illusoires.” I might describe the first two
as the obverse and reverse sides of a gold coin, that being the fittest token of a
money-making age, of the capitalistic era. In no country has the crushing
pressure of industrial competition been felt so severely as in Belgium, whose
manufacturing centres absorb the densest population in Europe to the detri-
ment and ruin of agriculture. On the one side, then, the tumultuous, teeming
town, and on the other, desolate, spell-stricken country offered congenial
matter to the insurgent idealist, burning to reinstate other than commercial
ideals, to depict and defeat the insidious strangulation by commerce of beauty,
nobility, happiness. “The absolute sovereignty of the idea” is patent in every
line, but not at the expense of verisimilitude : if anything, the real is made to
seem more real, the tyranny of matter more heavy and more obvious. The
“Campagnes Hallucinées ” are as realistically painted as a panorama by M.
Philippotaux : between the stagnant marshes and waste heaths, past fireless
hearths, neglected Madonnas, and mouldering mill, tramp beggars, thieves, and
migratory families of homeless poor. But more ghostly and ghastly habitants
than these infest the sterile acres ; Fever, in gauze woven of swampy mists,
the Giver of Bad Counsel, who comes at sunset in his green cart and whispers
of suicide to the sullen yokel, of prostitution to the despairing wench, and
Mother Death, a tipsy crone on a spavined white horse, whom neither the
Blessed Virgin nor Jesus himself can propitiate. Insanity, which waits on
famished body and mind, and is rendered more familiar by the Belgian
custom of boarding out lunatics in cottage-homes, inspires six Chansons de
Fou, almost worthy of Shakespeare. That this is not exaggerated praise,
the reader may judge from the following specimen :
“Le crapaud noir sur le sol blanc
Me fixe indubitablement
Avec des yeux plus grands que n’est grande sa tête ;
72 THE SAVOY
Ce sont les yeux qu’on m’a volés,
Quand mes regards s’en sont allés
Un soir, que je tournai la tête.
“Mon frère il est quelqu’un qui ment,
Avec de la farine entre ses dents ;
C’est lui, jambes et bras en croix,
Qui tourne au loin, là-bas,
Qui tourne au vent
Sur ce moulin de bois.
“Et celui-ci, c’est mon cousin,
Qui fut curé et but si fort du vin
Qui le soleil en devient rouge,
J’ai su qu’il habitait un bouge
Avec des morts dans ses armoires.
“Car nous avons pour génitoires
Et pour monnaie un sac de poux,
Nous, les trois fous,
Qui épousons, au clair de lune,
Trois folles dames sur la dune.”
It is in the “Villes Tentaculaires,” however, that the Symbolist poet may
most directly challenge comparison with the Naturalistic novelist, for Zola
alone among great writers has caught and wielded the spell of great modern
institutions, of the factory, the exchange, the mine. Or take, for instance, the
crowd of business men in a city street. Seven pages of Rougon-Macquart
enumeration would not convey more than these seven lines :
“La rue—et ses remous comme des câbles
Noués autour des monuments—
Fuit et revient en longs enlacements ;
Et ses foules inextricables,
Les mains folles, les pas fiévreux,
La haine aux yeux,
Happent des dents le temps qui les devance.”
But the power of the verse lies not so much in large delineation of move-
ment as in perpetual suggestion of the unseen forces which sway human
puppets and mould their environment. The town itself, like a giant octopus,
gathers in youth, ambition, strength, with resistless tentacle. At a hundred
points the individual is seen to be helpless in the coils of the corporate
EMILE VERHAEREN 73
monster. The artisan becomes a cog in the wheel of a Juggernaut car ; the
investor is a counter for rogues to gamble with, the clerk and shopman mere
items in bureau and bazaar. Cathedral and barrack recall the religious and
military currents of tradition, persisting along with the industrial. And
against the background of general reflection the particular subject of each
poem stands out in sharp, vivid relief: the frenzied fighters of “La Révolte,”
the debauched dancers and pleasure-seekers of “Les Spectacles,” the daring
speculators of “La Bourse,” rehearse an animated rôle in the eternal “problem-
play,” which is fraught with Homeric significance, for with and against the
gesticulating combatants are allied invisible deities,
(“On les rêve parmi les brumes, accoudées
En des lointaines, là-haut, près du soleil,”)
whom for want of better names we call Force, Justice, Pity, Beauty. You
must not leave this symbolic capital without regarding its “Statues” of dead
heroes. Here by a Gothic gateway the meek founder-monk clasps his cross ;
surrounded by civic palaces, the opportunist demagogue thunders in bronze ;
the soldier-autocrat dominates a square “of barracks and of abattoirs :”
“Un élan fou, un bond brutal
Jette en avant son geste et son cheval
Vers la Victoire.”
“Les Aubes,” the author’s first essay in dramatic form, is to complete the
trilogy and will set forth the brighter side of his social and political creed.
Its import may be guessed from the lines, which terminate the poem entitled
“l’Âme de la Ville :”
“Et qu’important les maux et les heures démentes,
Et les cuves de vices, où la cité” fermente,
Si quelque jour, du fond des brouillards et des voiles,
Surgit un nouveau Christ, en lumière sculpté”,
Qui soulève vers lui l’humanité”
Et la baptise au feu de nouvelles étoiles ?”
In spite of similarity of title, the “Villages Illusoires” stands by itself.
The most popular and the most composite of all M. Verhaeren’s works, it is
a triptych, of which the leaves might be labelled spiritual, elemental, macabre.
The largest section presents familiar moral or spiritual types under the guise
of humble village trades, with which for Symbolist ends they are identified.
Thus we have the Idealist, a ferryman, who, hailed by a receding figure on
74 THE SAVOY
the bank, pulls sturdily on, though oars break, rudder fail, and the current
drive him ashore. Then the Rationalist carpenter, busily at work on little
squares and circles, soon puts together the puzzle of existence with wooden
syllogisms, from which the doctor and parson easily deduce opposite
conclusions. And the grave-digger ? You or I, or any man, who tries to heap
oblivion on his own “multiple and fragmentary death,” on crippled pride,
cowed courage, smirched purity. Space forbids a long enough citation to
show how deftly aesthetic and ethical strands are interwoven, but the happiest
imagery and loftiest outlook are found, perhaps, in “Les Cordiers.” While
the mystic ropemakers ply their calling, they draw into their souls the utmost
horizons of humanity. They look far back to man the nomad :
“Jadis, c’était la vie énorme, exaspérée,
Sauvagement pendue aux crins des étalons,
Soudaine, avec de grands éclairs à ses talons,
Et vers l’espace immense immensément cabrée.”
They look far forward to the reconciliation of knowledge and faith :
“Là-haut parmi les loins sereins et harmoniques
Un double escalier d’or suspend ses degrés bleus,
Le rêve et le savoir le gravissent tous deux
Séparément partis vers un palier unique.”
Turning from man to nature and from seer to singer, the author devotes four
long poems to snow, rain, wind, silence : they are masterpieces of form and
rhythm, though necessarily owing much of their success to these onomatopoeia
effects, which are the easiest triumphs of a consummate metricist The finest
example of the macabre manner recalls Cyril Tourneur, for the theme is the
adoration of a skeleton-mistress by a mad lover.
Without forfeiting the crown of fantastic horror, which enables him, as it
enabled Coleridge, Poe, and Maeterlinck to raise the abject and the abnormal
to the sublime, M. Verhaeren has given his admirers the satisfaction of noting
that his later work is more sane and various than they might have apprehended.
The most accomplished Paganini could not continue playing on one string
without tiring his audience. But if from “Les Soirs” to “Les Villes
Tentaculaires” the atmosphere be most often thick with “inspissated gloom,”
yet the interludes of happy light have grown in frequency and radiance. The
turning-point coincides with the publication in 1891 of “Les apparus dans mes
chemins” (midway between “Les Flambeaux Noirs” and “Les Campagnes
EMILE VERHAEREN 75
Hallucinées”), a veiled record of spiritual convalescence. The dreary land-
scape of the détraqué, described as :
“Mon pays sans un seul pli, un seul,
C’est mon pays de grand linceul,”
changes to a garden, where :
“Des fleurs droites comme l’ardeur
Extatique des âmes blanches
Fusent en un élan de branches
Vers leur splendeur.”
The troop of spectres (“celui de l’Horizon, celui de la Fatigue, celui du Rien”),
who had immolated the broken, ridiculous thinker on the altar of his “grand
moi futile,” are expelled by “le Saint-Georges du haut devoir,” giving place
to four angels.
“L’une est le bleu pardon, l’autre la bonté blanche,
La troisième l’amour pensif, la dernière le don
D’être, même pour les méchants, le sacrifice ;
Chacune a bu dans le Chrétien calice
There is nothing of mysticism nor any whining of religious remorse in the
poet’s return on himself, but as the exquisite concluding poem, “Très
Simplement,” implies, it was a woman’s gentleness and devotion, which turned
the current of his life and of his art. Henceforward, between the peaks and
chasms of his vertiginous or abysmal verse, blow many tender blossoms of
delicate humanity. The “Almanach,” published last year (and beautifully
“ornamented” by M. Théo van Rysselberghe) exhibits attractively the
sunnier qualities of his later work : vigorous sympathy, rippling fancy, and
loving scrutiny of Nature.
It is unfortunate that so many of M. Verhaeren’s earlier writings are
now inaccessible. The “Mercure de France” has indeed reprinted “Les
Flamandes,” “Les Moines,” and other verse in one volume, but the “Soirs,”
“Débâcles,” and “Flambeaux Noir,” enhanced by a superb frontispiece of
Odilon Redon, are entombed in collectors’ libraries and the British Museum.
English readers are bound to regret this, for the grandeur and squalor of
London, which deeply impressed the Flemish poet, are reflected in several
poems, worthy to be set beside those of Wordsworth for beauty, though
Verhaeren’s convulsive vision is in violent contrast with Wordsworth’s classic
76 THE SAVOY
calm. The sight of heaped-up lion skins in a Thames warehouse moves him
to cry :
“O cet orgueil des vieux déserts, vendus par blocs ! . . .
Hurleurs du Sahara, hurleurs du Labrador,
Rois de la force errante, au clair des nuits australes !
Hélas, voici pour vous, voici les pavés noirs, . . .
Voici Londres, cuvant en des brouillards de bière
Enormément son rêve d’or et son sommeil
Suragité de fièvre et de cauchemars rouges.”
This is his usual note, a cry ; but it is a seer, who cries, and a thinker, not
a rhetorician ; he is careful so to fuse emotion and thought as to win the
suffrages of truth-lovers and beauty-lovers. His pictorial minuteness tempers
his passion for grandiose effect ; such fertile fancy has not often been yoked with
such omnipresent, architectonic reason. Discarding the facile lures of legend
and romance he evokes the essential majesty of common things, with magic
far from common. Studiously impersonal, he cannot hide a personality of
ardent sympathy, of profound earnestness. Like Landor, he may be destined
to “dine late ;” but, assuredly, “the dining-room will be well-lighted, the
guests few and select.”
THE TABLES OF THE LAW
“WILL you permit me, Aherne,” I said, “to ask you a question,
which I have wanted to ask you for years ; and have not
asked because we have grown nearly strangers. Why did
you refuse the cassock and the berretta, and almost at the
last moment ? I never expected you, of all men, to become
‘a spoilt priest.’ When you and I lived together, you
cared neither for wine, women, nor money, and were absorbed in theological
and mystical studies.” I had watched through dinner for a moment to put
my question, and ventured now, because he had thrown off a little of the
reserve and indifference, which, ever since his last return from Italy, had taken
the place of our once close friendship. He had just questioned me too, about
certain private and almost sacred things, and my frankness had earned,
I thought, a like frankness from him.
When I began to speak he was lifting to his lips a glass of that old wine
which he could choose so well and valued so little ; and while I spoke, he set
it slowly and meditatively upon the table and held it there, its deep red light
dyeing his long delicate fingers. The impression of his face and form, as they
were then, is still vivid with me, and is inseparable from another and fanciful
impression : the impression of a man holding a flame in his naked hand. He
was to me, at that moment, the supreme type of our race, which, when it has
risen above, or is sunken below, the formalisms of half-education and the
rationalisms of conventional affirmation and denial, turns away from practicable
desires and intuitions, towards desires so unbounded that no human vessel can
contain them, intuitions so immaterial that their sudden and far-off fire leaves
heavy darkness about hand and foot. He had the nature, which is half
alchemist, half soldier of fortune, and must needs turn action into dreaming,
and dreaming into action ; and for such there is no order, no finality, no
contentment in this world. At the Jesuit school in Paris he had made one of
80 THE SAVOY
the little group, which used to gather in corners of the playing field, or in
remote class rooms, to hear the speculative essays which we wrote and read in
secret. More orthodox in most of his beliefs than Michael Robartes, he had
surpassed him in a fanciful hatred of all life, and this hatred had found
expression in the curious paradox, half borrowed from some fanatical monk,
half invented by himself; that the beautiful arts were sent into the world to
overthrow nations, and finally life herself, by sowing everywhere unlimited
desires, like torches thrown into a burning city. This idea was not at the
time, I believe, more than a paradox, a plume of the pride of youth ; and it
was only after his leaving school that he endured the fermentation of belief
which is coming upon our people with the reawakening of their imaginative
Presently he stood up, saying :
“Come, and I will show you, for you at any rate will understand,” and
taking candles from the table, he lit the way into the long paved passage that
led to his private chapel. We passed between the portraits of the Jesuits and
priests, some of no little fame, whom his family had given to the Church ; and
framed photographs of the pictures which had especially moved him ; and the
few paintings his small fortune, eked out by an almost penurious abstinence
from the things most men desire, had enabled him to buy in his travels. The
photographs of pictures were from the masterpieces of many schools ; but in
all, the beauty, whether it was a beauty of religion, of love, or of some
fantastical vision of mountain and wood, was the beauty achieved by
temperaments which seek always an absolute of emotion, and have their
most continual, though not most perfect expression, in the legends and music
and vigils of the Celtic peoples. The certitude of a fierce or gracious fervour
in the enraptured faces of Francesca’s and Crivelli’s Madonnas, and in the
august faces of the sibyls of Michael Angelo ; and the incertitude, as of souls
trembling between the excitement of the spirit and the excitement of the
flesh, in the wavering faces Sodoma made for the churches of Siena, and in
the faces like thin flames, imagined by the modern symbolists and pre-
Raphaelites, had often made that long, gray, dim, echoing passage seem to me
like a vestibule of eternity.
Almost every detail of the chapel, which we entered by a narrow Gothic
door, whose threshold had been worn smooth by the secret worshippers of the
penal times, was vivid in my memory ; for it was in this chapel that I had
first, and when but a boy, been moved by the mediævalism which is now, I
think, the governing influence on my life. The only thing that seemed new
THE TABLES OF THE LAW 81
was a square bronze box ; like those made in ancient times of more precious
substances to hold the sacred books ; which stood before the six unlighted
candles and the ebony crucifix upon the altar. Aherne made me sit down on
a long oaken bench, and having bowed very low before the crucifix, took the
bronze box from the altar, and sat down beside me with the box upon
“You will perhaps have forgotten,” he said, “most of what you have read
about Joachim of Flora, for he is little more than a name to even the best
read. He was an abbot in Corace in the twelfth century, and is best known
for his prophecy, in a book called Expositio in Apocalypsin, that the Kingdom
of the Father was passed, the Kingdom of the Son passing, the Kingdom
of the Spirit yet to come. The Kingdom of the Spirit was to be a complete
triumph of the Spirit, the spiritualis intelligentia he called it, over the dead
letter. He had many followers among the more extreme Franciscans, and these
were accused of possessing a secret book of his called the Liber Inducens in
Evangelium Æternum. Again and again groups of visionaries were accused
of possessing this terrible book, in which the freedom of the Renaissance lay
hidden, until at last Pope Alexander IV. had it found and cast into the flames.
I have here the greatest treasure the world contains. I have a copy of that
book, and see what great artists have made the robes in which it is wrapped.
This bronze box was made by Benvenuto Cellini, who covered it with gods
and demons, whose eyes are closed to signify an absorption in the inner
light.” He lifted the lid and took out a book bound in old leather, covered
with filigree work of tarnished silver. “And this cover bound for Canevari ;
while Giulio Clovio, the one artist of the later Renaissance who could give to
his work the beauty of a hidden hope, tore out the beginning page of every
chapter of the old copy and set in its place a page, surmounted by an elaborate
letter, and a miniature of some one of the great whose example was cited in
the chapter ; and wherever the writing left a little space elsewhere, he put some
delicate emblem or intricate pattern.”
I took the book in my hands and began turning over the jewel-like
pages, holding it close to the candle to discover the texture of the paper.
“Where did you get this amazing book?” I said. “If genuine, and I
cannot judge by this light, you have discovered one of the most precious things
in the world.”
“It is certainly genuine,” he replied. “When the original was destroyed,
one copy alone remained, and was in the hands of a lute player of Florence,
and from him it passed to his son, and so from generation to generation,
80 THE SAVOY
until it came to the lute player, who was father to Benvenuto Cellini, and from
him it passed to Giulio Clovio, and from Giulio Clovio to a Roman engraver ;
and then from generation to generation, the story of its wandering passing on
with it, until it came into the possession of the family of Aretino, and so to
Giulio Aretino, an artist and worker in metals, and student of the kabalistic
heresies of Pico della Mirandola. He spent many nights with me at Rome
discussing philosophy ; and at last I won his confidence so perfectly that he
showed me this, his greatest treasure ; and, finding how much I valued it,
and feeling that he himself was growing old and beyond the help of its
mysterious teaching, he sold it me for no great sum, considering its great
“What is the doctrine ?” I said. “Some mediæval straw-splitting about
the nature of the Trinity, which is only useful to-day to show how many things
are unimportant to us, which once shook the world ? ”
“I could never make you understand,” he said with a deep sigh, “that
nothing is unimportant in belief, but even you will admit that this book goes
to the heart. Do you see the tables on which the commandments were
written in Latin ?” I looked to the end of the room opposite to the altar,
and saw that the two marble tablets were gone, and two large empty tablets
of ivory, like large copies of the little tablets we set over our desks, had taken
their place. “It has swept the commandments of the Father away,” he went
on, “and displaced the commandments of the Son by the commandments of
the Holy Spirit. The first book is called Fractura Tabularum. In the
first chapter it mentions the names of the great artists who made them graven
things and the likeness of many things, and adored them and served them ;
and in the second the names of the great wits who took the name of the Lord
their God in vain ; and that long third chapter, set with the emblems of sanc-
tified faces, and having wings upon its borders, is the praise of breakers of the
seventh day and wasters of the six days. Those two chapters tell of men and
women who railed upon their parents, remembering that their god was older
than the god of their parents ; and that, which has the sword of Michael for
an emblem, commends the kings that wrought secret murder and so won for
the people a peace that was amore somnoque gravata et vestibus versicoloribus,
‘heavy with love and sleep and many-coloured raiment ;’ and that with the pale
star at the closing has the lives of the noble youths who loved the wives of
others and were transformed into memories, which have transformed many
poorer hearts into sweet flames ; and that with the winged head is the history
of the robbers, who lived, upon the sea or in the desert, lives which it compares
THE TABLES OF THE LAW 83
to the twittering of the string of a bow, nervi stridentis instar ; and those two
last, that are fire and gold, are devoted to the satirists who bore false witness
against their neighbours and yet illustrated eternal wrath ; and to those that
have coveted more than other men the house of God, and all things that
are his, which no man has seen and handled, except in madness and in
“The second book, which is called Straminis Deflagratio, recounts the
conversations Joachim of Flora held in his monastery at Corace, and after-
wards in his monastery in the mountains of Sylae, with travellers and pilgrims,
upon the laws of many countries ; how chastity was a virtue and robbery a
little thing in such a land, and robbery a crime and unchastity a little thing
in such a land ; and of the persons who had flung themselves upon these
laws and become decussa veste dei sidera, ‘stars shaken out of the raiment of
“The third book, which is the finish, is called Lex Secreta, and
describes the true inspiration of action, the only Eternal Evangel ; and ends
with a vision, which he saw among the mountains of Sylae, of his disciples
sitting throned in the blue deep of the air and laughing aloud, with a laughter
which it compares to the rustling of the wings of Time.”
“I know little of Joachim of Flora,” I said, “except that Dante set him
in Paradise among the great doctors. If he held a heresy so singular, I
cannot understand how no rumours of it came to the ears of Dante ; and
Dante made no peace with the enemies of the Church.”
“Joachim of Flora acknowledged openly the authority of the Church,
and even asked that all his published writings, and those to be published by
his desire after his death, should be submitted to the censorship of the Pope.
He considered that those, whose work was to live and not to reveal, were
children and that the Pope was their father ; but he taught in secret that
certain others, and in always increasing numbers, were elected, not for life’s sake,
but to reveal that hidden substance of God which is colour and music and
softness and a sweet odour ; and that these have no father but the Holy
Spirit. Just as poets and painters and musicians labour at their works,
building them with lawless and lawful things alike so long as they embody
the beauty that is beyond the grave ; these children of the Holy Spirit labour
at their moments with eyes upon the shining substance on which Time has
heaped the refuse of creation ; for the world only exists to be a tale in the
ears of coming generations ; and terror and content, birth and death, love and
hatred and the fruit of the Tree are but instruments for that supreme art
80 THE SAVOY
which is to win us from life and gather us into eternity like doves into their
“I shall go away in a little while and travel into many lands, that I may
know all accidents and destinies, and when I return, will write my secret law
upon those ivory tablets, just as poets and romance writers have written the
principles of their art in prefaces ; and will gather pupils about me that they
may discover their law in the study of my law, and the Kingdom of the Holy
Spirit be more widely and firmly established.”
He was pacing up and down, and I listened to the fervour of his words
and watched the excitement of his gestures with not a little concern. I had
been accustomed to welcome the most singular speculations, and had always
found them as harmless as the Persian cat, who half closes her meditative eyes
and stretches out her long claws, before my fire. But now I longed to battle
in the interests of orthodoxy, even of the commonplace : and yet could find
nothing better to say than :
“It is not necessary to judge everyone by the law, for we have also Christ’s
commandment of love.”
He turned and said, looking at me with shining eyes :
“Jonathan Swift made a soul for the gentlemen of this city by hating his
neighbour as himself.”
“At any rate, you cannot deny that to teach so dangerous a doctrine is to
accept a terrible responsibility.”
“Leonardo da Vinci,” he replied, “has this noble sentence, ‘The hope
and desire of returning home to one’s former state, is like the moth’s desire for
the light ; and the man, who with constant longing awaits each new month
and new year—deeming that the things he longs for are ever too late in coming
—does not perceive that he is longing for his own destruction.’ How then can
the pathway which will lead us into the heart of God be other than dangerous ?
why should you, who are no materialist, cherish the continuity and order of the
world as those do who have only the world ? You do not value the writers who
will express nothing unless their reason understands how it will make what is
called the right more easy ; why then will you deny a like freedom to the
supreme art, the art which is the foundation of all arts ? Yes, I shall send out
of this chapel saints, lovers, rebels, and prophets : souls which will surround
themselves with peace, as with a nest made of grass ; and perhaps others over
whom I shall weep. The dust shall fall for many years over this little box ;
and then I shall open it ; and the tumults, which are, perhaps, the flames of
the last day, shall come from under the lid.”
THE TABLES OF THE LAW 85
I did not reason with him that night, because his excitement was great
and I feared to make him angry ; and when I called at his house a few days
later, he was gone and his house was locked up and empty. I have deeply
regretted my failure both to combat his heresy and to test the genuineness of
his strange book. Since my conversion I have indeed done penance for an
error which I was only able to measure after some years.
I was walking along one of the Dublin quays, about ten years after our
conversation, stopping from time to time to turn over the books upon an old
bookstall, and thinking, curiously enough, of the destinies of the little group
of fellow-students who had shared so many speculations at the school in
Paris, and particularly of the terrible destiny of Michael Robartes and his
disciples, when I saw a tall, bent man walking slowly in front of me. He
stopped presently at a little shop, in the window of which were blue and white
statues of the Virgin, and gilded statues of St. Patrick and his crozier. His
face was now half turned towards me, and I recognized in the lifeless mask
with dim eyes what had been the resolute, delicate face of Owen Aherne. I
walked towards him, but had not gone many yards before he turned away, as
though he had seen me, and went hastily down a side street.
During the next few weeks I inquired of all who had once known him,
but he had made himself known to no one, and knocked without result
at the door of his old house. I had nearly persuaded myself that I was
mistaken, when I saw him again, and this time in a back street behind
the Four Courts, and followed him until he stopped at the door of his
I laid my hand upon his arm ; he turned round, and quite without sur-
prise ; and, indeed, it is possible that to him, whose inner life had soaked up
the outer life, a parting of many years was a parting from forenoon to after-
noon. He stood holding the door half open, as though he would keep me
from entering, and would, perhaps, have parted from me with no further words
had I not said :
“Aherne, you trusted me once, will you not trust me again, and tell me
what has come of the ideas we discussed ten years ago ? but perhaps you have
long forgotten them.”
“You have a right to hear,” he answered ; “for having told you the ideas,
it is necessary that I tell you the terrible danger they contain ; but when
86 THE SAVOY
you have heard, we part for good and all : I must be hidden away, for I am
I followed him through the paved passage, and saw that its corners were
choked with dust and cobwebs ; and that the pictures were shrouded with
cobwebs and gray with dust ; and, when he opened the door of the chapel, I
saw that the dust and cobwebs which covered the ruby and sapphire of the
saints in the window had made it very dim. He sat down wearily, not
seeming to notice whether I was standing or sitting, and pointed to where the
ivory tablets glimmered faintly in the deep gloom. I saw that they were
covered with very small writing, and went up to them and began to read
them. The writing was an elaborate casuistry, illustrated apparently with
many examples, but whether from his own life, or from the life of others, I do
not know. Before I had done more than read a sentence here and there, I
turned from them, for Aherne had begun to speak in a low monotonous
“I am outside the salvation of Him who died for sinners, because I have
lost the power of committing a sin. I found the secret law of my life, and,
finding it, no longer desired to transgress, because it was my own law. What-
ever my intellect and my soul commanded, I did, and sin passed from me, and
I ceased to be among those for whom Christ died.” And at the name of
Christ he crossed himself with that involuntary gesture which marks those
who have crossed themselves from childhood. ” At first I tried to sin by
breaking my law, although without desire ; but the sin without desire is
shadowy, like the sins of some phantom one has not visited even in dreams.
You who are not lost, who may still speak to men and women, tell them that
it is necessary to make an arbitrary law that one may be among those for
whom Christ has died.”
I went over and stood beside him, and said :
“Prayer and penance will make you like other men.”
“Not,” he replied, “unless they can take from me my knowledge of the
I used some argument, which has passed out of my memory, but his
strong intellect, which seemed all the stronger and more active from contrast
with the weary monotony of his voice, tore my argument in pieces. I had
gone on to heap argument on argument, had he not risen and led me from the
chapel, repeating, “We part for good and all ; for I must be hidden away.”
I followed, intending to come to him again the next day ; but as I stood
in the door of the house a sudden hope came into my mind, and I said :
“Will you lend me the Liber Inducens in Evangelium Æternum for a few
days, that I may have it examined by an expert ?”
“I have burned the book and flung the box into the sea.”
When I came the next day with a Jesuit Father from the College of St.
Francis Xavier, the house was locked up and apparently empty once more.
W. B. YEATS.
LET us go hence : the night is now at hand ;
The day is overworn, the birds all flown,
And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown,
Despair and death ; deep darkness o’er the land
Broods like an owl : we cannot understand
Laughter or tears, for we have only known
Surpassing vanity ; vain things alone
Have driven our perverse and aimless band.
Let us go hence somewhither strange and cold,
To hollow lands, where just men and unjust
Find end of labour ; where ‘s rest for the old,
Freedom to all from fear and love and lust.
Twine our torn hands ! O, pray, the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust !
A LITERARY CAUSERIE: ON THE “INVECTIVES” OF VERLAINE
I NEVER read a book with more regret than this book of
“Invectives,” which has appeared since the death of
Verlaine. I do not see why it should not have been
written, if the writing of a petulance helped to clear that
petulance away. But what might have been a sort of sad
or vexed amusement to Verlaine, in some sleepless hour in
hospital, should never have been taken for more than what it was, and should
never, certainly, have gone further than one of the best-locked cupboards in
Vanier’s publishing office. I should like to think that Verlaine never intended
it to go further ; and I am quite sure that, in the first instance, he never did
intend it to go further. But I know Vanier, and I know that whatever
Vanier got hold of he was not likely to loose. Gradually the petulances
would have heaped themselves one upon another, until they had come to
about the size of a book. Then there would be the suggestion : why should
we not make a book of them ? Then jest would turn into earnest ;
Verlaine would be persuaded that he was a great satirist : it was so easy to
persuade him of anything ! And now here is the book.
Well, the book has some admirable things in it, and, as perhaps the most
admirable, I will quote a piece called “Deception” :
“Satan de sort, Diable d’argent !”
Parut le Diable
Qui me dit : “L’homme intelligent
Que te voici, que me veux-tu ?
Car tu m’évoques
Et je crois, l’homme tout vertu,
Que tu m’invoques.
Or je me mets, suis-je gentil ?
A ton service :
Dis ton vœu naïf ou subtil ;
Bêtise ou vice ?
A LITERARY CAUSERIE 89
Que dois-je pour faire plaisir
A ta sagesse ?
L’impuissance ou bien le désir
Croissant sans cesse?
L’indifférence ou bien l’abus ?
Parle, que puis-je ?”
Je répondis : “Tous vins sont bus,
Plus de prestige,
La femme trompe et l’homme aussi,
Je suis malade,
JE VEUX MOURIR.” Le Diable : “Si
C’est là l’aubade
Qu tu m’offres, je rentre. En Bas.
Bon pour ton Dieu. Je ne suis pas
A ce point brusque.”
Diable d’argent et par la mort !
Partit le Diable,
Me laissant en proie à ce sort
In such a poem as this we have the Verlaine of the finer parts of “Parallèle-
ment.” But what of the little jokes for and against M. Moréas, the pointless
attack on Leconte de Lisle, the unworthy rage against M. Rod, the political
squibs, the complaints against doctors and magistrates, the condescension to
the manner of M. Raoul Ponchon ? Here is neither a devouring rage, which
must flame itself out, nor a fine malice, justifying its existence, as the serpent
does, by the beauty of its coils. Verlaine’s furies, which were frequent, were
too brief, and too near the surface, to be of much use to him in the making of
art. He was a big child, and his furies meant no more than the squalling
and kicking of a baby. His nature was essentially good-humoured, finding
pleasure on the smallest opportunity ; often despondent, and for reasons
em nigh, but for the most part, and in spite of everything—ill-health, poverty,
interminable embarrassments—full of a brave gaiety. He often grumbled,
even then with a sort of cheerfulness ; and when he grumbled he used very
colloquial language, some of which you will not find in the dictionaries of
classical French. These poems are. his grumblings ; only, unfortunately, they
are written down, and we can read them in print, critically, instead of
listening to them in sympathetic amusement. And what injustice they do
him, alike as poet and man ! How impossible it will be, now that this book
90 THE SAVOY
has appeared, to convince anyone, to whom Verlaine is but a name, that the
writer of these “Invectives” was the most charming, the most lovable of
men. The poet will recover from it, for, at all events, there are the “Fêtes
Galantes,” the “Romances sans Paroles,” “Sagesse,” “Amour,” and the others,
which one need but turn to, and which are there for all eyes. But the man !
Well, the man will soon become a legend, and this book will, no doubt,
be one of the many contradictory chapters of the legend. In a few years’
time Verlaine will have become as distant, as dubious, as distorted, as Gilles
de Retz. He will once more re-enter that shadow of unknown horror from
which he has but latterly emerged. People will refuse to believe that he was
not always drunk, or singing “Chansons pour elle.” They will see in his
sincere Catholicism only what des Esseintes, in the book of Huysmans, saw
in it : “des rêveries clandestines, des fictions d’un amour occulte pour une
Madone byzantine qui se muait, à un certain moment, en une Cydalise égarée
dans notre siècle.” And they will see, perhaps, only a poetical licence in such
lines as these, in which, years ago, Verlaine said all that need ever be said in
excuse, or in explanation, of the problem of himself :
Un mot encore, car je vous dois
Quelque lueur en définitive
Concemant la chose qui m’arrive :
Je compte parmi les maladroits.
J’ai perdu ma vie et je sais bien
Que tout blame sur moi s’en va fondre :
A cela je ne puis que répondre
Que je suis vraiment né Saturnien.
THE SAVOY—ADVERTISEMENTS 93
EDITED BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
No. I. JANUARY, 1896. 170 pages, 18 full-page Illustrations, and 5 Illustrations in the Text.
No. 1 contains literary contributions by G. Bernard Shaw, Frederick Wedmore, Paul Verlaine, Max Beerbohm, Ernest Dowson, Aubrey Beardsley, Havelock Ellis, W. B. Yeats, Rudolf Dircks, Mathnde Blind, Joseph Pennell, Humphrey James, Selwyn Image, and the Editor. The illustrations include work by Charles H. Shannon, Charles Conder, Joseph Pennell, Louis Oury, W. Rothenstein, F. Sandys, J. McNeill Whistler, Max Beerbohm, Jacques E. Blanche, J. Lemmen, and Eleven Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley.
Crown 4to, bound in pictorial cover, 2s. 6d. net.
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No. 2 includes a story entitled “A Mere Man” (by a new writer) and literary contributions by Cesare Lombroso “A Mad Saint”), Paul Verlaine (“My Visit to London”), Edmund Gosse, W. B. Yeats, Havelock Ellis (“Friedrich Nietzsche”), Frederick Wedmore, Selwyn Image, Ernest Dowson, John Gray, Vincent O’Sullivan, Leila Macdonald, Aubrey Beardsley, and the Editor. The illustrations include work by Joseph Pennell, C. H. Shannon, W. T. Horton, W. Rothenstein, Ph. Caresme, Albert Sterner, W. Sickert, J. Lemmen, Max Beerbohm, and Aubrey Beardsley. Printed at the Chiswick Press.
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No. 3 contains a story, “Anthony Garstin’s Courtship,” by Hubert Crackanthorpe, the first of three articles on “William Blake and his Illustrations to the Divine Comedy,” by W. B. Yeats, with important unpublished drawings by Blake, the second of three articles on Friedrich Nietzsche by Havelock Ellis, and literary contributions by George Moore, Edward Carpenter, Ernest Dowson, R. Mathieu-Wierz- binski, Edgar Prestage, Aubrey Beardsley, and the Editor. The illustrations include work by William Blake, C. H. Shannon, Max Beerbohm, and Aubrey Beardsley.
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No. 4. AUGUST, 1896. 94 pages, 9 full-page Illustrations, and 2 Illustrations in the Text.
No. 4 contains the first part of a phantasy, “Beauty’s Hour,” by Mrs. Shakespear, the second article on William Blake (with 4 Illustrations) by W. B. Yeats, the third article on Nietzsche, by Havelock Ellis and literary contributions by EJmile Verhaeren (translated by Osman Edwards), Ernest Dowson, George Morley, Ford Maddox Hueffer, Lionel Johnson, Rudolf Dircks, and the Editor. The Illustrations include work by Blake, Joseph Pennell, T. R. Way, Charles Conder, W. T. Horton, and Aubrey Beardsley.
Crown 4to, bound in new pictorial wrapper, 2s.
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No. 5 contains the conclusion of the phantasy, “Beauty’s Hour,” by Mrs. Shakespear, the third and concluding article on William Blake (with 3 Illustrations) by W. B. Yeats, and literary contributions by Theodore Wratislaw, Ernest Rhys, Sarojini Chattopadhyay, Ernest Dowson, Gabriel Gillett, Jean Moreas, Bliss Carman, and the Editor. The illustrations include work by Blake, Botticelli, Womrath, Mrs. Dearmer, and Aubrey Beardsley.
Crown 4to, bound in new pictorial wrapper, 2s.
94 THE SAVOY—ADVERTISEMENTS
No. 6. OCTOBER, 1896. 95 pages, and 10 full-page Illustrations.
No. 6 contains “The Idiots,” a story by Joseph Conrad, “Concerning Jude the Obscure,” by Havelock Hlhs Elsa, ”a story by the author of “A Mere Man,” and literary contributions by Edith M. Thomas, Theodore Wratislaw, Ernest Dowson, O. G. Destrée, and the Editor. The illustrations include work by Aubrey Beardsley, Phil May, Ch. Eisen, W. T. Horton, W. B. Macdougall, and D. G. Rossetti.
Crown 4to, bound in new pictorial wrapper, 2s.
Nocturnes and Pastorals. Poems by A. Bernard Miall.
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London Nights. Poems by Arthur Symons.
Five Hundred Small Paper copies on Large Post 8vo deckle-edged paper, bound in dark green cloth, at Six Shillings net per copy; and 50 Large Paper copies on Royal 8vo hand-made paper, bound in dark green buckram, at One Guinea net per copy. Printed at the Chiswick Press. [Small Paper edition entirely out of print: only a few copies of the Large Paper edition remain .]
Silhouettes. By Arthur Symons.
Second edition. Carefully revised and enlarged by the addition of Nineteen New Poems. Uniform in style with “London Nights.” 400 Small Paper copies at Five Shillings net per copy; and 15 Large Paper copies at One Guinea net per copy. Printed at the Chiswick Press. [Small Paper edition entirely out of print: only a few copies of the Large Paper edition remain.]
The Rape of the Lock. By Alexander Pope.
Illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley.
Édition de Luxe of the above famous Poem, printed at the Chiswick Press, in Crown 4to size, on old style paper, illustrated with nine elaborate drawings by Mr. Aubrey Beardsley, and bound in a specially designed cloth cover. Limited edition, price Ten Shillings and Sixpence net per copy. Twenty-five copies on Japanese Vellum, at Two Guineas net per copy. [Large Paper edition out of print.]
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THE SAVOY—ADVERTISEMENTS 95
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THE ONLY RELIABLE WORK ON THE SUBJECT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
The Life and Times of Madame Du Barry.
By Robert B. Douglas.
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The Fool and his Heart; being the plainly told
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The Savoy, vol. 7 November 1896. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv7_all/