The Journal of Arthur Stirling - "The Valley of the Shadow"
by Upton Sinclair
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[by Upton Sinclair]



The matter which is given to the public in this book will speak with a voice of its own; it is necessary, however, to say a few words in advance to inform the reader of its history.

The writer of the journal herein contained was not known, I believe, to more than a dozen people in this huge city in which he lived. I am quite certain that I and my wife were the only persons he ever called his friends. I met him shortly after his graduation from college, and for the past few years I knew, and I alone, of a life of artistic devotion of such passionate fervor as I expect never to meet with again.

Arthur Stirling was entirely a self-educated man; he had worked at I know not how many impossible occupations, and labored in the night-time like the heroes one reads about. He taught himself to read five languages, and at the time when I saw him last he knew more great poetry by heart than any man of letters that I have ever met. He was the author of one book, a tragedy in blank verse, called The Captive; that drama forms the chief theme of this journal. For the rest, it seems to me enough to quote this notice, which appeared in the New York Times for June 9, 1902.

STIRLING.—By suicide in the Hudson River, poet and man of genius, in the 22d year of his age, only son of Richard T. and Grace Stirling, deceased, of Chicago. Chicago papers please copy.

Arthur Stirling was in appearance a tall, dark-haired boy—he was really only a boy—with a singularly beautiful face, and a strange wistful expression of the eyes that I think will haunt me as long as I live. I made him, somewhat externally and feebly, I fear, one of the characters in a recently published novel. That he was a lonely spirit will be plain enough from his writings; he lived among the poverty-haunted thousands of this city, without (so he once told me) ever speaking to a living soul for a week. Pecuniarily I could not help him—for though he was poor, I was scarcely less so. At the time of his frightful death I had not seen him for nearly two months—owing to circumstances which were in no way my fault, but for which I can nevertheless not forgive myself.

The writing of The Captive, as described in these papers, was begun in April, 1901. I was myself at that time in the midst of a struggle to have a book published. It was not really published until late in that year—at which time The Captive was finished and already several times rejected. It was an understood thing between us that should my book succeed it would mean freedom for both of us, but that, unfortunately, was not to be.

Early in April of 1902 I had succeeded in laying by provisions enough to last me while I wrote another book, and I fled away to put up my tent in the wilderness. The last time that I ever saw Arthur Stirling was in his room the night before I left. He smiled very bravely and said that he would keep his courage up, that he was pretty sure he would come out all right.

I did not expect him to write often—I knew that he was too poor for that; but after six weeks had passed and I had not heard from him at all, I wrote to a friend to go and see him. It developed that he had moved. The lodging-house keeper could only say that he had left her his baggage, being unable to pay his rent; and that he "looked sick." Where he went she did not know, and all efforts of mine to find him were of no avail. The only person that I knew of to ask was a certain young girl, a typewriter, who had known him for years, and who had worshiped him with a strange and terrible passion—who would have been his wife, or his slave, if he had not been as iron in such things, a man so lost in his vision that I suppose he always thought she was lost in it too. This girl had copied his manuscripts for years, with the plea that he might pay her when he "succeeded"; and she has all of his manuscripts now, except what I have, if she is alive. All that we could learn was that she had "gone away"; I feel pretty certain that she went in search of him.

In addition, all that I have to tell is that on Monday, June 9th last I received a large express package from Arthur. It was sent from New York, but marked as coming from another person—evidently to avoid giving an address of his own. Upon opening it I found two packages, one of them carefully sealed and marked upon the outside, The Captive; the other was the manuscript of this journal, and upon the top of it was the following letter:

MY DEAR ——: You have no doubt been wondering what has become of me. I have been having a hard time of it. I wish I could find some way to make this thing a little easier, but I can not. When you read this letter I shall be dead. There is nothing that I can tell you about it that you will not read in the papers I send you. It is simply that I was born to be an artist, and that as anything else I can not live. The burden that has been laid upon me I can not bear another day. I have told the whole story of it in this book—I have kept myself alive for months, sick and weeping with agony, in order that I might tear it out of my heart and get it written. It has been my last prayer that the struggle my life has been may somehow not be useless. There will come others after me—others perhaps keener than I—and oh, the world must not kill them all!

You will take this manuscript, please, and go over it, and cut out what you like to make it printable, and write a few words to make people understand about it. And then see if any one will publish it. You know more about all these things than I do. If it should sell, keep part of the money for your own work and give the rest to poor Ellen. As to The Captive—I all but burned it, as you will read; but keep it, sealed as I have sealed it, for two years, and then offer it to some publishers—to others than the nine who have already rejected it. If you can not find any one to take it, then burn it, or keep it for love, I do not care which.

I am writing this on Thursday night, and I am almost dead. I mean to get some money to-morrow, and then to buy a ticket for as far up the Hudson as I can go. In the evening I mean to find a steep bank, and, with a heavy dumb-bell I have bought, and a strong rope, I think I can find the peace that I have been seeking.

The first thing that I have to say to you about it is, that when you get this letter it will be over and done, and that I want you, for God's sake, not to make any fuss. No one will find my body and no one will care about it. You need not think it necessary to notify the newspapers—what I'm sending you here is literature and not journalism. I have no earthly belongings left except these MSS., upon which you will have to pay the toll. I have written to M——, a man who once did some typewriting for me, asking him to use a dollar he owes me in putting a notice in one of the papers. I suppose I owe that to the people out West.

I can't write you to-night—before God I can't; my head is going like a steel-mill, and I'm so sick. You will get over this somehow, and go on and do your task and win. And if the memory of my prayer can help you, that will be something. Do the work of both of us if you can. Only, if you do pull through, remember my last cry—remember the young artist! There is no other fight so worth fighting—take it upon you—shout it day and night at them—what things they do with their young artists!

God bless you, dear friend. Yours, ARTHUR.

The above is the only tidings of him, excepting the extended accounts of his death which appeared in the New York Times and the New York World for June 10 and 11, 1902, and several letters which he wrote to other people. There remains only to say a few words as to the journal.

It is scrawled upon old note-books and loose sheets of paper. The matter, although a diary, contains odd bits of his writings—one of two letters to me which he had me send back, and some extracts from an essay which a friend of mine was offering at that time to magazines in the hope of placing it for him. There is a problem about the work which I leave to others to solve—how much of it was written as dated, and how much afterward, as a piece of art, as a testament of his sorrow. Parts of it have struck me as having been composed in the latter way, and the last pages, of course, imply as much.

Extraordinary pages they are to me. That a man who was about to take his life should have written them is one of the strangest cases of artistic absorption I know of in literature. But Arthur Stirling was a man lost in his art just so—so full of it, so drunk with it, that nothing in life had other meaning to him. To quote the words he loved, from the last of his heroes, he longed for excellence "as the lion longs for his food."

So he lived and so he worked; the world had no use for his work, and so he died.


NEW YORK, November 15, 1902.


I do not know if "The Valley of the Shadow" means to you what it means to me; I do not know if it means anything at all to you. But I have sought long and far for these words, to utter an all but unutterable thought.

When you walk in the forest you do not count the lives that you tread into nothingness. When you rejoice with the springtime you do not hear the cries of the young things that are choked and beaten down and dying. When you watch the wild thing in your snare you do not know the meaning of the torn limbs, and the throbbing heart, and the awful silence of the creature trapped. When you go where the poor live, and see thin faces and hungry eyes and crouching limbs, you do not think of these things either.

But I, reader—I dwell in the Valley of the Shadow.

Sometimes it is silent in my Valley, and the creatures sit in terror of their own voices; sometimes there are screams that pierce the sky; but there is never any answer in my Valley. There are quivering hands there, and racked limbs, and aching hearts, and panting souls. There is gasping struggle, glaring failure—maniac despair. For over my Valley rolls The Shadow, a giant thing, moving with the weight of mountains. And you stare at it, you feel it; you scream, you pray, you weep; you hold up your hands to your God, you grow mad; but the Shadow moves like Time, like the sun, and the planets in the sky. It rolls over you, and it rolls on; and then you cry out no more.

It is that way in my Valley. The Shadow is the Shadow of Death.









The book! The book! This day, Saturday, the sixth day of April, 1901, I begin the book!

I have never kept a journal—I have been too busy living; but to-day I begin a journal. I am so built that I can do but one thing at a time. Now that I have begun The Captive, I must be haunted with it all day; when I am not writing it I must be dreaming it, or restless because I am not. Therefore it occurred to me that in the hours of weariness I would write about it what was in my mind—what fears and what hopes; why and how I write it will be a story in itself, and some day I think it will be read.

* * * * *

I have come to the last stage of the fight, and I see the goal. I will tell the story, and by and by wise editors can print it in the Appendix!

Yesterday I was a cable-car conductor, and to-day I am a poet!

I know of some immortal poems that were written by a druggist's clerk, and some by a gager of liquid barrels, but none by a cable-car conductor. "It sounds interesting, tell us about it!" says the reader. I shall, but not to-day.

To-day I begin the book!

* * * * *

I did not write that on April 6th, I wrote it a month ago—one day when I was thinking about this. I put it there now, because it will do to begin; but I had no jests in my heart on April 6th.

* * * * *

April 10th.

I have been for four days in a kind of frenzy. I have come down like a collapsed balloon, and I think I have had enough for once.

I have written the opening scene, but not finally; and then I got into the middle—I could not help it. How in God's name I am ever to do this fearful thing, I don't know; it frightens me, and sometimes I lose all heart.

* * * * *

I suppose I shall have to begin again tonight. I must eat something first, though. That is one of my handicaps: I wear myself out and have to stop and eat. Will anybody ever love me for this work, will anybody ever understand it?

I suppose I can get back where I was yesterday, but always it grows harder, and more stern. I set my teeth together.

* * * * *

It was like the bursting of an overstrained dam, these last four days. How long I have been pent up—eighteen months! And eighteen months seems like a lifetime to me. I have been a bloodhound in the leash, hungering—hungering for this thing, and the longing has piled up in me day by day. Sometimes it has been more than I could bear; and when the time was near, I was so wild that I was sick. The book! The book! Freedom and the book!

And last Saturday I went out of the hell-house where I have been pent so long, and I covered my face with my hands and fled away home—away to the little corner that is mine. There I flung myself down and sobbed like a child. It was relief—it was joy—it was fear! It was everything! The book! The book! Then I got up—and the world seemed to go behind me, and I was drunk. I heard a voice calling—it thundered in my ears—that I was free—that my hour was come—that I might live—that I might live—live! And I could have shouted it—I know that I laughed it aloud. Every time I thought the thought it was like the throbbing of wings to me—"Free! Free!"

No one can understand this—no one who has not a demon in his soul. No one who does not know how I have been choked—what horrors I have borne.

I am through with that—I did not think of that. I am free! They will never have me back.

That motive alone would drive me to my work, would make me dare anything. But I do not need that motive.

* * * * *

I think only of the book. I thought of it last Saturday, and it swept me away out of myself. I had planned the opening scene; but then the thought of the triumph-song took hold of me, and it drove me mad. That song was what I had thought I could never do—I had never dared to think of it. And it came to me—it came! Wild, incoherent, overwhelming, it came, the victorious hymn. I could not think of remembering it; it was not poetry—it was reality. I was the Captive, I had won freedom—a faith and a vision!

So it throbbed on and on, and I was choked, and my head on fire, and my hands tingling, until I sank down from sheer exhaustion—laughing and sobbing, and talking to God as if He were in the room. I never really believe in God except at such times; I can go through this dreadful world for months, and never think if there be a God.—Here I sit gossiping about it.—But I am tired out.

* * * * *

The writing of a book is like the bearing of a child. But every birth-pang of the former lasts for hours; and it is months before the labor is done.

It is not merely the vision, the hour of exultation; that is but the setting of the task. Now you will take that ecstasy, and hold on to it, hold on with soul and body; you will keep yourself at that height, you will hold that flaming glory before your eyes, and you will hammer it into words. Yes, that is the terror—into words—into words that leap the hilltops, that bring the ends of existence together in a lightning flash. You will take them as they come, white-hot, in wild tumult, and you will forge them, and force them. You will seize them in your naked hands and wrestle with them, and bend them to your will—all that is the making of a poem. And last and worst of all, you will hold them in your memory, the long, long surge of them; the torrent of whirling thought—you will hold it in your memory! You are dazed with excitement, exhausted with your toil, trembling with pain; but you have built a tower out of cards, and you have mounted to the clouds upon it, and there you are poised. And anything that happens—anything!—Ah, God, why can the poet not escape from his senses?—a sound, a touch—and it is gone!

These things drive you mad.—

But meanwhile it is not gone yet. You have still a whole scene in your consciousness—as if you were a juggler, tossing a score of golden balls. And all the time, while you work, you learn it—you learn it! It is endless, but you learn it. In the midst of it, perhaps, you come down of sheer exhaustion; and you lie there, panting, shuddering, your hands moist; you dare not think, you wait. And then by and by you begin again—if it will not come, you make it come, you lash yourself like a dumb beast—up, up, to the mountain-tops again. And then once more the thing comes back—you live the scene again, as an actor does, and you shape it and you master it. And now in the midst of it, you find this highest of all moments is gone! It is gone, and you can not find it! Those words that came as a trumpet-clash, burning your very flesh—that melody that melted your whole being to tears—they are gone—you can not find them! You search and you search—but you can not find them. And so you stumble on, in despair and agony; and still you dare not rest. You dare not ever rest in this until the thing is done—done and over—until you have nailed it fast. So you go back again, though perhaps you are so tired that you are fainting; but you fight yourself like a madman, you struggle until you feel a thing at your heart like a wild beast; and you keep on, you hold it fast and learn it, clinch it tight, and make it yours forever. I have done that same thing five times to-day without a rest; and toiled for five hours in that frenzy; and then lain down upon the ground, with my head on fire.

Afterward when you have recovered you sit down, and for two or three hours you write; you have it whole in your memory now—you have but to put it down. And this forlorn, wet, bedraggled thing—this miserable, stammering, cringing thing—this is your poem!

* * * * *

Some day the world will realize these things, and then they will present their poor poets with diamonds and palaces, and other things that do not help.

I wrote this, and then I leaned back, tired out. My thoughts turned to Shakespeare, and while I was thinking of him—

But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill!

* * * * *

April 11th.

I have not done much to-day. I spent the morning brooding over the opening speech. It is somber and terrible, but I have not gotten it right. It must have a tread—a tread like an orchestra! Ah, how I wish I had an orchestra!—I would soon do it then—"So bist nun ewig du verdammt!"

The secret of the thing is iteration. I must find a word that is like a hammer-stroke. I have tried twenty, but I have not found the one.

* * * * *

—I spent the rest of the day thinking over the whole first act, mapping it out, so to speak.

I have often fancied a resemblance between The Captive and the C-minor symphony; I wonder if any one else would have thought of it. It is not merely the opening—it is the whole content of the thing—the struggle of a prisoned spirit. I would call The Captive a symphony, and print the C-minor themes in it, only it would seem fanciful.—But it would not really be fanciful to put the second theme opposite the thought of freedom—of the blue sky and the dawning spring.

All except the scherzo. I couldn't find room for the scherzo. Men who have wrestled with the demons of hell do not tumble around like elephants, no matter how happy they are. I wish I could take out Beethoven's scherzos!

My heart leaps when I think of my one big step. I have put those pages away—I shall not look at them again for a month. Then I can judge them.

* * * * *

April 13th.

A cable-car conductor and a poet! I think that will be a story worth telling.

I have tried many and various occupations, but I have not found one so favorable to the study of poetry as my last. I should have made out very well—if I had not been haunted by The Captive.

With everything else you do you are more or less hampered by having to sell your brain; and also by having to obey some one. But a cable-car is an unlimited monarchy; and all you have to do is to collect fares and pull the bell, both of which duties are quite mechanical. And besides that you receive princely wages—and can live off one-third of them, if you know how; and that means that you need only work one-third of the time, and can write your poetry the rest of it!

This sounds like jesting, but it is not. I have only been a cable-car conductor six months, but in that time I have taught myself to read Greek with more than fluency. All you need is good health and spirits, a will of iron, and a very tiny note-book in the palm of your hand, full of the words you wish to learn. And then for ten or twelve hours a day you go about running a car with your body—and with your mind—hammering, hammering! It is excellent discipline—it is fighting all day, "Pous, podos, the foot—pous, podos, the foot—34th Street, Crosstown East and West—pous, podos, the foot!"

And then when you get home late at night, are there not the great masters who love you?

* * * * *

April 15th.

Thou wouldst call thyself Artist; thou wouldst have the Eternal Presence to dwell within thee, to fire thy heart with passion and dower thy lips with song; canst thou go into thy closet, and alone with thy Maker, say these words:

"O Thou Unthinkable, source of all light and life, Thou the great unselfish One, the great Sufferer; Thou seest my heart this day, how in it dwells but love of Thy truth and worship of Thy holiness. Thou seest that I seek not wealth that men should serve me, nor fame that they should honor me, for the glory that is Thine. Thou seest that I bring all my praise to Thy feet, that I love all things that Thou hast made, that I envy no man Thy gifts, that I rejoice when Thou sendest one stronger than I into the battle. And when these things are not, may Thy power leave me; for I seek but to dwell in Thy presence, and to speak Thy truth, which can not die."

* * * * *

That prayer welled up in my heart to-day. There are times when I sit before this thing in my soul, crouching and gazing at it in fear. Then I see the naked horror of it, the shuddering reality of it. I see the Soul: motionless, tense, quivering, wrestling in an agony with the powers of destruction. It is so real to me that my body stiffens into stone, and I sit with the sweat on my forehead. That happened to me to-day, and I wrote a few lines of the poem that made my voice break—the passionate despairing cry for deliverance, for rest from the terror.

But there is no rest. The mountain slope is so that there is no standing upon it, and once you stop, it breaks your heart to begin again. And so you go on—up—up—and there is not any summit.

It is that way when you write a book; and that way when you make a symphony; and that way when you wage a war.

* * * * *

But my soul hungered for it. I have loved the great elemental art-works—the art-works that were born of pure suffering. For months before I began The Captive I read but three books—read them and brooded over them, all day and all night. They were Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Samson Agonistes.

You sit with these books, and time and space "to nothingness do sink." There looms up before you—like a bare mountain in its majesty—the great elemental world-fact, the death-grapple of the will with circumstance. You may build yourself any philosophy or any creed you please, but you will never get away from the world-fact—the death-grapple of the soul with circumstance. schylus has one creed, and Milton has another, and Shelley has a third; but always it is the death-grapple. Chaos, evil—circumstance—lies about you, binds you; and you grip it—you close with it—all your days you toil with it, you shape it into systems, you make it live and laugh and sing. And while you do that, there is in your heart a thing that is joy and pain and terror mingled in one passion.

Who knows that passion? Who knows—

"With travail and heavy sorrow The holy spirit of Man."

Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Samson Agonistes! And now there will be a fourth. It will be The Captive.

Am I a fool? I do not know—that is none of my business. It is my business to do my best.

* * * * *

Horace bids you, if you would make him weep, to weep first yourself. I understand by the writing of a poem just this: that the problem you put there you discover for yourself; that the form you put it in you invent for yourself; and, finally, that what you make it, from the first word to the last word, from the lowest moment to the highest moment, you live; that when a character in such a place acts thus, he acts thus because you, in that place—not would have acted thus, but did act thus; that the words which are spoken in that moment of emotion are spoken because you, in that moment of emotion—not would have spoken them, but did speak them. I propose that you search out the scenes that have stirred the hearts of men in all times, and see if you can find one that was written thus—not because the author had lived it thus, but because somebody else had lived it thus, or because he wanted people to think he had lived it thus.

And now you are writing The Captive. You do not go into the dungeon in the body, because you need all your strength; but in the spirit you have gone into the dungeon, and the door has clanged, and it is black night—the world is gone forever. And there you sit, while the years roll by, and you front the naked fact. Six feet square of stone and an iron chain are your portion—that is circumstance; and the will—you are the will. And you grip it—you close with it—all your days you toil with it; you shape it into systems, make it live and laugh and sing. And while you do that there is in your heart a thing that is joy and pain and terror mingled in one passion.

* * * * *

Yes, sometimes I shrink from it; but I will do it—meaning what those words mean. I will fight that fight, I will live that life—to the last gasp; and it shall go forth into the world a living thing, a new well-spring of life.

It shall be—I don't know what you call the thing, but when you have hauled your load halfway up the hill you put a block in the way to keep it from sliding back. That same thing has to be done to society.

Man will never get behind the Declaration of Independence again, nor behind the writings of Voltaire again. We let Catholicism run around loose now, but that is because Voltaire cut its claws and pulled out all its teeth.

* * * * *

April 16th.

I was thinking to-day, that The Captive would be an interesting document to students of style. Read it, and make up your mind about it; then I will tell you—the first line of it is almost the first line of blank verse I ever wrote in my life.

I have read about the French artists, the great masters of style, and how they give ten years of their lives to writing things that are never published. But I have noticed that when they are masters at last, and when they do begin to publish—they very seldom have anything to say that I care in the least to hear.

—My soul is centered upon the thing!

Let it be a test.

* * * * *

I am trying to be an artist; but I have never been able to study style. I believe that the style of this great writer came from what he had to say. You think about how he said it; but he thought about what he was saying.

It seemed strange to me when I thought of it. With all my trembling eagerness, with all my preparation, such an idea as "practise" never came to me. How could I cut the path until I had come to the forest?

All my soul has been centered upon living. Since this book first took hold of me—eighteen months ago—I could not tell with what terrible intensity I have lived it. They said to me, "You are a poet; why don't you write verses for the magazines?" But I was not a writer of verses for the magazines.

It has been a shrine that I have kept in the corner of my heart, and tended there. I have never gone near it, except upon my knees. There were days when I did not go near it at all, when I was weak, or distraught. But I knew that every day I was closer to the task, that every day my heart was more full of it. It was like wild music—it came to a climax that swept me away in spite of myself.

To get the mastery of your soul, to hold it here, in your hands, at your bidding, to consecrate your life to that, to watch and pray and toil for that, to rouse yourself and goad yourself day and night for that; to thrill with the memory of great consecrations, of heroic sufferings and aspirations; to have the power of the stars in your heart, of nature, of history and the soul of man; that is your "practise."

* * * * *

April 17th.

It is true that my whole life has been a practise for the writing of this book, that this book is the climax of my whole life. I have toiled—learned—built up a mind—found a conviction; but I have never written anything, or tried to write anything, to be published. I have said, "Wait; it is not time." And now it is time. If there is anything of use in all that I have done, it is in this book.

Yes; and also it is a climax in another way. It is my goal and my salvation.—Ah, how I have toiled for it!

* * * * *

April 19th.

I saw my soul to-day. It was a bubble, blown large, palpitating, whirling over a stormy sea; glorious with the rainbow hues it was, but perilous, abandoned.—Do you catch the feeling of my soul?

Something perilous—I do not much care what. A traveler scaling the mountains, leaping upon dizzy heights; a gambler staking his fortune, his freedom, his life—upon a cast!

I will tell you about it.

It began when I was fifteen. My great-uncle, my guardian, is a wholesale grocer in Chicago; he has a large palace and a large waistcoat.

"Will you be a wholesale grocer?" said he.

"No," said I, "I will not."

I might have been a partner by this time, had I said Yes, and had a palace and a large waistcoat too.

"Then what will you be?" asked the great-uncle.

"I will be a poet," said I.

"You mean you will be a loafer?" said he.

"Yes," said I—disliking argument—"I will be a loafer."

And so I went away, and while I went I was thinking, far down in my soul. And I said: "It must be everything or nothing; either I am a poet or I am not. I will act as if I were; I will burn my bridges behind me. If I am, I will win—for you can not kill a poet; and if I am not, I will die."

Thus is it perilous.

I fight the fight with all my soul; I give every ounce of my strength, my will, my hope, to the making of myself a poet. And when the time comes I write my poem. Then if I win, I win empires; and if I lose—

"You put all your eggs into one basket," some one once said to me.

"Yes," I replied, "I put all my eggs into one basket—and then I carry the basket myself."

Now I have come to the last stage of the journey—the "one fight more, and the last." And can I give any idea of what is back of me, to nerve me to that fight? I will try to tell you.

For seven years I have borne poverty and meanness, sickness, heat, cold, toil—that I might make myself an artist. The indignities, the degradations—I could not tell them, if I spent all the time I have in writing a journal. I have lived in garrets—among dirty people—vulgar people—vile people; I have worn rags and unclean things; I have lived upon bread and water and things that I have cooked myself; I have seen my time and my strength wasted by a thousand hateful impertinences—I have been driven half mad with pain and rage; I have gone without friends—I have been hated by every one; I have worked at all kinds of vile drudgery—or starved myself sick that I might avoid working.

But I have said, "I will be an artist!"

Day and night I have dreamed it; day and night I have fought for it. I have plotted and planned—I have plotted to save a minute. I have done menial work that I might have my brain free—all the languages that I know I have worked at at such times. I have calculated the cost of foods—I have lived on a third of the pittance I earned, that I might save two-thirds of my time. I once washed dishes in a filthy restaurant because that took only two or three hours a day.

I have said, "I will be an artist! I will fix my eyes upon the goal; I will watch and wait, and fight the fight day by day. And when at last I am strong, and when my message is ripe, I will earn myself a free chance, and then I will write a book. All the yearning, all the agony of this my life I will put into it; every hour of trial, every burst of rage. I will make it the hope of my life, I will write it with my blood—give every ounce of strength that I have and every dollar that I own; and I will win—I will win!

"So I will be free, and the horror will be over."

I have done that—I am doing that now. I mean to finish it if it kills me.—

But I was sitting on the edge of the bed to-night, and the tears came into my eyes and I whispered: "But oh, you must not ask me to do anymore! I can not do any more! It will leave me broken!"

Only so much weight can a man carry. The next pound breaks his back.

* * * * *

April 22d.

I am happy to-night; I am a little bit drunk.

To-day was one day in fifty. Why should it be? Sometimes I have but to spread my wings to the wind. Yesterday I might have torn my hair out, and that glory would not have come to me. But to-day I was filled with it—it lived in me and burned in me—I had but to go on and go on.

The Captive! It was the burst of rage—the first glow in the ashes of despair. I was walking up and down the room for an hour, thundering it to myself. I have not gotten over the joy of it yet: "Thou in thy maild insolence!"

I wonder if any one who reads those thirty lines will realize that they meant eight hours of furious toil on my part!

* * * * *

Stone by stone I build it.

The whole possibility of a scene—that is what I pant for, always; that it should be all there, and yet not a line to spare; compact, solid, each phrase coming like a blow; and above all else, that it should be inevitable! When you stand upon the height of your being, and behold the thing with all your faculties—the thing and the phrase are one, and one to all eternity.

* * * * *

April 24th.

I was looking at a literary journal to-day. Oh, my soul, it frightens me! All these libraries of books—who reads them, what are they for? And each one of them a hope! And I am to leap over them all—I—I? I dare not think about it.

I have been helpless to-day. I can not find what I want—I struggled for hours, I wore myself out with struggling. And I have torn up what I wrote.

Blank verse is such a—such a thing not to be spoken of! Is there anything worse, except it be a sonnet? How many miles of it are ground out every day—sometimes that kind comes to me to mock me—I could have written a whole poem full of it this afternoon. If there are two lines of that sort in The Captive, I'll burn it all.

An awful doubt came to me besides. Somebody had sown it long ago, and it sprouted to-day. "Yes, but will it be interesting?"

Heaven help me, how am I to know if it will be interesting? The question made me shudder; I have never thought anything about making it interesting—I've been trying to make it true. Can it possibly be that the ecstasy of one soul, the reality of one soul, the quivering, exulting life of it—will not interest any other soul?

"How can you know that what you are doing is real, anyhow?" The devil would plague me to death to-day. "But how many millions write poems and think they are wonderful!"

—I do not believe in my soul to-day, because I have none.

* * * * *

April 25th.

Would you like to know where I am, and how I am doing all these things? I am in a lodging-house. I have one of three hall rooms in a kind of top half-story. There is room for me to take four steps; so it is that I "walk up and down" when I am excited. I have tried—I have not kept count of how many places—and this is the quietest. The landlady's husband has a carpenter shop down-stairs, but he is always drunk and doesn't work; it has also been providentially arranged that the daughter, who sings, is sick for some time. Next door to me there is a man who plays the 'cello in a dance hall until I know not what hour of the night. He keeps his 'cello at the dance hall. Next to him is a pale woman who sits and sews all day and waits for her drunken husband to come home. In front there is some kind of foolish girl who leaves her door open in the hope that I'll look in at her, and a couple of inoffensive people not worth describing.

I get up—I never know the time in the morning; and sometimes I lie without moving for hours—thinking—thinking. Or sometimes I go out and roam around the streets; or sit perfectly motionless, gazing at the wall. When it will not come, I make it. I breakfast on bread and milk, and I eat bread and milk at all hours of the day when I am hungry. For dinner I cook a piece of meat on a little oil-stove, and for supper I eat bread and milk. The rest of the time I am sitting on the floor by the window, writing; or perhaps kneeling by the bed with my head buried in my arms, and thinking until the room reels. When I am not doing that I wander around like a lost soul; I can not think of anything else.—Sometimes when I am tired and must rest, I force myself to sit down and write some of this.

I have just forty dollars now. It costs me three dollars a week, not including paper and typewriting. Thus I have ten or twelve weeks in which to finish The Captive—that many and no more.

If I am not finished by that time it will kill me; to try to work and earn money in the state that I am in just at present would turn me into a maniac—I should kill some one, I know.

I am quivering with nervous tension—every faculty strained to breaking; the buzz of a fly is a roar to me. I build up these towering castles of emotion in my soul, castles that shimmer in the sunlight:

Banners yellow, glorious, golden!

And then something happens, and they fall upon me with the weight of mountains.

* * * * *

Ten weeks! And yet it is not that which goads me most.

What goads me most is that I am a captive in a dungeon, and am fighting for the life of my soul.

I shall win, I do not fear—the fountains of my being will not fail me. I saw my soul a second time to-day; it was no longer the bubble, blown large, palpitating. It was a bird resting upon a bough. The bough was tossed and flung about by a tempest; and a chasm yawned below; but the bough held, and the bird was master of its wings, and sang.

The name of the bough was Faith.

* * * * *

April 27th.

I have read a great deal of historical romance, and a great deal of local color fiction, and a great deal of original character-drawing—and I have wished to get away from these things.

There is no local color, and no character-drawing, in The Captive. You do not know the name of the hero; you do not know how old he is, or of what rank he is, at what period or in what land he lives. He is described but once. He is "A Man."

My philosophy is a philosophy of will. All virtue that I know is conditioned upon freedom. The object of all thinking and doing, as I see it, is to set men free.

There is the tyranny of kings—the tyranny of force; there is the tyranny of priests—the tyranny of ignorance; there is the tyranny of society—the tyranny of selfishness and indolence; and above all, and including all, and causing all—there is the tyranny of self—the tyranny of sin, the tyranny of the body. So it is that I see the world.

So it is that I see history; I can see nothing else in history. The tyranny of kings and nobles, the tyranny of the mass and the inquisition, the tyranny of battle and murder and crime—how was a man to live in those ages?

How is a man to live in this age? The tyranny of kings and of priests is gone, and from the tyranny of industrialism the individual can escape. But the lightning—is not that an inquisition? And if it comes after you, will it not find out all your secrets? And the tyranny of hurricane and shipwreck, of accident, disease, and death? Any tyranny is all tyranny, I say; and the existence of tyranny is its presence.

It is conceivable that some day the sovereign mind may shake off its shackles, and the tyranny of matter be at an end. But that day is not yet; and meanwhile, the thing existing, how shall a man be free? That has been the matter of my deepest brooding.

This much I have learned:

The man may accept this life, if it please him, and its chances; but while he does he can never be a soul. So long as he accepts this life and its chances, he is the slave of tyranny. When the day comes that mind is sovereign, I will give myself into the hands of this life. But meanwhile I will know myself for what I am—a bubble upon the surface of a whirling torrent, an insect borne aloft upon a flying wheel.

* * * * *

It is by your will that you are free; by your will you are one with the infinite freedom, by your will you are master of time and your fate, lord of the stars and the endless ages, thinker of all truth, hearer of all music, beholder of all beauty, doer of all righteousness. That is the truth which I have brought out of my deepest brooding.

So long as your happiness is in anything about yourself—your wealth, or your fame, or your life—you are not free. So long as your happiness is in houses and lands, in sons and in daughters, you are not free. You give one atom of your soul to these things at your own peril; for when your hour comes you tear them from you, though they be as your eyes; and by your will you save your soul alive.

Therefore I write The Captive. I put aside childish things—I grip my hands upon naked Reality.

* * * * *

There are nine characters in The Captive: a tyrant, two slaves, six guests, and a man. There are two scenes—a dungeon, and a banquet-hall.

A tyrant: I understand by a tyrant a man whose happiness is the unhappiness of others. I read of the discoverers of Mexico, and how they found a pyramid of human skulls, raised as a monument; that has been to me, ever since, the type of tyranny. The forms of tyranny vary through the ages, but the principle is always the same; a tyrant is a man who is made great by the toil and sorrow of others.

The slave also remains the same through all time; and likewise the guest. The guest is the man who takes the world as he finds it, and likes a good dinner. The population of society is made up of tyrants, slaves, and guests.

The man is a character of my own imagining.

The first scene of The Captive is the dungeon. When I was very young I was in Europe, and I was in a dungeon; I have never forgotten it. There enter the tyrant and the two slaves with the man. They chain him to the wall, and then the tyrant speaks. That first speech—I have written it now—I have gotten the hammer-thuds! Tyranny is an iron thing—you had to feel the tread of it, the words had to roll like thunder. It is an advantage to me that I am full of Wagner; I always hear the music with my poetry. (I shall be disappointed if some one does not make an opera out of The Captive.)

* * * * *

The man is there, and he is there forever. After that, once a day, bread and water are shoved in through an opening. But the door of the dungeon does not open again until the last act—when ten years have passed.

* * * * *

That is all. And now the man will battle with that problem. Will he go mad with despair? Will he sink into a wild beast? Will he commit suicide? Or what will he do? Day by day he sinks back from the question, numb with agony; day by day the grim hand of Fate drags him to it; and so, until from the chaos of his soul he digs out, blow by blow, a faith.

Here there will be Reality; no shams and no lies will do here—here is iron necessity, and cries out for iron truth. God—duty—will—virtue—let such things no more be names, let us see what they are!

These are awful words. Sometimes I shrink from this thing as from fire, sometimes I rush to it with a song; I am writing about it now because I am worn out, and yet I can not think of anything else.

This man will find the truth; being delivered from the captivity of the world and set free to be a soul. Superstition blinds him; doubt and despair and weakness blind him; but still he gropes and strives, cries out and battles for truth; until at last, shut up in his own being, he tears his way out to the very source of it, and knows for himself what it is. Infinite it is, and unthinkable; glorious, all-consuming, all-sufficing; food and drink, friendship and love, ambition and victory, joy, power, and eternity it is to him who finds it; and all things in this world are nothing to him who finds it.

* * * * *

And so comes the victory to this soul. Hour by hour he catches gleams of the light; day by day he toils toward it, with fear and agony and prayer; until at last he knows his salvation—to rest never, and to toil always, and to dwell in this Presence of his God. In one desperate hour he flings away the world and the hope of the world, and vows this consecration, and lives.

* * * * *

He keeps the vow; it is iron necessity that drives him. He finds himself, he finds his way—each day his step is surer.

Each day the channels of his being deepen. He lays broad plans for his life—he gathers all knowledge, he solves all problems; lord of the infinite mind, he ranges all existence, and beholds it as the symbol of himself. Into the deeps and yawning spaces of it he plunges; blind, he sees what men have never seen; deaf, he hears what men have never heard—singer he is, prophet and poet and maker. New worlds leap into being in the infinite fulness of his heart, visions of endless glory that make his senses reel; as a column of incense towering to the sky is the ecstasy of his adoration and his joy.

* * * * *

And so the long years roll by; and the unconquered spirit has left the earth: left time and space and self, and dwells where never man has dwelt before. And then one day the door of the dungeon is opened, and his chains are shattered, and the slaves lead him up to the light of day.

It is the banquet-hall; and there is the tyrant, and there the guests—there is the world.

* * * * *

He is aged, and weak, and white, and terrible. They stare at him; and he stares at them, for he is dazed. They begin to mock at him, and then at last he realizes, and he covers his face and weeps—beholding the world, and the way that it must come. They jeer at him, they strike him; and when he answers not, they call to the slaves to torture him.

* * * * *

This man has lived for ten years with himself. He is nothing but a will. And now they will conquer him!

* * * * *

I recall the highest moment of my being. I saw that moment, and all the others of my life. I saw them as something that I could not bear to see, and I cried out that from that hour I would change them. I have not kept the vow; there was no one to drive me.

But this man they drive; they pinch him and burn him and tear him; they crush his limbs, they break his bones, they grind his flesh, they make his brain a living fire of anguish. And he fights them.

Into the deep recesses of his being goes the cry—for all that he has—for all that he is! For every ounce of his strength, for every throb of his will, for every vision, every truth that he knows! To bear this, to save him here! And so he wrestles, so he rises, so he gropes and gasps; and in the moment of his fiercest straining, with the throb of all his being he bursts the barrier, he rends the veil; and infinite passion rolls in in floods upon him, he clutches all existence in his arms; and from his lips there bursts a mad frenzied shout of rapture—that makes his torturers stand transfixed, listening, trembling with terror.

And so they drag him back to his dungeon; and there, unable to move, he lies upon the stones and pants out his ecstasy and his life.

That is The Captive.

* * * * *

April 29th.

What counts in this thing is momentum—spiritual momentum. You are filled with it all the time, it never leaves you; it drives behind you like a gale of wind; it roars in your ears when you are awake, it rocks you to sleep when you are weary; whenever you are dull or do not heed it, it nags at you, it goads you, it beats into your face. Each day it is more, each day it is harder, more unattainable; but only do not stop, it carries you with it like a wave; you mount upon each day's achievement to reach the next, you move with the power of all the days before. It is momentum that counts.

Do not stop!—I cry it all day—Do not stop!

* * * * *

April 30th.

It is weak of me, but sometimes I can not help but look ahead—and think that it is done! I could not find any words to tell the joy that that will be to me—to be free, after so long—to be free!

I do not care anything about the fame—it would not be anything to me to be a great author. If it could be done, nothing would please me better than to publish it anonymously—to let no one ever know that it was mine. If I could only have the little that I need to be free, I would publish all that I might ever write anonymously.

Yes, that is the thing that makes my blood bound. To be free! Let it only be done—let it only be real, as it will be—and the naked force of it will shake men to the depths of their souls. I could not write it, if I did not believe that I was writing words that would grip the soul of any man—I care not how dull or how coarse he might be.

* * * * *

I finished the first act just now.

* * * * *

May 1st.

I am wild to-day. Oh, how can I bear this—why should I have to contend with such things as this! Is it not hard enough—the agony that I have to bear, the task that takes all my strength and more? And must I be torn to pieces by such hideous degradation as this? Oh, my God, if my life is not soon clear of these things I shall die!

* * * * *

Oh, it is funny—yes, funny!—Let us laugh at it. The dance-hall musician has brought home his 'cello! I heard him come bumping up the stairs with it—God damn his soul! And there he sits, sawing away at some loathsome jig tunes! And he has two friends in there—I listen to their wit between the tunes.

Here I sit, like a wild beast pent in a cage. I tell you I can bear any work in the world, but I can not bear things such as this. That I, who am seeking a new faith for men—who am writing, or trying to write, what will mean new life to millions—should have my soul ripped into pieces by such loathsome, insulting indignities!

Oh, laugh!—but I can't laugh—I sit here foaming at the lips, and crying! And suppose he's lost his position, and does this every day!

Now every day I must lay aside what I am doing and sit and shudder when I hear him coming up the steps—and wait for him to begin this! I tell you, I demand to be free—I demand it! I want nothing in this world but to be let alone. I don't want anybody to wait on me.—I don't want anything from this hellish world but to be let alone!

It is pouring rain outside, and my overcoat is thin; but I must go out and pace the streets and wait until a filthy Dutchman gets through scraping ragtime on a 'cello.

All day wasted! All day! Does it not seem that these things persecute you by system? I came in, cold and wet, and got into bed, and then he began again! And the friends came back and they had beer, and more music. And I had to get up and put on the wet clothes once more.

* * * * *

May 2d.

I was crouching out on one of the docks last night. I had no place else to go. I can think anywhere, if it is quiet.

A wonderful thing is the night. I bless Thee for the night, oh "ssse, heilige Natur"!

It was a voice in my soul, as clear as could be.

—She can not bear too long the sight of men, sweet, holy Nature: the swarming hives—the millions of tiny creatures, each drunk and blind with his own selfishness; and so she lays her great hand upon it all, and hides it out of her sight.

Once it was all silent, and formless as the desert; soon it shall all be silent and formless again; and meanwhile—the night, the night!

* * * * *

Oh, I hunger for the desert! I do not care for beauty—I have no time for beauty, I want the earth stern and forbidding. Give me some place where no one else would want to go—an iron crag where the oceans beat—a mountain-top where the lightning splinters on the rocks.

* * * * *

I go at it again. But I am nervous—these things get me into such a state that I simply can not do anything. It was not merely yesterday—I have it constantly. The dirty chambermaid singing, or yelling down to the landlady; the drunken man swearing at his wife; the boys screaming in the street and kicking a tomato-can about. When I think of how much beauty and power has been shattered in my life by such things as these, it brings tears of impotent rage into my eyes.

I must be free—oh, I must be free!

* * * * *

It comes strangely from the author of The Captive, does it not?

I give all my life to my work, and sometimes, when I am broken like this, I wonder if I do not give too much. Once I climbed to a dizzy height, and I cried out a dizzy truth:

"O God, how as nothing in Thy sight are my writings!"

I do not know if I shall ever reach that height again.

* * * * *

May 3d.

I have not one single beautiful memory in my life. I have nothing in my life that, when I think of it, does not make me writhe.

To all that I have lived, and known, and seen, I have but one word, one cry—Away! Away! Let me get away from it! Let me get away from cities, let me get away from men, let me out of my cage! Let me go with my God, let me forget it all—put it away forever and ever! Let me no longer have to plot and plan, to cringe and whimper, to barter my vision and my hours for bread!

Who knows what I suffer—who has any idea of it? To have a soul like a burning fire, to be hungry and swift as the Autumn wind, to have a heart as hot as the wild bird's, and wings as eager—and to be chained here in this seething hell of selfishness, this orgy of folly.

* * * * *

Ah, and then I shut my hands together. No, I am not weak, I do not spend my time chafing thus! I have fought it out so far—

"I was ever a fighter, so one fight more!"

I will go back, and I will hammer and hammer again—grimly—savagely—day by day. And out of the furnace of my soul I will forge a weapon that will set me free in the end—I think.

* * * * *

May 4th.

I wrote a little poem once. I remembered two lines of it—a nature description; they were not great lines, but there flashed over me to-day an application of them that was a stroke of genius, I believe. I was passing the Stock Exchange. It was a very busy day. I climbed one of the pillars, in spirit, and wrote high above the portals:

Where savage beasts through forest midnight roam, Seeking in sorrow for each other's joy.

* * * * *

May 5th.

A dreadful thing is unbelief! A dreadful thing it is to be an infidel!

—That is what all men cry nowadays—there is so much infidelity in the world—it is the curse of our modern society—it is everywhere—it is all-prevailing!

I had a strange experience to-day, Sunday. I went into a church, and high up by the altar, dressed in solemn garb and offering prayers to God—I saw an infidel!

He preached a sermon. The theme of his sermon was "Liberalism."

"These men," cried the preacher, "are blinding our eyes to our salvation, they are undermining, day by day, our faith! They tell us that the sacred word of God is 'literature'! And they show us more 'literature'; but oh, my friends, what new Bible have they shown us!"

As I got up and went out of that church, I whispered: "What a dreadful thing it is to be an infidel!"

Oh Dante and Goethe and Shakespeare—oh Wordsworth and Shelley and Emerson! Oh thrice-anointed and holy spirits! What a dreadful thing it is to be an infidel!

What a dreadful thing it is to believe in a Bible, and not to believe in literature—to believe in a Bible and not to believe in a God!

You think that this world lives upon the revelation of two thousand years ago! Fool—this world lives as your body lives by the beating of its heart—upon the revelation and the effort of each instant of its life. And to-day or to-morrow the great Revealer might send to some lonely thinker in his garret a new word that would scatter to dust and ashes all laws and all duties that now are known to men.

* * * * *

There are many ways to look at the world, and always a deeper one. I see it as a fearful thing, towering, expanding, upheld by the toil and the agony of millions. Who will bring us the new hope, the new song of courage, that it go not down into the dust to-day?

To do that there is the poet; to live and to die unheeded, and to feed for ages upon ages the hungry souls of men—that is to be a poet. Therefore will he sing, and sing ever, and die in the sweetness of his song.

When I think of that—not now as I write it here in bare words—but in quivering reality, it is a hand upon my forehead, and a presence in the room.

* * * * *

May 6th.

Chiefest of all I think of my country! Passionately, more than words can utter, I love this land of mine. If I tear my heart till it bleeds and pour out the tears of my spirit, it is for this consecration and this hope—it is for this land of Washington and Lincoln. There never was any land like it—there may never be any like it again; and Freedom watches from her mountains, trembling.

—It is a song that it needs, a song and a singer; to point it to its high design, to thrill it with the music of its message, to shake the heart of every man in it, and make him burn and dare! For the first time there is Liberty; for the first time there is Truth, and no shams and no lies, enthroned. The news of it has gone forth like the sound of thunder, and has shaken all the earth: that man at last may live, may do what he can and will!

—And to what is it? Is it to the heaping up of ugly cities, the packing of pork and the gathering of gold? That is the thing that I toil for—to tear this land from the grasp of mean men and of merchants! To take the souls of my countrymen into the high mountains with me, to thrill them with a soaring, strong resolve! Living things shall come from this land of mine, living things before I die, for the hunger of it burns me, and will not ever let me rest. Freedom! freedom! And stern justice and honor, and knowledge and power, and a noonday blaze of light!

Arise in thy majesty, confronting the ages! Stretch out thine arms to the millions that shall be! Justice thine inheritance, God thy stay and sustenance, My country, to thee!

Those are feeble words. If this were a book, I would tear it all up.

I wonder if any one will ever read this. As a matter of fact, I suppose ten people will read gossip about the book for every one who reads the book.

* * * * *

This is just a month from the beginning. A month to-day! Yes—I have done my share, I have done a third of it—a third!

But the end is so much harder!

* * * * *

May 9th.

I have been for two days in the mire. I was disturbed, and then I was sluggish. Oh, the sluggishness of my nature!

If ever I am a great poet, I will have made myself that by the power of my will; that is a fact. I am by nature a great clod—I feel nothing, I care about nothing. I look at the flowers as a cow chewing its cud.—It is only that I will to do right.

Sometimes the sight of my dulness drives me wild. Then again I merely gaze at it. I try time and again to get my mind on my work, and something—anything, provided it is trivial enough—turns me aside. Just now I saw a spider-web, and that made me think of Bruce, and thence I went by way of Walter Scott to Palestine, and when I came to I was writing a song for—who was the minstrel?—to sing outside of the prison of Coeur de Lion.

I go wandering that way—sometimes I sit so for an hour; and then suddenly I leap up with a cry. But I may try all I please—I don't care anything about the work—it doesn't stir me—the verses I think of make me sick. And then I remember that I have only so many weeks more; and what it will mean to fail; and that makes me desperate, but doesn't help.

When I have stopped at some resting-place in the poem, I can get going again. But now I have stopped in the middle of a climax; and the number of times that I have read that last line, trying to find another—Great heavens!

* * * * *

But I can not find another word. I am in despair.

I know perfectly well what I shall do, only I am a coward, and do not do it. I shall stay in this state till my rage has heaped itself up enough and breaks through everything at last. And then I shall begin to hammer myself! to swear at myself in a way that would make a longshoreman turn white. And I shall spend perhaps two or three hours—perhaps two or three days—doing that, until I am quite in a white heat; and then—I shall go to my work.

That is the price I pay for being distracted.

* * * * *

May 11th.

I said to myself the day before yesterday—with a kind of a dry sob—"I can't do it! I can't do it!"

Oh how tormented I am by noises—noises! What am I not tormented by? Some days ago I was writing in a frenzy—and the landlady came for her rent. And the horrible creature standing there, talking at me! "So lonely!—don't ever see people! Mrs. Smithers was a-saying—" Oh, damn Mrs. Smithers!

I thought I could never do it—I was really about to give it up. I went out on the street—I roamed about for hours, talking I don't know what nonsense to myself. And then at last I came home, and I knelt down there at the bedside and said: "Here you stay without anything to eat until you've written ten lines of that poem!"

And that was how I did it. I stayed there, and I prayed. I don't often pray, but that time I prayed like one possessed—I was so lonely and so helpless—and the work was so beautiful. I stayed there for nine blessed hours, and then the clock stopped and I couldn't count after that.

But the day came, and then the ten lines! And so I had my breakfast.

These things leave you weak, but a little less dull.

* * * * *

May 13th.

I have been working with a kind of wild desperation all day to-day. Oh it hurts—it hurts—but I am doing it! Whenever I read some lines of it that are real—whenever some great living phrase flashes over me—then I laugh like a man in the midst of a battle.

I shall be just as a man who has been through a battle; haggard and wild and desperate. Oh, I don't think I shall ever have the courage to do it again!

I did not know what it meant! I did not! It was giving myself into the hands of a fiend!

All great books will be something different to me after this. Did Shakespeare write thus with the blood of his soul? Or am I weak? Did he ever cry out in pain, as I have?

* * * * *

May 14th.

Another day of raw torture. It is like toiling up a mountain side; and your limbs are of lead. It is like struggling in a nightmare,—that is just what it is like. It is sickening.

But then you dare not stop. It is hard to go on, but it is ten times as hard to start if you stop.

I could hardly stand up this afternoon! but the thing was ringing in my ears—it went on and on—I had to go after it! I was in the seventh heaven—I could see anything, dare anything, do anything. It made no difference how hard—it called to me—on—on! And I said: "Suppose I were to be tortured—could I go then?" And so I went and went.

I haven't written it down yet; I felt sick. But I know it all.

Oh men—oh my brothers—will you love me for this thing?

* * * * *

May 16th.

I did no writing yesterday or to-day. I have been terribly frightened.

I wrote what I had to write the day before yesterday—I could not help it. But when I stopped my head was literally on fire, and the strangest mad throbbing in it—I stood still in fear, it felt so as if something were going to burst—my head seemed to weigh a ton. I poured cold water over it, but it made no difference—it stayed that way all night and all yesterday.

What am I to do? I dare not think—I took a long walk, and even now I find myself thinking of the book without knowing it. Imagine me sitting on a doorstep and playing for two hours with a kitten!

Why should I be handicapped in such a way as this? I had never thought of such a thing.

* * * * *

I was thinking about The Captive—it is my own. Nobody has helped me—I have told not one person of it. Everything in it has come out of my soul.

* * * * *

May 17th.

I feel better to-day, but I hardly know what to do.

Meantime I was happy!—Think of a poet's being happy with city flowers! of a poet's being happy with store-flowers—prostitute-flowers—flowers for sale!

It was all about a narcissus—"Very flower of youth, and morning's golden hour!"—as I called it once. And it danced so! (It was out on the curbstone)—and I went off happy.

Then I thought of a poem that is pure distilled ecstasy to my spirit. I will write it, and be happy again:

Sit thee by the ingle, when The sear faggot blazes bright; Spirit of a winter's night!— ... Sit thee there, and send abroad, With a mind self-overaw'd, Fancy, high-commission'd:—send her! She has vassals to attend her; She will bring, in spite of frost, Beauties that the earth hath lost; She will bring thee, all together, All delights of summer weather; All the buds and bells of May, From dewy sward or thorny spray; All the heaped Autumn's wealth, With a still, mysterious stealth; She will mix those pleasures up, Like three fit wines in a cup, And thou shall quaff it!—

Ah! And so I went along, "sun, moon, and stars forgot"—laughing and half dancing. People stared at me—and I laughed. And then I passed three pretty girls, and I laughed, and they laughed too. I guess they thought I was going to follow them.

—But that pleasure was not in my cup, dear girls.

* * * * *

Some of these days I hope to live in a beautiful world, where a man may speak to a pretty girl on the street. Badness is its own punishment, let the bad world observe.

I would rather look at a beautiful woman than do anything else I know of in this world, except listen to music.

* * * * *

May 18th.

I often think how I shall spend my money after The Captive is done. I shall take a band of chosen youths, seekers and worshipers, and we shall build a house on a mountain-top and worship the Lord in the beauty of music!

I shall have to begin at the beginning—I have never had any one to teach me music. But oh, if I did know!—And if I ever got hold of an orchestra—how I would make it go!

And in the middle of it the astonished orchestra would see the conductor take wings unto himself and fly off through the roof.

A book that I mean to write some day will be called The Pleasures of Music, and it will sing the joys of being clean and strong, of cold water and the early morning and a free heart. It will show how all the unhappiness of men is that they live in the body and in self, and how the world is to be saved through music, which is not of the body, nor of self—which is free and infinite, swift as the winds, vast as the oceans, endless as time, and happy as whole meadows of flowers! The more who come to partake of it, the better it is; for generous is "Frau Musika," her heart is made wholly of love.

—And when I have shown all these things, Frau Musika, I shall tell of the golden lands that I have visited upon the wings of thy spirit!—

What objects are the fountains Of thy happy strain! What fields or waves or mountains, What shapes of sky or plain! What love of thine own kind, what ignorance of pain!

* * * * *

May 20th.

I live among the poor people and that keeps me humble. There is not much chance for freedom, I hear them say, there are not many who can dwell in the forests. Prove your right to it—prove what you can do—the law is stern. I am not afraid of the challenge; I will prove what I can do.

But I see one here and there with whom the law is not so strict, I think.

* * * * *

I met a merchant the other night. I dreamed of him. He said: "I buy such goods as men need; I buy them as cheaply as I can, since life is grim. I sell them as cheaply as I can, since men are poor and suffering. I make of profit what I need to live humbly. I am not of the world's seekers; I am of the finders."

* * * * *

I met also a guileless fool.

We passed a great mansion. "I should like to know the man who lives there," said the fool.

"Should you?" said I.

"Is he a hero?" asked the fool.

"No," said I.

"Is he a poet?" asked the fool.

"No," said I.

"Must he not be very beautiful," said the fool, "that men judge him worthy of so much beauty?"

* * * * *

May 21st.

I must finish this thing this time! That cry rings in my ears night after night. I am toiling upward—upward—I can see no sign of the end yet—but I must finish this time! If I had to stop with this thing haunting me—if I had to go out into that jungle of a world with this weight upon me—to repress myself with this fire in my heart—I could not bear it—I could not bear it!

And if I stopped and went out into that world again—how many weeks of agony would it cost me to get back to where I am now!

I must finish this time!

* * * * *

May 22d.

"No, officer, I am neither a burglar nor a highwayman, nor anything else worth bothering; I'm just a poet, and I'm crazy, to all practical purposes, so please get used to me and let me wander about the streets at these strange hours of the night without worrying!"

Poor, perplexed policeman! Poor, perplexed world! Poor, perplexed mothers and fathers, sisters and cousins and aunts of poets!

Mit deinen schwarzbraunen Augen Siehst du mich forschend an: "Wer bist du, und was fehlt dir, Du fremder, kranker Mann!"

Who does not love the poet Heine—melodious, beautiful, bitter soul? Is there any other poet who can mingle, in one sentence, savage irony and tenderness that brings tears into the eyes? Who can tell the secret of his flower-like verses?

Ich bin ein deutscher Dichter, Bekannt im deutschen Land; Nennt man die besten Namen So wird auch der meine genannt. Und was mir fehlt, du Kleine, Fehlt manchem im deutschen Land; Nennt man die schlimmsten Schmerzen, So wird auch die meine genannt!

I have never seen but one beautiful thing in New York, and that is its mighty river in the night-time. I wander down to the docks when my work is done, and when it is still; I sit and gaze at it until the city is quite gone, and all its restlessness,—until there is but that grave presence, rolling restlessly, silently, as it has rolled for ages. It makes no comments; it has seen many things.

To-night I sat and watched it till a tangled forest sprang up about me, and I saw a strange, high-bowed, storm-beaten craft glide past me, ghostly white, its ghostly sailors gazing ahead and dreaming of spices and gold.

* * * * *

The old, old river—my only friend in a whole city! It goes its way—it is not of the hour.

It fascinates me, and I sit and sit and wonder. I gaze into its black and gurgling depths, and whisper what Shelley whispered: "If I should go down there, I should know!"

* * * * *

But no, I should not know anything.

* * * * *

The days when thou wert not, did they trouble thee? The days when thou art not shall trouble thee as much.

* * * * *

May 24th.


I write this to set forth a purpose which I have for over a year held before me. I write it that it may serve me for a standard. I write it at a time when my bank-account consists of twenty-five dollars, and I mean to publish it at such a time as by the method of plain living and high thinking, I shall have been able to increase it a hundredfold.

We are told that a man who would write a great poem must first make a poem of his life. An artist, as I understand the word, is a man who has but one joy and one purpose and one interest in life—the creating of beauty; he is a man lifted above and set apart from all other motives of men; a man who seeks not wealth nor comfort nor fame, nor values these things at all; a man whose heart is forever lonely, whose life is an endless sorrow, and whose excuse and whose spur and whose goal and whose consecration, is the creating of beauty.

What power—be it talent or genius—God has given me, I can not tell; I only know that an artist in that sense of the word I mean to be. I have thought out a plan by which I shall make the publishing of my books, as well as the writing of them, a thing of Art.

No one will read very far in what I shall write without perceiving there a savage hatred of the spirit of the modern world of wealth; it is only because I have faith in democracy and hope in the people of my country that I do not go to worship my God on a desert island. The world which I see about me at the present moment—the world of politics, of business, of society—seems to me a thing demoniac in its hideousness; a world gone mad with pride and selfish lust; a world of wild beasts writhing and grappling in a pit.

I am but a voice crying in the wilderness, and these things must run their course. But in the meantime there is one thing that I can do, and the doing of that has become with me a passion—I can keep my own life pure; I can see that there is one man amid all this madness whose life is untouched by any stain of it; who lives not by bread alone, nor by jewelry and gold; who lives not to be stared at and made drunk with pride, but to behold beauty and dwell in love; who labors day and night to keep a heart full of worship and to sing of faith to suffering men; who takes of the reward of that singing just what food and shelter his body needs; and who shrinks from wealth and luxury as he would from the mouth of hell.

To live humbly and in oblivion would be my choice, but it will be my duty to do differently. I know enough about the human heart to know that the presence of one righteous man makes ten thousand unrighteous men angry and uncomfortable. And therefore, for the help of any whom it may comfort, and for the damnation of all the rest, I shall choose that the life I live and the thing I do shall be public; I shall choose that the millions in our country who are wearing out their frantic lives in the pursuit of the dollar, and the few who are squandering their treasures in drunken pomp, shall know that there is one man who laughs at them—whom all the millions of all of them could not buy—and who dwells in joy and worship in a heaven of which they can not even know. In other words, it is my idea not merely to make a poem of my life, but to publish the poem.

I shall have other, and deeper, and kinder reasons also, for what I shall do. What I write in my books must be from my deepest heart, the confession of those moments of which I would speak to no living soul; it must be all my tenderness, and all my rapture, and all my prayer; and do you think it will come easily to me to put that out before the rough world to be stared at, to be bound up in a book and hawked about by commercial people?...

(Here follows in the manuscript the outline of a plan for publishing the writer's works at cost.)

* * * * *

Would it not be interesting to me, if I could but pierce the future once, and see how long it is destined to be before I do so publish a book! I would do my work better, I fancy, for that.—But let it lie. I shall publish it some day surely, that I know at least.

* * * * *

Sometimes I can hardly realize what it will be to me when I have really won fame, when I can speak the things that so need speaking—and be heard.

* * * * *

May 25th.

Line by line, page by page, I do it. I am counting the days now, wondering—longing.

It is not merely the writing of it, it is the seeing of it—the planning and designing. Sometimes I brood over it for hours—I can not find what I want; and then suddenly a phrase flashes over me and like a train of gunpowder my thought goes running on—leaping, flying; and then the whole thing is plain as day. And I hold it all living in my hands.

I am blessed with a good memory. In times of excitement such as that I seize all the best phrases and carry them away, and bury them out of sight, like a miser. They are my nuggets of gold.

And sometimes I am a greedy miser, and stand perplexed; shall I go on and gather more, or shall I make off with the armful that I have?

* * * * *

May 26th.

My religion is my Art. I have no prayer but my work.

Sometimes that is a glory, and sometimes again that is an agony. To have no duty outside of yourself; to have no inspiration outside of yourself; to have no routine to help you, no voice to cry out when your conscience goes to sleep, no place of refuge in your weakness!—

All that is but the reason why I dare not be weak. I have chosen to lead and not to follow; therefore I have no rest, and may not look behind me, and can think of nothing but the way.

To be the maker of a religion is to sweat blood in the night-time.

* * * * *

There is but one way that I may live—to take every impulse that comes—to be watching, watching—to dare always and instantly, to hesitate, to put off never, to seize the skirt of my muse whenever it shimmers before me. So I make myself a habit, a routine, a discipline; and so each day I have new power. So each day I feel myself, I bare my arms, I walk erect, exulting—I laugh—I am a god!

—And as I write that a feeling takes rise in me, and my heart beats faster; but I am tired, I sink back, I do not take the gift that is offered; and then my conscience gives a growl, and in a flash I see what I have done, and feel a throb of rage and leap up.

* * * * *

One of my perils is that when I am strong I feel that I must always be so. This truth that is so obvious, these words that flow so swift—what need is there to fear for them, to write them now?—And so they are never written.

* * * * *

May 27th.

Will you imagine me to-day, kneeling by the bedside, shuddering; my face hidden, the tears streaming down my cheeks—and I crying aloud: "I will—oh, I will!"

I can not tell any more.

* * * * *

May 29th.

I am coming to the last scenes. I hear them rumbling in my soul—far, far off—like a distant surf on a windless night.

I am coming, step by step: I mean to fight it out on this line.

I know a man who always rose to the occasion. Never was he challenged that he did not dare and triumph. Oh, if instead of being hungry and pining, I had but the music of that divine inspirer!—

Heller schallend, mich umwallend, sind es Wellen sanfter Lfte? Sind es Wogen wonniger Dfte? Wie sie schwellen, mich umrauschen, soll ich athmen, soll ich lauschen? Soll ich schlrfen, untertauchen, sss in Dften mich verhauchen?

* * * * *

May 30th.

To-day. I had a spiritual experience—a revelation; to-day, in a flash of insight, I understood an age—whole centuries of time, whole nations of men.

I had been writing one of the great hymns, one of the great victories; and I had been drunk with it, it had come with a surge and a sweep, it had set everything about me in motion—huge phantom shapes—all life and all being gone mad.

And then, when I had written it, I went out into the dark night; I walked and walked, not knowing where, still tingling with excitement. And, suddenly, I stood spellbound—the cathedral!

There it was—there it was! I saw it, alive and real before me—all of it—all that I had seen and known! I cried out for joy, I stretched out my arms to it—the great, dark surging presence; and all my soul went with it, singing, singing—up into the misty night!

* * * * *

June 1st.

I sat to-night by the river again. It was moonlight, and the water lay shimmering. A little yacht, gleaming with lights, sped by; it was very close, and I saw a group of people on it, I heard them laughing; and one of them—a woman—was singing.

O God, what a voice! So rich, so exquisite! It soared upward and died again, quivering like the reflection of the stars on the water. It went in—in to the very depths of my soul; it loosed all the woe of my spirit, it made the tears gush into my eyes. And then it died away, away in the distance; and I sat with my hands clasped.

Sail on—sail on—oh heavenly voice! Far-off vision of brightness and beauty! Your lot is not my lot.

* * * * *

—There is something within me that weeps yet, at the echo of that music. Oh, what would I not give for music! How much of my bitterness, how many of my sorrows have melted into tears at one strain!

And I can not have it! Oh, you who do have it, do you know what you have? Oh beautiful voice, do you hear yourself?

All things else I can make for myself—friendship and love—nature and books and prayer; all things but music!

* * * * *

Can you not hear that voice dying—dying—"over the rolling waters"?

* * * * *

June 2d.

I shall come out of this a man—a man! I shall know how to live all my days! I shall have memories that will always haunt me, memories that I can build the years by!

* * * * *

June 3d.

From the time that I began The Captive it has been almost two months; it is just six weeks from the day I wrote that I had ten or twelve weeks in which to finish. I have done well financially—I have twenty-one dollars left, and I have paid for my typewriting.

It is not a fortune. But enough is as good as a fortune.

And I am coming on! I have been counting the scenes—I am really within sight of the end.

—That day when I crouched by the bed I saw all of the end. I have seen the whole thing. It will leave me a wreck, but I can do it. And it will take me about three weeks.

Think of my being able to say that!—Five or six hundred lines at least I shall have to do, and still I dare to say that. But I am full of this thing, I mount with it all the time. I am finding my wings.

Nothing can stop me now; I feel that I shall hold myself to it. I become more grim every day.

* * * * *

No one can guess what it means to me to find that I have hold of the whole of this thing! It is like strong wine to me—I scarcely know where I am.

* * * * *

June 4th.

I am sitting down by the window, and first I kick my heels against my old trunk, and then I write this. Hi! Hi! I think of a poem that I used to recite about Santa Claus—"Ho, Castor! ho, Pollux!"—and then ho a lot of other things—a Donner and a Blitzen I remember in particular. I want a reindeer—a Pegasus—a Valkyrie—an anything—to carry me away up into the air where I can exult without impropriety!

Come blow your horn, hunter, Come blow your horn on high! In yonder room there lieth a 'cello player, And now he's going to move away! Come blow your horn—

That's an old Elizabethan song. I heard them come up for his trunk just now, and they've dragged it down-stairs, and I hear the landlady fuming because they are tearing the wall paper. I have never loved the sound of the landlady's voice before.

* * * * *

—The world is divinely arranged, there is no question about it.

* * * * *

June 5th.

Deep in my soul I was convinced that the room would be let to something worse. But now it appears that the landlady's sister is to occupy it.

—So now I will get to work!

—Moving is noisy; I can't complain. I have been walking about the streets. I am hungry for the work; but still, I had much to think of. It is a wonderful thing—a glorious thing, this story—it will make men's hearts leap.

* * * * *

June 6th.

I have plenty of time to write journals, if I feel like it. There is the sister, and there is the landlady, and there is another woman, and they have been jabbering about dresses all of the morning. I have been like a crazy man—I was all on fire this morning, too! O God, it is too cruel!

I could dress those three hags with broomsticks.

* * * * *

—How long is this to continue, I want to know. Here it is afternoon and they are still chattering. Every time I have tried to compose my thoughts they have come back and begun chattering again. And so I can only pace about, and then rush out into the street—and wear myself sick. I call this simply monstrous. That my soul should be tied down to such vulgarity as this—is it not maddening? Here I am—with all my load of woe—at this fearful crisis! And I am to be shattered and wrecked and ruined by this! Just as long as they choose to sit there, just so long I am helpless. Was it for this that I have borne all the pain?

* * * * *

It seems to me that I hear jeering laughter around me from a swarm of little demons. I hide my face and flee, but they follow me.

* * * * *

But what can you expect? Have they not a right to talk?—Yes—all the world has a right to be as hideous as it can. And I have no right but to suffer and to choke in my rage.

Three vile, ignorant serving-women! Serving-women—ah yes, and if they were my servants! If I could pay them!—But who serves me! Of what consequence am I!

* * * * *

These things goad me, they are like poisoned thorns in my flesh. The infinite degradation of it all, the shame, the outrage!

It has burned a brand deep into my flesh, and never while I live will it come out. Ah, you rich men! You who rule us, who own the treasures, the opportunities, the joys! You who trample the fair gardens of life like great blind beasts!

Do you think it is nothing to me that the inspiration and the glory of my whole lifetime is to be trampled into nothingness for lack of what others spend upon one dress? Yes, of my whole lifetime! My whole lifetime! Give me but what another will spend upon one foolish gimcrack that he never looks at again, and I will live for a whole lifetime! And I will write such music—Bah! What am I doing?

* * * * *

—Sometimes when I think of these things a black shadow stalks over my heart. I hear a voice, "Fool, and do you still think that you are ever to escape from this? Do you not perceive that this sordid shame is your lot? Do you not perceive that you may writhe and twist, struggle and pant, toil and serve, till you foam at the lips? Who will heed you! Who will hear you! Who cares anything about you!—Who wants your Art! Who wants your work! Who wants your life!—Fool!"

* * * * *

—Of course this thing could not go on. And so of course,—stammering and writhing, as I always do when I have my nose pushed into this kind of filth—I had to speak to the landlady about it to-night.—

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