« AnkstesnisTęsti »
que tout sorte de vos entrailles, seemed a sufficient answer to all and sundry, and the musician was invited to lay before us the new subject on which he was minded to write.
The answer that this snippet of musical history will bring forth is that the musician must have had little music in his head for him to waste time trying to do what nature clearly intended him not to do; for a man who has something to say manages to say it pretty quickly and is not troubled with moral scruples whether he should write or beg his libretto. Every man gets the libretto he deserves from his own hand or from another's, and this being so, none needs believe himself called upon to practise two arts; and having reached agreement with all amiable spirits on this point, we find ourselves dropping into thinking that the single vision is enough on condition that we try to enrich it with memories of the other arts which we can do, the Muses not being hostile to one another, but interdependent each possessed of a distinct personality; let us not forget that the nine are but nine aspects of a single goddess, whom the Greeks might have named Esthesia. Degas used to cry, "Halte! c'est mon métier," when Huysmans passed over the frontiers of literature and descended into what seemed to Degas to be the province of the painter, and some future critic may take it upon himself to decide if the years I spent in studios and in the company of painters rather than of men of letters were a loss or a gain. Now having prepared the reader for biographical details that have not yet appeared in any one of my autobiographical works, I will relate that my interest in painting began in my sixteenth year, when my father reëntered Parliament, and we left Ireland to come to live in London. It is true that I have related in a three-volume book that soon after our arrival my father and I met our cousin Jim Browne in the Exhibition Road, and that Jim was a sort of Irish Gustave Doré, who improvised Julius Cæsar overturning the Druid altars and other historical subjects on large canvasses. But I have not related, at least I think I have not, that it was about the same time that I met Dick, of the
"Mummer's Wife," and his brothers in Thurloe Square. A musical family were these Maitlands, inasmuch as they played the scores of operettas by French composers. Dick was going into managership, bringing over from Paris Hervé's "Chilperic" to the Lyceum Theater, with the author of the book and the music in the principal part: a man thereby possessed of the third vision, for we have no account of Wagner as Siegfried; the most we know of him in the way of interpretation is that he used to sing "Tristan" to his friends. It is true that he is answerable to some extent for the architecture of the Bayreuth Theater, but the point need not be pressed; enough it is for my purpose to say that the tunes of "Chilperic" caught my fancy, and those of "Le Petit Faust" pleased me, too, without leaving, however, so deep an impression on my mind as those of "Chilperic." Later my friend Dick came into managership at the Globe Theater, with a production of Offenbach's opera, "Les Brigands"; and afterward, when I went to learn painting in Paris, I met a gentleman in Julian's studio who had written an opera, and who was a member of Les Cercle des Mirlitons, a club in which the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were played, a kindly old gentleman who invited me to come with him to a concert in return for the interest I had shown in his opera, and when we came out into the Place Vendôme, after thanking him for the pleasant evening he had given me, I said, "Now I know that Hervé and Offenbach are truly Mirlitons, and that there is no music but classical music."
The passion for literature fell upon me, and painting and music were forgotten till dear Edward asked me to come to hear "The Rhine Gold" at Drury Lane, and succeeded in taking me with him despite the usual protests of those days, that unmelodious music was more tedious than anything in the world. Of course it is, but reassure yourself, dear reader; this paper is not written with a view to settling whether Wagner was a greater writer than Homer or Shakspere, but to tell of the great wonder and delight and exaltation "The Ring" brought to me. It cannot
be but interesting to hear a man tell the story of a great delight, how it came into his life suddenly, and lasted for many years, becoming, without his being aware of the change, a memory sad and sweet, the lachrymæ rerum of Vergil. The sight of a piano must cause Paderewski to sigh inwardly, and the word Bayreuth comes upon me now like the scent of lavender from an old chest. I should never have gone thither if EdIward had not taken me to hear "The Rhine Gold," and the memory of the walk from the Temple to the theater returns to me, and the moment when I sat with Edward waiting for the orchestra to begin, wondering if I should be bored, fearing that I might be, telling Edward that if the music were not like Haydn, Beethoven, or Mozart, I should try to escape from the theater at the end of the act. "But there are no acts," he said, and immediately after the orchestra began. The fanfare of the Rhine told me something undreamed of had come into my life, and I listened as a child listens, understanding nothing, for my poor ears could not follow the intricate weaving and interweaving; my reason tottered like one in a virgin forest, for there seemed to be no path to even a partial understanding of this fulgurant orchestra, predicting at every moment wars and rumors of wars, giants against gods. I did not apprehend much more than this of the music or the story, and when the storm motive broke forth, announcing the conclusion of the truce and god-kind ascended the rainbow to Valhalla, there were no thoughts in me: I could only feel; I could not speak; words seemed trivial, almost futile; and the god, standing on the rainbow, listening to the lament of the maidens for the stolen gold, seemed to bring the story of art to a divine end.
But they stand no longer on a rainbow not even at Bayreuth, for that somebody might think it too high a flight of fantasy to show gods ascending a rainbow. Yet much has been written about the necessity of scenery, lighting, costume, of something that is known as "production," and to my distress, for a rehearsal of Tristan with a tenor in a frock-coat, pot-hat, possessed of half the genius of Jean de Reszke, is enough
for me. I dread my remembrance of
Sir Beerbohm Tree's rhododendrons in "Twelfth Night," and the garish drawing-rooms of the St. James's Theater. An empty, dusky stage is enough for me, and I can recall only one instance of scenery saying something that neither literary nor musical text could say, and that single justification of scenery which is omitted by common consent in Bayreuth, in London, and in Paris. Truly our state is retrograde. But to return to Edward. "I shall never understand," I said to myself on my way from King's Bench Walk to Pump Court, where dear Edward lived, and to him, "It is a cruel fate to be afflicted with a desire to understand, and no means of gratifying it."
"Perhaps you will understand "Tristan' better," Edward said to console me. "But all the places are taken," I answered, and my despair was great.
A friend, however, took pity upon me, offering me a seat in his box, which I accepted with a gratitude that must have seemed odd to him. But nothing mattered, for I was going to hear another opera by Wagner. No one will ever hear "Tristan" as I heard it that evening, and when the curtain came down on Isolde's death scene, I cried out, "More wonderful than Shakspere, Michelangelo, Ingres, or Manet," and returned to the Temple to sit overwhelmed, asking myself when I could hear "Tristan" again and if I should understand it better.
It was not till I heard "Tristan" a third time that the musical pattern began to disclose itself. I went to Bayreuth again and again to hear Wagner, and to Munich to hear Wagner and Mozart, and for some years was seldom absent from the symphony concerts, where I listened with more critical ears to my old friends, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, thinking how a story might be woven from start to finish out of one set of ideas, each chapter rising out of the preceding chapter in suspended cadence always, never a full close; and as an example of the kind of book that comes out of such ideas as these, I will name "The Brook Kerith," for the story begins like a brook; the old woman telling stories to her grandchild may be
compared to the "Fanfare of the Rhine," and the brook widens out as it flows, a smooth current, not very rapid, but flowing always, turning sometimes east, sometimes west, winding, disappearing at last mysteriously like a river.
In "Evelyn Innes" and "Sister Teresa," there are references to many different kinds of music, for the opera-singer's father is an organist in a church that gathers large crowds to hear the sixteenth-century contrapuntalists. She plays the viola da gamba at her father's concerts, but descriptions of madrigals and operas cannot be accepted as proof that the author's style was modified by musical interests. "Evelyn Innes" is externally musical as "Carmen" is externally Spanish; but the writing of "The Lake" would not be as it is if I had not listened to "Lohengrin" many times; and if any of the readers of the "Chesterian" have looked into my story, I think they will catch my meaning when I say that the pages in which an agitated priest wanders about a summer lake recall the silver of the prelude. The sun shining on the mist, a voice is heard in vibrant supplication, is the essence of the prelude; and thinking of how great was my gain, I fall to thinking that the twentieth-century artist stultifies himself when he shuts himself up in his own art, and that our present poets and story-tellers should spend more time in our National Galleries, not, I hasten to say, with a view of imitating D'An
When I am all alone, Envy me most,
nunzio, the flying man, who includes descriptions of Veronese and Tintoretto in all he writes. Such externalities as D'Annunzio's are worthless, for the reader feels that he is reading "eloquent padding," no doubt, but if he be an intelligent reader, his meditations end on the words, "there is no such thing as good; all 'padding' is bad, no matter whence it comes. If he be right,-and who shall say he is not?-it would seem that visits to the National Gallery should be undertaken with the view of enabling him to see the external world more clearly. Of course, there is a danger in these visits. The poet may return as Tennyson did with a commonplace image
"...till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn."
We will hope, however, that he may escape the obvious and return with a finer sense of color and with a keener insight into nature than he had before, his mind charged-shall we say?-with the idyllic grace of a high birch overhanging a still lake or an appreciation of the melancholy, almost hostile, aspect of a rough wood in which woodmen are felling trees on each side of a ravine. Reubens, I would have the reader remember, did not play the organ himself, but an organist played while the master painted; and who shall say that some of the tumult of the organ does not survive in the painting?
By SARA TEASDALE
Then my thoughts flutter round me In a glimmering host.
Some dressed in silver,
Some dressed in white,
Each like a taper
Most of them merry,
Some bearing violets, Some bearing bay; One with a burning rose Hidden away.
Never, when I'm alone,
For I have better friends
Than women and men,