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Crane, Frank D.; Emmerling, Margaret; Latimer, Margery (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXII, Number 5 (March 1923)

Fearing, Kenneth
Via mentis,   pp. 132-134


Page 132

1WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
Via Mentis
KENNETH FEARING
I
In the whole of a good rendering of Bourelli's
Kralna the volume of sound is not once increased
or diminished; the complete cycle, through pas-
sivity, portent, revelation, vitiation, and return to
passivity, is maintained at a dead level as far as
pure momentum is concerned. Yet how the sym-
phony begins to glow and swell, irradiating quick,
small gleams from its thousand facets, pin-points
of lights that come and vanish so rapidly that they
are scarcely caught, until the total effect is that of
a strange prism discharging lights never seen be-
fore- lights, let us say, that lie in the core of our
enveloping reds and blues; lights more intuitive
than optical. And then the symphony cools to a
ruby, faints to a jet, and finally lies latent, like
a pale opal.
What does it? The calm violins of the prelude
still echoing in the mind as overtones, while the
flaccid pitch-pipes of the later movements snatch
a sharper insistence? Colour follows colour, and
the first throws itself with each succeeding, yet
with varying and oddly converse effects. Not a
chord born in Kralna is born to die; each is turned
this way or that, now the background of a love,
now the thread of a hate.
II
It was three o'clock of a December afternoon.
Cummings and Randall drank their coffee and ate
their oyster cocktails in Raeh's Tea Room, glit-
tering lightly over the surface of wit, pausing in
indolent, unpoised silences.
"Zola, I regret to say," commented Randall,
"Zola had the lamentable habit of picking his toes
in public, although there are some who say he
announced God at the same time."
"But .they were healthy toes," Cummings re-
joined.
"Ha! You think that?" Randall retorted, mock-
melodramatically.
"Not otherwise."
"Then consider La Debacle. You call the spew-
ings of a senile empire, the last yellow fevers of
crinoline and gold brocade healthy?"
"No," admitted Cummings, "it's not exactly
pastoral. "
"A man who has read La Debdcle has gone to
war, suffered nervous break-down, and slow con-
valescence. "
The buoyancy was slowly lost, and silence fol-
lowed heavily. Cummings tapped the ugly sugar-
bowl with his finger-nails, while Randall stared
steadily and absently at a table in a far corner
of the room. Here was life on a plane surface;
flat, lukewarm, unattended. A thin thread of con-
sciousness strung the colourless, transparent
hours together, and everywhere there was day-
light. One falls into the habit of asserting that
this and this only is life, in reality, forgetting the
obvious: that life is a matter of blood, bone, mus-
cle, gland, and nerve. Curiously wrought is the
nervous system, more complex than any micro-
scope will reveal. And to say that life is only a
plane surface, or even three- or four-dimensional,
merely because an infinity of atoms in the body
seems to have adopted ten or a score set arrange-
ments, is stirring the salty ocean with an ex-
tremely small spoon.
"Judge Kurl has suppressed Trenton's new
novel, Cadmus!" stated Randall with forced fer-
vor and a show of contempt.
"'When? "
"Today's newspapers. God, how it wearies
me! I ask you, Cummings: is it gentlemanly to
tear up a work of art I might like, and you might
like, merely because it is apt to derail some al-
readv half-deranged, hysterical woman or man?
And who in the devil is Judge Kurl to decide for
me, for the rest of humanity, whether that book
is art or obscenity? Better to chuck away half
humanitv than lose a Pamela.'
"Why ?" asked Cummings curtly.
"Why?" echoed Randall, amazed at Cum-
mings' withholding assent.
"Yes, why? In the first place, I don't give a
whoop how high-brow some -of your intelligentsia
term themselves; the most of them are neurotics,
not to say erotics, quite easily unbalanced by the
best work of art, if it happens to touch their own
particular neuroses."
"Well-." Randall was disconcerted. "What
do you draw from that?"
"You mean," supplemented Cummings, "you
mean that you don't give a damn for anybody
132
March, 1923


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