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PASSING NOTES.

(From Saturday's Daily Times.)

Having invented and sworn-in an Attor-ney-general, presented five political supporters more or less estimable with a sevenyears' annuity, and appointed himself Minister of Education, Mr Seddon feels that he may, like Cicero, involve himself in his own virtue and meet Parliament with a clear conscience. But he will not meet it with a light heart. The Parliament is new, the Ministry is old ; it is the nature of things old to dissolve into the elements out of which they were made. For an organism already in the sere and yellow a new environment means aTways danger, sometimes death. Of these facts so ancient a sage as Mr Seddon cannot be unaware. Hence his resort, to tonics and pick-me-ups ; hence the infusing of new blood, the re-distributing of old burdens. These counsels of desperation may avail for a time, the patient rallying ; but, after all, the surest fact in Nature is that the old must die ; the young may, the old must." And the Seddon autocracy is indecently old. Even the labour unions are beginning to tire of it ; here and there the partisan editor is in open revolt. Time was when for certain newspapers that I might name Mr Seddon could do nothing wrong ; at the present juncture, since the tonics and the pick-me-ups, the nominations and appointments, he can do nothing right. Prediction is not within my scope at all ; as a matter of fact I never succeed in it. I deal only with proba/bilities more or less remote. And I should affirm it to be clearly within the bounds of probability that this new Parliament may conduct the obsequies of the aged Ministry.

In the anger of Europe against the Servian murderers, in the talk of retributory excutions, there is something of sincerity, something of make-believe. Apparently the people of Servia are all alike guilty — to the extent, at least, of approving the crime, — and you can't execute a whole people. Moreover Europe understands very well that the Servians, along with all their Balkan neighbours, are virtually outside the pale of civilisation. In those countries massacre is endemic. What was done in the palace at Belgrade has been done in hundreds of peasant huts throughout Macedonia and Bulgaria. The same sort of thing goes on fiom generation to generation, is going on now. It was going on a century and a-half back, when Voltaire indited his "Candide. ;1

The Bulgarians had burned the village, according to the 'law of nations. Here, old men gashed and crippled with wounds looked on the death of their wives, who, with their throats cut, still held their children to their bleeding breasts; there, girls, embowelled after worse, gasped forth their last breath ; others, half-roasted, screamed aloud to be put to death as a matter of mercy. Brains lay in great plenty upon the earth, and were abundantly accompanied by smashed legs and severed arms. The only European Power that might, if she chose, do something towards cleansing this cockpit is Russia. But Russia does not choose. The convenient hour has not come. Moreover Russia shows no keenness to suppress or punish the atrocious Jew-baiting that goes on in provinces of her own within hail of the Servian frontier. Beyond singing Requiems for the murdered and expressing Pharisaic regrets to the murderers, Russia will do nothing in this Servian business. The wrathful and virtuous indignation of the other Powers comes in the end to little more than a saying ditto to Russia.

My esteemed friend the Rev. Dr Gibb is in process of translation from sphere to sphere. "Translation" is the word — a term reserved to patriarchs, prophets, and prelates. Not by First Church alone is thih event to be deplored, nor will regret be

confined to the spiritual bailiwick of the Dunedin Presbytery. Speaking as an outsider, a -secular person, a mere newspaper hack, I beg leave to offer my own humble tribute of appreciation, and to put in just one or two valedictory words. Dr Gibb has been a good friend to this column. Amongst men of his profession types are many, thanks be! There is the tame parson, and there is the less tame. The one limits himself to praying and preaching, marrying and bmying — his aim the fallentis semita vitao commended of Horace and set forth in the "Keep me little and unknown" of Dr Watts. The other has learned to strive and cry, and lift lip his voice in the streets, taking, on occasion, the tone of the clerical apologist of the Bruce Licensing Committee — Who dares this pair of boots displace Must meet Bombastes face to facel Dr Gibb is of a type that differs from both, yet is very far from being a betwixt and between. He is a fighting parson— that is the sum of the matter— and goes far towards embodying in his own person the whole church militant. In which character he was obviously predestined to lend a hand— now and then and all unwitting— in the writing of Passing Notes. For that same reason wo are excellent friends. Our ideas clash, but no bones are broken, and we part with unaffected regrets. He has the pleasure just now of reading his own obituary notices without the pain of the usual preliminary. De mortuis nil ,, nisi bonum, and the same, I suppose, de translatis.

Dear " Civis,"— A problem from " Civis "is a gift of the Greeks. Nevertheless, I have my explanation of " The howlings from forgotten fields "

ready to hand, and being invited to " address my intelligence " to that line — (How we love the most distant suggestion of "intelligence"!)— I venture, hoping that' if I am in error I shall soon have one error the less to carry The forgotten howlers are hosts of neutrals, useless alike in Heaven, earth, and Hell. But let me begin at the beginning. In canto 40 — (I find it is 41 in two editions and 40 in ft third: whence this?) — the poet says that though he kept pace with his friend's growth in this world ho i 3 dismayed at the long start that the departed has secured in the beyond. For, though he has no superstitious fears —

Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath,

The howlings from forgotten fields, — yet he grows cold at the thought of being always a whole life behind the development of his friend. It is clear that Tennyson refers to some fictitious — probably poetical — perdition in which he does not believe. " Howlings " is not a word that so reverent a poet would apply to any serious modern belief. The problem, then, is to find in poetry a realm of the forgotten dead who howl in their oblivion. These conditions are met by Dante (H. 111, 21-64) : Here sighs and lamentations pnd loud moans Resounded . . . Various tongues, Horrible languages, outcrie3 of woe, Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, — in short, "howlings." Dante asks what it is all about, and is told :

This miserable fate Suffer the wretched souls of those who lived Without or praise or blame, with that ill band Of angels mixed, who nor rebellious proved Nor yet were true to God, but for themselves Were only. Neither Heaven nor Hell will have them. Why, then, do they " lament so loud " ?—? — That I will tell thee briefly. These of death No hope may entertain : and their blind life So meanly passes, that all other lots They envy. Fame of them the Woeld hath

NONE, Nob suffers ; mercy and justice scorn them

both. Speak not op them, but look, and pass them

by. These, then, are they who, rejected by Heaven and Hell, and not suffered to be remembered or spoken of on eaith, lashed by envy and sorely stung by wasps and hornets, keep up their

Howlings from forgotten fields,

P. P.S. — Regarding "Proteus": In 111 Henry VI, in, 2, Richard of Gloster says: I can add colours to the chameleon, Change shapes with Proteus for advantages. Had Shakespeare learnt, since writing the

Two Gentlemen," how to pronounoe the name of the sea god, or did he of set purpose make a difference between the deity and the lover of Julia? — F. About Shakespeare's vagaries in the scanning of " Proteus," enough said. About the diversity of order and number in the cantos of "In Memoriam," my intelligent correspondent should have been aware that No. 40, " Old warder of these buried bones," is found only in editions later than 1851. It is a second apostrophe to the churchyard yew, interpolated, say the critics, in correction of an error of the poets touching the life history of that " cheerless, unsocial plant," for which error "F." may look up canto 2. And about the " howlings from forgotten fields," his guess at the meaning is as good as any previously recorded ; which is to say that it is not good enough. Then perhaps I can supply a better? Not in the least ; I am myself an inquirer, and sorely befogged.

The Dante pa&sage cited above has to do with one of the oddest conceptions in imaginative poetry. Just within the gate of Hell is the region of the neither good nor bad, angels, and men — within the gate, yet somehow outside of the true Inferno. A Laodicean neutral, neither cold nor hot, living without praise or blame, can get neither into Heaven nor into Hell. He would be no comfort to the blessed, nor any glory to the damned. Both reject, him, and he is as carefully excluded from the inner circles of the pit as from the blissful "eats of Paradise. His presence would lower the tone of society in either. Wherefore he is accommodated in a sort of no-man's-land, and there, to all eternity, nils the daik air with howlings. A quaint coaceit, as I have said, — sufficiently in poin v , thinks my correspondent, to explain the lines in Tennyson — For though rcy nature raicly yields To that vague fear implkd in death, Nor shudders at the gulfs beneath

The liowlings from forgotten fields — If it is of Dante that Tennyson is thinking, and of the fantastic doom assigned to the neither good nor bad, this piece of infcrmation — that he doesn't shudder, bay no personal apprehension — ie gratuitous and

unnecessaiy. For what reason could h» be supposed to shudder'! 1 My estimabl* correspondent must try again.

In the English Divorce Court there has been trouble over a husband -who, af^ei getting a divorce, married another woman next day ; whereas, having regard to the law, and to the distinction between a decree nisi and a decree absolute, he should have -waited six months. Result — intervention of the King's Proctor with a formal motion to rescind the divorce. In America mischances of the nature are provided against by popular manuals in which thr wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err. I have been reading " The Etiquette of Divorce," by Kate Thyson Marr. Whether Kate is Miss or Mrs, maid, wife, widow, or widow-in-law, does not appear. Judging, however, by her portrait, whii.h does appear, I take her to be an experienced person who knows what she is talk" ing about, and "has been there." Divorce, she remarks in prideful tone, " is peculiarly an American institution,"' and has been so thoroughly popularised that "to the man it signifies little but the transfer of a trunk and a few parcels from one domicile to another." With the woman, however, there are other considerations than her trunk and her parcels. There is the question of " stationery " ; — niust she go to the expense of new visiting cards bearing her maiden name? Ought she to marry again " before the ink signing the decree is dry " '! — as she may, such is the benevolence of the law. Or ought she to bide a wee, deferring to the prejudices of " worldly wise people " who, even in America, " might look askance"? The Etiquette of Divorce, in short, has to do with questions of the greatest delicacy ; one of them — ought the decease of a previous husband to be celebrated by " habiliments of woe " ? — Kate lights up by " a funny little anecdote " :

A few days after the funeral an o!d and very 'dear friend called on the newly widowed divorcee. "My dear, she said sympathetically, "so he's dead after all these years. I did not know what to write, whether to condole or to congratulate you, so came myself. I feel like the old country parson who was called upon to bury a man who had been lynched for horse-stealing. He conld not say anything good of the man, and Mb conscience would not allow him to say anything unkind of the dead, so he confined his remarks to, ' Brethren, we have before us a nice, cold, quiet corpse,' and that applies to your ex." " Your ex " for short is good. I gather that in America it has become the established term. Civis.

A man named Frederick Sydney Clothier, about 43 years of age, a remittance man and a traveller for a music firm> has been missing from his lodgings at No. 6 Leith street for the past two months, and it is now surmised that it was his body which was found at Mount Cargill on Sunday, June 20.

A special service, in the form of a Good Templar parade, was held by the Methodist Central Mission in the Garrison Hall on Sunday. Considerably more than 200 Good Templars attended in regalia, and were accommodated in the front seats. There was a very large congregation, all tho septg in the hall being filled. The service was conducted by the Rev. W. A. Sinclair, who, preaching from let Corinthianr viii, 11 ("Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died "), dealt with the problem of the weak brother. The speaker delivered a most interesting addree3, which was listened to attentively by all, and made a powerful appeal to his hearers to assist the cause of Good Templary.

Mr Millar gave two exhibitions of hia model for drawing motor power from the waves of the sea at the Tunnel Beach on Saturday, when great interest was shown by the public in his novel and apparently very promising invention. Something like 200 persons, including many ladies, made their toilsome way over the rugged country from St. Clair to witness the operation. The machine ran freely, and demonstrated the fact that a new mechanical power had been introduced into the industries of humanity by the fertile genius of man.

The British Australasian says: — "The Canadian-Australian-Puget Sound Steamship Company will start in August a new steam service between Canada and New Zealand. The company has four car-o steamers of 2800 tons and two of 5600 tons, fitted with cool chambers. They will run from Tacoma, Vancouver, and Victoria, British Columbia, to Auckland direct, and probably to one o* two more New Zealand ports, and will carry Canadian and United States manufactures at cheap rates to New Zealand and Australia, taking return cargoes of- produce direct to Canada and the United States. The steamers are all British, and tho rates will in most instances be lower than those to New York, while the time of transit wilL be curtailed at least four to cix weeks. Arrangements will be made with the railway systems of Canada and the United States to distribute New Zealand and Australian products."

Lady Weld, in religion Mother Mary Gertrude Dolores, died last April at St. Scholasiica's Priory, Fort Augustu", Scotland. She Was the widow of th) late Sir Frederick A. Weld, who was Governor of Tasmania from 1875 to 1880. He was afterwards Governor in West Australia and at the Straits Settlements. The late LadyWeld was the third of the 16 children of ~Slt Ambrose Lisle Maich de Lisle, of Clarendon and Grace Dieu, Lancashire, England. Lady Weld, as already stated, after the death of her husband, went to close her days at the Fort Augustus Convent, of which her fourth daughter haa been choscQ Superior. The late Sir Frederick Weld was for many of his later years a runholder in Marlborough, and his family still retain an interest in the large property there known jw Flaxbourn«. J\f

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW19030701.2.8

Bibliographic details

PASSING NOTES., Otago Witness, Issue 2572, 1 July 1903

Word Count
2,705

PASSING NOTES. Otago Witness, Issue 2572, 1 July 1903

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