The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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{The New Rome 1898}









“THE world is weary of idolatries:
Pan and Apollo and great Zeus are dead,
And Jesus Christ hangs cold upon the Cross.
Nay more, the light of Science newly born
Hath scatter’d all the gods and God their guide,
So that, for calm assurance of our souls,
We mathematically demonstrate
Infinite God as infinitely false
To infinite impossibility.
Henceforth a grievous shadow quits the earth,
While Man, the fruitage and the flower of things,
Walks fetterless and free.” Thus much and more,
With many hints of cell and protoplasm,
And of the dusk beginnings of the brain,
The mild Professor said.
                                         Professor Day,
A little gentleman with soft gray eyes,
Whose spectacles had faced the very Sphinx
And read the cosmic riddle wrought therein.
He, having lived to forty years of age,
Had hate for nought but ambiguity;
Knew all that Science and the schools could teach,
Lived for Truth only, and, had these been days
Of any necessary martyrdom,
Would cheerfully have given his life for Truth.
Meantime, he served her cause. How wrathfully
He rose his height, while angry pulpits wail’d,
And from the platforms of the great Reviews
Demolish’d the theistic fallacy,                                                             222
Pluck’d the bright mantle from the verbal form
And show’d the syllogistic skeleton!
Dear gentle heart, he who could be so fierce
In hating what he did not deem to be,
Was full of love for all the things that are;
Wherefore God loved him for his unbelief
And sent a ministering angel down. . . .

     He often thought, “If I should have a child,
If ever life should issue out of mine,
I shall uprear it on the gracious food
Of Knowledge only. Superstition haunts
Our very cradles: in our nurses’ hands
Dangle the fetish and the crucifix
That darken us for ever till we die.
No child of mine, if I should have a child,
Shall know the legend of the Lie Divine
Or lisp the words of folly that profane
The wish of wisdom. Prayer is cowardice:
No child of mine shall pray. Worship is fear:
My child shall never know the name of fear.
But when its eyes are ready to behold,
Its ears to hear, my child shall wander forth,
Fearlessly leaning on its father’s strength,
Serene in innocence and mastery.”

     And so he wedded, hoping for a child,
A tender toy to cut his creed upon,
And wedded wisely: a virgin not too young,
And not too proud, and not too beautiful,
But gently reared, and of a learnèd race
Who held that over-learning suits but ill                                              223
The creed and need of women. To his side
She came not trembling, trusting in his strength,
And wise enough to dimly comprehend
Her gentle lord’s superiority.
Two years they grew together, as two trees
Blending their branches; then a child was born,
Which, flickering like a taper thro’ the night,
Went out ere dawn; but when the mother wept,
And reach’d her thin hands down the darkness, whither
The little life had fallen like a spark,
The pale Professor (though his eyes were dim)
Sat by the bedside presently, and proved—
As gently as a poor man praying to God—
That what had never known potential life,
In all its qualities and faculties,
Had never absolutely lived at all;
Nay, ’twere as wise, perchance, he thought, to mourn
Some faint albuminous product of the Deep,
As weep for something which had ne’er achieved
The motions and the mysteries of Mind,
Which things are Life itself. The mother moaned;
And creeping thence to his laboratory,
The wise man wiped away a foolish dew
That shamed the gloss of his philosophy.

     But comfort came a little later on;
Another crying life arose and bloom’d,
And faded not upon the mother’s breast,
But drew its milk with feeble lips, and breath’d.
It was a boy, and when they brought him down,
And placed him in the pale Professor’s arms,
He laugh’d and reach’d his little rosy hands                                         224
To embrace his father; and the wise man said,
Holding the babe and blushing awkwardly,
“How naturally mammals love their young!
Thus, even thus, the archetypal Ape
Dandled its rough first-born!” Whereat the nurse
Exclaim’d,—not comprehending, pious soul,—
“Thank God for sending you so fine a boy!”
And when the wise man thro’ his spectacles
Look’d lightnings of philosophy and scorn,
She took the babe and murmur’d, kissing it,
“Now God Almighty grant the pretty dear
A long and merry life!”
                                       The wise man’s cheek
Grew pallid, for already, ere he knew,
It seem’d that Superstition’s skinny hand
Was clutching at his pearl of innocence.
He fled into his study, and therein
Added a fragment to a fierce review
Upholding Haeckel, proving Tyndall tame,
And rating Virchow and Agnosticism;
And having thus refreshed his learnèd soul,
He sat by the bedside of his pale wife,
Holding her hand in silence for an hour,
Feeling a nameless fear upon his heart,
Blent with a sense of blessing one less wise
Might have mistaken for a sense of prayer.

     Thenceforward, with a curious scrutiny,
Such as he brought to bear on things minute
Dredged from the fishpond or the river’s bed,
He watch’d the tiny life expand and grow,
Stretching sensorial tendrils softly forth,                                              225
Sucking its mother’s milk with rosy lips,
As tiny creatures of albumen suck
Their nurture from the tidal ooze and foam.
Then with a span he measured the small head,
And watch’d the soft pink circle where the skin
Closed on the milk-white matter of the brain,
Hardening slowly into skull and bone;
And all the while the little azure orbs
Look’d upward meaningless as flowers or stars
Full of a faint flame issuing from within.
Then thought he, “It is well; a goodly child;
A brain of weight above the average
And phrenologically excellent!
And yet how helpless in their dim beginnings
The higher mammals seem, this babe of mine
Nor less nor more; a feeble crying thing,
Feeling with blind progressions like a plant
To the full sunshine of potential life.
Prick the grey cells, it dies, and has not lived;
Deny it nurture, as of sun and rain,
And even as a leaf it withers up,
Without a sign that it hath ever been.
Yea, what we bring it, it absorbs, and turns
To highest use and issue; as we train
Its tendrils, so it grows; and if denled
Such nurture as the nobler species need,
Would surely, slowly, dwindle back to beast,
As is the wont of many human types
Stunted and starven in their infancy.
But this one, bone of mine and flesh of mine,
This will I watch with ministering care,
Till it rewards my patience and becomes                                            226
Perfect in knowledge and in mastery,
The living apex and the crown of things.”

     A little later, when the mother rose,
And with the consecration of her pain
Clothed softly still, sat pallid by the fire,
She, after resting silent for a time
And casting many a hesitating glance,
Said softly, “Dear, have you reflected yet
How we shall christen him?” Stung by the word,
The wise man murmur’d, “Christen?—christen him?”
Then, flush’d with wrath, “The very word is rank
With superstition and idolatry—
Do not repeat it, as you love the child.”
Whereat the mother, timorously firm,
Said, smiling, “But the child must have a name!
What shall we call him?” Puzzled for the time,
The wise man pursed his lips and shook his head,
And scrutinised the little rosy face
As if for inspiration and for help.
Then one by one they named the names of men,
From Adam down to Peter, Paul, and John,
And scorning these as over-scriptural,
They counted o’er the legion heathen names
But found them fraught with superstition too.
“Our infant,” the Professor moralised,
“Heathen no more than Christian, shall receive
No gift from Heathendom or Christendom,
Not even that slightest of all shades, a name.
Could I invent?—but no, invented names
Ever sound barbarous—I will rack my books,
And find one fitting; there is time to spare;                                            227
Take thought, and wait!” So many a quiet night
They talk’d it o’er, and after hovering long
O’er Thales (“Evolution’s Morning Star,”
The wise man styled him, while the mother’s ear
Was shock’d at the mere sound of “Thales Day”),
Rejecting Bruno and Galileo,
They found the thing they sought upon their shelves,
And pausing at the famous “Institutes,”
They chose the learned name—Justinian.

     Not at the font with painted windows round,
Not through the office of a priest in lawn
Sprinkling with white hands the baptismal dew,
The infant took his name; but quietly
One Sunday morn, in the laboratory,
With casts and foetal forms around about,
The wise man, kissing him upon the brow,
Named him “Justinian”; and the mother’s voice
Echo’d “Justinian”; and the naming him
Would have been wholly joyful and complete,
But for a jangling sound of bells that rang
Suddenly from the churches round about,—
Calling the folk of Christendom to prayer!

Pass o’er the seasons when with baby lips
The infant drew its nurture from the breast,
And when with tottering steps he first began
To walk erect upon the ground and shape
The first faint sounds to mimic human speech.
Behold him, then, at five years old, a child
Large-eyed, large-brow’d, and somewhat pale of cheek,
Clutching a thin forefinger as he ran                                                    228
And prattled at the pale Professor’s side,
Companions now they grew from day to day,
For while within his study ’mong his books
The wise man sat, the infant at his feet
Sat looking up; or, on the table perch’d,
Blink’d like a pretty gnome; and every morn
When for a hurried constitutional
The father trotted over Hampstead Heath,
The little one would toddle by his side,
Happy and garrulous, and looking up
With question after question.—Thus the child
Heard, at an age when other children feed
On nursery rhymes and tales of Fairyland,
The wondrous song of Science; how at first
The nebulæ cohered, how this round orb
Rose out of chaos, how it lay in space
Eyeless and dark until the sun’s red hand
Touch’d it upon the heart and made it live,
And how the first faint protoplasmic forms,
Amoebæ, infusoria, stirr’d and moved
In troubled depths of some primeval ooze.
All this, and more, translated tenderly
Into soft words of just one syllable,
Justinian heard, not understanding yet,
But turning all the solemn cosmic fact
To pretty fancy such as children love.
What solemn truth, what sad solemnity,
May not an infant turn to poesy?
Instead of Gorgon and Chimæra dire,
His fancy saw the monstrous mastodon;
Instead of fairies of the moonlight wood,
Strange shapes that lurk in strata or disport                                        229
In some green waterdrop; instead of myths,
He read the faery story of the World.

     From childhood upward, till the end, he knew
No teacher save his father, and, indeed,
Since never teacher could be tenderer,
He did not miss the lore of love itself.
As patient as a woman, firm yet fond,
Hoarding his very heart up in the boy,
The father tended, taught him, watch’d him grow.
At eight years old Justinian lisp’d in Greek
And readily construed Lucretius;—
He read the great stone Book whereon is writ
The riddle of the world from age to age;
Knew the fair marvels of the Zodiac,
The stars and their processions; had by heart
The elemental truths of chemistry . . .
And zealously, within a mental maze,
As dense as that which covered Rosamond,
His teacher guarded him against the creeds.
For gospel, he had knowledge, and for God,
His gentle human father; and indeed
No child that lisps a heavenly Father’s name
Could lisp it with a fonder fairer faith
Than fill’d him when he named his earthly one.

     Now when the boy was scarcely ten years old,
Wise far beyond the wisdom of his years,
The mother, wasting of a long disease,
Died, leaving a great void within his heart
Only the father’s larger love could fill.
The wise man sorrow’d little, having view’d                                        230
His helpmate with a calm superior care,
Approving her, but hoarded in his boy;
And thenceforth, sire and son were all in all
To one another. Oft the pair were seen
Seated in scientific lecture-halls,
The wise man blinking thro’ his spectacles,
The boy, his little image, by his side,
Like small by greater owl; and evermore
When, hastening home, they pass’d some shadowy Shrine
The father drew his treasure closer to him,
Lest some dark Phantom from within the porch
Should mar the crystal mirror of his soul.

     The seasons sped; at sixteen years of age
Justinian was famous in the haunts
Where wise men gather, and in deep debate
Could hold his own among grey honour’d heads
And pass with pedants for a prodigy.
At seventeen, he wrote that bold review,
Attributed for several weeks to Mill,
Denuding Buckle and his theory
Of History’s four stages. How men smiled,
When some one blabb’d and the strange truth was told,
To find the grown man’s pompous periods
Dissected into folly by a boy!

     Now for the first time on the father’s heart
There fell the shadow of a nameless fear
Lest all this building of a noble mind                                                   231
Should fail and perilously come to nought.
For lo! despite the glow of happy pride,
Justinian’s cheek was pale, his gentle eyes
Deep sunken, and he stoop’d beneath the weight
Of too much wisdom; oftentimes his face,
Tho’ firm in faith and beautiful resolve,
Seem’d set in silent sorrow. At last, one night,
After a crowded meeting of the learn’d,
A great physician and his father’s friend
Took him apart and whisper’d in his ear,—
“Take care, my dear professor, of your boy!—
I do not like that cough—he works too hard—
His life is very precious to us all—
Be sure to watch him well.”
                                             From that day forth
The father’s heart was burthen’d with a dread
He never phrased to any human ear.
Hungrily, with sick hunger of the soul,
He watched his treasure, sleepless ev’n by night,
Like some wan miser who for ever hears
The robber’s foot upon the creaking stair
Coming to take his gold. He watch’d and watch’d,
Hiding his terror with a cheerless smile,
Each light or shade that softly chased itself
On the sweet boyish face. Was it a dream?—
Or did Death pass, and with a finger-point
Leave one deep crimson spot on either cheek
As signal of decay? No, no, not Death!
Not Death, but Life, now made the blue eyes gleam
So marvellously bright; the small hands grow
Thin and blue vein’d, with pink blood glimmering thro’
Like light thro’ alabaster; the brave brow                                             232
So marble-cold and clear!—Yet presently
He led him to the great physician’s house
And asked for counsel. “Take him to the sea,”
Said the physician; “keep away all books;
Let brain and body rest for three months’ space—
Then, when we know what sun and sea can do
To make him rosy, come to me again.”

     They went together to the sea, and there,
Fann’d by the potent breath, the young man’s cheek
Grew brighter, and the father’s heart took cheer.
But one day, as they sat upon the beach,
Watching the great smooth billows break themselves
With solemn lapse upon the shell and sand,
Justinian said, not loudly, in a voice
As if communing softly with himself,
“Father, if I should die!
                                         The very word
Seem’d sad and terrible and fraught with fear.
And starting at the sound, the wise man cried,
“Die? and so young!—that is a foolish thought!
You cannot, will not, die!”
                                           But with his eyes
Fix’d on the ever-breaking line of foam,
Justinian answer’d, “Soon or late, Death comes—
A little earlier, or a little later,
What matter? In the end we falter back
Into the nothingness from which we rose.
Well have you taught me, father, that our life
Is but the climbing and the falling wave.
I do not fear to die. No foolish tale
Of priest or pope affrights me; I have read                                          233
The secret of the world, and know indeed
That Death is Silence and an end of all.”

“But you will live!”
                               “For what? To read again
A tale thrice told; to hear a few more years
The same cold answer to my questionings;
To be a little wiser possibly,
And being so, a little sadder? Nay!
I am weary of it all—I have lived my life!”

     “Lived?” cried the wise man holding the thin hand,
“Lived? you, a stripling still, not yet a man—
You know not what you say. When you are well
(And ’twill be soon) you’ll laugh at these sad moods
And gather up your force to face anew
For many a merry year the shocks of Time.
Have comfort!—I am sixty years of age,
And am not weary yet!”
                                         The young man smiled
And press’d the gentle hand that held his own.
“Dear father, since we do not measure time
Merely by seasons past, ’tis I am old,
And you that are the boy! How cheerfully
You con the lesson you have learn’d by heart
So many a busy year. Why were we born?
To come into the sunlight and demand
Whence come we, whither go we, then to pass
Back into silence and to nothingness.
You say that life is long—alas! that life
Which ends at all, is far too brief for me.
Sixty years hence, if I could live till then,                                              234
I should be no less bitter to depart,
To pass into a silence and a sleep,
Than this day, or to-morrow. Dearest father,
My faith is firm as yours. I know full well
There is no God or Gods, as mad folk dream,
Beyond these echoes: that with man’s last breath
All individual being ends for ever,
And with the chemic crystals of the brain
Dries up that gas the preachers christen Soul.
Were I to live an hundred years and ten,
To realise old wives’ and prophets’ tales
Of man’s longevity, what could I learn
Not taught already? I could hear no more
Than I have heard;—than you have taught me, father,
Almost with my first breath.”

                                               Then, in a voice
Broken and thick with tears, the wise man cried,
“I have taught you over-much!—My son, my son,
Forgive me for my love and over-zeal!
I have been too cruel, placing on your strength,
Too slight to bear it, such a weight of work
As pales the cheek and rusts the wholesome blood.
But you shall rest! throwing all books aside,
We two will seek the breezes on the sea
And on the mountains! Then you will be strong,
And casting off these sad distemper’d fears,
Become a man indeed!”

                                         From that day forth
The silken thread of love, that ran unseen
Between the hearts of father and of son,                                             235
Tighten’d with many a pang of hope and dread
Now for the first the father realised
Parting was possible, and with sick suspense
He watch’d the shadow and the sunbeam fight
For victory on the pallid patient face.
When winter came they flitted to the south,
And there, amid a land of pine and vine,
Under a sapphire sky, Justinian seem’d
To gather strength and walk about renew’d.
Then ever in that fair land they heard the sound
Of soft church-bells, and ever in their walks
They came on rudely painted images
Of Jesus and Madonna, and beheld
At every step the shaven face of priests.
Among these signs of blind and ignorant faith
They walk’d like strangers in an alien clime,
Wondering and pitying, pitied in their turn
By all who saw them slowly pass along;
The tall boy leaning on the father’s arm,
The old man with a woman’s tender care
Uplooking in his face, with sleepless eyes
Watching his pearl of pearls.
                                               At last they came
Unto a place most peaceful and most fair,
Upon the margin of a crystal lake
Set in the hollow of Italian hills.
There an eternal summer seem’d to dwell,
In an eternal calm. On every side
The purple mountains rose, with filmy lights
And slender scarfs of white and melting mist,
While down below were happy orange groves
And gleaming emerald slopes, and crimson crags                                 236
Upon whose sides hung chalets white as snow
Just peeping from deep fringe of flower and fern.
And all, the crag and chalet, grove and wood,
With snow-white gleams of silent cataracts
For ever frozen in the act to fall,
Were imaged, to the tiniest flower or leaf,
In the cerulean mirror of the lake,—
Save when across the stillness crystalline
A gondola with purple shade crawl’d slowly
And blurr’d the picture with its silvern trail.

Here then they rested, in a cottage set
Upon the green edge of a promontory,
Where, sitting side by side, with images
Reflected in the azure sleeping lake,
They often heard the boatman’s even-song
Come from the distance like a sound in sleep;                                      [18:6]
And often faintly from the crags o’er head
Tinkled the chapel bell. But day by day
The young man felt the life-blood in his heart
Fail more and more, till oftentimes his life
Would seem as sad and faint and indistinct
As those soft sounds. Once, as they linger’d there,
A gentle Lutheran priest whose home was near
Came, hearing that the youth was sick to death,
And sought to give them comfort; but the sire,
With something of a learnèd anger left,
Tho’ gently, warn’d him from the sufferer’s side.
Then coming to his son, “How far these priests
Scent sorrow!—they would make the merry world
A charnel-house to do their office in!
I sent the preacher packing; he seemed vex’d                                     237
To hear that you were growing strong and well
And did not need his prayers;” and with a smile
Of sad entreaty, “Yes, you are growing strong!
And you will soon be well!”

                                             Divinely blue
The heavens were bending o’er the young man’s head,
Blue lay the peaceful lake, and in its breast
Another heaven as divinely blue
Throbb’d through its own soft sunlight rapturously.
Propp’d in his chair Justinian gazed around.
“Father,” he said, “dear father, hold my hand—
In all the world there is no comfort left
Like feeling your kind touch. Now listen to me!
I know I shall not leave this place alive—
My time has almost come!”—
                                               “No, no!”

                                                         “Dear father!
When the faint flame of life is flickering low,
They say that even mindless beasts and birds
Know that the end is near; and lo, I know it,
For all my sense grows dim. A little while,
And I shall be a part of that soft sleep
Upon the lake and on the purple hills
And in the quiet grave where no shape stirs.
But now it does not seem so hard to go,
Since all life seems a dream within a dream
And I myself the strangest dream of all.
To those fair elements whence first I came—
Water and earth and air—I shall return;
And see! how tranquil and how beautiful                                            238
They wait for me, the immortal ministers
Of Man and all that shares mortality!”

     Then in a voice that seemed the very sound
Of his own rending heart, the father cried,
“My son! Justinian! child of mine old age!
Sole comfort of my dark and dreary days!
You cannot go! you cannot fade away!
No, no, you must not die! How shall I live
Bereft of you? Where shall my soul find rest,
When all I cherish, all the loving mind
That I have nurtured so, depart so soon?
No, I will hold you—I will clasp you to me—
Nothing shall part us, nay, not Death itself;
For if you die, my only boy, my pride,
I will die too!” Then, as he clasped his son,
And looked into the thin and tearful eyes,
And felt the slight frame tremble through and through
As if with chill of some cold blighting breath,
He suddenly raised up his face to heaven
And unaware, with a great gush of tears,
Moan’d “God! God! God!”
                                     Startled at that strange cry,
Justinian murmur’d, “Father!”—and the two
Clung close to one another tremulously
In pain too quick for speech; but when the storm
Of sudden agony had passed away,
There came a pause—a long and tearful pause—
And each could feel the other’s beating heart
And the quick coming of the other’s breath.
Then presently their eyes met, and a light
Of some new wonder fill’d Justinian’s eyes,                                        239
While softly, quietly, he said, “My father!
Since I was but a babe upon the breast,
And ever upward through the happy years,
Your eyes have been the source of all my seeing,
Your mind the living font of all my thoughts.
Tell me, dear father—now, before we part—
And tell me firmly, with no thought of fear,
Is it for ever? Have I read, indeed,
My lesson truly? Tell me, am I right?
For you have taught me truth is best of all—
Is this the utter end of all our love,
And shall we never meet and know each other
Again, as we have known each other here?”

Then sobbing like a child the old man cried,
“Ask me not!—Pity me, and ask no more!
For lo, I seem as one whose house has fallen
About his feet in ruins, and who stands
Living, aghast, with ashes on his head,
Clouded with horror, half awaked from sleep.
I know there is no God—Nature herself,
More mighty and more terrible than God,
Hath taught me that—but till this piteous hour
I never craved for God or named his Name.
I asked not for him, craved no alms of Heaven,
Nor hunger’d for another better life
Than this we live; all that I sought on earth
Was you, my child, my son. Stay with me here,
Let us remain a little more together—
And I shall be content.”
                                     Then with a smile
Angelically sad, Justinian said:                                                             240
“It is enough—torture your heart no more.
Hold to our faith—be strong—for though I die
Fairer than I shall live. Now, read to me
That sweet preamble of Lucretius
I always loved so much,—because it brought
The very breath of fields and happy flocks,
With that great animal content and joy
Which fills the earth to which we all return.”

     Then trembling, in a voice made thick with tears,
The old man at the bidding of the boy
Read the rich periods of the only bard
Who faced with fearless front unconquerable
That Shape so many see,—a Skeleton
Standing amid the universal snow
Of seeds atomic, pointing dimly down.

“For of the mighty scheme of Heaven and Gods
I now shall sing, unfolding to thy gaze
The everlasting principles of things—
Whence Nature forms, increases, and sustains
All forms that are, and whither as they die
She evermore dissolves each form again.
These principles we in our human speech
Call matter or the generative seeds,
Bodies primordial whence all things that be
Were marvellously fashioned from the first.”

With eyes half closed, his face suffused with sunlight,
The pale boy listen’d, while the verse flow’d on.

“This darkness, this deep shadow of the mind,                               241
Neither the sunrise nor the darts of day
Have power to scatter; but it shall dissolve
Before the light of reason and the face
Of Nature’s self. First, for exordium,
Lay thou to heart this first great principle—
Nought e’er is form’d from nought by Power Divine! . . .
But when we have studied deep and comprehend
That Power Divine can ne’er make nought from nought,
Then shall we know that which we seek to know—
How everything is fashion’d first and last,
And all things wrought without the help of God!”

     So far he read, and paused; and as he paused
A change came o’er the face he gazed upon,
As if a finger touch’d the brow and eyes.
The father shriek’d and shudder’d, shrinking back
In nameless awe, for in a moment’s space,
Though all the air was sunny overhead,
And all the lake was golden at their feet,
The twain were cover’d with a shadow cast
By some dark shape unseen.
                                               “Hold my hand, father,
For I am dying!”
                             Then the white face flash’d
To one wild look of passionate farewell,
And silently, without another word,
The last sad breath was drawn.
                                                   They bore him in—
How and by whom the gentle deed was done
The father knew not, being dazed and stunn’d,
But follow’d moaning, while upon his bed
They placed him down; and when that afternoon                                242
A pallid Sister from the convent came
To do the last sad offices of death,
The old man only watch’d her in a trance
And made no sign; but when, her kind task done,
She touch’d him, saying in her own soft speech,
“Signor, I trust he died in the full faith
Of Christ our Lord!” he gave a laugh so strange,
So terrible and yet so pitiful,
She thought his wits were gone.
                                                   Fair as a star,
Justinian lay upon his bed of death,
And seeing him so young and beautiful
The Sister gathered lilies in the garden
And strew’d them on his breast; then reverently
She bless’d him; and the old man look’d at her,
Trembling as in a trance; but suddenly
Uprising, in a hollow voice he cried,
Pointing her to the door with quivering hands,
“Begone! profane him not! from life to death
I kept him safe from Superstition’s touch!
My boy! you shall not take him from me now!”



The following is the original text of the passages of Lucretius, translated in the text and printed in italics:—

1 “Nam tibi de summa coeli ratione deûmque
Disserere incipiam, et rerum primordia pandam;
Unde omnes natura creet res, auctet alatque;
Quove eadem rursum natura perempta resolvat;
Quæ nos materiem, et genitalia corpora rebus                                                             243
Reddenda in ratione vocare, et semina rerum
Appellare suëmus, et hæc eadem usurpare
Corpora prima, quod ex illis sunt omnia primis.”
                                                         De Rer. Nat., Book i. 54-62.

2 “Hunc igitur terrorem animi tenebrasque necesse est
Non radii solis, neque lucida tela diei
Discutiant, sed naturæ species ratioque:
Principium hinc cujus nobis exordia sumet,
Nullam rem e nihilo gigni divinitus unquam . . .
Quas ob res, ubi viderimus nil posse creari
De nihilo, tum, quod sequimur, jam rectius inde
Perspiciemus, et unde queat res quæque creari,
Et quo quæque modo fiant opera sine divûm.”
                                         De Rer. Nat., Book i. 147-151, 155-159.


‘Justinian’ was first published in the January, 1880 edition of The Contemporary Review.
Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 18, l. 6: Come from a distance like a sound in sleep; ]






IN Frankfort, at the crowded table-d’hôte,
Amid the steam of dishes and the sound
Of chattering voices, I beheld at last
The face I sought: a toothless lion’s face,
Grey, livid, sprinkled o’er with dust of dream,
With two dim eyes that (as the lion’s orbs
Gaze through and past the groups around the cage
Upon the sands of Afric far away)
Met mine and saw me not, but mark’d beyond
That melancholy desert of the Mind
Where in his lonely splendour he had reign’d.
But when he rose without a word, and stepped
Across the threshold out into the street,
I follow’d reverently, and touch’d his arm.
Frowning he turn’d. “Your pardon,” I exclaimed,
Standing bareheaded in the summer sun—
“To the new Buddha, Arthur Schopenhauer,
I’ve come with letters from your sometime friend,
Hestmann of Hamburg. Bliss it were, indeed,
If for a space you suffered me to gaze
On the one fountain of philosophy
Still sparkling to refresh an arid world!”

He took the letters, glanced them grimly through,
Then his face brighten’d and he smiled well pleased;
Then nodding, said: “You come in season, sir!                                    245
I lack an arm to lean on as I walk,
And now, if you are willing, yours will serve.
For, as you see, your Buddha (so men please
To style me; and if zeal to make men wise,
To free them from their yoke of misery,
Constitute godship, I deserve the name!)
Your Buddha groweth old, is well-nigh spent,
And soon must pass away.” “Nay,” I replied,
“For many a summer and a winter more
Your living force must flow to gladden man;
Philosophy is still too halt and blind
To spare you yet!” More brightly still his face
Flash’d answer to the flattery of my words.
“Right, right!” he murmur’d. “After all, they are wise
Who flout the Bible’s three-score years and ten;
A strong man’s season is a hundred years,
Nor less nor more; and I, though grey and bent,
May see another generation yet!”

I had reach’d his heart at once, as courtiers gain
The hearts of kings. So, resting on mine arm,
Smiling and nodding gently as we went,
He passed with me along the sunny street;
And on our way I spake with youthful warmth
Of that new gospel which the lonely man
Had offered all in vain for two-score years
To every passer-by in this dull world;
And what himself had said a thousand times
I said with zeal—that in the sun there stood
Temples and towers, but only Memnon’s sang,
And his was Memnon’s to a listening world.                                        246
Still more complacent grew his deity,
Finding so passionate a worshipper!
And presently he questioned of myself,
My birthplace, and my business in the city.
English by name and accent, as he guessed?
Was his name known in England? he inquired,
With quick solicitous glance; and when I said
His name was known and reverenced through the land,
His pale cheek flush’d with pleasure once again.

Then, as we passed along the populous streets,
With houses, shops, and marts on either side,
And folk as thick as bees that throng i’ the hive,
He, finding I was apt, grew garrulous:
Told of his weary years of martyrdom,
Through which, neglected and despised, he framed
His creed of grand negation and despair;
How, bitter at the baseness of the world,
Yet never faltering as his hand set down
In philosophic rhythm the weary sound
Made by the ocean of the Will which beats
For ever on these wrinkled sands of Time,
He had waited, till the pigmies wrought his crown;
How every man-made god, or god-made man,
Had lied, until he spake the “Sesame”
Which opened the great cavern of the truth
To every soul that yearn’d to creep therein;
And how, now all was said that thought could say,
He rested, while the nations one by one
                                     As he spake, he paused                               247
Before a great cathedral whose tall spire
Pointed a fiery finger up at Heaven.
Then, smiling, “Still the pagan temples stand,
And from the heart of each a bleeding god,
Not Buddha or a greater, spins his web
To entangle insects of Humanity.
Henceforth the battle is between us twain,
I who have scaled the Heavens and found them bare,
I who have cast the Heavenly Father down,
And Christ that cries, ‘He reigns!’”
                                                         He rose erect,
Nostrils dilated, eyes grown fiercely bright,
With possible conquest.
                                       “’Tis the Christ or I,
And face to face we stand before the age!
All other of the intellectual gods,
Save I alone, were frail or timorous,
Mad or god-drunken; I alone have set
My finger on the canker of the world,
Saying ’Tis fatal—’Tis incurable—
And I defy the Christ to find a cure!
The Titans, headed by Prometheus
(Whom we in Deutschland call Immanuel Kant),
Marshal’d their hosts against the Olympian throne,
And one by one before its shadowy seat
Fell, mumbling ‘God’; the tempests of the mind
Enwrapt and overpowered them, and they fell;
Last of the race, their Epimetheus,
Our moonstruck Hegel, gibbering like an ape,
Follow’d the phantom God whom he denied
Garrulously up and down! My turn was next.
I stood alone upon the eternal shore,                                                  248
And heard the thunder of the waves of Will
Upmounting to destroy me, till I spake
The mystic word ‘Nirwâna,’ and behold!
They heard me and obeyed me, and were hush’d.
A Spirit stood beside me, even Death,
And in his clammy palm I placed my hand,
And still together, masters of the hour,
We stand triumphant, waiting the event!”

Again he took my arm and on we walk’d
Towards Sachsenhausen. Passing o’er the bridge,
’Mid crowds of pleasure-seeking citizens,
We came among the parks and flowery ways
And heard among the sunbeam-laden trees
The fluttering and the singing of the birds.
From neighbouring gardens came the fiddle’s sound,
The flute’s soft whistle, and the eager shouts
Of merry-making folk. Then, sitting down,
Upon a bench o’erhung with whispering leaves,
We watched the stream of festal men and maids
That overflowed the roads and garden walks.
Loud in the summer sunshine sang the birds,
Answered by human voices, while the sage
Looked sadly on, and mused:
                                                 “The stress of pain
Dwells on the heartstrings of the feather’d choir,
Who, prompted by the goad of fiery love
(Veneris ictus, as Lucretius sings)
Toil restlessly, build nests, uprear their young
With eager palpitations, ever fearing
The shadow of the cruel kestrel, Death,
Hovering above them. Sounds their summer cry                                   249
So merry, say you? ’Tis the o’erburdened heart
Spilling itself in waves of agony,
Which only to the sense of babes can seem
Sweet and ecstatic! Walk abroad; and mark
The cony struggling in the foumart’s fangs,
The deer and hare that fly the sharp-tooth’d hound,
The raven that with flap of murderous wing
Hangs on the woolly forehead of the sheep
And blinds its harmless eyes; nor these alone,
But every flying, every creeping thing,
Anguishes in the fierce blind fight for life!
Sharp hunger gnaws the lion’s entrails, tears
The carrion-seeking vulture, films with cold
The orbs of snake and dove. For these, for all,
Remains but one dark Friend and Comforter,
The husher of the weary waves of Will,
Whom men name Peace or Death.”
                                                 “A piteous creed!”
I answer’d. “Surely yonder thrush’s song
Is not all sadness? Hark how joyfully
He, clinging to the laden apple-bough,
Trills out his ‘lover-lover! kiss-kiss sweet!’
And yonder youth and maiden listening
Sit hand in hand as if in Paradise,
And seeing heaven in each other’s eyes,
Forget for once that love can die or change
Or youth’s gay music turn to jangling bells
Or funeral discord!”
                                   On my Buddha’s face
A dark smile gather’d like a sulphurous flash
Upon a lonely cloud, and died away.
“Behold,” he said, “the woman close at hand                                      250
Suckling her sickly babe; poor soul, she smiles
To feel the famished lips that draw her milk
And drink her feeble life! Call you that smile
The light of living joy? To me it seems
Rapture of misery ineffable,
Such as the birds and beasts bear in their breasts
Starving to feed their young! Then mark again
That other, like a ripe and rich-hued fruit
Pit-speck’d and rotten to the very core!
She flaunts her painted beauty in the sun
And hangs upon the arm of yonder Jew
Whose little eyes are shrivell’d in his head
With Nature’s light of lust. Priapus still
Is god o’ the garden! Not a stone’s-throw hence,
Temples obscene as those Vesuvius once
Smother’d with fiery lava, still attest
The infamous worship! Wheresoe’er we gaze,
On quiet field or busy haunts of men,
Among the creeping or the upright beasts,
Comes Nature, grinning like a procuress,
Bringing her innocent victims to assuage
The fire herself hath sown in the quick veins
Of all that live. Call you that quenchless fire
Peaceful or joyful?—yet by that alone
We move and have our being!”
                                                   “Nay,” I cried,
“For surely there is Love which conquers it,
And Passion pallid as the passion-flower
Rooted in earth but showering up to heaven
Its wealth of stainless blooms!”
                                                 “Love conquers it,”
He answer’d with a weary inward smile,                                             251
“If e’er it conquers, by the privilege
Of some supremer pain. The ascending scale,
From lower up to higher, only marks
The clearing of the flame until its light
Grows wholly sacrificial. Beasts and birds
Struggle and agonise to increase their kind,
Obeying blind pulsations which began
Deep in the burning breast of yonder Sun
Whose corporal beams we are; creation ever                                     [5:96]
Obeys the blind vibrations which arose                                               [5:97]
Ere yet the timorous nebulæ cohered
To fashion fiery worlds; but we who stand
Supreme, the apex and the crown of things,
Have gained supremacy of suffering
And sovereignty of limitless despair!”

How merrily the festal music rose,
While men and women ’neath the linden-trees
Join’d in the dance, and happy children cried,
And birds with quick precipitous rapture shower’d
Their answer from the blossom-laden boughs!
Sunny as Eden seemed the earth that day;
And yet, methought, I saw the sunlight shrink
And all creation darken suddenly,
As if from out the umbrage there had peer’d
The agate-eyes o’ the Snake! Then, as I gazed
Into the pallid dreamer’s filmy orbs,
Methought the flesh and hair were shrivell’d up,
And in their places skin and scale appeared,
Till on his belly crawling serpent-wise
My Buddha slipt into the undergrass                                                    252
And disappear’d. The fancy vanishing,
I heard his voice intoning at my side.

“Supremacy of sorrow gained at last,
Agony upon agony multiplied
And crystallised in knowledge, He, your Christ,
Rose and confronted Nature, as a dove
Might face eternal Deluge. ‘Comfort yet,’
He murmur’d, ‘while I set, upon the brows
Of all who suffer, this red crown of thorns,
And speak the promise of eternal life.’
Eternal Life! Eternal strife and sorrow!
Man’s privilege of misery ascending
Scale after scale, until at last it gains
An immortality of suffering!
What marvel if the tortured victim shrinks
From infinite possibilities of pain,
And casting down that crown, calling a curse
On Nature, dwindling down the scale which once
He eagerly ascended, gains the beast,
Holds hideous orgy, or like Niobe
Weeps—and is fix’d in stone! Helpless and frail,
Sharing the desolation he surveys,
Christ crawleth back into his sepulchre
And sleeps again. . . . Meantime, out of the womb
Of sorrow springs another Comforter,
Your Buddha, even I, the lonely man
Who walks the waves of Will as long ago
The Galilean seem’d to walk the sea.
‘Patience!’ I whisper; ‘take the gift I bring—
No crown of thorns, no promise of more life,                                       253
But this black poppy, pluck’d upon a grave!
The Ocean, though its waters wash as far
As the remotest sphere, as the last sun
Just crackling, shrivelling, like a leaf i’ the fire,
The Ocean wide as Life, hath still—a shore!
On those dark sands each troublous wave is still’d,
Breaks, falls, and stirs no more, though other waves,
Pain following pain, identity that crowds
Fast on identity, shall still succeed.
Ye are weary—sleep; ye are weeping—weep no more;
As ye have come, depart; as ye have risen
To the supremest crest of suffering,
Break, overflow, subside, and cease forever.’
Man hears. He feels, though all the rest be false,
One thing is certain—sleep: more precious far
Than any weary walkings in the sun.
Shall not the leafy world even as a flower
Be wither’d in its season; or, grown cold,
Even like a snow-flake melting in the light,
Fade very silently, and pass away
As it had never been? Shall Man, predoom’d,
Cling to his sinking straw of consciousness,
Fight with the choking waters in his throat,
And gasp aloud, ‘More life, O God, more life!
More pain, O God?’ . . . Nay, let him silently,
Bowing his head like some spent swimmer, sink
Without a sigh into the blest Abyss
Dark with the shipwreck of the nations, strewn
With bones of generations—lime of shells
That once were quick and lived. Even at this hour
He pauses, doubting, with the old fond cry,
Dreaming that some miraculous Hand may snatch                                254
His spirit from the waters! Let him raise
His vision upward, and with one last look,
Ere all is o’er, behold ‘Nirwâna’ writ
Across the cruel Heavens above his head
In fiery letters, fading characters
Of dying planets, faintly flickering suns,
Foredoom’d like him to waste away and fade,
Extinguish’d in the long eternal Night.”

As one who walks in gardens of the feast,
When the last guests flit down the lamp-hung walks
To music sadly ceasing on the air,
And sees a dark arm pass from lamp to lamp,
Quenching them one by one, so did I seem
Hearkening that voice of cheerless prophecy.
I rose, walked on, he leaning on mine arm,
I listening; and where’er we went, methought
Sorrow and sunlessness preceded us;
So that the people dancing ’neath the trees,
The birds that fluted on the blossoming boughs,
The music and the murmur, made more sharp
My sense of desolation. Everywhere
I saw the hovering ernes, Despair and Death,
Watching their victim, Man.
                                             A space we walked
In silence, then I murmur’d: “Can it be
That Death and Death’s Despair are paramount?
That, even as suns and systems are consumed,
The mind of man, which apprehends or dreams
It apprehends them, shares their destiny?
Is there not something deathless, which denies
The victory to Death?”                                                                       255
“Their Christ says ‘yea,’”
Answer’d the Buddha; “and with that lure and lie
Hath led the world for eighteen hundred years.
The mind of Man is as the rest—a flash
Of sunfire, nothing more; a quality
Pertaining only to the perishable.
Thought is a struggle with the Unconscious; soon
The struggle ceases, and the Unconscious drinks
The thinker and the thought for evermore.
Blesséd is he who, having wildly watch’d
The beauteous mirage of a heavenly Home,
Knoweth ’tis mirage only, and sinks down
To slumber on the arid stretch of sand
Whereon his weary feet have trod so long:
The sun shall shine upon him, and the stars
Fulfil their ministrations; he shall hear
No more the wailings of the flocks and herds
Slain to assuage the appetite for life;
No thing that suffers and no thing that slays
Shall mar his peace with pain or sympathy;
Dust, he returns to dust; life, he resolves
To life unconscious, such as quickeneth
In even trees and stones; his dream is o’er
Forever; and he hath become a part
Of elemental dumb Eternity.”

“If this be so, dear Master,” I returned,
“What then remains for us who walk i’ the sun?
For surely Love is curst, if Love must die
Like breath upon a mirror, like the dew
Clothing the Hûleh-lily; and alas!
Since Love goes, what abides of heavenly hope                                  256
To abate our weary heart-beats?” With a smile
He answered: “Fold thine arms upon thy breast
And face thy destiny Prometheus-like,
Not flattering even to its face the Power
That makes and shall unmake thee! Give the ear
To Jesus and his gaunt attendant gods,
Jove or Jehovah, and remain—a slave;
Shut up thine ears, and give those gods the lie,
And stand erect in fearless sovereignty
Of limitless despair! Grand even in Death,
Yea, grand because of Death, the mind of Man
Can front the issue of the Inevitable,
Despising and appraising and defying
The anarchy and tyranny that spare
No shape that lives. Nature is pitiless;
Then be thou pitiful. Cruel is the world;
Then be thou kind, even to the creeping thing
That crawls and agonises in its place
As thou in thine. Fever and Pestilence
Make and keep open one long-festering wound;
Anoint it with the balm of charity,
The oil of leechcraft. Thus, and thus alone,
Shalt thou in sheer defeat find victory,
And ’midst the very blast of that strong Voice
Which crieth ‘Love is not,’ shall thy last word
Attest Love’s triumph, and thy soul remain
Immortal even in Death!”
                                         In proud revolt
He paused, and pointed at the pallid heavens
As if arraigning Nature, while his hand
Trembled with palsy, and his eye was film’d,
And in his feeble frame the undaunted heart                                        257
Plunged, like a prison’d bird worn out and dying.
Then cunningly, to change the cheerless chord
He struck so strenuously, I spake again
Of his great labour, ever-increasing fame,
The homage of the world, and the long reach
Of honour, opening for his feet to tread;
And soon the Lion saw, not desert sands,
But gentle worshippers that led him on
With chains of flowers, tamely to crouch beside
The footstools of anointed crownèd kings.
Bright’ning he spake of labours yet to do,
Fair fields of fame unreapt, glad days and merry,
Of taking gifts and yielding oracles!
So cheerfully, like one that loved his life,
He prattled on, beneath the blossoming boughs,
In answer to the carol of the birds,
The shouting of the children, the glad sound
Of festal fife and flute.
                                     At evenfall
We parted, he to seek his lonely house,
I to the city hostel where I lodged;
But as he faded from me in the street
Touch’d by the bright beams of the rising moon,
Surely I saw the Shadow men name Death
Creeping behind him. Turning with a sigh,
I left him in the graveyard of his creed.


‘The New Buddha’ was first published in the May, 1885 edition of The North American Review.
There is a letter from Buchanan to Messrs. Fields & Osgood from 22nd September, 1884, offering the poem for the Atlantic Monthly for $100.
Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 5, l. 96: Whose corporal beams we are! Creation ever
v. 5, l. 97: Obeys the blind vibration which arose ]



The New Rome continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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