CONCERNING THE BEST KIND OF WIFE FOR A POET
We are apt sometimes to complain that so much of importance in our lives is at the dispensation of accident, yet how often too are we compelled to confess that some of the happiest and most fruitful circumstances of our lives are due to the far-seeing diplomacies of chance.
Among no set of circumstances is this more true than in the fateful relations of men and women. While, in a blind sort of way, we may be said to choose for ourselves the man or woman with whom we are to share the joys and sorrows of our years, yet the choice is only superficially ours. Frequently our brains, our antecedent plans, have no part in the decision. The woman we choose appears at the wrong time, in the wrong place, in an undesirable environment, with hair and eyes and general complexion different in colour from what we had predestined for ourselves, short when we had made up our minds for tall, and tall when we had hoped for short. Yet, in in spite of all our preconceptions, we choose her. This is not properly a choice in which the intelligence confessedly submits to violence. It is the compulsion of mysterious instincts that know better than our brains or our tastes.
Now had she been asked beforehand, Esther might not have sketched out a Mike as the ideal of her maiden dreams, nor indeed might Henry have described an Angelica, any more than perhaps Mike an Esther, or Angelica a Henry. Yet chance has only to place Esther and Mike, and Angelica and Henry in the same room together for less than a minute of time, and they fly into the arms of each other’s souls with an instant recognition. This is a mystery which it will take more than biology to explain.
A young man’s dreams of the woman he will some day marry are apt to be meretricious, or at all events conventional. A young poet, especially, is likely to err in the direction of paragons of beauty, or fame, or romance. Perhaps he dreams of a great singer, or an illustrious beauty, ignorant of the natural law which makes great singers and illustrious beauties, in common with all artists, incapable of loving really any one but themselves. Or perhaps it will be some woman of great and exquisite culture. But chance knows that women of great and exquisite culture are usually beings lacking in those plastic elemental qualities which a poet, above all men, needs in the woman he shall love. Their very culture, while it may seem to broaden, really narrows them, limits them to a caste of mind, and, for an infinite suggestiveness, substitutes a few finite accomplishments.
Critics without understanding have wondered now and again at attachments such as that of Heine for his Mathilde. Yet in some ways Mathilde was the type of wife best suited for a poet. She was just a wondering child, a bit of unspoiled chaos. She meant as little intellectually, and as much spiritually, as a wave of the sea, a bird of the air, a star in the sky.