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and will with the woman, in proportion as she takes to
the sterner pursuits of man."

" You are, no doubt, right," said Vincent. " It makes
one think of her with renewed pity."

" And how it would all have destroyed some women,"
said I. "When I write my famous book on the con-
duct of life, I shall have to consider disaster in its re-
lation to character."

" It gives a man," cried St. Glair, " a horrible sense
of responsibility to hear you fellows talk, as if events
were nothing and the man everything."



118 CHAEACTEEISTICS.

" Why, in your way," laughed Vincent, " you are the
most obstinate little rascal conceivable."

"I!" said St. Clair. "I am kicked about by cir-
cumstances ; I am bullied by events. Experience does
me no good, and all the moral tonics disagree with me.
My what do you call it, North? oh, my idiosyn-
crasy is tremendously idiosyncratic."

"Oh, stop him," cried Vincent, laughing. "Take
his pipe away ; do something."

" I am a happy accident. Indeed, I am a series of
happy accidents. I never had a real trouble in my
life. And how delicious the night is! I am for a
swim, and to bed."

Nevertheless, he stood by the mast awhile, and then
said, "How stupid it is without women," and then
presently broke out in his clear tenor, a voice not very
accurate, and of no great strength, but of passionate
sweetness :

Good night ! Good night ! Ah, good the night
That wraps thee in its silver light.
Good night ! No night is good to me
That does not bring a thought of thee

Good night 1

Good night ! Be every night as sweet
As that which made our love complete ;
Till that last night when death shall be
One brief good night for you and me

Good night !

A minute later the singer went overboard into the
glory of luminous gold, amidst which he swam, laugh-
ing out his joy as he smote the water into light. The
next day we left Vincent and returned home together.



IX.




N a quiet Sunday afternoon Vincent,
St. Glair, and I were wandering in
the park. St. Clair was amusing him-
self over Clayborne's peculiarities.
"I wonder," he cried, "that he needs
any friends, considering the many
great and famous folks with whom he associates in
his library. I think that his books are more real to
him than are we. He even comes near to poetry when
he talks of them. I know they affect him as they do
but few. I declare to you, I can tell of an evening
what kind of books he has been reading. You know
he is capable of awful exercise in this way, and will
read straight through a day play after play of the
Greek dramatists, while dressing, and at meals, never
leaving the house. I have known Tiim to read all of
Bossuet without pause, and when I asked him once
what he had been doing the past week, he said he had
gone through Bernal Diaz del Castillo (what a noble
name!), Southey's 'Brazil/ and a beautiful tome, the
size of a small house, about Peru, by one Grarcilaso
de la Vega. He showed it to me. It has horrible
pictures of Incas burned alive. I tried the work on
Brazil a few minutes. Alas ! "

To this long discourse about our friend Vincent and
9



120 CHAEACTERISTICS.

I listened with much amusement as we strolled in per-
fect weather under the trees and along the west bank
of the river in our great city park.

The park, clotted with groups of happy people en-
joying the quiet and the green stillness of the trees,
was yet so vast as in nowise to trouble us by their
number, or to take away from the pleasant sense of
ownership we have in our many-acred domain.

Said Vincent presently, "And you think, my dear
fellow, you can tell what literary society Clayborne has
been keeping?"

"Oh, I can; indeed, I can, sometimes. One even-
ing (it was a month ago) he had very fine manners.
He has n't very good manners usually, but this time
he quite reminded me of well, of you, Vincent."

"Oh, really," said our friend; "of me?"

"Yes; and it turned out that he had been, as one
might say, to call on Mme. de Sevigne, and had met
Beaumarchais rather later, and La Rochefoucauld.
He hates poetry, all modern verse at least, or I
would lend him my Villon, just to see what a delight-
ful scamp he would come to be for an evening."

"It is a wonder that he can endure you at all," said
I. "Nothing annoys him more than vain questions,
as he calls them ; and for a fact, St. Clair, you have
a distinct capacity in that line."

"I know it. He does n't mind telling me. He says
I am like an intelligent child ; that I come, like Ham-
let's papa, in questionable shape ; and such other felic-
ities of abuse."

Much amused, I glanced from him to Vincent's face
of sympathetic mirth. The poet had a look of child



CHARACTERISTICS. 121

like joy at the remembrance of being looked upon by
Clayborne as a troublesome infant. He had what Vin-
cent called an instinctive nature, and the world seemed
to teach him no lessons, and experience to fail as a
schoolmaster. Yet, on the whole, I think he was of
us all the most happy.

I never saw any one quite like him in the infantile
way in which he could be influenced for the time by
his associations; and in bad society he had been
known to be very naughty. But this neither lasted
very long, nor affected him in a permanent manner ;
and with us he was ever at his best, which to me at
least, and to Vincent, was always better than the best
of most able men, for in his double way of sculptor
and poet he was distinctly a man of genius.

Evidently both Vincent and I were at one and the
same time thinking, with our companion as a text, for
the former said presently :

"Your notion about Clayborne is very amusing."

"And just what do you mean?"

"Oh, what you said of Clayborne. I was thinking
about it. Your statement of the peculiarity was well,
rather poetical, and yet measurably true. The inter-
course of men does not influence his ways or conduct,
but the quality of the books he has been reading does
appear in his thought and manner."

"Is it not," said I, "an instance of the automatic
imitativeness one observes as so variously influential
in life ? It is men who thus affect me. If I am with
a man of noble manners, I too become stately in my
fashions for the hour ; and with rough-mannered men
I find I must be on my guard."



122 CHARACTERISTICS.

"Yes; I know that I know that," returned St.
Clair, ruefully.

"Great genius," said I, "perhaps only the greatest,
escapes the influence of this animal quality of imita-
tiveness j but you can still see it in the youth of the
poets, and sometimes even later. I should like to see
an essay on the 'Relations of the Poet to Poets.' They
are nearly all ignorantly, or of purpose, imitative in
their early verse."

"But is it not interesting, too," returned St. Clair,
"to notice how the individuality of the man may still
exist with unconscious imitation ? I wonder if Words-
worth knew how much of Scott got into his splendid
ballad of 'The Feast of Brougham Castle'; and yet
there are lines in it which only Wordsworth could have
written."

"And," said I, "is n't there a ring of Byron's vigor-
ous march of verse in those lines I love so well, 'Fleet
the Tartar's reinless steed' !"

"The same tendency to borrow form or matter is
in the early compositions of the great musicians," re-
marked St. Clair. "At least, so I am told."

"It is very human, no doubt," I returned; "and of
course one sees it intensified to morbidness in disease
in hysteria, and in rare eases of insanity, where a
man repeats automatically the words he hears, or the
gestures of the man at whom he chances to be looking.

"Are there really such cases?" Vincent asked.

"Yes ; I have caught even myself repeating uncon-
sciously the facial spasm of a man I was intensely
watching. The subject of hypnotism is very apt to
be the victim of suggestion, and to have set free that



CHAEACTEEISTICS. 123

imitative instinct which we usually keep under con-
trol. In fact, these cases are often the mere sport of
varied forms of suggestion. If, without other hint,
you pinch together the frontal muscles of one of these
sleepers, so as to imitate the facial expression of a
frown, he will at once become angry, perhaps furiously
so, and swear, or strike a blow. If you make his
cheek-lines assume the curves of mirth, this suggests
amusement, and he roars with laughter. He is deli-
cately susceptible to the hint, and responds at once."

"Then, probably," said Vincent, "to allow our feat-
ures to assume the first slight expression of passion is
a step toward failure of self-control, because what is
true of the morbid in a high degree must be true in a
measure of the wholesome."

" Yes j one sees that in emotional people. The yield-
ing to tears is the first step down a bad staircase,
where, soon or late, serious trouble from loss of moral
balance awaits the feeble."

"And to yield," said Vincent, "is to make at last a
habit. Repeated resistance to the slighter physical
expressions of emotion must end in making self-con-
trol easy."

"Yes; that is true. It is the constant lesson we
have, as doctors, to teach the hysterical. They are
always in danger of being trampled on by their emo-
tions. They can take no risks. For them even excess
of mirth is dangerous. What the children call a 'gale
of laughter' ends abruptly in an explosion of tears, and
then the brakes are off, and away they go."

"Pathos is the very shadow of humor," returned
Vincent. "We all know that, and yet the grave be-



124 CHARACTERISTICS.

gets the gay more surely than the reverse occurs. It
seems curious that the expressions of the two states
should in nervous people reverse the rule of succession.
I mean that these should tend more readily to pass
from mirth to tears."

"That is not accurately correct," I said. "Tears
with them beget laughter, and the opposite is also
true."

"You men are getting out of my depth," cried St.
Clair. "I hate self-control except in other people. It
creates habits, and I loathe them. The only habit I
have is the habit of having no habits ; one inherits too
many as it is. There is a nice story in that big book
on Brazil ; it is the only thing I got out of it. It will
answer to kill your large talk. An ancient Indian con-
vert of the Jesuits, at Para, was sick to death, and be-
ing asked by the good padre what delicacies he would
like to comfort him on his way to purgatory, said, 'I
should like the tender hand of a Tapuya boy, well
broiled.'"

"Certainly it illustrates the permanence of original
habits," said Vincent, laughing. "But habit "

"Oh, don't begin again," cried St. Clair, who pro-
fessed to detest psychological talk. "Look at what
you are missing."

"You are right," returned Vincent. " 'Your solid
man sees not the sky.' Is n't that Emerson ?"

"Yes," said St. Clair ; "and his is also, 'Show me thy
face, dear Nature, that I may forget my own.' That
is what this is good for."

As he spoke, he led us through a hedge of under-
brush, and we came out on a green space with groups



CHAEACTEEISTICS. 125

of stately tulip-trees and oaks. A little beyond them
a marble-paved spring welcomed us. Overhead were
maples of great size and breadth of wholesome leaf-
age. Their roots were peeping out in white fibrous
bunches into the half -choked spring, alongside of which
St. Glair threw himself at length, while Vincent and I
sat down on the grass at a little distance. For a while
we said nothing. The clouds mottled the sunshine on
the woods and turf as they sailed overhead, and the
waters, finding a voice with their new birth, troub-
lously whirled around the stone-built pool, and gurgled
out through an irregular latticework of roots, mur-
muring more and more noisily as they tumbled down
the slope.

Meanwhile I watched our poet's face. His cap was
off, and below the crown of brown half curls his face
expressed in its varying lines a sense of the joy he
felt. I knew that he was more near akin to it all
than we.

As I looked, Vincent called my attention to a tree
near by, and, rising, for a few minutes we wandered
away. As we returned, I touched Vincent's arm, and
we stood silently observant. St. Clair lay on his back
beside the spring, dabbling in it with his hand, his
head against the rising bank of turf. I had seen him
in such a mood before. He was improvising. Quite
unconscious of our presence, he broke out into verse,
and then fell away to prose again, or let fall a rime.

"I see it, I hear it ; a fawn I be, and this is my play-
mate, new-born like me. A fawn on the hillside, a
brooklet is he. How the water finds a voice, and war-
bles meaningless things ; sobs and cries like an infant



126 CHARACTERISTICS.

just born ! I break the clear mirror, I prance in the
stream j I laugh with its laughter, I dream with its
dream. It does not wait for me, my new playmate.
It is off and away: past rocks we go, twin-leaping
things, until at the cliff -verge I see it spring from
the edge. I dare not to follow the curve of its leap.
I hear its wild cry. Is it dead or asleep ? 'Mid the
ferns far below lies a quiet smoothness, so still, ah, so
still! Are yon dead, pleasant comrade? Then with
fear I go down, with my sharp ears intent, until far
away on the grass-slopes I find my little friend. I
see it trickle out of the rocks in jets, and remake it-
self again, and go athwart the slope, joyously tossing
the grasses on its way. Then I know that my new-
born friend can take no harm, and is as the gods
immortal."

" Is this the way they make verse ? " whispered
Vincent

We need not have feared to disturb him. St. Clair
was at times more simple than a child with its mother.
He turned, in no wise embarrassed. The mood of
wrapt, fanciful thought was gone, and, sitting up, he
said pleasantly, "Ah, you heard me. By Zeus ! but a
fawn I was for the moment." Meanwhile Vincent
looked on, in his face a faint expression of withheld
surprise at the naturalness of the man.

"Were I you, I would carve me a new-born fawn by
the just-born fountain," said I, "and put your mood in
verse on the rock near by."

"I could not," cried St. Clair; "I could not The
song is gone. To sing it anew, I should have to re-
capture the mood, and that is impossible.



CHARACTERISTICS. 127

"I heard a bird in the air above
Sing, as he flew, a song of love.
To earth, from heaven overhead,
All the soul of love it said ;
But the bird is gone, the song is dead,
And heaven is empty overhead.
If I were the bird, or the song were I,
I may not know until I die,
And somewhere in the world to be,
Chant again, with soul set free,
Its rapture of felicity."

"Whose is that?" said I.

"Mine. I made it for you now as it came. I like
it; I shall not to-morrow. Do you like it, Vincent?"

"My dear fellow, I have been shaking myself up in-
wardly like a kaleidoscope to see if I could get my
confused mental atoms, by happy chance, into some
form of sympathy with you and yours. I cannot."

"And," said the joyous face looking up at him, "it
seems to you nonsense. Does n't it, now?"

"Not that, not just that, but incredible, curious;
and, frankly, I do not care about it as a product. I see
it gives you and others pleasure. It gives me little.
Sometimes I like the verses which jingle agreeably."

"O Vincent! Well"

"Yes; I suppose rime is the sugar of verse, but I
soon find it is only the sugar I am liking, and at the
end I can't tell what it all meant."

"He has been reading Swinburne," cried St. Glair.
"A wild debauch of rime and rhythms, and the sense
gets seasick on a rolling ocean of rhythmic billows.
I hate him. You like Owen Meredith. I know it ; I
am sure," he added, with mild scorn.



128 CHARACTERISTICS.

"Well, yes," said Vincent, smiling. "I do some-
times a little not much."

"It is a demi-mundane creature, not a poet at all"

"I can read Milton and Browning some of him
and Pope," said Vincent, defensively.

"And the greatest what of them?" said I. "We
may as well know all your wickedness."

"Oh, those. Those are the revelations. 'The gods
who speak in men.' "

"And Wordsworth ?" said St. Clair, wistfully, and as
if he were tenderly mentioning some well-loved woman.
"Out with it!"

"And Wordsworth?" repeated Vincent. "Do not
fear that I shall be so commonplace as to sneer at him.
Yes ; I can read him. But how was it that he could fly
to-day and crawl to-morrow never seemed to know
if he were in heaven or of the merest earth ? Tell me
why so many poets lack power to criticize their own
work, and yet the making of it presupposes critical la-
bor soon or late. The poem you began to quote from
Wordsworth the other day I had never chanced upon.
I went home, and read and learned it. The first two
verses I care less for, but the last is like a storm for
vigor, like a trumpet for power to stir you ; and yet I
do not see them in any of the volumes of selections."

"Say them," said St. Clair.

"I can. You of course know them; they record
the fate of the French armies in Russia.

"Fleet the Tartar's reinless steed,
But fleeter far the pinions of the wind,
Which from Siberian caves the monarch freed,
And sent him forth, with squadrons of his kind,



CHARACTERISTICS. 129

And bade the snow their ample backs bestride,
And to the battle ride.
No pitying voice commands a halt,
No courage can repel the dire assault ;
Distracted, spiritless, benumbed, and blind,
Whole legions sink and, in one instant, find
Burial and death : Look for them and descry,
When morn returns, beneath the clear blue sky,
A soundless waste, a trackless vacancy.

How the first line tramps through one's brain, and ho"W
solemn is the silence in which the ending leaves you !
Pardon me, St. Clair, if again I am stupid enough to
wonder how he who struck this note could "

"No, no, Fred ! " exclaimed the poet. " The children
of the brain are like the children of the body. You
say that is a fine lad, and how crooked is his sister.
Do you think the father feels responsible ?"

"Ah, my dear St. Clair, illustrations are full of peril.
Verse has no grandfathers, and, really, I think some
of your master's acknowledged offspring might have
been left at his doorstep in a basket by by "

"Now, take care !" laughed St. Clair.

"Well, by some Muse of easy virtue."

The poet laughed, and then said thoughtfully:
"The answer lies here. All the great poets have
written much. That is as if you were to say that you
or I talk much. Verse is their natural mode of ex-
pression, and there being in many of them a childlike
despotism of temperament which the world cannot
subdue, they sing what they feel, or think, or desire.
That is all of it, Vincent or one word more. This
must result in the product being often poor. But then
a time comes when health, joy, opportunity, sugges-



] 30 CHARACTERISTICS.

tion, nourish the prosperous hour, and something great
is done."

"But," urged Vincent, "why cannot they, like other
men, see where and how they have failed, and then
suppress for us the mass of stuff they leave us?"

"Let me answer him," said I. "For the lover of
verse there is less of this than you think, and among
the worst products of the best men there are lines one
would not lose. This is true even of the lesser poets
Crabbe, Somerville. I should be glad to have
written those lines on a good physician,

" And well he knew to understand
The poor man's cry as God's command.

Yet, who reads Somerville I*

"Remember, too," said St. Clair, "that self-criticism
is a thing in its fulness impossible. A man would
have to forget and live again. The poem is, for the
writer, a thing made up of the poem and the remem-
brance of all that went to form it the joy, the pain,
and what not. It has for him the delightfulness the
new-born child has for the mother. A poet once said
to me, 'I make my poems swiftly, when in the mood,
and afterward, except as to minor verbal changes, am
about as helplessly uncritical as is a bird of its song.
Always my last is for me my best, and then in a year
I cease to love it. But, surely, as nurses say, my last
poem puts out of joint the noses of all the rest.'"

"I have not heard that bit of nursery-talk since I
was a boy," said Vincent. "It is more meaningless
than most of our childish folk-lore. But you have not
answered me j you have only restated the facts."



CHAEACTEEISTICS. 131

"I think I have answered you," said St. Clair ; "and
you must remember that what another says of a poet's
verse (however just the comment) is to the poet as
mere babble. And then, too, the great critics are more
rare than the great poets, which is curious to me, but
I think true."

"Some one should write the history of criticism,"
said Vincent.

"Do you know Dallas 'The Gay Art'?"

"No, or rather yes ; it is an unreadable book, despite
its learning. Even Clayborne could hardly stand a
full dose of it. I read a goodly part of it with wonder
and fatigue."

"I doubt," said St. Clair, "if any man who writes
were ever the better for the critics I mean as a
writer."

"That appears to me absurd," said Vincent. "A
good course of Sainte-Beuve might make you believe
that such a thing should be possible, unless all men
who write are idiots."

"But in this country," I urged, "we have only one
critic worth the name, and he has no ear except for
the past.* Yes; we could give up one half of our
authors for a critic like the author of the 'Causeries
du Lundi.' Come, let us go. Come." And we moved
through the field and into a noble woodland.

"Look at that creeper," said St. Clair. "An English
friend wrote me last year to ask what I meant by

"Autumn vines
Ablaze within the somber pines."

* And now, alas I since these lines were written, he, too, be-
longs to the past.



132 CHARACTERISTICS.

"And pretty hard it must be on the Canadian poets,"
langhed Vincent, "that along the rivers of New Bruns-
wick the wild rose has no thorns. There is a frog-
pond below us. Just hear them ; they speak all the
tongues. The American boy calls them 'bloody
nouns.' Do they say that?"

"They do," said I, "and anything else you please.
I wonder what Russian frogs say ; the Greek frog is
immortal. I once fell in with some ex-rebel briga-
diers in North Carolina, and, among other good things,
I carried away one delightful frog story. I wish I
could give it tie flavor of the very pleasant Southern
tongue.

"The Yankee soldier, settled in Roanoke Island after
the war, complains of his fate.

" 'No, sir ; I don't git on, I 'm that bothered. I don't
mind bein' shot at used to that ; and I don't mind
cussin' cusses is soft sort of things. But when a
fellow 's tired 'bout sundown, and ye gits seated on a
smooth-topped fence-rail, and tucks yer toes under the
third rail, and lights yer corn-cob pipe, and is jus'
comfortable, and ye git to thinkin' of the ole home
and the apple-orchard and bees then them thar
derned grayback frogs commences. And one of 'em
he says, "Bull Run!" and another he says, "Ball's
Bluff ! " and at las' one little cuss gits up on his toes
'way out in the ma'sh, and he says, " Cheeckahominy ! "
I can't stand them there frogs. I 'm jus' goin' to leave.' "

"The story is rapidly improving under your hands,"
said Vincent.

"For shame," I returned. "What ingratitude ! "

"Odd, is n't it," said St. Clair, "that every one has a



CHAKACTERISTICS. 133

kind of tender feeling for frogs, and worse than none
for toads?"

"I admit it," said I. "I loathe toads. As a fact,
they secrete from the skin-glands an acrid and quite
deadly poison; if for defense or not, I cannot say.
But come, it is getting late."

"One moment," said Vincent. "Before we go, do
look at these trees. Really, there are few such collec-
tions of unusual trees. These cypresses are old friends
of mine ; this must be their northern limit."

"Of course they are not natives," I said. "And
they have lost their southern habit of sending up little
conical shoots from the roots what they call 'knees'
in the South a puzzle to the botanists."

"Probably want of moisture has to do with their ab-
sence here, because our monumental cypress at Bar-
tram's garden in wet ground has numberless knees.
Only a few miles from here stands the most northern
papaw-tree."

"Do you remember," I said to Vincent, "that it was
under that great cypress you and I first met?"

"I do, and pleasantly well I remember. We were
only lads then. You were looking up at its vast
branchings with your hat off. You uncovered as you
approached it."

"It is a feeling I often have that I must uncover
to a tree like that. I have always felt grateful to the
sturdy old fellow who silently introduced us to each


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