I am sure that the most peaceful part of our Garden of Peace is the Place of Roses. The place of roses in the time of roses is one bower. It grew out of the orchard ground which I had turned into a lawn in exchange for the grassy space which I had turned into the House Garden. The grass came very rapidly when I had grubbed up the roots of the old plums and cherries. But then we found that the stone-edged beds and the central fountain had not really taken possession, so to speak, of the House Garden. This had still the character of a lawn for all its bedding, and could not be mown in less than two hours.

And just as I was becoming impressed with this fact, a gentle general dealer came to me with the inquiry f a tall wooden pillar would be of any use to me. I could not tell him until I had seen it, and when I had seen it and bought it and had it conveyed home I could not tell him.

It was a fluted column of wood, nearly twenty feet high and two in diameter, with a base and a carved Corinthian capital—quite an imposing object, but, as usual, the people at the auction were so startled by having brought before them something to which they were unaccustomed, they would not make a bid for it, and my dealer, who has brought me many an embarrassing treasure, got it fur the ten shillings at which he had started it.

It lay on the grass where it had been left by the carters, giving to the landscape for a whole week the semblance of the place of the Parthenon or the Acropolis; but on the seventh day I clearly saw that one cannot possess a white elephant without making some sacrifices for that distinction, and I resolved to sacrifice the new lawn to my hasty purchase. There are few things in the world dearer than a bargain, and none more irresistible. Rut, as it turned out, this was altogether an exceptional thing—as a matter of fact, all my bargains are. I made it stand in the centre of the lawn and I saw the place transformed.

It occupied no more than a patch less than a yard 'n diameter; but it dominated the whole neighbourhood. On one side of the place there is a range of shrubs on a small mound, making people who stand by the new pend of water-lilies believe that they have come to the bottom of the garden; on another side is the old Saxon earthwork, now turned into an expanse of things herbaceous, with a long curved grass path under the ancient castle walls; down the full length of the third side runs a pergola, giving no one a glimpse of a great breadth of rose-beds or of the colonnade beyond, where the sweet-briers have their own way.

There was no reason that I could see (now that I had set my heart on the scheme) why I should not set up a gigantic rose pillar in the centre of the lawn and see what would happen.


What actually did happen before another year had passed was the erecting of a tall pillar which looked so lonely in the midst of the grass—a lighthouse marking a shoal in a green sea—that I made four large round beds about it, at a distance of about twenty feet, and set up a nine-foot pillar in the centre of each, planting climbing roses of various sorts around it, hoping that in due time the whole should be incorporated and form a ring of roses about the towering centre column.

It really took no more than two years to bring to fruition my most sanguine hopes, and now there are four rose-tents with hundreds of prolific shoots above the apex of each, clinging with eager fingers to the wires which I have brought to them from the top of the central pillar, and threatening in time to form a complete canopy between forty and fifty feet in diameter.

In the shade of these ambitious things one sits in what I say is the most peaceful part of the whole place of peace. Even “winter and rough weather” may be regarded with complacency from the well-sheltered seats; and every year toward the end of November Rosamund brings into the house some big sprays of ramblers and asks her mother if there is any boracic lint handy. He jests at scars who never felt an Ards Rover scrape down his arm in resisting lawful arrest. But in July and August, looking down upon the growing canopy from the grass walk above the herbaceous terrace, is like realising Byron's awful longing for all the rosy lips of all the rosy girls in the world to “become one mouth” in order that he might “kiss them all at once from North to South.” There they are, thousands and tens of thousands of rosy mouths; but not for kisses, even separately. Heywood, who, being a painter, is a thoroughly trustworthy consultant on all artistic matters, assures me that Byron was a fool, and that his longing for a unification of a million moments of æsthetic delight was unworthy of his reputation. There may be something in this. I am content to look down upon our eager roses with no more of a longing than that September were as far off as Christmas.

It was our antiquarian neighbour who, walking on the terrace one day in mid-July, told us of a beautiful poem which he had just seen in the customary corner of the Gazette—the full name of the paper is The Yardley Gazette, East Longuorth Chronicle, and Nethershire Observer, but one would no more think of giving it all its titles in ordinary conversation than of giving the Duke of Wellington all his. It is with us as much the Gazette as if no other Gazette had ever been published. But it prints a copy of verses, ancient or modern, every week, and our friend had got hold of a gem. The roses reminded him of it He could only recollect the first two lines, but they were striking:—

“There's a bower of rose by Bendameer's stream

And the nightingale sings in it all the night long.”

Bendameer was some place in China, he thought, or perhaps Japan—but for the matter of that it might not be a real locality, but merely a place invented by the poet. Anyhow, he would in future call the terrace walk Bendameer, for could any one imagine a finer bower of roses than that beneath us? He did not believe that Bendameer could beat it.

If our friend had talked to Sir Foster Fraser—the only person I ever met who had been to Bendameer's stream—he might have expressed his belief much more enthusiastically. On returning from his bicycle tour round the world, and somewhat disillusioned by the East, ready to affirm that fifty years of Europe were better than a cycle in Cathay, he told me that Bendameer's stream was a complete fraud. It was nothing but a muddy puddle oozing its way through an uninteresting district.

In accordance with our rule, neither Dorothy nor I went further than to confess that the lines were very sweet.

“I'll get you a copy with pleasure,” he cried. “I knew you would like them, you are both so literary; and you know how literary I am myself—I cut out all the poems that appear in the Gazette. It's a hobby, and elevating. I suppose you don't think it possible to combine antiquarian tastes and poetical.” Dorothy assured him that she could see a distinct connection between the two; and he went on: “There was another about roses the week before. The editor is clearly a man of taste, and he puts in only things that are appropriate to the season. The other one was about a garden—quite pretty, only perhaps a little vague. I could not quite make out what it meant at places; but I intend to get it off by heart, so I wrote it down in iny pocket-book. Here it is:—

“Rosy is the north,

Rosy is the south,

Rosy are her cheeks

And a rose her mouth.”

Now what do you think of it? I call it very pretty—not so good, on the whole, as the bower of roses by Bendameer's stream, but still quite nice. You would not be afraid to let one of your little girls read it—yes, every line.”

Dorothy said that she would not; but then Dorothy is afraid of nothing—not even an antiquarian.

He returned to us the next day with the full text—only embellished with half a dozen of the Gazette's misprints—of the Lalla Rookh song, and read it out to us in full, but failing now and again to get into the lilt of Moore's melodious anapaests—a marvellous feat, considering how they sing and swing themselves along from line to line. But that was not enough, He had another story for us—fresh, quite fresh, from the stock of a brother antiquarian who recollected it, he said, when watching the players on the bowling-green.

“I thought I should not lose a minute in coming to you with it,” he said. “You are so close to the bowling-green here, it should have additional interest in your eyes. The story is that Nelson was playing bowls when some one rushed in to say that the Spanish Armada was in sight. But the news did not put him off his game. 'We'll have plenty of time to finish our game and beat the Spaniards afterwards,' he cried; and sure enough he went on with the game to the end. There was a man for you!”

“And who won?” asked Dorothy innocently.

“That's just the question I put to my friend,” he cried. “The story is plainly unfinished. He did not say whether Nelson and his partner won his game against the other players; but you may be sure that he did.”

“He didn't say who was Nelson's partner?” said Dorothy.

“No, I have told you all that he told me,” he replied.

“I shouldn't be surprised to hear that his partner was a man named Drake,” said I. “A senior partner too in that transaction and others. But the story is a capital one and show's the Englishman as he is to-day. Why, it was only the year before the war that there was a verse going about,—

'I was playing golf one day

When the Germans landed;

All our men had run away,

All our ships were stranded.

And the thought of England's shame

Almost put me off my game.'”

Our antiquarian friend looked puzzled for some time; then he shook his head gravely, saying:—

“I don't like that. It's a gross libel upon our brave men—and on our noble sailors too: I heard some one say in a speech the other day that there are no better seamen in the world than are in the British Navy. Our soldiers did not run away, and all our ships were not stranded. It was one of the German lies to say so. And what I say is that it was very lucky for the man who wrote that verse that there was a British fleet to prevent the Germans landing. They never did succeed in landing, I'm sure, though I was talking to a man who had it on good authority that there were five U-boats beginning to disembark some crack regiments of Hun cavalry when a British man-o'-war—one, mind you—a single ship—came 'n sight, and they all bundled back to their blessed U-boats hi double quick time.”

“I think you told me about that before,” said I—and he had. “It was the same person who brought the first news of the Russian troops going through England—he had seen them on the platform of Crewe stamping off the snow they had brought on their boots from Archangel; and afterwards he had been talking with a soldier who had seen the angels at Mons, and had been ordered home to be one of the shooting party at the Tower of London, when Prince Louis was court-martialled and sentenced.”

“Quite true,” he cried. “My God! what an experience for any one man to go through. But we are living in extraordinary times—that's what I've never shrunk from saying, no matter who was present—extraordinary times.”

I could not but agree with him I did not say that what I thought the most extraordinary feature of the times was the extraordinary credulity of so many people. The story of the Mons angels was perhaps the most remarkable of all the series. A journalist sitting in his office in London simply introduced in a newspaper article the metaphor of a host of angels holding up the advancing Germans, and within a week scores of people in England had talked with soldiers who had seen those imaginary angels and were ready to give a poulterer's description of them, as Sheridan said some one would do if he introduced the Phoenix into his Drury Lane Address.

It was no use the journalist explaining that his angels were purely imaginary ones; people said, when you pointed this out to them:—

“That may be so; but these were the angels he imagined.”

Clergymen preached beautiful sermons on the angel host; and I heard of a man who sold for half a crown a feather which had dropped from the wing of one of the angels who had come on duty before he had quite got over his moult.

When Dorothy heard this she said she was sure that it was no British soldier who had shown the white feather in France during that awful time.

“If they were imaginary angels, the white feather must have been imaginary too,” said Olive, the practical one.

“One of the earliest of angel observers was an ass, and the tradition has been carefully adhered to ever since,” said Friswell, and after that there was, of course, no use talking further.

But when we were still laughing over our antiquarian and his novelties in the form of verse and anecdote, Friswell himself appeared with a newspaper in his hand, and he too was laughing.

It was over the touching letter of an actress to her errant husband, entreating him to return and all would be forgiven. I had read it and smiled; so had Dorothy, and wept.

But it really was a beautiful letter, and I said so to Friswell.

“It is the most beautiful of the four actresses' letters to errant spouses for Divorce Court purposes that I have read within the past few months,” said he. “But they are all beautiful—all touching. It makes one almost ready to condone the sin that results in such an addition to the literature of the Law Courts. I wonder who is the best person to go to for such a letter—some men must make a speciality of that sort of work to meet the demands of the time. But wouldn't it be dreadful if the errant husband became so convicted of his trespass through reading the wife's appeal to return, that he burst into tears, called a taxi and drove home! But these Divorce Court pleading letters are of great value professionally they have quite blanketed the old lost jewel-case stunt as a draw. I was present and assisted in the reception given by the audience to the lady whose beautiful letter had appeared in the paper in the morning. She was overwhelmed. She had made up pale in view of that reception; and there was something in her throat that prevented her from going on with her words for some time. The 'poor things!' that one heard on all sides showed how truly sympathetic is a British audience.”

“I refuse to listen to your cynicism,” cried Dorothy; “I prefer to believe that people are good rather than bad.”

“And so do I, my dear lady,” said he, laughing. “But don't you see that if you prefer to think good of all people, you cannot exclude the poor husband of the complete letter-writer, and if you believe good of him and not bad, you must believe that his charming wife is behaving badly in trying to get a divorce.”

“She doesn't want a divorce: she wants him to come back to her and writes to him begging him to do so,” said she.

“And such a touching letter too,” I added.

“I have always found 'the profession,' as they call themselves, more touchy than touching,” said he. “But I admit that I never was so touched as when, at the funeral of a brother artist, the leading actor of that day walked behind the coffin with the brokenhearted widow of the deceased on his right arm and the broken-hearted mistress on the left. Talk of stage pathos!”

“For my part, I shall do nothing of the sort,” said I sharply. “I think, Friswell, that you sometimes forget that it was you who gave this place the name of A Garden of Peace. You introduce controversial topics—The Actor is the title of one of these, The Actress is the title of the other. Let us have done with them, and talk poetry instead.”

“Lord of the Garden of Peace! as if poetry was the antithesis of polemics—verses of controversies!” cried he. “Never mind! give us a poem—of The Peace.”

“I wish I could,” said I. “The two copies of verses which, as you know, without having read them, I contributed to the literature—I mean the writings—in connection with the war could scarcely be called pacific.”

“They were quite an effective medium for getting rid of his superfluous steam,” said Dorothy to him. “I made no attempt to prevent his writing them.”

“It would have been like sitting on the safety-valve, wouldn't it?” said he. “I think that literature would not have suffered materially if a good number of safety-valves had been sat upon by stouter wives of metre-engineers than you will ever be, O guardian lady of the Garden of Peace! The poets of the present hour have got much to recommend them to the kindly notice of readers of taste, but they have all fallen short of the true war note on their bugles. Perhaps when they begin to pipe of peace they will show themselves better masters of the reed than of the conch.”

“Whatever some of them may be——” I began, when he broke in.

“Say some of us, my friend: you can't dissociate yourself from your pals in the dock: you will be sentenced en bloc, believe me.”

“Well, whatever we may be we make a better show than the Marlborough Muses or the Wellington or the Nelson Muses did. What would be thought of The Campaign if it were to appear to-morrow, I wonder. But it did more in advancing the interests of Addison than the complete Spectator.”

“Yes, although some feeble folk did consider that one hit of it was verging on the blasphemous—that about riding on the whirlwind and directing the storm,” remarked Friswell; he had a good memory for things verging on the blasphemous.

“The best war poem is the one that puts into literary form the man in the street yelling 'hurrah!'” said I. “If the shout is not spontaneous, it sounds stilted and it is worthless.”

“I believe you,” said Friswell. “If your verse does not find an echo in the heart of the rabble that run after a soldiers' band, it is but as the sounding brass and tinkling cymbals that crash on the empty air. But touching the poets of past campaigns——”

“I was thinking of Scott's Waterloo,” said I; “yes, and Byron's stanzas in Childe Harold, and somebody's 'Twas in Trafalgar's Bay, We saw the Frenchmen lay—'the Frenchmen lav,' mind you—that's the most popular of all the lays, thanks to Braham's music and Braham's tenor that gave it a start. I think we have done better than any of those.”

“But have you done better than Scot's what hae act Wallace hied? or of Nelson and the North, Sing the glorious day's renown? or Ye Mariners of England, That guard our native seas? or not a drum was heard or a funeral note?—I doubt it. And to come down to a later period, what about the lilt of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, by one Tennyson? Will any of the poems of 1914 show the same vitality as these?”

“The vital test of poetry is not its vitality,” said I, “any more than being a best-seller is a test of a good novel. But I think that when a winnowing of the recent harvest takes place in a year or two, when we become more critical than is possible for a people just emerging from the flames that make us all see red, you will find that the harvest of sound poetry will be a record one. We have still the roar of the thunderstorm in our cars; when an earthquake is just over is not the time for one to be asked to say whether the Pathétique or the Moonlight Sonata is the more exquisite.”

“Perhaps,” said Friswell doubtfully. “But I allow that you have 'jined your flats' better than Tennyson did. The unutterable vulgarity of that 'gallant six hunderd,' because it happened that 'some one had blundered,' instead of 'blundred,' will not be found in the Armageddon band of buglers. But I don't believe that anything so finished as Wolfe's Burial of Sir John Moore will come to the surface of the melting-pot—I think that the melting-pot suggests more than your harvest. Your harvest hints at the swords being turned into ploughshares; my melting-pot at the bugles being thrown into the crucible. What have you to say about 'Not a drum was heard'?”

“That poem is the finest elegy ever written,” said I definitely. “The author, James Wolfe, occupies the place among elegists that single-speech Hamilton does among orators, or Liddell and Scott in a library of humour. From the first line to the last, no false note is sounded in that magnificent funeral march. It is one grand monotone throughout. It cannot be spoken except in a low monotone. It never rises and it never falls until the last line is reached, 'We left him alone in his glory.'”

“And the strangest thing about it is that it appeared first in the poets' corner of a wretched little Irish newspaper—the Newry Telegraph, I believe it was called,” said Dorothy—it was Dorothy's reading of the poem that first impressed me with its beauty.

“The more obscure the crypt in which its body was burned, the more—the more—I can't just express the idea that I'm groping after,” said Friswell.

“I should like to help you,” said Dorothy. “Strike a match for me, and I'll try to follow you out of the gloom.”

“It's something like this: the poem itself seems to lead you into the gloom of a tomb, so that there is nothing incongruous in its disappearing into the obscurity of a corner of a wretched rag of a newspaper—queer impression for any one to have about such a thing, isn't it?”

“Queer, but—well, it was but the body that was buried, the soul of the poetry could not be consigned to the sepulchre, even though 'Resurgam' was cut upon the stone.”

“You have strolled away from me, said I. All that I was thinking about Wolfe and that blessed Newry Telegraph, was expressed quite adequately by the writer of another Elegy:—

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

That was a trite reflection; and as apposite as yours, Friswell; unless you go on to assume that through the desert air there buzzed a bee to carry off the soul of the blushing flower and cause it to fertilise a whole garden, so that the desert was made to blossom like the rose.”

“Who was the bee that rescued the poem from the desert sheet that enshrouded it?” asked Dorothy.

“I have never heard,” I said, nor had Friswell.

There was a long pause before he gave a laugh, saying—

“I wonder if you will kick me out of your garden when I tell you the funny analogy to all this that the mention of the word desert forced upon me.”

“Try us,” said 1. “We know you.”

“The thought that I had was that there are more busy bees at work than one would suppose; and the mention of the desert recalled to my mind what I read somewhere of the remarkable optimism of a flea which a man found on his foot after crossing the desert of the Sahara. It had lived on in the sand, goodness knows how long, on the chance of some animal passing within the radius of a leap and so carrying it back to a congenial and not too rasorial a civilisation. How many thousand million chances to one there were that it should not be rescued; yet its chance came at last.”


“Well, my flea is your bee, and where there are no bees there may be plenty of fleas.”

“Yes; only my bee comes with healing in its wings, and your flea is the bearer of disease,” said I; and I knew that I had got the better of him there, though I was not so sure that he knew it.

Friswell is a queer mixture.

After another pause, he said,—

“By the way, the mention of Campbell and his group brought back to me one of the most popular of the poems of the period—Lord Ullin's Daughter.—You recollect it, of course.”

“A line or two.”

“Well, it begins, you know:—

“A chieftain to the Highlands bound,

Cries, 'Boatman, do not tarry,

And I'll give thee a silver pound,

To row us o'er the ferry.'

Now, for long I felt that it was too great a strain upon our credulity to ask us to accept the statement that a Scotsman would offer a ferryman a pound for a job of the market value of a bawbee; but all at once the truth flashed upon me: the pound was a pound Scots, or one shilling and eightpence of our money. You see?”

“Yes, I see,” said Dorothy; “but still it sounds extravagant. A Highland Chief—one and eight-pence! The ferryman never would have got it.”

I fancied that we had exhausted some of the most vital questions bearing upon the questionable poetry of the present and the unquestionable poetry of the past; but I was mistaken; for after dinner I had a visit from Mr. Gilbert.

But I must give Mr. Gilbert a little chapter to himself.

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