[From Letters of T. E. Brown, 1900]
FOUR FRAGMENTS (UNDATED).
AN extraordinary thing has happened. Somewhere towards the year 1700, one Rutter, a Christ Church man, I think, held the Archdeaconry of Sodor and Man, having presumably been appointed thereto by the Derbies. He seems to have been a kind of court poet. We all knew him as the author of a humorous epitaph (his own) :
' In hac Domo quam a vermiculis accepi (confratribus meis) spe resurrectionis
ad vitam jaceo Sam. permissione divina Episcopus hujus insulae.
Siste lector-vide et ride palatium episcopi.'
He died Bishop of Man, but in his Archdeacon days he evidently considered the writing of 'occasional' verses as one of his Archidiaconal functions. In his time there came to the island a Danish Professor (credite posteri!), the forerunner of the Vigfussons, &c. , of our own time. He received from Rutter, as a linguistic curiosity, what purported to be a Manx poem, with an English translation. No one here, or, as far as I can make out, anywhere, knew of this poem, its whereabouts, or even its existence, till the other day a friend of mine was in Copenhagen, and in the library there happened to turn over the MS. papers left by the old Danish professor. We none of us had ever heard of such a person, or his visit to the Isle of Man, a fact in itself extremely improbable. But he had been there, and he had conversed with our choice spirits-Rutter, Philip Moore, &c. , and he had taken home with him to Copenhagen what I now deliberately consider one of the most precious finds that have been made for many years in the department of late seventeenth or early eighteenth-century literature. But you shall judge for yourself.
Here is the English Translation(?).
Let the world run round,
Let the world run round,
And know neither end nor station.
Our glory is the test
Of a merry merry breast
In this little quiet nation.
We eat, we drink, we laugh, we sing,
To-morrow freely comes and goes,
We strike up music's gentle string,
And understand no other blows. Let the world, &c.
If any sour unhallowed breath
Our harmless sports should dare defile,
Let that man fall in love with death,
Whilst we the griefs of life beguile. Let the world, &c.
What though our peace much envy'd be,
Our fears they need not to increase,
For everywhere abroad we see
That men do even fight for peace. Let the world, &c.
Thus, from all enemies secure,
Our heads and hearts are light as air,
Not made the heavy yoke t' endure
Of too much wealth or too much care. Let the world, &c.
Gold, and the troubled strife for gold,
Are evils unto us unknown
Our clothing's neither gay nor cold,
It covers us, and it's our own. Let the world, &c.
We do not liberty contrive
Ourselves in bondage for to bring,
As birds to snare do haste alive,
By the loose freedom of the wing. Let the world, &c.
Our shepherds on their reeds do play,
Charming their sweethearts, and their sheep,
Neither of which do go astray,
By nature taught their bounds to keep. Let the world, &c.
Our mistresses are still the same,
No rivals blowing at our fire;
We live and frolic in love's flame
Without the pain of fond desire. Let the world, &c.
If any fool on change be bent,
And think to thrive the Lord knows when,
Let him first go and learn what's meant
By excise and committee men. Let the world, &c.
The master of these festive sports,
Commander of the truest hearts,
Takes to himself the serious thoughts,
And leaves to us the merry parts. Let the world, &c.
Lo now, good master, health to thee
And, if there 's one who will not pass
The cup, let him hence banished be,
To quench his thirst in the Dhoo-glass. Let the world, &c.
There you are now! and that from Copenhagen ! ! What do you think of it? The joke of the matter is that the Manx verses are very nearly as good as the English, and the translation, either way, is marvellously close. I could give you a literal translation of the Manx, which would convince you of this.
Now the question naturally arises, which is original, and which translation ? I believe the English to be the original, although it purports to be the translation. To make this plain would be a long business, and a subtle. But I am nearly certain of my game.
How splendidly contemptuous is verse 9 ! Conservative? I should think so! The Manx of this verse has 'Let him think of the French country, what law and harsh taxes are there.' Evidently, as I think, the Manx translator ran away from the not obvious 'excise (Excise) and committee men.'
Do excuse these Lusus Monenses. You would not have me otherwise than full of them-would you ?
1 Vide Letter to Miss E. Brown, Dec. 12, 1892.
[fpc TEB's chronology is somewhat strange, Rutter was buried 1662, whereas Philiup Moore was some 90 years later - the Danish Professor was likely to be Professor Torkelin who visited the Island in 1789 - 'excise & committee men' would not have figured in Rutter's time]
You ask me what I think of the new School. I don't care for it. If we are to set up a ' School' for every subject, which it is desirable to encourage and foster among young Englishmen, where are we to stop ?
Cookery ? Independently of its classical associations, is not this an important subject ? Though, whether it be advisable to encourage it beyond the limits which nature has established, and which seem sufficiently wide, I know not. Anything that takes off good men from the Classics is to be deprecated. And the twaddle of these English scholars is endless. Even the best of them-Skeat, for instance-can we trust them not to encroach ?
And what is the end of this English ? English language, English literature: ' On! on ! ' German, High German, Low German, Icelandic, Sanscrit, when will you stop?
Not a word about Language then, that is too large an order. Let us limit ourselves to the Literature. Yes, but when will you pull up the desire to approfondir ? ?
It is a tremendous field. Divide it, take the poetry alone, probably the most likely to be chosen. I know the man, so do you, who will insist, almost as a preliminary, upon a complete course of the laws which govern English metre. Yes, and to the De re metrica Anglica will want to add a conspectus of English Phonetics (1!). Once let them in, and won't they go it ?
And then the rise of a whole school of Hermeneutics, with its infernal appendage of coaches, handbooks, cramming-books.
Can you face this monster of the deep? Textual criticism would come last-felicitous conjectures Bibliography, and all the paths, pleasant, no doubt, and profitable as hobbies for a man above thirty. But educat2onal ? Your book-hunter would cry from the distance; and the Quais of Paris would find their way into the illimitable cycle of what every man ought to know.
Meantime, as the Gods will, we go each his own way to cultivate what pleases us. Could anything be better ? I mean after taking one's degree.
Does F. think he would have profited by any such compulsory, or quasi-compulsory, or seductively permitted course of study? Why does he not take it up now ? There is nothing to prevent him. I know full well that such a man never applies the clõture to his education. And one may exaggerate the advantages of an early familiarity with a branch of learning, especially when it lies in the direction of that noxious humbug, Universality. As the years roll on, I doubt not many a hammer will ring at the fastness of the classics. Possibly an entire disruption may take place. But if ever there was a case of my favourite Virgilian-Antiquam exquirite-it will be that of England when it awakes from this dream which is only not lewd because it is fatuous. The awakening is sure to come. The study of Greek may for a while be confined to the epigraphists of our School at Athens; but it will revive with tremendous force. And a new generation will demand of us what we have done with so precious an inheritance. But I wax rhetorical and ridiculous.
It is an old taste of mine that sixteenth, seventeenthcentury Latin. There I can always be happy. A modern, garrulous Latin full of goosey, gooseygander and Aulus Gellius. The pure classic meanwhile languishes in me. I am getting not ripe, but old, so old. A half-wish, an almost despairing wish to climb the immortal heights, and then a subsidence into gossip, twaddle, rot. How can I save myself ?
Hellebore? Ah, it is hard....
Clearly there are clever people engaged upon it. But it betrays that fault, which is so common, and yet surely so inexcusable in youth-the affectation of maturity.
Boys should write like boys. Let them perfect their style, but let their enthusiasm, their splendid errors, their follies, their rashness, their i'mmaturity be all there. They are boys, they have the great and priceless advantage of youth. Is it not too bad that they should also snatch at the advantages, solid though they may be, yet sad, that belong to their seniors ? And then the direction-agnosticism and so forth-politics, and all the sordes thereto pertaining.
Wit, as it hovers in the fine air of literary criticism and controversy, is what they ought to aim at. Humour is forbidden to them. They would fain fly at everything, but I would break them in like pointers. What say you? There is something very melancholy, inept, scorbutic in the young free-thinker. He is on his wrong diet. Perhaps my old friends of 1780, who never had a doubt about a blessed thing, but pelted one another like schoolboys with classical snowballs, have made me more than ordinarily impatient with these unbreeched philosophers. But
I first knew Archdeacon Moore in 1848. Long before that I had seen him at my father's vicarage, and heard him preach in Kirk Braddan church when he was staying at Cronkbourne. I remember that his way of preaching did not take me. I was accustomed to two styles of preaching, widely different from his, and from each other. I admired my father's sermons, so exquisite in diction, so fastidiously consummate, yet warm with the suppressed glow of a fine poetic nature; and I was interested in sermons like those of Dr. Carpenter, homely, vigorous, and full of zeal, full of illustration. The Archdeacon's method in the pulpit was to me something quite new. He was so pithy, so sententious, so absolutely without ornament, so wise, and I suppose I must admit, so odd, that I could not take to him. I did not know the double source of that compound-the shrewd, racy, native humour which was the Archdeacon's own, and the reading of our old English divines in which his soul so much delighted.
It was on a very bright frosty night at Christmastide of 1848-1849 that I rode with him in his carriage from Tromode to Andreas. Our companion, besides Cannell, was Mr. Trollope, at that time I think curate of Jurby. To see the Archdeacon at home was to learn to love him. The very arrangements of that home, its order, its simplicity, its decent regard of ancient usage, the spirit it breathed of peace and good-will, the affectionate devotion of servant to master and master to servant, the perfect concordall this irresistibly attracted me to him who was the very key and centre of this harmony.
The Christmas dinner was a scene never to be forgotten. It was held in the large kitchen of the Rectory: all the servants of the household were of course there, besides all those who worked in any capacity on the glebe. The Archdeacon presided. In the midst of all the brightness and happiness a strange weird face was seen at the door, a face whose weakness was redeemed by a smile of heavenly quietude-it was an old friend of mine, a still older friend perhaps of the Archdeacon, Chalse-y-Killey. Chalse was heartily welcomed. There was nothing more remarkable in the Archdeacon than his unfeigned compassion for poor innocents. He seemed to look upon them as children, his own children, and yearn over them with a tenderness curiously blended with playfulness. I never have witnessed the mind of Christ so lively expressed in mortal face or voice.
It would have been impossible to live long under this roof without appreciating the sterling character of my dear and venerable friend. I soon began to like his preaching: I felt its force, I felt how natural it was, how genuine, and how wise, for that is perhaps the word that best conveys the impression produced by these discourses. Nor did I fail to perceive that they sometimes rose to real eloquence and a kind of rugged grandeur. But one always noticed the wisdom; and that wisdom it was my good fortune and privilege to see carried out daily in practical life. I must have seen the Archdeacon in almost every circumstance of domestic and pastoral routine; I have seen him in the school, at the vestry meeting, at dinner with his wardens, conducting family prayers in a way quite peculiar to himself and wholly excellent, in the field, in the cottage, at a club, at an auction of his own farm-stock and material, and I learned in all these particulars that make up the daily task of ordinary activity to revere this good and most kindly man. All that I had read in biographies of holy men, heightened no doubt and coloured by a youthful inspiration, seemed realized in the Archdeacon. He helped me to picture to myself what of saintly and helpful I had observed in the characters of our great divines, whether Church or Nonconformist-in Hooker, in Baxter, in Jeremy Taylor. And knowing how he rejoiced in these pillars of the Christian faith, how steeped he was in their writings, how he ran instinctively upon the lines of their thought and of their very phrase, I took the greater pleasure in noting the outcome of ripe studies and long familiarity with the magnificent originals. I do not think that the Archdeacon's reading extended even to the early Christian Fathers, but our own Anglican Fathers he knew well. From all taint of the movement with which he must have been contemporary at Oxford he was absolutely free. He was a sound evangelical Churchman.
I ought to say a word about his great liking for young persons, and his happy way of dealing with them. In the latter respect he was all but unerring. It was his custom to gather round him at the Rectory a number of young men, generally sons of old friends, who were likely to take holy orders. And young folk are thoughtless, impetuous, perhaps overconfi dent at times. It was a real heavenly wisdom which guided the Archdeacon in his relations to these youthful friends, many of them friends of my own, in whose case I had the opportunity of tracing the effect of his loving-kindness and sober counsel. I suppose love is knowledge, and love it was that gave him this keen insight. Love was the master power; but beside this deep spring of action, the Archdeacon had an extraordinary faculty of appreciating minute points of character, indeed everything minute. Nothing was too small for him. This faculty was in him very strong; it was closely connected with his eminently social disposition, connected too with another power, the controlling power of patience, of long-suffering. I have seen that patience sorely tried, and I do not mean to say that it always bore the strain. The Archdeacon was a thorough Manxman, but one who had been trained in a courtly school, and had learned to know the world as perhaps few Manxmen have ever known it. This gave to his conversation, and to his estimate of men and things, a colour as of worldly wisdom. But it was not that: it was practical sagacity, based upon long and select observations. We felt, with the Archdeacon, that we had to deal with a gentleman --with a gentleman of the old school-with one whose experience could be of service to us, no matter what path of life we might follow. In short, he was an able and accomplished guide, a grand master-pilot for any waters. He loved the Isle of Man, and served it loyally. I could scarcely tell whether the Church or State in Man had the greatest share of his affection. He was alive to everything that might improve the material condition of the people: was interested in farming, in the development of trade, in all social and political questions as they arose, pre-eminently in education. And here we naturally pass to the more spiritual side of his character. A thorough churchman, he zealously guarded the honour of the Estab lishment. I hardly think the Archdeacon conceived of the Church as otherwise than established.. This might have been a weakness, a limitation, but it was thoroughly characteristic of the class of divines to which he belonged. Above all matters of party, however, the Archdeacon rose to the highest, the widest views. Not that he was what is commonly called a broad churchman. He was, first and foremost, a sincere and humble believer in Jesus Christ, and to him all Christian men were brethren. During my long intercourse with him, I never heard him speak bitterly of Dissenters. Affectionately, rather, for he had no bitterness in him. Sorrow he had, but that he reserved for the faithless members of his own Communion.
You are looking at the new pulpit, and reading desk, and Lord's table. I will, in imagination, go outside and stand by his grave. The old mountains are not far off, the grass at my feet is still green, and everywhere there is the stillness, the unutterable blessing of peace; and peace is the blessed lot of him who lies beneath, the peace of God which passeth all understanding-Shee yee to erskyn ciy chooilley hushtey.
1 These reminiscences were written for the Rev. E. Kissack, then curate of Kirk Andreas, who preached the sermon on the occasion of a memorial being dedicated to the Archdeacon.
CLIFTON, February 5, 1892.
Thank you for your very kind letter. . . .
The dear old man himself is the constant subject of my thoughts. I think he is doing right; but of course I can't sketch out a future for him, and people do so fuss about that; even he himself stands rebuked before a whole nation demanding of him that he shall do something.
To me also this language is held-'Well, now, what will you do when you do retire? ' ' Do!' God bless my soul! I have everything to do: I have to save my soul alive, for one small item. As yet I have not even done that: in short I have done nothing, seen nothing, heard nothing, and read nothing.
Every now and then these big blanks of vacuum come bursting around me with a sort of flop that is quite dreadful. Just the other day I felt this so strongly about Music, for instance, and, briefly, of Opera. I mentioned it to some one who turned upon me a face more vacuous than the most portentous of my vacuums, and evidently didn't know what I was driving at. And Literature (Classical if you like, nothing more), and painting, and my poor little peerings into the hearts of men and women-why there's no end.
And when I go hence what shall I be worth, not in a Court of Probate, but in the Chancellory of Him with whom it will rest to determine whether so sorrily finished a soul shall continue to be ?
I am not at all sure that immortality will not turn out to be a conditional thing, the conditions being in no way theological, but natural, almost mechanical. A soul that has got weight and momentum will naturally tend to go on. A light-textured paper-bag sort of soul will be blown by ' A violent cross-wind . . . transverse . . . into the devious air.' . . . We don't know-a force of persistence may be generated by the nisus of progression, and, morally, we may be worth going on with. But, if the firochaan numėro is never to be issued, and our story breaks off quite suddenly and incomplete, I am quite satisfied; I would not trouble the 'Omnipotens et Sempiterne' about such a trifle.
SCHWEIZERHOF, LUZERN, July 21, 1881.
I have just heard of Stanley's death, and cannot refrain from writing you a line. I know how you loved him. He died the very evening I passed under the shadow of his favourite hill, the Rigi. . . .
Last night the Rigi started up uneasily about every other second in a restless glare of most lovely lightning. There was no thunder: a silent shimmering dirge;and that I think the good Dean would have loved. Almost at the very moment he died I was up and restless too. The lake was very quiet: only from time to time there passed over it towards me the softest imaginable shudder, and the moon between two stars sat just above the Rigi.
I am coming back to England, and I feel deeply how different it is without Stanley. Something is gone that sparkled through her gloom with a brilliancy that was so alien, and yet so thoroughly her own. When the history of our century comes to be written, as it is to be hoped men will some day write history, how exactly will our children perceive, how keenly will they regret, this lost perfume that so delicately haunted the central aisle! So I think of him; very much indeed as of a perfume, subtle, exquisite. . . .
Luzern is very beautiful, but just now very hot, and very noisy.... On the whole, our poor British come out first. You hear little of the more vulgar-speaking English; and tone, pure unconditioned tone, is, to say the least, a physical condition of importance; also among them prevails much of that finest music, silence. Our satirists have done good; the English here are markedly the most modest, the most polite, the most decent and self-controlled of all the people we meet. The Scots are even better, having more élan and fire; being more sociable and capable of initiative. I have also met some glorious Irish folk.