« ÎnapoiContinuați »
mastered my reason, and then I would abandon myself to the luxury of tears while waiting for a rhyme to come to me. These infrequent occasions were a source of much pleasure to my wife; masculine weakness is a spectacle that always affords pleasure to feminine pride. One night when I was busy filing and polishing, in obedience to Boileau's precept, the flood-gates of my heart were opened.
"O thou!" said I to my dear Merlette, "the only and most fondly loved one! thou, without whom my life is but an empty dream, thou, in whose look, whose smile, the universe is as another world, life of my heart, knowest thou how I love thee? It were easy for me, with a little study and application, to express in verse the hackneyed ideas that have already been employed by other poets, but where shall I find the glowing words in which to tell thee all that thy beauty inspires within my heart? Can the memory even of the suffering that is past supply me with language fitly to portray to thee the bliss that is present? Before thou camest to me my lonely state was that of a homeless orphan; to-day, it is that of a king. Knowest thou, my beautiful one, that in this weak frame whose form I bear until it shall be stricken down in death, in this poor, throbbing brain where fruitless ideas are ceaselessly fermenting, knowest thou, dost understand, my angel, that there is not one atom, not one thought that is not wholly thine? List to what my intelligence can say to thee and feel how infinitely greater is my love. Oh! that my genius were a pearl and thou wert Cleopatra!"
While doting in this manner I was shedding tears over my wife, and her color was fading visibly. At every tear that fell from my eyes a feather became, not black, indeed, but of a dirty, rusty hue (I believe that she had been playing the same trick before somewhere else). After thus indulging my tender
ness for a few minutes I found myself in presence of an unfloured, unpasted bird, in every respect exactly similar to a common, everyday blackbird.
What could I do? What could I say? What course was left open to me? Reproaches would have been futile. I might, indeed, have considered the marriage as void on the ground of false representations and secured its annulment, but how could I endure to make my shame public? Was not my misfortune great enough as it was? I took my courage in my two claws, I resolved to quit the world, to abandon the literary career, to fly to a desert, could I find one, where never again might I behold living creature, and, like Alcestis, seek
some lonely spot
Where leave is granted blackbirds to be white. Thereupon I flew away, still dissolved in tears, and the wind, which is to birds what chance is to men, landed me on a branch in Morfontaine wood. At that hour every one was a-bed. "What a marriage!" I said to myself, "what a catastrophe! That poor child certainly meant well in getting herself up in white, but for all that I am none the less to be pitied, and she is none the less mangy."
The nightingale was singing still. Alone in the silence of the night he was recreating himself with that gift of the Almighty that renders him so superior to the poet, and was pouring out, unhindered, his secrets upon the surrounding stillness. I could not resist the temptation of drawing near and speaking to him.
"What a lucky bird you are!" said I. "Not only can you sing as much as you wish-and very well you do it, too, and every one is pleased to listen to you-but you have a wife and children, your nest, your friends, a comfortable pillow of moss, the full moon, and never a newspaper to criticize you.
Rubini and Rossini are nothing compared to you; you are the equal of the one and you interpret the other. I, too, sir, have been a singer, and my case is pitiable. While you have been here in the forest I have been marshaling words like Prussian soldiers in array of battle and dovetailing insipidities. May one know your secret?"
"Yes," replied the nightingale, "but it is not what you think. My wife is tiresome; I do not love her. I am in love with the rose: Saadi, the Persian, has mentioned the circumstance. All night long for her sake do I strain my throat in singing, but she sleeps and hears me not. Her petals are closed now and she has an old scarabee sheltered there and tomorrow morning, when I seek my bed, worn out with fatigue and suffering, then, then she will open them to receive a bee who is consuming her heart!"
OVID (PUBLIUS OVIDIUS NASO), a Roman poet, born at Sulmo, Italy, in 43 B.C.; died near the mouth of the Danube, in 18 A.D. He studied law at Rome, later literature at Athens, and traveled extensively. His most famous poem is "The Metamorphoses." Seven other works of his are extant, but are not ranked with his masterpiece.
THE ADVENT OF MAN
(Translated by Alfred Church)
SOMETHING yet lacked—some higher being,
With lofty soul, and capable of rule
THE GOLDEN AGE
(Translated by George Sandys)
In firm content And harmless ease their happy days were spent; The yet-free earth did of her own accord (Untorn with ploughs) all sorts of fruit afford. Content with Nature's unenforcèd food, They gather wildings, strawberries of the wood, Sour cornels what upon the brambles grow, And acorns which Jove's spreading oaks bestow; 'Twas always Spring; warm Zephyrus sweetly blew On smiling flowers which, without setting, grew. Forthwith the earth corn unmanured bears, And every year renews her golden ears; With milk and nectar were the rivers fill'd And yellow money from green elms distill'd.
PLACE OF BANISHMENT
F anyone remembers the banished Naso, and if without me my name survives in "the City," let him know that I am living in the midst of barbarism, exposed under stars that never set in the ocean. The Sauromatæ a savage race the Bessi and the Getæ surround me: names how unworthy of my genius to mention !
When the air is mild we are defended by the intervening Danube, while it flows; by its waves it