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"Of all the arts Literature is the most exacting mistress."
HY do we put things on paper? Why have we evolved this elaborate mechanism of writing? We should have to go back before the careless day when the monkeys found the magic potion that made them men to discover the incipiency of the writing habit. The more wonder is that anyone does write in this age of economics and threatened revolutions of industry. And particularly at Yale! Yet, like Mr. Britling, we find "there are thousands and tens of thousands like himself desiring with all their hearts to say the reconciling word." Witness the snow waste of manuscripts submitted from month to month.
Mr. Britling! He is not heard of this year, nor does one mention the war. It has been forgotten and cast off like a firstparty dress. But its effects are still evident, particularly its effects on tradition-sacred tradition. One of its most poignant effects is upon the LIT. tradition. "I didn't know there was one," some one said the other day. I murmured something about the British Museum, and the oldest continuously published magazine in America, which even the war could not stop, before I realized I was quoting ancient days. The literary atmosphere has been disrupted and it has not yet reassumed its former vigor, though some have pointed to a new Renaissance and say there are hidden geniuses, whose lights are beneath the bushel. It is to those mute, inglorious ones that this leader is addressed.
Our system of education tends towards repression rather than expression of the emotions. We have always our innate AngloSaxon restraint. Yet in the University there are those who write, no matter how crudely or unadvised, to whom the LIT. is open, if not as an immediate publishing medium as a kind of critic and workshop, where one's writing may be discussed and tried out on the sympathetic reader. We are mere contemporaries, yet we shall try to render constructive criticism, not expecting that you be "pilgrim souls" proclaiming a new epoch in literature, or that you dazzle with originality; for there is nothing new that Aristotle did not say. Or if he didn't he meant to. Michelangelo began his art by moulding butter for the table of Lorenzo de Medici. We shall try to be Lorenzos, not demanding that you bring us your Davids and your Sistine murals, but that you bring us your butter.
With so promising a future we shall no further recall the past.
JAN 5 '40
Rain in April.
RAIN IN APRIL.
F you waken, some April morning, when all indications of the night before pointed toward a beautiful spring day, and find it raining, you have, unconsciously perhaps, but none the less forcefully presented before you a test of the relative worth or worthlessness of you! At that particular season of the year when the boughs of the elms are becoming less stiff and clear in their outlines than when it was winter, when the bayberry bushes are beginning to be covered with tiny green things which will be the little round leaves, later, when a close scrutiny of the ivy will show yellow-green sprouts that tell of plant-life again coming into its own, when a few marsh plants are pushing up through the wet earth, softened by the new warmth of the sun, there seems to be more to appreciate in a pleasant day than at any other season. There is something in the appealing warmth of that sunlight and the delicate odors from the earth and the purged air that makes good weather in April unlike any other good weather at all. So, when it does rain, it is a test of your temper, as to whether or not it is sufficiently attuned to the general order of events in this process of rejuvenation to appreciate the place which the April shower rightfully holds. If a man wakens to see a grey sky above him, and the trees letting fall a shower of great drops at each puff of the wind; if he feels that the air is damp and misty, and it chills him; if, in disgust, he turns from his window, and, he being perhaps a man of leisure, goes once again to the hospitable warmth and comfort of his bed, or, being one who has to rise at a definite hour, dresses and eats breakfast grumpily, with an unpleasant expression of annoyance, as at a personal slight, on his face, then you can know that man has a temper that he should try to alter for the good of all who come in contact with him! For then James, the leisure-man, has his breakfast brought him, and while he reads his paper, feels it is unjust that he cannot play his golf that afternoon, and Jim, the drudge-man, putting on his rubbers in a sort of spiteful manner,
grabbing at the umbrella in the brass stand at the foot of the stairs, and rather, throwing himself into his coat than putting it on, goes out, and splashes away, his head pulled down as far into his collar as possible.
Let us follow out the day of James and Jim, and see what it comes to. James, as I said, thinks it unjust that the rain should so interfere with his golf, which interference he attributes to the absence of "common sense" on the part of the rain. With this as a beginning, James rises at last, and dresses slowly, dawdling over his shave, dropping the brush, which rolls under the bathtub, and makes him very angry as he painfully kneels down with a pair of cracking knee-joints to recover it. Once dressed, he re-reads the paper, and then goes downstairs for luncheon, served in the informal breakfast room, since he is alone. The rain patters gaily on the window-panes, like tiny mice running in a loft, and the noise disturbs him. After luncheon, he reads a little; takes up one book, and lays it down to pick up a magazine. He finally dozes off. Time seems to pass with infinite gaps between each second, and he frets when he wakes from his doze to play solitaire by the big window which opens on the porch. The vista down the long drive is grey, and the rain, falling evenly, is barely noticeable, yet it is there, for he can hear it. With a sudden pettishness, he realizes that he has a dinner at eight, and sits wondering how he can enjoy any dinner under such miserable climatic conditions. He forlornly wanders about the house, and finally to his dressing-room, where his valet helps him prepare himself. The laundress is terrible!--he cannot comprehend any well-organized household's being cursed with such a poor laundress, and to prove to the valet that the laundress is poor, he shows a slight wrinkle in the bosom of his shirt, and has another prepared. At the dinner, they discuss politics, the drama, painting, and the weather, and when, after bridge, at which he loses "as usual, curse the luck," he returns and goes to bed, the last thought which comes to him is a sincere wish that the next day prove more pleasant.
Jim's day is no more attractive. He clumps off to the car-line. The car, which he "always takes, and which is always on time," is late, and he waits for ten whole minutes, while the puddles toss