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men, and many Christian men also, have gone often time for to take of
the Thresoure that there was of old, and have pilled the Thresoure,
wherefore there is none left. And Englishmen have let carry thither
great store of our Thresoure, 9,000,000 of Pounds sterling, and whether
they will see it agen I misdoubt me. For that Vale is alle fulle of
Develes and Fiendes that men clepen Bondholderes, for that Egypt from
of olde is the Lond of Bondage. And whatsoever Thresoure cometh into the
Lond, these Devyls of Bondholders grabben the same. Natheless by
that Vale do Englishmen go unto Ynde, and they gon by Aden, even to
Kurrachee, at the mouth of the Flood of Ynde. Thereby they send their
souldyours, when they are adread of them of Muscovy.

For, look you, there is another way into Ynde, and thereby the men
of Muscovy are fain to come, if the Englishmen let them not. That way
cometh by Desert and Wildernesse, from the sea that is clept Caspian,
even to Khiva, and so to Merv; and then come ye to Zulfikar and Penjdeh,
and anon to Herat, that is called the Key of the Gates of Ynde. Then ye
win the lond of the Emir of the Afghauns, a great prince and a rich,
and he hath in his Thresoure more crosses, and stars, and coats that
captains wearen, than any other man on earth.

For all they of Muscovy, and all Englishmen maken him gifts, and he
keepeth the gifts, and he keepeth his own counsel. For his lond lieth
between Ynde and the folk of Muscovy, wherefore both Englishmen and men
of Muscovy would fain have him friendly, yea, and independent. Wherefore
they of both parties give him clocks, and watches, and stars, and
crosses, and culverins, and now and again they let cut the throats of
his men some deal, and pill his country. Thereby they both set up their
rest that the Emir will be independent, yea, and friendly. But his men
love him not, neither love they the English nor the Muscovy folk, for
they are worshippers of Mahound, and endure not Christian men. And they
love not them that cut their throats, and burn their country.

Now they of Muscovy ben Devyls, und they ben subtle for to make a thing
seme otherwise than it is, for to deceive mankind. Wherefore Englishmen
putten no trust in them of Muscovy, save only the Englishmen ciept
Radicals, for they make as if they loved these Develes, out of the fear
and dread of war wherein they go, and would be slaves sooner than fight.
But the folk of Ynde know not what shall befall, nor whether they of
Muscovy will take the Lond, or Englishmen shall keep it, so that
their hearts may not enduren for drede. And methinks that soon shall
Englishmen and Muscovy folk put their bodies in adventure, and war one
with another, and all for the way to Ynde.

But St. George for Englond, I say, and so enough; and may the Seyntes
hele thee, Sir John, of thy Gowtes Artetykes, that thee tormenten. But
to thy Boke I list not to give no credence.




XII. To Alexandre Dumas.


Sir, - There are moments when the wheels of life, even of such a life as
yours, run slow, and when mistrust and doubt overshadow even the most
intrepid disposition. In such a moment, towards the ending of your days,
you said to your son, M. Alexandre Dumas, 'I seem to see myself set on
a pedestal which trembles as if it were founded on the sands.' These
sands, your uncounted volumes, are all of gold, and make a foundation
more solid than the rock. As well might the singer of Odysseus, or the
authors of the 'Arabian Nights', or the first inventors of the stories
of Boccaccio, believe that their works were perishable (their names,
indeed, have perished), as the creator of 'Les Trois Mousquetaires'
alarm himself with the thought that the world could ever forget
Alexandre Dumas.

Than yours there has been no greater nor more kindly and beneficent
force in modern letters. To Scott, indeed, you owed the first impulse
of your genius; but, once set in motion, what miracles could it not
accomplish? Our dear Porthos was overcome, at last, by a superhuman
burden; but your imaginative strength never found a task too great for
it. What an extraordinary vigour, what health, what an overflow of force
was yours! It is good, in a day of small and laborious ingenuities, to
breathe the free air of your books, and dwell in the company of Dumas's
men - so gallant, so frank, so indomitable, such swordsmen, and such
trenchermen. Like M. de Rochefort in 'Vingt Ans Aprés,' like that
prisoner of the Bastille, your genius 'n'est que d'un parti, c'est du
parti du grand air.'

There seems to radiate from you a still persistent energy and enjoyment;
in that current of strength not only your characters live, frolic,
kindly, and sane, but even your very collaborators were animated by the
virtue which went out of you. How else can we explain it, the dreary
charge which feeble and envious tongues have brought against you, in
England and at home? They say you employed in your novels and dramas
that vicarious aid which, in the slang of the studio, the 'sculptor's
ghost' is fabled to afford.

Well, let it be so; these ghosts, when uninspired by you, were faint
and impotent as 'the strengthless tribes of the dead' in Homer's Hades,
before Odysseus had poured forth the blood that gave them a momentary
valour. It was from you and your inexhaustible vitality that these
collaborating spectres drew what life they possessed; and when they
parted from you they shuddered back into their nothingness. Where are
the plays, where the romances which Maquet and the rest wrote in their
own strength? They are forgotten with last year's snows; they have
passed into the wide waste-paper basket of the world. You say of
D'Artagnan, when severed from his three friends - from Porthos, Athos,
and Aramis - 'he felt that he could do nothing, save on the condition
that each of these companions yielded to him, if one may so speak, a
share of that electric fluid which was his gift from heaven.'

No man of letters ever had so great a measure of that gift as you; none
gave of it more freely to all who came - to the chance associate of the
hour, as to the characters, all so burly and full-blooded, who flocked
from your brain. Thus it was that you failed when you approached the
supernatural. Your ghosts had too much flesh and blood, more than the
living persons of feebler fancies. A writer so fertile, so rapid,
so masterly in the ease with which he worked, could not escape the
reproaches of barren envy. Because you overflowed with wit, you could
not be 'serious;' Because you created with a word, you were said to
scamp your work; because you were never dull, never pedantic, incapable
of greed, you were to be censured as desultory, inaccurate, and
prodigal.

A generation suffering from mental and physical anaemia - a generation
devoted to the 'chiselled phrase,' to accumulated 'documents,' to
microscopic porings over human baseness, to minute and disgustful
records of what in humanity is least human - may readily bring
these unregarded and railing accusations. Like one of the great and
good-humoured Giants of Rabelais, you may hear the murmurs from afar,
and smile with disdain. To you, who can amuse the world - to you who
offer it the fresh air of the highway, the battle-field, and the
sea - the world must always return, escaping gladly from the boudoirs and
the _bouges_, from the surgeries and hospitals, and dead rooms, of M.
Daudet and M. Zola and of the wearisome De Goncourt.

With all your frankness, and with that queer morality of the Camp which,
if it swallows a camel now and again, never strains at a gnat, how
healthy and wholesome, and even pure, are your romances! You never gloat
over sin, nor dabble with an ugly curiosity in the corruptions of sense.
The passions in your tales are honourable and brave, the motives are
clearly human. Honour, Love, Friendship make the threefold cord, the
clue your knights and dames follow through how delightful a labyrinth of
adventures! Your greatest books, I take the liberty to maintain, are
the Cycle of the Valois ('La Reine Margot, 'La Dame de Montsoreau,' 'Les
Quarante-cinq'), and the Cycle of Louis Treize and Louis Quatorze ('Les
Trois Mousquetaires,' 'Vingt Ans Aprés,' 'Le Vicomte de Bragelonné);
and, beside these two trilogies - a lonely monument, like the sphinx hard
by the three pyramids - 'Monte Cristo.'

In these romances how easy it would have been for you to burn incense to
that great goddess, Lubricity, whom our critic says your people worship.
You had Branto'me, you had Tallemant, you had Rétif, and a dozen others,
to furnish materials for scenes of voluptuousness and of blood that
would have outdone even the present _naturalistes_. From these alcoves
of 'Les Dames Galantes,' and from the torture chambers (M. Zola would
not have spared us one starting sinew of brave La Mole on the rack)
you turned, as Scott would have turned, without a thought of their
profitable literary uses. You had other metal to work on: you gave
us that superstitious and tragical true love of La Molés, that
devotion - how tender and how pure! - of Bussy for the Dame de Montsoreau.
You gave us the valour of D'Artagnan, the strength of Porthos, the
melancholy nobility of Athos: Honour, Chivalry, and Friendship. I
declare your characters are real people to me and old friends. I cannot
bear to read the end of 'Bragelonne,' and to part with them for ever.
'Suppose Perthos, Athos, and Aramis should enter with a noiseless
swagger, curling their moustaches.' How we would welcome them, forgiving
D'Artagnan even his hateful _fourberie_ in the case of Milady. The
brilliance of your dialogue has never been approached: there is wit
everywhere; repartees glitter and ring like the flash and clink
of small-swords. Then what duels are yours! and what inimitable
battle-pieces! I know four good fights of one against a multitude,
in literature. These are the Death of Gretir the Strong, the Death of
Gunnar of Lithend, the Death of Hereward the Wake, the Death of Bussy
d'Amboise. We can compare the strokes of the heroic fighting-times with
those described in later days; and, upon my word, I do not know that the
short sword of Gretir, or the bill of Skarphedin, or the bow of Gunnar
was better wielded than the rapier of your Bussy or the sword and shield
of Kingsley's Hereward.

They say your fencing is unhistorical; no doubt it is so, and you knew
it. La Mole could not have lunged on Coconnas 'after deceiving circle;'
for the parry was not invented except by your immortal Chicot, a genius
in advance of his time. Even so Hamlet and Laertes would have fought
with shields and axes, not with small swords. But what matters this
pedantry? In your works we hear the Homeric Muse again, rejoicing in the
clash of steel; and even, at times, your very phrases are unconsciously
Homeric.

Look at these men of murder, on the Eve of St. Bartholomew, who flee in
terror from the Queen's chamber, and 'find the door too narrow for their
flight:' the very words were anticipated in a line of the 'Odyssey'
concerning the massacre of the Wooers. And the picture of Catherine de
Medicis, prowling 'like a wolf among the bodies and the blood,' in
a passage of the Louvre - the picture is taken unwittingly from the
'Iliad.' There was in you that reserve of primitive force, that epic
grandeur and simplicity of diction. This is the force that animates
'Monte Cristo,' the earlier chapters, the prison, and the escape. In
later volumes of that romance, methinks, you stoop your wing. Of your
dramas I have little room, and less skill, to speak. 'Antony,' they tell
me, was 'the greatest literary event of its time,' was a restoration of
the stage. 'While Victor Hugo needs the cast-off clothes of history,
the wardrobe and costume, the sepulchre of Charlemagne, the ghost of
Barbarossa, the coffins of Lucretia Borgia, Alexandre Dumas requires no
more than a room in an inn, where people meet in riding cloaks, to move
the soul with the last degree of terror and of pity.'

The reproach of being amusing has somewhat dimmed your fame - for a
moment. The shadow of this tyranny will soon be overpast; and when 'La
Curée and 'Pot-Bouillé are more forgotten than 'Le Grand Cyrus,' men
and women - and, above all, boys - will laugh and weep over the page
of Alexandre Dumas. Like Scott himself, you take us captive in our
childhood. I remember a very idle little boy who was busy with the
'Three Musketeers' when he should have been occupied with 'Wilkins's
Latin Prose.' 'Twenty years after' (alas and more) he is still constant
to that gallant company; and, at this very moment, is breathlessly
wondering whether Grimand will steal M. de Beaufort out of the
Cardinal's prison.




XIII. To Theocritus



'Sweet, methinks, is the whispering sound of yonder pine-tree,' so,
Theocritus, with that sweet word _ade_*, didst thou begin and strike the
keynote of thy songs. 'Sweet,' and didst thou find aught of sweet, when
thou, like thy Daphnis, didst 'go down the stream, when the whirling
wave closed over the man the Muses loved, the man not hated of the
Nymphs?' Perchance below those waters of death thou didst find, like
thine own Hylas, the lovely Nereids waiting thee, Eunice, and Malis,
and Nycheia with her April eyes. In the House of Hades, Theocritus, doth
there dwell aught that is fair, and can the low light on the fields
of asphodel make thee forget thy Sicily? Nay, methinks thou hast not
forgotten, and perchance for poets dead there is prepared a place more
beautiful than their dreams. It was well for the later minstrels of
another day, it was well for Ronsard and Du Bellay to desire a dim
Elysium of their own, where the sunlight comes faintly through the
shadow of the earth, where the poplars are duskier, and the waters more
pale than in the meadows of Anjou.

* Transliterated.

There, in that restful twilight, far remote from war and plot, from
sword and fire, and from religions that sharpened the steel and lit the
torch, there these learned singers would fain have wandered with their
learned ladies, satiated with life and in love with an unearthly quiet.
But to thee, Theocritus, no twilight of the Hollow Land was dear, but
the high suns of Sicily and the brown cheeks of the country maidens were
happiness enough. For thee, therefore, methinks, surely is reserved an
Elysium beneath the summer of a far-off system, with stars not ours
and alien seasons. There, as Bion prayed, shall Spring, the thrice
desirable, be with thee the whole year through, where there is neither
frost, nor is the heat so heavy on men, but all is fruitful, and all
sweet things blossom, and evenly meted are darkness and dawn. Space is
wide, and there be many worlds, and suns enow, and the Sun-god surely
has had a care of his own. Little didst thou need, in thy native land,
the isle of the three capes, little didst thou need but sunlight on
land and sea. Death can have shown thee naught dearer than the fragrant
shadow of the pines, where the dry needles of the fir are strewn, or
glades where feathered ferns make 'a couch more soft than Sleep.' The
short grass of the cliffs, too, thou didst love, where thou wouldst lie,
and watch, with the tunny watcher till the deep blue sea was broken by
the burnished sides of the tunny shoal, and afoam with their gambols in
the brine. There the Muses met thee, and the Nymphs, and there Apollo,
remembering his old thraldom with Admetus, would lead once more a
mortal's flocks, and listen and learn, Theocritus, while thou, like
thine own Comatas, 'didst sweetly sing.'

There, methinks, I see thee as in thy happy days, 'reclined on deep beds
of fragrant lentisk, lowly strewn, and rejoicing in new stript leaves
of the vine, while far above thy head waved many a poplar, many an
elm-tree, and close at hand the sacred waters sang from the mouth of the
cavern of the nymphs.' And when night came, methinks thou wouldst flee
from the merry company and the dancing girls, from the fading crowds of
roses or white violets, from the cottabos, and the minstrelsy, and the
Bibline wine, from these thou wouldst slip away into the summer night.
Then the beauty of life and of the summer would keep thee from thy
couch, and wandering away from Syracuse by the sandhills and the
sea, thou wouldst watch the low cabin, roofed with grass, where
the fishing-rods of reed were leaning against the door, while the
Mediterranean floated up her waves, and filled the waste with sound.
There didst thou see thine ancient fishermen rising ere the dawn from
their bed of dry sea-weed, and heardst them stirring, drowsy, among
their fishing gear, and heardst them tell their dreams.

Or again thou wouldst wander with dusty feet through the ways that the
dust makes silent, while the breath of the kine, as they were driven
forth with the morning, came fresh to thee, and the trailing dewy branch
of honeysuckle struck sudden on thy cheek. Thou wouldst see the Dawn
awake in rose and saffron across the waters, and Etna, grey and pale
against the sky, and the setting crescent would dip strangely in the
glow, on her way to the sea. Then, methinks, thou wouldst murmur, like
thine own Simaetha, the love-lorn witch, 'Farewell, Selene, bright and
fair; farewell, ye other stars, that follow the wheels of the quiet
Night.' Nay, surely it was in such an hour that thou didst behold the
girl as she burned the laurel leaves and the barley grain, and melted
the waxen image, and called on Selene to bring her lover home. Even so,
even now, in the islands of Greece, the setting Moon may listen to the
prayers of maidens. 'Bright golden Moon, that now art near the waters,
go thou and salute my lover, he that stole my love, and that kissed me,
saying "Never will I leave thee." And lo, he hath left me as men leave a
field reaped and gleaned, like a church where none cometh to pray, like
a city desolate.'

So the girls still sing in Greece, for though the Temples have fallen,
and the wandering shepherds sleep beneath the broken columns of the
god's house in Selinus, yet these ancient fires burn still to the old
divinities in the shrines of the hearths of the peasants. It is none of
the new creeds that cry, in the dirge of the Sicilian shepherds of
our time, 'Ah, light of mine eyes, what gift shall I send thee, what
offering to the other world? The apple fadeth, the quince decayeth,
and one by one they perish, the petals of the rose. I will send thee my
tears shed on a napkin, and what though it burneth in the flame, if my
tears reach thee at the last.'

Yes, little is altered, Theocritus, on these shores beneath the sun,
where thou didst wear a tawny skin stripped from the roughest of
he-goats, and about thy breast an old cloak buckled with a plaited
belt. Thou wert happier there, in Sicily, methinks, and among vines
and shadowy lime-trees of Cos, than in the dust, and heat, and noise of
Alexandria. What love of fame, what lust of gold tempted thee away from
the red cliffs, and grey olives, and wells of black water wreathed with
maidenhair?

The music of the rustic flute
Kept not for long its happy country tone;
Lost it too soon, and learned a stormy note
Of men contention tost, of men who groan,
Which tasked thy pipe too sore, and tired thy throat -
It failed, and thou wast mute!

What hadst _thou_ to make in cities, and what could Ptolemies and Princes
give thee better than the goat-milk cheese and the Ptelean wine? Thy
Muses were meant to be the delight of peaceful men, not of tyrants and
wealthy merchants, to whom they vainly went on a begging errand. 'Who
will open his door and gladly receive our Muses within his house, who is
there that will not send them back again without a gift? And they with
naked feet and looks askance come homewards, and sorely they upbraid me
when they have gone on a vain journey, and listless again in the bottom
of their empty coffer they dwell with heads bowed over their chilly
knees, where is their drear abode, when portionless they return.' How
far happier was the prisoned goat-herd, Comatas, in the fragrant cedar
chest where the blunt-faced bees from the meadow fed him with food of
tender flowers, because still the Muse dropped sweet nectar on his lips!

Thou didst leave the neat-herds and the kine, and the oaks of Himera,
the galingale hummed over by the bees, and the pine that dropped her
cones, and Amaryllis in her cave, and Bombyca with her feet of carven
ivory. Thou soughtest the City, and strife with other singers, and the
learned write still on thy quarrels with Apollonius and Callimachus,
and Antagoras of Rhodes. So ancient are the hatreds of poets, envy,
jealousy, and all unkindness.

Not to the wits of Courts couldst thou teach thy rural song, though all
these centuries, more than two thousand years, they have laboured to
vie with thee. There has come no new pastoral poet, though Virgil copied
thee, and Pope, and Phillips, and all the buckram band of the teacup
time; and all the modish swains of France have sung against thee, as the
_son challenged Athene_. They never knew the shepherd's life, the long'
winter nights on dried heather by the fire, the long summer days, when
over the dry grass all is quiet, and only the insects hum, and the
shrunken burn whispers a silver tune. Swains in high-heeled shoon, and
lace, shepherdesses in rouge and diamonds, the world is weary of all
concerning them, save their images in porcelain, effigies how unlike the
golden figures, dedicate to Aphrodite, of Bombyca and Battus. Somewhat,
Theocritus, thou hast to answer for, thou that first of men brought
the shepherd to Court, and made courtiers wild to go a Maying with the
shepherds.




XIV. To Edgar Allan Poe.



Sir, - Your English readers, better acquainted with your poems
and romances than with your criticisms, have long wondered at the
indefatigable hatred which pursues your memory. You, who knew the men,
will not marvel that certain microbes of letters, the survivors of your
own generation, still harass your name with their malevolence, while old
women twitter out their incredible and heeded slanders in the literary
papers of New York. But their persistent animosity does not quite
suffice to explain the dislike with which many American critics regard
the greatest poet, perhaps the greatest literary genius, of their
country. With a commendable patriotism, they are not apt to rate native
merit too low; and you, I think, are the only example of an American
prophet almost without honour in his own country.

The recent publication of a cold, careful, and in many respects
admirable study of your career ('Edgar Allan Poe,' by George Woodberry:
Houghton, Mifflin and Co., Boston) reminds English readers who have
forgotten it, and teaches those who never knew it, that you were,
unfortunately, a Reviewer. How unhappy were the necessities, how
deplorable the vein, that compelled or seduced a man of your eminence
into the dusty and stony ways of contemporary criticism! About the
writers of his own generation a leader of that generation should hold
his peace, he should neither praise nor blame nor defend his equals;
he should not strike one blow at the buzzing ephemerae of letters. The
breath of their life is in the columns of 'Literary Gossip;' and they
should be allowed to perish with the weekly advertisements on which
they pasture. Reviewing, of course, there must needs be; but great minds
should only criticise the great who have passed beyond the reach of
eulogy or fault-finding.

Unhappily, taste and circumstances combined to make you a censor; you
vexed a continent, and you are still unforgiven. What 'irritation of a
sensitive nature, chafed by some indefinite sense of wrong,' drove you
(in Mr. Longfellow's own words) to attack his pure and beneficent Muse
we may never ascertain. But Mr. Longfellow forgave you easily; for
pardon comes easily to the great. It was the smaller men, the Daweses,
Griswolds, and the like, that knew not how to forget. 'The New Yorkers
never forgave him,' says your latest biographer; and one scarcely
marvels at the inveteracy of their malice. It was not individual vanity
alone, but the whole literary class that you assailed. 'As a literary
people,' you wrote, 'we are one vast perambulating humbug.' After that
declaration of war you died, and left your reputation to the vanities
yet writhing beneath your scorn. They are writhing and writing still.
He who knows them need not linger over the attacks and defences of your
personal character; he will not waste time on calumnies, tale-bearing,
private letters, and all the noisome dust which takes so long in
settling above your tomb.


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