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help towards a new development, a totally new departure in Japanese verse.
In another lecture I spoke as sincerely as I could of the very high merit
in the epigrammatic forms of Japanese poetry. These brief forms of poetry
have been developed in Japan to perfection not equalled elsewhere in
modern poetry, perhaps not surpassed, in some respects, even by Greek
poetry of the same kind. But there can be no doubt of this fact, that a
national literature requires many other forms of expression than the
epigrammatic form. Nothing that is good should ever be despised or cast
aside; but because of its excellences, we should not be blind to the
possibility of other excellences. Now Japanese literature has other forms
of poetry - forms in which it is possible to produce poems of immense
length, but the spirit of epigrammatic poetry has really been controlling
even these to a great degree.

I mean that so far as I am able to understand the subject, the tendency of
all Japanese poetry is to terse expression. Were it not well therefore to
consider at least the possible result of a totally opposite
tendency, - expansion of fancy, luxuriance of expression? Terseness of
expression, pithiness, condensation, are of vast importance in prose, but
poetry has other methods, and the "Kalevala" is one of the best possible
object lessons in the study of such methods, because of the very
simplicity and naturalness with which they are followed.

Of course there was parallelism in Western poetry, and all arts of
repetition, before anybody knew anything about the "Kalevala." The most
poetical part of Bible English, as I said, whether in the Bible itself or
in the Book of Common Prayer, depends almost entirely for its literary
effect upon parallelism, because the old Hebrews, like the old Finns,
practised this art of expression. Loosely and vaguely it was practised
also by many poets almost unconsciously, who had been particularly
influenced by the splendour of the scriptural translation. It had figured
in prose-poetry as early as the time of Sir Thomas Browne. It had
established quite a new idea of poetry even in America, where the great
American poet Poe introduced it into his compositions before Longfellow
studied the "Kalevala." I told you that the work of Poe, small as it is,
had influenced almost every poet of the great epoch, including Tennyson
and the Victorian masters. But the work even of Poe was rather instinctive
than the result of any systematic idea. The systematic idea was best
illustrated when the study of the "Kalevala" began.

Let us see how Longfellow used the suggestion; but remember that he was
only a beginner, dealing with something entirely new - that he did not have
the strength of Tennyson nor the magical genius of Swinburne to help him.
He worked very simply, and probably very rapidly. There is a good deal of
his song of "Hiawatha" that is scarcely worthy of praise, and it is
difficult to quote effectively from it, because the charm of the thing
depends chiefly upon its reading as a whole. Nevertheless there are parts
which so well show or imitate the Finnish spirit, that I must try to quote
them. Take for instance the teaching of the little Indian child by his
grandmother - such verses as these, where she talks to the little boy about
the milky way in the sky:

Many things Nokomis taught him
Of the stars that shine in heaven;
Showed him Ishkoodah, the comet,
Ishkoodah, with fiery tresses;
Showed the Death-Dance of the spirits,
Warriors with their plumes and war-clubs,
Flaring far away to northward
In the frosty nights of Winter;
Showed the broad, white road in heaven,
Pathway of the ghosts, the shadows,
Running straight across the heavens,
Crowded with the ghosts, the shadows.

Or take again the story of the origin of the flower commonly called
"Dandelion":

In his life he had one shadow,
In his heart one sorrow had he.
Once, as he was gazing northward,
Far away upon a prairie
He beheld a maiden standing,
Saw a tall and slender maiden
All alone upon a prairie;
Brightest green were all her garments
And her hair was like the sunshine.
Day by day he gazed upon her,
Day by day he sighed with passion,
Day by day his heart within him
Grew more hot with love and longing
For the maid with yellow tresses.

Observe how the repetition served to represent the growing of the lover's
admiration. The same repetition can be used much more effectively in
describing weariness and pain, as In the lines about the winter famine:

Oh, the long and dreary Winter!
Oh, the cold and cruel Winter!
Ever thicker, thicker, thicker
Froze the ice on lake and river,
Ever deeper, deeper, deeper
Fell the snow o'er all the landscape,
Fell the covering snow, and drifted
Through the forest, round the village.
Hardly from his buried wigwam
Could the hunter force a passage;
With his mittens and his snow-shoes
Vainly walked he through the forest,
Sought for bird or beast and found none,
Saw no track of deer or rabbit,
In the snow beheld no footprints,
In the ghastly, gleaming forest
Fell, and could not rise from weakness,
Perished there from cold and hunger.
Oh, the famine and the fever!
Oh, the wasting of the famine!
Oh, the blasting of the fever!
Oh, the wailing of the children!
Oh, the anguish of the women!
All the earth was sick and famished;
Hungry was the air around them,
Hungry was the sky above them,
And the hungry stars in heaven
Like the eyes of wolves glared at them!

This is strong, emotionally strong, though it is not great poetry; but it
makes the emotional effect of great poetry by the use of the same means
which the Finnish poets used. The best part of the poem is the famine
chapter, and the next best is the part entitled "The Ghosts." However, the
charm of a composition can be fully felt only by those who understand
something of the American Indian's life and the wild northwestern country
described. That is not the immediate matter to be considered,
notwithstanding. The matter to be considered is whether this method of
using parallelism and repetition and alliteration can give new and great
results. I believe that it can, and that a greater Longfellow would have
brought such results into existence long ago. Of course, the form is
primitive; it does not follow that an English poet or a Japanese poet
should attempt only a return to primitive methods of poetry in detail. The
detail is of small moment; the spirit is everything. Parallelism means
simply the wish to present the same idea under a variety of aspects,
instead of attempting to put it forward in one aspect only. Everything
great in the way of thought, everything beautiful in the way of idea, has
many sides. It is merely the superficial which we can see from the front
only; the solid can be perceived from every possible direction, and
changes shape according to the direction looked at.

The great master of English verse, Swinburne is also a poet much given to
parallelism; for he has found it of incomparable use to him in managing
new forms of verse. He uses it in an immense variety of ways - ways
impossible to Japanese poets or to Finnish poets; and the splendour of the
results can not be imitated in another language. But his case is
interesting. The most primitive methods of Finnish poetry, and of ancient
poetry in general, coming into his hands, are reproduced into music. I
propose to make a few quotations, in illustration. Here are some lines
from "Atalanta in Calydon"; they are only parallelisms, but how
magnificent they are!

When thou dravest the men
Of the chosen of Thrace,
None turned him again,
Nor endured he thy face
Close round with the blush of the battle, with light from a
terrible place.

Look again at the following lines from "A Song in Time of Revolution":

There is none of them all that is whole; their lips gape open for
breath;
They are clothed with sickness of soul, and the shape of the shadow
of death.

The wind is thwart in their feet; it is full of the shouting of mirth;
As one shaketh the sides of a sheet, so it shaketh the ends of the earth.

The sword, the sword is made keen; the iron has opened its mouth;
The corn is red that was green; it is bound for the sheaves of the south.

The sound of a word was shed, the sound of the wind as a breath,
In the ears of the souls that were dead, in the dust of the deepness
of death.

Where the face of the moon is taken, the ways of the stars undone,
The light of the whole sky shaken, the light of the face of the sun.

* * * * *

Where the sword was covered and hidden, and dust had grown in its side,
A word came forth which was bidden, the crying of one that cried:

The sides of the two-edged sword shall be bare, and its mouth shall
be red,
For the breath of the face of the Lord that is felt in the bones of
the dead.

All this is indeed very grand compared with anything in the "Kalevala" or
in Longfellow's rendering; but do you not see that the grandeur is also
the grandeur of parallelism? Here is proof of what a master can do with a
method older than Western civilization. But what is the inference? Is it
not that the old primitive poetry contains something of eternal value, a
value ranging from the lowest even to the highest, a value that can lend
beauty equally to the song of a little child or to the thunder of the
grandest epic verse?




CHAPTER XIII

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE OF THE MIDDLE AGES


The value of romantic literature, which has been, so far as the Middle
Ages are concerned, unjustly depreciated, does not depend upon beauty of
words or beauty of fact. To-day the immense debt of modern literature to
the literature of the Middle Ages is better understood; and we are
generally beginning to recognize what we owe to the imagination of the
Middle Ages, in spite of the ignorance, the superstition and the cruelty
of that time. If the evils of the Middle Ages had really been universal,
those ages could not have imparted to us lessons of beauty and lessons of
nobility having nothing to do with literary form in themselves, yet
profoundly affecting modern poetry of the highest class. No; there was
very much of moral goodness as well as of moral badness in the Middle
Ages; and what was good happened to be very good indeed. Commonly it used
to be said (though I do not think any good critic would say it now) that
the fervid faith of the time made the moral beauty. Unless we modify this
statement a great deal, we can not now accept it at all. There was indeed
a religious beauty, particularly mediæval, but it was not that which
created the romance of the period. Indeed, that romantic literature was
something of a reaction against the religious restraint upon imagination.
But if we mean by mediæval faith only that which is very much older than
any European civilization, and which does not belong to the West any more
than to the East - the profound belief in human moral experience - then I
think that the statement is true enough. At no time in European history
were men more sincere believers in the value of certain virtues than
during the Middle Ages - and the very best of the romances are just those
romances which illustrate that belief, though not written for a merely
ethical purpose.

But I can not better illustrate what I mean than by telling a story, which
has nothing to do with Europe, or the Middle Ages, or any particular form
of religious belief. It is not a Christian story at all; and it could not
be told you exactly as written, for there are some very curious pages in
it. But it is a good example of the worth that may lie in a mere product
of imagination.

There was a king once, in Persia or Arabia, who, at the time of his
accession to power, discovered a wonderful subterranean hall under the
garden of his palace. In one chamber of that hall stood six marvellous
statues of young girls, each statue being made out of a single diamond.
The beauty as well as the cost of the work was beyond imagination. But in
the midst of the statues, which stood in a circle, there was an empty
pedestal, and on that pedestal was a precious casket containing a letter
from the dead father of the king. The letter said:

"O my son, though these statues of girls are indeed beyond all praise,
there is yet a seventh statue incomparably more precious and beautiful
which I could not obtain before I died. It is now your duty, O my son, to
obtain that statue, that it may be placed upon the seventh pedestal. Go,
therefore, and ask my favourite slave, who is still alive, how you are to
obtain it." Then the young king went in all haste to that old slave, who
had been his father's confidant, and showed him the letter. And the old
man said, "Even now, O master, I will go with you to find that statue. But
it is in one of the three islands in which the genii dwell; and it is
necessary, above all things, that you do not fear, and that you obey my
instructions in all things. Also, remember that if you make a promise to
the Spirits of that land, the promise must be kept."

And they proceeded upon their journey through a great wilderness, in which
"nothing existed but grass and the presence of God." I can not try now to
tell you about the wonderful things that happened to them, nor about the
marvellous boat, rowed by a boatman having upon his shoulders the head of
an elephant. Suffice it to say that at last they reached the palace of the
king of the Spirits; and the king came to meet them in the form of a
beautiful old man with a long white beard. And he said to the young king,
"My son, I will gladly help you, as I helped your father; and I will give
you that seventh statue of diamond which you desire. But I must ask for a
gift in return. You must bring to me here a young girl of about sixteen
years old; and she must be very intelligent; and she must be a true
maiden, not only as to her body, but as to her soul, and heart, and all
her thoughts." The young king thought that was a very easy thing to find,
but the king of the Spirits assured him that it was not, and further told
him this, "My son, no mortal man is wise enough to know by his own wisdom
the purity that is in the heart of a young girl. Only by the help of this
magical mirror, which I now lend you, will you be able to know. Look at
the reflection of any maiden in this mirror, and then, if her heart is
perfectly good and pure, the mirror will remain bright. But if there be
any fault in her, the mirror will grow dim. Go now, and do my bidding."

You can imagine, of course, what happened next. Returning to his kingdom,
the young king had brought before him many beautiful girls, the daughters
of the noblest and highest in all the cities of the land. But in no case
did the mirror remain perfectly clear when the ghostly test was applied.
For three years in vain the king sought; then in despair he for the first
time turned his attention to the common people. And there came before him
on the very first day a rude man of the desert, who said, "I know of just
such a girl as you want." Then he went forth and presently returned with a
simple girl from the desert, who had been brought up in the care of her
father only, and had lived with no other companion than the members of her
own family and the camels and horses of the encampment. And as she stood
in her poor dress before the king, he saw that she was much more beautiful
than any one whom he had seen before; and he questioned her, only to find
that she was very intelligent; and she was not at all afraid or ashamed of
standing before the king, but looked about her with large wondering eyes,
like the eyes of a child; and whoever met that innocent gaze, felt a great
joy in his heart, and could not tell why. And when the king had the mirror
brought, and the reflection of the girl was thrown upon it, the mirror
became much brighter than before, and shone like a great moon.

There was the maid whom the Spirit-king wished for. The king easily
obtained her from her parents; but he did not tell her what he intended to
do with her. Now it was his duty to give her to the Spirits; but there was
a condition he found very hard to fulfil. By the terms of his promise he
was not allowed to kiss her, to caress her, or even to see her, except
veiled after the manner of the country. Only by the mirror had he been
able to know how fair she was. And the voyage was long; and on the way,
the girl, who thought she was going to be this king's bride, became
sincerely attached to him, after the manner of a child with a brother; and
he also in his heart became much attached to her. But it was his duty to
give her up. At last they reached the palace of the Spirit-king; and the
figure of the old man came forth and said, "My son, you have done well and
kept your promise. This maiden is all that I could have wished for; and I
accept her. Now when you go back to your palace, you will find on the
seventh pedestal the statue of the diamond which your father desired you
to obtain." And, with these words, the Spirit-king vanished, taking with
him the girl, who uttered a great and piercing cry to heaven at having
been thus deceived. Very sorrowfully the young king then began his journey
home. All along the way he kept regretting that girl, and regretting the
cruelty which he had practised in deceiving her and her parents. And he
began to say to himself, "Accursed be the gift of the king of the Spirits!
Of what worth to me is a woman of diamond any more than a woman of stone?
What is there in all the world half so beautiful or half so precious as a
living girl such as I discovered? Fool that I was to give her up for the
sake of a statue!" But he tried to console himself by remembering that he
had obeyed his dead father's wish.

Still, he could not console himself. Reaching his palace, he went to his
secret chamber to weep alone, and he wept night and day, in spite of the
efforts of his ministers to comfort him. But at last one of them said, "O
my king, in the hall beneath your garden there has appeared a wonderful
statue upon the seventh pedestal; perchance if you go to see it, your
heart will become more joyful."

Then with great reluctance the king properly dressed himself, and went to
the subterranean hall.

There indeed was the statue, the gift of the Spirit-king; and very
beautiful it was. But it was not made of diamond, and it looked so
strangely like the girl whom he had lost, that the king's heart leapt in
his breast for astonishment. He put out his hand and touched the statue,
and found it warm with life and youth. And a sweet voice said to him,
"Yes, it is really I - have you forgotten?"

Thus she was given back to him; and the Spirit-king came to their wedding,
and thus addressed the bridegroom, "O my son, for your dead father's sake
I did this thing. For it was meant to teach you that the worth of a really
pure and perfect woman is more than the price of any diamond or any
treasure that the earth can yield."

Now you can see at once the beauty of this story; and the moral of it is
exactly the same as that of the famous verse, in the Book of Proverbs,
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." But it
is simply a story from the "Arabian Nights" - one of those stories which
you will not find in the ordinary European translations, because it is
written in such a way that no English translator except Burton would have
dared to translate it quite literally. The obscenity of parts of the
original does not really detract in the least from the beauty and
tenderness of the motive of the story; and we must remember that what we
call moral or immoral in style depends very much upon the fashion of an
age and time.

Now it is exactly the same kind of moral charm that distinguishes the best
of the old English romances - a charm which has nothing to do with the
style, but everything to do with the feeling and suggestion of the
composition. But in some of the old romances, the style too has a very
great charm of quaintness and simplicity and sincerity not to be imitated
to-day. In this respect the older French romances, from which the English
made their renderings, are much the best. And the best of all is said to
be "Amis and Amile," which the English rendered as "Amicus and Amelius."
Something of the story ought to interest you.

The whole subject of this romance is the virtue of friendship, though this
of course involves a number of other virtues quite as distinguished. Amis
and Amile, that is to say Amicus and Amelius, are two young knights who at
the beginning of their career become profoundly attached to each other.
Not content with the duties of this natural affection, they imposed upon
themselves all the duties which chivalry also attached to the office of
friend. The romance tells of how they triumphed over every conceivable
test to which their friendship was subjected. Often and often the
witchcraft of woman worked to separate them, but could not. Both married,
yet after marriage their friendship was just as strong as before. Each has
to fight many times on account of the other, and suffer all things which
it is most hard for a proud and brave man to bear. But everything is
suffered cheerfully, and the friends are such true knights that, in all
their trials, neither does anything wrong, or commits the slightest fault
against truth - until a certain sad day. On that day it is the duty of Amis
to fight in a trial by battle. But he is sick, and can not fight; then to
save his honour his friend Amile puts on the armour and helmet of Amis,
and so pretending to be Amis, goes to the meeting place, and wins the
fight gloriously. But this was an act of untruthfulness; he had gone into
battle under a false name, and to do anything false even for a good motive
is bad. So heaven punishes him by afflicting him with the horrible disease
of leprosy.

The conditions of leprosy in the Middle Ages were of a peculiar kind. The
disease seems to have been introduced into Europe from Asia - perhaps by
the Crusaders. Michelet suggests that it may have resulted from the
European want of cleanliness, brought about by ascetic teachings - for the
old Greek and Roman public bath-houses were held in horror by the mediæval
Church. But this is not at all certain. What is certain is that in the
thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries leprosy became very
prevalent. The disease was not then at all understood; it was supposed to
be extremely contagious, and the man afflicted by it was immediately
separated from society, and not allowed to live in any community under
such conditions as could bring him into contact with other inhabitants.
His wife or children could accompany him only on the terrible condition of
being considered lepers. Every leper wore a kind of monk's dress, with a
hood covering the face; and he had to carry a bell and ring it constantly
to give notice of his approach. Special leper-houses were built near every
town, where such unfortunates might obtain accommodation. They were
allowed to beg, but it was considered dangerous to go very near them, so
that in most cases alms or food would be thrown to them only, instead of
being put into their hands.

Now when the victim of leprosy in this romance is first afflicted by the
disease, he happens to be far away from his good friend. And none of his
own family is willing to help him; he is regarded with superstitious as
well as with physical horror. There is nothing left for him to do but to
yield up his knighthood and his welfare and his family, to put on the
leper's robe, and to go begging along the roads, carrying a leper's bell.
And this he does. For long, long months he goes begging from town to town,
till at last, by mere chance, he finds his way to the gate of the great
castle where his good friend is living - now a great prince, and married to
the daughter of the king. And he asks at the castle gate for charity and
for food.

Now the porter at the gate observes that the leper has a very beautiful
cup, exactly resembling a drinking cup belonging to his master, and he
thinks it his duty to tell these things to the lord of the castle. And the
lord of the castle remembers that very long ago he and his friend each had
a cup of this kind, given to them by the bishop of Rome. So, hearing the
porter's story, he knew that the leper at the gate was the friend who "had
delivered him from death, and won for him the daughter of the King of


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