Richard Le Gallienne.

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elemental as those forces of the universe by which the stars are
preserved from wrong, and the merely legal and ecclesiastical fictions
which have so long overawed them are fleeing like phantoms at cockcrow.
It is no longer sinful to be happy - even in one's own way; and the
extravagances of passion, the ebullitions of youth, and the vagaries of
pleasure are no longer frowned down by a sour-visaged public opinion,
but encouraged, or, if necessary, condoned, as the dramatic play of
natural forces, and as welcome additions to the gaiety of nations. The
true sins against humanity are, on the other hand, being exposed and
pilloried with a scientific eye for their essential qualities.

... The cold heart, and the murderous tongue,
The wintry soul that hates to hear a song,
The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye,
And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.

Man's virtues and vices are being subjected to a re-classification, in
the course of which they are entertainingly seen, in no few instances,
to be changing places. The standards of punishment applied by Dante to
his inferno of lost souls is being, every year, more closely
approximated; warm-blooded sins of instinct and impulse, as having
usually some "relish of salvation" in them, are being judged lightly,
when they are accounted sins at all, and the cold-hearted sins of
essential selfishness, the sins of cruelty and calculation and
cowardice, are being nailed up as the real crimes against God and man.
The individual is being allowed more and more to be the judge of his own
actions, and all actions are being estimated more in regard to their
special relation and environment, as the relativity of right and wrong,
that most just of modern conceptions, is becoming understood. The hidden
sins of the pious and respectable are coming disastrously into the
light, and it no longer avails for a man to be a pillar of orthodoxy on
Sundays if he be a pillar of oppression all the rest of the week; while
the negative virtues of abstinence from the common human pleasures go
for less than nothing in a world that no longer regards the theatre, the
race course, and the card table, or even a beautiful woman, as under the
especial wrath of God. No, the Grundy "virtues" are fast disappearing,
and piano legs are once more being worn in their natural nudity. The
general trend is unmistakable and irresistible, and such apparent
contradictions of it as occasionally get into the newspapers are of no
general significance; as when, for example, some exquisitely refined
Irish police officer suppresses a play of genius, or blushingly covers
up the nakedness of a beautiful statue, or comes out strong on the
question of woman's bathing dress when some sensible girl has the
courage to go into the water with somewhat less than her entire walking
costume; or, again, when some crank invokes the blue laws against Sunday
golf or tennis; or some spinster association puts itself on record
against woman's smoking: all these are merely provincial or parochial
exceptions to the onward movement of morals and manners, mere spasmodic
twitchings, so to say, of the poor old lady on her deathbed. We know
well enough that she who would so sternly set her face against the
feminine cigarette would have no objection to one of her votaries
carrying on an affair with another woman's husband - not the least in the
world, so long as she was careful to keep it out of the courts. And such
is a sample of her morality in all her dealings. Humanity will lose no
real sanctity or safeguard by her demise; only false shame and false
morality will go - but true modesty, "the modesty of nature," true
propriety, true religion - and incidentally true love and true
marriage - will all be immeasurably the gainers by the death of this
hypocritical, nasty-minded old lady.




V

MODERN AIDS TO ROMANCE


There have, of course, in all ages been those who made a business of
running down the times in which they lived - tiresome people for whom
everything had gone to the dogs - or was rapidly going - uncomfortable
critics who could never make themselves at home in their own century,
and whose weary shibboleth was that of some legendary perfect past.

In Rome this particular kind of bore went by the name of _laudator
temporis acti_; and, if we have no such concise Anglo-Saxon phrase for
the type, we still have the type no less ubiquitously with us. The
bugbear of such is "modern science," or "modern thought," a monster
which, we are frequently assured, is fast devouring all the beautiful
and good in human life, a Moloch fed on the dreams and ideals and noble
faiths of man. Modernity! For such "modernity" has taken the place of
"Anti-Christ." These sad, nervous people have no eye for the beautiful
patterns and fantasies of change, none of that faith which rejoices to
watch "the roaring loom of time" weaving ever new garments for the
unchanging eternal gods. In new temples, strangely enough, they see
only atheism, instead of the vitality of spiritual evolution; in new
affirmations they scent only dangerous denials. With the more grave
misgivings of these folk of little faith this is not the place to deal,
though actually, if there were any ground for belief in a modern decay
of religion, we might seriously begin to believe in the alleged decay of
romance.

Yes, romance, we not infrequently hear, is dead. Modern science has
killed it. It is essentially a "thing of the past" - an affair presumably
of stage-coaches, powdered wigs, and lace ruffles. It cannot breathe in
what is spoken of as "this materialistic age."

The dullards who repeat these platitudes of the muddle-headed multitude
are surely the only people for whom they are true. It is they alone who
are the materialists, confusing as they do the spirit of romance with
its worn-out garments of bygone fashions. Such people are so clearly out
of court as not to be worth controverting, except for the opportunity
they give one of confidently making the joyous affirmation that, far
from romance being dead in our day, there never was a more romantic age
than ours, and that never since the world began has it offered so many
opportunities, so many facilities for romance as at the present time.

In fact, a very little thinking will show that of all those benefited by
"the blessings of modern science," it is the lovers of the community
who as a body have most to be thankful for. Indeed, so true is this that
it might almost seem as though the modern laboratory has been run
primarily from romantic motives, to the end that the old reproach should
be removed and the course of true love run magically smooth. Valuable as
the telephone may be in business affairs, it is simply invaluable in the
affairs of love; and mechanicians the world over are absorbed in the
problem of aerial flight, whether they know it or not, chiefly to
provide Love with wings as swift as his desire.

Distance may lend enchantment to those whom we prefer to appreciate from
afar, but nearness is the real enchantment to your true lover, and
distance is his natural enemy. Distance and the slow-footedness of Time
are his immemorial evils. Both of these modern science has all but
annihilated. Consider for a moment the conditions under which love was
carried on in those old days which some people find so romantic. Think
what a comparatively short distance meant then, with snail-paced
precarious mails, and the only means of communication horses by land,
and sailing ships by sea. How men and women had the courage to go on
long journeys at all away from each other in those days is hard to
realize, knowing what an impenetrable curtain of silence and mystery
immediately fell between them with the winding of the coach horn, or the
last wave of the plumed hat as it disappeared behind the last turning
of the road - leaving those at home with nothing for company but the
yearning horizon and the aching, uncommunicative hours. Days, weeks,
months, even years, must go by in waiting for a word - and when at last
it came, brought on lumbering wheels or at best by some courier on his
steaming mud-splashed mount, precious as it was, it was already grown
old and cold and perhaps long since untrue.

Imagine perhaps being dependent for one's heart news on some chance
soldier limping back from the wars, or some pilgrim from the Holy Land
with scallop shell and staff!

Distance was indeed a form of death under such conditions - no wonder men
made their wills as they set out on a journey - and when actual physical
death did not intervene, how much of that slow death-in-life, that
fading of the memory and that numbing of the affections which absence
too often brings, was even still more to be feared. The loved face might
indeed return, looking much the same as when it went away, but what of
the heart that went a-journeying, too? What even of the hearts that
remained at home?

The chances of death and disaster not even modern science can forestall,
though even these it has considerably lessened; but that other death of
the heart, which comes of the slow starvation of silence and absence, it
may be held to have all but vanquished. Thanks to its weird magicians,
you may be seas or continents away from her whom your soul loveth, yet
"at her window bid good-morrow" as punctually as if you lived next door;
or serenade her by electricity - at all hours of the night. If you sigh
in New York, she can hear you and sigh back in San Francisco; and soon
her very face will be carried to you at any moment of the day along the
magic wires. Nor will you need to wait for the postman, but be able to
read her flowerlike words as they write themselves out on the luminous
slate before you, at the very moment as she leans her fragrant bosom
upon her electric desk three thousand miles away. If this isn't
romantic, one may well ask what is!

To take the telephone alone, surely the romance of Pyramus and Thisbe,
with their primitive hole in the wall, was a tame affair compared with
the possibilities of this magic toy, by means of which you can talk with
your love not merely through a wall but through the Rocky Mountains. You
can whisper sweet nothings to her across the sounding sea, and bid her
"sleep well" over leagues of primeval forest, and through the
stoniest-hearted city her soft voice will find its way. Even in
mid-ocean the "wireless" will bring you news of her _mal-de-mer_. And
more than that; should you wish to carry her voice with you from place
to place, science is once more at your service with another magic
toy - the phonograph - by which indeed she can still go on speaking to
you, if you have the courage to listen, from beyond the grave.

The telegraph, the telephone, the "wireless," the phonograph, the
electric letter writer - such are the modern "conveniences" of romance;
and, should an elopement be on foot, what are the fastest post-chaise or
the fleetest horses compared with a high-powered automobile? And when
the airship really comes, what romance that has ever been will compare
for excitement with an elopement through the sky?

Apart from the practical conveniences of these various new devices,
there is a poetic quality about the mere devices themselves which is
full of fascination and charm. Whether we call up our sweetheart or our
stockbroker, what a thing of enchantment the telephone is merely in
itself! Such devices turn the veriest prose of life into poetry; and,
indeed, the more prosaic the uses to which we put them, the more
marvellous by contrast their marvel seems. Even our businesses are
carried on by agencies more mysterious and truly magical than anything
in the _Arabian Nights_, and all day long we are playing with mysterious
natural laws and exquisite natural forces as, in a small way, when boys
we used to delight in our experiments with oxygen and hydrogen and
Leyden jars. Science has thus brought an element of romantic "fun," so
to speak, even into our stores and our counting-houses. I wonder if
"Central" realizes what a truly romantic employment is hers?

But, pressed into the high service of love, one sees at once what a
poetic fitness there is in their employ, and how our much-abused modern
science has found at last for that fastidious god an appropriately
dignified and beautiful ministrant. Coarse and vulgar indeed seem the
ancient servitors and the uncouth machinery by which the divine business
of the god was carried on of old. Today, through the skill of science,
the august lightning has become his messenger, and the hidden gnomes of
air and sea hasten to do his bidding.

Modern science, then, so far from being an enemy of romance, is seen on
every hand to be its sympathetic and resourceful friend, its swift and
irresistible helper in its serious need, and an indulgent minister to
its lighter fancies. Be it whim or emergency, the modern laboratory is
equally at the service of romance, equally ready to gratify mankind with
a torpedo or a toy.

Not only, however, has modern science thus put itself at the service of
romance, by supplying it with its various magic machinery of
communication, but modern thought - that much maligned bugbear of
timorous minds - has generated an atmosphere increasingly favourable to
and sympathetic with the romantic expression of human nature in all its
forms.

The world has unmistakably grown younger again during the last twenty
years, as though - which, indeed, is the fact - it had thrown off an
accumulation of mopishness, shaken itself free from imaginary
middle-aged restrictions and preoccupations. All over the world there is
a wind of youth blowing such as has not freshened the air of time since
the days of Elizabeth. Once more the spring of a new Renaissance of
Human Nature is upon us. It is the fashion to be young, and the age of
romance both for men and women has been indefinitely extended. No one
gives up the game, or is expected to, till he is genuinely tired of
playing it. Mopish conventions are less and less allowed to restrict
that free and joyous play of vitality dear to the modern heart, which is
the essence of all romance. More and more the world is growing to love a
lover, and one has only to read the newspapers to see how sympathetic
are the times to any generous and adventurous display of the passions.

This more humane temper is the result of many causes. The disintegration
of religious superstition, and the substitution in its stead of
spiritual ideals closer to the facts of life, is one of these. All that
was good in Puritanism has been retained by the modern spirit, while
its narrowing and numbing features, its anti-human, self-mortifying,
provincial side have passed or are passing in the regenerating sunlight
of what one might call a spiritual paganism, which conceives of natural
forces and natural laws as inherently pure and mysteriously sacred. Thus
the way of a man with a maid is no longer a shamefaced affair, but it
is more and more realized that in its romance and its multifarious
refinements of development are the "law and the prophets," the "eternal
meanings" of natural religion and social spirituality.

Then, too, the spread of democracy, resulting in the breaking down of
caste barriers, is all to the good of romance. Swiftly and surely Guelph
and Ghibelline and break-neck orchard walls are passing away. If Romeo
and Juliet make a tragedy of it nowadays, they have only to blame their
own mismanagement, for the world is with them as it has never been
before, and all sensible fathers and mothers know it.

Again, the freer intercourse between the sexes tends incalculably to
smooth that course of true love once so proverbially rough, but now
indeed in danger of being made too unexcitingly smooth. Yet if, as a
result, certain old combinations of romance are becoming obsolete, new
ones, no less picturesque, and even more vital in their drama, are being
evolved every day by the new conditions. Those very inroads being so
rapidly and successfully made by woman into the immemorial business of
man, which are superficially regarded by some as dangerous to the
tenderer sentiments between men and women, are, on the contrary, merely
widening the area of romance, and will eventually develop, as they can
be seen already developing, a new chivalry and a new poetry of the sexes
no less deep and far more many-sided than the old. The robuster
comradeship between the two already resulting from the more active
sharing of common interests cannot but tend to a deeper and more
exhilarating union of man and woman, a completer, intenser marriage
literally of true minds as well as bodies than was possible in the old
régime, when the masculine and feminine "spheres" were kept so jealously
distinct and only allowed to touch at the elementary points of
relationship. There has always been a thrill of adventure when either
has been admitted a little farther into the other's world than was
customary. How thrilling, therefore, will it be when men and women
entirely share in each other's lives, without fictitious reserves and
mysteries, and face the whole adventure of life squarely and completely
together, all the more husband and wife for being comrades as well - as
many men and women of the new era are already joyously doing.

And, merely on the surface, what a new romantic element woman has
introduced into the daily drudgery of men's lives by her mere presence
in their offices! She cannot always be beautiful, poor dear, and she is
not invariably gracious, it is true; yet, on the whole, how much the
atmosphere of office life has gained in amenity by the coming of the
stenographer, the typewriter, and the telephone girl, not to speak of
her frequent decorative value in a world that has hitherto been
uncompromisingly harsh and unadorned! Men may affect to ignore this, and
cannot afford indeed to be too sensitive to these flowery presences that
have so considerably supplanted those misbegotten young miscreants known
as office-boys, a vanishing race of human terror; yet there she is, all
the same, in spite of her businesslike airs and her prosaic tasks,
silently diffusing about her that eternal mystery which she can never
lose, be her occupations never so masculine.

There she is with her subtly wreathed hair and her absurd little lace
handkerchiefs and her furtive powder puff and her bits of immemorial
ornaments and the soft sound of her skirts and all the rest of it. Never
mind how grimly and even brusquely you may be dictating to her
specifications for steel rails or the like, little wafts of perfume
cannot help floating across to your rolltop desk, and you are a man and
she is a woman, for all that; and, instead of having her with you at fag
ends of your days, you have her with you all day long now - and your
sisters and your sweethearts are so much the nearer to you all day for
her presence, and, whether you know it or not, you are so much the less
a brute because she is there.

Where the loss to romance comes in in these admirable new arrangements
of modern commerce it is hard to see. Of course a new element of danger
is thus introduced into the routine of our daily lives, but when was
danger an enemy to romance? The "bright face" of this particular
"danger" who would be without? The beloved essayist from whom that last
phrase is, of course, adapted, declared, as we all know, that to marry
is "to domesticate the recording angel." One might say that the modern
business man has officialized the ministering angel - perhaps some other
forms of angel as well.

In their work, then, as in their play, men and women are more and more
coming to share with each other as comrades, and really the fun of life
seems in no wise diminished as a consequence. Rather the contrary, it
would seem, if one is to judge from the "Decameron" of the newspapers.
Yet it is not very long ago that man looked askance at woman's wistful
plea to take part even in his play. He had the old boyish fear that she
would spoil the game. However, it didn't take him long to find out his
mistake and to know woman for the true "sport" that she can be. And in
that discovery it was another invention of that wicked modern science
that was the chief, if humble seeming, factor, no less than that
eclipsed but inexpressibly useful instrument (of flirtation) in the
hands of a kind providence, the bicycle.

The service of the bicycle to the "emancipation of woman" movements has
perhaps never been acknowledged by the philosopher; but a little thought
will make evident how far-reaching that service has been. When that near
day arrives on which woman shall call herself absolutely "free," should
she feel inclined to celebrate her freedom by some monument of her
gratitude, let the monument be neither to man nor woman, however valiant
in the fight, but simply let it take the form of an enthroned and
laurelled bicycle - for the moment woman mounted that apparently innocent
machine, it carried her on the high-road to freedom. On that she could
go not only where she pleased, but - what is even more to the point - with
whom she pleased. The free companionship of man and woman had begun.
Then and forever ended the old system of courtship, which seems so
laughable and even incredible today. One was no longer expected to pay
court to one's beloved, sitting stiffly on straight-backed chairs in a
chill drawing-room in the non-conducting, or non-conducive, presence of
still chillier maiden aunts. The doom of the _duenna_ was sounded; the
chill drawing-room was exchanged for "the open road" and the whispering
woodland; and soon it is to come about that a man shall propose to his
wife high up in the blue heavens, in an airship softly swaying at anchor
in the wake of the evening star.




VI

THE LAST CALL


I don't know whether or not the cry "Last call for the dining-car"
affects others as it affects me, but for me it always has a stern,
fateful sound, suggestive of momentous opportunity fast slipping away,
opportunity that can never come again; and, on the occasions when I have
disregarded it, I have been haunted with a sense of the neglected
"might-have-been."

Not, indeed, that the formless regret has been connected with any
illusions as to the mysterious quality of the dinner that I have thus
foregone. I have been well enough aware that the only actual opportunity
thus evaded has been most probably that of an unusually bad dinner,
exorbitantly paid for. The dinner itself has had nothing to do with my
feeling, which, indeed, has come of a suggestiveness in the cry beyond
the occasion, a sense conveyed by the words, in combination with the
swift speeding along of the train, of the inexorable swift passage and
gliding away of all things. Ah! so soon it will be the last call - for so
many pleasant things - that we would fain arrest and enjoy a little
longer in a world that with tragic velocity is flowing away from us,
each moment, "like the waters of the torrent." O yes, all too soon it
will be the "last call" in dead earnest - the last call for the joy of
life and the glory of the world. The grass is already withering, the
flower already fading; and that bird of time, with so short a way to
flutter, is relentlessly on the wing.

Now some natures hear this call from the beginning of their lives. Even
their opulent spendthrift youth is "made the more mindful that the sweet
days die," by every strain of music, by every gathered flower. All their
joy is haunted, like the poetry of William Morris, with the wistful
burden of mortality. Even the summer woodlands, with all their pomp and
riot of exuberant green and gold, are anything but safe from this low
sweet singing, and in the white arms of beauty, pressed desperately
close as if to imprison the divine fugitive moment, the song seems to
come nearest. Who has not held some loved face in his hands, and gazed
into it with an almost agonizing effort to realize its reality, to make
eternally sure of it, somehow to wrest possession of it and the
transfiguring moment for ever, all the time pierced with the melancholy
knowledge that tomorrow all will be as if this had never been, and life
once more its dull disenchanted self?

Too soon shall morning take the stars away,
And all the world be up and open-eyed,
This magic night be turned to common day -
Under the willows on the riverside.

Youth, however, can afford to enjoy even its melancholy; for the
ultimate fact of which that melancholy is a prophecy is a long way off.
If one enchanted moment runs to an end, it may be reasonably sure for a


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