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At the first Phase--the night where there is no
moonlight--all is objective, while when, upon the fifteenth night, the
moon comes to the full, there is only subjective mind. The mid-renaissance
could but approximate to the full moon "For there is no human life at the
full or the dark," but we may attribute to the next three nights of the
moon the men of Shakespeare, of Titian, of Strozzi, and of Van Dyck, and
watch them grow more reasonable, more orderly, less turbulent, as the
nights pass; and it is well to find before the fourth--the nineteenth moon
counting from the start--a sudden change, as when a cloud becomes rain, or
water freezes, for the great transitions are sudden; popular, typical men
have grown more ugly and more argumentative; the face that Van Dyck called
a fatal face has faded before Cromwell's warty opinionated head.
Henceforth no mind made like "a perfectly proportioned human body" shall
sway the public, for great men must live in a portion of themselves,
become professional and abstract; but seeing that the moon's third quarter
is scarce passed, that abstraction has attained but not passed its climax,
that a half, as I affirm it, of the twenty-second night still lingers,
they may subdue and conquer; cherish, even, some Utopian dream; spread
abstraction ever further till thought is but a film, and there is no dark
depth any more, surface only. But men who belong by nature to the nights
near to the full are still born, a tragic minority, and how shall they do
their work when too ambitious for a private station, except as Wilde of
the nineteenth Phase, as my symbolism has it, did his work. He understood
his weakness, true personality was impossible, for that is born in
solitude, and at his moon one is not solitary; he must project himself
before the eyes of others, and, having great ambition, before some great
crowd of eyes; but there is no longer any great crowd that cares for his
true thought. He must humour and cajole and pose, take worn-out stage
situations, for he knows that he may be as romantic as he please, so long
as he does not believe in his romance, and all that he may get their ears
for a few strokes of contemptuous wit in which he does believe.

We Rhymers did not humour and cajole; but it was not wholly from demerit,
it was in part because of different merit, that he refused our exile.
Shaw, as I understand him, has no true quarrel with his time, its moon and
his almost exactly coincide. He is quite content to exchange Narcissus and
his Pool for the signal box at a railway junction, where goods and
travellers pass perpetually upon their logical glittering road. Wilde was
a monarchist, though content that monarchy should turn demagogue for its
own safety, and he held a theatre by the means whereby he held a London
dinner table. "He who can dominate a London dinner table," he had boasted,
"can dominate the world." While Shaw has but carried his street-corner
socialist eloquence on to the stage, and in him one discovers, in his
writing and his public speech, as once--before their outline had been
softened by prosperity or the passage of the years--in his clothes and in
his stiff joints, the civilization that Sargent's picture has explored.
Neither his crowd nor he have yet made that discovery that brought
President Wilson so near his death, that the moon draws to its fourth
quarter. But what happens to the individual man whose moon has come to
that fourth quarter, and what to the civilization...?

I can but remember pipe music to-night, though I can half hear beyond it
in the memory a weightier music, but this much at any rate is certain--the
dream of my early manhood, that a modern nation can return to Unity of
Culture, is false; though it may be we can achieve it for some small
circle of men and women, and there leave it till the moon bring round its
century.

"The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon
The creeping cat looked up.

* * * *

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place;
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that her pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
Her changing eyes."


IV

Henley's troubles and infirmities were growing upon him. He, too, an
ambitious, formidable man, who showed alike in his practice and in his
theory, in his lack of sympathy for Rossetti and Landor, for instance,
that he never understood how small a fragment of our own nature can be
brought to perfect expression, nor that even but with great toil, in a
much divided civilization; though, doubtless, if our own Phase be right, a
fragment may be an image of the whole, the moon's still scarce crumbled
image, as it were, in a glass of wine. He would be, and have all poets be,
a true epitome of the whole mass, a Herrick and Dr. Johnson in the same
body and because this--not so difficult before the Mermaid closed its
door--is no longer possible, his work lacks music, is abstract, as even an
actor's movement can be when the thought of doing is plainer to his mind
than the doing itself: the straight line from cup to lip, let us say, more
plain than the hand's own sensation weighed down by that heavy spillable
cup. I think he was content, when he had called before our eyes--before
the too understanding eyes of his chosen crowd--the violent burly man that
he had dreamed, content with the mere suggestion, and so did not work long
enough at his verses. He disliked Victor Hugo as much as he did Rossetti,
and yet Rossetti's translation from _Les Burgraves_, because of its mere
technical mastery, out-sings Henley in his own song--

"My mother is dead; God's patience wears;
It seems my Chaplain will not have done.
Love on: who cares?
Who cares? Love on."

I can read his poetry with emotion, but I read it for some glimpse of what
he might have been as Border balladist, or Cavalier, or of what he
actually was, not as poet but as man. He had what Wilde lacked, even in
his ruin, passion, was maybe as passionate as some great man of action, as
Parnell, let us say. When he and Stevenson quarrelled, he cried over it
with some woman or other, and his notorious article was but for vengeance
upon Mrs. Stevenson, who had arranged for the public eye, what he
considered an imaginary figure, with no resemblance to the gay companion
who had founded his life, to that life's injury, upon "The august, the
immortal musketeers." She had caused the quarrel, as he believed, and now
she had robbed him over again, by blotting from the world's memory the
friend of his youth; and because he believed it I read those angry
paragraphs with but deeper sympathy for the writer; and I think that the
man who has left them out of Henley's collected writings has wronged his
memory, as Mrs. Stevenson wronged the memory of Stevenson.

He was no contemplative man, no pleased possessor of wooden models and
paper patterns, but a great passionate man, and no friend of his would
have him pictured otherwise. I saw little of him in later years, but I
doubt if he was ever the same after the death of his six-year old
daughter. Few passages of his verse touch me as do those few mentions of
her though they lack precision of word and sound. When she is but a hope,
he prays that she may have his 'gift of life' and his wife's 'gift of
love,' and when she is but a few months old he murmurs over her sleep--

When you wake in your crib,
You an inch of experience--
Vaulted about
With the wonder of darkness;
Wailing and striving
To reach from your feebleness
Something you feel
Will be good to and cherish you.

And now he commends some friend "boyish and kind, and shy," who greeted
him, and greeted his wife, "that day we brought our beautiful one to lie
in the green peace" and who is now dead himself, and after that he speaks
of love "turned by death to longing" and so, to an enemy.

When I spoke to him of his child's death he said, "she was a person of
genius; she had the genius of the mind, and the genius of the body." And
later I heard him talk of her as a man talks of something he cannot keep
silence over because it is in all his thoughts. I can remember, too, his
talking of some book of natural history he had read, that he might be able
to answer her questions.

He had a house now at Mortlake on the Thames with a great ivy tod
shadowing door and window, and one night there he shocked and startled a
roomful of men by showing how far he could be swept beyond our reach in
reveries of affection. The dull man, who had tried to put Wilde out of
countenance, suddenly said to the whole room, roused by I cannot remember
what incautious remark of mine made to some man at my side: "Yeats
believes in magic; what nonsense." Henley said, "No, it may not be
nonsense; black magic is all the go in Paris now." And then turning
towards me with a changed sound in his voice, "It is just a game, isn't
it." I replied, not noticing till too late his serious tone, and wishing
to avoid discussion in the dull man's company, "One has had a vision; one
wants to have another, that is all." Then Henley said, speaking in a very
low voice, "I want to know how I am to get to my daughter. I was sitting
here the other night when she came into the room and played round the
table and went out again. Then I saw that the door was shut and I knew
that I had seen a vision." There was an embarrassed silence, and then
somebody spoke of something else and we began to discuss it hurriedly and
eagerly.


V

I came now to be more in London, never missing the meetings of the
Rhymers' Club, nor those of the council of the Irish Literary Society,
where I constantly fought out our Irish quarrels and pressed upon the
unwilling Gavan Duffy the books of our new movement. The Irish members of
Parliament looked upon us with some hostility because we had made it a
matter of principle never to put a politician in the chair, and upon other
grounds.



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