« НазадПродовжити »
My love for thee, O loved one, is no waste
As is almost always the case with young versifiers, there were to be found among these studies of Pelican's many echoes, conscious and unconscious, of the voices of those poets with which he was most familiar. When I brought the charge against him, he pleaded guilty at once, but in one of two cases the plea was accompanied by a ludicrously indignant protest against the putting in of the indictment. In a very dismal but highly alliterative lament put into the mouth of a young man who was tired of the world, most probably because the world was tired of him, there was rather a high-flown apostrophe to Death in which occurred these lines :
“The lives of the race thou hast rounded
With the sweetness of visionless sleep,
By sea dark and deep.”
I told Pelican that if ever his melancholy effusion attained to the honours of type, people would be sure to say that he had in these lines stolen from Shakspeare. “Very likely,” said he calmly. “Does not my old hero, Carlyle, say that the population of England is eighteen millions of people—mostly fools. I have abandoned my Carlyle fanaticism, but every now and then a horrible conviction comes that when he said that he was right for once.” “That is possible,” I said'; “I hope hardly probable. But even supposing it to be certain, what has it to do with this special matter ?” “Why, it has just this to do with it,” said Pelican with lofty scorn of his imaginary critics, " that no one who was not sunk in hopeless folly would talk of stealing from Shakspeare. You can't do it any more than you can steal the air or the light. That figure of our little lives being rounded with a sleep is mine just because it is Shakspeare's, for Shakspeare belongs to us all.
Whenever he expresses a thought his expression becomes a part of the thought; and if we take the thought, we must perforce take it in Shakspeare's clothing, for no other will fit. The thoughts are surely ours; and if we can only take them in the form which he has given them, that is ours; and he is ours; and not only he, but every other man who has given to world-wide ideas their final palpable embodiment. The sayings of all supremely wise men are common property, like God's picture gallery over yonder "here he pointed through the window to one of his passionate sunsets,—“which is thrown open to every one free of charge. You can only steal from the half-wise men, and it is no use to do that, for you can very easily be half-wise yourself. The Duke of Devonshire allows me at fit times to ramble over the grounds at Chatsworth as if they were my own, and says not a word of trespassing; it is only Brown next door who has a padlock on the gate of his dozen yards of weedy garden ground.” I ventured to laugh here, and Pelican smiled grimly. “ You may laugh if you like,” said he, “but I am right, depend upon it. There is as much nonsense written now-a-days upon this subject of plagiarism as there is upon every other subject, and I can't say more than that.”
Pelican's passing allusion to his defection from Carlyle reminds me of one of the first poems which met my eye when I examined the little bundle of manuscripts. It is rather interesting as a sketch of one of his “phases of faith," and also as an attempt to hit what has been felt by many besides himself to be an open joint in the armour of the well accoutred Chelsea philosopher. I did not intend to quote it, but it lies before me now, and seems to ask for some recognition at my hands. In the original MS. it appeared without a title, and I asked Pelican what he intended to call it. “You may give it what name you like," said he; one is almost as good as another. If you can't think of a dignified title, you may give it one of a more light and flippant character. Call it this :”—and he gave me a title which I adopt here because it is, in its way, as characteristic as the poem itself. The reader must judge both.
“TO CARLYLE, AND BACK AGAIN.”
When ill at ease a creed I sought,
- Thou art the Lord of all,
The voice said to me, “Doth thy soul
Thou hast a head and thou hast hands,
“O voice," I cried with spirit free,
My joy was great ; but soon again