網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

A FRIEND

From the Journey round My Room.' Copyright 1871, by Hurd & Houghton

I

HAD a friend. Death took him from me. He was snatched away at the beginning of his career, at the moment when his friendship had become a pressing need to my heart. We supported one another in the hard toil of war. We had but one pipe between us. We drank out of the same cup. We slept beneath the same tent. And amid our sad trials, the spot where we lived together became to us a new fatherland. I had seen him exposed to all the perils of a disastrous war. Death seemed to spare us to each other. His deadly missiles were exhausted around my friend a thousand times over without reaching him; but this was but to make his loss more painful to me. The tumult of war, and the enthusiasm which possesses the soul at the sight of danger, might have prevented his sighs from piercing my heart, while his death would have been useful to his country and damaging to the enemy. Had he died thus, I should have mourned him less. But to lose him amid the joys of our winter-quarters; to see him die at the moment when he seemed full of health, and when our intimacy was rendered closer by rest and tranquillity,-ah, this was a blow from which I can

never recover!

But his memory lives in my heart, and there alone. He is forgotten by those who surrounded him and who have replaced him. And this makes his loss the more sad to me.

Nature, in like manner indifferent to the fate of individuals, dons her green spring robe, and decks herself in all her beauty near the cemetery where he rests. The trees cover themselves with foliage, and intertwine their branches; the birds warble under the leafy sprays; the insects hum among the blossoms: everything breathes joy in this abode of death.

And in the evening, when the moon shines in the sky, and I am meditating in this sad place, I hear the grasshopper, hidden in the grass that covers the silent grave of my friend, merrily pursuing his unwearied song. The unobserved destruction of human beings, as well as all their misfortunes, are counted for nothing in the grand total of events.

The death of an affectionate man who breathes his last surrounded by his afflicted friends, and that of a butterfly killed in a flower's cup by the chill air of morning, are but two similar

epochs in the course of nature. Man is but a phantom, a shadow, a mere vapor that melts into the air.

But daybreak begins to whiten the sky. The gloomy thoughts that troubled me vanish with the darkness, and hope awakens again in my heart. No! He who thus suffuses the east with light has not made it to shine upon my eyes only to plunge me into the night of annihilation. He who has spread out that vast horizon, who raised those lofty mountains whose icy tops the sun is even now gilding, is also he who made my heart to beat and my mind to think.

Whatever may be the

No! My friend is not annihilated. barrier that separates us, I shall see him again. My hopes are based on no mere syllogism. The flight of an insect suffices to persuade me. And often the prospect of the surrounding country, the perfume of the air, and an indescribable charm which. is spread around me, so raise my thoughts, that an invincible proof of immortality forces itself upon my soul, and fills it to the full.

THE LIBRARY

From the Journey round My Room': Copyright 1871, by Hurd & Houghton

I

PROMISED to give a dialogue between my soul and the OTHER. But there are some chapters which elude me, as it were; or rather, there are others which flow from my pen nolens volens, and derange my plans. Among these is one about my library; and I will make it as short as I can. Our forty-two days will soon be ended; and even were it not so, a similar period would not suffice to complete the description of the rich country in which I travel so pleasantly.

My library, then, is composed of novels, if I must make the confession of novels and a few choice poets.

As if I had not troubles enough of my own, I share those of a thousand imaginary personages, and I feel them as acutely as my own. How many tears have I shed for that poor Clarissa, and for Charlotte's lover!

But if I go out of my way in search of unreal afflictions, I find in return such virtue, kindness, and disinterestedness in this imaginary world, as I have never yet found united in the real world around me. I meet with a woman after my heart's desire,

free from whim, lightness, and affectation. I say nothing about beauty: this I can leave to my imagination, and picture her faultlessly beautiful. And then closing the book, which no longer keeps pace with my ideas, I take the fair one by the hand, and we travel together over a country a thousand times more delightful than Eden itself. What painter could represent the fairyland. in which I have placed the goddess of my heart? What poet could ever describe the lively and manifold sensations I experience in those enchanted regions?

How often have I cursed that Cleveland, who is always embarking upon new troubles which he might very well avoid! I cannot endure that book, with its long list of calamities. But if I open it by way of distraction, I cannot help devouring it to the end.

For how could I leave that poor man among the Abaquis? What would become of him in the hands of those savages? Still less dare I leave him in his attempt to escape from captivity.

Indeed, I so enter into his sorrows, I am so interested in him and in his unfortunate family, that the sudden appearance of the ferocious Ruintons makes my hair stand on end. When I read that passage a cold perspiration covers me; and my fright is as lively and real as if I were going to be roasted and eaten by the monsters myself.

When I have had enough of tears and love, I turn to some poet, and set out again for a new world.

WILLIAM HURRELL MALLOCK

(1849-)

ILLIAM HURRELL MALLOCK is the interesting product of the interesting period in which he was educated and the interesting conditions of his social life. Well born, well bred, well fed, well read, well supplied with luxuries, well disciplined at the wicket and the oar, the son of a clergyman of the Church of England (Rev. Roger Mallock) and the nephew of James Anthony and Richard Hurrell Froude, he was educated at home by private tutors till he entered Balliol College, Oxford. There he took a second class in final classicals, and in 1871 the Newdigate poet

ical prize, the subject of his poem being 'The Isthmus of Suez.'

In 1876 he published The New Republic, which first appeared in a magazine. The first impression of the book is its audacity, the second its cleverness; but when one has gotten well into its leisurely pages, and has found himself in what seems to be the veritable company of Huxley, Matthew Arnold, Ruskin, Professor Clifford, Walter Pater, Professor Jowett, and Mr. Tyndall, he is penetrated with the convic

tion that the work is the perfected flower WILLIAM H. MALLOCK of the art of delicate characterization.

[graphic]

The

parodies are so good that they read like reminiscences enlivened with the lightest touch of extravaganza.

The sub-title of 'The New Republic'-'Culture, Faith, and Philosophy in an English Country-House-indicates its plan. A young man of fortune and distinction assembles at his villa a party of visitors, who under thin disguises represent the leading thinkers of the day. The company plays at constructing an ideal republic, which is to be the latest improvement on Plato's commonwealth. To facilitate the discussion, the host writes the titles of the subjects to be talked about on the back of the menus of their first dinner: they prove to be such seductive themes as The Aim of Life,' 'Society, Art, and Literature,' 'Riches and Civilization,' and 'The Present and the Future.'

In the expression of opinion that follows, the peculiarities and inconsistencies of the famous personages are hit off with delicious

appositeness. The first principle of the proposed New Republic is to destroy all previous republics. Mr. Storks (Professor Huxley) eliminates a conscious directing intelligence from the world of matter. Mr. Stockton (Professor Tyndall) eliminates the poetry and romance of the imagination, substituting those of the wonders of science. The materialist, Mr. Saunders (Professor Clifford), eliminates the "foul superstition" of the existence of God and the scheme of salvation through the merits of Christ. Mr. Luke (Matthew Arnold) who is represented as mournfully strolling about the lawn in the moonlight, reciting his own poems,-poems which puzzle us in their oscillation between mirth and moralizing, till an italicized line warns us to be wary, Mr. Luke eliminates the middle classes. Mr. Rose (Walter Pater) eliminates religious belief as a serious verity, but retains it as an artistic finish and decorative element in life. Dr. Jenkinson (Professor Jowett) in a sermon which he might have preached in Balliol Chapel, and his habitual audience have heard without the lifting of an eyebrow, eliminates the "bad taste" of conviction on any subject. Finally Mr. Herbert (Mr. Ruskin), descending upon the reformers in a burst of vituperation, eliminates the upper classes, because they neither have themselves nor furnish the lower orders any object to live for. The outcome of the discussion is predicted on the title-page:

«All is jest and ashes and nothingness; for all things that are, are of folly.»

So much space has been given to Mr. Mallock's first book because it is representative of his quality, and discloses the line of his subsequent thinking. Only once again does he permit himself the relaxation of an irresponsible and clever parody,-that on Positivism in The New Paul and Virginia'; wherein the germ revealed in the sketches of Huxley and his fellow scientists is more fully developed, to the disedification of the serious-minded, who complain that the representatives of Prometheus are dragged down to earth.

But the shades of the mighty whom he ridiculed have played a curious trick on Mr. Mallock. As Emerson says of the soul of the dead warrior, which, entering the breast of the conqueror, takes up its abode there, so the wraiths of doubt, materialism, discontent, Philistinism, and the many upsetting emotions which the clever satirist disposed of with a jest, entered his own hypersensitive organism, and, for all the years succeeding, sent him about among the men of his generation sharing with Ruskin the burden of their salvation. Nor does he propose to let any sense of his own limitations as a prophet interfere with the delivery of his message. In a volume of several hundred pages he asks a nineteenth-century audience. 'Is Life Worth Living? Can we, he demands in substance, like his own

« 上一頁繼續 »