« ПретходнаНастави »
In those green-sickness days, how we used to invite the queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls to come into the garden where the black bat, Night, had flown! And how we hated with a real hatred the dreadful hollow behind the little wood! We fled with "Edwin Morris " when " there came a mystic token from the king." With him we despaired when
"They wedded her to sixty thousand pounds,
Do we undervalue Tennyson now? Perhaps. We do not forget "In Memoriam" or the "Idylls," or "Ulysses"; but we believe that to do one's right work in the world one's heart must have some alloy of hot metal, and Tennyson's poetry never put hot metal into any man's heart. Even " Ulysses" expresses only the resolution of broken men—there is iron there but the iron is cold.
* * *
The Nibelungenlied fell to us in college days. In the library of the old university, perched upon a ladder in the upper tier of the northern alcove, with Siegfried we seized Brunhilde and chastely stretched the sword between ourselves and her. The bookshelves about us were the great oaks of the Thuringian forests; and the meek heads of the librarians, seen through the grated floor of the tier, were those of the stark heroes of the epic, holding their God-doomed ways.
Here, too, Monsieur Guizot, in a dozen easy volumes, enamoured us of France. The history of that lovely land and its incomparable people—its sluggard kings, its Charleses, the Hammer and the Great, its Louis, the Good and the Bad and the Bald and the Fat and the Well-beloved—stirred us greatly. Its Jacquerie, its Armagnacs, its Leaguers, its Frondeurs, its Sans-culottes, its Vendeans, swam before us in a red mist. Between and over all, Agnes, Gabrielle, Diane, La Valliere, and all its other fair and pitiful ladies, made us wish that we too might have sighed at their feet.
In that same alcove of the old university library we re-read "Prince Otto," and read for the first time, "Will of the Mill" and "The Master of Ballantrae." To this day dreadful Otto is dearer to us than dreamful Will, and the cool depths of Grunewald are more alluring than the shaggy Champlain fastnesses where the devilish Master played his last trick.
* * *
During college days, a classmate and ourselves went for astroll along the berm of the canal that dawdled behind the old town. The day was hot, and we sat down to rest under an elm. Each pulled out a book. Ours was frankly Kipling—at that time he was always ready in the pocket of our coat as Shakespeare was in the pocket of our pajamas! But over the top of " The Seven Seas" our eyes fell on the plain brown book in our classmate's hand.
"What are you reading?"
"Emerson? I've never read him."
"Then you've lost 20 years of your sweet young life. Listen!"
For two hours we listened—with a sense of moving through a rarefied atmosphere vaguely unsatisfying to sturdy lungs—with a sense of hearing the frosty crackling of infinitely-delicate ice. We have since learned to know Emerson's writings better, to love them not at all but to feel their inspiration. It was not until we had seen men die violent deaths that Emerson's "Brahma" became significant to us:
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
It was in college, also, that John Fiske's "Idea of God " came to the rescue of a mind groping in the void, and helped to establish beliefs that bid fair to last through life. Whether or not such beliefs are those the book really sought to give just expression to we are not at all sure. At any rate, the meaning and purpose of life have been the clearer since Fiske's books were read.
* * *
In these piping times of war some of our torpedo-boat destroyers often cuddle close to the flanks of old Ireland. No doubt, in consequence, many an officer has drawn new sustenance from Charles Lever's " O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon" and from " Tom Burke of Ours." But perhaps not so many have read the tales of
John Banim and Michael Banim, those super-Levers. Long before men-of-war were more than a name to us, we accompanied the Banims from “The Bit-o-Writin'” to “The Boyne Water." With the Banims, we waked the dead, kissed the colleen, cursed the bad young squire, cherished the good old one, and married mavourneen at last in the thatched shebeen on the wild coast of dear Donegal.
Before we had become one of the adventurers who have traveled cast of Suez, we felt that we knew Golden Goa, very busy with small trade, and Macao—until lately reputed iniquitous and opium-damned—both cities beloved of the Portuguese. These seats of ancient splendor, and the Kingdom of Pegu in Burmah, we had traversed from end to end in the “Memoirs of Mendez Pinto” before ever we actually saw them with corporeal eyes. It was more than three hundred years ago that Pinto and his rabblement of rakehells fought Mogul kings and Christian governors, made and were made slaves, plundered estates in the Japan that they were first of Europeans to see. More than three hundred years ago, too, they quietly went a-fishing-amazing diversion for such bloody-minded folk !" at a river of sweet water, full of very fine trouts, hard by a little pagoda.” .
The war with Spain, and the Philippine Campaign that followed hard after, made it our duty to live adventures of the sort we had hitherto only read about.
At Cagayan de Mindanao in the Philippines, the enemy gave way before the forces of the navy and the army. With a sufficient squad of bayonets to support us, we broke over a parapet, sword in hand. A colonel of Filipinos fed before us down a little street. We followed in hot pursuit.
At the corner of the street, doubling, he avoided us by a hair. At the gateway of a courtyard we were only a yard behind him. Up the stairway of the Cuartel our swordpoint was at his very vertebra. Across a hall we sped, but our thrust, delivered at last, impaled only a teakwood door dexterously slammed in our face!
So passed the colonel !--we were glad of it. With a veteran's philosophy we gazed about the room.
Beneath a chromo of the Virgin, illumined by a buying candle at each side although the hour was not yet noon, hurz a foot
square Filipino flag. It was fair spoil of war, and we have it to this day.
From a gilt frame on a table the face of a pretty mestiza girl smiled up at us. We left it undisturbed for the flitted hero, if ever the fortune of war should permit him to claim his own.
And last and greatest find, in a drawer of an ebony bureau, we came upon a Spanish copy of "Don Quixote." Thereafter, whether we marched through towering jungles or stormed tiledroofed towns, the Knight of La Mancha rode ever with us, mounted on bony Rosinante and accompanied by proverbing Sancho Panza.
At Misamis in Mindanao, where we released a group of bloodstained prisoners from stocks and shackles, the lean knight seemed to us to be sitting beside them, immured in his carriaged cage. In Balabac, loveliest and remotest island of the Sulu Sea, the loopholed tower wherein we spent a day observant of the enemy's pickets, seemed the windmill once engaged in joust by the good cavalier.
High policy of war made our presence necessary at a ball in Surigao—just where the Sulu Sea yields to the Pacific. With a revolver hidden under our coat ready for the enemy's sons, we danced with the enemy's daughters into the wee, sma' hours. In the person of a Visayan girl who spoke not a word of Spanish or English, or French, but whose eyes and smile held us entranced through half a dozen waltzes, we saw none other than the lovely Dulcinea del Toboso.
* ♦ *
Our attention was first directed to the Koran when we were within the palisadoed hall of the Sultan of Sulu.
The sun had set after a long day of Ramadhan, and the time had come to break the holy fast. Muddy coffee, nondescript sugarcakes, and delicious mangoes, were being served by slaves naked to the waist. Over the slaves presided a major-domo whose sash was stuck full of wicked looking knives of assorted sizes.
There had been hours of acrid discussion concerning imposts and lev'es. between the Sultan and the commanding officer. There were but tik Americans present to confront six score Moros, and more thU'i once the chill breath of death had felt very near. Now as the restrictions and temper of the holy day's fast were thrown off with the fading sun, our eyes fell upon an inscription on a brass plate let into the wall.
"A text from the Koran," explained the interpreter.
When we were again safe on board our ship, we sought out an English copy of the great Mohammedan script.
Let us confess that the Koran seemed to us to possess small merit of literary form, whatever it may own as a philosophical study or as a historical record of manners. We pursued our search for its charm through the intricacies of a score of its surahs. In vain. We would far rather flee with the Prophet in the hegira or bow with him before the Kaaba than read any of his revelations by the way!
* * *
A good deal tossed about by the northeast monsoon and with 70 men down from " breakbone fever," our little gunboat limped into the port of Siassi in the Sulu Archipelago. We were among those tortured by dengue—the surgeon declared we must have some distraction for fevered mind and body. The ship's library was a thing of shred and patches, but by a miracle it yielded "Gil Bias."
Reclining in a chair beneath the canvas double-awning, the seabreeze eased the racked bones even as the humor of Le Sage's masterpiece relieved the weary brain.
So we owe a debt to the picaresque not lightly to be forgotten. Defoe's Moll and Colonel Jack, Smollett's Roderick and Peregrine, Fielding's Joseph and bluff Tom Jones, these are not so dear to us as Gil Bias, the supple rogue of Spain, slipping through every difficulty—to die in the odor of sanctity on his own estates. Even yet, when we dream at night with a touch of the old tropic malaria upon us, we hold the tattered pages of "Gil Bias," and hear, beyond the palm-crowned bluff, the thunder of the surf on the outer reef.
* * *
We read "For the Term of His Natural Life" while our ship lay at anchor in a harbor of Borneo. Above us, imminent, abrupt, formidable, loomed the heights of Mount Kinabalu, beloved of Dyak gods and devils. Among such cliffs might the bushrangers