Part 2 out of 11
to realize it. And if I do, then I can write books and communicate
it to other people, so that they can judge it, and see if it's any
better than the vision they have. It is a higher kind of
unselfishness, I think."
"I see," said Corydon. "It's not easy to understand."
"No one understands it," he replied. "People are taught that they
must sacrifice themselves for others; and they do it, blindly and
stupidly, and never ask if the other person is worthy of the
sacrifice--and still less if they themselves have anything worth
Corydon had clenched her hands suddenly. "How I hate the religion of
self-sacrifice!" she cried.
"Mine is a religion of self-development," said Thyrsis. "I am
sacrificing myself for what other people ought to be."
Section 4. They came back after a time, to the subject of love; and
to the ideal of it which Thyrsis meant to set forth in the book. It
was the duty of every soul to seek the highest potentiality of which
it had vision; and as one did that for himself, so he did it for the
person he loved. There could be no higher love than this--to treat
the thing beloved as one's self, to be perpetually dissatisfied with
it, to scourge it to new endeavor, to hold it in immortal
This was a point about which they argued with eager excitement. To
Thyrsis, love itself was a prize to be held before the loved one;
whereas Corydon argued that love must exist before such a union
could be thought of. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes shone as she
maintained the thesis that the princess could not go with the
minstrel unless his love was given to her irrevocably.
"If you mean by love a sense of oneness in the pursuit of an ideal,
then I agree with you," said Thyrsis. "But if you mean what love
generally means--a mutual admiration, the worshipping of another
personality--then I don't."
"And are lovers not even to be interesting to each other?" cried
But the poet did not shrink even from that. "I don't think a woman
could be interesting to me--except in so far as she was growing. And
she must always know that if she stopped growing, she would cease to
be interesting. That is not a matter of anybody's will, it seems to
me--it is a fact of soul-chemistry."
"I don't think you will find many women to love you on that basis,"
"I never expected to find but one," was Thyrsis' reply; "and I may
not find even one."
She sat watching him for a moment. "I had never realized the
sublimity of your egotism," she said. "It would never occur to you
to judge anyone else by your own standards, would it?"
"That is very well put," laughed Thyrsis. "As a matter of fact, I
have a maxim that I count all things lost in the world but my own
"Why is that?"
"Because I can depend on my own soul; and I have not yet met
anything else in life of which I can say that."
Again there was a pause. "You are as hard as iron!" exclaimed the
"I am harder than anything you can find for your simile," he
answered. "I know simply that there is no force existing that can
turn me from my task."
"You might meet some woman who would fascinate you."
"Perhaps," he replied. "I have done things I'm ashamed of, and I've
a wholesome fear of doing more of them. But I know that that woman,
whoever she might be, would wake up some morning and find me
Then for a while he sat staring at the eddies in the pool below. "I
have a vision of another kind of woman," he said--"a woman to whom
my ideal would be the same compelling force that it is to me--a
living thing that would drive her, that she was both master of, and
slave to, as I am. So that she would feel no fears, and ask no
favors! So that she would not want mercy, nor ask pledges--but just
give herself, as I give myself, and take the chances of the game.
Don't you think there may be just one such woman in the world?"
"Perhaps," was the reply. "But then--mightn't a woman be sure of
your ideal, but not of you?"
"As to that," said Thyrsis, "she would have to know me.
"As to that," said Corydon, "she would have to love you."
And Thyrsis smiled. "As in most arguments," he said, "it's mainly a
matter of definitions."
Section 5. At this point there came a call from the distance, and
Corydon started. "There is mother," she exclaimed. "How the
afternoon has flown!"
"And must you go home now?" he asked.
"I'm afraid so," she replied. "We have a long row."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I wanted to advise you about books to read.
You must let me help you to find what you are seeking."
"Ah," said Corydon, "if you only will!"
"I will do anything I can," he said. "I am ashamed of not having
helped you before."
They had risen and started towards the house. "Can't you come
to-morrow, and we can talk it over," he said.
"But I thought you were going to work," she objected.
"I can spare another day," he replied. "A rest won't hurt me, I
know. And it's been a real pleasure to talk to you this afternoon."
So they settled it; and Thyrsis saw them off in the boat, and then
he went back to the little cabin.
On the steps he stood still. "Corydon!" he muttered. "Little
That was always the way he thought of her; not only because he had
known her when she was a child, but because this expressed his
conception of her--she was so gentle and peaceable and meek. She was
now eighteen, and he was only twenty, but he felt towards her as a
grandfather might. But now had come this new revelation, that
astonished him. She had been deeply stirred by his work--she had
loved it; and this was no affectation, it was out of her inmost
heart. And she was not really contented at all--she had quite a
hunger for life in her!
It had been like an explosion; the barriers had been destroyed
between them, and he saw her as she really was. And he could hardly
believe it--all through the adventures that followed he would find
himself standing in the same kind of daze, whispering to himself--
"Corydon! Little Corydon!"
He did not try to do any work that evening. He thought about her,
and the problem of her life. She had stirred him strangely; he saw
her beautiful with a new kind of beauty. He resolved that he would
put her upon the way to some of the joy she sought.
She came early the next morning, and they sat by the lake-shore and
talked. They talked about the things she needed to study, and how
she should study them; about the books she had read and the books
she was to read next. And from this they went on to a hundred
questions of literature and philosophy and life. They became eager
and excited; their thoughts took wings, and they lost all sense of
time and place. There were so many things to be discussed!
Corydon, in spite of all her anti-clericalism, believed in
immortality; she laid claim to intuitions and illuminations
concerning it. And to Thyrsis, on the other hand, the idea of
immortality was the consummation of all unfaith. To him life was a
bubble upon the stream of time, a shadow of clouds upon the
mountains; there was nothing about it that could be or should be
"The act of faith," he cried, "is to give ourselves into the arms of
life, to take it as it comes, to rejoice in its infinite unfoldment,
the 'plastic dance of circumstance'; to behold the budding flower
and the new-born suns as equal expressions of the joy of becoming.
But people are weak, they love themselves, and they set themselves
up as the centre of existence!"
But Corydon was personal, and loved life; and she stood out that
death was unthinkable--that she had the sense of infinity within
her. Thyrsis strove to make her see that one was to wreak one's
hunger for infinity at each moment, and not put it off to any future
age; that life was a thing for itself, and needed no sequel to
justify it. "It is a free gift, and we have no claim upon it; we
must take it on the terms of the giver."
From that they came to religion. Thyrsis loved the forms of the old
faiths, because of the poetry there was in them; and so he wrestled
with Corydon's paganism. He tried to show her how one could read
"Paradise Lost" and the English prayer-book, precisely as one read
Virgil and Homer; to which Corydon answered that she had been to
"But you once believed in Santa Claus!" he retorted. "And does that
make you quarrel with him now? Every time you read a novel, don't
you pretend to believe in people who never existed?"
He went on to show her how much she lost of the sublime and
inspiring things of the past. He took the story of Jesus. It
mattered not in the least if it was fiction or fact--it was there,
as an achievement of the human spirit. He showed her the man of the
gospels--not the stained-glass god with royal robes and shining
crown, but the humble workingman, with his dream of a heaven nearby,
and a father who loved his children without distinction. He went
about among the poor and humble, the world's first revolutionist;
teaching the supremacy of the soul--a doctrine which was to be as
dynamite beneath the pillars of all established institutions. He
lived as a tramp and an outcast, and he died the death of a
criminal; and now those who had murdered him were using his
doctrines to enslave the world!--All this was a new idea to Corydon,
and she resolved forthwith that she would begin her readings with
the New Testament.
Section 6. So it went, until Thyrsis looked up with a start, and saw
that the shadows were falling. It was five o'clock, and they had not
stopped to eat! Even so, they had no time to cook, but made a cold
meal--and talked all the time they were eating.
Then Corydon said, "I must start for home."
"You won't want any supper," said Thyrsis. "Let's see the sunset
"But mother will be expecting me," she objected.
"She'll know you're all right," he replied.
So they climbed the hill, and sat and watched the sunset and the
rising full moon. The air was clear, and the sky like opal, and the
pale, pearly tints of the clouds were ravishing to behold. To
Thyrsis it seemed that these colors were an image of the soul that
was disclosed to him. He would have been at a loss for words to
describe the extraordinary sense of purity that Corydon gave to him;
it was not simply her maidenhood--it was something far more rare
than that. Here was an utterly perfect human soul; a soul without
speck or blemish--without a base idea, with no trace of a vanity,
unaware what a pretense might be. The joy and wonder of life welled
spontaneously in her, she moved to a noble impulse as a cloud moves
before the wind. She was like a creature from the skies they were
And here, in the silver moonlight, a memorable hour came to them.
Thyrsis told her of his consecration, and why he lived his
hermit-life. He had known for years that he was not as other men;
and now every hour it was becoming clearer to him. He shrunk from
the word, because it had been desecrated by the world; but it was
Genius. More and more frequently there was coming to him this
strange ecstasy, the source of which he could not guess; it was like
the giving way of flood-gates within him--the pouring in of a tide
of wonder and joy. It made him tremble like a leaf, it made him cry
aloud and fall down upon the ground exhausted. And yet, whatever the
strain might be, he never lost his grip upon himself; rather, all
the powers of his mind seemed to be multiplied--it seemed as if all
existence became one with his soul.
Never before had he uttered a word of this to anyone. No one could
understand the burden it had laid upon him. For this was the thing
that all the world was seeking, for the lack of which the world was
dying; and it was his to give or to withhold, to lose or to save. He
had to forge it and shape it, he had to embody it, to set it forth
in images and symbols. And that meant a terrific labor, a feat of
mental and emotional endurance quite indescribable. He must hold it,
though it burned like fire; he must clutch it to his bosom, though
it tore at his heart-strings.
"Sometimes," he said, "I fail and have to give up; and then I have
nothing but a memory without words--or perhaps a few broken phrases
that seem mere nonsense. Then I am like a man who has seen some
loved one drowned or burned to death before his eyes. It is a thing
so ineffable, so precious; and some power seeks to tear it away from
me, to bear it into oblivion forever. I can't know, of course--it
might come to some one else--or it might never come again. The
feeling I have is like that of a mother for an unborn child; if I do
not give it life, no one ever will. And don't you see--compared with
that, what does anything else count? I would lie down and be crushed
to pieces, if that would help; truly, I would suffer less than I
suffer in what I try to do. And so, the things that other men care
for--they simply don't exist for me. I must have a little money,
because I have to have something to eat, and a place to work in. But
I don't want position or fame--I don't shrink from any ridicule or
humiliation. It seems like a mad thing to say, but I have nothing to
do either with men's evil or with their good. I am not bound by any
of their duties; I can't have any country or any home, I can't have
wife or children--I can hardly even have any friends. Don't you
"Yes," whispered Corydon, deeply moved, "I see."
"Look," he went on--"see all the vice and misery in the world--the
cruelty and greed and hate. And see all the stupid and petty things,
the narrow motives, the vanities and the jealousies! And all that is
because people haven't this thing that has come to me; they don't
know the possibilities of life, they lack the sense of its
preciousness and sacredness. And they seek and seek--and go astray!
Take drunkenness, for instance; that brings them joy, but it's a
false scent, it leads them over a precipice. I've been down at the
bottom of it--you know why I have to go there, and what I've seen.
And that is where the best of men's faculties go--yes, it's
literally true! The men who are dull and plodding, they are
contented; it's the men who are adventurous and aspiring who come to
that precipice. I walk down an avenue and see the lines of saloons
with their gleaming lights, and that thought is like a scream of
anguish in my soul; there came a phrase to me once, that I wanted to
cry out to people--'the graveyards of your genius! the graveyards
of your genius!'"
Corydon was gazing at his uplifted face. She said, "That is how
Jesus must have felt, when he wept over Jerusalem."
"Yes," said Thyrsis. "It is a new religion trying to be born. Only
nowadays they don't persecute you, they just ignore you. They don't
hang you up on a cross and make you conspicuous and picturesque--
they ridicule you and let you starve. And that is what I face, you
see. I've saved a hundred dollars--just barely enough to buy me food
until I've written the book!"
"And other people have so much!" cried Corydon.
"So much--and no idea what to do with it. They just fling it away,
in a drunken frenzy. And down below are the poor, who slave to make
civilization possible. Such lives as they have to live--I can't ever
get the thought out of my mind, not in any happiest moment! I feel
as if I were a man who had escaped from a beleaguered city, and it
all depended upon me to carry the tidings and bring relief. I'm
their one hope, and if I fail them I'm a traitor, an accursed being!
They are ignorant and helpless, and their cry comes to me like some
great storm-wind of grief and despair. Oh, some day I mean to utter
words that will reach them--I can't fail! I can't fail!"
"No!" whispered Corydon. "You must not fail!"
They sat in silence for a while.
"How I wish that I could help you!" she said.
"Who can tell?" he answered. "Perhaps you may. A true friend is a
rare thing to find."
"I would do anything in the world to share in such a work."
"You really mean that? As hard as it is?"
"I would bear anything," she said. "I would go to the ends of the
earth for it. I would fling away the whole world--just as you have
"Ah, but are you strong enough? Could you stand it?"
"I don't know that--I'm only a child. But I wouldn't mind dying."
And so it came. It came as the dawn comes, unheralded,
unheeded--spreading wider, till the day is there. Months afterwards
they talked about it, and Thyrsis asked, "When did I propose to
"I don't think you ever proposed to me," she answered. "It just
came. It had to come--there was no other way."
"But when did I first kiss you?" he asked.
"I don't know even that," she said, and pondered.
"Did I kiss you that night when we sat on the hill?" he asked.
"I wouldn't have known it if you had," said Corydon. "It was as
natural for you to kiss me as it was for me to draw my breath."
Section 7. The moon was high when they went down the hill, and he
rowed her home. They were silent with the awe that was upon them.
They found the people at home in a panic, but they scarcely knew
this--and they scarcely troubled to explain.
Then Thyrsis went home, and spent half the night roaming about in
excitement. And early in the morning he was sitting on the edge of
his canvas-cot, whispering to himself again, "Corydon! Little
He could not think of work that day, but set out to walk to the
village by the lonely mountain-road; and half-way there he met the
girl, coming in the other direction. There was a light of wonder in
her eyes; and also there was perplexity. For all that morning she
had been whispering to herself, "Thyrsis! Thyrsis!"
They sat by the roadside to talk it over.
"Corydon," he began, "I've been thinking about what we said last
night, and it frightens me horribly. And I want to ask you please
not to think about it any more. I could not take anyone else into my
life--before God, I couldn't be so cruel. I have been shuddering at
the thought of it. Oh please, please, run away from me--before it is
"Is that the way it seems?" she asked.
"Corydon!" he cried. "I am a tormented man! There can't be any
happiness in the world for me. And you are so beautiful and so pure
and so good--I simply dare not think of it! You must be happy,
"I have never yet been happy," she said.
"Listen," he went on--"there is a stanza of Walter Scott's that came
to me this morning--an outlaw song. It seemed to sum up all my
feeling about it:
"'Maiden! a nameless life I lead,
A nameless death I'll die;
The fiend whose lantern lights the mead
Were better mate than I!'"
Corydon sat staring ahead. "You can't frighten me away from you,"
she said, in a low voice. "It isn't worth your while to try. But let
me tell you what I came to say. I'm so ignorant and so helpless--I
didn't see how I could be of any use to you. And so I wanted to tell
you that you must do whatever seemed best to you--just don't count
me at all. You see what I mean--I'm not afraid for myself, but just
for you. I couldn't bear the thought that I might be in your way. I
felt I had to come and tell you that, before you went back to your
Now Thyrsis had set out with mighty battlements reared about him;
and not all the houris and the courtesans of all the ages could have
found a way to breach them. But before those simple sentences of
Corydon's, uttered in her gentle voice, and with her maiden's gaze
of wonder--the battlements crumbled and rocked.
And that was always the way of it. There were endless new
explanations and new attitudes, new excursions and discoveries. They
would part with a certain understanding, but they never knew with
what view they would meet in the morning. They were swung from one
extreme to the other, from certitude to doubt, from joy to dismay
and despair. And so, day after day they would sit and talk, for
uncounted hours. Corydon would come to the little cabin, or Thyrsis
would come to the village, and they would wander about the roads or
the woods, forgetting their meals, forgetting all the world. Once
they wandered away into the mountains, and they sat until the dusk
closed round them; they were almost lost that night.
"Of course," Thyrsis had been saying, "we should not be married like
other men and women."
"No," said Corydon, "of course not."
"We should be brother and sister," he said.
"Yes," she assented.
"And it would not be real marriage--I mean, it would be just for the
"So I don't see how it could hinder you," Corydon added. "Whatever I
did that was wrong, you would tell me. And then too, about money. I
shouldn't be any burden; for I have twenty-five dollars a month of
"I had no idea of that," said Thyrsis.
"I've only had it for a year," said Corydon. "An aunt left me nearly
four thousand dollars. I can't touch the principal until I'm thirty,
but I have the income, and that will buy me everything I need. And
so it would be just as if you didn't have me to think of."
"I don't think the money side matters so much," was his reply. "It's
only this summer, you see--until I've finished the book."
Section 8. The key to all the future was the book; but alas, the
book was not coming on. How could one write amid such excitement?
This was a new kind of wine in Thyrsis' blood. This was reality! And
before it his dream-phantoms seemed to have dissolved into
They would make a compact for so many days, and he would start to
work; but he would find himself thinking of Corydon, and new
problems would arise, and he would take to writing her notes--and
finally realize in despair that he might as well go and see her.
Meantime Corydon would be wrestling with tasks of her own. They had
talked over her development, and agreed that what she needed was
discipline. And because Thyrsis had read her some of Goethe's
lyrics, she had decided to begin with German. Thyrsis had wasted a
great deal of time with German courses in college, and so he was
able to tell her everything not to do. He got her a little primer of
grammar, just enough to make clear the language-structure; and then
he set her to acquiring a vocabulary. He had little books full of
words that he had prepared for himself, and these she drilled into
her brain, all day and nearly all night. She stopped for nothing but
to eat--in the woods when the weather was fair and in her room when
it rained, she studied words, words, words! And she made amazing
progress--while Thyrsis was wrestling with his angels she read
Grimm's fairy tales, and some of Heyse's "Novellen," and "Hermann
and Dorothea," and "Wilhelm Tell."
But these were children's tasks, and her pilgrimage was one of
despair. Above were the heights where Thyrsis dwelt, inaccessible,
almost invisible; and how many years must she toil to reach them!
She would come to him with tears in her eyes--tears of shame for her
ignorance and her stupidity. And then Thyrsis would kiss the tears
away, and tell her how many brilliant and clever women he had met,
who had the souls of dolls behind all their display of culture.
So Corydon would escape that unhappiness--but alas, only to fall
into another kind. For she was a maiden, beautiful and tender, and
ineffably precious to Thyrsis; and when they met, their hands would
come together--it was as natural for them to embrace as for the
flowers to grow. And this would lead to moods of weakness and
satisfaction--not to that divine discontent, that rage of impatience
which Thyrsis craved. It seemed to him that Corydon grew more and
more in love with him, and more willing to cling to him; and he was
savage because of his own complaisance. They would spend hours,
exchanging endearments and whispering youthful absurdities; and
then, the next day, he would write a note of protest, and Corydon
would be wild with misery, and would tear up his love-notes, and
vow in tears that he should never touch her hand again. Now and then
he would try to suggest to her that what she needed for the
fulfillment of her life was not a madman like himself, but a husband
who would love her and cherish her, as other women were loved and
cherished; and there was nothing in all the world that galled her
quite so much as this.
Section 9. There came a time when all these happenings could no
longer be hid from parents. This unthinkable "engagement" had to be
announced, and the furies of grief and rage and despair unchained.
No one could realize the change that had come over Corydon--Cory-don,
the meek and long-suffering, who now was turned to granite, and
immovable as the everlasting hills. As for Thyrsis, all kinds of
madness had come from him, and were expected from him. But even he
was appalled at the devastation which this thunderbolt caused.
"You have ruined your career! You have ruined your career!" was the
cry that rang in his ears all day. And he knew what the world meant
by this. Young men of talent who wished to rise in the world did not
burden themselves with wives at the age of twenty; they waited until
their careers were safe--and meantime, if they felt the need, they
satisfied their passions with the daughters of the poor. And it was
for some such "eligible man" as this that the world had been
preparing Corydon; it was to save her for his coming that her
sheltered life had been intended. Her beauty and tenderness would
appeal to him, her innocence would bring a new thrill to his jaded
passions; and when he offered his hand, there would be no whisper of
what his past might have been, there would be no questions asked as
to any vices or diseases he might bring with him. There would be
trousseaus and flowers and wedding-cake, rice and white ribbons
and a honeymoon-journey; and then an apartment in the city, or
perhaps even a whole house, with a butler and a carriage--who could
tell? With wealth pouring into the metropolis from North and West
and South, such things fell often to beautiful and innocent maidens
in sheltered homes.
And here was this one, flinging herself away upon a penniless poet
who could not support her, and did not even propose to try! "Does he
mean to get some work?" was the question; and gently Corydon
explained that they intended "to live as brother and sister." And
that capped the climax--that proved stark, raving madness, if it did
not prove downright knavery and fraud.
In the end, being utterly baffled and helpless with dismay, the
mothers turned upon each other; for to each of them, the virtues of
her own offspring being so apparent, it was clear that this hideous
tragedy must have come from the machinations of the other. One day
Thyrsis and his mother, walking down a road, met Corydon and her
mother, upon a high hill where the winds blew wildly; and here they
poured out their grief, and hurled their impeachments against the
storm. To Thyrsis they assumed heroic proportions, they towered like
queens of tragedy; in after-history this was known as the Meeting of
the Mothers, and he likened it to the great contest in the
Nibelungenlied between Brunhild and Kriemhild.
Then, on top of it all, there came another calamity. In the
boarding-house with Corydon lived some elderly ladies, who had a
remarkable faculty for divining the evil deeds of other people. They
had divined the evil deeds of Corydon and Thyrsis, and one of them
was moved to come to Corydon's mother one day, and warn her lest
others should divine them too. And so there was more agony; the
discovery was made that Corydon had become a social outcast to all
the maids and matrons of the summer population--a girl who went to
visit a poet in his lonely cabin, and stayed until unknown hours of
the night. And so there came to Thyrsis a note saying that Corydon
must come no more to the cabin; and later in the day came Corydon
herself, to bring the tidings that a telegram had come from the
city, and that she and her mother were to leave the place the next
Thyrsis was aflame with anger, and was for going to the nearest
parson and having the matter settled there and then. But Corydon
dissuaded him from this.
"I've been thinking it over," she said, "and it's best that I should
go. You must finish the book--everything depends upon that, and you
know that if I came here now you couldn't do it. But if I go away,
there'll be nothing to disturb you. I can study meantime; and when
we meet in the city in the fall, everything will be clear before
She came and put herself in his arms. "You know, dear heart," she
said, "it won't be easy for me to go. But I'm sure it's for the
And Thyrsis saw that she was right, and so they settled it. She
spent that day with him--their last day; and floods of tenderness
welled up in their hearts, and the tears ran down their cheeks. It
was only now that she was going that Thyrsis realized how precious
she had become to him, and what a miracle of gentleness and trust
They agreed that here, and not in the village, was the place for
their parting. So they poured out their love and devotion, and made
their pledges for the future; and towards sundown he kissed her
good-bye, and put her in the boat, and stood watching until it was a
mere speck down the lake. Then he went back to the house, with a
great cavern of loneliness in his soul.
And in spite of all resolves, he was up with the dawn next day, and
walking to the village--he must see her once again! He went to the
depot with her, and upon the platform they said another farewell;
thereby putting a seal upon Corydon's damnation in the eyes of the
maids and matrons of the summer population.
THE VICTIM HESITATES
_They had opened a wooden box which lay beside them.
"Ten years!" she said. "How they have faded!"
"And the creases are tight," said he; "they will be hard to read."
"Letters! letters!" she exclaimed--"some of them sixty pages long!
How much would they make?"
"Perhaps a quarter of a million words," he said.
"What is to be done about it?"
"They must be selected, and then cut, and then trimmed and pruned."
"And will that leave any idea of it?"
He answered with a simile. "You wish to convey to a man how it feels
to pound stone for twelve hours in the sun. The only way you could
really do it would be to take him and let him pound for twelve
hours. But he wouldn't stand for that."
"So you let him pound for one hour," said she, with a smile.
"I will put up a sign," he said--_
'HERE BEGINS THE STONE-POUNDING!'
_And then those who are interested will come in and try it; and the
rest will peer through the fence and pass on."
To which she responded, "I would make the sign read,_
'ADMISSION TO LOVERS ONLY!'"
Oh, if I might only stay in a convent until you are ready to take
me! Since I left you I find myself possessed of cravings, which, if
I indulged them, might bring me the fate of the Maid of Neidpath!
Truly I have known some miserable moments. But I am trying very hard
to cultivate a happy, confident activity. The people here are
aggressive, and I am afraid I have been rude, which I never like to
be. I just succeeded in getting away from a young man who wanted to
walk to the village with me. Do you know, it would drive me
absolutely mad to talk to anyone now!
My soul has only one cry, and I could sometimes go out on the
mountain-side and scream it aloud to the winds. I fear I shall be a
trifle wild, in fact utterly in pieces, until you come, with that
wonderful recipe of yours for binding me together, and making me
complete. I think of you in your house, and wish to God I were
there, or out in the desert even, if you were with me.
When I passed through the city I felt exactly as if I were in Hades.
The glaring lights and the fearful rattle, the lazy, lounging men--I
had dinner in a restaurant, in which all the people seemed to be
feeding demons! It has been distinctly shown me why so many people
have thought you a rude unmannerly boy! I don't know what people
would think, if I had to be amongst them long.
I have begun so many letters to you in my mind, and oh, the times I
have told myself how much I loved you! I have read your letters and
slept with them under my pillow, like the veriest love-lorn maiden.
But all my happy thoughts are gone at present. It is distracting to
me to have to come into such close contact with people.
Oh, tell me, dearest one, what I shall have to do to control myself
and preserve the peace of my soul, until I go to you forever? I must
not long to see you, it prevents me from studying. If you might only
come to me at one moment in the day, and give me one kiss, and then
go away! You see, I am conducting myself in a very unwise
manner--and it is necessary I should study! I should love to have an
indomitable capacity for work, and eat only two meals a day, and
never have to think about my body.
I want to tell you what I feel, how utterly and absolutely I am
yours, and how any image that comes between you and me enrages me.
If only you knew how I give myself up to you in thought, word, and
deed!--My one reason for acting now, is that I may show you
something I have done, my one thought is to be what you would wish
me. No one, no one understands, or ever will, what is in your heart
and in mine--to be locked there for ages. There I have placed all my
power of love and religion and hope of the life that is to be. To
you I give all my trust, all my worship, you are the one link that
binds me to myself and to God. Without you I feel now that I should
be a poor wanderer.
You give me my feeling of wholeness, of the possibility of
completion, that I never had before. In my best and truest moments I
know that with you I can be what I have hoped. With you before my
eyes I have a grim resolution to conquer or die. The one thing I am
sure of always is my love for you. It might be possible for you to
stop loving me; but I, now that I have begun, shall continue to love
you to the day I die--and after, I hope. I do not love you for what
you can give me, I love you because you are you, I must love you now
no matter what you are. I believe Shakespeare was right when he said
that "love is not love which alters, when it alteration finds." I do
not believe that a person can really love more than once.
I must go to my German again and leave you. Do you love me? Do you
love me? Do you love me?
My dearest Corydon:
I received a letter from you before dinner, and as usual had one of
my flights of emotion, and thought of many things to write to you.
Now I am up on the mountain-side, trying to recall them. Dearest,
you are, as always, more precious to me. I am glad to see that you
are suffering some, and I think that it is well that you have to be
away from me for awhile, to fight some of your own soul's battles.
You see that I am in my stern humor; as convinced as ever that the
soul is to be deepened only by effort, and that the great glory of
life cannot be bought or stolen, or even given for love, but must be
I will tell you what I have been doing since you left. I spent three
whole days in the most unimaginable wretchedness; I had no
hindrances like yours--only the most fearful burden of dullness and
sloth, that had crept upon me and mastered me, during all the weeks
that I had let myself be so upset and delayed. I cannot picture what
I go through when I lose my self-command in that way, but it is like
one who is tied down upon a railroad track and hears a train coming.
He gets just as desperate as he pleases, and suffers anything you
can imagine--but he does not get free. And always the book would be
hanging before me, a kind of external conscience, to show me what I
ought to have been.
Now I have gotten myself out of that, by an effort that has quite
worn me out. When I found myself at work again, I felt a kind of
savage joy of effort, a greater power than I ever knew before. In
the reckless mood that I had got to, it seemed to me that I could
keep so forever.
Now dearest, you must get the same unity in your life; you must
concentrate all your faculties upon that--get for yourself that
precious habit of being "instant in prayer", and "strenuous for the
bright reward". As Wordsworth has it, "Brook no continuance of
weak-mindedness!" Let it come to you with a pang that hurts you,
that for one minute you have been idle, that you have admitted to
yourself that life is a thing of no consequence, and that you do not
care for it. I shall have to talk to you that way--perhaps not so
often as I do to myself, because I do not think you are really in
your heart such a very dull and sodden creature as I am.
I think the greatest trial we shall have will be our fondness for
each other, and the possibility of being satisfied simply to hold
each other in our arms. But we shall get the better of that, as of
everything else; and that is not the problem now. You must learn to
strive, learn to master yourself; you must prove your power so. Do
not care how rude you have to be to those people; look upon the
things about you as a kind of dream-world, and know that your own
soul's life is the one real thing for you. And don't write any more
about how circumstances hold you back. When you have got to work you
will know that you are given your soul for no purpose but to fight
circumstances; that they are the things to make you fight. When they
are removed, as I know to my cost, there is still the same necessity
of fighting; only it is like a horse who has to win a race without
You must talk to yourself about this, night and day, until this
desire is so awake in you that you can't go idle many moments
without its rushing into your mind, and giving you a kind of
electric shock. And when that happens you fling aside every thing
else, every idea but the work that you ought to be doing, and put
all your faculties upon that; and every time that you catch them
wandering, you do the same thing again, and again. Some times when I
become very keenly aware of myself, and of what a shallow creature I
really am, it seems to me that it is only by wearing myself out in
that grim and savage way that I can make myself even tolerable.
I _must_ stop. Do you know that for five precious hours by my watch
I have sat up here thinking about you and writing to you? Dear
me--and I am tired, and frozen, for there is a cold wind. I shall
have, I see, to prove some of _my_ powers, by not writing letters to
you when I should be at the book.
I see that it takes four or five days for letters to come and go
between us; and so if we write often, our letters will be crossing.
Four or five days is time enough for us to change our moods a dozen
times, so our correspondence will be apt to be complicated!
MY DEAREST THYRSIS:
It has worried me somewhat to-day that you might be utterly
disappointed in the letter I wrote you. It was a wild jumble of
words, but I was fighting all sorts of uncomfortable things within
me. To-day I have been anything but despairing, and have "gone at"
the German. In fact, I quite lost myself in it, and believe I
understand thoroughly the construction of the first poem. Wonderful
Your words, as I read them again, dear heart, are full of a great
beauty and fire and energy, and I only hope you may keep them
always. I believe that the possibility of the marriage we both
desire, depends greatly if not entirely on _your_ sternness. You
must realize it.
I cannot tell with the proper conditions and training what energy I
might be able to accumulate for myself, but in the meanwhile the
thing that makes me most wretched is my utter incapacity at times,
and my inability to share with you your work. In my weaker and more
helpless moods, I ask myself with a pang, whether I ought to go with
you at all, when I cannot help you. But I must stop fuming. I have
come out of my mudpuddle for good and for all, and that is the main
consideration. I don't intend to go back.
We must not think of each other in any way but as co-workers in a
great labor; we must simply know that our love is rooted deeply, and
the harder we work the more firm it will be. There is no reason why
we should not go to the altar with just this sternness, and from now
on preserve this attitude until the day when we have earned the
right to consider what love means. Can you do it? I will prove to
you that I can.
MY DEAR THYRSIS:
I am trying very dreadfully, and go away alone and pound at the
German as if my life depended upon it. I go to bed every night with
a tight feeling in my head, but I do not mind, as I take it for a
guarantee that I have not rested.
And oh, my dearest, dearest and best, I am trying not to think of
you too much--that is too much in a way that does not help me to
study. But I love you really, yes, truly, and I know I would follow
you anywhere. I am not particularly joyful, but then I do not expect
to be for a great many years.
Only a few words. I have been hovering to-day between spurts of
hopeful energy, and the most indescribable despair. It positively
freezes my heart, and I have been on the point of writing to you and
telling you to relieve yourself of the responsibility of me. The
reason is because it seems a perfectly Herculean task to read
"Egmont". I have to look up words in the dictionary until I am
absolutely so weary I care not about anything; and then I think of
you, and what you are able to do, and at one word from you I would
give up all idea of marrying you.
I tell you I am up and down in this mood. Great God, I could work
all day and all night if I could do what you do, but to strain at
iron fetters--a snail! Oh, I cannot tell you--I simply groan under
it. At such times I have no more idea of marrying you than of
journeying to the moon. I repeat to you, to be constantly choked
back, while you are rapidly advancing, will kill me. I don't know
what you will say to this, but it is intolerable, unendurable, to
me. When I think of your ability and mine, I simply laugh about it
--Thyrsis, it is simply ridiculous. I do not ask you to take me with
Do you wonder at my writing all this? You would not if you
understood. It is so hard for me to keep any joy in my heart, and I
get tired of repeated failures, that is all. I thought I must write
you this, and have it over with. This is the style of letter I have
always torn up, but this time it goes. I think I will practice the
piano now, and try to get some gladness into my soul again.
MY DEAR, DEAR THYRSIS:
There is a dreadful sort of letter which I wrote you last night
which I haven't sent you yet.
I have been studying, or trying to most of the day, and my mind has
wandered most painfully. There were two days in which I seemed to
have hold of myself, but with an effort that was a fearful strain. I
must try so, that it almost kills me, if I wish to accomplish even a
little of what I ought. The heat here is almost insupportable, it is
stifling, and I spent an hour or so in the water this afternoon.
And the thought is always torture to me--that you are accomplishing
so much more than I! I was thinking of your letters to-night, and I
recalled some words that seemed to speak more of your love for me.
Oh, Thyrsis, if your letters are fiery and passionate, is it for
love of _me_ that they are? I'm almost afraid at times, when I read
your letters--when you tell me of the kind of woman you _want_ to
I at present am certainly not she. And do you know that when we are
married we shall be united forever? I don't know why I write you
these things, they are not at all inspiring thoughts to me.
And yet I was able to go in swimming this afternoon, and forget
everything and frolic around as happily as any water-baby!
MY DEAR CORYDON:
I came off to write my poem, but I have been thinking about you, and
I must write a long letter. It is one of the kind that you do not
In the first place, you complain of the contradictions in my
letters. I am sorry. I live so, struggling always with what is not
best in me, and continually falling down. Also, in this matter I am
an utter stranger, groping my way; and there is an element of
passion in it, a dangerous element, which leads me continually
I can only say that in my ideal of love, which is utter love and
spiritual love, I think of living my life with you in entire
nakedness of soul. Therefore, I shall always be before you exactly
as I should be by myself. And I shall write you now exactly what I
have been thinking, what is hard and unkind in it, as well as the
rest. You will learn to know me as a man far from perfect, often
going astray himself, often feeling wrong things, often leading you
astray and making you wretched. But behind all this there is the
thing often lost sight of, but always present--the iron duty that I
have, and the force in me which drives me to it.
All this morning I have been thinking of my book, losing myself in
it and filling myself with its glory. This afternoon I fell to
thinking about us; and thoughts which have been lurking in my mind
for a long time got the upper hand for the first time. They were
that I did not love you as I ought to, that I could not; that the
love which I felt was a thing from my own heart, and that it had
carried me away because I was anxious to persuade myself I had found
my ideal upon earth; that you _could_ not satisfy the demands upon
life that I made, and that if I married you it would be to make you
wretched, and myself as well; that you had absolutely nothing of the
things that I needed, and that the life which your nature required
was entirely different from mine; that you had no realization of the
madness that was driving me, could find and give me none of the
power I needed; and that I ought to write and tell you this, no
matter what it cost--that I owed it to the sacred possibility of my
own soul, to live alone if I could live better alone. And when I had
said these words, I felt a sense of relief, because they were
haunting me, and had been for a long time.
How they will affect you I cannot tell, it depends upon deep your
love for me is; certainly they mean for me that _my_ love is not
deep, that you have not made yourself necessary to me. I think that
in that last phrase I put the whole matter in its essence--you have
not _bound_ yourself to me; I am always struggling to keep my love
firm and right, to hold myself to you. The result is that there is
no food for my soul in the thought of our love, in my thought of
you; and therefore, I am continually dissatisfied and doubting,
continually feeling the difference between the love I have dreamed
and our love.
I tried to think the matter out, and get to the very bottom of it.
The first thing that came to me on the other side was your absolute
_truth_; your absolute devotion to what was right and noble in our
ideal. So that, as I was thinking, I suddenly stopped short with
this statement--"If you cannot find right love with that girl, it
must be because you do not honor love, or care for it." And then I
thought of your helplessness, of your lack of training and
opportunity for growth; and I told myself how absurd it was of me to
expect satisfying love from you--when all that I knew about in life,
and thought of, was entirely unknown to you. I realized that I was a
man who had tasted more or less of all knowledge, and had an
infinite vision of knowledge yet before him, and an infinite hunger
for it; and that you were a school-girl, with all of a school-girl's
tasks on your hands. So I said to myself that the reason for the
dissatisfaction was a fault of my own, that it had come from my own
blindness. I had gone wrong in my attitude to you; I had failed in
my sternness and my high devotion to perfection; I had contented
myself with lesser things, had come down from my best self, and had
failed to make you see what a task was before you, if you ever meant
to know my best self. You perceive that this is a return to my
old-time attitude; I am sorry if it makes you wretched, but I cannot
help it. It is a surgical operation that must be borne. I shall not
make it necessary again, I hope.
Now, dear Corydon, I am not trying to choose pleasant words in this
letter, this is the way I talk to _myself_. And if anything good
comes from our love, it will be because of this letter. I challenge
what is noblest in you to rise to meet the truth of it. I should not
care to write to you if I did not feel that it would.
You have had a possibility offered to you, and because you are very
hungry for life you have clasped it to you, placed all your
happiness in it. The possibility is the love of a man whose heart
has been filled with the fire of genius. There are few men whom life
takes hold of as it does me, who sacrifice themselves for their duty
as I do, who demand _experience_--knowledge, power, beauty--as I do.
There are very few men who will wrest out of existence as much as I
will, or know and have as much of life. I am a boy just now, and
only beginning to live; but I have my purpose in hand, and I know
that if I am given health and life, there is nothing that men have
known that I shall not know, nothing that is done in the world that
I shall not do, or try to. I have a strong physique, and I labor day
and night, and always shall. I shall always be hungry and restless,
always dissatisfied with myself, and with everything about me, and
acting and feeling most of the time like a person haunted by a
devil. I make no apologies to you for the conceit of what I am
saying; it is what I think of myself, without caring what other
people think. I know that I have a tremendous temperament,
tremendous powers hidden within me, and they have got to come out.
When they do, the world will know what I know now.
Now Corydon, as you understand, I dream love absolute, and would
scorn any other kind. I can master my passion, if it be that upon
earth there is no woman willing or able to go with me to the last
inch of my journey. I dream a life-companion to follow wherever my
duty drives me; to feel all the desperateness of desire that I feel,
to be stern and remorseless as I must be, wild and savage as I must
be; to race through knowledge with me and to share my passion for
truth with me; a woman with whom I need have no shame in the duty of
my genius! As I tell you, if I marry you, I expect to give myself to
you as your own heart; and then I think of the gentle and mild
existence you have led!
It is very hard for me even to tell about my life, or to explain
this thing that drives me mad. But I am writing this letter to you
for the purpose of making clear to you that there are two
alternatives before you, and that you must choose one or the other
and stick by it, and bear the consequences. It is painful to me to
think that I have fascinated you by what opportunities I have, even
by what power and passion and talents I have, and filled you with a
hunger for me--when really you do not realize at all what I am, or
what I must be, and when what I have to do will terrify you. I write
in the thought of terrifying you _now_, and making you give up this
red-hot iron that you are trying to hold on to; or else to show you
my life so plainly that never afterwards can you blame me, or shrink
back except by your own fault.
You must not blame me for writing these words, for wondering if a
woman, if _any_ woman has power to stand what I need to do. And when
I talk to you about giving me up, you must not think that is cold,
but know that it is my faithfulness to my vision, which is the one
thing to which I owe any duty in the world. Nor is it right that you
should expect to be essential to me, when I have labored to be all
to myself. You could become necessary to me in the years to come; if
I marry you to-day I shall marry you for what you are to become, and
for that _alone_--at any rate if I am true to myself.
If you are to be my wife you are to be my soul--to live my soul's
life and bear its pain. You are to understand that I talk to you as
I talk to myself, call you the names I call myself, and if you cry,
give you up in disgust; that I am to deny you all pleasure as I do
myself, and what God knows will be ten thousand times harder, let
you take pleasure, and then spring up in the very midst of it--you
know what I mean! That I am to be ever dissatisfied with you, ever
inconsiderate of your feelings, and ever declaring that you are
failing! That however much I may love you, I am to be your
conscience, and therefore keep you--just about as you are now,
miserable! You told me that you would gladly be whipped to learn to
live; and this can be the only thing to happen to you.
You must understand why I act in this way. I am a weak and
struggling man, with a thousand temptations; and when I marry you,
you will be the greatest temptation of all. You are a beautiful
girl, and I love you, and every instinct of my nature drives me to
you; for me to live with you without kissing you or putting my arms
about you, will remain always difficult. It will be so for you, as
for me, and it will always be our danger, and always make us
wretched. Your soul rises in you as I write this, and you say (as
you've said before) that if I offered to kiss you after it, it would
be an insult. But only wait until we meet!
This is the one thing that has become clear to me: just as soon as
there comes the least thought of satisfaction in our love, just so
soon does it cease to satisfy my best self. You cannot satisfy my
best self, you do not even know it; and if it were a question of
that, I should never dream of marrying you! I love you for this and
for this alone--because you are an undeveloped soul, the dream of
whose infinite possibilities is my one delight in the matter. I
think that you are _perfect_ in character, that you are truth
itself; and therefore, no matter how helpless you may be, I have no
fear of failing to make you "all the world to me", provided only
that I am not false to my ideal. You must know from what I have
written before that I _can_ love, that I do know what love is, and
that you may trust me. I am not trying to degrade passion--I simply
see how passion throws the burden on the woman, and therefore it is
utterly a crime with us--the least thought of it! I ought to
consider you as a school-girl, really just that; and instead of that
I write you love letters!
I tell you there is nothing more hateful for me to look back upon
than that childish business of ours, that time when we went upstairs
that we might kiss each other unseen. I tell you, it revolts my
soul, from love and from you! I should be perfectly willing to take
all the blame--I do; only I have led you to like that (or to act as
if you did) and I must stop it. Can you not understand how hateful
it is to me to think of making you anything that I should be
I expect you to read over this letter until you realize that it is,
every word of it, completely true and noble, and until you can write
me so. You and I are to feel ourselves two school-children and live
just so. It is not usual for school-children to marry, but that we
dare upon the strength of our purpose, and in defiance of all
counsel, and of every precedent. We are to feel that we owe our duty
to our ideal; and that simply _because_ of the strength and passion
of our love for each other, we demand perfection, each of the other.
My setting this stern challenge before you is nothing but my
determination to give you my right love, to demand that you be a
I promise you therefore no quarter; I shall make no sacrifice of my
ideal for your sake. As I wrote you, I mean to be absolutely one
with you, and I expect you to be the same. You shall have (if you
wish it) all of my soul--I shall live my life with you and think all
my thoughts aloud--study to give you _everything_ that I have. And
God only, who knows my heart, knows what utter love for you lies in
those words, what utter trust of you--how I think of you as being
purity and holiness itself. To offer to take any other being into my
soul, to lay bare all the secret places of it to its gaze, all the
weaknesses as well as all the strength, and all that is vain as well
as all that is sacred! You cannot know how I feel about my heart,
but this you may know, that no one else has had a glimpse of it, you
are the first and the last; and so sure am I of you that I dare to
say it, _all_ my life will I live in your presence, and trust to
your sympathy and truth--and feel that I am false to love if I do
not. If there were anything in my heart so foul that I feared to
speak of it, I should give you that first, as the sacrifice of love;
or any vanity or foible--such things are really hardest to have
others know, so great is our conceit.
If I could talk to you to-night, I should do just as I did up on the
hill in the moonlight--frighten you, and make you wonder if there
was _any_ woman who wished to bear such a burden; and perhaps the
saddest thing of all to me is that I do not bear it--instead I bear
the gnawing of a conscience bitter and ashamed of itself. And could
you bear _that_ burden? For Corydon, as I look at myself to-night, I
am before God, a coward and a dastard! I have not done my work! I
have not borne the pain He calls me to bear, I have not wrested out
the strength He put in my secret heart! And here I am chattering,
_talking_ about work to you! And these things are like a nightmare
to me; they turn all my life's happiness to gall. And you are taking
upon yourself this same burden--coming to help me to get rid of it.
Or if you do not wish to, for God's sake, and mine, and yours, don't
come near me--you have come too near as it is! Can you not see that
when I am face to face with these fearful things--and you come and
ask me to give my life to you, to worship you with the best
faculties I possess--that I have no right to say yes?
You once told me you were happy because I called you "mein guter
Geist, mein bess'res Ich"; well, you are not in the least that. The
name that I give you, and that you may keep, is "the beautiful
possibility of a soul". Remember a phrase I told you at the very
beginning of our love, of the peril of "ceasing to love perfection
and coming to love a woman." And read Shelley's sad note to
You tell me in your last letter that you are leaving all who love
you; and you ask "How do you know that because you love beauty, you
will love _me_?"
I have been thinking a good deal about this; I do not believe,
Corydon, that a man more haunted by the madness of desire ever lived
upon earth than I. And when I get at the essence of myself, I do not
believe that I am a kind man; I think that a person with less
patience for human hearts never existed, perhaps with less feeling.
There is only one thing in the world that I can be sure of, or that
you can, my fidelity to my ideal! I know that however often I may
fail or weaken, however many mistakes I may make, my hunger for the
things of the soul will _never_ leave me, and that night and day I
shall work for them. I do not believe I have the right to promise
you anything else, I have no right to dream of anything else; this
is not my pleasure, as I feel it, it is a frenzy, it is that to
which some blind and nameless and merciless impulse drives me. And I
may try to persuade myself all my life that I love you, Corydon, and
nothing else, and want nothing else; and all the time in the depths
of my heart I hear these words from my conscience--"You are a fool."
I love power, I love life, and seek them and strive for them, and
care for nothing else and never have; and nothing else can satisfy
me. And I cannot give any other love than this, any other promise.
My dear Corydon:
I have been taking a walk this morning, thinking about us, and that
I had treated you fearfully. The whole truth of it all is this--that
I am so raw and so young and so helpless (and you are as much, if
not more so) that I cannot, to save my life, be sure if my love for
you is what it ought to be, or even if I could love any one as I
ought. And I am so wretchedly dissatisfied! Do you know that for two
weeks I have been trying to write a passage of my book--and before
God, I _cannot!_ I have not the power, I have not the life!
Dear Corydon, it comes to me that you are _miserable_ to be in love
with me--that I had no right to put this burden on your shoulders. I
would say better things if I could, but I think that our marriage
will be a setting out across a wild ocean in the dark! It is for you
to be the heroine, to dare the voyage if you choose. These sound
like wild words, but they are the truth of my life, and I dare not
say any others. Can a girl who has been brought up in gentleness and
sweetness, in innocence of life and of pain--can she say things,
feel things like these?
God did not endow me with your tongue, or else it would not be the
great effort it is to me to tell you some of the thoughts that have
rushed through my mind in the last hour.
It is an hour since I began to read your letter of Horrible Truth.
Now it seems to me it might have been in the last year, in the last
century. Actually I feel like a stranger to myself; and my movements
are very slow. First, I will tell you that I believe in God, oh, so
implicitly--this thought gives me infinite hope. I long to let you
know as much of my heart as I can, if I am to be your life-companion,
as I firmly believe I am to be. I have such a strange calmness now,
and I imagine that I must feel very much the way Rip Van Winkle did
when he awoke. I want to try to show you my heart--it is right that
I should try, is it not?
Know that I have placed much faith and trust in you, in anything
that you did. If you opened one door to me and told me it led to the
great and permanent truth, I believed you absolutely. If you hauled
me back and put me through an opposite one, telling me that there my
road lay, I believed you with equal faith. Now, now, at the end of
an hour, I am, through you, convinced of one door, the only and true
entrance; and I am as sure as I am that the sun is shining at this
moment, that nothing in God's world can ever again make me lose
sight of it. I have found that _you_ can lose sight of it,
Thyrsis,--something shows me that I have in the last month been more
right than you. Yes, I have, Thyrsis, though you may not know it.
And the reason I couldn't stay right was because I am not strong
enough to grasp my good impulses, and keep hold of them: because I
have not enough faith in the soul within me.
I will try to tell you what I have felt since reading your letter.
All is so disgustingly calm in me now. But listen, I believe I have
had a little glimpse this afternoon of what it is to _feel_; and
because of that knowledge I now am not afraid to tell you that I
claim something of God and life--that I can get it if you can. This
has been very strong in me at moments, but, as I tell you, I have
not yet learned to hold my glimpses of truth--they seem to come to
me, and as quickly disappear.
I began to read your letter, and I cannot describe to you the
convulsion that came over me. It seemed that I had the feeling of an
empty skull on a desert; such a feeling--you can never have it! All
the horror and despair! I tried to form my thoughts and tell myself
it was not true. I tried to pray, and I did pray--out loud--and
asked God to give me strength to read the letter.
I tried to use all the penetration I was capable of, to find out one
thing, whether you were purely and unreservedly sincere in it. I
wondered whether you really wished to live your life alone, but
could not find the courage to tell me so. I firmly believe that no
failure in the future, no disgust or helplessness, could ever bring
me the complete anguish of those moments.
Can you realize what such a thing meant to me, Thyrsis?
Last spring, I had succeeded in bringing myself into an almost
complete state of coma--I saw that I could do nothing, and because I
would not endure such profitless pain I drugged myself to sleep. And
you, you fiend, waked me up; and may your soul be thrice cursed if
you have only pulled the doll to pieces _to see what it was made
of!_ Know, you that have a soul which says it lives and
suffers--that I can't go to sleep again! There is no joy for me in
mother or father, in friends or admiration--I can tolerate nothing
that I tolerated before you came with your cursed or blessed fire!
Also, if you do not marry me, or if I do not find some man who has
your strength and desire for life, and who will take me and help me
to learn, I shall die without having lived.--And I cried out in
misery--only forty-two years, only forty-two little years, and I
shall be an old woman of sixty! Only forty-two years in which to
learn to live!
I believe if I had you here now I could almost strangle you. We may
kill each other some day. I sometimes feel that there is nothing
that will give me any relief, that I cannot breathe, I cannot
support my body. But these are foolish and unprofitable
feelings--and I believe I will yet be saved, if not by you, perhaps
by myself. I think some heavenly aid came to me to-day. I asked for
it, I simply said it _must_ come--and now I am able to bear myself
and look around me, and say that the secret of my liberation is not
death but life.
Please realize, Thyrsis, that I know you do not need me, that I
cannot either entertain you or help you. My dear, do you not know
that I have been conscious of this from the very beginning--and it
has been this thought that has often made me worry, and doubt, and
question. And then I have told myself that you had found _something_
in me to love; and that I also was very hungry to know about life
and God; and that if you loved me enough to believe I was not dross,
we might, with our untiring devotion--well, we might be right in
going with each other. And now--would you rather I should tell you I
will not marry you, be my desire, or effort, what it may? I do not
know--even though I want to live so terribly. I have no word, no
proof to give!
And now, Thyrsis, I have no more strength to write. I only wish I
had some power to make you know what I have felt this afternoon--I
think if I could, you would have no more doubt of me. And I believe
it is my God-given right not to doubt myself.
I will write no more--I have written enough to make you answer one
of two things. "Come with me," or, "I would rather go alone." I know
which one it will be, even now in my wretchedness. The sky is so
blue this evening, and everything is so beautiful--and I am trying
so hard to be right, to feel strong and confident!
I have just arisen. I woke in the middle of the night, and there was
a spectre sitting by my bedside to frighten me; he succeeded at
first, but I managed finally to get rid of him, and to find some
peace. Many of your sentences came to me, and I was able to get
behind the words, and I saw plainly that the letters were just what
you should have written, and that they could not but benefit me.
They have accomplished their purpose, I believe--they are burned
into my soul, and have placed me rightly in our relation. I shall
simply never trust the permission you may give me, in the future, to
rest or be satisfied. I shall only hate you, for the pain of some of
your words I shall _never_ forget.
The memory of the first two pages of your letter will always put me
in mortal terror of you. For the rest, I am very grateful, and I
will try to show you how I love your ideal. I can never repay you as
long as I live for letting me come with you. Oh Thyrsis, I am sure
that I will never think or care whether you love me or not, if only
I may go with you and learn how to strive!
I tore up all your love-letters this morning. I kept the last
letter--though I do not think I could bear to read it over. I should
be afraid of again going through with that despair. Oh, I beg for
the time when I shall be obliged to waste none of my minutes--and
when I shall have no opportunity of writing you! What _time_ I have
spent over your letters and mine!
I am restlessly waiting for the supper-bell to ring, and my head is
aching intensely, and I am generally topsy-turvy. Alas! alas! the
distance that separates us and our understanding!
I received a letter to-day while I was studying--but said I would
not open it for a week, that I wanted strength to study. Well, I
studied all the afternoon and found it none too easy. When I came
home, I thought perhaps it was better to read your letter, which I
Do you know, you are keeping me on the rack, literally on the rack,
and my flesh and blood do not seem to be able to stand it--my body
seems to be the organ that first fails me, my brain is never so
tired as my body. I love to think that you are not less merciful to
me than you would be to yourself, I feel that you could not have
used more cruel whips to yourself. Do you suppose that any disgust,
scolding, or malediction to me could, as your wife, hurt me, as your
doubt of me hurts me now?
And I just begin to read your letter again, and I tell you, you are
a fool. You say you do not know whether you could love any one as
you ought--well, I, with all my weakness, know whether _I_ can love,
and I love you a thousand times more than you have given me cause
to. And you are so _hungry!_ Will you always starve because you are
blind? As to being _satisfied,_ how could you be? But you say you
will love me as much as I deserve. How much do I deserve--do you
know? I sometimes cry out against you and long to get hold of you.
If you have genius, why doesn't it give you some inkling whether you
are a man with a heart, not only a stupid boy? And then I see it all
plainly, or think I do, and know that you are trying so hard to be
right towards us, because you think you love me the way other people
love; and you know if I am weak, it would degrade your genius; and
you cannot be sure of my character or strength. You cannot know
whether I realize the life I am selecting--you have found it hard,
and you have every reason to think that I will find it ten times
harder; and you love me in a way that is not the highest,--but yet
you love me enough, thank God, to tell me the whole truth!
I have come to a pass where I can say to myself with truth, that I
do not care how much or how little you love me. That depends upon
_you_, as well as myself. I believe the time will come, when you
will love me as you ought, and I say this in perfect calm
conviction, in all my weakness, and with all my maudlin habits
clinging to me. Strangely enough your doubt of me has made me rise
up in arms to champion my cause, or else I should lie down forever
in the dust, and deny my God.
I wonder whether it is my love for you that makes me believe? I
cling to you, as a mother might cling to her child; I cling to you
as the embodiment, the promise, of all I will ever find true in
life. I look to live in you, to fulfil all my possibilities in you,
and if you die or forsake me, all my hope is gone, and I am dead.
This is a letter in which I have no scorn or doubt, or ridicule of
myself, as formerly.
And then you ask me, "Can a girl brought up in gentleness and
sweetness, and innocence of life and of pain, can she say things,
feel things like these?" It is the gentleness and sweetness and
innocence that are galling to me. I can tolerate no more of them.
They have warped me, they have given me no chance. But I have had
some pain in my life, and since I have known you I have known more
about pain and what it brings, and leaves.--And now I am feeling
ill, and I cannot control that. Oh, God!
I have a chance to finish the first part of my book to-day, and save
myself from Hades; and here I am writing to you--just a line. (Of
course it turned out to be six pages!)
Your last letter was very noble; I can only say to you, that the
treatment which makes you upbraid me is not done for _my_ sake; that
the life which I live is not lived for _my_ sake. You say perhaps
you are better than I; it is very possible--I often think so myself;
but that is nothing to the point. I should be very wretched if I sat
down to think what I am. Oblige me by being better than my ideal--if
you can! You must understand, dearest, that behind all that I am
doing, there is truth to the soul; and that truth to the soul is
love, and the only love. I am seeking for nothing but the privilege
of treating you as myself; and rest assured, that if I treat you any
differently it will be better than I treat myself! There is no peril
in our life except that!
Some day you will understand that I can sometimes feel about myself
that I am utterly hateful, utterly false, utterly shallow and _bad_;
and that to get away from myself would be all that I desire in life.
I cannot imagine my having such opinion of you; but some
dissatisfaction--just a little--I may have. Only let us love
perfection, you and I, with all our souls, and I think our love for
each other may safely be allowed to take care of itself. Remember
the two ships in Clough's poem, which parted, but sailed by the
compass, and reached the same port.
I shall spend no more time comforting you about this.
And dear Corydon, when you are angry at my doubting your power, and
say that I do not know you, I can only reply--Why of course I don't,
and neither do you. You find your own self out little by little--why
get angry with me because I don't know it until you tell me? You are
a grown woman compared to what you were three months ago; and this
character that you ask me to know--well, it takes years of hard
labor to prove a character.
Do you ever realize how much _faith_ in you I have? As utterly
different is your whole life, as if you had been in another world;
and through all the wilderness that I have travelled, I hope to drag
you. But I cannot carry you, or take you; I must trust in the frenzy
of your grip upon me. There is nothing else you could have that I
would trust. You might be wonderfully clever and wonderfully
wise--and I could do nothing with you. Do you remember Beethoven's
saying, that he would like to take a certain woman, if he had time,
and marry her and break her heart, so that she might be able to
Ah dear heart, I wish you could read in my words what I feel! I
wonder if I am dreaming when I live in this ideal of what a woman's
love can be--so complete and so utter a surrender, so complete a
forgetting, a losing of the self, so complete a living in another
heart! I am not afraid to ask just this from a woman--from you! For
I have enough heart's passion to satisfy every thirst that you may
feel. Ah, Corydon, I want you! I am drunk with the thought of
_making_ a woman to love. I wonder if any man ever thought of that
before! Artists go about the world with the great hunger of their
hearts, and expecting to find by chance another soul like the one
they have spent years in making beautiful and swift and strong; but
has anyone ever thought that instead of writing books that no one
understands, he might be making another kind of an artwork--one
that would be alive, and with sacred possibilities of its own?
Your last letters have been very beautiful. I see one thing--though
you inform me that you believe you are a hard man, your natural
gentleness and sympathy of heart would be the ruin of both of us in
the future if I would permit it. But I think you can trust me, not
ever as long as I live to lead you into weakness. My desperateness,
before I received your letter saying that I might come with you, was
rather dreadful; it made me doubt myself, for it was so difficult to
keep myself from going to pieces. I have been wicked enough, to
wonder whether I could ever make you feel as I felt for two days--if
I could only bring to your heart that one pang, the only real one I
ever felt in my life! But it taught me one thing, that the only road
toward realization of life and one's self is through suffering. I
found out that I could bear, for it seems to me as I look back at
that horrible nightmare, that it was almost by a superhuman effort I
was able to read the letter at all. But enough of that!
I think I have effectually cured myself of any weak yearning for
your love. I go to you in gratefulness, knowing what I lack and what
you need. Anything my love can do for you, it shall do. It may have
some power--I sometimes think that it could have more than you
I suppose every woman has thought that the man she loved was her
very life, but I do not think it of you, I simply _know_ it. I must
go with you, whether I loved you or not.
Meanwhile my love has assumed a strength to me that I never felt
before. I don't know how my wild and incoherent letters have
affected you, but there were many times when I longed to get hold of
you, literally, and simply shake into you some recognition of my
soul. Oh, I am afraid you couldn't get away from me; the more
merciless you are to me, the wilder I get.
I am possessed by so many opposite moods and influences. I am afraid
of you a little. I never know what you are going to do to me.
I feel, I cannot help but feel, that I am part of your life, now,
you could not neglect me any more than you could your own soul. I
consider you just as responsible for mine as you are for your own. I
say this with no doubts, but know that it is true, and you must know
You certainly have a wonderful task in store for me, and I pray God
to give me strength for it. I can see very plainly that you expect
to find the essence of my soul better than yours, because it seems
that you are making my task harder than yours.
Do you know, I have actually found myself asking, at times, with a
certain defiant rage--if you were actually going to give love to
your princess before you had made her suffer! So far you have not
made her suffer at all. I had become quite excited over this idea
--though perhaps I had no right to. I suppose it is all right,
because she is an imaginary person, and you can endow her with all
the perfections you please. She is triumphant and thrilling, and
worthy of love--whereas I am just little Corydon, whom you have
known all your life, and who is stupid and helpless, and impossible
to imagine romances about! Is that the way of it?
MY DEAREST THYRSIS:
A long letter has just come to me. I always receive your letters
with many palpitations, and by the time I get through reading, my
cheeks are flaming. It is too bad it takes letters so long to go to
I have finally come to bear the attitude towards myself, that I
would to a naughty child. I will have no nonsense, and all my
absurdities and inefficiencies _must_ be cured. I think I have come
to know myself a little better within the last few days. I know that
I have no right to quick victories, or any happiness at all, even
your love. I tell you truly, if it were only possible, I would go
away this minute--do you hear?--oh! to some lonely place, and then I
would do something with myself. I want to be alone, alone--I want to
be face to face with myself, and God, if possible! I have come to
the conclusion that I can do anything I must do. I think (I am not
sure) I could give you up, if I were obliged to, and go away by
myself and try alone. If I do not have you, I must have solitude.
MY DEAREST CORYDON:
Thinking about my work this morning, and how hard it was, and how
much strength it would take, my thoughts turned to you, and I
discovered, as never before, just how I like to think of you. It
seemed to me that you were part of the raw material that I had to
use; that I had mastered you, and was going to make you what you had
to be. And there woke in my heart at those words a fierceness of
purpose that I had never felt in my life before--I was quite mad
with it; and you cried out to escape me, but I would not let you go,
but held you right tightly in my arms. And so--I do not mean to let
you go! I shall bear you away with me, and make you what I wish. And
the promise of marriage that I make you is just this: not that I
love you--I do not love you; but what I wish the woman to be whom I
am to love--that I will make you!
And do not ever dare to ask me for any other promise, for you will
not get it. You will come with this.
I had an _iron grip_ at my heart just now, as I was trying to study.
I had a foreboding of something--and then I came home and found
your letter telling me I was yours, and I _must._ At last I may go
to you the way I wish! My love, my love, I do not care what you are,
or what you do to me, as long as I may go with you.
How I laugh at myself as I say it! You have mastered me to worship
your _life_--not you. I shall not work for your love, I shall work
to live. Our love will be one of the incidents of our life.
Meanwhile, I may go with you, that is all that I say--I sing it. I
may go with you, not to happiness, but to necessity!
And now that cursed German! It hangs over my head like a sword of
Damocles I have heard of--though I don't know why it was held over
You think our love was settling into the cooing state! Dear me,
Thyrsis, I hope I will not always have to yell to you over a foggy
Can you imagine what it must be to be shut up in a little room on a
rainy night, with the children and people screaming under your
window? That is my position now.
I find myself hard to manage at times. I want to become discouraged
or melancholy or disgusted, but I drive myself better than I used
to. I even was happy a little for a few moments to-night. I was
playing one of my piano-pieces, and I found myself imagining all
sorts of things. But this happens very seldom, and only lasts for a
moment. I often wonder at myself. Two months ago I did not love you
one particle; I love you now, so that--so that it is impossible for
me to do anything else. In fact I did not realize how much I loved
you until that terrible moment when I read you did not love me. I
saw how impossible it will be to cease to love you, no matter what
you do to me. I do not know _why_ it is; I simply know it is, and
perhaps some day I may teach _you_ how to love. I do not imagine you
know how very well, at present--no, Thyrsis, I don't.
I know your true self now, and I love it better than ever I loved
the other. I say it with a certain grimness. I know you, your real
self, and I love it.
Know, oh, my Beloved, that in the last three months you have grown
to me from a boy into a man, into my husband! When I think of you as
you were at first you seem a child compared to what you are now.
Last night, as I went to sleep, I was thinking of you and our
problem, and there were all sorts of uncertainties; but one thing I
have to tell you, my Corydon--that it came to me how sweet and
true, and how pure and good you have been; and I loved you very,
very much indeed. I thought: I should like to tell her that, and ask
her always to be so noble and unselfish. Can you not realize how all
your deficiencies are as nothing to me, in the sight of that one
unapproachable perfection? For my Corydon is all devotion and love,
and pure, pure, maiden goodness! And there is quite a whole heart
full of feeling for you in that, and I wish I had you here to tell
I am coming more and more to realize myself, and what is the single
faculty I have been given. I think of a dear clergyman friend I used
to have, and I realize what a _loving_ heart is--what it is to
delight in a human soul for its own sake, and to be kind to it, fond
of it. And I know that there could not be a man with less of that
than I have. Certainly I know this, I never did love a soul for its
own sake, and don't think I could. I love beauty, and truth, and
power, and I hate everything else, if it come across my way. If I
had to live the life of that clergyman friend I should be insane in
a month. I see this as something very hateful; but there is only one
thing I can do, to see that I hate my own self more than I hate any
other self--and work, work, for the thing I love.
You asked me once to tell you if your death would make any
difference to me. If you were to die to-morrow I should feel that a
sacred opportunity was gone out of my life, that all my efforts must
have less result forever after. But I do not think I should stop
working a day.
I love you because you are something upon which I may exert the
force of my will. I honestly believe that the truest word, the
nearest to my character, I ever spoke. If I care about you it is for
one thing, and one only--because you are a soul hungry for life,
because you are capable of sacrifice and high effort, because you
are sensitive and eager. I love you and honor you for this; I take
you to my bosom, I give all my life to your service; and I shall
make you a perfect woman, or else kill you.
You must understand what I want; I want no concrete thing, no dozen
languages to throw you into despair. I want effort, effort,
_effort!_ That's all. And I believe that you might be a stronger
soul than I at this moment, if only you chose to hunt yourself out
and fight! That is truly what I feel about you, and that is why I
I have no more to say, my precious one; I bow in joy before your
will, your certainty, your power. Let it be so, I shall adore you as
I so long to do.
You are giving me all I could ask for. What more could I wish from
you, dear Thyrsis, than to know you will never leave my side? I will
try not to do any more bemoaning of my shortcomings. To-night I
reached a wonderful security and almost sublimity, until I could
have fallen on my face and praised God for His mercy. I talked out
loud to myself, I exhorted myself, I explained to myself what is my
beauty and possibility in life--the _reason_ for which I was born. I
was quite lifted out of myself, by a conviction that came like a
benediction, that the essence of my soul was good and pure, and that
if anybody upon earth had the power to reach God, it was myself.
Dear God, _how_ I have spent the years of my life! like an imbecile!
But you--if you take me, I shall go mad--I shall love you like a
tigress! I shall implore you to invent any way that will enable me
to realize life! Oh, if you take me, how madly I shall love you! I
fancy myself seeing you now, and I don't know what I should do--I
love you so dreadfully! I think of you, and everything about you
seems so wondrously beautiful to me!
I almost have a feeling that I have no right to love you so much.
Oh, tell me, do you want me to love you as I can? Already you seem
part of me, mine--mine! And it is wonderful how you help me.
I spent the whole day in the park without a bite to eat, because I
did not want to take the trouble to come home after it, and I only
had five cents. I have tried, oh, tried to control myself and make
myself saner. I am seized with occasional fits of the horrors, and
of wild cravings for you, until I could scream. It is so unbearable,
and I almost want to die. Oh, but I do _not_ want to die! My
imagination has become so fevered in the last few days--if I do not
see you soon, I know not what will become of me!
I have never loved you so wildly--though I have always longed for
you. I sometimes feel now as if my brain were utterly wrecked. I
know not what is the matter; I gasp, when I think of you. I am
convinced of heaven and hell almost in the same breath--experience
each in rapid succession. One touch of your hand and one look, I
think would cure me. I seem as if in a thunder-storm--pitchy
blackness with flashes of light--and in the flashes I see you, my
I am atrociously weary of being able to depend upon myself not at
all; but oh, how marvellously sweet and good you are to me! I shall
never be able to pay you for your help!
Dear Heaven, what a cup of bitterness I have drunk, since I last saw
you! Dearest, you have really torn me to pieces, unwittingly. But
now I am healed, and I may go on in your blessed sight, with my
terrors gone forever.
And then I actually wonder if you have an earthly form! It will be
very strange to see you and touch you, I sometimes wake up with a
start at the thought of it!
Here I am, the most restless and miserable and uncomfortable and
pining of creatures--a very Dido! Are you satisfied, now that you
have made it almost impossible for me to put my mind on anything but
you, you? I spend hours reading one page of my book.
I was reading peaceably just now, and I suddenly thought how I would
feel if I saw you coming in at the door. I started and could hardly
believe that I will really see you--in something besides visions.
When night comes I usually get fidgety, and can hardly realize I do
not need to worry over phantoms. Then I go on with "Classicism and
Romanticism in Music," and I think of you--and read a line and think
of you! You see, it doesn't do for me to be too intense, for I just
devour myself, and that is all. My only idea of a vent is to knock
my head against something.
I suppose it is the inevitable result of caring for someone you
cannot see. Here I might be studying now, but what do I do? I go
around seeking rest--and I write you a dozen times a day, and use up
all the stamps in the house.
Oh well, I dare say if you wished me to love you, you have
accomplished your purpose most successfully. There is nothing in
life but you, and to suddenly acquire a new self is most startling,
and something hard to believe. Thyrsis, I simply cannot realize that
I may go to you and find peace and security.
MY DEAREST CORYDON:
I have just a few words to say. I have two weeks left in which to
shake off my shoulders the fearful animal that has been tearing me.
_For just three weeks to-day,_ not a line written!
The task seems almost beyond my powers. God, will people ever know
how I have worked over this book!
But unless you develop some new doubt, or I persist in writing
letters, I ought to get it done now. I shall see you as soon as I
have finished, and meantime I shall write no letters.
I would give a great deal to let you know how I have struggled and
I have had almost _more_ than I could bear--the more horrible
because the more unreasonable. You must know it. If it disturbs you,
please put the letter away until a favorable time. I account my
trouble greatly physical--I have never been in such a nervous state.
The murky despair that has come over me--that I have writhed and
struggled in, as in the clutches of some fiend! It seems to me I
have experienced every torment of each successive stage of Dante's
Inferno. I know what is the emotion of a soul in all the bloom and
hope of youth, condemned _to die_.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night--and felt as if a
monster sat by to throw a black cloth over me and smother me. I got
up and shook myself, and my heart was beating violently.
I managed to get myself free. This morning I am better. God in
Heaven only knows--I would rather be torn limb from limb, yes,
honestly, than endure the blackness of soul that I have had through
all these years of strife and failure by myself.
Perhaps if I have written to you a few words, I shall be able to put
my mind on study--as so far I have not done. I actually to-night
have been indulging in all sorts of romantic moods about you. I felt
in a singing mood, and when I came up from dinner I put on a
beautiful dress, just for fun, and I looked quite radiant. I dreamed
of you, and imagined that you were at my feet, in true Romeo
fashion--and I was your Juliet. I imagined--I couldn't help thinking
of this, and I knew I ought to be doing something else! Oh, but how
I want a poor taste of joy! You were my Romeo to-night--you were
beautiful and young and loving; and well, I had one dream of youth
and happiness before my miseries begin.
I have felt that we were very near to each other lately. You have
shown me the tenderness of your heart, and I love you quite
rapturously. I love your goodness, your sympathy--perhaps when I see
you I can tell you!
I received a postal just now, saying that you were coming soon. I
had my usual queer faintness. It was like receiving word from the
dead--it seemed such centuries--aeons--since I heard from you! I
send you this batch of notes I have written you at various times, a
sort of mental itinerary, for my mind has traveled into all sorts of
queer places, back and forth. I tell you that without your continual
influence, I am lost in doubt and uncertainty. Please try to
understand these notes and my fits of love and fear.
I am in one of my cast-iron moods, this morning--in a fighting
mood, I do not care with whom or what. You, even you, have not
altogether understood me--you have often given me a dog's portion.
I have been a slave, a cowering kitten before you, and you
(unwittingly I know) have done much to destroy all my courage and
hope and love--by what you call making me aware of your higher self.
Fortunately I _know_ what your higher self is, quite as well as you
do, if not a little better--and I know that it is the self that most
strengthens my love and courage, the self that most fills me with
life. I have a right to life as well as you, and a right to the love
in you that most inspires me. I feel I am capable of judging this,
in spite of all my lack of education, and my inability to follow you
in your intellectual life.
I have thought lately that you were able to make yourself believe
that you were anything you wished to think yourself. Whenever you
wring my heart and deprive me of strength, I shall go somewhere
alone, and when I have controlled myself, come back to you.
You say you are master--but it must be master of the right. I want
strength, and why you should think it right ever to have helped to
throw me into more despair, I do not know. The reason I have written
all this is because such ideas have come to me lately, and a fear
that sometimes you might resort to your unloving methods, with the
thought of its being right. I tell you I would rather stay at home,
than ever go through with some of the pangs you have cost me, in
what you called your higher moods. You must not gainsay me, that I
am also capable of respecting high moods and bowing before them; but
it would seem to me that they are only high if they are a source of
inspiration and joy to me.
Because we love each other, would that be any reason why we must
dote upon each other, or sink from our high resolves? I cannot see
why our love for each other should not always be a means of our
reaching our higher selves. You need not answer this letter--but
when you come back, tell me whether what I say impresses you as
being right or wrong--if there is not some justification in it. But
perhaps I should wait. I have no right to disturb you now.
I woke up this morning with the feeling that I did not love you.
That same thing has happened to me two or three times, and I do not
It must be because at the present moment you do not love _me!_ You
are writing your book, and telling yourself that you cannot love me
as you ought! Is this so? It is only a surmise on my part, and I do
not know, but I should not be surprised if you were. I only know
that the one thing that can bring us together is love, and I do not
love you now. Perhaps you can explain it to me. I write this
absolutely without emotion.
I tell you there have been things horribly wrong about you. You have
done anything but inspire love in my heart--you have never seen me
with love in my heart. Until lately, I never have felt any love for
you; before, I simply compelled myself to think I loved you, because
my life seemed to depend upon it. There have been many times when,
as I look back, you seem to me to have been base.
Well may you preach, while you are alone, and are monarch of
yourself. I shall have to have more of a chance than has ever come
to me, before I will bear your displeasure or your exhortations. If
you come to me and speak to me of the high, proud self that I must
reach, every vestige of love for you will leave my heart, and I
would as soon marry a stone pillar!
Great Heaven, what strange moods I have! I picture our meeting each
other, unmoved by love; you determined, energetic, indifferent to
all things, myself included; and I disappointed, but with a hardness
in my heart--no tears!
I am indulging now in the most lifeless and gloomy of broodings; if
you do not come back to me, the only soul I can love, if you are not
joyful and strong, sincere, sympathetic, and loving, all of these--I
shall know it is a farce for me to ever hope to gain any life with
_you_. I do not believe that any woman can grow without love, and a
great deal of it. Why do you suppose I am writing all this--I, who
have felt such deep and true love for you? I have no courage--the
dampness of the day has settled into my soul--and I shall be joyless
until there is no more cursed doubt of you and your love for me.
Dear Corydon: Against resolutions, I am writing to you again. I
thought of you--there is a boat up the lake to-day with some
hunters, and if I finish this letter, I can send it in by them as
they pass. I have many things to tell you, and you must think about
This is one of my paralyzing letters. It will reach you Monday. I
can't tell where I may be then. I have been wrestling with the end
of the book, and I am wild with rage at my impotence. The fact has
come to me that no amount of will is enough, because all my life is
cowardly and false. I have found myself wanting _to sneak through
this work_, and come home and enjoy myself; and you can't sneak with
God, and that's all. I cannot come home beaten, and so here I am,
still struggling--and with snow on the ground, and the shack so cold
that I sit half in the fire-place.
I think of you, and at times when my soul is afire, I imagine I can
do anything. I see that you are helpless, but I think that I can
change your whole being, and _make_ you what I wish. But then that
feeling dies out, and I think of you as you _are_, and with despair.
I do not allude to any of your "deficiencies"--music, learning, and
other stuff. I mean your life-force, or your lack of it. I see that
you have learned nothing of the unspeakable, unattainable thing for