"Another point is that power of communication in oneself is conditioned by power of receptiveness in others. The one is never perfect; neither, therefore, can the other be. For entire self-revelation to another, we require to feel that even the weak or foolish impulsive things we may let drop, will be received without chill,- nay, even with sympathy, because the utterer is loved. That priceless 'other's' principle must be (to parody Terence without an attempt at metre) Tuus sum, niltuum mi alienum puto. But such an ' other' is not among men-no, nor women either. The perfectest human sympathy is only the least imperfect.
"Then again, when we can communicate ourselves by words, it may often become a sensible effort to a sensitive person through the mere dead weight of language, the gross actualities of speech :-exactly as to delicate you a lovely scene loses half its attraction, if it must be reached by the fatigue of walking to it.
" Finally, I think there is the fact that, in what concerns their veritable spirit, all mortals are feminine. In the mysteries of that inner Bona Dea, speech is male, and may not enter. We feel that we could only admit to them the soft silence of sight. But then-we cannot say : ' Draw aside my flesh and see.' Would we could !
"That reminds me of what you alluded to about the inefficiency of the eyes. I am so glad you mean to touch on that. I see much about the superior eloquence of eyes, etc. But it always seems to me they have just the eloquence of a foreign tongue, in which we catch only enough significance, from the speaker's tone and the casual sound of some half-familiar word to make us pained and desperate that we can comprehend no more. There is a turn in Seneca-
LUi mors gravis incubat, Qui, nimis notus omnibus, Ignotus moritur sibi.
' On him death lies heavy, who, too known of all, dies unknown to himself' -' Too known of all! '-with myself I am but too intimate ; and I profess that I find him a dull boy, a very barren fellow. Your Delphic oracles notwithstanding, a man's self is the most unprofitable acquaintance he can make ; let him shun such scurvy companions. But, ' nimis notus omnibus !' If this were the most likely terror death could yield, O Lucius Annaeus !-who is known to one ? In that Mare Clausum of our being, sealed by the conventing powers of birth and death, with life and time acceding signatories, what alien trafficker has plied ? Far heavier, Luci mi, death weighs on him, who dies too known of himself, and too little of any man. I have bored you, I feel, unpardonably. Repentantly your Francis Thompson. But my repentance does not extend to suppressing the letter, you observe. A most human fashion of penitence ! "
But though "too little known of any man," the poet has faith in the reader's understanding greater than the reader's faith in his meanings. As for the reader, the best probe for seeming obscurity is faith. Let an example be taken from the parish priest who read "The Hound of Heaven" six times before he understood. Faith in divine meanings, and many blindfolded readings, are better beginnings than explanations. Sign articles with your master-poets ; sit, idly perhaps, in their workshops, and one day you find yourself promoted from apprentice to partner. Their obscurities are your limitations, your limitations their obscurities, and you and they must have it out between you. And even at the moment when the Poet is most obscure, he is most plain with you, most intimate, most dependent on your personal understanding and acceptance. Then most of all does he give you his confidence, have faith in your faith; then, most of all, does the anchor of his meaning need the clutch of your understanding, the kite of his fancy need the tail of your comprehension. He is riding such waves and flying in such winds of thought that he were lost without you-
We speak a lesson taught we know not how,
And what it is that from us flows
The hearer better than the utterer knows.
And his confession of his dependence on you as his colleague makes a laureate of you. See that you be a Wordsworth rather than a Nathaniel Pye among readers.
The silence in which he was most unhappy was a silence in poetry. Comparing his case to the earth's life in winter, "tearless beneath the frost-scorched sod," he writes:-
My lips have drought, and crack,
By laving music long unvisited.
Beneath the austere and macerating rime
Draws back constricted in their icy urns
The genial flame of Earth, and there
With torment and with tension does prepare
The lush disclosures of the vernal time.
His second period of melancholy was the more severe; he thought he saw in it, against all his convictions in regard to the rhythm or the resurrections of life, the signs of his poetry's final death. He suffered the torment and the tension in preparation for what he was convinced would be still-born song.
The depression first came upon him with the publication of New Poems-
" Though my aims are unfulfilled, my place insecure, many things warn me that with this volume I am probably closing my brief poetic career."
He had already written of himself as one
Whose gaze too early fell
Upon her ruinous eyes and includible.
And first of her embrace
She was not coy, and gracious were her ways,
That I forgot all Virgins to adore.
Nor did I greatly grieve
To bear through arid days
The pretty foil of her divine delays ;
And one by one to cast
Life, love, and health,
Content, and wealth
Before her, thinking ever on her praise,
Until at last
Nought had I left she would be gracious for.
In "The Sere of the Leaf," an early poem written at the end of 1890, and published in Merry England, January 1891, he answers Katharine Tynan, a poet who had spoken of a full content:-
I know not equipoise, only purgatorial joys, Grief's singing to the soul's instrument,