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LETTERS from a
"A lord of dust, an emperor of dreams."
WANG PO OF THE SEVENTH DYNASTY
LETTERS FROM A
EDNA WORTHLEY UNDERWOOD
Marshall Jones Company
BY MARSHALL JONES COMPANY
TO YOUTH AND THE
SUNLIGHT ON THE PLAINS
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
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
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
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.
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.
(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.
_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
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!
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-
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
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
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."
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
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
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.
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-
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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
Or perhaps when I get old I shall take to drink-
ing cordials to give me momentarily the warmth
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
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
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
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.
.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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
" 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.
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
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.
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
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-
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
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.
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
But Eden is anywhere, I suppose, where happi-
_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
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.
.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-
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-
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
_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
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.
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!
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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!
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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-
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
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.
UPON THE PLAINS
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
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
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-
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
Summer's here, be not so frigid,
Deign to bend upon the grasses
Thy white face,
Send not all thy sweetness skyward,
Let thy sister /lowers see once,
Thy heart's gold,
Lady Lily, do thou hasten!
Suns grow old. E.
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
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
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.
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
UPON THE PLAINS 91
up for lack of people. I do not see them often
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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."
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.
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,
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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,
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
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
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-
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
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
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.
.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.
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-
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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-
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-
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?
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
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-
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.
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.
_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
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
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.
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
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
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. -
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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?
UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY
A 000056156 3