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poems, and then his obscurity would have been complete. If Milton only didn't take the trouble to be great he would have been greater. As far as I know there are no English poets who improved when they ceased to be amateurs and became professional poets, except Wordsworth and Tennyson. Shelley and Keats were never regular race-horses. They were colts that bolted in their first race and ran until they dropped. It was a good job Shakespeare gave up writing rhymes and posing as a poet. It was not until he despaired of becoming one and took to the drama that he began to feel his feet and show his pace. If he had suspected he was a great poet he would have adopted the airs of the profession and been ruined. In his time no one thought of calling a play a poem—that was what saved the greatest of all our poets to us. The only two things Shakespeare didn't know is that a play may be a poem and that his plays are the finest poems finite man as he is now constructed can endure. It is all nonsense to say man shall never look on the like of Shakespeare again. It is not the poet superior to Shakespeare man now lacks, but the man to apprehend him."
I looked around uneasily, and found, to my great satisfaction, that there was no stranger in view. My friend occupied a position of responsibility and trust, and it would be most injurious if a rumour got abroad that not only did he read and admire verse, but that he held converse with the shades of departed poets as well. In old days men who spoke to the vacant air were convicted of necromancy and burned; in our times men offending in this manner are suspected of poetry and ostracised.
As soon as my friend was somewhat calmed, and had cast himself down again and lit a pipe, I resumed my reading. He allowed me to proceed without interruption until I came to
“His palace bright,
“Prodigious!" he shouted. "Go over that again. Keep the syllables wide apart. It is a good rule of water-colour sketching not to be too nice about joining the edges of the tints; this lets the light in. Keep the syllables as far apart as ever you can, and let the silentness in between to clear up the music. How the gods and the wondering men must have wondered! Do you know, I am sure Keats often frightened, terrified himself with his own visions. You remember he says somewhere he doesn't think any one could dare to read some one or another aloud at midnight. I believe that often in the midnight he sat and cowered before the gigantic sights and sounds that reigned despotically over his fancy.''
“O dreams of day and night!
Deserted, void, nor any haunt of mine.
“What more magnificent prelude ever was uttered to oath than the portion of this speech preceding. "No, by Tellus! What more overpowering, leading up to an overwhelming threat, than the whole passage going before 'Over the fiery frontier of my realms I will advance a terrible right arm! What menacing deliberativeness there is in this whole speech, and what utter completeness of ruin to come is indicated by those words, ‘I will advance a terrible right arm'! You feel no sooner shall that arm move than ‘rebel Jove's' reign will be at an end, and that chaos will be left for Saturn to rule and fashion once more into order. Shut up the poem now. That's plenty of Hyperion, and the other books of it are inferior. There is more labour and more likeness to Paradise Lost." And so my friend, who is 16,000 miles away, and I turned from the Titanic theme, and spoke of the local board of guardians, or some young girl whose beauty was making rich misery in the hearts of young men in those old days.
There is no other long poem in the volume bearing any marks which indicate such close connection with any individual reader as in the case of Hyperion. Endymion boasts only one mark, and that expressing admiration of the relief afforded from monotony of the heroic couplets
by the introduction in the opening of the double rhyming verses:
"Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing—”
The friend to whom this mark is due never handled the volume, never even saw it; but once upon a time when he, another man, and I had got together, and were talking of the "gallipot poet," the first friend said he always regarded this couplet as most happily placed where it appears. So when I reached home I marked my copy at the lines. Now, when I open the volume and find that mark, it is as good to me as, better than, a photograph of my friend; for I not only see his face and figure, but once more he places his index-finger on the table, as we three sit smoking, and whispers out the six opening lines, ending with the two I have quoted. Suppose I too should some day go 16,000 miles away from London, and carry this volume with me, shall I not be able to open it when I please, and recall what I then saw and heard, what I now see and hear, as distinctly as though no long interval of ocean or of months lay between to-night and that hour? ...
When I take down my copy of Keats, and look through it and beyond it, I feel that while it is left to me I cannot be wholly shorn of my friends. It is the only album of photographs I possess. The faces I see in it are not for any eye but mine. It is my private portrait gallery, in which hang the portraits of my dearest friends. The marks and blots are intelligible to no eye but mine; they are the cherished hieroglyphics of the heart. I close the book; I lock up the hieroglyphics; I feel certain the book will last my time. uld it survive me and pass into new hands-into the 1 of some boy now unborn, who may pluck out of it
of love-phrases for his fresh-cheeked sweetheart
he will know nothing of the import these marginal notes bore to one who has gone before him; unless, indeed, out of some cemetery of ephemeral literature he digs up this key—this Rosetta stone.
A NIGHT AMONG THE PINES
Robert Louis Stevenson
From Bleymard after dinner, although it was already late, I set out to scale a portion of the Lozère. An illmarked stony drove road guided me forward; and I met nearly half a dozen bullock-carts descending from the woods, each laden with a whole pine-tree for the winter's firing. At the top of the woods, which do not climb very high upon this cold ridge, I struck leftward by a path among the pines, until I hit on a dell of green turf, where a streamlet made a little spout over some stones to serve me for a water-tap. “In a more sacred or sequestered bower ... nor nymph, nor faunus, haunted." The trees were not old, but they grew thickly round the glade: there was no outlook, except north-eastward upon distant hill-tops, or straight upward to the sky; and the encampment felt secure and private like a room. By the time I had made my arrangements and fed Modestine, the day was already beginning to decline. I buckled myself to the knees into my sack and a made a hearty meal; and as soon as the sun went down I pulled my cap over my eyes and fell asleep.
Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature. What seems a kind of temporal death to
1 From Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.