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Title: Per Amica Silentia Lunae
Author: Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  POEMS AND PLAYS, 2 volumes:

     I--Lyrics. $2.00.
    II--DRAMATIC POEMS. $2.00.















  New York
  _All rights reserved_

  COPYRIGHT, 1918,

  Set up and electrotyped. Published January, 1918.

  Norwood Press
  J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
  Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


MY DEAR "MAURICE"--You will remember that afternoon in Calvados last
summer when your black Persian "Minoulooshe," who had walked behind us for
a good mile, heard a wing flutter in a bramble-bush? For a long time we
called her endearing names in vain. She seemed resolute to spend her night
among the brambles. She had interrupted a conversation, often interrupted
before, upon certain thoughts so long habitual that I may be permitted to
call them my convictions. When I came back to London my mind ran again and
again to those conversations and I could not rest till I had written out
in this little book all that I had said or would have said. Read it some
day when "Minoulooshe" is asleep.


_May_ 11, 1917.



  On the grey sand beside the shallow stream,
  Under your old wind-beaten tower, where still
  A lamp burns on above the open book
  That Michael Robartes left, you walk in the moon,
  And, though you have passed the best of life, still trace,
  Enthralled by the unconquerable delusion,
  Magical shapes.


                     By the help of an image
  I call to my own opposite, summon all
  That I have handled least, least looked upon.


  And I would find myself and not an image.


  That is our modern hope, and by its light
  We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind
  And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;
  Whether we have chosen chisel, pen, or brush,
  We are but critics, or but half create,
  Timid, entangled, empty, and abashed,
  Lacking the countenance of our friends.


                                    And yet,
  The chief imagination of Christendom,
  Dante Alighieri, so utterly found himself,
  That he has made that hollow face of his
  More plain to the mind's eye than any face
  But that of Christ.


                 And did he find himself,
  Or was the hunger that had made it hollow
  A hunger for the apple on the bough
  Most out of reach? And is that spectral image
  The man that Lapo and that Guido knew?
  I think he fashioned from his opposite
  An image that might have been a stony face,
  Staring upon a Beduin's horse-hair roof,
  From doored and windowed cliff, or half upturned
  Among the coarse grass and the camel dung.
  He set his chisel to the hardest stone;
  Being mocked by Guido for his lecherous life,
  Derided and deriding, driven out
  To climb that stair and eat that bitter bread,
  He found the unpersuadable justice, he found
  The most exalted lady loved by a man.


  Yet surely there are men who have made their art
  Out of no tragic war; lovers of life,
  Impulsive men, that look for happiness,
  And sing when they have found it.


                              No, not sing,
  For those that love the world serve it in action,
  Grow rich, popular, and full of influence;
  And should they paint or write still is it action,
  The struggle of the fly in marmalade.
  The rhetorician would deceive his neighbours,
  The sentimentalist himself; while art
  Is but a vision of reality.
  What portion in the world can the artist have,
  Who has awakened from the common dream,
  But dissipation and despair?


                                  And yet,
  No one denies to Keats love of the world,
  Remember his deliberate happiness.


  His art is happy, but who knows his mind?
  I see a schoolboy, when I think of him,
  With face and nose pressed to a sweetshop window,
  For certainly he sank into his grave,
  His senses and his heart unsatisfied;
  And made--being poor, ailing and ignorant,
  Shut out from all the luxury of the world,
  The ill-bred son of a livery stable keeper--
  Luxuriant song.


              Why should you leave the lamp
  Burning alone beside an open book,
  And trace these characters upon the sand?
  A style is found by sedentary toil,
  And by the imitation of great masters.


  Because I seek an image, not a book;
  Those men that in their writings are most wise
  Own nothing but their blind, stupefied hearts.
  I call to the mysterious one who yet
  Shall walk the wet sand by the water's edge,
  And look most like me, being indeed my double,
  And prove of all imaginable things
  The most unlike, being my anti-self,
  And, standing by these characters, disclose
  All that I seek; and whisper it as though
  He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud
  Their momentary cries before it is dawn,
  Would carry it away to blasphemous men.

_December_ 1915.




When I come home after meeting men who are strange to me, and sometimes
even after talking to women, I go over all I have said in gloom and
disappointment. Perhaps I have overstated everything from a desire to vex
or startle, from hostility that is but fear; or all my natural thoughts
have been drowned by an undisciplined sympathy. My fellow-diners have
hardly seemed of mixed humanity, and how should I keep my head among
images of good and evil, crude allegories.

But when I shut my door and light the candle, I invite a Marmorean Muse,
an art, where no thought or emotion has come to mind because another man
has thought or felt something different, for now there must be no
reaction, action only, and the world must move my heart but to the heart's
discovery of itself, and I begin to dream of eyelids that do not quiver
before the bayonet: all my thoughts have ease and joy, I am all virtue and
confidence. When I come to put in rhyme what I have found it will be a
hard toil, but for a moment I believe I have found myself and not my
anti-self. It is only the shrinking from toil perhaps that convinces me
that I have been no more myself than is the cat the medicinal grass it is
eating in the garden.

How could I have mistaken for myself an heroic condition that from early
boyhood has made me superstitious? That which comes as complete, as
minutely organised, as are those elaborate, brightly lighted buildings and
sceneries appearing in a moment, as I lie between sleeping and waking,
must come from above me and beyond me. At times I remember that place in
Dante where he sees in his chamber the "Lord of Terrible Aspect," and how,
seeming "to rejoice inwardly that it was a marvel to see, speaking, he
said, many things among the which I could understand but few, and of these
this: ego dominus tuus"; or should the conditions come, not as it were in
a gesture--as the image of a man--but in some fine landscape, it is of
Boehme, maybe, that I think, and of that country where we "eternally
solace ourselves in the excellent beautiful flourishing of all manner of
flowers and forms, both trees and plants, and all kinds of fruit."


When I consider the minds of my friends, among artists and emotional
writers, I discover a like contrast. I have sometimes told one close
friend that her only fault is a habit of harsh judgment with those who
have not her sympathy, and she has written comedies where the wickedest
people seem but bold children. She does not know why she has created that
world where no one is ever judged, a high celebration of indulgence, but
to me it seems that her ideal of beauty is the compensating dream of a
nature wearied out by over-much judgment. I know a famous actress who in
private life is like the captain of some buccaneer ship holding his crew
to good behaviour at the mouth of a blunderbuss, and upon the stage she
excels in the representation of women who stir to pity and to desire
because they need our protection, and is most adorable as one of those
young queens imagined by Maeterlinck who have so little will, so little
self, that they are like shadows sighing at the edge of the world. When I
last saw her in her own house she lived in a torrent of words and
movements, she could not listen, and all about her upon the walls were
women drawn by Burne-Jones in his latest period. She had invited me in the
hope that I would defend those women, who were always listening, and are
as necessary to her as a contemplative Buddha to a Japanese Samurai,
against a French critic who would persuade her to take into her heart in
their stead a Post-Impressionist picture of a fat, ruddy, nude woman lying
upon a Turkey carpet.

There are indeed certain men whose art is less an opposing virtue than a
compensation for some accident of health or circumstance. During the riots
over the first production of the _Playboy of the Western World_ Synge was
confused, without clear thought, and was soon ill--indeed the strain of
that week may perhaps have hastened his death--and he was, as is usual
with gentle and silent men, scrupulously accurate in all his statements.
In his art he made, to delight his ear and his mind's eye, voluble
daredevils who "go romancing through a romping lifetime ... to the dawning
of the Judgment Day." At other moments this man, condemned to the life of
a monk by bad health, takes an amused pleasure in "great queens ... making
themselves matches from the start to the end." Indeed, in all his
imagination he delights in fine physical life, in life where the moon
pulls up the tide. The last act of _Deirdre of the Sorrows_, where his art
is at its noblest, was written upon his death-bed. He was not sure of any
world to come, he was leaving his betrothed and his unwritten play--"Oh,
what a waste of time," he said to me; he hated to die, and in the last
speeches of Deirdre and in the middle act he accepted death and dismissed
life with a gracious gesture. He gave to Deirdre the emotion that seemed
to him most desirable, most difficult, most fitting, and maybe saw in
those delighted seven years, now dwindling from her, the fulfilment of his
own life.


When I think of any great poetical writer of the past (a realist is an
historian and obscures the cleavage by the record of his eyes) I
comprehend, if I know the lineaments of his life, that the work is the
man's flight from his entire horoscope, his blind struggle in the network
of the stars. William Morris, a happy, busy, most irascible man, described
dim colour and pensive emotion, following, beyond any man of his time, an
indolent muse; while Savage Landor topped us all in calm nobility when the
pen was in his hand, as in the daily violence of his passion when he had
laid it down. He had in his _Imaginary Conversations_ reminded us, as it
were, that the Venus de Milo is a stone, and yet he wrote when the copies
did not come from the printer as soon as he expected: "I have ... had the
resolution to tear in pieces all my sketches and projects and to forswear
all future undertakings. I have tried to sleep away my time and pass
two-thirds of the twenty-four hours in bed. I may speak of myself as a
dead man." I imagine Keats to have been born with that thirst for luxury
common to many at the outsetting of the Romantic Movement, and not able,
like wealthy Beckford, to slake it with beautiful and strange objects. It
drove him to imaginary delights; ignorant, poor, and in poor health, and
not perfectly well-bred, he knew himself driven from tangible luxury;
meeting Shelley, he was resentful and suspicious because he, as Leigh Hunt
recalls, "being a little too sensitive on the score of his origin, felt
inclined to see in every man of birth his natural enemy."


Some thirty years ago I read a prose allegory by Simeon Solomon, long out
of print and unprocurable, and remember or seem to remember a sentence, "a
hollow image of fulfilled desire." All happy art seems to me that hollow
image, but when its lineaments express also the poverty or the
exasperation that set its maker to the work, we call it tragic art. Keats
but gave us his dream of luxury; but while reading Dante we never long
escape the conflict, partly because the verses are at moments a mirror of
his history, and yet more because that history is so clear and simple that
it has the quality of art. I am no Dante scholar, and I but read him in
Shadwell or in Dante Rossetti, but I am always persuaded that he
celebrated the most pure lady poet ever sung and the Divine Justice, not
merely because death took that lady and Florence banished her singer, but
because he had to struggle in his own heart with his unjust anger and his
lust; while unlike those of the great poets, who are at peace with the
world and at war with themselves, he fought a double war. "Always," says
Boccaccio, "both in youth and maturity he found room among his virtues for
lechery"; or as Matthew Arnold preferred to change the phrase, "his
conduct was exceeding irregular." Guido Cavalcanti, as Rossetti translates
him, finds "too much baseness" in his friend:

  "And still thy speech of me, heartfelt and kind,
  Hath made me treasure up thy poetry;
  But now I dare not, for thy abject life,
  Make manifest that I approve thy rhymes."

And when Dante meets Beatrice in Eden, does she not reproach him because,
when she had taken her presence away, he followed in spite of warning
dreams, false images, and now, to save him in his own despite, she has
"visited ... the Portals of the Dead," and chosen Virgil for his courier?
While Gino da Pistoia complains that in his _Commedia_ his "lovely
heresies ... beat the right down and let the wrong go free":

  "Therefore his vain decrees, wherein he lied,
  Must be like empty nutshells flung aside;
  Yet through the rash false witness set to grow,
  French and Italian vengeance on such pride
  May fall like Anthony on Cicero."

Dante himself sings to Giovanni Guirino "at the approach of death";

  "The King, by whose rich grave his servants be
  With plenty beyond measure set to dwell,
  Ordains that I my bitter wrath dispel,
  And lift mine eyes to the great Consistory."


We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with
ourselves, poetry. Unlike the rhetoricians, who get a confident voice from
remembering the crowd they have won or may win, we sing amid our
uncertainty; and, smitten even in the presence of the most high beauty by
the knowledge of our solitude, our rhythm shudders. I think, too, that no
fine poet, no matter how disordered his life, has ever, even in his mere
life, had pleasure for his end. Johnson and Dowson, friends of my youth,
were dissipated men, the one a drunkard, the other a drunkard and mad
about women, and yet they had the gravity of men who had found life out
and were awakening from the dream; and both, one in life and art and one
in art and less in life, had a continual preoccupation with religion. Nor
has any poet I have read of or heard of or met with been a sentimentalist.
The other self, the anti-self or the antithetical self, as one may choose
to name it, comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose passion
is reality. The sentimentalists are practical men who believe in money, in
position, in a marriage bell, and whose understanding of happiness is to
be so busy whether at work or at play, that all is forgotten but the
momentary aim. They find their pleasure in a cup that is filled from
Lethe's wharf, and for the awakening, for the vision, for the revelation
of reality, tradition offers us a different word--ecstasy. An old artist
wrote to me of his wanderings by the quays of New York, and how he found
there a woman nursing a sick child, and drew her story from her. She
spoke, too, of other children who had died: a long tragic story. "I
wanted to paint her," he wrote, "if I denied myself any of the pain I
could not believe in my own ecstasy." We must not make a false faith by
hiding from our thoughts the causes of doubt, for faith is the highest
achievement of the human intellect, the only gift man can make to God, and
therefore it must be offered in sincerity. Neither must we create, by
hiding ugliness, a false beauty as our offering to the world. He only can
create the greatest imaginable beauty who has endured all imaginable
pangs, for only when we have seen and foreseen what we dread shall we be
rewarded by that dazzling unforeseen wing-footed wanderer. We could not
find him if he were not in some sense of our being and yet of our being
but as water with fire, a noise with silence. He is of all things not
impossible the most difficult, for that only which comes easily can never
be a portion of our being, "Soon got, soon gone," as the proverb says. I
shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I
have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen
of the soul a passing bell.

The last knowledge has often come most quickly to turbulent men, and for a
season brought new turbulence. When life puts away her conjuring tricks
one by one, those that deceive us longest may well be the wine-cup and the
sensual kiss, for our Chambers of Commerce and of Commons have not the
divine architecture of the body, nor has their frenzy been ripened by the
sun. The poet, because he may not stand within the sacred house but lives
amid the whirlwinds that beset its threshold, may find his pardon.


I think the Christian saint and hero, instead of being merely
dissatisfied, make deliberate sacrifice. I remember reading once an
autobiography of a man who had made a daring journey in disguise to
Russian exiles in Siberia, and his telling how, very timid as a child, he
schooled himself by wandering at night through dangerous streets. Saint
and hero cannot be content to pass at moments to that hollow image and
after become their heterogeneous selves, but would always, if they could,
resemble the antithetical self. There is a shadow of type on type, for in
all great poetical styles there is saint or hero, but when it is all over
Dante can return to his chambering and Shakespeare to his "pottle pot."
They sought no impossible perfection but when they handled paper or
parchment. So too will saint or hero, because he works in his own flesh
and blood and not in paper or parchment, have more deliberate
understanding of that other flesh and blood.

Some years ago I began to believe that our culture, with its doctrine of
sincerity and self-realisation, made us gentle and passive, and that the
Middle Ages and the Renaissance were right to found theirs upon the
imitation of Christ or of some classic hero. St. Francis and Caesar Borgia
made themselves over-mastering, creative persons by turning from the
mirror to meditation upon a mask. When I had this thought I could see
nothing else in life. I could not write the play I had planned, for all
became allegorical, and though I tore up hundreds of pages in my endeavour
to escape from allegory, my imagination became sterile for nearly five
years and I only escaped at last when I had mocked in a comedy my own
thought. I was always thinking of the element of imitation in style and in
life, and of the life beyond heroic imitation. I find in an old diary: "I
think all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other
life, on a re-birth as something not one's self, something created in a
moment and perpetually renewed; in playing a game like that of a child
where one loses the infinite pain of self-realisation, in a grotesque or
solemn painted face put on that one may hide from the terror of
judgment.... Perhaps all the sins and energies of the world are but the
world's flight from an infinite blinding beam"; and again at an earlier
date: "If we cannot imagine ourselves as different from what we are, and
try to assume that second self, we cannot impose a discipline upon
ourselves though we may accept one from others. Active virtue, as
distinguished from the passive acceptance of a code, is therefore
theatrical, consciously dramatic, the wearing of a mask.... Wordsworth,
great poet though he be, is so often flat and heavy partly because his
moral sense, being a discipline he had not created, a mere obedience, has
no theatrical element. This increases his popularity with the better kind
of journalists and politicians who have written books."


I thought the hero found hanging upon some oak of Dodona an ancient mask,
where perhaps there lingered something of Egypt, and that he changed it to
his fancy, touching it a little here and there, gilding the eyebrows or
putting a gilt line where the cheekbone comes; that when at last he
looked out of its eyes he knew another's breath came and went within his
breath upon the carven lips, and that his eyes were upon the instant fixed
upon a visionary world: how else could the god have come to us in the
forest? The good, unlearned books say that He who keeps the distant stars
within His fold comes without intermediary, but Plutarch's precepts and
the experience of old women in Soho, ministering their witchcraft to
servant girls at a shilling apiece, will have it that a strange living man
may win for Daemon an illustrious dead man; but now I add another thought:
the Daemon comes not as like to like but seeking its own opposite, for man
and Daemon feed the hunger in one another's hearts. Because the ghost is
simple, the man heterogeneous and confused, they are but knit together
when the man has found a mask whose lineaments permit the expression of
all the man most lacks, and it may be dreads, and of that only.

The more insatiable in all desire, the more resolute to refuse deception
or an easy victory, the more close will be the bond, the more violent and
definite the antipathy.


I think that all religious men have believed that there is a hand not ours
in the events of life, and that, as somebody says in _Wilhelm Meister_,
accident is destiny; and I think it was Heraclitus who said: the Daemon is
our destiny. When I think of life as a struggle with the Daemon who would
ever set us to the hardest work among those not impossible, I understand
why there is a deep enmity between a man and his destiny, and why a man
loves nothing but his destiny. In an Anglo-Saxon poem a certain man is
called, as though to call him something that summed up all heroism, "Doom
eager." I am persuaded that the Daemon delivers and deceives us, and that
he wove that netting from the stars and threw the net from his shoulder.
Then my imagination runs from Daemon to sweetheart, and I divine an
analogy that evades the intellect. I remember that Greek antiquity has bid
us look for the principal stars, that govern enemy and sweetheart alike,
among those that are about to set, in the Seventh House as the astrologers
say; and that it may be "sexual love," which is "founded upon spiritual
hate," is an image of the warfare of man and Daemon; and I even wonder if
there may not be some secret communion, some whispering in the dark
between Daemon and sweetheart. I remember how often women, when in love,
grow superstitious, and believe that they can bring their lovers good
luck; and I remember an old Irish story of three young men who went
seeking for help in battle into the house of the gods at Slieve-na-mon.
"You must first be married," some god told them, "because a man's good or
evil luck comes to him through a woman."

I sometimes fence for half-an-hour at the day's end, and when I close my
eyes upon the pillow I see a foil playing before me, the button to my
face. We meet always in the deep of the mind, whatever our work, wherever
our reverie carries us, that other Will.


The poet finds and makes his mask in disappointment, the hero in defeat.
The desire that is satisfied is not a great desire, nor has the shoulder
used all its might that an unbreakable gate has never strained. The saint
alone is not deceived, neither thrusting with his shoulder nor holding out
unsatisfied hands. He would climb without wandering to the antithetical
self of the world, the Indian narrowing his thought in meditation or
driving it away in contemplation, the Christian copying Christ, the
antithetical self of the classic world. For a hero loves the world till it
breaks him, and the poet till it has broken faith; but while the world was
yet debonair, the saint has turned away, and because he renounced
Experience itself, he will wear his mask as he finds it. The poet or the
hero, no matter upon what bark they found their mask, so teeming their
fancy, somewhat change its lineaments, but the saint, whose life is but a
round of customary duty, needs nothing the whole world does not need, and
day by day he scourges in his body the Roman and Christian conquerors:
Alexander and Caesar are famished in his cell. His nativity is neither in
disappointment nor in defeat, but in a temptation like that of Christ in
the Wilderness, a contemplation in a single instant perpetually renewed of
the Kingdom of the World; all, because all renounced, continually present
showing their empty thrones. Edwin Ellis, remembering that Christ also
measured the sacrifice, imagined himself in a fine poem as meeting at
Golgotha the phantom of "Christ the Less," the Christ who might have lived
a prosperous life without the knowledge of sin, and who now wanders
"companionless a weary spectre day and night."

  "I saw him go and cried to him
  'Eli, thou hast forsaken me.'
  The nails were burning through each limb,
  He fled to find felicity."

And yet is the saint spared, despite his martyr's crown and his vigil of
desire, defeat, disappointed love, and the sorrow of parting.

  "O Night, that did'st lead thus,
  O Night, more lovely than the dawn of light,
  O Night, that broughtest us
  Lover to lover's sight,
  Lover with loved in marriage of delight!

  Upon my flowery breast,
  Wholly for him, and save himself for none,
  There did I give sweet rest
  To my beloved one;
  The fanning of the cedars breathed thereon.

  When the first morning air
  Blew from the tower, and waved his locks aside,
  His hand, with gentle care,
  Did wound me in the side,
  And in my body all my senses died.

  All things I then forgot,
  My cheek on him who for my coming came;
  All ceased and I was not,
  Leaving my cares and shame
  Among the lilies, and forgetting them."[1]


It is not permitted to a man, who takes up pen or chisel, to seek
originality, for passion is his only business, and he cannot but mould or
sing after a new fashion because no disaster is like another. He is like
those phantom lovers in the Japanese play who, compelled to wander side by
side and never mingle, cry: "We neither wake nor sleep and passing our
nights in a sorrow which is in the end a vision, what are these scenes of
spring to us?" If when we have found a mask we fancy that it will not
match our mood till we have touched with gold the cheek, we do it
furtively, and only where the oaks of Dodona cast their deepest shadow,
for could he see our handiwork the Daemon would fling himself out, being
our enemy.


Many years ago I saw, between sleeping and waking, a woman of incredible
beauty shooting an arrow into the sky, and from the moment when I made my
first guess at her meaning I have thought much of the difference between
the winding movement of nature and the straight line, which is called in
Balzac's _Seraphita_ the "Mark of Man," but comes closer to my meaning as
the mark of saint or sage. I think that we who are poets and artists, not
being permitted to shoot beyond the tangible, must go from desire to
weariness and so to desire again, and live but for the moment when vision
comes to our weariness like terrible lightning, in the humility of the
brutes. I do not doubt those heaving circles, those winding arcs, whether
in one man's life or in that of an age, are mathematical, and that some in
the world, or beyond the world, have foreknown the event and pricked upon
the calendar the life-span of a Christ, a Buddha, a Napoleon: that every
movement, in feeling or in thought, prepares in the dark by its own
increasing clarity and confidence its own executioner. We seek reality
with the slow toil of our weakness and are smitten from the boundless and
the unforeseen. Only when we are saint or sage, and renounce Experience
itself, can we, in the language of the Christian Caballa, leave the sudden
lightning and the path of the serpent and become the bowman who aims his
arrow at the centre of the sun.


The doctors of medicine have discovered that certain dreams of the night,
for I do not grant them all, are the day's unfulfilled desire, and that
our terror of desires condemned by the conscience has distorted and
disturbed our dreams. They have only studied the breaking into dream of
elements that have remained unsatisfied without purifying discouragement.
We can satisfy in life a few of our passions and each passion but a
little, and our characters indeed but differ because no two men bargain
alike. The bargain, the compromise, is always threatened, and when it is
broken we become mad or hysterical or are in some way deluded; and so when
a starved or banished passion shows in a dream we, before awaking, break
the logic that had given it the capacity of action and throw it into chaos
again. But the passions, when we know that they cannot find fulfilment,
become vision; and a vision, whether we wake or sleep, prolongs its power
by rhythm and pattern, the wheel where the world is butterfly. We need no
protection, but it does, for if we become interested in ourselves, in our
own lives, we pass out of the vision. Whether it is we or the vision that
create the pattern, who set the wheel turning, it is hard to say, but
certainly we have a hundred ways of keeping it near us: we select our
images from past times, we turn from our own age and try to feel Chaucer
nearer than the daily paper. It compels us to cover all it cannot
incorporate, and would carry us when it comes in sleep to that moment when
even sleep closes her eyes and dreams begin to dream; and we are taken up
into a clear light and are forgetful even of our own names and actions and
yet in perfect possession of ourselves murmur like Faust, "Stay, moment,"
and murmur in vain.


A poet, when he is growing old, will ask himself if he cannot keep his
mask and his vision without new bitterness, new disappointment. Could he
if he would, knowing how frail his vigour from youth up, copy Landor who
lived loving and hating, ridiculous and unconquered, into extreme old age,
all lost but the favour of his muses.

  The mother of the muses we are taught
  Is memory; she has left me; they remain
  And shake my shoulder urging me to sing.

Surely, he may think, now that I have found vision and mask I need not
suffer any longer. He will buy perhaps some small old house where like
Ariosto he can dig his garden, and think that in the return of birds and
leaves, or moon and sun, and in the evening flight of the rooks he may
discover rhythm and pattern like those in sleep and so never awake out of
vision. Then he will remember Wordsworth withering into eighty years,
honoured and empty-witted, and climb to some waste room and find,
forgotten there by youth, some bitter crust.

_February_ 25, 1917.



I have always sought to bring my mind close to the mind of Indian and
Japanese poets, old women in Connaught, mediums in Soho, lay brothers whom
I imagine dreaming in some mediaeval monastery the dreams of their
village, learned authors who refer all to antiquity; to immerse it in the
general mind where that mind is scarce separable from what we have begun
to call "the subconscious"; to liberate it from all that comes of councils
and committees, from the world as it is seen from universities or from
populous towns; and that I might so believe I have murmured evocations and
frequented mediums, delighted in all that displayed great problems
through sensuous images, or exciting phrases, accepting from abstract
schools but a few technical words that are so old they seem but broken
architraves fallen amid bramble and grass, and have put myself to school
where all things are seen: _A Tenedo Tacitae per Amica Silentia Lunae_. At
one time I thought to prove my conclusions by quoting from diaries where I
have recorded certain strange events the moment they happened, but now I
have changed my mind--I will but say like the Arab boy that became Vizier:
"O brother, I have taken stock in the desert sand and of the sayings of


There is a letter of Goethe's, though I cannot remember where, that
explains evocation, though he was but thinking of literature. He described
some friend who had complained of literary sterility as too intelligent.
One must allow the images to form with all their associations before one
criticises. "If one is critical too soon," he wrote, "they will not form
at all." If you suspend the critical faculty, I have discovered, either as
the result of training, or, if you have the gift, by passing into a slight
trance, images pass rapidly before you. If you can suspend also desire,
and let them form at their own will, your absorption becomes more complete
and they are more clear in colour, more precise in articulation, and you
and they begin to move in the midst of what seems a powerful light. But
the images pass before you linked by certain associations, and indeed in
the first instance you have called them up by their association with
traditional forms and sounds. You have discovered how, if you can but
suspend will and intellect, to bring up from the "subconscious" anything
you already possess a fragment of. Those who follow the old rule keep
their bodies still and their minds awake and clear, dreading especially
any confusion between the images of the mind and the objects of sense;
they seek to become, as it were, polished mirrors.

I had no natural gift for this clear quiet, as I soon discovered, for my
mind is abnormally restless; and I was seldom delighted by that sudden
luminous definition of form which makes one understand almost in spite of
oneself that one is not merely imagining. I therefore invented a new
process. I had found that after evocation my sleep became at moments full
of light and form, all that I had failed to find while awake; and I
elaborated a symbolism of natural objects that I might give myself dreams
during sleep, or rather visions, for they had none of the confusion of
dreams, by laying upon my pillow or beside my bed certain flowers or
leaves. Even to-day, after twenty years, the exaltations and the messages
that came to me from bits of hawthorn or some other plant seem of all
moments of my life the happiest and the wisest. After a time, perhaps
because the novelty wearing off the symbol lost its power, or because my
work at the Irish Theatre became too exciting, my sleep lost its
responsiveness. I had fellow-scholars, and now it was I and now they who
made some discovery. Before the mind's eye, whether in sleep or waking,
came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never
read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of
forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a great memory passing on
from generation to generation. But that was not enough, for these images
showed intention and choice. They had a relation to what one knew and yet
were an extension of one's knowledge. If no mind was there, why should I
suddenly come upon salt and antimony, upon the liquefaction of the gold,
as they were understood by the alchemists, or upon some detail of
cabalistic symbolism verified at last by a learned scholar from his
never-published manuscripts, and who can have put together so ingeniously,
working by some law of association and yet with clear intention and
personal application, certain mythological images. They had shown
themselves to several minds, a fragment at a time, and had only shown
their meaning when the puzzle picture had been put together. The thought
was again and again before me that this study had created a contact or
mingling with minds who had followed a like study in some other age, and
that these minds still saw and thought and chose. Our daily thought was
certainly but the line of foam at the shallow edge of a vast luminous sea:
Henry More's _Anima Mundi_, Wordsworth's "immortal sea which brought us
hither ... and near whose edge the children sport," and in that sea there
were some who swam or sailed, explorers who perhaps knew all its shores.


I had always to compel myself to fix the imagination upon the minds behind
the personifications, and yet the personifications were themselves living
and vivid. The minds that swayed these seemingly fluid images had
doubtless form, and those images themselves seemed, as it were, mirrored
in a living substance whose form is but change of form. From tradition and
perception, one thought of one's own life as symbolised by earth, the
place of heterogeneous things, the images as mirrored in water and the
images themselves one could divine but as air; and beyond it all there
was, I felt confident, certain aims and governing loves, the fire that
makes all simple. Yet the images themselves were fourfold, and one judged
their meaning in part from the predominance of one out of the four
elements, or that of the fifth element, the veil hiding another four, a
bird born out of the fire.


I longed to know something even if it were but the family and Christian
names of those minds that I could divine, and that yet remained always as
it seemed impersonal. The sense of contact came perhaps but two or three
times with clearness and certainty, but it left among all to whom it came
some trace, a sudden silence, as it were, in the midst of thought or
perhaps at moments of crisis a faint voice. Were our masters right when
they declared so solidly that we should be content to know these presences
that seemed friendly and near but as "the phantom" in Coleridge's poem,
and to think of them perhaps, as having, as St. Thomas says, entered upon
the eternal possession of themselves in one single moment?

  "All look and likeness caught from earth,
  All accident of kin and birth,
  Had passed away. There was no trace
  Of ought on that illumined face,
  Upraised beneath the rifted stone,
  But of one spirit all her own;
  She, she herself and only she,
  Shone through her body visibly."


One night I heard a voice that said: "The love of God for every human soul
is infinite, for every human soul is unique; no other can satisfy the same
need in God." Our masters had not denied that personality outlives the
body or even that its rougher shape may cling to us a while after death,
but only that we should seek it in those who are dead. Yet when I went
among the country people, I found that they sought and found the old
fragilities, infirmities, physiognomies that living stirred affection. The
Spiddal knowledgeable man, who had his knowledge from his sister's ghost,
noticed every hallowe'en, when he met her at the end of the garden, that
her hair was greyer. Had she perhaps to exhaust her allotted years in the
neighbourhood of her home, having died before her time? Because no
authority seemed greater than that of this knowledge running backward to
the beginning of the world, I began that study of spiritism so despised by
Stanislas de Gaeta, the one eloquent learned scholar who has written of
magic in our generation.


I know much that I could never have known had I not learnt to consider in
the after life what, there as here, is rough and disjointed; nor have I
found that the mediums in Connaught and Soho have anything I cannot find
some light on in Henry More, who was called during his life the holiest
man now walking upon the earth.

All souls have a vehicle or body, and when one has said that, with More
and the Platonists one has escaped from the abstract schools who seek
always the power of some church or institution, and found oneself with
great poetry, and superstition which is but popular poetry, in a pleasant
dangerous world. Beauty is indeed but bodily life in some ideal condition.
The vehicle of the human soul is what used to be called the animal
spirits, and Henry More quotes from Hippocrates this sentence: "The mind
of man is ... not nourished from meats and drinks from the belly, but by a
clear luminous substance that redounds by separation from the blood."
These animal spirits fill up all parts of the body and make up the body of
air, as certain writers of the seventeenth century have called it. The
soul has a plastic power, and can after death, or during life, should the
vehicle leave the body for a while, mould it to any shape it will by an
act of imagination, though the more unlike to the habitual that shape is,
the greater the effort. To living and dead alike, the purity and
abundance of the animal spirits are a chief power. The soul can mould from
these an apparition clothed as if in life, and make it visible by showing
it to our mind's eye, or by building into its substance certain particles
drawn from the body of a medium till it is as visible and tangible as any
other object. To help that building the ancients offered fragrant gum, the
odour of flowers, and it may be pieces of virgin wax. The half
materialised vehicle slowly exudes from the skin in dull luminous drops or
condenses from a luminous cloud, the light fading as weight and density
increase. The witch, going beyond the medium, offered to the slowly
animating phantom certain drops of her blood. The vehicle once separate
from the living man or woman may be moulded by the souls of others as
readily as by its own soul, and even it seems by the souls of the living.
It becomes a part for a while of that stream of images which I have
compared to reflections upon water. But how does it follow that souls who
never have handled the modelling tool or the brush, make perfect images?
Those materialisations who imprint their powerful faces upon paraffin wax,
leave there sculpture that would have taken a good artist, making and
imagining, many hours. How did it follow that an ignorant woman could, as
Henry More believed, project her vehicle in so good a likeness of a hare,
that horse and hound and huntsman followed with the bugle blowing? Is not
the problem the same as of those finely articulated scenes and patterns
that come out of the dark, seemingly completed in the winking of an eye,
as we are lying half asleep, and of all those elaborate images that drift
in moments of inspiration or evocation before the mind's eye? Our animal
spirits or vehicles are but as it were a condensation of the vehicle of
_Anima Mundi_, and give substance to its images in the faint
materialisation of our common thought, or more grossly when a ghost is our
visitor. It should be no great feat, once those images have dipped into
our vehicle, to take their portraits in the photographic camera. Henry
More will have it that a hen scared by a hawk when the cock is treading,
hatches out a hawkheaded chicken (I am no stickler for the fact), because
before the soul of the unborn bird could give the shape "the deeply
impassioned fancy of the mother" called from the general cistern of form a
competing image. "The soul of the world," he runs on, "interposes and
insinuates into all generations of things while the matter is fluid and
yielding, which would induce a man to believe that she may not stand idle
in the transformation of the vehicle of the daemons, but assist the
fancies and desires, and so help to clothe them and to utter them
according to their own pleasures; or it may be sometimes against their
wills as the unwieldiness of the mother's fancy forces upon her a
monstrous birth." Though images appear to flow and drift, it may be that
we but change in our relation to them, now losing, now finding with the
shifting of our minds; and certainly Henry More speaks by the book,
claiming that those images may be hard to the right touch as "pillars of
crystal" and as solidly coloured as our own to the right eyes. Shelley, a
good Platonist, seems in his earliest work to set this general soul in the
place of God, an opinion, one may find from More's friend Cudworth now
affirmed, now combated, by classic authority; but More would steady us
with a definition. The general soul as apart from its vehicle is "a
substance incorporeal but without sense and animadversion pervading the
whole matter of the universe and exercising a plastic power therein,
according to the sundry predispositions and occasions, in the parts it
works upon, raising such phenomena in the world, by directing the parts of
the matter and their motion as cannot be resolved into mere mechanical
powers." I must assume that "sense and animadversion," perception and
direction, are always faculties of individual soul, and that, as Blake
said, "God only acts or is in existing beings or men."


The old theological conception of the individual soul as bodiless or
abstract led to what Henry More calls "contradictory debate" as to how
many angels "could dance booted and spurred upon the point of a needle,"
and made it possible for rationalist physiology to persuade us that our
thought has no corporeal existence but in the molecules of the brain.
Shelley was of opinion that the "thoughts which are called real or
external objects" differed but in regularity of occurrence from
"hallucinations, dreams and ideas of madmen," and noticed that he had
dreamed, therefore lessening the difference, "three several times between
intervals of two or more years the same precise dream." If all our mental
images no less than apparitions (and I see no reason to distinguish) are
forms existing in the general vehicle of _Anima Mundi_, and mirrored in
our particular vehicle, many crooked things are made straight. I am
persuaded that a logical process, or a series of related images, has body
and period, and I think of _Anima Mundi_ as a great pool or garden where
it spreads through allotted growth like a great water plant or branches
more fragrantly in the air. Indeed as Spenser's Garden of Adonis:

              "There is the first seminary
  Of all things that are born to live and die
  According to their kynds."

The soul by changes of "vital congruity," More says, draws to it a certain
thought, and this thought draws by its association the sequence of many
thoughts, endowing them with a life in the vehicle meted out according to
the intensity of the first perception. A seed is set growing, and this
growth may go on apart from the power, apart even from the knowledge of
the soul. If I wish to "transfer" a thought I may think, let us say, of
Cinderella's slipper, and my subject may see an old woman coming out of a
chimney; or going to sleep I may wish to wake at seven o'clock and, though
I never think of it again, I shall wake upon the instant. The thought has
completed itself, certain acts of logic, turns, and knots in the stem have
been accomplished out of sight and out of reach as it were. We are always
starting these parasitic vegetables and letting them coil beyond our
knowledge, and may become, like that lady in Balzac who, after a life of
sanctity, plans upon her deathbed to fly with her renounced lover. After
death a dream, a desire she had perhaps ceased to believe in, perhaps
ceased almost to remember, must have recurred again and again with its
anguish and its happiness. We can only refuse to start the wandering
sequence or, if start it does, hold it in the intellectual light where
time gallops, and so keep it from slipping down into the sluggish
vehicle. The toil of the living is to free themselves from an endless
sequence of objects, and that of the dead to free themselves from an
endless sequence of thoughts. One sequence begets another, and these have
power because of all those things we do, not for their own sake but for an
imagined good.


Spiritism, whether of folk-lore or of the séance room, the visions of
Swedenborg, and the speculation of the Platonists and Japanese plays, will
have it that we may see at certain roads and in certain houses old murders
acted over again, and in certain fields dead huntsmen riding with horse
and hound, or ancient armies fighting above bones or ashes. We carry to
_Anima Mundi_ our memory, and that memory is for a time our external
world; and all passionate moments recur again and again, for passion
desires its own recurrence more than any event, and whatever there is of
corresponding complacency or remorse is our beginning of judgment; nor do
we remember only the events of life, for thoughts bred of longing and of
fear, all those parasitic vegetables that have slipped through our
fingers, come again like a rope's end to smite us upon the face; and as
Cornelius Agrippa writes: "We may dream ourselves to be consumed in flame
and persecuted by daemons," and certain spirits have complained that they
would be hard put to it to arouse those who died, believing they could not
awake till a trumpet shrilled. A ghost in a Japanese play is set afire by
a fantastic scruple, and though a Buddhist priest explains that the fire
would go out of itself if the ghost but ceased to believe in it, it cannot
cease to believe. Cornelius Agrippa called such dreaming souls
hobgoblins, and when Hamlet refused the bare bodkin because of what dreams
may come, it was from no mere literary fancy. The soul can indeed, it
appears, change these objects built about us by the memory, as it may
change its shape; but the greater the change, the greater the effort and
the sooner the return to the habitual images. Doubtless in either case the
effort is often beyond its power. Years ago I was present when a woman
consulted Madame Blavatsky for a friend who saw her newly-dead husband
nightly as a decaying corpse and smelt the odour of the grave. When he was
dying, said Madame Blavatsky, he thought the grave the end, and now that
he is dead cannot throw off that imagination. A Brahmin once told an
actress friend of mine that he disliked acting, because if a man died
playing Hamlet, he would be Hamlet in eternity. Yet after a time the soul
partly frees itself and becomes "the shape changer" of the legends, and
can cast, like the mediaeval magician, what illusions it would. There is
an Irish countryman in one of Lady Gregory's books who had eaten with a
stranger on the road, and some while later vomited, to discover he had but
eaten chopped up grass. One thinks, too, of the spirits that show
themselves in the images of wild creatures.


The dead, as the passionate necessity wears out, come into a measure of
freedom and may turn the impulse of events, started while living, in some
new direction, but they cannot originate except through the living. Then
gradually they perceive, although they are still but living in their
memories, harmonies, symbols, and patterns, as though all were being
refashioned by an artist, and they are moved by emotions, sweet for no
imagined good but in themselves, like those of children dancing in a ring;
and I do not doubt that they make love in that union which Swedenborg has
said is of the whole body and seems from far off an incandescence.
Hitherto shade has communicated with shade in moments of common memory
that recur like the figures of a dance in terror or in joy, but now they
run together like to like, and their Covens and Fleets have rhythm and
pattern. This running together and running of all to a centre and yet
without loss of identity, has been prepared for by their exploration of
their moral life, of its beneficiaries and its victims, and even of all
its untrodden paths, and all their thoughts have moulded the vehicle and
become event and circumstance.


There are two realities, the terrestrial and the condition of fire. All
power is from the terrestrial condition, for there all opposites meet and
there only is the extreme of choice possible, full freedom. And there the
heterogeneous is, and evil, for evil is the strain one upon another of
opposites; but in the condition of fire is all music and all rest. Between
is the condition of air where images have but a borrowed life, that of
memory or that reflected upon them when they symbolise colours and
intensities of fire, the place of shades who are "in the whirl of those
who are fading," and who cry like those amorous shades in the Japanese

     "That we may acquire power
  Even in our faint substance,
  We will show forth even now,
  And though it be but in a dream,
  Our form of repentance."

After so many rhythmic beats the soul must cease to desire its images, and
can, as it were, close its eyes.

When all sequence comes to an end, time comes to an end, and the soul puts
on the rhythmic or spiritual body or luminous body and contemplates all
the events of its memory and every possible impulse in an eternal
possession of itself in one single moment. That condition is alone
animate, all the rest is phantasy, and from thence come all the passions,
and some have held, the very heat of the body.

  Time drops in decay,
  Like a candle burnt out,
  And the mountains and the woods
  Have their day, have their day.
  What one, in the rout
  Of the fire-born moods,
  Has fallen away?


The soul cannot have much knowledge till it has shaken off the habit of
time and of place, but till that hour it must fix its attention upon what
is near, thinking of objects one after another as we run the eye or the
finger over them. Its intellectual power cannot but increase and alter as
its perceptions grow simultaneous. Yet even now we seem at moments to
escape from time in what we call prevision, and from place when we see
distant things in a dream and in concurrent dreams. A couple of years ago,
while in meditation, my head seemed surrounded by a conventional sun's
rays, and when I went to bed I had a long dream of a woman with her hair
on fire. I awoke and lit a candle, and discovered presently from the odour
that in doing so I had set my own hair on fire. I dreamed very lately that
I was writing a story, and at the same time I dreamed that I was one of
the characters in that story and seeking to touch the heart of some girl
in defiance of the author's intention; and concurrently with all that, I
was as another self trying to strike with the button of a foil a great
china jar. The obscurity of the prophetic books of William Blake, which
were composed in a state of vision, comes almost wholly from these
concurrent dreams. Everybody has some story or some experience of the
sudden knowledge in sleep or waking of some event, a misfortune for the
most part happening to some friend far off.


The dead living in their memories, are, I am persuaded, the source of all
that we call instinct, and it is their love and their desire, all
unknowing, that make us drive beyond our reason, or in defiance of our
interest it may be; and it is the dream martens that, all unknowing, are
master-masons to the living martens building about church windows their
elaborate nests; and in their turn, the phantoms are stung to a keener
delight from a concord between their luminous pure vehicle and our strong
senses. It were to reproach the power or the beneficence of God, to
believe those children of Alexander who died wretchedly could not throw an
urnful to the heap, nor that Caesarea[2] murdered in childhood, whom
Cleopatra bore to Caesar, nor that so brief-lived younger Pericles
Aspasia bore being so nobly born.


Because even the most wise dead can but arrange their memories as we
arrange pieces upon a chess-board and obey remembered words alone, he who
would turn magician is forbidden by the Zoroastrian oracle to change
"barbarous words" of invocation. Communication with _Anima Mundi_ is
through the association of thoughts or images or objects; and the famous
dead and those of whom but a faint memory lingers, can still--and it is
for no other end that, all unknowing, we value posthumous fame--tread the
corridor and take the empty chair. A glove or a name can call their
bearer; the shadows come to our elbow amid their old undisturbed
habitations, and "materialisation" itself is easier, it may be, among
walls, or by rocks and trees, that carry upon them particles the vehicles
cast off in some extremity while they had still animate bodies.

Certainly the mother returns from the grave, and with arms that may be
visible and solid, for a hurried moment, can comfort a neglected child or
set the cradle rocking; and in all ages men have known and affirmed that
when the soul is troubled, those that are a shade and a song:

                                 "live there,
  And live like winds of light on dark or stormy air."


Awhile they live again those passionate moments, not knowing they are
dead, and then they know and may awake or half awake to be our visitors.
How is their dream changed as Time drops away and their senses multiply?
Does their stature alter, do their eyes grow more brilliant? Certainly the
dreams stay the longer, the greater their passion when alive: Helen may
still open her chamber door to Paris or watch him from the wall, and know
she is dreaming but because nights and days are poignant or the stars
unreckonably bright. Surely of the passionate dead we can but cry in words
Ben Jonson meant for none but Shakespeare: "So rammed" are they "with life
they can but grow in life with being."


The inflowing from their mirrored life, who themselves receive it from the
Condition of Fire, falls upon the Winding Path called the Path of the
Serpent, and that inflowing coming alike to men and to animals is called
natural. There is another inflow which is not natural but intellectual,
and is from the fire; and it descends through souls who pass for a lengthy
or a brief period out of the mirror life, as we in sleep out of the bodily
life, and though it may fall upon a sleeping serpent, it falls principally
upon straight paths. In so far as a man is like all other men, the inflow
finds him upon the winding path, and in so far as he is a saint or sage,
upon the straight path.


Daemon and man are opposites; man passes from heterogeneous objects to the
simplicity of fire, and the Daemon is drawn to objects because through
them he obtains power, the extremity of choice. For only in men's minds
can he meet even those in the Condition of Fire who are not of his own
kin. He, by using his mediatorial shades, brings man again and again to
the place of choice, heightening temptation that the choice may be as
final as possible, imposing his own lucidity upon events, leading his
victim to whatever among works not impossible is the most difficult. He
suffers with man as some firm-souled man suffers with the woman he but
loves the better because she is extravagant and fickle. His descending
power is neither the winding nor the straight line but zigzag,
illuminating the passive and active properties, the tree's two sorts of
fruit: it is the sudden lightning, for all his acts of power are
instantaneous. We perceive in a pulsation of the artery, and after slowly


Each Daemon is drawn to whatever man or, if its nature is more general, to
whatever nation it most differs from, and it shapes into its own image
the antithetical dream of man or nation. The Jews had already shown by the
precious metals, by the ostentatious wealth of Solomon's temple, the
passion that has made them the money-lenders of the modern world. If they
had not been rapacious, lustful, narrow and persecuting beyond the people
of their time, the incarnation had been impossible; but it was an
intellectual impulse from the Condition of Fire that shaped their
antithetical self into that of the classic world. So always it is an
impulse from some Daemon that gives to our vague, unsatisfied desire,
beauty, a meaning and a form all can accept.


Only in rapid and subtle thought, or in faint accents heard in the quiet
of the mind, can the thought of the spirit come to us but little changed;
for a mind, that grasps objects simultaneously according to the degree of
its liberation, does not think the same thought with the mind that sees
objects one after another. The purpose of most religious teaching, of the
insistence upon the submission to God's will above all, is to make certain
of the passivity of the vehicle where it is most pure and most tenuous.
When we are passive where the vehicle is coarse, we become mediumistic,
and the spirits who mould themselves in that coarse vehicle can only
rarely and with great difficulty speak their own thoughts and keep their
own memory. They are subject to a kind of drunkenness and are stupefied,
old writers said, as if with honey, and readily mistake our memory for
their own, and believe themselves whom and what we please. We bewilder and
overmaster them, for once they are among the perceptions of successive
objects, our reason, being but an instrument created and sharpened by
those objects, is stronger than their intellect, and they can but repeat
with brief glimpses from another state, our knowledge and our words.


A friend once dreamed that she saw many dragons climbing upon the steep
side of a cliff and continually falling. Henry More thought that those
who, after centuries of life, failed to find the rhythmic body and to pass
into the Condition of Fire, were born again. Edmund Spenser, who was among
More's masters, affirmed that nativity without giving it a cause:

  "After that they againe retourned beene,
  They in that garden planted be agayne,
  And grow afresh, as they had never seene
  Fleshy corruption, nor mortal payne.
  Some thousand years so doen they ther remayne,
  And then of him are clad with other hew,
  Or sent into the chaungeful world agayne,
  Till thither they retourn where first they grew:
  So like a wheele, around they roam from old to new."

The dead who speak to us deny metempsychosis, perhaps because they but
know a little better what they knew alive; while the dead in Asia, for
perhaps no better reason, affirm it, and so we are left amid
plausibilities and uncertainties.


But certainly it is always to the Condition of Fire, where emotion is not
brought to any sudden stop, where there is neither wall nor gate, that we
would rise; and the mask plucked from the oak-tree is but my imagination
of rhythmic body. We may pray to that last condition by any name so long
as we do not pray to it as a thing or a thought, and most prayers call it
man or woman or child:

  "For mercy has a human heart,
  Pity a human face."

Within ourselves Reason and Will, who are the man and woman, hold out
towards a hidden altar, a laughing or crying child.


When I remember that Shelley calls our minds "mirrors of the fire for
which all thirst," I cannot but ask the question all have asked, "What or
who has cracked the mirror?" I begin to study the only self that I can
know, myself, and to wind the thread upon the perne again.

At certain moments, always unforeseen, I become happy, most commonly when
at hazard I have opened some book of verse. Sometimes it is my own verse
when, instead of discovering new technical flaws, I read with all the
excitement of the first writing. Perhaps I am sitting in some crowded
restaurant, the open book beside me, or closed, my excitement having
over-brimmed the page. I look at the strangers near as if I had known them
all my life, and it seems strange that I cannot speak to them: everything
fills me with affection, I have no longer any fears or any needs; I do not
even remember that this happy mood must come to an end. It seems as if the
vehicle had suddenly grown pure and far extended and so luminous that one
half imagines that the images from _Anima Mundi_, embodied there and drunk
with that sweetness, would, as some country drunkard who had thrown a
wisp into his own thatch, burn up time.

It may be an hour before the mood passes, but latterly I seem to
understand that I enter upon it the moment I cease to hate. I think the
common condition of our life is hatred--I know that this is so with
me--irritation with public or private events or persons. There is no great
matter in forgetfulness of servants, or the delays of tradesmen, but how
forgive the ill-breeding of Carlyle, or the rhetoric of Swinburne, or that
woman who murmurs over the dinner-table the opinion of her daily paper?
And only a week ago last Sunday, I hated the spaniel who disturbed a
partridge on her nest, a trout who took my bait and yet broke away
unhooked. The books say that our happiness comes from the opposite of
hate, but I am not certain, for we may love unhappily. And plainly, when
I have closed a book too stirred to go on reading, and in those brief
intense visions of sleep, I have something about me that, though it makes
me love, is more like innocence. I am in the place where the daemon is,
but I do not think he is with me until I begin to make a new personality,
selecting among those images, seeking always to satisfy a hunger grown out
of conceit with daily diet; and yet as I write the words, "I select," I am
full of uncertainty, not knowing when I am the finger, when the clay.
Once, twenty years ago, I seemed to awake from sleep to find my body
rigid, and to hear a strange voice speaking these words through my lips as
through lips of stone: "We make an image of him who sleeps, and it is not
him who sleeps, and we call it Emmanuel."


As I go up and down my stair and pass the gilded Moorish wedding-chest
where I keep my "barbarous words," I wonder will I take to them once more,
for I am baffled by those voices that still speak as to Odysseus but as
the bats; or now that I shall in a little be growing old, to some kind of
simple piety like that of an old woman.

_May_ 9, 1917.


MY DEAR "MAURICE"--I was often in France before you were born or when you
were but a little child. When I went for the first or second time Mallarmé
had just written: "All our age is full of the trembling of the veil of the
temple." One met everywhere young men of letters who talked of magic. A
distinguished English man of letters asked me to call with him on
Stanislas de Gaeta because he did not dare go alone to that mysterious
house. I met from time to time with the German poet Doukenday, a grave
Swede whom I only discovered after years to have been Strindberg, then
looking for the philosopher's stone in a lodging near the Luxembourg; and
one day in the chambers of Stuart Merrill the poet, I spoke with a young
Arabic scholar who displayed a large, roughly-made gold ring which had
grown to the shape of his finger. Its gold had no hardening alloy, he
said, because it was made by his master, a Jewish Rabbi, of alchemical
gold. My critical mind--was it friend or enemy?--mocked, and yet I was
delighted. Paris was as legendary as Connaught. This new pride, that of
the adept, was added to the pride of the artist. Villiers de L'Isle Adam,
the haughtiest of men, had but lately died. I had read his _Axel_ slowly
and laboriously as one reads a sacred book--my French was very bad--and
had applauded it upon the stage. As I could not follow the spoken words, I
was not bored even where Axel and the Commander discussed philosophy for a
half-hour instead of beginning their duel. If I felt impatient it was only
that they delayed the coming of the adept Janus, for I hoped to recognise
the moment when Axel cries: "I know that lamp, it was burning before
Solomon"; or that other when he cries: "As for living, our servants will
do that for us."

The movement of letters had been haughty even before Magic had touched it.
Rimbaud had sung: "Am I an old maid that I should fear the embrace of
death?" And everywhere in Paris and in London young men boasted of the
garret, and claimed to have no need of what the crowd values.

Last summer you, who were at the age I was when first I heard of Mallarmé
and of Verlaine, spoke much of the French poets young men and women read
to-day. Claudel I already somewhat knew, but you read to me for the first
time from Jammes a dialogue between a poet and a bird, that made us cry,
and a whole volume of Peguy's _Mystère de la Charité de Jeanne d'Arc_.
Nothing remained the same but the preoccupation with religion, for these
poets submitted everything to the Pope, and all, even Claudel, a proud
oratorical man, affirmed that they saw the world with the eyes of
vine-dressers and charcoal-burners. It was no longer the soul, self-moving
and self-teaching--the magical soul--but Mother France and Mother Church.

Have not my thoughts run through a like round, though I have not found my
tradition in the Catholic Church, which was not the church of my
childhood, but where the tradition is, as I believe, more universal and
more ancient?

W. B. Y.

_May_ 11, 1917.

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[1] Translated by Arthur Symons from _San Juan de la Cruz_.

[2] I have no better authority for Caesarea than Landor's play.

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