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with flashes of exquisite feeling. The poem which is cut out of young ladies' editions of Byron is the one that represents him most truly in his blend of sensualism and idealism, whereas the Brocken figure is but Byron as he appeared to himself in his stormiest and gloomiest moments, and even that phantasm artistically draped and limelit by a poet's imagination. If people realised how much Byron wrote in his pitiable span of thirty-six years, how much hard labour went to make those cleverly-rhymed stanzas of "Childe Harold" or "Don Juan," despite Swinburne's accusation of botchery, they would see that he really had very little time to be wicked. They would understand that art-even the most decadent-is based on strenuous labour. "Young, gay,
Radiant, adorned outside; a hidden ground
Even in poetically declaring himself a decadent, the artist must take as many pains as fall to the prosiest bourgeois. This is the paradox of the position. Just as the pyrrhonist in maintaining that there is no truth asserts one, so the literary pessimist partly contradicts his contention of the futility of existence by his anxiety to express himself elegantly. Leopardi's Italian and Schopenhauer's German are far superior to those of the optimistic philosophers; and one of the most polished poems of our day is poor Thomson's "City of Dreadful Night." So, too, the poet who declares himself an idler and a vagabond gives the lie to his pretensions by the labour he takes to clothe them in unimpeachable verse. If you will bear this in mind, you will considerably modify your notion of the irresponsible artistic butterfly. Sims Reeves tells an amusing anecdote of Mario the singer. Being brought one Thursday night by an eminent composer to sing at a big fashionable party, he found so great a line of carriages in front of his own that it was past midnight ere he arrived at the door. The thought that it was already Friday, and that he was about to sing in a
new house, whose hostess he did not even know, had already dismayed the superstitious singer. But when he saw the number on the door was 13, no power on earth and no amount of argument could induce him to enter. "Ah, yes," said the hostess, smiling pleasantly, when the composer explained, “a very ingenious excuse, for which Mario ought to be grateful to you. Of course he was intoxicated, and after a long argumentation you at last persuaded him to go home."
Poe was doubtless occasionally drunk ; but think of the years of sober labour, of stooping over desks, that must have gone to make those wonderful tales! Which is the true Poe, the hard drinker or the hard worker? That the artist must get drunk is, indeed, the belief of certain schools of young men even to-day; but is it not based on the old eternal false-logic, that because some artists have got drunk, therefore to get drunk is to be artistic? It was Murger who invented the Bohemian artist, poor and gay and of an easy morality. "Musette and Mimi!" says Sarcey. "The image of those ideal beings shone on every man who was twenty-one about 1848. La vie de Bohème was youth's breviary-fifty years ago." The great dramatic critic goes on to complain of the onslaught made upon him because he wrote against this "idleness of disposition, this heedlessness for the morrow, this inclination to look for the day's tobacco and the quarter's rent from loans and debts rather than from honest work, this witty contempt for current morality." But this is scarcely the teaching of the ever delightful book, which catches the spirit of youth and gaiety and irresponsibility wedded to artistic ardour as no other book has done before or since, and for which one might put in the plea that Charles Lamb made for the dramatists of the Restoration. Its world is only a pleasing fiction, and the ordinary rules of morality do not carry over into it. It is the East of Suez of literature, "where there ain't no Ten Commandments, and a man may raise a thirst." The real Bohemia, as Jules Valdès showed in Réfractaires, is a world of misery and discontent. Still more sordid is the English Bohemia expounded by Mr. Gissing in New Grub Street. Mr. Robert Buchanan indeed writes as if there had been a Murgerian Bohemia in England in his young days. "Et ego fui in Bohemia. There were inky fellows and bouncing girls, then; now there
girls were 'gey ill to live with."
What is true in the immortal Bohemian myth, what appeals to the universal human instinct, is the eternal contrast between the dreams and aspirations of youth and the sobrieties of success and middle age. As Jeffery Prowe sang :
"I dwelt in a city enchanted,
And lonely, indeed, was my lot;
Was certainly all that I got.
The persons I pity who know not the City,
This Bohemia will never disappear, because every generation of youth reconstructs it afresh, to migrate from it into the world of respectability above or the world of shame below. Qu'on est bien à vingt ans !" will always be a cry to thrill the breast of portly respectability with tender regret. As Thackeray put it in that delightful poem, which is almost an improvement on Béranger :
"With pensive eyes the little room I view,
Where, in my youth, I weathered it so long; With a wild mistress, a staunch friend or two, And a light heart still breaking into song; Making a mock of life and all its cares, Rich in the glory of my rising sun, Lightly I vaulted up four pair of stairs
In the brave days when I was twenty-one."
What a pity that life is so stern and severe, that for the light morality of Bohemia somebody must pay, some life be wrecked! Nature fills us with youth and romance, but for her own purposes only. She is the great matrimonial agent, and heavy is the penalty she exacts from those who would escape her books, and extract from life more poetry than it holds. And so the beautiful roselight of Bohemia veils many a tragedy, many a treachery. Yet will the grisette be ever a gracious memory, and literature will always embalm the "Mimi Pinson" of De Musset.
She is dead now, la grisette, even in Paris, and "hic jacet" may be written over the bonnet she threw par-dessus les moulins.
"Ab, Clemence! When I saw thee last
I dreamed not in that idle glance
And only left to Memory's trance
That is how she affected even the Puritan Oliver Wendell Holmes. Yes, there is something in the Bohemian tradition that touches the sternest of us-not the roystering, dissolute, dishonourable, shady Bohemia that is always with us, bounded by the greenroom, the racecourse, the gambling club, and the Bankruptcy Court, but the Bohemia that is as unreal as Shakespeare's "desert country near the sea," the land of light purses and light loves, set against the spiritual blight that sometimes follows on pecuniary and connubial blessedness. For, after all, morality is larger than a single virtue, and Charles Surface is always more agreeable than Joseph, even when Joseph is as proper as he pretends. And if Charles is a poet to boot, what can we not forgive him? The poet must have his experiences, be sure
that nine-tenths of them are purely of the imagination. For the other tenth-well, if Burns had been strictly temperate, "the world had wanted many an idle song," and we should not have celebrated his centenary so enthusiastically. The poet expresses the joy and sorrow of the race whose silent emotions become vocal in him, and it is necessary that he should have a full and varied life, from which "nihil humanum " is alien. Barry Pain once wrote a subtle story, which only three persons understood, to show that a great poet might be an elegant egotist, of unruffled life and linen. If so, I should say that such a poet's genius would
largely consist of hereditary experience; he would, in language that is not so unscientific as it sounds, be a reincarnation of a soul that had" sinned and suffered." But as a rule the poet does his own sinning and suffering, and catches for himself that haunting sense of the glory and futility of life which is the undertone of the modern poet's song, and which finds such magical expression in Heine's
"I have loved, oh, many a maiden kind,
And many a right good fellow,Where are they all? So pipes the wind, So foams and wanders the billow."
But the poet's morals are maligned. The fierce light which beats upon the throne of song reveals the nooks and crannies of the singers' lives, which for the rest they themselves expose rather than conceal. I should say that the average morality of the poet is much superior to the average morality of the man of the world who sins in well-bred silence. The poet gloats over his sins-is musically remorseful or swingingly defiant ; he hints or exaggerates or invents. That is where the poet's imagination comes in-to give to airy nothings a local habitation and The poet's imagination is often far more licentious than his life; the " poet's
licence" is rightly understood to be limited to his language. To have written erotic verses is almost a certificate of respectability: the energy that might have been expended in action has run to rhyme. Qui ose tout dire arrive à tout faire, say the French. Arrives at, perhaps, though even this is doubtful, but certainly does not start from that platform. Much less questionable were it to say: Qui ose tout faire arrive à ne rien dire.
THE late M. Verlaine will be cited
as a substantiation of the popular idea of the vagabond poet. The Verlaine legend has now been consecrated by his death; and for all time, I suppose, Verlaine will rank with Villon as an impossible person. He may have been all that is said, all that is hinted, even in Mr. George Moore's famous description of him. "I once saw Verlaine. I shall not forget the bald prominent forehead (une tête glabre), the cavernous eyes, the macabre expression of burnt-out lust smouldering upon his face."
But there is another side to him, and it is perhaps because I do not go about the world with Mr. Moore's "macabresque " eye, which to-day happily sees things in a soberer colouring, that I saw this other side of Verlaine when, like. Mr. George Moore, I hunted him up on his native heath. For one thing, I was not prepared to see anything very lurid and diabolique life is really not so picturesque as all that. I knew besides that he had been a schoolmaster in England; and can you imagine anything more tedious and toilsome than to be the "French master," the poor despised, “frog
man diabolique! I trust biographers will not forget to place all this depressing drudgery to our "vagabond's" credit. Think of it! The first poet of France correcting French exercises! The poet of the passions conjugating the verb aimer in its hideous grammatical reality!
Rien faire est doux.
So might Verlaine write, though contradicting himself by doing something in so doing; but in the absurd actual he had to earn his bread and butter, and man cannot live by poetry alone, unless one sings the joys and sorrows of the middle classes. It was rather late at night before, having vainly hunted for him in his favourite restaurants, I found the narrow, povertystricken rue in which Verlaine was living a year or so ago. Passing through a dark courtyard, I had to mountinterminable stone stairs, lighting foul French matches as I went, to relieve the blackness. At last I arrived outside his door, very near the sky. I knocked. A voice called out, "I've gone to bed." I explained my lateness and said I would call to-morrow.
"No, no! Attendez!" I heard him jump out of bed, stumble and grope about, and then strike a match; and in another instant the door opened and in the interstice appeared a homely nightcapped bourgeois pulling on his trousers. There flashed on me incongruously the thought of our English. laureate's stately home by the sea, in which, jealously guarded by hedges and flunkeys, the poet chiselled his calm stanzas; and all the vagabond in me leapt out to meet the unpretentious child of Paris. He greeted me with simple cordiality; and, ugly and coarse though his face was, it was lit up throughout by a pleasant smile. His notorious leg was bandaged, but not repulsively. No, "homely" is the only impression I shall ever have of Verlaine, the man. Even in that much maligned "macabresque " head of his, there was more of the bonhomme than of the poet or the satyr. The little garret was his all in all; a bed took up half the space. On the table stood the remains of supper. A few shelves of books, a sketch or two, and a bird-cage, with, I think, a canary, were the only attempts at
Such was Verlaine at the climax of his fame, when he had won a sure immortality ; simple and childlike, and with a child's unshamed acceptance of any money one might leave behind on the mantelpiece. He seems to have made very little by his verses. He spoke English quite well, having probably acquired it when teaching French; and he was perhaps more proud of it than of his poems. Mr. Moore says he wished to translate Tennyson. He read aloud a poem he had just written in celebration of his own fiftieth birthday. There was an allusion to a "crystal goblet." "Ce verre-là!" he interpolated, with a humorous smile, pointing to a cheap glass with the dregs of absinthe that stood on the table. There was also an allusion to a "blue-bird," a sort of symbol of the magic of spring, I fancy, that flutters through many of his poems. (The “plumage bleuté de l'orgueil" figures in one of his very last verses.) When he arrived at this "blue bird" he pointed to the cage with the same droll twinkle: "Cet oiseau-ci." When I left him he stood at the head of the gloomy stone stairs to light me down, and the image of him in his red cotton nightcap is still vivid. And now he is only an immortal name. Ah well after the English schoolrooms, the French prisons, the Parisian garrets and hospitals, the tomb is not so bad.
Rien faire est doux. In giving him place with the immortals I feel no hesitation. English clergyman found immortality by writing one poem-"The Burial of Sir John Moore"-and, however posterity may appraise Verlaine's work as a whole, he has left three or four lyrics which can only die if the French language dies, or if mankind in its latter end undergoes a paralysis of the poetic sense such as Darwin suffered from in his old age. Much of his verse-especially his latter verse--is to me, at least, as obscure as Mallarmé. But
"Il pleut dans mon cœur
can never be surpassed for the fidelity with which it renders the endless drip, drip of melancholia, unless it is by that other magical lyric
"Les sanglots longs
De l'automne Blessent mon cœur D'une langueur
He is the poet of rhythm, of the nuance, of personal emotion. French poetry has always leant to the frigid, the academic, the rhetorical-in a word, to the prosaic. The spirit of Boileau has ruled it from his cold marble urn. It has always lacked "soul," the haunting magic, the elusive wistfulness, the "finer light in light," that are of the essence of poetry. This subtle and delicate echo of far-off celestial music, together with some of the most spiritual poems that Catholicism has ever inspired, have been added to French literature by the gross-souled, gross-bodied vagrant of the prisons and the hospitals! Which is a mystery to the Philistine. But did not our own artistic prisoner once sing
"Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life's dissonance Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God"?
Was ever more devout Catholic than Benvenuto Cellini, who murdered his enemies and counted his beads with equal gusto?
HOUGH Michael and his Angel had so
brief a run at the Lyceum Theatre, it must not be assumed that the play is one of Mr. Jones' worst. The assumption should rather be the other way-that it is one of his best, as indeed it is. But if a man of letters, with no experience of the stage, had written this play, it would have been cited by the critics as one more example of how impossible it is even for a genius in literature to master the mysteries of stagecraft. Part of its failure to grip the audience was undoubtedly due to its defiance of many of the conventions of stage-carpentry; and inasmuch as Mr. Jones knows his business to his finger-tips, one must congratulate him on his courage and his artistic ambition even while one condoles with him upon his failure as a dramatist It is a new thing to have to take Mr. Jones to task as a working play
wright, but in making his play practically a duologue in five acts he courted failure Shakespeare himself would try our patience if Romeo and Juliet held the stage alone all the evening. I have a lurking fear that I may have had a tiny share myself in driving Mr. Jones tothe path of art and damnation. by persistently animadverting upon his "comic relief." The personages of his plays, I have been in the habit of complaining, fall into two groups, the real persons of drama or comedy, and the unreal persons of farce; so that, instead of one homogeneous impression, his plays give us two jarring impressions. This species of play comes down to us from the days of the stock companies. There were the leading gentleman and the leading lady at four or five guineas a week, and you had to fit them; but there were also the low comedian and the comic old woman, at two or three guineas a week, and you had to fit them. The result was an amusing hotchpotch, but not the unity of a work of art. A play should be in one key. It is as jarring to put farcical people among real people as real people among farcical people: the mistake which Mr. Barrie has committed in The Professor's Love Story, where into an unreal world of humorous exaggeration intrudes the sad stern figure of the Professor's sister with her real and unhappy love-story. It is in this preservation of atmosphere that Mr. W. S. Gilbert is so artistically superior to the bulk of our dramatists; the Importance of being Earnest alone vies with his comic work in this quality of harmony. There is no reason, of course, why there should not be an underplot, but it must be logically and not merely ingeniously implicated with the main plot. Now, instead of reforming his sub-plot and his comic relief Mr. Jones went and abolished them altogether. This is of course A FAT PART one way of avoiding faultiness, and certainly no one can say his piece is not all in one key