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up, it explodes-bang! It throws everything about helter-skelter. It is horrible. That is a garden for a madhouse or the palace of a narikin, a new millionaire."
"But don't you think-"
"If one thing is more essential than another in a garden," he went on, ignoring my effort to interrupt, "it is peace, tranquillity, an atmosphere conducive to meditation. Fancy a cultivated gentleman, a philosopher, trying to meditate among volcanoes, waterfalls, and roaring torrents! A garden should have no waterfalls. Water, if it is there at all, should flow as placidly as philosophic thought. There should be no fish darting about, no noisy, splashing fountains, no gaudy peonies, or other striking and distracting things. The purpose of a garden should not be display. Its proper purpose is not to excite the beholder, but to fill him with a rich contentment. A garden should be a bathing-place for the soul. And one no more wishes to plunge the soul than the body into a roaring torrent. No; there is in life already too much stress and turmoil. The soul cries out for
repose. One must lave it in a crystal pool, healing and refreshing."
He paused, short of breath. "But don't you think-" "Say no more! It is late. I must go." I walked with him to the garden gate. A new moon hanging in a sky of blue and silver was reflected in a still pool, its margins soft with the dark, cloud-like forms of shrubbery. Near the gate some callas stood like graceful, silent ghosts. The night air was fragrant with the scent of rich, damp soil and growing things.
"But don't you think," I pleaded as I opened the gate to let him pass, "that there is, after all, something poetic in the volcanic conception of a garden?"
"No, no," he cried. "Poetic? No. Good night. Good night. I do not understand this new Japan. There is no repose any more. It is all volcanoes, all exploding. It is the beauties of calm that we are losing. Calm! Yes, that is it, calm! calm! calm!"
His agitated voice, shouting, "Calm! calm! calm!" came back to me as like a typhoon he whirled off into the darkness, leaving me in the sweet quiet of the garden-to meditate.
By ALEXANDER BLACK
UCH has been written about the power of words, yet it seems to remain for some authoritative person, some cool-headed, incorrigibly scientific, and properly unemotional investigator, to fix before us the stern truth as to the relationship between words and life.
We say that words are things. The word as a weapon is quite within our familiar acceptance (Stevenson called the unanswerable compliment "a social bludgeon"). But the sheer ethics of words is still a vague matter. A thousand admonitions hint at definable responsibility. What one may say as distinct from what one may do belongs to the earliest formulas of education. Statutes of the state, which tell us what we must not eat or drink, and what clothes we must not wear on our bodies, tell us what clothes of language we must not drape upon our thoughts.
There are endless suggestions of an objective hazard in words which should long ago have received better attention. One grows up in a nervous dread that a devastating syllable may be spilled somewhere, like a trickle from an illicit bottle in a hand-bag, and utterly ruin a hitherto well safeguarded reputation. We may often see a kind. of fright on the faces of a group, even the most casual social group, lest a wrong word may wreck the peace of the situation. There is no chance that a physical blow will be struck. The
situation may be too polite to permit the suspicion that any one totes a gun, but every one knows that a concealed vocal weapon can be deadly beyond estimate.
The crippling constraint, the fearful negative force of the effort not to say something, might well seem disproportionate if we forgot the explosive potency of this blessed thing we call language.
The Italians have a saying that "deeds are male, words are female," but Shakspere noted that “'t 's a kind 't's of deed to say well"; and if it is a kind of deed to say well, it is a kind of deed to say ill. How definitely every word is a deed we no longer debate. It might reasonably be contended that if words are female, Kipling is again reinforced. A shrewd Scottish philosopher was willing to say that "the inventor of the most barbarous term may thus have an influence on mankind more important than all which the most illustrious conqueror could effect by a long life of fatigue, and anxiety, and peril, and guilt."
No wonder, then, that the stalwarts in language's Loyal Legion have stood alert for offenders. If a hurled wordbomb may change the course of history, naturally, every caretaker has a duty.
Doubtless there are some words which, though they have managed to be born, are irrevocably exiled, if not outcast. Their euphemistic ambassadors are permitted to mingle; they themselves are forever shut out. These
are often simply primary words, the least common denominators. Primary words can have a naked terribleness. This is not a naked world, and we do not like such words around. Often ostracized words are not only elemental, but hopelessly vulgar. Even man to man they are never mentioned. The idea behind the word may be circuitously named, but it is established that while the idea is freely thinkable, the stark term itself has an inherent repulsiveness, and must never be breathed.
Evidently, however, certain words which have been held in abeyance, or quite muffled, like certain civilities in the case of a person under a cloud or open to suspicion, await a changed acceptance in the matter of the idea. I recall what seemed to be the first speaking of "damn" on the American stage. Most of the auditors appeared to be shocked. Apparently the shock was agreeable in most instances. This was not to be measured by the almost unanimous laugh. The laugh answers before conscience. Taste often rebukes participation. was possible to feel that the incident was accepted as refreshing, or as subject to some cordiality of consideration. At that time "damn" in print was always "dn." Even the devil did not have his due. He was "d-1" in all respectable secular print, and, by a perhaps inevitable corollary, "h- -1" was decently censored. There was, by the way, a quandry for one who read aloud: a dash cannot be vocalized. "Dash it," was a quaintness of early print. There is a whole literature of euphemistic expletives, as well as a strange iteration of subterfuges in actual profanity, many of which seem to have a permanent life. The modern
realist may well regard with amazement the ingenuity with which literature has conveyed an effect of reality, even in rough talk, without using the literal terms. Stevenson, for example, though interpreting in "Treasure Island" the flavor of the most coarsespoken class in the world, if we except the level of the apaches, could write a whole story without real cuss words and leave no feeling of artifice or unreality, at least at the period of the first reading.
The ultimate word has often had to wait on the door-step long after its idea was granted admittance. Thus the word "sex" was under a ban until the open discussion of sex had become a commonplace. The index expurgatorius of a proper periodical or newspaper abided, as usual, the established example of other print. Sex might be expounded, but the word "sex" had in itself almost a libidinous sound, which was sternly reprehended. Not until after Freud did the complex receive the completely extenuating stroke.
The astonishing character of an inhibition is often unfolded to us by the realization of its removal. Sometimes the removal is spectacular; sometimes it follows the simple loosenings of an evolution. I find at hand, in the pages of a distinguished magazine, a paper on "Old Age" in which a retired gentleman candidly and charmingly discusses his outlook on past and present. It is here that I come upon this passage: "I love the theater, but have a new horror of front rows, especially if there are 'legs' in the show; for, alas! I am bald-headed." "Legs," even quoted legs, and quotation-marks are a kind of fig-leaf for a word that is only by way of being wholly permissible,could not possibly have been written
thirty years ago with any such connotation or uttered in any such company.
There may be a more grotesque instance in linguistic psychology (I defer to the Max Müllers), but at the moment I can think of nothing so awkward, so shamefaced, so indicative as the entrance of this term. To see it come, not as brazen, not with any lusty swank, but with a skulking self-consciousness that still gives its manner a culprit effect, is to find fresh humor in humanity's passion for little troubles. We say that language is the clothing of thought. We admit that clothing, after sheltering and concealing, may have communicatory expression. We wake up to find that the clothing of thought has deliberately chosen to supplement its primary functions by adopting a ball and chain to retard each foot, putting bird bones in the lobes of the ears, adding ghastly nostrildistenders and some equivalent torture for the lower lip. In aggravation, even the shedding of one of these encumbrances leaves us with a kind of guilty awkwardness, a serf-souled tendency to fumble with our freedom. Since we invented our own shackles and fastened them on, liberty brings a strange mixture of relief and chagrin.
For any person still living who may have been born anywhere between haircloth sofas and crayon portraits it is true that a refusal to say "legs" was mitigated by the fact that it had long been a sinful impoliteness to think them. The convention that "the Queen of Spain has no legs" had fastened itself upon civilized usage. But for that convention there could have been nothing astonishing enough to claim special attention in a certain
narrative by the author of the "Lives of the Berkeleys," who, when he was a newly imported page to Queen Elizabeth, was one day called to account for his awkward manner of "making a leg" in the curtsy, and the queen lifted her garments calf-high "that I might the better observe the grace of drawing back the foot and bowing of the knee." This recital may or may not prove that Queen Elizabeth differed from the Queen of Spain, but it once more calls attention to the fact that even, and perhaps especially, a queen can never be sure when she is making history.
Of literature it may be said that, in general, it conformed to the convention we are considering. Even the word, without awkward connotations, was somehow taboo. This may account for the fact that though Solomon's Song sings that "his legs are as pillars of marble," my Oxford Concordance refuses to index the item. Neither does it participate in the isolate indelicacy of Isaiah when he scolds women about "bonnets and ornaments of the legs." In the main, poets have exhibited an amazing delicacy. Suckling's phrase in the "Ballad upon a Wedding," "Her feet beneath her petticoat," expressed the nice sense of limitation. Her petticoat-that set the boundaries of license. How daintily Herrick refers to the circumstance that
Her pretty feet, like snails, did creep A little out!
Feet patter with a joyous liberty through ten thousand verses. When a lifted skirt issued challenge to an abandoned imagination, an ankle was revealed. Without the fortunate intervention of that word "ankle," lit
erature, and perhaps thereby legislatures, would have had to say "leg" two centuries sooner. As it happened, "ankle" was there for purposes of rhapsody and rebuke, and "The charms her downcast modesty concealed" standardized concealment in the proper length and proper management of the skirt.
In a sane world modesty will always be at a premium. That expressed modesty is a convention, that it is not as immutable as arithmetic and must constantly undergo change in expression, though its essence remain always the same, is as freshly incredible to the civilized as to the savage. Every age has a new code, and every code must be definite, for it is translating definite implications. Paul, who was, indeed, no feminist, yet who well expressed the man-spirit of his time, was not content to declare that he would not suffer women to preach, and that they were to "be in silence." He was not content to admonish women in general terms that they must "adorn themselves in modest apparel." He specified that a woman must not braid her hair. He was quite right, since in his time braided hair had an unpleasant significance. It is significance that should determine the gestures of modesty. To accuse Paul of narrowness is to overlook his environment. It will It will be said, and it has been said often enough, that men are always finding excuse in their environment. Critics of Paul have complained, even in the pulpit, that no stretch of the principle justified him in concluding, as between Adam and Eve, that Eve was the transgressor, and that the conclusion marks him forever as a woman-hater. Without dignifying the complaint, it may be pointed out that no sincere preacher
of feminine modesty can be wholly a woman-hater. We have no more right to accuse Paul of being a woman-hater than to accuse Charles Lamb of being a misogynist because he thought Milton's Adam and Eve behaved too much like married people.
Modesty, then, and its interpretations are beginning factors in the fate of our word. When that roysterer Fielding says, "Thy modesty 's a candle to thy merit," he was simply acknowledging that every quality has its sign, and sooner or later insists upon its sign. We carry around an idea by the shawl-strap of its symbol. An idea that is n't thus made portable is likely to be neglected. The fixed idea of the properly invisible assisted the idea of the properly inaudible, and sham modesty could not discredit the notion. When one of the pupils of Socrates came in a ragged garment to parade his humility, Socrates remarked dryly, "I see thy vanity through the holes in thy coat." The "vamps" of history have always made, the most of concealment. It has long been notorious that drapery can become the subtlest implement of the frivolous and the depraved.
Geography has played its whimsical part. The immodesty of one land has been quite within the modesty of another. The corsage of Victoria's iron-clad regulation, with no regard for unfortunate shoulder-blades or wattles, was scandalous in Tokio; yet Victorian bathing-suits were funny beyond understanding to a Japanese lady, who wore no sea-clothes at all. The grammar of modesty has always been, as General Hancock calamitously described the tariff, a "local issue"; so that the Queen of Spain, who had no legs, inevitably did not ride a bicycle.