There are geniuses more sunny, large, and glad than Hawthorne’s, none more original, more surefooted, in his own realm of moonlight and twilight.
CHAPTER XI: THE PARADISE OF POETS
We were talking of Love, Constancy, the Ideal. “Who ever loved like the poets?” cried Lady Violet Lebas, her pure, pale cheek flushing. “Ah, if ever I am to love, he shall be a singer!”
“Tenors are popular, very,” said Lord Walter.
“I mean a poet,” she answered witheringly.
Near them stood Mr. Witham, the author of “Heart’s Chords Tangled.”
“Ah,” said he, “that reminds me. I have been trying to catch it all the morning. That reminds me of my dream.”
“Tell us your dream,” murmured Lady Violet Lebas, and he told it.
“It was through an unfortunate but pardonable blunder,” said Mr. Witham, “that I died, and reached the Paradise of Poets. I had, indeed, published volumes of verse, but with the most blameless motives. Other poets were continually sending me theirs, and, as I could not admire them, and did not like to reply by critical remarks, I simply printed some rhymes for the purpose of sending them to the gentlemen who favoured me with theirs. I always wrote on the fly-leaf a quotation from the ‘Iliad,’ about giving copper in exchange for gold; and the few poets who could read Greek were gratified, while the others, probably, thought a compliment was intended. Nothing could be less culpable or pretentious, but, through some mistake on the part of Charon, I was drafted off to the Paradise of Poets.
“Outside the Golden Gate a number of Shadows were waiting, in different attitudes of depression and languor. Bavius and Maevius were there, still complaining of ‘cliques,’ railing at Horace for a mere rhymer of society, and at Virgil as a plagiarist, ’Take away his cribs from Homer and Apollonius Rhodius,’ quoth honest Maevius, ’and what is there left of him?’ I also met a society of gentlemen, in Greek costume, of various ages, from a half-naked minstrel with a tortoiseshell lyre in his hand to an elegant of the age of Pericles. They all consorted together, talking various dialects of Aeolic, Ionian, Attic Greek, and so forth, which were plainly not intelligible to each other. I ventured to ask one of the company who he was, but he, with a sweep of his hand, said, ’We are Homer!’ When I expressed my regret and surprise that the Golden Gate had not yet opened for so distinguished, though collective, an artist, my friend answered that, according to Fick, Peppmuller, and many other learned men, they were Homer. ’But an impostor from Chios has got in somehow,’ he said; ’they don’t pay the least attention to the Germans in the Paradise of Poets.’
“At this moment the Golden Gates were thrown apart, and a fair lady, in an early Italian costume, carrying a laurel in her hand, appeared at the entrance. All the Shadows looked up with an air of weary expectation, like people waiting for their turn in a doctor’s consulting-room. She beckoned to me, however, and I made haste to follow her. The words ‘Charlatan!’ ‘You a poet!’ in a variety of languages, greeted me by way of farewell from the Shadows.