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POEMS FROM A SCRAP-BOOK.*
GREAT Nature holds no fellowship with grief.
A breathless course where red-armed lightnings strive;
And show the forge where thunder-bolts are cast
Divining what shall chance when they are dead,
O POVERTY, if thou and I must wed,
How small a tooth hath mined the season's heart; How cold a touch hath set the wood on fire, Until it blazes like a costly pyre
Built for some Ganges emperor, old and swart, Soul-sped on clouds of incense! Whose the art That webs the streams, each morn, with silver wire,
Delicate as the tension of a lyre?
Whose falchion pries the chestnut-bur apart?
SHUTTLE of the sunburnt grass,
Where their lodging-places are;
On blue, frozen morns, and note
LIGHT Vanisher, all weary as I am,
A SONNET ON THE SONNET.
GRANT me twice seven splendid words, O Muse (Like jewel pauses on a rosary chain, To tell us where the aves start again);
By permission of the author,-a writer whose work is not yet familiar to magazine readers,-these poems are reprinted from the Cleveland "Leader" and "Herald" and the Geneva (O.) "Times," for which they were written. Miss Thomas has also contributed occasionally to the New York "Graphic," the Cincinnati " Commercial," and the Indianapolis “Herald."
Of these, in each verse, one I mean to use-
A sonnet should be like the cygnet's cruise
THEY both are exiles: he who sailed
He has no sight of Saxon face,
He hears a language harsh and strange;
They both are exiles; nor have they
His day springs westward from her eyes!
Each says apart,-There is no land
But, had we sought it hand in hand,
"The night of time far exceedeth the day; who knows when was the equinox?"
FIRST, winds of March must blow, and rains must beat,
Thick airs blend wood and field and distant hill,
None knows how wide the arch of Night expands!
Lo! I will hate my enemy, yet breathe
THE WESTMINSTER PLAY.
THE Westminster play is usually given on three nights, a week or so before Christmas. These separate performances are not more than two or three days apart. On the first night the play is given alone; on the last two nights it is given with a prologue and epilogue. Not long ago, I was present on the second night. It is rather difficult to get tickets, but, through the kindness of one of the masters, I obtained an invitation and a good seat. The play is given in the great dormitory of the school, the boys sleeping about anywhere during the six weeks of its preparation, some, I believe, under the flight of steps which forms the seats of the audience. The floor just in front of the stage is occupied by ladies, old scholars, and invited persons. Among these last are often diplomates, it having been long the custom to send invitations to foreign ministers. The raised seats behind are also
devoted to invited guests. The boys are in the extreme rear, and occupy what may be called the loft, where they act as a claque. There is but one piece of scenery, which is a beautiful representation of Athens. Elaborate house scenery is unnecessary, the incidents of the ancient Greek play being always supposed to take place in the street.
On the occasion of my seeing the play, after the entrance of the head-master and distinguished guests, the captain of the school, dressed in the academic costume, -a gown, knee-breeches, stockings, etc.,stepped forward and repeated a prologue. This was, to my notion, as interesting as any part of the performance. The black scholastic dress became this young gentleman very well; he was tall, slight, and pale, and looked quite an ideal college prizeman. The topics of the prologue are usually the interesting events of
the past year, whether public or pertaining to the affairs of the school. There had been no prologue the year before, the play having been suspended on account of the death of the Princess Alice. Westminster, being a royal foundation, is, of course, bound to pay especial respect to these events; the prologue on the present occasion referred, therefore, to the changes and leading events of the two previous years. The topics were the death of the Princess Alice, the death of W. Ritchie-a town boy in the school-from a bicycle accident, the Afghan war, the South African war, Mr. Parnell and the Irish agitation, and the defects and merits of Plautus. The poet had his little jokes, which, although in Latin, were heartily laughed at, perhaps were laughed at all the more on that account. I must say I love these scholastic jokes, when I understand them, or, indeed, when I do not: they are so simple and pleasant, and suit so well the academic atmosphere and the academic countenance. The jokes on this occasion were on the wet season and on Mr. Parnell. The following lines pertain to this subject:
'Quippe arvis coeli nocuit inclementia;
Nocent et turbae terris ut in Hibernicis
which, I believe, means that the rain has spoilt the crops, and that in Ireland Mr. Parnell has been acting the part of a new Gracchus. The following lines refer to the death of the Hon. S. W. P. Vereker, in South Africa. It would seem that this young man, but lately one of their own number, had, in a Zulu fight, unselfishly given up his horse to another, and yielded
himself to certain death.
"Non sine sanguine Africa;
After the prologue came the play, which was on this occasion the "Trinummus" of Plautus. The comedies of Plautus and Terence are the only works represented at Westminster. These comedies are translations, more or less close, of Greek comic writers, such as Menander and Philemon. The "Trinummus" is the only one of the plays of Plautus suited to be acted before a modern audience. The plot of the play is as follows: Charmides, a rich Athe
nian, who has lost a great deal of money through the misconduct of a spendthrift son, sails for foreign parts. This son, whose name is Lesbonicus, consumes the money left with him by his father and then puts up his father's house for sale. Charmides, at his departure, has intrusted to an old friend, Callicles, the care of his interests, and has requested him to look after his son and daughter; he informs him at the same time that he has buried in his house a treasure, to be used in case of need. Of the existence of this treasure Lesbonicus, of course, is not aware, and Callicles, in order to save it, buys the house from him. The fellow-citizens of Callicles charge him with a violation of the trust reposed in him by Charmides, and one Megaronides expostulates with him concerning his bad faith. To him Callicles imparts the reason of his action, and the existence of the treasure. In the meanwhile, the daughter of Charmides has been asked in marriage by Lysiteles, a very eligible young man, and the son of a wealthy person named Philto. But her brother Lesbonicus refuses to sanction the match without giving his sister a portion, and insists as a condition that Lysiteles shall receive a piece of land near the city, which is the last remnant of his fortune. This, however, Lysiteles refuses to accept., Callicles, at the suggestion of Megaronides, determines to give the young woman a dowry out of the treasure, but he does not wish Lesbonicus to know where the money comes from. Accordingly, he hires a sharper, who is instructed to bring him a thousand gold pieces from Charmides as a marriage portion for his daughter. Charmides unexpectedly returns to Athens, and finds the sharper on his pretended errand to the house of Callicles. The sharper explains his errand and attempts to impose upon Charmides, who at last discovers himself. Charmides then meets his slave Stasimus, who informs him of the sale of his house to Callicles. Charmides thence infers that Callicles has been false to him, and on meeting him upbraids him with his conduct. He afterward learns the truth and applauds the fidelity of his friend. He then bestows his daughter on Lysiteles, with a portion of a thousand gold pieces, forgives his son Lesbonicus, and marries him to the daughter of Callicles.
The prologue, written by Plautus, is called "Luxury and Poverty." They are represented as two females in classical dress. The parts were acted by two young men.
Luxury seemed an extremely tall young woman, with a blooming cheek and a deep voice. She had a wreath upon her head, and a very smart dress. They appear before the house of Charmides. Luxury says to the audience that Poverty is her daughter, and that she has given her to live with Lesbonicus all his life. One scene serves through the entire piece, which is a street in Athens, with the house of Charmides on one side, and of Philto on the other.
With regard to the play itself, I am bound to say that, if placed on the London boards and compelled to rely upon its intrinsic attraction to a modern audience, it could not well hold its own against "Pinafore" or "Madame Favart." It was followed by old scholars with their Plautuses. I suppose the cleverest of them found it hardly as pleasant as sitting in the stalls and looking at Miss Ellen Terry or Miss Kate Vaughan. But the play is for the school-boys a capital exercise and is for the spectator "a thing to do"; it gives the unlearned an idea of what a Roman play was, which he would not be apt to get from reading the authors. The young gentlemen knew their parts remarkably well, and brought out the strong points with great emphasis. Stasimus, the slave of Lesbonicus, was particularly spirited, though he did appear to treat his master with too much familiarity.
The achievements of Dr. Schliemann appear to have suggested the subject of the epilogue. Callicles re-appears as a great antiquary. To him enters Charmides, to whom he exhibits the results of his excavations upon the site of ancient Troy. Callicles thus expresses his preference for the pursuits of the excavator (it will be seen that he is not afraid of slang-superas artes is to be translated into "high art”).
"Sectetur superas quivis excelsior artes Sed mavult mea mens inferiora sequi." Among the treasures exhibited is a golden cup. There enters a sycophant, who picks up the cup, admires it, and finally runs away with it. Callicles calls loudly for the police-" Custodes urbis adeste!" Charmides observes that they are never to be found, excepting in the areas flirting with the maids.
"Nusquam sunt? ut mos, deseruere vias!
Lysiteles arrives from Pompeii with some spoils of his own. Callicles and Lysiteles express their contempt each for the other's
discoveries there. Then appear four ghosts, who applaud the classical enthusiasm of Callicles and commend to his guardianship Busby's "Thesaurus" and the Westminster play. Apart from the veneration which would be naturally felt for the antiquity of the play and the affection of the old scholars of Westminster for its associations, it is believed to be really useful. It is thought to help the scholars to be good speakers. Dr. Hautrey, when provost of Eton, said: W "I wish I could get Eton boys to speak as well as Westminster boys do." Some of the young actors have at various times earned a considerable reputation for themselves. In 1730, one George Lewis performed the character of Ignoramus so well that he afterward was distinguished by the name of Ignoramus Lewis. Garrick was present at the "Andria" in 1765, and was so delighted with the acting of one young gentleman in the part of the comic slave, Davus, that he presented him with a free admission to his theater. But the play also educated certain scholars to make their mark as actors or as authors in the real English drama. Barton Booth, a member of an old Lancashire family, who had been intended for the church, left Westminster for the stage and became one of the most distinguished tragedians of his time. His performance, at fourteen years of age, of the part of Pamphilus, in the "Andria," was, we are told, the "delight of Busby's declining years." At seventeen he ran away from school and joined some strolling players in Dublin; the mortification of his father was intense, who said that "old Busby had poisoned the boy with his dying breath." There is no doubt that Booth's early triumphs on the little Westminster stage had determined his career for him; Westminster was very proud of him. The Colemans, elder and younger, were Westminster boys. Among authors for the stage was Ben Jonson. It is not known of him, however, whether he exhibited his dramatic abilities while at school. But Cowley, when twelve years of age, wrote a play called "Constantia and Phileton," which he dedicated to the then head-master, Osbaldiston.
It is to Nowell, who was head-master in the reign of Henry VIII., that the performance of the plays of Terence and Plautus is to be ascribed. Previous to that time the work of mediæval dramatists had been played in English public schools. Little is known of the early performance of the Latin comedy at Westminster. Queen Eliz
abeth is said to have been present on one occasion. Great pains have always been taken with the play. The scenery has been improved from time to time Until within a half-century, the dress of the actors has been the dress of the time-the dress with which we are familiar in the illustrations to "Esmond" and "The Virginians." But during the head-mastership of Dr. Williamson, the present classical costumes were introduced; these have been improved in richness and elegance by the wives of succeeding head-masters.
The best talent of the school, both among masters and scholars, has always been given to the preparation of the epilogue. Many of the epilogues have been much admired. These have been gathered together into the pages of "Lusus Alteri Westmonasterienses." Mr. Lucas Collins, to whose excellent work on the English public schools the writer is indebted for much information, cites some amusing specimens. In 1779, a Mr. Adam, a member of Parliament, challenged Mr. Fox because the latter had made some remarks in the House concerning the knavery of government contractors. Fox was struck, but the bullet did not penetrate beneath his waistcoat. When Mr. Adam hoped he " was not much hurt," Fox said: "Oh, no, there's no harm done; it's only government powder." "Phormis" was played that year at Westminster. In the epilogue, Phormio appeared in the character of a contractor. His boast of the innocence of his gunpowder drew shouts of laughter both from the Whigs and Tories of Westminster. When the " Trinummus" was played in 1863, the ghost of Busby was introduced into the epilogue. Busby expresses the horror with which he has heard of the proposal to sell the old place and remove into the country. He tells them that he has buried a treasure underneath; on digging for it, they discover a gigantic rod. A very large part of the wit of the scholastic and even of general English literature relates to this implement. Queen Elizabeth, when on a visit to Westminster, asked one of the scholars whether he had had any practical knowledge of the famous rod of that institution, which was of a peculiar construction. The boy replied readily by a quotation from Virgil.
"Infandum, Regina, jubes renovare dolorem," which Dryden has translated:
"Great Queen, what you command me to relate Renews the sad remembrance of our fate."
The present college of St. Peter's, Westminster, dates from the time of Henry VIII. It has had a long course of success, enjoying great reputation and producing many famous men. But it is said to have been, for years past, on the decline, owing, mainly, to its position. The growth of London leaves it now very nearly in the heart of the City. The list of its famous scholars is imposing. It includes Ben Jonson, Cowley, South, John Locke, Lord Halifax, Atterbury, Prior, Rowe, Lord Mansfield, Warren Hastings, and Cowper. It will be observed in this list that the poets far outnumber the legislators. This, perhaps, was not to be expected. If you go to the speaker's gallery in the House of Commons you may see two or three boys in cap and gown walk in and take their seats as if by right, though the rest of the world must get in by an order; the usher will tell you that tradition gives Westminster boys the privilege of witnessing the debates in Parliament. One would expect, therefore, that Westminster would have produced debaters. But this has not been the case. The garden prepared for the production of politicians has turned out a nursery of poets.
The Westminster boys have also a right to a place at coronations, which, of course, take place in the abbey. It appears to be their duty to raise a clamor in honor of the new monarch. There are many who remember the hearty shout raised at the last coronation, of "Vivat Victoria Regina !" Westminster, by the way, has always been a very loyal school. Both masters and scholars were strongly on the royal side during the civil war, and Charles I. was prayed for in the school on the morning of his execution. Dean Stanley, in his book on Westminster Abbey, refers to Dr. South's recollection of this striking incident: "On that very day" (says South in one of his sermons), "that black and eternally infamous day of the King's murder, I myself heard, and am now a witness, that the King was publicly prayed for in the school but an hour or two, at most, before his sacred head was struck off." "The school," says the old preacher, rousing himself with the recollection of those stirring days of his boyhood, "made good its claim to that glorious motto of its royal foundress-Semper Eadem the temper and genius of it being neither to be tempted with promises nor controlled with threats."
who was head-master during this period, was a stanch loyalist. At the coronation