THE COMPLETE WORKS OF BRANN THE ICONOCLAST VOLUME I
In putting into permanent form the complete works of William Cowper Brann, twenty-one years after his death, the sole purpose of the present publishers is to preserve in its entirety the genius of a writer whose work, though produced under the stress of journalism, is destined to endure as literature.
Upon the issues discussed by Brann, the publishers take no sides; they do not stand as sponsors for, nor do they desire to appear in the light of either approving or disapproving his opinions or methods. They were friends and neighbors of many years' standing of the men and institutions mentioned in Brann's writings, but were in no way involved in the bitter controversies and deplorable events which led to Brann's untimely and dramatic death.
The plan and arrangement of this twelve-volume set of Brann is simple. The first volume is composed of articles of various length gathered from miscellaneous sources, and includes some of the better known articles from The ICONOCLAST. Volume II to XI inclusive are the files of The ICONOCLAST (from February, 1895 to May, 1898, inclusive), with the matter arranged approximately as it appeared in the original publication. Volume XII contains the story of Brann's death and various biographical and critical articles from the press of the day, together with those of Brann's speeches and lectures which have been preserved. At the close of Volume XII you will find a complete index of subjects and of titled articles for the entire twelve volumes.
PREFACE BY MILO HASTINGS
As I read the proofs of the last of these volumes, wherein is told the story of Brann's death, my cup of the joy of love's labor is embittered with the gall of an impotent, futile rage against the Sower that flings with mocking hand the seed of genius and recks not where it falls. The germ of such a life as Brann's we can but accept in worshipful, unquestioning gratitude, for the process of its spawning is too entangled to unravel. But of the environment of his life we cannot refrain from rebellious questioning, appreciative though we be of that which was, and of our heritage of the unquenchable spirit that is and shall be as long as our language shall last.
Genius he is, this only Brann we have; genius audacious, defiant, and sublime; whose stature, though his feet be on the flat of the Brazos bottom, towers effulgent over those effigies placed on pedestals by orthodox popularity, and sickly lighted by professorial praise.
Nor is my anger born of the fact that Brann, as warped by his environment of time and place, wasted thought on free silver economics, spent passion on prohibition and negro criminals, lavished wrath on provincial preachers and local politicians or alloyed his style by the so-called "vulgarities," which alone could shock into attention the muddle-headed who paid his printer's bill for the privilege of seeing barnyard phrases and dunghill words in type.
All this, I can conceive, may have been the particular combination of circumstances that were needed to bring to flower a germ of genius that, had it been planted in last century's Boston, might have given us but another Harvard classic—or environed in this century's Greenwich Village only another free-versifier of souls a-jaunt amid psycho-analytics and parlor Bolshevism.
The slouch-hatted, gun-toting, beer-drinking, woman- worshiping, man-baiting Brann of Texas may have been the particular and only Brann to have developed the colossal courage and fighting fearlessness that gave his poet's soul the reach and stature, the strength and vigor to raise himself above the mere music of his words.
Brann as he was when he heard the shot that killed him, I can accept and proclaim as beyond the need and reach of apology or regret. But what of the Brann that would have written on throughout the twenty-one years that have since elapsed, and that we would have with us still at the prime age of sixty-four?
Had Brann lived! We should have had the product of eight times the period of his writing life that was; and an added quality born of riper experience, more momentous themes, more leisure for deliberate composition. We should have heard the man who against petty politicians and occasional pugilists, out-thundered Carlyle, turn his roaring guns against the blood-guilty heads that bade wholesale rape and gaunt hunger stalk rampant in a gory world.
It is as if Hugo had written "Hans of Iceland" and no "Les Miserables," as if Napoleon, the Lieutenant of Artillery, had but stopped the mobs in the streets of Paris, and Austerlitz and Waterloo had never been.
The world has not always profited by its martyrdoms. Samson, old and blind, toppled down the temple, and the Philistines that he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Not so Brann. His death was as tragic and pitiable as the charge of the Light Brigade, the sacrifice of men at the sunken road of Ohaine.
Waste, futile and planless, mere howling, empty, chaotic waste, for no purpose under heaven but to serve as food for idle fancies as to what might have been—such to me is the death of Brann, and my throat chokes with sorrow and my soul is sick with vain despair.
Brann's contribution to literature is the product of less than three years of writing time. There were previous years of yearning and dreaming while he fretted beneath the yoke of galling servitude to newspaper editors unworthy to loose the latchets of Brann's shoes. His own paper, The Iconoclast, in which he first found freedom for utterance, and from which ninety-eight per cent. of this present edition is derived, ran for just forty months, and for six or eight months of this period Brann was on lecture tours, during which time his paper was largely filled with outside contributions.
That a magazine could succeed at all in Waco is one of the seven wonders of the literary world. That a magazine so located and written by one man, having but a paltry advertising patronage, no illustrations, no covers, could in three years' time rival the circulation of any magazine then published is as much a miracle as the parting of the Red Sea waters or the bountiful persistence of the widow's oil.
It is on this three years' work that Brann's fame must rest. Barring a few poets, the literary colossi have seldom had less than the work of a score of years on which to base their claims for greatness. Goethe, Hugo, Tolstoi, Mark Twain each wrote for more than fifty years. But greater range of variety and distance as well as span of time contributed to their product. They traveled up and down the world of men, mingled with many races, sailed seas, climbed mountains, lived in metropoles, and dined with princes.
Brann's most notable personal acquaintances were country- town editors and provincial politicians, very like the ilk of a hundred other States and provinces in the raw corners of the world. He lived and died in that stale, flat, and literarily unprofitable expanse of prairie between Lake Michigan and the Rio Grande, where man's most pretentious achievement was the Ead's Bridge at St. Louis, Nature's most spectacular effort, the Ozark Mountains, and literature's most worthy resident representative, William Marion Reedy.
So environed, in a time when the bicycle marked the acme of progress and Bryan could be a hero, in a flat-roofed Texas town, whose intellectual glory was a Baptist college and whose answer to arguments, "ropes and revolvers," Brann wrote for only three years, and wrote as Shakespeare wrote, unmindful alike of critics, binders and bookworms. Only by the doubtful faith that men are made by their adversity can we reconcile our charge against the Sower who cast the seed of genius to fall on such barren ground, amid the stones of a sterile time and the briars of bullet-answering bigotry.
But vain are the might-have-beens; and fortunate are we to have as we have the stuff out of which far-ringing fame resounds unto generations when teeth are no longer set on edge—when men will have forgotten the taboos of a little day and the dust of our Mrs. Grundys will be weeds to choke the freedom of the grass.
The copies of The Iconoclast, read in their day till worn to tatters, were ill adapted to preservation. It were futile to look for them in libraries, for Brann was about as welcome in those formal repositories of the proper in literature as matches in a powder mill. So far as they are aware the file of The Iconoclast possessed by the present publishers, and from which this edition is reproduced, is the only complete file in existence.
For twenty years this priceless literary heritage has been waiting, precariously subjected to the vicissitudes of earthly circumstance. Like a lone great manuscript within the cloister of a mediaeval monk, Brann's work might have perished utterly soon after its creation, like a song of magic music held but fleetingly within the heart that heard it.
But the blood of ink now flows again through the multiplying presses and the flaming phrases of The Iconoclast, shot like shafts of gold from over the mountains of El d'Orado by the sun of genius, still live and will endure. Again the million words leap from the yellowed pages like tongues of fire and beauty; and ten thousand voices will cry and sing again before the hearths of those who once knew and loved the Waco Iconoclast, and will sing and cry in the homes of their children and their children's children who will read and acclaim Brann as a God whose name is writ forever in the stars.
These facts are here set down that they who read in days to come may marvel as I do now that two score issues of a provincial paper should consistently contain such a freight of imperishable literature, revealing a learning positively prodigious, a style that flows with a sonorous majesty and crashes with a vitriolic and destroying power, a lavish richness in figurative language, a beauty of Aeolian harps, of sapphire seas, of the flushed and ardent splendor of poetic nights.
Whence came the towering intellect, the wealth of knowledge, the mastery of words, the music of style, the diapason of feeling? It could only come from the sources that are available to any American who can read. The most formal aid that could have contributed is the free shelves of the St. Louis public library.
The miracle of Brann's growth and flowering is more marvelous than that of Poe, less explainable than that of Shakespeare. That Brann knew the literary classics of the world is obvious from his every line. But, unless we invent some theory of universal telepathy to have wafted inspiration to Waco from all the canonized dead from Homer to Carlyle, we can only conceive that Brann derived his knowledge and his power, without encouragement and without guidance, by poring over the printed page in lonely hours bitterly wrested from the wolf of poverty that for forty years held mortgage on his time.
What he possessed, however got, was a combination of all those recognized elements of literary greatness—except one thing; he heeded not the warning of cultured mediocrity that commands most writers what to leave unsaid. Brann left nothing unsaid, and because of that fact was locked out of colleges, libraries, encyclopaedias and halls of fame.
Where other writers waste half their energies in deciding what may be written, Brann gave his full energy to writing what he thought. Whereas in all things else he matched and equaled others, in this one fact of absolute audacity and complete freedom from fear, he outmatched all and so closed the pedants' mouths of praise. Colossal, crude, terrible and sublime, Brann opened the ears of the people by the mighty power of his untamed language, by the smashing fury of his wrath of words.
From the point of disadvantage of the little country town lost in the immensity of the Texas prairie, Brann saw the world, and saw it with the blazing eye of righteous wrath. He saw the sins of high society in New York and London, the rottenness of autocracy in Russia, the world war boiling beneath the surface in the cauldron of Europe's misery. But he saw also, with mingled humor and anger, the trivial passing events of his own state and nation and the local affairs of his home town. Of all these things, great and small, he wrote with equal fervor, equal venom and equal power.
To-day the war is fought, the Czar is dead, free silver is forgotten and the local animosities that Brann brewed in his own State live only in the memories of a few old men.
With the roll of the years, the perspective of time, like a low swung sun, casts the mountain's shadow ever farther across the valley; and Brann the Waco journalist has become Brann the American genius. No matter how dead the issues, how local to time and place the characters of which he wrote, his writing is literature and the imperishable legacy of the world.
The Biblical story of Joseph would be equally great if his name had been Fu Chow, and Pharaoh had been the Emperor Wu Wong Wang. Hamlet would be immortal if his name were L. Percy Smith and his uncle a pork packer in Omaha. The prodigal son has no name, the swine he fed knew no country. Particular names, local places, and passing forms and institutions are not the essence of literature. For those who formerly read Brann in The Iconoclast he was a Texas journalist in the free silver days; but for those who shall read his work in these days after the world war, New York might as well be Babylon, Mark Hanna, Haman, and the files of The Iconoclast, clay tablets dug from the ruins of some long-buried Waco of the Euphrates Valley.
It is only the transcendent genius who can afford to be careless of the preservation of his product. Socrates merely talked to chance disciples in the Groves of Athens; other men wrote and preserved his words. Shakespeare wrote plays for his current theatrical business; others gathered and printed his manuscripts. While he lived, Brann's writing never saw the dignity of a clothbound book. They were not written for carefully edited, thrice- proofread, leather-bound volumes, but ground out for the unwashed hand of a Waco printer's devil, done into hastily set type and jammed between badly set beer ads and patent medicine testimonials, on a thin, little job-press sheet that could be rolled up and stuck through a wedding ring.
Brann's range of literary form was limited by his single avenue of publication through the columns of a one-man paper, and varied from the ten-word epigrams of Salmagundi to the ten-thousand word article or published lecture. Within this range is evidenced at least three distinct types of literary composition.
First and foremost in volume and effect is the Philippic or iconoclastic article, mingling in varying proportions the resounding musical cadences of Ingersollian oratory and the pungent, audacious epigrammatic twists on which Hubbard, with cleverer salesmanship, built a more profitable, if not more noble, fame.
It was as the destroyer, the iconoclast, that Brann best saw himself, and to this role he devoted a great preponderance of his time and talent. But there is another Brann, unknown to many who have conceived him only as an idolsmasher, an "apostle of the devil," an angry Christ driving out the defilers of the temple with a lash of scorpion's tails.
Brann, the poet, the lover of beauty, speaks even amidst the ruins of the houses of hypocrisy and shame which he has wrecked. There is scarce a page in all his writings in which sheer beauty does not stand out amid the ugliness of carnage and destruction—in which the strains of celestial music are not heard above the roar of earthly battle.
But more than this there are many articles that are wholly cut from a cloth of gold. Many of the finest of these gems of pure literature were omitted from the early and incomplete book-publication of Brann, for the compilers who made that hasty and inadequate selection were too close to the bitterness of his death to see this other Brann.
To cite from the first volume only:
Where have you heard a more beautiful sermon from a Christian pulpit than "Charity" or "Throwing Stones at Christ"?
Can you find in prose or poetry more melody of language than in "Life and Death"?
In all our countless volumes of fiction, have you ever read a more wondrous tale than "There Comes One After," or "A Story of the Sea"?
To read only such as these is to know a very different Brann from the author of "The Bradley-Martin Bal Masque" or "Garters and Amen Groans." The Brann who wrote "Life and Death," by that work alone, wins to undying fame as surely as does Grey by his "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." I have combed my memory in vain to match it from an American pen. A few paragraphs from Ingersoll, a few pages from Poe, a few stanzas from Whitman—but make your own search and your own comparisons; and if, in your final ranking, Brann stands not among the Titans who number less than the fingers on God's hand, it will be because you cannot divorce the sublime beauty of "Life and Death" from the coyotes and the jackals that run rampant through the pages of Brann the shocker of the thin of skin.
Lastly, consider Brann the teller of stories—for laughter and for tears. Some of these tales are allegories as universal to the life of man as "Pilgrim's Progress." Elsewhere, as in the fictional essay on the "The Cow" and in the delightful lies that Brann in rollicking mischief attributed to his fellow Texas journalists, we find the humorous tale enriched with the bizarre and scintillating figure. Nor was Brann unconscious of his fictional gift, for he was working on a novel at the time of his death. That O. Henry's ambition to write may be accredited to the influence of Brann seems more than probable. Brann's first attempt to start The Iconoclast was made in Austin, Texas, but this first paper survived for only a few issues.
O. Henry, then a drug clerk in Austin, being filled with literary aspiration, bought the press and the name of The Iconoclast for $250; but O. Henry's Iconoclast after two issues also ceased to flutter. Later, when Brann again accumulated the necessary funds to permit him to throw off the hireling's yoke, he asked for and received back from O. Henry the legal right to the title of his own paper.
I relate this incident not to cast discredit upon O. Henry's originality. His unique mastery of story structure was all his own, but that richness of figurative speech, particularly those exaggerated humorous metaphors which make his every paragraph so delightful, we may well believe to be an Elijah's mantle fallen from the shoulders of Brann, and worn over a new tunic.
Should any man create more than a rare few of the words he uses his speech would be as meaningless as a doctor of theology explaining the trinity. Likewise that subtle thing called "style," that revivifying of the dead ashes of dictionary words, though more peculiar to the man, is most potent when it borrows freely but wisely from all that has gone before.
Stevenson read, and confessed to deliberate practice work in imitation of, the masters that preceded him. So we know that Brann read, absorbed, transmuted, and transfigured the style of the classic writers, and added a daring measure of reckless originality. As Brann read his Homer and his Carlyle, his Shakespeare and his Ingersoll, so Hubbard and O. Henry read their Brann; and Hubbard specifically commends him to the would-be writer as Johnson commended Addison.
There is no ore that will assay more literary metal to the page than Brann. As a writer's writer no man of our time surpasses him. His vocabulary is conceded, even by his most envious critics, to outrange that of any other American. His gift of figurative speech—that essential that distinguishes literature from mere correct writing—rivals that of any writer in any country, language or time. Brann's compass of words, idioms and phrases harks back to the archaic and reaches forward to the futuristic.
If you wish merely to learn to appreciate literature so that you may nod approval in polite society when an accredited writer's name is mentioned, go to college and listen to the lectures of literary Ph. D.'s. But if you want to learn to write, take your Bible, your Shakespeare and your Brann and hie you to your garret, there to read, reread, study, memorize, and imitate if you can. And God be praised if you can steal the best and to it add somewhat of your own.
Brann offends, shocks and outrages, is suppressed, damned, forcibly ignored and laboriously forgotten, because though the lark sings in his words, "the buzzard is on the wing." But Brann did not make the stench that offends the nostrils of the nice; he only stirred up the cesspools to let us know that they were there, and so enlist volunteers for their abatement. That riles the kept keepers of lesser fames because they have agreed that the fine art of letters should be to spray the attar of posies to counteract the noisome smells of that which is rotten in the state of the world, where the many reek and sweat in filth and poverty that the few may live in perfumed palaces.
Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin, shouted Brann and died shouting, while the well-fed and fatted sat on the lid to keep it down. But we who have lived to see the lid blown off Russia and feel the growl and grumble of the bowels of all the earth need not overstrain our ears to hear Brann laughing now in that good Baptist Hell to which a bullet in the back gave him the passport.
POTIPHAR'S WIFE. STORY OF JOSEPH REVISITED
For more than six-and-thirty centuries the brand of the courtesan has rested on the brow of Potiphar's wife. The religious world persists in regarding her as an abandoned woman who wickedly strove to lead an immaculate he-virgin astray. The crime of which she stands accused is so unspeakably awful that even after the lapse of ages we cannot refer to the miserable creature without a moan. Compared with her infamous conduct old Lot's dalliance with his young daughters and David's ravishment of Uriah's wife appear but venial faults, or even shine as spotless virtues.
The story of Mrs. Potiphar's unrequited passion may be strictly true; but if so the world has changed most wondrously. It transcends the probable and rests upon such doubtful ex parte evidence that a modern court would give her a certificate of good character. It is not in accord with our criminal code to damn a woman on the unsupported deposition of a young dude whom she has had arrested for attempted ravishment. Had Joseph simply filed a general denial and proven previous good character we might suspect the madame of malicious prosecution; but he doth protest too much.
Mrs. Potiphar was doubtless a young and pretty woman. She was the wife of a wealthy and prominent official of Pharaoh's court, and those old fellows were a trifle exacting in their tastes. They sought out the handsomest women of the world to grace their homes, for sensuous love was then the supreme law of wedded life. Joseph was a young Hebrew slave belonging to Mrs. Potiphar's husband, who treated him with exceptional consideration because of his business ability. One day the lad found himself alone with the lady. The latter suddenly turned in a fire alarm, and Jacob's favorite son jogged along Josie in such hot haste that he left his garment behind. Mrs. Potiphar informed those who responded to her signal of distress that the slave had attempted a criminal assault. She is supposed to have repeated the story to her husband when he came home, and the chronicler adds, in a tone of pained surprise, that the old captain's "anger was kindled." Neither Mrs. Potiphar's husband nor her dearest female friends appear to have doubted her version of the affair, which argues that, for a woman who moved in the highest social circles, she enjoyed a reasonably good reputation.
But Joseph had a different tale to tell. He said that the poor lady became desperately enamored of his beauty and day by day assailed his continence, but that he was as deaf to her amorous entreaties as Adonis to the dear blandishments of Venus Pandemos. Finally she became so importunate that he was compelled to seek safety in flight. He saved his virtue but lost his vestments. It was a narrow escape, and the poor fellow must have been dreadfully frightened. Suppose that the she-Tarquin had accomplished her hellish design, and that her victim had died of shame? She would have changed the whole current of the world's history! Old Jacob and his other interesting if less virtuous sons, would have starved to death, and there would have been neither Miracles nor Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments nor Vicarious Atonement. Talmage and other industrious exploiters of intellectual tommyrot, now ladling out saving grace for fat salaries, might be as unctuously mouthing for Mumbo Jumbo, fanning the flies off some sacred bull or bowing the knee to Baal. The Potiphar-Joseph episode deserves the profoundest study. It was an awful crisis in the history of the human race! How thankful we, who live in these latter days, should be that the female rape fiend has passed into the unreturning erstwhile with the horned unicorn and dreadful hippogriff, the minotaur and other monsters that once affrighted the fearful souls of men—that sensuous sirens do not so assail us and rip our coat-tails off in a foul attempt to wreck our virtue and fill our lives with fierce regret. True, the Rev. Parkhurst doth protest that he was hard beset by beer and beauty unadorned; but he seems to have been seeking the loaded "schooner" and listening for the siren's dizzy song. Had Joseph lived in Texas he could never have persuaded Judge Lynch that the lady and not he should be hanged. The youngster dreamed himself into slavery, and I opine that he dreamed himself into jail. With the internal evidence of the story for guide, I herewith present, on behalf of Mrs. Potiphar, a revised and reasonable version of the affaire d'amour.
Joseph was, the chronicler informs us, young "a goodly person and well favored." His Hebraic type of manly beauty and mercurial temperament must have contrasted strangely with Mrs. Potiphar's dark and stolid countrymen. Mistress and slave were much together, the master's duties requiring his presence near his prince. Time hung heavily on the lady's hands and, as an ennui antidote, she embarked in a desperate flirtation with the handsome fellow, for Egypt's dark-eyed daughters dearly love to play fast and loose with the hearts of men. Of course it was very wrong; but youth and beauty will not be strictly bound, the opportunity seemed made for mischief, and Mrs. Potiphar cared little for her lord—a grizzly old warrior who treated her as a pretty toy his wealth had purchased, to be petted or put aside at pleasure.
A neglected wife whose charms attract the admiring eyes of men may not depart one step from the straight and narrow path, but her husband's honor stands ever within the pale of danger. Let that husband whose courtship ceased at Hymen's shrine, who is a gallant abroad and a boor at home, keep watch and ward, for homage is sweet even to wedded women.
While Potiphar played the petty tyrant and exacted of his wife a blind obedience, Joseph sang to her songs she loved—plaintive tales of tender passion, of enchanted monarchs and maids of matchless beauty. He culled the fairest flowers from the great garden and wove them into garlands to deck her hair, dark as that lingering night which Moses laid upon the Valley of the Nile. He gave her a thousand little attentions so grateful to womankind, and worshiped her, not presumptuously, but with the sacred awe of a simple desert child turning his face to greet the rising sun. They were of the same age,—that age when the heart beats in passionate rebellion against cold precepts, the blood riots in the veins like molten rubies and all life seems made for love, for day dreams golden as the dawn, for sighs and sweet companionship. What wonder that she sometimes into the cool left her lord to his heavy slumbers and crept into the cool gardens with the handsome Hebrew boy; that they walked, hand clasped in hand, beneath the tall palms that nodded knowingly, and whispered sweet nothings while the mellow moonlight quivered on the Nile and sad Philomela poured forth her plaintive song like a flood of lover's tears? All day long they were alone together,—those children of the world's youth, when life was strong and moral law was weak. When the summer sun rode high in heaven and sent his burnished shafts straight down into the white streets and swooning gardens; when the great house was closed to shut out the blinding glare and in the court cool fountains cast their grateful spray, what wonder that she bade him sit at her feet and sing the love songs of his native land, wild prototypes of those which Solomon poured from the depths of his sensuous soul to his sweet Rose of Sharon?
"Behold thou art fair, my love, behold thou art fair; Thou hast dove's eyes, thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, Thy breast like young roes that feed among the lilies. Set me as a seal upon thy heart, a seal upon thy arm, For love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave."
The song dies out and the languorous stillness is broken only by the splashing of the fountains in the great marble basins and the drowsy hum of a bee among the blossoms. The lad's head has sunk down upon the lady's knee and she is watching the tears trembling on his drooping lashes and wondering, with a little thrill of pain, if he has a sweetheart in his own land, of whom he is so sadly dreaming. She thanks him for the song in a voice low and sweet as the musical ripple of the sacred river among the reeds—she dazzles him with her great Egyptian eyes, those ebon orbs in which ever lurks the sensuous splendor of a summer night's high moon. Her hand strays carelessly among his curls as she punctuates with sighs and tears his oft-told tale of unkind brethren, the gloomy cave, the coat of many colors dipped in blood of the slaughtered kid, the cruel goad of godless Midianite, driving him on and on through burning sands and 'neath a blazing sun, far from his tearful mother and mourning sire. How cruel the fates to consign to slavery one born to be a king! His master is a hard man and covetous, but her pleadings shall yet purchase sweet liberty for old Jacob's son, that he may fulfill the high dreams of which he has told her—may answer the midnight messages of Israel's God and triumph over those wicked brethren. Perhaps—who knows?—in his own land he will become a mighty prince and treat with proud Pharaoh on equal terms. Will he remember her, his only friend in a land of foes? Will he think of her when Ammon is o'erthrown and proud Moab pays his tribute? Ah, no! When a crown of jewels blazes on his brow and the sack- cloth of the slave is exchanged for imperial purple, he'll think no more of the lonely little woman by Nilus bank, who prays that Isis will magnify his power, that Osiris will shield him when the Hebrew sword rings on the Hivite spear. He will take to wife some fair cousin of Esau's house, a maid more beauteous far than those who drink the sweet waters of the south. Old Abram's daughters are fair and have dove's eyes; their lips are as threads of scarlet and their breasts like young roes that feed among the lilies. Does not the song say so? But those of Egypt—oh, unhappy Egypt!
"Love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave."
She bends low and whispers the line upon his lips, while her fragrant breath, beating upon his cheek, sinks into his blood like the jasmines' perfume,—more dangerous to the soul than Aphrodite's kisses or Anacreon's drunken song. By such arts did Cleopatra win the master spirit of the world and make the mailed warrior her doting slave, indifferent alike to honor and to duty, content but to live and love. What wonder that the callow shepherd lad, unskilled in woman's wile, believed that his mistress loved him?— that his heart went out to the handsome coquette in a wild, passionate throb in which all Heaven's angels sang and Hell's demons shrieked!
A beautiful woman! Not the beauty of Greece, on which we gaze as upon some wondrous flower wafted from Elysian Fields, and too ethereal for this gross world; nor that of Rome, with Pallas' snow-clad bosom and retrospective eye; but the sensuous beauty of the far south, that casts a Circean spell upon the souls of men. Her eyes are not dove's eyes that softly shine along the path to Heaven, but wandering fires that light the way to Hell. Her lips are not a thread of scarlet, chaste as childhood and dewy as the dawn, but the deep sullen red of a city swept with flames. Her breasts are not like young roes that feed among the lilies, but ivory hemispheres threaded with purple fire and tinged with sunset's tawny gold. Reverently as though touching divinity's robe, Joseph caresses the wanton curls that stream like an inky storm-cloud over the shapely shoulders—he puts the little hands, heavy with costly gems, back from the tearful face and holds them with a grasp so fierce that the massy rings of beaten gold bruise the tender flesh. Mrs. Potiphar starts up, alarmed by his unwonted boldness—she reads his face with a swift glance that tells her he is no longer a lad, a pretty boy to be trifled with for the amusement of an idle hour. The Cupid's bow had faded forever from his lip and childhood's innocence from his eye; he has crossed life's Rubicon, has passed at one stride from the Vale of Youth with its trifles and its idle tears, its ignorance of sex and stainless love, to Manhood's rugged mountains, where blazes Ambition's baleful star and the fires of passion ever beat, fiercer than those that sweep Gehenna's sulphurous hills.
Even while her cheek crimsons with anger and her heart flutters with fear, the woman glories in Joseph's guilty love, sweet incense to her vanity, evidence of her peerless beauty's infernal power. She retreats a step as from the brink of an abyss, but farther she cannot fly, for there is a charm in her companion's voice, potent as old Merlin's mystic chant—tones low and sweet as music in dreams by maids who sleep in Dian's bosom, yet wilder, fiercer than trumpets blown for war. As a sailor drawn to his doom by siren song, or a bird spellbound by some noxious serpent, she advances fearfully and slow until she is swept into his strong arms and held quivering there like a splotch of foam in a swift eddy of the upper Nile. The room swims before her eyes and fills with mocking demons that welcome her to the realm of darkness; the fountains' ripple sounds like roaring thunder, in which she reads the angry warning of Egypt's gods, while beneath the accursed magic of the kisses that burn upon her lips, her blood becomes boiling wine and rushes hissing through a heart of ice. The mocking demons turn to angels with Joseph's handsome face and crown her with fragrant flowers: the threat'ning thunders to music sweet as Memmon's matin hymn or accepted lover's sighs, heard 'neath the harvest moon,—she is afloat upon a sapphire sea beneath a sunset sky, the West Wind's musky wing wafting her, whither she neither knows nor cares.
But the angels and the fragrant flowers, the music sweet as lover's sighs and the sapphire sea, the sunset sky and Zephyrus' musky wing are dreams; the blistered lips and poor bruised bosom, the womanly pride humbled in the dust and wifely honor wounded unto death—these alone are real! With an involuntary cry of rage and shame, a cry that is half a prayer and half a curse—a cry that rings and reverberates through the great sleepy house like a maniac's shriek heard at midnight among the tombs—she flings herself sobbing and moaning upon the marble floor. The drowsy slave starts up as from a dream, quivering in every limb like a coward looking upon his death. He tries to raise the groveling victim of his unbridled lust, but she beats him back; he pleads for mercy, but she calls him ungrateful slave, base Hebrew dog and prays all Egypt's gods to curse her conqueror. There's a rush of feet along the hall, there's a clash of weapons in the court, and here and there and everywhere tearful maids are calling to their mistress, the Sweet One and Beautiful, dear Daughter of the Dawn, Lily of the Nile, while brawny eunuchs, barelimbed and black as Hell's own brood, are vowing dire vengeance even upon the King himself if he has dared to harm her. The culprit glances with haggard face and wildly pleading eyes at the woman, once so imperial in her pride, now cowering a thing accursed, clothed only with her shame and flood of ebon hair. The great sun, that hung in mid-heaven like a disk of burnished brass when she first forgot her duty, descends like a monstrous wheel of blood upon the western desert and through the casement pours a ruddy glow over the prostrate figure a marble Venus blushing rosy red. Joseph casts his coarse garment over his companion as one might clothe the beauteous dead, and turns away, the picture of Despair, the avatar of guilty Fear. . . .
Love is a dangerous game to play, and oft begun in wanton mischief ends in woeful madness. In the first flush of shame and rage Mrs. Potiphar was eager to punish the slave's presumption, even though herself o'erwhelmed in his ruin; but hate, though fierce, is a fickle flame in the female heart, and seldom survives a single flood of tears. Already Joseph's handsome face is haunting her—already she is dreaming o'er the happy hours by Nilus' bank, where first he praised her wondrous beauty—beneath the nodding palms when the fireflies blazed and the bulbul poured its song. The love that has lain latent within her bosom, or burned with friendship's unconsuming flame, awakes like smoldering embers fanned by desert winds and fed with camphor wood, enveloping all her world. She longs to leave the loveless life with her sullen lord; to cast from her as things accursed the gaudy robes and glittering gems; to fly with the shepherd lad to the deep cool forests of the far east and dream her life away in some black tent or vine-embowered cot—to take his hand in hers and wander on to the world's extreme verge, listening to the music of his voice. The great house, once her pride, has become a grewsome prison, the jailer a grizzly gorgon who conjured her with the baleful gleam of gold to cast her beauty on Mammon's brutish shrine. She hardens her heart against him and pities herself, as wives are wont to do who have dragged the dear honor of their husbands in the dust—she persuades herself that love has cast radiant glory about her guilt and sanctified her shame. Oh woman, what a paradox thou art! When the descending sun touched the horizon's rim Mrs. Potiphar could have plunged a poisoned dagger through the heart of her paramour and mocked his dying moan; the great globe of fire has not bid the world good night, yet she is weeping because of the bitter words with which she drove him forth.
"Love is strong as death."
She repeats the line again and again. Oh my Israel, is the grave the limit of thy love? Wert thou dead, fair boy, Egypt would inclose thy sacred ashes in a golden urn and wear it ever between her breasts—would make for thee a living sepulcher and thou shouldst sleep in the vale of Love, between the rosy mountains of Desire. Wert thou dead—
The slaves! They will tell their master the wild words she spoke against her love—against his life. She must seal their lips, must command their silence. Too late! Even as she lays her hand on the silver bell the heavy tread of her husband's brass-shod feet is heard in the long hall, ringing upon the bare stone floor in rapid, nervous rhythm, so different from the usual majestic tread of Pharaoh's chief slaughterman. The slaves have already spoken! A faintness as of death falls upon her; but she is a true daughter of false Egypt, and a wiser than Potiphar would find in her face no shadow of the fear that lies heavy on her heart. The game is called and she must play not for name and fame, but for love and life. Her husband confronts her, ferocity incarnate,—the great cord-like veins of the broad, low brow and massive neck knotted and black, his eyes blazing like the orbs of an angry lion seen by the flickering light of a shepherd's fire. He essays to speak, but his tongue is thick, his lips parched as one stricken with the plague, and instead of words there comes through his set teeth a hoarse, hissing sound as of the great rock serpent in its wrath. His glance falls upon Joseph's garment, the gleaming sword leaps from its sheath and he turns to seek the slave. She lays her hand lightly upon his arm, great Egypt's shield, a pillar of living brass; she nestles in the grizzly beard like some bright flower in a weird forest; she kisses the bronzed cheek as Judas did that of our dear Lord and soothes him with pretty truths that are wholly lies.
Joseph is a good boy, but sometimes overbold. Poor child! Perhaps her beauty charmed away his senses and made him forget his duty. She bade him sing to beguile a tedious hour, and he sang of love and looked at her with such a world of worship in his eyes that she grew angry and upbraided him. Let it pass; for, by the mystic mark of Apis, she frightened the boy out of his foolish fever.
She laughs gleefully, and the gruff old soldier suffers her to take his sword, growling meanwhile that he likes not these alarms—that she has marshaled Egypt's powers to battle with a mirage. The game is won; but guilt will never rest content, and oft reveals itself by much concealment. It is passing strange, she tells him tearfully, that every male who looks upon her, whether gray-headed grand-sire or beardless boy, seems smitten with love's madness. She knows not why 'tis so. If there is in her conduct aught to challenge controversy she prays that he will tell her. The old captain's brow again grows black. He leads her where the fading light falls upon her face, and, looking down into her eyes as tho' searching out the secrets of her soul, bids her mark well his words. The wife who bears herself becomingly never hears the tempter's tone or knows aught of any love but that of her rightful lord. Pure womanhood is a wondrous shield, more potent far than swords. If she has been approached by lawless libertine, he bids her, for the honor of his house, to set a seal upon her lips, instead of bruiting her shame abroad as women are wont to do whose vanity outruns their judgment.
. . .
Potiphar determines to watch his wife. It had never occurred to him that she could possibly go astray; but he has learned from her own confession that she is a flirt, and he knows full well that a married coquette is half a courtesan. Suspecting that Joseph's offense is graver than his wife set forth, he casts him into prison. The inexperienced youth, believing the full extent of his guilt has been blazoned to the world, and frightened beyond his wits by armed men and clank of chains, protests with tears and sighs that he is more sinned against than sinning. It is the old story of Adam improved upon—he not only damns the woman, but denies the apple.
Joseph's posterity, hating Egypt with their whole heart and intent on glorifying Israel and Israel's God, became the only historians of this original scandal in high life; and thus was a youth, probably neither better nor worse than his brethren, raised to the dignity of a demi-god, while a vain young wife is condemned through all the ages to wear a wanton's name. The story probably contains a moral— which wives may look for if they will.
. . .
Of course this account of Mrs. Potiphar's seduction is a fancy sketch; but it is a true pen-picture of what too often happens in this fair land of ours, and may be perused with profit by many a Benedict. The number of unfaithful wives whose sin becomes the public shame is simply appalling; yet no criminal was ever so cautious, so adept in the art of concealment as the woman who values her reputation above her honor. There is no secret a man will guard with such vigilance as his amours, no copartner in iniquity he will shield with such fidelity as a paramour. The bandit may turn state's evidence, and the assassin confess beneath the noose; but the roue will die protesting that his mistress is pure as the driven snow.
And yet woman is by nature as true to her rightful lord as the needle to the magnetic north,—as faithful to her marriage vows as the stars to their appointed courses. When a wife "goes astray" the chances are as one to infinity that the misstep is her husband's fault. Love is the very life of woman. She can no more exist without it than the vine can climb heavenward without support,—than it can blossom and bear fruit without the warm kiss of the summer sun. Woman's life is a flame that must find an altar upon which to blaze, a god to glorify; but that sacred fire will not forever burn 'mid fields of snow nor send up incense sweet to an unresponsive idol, even though it bears the name of husband. The man who courts the wife as assiduously as he did his sweetheart, makes the same sacrifice to serve her, shows the same appreciation of her efforts to please him, need never fear a rival. He is lord paramount of her heart, and, forsaking all others, she will cleave unto him thro' good and thro' evil, thro' weal and thro' woe, thro' life unto death. But the man who imagines his duty done when he provides food, shelter and fine raiment for the woman he has won; who treats her as if she were a slave who should feel honored in serving him; who vents upon her hapless head the ill-nature he would like to pour into the faces of his fellow-men, but dares not, were wise to heed the advice which Iago gave to the Moor.
Woman is more subtle than her ancient enemy, the serpent, and woe to the man who attempts to tread her beneath his feet! True it is that all women who find the hymeneal rites but an unreading of that enchanted spell in which they worshiped devils as demi-gods; between whose eager lips the golden apples of Hesperides prove but Dead Sea fruit; for whom the promised Elysium looms but a parched Sahara, do not seek in forbidden fields to feed their famished hearts; but it is well for the peace of mind of many a husband who neither dotes nor doubts, that black dishonor oft goes hand in hand with blissful ignorance.
The philosophic world rejects the story of Joseph, having long ago learned that he-Dians live only in childish legend and Della-Cruscan poetry. As an ideal it reverses the natural relation of the sexes; as an example it is worse than worthless, for instead of inspiring emulation the young Hebrew's heroic continence only provokes contempt. Men worship at the shrine of Solomon's wisdom, of Moses' perseverance, of David's dauntless courage, but crown the altar of Joseph with asses' ears. Such foolish Munchausenisms give to young girls a false idea of the opposite sex, relax their vigilance and imperil their virtue. From such ridiculous romances, solemnly approved by an owl-like priesthood, sprung that false code—so insulting to womankind—that a wife's honor is not committed to her own keeping, but to the tender care of every man with whom she comes in contact. When a wife goes wrong a hypocritical world rises in well-simulated wrath—which is too often envy—and hurls its anathema maranatha at the head of the "designing villain," as tho' his companion in crime were born without brains and reared without instruction! The "injured husband"—who probably drove his wife to the devil by studied neglect that starved her heart and wounded her vanity—is regarded with contempt if he does not "make a killing" for a crime against the social code which he would himself commit.
I paint man as I find him, not as I would have him. I did not create him, or did his Architect ask my advice; hence it is no fault of mine that his virtue's frail as ocean foam—not mine the blame that while half a god he's all a beast. Mentally and sexually man is a polygamist, and, whatever its moral value may be, monogamy does violence to the law of his being. It is a barrier against which he ever beats like some wild beast of prey against restraining bars. Give him Psyche to wife and Sappho for mistress and he were not content—would swim a river to make mad love to some freckled maid. It is likely that Leander had at home a wife he dearly loved when he lost his life trying to reach fair Hero's bower. That the Lord expects little even of the best of men when subjected to beauty's blandishments is proven by his partiality to various princes and patriarchs who, in matters of gallantry, may be regarded as pace-setters.
I am not the apologist of the godless rake, the defender of the roue; but I have small patience with those mawkish purists who persist in measuring men and women by the same standard of morals. We might as well apply the same code to the fierce Malay who runs amuck and to McAllister's fashionable pismires. We might as wisely bring to the same judgment bar Bengal's royal beast, crazed with lust for blood, and Jaques' wounded deer, weeping in the purling brook. Each sex and genus must be considered by itself, for each possesses its peculiar virtues and inherent vices. In all nature God intended the male to seek, the female to be sought. These he drives with passion's fiery scourge, those he gently leads by maternal longings, and thus is the Law of Life fulfilled,—the living tide runs ever on from age to age, while divine Modesty preserves her name and habitation in the earth. A man's crown of glory is his courage, a woman's her chastity . While these remain the incense rises ever from Earth's altar to Heaven's eternal throne; but it matters not how pure the man if he be a cringing coward, how brave the woman if she be a brazen bawd. Lucrece as Caesar were infamous, and Caesar as Lucrece were a howling farce.
* * * CHARITY.
St. Paul SAYS: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And tho' I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
So it appears that chin-music without charity is not calculated to pay very large dividends in the interesting ultimate; that a man may be full of faith, and pregnant with prophecy, and chock-a-block with knowledge and redolent of religious mystery,—that he may leak sanctification in the musical accents of an angel and still be "nothing"—a pitiful hole in the atmosphere, a chimera circulating in a vacuum and foolishly imagining itself a man.
But what is charity? You people who have prayers and Bible readings before breakfast, while your hearts vibrate between holiness and hash—between Christ and the cook— should know; but it's dollars to doughnuts you don't. You probably imagine that when you present your out-of-fashion finery to your poor relations, then wait for a vote of thanks or a resolution of respect; that when you permit a tramp to fill a long-felt want with the cold victuals in your cupboard, which even your pug dog disdains, that the Recording Angel wipes the tears of joy from his eyes with his wing- feathers and gives you a page, while all Heaven gets gay because of your excessive goodness. That's because your religious education has been sadly neglected. If you would read the Bible—and the ICONOCLAST—with more care you couldn't make such mistakes. St. Paul says (and, as the country preacher remarked, I fully agree with him):
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
In other words, a man can't draw on his bank account for the price of a corner lot in the New Jerusalem. He cannot acquire so much as a souphouse ticket in that city not made with hands by dying for the faith in the auto-da-fe. Almsgiving and charity may have no more affinity than the philosophy of Plato and the political conversation of a poll parrot! Had you ever made the acquaintance of that idea? If not, I advise you to exchange visiting cards with it before you forget its address. It is not a "Brannism," I beg to state! it is part of the Pauline theology—is strictly orthodox. There's not a single heretical sign warning you to keep off the grass. Almsgiving, and even the martyr's fiery death, may be animated solely by hope of heavenly reward or terrestrial fame,—by unadulterated selfishness—may be regarded as a good investment. Too many people give to the poor only because it's "lending to the Lord"—and they expect Standard Oil stock dividends. They drop a plugged nickel in the slot expecting to pull out a priceless crown of gold,—they expect the Lord to present them with a full suit of heavenly raiment in exchange for a cold potato or a pair of frazzled pantaloons. I want no partnership with a man who tries to beat the God of the Jews in a trade.
Some of you wealthy men who, like Dives, fare sumptuously every day, may donate a hundred dollars to relieve the distress of the people of Starr county. I hope you will. If given unostentatiously—and not for advertising purposes or in hope of a heavenly reward—it will constitute an act of charity; but not of the highest, noblest type, for it will cost you no great sacrifice. It is just as well, however, to have a receipt for such a gift to show St. Peter. If it does not enable you to divide Abraham's bosom with Lazarus the beggar, it may save you from the post-mortem discomforts of Dives.
The two mites cast into the treasury by the poor widow o'erbalanced all the gifts of those who gave of their abundance; and a cup of cold water may carry with it more of true charity, more of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, than the largesse of the proudest plutocrat.
During the Civil War a grizzly old Yankee sergeant and a young Confederate soldier, both badly wounded, lay near each other between the lines, while above their prostrate forms the fierce flood of metal swept back and forth, a whistling, screaming hurricane of death. The sergeant had lain long unconscious, and he awoke racked with fever and perishing with thirst. Do any of you know the horror of that thirst which gunshot wounds, abetted by a blazing summer sun and the stifling fumes of powder- smoke, produce? It is the concentrated agony of hell. Thirst will break the courage of the bravest. Even great Caesar, upon whose imperial brow fear was afraid to sit, cried for drink "like a sick girl." The sergeant found his canteen almost empty,—just a few spoonfuls left,—drops more precious to him than all the gold of Ophir, than all the pearls of Ind. He was lifting the canteen to his parched lips when his neighbor begged to share it. He glanced at the gray uniform and hesitated. The Confederate was but a boy and in his breast there stood a broken bayonet. The sergeant crawled over to him amid the plunging shot and shell.
"'Tain't much, Johnny, an' I'm dry as a mackerel; but I'll whack up."
He divided the precious drops with rigid impartiality and gave the young Confederate his portion. Then he raised the canteen to his own lips, but again he hesitated. The landscape swam before his eyes, the pounding of the great guns fell but faintly upon his ear, the Angel of Death had set his seal upon the bronzed brow. He handed the canteen to his companion untasted.
"Take the rest of it, Johnny; I kinder guess I won't miss it long."
Yet we imagine we are wonderfully charitable if we give a few dollars from our abundance to feed the starving, or send our cast clothing to the Relief Society! Charity is not a virtue you can measure in money. Its abiding place is not in the vest pocket. Its home is the heart, and not the little 2 X 4 dog-kennel heart either. It only takes up its abode where there is a mighty temple in which to circulate itself and make grand music that rolls and reverberates through all eternity—a temple flooded with God's own sunshine and peopled with beautiful thoughts and noble aspirations—a temple whose spires pierce the highest Heaven and whose foundations are broad and deep as humanity. Such is the home of Charity, queen of all the virtues. Hear St. Paul:
"Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." Now do you comprehend what charity really is? It is toleration, it is kindness, it is humanity, it is truth, it is the spirit of God made manifest in man. He that gives liberally to the poor, to the church, to education, to the campaign fund, yet says to his brother, "Thou fool," because he's followed off after a different political folly, or differs from him on the doctrine of transubstantiation, is not staggering about under a load of charity calculated to give him flat feet. The supreme test of a charitable mind is toleration for the opinions of others,—an admission that perchance we do not know it quite all. It is much easier to give a $5 bill to a beggar than to forgive a brother who rides his pitiless logic over our prejudices. The religious world has contributed countless millions to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but has never forgiven Tom Paine for brushing the Bible contemptuously aside and looking
"Through nature up to nature's God."
Perhaps some future age will do justice to the memory of the man to whose daring pen we are so largely indebted for those dearly-prized privileges of free government, to the ablest advocate of human liberty the world has known, and whose piety was deep and fervent as that of St. Paul himself. But that cannot be until the freedom for which he toiled and prayed extends to the mind as well as the body; until the shackles are stricken from the brain as well as the hand,—until the sun of Knowledge dispels the empoisoned mists of Ignorance and divine Charity dethrones unreasoning Hate. Then will the infidel freely concede that Servetus' murder was rather the fault of his age than Calvin's crime, and the Christian will find in Paine, if not a guide, at least a learned philosopher and a loyal friend.
Charity assumes as many shapes as Prospero's busy sprite. I was once waiting for a train in a small Missouri town, where everybody turns out to "see the keers come in." A big, blustering fellow, well filled with booze, was making himself generally obnoxious, and the village constable approached him kindly and tried to quiet him. Instead of subsiding, the boozer whipped out a big six- shooter and began blazing away at the representative of the peace and dignity of the state. The constable threw his hand to his hip, but instead of pulling his gun sprang forward, disarmed the hoodlum, cracked him over the head with his own battery and sent him about his business. The officer looked as shamed after the melee as though he had stolen a sheep or scratched the Democratic ticket. I remarked that he'd taken unnecessary chances.
"What would you have done, mister?" he inquired. I replied that I would have filled that fellow's hide so full of holes that it couldn't be stuffed with straw.
"Well," said he slowly, "I kum purty nigh doin' it. But I jes' thought as how 'twan't Jim a shootin', but his jag, an' then I seemed ter see his kids a hangin' on th' gate a waitin' fer him t, come home, an' his wife a worritin' about him, an' I jis couldn,t do it. I took chances fer them."
Involuntarily I removed my hat. I felt that I was in the presence of a God-created king. "You're a philanthropist," I said.
"I dunno what them ar' maybe, mister," said he; "but I'm glad Jim's gone home alive,—d—d glad!"
That was charity of the broadest, deepest kind that ever held its godlike sway in the human soul,—a charity that will brave death itself rather than wring the heart of helpless woman or cloud the sunny face of childhood with the orphan's tears.
"Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away."
"Charity never faileth." The real article will stand the most crucial test,—is never weighed and found wanting. It never persecutes because of honest difference of opinion. It never back-caps or boycotts. It turns a deaf ear to the tongue of scandal and heals the hurts made by the poisoned arrows of hate. "Charity suffereth long and is kind." Its supreme example was given us from the cross: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." Prophecies fail; tongues are forgotten, and knowledge fades like the evening sunlight before the dusky wing of night; but Charity endureth forever. "And now abideth Faith, Hope and Charity, and the greatest of these is Charity."
Faith is founded upon fallible human judgment. A man believes thus and so, not necessarily because it is so, but because his head is built on a particular pattern or has had a peculiar class of phenomena filtered through it. The average human head, like an egg, or a crock of clabber, absorbs the flavor of its surroundings. It is chiefly a question of environment whether we grow up Democrats or Republicans, Protestants or Catholics, Mormons or religious mugwumps. As a man's faith is inherited, or formed for him by circumstances, he deserves little more credit or blame therefor than for the color of his hair or the size of his ears.
Hope is Fancy's child; oft branded as an illegitimate, yet esteemed above and beyond all the royal progeny of the proudest intellect, enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum, the veritable holy-of-holies of the human heart. Hope is not a virtue; it is but a rainbow with which Fancy paints the black o'erhanging firmament, a golden shaft of sunlight with which she gilds Life's rugged mountain peaks,—a melody most divinely sweet with which she cheers the fainting soul of man.
But greater than Faith, grander than Knowledge, brighter than the star of Hope which gilds the cradle and illumes the grave, is Charity, for 'tis the incarnation of heavenly Law, the bright essence increate of eternal Love.
* * * THE SEVEN VIALS OF WRATH. A WORLD-WIDE WAR.
Unless all signs fail, the world is on the eve of a war such as was never known in all the mighty cycles of human history. Lucky indeed will it be if the twentieth century is not born amid the shock of universal battle.
Is our boasted civilization breaking down beneath its own ponderous weight—the rotting props and pillars unable to sustain the gilded roof? Are the prophecies of Scripture about to be fulfilled—the world rushing headlong to the final catastrophe?
A murderous mania hath everywhere seized upon the minds of men. The pulse of the race is beating the reveille; the soul of the world is sounding "boots and saddles." Savagery is reasserting itself—the Christian nations are further than ever before from that age of gold,
"When the war-drum throbs no longer, And the battle-flags are furled In the parliament of man, The federation of the world."
Peace? "There is no peace war is inevitable." The ostrich may avoid seeing the approach of the fierce simoon by hiding his head in the sand, but cannot stay its onward march. The craze for slaughter, the lust for blood, is abroad in the land. The stars are evil, and Ate, ranging hot from Hell, plants her burning feet on every brow.
For years the brute passions of man have had no outlet—a prolonged peace hath become that good custom which doth corrupt the world. A new generation hath arisen in Europe and America which knows naught of the horrors of war, but is intoxicated by its glory. Its superfluous energy must find expression, its pent-up passions are ready for explosion. It is all aweary of these piping times of peace—wildly eager for the glorious pomp and circumstance of war—the bullet's mad hiss and the crash of steel. Civilized man is but an educated savage sooner or later his natural ferocity will demand its pound of flesh.
. . . . . .
I know not whether Deity or Devil be the author of war. All human advancement is born of strife. Only warlike nations march in the van of the world's progress—prolonged peace has ever meant putrefaction. The civilizations of Greece and Rome were brightest when their blades were keenest. When the sword was sheathed there followed social degradation and intellectual decay. When all Europe trembled at the haughty tread of her matchless infantry, Spain was empress in the realm of mind. The Elizabethan age in England was shaped by the sword. America's intellectual preeminence followed the long agony of the Revolution, and blazed like a banner of glory in the wake of the Civil War. The Reign of Terror gave forth flashes of true Promethean fire—the crash of steel in the Napoleonic war studded the heavens with stars. It required an eruption of warlike barbarians to awaken Italy from her lethargy, while Celt and Saxon struck sacred fire from the shields of the intrepid Caesars. The Israelites were humble and civilized slaves in Egypt, cowering beneath the lash and finding a sweet savor in the fleshpots of the Pharaohs. Thrust forth into the wilderness, they became the fiercest of all barbarians before giving us the Psalms of David and the Song of Solomon. They had to become conquering warriors—had to be heroized—before they could breed inspired poets.
The age of "blood offering" has not yet passed. Is it possible that these awful rites are necessary to foster that spirit of self-sacrifice which marks the highest reach of humanity? to feed the golden lamp of love? to inculcate the virtue of valor? Can heroes be forged only with the hammer of Thor? Is genius the child of blood and tears? Are wars the tidal waves in the mighty social sea, ordained by the Deity to prevent putrefaction? Was the Phoenix of the ancients but an old civilization, enervated by luxury and corrupted by peace, that could only be purified of its foul dross and infused with new energy by fire? Was that poet inspired who declared that, "Whatever is, is right?" I do not know.
. . . . . .
The trend of events points to a war that will involve the world—will align the Old against the New. I will be told the idea that Europe will combine against America is sheer madness. Is it even so? Has the time arrived when young men dream idle dreams and old men see lying visions? Scan the European press for six months past, and you will find such an event foreshadowed by the ablest editors and most distinguished diplomats. The probable necessity of such a coalition has been seriously discussed by various European cabinets.
Great Britain is the pariah of nations, feared by most, detested by all. Continental Europe would gladly see her humbled in the very dust. Had war resulted from the Venezuelan complication, England would, in all probability, have been left without allies, albeit the president's ultimatum was not relished by other transatlantic powers. Realizing his inability to cope with the Giant of the Occident, the world's bully stopped blustering and began sniffling about his beloved cousin across the sea and the beatitude of arbitration. The American Congress passed resolutions of sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, and from so slight a spark the Spanish people took fire. Instead of acting as peace-makers, the official organs of most European governments proceeded to fan the flames— encouraged Spain to resent the fancied affront by assuring her that she would not lack powerful allies. There was no recognition by this government of Cuban independence; no recommendation that we wrest the island from the moribund nation that has so long misgoverned it; but a semi-official expression of concern for men striving to achieve their liberty afforded Europe a pretext to "get together" and work off on a distant people that war spirit, so long suppressed at home, lest it disturb the balance of power. The British journals, which had warbled so sweetly anent their American cousins and "the indissoluble bond of Anglo-Saxon brotherhood," when there was a fair prospect that John Bull would have to toe the scratch alone, at once forgot the blessed ties of consanguinity and assured the bombastic Spaniard that he would have "plenty of help should he decide to humble American impudence." The press of France and Germany discoursed in much the same manner, while the diplomats of those countries agreed that "Europe would yet find it necessary to materially modify the Monroe Doctrine." But the Spaniard, believing discretion to be the better part of valor, had apologized for the acts of his undiapered babes and the excesses of his hungry beggars before his neighbors could stiffen his backbone with their ostentatious insolence.
The Monroe Doctrine, literally interpreted, is simply a warning to transatlantic powers to keep off the American grass—an official notice that they will not be permitted to overrun and parcel out this continent regardless of human rights as they have done in Asia and are doing in Africa. The "Doctrine" is ridiculous, in that it establishes a quasi- protectorate over a number of petty powers that have no valid excuse for existing; still it works no injury to any European government not bent on international buccaneering. Uncle Sam's promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine proves him a fool; Europe's frantic objection to it demonstrates that she is a knave.
The Spanish incident served to show that the war spirit is rife throughout Europe, and that her mighty armaments cannot much longer be kept inactive. It proved conclusively that Europe is feverishly eager to set limits to the growing power of this government while such limitation is yet possible—that she cannot view with composure the slightest inclination on the part of America to take a hand in the world's politics. With wealth aggregating seventy-five billions, and as many millions of warlike Americans back of it, the Monroe Doctrine becomes something more than an iridescent dream. When such a nation decides upon "a vigorous foreign policy," the balance of power problem cannot be long confined to the European continent—a fact which explains the pernicious activity of transatlantic governments during our late unpleasantness.
But all the danger of an international complication does not come from across the sea. The war spirit is well-nigh as rife in this country as at Barcelona and Cadiz. The great mass of the American people would welcome a controversy with any country, with or without good cause. "The glory of the young man is in his strength," and Uncle Sam is young and strong. He longs to grapple with his contemporaries, to demonstrate his physical superiority. He has a cypress shingle on either shoulder and is trailing his star-spangled cutaway down the plank turnpike. While a few mugwumps, like Josef Phewlitzer and Apollyon Halicarnassus Below, and tearful Miss Nancys of the Anglo- maniacal school, are protesting that this country wants peace, Congress, that faithful mirror of public opinion, if not always the repository of wisdom, proves that it is eager for war. And just so sure as the Cleveland interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine is insisted upon, we are going to get it, and that before babes now nursing wear beards. And the "Doctrine," as applied by the administration, will not only be insisted upon, but public opinion will force the hands of our public servants and compel them to push it further. The fact that it is distasteful to our transatlantic brethren makes it ridiculously popular with a people determined to burn gunpowder. Aside from the epidemic of murder which seems to have girdled the globe, the spirit of petty jealousy and assumed superiority with which Americans are treated in many European countries, has imbued this people with the idea that the quickest way to win the respect of their supercilious neighbors is to slaughter them. Uncle Sam is in an ugly humor and will suffer no legitimate casus belli to be side-tracked by arbitration. He is "dead tired" of having the European ants get on him—of being harried by petty powers whom he knows full well he could wipe from the map of the world. He is just a little inclined to do the Roman Empire act—to take charge of this planet and run it in accordance with his own good pleasure. Some of these days he's going to drive his box-toed boot under John Bull's coat-tails so far that the impudent old tub of tallow can taste leather all the rest of his life.
We may deplore this spirit of contention, but to deny its existence were to write one's self down an irremediable ass. It is in evidence everywhere, from the American senate to the country clown. To argue against the war spirit were like whistling in the teeth of a north wind. You cannot alter a psychological condition with a made-to-order editorial. It is urged that we should sing small, as we are "not prepared for war." We are always prepared. Hercules did not need a Krupp cannon—he was capable of doing terrible execution with a club. Samson did not wait to forge a Toledo blade—he waltzed into his enemies with an old bone and scattered their shields of iron and helmets of brass to the four winds of Heaven. The mighty armaments of Europe are costly trifles; whenever America has been called to fight she has revolutionized the science of destruction. It hath been said, "In time of peace prepare for war." Europe bankrupts herself to build steel cruisers and maintain gigantic standing armies; America prepares by strengthening her bank account and developing her natural resources. When the crisis comes she has "the sinews of war," and brains and industry quickly do the rest. It was not necessary for Gulliver to sleep in the land of the Lilliputs with a gun at his side.
Vast armies and costly fleets of battleships in time of peace are indication of conscious weakness. The Western Giant goes unarmed; but let the embattled world tread upon his coat-tails if it dares! The American does not have to be educated to soldiership—he's to the manner born. Those who can build are competent to destroy. Our Civil War was fought by volunteers; yet before nor since in all the struggles of mankind were such terrible engines of destruction launched upon land or sea. Never did so many bullets find their billets. Never did men set their breasts against the bayonet with such reckless abandon. Never were the seas incarnadined with such stubborn blood. The "Charge of the Six Hundred" was repeated a thousand times. The Pass of Thermopylae was emulated by plowboys. The Macedonian Phalanx was as nothing to the Rock of Chickamauga. The Bridge of Lodi was duplicated at every stream. The spirit of the Old Guard animated raw recruits. The Retreat of the Ten Thousand became but a holiday excursion. Sailors fought their guns below the water line and went down with flying colors and ringing cheers.
We have been more than once dangerously near a rupture with European powers because of the ridiculous Monroe Doctrine, which assumes for Uncle Sam a quasi- protectorate over a horde of Latin-American oligarchies masquerading as Republics. We have now been fairly warned that should such a catastrophe occur, we would have to contend with more than one European power. We must either recede from the position we have assumed or prepare to do battle for the very existence of this government. Such a war would draw all nations of the earth into the bloody vortex. If Russia held aloof from the anti-American coalition, she would seize the opportunity to push her fortunes in the Orient, making a collision with the Moslem inevitable. At such a time the latter would be intent upon the extension of territory. Occupy Western Europe with an American war, and the Mohammedan would rise against their oppressors. Unfurl the sacred banner of the Prophet, and millions of murderous fanatics would erase the raids of Goth and Visigoth from the memory of mankind. Turkey, jeered at even by Spain, flouted even by Italy , yet potentially the most powerful nation for evil upon the earth, would spread as by magic over Roumania and Austro-Hungary, and pour through the Alpine passes like a torrent of fire upon Germany and France. Back of the much contemned "Sick Man of the East"—whom combined Christendom has failed to frighten—are nearly two hundred million people, scattered from the Pillars of Hercules to the Yellow Sea, all eager to conquer the earth for Islam. They are warriors to a man; their only fear is that they will not find death while battling with "the infidel dog" and be translated bodily to the realm of bliss. Within the memory of living men Christian nations have turned their eyes with fear and trembling to the Bosphorus. Islam is the political Vesuvius of Europe, and is once again casting its lurid light athwart the troubled sky. For years the Moslem has been robbed without mercy and persecuted without remorse. The bayonet has been held at his throat while strangers reviled his religion. It is no part of his creed to love his enemies and pray for those who despitefully use him. The Koran does not adjure him to turn the other cheek to the smiter. He has nursed his wrath to keep it warm, and prayed for an opportunity to wreak barbaric vengeance upon his oppressors. When Christian Europe marches forth to do battle with America she will need to wear armor upon her back as well as upon her breast, for while terror stalks before, Hell will lurk behind.
* * * A STORY OF THE SEA.
There have been mortals, favorites of the gods, to whom it was given to understand the language of the lower animals, and such I have ever envied, for
"Beast and bird have seen and heard That which man knoweth not."
Never could I get beyond an imperfect knowledge of their alphabet, enabling me to spell out here and there a word of little meaning; but the great ocean's never-ceasing speech was ever plain to me, and many a midnight hour I have paced the cool sands that girt my island home, and listened with reverential awe to the secrets it whispered to the sensuous southern breeze that kissed its bosom—strange stories of wreck and wraith, wild wars and desperate deeds, mingled with those of love and honor, shame and sacrifice, crowding upon each other like spectres in a dream.
One night when the new moon hung like a silver crescent pendent from Venus' flaming orb, in a summer sky thick inlaid with patines of pure gold, I heard the lazy waves breaking like slumb'rous thunder upon the long, low beach, and said, "The sea is calling me!" and I went. Far out upon the long pier, where the waves could dash their spray like a shower of cool pearls in my face, I lingered long and listened to a story, sad and strange as a sweet-voiced woman telling in a foreign tongue, and punctuating with tears and sighs, a tale of true love turned awry.
Upon the beach they walked in days that seem to man long, long ago. How brief and strange the little lives of men, and so beset with customs framed to cramp the heart and curse the soul before its time! To me,—here since Time began to build that bridge of sighs and tears that link the two eternities—it seems but yesternight that, hand in hand they wandered here, so wrapt in happiness born of equal love that they heeded not my glories spread forth to tempt their praise. I curled my snowy spray about their feet; flashed back the silver beams of harvest moon in one long, shimmering sheet of mellow light; rolled waves of brilliant phosphorescence, that seemed like silver billows, diamond-studded, breaking on a beach of gold, and sang the sweetest odes of the poets of ten thousand years; but they heard nor saw aught but the beating of their hearts in holy rhythm and the love-light flaming like fires celestial in each other's eyes.
Anon, bare-armed, bare-limbed, shamed yet happy, they sought the wave, and I cradled them on my bosom and heard them whisper of laws defied and cruel customs set at naught, and the higher law of love; but fearful she spoke and sighed, yet clung the closer to him, as though the earth and sea contained hut one perfect model of a man and that were he.
Hour by hour they hovered near me, and a thousand times she swore to him that their lives were so entwined that separation were death to her, and kissed his lips, his eyes, his hands, and wished she were his wife that they might blazon to the great round world the love they fain would hide from Heaven.
One little year went by and they came again, not walking hand in hand. He spoke to her and she answered with bitter scorn. He touched with trembling lips upon the old days when love was lord of their two lives, but she mocked at love and him and bade him leave her. Then he that was wont to rule first learned to sue, and vainly, for her heart was cold as the ashes of long-forgotten kings, cruel as wintry winds blown across icy northern seas. "It is a guilty love," she said, and he looked at her as if doubting that he heard, then turned and went like one that dreamed; for thought of wrong to her had dwelt not with him; he had but worshiped her as devout Sabaean might the sun and host of Heaven.
Again he came, but he was all alone. Long and lonely he paced the dreary beach beneath a wintry sky, until the cold mists seemed changed to mellow light, the stormy sky to one of summer, gemmed by myriad stars and queened by harvest moon; the cool wind sweeping o'er the barren waste to music and the merry laughter of men and maids; and she was by his side, her love-lit eyes making the blood dance through every vein. He put forth his hand to her, but the sky changed from gold to lead, the driftweed blew about his feet, the cold mist settled down upon him and crept with icy fingers into his heart, and he cursed the lying vision, the shrieking wind, the cold mist and the leaden sky; cursed the day that he first saw her, and said to the waves that tumbled at his feet: "I must be mad. The curse of my race hath fallen upon me; else why do I see that which is not, hear voices that are far away? Why do I cherish the image of a fickle woman, who, swept along by a gust of passion or sickly sentiment, thought for a day she loved me, but did not, nor ever loved aught in life but her own selfish self?"
And he called her name to the wind and waves but coupled with it a curse, deep and bitter, as those that burst in sulphur-breath from the parched lips of the damned; and a voice came back from out the gloom that seemed to mock him. Furious as a demon disturbed at some hellish rite, he turned and shrieked to the mocking voice and bade it come to him that he might wreak upon its owner such vengeance as would appall the world.
The far lights shone like pale ghosts of lights through the driving mist, and in them loomed two weird forms that seemed an hundred cubits high. Furious he rushed upon and smote them down upon the wet sand and trampled them, and strove with feet and hands to kill; but they cried out for mercy on their lives,—that they were honest fishermen who, hearing a cry but faintly above the roaring waves, had answered it, thinking some boatman might have met mishap and called for aid. The flood of anger spent in blows, he helped them up, wiped the blood and sand from their bronzed faces, gave them his scant purse, and bidding them drink a bumper that hell-fiends might drag him from the world before the morn sent them on their way.
The gray dawn found him sleeping with his face upon the wet sand, once trodden by the feet that now trampled on his heart. Then I sent waves, cool and sweet, to kiss his cheek, and he awoke, and waking, said:
"Kisses for me? They are cold, great Mother Ocean; but not so cold as love burned out, leaving but the bitter ashes of contemptuous pity. I dreamed that I was afloat upon thy bosom with her I did so dearly love, and thou wast bearing us beneath a sunset sky to a fair island, fringed with palms and musical with songs of birds and rippling springs, where we two should live forever; that as we floated thus Love's goddess descended from a golden cloud and opening the white bosom of my bride, yet not my bride, took thence her heart and pressed from it a black drop that fell upon the molten sea, and taking form became a hideous monster that cried, 'My name is Selfishness,' and vanished in the wave. Then breathing upon the cold heart ethereal flame that made it throb like a hero's pulse when trumpets are blown for war, she replaced it, healed the snowy globe with a touch, and, smiling upon me, was caught into the golden cloud that seemed framed of music and the perfume of a thousand flowers. A round arm stole about my neck and we floated heart to heart on to the haven that was to be our Heaven.
"A curse upon your briny waters that seem a world of bitter tears, rank with dead men's bones and the rotting hulls of ships! They have called me back to thy dreary, ever- moaning verge to mock myself for loving one who scorns; for wasting my hot heart upon a block of frozen stone, hoping by foolish prayers and unmanly tears to move the gods to breathe into it the breath of human life,—to prevail, even as did that old Greek, who became enamored of a statue, less divinely formed, but with the self-same heart.
"'Tis madness leads me to this folly,—the old, old curse that hath hung about our house, like a baleful shadow, for thrice a hundred years, bursting at times into bloody feuds without apparent cause, and dreadful mutinies against the laws of man and will of God. 'Tis vain to further fight with fate! 'Twill drag me down, even as it did my great-grandsire, who climbed fame's dizzy heights and stood, poised in mid- Heaven, the master mind of Britain's mighty world; then, like a tall mountain pine blasted at the top by the writhen bolts of God, plunged, a falling star, to the depths of everlasting darkness, and died a decade before his death. Nor iron will descended through my sire from a score of barbarous kings; nor mother's prayerful amulets, woven like golden threads through every low, sweet lullaby that soothed my infancy, can avail me aught. I can but fight and fall. She might have helped me beat back the shadows; but would not—and 'tis well."
Then taking from a case a withered rose, he kissed it, cast it far out upon the wave, watched it dance there, and said with a bitter smile: