תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

III.

“No, doctor, no ! Touched with compassion sudden and supreme, Roger perchance may be a prisoner yonder, I stooped, to offer him a helping hand ; Hurt, ill. If he such tending should require But, with choked voice, 'It is too late,' he said. As does this officer, I would he had

'I must needs die. . . . You are an officer A German woman for his nurse."

A gentleman perchance.' 'Yes; tell me, quick;

“So be it," What can I for you?' 'Promise-only promise Answered the doctor, offering her his hand. To forward this,' he said, his fingers clutching “ You will keep watch, then, through the night. A gold medallion hanging at his breast, The fever

Dabbled in blood, to- Then his latest thought Must not take hold, or he will straightway die. Passed with his latest breath. The loved one's Give him the potion four times every hour.

name, I will return to judge of its effects

Mistress or bride affianced, was not told
At daylight.” Then he went his way, and left By that poor Frenchman. Seeing blazoned arms
Irene to her office self-imposed.

On the medallion, I took charge of it,
Hoping to trace her at some future day

Among the old nobility of France,
Scarcely a minute had she been in charge, To whom reverts the dying soldier's gift.
When the Bavarian, to Irene turning,

Here it is. Take it. But, I pray you, swear With eye half opened looked at her and spoke. That, if death spares me not, you will fulfill “This doctor,” said he, “thought I was asleep: This pious duty in my place." But I heard every word. I thank you, lady;

Therewith I thank you from my very inmost heart

He the medallion handed her; and on it Less for myself than for her sake, to whom Irene saw the Viscount's blazoned arms. You would restore me, and who there at home Then her heart agonized with mortal woeAwaits me.”

“I swear it, sir!” she murmured. “Sleep in “Hush !" she said. “Sleep if you can. peace !" Do not excite yourself. Your life depends On perfect quiet.

iv. “No," he answered—“no! Solaced by having this disclosure made, I must at once unload me of a secret

The wounded man sank down in sleep. Irene, That weighs upon me. I a promise made; Her bosom heaving, and with eyes aflame And I would keep it. Death may be at hand." Though tearless all, stood rooted by his side.

Yes, he is dead, her lover! Those his arms; “Speak, then," Irene said, " and ease your soul.”

His blazon that, no less renowned than ancient ; “The war .... oh, what an infamy is war!

The very blood-stains his! Nor was his death It was last month, by Metz; 'twas my ill fate

Heroic, soldier-like. Struck from behind, To kill a Frenchman.”

Without or cry or call for comrades' help, She turned pale, and lowered Roger was murdered. And there, sleeping, lies The lamp-light to conceal it. He continued :

The man who murdered him! Yes; he has

boasted “We were sent forward to surprise a cottage How in the back the traitorous blow was dealt. Strengthened and held by some of yours. We did And now he sleeps with drowsiness oppressed, As hunters do when stalking game. The night Roger's assassin; and 'twas she, Irene, Was clouded. Silent, arms in hand, in force, Who bade him sleep in peace! And then, again, Along the poplar-bordered path we crept With what cruel mockery, cruel and supremeUp to the French post. I, first, drove my saber She from this brow must wipe away the sweat! Into the soldier's back who sentry stood

She by this couch must watch till dawn of day,
Before the door. He fell; nor gave the alarm. As loving mother by a suffering child !
We took the cottage, putting to the sword She must at briefest intervals to him
Every soul there."

Administer the remedy prescribed,
Irene with her hands

So that he die not! And the man himself
Covered her eyes.

Counting on this in quiet, sheltered, housed “Disgusted with such carnage, Under the roof of hospitality! Loathing such scene, I stepped into the air. And there the flask upon the table stands Just then the moon broke through the clouds and Charged with his life. He waits it! Is not this showed me

Beyond imagination horrible ? There at my feet a soldier on the ground Writhing, the rattle in his throat. 'Twas he, What! while she feels creeping and growing The sentry whom my saber had transpierced.

on her

save

passed

All that is awful in the one word “hate"!

Up toward the antique Christ in ivory While in her breast the ominous anger seethes At the bed's head suspended on the wall That nerved, in Holy Scripture, Jael's arm Irene raised the martyr's look sublime; To drive the nail through Sisera's head she Then, ashen pale, but ever with her eyes

Turned to the God of Calvary, poured out The accursèd German! Oh, away! such point The soothing draught, and with a delicate hand Forbearance reaches not. What !--while it glit- Gave to the wounded man the drink he asked.

ters There in the corner, the brass-pommeled sword Thou, Lord, and thou alone, didst see what Wherewith the murderer struck, and fell de

Beside that couch in those funereal hours. sire, Fierce impulse, bids it from the scabbard leap

When in that gloom the Evil Spirit spoke, Shall she, in deference to vague prejudice,

Thou, who by Satan to the desert led To some fantastic notion that affects

Couldst only at the last find strength to say, Human respect and duty, shall she put

“Get thee behind me!” thou, O Lord ! didst Repose and sleep and antidote and life

pardon Into the horrible hand by which all joy

That tempted soul. And when she bowed her Is ravished from her? Never! She will break

head The assuaging flask. . . . But no! 'Twere need

Before the final anguish, thou alone

Wert witness, and alone thou didst approve. less that. She needs but leave Fate to work out its end.

Remembering then that on the Mount of Olives Fate, to avenge her, seems to be at one

Thou didst recoil from thy impending doom, With her resolve. 'Twere but to let him die !

And meekly pray, “O Father, let this cup Yes; there the life-preserving potion stands ;

Pass from me!” thou with pity didst behold But for one hour might she not fall asleep?

That heart too sorely smitten. Who can doubt,

Lord, that thy blessing was on her vouchsafed ? Then, all in tears, she murmured, “ Infamy!"

But when the doctor in the morning came, And still the struggle lasted, till the German, And saw her still beside the officer, Roused by her deep groans from his wandering Tending him still and giving him his drink dreams,

With trembling fingers, he was much amazed. Moved, ill at ease, and, feverish, begged for drink. Irene had white hair!

THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.

I WAS born to travel and to make verses,” lettre de change that bankers can not be found

sighed Théophile Gautier, thinking of the to honor, and with which one does not get far number of columns in a daily newspaper which upon one's travels in these degenerate days, when he was bound to fill up somehow or other, for troubadours are at a mournful discount, and when the sad consideration of so many centimes a line even Geoffrey Rudel might bawl himself hoarse -a moral slavery more galling than the whip without getting so much as a supper of bread and the chain of the debased South African. and cheese, if his purse were minus a silver For the indignant journalist, who had to hatch lining! up improbabilities, scurrilities, and rubbish of The Fates, however, were more propitious to any kind to furnish "copy" for a penny periodi- this poet pining for the sandal-shoon and the cal, and expend his time and his brain-power on cockle-shell of the roving pilgrim than to many something which brought him neither fame nor others of his gifted brotherhood, who seldom obfortune, but simply a dinner and a lodging, was a tain what they most sigh for until the desire of it poet of rare genius. And, like all poets, he loved has passed away, and its possession can no lonhis ease and the ever-changeful aspect of nature, ger bring the happiness it might have done had and burned to behold the fabled marvels of far- it come when it was wanted. Théophile Gautier off lands. And, like all poets again, or at least a not only found leisure by and by to make the great many of them, he had fewer bank-notes verses for whose especial fabrication he was first than illusions—which are unfortunately a kind of introduced into an unromantic world (and what charming verses they are every man of taste and of simple good-nature, which is quite captivating culture is ready to attest), but he wandered north, —that being both grandiose and affable, he does south, east, and west, with no more irksome not disdain to pass the time of day either with guide than his own erratic fancy; wrote delight- blouse or cotton bonnetthat he stands and stares ful gossiping books about his travels ; worked at the shop-fronts with a manifest curiosity and very hard occasionally, and occasionally did not enjoyment, as though he were some overgrown work at all-in fact, had things generally very baby, and you have the portrait of Théophile much his own way, like the spoiled creature Gautier, the cherished “ Theo ” of Balzac, the that he was. A devoted worshiper of beauty, intimate friend of Delphine Gay and Delacroix whether animate or inanimate, he was free to and Louis Boulanger, and a host of other great follow the undulations of a mantilla or the fut- names, the disciple and the contemporary of terings of a fan, as the graceful madrileña glided Victor Hugo. by him on the Prada, a poem in petticoats. The At Tarbes, the old druidical city, and the red rose of tradition nestling in her lustrous birthplace of the conventionnel Barrère, Théotresses, the warm southern blood petulant in her phile Gautier first saw the light in 1808. He clear, dark cheek, love lying in ambush under the came to Paris with his family when very young, heavy fringes of her long, curved eyelids, or to and completed his studies at the Collége Charlewhile away a summer's afternoon in that dreamy magne, where he had for companion and bosom old Italian palace where “stands the statue which friend the ill-starred Gérard de Nerval-one of enchants the world.” The Nevsky Prospect, the the most elegant writers that ever held a pen; snow, the sledges, the comfortable caftans, the one of the most wretched beings that ever drew stupid, high-booted moujiks, were as familiar to the breath of life. him as the Bay of Naples and the red-bonneted Like Honoré de Balzac, Master Théophile was lazzaroni, and the donkeys laden with peaches an idle, good-for-nothing scholar, always at the and pomegranates, and melons as big as cart- bottom of the class; always being sneered and wheels. He had floated as often in a gondola or sniggered at by the good little dull boys who had felucca or caique as in a Seine steamboat, and got their lessons by heart; always making the this is saying a great deal of a Parisian, who is professor's hair stand on end by his blunders and perhaps the most untraveled individual in the his fearfully false quantities. He was in very universe—it may be for the very good reason truth a deplorable scapegrace, who hated Hothat, having perfection at home, he has no need mer and Virgil and Cicero with a malignant to go abroad and look for it elsewhere.

hatred, and would have jumped for joy if he M. Théophile Gautier, art-critic, romancist, could have made a bonfire of every classical voland poet-cosmopolitan, was the very last person ume that was ever printed. And no doubt he under the sun whom you would have accused of would have witnessed the auto da with as being a petted child of the Muses, had you met much holy delight as Torquemada took in watchhim accidentally some sunny afternoon taking ing the flames curl and crackle about the mishis walks abroad upon the boulevards. If your erable heretics whose bodies he burned for the . cicerone had told you that the queer figure, rec- good of their souls. ognized by some, stared after with blank aston- When Gautier finally quitted the unloved ishment by others, saluted everywhere by smiles groves of Acadême, and bade adieu for ever to either of derision or kindliness, according as the the cane and the class-room, he took to dreampasser-by happened to be a stranger or a friend, ing away his days in the public museums and was that of a great poet, a great writer, a subtile picture-galleries. There, motionless for hours appreciator of art, and a man destined to immor- before this chef-d'æuvre of painting, or that tality, you would have been as much surprised marvel of sculpture, his innate love of beautyas your good-breeding would have permitted you the sensuous beauty of form and color-insensito be.

bly grew from an untutored instinct into a veriImagine to yourself a tall, massively framed table passion. All the ideas, dreams, desires, individual, who treads the asphalte with appalling aspirations of the young man narrowed themcomposure, attired in yellow leather slippers and selves into one groove—a frenzied adoration of a black velvet waistcoat ; his long, dark hair the beautiful : good, evil, vice, virtue, religion, waving over his shoulders down to his waist, like impiety—these were comprised in, and extenuCharlemagne or a pet of the ballet ; his bare ated by, the possession of a perfect outward and head shaded by a broad umbrella, and this at the visible shape, a perfection which was material most fashionable hour of the day, on the most and palpable, which could be seen and touched. fashionable promenade of Europe ! Imagine to He recognized neither the beauty of mind nor the yourself, also, that this singular personage has a beauty of soul nor the comeliness of chastity. magnificent head, a majestic presence, and an air These were abstract things, which could not be

touched or beheld, and might therefore be said have turned their backs on him. Soit. It reto be non-existent Corporeal loveliness, and mains to knock at the door of the “Belles-Letthat alone, was the mother of all the virtues, and tres," and see what sort of reception awaits him Venus was a greater saint than Veronica. The there, smiling, seductive Aphrodite, flaxen-haired, ver- Now the pen takes the place of the pencil; milion-lipped, prone in a pearly sea-shell, sur- incessant study of the old French classical writrounded by adoring amorini, was more than St. ers the place of dreamy communion with the Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins, missals shade of a Phidias or a Guercino. Dictionaries and all—the sweet, serious brow and the volup- multiply upon his book-shelves, for, animated by tuous waving lip of a Greek Antinous were worth the example of Victor Hugo, the unfledged litall the good actions and the noble deeds that had térateur seeks to create a style of his own. ever been achieved since the days of the “bon With this object he rescues from oblivion all the roi Dagobert."

obsolete words he can hit upon, drags them up The boyish enthusiast burned with an ever- into the light of day, and rehabilitates them, as increasing ardor to give his sublime visions of it were. He fills his vocabulary with hundreds beauty a concrete form. Stimulated by the ex- of quaint bizarre expressions, which, manipuample of the great old masters, whose works helated with peculiar skill, give an original, unhackmight be said to have lived upon, men who in neyed turn to his outpoured thoughts. He writes their day must have dreamed dreams akin to his, poetry after a while, and pleases himself so well and been visited in the watches of the night by that he determines to emerge from his shell, and shapes as beautiful and as indistinct-he, too, see what success he has in pleasing other people. resolved to become a painter. It was high time So this young effronté, with all the audacity to choose a profession, if he ever meant to have of his twenty years, knocks at the door of no one. Other youths might make themselves doc- less sanctified a study than that of the great tors, lawyers, soldiers, bankers, what-not ; but Sainte-Beuve, the prince of critics, both past, Théophile Gautier has made up his mind to be present, and to come. an artist !

Hat in hand, Monsieur Théophile Gautier Ardent, impetuous, hopeful, this embryo Ra- begs leave to introduce himself to the notice of phael enters the studio of Rioult with the airs of Monsieur de Sainte-Beuve, and craves permission a conqueror. But, alas! once there, he is not to read him a little manuscript poem entitled long in finding out that to dream you are an art- “La Tête de Mort.” ist and to prove yourself one are two very dif- “Oh, oh," murmurs the illustrious presence, ferent things. Monsieur Théophile is forced to "a very somber title! N'importe. Let us hear allow that the mere knowledge of blue and yel- it!" and the kindly listener settles down in his low making green when mixed together is hardly easy-chair, keenly regarding the young lion with sufficient to qualify for the “ Prix de Rome," or his long, tawny mane and intelligent, dark eyes,

give any serious uneasiness to Horace Vernet. summing up the total of that strong, satyr-like • The visions of bewildering beauty that glided physiognomy, favorably impressed by it, doubt

before his mind's eye come out anything but less, as all were. visions of bewildering beauty when they have At the third strophe the critic makes a gespassed by a hog's-hair brush and a tube of oil- ture of arrestation. paint. Disgusted with the difficulties which lie “Who has been your model ?” he asks. “It before him, too eager and too impatient to con- is not by studying Lamartine that you have writtemplate sacrificing years to mastering the rudi- ten such verses." Lamartine was to the young ments of his profession, he throws away the French rhymers what Byron was to the English. mahl-stick, and turns the canvas with its face to “You must have read Clément, Marat, Saintthe wall. In despair he owns to himself that Gelais, and Ronsard." many a better painter than he can ever hope to “Yes," replies the poet roundly, “and if you be is glad to copy pictures in the Louvre for forty have no objection you may add Baïf, Desportes, francs a square yard. Those first moments of Passerat, Bertaut, Duperron, and Malherbe !" anger at his own incapacity must have been very Sainte-Beuve is interested, and a little amused. humiliating and painful to this ardent spirit. “The whole constellation !” he exclaims. “Mar

But after a while he bethinks himself that velous young man! You are keeping up the old there is more than one road to Rome. To fail traditions ! I understand now why the hemistich in art may be to succeed in literature. It does is so clear, the turn so exact, the rhyme so smooth not follow as a matter of course that a bad and so perfect. Conclude, I beg you." draughtsman must be a witless writer. He feels When the “ Tête de Mort” is finished, Saintethat there is something within him which must Beuve rises from his easy-chair (one must recome out, no matter how. The “ Beauty Arts” member he is a Frenchman even before he is a

VOL. VIII.-16

great personage), embraces the young poet, and was hustled and jostled into one of the principal cries out rapturously :

salons by a gang of his indignant lodgers. “Excellent ! Very good! Courage—this is “See," they cried, pointing to the old wooden true poetry! I have found a man who carves in panels which were freshly covered with superb granite, and not in smoke. To-morrow I shall paintings by one of the wild fraternity—“see present you to Victor Hugo !”

these frescoes! Some day they will make your Happy Théophile! At that moment he must fortune. It is you who owe us money!” And have been the proudest man in France. What the poor man, amazed at the beauty of the picjoyous emotions must have overwhelmed his anx- tures, retired without further ado, murmuring as ious heart! How his hands must have trembled he went, “ It is just !” And thenceforward the as he returned the precious manuscript to his landlord was as a legend in the alley of Doyenné, breast-pocket! How difficult it must perhaps for he came back no more, whereat the Bohemihave been to keep the tears back! Somehow ans rejoiced exceedingly. this little anecdote about Monsieur de Sainte- It is during the time that he occupies two litBeuve fills us with respectful love and admira- tle closets of rooms in this select mansion that tion for his character. Greatness and generosity Théophile Gautier writes “Mademoiselle de are not so often found hand-in-hand as one might Maupin.” The success of this work is prodiimagine them to be.

gious and immediate, falling, as it does, like Théophile Gautier's first book of poems ap- a thunderbolt in the midst of Parisian society. peared without any great éclat. It had the mis- Everybody is shocked, in consternation, scandalfortune to make its début when all Paris was ized-enchanted. The preface is about the most convulsed by grave political events, and men audacious déclaration de foi that ever issued thought more of priming a musket than com- from the press. The book itself is an olla pomenting upon a felicitous dithyramb. So the drida of all the seven capital crimes mixed up applause with which it was hailed was drowned together, and spiced by a cynical profligacy, in the thunder of cannon and the rattle of the rifle, compared to which the experiences of the Emand the poet remained comparatively unknown. peror Nero were but those of a lisping babe

In 1835 (the poet by this time is nearly the whole impressed with the stamp of an extwenty-seven years old) we find him living in the quisite genius, and written in such an incomimpasse of the Doyenné, in a house which has parably enchanting manner that it is next to imnow ceased altogether to exist. Ah, that ever- possible to prevent one's self being beguiled by the to-be-remembered house in the blind alley of charm of the magician, and applauding à chaudes the Doyenné, with its harum-scarum, devil-may- mains where one should turn aside with a cry of care lodgers, who were at once the terror and indignation. The public who judges this rethe admiration of the quartier ! Never were markable romance is a French public and a there so many choice spirits brought together French public pardons everything in a man exunder one roof, since the days of “ Little Alsa- cepting stupidity—so Monsieur Théophile Gautia," and the merry masquerades of his graceless tier, who is not only not stupid, but a creature of Majesty, Charles Stuart! It was Bohemia in most rare gifts, wakes up one fine morning and miniature-swarming from loft to cellar with finds, like Lord Byron, that he has become faembryonic poets, painters, musicians, sculptors, mous. authors, and other lawless profligates. There Soon after the publication of “Mademoiselle was Edouard Ourliac and Arsène Houssaye, de Maupin " a young and elegant stranger makes Camille Rogier and Murilhat, Camille Roque- his appearance in the territory of Bohemia. It plan and Célestin Nanteuil, Laurent Jan and is Jules Sandeau, the sprightly cher ami of Gérard de Nerval-all young, enthusiastic, with Georges Sand, who comes as an emissary from unlimited confidence in the golden future, hard- Monsieur de Balzac to retain the new writer for working-utterly reckless! What jovial scenes “La Chronique de Paris." The great author, must the old walls of that rickety tenement have now in the brilliant morning of his fame, has been a witness to! With what boisterous peals read with delight the work of Monsieur Gautier, of laughter they must have reéchoed! To what whose acquaintance he desires to make, and vows of eternal brotherly love must they have whom he begs will breakfast with him-Rue listened unmoved! To what prodigalities of Cassini, près l'Observatoire. wit! To what outbreaks of cynical wisdom M. Gautier is a little nervous about this first from smooth lips upon which the down had not visit to so distinguished a host. He remembers yet come! The landlord, honest soul, dared not Heine and his interview with Goethe, and how set foot in this pandemonium to collect his rents. the sweet song-writer could find nothing more Once, and once only, he had the indelicacy to interesting to say than that “the pears fallen appear in the impasse, receipt in hand-when he down on the road between Jena and Weimar are

« הקודםהמשך »