Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

. (page 16 of 18)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 16 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

received from Good Words or was it Once a Week?
for any sort of poem that would serve as an adver-
tisement of magazine enterprise, and he wrote that
gem to which Mr. Gilbert had referred?

" Flower in the crannied wall,

I pluck you out of the crannies ;
Hold you here, stem and all in my hand.

Little flower; but if I could understand


What you are, stem and all and all in all,
I should know what God and man is."

I should like equal immortality to be conferred upon
the parody which is of far greater merit than the
original :

' Terrier in my granny's hall,

I whistle you out of my granny's ;
Hold you here, tail and all in my hand.
Little terrier; but if I could understand
What you are, tail and all and all in all,

I should know what black-and-tan is."

I could understand the inspiration that should re-
sult in sermons from stones such as the poet's for-
getting that his mission was not that of the sermon-
ising missionary, but of the singer of such creations
of beauty as offer themselves to nestle to the heart of
man when walking round the gracious curve that
the grass path makes till it is arrested by the break
in the wall where the postern gate once hung, guarded
by the sentinel whose feet must have paced this grass
path until no blade of grass remained on it.

Early every summer the glory of the snapdragons
and the wallflowers is overwhelmed for a time by the
blossom of the pear-trees and the plums which spread
themselves abroad and sprawl even over the top of
the wall. By their aid the place is transformed for
a whole month in a fruitful year. In 1917 it was as
if a terrific snowstorm had visited us. It was with us
as with all our neighbours, a wonderful year for

. / * ^.
: '#' - , . V M

f >>>;' >


pears, apples, and plums. Pink and white and white
and pink hid the world and all that appertained to it
from our eyes, and when the blossoms were shed we
were afraid to set a foot upon the grass path : it would
have been a profanity to crush that delicate em-
broidery. It seemed as if Nature had flung down
her copious mantle of fair white satin before our feet;
but we bowed our heads conscious of our unworthiness
and stood motionless in front of that exquisite car-

And then day after day the lovely things of the
wall that had been hidden asserted themselves, and
a soft wind swept the path till all the green of the
new grass path flowed away at our feet, and Nature
seemed less virginal. Then came the babes revealed
by the fallen blossoms plump little cherubic faces of
apples, graver little papooses of the russet Indian
tint, which were pears, and smaller shy things peep-
ing out from among the side shoots, which we could
hardly recognise as plums; rather a carcanet of
chrysoprase they seemed, so delicately green in their
early days, before each of them became like the ripe
Oriental beauty, the nigra sed formosa, of the Song
of Solomon, and for the same reason: " Because the
sun hath looked upon me," she cried. When the sun
had looked upon the fruit that clustered round the
clefts in our wall, he was as one of the sons of God
who had become aware for the first time of the fact
that the daughters of men were fair; and the whole
aspect of the world was changed.

Is there any part of a garden that is more beau-


tiful than the orchard? At every season it is lovely.
I cannot understand how it is that the place for fruit-
growing is in so many gardens kept away from what
is called the ornamental part. I cannot understand
how it has come about that flowering shrubs are wel-
comed and flowering apples discouraged in the most
favoured situations. When a considerable number of
the former have lost their blossoms, they are for the
rest of the year as commonplace as is possible for a
tree to be; but when the apple-blossom has gone, the
boughs that were pink take on a new lease of beauty,
and the mellow glory of the season of fruitage lasts
for months. The berry of the gorse which is some-
times called a gooseberry, is banished like a Northum-
berland cow-pincher of the romantic period, beyond
the border; but a well furnished gooseberry bush is
as worthy of admiration as anything that grows in
the best of the borders, whether the fruit is green or
red. And then look at the fruit of the white currant
if you give it a place where the sun can shine through
it clusters shining with the soft light of the Pleiades
or the more diffuse Cassiopea; and the red currants
well, I suppose they are like clusters of rubies ; but
everything that is red is said to be like a ruby; why
not talk of the red currant bush as a firmament that
holds a thousand round fragments of a fractured

There was a time in England when a garden meant
a place of fruit rather than flowers, but by some freak
of fashion it was decreed that anything that appealed
to the sense of taste was " not in good taste " that


was how the warrant for the banishment of so much
beauty was worded " not in good taste." I think
that the decree is so closely in harmony with the other
pronouncements of the era of mauvaise honte the
era of affectations when the " young lady " was lan-
guid and insipid " of dwarf habit," as the catalogues
describe such a growth, and was never allowed to be
a girl when fainting was esteemed one of the highest
accomplishments of the sex, and everything that was
natural was pronounced gross when the sampler,
the sandal, and the simper were the outward and
visible signs of an inward and affected femininity:
visible? oh, no; the sandal was supposed to be invisi-
ble; if it once appeared even to the extent of a taper
toe, and attention was called to its obtrusion, there
was a little shriek of horror, and the " young lady "
was looked at askance as demie-vierge. It was so
much in keeping with the rest of the parcel to look
on something that could be eaten as something
too gross to be constantly in sight when growing
naturally, that I think the banishment of the apple
and the pear and the plum and the gooseberry to a
distant part of the garden must be regarded as be-
longing to the same period. But now that the in-
delicacy of the super-delicacy of that era has passed
now that the shy sandal has given place to the well-
developed calf above the " calf uppers " of utilitarian
boots now that a young man and a young woman
(especially the young woman) discuss naturally the
question of eugenics and marriage with that freedom
which once was the sole prerogative of the prayer-


book, may we not claim an enlargement of our bor-
ders to allow of the rehabilitation of the apple and
the repatriation of the pear in a part of the garden
where all can enjoy their decorative qualities and
anticipate their gastronomic without reproach? Let
us give the fruit its desserts and it will return the

The Saxon earthwork below the grass walk is given
over to what is technically termed " the herbaceous
border," and over one thousand eight hundred square
feet there should be such a succession of flowers grow-
ing just as they please, as should delight the heart of
a democracy. The herbaceous border is the demo-
cratic section of a garden. The autocrat of the
Dutch and the Formal gardens is not allowed to carry
out any of his foul designs of clipping or curtailing
the freedom of Flora in this province. There should
be no reminiscences of the tyrant stake which in far-
distant days of autocracy was a barrier to the freedom
of growth, nor should the aristocracy of the hot-house
or even the cool greenhouse obtrude its educated
bloom among the lovers of liberty. They must be
allowed to do as they damplease, which is a good
step beyond the ordinary doing as they please. The
government of the herbaceous border is one whose
aim is the glorification of the Mass as opposed to the

It is not at all a bad principle for a garden this
principle which can best be carried out by the unprin-
cipled. English democracy includes princes and
principles; but there is a species which will have noth-


ing to do with principles because they reckon them
corrupted by their first syllable, and hold that the
aristocrat is like Hamlet's stepfather, whose offence
was " rank and smells to heaven." I have noticed,
however, in the growth of my democratic border that
there are invariably a few pushing and precipitate
individuals who insist on having their own way it is
contrary to the spirit of Freedom to check them and
the result is that the harmony of the whole ceases to
exist. But there are some people who would prefer
a Bolshevist wilderness to any garden.

I have had some experience of Herbaceous Bor-
ders of mankind. . . .

The beauty of the border is to be found in the
masses, we are told in the Guides to Gardening. We
should not allow the blues to mix with the buffs, and
the orange element should not assert its ascendancy
over the green. But what is the use of laying down
hard and fast rules here when the essence of the con-
stitution of the system is No Rule. My experience
leads me to believe that without a rule of life and a
firm ruler, this portion of the. garden will become
in the course of time allied to the prairie or the wilder-
ness, and the hue that will prevail to the destruction
of any governing scheme of colour or colourable
scheme of government will be Red.

Which things are an allegory, culled from a garden
of herbs, which, as we have been told, will furnish a
dinner preferable to one that has for its piece de resist-
ance the stalled ox, providing that it is partaken of
under certain conditions rigidly defined.


We have never been able to bring our herbaceous
border to the point of perfection which we are assured
by some of those optimists who compile nurserymen's
catalogues, it should reach. We have massed our
colours and nailed them to the mast, so to speak
that is, we have not surrendered our colour schemes
because we happen to fall short of victory ; but still we
must acknowledge that the whole border has never
been the success that we hoped it would be. Perhaps
we have been too exacting expecting over much; or
it may be that our standard was too Royal a one for
the soil; but the facts remain and we have a sense of

It seems to me that this very popular feature de-
pends too greatly upon the character of the season to
be truly successful as regards ensemble. Our border
includes many subjects which have ideas of their own
as regards the weather. A dry spring season may
stunt (in its English sense) the growth of some
flowers that occupy a considerable space, and are
meant to play an important part in the design;
whereas the same influence may develop a stunt (in
the American sense) in a number of others, thereby
bringing about a dislocation of the whole scheme.
Then some things will rush ahead and override their
neighbours some that lasted in good condition up to
the October of one year look shabby before the end
of July the next. One season differs from another
on vital points and the herbs differ in their growth
-I had almost written their habit in accordance
with the differences of the season. We have had a


fine show in one place and a shabby show next door;
we have had a splendid iris season and a wretched
peony season bare patches beside luxuriant patches.
The gailardias have broken out of bounds one sum-
mer, and when we left " ample verge and room
enough " for them the next, they turned sulky, and
the result was a wide space of soil on which a score
of those gamins of the garden, chickweed and dande-
lion, promptly began operations, backed up by those
apaches of a civilised borderland, the ragged robin,
and we had to be strenuous in our surveillance of the
place, fearful that a riot might ruin all that we had
taken pains to bring to perfection. So it has been
season after season one part quite beautiful, a sec-
ond only middling, and a third utterly unresponsive.
That is why we have taken to calling it the facetious

Our experience leads us to look on this facetious
herbaceous border as the parson's daughter looks on
the Sunday School as a place for the development of
all that is tricky in Nature, with here and there a
bunch of clean collars and tidy trimmings some-
thing worth carrying on over, but not to wax en-
thusiastic over. So we mean to carry on, and take
Flora's " buffets and awards " " with equal thanks."
We shall endeavour to make our unruly tract in some
measure tractable; and, after all, where is the joy of
gardening apart from the trying? It was a great
philosopher who affirmed at the close of a long life,
that if he were starting his career anew and the choice
were offered to him between the Truth and the Pur-


suit of Truth, he would certainly choose the latter.
That man had the true gardening spirit.

Any one who enters a garden without feeling that
he is entering a big household of children, should stay
outside and make a friend of the angel who was set
at the gate of the first Paradise with a flaming sword,
which I take it was a gladiolus the gladiolus is the
gladius of flowerland to keep fools on the outside.
The angel and the proper man will get on very well
together at the garden gate, talking of things that are
within the scope of the intelligence of angels and men
who think doormats represent Nature in that they are
made of cocoa-nut fibre. We have long ago come to
look on the garden as a region of living things-
shouting children, riotous children, sulky children;
children who are rebellious, perverse, impatient at re-
striction, bad-tempered, quarrelsome, but ever ready
to " make it up," and fling themselves into your arms
and give you a chance of sharing with them the true
joy of life which is theirs.

This is what a garden of flowers means to any one
who enters it in a proper spirit of comradeship, and
not in the attitude of a School Inspector. We go
into the garden not to educate the flowers, but to be
beloved by them to make companions of them and,
if they will allow us, to share some of the secrets they
guard so jealously until they find some one whom they
feel they can trust implicitly. A garden is like the
object of Dryden's satire, " Not one, but all man-
kind's epitome," and a knowledge of men that makes
a man a sympathetic gardener. I think that Christ


was as fond of gardens as God ever was. " Consider
the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not
neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one
of these."

There is the glorious charter of the garden, the
truth of which none can dispute there is the revela-
tion of the spirit of the garden delivered to men by the
wisest and the most sympathetic garden-lover that
ever sought a Gethsemane for communion with the
Father of all, in an hour of trial.

I wonder what stores of knowledge of plant-life
existed among the wise Orientals long ago. Were
they aware of all that we suppose has only been re-
vealed to us " discovered " by us within recent
years? Did they know that there is no dividing line
between the various elements of life between man,
who is the head of " the brute creation," and the crea-
tures of what the books of my young days styled " the
Vegetable Kingdom " ? Did they know that it is
possible for a tree to have a deeper love for its mate
than a man has for the wife whom he cherishes? I
made the acquaintance some years ago of an Eastern
tree which was brought away from his family in the
forest and, though placed in congenial soil, remained,
for years making no advance in growth living, but
nothing more until one day a thoughtful man who
had spent years studying plants of the East, brought
a female companion to that tree, and had the satis-
faction of seeing " him " assume a growth which was
maintained year by year alongside " her," until they


were both shown to me rejoicing together, the one
vicing with the other in luxuriance of foliage and
fruit. Every one who has grown apples or plums
has had the same experience. We all know now of
the courtship and the love and the marriage of things
in " the Vegetable Kingdom," and we know that there
is no difference in the process of that love which means
life in " the Animal Kingdom " and " the Vegetable
Kingdom." In some directions their " human " feel-
ings and emotions and passions have been made plain
to us; how much more we shall learn it is impossible
to tell ; but we know enough to save us from the error
of fancying that they have a different existence from
ours, and every day that one spends in a garden makes
us ready to echo Shelley's lyrical shout of " Beloved

That is what I feel when I am made the victim of
some of the pranks of the gay creatures of the her-
baceous border, who amuse themselves at our expense,
refusing to be bound down to our restrictions, to
travel the way we think good plants should go, and
declining to be guided by an intelligence which they
know to be inferior to their own. The story of the
wilful gourd which would insist on crossing a garden
path in the direction it knew to be the right one,
though a human intelligence tried to make it go in
another, was told by an astonished naturalist in the
pages of Country Life a short time ago. I hope it
was widely read. The knowledge that such things
can be will give many thousand readers access to a
field of study and of that legitimate speculation which


is the result of study and observation. It will ever
tend to mitigate the disappointment some of us may
be inclined to harbour when we witness our floral
failures, though it is questionable if the recognition
of the fact that our failures are due to our own stupid
bungling, will diminish the store of that self-conceit
which long ago induced us to think of ourselves as the
sole raison d'etre of all Creation.


WE were working at the young campanulas when our
friend Heywood came upon us Heywood, for whose
intelligence we have so great a respect, because he so
frequently agrees with our outlook upon the world of
woman and other flowers cherished by us. Heywood
is a good artist; but because he believes that Woman-
kind is a kind woman indefinitely multiplied, he paints
more faithful portraits of men than of women ; he also
paints landscapes that live more faithfully than the
human features that he depicts and receives large
sums for depicting. He is a student of children, and
comes to Rosamund quite seriously for her criticism.
She gives it unaffectedly, I am glad to notice; and
without having to make use of a word of the School-
of-Art phraseology.

We have an able surgeon (retired) living close to
us here, and he is still so interested in the Science he
practised he retired from the practice, not from the
science that when he is made aware of an unusual
operation about to be performed in any direction
London, Paris, or (not recently) Vienna, he goes off
to witness the performance, just as we go to some of
the most interesting premieres in town. In the same
spirit Heywood runs off every now and again to Paris



to see the latest production of his old master, or the
acquisition of an old Master at one of the galleries.
It lets him know what is going on in the world, he
says, and I am sure he is quite right.

But, of course, Atheist Friswell has his smile a
solemn smile it is this time while he says,

" Old Masters? Young mississes rather, I think."
' Young what? " cried Dorothy. '

" Mysteries," he replied. " What on earth do you
think I said? "

" Another word with the same meaning," says she.

But these artistic excursions have nothing to do
with us among our campanulas to-day. Heywood has
been aware of a funny thing and came to make us
laugh with him.

" Campanulas! " he cried. " And that is just what
I came to tell you about the campanile at St. Kath-

Yardley Parva, in common with Venice, Florence,
and a number of other places, has a campanile, only
it was not designed by Giotto or any other artist.
Nor is it even called a campanile, but a bell-tower,
and it belongs to the Church of St. Katherine-sub-
Castro a Norman church transformed by a few
adroit touches here and there into the purest Gothic
of the Restoration the Gilbert Scott-Church-Resto-
ration period.

But no one would complain with any measure of
bitterness at the existence of the bell-tower only for
the fact that there are bells within it, and these bells
being eight, lend themselves to many feats of cam-


panotogy, worrying the inhabitants within a large
area round about the low levels of the town. The
peace of every Sabbath Day is rudely broken by the
violence of what the patient folk with no arrfcre
pensee term "them joy bells."
You have not heard a sound of them for some

Sundays," said Heywood.
"I have not complained," said I. " Ask Dorothy

if I have."

"No one has, unless the bell-ringers, who are get-
ting flabby through lack of exercise," said he. ' But
the reason you have not heard them is because they
have been sflent."

" ' The British Fleet you cannot see, for it is not in
sight,'" said I.

- And the reason that they have been silent was the
serious illness of Mr. Livesay, whose house is close to
St. Katherine's. Dr. Beecher prescribed complete
repose for poor Livesay, and as the joy bells of St.
Katherine's do not promote that condition, his wife
sent a message to the ringers asking them to oblige
by refraining from their customary uproar until
the doctor should remove his ban. They did so two
Sundays ago, and the Sunday before last they sent
to inquire how the man was. He was a good deal
worse, they were told, so they were cheated out of
their exercise again. Yesterday, however, they rang
merrily out merrily."

" We heard," said Dorothy. " So I suppose Mr.
Livesay is better."
"On tiie contrary, he is dead," said Heywood.


" He died late on Saturday night. My housekeeper,
Mrs. Hartwell, had just brought me in my breakfast
when the bells began. ' Listen,' she cried. ' Listen!
the joy bells! Mr. Livesay must have died last
night.' "

It was true. The bell-ringers had made their call
at poor Livesay's house on Sunday morning, and on
receiving the melancholy news, they hurried off to let
their joy bells proclaim it far and wide.

But no one in Yardley Parva, lay or clerical, except
Heywood and ourselves seemed to think that there
was anything singular in the incident.

We had a few words to say, however, about joy
bells spreading abroad the sad news of a decent man's
death, and upon campanology in general.

But when Friswell heard of the affair, he said he
did not think it more foolish than the usual practice
of church beHs.

"We all know, of course, that there is nothing
frightens the devil like the ringing of bells," said he.

" That is quite plausible," said I. " Any one who
doubts it must have lived all his life in a heathen
place where there are no churches. Juan Fernandez,
for example," I added, as a couple of lines sang
through my recollection. " Cowper made his Alex-
ander Selkirk long for 'the sound of the church-
going bell.' '

" That was a good touch of Cowper's," said Fris-
well. " He knew that Alexander Selkirk was a Scots-
man, and with much of the traditional sanctimonious-
ness of his people, when he found himself awfu* bad


or muckle bad or whatever the right phrase is, he was
ready to propitiate heaven by a pious aspiration."

" Nothing of the sort," cried Dorothy. ' He was
quite sincere. Cowper knew that there is nothing that
brings back recollections of childhood, which we
always think was the happiest time of our life, like the
chiming of church bells."

" I dare say you are right," said he, after a little
pause. " But like many other people, poet Cowper
did not think of the church bells except in regard to
their secondary function of summoning people to the
sacred precincts. He probably never knew that the
original use of the bells was to scare away the Evil
One. It was only when they found out that he had
never any temptation to enter a church, that the
authorities turned their devil-scaring bells to the sum-
moning of the worshippers, and they have kept up

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 16 of 18)