Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete eBook

Albert Bigelow Paine
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,890 pages of information about Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete.

By and by he handed me the Saturday Times Review, saying: 

“Here is a fine poem, a great poem, I think.  I can stand that.”

It was “The Palatine (in the ’Dark Ages’),” by Willa Sibert Cather, reprinted from McClure’s.  The reader will understand better than I can express why these lofty opening stanzas appealed to Mark Twain: 

The Palatine

“Have you been with the King to Rome,
Brother, big brother?”
“I’ve been there and I’ve come home,
Back to your play, little brother.”

“Oh, how high is Caesar’s house,
Brother, big brother?”
“Goats about the doorways browse;
Night-hawks nest in the burnt roof-tree,
Home of the wild bird and home of the bee. 
A thousand chambers of marble lie
Wide to the sun and the wind and the sky. 
Poppies we find amongst our wheat
Grow on Caesar’s banquet seat. 
Cattle crop and neatherds drowse
On the floors of Caesar’s house.”

“But what has become of Caesar’s gold,
Brother, big brother?”
“The times are bad and the world is old
—­Who knows the where of the Caesar’s gold? 
Night comes black on the Caesar’s hill;
The wells are deep and the tales are ill. 
Fireflies gleam in the damp and mold,
All that is left of the Caesar’s gold. 
Back to your play, little brother.”

Farther along in our journey he handed me the paper again, pointing to these lines of Kipling: 

How is it not good for the Christian’s health
To hurry the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles and the Aryan smiles,
And he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white
And the name of the late deceased: 
And the epitaph drear:  “A fool lies here
Who tried to hustle the East.”

“I could stand any amount of that,” he said, and presently:  “Life is too long and too short.  Too long for the weariness of it; too short for the work to be done.  At the very most, the average mind can only master a few languages and a little history.”

I said:  “Still, we need not worry.  If death ends all it does not matter; and if life is eternal there will be time enough.”

“Yes,” he assented, rather grimly, “that optimism of yours is always ready to turn hell’s back yard into a playground.”

I said that, old as I was, I had taken up the study of French, and mentioned Bayard Taylor’s having begun Greek at fifty, expecting to need it in heaven.

Clemens said, reflectively:  “Yes—­but you see that was Greek.”



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Mark Twain, a Biography. Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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