Vanishing Roads and Other Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about Vanishing Roads and Other Essays.

And to those who loved him it is a great happiness to know that he was able to crown this ecstasy of living with that victory of expression for which his soul had so long travailed, and to leave behind him not only a lovely monument of star-lit words, but a spiritual legacy of perennial refreshment, a fragrant treasure-house of recaptured dreams, and hallowed secrets of the winds of time:  for such are The Writings of “Fiona Macleod".

XXIV

FORBES-ROBERTSON:  AN APPRECIATION

The voluntary abdication of power in its zenith has always fascinated and “intrigued” the imagination of mankind.  We are so accustomed to kings and other gifted persons holding on to their sceptres with a desperate tenacity, even through those waning years when younger men, beholding their present feebleness, wonder whether their previous might was not a fancy of their fathers, whether, in fact, they were ever really kings or gifted persons at all.  In so many cases we have to rely on a legend of past accomplishment to preserve our reverence.  Therefore, when a Sulla or a Charles V. or a Mary Anderson, leave their thrones at the moment when their sway over us is most assured and brilliant, we wonder—­wonder at a phenomenon rare in humanity, and suggestive of romantic reserves of power which seal not only our allegiance to them, but that of posterity.  The mystery which resides in all greatness, in all charm, is not violated by the cynical explanations of decay.  They remain fortunate as those whom the gods loved, wearing the aureoles of immortal promise.

Few artists have been wise in this respect; poets, for example, very seldom.  Thus we find the works of most of them encumbered with the debris of their senility.  Coventry Patmore was a rare example of a poet who laid down his pen deliberately, not merely as an artist in words, but as an artist in life, having, as he said in the memorable preface to the collected edition of his poems, completed that work which in his youth he had set before him.  His readers, therefore, are not saddened by any pathetic gleanings from a once-rich harvest-field, or the carefully picked-up shakings of November boughs.

Forbes-Robertson is one of those artists who has chosen to bid farewell to his art while he is still indisputably its master.  One or two other distinguished actors before him have thus chosen, and a greater number have bade us, those professional “farewells” that remind one of that dream of De Quincey in which he heard reverberated “Everlasting farewells! and again and yet again reverberated—­everlasting farewells!” In Forbes-Robertson’s case, however, apart from our courteous taking the word of his management, we know that the news is sadly true.  There is a curious personal honour and sincerity breathing through all his impersonations that make us feel, so to say, that not only would we take the ghost’s word for a thousand pounds, but that between him and

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Vanishing Roads and Other Essays from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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