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Ah, what shall we say then but that earth threatened often
Shall live on forever that such things may be,
And the spring-bearing birds flutter north o'er the sea,
That earth's garden may bloom round my love's feet and me? We especially recommend our readers to note the English of these lines. Indeed the whole poem is a study of language.
The play opens in the court of King Pharamond. Oliver, his foster-father, laments to the lords of the court that the king has fallen a prey to a sort of dreamy melancholy, from which all his attempts to rouse him, by taking him out to hunt, or to tilting, or to sit in judgment, are ineffectual. Pharamond presently enters, and dismissing the lords, calls Oliver with him into the garden. This closes the first act. The chorus sings of the stealthy springing up of love in the heart, and Love, coming forward, relates that he has chosen Pharamond for a special reason to manifest his might in him.
We are then shown Pharamond and Oliver in the garden, and the king relates how at diverse times he has had a vision, or his spirit has been rapt into an unknown land, a valley between rocky walls, where he has seen a maiden for whom he has ever since been pining in love,
As my twin-sister, young of years was she and slender,
That first morn of my reign and my glory's beginning. We hardly need call our reader's attention to the structure of these verses, which is that of the whole dialogue. Those acquainted with the old English alliterative measures will note the freer handling, and also the introduction of the new series of alliterants before the former is completed, thus braiding the verse together as is done in the rhyme of the Italian terza rima.
As my twin sister, young of years was she and slender,
And had lain round her feet with the first of the singing. But to come back to the story: Pharamond avers that his love and longing have ever grown on him, and now that he has seen her in vision weeping and pining, he has resolved to wander through the world until he finds her. To this plan Oliver, who has no other wish in life than to make his foster-son happy, accedes and provides the means of departure.,
The music then descants on the sufferings of love, and yet declares them, if consoled by visions or hopes of the beloved, to be sweeter than all that the world prizes. Love appears, “ clad as a maker of pictured cloths," and explains how he has led on Pharamond with visions, and in the heart of the maiden of his vision has poured vague love-longing
In the next scene Pharamond and Oliver, in a forest, recount the adventures and sufferings that have befallen them in their four years' pilgrimage. The music - very sweet here — tells of love's disappointment, and inspires hope of a happy ending
Love introduces the next scene, bearing “a cup of bitter drink,” pities the sufferings of his servant, and promises greater bliss for all ihat he has endured. Pharamond and Oliver are found in a valleythe last land — but know not where they are ; and the king, exhausted and almost hopeless, thinks his end is nigh. While he sleeps, Oliver goes to find some help. The music closes the scene with a strong major movement full of encouragement and hopefulness.
Love appears as a pilgrim, telling that the trial is over, and then passing to the stage, awakens Pharamond and talks with him, drawing him back to life. The king looks about him and recognises the land of his vision. A voice is heard singing and drawing nearer. The song we give in full — the music accompanies it
Dawn talks to day
Over dew-gleaming flowers,
Till the resting of hours ;
And with dreams thine eyes glistening,
Though the world is a-listening.
O fresh day, O fair day, O long day made ours !
Morn shall meet noon,
While the flower-stems yet move,
And the flowers fade above.
As I tremble and hearken;
Though the leaves thy brow darken.
O sweet day, () rich day, made long for our love!
Late day shall greet eve,
And the full blossoms shake,
The tall trees while they wake.
Come nigher and nigher !
Tell me all thy desire !
O soft day, () calm day, made clear for our sake !
Eve shall kiss night
And the leaves stir like rain
O'er the grass of the plain.
'Mid the dreamy night's sleeping,
The dear rain of thy weeping.
© kind day, O dear day, short day come again ! Nothing could better illustrate than this lyric, which is indeed the flower of the whole poem, the essentially musical character on which we have insisted. Few readers will fail to appreciate its transcendent sweetness and melody - its beauty almost too subtle and fine to express in words. Yet if we subject it to intellectual analysis, it is surprising how little it yields. The four stanzas are like so many turns of a kaleidoscope, producing a lovely effect by the shifting arrangement of a few simple words. It will be seen that four periods of the day are indicated in the initial lines : (1) dawn talks to day (misprinted “to-day” in our copy]; (2) morn meets noon ; (3) late day greets eve ; (4) eve kisses night. Then the flowers and leaves are mentioned: (1) they gleam in dew; (2) they move slightly; (3) they shake ; (4) they stir "like rain." Then the wind, not mentioned in (1), in (2) is dying ; (3) moving the trees; (4) stealing over the grass. Then the loved one's eyes, which (1) glisten with dreams ; (2) shine under leaves ; (3) are soft with bliss ; (4) are unseen. Next the loved one's lips, which (1) are silent and sweet; (2) are speaking ; (3) are silent and kissed ; (4) the lover's own lips are moist with tears. In two of the stanzas the loved one is represented as speaking, and in two silent. This gives the germ of the epodic part, which (1) entreats the beloved to greet their meeting ; (2) begs to be kissed into silence; (3) craves some speech of love for after memory; (4) pleads for silence again. Finally the refrain, with slight change of words, gives the lovely day a rapturous greeting, or bids it a reluctant farewell. The reader should notice also, as characteristic, the indefiniteness and indistinctness of the whole. We do not know whether the verses represent the speech of man or maid, or of each alternately; flowers and trees are mentioned, but indefinitely; neither place, time, nor circumstance indicated — except in one touch: “the leaves thy brow darken”
to enable us to forin a visible picture to the fancy. All floats in the realm of sound.
But do we therefore undervalue this lyric because its materials are so slight? Not in the least ; we regard it, as we have said, as a song of transcendent loveliness, to which we can scarcely find a parallel. Intellectual analysis has no business with it: it addresses emotion, not thought, as music does. Had we room we might examine its rhythmical structure; but will only call attention to the passionate cry, “O Love, kiss me into silence !" where the rushing four syllables into the time of two is a true musical effect.
Azalais, the singer, and the maiden of the dream, enters and finds Pharamond sleeping. She sees how wan and wasted lie is, pities him, wonders if he is a lover, and love takes full possession of her heart. She dreads to awaken him :
If my hand touched thy hand
Friend, I may not forbear : we have been here together ;
if this May sky should darken above us,
And forgive me my hunger of no hope begotten ! Pharamond awakens to her kiss, recognises the maiden of his dreams, and the longing of both is fulfilled. Their words fall into the cadence of the music which follows in glad exultation.
A space of time is supposed to pass. Love appears, and lets us know that Pharamond and Oliver wish to see their native land again, to learn how the people fare, and whether they will welcome him back. The scene opens before Pharamond's palace. The King and Oliver converse, and we learn that the people have chosen a new king, Theobald, the former Constable of the realm, who is but the body of the kingship, a wise stranger, Honorius, his chief councillor, being the soul. Pharamond learns that he is forgotten of all his people, save a faithful few. He recalls the days and deeds of his royalty :
Yea, I was a king once ; the songs sung o'er my cradle
For a furlong before us the spear-wood was glistening. He recalls the time when he was firmly seated on the throne, a great king, loved and feared by all far and near, and yet he scarce valued his fame and fortune, for one thing he lacked, which he since has sought and found. Why should he stir up strife again, and war upon his own people, for what he prized so little? He sees King
Theobald and Honorius pass, and thinks their lot little to be envied.
O sweet wind of the night, wherewith now ariseth
Yea, for hope of the morn when the sea is passed over,
Breathe soft, O sweet wind, for surely she speaketh: “ Weary I wax, and my life is a-waning :
Life lapseth fast, and I faint for thee, Pharamond ;
– Yea, Love were enough if thy lips were not lacking. The music, taking up again the key-note, Love is enough, bursts into a rapturous pæan to Love. We give two stanzas :
O hearken the words of his voice of compassion :
" Come cling round about me, ye faithful who sicken
As the rain in mid morning your troubles shall thicken,
But surely within you some godhead doth quicken,
Come — fear ye shall have, ’mid the sky's overcasting :
Come — no crown shall ye have for your thirst and your fasting,
But the kissed lips of Love and fair life everlasting Cry out, for one heedeth, who leadeth you home ! ” Love comes forward "holding a crown and palm-branch,” and epiloguises rather mystically. Then the hearers speak: the Emperor and Empress express their gratification and send gifts to the playerking and player-maiden. Giles and Joan chatter satisfaction, and plan to invite the player-lovers to their rural home, and thus the pageant dissolves away.
Our readers may perhaps think that we have devoted an excessive amount of attention to a little fanciful poem of not much more than a hundred pages. But they should bear in mind that the true poetry of any period has this importance, that it represents the general thoughts and feelings of that period — those which belong to all time. If we look back at the literature of the past, we find that it is the poetry rather than the prose that retains its hold upon the popular mind; and this is because in the poetry we find ourselves at once placed in natural and intelligible relations with the past on the basis of a common humanity. And any change in the current of general thought and feeling finds its first indication in the genuine poetry of the time; as a change of wind will be indicated by the movement of the light cirri in the upper regions of the air, before it is perceived on the surface of the earth. This little book we consider one of these cirri, foretokening such a shifting of the wind.
But apart from these considerations, it is a work of rare and delicate beauty. The expression is singularly chastened, and as a rule is kept at a lower tone than the thought, so as to give room to accent