Theirs, too, is the word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping. And the result is inevitable. It is apparent in the most august as well as in the most trivial places.
He esteems these things and us who honour them, as nothing, and lives among men, making all the objects of their admiration the playthings of his irony. Every ounce of fat has been pared off, leaving the flesh firm. The play is poetry, we say, and the novel prose. He reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others.
A book of quotations can never be complete. [ Robert M. Hamilton ]
But what is it that we know without using microscopes and splitting hairs about the character of Annabella? If we take six or seven lines in the hope that the quality will be contained in them it has escaped. And as she silences her own complaint, she perplexes us again with the insoluble question of poetry and its nature, and why, as she speaks thus, her words put on the assurance of immortality. And sometimes, since trophies from the amazing new world were eagerly awaited at home, together with unicorns' horns and lumps of ambergris and the fine stories of the engendering of whales and debates of elephants and dragons whose blood, mixed, congealed into vermilion, a living sample would be sent, a live savage caught somewhere off the coast of Labrador, taken to England, and shown about like a wild beast.
Poor Margaret Paston scented the change and sought uneasily, with the pen which had marched so stiffly through so many pages, to lay bare the root of her troubles. Ford, it is claimed, is of the school of Stendhal and of Flaubert; Ford is a psychologist. There is no stamping, no applause. One is for ever untying this packet here, sampling that heap over there, wiping the dust off some vast map of the world, and sitting down in semi-darkness to snuff the strange smells of silks and leathers and ambergris, while outside tumble the huge waves of the uncharted Elizabethan sea.
I love a good dressing before any beauty o' the world. But the quarrel was ended, very shortly, by the death 22nd May of John Paston, the father, in London. Poor Margaret Paston scented the change and sought uneasily, with the pen which had marched so stiffly through so many pages, to lay bare the root of her troubles.
Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole--a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age, a theory of the art of writing. They needed treacle badly, and really she must have stuff for a dress. People said even that they had been bondmen not so very long ago. Now Socrates has done; he is bantering Alcibiades; Alcibiades takes a fillet and binds it round this wonderful fellow's head. For as we have jogged through the real, the unadorned country-side, with first one good fellow cracking his joke or singing his song and then another, we know that though this world resembles, it is not in fact our daily world. We see them eating, drinking, laughing, and making love, and come to feel without a word being said what their standards are and so are steeped through and through with their morality.
Find the good stuff
So Sir John read his Chaucer in the comfortless room with the wind blowing and the smoke stinging, and left his father's tombstone unmade. She still ordered the lives of the younger children as she had ordered the lives of the elder. Does not the whole of Greece heap itself behind every line of its literature? He was little given to abstract contemplation. His eyes rested on a virgin land, all unbroken grass and wood except for the small towns and an occasional castle in the building.
Time is so short and I have so much to say, that unless you will allow me to place together two apparently unrelated statements and trust to you to pull them together, you must be content with a mere skeleton of the play I might have given you. That is what they talk about at dinner in the desolate house, while the chimney smokes horribly, and the draught lifts the carpets on the floor. In six pages of Proust we can find more complicated and varied emotions than in the whole of the Electra. We see them eating, drinking, laughing, and making love, and come to feel without a word being said what their standards are and so are steeped through and through with their morality. Still, though potent enough, the boredom of an Elizabethan play is of a different quality altogether from the boredom which a nineteenth-century play, a Tennyson or a Henry Taylor play, inflicts.
This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. He is worse educated, and nature has not gifted him so generously. When, after the long voyage, the ships dropped anchor in the great river of the Plate and the men went exploring through the undulating lands, startling grazing herds of deer, seeing the limbs of savages between the trees, they filled their pockets with pebbles that might be emeralds or sand that might be gold; or sometimes, rounding a headland, they saw, far off, a string of savages slowly descending to the beach bearing on their heads and linking their shoulders together with heavy burdens for the Spanish King. It is no murderess, violent and unredeemed, whom Orestes kills within the house, and Electra bids him utterly destroy--Strike again. There is a pungency in this unfigurative language; a stately and memorable beauty in the undraped sentences which follow each other like women so slightly veiled that you see the lines of their bodies as they go Yet in a play how dangerous this poetry, this lapse from the particular to the general must of necessity be, with the actors standing there in person, with their bodies and their faces passively waiting to be made use of!
No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood. Source Unknown
In fact, of course, these Queens and Princesses were out of doors, with the bees buzzing past them, shadows crossing them, and the wind taking their draperies. But some of them with their newly-opened eyes saw a sight which shocked them--the grave of John Paston in Bromholm Priory without a tombstone. There was no reason in it as there had been for his father; no imperative need to establish a family and acquire an important position for children who were not born, or if born, had no right to bear their father's name. We are not so purblind as to suppose that a man because his name is Smith and he lives at Liverpool is therefore real. But the plays of the lesser Elizabethans--Greene, Dekker, Peele, Chapman, Beaumont and Fletcher,--to adventure into that wilderness is for the ordinary reader an ordeal, an upsetting experience which plys him with questions, harries him with doubts, alternately delights and vexes him with pleasures and pains.
Next year they brought him back, and took a woman savage on board to keep him company. So with pardonable impatience we might exclaim as we shut our Elizabethan play. But we have a right to demand since the Greeks have proved that it is perfectly possible that what happens shall have an end in view. Then there are the words themselves which, in so many instances, we have made expressive to us of our own emotions, [Greek text-7] --to take the first that come to hand; so clear, so hard, so intense, that to speak plainly yet fittingly without blurring the outline or clouding the depths, Greek is the only expression.
With all her pains, Margaret failed to prevent rash acts on the part of her eldest son John, or the bitter words with which his father denounced him. Well might old Agnes, surveying her son's affairs rather grimly from a distance, counsel him to contrive it so that ye may have less to do in the world; your father said, In little business lieth much rest. O, a woman is then like a delicate garden; nor is there one kind of it; she may vary every hour; take often counsel of her glass, and choose the best.
There is, even in the worst, an intermittent bawling vigour which gives us the sense in our quiet arm-chairs of ostlers and orange-girls catching up the lines, flinging them back, hissing or stamping applause. Take this from the Agamemnon for instance It was not possible for them to be direct without being clumsy; or to speak simply of emotion without being sentimental. In spite of the labour and the difficulty it is this that draws us back and back to the Greeks; the stable, the permanent, the original human being is to be found there.
One of them, carrying a charter from his company in London, went inland as far as Moscow, and there saw the Emperor sitting in his chair of estate with his crown on his head, and a staff of goldsmiths' work in his left hand. The play is poetry, we say, and the novel prose. It does not occur to him that his Griselda might be improved or altered. They were not quite so sure as the elder generation had been of the rights of man and of the dues of God, of the horrors of death, and of the importance of tombstones. All his effort was to write himself down, to communicate, to tell the truth, and that is a rugged road, more than it seems. The discipline and the drudgery of a country life bored him.
If we take six or seven lines in the hope that the quality will be contained in them it has escaped. Ford is an analyst. The extremes of passion are not for the novelist; the perfect marriages of sense and sound are not for him; he must tame his swiftness to sluggardry; keep his eyes on the ground, not on the sky: Nor are we left merely with the sense, powerful though that is, of having been in good company and got used to the ways of good society. Yet it is not because we can analyse them into feelings that they impress us.