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TOMBEAU DE LA JEUNESSE – early death: writers, poets & artists who died young


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A Suburban Fairy Tale by KATHERINE MANSFIELD

MANSFIELDKATH11A Suburban Fairy Tale
by Katherine Mansfield

Mr. and Mrs. B. sat at breakfast in the cosy red dining-room of their “snug little crib just under half-an-hour’s run from the City.”

There was a good fire in the grate—for the dining-room was the living-room as well—the two windows overlooking the cold empty garden patch were closed, and the air smelled agreeably of bacon and eggs, toast and coffee. Now that this rationing business was really over Mr. B. made a point of a thoroughly good tuck-in before facing the very real perils of the day. He didn’t mind who knew it—he was a true Englishman about his breakfast—he had to have it; he’d cave in without it, and if you told him that these Continental chaps could get through half the morning’s work he did on a roll and a cup of coffee—you simply didn’t know what you were talking about.

Mr. B. was a stout youngish man who hadn’t been able—worse luck—to chuck his job and join the Army; he’d tried for four years to get another chap to take his place but it was no go. He sat at the head of the table reading the Daily Mail. Mrs. B. was a youngish plump little body, rather like a pigeon. She sat opposite, preening herself behind the coffee set and keeping an eye of warning love on little B. who perched between them, swathed in a napkin and tapping the top of a soft-boiled egg.

Alas! Little B. was not at all the child that such parents had every right to expect. He was no fat little trot, no dumpling, no firm little pudding. He was under-sized for his age, with legs like macaroni, tiny claws, soft, soft hair that felt like mouse fur, and big wide-open eyes. For some strange reason everything in life seemed the wrong size for Little B.—too big and too violent. Everything knocked him over, took the wind out of his feeble sails and left him gasping and frightened. Mr. and Mrs. B. were quite powerless to prevent this; they could only pick him up after the mischief was done—and try to set him going again. And Mrs. B. loved him as only weak children are loved—and when Mr. B. thought what a marvellous little chap he was too—thought of the spunk of the little man, he—well he—by George—he …

“Why aren’t there two kinds of eggs?” said Little B. “Why aren’t there little eggs for children and big eggs like what this one is for grown-ups?”

“Scotch hares,” said Mr. B. “Fine Scotch hares for 5s. 3d. How about getting one, old girl?”

“It would be a nice change, wouldn’t it?” said Mrs. B. “Jugged.”

And they looked across at each other and there floated between them the Scotch hare in its rich gravy with stuffing balls and a white pot of red-currant jelly accompanying it.

“We might have had it for the week-end,” said Mrs. B. “But the butcher has promised me a nice little sirloin and it seems a pity”… Yes, it did and yet … Dear me, it was very difficult to decide. The hare would have been such a change—on the other hand, could you beat a really nice little sirloin?

“There’s hare soup, too,” said Mr. B. drumming his fingers on the table. “Best soup in the world!”

“O-Oh!” cried Little B. so suddenly and sharply that it gave them quite a start—“Look at the whole lot of sparrows flown on to our lawn”—he waved his spoon. “Look at them,” he cried. “Look!” And while he spoke, even though the windows were closed, they heard a loud shrill cheeping and chirping from the garden.

“Get on with your breakfast like a good boy, do,” said his mother, and his father said,  “You stick to the egg, old man, and look sharp about it.”

“But look at them—look at them all hopping,” he cried. “They don’t keep still not for a minute. Do you think they’re hungry, father?”

Cheek-a-cheep-cheep-cheek! cried the sparrows.

“Best postpone it perhaps till next week,” said Mr. B., “and trust to luck they’re still to be had then.”

“Yes, perhaps that would be wiser,” said Mrs. B.

Mr. B. picked another plum out of his paper.

“Have you bought any of those controlled dates yet?”

“I managed to get two pounds yesterday,” said Mrs. B.

“Well a date pudding’s a good thing,” said Mr. B. And they looked across at each other and there floated between them a dark round pudding covered with creamy sauce. “It would be a nice change, wouldn’t it?” said Mrs. B.

Outside on the grey frozen grass the funny eager sparrows hopped and fluttered. They were never for a moment still. They cried, flapped their ungainly wings. Little B., his egg finished, got down, took his bread and marmalade to eat at the window.

“Do let us give them some crumbs,” he said. “Do open the window, father, and throw them something. Father, please!”

“Oh, don’t nag, child,” said Mrs. B., and his father said—“Can’t go opening windows, old man. You’d get your head bitten off.”

“But they’re hungry,” cried Little B., and the sparrows’ little voices were like ringing of little knives being sharpened. Cheek-a-cheep-cheep-cheek! they cried.

Little B. dropped his bread and marmalade inside the china flower pot in front of the window. He slipped behind the thick curtains to see better, and Mr. and Mrs. B. went on reading about what you could get now without coupons—no more ration books after May—a glut of cheese—a glut of it—whole cheeses revolved in the air between them like celestial bodies.

Suddenly as Little B. watched the sparrows on the grey frozen grass, they grew, they changed, still flapping and squeaking. They turned into tiny little boys, in brown coats, dancing, jigging outside, up and down outside the window squeaking, “Want something to eat, want something to eat!” Little B. held with both hands to the curtain. “Father,” he whispered, “Father! They’re not sparrows. They’re little boys. Listen, Father!” But Mr. and Mrs. B. would not hear. He tried again. “Mother,” he whispered. “Look at the little boys. They’re not sparrows, Mother!” But nobody noticed his nonsense.

“All this talk about famine,” cried Mr. B., “all a Fake, all a Blind.”

With white shining faces, their arms flapping in the big coats, the little boys danced. “Want something to eat—want something to eat.”

“Father,” muttered Little B. “Listen, Father! Mother, listen, please!”

“Really!” said Mrs. B. “The noise those birds are making! I’ve never heard such a thing.”

“Fetch me my shoes, old man,” said Mr. B.

Cheek-a-cheep-cheep-cheek! said the sparrows.

Now where had that child got to? “Come and finish your nice cocoa, my pet,” said Mrs. B.

Mr. B. lifted the heavy cloth and whispered, “Come on, Rover,” but no little dog was there.

“He’s behind the curtain,” said Mrs. B.

“He never went out of the room,” said Mr. B.

Mrs. B. went over to the window, and Mr. B. followed. And they looked out. There on the grey frozen grass, with a white white face, the little boy’s thin arms flapping like wings, in front of them all, the smallest, tiniest was Little B. Mr. and Mrs. B. heard his voice above all the voices, “Want something to eat, want something to eat.”

Somehow, somehow, they opened the window. “You shall! All of you. Come in at once. Old man! Little man!”

But it was too late. The little boys were changed into sparrows again, and away they flew—out of sight—out of call.

A Suburban Fairy Tale (1917)
by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)
From: Something Childish and Other Stories magazine

More in: Archive M-N, Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield, Katherine



Karoline von Günderrode
(1780 – 1806)


O reiche Armuth! Gebend, seliges Empfangen!
In Zagheit Muth! in Freiheit doch gefangen.
In Stummheit Sprache,
Schüchtern bei Tage
Siegend mit zaghaftem Bangen.

Lebendiger Tod, im Einen sel’ges Leben
Schwelgend in Noth, im Widerstand ergeben,
Genießend schmachtend,
Nie satt betrachten
Leben im Traum und doppelt Leben.

Karoline Günderrode Gedichte magazine

More in: Archive G-H, Karoline von Günderrode


MANSFIELDKATH11The Man Without a Temperament
by Katherine Mansfield

He stood at the hall door turning the ring, turning the heavy signet ring upon his little finger while his glance travelled coolly, deliberately, over the round tables and basket chairs scattered about the glassed-in veranda. He pursed his lips-he might have been going to whistle-but he did not whistle-only turned the ring-turned the ring on his pink, freshly washed hands.

Over in the corner sat The Two Topknots, drinking a decoction they always drank at this hour-something whitish, greyish, in glasses, with little husks floating on the top-and rooting in a tin full of paper shavings for pieces of speckled biscuit, which they broke, dropped into the glasses and fished for with spoons. Their two coils of knitting, like two snakes, slumbered beside the tray.

The American Woman sat where she always sat against the glass wall, in the shadow of a great creeping thing with wide open purple eyes that pressed-that flattened itself against the glass, hungrily watching her. And she knoo it was there-she knoo it was looking at her just that way. She played up to it; she gave herself little airs. Sometimes she even pointed at it, crying: “Isn’t that the most terrible thing you’ve ever seen! Isn’t that ghoulish!” It was on the other side of the veranda, after all . . . and besides it couldn’t touch her, could it, Klaymongso? She was an American Woman, wasn’t she, Klaymongso, and she’d just go right away to her Consul. Klaymongso, curled in her lap, with her torn antique brocade bag, a grubby handkerchief, and a pile of letters from home on top of him, sneezed for reply.

The other tables were empty. A glance passed between the American and the Topknots. She gave a foreign little shrug; they waved an understanding biscuit. But he saw nothing. Now he was still, now from his eyes you saw he listened. “Hoo-e-zip-zoo-oo!” sounded the lift. The iron cage clanged open. Light dragging steps sounded across the hall, coming towards him. A hand, like a leaf, fell on his shoulder. A soft voice said: “Let’s go and sit over there-where we can see the drive. The trees are so lovely.” And he moved forward with the hand still on his shoulder, and the light, dragging steps beside his. He pulled out a chair and she sank into it, slowly, leaning her head against the back, her arms falling along the sides.

“Won’t you bring the other up closer? It’s such miles away.” But he did not move.

“Where’s your shawl?” he asked.

“Oh!” She gave a little groan of dismay. “How silly I am, I’ve left it upstairs on the bed. Never mind. Please don’t go for it. I shan’t want it, I know I shan’t.”

“You’d better have it.” And he turned and swiftly crossed the veranda into the dim hall with its scarlet plush and gilt furniture-conjuror’s furniture-its Notice of Services at the English Church, its green baize board with the unclaimed letters climbing the black lattice, huge “Presentation” clock that struck the hours at the half-hours, bundles of sticks and umbrellas and sunshades in the clasp of a brown wooden bear, past the two crippled palms, two ancient beggars at the foot of the staircase, up the marble stairs three at a time, past the life-size group on the landing of two stout peasant children with their marble pinnies full of marble grapes, and along the corridor, with its piled-up wreckage of old tin boxes, leather trunks, canvas holdalls, to their room.

The servant girl was in their room, singing loudly while she emptied soapy water into a pail. The windows were open wide, the shutters put back, and the light glared in. She had thrown the carpets and the big white pillows over the balcony rails; the nets were looped up from the beds; on the writing-table there stood a pan of fluff and match-ends. When she saw him her small, impudent eyes snapped and her singing changed to humming. But he gave no sign. His eyes searched the glaring room. Where the devil was the shawl!

“Vous desirez, Monsieur? “ mocked the servant girl.

No answer. He had seen it. He strode across the room, grabbed the grey cobweb and went out, banging the door. The servant girl’s voice at its loudest and shrillest followed him along the corridor.

“Oh, there you are. What happened? What kept you? The tea’s here, you see. I’ve just sent Antonio off for the hot water. Isn’t it extraordinary? I must have told him about it sixty times at least, and still he doesn’t bring it. Thank you. That’s very nice. One does just feel the air when one bends forward.”

“Thanks.” He took his tea and sat down in the other chair. “No, nothing to eat.”

“Oh do! Just one, you had so little at lunch and it’s hours before dinner.”

Her shawl dropped off as she bent forward to hand him the biscuits. He took one and put it in his saucer.

“Oh, those trees along the drive,” she cried. “I could look at them for ever. They are like the most exquisite huge ferns. And you see that one with the grey-silver bark and the clusters of cream-coloured flowers, I pulled down a head of them yesterday to smell, and the scent”-she shut her eyes at the memory and her voice thinned away, faint, airy–“was like freshly ground nutmegs.” A little pause. She turned to him and smiled. “You do know what nutmegs smell like-do you Robert?”

And he smiled back at her. “Now how am I going to prove to you that I do?”

Back came Antonio with not only the hot water-with letters on a salver and three rolls of paper.

“Oh, the post! Oh, how lovely! Oh, Robert, they mustn’t be all for you! Have they just come, Antonio?” Her thin hands flew up and hovered over the letters that Antonio offered her, bending forward.

“Just this moment, Signora,” grinned Antonio. “I took-a them from the postman myself. I made-a the postman give them for me.”

“Noble Antonio!” laughed she. “There-those are mine, Robert; the rest are yours.”

Antonio wheeled sharply, stiffened, the grin went out of his face. His striped linen jacket and his flat gleaming fringe made him look like a wooden doll.

Mr. Salesby put the letters into his pocket; the papers lay on the table. He turned the ring, turned the signet ring on his little finger and stared in front of him, blinking, vacant.

But she-with her teacup in one hand, the sheets of thin paper in the other, her head tilted back, her lips open, a brush of bright colour on her cheek-bones, sipped, sipped, drank . . . drank.

“From Lottie,” came her soft murmur. “Poor dear . . . such trouble . . . left foot. She thought . . . neuritis . . . Doctor Blyth . . . flat foot . . . massage. So many robins this year . . . maid most satisfactory . . . Indian Colonel . . . every grain of rice separate . . . very heavy fall of snow.” And her wide lighted eyes looked up from the letter. “Snow, Robert! Think of it!” And she touched the little dark violets pinned on her thin bosom and went back to the letter.

. . . Snow. Snow in London. Millie with the early morning cup of tea. “There’s been a terrible fall of snow in the night, sir.” “Oh, has there, Millie?” The curtains ring apart, letting in the pale, reluctant light. He raises himself in the bed; he catches a glimpse of the solid houses opposite framed in white, of their window boxes full of great sprays of white coral . . . . In the bathroom-overlooking the back garden. Snow-heavy snow over everything. The lawn is covered with a wavy pattern of cat’s -paws; there is a thick, thick icing on the garden table; the withered pods of the laburnum tree are white tassels; only here and there in the ivy is a dark leaf showing. . . . Warming his back at the dining-room fire, the paper drying over a chair. Millie with the bacon. “Oh, if you please, Sir, there’s two little boys come as will do the steps and front for a shilling, shall I let them?” . . . And then flying lightly, lightly down the stairs–Jinnie. “Oh, Robert, isn’t it wonderful! Oh, what a pity it has to melt. Where’s the pussy-wee?” “I’ll get him from Millie.” . . . “Millie, you might just hand me up the kitten if you’ve got him down there.” “Very good, sir.” He feels the little beating heart under his hand. “Come on, old chap, your missus wants you.” “Oh, Robert, do show him the snow-his first snow. Shall I open the window and give him a little piece on his paw to hold? . . . ”

“Well, that’s very satisfactory on the whole-very. Poor Lottie! Darling Anne! How I only wish I could send them something of this,” she cried, waving her letters at the brilliant, dazzling garden. “More tea, Robert? Robert dear, more tea?”

“No, thanks, no. It was very good,” he drawled.

“Well, mine wasn’t. Mine was just like chopped hay. Oh, here comes the Honeymoon Couple.”

Half striding, half running, carrying a basket between them and rods and lines, they came up the drive, up the shallow steps.

“My! have you been out fishing?” cried the American Woman. They were out of breath, they panted: “Yes, yes, we have been out in a little boat all day. We have caught seven. Four are good to eat. But three we shall give away. To the children.”

Mrs. Salesby turned her chair to look; the Topknots laid the snakes down. They were a very dark young couple-black hair, olive skin, brilliant eyes and teeth. He was dressed “English fashion” in a flannel jacket, white trousers and shoes. Round his neck he wore a silk scarf; his head, with his hair brushed back, was bare. And he kept mopping his forehead, rubbing his hands with a brilliant handkerchief. Her white skirt had a patch of wet; her neck and throat were stained a deep pink. When she lifted her arms big half-hoops of perspiration showed under her arm-pits; her hair clung in wet curls to her cheeks. She looked as though her young husband had been dipping her in the sea and fishing her out again to dry in the sun and then-in with her again-all day.

“Would Klaymongso like a fish?” they cried. Their laughing voices charged with excitement beat against the glassed-in veranda like birds and a strange, saltish smell came from the basket.

“You will sleep well tonight,” said a Topknot, picking her ear with a knitting needle while the other Topknot smiled and nodded.

The Honeymoon Couple looked at each other. A great wave seemed to go over them. They gasped, gulped, staggered a little and then came up laughing-laughing.

“We cannot go upstairs, we are too tired. We must have tea just as we are. Here-coffee. No-tea. No-coffee. Tea-coffee, Antonio!” Mrs. Salesby turned.

“Robert! Robert!” Where was he? He wasn’t there. Oh, there he was at the other end of the veranda, with his back turned, smoking a cigarette. “Robert, shall we go for our little turn?”

“Right.” He stumped the cigarette into an ash-tray and sauntered over, his eyes on the ground. “Will you be warm enough?”

“Oh, quite.”


“Well,” she put her hand on his arm, “perhaps”-and gave his arm the faintest pressure–“it’s not upstairs, it’s only in the hall-perhaps you’d get me my cape. Hanging up.”

He came back with it and she bent her small head while he dropped it on her shoulders. Then, very stiff, he offered her his arm. She bowed sweetly to the people of the veranda while he just covered a yawn, and they went down the steps together.

“Vous avez voo ca! “ said the American Woman.

“He is not a man,” said the Two Topknots, “he is an ox. I say to my sister in the morning and at night when we are in bed, I tell her–No man is he, but an ox!”

Wheeling, tumbling, swooping, the laughter of the Honeymoon Couple dashed against the glass of the veranda.

The sun was still high. Every leaf, every flower in the garden lay open, motionless, as if exhausted, and a sweet, rich, rank smell filled the quivering air. Out of the thick, fleshy leaves of a cactus there rose an aloe stem loaded with pale flowers that looked as though they had been cut out of butter; light flashed upon the lifted spears of the palms; over a bed of scarlet waxen flowers some black insects “zoom-zoomed”; a great, gaudy creeper, orange splashed with jet, sprawled against the wall.

“I don’t need my cape after all,” said she. “It’s really too warm.” So he took it off and carried it over his arm. “Let us go down this path here. I feel so well today-marvellously better. Good heavens-look at those children! And to think it’s November!”

In a corner of the garden there were two brimming tubs of water. Three little girls, having thoughtfully taken off their drawers and hung them on a bush, their skirts clasped to their waists, were standing in the tubs and tramping up and down. They screamed, their hair fell over their faces, they splashed one another. But suddenly, the smallest, who had a tub to herself, glanced up and saw who was looking. For a moment she seemed overcome with terror, then clumsily she struggled and strained out of her tub, and still holding her clothes above her waist, “The Englishman! The Englishman!” she shrieked and fled away to hide. Shrieking and screaming the other two followed her. In a moment they were gone; in a moment there was nothing but the two brimming tubs and their little drawers on the bush.

“How-very-extraordinary!” said she. “What made them so frightened? Surely they were much too young to . . . “ She looked up at him. She thought he looked pale-but wonderfully handsome with that great tropical tree behind him with its long, spiked thorns.

For a moment he did not answer. Then he met her glance, and smiling his slow smile, ”Très rum!” said he.

Très rum! Oh, she felt quite faint. Oh, why should she love him so much just because he said a thing like that. Très rum! That was Robert all over. Nobody else but Robert could ever say such a thing. To be so wonderful, so brilliant, so learned, and then to say in that queer, boyish voice . . . She could have wept.

“You know you’re very absurd, sometimes,” said she.

“I am,” he answered. And they walked on.

But she was tired. She had had enough. She did not want to walk any more.

“Leave me here and go for a little constitutional, won’t you? I’ll be in one of these long chairs. What a good thing you’ve got my cape; you won’t have to go upstairs for a rug. Thank you, Robert, I shall look at that delicious heliotrope. . . . You won’t be gone long?”

“No-no. You don’t mind being left?”

“Silly! I want you to go. I can’t expect you to drag after your invalid wife every minute . . . . How long will you be?”

He took out his watch. “It’s just after half-past four. I’ll be back at a quarter-past five.”

“Back at a quarter-past five,” she repeated, and she lay still in the long chair and folded her hands.

He turned away. Suddenly he was back again. “Look here, would you like my watch?” And he dangled it before her.

“Oh!” She caught her breath. “Very, very much.” And she clasped the watch, the warm watch, the darling watch in her fingers. “Now go quickly.”

The gates of the Pension Villa Excelsior were open wide, jammed open against some bold geraniums. Stooping a little, staring straight ahead, walking swiftly, he passed through them and began climbing the hill that wound behind the town like a great rope looping the villas together. The dust lay thick. A carriage came bowling along driving towards the Excelsior. In it sat the General and the Countess; they had been for his daily airing. Mr. Salesby stepped to one side but the dust beat up, thick, white, stifling like wool. The Countess just had time to nudge the General.

“There he goes,” she said spitefully.

But the General gave a loud caw and refused to look.

“It is the Englishman,” said the driver, turning round and smiling. And the Countess threw up her hands and nodded so amiably that he spat with satisfaction and gave the stumbling horse a cut.

On-on-past the finest villas in the town, magnificent palaces, palaces worth coming any distance to see, past the public gardens with the carved grottoes and statues and stone animals drinking at the fountain, into a poorer quarter. Here the road ran narrow and foul between high lean houses, the ground floors of which were scooped and hollowed into stables and carpenters’ shops. At a fountain ahead of him two old hags were beating linen. As he passed them they squatted back on their haunches, stared, and then their “A-hak-kak-kak!” with the slap, slap, of the stone on the linen sounded after him.

He reached the top of the hill; he turned a corner and the town was hidden. Down he looked into a deep valley with a dried-up river bed at the bottom. This side and that was covered with small dilapidated houses that had broken stone verandas where the fruit lay drying, tomato lanes in the garden and from the gates to the doors a trellis of vines. The late sunlight, deep, golden, lay in the cup of the valley; there was a smell of charcoal in the air. In the gardens the men were cutting grapes. He watched a man standing in the greenish shade, raising up, holding a black cluster in one hand, taking the knife from his belt, cutting, laying the bunch in a flat boat-shaped basket. The man worked leisurely, silently, taking hundreds of years over the job. On the hedges on the other side of the road there were grapes small as berries, growing among the stones. He leaned against a wall, filled his pipe, put a match to it . . . .

Leaned across a gate, turned up the collar of his mackintosh. It was going to rain. It didn’t matter, he was prepared for it. You didn’t expect anything else in November. He looked over the bare field. From the corner by the gate there came the smell of swedes, a great stack of them, wet, rank coloured. Two men passed walking towards the straggling village. “Good day!” “Good day!” By Jove! he had to hurry if he was going to catch that train home. Over the gate, across a field, over the stile, into the lane, swinging along in the drifting rain and dusk . . . . Just home in time for a bath and a change before supper. . . . In the drawing-room; Jinnie is sitting pretty nearly in the fire. “Oh, Robert, I didn’t hear you come in. Did you have a good time? How nice you smell! A present?” “Some bits of blackberry I picked for you. Pretty colour.” “Oh, lovely, Robert! Dennis and Beaty are coming to supper.” Supper-cold beef, potatoes in their jackets, claret, household bread. They are gay– everybody’s laughing. “Oh, we all know Robert,” says Dennis, breathing on his eyeglasses and polishing them. “By the way, Dennis, I picked up a very jolly little edition of . . . ”

A clock struck. He wheeled sharply. What time was it. Five? A quarter past? Back, back the way he came. As he passed through the gates he saw her on the look-out. She got up, waved and slowly she came to meet him, dragging the heavy cape. In her hand she carried a spray of heliotrope.

“You’re late,” she cried gaily. “You’re three minutes late. Here’s your watch, it’s been very good while you were away. Did you have a nice time? Was it lovely? Tell me. Where did you go?”

“I say-put this on,” he said, taking the cape from her. “Yes, I will. Yes, it’s getting chilly. Shall we go up to our room?”

When they reached the lift she was coughing. He frowned.

“It’s nothing. I haven’s been out too late. Don’t be cross.” She sat down on one of the red plush chairs while he rang and rang, and then, getting no answer, kept his finger on the bell.

“Oh, Robert, do you think you ought to?”

“Ought to what?”

The door of the salon opened. “What is that? Who is making that noise?” sounded from within. Klaymongso began to yelp. “Caw! Caw! Caw!” came from the General. A Topknot darted out with one hand to her ear, opened the staff door, “Mr. Queet! Mr. Queet!” she bawled. That brought the manager up at a run.

“Is that you ringing the bell, Mr. Salesby? Do you want the lift? Very good, sir. I’ll take you up myself. Antonio wouldn’t have been a minute, he was just taking off his apron–” And having ushered them in, the oily manager went to the door of the salon. “Very sorry you should have been troubled, ladies and gentlemen.” Salesby stood in the cage, sucking in his cheeks, staring at the ceiling and turning the ring, turning the signet ring on his little finger . . . .

Arrived in their room he went swiftly over to the washstand, shook the bottle, poured her out a dose and brought it across.

“Sit down. Drink it. And don’t talk.” And he stood over her while she obeyed. Then he took the glass, rinsed it and put it back in its case. “Would you like a cushion?”

“No, I’m quite all right, come over here. Sit down by me just a minute, will you, Robert? Ah, that’s very nice.” She turned and thrust the piece of heliotrope in the lapel of his coat. “That,” she said, “is most becoming.” And then she leaned her head against his shoulder and he put his arm round her.

“Robert–” her voice like a sigh-like a breath.


They sat there for a long while. The sky flamed, paled; the two white beds were like two ships . . . . At last he heard the servant girl running along the corridor with the hot-water cans, and gently he released her and turned on the light.

“Oh, what time is it? Oh, what a heavenly evening. Oh, Robert, I was thinking while you were away this afternoon . . . “

They were the last couple to enter the dining-room. The Countess was there with her lorgnette and her fan, the General was there with his special chair and the air cushion and the small rug over his knees. The American Woman was there showing Klaymongso a copy of the Saturday Evening Post . . . “We’re having a feast of reason and a flow of soul.” The Two Topknots were there feeling over the peaches and the pears in their dish of fruit and putting aside all they considered unripe or overripe to show to the manager, and the Honeymoon Couple leaned across the table, whispering, trying not to burst out laughing.

Mr. Queet, in everyday clothes and white canvas shoes, served the soup, and Antonio, in full evening dress, handed it round.

“No,” said the American Woman, “take it away, Antonio. We can’t eat soup. We can’t eat anything mushy, can we, Klaymongso?”

“Take them back and fill them to the rim!” said the Topknots, and they turned and watched while Antonio delivered the message.

“What is it? Rice? Is it cooked?” The Countess peered through her lorgnette. “Mr. Queet, the General can have some of this soup if it is cooked.”

“Very good, Countess.”

The Honeymoon Couple had their fish instead.

“Give me that one. That’s the one I caught. No, it’s not. Yes, it is. No, it’s not. Well, it’s looking at me with its eye, so it must be. Tee! Hee! Hee!” Their feet were locked together under the table.

“Robert, you’re not eating again. Is anything the matter?”

“No. Off food, that’s all.”

“Oh, what a bother. There are eggs and spinach coming. You don’t like spinach, do you. I must tell them in future . . . “

An egg and mashed potatoes for the General.

“Mr. Queet! Mr. Queet!”

“Yes, Countess.”

“The General’s egg’s too hard again.”

“Caw! Caw! Caw!”

“Very sorry, Countess. Shall I have you another cooked, General?”

. . . They are the first to leave the dining-room. She rises, gathering her shawl and he stands aside, waiting for her to pass, turning the ring, turning the signet ring on his little finger. In the hall Mr. Queet hovers. “I thought you might not want to wait for the lift. Antonio’s just serving the finger bowls. And I’m sorry the bell won’t ring, it’s out of order. I can’t think what’s happened.”

“Oh, I do hope . . . “ from her.

“Get in,” says he.

Mr. Queet steps after them and slams the door . . . .

. . . “Robert, do you mind if I go to bed very soon? Won’t you go down to the salon or out into the garden? Or perhaps you might smoke a cigar on the balcony. It’s lovely out there. And I like cigar smoke. I always did. But if you’d rather . . . ”

“No, I’ll sit here.”

He takes a chair and sits on the balcony. He hears her moving about in the room, lightly, lightly, moving and rustling. Then she comes over to him. “Good night, Robert.”

“Good night.” He takes her hand and kisses the palm. “Don’t catch cold.”

The sky is the colour of jade. There are a great many stars; an enormous white moon hangs over the garden. Far away lightning flutters-flutters like a wing-flutters like a broken bird that tries to fly and sinks again and again struggles.

The lights from the salon shine across the garden path and there is the sound of a piano. And once the American Woman, opening the French window to let Klaymongso into the garden, cries: “Have you seen this moon?” But nobody answers.

He gets very cold sitting there, staring at the balcony rail. Finally he comes inside. The moon-the room is painted white with moonlight. The light trembles in the mirrors; the two beds seem to float. She is asleep. He sees her through the nets, half sitting, banked up with pillows, her white hands crossed on the sheet, her white cheeks, her fair hair pressed against the pillow, are silvered over. He undresses quickly, stealthily and gets into bed. Lying there, his hands clasped behind his head . . .

. . . In his study. Late summer. The virginia creeper just on the turn . . . .

“Well, my dear chap, that’s the whole story. That’s the long and the short of it. If she can’t cut away for the next two years and give a decent climate a chance she don’t stand a dog’s -h’m-show. Better be frank about these things.” “Oh, certainly . . . . “ “And hang it all, old man, what’s to prevent you going with her? It isn’t as though you’ve got a regular job like us wage earners. You can do what you do wherever you are–” “Two years.” “Yes, I should give it two years. You’ll have no trouble about letting this house, you know. As a matter of fact . . . ”

. . . He is with her. “Robert, the awful thing is–I suppose it’s my illness–I simply feel I could not go alone. You see-you’re everything. You’re bread and wine, Robert, bread and wine. Oh, my darling-what am I saying? Of course I could, of course I won’t take you away. . . . ”

He hears her stirring. Does she want something?


Good Lord! She is talking in her sleep. They haven’t used that name for years.

“Boogles. Are you awake?”

“Yes, do you want anything?”

“Oh, I’m going to be a bother. I’m so sorry. Do you mind? There’s a wretched mosquito inside my net–I can hear him singing. Would you catch him? I don’t want to move because of my heart.”

“No, don’t move. Stay where you are.” He switches on the light, lifts the net. “Where is the little beggar? Have you spotted him?”

“Yes, there, over by the corner. Oh, I do feel such a fiend to have dragged you out of bed. Do you mind dreadfully?”

“No, of course not.” For a moment he hovers in his blue and white pyjamas. Then, “got him,” he said.

“Oh, good. Was he a juicy one?”

“Beastly.” He went over to the washstand and dipped his fingers in water. “Are you all right now? Shall I switch off the light?”

“Yes, please. No. Boogles! Come back here a moment. Sit down by me. Give me your hand.” She turns his signet ring. “Why weren’t you asleep? Boogles, listen. Come closer. I sometimes wonder-do you mind awfully being out here with me?”

He bends down. He kisses her. He tucks her in, he smooths the pillow.

“Rot!” he whispers.

The Man Without a Temperament
by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)
From: Bliss, and other stories magazine

More in: Archive M-N, Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield, Katherine



Karoline von Günderrode
(1780 – 1806)


Novalis, deinen heil’gen Seherblicken
Sind aufgeschlossen aller Welten Räume,
Dir offenbart sich weihend das Gemeine,
Du schaust es in prophetischem Entzücken.

Du siehst der Dinge zukunftsvolle Keime
Und zu des Weltalls ewigen Geschicken,
Die gern dem Aug’ der Menschen sich entrücken,
Wirst du geführt durch ahndungsvolle Träume.

Du siehst das Recht, das Wahre, Schöne siegen,
Die Zeit sich selbst im Ewigen zernichten
Und Eros ruhend sich dem Weltall fügen;

So hat der Weltgeist liebend sich vertrauet
Und offenbart in Novalis Dichten,
Und wie Narziß in sich verliebt geschauet.

Karoline Günderrode Gedichte magazine

More in: Archive G-H, Karoline von Günderrode, Novalis



Karoline von Günderrode
(1780 – 1806)

Briefe zweier Freunde

An Eusebio

Mit Freude denk ich oft zurück an den Tag, an welchem wir uns zuerst fanden, als ich Dir mit einer ehrfurchtsvollen Verlegenheit entgegentrat wie ein lehrbegieriger Laie dem Hohenpriester. Ich hatte es mir vorgesetzt, Dir womöglich zu gefallen, und das Bewußtsein meines eigenen Wertes wäre mir in seinen Grundfesten erschüttert worden, hättest Du Dich gleichgültig von mir abgewendet; wie es mir aber gelang, Dich mit solchem Maße für mich zu gewinnen, begreife ich noch nicht; mein eigner Geist muß bei jener Unterredung zwiefach über mir gewesen sein. Mit ihr ist mir ein neues Leben aufgegangen, denn erst in Dir habe ich jene wahrhafte Erhebung zu den höchsten Anschauungen, in welchen alles Weltliche als ein wesenloser Traum verschwindet, als einen herrschenden Zustand gefunden. In Dir haben mir die höchsten Ideen auch eine irdische Realität erlangt. Wir andern Sterblichen müssen erst fasten und uns leiblich und geistig zubereiten, wenn wir zum Mahle des Herrn gehen wollen, Du empfängst den Gott täglich ohne diese Anstalten.

Mir, o Freund! sind die himmlischen Mächte nicht so günstig, und oft bin ich mißmutig und weiß nicht, über wen ich es am meisten sein soll, ob über mich selbst oder über diese Zeit, denn auch sie ist arm an begeisternden Anschauungen für den Künstler jeder Art; alles Große und Gewaltige hat sich an eine unendliche Masse, unter der es beinah verschwindet, ausgeteilt. Unselige Gerechtigkeit des Schicksals! Damit keiner prasse und keiner hungere, müssen wir uns alle in nüchterner Dürftigkeit behelfen. Ist es da auch noch ein Wunder, wenn die Ökonomie in jedem Sinn und in allen Dingen zu einer so beträchtlichen Tugend herangewachsen ist. Diese Erbärmlichkeit des Lebens, laß es uns gestehen, ist mit dem Protestantismus aufgekommen. Sie werden alle zum Kelch hinzugelassen, die Laien wie die Geweihten, darum kann niemand genugsam trinken, um des Gottes voll zu werden, der Tropfen aber ist keinem genug; da wissen sie denn nicht, was ihnen fehlt, und geraten in ein Disputieren und Protestieren darüber. – Doch was sage ich Dir das! angeschaut im Fremden hast Du diese Zeitübel wohl schon oft, aber sie können Dich nicht so berühren, da Du sie nur als Gegensatz mit Deiner eigensten Natur sehen kannst und kein Gegensatz durch sie in Dich selbst gekommen ist. Genug also von dem aufgeblasenen Jahrhundert, an dessen Torheiten noch ferne Zeiten erkranken werden. Rückwärts in schönre Tage laß uns blicken, die gewesen. Vielleicht sind wir eben jetzt auf einer Bildungsstufe angelangt, wo unser höchstes und würdigstes Bestreben sich dahin richten sollte, die großen Kunstmeister der Vorwelt zu verstehen und mit dem Reichtum und der Fülle ihrer poesiereichen Darstellungen unser dürftiges Leben zu befruchten. Denn abgeschlossen sind wir durch enge Verhältnisse von der Natur, durch engere Begriffe vom wahren Lebensgenuß, durch unsere Staatsformen von aller Tätigkeit im Großen. So fest umschlossen ringsum, bleibt uns nur übrig, den Blick hinauf zu richten zum Himmel oder brütend in uns selbst zu wenden. Sind nicht beinahe alle Arten der neuern Poesie durch diese unsere Stellung bestimmt? Liniengestalten entweder, die körperlos hinaufstreben, im unendlichen Raum zu zerfließen, oder bleiche, lichtscheue Erdgeister, die wir grübelnd aus der Tiefe unsers Wesens heraufbeschwören; aber nirgends kräftige, markige Gestalten. Der Höhe dürfen wir uns rühmen und der Tiefe, aber behagliche Ausdehnung fehlt uns durchaus. Wie Shakespeare’s Julius Cäsar möcht ich rufen: «Bringt fette Leute zu mir, und die ruhig schlafen, ich fürchte diesen hagern Cassius.» Da ich nun selbst nicht über die Schranken meiner Zeit hinausreiche, dünkt es Dir nicht besser für mich, den Weg eigner poetischer Produktion zu verlassen und ein ernsthaftes Studium der Poeten der Vorzeit und besonders des Mittelalters zu beginnen? Ich weiß zwar, daß es mir Mühe kosten wird, ich werde gleichsam einen Zweig aus meiner Natur herausschneiden müssen, denn ich schaue mich am fröhlichsten in einem Produkt meines Geistes an und habe nur wahrhaftes Bewußtsein durch dieses Hervorgebrachte; aber um etwas desto gewisser zu gewinnen, muß man stets ein anderes aufgeben, das ist ein allgemeines Schicksal, und es soll mich nicht erschrecken. Eins aber hat mir stets das innerste Gemüt schmerzlich angegriffen, es ist dies: daß hinter jedem Gipfel sich der Abhang verbirgt; dieser Gedanke macht mir die Freude bleich in ihrer frischesten Jugend und mischt in all mein Leben eine unnennbare Wehmut. Darum erfreut mich jeder Anfang mehr als das Vollendete, und nichts berührt mich so tief wie das Abendrot; mit ihm möcht ich jeden Abend versinken, in der gleichen Nacht, um nicht sein Verlöschen zu überleben. Glückliche! denen vergönnt ist zu sterben in der Blüte der Freude, die aufstehen dürfen vom Mahle des Lebens, ehe die Kerzen bleich werden und der Wein sparsamer perlt. Eusebio! wenn mir auch dereinst das freundliche Licht Deines Lebens erlöschen sollte, o! dann nimm mich gütig mit wie der göttliche Pollux den sterblichen Bruder, und laß mich gemeinsam mit Dir in den Orkus gehen und mit Dir zu den unsterblichen Göttern, denn nicht möcht ich leben ohne Dich, der Du meiner Gedanken und Empfindungen liebster Inhalt bist, um den sich alle Formen und Blüten meines Seins herumwinden, wie das labyrinthische Geäder um das Herz, das sie all’ erfüllt und durchglüht.

Fragmente aus Eusebios Antwort

– Gestalt hat nur für uns, was wir überschauen können; von dieser Zeit aber sind wir umfangen, wie Embryonen von dem Leibe der Mutter, was können wir also von ihr Bedeutendes sagen? Wir sehen einzelne Symptome, hören Einen Pulsschlag des Jahrhunderts, und wollen daraus schließen, es sei erkrankt. Eben diese uns bedenklich scheinenden Anzeichen gehören vielleicht zu der individuellen Gesundheit dieser Zeit. Jede Individualität aber ist ein Abgrund von Abweichungen, eine Nacht, die nur sparsam von dem Licht allgemeiner Begriffe erleuchtet wird. Darum Freund! weil wir nur wenige Züge von dem unermeßlichen Teppich sehen, an welchem der Erdgeist die Zeiten hindurch webt, darum laß uns bescheiden sein. Es gibt eine Ergebung, in der allein Seligkeit und Vollkommenheit und Friede ist, eine Art der Betrachtung, welche ich Auflösung im Göttlichen nennen möchte; dahin zu kommen laß uns trachten und nicht klagen um die Schicksale des Universums. Damit Du aber deutlicher siehst, was ich damit meine, so sende ich Dir hiermit einige Bücher über die Religion der Hindu. Die Wunder uralter Weisheit, in geheimnisvollen Symbolen niedergelegt, werden Dein Gemüt berühren, es wird Augenblicke geben, in welchen Du Dich entkleidet fühlst von dieser persönlichen Einzelheit und Armut und wieder hingegeben dem großen Ganzen; wo Du es mehr als nur denkst, daß Alles, was jetzt Sonne und Mond ist, und Blume und Edelstein, und Äther und Meer, ein Einziges ist, ein Heiliges, das in seinen Tiefen ruht ohne Aufhören, selig in sich selbst, sich selbst ewig umfangend, ohne Wunsch nach dem Tun und Leiden der Zweiheit, die seine Oberfläche bewegt. In solchen Augenblicken, wo wir uns nicht mehr besinnen können, weil das, was das einzelne und irdische Bewußtsein weckt, dem äußern Sinn verschwunden ist unter der Herrschaft der Betrachtung des Innern; in solchen Augenblicken versteh ich den Tod, der Religion Geheimnis, das Opfer des Sohnes und der Liebe unendliches Sehnen. Ist es nicht ein Winken der Natur, aus der Einzelheit in die gemeinschaftliche Allheit zurückzukehren, zu lassen das geteilte Leben, in welchem die Wesen etwas für sich sein wollen und doch nicht können? Ich erblicke die rechte Verdammnis in dem selbstsüchtigen Stolz, der nicht ruhen konnte in dem Schoß des Ewigen, sondern ihn verlassend seine Armut und Blöße decken wollte mit der Mannigfaltigkeit der Gestalten und Baum wurde und Stein und Metall und Tier und der begehrliche Mensch.

GUNDERRODE011Ja, auch das, o Freund! was sie alle nicht ohne Murren und Zweifeln betrachten mögen, das trübere Alter, ich verstehe seinen höheren Sinn jetzt. Entwickeln soll sich im Lauf der Jahre das persönliche Leben, sich ergötzen im für sich sein, seinen Triumph feiern in der Blüte der Jugend; aber absterben sollen wir im Alter dieser Einzelheit, darum schwinden die Sinne, bleicher wird das Gedächtnis, schwächer die Begierde, und des Daseins fröhlicher Mut trübt sich in Ahndungen der nahen Auflösung. – Es sind die äußeren Sinne, die uns mannigfaltige Grade unsers Gegensatzes mit der fremden Welt deutlich machen. Wenn aber die Scheidewand der Persönlichkeit zerfällt, mögen sie immerhin erlöschen; denn es bedarf des Auges nicht, unser Inneres und was mit ihm Eins ist zu schauen; auch ohne Ohr können wir die Melodie des ewigen Geistes vernehmen; und das Gedächtnis ist für die Vergangenheit, es ist das Organ des Wissens von uns selbst im Wechsel der Zeiten. Wo aber nicht die Zeit ist, nicht Vergangenes noch Künftiges, sondern ewige Gegenwart, da bedarfs der Erinnerung nicht. Was uns also abstirbt im Alter, ist die Vollkommenheit unseres Verhältnisses zur Außenwelt; abgelebt mögen also die wohl im Alter zu nennen sein, die von nichts wußten als diesem Verhältnis. – So fürchte ich höhere Jahre nicht, und der Tod ist mir willkommen; und zu dieser Ruhe der Betrachtung in allen Dingen zu gelangen, sei das Ziel unseres Strebens. – Deutlich liegt Deine Bahn vor mir, Geliebtester! Denn erkannt habe ich Dich vom ersten Augenblick unserer Annäherung, die, das Bewußtsein wird mir immer bleiben, von Gott gefügt war; nie habe ich so das Angesicht eines Menschen zum erstenmal angesehen, nie solch Gefühl bei einer menschlichen Stimme gehabt; und dies Göttliche und Notwendige ist mir immer geblieben im Gedanken an Dich; und so weiß ich auch, was notwendig ist in Dir und für Dich, und wie Du ganz solltest leben in der Natur, der Poesie und einer göttlichen Weisheit. Ich weiß, daß es Dir nicht geziemt, Dir so ängstliche Studien vorzuschreiben. Die großen Kunstmeister der Vorwelt sind freilich da, um gelesen und verstanden zu werden, aber, wenn von Kunst- Schulen die Frage ist, so sage ich, sie sind dagewesen, jene Meister, eben deswegen sollen sie nicht noch einmal wiedergeboren werden; die unendliche Natur will sich stets neu offenbaren in der unendlichen Zeit. In der Fülle der Jahrhunderte ist Brahma oftmals erschienen, aber in immer neuen Verwandlungen; dieselbe Gestalt hat er nie wieder gewählt. So tue und dichte doch jeder das, wozu er berufen ist, wozu der Geist ihn treibt, und versage sich keinen Gesang als den mißklingenden. Doch zag’ ich im Ernste nicht für Dich, die strebende Kraft wird den, welchen sie bewohnt, nicht ruhen lassen; es wird ihm oft wehe und bange werden ums Herz, bis die neugeborene Idee gestillet hat des Gebärens Schmerz und Sehnsucht.

Gestern lebte ich ein paar selige Stunden recht über der Erde, ich hatte einen Berg erstiegen, an dessen Umgebungen jede Spur menschlichen Anbaus zu Zweck und Nutzen verschwand; es ward mir wohl und heiter. Zwei herrliche Reiher schwebend über mir badeten ihre sorgenfreie Brust in blauer Himmelsluft. Ach! wer doch auch schon so dem Himmel angehörte, dachte ich da, und klein schien mir alles Irdische. In solchen Augenblicken behält nur das Ewige Wert, der schaffende Genius und das heilige Gemüt; da dacht ich Dein, wie immer, wenn die Natur mich berührt; oft gab ich dem Flusse, wenn der Sonne letzte Strahlen ihn erhellen, Gedanken an Dich mit, als würden seine Wellen sie zu Dir tragen und dein Haupt umspielen. Leb wohl, in meinen besten Stunden bin ich stets bei dir. –

An Eusebio

Eine der größten Epochen meines kleinen Lebens ist vorübergegangen, Eusebio! ich habe auf dem Scheidepunkt gestanden zwischen Leben und Tod. Was sträubt sich doch der Mensch, sagte ich in jenen Augenblicken zu mir selbst, vor dem Sterben? ich freue mich auf jede Nacht, indem ich das Unbewußtsein und dunkle Träume dem hellern Leben vorziehe; warum grauet mir doch vor der langen Nacht und dem tiefen Schlummer? Welche Taten warten noch meiner, oder welche bessere Erkenntnis auf Erden, daß ich länger leben müßte? – Eine Notwendigkeit gebiert uns alle in die Persönlichkeit, eine gemeinsame Nacht verschlinget uns alle. Jahre werden mir keine bessere Weisheit geben, und wann Lernen, Tun und Leiden drunten noch Not tut, wird ein Gott mir geben, was ich bedarf. So sprach ich mir selbst zu, aber die Gedanken, die ich liebe, traten zu mir, und die Heroen, die ich angebetet hatte von Jugend auf: «Was willst Du am hohen Mittage die Nacht ersehnen?» riefen sie mir zu. «Warum untertauchen in dem alten Meer und darin zerrinnen mit allem, was Dir lieb ist?» So wechselten die Vorstellungen in mir, und Deiner gedacht ich, und immer Deiner, und fast alles andre nur in bezug auf Dich, und wenn anders den Sterblichen vergönnt ist, noch eines ihrer Güter aus dem Schiffbruch des irdischen Lebens zu retten, so hätte ich gewiß Dein Andenken mit hinabgenommen zu den Schatten. Daß Du mir aber könntest verloren sein, war der Gedanken schmerzlichster. Ich zagte, daß Dein Ich und das meine sollten aufgelöst werden in die alten Urstoffe der Welt; dann tröstete ich mich wieder, daß unsere befreundeten Elemente, dem Gesetze der Anziehung gehorchend, sich selbst im unendlichen Raume aufsuchen und zueinander gesellen würden. So wogten Hoffnung und Zweifel auf und nieder in meiner Seele, und Mut und Zagheit. Doch das Schicksal wollte – ich lebe noch. – Aber was ist es doch, das Leben? Dieses schon aufgegebene, wieder erlangte Gut! so frag ich mich oft: Was bedeutet es, daß aus der Allheit der Natur ein Wesen sich mit solchem Bewußtsein losscheidet und sich abgerissen von ihr fühlt? Warum hängt der Mensch mit solcher Stärke an Gedanken und Meinungen, als seien sie das Ewige, warum kann er sterben für sie, da doch für ihn eben dieser Gedanke mit seinem Tode verloren ist? und warum, wenn gleichwohl diese Gedanken und Begriffe dahinsterben mit den Individuen, warum werden sie von denselben immer wieder aufs neue hervorgebracht und drängen sich so durch die Reihen des aufeinanderfolgenden Geschlechtes zu einer Unsterblichkeit in der Zeit? Lange wußt’ ich diesen Fragen nicht Antwort, und sie verwirrten mich; da war mir plötzlich in einer Offenbarung alles deutlich und wird es mir ewig bleiben. Zwar weiß ich, das Leben ist nur das Produkt der innigsten Berührung und Anziehung der Elemente; weiß, daß alle seine Blüten und Blätter, die wir Gedanken und Empfindungen nennen, verwelken müssen, wenn jene Berührung aufgelöst wird, und daß das einzelne Leben dem Gesetz der Sterblichkeit dahingegeben ist; aber so gewiß mir dieses ist, ebenso über allem Zweifel ist mir auch das andre, die Unsterblichkeit des Lebens im Ganzen; denn dieses Ganze ist eben das Leben, und es wogt auf und nieder in seinen Gliedern, den Elementen, und was es auch sei, das durch Auflösung (die wir zuweilen Tod nennen) zu denselben zurückgegangen ist, das vermischt sich mit ihnen nach Gesetzen der Verwandtschaft, d. h. das Ähnliche zu dem Ähnlichen. Aber anders sind diese Elemente geworden, nachdem sie einmal im Organismus zum Leben hinaufgetrieben gewesen, sie sind lebendiger geworden; wie zwei, die sich in langem Kampf übten, stärker sind, wenn er geendet hat, als ehe sie kämpften, so die Elemente, denn sie sind lebendig, und jede lebendige Kraft stärkt sich durch Übung. Wenn sie also zurückkehren zur Erde, vermehren sie das Erdleben. Die Erde aber gebiert den ihr zurückgegebenen Lebensstoff in andern Erscheinungen wieder, bis durch immer neue Verwandlungen alles Lebensfähige in ihr ist lebendig geworden. Dies wäre, wenn alle Massen organisch würden. –

Guenderode - Letter2So gibt jeder Sterbende der Erde ein erhöhteres, entwickelteres Elementarleben zurück, welches sie in aufsteigenden Formen fortbildet; und der Organismus, indem er immer entwickeltere Elemente in sich aufnimmt, muß dadurch immer vollkommener und allgemeiner werden. So wird die Allheit lebendig durch den Untergang der Einzelheit, und die Einzelheit lebt unsterblich fort in der Allheit, deren Leben sie lebend entwickelte und nach dem Tode selbst erhöht und mehrt und so durch Leben und Sterben die Idee der Erde realisieren hilft. Wie also auch meine Elemente zerstreut werden mögen, wenn sie sich zu schon Lebendem gesellen, werden sie es erhöhen; wenn zu dem, dessen Leben noch dem Tode gleicht, so werden sie es beseelen. Und wie mir deucht, Eusebio, so entspricht die Idee der Indier von der Seelenwanderung dieser Meinung; nur dann erst dürfen die Elemente nicht mehr wandern und suchen, wann die Erde die ihr angemessene Existenz, die organische, durchgehende erlangt hat. Alle bis jetzt hervorgebrachten Formen müssen aber wohl dem Erdgeist nicht genügen, weil er sie immer wieder zerbricht und neue sucht; die ihm ganz gleichen würde er nicht zerstören können, eben weil sie ihm gleich und von ihm untrennbar wären. Diese vollkommene Gleichheit des inneren Wesens mit der Form kann, wie mir scheint, überhaupt nicht in der Mannigfaltigkeit der Formen erreicht werden; das Erdwesen ist nur eines, so dürfte also seine Form auch nur eine, nicht verschiedenartig sein; und ihr eigentliches wahres Dasein würde die Erde erst dann erlangen, wann sich alle ihre Erscheinungen in einem gemeinschaftlichen Organismus auflösen würden; wann Geist und Körper sich so durchdrängen, daß alle Körper, alle Form auch zugleich Gedanken und Seele wäre und aller Gedanke zugleich Form und Leib und ein wahrhaft verklärter Leib, ohne Fehl und Krankheit und unsterblich; also ganz verschieden von dem, was wir Leib oder Materie nennen, indem wir ihm Vergänglichkeit, Krankheit, Trägheit und Mangelhaftigkeit beilegen, denn diese Art von Leib ist gleichsam nur ein mißglückter Versuch, jenen unsterblichen göttlichen Leib hervorzubringen. – Ob es der Erde gelingen wird, sich so unsterblich zu organisieren, weiß ich nicht. Es kann in ihren Urelementen ein Mißverhältnis von Wesen und Form sein, das sie immer daran hindert; und vielleicht gehört die Totalität unseres Sonnensystems dazu, um dieses Gleichgewicht zustande zu bringen; vielleicht reicht dieses wiederum nicht zu, und es ist eine Aufgabe für das gesamte Universum.

In dieser Betrachtungsweise, Eusebio, ist mir nun auch deutlich geworden, was die großen Gedanken von Wahrheit, Gerechtigkeit, Tugend, Liebe und Schönheit wollen, die auf dem Boden der Persönlichkeit keimen und, ihn bald überwachsend, sich hinaufziehen nach dem freien Himmel, ein unsterbliches Gewächs, das nicht untergehet mit dem Boden, auf dem es sich entwickelte, sondern immer neu sich erzeugt im neuen Individuum, denn es ist das Bleibende, Ewige, das Individuum aber das zerbrechliche Gefäß für den Trank der Unsterblichkeit. – Denn, laß es uns genauer betrachten, Eusebio, alle Tugenden und Trefflichkeiten, sind sie nicht Annäherungen zu jenem höchst vollkommenen Zustand, soviel die Einzelheit sich ihm nähern kann? Die Wahrheit ist doch nur der Ausdruck des sich selbst gleichseins überhaupt, vollkommen wahr ist also nur das Ewige, das keinem Wechsel der Zeiten und Zustände unterworfen ist. Die Gerechtigkeit ist das Streben, in der Vereinzelung untereinander gleich zu sein. Die Schönheit ist der äußere Ausdruck des erreichten Gleichgewichtes mit sich selbst. Die Liebe ist die Versöhnung der Persönlichkeit mit der Allheit; und die Tugend aller Art ist nur eine, d. h. ein Vergessen der Persönlichkeit und Einzelheit für die Allheit. Durch Liebe und Tugend also wird schon hier auf eine geistige Weise der Zustand der Auflösung der Vielheit in der Einheit vorbereitet, denn wo Liebe ist, da ist nur ein Sinn, und wo Tugend, ist einerlei Streben nach Taten der Gerechtigkeit, Güte und Eintracht. Was aber sich selbst gleich ist und äußerlich und innerlich den Ausdruck dieses harmonischen Seins an sich trägt und selbst dieser Ausdruck ist, was eins ist und nicht zerrissen in Vielheit, das ist gerade jenes Vollkommene, Unsterbliche und Unwandelbare, jener Organismus, den ich als das Ziel der Natur, der Geschichte und der Zeiten, kurz des Universums betrachte. Durch jede Tat der Unwahrheit, Ungerechtigkeit und Selbstsucht wird jener selige Zustand entfernt und der Gott der Erde in neue Fesseln geschlagen, der seine Sehnsucht nach besserem Leben in jedem Gemüt durch Empfänglichkeit für das Treffliche ausspricht, im verletzten Gewissen aber klagt, daß sein seliges, göttliches Leben noch fern sei.

Karoline Günderrode: Briefe zweier Freunde magazine

More in: Archive G-H, Archive G-H, Karoline von Günderrode


by Katherine Mansfield

“Two purl—two plain—woolinfrontoftheneedle—and knit two together.” Like an old song, like a song that she had sung so often that only to breathe was to sing it, she murmured the knitting pattern. Another vest was nearly finished for the mission parcel.

“It’s your vests, Mrs. Bean, that are so acceptable. Look at these poor little mites without a shred!” And the churchwoman showed her a photograph of repulsive little black objects with bellies shaped like lemons…

“Two purl—two plain.” Down dropped the knitting on to her lap; she gave a great long sigh, stared in front of her for a moment and then picked the knitting up and began again. What did she think about when she sighed like that? Nothing. It was a habit. She was always sighing. On the stairs, particularly, as she went up and down, she stopped, holding her dress up with one hand, the other hand on the bannister, staring at the steps—sighing.

“Woolinfrontoftheneedle …” She sat at the dining-room window facing the street. It was a bitter autumn day; the wind ran in the street like a thin dog; the houses opposite looked as though they had been cut out with a pair of ugly steel scissors and pasted on to the grey paper sky. There was not a soul to be seen.

“Knit two together!” The clock struck three. Only three? It seemed dusk already; dusk came floating into the room, heavy, powdery dusk settling on the furniture, filming over the mirror. Now the kitchen clock struck three—two minutes late—for this was the clock to go by and not the kitchen clock. She was alone in the house. Dollicas was out shopping; she had been gone since a quarter to two. Really, she got slower and slower! What did she do with the time? One cannot spend more than a certain time buying a chicken … And oh, that habit of hers of dropping the stove-rings when she made up the fire! And she set her lips, as she had set her lips for the past thirty-five years, at that habit of Dollicas’.

There came a faint noise from the street, a noise of horses’ hooves. She leaned further out to see. Good gracious! It was a funeral. First the glass coach, rolling along briskly with the gleaming, varnished coffin inside (but no wreaths), with three men in front and two page 235 standing at the back, then some carriages, some with black horses, some with brown. The dust came bowling up the road, half hiding the procession. She scanned the houses opposite to see which had the blinds down. What horrible looking men, too! laughing and joking. One leaned over to one side and blew his nose with his black glove— horrible! She gathered up the knitting, hiding her hands in it. Dollicas surely would have known … There, they were passing … It was the other end …

What was this? What was happening? What could it mean? Help, God! Her old heart leaped like a fish and then fell as the glass coach drew up outside her door, as the outside men scrambled down from the front, swung off the back, and the tallest of them, with a glance of surprise at the windows, came quickly, stealthily, up the garden path.

“No!” she groaned. But yes, the blow fell, and for the moment it struck her down. She gasped, a great cold shiver went through her, and stayed in her hands and knees. She saw the man withdraw a step and again—that puzzled glance at the blinds—then—

“No!” she groaned, and stumbling, catching hold of things, she managed to get to the door before the blow fell again. She opened it, her chin trembled, her teeth clacked; somehow or other she brought out, “The wrong house!”

Oh! he was shocked. As she stepped back she saw behind him the black hats clustered at the gate. “The wrong’ ouse!” he muttered. She could only nod. She was shutting the door again when he fished out of the tail of his coat a black, brass-bound notebook and swiftly opened it. “No. 20 Shuttleworth Crescent?”

“S—street! Crescent round the corner.” Her hand lifted to point, but shook and fell.

He was taking off his hat as she shut the door and leaned against it, whimpering in the dusky hall, “Go away! Go away!”

Clockety-clock-clock. Cluk! Cluk! Clockety-clock-cluk! sounded from outside, and then a faint Cluk! Cluk! and then silence. They were gone. They were out of sight. But still she stayed leaning against the door, staring into the hall, staring at the hall-stand that was like a great lobster with hat-pegs for feelers. But she thought of nothing; she did not even think of what had happened. It was as if she had fallen into a cave whose walls were darkness …

She came to herself with a deep inward shock, hearing the gate bang and quick, short steps crunching the gravel; it was Dollicas hurrying round to the back door. Dollicas must not find her there; and wavering, wavering like a candle-flame, back she went into the dining-room to her seat by the window.

Dollicas was in the kitchen. Klang! went one of the iron rings into the fender. Then her voice, “I’m just putting on the teakettle’m.” Since they had been alone she had got into the way of shouting from one room to another. The old woman coughed to steady herself. “Please bring in the lamp,” she cried.

“The lamp!” Dollicas came across the passage and stood in the doorway. “Why, it’s only just on four’ m.”

“Never mind,” said Mrs. Bean dully.

“Bring it in!” And a moment later the elderly maid appeared, carrying the gentle lamp in both hands. Her broad soft face had the look it always had when she carried anything, as though she walked in her sleep. She set it down on the table, lowered the wick, raised it, and then lowered it again. Then she straightened up and looked across at her mistress.

“Why, ‘m, whatever’s that you’re treading on?”

It was the mission vest.

“T’t! T’t!” As Dollicas picked it up she thought, “The old lady has been asleep. She’s not awake yet.” Indeed the old lady looked glazed and dazed, and when she took up the knitting she drew out a needle of stitches and began to unwind what she had done.

“Don’t forget the mace,” she said. Her voice sounded thin and dry. She was thinking of the chicken for that night’s supper. And Dollicas understood and answered, “It’s a lovely young bird!”‘as she pulled down the blind before going back to her kitchen …

The Wrong House (1919)
by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)
From: Something Childish and Other Stories magazine

More in: Archive M-N, Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield, Katherine



Karoline von Günderrode
(1780 – 1806)

Der Gefangene und der Sänger

Ich wallte mit leichtem und lustigem Sinn
Und singend am Kerker vorüber;
Da schallt aus der Tiefe, da schallt aus dem Thurm
Mir Stimme des Freundes herüber. –

„Ach Sänger! verweile, mich tröstet dein Lied,
Es steigt zum Gefangnen herunter,
Ihm macht es gesellig die einsame Zeit,
Das krankende Herz ihm gesunder.“

Ich horchte der Stimme, gehorchte ihr bald,
Zum Kerker hin wandt’ ich die Schritte,
Gern sprach ich die freundlichsten Worte hinab,
Begegnete jeglicher Bitte.

Da war dem Gefangenen freier der Sinn,
Gesellig die einsamen Stunden. –
„Gern gäb ich dir Lieber! so rief er: die Hand,
Doch ist sie von Banden umwunden.

Gern käm’ ich Geliebter! gern käm’ ich herauf
Am Herzen dich treulich zu herzen;
Doch trennen mich Mauern und Riegel von dir,
O fühl’ des Gefangenen Schmerzen.

Es ziehet mich mancherlei Sehnsucht zu dir;
Doch Ketten umfangen mein Leben,
Drum gehe mein Lieber und laß mich allein,
Ich Armer ich kann dir nichts geben.“ –

Da ward mir so weich und so wehe ums Herz,
Ich konnte den Lieben nicht lassen.
Am Kerker nun lausch’ ich von Frührothes Schein
Bis Abends die Farben erblassen.

Und harren dort werd’ ich die Jahre hindurch,
Und sollt’ ich drob selber erblassen.
Es ist mir so weich und so sehnend ums Herz
Ich kann den Geliebten nicht lassen.

Karoline Günderrode Gedichte magazine

More in: Archive G-H, Karoline von Günderrode


by Katherine Mansfield

The post was very late. When we came back from our walk after lunch it still had not arrived.

“Pas encore, Madame,” sang Annette, scurrying back to her cooking.

We carried our parcels into the dining-room. The table was laid. As always, the sight of the table laid for two—for two people only—and yet so finished, so perfect, there was no possible room for a third, gave me a queer, quick thrill as though I’d been struck by that silver lightning that quivered over the white cloth, the brilliant glasses, the shallow bowl of freezias.

“Blow the old postman! Whatever can have happened to him?” said Beatrice. “Put those things down, dearest.”

“Where would you like them …?”

She raised her head; she smiled her sweet, teasing smile.


But I knew only too well that there was no such place for her, and I would have stood holding the squat liqueur bottle and the sweets for months, for years, rather than risk giving another tiny shock to her exquisite sense of order.

“Here—I’ll take them.” She plumped them down on the table with her long gloves and a basket of figs. “The Luncheon Table. Short story by—by—” She took my arm. “Let’s go on to the terrace—” and I felt her shiver. “Ça sent,” she said faintly, “de la cuisine …”

I had noticed lately—we had been living in the south for two months—that when she wished to speak of food, or the climate, or, playfully, of her love for me, she always dropped into French.

We perched on the balustrade under the awning. Beatrice leaned over gazing down—down to the white road with its guard of cactus spears. The beauty of her ear, just her ear, the marvel of it was so great that I could have turned from regarding it to all that sweep of glittering sea below and stammered: “You know—her ear! She has ears that are simply the most …”

She was dressed in white, with pearls round her throat and lilies-of-the-valley tucked into her belt. On the third finger of her left hand she wore one pearl ring—no wedding ring.

“Why should I, mon ami? Why should we pretend? Who could possibly care?”

And of course I agreed, though privately, in the depths of my heart, I would have given my soul to have stood beside her in a large, yes, a large, fashionable church, crammed with people, with old reverend clergymen, with The Voice that breathed o’er Eden, with palms and the smell of scent, knowing there was a red carpet and confetti outside, and somewhere, a wedding-cake and champagne and a satin shoe to throw after the carriage—if I could have slipped our wedding-ring on to her finger.

Not because I cared for such horrible shows, but because I felt it might possibly perhaps lessen this ghastly feeling of absolute freedom, her absolute freedom, of course.

Oh, God! What torture happiness was—what anguish! I looked up at the villa, at the windows of our room hidden so mysteriously behind the green straw blinds. Was it possible that she ever came moving through the green light and smiling that secret smile, that languid, brilliant smile that was just for me? She put her arm round my neck; the other hand softly, terribly, brushed back my hair.

“Who are you?” Who was she? She was—Woman.

… On the first warm evening in Spring, when lights shone like pearls through the lilac air and voices murmured in the fresh-flowering gardens, it was she who sang in the tall house with the tulle curtains. As one drove in the moonlight through the foreign city hers was the shadow that fell across the quivering gold of the shutters. When the lamp was lighted, in the new-born stillness her steps passed your door. And she looked out into the autumn twilight, pale in her furs, as the automobile swept by …

In fact, to put it shortly, I was twenty-four at the time. And when she lay on her back, with the pearls slipped under her chin, and sighed “I’m thirsty, dearest. Donne-moi un orange,” I would gladly, willingly, have dived for an orange into the jaws of a crocodile—if crocodiles ate oranges.

“Had I two little feathery wings
And were a little feathery bird …”

sang Beatrice.

I seized her hand. “You wouldn’t fly away?”

“Not far. Not further than the bottom of the road.”

“Why on earth there?”

She quoted: “He cometh not, she said …”

“Who? The silly old postman? But you’re not expecting a letter.”

“No, but it’s maddening all the same. Ah!” Suddenly she laughed and leaned against me. “There he is—look—like a blue beetle.”

And we pressed our cheeks together and watched the blue beetle beginning to climb.

“Dearest,” breathed Beatrice. And the word seemed to linger in the air, to throb in the air like the note of a violin.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know,” she laughed softly. “A wave of—a wave of affection, I suppose.”

I put my arm round her. “Then you wouldn’t fly away?”

And she said rapidly and softly: “No! No! Not for worlds. Not really. I love this place. I’ve loved being here. I could stay here for years, I believe. I’ve never been so happy as I have these last two months, and you’ve been so perfect to me, dearest, in every way.”

This was such bliss—it was so extraordinary, so unprecedented, to hear her talk like this that I had to try to laugh it off.

“Don’t! You sound as if you were saying good-bye.”

“Oh, nonsense, nonsense. You mustn’t say such things even in fun!” She slid her little hand under my white jacket and clutched my shoulder. “You’ve been happy, haven’t you?”

“Happy? Happy? Oh, God—if you knew what I feel at this moment … Happy! My Wonder! My Joy!”

I dropped off the balustrade and embraced her, lifting her in my arms. And while I held her lifted I pressed my face in her breast and muttered: “You are mine?” And for the first time in all the desperate months I’d known her, even counting the last month of— surely—Heaven—I believed her absolutely when she answered:

“Yes, I am yours.”

The creak of the gate and the postman’s steps on the gravel drew us apart. I was dizzy for the moment. I simply stood there, smiling, I felt, rather stupidly. Beatrice walked over to the cane chairs.

“You go—go for the letters,” said she.

I—well—I almost reeled away. But I was too late. Annette came running. “Pas de lettres” said she.

My reckless smile in reply as she handed me the paper must have surprised her. I was wild with joy. I threw the paper up into the air and sang out:

“No letters, darling!” as I came over to where the beloved woman was lying in the long chair.

For a moment she did not reply. Then she said slowly as she tore off the newspaper wrapper: “The world forgetting, by the world forgot.”

There are times when a cigarette is just the very one thing that will carry you over the moment. It is more than a confederate, even;  it is a secret, perfect little friend who knows all about it and understands absolutely. While you smoke you look down at it—smile or frown, as the occasion demands; you inhale deeply and expel the smoke in a slow fan. This was one of those moments. I walked over to the magnolia and breathed my fill of it. Then I came back and leaned over her shoulder. But quickly she tossed the paper away on to the stone.

“There’s nothing in it,” said she. “Nothing. There’s only some poison trial. Either some man did or didn’t murder his wife, and twenty thousand people have sat in court every day and two million words have been wired all over the world after each proceeding.”

“Silly world!” said I, flinging into another chair. I wanted to forget the paper, to return, but cautiously, of course, to that moment before the postman came. But when she answered I knew from her voice the moment was over for now. Never mind. I was content to wait—five hundred years, if need be—now that I knew.

“Not so very silly,” said Beatrice. “After all it isn’t only morbid curiosity on the part of the twenty thousand.”

“What is it, darling?” Heavens knows I didn’t care.

“Guilt! “she cried. “Guilt! Didn’t you realise that? They’re fascinated like sick people are fascinated by anything—any scrap of news about their own case. The man in the dock may be innocent enough, but the people in court are nearly all of them poisoners. Haven’t you ever thought” —she was pale with excitement— “of the amount of poisoning that goes on? It’s the exception to find married people who don’t poison each other— married people and lovers. Oh,” she cried, “the number of cups of tea, glasses of wine, cups of coffee that are just tainted. The number I’ve had myself, and drunk, either knowing or not knowing—and risked it. The only reason why so many couples”—she laughed—” survive, is because the one is frightened of giving the other the fatal dose. That dose takes nerve! But it’s bound to come sooner or later. There’s no going back once the first little dose has been given. It’s the beginning of the end, really—don’t you agree? Don’t you see what I mean?”

She didn’t wait for me to answer. She unpinned the lilies-of-the-valley and lay back, drawing them across her eyes.

“Both my husbands poisoned me,” said Beatrice. “My first husband gave me a huge dose almost immediately, but my second was really an artist in his way. Just a tiny pinch, now and again, cleverly disguised—Oh, so cleverly! —until one morning I woke up and in every single particle of me, to the ends of my fingers and toes, there was a tiny grain. I was just in time …”

I hated to hear her mention her husbands so calmly, especially to-day. It hurt. I was going to speak, but suddenly she cried mournfully:

“Why! Why should it have happened to me? What have I done? Why have I been all my life singled out by … It’s a conspiracy.”

I tried to tell her it was because she was too perfect for this horrible world—too exquisite, too fine. It frightened people. I made a little joke.

“But I—I haven’t tried to poison you.”

Beatrice gave a queer small laugh and bit the end of a lily stem.

“You!” said she. “You wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

Strange. That hurt, though. Most horribly.

Just then Annette ran out with our apéritifs. Beatrice leaned forward and took a glass from the tray and handed it to me. I noticed the gleam of the pearl on what I called her pearl finger. How could I be hurt at what she said?

“And you,” I said, taking the glass, “you’ve never poisoned anybody.”

That gave me an idea; I tried to explain.

“You—you do just the opposite. What is the name for one like you who, instead of poisoning people, fills them—everybody, the postman, the man who drives us, our boatman, the flower-seller, me—with new life, with something of her own radiance, her beauty, her—”

Dreamily she smiled; dreamily she looked at me.

“What are you thinking of—my lovely darling?”

“I was wondering,” she said, “whether, after lunch, you’d go down to the post-office and ask for the afternoon letters. Would you mind, dearest? Not that I’m expecting one —but—I just thought, perhaps—it’s silly not to have the letters if they’re there. Isn’t it? Silly to wait till to-morrow.” She twirled the stem of the glass in her fingers. Her beautiful head was bent. But I lifted my glass and drank, sipped rather—sipped slowly, deliberately, looking at that dark head and thinking of—postmen and blue beetles and farewells that were not farewells and …

Good God! Was it fancy? No, it wasn’t fancy. The drink tasted chill, bitter, queer.

by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)
From: Something Childish and Other Stories magazine

More in: Archive M-N, Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield, Katherine



Sibylla Schwarz
(1621 – 1638)


deine rohte Wangen
deiner Augen helles Licht
und dein Purpurangesicht
hält mich nuhn nicht mehr gefangen.

Ich kan nicht mehr an dir hangen
weil du dich erbarmest nicht
ob mir schon mein Hertze bricht;
deiner schnöden Hoffart Prangen

und dein hönisches Gemüht
krencket mir mein jung Geblüht

daß ich dich wil gerne meiden
wan mich meine Galate
die mir macht dis süße Weh
wil in ihren Diensten leiden.

Sibylla Schwarz poetry magazine

More in: Archive S-T, SIbylla Schwarz



Sibylla Schwarz
(1621 – 1638)

Poëten gehn
dem unadelichen Adel
weit vohr

Ob zwar mein schlechter Leib
zu deme sich muß halten
was schlecht und niedrig ist
und lassen alles walten
was reiche Güter hat
was grossen Titul führet
was Weißheit
Kunst und Lob mit
blassem Ansehn zieret.
So bleibt dennoch mein Sinn
allzeit am Himmel kleben
da ein Poëte kan
ohn Schimpff und Schaden leben
da niemand sagen kan: Sih
diser geht dich für!
da keine Leumder sein
da bloß des Himmels Zier
mit ihnen Sprache helt
da alles muß erbleichen
da ein vom Adel muß
dem schlechsten Diener weichen.
Und wenn ein hoher Heldt
bey seinem Degen geht
der sehe sich wohl für
daß er ja feste steht;
denn wer
auß Hoffahrt nur
den Degen angehencket
dem wird gemeinlich auch
der Schwerdter Schmach geschenket
und wenn die Hoffart denn
wird endlich untergehn
wird der Poëten Volck
doch immer oben stehn.

Sibylla Schwarz poetry magazine

More in: Archive S-T, SIbylla Schwarz


MANSFIELDKATH11Spring Pictures
by Katherine Mansfield

It is raining. Big soft drops splash on the people’s hands and cheeks; immense warm drops like melted stars. “Here are roses! Here are lilies! Here are violets!” caws the old hag in the gutter. But the lilies, bunched together in a frill of green, look more like faded cauliflowers. Up and down she drags the creaking barrow. A bad, sickly smell comes from it. Nobody wants to buy. You must walk in the middle of the road, for there is no room on the pavement. Every single shop brims over; every shop shows a tattered frill of soiled lace and dirty ribbon to charm and entice you. There are tables set out with toy cannons and soldiers and Zeppelins and photograph frames complete with ogling beauties. There are immense baskets of yellow straw hats piled up like pyramids of pastry, and strings of coloured boots and shoes so small that nobody could wear them. One shop is full of little squares of mackintosh, page 185 blue ones for girls and pink ones for boys with Bébé printed in the middle of each …

“Here are lilies! Here are roses! Here are pretty violets!” warbles the old hag, bumping into another barrow. But this barrow is still. It is heaped with lettuces. Its owner, a fat old woman, sprawls across, fast asleep, her nose in the lettuce roots … Who is ever going to buy anything here …? The sellers are women. They sit on little canvas stools, dreamy and vacant looking. Now and again one of them gets up and takes a feather duster, like a smoky torch, and flicks it over a thing or two and then sits down again. Even the old man in tangerine spectacles with a balloon of a belly, who turns the revolving stand of ‘comic’ postcards round and round cannot decide …

Suddenly, from the empty shop at the corner a piano strikes up, and a violin and flute join in. The windows of the shop are scrawled over—New Songs. First Floor. Entrance Free. But the windows of the first floor being open, nobody bothers to go up. They hang about grinning as the harsh voices float out into the warm rainy air. At the doorway there stands a lean man in a pair of burst carpet slippers. He has stuck a feather through the broken rim of his hat; with what an air he wears it! The feather is magnificent. It is gold epaulettes, frogged coat, page 186 white kid gloves, gilded cane. He swaggers under it and the voice rolls off his chest, rich and ample.

“Come up! Come up! Here are the new songs! Each singer is an artiste of European reputation. The orchestra is famous and second to none. You can stay as long as you like. It is the chance of a lifetime, and once missed never to return!” But nobody moves. Why should they? They know all about those girls—those famous artistes. One is dressed in cream cashmere and one in blue. Both have dark crimped hair and a pink rose pinned over the ear … They know all about the pianist’s button boots—the left foot—the pedal foot—burst over the bunion on his big toe. The violinist’s bitten nails, the long, far too long cuffs of the flute player—all these things are as old as the new songs.

For a long time the music goes on and the proud voice thunders. Then somebody calls down the stairs and the showman, still with his grand air, disappears. The voices cease. The piano, the violin and the flute dribble into quiet. Only the lace curtain gives a wavy sign of life from the first floor.

It is raining still; it is getting dusky … Here are roses! Here are lilies! Who will buy my violets? …

Hope! You misery—you sentimental, faded female! Break your last string and have done with it. I shall go mad with your endless thrumming; my heart throbs to it and every little pulse beats in time. It is morning. I lie in the empty bed—the huge bed big as a field and as cold and unsheltered. Through the shutters the sunlight comes up from the river and flows over the ceiling in trembling waves. I hear from outside a hammer tapping, and far below in the house a door swings open and shuts. Is this my room? Are those my clothes folded over an armchair? Under the pillow, sign and symbol of a lonely woman, ticks my watch. The bell jangles. Ah! At last! I leap out of bed and run to the door. Play faster—faster—Hope!

“Your milk, Mademoiselle,” says the concierge, gazing at me severely.

“Ah, thank you,” I cry, gaily swinging the milk bottle. “No letters for me?”

“Nothing, mademoiselle.”

“But the postman—he has called already?”

“A long half-hour ago, mademoiselle.”

Shut the door. Stand in the little passage a moment. Listen—listen for her hated twanging. Coax her—court her—implore her to play just once that charming little thing for one string only. In vain.

Across the river, on the narrow stone path that fringes the bank, a woman is walking. She came down the steps from the Quay, walking slowly, one hand on her hip. It is a beautiful evening; the sky is the colour of lilac and the river of violet leaves. There are big bright trees along the path full of trembling light, and the boats, dancing up and down, send heavy curls of foam rippling almost to her feet. Now she has stopped. Now she has turned suddenly. She is leaning up against a tree, her hands over her face; she is crying. And now she is walking up and down wringing her hands. Again she leans against the tree, her back against it, her head raised and her hands clasped as though she leaned against someone dear. Round her shoulders she wears a little grey shawl; she covers her face with the ends of it and rocks to and fro.

But one cannot cry for ever, so at last she becomes serious and quiet, patting her hair into place, smoothing her apron. She walks a step or two. No, too soon, too soon! Again her arms fly up—she runs back—again she is blotted against the tall tree. Squares of gold light show in the houses; the street lamps gleam through the new leaves; yellow fans of light follow the dancing boats. For a moment she is a blur against the tree, white, grey and black, melting into the stones and the shadows. And then she is gone.

Spring Pictures (1915)
by Katherine Mansfield (1888 – 1923)
From: Something Childish and Other Stories magazine

More in: Archive M-N, Katherine Mansfield, Mansfield, Katherine



Sibylla Schwarz
(1621 – 1638)

Die Lieb ist Blind

Die Lieb ist blind
und gleichwohl kan sie sehen
hat ein Gesicht
und ist doch stahrenblind
sie nennt sich groß
und ist ein kleines Kind
ist wohl zu Fuß
und kan dannoch nicht gehen.

Doch diss muß man auff ander’ art verstehen:
sie kan nicht sehn
weil ihr Verstand zerrint
und weil das Aug des Herzens ihr verschwindt
so siht sie selbst nicht
was ihr ist geschehen.

was sie liebt
hat keinen Mangel nicht
wie wohl ihm mehr
als andern
offt gebricht.

was sie liebt
kan ohn Gebrechen leben;
doch weil man hier ohn Fehler nichtes find
so schließ ich fort: Die Lieb ist sehend blind:
sie siht selbst nicht
und kans Gesichte geben.

Sibylla Schwarz poetry magazine

More in: Archive S-T, SIbylla Schwarz

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