Puslapio vaizdai

"Simon rose, and stood in the doorway, open upon that light which was more than sunshine, more than color. Andrea! He wanted to tell all this to Andrea"

literal child and by Mrs. West herself. "God help me!" said Simon, and lay down on the tall, dry grass. Life pressed upon him like a weight, as if life were but a mode of death.

He woke to the faint sound of the water below the little plateau, and saw it flowing from what hidden source to what hidden destiny. The sun was now surging against the tree-tops, pouring through the leaves, was received in the thick grass where mandrakes slept. He was in the mysterious freshness of wakening from ever mysterious sleep. The words with which he had fallen asleep were still present in that creative activity of the spoken word. And while he lay looking at the little stream he was aware of some sweetness current with the sense: fragrance not of flowers; a slant of glowing light; a lift of spirit as in laughter; the vibration of some loved presence.

It had come again, his new sense of life holding him, drawing him, devouring him. It was a distinct dilation of his consciousness, a catching up into some higher norm of perception, of existence. It was literally the creative mood descending upon him not for creative work, but for creative understanding of reality.

He sprang up, and something else ran with his thought: the man down there in the cottage, he must get back to him.

He found Mrs. West nodding beside her sleeping patient, and Simon took her place. As he sat beside the man Simon was planning. When the man awoke, Eva would ask him about his wife, and they would take help to her. He himself would see to that. And Eva-how could he persuade her to let him replace that fifty dollars?

And he was possessed by his pity for the poor fellow in the bed, the fine, pale face with its definite inheritance of gentleness and decency somehow gone astray. With a flash of wonder Simon knew that he would be feeling the same if here were some poor battered thing, empty of endowment.

Simon rose, and stood in the doorway, open upon that light which was more than sunshine, more than color. Andrea! He wanted to tell all this to Andrea. It was certain that this she would understand.

He stepped from the house, and there was Andrea coming toward him, her horse already grazing near. She was starry with some preoccupation.

"Simon," she cried, "that man-can we do something? I've thought about him all night."

He met her mutely, searched her face. She came close to him.

"Dear," she said, "it 's no use. I can't follow you. The truth is, I don't know what you were talking about yesterday. 'Other powers within us,' and all that. I'm not detached; I'm not spiritually up to you—” "Andrea, wait-"

"Oh, I'm not. I see it now. I can't feel this that you have been feeling. I'm away down on some lower level. I can do only things like helping that man—”

They were alone there in the morning sun. He stood before her humbly, held out his arms, saw her face bright against the background of the valley beauty-a beauty like fine flowing substance.

"Beloved!" he said.

Eva, laden with parcels, was entering the yard. They met her, shared her burdens, followed her within the house to take her orders.

The Real Eugene O'Neill



NE of our most unmistakable him or not. Certainly, there is in his traits as Americans is to personify work no deliberate challenge to find ideas and movements in human guise. out, if you can, what he is like, no We like, for instance, to make Foch conscious bait for the busybody. stand for Allied invincibility, Lenine That is probably only another way of for the spirit of revolution, or Edison saying that he is primarily the artist, for our native ingenuity. Having our that there is nothing of the propaganidol or devil, we set about to inquire dist in him, no desire to stimulate inwith prying curiosity into the inmost terest in his dogmas and theories or in intimacies of those whom we have himself as guaranty of further attenchosen thus to honor. It is a bit tion to those theories. I do not bedisconcerting to us, therefore, after lieve he has any theories; theories are agreeing upon Eugene G. O'Neill as fallible, undependable things. the personal symbol of our awakening American drama, to find that little is known about the man himself. True, he has had four plays on Broadway in the last two seasons, "Beyond the Horizon," "The Emperor Jones," "Diff'rent," and "Gold." Two more will have reached the stage by the time these lines are read, "The Straw" and "Anna Christie," while a third, based on a legend as old as man, is likely to be disclosed before another summer arrives. Yet despite this wide and growing acquaintance with O'Neill as a dramatist, the man remains for the general public only a name, a symbol, a luring and mysterious example of that association with the sea which has always stirred the imagination.

I doubt whether any other contemporary has bothered so little as O'Neill whether the public was curious about

After all, though, there is close kinship between O'Neill the playwright and the man, and to know the man is to understand his work the more clearly. For out of the life he has lived and the philosophy he has gained from it he draws many of the characters and scenes and ideas for his plays; and even when he goes to his imagination for the raw material, his checkered experiences on sea sea and land invariably color the use of it.

§ 2

O'Neill's life has been composed of just those struggles, and he has overridden just those obstacles, in just those ways that we like to think are characteristic of our continent. The old Barrett House at Forty-third Street and Broadway was his birthplace a little over thirty years ago, and from Gotham he was carried to the

four winds of the country by his father, the late James O'Neill, then at the height of his fame in "Monte Cristo." Private schooling prepared him for Princeton, but he soon ran afoul of the authorities there, and began a vagabond career that led far beyond the horizon. Secretary to a mail-order firm in lower Broadway and boon comrade of Benjamin Tucker and other radicals; gold prospector in Honduras, and victim of fever there; assistant manager for Viola Allen in "The White Sister" in the Middle West-these were the early chapters. Lured then by Conrad's "The Nigger of the Narcissus," he shipped on a Norwegian bark for Buenos Aires, and the Argentine capital held him exile for a year and a half in service to Westinghouse, Swift & Singer. A voyage to Durban, South Africa, and back was holiday, and finally he returned on a British tramp to New York, whence he shipped several times as able seaman in the American Line. Further adventures on land as denizen of the docks, friend of gamblers and Tammany ward-heelers, actor and newspaper reporter, culminated in an attack of tuberculosis, and incidentally in leisure to set to paper his first crude dramatic experiments, "Thirst and Other Plays," published at his father's expense in 1914. The following winter he devoted to Professor Baker's English 47 at Harvard, and thenceforth the scenes of his labors as growing playwright have been those two aspects of the same mood, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

To-day, in the old coast-guard station at Peaked Hill Bar, on the ocean, across the shifting sand-dunes from the village of Provincetown, while his

young son Shane plays on the beach, and his wife, Agnes Boulton, writes short stories in the room where they used to lay out the corpses after a wreck, he sits listening to the eternal tale of the surf he loves, and molds in form of plays the struggles of men and women he has known and of those from other times whom his experience has taught him to understand. Beneath the sun in the sand of some secluded cove he lies dreaming like primitive and pagan man. itive and pagan man. And when the sea is fine or when it is n't,-it does n't much matter, he is off alone in his kayak over the waves, a startling visitor at times to the deep-sea fishermen, who are too much astounded at the apparition to heed his plea for a sample of their catch. For life is constrained at Peaked Hill Bar. The outward conveniences of civilization are there, installed at the whim of Samuel Lewisohn, who for a fleeting holiday rescued the coast guards' abandoned cabin from decay a few years ago and then sold it to O'Neill. But the larder is dependent on the wagon that crosses the dunes once a week, and in sand-locked exile the vagrant of the seas pays for his repose and privacy in terms of some of the difficulties he knew in the forecastle.

This lifetime of adventure, crammed into a few aimless, wild, carousing, feverish years, has left its record stamped relentlessly on O'Neill's face, his manner, and his mind. The nature of that record, though, reveals a personality immune to the usual results of such adventure. There is no slackening of the inner fire, no flabbiness of muscle or of mental fiber. He has caught himself and found himself in time, and the same boundless energy which carried him across the

conventional boundaries of living, instead of being scattered and wasted, is now concentrated on the single task of expressing himself through the medium of the theater. Tall and trim of frame and dark of complexion, with eyes that pierce when they look up, and with a mouth that takes nothing in life for granted, he presents a singularly intense, but reticent, figure. Life has given him poise and severe judgment and a corresponding deliberateness of mental process and of speech. Nothing ruffles him or excites him. He is neither ashamed nor proud of his devil-may-care past. There it is, in the past; and here he is now. And what else matters? Therein lies the real realist. And with all these more sober traits, alongside disillusionment and a fatalism that is almost cynical at times, there are a kindliness in little things, a naïve simplicity, and a sense of quiet humor. It is well to call these traits to the attention of those who dub him our prize pessimist, for sooner or later they may find expression in his work as leaven for prevailing gloom.


O'Neill entered the theater by the side door of the one-act play. Some of the earlier ones were incredibly bad. If he had written nothing better than "Thirst" and "Fog" and the others in that early groping volume, his name would not be known beyond the amateur stages of the Little Theaters. But in association with The Provincetown Players and The Washington Square Players he struck his pace, and the seven resultant sketches of life at sea, published recently under title of "The Moon of the Caribbees," are sufficient to themselves, and at the

same time foreshadow the longer, more sustained work that has followed. With Richard Bennett's production of "Beyond the Horizon" in February, 1920, the playwright came professionally of age, and that arrival at majority was doubly confirmed last season with "The Emperor Jones" and "Diff'rent," both of which were first disclosed by The Provincetown Players in Macdougall Street, and later were taken to Broadway for wider audience. "Gold," in the final month of the season, neither added to nor subtracted from his reputation, for the production was too inept to bring out the play's merits or reveal its defects. Like its successors this season, "The Straw" and Straw" and "Anna Christie," it is

fair to consider it here only in its unacted form.

Just as O'Neill the man is largely the result of the life he has lived, so O'Neill the artist is product and expression of the man. The impact of life upon him, which opens his eyes to things as they are, finds creative outlet in the somber and ironic etchings of "The Moon of the Caribbees" series, in the grim and candid severities of "Beyond the Horizon" and "Diff'rent," in the meticulous chronicle of stalking disease of "The Straw," and in the frank moral adjustments of "Anna Christie." It is just like him to see and admit and reveal the pitiable intimacies of common sailors in his one-act sketches, the tragic consequences of misplaced careers in "Beyond the Horizon," the appalling dénouement of sex repression in "Diff'rent," the heartrending realization of love after it is too late in "The Straw," and the futile efforts of a vengeful mariner to outwit the sea, the "Old Davil," in "Anna Christie."

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