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Heaven's blessings upon him; but he urged her not to take that trouble.
There was still no indication outside that any one had knowledge of the deceased Count's movements before the disaster. The crowd had swelled, and included mounted officers of the king's army. The roar of voices In exclamation could be heard through the window.
A certain anxiety now seized Douglas. Supposing this general exodus from the house were noticed, might not dangerous inferences be drawn?
Of course it was so.
He decided at once to take with him only'such things as he could conveniently carry about his person; and thus lightly padded he left the room to say •Good bye" to the Bassanos.
■May I come up?" he called, and taking straightway to the stairs, he was soon in the cobbler's workshop.
•I am going. Once more. -Good-luck,"" he said. He gazed about him as he held out his hand to the pink-eyed accessory in such vile deeds. But there was nothing remarkable in the attic. A bed was in the corner, and the commonplace litter of a cobbler's workshop was all about. He observed, however, a package which evidently contained a boot.
The cobbler wiped his hand on his apron ere. with profound respect obvious in Ills pink-rimmed eyes, he responded to Douglas's courtesy.
"You are a noble benefactor to us. gignorlno," he stammered.
•By no nu-ans." said Douglas. "Don't be rash In your movements, that's all. Let your daughter walk to the station by herself, and you after her. And don't overload yourself with things." He fingered the parcel Idly while he spoke, then lifted it with an inquiring smile. "Perhaps this also?" he whispered.
"That, ciio *ujn<>r<r said the cobbler huskily. "Is the other one. Me, the
agent, was to come for it at noou. Hut his visit will be useless."
"Happy man. then, this other, eh—ai least for a time? Well. atUIUt. in conclusion."
Downstairs he had but few words for Maria, whose tearful blue eyes .-md quivering lips disconcerted him. He merely repeated the precaution which he had mentioned to her father, wished her every happiness amid more enlightened surroundings, and left the bouse.
A stream of people was in the Via Corta. making for the piazza; and on the spur of the moment Douglas went with the tide.
He stayed for a few minutes on the outskirts of the crowd, quietly looking about and listening to its comments and ejaculations. The police were busy forming an enclosure, as exact as they could guess at it, round the s|K>t of ground which held eonjecturable morsels of the unfortunate Masuccio. But this were a difficult matter if a certain gossip of the crowd spoke truth in saying that he had seen no fragments of anything larger than a coat-button.
Back at his hotel in the torso Vittoila Emanuele. Douglas spent a quiet, thoughtful day and the subsequent night. And the next morning he left for London without paying a second visit to the Cavallere di Barese. It distressed him a little to act with sucli apparent incivility, but he feared to face that experienced gentleman. Hi' could not hope to escape easily from such questions as the Cavaliere would be bound to ask; and It wen: better that the Cavaliere should wonder at his discourtesy than that he should by au involuntary word or look give him cause to suspect the Bassanos. Others might now take up the Investigation of
When ••Underwoods" was first published critics did not quite know what to say about it. Nor has the world yet come to any very sure opinion about any of Stevenson's poems, except "A rhlld's Harden of Verses," which every one is content to enjoy without asking questions about it. One thing, however, is certain about Steveuson's poetry. it is nearly all good reading, and more interesting than a good deal of poetry with a higher reputation. Some of his blank verse pieces are a little dull—most blank verse is dull— and only a Scotchman can read the Scotch poems with perfect ease; but the rest, when once you have begun them, lead you on to the end .just lik." his stories and his essays. "1 do not set up to be a poet," he said himself, "only an all-round literary man. A man who talks, not one who sings." And he knew how to talk in verse as well as in prose. Several times in his letters he insists that his verse was the verse of a prose writer. Writing to Henley in 1883 he says that he is now a great writer of verses. "Really, i have beinm to learn some of the rudiments of that trade. i have written three or four pretty enough pieces of octosyllabic uonsense. semi-serious, semi-smiling. A kind of prose Herrick. divested of the •-rift of verse, nnd you behold the Bard. Hut 1 like it." He explained the success of "T'nderwoods" by saying "You
• "Poema by Robert Louis Stevenson," including "Underwoods," "Ballads," and "Sonfts of Travel" (Chatto and Windus, 2». net).
see the verses are sane, that is their strong point." it was their prose merits, he thought, that sent them into a second edition. As to the "Ballads," he had a sneaking idea that they were not altogether without merit. "i don't know if they are poetry-; but they're Kood narrative or i'm deceived."
in fact he professed to be a prose writer who made verses for fun but knew enough of literature not to make dull ones. This may seem poor praise: but duliness is always a danger imminent to verse; and when verse is not dull, when it can be read with real pleasure and not merely by way of an attempt at plain living and high thinking, then we may be sure that it is good of its kind. Verse making was not Stevenson's peculiar craft; and therefore he could but seldom put all the weight of his thought and all the strength of his emotion into it; but he was not content either to prose in his verses, or to leave them rough, like some prose writers such as Emerson, and so commit them to the indulgence of the public as the work of an amateur. He knew that he was not a master of high lyric song, and he was too conscientious to publish mere rough material which he could not perfect. Whatever he wrote he finished as highly as he could; and so in verse be only attempted what ho was capable of finishing with his limited craftsmanship. Being "an all-round literary man." he made no mistakes about what was lit for verse and what was not.
We seldom feel about any of his poetry that it would go better in prose, and never that it says nothing. Still he was right when he said that it was rather speech than song, though speech with a very pleasant musical accompaniment.
These musical accompaniments are what have most puzzled his critics in "Underwoods," because most of them are taken from other poets: and yet they do not make the verse sound stale or secondhand. On the one hand Stevenson seems to be playing a game, to be making English verses, like an excellent scholar making Latin ones; but on the other he manages to express himself in these verses, and to speak his own thoughts with his own voice, although to a borrowed tune. "Underwoods" is as full of Stevenson as anything he ever wrote; and yet there never was a book of poems more full of echoes, Echoes in this case is just the right word, for it was always the sound of other poems that Stevenson had in his mind when he wrote; and to i hat sound he married sense of his own so happily that the two seem to be, as it were, one flesh. He liked to write poems to old tunes, but he wrote them better to old tunes of verse than to old tunes of music. The rhythms and cadences of certain poets suited his own moods so well that he was able to use them as moulds of his own thoughts, He has told us how in his youth he "played the sedulous ape" to great prose writers, ln his verse he was eontent to play the sedulous ape when he was a grown man. But in verse he did not do it out of mere blind admiration. He chose his models to suit what he had to say. and chose them so well that no one unfamiliar with them would suspect that they existed.
Even when you recognize .the echoes they add to your pleasure rather than lessen it. seeming to enrich the verse with their associations; and Stevenson
can echo modern poets just as naturally as old ones, Here, for instance, 1b a tune from "Mand" in "A Visit from the Sea":—
Far from the loud sea beaches
Here in the inland garden
Compare with this the lyric beginning
Birds in the high Hall-garden
True there is a difference of metre, but the tune is the same. Then there seems to be an echo from "lonica" in the poem called "ln the States," lf Stevenson never read "lonica" the resemblance is curious, for in this case the sentiment too is exactly that of William Cory.
With half a heart l wander here
As from an age gone by, A brother—yet though young in years,
An elder brother, L
The verses "To Will. H. Low" are surely written to the tune of Keats's "Bards of Passion and of Mirth" and "Ever let the Fancy roam," as, for instance,
This is unborn beauty: she
Keats, it is true, got the tune from Fletcher and AVither and other Elizabethans and only perfected it; but Stevenson seems rather to have taken it from Keats in its perfected form than to have adapted it himself from the 'n-iginal sources, ln "The Sick Child" there is naturally an echo from Blake:—
Mother, mother, speak low in my ear. Some of the things are so great and near,
Some are so small and far away.
Father, O Father, what do we here,
But the poets most constantly echoed in "Underwoods" are Herrick, as Stevenson himself Implies, and Marvell even more than Herrick. They were l>oth poets who were often content rather to talk than to sing, but who knew to perfection the difference between prose and verse; and they were also poets who wrote about some of the very things that pleased Stevenson most and in a mood exactly like bis. Therefore, when he borrowed their rhythms and cadences, he was pleasing himself; and he pleases us, by calling to mind not merely their art, but also the pleasant things with which that art was concerned. And these rhythms and cadences are like some scent of familiar flowers hanging about bis verses, and with the same instant appeal to the memory. He did not attempt to catch the tune of Herrlck's airiest songs. He imitated the Herrick who like himself had a childish delight in homely things and places, and who could express it In a simple enumeration of them without any overstrain of sentiment or attempt at a richer music than would suit his theme. Of course Stevenson could not be, even in conscious make-believe, quite so simple-minded as Herrick. There was a good deal of Pepys in Herrick, and clever men cannot be as uncritical of themselves in our time as Pepys was. No poet now could write anything like the couplet on Julia's leg with perfect seriousness. Therefore when Stevenson imitates the simplicity of Herrick as in his "Envoy"—
Go, little book, and wish to all Flowers In the garden, meat In the hall,
A bin of wine, a spice of wit,
A house with lawns enclosing It.
A living river by the door,
A nightingale in the sycamore!
I hen one knows that he is only expressing a mood which he has encouraged for the pleasure it gives him. Herrick in poems of this kind really expressed the chief desires of his life, and there is something pleasing to us in the spectacle' of a poet whose enjoyment of little pleasures is so untroubled by thoughts of "whence and, oh heavens, whither"; who never looks away from flowers or the domestic hearth towards the flaming ramparts of the world.
Stevenson has told us that he liked to play with toys long after he was supposed to have outgrown them; and in poems of this kind he makes believe to go back, not into his childhood, but Into a past age of simplicity. He plays the Herrick game as if it were a game of soldiers, and takes the same pleasure in It as in one of his fanciful escapes into childhood. Poems like "The Envoy" belong not to the child's garden of verses, but to another garden of the past that Stevenson possessed In his estate of dreams, where with clipped yew hedges he could shut out the roaring and confused present But It was only for a complete diversion that he liked to play Herrick, to empty his mind of all ideas and stock it only with delightful objects. Often he preferred to philosophize even in his games; and when he was in one of these "semiserious, semi-smiling" moods Marvell was his chief model. He could not have chosen a better; for Marvell also wrote partly for a diversion, and yet managed to throw all the weight of his thought and all the force of his emotion into some of his trifles. Stevenson could not quite do this; and so, when Henley advised him to make a poem more like Marvell, he told Henley to go to the devil. He had already tried his best, no doubt; and he tried again and again in poems like '•The House Beautiful," "The Canoe Speaks" (which is half Marvell, half Herrickl, "To H. F. Brown," and "To Andrew Lang." all of whieh are full of cadences remembered from .Marvell and of words used in his manner. Stevenson was playing a game even when he wrote the most serious of these: but then he took life, work and play alike, sickness and travel, duties and pleasures, all as a series of games; and even death itself he liked to think of as the sleep of a tired child among its playthings—
This be the verse you grave for me:
He played a game in his stories as well as in his poems. He always treated the English language as if he were playing a game with it. and liked to fit words together like parts of a brightly colored puzzle. But we enjoy his games, as we enjoy the games of a child, because he threw his whole heart into them. All that he wrote was a little artificial. His romance is to the romance of natural epic or saga what sport is to the hunting of men who can get no food otherwise; and this artiliclality is plainer in his poems than elsewhere. Yet. in spite of it, he expressed himself in them, as in all that he wrote: for games became to him a natural means of expression. No doubt his ill-health made him feel that all his life was a little unreal, and that the best philosophy, for one so eager for the fuiness of life and so seldom able to experience it. was to content himself with games. Thinking never seemed to him to be real life. Theories and ideas were well enough, but not serious business like the eueountering of dangers. Therefore he was seldom in deadly earnest when he
expressed his ideas about life, however serious these ideas might be. "The Celestial Surgeon" has a theme as serious as any one could wish: and yet Stevenson is content, in expressing it, to throw himself back into a seventeenth century state of mind and to write like Herbert—
J.ord. thy most pointed pleasure take
And stab my spirit broad awake:
Or, Lord if too obdurate i,
Choose thou, before that spirit die,
A piercing pain, a killing sin.
And to my dead heart run them in.
The idea in the poem is expressed by means of a series of symbols, and the very style is a symbol of the fact that Stevenson is trying to take life more simply than a man of his age, his training, and his nature could really take it. That was always his desire, to take life simply; and that was the reason why he had such a love of games and toys, for they seemed to provide him with a version of life simpler than tlnreality. in his later poetry there are fewer echoes, but there is the same attempt at simplicity. in the ballads he tells very simple stories; but he could not find a narrative style in verse as he found one in prose, and there for once one feels that he has mistaken his medinm and ought to be writing prose. They are good narrative, as he said, but when he doubted whether they were poetry his doubts were justified. His later lyrical poems are more uneven than "Underwoods." Some of them are mere failures. You can see what hiis aiming at in them and you can see that he has failed. But in some the air of simplicity expresses the desire for simplicity with a peculiar though indirect poiguaucy.
i will make you brooches and toys for
your delight Of bird-song at morning and star-shine