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Full text of "Letters from a prairie garden"

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LETTERS from a 
PRAIRIE GARDEN 



"A lord of dust, an emperor of dreams." 

WANG PO OF THE SEVENTH DYNASTY 



LETTERS FROM A 
PRAIRIE GARDEN 



BY 

EDNA WORTHLEY UNDERWOOD 




BOSTON 

Marshall Jones Company 



MDCCCCXIX 



Copyright, 1919 
BY MARSHALL JONES COMPANY 



THE-PLIMPTON-PEISS 

NOHWOOD-MASS-U'S-A 



DEDICATED 

TO YOUTH AND THE 
SUNLIGHT ON THE PLAINS 



FOREWORD 

THE "Letters from a Prairie Garden," are 
genuine letters and not fiction. They 
went through the mail. An explanatory word 
about their origin may not be amiss. 

Some years ago a famous artist came to 
a certain mid-western city on business con- 
nected with his profession. He had an ac- 
quaintance who lived in the hotel where the 
writer lived at that time and with whom he 
talked over the phone. The writer frequently 
happened to be talking at the same time, and 
the wires crossing, he heard me laugh repeat- 
edly, and he nicknamed me "the woman who 
laughs." 

At length he called up the hotel clerk and 
asked to be permitted to talk over the wire 
with "the woman who laughs." The clerk 
connected my apartment. 

In this way the "Letters" (which must 
now tell the rest of the story themselves) 
originated, and it explains likewise why the 
subjects discussed are so often pictures and 
objects of art. They were written to a con- 
noisseur of things beautiful. 

E. W. U. 



IN THE CITY 



LETTERS from a 
PRAIRIE GARDEN 



Y, 



OU WISH TO CORRESPOND WITH ME, 

with a woman whom you have not seen, of whom 
you know nothing? And just because by an acci- 
dental crossing of the wires you have heard a 
voice over the phone and called me "the woman 
who laughs?" You say you like laughter because 
laughter is rare in the world? You think I must 
be happy, and you wish to know some one who 
is happy when the rest of the world is sad? Am 
I happy? 

Perhaps I am! And perhaps happiness is just 
a garment my heart wears in this present garden 
of time where I happen to be. 

If I am happy it is because I have developed a 
philosophical indifference to results. I say to my- 
self (and I believe and live accordingly) , I am just 
a leaf upon a limitless river of matter, and it is 
not of the slightest consequence to me nor to 
any one else what becomes of the leaf. The 
river goes on forever. Sometime the leaf will 
find the sun. 

3 



4 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

I have found the world beautiful and interest- 
ing, and my dream and desire of it changing. 

What makes my dream, you inquire? 

Many things! Let me think! 

When I awake in the morning I am glad to see 
the edge of the day gay with h'ght. I think of 
the sparkling water of the cold bath which is 
awaiting me. After that is over, the good smell 
of coffee singing in the kitchen upon a black 
stove. As I walk to the dining room I see through 
a window, blue sky and swaying trees. This 
pleases me. While I am drinking the coffee I 
think of the things that I should like to do. My 
pleasure in them is not spoiled by the fact that 
there is little probability of my being permitted 
to do any of them. 

What did I think of this morning with the 
coffee? I thought first (because the wind was 
high and the clouds were scudding ahead of it) 
that I should like to be a strong peasant woman 
putting wet, washed linen upon the line, under 
a blue sky, with wild, flying, white clouds and 
a rollicking wind. And then I thought I should 
like to rake the hay in the sunny grass land by 
the Loire, bare of head and unbound of neck, 
like those big-muscled peasant women of Lher- 
mitte. And I should like to gather grapes and 
tread the wine in some high, mountain vineyard 
of old Spain, with the violet silk of the sea be- 
neath, and above, thin summits sharp with light. 



IN THE CITY 5 

These letters of mine will be merely a sort of 
pillaw d la the oriental manner of making; fact, 
fancy, criticism, a commingling of whatever the 
winds that arise with each new sun, may blow 
across my mind. 

And since I like dreams better than reality, 
you shall be to me always a dream my dream 
correspondent. I hear you protesting. But that 
is useless! In not permitting you to see me, I 
do not permit you to become disillusioned. My 
letters to you will be merely "des songes du 
plus beau des soirs." 

When you are tired of me I will fade back into 
that unreality from which I came. That is best. 
Write if you wish. 

E. 



i 



(Some months later) 



AM WRITING THIS TUESDAY NIGHT 
an answer to your letter just before dressing 
for dinner, in order that you may get it in the 
morning at the studio, before you begin work, 
to have with the first pipe smoke of that good 
tobacco you have told me about, which inspirits 
you for the day. 

To-night I see The Ballet. It may be we shall 
be sitting near each other, and all unconsciously 
our eyes will meet. Then when the orchestra is 
playing the Bacchanale of Glosunow, some vi- 
bratory intelligence may pass between us, and tell 
us how we met in the flesh once long ago, and how 
now we are groping in the dark to find each other. 
Life is only a somewhat intelligent playing of 
blind man's buff at best. 

The dinner hour has come. Good night. 

E. 



M- 



_Y WINDOWS ARE OPEN. THE BLUE 

wind comes in. Strangely enough it comes from 
the direction of your studio. I visualize you 
clearly you whom I have not seen, and in 
front of you the great canvas and . the little 
brushes. I see you blow purple smoke rings. I 
know what thoughts float upon them. 

I took a nap out of doors Sunday in a field. 
The grass is good to sleep upon. I said to myself 

it is high time I got acquainted with the grass, 
because I am going to sleep under it long. I 
hope the grass will like me! But the worms are 
going to be disappointed. When I first go there 

to sleep under the grass I shall say to them: 
Look as hard as you wish! Search all you can! 
You will not find a thing! I have lived up the 
joy of me. Not a single shining particle will you 
find! 

If it is for joy you are seeking, go to him who 
has the soul of an elf, and who lived once by an 
Irish Sea, and who told me how he used to play 
the fiddle in Dooney! 

E. 



I 



HAVE BEEN OUT TO-DAY AGAIN, THE 

good wind buffeting me about. In my eyes, 
opposite the golf links upon the hill, are trees 
whose leaves are the color of all the bronzes in 
the world. Some of them are the hue of dragons 
that crawl in stone down walls of old Korean 
palaces where I dream myself sometimes to be. 

This Korean palace where you and I have 
been so many times is lonely and deserted. No 
one else goes there now. It stands upon the 
shore of the sea where the sand is fine as dust 
and black as powdered jet. The waves that 
come tumbling in upon it fretted by the little 
islands that dot the Asian coast are of a blue 
that is pure and fine. And they have ruffles 
of foam upon them like white lace. How happy 
I am! Nothing can spoil a pleasure for me here. 
And this palace is full of faded and forgotten 
memories, that quiver into transient being again 
on the wings of the night, thrilled back to life 
by the evocative power of you and me. 

There are faint perfumes that we can not grasp 
enough to distinguish, that float teasingly out of 
reach, faint ghosts of sandal wood and cinnabar. 
They drift over us and touch our eyelids. Dis- 

8 



IN THE CITY g 

turbing thoughts vanish. We open our eyelids 
again in a dim, gold room. We hear music 
evoked from leather and thin silver strings. Then 
we go out down a carven stairway that is quaint 
and black, to that sea that smiles bluely on to 
the southern Pole, to swim and plunge. We 
come gayly back to the midnight of the palace 
and up the carven stairway, where black slaves 
dry our bodies and rub into them scented oils. 

Thereupon you tell me that you have a secret. 
You take my hand to lead me and make me 
promise to shut my eyes tightly and not to look. 
I open them again in a room which I have never 
seen, a somber room, lined round with ancient 
chests where dull, inset metals show. You open 
the chests with an air of gayety and bravoura. 
They are filled with clothes tunics armor of 
metal; embroidered gauzes, tissues, and soft 
cotton fabrics from Indian looms. 

You dress as a warrior a samurai in over- 
lapping silver and jade. You are strong limbed 
and splendid to look upon. I wear a robe of old 
rose, whereon is limned in shadowed silver the 
fruit of Buddha. As soon as we are dressed you 
rush me away to dine in a lattice-work pavilion 
through which we can see waves glitter. You 
tell me that the winking light upon them is the 
laughter of the pagan gods their undying 
pagan laughter laughing on and on. They 
bring us fruit, strange and of a marvelous fra- 



10 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

grance, of which we do not even know the name. 
I say that it is good. I put my lips to it. I stick 
my teeth into it. And then I run back to the 
palace. You follow. I run on and on. You can 
not catch me. We play hide and seek in the an- 
cient dwelling of the dim, rich rooms. At last I 
pause and wait for you to find me. This room 
has seats of gold-threaded brocade. Around the 
walls are tiny balls of painted glass suspended by 
strings of silk. I can hear them shiver and shiver 
these tiny glass balls in the air. 

This is the gorgeous dwelling which I build 
myself out of dreams! In the real world it may 
be that I am like that Peri whom Mahomet 
cursed and made to stand outside the gates of 
Paradise. But in the world of dreams all things 
are mine. 

E. 



I 



AM AFRAID I CAN NOT AGREE WITH 

you! (And what right have I to disagree with 
an artist like yourself?) I do not believe in that 
old dictum of the Greek philosophers that art 
was meant to imitate something. Art does not 
imitate! It creates. It builds a little indepen- 
dent world of pleasure. It is the visible expres- 
sion of joy. It makes on its own responsibility 
a miniature universe. Back of it is the divine 
force love. It is really a part of our religion 
and our faith. It is related to all things noble 
the mind has compassed. 

Back in the unsentient, voiceless beginning, 
where under the name of attraction the power 
is still effective, it draws crystals together in the 
depths of the earth into marvelous, glittering 
harmony, and frost particles on window panes 
into mathematical figures. Because this is the 
motive power back of it and not the desire 
to imitate anything we understand why it is 
not submissive to command. What king could 
command our love and our joy? How much 
gold would it take to set the frost to building on 
the windows? If it were true that its province 
were imitative, what does music try to imitate? 
And what does architecture imitate? 



12 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

It can not be commercialized. The mainspring 
is something unrelated to greed. When the artist 
works from any motive besides the vision within 
him and the joy of doing, the result can not be 
of consequence. This creative sprite is free. 
The art of primitive races is finer than any- 
thing we can do to-day, just because this prin- 
ciple of joy was more active. As soon as reason, 
effort, ambition, begin to overbalance intuitive 
power, art dies, and then it begins to be com- 
mercialized. It must always be the result of not 
trying. 

Hear what Degas said to a young artist who 
questioned him about success: "In my day we 
did not arrive. In my day we worked for art, 
for beauty, for the mere pleasure of working, 
and we never thought of buyers, nor medals, nor 
money, nor applause. . . . We despised we 
ignored everything that was not our art." 

E. 



w. 



HEN YOU CALLED ME UP ON THE 

phone this morning, I heard sleep upon your 
voice. I knew just how heavily it was lying in 
your eyes. I wondered if you had dreamed of 
that deserted Korean palace by the sea whose 
sand is black as powdered jet. 

You would be surprised and greatly if you 
knew the places you have visited with me. With 
me in my dreams you have been a greater traveler 
than was Marco Polo the Venetian. 

I must procure another copy of my picture of 
Herodias to send you. I am surprised that you 
do not know it. Constant drew her. I keep her 
always near to make me remember the antique 
world of splendid calm. I like pictures, drawings, 
units of decoration, better than books. One can 
not understand a picture at a glance any better 
than a book. Time and silence are needed. 
Lines that are seemingly unimportant have much 
to say. 

It is in Eastern art that I am especially inter- 
ested. The Chinese have color terms that de- 
light me. They have a blue they call "blue of 
the sky after the rain," and "blue of the sky after 
the snow." Then there is another they desig- 



l4 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

nate "degradation of the rose." What a weary 
and regretful red that must be. It is the black- 
eyed races that have understood and loved color 
best. If the great colorists of the world could 
be listed I think a majority of them would be 
found to have dark eyes. 

Old Chinese virtuosos of precious porcelains 
possess a surprising collection of information 
which they declare authentic about these beau- 
tiful objects they have loved. There is a story 
told by Su Tung-po that in the year eleven 
hundred A.D. there was in existence a pair of 
vases that gave the combined music of the flute 
and the organ, whenever their owner was happy 
and giving a banquet. As soon as the banquet 
was over and the lights out, and the guests de- 
parted, the music ceased. In no other way 
could it be lured forth. 

Wan Yen-chih writes an essay about an earth- 
enware basin which he once owned. In the 
winter ice-pictures formed in it daily, and no 
two pictures were repeated. Some days he 
looked within and saw peach blossoms and 
peonies; on other days wild geese, bamboo 
thickets and mountains, pink-legged herons and 
flying cranes. He writes: "I afterward had it 
mounted with silver and preserved in a silk-lined 
case. When the cold weather comes I invite 
guests to enjoy the sight." And there were cen- 
sers that gave the sweet refreshing sound of the 



IN THE CITY l5 

voices of wild birds hidden in thickets. Espe- 
cially beloved was one which was nick-named 
"the pee-wit censer." Who would think those 
dull-looking, pig-tailed Chinamen had thoughts 
like these? 

I should like to have one of those numerous 
honeymoons which you declare you are de- 
sirous of spending with me in southeastern 
China, by a little lake called Biwa, because it is 
the shape of the two-stringed lute; in a toy house 
of bamboo buried in wisteria. At night the wis- 
teria by the lake of the lute is the color of silver 
smoke. Perhaps it would not be bad to have 
as many honeymoons as there are yellow suns 
in those fabulous prints of old China. 

E. 



I 



HAVE A PICTURE BY FRAGONARD OF 

a French lady holding a billet doux daintily be- 
tween two pointed fingers, a round-eyed poodle 
beside her, and painted in front of a leaded glass 
window in a blond satin boudoir. The first time 
I looked at that picture I longed to be in the old 
France Fragonard knew. How merrily and hap- 
pily did they live then! With what witl With 
what grace! With what freedom! They did 
not spend their time in re-forming and remaking 
the world. They looked out upon it with clear 
Greek eyes and saw that it was good and let it 
alone. One entire afternoon I had the picture 
in front of me fancying that I was making merry 
at expense of the lady of the beads. 

I should like the France of Fragonard! I 
should like to live there in a great, grey chateau, 
in which there was a hidden room known only 
to two people. Sometime when we were in 
that hidden room gayly and frivolously dressed 
and radiant with life, we could not find the spring 
to let us out. We never find it. And there we 
die together in our gay clothes, our folly and our 
laughter. Some decades later Balzac, say, 
finds us, and writes a story about us, a persua- 

16 



IN THE CITY 17 

sive little book of old French love of life in 
the great free century. 

What a merry gentleman of old France you 
would have made with your grace of story tell- 
ing and your Irish laughter! 

E. 



I 



AM BUSY TO-DAY. I AM GIVING TO 
a dealer in Dream Land the order to bind my 
Greek and Latin books. They are little books, 
all of them, and printed on parchment or paper 
that is old and fine. They are to be bound in 
rough leather and white pig skin. 

My Tacitus I think is an Elzevir. (The covers 
and front pages are gone.) It is not larger than 
two inches by four. The Terence was printed 
in London (typis F. Collins) in 1708. Virgil is 
of a delightful size, about three inches wide by 
five in length. It is decorated with a line en- 
graving and bears the stamp of London 1688. 
The Horace is even smaller and older. It was 
made in Holland and it is of a charming format. 
Roterdami Idibus Novembri 1667, the last page 
informs us plainly. Some are from Amsterdam, 
others from Paris. One or two are distinguished 
by the notes of Casaubon, but unfortunately the 
covers are missing, hence you understand my 
haste. I do not wish them to perish in their old 
age for lack of a protecting overcoat. A few 
covers are to be colored purple flecked with 
crimson, which is the color of a Siberian ame- 
thyst. And a few of these covers are to be set 
with unpolished gems and dull gold, after the 

18 



IN THE CITY IQ 

manner of the sacred books of old Russia. But 
for my own personal pleasure I care only that 
a book be small in size and clear of print. 

On top of the cases where these pagan writers 
are, I shall, in spring (And is it not always spring 
when the heart is happy?) place jars filled with 
pale crocuses and slender iris. These are the 
flowers they loved best in life. 

My tiger on the floor is talkative to-day, and 
reminiscent. He has promised to tell me lots 
of things of love in the jungle and life under 
tropic stars. I am going to have him tell me 
how the black rain falls on those sultry tropic 
nights, with the fitful wind between. And when 
he tells me I shall recall how blue the water is 
where the lotus flower was born. 

I have placed him facing my picture of Hero- 
dias. They look alike, you know. And they used 
to know each other long ago long, long before 
she became a woman, when she lived in the 
jungle with him. It promises well, does it not? 
And he is going to tell me how once when she 
was sleeping beside her lord, the tetrach, upon 
a bed of cedar wood and gold, upon the palace 
roof, she heard him calling in the desert, calling 
to her across the night. That was the way he 
met his death my tiger and became just a 
rug upon my floor. When he tells it all to me 
I will write it down in detail for you to read. 

E. 



w, 



HAT MADE YOU TAKE IT INTO YOUR 

head all of a sudden, my good Unknown, that 
you wished to read "Madame Bovary"? To be 
sure I will send you my copy. That in my 
opinion and Turgenev's "Smoke" are among 
the most perfectly constructed books that have 
been written. And a good month's work for 
Flaubert was twenty pages. The French are 
still writing of "Salammbo" and "Madame Bo- 
vary." And the French know what art is. I saw 
in a magazine just the other day an article en- 
titled "Bovary ism" in the Mercure de France. 
I did not read it. I did not have time just then. 
So I do not know whether it was flesh or good red 
herring. But " Madame Bovary " was very much 
flesh. You will enjoy that book. And you may 
like her. I fear I shall be jealous of these women 
of the world of books whom you are sure to like 
and to see so often. 

There is Tess of the d'Urbervilles, with the lips 
so red a man remembered them always, and they 
sent him to destruction. Dear Unknown, look 
not upon lips like hers when they are red! And 
there is a woman in an old Italian garden who 
has a throat such as the Pre-Raphaelites painted. 

30 



IN THE CITY 21 

She is very white. She is frail. She has eyes as 
deeply blue as the sea by Sicily, and hands such 
as only women of race have, and a voice sweet 
with the singing vowels of Italy. D'Annunzio 
has shown her to us hi "Le Vergini delle Rocce." 
(The Maidens of the Rock.) Dear Unknown, I 
pray you never to go near her! She is more dan- 
gerous than Circe. And you must not look upon 
Foscarina, which is the name d'Annunzio gives 
to Duse in "II Fuoco" (The Flame.) And you 
must keep away from Anna Karenina, that sub- 
tle Slav. The dangerous Calmuck and the treach- 
erous oriental are both in her just underneath 
the surface. There is Sonnica, too, the hetaira, 
in her seductive Greco-Roman garden by Sa- 
guntum (as Vlasco Ibanez portrays her) when 
swarthy, black-browed Hannibal waited with his 
angry legions outside the gate. Go not near 
those old gardens of Greece! And I should be 
afraid of Beatrice and Fiammetta and Francesca. 
But if I were a man I should be guilty of no in- 
fidelities, not even of the brain and of art. I 
should love only Thais. For me no other woman 
would exist. 

E. 



Y, 



OU DECLARE THE REASON I WILL 

not let you see me is because I have so many 
wrinkles? Of course! Why did you not guess 
it before? And you say at the same time that 
you do not like the Herodias I sent you? 

Mortal sins, both of them! Of course I have 
wrinkles. They are the hieroglyphs of living. 
My life is written there, the sum total of my 
thinking, of how many times I have frowned 
and laughed. When I meet you on that star in 
space you shall read them for me. Perhaps you 
will find some that you made yourself. Will 
they be sad or merry ones? 

When I become old and wrinkled perhaps 
I shall go to sleep forever. Or perhaps I shall 
live and read Catullus, who was the spirit incar- 
nate of youth, that glorious, golden youth of 
Rome. (I have another edition of him!) It may 
be I shall decide to live on in order that I may 
find out for myself, just by how much he is the 
most perfect poet. When I think of Catullus I 
think in symbols, and oftenest of an amber 
honey. 

Or perhaps when I get old I shall take to drink- 
ing cordials to give me momentarily the warmth 

22 



IN THE CITY 23 

and the pleasant glow of youth, such cordials as 
Louis the Fourteenth had brewed for his despair- 
ing old age. And it may be I shall be like Gautier 
and dream wonderful things over the light of 
candles. But better than all, I think I would 
rather live on, and meet you on some radiant 
planet in space. And there always I shall have 
the advantage of you, as years count, because I 
have the soul of a nymph and I have never grown 
up. 

I do not know how I can forgive you for not 
liking my Herodias. She is my splendid, tawny 
beast without a soul, who rests and brings back 
joy to me after the presence of modern women. 
She does not preach any sermon. She does not 
try to teach anything. She never belonged to 
a woman's club nor desired to become a suffra- 
gette. She has never had any fads. She is not a 
devotee of -ologies or -isms. She is not acquainted 
with new thought or old thought. She cares 
neither for uplift work, aviation, the fourth di- 
mension, a meatless diet, nor the unsolved problems 
of another life. This is one of the great pictures. 
And you do not like it! 

Constant's Herodias! Please look at her again. 
Observe the splendid massive shoulders that at 
the same time are so marvelously supple. The 
skin that covers them is tawny and softer than 
satin. See, too, how he has painted a tigress 
and a woman at one and the same time. The 



24 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

hands their marvelous repose, their strength, 
their cruelty. The terrific quiet of that waiting 
posture which she could change more swiftly 
than your eye could record the movement. The 
beaten gold above her brow. The huge circlets 
in her ears. And the one figure of adornment 
upon that silken gauze that is wrapped about 
her that barbaric, embroidered leaf. Where 
do you suppose she found it, that unique gauze 
with its one distinguished decoration? In the 
many conversations we have had I have never 
been able to make her tell me. 

(Of course she talks to me! But she would 
not to you because you do not like her.) 

She does not wish any one else to own a robe 
like it. And yet I think I know where it came 
from. On the tablelands of Iran, that go crawl- 
ing up, stepwise, to those tortured mountain 
summits that frown down upon India, there are 
little earth-built villages set in green meadows 
dotted with white poppy flowers. It was in one 
of those little villages, by the old caravan road 
that leads to Ispahan, that that gauze was woven. 
The women there wear colored and embroidered 
gauzes to cover their faces instead of the black 
veils of certain other cities of Persia. (I hope 
there will be one left for me to buy when I get 
there!) 

See how splendidly Constant placed her, against 
a dark, hard background, and seated upon a 



IN THE CITY 26 

rough rug of fur, that is as untamed and harsh 
as her own soul. And the mouth of the immortal 
thirst! The deep shadowed eyes that make one 
think of the brutal twilights of a primitive world. 
The suppleness of the joints, which is that of the 
jungle-born! The throat, great-muscled and 
strong! But the shoulders are most beautiful of 
all. Women of to-day do not have shoulders 
like those. 

She has looked down upon me from the bare, 
ugly walls of hotel rooms in many cities for years. 
I can not forgive your not liking her. You say 
she has no soul? Of course not! That is why 
she was such a success and wore the crown of a 
queen. Heart and soul will ruin the best regu- 
lated woman in the world. 

I have a pictured Fortuna, too, a drawing 
that I enjoy and look at every day when I am 
writing. Some old Italian drew her. She is a 
woman poised with one foot upon a rolling wheel 
of gold. The wheel has two small wings. And 
she is going 0! so far! and so happily. But 
she does not know where, nor does she care. She 
is just like me, you see, and the philosophy of 
me, which is a philosophy of bravery and de- 
fiance. Perhaps she is whirling away to the arms 
of an immortal lover, just as some day I shall be 
whirled away to some glowing planet in space. 

E. 



.FTER I CAME IN FROM WALKING 
last night what do you suppose I did? I sat down 
and played for you. As if you could hear! That 
was foolish. I played for you Chopin's Nocturne, 
opus thirty-one, for nowhere else do the shadows 
of sleep fall so sweetly. 

A year ago I heard an Italian orchestra play 
Chopin's "Funeral March." For weeks after that 
I heard it continually. Waking or sleeping that 
melody was passing through my brain. It be- 
came an obsession. I could not get away from 
it. After a while it reverberated in my heart. 
I felt it attuning my muscles, swaying them with 
the fatal rhythms of destruction. It made me 
suffer. Wherever I looked I saw the visible 
melody. I saw it upon the walls, upon the sky. 
I saw it fluttering across the fields written in a 
language that none but I could read. The wheels 
of the trains and the motor cars played it. The 
feet of people kept time to it upon the street. 
Then it stopped. I heard it no more. And a 
dream came to take its place a torturing dream 
of the night. 

No sooner had I fallen asleep than I saw myself 
dead and taken to a morgue. I saw distinctly 

96 



IN THE CITY 27 

the streets through which I passed and the build- 
ings that lined them. I could draw a picture of 
them accurately. The undertaker's establishment 
was a low, one-storied structure situated on the 
corner, and behind it was a red, brick-paven alley. 
When they took me in, the owner got up from a 
little bed against the wall where he had been 
sleeping. He said he had promised to see to me 
himself in order to make sure that I was dead. 
They placed me upon a projecting slab of white 
marble in which there were dull colored veins. 
I thought sadly: Now he is going to make my 
veins like the marble. Then I smelled the chemi- 
cals. They hurt me because their smell was bitter. 
I thought of life which had slipped away from 
me now and I recalled the scent of violets in 
spring, which Petronius said was sweeter than 
the sin-forgiving incense in the early church. For 
days I smelled those dreadful chemicals, when 
I was wide awake and moving about busied with 
my daily occupations. They suffocated me. 
They poisoned my food so that I could not eat. 
They floated over whatever I drank like an in- 
visible gas. I could not get away from them. 
Then spring came, and summer, and the dream 
vanished not to return. 

E. 



I 



LIKE THAT NICK-NAME YOU GAVE 
me "wood nymph." That is because I am in- 
visible and all you know of me is my laughter. 
You say that once I laughed at the great god Pan, 
who then for punishment turned me into a 
woman? What a delightful fancy! And you 
can remember all about it? You were there at 
the time peering through the reeds? I do not 
recall how you looked that day. Describe your- 
self to me! Were you of the family of goat-footed 
Pan? 

But what if time and the sad experiences of 
living should make the nymph a woman? What 
if it should wrap about her the stern garment of 
humanity and stifle her laughter? I am sure 
that it is better to laugh than to love. What a 
tragedy it would be for a wood nymph to grow 
old. Think of one grown faded, whose dimples 
had turned to wrinkles, and whose laughter 
had lost its freedom and its grace! When 
women grow old they should wear veils over 
their faces just as do some Eastern women in 
their youth. 

There was a saying among the Greeks like 
this: "May you be loved but may you never 
love." They knew what was best. And it was 
the Greeks who discovered the nymphs. E. 

28 



I 



T IS SUNDAY AND IT IS RAINY. I AM 

not upon the links, greatly as I love the rain and 
the mist upon the hills. I am sitting quietly at 
home watching the rain fall. 

I am sure that in pagan days the nymphs, in- 
stead of growing old, faded back into the trees 
and flowers and were forgotten. No one would 
think of grieving for them who knew only joy. 
When they faded back into the trees so long 
ago joy faded with them. It is something we 
see only occasionally to-day. 

This peculiar, unreasoning sadness which mo- 
dernite brought with it has destroyed, at one tune 
and another, much beauty. It destroyed the glad, 
white cities of the Greek world. It silenced the 
songs of the troubadours. It changed good old 
beef-eating, wine-drmking "Merrie England" into 
the England of the angular-faced, grey-clad 
Puritan. 

Anatole France in a grave and scholarly man- 
ner has poked fun at this sad-visaged morality 
in his Thais. When this decadent Greek courte- 
san as he tells the story was the most fa- 
mous woman of pleasure in the world, and at the 
same time its delight and its rare seduction, a 

29 



3o LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

monk in the Thebaid Waste kept thinking of her 
red lips and likewise of her soul condemned to 
hell. Overpowered by the thought of Thais, he 
left his cell and journeyed to Alexandria to save 
her soul. 

Here he pursued her with his ascetic ideas. 
She was incapable of combating the logic of 
priests. She left at length the luxurious city, and 
bare of feet, accompanied him to a convent in 
the waste. Upon this long journey to the con- 
vent, he was tortured by the vague and floating 
perfumes that the moving body of Thais left 
upon the desert air. When they reached the con- 
vent she entered it and took the vows. There 
she remained until she died. 

Now when he who had gone on to his own place 
of prayer and seclusion heard of the approaching 
death of Thais, he made haste for the convent. 
When he saw her dead and robed for the grave, 
and they were celebrating her with honor, and 
he knew that her soul was saved, was he happy? 
No, indeed! And he should have been happy 
should he not? But he was far from it! He 
grieved. He was beside himself with rage and 
regret because he had not enjoyed the beauty 
of Thais. He was of Greek blood or else he 
was skilled in Greek learning. When he saw 
her rigid in death he knew being a Greek 
that a perfect line is not such a bad morality. 
He forgot his religion. He forgot his ascetic 



IN THE CITY 3l 

vows, overcome with grief. Anatole France, 
with his trained sense of beauty, enjoyed mak- 
ing that story's ending. 

I, too, have loved the beauty of Thais. That 
is why nothing could induce me to see her por- 
trayed upon a modern stage. Fancy a woman of 
to-day trying to impersonate Thais! How wrong 
would be her body, her gestures, and particularly 
the look within her eyes! She would be as un- 
satisfactory to me as those huge, angular, English 
women Tadema has seated among his Grecian 
marbles. I should not dream of finding a realiza- 
tion of this antique beauty in seeing either Farrar 
or Garden in the name part. Farrar has genera- 
tions of New England ancestry and tradition in 
her blood, and her face is a New England face, 
whether she wears the gems of Thais or the man- 
tilla of Carmen. How could she realize a pagan 
beauty of Greek blood? Garden is an Irish 
woman and still further away in face and nature. 
Temper and audacity can not supply the proper 
emotion or the recRiisite illusion. Yet what dif- 
ference does the story of a libretto make? I go 
to hear the music. In the music I can see what 
I wish. The libretto is only a hook to hang the 
music on. It is merely an excuse for being. 
Why should we care more about it than the hook 
some handsome gown hangs upon? 

Why did not Da Vinci paint her? He never 
saw her face, you say? Of course not! But he 



32 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

could have dreamed it. There is a little red 
chalk drawing of his in the Louvre that has just 
such wonderful lines. Only in this drawing the 
eyes are cold; they are the eyes of an age of as- 
ceticism. But it has that meager fineness that 
I know the face of Thais had, a certain sternness 
of modeling, such as I have seen upon antique 
coins. 

Sometimes I ruffle the leaves of Latin writers 
looking for the name of Thais. I have a grudge 
at Catullus because he does not mention her. 
And I have always thought that the soul of Catul- 
lus was like the face of Thais in her early 
youth. Propertius does better. He mentions 
her twice. 

" Turba Menandrse fuerat nee Thaidos olim 
Tanta in qua populus lusit Erichtonius." 
To me this Latin has an especial charm because 
the name of Thais is upon it. I believe that the 
other mention of her in Propertius is in the Fifth 
Elegy of Book Five. 

The books I enjoy most and read oftenest are 
those that were written before this sad modern 
world had become a fact. Soon after dinner last 
night I crawled happily into bed, there to read 
undisturbed an elegy of Propertius. An elegy 
meant something merry and promising interest 
to the Roman of old. We find in it as in a diary 
the incidents and the indiscretions of his life. 

E. 



I 



T IS TOO BAD I AGREE WITH YOU 

that we do our talking on paper when the same 
sky hangs over us and for the moment we 
call the same city home. There are so many 
things, too, that I wish to do with you! What 
are they, you ask? Well, this is one of them. 
I wish to read Heinrich Heine with you, in Ger- 
man, his prose. It is the finest in the world of 
the kind, just as he was the world's greatest wit. 
Poor naughty, pitiful, blasphemous Heine! Some 
one asked him one day what he thought God 
would do with him his tongue was so wicked. 
Like lightning came the answer: "He will forgive 
me! It is His business." 

You must promise not to read Heine without 
me. How can that be, you ask, since we are 
never to meet? It may not be hi this life! But 
that does not make any difference. The promise 
will hold good just the same. We will read him 
together on some star in space. Is not that 
something to look forward to? Is not that worth 
not meeting me here? We will read the wonderful 
things that that pitiful heart of his wrote about 
love on the planet Venus, some rare evening of 
a planet's summer. And coasting along the 
canals of Mars we will read what he wrote of war 

33 



34 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

and his description of the face of Napoleon. In 
that star which the Persians call Anahid, because 
an odalisque plays there on a lute, we will read 
what he said of music and his story of the play- 
ing of Paganini. And in some mist-girdled 
planet, we will read his fancies of the North Sea 
out of whose frozen fogs he learned a new kind 
of verse and became the first German poet of the 
sea. I should like to read those memoirs of his 
which I believe have not yet been printed. 
He said just before he died that the memoirs 
were his greatest work in prose. There was a 
report at the time of his death, that they had 
been sold by a member of his family. They have 
lain buried from the curious all these years in 
the secret archives of the Imperial Library of 
Vienna. The Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs can 
get along well enough without knowing all the 
scorpion stings he gave them. He said once 
that the Germans hoped they would never find 
any more Napoleon heads among their people; 
the Hohenzollerns have continued to hope some- 
thing similar of the head of Heine. 

There have been no impassioned idealists since 
Heine, who have written as he wrote, with the 
eloquence of deep conviction. He was the con- 
necting link between two different periods of 
time the eighteenth century upon whose 
threshold he stood and the world we know 
where everything was to change. 



IN THE CITY 35 

I have always been in love with Heine. Indeed 
the men whom I have loved have been long dead. 
Mine have been loves of the brain and of art, 
sexless infidelities of a dreamer. I have loved 
Ferdinand La Salle, a friend of Heine. I loved 
Petronius, the patrician, who declared that good 
in no wise differs from evil. I loved the youthful 
Sophocles who danced and sang for the returning 
victors of Salamis. I loved Goethe as women 
have always loved him that handsome, youth- 
ful Goethe who posed for his portrait in Rome 
standing proudly by the side of the Apollo Belvi- 
dere. Now you can see how we are going to 
enjoy ourselves on that planet in space! There, 
like Orion the Hunter, who bore the bow of gold, 
you will hunt down and make real all the old 
vain dreams of the earth. And there time will 
have no power over us, neither you nor I will be 
the subjects of its disenchanting laws. 

E. 



Y, 



OU DID NOT KNOW, DID YOU, THAT 
I have ever so many homes? You are incredu- 
lous? You smile scornfully because you know I 
have not a sou? It is true nevertheless! And I 
take pleasure in journeying from one to the 
other. I really can not see how people live who 
have only one house to live in. That is a sure 
evidence of poverty. I do not know of any 
millionaire who has so many and such satisfac- 
tory houses as I. 

They who have dreams, have nothing else, 
you object? You are right. I have found this 
to be true. I who can lay claim to no larger es- 
tate of worldly wealth than Markham says that 
poor Villon possessed "The boughs of a toss- 
ing tree" have a dream-estate and thereon a 
home. This particular home is a rambling, 
colonial farmhouse far to the north, among the 
New England mountains, and sufficiently re- 
moved from the storm-vexed Atlantic to catch 
only occasionally its mists and fogs. It is situ- 
ated upon a hill of slight elevation overlooking 
meadowland, black forests, and far blue moun- 
tains. It is a primitive farming country. The 
whistle of a locomotive is not heard here nor the 

36 



IN THE CITY 87 

noise of a street car. In the little village, some 
ten miles away, there, too, is peace and the rustic 
grace of an earlier century. 

Within my old red farmhouse there is little 
that savors of the modern world. In the kitchen, 
which has a white, sanded floor, there are brick 
ovens for baking. In the other rooms there are 
rough-hewn fireplaces, black and spacious. For 
lighting there are only candles. When I grow 
old I shall be like Gautier, who said that there 
were only two things that could give him pleas- 
ure at the last, and one was the light of candles. 
In short, hi my farmhouse there will not be 
much that tells of to-day. On the bare floor there 
will be home-made rugs. I shall sleep between 
slightly yellowed, home-woven sheets of linen. 
In my library there will be only books of other 
ages. Upon the walls will hang prints made by 
the men of eighteenth-century England and 
France, with an occasional early Dutch etching. 
There will be a few jars of undecorated pottery 
whose charm will be their color and form. For 
the rest there will be an austere bareness. 

Here I shall come for two months of the year; 
May and November. In May it will be to enjoy 
the fragile, fugitive fairness of spring far to the 
north. Outside my old grey farmhouse then the 
fields will have the laughing, joyous green we 
see in modern French art. They will be dotted 
with daisies so surprisingly white that they shine 



38 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

like stars. There will be gold swinging butter- 
cups, and gnarled apple trees fantastically flow- 
ered with pink. And trailing over all raveled 
fleeces of floating mist, the ghosts of the vanish- 
ing snow. 

Here twice a year I shall have a house party 
to keep me company. In the spring it will be 
made up of frail, beautiful, frivolous women, as 
irresponsible as the flowers outside in the fields. 
In these great bare rooms, they will dance merrily 
through the pale, northern nights, dressed in 
fragile and frolicsome gowns of gauze, and they 
will laugh and say the most foolish and extrava- 
gant things in the world with the sweetest of lips. 
I shall lean by the open window and watch them 
and listen, and think how like them is the scent 
of the lilac that comes in through the window. 
Looking at them I shall learn to love perfect lips 
that are perfectly false and the irresponsibility of 
human flowers under the spell of spring. I shall 
learn that beauty is worth having at any price. 

And they will dance on, these beautiful women, 
while I watch them, and make merry, until the 
candles die, and the stars are dull dots in a windy 
sky, looking like their own crushed dresses of 
gauze in the early dawn. And as they drift down 
the great hall and away from me, I shall not 
know nor care whether they were really flowers 
or stars. And I shall stand alone by the window 
and wait for something that never comes. Then 



IN THE CITY 89 

I shall look out upon the pallid day that has lost 
its delight and its stars, and I shall feel the winds 
that sweep down over these northern mountains, 
winds that are lonely and austere. 

In the autumn, in November, my house party 
will be of brilliant people, both men and women; 
musicians, artists, dreamers, fantastic carvers of 
pictures out of fleeting words. I shall have them 
to help make me forget for a moment that life 
is sad and that death must be. And always 
through this month of November the grey rain 
will fall, in fine, sharp lines, looking like the 
background of an old wood-cut, and the brilliant 
leaves of autumn will be upon the ground, the 
trees black and bare; and in the distance the 
frown of black forests and the delicate blurred 
blue of mountains. On the sloping fields beside 
my dwelling there will be piles, house high, of 
glowing, golden pumpkins, greenish yellow 
squashes, and burnished gourds, which give out 
light. When night comes, as in those old lost 
nights of May, we shall make merry. There will 
be great fires burning in all the rooms, which keep 
the resinous scent of aromatic woods and fret the 
floor with shadows. And at tunes some one, 
perhaps some subtle Slav, will play upon the 
piano feverish and forgotten melodies, or the 
delicate fancies of Scarlatti. Then music will 
hold us with its spell, and no one will speak a 
word. 



4o LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Again we shall dine late at a great table quiver- 
ing with candles. Brilliant, unforgettable things 
will be said, and we shall talk wildly and well, 
play with thought, with words, as with a juggler's 
balls of iridescent glass, and drink and drink 
and be happy. Every once in a while there will 
be a pause in the merriment, as if overmastering 
Fate said "Hush!" And we shall shiver at the 
wail of the wind, premonition of the northern 
winter, and hear the rain beating upon the pane. 
Each one will feel for a moment in his heart, the 
black space of the storm outside and the un- 
measured leagues of night. Then the merriment 
will rise higher and higher. Defiance will be 
heaped on joy. Time will have lengthened the 
candle flames. Inspiration will come with a 
delirium of joy. And they will talk wildly and 
more madly, laugh on and on, making believe 
bravely that life is good, until again as in the 
old lost nights of May, the candles die and they 
steal away to sleep a heavy sleep, that has neither 
dreams nor remembrance, to wake and look up 
at a sky like the soft grey breast of a wild duck, 
a sky soon to grow black above the mountains 
and from which sad snow straggles down. I 
shall watch them go away, my guests, like the 
glittering gold memory of that dream which is 
life. I shall be alone with the roaring fires and 
the bitter winter that rushes down over the 
northern hills. E. 



I 



HAVE MADE A DISCOVERY! I AM 

writing to tell you about it! The soul of Hein- 
rich Heine dwells in the purple passion flower; 
and the soul of Mary of Scotland in the purple 
iris. And thereby hangs a tale; a romantic and 
fascinating tale, which I perhaps will write for 
you some day if it is not too long a tale of 
how, by what means, they happened to reach 
the same color key. The reason that I can not 
tell it to you now is because the bees are begin- 
ning to swarm in my steam radiator, which sets 
me to thinking of the meadows of Sicily, and 
Theocritus, and Simaetha, with her love-prayer 
to the moon. They are charming bees (when 
they do not buzz too noisily). They are rapidly 
luring me away to a garden like that old one 
which men have said was situated eastward in 
Eden. 

But Eden is anywhere, I suppose, where happi- 
ness is. 

E. 



H 



_AVE YOU ANY MUSICAL FRIENDS? 
I do not mean the graphophone kind. If you 
have the real kind I want you to have them 
play for you the nocturnes of Chopin, so that 
you can tell me what happens in their twilights. 
They are the pallid, patient twilights of a north- 
ern land, perpetuating themselves in time pro- 
digiously like the six-month polar day which they 
adjoin. Yet despite their geographical isolation, 
there is sometimes the fragrance of tropic flowers 
there, the spreading leaves of equatorial plants 
of an antique decorativeness, and the flash of 
fine Moorish blades. Sometimes that vari-tinted 
constellation called the Southern Cross shines in 
upon them and the nights have a purple black- 
ness. And occasionally one hears far off 
the swift beat of horses' feet, not horses of the 
north, but such as carry white-draped Bedouins 
across the deserts of Arabia. Here you will meet 
people seemingly ill assorted and strange, but in 
whom I am interested and you, too. You will 
meet for instance Turgenev, that blond 
Greek giant, who wandered by accident 
across the Russian steppe; the de Goncourts, 
of exquisite taste; and Sainte-Beuve, who found 



IN THE CITY 43 

fault with every one in conversation and was 
seldom unkind in print. Here is George Sand, 
meditative and speaking little; Goethe, the god- 
like, unsympathetic but never unjust. Gautier, 
declaiming eloquently and declaring that Heine 
is "Apollo with a touch of Mephistopheles " ; 
Dumas pere, the titan of mental power, who 
could write for a day and a night and a day, 
without sleep; Gerard de Nerval of the witch- 
like moon-fancies, and, once in a while, Beranger. 
Here will come de Musset, elegant and eloquent, 
the adored of a nation. Here one will be subject 
to the unusual combination of French grace and 
the sad seriousness of the Slav. Paul Delaroche, 
lion-headed, will walk gravely through the grey- 
ness, meditating the next picture he is to paint, 
the eloquent canvas showing the death scene of 
Mazarin, the while a crowd of insolent, greedy 
courtiers are gambling and quarreling in the 
background, as the agony of death passes over 
him. 

There are prophetic and improbable readings 
for the future of Poland, and bits of history, both 
personal and popular, that have not been dis- 
seminated. There are things well worth observ- 
ing here. I have seen the beautiful faces of 
Polish women lean toward me out of the dimness. 
You must find out all about these women and tell 
me what is said and done here, because I am dying 
of curiosity. This will be a collection of stories 



44 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

made just for me. And there is one woman in 
particular who wanders through all these twi- 
lights who interests me more than the others. 
I have met her many tunes. It is someone 
Chopin knew when he was young and poor. 
Life has written eloquently upon her face. I am 
eager for you to see her and tell me what is 
written there. Please make these stories for me 
on stormy afternoons when you are alone and 
your restless paint brush is idle, and your room 
is as indistinct with floating cigar smoke as those 
rich, grey twilights of Poland. But, my dear 
Unknown, you must not fall in love with that 
aristocratic woman who wanders in those splen- 
did twilights of Chopin. If you did I should 
never hear from you again. If you did you would 
forget your ambition and your facile brush. 
Napoleon knew something about women. He 
had seen many races. He said the Polish women 
are the most dangerous in the world. He con- 
fessed that he was afraid of them. You see there 
is reason for my warning. 

Outside the twilight the air is confused and 
noisy with the throb of revolution, and the voices 
of an angry multitude are heard coming nearer 
and nearer. It is the eve of important political 
events. But here it is quiet, the indestructible, 
under-the-sea quiet of art. The revolution waits 
without. It can not enter here. 

My tiger on the floor looks disappointed to-day. 



IN THE CITY 45 

He expected to hear your voice over the phone. 
We are good friends, the tiger and I. He dreams 
silently all day long of the jungle. And I I 
dream silently of those old grey twilights of 
Poland which you are going to re-people for me. 

E. 



I 



.T IS MONDAY. IT IS MORNING. I 

am wishing the top of this same morning to you. 

I had several conversations with you yesterday. 
Do you remember any of them? Please do not 
be so impolite as to tell me that you do not. For 
one thing I told you that I was going to make 
my will. You laughed at this because you know 
I have not wealth to will to any one. I do not 
think it was nice of you to laugh. Now do you 
remember? I replied that it did not matter in 
the least (being poor) that I was going to have 
the pleasure of making a will just the same. 

And all of my friends will be remembered. 
Although my pocket may be guiltless of gold as a 
priest's cup of pence, I do not have the conscious- 
ness of being poor. I do not believe that gold is 
the proper substance with which to dissipate 
poverty. It takes something more divinely nur- 
tured. I feel rich; I feel as if the sun that shone 
upon the glad pagan cities still shone on me, and 
my heart is high and triumphant. Since the 
facts of daily existence are unable to dispel 
the illusion, it would be futile for you to try. I 
manage to keep it in face of the disillusioning 
facts of living. I even pity people who are re- 

46 



IN THE CITY 4? 

puted rich because from my point of view they 
are poor. I have to restrain myself sometimes 
from offering them an alms because I feel so 
sorry for them. And the gold that I have, thieves 
can not break in and steal, nor can moth and 
rust corrupt. In this way the pleasure of posses- 
sion is mine unaccompanied with fear. Neither 
does any one envy me, nor point me out as a 
miser or a guilty-fingered bond-holder who has 
robbed his brother men. I shall will to a certain 
person (whose name I am not going to tell you) 
the joy I have when I open my eyes in the morn- 
ing and see the skirt of the day fluted with light. 
To another, the pleasure I had when I was a 
child and dipped a shining tin dipper into a 
sparkling pail of freshly drawn spring-water, 
and then bent over to drink, seeing the while 
the blue, laughing mountains swing around and 
around as if they were dancing a quadrille. This 
childish act makes me feel akin to the heroes of 
Homer. To some one else, the sensation I ex- 
perience when I pour thick yellow cream out of 
an old buff-colored stone-ware pitcher, a sensa- 
tion richer in contentment than the coins of 
Croesus could buy. 

To another my interest in pictures, and the 
collection that hangs upon the walls of my mind. 
To another my pleasure in promenading my eyes 
over the surfaces of things that are fine. I have 
a right to prefer surfaces to souls if I wish. 



48 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

To some one else who is melancholy and given 
to the blues, the wish that he may find out that 
three blades of grass and a yard of blue sky are 
enough for happiness. To another, the season 
ticket that lets me in to wander at will across the 
landscapes the tone-painters have displayed. To 
another, I shall wish my vision into the hearts of 
men. This may not be a particularly pleasant 
bequest, to look down the black and dizzy heights 
in human hearts. 

To another, a memory that comes a memory 
of sitting quiet summer after summer, in a lonely 
farmhouse, in a great bare room, with an old, old 
lady and a flowering plant, and how they talked 
together the old lady and the flower until 
they found that they were just two friendly 
people, who happened to be living upon differ- 
ent planes of life, but near enough so that they 
could call across to each other. My heart 
perhaps I may leave to you. You might con- 
tinue to find interest in it. You might know what 
to do with it. Whenever you opened it to look 
within it as one would open one of those 
delicate caskets of Florentine workmanship 
you would find a fresh fancy, a fresh caprice, 
until after a time, it might remind you of those 
thin silver strings which the rich and luxurious 
Romans strung across the windows of their 
Baian villas for the winds from the sea to whisper 
mysteries upon. Is it so altogether impossible? 



IN THE CITY 4g 

In this world of wonders who shall say what may 
or may not be? An oriental story teller relates 
this: "One among the lords of Khorasan saw in 
a vision Sultan Mahmud Sebuktagin, an hundred 
years after his death, when his body had mould- 
ered into fragments and become dust, except his 
eyes. These, as ever, moved about in their eye 
holes and darted their regards." My heart may 
be like it and continue to possess an independent 
life of its own. In some way it may have ac- 
quired perpetuity. 

E. 



A 



GORGEOUS WINTER DAY, MY UN- 
known! The cold snap of the north is in the air. 
They who were born next door to the Pole, like 
myself, enjoy the cold. We like to battle against 
it. We like its exhilaration. 

Whenever the wind comes whirling from the 
north as it does to-day, it recalls that bleak, 
rugged country where I was born. Winter was 
splendid there. For days and days the snow 
fell. It blotted out the earth, the sun. And 
then winds came that fought and screamed like 
fiends. I lived in an old farmhouse in the 
mountains. We kept fox hounds and hunted. 
I remember when supper-time came we had to 
wait until we heard the baying of the hounds, 
telling that the hunters were on their way back 
from the hills. Those, red, long-eared fox hounds 
were my earliest playmates. 

And now I do not hunt any more. I can not 
kill anything it does not make any difference 
what it is. I wish every created thing to have 
its allotted time in the light. And then how 
do I know whom what I am killing? 
Sometimes animals and birds look at me with 
a look that I seem to remember. If it is true 

5o 



IN THE CITY 5l 

that wheel of Buddha I may be there myself 
again sometime, struggling to crawl up. It is 
very confusing very strange is it not, this 
endless journey across the fields of Time? 

And, too, it is very funny when souls get put 
into the wrong bodies. For instance a sweetly 
grey elf-soul, with a touch of the tingling laughter 
of old Ireland, into the body of a man who once 
thought of becoming a clergyman. Think of that, 
my dear Unknown! And when he went to make 
a dutiful and churchly call some fine day, when 
joy was coursing pleasurably through his veins, 
his earthly feet might carry him to a door where 
some one lived who was gay, too, with laughter. 
Think of that, my dear Unknown! And then 
a great roaring snow storm came up, and the 
afternoon was long. Then the snow puts out 
the sun and the afternoon lasts forever. 

There is nothing so unreal as reality. 

E. 



HIS IS TO WISH YOU A MERRY 

Christmas, and likewise the good things of the 
coining year, best of which for you, I suppose, 
would be a satisfactory finishing of the great 
picture. In the slow distribution of heavy mail 
this will just about reach you in time. 

I have a queer fancy when this holiday comes. 
It is something more; it is almost a delusion. 

There is a square, white, country-house near 
an old university town in the north where I went 
to school, where in fancy I spend it always. It 
is a large, hospitable house, set in a grove of 
beech trees, and upon a hill. Every Christmas 
I find myself going here in a jingling, fur-filled 
sleigh, across level miles of snow. And the bells 
are merry, merry. When I reach the house and 
go within, there are yawning black fireplaces 
filled with logs, and a host of relatives and friends 
waiting to greet me. Strangely enough all the 
people I ever loved are within, smiling and un- 
changed, even they who have been dead for a 
decade. And I am not in the least surprised to 
meet them. 

Here I stay for a week, the while a snow storm 
rages without, and cold wind cries about the 
eaves. I feel very safe here, secure from evil, and 

happy. 

62 



IN THE CITY 53 

At Easter I come again. At this season there 
are jonquils and violets about the base of the 
hill. And back of it when the day drops 
marvelous yellow sunsets which shine across wet, 
brown land. 

I can not tell by any amount of thinking why 
this house is so interwoven with my thoughts, 
unless it is that I like things that do not change. 
That is why I like old cities that are rich with 
the memories of generations. Life is warmer, 
deeper, richer within them. In these old cities, 
about which hover the atmosphere of centuries 
of living, perhaps people recover in some degree 
some of the power of other lives, inherit some of 
the thoughts, creative impulses of them who 
have died, and life becomes, not a thing unstable, 
detached, lonely and cold, but an active part of 
the richly colored past. It is a fact that the 
older and more permanent the race, the greater 
has been its art. 

I should like to have lived always in one place. 
Not that I do not care to travel! I should like 
to call one place home; some country place by 
preference, where the fields and the pond and 
the path through the woods would know me. 
There I should like to live through quiet spaces 
of time, with no more disturbing occurrence than 
a strange plant springing up in the fields or the 
too early flowering of the orchard. E. 



A- 



_T THE CONCERT THE OTHER DAY 

which was good I was tortured by the fancy 
that I am soon to lose the things I care for, the 
things that make life livable for me. It was the 
effect of the music I suppose. And when they 
played Schumann's "Abendlied" I suffered. 

Suddenly then I saw a dull, grey twilight of 
north Germany; a twilight sad and damp and 
lonely, that fell with a wind, in whose voice was 
the grief of the dead. The wind twined and 
twined about me like entangling veils. It smoth- 
ered my mouth. It dimmed my eyes. It grew 
colder and bleaker. At length it began to 
snow. Each flake of snow pursued me like a 
bodiless soul. And then I discovered that each 
snow-flake that clung to my cheek was a hide- 
ous, scornful, white face, whispering to me, 
whispering to me things that I did not wish 
to hear and tried to forget a face that stung 
like flame, and that vanished when I tried to 
whisper back. When I turned quickly to see the 
face once plainly, the snow-flakes faded back 
by sad, colorless gradations to monotonous mist. 
The rest of the programme I did not hear. 

This friend of whom you write, must, because 
of his Chinese name, be related to that King of 

54 



IN THE CITY 55 

Tang who owns the twilight palace by the lake, 
and who wore jade pendants upon his girdle. I 
am fond of jade. Do you not think you could 
get one of those pendants for me? I should prefer 
one that is the color of old Chinese celadon, with 
that sweet, soft, soapy surface and engraved with 
the seal of the God of Laughter. Ask him, too, 
if he will lend us his palace by the lake. Tell him 
he can drop in always over Sunday. I think 
that would please him and make him good 
natured, do not you? I should not mind at all 
a little time spent with you in such sweet, gold 
twilights as engulfed the palaces of Tang. 

E. 



VOICES, MY GOOD UNKNOWN, HAVE 
color, have they not? I became sure of it by 
hearing yours over the phone to-day. I know a 
man whose voice is steel-grey like the thin edge 
of a scimitar, without a pink tone in it. Yours 
is rich; red mixed with purple violets and 
wine. Throw their warm light over me often! 

E. 



56 



Y< 



OU DO NOT NEED TO COMPLAIN OF 

weather! Are you not superior to it? With your 
artist's brush you can shove aside our inclement 
American winter, and make the grapes grow 
purple along some Tuscan wall. You can bring 
back "Autumn in his car of gold," or the blue 
water by Taormina. The indestructible spring of 
the Golden Age is yours. It is commonplace 
people like myself who are subject to wind and 
weather. 

E. 



5 7 



1 HAD A GREAT ADVENTURE YESTER- 
day! I wandered in the twilights of Chopin. 
(In Polish they spell it Sczopan, I think, do they 
not?) And whom do you suppose I met, like- 
wise wandering there? The soul of Heinrich 
Heine. I have known for some years that if I 
could once be permitted to enter at the right 
time I should find him. Such friends as he and 
Chopin could not be separated long. Liszt said 
that there was such a strong bond of union and 
sympathy between them that words were a 
superfluity. All that was necessary was for them 
to sit in silence together in the same room. 

The soul of Heinrich Heine said to me: People 
never understood the peculiarity and the con- 
tradictoriness that arose from my nature and 
my surroundings. That is why they misjudged 
and blamed me. I was born, you see, in that 
ancient dwelling of my ancestors, the grey, 
stern, granite temple of the Hebrew race. Ah! 
how in retrospect I can see it now! Its influence 
has been always upon me. In it there were the 
monoliths of immemorial kings. It bordered 
upon the ancient lands of the Orient. It knew, 
too, the reasonless fanaticism of desert men. Its 
worn and sunken portals were built in a time so 
remote that it may not be calculated. The twin 
stars that rise above the horizon at twilight to 

58 



IN THE CITY 5g 

mark the beginning of oar holy days, can not 
remember when they have not looked down upon 
it. Around its walls were inscribed the laws of 
Moses and the prophets. Ghostly, white-draped, 
desert figures lifted their imploring arms for 
prayer beside its walls. But afl the time that 
I was there with my people whom I loved, I was 
haunted by a face a face that they could not 
understand. Nor indeed should I who have 
been called the scorpion-tongued dare ever to 
tell them; the face of a childish mother with an 
infant in her arms. And yet both the mother 
and the infant were of our ancient race. Every 
one knows their pictures. Throughout the mid- 
dle ages they painted them, and they called the 
pictures " 4 The Madonna." In the eyes of the 
mother and the infant I saw a sweetness which 
I understood and which was altogether different 
to our granite race which taught revenge; an 
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 

Yet greatly did I forr my people, 
Then suddenly I found that I was wandering in 
a white, Grecian temple, where, between graceful 
columns of pale porphyry, laughed the sea. 
Here there was none of the stern bitterness of 
the old faith. There was nothing but joy. There 
was nothing but dance and song and laughter. 
Here Pleasure was king. Measure, flower crowned 
and victorious, and surrounded by beautiful women. 
Ah! I should have been happy here! That 



60 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Greek sentiment for beauty which did not 
come from my own race was satisfied. Here a 
part of me found its home. The gracious land- 
scape of Greece delighted my eyes because 
my eyes were Greek eyes. The faces of the women 
were flowers fragrant with kisses lifted up for me 
to enjoy. And the gods who ruled over this land 
were gods only of pleasure. Only now the infant 
had grown to be a man, and the eyes of that man 
were always in my heart. Here, within this glad, 
Greek temple, that I had longed for so greatly, 
I grew thin and thin. I grew white and white. 
No one could find out the reason until one day 
I happened to discover it myself. My heart 
was bleeding . . . bleeding the red blood out of 
me, all the time. And it was because of that 
man's eyes that were in my heart. 

And yet greatly did I love my people. 
I wandered on and on. At length I entered 
another temple. This time it was the majestic 
Temple of the German Intellect. The first step 
into its portals was taken when I was just a little 
boy. (I have written a poem about this which 
you will remember. It is called "Die Wallfahrt 
nach Kevlaar.") 1 I had to forsake my faith to 

1 In the early editions (and I think also in the Gotta Edition 
of 1885) Heine prints an explanatory note to accompany the poem 
"Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar," in which he states that the material 
of this poem was not altogether his own. In this explanation he 
outlines part of the story which I have used hi this Heinesque 
fantasy. E. W. U. 



IN THE CITY 6l 

enter it. I had to forswear my soul. The rules 
of the German Temple were inexorable. There 
was another little boy who entered at the same 
time. He came and sat beside me. Always 
when the master was not looking he told me how 
he had been lame so very lame that he could 
not walk. Then his mother took him to Kevlaar 
and had a waxen foot made just like mine. And 
this waxen foot she placed by the statue of a 
man made of marble. And then the little boy's 
own foot was healed and he could walk. He 
promised me that some day he would bring me a 
picture of that marble man. One day he did 
bring the picture. It was a picture of the man 
whose eyes had made my heart bleed in that 
Grecian temple. We separated then, and each 
went his way for a time in this Temple of the 
German Intellect. I forgot the little boy. 
Strange as it may seem, here I all but forgot 
the eyes that had looked into my heart. 

And yet greatly did I love my people. 
When I became a young man and had climbed 
up, up, in this German Temple, I met him again. 
Again we sat side by side just as of old. And 
again when the master was not looking, he whis- 
pered to me that his heart ached and he wished 
that his good old mother were near, to have a 
heart made out of wax, and sacrifice it for him. 
And in this way his own heart would be healed 
and he would be well again. 



62 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Again I lost sight of my little friend. But we 
were still both going on and on through the 
Temple of the German Intellect. Years after 
when we were men grown and I had forgotten 
all about him, I was walking one afternoon by 
the shore of the Rhine, when I heard voices sing- 
ing the song of the pilgrimage to Kevlaar. I 
looked and saw a band of pilgrims coming. Among 
them was my boyhood's friend, but so changed 
now, so ill, so ill and so white leaning upon 
the arm of his poor, old mother. As he passed, 
he looked up and recognized me. But he was so 
weak he could not speak. Instead he made a 
little gesture with one feeble hand which I under- 
stood, and which meant: "If I had only sacri- 
ficed the heart of wax when I entered that Ger- 
man Temple I should not be dying now." 

The art of Aubrey Beardsley was first heard 
in the music of Chopin, and then read in the 
quatrains of Heine. Is not Bed Sefchen the 
executioner's daughter the proper combination 
of cruelty and strange beauty, for a pen drawing 
by Beardsley? I could multiply examples. I 
like to think that the fancies of Heinrich Heine 
lived first in the twilights of Chopin. 

All things great in art must have had a long 
descent. They must have flowered humbly, 
ripened, dropped seed, unseen and unheard, in 
many different minds before they made their 
final debut in the broad daylight of fame. 



IN THE CITY 63 

When Heine was dying he forgot his proud 
boast that he had never loved but two things; 
the beauty of women and the French Revolution, 
and begged a friend to send for the cantor of the 
neighboring synagogue to come, and to sing for 
him the songs of his childhood, the hoary, desert 
songs of Judea. He exclaimed: "Life is too full 
of suffering to live without faith!" He likewise 
forgot his political animosities and dictated in 
his will: "It was the great task of my life to 
work at a hearty understanding between France 
and Germany." 

And the disease that killed Heine was a disease 
of genius, peculiar to overstrained and highly 
wrought temperaments. Like Maurice de Guerin, 
Keats, Dowson, Jules de Goncourt, Pushkin, 
Lermontov, Maupassant, Mickiewicz, he had 
lived too much, enjoyed too much, received and 
digested within his brain too many ideas, too 
many impressions. In short, he insisted upon 
living the life of a god instead of a man. Dull 
days and dark, commonplace hours were not for 
him. 

The de Goncourt brothers were in Rome when 
Heine died. When they heard of it Edmond de 
Goncourt wrote: "Henri Heine is dead, a great 
personality gone. Better had the vault received 
all the mourners rather than him they mourned. 
As far as I can see there are only dwarfs left to 
bend the bow of Ulysses." E. 



N, 



OW THE GROUND WHERE I GO 

golfing is just the color of the tawny back of my 
tiger on the floor. It is pale and dull, and tinted 
like the desert sand. 

He is glad my tiger that my typewriter 
is repaired so that he can hear me talk to you 
again. He tells me messages to send to you. 
He would like to have you come to see us. He 
insists he thinks it is too bad for me to be so 
much alone, and to continue to live on throughout 
the years in places that do not know you. Poor 
tiger! He only knew life in the jungle. 

E. 



64 



w, 



HO EVER HEARD OF CARING FOR A 
woman whom one had never seen! It is good 
that there is something new under the sun. You 
are shattering the crystallized wisdom of Solomon. 
I have begun just where the fateful fable of 
Narcissus left off. ... I have faded away to a 
voice that can not be resurrected into visible life. 
De hoc sufficit! 

E. 



65 



w, 



HAT DO YOU SUPPOSE I HAVE BEEN 

finding out in studying old Chinese porcelains? 
Secrets . . . such secrets! Some day perhaps 
I will write them. I shall call the book 
probably "What Happens in China Land." 
Do not think it will be an uninteresting book, 
because it will be about porcelains. Quite the 
contrary! It will lure you with the lure of ro- 
mance. 

There is a vase of a pale, soft, nameless color 
belonging to a porcelain called Ting Yao, made 
centuries and centuries ago, in the black night of 
forgetfulness. Its outlines resemble the curves 
of a woman's body; not a Mongolian woman, 
but a white, Greek woman. The decoration upon 
it is almost imperceptible, a sort of blind impres- 
sion made of waving and wonderful lines. No 
one knows anything about this decoration except 
myself. I learned it by looking long at the vase, 
and then following back dim fibers of sensation. 

The Chinaman who made it h'ved by the Yellow 
Sea where sails go flying like moths' wings in the 
dusk. Here ships came from strange, far coun- 
tries to trade. He an idle artist lay on the 
shore and watched them. One day there came a 

66 



IN THE CITY 67 

ship with sails of purple silk, and beneath them 
a woman whose eyes were the color of the tur- 
quoises that they find on the Roof of the World. 
For days and weeks he loved her, her beauty, 
with an artist's incomprehensible love. The sight 
of her set tingling in his brain and his wizard 
Eastern fingers, the springs of creative fancy. 
And she, she was happy enough, beneath the 
purple sails upon the Yellow Sea, and all uncon- 
scious of the slanting, black eyes that watched 
her. 

But one night there was trouble. There was a 
quarrel, and a body flung with passion into the 
sea. At dawn when the tide came creeping in, 
the Chinaman lay upon a ledge and watched it. 
And there, down through its nameless, yellow 
waters, he saw floating the dead woman of the 
blue eyes. Death had not marred her yet, nor 
set upon her its disfiguring color. She was the 
most beautiful object he had seen. 

He went away into the interior of China carry- 
ing the memory with him. He became a potter. 
He made marvelous vases of a contour never seen 
before in China. Upon their surface he made 
magic, wavering lines that told of the swaying 
of tides; and beneath these lines, in a sort of 
blind impression, there floated something beauti- 
ful, mysterious. Was it a flower? Was it some 
moon-born vision? Something beautiful-born of 
the sea? 



68 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

He made the surface of this pottery soft and 
sweet like the touch of a woman's cheek. And 
he gave it a voice timbre like a sigh of love, 
which he had heard breathed once over a 
sea at night. 

He made this pottery in other colors. One 
was the blue of the sky after the rain, which was 
the way her eyes had looked upon the ship one 
day, humid and sweet with love. And he made 
it in another color; the green of a thousand 
autumns upon the hills, which was his way of 
expressing the Land of Heart's Desire, where in 
fancy, he had lived with her. And he made it 
in another color moon-white which was the 
color of her white, dead body floating at dawn 
within the Yellow Sea. And this was all that 
he ever knew of love. He did not express it in 
music or poetry or painting. He made out of it 
his love the most marvelous pottery that 
the world has seen, and upon its surface in the 
hieroglyphics of the heart he has told its story. 

That is what I am reading now on the vases of 
Ting Yao. 

E. 



I 



FANCIED THAT I PASSED YOU ON 
the street to-day you whom I have never seen 
and there was a woman walking with you, a 
beautiful woman. 

When we were exactly opposite each other, the 
woman looked up and observed me. Then she 
turned to you and inquired, "Why are that 
woman's thoughts so far away?" 

Swift as a swallow's wings your eyes swept my 
face. You replied: "I think she is building a 
dream-home for some one she loves very dearly 
. . . in a far country." 

Then she looked up into your eyes in the pagan 
sunlight, and I heard her laugh. "What is that?" 
she replied indifferently* 

You answered: "It is an ideal place of the 
spirit which only few can find." 

E. 



I 



SAW YOUR SOUL THURSDAY. IT 

slipped out between the lines of your letter. It 
is silver colored and grey. And it would be merry 
if its owner were not such a stern taskmaster and 
so ambitious. 

Your soul said to me: 

"You understand! No one should be forced to 
work all the time. There are other things worth 
considering besides duty and work." 

I will tell you other things that your soul said 
to me some day when I have time and opportunity. 

"I was the most mischievous of elves once," 
your soul declared rather regretfully. "And then, 
not thinking for the moment what I did, just 
for fun, I slipped into a priest's body and there 
got shut in. Imagine if you can what that was 
like for an eh" like me! He clothed me in the 
ugliest and gloomiest of clothes. He never per- 
mitted me to dance or sing or follow my own will. 
He did not permit me to love pleasure or light or 
laughter. For hours I kneeled on cold, stone 
floors and repeated prayers which I did not com- 
prehend. Then for days I practically went with- 
out eating. For other days I slept only a few 
hours. In fact I did everything that was dis- 

70 



IN THE CITY 71 

agreeable and unsuited to me, and I never did 
anything that was suited to me. My constant 
companions were the things that I abhorred. 
After a while I found that I could stand it no 
longer so I played a shabby trick on the priest 

a very bad trick and escaped. The priest 
died. I suppose I was the cause of it. But it 
was not really murder; it was merely a defensive 
act of personal necessity. For some time after 
that I was unable to feel the old elfin joy that 
was my inheritance. 

" Next I got shut up in the body of a penniless, 
dreaming poet. This life was not so bad, and in 
some ways it suited me. I really had a pretty 
good time there. Poets, of course, do not have 
anything to eat, but I had received good lessons 
hi fasting in the priest's body so I stood it better. 
Poets are like orchids and live on air. Carmina 
non dant panem. The work the poet did, too, I 
could appreciate. Poetry is only a fillip of noth- 
ing stirred by a fallen god. And the country 
of the poet I loved. It was a rich and varied 
wonderland. It would take a mad botanist to 
describe to you the things that grew there all 
pleasant enough to look upon, but nothing useful. 
Folly grew there better than anything else, I 
should say. I was fairly happy in the poet's 
body, because a poet and an elf are alike in this 

that they are never taken seriously. 

" Next I got shut up in the body of an effete, 



72 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Italian aristocrat, a sensualist. That was a life 
that disturbed and agitated me. It was like 
living in a forest where the wind roars continu- 
ally. I was not happy at all there. You see an 
elf cares only to touch with his lips lightly the 
cup of love, never to drink deeply. I should 
have enjoyed life more in the body of a beauty 
lover, who always searched for love but could 
not find it, because he found out in the end that 
he was an artist and not a lover. It is a most 
important thing for a soul to find the right body! 
All these different bodies, you see, have left their 
marks upon me," confided your soul to me. "And 
that is where the confusion comes in." 

The reason he talks so freely to me your 
soul is because he remembers the day when 
I mocked the great god Pan, and for punishment 
was turned into a woman. And he has been 
following me ever since to tell me the secret by 
means of which I can get turned back. I am 
impatient for that time to come. From what a 
world of worry and annoyance it would free me! 
From how many grown-up, incomprehensible 
duties for which I have neither respect nor ability! 
I hope it will be before I grow older. 

He would like to run away with me your 
soul. If he did we would at once become gay 
elves again, white, wing-fluttering, riotous elves. 
One of the first places to which we would go 
(You will call it foolish! You will laugh!) will 



IN THE CITY 78 

be a pale, upland pasture by night, where the 
grass is pale by day, and under the moon, it is 
disconcerting silver. We would go to an upland 
pasture filled with ghostly mullein stalks, whose 
tall flowers are magic yellow disks filled with dew. 
And here your soul and I ... Ah! but I dare 
not tell you! And we would have nights under 
mimic primrose moons! Please do not scold 
your soul if he should come in late sometime soon, 
because he will be under the primrose moons, 
with me. If you should scold him he might set 
off vagabonding again and hide in a priest's 
body and then there is no sort of telling when 
you could find him. And you must not try to 
make him tell you anything that happens in the 
Land of the Primrose Moons. 

You can not imagine, my good Unknown, how 
joy flowers in that magic land! It flowers like 
those white-winged Cupid-chains which Boucher 
loved to paint in that luxurious city by the Seine, 
and which Watteau wreathed about the masts 
of the ships which carried travelers to the Isle 
of Venus. When the spring wind blows, your 
soul longs for the primrose moons and me. 
Under those mimic moons our wishes float visi- 
bly near us, like blown cigarette smoke, turning 
and twining until they change into the blue 
riband love-knots and the fadeless roses of 
Versailles. 

I will describe for you sometime the adven- 



74 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

tures of your soul. And then I will explain what 
happened to your body when your soul ran 
away. It left you in a more pitiable condition 
than that of Peter Schlemihl, who lost only his 
shadow. In the meantime I advise you to be 
very good! When your soul is gone you can not 
find The Primrose Land and me. I should 
not mind at all meeting you there at dusk, when 
some old lost planet of pleasure swings near 
enough to the earth again to throw its intoxicat- 
ing, rosy light over us. 

E. 



UPON THE PLAINS 



s, 



JPRING IS HERE! I CAME TO MEET IT. 
And I was just in time. I found it had been wait- 
ing for me. 

And my prairie garden! I wish you could see 
it. You reply coldly that you never heard of a 
garden upon the prairie and that the age of mira- 
cles has passed. You tell me that in your child- 
hood's geography Kansas was represented by a 
sand-colored oblong dotted with black dots 
across which was printed "The Great American 
Desert." 

I agree with all that. But in an older and a 
wiser book it had been promised that the desert 
shall bloom like the rose. Come and see for your- 
self what has happened! Kansas has fields of 
yellow grain and its harvests help feed the world. 

I know of course that a garden should belong 
to an aristocrat of wealth and leisure. What 
could it have in common with an humble prairie 
dweller like myself! One recalls too readily other 
gardens . . . the gardens of San Marco, where 
Lorenzo the Magnificent established a school, 
whence came such geniuses as Angelo and Dona- 
tello; and those gayer gardens designed for 
Lorenzo's own personal pleasure in the grounds 
of Careggi. I recall the Borghese gardens, and 

77 



78 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

the nightingales, and that Babylonian wonder, 
which was planned by a king to console his 
homesick queen for the flowers and the fountains 
of Medea. There were the gardens of Bachtsai 
Serai where the Tartar Khan kept his beautiful 
prisoners; Pushkin has pictured them, and 
Lermontov, and Mickiewicz. Some of the im- 
portant moments of the world have had their 
beginning in gardens. From an old garden of 
Greece came a philosophy that has almost equalled 
Christianity in consoling man for the wounds of 
life and its briefness. It was in a garden of 
India, amid the roses of the East, that man 
first learned to find wisdom in meditation. It 
was in such a place that Sheik Sa'adi, after a life- 
time of wandering through Arabia, India, 
Egypt sat down at last to rest and think, and 
to write the Gulistan, explaining as he did so: 
"From an hundred gardens I gathered the rose- 
blooms." 

In the golden days of Rome it was where 
Augustan men of fashion, like Horace and Catul- 
lus, chose to entertain their friends. There was 
no place they considered so distinguished and so 
pleasure-giving. Ovid, in exile, longed sadly for 
those old, gay gardens of Rome, from which in- 
discreet love for a woman of the Caesar's family 
had banished him forever. It was in the gardens 
of Versailles that great ladies and gentlemen met 
to talk and jest, and to play elegantly with word 



UPON THE PLAINS 79 

and phrase, until they made of their language the 
most perfect instrument in existence for conver- 
sation. And the sound of that language to-day; 
Monsieur, mademoiselle, can you not see in the 
words the gallant bow of a courtier? Courtesy 
can not fade from the world as long as the French 
tongue lasts. 

To these same gardens of France came in a 
later day such artists as La Touche, Ciardi, Ru- 
sifiol and Le Sidaner, and poets like Merril and 
Jammes, to gather some of the superabundant 
glory of the past. In bleak and rainy Scotland, 
the Scotland of the stern Dissenters' faith, it was 
the luxurious gardens of France that Mary Stuart 
regretted most. Even Voltaire, that scorner of 
things sacred and bitter wit, who spent his life 
as the ornament of a drawing room, makes his 
Candide say: "The best thing we can do is to 
cultivate a garden." 

Lord Bolingbroke, despoiled of titles and honors 
and in disgrace, consoled himself by making a 
garden. He wrote about it to Swift: "I am 
in my own farm. Here I shoot strong, tenacious 
roots. I have caught hold of the earth, to use a 
gardener's phrase, and neither my enemies nor 
my friends will find it an easy matter to trans- 
plant me again." Gay, the poet, so Taine de- 
clares, was merely "a gardener at heart, delighted 
to see the spring arrive, happy to be able to 
enclose an extra field in his garden." 



8o LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Ulysses visited a quite remarkable one. I can 
not recall another like it. (Seventh Book of the 
Odyssey.) Trees grew there whose fruit never 
perished winter or summer. There a warm west 
wind blew continually, opening fresh buds and 
ripening fruit. The house set in this garden was 
not unworthy attention. The walls were noble. 
The door posts, the pillars and the threshold 
were silver, while the doors themselves were of 
gold. 

The Japanese insist that the word beauty be- 
longs so thoroughly to the gardens of their is- 
lands that we have no right to use the word until 
we have visited them. 

Of course my garden is like none of these. It 
is just a small space of ground upon the prairie. 
But now blue grass grows here, and some old- 
fashioned flowers, which memory makes pleasant 
to me. Maples of fair size surround it, and occa- 
sionally birds come. 

Should you see my unpretentious frame dwell- 
ing, by the side of the sandy road, you would 
naturally wonder that I take pleasure in it. But 
the windows of my dwelling do not look upon the 
lonely prairie, as you may imagine, but upon the 
populous universe. From the windows of this 
dwelling I can watch the procession of the ages 
pass me like a pageant. If you should call upon 
me I could not show you, to be sure, a stately 
mediaeval garden of old France, like that where 



UPON THE PLAINS 8l 

Ronsard dwelled. I could not point out to you 
a French chateau like that of Perigord, where 
Montaigne wrote his cynicisms. I could only 
show you a little square of grass beneath the 
maples, where I idle away the days, and where 
in my own peculiar manner, I pursue that phan- 
tom that men call happiness. 

E. 



1 HERE IS ONE RAGGED ARISTOCRAT 

in my garden, a Spanish dagger (the yucca 
plant). She ran away on the wild winds of spring 
from the rainless, cacti-dotted deserts. The plant 
has a tower of white, or better, ivory-hued lilies, 
as high as my head, surrounded by black-green 
leaves so stiff and glittering they resemble rows 
of swords. And the lily bells though lovely 
are strong and of tough tissue that no stress of 
sun and wind can destroy. Northern lilies that 
are tall and lovely have soft flexible leaves of a 
moist and pleasant green, and a blossom cup of 
fragile satin. 

My Spanish aristocrat stands alone in the 
center of the garden, haughty and domineering. 
I believe in social equality even among flowers, 
and I would dispense with her gladly if I could. 
She does not permit me to approach,* nor to enter 
her charmed circle because her black sword points 
are sharp and obtrusive. She lacks sensitiveness 
and kindness. She lacks approachableness and 
flexibility. In addition, the atmosphere spread 
abroad by my pseudo Spanish aristocrat is tragic 
and out of the emotional range of my gossipy 
little flowers. She recalls sun-baked deserts 

82 



UPON THE PLAINS 83 

where men die of thirst; rainbow-tinted cliffs, 
and the frozen forest of stone. My friendly 
little flowers do not like her any better than 
I do. They are afraid of her. She is haughty, 
high of head, and frigidly correct. She does not 
even permit a frolicsome, impertinent weed to 
come near. An empty space of sand encircles 
her. I haven't a flower that would dare en- 
croach for a brief call. 

She is deservedly unpopular in the garden. 
Never for a second does she relax in dignity. 
The flowers do not like to chat and gossip when 
she is within hearing. They feel that she looks 
down upon them with scorn. Sometimes in 
April or May, that old roue, the South Wind, 
who has deceived generations of flowers, puts on 
his most smiling manner and offers to play for 
a party. The little foolish flowers lose their heads 
and hearts at sight of him. They bow and smile 
and swing their petticoats. But the Spanish 
aristocrat will have nothing to do with him. She 
will not even incline her head. Throughout the 
dance she ignores him. She even pretends that 
she does not hear the fluting of the South Wind. 
This makes some of the flowers angry and they 
turn their backs on her. Of course it would be 
better for every one concerned, if she would make 
believe once in a while that she enjoyed the 
music of the South Wind, when the other flowers 
enjoy it so much. He is the most popular musi- 



84 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

cian we have here in April. He has taught charm- 
ing dance-steps to the prairie flowers. Under his 
tutelage the Sensitive Rose has become a verita- 
ble ballet queen. 

Yesterday when the snub-nosed pansies and 
those bold, buxom beauties, the hollyhocks, 
spoke to her, she refused to answer. This caused 
such a feeling of anger and dissension, that the 
flowers insist that I reprimand her. So to-night, 
on one of the sharp, dagger points that guard her 
after the manner of a French troubadour of 
old I am going to fasten this message: 

Swing a little, dance a little, 

White Lily, 
Summer's here, be not so frigid, 

Nor queenly, 
Deign to bend upon the grasses 

Thy white face, 
Send not all thy sweetness skyward, 

Into space, 
Let thy sister /lowers see once, 

Thy heart's gold, 
Lady Lily, do thou hasten! 

Suns grow old. E. 



I 



AM SENDING YOU A STORY OF SPRING 

to-day, just the kind of a story that should come 
from a garden. When you look up at the stars 
at this season of the year you will remember it 
and then perhaps you will think of me who 
procured for you some of the joys of the mind. 

In India the Holy there is an ancient book 
which is called the Mahabharata. Indeed so 
sacred is this book that it is kept among the gods 
in the two heavens which are directly above, 
and only a few numbers have been entrusted to 
the hands of men. No one can tell how many of 
these books are upon the earth, nor how long they 
will be permitted to remain here. 

Within the Mahabharata there are other books, 
and books within books. In the beginning of 
that one which is known as "The Third Part" 
is another which is called "The Book of the 
Forest." Now this in itself is a remarkable book, 
because it was written neither by the hands nor 
by the thoughts of men. It was written by the 
leaves of the forest. It is the heart-story, the 
dear memory, the pleasant diary of the leaves of 
the Indian trees. It is the record of what they 
whispered to each other in the silence of blazing 
noon-tides, when not even the serpent dare slip 

85 



86 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

abroad. It is the record of what they whispered 
softly under the prodigious splendor of Indian 
moons and stars, and the velvet, purple mid- 
nights of the East. 

Just above, but quite near this earth upon 
which we live, there is a little unnamed star, 
which we can not see plainly, because our eyes 
are not made to look upon the dwellings of im- 
mortals. Upon this star the great gods dwell, 
Siva, and Vishnu .... The star moves about 
anywhere through space at the command of their 
wishes, just as trees bend at will of the wind. 
By the edge of this star as it speeds along the 
sapphire roadways of the sky, the great gods 
recline at ease, like a luxurious lady by the win- 
dows of her limousine. 

Sometimes God Vishnu commands: "To the 
Milky Way!" Then they go sailing around those 
level islands that are made of silver, scentless 
flowers. Or God Ganesa calls: "To the Great 
Bear!" And it is there they go. They pull his 
tail to make him wink his eyes, and then the gods 
laugh, and are happy. Or sometimes they sail 
between the shining claws of Scorpio, or away 
to bathe in the pink light of Venus, or to count 
the moons of Saturn. This is the way they amuse 
themselves the great gods. 

But there is one night in spring when things 
are different and the moon does not shine. Then 
there is an especial festival upon this star. It is 



UPON THE PLAINS 87 

the night God Siva dances. Now the hairs of the 
head of Siva are each a long black serpent. First 
he gets up slowly from his reclining position by 
the edge of the sapphire roads and stretches his 
long arms lazily, and his legs, which are weary 
with sitting. Then one by one he plucks the 
serpents of his hair and stands each serpent erect 
on his tail upon the ground. Upon his head which 
is now bare, he places the sickle of the young 
moon, which gives little light. When this is done 
God Siva and the army of black snakes begin to 
dance. First, slowly, slowly. The serpents sway 
like a blackened field of grain, which the light- 
ning has blasted. Then faster, faster they dance, 
taking up more and more room on the tiny star, 
until there is almost no place for the other gods. 
They are obliged to cling to the sides for fear 
they will fall off. The faster he moves the more 
difficult does the dancing become for God Siva. 
Because if he is not careful, and does not step 
lightly, his feet will crush the star to dust, and 
then no longer would the gods have a home. 
Then there would be nothing but an abyss. And 
he must be careful about swinging his arms, or 
he will put out the candles of the stars, and the 
sun, too, which is on the other side of the earth. 
And then there would be darkness. And he must 
be careful where he looks lest the light of his 
eyes set worlds on fire the worlds of gods and 
the worlds of men. 



88 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

The other gods are angry, and the God of War 
turns loose his glittering, eye-dotted peacocks of 
the orange-circled throats, which are enemies of 
serpents. Across the star of the dancing snakes 
they march in battle array, with outspread tails, 
and erect, angry, splendid crests. With them 
Indra sends his echoing thunder which the pea- 
cocks love, and which strengthens their hearts 
and inspirits them. When the dancing serpents 
hear the thunder and see the peacock battle-host 
coming nearer, they fall limply to the ground 
and writhe and twist with fear. Then Siva stops 
the dance. He bends and whispers to them. 
At his word they turn and slip away toward the 
God Ganesa, who has the head of an elephant. 
They crawl up his legs. They cover them. They 
swing like black silken ribbons from his huge 
ears where they hide, and the peacocks can not 
find them to destroy them. 

Then the face of the elephant-headed Ganesa 
begins to be covered with a sweet and yellow 
honey, and suddenly the entire expanse of the 
star is blotted and blurred beneath a swarm of 
golden bees. The Dance-God, Siva, drops wearily 
upon his couch and takes down from his brow 
the young moon which he reaches out to hang 
upon the sky. The gods see that this is the first, 
yellow, languorous moon of Spring. The hoarse- 
throated peacocks begin to call, just as they do 
on days of the early year, for the rain to come. 



UPON THE PLAINS 89 

The thunder echoes louder. The golden bees 
are frightened, and they leave the face of God 
Ganesa, and the dripping honey, and fall down 
the night. 

They fall on and on through dense, black leagues 
of space, until they reach the Earth. We have 
seen them on windy nights of Spring and called 
them falling stars. Now when I see them I think 
something different and I say: "God Siva is 
weary with dancing and has lain down to rest 
by the sapphire roads." 

When the gold bees reach the Earth, they run 
to the trees and the flowers. They run across the 
level fields. They whisper: " Awake! Awake! . . . 
the Spring is here!" 

The white water-lily opens her eyes. The jas- 
min unfolds. The Kokila which is the Indian 
nightingale begins to sing. The pink lotus 
on the blue water spreads open; out of it steps 
Lakschmi, the Goddess of Love, and the 
Indian Spring is born. E. 



I 



HAVE VISITS FROM QUITE A NUMBER 

of birds. And there are not many trees in this 
part of the state to provide housing for them. 
There are slender, graceful, grey-feathered scissor- 
tails, and catbirds. The last are particularly 
talkative. They chatter like monkeys from 
morning till night. Redbirds, which are vicious 
of temper, wild canaries, orioles, blue jays, black- 
birds, robins, swallows, sparrows, and occasion- 
ally martins and mocking birds. 

The blue jay, which in the north likes to live 
deep within the forest, is less solitude-loving 
here. He is sociable and enjoys people, and really 
seems to take an interest in what they say. He 
not only insists upon being in town, but upon 
building his nest just as near to the houses as 
possible. There are eight or ten in my maples 
some summers. If you touch their nests or young, 
they will fly at you and attack you, just as fear- 
lessly as if you were a bird enemy. The redbird 
is bad tempered, too. His one little phrase of 
song reminds me of a unique decoration drawn 
by a Japanese painter. In the early days when 
there were not so many houses the mocking bird 
was a daily visitor. He was so talkative he made 

90 



UPON THE PLAINS 91 

up for lack of people. I do not see them often 
now. 

To-night in my maple-shaded yard the fire-flies 
are abroad. They dot the darkness under the 
trees. Soon before me will spread that promised 
land which La Touche always felt a desire to 
paint. I shall see white feet scampering away 
into shelter and shadowed grace of forms. I, 
too, have a liking for the things that are superior 
to reality. I like to disdain the dominance of 
fact. 

While I sit here cpiietly in the darkness listen- 
ing, I think that it is good to have lived, even 
without wealth and power and the glitter of 
things that men call great, because always there 
will be night and stars and sleep, and the splen- 
dor of white day. 

E. 



w, 



E HAD A STORM LAST NIGHT A 

tragic and triumphant one. Black billows were 
piled to the dome of the sky until they looked 
like the wall of a world. They were edged with 
an angry, defiant bronze color. Silence spread 
over the prairie and a threatening light. This 
light brought the strangest colors to my garden. 
It was really for a moment as if I had never seen 
it before. 

Then with a rush and a roar the wind swept 
down. It blurred mile-long levels with indis- 
tinguishable dust. Rain followed. It was bright 
and cold as ice. It swept the grey, prairie grass 
into a white flight of fear. It cut splendid, long, 
white, slanting lines across the sky. It was full 
of joy and fury and abandon. It leaped cold 
and white as an ecstatic dancer on to the plain. 
It both terrified and gladdened my garden. Nig, 
my black cat, enjoyed it and watched it with 
green, shining eyes. 

As I finish this letter, writing out of doors in 
the grape arbor, I recall more or less appro- 
priately the last words of a letter of Horace, 
written from his Sabine farm to an absent friend 
in Rome: "These words I dictate to thee behind 
the mouldering temple of Vacuna, happy in all 
things, save that thou wast not with me." E. 

92 



A 



TRIP ACROSS THE PLAINS OF KANSAS 
on the train is not altogether uninteresting. It 
would not be even to you who have been every- 
where and seen everything. Difference might 
serve as interest. This great, mid-continent 
monotony is paintable, too. 

There are flat-topped hills, uniform in size, all 
pointing southwestward, toward the greater 
deserts beyond. Kansas must have been the 
bed of an ocean. Deposits in the limestone prove 
it, and the natural configurations, which make 
you feel that you are performing the feat of rid- 
ing across the bottom of a dried-up ocean, as 
nameless and forgotten as those that yawn 
blackly toward you from the caverns of the moon. 
Instead of fields of grain, once leagues of water 
swayed here. And I have seen these grain fields 
ripple like the tides. Indeed the land undulates 
like frozen waves. 

I like these vast, lonely levels where the eye 
is unimpeded and where hindrances are not so 
visible. It will breed a race some day skil- 
ful in overcoming obstacles, and devoted to the 
freedom of the human spirit. T* 



HE SKY WAS SO BLUE TO-DAY THAT 

we decided to take a journey together, you and 
I. I said: "Where shall we go?" 

You replied: "To find something as blue as 
the sky." 

I agreed cheerfully. We started. We climbed 
up, up the winding, perilous mountain road that 
leads from the Persian Gulf to the high land of 
the interior. There we crossed a valley set on 
the top of a mountain, until we approached 
another valley and an earth-walled city named 
Shiraz. It was spring. The little city was 
buried in roses, the fabulous pink roses of Persia. 

In order to make sure of entering the city 
safely and without opposition, you suggest that 
we stop outside the walls at a caravansary and 
buy clothing in order to dress as do the people 
who dwell there. I agree with your plan. It 
seems good. Soon you have on a long, flowing 
garment tightly wrapped about you, and a tower- 
ing, black, high-tilted bonnet. I have on loose, 
silken trousers, a black veil that covers me from 
head to foot, and a little white mask over my 
nose. Thus arrayed we set out for the city. You 
admonish me scornfully: "You must not forget 

94 



UPON THE PLAINS g5 

your promise, which was to show me something 
that is as blue as the sky!" 

I reply: "Follow me! You shall not be disap- 
pointed." 

I walk swiftly ahead, turning and turning around 
corners, in the walled, twisting streets of Shiraz. 
There are other black phantoms in this street. 

You can not tell readily which is I. You are 
looking so busily to find out that you do not see 
the city at all. I slip up to you and whisper in 
your ear: "Look there!" 

I point with my finger. There, down a crooked 
street, is a mammoth mosque made out of a 
single turquoise, beside the austere, ashen moun- 
tain summits of Persia. Without and within it 
is covered with a wonderful enamel as deeply 
rich and as even in tone as a gem. 

I enter. You follow me. As far as one can 
see across its smooth, mosaic, level floor there 
are black phantoms, like myself, kneeling in 
prayer. You hasten to join the kneeling phan- 
toms and you lose me. When, their prayers 
being ended, they begin slowly to go away, you 
join the moving crowd and try to find me. You 
walk about in the attempt to see one who in 
some way suggests me. I see where you are and 
I elude you and elude you. At last the phantoms 
are gone all but one. You know that that one 
must be I. You start toward me and attempt 
to reach me, but I float away and away from you, 



96 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

under the farthest edge of the jeweled dome. 
Still you follow. Still I elude you. At length, 
just as you are about to reach me, the sonorous 
voice of a muezzin calls the prayer of noon: 
Allah il allah! Mahmoud rasul allah. 

Then you catch me. You throw back my 
long, black veil. But the veil floats from under 
your hands and falls limply upon the mosaic 
floor at your feet. Beneath it you find nothing 
tangible, nothing but a pleasure-made creation of 
your mind. And the phantom whispers: "There 
is another god beside Allah, and the name of 
that god is joy." You rush with me out of the 
mosque and away. You say that you can not 
endure longer the melancholy, confining walls 
of the ancient city. Once outside, where the 
fresh wind comes nimbly and unimpeded from 
the mountains, and the vision of the eye is un- 
hindered, you find me again, merry, dressed just 
as of old. At once I say to you: "Look there I 
The ruins of some ancient palace!" 

You follow with your eyes my pointing fingers 
across the field of nodding poppies, and see them 
too. You say we must visit the ruins and inform 
ourselves about them. You signal to a man 
passing with saddled mules. We mount eagerly 
in happy anticipation, and a guide leads the 
way to the palace of the tall, slender columns. 

It is a long ride across the field of white poppies. 
With the unaided eye one can not estimate dis- 



UPON THE PLAINS 97 

tances in this shining air of the summits, under 
this unflecked sky. When we reach the ruins of 
the palace and you have examined them for a 
while, you exclaim : " Surely, this was Persepolis I " 

I catch my breath with surprise and ecstacy. 
I had not thought such a thing could be possible. 
Persepolis! Then Thais once stood here and 
looked up at these same gaunt mountains! 

Hastily I dismount and join you. Together 
we climb the steps, as hugely outspread as the 
terraced side of a mountain, and stand upon the 
noble platform of the ancient palace. Here we 
search among the ruins as if at some unheard 
command. At length I find a little marble box 
that had once been rimmed with metal, which 
the flames could not destroy on that fateful night 
when one of the wonders of creation was burned. 
We succeed at length in opening it together, you 
and I. Within there is a tiny piece of white 
stone upon which is chiseled the features of Thais, 
and love letters written upon wrinkled papyrus 
love letters written by a Greek sculptor to 
Thais. Ah! such letters . . . such letters! This 
sculptor, we learn, was the friend of Menander, 
the poet. It was from him that he learned to 
write with grace. 

You are lost in meditation. You forget your 
admiration for the noble ruin upon which we 
stand. At length you turn to me with the star- 
tling question: 



98 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

" Do you suppose we have found the reason that 
made her drive Alexander the Conqueror to 
burn this Persian palace?" Of course! At last 
the secret is out. She was homesick for Greece 
for the caresses of that artist lover. (I am 
going to send to you in translation soon the 
letters of this Greek sculptor.) 

You see, my good Unknown, if she had not 
been real, but only a phantom of pleasure, this 
destruction would not have taken place. It is 
better you must admit that they should remain 
invisible, or wear black veils always over the 
face. 

E. 



HE RED ROSES ARE IN BLOOM! I 
leaned out of my window at sunrise and saw 
them. They are tall and dark and haughty. 
They are flushed with pride. They are clad in 
royal satin. They are of a triumphant, glorious 
red. In their imperious color I can learn to 
understand the passions that inspired prodigious 
crimes. 

A red like this burned upon the face of perilous 
Circe. A red like this walled and draped the 
chamber where Borgia, of the great, gold hair, 
meditated poisons that were imperious and sub- 
tle. And some are just the hue of the wine-red 
tourmalines of California. 

My roses are lovelier this morning than those 
fabulous roses of Carthage which were "so 
lusciously yellow and red." 

E. 



I 



WISH YOU COULD SEE MY GARDEN 

at night under the prairie moon. The moon is 
lovelier here than in your pale, northern city. It 
is larger and yellower, and leans in a more friendly 
manner toward the earth. As I sit here watching 
it rise far away in the depths of a bright seren- 
ity I recall the petulant complaint of Leopardi 
(suggested by your letter, asking me to tell you 
what I know of him) that human grief can not 
dim its brightness. In complying with your 
request I am giving, more or less verbatim, a 
sort of running commentary from what the 
critics of his country have written about him. 
(No, he would not be suitable for your first read- 
ing of Italian. He is un pen difficile, and of a 
manner too coldly chiseled. Find a writer of 
an easier, more every-day speech.) 

The self in Leopardi was so strong, so insistent, 
that no matter what his surroundings, he could 
not resist making the personal application. Not 
in any work of the mind great scholar that 
he was not even in the presence of those an- 
tique marbles he loved and understood, could he 
forget himself and be happy. His was the exact 
opposite of the cultivated mind of the Orient. 

100 



UPON THE PLAINS IOI 

He had not learned with Faust, that the way to 
find oneself, is first to lose oneself. 

All things that were enduring and eternal, and 
more than all, nature, with her power of continual 
rejuvenescence, was a reproach to him who must 
suffer, and grow old and die. It was this selfness 
that ate his health up and threw a gloom over 
his mind. It was this that made him hate the 
day, and his fellow men. It was this that made 
him the poet of night, and waste places, and the 
lonely moon. He had a feeling of sympathy for 
whatever was deserted as he thought that he 
himself was. The sky fascinated him, because 
of its remoteness from life. There was nothing 
about it to suggest a memory of man whom he 
hated. He loved it. But he was an exile from 
the dayh'ght world of normal living. He was a 
pessimist. His bitter wit and his pessimism he 
did not enjoy, as did Heine, La Rochefoucauld, 
and Voltaire. 

I can not blame him for this mental disease. 
People need happiness just as my garden flowers 
need sun. Leopardi happened to dwell where 
the sunshine fell but seldom. For that reason 
he lacked sweetness. The soul of him dwelled 
in a grey desert where there were neither trees 
nor flowers. He never knew the sun. He had 
that "mental unsoundness" which Macaulay be- 
lieved was necessary to the creating or the per- 
fect comprehending of poetry. With Macaulay 



102 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

he believed the modern world would be less and 
less able to write it. His mind was like the deso- 
late greyness of dawn before the sun has risen. 
All his terms of love and endearment were ex- 
pended upon the moon and the night the 
things that seemed to belong least to life, and 
to man. You can not find a lovelier poem any- 
where than his "Hymn of an Asiatic Shepherd 
to the Moon." 

Another cause of misery was his consuming 
fear of death. The thought of it held his mind 
with a relentless fascination, just as it held cap- 
tive the minds of Poe, Hoffman, Gautier, and 
Baudelaire, Schopenhauer and Lenau. His ear- 
liest verses bear witness to this. In addition, 
Leopardi's consciousness of the ephemeral nature 
of all conditions of living, paralyzed his ambition, 
and took away his happiness. His mind realized 
infinitude and vastness, and the littleness of the 
human animal. He saw the fact of death in all 
its terror of isolation, and friendship and love 
never enabled him to soften the view. He could 
not make any plan for life that would harmonize 
with the fact that he must die. The tragic fate 
of man was always in his mind. 

This attitude of thought impelled him to seek 
in literature the calmness of antique life, and it 
is one of the foundations for the building up of 
his Greek scholarship. He loved the calm, white 
figures that peopled the Hellenic world, because 



UPON THE PLAINS Io3 

they were so far away from the modern world he 
hated. He was so sensitive, so delicately tem- 
pered, that he had no interest in the ordinary 
affairs and amusements of life. He longed con- 
tinually for a beauty that has passed away from 
the world. Only the most ideal and sheltered 
living could have made him happy. His untiring 
study, his cultivation of the senses, made him 
able to appreciate in literature, as did Winkle- 
mann in plastic art, the work of the Greeks. In 
forming a literary style he acquired so perfectly 
Greek standards that he was not in sympathy 
with the Italians of his day. His constant prayer 
was: "La favilla antica rendi allo spirto mio." 

It is difficult to imagine such mental isolation. 
The life of Leopardi is the saddest I know. It 
illustrates at its bitterest the tragedy of loneli- 
ness. He could have said with Cleon: "Methinks 
I am the sadder for these many weary years I 
bowed my back which taught me art." 

Intellectually he has been compared with Bal- 
zac's hero in "Peau de Chagrin." The Italian 
critic who made this comparison writes: "In the 
pride of his youth, with the finest scholarly 
equipment of any man in Europe (When he was 
twenty Niebuhr said he could teach him nothing 
in classical philology) he dared not enjoy, dared 
not work, dared not permit his sensitive nerves 
the vibrations of pleasure which he knew would 
not only shorten his days but deprive him of 



io4 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

sight. He found it necessary to live as one dead." 
His countrymen have declared that in imitation 
of the Human Comedy, Leopardi should have 
written a Human Tragedy, because better than 
any one else he saw the horrors of men's souls. 
What an Oxford scholar wrote of the youth of 
Schopenhauer is true of Leopardi: "The lad had 
evidently the uncanny, Hamlet-like gift of pene- 
trating beneath the calm and smiling surface 
of life. He can not help seeing the skeleton that 
is grinning horribly in the closet. His is a kind 
of second sight. . . . The illusion, which en- 
velopes the living so that they pass unseeing, 
lightly over the crevasses of life, and over its 
dreary wastes, is already pierced for him, by 
sudden glimpses of insight into the mystery of 
the unseen." 

He was the mental giant of Italy. He towered 
above his countrymen in lonely grandeur. He 
had no feeling of kinship with them. He scorned 
their pleasures. He disdained their standards. 
He cared nothing for the beauty of women. He 
did not care for painting nor for splendidly 
colored objects. His ideal of beauty was the 
Greek ideal, the muscled bodies of men, bared 
for the games. (See " Un Vincitore nel Pallone.") 

In the realm of poetry he attained absolute 
perfection of form. His poems are like the 
marbles he loved, clear cut and hard. There is 
no color. His art is of line and weight. The 



UPON THE PLAINS lo5 

poems he has left are as flawless as Attic marbles. 
They are the naked thought stripped of adorn- 
ment. It is worth the eifort of learning the 
Italian tongue to read once such wordcraft. No 
other modern has so approached the classic 
manner. He reduced thought to its purest form. 
No one else has practiced concentration and 
elimination so relentlessly. 

He loved Italy and the Italian language. His 
scholarly knowledge has made richer the Italian 
tongue. It was a grief that ill health permitted 
him to do so little for the country that he loved. 
Writing to his friend and patron Giordano, he 
says: "There are so many things to be done in 
Italy now that it grieves me that I am so strait- 
ened and chained by evil fortune that I can do 
nothing. . . . There is the lyric to create (almost 
the entire nation, and the French in particular, 
call the ode the sonata of literature) and many 
kinds of tragedy, since Alfieri only gave us one. 
... In short the whole race to be run, and I, 
who received from nature sufficient ability to 
reach the goal, am held back in the prison of ill 
fortune, and deprived of even the hope of showing 
Italy something of which she neither knows nor 
dreams." 

The names of his poems are indicative of a 
peculiar mental detachment. We miss the happy 
exhilaration of a poet and the kindly, intimate 
memory of little things. "La Ginestra" (the 



106 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

flower of the desert), the lonely broom-plant that 
grows upon the slopes of Vesuvius; "The Night 
Song of an Asiatic Shepherd"; (This is a pagan 
hymn to the moon.) "The Solitary Sparrow"; 
" Appressamento della Morte"; "L'Epistola A 
Carlo Pepoli" (The soul-struggle of a man tor- 
tured like himself by thought of death.) 
"Amore e Morte"; " U Infinite; "Vita Solitaria." 
"Le Ricordanze" pictures his lonely childhood. 
It was written on his last visit home and it is a 
farewell to youth and to life. He tells us how 
night after night he sat alone watching for the 
coming of his beloved moon, and dreaming of the 
time when he would be permitted to cross the 
Apennines. 

Che dolci sogni mi spiro la vista 
Di quel lontano mar, quei monti azzurri, 
Che di qua scopro, e che varcare un giorno 
lo mi pensava, arcani mondi, arcana 
Felicita fingendo al viver mio! 

(What sweet dreams the sight of that far sea 
inspired in me, and the azure mountains which 
I could glimpse from here and which I longed 
to cross, picturing to myself mysterious happi- 
ness beyond.) 

The day came when he did cross the mountains. 
But he did not find anything beyond that he 
wanted. Pitiful is his wandering from city to 
city in search of a momentary respite from pain. 



UPON THE PLAINS 107 

Life in the splendid cities of Italy brought his 
frail body nothing but misery, and he was glad 
to turn back at last toward Recanati, where they 
called him il gobbo di Leopardi (Leopardi the 
hunchback). 

In almost every poem that he has written there 
is evidence of his love for the moon. Beautiful 
are these terms of endearment: silenziosa luna, 
vergina luna, intatta luna, Candida luna. It was 
fitting that his noblest poem "The Song of the 
Asiatic Shepherd" -and likewise that the last 
one that he wrote, "The Setting of the Moon," 
should be addressed to the moon which he had 
always loved. 

Leopardi came at length to believe that there 
is nothing worth while. In the labyrinths of his 
gloomy thinking he lost the incentive to live. 
As he grew older the fear of death assumed the 
proportion of a mania. It became a "fixed idea." 
His physical suffering and his mental terrors 
made him long to have it over with. The saddest 
letter in literature is the one he wrote to his 
father from his cottage on the slopes of Vesuvius 
shortly before he died. 

NAPLES, May 27, 1887 

My dearest Father: ... If I escape the 

cholera and my health permits I shall make 

every possible effort to see you before long. 

I am in haste because I am persuaded by 



I08 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

occurrences which I have foreseen for a long 
time, that the end prescribed by God to my 
life is not far off. 

My daily suffering has become so great 
that it can go no further. I hope that when 
at last the frail resistance of this wretched 
body shall be overcome, I shall be permitted 
to enjoy eternal rest, not because of personal 
bravery but because of the greatness of my 
suffering. ... I hope that after I have seen 
you all again that a speedy death will put 
an end to my misery which can not be helped 
in any other way. 

your loving son, 
GIACOMO 

Upon the fourteenth of the following month 
the death he prayed for came to him. 

This letter was written by the greatest classi- 
cal scholar in Europe and one of the world's 
perfect poets. 

E. 



w, 



ITH WHAT DISGUST AND DISAP- 

probation would my neighbors look at me, as I 
am sitting here idly in my garden, if they knew 
that I was dreaming of the face of a pagan woman 
to whom virtue was a thing unessential. 

I become weary of the stories which fiction 
writers try so hard to unfold for me, and I long 
for the hidden stories that no one has told, 
stories that are hinted at but never displayed, 
intimate stories not spoiled by the prying fingers 
of the world. I have a desire just now to know 
which one of the women mentioned in the pages 
of Horace was the one he loved. Their names 
are pleasant and I like to repeat them; Barine, 
Lalage, Lyce, Pyrrha, Neara, Cinara. I like to 
think of their faces, the crocus and violet gowns 
they wore, their Syrian and Indian perfumes. 
Who were they? What was their life? Were 
they of noble birth or did they belong to the 
people? What did they look like? What was 
the special charm of each? What were their 
amusements? What did they do during the 
long, unmarked Roman day? All that is left of 
them now is a name upon the verse of this so- 
ciety poet of Augustus. And these names may 

109 



110 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

have been fictitious, chosen to conceal the amours 
of great ladies of Rome. 

I have turned over pages of prints and engrav- 
ings, and wandered through art galleries look- 
ing at faces of pictured women to find some 
visible ideal for these antique beauties. I do not 
see why Tadema or Coomans could not have 
placed them among their marbles instead of those 
flat-footed English women with their dull Eng- 
lish eyes. 

Horace is not distinguished by a particularly 
kind feeling toward women. He knew only the 
women of pleasure of the imperial city. Women, 
to him, were of the same consequence as flowers 
upon the table, for the fleeting pleasure of a 
moment. He cared for beauty only at the mo- 
ment of its flowering. Of a better love, there is 
not a hint in Horace. For friendship for which 
he had a talent men satisfied him. They were 
dearer to him. In addition, his nature was philo- 
sophical and a little cold. He was too indolent 
to give himself over to a passion. He was one of 
the last and perfect examples of the cultivated 
pagan. After his death only six years were to 
elapse before the birth of Christ. And that other 
similar religion of the East, that taught pity and 
kindness, was now old by five hundred years, 
and its influence had not been felt in Rome. 

Horace has pictured women of pleasure grow- 
ing old, but there is no pity in his words. How 



UPON THE PLAINS III 

differently Villon wrote of them! And he, too, 
was of Latin blood. But life had dealt differently 
with Villon. It had taken all the bitterness and 
scorn out of his heart, until every thing human 
touched him. In addition, in Villon's day the 
pagan world was dead, another cycle of civiliza- 
tion had come, and one that was prone to repen- 
tance and tears. And Villon did not write in 
that courtly, cold, chiseled Latin, but in an 
humble, commonplace speech which was sym- 
pathetic to life's shabby griefs. His pictures of 
poor, old, faded women of pleasure, are true, but 
they were drawn with a heart that suffered. 

Horace tried to arrange his life just as Goethe 
did, to procure for himself the greatest amount 
of leisure and calm. He was always more or less 
occupied in an attempt to banish disturbances. 
He spent his days in a sort of late autumn calm. 
Yet when he grew old (He died in the fifties.) 
it is play and love and wine that philosophical 
Horace regrets. He was like Thackeray who 
thought that youth was the only thing worth 
regretting all one's days. 

Of these women, which one did indifferent 
Horace love? Which one held his heart? I like 
to think that it was Cinara. To me one of the 
most fascinating love stories in the world is the 
one hinted at in five little lines, in five separate 
and distinct poems of Horace, between the writ- 
ing of which long intervals of years intervened. 



112 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

The first mention is in the first poem in the 
fourth book of odes. This poem is addressed 
to Venus, whom he begs to spare him, because 
" I am not as I was under the good reign of Cinara." 
He goes on to explain that he is nearing fifty 
now and too hardened for soft commands. This 
proves that Cinara belonged to the days of his 
youth, and that after her all things changed. I 
should like to know just what he meant by the 
word good. Perhaps it was kindhearted, or not 
avaricious. He had probably remembered her 
for more than a quarter of a century, and it is of 
her he thinks first in connection with love and 
its delights, and youth. Then he advises Venus 
to go to the house of Paulus Maximus, who is 
handsome and young, and rich and noble, where 
she can be fittingly entertained under marble and 
a citron dome, near the Alban lake, and where 
there shall be music of the lyre and the Bere- 
cynthian pipe. Perhaps it was in a palace like 
this where he first met and loved Cinara, in that 
vanished youth which he now seems to regret. 
Paulus Maximus probably recalls to him his own 
youth and its passionate pleasures. Later on in 
this same poem he declares sadly, but without 
bitterness: "As for me neither youth nor women, 
nor to contend over the wine with fresh garlands 
on my temples delights longer." The ode closes 
with this exclamation to Venus: "I clasp thee in 
my dreams of night caught up in my arms; I 



UPON THE PLAINS Il3 

clasp thee in ray dreams of night flying across 
the Campus Martius, and I pursue thee, cruel 
one, through the rolling water." Emotion like 
this is rare in Horace. 

Horace considered himself an old man when 
he was not fifty. The wasteful pagan world 
loved youth so, that it thought nothing worth 
while but its first freshness. And the dissipa- 
tion of Roman youths in those last fleeting 
years of the pagan world exhausted them and 
made them old. Juvenal exclaims: "While we 
are calling for wine, women and garlands, old 
age steals on us unawares." 

The next mention of Cinara is in ode thirteen 
of the same book. It is in a poem to Lyce, and 
it is one of the bitterest he ever wrote. It makes 
him hard of heart to think that Cinara died and 
Lyce who scorned him lived on. This book 
was written on the threshold of old age, and it is 
evidently with Cinara that he connects his mem- 
ory of youth. He has grown old like Lyce, but 
she who died is still young and he thinks of her 
with a consuming regret. It is in a way his 
own leavetaking of youth. In Carmen XI of 
this book he exclaims: "I shall never again love 
another woman." It may have been the memory 
of Cinara that impelled him to write this. 

What was the age of Cinara when he knew 
her? Was it twenty, which Lope de Vega calls 
the age of enchantment in women? Of Lyce, 



Il4 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

who lived, he wrote coarsely: "What have you 
left of her who breathed love and who stole me 
away from myself, happy next to Cinara? But 
Fate gave few years to Cinara, intending to pre- 
serve Lyce to rival in years the aged raven." 
Cinara was evidently the standard by which he 
measured. These words ring with a peculiar 
hopeless sadness, for which for him, there could 
be no amelioration. 

We next find her in the seventh epistle of the 
first book. He is past fifty now. It is written 
to Maecenas, and we learn from it that the health 
of Horace is not good, that his hair is turning, 
and that old age is on the way. He craves his 
powerful patron's pardon for remaining so long 
away. He declares: "But if you would have 
me depart anywhere (meaning Rome) you must 
give me back my vigorous constitution and the 
black hair of my narrow forehead. You must 
give me back again the power to babble over my 
wine as at the jilting of that wanton Cinara." 
Then he goes on to unfold a little story the 
germ of which is: "I beseech you by your genius 
to give me back my former life!" Here again 
Cinara is the mainspring of regret. 

The last mention of her is in the fourteenth 
epistle of the same book. It is written to his 
steward blaming him for still longing for the 
old, gay life which they had known in Rome in 
their youth, and holding himself up as a model 



UPON THE PLAINS Il5 

of renunciation, exclaiming: "Me whom fine 
garments and dressed hair adorned, whom you 
know to have pleased venal Cinara without a 
price." His slave was his companion evidently 
in the old days and knew of Cinara. Who was 
Cinara? Was she a hetaira? She could not surely 
have belonged to that lower class of venal women 
called lupa, who cried their wares by the roadway. 
If his slave were handsome, she might not have 
despised him, because in Rome many things 
were possible and the attitude of the Greeks 
toward love was not yet dead. Where did he 
meet her? Where did he see her last? What 
was the cause of her early death? How did it 
affect him at the time? What had she been to 
him? Once he called her good, and now that he 
is old and weary he calls her wanton and venal. 
What was it that took her away from Horace? 
Was she a beauty so renowned that she attracted 
the eyes of Caesar? Was this the reason that he 
did not see her again and dared not complain? 
Was this her real name? If so, why do we not 
find it in other writers of the period, if she were 
a hetaira famous for beauty? 

Sometimes when I walk up and down my 
garden ways in the early evening, and the wind 
ruffles the blossoms like petticoats of silk, I fancy 
I catch a glimpse of her. Now, of course, she 
dwells with the flowers. In her brief girlhood 
she used to queen it royally with them, especially 



Il6 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

on the first of April, when began the great festi- 
val in honor of Venus, in one of those luxurious 
villas of Baiae which were built for love alone. 

Thus it is that I dream of the face of a pagan 
woman to whom virtue was a thing unessential. 
Pagan women should have been painted as the 
Japanese paint flowers, without a soul truth- 
fully but impersonally. It is a pity that there 
is not one whose face remains to-day! I wish 
that Pausias could have painted her as he did the 
mistress of Lucullus and that the picture had 
been preserved for me. I should like once to 
look into eyes in which there was no conscious- 
ness of grief, eyes that had not known fear, nor 
modern complexities. 

It has been said that a dream is greater than 
reality because its forms are infinite. I have 
had my dream of Cinara. It gives me pleasure 
to think of her dancing for Horace. And when 
she did, it made him think of fields of yellow 
spring flowers and swaying buttercups. It brought 
back the breath of the fields. There was some- 
thing about her that was detached and imper- 
sonal, that neither love nor dissipation could 
hold. It pleased him then, in the fervor of his 
youth, to take her away from her humble sur- 
roundings, to some splendid villa lent him, 
perhaps, by Maecenas and there set her beauty 
fittingly. There, under his direction, nimble- 
fingered tiring women dressed her, now in East- 



UPON THE PLAINS II? 

ern gauzes, now breasted and buskined with gems, 
but still she seemed cold and remote. Even at 
the feasts when she was crowned with the lapis 
that duph'cated her eyes and the penciled skill 
of art had been expended upon her, she was still 
an alien among them. He was the ornament of 
that epoch-making court of Augustus and yet 
Cinara did not feel flattered by his favor. Per- 
haps he knew that never once did his presence 
deepen the midnight of hey eyes. 

Was she pointed out as she passed along the 
streets of the imperial city, in a silk-curtained 
litter, as the love of Horace ? Was this something 
to be proud of which Cinara could not appreciate? 
Or did she love some one else, some one who was 
altogether different, who knew nothing of art 
and letters, of fair speaking, and fine and fastidi- 
ous distinctions, some muscled gladiator, some 
soldier returned from the battle of Philippi, who 
had nothing to recommend him but love and his 
muscular arms? Was it of such an one that she 
dreamed at the feasts ? Did impassioned exquisites 
say wonderful things to her as they reclined be- 
side her at the banquet? As they drank her health 
from an amber Sidonian glass studded with gems, 
did they weave impromptu fancies about the 
deep blue of her eyes and about her hair? And 
did the others forget then their jesting, and listen 
to the fragile carving of the ivory Latin with a 
fine understanding of its value, and a wistful, 



Il8 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

fleeting premonition that the end of this care- 
free, pagan world was not far away? And did 
they say how much more important the manner 
of saying a thing is, than the thing said? And 
did some one suggest that words are gems, and 
that their sound can give strange sensations? 
And Cinara? She was bored and wearied with 
all this. She dreamed the while of the kisses of 
some one else, who knew nothing of things like 
this, and of arms that were warm and strong. 

Although Cinara had lived but few years and 
was fair haired and slender, she could not have 
served as a model for a Flemish madonna nor a 
mediaeval virgin. The atmosphere of other cen- 
turies was upon her. There was a look in her 
eyes that the world of to-day does not know. 
Her hands were as lovely as Anne of Austria's, 
but they were pagan hands. They had not been 
taught the attitudes of prayer. Instead, they 
had tossed white doves and roses to the fanes of 
Aphrodite. 

Perhaps instead of the Horace we know, the 
somewhat cold, court poet of Augustan Rome, 
there was a Horace we see less frequently, a lyric 
poet, who consumed his genius in vain dreams in 
presence of the baffling beauty of Cinara, and 
who knew he could never pen upon the papyrus 
the impassioned words he said to her. 

E. 



A, 



.FTER ALL THAT I HAVE WRITTEN 

spring does not come so sweetly to the southern 
prairie. We really have no spring. The bright, 
glittering winter is to-day, and summer to-mor- 
row. In one night of magic the prairie is green. 
Upon it blossom strange flowers that I do not 
know. Wild plum and grape scent the air. 
Locust and catalpa trees turn white. Violets 
are blue beneath the scanty trees that border the 
rivers. Strange birds come back to timbered 
places. As snow melts in the Rockies, rivers are 
swollen to flood mark. Upon the yellow earth 
beside them lie sluggish bull-snakes three or four 
feet in length. There are miles of blossoming 
peach orchards of a marvelous pink, across which 
the south wind conies. But it is not so lovely 
as the misty spring of the north and the gaunt 
mountains that smoke with snow. 

With spring the Indians come from the reserva- 
tions to trade. The roads are black with proces- 
sions of prairie schooners, from which peer weary, 
hard-featured faces that can not be glad with 
spring. Buck Indians go by in numbers, driv- 
ing wild ponies for sale. Sometimes when I 
awake in the morning, I see an Indian's painted 
face pressed against the pane. E. 

ug 



s. 



IUMMER FALLS FIERCELY HOT. 
There is little rain. The air is yellow. The 
earth is yellow. The prairie loses its green. 
And always a bright, hot wind sweeps past from 
the south, a wind that glitters like steel. 

In the evening we ride out upon the prairie, 
which resembles a black, lustreless ocean under 
the night. Far out upon it, we stop our horses, 
and throw our heads back with delight, to enjoy 
the vast, unknown, black silences beyond. Al- 
ways here there is a certain exhilaration, an at- 
mosphere of youth and of triumph that makes 
undesirable things seem temporarily distant. I 
am enchanted by the beauty of the prairie nights. 
I lie awake to watch their changing phases; dew- 
less glittering. 

The blistering day, too, is a thing of beauty, 
despite the corn that is shriveling and the cattle 
crazy with thirst. The ground in the orchards is 
covered with bursting yellow peaches showing 
hearts like suns. 

After a payment on the ranches, the cow-boys 
come to town to amuse themselves. At night 
they dance outside the saloons, riotously the 
awkward dances of the plains, with half-breed 



UPON THE PLAINS 121 

women, who wear their black braids tied under 
their chins, with prostitutes, with wind-browned 
creatures who cook upon the great ranches. 
Three-fingered Jack plays the fiddle, and Monte 
Tom calls off the figures. The cow-boys dance 
with their hats on and jingling spurs. They 
have hard, sharp features and the tiny waists 
of women. When they ride away at dawn toward 
the ranches, it is with bestial cries and the dis- 
charge of revolvers into the empty air. In the 
cool shade of a building almost any afternoon 
you can see a group of half naked Indians gamb- 
ling at monte, all squatting upon the ground. The 
hands in which they twirl the cards are finely 
shaped and slender. Beside them are broken, 
gorgeously colored melons, with rows of black, 
shining seeds. 

E. 



ONE 



I AFTERNOON WHILE I WAS SITTING 

comfortably under the maples, shots flew over 
my head. A man came running in through the 
alley and fell not far away. A cot was brought 
from the house. The man died upon it. While 
he was dying a little woman in fluted silk and 
white lace ruffles came and stood beside him. I 
can not forget how sweetly blue her eyes were 
like gems. It was because of her that the man 
had been killed. When she went away again I 
noticed that little ropes of blood swung from 
the white lace ruffles at her wrists. But her eyes 
were just as happy and as sweetly blue as before. 
Gems, of course, can not grieve. 

The dead man they buried upon the prairie 
where one is forgotten like a pebble dropped into 
the sea. The man who killed him went to prison 
for a week or two. The little woman in fresh 
silks and laces fluttered on to another border 
town, and fresh conquests. Was not that better 
than to die? Life has possibilities. Death has 
none. 

Nothing lasts long upon the plains. Drouths, 
prairie fires, Indian uprisings, deaths, pass into 
the realm of things inconsequential in a way that 
would amaze an easterner. 

133 



UPON THE PLAINS 128 

On this dry, grass table-land, which is Kansas 
the pedestal upon which the Rockies are 
placed across which tirelessly nerve-racking 
winds sweep, the people have a certain mental 
exhilaration that is common to no other locality. 
The dry, intense light of the high plains affects 
the nerves through the eyes, causing a peculiar, 
distorting optimism. No one who lives here 
long escapes it. The penniless wanderer feels it 
quite as much as the prospective millionaire. 
(All people here are prospective millionaires.) 
They are literally drunk on air. Before their 
minds floats the mirage of a rose-colored future 
that annihilates poverty and the present. Even 
old people know it, too, this vision couleur de rose. 
Since people, like plants, are at mercy of the soil, 
it is the primal cause of the Kansan's extrava- 
gances. It accelerates life. It makes corn, cab- 
bages, and cranks grow equally well. 

E. 



I 



LOVE THE LEAVES. I NOTICED FOR 
the first time to-day how the light that falls upon 
them is changing. It is yellow. It is the color 
of regret. This morning, too, I heard a strange 
wind in the trees. In its voice there was con- 
cealed a threat. At sound of it fear crept over 
my garden. Occasionally maple leaves flutter 
down. They flutter slowly, as if loth to go. 

Do you remember how Madame de Sevigne 
loved the leaves? When she grew old and lonely 
and was less amused by the life at court she 
used to make a sort of pilgrimage to the wooded 
lanes of Livry to say goodbye to them. " I have 
come to spend the last fine days and to say good- 
bye to the leaves. They are still upon the trees. 
They have only changed color. Instead of being 
green they are like a sunrise a many-colored 
sunrise." Thus, she, with the grace of that 
fluent old French tongue whose mistress she 
was wrote to Bussy-Rabutin in an eventful 
autumn late in the Great Century. 

E. 



124 



I 



AM THINKING OF IDLE PEOPLE TO- 

day. Idleness is not something indiscriminately 
to be reprimanded. In mediaeval Germany, 
there was a saying that he who can not rest and 
do just nothing at all for a time, is possessed of 
a devil. It is said, indeed, to be a characteristic 
of people of genius. Old Montaigne thought it 
was so necessary a part of life, that he declared 
he would rather his servants would steal a little 
from him occasionally, than constantly to subject 
himself to the annoyance of searching out the cul- 
prits and punishing them. In addition, it is 
good to step out of the procession once in a while, 
and rest, and watch it sweep by. To keep up a 
continual rush of energy and effort is to do per- 
manent injury to the silences that precede and 
follow us. 

To have nothing to do for a time was the long- 
ing of that kindly old court jester of the Medici, 
il mio diletto Berni. I recall the plaintive grace 
with which he says: "/o non sono persona punta 
ambiziosa." (I am not at all an ambitious person.) 
He would have found favor with Oscar Wilde, 
who asserted that ambition is the consolation of 
mediocrity, 

126 



126 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Here is a character for you and a charming 
one Berni! To Americans his name sounds 
like a new sauce for a beef-steak or an advertise- 
ment for a cordial. It is not so often heard in 
Italy now, although his words and some of the 
phrases he coined are incorporated in the body 
of the language. 

The Italians declare that their Tuscan wine 
loses its flavor if taken elsewhere. Berni is like 
it. He could not be acclimatized in our Saxon 
speech. He is for the improvisitori-loving Latins. 
He is peculiarly suited to their temperament. 
He was known as the man whose name sounds 
like a laugh riso simpatico. That is a gracious 
title to fame. It deserves to outlast the cen- 
turies. Horace thought that his name must be 
engraved upon lasting bronze. Pushkin thought 
the same. Berni chose something different, the 
hearts of his people. He was the good friend of 
the great men of the Quattrocento. We find him 
mentioned constantly in the letters of that period, 
and almost always with some term of endearment. 
To pauper and prince this humble Medicean 
jester was il mio divino Berni, mio dolce Berni, 
the prince of all the satirists, our divine and 
gentle Berni. I do not know of a character in 
literature who was so universally beloved by the 
people among whom he lived. 

There is a letter in existence written by Ilario 
"To All Christian Readers," which begins as 



UPON THE PLAINS 127 

follows: "Now in the days of Clement the 
Seventh, there lived for more than twenty years 
at the Court of Rome, one, Messer Francesco 
Berni, a man of letters, who was greatly beloved 
of all the city for the gentleness and grace of his 
nature." He was born late in the fifteenth cen- 
tury. His life continued on into that marvelous 
sixteenth century which bore the Renaissance to 
its climax, and then saw it fade away again 
far from the Tuscan hills among the fields of 
France, at the court of an indolent monarch. 
His native village was Lamporecchio, in the 
valley of Nievole, which he tells us was a pleasant 
place beyond the Arno. He went to Florence 
when he was quite young to procure work. He 
was unsuccessful and lived there in poverty until 
he was nineteen. At that time he became secre- 
tary to Cardinal Bibbiena, who was his uncle. 
He calls this the beginning of slavery. 

Now I quote more or less accurately what 
Berni has said of himself. He served the Medici 
or some member of their court as long as he lived. 
When his uncle died he was employed by the 
Bishop of Verona, who was chancellor to Leo 
the Tenth, a Medicean pope. Here he pauses 
to explain that he is stiU a slave who rebels against 
his chains. He detested his clerical duties which 
kept him on the go from morning till night. His 
wit and his charming personality made him a great 
favorite at the papal court, where the nights were 



128 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

spent in gambling and in dissipation of all kinds. 
He is always complaining of lack of rest. 

Berni was not at all the energetic, vigorous 
Tuscan; the indolence of the south was in him. 
He disliked effort of any kind, and loved only 
idleness and contemplation. When he was in the 
employ of the Cardinal he made a picture of him- 
self in a poem which I am going to take out of 
its verse-form and translate in free prose. It is 
pleasantly self-conscious and ingenuous. He com- 
plains that his days are spent with a bundle of 
the Cardinal's letters the size of his body under 
one arm, and a bundle of written orders just as 
large, under the other arm. He never had an 
opportunity to do anything that he wanted to. 
He was not even free at night just so long as there 
was any one awake about the palace who wished 
to be amused. Being the receptacle for other 
men's joys and sorrows, he never had a chance 
to have any of his own. And he had such diffi- 
culty to keep from falh'ng in love! Besides he did 
not think that he was at all bad to look upon, 
which made it more difficult. And he had a most 
amazing nimble tongue. In person he was tall, 
slender, dark, and swift and supple of motion. 
His eyes, however, were blue and there was a 
goodly space between them. He closes by ex- 
plaining that he feels sure that he might have 
grown a good mustache, if his master had not 
objected to his wearing it. 



UPON THE PLAINS I2Q 

I wish I could have seen that Florence to which 
Berni came from his little village beyond the 
Arno. They were busy there then. They were 
casting bronze, carving marble, hammering gold, 
and making colors glow on canvas. One of the 
gardens of time was in full flower. 

One of the things that interests me particu- 
larly, is the time that Berni's longed-for idleness 
came to him. It was during that terrible visita- 
tion of the plague which Manzoni depicts in "/ 
Promessi Sposi." Berni was in Rome at the 
time, secretary to Cardinal Bibbiena. At news 
of the approach of this loathsome disease, the 
church dignitaries and the rulers left. They 
snapped their fingers at calls of duty and priestly 
pity. The city was abandoned by the wealthy 
and the titled. Our gentle Berni was left alone be- 
hind. This was his first taste of leisure. This was 
the first tune in his hard-working life that he did 
not have to run at somebody's orders. What he 
writes of it shocks us at first and finally amuses us: 

" Quest e quel secol d'oro, e quel celeste 
Stato innocente primo di natura." 
(This is that Age of Gold and that 
Celestial, innocent, first state of nature.) 

The hideous harvest of death did not disturb 
him. He had a good time and he did not hesitate 
to say so. Not once he tells us was he 
out of bed before noon. He stretched himself 



l3o LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

out on his back in the Cardinal's luxurious cham- 
ber, and clapped his hands for the servants to 
bring him food and the Cardinal's choicest wines. 
Here all day long, within the splendid rooms of 
this renowned palace, he wrote his jests, his 
heart overflowing with merriment, and laughed 
and laughed, while outside in the streets, night 
and day, the drivers of great wagons called: 
"Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!" 

"Why should I not be happy? I fear the 
slavery of daily toil far more than I fear death. 
And suppose I die of it? At least I shall be per- 
mitted to die in peace. There will be no notaries 
standing about to make my will. There will 
be no meddlesome people to keep asking: Come 
stai? Come stai?" 

His poem descriptive of the plague is one of 
his most popular pieces. In it he gives a quaint 
opinion of the nature of the disease, which shows 
us the scientific knowledge of that day. He 
thinks it is a combination of all human ills, and 
that other diseases flow into it just as the rivers 
flow into the sea. When the plague came to an 
end, Rome's rulers came back. It was then the 
beginning of the carnival season. But our indo- 
lent jester did not even enjoy the carnival in the 
Eternal City. He could only regret the weeks 
that had preceded it, when he lay in bed half the 
day, and wrote his jests, and laughed, in that 
city reeking with death. He never ceased to 



UPON THE PLAINS l3l 

regret the time when he had been a great lord 
in deserted Rome. 

The mock dignity and numerous prefaces with 
which his book of verses begins, are partly of the 
age, and partly Berni's peculiar personality. The 
opening poem is by his friend II Lasca, who steps 
to the front and gravely speaks a little piece in 
honor of Berni, which is something like this: 
"All people whose hearts are not hard and un- 
kind, but sensitive and generous, must come 
and do honor to our Berni, whom the muses 
loved so greatly they made him the first trouba- 
dour and master of the burlesque poets. To 
compare him with Burchiello, the barber, would 
be like comparing Charon, the demon, with Ga- 
briel, the angel. This is followed by a still briefer 
poem by the same poet. Its title is "Whoso- 
ever Reads." It begins with a line of Petrarch: 

"Ye who listen to the varied rhyme of those 

caprices, 

Which Berni, the divine one, wrote 
Using the vulgar Tuscan tongue." 

He gravely assures us that all the Greek and 
Latin poets put together are not worth a sou 
when compared with Berni. Likewise he assures 
us that we may read the poems in all freedom, be- 
cause Berni never offends the tongue with any 
wantonness of Tuscan speech. We venture to 
place a considerable doubt upon this last assur- 



l32 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

ance. Berni now comes out and makes his own 
little bow. He introduces himself in a manner 
that reminds us of Montaigne's introduction to 
the "Essays." "I wish to tell you, good people 
all, that the one who wrote this book was not 
at all an ambitious person, and he snaps his fin- 
gers at your opinion. He wrote the book to suit 
himself and not to make his memory famous. He 
had to write it, because the thoughts knocked so 
hard at his head tnat they would get out. He 
had it printed because his friends at court worried 
him to death by borrowing his manuscripts. 

"0! give me your book a while! 
Do let me take it! " 

Now if they want it, let them go to a shop and 
buy it!" 

In the "Rime" we find good writing and merry 
Tuscan jests, and best of all, the exposition of a 
charming and sweet-tempered nature. The style 
is fine. It is elegant and flexible. Italian critics 
declare that he possessed all the graces of 
Catullus. 

Vasari painted his picture, and then wrote the 
following concerning it: "The picture in this 
oval is of Clement the Seventh, painted life size, 
in his pontifical robes. ... In the background 
I have painted many prelates and favorites among 
whom are . . . the Bishop of Verona and Messer 
Francesco Berni, a most witty poet. . . . 



UPON THE PLAINS l33 

Prince I am very glad to see him . . . because 
whatever he wrote was subtle and witty and 
charming." 

It had been prophesied grimly by priestly 
pedants that all the followers of this pagan 
Medicean court, who dressed life in a truly 
Augustan splendor, possessed some of the imperial 
fatality of the vanished Caesars they imitated, 
and would die young and of strange deaths. 
Many of them hastened to fulfill this prophecy. 
Blond Mirandola died of melancholy; handsome 
Giulano de Medici met death at hands of an 
assassin. And Berni the date of whose death 
is not certain did not live to be old, and the 
cause of it is wrapped in mystery. Some say 
Duke Alessandro murdered him; some say that 
it was Cardinal Medici himself who did it 
and he had been Berni's good friend in those 
gay gardens of Careggi. 

He who had lived a jester, died a tragic death 
at the hands of a prince. He was the true clown 
who was killed by his king. 

E. 



T, 



HE LEAVES ARE POLLING FROM THE 

arbor, or curling up, and the grapes are ripe. 
The arbor is roofed now with black-purple, pen- 
dant bunches swinging in the wind, and a rich, 
yellow light envelopes the garden. 

I should like to make wine of some of these 
grapes. Do you remember those wine cellars of 
Rome which Horace tells us about, how they 
marked time? Upon each bottle was written the 
name of the consul and the events of the day. 
One bottle would tell you about Actium, where 
the battle was fought, and the fall of Antony. 
There were wines whose inscriptions called up 
memories of the stormy valleys of Thrace where 
winter reigns, of the roar of the Pontic pines, 
from whose wood that beloved boat (phaselus 
ille) of Catullus was made. 

If I bottled my wine this autumn, each bottle 
would bear some inscription to An Unknown. 
Perhaps it would keep for me the memory of a 
summer that was passed, in that gayest of gar- 
dens which men call youth. 

Did you ever see Chardin's description of the 
wine cellar of a ruler of Ispahan in the seven- 
teenth century? He says the precious liquid 
was bottled in Venetian glass, in rock crystal 
enriched with gems, in coral and in jade. E. 

i34 



I 



T IS WINDY AND DUSTY. I CAN HEAR 

the soft pietinement of sand particles upon the 
roof. I think I shall not remain upon the plains 
to-day; I am going away. Sitting right here in 
my garden I have traveled a good deal. Yet I 
have no reputation as a globe trotter. At the 
same time I have seen the streets of fabulous 
cities which could equal any of Bagdad's "shrines 
of fretted gold." Who has the right to say, I 
should like to know, what countries he has seen 
who has sat by the fireside all his days! 

First, to-day, I shall travel with Loti. He is 
a good companion and I enjoy him. I like his 
sensitiveness to things that are fine, and his dis- 
tinction. I like his buoyant interest in travel 
and novelty and adventure. He has the southern 
warmth and imagination. I like to go with him 
to India (Ulnde sans les Anglais), to Stamboul 
(Les Desenchantees), to the orange-hued landscape 
of Algiers (Le Roman d'un Spahi). I am indebted 
to these books for hours of happiness and instruc- 
tion. They do not grow old and I do not weary 
of them. They are always at hand ready to 
shelter me from disagreeable occurrences. They 
banish annoyances with the divine surety and 

i35 



l36 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

complacency with which it was the habit of good 
Queen Juno "to banish flies and gnats from Ida, 
at the hour of goblet pledge." From repeated 
readings throughout the years I know pages and 
paragraphs by heart. There is something in 
the prose of the Latin races that gives me a super- 
lative pleasure. I think I see a splendor in them 
that perhaps is not there. As soon as I read the 
first lines of any of these seductive books, the 
magic commences. My surroundings have 
changed. Work and duties are no more. I am 
sailing over southern seas. Salt spray touches 
my face. I am filled with energy and strength. 
About me spreads a world of radiant summer, 
novelty, and adventure. An attractive strange- 
ness envelopes me, and I am happy. 

Not all people who travel in a garden as I do 
have been compelled to. Some have done it by 
preference. Consider, too, the discomforts that 
are avoided in my easy way of going from place 
to place. Do you recall this plaintive statement 
from Flaubert's " L' Education Sentimentale?" 
"He knew the melancholy of the packet boats, 
the awakening in chilly dawns under tents, the 
dizzy confusion of landscapes and ruins, the 
bitterness of sympathies interrupted." 

Robert Burton who had the reputation of 
knowing everything there was in the world to 
know and who all but proved it in that strange 
book of his, "The Anatomy of Melancholy," 



UPON THE PLAINS 187 

writes: "Methinks it would please any man . . . 
to behold as it were all the remote provinces, 
towns, cities of the world, and never go forth of 
the limits of his study." There was Ariosto, too, 
for instance. It was his ideal of pleasure to travel 
in a garden. Whenever time and his duties per- 
mitted, he sought a sheltered corner of the garden 
of his princely protector, and there turned over 
the leaves of maps. and books of travel. Marco 
Polo himself probably never saw a land that 
could compare with the one that Ariosto saw 
then. 

Xavier de Maistre preferred a chamber to 
journey in. Do you remember his " Voyage 
Autour de ma Chambre?" That was a spirited, 
entertaining journey, too. I have taken it with 
him repeatedly. Lucian's "History," which he 
carelessly calls "Veracious," is merely an excur- 
sion to a non-geographical place which he names 
"The Blessed Isle." Exertion was distasteful 
to lazy Lucian, except that of the mind, and 
with the mind he lived prodigiously. Brave 
Cyrano of the faithful heart and chivalrous 
sword, took a journey to the moon in this same 
easy and inexpensive way. So you see that 
people who are bounded by a little garden and a 
slender purse, are not so greatly to be pitied. 

Do not fail to take a trip with Stevenson. He 
is a gay, good-humored fellow, like Loti, and a 
first-class traveling companion. Go to Scotland 



l38 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

with him first. He has made Scotland as desir- 
able and as lovely as Venice. He can show you 
a wonderful Edinburgh. Go, too, with him to see 
the black, dripping rocks and hear the thunder 
of the surge in "Night and the Merry Men," 
and that windy Spanish valley, between the 
mountains, splashed with the petulant light of 
autumn. Like Loti and Renoir, he lived in the 
land of youth. 

Sitting right here in my arbor, in this humble 
prairie garden, with books and with engravings, 
I have really seen a good deal. In pictures in 
current periodicals of the north of Europe in 
" Jugend" especially I have watched spring 
come creeping over the Bohemian forests, then 
northward to the Valdai Hills, and on to the 
Finnish marshes. I have watched it wave its 
blossoming fruit tree boughs along the valleys of 
the Rhine. I can sit here at my ease and count 
the swallows flying over the roofs of that old 
Paris mad Meryon etched. Not even here upon 
the plains in the great light do they have 
such sweep and swing. From the paintings of 
historic gardens made by Rusinol, I have received 
the keenest sense of the brooding spirit of gen- 
erations that have gone. I have come near the 
poignant personalities that have frequented these 
gardens. For me they have been granted a 
renewal of visible life. With Sheffield and Frey- 
tag I have seen the primeval forests of Germany; 



UPON THE PLAINS 189 

with Pushkin, Lermontov, and Mickiewicz, the 
mountain world of southern Russia; with Ver- 
haeren, the cities of Flanders; with Alberuni, 
India the ancient. And with all of them I have 
felt the fascination that wanderers feel for the 
road, an emotion as old as time. Catullus, the 
Roman, confessed to it in the long ago. When 
the spring winds began to blow he was restless, 
and he thought of the bright cities of Asia, and 
his feet were eager for travel. (Jam Iseti studio 
pedes vigescunt.) There is magic in a road. 
Stevenson felt the urge of it always, and he con- 
fessed it in "Will o' the Mill," who longed to 
know where the river went. It was the cause of 
the attraction of that bright river of the south 
of France to Daudet. ("Le Pape est Mor/.") It 
was one of the dominant influences in the life 
of George Sand. In fact art and life are merely 
parts of the history of the road. Along this road 
civilization traveled. 

The Marseillaise was born of the road. Bare- 
foot, defiant vagabonds on their way to Paris 
and the Revolution wrote it as they walked along. 
Petofi, the Hungarian, wrote his book of lyrics 
while he was a wandering player, grateful for a 
"hand-out" from any one. 

In the warm south the road is particularly 
conspicuous in letters. "// Morgante Maggiore" 
is merry Pulci's dream-journey across the road- 
ways of the sky, where he could look down upon 



LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

the world like a pleasant, outspread picture. 
Giotto, Petrarch, Leonardo, Tasso, were wanderers 
upon the road. The Iliad, the ./Eneid, the 
Lusiados, were wanderers' songs. So I do not 
complain because my garden looks upon the 
primitive Santa Fe trail, and not upon Le Boule- 
vard des Italiens, nor the Riva degli Schiavoni. 
Nor do I long to be elsewhere, nor to have at 
my command the wings of the morning to fly 
to the ends of the earth. My mind can make 
possible for me that ancient dream of alchemists 
who desired "to flow through the veins of nature 
and to enjoy universal life." My mind shall be 
to me as were the winged shoes to Mercury or 
the magic cloak to Faust, and bear me whereso- 
ever I wish. Even when the long sleep comes, 
still shall I go on, because death is only a con- 
tinuation of the same long road. 

E. 



1V-LY GARDEN NEVER LOOKS TWICE 
the same. That is because I see it through 
changing moods. Every thing is new every 
moment. It is a strange satire upon intelligence 
that people can not find interesting things with- 
out traveling seas to reach them. It is certain 
that when they do reach them, they can not see 
them. It is the old story of driving the horse to 
water. 

All things are everywhere for him who has 
eyes. Whittier believed that "nature will unveil 
as many of her secrets to me among my narrow 
garden paths as to the most accomplished globe 
trotter." Sir Thomas Brown declared: "We 
carry within us the wonders we seek without." 

Epicurus found Jupiter's brains in a bowl of 
Cytheridian cheese, and the tongues of nightin- 
gales in onions. You see what a practical philoso- 
pher he was! Gold could not have done that. 
To be able to see is a rare thing. And it is just 
as necessary to learn to do this, as to learn to 
dance or to paint. The developed power does 
not belong to any one at birth. The more highly 
trained the vision, the more its possessor lives. 
The best training for this this learning to see 



1^2 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

is to look at pictures, to contemplate the 
ideals which great painters have created, to 
follow for a while their seeing. This helps to 
correct, and to break our own stiff and common- 
place vision. They literally open our eyes. People 
who can see, need no other occupation to fill in 
that long space which stretches between birth 
and death. Pictures are little enchanted islands 
in the great, uncharted sea of the unknown, 
where we can rest a while, and amuse ourselves. 
It is not money and travel that make men see. 
One sees only with eyes highly trained and sensi- 
tive. The untrained vision is harsh, uneven, 
fragmentary. Only art can weld it temporarily 
into unity and strength. 

George Eliot did not inherit this possession in 
any large degree. Her mind was akin to Emer- 
son's in a certain lack of aesthetic development. 
Neither of them found Italy particularly lovely. 
In her eyes, Rome was neither lovely nor pictur- 
esque. Her hasty comments upon the pictures and 
sculpture of the Eternal City betray a nature 
insensitive to color and line. She used her eyes 
as a diligent and praiseworthy pedagogue, not 
as an artist and a connoisseur. Peculiarly enough 
it wast he sensuous in art that appealed most to 
her Rubens, Poussin. George Eliot criticized 
the great art of Italy with crude, unsympa- 
thetic eyes, or else with a dull and overwhelm- 
ing sense of her own importance. In her judg- 



UPON THE PLAINS l43 

merit there was the unusual combination of sen- 
suality and coldness. On that Italian journey of 
hers in 1860 she seemed dead to every thing except 
what the world was saying about herself. How 
unlike was her attitude toward Greek and Roman 
art to that of the Brownings, Shelley, Byron, 
Landor, Symons, and all the Germans (except 
Schiller), Goethe and Winkleman leading the list. 
She did not know that the eye must be trained 
(as well as the mind) unless some marvelous 
grace of nature gives an highly instructed vision. 
Her first face to face encounter with the impas- 
sioned art of the south, gave her an uncomforta- 
ble mental and visual wrench. She came to it 
with a cold, self-opinionated, insular superiority. 
Her sympathy for sorrow in life was keener than 
her sympathy for beauty. Her criticism of paint- 
ing was usually upon the expression in the eyes. 
That settled for her the question of greatness or 
triviality. She did not like the drawing, com- 
position, or coloring of Tintoretto, Veronese, 
Angelo. Of Milan cathedral she wrote: "It no 
longer satisfied my eyes." Of Luini: "He has 
not power enough for any composition of high 
character." She was a highly instructed woman, 
rather than one of rare taste and perception. 
She was always something of a super-educated 
pedagogue. 

Schiller declared that he had no desire to see 
Italy or its art. In a letter to Humboldt he 



l44 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

writes: "Unfortunately the great art of Italy 
and Rome are not for me, because I have neither 
interest nor taste for plastic art." And Matilde 
Serao exclaimed in her "Letters of a Traveler" 
(Letiere d'una Viaggiatrice) : "Who can ever get 
away from the fascination of Rome! " She speaks 
of the pleasure of "seeking in Rome not only the 
vast conceptions of sovereigns, the enormous 
undertakings of art completed miraculously, the 
traces of an hundred tyrannical and magnificent 
wills, but the soul of Rome which is found in the 
shadow of a park, in the colors upon the horizon, 
in a rose gathered at entrance to the catacombs 
... in a little forgotten church in an unfre- 
quented quarter. ..." How much greater in 
extent and nobler and more circumstantial, 
and sensitive, was the Greek-Italian woman's 
comprehension of "alma Roma" than the Eng- 
lish woman's. A new or a different idea has 
to enter an English mind by the back door. 

When I read the account of that early journey 
of George Eliot's to Rome, I recall involuntarily 
some words of Thoreau: "I look upon England 
to-day as an old gentleman who is traveling with 
a great deal of luggage, trumpery, which he has 
accumulated from long housekeeping, which he 
has not courage to burn; great trunk, little trunk, 
band-box and bundle." The English have never 
been critics in the first class. Only the Latin 
mind has achieved this supremely. To be con- 



UPON THE PLAINS 

vinced it is merely necessary to recall Quintilian, 
Sainte-Beuve, Taine, Brunetiere. Match them if 
you can, you whom I accuse of anglophilism! 

How unlike were the eyes of Goethe and 
Schiller! The former called Italy "that fortunate 
dwelling place of man," and wrote and spoke of 
it always with the greatest love and enthusiasm. 
He wrote to Schiller: " I could only look and look 
and admire." Addison was cold to the impas- 
sioned art of the south. He found it scarcely 
worth the effort of mention. But Lessing was 
different. He said in a letter to his brother Karl 
in 1776: "This little foretaste (Venice, from 
which place he was sending the letter) arouses 
in me the old desire ... to live and die in 
Italy." 

Schiller delightful creator that he was 
wrote letters filled with complaints and physical 
discomforts. There was not much of the com- 
fortable, sensuous pagan about him. For little 
things he had the sharp eye of a puritan. The 
joyous vision of the poet did not bring him 
happy forgetfulness. This is a little peculiar 
coming as he did between Winkleman and Goethe, 
with their exhaustive knowledge of antique life 
and appreciation of its unfevered calm. 

Dostoievsky, too, was miserable in the south 
of Europe. His body and soul were so warped 
with suffering, that the gay Latin cities were a 
reproach to him. In addition, he disliked travel. 



l46 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

He hated Berlin. "I left that wearisome Berlin 
as speedily as possible. I could only endure for 
one day those wearisome Germans, who get on 
my nerves and make me rage." 

I should like to see Italy as it looked to Heine 
when he wrote "The Florentine Nights," or as 
it looked to Goethe when he composed "The 
Roman Elegies." And I should like to see the 
pictures of the south of Europe as they were 
mirrored in the twenty-three-year-old eyes of 
Rubens on that first enchanted visit, or the pic- 
tures of the Low Countries as they looked to 
Fromentin in his maturity. They had eyes. 
They could see. 

E. 



HIS MORNING I TOOK MY CATA- 
logues with me to the garden. I turn their pages 
pleasurably, a pencil in my hand, marking the 
books I wish to own. This effort is quite useless 
because I have no money with which to purchase. 
But I keep at it just the same. I do not know of 
anything I do more carefully. You should see 
my catalogues. They represent the chief lan- 
guages of the earth. And I recall just now 
Hammerton saying that no one can read fluently 
more than two languages. And there was Milton 
who read them almost all ancient and modern. 
And the author of "Vathek," too, not to men- 
tion Jeremiah Curtin, and a dozen others. 

Sometimes I put in a day trying to decide be- 
tween different books. The fact that I have no 
money with which to buy either book does not 
change my pleasure in the least. After I have 
purchased my library, then I build a house and 
arrange a room in which to keep it. I do this 
with such care that I could find any book in my 
phantom library on a dark night without the 
help of a candle. If I had money I should not 
enjoy buying books half so much. It would lose 
its distinction then. It would become common- 
147 



l48 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

place, something that any one could do. I really 
prefer to be " a lord of dust, an emperor of dreams." 
Money is merely a sort of pleasant vulgarity. It 
is one of the soft and padded cushions for the 
couch of mediocrity. One should have the love 
of fine things in one's heart, their comprehension 
in one's brain, and then leave their possession 
which is the insignificant thing to the Philis- 
tine. 

E. 



N, 



IG, MY CAT, SHARES THE GARDEN 

with me. I wish you could see Nig! She is as 
black as ebony and she has been washed and 
brushed until she shines like silk. Her eyes are 
green, and she has the most engaging suppleness. 
No trained danseuse can equal my Nig, nor possess 
such music of muscles. In this ease of movement, 
this unflagging physical fitness, there must be 
pleasure that is considerable. 

When she is angry she is good to look at. She 
lashes her sleek body with her tail, every hair 
bristles with rage, and her green eyes become 
yellow as topazes. She is really a tiger whom 
years have made harmless and diminutive, with- 
out eliminating her primitive emotions. 

Fable insists that Nig has had nine lives. That 
is why she feels so superior to me who am limited 
to one. She scorns my garden, too, because her 
memories are of a past that is prodigious. In 
Egypt, the ancient, they worshipped her, my 
Nig. They carved her face in indestructible 
stone, and left her looking out across the desert. 
And the expression upon that face the suns of 
centuries have not greatly changed. It is still 
subtle and cruel and untrustworthy. 



l5o LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

Very likely she knew Thebes the rose-hued and 
its palaces of terra cotta, towered over by giant 
lotus blossoms painted pink and blue. Some- 
times at sunset when she is quiet, and her paws 
are stretched out straight in front of her, side 
by side, in that hieratic attitude of her ancestor, 
the Sphinx, and she is looking ahead oblivious of 
me, I wonder if she is recalling that prodigious 
desert sky-line fretted with gigantic blossoms 
hewn of stone? 

E. 



I 



HAVE FINISHED HUSKING THE CORN 

for dinner. It is not deeply yellow like corn grown 
in the north. It is pale. I think perhaps it re- 
sembles the Orlov pearls. 

A basket of vegetables has just been brought 
to me by a farmer who lives on the other side of 
the Arkansas. The skins of the onions are lovely 
considered as delicately woven tissue. Faint 
spirals of color, like fading rainbows, slip across 
them, and arranged with the greatest nicety. 
Chinese potters tried to make the surface of a 
certain porcelain like them, which, when they 
partially succeeded, they named "onion-skin." 
The brush of Chardin painted them with love 
and zest. The red of the beets I can decompose 
in my eyes into deep and angry blues, that flush 
again with violet, and mount to red. Shelling 
cranberry beans is a pleasure almost equal to 
diving for pearls. After the long, protecting pod 
is opened, each bean is covered with a white, 
sparkling gauze, to protect the delicate circle 
of the bean, which has bright dots of enamel 
upon a surface just touched with grey. Upon a 
few I have found dots that had the sad and wist- 
ful blue of chalcedony. The heart of a freshly 

161 



l52 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

cut cabbage is just the hue of the huge ivory 
objects African kings have carved. And this 
changes by the subtlest gradations to wet, re- 
freshing green. 

When I unpacked my basket of vegetables 
this morning, it exhaled the freshness of night 
on the plain, and something of the bitter scent 
of prairie weeds. It seems foolish to envy wealth, 
or to bother one's head about warrantee deeds, 
banks, loans and the like, when we all inherit 
the earth. Nothing that is really fine can be 
purchased with money because its posession 
must be universal and belong to all. 

E. 



I 



WHO LOVE THE COUNTRY WRITE TO 

you who love the city. Not many love so well 
the places where people are not as I. Lamb was 
like you. He cared only for the stones and roofs 
of London. But that was because he had been 
thirty-three years in a counting house. For that 
period of his with the East India Company, I 
have the liveliest pity. In a letter to Wordsworth 
he remarked: "I have no passion for groves and 
valleys ... so fading upon me from disuse are 
the beauties of nature." He even declared "... 
a garden was the primitive prison, till man luckily 
sinned himself out of it." 

I had red raspberries for breakfast this morn- 
ing which makes this a remarkable day. I wish 
you could have seen them piled upon powdered 
ice, with yellow cream on top of them. I recall 
a dish of berries that Renoir painted that has 
just this luscious ripeness. Red raspberries are 
rare upon the plains. Here we seldom see any- 
thing but the black raspberry. And they are 
not home grown. 

The eating is made up of many pleasures. Just 
as soon as their odor strikes my face, the present 
vanishes and I am a child again careless and 
free in the old, bleak, mountain pastures. E. 

i53 



H< 



_OW FOOLISH TO INSIST UPON SEEING 

a woman whose presence might not please you 
when according to this old story I am about to 
tell you, you could better create one to suit 
yourself. 

Hsec fabula dicit. 

The land which we call Persia was once Iran. 
And there the roses bloomed prodigiously. So 
great was their richness that they were cultivated 
everywhere, and the word was upon the tongues 
of the people. Indeed so far went this love for 
a flower that the divisions of their books were 
called not chapters, as ours are called, but roses. 
And at other times, "Gate- Ways"- -presumably 
to gardens of roses. This which I am about to 
relate is the first leaf of the one hundred and 
fifty-first rose of a sacred book called the Tuti 
Nameh. 

In the heart of central Iran it is as if the gaunt 
arms of ancient mountains held up emerald-green 
valleys for the gods to refresh their eyes upon. 
Among these mountain-valleys are white, earth- 
walled villages, in which are mosques built of 
tiles so blue that the eye can not distinguish 
them from gigantic turquoises. 

1 54 



UPON THE PLAINS l55 

In the mysterious streets which are walled 
move forms of women in pantaloons of silk 
pink, yellow, green short, embroidered jackets, 
and thrown over all, gleaming, gold-wrought 
gauzes. And through these streets float tinkle of 
laughter, murmured words of love, and scent of 
roses. Gardens are hidden behind the walls, and 
from them one hears the sound of ranning water. 

From one of these gem-blue villages three 
shepherds were sent to pasture the sheep. They 
grieved to leave their village. They were sad 
in the unpeopled valley above which the gaunt, 
grey mountains rose. They had no one to talk 
with, because each day each one took his part 
of the herd to a different water spring so that 
they spent the days alone with the sheep. So 
greatly did loneliness and silence prey upon them 
they all but fell ill. They lost heart. They lost 
interest in their duties. 

One day the first shepherd went to a new valley 
that was even higher and nearer to the deathless 
summits, whose silence and impressive outline 
instilled an unknown feeling that resembled rever- 
ence. He fell upon his knees in the quiet of the 
fields. He prayed for something to relieve his 
loneliness. When he arose and opened his eyes 
he saw beside him on the ground a piece of wood 
the size and shape of his body. Beside the wood 
were chisels, hammers, knives. 

What should he do with these things which 



l56 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

had fallen from above in answer to prayer? The 
idea occurred to him to carve of the wood a com- 
panion. And he decided at length that it should 
be a woman. 

Day after day he worked upon it. He forgot 
his loneliness. In the morning he was the first 
to set out with the sheep because he did not wish 
to miss a moment of daylight. In the evening he 
was the last to turn toward camp. His com- 
panions noticed the change. They saw he was 
happy but they did not know the cause. 

When the statue of wood was finished and 
showed the form of a woman because he had 
done his work well he took it with him to the 
camp for his companions to see. 

The next morning the second shepherd prayed 
in the valley where he fed his sheep that a com- 
panion be given him. When he arose from his 
knees and opened his eyes, he found beside him 
paints, brushes, jewels, veils, and silks. He 
understood. He drove his thirsty sheep back to 
camp. With the paint he painted the bare wood 
to resemble the women he had known in the 
gem-blue villages of Iran. Then he dressed it in 
silken pantaloons, and jacket. He placed gems 
upon wrists, throat, brow. Over all he flung the 
transparent veil. 

That night when the other shepherds came 
from the hills late, under a high, clear moon, 
that hung above the great, grey mountains like 



UPON THE PLAINS 167 

an exiled, pallid rose, they saw the statue robed 
and dressed. The third shepherd fell upon his 
knees before it and exclaimed: 

"Beautiful hands beautiful feet, which I 
bend to kiss! Lips that I so gladly would love, I 
beg you to speak to me ! " Because of the sincerity 
of prayer the statue lived, moved, spoke. And 
with such grace, such gentleness, that the hearts 
of the three were enslaved. 

The first shepherd declared: "I will leave the 
sheep for you two to tend. I will take this woman 
whom I made and return to my village. There 
I will marry her and be happy." 

The second shepherd replied: "What right 
have you to do that? It was I who made your 
piece of wood resemble a woman. It was I who 
gave her this gown of silk, this veil, these gems. 
It is to me she belongs." 

The third shepherd interrupted: "I should 
like to know what right either of you have to 
her? It was I who gave her life. To you two 
she was nothing but a stick of wood. I prayed. 
The gods answered my prayer. They gave her 
life for me" 

This argument continued, growing fiercer and 
fiercer until they came to blows. Then the beau- 
tiful woman who had been made out of wood by 
the sincerity of prayer, fearful of what might 
happen, when she found that she could not put 
an end to their anger, fell upon her knees and 



l58 LETTERS FROM A PRAIRIE GARDEN 

prayed for help. Straightway the first two 
shepherds were changed into a white horse, 
which stood saddled and bridled and ready to 
receive her. The third shepherd became a bow 
of such might and magic that when it was drawn 
an arrow flew in to fit it, and killed the person 
at whom it was pointed. 

She mounted the horse, took the bow, and set 
out. The snow leopards and the mountain lions 
that started to attack her, the magic arrow killed. 
At length when there were no more leopards and 
no more lions to bar the way, the arrow floated 
in front of her, its head making the road along 
which it was her duty to travel. She was obedi- 
ent. She kept to the road that was made for her feet 
to go. 

Thus endeth the first leaf of the one hundred 
and fifty-first rose of the book of wisdom which is 
called the Tuti Nameh. 

De te fabula. - 



L 



LOCUSTS ARE LOUD IN THE TREES. 

Autumn will be dry. Every day the plains will 
grow more barren. But through this rainless 
period the sky is at its finest. There is really no 
more splendid sky than hangs over Kansas. In 
fact it is the only theater we have here and it 
is an unrivaled place for displa o . Nowhere else 
can you behold such scenery, such sumptuous 
and resplendent cities as God builds here with 
the clouds. Here are battlemented palaces, and 
high bastioned moats worthy the chivalric ardor 
of Don Quixote. Here are white colonnaded 
marbles and fluted soaring towers, as caressing 
to the eye as any the Moorish Caliphs set in 
Granada. The prairie sky with its changing 
mass of white billowing clouds has almost ful- 
filled one of my maddest wishes, which is to open 
my eyes every morning in a city that is new, 
strange, and delightful. 

To be sure the sky has not that deep, swirling, 
Algerian blue, that makes the heart giddy with 
joy, which Dabadie shows us in "Summer in 
Bonzareah," nor that dry, dust-powdered blue 
peculiar to deserts, nor the cold, clean blue that 
wounds like a knife, which tops high mountain 
regions. But instead a fine, even, individual 
blue all its own, with certain very definite affilia- 
tions with promise, youth and exhilaration. E. 



w, 



INTER IS ALMOST UPON US. THE 
leaves are gone and the trees are bare. Empty 
blue-jay's nests decorate them. My garden shows 
only graceless bunches of dried stalks. Despite 
the cold there is still a wanderer of summer here 
a mocking bird who has neglected to migrate. 
He is sitting on the lowest branch of a corner 
maple looking disconsolate. I have warned him 
that it is time to be up and away, but he does 
not heed my warning. Now he is moving his 
long, thin head warily to look about. He is 
searching for his old flower friends. He seems 
grieved and dismayed at finding the garden so 
lonely and faded. He feels like an aged Rip van 
Winkle who awoke to find a world grown old. 
Now he is flying across to another tree, over the 
top of the lily bed. He is uncomfortable here, 
too. Since he can not find the lilies he is looking 
in the direction of the daisies. No, they can not 
be found! Nor the roses nor the hollyhocks nor 
the golden glow! Now he flutes a little song that 
is sadder than the ruin of summer, and inclines 
his head in my direction, as much as to ask me 
what I think of it. I have just pointed out to 
him the nests of his old bird friends, empty 

160 



UPON THE PLAINS 161 

within the trees, and I have asked him if he 
expected summer to last forever. He stopped 
his weird song at this and looked at me gravely 
and reproachfully. He forgot his mimicry and 
his malicious gibes. Even a mocking bird ought 
to know that anything so sweet as summer can 
last only a little while. 

E. 



You SAY THAT I AM FADING AWAY 
from you, fading away within just such a garden 
labyrinth as King Henry the Eighth caused to 
be made at Hampton Court, from which no one 
unaided could find the exit? 

Does not that prove that I am not really a 
woman at all, but only a nymph a creation of 
the mind of summer? 

E. 



N< 



NO NO NO! IF I SHOULD SEE 
you I might like you (And who can tell how 
well!) and then I might tell you how to find 
your way into this enchanted, phantom world of 
pleasure which is mine, and that would not be 
right. You belong to the world that is real. It 
is I that am the illusion. I have been years in 
discovering for myself like a modern Colum- 
bus this delectable land of the mind, where I 
am superior to life and time, and where things 
that vex and annoy can not reach me. 

Nothing can last but a little while anyway, 
it doesn't make any difference what it is. The 
future, however, belongs to all, and it is a gigantic 
rose of a million petals whose folded leaves shelter 

for you some fresh delight. 

You have the best of it, have you not? Are 
you not in the land where dreams so they say 

come true? 

E. 



i63 



I 



IN THE CITY 



FOUND YOUR LETTER UPON MY 

arrival telling me that an ocean is now between 
us, so these last words will go speeding after you 
on the white wings of the sea. 

With them I am sending in the calligraphy 
of China the seal of the God of Laughter. 

When you look up at night on the other 
side of the globe at the strange planets swing- 
ing above you in space, do you suppose you can 
tell which is ours? 

E. 



i65 




UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 

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