SINCE nobody can have the presumption to doubt the demonstration of
St. Thomas Aquinas that this world is the best of all possible
worlds, it follows only that the imperfect condition of things which
I am about to describe can only obtain in some other universe;
probably the whole affair is but the figment of my diseased
imagination. Yet if this be so, how can we reconcile disease with
Clearly there is something wrong here; the apparent syllogism turns
out on examination to be an enthymeme with a suppressed and
impossible Major. There is no progression on these lines, and what I
foolishly mistook for a nice easy way to glide into my story proves
but the blindest of blind alleys.
We must begin therefore by the simple and austere process of
The condition of Japan was at this time (what time? Here we are in
trouble with the historian at once. But let me say that I will have
no interference with my story on the part of all these dull sensible
people. I am going straight on, and if the reviews are unfavourable,
one has always the recourse of suicide) dangerously unstable. The
warrior aristocracy of the Upper House had been so diluted with
successful cheesemongers that adulteration had become a virtue as
highly profitable as adultery. In the Lower House brains were still
esteemed, but they had been interpreted as the knack of passing
The recent extension of the franchise to women had rendered the
Yoshiwara the most formidable of the political organizations, while
the physique of the nation had been seriously impaired by the
results of a law which, by assuring them in the case of injury or
illness of a life-long competence in idleness which they could never
have obtained otherwise by the most laborious toil, encouraged all
workers to be utterly careless of their health. The training of
servants indeed at this time consisted solely of careful practical
instruction in falling down stairs; and the richest man in the
country was an ex-butler who, by breaking his leg on no less than
thirty-eight occasions, had acquired a pension which put that of a
field-marshal altogether in the shade.
As yet, however, the country was not irretrievably doomed. A system
of intrigue and blackmail, elaborated by the governing classes to
the highest degree of efficiency, acted as a powerful counterpoise.
In theory all were equal; in practice the permanent officials, the
real rulers of the country, were a distinguished and trustworthy
body of men. Their interest was to govern well, for any civil or
foreign disturbance would undoubtedly have fanned the sparks of
discontent into the roaring flames of revolution.
And discontent there was. The unsuccessful cheesemongers were very
bitter against the Upper House; and those who had failed in
examinations wrote appalling diatribes against the folly of the
The trouble was that they were right; the government was well enough
in fact, but in theory had hardly a leg to stand on. In view of the
growing clamour, the official classes were perturbed; for many of
their number were intelligent enough to see that a thoroughly
irrational system, however well it may work in practice, cannot for
ever be maintained against the attacks of those who, though they may
be secretly stigmatized as doctrinaires, can bring forward
unanswerable arguments. The people had power, but not reason; so
were amenable to the fallacies which they mistook for reason and not
to the power which they would have imagined to be tyranny. An
intelligent plebs is docile; an educated canaille expects everything
to be logical. The shallow sophisms of the socialist were
intelligible; they could not be refuted by the profounder and
therefore unintelligible propositions of the Tory.
The mob could understand the superficial resemblance of babies; they
could not be got to understand that the circumastances of education
and environment made but a small portion of the equipment of a
conscious being. The brutal and truthful “You cannot make a silk
purse out of a sow’s ear” had been forgotten for the smooth and
plausible fallacies of such writer as Ki Ra Di.
So serious had the situation become, indeed, that the governing
classes had abandoned all dogmas of Divine Right and the like as
untenable. The theory of heredity had broken down, and the
ennoblement of the cheesemongers made it not only false, but
We consequently find them engaged in the fatuous task of defending
the anomalies which disgusted the nation by a campaign of glaring
and venal sophistries. These deceived nobody, and only inspired the
contempt, which might have been harmless, with a hate which
threatened to engulph the community in an abyss of the most
Such was the razor-edge upon which the unsteady feet of the republic
strode when, a few years before the date of my visit, the
philosopher Kwaw landed at Nagasaki after an exhilerating swim from
KWAW, when he crossed the Yellow Sea, was of the full age of
thirty-two years. The twenty previous equinoxes had passed over his
head as he wandered, sole human tenant, among the colossal yet
ignoble ruins of Wei Hai Wei. His only companions were the lion and
the lizard, who frequented the crumbling ruins of the officers’
quarters; while in the little cemetery the hoofs of the wild ass
beat (useless, if he wishes to wake them) upon the tombs of the
sportsmen that once thronged these desolate halls.
During this time Kwaw devoted his entire attention to the pursuit of
philosophy; for the vast quantities of excellent stores abandoned by
the British left him no anxiety upon the score of hunger.
In the first year he disciplined and conquered his body and its
In the next six years he disciplined and conquered his mind and its
In the next two years he had reduced the Universe to the Yang and
the Yin and their permutations in the trigrams of Fo-hi and the
hexagrams of King Wu.
In the last year he abolished the Yang and the Yin, and became
united with the great Tao.
All this was very satisfactory to Kwaw.
But even his iron frame had become somewhat impaired by the
unvarying diet of tinned provisions; and it was perhaps only by
virtue of this talisman that he succeeded in his famous attempt to
outdo the feats of Captain Webb. Nor was his reception less than a
triumph. So athletic a nation as the Japanese still were could not
but honour so superb an achievement, though it cost them dear,
inasmuch as the Navy League (by an astute series of political moves)
compelled the party in power to treble the Navy, build a continuous
line of forts around the sea-couast, and expend many billions of yen
upon the scientific breeding of a more voracious species of shark
than had hitherto infested their shores.
So they carried Kwaw shoulder-high to the Yoshiwara, and passed him
the glad hand, and called out the Indians, and annexed his personal
property for relics, and otherwise followed the customs of the best
New York Society, while the German Band accompanied the famous Ka Ru
So to the following delightful ballad:
CHORUS. Blow the tom-tom, bang the
Let us all be merry!
I’m a party with acute
Monday I’m a skinny critter
Blow the cymbal, bang the zither!
Tuesday I have dropsy.
Wednesday cardiac symptoms come;
Blow the fiddle, strum the drum!
Friday I’m paretic.
If on Saturday my foes
Join in legions serried,
Then, on Sunday, I suppose,
I’ll be beri-beried!
One need not be intimately familiar with
the Japanese character to understand that Kwaw and his feat were
forgotten in a very few days; but a wealthy Daimio, with a taste for
observation, took it into his head to inquire of Kwaw for what
purpose he had entered the country in so strange a manner. It will
simplify matters if I reproduce in extenso the correspondence, which
was carried on by telegram.
(1) Who is your honourable self,
and why has your excellency paid us cattle the distinguished
compliment of a visit.
(2) This disgusting worm is great Tao. I humbly beg of your
sublime radiance to trample his slave.
(3) Regret great toe unintelligible.
(4) Great Tao—T. A. O.—Tao.
(5) What is the great Tao.
(6) The result of subtracting the universe from itself.
(7) Good, but this decaying dog cannot grant your honourable
excellency’s sublime desire, but, on the contrary, would
earnestly pray your brilliant serenity to spit upon his
(8) Profound thought assures your beetle-headed suppliant
that your glorious nobility must meet him before the
controversy can be decided.
(9) True. Would your sublimity condescend to defile himself
by entering this muck-sweeper’s miserable hovel?
(10) Expect leprous dragon with beri beri at your high
mightiness’s magnificent heavenly palace to-morrow
(Thursday) afternoon at three sharp. Thus met Kwaw, the
poet-philosopher of China; and Jujum the godfather of his
Sublime moment in eternity! To the names
of Joshua and Hezekiah add that of Kwaw! For though he was a quarter
of an hour late for the appointment, the hands went back on the dial
of Juju’s chronometer, so that no shadow of distrust or annoyance
clouded the rapture of that supreme event.
“WHAT,” said Juju, “O great Tao, do
you recommend as a remedy for the ills of my unhappy country?”
The sage replied as follows:
“O mighty and magniloquent Daimio,
your aristocracy is not an aristocracy because it is not an
aristocracy. In vain you seek to alter this circumstance by
paying the noxious vermin of the Dai Li Pai Pur to write fatuous
falsehoods maintaining that your aristocracy is an aristocracy
because it is an aristocracy.
“As Heracleitus overcame the antinomy of Xenophanes and
Parmenides, Melissus and the Eleatic Zeno, the Ens and the Non-Ens
by his Becoming, so let me say to you; the aristocracy will be
an aristocracy by becoming an aristocracy.
“Ki Ra Di and his dirty-faced friends wish to level down the
good practice to the bad theory; you should oppose them by
levelling up the bad theory to the good practice.
“Your enviers boast that you are no better than they; prove to
them that they are as good as you. They speak of a nobility of
fools and knaves; show to them wise and honest men, and the
socialistic ginger is no longer hot in the individualistic
Juju grunted assent. He had gone almost
to sleep, but Kwaw, absorbed in his subject, never noticed the fact.
He went on with the alacrity of a steam-roller, and the direct and
purposeful vigour of a hypnotized butterfly.
“Man is perfected by his identity
with the great Tao. Subsidiary to this he must have balanced
perfectly the Yang and the Yin. Easier still is it to rule the
sixfold star of Intellect; while for the base the control of the
body and its emotions is the earliest step.
“Equilibrium is the great law, and perfect equilibrium is
crowned by identity with the great Tao.”
He emphasized this sublime assertion by
a deliberate blow upon the protruding abdomen of the worthy Juju.
“Pray continue your honourable
discourse!” exclaimed the half-awakened Daimio.
Kwaw went on, and I think it only fair
to say that he went on for a long time, and that because you have
been fool enough to read thus far, you have no excuse for being fool
enough to read farther.
“Phenacetin is a useful drug in
fever, but woe to that patient who shall imbibe it in collapse.
Because calomel is a dangerous remedy in appendicitis, we do not
condemn its use in simple indigestions.
“As above so beneath! said Hermes the thrice greatest. The laws
of the physical world are precisely paralleled by those of the
moral and intellectual sphere. To the prostitute I prescribe a
course of training by which she shall comprehend the holiness of
sex. Chastity forms part of that training, and I should hope to
see her one day a happy wife and mother. To the prude equally I
prescribe a course of training by which she shall comprehend the
holiness of sex. Unchastity forms part of that training, and I
should hope to see her one day a happy wife and mother.
“To the bigot I commend a course of Thomas Henry Huxley; to the
infidel a practical study of ceremonial magic. Then, when the
bigot has knowledge and the infidel faith, each may follow
without prejudice his natural inclination; for he will no longer
plunge into his former excess.
“So also she who was a prostitute from native passion may
indulge with safety in the pleasure of love; she who was by
nature cold may enjoy a virginity in no wise marred by her
disciplinary course of unchastity. But the one will understand
and love the other.
“I have been taxed with assaulting what is commonly known as
virtue. True; I hate it, but only in the same degree as I hate
what is commonly known as vice.
“So it must be acknowledgged that one who is but slightly
unbalanced needs a milder correction than whoso is obsessed by
prejudice. There are men who make a fetish of cleanliness; they
shall work in a fitter’s shop, and learn that dirt is the mark
of honourable toil. There are those whose lives are rendered
wretched by the fear of infection; they see bacteria of the
deadliest sort in all things but the actual solutions of
carbolic acid and mercuric chloride with which they hysterically
combat their invisible foemen; such would I send to live in the
bazaar at Delhi, where they shall haply learn that dirt makes
little difference after all.
“There are slow men who need a few months’ experience of the
hustle of the stockyards; there are business men in a hurry, and
they shall travel in Central Asia to acquire the art of repose.
“So much for the equilibrium, and for two months in every year
each member of your governing classes shall undergo this
training under skilled advice.
“But what of the Great Tao? For one month in every year each of
these men shall seek desperately for the Stone of the
Philosophers. By solitude and fasting for the social and
luxurious, by drunkenness and debauch for the austere, by
scourging for those afraid of physical pain, by repose for the
restless, and toil for the idle, by bullfights for the
humanitarian, and the care of little children for the callous,
by rituals for the rational, and by philosophy for the
credulous, shall these men, while yet unbalanced, seek to attain
to unity with the great Tao. But for those whose intellect is
purified and co-ordinated, for those whose bodies are in health,
and whose passions are at once eager and controlled, it shall be
lawful to choose their own way to the One Goal; videlicit,
identity with that great Tao which is above the antithesis of
Yang and Yin.”
Even Kwaw felt tired, and applied
himself to saké-and-soda. Refreshed, he continued:
“The men who are willing by this
means to become the saviours of their country shall be called
the Synagogue of Satan, so as to keep themselves from the
friendship of the fools who mistake names for things. There
shall be masters of the Synagogue, but they shall never seek to
dominate. They shall most carefully abstain from inducing any
man to seek the Tao by any other way than that of equilibrium.
They shall develop individual genius without considering whether
in their opinion its fruition will tend to the good or evil of
their country or of the world; for who are they to interfere
with a soul whose balance has been crowned by the most holy Tao?
“The masters shall be great men among men; but among great men
they shall be friends.
“Since equilibrium will have become perfect, a greater than
Napoleon shall arise, and the peaceful shall rejoice thereat; a
greater than Darwin, and the minister in his pulpit give open
thanks to God.
“The instructed infidel shall no longer sneer at the church-goer,
for he will have been compelled to go to church until he saw the
good points as well as the bad; and the instructed devotee will
no longer detest the blasphemer, because he will have laughed
with Ingersoll and Saladin.
“Give the lion the heart of the lamb, and the lamb the force of
the lion; and they will lie down in peace together.”
Kwaw ceased, and the heavy and regular breathing of Juju assured
him that his words had not been wasted; at last that restless
and hurried soul had found supreme repose.
Kwaw tapped the gong. “I have achieved my task,” said he to the
obsequious majordomo, “I pray leave to retire from the
Presence.” “I beg your excellencey to follow me,” replied the
gorgeous functionary, “his lordship has commanded me to see that
your holiness is supplied with everything that you desire.” Then
the sage laughed aloud.
SIX months passed by, and Juju, stirring
in his sleep, remembered the duties of politeness, and asked for
“He is on your lordship’s estate at
Nikko,” the servants hastened to reply, “and he has turned the
whole place completely upside down. Millions of yen have been
expended monthly; he has even mortgaged the very palace in which
your lordship has been asleep; a body of madmen has seized the
reins of government—”
“The Synagogue of Satan!” gasped the outraged Daimio.
“—And you are everywhere hailed as the Godfather of your
“Do not tell me that the British war
has ended disastrously for us!” and he called for the elaborate
apparatus of hari-kiri.
“On the contrary, my lord, the ridiculous Sa Mon, who would
never go to sea because he was afraid of being sick, although
his genius for naval strategy had no equal in the Seven Abysses
of Water, after a month as stowaway on a fishing boat (by the
orders of Kwaw) assumed the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, and
has inflicted a series of complete and crushing defeats upon the
British Admirals, who though they had been on the water all
their lives, had incomprehensibly omitted to acquire any truly
accurate knowledge of the metaphysical systems of Sho Pi Naour
and Ni Tchze.
“Again, Hu Li, the financial genius, who had hitherto been
practically useless to his country on account of that ugliness
and deformity which led him to shun the society of his fellows,
was compelled by Kwaw to exhibit himself as a freak. A fortnight
of this cured him of shyness; and within three months he has
nearly doubled the revenue and halved the taxes. Your lordship
has spent millions of yen; but is to-day a richer man than when
your excellency went to sleep.”
“I will go and see this Kwaw,” said the Daimio. The servants
then admitted that the Mikado in person had been waiting at the
palace door for over three months, for the very purpose of
begging permission to conduct him thither, but that he had been
unwilling to disturb the sleep of the Godfather of his country.
Impossible to describe the affecting
scene when these two magnanimous beings melted away (as it were) in
each other’s arms.
Arrived at the estate of Juju at Nikko, what wonder did these
worthies express to see the simple means by which Kwaw had worked
his miracles! In a glade of brilliant cherry and hibiscus (and any
other beautiful trees you can think of) stood a plain
building of stone, which after all had not cost millions of yen, but
a very few thousands only. Its height was equal to its breadth, and
its length was equal to the sum of these, while the sum of these
three measurements was precisely equal to ten times the age of Kwaw
in units of the span of his hand. The walls were tremendously thick,
and there was only one door and two windows, all in the eye of the
sunset. One cannot describe the inside of the building, because to
do so would spoil the fun for other people. It must be seen to be
understood, in any case; and there it stands to this day, open to
anybody who is strong enough to force in the door.
But when they asked for Kwaw, he was not to be found. He had left
trained men to carry out the discipline and the initiations, these
last being the chief purpose of the building, saying that he was
homesick for the lions and lizards of Wei-Hai-Wei, and that anyway
he hadn’t enjoyed a decent swim for far too long.
There is unfortunately little room for doubt that the new and
voracious species of sharks (which Japanese patriotism had spent
such enormous sums in breeding) is responsible for the fact that he
has never again been heard of.
The Mikado wept; but, brightening up, exclaimed:
“Kwaw found us a confused and angry
mob; he left us a diverse, yet harmonious, republic; while let
us never forget that not only have we developed men of genius in
every branch of practical life, but many among us have had our
equilibrium crowned by that supreme glory of humanity,
realization of our identity with the great and holy Tao.”
Wherewith he set aside no less than
three hundred and sixty-five days in every year, and one extra day
every fourth year, as days of special rejoicing.
OF THE PHILOSOPHERS WHICH IS HIDDEN IN THE MOUNTAIN
“And a certain woman cast a
piece of a mill stone upon Abimelech, and all to brake
“Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken;
but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to
“Qu’est-ce donc, en verité, que ce pierre? C’est le
fondement de la philosophie absolue, c’est le suprême et
“One day when I was all alone
I found a wondrous little stone.
It lay forgotten on the road
Far from the ways of man’s abode.
When on this stone mine eyes I cast
I saw my Treasure found at last.
• O Stone, so red and rare and wise!
O fragment of far Paradise! ” MACHEN
MOUNTAIN OF INITIATION
HOLBEIN HOUSE suggests rather Hogarth.
It is one of those sordid barracks where the Martinet of Realism,
Society, pens his privates. Whoso sees an inhabitant thereof
thenceforward for ever must believe in the predestination of the
damned. Are we so far progressed as to interpret the saying “The
Englishman’s home is his castle” in the light of the fact that once
a man lay dead in his room for seven weeks, all undisturbed?
Thus far the Socialist. To him enter a Man. Sayeth, the fate of men
is naught; we measure mountain ranges by their peaks, not by their
plains. And forthwith the man must seek in Holbein House for some
crown of the age, some Venus floating newborn in that Dead Sea, some
God new-lit upon that Limbo. As also it is written.
We follow him to its smallest garret, deserted by the rats, since
they found nor room nor victual, but tenanted by men. Arthur Gray
was a poet who had abandoned alike his father’s favour and his jam
factory. Caring for nothing but his books, he lived in Holbein
House, year in, year out. Looking at the blank wall opposite, he had
seen God face to face, and died. When he spoke he was not
understood, for his words were the words of a dead God.
Basil Gray, his brother, had come hot-foot from West Africa to see
him. Basil had just made the great march from Tetuan to Lagos, and
the love of his only brother burnst strong in him, and the hunger
for his face.
Basil, looking upon the blind face of the desert, his body withered
in the furnace of the sand, had seen God face to face, and died.
Basil spoke, therefore, as a dead God speaks, and only children
At Gibralter, on the way home, he had fallen in with Denzil Roberts,
that foolish globe-trotter, secularist, and philanthropist-at-large.
Denzil had just returned from a silly “sentimental journey” through
Spain, and gazing on the sunset from the western tower of the
Alhambra he had come nigh to seeing God.
Saddened and sane, he yet could recognize the magnificent insanity
of Basil, and had come home with him to learn the way to the gate
that men call Madness.
The fourth occupant of the room was Arthur’s oldest friend—nay,
Desperate research, life risked again and again in strange ways,
incomprehensible to the swinish multitude, steady purpose ever
equilibrating each thought with its opposite, had brought him at the
end to the mastery of things.
So earnestly would he gaze on God, and die, that God had given him
of His own life, and sent him among men.
But men knew him not. Only the babes could understand his strange
The fifth man was a classical scholar; much learning had made him
mad. Yet, well as he knew Greek and Latin, he had not yet read
enough to see therein the luminous image of the Creator.
Last was a doctor who, gazing ever on madness, had himself become
mad. He, too, saw God, but, being already mad, died not. Men thought
they understood him, and for that reviled him. Being mad, he did not
All these men smoked heavily, and the silence of the world lay upon
the, It was only when the Man and the Socialist, invisibly seeking
some pinnacle in the plains of Holbein House, as Sigiri springs from
the table of the central province of Ceylon, came upon them, that
their influence woke them into life.
I will cause them to converse, said the Man (who was the Devil), as
it were to take you upon an high mountain and show you all the
kingdoms of the earth. I have seen them, said the Socialist. But,
said the Man, things look very different from that height.
Poverty and vice are the same from any point of view, began the
Listen! said the other.
Arthur Gray stretched his legs as well as the room would allow.
Master, your pipe is out. Read us that yarn of your turn-to with
Asmodee in Scotland. If ever a place seemed to defy God, “it is
this, it is this, it is this.” Tune our instruments, master! The big
man put away his pipe. Your brother, he said, will recognize the
And clearing his throat, he began:
OR THE DEVIL’S CONVERSION
I SEE o’ nights among the whins
The Devil walking widdershins
As stony silent as the Sphinx
I sit upon the sandy links,
And listen to the glittering spell
Of Asmodee the Goat of Hell.
He conjures up the nights of gray
And cardinal in Dahomey,
Where before kings and caboceers
The flaming cat of Hell appears;
Where witches whirl their flapping teats
Still shrieking to the drum that beats
Its monstrous call to flesh of man
Hissing and bubbling in the pan—
“Hua is God” it spelt to me;
“There is none other God than He.”
He conjures up the seas that swell
Before the hosts of Gabriel
Between the Lights in Ibis flight
Who whirls the Sword and Scales of Right.
The tall ship strikes: the rending roar
Of death devours the horrid war
Where men dash women to the deck,
Leave children wailing on the wreck. . . .
Behold the lightning’s jagged flash
Spell out the signal with its lash—
“Hua is God” (it tore the sea)
“There is none other God than He.”
He conjures up the greasy glare
Of Rupert Street by Leicester Square
Whose sodden slaves with sweat and paint
Sicken the soul and make it gaint.
Build of the slimy scales of vice
One concentrated cockatrice!
“Think!” laughs the devil,, “everywhere
Is Rupert Street by Leicester Square.”
“True!” I replied, “it spells to me:
There is none other God than He.”
He conjures up the loathly rout
Of Christians crawling in and out,
A sight as lovely to the wise
As maggots in a maiden’s eyes.
From chapel, church, and meeting-room
From brothel, hospital, and tomb,
From palace, gin-ship, workhouse, prison,
Factory, slum, their slime is risen.
The Devil said “Bestir thy wits!
Spew out those dysenteric—”
“It’s A pity” (thus I cut him short)
“Your boyhood was so badly taught.
The riddle’s simple—here’s the key!
There is none other God than He.”
He conjures up the Universe,
Men bitter bad, and women worse.
The whole disgusting Pan is shown,
Filth from the spirit to the stone.
“Read that!” he yelled. “Your eyeballs squint,
But That is surely plain as print.”
“It is,” I said, “for all to see—
There is none other God than He.”
And now the Devil strides and spins
Most furiously widdershins,
He causes two deceitful moons
To dance upon the driving dunes.
“If all’s illusion, gentle youth,
All is the enemy of Truth.
Where are you now?” “My worthy friend!”
(I answered) “take it to the end.
I do not think you prove it quite
That truth and lies are opposite.
But upon This we can agree:
There is none other God than He.”
He wrote in flame upon the grass
“This person is a perfect ass.”
He vanished in a cloud of musk.
He sent the demons of the dusk
To ramp and rage about the links
To tease me—Me, the stony Sphinx!
I smiled; I bent them to my will;
I set them dancing deosil,
And singing with seraphic glee
“There is none other God than He.”
The devil saw that he had failed,
He came back very draggle-tailed;
And, poised above me in the air,
Whined “Mr. Sphinx, now, is it fair?
My business is to rack the bones
Of saints like you and Mr. Jones!
I’m paid to accuse the brethren, sir!”
“I do not blame you, Lucifer.
I take my pleasure in your frown
Because you ‘represent the Crown.
And all your prattle means to me:
There is none other God than He.”
The Devil seemed to see the point.
Pleased that I did not say “Aroint!”
Pleased that in Asmodee I sight
Brave Lucifer, the Lord of Light,
Pleased with my Qabalistic pun
(Really a very clever one!),
Accepted all and none; became
A perfect vessel of the Flame.
He flapped his crooked and gloomy wing
And swore by God the Holy King
That all his malice should confine
Itself to this one sin of mine
And this alone, when neophytes
(Confused by the excess of lights)
Perceive not what they ought to see:
“There is none other God than He.”
Oh how the good converted Fiend
Worries those Postulants unweaned!
Though now he dances deosil
He poinds them many a purging pill.
He cleans them from their piggish food;
He brings them to beatitude.
“Hua is God!” quoth Asmodee:
“There is none other God than He.”
A silence ensured. At last, from Denzil:
you mean very much what the Hindus mean by their doctrine of Maya?
Exactly so; but of course they cannot means what they say. The
thinkable is false. All our attempts to crystallize Truth in words
are just as futile as the trickery by which the artist gets his
sunlight effects with some dull ochre. The impression’s good enough,
maybe, at a distance, as an impression. Examine it close: it goes.
God sees the clever composition; man sees the untidy brushwork. So
logic destroys our religions, despite their truth.
But, said Denzil, surely it is better to get nearer truth. I hate
all the evil that religion hs wrought. As I looked on Granada and
its cathedral, this is what I thought. Can you blame me?
And from a little leathern pocket-book he began to read these lines:
ON A PROSPECT OF
GRANADA CATHEDRAL FROM
BROWN bloated toad that squattest in the sun!
Loose thankless mouth whose greed is never done!
Old spider waiting with thy web aspin
Till all Granada thou hast gathered in!
The blood of bulls and goats would satisfy
Of old the hellish thirst of the Most High.
Well—at the worst Jehovah’s altars smoke
And hiss with flesh of his own favoured folk.
But Thou, O Christ, dost glut thy lust refined
Upon the ravaged souls of all mankind.
An excellent photograph, said the big
man. My own words just now were as strong, I think. Yet the one
answer answers all.
Arthur Grey broke in. You should hear the whole story, he said. Look
at the inmost as well as the middle. Under correction, sir (politely
to the doctor), I find that human beauty fades if we dissect the
body. Yet your microscopist (in the first place) will find the
detail of blood beautiful, just as I its banners in my lady’s face.
And in the second place, does the dissection table reveal all? Is
there no spirit, lovely even to me, of which my lady’s bones and
nerves are but the weak expression?
So strongly do I agree with you, returned the madman, that I have
written a poem on the unattractive subject of ovariotomy. It must
not shock you; I am mad, and claim the immunities of my limitations.
I say nothing of your spirit theory; to me, ignorant as I am, it
seems easier to call a nerve God and so explain its functions, than
to imagine a God using that nerve as an instrument. We can kill a
nerve; can we then baulk God of His effects? This is no less
blasphemous than to say we kill God when we cut the nerve. If a man
understand not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he
understand God whom he hath not seen? Materialism is fertile, though
it lead to its opposite. Theism is sterile. How would you treat an
engine-driver who tried to make his engine go by prayer and
philosophy? But I am mad. Here is my poem, then.
Having the memory of a madman, he recited it by heart.
I LOVE you, lass, and you alone.
What shall I say now death and life
Wrangle before the jasper throne
And cry to God to end the strife?
Kind words? a little good advice?
Patience, and fortitude, and prayer?
Tracts are so suitable, and nice?
“Dear chyild, there’ll be no parting there!”?
O bourgeoisie! you read no doubt,
But you still have a lot to learn.
I am a lover, not a lout
My thoughts take quite another turn.
I who have bitten through your skin
Envy the surgeon who could dip
His deft and conscious fingers in
Your bowels, and twitch a scornful lip.
I would have paddled in you, played
Childlike and cloudless of your pain.
I would have kissed the wound, and made
A pleasant ripple in your brain.
Within the startling lovlier mouth
New-cut my brother torch should flare
And pour to ease its awful drouth
The poison of a Baudelaire.
O fool! not thus the Intimate
Gives up its secret to the soul.
Truth flied beyond, inviolate
And slips beside the glancing goal.
Who probes the body gains a fact,
Yet leaves an equal fact behind;
So gathering for the cataract
Roll up the rapid waves of mind.
Swift as the light at last they leap
Into the cavern of despair;
Of all their freshest force they keep
But froth and smoke and empty air.
O fool! to deem dissection truth
And paint and patches but a blind!
The enthusiasm of a youth
Is worth the sage and cynic mind.
O Buddha! couldst thou nowhere rest
A pivot for the universe?
Must all things be alike confessed
Mere changes rung upon a curse?
I swear by all the bliss of blue
My Phryne with her powder on
Is just as false—and just as true—
As your disgusting skeleton.
Each to his taste: if you prefer
This loathy brooding on Decay,
I call it Growth, and lovelier
Than all the glamours of the day.
Which of us likes his house the best?
You who find filth on every floor?
I, in the privy who attest
A something worthy to adore?
The end is—you are always sick;
You always quarrel with your meat.
My raptures follow fast and thick:
I even tend to overeat.
You would not dally with Doreen
Because her fairness was to fade,
Because you knew the things unclean
That go to make a mortal maid.
I, if her rotten corpse were mine,
Would take it as my natural food,
Denying all but the Divine
Alike in evil and in good.
Aspasia may skin me close,
And Lais load me with disease.
Poor pleasures, bitter bargains, those?
I still despise Diogenes.
Why must the prig be still the judge?
The Deadly-Livelies audit life?
Ask of the drone about the drudge!
Compute the mistress by the wife!
Why? Because Jesus helps them to!
Converted William snubs the King.
No doubt the soapy godly crew
Can turn their hands to anything!
Alas! the days of Christ are gone:
The callous King supports the snub:
Campaspe’s lips gush Lethe on
The schoolboy-trickset in the Tub.
O restless rats that gnaw the bones
Of Aristophanes and Paul!
Come up to me and Mr. Jones
And see the rapture of it all!
This moral sense is sorry stuff—
You take the peas—give me the pod!
Follow your fancy far enough!
At last you surely come to God.
Who is Mr. Jones? asked Denzil. We have
heard of him from our friend here already.
Mr. Jones, said the big man, is the Unutterable Tao.
Mr. Jones, said the doctor, is (on this illusory plane of Maya) one
of the wonders of the world. He is never seen or heard, felt or
smelt. Nor hath he been at any time tasted of any. Yet he is
everywhere; in all, and causer of all, and apart from all. By
profession he is a curator at the British Museum; but that is going
very low indeed upon the plane of Maya.
I have already told you, said the big man, that Mr. Jones is the
Unutterable Tao. Why not leave it at that?
I will, said Basil, if Arthur will read us something. I know what he
was leading up to when our friend—played with his opponent’s ball.
A brother is a dreadful handicap! sighed Arthur. Still, here you
And he read:
I BRUISED your body with the whip
Its wheals stand out in ridgéd azure.
The savage blood upon your lip
Images hurt, and hurt’s erasure.
The pain transmuted into passion;
And passion’s ruin was not pain;
But my pain wears another fashion;
My dead men do not rise again.
You hurt me, and the silent skin
Whispers no word of bleeding bruises;
Your subtle hate, your cunning skin
Brands and corrodes me where it chooses
I fear not them that kill the body, But rather them
that hurt the soul:
My soul with your disdain is bloody;
Your stripes are none to make me whole.
Could you but see my vitals torn,
My nerves on rack, my tortured spirit—
Of all the ills to mortals born
This is the sorest to inherit.
If you could see the branded token
Of your invisible whip, the scars
Of your intangible knife, the unspoken
Agonies, silent as the stars!
Then you should count the agéd lines
That wrinkle up my boy’s blithe beauty:—
The Judge of all the Earth divines
My wrongs and yours, and does his duty.
For you in heaven shall bloom and burgeon,
And I in hell shall howl and groan.
Ah! God is an unskilful surgeon;
We both shall weep to be alone!
For we are one and may not part;
And though we hurt, we love, believe me!
Nor would I in my inmost heart
Of one of all your stabs bereave me.
No man can hurt the indifferent stranger,
No woman wound the casual friend.
There is a glory born of danger;
What anger gat, desire may end.
Give me the phrenzy of your lip!
My heart accepts your usurpature.
Your body leaps beneath the whip;
Our pain is in love’s very nature.
It is enough. The woe is over,
The woe begins; the vial brims,
And all the anguish of your lover
And you is hidden in wrestling limbs.
Drain the black cup of bruiséd blood!
Its bitter shall beget devotion,
And Bacchus sweep its frenzied flood
Into the Eleusinian ocean!
Certainly, the plane is very low indeed.
We hardly came here to learn that! said Basil indignantly. We all
know that cold-blooded murder (even) may become a duty— witness
Hodson and the pistolling of the Delhi Princes!
His brother laughed: I don’t know about duty, but to murder you in
cold blood would be a pleasure.
Dear old chap! responded Basil, with a awarm pressure of the hand.
Open the whisky, and you’ll feel better!
Which being gone about, the irrepressible doctor broke in with a
story of his youth.
I will never assent to murder, said he. It’s inartistic. I dined
forty years ago in the Apennines with an Italian Prince, and he
entirely converted me. I put down his words in verse. They are being
published by the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. If
a supreme aesthete like the Prince botches it (this is their idea)
how much more must we detest the crude melodramas of the Law! The
proceeds are to be devoted to the artistic education of the Common
Hangman—as a palliative measure.
Wiertz and Beardsley, Sime and O’Sullivan? suggested the Scholar,
separating his fingers widely to illustrate his “Three fingers only,
please!” to their host.
Now, doctor, said Basil, your Italian Prince!
SHALL we sit here? A lovely night!
What you were saying, though, is right:
Man scorns repulsion and attraction;
Woman is wholly reflex action.
I’ll tell you of s splendid joke
I had once. Have another smoke?
No? Well. I wanted to determine
Rightly the nature of the vermin.
(A pity scientific study
Makes the hands poisonous and bloody!)
You seen yon finger chaste and cool
That moonlight flings across the pool?
It seems to tempt a man to swim.
I have as sharp and straight and slim
A blade whose glamour makes one reel
And dazzles death upon the steel.
Oh! the stiletto! supple joy—
As if some soft Italian boy
With all his slender strength alive
Laughed in a deep Narcissus dive.
I used to poise its light aloft
Above Carlotta sleepy-soft.
The dusky gold enamoured eyes
And bloom of down would harmonzie.
She used to scold it in pretence
Of envy of its excellence.
We laughed—but not at the same joke.
All girls are blind with their own smoke.
A man may come, his lazy day,
Cuddle and coo an hour away,
Yet in his heart is bound to feel:
“No woman’s worth an inch of steel.”
Woman has always played the sphinx.
An open secret! How the minx
Covers her single aim, poor saint!
With many a foxy futile feint.
The same thing civilized or wild:
“I want a man: I want a child.”
Man has a real secret—kept
Close as a Rosy Cross adept!
The safer that the sapient sheep
Have never guessed he’d one to keep.
Unveil the Pyramid of Stone!
He simply wants to be alone.
Women suspect it. Tell one that
To change her to a frenzied cat!
’Tis the one cliff where all their waves
Break back to spurned and shattered graves.
A man (at heart they’re well aware)
May love, maybe! can never care.
I bore you with an old fool’s prosing?
No? I was right, then, in supposing
Modern conditions hamper youths
Who seek to grasp these simply Truths.
But to my yarn. Carlotta lay
So sleepy-soft one summer’s day
That really I could not resist it.
I took the dagger out and kissed it.
Like a cat’s tongue that daintily laps,
I slipped it in between her paps.
At first, of course, the shrieking swerves
One’s thought: it irritates the nerves;
And out of tone the laughter lies
At the poor innocent’s surprise.
But soon there triumphs cool and clean
The touching pathos of the scene.
No word of anger, be assured!
A strange soft wonder, long immured
Within her, lit her lovely face
With something of Our Lady’s grace.
“What did you kill me
for, my Lord?”
As if my answer must accord
With some most lucid miracle
Of love too sweet to think or tell.
“Kiss me again before I die!”
And, as I kissed her, tenderly
Shone like pale flames the sullen spheres
Of dewy light, of eager tears.
She touched my soul’s divinest chord:
“I am so happy, dear my Lord.”
And, breaking to the spirit bliss,
“I go, dear. O so keen to kiss
Our baby when I get to God!”
Charming! Why, damn it now! that’s odd.
I’m surely in my dotage, Dick!
A sniveller makes me fairly sick.
• Well, here’s the Devil in Eden still;
No good we do but turns to ill:
Art’s but a crust o’er natures chasms.
Death caught her with his comic spasms.
They turned her fairly inside out,
Jerking her legs and arms about
Like a damned dancing marionette.
I could not light my cigarette:
I started laughing. Laugh? I laughed—
I rocked my body fore and aft—
I fairly yelled! To crown the event
Her wonder at my merriment:
That beat the band. I really wonder
However I came to, by thunder!—
Ha! Ha! You hear—it somehow jars.
Bad art, my boy! The Devil mars
Our best. You want a tender gray,
Prepare your palette half the day,
Take brush, and find to your surprise
The snout of scarlet stab your eyes.
Bad art, my boy! I never cared
To try the piece again.
• We’ve aired
Our dinner. By the way, though, here
You are. That’s it! How smooth and clear
The moonlight runs from point to hilt!
Steel in the end beats silver-gilt!
Well, there’s an end of my cigar:
The girls will wonder where we are.
Strange! how this question of motive
decieves historians—and others! said the scholar. Froude was hardly
a fool; but his Henry the Eighth is incredible. So is the
conventional monster. I for one shall not be surprised at the Day of
Judgement to here that the Constantine of Protestantism was actuated
by some quite simple motive like suppressed vegetarianism.
Very likely it never happened at all, said Denzil thoughtfully.
Nothing ever did. Look at the Christ-myth. The Trial and Death and
so on—mere stage-directions from a ritual of Mithraism. . . .
But who was Mithras? asked the big man. Like any other question, it
goes on for ever, till you get to the big question.
With your answer to it, said Basil.
On the question of motive, though, said the Doctor, I like your
theory of Messalina as an ascetic. Since the divine consciousness
only appears as the negation of the human, and is only to be
attained by wearing out all the sensation-points, till no response
occurs to any stimulus—
Nonsense! interjected the big man, one can control them, not destroy
them. Only morbid “Union with God” is attained by fast, vigil,
scourging, and the like.
Morbid or no, continued the doctor, most saints have used this
method. What I was about to say was that since we wish to overcome
the body by fatigue, we shall do just as wisely to seek Union with
God in excessive debauch. If done with the same purpose, and sleep
successfully banished, the same result will occur. If your Messalina
failed—well, what does the poet say? Try, try, try again! Read us
your verses, Jack!
And with a disdainful glance at his clothes, as much as to say
“Where’s my toga?” the scholar began:
THE RETURN OF MESSALINA
FROM the marsh of the Maremma the malaria is drawn By
the gray and chilly breezes of the autumn and the dawn In
the silence as we shiver who is yonder that we see With the
hair fallen loose about her, with the stole about her knee?
All her flesh is loose and fallen, and her eyes are wet and
wild, And she staggers as she wallows like a woman big with
child. How she gasps and stares about her! How she shivers!
Are the hosts Of her lovers there to haunt her, life’s
lupanar thick with ghosts? How her teeth are clenched with
horror! How her lips are curled and wried As she staggers to
the palace weary and unsatisfied!
Surely I have done the utmost! (all the demon in her wails)
Is it spirit that disdains me? Is it only flesh that fails?
Did Danae win to slumber at the thrust of griveous gold?
Did the Bull bring Pasiphae to the palace of the cold?
Could the sea avail to Sappho drifting dead upon the foam?
What shall save me, Messalina, save the majesty of Rome?
Shall I wreck my life with roses, hurt my flesh with flames
All is vain!—for I have conquered both the mortals and the
Gods. In the garden of Priapus, in the land of lost desire,
I have made myself a monster and my soul a snake of fire.
Ho! it stings me! Ho! it poisons! all the flesh is branded
through, Branded with the steel of Vulcan, with the lava’s
deadly dew. All the kisses of the satyr, all the punishments
of Pan, All Eros hath given of arrows to the eyes of maid
and man, At their lips and live I suffered—I have borne me
as a queen:
Hear the roar of after aeons that acclaim me Messaline!
Woe is me! the waves of ages—icier, icier as they roll—
May not cover up my stature, may not quench this devil-soul.
Here’s the palace. I must enter sly and secret as a thief.
I would rather blazon, blazon, this my night beyond belief.
I, a worn Suburrian Venus reeking with a fouler foam,
Sucked within me in the darkness the virility of Rome.
Now’s the light, the light accurséd: I must get me to the
feast, Stupefy this Panic spirit, throw a posset to the
• Hail, ye Gods! ye Gods infernal! here salutes ye Hercules!
I am come to bring my spirit free of ye and forth of these.
I am Orpheus! I will charm ye, bring Eurydice to light—
Ah, my lords! Alas the omen! who shall turn me all to right?
Who of all our proud Olympus shall avail me or befriend?
Ah, my lords! but I am weary.
See ye any one the end?
Nay! we saw her grope and stumble for the secret sidelong
Lift the latch with trembling fingers, pass within and be no
There we stood and worshipped sadly (for the cry had touched
Worshipped till the gray was azure as the sun rekindled
You may be right, said Basil, in
thinking as you evidently do that much of the ceremonial debauchery
of the Pagan worships was a true mystical process. Indeed, at this
day there are many cults in India (also, I believe, in the South
Seas) of what is called Vamacharya. Religious frenzy is invoked by
the aid of the Erotic and Bacchic frenzies mingled with that of the
Muse of the Tom-Tom. Soma, bhang, arraq, and the Uniting of the
Lingam and the Yoni! All, mind you, by a most elaborate ritual.
But, on the other hand, there is perfect
purity of thought in much of the avowedly Phallic symbolism of the
world. For just as the sexual pleasure is entirely in a class by
itself among (or rather, above) physical pleasures; so is
Samadhi—union with God— in a class by itself among (or rather,
above) mental pleasures. Who, therefore, would make an hieroglpyph
of the latter formless ecstasy can do no better than by drawing a
picture of the former, under the image of its physical instrument.
Hence the Rose and Cross, Sphinx and Pyramid, Sulphur and Salt,
Black and White Pillars of the temple—in short, all the “pairs of
opposites” in the world. (Politely, to the big man.) As you were
saying just now.
Their literature? hinted the scholar.
Basil took up the glove. The Eastern is such a paradox that one
hates to lay down the law. A Sufi (for example) no doubt writes
erotic verse for the divine reason I have stated; but also, I
believe him to be very glad of the excuse, because he is just as
dirty-minded a beast as you and I.
I suspect the semi-erotic verse more than that which is untinctured.
Why conceal your meaning under a symbol and then go on to explain it
all? If language is valid, why use the symbol? If invalid, why use
it at all?
Thus I can believe the Song of Solomon (unadulterated filth, with
not a word about Yoga) to be a purely mystic treatise; but if the
writer had inserted the inane “explanations” which pollute our
Bibles—Christ and the Church, and that stuff— faugh!—I should
certainly have thought he was trying to palm off his purulence under
the guise of religion.
An Oriental Kensit! cried the scholar.
Just so, and the pious prurient would buy it and taboo “Dolores”
added Arthur Gray.
Well, judge this! concluded Basil. It’s a pretty free adaptation
from the Arabic—or what passes for Arabic in Marocco! he
And diving into his shooting-jacket, he produced and read:
O DESERT sand! how still and prone the large-eyed boy upon
thy breast Lies in El Maghrab’ in the West, and makes his low
luxurious moan! How still the stars that watch above! how his
lover, lapsed for joy To death upon the dying boy, the boy
dissolved and lost in love! Even as a serpent in the grass their
passion stole upon them there Within the warm ambrosial air, the
intoxicating midnight mass. The pale boy lifted high the cup;
the swarthy priest insanely poured That utmost unction of the
Lord, that only Gods might drink it up. Wherefore indeed the
holy Jinn that have embraced “addin Islam” Arose from their
colossal calm, and smote the paramours of sin.
Shrieking they fled, and all was
still; the perfume of the place was spilt Even on the domes of
ivory gilt that soar on Allah’s holy hill. I saw the threescore
iron kings smite thrice upon the Burning Throne Till Mecca’s
black enchaunted stone resolved the rapture of their wings. The
proud Emirs bowed low before the awful fervour of the wind That
rose their steely flight behind, and set him lion-like to roar.
And as the Dervish howls and whirls its savour catches him and
lifts His sould (beyond the mind that drifts) into the Treasure
House of Pearls. Even to the icy solitude of death a gust of
scent is borne An herald of the awaking morn to that unhappy
An herald of the healing kiss of maids with eyes of white and
black Whose heavenly kips shall woo them back into a bright
eternal bliss. O laughter of delicious boys that bring the cup
and pour the wine And with their rosy limbs entwine fresh
garlands of mirific joys!
The boy is prone upon the stand; he lies as one who nestles in
Some arbour delicate of sin built by the Everlasting Hand. His
lover is the Open Eye, that kindles Light within the Abyss, And
wakes with His immortal kiss enthusiastic energy.
Weep Thou again, O weeping One! Thy tears that gush within the
goal Are songs that shudder in the soul, and springs that
gladden at the sun. They flood me with irradiate tunes of life
and ecstasy and light As though some misty maid of night were
girded with a million moons. They make my pulsing blood to pour
in rhythmic throbs of music rare;
My songs shall course the choral air from Mazaghan to Mogador.
And leaping all the lesser bars I shall become the One and All,
And cry the cross-dissolving call, and lose myself among the
This is indeed paradox, cried the
scholar. You embolden me to read my “Mask of Gilt.” I defy the
subtlest of you to find a moral or a hieroglyph in it; so according
to you it must be the only decent poem read yet.
You are itching to read it, said the big man, for you love the
bestial. We are fairly trapped. Open the window, some one, and
remember that He is God alone, and that there is none other God than
Right as usual, said the scholar. It’s a true story, in a way. I’ve
seen the mask myself, and I believe it.
THE GILT MASK
IN Florence in the days of old there dwelt a craftsman pale and
The Devil entered into him, and fanned his soul with plumes of
He offered all he chose to ask. “O snatch this itching soul
away, So that thou animate my clay and finish me this magic
The Devil brought him graving tools; the first a ravening
disease, The cold corrupting masterpiece of Christ the god of
The second, bright as burning coal, a white and wanton wolf of
sin Who had an icy flame within the ulcer that she called her
Long years he bent him to the task; he worked his torture and
his lust Out of the horror of the dust into the horror of the
The mewing lecherous devils crept out of the strongholds of the
hills, And filled their blood with noisome thrills before the
work of the adept.
The ghuls that gloat on corpses cold would gather, glutted with
their meat, And give it dead man’s chops to eat, and dead man’s
bones to rub the gold;
While stinking goats and cats would come to link in infamies
While beat the witches oiled and furred their buttocks on the
Yet still the dying craftsman strove to work his lust and pain
within The glittering avatar of sin that seemed to mock him as
At last his visage pale and grim lights with the laughter of the
The Devil comes and praises it, and lays a wreath of fire on
“Well hast thou wrought, O Florentine! Thy work hath gathered in
its spell The Daughters of the Lords of Hell, the Goddess-goats,
“These shall adore it age by age; to these shall it give lust
and force, Absolve their spirits of remorse, and make them sage
among the sage.
“Its eyes shall gleam when Borgia goes simpering to her
stallion, Her hair bedecked, her jewels on—to please her
neighing, champing spouse.
“It shall smile loose on Katherine wallowing in the mire of
blood, Her lover’s cold congealing flood paying their silly hour
“Salammbô mated with an asp shall shudder at its leering face,
And kiss the gilded lips, and lace her serpent in a closer
“It shall inspire the dews of death that stand on Brinvilliers
the smooth And strangle all her woman’s ruth, envenoming the
baby breath. “It shall revolve to hellish bliss the
water-torture and the wheel;
In all their pangs she shall not feel aught but my
“Its satyr lips shall writhe in prayer to nameless Nubian whores
that mate With swinish kisses to abate the black desire of
“So after many a house of sin it finds at last a pungent home
Sweet as a poisoned honeycomb—a fairer fouler Katherine!
“With cooing laughter she shall press the monster to her golden
teats, Feed its desire on all her sweets with many a mesterufl
“Its wisdom shall invigorate her soul to heights of hideous joy
To match her with the equal boy that shall be master of her
“She shall attain a man to excel her strong satanic womanhood:
Their love shall break the mask of wood, reveal the authentic
face of Hell.”
All this the craftsman heard with prinde: he called: his
sickness and his whore
Together at his vitals tore, and rent him that he laughted and
died. So with the last convulsive shred of spending life, his
fingers fold So subtly on that face of gold that all its peace
And there it hangs, a thought
obscene, to haunt our love with damnéd ghosts—
Hark to their execrable hosts exulting as I kiss Katrine!
It conquers? We will show it things memorial of its splendours
Things grosser than it looked upon where Neva rolls or Tiber
We shall exceed: its lips unclean shall answer at the Judgement
“The greatest of them all, I say, were this my poet and his
Ah, God! we look upon the Thames: the Arno’s palaces are gone.
Dull glows the misty horizon with London’s stinking stratagems.
But lift the lid of earth and see the good flame gush and wrap
For us, the Gods of the Profound, may England equal Italy.
And I who revelled with Faustine in Rome make madder music here
Who poise upon my bleeding spear the severed kisses of Katrine.
I eat her flesh: I drink her blood. God! could I love a woman
more By Arno’s flower-enamelled shore, or Father Tiber’s tawny
And reeking with her lusty life I hack the gilded mask and burn
With joy and hate. Aha! to turn to my own guts the glutted
O Satan! stand morose and cold above our bodies swimming thus
And plunge thy glory into us, and fan our death with plumes of
Write with our blood before thee spilt on catafalque and
The dire monition of our doom, the story of the Mask of Gilt.
The paradox is right, by Heaven!
exclaimed the big man. That poem is bad enough, but a long
explanation—qui s’excuse s’accuse. Better look for God in the filth
itself than in the lame excuse for it!
I once knew people as mad as that, said the Doctor. They were all
right; they knew their own business; but they were misunderstood—and
they’re in the Asylum at this minute.
Misunderstanding! said the big man; why will people try to judge
others? I know less of my own brain—and à fortiori of my
brother’s—than I do of an oyster. Yet I try to instruct my brother,
and let the oyster gang his ain gait.
Read that jest of yours about the Qabalistic Rabbi! said Arthur.
I will. He was the dearest old man in the world; absolutely
incapable of doing anything to shock the most puritanical. Yet his
curious studies in the Zohar got him a reputation unfit even to
He was too innocent to guess what trouble he was making! Let it be a
warning to us!
So he read:
THE RABBI MISUNDERSTOOD
“TEMURAH tells us—praise to Adonai!
Rabbi Mephibosheth Ben Mordecai
Was wont to say, “that the Adepti see
Sa-Ma-Dhi equalized with So-Do-My.
That transcends Short o’ Face and Longnose both:
This is the deepest den of the Qliphoth.
Match them! the Tree of Life in Eden Bower
Grows balanced perfectly from root to flower.
• This may be why the Reverend Mrs. Grundy
Called him a sodomite the other Sunday.
Good! chuckled Basil, when they had done
laughing. If he’d worked that out as a boy, his alleged character
might have forced him to its own path.
When I was in Marrakesh, the lynched a poor old man because their
mosque had been defiled in some real and imaginary way (with which
he had in any case nothing to do, having been paralyzed for years).
The excuse was, on the soles of his feet the creases formed the word
Allah, so that he always trod upon the name of God! They killed
Burckhardt for that, by the way. A pure invention in both instances.
I saw his feet, and they were just like anybody else’s, only
Poverty and paralysis were his crimes, I warrant ye, my masters!
Anyway, it was a great joke, and I made a splendid Arabian Tale of
Read it! was the chorus. Which he did.
THE MOSQUE BEWITCHED
AN aged sorcerer there dwelt within the town of Marrakesh
The fangs of Hell in life who felt twitching his soul out
through the flesh.
Though not originally bad his moral ruin was complete:
His pious parents said he had the devil’s claw-marks on his
An outward wart upon the nose spells inward malice in the
The path is easy, I suppose, for such an one to play the wizard.
In any case he took the risk, and left off things like soap and
eating, Till he could give the world a bisque, ten spells in
thirty, and a beating. Well at the age of eighty-eight he found
himself the One-horse Wire For the Jehannum Maiden Plate—by
Satan, out of Lake o’ fire. So, calling Iblis of the Jinn (a god
among the damnéd Ghebers!)
He offered up a final sin to play a last joke on the neighbours.
The deed was signed in fire and blood; and ere the morn was dewy
wet An hog for the Muezzin upstood, and chanted from the
Minaret. “There is no God! no God! (he sware) Mohammed was a
Sleep is more excellent than prayer! and pork is pleasant in the
The elders knew that only one could crack such execrable quips.
They hurried off to have the fun of slicing him in little
But Iblis met him with a grin worth ninety-nine per cent. per
“You’ve missed the fun—but pray walk in!—we’re off this minute
to Jehannum!” In sooth, the fiend’s unseemly mirth moked all
their wagging beard alike, As from the bowels of the earth
quacked an ironical “Labbaik!” The moral is—if all your folk are
sure you are a black magician You may as well enjoy the joke;
you cannot damage your position. The moral is—when mothers
crossed perform the usual Christian revel And tell their
children they are “lost,” they simply drive them to the devil.
What’s “Labbaik”? asked Denzil.
The pious “Adsum” of the Pilgrim when he reaches the holy ground of
Mecca. So you may imagine the horror of the Muslim on hearing it
float cheerfully up from Hell! Talking of Black Magic, said the big
man, the belief in it is probably as strong as ever. I myself am
inclined to laugh: “Who believes in Black Magic proves himself to be
bewitched!” I had a horrible case of it once—I shudder yet! I could
imagine the time when my poor friend’s disease was epidemic; when
the panic madness seized even on the government—
I hae my doots! said the scholar. Popular beliefs furnish convenient
stalking-horses for political suberfuge.
No! said the Doctor. Diseases of the mind as well as that of the
body attack all classes. While man is as subject to suggestion as he
is, the simulation of belief is almost surrender to the belief
itself. Constantine probably became a real Christian in the end.
Tell us about your friend, though! from Basil.
“I hitched it into verse and good,” said the big man. But as it’s a
tale with a moral, please imagine yourselves to be a set of
children. I wrote it for them. Here goes!
THE SUSPICIOUS EARL
There was a poor bedevilled Earl
Who saw a Witch in every girl,
A Wehr-wolf every time one smiled,
A budding Vampire in a child,
A Sorcerer in every man,
A deep-laid Necromantic plan
In every casual word; withal
Cloaked in its black horrific pall
A Vehmgericht obscenely grim,
And all designed—to ruin him!
He saw in every passer-by
Black Magic and the Evil Eye,
Interpreting the simplest act
As being a Satanic Pact.
Of course at times there were a few
In some sort victims of the crew;
For when his Countess coughed or sneezed,
“Obsessed!” the poor old fellow wheezed.
He sought the Mighty Powers of Good,
Invoked the Great White Brotherhood.
Like smart and punctual business men,
They sent a man round there and then.
How gladly reverent doth he greet
The sage’s venerable feet!
But in a while suspicion grows.
“This fellow, now, by Jove, who knows?
Perhaps he too is in the Plot.
I like Scotch Whisky: he does not.
He prefers Job to Second Kings.
We disagree on many things.”
He sniffed around the Adept (who lay low).
He searched his luggage for his halo.
He asked him frequently to dine
Forgetting purposely the wine
(Though the arcana of Nibbana
Ignore the very name of Cana).
He could not pass a herd of swine
Without a hint; in fact, in fine,
He took His Silence as a sign:
“This is an Enemy of mine!”
To cut the story short, we skip
A year or two, and in we chip
(Invigorated by our rest)
Just where the jury at the ’Quest
At the Asylum duly find
“Suicide while of Unsound Mind.”
This time we skip from earth to heaven
God stands among the Spirits Seven.
The Seven Lamps about Him flame.
Myriad Archangels cry His name.
Millions of elders, prophets, preachers,
Saints, martyrs, virgins, hermits, teachers,
Angels, evangelists, apostles
All singing like a lot of throstles
All out of tune with one another,
And every one a Plymouth Brother,
With praise set heaven in a whirl.
Up slinks the poor bedevilled Earl,
Saved after all! The grateful tears
Course down his cheek for several years.
But when he pulls himself together
And gets accustomed to the weather
He wants to poke his fingers in
To see if God is genuine.
Too soon he stripped (this cunning clod!)
Gilt off the gingerbread of God;
And sipping his nepenthe clear,
Sniffed “Bah! plain gin and gingerbeer”
• That night he happened to be sick:
“Poisoned,” he yelled, “with Arsenic!”
He left—his boomerang suspicions
Created hosts of Black Magicians.
His leaky lorship they annoyed
All through the immeasurable void
• Until his pallid voice confessed
Himself in league with all the rest.
(The breathless children round me crowd.
I pause. At last one says aloud:
“But tell us how he got to glory!”
• I’m very sorry. That’s the story.
But what’s the moral? asks a big
Girl with the makings of a prig.
First. Golf is long, and life is fleeting:
Only one Bogey is worth beating.
Moral the Second (Quiet, girls!)
A sane square is worth ten mad earls.
And, most important, Number Three:
Every one must trust somebody.
You do well to treat it lightly, said
Basil. It’s the most terrible story I ever heard. A fico for your
tragedies of blood and bones!
Indeed, ’tis the one hopeless hell, added the Scholar. It is true?
You knew the man?
I did, returned the big man. As nice a fellow as you could find in
And lost! lost! lost!
Oh! when will men be free of all this superstitition? groaned Denzil.
Never, said the Scholar.
Now, said the big man.
I can’t see it, cried Denzil, but it shall be! it shall be! And he
rolled off this great oath:
I SWEAR by all the stars that
stream Through all the lofty leaves of night:
I swear by the tremendous towers That crown Granda’s vale of
I swear by their impending gleam,
The Sierra’s snowy swords of light!
By all the cruel and cold despair That Christ hath brought
upon the land:
By Mary and the false blind beastly Lies of the prudish and
By God and death and hate I swear
That man shall rise, shall understand.
I swear by this my lucid Eye
By all the freedom I have won,
That men shall learn to love and doubt,
Put faith and slavery to the rout,
And eagle-pinioned even as I
Soar to the splendour of the sun!
All right! all right! said the doctor,
rather testily. But you want everybody to use your methods. Hurrah
for Huxley! Down with Jesus! By heaven, your tyranny will soon be as
bad as that of Rome or Geneva. Every man must find his own way to
Let me read to you about my mad friends. One of the most interesting
cases of symbolic coitus I know of. The man wasn’t of the hunting
class; he was a head waiter, child of some Russian exiles of the
so-called student persuasion, and his only notions of fox-hunting
were taken from the Christmas numbers of the illustrated papers of
Strange how things stick!
TITAN EVE was thewed and sinewed: all the blood of
Mother Earth Sang within her veins and gave her all the
might of all her girth. Vladimir was small and dainty like a
fairy knight to brand Greener circles with his dancing on
the green enamoured land. Strange that in the silent city,
Eve should play the horsing mare, Eve should whinny for a
stallion, snuffing up the scented air;
Strange that breeched and
scarlet-coated, brave with wealth of boot and spur, He
should hunt the fox Jehovah through the world astride of
her. But his whip! the flame that lashes blood from out her
flanks afoam, Strips the flesh and leaves the spirit
bridle-free to gallop home! But the screams of pain that
stab him, drunk with lust of spur and rod, As the rowels and
the whalebone send his spirit back to God!
So in madness is attainment that inspirits and endures.
• Who are you to blame their folly, ask them to assent to
Be ye sure, the Eye Unlidded measures by another rod!
Be ye sure, the human balance looks distorted to a God!
To yourselves be slaves and masters; stand or fall to self
Human ethics will not loosen our Astarte’s crimson zone.
You will never fit your forehead with your father’s fancy
You know more about salvation that the Reverend Robert Rats.
Well, you have most certainly met an
unpleasant set of people, exclaimed the big man.
Can’t we be a bit cheerful for a change? The night wears on: we must
I think you would like my Gipsy girl, said Denzil, without scruple
If she’s a sane clean human being, we shall. So Arthur Gray voiced
the general feeling.
Without further debate he set to.
YOUR hair was full of roses in the dewfall as we
The sorceress enchanting and the paladin entranced,
In the starlight as we wove us in a web of silk and
Immemorial as the marble in the halls of Boabdil,
In the pleasaunce of the roses with the fountains and
the yews Where the snowy Sierra soothed us with the
breezes and the dews! In the starlight as we trembled
from a laugh to a caress And the god came warm upon us
in our pagan allegresse. Was the Baile de la Bona too
seductive? Did you feel Through the silence and the
softness all the tension and the steel? For your hair
was full of roses, and my flesh was full of thorns And
the midnight came upon worth a million crazy morns. Ah!
my Gipsy, my Gitana, my Saliya! were you fain For the
dance to turn to earnest?—O the sunny land of Spain! My
Gitana, my Saliya! more delicious than a dove!
With your hair aflame with roses and your lips alight
with love! Shall I see you, shall I kiss you once again?
I wander far From the sunny land of summer to the icy
I shall find you , I shall have you! I am coming back
again From the filth and fog to seek you in the sunny
land of Spain. I shall find you, my my Gitana, my Saliya!
as of old With your hair aflame with roses and your body
gay with gold. I shall find you, I shall have you, in
the summer and the south With our passion in your body
and our love upon your mouth—
With our wonder and our worship be the world aflame
My Gitana, my Saliya! I am coming back to you!
The men breathed freer. So powerfully
did the song lift them that through the open window all the
fragrance of Spain and its roses seemed to flow into the room.
Only Arthur Gray never smiled.
The big man looked at him. What is it? he said sharply.
We are all Gods! (said Arthur) knowing good and evil, and that which
is beyond. But I love Holbein House and London—dear vile London!
What can I do?
And he began mournfully to recite:
BURY me in a nameless grave!
I came from God the world to save,
I brought them wisdom from above:
Worship, and liberty, and love.
They slew me for I did disparage
Therefore Religion, Law, and Marriage.
So be my grave without a name
That earth may swallow up my shame.
Arthur! said the big man, more tenderly
than he had yet spoken, there was once a man like you. He wished
your wish, not with tears, but with laughter; he had his wish, as
you shall have yours. In spite of all, that nameless man is widely
known as any in the world: they call him Jesus Christ. Now all the
evil wrought by Jesus Christ is nothing to the wish of that unknown
poet. From this pinnacle of Adeptship we weigh the Universe in other
scales—but this doctrine is known to you and understood of you, and
I need say no more.
Then said Arthur: Verily, all is Maya, all! He is God, and there is
none other God than He!
In silence his guests went down the narrow stairs. Arthur Gray
turned him to the window and looked out on the blank wall of Holbein
Well? said the Man.
But the Socialist had hanged himself in his own red necktie. He had
seen God, and died.