Everyone knew he was a scholar, and his thoughts had once or twice rung out to the world clear and loud as a trumpet-note through the oracles of the Press. But in society he was shy, awkward, and uncouth of speech, quite unable to marshal his thoughts, deserted by his memory, abashed before his own silences, and startled by his own words. Any fool who could talk about the legs of a horse or the height of the thermometer was Prospero to this social Caliban.
He felt that before the fine instincts of women his infirmity was especially conspicuous, and he drifted into misogyny through bashfulness and pride; and yet misogyny was incompatible with his scheme of life and his ambition. He felt himself to be worthy of the full diapason of home life; he desired to be as other men were, besides being something more.
gynaikes all’ homos, o daemotai,
Ouk estin oikein oikian aneu kakou.
Kai gar to gaemai, kai to mae gaemai, kakon.]
So he married her who loved him for choosing her, and who reverenced him for his mysterious treasures of thought.
There was much in his life that she could never share: but he longed for companionship in thought, and for the first year of their married life he tried to introduce her to his world. He led her slowly up to the quiet hill-tops of thought where the air is still and clear, and he gave her to drink of the magic fountains of music. Their hearts beat one delicious measure. Her gentle nature was plastic under the poet’s touch, wrought in an instant to perfect harmony with love, or tears, or laughter. To read aloud to her in the evening after the day’s work was over, and to see her stirred by every breath of the thought-storm, was to enjoy an exquisite interpretation of the poet’s motive, like an impression bold and sharp from the matrix of the poet’s mind. This was to hear the song of the poet and Nature’s low echo. How tranquilising it was! How it effaced the petty vexations of the day!—“softening and concealing; and busy with a hand of healing.”
Tale tuum carmen
nobis, divine poeta,
Quale sopor fessis in gramine, quale per aestum
Dulcis aquae saliente sitim restinguere rivo.
But with the advent of babies poetry declined, and the sympathetic wife became more and more motherly. The father retired sadly into the dreamland of books. He will not emerge again. Husband and wife will stand upon the clear hill-tops together no more.
Neither quite knows what has happened; they both feel changed with an undefined sorrow, with a regret that pride will not enunciate. She is now again in India with her husband. There are duties, courtesies, nay, kindnesses which both will perform, but the ghost of love and sympathy will only rise in their hearts to jibber in mockery words and phrases that have lost their meaning, that have lost their enchantment.
The frailty of all things here,
Why choose you the frailest
For your cradle, your home, and your bier?