作者：Cabell, James Branch
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The Line of Love Dizain des Mariages试读：
TO ROBERT GAMBLE CABELL I"He loved chivalrye, Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye. And of his port as meek as is a mayde, He never yet no vileinye ne sayde In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. He was a verray parfit gentil knyght."Introduction
The Cabell case belongs to comedy in the grand manner. For fifteen years or more the man wrote and wrote—good stuff, sound stuff, extremely original stuff, often superbly fine stuff—and yet no one in the whole of this vast and incomparable Republic arose to his merit—no one, that is, save a few encapsulated enthusiasts, chiefly somewhat dubious. It would be difficult to imagine a first-rate artist cloaked in greater obscurity, even in the remotest lands of Ghengis Khan. The newspapers, reviewing him, dismissed him with a sort of inspired ill-nature; the critics of a more austere kidney—the Paul Elmer Mores, Brander Matthewses, Hamilton Wright Mabies, and other such brummagem dons—were utterly unaware of him. Then, of a sudden, the imbeciles who operate the Comstock Society raided and suppressed his "Jurgen," and at once he was a made man. Old book-shops began to be ransacked for his romances and extravaganzas—many of them stored, I daresay, as "picture-books," and under the name of the artist who illustrated them, Howard Pyle. And simultaneously, a great gabble about him set up in the newspapers, and then in the literary weeklies, and finally even in the learned reviews. An Englishman, Hugh Walpole, magnified the excitement with some startling hochs; a single hoch from the Motherland brings down the professors like firemen sliding down a pole. To-day every literate American has heard of Cabell, including even those presidents of women's clubs who lately confessed that they had never heard of Lizette Woodworth Reese. More of his books are sold in a week than used to be sold in a year. Every flapper in the land has read "Jurgen" behind the door; two-thirds of the grandmothers east of the Mississippi have tried to borrow it from me. Solemn Privat Dozenten lecture upon the author; he is invited to take to the chautauqua himself; if the donkeys who manage the National Institute of Arts and Letters were not afraid of his reply he would be offered its gilt-edged ribbon, vice Sylvanus Cobb, deceased. And all because a few pornographic old fellows thrust their ever-hopeful snouts into the man's tenth (or was it eleventh or twelfth?) book!
Certainly, the farce must appeal to Cabell himself—a sardonic mocker, not incapable of making himself a character in his own revues. But I doubt that he enjoys the actual pawing that he has been getting—any more than he resented the neglect that he got for so long. Very lately, in the midst of the carnival, he announced his own literary death and burial, and even preached a burlesque funeral sermon upon his life and times. Such an artist, by the very nature of his endeavors, must needs stand above all public-clapper-clawing, pro or con. He writes, not to please his customers in general, nor even to please his partisans in particular, but to please himself. He is his own criterion, his own audience, his own judge and hangman. When he does bad work, he suffers for it as no holy clerk ever suffered from a gnawing conscience or Freudian suppressions; when he does good work he gets his pay in a form of joy that only artists know. One could no more think of him exposing himself to the stealthy, uneasy admiration of a women's club—he is a man of agreeable exterior, with handsome manners and an eye for this and that—than one could imagine him taking to the stump for some political mountebank or getting converted at a camp-meeting. What moves such a man to write is the obscure, inner necessity that Joseph Conrad has told us of, and what rewards him when he has done is his own searching and accurate judgment, his own pride and delight in a beautiful piece of work.
At once, I suppose, you visualize a somewhat smug fellow, loftily complacent and superior—in brief, the bogus artist of Greenwich Village, posturing in a pot-hat before a cellar full of visiting schoolmarms, all dreaming of being betrayed. If so, you see a ghost. It is the curse of the true artist that his work never stands before him in all its imagined completeness—that he can never look at it without feeling an impulse to add to it here or take away from it there—that the beautiful, to him, is not a state of being, but an eternal becoming. Satisfaction, like the praise of dolts, is the compensation of the aesthetic cheese-monger—the popular novelist, the Broadway dramatist, the Massenet and Kipling, the Maeterlinck and Augustus Thomas. Cabell, in fact, is forever fussing over his books, trying to make them one degree better. He rewrites almost as pertinaciously as Joseph Conrad, Henry James, or Brahms. Compare "Domnei" in its present state to "The Soul of Melicent," its first state, circa 1913. The obvious change is the change in title, but of far more importance are a multitude of little changes—a phrase made more musical, a word moved from one place to another, some small banality tracked down and excised, a brilliant adjective inserted, the plan altered in small ways, the rhythm of it made more delicate and agreeable. Here, in "The Line of Love," there is another curious example of his high capacity for revision. It is not only that the book, once standing isolated, has been brought into the Cabellian canon, and so related to "Jurgen" and "Figures of Earth" at one end, and to the tales of latter-day Virginia at the other; it is that the whole texture has been worked over, and the colors made more harmonious, and the inner life of the thing given a fresh energy. Once a flavor of the rococo hung about it; now it breathes and moves. For Cabell knows a good deal more than he knew in 1905. He is an artist whose work shows constant progress toward the goals he aims at—principally the goal of a perfect style. Content, with him, is always secondary. He has ideas, and they are often of much charm and plausibility, but his main concern is with the manner of stating them. It is surely not ideas that make "Jurgen" stand out so saliently from the dreadful prairie of modern American literature; it is the magnificent writing that is visible on every page of it—writing apparently simple and spontaneous, and yet extraordinarily cunning and painstaking. The current notoriety of "Jurgen" will pass. The Comstocks will turn to new imbecilities, and the followers of literary parades to new marvels. But it will remain an author's book for many a year.
By author, of course, I mean artist—not mere artisan. It was certainly not surprising to hear that Maurice Hewlett found "Jurgen" exasperating. So, too, there is exasperation in Richard Strauss for plodding music-masters. Hewlett is simply a British Civil Servant turned author, which is not unsuggestive of an American Congressman turned philosopher. He has a pretty eye for color, and all the gusto that goes with beefiness, but like all the men of his class and race and time he can think only within the range of a few elemental ideas, chiefly of a sentimental variety, and when he finds those ideas flouted he is horrified. The bray, in fact, revealed the ass. It is Cabell's skepticism that saves him from an Americanism as crushing as Hewlett's Briticism, and so sets him free as an artist. Unhampered by a mission, happily ignorant of what is commended by all good men, disdainful of the petty certainties of pedagogues and green-grocers, not caring a damn what becomes of the Republic, or the Family, or even snivelization itself, he is at liberty to disport himself pleasantly with his nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns, arranging them with the same free hand, the same innocent joy, the same superb skill and discretion with which the late Jahveh arranged carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, hydrogen, oxygen and phosphorus in the sublime form of the human carcass. He, too, has his jokes. He knows the arch effect of a strange touch; his elaborate pedantries correspond almost exactly to the hook noses, cock eyes, outstanding ears and undulating Adam's apples which give so sinister and Rabelaisian a touch to the human scene. But in the main he sticks to more seemly materials and designs. His achievement, in fact, consists precisely in the success with which he gives those materials a striking newness, and gets a novel vitality into those designs. He takes the ancient and mouldy parts of speech—the liver and lights of harangues by Dr. Harding, of editorials in the New York Times, of "Science and Health, with a Key to the Scriptures," of department-store advertisements, of college yells, of chautauqual oratory, of smoke-room anecdote—and arranges them in mosaics that glitter with an almost fabulous light. He knows where a red noun should go, and where a peacock-blue verb, and where an adjective as darkly purple as a grape. He is an imagist in prose. You may like his story and you may not like it, but if you don't like the way he tells it then there is something the matter with your ears. As for me, his experiments with words caress me as I am caressed by the tunes of old Johannes Brahms. How simple it seems to manage them—and how infernally difficult it actually is!H. L. MENCKEN.Baltimore, October 1st, 1921.
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY
"In elect utteraunce to make memoriall,To thee for souccour, to thee for helpe I call,Mine homely rudeness and dryghness to expellWith the freshe waters of Elyconys well."
MY DEAR MRS. GRUNDY: You may have observed that nowadays we rank the love-story among the comfits of literature; and we do this for the excellent reason that man is a thinking animal by courtesy rather than usage.
Rightly considered, the most trivial love-affair is of staggering import. Who are we to question this, when nine-tenths of us owe our existence to a summer flirtation? And while our graver economic and social and psychic "problems" (to settle some one of which is nowadays the object of all ponderable fiction) are doubtless worthy of most serious consideration, you will find, my dear madam, that frivolous love-affairs, little and big, were shaping history and playing spillikins with sceptres long before any of these delectable matters were thought of.
Yes, even the most talked-about "questions of the day" are sometimes worthy of consideration; but were it not for the kisses of remote years and the high gropings of hearts no longer animate, there would be none to accord them this same consideration, and a void world would teeter about the sun, silent and naked as an orange. Love is an illusion, if you will; but always through this illusion, alone, has the next generation been rendered possible, and all endearing human idiocies, including "questions of the day," have been maintained.
Love, then, is no trifle. And literature, mimicking life at a respectful distance, may very reasonably be permitted an occasional reference to the corner-stone of all that exists. For in life "a trivial little love-story" is a matter more frequently aspersed than found. Viewed in the light of its consequences, any love-affair is of gigantic signification, inasmuch as the most trivial is a part of Nature's unending and, some say, her only labor, toward the peopling of the worlds.
She is uninventive, if you will, this Nature, but she is tireless. Generation by generation she brings it about that for a period weak men may stalk as demigods, while to every woman is granted at least one hour wherein to spurn the earth, a warm, breathing angel. Generation by generation does Nature thus betrick humanity, that humanity may endure.
Here for a little—with the gracious connivance of Mr. R. E. Townsend, to whom all lyrics hereinafter should be accredited—I have followed Nature, the arch-trickster. Through her monstrous tapestry I have traced out for you the windings of a single thread. It is parti-colored, this thread—now black for a mourning sign, and now scarlet where blood has stained it, and now brilliancy itself—for the tinsel of young love (if, as wise men tell us, it be but tinsel), at least makes a prodigiously fine appearance until time tarnish it. I entreat you, dear lady, to accept this traced-out thread with assurances of my most distinguished regard.
The gift is not great. Hereinafter is recorded nothing more weighty than the follies of young persons, perpetrated in a lost world which when compared with your ladyship's present planet seems rather callow. Hereinafter are only love-stories, and nowadays nobody takes love-making very seriously….
And truly, my dear madam, I dare say the Pompeiians did not take Vesuvius very seriously; it was merely an eligible spot for a fête champêtre. And when gaunt fishermen first preached Christ about the highways, depend upon it, that was not taken very seriously, either. Credat Judaeus; but all sensible folk—such as you and I, my dear madam—passed on with a tolerant shrug, knowing "their doctrine could be held of no sane man."
* * * * *APRIL 30, 1293—MAY 1, 1323
"Pus vezem de novelh florir pratz, e vergiers reverdezir rius e fontanas esclarzir, ben deu quascus lo joy jauzir don es jauzens."
It would in ordinary circumstances be my endeavor to tell you, first of all, just whom the following tale concerns. Yet to do this is not expedient, since any such attempt could not but revive the question as to whose son was Florian de Puysange?
No gain is to be had by resuscitating the mouldy scandal: and, indeed, it does not matter a button, nowadays, that in Poictesme, toward the end of the thirteenth century, there were elderly persons who considered the young Vicomte de Puysange to exhibit an indiscreet resemblance to Jurgen the pawnbroker. In the wild youth of Jurgen, when Jurgen was a practising poet (declared these persons), Jurgen had been very intimate with the former Vicomte de Puysange, now dead, for the two men had much in common. Oh, a great deal more in common, said these gossips, than the poor vicomte ever suspected, as you can see for yourself. That was the extent of the scandal, now happily forgotten, which we must at outset agree to ignore.
All this was in Poictesme, whither the young vicomte had come a-wooing the oldest daughter of the Comte de la Forêt. The whispering and the nods did not much trouble Messire Jurgen, who merely observed that he was used to the buffets of a censorious world; young Florian never heard of this furtive chatter; and certainly what people said in Poictesme did not at all perturb the vicomte's mother, that elderly and pious lady, Madame Félise de Puysange, at her remote home in Normandy. The principals taking the affair thus quietly, we may with profit emulate them. So I let lapse this delicate matter of young Florian's paternity, and begin with his wedding._
The Episode Called The Wedding Jest
1. Concerning Several Compacts
It is a tale which they narrate in Poictesme, telling how love began between Florian de Puysange and Adelaide de la Forêt. They tell also how young Florian had earlier fancied other women for one reason or another; but that this, he knew, was the great love of his life, and a love which would endure unchanged as long as his life lasted.
And the tale tells how the Comte de la Forêt stroked a gray beard, and said, "Well, after all, Puysange is a good fief—"
"As if that mattered!" cried his daughter, indignantly. "My father, you are a deplorably sordid person."
"My dear," replied the old gentleman, "it does matter. Fiefs last."
So he gave his consent to the match, and the two young people were married on Walburga's Eve, on the day that ends April.
And they narrate how Florian de Puysange was vexed by a thought that was in his mind. He did not know what this thought was. But something he had overlooked; something there was he had meant to do, and had not done: and a troubling consciousness of this lurked at the back of his mind like a small formless cloud. All day, while bustling about other matters, he had groped toward this unapprehended thought.
Now he had it: Tiburce.
The young Vicomte de Puysange stood in the doorway, looking back into the bright hall where they of Storisende were dancing at his marriage feast. His wife, for a whole half-hour his wife, was dancing with handsome Etienne de Nérac. Her glance met Florian's, and Adelaide flashed him an especial smile. Her hand went out as though to touch him, for all that the width of the hall severed them.
Florian remembered presently to smile back at her. Then he went out ofthe castle into a starless night that was as quiet as an unvoiced menace.A small and hard and gnarled-looking moon ruled over the dusk's secrecy.The moon this night, afloat in a luminous gray void, somehow remindedFlorian of a glistening and unripe huge apple.
The foliage about him moved at most as a sleeper breathes, while Florian descended eastward through walled gardens, and so came to the graveyard. White mists were rising, such mists as the witches of Amneran notoriously evoked in these parts on each Walburga's Eve to purchase recreations which squeamishness leaves undescribed.
For five years now Tiburce d'Arnaye had lain there. Florian thought of his dead comrade and of the love which had been between them—a love more perfect and deeper and higher than commonly exists between men—and the thought came to Florian, and was petulantly thrust away, that Adelaide loved ignorantly where Tiburce d'Arnaye had loved with comprehension. Yes, he had known almost the worst of Florian de Puysange, this dear lad who, none the less, had flung himself between Black Torrismond's sword and the breast of Florian de Puysange. And it seemed to Florian unfair that all should prosper with him, and Tiburce lie there imprisoned in dirt which shut away the color and variousness of things and the drollness of things, wherein Tiburce d'Arnaye had taken such joy. And Tiburce, it seemed to Florian—for this was a strange night—was struggling futilely under all that dirt, which shut out movement, and clogged the mouth of Tiburce, and would not let him speak; and was struggling to voice a desire which was unsatisfied and hopeless.
"O comrade dear," said Florian, "you who loved merriment, there is a feast afoot on this strange night, and my heart is sad that you are not here to share in the feasting. Come, come, Tiburce, a right trusty friend you were to me; and, living or dead, you should not fail to make merry at my wedding."
Thus he spoke. White mists were rising, and it was Walburga's Eve.
So a queer thing happened, and it was that the earth upon the grave began to heave and to break in fissures, as when a mole passes through the ground. And other queer things happened after that, and presently Tiburce d'Arnaye was standing there, gray and vague in the moonlight as he stood there brushing the mold from his brows, and as he stood there blinking bright wild eyes. And he was not greatly changed, it seemed to Florian; only the brows and nose of Tiburce cast no shadows upon his face, nor did his moving hand cast any shadow there, either, though the moon was naked overhead.
"You had forgotten the promise that was between us," said Tiburce; and his voice had not changed much, though it was smaller.
"It is true. I had forgotten. I remember now." And Florian shivered a little, not with fear, but with distaste.
"A man prefers to forget these things when he marries. It is natural enough. But are you not afraid of me who come from yonder?"
"Why should I be afraid of you, Tiburce, who gave your life for mine?"
"I do not say. But we change yonder."
"And does love change, Tiburce? For surely love is immortal."
"Living or dead, love changes. I do not say love dies in us who may hope to gain nothing more from love. Still, lying alone in the dark clay, there is nothing to do, as yet, save to think of what life was, and of what sunlight was, and of what we sang and whispered in dark places when we had lips; and of how young grass and murmuring waters and the high stars beget fine follies even now; and to think of how merry our loved ones still contrive to be, even now, with their new playfellows. Such reflections are not always conducive to philanthropy."
"Tell me," said Florian then, "and is there no way in which we who are still alive may aid you to be happier yonder?"
"Oh, but assuredly," replied Tiburce d'Arnaye, and he discoursed of curious matters; and as he talked, the mists about the graveyard thickened. "And so," Tiburce said, in concluding his tale, "it is not permitted that I make merry at your wedding after the fashion of those who are still in the warm flesh. But now that you recall our ancient compact, it is permitted I have my peculiar share in the merriment, and I may drink with you to the bride's welfare."