Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

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OUR Garden of Peace is a Garden of Freedom
freedom of thought, freedom of converse. In it one
may cultivate all the flora of illiteracy without re-
buke, as well as the more delicate, but possibly less
fragrant growths of literature, including those
hybrids which I suppose must give great satisfaction
to the cultivators. We assert our claim to talk about
whatever we please ; we will not submit to be told that
anything is out of our reach as a subject: if we can-
not reach the things that are so defined we can at least
make an attempt to knock them down with a bamboo.
Eventually we may even discourse of flowers; but
if we do we certainly will not adopt the horticultural
standard of worth, which is " of -^- commercial


value." A good many things well worthy of a strict
avoidance in conversation possess great commercial
value, and others that we hold very close to our hearts
are of no more intrinsic value than a Victoria Cross.
We have done and shall do our best, however, not to
make use of the word culture, unless it be in connec-
tion with a disease. The lecturers on tropical diseases
talk of their " cholera cultures " and their " yellow-
fever cultures " and their " malaria cultures " ; but we
know that there is a more malignant growth than any



of these : it is spelt by its cultivators with the phonetic
" K " and it has banished the word that begins with a
" c " from the English language, unless, as I say, in
referring to the development of a malady. That is
where victory may be claimed by the vanquished : the
beautiful word is banished for ever from the English
literature in which it once occupied an exalted place.
It is because of the Freedom which we enjoy in
this Garden of Peace of ours that I did not hesitate
for a moment to quote Tennyson to Dorothy a few
days ago, when we were chatting about Poets' Gar-
dens, from the " garden inclosed " of the Song of
Solomon the most beautiful ever depicted to that
of Maud. It requires some courage to quote Ten-
nyson beyond the limits of our own fireside in these
days. The days when he was constantly quoted now
seem as the days of Noe, before the Flood the flood
of the formless which we are assured is poetry nowa-
days. It is called " The New School." Some twenty-
five or thirty years ago something straddled across
our way through the world labelled " New Art." Its
lines were founded upon those of the crushed cock-
roach, and it may have contributed to the advance of
the temperance movement; for its tendency was cer-
tainly to cause any inebriate who found a specimen
watching him wickedly from the mouth of a vase of
imitation pewter on the mantel-shelf in a drawing-
room, or in the form of a pendant in sealing-wax
enamel on the neck of a young woman, to pull him-
self together and sign anything in reason in the direc-
tion of abstaining.


The new poetry is the illiterary equivalent of the
old " New Art." It is flung in our faces with the
effect of a promiscuous handful from the bargain
counter of a draper's cheap sale it is a whiz of odd
lengths and queer colours, and has no form but plenty
of flutter. Poetry may not be as a great critic said
it was form and form and nothing but form; but it
certainly is not that amorphous stuff which is jerked
into many pages just now. I have read pages of it
in which the writers seem to have taken as a model
of design one of the long dedications of the eighteenth
century, or perhaps the " lettering " on the tomb-
stone of the squire in a country church, or, most likely
of all, the half column of " scare headings " in a Sun-
day newspaper in one of the Western States of

It may begin with a monosyllable, and be followed
by an Alexandrine; then come a stuttering half-
dozen unequal ribbon lengths, rather shop-soiled, and
none of them riming; but suddenly we find the
tenth line in rime with the initial monosyllable
which you have forgotten. Then there may come
three or four rimes and as many half-rimes
f-sharp instead of f and then comes a bundle
of prosaic lines with the mark of the scissors on
their ragged endings; the ravellings are assumed
to adorn the close as the fringes of long ago were
supposed to give a high-class " finish " to the
green rep upholstering of the drawing-room centre

And yet alongside this sort of thing we pick up


many thin volumes of verse crowded with beauty of
thought, of imagination, of passion.

And then what do we find given to us every week
in Punch and several of the illustrated papers?
Poem after poem of the most perfect form in rhythm
and rimes faultless double rimes and triple and
quadruple syllables all ringing far more true than
any in Hudibras or the Ingoldsby Legends. Sir
Owen Seaman's verses surpass anything in the Eng-
lish language for originality both in phrase and
thought, and Adrian Ross has shown himself the
equal of Gilbert in construction. The editor of
Pimch has been especially happy in his curry-comb-
ing of the German ex-Kaiser; we do not forget that
it was his poem on the same personage, which ap-
peared in The World after the celebrated telegram
to Kriiger, that gave him his sure footing among the
elite of satirical humour. The

" Pots-

Dam silly,"

was surely the most finished sting that ever came from
the tail of what I venture to call " vespa-verse."

I remember how, when I came upon Barham's

" Because Mephistopheles
Had thrown in her face a whole cup of hot coffee-lees,"

I thought that the limits of the " triple-bob," as I
should like to call it, had been reached. Years after-


wards I found myself in a fit of chuckling over

" Tell us, ye husbands of wives intellectual,
Now tell us truly, have they not hen-pecked you all? "

After another lapse I found among the carillon of

" No, mine own, though early forced to leave you,

Still my heart was there where first we met ;
In those ' Lodgings with an ample sea-view,'
Which were, forty years ago, ' To Let.' '

The Bab Ballads are full of whimsical rimes ; but put
all these that I have named together and you will find
that they are easily out jingled by Sir Owen Seaman.
The first " copy of verses " in Punch any week is a
masterpiece in its way, and assuredly some of his
brethren of Bouverie Street are not very far behind
him in the merry dance in which he sets the pas.

A good many years ago I think it was shortly
after the capitulation of Paris there was a cor-
respondence in The Graphic about the English words
for which no rime could be found. One was " silver,"
the other " month." It was, I think, Burnand who

" Argentum, we know, is the Latin for silver,
And the Latin for spring ever was and is still, ver."

But then purists shook their heads and said that Latin
was not English, and the challenge was for English


As for " month," Mr. Swinburne did not hesitate
to write a whole volume of exquisite poems to a child
to bring in his rime for month: it was " millionth ";
but the metre was so handled by the master that it
would have been impossible for even the most casual
reader to make the word a dissyllable. In the same
volume he found a rime for babe in " astrolabe."

(With regard to my spelling of the word " rime,"
I may here remark that I have done so for years. I
was gratified to find my lead followed in the Cam-
bridge History of English Literature.}

And all this weedy harvest of criticism and remi-
niscence has come through my quoting Tennyson
without an apology ! All that I really had to say was
that there is no maker of verses in England to-day
who has the same mastery of metre as Tennyson had.
It is indeed because of the delicacy of his ear for
words that so many readers are disposed to think his
verse artificial. But there are people who think that
all art is artificial. (This is a very imminent subject
for consideration in a garden, and it has been con-
sidered by great authorities in at least two books, to
which I may refer if I go so far as to write some-
thing about a garden in these pages.) All that I
will say about the art, the artifice, the artfulness, or
the artificiality of the pictures that Tennyson brings
before my eyes through his mastery of his medium, is
that I have always placed a higher value upon the
meticulous than upon the slap-dash in every form of
art. It was said that the late Duke of Cambridge
could detect a speck of rust on a sabre quicker than


any Commander-in-Chief that ever lived; but I do
not therefore hold that he was a greater soldier than
Marlborough. But if Marlborough could make the
brightness of his sabres do the things that he meant
them to do, his victories were all the more brilliant.

I dare say there are quite a number of people who
think that Edmund Yates's doggerel about a brand
of Champagne it commences something like this, if
my memory serves me:

" Dining with Bulteen

Captain of Militia,
Ne'er was dinner seen
Soupier or fishyer "

quite equal to the best that Calverley or Seaman ever
wrote, because it has that slap-dash element about it
that disregards correct rimes; but I am not among
those critics. Tennyson does not usually paint an
impressionist picture, though he can do so when he
pleases; he is rather a pre-Raphaelite ; but, however
he works, he produces his picture and it is a picture.
Talk of Art and Nature there never was a poet
who reproduced Nature with an art so consummate;
there never was a poet who used his art so graphically.
Of course I am now talking of Tennyson at his best,
not of Tennyson of The May Queen, which is cer-
tainly deficient enough in art to please as it has
pleased the despisers of the meticulous, but of Ten-
nyson in his lyrical mood of the garden-song in
Maud, of the echo-song in The Princess both dia-
monds, not in the rough, but cut into countless facets


Tennyson in The Passing of Arthur, and countless
pages of the Idylls, Tennyson of the pictorial sim-
plicity of Enoch Arden and the full brush of Ulysses,
Tithonus, Laicretius, the battle glow of The Ballad
of the Revenge, the muted trumpet-notes of The
Defence of Lucknow.

And yet through all are those lowering lines which
somehow he would insist on introducing in the wrong
places with infinite pains! It was as if he took the
trouble to help us up a high marble staircase to the
cupola of a tower, and to throw open before our eyes
a splendid landscape, only to trip us up when we are
lost in wonder of it all, and send us headlong to the
dead earth below.

It was when we were looking down a gorge of
tropical splendour in the island of Dominica in the
West Indies opening a wide mouth to the Caribbean,
that the incomparable lines from Enoch Arden came
upon me in the flash of the crimson-and-blue wings
of a bird one of the many lories, I think it was
that fled about the wild masses of the brake of
hibiscus, and I said them to Dorothy. Under our
eyes was a tropical garden on each side of the valley
a riot of colour a tropical sunset laid at our feet
in the tints of a thousand flowers down to where the
countless palms of the gorge began to mingle with
the yuccas that swayed over the sea-cliffs in the blue

The league-long roller thundering on the reef,
The moving whisper of huge trees that branch'd


And blossom'd in the zenith, or the sweep

Of some precipitous rivulet to the wave,

As down the shore he ranged, or all day long

Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge,

A shipwreck'd sailor, waiting for a sail.

No sail from day to day, but every day

The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts

Among the palms and ferns and precipices;

The blaze upon the waters to the east;

The blaze upon his island overhead ;

The blaze upon the waters to the west;

Then the great stars that globed themselves in Heaven,

The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again

The scarlet shafts of sunrise but no sail."

There was the most perfect picture of the tropical

Some months after we had returned to England I
found the Enoch Arden volume lying on the floor at
Dorothy's feet. She was roseate with indignation as
I entered the room. I paused for an explanation.

It came. She touched the book with her foot it
was a symbolic spurn as much as any one with a
conscience could give to a royal-blue tooled morocco

" How could he do it? " she cried.

"Do what?"

" Those two lines at the end. Listen to this " she
picked up the book with a sort of indignant snatch :

" * There came so loud a calling of the sea
That all the houses in the haven rang.
He woke, he rose, he spread his arms abroad
Crying with a loud voice, " A sail ! a sail !


I am saved," and so fell back and spoke no more.
So past the strong, heroic soul away.
And when they buried him the little port
Had seldom seen a costlier fwneral.*

" Now tell me if I don't do well to be angry," cried
Dorothy. 'Those two lines "a costlier funeral"!
He should have given the items in the bill and said
what was the name of the undertaker. Oh, why
didn't you warn me off that awful conclusion? What
should you say the bill came to? Oh, Alfred, Lord
Tennyson ! "

I shook my head sadly, of course.

" He does that sort of thing now and then," I
said sadly. ' You remember the young lady whose
* light blue eyes ' were ' tender over drowning
flies ' ? and the ' oaths, insult, filth, and monstrous
blasphemies.' '

" I do now, but they are not so bad as that about
the costly funeral. Why does he do it tell me that
put me wise? "

" I suppose we must all have our bit of fun now
and again. Kean, when in the middle of his most
rousing piece of declamation, used to turn from his
spellbound audience and put out his tongue at one
of the scene-shifters. If you want to be kept con-
stantly at the highest level you must stick to Milton."

There was a pause before Dorothy said,

" I suppose so ; and yet was there ever anything
funnier than his description of the battle in heaven? "

" Funny? Majestic, you mean? " said I, deeply


:< Well, majestically funny, if you wish. The idea
of those * ethereal virtues ' throwing big stones at one
another, and knowing all the time that it didn't mat-
ter whether they were hit or not the gashes closed
like the gashes we loved making with our spades in the
stranded jelly-fish at low tide. But I suppose you
will tell me that Milton must have his joke with the
rest of them. Oh, I wonder if all poetry is not a

That is how Tennyson did for himself by not know-
ing where to stop. I expect that what really hap-
pened was that when he had written:

" So past the strong, heroic soul away,"

he found that there was still room for a couple of
lines on the page and he could not bear to see the
space wasted.

And it was not wasted either ; for I remember talk-
ing to the late Dr. John Todhunter, himself a most
accomplished poet and a scholarly critic, about the
" costlier funeral " lines, and he defended them

And the satisfying of Dr. Todhunter must be re-
garded as counting for a good deal more in the
balance against my poor Dorothy's disapproval.

Lest this chapter should appear aggressively di-
gressive in a book that may be fancied to have some-
thing to do with gardens, I may say that while Alfred,
Lord Tennyson had a great love for observing the
peculiarities of flower and plant growths, he must
have cared precious little for the garden as the solace


of one's declining years. He did not pant for it as
the hart pants for the water-brooks. He never came
to think of the hours spent out of a garden as wasted.
He did not live in his garden, nor did he live for it.
That is what amazes us in these days, nearly as much
as the stories of the feats of Mr. Gladstone with the
axe of the woodcutter. Not many of us would have
the heart to stand by while a magnificent oak or syca-
more is being cut down. We would shrink from
such an incident as we should from an execution.
But forty years ago the masses were ready to worship
the executioner. They used to be admitted in crowds
to Hawarden to watch the heroic old gentleman in
his shirt-sleeves and with his braces hanging down,
butchering a venerable elm in his park, and when the
trunk crashed to the ground they cheered vocifer-
ously, and when he wiped the perspiration from his
brow, they rushed forward to dip their handkerchiefs
in the drops just as men and women tried to damp
their handkerchiefs in the drippings of the axe of the
headsman, who, in a stroke, slew a monarch and made
a martyr, outside the Banqueting House in White-

And when the excursionists were cheering the hero
of Hawarden, Thomas Hardy was writing The
Woodlanders. Between Hardy and Hawarden there
was certainly a great gulf fixed. I do not think that
any poet ever wrote an elegy so affecting as the
chapter on the slaying of the oak outside the house
of the old man who died of the shock. But the scent
of the woodland clings to the whole book; I have read


it once a year for more than a quarter of a century.

Tennyson never showed that he loved his garden
as Mr. Hardy showed he loved his woodland. In the
many beautiful lines suggesting his affection for his
lawns and borders Tennyson makes a reader feel that
his joy was purely Platonic sometimes patronis-
ingly Platonic. It is very far from approaching the
passion of a lover for his mistress. One feels that he
actually held that the garden was made for the poet
not the poet for the garden, which, I need hardly
say, we all hold to be a heresy. The union between
the true garden-lover and the garden may be a
mesalliance, but that is better than marriage de con-

But to return to the subject of Poets' Gardens, we
agreed that the gardens of neither of the poet's
dwelling-places were worth noticing; but they were
miracles of design compared with that at the red brick
villa where the white buses stopped at Putney the
house where the body of Algernon Charles Swin-
burne lay carefully embalmed by his friend, Theodore
Watts-Dunton. Highly favoured visitors were occa-
sionally admitted to inspect the result of the process
by which the poet had his palpitations reduced to the
discreet beats of the Putney metronome, and visitors
shook their heads and said it was a marvellous refor-
mation. So it was a triumph of the science of em-
balming, not " with spices and savour of song," but
with the savourless salt of True Friendship. The
reformed poet was now presentable, but he was no
longer a live poet: the work of reformation had


changed the man into a mummy a most presentable
mummy; and it was understood that the placid exist-
ence of a mummy is esteemed much more than the
passionate rapture of an early morning lark, or of
the nightingale that has a bad habit of staying out
all night.

It is a most unhappy thing that the first operation
of the professional embalmer is to extract the brains
of his subject, and this was done through the medium
of a quill a very suitable implement in the case of a
writer: he has begun the process himself long before
he is stretched on the table of the operator. Almost
equally important it is that the subject should be
thoroughly dried. Mr. Swinburne's true friend knew
his business: he kept him perpetually dry and with
his brain atrophied.

The last time I saw the poet he was on view under
the desiccating influence of a biscuit factory. He
looked very miserable, and I know that I felt very
miserable observing the triumph of the Watts-Dunton
treatment, and remembering the day when the glory
and glow of Songs before Sunrise enwrapt me until
I felt that the whole world would awaken when such
a poet set the trumpet to his lips to blow!

Mr. Watts-Dunton played the part of Vivien to
that merle Merlin, and all the forest echoed " Fool! "

But it was really a wonderful reformation that he
brought about.

I looked into the garden at that Putney reforma-
tory many times. It was one of the genteelest places


I ever saw and so handy for the buses. It was called,
by one of those flashes of inspiration not unknown
in the suburbs, " The Pines." It might easily have
been "The Cedars" or "The Hollies," or even
" Laburnum Villa."

The poet was carefully shielded by his true freind.
Few visitors were allowed to see him. The more
pushing were, however, met half-way. They were
permitted as a treat to handle the knob of Mr. Swin-
burne's walking-stick.

Was it, I wonder, a Transatlantic visitor who
picked up from the linoleum of the hall beside the
veneered mahogany hat-stand, and the cast-iron um-
brella-holder, a scrap of paper in the poet's hand-
writing with the stanza of a projected lyric?

** I am of dust and of dryness;

I am weary of dryness and dust !
But for my constitutional shyness
I'd go on a bust."


I CAME across an excellent piece of advice the other
day in a commonplace volume on planning a garden.
It was in regard to the place of statuary in a garden.
But the writer is very timid in this matter. He writes
as if he hoped no one would overhear him when he
says that he has no rooted objection, although many
people have, to a few bits of statuary ; but on no plea
would he allow them the freedom of the garden ; their
place should be close to the house, and they should be
admitted even to that restricted territory only with
the greatest caution. On no account should anything
of that sort be allowed to put a foot beyond where the
real garden begins the real clearly being the herba-
ceous part, though the formal is never referred to as
the ideal.

He gives advice regarding the figures as does a
" friend of the family " when consulted about the boys
who are inclined to be wild or the girls who are a bit
skittish. No, no; one should be very firm with
Hermes ; from the stories that somehow get about re-
garding him, he is certainly inclined to be fast; he
must not be given a latch-key; and as for Artemis
well, it is most likely only thoughtlessness on her part,
but she should not be allowed to hunt more than two



days a week. Still, if looked after, both Hermy and
Arty will be all right; above all things, however, the
list of their associates should be carefully revised:
the fewer companions they have the better it will be
for all concerned.

Now, I venture to agree with all this advice gen-
erally. Fond as I am of statuary, whether stone or
lead, I am sure that it is safest in or about the House
Garden; and no figure that I possess is in any other
part of my ground ; but this is only because I do not
possess a single Faun or Dryad or Daphne. If I
were lucky enough to have these, I should know
where to place them and it would not be in a place
of formality, but just the opposite. They have no
business with formalities, and would look as incon-
gruous among the divinities who seem quite happy on
pedestals as would Pan in modern evening dress, or
a Russian danceuse in corsets, or a Polish in anything
at all.

If I had a Pan I would not be afraid to locate
him in the densest part of a shrubbery, where only his
ears and the grin between them could be seen among
the foliage and his goat's shank among the lower
branches. His effigy is shown in its legitimate place
in Gabe's Picture, " Fete Galante." That is the cor-
rect habitat of Pan, and that is where he would be
shown in the hall of the Natural History Museum
where every " exhibit " has its natural entourage. If
I had a Dryad and had not a pond with reeds about
its marge, I would make one for her accommodation,
for, except with such surroundings she should not be


seen in a garden. I have a Daphne, but she is an
indoor one, being frailly made, and with a year's
work of undercutting, in Greek marble a precious
copy of Bernini's masterpiece. But if I had an out-
door Daphne, I would not rest easy unless I knew
that she was within easy touch of her laurel.

That is why I do not think that any hard and fast
rule should be laid down in the matter of the dis-
posal of statuary in a garden ground. But on the
general principle of " the proper place," I certainly
am of the opinion expressed by the writer to whom
I have referred that this element of interest and
beauty should be found mainly in connection with
the stonework of the house. In any part of an Italian

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 11 of 18)