Sunday afternoon. Well-dressed ladies and gentlemen are drinking coffee on the verandah. Several of the guests appear through the open glass door in the garden-room; the following song is heard from within.
Welcome, welcome, new plighted pair
To the merry ranks of the plighted!
Now you may revel as free as air,
Caress without stint and kiss without care,—
No longer of footfall affrighted.
Now you are licensed, wherever you go,
To the rapture of cooing and billing;
Now you have leisure love’s seed to sow,
Water, and tend it, and make it grow;—
Let us see you’ve a talent for tilling!
Miss Jay [within].
Ah Lind, if I only had chanced to hear,
I would have teased you!
A Lady [within].
How vexatious though!
Another Lady [in the doorway].
Dear Anna, did he ask in writing?
A Lady [on the verandah].
How long has it been secret, dear?
[Runs into the room.
To-morrow there will be the ring to choose.
We’ll take his measure!
Nay; that she must do.
Mrs. Strawman [on the verandah, to a lady who is busy with embroidery].
What kind of knitting-needles do you use?
A Servant [in the door with a coffee-pot].
More coffee, madam?
Thanks, a drop or two.
Miss Jay [to Anna].
How fortunate you’ve got your new manteau
Next week to go your round of visits in!
An Elderly Lady [at the window].
When shall we go and order the trousseau?
How are they selling cotton-bombasine?
A Gentleman [to some ladies on the verandah].
Just look at Lind and Anna; what’s his sport?
Ladies [with shrill ecstasy].
Gracious, he kissed her glove!
Others [similarly, springing up].
No! Kiss’d it? Really?
Lind [appears, red and embarrassed, in the doorway].
O, stuff and nonsense!
Yes, I saw it clearly.
[in the door, with a coffee-cup in one hand and a biscuit in the other].
The witnesses must not mislead the court;
I here make affidavit, they’re in error.
Miss Jay [within].
Come forward, Anna; stand before this mirror!
Some Ladies [calling].
You, too, Lind!
Back to back! A little nearer!
Come, let us see by how much she is short.
[All run into the garden-room; laughter and shrill talk are heard for a while from within.
[Falk, who during the preceding scene has been walking about in the garden, advances into the foreground, stops and looks in until the noise has somewhat abated.
There love’s romance is being done to death.—
The butcher once who boggled at the slaughter,
Prolonging needlessly the ox’s breath,—
He got his twenty days of bread and water;
But these—these butchers yonder—they go
free. [Clenches his fist.
I could be tempted—; hold, words have no worth,
I’ve sworn it, action only from henceforth!
Lind [coming hastily but cautiously out].
Thank God, they’re talking fashions; now’s my chance
To slip away—
Ha, Lind, you’ve drawn the prize
Of luck,—-congratulations buzz and dance
All day about you, like a swarm of flies.
They’re all at heart so kindly and so nice;
But rather fewer clients would suffice.
Their helping hands begin to gall and fret me;
I’ll get a moment’s respite, if they’ll let me.
[Going out to the right.
Our den;—it has a lock;
In case you find the oak is sported, knock.
But shall I not fetch Anna to you?
If she wants anything, she’ll let me know.
Last night we were discussing until late;
We’ve settled almost everything of weight;
Besides I think it scarcely goes with piety
To have too much of one’s beloved’s society.
Yes, you are right; for daily food we need
A simple diet.
Pray excuse me, friend.
I want a whiff of reason and the weed;
I haven’t smoked for three whole days on end.
My blood was pulsing in such agitation,
I trembled for rejection all the time—
Yes, you may well desire recuperation—
And won’t tobacco’s flavour be sublime!
[Goes out to the right. Miss Jay and some other Ladies come out of the garden-room.
Miss Jay [to Falk].
That was he surely?
Yes, your hunted deer.
To run away from us!
For shame! For shame!
’Tis a bit shy at present, but, no fear,
A week of servitude will make him tame.
Miss Jay [looking round].
Where is he hid?
His present hiding-place
Is in the garden loft, our common lair;
But let me beg you not to seek him there;
Give him a breathing time!
Well, good: the grace
Will not be long, tho’.
Nay, be generous!
Ten minutes,—then begin the game again.
He has an English sermon on the brain.
O you laugh! You’re fooling us!
I’m in grim earnest. ’Tis his fixed intention
To take a charge among the emigrants,
Miss Jay [with horror].
Heavens, he had the face to mention
That mad idea?
[To the ladies.
O quick—fetch all the aunts!
Anna, her mother, Mrs. Strawman too.
This must be stopped!
We’ll make a great ado!
Thank God, they’re coming.
[To Anna, who comes from the garden-room with Strawman, his wife and children, Stiver, Guldstad, Mrs. Halm and the other guests.
Do you know what Lind
Has secretly determined in his mind?
To go as missionary—
Yes, I know.
And you’ve agreed—!
That I will also go.
Miss Jay [indignant].
He’s talked this stuff to you!
Ladies [clasping their hands together].
But think, his Call that would not be denied—!
Tut, that’s what people follow when they’re free:
A bridegroom follows nothing but his bride.—
No, my sweet Anna, ponder, I entreat:
You, reared in comfort from your earliest breath—?
Yet, sure, to suffer for the faith is sweet!
Is one to suffer for one’s bridegroom’s faith?
That is a rather novel point of view.
[To the ladies.
[Takes Anna’s arm.
Now listen; then repeat
For his instruction what he has to do.
[They go into the background and out to the right in eager talk with several of the ladies; the other guests disperse in groups about the garden. Falk stops Strawman, whose wife and children keep close to him. Guldstad goes to and fro during the following conversation.
Come, pastor, help young fervour in its fight,
Before they lure Miss Anna from her vows.
Strawman [in clerical cadence].
The wife must be submissive to the spouse;—
But if I apprehended him aright,
His Call’s a problematical affair,
The Offering altogether in the air—
Pray do not judge so rashly. I can give
You absolute assurance, as I live,
His Call is definite and incontestable—
Strawman [seeing it in a new light].
Ah—if there’s something fixed—investable—
Per annum—then I’ve nothing more to say.
You think the most of what I count the least;
I mean the inspiration,—not the pay!
Strawman [with an unctuous smile].
Pay is the first condition of a priest
In Asia, Africa, America,
Or where you will. Ah yes, if he were free,
My dear young friend, I willingly agree,
The thing might pass; but, being pledged and bound,
He’ll scarcely find the venture very sound.
Reflect, he’s young and vigorous, sure to found
A little family in time; assume his will
To be the very best on earth—but still
The means, my friend—? ‘Build not upon the sand,’
Says Scripture. If, upon the other hand,
That’s no trifle, I’m aware.
Ah, come—that wholly alters the affair.
When men are zealous in their Offering,
There he far surpasses most.
“He” say you? How? In virtue of his post
The Offering is not what he has to bring
But what he has to get.
Mrs. Strawman [looking towards the background].
They’re sitting there.
Falk [after staring a moment in amazement, suddenly understands and bursts out laughing].
Hurrah for Offerings—the ones that caper
And strut—on Holy-days—in bulging paper!
All the year round the curb and bit we bear,
But Whitsuntide and Christmas make things square.
Why then, provided only there’s enough of it,
Even family-founders will obey their Calls.
Of course; a man assured the quantum suff of it
Will preach the Gospel to the cannibals.
Now I must see if she cannot be led,
[To one of the little girls.
My little Mattie, fetch me out my head—
My pipe-head I should say, my little dear—
[Feels in his coat-tail pocket.
Nay, wait a moment tho’: I have it here.
[Goes across and fills his pipe, followed by his wife and children.
You seem to play the part of serpent in
This paradise of lovers.
O, the pips
Upon the tree of knowledge are too green
To be a lure for anybody’s lips.
[To Lind, who comes in from the right.
In heaven’s name, who’s been ravaging
Our sanctum? There the lamp lies dashed
To pieces, curtain dragged to floor, pen smashed,
And on the mantelpiece the ink pot splashed—
Falk [clapping him on the shoulder].
This wreck’s the first announcement of my spring;
No more behind drawn curtains I will sit,
Making pen poetry with lamp alit;
My dull domestic poetising’s done,
I’ll walk by day, and glory in the sun:
My spring is come, my soul has broken free,
Action henceforth shall be my poetry.
Make poetry of what you please for me;
But how if Mrs. Halm should take amiss
Your breaking of her furniture to pieces?
What!—she, who lays her daughters and her nieces
Upon the altar of her boarders’ bliss,—
She frown at such a bagatelle as this?
It’s utterly outrageous and unfair,
And compromises me as well as you!
But that’s her business, settle it with her.
The lamp was mine, tho’, shade and burner too—
Tut, on that head, I’ve no account to render;
You have God’s summer sunshine in its splendour,—
What would you with the lamp?
You are grotesque;
You utterly forget that summer passes;
If I’m to make a figure in my classes
At Christmas I must buckle to my desk.
Falk [staring at him].
What, you look forward?
To be sure I do,
The examination’s amply worth it too.
Ah but—you ‘only sit and live’—remember!
Drunk with the moment, you demand no more—
Not even a modest third-class next December.
You’ve caught the bird of Fortune fair and fleet,
You feel as if the world with all its store
Were scattered in profusion at your feet.
Those were my words; they must be understood,
Of course, cum grano salis—
In the forenoons I will enjoy my bliss;
That I am quite resolved on—
I have my round of visits to the clan;
Time will run anyhow to waste in this;
But any further dislocation of
My study-plan I strongly disapprove.
A week ago, however, you were bent
On going out into God’s world with song.
Yes, but I thought the tour a little long;
The fourteen days might well be better spent.
Nay, but you had another argument
For staying; how the lovely dale for you
Was mountain air and winged warble too.
Yes, to be sure, this air is unalloyed;
But all its benefits may be enjoyed
Over one’s book without the slightest bar.
But it was just the Book which failed, you see,
As Jacob’s ladder—
How perverse you are!
That is what people say when they are free—
[looking at him and folding his hands in silent
Thou also, Brutus!
Lind [with a shade of confusion and annoyance].
Pray remember, do!
That I have other duties now than you;
I have my fiancée. Every plighted pair,
Those of prolonged experience not excepted,—
Whose evidence you would not wish rejected,—
Will tell you, that if two are bound to fare
Through life together, they must—
The comment; who supplied it?
Well, we’ll say
Stiver, he’s honest surely; and Miss Jay,
Who has such very great experience here,
Well, but the Parson and his—dear?
Yes, they’re remarkable. There broods above
Them such placidity, such quietude,—
Conceive, she can’t remember being wooed,
Has quite forgotten what is meant by love.
Ah yes, when one has slumber’d over long,
The birds of memory refuse their song.
[Laying his hand on Lind’s shoulder, with an ironical look.
You, Lind, slept sound last night, I guarantee?
And long. I went to bed in such depression,
And yet with such a fever in my brain,
I almost doubted if I could be sane.
Ah yes, a sort of witchery, you see.
Thank God I woke in perfect self-possession.
[During the foregoing scene Strawman has been seen from time to time walking in the background in lively conversation with Anna; Mrs. Strawman and the children follow. Miss Jay now appears also, and with her Mrs. Halm and other ladies.
Miss Jay [before she enters].
Ah, Mr. Lind.
Lind [to Falk].
They’re after me again!
Come, let us go.
Nay, nay, you must remain,
Let us make speedy end of the division
That has crept in between your love and you.
Are we divided?
Miss Jay [pointing to Anna, who is standing further off in the garden].
Gather the decision
From yon red eyes. The foreign mission drew
But heavens, she was glad to go—
Miss Jay scoffing].
Yes, to be sure, one would imagine so!
No, my dear Lind, you’ll take another view
When you have heard the whole affair discussed;
But then this warfare for the faith, you know,
Is my most cherished dream!
O who would build
On dreaming in this century of light?
Why, Stiver had a dream the other night;
There came a letter singularly sealed—
It’s treasure such a dream prognosticates.
Miss Jay [nodding].
Yes, and next day they sued him for the rates.
[The ladies make a circle round Lind and go in conversation with him into the garden.
Strawman [continuing, to Anna, who faintly tries to escape].
From these considerations, daughter mine,
From these considerations, buttressed all
With reason, morals, and the Word Divine,
You now perceive that to desert your Call
Were absolutely inexcusable.
Anna [half crying].
Oh! I’m so young—
And it is natural,
I own, that one should tremble to essay
These perils, dare the lures that there waylay;
But from doubt’s tangle you must now break free,—
Be of good cheer and follow Moll and me!
Yes, your dear mother tells me that I too
Was just as inconsolable as you
When we received our Call—
And for like cause—
The fascination of the town—it was;
But when a little money had come in,
And the first pairs of infants, twin by twin,
She quite got over it.
Falk [sotto voce to Strawman].
Bravo, you able
Strawman [nodding to him and turning again to Anna].
Now you’ve promised me, be stable.
Shall man renounce his work? Falk says the Call
Is not so very slender after all.
Did you not, Falk?
To be sure—!
Of something then at least you are secure.
What’s gained by giving up, if that is so?
Look back into the ages long ago,
See, Adam, Eve—the Ark, see, pair by pair,
Birds in the field—the lilies in the air,
The little birds—the little birds—the fishes—
[Continues in a lower tone, as he withdraws with Anna.
[Miss Jay and the Aunts return with Lind.
Hurrah! Here come the veterans in array;
The old guard charging to retrieve the day!
Ah, in exact accordance with our wishes!
We have him, Falk!—Now let us tackle her!
Strawman [with a deprecating motion].
She needs no secular solicitation;
The Spirit has spoken, what can Earth bestead—?
If in some small degree my words have sped,
Power was vouchsafed me—!
Come, no more evasion,
Bring them together!
Aunts [with emotion].
Ah, how exquisite!
Yes, can there be a heart so dull and dead
As not to be entranced at such a sight!
It is so thrilling and so penetrating,
So lacerating, so exhilarating,
To see an innocent babe devoutly lay
Its offering on Duty’s altar.
Her family have also done their part.
I and the Aunts—I should imagine so.
You, Lind, may have the key to Anna’s heart,
[Presses his hand.
But we possess a picklock, you must know,
Able to open where the key avails not.
And if in years to come, cares throng and thwart,
Only apply to us, our friendship fails not.
Yes, we shall hover round you all your life,—
And shield you from the fiend of wedded strife.
Enchanting group! Love, friendship, hour of gladness,
Yet so pathetically touched with sadness.
[Turning to Lind.
But now, young man, pray make an end of this.
[Leading Anna to him.
Take thy betrothed—receive her—with a kiss!
Lind [giving his hand to Anna].
I stay at home!
Anna [at the same moment].
I go with you!
Lind [equally so].
You go with me?
Anna [with a helpless glance at the company].
Why, then, we are divided as before!
Miss Jay [excitedly].
Our wills are all at war—
She gave her solemn word to cross the sea
And he gave his to stay ashore
They both complied; what would you more!
These complications are too much for me.
[Goes towards the background.
Aunts [to one another].
How in the world came they to disagree?
[To Guldstad and Stiver, who have been walking in the garden and now approach.
The spirit of discord’s in possession here.
[Talks aside to them.
[To Miss Jay, noticing that the table is being laid.
There comes the tea.
Miss Jay [curtly].
Hurrah! a cheer
For love and friendship, maiden aunts and tea!
But if the case stands thus, the whole proceeding
May easily be ended with a laugh;
All turns upon a single paragraph,
Which bids the wife attend the spouse. No pleading
Can wrest an ordinance so clearly stated—
Doubtless, but does that help us to agree?
She must obey a law that heaven dictated.
But Lind can circumvent that law, you see.
Put off your journey, and then—budge no jot.
Yes, that’s the way!
That cuts the knot.
[Svanhild and the maids have meantime laid the tea-table beside the verandah steps. At Mrs. Halm’s invitation the ladies sit down. The rest of the company take their places, partly on the verandah and in the summer-house, partly in the garden. Falk sits on the verandah. During the following scene they drink tea.
Mrs. Halm [smiling].
And so our little storm is overblown.
Such summer showers do good when they are gone;
The sunshine greets us with a double boon,
And promises a cloudless afternoon.
Ah yes, Love’s blossom without rainy skies
Would never thrive according to our wishes.
In dry land set it, and it forthwith dies;
For in so far the flowers are like the fishes—
Nay, for Love lives, you know, upon the air—
Which is the death of fishes—
So I say.
Aha, we’ve put a bridle on you there!
The tea is good, one knows by the bouquet.
Well, let us keep the simile you chose.
Love is a flower; for if heaven’s blessed rain
Fall short, it all but pines to death—
Falk [with a gallant bow].
Then come the aunts with the reviving hose.—
But poets have this simile employed,
And men for scores of centuries enjoyed,—
Yet hardly one its secret sense has hit;
For flowers are manifold and infinite.
Say, then, what flower is love? Name me, who knows,
The flower most like it?
Why, it is the rose;
Good gracious, that’s exceedingly well known;—
Love, all agree, lends life a rosy tone.
A Young Lady.
It is the snowdrop; growing, snow enfurled;
Till it peer forth, undreamt of by the world.
It is the dandelion,—made robust
By dint of human heel and horse hoof thrust;
Nay, shooting forth afresh when it is smitten,
As Pedersen so charmingly has written.
It is the bluebell,—ringing in for all
Young hearts life’s joyous Whitsun festival.
No, ’tis an evergreen,—as fresh and gay
In desolate December as in May.
No, Iceland moss, dry gathered,—far the best
Cure for young ladies with a wounded breast.
No, the wild chestnut tree,—in high repute
For household fuel, but with a bitter fruit.
No, a camellia; at our balls, ’tis said,
The chief adornment of a lady’s head.
No, it is like a flower, O such a bright one;—
Stay now—a blue one, no, it was a white one—
What is its name—? Dear me—the one I met—;
Well it is singular how I forget!
None of these flower similitudes will run.
The flowerpot is a likelier candidate.
There’s only room in it, at once, for one;
But by progressive stages it holds eight.
Strawman [with his little girls round him].
No, love’s a pear tree; in the spring like snow
With myriad blossoms, which in summer grow
To pearlets; in the parent’s sap each shares;—
And with God’s help they’ll all alike prove pears.
So many heads, so many sentences!
No, you all grope and blunder off the line.
Each simile’s at fault; I’ll tell you mine;—
You’re free to turn and wrest it as you please.
[Rises as if to make a speech.
In the remotest east there grows a plant;
And the sun’s cousin’s garden is its haunt—
Ah, it’s the tea-plant!
His voice is so
Like Strawman’s when he—
Don’t disturb his flow.
It has its home in fabled lands serene;
Thousands of miles of desert lie between;—
Fill up, Lind!—So.—Now in a tea-oration,
I’ll show of tea and Love the true relation.
[The guests cluster round him.
It has its home in the romantic land;
Alas, Love’s home is also in Romance,
Only the Sun’s descendants understand
The herb’s right cultivation and advance.
With Love it is not otherwise than so.
Blood of the Sun along the veins must flow
If Love indeed therein is to strike root,
And burgeon into blossom, into fruit.
But China is an ancient land; you hold
In consequence that tea is very old—
Past question antecedent to Jerusalem.
Yes, ’twas already famous when Methusalem
His picture-books and rattles tore and flung—
Miss Jay [triumphantly].
And Love is in its very nature young!
To find a likeness there is pretty bold.
No; Love, in truth, is also very old;
That principle we here no more dispute
Than do the folks of Rio or Beyrout.
Nay, there are those from Cayenne to Caithness,
Who stand upon its everlastingness;—
Well, that may be a slight exaggeration,
But old it is beyond all estimation.
But Love is all alike; whereas we see
Both good and bad and middling kinds of tea!
Yes, they sell tea of many qualities.
The green spring shoots I count the very first—
Those serve to quench celestial daughters’ thirst.
A Young Lady.
Witching as ether fumes they say it is—
Balmy as lotus, sweet as almond, clear—
That’s not an article we deal in here.
Falk [who has meanwhile come down from the verandah].
Ah, ladies, every mortal has a small
Private celestial empire in his heart.
There bud such shoots in thousands, kept apart
By Shyness’s soon shatter’d Chinese Wall.
But in her dim fantastic temple bower
The little Chinese puppet sits and sighs,
A dream of far-off wonders in her eyes—
And in her hand a golden tulip flower.
For her the tender firstling tendrils grew;—
Rich crop or meagre, what is that to you?
Instead of it we get an after crop
They kick the tree for, dust and stalk and stem,—
As hemp to silk beside what goes to them—
That is the black tea.
That’s what fills the shop.
There’s beef tea too, that Holberg says a word of—
Miss Jay [sharply].
To modern taste entirely out of date.
And a beef love has equally been heard of,
Wont—in romances—to brow-beat its mate,
And still they say its trace may be detected
Amongst the henpecked of the married state.
In short there’s likeness where ’twas least expected.
So, as you know, an ancient proverb tells,
That something ever passes from the tea
Of the bouquet that lodges in its cells,
If it be carried hither over sea.
It must across the desert and the hills,—
Pay toll to Cossack and to Russian tills;—
It gets their stamp and licence, that’s enough,
We buy it as the true and genuine stuff.
But has not Love the self-same path to fare?
Across Life’s desert? How the world would rave
And shriek if you or I should boldly bear
Our Love by way of Freedom’s ocean wave!
“Good heavens, his moral savour’s passed away,
“And quite dispersed Legality’s bouquet!”—
Yes, happily,—in every moral land
Such wares continue to be contraband!
Yes, to pass current here, Love must have cross’d
The great Siberian waste of regulations,
Fann’d by no breath of ocean to its cost;
It must produce official attestations
From friends and kindred, devils of relations,
From church curators, organist and clerk,
And other fine folks—over and above
The primal licence which God gave to Love.—
And then the last great point of likeness;—mark
How heavily the hand of culture weighs
Upon that far Celestial domain;
Its power is shatter’d, and its wall decays,
The last true Mandarin’s strangled; hands profane
Already are put forth to share the spoil;
Soon the Sun’s realm will be a legend vain,
An idle tale incredible to sense;
The world is gray in gray—we’ve flung the soil
On buried Faery,—we have made her mound.
But if we have,—then where can Love be found?
Alas, Love also is departed hence!
[Lifts his cup.
Well let him go, since so the times decree;—
A health to Amor, late of Earth,—in tea!
[He drains his cup; indignant murmurs amongst the company.
A very odd expression! “Dead” indeed!
To say that Love is dead—!
Why, here you see
Him sitting, rosy, round and sound, at tea,
In all conditions! Here in her sable weed
Here a couple, true and tried,—
With many ample pledges fortified.
Then Love’s light cavalry, of maid and man,
The plighted pairs in order—
In the van
The veterans, whose troth has laughed to scorn
The tooth of Time—
Miss Jay [hastily interrupting].
And then the babes new-born—
The little novices of yester-morn—
Spring, summer, autumn, winter, in a word,
Are here; the truth is patent, past all doubt,
It can be clutched and handled, seen and heard,—
And yet you want to thrust it out!
Madam, you quite mistake. In all I spoke
I cast no doubt on anything you claim;
But I would fain remind you that, from smoke,
We cannot logically argue flame.
That men are married, and have children, I
Have no desire whatever to deny;
Nor do I dream of doubting that such things
Are in the world as troth and wedding-rings;
That billets-doux some tender hands indite
And seal with pairs of turtle doves that—fight;
That sweethearts swarm in cottage and in hall,
That chocolate rewards the wedding-call;
That usage and convention have decreed,
In every point, how “Lovers” shall proceed:—
But, heavens! We’ve majors also by the score,
Arsenals heaped with muniments of war,
With spurs and howitzers and drums and shot,
But what does that permit us to infer?
That we have men who dangle swords, but not
That they will wield the weapons that they wear.
Tho’ all the plain with gleaming tents you crowd,
Does that make heroes of the men they shroud?
Well, all in moderation; I must own,
It is not quite conducive to the truth
That we should paint the enamourment of youth
So bright, as if—ahem—it stood alone.
Love-making still a frail foundation is.
Only the snuggery of wedded bliss
Provides a rock where Love may builded be
In unassailable security.
There I entirely differ. In my view,
A free accord of lovers, heart with heart,
Who hold together, having leave to part,
Gives the best warrant that their love is true.
O no—Love’s bond when it is fresh and young
Is of a stuff more precious and more strong.
Possibly the ideal flower may blow,
Even as that snowdrop,—hidden by the snow.
Falk [with a sudden outburst].
You fallen Adam! There a heart was cleft
With longing for the Eden it has left!
Mrs. Halm [offended, to Falk, rising].
’Tis not a very friendly act
To stir a quarrel where we’ve made a peace.
As for your friend’s good fortune, be at ease—
Nay that’s assured—
A very certain fact.
The cooking-class at school, I must confess,
She did not take; but she shall learn it still.
With her own hands she’s trimming her own dress
An Aunt [patting Anna’s hand].
And growing exquisitely sensible.
Falk [laughing aloud].
O parody of sense, that rives and rends
In maniac dance upon the lips of friends!
Was it good sense he wanted? Or a she-
Professor of the lore of Cookery?
A joyous son of springtime he came here,
For the wild rosebud on the bush he burned.
You reared the rosebud for him; he returned—
And for his rose found what? The hip!
Miss Jay [offended].
A useful household condiment, heaven knows!
But yet the hip was not his bridal rose.
O, if it is a ball-room queen he wants,
I’m very sorry; these are not their haunts.
O yes, I know the pretty coquetry
They carry on with “Domesticity.”
It is a suckling of the mighty Lie
That, like hop-tendrils, spreads itself on high.
, madam, reverently bare my head
To the ball queen; a child of beauty she—
And the ideal’s golden woof is spread
In ball-rooms, hardly in the nursery.
Mrs. Halm [with suppressed bitterness].
Your conduct, sir, is easily explained;
A plighted lover cannot be a friend;
That is the kernel of the whole affair;
I have a very large experience there.
No doubt,—with seven nieces, each a wife—
And each a happy wife—
Falk [with emphasis].
Ah, do we know?
Are you resolved to sow
Yes, war, discord, turmoil, strife!
What you, a lay, profane outsider here!
No matter, still the battle-flag I’ll rear!
Yes, it is war I mean with nail and tooth
Against the Lie with the tenacious root,
The lie that you have fostered into fruit,
For all its strutting in the guise of truth!
Against these groundless charges I protest,
Reserving right of action—
Do be still!
So then it is Love’s ever-running rill
That tells the widow what she once possess’d,—
That very Love that, in the days gone by,
Out of her language blotted “moan” and “sigh”!
So then it is Love’s brimming tide that rolls
Along the placid veins of wedded souls,—
That very Love that faced the iron sleet,
Trampling inane Convention under feet,
And scoffing at the impotent discreet!
So then it is Love’s beauty-kindled flame
That keeps the plighted from the taint of time
Year after year! Ah yes, the very same
That made our young bureaucrat blaze in rhyme!
So it is Love’s young bliss that will not brave
The voyage over vaulted Ocean’s wave,
But asks a sacrifice when, like the sun,
Its face should fill with glory, making one!
Ah no, you vulgar prophets of the Lie,
Give things the names we ought to know them by;
Call widows’ passion—wanting what they miss,
And wedlock’s habit—call it what it is!
Young man, this insolence has gone too far!
In every word there’s scoffing and defiance.
[Goes close up to Falk.
Now I’ll gird up my aged loins to war
For hallowed custom against modern science!
I go to battle as it were a feast!
Good! For your bullets I will be a beacon!—
A wedded pair is holy, like a priest—
Stiver [at Falk’s other side].
And a betrothed—
Half-holy, like the deacon.
Behold these children;—see,—this little throng!
Io triumphe may for them be sung!
How was it possible—how practicable—;
The words of truth are strong, inexorable;—
He has no hearing whom they cannot move.
See,—every one of them’s a child of Love—!
[Stops in confusion.
That is—you understand—I would have said—!
Miss Jay [fanning herself with her handkerchief].
This is a very mystical oration!
There you yourself provide the demonstration,—
A good old Norse one, sound, true-born, homebred.
You draw distinction between wedded pledges
And those of Love: your Logic’s without flaw.
They are distinguished just as roast from raw,
As hothouse bloom from wilding of the hedges!
Love is with us a science and an art;
It long since ceased to animate the heart.
Love is with us a trade, a special line
Of business, with its union, code and sign;
It is a guild of married folks and plighted,
Past-masters with apprentices united;
For they cohere compact as jelly-fishes,
A singing-club their single want and wish is—
And a gazette!
A good suggestion, yes!
We too must have our organ in the press,
Like ladies, athletes, boys, and devotees.
Don’t ask the price at present, if you please.
There I’ll parade each amatory fetter
That John and Thomas to our town unites,
There publish every pink and perfumed letter
That William to his tender Jane indites;
There you shall read, among “Distressing Scenes”—
Instead of murders and burnt crinolines,
The broken matches that the week’s afforded;
There under “goods for sale” you’ll find what firms
Will furnish cast-off rings on easy terms;
There double, treble births will be recorded;
No wedding, but our rallying rub-a-dub
Shall drum to the performance all the club;
No suit rejected, but we’ll set it down,
In letters large, with other news of weight
Thus: “Amor-Moloch, we regret to state,
Has claimed another victim in our town.”
You’ll see, we’ll catch subscribers: once in sight
Of the propitious season when they bite,
By way of throwing them the bait they’ll brook
I’ll stick a nice young man upon my hook.
Yes, you will see me battle for our cause,
With tiger’s, nay with editorial, claws
And the paper’s name will be—?
Amor’s Norse Chronicle of Archery.
Stiver [going nearer].
You’re not in earnest, you will never stake
Your name and fame for such a fancy’s sake!
I’m in grim earnest. We are often told
Men cannot live on love; I’ll show that this
Is an untenable hypothesis;
For Love will prove to be a mine of gold:
Particularly if Miss Jay, perhaps,
Will Mr. Strawman’s “Life’s Romance” unfold,
As appetising feuilleton, in scraps.
Strawman [in terror].
Merciful heaven! My “life’s romance!” What, what!
When was my life romantic, if you please?
I never said so.
That I have ever swerved a single jot
From social prescript,—is a monstrous lie.
[Clapping Stiver on the shoulder.
Here’s a friend who will not put me by.
We’ll start with Stiver’s lyric ecstasies.
Stiver [after a glance of horror at Strawman].
Are you quite mad! Nay then I must be heard!
You dare accuse me for a poet—
Your office has averred it anyhow.
Stiver [in towering anger].
Sir, by our office nothing is averred.
Well, leave me then, you also: I have by me
One comrade yet whose loyalty will last.
“A true heart’s story” Lind will not deny me,
Whose troth’s too tender for the ocean blast,
Who for his mistress makes surrender of
His fellow-men—pure quintessence of Love!
My patience, Mr. Falk, is now worn out.
The same abode no longer can receive us:—
I beg of you this very day to leave us—
Falk [with a bow as Mrs. Halm and the company withdraw].
That this would come I never had a doubt!
Between us two there’s battle to the death;
You’ve slandered me, my wife, nay little flock,
From Molly down to Millie, in one breath.
Crow on, crow on—Emancipation’s cock,—
[Goes in, followed by his wife and children.
And go you on observing Peter’s faith
To Love your lord—who, thanks to your advice,
Was thrice denied before the cock crew thrice!
Miss Jay [turning faint].
Attend me, Stiver! help me get unlaced
My corset—this way, this way—do make haste!
Stiver [to Falk as he withdraws with Miss Jay on his arm].
I here renounce your friendship.
You too, my Lind?
You were my nearest one—
No help, it is the pleasure of my dearest one.
[He goes in: Svanhild has remained standing on the verandah steps.
So, now I’ve made a clearance, have free course
In all directions!
Falk, one word with you!
Falk [pointing politely to the house].
That way, Miss Halm;—that way, with all the force
Of aunts and inmates, Mrs. Halm withdrew.
Svanhild [nearer to him].
Let them withdraw; their ways and mine divide;
I will not swell the number of their band.
If you make war on lies, I stand
A trusty armour-bearer by your side.
You, Svanhild, you who—
Were you yourself, Falk, yesterday the same?
You bade me be a sallow, for your play.
And a sweet sallow sang me into shame.
No, you are right: I was a child to ask;
But you have fired me to a nobler task.
Eight in the midst of men the Church is founded
Where Truth’s appealing clarion must be sounded
We are not called, like demigods, to gaze on
The battle from the far-off mountain’s crest,
But in our hearts to bear our fiery blazon,
An Olaf’s cross upon a mailed breast,—
To look afar across the fields of flight,
Tho’ pent within the mazes of its might,—
Beyond the mirk descry one glimmer still
Of glory—that’s the Call we must fulfil.
And you’ll fulfil it when you break from men,
Stand free, alone,—
Did I frequent them then?
And there lies duty. No, that time’s gone by,—
My solitary compact with the sky.
My four-wall-chamber poetry is done;
My verse shall live in forest and in field,
I’ll fight under the splendour of the sun;—
I or the Lie—one of us two must yield!
Then forth with God from Verse to Derringdoe!
I did you wrong: you have a feeling heart;
Forgive me,—and as good friends let us part—
Nay, in my future there is room for two!
We part not. Svanhild, if you dare decide,
We’ll battle on together side by side.
See, I have no friend, no mate,
By all abandoned, I make war on all:
At me they aim the piercing shafts of hate;
Say, do you dare with me to stand or fall?
Henceforth along the beaten walks I’ll move
Heedful of each constraining etiquette;
Spread, like the rest of men, my board, and set
The ring upon the finger of my love!
[Takes a ring from his finger and holds it up.
Svanhild [in breathless suspense].
You mean that?
Yes, by us the world shall see,
Love has an everlasting energy,
That suffers not its splendour to take hurt
From the day’s dust, the common highway’s dirt.
Last night I showed you the ideal aflame,
Beaconing from a dizzy mountain’s brow.
You shuddered, for you were a woman,—now
I show you woman’s veritable aim;—
A soul like yours, what it has vowed, will keep.
You see the abyss before you,—Svanhild, leap!
Svanhild [almost inaudibly].
If we should fail—!
No, in your eyes I see
A gleam that surely prophesies our winning!
Then take me as I am, take all of me!
Now buds the young leaf; now my spring’s beginning!
[She flings herself boldly into his arms as the curtain falls.