One of the favourite drinks here at NovelTea is our James Joyce Latte Macchiato. Since it's St Paddy's Day month, we've decided to show you how we make one.
The Rabbit has been running around here in a frenzy reminding us all that we're late, so I suppose I should start by apologizing for the delay in putting out the March issue... but I have been bewaring the Ides, always bewaring the Ides. Besides, it's been pure Madness around this place all month and, of course, given the month in question the Hare has been harassing me to have his say, but between you and me he's more than a tad Mad himself, and so I've overruled that nonsense.
Let's see now. So much has happened since Maga's last ish that I hardly know where to begin. Across the border, March Madness has begun in earnest with Trump-mania, while here on this side of the great divide the CBC has been trying to act surprised that American liberal arts undergrad students seem to be more taken with Pierre's young lad than with the Donald. As for me, I've always been of the opinion that the nature and character of the man in the arena (or woman... with apologies to Ms Hillary) is the far more important consideration than whether s/he happens to deliver the pitch from the left hand or the right.
Speaking of, the Jays are looking at a kid who can pitch with both which, by my count, means he can also catch with both, but no one seems to care for that little tidbit. At any rate, the boys of summer are back and spring training is in full swing, as it were, so someone has deemed it a fitting opportunity to publish djeremy's too cute by half short story, Zone.
Next, a bit of sadness. We lost Harper Lee since last we spoke. Personally, I'm not entirely sure which is the more tragic between the cynical money raking publication of that little bit of trite Juvenilia in her final months with us, or her actual passing, but she was a literary giant of her own sort and left us behind perhaps the most beloved child heroine in all of literature; Alice might have something to say about that, but if you knew that brat like I do you'd think differently. In Ms Lee's honour, and in the spirit of that other March Madness business, we'll be settling the issue once and for all with our inaugural single elimination literary bracket in a quest to crown the Most Beloved Literary Child Heroine. Jeremy also promises a new video on character development in To Kill a Mockingbird, but he'd like to put it off until all the dishes have been washed, so we'll not hold our breath.
What else? Oh yes. By this time next week Spring will have Sprung upon us, but first we must do St Paddy's Day, and Easter soon to follow. We'll be paying homage to the one with Thoreau's penultimate Chapter of Walden on “Spring,” and to t'other with Jeremy DeVito's essay on Irish novelist Charles Maturin's classic, Melmoth the Wanderer, then touch the last with one of our most ancient and too oft neglected Old English poems, “The Dream of the Rood.” Finally, we'll circle back around and hit all three with a reprinting of “The Selfish Giant,” the heartbreaking Easter fairy tale about kindness and the coming of Spring by that Irish genius of letters, Oscar Wilde.
We'll tie it all up in a neat little bow with a video tutorial on the making of NovelTea's famous “James Joyce” Latte Macchiato, throw out a call for submissions, and shut it down for another month.
As always, I do hope you enjoy the ish, but if you don't, who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!
Once again, the seventh inning stretch catches me completely off guard. I’ve been in the bigs for a full week now, and still I’m too dumbfounded to keep a firm grasp on what’s happening. It’s not so much that I’m in awe of the game being played on the field as I’m fascinated by the game being played in my head. That’s where the real excitement is. The only problem is that in the game in my head there is no seventh inning; it’s always the bottom of the ninth, the bases are always loaded, and I’m always up. So when the game on the field—the “real” game—reaches the middle of the seventh inning, here I am, perched on the bench, grinning from ear to ear, when I should be hiding out in the showers or running, screaming, into the press box.
The worst thing about it is, until lately, I’ve always loved the seventh inning stretch. I’ve always fancied that seven was a magical number. Magical numbers can go a long way in life. I was even a little excited when I stopped growing, just because of the numbers involved: three feet, seven inches. Talk about your magical numbers. I took it as a sign I’d lead a charmed life. And maybe I was right; after all, here I am, sitting in the dugout of the Saint Louis Browns, in uniform, waiting for an opportunity to sock it to the Detroit Tigers. Magical numbers can go a long way in baseball.
Except that right now the numbers aren’t really working in my favour. Big Rob Wadlow is the first to get his mitts on me. “Stretch time, little buddy.” That’s been his standard line every seventh inning since I’ve arrived; it’s also about the closest I’ve come to having a conversation with a teammate. He tucks me under his arm and carries me up the stairs onto the grass where three others join him. Each takes hold of an arm or a leg and pulls with all his might, acting out what everyone but myself seems to consider a very clever pun. Every game it’s been three different guys; the whole team wants in on the fun. Wadlow’s the only constant and I’m starting to get worried that my right arm actually is getting a little longer (he likes to work the same area). Anyway, I’m a rookie, so for now I’ve got to take what I get; but truth be known, this whole ritual terrifies me. Here I am, surrounded by fifty thousand screaming, pointing, laughing fans while four professional athletes try their damndest to tear me limb from limb. It’s like my worst carnival nightmare come to life. But then, I have to accept at least partial responsibility. My grin doesn’t help matters much; they see it as a sign of compliance. Really, it’s just an outward reaction to the game in my head—I’ve just cleared the bags with a screaming line drive down the third base side.
Then it’s all over, as suddenly as it began, and I’m propped back into place in the dugout, like some stuffed toy mascot. My joints hurt and my heart’s racing and I just can’t get the game in my head to come back on. Baseball fantasies get more and more difficult to hold onto once you’ve been subjected to the cold, hard reality of it all. So I let my mind drift off in another direction: back home to the missus. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give right now for a long wet kiss, to feel her whiskers tickling my chin. A part of me even wants to see Brutus again. At least when that big oaf tossed me around he had enough concern for my safety to use a net. Besides, a strong man does have to keep in shape, so I really can’t judge him too harshly for throwing me over the high wire now and then. And then, I wasn’t the only one being stared at. In the “Funland Fair” everybody was equal; a freak was a freak, whether you were the Bearded Lady, the Smallest Living Man On Earth, or Brutal Brutus Beefcake. As far as everyone else was concerned, we were interchangeable—so different that we were all the same.
Of course, the war made everyone feel a little strange. But when people saw us they seemed to find some comfort in our strangeness. All that was needed to convince most folk that the world was still sane was to compare it to a world made up of fat ladies and dwarves. Then, all of a sudden, the war was over. Normalcy was back and the world was intent on forgetting that it had ever gone missing. It also seemed pretty intent on forgetting about us.
“Funland Fair” kept touring. We still went from town to town and we still filled the tent from time to time. But things were different. People came to see the acrobats and the lion tamers: humanity in all its glory. Freaks like me? They put us into booths and behind curtains and charged cruel children a dime to taunt us and throw things. The truth is, we weren’t earning our keep anymore and, one way or another, Mr. Bojangals wanted us out. Most complied. But Jenny and I decided to stay on; carnival life was all that we knew. And besides, as long as we were together that’s all that really mattered. Brutus stayed on with the hopes of getting into the main show. He figured a strong man was every bit as interesting and appealing as an acrobat. As for Bertha, she endured for the sake of Brutus.
We held out that way for almost five years until, one day in ‘50, Mr. Bojangals told us to leave, straight up. So we packed our bags, threw them onto Brutus’ broad shoulders and headed off for Pennsylvania to stay with Bertha’s sisters while we looked for work. But we soon found out that, when you’re different, it can be pretty hard to find work. People get so hung up on trying to figure out what you are that they never take the time to find out what you can do. So one day the four of us sat down and tried to figure it out for ourselves.
The answer was obvious: fastball. It was Jenny who came up with the idea. Back when the “Funland Fair” was a better place to be we relaxed between shows by playing fastball. Freaks versus the performers. Freaks always won and it just so happens we four were the star players. But Jenny was the key. Jenny’s the most dominant windmill pitcher you’ve ever laid eyes on. So we formulated a plan and became a four player team. Before we knew it we were back in showbiz, touring the country, drawing sell-out crowds, playing exhibition games against anyone and everyone. Only now we were finally being recognized for what we could do instead of what we were. Granted, we were a curiosity what with a bearded lady pitching from second base to a fat lady at home while a strong man shagged flies in the outfield and a dwarf manned first. But what really made people sit up and take notice was something far more simple than all that: in over a year’s worth of fastball, playing almost every day of the season, we never lost a game.
So a couple of weeks ago, when the scouts started snooping around, I wasn’t surprised. I’d figured they’d get wind of Jenny’s arm sooner or later. Except we soon found out that they weren’t interested in Jenny at all. It was the fellow from St. Louis who explained it to us. Jenny pitches underhand and “there’s no room for an underhand pitcher in serious baseball.” Then he turned his head, looked me square in the eyes, and said, “I’m here for you.” At first I was in shock; I’d always considered myself the weak link. My numbers just didn’t match up. Jenny had pitched 31 perfect games in just over a year, not to mention 3608 strikeouts in 1444 innings. Bertha had gone the same number of innings without allowing a passed ball, or even a wild pitch (and Jenny can get pretty wild when her beard gets twisted). And Brutus had hit 349 home runs in 171 games, including a couple that went at least 700 feet. Now those are some magical numbers. But when I thought it over it started to make more sense. I may have had only 18 hits, but I was also batting 1.000 with 1645 walks (when there are only four players on the team you tend to get a lot of plate appearances). And besides, my strike zone is small enough that I can afford to wait for my pitch; so all my hits went for extra bases.
The others soon talked me into taking a shot at it. Within a week I was on the roster of the St. Louis Browns sporting the number 1/8 which, if you subtract the top from the bottom, gives you a seven. But, like I said earlier, the numbers aren’t really working for me lately. I’ve spent a full week on the bench without so much as one at bat, except for those I get in the game in my head. But right now I can’t get that game back on and I’m stuck with the one on the field. I peek out at the scoreboard to get my bearings. Somehow we’ve reached the ninth inning, but the game isn’t over yet; it’s tied up, four all. I look out onto the field: we’re at bat and we have runners on first and third. This game’s actually worth watching. The scoreboard tells me that there are two outs and the panicked dialogue of the coaches tells me that we’re all out of pitchers. If we’re going to win, we have to win it here. Lefty Hatcher steps up to the plate and Wadlow steps into the on deck circle. The trip from the dugout takes him only four steps. I always find myself counting Wadlow’s steps. The guy is amazing. He can walk from home to first in less than 25; it takes me 77 (I could do it in 70 but I double up for luck). Anyway, Wadlow doesn’t get many walks. He’s one of the most explosive hitters in the league and he likes to swing away and make things happen. Guys like Wadlow live for situations like this. If Lefty can get on, the game is in Wadlow’s hands.
The ump yells “BALL FOUR!” and, with that, the bases are juiced. But just as Wadlow’s stepping towards the plate something strange happens. Coach calls him back. Then he walks over my way and, without ever really reaching me, or even looking at me for that matter, he mumbles “Get out there Gaedel.” I hop down off the bench and calmly walk over to select a bat from the bat rack. Inside I’m in shock. I suspect that I’m back playing the game in my head but Wadlow’s cold eyes, coupled with a strange mixture of boos and laughter from the crowd, suggest that this is the real thing.
So what’s the big deal? This is why I’m here. I take a couple of deep breaths and, after having been told not to bother with my practice swings, I step up to the plate. The pitcher just grins at me but I know who has the upper hand. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for. This is my chance to finally show my stuff. The problem with playing exhibition fast ball was that we rarely faced a pitcher who could hit my strike zone. But when one did, I always gave the ball a ride. The way I figure it, this guy’s a pro; he can put the ball where I like it. And right now, with the bases loaded and the game on the line, he has no choice but to pitch to me.
I look over at third to check the signs. The third base coach tugs his ear, that’s my tip; third sign after that tells me what’s on. It’s a tip of the cap: I’m taking all the way. I’d rather swing, but the call makes sense; this guy did just walk Lefty on five pitches. He goes into his wind-up and then the ball comes hurling towards me. It’s low and in the dirt, but the catcher comes up with it.
The ritual begins all over again and once again I’m taking all the way. At least the pitcher isn’t grinning anymore. His second pitch is better than the first but it’s still a bit low.
Now he has to pitch one to me. I look over to third expecting the swing away sign. Instead I get another tip of the cap. But when the ball comes towards me it’s just too pretty to resist. Down the middle of the plate, no movement at all and slightly high; just where I like it. I take a mammoth swing and send the ball on a line to the gap in left. The place goes nuts as I round first and my teammates gather me up on their shoulders and start singing rounds of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow...” But that’s just the game in my head coming back on. In this game I’m taking all the way.
The pitcher’s rattled. He starts jawing at the ump who tells him “that last pitch was just a little high for such a little guy.” That eases the tension somewhat and we’re back in business. I don’t even bother checking the signs this time. With three balls and the bases loaded I’d tip my own cap if it were up to me. I’m taking all the way. The pitcher lobs one in, fat and straight, but it comes up just a little short.
I drop the bat and wait for the cheers of the fans. All I get is laughter. I wait for my teammates to storm the field but when I look to the dugout they’re already heading up the ramp to the showers. The guys on the base paths just hang their heads and advance 90 feet in an effort to bring the game to a close. But they can’t do it without me; this game is mine now and it isn’t over until I end it. I wait for a minute, then two, and finally people start to take notice. First the umps, then the coaches, then the players, and then the fans. They all join together in encouraging me to get it over with. And so, with a hundred thousand eyes fixed on me and only me, I raise my head in the air and half walking, half leaping, make my way down the line to first in exactly 25 steps.
"Zone" was first published in Issue 13 (Fall 2000) of The Gaspereau Review.
The Dream of the Rood is an Old Anglo Saxon poem dating back as far as the 7th century. The Author is uncertain, but many scholars have attributed the poem to either Cædmon or CyneWulf. The current text is from EH Hickey's 1882 Translation.
The Dream of the Rood
Lo, I will tell of the best of dreams, which I dream'd at deep midnight,
When men were lying at rest; meseem'd I saw the blessed Tree,
The loveliest Tree, the Tree most good, uplift and girt with light,
And flooded with gold; and precious gems at its foot were fair to see,
And five bright stones on the shoulder-span shone out full gloriously.
All the fair angels of the Lord gazing beheld it there;
'Twas not the rood of the sin-steept man, the cross of the ill-doer,
But holy spirits lookt thereon, and men of mortal breath,
And all this mighty universe; and the rood of victory
Was blessed, and I was deep-defil'd, sin-wounded unto death.
Bedeckt with royal weeds I saw it shine full splendidly,
And jewels of uncounted cost blaz'd on the wondrous Tree.
Yet, thro' the sheen of gold I saw the mourners' bitter woe,
The blood ooz'd out on the right side first for the strife of long ago:
Stricken and smitten with grief was I, afraid for that lovely sight:
I saw the beacon set up on high, rich-rob'd in royal blee,
Anon all wet, defil'd with blood, anon with gold most bright:
Long, while I lay, laden with grief, beheld the Saviour's Tree,
Until' I heard the Blessed speak; these words it spake to me.
"It was long ago, I mind it yet, I was hewn in the heart of the wood,
"I was cut away from my standing-place; the strong foes took me there,
"And brought me for a sight and show, ordain'd me when I stood
"To lift their evil-doers up, their law-breakers to bear,
"They bare me on their shoulders strong, upon a hill they set,
"And made me fast, a many foes; then saw I mankind's Lord
"With mighty courage hasten Him to mount on me, and yet
"Tho' all earth shook, I durst not bend or break without His word;
"Firm must I stand, nor fall and crash the gazing foes abhorr'd.
"Then the young Hero made Him dight, the Mighty God was He,
"Steadfast and very stout of heart, mounted the shameful tree;
"Strong-soul'd, in sight of many there, mankind He fain would free.
"I trembled sore when He claspt me round, yet durst not bow or bend,
"I must not fall upon the earth, but stand fast to the end.
"A rood I stood, and lifted up the great King, Lord of Heaven;
"I durst not stoop; they pierced me thro' with dark nails sharply driven,
"The wounds are plain to see here yet, the open wounds that yawn,
"Yet nothing nowise durst I do of scathe to anyone.
"They put us both to shame, us twain; I was bedrenoht in blood
"Shed from the speartorn heart of Him, when His Soul was gone to God.
"Oh, grievous was my cruel fate on the hillside that day;
"I saw the mighty God of Hosts stretcht out in dreadful wise;
"The darkness veil'd its Maker's corpse with clouds, the shades did weigh
"The bright light down with evil weight all wan beneath the skies.
"Then did the whole creation weep and the King's death bemoan.
"Christ was upon the rood. Then came where He did hang alone
"Those noble ones; I saw it all; afflicted sore was I,
"Yet bow'd me to their faithful hands humbly with courage high.
"They lifted up the Almighty God after that torment dread;
"They left me standing, drencht with gore, with arrows sore wounded;
"They laid down the limb-weary One, and stood about His head,
"Gaz'd on Heaven's Lord who, weary now after the Mighty fight,
"Rested Him there a little while. Then, in the murderers' sight,
"The men began to make His tomb, of white stone carv'd it fair,
"And laid the Lord of Victory within the sepulchre.
"Then sang they sorrow-songs for Him, mourners at eventide,
"When, weary, they were fain to go from the great Prince's side:
"There did the mighty Lord of Hosts with never a host abide.
"Yet for a space we stood there still, weeping full bitterly;
"The sound of the warrior's voice went up; chill waxt that fair Body;
"Then did they fell us to the earth: Oh, awsome fate to dree!
"In the deep pit they buried us; yet the Lord's servants, they
"Who are His friends, have joy'd in me, and made me fair to-day,
"With silver and with gold adorn'd, and beautiful, array.
"Now may'st thou hear the tale, O man. O life and dear, the tale
"Of that sore sorrow I have borne, sore sorrow and bitter bale;
"But the time is come that, far and wide, they honour me alway,
"Men, and the whole great universe, and at this beacon pray.
"On me God's Son His anguish took, so, glorious, towering free,
"I stand 'neath heaven, a healing made for whoso honoureth me.
"Once I was sorest pine and shame, sharpest and bitterest then
"Ere I had open'd life's true way unto the sons of men."
Perhaps the most understandable reaction to Charles Maturin’s gothic novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, is that of confusion. The book is anything but simple to digest as attempts at locating a narrative center from which to scrutinize characters and events are repeatedly frustrated. In fact, Melmoth is a novel constructed around multiple shifting and decidedly decentred viewpoints. As storyline piles upon storyline the reader is left struggling to keep up with rapidly changing narrative perspectives. Ultimately, the narrative(s) is/are defined by what poststructuralist theorists have termed ‘enonciation’ or, more broadly, ‘utterance.’ V.N. Volosinov states that “The organizing center of any utterance, of any experience, is not within but outside – in the social milieu surrounding the individual being” (60). That is to say, each utterance is coloured and qualified by the conditions of its being uttered; communications are overtly tied to the situations surrounding their transmission. As such, an utterance is not to be seen as transmitting a static and self-contained communication that can be repeated, but as an ever shifting dialogue that changes form with its changing surroundings. In making meaning, the telling is as important as the tale. It is this complexity that is reflected in the overtly dialogic/polyphonic structure of Melmoth the Wanderer. As the novel progresses, any hint of a centred and authoritative narrative stance (whatever form it might take) gets confused with and obscured by the several surrounding narrative conditions and the several narrative voices of the tale’s several narrators.
Certainly, one of the most significant conditions of utterance explored within the pages of Melmoth the Wanderer is the factor of the speaker. The novel, despite its intriguingly singular subtitle A Tale, is delivered by several and various tellers. From the very outset, Maturin points up the importance of this detail. A telling case in point occurs when the senior Melmoth, near death, requests that one of the hired mourners at his bed will “get up a prayer” for him (15). In compliance, one of the markedly Catholic women begins to read, “with more emphasis than good discretion” a badly chosen passage from Melmoth’s “Protestant prayer book” (16). Here, the import of the speaker’s identity is underscored when John Melmoth, “hearing the inappropriate words uttered by the ignorant woman” takes the book from her hand and begins to read a more suitable selection “in a suppressed voice” (16). What is notable about this incident is the fact that the prayer book, the text itself, remains the same. The nature of the utterance, though, is altered significantly, with regard to both tone and content, as a result of shifting readers. Thus, it is clear from the very beginning of the novel that who speaks is as important a feature of utterance as what is said in that the speaker’s distinctiveness invades and colours both form and content.
In effect, this episode serves as a reminder that there are no static and authoritative accounts; utterance is always in flux, shifting as the origin of vocalization shifts. Complicating this matter further within the novel is the fact that it is constructed largely of embedded tales, layering narrative voice upon narrative voice. The effects of this narrative mode are illustrated early in the second chapter of the novel when John Melmoth summons an old woman to explain the strange circumstances of his uncle’s death; the narrator, at this point, relays the information in “nearly” the woman’s own words but sparing “the reader her endless circumlocutions, her Irishisms, and the frequent interruptions” (22). What remains is, thus, a hybrid report collaboratively generated through the utterances of the old woman and the narrator both. Hence, the absence of any single authoritative voice within the novel is made overt as each account is the product of several various voices.
This having been said, Maturin does begin his novel with a more or less conventional third-person narration and even has his narrator refer back to the “author of the tale” (12) at one early point as the implied authoritative voice behind the text. However, this perspective does not last very long. Throughout the greater part of the novel there is an overt absence of any singular authoritative voice in favour of a complex layering and fragmentation of marginalized, disenfranchised, and often, as Julia Wright notes, ‘disinherited’ voices. Thus, fewer than twenty pages into the novel, the history of Melmoth the Wanderer is originally given by Biddy Brannigan, at the request of John Melmoth. Of note here is the narrator’s assertion that Brannigan is sent for only as “Melmoth’s last resource” (24). The initial description of the “withered Sybil” (10), given upon Melmoth’s having first arrived at his uncle’s home, presents Brannigan in a decidedly dismissive light. Overtly associated with the folk traditions of the Irish peasantry as an authority on “the ‘evil eye,’” she is characterized as both a charlatan, “practicing on the fears, the ignorance, and the sufferings of beings as miserable as herself,” and a superstitious believer who “probably felt a large share of” her audience’s enthusiasm (10). It is significant, then, that this blatantly discredited source serves as the voice of the novel’s earliest account of the Wanderer. Moreover, Brannigan’s narrative is couched in terms consistent with her folk/oral traditional values and assumptions; it is founded upon “strange reports,” and what “was said” to be true (26), as well as what “was therefore judged,” and the teller’s own “solemnly-attested belief” (27). At this point the narrative has entered into uncertain territory. On the one hand, both the voice and the narrative mode are compromised through the preceding scepticism expressed by the third person narrator. On the other hand, Brannigan’s narrative is allocated a certain degree of privilege here as the only account available to this point, the third person narrator having, in essence, deferred to the sibyl.
Stanton’s account, following closely after Brannigan’s oral narrative, displaces the authoritative centre in a comparable manner. Like Brannigan’s narrative, Stanton’s is marked by the identity of its teller. Stanton, a Protestant Englishman, is described as being “a man of literature, intelligence, and curiosity” (28). Hence, in place of Brannigan’s oral tale grounded in folk legend and tradition, Stanton’s narrative takes the apt form of a written manuscript and is grounded in first-hand experience and observation. The manuscript is, in essence, akin to a historical or scientific report. It is a collection of data gathered by Stanton in his effort to satisfy his curiosity about Melmoth. This reading is supported by Stanton’s feelings, upon having tracked Melmoth down in London, “of disappointment at the futility of his pursuits, like Bruce at discovering the source of the Nile, or Gibbon on concluding his History” (43-44). The surface implications here are that Stanton’s account, being based in fact and discovery rather than superstition, will surpass Brannigan’s in reliability and detail. This, of course, is not the case. Where Brannigan offers a concise yet whole depiction of Melmoth, Stanton offers fragmented details not only in that the physical manuscript is disintegrating, but also in the fact that it ends with Stanton asserting his “desire of meeting him once more” (59). Such is the nature of Stanton’s investigatory mode; synthesis is deferred as additional data is sought out. Furthermore, there are indications that Stanton may be unreliable; although he is a self-described “man of genius” (45), his obsession with Melmoth suggests “to some prudent people that he was deranged” (45) and he ends up in a mad-house as a result. Thus, as with Brannigan’s narrative, the conditions of utterance surrounding Stanton’s manuscript make it suspect. More important, though, is the fact that such utterances are the only accounts of Melmoth that the novel provides as the third-person narrator of remains detached, neither substantiating nor refuting the first-person accounts as given.
However, the key move toward narrative distancing begins with the “Tale of the Spaniard.” Once again, the identity of the teller becomes a crucial condition of utterance here as the distinctly Catholic voice of Alonzo Moncada, the first person narrator of this tale and the framing voice of the greater part of the novel, displaces a third-person narrative voice that has been marked as unquestionably Protestant in its identification of a “Protestant prayer book” as one of “our prayer-books” (16). This narrative shift is significant in that, as Robert Kiely notes “Melmoth the Wanderer is filled with satirical jibes at the Catholic preoccupation with active charity and the competitive means by which Catholics try to attain heaven” (205) and, for the most part, these anti-Catholic sentiments are presented either directly or indirectly through Moncada. A striking example comes in the form of a speech given by a dying monk who advises Moncada that “The repetition of religious duties, without the feeling or spirit of religion, produces an incurable callosity of heart” and, further, that he believes “half our lay-brothers to be Atheists” (112). However, Moncada’s cynicism is balanced by his acknowledgment of such “just” Catholics as the Bishop who comes to rescue him and even the guards of the Inquisition at the hands of whom Moncada states “we were treated with great humanity and consideration” (240) on the night of the fire. There can be little doubt that the overall tone of the tale is both infected with and complicated by the identity of its Catholic teller.
As with previous tellers, Moncada’s identity would also seem to have an influence upon the form that his tale takes. For all intents and purposes, Moncada’s narrative relating his experiences in the monastery might be classified as a typical martyr’s tale (excepting, of course, the fact that Moncada survives). Although Moncada does describe the physical deprivation and anguish to which he is subjected by his fellow monks stating that he “had no food for many days” and was permitted “no water in [his] cell” (152), his focus remains on the spiritual deprivation from which he suffers. “[E]xcluded from the matins” (151), Moncada protests to his Superior that he is “forbid to pray, – they have stripped my cell of crucifix, rosary, and the vessel for holy water” (153). However, Moncada makes clear that, in spite of these conditions, he did “still continue to pray” (159). This narrative, then, presents itself as something of a saint’s tale of devotion in the face of religious persecution. In keeping with this tradition Moncada speaks of being tempted with the promise of relief from his suffering if he will renounce his faith and “Rise from your bed, trample on the crucifix which you will find at the foot of it, [and] spit on the picture of the Virgin that lies beside it” (155). Ultimately, Moncada’s refusal to reject his faith in face of such great suffering casts the speaker as a devoted saintly figure. It is significant, then, that Moncada prefaces his account of Melmoth with this personal history, thereby affording his voice a degree of religious authority. However, this authority is complicated by the fact that the tormenters in his tale are Catholic monks and, although Moncada desires not to be a monk, he remains always a Catholic. Moncada’s position in offering a doubly marginalized perspective (that of a Catholic excluded by Catholics) remains, thus, in the foreground of his speech as a significant condition of utterance.
This foregrounding of the conditions of utterance is continued after Moncada’s escape from the Inquisition when he breaks off from his own history to tell the “Tale of the Indians” that he has transcribed for the Jew, Adonijah. Again, what is significant here is not only that there is another level of narrative, but that this narrative comes from a Jewish source (moving us further into the margins from the Protestant Christianity of Maturin himself as well as the third-person narrator of his frame tale). Making this narrative shift most intriguing, though, is that fact that with Adonijah’s manuscript Maturin provides what is essentially the closest that the novel comes to supplying an omniscient narrative. Indeed, Adonijah’s account moves from “an island in the Indian sea” (272) to “a villa belonging to [the Aliaga] family” in Madrid (330), to “a wretched inn” (395) where Don Francisco stops for the night on his journey homeward. In each setting the narrative presents the details of private conversations and even the very internal thoughts of various characters. Whereas Moncada includes in the telling of his own history explanations for his knowledge of events taking place in his absence, more than once in the form of a confession from “a monk who was on his dying bed” (164), Adonijah’s manuscript offers no such explanations. The implication here is that the true origin of the manuscript is to be found beyond the limitations of human knowledge in the divine. Hence, Adonijah takes on the characteristics of a prophet like figure and his manuscript those of divinely inspired scripture. This portrayal is reinforced by Adonijah’s very language which is marked with the distinctive verbal cues of the King James Bible: “thou shalt know the secret that hath been a burthen to the soul of Adonijah” (269). In one sense, then, the conditions of utterance surrounding Adonijah’s words suggest a uniquely authoritative perspective. However, this reading is complicated not only by the fact that Adonijah occupies a marginal position as a Spanish Jew, but also by the fact that the words of the manuscript are delivered through Monsada’s own layer of narrative and that their very accuracy relies heavily upon Moncada’s memory.
It has been pointed out by some critics, such as Chris Baldick, that despite this layering and shifting of narrators, the narrative remains “tonally continuous, so that the reader will often forget (as Maturin himself seems to do) just who is speaking at any given point” (xii). However, this observation ignores the distinct shifts in tone that often take place within the writings or tellings of a single narrator, such as Adonijah. One of the more pronounced examples of such a shift occurs in relation to Adonijah’s change of setting from Immalee’s Island to her home in Madrid. Here, highly charged melodrama invested with “emotion and terror” (324) gives way momentarily. Taking its place is a comic satire on Catholicism as the self-consumed Donna Clara expresses her baffled heartache to the gluttonous Father Jose, “Maturin’s only full comic character” (Harris 274), over Isidora’s (Immalee’s) suggestion “that religion ought to be a system whose spirit was universal love” (333). Later, Donna Clara has her “mind [made] easy” at Father Jose’s assurance that “all the inhabitants of those accursed Indian isles [will] be damned everlastingly” (339). The shift to an overtly ironic tone here is somewhat disorienting in that it seems ill-suited both for Adonijah’s prophetic script and Moncada’s urgent narration. Rather, there is the distinct sense in such passages that the voice of Maturin’s narrator, or of Maturin himself, is invading the text. A more intriguing instance of this type of confusion occurs in chapter twenty-two in the form of a strangely out of place defence, addressed “[T]o the mere reader of romance” (373), of the narrative’s seeming implausibility. As Linda Bayer-Berenbaum notes, “The reader is suspended between perspectives when he reads such statements. He finds himself wandering between realities in an eerie, undefined limbo” (88). In short, Maturin’s novel is anything but tonally continuous; tonal shifts within the novel simply resist serving their expected purpose of drawing clear distinctions between separate voices, instead working to point up the layering of narratives and the cross contamination of narrative stances (including that of the author) that results.
Tangled within these layers of narrative in Melmoth is “The Tale of Guzman’s Family” (which turns out to be the story of the Walberg family). Some critics have dismissed this section as a throw away story, considering the marginal and almost invisible role of Melmoth within the tale. Joseph Lew, however, notes that the conditions of Walberg are those in the novel most easily identifiable with Maturin himself who was, like Walberg, a poor Protestant in Catholic surroundings, struggling to feed his family. What we might otherwise read for clues as to the authoritative authorial stance of the novel is ultimately obscured, though, as it is relayed back to us only through several levels of enunciation and marginalization. The original teller of this tale is described only as “a stranger” who is “willing to pass away some hours […] in relating […] some circumstances relating to the wanderer” (397). Although not verified, there are hints that this stranger, with his “collections of facts relative to [Melmoth]” (396), is Stanton. The time period is certainly correct as Moncada makes clear in his suggestion that three years prior to this meeting Melmoth had divided his time between Immalee’s island and “the mad-house where the Englishman Stanton was tossing on his straw” (298). Assuming that this is the case, it is interesting to note that before reaching the ears of John Melmoth this narrative concerning a Protestant family and originating form a Protestant orator passes through Adonijah the Jew, and Moncada the Catholic. Simply put, any temptation to identify the intermittently manifest Protestant stance as a locus of authority within the novel is undercut by the inclusion of said stance in the enonciative process. Even the assumed position of the author himself, as represented by Walberg, is ultimately displaced by the collaboration of several marginalized narrative voices.
Maturin makes it a point to continuously draw attention to these layers through a number of different techniques. The most simple of these is his use of punctuation, specifically the insertion of a single quotation mark (‘) at the beginning of each paragraph not attributed to his third-person narrator. It might be argued that this use of grammatical signposts is not so thorough as it should be, in that Maturin overlooks indicating the position of narratives within narratives with double and triple quotation marks. Nevertheless, the result is a constant reminder that these tales originate out of specific tellers under specific conditions. This point is made even more overtly with occasional direct narrative intrusions through which the third person narrator steps in as if to remind us of the complex conditions surrounding the tale. Perhaps the most explicit example of this occurs during the “Tale of the Indians” which, having been interrupted by John Melmoth, is continued by Moncada only after the narrator has stepped in to announce, “He proceeded with the story of the unhappy Indian, as recorded in the parchments of Adonijah, which he had been compelled to copy, and of which he was anxious to impress every line and letter on his listener, to substantiate his own extraordinary story” (298-99). Here Maturin underscores the importance to our understanding of meaning of not only the tale itself and its several tellers, but also of the physical parchments, the listener, and even Moncada’s motivation for relaying the narrative. Such passages, serve the function of bringing these conditions to the fore as a reminder that utterance is not inert or fixed. It is constantly being reassembled and enonciated through conditions of narration.
Although easily overlooked, one of the most significant of these conditions in shaping the narration is the actual physical space in which utterances are formed. Throughout the novel Maturin consistently provides a specific setting for the transmission of each narrative, from Biddy Brannigan’s oral legend delivered from “the hearth-stone” (24) of a room in the Melmoth home, to the manuscript transcribed by Moncada in Adonijah’s subterranean “chamber” (267). In each case, the setting itself, and the power relations implied, established, and enforced by this physical space influence both what is uttered and how utterance is received. Such material and spatial factors become vital within the tales as well in defining the formation and reception of such utterances as confessions, pleas, and doctrinal or political declarations. Time and again situations surrounding communication within the novel serve to underscore the fact that where something is said is often as important as who says it.
Perhaps, the most telling illustration of the import of physical space as a condition of utterance is evident in Stanton’s account of his imprisonment within the mad-house. Surprised to find himself alone behind the locked door of a cell, Stanton calls out only to have his voice “echoed in a moment by many others, but in tones so wild and discordant, that he desisted in involuntary terror” (47). It is clear that in the context of a mad-house Stanton’s cries for help, which might be expected to demand attention elsewhere, carry little significance. To Stanton’s horror, this truth is only reinforced when “a man of savage appearance” (48) does come to his cell. Stanton, speaking in the distinct authoritative tone and language of a man confident in his own rank as compared to that of his addressee, demands “Release me, villain” and follows up by asking “Will you dare detain me?” (48), to which “the ruffian” responds by “applying a loaded horse-whip to his back and shoulders” (48). The circumstances of this incident demonstrate the speech act theories of Pierre Bourdieu who has suggested that “the use of language […] depends upon the social position of the speaker, which governs the access he can have to the language of the institution” (109). Simply put, in occupying the space of a madman, Stanton is taken to occupy the social position of a madman and, as such, his words are stripped of all claims to authority. Interestingly, Stanton reacts to this situation with silence in hopes that the “appearance of submission and tranquility” (49) will afford him an opportunity of escape. Even this behaviour fails, though, as it is “interpreted by the callous ruffian […] as a more refined species of that cunning which he was well accustomed to watch and baffle” (53). This episode ultimately works to highlight the impossibilities of utterance that is not informed and coloured by the physical and social space in which it is voiced. Furthermore, Stanton’s experience within the claustrophobic confines of the mad-house offers a key to understanding the enonciative workings of power relationships within the several similarly enclosed spaces in which so many of the novel’s tales are given utterance.
Serving as what is certainly the most overtly gothic of such tales is the story of the parricide embedded in Moncada’s own tale of his escape from the monastery. What is significant about this narrative, aside from the fact that it offers yet a further level of marginalization in being relayed by an outcast of society, is the notable similarity between the circumstances of the tale and the circumstances surrounding its transmission. Alone with his parricide accomplice “in the vault of a convent, beyond the help or reach of man” (203), Moncada initially has his companion forbear telling his tale feeling, “by the narrator that it must be something horrid” (203). However, when the narrative is picked up, at the request of Moncada, it soon becomes clear that the tale’s horror does not originate out of the narrator alone. In relating the fate of the tunnel’s “last inhabitants” (203), the parricide reveals his (ostensibly) former role as an instrument of the Superior, leading his unwitting victims “through the very passages you have traversed tonight” (208). Here, the uncanny repetition of the setting of the tale in the setting of its vocalization adds an unsettling layer of meaning to the narrative prompting Moncada to demand the parricide to “Stop,” observing that he is “tracing my course this night step by step” (208). Thus, the parricide (and Maturin for that matter) builds up the horror of the tale through its enonciation; the conditions surrounding his utterance are as significant in Moncada’s reception of the narrative as are the words being uttered.
Contributing further to the effects of physical space on the reception of the parricide’s narrative is the overt power relationship between speaker and listener. Unlike Stanton whose own speech is rendered powerless through his position as a captive orator, Moncada finds himself a captive listener powerless in relation to the horrific speech of the parricide. This dynamic is duly noted by the parricide himself who confronts Moncada’s objections asking, “what good would your suspicions do you, – you are in my power?” (208), before continuing on with his tale to its sensationalistic and homicidal conclusion. In effect, the parricide’s position of power within the enclosed space of the tunnels allows him to utter the unutterable, even implicating himself in murder as a means of provoking horror in Moncada while experiencing no fear of reprisal for himself.
Ultimately, the conditions of utterance surrounding the parricide’s tale and Stanton’s experience in the mad-house are important not only in what they reveal about these particular incidents, but also in the light they shed on Moncada’s various utterances. An examination of Moncada’s speech, taken on the whole, exposes an intriguing detail: Moncada invariably receives and conveys his tales in the context of enclosed physical spaces, often in the position of a captive. This detail is especially significant in light of the fact that the greater part of the novel is voiced either by or through Moncada. Moncada’s experience in the prison of the Inquisition serves as a useful illustration here. Brought before the inquisitors for examination, Moncada is questioned on his visitation from Melmoth and, responding that a person had indeed “appeared in my dungeon,” is interrupted by the Supreme who instructs him “You must call it a cell” (230). While this may seem a trivial semantic quibble, it is important to note that the Supreme here is actively redefining both Moncada’s physical space and his very discourse. The utterance that Moncada communicates in the prison of the Inquisition, it is clear, is as much a product of where he is and of his captive position as it is of Moncada, the orator himself. Thus, speaking of Melmoth’s own communication Moncada states “he uttered words that it would not be respectful to repeat” (230). With this Moncada points up the very dissimilar positions of Melmoth, who being unconfined by the enclosed physical space of the prison is free to vocalize similarly unrestrained utterances, and himself, who being confined by the prison must consciously restrain his own utterances even in repeating the speech of another. When one of the judges visits Moncada in his cell this restraint becomes absolute as Moncada begins to defend his behaviour and is silenced by the judge’s observation “that he came to speak and not to listen” (231). This pattern is repeated throughout the prison episode wherein Moncada’s speech is always qualified and coloured by his position as a captive.
The pattern continues, though, even after Moncada has escaped the prison and found a place “of refuge” (268) from the Inquisition in Adonijah’s secret room. Moncada’s position in this room, alternately referred to as a “chamber” (267) and a “vault” (270), shares much in common with his positions within the prison and even within the tunnels of the monastery that he shared with the parricide. In each case he is subject to the control of others, as evidenced in Adonijah’s eerie echoing of the parricide with his statement “Thou art in my power” (265). As Julian Moynahan suggests, “Moncada has not, after all, found his way to freedom. He has only exchanged cell for cell” (126). Moncada’s utterance is, in accordance, notably restrained in the context of this latest enclosed space. In response to Adonijah’s command “thou wilt hearken to me, and heed my words,” Moncada recalls that “[he] could not speak” (268). What Moncada does do within the confines of Adonijah’s room is write or, more accurately, he transcribes. The distinction here is an important one as it accentuates the fact that Moncada’s primary lingual activity within this setting is to scribe the words of someone else. Further, Moncada makes a point to specify that he conducted this activity “Involuntarily” (272). If Moncada’s communication is restrained or silenced within the context of the prison, it is essentially hijacked at this point. As a captive scribe Moncada has his authorial control compromised and made subject to the conditions of his captivity and, in the end, to Adonijah’s text itself. Ultimately, Moncada’s “Tale of the Spaniard,” well over half of which is comprised of the contents of Adonijah’s manuscript, is inundated with the impact of such physical and social conditions of utterance defined by enclosure and confinement.
In this light, the conditions under which the “Tale of the Spaniard” is transmitted to John Melmoth are illuminating. Confined to bed in “a low, mean, wretchedly furnished apartment” (72) of the Melmoth house, Moncada is once again essentially a captive. While the power disparity between the two parties is somewhat more subtle within this space than those explored above, it is no less real. Due to his illness, Moncada cannot leave and it is this circumstance, in combination with John Melmoth’s prodding “into the motive of his voyage to Ireland” (72), that leads him to disclose the tale that “a few days past I believed it was not in mortal power to compel me to disclose” (72). Further, it is evident in Moncada’s deferential language, with which he addresses his listener as “Sir” throughout the tale (177, 209, 226, 268, et cetera), that he regards John Melmoth as a superior, at least in the context of the Melmoth home. This condition is crucial to the form that Moncada’s narration takes. When Moncada responds to a portion of his narrative concerning his brother with passionate emotion inconsistent with John Melmoth’s “uncontinental feelings,” he is entreated “to spare the description of his feelings, and proceed with his narrative” (131). Not only does Moncada oblige here, but when the focus of the narrative comes back to his brother at a later time he declares “I will spare you, Sir, the detail of the feelings” (177). Clearly, then, Moncada’s position as a guest/captive within John Melmoth’s house is a factor of restraint in the enunciation of his tale.
There are clues, moreover, that this factor may be even more crucial than it first appears. Moncada’s “stately politeness” (71) serves as a reasonable explanation for the otherwise inexplicable lacunae that interrupt even his own first-hand accounts. Indeed, it is interesting that these gaps occur at points of extreme emotion or horror within the narrative. An example of such a narrative break follows the parricide’s sinister announcement, “they knew their doom” (211), concerning the husband and wife that he betrays and locks into a room beneath the monastery. As Moncada hears this story first hand, rather than reading it from a damaged manuscript, the sense is that he is intentionally leaving something out in relating the tale to John Melmoth. Of course, this is not the first time he has done this; Moncada’s selective omissions in speaking to John Melmoth bear a striking resemblance to his omission, when speaking to the judges of the Inquisition, of “words that it would not be respectful for me to repeat” (230). Throughout the novel, then, Moncada’s privileged position as the primary orator is compromised by the restrictive physical and social spaces in which his utterances are often restrained, silenced, and even taken over.
Standing in stark contrast to Moncada, interestingly enough, is Melmoth the Wanderer. As noted earlier, Melmoth is not so easily contained within enclosed physical spaces and thus, his utterance is likewise unrestrained. Time and again within the course of the novel Melmoth is said to be the source of speech that others, such as Walberg, “cannot utter” (427). However, in “The Tale of the Indian” Melmoth takes his place as a central figure, and is given a central voice as he works to educate and then to tempt Immalee. The setting of this episode is worthy of notice. Unlike Moncada, who receives and vocalizes utterance always in the context of enclosure, the lessons that Melmoth delivers to Immalee (while admittedly embedded within Moncada’s restrained narrative) take place in the decidedly unrestrained wide open space of a (nearly) unpopulated Indian island. This variance of physical setting has substantial enonciative implications. Melmoth’s speech, unlike that of any other within the novel, is accompanied by an outward gaze. Hence, upon his second visit to Immalee Melmoth brings with him a telescope so that he might “shew [her] something of the world” (289). When Melmoth speaks he does not demand that Immalee listen, but rather that she “Look and judge” (292). His listener’s gaze is, thus, turned not toward him as the speaker, but toward the world he speaks of. Melmoth presents himself as a guide, simply explaining what Immalee sees and instructing her to “Look again” (294) when she fails to see. This situation affords Melmoth’s utterance the impression of an external authority not so easily achieved within the enclosed spaces where other utterances in the novel are formed. Through the formulization of utterance in the context of an open and unrestrained physical setting, Melmoth would seem to achieve a certain position of privilege as an origin of utterance within the text. Where Moncada’s utterance is restrained, Melmoth’s is unrestrained; where Moncada’s tells from within himself, Melmoth shows and illuminates what is without.
This privileged position is undercut, though, by the self-acknowledged motivation behind Melmoth’s utterance which is to have Immalee “learn to suffer” (288), creating a distinct tension between authorial endorsement and condemnation. This tension is most pronounced in Melmoth’s extended misanthropic rant in which he condemns humankind for the “unequal division of the means of existence” that allows a person to “die of want on the threshold of a banquet-hall” (302-03). This is an interesting passage in that there is a sense of Melmoth being given a surprising degree of latitude, far surpassing his blatantly manipulative explanations of what Immalee observes through the telescope. Much about the passage would seem to indicate that the narrator/author is sympathetic to the views being expressed. That Maturin is aware of this possible reading is evident in his attempts to counter it with a footnote assuring us “that the sentiments ascribed to the stranger are diametrically opposite to mine, and that I have purposely put them into the mouth of an agent of the enemy of mankind” (303). As such critics as Robert Kiely and Kathleen Fowler suggest, however, this disclaimer is somewhat difficult to swallow (Fowler 524). Maturin’s assurance is undercut in a number of ways, the most obvious being that Melmoth is speaking on behalf of the desperate and the disenfranchised in this passage, the very types of characters with which we are encouraged to sympathize throughout the novel.
Furthermore, if we are not to trust Melmoth directly, it is fairly clear that we are to sympathize with Immalee. Since she, in all of her innocence, is appalled by the information relayed to her, it only stands to reason that we, likewise, will be appalled. Given the impact of such factors of enonciation on Melmoth’s utterances, it is difficult to recognize Maturin’s footnote as having the weight necessary to determine and define our reading of the ideas being expressed. It should also be noted that while discussing religion with Immalee, Melmoth begrudgingly finds himself admitting the virtues of Christianity which “enjoins [its members] to be mild, benevolent, and tolerant; and neither to reject or disdain those who have not attained its purer light” (296). Maturin’s footnote complicates this utterance as it, too, has been placed in “the mouth of an agent of the enemy of mankind” (303) and should therefore, by Maturin’s reasoning, be dismissed. Confusing matters further is Immalee’s response to these words which is to exclaim “Christ shall be my God, and I will be a Christian” (297). In this instance, Melmoth’s words have “an effect precisely the opposite of his original intent” (Howells 146) and, as a result, his privileged status as an orator is dramatically compromised bringing to the fore yet another pertinent factor of enonciation: the listener/reader’s role in the formulation of utterance.
Within the pages of Melmoth the Wanderer this is a significant role, indeed, as no tale within the novel is intact and complete. Stanton’s “discoloured, obliterated, and mutilated” (28) manuscript, as a case in point, is missing some frustratingly crucial passages so that John Melmoth “could just make out what tended rather to excite than assuage [his] feverish thirst of curiosity” (58). Such gaps in the text invite writerly participation. Hence, when Moncada discloses details pertaining to the Wanderer’s role, the narrator asserts that John Melmoth, “from the narrative of Stanton, had been prepared to suspect something of this” (264). Not only does this statement accentuate the fluidity of utterance as the nuanced implications of Stanton’s text shift in relation to Moncada’s narrative, but it also draws attention to John Melmoth’s involvement in utterance as a reader who brings his own experiences and assumptions to the text. Such writerly involvement is evident throughout the novel as the various readers and listeners are required to speculate as to the nature of the unutterable and “incommunicable” (264) fractions of the tales without which the tales make very little sense. Moncada’s occupation as a scribe for Adonijah serves as a useful illustration. The manuscript, containing “the Spanish language written in the Greek characters,” is “unintelligible to the officers of the Inquisition” (270). Moncada’s ability to read both Greek and Spanish puts him in a position to bring utterance to the text through his reading. Even here, though, the possibilities of an authoritative reading are compromised by gaps in the text that Moncada cannot recover “nor could Adonijah supply the deficiency” (356).
In essence, Moncada’s position reflects that of Melmoth the Wanderer’s implicit reader. Like Moncada, the reader contributes to the enonciation of the text, interpreting events and drawing connections. However, gaps remain that can only be filled with speculation and conjuncture. In conventional gothic mode, Maturin weaves mystery into his novel; unlike most gothic works, though, Melmoth the Wanderer never unveils its mystery. Rather, tales are begun only to be left unfinished as Moncada’s “intention of disclosing […] the fates of the other victims” (534) of the Wanderer is never realised and the reader, like John Melmoth, is never afforded the opportunity to “hear the sequel” (534). Although Maturin prefaces his novel by declaring that “The hint of this Romance (or Tale) was taken from a passage in one of my Sermons” (5), the end result bears little resemblance to the genre of which it was born. In place of authoritative synthesis we are left with a polyvocality of various and diverse utterances. By the final chapters even the Wanderer is referring to himself in Biddy Brannigan’s decidedly indefinite terms of what “has been said” (538) and what “has been reported of me” (537). Ultimately, we are left in a situation where narrative authority has collapsed beneath the weight of narrative perspectives and conditions of utterance far too diverse to cohere into a single unified point of view. Any promise of enduring centrality that the novel might suggest remains eternally “silent and unutterable” (542).
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Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.
It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. 'How happy we are here!' they cried to each other.
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.
'What are you doing here?' he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.
'My own garden is my own garden,' said the Giant; 'any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.' So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.
He was a very selfish Giant.
The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside.
'How happy we were there,' they said to each other.
Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still Winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. 'Spring has forgotten this garden,' they cried, 'so we will live here all the year round.' The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. 'This is a delightful spot,' he said, 'we must ask the Hail on a visit.' So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.
'I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,' said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; 'I hope there will be a change in the weather.'
But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none. 'He is too selfish,' she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.
One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King's musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. 'I believe the Spring has come at last,' said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.
What did he see?
He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still Winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. 'Climb up! little boy,' said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the little boy was too tiny.
And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. 'How selfish I have been!' he said; 'now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground for ever and ever.' He was really very sorry for what he had done.
So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became Winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he died not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant's neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. 'It is your garden now, little children,' said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were gong to market at twelve o'clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.
All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.
'But where is your little companion?' he said: 'the boy I put into the tree.' The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.
'We don't know,' answered the children; 'he has gone away.'
'You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,' said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.
Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. 'How I would like to see him!' he used to say.
Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. 'I have many beautiful flowers,' he said; 'but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.'
One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.
Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.
Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, 'Who hath dared to wound thee?' For on the palms of the child's hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.
'Who hath dared to wound thee?' cried the Giant; 'tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.'
'Nay!' answered the child; 'but these are the wounds of Love.'
'Who art thou?' said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, 'You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.'
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.
The opening of large tracts by the ice-cutters commonly causes a pond to break up earlier; for the water, agitated by the wind, even in cold weather, wears away the surrounding ice. But such was not the effect on Walden that year, for she had soon got a thick new garment to take the place of the old. This pond never breaks up so soon as the others in this neighborhood, on account both of its greater depth and its having no stream passing through it to melt or wear away the ice. I never knew it to open in the course of a winter, not excepting that Of '52-3, which gave the ponds so severe a trial. It commonly opens about the first of April, a week or ten days later than Flint's Pond and Fair Haven, beginning to melt on the north side and in the shallower parts where it began to freeze. It indicates better than any water hereabouts the absolute progress of the season, being least affected by transient changes of temperature. A severe cold of it few days duration in March may very much retard the opening of the former ponds, while the temperature of Walden increases almost uninterruptedly. A thermometer thrust into the middle of Walden on the 6th of March, 1847, stood at 32', or freezing point; near the shore at 33'; in the middle of Flint's Pond, the same day, at 32 1/2'; at a dozen rods from the shore, in shallow water, under ice a foot thick, at 36'. This difference of three and it half degrees between the temperature of the deep water and the shallow in the latter pond, and the fact that a great proportion of it is comparatively shallow, show why it should break up so much sooner than Walden. The ice in the shallowest part was at this time several inches thinner than in the middle. In midwinter the middle had been the warmest and the ice thinnest there. So, also, every one who has waded about the shores of the pond in summer must have perceived how much warmer the water is close to the shore, where only three or four inches deep, than a little distance out, and on the surface where it is deep, than near the bottom. In spring the sun not only exerts an influence through the increased temperature of the air and earth, but its heat passes through ice a foot or more thick, and is reflected from the bottom in shallow water, and so also warms the water and melts the under side of the ice, at the same time that it is melting it more directly above, making it uneven, and causing the air bubbles which it contains to extend themselves upward and downward until it is completely honeycombed, and at last disappears suddenly in a single spring rain. Ice has its grain as well as wood, and when a cake begins to rot or "comb," that is, assume the appearance of honeycomb, whatever may be its position, the air cells are at right angles with what was the water surface. Where there is a rock or a log rising near to the surface the ice over it is much thinner, and is frequently quite dissolved by this reflected heat; and I have been told that in the experiment at Cambridge to freeze water in a shallow wooden pond, though the cold air circulated underneath, and so had access to both sides, the reflection of the sun from the bottom more than counterbalanced this advantage. When a warm rain in the middle of the winter melts off the snow ice from Walden, and leaves a hard dark or transparent ice on the middle, there will be a strip of rotten though thicker white ice, a rod or more wide, about the shores, created by this reflected heat. Also, as I have said, the bubbles themselves within the ice operate as burning-glasses to melt the ice beneath.
The phenomena of the year take place every day in a pond on a small scale. Every morning, generally speaking, the shallow water is being warmed more rapidly than the deep, though it may not be made so warm after all, and every evening it is being cooled more rapidly until the morning, The day is an epitome of the year. The night is the winter, the morning and evening are the spring and fall, and the noon is the summer. The cracking and booming of the ice indicate a change of temperature. One pleasant morning after a cold night, February 24th, 1850, having gone to Flint's Pond to spend the day, I noticed with surprise, that when I struck the ice with the head of my axe, it resounded like a gong for many rods around, or as if I had struck on a tight drum-head. The pond began to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the influence of the sun's rays slanted upon it from over the hills; it stretched itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasing tumult, which was kept up three or four hours. It took a short siesta at noon, and boomed once more toward night, as the sun was withdrawing his influence. In the right stage of the weather a pond fires its evening gun with great regularity. But in the middle of the day, being full of cracks, and the air also being less elastic, it had completely lost its resonance, and probably fishes and muskrats could not then have been stunned by a blow on it. The fishermen say that the "thundering of the pond" scares the fishes and prevents their biting. The pond does not thunder every evening, and I cannot tell surely when to expect its thundering; but though I may perceive no difference in the weather, it does. Who would have suspected so large and cold and thick-skinned a thing to be so sensitive? Yet it has its law to which it thunders obedience when it should as surely as the buds expand in the spring. The earth is all alive and covered with papillae. The largest pond is as sensitive to atmospheric changes as the globule of mercury in its tube.
One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the Spring come in. The ice in the pond at length begins to be honeycombed, and I can set my heel in it as I walk. Fogs and rains and warmer suns are gradually melting the snow; the days have grown sensibly longer; and I see how I shall get through the winter without adding to my woodpile, for large fires are no longer necessary. I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel's chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters. On the 13th of March, after I had heard the bluebird, song sparrow, and red-wing, the ice was still nearly a foot thick. As the weather grew warmer it was not sensibly worn away by the water, nor broken up and floated off as in rivers, but, though it was completely melted for half a rod in width about the shore, the middle was merely honeycombed and saturated with water, so that you could put your foot through it when six inches thick; but by the next day evening, perhaps, after a warm rain followed by fog, it would have wholly disappeared, all gone off with the fog, spirited away. One year I went across the middle only five days before it disappeared entirely. In 1845 Walden was first completely open on the 1st of April; in '46, the 25th of March; in '47, the 8th of April; in '51, the 28th of March; in '52, the 18th of April; in '53, the 23d of March; in '54, about the 7th of April.
Every incident connected with the breaking up of the rivers and ponds and the settling of the weather is particularly interesting to us who live in a climate of so great extremes. When the warmer days come, they who dwell near the river hear the ice crack at night with a startling whoop as loud as artillery, as if its icy fetters were rent from end to end, and within a few days see it rapidly going out. So the alligator comes out of the mud with quakings of the earth. One old man, who has been a close observer of Nature, and seems as thoroughly wise in regard to all her operations as if she had been put upon the stocks when he was a boy, and he had helped to lay her keel- who has come to his growth, and can hardly acquire more of natural lore if he should live to the age of Methuselah- told me- and I was surprised to hear him express wonder at any of Nature's operations, for I thought that there were no secrets between them- that one spring day he took his gun and boat, and thought that he would have a little sport with the ducks. There was ice still on the meadows, but it was all gone out of the river, and he dropped down without obstruction from Sudbury, where he lived, to Fair Haven Pond, which he found, unexpectedly, covered for the most part with a firm field of ice. It was a warm day, and he was surprised to see so great a body of ice remaining. Not seeing any ducks, he hid his boat on the north or back side of an island in the pond, and then concealed himself in the bushes on the south side, to await them. The ice was melted for three or four rods from the shore, and there was a smooth and warm sheet of water, with a muddy bottom, such as the ducks love, within, and he thought it likely that some would be along pretty soon. After he had lain still there about an hour he heard a low and seemingly very distant sound, but singularly grand and impressive, unlike anything he had ever heard, gradually swelling and increasing as if it would have a universal and memorable ending, a sullen rush and roar, which seemed to him all at once like the sound of a vast body of fowl coming in to settle there, and, seizing his gun, he started up in haste and excited; but he found, to his surprise, that the whole body of the ice had started while he lay there, and drifted in to the shore, and the sound he had heard was made by its edge grating on the shore- at first gently nibbled and crumbled off, but at length heaving up and scattering its wrecks along the island to a considerable height before it came to a standstill.
At length the sun's rays have attained the right angle, and warm winds blow up mist and rain and melt the snowbanks, and the sun, dispersing the mist, smiles on a checkered landscape of russet and white smoking with incense, through which the traveller picks his way from islet to islet, cheered by the music of a thousand tinkling rills and rivulets whose veins are filled with the blood of winter which they are bearing off.
Few phenomena gave me more delight than to observe the forms which thawing sand and clay assume in flowing down the sides of a deep cut on the railroad through which I passed on my way to the village, a phenomenon not very common on so large a scale, though the number of freshly exposed banks of the right material must have been greatly multiplied since railroads were invented. The material was sand of every degree of fineness and of various rich colors, commonly mixed with a little clay. When the frost comes out in the spring, and even in a thawing day in the winter, the sand begins to flow down the slopes like lava, sometimes bursting out through the snow and overflowing it where no sand was to be seen before. Innumerable little streams overlap and interlace one with another, exhibiting a sort of hybrid product, which obeys half way the law of currents, and half way that of vegetation. As it flows it takes the forms of sappy leaves or vines, making heaps of pulpy sprays a foot or more in depth, and resembling, as you look down on them, the laciniated, lobed, and imbricated thalluses of some lichens; or you are reminded of coral, of leopard's paws or birds' feet, of brains or lungs or bowels, and excrements of all kinds. It is a truly grotesque vegetation, whose forms and color we see imitated in bronze, a sort of architectural foliage more ancient and typical than acanthus, chiccory, ivy, vine, or any vegetable leaves; destined perhaps, under some circumstances, to become a puzzle to future geologists. The whole cut impressed me as if it were a cave with its stalactites laid open to the light. The various shades of the sand are singularly rich and agreeable, embracing the different iron colors, brown, gray, yellowish, and reddish. When the flowing mass reaches the drain at the foot of the bank it spreads out flatter into strands, the separate streams losing their semicylindrical form and gradually becoming more flat and broad, running together as they are more moist, till they form an almost flat sand, still variously and beautifully shaded, but in which you call trace the original forms of vegetation; till at length, in the water itself, they are converted into banks, like those formed off the mouths of rivers, and the forms of vegetation are lost in the ripple- marks on the bottom.
The whole bank, which is from twenty to forty feet high, is sometimes overlaid with a mass of this kind of foliage, or sandy rupture, for a quarter of a mile on one or both sides, the produce of one spring day. What makes this sand foliage remarkable is its springing into existence thus suddenly. When I see on the one side the inert bank- for the sun acts on one side first- and on the other this luxuriant foliage, the creation of an hour, I am affected as if in a peculiar sense I stood in the laboratory of the Artist who made the world and me- had come to where he was still at work, sporting on this bank, and with excess of energy strewing his fresh designs about. I feel as if I were nearer to the vitals of the globe, for this sandy overflow is something such a foliaceous mass as the vitals of the animal body. You find thus in the very sands an anticipation of the vegetable leaf. No wonder that the earth expresses itself outwardly in leaves, it so labors with the idea inwardly. The atoms have already learned this law, and are pregnant by it. The overhanging leaf sees here its prototype. Internally, whether in the globe or animal body, it is a moist thick lobe, a word especially applicable to the liver and lungs and the leaves of fat (leibo, labor, lapsus, to flow or slip downward, a lapsing; lobos, globus, lobe, globe; also lap, flap, and many other words); externally a dry thin leaf, even as the f and v are a pressed and dried b. The radicals of lobe are lb, the soft mass of the b (single-lobed, or B, double-lobed), with the liquid l behind it pressing it forward. In globe, glb, the guttural g adds to the meaning the capacity of the throat. The feathers and wings of birds are still drier and thinner leaves. Thus, also, you pass from the lumpish grub in the earth to the airy and fluttering butterfly. The very globe continually transcends and translates itself, and becomes winged in its orbit. Even ice begins with delicate crystal leaves, as if it had flowed into moulds which the fronds of waterplants have impressed on the watery mirror. The whole tree itself is but one leaf, and rivers are still vaster leaves whose pulp is intervening earth, and towns and cities are the ova of insects in their axils.
When the sun withdraws the sand ceases to flow, but in the morning the streams will start once more and branch and branch again into a myriad of others. You here see perchance how blood-vessels are formed. If you look closely you observe that first there pushes forward from the thawing mass a stream of softened sand with a drop-like point, like the ball of the finger, feeling its way slowly and blindly downward, until at last with more heat and moisture, as the sun gets higher, the most fluid portion, in its effort to obey the law to which the most inert also yields, separates from the latter and forms for itself a meandering channel or artery within that, in which is seen a little silvery stream glancing like lightning from one stage of pulpy leaves or branches to another, and ever and anon swallowed up in the sand. It is wonderful how rapidly yet perfectly the sand organizes itself as it flows, using the best material its mass affords to form the sharp edges of its channel. Such are the sources of rivers. In the silicious matter which the water deposits is perhaps the bony system, and in the still finer soil and organic matter the fleshy fibre or cellular tissue. What is man but a mass of thawing clay? The ball of the human finger is but a drop congealed. The fingers and toes flow to their extent from the thawing mass of the body. Who knows what the human body would expand and flow out to under a more genial heaven? Is not the hand a spreading palm leaf with its lobes and veins? The ear may be regarded, fancifully, as a lichen, Umbilicaria, on the side of the head, with its lobe or drop. The lip-labium, from labor laps or lapses from the sides of the cavernous mouth. The nose is a manifest congealed drop or stalactite. The chin is a still larger drop, the confluent dripping of the face. The cheeks are a slide from the brows into the valley of the face, opposed and diffused by the cheek bones. Each rounded lobe of the vegetable leaf, too, is a thick and now loitering drop, larger or smaller; the lobes are the fingers of the leaf; and as many lobes as it has, in so many directions it tends to flow, and more heat or other genial influences would have caused it to flow yet farther.
Thus it seemed that this one hillside illustrated the principle of all the operations of Nature. The Maker of this earth but patented a leaf. What Champollion will decipher this hieroglyphic for us, that we may turn over a new leaf at last? This phenomenon is more exhilarating to me than the luxuriance and fertility of vineyards. True, it is somewhat excrementitious in its character, and there is no end to the heaps of liver, lights, and bowels, as if the globe were turned wrong side outward; but this suggests at least that Nature has some bowels, and there again is mother of humanity. This is the frost coming out of the ground; this is Spring. It precedes the green and flowery spring, as mythology precedes regular poetry. I know of nothing more purgative of winter fumes and indigestions. It convinces me that Earth is still in her swaddling-clothes, and stretches forth baby fingers on every side. Fresh curls spring from the baldest brow. There is nothing inorganic. These foliaceous heaps lie along the bank like the slag of a furnace, showing that Nature is "in full blast" within. The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit- not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic. Its throes will heave our exuviae from their graves. You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which this molten earth flows out into. And not only it, but the institutions upon it are plastic like clay in the hands of the potter.
Ere long, not only on these banks, but on every hill and plain and in every hollow, the frost comes out of the ground like a dormant quadruped from its burrow, and seeks the sea with music, or migrates to other climes in clouds. Thaw with his gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other but breaks in pieces.
When the ground was partially bare of snow, and a few warm days had dried its surface somewhat, it was pleasant to compare the first tender signs of the infant year just peeping forth with the stately beauty of the withered vegetation which had withstood the winter-life- everlasting, goldenrods, pinweeds, and graceful wild grasses, more obvious and interesting frequently than in summer even, as if their beauty was not ripe till then; even cotton-grass, cat-tails, mulleins, johnswort, hardhack, meadowsweet, and other strong-stemmed plants, those unexhausted granaries which entertain the earliest birds- decent weeds, at least, which widowed Nature wears. I am particularly attracted by the arching and sheaf- like top of the wool-grass; it brings back the summer to our winter memories, and is among the forms which art loves to copy, and which, in the vegetable kingdom, have the same relation to types already in the mind of man that astronomy has. It is an antique style, older than Greek or Egyptian. Many of the phenomena of Winter are suggestive of an inexpressible tenderness and fragile delicacy. We are accustomed to hear this king described as a rude and boisterous tyrant; but with the gentleness of a lover he adorns the tresses of Summer.
At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my house, two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No, you don't- chickaree- chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my arguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain of invective that was irresistible.
The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever! The faint silvery warblings heard over the partially bare and moist fields from the bluebird, the song sparrow, and the red-wing, as if the last flakes of winter tinkled as they fell! What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees to the spring. The marsh hawk, sailing low over the meadow, is already seeking the first slimy life that awakes. The sinking sound of melting snow is heard in all dells, and the ice dissolves apace in the ponds. The grass flames up on the hillsides like a spring fire- "et primitus oritur herba imbribus primoribus evocata"- as if the earth sent forth an inward heat to greet the returning sun; not yellow but green is the color of its flame;- the symbol of perpetual youth, the grass-blade, like a long green ribbon, streams from the sod into the summer, checked indeed by the frost, but anon pushing on again, lifting its spear of last year's hay with the fresh life below. It grows as steadily as the rill oozes out of the ground. It is almost identical with that, for in the growing days of June, when the rills are dry, the grass-blades are their channels, and from year to year the herds drink at this perennial green stream, and the mower draws from it betimes their winter supply. So our human life but dies down to its root, and still puts forth its green blade to eternity.
Walden is melting apace. There is a canal two rods wide along the northerly and westerly sides, and wider still at the east end. A great field of ice has cracked off from the main body. I hear a song sparrow singing from the bushes on the shore- olit, olit, olit- chip, chip, chip, che char- che wiss, wiss, wiss. He too is helping to crack it. How handsome the great sweeping curves in the edge of the ice, answering somewhat to those of the shore, but more regular! It is unusually hard, owing to the recent severe but transient cold, and all watered or waved like a palace floor. But the wind slides eastward over its opaque surface in vain, till it reaches the living surface beyond. It is glorious to behold this ribbon of water sparkling in the sun, the bare face of the pond full of glee and youth, as if it spoke the joy of the fishes within it, and of the sands on its shore- a silvery sheen as from the scales of a leuciscus, as it were all one active fish. Such is the contrast between winter and spring. Walden was dead and is alive again. But this spring it broke up more steadily, as I have said.
The change from storm and winter to serene and mild weather, from dark and sluggish hours to bright and elastic ones, is a memorable crisis which all things proclaim. It is seemingly instantaneous at last. Suddenly an influx of light filled my house, though the evening was at hand, and the clouds of winter still overhung it, and the eaves were dripping with sleety rain. I looked out the window, and lo! where yesterday was cold gray ice there lay the transparent pond already calm and full of hope as in a summer evening, reflecting a summer evening sky in its bosom, though none was visible overhead, as if it had intelligence with some remote horizon. I heard a robin in the distance, the first I had heard for many a thousand years, methought, whose note I shall not forget for many a thousand more- the same sweet and powerful song as of yore. O the evening robin, at the end of a New England summer day! If I could ever find the twig he sits upon! I mean he; I mean the twig. This at least is not the Turdus migratorius. The pitch pines and shrub oaks about my house, which had so long drooped, suddenly resumed their several characters, looked brighter, greener, and more erect and alive, as if effectually cleansed and restored by the rain. I knew that it would not rain any more. You may tell by looking at any twig of the forest, ay, at your very wood-pile, whether its winter is past or not. As it grew darker, I was startled by the honking of geese flying low over the woods, like weary travellers getting in late from Southern lakes, and indulging at last in unrestrained complaint and mutual consolation. Standing at my door, I could bear the rush of their wings; when, driving toward my house, they suddenly spied my light, and with hushed clamor wheeled and settled in the pond. So I came in, and shut the door, and passed my first spring night in the woods.
In the morning I watched the geese from the door through the mist, sailing in the middle of the pond, fifty rods off, so large and tumultuous that Walden appeared like an artificial pond for their amusement. But when I stood on the shore they at once rose up with a great flapping of wings at the signal of their commander, and when they had got into rank circled about over my head, twenty-nine of them, and then steered straight to Canada, with a regular honk from the leader at intervals, trusting to break their fast in muddier pools. A "plump" of ducks rose at the same time and took the route to the north in the wake of their noisier cousins.
For a week I heard the circling, groping clangor of some solitary goose in the foggy mornings, seeking its companion, and still peopling the woods with the sound of a larger life than they could sustain. In April the pigeons were seen again flying express in small flocks, and in due time I heard the martins twittering over my clearing, though it had not seemed that the township contained so many that it could afford me any, and I fancied that they were peculiarly of the ancient race that dwelt in hollow trees ere white men came. In almost all climes the tortoise and the frog are among the precursors and heralds of this season, and birds fly with song and glancing plumage, and plants spring and bloom, and winds blow, to correct this slight oscillation of the poles and preserve the equilibrium of nature.
As every season seems best to us in its turn, so the coming in of spring is like the creation of Cosmos out of Chaos and the realization of the Golden Age.
"Eurus ad Auroram Nabathaeaque regna recessit,
Persidaque, et radiis juga subdita matutinis."
"The East-Wind withdrew to Aurora and the Nabathean kingdom,
And the Persian, and the ridges placed under the morning rays.
Man was born. Whether that Artificer of things,
The origin of a better world, made him from the divine seed;
Or the earth, being recent and lately sundered from the high
Ether, retained some seeds of cognate heaven."
A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. In a pleasant spring morning all men's sins are forgiven. Such a day is a truce to vice. While such a sun holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return. Through our own recovered innocence we discern the innocence of our neighbors. You may have known your neighbor yesterday for a thief, a drunkard, or a sensualist, and merely pitied or despised him, and despaired of the world; but the sun shines bright and warm this first spring morning, re-creating the world, and you meet him at some serene work, and see how it is exhausted and debauched veins expand with still joy and bless the new day, feel the spring influence with the innocence of infancy, and all his faults are forgotten. There is not only an atmosphere of good will about him, but even a savor of holiness groping for expression, blindly and ineffectually perhaps, like a new-born instinct, and for a short hour the south hillside echoes to no vulgar jest. You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarled rind and try another year's life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant. Even he has entered into the joy of his Lord. Why the jailer does not leave open his prison doors- why the judge does not dismis his case- why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation! It is because they do not obey the hint which God gives them, nor accept the pardon which he freely offers to all.
"A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil and beneficent breath of the morning, causes that in respect to the love of virtue and the hatred of vice, one approaches a little the primitive nature of man, as the sprouts of the forest which has been felled. In like manner the evil which one does in the interval of a day prevents the germs of virtues which began to spring up again from developing themselves and destroys them.
"After the germs of virtue have thus been prevented many times from developing themselves, then the beneficent breath of evening does not suffice to preserve them. As soon as the breath of evening does not suffice longer to preserve them, then the nature of man does not differ much from that of the brute. Men seeing the nature of this man like that of the brute, think that he has never possessed the innate faculty of reason. Are those the true and natural sentiments of man?"
"The Golden Age was first created, which without any avenger
Spontaneously without law cherished fidelity and rectitude.
Punishment and fear were not; nor were threatening words read
On suspended brass; nor did the suppliant crowd fear
The words of their judge; but were safe without an avenger.
Not yet the pine felled on its mountains had descended
To the liquid waves that it might see a foreign world,
And mortals knew no shores but their own.
There was eternal spring, and placid zephyrs with warm
Blasts soothed the flowers born without seed."
On the 29th of April, as I was fishing from the bank of the river near the Nine-Acre-Corner bridge, standing on the quaking grass and willow roots, where the muskrats lurk, I heard a singular rattling sound, somewhat like that of the sticks which boys play with their fingers, when, looking up, I observed a very slight and graceful hawk, like a nighthawk, alternately soaring like a ripple and tumbling a rod or two over and over, showing the under side of its wings, which gleamed like a satin ribbon in the sun, or like the pearly inside of a shell. This sight reminded me of falconry and what nobleness and poetry are associated with that sport. The merlin it seemed to me it might be called: but I care not for its name. It was the most ethereal flight I had ever witnessed. It did not simply flutter like a butterfly, nor soar like the larger hawks, but it sported with proud reliance in the fields of air; mounting again and again with its strange chuckle, it repeated its free and beautiful fall, turning over and over like a kite, and then recovering from its lofty tumbling, as if it had never set its foot on terra firma. It appeared to have no companion in the universe-sporting there alone- and to need none but the morning and the ether with which it played. It was not lonely, but made all the earth lonely beneath it. Where was the parent which hatched it, its kindred, and its father in the heavens? The tenant of the air, it seemed related to the earth but by an egg hatched some time in the crevice of a crag;- or was its native nest made in the angle of a cloud, woven of the rainbow's trimmings and the sunset sky, and lined with some soft midsummer haze caught up from earth? Its eyry now some cliffy cloud.
Beside this I got a rare mess of golden and silver and bright cupreous fishes, which looked like a string of jewels. Ah! I have penetrated to those meadows on the morning of many a first spring day, jumping from hummock to hummock, from willow root to willow root, when the wild river valley and the woods were bathed in so pure and bright a light as would have waked the dead, if they had been slumbering in their graves, as some suppose. There needs no stronger proof of immortality. All things must live in such a light. O Death, where was thy sting? O Grave, where was thy victory, then?
Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. We are cheered when we observe the vulture feeding on the carrion which disgusts and disheartens us, and deriving health and strength from the repast. There was a dead horse in the hollow by the path to my house, which compelled me sometimes to go out of my way, especially in the night when the air was heavy, but the assurance it gave me of the strong appetite and inviolable health of Nature was my compensation for this. I love to see that Nature is so rife with life that myriads can be afforded to be sacrificed and suffered to prey on one another; that tender organizations can be so serenely squashed out of existence like pulp-tadpoles which herons gobble up, and tortoises and toads run over in the road; and that sometimes it has rained flesh and blood! With the liability to accident, we must see how little account is to be made of it. The impression made on a wise man is that of universal innocence. Poison is not poisonous after all, nor are any wounds fatal. Compassion is a very untenable ground. It must be expeditious. Its pleadings will not bear to be stereotyped.
Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just putting out amidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a brightness like sunshine to the landscape, especially in cloudy days, as if the sun were breaking through mists and shining faintly on the hillsides here and there. On the third or fourth of May I saw a loon in the pond, and during the first week of the month I heard the whip-poor-will, the brown thrasher, the veery, the wood pewee, the chewink, and other birds. I had heard the wood thrush long before. The phoebe had already come once more and looked in at my door and window, to see if my house was cavern-like enough for her, sustaining herself on humming winds with clinched talons, as if she held by the air, while she surveyed the premises. The sulphur-like pollen of the pitch pine soon covered the pond and the stones and rotten wood along the shore, so that you could have collected a barrelful. This is the "sulphur showers" we bear of. Even in Calidas' drama of Sacontala, we read of "rills dyed yellow with the golden dust of the lotus." And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into higher and higher grass.
Thus was my first year's life in the woods completed; and the second year was similar to it. I finally left Walden September 6th, 1847.
It's March Madness season, and that means one thing: Elimination Bracket Fever! So we figure this is the perfect time to introduce the first of our Literary Face-Off Elimination Brackets. In memory of Harper Lee, over the next number of weeks we will be conducting one on one single elimination face offs to determine NovelTea's Most Beloved Literary Child Heroine.
The winner will be decided by your votes. As an added bonus, all votes for the eventual winner of the tournament will be entered into a draw for a free NovelTea literary T-Shirt (so remember to submit your name and email when you vote).
You can view the bracket below, and then scroll down to vote for your favourite Literary Child Heroine of the Match 1 options, Scout Finch and Bella Swan.
Scout (Jean Louise) Finch is our number 1 seed. Created by Harper Lee, Scout is the protagonist and narrator of Lee's first, and until very recently only, novel. Scout's child voice and perspective is the glue that holds Lee's Nobel Prize winning narrative together. Mary Badham was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Scout in the 1962 film version, which delivered the Best Actor Oscar to Gregory Peck for his portrayal of Atticus (Badham lost out to fellow child actress, Patty Duke for her role in The Miracle Worker). Alternating between insightful and naive, as children often do, Scout navigates a complex world of ignorant, often explosive, racism and prejudice balanced against the calm staid household environment provided by her father, Atticus, and their housekeeper and nanny, Calpurnia, with frank honesty and an undying, if sometimes naive, faith in the people who surround her. Ever loyal to her friends, always courageous in the face of a new challenges, and possessing an indomitable spirit to speak her mind, Scout is the child we see when we dream back to our best childhood selves.
Bella Swan is our number 8 seed. Created by Stephenie Meyer, Bella is the protagonist and most common narrator of Meyer's popular Twilight series. Bella's "average teen" voice and perspective ground the outrageous and fantastical world of Meyer's vampire (and werewolf) books. Actress Kristen Stewart jumped the rail from up and coming actress to full fledged pop icon with her portrayal of Bella in the blockbuster multi billion dollar grossing Twilight Saga film series. Passionate and fearless, often to the point of wanton disregard for her own safety, Bella chooses love above all other considerations. Bella's trusting nature is her key to a secret world as her fellow characters respond by reflecting her trust back and revealing their most private selves. Gifted in walking the tightrope between the alternate realities of mortal and immortal existence, driven by love, loyalty, and passion, Bella exhibits the qualities we all hope to posses should exceptional circumstances arise.
- by Nicole Myers
my eyes found you
on the theatre post
w/ a palm full of
a pocket full of lightening
& a mess of wild tangles
in your curly blonde hair
you couldn't have been
when the moon-clock
I paused to love you
- by Nicole Myers
champions of universal abundance
need not possess corresponding verbs
to inherit a charitable core of grace
just to believe in the marvels of nature
to consider love an unexplainable mystery
is response enough to attain such earthly joy
benevolent artifacts are prescribed nouns
but amore bares all resemblances to delight
unconditional, lionized, selfless, altruistic
let love alter your pride in life’s calamity
let love sate your hunger for ample ruin
let love embrace the fear of your burdens
champions of universal goodness
need not worry over the present moment
they’ll gather up their words and emit light
Nicole Myers is a writer, humanist, and professional daydreamer from Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia.. She is a frequent contributor to Open Heart Forgery, Halifax’s celebrated guerrilla literary journal. Her work appears in their first published anthology.
- by Jeff White
Jeff White also contributed the poem appearing as our banner image at the top of this page.
- by Brian Dockal
I drank full from the lie,
We danced to the point of no return,
Melting magma in my eye,
You and I look up, really took a turn.
Pretty boys got nothing in the know,
Secret language, prowess unseen,
Half shut mind, mouth in tow,
Never really gave it any mean.
Sunset, let the envy begin,
Heavenly face cue brow knit,
Bet the world I took it on the chin,
Didn't think we could make it.
Cheat the languish, won no heat,
Smoking gun, the things you won't share,
The attenuation on the last disco beat,
We had a record breached without care.
Brian lives in Hubley, NS with his husband and three greyhounds. Brian is a repeat contributor to Open Heart Forgery.
- by Cathy Hanrahan
So many times we have pondered the rain
Tucked behind the glass of a window pane
Contemplating questions that bother and weigh
Searching for answers in the damp grey
Storm clouds brood gloom and doom and dismay
They wound us with bruises from a disappointing day
We wring our hands with all we think wrong
Oblivious to the nuances that make us strong
Bad weather changes and so can the mood
I’d keep the sun shining for you if I could
So smile through the angst of interrupted ambitions
It’s not the end just simple transition
And I will be there with my heart on my sleeve
Waiting for the chance to offer reprieve
Cathy Hanrahan is a Nova Scotia poet and regular contributor to Open Heart Forgery.
The Wilted Rose
- by Danielle Crowe
A wilted rose grows by the grave,
above the man she loved and tried to save.
His inner demons drove him down,
and now he rests beneath the ground.
Clear as day, memories of that haunting night,
when her fallen soldier had lost his fight.
Until the day when they meet once more,
she’ll continue to wait for him to walk through the door.
Danielle Crowe is a yoga teacher/studio owner at Body Solace Yoga Studio in Truro, NS. She is also the founder of FEMINA Movement, a body-image blog/coalition for women. As a recovered(ing) anorexic, she is committed to helping others heal from this disease and overcome mental illness. A proud writer, she blogs, writes poetry, and is hoping to have a book (or a few!) published one day.
We're all told that Shakespeare was a genius with language, but do we really understand his true level of linguistic mastery? Let's take a look at Romeo and Juliet for some insight.
Starting with this issue, NovelTea is formally putting out an ongoing call for submissions. We are looking for content related to all things literary, but our primary categories, with suggestions and requirements for publication, are as follows:
A General Suggestion
We try to achieve thematic and timely consistency with our Maga. Works submitted along with a brief outline indicating why you believe your work to be 'of the moment' will be given preferential consideration. For instance, a Tale of Terror submitted for an October issue, or a poetic ode to athletic achievement to coincide with an issue scheduled to be published during the Olympic Games, or an essay on Hamlet to be published in proximity to Shakespeare's birthday would all be more likely to be accepted than random pieces from your portfolio.
- We are always looking for short to medium length poems (2-50 lines).
- Poems should be previously unpublished works.
- Please ensure your poems have been edited thoroughly.
- You will be better served to submit one to three poems in which you feel confident, rather than to submit several poems in hopes that one will catch our eye.
- We are always looking for exceptional short stories (1000-5000 words).
- Stories should be previously unpublished works.
- Please ensure your story has been edited thoroughly.
- You will be better served to submit one or two stories in which you feel confident, rather than to submit several stories in hopes that one will catch our eye.
Scholarly Literary Essays
- We are always on the lookout for quality scholarly essays and articles (1000-500 words).
- Essays and articles should be previously unpublished works.
- Please ensure that your essay has been thoroughly edited.
- Preference will be given to 'A' Level University Undergrad or Graduate Level material. This is your opportunity to share that essay that you feel worthy of an audience beyond your professor, but may not desire to develop for publication to a peer reviewed journal.
- You will be much better served to submit just one essay with which you are most satisfied, rather than to submit several in hopes that one will catch our eye.
- We are always looking for timely literature reviews (400-800 words).
- Reviews should be previously unpublished works.
- Please ensure that your review has been thoroughly edited.
- Preference will be given to reviews focusing on either the latest books, or on timely reviews of past works (coinciding with events that have brought said works back to the fore, such as an author's death, or a movie adaptation, or an award).
- Please include a star rating on the scale of one to five with your review.
- You will be best served to submit one to three reviews at a time.
Our Commitments Regarding Submitted Works
- We promise to read all submissions, and chosen works will be published here at ntbookstore.com one time, after which publishing rights will return to the author.
- We will attempt to get back to you concerning your acceptance or rejection for publication in a timely fashion (within one month of submission where possible).
- Due to our intention to publish chosen materials in theme appropriate issues, we may inquire about holding your submission for a future date, at which point it will be your choice to determine whether you would prefer to wait, or withdraw your submission.
- We are a new publication and at this time we do not provide monetary remuneration for published works. In lieu of payment, we will link out from below your published submission to your own website, ebook, or other associated online material.
To Submit a Work (or Works)
Email the following:
- Your name
- A brief bio
- A note on the thematic timeliness of your submission
- The work itself
- Up to 2 links that you would like to have us promote
At NovelTea it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles, so here's just a brief story about us.
NovelTea Bookstore Cafe is a little shop in the great white northern town of Truro, Nova Scotia, established in the summer of 2014 by an over educated fool with some serious occupational ADD, his too tolerant wife, and then partnered in with by their oh so naive long time friend. The plan was to sip tea and discuss literature and have a grand old time of it. But serving the best loose leaf tea and espresso drinks and coffee for several hundreds of miles in any direction blew that dream to bits, what with the steeping and dish-washing and milk frothing and bean grinding and tamping and brewing and... well. So rather than start watering down the java and cutting mud into the mochas, they determined to take the show online and see if they couldn't make a go there at showing time who was to be the master.
Before I go any further, I had best introduce myself. I'm the Hatter. I've been called 'mad,' but not by folk who know what's good for them. I wish I could say I ran this show; God knows you'd be looking at an infinitely more respectable publication if I did, but you can't fight city hall, and so forth. So you must be satisfied with having me as the in house critic. And I have a certain simple critical bent. I like good literature. I don't like bad literature (bad for one's morals, as a friend once said). I've no qualms about telling the lot of you which is which. You'll have some benefit, though, from keeping in mind that like that tea party crashing brat Alice, I don't always say what I mean, and I don't always mean what I say, but I try my best to do one or the other, on rare occasion I manage to do both, and I make every effort to never do neither.
- The Hatter
As I turn the corner onto King Street the wind shifts as though it's determined to slap my face regardless of my direction. I curse under my breath but resist the temptation to turn my back. I’ve become bitter as the cold. I walk straight and tall, inviting the frigid air to do its worst. It seeps down my collar, through the holes in my gloves, up my sleeves, into my lungs, like water striving to sink a ship. My fellow sidewalk travellers shiver past, heads pulled down into their coats like immense, erect, arctic turtles.
Many are carrying packages. I look down with a slight sense of wonder to see that I'm carrying one of my own. But I’ve no idea what's in it; I don’t even know the occasion. I look around for a hint, but no Christmas lights. My confusion grows. The package contents aren’t the biggest mystery here. The true mystery is why I don’t know what’s in the package. It’s my package. I should know what’s in it. But I don't. I don’t even know where I’m going. Yet I walk on as though I’ve got some sort of purpose, some destination. I turned onto King for a reason; I just don’t know what that reason is.
It could be amnesia. But I don’t feel like someone who's forgotten something. I feel more like I’ve just now come to be. Except I didn’t just fall from the sky, homeless and naked. I’m holding a package; I’m taking it somewhere. What’s more, I feel like if I hadn’t paused for analysis, I’d already be there.
My thoughts are interrupted by a small, red faced, man appearing suddenly in my path. I slip on the ice and, in keeping my balance, drop the package.
“Hey! Gabe, right? Sorry ‘bout that; didn’t mean ta spook ya.”
“Not breakable I hope?” Retrieving the package and handing it over.
“Dunno.” He’s too busy deciding what to say next to notice the oddness of my answer.
“Been forever since I saw ya.”
“Tell me about it.” (Hoping he will).
“Still workin’ at the meat factory?”
He falls silent; not much of a conversationalist. But then I haven’t said anything profound either.
Finally, “Well, I better get goin’. Pretty nipply out.” (He smiles at what he believes to be a pun).
“Guess so.” (Smiling at his smiling).
I watch him cross the street before moving along. Okay, let’s get this straight. Name’s Gabe; work at a meat factory. I know these as facts, but not because the little guy told me. He just asked. I confirmed his suppositions, and when I did it’s as though they became true in that instant, as though all of my reality comes into being as it’s articulated, and anything remaining unsaid remains non-existent.
A lady passes by walking her dog. Simple enough right? But what kind of dog is it? What’s the lady wearing? Is she old or young? Tall or short? The truth is, she’s none of these. She’s just a lady, any lady, walking a dog, any dog. Oh, you could imagine what she looks like, but that doesn’t make it true. Or I could tell you she's wearing a red hat, and she would be. In fact, she is. See?
If you haven’t figured out what’s going on, I think I have. I’m a fictional character. Like in a book or a short story. Metafiction, even, a la John Barth, et cetera. Proof? For starters I can remember my very first thoughts. They were only a few short moments ago. Remember? I was thinking about the cold wind and how it was trying to “slap me in the face” and invade my clothing “like water trying to sink a ship”. Who thinks like that? Characters in stories, that’s who (more specifically, characters in bad stories). And what about now? Who am I thinking this too, if not a reader? Hey… I don’t have to convince you, do I? You’ve known all along.
Now I’m just irritated. I'm here, uncomfortable, confused, cold, and you just keep reading like my suffering has some sort of entertainment value. And the package. It could be a pipe bomb for all you know. My very life might be in danger, if that's the sort of story I'm in. Do you care? No. You just keep reading, like the only thing that will satisfy you is to learn what happens to me. Stopping now could save my life. Even if I'm holding atime bomb in my hands you could put this story away and nothing would happen. If you’d stopped earlier my face wouldn’t be numb. I’m hurting here. Do me a solid and find another story. How hard is that?
Still here? Fine. Keep reading. See if I care. I’m not about to do anything exciting. I’m just going to stop and stand right here on the sidewalk until you get bored.
Another lady passes by walking her dog.
Another lady passes by walking her dog.
Another lady passes by walking her dog.
Another lady passes by...Wait. What am I thinking? I’m not just a character in a story. This baby’s written in the first person! What I say goes. Why am I standing here in the cold? I should be living the good life.
The wind shifts again. It’s at my back now, and it’s getting warmer. I hold my package tenderly, so as not to damage the precious contents. It's getting much warmer now. The snow's starting to melt at an amazing rate.
A tall, young lady (early twenties) walks by, tugging gently on the leash of a pit-bull. She’s wearing heels and a red dress with a matching hat. I stop to give the pooch a chin scratch.
“Hey fella.” I turn my eyes to his angelic mistress. “Beautiful dog.”
“Most people are intimidated by Butch.”
“Oh, he seems lovable enough.”
“He is.” She lowers her sunglasses and gives a wink.
I turn attention back to the dog as she searches her purse. Butch, getting impatient, starts to leave, hauling my hopes and dreams along with him. She reaches back and slips a small piece of paper into my hand.
She turns and walks off. Once she's out of sight I look down at the phone number.
Things are looking up. And it’s still getting warmer.
I’m passing Jack’s Newsstand when I remember it’s Sunday and I haven’t checked my lotto ticket yet. Last night's jackpot was twelve million.
“Hey, Jack. How’s biz?”
“Gabe, buddy! Not bad ‘tall. What ken I do ya fer?”
“Today's paper and a printout of last night’s winners.”
“You got ‘er buddy. Heard that the winnin’ ticket was sold in town, didja?”
“Was it really?”
“Yep. Sorry ta say it wasn’t yer numbers, though. You have a 26 in there, right? For the girlfriend's birthday? Oh well, maybe next time.” He hands me my paper and my printout.
I flip him a dollar and decide not to tell him I was rushing around so much yesterday getting my gift together I just grabbed a quick pick instead of taking the time to fill out my regular numbers.
As I'm about to check my ticket a slovenly fellow approaches, white stuffing bleeding from the seams of what may once have been a warm winter coat. He thrusts his hand at me, palm skyward.
“Spare some change?”
“I’ve got a better idea. Here.”
I put down my paper and my package, and remove my coat. It’s getting too warm for it anyway.
I nod, and bend to gather my things. Then I remember.
“Hey! Forgot something in the pocket.”
He hands back the coat and I retrieve my ticket before returning it. He walks off and at the first trashcan he passes he dumps the old coat. But he keeps the new one tucked under his arm. It really is turning out to be a bright, sunshiny day.
I've pushed my luck long enough. Best check my ticket now, while I have the chance. I unfold the printout and begin to compare it with my ticket... 6...6, 17...17, 19...19. My palms begin to sweat. Three more numbers.... 31...31,
* * *
(That’s about enough of that. No more first person narrative for this guy. Give some characters an inch, they take a mile. I’m retaking control before this story gets out of hand. Lady in a red dress? Please. Now he wants to win the lottery? What kind of a story is that? Time for good old third person omniscient to come in and save the day. What to do, what to do? First things first, I suppose.)
Gabe was shaking. Two more numbers and good-bye factory floor. He looked at the printout. The fifth number was a 41. He looked at his ticket...40.
“Impossible,” he thought, “41...41.”
But, to Gabe’s dismay, the fifth number on the ticket remained a 40. Not knowing what else to do, he checked the sixth number on the printout… 45. Then on his ticket… 42.
He looked up in disbelief. “Aargh!”
Gabe had won over a hundred dollars. He was furious. “I’m not telling the story anymore,” he thought. “Hateful author must have switched to third person omniscient on me. Well listen here, oh great one; I know you know what I’m thinking. That’s the point of omniscience, right? I’m not playing your games anymore. I want you to…”
Outwardly, Gabe looked calm (and since his inner thoughts are ruining my story, I’ve decided they're not important). The sun was setting. It was getting late and if Gabe didn’t get moving he was going to be late seeing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. He knew, he must have known, that this would upset her. Yet... he... just... stood... there ... (Aargh!)
(Either Gabe swiftens up and gets this story rolling again or he’ll have to kiss free will good-bye. I much prefer to put my characters in a situation and let the story develop from there, but this guy's making things tough. If I can’t persuade him to perform some sort of action, the story is finished. One more idea, then it’s mind control.)
The wind shifted again and it began to get cold. Gabe shivered, his teeth chattered, and (finally) he began to move. Slowly he picked up his package and (re)read the card attached: ‘Jessica - Happy Valentine’s Day - Love Gabe XOXO.’ For a brief moment a smile crossed Gabe’s face. (Idiot’s probably just happy he's not carrying explosives.) Then the scowl returned.
“Okay, if you won't pay attention to my thoughts, I’ll say it aloud.” Gabe was yelling at the top of his lungs like a madman.
The people around him stared. Children pointed and laughed. Seniors called him names. A dog barked in the distance.
“Think I care?” He sneered. “They’re fictional, too. Why should I care what they think? I’ve a proposal for you. You can run the show on one condition: Don’t screw with my head. You want to tell a cute little story about a fella and his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, I’m your man. But if things get ugly, or the wrong kind of ironic even, like this gift turns out to be a set of combs and she just had all her hair cut off to buy me a watch, I sit down and don’t move. I don’t care how cold it gets. END OF STORY. Understood?”
He paused, the people around him had stopped staring and pointing. The temperature increased ever so slightly (it is February after all).
“That’s more like it. And before I forget, I keep the hundred dollars, too.”
Gabe walked two more blocks before coming to building number 244. He climbed stairs to apartment 304 and raised his fist to knock.
He hesitated. “We’ve got a deal right.”
(How to communicate with this buffoon?)
Through the window at the end of the hall, Gabe could see the electronic billboard on for the neighbouring sports. The words followed one another in a chain of bright red lights: “We’ve Got Classic Fights All Week! Featuring: Evander, ‘The Real Deal’... 'Deal'... 'Deal'... 'Deal'...” For some reason (and I've no inclination to provide one, so feel free to make up your own) the lights had stopped flowing and the word “Deal” began to flash over and over on the sign (yes, I know; I don’t care). Gabe smiled, snickered even, and knocked.
The initial answer came in the form of bark from what sounded like a very large dog. The door opened a moment later, and there stood Jessica in a new red dress and matching hat.
“Happy Valentine’s, baby.”
Gabe stood motionless. Eventually he opened his mouth... as if to say something.......... but Gabe was speechless (it's hard to find good help these days). Butch jumped up and licked Gabe’s face, snapping him from his trance.
“You look... amazing.” He fended off the giant dog absently with his parcel.
“Is that for me?”
“Huh...? Oh... yeah... here.” Handing over the precious gift.
“Well, come in and close the door.”
Gabe did as told.
Jessica gave him her patented wink. “Wish you’d told me you were walking. I’d have stayed in—didn’t want you to see me until now. I bought the dress just for today... know you like red.”
“I wasn’t even planning to going, but it got so warm. Wasn’t that unreal?”
“Where’s your coat? You had it on earlier.”
“Gave it to a tramp. Not sure what I was thinking.”
“Not of yourself. That’s why I love you.” She placed the package down and hugged him.
“It all evens out I guess; won a hundred dollars on last night’s lottery.” Gabe held out his ticket.
“Wow! That's something.”
“It is. Hate to admit it but my first reaction was to be disappointed I didn’t win the whole thing. Jack said someone in town won, and got my holes up. A hundred free dollars isn't too shabby.” (About time he shows a little enthusiasm).
Their easy small talk continued for a few minutes until Jessica declared dinner was served. Usually Gabe cooked (I’ll make a likeable character out of this guy yet) but, since Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday this year, and Gabe worked on Sundays. So Jessica had determined a home cooked meal would be a much-appreciated gift. The couple was saving for marriage, and had agreed not to overspend.
The meal was warm and satisfying. Gabe started out with the appearance of refinery but, in the end couldn’t help wolfing down heaping forks full of pink salmon, sweet potatoes, potato scallop, Caesar salad, baby carrots, corn niblets, green beans, cheddar cheese blocks and, finally, heart shaped chocolate cake. Feeling contented, he pushed away from the table.
“Couldn’t eat another bite.”
“Good. I thought you’d never stop. Time for my gift, now.” Her eyes brightened as she took his hand and led him into the den, where the mysterious package sat on the floor.
“If you don’t like it, I can always get you something else. I do have a little extra cash as of today.” Gabe glanced at the package suspiciously. He'd been feeling more and more attached with Jessica and was worried he'd disappoint her. “We’ve got a deal,” he mouthed silently as she bent over to gather up the gift (guy has zero confidence in me).
“I’ll love it. You give the best gifts.” She moved the parcel to the middle of the room, plunked down on the carpet, legs crossed, and began tearing at the paper. (Now I’m getting nervous; this thing's been built up far too much; almost anything would be a letdown.) Jessica hesitated. (I need a minute here.) She found the card, read it, stood up, dimmed the lights, and gave Gabe another hug. The couple sat on the floor and, again, Jessica began to rip at the paper. Once she’d stripped the box, she began to remove the lid. Gabe looked on; curiosity growing in his eyes.
(Before we go on, I'd like to establish a few things. It’s fair to say the illusion of reality has been long lost. It’s clear this is a story and any attempt at mimeses has already been abandoned by author, narrator, protagonist, and reader alike—yes you’re to blame too; you are still here, after all. What I’m saying is I’ve determined to push the limits a bit. For a while there I was considering the time bomb idea. Gabe was getting to me. But I’ve had a change of heart. I created the guy; least I can do is to make him happy. Trouble being, I can’t think of a realistic ending that’s both happy and wicked awesome—a realistic wicked awesome tragic ending? That I could do. I don’t think I’m the only writer with this problem. That’s why the most realistic stories always have the most miserable characters. So I guess I’m just trying to warn you that from here on out realism isn’t a major concern of mine. My priority is to make Gabe happy and then forget this whole story ever happened—which, of course, it didn’t.)
Jessica removed the lid with one final tug. The room flooded with a magnificent dark brightness. Icy blues, fiery reds, and brilliant white rebounded off the walls, furniture, the couple’s eyes, and out the windows. Butch ran to the bedroom and hid his head beneath the bed. Gabe was awestruck. Jessica laughed triumphantly.
“Starlight! A whole box of starlight! Where did you get a whole box of starlight!?! No! Don’t tell me! It’ll ruin the magic. I love you.”
“Mmmmm; love you too,” sighed Gabe dreamily, relieved he wouldn’t be made to explain.
Jessica rose to her feet and began to dance in rhythm with the musical rays of light. She removed her clothing to feel the cool warm incandescence bouncing off her skin. The light made love to her as her radiant body ebbed and flowed. Jessica was immersed, saturated in the beams. They cascaded off her like a million tiny, jubilant waterfalls. Gabe joined her and they danced, shimmered, sparkled, and shone until the starlight surrendered to the dawn's rays.
Exhaustion and exultant, they fell into each other’s arms and watched until the last glistening, twinkling beam had skipped out the window into the sky. There the two slept peacefully, without so much as a twitch, through that day and through the following night, until a new dawn warmed their faces.
Work had waited and demanded no explanation. Starlight, by its nature, is generous. The whole town had bathed in the glow coming from Jessica’s window that night, and has glowed ever since. Many said the starlight was gone, but a few insisted it remained present if you knew where to look. It took up residence in the eyes of the Gabe and Jessica and refused to move, no matter how cold it got. END OF STORY.
WHAT is Love? Ask him who lives, what is life; ask him who adores, what is God?
I know not the internal constitution of other men, nor even thine, whom I now address. I see that in some external attributes they resemble me, but when, misled by that appearance, I have thought to appeal to something in common, and unburthen my inmost soul to them, I have found my language misunderstood, like one in a distant and savage land. The more opportunities they have afforded me for experience, the wider has appeared the interval between us, and to a greater distance have the points of sympathy been withdrawn. With a spirit ill fitted to sustain such proof, trembling and feeble through its tenderness, I have everywhere sought sympathy, and have found only repulse and disappointment.
Thou demandest what is Love. It is that powerful attraction towards all we conceive, or fear, or hope beyond ourselves, when we find within our own thoughts the chasm of an insufficient void, and seek to awaken in all things that are, a community with what we experience within ourselves. If we reason, we would be understood; if we imagine, we would that the airy children of our brain were born anew within another's; if we feel, we would that another's nerves should vibrate to our own, that the beams of their eyes should kindle at once and mix and melt into our own; that lips of motionless ice should not reply to lips quivering and burning with the heart's best blood. This is Love. This is the bond and the sanction which connects not only man with man, but with every thing which exists. We are born into the world, and there is something within us which, from the instant that we live, more and more thirsts after its likeness. It is probably in correspondence with this law that the infant drains milk from the bosom of its mother; this propensity develops itself with the development of our nature. We dimly see within our intellectual nature a miniature as it were of our entire self, yet deprived of all that we condemn or despise, the ideal prototype of every thing excellent and lovely that we are capable of conceiving as belonging to the nature of man. Not only the portrait of our external being, but an assemblage of the minutest particles of which our nature is composed; a mirror whose surface reflects only the forms of purity and brightness; a soul within our own soul that describes a circle around its proper Paradise, which pain and sorrow and evil dare not overleap. To this we eagerly refer all sensations, thirsting that they should resemble or correspond with it. The discovery of its antitype; the meeting with an understanding capable of clearly estimating our own; an imagination which should enter into and seize upon the subtle and delicate peculiarities which we have delighted to cherish and unfold in secret; with a frame whose nerves, like the chords of two exquisite lyres, strung to the accompaniment of one delightful voice, vibrate with the vibrations of our own; and of a combination of all these in such proportion as the type within demands; this is the invisible and unattainable point to which Love tends; and to attain which, it urges forth the powers of man to arrest the faintest shadow of that, without the possession of which there is no rest nor respite to the heart over which it rules. Hence in solitude, or in that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings, and yet they sympathize not with us, we love the flowers, the grass, the waters, and the sky. In the motion of the very leaves of spring, in the blue air, there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart. There is eloquence in the tongueless wind, and a melody in the flowing brooks and the rustling of the reeds beside them, which by their inconceivable relation to something within the soul, awaken the spirits to a dance of breathless rapture, and bring tears of mysterious tenderness to the eyes, like the enthusiasm of patriotic success, or the voice of one beloved singing to you alone. Sterne says that if he were in a desert he would love some cypress. So soon as this want or power is dead, man becomes the living sepulchre of himself, and what yet survives is the mere husk of what once he was.
Aristophanes's Story on “Love” from Plato's Symposium
(Benjamin Jowett translation)
Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. Mankind, he said, judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am teaching you.
In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it. The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else. Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' is preserved, and that as a term of reproach.
In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.
Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round because they resembled their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, attempted to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods.
Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way.
He said: 'Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.'
He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw tight, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state.
After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them,—being the sections of entire men or women,—and clung to that.
Thus they were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, seeking to make one of two, and to heal the state of man.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the tally-half of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they have affection for men and embrace them, and these are the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature.
Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,—if at all, they do so only in obedience to custom; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded;
And such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.
Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying side by side and to say to them, 'What do you mortals want of one another?'
They would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that when he saw their perplexity he said: 'Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night in one another's company? for if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt and fuse you together, so that being two you shall become one, and while you live live a common life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the world below still be one departed soul, instead of two—I ask whether this is what you lovingly desire and whether you are satisfied to attain this?'—
There is not a man of them who when he heard the proposal would deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need.
And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when we were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has dispersed us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians. And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is a danger that we shall be split up again and go about in basso-relievo, like the profile figures showing only one half the nose which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies. Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety in all things, that we may avoid evil and obtain the good, taking Love for our leader and commander.
Let no one oppose him—he is the enemy of the gods who opposes him. For if we are friends of God and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not to make fun or to find any allusion in what I am saying to Pausanias and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and belong to the class which I have been describing. But my words have a wider application—they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree must in present circumstances be the nearest approach to such a union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love.
Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed.
This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, which, although different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailed by the shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his turn; each, or rather either, for Agathon and Socrates are the only ones left.
Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, first published in 1862, is a narrative poem steeped as much in ambiguity as it is in lush imagery. Since the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1960's and 1970's, it has broadly been assumed that the poem represents a proto-feminist critique of Victorian expectations and biases surrounding female sexuality.
Earlier critics did not so much miss this reading of the poem, as they simply assumed it as a smaller aspect within the context of a broader thematic and social milieu. As in its archetype, the Eden story, the concept of forbidden fruit had a wide range of relevant connotations and denotations, applicable to an endless variety of situations and readers. There is some evidence that Rossetti's own sense of the poem was shifting and complex in her conflicting descriptions of the work first to her publisher as not being intended for children and later public suggestions that it was, indeed, a children's poem.
Here at NovelTea, rather than foist a reading onto our guests, we will leave the poem to speak for itself other than to note two points of interest. First, whether the foundational topic is literal lush fruit or symbolic sex or something else entirely, Rossetti's mastery of sensual imagery as the driving force of the poem is every bit the match for the elegance and intensity of the Pre-Raphaelite visual art movement founded, in part, by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who collaborated with his sister as illustrator to the poem. Second, whatever the suggested flaw at the root of Laura's actions, Rossetti's poem remains unique for it's era not only in Laura's ultimate redemption, but in the fact that the vehicle for said redemption comes through the selfless love of another woman in her sister Lizzie.
With that, here's the poem. Read it. Enjoy it. And, as always, leave your own thoughts and interpretations in the comments section below.
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
'Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Swart-headed mulberries, 10
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together
In summer weather,--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine, 20
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; 30
Come buy, come buy.'
Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
'Lie close,' Laura said, 40
Pricking up her golden head:
'We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?'
'Come buy,' call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
'Oh,' cried Lizzie, 'Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.'
Lizzie covered up her eyes, 50
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
'Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds weight.
How fair the vine must grow 60
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.'
'No,' said Lizzie, 'No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.'
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man. 70
One had a cat's face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat's pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather. 80
Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.
Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
'Come buy, come buy.' 90
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown 100
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-faced spoke a word 110
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried 'Pretty Goblin' still for 'Pretty Polly;'--
One whistled like a bird.
But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
'Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze 120
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.'
'You have much gold upon your head,'
They answered all together:
'Buy from us with a golden curl.'
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, 130
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone. 140
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
'Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers 150
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago 160
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.'
'Nay, hush,' said Laura:
'Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more:' and kissed her:
'Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow 170
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead 180
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.'
Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Like two wands of ivory 190
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.
Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning, 200
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart, 210
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.
At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags, 220
Then turning homeward said: 'The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.'
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
And said the hour was early still
The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching 230
The customary cry,
'Come buy, come buy,'
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single, 240
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.
Till Lizzie urged, 'O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glowworm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark:
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather, 250
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?'
Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
'Come buy our fruits, come buy.'
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root: 260
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
But peering thro' the dimness, nought discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.
Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain 270
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
'Come buy, come buy;'--
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and grey;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away. 280
One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth 290
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.
She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.
Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care 300
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
'Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:'--
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her, 310
But feared to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest Winter time
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp Winter time.
Till Laura dwindling 320
Seemed knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.
Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping: 330
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Cat-like and rat-like, 340
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,--
Hugged her and kissed her:
Squeezed and caressed her:
Stretched up their dishes, 350
Panniers, and plates:
'Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs; 360
Pluck them and suck them,
'Good folk,' said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie:
'Give me much and many:'--
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
'Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,'
They answered grinning: 370
'Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavour would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us, 380
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.'--
'Thank you,' said Lizzie: 'But one waits
At home alone for me:
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee.'--
They began to scratch their pates, 390
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her, 400
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.
White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,--
Like a rock of blue-veined stone 410
Lashed by tides obstreperously,--
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,--
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,--
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet 420
Mad to tug her standard down.
One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took, 440
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.
In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze, 450
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,--
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear; 460
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.
She cried 'Laura,' up the garden,
'Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew. 470
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.'
Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
'Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden, 480
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin,
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?'--
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth; 490
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.
Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch 500
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.
Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name: 510
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Like a foam-topped waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea, 520
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?
Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves, 530
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of grey, 540
Her breath was sweet as May
And light danced in her eyes.
Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone 550
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town:)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands 560
Would bid them cling together,
'For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.'
The Face Behind the Masquerade: Fantomina; Or Love in a Maze, and Female Identity
by Jeremy DeVito
In spite of the immense popularity of her novels which, at the time of their publication, were legitimate sales rival to works by such writers as Pope and Swift, traditional scholarship has attached little importance to the name of Eliza Haywood. Such scholarship, however, is misguided; as one of the founders of popular literature, and especially the popular novel, Haywood is a key figure in Eighteenth Century Literature whose influence remains with us to this day. Moreover, Haywood’s works were, and still remain, revolutionary in theme as they focus largely upon the role of the female within patriarchal society, the possibilities of female empowerment, and even the taboo subject of female sexual freedom. In Fantomina: Or Love in a Maze, Haywood’s revolutionary views on society come to the fore in relation to the topic of female identity. Ultimately, this short novel offers the troubling thesis that the very notion of female identity is displaced by patriarchy, which forces women into restrictive, powerless roles.
Fantomina is fittingly labelled “A Masquerade Novel” (786). Indeed, the central plot of the work revolves around masquerade as the protagonist constructs for herself several different personas in an attempt to win and to keep the object of her desire, Beauplaisir. However, the implications of the term ‘masquerade’ seem to go deeper than this. Haywood introduces her main character as “A young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit” (786); other than this somewhat generic description, which could fit any number of upper-class Eighteenth Century “young ladies,” Haywood’s characterization of her protagonist is virtually non-existent. In fact, this young lady is not even provided a name. In short, she is not so much a three-dimensional character as she is a typical persona, a recognizable female role rather than a specific individual. While on the surface this may seem to be an indication of inferior writing skills, the lengths to which Haywood goes in the maintaining her protagonist’s lack of individuality and identity, such as having her referred to as “Lady Such-a-one” (787), suggest that a specific motif is being consciously developed. Haywood seems to be indicating that, before her protagonist has begun to scheme, before the very outset of the novel even, the masquerade has already begun. Within the world presented by Haywood, the woman’s role always involves the wearing of a mask.
It is for this reason that the transformation of Haywood’s protagonist from a “fine Lady to a prostitute takes place with such ease. Her disguise does not involve the covering of her true identity with a false one; rather, it is achieved through the mere shedding of one persona for another. Haywood’s Protagonist is, in essence, a tabula rasa of sorts; her only identity is the one that she constructs. Thus, when Beauplaisir encounters her playing the role of Fantomina, a prostitute, he does fancy “that she very much resemble[s] the Lady whom she really [is]; but the vast Disparity there appear[s] between their Characters, prevent[s] him from entertaining even the most distant Thought that they could be the same” (787). This theme is played out throughout the novel as Beauplaisir repeatedly fails to recognize the protagonist as being anything other than that which she professes to be, in spite of his having intimate relations with each of her several personas. As readers we may be tempted to view Beauplaisir as being overly gullible in this respect; it must be noted, however, that in many ways Fantomina (along with the personas that follow) does, indeed, come to life as a far more real, mire believable, character than the protagonist she starts out as. In fact, the persona of Fantomina is actually chosen by Haywood as the character after whom the novel is entitled.
Certainly, the several personas of Fantomina are most fascinating in their ultimate success in becoming believable to the protagonist herself as she changes not only her appearance, but also, as it would seem, her very character. In taking on the identity of the prostitute, Fantomina’s actions soon come to match her appearance as she allows Beauplaisir sexual privileges to which the “fine lady” described at the beginning of the novel would, most assuredly, not have consented. Further, she is offered “a purse of Gold” (789) as reward for her consent; although she does not accept it, Beauplaisir’s offer nevertheless forces us to realize that Fantomina’s sexuality has, indeed, become commodified. This pattern continues as she takes on the role of Celia, a country girls, and offers “herself to Service in the House where Beauplaisir [is] lodged” (792). In doing so, she not only gives up her upper-class status to the “Amorous Violence” (792) of the man she has been hired to serve. While she considers herself fortunate that Beauplaisir, whom she desires, is the only man at the house who is able to take such liberties, she never makes her desires known but, rather, gives in to his. As the Widow Bloomer, she retains this air of vulnerability and, “not thinking it Decent, for the Character she [has] assumed, to yield so suddenly […], she counterfeit[s] a fainting” (795) and allows him to carry her off to bed. Simply put, her concern is not that her actions remain consistent with any notion of selfhood that she may have, but that they remain consistent with the persona of “the character she has assumed.” In short, Haywood’s protagonist does not simply take on several false appearances; she actually takes on, actually becomes, several different roles.
Ironically, this role playing is seen by Haywood’s protagonist as a source of power and freedom. Although the roles that she takes on are for the most part powerless, she believes herself to be in control of her situation; it is herself, after all, who decides which role she will step into. Certainly, Fantomina does manipulate Beauplaisir quite effectively in leading him to believe that he is being unfaithful when, in reality, he is having several affairs with the same woman. Of this manipulation she triumphantly declares, “while he thinks the fool of me, [Beauplaisir] is himself the only beguiled person” (796). Nonetheless, we see in Haywood’s protagonist a character who is trying desperately to retain a relationship with a man who has no desire to so the same. Thus, it is she who is forced to jump through hoops and take on roles while he is free to do as he wishes and remain true to his own identity, as contemptible as that identity may seem.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to argue with Fantomina’s reasoning that as long as Beauplaisir is kept from “discovering her true Name and Quality […] he should not have it in his Power to touch her Character” (790). This passage, however, seems to imply that it is not so much the taking on of new roles that empowers Haywood’s protagonist as it is the shedding of her old role. Haywood seems to be suggesting that the only way in which women can achieve true power within patriarchal society is to resist being confined to any role whatever. This hypothesis is made most explicit in the persona (or lack thereof) of Incognita. It is only as Incognita that Haywood’s protagonist gains any true control over Beauplaisir. As a woman without any identity or reputation Incogniat is, for the first time, able to make advances on “the All-conquering Beauplaisir” (798). By shedding all roles and refusing to take up a new one, Haywood’s protagonist is finally able to enter a relationship with Beauplaisir in which she is not limited by any preconceived expectations of behaviour and is, thus, free to conquer him, rather than allowing for herself to be conquered by him. In fact, Beausplaisir seems well aware of his defeat and is “so much out of Humour […] at the Disappointment of his Curiosity, that he resolve[s] never to make a second Visit” (801).
Unfortunately, this development, coupled with “the Arrival of her Mother” (801), finally forces Haywood’s protagonist back into her original role. However, by now it has become obvious that this role is nothing more than another of her many personas. In order to fit the expectations placed upon her as “A Young Lady of distinguished Birth” (786), she is forced to conceal the fact that “[s]he is with child” (801). Of course, she is ultimately found out when she goes into labour, thereby changing roles once again from the “fine lady” to the “fallen woman.” Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Haywood’s novel is the reaction of the protagonist’s own mother to her daughter’s plight as “[a]ll the Pity and Tenderness she had been for some Moment before possessed of, now [vanish], and [are] succeeded by an adequate Shame and Indignation” (802). In short, even the feelings that the protagonist’s mother displays are, like those of Beauplaisir, based upon what rather than who she perceives her daughter to be.
In the final analysis, Haywood’s novel, Fantomina, presents a critique of patriarchal society in which female identity is virtually non-existent. Instead, the person is displaced and overshadowed by the personas that women are forced to put on. Hence, Haywood’s works are of prime importance as they provide not only a bridge between elitist and popular literature, but also offer some valuable insights concerning the role of the female within Eighteenth Century society, as well as our own.
Haywood, Eliza F. Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze. British Literature 1640-1789: An Anthology. Ed. R. Demaria Jr. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. 786-803.