John Dos Passos.

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* * * * *

Books by John Dos Passos

_Three Soldiers_
_One Man's Initiation_

_Rosinante to the Road Again_

_A Pushcart at the Curb_
(_In Preparation_)

* * * * *




George H. Doran Company
Publishers New York

Copyright, 1922,
By George H. Doran Company

Printed in the United States of America



I: _A Gesture and a Quest_, 9
II: _The Donkey Boy_, 24
III: _The Baker of Almorox_, 47
IV: _Talk by the Road_, 71
V: _A Novelist of Revolution_, 80
VI: _Talk by the Road_, 101
VII: _Cordova No Longer of the Caliphs_, 104
VIII: _Talk by the Road_, 115
IX: _An Inverted Midas_, 120
X: _Talk by the Road_, 133
XI: _Antonio Machado; Poet of Castile_, 140
XII: _A Catalan Poet_, 159
XIII: _Talk by the Road_, 176
XIV: _Benavente's Madrid_, 182
XV: _Talk by the Road_, 196
XVI: _A Funeral in Madrid_, 202
XVII: _Toledo_, 230


_I: A Gesture and a Quest_

Telemachus had wandered so far in search of his father he had quite
forgotten what he was looking for. He sat on a yellow plush bench in
the café El Oro del Rhin, Plaza Santa Ana, Madrid, swabbing up with a
bit of bread the last smudges of brown sauce off a plate of which the
edges were piled with the dismembered skeleton of a pigeon. Opposite
his plate was a similar plate his companion had already polished.
Telemachus put the last piece of bread into his mouth, drank down a
glass of beer at one spasmodic gulp, sighed, leaned across the table
and said:

"I wonder why I'm here."

"Why anywhere else than here?" said Lyaeus, a young man with hollow
cheeks and slow-moving hands, about whose mouth a faint pained smile
was continually hovering, and he too drank down his beer.

At the end of a perspective of white marble tables, faces thrust
forward over yellow plush cushions under twining veils of tobacco
smoke, four German women on a little dais were playing _Tannhauser_.
Smells of beer, sawdust, shrimps, roast pigeon.

"Do you know Jorge Manrique? That's one reason, Tel," the other man
continued slowly. With one hand he gestured to the waiter for more
beer, the other he waved across his face as if to brush away the music;
then he recited, pronouncing the words haltingly:

'Recuerde el alma dormida,
Avive el seso y despierte
Cómo se pasa la vida,
Cómo se viene la muerte
Tan callando:
Cuán presto se va el placer,
Cómo después de acordado
Da dolor,
Cómo a nuestro parecer
Cualquier tiempo pasado
Fué mejor.'

"It's always death," said Telemachus, "but we must go on."

It had been raining. Lights rippled red and orange and yellow and green
on the clean paving-stones. A cold wind off the Sierra shrilled through
clattering streets. As they walked, the other man was telling how this
Castilian nobleman, courtier, man-at-arms, had shut himself up when his
father, the Master of Santiago, died and had written this poem, created
this tremendous rhythm of death sweeping like a wind over the world. He
had never written anything else. They thought of him in the court of
his great dust-colored mansion at Ocaña, where the broad eaves were
full of a cooing of pigeons and the wide halls had dark rafters painted
with arabesques in vermilion, in a suit of black velvet, writing at a
table under a lemon tree. Down the sun-scarred street, in the cathedral
that was building in those days, full of a smell of scaffolding and
stone dust, there must have stood a tremendous catafalque where lay
with his arms around him the Master of Santiago; in the carved seats of
the choirs the stout canons intoned an endless growling litany; at the
sacristy door, the flare of the candles flashing occasionally on the
jewels of his mitre, the bishop fingered his crosier restlessly, asking
his favorite choir-boy from time to time why Don Jorge had not arrived.
And messengers must have come running to Don Jorge, telling him the
service was on the point of beginning, and he must have waved them away
with a grave gesture of a long white hand, while in his mind the
distant sound of chanting, the jingle of the silver bit of his roan
horse stamping nervously where he was tied to a twined Moorish column,
memories of cavalcades filing with braying of trumpets and flutter of
crimson damask into conquered towns, of court ladies dancing, and the
noise of pigeons in the eaves, drew together like strings plucked in
succession on a guitar into a great wave of rhythm in which his life
was sucked away into this one poem in praise of death.

Nuestras vidas son los ríos
Que van a dar en la mar,
Que es el morir....

Telemachus was saying the words over softly to himself as they went
into the theatre. The orchestra was playing a Sevillana; as they found
their seats they caught glimpses beyond people's heads and shoulders of
a huge woman with a comb that pushed the tip of her mantilla a foot and
a half above her head, dancing with ponderous dignity. Her dress was
pink flounced with lace; under it the bulge of breasts and belly and
three chins quaked with every thump of her tiny heels on the stage. As
they sat down she retreated bowing like a full-rigged ship in a squall.
The curtain fell, the theatre became very still; next was Pastora.

Strumming of a guitar, whirring fast, dry like locusts in a hedge on a
summer day. Pauses that catch your blood and freeze it suddenly still
like the rustling of a branch in silent woods at night. A gipsy in a
red sash is playing, slouched into a cheap cane chair, behind him a
faded crimson curtain. Off stage heels beaten on the floor catch up the
rhythm with tentative interest, drowsily; then suddenly added, sharp
click of fingers snapped in time; the rhythm slows, hovers like a bee
over a clover flower. A little taut sound of air sucked in suddenly
goes down the rows of seats. With faintest tapping of heels, faintest
snapping of the fingers of a brown hand held over her head, erect,
wrapped tight in yellow shawl where the embroidered flowers make a
splotch of maroon over one breast, a flecking of green and purple over
shoulders and thighs, Pastora Imperio comes across the stage, quietly,

In the mind of Telemachus the words return:

Cómo se viene la muerte
Tan callando.

Her face is brown, with a pointed chin; her eyebrows that nearly meet
over her nose rise in a flattened "A" towards the fervid black gleam of
her hair; her lips are pursed in a half-smile as if she were stifling a
secret. She walks round the stage slowly, one hand at her waist, the
shawl tight over her elbow, her thighs lithe and restless, a panther in
a cage. At the back of the stage she turns suddenly, advances; the
snapping of her fingers gets loud, insistent; a thrill whirrs through
the guitar like a covey of partridges scared in a field. Red heels tap

Decidme: la hermosura,
La gentil frescura y tez
De la cara
El color y la blancura,
Cuando viene la viejez
Cuál se para?

She is right at the footlights; her face, brows drawn together into a
frown, has gone into shadow; the shawl flames, the maroon flower over
her breast glows like a coal. The guitar is silent, her fingers go on
snapping at intervals with dreadful foreboding. Then she draws herself
up with a deep breath, the muscles of her belly go taut under the tight
silk wrinkles of the shawl, and she is off again, light, joyful,
turning indulgent glances towards the audience, as a nurse might look
in the eyes of a child she has unintentionally frightened with a too
dreadful fairy story.

The rhythm of the guitar has changed again; her shawl is loose about
her, the long fringe flutters; she walks with slow steps, in pomp, a
ship decked out for a festival, a queen in plumes and brocade....

¿Qué se hicieron las damas,
Sus tocados, sus vestidos,
Sus olores?
¿Qué se hicieron las llamas
De los fuegos encendidos
De amadores?

And she has gone, and the gipsy guitar-player is scratching his neck
with a hand the color of tobacco, while the guitar rests against his
legs. He shows all his teeth in a world-engulfing yawn.

When they came out of the theatre, the streets were dry and the stars
blinked in the cold wind above the houses. At the curb old women sold
chestnuts and little ragged boys shouted the newspapers.

"And now do you wonder, Tel, why you are here?"

They went into a café and mechanically ordered beer. The seats were red
plush this time and much worn. All about them groups of whiskered men
leaning over tables, astride chairs, talking.

"It's the gesture that's so overpowering; don't you feel it in your
arms? Something sudden and tremendously muscular."

"When Belmonte turned his back suddenly on the bull and walked away
dragging the red cloak on the ground behind him I felt it," said

"That gesture, a yellow flame against maroon and purple cadences ... an
instant swagger of defiance in the midst of a litany to death the
all-powerful. That is Spain.... Castile at any rate."

"Is 'swagger' the right word?"

"Find a better."

"For the gesture a medieval knight made when he threw his mailed glove
at his enemy's feet or a rose in his lady's window, that a mule-driver
makes when he tosses off a glass of aguardiente, that Pastora Imperio
makes dancing.... Word! Rubbish!" And Lyaeus burst out laughing. He
laughed deep in his throat with his head thrown back.

Telemachus was inclined to be offended.

"Did you notice how extraordinarily near she kept to the rhythm of
Jorge Manrique?" he asked coldly.

"Of course. Of course," shouted Lyaeus, still laughing.

The waiter came with two mugs of beer.

"Take it away," shouted Lyaeus. "Who ordered beer? Bring something
strong, champagne. Drink the beer yourself."

The waiter was scrawny and yellow, with bilious eyes, but he could not
resist the laughter of Lyaeus. He made a pretense of drinking the beer.

Telemachus was now very angry. Though he had forgotten his quest and
the maxims of Penelope, there hovered in his mind a disquieting thought
of an eventual accounting for his actions before a dimly imagined group
of women with inquisitive eyes. This Lyaeus, he thought to himself, was
too free and easy. Then there came suddenly to his mind the dancer
standing tense as a caryatid before the footlights, her face in shadow,
her shawl flaming yellow; the strong modulations of her torso seemed
burned in his flesh. He drew a deep breath. His body tightened like a

"Oh to recapture that gesture," he muttered. The vague inquisitorial
woman-figures had sunk fathoms deep in his mind.

Lyaeus handed him a shallow tinkling glass.

"There are all gestures," he said.

Outside the plate-glass window a countryman passed singing. His voice
dwelt on a deep trembling note, rose high, faltered, skidded down the
scale, then rose suddenly, frighteningly like a skyrocket, into a new
burst of singing.

"There it is again," Telemachus cried. He jumped up and ran out on the
street. The broad pavement was empty. A bitter wind shrilled among
arc-lights white like dead eyes.

"Idiot," Lyaeus said between gusts of laughter when Telemachus sat down
again. "Idiot Tel. Here you'll find it." And despite Telemachus's
protestations he filled up the glasses. A great change had come over
Lyaeus. His face looked fuller and flushed. His lips were moist and
very red. There was an occasional crisp curl in the black hair about
his temples.

And so they sat drinking a long while.

At last Telemachus got unsteadily to his feet.

"I can't help it.... I must catch that gesture, formulate it, do it. It
is tremendously, inconceivably, unendingly important to me."

"Now you know why you're here," said Lyaeus quietly.

"Why are you here?"

"To drink," said Lyaeus.

"Let's go."


"To catch that gesture, Lyaeus," said Telemachus in an over-solemn

"Like a comedy professor with a butterfly-net," roared Lyaeus. His
laughter so filled the café that people at far-away tables smiled
without knowing it.

"It's burned into my blood. It must be formulated, made permanent."

"Killed," said Lyaeus with sudden seriousness; "better drink it with
your wine."

Silent they strode down an arcaded street. Cupolas, voluted baroque
façades, a square tower, the bulge of a market building, tile roofs,
chimneypots, ate into the star-dusted sky to the right and left of
them, until in a great gust of wind they came out on an empty square,
where were few gas-lamps; in front of them was a heavy arch full of
stars, and Orion sprawling above it. Under the arch a pile of rags
asked for alms whiningly. The jingle of money was crisp in the cold

"Where does this road go?"

"Toledo," said the beggar, and got to his feet. He was an old man,
bearded, evil-smelling.

"Thank you.... We have just seen Pastora," said Lyaeus jauntily.

"Ah, Pastora!... The last of the great dancers," said the beggar, and
for some reason he crossed himself.

The road was frosty and crunched silkily underfoot.

Lyaeus walked along shouting lines from the poem of Jorge Manrique.

'Cómo se pasa la vida
Cómo se viene la muerte
Tan callando:
Cuán presto se va el placer
Cómo después de acordado
Da dolor,
Cómo a nuestro parecer
Cualquier tiempo pasado
Fué mejor.'

"I bet you, Tel, they have good wine in Toledo."

The road hunched over a hill. They turned and saw Madrid cut out of
darkness against the starlight. Before them sown plains, gulches full
of mist, and the tremulous lights on many carts that jogged along, each
behind three jingling slow mules. A cock crowed. All at once a voice
burst suddenly in swaggering tremolo out of the darkness of the road
beneath them, rising, rising, then fading off, then flaring up hotly
like a red scarf waved on a windy day, like the swoop of a hawk, like a
rocket intruding among the stars.

"Butterfly net, you old fool!" Lyaeus's laughter volleyed across the
frozen fields.

Telemachus answered in a low voice:

"Let's walk faster."

He walked with his eyes on the road. He could see in the darkness,
Pastora, wrapped in the yellow shawl with the splotch of maroon-colored
embroidery moulding one breast, stand tremulous with foreboding before
the footlights, suddenly draw in her breath, and turn with a great
exultant gesture back into the rhythm of her dance. Only the victorious
culminating instant of the gesture was blurred to him. He walked with
long strides along the crackling road, his muscles aching for memory of

_II: The Donkey Boy_

_Where the husbandman's toil and strife_
_Little varies to strife and toil:_
_But the milky kernel of life,_
_With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil!_

The path zigzagged down through the olive trees between thin chortling
glitter of irrigation ditches that occasionally widened into green
pools, reed-fringed, froggy, about which bristled scrub oleanders.
Through the shimmer of olive leaves all about I could see the great
ruddy heave of the mountains streaked with the emerald of
millet-fields, and above, snowy shoulders against a vault of indigo,
patches of wood cut out hard as metal in the streaming noon light.
Tinkle of a donkey-bell below me, then at the turn of a path the
donkey's hindquarters, mauve-grey, neatly clipped in a pattern of
diamonds and lozenges, and a tail meditatively swishing as he picked
his way among the stones, the head as yet hidden by the osier baskets
of the pack. At the next turn I skipped ahead of the donkey and walked
with the _arriero_, a dark boy in tight blue pants and short grey tunic
cut to the waist, who had the strong cheek-bones, hawk nose and slender
hips of an Arab, who spoke an aspirated Andalusian that sounded like

We greeted each other cordially as travellers do in mountainous places
where the paths are narrow. We talked about the weather and the wind
and the sugar mills at Motril and women and travel and the vintage,
struggling all the while like drowning men to understand each other's
lingo. When it came out that I was an American and had been in the war,
he became suddenly interested; of course, I was a deserter, he said,
clever to get away. There'd been two deserters in his town a year ago,
_Alemanes_; perhaps friends of mine. It was pointed out that I and
the _Alemanes_ had been at different ends of the gunbarrel. He
laughed. What did that matter? Then he said several times, "Qué burro
la guerra, qué burro la guerra." I remonstrated, pointing to the donkey
that was following us with dainty steps, looking at us with a quizzical
air from under his long eyelashes. Could anything be wiser than a

He laughed again, twitching back his full lips to show the brilliance
of tightly serried teeth, stopped in his tracks, and turned to look at
the mountains. He swept a long brown hand across them. "Look," he said,
"up there is the Alpujarras, the last refuge of the kings of the Moors;
there are bandits up there sometimes. You have come to the right place;
here we are free men."

The donkey scuttled past us with a derisive glance out of the corner of
an eye and started skipping from side to side of the path, cropping
here and there a bit of dry grass. We followed, the _arriero_ telling
how his brother would have been conscripted if the family had not got
together a thousand pesetas to buy him out. That was no life for a man.
He spat on a red stone. They'd never catch him, he was sure of that.
The army was no life for a man.

In the bottom of the valley was a wide stream, which we forded after
some dispute as to who should ride the donkey, the donkey all the while
wrinkling his nose with disgust at the coldness of the speeding water
and the sliminess of the stones. When we came out on the broad moraine
of pebbles the other side of the stream we met a lean blackish man with
yellow horse-teeth, who was much excited when he heard I was an

"America is the world of the future," he cried and gave me such a slap
on the back I nearly tumbled off the donkey on whose rump I was at that
moment astride.

"_En América no se divierte_," muttered the _arriero_, kicking his feet
that were cold from the ford into the burning saffron dust of the road.

The donkey ran ahead kicking at pebbles, bucking, trying to shake off
the big pear-shaped baskets of osier he had either side of his pack
saddle, delighted with smooth dryness after so much water and such
tenuous stony roads. The three of us followed arguing, the sunlight
beating wings of white flame about us.

"In America there is freedom," said the blackish man, "there are no
rural guards; roadmenders work eight hours and wear silk shirts and
earn ... un dineral." The blackish man stopped, quite out of breath
from his grappling with infinity. Then he went on: "Your children are
educated free, no priests, and at forty every man-jack owns an

"_Ca_," said the _arriero_.

"_Sí, hombre_," said the blackish man.

For a long while the _arriero_ walked along in silence, watching his
toes bury themselves in dust at each step. Then he burst out, spacing
his words with conviction: "_Ca, en América no se hase na' a que
trabahar y de'cansar...._ Not on your life, in America they don't do
anything except work and rest so's to get ready to work again. That's
no life for a man. People don't enjoy themselves there. An old sailor
from Malaga who used to fish for sponges told me, and he knew. It's not
gold people need, but bread and wine and ... life. They don't do
anything there except work and rest so they'll be ready to work

Two thoughts jostled in my mind as he spoke; I seemed to see red-faced
gentlemen in knee breeches, dog's-ear wigs askew over broad foreheads,
reading out loud with unction the phrases, "inalienable rights ...
pursuit of happiness," and to hear the cadence out of Meredith's _The
Day of the Daughter of Hades_:

Where the husbandman's toil and strife
Little varies to strife and toil:
But the milky kernel of life,
With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil!

The donkey stopped in front of a little wineshop under a trellis where
dusty gourd-leaves shut out the blue and gold dazzle of sun and sky.

"He wants to say, 'Have a little drink, gentlemen,'" said the blackish

In the greenish shadow of the wineshop a smell of anise and a sound of
water dripping. When he had smacked his lips over a small cup of thick
yellow wine he pointed at the _arriero_. "He says people don't enjoy
life in America."

"But in America people are very rich," shouted the barkeeper, a
beet-faced man whose huge girth was bound in a red cotton sash, and he
made a gesture suggestive of coins, rubbing thumb and forefinger

Everybody roared derision at the _arriero_. But he persisted and went
out shaking his head and muttering "That's no life for a man."

As we left the wineshop where the blackish man was painting with broad
strokes the legend of the West, the _arriero_ explained to me almost
tearfully that he had not meant to speak ill of my country, but to
explain why he did not want to emigrate. While he was speaking we
passed a cartload of yellow grapes that drenched us in jingle of
mulebells and in dizzying sweetness of bubbling ferment. A sombre man
with beetling brows strode at the mule's head; in the cart, brown feet
firmly planted in the steaming slush of grapes, flushed face tilted
towards the ferocious white sun, a small child with a black curly pate
rode in triumph, shouting, teeth flashing as if to bite into the sun.

"What you mean is," said I to the _arriero_, "that this is the life for
a man."

He tossed his head back in a laugh of approval.

"Something that's neither work nor getting ready to work?"

"That's it," he answered, and cried, "_arrh he_" to the donkey.

We hastened our steps. My sweaty shirt bellied suddenly in the back as
a cool wind frisked about us at the corner of the road.

"Ah, it smells of the sea," said the _arriero_. "We'll see the sea from
the next hill."

That night as I stumbled out of the inn door in Motril, overfull of
food and drink, the full moon bulged through the arches of the cupola
of the pink and saffron church. Everywhere steel-green shadows striped
with tangible moonlight. As I sat beside my knapsack in the plaza,
groping for a thought in the bewildering dazzle of the night, three
disconnected mules, egged on by a hoarse shouting, jingled out of the
shadow. When they stopped with a jerk in the full moon-glare beside the
fountain, it became evident that they were attached to a coach, a
spidery coach tilted forward as if it were perpetually going down hill;
from inside smothered voices like the strangled clucking of fowls being
shipped to market in a coop.

On the driver's seat one's feet were on the shafts and one had a view
of every rag and shoelace the harness was patched with. Creaking,
groaning, with wabbling of wheels, grumble of inside passengers,
cracking of whip and long strings of oaths from the driver, the coach
lurched out of town and across a fat plain full of gurgle of irrigation
ditches, shrilling of toads, falsetto rustle of broad leaves of the
sugar cane. Occasionally the gleam of the soaring moon on banana leaves
and a broad silver path on the sea. Landwards the hills like piles of
ash in the moonlight, and far away a cloudy inkling of mountains.

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