I will go out of my way to caress one who shows any desire to be friendly. There is a very filthy fellow who collects cigarette stubs on the Boul' Mich', and who is always followed by a starved yellow cur. The other day I came across them in a little side street. The man was stretched on the pavement brutishly drunk and dead to the world. The dog, lying by his side, seemed to look at me with sad, imploring eyes. Though all the world despise that man, I thought, this poor brute loves him and will be faithful unto death. From this incident I wrote the verses that follow: The Outlaw A wild and woeful race he ran Of lust and sin by land and sea; Until, abhorred of God and man, They swung him from the gallows-tree.
And then he climbed the Starry Stair, And dumb and naked and alone, With head unbowed and brazen glare, He stood before the Judgment Throne. The weak have wept beneath his yoke, The strong have fled before his flame. The blood of babes is on his sword; His life is evil to the brim: Look down, decree his doom, O Lord!
The man was mute; he made no stir, Erect before the Judgment Seat. When all at once a mongrel cur Crept out and cowered and licked his feet. It licked his feet with whining cry. Come Heav'n, come Hell, what did it care? It leapt, it tried to catch his eye; Its master, yea, its God was there. Then, as a thrill of wonder sped Through throngs of shining seraphim, The Judge of All looked down and said: "Lo! Aye, though his sin be black as night, And though he stand 'mid men alone, He shall be softened in My sight, And find a pleader by My Throne.
It keeps me fit and leaves me free to think. In this way I have come to know Paris like my pocket. I have explored its large and little streets, its stateliness and its slums. But most of all I love the Quays, between the leafage and the sunlit Seine. Like shuttles the little steamers dart up and down, weaving the water into patterns of foam.
Cigar-shaped barges stream under the lacework of the many bridges and make me think of tranquil days and willow-fringed horizons. But what I love most is the stealing in of night, when the sky takes on that strange elusive purple; when eyes turn to the evening star and marvel at its brightness; when the Eiffel Tower becomes a strange, shadowy stairway yearning in impotent effort to the careless moon. Walking, walking, oh, the joy of walking!
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Swinging down the tawny lanes with head held high; Striding up the green hills, through the heather stalking, Swishing through the woodlands where the brown leaves lie; Marveling at all things -- windmills gaily turning, Apples for the cider-press, ruby-hued and gold; Tails of rabbits twinkling, scarlet berries burning, Wedge of geese high-flying in the sky's clear cold, Light in little windows, field and furrow darkling; Home again returning, hungry as a hawk; Whistling up the garden, ruddy-cheeked and sparkling, Oh, but I am happy as I walk, walk, walk!
She speaks. Walking, walking, oh, the curse of walking!
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Slouching round the grim square, shuffling up the street, Slinking down the by-way, all my graces hawking, Offering my body to each man I meet. Peering in the gin-shop where the lads are drinking, Trying to look gay-like, crazy with the blues; Halting in a doorway, shuddering and shrinking Oh, my draggled feather and my thin, wet shoes. Here's a drunken drover: "Hullo, there, old dearie! On and on till daylight, famished, wet and weary, God in Heaven help me as I walk, walk, walk! The other evening MacBean was in a pessimistic mood.
To produce something that will buy me food, shelter, raiment. It haunts you. It seems to clamor for expression. It begins to obsess you. At last in desperation you embody it in a poem, an essay, a story. You are at rest. It troubles you no more. Yes; if I were a millionaire I should write, if it were only to escape from my ideas. Then, again, some men write to amuse themselves, some because they conceive they have a mission in the world; some because they have real genius, and are conscious they can enrich the literature of all time.
I must say I don't know of any belonging to the latter class. We are living in an age of mediocrity.
There is no writer of to-day who will be read twenty years after he is dead. That's a truth that must come home to the best of them.
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Then followed some of the second class, Stevenson, Meredith, Hardy. And to-day we have three novelists of the third class, good, capable craftsmen. We can trust ourselves comfortably in their hands. We read and enjoy them, but do you think our children will? I may surprise you yet. I may get married and turn bourgeois.
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It might change his point of view. He is so painfully discouraging. I have never mentioned my ballads to him. He would be sure to throw cold water on them. And as it draws near to its end the thought of my book grows more and more dear to me. How I will get it published I know not; but I will. Then even if it doesn't sell, even if nobody reads it, I will be content. Out of this brief, perishable Me I will have made something concrete, something that will preserve my thought within its dusty covers long after I am dead and dust.
But all amid his sparkling tones His ear was quick as any To catch upon the cobble-stones The jingle of my penny. And as upon a day that shone He piped a merry measure: "How well you play! You'd think the words of praise I spoke Were all the pay he needed; The artist in the player woke, The penny lay unheeded. Now Winter's here; the wind is shrill, His coat is thin and tattered; Yet hark! And somehow though the city looks Soaked through and through with shadows, He makes you think of singing brooks And larks and sunny meadows.
Poor chap! I fear he freezes in the night; My praise I've long repented, Yet look! Blind Peter seems contented. A day later. He was smoking his big briar and drinking a huge glass of brown beer. The tree gave a pleasant shade, and he had thrown his sombrero on a chair. I noted how his high brow was bronzed by the sun and there were golden lights in his broad beard. There was something massive and imposing in the man as he sat there in brooding thought.
MacBean, he told me, was sick and unable to leave his room. So I bought a cooked chicken and a bottle of Barsac, and mounting to the apartment of the invalid, I made him eat and drink. MacBean was very despondent, but cheered up greatly. I think he rather dreads the future. He cannot save money, and all he makes he spends.
He has always been a rover, often tried to settle down but could not. Now I think he wishes for security. I fear, however, it is too late. And still I seek, as still I roam, A snug roof overhead; Four walls, my own; a quiet home. It is a country of the young. The old have no place in it. He will gradually lose his grip, go down and down. I am sorry. He is my nearest approach to a friend. I do not make them easily. I have deep reserves. I like solitude.
I am never so surrounded by boon companions as when I am all alone. But though I am a solitary I realize the beauty of friendship, and on looking through my note-book I find the following: If You Had a Friend If you had a friend strong, simple, true, Who knew your faults and who understood; Who believed in the very best of you, And who cared for you as a father would; Who would stick by you to the very end, Who would smile however the world might frown: I'm sure you would try to please your friend, You never would think to throw him down.
And supposing your friend was high and great, And he lived in a palace rich and tall, And sat like a King in shining state, And his praise was loud on the lips of all; Well then, when he turned to you alone, And he singled you out from all the crowd, And he called you up to his golden throne, Oh, wouldn't you just be jolly proud?
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If you had a friend like this, I say, So sweet and tender, so strong and true, You'd try to please him in every way, You'd live at your bravest -- now, wouldn't you? His worth would shine in the words you penned; You'd shout his praises. You tell me you haven't got such a friend; You haven't? I wonder. What of God? To how few is granted the privilege of doing the work which lies closest to the heart, the work for which one is best fitted.