Lo, at the first, Lord, Satan took from Thee Wealth, Beauty, Honour, World's Felicity. Then didst Thou say: " Let be; For with his leavings and neglects will I
Please Me, which he sets by,-
Of all disvalued, thence which all will leave Me,
And fair to none but Me, will not deceive Me."
My simple Lord ! so deeming erringly,
Thou tookest Poverty;
Who, beautified with Thy Kiss, laved in Thy streams,
'Gan then to cast forth gleams,
That all men did admire
Her modest looks, her ragged sweet attire
In which the ribboned shoe could not compete
With her clear simple feet.
But Satan, envying Thee Thy one ewe-lamb,
With Wealth, World's Beauty and Felicity
Was not content, till last unthought-of she
Was his to damn.
Thine ingrate ignorant lamb
He won from Thee ; kissed, spurned, and made of her This thing which qualms the air- Vile, terrible, old,
Whereat the red blood of the Day runs cold.
There is more in the same strain of heated hate and distress, but I quote no more, in the belief that it is far from illustrating his mood when he was actually on the streets. He had realised what the inexperienced does not, that " in suffering, intensity has not long duration ; long duration has not intensity," or again : " Beyond the maximum point of a delicate nature you can no more get increase of agony by increasing its suffering than you can get increase of tone from a piano by stamping on it. It would be an executioner's trick of God if he made the poet-nature not only capable of a pang where others feel a prick, but of hell where others feel purgatory." One learns from almost the same page of his contradictory notes that he knew suffering beyond the range of other men's knowledge, but that, knowing it, he also knew the narrow limits of suffering.
Above all things, he learnt that lack of the world's goods is small lack, that to lose everything is no great loss-a proposition easily proved by analogy to those who have gained everything and found it small gain. While in the streets he had his tea to drink and his murderer to think about. It was in retrospect that he beheld misery incarnate in the outcast, and it was through the sheltering pane of a window in a lodging that he saw :-
" A region whose hedgerows have set to brick, whose soil is chilled to stone; where flowers are sold and women; where the men wither and the stars; whose streets to me on the most glittering day are black. For I unveil their secret meanings. I read their human hieroglyphs. I diagnose from a hundred occult signs the disease which perturbs their populous pulses. Misery cries out to me from the kerb-stone, despair passes me by in the ways; I discern limbs laden with fetters impalpable, but not imponderable; I hear the shaking of invisible lashes, I see men dabbled with their own oozing life. This contrast rises before me; and I ask myself whether there be indeed an Ormuzd and an Ahriman, and whether Ahriman be the stronger of the twain. From the claws of the sphinx my eyes have risen to her countenance which no eyes read.
" Because, therefore, I have these thoughts; and because also I have knowledge, not indeed great or wide, but within certain narrow limits more intimate than most men's, of this life which is not a life; to which food is as the fuel of hunger; sleep, our common sleep, precious, costly, and fallible, as water in a wilderness ; in which men rob and women vend themselves- for fourpence ; because I have such thoughts and such knowledge, I needed not the words of our great Cardinal to read with painful sympathy the book just put forward by a singular personality."1
Of the things he heard-and misery, he says, cries out from the kerbstone-the laugh, not the cry, of the children familiar with all evil was what appalled him most. Appalling, too, was the unuttered cry of children who knew not how to cry nor why they had cause. Among the notes are many jottings of a resolve to write on the young of the town, but these were used only incidentally in essays or letters. Such a one is found in the passage, of his study of Blessed John Baptist de la Salle, in which he states the case for Free Education :-
1 F. T.'s review of Booth's In Darkest England.
"Think of it. If Christ stood amidst your London slums, He could not say : ' Except ye become as one of these little children.' Far better your children were cast from the bridges of London, than they should become as one of those little ones. Could they be gathered together and educated in the truest sense of the word; could the children of the nation at large be so educated as to cut off future recruits to the ranks of Darkest England ; then it would need no astrology to cast the horoscope of to-morrow. La tete de Ihomme du peuple, nay rather de Fenfant du peuple-around that sways the conflict. Who grasps the child grasps the future."
He writes there at the high pressure of one who sees the tragedy and must shout " Help !"
" Let those who are robust enough not to take injury from the terrible directness with which things are stated read the chapter entitled 'The Children of the Lost.'1 For it drives home a truth which I fear the English public, with all its compassion for our destitute children, scarcely realises, knows but in a vague, general way; namely, that they are brought up in sin from their cradles, that they know evil before they know good, that the boys are ruffians and profligates, the girls harlots, in the mother's womb. This, to me the most nightmarish idea in all the nightmare of those poor little lives, I have never been able to perceive that people had any true grasp on. And having mentioned it, though it is a subject very near my heart, I will say no more; nor enforce it, as I might well do, from my own sad knowledge."
1 In Booth's In Darkest England.