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Mab' could be bestowed as 'alms for oblivion.' Seldom have the beginnings of a poet been so destitute of merit as his early lyrics. Why, then, it may be asked, retrieve any more of them from obscurity?"
"It may be asked?" Nay, it must be asked. Heaven knows we suffer severely enough nowadays from the early efforts of the British Muse, which we are enticed to study on the ground that in some obscure way they help to explain Chaucer. As a matter of fact, they do not help to explain Chaucer (who happened to be a poet of genius, and whose genius happens to be the one thing that makes his poetry worth reading). But they have at any rate a philological interest. Now there is no philological interest in the fact, if fact it be, that Shelley once wrote
My high-strung energies are sank,
and, for the rest, a perusal of the verses in this volume no more helps our understanding of Shelley than it would help us to know that, some years before this composition, he had called a horse a gee-gee. That between 1813 ("Queen Mab") and 1815 ("Alastor") Shelley underwent a second birth and mysteriously attained to the divine gift of song is a fact as well known as that before 1813 he wrote rubbish. Too much of this rubbish (Dr. Garnett admits) has been preserved. Why (he asks) increase the public stock of rubbish by retrieving any more of it from obscurity?
The question (he proceeds to say) "appears pertinent." I should think i: did!-and only wish that half as much could be said for his answer, which amounts to this: that those who follow his argument to its logical end, and conclude that a superfluous heap of rubbish is in itself a capital reasou against the addition of fresh rubbish, are "the uninitiated." Thirty-nine
years ago Dr. Garnett, "in the exercise of what was then his ordinary duty," placed a newly-purchased periodical entitled Stockdale's Budget on the shelves of the library of the British Museum. In this very scandalous periodical he discovered that in 1810 Shelley and another, under the names of something-or-other and Cazire, had published a thin volume of verse, and that the book had been destroyed after a hundred copies or so had been put into circulation. "Nothing can more conclusively show the wisdom of purchasing everything for the national library, however apparently unpromising." I fail to see the cogency of the argument. "Not only do we owe our knowledge of the very existence of Shelley's first published volume of verse to this unsavory publication, but without it the book might have turned up and passed from hand to hand without any suspicion of Shelley's authorship of anything in it occurring to any one." Well, and what then? Would any one, even so, have been a penny the worse? Let me point out
1. That the verses it contains are admittedly rubbish.
2. That they cannot help a single human being to understand Shelley a whit the more, or to love any noble thing he wrote a whit the better.
3. That the utmost they can prove is
that Shelley did at one time write worse than any one had hitherto suspected.
If these be conclusive arguments for purchasing every scrap of printed matter for the national library, however apparently unpromising, I can only say, with the American, that I disremember the beginning of the quotation, but it ends "and their money are soon parted." And, even so, we want a conclusive argument or two
for the wisdom of reprinting the stuff, especially after its editor's confession that "fervently as we hoped that a copy might one day be found, we must now hope with equal fervor that no one may ever find another."
The wonder to me is that persons who wanted this volume so badly did not turn to and compose it for themselves. It would have been so very easy!-or at any rate, Victor's (that is to say, Shelley's, and the more important,) part would have been so very easy! Here is a specimen
I am not poking fun-these are Dr. Garnett's very own words; and Dr. Garnett, who is a learned man and has translated Petrarch, knows the full dignity of the comparison. "They should have wiped it up and said no more about it," was My Uncle Toby's excellent advice on a similar occasion; but this would never do for the "initiated." And so the next edition of Shelley's Poetical Works will doubtless be adorned by these effusions, which never deserved a place in the Poet's Corner of a provincial newspaper. And so we honor the memory of a great man!
To speak seriously-for really, when learned men behave in this fashion, the business becomes serious-the arguments advanced in Dr. Garnett's preface are naught. A child could play skittles with them. A child could detect, for instance, the inconsistency of proclaiming in one breath that Shelley's juvenile experiments are best forgotten, and in the next that you are proposing to hand a few more down for remembrance. But in truth. behind this fence of argument lies the doctrine (to be hidden until some inconvenient person with a sense of
logic forces it into the open) that the public has a right to nose into any. thing and everything that a great man would keep hidden-the secrets of his laboratory as well as of his private life and to drag into light whatever he had the good sense to be ashamed of. Shelley was ashamed of these poems. A child could demonstrate that he must have been ashamed of them; but he actually saved the child this easy task by destroying the volumes containing them. There is consequently no shade of doubt as to what Shelley would have thought of this officious reprint. We are violating the wishes, without (it is admitted) increasing the fame of the great man we profess to honor. And why are we doing this? In order that a dozen or two dozen of people may gratify a vulgar itch to "know something more about Shelley." And who are these The Speaker.
persons? What calling do they follow? Where do they live? How have they hitherto justified their existence, that they should claim this right of pawing the verses which Shelley fondly hoped he had destroyed? Do they propose to be Shelleys? And, if so, is it thus they propose to pick up Shelley's secret?
No; this ignoble curiosity is just the urban or suburban equivalent of that taste for tattle which sets old women's tongues wagging at country teatables. It tricks itself out as a taste for literature (save the mark!). It is really a denial of taste in literature. The men who profess it do no good to literature, and never will; for they lack that sense of decent reverence which is the note of a liberal mind. It is pitiable that their appetite should enlist a scholar such as Dr. Garnett in its ministry.
A. T. Quiller-Couch.
THE DEATH-MARCH OF KULOP SUMBING.
"From age to age a glowing page
Their names must win in story,
The men who wrought and dared and fought
Half men, half gods, they feared no odds,
Echo and roll from pole to pole,
A widening din of fame!
But had their ways, for all their days,
Straitened and pent, with ne'er a vent
-"The Song of the Lost Heroes."
He was an ill fellow to look at-so men who knew him tell me large of limb and very powerfully built. His face was broad and ugly, and a peculiarly sinister expression was imparted to it by a hare-lip, which left his gums exposed. It was to this latter embellishment that he owed at once
his vicious temper and the name by which he was known. It is not difficult to understand why; for women did not love to look upon the gash in his lip, and his nickname of Sumbing-which means "The Chipped One"-reminded him of his calamity whenever he heard it.
He was a native of Perak, and he made his way into Pahang through the untrodden Sakai country. That is practically all that is known concerning his origin. The name of the district in which Kulop Sumbing had his home represented nothing to the natives of the Jelai Valley, and now no man knows from what part of Perak this adventurer came. The manner of his coming, however, excited the admiration, and impressed itself upon the imaginations, of the people of Pa
hang-who love pluck almost as much as they hate toil; so the tale of his doings is still told, though these things happened nearly a score of years ago.
Kulop Sumbing probably held a sufficiently cynical opinion as to the nature of his countrywomen, who are among the most venal of their sex. He knew that no girl could love him for the sake of his marred unsightly face, but that many would bestow favors upon him if his money-bags were well lined. Therefore he determined to grow rich with as little delay as possible, and to this end he looked about for some one whom he might plunder. For this purpose Perak was played out. The law of the white men could not be bribed by a successful robber, so he turned his eyes across the border to Pahang, which bore an evil reputation, as a land in which ill things were done with impunity, while the doer throve exceedingly.
He had a love of adventure, was absolutely fearless, and was, moreover, a good man with his hands. In common with most Malays, the Central Jail and the rigid discipline of prison life had few attractions for him; and as he did not share with the majority of his race their instinctive dread of travelling alone in the jungle, he decided on making a lone-hand raid into the Sakai country, which lies between Perak and Pahang. Here he would be safe from the grip of the white man's band, and well removed from the sight of the Government's eyes, as the Malays name our somnolent policemen; and much wealth would come to the ready hand that knew full well how to seize it. He, of course, felt absolutely no twinges of conscience; for you must not look for principle in the men of the race to which Kulop Sumbing belonged. A Malay is honest and law-abiding just so long as it suits his convenience to be so, and not more than sixty seconds longer. Virtue in
the abstract does not fire with any particular enthusiasm, but a love of right-doing may occasionally be galvanized into a sort of paralytic life in his breast, if a haunting fear of the consequences of crime are kept very clearly before his eyes. So Kulop kicked the dust of law-restrained Perak from his bare brown soles, and set out for the Sakai country, and the remote interior of Pahang, where the law of God was not and no law of man held true.
He carried with him all the rice that he could bear upon his shoulders, two dollars in silver, a little tobacco, a handsome kris and a long spear with a broad and shining blade. His supplies were to last him till the first Sakai camps were reached, and after that his food, he told himself, would "rest at the tip of his dagger.' He did not propose to really begin his operations until the mountains, which fence Perak boundary, had been crossed, so was content to allow the first Sakai villages to pass unpillaged. He impressed some of the naked, frightened aborigines as bearers, he levied such supplies of food as he needed, and the Sakai, who were glad to be rid of him so cheaply, handed him on from village to village with the greatest alacrity. The base of the jungle-covered mountains of the interior was reached at the end of a fortnight, and Kulop and his Sakai began to drag themselves up the steep ascent by means of roots, trailing creepers, and slender saplings.
Upon a certain day they reached the summit of a nameless mountain and threw themselves down, panting for breath upon the round bare drumming ground of an argus pheasant. On the crest of almost every hill and hog's back in the interior these drumminggrounds are found, bare and smooth as a threshing-floor, save for the thin litter of dead twigs with which they are
strewn by the birds. Sometimes, if you keep very still, you may hear the cocks strutting and dancing, and thumping the hard earth, but no man among us has ever seen the pheasants going through their performance. At night-time their full-throated yell rings across the valleys, waking a thousand echoes, and the cry is taken up and thrown backwards and forwards by a host of pheasants, each answering from his own hill. Judging by the frequency of their cry, they must be among the most common of all jungle birds, yet so deftly do they hide themselves that they are but rarely seen, and the beauties of their plumage at once more delicate and more brilliant than that of the peacock-and the wonders of the countless violet eyes with which their feathers are set, are only known to us because these birds are so frequently trapped by the Malays.
Where Kulop and his Sakai lay the trees were thinned out. The last two hundred feet of the ascent had been a severe climb, and the ridge, which formed the summit, stood clear of the tree-tops which grew half-way up the slope. As he lay panting, Kulop Sumbing gazed down for the first time upon the eastern slope of the Peninsula, the theatre in which ere long he proposed to play a very daring part. At his feet were tree-tops of every shade of green, from the tender, brilliant color which we associate with young corn, to the deep dull hue which is almost black. They fell away beneath him in a broad slope of living vegetation, the contour of each individual tree, and the grey, white, or black lines, which marked their trunks or branches, growing less and less distinct, until the jungle covering the plain was a blurred wash of color that had more of blue than green in it. Here and there, very far away, the sunlight fell in a dazzling flash upon something which glistened like
the mirror of a heliograph, and this, Kulop knew, was the broad reaches of a river. The jungle hid all traces of human habitation, and no sign of life was visible, save only a solitary kite "sailing with supreme dominion through the azure depth of air," and the slight uneasy swaying of some of the taller trees, as a faint breeze swept gently over the forest. Here, in the mountains, the air was damp and chilly, and a cold wind was blowing, while the sun appeared to have lost half its power. In the plain below, however, the land lay steaming and sweltering beneath the fierce perpendicular rays, while the heat-haze danced restlessly above the forest.
During the next day or two Kulop Sumbing and his Perak Sakai made their way down the eastern slope of the mountains, and through the silent forests, which are given over to game, and to the equally wild jungle-folk, who fly at the approach of any human beings, precisely as do the beasts which share with them their home.
Kulop and his people passed several deserted camps belonging to these wild Sakai, but the instinct of the savages tells them unerringly that strangers are at hand, and never once were any of these folk caught sight of by the travellers.
These people lead a nomadic life, roaming hither and thither through the forest in quest of fresh feedinggrounds when the old ones are temporarily exhausted. They have no knowledge of planting, and they live chiefly upon yams and roots, sour jungle fruits, and the fish which they catch in cunningly devised basketwork traps. These things are known to such of us as have journeyed through their country, for their tracks tell their story up to this point. We know, too, that they camp in rude shelters of leaves propped crazily on untrimmed uprights, and that they ob