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Before I am quite, quite sure
That there is one to love me;
Then let come what come may
To a life that has been so sad,
I shall have had my day.

The feeling of the lover is that no matter what happens afterwards, the
winning of the woman is enough to pay for life, death, pain, or anything
else. One of the most remarkable phenomena of the illusion is the supreme
indifference to consequences - at least to any consequences which would not
signify moral shame or loss of honour, Of course the poet is supposed to
consider the emotion only in generous natures. But the subject of this
splendid indifference has been more wonderfully treated by Victor Hugo
than by Tennyson - as we shall see later on, when considering another phase
of the emotion. Before doing that, I want to call your attention to a very
charming treatment of love's romance by an American. It is one of the most
delicate of modern compositions, and it is likely to become a classic, as
it has already been printed in four or five different anthologies. The
title is "Atalanta's Race."

First let me tell you the story of Atalanta, so that you will be better
able to see the fine symbolism of the poem. Atalanta, the daughter of a
Greek king, was not only the most beautiful of maidens, but the swiftest
runner in the world. She passed her time in hunting, and did not wish to
marry. But as many men wanted to marry her, a law was passed that any one
who desired to win her must run a race with her. If he could beat her in
running, then she promised to marry him, but if he lost the race, he was
to be killed. Some say that the man was allowed to run first, and that the
girl followed with a spear in her hand and killed him when she overtook
him. There are different accounts of the contest. Many suitors lost the
race and were killed. But finally young man called Hippomenes obtained
from the Goddess of Love three golden apples, and he was told that if he
dropped these apples while running, the girl would stop to pick them up,
and that in this way he might be able to win the race. So he ran, and when
he found himself about to be beaten, he dropped one apple. She stopped to
pick it up and thus he gained a little. In this way he won the race and
married Atalanta. Greek mythology says that afterwards she and her husband
were turned into lions because they offended the gods; however, that need
not concern us here. There is a very beautiful moral in the old Greek
story, and the merit of the American composition is that its author,
Maurice Thompson, perceived this moral and used it to illustrate a great
philosophical truth.

When Spring grows old, and sleepy winds
Set from the South with odours sweet,
I see my love, in green, cool groves,
Speed down dusk aisles on shining feet.
She throws a kiss and bids me run,
In whispers sweet as roses' breath;
I know I cannot win the race,
And at the end, I know, is death.

But joyfully I bare my limbs,
Anoint me with the tropic breeze,
And feel through every sinew run
The vigour of Hippomenes.

O race of love! we all have run
Thy happy course through groves of Spring,
And cared not, when at last we lost,
For life or death, or anything!

There are a few thoughts here requiring a little comment. You know that
the Greek games and athletic contests were held in the fairest season, and
that the contestants were stripped. They were also anointed with oil,
partly to protect the skin against sun and temperature and partly to make
the body more supple. The poet speaks of the young man as being anointed
by the warm wind of Spring, the tropic season of life. It is a very pretty
fancy. What he is really telling us is this:

"There are no more Greek games, but the race of love is still run to-day
as in times gone by; youth is the season, and the atmosphere of youth is
the anointing of the contestant."

But the moral of the piece is its great charm, the poetical statement of a
beautiful and a wonderful fact. In almost every life there is a time when
we care for only one person, and suffer much for that person's sake; yet
in that period we do not care whether we suffer or die, and in after life,
when we look back at those hours of youth, we wonder at the way in which
we then felt. In European life of to-day the old Greek fable is still
true; almost everybody must run Atalanta's race and abide by the result.

One of the delightful phases of the illusion of love is the sense of old
acquaintance, the feeling as if the person loved had been known and loved
long ago in some time and place forgotten. I think you must have observed,
many of you, that when the senses of sight and hearing happen to be
strongly stirred by some new and most pleasurable experience, the feeling
of novelty is absent, or almost absent. You do not feel as if you were
seeing or hearing something new, but as if you saw or heard something that
you knew all about very long ago. I remember once travelling with a
Japanese boy into a charming little country town in Shikoku - and scarcely
had we entered the main street, than he cried out: "Oh, I have seen this
place before!" Of course he had not seen it before; he was from Osaka and
had never left the great city until then. But the pleasure of his new
experience had given him this feeling of familiarity with the unfamiliar.
I do not pretend to explain this familiarity with the new - it is a great
mystery still, just as it was a great mystery to the Roman Cicero. But
almost everybody that has been in love has probably had the same feeling
during a moment or two - the feeling "I have known that woman before,"
though the where and the when are mysteries. Some of the modern poets have
beautifully treated this feeling. The best example that I can give you is
the exquisite lyric by Rossetti entitled "Sudden Light."

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before, -
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turn'd so,
Some veil did fall, - I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our loves restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

I think you will acknowledge that this is very pretty; and the same poet
has treated the idea equally well in other poems of a more complicated
kind. But another poet of the period was haunted even more than Rossetti
by this idea - Arthur O'Shaughnessy. Like Rossetti he was a great lover,
and very unfortunate in his love; and he wrote his poems, now famous, out
of the pain and regret that was in his heart, much as singing birds born
in cages are said to sing better when their eyes are put out. Here is one
example:

Along the garden ways just now
I heard the flowers speak;
The white rose told me of your brow,
The red rose of your cheek;
The lily of your bended head,
The bindweed of your hair:
Each looked its loveliest and said
You were more fair.

I went into the woods anon,
And heard the wild birds sing
How sweet you were; they warbled on,
Piped, trill'd the self-same thing.
Thrush, blackbird, linnet, without pause
The burden did repeat,
And still began again because
You were more sweet.

And then I went down to the sea,
And heard it murmuring too,
Part of an ancient mystery,
All made of me and you:
How many a thousand years ago
I loved, and you were sweet -
Longer I could not stay, and so
I fled back to your feet.

The last stanza especially expresses the idea that I have been telling you
about; but in a poem entitled "Greater Memory" the idea is much more fully
expressed. By "greater memory" you must understand the memory beyond this
life into past stages of existence. This piece has become a part of the
nineteenth century poetry that will live; and a few of the best stanzas
deserve to be quoted,

In the heart there lay buried for years
Love's story of passion and tears;
Of the heaven that two had begun
And the horror that tore them apart;
When one was love's slayer, but one
Made a grave for the love in his heart.

The long years pass'd weary and lone
And it lay there and changed there unknown;
Then one day from its innermost place,
In the shamed and ruin'd love's stead,
Love arose with a glorified face,
Like an angel that comes from the dead.

It uplifted the stone that was set
On that tomb which the heart held yet;
But the sorrow had moulder'd within
And there came from the long closed door
A dear image, that was not the sin
Or the grief that lay buried before.

* * * * *

There was never the stain of a tear
On the face that was ever so dear;
'Twas the same in each lovelier way;
'Twas old love's holier part,
And the dream of the earliest day
Brought back to the desolate heart.

It was knowledge of all that had been
In the thought, in the soul unseen;
'Twas the word which the lips could not say
To redeem or recover the past.
It was more than was taken away
Which the heart got back at the last.

The passion that lost its spell,
The rose that died where it fell,
The look that was look'd in vain,
The prayer that seemed lost evermore,
They were found in the heart again,
With all that the heart would restore.

Put into less mystical language the legend is this: A young man and a
young woman loved each other for a time; then they were separated by some
great wrong - we may suppose the woman was untrue. The man always loved her
memory, in spite of this wrong which she had done. The two died and were
buried; hundreds and hundreds of years they remained buried, and the dust
of them mixed with the dust of the earth. But in the perpetual order of
things, a pure love never can die, though bodies may die and pass away. So
after many generations the pure love which this man had for a bad woman
was born again in the heart of another man - the same, yet not the same.
And the spirit of the woman that long ago had done the wrong, also found
incarnation again; and the two meeting, are drawn to each other by what
people call love, but what is really Greater Memory, the recollection of
past lives. But now all is happiness for them, because the weaker and
worse part of each has really died and has been left hundreds of years
behind, and only the higher nature has been born again. All that ought not
to have been is not; but all that ought to be now is. This is really an
evolutionary teaching, but it is also poetical license, for the immoral
side of mankind does not by any means die so quickly as the poet supposes.
It is perhaps a question of many tens of thousands of years to get rid of
a few of our simpler faults. Anyway, the fancy charms us and tempts us
really to hope that these things might be so.

While the poets of our time so extend the history of a love backwards
beyond this life, we might expect them to do the very same thing in the
other direction. I do not refer to reunion in heaven, or anything of that
sort, but simply to affection continued after death. There are some very
pretty fancies of the kind. But they can not prove to you quite so
interesting as the poems which treat the recollection of past life. When
we consider the past imaginatively, we have some ground to stand on. The
past has been - there is no doubt about that. The fact that we are at this
moment alive makes it seem sufficiently true that we were alive thousands
or millions of years ago. But when we turn to the future for poetical
inspiration, the case is very different. There we must imagine without
having anything to stand upon in the way of experience. Of course if born
again into a body we could imagine many things; but there is the ghostly
interval between death and birth which nobody is able to tell us about.
Here the poet depends upon dream experiences, and it is of such an
experience that Christina Rossetti speaks in her beautiful poem entitled
"A Pause."

They made the chamber sweet with flowers and leaves,
And the bed sweet with flowers on which I lay,
While my soul, love-bound, loitered on its way.
I did not hear the birds about the eaves,
Nor hear the reapers talk among the sheaves:
Only my soul kept watch from day to day,
My thirsty soul kept watch for one away: -
Perhaps he loves, I thought, remembers, grieves.

At length there came the step upon the stair,
Upon the lock the old familiar hand:
Then first my spirit seemed to scent the air
Of Paradise; then first the tardy sand
Of time ran golden; and I felt my hair
Put on a glory, and my soul expand.

The woman is dead. In the room where her body died, flowers have been
placed, offerings to the dead. Also there are flowers upon the bed. The
ghost of the woman observes all this, but she does not feel either glad or
sad because of it; she is thinking only of the living lover, who was not
there when she died, but far away. She wants to know whether he really
loved her, whether he will really be sorry to hear that she is dead.
Outside the room of death the birds are singing; in the fields beyond the
windows peasants are working, and talking as they work. But the ghost does
not listen to these sounds. The ghost remains in the room only for love's
sake; she can not go away until the lover comes. At last she hears him
coming. She knows the sound of the step; she knows the touch of the hand
upon the lock of the door. And instantly, before she sees him at all, she
first feels delight. Already it seems to her that she can smell the
perfume of the flowers of heaven; it then seems to her that about her
head, as about the head of an angel, a circle of glory is shaping itself,
and the real heaven, the Heaven of Love, is at hand.

How very beautiful this is. There is still one line which requires a
separate explanation - I mean the sentence about the sands of time running
golden. Perhaps you may remember the same simile in Tennyson's "Locksley
Hall":

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in His glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Here time is identified with the sand of the hour glass, and the verb "to
run" is used because this verb commonly expresses the trickling of the
sand from the upper part of the glass into the lower. In other words, fine
sand "runs" just like water. To say that the sands of time run golden, or
become changed into gold, is only a poetical way of stating that the time
becomes more than happy - almost heavenly or divine. And now you will see
how very beautiful the comparison becomes in this little poem about the
ghost of the woman waiting for the coming step of her lover.

Several other aspects of the emotion may now be considered separately. One
of these, an especially beautiful one, is memory. Of course, there are
many aspects of love's memories, some all happiness, others intensely
sorrowful - the memory of a walk, a meeting, a moment of good-bye. Such
memories occupy a very large place in the treasure house of English love
poems. I am going to give three examples only, but each of a different
kind. The first poet that I am going to mention is Coventry Patmore. He
wrote two curious books of poetry, respectively called "The Angel in the
House" and "The Unknown Eros." In the first of these books he wrote the
whole history of his courtship and marriage - a very dangerous thing for a
poet to do, but he did it successfully. The second volume is
miscellaneous, and contains some very beautiful things. I am going to
quote only a few lines from the piece called "Amelia." This piece is the
story of an evening spent with a sweetheart, and the lines which I am
quoting refer to the moment of taking the girl home. They are now rather
famous:

... To the dim street
I led her sacred feet;
And so the Daughter gave,
Soft, moth-like, sweet,
Showy as damask-rose and shy as musk,
Back to her Mother, anxious in the dusk.
And now "Good Night!"

Why should the poet speak of the girl in this way? Why does he call her
feet sacred? She has just promised to marry him; and now she seems to him
quite divine. But he discovers very plain words with which to communicate
his finer feelings to the reader. The street is "dim" because it is night;
and in the night the beautifully dressed maiden seems like a splendid
moth - the name given to night butterflies in England. In England the moths
are much more beautiful than the true butterflies; they have wings of
scarlet and purple and brown and gold. So the comparison, though
peculiarly English, is very fine. Also there is a suggestion of the
soundlessness of the moth's flight. Now "showy as damask rose" is a
striking simile only because the damask-rose is a wonderfully splendid
flower - richest in colour of all roses in English gardens. "Shy as musk"
is rather a daring simile. "Musk" is a perfume used by English as well as
Japanese ladies, but there is no perfume which must be used with more
discretion, carefulness. If you use ever so little too much, the effect is
not pleasant. But if you use exactly the proper quantity, and no more,
there is no perfume which is more lovely. "Shy as musk" thus refers to
that kind of girlish modesty which never commits a fault even by the
measure of a grain - beautiful shyness incapable of being anything but
beautiful. Nevertheless the comparison must be confessed one which should
be felt rather than explained.

The second of the three promised quotations shall be from Robert Browning.
There is one feeling, not often touched upon by poets, yet peculiar to
lovers, that is here treated - the desire when you are very happy or when
you are looking at anything attractive to share the pleasure of the moment
with the beloved. But it seldom happens that the wish and the conditions
really meet. Referring to this longing Browning made a short lyric that is
now a classic; it is among the most dainty things of the century.

Never the time and the place
And the loved one all together!
This path - how soft to pace!
This May - what magic weather!
Where is the loved one's face?
In a dream that loved one's face meets mine,
But the house is narrow, the place is bleak
Where, outside, rain and wind combine
With a furtive ear, if I try to speak,
With a hostile eye at my flushing cheek,
With a malice that marks each word, each sign!

Never can we have things the way we wish in this world - a beautiful day, a
beautiful place, and the presence of the beloved all at the same time.
Something is always missing; if the place be beautiful, the weather
perhaps is bad. Or if the weather and the place both happen to be perfect,
the woman is absent. So the poet finding himself in some very beautiful
place, and remembering this, remembers also the last time that he met the
woman beloved. It was a small dark house and chilly; outside there was
rain and storm; and the sounds of the wind and of the rain were as the
sounds of people secretly listening, or sounds of people trying to look in
secretly through the windows. Evidently it was necessary that the meeting
should be secret, and it was not altogether as happy as could have been
wished.

The third example is a very beautiful poem; we must content ourselves with
an extract from it. It is the memory of a betrothal day, and the poet is
Frederick Tennyson. I suppose you know that there were three Tennysons,
and although Alfred happened to be the greatest, all of them were good
poets.

It is a golden morning of the spring,
My cheek is pale, and hers is warm with bloom,
And we are left in that old carven room,
And she begins to sing;

The open casement quivers in the breeze,
And one large musk-rose leans its dewy grace
Into the chamber, like a happy face,
And round it swim the bees;

* * * * *

I know not what I said - what she replied
Lives, like eternal sunshine, in my heart;
And then I murmured, Oh! we never part,
My love, my life, my bride!

* * * * *

And silence o'er us, after that great bliss,
Fell like a welcome shadow - and I heard
The far woods sighing, and a summer bird
Singing amid the trees;

The sweet bird's happy song, that streamed around,
The murmur of the woods, the azure skies,
Were graven on my heart, though ears and eyes
Marked neither sight nor sound.

She sleeps in peace beneath the chancel stone,
But ah! so clearly is the vision seen,
The dead seem raised, or Death has never been,
Were I not here alone.

This is great art in its power of picturing a memory of the heart. Let us
notice some of the beauties. The lover is pale because he is afraid,
anxious; he is going to ask a question and he does not know how she may
answer him. All this was long ago, years and years ago, but the strong
emotions of that morning leave their every detail painted in remembrance,
with strange vividness After all those years the man still recollects the
appearance of the room, the sunshine entering and the crimson rose looking
into the room from the garden, with bees humming round it. Then after the
question had been asked and happily answered, neither could speak for joy;
and because of the silence all the sounds of nature outside became almost
painfully distinct. Now he remembers how he heard in that room the sound
of the wind in far-away trees, the singing of a bird - he also remembers
all the colours and the lights of the day. But it was very, very long ago,
and she is dead. Still, the memory is so clear and bright in his heart
that it is as if time had stood still, or as if she had come back from the
grave. Only one thing assures him that it is but a memory - he is alone.

Returning now to the subject of love's illusion in itself, let me remind
you that the illusion does not always pass away - not at all. It passes
away in every case of happy union, when it has become no longer necessary
to the great purposes of nature. But in case of disappointment, loss,
failure to win the maiden desired, it often happens that the ideal image
never fades away, but persistently haunts the mind through life, and is
capable thus of making even the most successful life unhappy. Sometimes
the result of such disappointment may be to change all a man's ideas about
the world, about life, about religion; and everything remains darkened for
him. Many a young person disappointed in love begins to lose religious
feeling from that moment, for it seems to him, simply because he happens
to be unfortunate, that the universe is all wrong. On the other hand the
successful lover thinks that the universe is all right; he utters his
thanks to the gods, and feels his faith in religion and human nature
greater than before. I do not at this moment remember any striking English
poem illustrating this fact; but there is a pretty little poem in French
by Victor Hugo showing well the relation between successful love and
religious feeling in simple minds. Here is an English translation of it.
The subject is simply a walk at night, the girl-bride leaning upon the arm
of her husband; and his memory of the evening is thus expressed:

The trembling arm I pressed
Fondly; our thoughts confessed
Love's conquest tender;
God filled the vast sweet night,
Love filled our hearts; the light
Of stars made splendour.

Even as we walked and dreamed,
'Twixt heaven and earth, it seemed
Our souls were speaking;
The stars looked on thy face;
Thine eyes through violet space
The stars were seeking.

And from the astral light
Feeling the soft sweet night
Thrill to thy soul,
Thou saidst: "O God of Bliss,
Lord of the Blue Abyss,
Thou madest the whole!"

And the stars whispered low
To the God of Space, "We know,
God of Eternity,
Dear Lord, all Love is Thine,
Even by Love's Light we shine!
Thou madest Beauty!"

Of course here the religious feeling itself is part of the illusion, but
it serves to give great depth and beauty to simple feeling. Besides, the
poem illustrates one truth very forcibly - namely, that when we are
perfectly happy all the universe appears to be divine and divinely
beautiful; in other words, we are in heaven. On the contrary, when we are
very unhappy the universe appears to be a kind of hell, in which there is


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