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UC-NRLF



SB ISb 512



ABOUT MANY THINGS



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE WOOING OF SHEILA
THE PRINCE OF LISNOVSR
THE DIVERTED VILLAGE
FIVE BEADS ON A STRING



ABOUT
MANY THINGS

BY

GRACE RHYS



METHUEN & GO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON



First Published in 1920



TO

STELLA



446765



NOTE

/^VF these essays some have appeared in
magazines The Quest, The Vineyard) The
Venturer, The Voice of India, The Shanachie
to whose editors the author wishes to make due
acknowledgment. Others have been privately
printed. A good many, however, are here given
for the first time.

A like word is also due to the Editor of The
Nation, in whose pages the prefatory verses have
appeared .



Vll



PREFAfCE

T HAVE been puzzled to know what to
call these leaves and pages from the life.
" Essays " appears almost too formal a word ;
though they are truly attempts at expressing
thought and the emotion of thought. I say
emotion because it seems to me that when we
are most closely in contact with life, there
comes, sometimes, a sort of stir, like the
trembling of the water in the pool of Bethesda,
and out of such inner movement a thought
may be born.

It is just this instant and circumstance of
thought that I have tried to lay hold of and
render again. Each note or essay has been
set down under the influence of that same
movement of life. Nothing has been added
ix



About Many Things

that is not born out of a woman's experience
as she faces her ordinary everyday life.

Some of the essays are longer, some of them
shorter, for some thoughts seem to need more
of circumstance about them, as some kites
balance better with additional paper flourishes
on their tails. But whether long or short?
they are each of them an honest attempt to
express a vital moment.

We are all out to find a new spiritual
dialect in art, in music, and in thought. New
and powerful spectacles of life are before us.
We try to get some notion of their movement
and force, that we can translate into a para-
phrase that is fit to be imparted, fit for use.
We have a sense that out of the fluid regions
of the intellectual issue all the mighty things
of life ; horrible things and false things ; things
also unimaginably beautiful and fine.

The clearing of this region of our common
mind becomes then the most important thing
in life. We are and have been tormented
x



Preface

with false thinking. Mankind has always been
inexpressibly tormented by it.

For the thinker, the way out of that
danger is to keep close to the near and familiar
source from which thought springs. Thought
rises like a wholesome perfume from life itself.
Abstract it too much from life and it weakens,
strays, becomes useless and untrue. For this
reason the sources of thought are given in
these essays as well as the thought itself; so
that all readers can arrive at the same, or a
better thought than mine, in their own minds.
And though these moments of thought may
seem disconnected, they are orderly after their
own fashidn. As a traveller towards a fixed
and distant point records his adventures by the
way, always drawing nearer to his journey's
end, so these pages record, stage by stage,
adventures of the mind on its way to a height
or hill-top whence the other country, the isles
of youth, and the regions of pure intelligence
may be seen.

xi



CONTENTS

LEAVES FROM A MEADOW-FIELD

PAGE

I. FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING . . i
II. NUMBER Six ..... 3

III. FROM THE GREEN WORLD . . . 7

IV. CHILDREN OF SUMMER . . .9
V. THE FOOT OF THE WIND . . 13

VI. LARKSPURS . . . 15

VII. LIVE WOOD AND DEAD WOOD . . 18

VIII. THE WHITE LIGHT . . . .20

IX. RADIANCES . . , . . .21

X. THE COOL OF THE DAY . . .26

XI. FORESTERS . . . . .30

XII. DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR . . -33

XIII. A BROTHER OF ST. FRANCIS . . 40

PAGES FROM LIFE

I. THE BLACK OX

XIV. THE BLACK Ox . . .45
XV. THE BLOW . . . .48

XVI. ENERGEIA . . . . 53
xiii



About Many Things

PAGE

XVII. THISTLE AND THORN . . 58

XVIII. ACHERON-IN-BOW . . 61

XIX. THE SERVANT OF BEASTS . . 65

XX. THE RED TENANT . . .70

II. ARACHNE

XXI. PLEASURE . . . -73

XXII. THE SENSITIVE HOUSE . . .76

XXIII. ARACHNE, OR THE HOUSEKEEPER . 80

XXIV. RINGS . . . .86

III. THE LITTLE HARPER

XXV. IN SECRET . . . .89

XXVI. THE SQUIRREL ON THE NUT TREE . 91

XXVII. THE LITTLE HARPER . . -95

XXVIII. WILD Music . . . .98

XXIX. PICTURE-HANGER . . .103

IV. THE THOUGHT PURSUER

XXX. ILLUSION . . . . .107

XXXI. IGNITION . . . . .112

XXXII. COMMUNICABLE FIRE . . . ,113

XXXIII. THE SINGING FLAME . . . 115

XXXIV. THE THOUGHT PURSUER

1. The Lost Thought . . .118
XXXV. THE THOUGHT PURSUER

2. The River Pool . . .121

V. EIDOLA

XXXVI. AN ACT OF RENUNCIATION . .123

XXXVII. EIDOLA . . . . .127

XXXVIII. A DIALOGUE . . . .133
xiv



Contents

PAGE

XXXIX. THE HEARTH-KEEPER . . 134

XL. THE DAUGHTERS OF THE GREEN BAY

TREE . . . . .136

VI. HEAVEN FIELD

XLI. THE CHURCH ROOF . . .140

XLII. THE FLOWERY FIELD . . .142

XLIII. THE GARDEN .... 144

XLIV. THE PINNACLE ' . . . .147

XLV. THE FISH . . . . .149

XLVI. A PRAYER-BOOK . . . . 153

XLVII. COCK-CROW . . . . 155

XLVIII. A ROSARY OF A DAY . . . 159

VII. QUESTIONS

XLIX. THE DISK 161

L. THE GROWING POINT . . .163

LI. THREE ATMOSPHERES . . . 167

LII. IN RESPONSE . . . .171

VIII. THE BOUND GOD

LIII. TRANSFIGURATION .... 173

LIV. THE REAL INHABITANTS . . . 175

LV. THE FORMING OF THE FORMLESS . 182

LVI. ANGELOS : THE MESSENGER . . 187

LVII. "I AND MY BELOVED" . . . 190

LVIII. INTIMATION .... 193

LIX. MKDTI.LA ANIMAE . . . . 196

LX. THE BOUND GOD . 202



XV



MY black flocks wander on the bitter salt

marshes ;

In the mist they feed and drink :
They pick at the sea- holly and .the rough

plants and grasses.
At the marsh water's brink.

My white flocks stray about the landward

meadows ;

Their fleeces shine ;
With lowered heads they feed on the tender

herbs and flowers,
Tasting their honey-wine.

But my horned sheep spring, and go upon

the mountains,

Lifting their heads to the wind :
Out on the crags they stand ; they drink

of the running water,
In the way of their kind.



xvi -



ABOUT MANY THINGS

LEAVES FROM A MEADOW-FIELD

I
Four O'clock in the Morning o o

ONE can often please oneself by imagining
what cannot be seen, the motion of sound
waves in the air. A good idea of their possible
shapes can be got by taking a brazen bowl and
filling it with water. If the sides of the bowl are
then filliped by a strong finger, the surface of the
water answers as if by magic to the musical sound
of the brass ; it is at once covered all over with a
pattern like that of folded feathers or overlapping
rose-leaves. Take another bowl and strike it ; it
gives out a different note, and on the water you
see repeated the luminous scales of a fish.

If you want to gain a vision of sound shapes,
go and look at a rose and see the round curves
A I



About Many Things

rippling away from its heart. A red rose is the
very flower of sound.

Think of the beauty of it : imagine a sound
spirit free of the sound world. Away off he sees
a shower of blue wings spreading and changing,
rising and falling again and again : it is a church
bell. Down he comes and looks in at the
windows. From the far end of the church rises
a fountain in many-coloured spray ; the organ is
playing. The whole building is filled with rain-
bow showers, pearl- shape, leaf-shape, feather-
shape, flower-shape ; narrow rings and wide rings
falling broken only to rise again.

Imagine the sound spirit at four of the clock on
a summer morning, when the birds are up: why,
the woods are all wreathed in jewels !



II

Number Six o o o o <*>

SIX has always been a neglected number.
Number three has too long robbed it of its
honour. Every one knows the dignity, the
fatality that are attached to number three. The
Welsh bards could scarcely make a poem without
it. Nine, as the square of three, has always been
revered. We know that the ninth wave is the
largest, the most terrible. As for seven, it is
easily king among the numbers. Seven notes
in the scale, seven days in the week, seven
colours in the rainbow, and seven archangels.
Thus it is that six, overshadowed by the majesty
of its sister numbers, has never had the honour
that belongs to it by right, and here and now
I desire to instate it.

For is it not the water-number ?

Water is altogether the slave, the servant of
number six. Wherever it is found, whether in
vapour or any other shape, it is ruled by number
six. Wherever and on whatever star water

3



About Many Things

appears, let the cold but visit it, and ice flowers
and ice patterns must appear also ; and wher-
ever they are seen, there the number six rules ;
the patterns, infinite in variety, must all be six-
rayed, six-starred, six-sided ; the ice flowers must
be six-petalled, one and all. The block of ice
you pass in the fishmonger's shop is just as
inherently and mathematically the slave of six.
Such a block is far from being the simple thing
it appears ; any sun-ray falling upon it will un-
lock the crystal charm. The warm beam steals
within, the shining points appear ; six-petalled
flowers of many shapes, made of water with ice-
walls, begin to form ; give the sun time, and the
whole block will be cloven and splinter into
blossom ; for it is built on the crystal plan, its
architecture exactly miraculous.

I know a river pool whose floor and sides are
of rock. The stream gushes in, shaking the pool,
and pours out liquid diamond and emerald
making the while an extraordinary merry noise.
When watching it I have remembered the cold
of winter, the silence of the frost, the myriad of
ice-blossoms ; no wonder, I thought, the water
is beautiful, it is not what it seems ; every drop
of it is woven of flowers, six-plumed, six-pointed,
every one.

4



Number Six

And then the snow ! We all know that the
snow falls on them in flower-shapes and crystal
wheels, all six-pointed.

It is a question how great this 'power of water
may be in the scheme of things. I drink water,
I would die without it, yet there is no number
six in me. One nose, two eyes, five fingers !
Clearly the human genius is not a watery one !
The meadow flowers are depending on the rain,
they feed on water and earth, yet where will
you find a six-petalled one ? For days I scoured
the meadows and hedges. There they all were
our old friends, the buttercup, with five polished
leaves, the many-rayed daisy, and the dandelion
that copies the sun ; the red robin five and
twice five ; the hawthorn in the hedge with five
petals ; the red clover and the white ; the little
yellow clover, all with their five-toothed tubes.
It was the same with the other flowers, every
one that I picked far too many to name ; my
disappointment was great.

Then an idea came to me. What if I went
down to the water ? I went, and, behold ! there
stood the tall iris declaring the power of the
water in noble, yellow, flag-like petals, threes and
sixes ! The water-plantains, the flowering rushes,
the actinocarpus with its floating leaves and its

5



About Many Things

fruit like a six- pointed star ; the Bog Asphodel
with its six-rayed flower that loves to stand with
wet feet ; they all declared the power of the
water. So do the bulb-flowers that depend so
greatly upon water that they will grow in a
vessel of clean stones if they but touch the water
between.

Each fresh discovery seemed more enchanting
than the last.

What is it fills the mind with a half-passionate
excitement when it first catches a glimpse of such
mysteries as these ? It is almost as though for
one heavenly moment one laid hold of the trail-
ing garment of the great Mother of us all.



Ill

From the Green World o o <>

SITTING alone in a green place, you can after
a time distinguish the little rustling noises
made by the meadow flowers and grasses, which
are pushing one another with their leaves and
shoots, and reaching a little higher each day to
the warm, motherly-beaming sun. It may be
ridiculous, but I like to fancy myself one of them,
rooted fast in my place/ simply stretching upward
to a light that I do not understand.

When the wind comes, I nod my head
with the rest, and a pleasant music answers
all over the fields. The little bugs, the green
and the brown, scramble up my stem and leaves,
and fall down again, cheerfully spraddling about.
They do not care if they never get anywhere
at all in a whole long day. The creeping earth
is full of interesting things coming and going ;
of beetles' shrieks and whistles, and merry
doubling worms.

I do not want to rise and go : God knows

7



About Many Things

what trouble might befall if I did ; it is enough
for me to rock myself in the sweet, streaming air,
nursing my flower-buds, longing for the day when
they shall open, when in my golden cups I shall
hold the wine of sunlight, at last transcendently
awake.

The birds are my friends as they come hopping
with their round, shining eyes. Even the mighty
cock pheasant with his crimson- splashed feather
coat I do not fear : he parts us so swimmingly
as he strolls along. But the hideous rabbit, with
his mouthful of monstrous teeth, dressed in stuffy
wool, is my enemy from the furthest days. I
shudder in all my fine greenness when I hear the
thumping of his odious pads.

Alas for my pretty sisters in the pasture fields !
Never do any of my kind let go the memory of
the days when we possessed the earth before
dreaded monsters rose and tore at the gentle
trees ; before the hoof of the bull and the terrible
horse invaded the earth. From far, far away
the rooted things felt that footfall thrill the soil,
and trembled before the coming of hoof and
sucking tongue and grinding teeth ; as terrible
to them as the thrill of the axe is to the tree.



IV
Children of Summer o *> o o

HERE they are all again, the summer
children, so many they are hardly to be
counted ! Here are two at once, ill-matched,
flying past the door of this meadow-study a
round wild bee, black, red- tailed, and woolly,
humming loud ; a white butterfly is in his
company ; it seems to make less sound as it
goes by than the breeze that tosses it, yet the
bee hears well enough the flimsy wings flapping
behind him.

Below in the grass are the beetle children
hundreds and thousands of them all sorts of
fantastic shapes and colours, trimmed extrava-
gantly in shining enamel, in painted spots, and
bands ; in knight's armour, cavalier's plumage,
ladies' shining gowns. Here is the horse-fly,
the smaller brown one ; and hither, too, with
his horrid hum, comes the great horse-fly whom
St. Patrick turned out of Ireland along with the
snakes. He has a name too bad to put down ;

9



About Many Things

he wears a double cap of dull green and crimson
on his head. The horses tremble when they hear
him come ; the blood runs down to the hoof from
the wound he makes on their tough quarters.
The merry Devon maids shriek when they feel
his bitter bite. Yet he does not carry death as
does that savage bee of the moors with the
curved, terrible sting, one of the Botulus sort.

Here is another kind of death-messenger, the
blue-bottle fly. She is clad in handsome blue
armour, dark and shining. With what speed she
goes ! No wonder that an Indian poet compares
the charge of the Sikh warriors to the straight
rush of the blue-bottle fly. Like a tiny bullet
from a gun she is up and away over the hill to
the moors. Her hum spreads terror among the
sheep. Too well does the blue-bottle know that
pleasant spot where the horns grow up among
the curls of the warm wool the very spot for a
thriving family ; there they can hatch out, there
they can burrow and find sweet subsistence, till
the sheep (unless the shepherd find him) runs
mad for miles over the moors, and dies at last.
Yes, this is the Midsummer-fly, Servant of the
Sun, Carrion destroyer, godmother to the clean
white bone, that she skills to bring so quickly to
the light.

10



Children of Summer

Sun-lover, sun-follower, the swallow comes, s*o
swift in the heavenly blue that he draws the
heart from the breast to follow him in his flight.
Blue-winged he is, grey-backed, salmon-breasted,
red-throated, with his beloved black head and
broad beak. How he breaks and turns in his
flight, now undulating ribbonlike, now firm and
sharp and swift, double arrow shaped : no child
of the sun so happy as he.

Yes ; here they are all again, the children of
summer, these and many more ; birds and dragon-
flies and hateful midges and myriad much-adorned
creeping things, each and all deriving their activi-
ties from the sun. Right beside me a combat
goes on between a spider and a little devil's
coach-horse. Desperately the coach-horse flings
the tail end of him over his back, tiying to reach
the spider with his sting. Tiger-like the spider
grips his head and holds him, keeping out of the
way of the terrible tail. One wants his dinner,
the other his happy life. Suddenly the god
descends from his car, and in a moment they
are not. Gone is the dinner, gone the happy
life ; the devilish struggle is laid to sleep.

There goes another of the summer children,
this time a daughter of men, bright-cheeked ;md
strong, with a curled and tossing mane of ml-
II



About Many Things

gold hair. Now she stands on the side of the
coombe among the heather and bracken, and
the sun beats down on her, clothing her with
a garment of brightness. She is staring at a
haughty foxglove five foot high, a spire that
rings a hundred crimson bells, the proudest of
the flowers. Is she delighted with its beauty ?
Why, that is as may be ; but all at once I hear
a sharp crack like the report of a toy pistol ; one
by one the ruddy-haired maid is cracking the
bells with her busy hands, and throwing them
split and tattered to the ground.



12



The Foot of the Wind o o &

r I A HERE are three things that leave the same
JL track behind them : the feet of the wind on
the loose sand, raising it into curves and ridges ;
the feet of the wind on the water ; and the feet
of the water on the sand.

It was an October day, fine and warm after a
stormy night, when I first really noticed the track
of the wind on the sand-dunes of Ynyslas. There
even under the thinly growing rushes the sand
was patterned with symmetrical curves and ridges
exactly like those left by the tide upon the shore.
I was filled with wonder. The invisible was here
made visible. Water and wind, then, were brother
and sister, and moved and stepped alike. For a
moment it was as though I had seen the, foot-
prints of an invisible companion treading beside
my own.

Sometimes, but more rarely, it happens that
the foot of the wind, passing through the arches
of the sky, leaves the same track upon the cloud.

13



About Many Things

We all know those mackerel skies ridged so fairly
and evenly with white cloud. A wise friend has
just now been telling me how these cloud-ridges
are made. When two wind streams meet, says
he, flowing in different directions, and one warmer
than another, there is sometimes a rippling where
the edges join ; it is in the hollows of these wind
ripples that the wisps of cloud vapour are born.

Once, in a mountain country, I saw a ridged
shadow, cast from such a sky, slowly trailing upon
the hills. Could anything more soundless and
insubstantial be imagined than the travelling
shadow on the grass of the wind's foot in the
sky?

The fish's back, the shell, even the rocks
sometimes, carry the wind and water pattern
most beautifully printed upon them. I have
looked for the wind ripple in leaves and flowers,
but cannot find it printed anywhere. But it is to
be seen in June passing over the tops of meadows
where the grass is deep.



VI
Larkspurs o o ^ ^>

MEMORY, who is the true dispensator of
Time, refuses to be bound by the Roman
Calendar. She has her own trick of counting,
and prefers the old-fashioned way of the notched
stick or the knotted string. She will make little
of, or let slip altogether, the most important
dates only to store up in faithful colours some
half-idle moment. Most of all Memory seems to
lo e the time and place when she catches sight
of a new idea ; at once she fetches out her long
string and ties another knot, running the old
ones between her fingers the while, as a nun
runs her beads.

One such knot I believe my memory to have
tied with particular pleasure on a day when I sat
down in a garden to think out a difficulty. It
was a hot day in early July, and the garden was
full of flowers. For a long time I sat pondering,
with my eyes fixed on what seemed to be a blue
lake of sky shining through the branches of a

15



About Many Things

grove of trees that backed the garden. Suddenly
my attention awoke ; I saw that what I had so
long been looking at was not sky at all but a
cloud of larkspurs thousands of blossoms that
made a pool of blue against the trees. It was a
moment of delight. Why I was so rejoiced I
cannot tell. There was the blue sky above the
tree-tops ; there were the larkspurs, a joyous
company, dressed in the very same shade of blue
below. How did they know ? By what magic
did they come to be wearing that same celestial
colour ? Heaven has twice blessed these flowers ;
they know it is real, that blue of the sky :. they
know it even better than the lake-water, for they
have stolen it outright. And but a while ago I
read with a disappointed mind that that blue has
110 real existence, and is only due to the scatter-
ing of the light from the particles of dust and
water of which the air is full.

I went near to the larkspurs and looked at
them ; there were a thousand thousand blossoms,
each one winged and spurred, and each one
wearing a different hue of blue ; and in every
blossom many blues again, purple, ultramarine,
streaks of crimson, pale lilac. I stood a little
farther off, and, lo and behold ! all these thousand
blues repeated upon one note the blue of the sky.
16



Larkspurs

Think as I may, still I cannot tell why 1 was so
delighted, or more than delighted, when I first
saw the larkspurs, and realized it was an earthly
blue of flowers at which I had so long been
looking. What I felt was an involuntary move-
ment of the spirit, exactly described by the
Greek word "ecstasy" ; a sudden escape into a
brighter place.



VII
Live Wood and Dead Wood o

'np v HERE is one particular spot on Hampstead
JL Heath where the hawthorns flower with a
fantastic beauty. One week and the birds are
fairly contented with the brown knobbed perches
they have known all the winter through. Next
week and these perches are covered with a
shower of green points shaped like the drops of
rain that have hung so often in rows along the
under side of the boughs. I have watched a last
year's bird hopping sideways along a branch,
staring at the miracle of this his first spring, and
picking the green buds to see what they were
made of.

Yet another week and the round green balls
are turned to green feathers ; the birds fairly
shout in the mornings. It is the first dressing of
the bowers.

A little while longer and the wonder arrives.
The tree that was green is turned to snow. The
whole air is perfumed. You would say a white
18



Live Wood and Dead Wood

sparkling wave had broken in foam over the
green. The trees shine in the light ; they are
the swans of the valley ; they are alabaster
images swinging snow-breathing censers ; painted
clouds of perfume lit down, warm, upon the
grass. In the dusk they give out a glimmering
white light of their own. In the sunlight they
resemble white burning stars. The birds are
now intoxicated by their own private joys and
the splendour of their lodgings. I have seen a
thrush sit in his silver palace and sing with a
sweetness and a passion that King David might
have envied.

The birds are more fortunate than we. Spring
never ventures within our walls to set our chairs
and cabinets bursting into blossom. Compared
with a thrush's parlour, our parlours are mere
museums. Our artifices in dead wood yield an
eternal crop of dust. It is one of Eve's penalties
that she must be for ever dusting.



. VIII
The White Light o o ^ o

IN the bevelled edge of a mirror, when there
is sun in the air though not on the glass,
fragments of rainbow-coloured light are to be
seen. A round or oval mirror with a broad
bevelled edge gives the most gorgeous colours,
and the morning light seems to break up better
than that of the afternoon or evening.


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