Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 59 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 59 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


difficulty in summoning the builder of
the pyramids from the shades to sit
for his portrait ; and the completion
of the work is appropriately celebrated



by repairing to his garden arbor, there
to while away a Bummer hour with
his Catherine, neither of the two far-
ther from nakedness than were the
first man and woman of sacred legend
ere yet the fig-leaf wear came Into
fashion.

But it is not always in the- void —
even this he peoples with wratthf
beauty — ; the author of the " Book of"
Thel" is at home on the ground
much at ease there as are the " Chim-
ney Sweeper" and the " Little Black
Boy," ay, as are the humblest animal
and plant.

Names alter, things never alter.
*****

To be good only is to be

A God, or else a phansee.

*****

Great things are done when men and moun-
tains meet.

* * # * •

He who has suffered you to impose on him
knows you.

If, on the one side, is madne-
the other, is good old-fashioned
sanity ; in fact it is not difficult for
Blake to be as worldly-wise as one
could wish. Despite his abnormal vis-
ion, and incoherent utterance, despite
his inequality and his thousand v.
ries, Blake was a close critic of life.
Mr. Watts is of the opinion that the
criticising of life is to be done by the
writers of prose, Let him read the
" Defiled Sanctuary":—

I saw a chapel all of gold
That none did dare to enter in,

And many weeping stood without,
Weeping, mourning, worshiping.

I saw a serpent rise between
The white pillars of the door,

And he forced and forced and forced
Till he the golden hinges tore :

And along the pavement sweet,
Set witli pearls and rubies bright,

All his shining length he drew,—
Till upon the altar white

He vomited his poison out

On the bread and on the wine.

So I turned into a sty,

And laid me down among the swine.



45°



WILLIAM BLAKE.



While Blake's vision was abnor-
mally active, the range is round a few
elementary principles, a few essentials
of life. It is the safe circuit of Epic-
tetus himself; while the favorite
themes, love, youth and childhood,
indicate not only .sanity, but special
qualification for the office of poet.
Sweet tempered and joyous, barring
the few lapses unavoidable with so
ardent a temperament, he saw the
world as the old prophets saw it,
beautiful, good ; he trusted it, looked
up from it to the maker of all, and
sang as he journeyed, angels overhead
and lambs at his. feet. No man has
lived a more thoroughly poetic life, a
life realizing closer his happy phrase,
a " shining lot."

For an instance of the peculiar man-
ner of this reporter of life, we may
take a stanza of the poem " Night,"
where the favorite angels are at their
gentle offices : —

They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are covered warm ;

They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm:

If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping,
They pour sleep on their head,
And sit down by their bed.

This is unlike anything we have
heard before. Again, he says of
Christ, He

O'erturned the tent of secret sins,
And its golden cords and pins.

And in that intense poem, "Broken
L,ove," we have the stanza, —

A deep winter dark and cold
Within my heart thou dost unfold ;
Iron tears and groans of lead
Thou bind'st around my aching head.

His voice sometimes rises to a shriek: —

The God of War is drunk with blood,
The earth doth faint and fail ;
The stench of blood makes sick the heavens,
Ghosts glut the throat of hell!

But the secret of genius soon confronts
us again, hiding in such lines as those
where Delilah lies at the feet of Sam-
son :



He seemed a mountain, his brow among the
clouds;

She seemed a silver stream, his feet em-
bracing.

This is more striking than the laure-
ate's picture of Vivien at the feet of
Merlin, drawn with four times as
many lines save one : —

There lay she all her length and kissed his

feet,
As if in deepest reverence and in love.
A twist of gold was round her hair ; a robe
Of samite without price, that more exprest
Than hid her, clung about her lissome

limbs,
In color like the satin-shining palm
On sallows in the windy gleams of March.

I attach little importance to the en-
vironment as a means of accounting
for Blake's poetry. Swinburne, I
think, makes too much of it, as he
does of the oracles of the poet's later
period. Blake was kin to the Eliza-
bethans, and were he writing to-day
he probably would take his inspira-
tion from them as surely as he did in
the third quarter of the last century.
True, Shakespeare and the whole
nest of singing birds were being
closely studied when he began writ-
ing, but I think he would have found
them out any time.

If the Elizabethans were Blake's
inspiration, they were by no means
Blake. Fuseli's familiar admission
concerning his pictures is of special sig-
nificance in this connection : "Blake
is a damned good fellow to steal from. ' '
In other words, he was a painter full
of original ideas ; and so it may be
said of him as a poet. I do not re-
member to have seen it noticed that
we find in Blake the first touches that
we know as Coleridgeau ; for instance,
the last stanza of "The Little Boy
Lost:"—

The night was dark, no father was there,
The eh'ild was wet with dew ;
The mire was deep, and the child did weep,
And away the vapor flew.

Blake, turn whither he may for in-
spiration, is an original genius ; his
method of reporting is his own. The
poems bear witness to this, and their




ENGRAVED DESIGN BY WILLIAM BLAKE— FROM "THE BOOK OF JOB.'



testimony is both confirmed and sup-
plemented by the kindred but distinct
expression from which they should
not be divorced. Mr. William Ros-
setti, the author of the descriptive
catalogue of Blake's art works, uses
language that we should heed and
make such use of as we may in the
effort to comprehend the expression of
this most daring and startling soul of
his time : —

'EIvOHIM CREATING ADAM."

''The Creator is an amazingly
grand creature, worthy- of a primeval



imagination or intuition. He is Strug-
gling, as it were, above Adam, who
lies distended on the ground, a serpent
twined around one leg. The color
has a terrible power in it ; and the
entire design is truly a mighty one

FIRK.

" Blake, the supreme painter of fire,
in this, his typical picture of fire, is at
his greatest ; perhaps it is not in the
power of art to transcend this treat-
ment of the subject in its essential
features. The water-color is unusually
complete in execution. The confla-



45i



452



WILLIAM BLAKE.



gration, horrid in glare, horrid in
gloom, fills the background ; its
javelin-like cones surge up amid con-
ical forms of buildings (' Langham
Church steeples, ' they may be called,
as in No. 151). In front an old man
receives from two youths a box
and a bundle which they have recov-
ered ; two mothers and several chil-
dren crouch and shudder, over-
whelmed ; other figures behind are
running about, bewildered what to
do next."

The design " When the Morning
Stars Sang Together," is, in the lan-
guage of Dante Rosetti, one that
"never has been surpassed in the
whole range of Christian art."

I have mentioned some of Blake's
defects. His weaknesses, his failures,
conceded, his fame without the aid of
his wondrous work in the sister art
stands firm on a few poems ; poems
now exquisite, now virile, always im-
aginative, musical and masterly. If
ever poet was born, it was the author
of these lines, written when he had
barely entered the teens : —

How sweet I roamed from field to field,
And tasted all the summer's prick-,

Till I the Prince of Love beheld
Who in the sunny beams did glide.

He showed me lilies for my hair,
And blushing roses for my brow ;

He led me through his gardens fair
Where all his golden pleasures grow.

With sweet May-dews my wings were wet,
And Phoebus fired my vocal rage ;

He caught me in his silken net,
And shut me in his golden cage.

He loves to sit and hear me sing,

Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;

Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty.

The inspiration is so like that of
music itself that no name can be given
the first eight poems ; they are entitled
simply "Song." None but a son
born of the muses could thus address
them: —

Whether on Ida's shady brow,
Or in the chambers of the East,

The chambers of the Sun, that now
From ancient melody have ceased ;



Whether in heaven ye wander fair,
Or the green corners of the earth,

Or the blue regions of the air
Where the melodious winds have birth ;

Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
Beneath the bosom of the sea,

Wandering in many a coral grove ;
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry ;

How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoyed in you !

The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forced, the notes are few !

Such are the verses of a boy, an un-
trained son of a L/Oiidon hosier, fallen
on the evil days of Pope. Let us not
spend too much time, I say, prying
into the environment.

Nature reaches out her hand in the
dry time and in the barren laud, and
some eternal bloom is sure to respond ;
she calls amid the din and jar of an
indifferent world, and at its hoarsest
hour a voice answers in tones so pure,
so sweet, that they never leave the
hearts of men, but tremble on, echoes
out of heaven, from generation to gen-
eration.

Never seek to tell thy love,
Love that never told can be ;

For the gentle wind doth move
Silently, invisibly.

I told my love, I told my love,

I told her all my heart,
Trembling, cold, 111 ghastly fears.

Ah ! She did depart I

Soon after she was gone from me,

A traveller came by,
Silently invisibly :

He took her with a sigh.

Or to go back to the period of boy-
hood, —

Love and harmony combine,
And around our souls entwine,
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.

Joys upon our branches sit,
Chirping loud and singing sweet ;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet,
Innocence and virtue meet.

Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
I am clad in flowers fair ;
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.

There she sits and feeds her young,
Sweet I hear her mournful song ;
And thy lovely leaves among
There is love ; I hear his tongue.



WILLIAM BLAKE.



453



There his charming nest doth lay,
There he sleeps the night away ;
There he sports along the day,
And doth among our branches play.

Among the lyrics, rippling the mel-
odies that neither time nor toil can
teach, that neither wisdom nor ambi-
tion can attain, — here is the haunt of
the real Blake. Here is the poet;
where one line is worth all his riddles
of politics, of metaphysics, of religion,
and what not, which serve no purpose
but to show into what unavailing
vapor, into what damp and devouring
shadow the bright child of song may
wander. A thousand "Jerusalems"
and "Urizens" cannot smother the
pure star-flame ; it springs triumphant
despite such extinguishers as the
' ' Book of Ahania ' ' and the ' ' Song of
Los. ' '

Father, O Father ! What do we here,
In this land of unbelief and fear?
The land of, dreams is better far,
Above the light of the morning star.

While this mood holds, we learn anew
the difference between the stocks and
stones of prose and the rejoicing stars
of song. Atmosphere is confessedly
one of the sure tests of the poet, and
the secret of Blake's power in this
element remains inviolate until the
time of Coleridge. Be it sleeping
child or prowling beast, the magic
accents fall, and we are enveloped by
the heavenly innocence or by the hor-
ror of the wild : —

Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
Dreaming in the joys of night ;
Sleep, sleep, in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.

Sweet babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace.
Secret joys and secret smiles,
Little pretty infant wiles.

As thy softest limbs I feel,
Smiles as of the morning steal
O'er thy cheek, and o'er thy breast
Where thy little heart doth rest.

Oh the cunning wiles that creep
In thy little heart asleep !
When thy little heart doth wake,
Then the dreadful light shall break.



Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Framed thy fearful symmetry?

In what distantdeeps or skies
Burned that fire within thine eyes?
On what wings dared he aspire?
What the hand dared seize the fire ?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thv heart?
When thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand formed thy dread feci ?

What the hammer, what the chain,
Knit thy strength and forged thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dared thy deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spe;r
And watered heaven with their U.
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make tl

If Cowper first counsels a loving
return to nature, Blake seconds him
with insight not found again until we
come to Wordsworth, and with pas-
sion not found again till we come to
Burns. The sodden photography of
Thomson, the classic handling of
Gray and Collins, the smooth, sooth-
ing rurality of Goldsmith, the close,
hard-lined sketches of Crabbe — none
of these exhibit the enthusiasm and
affection that in Blake's work and in
Cowper' s stamp these two blessed
madmen as the ancestors of Nature's
laureate, the bard of Rydal ; and not
Wordsworth himself was more at
home with the simplest beings and
things, the children, the lambs and
the blossoms. Does Blake sing of
these, the notes of gentle old Ramsay,
are not more native and sweet, and
none of all I have named excel him
in evanescent touches, in airy ignition,
mystic flashes, beyond the reach of
will and endeavor. And when we
remember that this distinguishing
charm of the Elizabethans was re-
called in the midst of the metallic
gloss, the wax-work, and the monot-
onous, choppy hum of the phrase
factory still running with the impetus
of the Restoration, Blake stands, un-
questioned, the unique genius that he
was.

In the light of modern research it is



454



WILLIAM BLAKE,



hardly safe to decide that Blake did
not see things invisible to the physical
eye. If he was a man when he said
he had touched the sky with his stick,
he was a child when he saw, on the tree,
angels for apples. He had from the
first, what we term a sixth sense ; and
while, at times, he pushed this gift too
hard, not always is he to be taken
seriously. Many of his narrations,
notably the one about the fairy funeral,
may have been but a rebuke to pro-
saic dullness. I can easily imagine a
twinkle in his great eyes as he gravely
asks a stiff, unimaginative companion,
" By the way, did ever you see a fairy
funeral ? ' ' But fact or fancy, let us
be thankful for so pretty stories ; few
are they that can tell them : —

11 1 was walking alone in my gar-
den ; there was great stillness among
the branches and flowers, and more
than common sweetness in the air ; I
heard a low and pleasant sound, and
I knew not whence it came. At last
I saw the broad leaf of a flower move,
and underneath I saw a procession of
creatures, of the size and color of
green and gray grasshoppers, bearing
a body laid out on a rose leaf, which
they buried with songs, and then dis-
appeared. It was a fairy funeral."



Had we to lose either the ' ' Culprit
Fay," or these three sentences, I
should say, "Take the poem, leave
the prose." "All things," Blake
affirms, ' ' exist in the human imagin-
ation." This he meant, this he
believed. "It must be right," he
says ; " I saw it so. ' ' Whether or not
he hob-nobbed with Moses and Homer
is of little importance compared with
the fact expressed in his own noble
words, " I possess my visions and
peace."

Madness of the right sort has its
charms for the stablest critic. ' ' There
is something in the madness of the
man," says Wordsworth of Blake,
1 ' that interests one more than the
sanity of Byron and Walter Scott."

Ay, would the world were full of so
brave, .so joyous, so beautiful lunacy !
Heaven send many such madmen ;
for 'tis mainly through them that we
learn to scorn the dust *nd darkness
of the ground. Hark ! it is the call
of this free, soaring son of the morn-
ing :—

O Earth, O Earth, return I

Arise from out the dewy grass !
Night is worn,
And the morn

Rises from the slumbrous mass.





THE ROMANCE OF YONO-SAN.*



BY JOHN W. WOOD.




ONDKR, across
the beautiful val-
ley, Fuji- sau
raised its head in
maj estic gran-
deur. Upon the
winding paths
and verdured
slopes were perched picturesque little
houses, and a toy-like bridge spanned
the white foaming waters that were
fed from the eternal snows that frosted
Fuji-san' s stately head. The waters
sang merrily as they coursed adown
the ravines, and irrigated the verdure
upon the parched plains below.

The picture was poetic and beauti-
ful, and yet Jack Barnaby sat looking
at it gloomily within the sliding screen
that formed the side of his room. He
wondered why he had come to Omiya,
and having come, why he re-
mained. The sweet scent of almond
and cherry blossoms that was wafted
in to him, the song of the robin and
thrush, the chirping of Cicadas, the
drone of the honey-bee were alike un-
noted ; while the hoarse cries of the
jinrikisha men, trotting nimbly on their
toilsome ways, across the little bridge
and up the steep mountain ascents,
irritated him more than usual. Jack
had often, during the past week,
fallen into the same line of reflec-
tion, and repeated to himself the
same inward query. He had more
than once resolved to pack his belong-
ings and get him over to Yoko-
hama or Tokio, where, in the bustling



•The illustrations for this story are made from
original drawings by T. Aoki, a native Japanese
artist.



contact with many men, he could the
easier forget his trouble and heartache.
Yet such is the perversity of mankind,
that Jack Barnaby had sought the

quiet of this idyllic spot to escape the
very thing which he now resolved to
seek once more.

In brief retrospect, let us say. that
a certain young lady of San Fran<
had with deplorable inconsideratem m
entangled poor Jack's heart. Recip-
rocating his affection, the two became
engaged. Jack was rich ; the young
lady adorable, though gay and fickle.
Coquetry did not suit Jack's ideas after
he became engaged, half so well as
before, and as the young lady's natural
tendencies made it difficult for her to
refrain, he became unreasonably jeal-
ous, perhaps, and she unnecessarily
resentful. The result was that ere
long the dream was over; and Jack,
desiring to forget as soon as possible,
set out for Japan. In Yokohama
he met Milly's cousin, and being thus
unpleasantly reminded of vSan Fran-
cisco, he went to Tokio. In Tokio he
met her uncle, turned missionary, and
in vexation he sought for a retired
spot where relatives came not, and so
it happened he went to Omiya, where,
after having resided for a month; he
found himself still uncured. A dull
month it had been, watching these
adult children, as they seemed to him,
making a pleasing job of life, and as
this was contrary to his own uncheer-
ful feelings he felt annoyed and irri-
tated.

Presently, as he sat in darksome de-
spondency, there fell upon his hearing
the soft tumpety-tum-tum of a samzscn,



455



456



THE ROMANCE OF YONO-SAN,



accompanied by a sweet little voice
that drifted through the lattice into
his room. At first, scarcely listening,
he presently became fully attentive,
for the voice was wonderfully sweet
and melodious. He arose lazily and
looked from his window to the pretty
garden below. The words that were
wafted up to him were distinct and
pure, their burden an invocation to the
god of love. This was interesting at
all events, and the young man listen-
ed in admiration. It is true that as
yet Jack knew little of the native
tongue, but that little rendered by so
sweet a voice was well worth hearing.
The garden was neat and trim with its
bordered walks and little beds of
bright jonquils, hyacinths, and other
pretty flowers, and in the center a
tiny fountain threw out a stream of
sparkling water. In one corner, be-
neath a blossoming cherry tree, there
was an arbor of wisteria, and from this
cool refuge issued the sounds that had
attracted Jack's attention. As lie stood
watching and listening, the music
continued, now in light and merry
cadence, then sinking low and soft,
dying away and mingling with the
murmuring of the splashing fountain.
Eager to miss no note Jack leaned
far out of the casement, resting his
shoulder so heavily upon the sliding
frame that, just at the finish of a fine
diminuendo, it shot back and sent
a potted oleander spinning to the
garden walk below, where it fell with
a loud crash.

The music came to an abrupt end-
ing ; there was a rustling within the
arbor and Jack caught a glimpse of a
bright-robed female hurrying up the
pathway on the other side. With a
quick turn of the head, the young
lady cast a startled look upward, then
disappeared with a half - smothered
laugh amidst the umbrageous olean-
ders. "Well, she's a beauty," men-
tally commented Jack, and for the
moment he forgot his late doleful hu-
mor. As he had no particular object
in hurrying away from the place he
postponed his packing, put away his



valise and sat down by the window to
smoke. Perhaps he expected a reap-
pearance of the fair musician, but if he
did it was not vouchsafed him that
evening, although he sat there long
after the sun had sunk below Fuji-
san's snowy head. But he would in-
quire, and he had a plan already ar-
ranged, when old Naka - San, the
woman who served his meals, came
with his evening tea.

"Oh, Naka-San," he said, inter-
rupting the humble prostration which
anticipated her departure — "Naka-
San, I love music much ; I love sweet
voices much, and yet you have their
very possessor here and you send her
not to me. Do you tire of pleasing the
stranger, Naka San ? " Jack had in-
tended to be diplomatic.

"Oh, noble Sir," and Naka-San
courtesied to the floor, "you would
have ageisha to sing and dance ? Then
it must be so, even this very night."

"No, no, Xaka ; I want wo geisha.
Is it B. geisha who sings in the garden
below of an afternoon ? "

" What ! a geisha sings in the gar-
den there ? Impossible, O, Sir !" Ah,
she would see about that — no geisha
could be thus allowed to disturb his
excellen

The little angular eyes snapped,
angrily perhaps. Jack surmised that
she knew more than she cared to tell,
and this piqued his curiosity the more
of course. He would await develop-
ments.

The next afternoon he was on the
watch, but intending to be more dis-
creet. Presently, as he peeped through
the closed screen, there was a flutter
of a silken robe in the avenue of ole-
anders be) 7 ond, and a young girl came
down softly and timorously, as if an-
ticipating an inquisitor upon her re-
treat. She glanced curiously upward
to Jack's closed window, and then, as
if satisfied that it hid no ruthless spy,
sped into the vine-covered arbor, and
soon the thum of the sa?nise?i and its
sweet accompaniment silenced the
shrill chatter of the cockatoo that was
perched yonder upon the prune tree.



THE ROMANCE OF YONO-SAN.



457




DO YOU TIR



The wisteria vines hung low, yet
but partially concealed a trim little
figure, its soft flowing robes enhancing
its rounding curves of beauty. Jack
sat long behind the half drawn shojio
(screen) listening and watching. After
a time the music ceased, and the mu-
sician leaned back in her seat as if in
contemplation of the clustering flowers
above. Then, as if by the hypnotic
power of Jack's steady gaze, her eyes
were drawn toward the screen where
he sat. Half unconsciously he had
opened the sash, and as she looked
she discovered him with a confusion
that sent a thousand blushes across
her face. A half coquettish smile
broke forth, and then, as if conscious of
her imprudence she leaped to her feet
and was gone in a twinkling. Jack,
Vol. IV— 30



impulsively and with grave lack
of forethought, leaped through
the low sash and quickly dashed
after her, for what purpose he
scarcely could have explained,
then. He only succeeded in
getting a final glimpse of her
flowing robes as she disappeared
behind the shojio of a cottage on
the other side of the grove.
"It must be there she lives/ 1
thought Jack, as he returned to
his room, considerably ashamed
of his impulsive quest. Who
could she be ? Although he had



Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 59 of 120)