Part 2 out of 4
In single glee I chased blue butterflies,
Half butterfly myself, but not so wise,
For they were twain, and I was only one.
Ah me! how pitiful to be alone.
My brown birds told me much, but in mine ear
They never whispered this--I learned it here:
The soft wood sounds, the rustlings in the breeze,
Are but the stealthy kisses of the trees.
Each flower and fern in this enchanted wood
Leans to her fellow, and is understood;
The eglantine, in loftier station set,
Stoops down to woo the maidly violet.
In gracile pairs the very lilies grow:
None is companionless except Pierrot.
Music, more music! how its echoes steal
Upon my senses with unlocked for weal.
Tired am I, tired, and far from this lone glade
Seems mine old joy in rout and masquerade.
Sleep cometh over me, now will I prove,
By Cupid's grace, what is this thing called love.
[_There is more music of lutes for an interval, during which a bright
radiance, white and cold, streams from the temple upon the face of Pierrot.
Presently a Moon Maiden steps out of the temple; she descends and stands
over the sleeper._]
Who is this mortal
Who ventures to-night
To woo an immortal?
Cold, cold the moon's light
For sleep at this portal,
Bold lover of night.
Fair is the mortal
In soft, silken white,
Who seeks an immortal.
Ah, lover of night,
Be warned at the portal,
And save thee in flight!
[_She stoops over him: Pierrot stirs in his sleep._]
Forget not, Cupid. Teach me all thy lore:
"_He loves to-night who never loved before_."
Unwitting boy! when, be it soon or late,
What Pierrot ever has escaped his fate?
What if I warned him! He might yet evade,
Through the long windings of this verdant glade;
Seek his companions in the blither way,
Which, else, must be as lost as yesterday.
So might he still pass some unheeding hours
In the sweet company of birds and flowers.
How fair he is, with red lips formed for joy,
As softly curved as those of Venus' boy.
Methinks his eyes, beneath their silver sheaves,
Rest tranquilly like lilies under leaves.
Arrayed in innocence, what touch of grace
Reveals the scion of a courtly race?
Well, I will warn him, though, I fear, too late--
What Pierrot ever has escaped his fate?
But, see, he stirs, new knowledge fires his brain,
And Cupid's vision bids him wake again.
Dione's Daughter! but how fair he is,
Would it be wrong to rouse him with a kiss?
[_She stoops down and kisses him, then withdraws into the shadow._]
PIERROT [_Rubbing his eyes._]
Celestial messenger! remain, remain;
Or, if a Vision, visit me again!
What is this light, and whither am I come
To sleep beneath the stars so far from home?
[_Rises slowly to his feet._]
Stay, I remember this is Venus' Grove,
And I am hither come to encounter--
THE LADY [_Coming forward but veiled._]
[_In ecstasy, throwing himself at her feet._]
Then have I ventured and encountered Love?
Not yet, rash boy! and, if thou wouldst be wise,
Return unknowing; he is safe who flies.
Never, sweet lady, will I leave this place
Until I see the wonder of thy face.
Goddess or Naiad! lady of this Grove,
Made mortal for a night to teach me love,
Unveil thyself, although thy beauty be
Too luminous for my mortality.
Then, foolish boy, receive at length thy will:
Now knowest thou the greatness of thine ill.
Now have I lost my heart, and gained my goal.
Didst thou not read the warning on the scroll?
[_Picking up the parchment._]
I read it all, as on this quest I fared,
Save where it was illegible and hard.
Alack! poor scholar, wast thou never taught
A little knowledge serveth less than naught?
Hadst thou perused--but, stay, I will explain
What was the writing which thou didst disdain.
"_Au Petit Trianon_, at night's full noon,
Mortal, beware the kisses of the moon!
Whoso seeks her she gathers like a flower--
He gives a life, and only gains an hour."
Bear me away to thine enchanted bower,
All of my life I venture for an hour.
Take up thy destiny of short delight;
I am thy lady for a summer's night.
Lift up your viols, maidens of my train,
And work such havoc on this mortal's brain
That for a moment he may touch and know
Immortal things, and be full Pierrot.
White music, Nymphs! Violet and Eglantine!
To stir his tired veins like magic wine.
What visitants across his spirit glance,
Lying on lilies, while he watch me dance?
Watch, and forget all weary things of earth,
All memories and cares, all joy and mirth,
While my dance woos him, light and rhythmical,
And weaves his heart into my coronal.
Music, more music for his soul's delight:
Love is his lady for a summer's night.
[_Pierrot reclines, and gazes at her while she dances. The dance finished,
she beckons to him: he rises dreamily, and stands at her side._]
Whence came, dear Queen, such magic melody?
Pan made it long ago in Arcady.
I heard it long ago, I know not where,
As I knew thee, or ever I came here.
But I forget all things--my name and race,
All that I ever knew except thy face.
Who art thou, lady? Breathe a name to me,
That I may tell it like a rosary.
Thou, whom I sought, dear Dryad of the trees,
How art thou designate--art thou Heart's-Ease?
Waste not the night in idle questioning,
Since Love departs at dawn's awakening.
Nay, thou art right; what recks thy name or state,
Since thou art lovely and compassionate.
Play out thy will on me: I am thy lyre.
I am to each the face of his desire.
I am not Pierrot, but Venus' dove,
Who craves a refuge on the breast of love.
What wouldst thou of the maiden of the moon?
Until the cock crow I may grant thy boon.
Then, sweet Moon Maiden, in some magic car,
Wrought wondrously of many a homeless star--
Such must attend thy journeys through the skies,--
Drawn by a team of milk-white butterflies,
Whom, with soft voice and music of thy maids,
Thou urgest gently through the heavenly glades;
Mount me beside thee, bear me far away
From the low regions of the solar day;
Over the rainbow, up into the moon,
Where is thy palace and thine opal throne;
There on thy bosom--
Too ambitious boy!
I did but promise thee one hour of joy.
This tour thou plannest, with a heart so light,
Could hardly be completed in a night.
Hast thou no craving less remote than this?
Would it be impudent to beg a kiss?
I say not that: yet prithee have a care!
Often audacity has proved a snare.
How wan and pale do moon-kissed roses grow--
Dost thou not fear my kisses, Pierrot?
As one who faints upon the Libyan plain
Fears the oasis which brings life again!
Where far away green palm trees seem to stand
May be a mirage of the wreathing sand.
Nay, dear enchantress, I consider naught,
Save mine own ignorance, which would be taught.
Dost thou persist?
I do entreat this boon!
[_She bends forward, their lips meet: she withdraws with a petulant shiver.
She utters a peal of clear laughter._]
Why art thou pale, fond lover of the moon?
Cold are thy lips, more cold than I can tell
Yet would I hang on them, thine icicle!
Cold is thy kiss, more cold than I could dream
Arctus sits, watching the Boreal stream:
But with its frost such sweetness did conspire
That all my veins are filled with running fire;
Never I knew that life contained such bliss
As the divine completeness of a kiss.
Apt scholar! so love's lesson has been taught,
Warning, as usual, has gone for naught.
Had all my schooling been of this soft kind,
To play the truant I were less inclined.
Teach me again! I am a sorry dunce--
I never knew a task by conning once.
Then come with me! below this pleasant shrine
Of Venus we will presently recline,
Until birds' twitter beckon me away
To mine own home, beyond the milky-way.
I will instruct thee, for I deem as yet
Of Love thou knowest but the alphabet.
In its sweet grammar I shall grow most wise,
If all its rules be written in thine eyes.
[_The lady sits upon a step of the temple, And Pierrot leans upon his elbow
at her feet, regarding her._]
Sweet contemplation! how my senses yearn
To be thy scholar always, always learn.
Hold not so high from me thy radiant mouth,
Fragrant with all the spices of the South;
Nor turn, O sweet! thy golden face away,
For with it goes the light of all my day.
Let me peruse it, till I know by rote
Each line of it, like music, note by note;
Raise thy long lashes, Lady! smile again:
These studies profit me.
[_Taking her hand._]
I am but studious, so do not stir;
Thou art my star, I thine astronomer!
Geometry was founded on thy lip.
[_Kisses her hand._]
This attitude becomes not scholarship!
Thy zeal I praise; but, prithee, not so fast,
Nor leave the rudiments until the last.
Science applied is good, but 'twere a schism
To study such before the catechism,
Bear thee more modestly, while I submit
Some easy problems to confirm thy wit.
In all humility my mind I pit
Against her problems which would test my wit.
THE LADY [_Questioning him from a little book bound deliciously in
What is Love?
Is it a folly,
Is it mirth, or melancholy?
Are there many, or not any?
What is love?
PIERROT[_Answering in a very humble attitude of scholarship._]
If you please,
A most sweet folly!
Full of mirth and melancholy;
Both of these!
In its sadness worth all gladness,
If you please!
Goes Love a-hiding?
Is he long in his abiding
Can you bind him when you find him;
With spring days
Love comes and dallies:
Upon the mountains, through the valleys
Lie Love's ways.
Then he leaves you and deceives you
In spring days.
Thine answers please me: 'tis thy turn to ask.
To meet thy questioning be now my task.
Since I know thee, dear Immortal,
Is my heart become a blossom,
To be worn upon thy bosom.
When thou turn me from this portal,
Whither shall I, hapless mortal,
Seek love out and win again
Heart of me that thou retain?
In and out the woods and valleys,
Circling, soaring like a swallow,
Love shall flee and thou shalt follow:
Though he stops awhile and dallies,
Never shalt thou stay his malice!
Moon-kissed mortals seek in vain
To possess their hearts again!
Tell me, Lady, shall I never
Rid me of this grievous burden!
Follow Love and find his guerdon
In no maiden whatsoever?
Wilt thou hold my heart for ever?
Rather would I thine forget,
In some earthly Pierrette!
Thus thy fate, whate'er thy will is!
Moon-struck child, go seek my traces
Vainly in all mortal faces!
In and out among the lilies,
Court each rural Amaryllis:
Seek the signet of Love's hand
In each courtly Corisande!
Now, verily, sweet maid, of school I tire:
These answers are not such as I desire.
Why art thou sad?
I dare not tell.
Is love all schooling, with no time to play?
Though all love's lessons be a holiday,
Yet I will humour thee: what wouldst thou play?
What are the games that small moon-maids enjoy.
Or is their time all spent in staid employ?
Sedate they are, yet games they much enjoy:
They skip with stars, the rainbow is their toy.
That is too hard!
For mortal's play.
Teach me some pastime from the world of men.
I have it, maiden.
Can it soon be taught?
A simple game, I learnt it at the Court.
I sit by thee.
But, prithee, not so near.
That is essential, as will soon appear,
Lay here thine hand, which cold night dews anoint,
Washing its white--
Now is this to the point?
Prithee, forbear! Such is the game design.
Here is my hand.
I cover it with mine.
What must I next?
It goes too fast.
[_They continue playing, until Pierrot catches her hand._]
'Tis done. I win my forfeit at the last.
[_He tries to embrace her. She escapes; he chases her round the stage; she
Thou art not quick enough. Who hopes to catch
A moon-beam, must use twice as much despatch.
PIERROT[_Sitting down sulkily._]
I grow aweary, and my heart is sore,
Thou dost not love me; I will play no more.
[_He buries his face in his hands: the lady stands over him._]
What is this petulance?
'Tis quick to tell--
Thou hast but mocked me.
Nay, I love thee well!
Repeat those words, for still within my breast
A whisper warns me they are said in jest.
I jested not: at daybreak I must go,
Yet loving thee far better than thou know.
Then, by this altar, and this sacred shrine,
Take my sworn troth, and swear thee wholly mine!
The Gods have wedded mortals long ere this.
There was enough betrothal in my kiss.
What need of further oaths?
That bound not thee!
Peace! since I tell thee that it may not be.
But sit beside me whilst I soothe thy bale
With some moon fancy or celestial tale.
Tell me of thee, and that dim, happy place
Where lies thine home, with maidens of thy race!
THE LADY[_Seating herself._]
Calm is it yonder, very calm; the air
For mortal's breath is too refined and rare;
Hard by a green lagoon our palace rears
Its dome of agate through a myriad years.
A hundred chambers its bright walls enthrone,
Each one carved strangely from a precious stone.
Within the fairest, clad in purity,
Our mother dwelleth immemorially:
Moon-calm, moon-pale, with moon stones on her gown
The floor she treads with little pearls is sown;
She sits upon a throne of amethysts,
And orders mortal fortunes as she lists;
I, and my sisters, all around her stand,
And, when she speaks, accomplish her demand.
Methought grim Clotho and her sisters twain
With shrivelled fingers spun this web of bane!
Theirs and my mother's realm is far apart,
Hers is the lustrous kingdom of the heart,
And dreamers all, and all who sing and love,
Her power acknowledge, and her rule approve.
Me, even me, she hath led into this grove.
Yea, thou art one of hers! But, ere this night,
Often I watched my sisters take their flight
Down heaven's stairway of the clustered stars
To gaze on mortals through their lattice bars;
And some in sleep they woo with dreams of bliss
Too shadowy to tell, and some they kiss.
But all to whom they come, my sisters say,
Forthwith forget all joyance of the day,
Forget their laughter and forget their tears,
And dream away with singing all their years--
Why art sad, sweet Moon?
For this, my story, grant me now a boon.
I am thy servitor.
Would, then, I knew
More of the earth, what men and women do.
I will explain.
Let brevity attend
Thy wit, for night approaches to its end.
Once was I a page at Court, so trust in me:
That's the first lesson of society.
I mean the very best
Pardy! thou wouldst not hear about the rest.
I know it not, but am a _petit maitre_
At rout and festival and _bal champetre_
But since example be instruction's ease,
Let's play the thing.--Now, Madame, if you please!
[_He helps her to rise, and leads her forward: then he kisses her hand,
bowing over it with a very courtly air._]
What am I, then?
A most divine Marquise!
Perhaps that attitude hath too much ease.
[_Passes her._]Ah, that is better! To complete the plan,
Nothing is necessary save a fan.
Cool is the night, what needs it?
Reflect, it is essential to our play.
THE LADY[_Taking a lily._]
Here is my fan!
So, use it with intent:
The deadliest arm in beauty's armament!
What do we next?
THE LADY But what about?
We quiz the company and praise the rout;
Are polished, petulant, malicious, sly,
Or what you will, so reputations die.
Observe the Duchess in Venetian lace,
With the red eminence.
A pretty face!
For something tarter set thy wits to search--
"She loves the churchman better than the church."
Her blush is charming; would it were her own!
Madame is merciless!
Is that the tone?
The very tone: I swear thou laciest naught.
Madame was evidently bred at Court.
Thou speakest glibly: 'tis not of thine age.
I listened much, as best becomes a page.
I like thy Court but little--
Hush! the Queen!
Bow, but not low--thou knowest what I mean.
Nay, that I know not!
Though she wear a crown,
'Tis from La Pompadour one fears a frown.
Thou art a child: thy malice is a game.
A most sweet pastime--scandal is its name.
Enough, it wearies me.
Then, rare Marquise,
Desert the crowd to wander through the trees.
[_He bows low, and she curtsies; they move round the stage. When they pass
before the Statue he seizes her hand and falls on his knee._]
What wouldst thou now?
Ah, prithee, what, save thee!
Was this included in thy comedy?
Ah, mock me not! In vain with quirk and jest
I strive to quench the passion in my breast;
In vain thy blandishments would make me play:
Still I desire far more than I can say.
My knowledge halts, ah, sweet, be piteous,
Instruct me still, while time remains to us,
Be what thou wist, Goddess, moon-maid, _Marquise_,
So that I gather from thy lips heart's ease,
Nay, I implore thee, think thee how time flies!
Hush! I beseech thee, even now night dies.
Night, day, are one to me for thy soft sake.
[_He entreats her with imploring gestures, she hesitates: then puts her
finger on her lip hushing him._]
It is too late, for hark! the birds awake.
The birds awake! It is the voice of day!
Farewell, dear youth! They summon me away.
[_The light changes, it grows daylights and music imitates the twitter of
the birds. They stand gazing at the morning: then Pierrot sinks back upon
his bed, he covers his face in his hands._]
THE LADY[_Bending over him_.]
Music, my maids! His weary senses steep
In soft untroubled and oblivious sleep,
With mandragore anoint his tired eyes,
That they may open on mere memories,
Then shall a vision seem his lost delight,
With love, his lady for a summer's night.
Dream thou hast dreamt all this, when thou awake,
Yet still be sorrowful, for a dream's sake.
I leave thee, sleeper! Yea, I leave thee now,
Yet take my legacy upon thy brow:
Remember me, who was compassionate,
And opened for thee once, the ivory gate.
I come no more, thou shalt not see my face
When I am gone to mine exalted place:
Yet all thy days are mine, dreamer of dreams,
All silvered over with the moon's pale beams:
Go forth and seek in each fair face in vain,
To find the image of thy love again.
All maids are kind to thee, yet never one
Shall hold thy truant heart till day be done.
Whom once the moon has kissed, loves long and late,
Yet never finds the maid to be his mate.
Farewell, dear sleeper, follow out thy fate.
[_The Moon Maiden withdraws: a song is sung from behind: it is full day_.]
THE MOON MAIDEN'S SONG.
Sleep! Cast thy canopy
Over this sleeper's brain,
Dim grow his memory,
When he awake again.
Love stays a summer night,
Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her winged flight
Back to her starry home.
Sleep! Yet thy days are mine;
Love's seal is over thee:
Far though my ways from thine,
Dim though thy memory.
Love stays a summer night,
Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her winged flight
Back to her starry home.
[_When the song is finished, the curtain falls upon Pierrot sleeping._]
Love's aftermath! I think the time is now
That we must gather in, alone, apart
The saddest crop of all the crops that grow,
Ah, sweet,--sweet yesterday, the tears that start
Can not put back the dial; this is, I trow,
Our harvesting! Thy kisses chill my heart,
Our lips are cold; averted eyes avow
The twilight of poor love: we can but part,
Dumbly and sadly, reaping as we sow,
Shall one be sorrowful because of love,
Which hath no earthly crown,
Which lives and dies, unknown?
Because no words of his shall ever move
Her maiden heart to own
Him lord and destined master of her own:
Is Love so weak a thing as this,
Who can not lie awake,
Solely for his own sake,
For lack of the dear hands to hold, the lips to kiss,
A mere heart-ache?
Nay, though love's victories be great and sweet,
Nor vain and foolish toys,
His crowned, earthly joys,
Is there no comfort then in love's defeat?
Because he shall defer,
For some short span of years all part in her,
Submitting to forego
The certain peace which happier lovers know;
Because he shall be utterly disowned,
Nor length of service bring
Her least awakening:
Foiled, frustrate and alone, misunderstood, discrowned,
Is Love less King?
Grows not the world to him a fairer place,
How far soever his days
Pass from his lady's ways,
From mere encounter with her golden face?
Though all his sighing be vain,
Shall he be heavy-hearted and complain?
Is she not still a star,
Deeply to be desired, worshipped afar,
A beacon-light to aid
From bitter-sweet delights, Love's masquerade?
Though he lose many things,
Though much he miss:
The heart upon his heart, the hand that clings,
The memorable first kiss;
Love that is love at all,
Needs not an earthly coronal;
Love is himself his own exceeding great reward,
A mighty lord!
Lord over life and all the ways of breath,
Mighty and strong to save
From the devouring grave;
Yea, whose dominion doth out-tyrant death,
Thou who art life and death in one,
The night, the sun;
Who art, when all things seem:
Foiled, frustrate and forlorn, rejected of to-day
Go with me all my way,
And let me not blaspheme.
THE DEAD CHILD
Sleep on, dear, now
The last sleep and the best,
And on thy brow,
And on thy quiet breast
Violets I throw.
Thy scanty years
Were mine a little while;
Life had no fears
To trouble thy brief smile
With toil or tears.
Lie still, and be
For evermore a child!
Whom life has not defiled,
I render thee.
Slumber so deep,
No man would rashly wake;
I hardly weep,
Fain only, for thy sake.
To share thy sleep.
Yes, to be dead,
Dead, here with thee to-day,--
When all is said
'Twere good by thee to lay
My weary head.
The very best!
Ah, child so tired of play,
I stand confessed:
I want to come thy way,
And share thy rest.
Through what long heaviness, assayed in what strange fire,
Have these white monks been brought into the way of peace,
Despising the world's wisdom and the world's desire,
Which from the body of this death bring no release?
Within their austere walls no voices penetrate;
A sacred silence only, as of death, obtains;
Nothing finds entry here of loud or passionate;
This quiet is the exceeding profit of their pains.
From many lands they came, in divers fiery ways;
Each knew at last the vanity of earthly joys;
And one was crowned with thorns, and one was crowned with bays,
And each was tired at last of the world's foolish noise.
It was not theirs with Dominic to preach God's holy wrath,
They were too stern to bear sweet Francis' gentle sway;
Theirs was a higher calling and a steeper path,
To dwell alone with Christ, to meditate and pray.
A cloistered company, they are companionless,
None knoweth here the secret of his brother's heart:
They are but come together for more loneliness,
Whose bond is solitude and silence all their part.
O beatific life! Who is there shall gainsay,
Your great refusal's victory, your little loss,
Deserting vanity for the more perfect way,
The sweeter service of the most dolorous Cross.
Ye shall prevail at last! Surely ye shall prevail!
Your silence and austerity shall win at last:
Desire and mirth, the world's ephemeral lights shall fail,
The sweet star of your queen is never overcast.
We fling up flowers and laugh, we laugh across the wine;
With wine we dull our souls and careful strains of art;
Our cups are polished skulls round which the roses twine:
None dares to look at Death who leers and lurks apart.
Move on, white company, whom that has not sufficed!
Our viols cease, our wine is death, our roses fail:
Pray for our heedlessness, O dwellers with the Christ!
Though the world fall apart, surely ye shall prevail.
THE THREE WITCHES
All the moon-shed nights are over,
And the days of gray and dun;
There is neither may nor clover,
And the day and night are one.
Not an hamlet, not a city
Meets our strained and tearless eyes;
In the plain without a pity,
Where the wan grass droops and dies.
We shall wander through the meaning
Of a day and see no light,
For our lichened arms are leaning
On the ends of endless night.
We, the children of Astarte,
Dear abortions of the moon,
In a gay and silent party,
We are riding to you soon.
Burning ramparts, ever burning!
To the flame which never dies
We are yearning, yearning, yearning,
With our gay and tearless eyes.
In the plain without a pity,
(Not an hamlet, not a city)
Where the wan grass droops and dies.
VILLANELLE OF THE POET'S ROAD
Wine and woman and song,
Three things garnish our way:
Yet is day over long.
Lest we do our youth wrong,
Gather them while we may:
Wine and woman and song.
Three things render us strong,
Vine leaves, kisses and bay;
Yet is day over long.
Unto us they belong,
Us the bitter and gay,
Wine and woman and song.
We, as we pass along,
Are sad that they will not stay;
Yet is day over long.
Fruits and flowers among,
What is better than they:
Wine and woman and song?
Yet is day over long.
VILLANELLE OF ACHERON
By the pale marge of Acheron,
Me thinks we shall pass restfully,
Beyond the scope of any sun.
There all men hie them one by one,
Far from the stress of earth and sea,
By the pale marge of Acheron.
'Tis well when life and love is done,
'Tis very well at last to be,
Beyond the scope of any sun.
No busy voices there shall stun
Our ears: the stream flows silently
By the pale marge of Acheron.
There is the crown of labour won,
The sleep of immortality,
Beyond the scope of any sun.
Life, of thy gifts I will have none,
My queen is that Persephone,
By the pale marge of Acheron,
Beyond the scope of any sun.
Through the green boughs I hardly saw thy face,
They twined so close: the sun was in mine eyes;
And now the sullen trees in sombre lace
Stand bare beneath the sinister, sad skies.
O sun and summer! Say in what far night,
The gold and green, the glory of thine head,
Of bough and branch have fallen? Oh, the white
Gaunt ghosts that flutter where thy feet have sped,
Across the terrace that is desolate,
And rang then with thy laughter, ghost of thee,
That holds its shroud up with most delicate,
Dead fingers, and behind the ghost of me,
Tripping fantastic with a mouth that jeers
At roseal flowers of youth the turbid streams
Toss in derision down the barren years
To death the host of all our golden dreams.
AFTER PAUL VERLAINE
_Il pleut doucement sur la ville_.--RIMBAUD
Tears fall within mine heart,
As rain upon the town:
Whence does this languor start,
Possessing all mine heart?
O sweet fall of the rain
Upon the earth and roofs!
Unto an heart in pain,
O music of the rain!
Tears that have no reason
Fall in my sorry heart:
What! there was no treason?
This grief hath no reason.
Nay! the more desolate,
Because, I know not why,
(Neither for love nor hate)
Mine heart is desolate.
Into the lonely park all frozen fast,
Awhile ago there were two forms who passed.
Lo, are their lips fallen and their eyes dead,
Hardly shall a man hear the words they said.
Into the lonely park, all frozen fast,
There came two shadows who recall the past.
"Dost thou remember our old ecstasy?"--
"Wherefore should I possess that memory?"--
"Doth thine heart beat at my sole name alway?
Still dost thou see my soul in visions?" "Nay!"--
"They were fair days of joy unspeakable,
Whereon our lips were joined?"--"I cannot tell."--
"Were not the heavens blue, was not hope high?"--
"Hope has fled vanquished down the darkling sky."--
So through the barren oats they wandered,
And the night only heard the words they said.
Around were all the roses red,
The ivy all around was black.
Dear, so thou only move thine head,
Shall all mine old despairs awake!
Too blue, too tender was the sky,
The air too soft, too green the sea.
Always I fear, I know not why,
Some lamentable flight from thee.
I am so tired of holly-sprays
And weary of the bright box-tree,
Of all the endless country ways;
Of everything alas! save thee.
The sky is up above the roof
So blue, so soft!
A tree there, up above the roof,
A bell within that sky we see,
Chimes low and faint:
A bird upon that tree we see,
Dear God! is not the life up there,
Simple and sweet?
How peacefully are borne up there
Sounds of the street!
What hast thou done, who comest
To weep alway?
Where hast thou laid, who comest here,
Thy youth away?
TO HIS MISTRESS
There comes an end to summer,
To spring showers and hoar rime;
His mumming to each mummer
Has somewhere end in time,
And since life ends and laughter,
And leaves fall and tears dry,
Who shall call love immortal,
When all that is must die?
Nay, sweet, let's leave unspoken
The vows the fates gainsay,
For all vows made are broken,
We love but while we may.
Let's kiss when kissing pleases,
And part when kisses pall,
Perchance, this time to-morrow,
We shall not love at all.
You ask my love completest,
As strong next year as now,
The devil take you, sweetest,
Ere I make aught such vow.
Life is a masque that changes,
A fig for constancy!
No love at all were better,
Than love which is not free.
Erewhile, before the world was old,
When violets grew and celandine,
In Cupid's train we were enrolled:
Your little hands were clasped in mine,
Your head all ruddy and sun-gold
Lay on my breast which was your shrine,
And all the tale of love was told:
Ah, God, that sweet things should decline,
And fires fade out which were not cold,
IN A BRETON CEMETERY
They sleep well here,
These fisher-folk who passed their anxious days
In fierce Atlantic ways;
And found not there,
Beneath the long curled wave,
So quiet a grave.
And they sleep well
These peasant-folk, who told their lives away,
From day to market-day,
As one should tell,
With patient industry,
Some sad old rosary.
And now night falls,
Me, tempest-tost, and driven from pillar to post,
A poor worn ghost,
This quiet pasture calls;
And dear dead people with pale hands
Beckon me to their lands.
TO WILLIAM THEODORE PETERS ON HIS RENAISSANCE CLOAK
The cherry-coloured velvet of your cloak
Time hath not soiled: its fair embroideries
Gleam as when centuries ago they spoke
To what bright gallant of Her Daintiness,
Whose slender fingers, long since dust and dead,
For love or courtesy embroidered
The cherry-coloured velvet of this cloak.
Ah! cunning flowers of silk and silver thread,
That mock mortality? the broidering dame,
The page they decked, the kings and courts are dead:
Gone the age beautiful; Lorenzo's name,
The Borgia's pride are but an empty sound;
But lustrous still upon their velvet ground,
Time spares these flowers of silk and silver thread.
Gone is that age of pageant and of pride:
Yet don your cloak, and haply it shall seem,
The curtain of old time is set aside;
As through the sadder coloured throng you gleam;
We see once more fair dame and gallant gay,
The glamour and the grace of yesterday:
The elder, brighter age of pomp and pride.
Where river and ocean meet in a great tempestuous frown,
Beyond the bar, where on the dunes the white-capped rollers break;
Above, one windmill stands forlorn on the arid, grassy down:
I will set my sail on a stormy day and cross the bar and seek
That I have sought and never found, the exquisite one crown,
Which crowns one day with all its calm the passionate and the weak.
When the mad winds are unreined, wilt thou not storm, my sea?
(I have ever loved thee so, I have ever done thee wrong
In drear terrestrial ways.) When I trust myself to thee
With a last great hope, arise and sing thine ultimate, great song
Sung to so many better men, O sing at last to me,
That which when once a man has heard, he heeds not over long.
I will bend my sail when the great day comes; thy kisses on my face
Shall seal all things that are old, outworn; and anger and regret
Shall fade as the dreams and days shall fade, and in thy salt embrace,
When thy fierce caresses blind mine eyes and my limbs grow stark and set,
All that I know in all my mind shall no more have a place:
The weary ways of men and one woman I shall forget.
_Point du Pouldu_.
The fire is out, and spent the warmth thereof
(This is the end of every song man sings!)
The golden wine is drunk, the dregs remain,
Bitter as wormwood and as salt as pain;
And health and hope have gone the way of love
Into the drear oblivion of lost things.
Ghosts go along with us until the end;
This was a mistress, this, perhaps, a friend.
With pale, indifferent eyes, we sit and wait
For the dropt curtain and the closing gate:
This is the end of all the songs man sings.
All that a man may pray,
Have I not prayed to thee?
What were praise left to say,
Has not been said by me
_O, ma mie?_
Yet thine eyes and thine heart,
Always were dumb to me:
Only to be my part,
Sorrow has come from thee,
_O, ma mie?_
Where shall I seek and hide
My grief away with me?
Lest my bitter tears should chide,
Bring brief dismay to thee,
_O, ma mie?_
More than a man may pray,
Have I not prayed to thee?
What were praise left to say,
Has not been said by me,
_O, ma mie?_
Here, where the breath of the scented-gorse floats through the
On a steep hill-side, on a grassy ledge, I have lain hours long
Only the faint breeze pass in a whisper like a prayer,
And the river ripple by and the distant call of a bird.
On the lone hill-side, in the gold sunshine, I will hush me and
And the world fades into a dream and a spell is cast on me;
_And what was all the strife about, for the myrtle or the rose,
And why have I wept for a white girl's paleness passing ivory!_
Out of the tumult of angry tongues, in a land alone, apart,
In a perfumed dream-land set betwixt the bounds of life and death,
Here will I lie while the clouds fly by and delve an hole where my
May sleep deep down with the gorse above and red, red earth beneath.
Sleep and be quiet for an afternoon, till the rose-white angelus
Softly steals my way from the village under the hill:
_Mother of God, O Misericord, look down in pity on us,
The weak and blind who stand in our light and wreak ourselves such
Let be at last; give over words and sighing,
Vainly were all things said:
Better at last to find a place for lying,
Silence were best, with songs and sighing over;
Now be the music mute;
Now let the dead, red leaves of autumn cover
A vain lute.
Silence is best: for ever and for ever,
We will go down and sleep,
Somewhere beyond her ken, where she need never
Come to weep.
Let be at last: colder she grows and colder;
Sleep and the night were best;
Lying at last where we cannot behold her,
We may rest.
A little while to walk with thee, dear child;
To lean on thee my weak and weary head;
Then evening comes: the winter sky is wild,
The leafless trees are black, the leaves long dead.
A little while to hold thee and to stand,
By harvest-fields of bending golden corn;
Then the predestined silence, and thine hand,
Lost in the night, long and weary and forlorn.
A little while to love thee, scarcely time
To love thee well enough; then time to part,
To fare through wintry fields alone and climb
The frozen hills, not knowing where thou art.
Short summer-time and then, my heart's desire,
The winter and the darkness: one by one
The roses fall, the pale roses expire
Beneath the slow decadence of the sun.
All that I had I brought,
Little enough I know;
A poor rhyme roughly wrought,
A rose to match thy snow:
All that I had I brought.
Little enough I sought:
But a word compassionate,
A passing glance, or thought,
For me outside the gate:
Little enough I sought.
Little enough I found:
All that you had, perchance!
With the dead leaves on the ground,
I dance the devil's dance.
All that you had I found.
TO A LADY ASKING FOOLISH QUESTIONS
Why am I sorry, Chloe? Because the moon is far:
And who am I to be straitened in a little earthly star?
Because thy face is fair? And what if it had not been,
The fairest face of all is the face I have not seen.
Because the land is cold, and however I scheme and plot,
I cannot find a ferry to the land where I am not.
Because thy lips are red and thy breasts upbraid the snow?
(There is neither white nor red in the pleasance where I go.)
Because thy lips grow pale and thy breasts grow dun and fall?
I go where the wind blows, Chloe, and am not sorry at all.
Ah, Manon, say, why is it we
Are one and all so fain of thee?
Thy rich red beauty debonnaire
In very truth is not more fair,
Than the shy grace and purity
That clothe the maiden maidenly;
Her gray eyes shine more tenderly
And not less bright than thine her hair;
Ah, Manon, say!
Expound, I pray, the mystery
Why wine-stained lip and languid eye,
And most unsaintly Maenad air,
Should move us more than all the rare
White roses of virginity?
Ah, Manon, say!
A song of the setting sun!
The sky in the west is red,
And the day is all but done:
While yonder up overhead,
All too soon,
There rises, so cold, the cynic moon.
A song of a winter day!
The wind of the north doth blow,
From a sky that's chill and gray,
On fields where no crops now grow,
Fields long shorn
Of bearded barley and golden corn.
A song of an old, old man!
His hairs are white and his gaze,
Long bleared in his visage wan,
With its weight of yesterdays,
He stands and mumbles and looks at me,
A song of a faded flower!
'Twas plucked in the tender bud,
And fair and fresh for an hour,
In a lady's hair it stood.
Now, ah, now,
Faded it lies in the dust and low.
Goddess the laughter-loving, Aphrodite, befriend!
Long have I served thine altars, serve me now at the end,
Let me have peace of thee, truce of thee, golden one, send.
Heart of my heart have I offered thee, pain of my pain,
Yielding my life for the love of thee into thy chain;
Lady and goddess be merciful, loose me again.
All things I had that were fairest, my dearest and best,
Fed the fierce flames on thine altar: ah, surely, my breast
Shrined thee alone among goddesses, spurning the rest.
Blossom of youth thou hast plucked of me, flower of my days;
Stinted I nought in thine honouring, walked in thy ways,
Song of my soul pouring out to thee, all in thy praise.
Fierce was the flame while it lasted, and strong was thy wine,
Meet for immortals that die not, for throats such as thine,
Too fierce for bodies of mortals, too potent for mine.
Blossom and bloom hast thou taken, now render to me
Ashes of life that remain to me, few though they be,
Truce of the love of thee, Cyprian, let me go free.
Goddess the laughter-loving, Aphrodite, restore
Life to the limbs of me, liberty, hold me no more
Having the first-fruits and flower of me, cast me the core.
TO A LOST LOVE
I seek no more to bridge the gulf that lies
Betwixt our separate ways;
For vainly my heart prays,
Hope droops her head and dies;
I see the sad, tired answer in your eyes.
I did not heed, and yet the stars were clear;
Dreaming that love could mate
Lives grown so separate;--
But at the best, my dear,
I see we should not have been very near.
I knew the end before the end was nigh:
The stars have grown so plain;
Vainly I sigh, in vain
For things that come to some,
But unto you and me will never come.
Love wine and beauty and the spring,
While wine is red and spring is here,
And through the almond blossoms ring
The dove-like voices of thy Dear.
Love wine and spring and beauty while
The wine hath flavour and spring masks
Her treachery in so soft a smile
That none may think of toil and tasks.
But when spring goes on hurrying feet,
Look not thy sorrow in the eyes,
And bless thy freedom from thy sweet:
This is the wisdom of the wise.
See how the trees and the osiers lithe
Are green bedecked and the woods are blithe,
The meadows have donned their cape of flowers,
The air is soft with the sweet May showers,
And the birds make melody:
But the spring of the soul, the spring of the soul,
Cometh no more for you or for me.
The lazy hum of the busy bees
Murmureth through the almond trees;
The jonquil flaunteth a gay, blonde head,
The primrose peeps from a mossy bed,
And the violets scent the lane.
But the flowers of the soul, the flowers of the soul,
For you and for me bloom never again.
A LAST WORD
Let us go hence: the night is now at hand;
The day is overworn, the birds all flown;
And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown
Despair and death; deep darkness o'er the land,
Broods like an owl; we cannot understand
Laughter or tears, for we have only known
Surpassing vanity: vain things alone
Have driven our perverse and aimless band.
Let us go hence, somewhither strange and cold,
To Hollow Lands where just men and unjust
Find end of labour, where's rest for the old,
Freedom to all from love and fear and lust.
Twine our torn hands! O pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.
STORIES AND STUDIES IN SENTIMENT
First Published in Book Form in 1895
THE DIARY OF A SUCCESSFUL MAN
_1st October, 188--_
_Hotel du Lys, Bruges._
After all, few places appeal to my imagination more potently than this
autumnal old city--the most mediaeval town in Europe. I am glad that I have
come back here at last. It is melancholy indeed, but then at my age one's
pleasures are chiefly melancholy. One is essentially of the autumn, and it
is always autumn at Bruges. I thought I had been given back my youth when
I awoke this morning and heard the Carillon, chiming out, as it has done,
no doubt, intermittently, since I heard it last--twenty years ago. Yes,
for a moment, I thought I was young again--only for a moment. When I went
out into the streets and resumed acquaintance with all my old haunts,
the illusion had gone. I strolled into Saint Sauveur's, wandered a while
through its dim, dusky aisles, and then sat down near the high altar, where
the air was heaviest with stale incense, and indulged in retrospect. I was
there for more than an hour. I doubt whether it was quite wise. At my time
of life one had best keep out of cathedrals; they are vault-like places,
pregnant with rheumatism--at best they are full of ghosts. And a good many
_revenants_ visited me during that hour of meditation. Afterwards I paid a
visit to the Memlings in the Hopital. Nothing has altered very much; even
the women, with their placid, ugly Flemish faces, sitting eternally in
their doorways with the eternal lace-pillow, might be the same women. In
the afternoon I went to the Beguinage, and sat there long in the shadow of
a tree, which must have grown up since my time, I think. I sat there too
long, I fear, until the dusk and the chill drove me home to dinner. On the
whole perhaps it was a mistake to come back. The sameness of this terribly
constant old city seems to intensify the change that has come to oneself.
Perhaps if I had come back with Lorimer I should have noticed it less. For,
after all, the years have been kind to me, on the whole; they have given
me most things which I set my heart upon, and if they had not broken a
most perfect friendship, I would forgive them the rest. I sometimes feel,
however, that one sacrifices too much to one's success. To slave twenty
years at the Indian bar has its drawbacks, even when it does leave
one at fifty, prosperous _a mourir d'ennui_. Yes, I must admit that
I am prosperous, disgustingly prosperous, and--my wife is dead, and
Lorimer--Lorimer has altogether passed out of my life. Ah, it is a mistake
to keep a journal--a mistake.
I vowed yesterday that I would pack my portmanteau and move on to Brussels,
but to-day finds me still at Bruges. The charm of the old Flemish city
grows on me. To-day I carried my peregrinations further a-field. I wandered
about the Quais and stood on the old bridge where one obtains such a
perfect glimpse, through a trellis of chestnuts, of the red roof and spires
of Notre Dame. But the particular locality matters nothing; every nook
and corner of Bruges teems with reminiscences. And how fresh they are! At
Bombay I had not time to remember or to regret; but to-day the whole dead
and forgotten story rises up like a ghost to haunt me. At times, moreover,
I have a curious, fantastic feeling, that some day or other, in some
mildewing church, I shall come face to face with Lorimer. He was older than
I, he must be greatly altered, but I should know him. It is strange how
intensely I desire to meet him. I suppose it is chiefly curiosity. I should
like to feel sure of him, to explain his silence. He cannot be dead. I am
told that he had pictures in this last Academy--and yet, never to have
written--never once, through all these years. I suppose there are few
friendships which can stand the test of correspondence. Still it is
inexplicable, it is not like Lorimer. He could not have harboured a grudge
against me--for what? A boyish infatuation for a woman who adored him, and
whom he adored. The idea is preposterous, they must have laughed over my
folly often, of winter evenings by their fireside. For they married, they
must have married, they were made for each other and they knew it. Was
their marriage happy I wonder? Was it as successful as mine, though perhaps
a little less commonplace? It is strange, though, that I never heard of it,
that he never wrote to me once, not through all those years.
Inexplicable! Inexplicable! _Did_ they marry after all? Could there have
been some gigantic misunderstanding? I paid a pilgrimage this morning which
hitherto I had deferred, I know not precisely why. I went to the old house
in the Rue d'Alva--where she lived, our Comtesse. And the sight of its
grim, historic frontal made twenty years seem as yesterday. I meant to
content myself with a mere glimpse at the barred windows, but the impulse
seized me to ring the bell which I used to ring so often. It was a
foolish, fantastic impulse, but I obeyed it. I found it was occupied by
an Englishman, a Mr. Venables--there seem to be more English here than
in my time--and I sent in my card and asked if I might see the famous
dining-room. There was no objection raised, my host was most courteous,
my name, he said, was familiar to him; he is evidently proud of his
dilapidated old palace, and has had the grace to save it from the
attentions of the upholsterer. No! twenty years have produced very little
change in the room where we had so many pleasant sittings. The ancient
stamped leather on the walls is perhaps a trifle more ragged, the old oak
panels not blacker--that were impossible--but a trifle more worm-eaten; it
is the same room. I must have seemed a sad boor to my polite cicerone as I
stood, hat in hand, and silently took in all the old familiar details.
The same smell of mildewed antiquity, I could almost believe the same
furniture. And indeed my host tells me that he took over the house as it
was, and that some of the chairs and tables are scarcely more youthful than
the walls. Yes, there by the huge fireplace was the same quaintly carved
chair where she always sat. Ah, those delicious evenings when one was
five-and-twenty. For the moment I should not have been surprised if she had
suddenly taken shape before my eyes, in the old seat, the slim, girlish
woman in her white dress, her hands folded in her lap, her quiet eyes
gazing dreamily into the red fire, a subtile air of distinction in her
whole posture.... She would be old now, I suppose. Would she? Ah no, she
was not one of the women who grow old.... I caught up the thread of my
host's discourse just as he was pointing it with a sharp rap upon one of
the most time-stained panels.
'Behind there,' he remarked, with pardonable pride, 'is the secret passage
where the Duc d'Alva was assassinated.'
I smiled apologetically.
'Yes,' I said, 'I know it. I should explain perhaps--my excuse for
troubling you was not merely historic curiosity. I have more personal
associations with this room. I spent some charming hours in it a great many
years ago-' and for the moment I had forgotten that I was nearly fifty.
'Ah,' he said, with interest, 'you know the late people, the Fontaines.'
'No,' I said, 'I am afraid I have never heard of them. I am very ancient.
In my time it belonged to the Savaresse family.'
'So I have heard,' he said, 'but that was long ago. I have only had it a
few years. Fontaine my landlord bought it from them. Did you know M. le
'No,' I answered, 'Madame la Comtesse. She was left a widow very shortly
after her marriage. I never knew M. le Comte.'
My host shrugged his shoulders.
'From all accounts,' he said, 'you did not lose very much.'
'It was an unhappy marriage,' I remarked, vaguely, 'most unhappy. Her
second marriage promised greater felicity.'
Mr. Venables looked at me curiously.
'I understood,' he began, but he broke off abruptly. 'I did not know Madame
de Savaresse married again.'
His tone had suddenly changed, it had grown less cordial, and we parted
shortly afterwards with a certain constraint. And as I walked home
pensively curious, his interrupted sentence puzzled me. Does he look upon
me as an impostor, a vulgar gossip-monger? What has he heard, what does he
know of her? Does he know anything? I cannot help believing so. I almost
wish I had asked him definitely, but he would have misunderstood my
motives. Yet, even so, I wish I had asked him.
I am still living constantly in the past, and the fantastic feeling,
whenever I enter a church or turn a corner that I shall meet Lorimer
again, has grown into a settled conviction. Yes, I shall meet him, and in
Bruges.... It is strange how an episode which one has thrust away out of
sight and forgotten for years will be started back into renewed life by
the merest trifle. And for the last week it has all been as vivid as if it
happened yesterday. To-night I have been putting questions to myself--so
far with no very satisfactory answer. _Was_ it a boyish infatuation after
all? Has it passed away as utterly as I believed? I can see her face
now as I sit by the fire with the finest precision of detail. I can
hear her voice, that soft, low voice, which was none the less sweet
for its modulation of sadness. I think there are no women like her
now-a-days--none, none! _Did_ she marry Lorimer? and if not--? It seems
strange now that we should have both been so attracted, and yet not strange
when one considers it. At least we were never jealous of one another. How
the details rush back upon one! I think we must have fallen in love with
her at the same moment--for we were together when we saw her for the
first time, we were together when we went first to call on her in the Rue
d'Alva--I doubt if we ever saw her except together. It was soon after we
began to get intimate that she wore white again. She told us that we had
given her back her youth. She joined our sketching expeditions with the
most supreme contempt for _les convenances_; when she was not fluttering
round, passing from Lorimer's canvas to mine with her sweetly inconsequent
criticism, she sat in the long grass and read to us--Andre Chenier and
Lamartine. In the evening we went to see her; she denied herself to the
rest of the world, and we sat for hours in that ancient room in the
delicious twilight, while she sang to us--she sang divinely--little French
_chansons_, gay and sad, and snatches of _operette_. How we adored her! I
think she knew from the first how it would be and postponed it as long as
she could. But at last she saw that it was inevitable.... I remember the
last evening that we were there--remember--shall I ever forget it? We had
stayed beyond our usual hour and when we rose to go we all of us knew that
those pleasant irresponsible evenings had come to an end. And both Lorimer
and I stood for a moment on the threshold before we said good-night,
feeling I suppose that one of us was there for the last time.
And how graceful, how gracious she was as she held out one little white
hand to Lorimer and one to me. 'Good-night, dear friends,' she said, 'I
like you both so much--so much. Believe me, I am grateful to you both--for
having given me back my faith in life, in friendship, believe that, will
you not, _mes amis_?' Then for just one delirious moment her eyes met mine
and it seemed to me--ah, well, after all it was Lorimer she loved.
It seems a Quixotic piece of folly now, our proposal we would neither take
advantage of the other, but we both of us _must_ speak. We wrote to her at
the same time and likely enough, in the same words, we posted our letters
by the same post. To-day I had the curiosity to take out her answer to me
from my desk, and I read it quite calmly and dispassionately, the poor
yellow letter with the faded ink, which wrote 'Finis' to my youth and made
a man of me.
'_Pauvre cher Ami_,' she wrote to me, and when I had read that, for the
first time in my life and the only time Lorimer's superiority was bitter to
me. The rest I deciphered through scalding tears.
'_Pauvre cher Ami_, I am very sorry for you, and yet I think you should
have guessed and have spared yourself this pain, and me too a little. No,
my friend, that which you ask of me is impossible. You are my dear friend,
but it is your brother whom I love--your brother, for are you not as
brothers, and I cannot break your beautiful friendship. No, that must not
be. See, I ask one favour of you--I have written also to him, only one
little word "Viens,"--but will you not go to him and tell him for me? Ah,
my brother, my heart bleeds for you. I too have suffered in my time. You
will go away now, yes, that is best, but you will return when this fancy of
yours has passed. Ah forgive me--that I am happy--forgive us, forgive me.
Let us still be friends. Adieu! Au revoir.
I suppose it was about an hour later that I took out my letter to Lorimer.
I told him as I told myself, that it was the fortune of war, that she
had chosen the better man, but I could not bear to stay and see their
happiness. I was in London before the evening. I wanted work, hard,
grinding work, I was tired of being a briefless barrister, and as it
happened, an Indian opening offered itself at the very moment when I had
decided that Europe had become impossible to me. I accepted it, and so
those two happy ones passed out of my life.
Twenty years ago! and in spite of his promise he has never written from
that day till this, not so much as a line to tell me of his marriage. I
made a vow then that I would get over my folly, and it seemed to me that my
vow was kept. And yet here to-day, in Bruges, I am asking myself whether
after all it has been such a great success, whether sooner or later
one does not have to pay for having been hard and strong, for refusing
to suffer.... I must leave this place, it is too full of Madame de
Savaresse.... Is it curiosity which is torturing me? I _must_ find Lorimer.
If he married her, why has he been so persistently silent? If he did not
marry her, what in Heaven's name does it mean? These are vexing questions.
In the Church of the Dames Rouges, I met to-day my old friend Sebastian
Lorimer. Strange! Strange! He was greatly altered, I wonder almost that I
recognised him. I had strolled into the church for benediction, for the
first time since I have been back here, and when the service was over and I
swung back the heavy door, with the exquisite music of the 'O Salutaris,'
sung by those buried women behind the screen still echoing in my ear, I
paused a moment to let a man pass by me. It was Lorimer, he looked wild and
worn; it was no more than the ghost of my old friend. I was shocked and
startled by his manner. We shook hands quite impassively as if we had
parted yesterday. He talked in a rambling way as we walked towards my
hotel, of the singing of the nuns, of the numerous religious processions,
of the blessed doctrine of the intercession of saints. The old melodious
voice was unchanged, but it was pitched in the singularly low key which
I have noticed some foreign priests acquire who live much in churches.
I gather that he has become a Catholic. I do not know what intangible
instinct, or it may be fear, prevented me from putting to him the vital
question which has so perplexed me. It is astonishing how his face has
changed, what an extraordinary restlessness his speech and eye have
acquired. It never was so of old. My first impression was that he was
suffering from some acute form of nervous disorder, but before I left him
a more unpleasant suspicion was gradually forced upon me. I cannot help
thinking that there is more than a touch of insanity in my old friend. I
tried from time to time to bring him down to personal topics, but he eluded
them dexterously, and it was only for a moment or so that I could keep him
away from the all absorbing subject of the Catholic Church, which seems in
some of its more sombre aspects to exercise an extraordinary fascination
over him. I asked him if he often visited Bruges.
He looked up at me with a curious expression of surprise.
'I live here,' he said, 'almost always.' I have done so for years....'
Presently he added hurriedly, 'You have come back. I thought you would come
back, but you have been gone a long time--oh, a long time! It seems years
since we met. Do you remember--?' He checked himself; then he added in a
low whisper, 'We all come back, we all come back.'
He uttered a quaint, short laugh.
'One can be near--very near, even if one can never be quite close.'
He tells me that he still paints, and that the Academy, to which he sends
a picture yearly, has recently elected him an Associate. But his art does
not seem to absorb him as it did of old, and he speaks of his success drily
and as a matter of very secondary importance. He refused to dine with me,
alleging an engagement, but that so hesitatingly and with such vagueness
that I could perceive it was the merest pretext. His manner was so strange
and remote that I did not venture to press him. I think he is unhappily
conscious of his own frequent incoherencies and at moments there are quite
painful pauses when he is obviously struggling with dumb piteousness to be
lucid, to collect himself and pick up certain lost threads in his memory.
He is coming to see me this evening, at his own suggestion, and I am
waiting for him now with a strange terror oppressing me. I cannot help
thinking that he possesses the key to all that has so puzzled me, and that
to-night he will endeavour to speak.
Poor Lorimer! I have hardly yet got over the shock which his visit last
night caused me, and the amazement with which I heard and read between
the lines of his strange confession. His once clear reason is, I fear,
hopelessly obscured, and how much of his story is hallucination, I cannot
say. His notions of time and place are quite confused, and out of his
rambling statement I can only be sure of one fact. It seems that he has
done me a great wrong, an irreparable wrong, which he has since bitterly
And in the light of this poor wretch's story, a great misunderstanding is
rolled away, and I am left with the conviction that the last twenty years
have been after all a huge blunder, an irrevocable and miserable mistake.
Through my own rash precipitancy and Lorimer's weak treachery, a trivial
mischance that a single word would have rectified, has been prolonged
beyond hope of redress. It seems that after all it was not Lorimer whom
she chose. Madame de Savaresse writing to us both twenty years ago, made a
vital and yet not inexplicable mistake. She confused her envelopes, and the
letter which I received was never meant for me, although it was couched in
such ambiguous terms that until to-day the possibility of this error never
dawned on me. And my letter, the one little word of which she spoke, was
sent to Lorimer. Poor wretch! he did me a vital injury--yes, I can say that
now--a vital injury, but on the whole I pity him. To have been suddenly
dashed down from the pinnacles of happiness, it must have been a cruel
blow. He tells me that when he saw her that afternoon and found out his
mistake, he had no thought except to recall me. He actually came to London
for that purpose, vowed to her solemnly that he would bring me back; it was
only in England, that, to use his own distraught phrase, the Devil entered
into possession of him. His half-insane ramblings gave me a very vivid
idea of that fortnight during which he lay hid in London, trembling like a
guilty thing, fearful at every moment that he might run across me and yet
half longing for the meeting with the irresoluteness of the weak nature,
which can conceive and to a certain extent execute a _lachete_, yet which
would always gladly yield to circumstance and let chance or fate decide the
issue. And to the very last Lorimer was wavering--had almost sought me out,
and thrown himself on my mercy, when the news came that I had sailed.
Destiny who has no weak scruples, had stepped in and sealed Delphine's
mistake for all time, after her grim fashion. When he went back to Bruges,
and saw Madame de Savaresse, I think she must have partly guessed his
baseness. Lorimer was not strong enough to be a successful hypocrite, and
that meeting, I gather, was also their final parting. She must have said
things to him in her beautiful quiet voice which he has never forgotten.
He went away and each day he was going to write to me, and each day he
deferred it, and then he took up the _Times_ one morning and read the
announcement of my marriage. After that it seemed to him that he could only
Did _she_ know of it too? Did she suffer or did she understand? Poor woman!
poor woman! I wonder if she consoled herself, as I did, and if so how she
looks back on her success? I wonder whether she is happy, whether she is
dead? I suppose these are questions which will remain unanswered. And yet
when Lorimer left me at a late hour last night, it seemed to me that the
air was full of unspoken words. Does he know anything of her now! I have a
right to ask him these things. And to-morrow I am to meet him, he made the
request most strangely--at the same place where we fell in with each other
to-day--until to-morrow then!
I have just left Sebastian Lorimer at the Church of the Dames Rouges. I
hope I was not cruel, but there are some things which one can neither
forget nor forgive, and it seemed to me that when I knew the full measure
of the ruin he had wrought, my pity for him withered away. 'I hope,
Lorimer,' I said, 'that we may never meet again.' And, honestly, I cannot
forgive him. If she had been happy, if she had let time deal gently with
her--ah yes, even if she were dead--it might be easier. But that this
living entombment, this hopeless death in life should befall her, she so
magnificently fitted for life's finer offices, ah, the pity of it, the pity
of it!... But let me set down the whole sad story as it dawned upon me this
afternoon in that unearthly church. I was later than the hour appointed;
vespers were over and a server, taper in hand, was gradually transforming
the gloom of the high altar into a blaze of light. With a strange sense of
completion I took my place next to the chair by which Lorimer, with bowed
head, was kneeling, his eyes fixed with a strange intentness on the screen