Puslapio vaizdai

inception, incubation, and hatching of this barnyard chef d'œuvre." In the first place, during the writing of "Chanticleer" death, illness, and trouble came thick and fast to Rostand and his family, so that for months at a time he was unable to work. In the second place, Rostand was an honest and willing slave to accuracy of detail. He worked over the details of scenes for months. He made literature with his sleeves rolled up. I have been again impressed, as I have reread "Chanticleer," with his amazing mastery of detail, particularly in the first and fourth acts.

The charges of bigotry and insularity were likewise unjust. This criticism grew out of the fact that Rostand would not travel, would not learn foreign languages, and, in the production of his plays, stubbornly refused to allow a line to be inserted that was not his. I am not sure that such insularity merits criticism. It is true that we must widen our outlook if we are to be intelligent citizens of this modern world that has become so completely interdependent. It is true that most of our political and economic troubles may be traced to narrow nationalism. There is, however, a danger in our otherwise laudable propaganda for a more international spirit. The danger is this: an internationalism that tears men from their native soil and leads them to neglect their distinctive cultures will rob the world of its color and turn the society of nations into one huge Shaker village with a drab uniformity of outlook and action. There is room in real internationalism for the widest diversity and keenest competition between our several national cultures. There is a difference between a creative and dis

tinctive culture and a swash-buckling Kultur. Rostand was right in saying that his song came from his native soil like sap, that he was of the soil on which he stood, and that of no soil could he sing so well as of his own. There is a kind of political patriotism that is a poison in the world's blood, but this sort of cultural patriotism we must cultivate if we are to keep an increasingly international society full of color and meaning.

In "Chanticleer" Rostand revived a dramatic form that had been little used, if at all, since Aristophanespeopling the stage with animals. There was endless discussion about this feature of the play, to the great annoyance of Rostand, who said, "I shall end by being taken for the showman of a menagerie." I dimly remember having read some ten years ago an interesting discussion of the use of birds and animals in literature, a discussion that comes to mind in connection with Rostand's "Chanticleer." Of course birds and animals were used in literature long before by Aristophanes, Æsop, Chaucer, La Fontaine, and others. As I remember this discussion, it divided the history of the literary use of animals into three periods. The first period was the time when man felt no essential distinction between himself and creatures of instinct. Reason and instinct had not become differentiated. In this period men looked upon animals as tribal ancestors, consecrated them with elaborate ceremony as totems, worshiped them as divine. In the primitive fables of this period the animals did not speak as beasts, but as persons, as clan ancestors. These fables were not symbolic or allegorical; they were baldly real. In the second period man

had acquired a sense of superiority over animals. This "snobbery of species" culminated in the theories of Descartes, who asserted that animals were automata. The tales of this period did not seriously characterize animals, but all about were totempoles and obsolete rituals which had remained as relics of the earlier period. Writers, in attempting to explain them, built up a great mythological literature. But in our time the doctrine of organic evolution has brought us into a third period in which the old sense of comradeship with the animals is being restored. Although we do not regard animals as our fellows, after the simple fashion of our primitive ancestors, it is again possible to make birds and animals real characters in a play and seriously to trace out their dim emotions and reasonings. "Chanticleer" is the product of this third period. And Rostand intended his birds and animals to be real characters, not men and women tricked out in feathers and fur.

There is less symbolism in "Chanticleer" than we read into it. Rostand said, "Aristophanes made use of his birds to criticize the follies of his contemporaries. My piece employs satire only by the way." Despite this assertion, critics insist upon making "Chanticleer" a satire on big-headedness, a rebuke to self-intoxicated eras, men, creeds, systems, races. The thing to remember in reading this drama is that the birds and animals are real characters, as real as Hamlet or Falstaff, and that the meaning of the play is very simple and very fundamental.

Chanticleer regarded himself as high priest to the sun. He was convinced that his crow brought the dawn. His His

mission was to sing so clearly that every day would dawn clearly. His sense of responsibility touched him with nobility. One day he was tricked into neglecting his crow. To his surprise, the sun came up without his help. He was for the moment broken and disillusioned. Then he pulled himself together, and crowed lustily with a new conception of his duty. He could not make the sun rise to meet the world, but he could make the "world rise to meet the sun," as some one has put it. As the translator says in the foreword, "the secret of Chanticleer is very truth. It is work and faith in one's work that makes the world go round. It is loving the light and calling for the light that brings the Light at last." I have said very little about the pertinence of this Chanticleer conception to the world's present political muddle. I have purposely left this only as a passing hint. It is interesting to note that the translator has dedicated these two volumes of poetic drama to a politician-Woodrow Wilson. I wonder if this dedication was prompted by recognition of the fact that only the stern application of uncompromising idealism, only some insistent cry for light, not the clever chess-play of opportunists, can bring us safely through this period of war's aftermath? Maybe the translator saw a likeness between Chanticleer's relation to the plots of the Night Birds and the adventure of the idealist at Paris, where, as in "Chanticleer," the "Night" offered a "twilight truce." That was an unhappy adventure, but the fight for light and beauty against lust for power, begun and temporarily lost at Paris, is the only hope of escape from our war-threatened, debt-ridden, and anxious time.


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VOL. 103 March, 1922 No. 5

The New Decalogue of Science
An Open Letter from the Biologist to the Statesman

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IR: As you know, biology is the science of life. Now, you control life on a vaster scale than any other human being. What you say or think or do about life is, therefore, the most important thing in the whole world. You are in a very real sense the arbiter of the destiny of the race. I regret to say, however, that there are five or six thousand volumes and special investigations dealing with this subject of life of which, evidently, you have never heard; or if you have heard of them, they have had a singularly slight influence upon your policy and action.

You have read some ten commandments that God wrote on tables of stone and gave to one of your predecessors-Moses-as a true chart of statesmanship. He later added two He later added two supplements known as the golden rule and the Sermon on the Mount. You have failed conspicuously to put these ancient principles into practice, and it may surprise your Excellency to learn that God is still revealing new and revolutionary aspects of these principles of statesmanship and life. However, instead of using tables of stone, prophecies, visions, and dreams, He has in this day given men the micro

scope, the telescope, the spectroscope, and the chemist's test-tube to enable them to make their own revelations. And these new instruments have not only added an enormous range of new commandments, an entirely new decalogue, but they have supplied a technic for putting the old ones into effect. Men have never been really righteous, because they did not know how. They could not obey God's will, because they had no way of finding out what it was. But science has at last given to men a true technic of righteousness. And this new dispensation is just as divine as the old. It is filled with warnings of wrath, both present and to come, for the biological ungodly as well as alluring promises to them who do His biological will. These warnings should, first, make you tremble. They should, second, make you pray. They should, third, fill you with the militant faith of a new evangel.

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Copyright, 1922, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.


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