Diversions of the Echo Club: Night the First

IF it were not that the public cherishes rather singular and fluctuating notions with regard to the private and familiar intercourse of authors, the reports which follow would need no prologue. But between the two classes of readers, one of which innocently supposes T. Percy Jones to be the strange and terrible being whom they find represented in his “ Firmilian,” while the other, having discovered, by a few startling disillusions, that the race of authors is Janus-faced, is sure that T. Percy Jones is the exact opposite of his poetical self, there has arisen a confusion which it may be well to correct.

The authors themselves, I am aware, are chiefly responsible for these opposite impressions. When Joaquin Miller at Niagara, standing on the brink of the American precipice, kisses his hands grandly to Canada, exclaiming “England, I thank you !” or when Martin Farquhar I upper, in a speech at New York, cries out with noble magnanimity, “America, be not afraid, I will protect you ! ” the public might reasonably expect to find all poets visibly trailing their mantles in our streets. But when an eager listener, stealing behind Irving and Halleck at an evening party, found them talking of— shoe-leather ! and a breathless devotee of Thackeray, sitting opposite to him at the dinner-table, saw those Delphian lips unclose only to utter the words, “Another potato, if you please!” — they had revelations which might cast a dreadful suspicion over the nature of the whole tribe of authors.

I would not have the reader imagine that the members of the Echo Club are represented by either of these extremes. They are authors, of different ages and very unequal places in public estimation. It would never occur to them to seat themselves on self-constructed pyramids, and speak as if The Ages were listening; yet, like their brethren of all lands and all times, the staple of their talk is literature. What Englishmen call “the shop,” is an inevitable feature of their conversation. They can never come together without discussing the literary news of the day, the qualities of prominent authors, living or dead, and sometimes their own. However the enlightened listener might smile at the positiveness of their opinions, and the contradictions into which they are sometimes led in the lawless play and keen clash of the lighter intellect, he could not fail to recognize the sovereign importance they attach to their art. Without hfting from their intercourse that last veil of mystery, behind which only equals are permitted to pass, I may safely try to report the mixture of sport and earnest, of satire and enthusiasm, of irreverent audacity and pure aspiration, which met and mingled at their meetings. If the reader cannot immediately separate these elements, it is no fault of mine. He is most desirous, I know, to be present at the private diversions of a small society of authors, and to hear them talk as they are wont to talk when the wise heads of the world are out of earshot.

The character which the society assumed for a short time was entirely accidental. As one of the Chorus, I was present at the first meeting, and of course I never failed afterwards. The four authors who furnished our entertainment were not aware that I had written down, from memory, the substance of the conversations, until our evenings came to an end, and I have had some difficulty in obtaining their permission to publish my reports. The Ancient and Galahad feared that certain poets whom they delight to honor might be annoyed, not so much at the sportive imitation of their manner, as at the possible misconception of its purpose by the public. But Zoïlus and the Gannet agreed with me, that where no harm is meant none can be inflicted ; that the literature of our day is in a sad state of bewilderment and confusion, and that a few effervescing powders would perhaps soothe the public stomach which has been overdosed with startling effects.

At last the Ancient said : “ So be it, then ! Take the poems, but don’t bring your manuscript to us for correction ! I am quite sure you have often reported us falsely, and if your masks of names are pulled off, we will have that defence.”

I have only to add that the three or four gentlemen comprising the Chorus are not authors by profession. The Ancient is in the habit of dividing the race of artists into active and passive,— the latter possessing the artistic temperament, the tastes, the delights, the instincts of the race, — everything, except that creative gadfly which stings to expression. In every quality except production they are the equals of the producers, he says ; and they are quite as necessary to the world as the active artists, since they are the first to recognize the good points of the latter, to strengthen them with warm, intelligent sympathy, and to commend them to the slower perceptions and more uncertain tastes of the mass of readers. I am certain, at least, that our presence and participation in the amusements was a gentle stimulus to the principal actors. We were their enthusiastic audience, and kept them fresh and warm to their work. I do not record our share in the conversation, for there is sufficient diversity of opinion without it; and I made no notes of it at the time. — THE NAMELESS REPORTER.

In the rear of Karl Schäfer’s lagerbeer cellar and restaurant — which every one knows is but a block from the central part of Broadway — there is a small room, with a vaulted ceiling, which Karl calls his Löwengrube, or Lions’ Den. Here, in their Bohemian days, Zoïlus and the Gannet had been accustomed to meet, discuss literary projects, and read fragments of manuscript to each other. The Chorus, the Ancient and young Galahad gradually fell into the same habit, and thus a little circle of six, seven, or eight members came to be formed. The room could comfortably contain no more : it was quiet, with a dim, smoky, confidential atmosphere, and suggested Auerbach’s Cellar to the Ancient, who had been in Leipzig.

Here, authors, books, magazines, and newspapers were talked about ; sometimes a manuscript poem was read by its writer; while mild potations of beer and the dreamy breath of cigars delayed the nervous, fidgety, clatteringfooted American Hours. One night they chanced upon a discussion of Morris’s “ Earthly Paradise,” which Galahad rapturously admired, while the Ancient continued to draw him out, at first by guarded praise, then by critical objections to the passages which Galahad quoted. The conversation finally took this turn : —

GALAHAD. Indeed, you are not just! Tell me, have you read the whole work ?

THE ANCIENT. Yes: I had it with me on my last trip to Havana, and read all three volumes under the most favorable auspices, — lying on deck in the shadow of a sail, with the palms and mangroves of the Bahamas floating past, in the distance. Just so I floated through the narrative poems, one after the other, admiring the story-teller’s art, heartily enjoying many passages, accepting even the unnecessary quaintness of the speech, and at first disposed to say, “ Here is a genuine poet! ” But I was conscious of a lack of something, which, in my lazy mood, I did not attempt to analyze. When the lines and scenes and characters began to fade in my mind {which they did almost immediately), I found that the final impression which the work left behind was very much like the Hades of the Greeks, — a gray, misty, cheerless land, full of wandering shadows,— a place where there is no sun, no clear, conscious, joyous life, where even fortunate love is sad, where hope is unknown to the heart, and there is nothing in the distance but death, and nothing after it. There had been a languid and rather agreeable sense of enjoyment; but it was followed by a chill.

GALAHAD. Oh !

THE GANNET. How often have I told you, Galahad, that you ’re too easily taken off your feet ! He’s very clever, I admit ; but there’s a deal of trick in it, for all that. His revival of obsolete words, his imitation of Chaucer —

GALAHAD (impatiently). Imitation !

THE GANNET. Well, — only half, and half similarity of talent. But no writer can naturally assume a manner of speech which has long fallen into disuse, even in literature : so far as he does so, he is artificial. And this artifice Morris carries into his pictures of sentiment and passion. You cease to feel with and for his characters, long before he has done with them.

GALAHAD. AS human beings, perhaps ; but as conceptions of beauty, they have another existence.

THE GANNET. When I want a Greek frieze, let me have it in marble ! Yes, he’s a skilful workman, and a successful one, as his popularity proves. And he’s lucky in producing his canned fruit after Swinburne’s curry and pepper-sauce : but it is canned. I don’t say I could equal him in his own line, for that requires natural inclination as well as knack, yet I think I could give you something exactly in his style, in ten minutes.

THE ANCIENT. Challenge him, Galahad !

THE GANNET. Get me paper and pencil! I will at least try. Now, Galahad, put up your watch ; I only stipulate that you don’t time me too exactly. Stay ! — take another sheet and try the same thing yourself.

(They write ; meanwhile the others talk.)

THE GANNET (after twenty minutes). I have failed in time, because I began wrong. I tried to write a serious passage in Morris’s manner, and my own habit of expression immediately came in as a disturbing influence. Then I gave up the plan of producing something really earnest and coherent,— that is, I kept in mind the manner, alone, and let the matter come of itself. Very little effort was required, I found : the lines arranged themselves easily enough. Now, lend me your ears: it is a passage from “ The Taming of Themistocles,” in the ninth volume of the “ Earthly Paradise ” : {Reads)

“ He must be holpen ; yet how help shall I,
Steeped to the lips in ancient misery,
And by the newer grief apparalled ?
If that I throw these ashes on mine head,
Do this thing for thee, - while about my way
A shadow gathers, and the piteous day,
So wan and bleak for very loneliness,
Turneth from sight of such unruthfulness?
Therewith he caught an arrow from the sheaf,
And brake the shaft in witlessness of grief ;
But Chiton’s vest, such dismal fear she had
Shook from the heart that sorely was a-drad,
And she began, withouten any pause,
To say : “ Why break the old Ætolian laws,
Send this man forth, that never harm hath done,
Between the risen and the setten sun
And next, they wandered to a steepy hill,
Whence all the land was lying gray and still,
And not a living creature there might be,
From the cold mountains to the salt, cold sea;
Only, within a little cove, one sail
Shook, as it whimpered at the cruel gale,
And the mast moaned from chafing of the rope ,
So all was pain : they saw not any hope.

ZOÏLUS. But that is no imitation! You have copied a passage out of — out of — pshaw ! I know the poem, and I remember the lines.

THE GANNET (indignantly). Out of Milton, why not say? —where you’ll be just as likely to find them. Now, let me hear yours, Galahad ; you were writing.

GALAHAD (crushing the paper in his hand). Mine is neither one thing nor the other, — not the author’s poetic dialect throughout, nor hinting of his choice of subjects. I began something, which was really my own, and then gradually ran into an echo. I think you have hit upon the true method ; and we must try again, since we know it.

THE GANNET. Why not try others, — a dozen of them ? By Jove, I should like some mere gymnastics, after the heavy prose I’ve been writing ! And ycu, too, Galahad, and the Ancient (if his ponderous dignity does n’t prevent it) ; and here’s Zoïlus, the very fellow for such a diversion ! We can come together, here, and be a private, secret club of Parodists, — of Echoes, of Iconoclasts, — of—

THE ANCIENT. Of irreverent satirists, I fear. That would be a new kind of a Hainbund, indeed ; but, after all, it need not be ill-natured. At least, to insure yourselves against relapsing into mere burlesque and incidental depreciation, — which is a tempting, but nearly always a fatal course, for young writers,'—I must be present My indifferentism, as you call it, which sometimes provokes you when I cannot share all your raptures, may do good service in keeping you from rushing into the opposite extreme. As for taking part in the work, I won’t promise to do much. You know I am a man of uncertain impulses, and can get nothing out of myself by force of resolution.

OMNES. O, you must take part! It will be capital sport.

THE ANCIENT (deliberately, between the whiffs of his cigar). First of all, let us clearly understand what is to be done. To undertake parodies, as the word is generally comprehended, — that is, to make a close imitation of some particular poem, though it should be characteristic of the author, — would be rather a flat business. Even the Brothers Smith and Bon Gaultier, admirable as they are, stuck too closely to selected models ; and Phebe Cary, who has written the best American parodies, did the same thing. I think the Gannet has discovered something altogether more original and satisfactory, — a simple echo of the author s tone and manner. The choice of a subject gives another chance of fun.

(He takes up the GANNET’S imitation and looks over it.)

Here the dialect and movement and atmosphere are suggested ; the exaggeration is neither coarse nor extreme, and the comical effect seems to lie mainly in the circumstance that it is a wilful imitation. If we were to find the passage in one of Morris s poems, we might think it carelessly written, somewhat obscure, but still in the same key with what precedes and follows it. Possibly, nay, almost certainly, it would not amuse us at all ; but just now I noticed that even Galahad could not help laughing. A diversion of this sort is less a labor and more a higher and finer recreation of the mind, than the mechanical setting of some given poem, line by line, to a ludicrous subject, like those endless and generally stupid parodies of Longfellow’s “ Excelsior ” and Emerson’s “ Brahma.” For heaven’s — no, Homer’s — sake, let us not fall into that vein!

THE GANNET. Thou speakect well.

GALAHAD. But how shall we select the authors ? And shall I be required to make my own demigods ridiculous?

ZOILUS. Let me prove to you, by one of your own demigods, that nothing can be either sublime or ridiculous. Poetry is the Brahma of literature, — above all, pervading all, self-existent, though so few find her (and men of business reckon ill who leave her out), and therefore quite unmoved by anything we may do. Don’t you remember the lines: —

“ Far or forgot to me is near,
Shadow and sunlight are the same ;
The vanished gods to me appear,
And one to me are shame and fame.”

THE ANCIENT. YOU are right, Zoilus, in spite of your sarcasm. Besides, it is an evidence of a poet’s distinct individuality, when he can be amusingly imitated. We can only make those the objects of our fun whose manner or dialect stamps itself so deeply into our minds that a new cast can be taken. We are sporting around great, and sometimes little names, like birds or cats or lizards around the feet, and over the shoulders, and on the heads of statues. Now, there’s an idea for a poem, Galahad. But, seriously, how would you imitate Pollok’s “ Course of Time,” or Young’s “ Night Thoughts,” or Blair’s “ Grave,” or any other of those masses of words, which are too ponderous for poetry and too respectable for absurdity ! Either extreme will do for us, excellence or imbecility ; but it must have a distinct, pronounced character.

THE GANNET. Come, now! I ’m eager for another trial.

THE ANCIENT. Let us each write the names of three or four poets on separate slips of paper, and throw them into my hat; then let each draw out one slip as his model for to-night. Thus there will be no clashing of tastes or inclinations, and our powers of imitation will be more fairly tested.

(They write three names apiece, the CHORUS taking part. Then all are thrown into THE ANCIENT’S hat and shaken up together.)

GALAHAD (drawing). Robert Browning.

THE GANNET. SO is mine.

ZOILUS. Edgar A. Poe.

THE ANCIENT. Some of us have written the same names. Well, let it be so to-night. If we find the experiment diverting, we can easily avoid any such repetition next time. Moreover, Browning alone will challenge echoes from all of us ; and I am curious to see whether the several imitations will reflect the same characteristics of his style. It will, at least, show whether his stamp upon each mind has any common likeness to the original.

THE GANNET. A good idea! But Zoilus is already possessed by the spirit of Poe ; not, I hope in the manner of Dr. Garth Wilkinson of London, whose volume of poems dictated by the spirits of dead authors is the most astonishing collection I ever saw. He makes Poe’s “wet locks ” rhyme to his “fetlocks”! It is even worse than Harris’s “ Epic of the Starry Heavens,” dictated to him in forty-eight hours by Dante. By the by, we have a good chance to test this matter of possession ; the suggestion nimbly and sweetly recommends itself to my fancy. But since I was your pioneer to-night, I ’ll even rest until Zoilus has finished ; then, let us all start fairly.

ZOILUS (afew minutes later). If this is at all good, it is not because of labor. I had an easier task than the Gannet. (Reads.)

THE PROMISSORY NOTE.

In the lonesome latter years,
(Fatal years !)
To the dropping of my tears
Danced the mad and mystic spheres
In a rounded, reeling rune,
’Neath the moon,
To the dripping and the dropping of my tears.
Ah, my soul is swathed in gloom,
(Ulalume ! )
In a dim Titanic tomb,
For my gaunt and gloomy soul
Ponders o’er the penal scroll,
O’er the parchment (not a rhyme),
Out of place, — out of time, —
I am shredded, shorn, unshifty,
(O, the fifty !)
And the days have passed, the three,
Over me I
And the debit and the credit are as one to him and me !
’T was the random runes I wrote
At the bottom of the note
(Wrote, and freely
Gave to Greeley),
In the middle of the night.
In the mellow, moonless night,
When the stars were out of sight,
When my pulses, like a knell,
(Israfel ! )
Danced with dim and dying fays
O’er the ruins of my days,
O’er the dimeless, timeless days,
When the fifty, drawn at thirty,
Seeming thrifty, yet the dirty
Lucre of the market, was the most that I could raise I
Fiends controlled it,
(Let him hold it!)
Devils held for me the inkstand and the pen ;
Now the days of grace arc o’er,
(Ah, Lenore !)
I am but as oilier men ;
What is time, time, time,
To my rare and runic rhyme,
To my random, reeling rhyme,
By the sands along the shore,
Where the tempest whispers, “Pay him !” and I
answer, “ Nevermore ! ”

GALAHAD. What do you mean by the reference to Greeley ?

ZOÏLUS. I thought everybody had heard that Greeley’s only autograph of Poe was a signature to a promissory note for fifty dollars. He offers to sell it for half the money. Now, I don’t mean to be wicked, and to do nothing with the dead except bone ’em, but when such a cue pops into one’s mind, what is one to do ?

THE ANCIENT. O, I think you’re still within decent limits ! There was a congenital twist about poor Poe. We can’t entirely condone his faults, yet we stretch our charity so as to cover as much as possible. His poetry has a hectic flush, a strange, fascinating, narcotic quality, which belongs to him alone. Baudelaire and Swinburne after him have been trying to surpass him by increasing the dose ; but his Muse is the natural Pythia, inheriting her convulsions, while t-hey eat all sorts of insane roots to produce theirs.

GALAHAD (eagerly). Did you ever know him ?

THE ANCIENT. I met him two or three times, heard him lecture once (his enunciation was exquisite), and saw him now and then in Broadway, — enough to satisfy me that there were two men in him : one, a retined gentleman, an aspiring soul, an artist among those who had little sense of literary art; the other —

ZOILUS. GO on !

THE ANCIENT. “ Built his nest with the birds of Night.” No more of that! Now let us all invoke the demigod, Browning.

GALAHAD. It will be a task.

ZOILUS. I don’t think so; it’s even simpler than what we’ve done. Why, Browning’s manner is as distinctly his own as Carlyle’s, and sometimes as wilfully artificial. In fact, he is so peculiarly himself that no younger poet has dared to imitate his fashion of speech, although many a one tries to follow him in the choice and treatment of subjects. Browning is the most dramatic of poets since Shakespeare ; don’t you think so. Ancient ?

THE ANCIENT. In everything but language, perhaps. I should prefer to call him a psychologist. His subtile studies of all varieties of character are wonderful, if you look at the Substance only ; but every one of them, from first to last, speaks with the voice of Browning. Take “The Ring and the Book,” for instance, — and I consider it one of the most original and excellent poems in the English language, —and in each of the twelve divisions you will find exactly the same interruptions, parentheses, ellipses, the same coinage of illustration and play of recondite hints under what is expressed. I should guess that he writes very rapidly, and concerns himself little with any objective theories of art. You ought to copy his manner easily enough.

ZOÏLUS. I can. I have caught the idea already. (He takes a pencil and writes rapidly. GALAHAD and the G AN NET also begin to write, but slowly.)

THE CHORUS (to the ANCIENT). Why don’t you begin ?

THE ANCIENT. I was deliberating; what a range of forms there is ! He is as inexhaustible as Raphael, and he always expresses the same sense of satisfaction in his work. Well, anything will do for a subject. (Writes.)

ZOILUS (after a few minutes). Hearken ! I must read at once, or I shall go on writing forever ; it bewilders me. (Reads.)

Who wills, may hear Scrdello’s story told
By Robert Browning : warm ? (you ask) or cold?
But just so much as seemeth to enhance —
The start being granted, onward goes the dance
To its own music — the poem’s inward sense ;
So, by its verity .... nay, no pretence
Avails your self-created bards, and thus
By just the chance of half a hair to us,
If understood .... but what the odds to you,
Who, with no obligations to pursue
Scant tracks of thought, if such, indeed, there be
In this one poem, —stay, my friend, and see
Whether you note that creamy tint of flesh,
Softer than bivalve pink, impearled and fresh,
Just where the small o’ the back goes curving down
'Ho orbic muscles .... ha ! that sidelong frown
Pursing the eye, and folded, deeply cleft
I’ the nostril’s edge, as though contempt were left
Just o’er the line that bounds indifference.
But here’s the test of any closer sense
(You follow me ?) such as I started with ;
And there be minds that seek the very pith,
Crowd close, bore deep, push far, and reach the light
Through league-long tunnels —

GALAHAD (interrupting). But that is Sordello you ’re reading !

ZOILUS. Yes, mine. I am one of the few who have bored their way through that amazing work. Browning’s “Sordello ” (if you ever read it, you will remember) begins with something about “ Pentapolin o’ the Naked Arm.” It is not any particular passage, but the manner of the whole poem which I’ve tried to reproduce; a little exaggerated, to be sure, but not much. Now, I call this perplexity, not profundity. Wasn’t it the Swedish poet, Tegner, who said, “ The obscurely uttered is the obscurely thought” ?

THE ANCIENT. Yes; and it is true in regard to poetry, however the case may be with metaphysics. But we have a right to be vexed with Browning, when, in the dedicatory letter to the new edition of “ Sordello,” he says that he had taken pains to make the work something “ which the many might, instead of what the few must, like,” but, after all, did not choose to publish the revised copy. There is a touch of arrogance in this expression which I should rather not have encountered. The “ must” which he flings at the few is far more offensive than utter indifference to all readers would have been ; and not even those few can make us accept “ Sordello.” However, mullum creavit is as good a plea as multum dilexit. Browning has a royal brain, and we owe him too much to bear malice against him. Only, we must not encourage our masters in absolute rule, or they will become tyrants.

ZOILUS. I don’t acknowledge any masters !

THE ANCIENT. We all know that Now, Galahad, what have you done?

GALAHAD (reads) : —

BY THE SEA.

(Mutatis mutandis.)

I.

Is it life or is it death ?
A whiff of the cool salt scum,
As the whole sea puffed its breath
Against you, — blind and dumb,
This way it answereth.

II.

Nearer the sands it shows
Spotted and leprous tints ;
But stay ! yon fisher knows
Rock-tokens, which evince
How high the tide arose.

III.

How high ? In you and me
’T was falling then, I think;
Open your heart’s eyes, see
From just so slight a chink
The chasm that now must be.

IV.

You sighed and shivered then,
Blue ecstasies of June
Around you, shouts of fishermen,
Sharp wings of sea-gulls, soon
To dip — the clock struck ten !

V.

Was it the cup too full,
To carry it you grew
Too nervous, the wine’s hue too doll,
(Dulness, misjudged, untrue !
Love’s flower unfit to cull ?

VI.

You should have held me fast
One moment, stopped my pace,
Crushed down the feeble, vast
Suggestions of embrace,
And so be crowned at last.

VII.

But now ! , , . Bare-legged and brown
Bait-diggers delve the sand,
Tramp i the sunshine down
Burnt-ochre vestured land,
And yonder stares the town.

VIII.

A heron screams ! I shut
This book of scurf and scum,
Its final page uncut ;
The sea-beast, blind and dumb,
Done with his bellowing? All but !

THE GANNET. It seems we have all hit upon the obvious characteristics, especially those which are most confusing. There is something very like that in the “ Dramatis Personœ,” or there seems to be. Now, I wonder how my attempt will strike you ? (Reads.)

ANGELO ORDERS HIS DINNER.

I, Angelo, obese, black-garmented,
Respectable, much in demand, well fed
With mine own larder’s dainties, — where, indeed,
Such cakes of myrrh or fine alyssum seed,
Thin as a mallow-leaf, embrowned o’ the top,
Which, cracking, lets the ropy, trickling drop
Of sweetness touch your tongue, or potted nests
Which my recondite recipe invests
With cold conglomerate tidbits — ah, the bill !
(You say,) but given it were mine to fill
My chests, the case so put were yours, we ’ll say,
(This counter, here, your post, as mine to-day,)
And you’ve an eye to luxuries, what harm
In smoothing down your palate with the charm
Yourself concocted? There we issue take ;
And see ! as thus across the rim I break
This puffy paunch of glazed embroidered cake,
So breaks, through use, the lust of watering chaps
And craveth plainness : do [so? Perhaps;
But that’s my secret. Find me such a man
As Lippo yonder, built upon the plan
Of heavy storage, double-navelled, fat
From his own giblets’ oils, an Ararat
Uplift o'er water, sucking rosy draughts
From Noah’s vineyard, —. . . crisp, enticing wafts
Yon kitchen now emits, which to your sense
Somewhat abate the fear of old events,
Qualms to the stomach, — I, you see, am slow
Unnecessary duties to forego,—
Yon understand? A venison haunch, hunt gout,
Ducks that in Cumbrian olives mildly stew,
And sprigs of anise, might one’s teeth provoke
To taste, and so we wear the complex yoke
Just as it suits, — my liking, I confess,
More to receive, and to partake no less,
Still more obese, while through thick adipose
Sensation shoots, from testing tongue to toes
Far off, dim-conscious, at the body’s verge,
Where the froth-whispers of its waves emerge
On the untasting sand. Stay, now ! a seat
Is bare : I, Angelo, will sit and eat.

THE CHORUS. There ’s no mistaking any of them !

THE ANCIENT. And yet what a wealth of forms and moods there is left! You have only touched the poet on two or three of his thousand sides. Whoever should hear these imitations first, and then take up the original works, would recognize certain fashions here and there, but he would be wholly unprepared for the special best qualities of Browning.

THE CHORUS. HOW, then, have you fared ?

THE ANCIENT. I’m afraid I’ve violated the very law I laid down at the beginning. But I took the first notion that came into my head, and I could not possibly make it either all imitation or all burlesque. However, hear, and then punish me as you like ! (Reads )

ON THE TRACK.

Where the crags are close, and the railway-curve
Begins to swerve
From its straight-shot course i’ the level plain
To the hills again,
At the end of the twilight, when you mark
The denser dark
Blown by the wind from the heights, that make
A cold, coiled snake
Round the shuddering world, as a Midgards-orm-
like, sinuous form, —
With scant-cut hosen, jacket in hands,
The small boy stands.
Clipt by the iron ways, shiny and straight,
You see him wait,
’Twixt the coming thunder and the rock,
To fend the shock,
As a mtte should stay, with its wriggling force,
A planet’s course.
Even as he dances, leaps, and stoops,
The black train swoops
Up from the level : wave jacket, cry !
Must all then die?
Sweating, the small boy smiles again ;
He has stopped the train !

GALAHAD. Well, that somehow suggests to me two poems: his “Love among the Ruins,” and the “ Incident of the French Camp,” yet it is not an imitation of either. I should only apply to it the same criticism as to my own, — that it gives no hint of Browning’s subtile and ingenious way of dealing with the simplest subjects. He seems always to seek some other than the ordinary and natural point of view. I believe he could change “Mother Hubbard” and “ Kits, cats, sacks, and wives ” into profound psychological poems.

THE ANCIENT. NOW, why didn’t you say that before we began ? I might have made, at least, a more grotesque failure. But, O Gambrinus ! our glasses have been empty this hour. Ring for the waiter, Galahad ; let us refresh our wearied virtue, and depart !

OMNES (pouchingglasses). To be continued ! [Exeunt.