“Awe-stricken, he was ’ware
How on the Emerald stair
A woman sat divinely clothed in white,
And at her knees four cherubs bright.
Their heads within their lap. Then, trembling, he essayed
To speak—’Christ’s mother, pity me!’
Then answered she—
‘Sir, I am Catherine Kinrade.’”
Or take Mr. Davidson’s—in a way, its converse—
“The wandress raised her
She touched her wet and fast-shut eyes;
’Look, sister; sister, look at me;
Look; can you see through my disguise?’
She looked and saw her own sad
And trembled, wondering, ‘Who art thou?’
’God sent me down to fill your place;
I am the Virgin Mary now.’
And with the word, God’s
The wanderer whispered ‘Mary, hail!’
The vision helped her to put on
Bracelet and fillet, ring and veil.
’You are sister
to the mountains now,
And sister to the day and night;
Sister to God.’ And on her brow
She kissed her thrice and left her sight.”
The voice in each case is that of a prophet rather than that of a reed shaken by the wind, or an AEolian harp played upon by the same.
* * * * *
March, 1895. Second Thoughts.
I have to add that, apart from the beautiful language in which they are presented, Mr. Davidson’s doctrines do not appeal to me. I cannot accept his picture of the poet’s as “a soulless life ... wherein the foulest things may loll at ease beside the loveliest.” It seems to me at least as obligatory on a poet as on other men to keep his garden weeded and his conscience active. Indeed, I believe some asceticism of soul to be a condition of all really great poetry. Also Mr. Davidson appears to be confusing charity with an approbation of things in the strict sense damnable when he makes the Mother of Christ abet a Nun whose wanderings have no nobler excuse than a carnal desire—savoir enfin ce que c’est un homme. Between forgiving a lapsed man or woman and abetting the lapse I now, in a cooler hour, see an immense, an essential, moral difference. But I confess that the foregoing paper was written while my sense of this difference was temporarily blinded under the spell of Mr. Davidson’s beautiful verse.
It may still be that his Nun had some nobler motive than I am able, after two or three readings of the ballad, to discover. In that case I can only ask pardon for my obtuseness.
June 1, 1895. Bjoernson’s First Manner.