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THE CATHEDRAL OF SWIFT.
OUTSIDE there is a wild sky and scudding clouds; now a wisp of lovely silver floating on the pitchy dark; again the Lady Moon herself sailing serenely into view, only to be swallowed up at once by the remorseless night. The streets are so wet that, looking sideways at them with a reflection of light upon them, they are like the bed of a river. The booth-owners in Patrick Street are indoors. As one goes down this most picturesque slum, one has glimpses, across flaring gas-jets and merchandise, of cheap crockery and gaudy prints, tin cans and sheeps' heads, old clothes and looking-glasses, of snug interiors with red. shawled women comfortable by their fires; for it is no evening for customers. If it were fine the booths would be flanked by stalls in the street for the sale of fish, vegetables, and coarse meat ; there would be a noise of much high-pitched conversation from neighbour to neighbour-placid children would be amusing themselves on the kerb, and inquiring dogs sniffing in the gutters. But it is too wild for even the dogs, and we have the street to ourselves, and receive many a curious glance as the flaming gas-jets throw us into prominence. It is like the Ghetto of a foreign town, gay-coloured and fantastic.
Within the Cathedral how different it is! St. Patrick's lies so low, that, having descended that hill to it, one goes down steps to its interior. Those low-lying streets follow the course of a subterranean river, the Poddle, which having slipped away from its father, Dodder, out in a green and pleasant place, sinks to be a Dublin sewer. Its waters used to rise many feet in St. Patrick's before the Cathedral was restored by Sir Benjamin Guinness. In the Cathedral the night has blotted out the stained windows little by little. There are lights up in the choir for the Evensong, but the side aisles and transepts are in midnight dark. There is scarcely a flutter of light where we are sitting, close to the brass lozenge underneath which the dust
of Swift lies neighbouring the dust of Stella. His bust by Roubillac is dark, and its terrible inscription 'Here, where fierce indignation no more can lacerate his heart.'
There are myriads of empty chairs between us and the far-off lights and voices. We twain are the congregation, with a pair of sightseers who come in for ten minutes and retire, and one who goes tip-toe down the aisle, the darkness having spoilt his sightseeing. The Dean and the choristers make a little pageant for themselves every evening at the dusk, filing in a white-robed procession up the nave and the chancel.
The darkness which had blotted out the jewels of the windows helped the candles to light up the banners of the Knights of St. Patrick over the oak stalls. Other banners tattered with years of field service flapped like bats in the darkness over our heads. The rain beat against the clerestory windows, but no other sound came from outside to disturb the silver singing.
One's whole thoughts were of Swift and his fierce indignation,' which indeed was the keynote of his strange and terrible personality. One thought of him in the old Deanery across the roadway outside the night Stella was buried, and the darkness closed over his life. He was too ill to go to her funeral, and he sat there behind the Deanery windows, with one knows not what vultures tearing at his heart. He had so often written the story of his life from day to day for her eyes. Now he eases himself as he can by writing down the things he loved in her.
' January the 30th ; Tuesday,' he writes : ‘This is the night of the funeral which my sickness will not suffer me to attend. It is now nine of the night, and I am removed into another apartment that I may not see the light in the church which is just over against the window of my bedchamber.'
He had begun to write the record the night she died, but broke off with the entry, ‘My head aches, and I can write no more.' Her softness of temper, her courage, her wit, her modesty, her beauty—he writes it all down that night when by torchlight they are laying her to rest. It was his last good-night to her to whom he had so often inscribed in playful tenderness, 'Night, dearest little, M.D.,' or 'Night, dearest rogue, M.D. ;' and he had passed into a night which was never to lift from him and his memory.
He had a dozen or more sensible years to live, the idol of the Irish, and especially of the Dublin populace, which on his first coming had been ready to stone him. He gave them little thanks outwardly for their adoration ; yet for them, too, the fierce
indignation had lacerated his heart, and forced him into utterances whose savage half-jest hid a terrible earnest. he foresaw that he should die withered at the top like the blasted elm-tree in Phoenix Park he pointed out to a friend. His last bitter beneficence was to leave his money to found the Dublin madhouse which is called after him 'Swift's Hospital.' He died of a terrible form of brain disease, and I have read that after his death it was discovered a quantity of water lay upon his brain. Now and then he had a flash of reason. Once catching sight of himself in a glass he sighed “Poor old man,' in mournful selfpity.
One turns back to the pages of his ' Diary to Stella,' and to his earlier life, as a relief from the harrowing picture of his madness. It is waste of breath to discuss his relations with Stella, any more than those with Vanessa, or that Varina of his early days to whom he genuinely offered marriage, who was his neighbour when he held the little living of Kilroot in Antrim, and whose brother was his chum at Trinity College, Dublin. - Stella was the one woman for him, the one who was able to move him to tenderness. Some of the entries in the Diary reveal this brooding tenderness. Once he refers to some trouble of her eyes: 'I am almost crazed that you vex yourself for not writing. Cannot you dictate to Dingley and not strain your little dear eyes ? It is the grief of my soul to hear that you are out of order. Pray be quiet, and if you will write, shut your eyes and write just a line and no more, thus :—“How do you do, Mrs. Stella ? This was written with my eyes shut ...” And then Dingley may stand by and tell you whether you are too high or too low. How different this is from the coldly intellectual flirtation with Vanessa!
He was never very happy, not long ago at Moor Park, in the stately home of Sir William Temple and Dorothy Osborne. He was secretary to Sir William, his patron, and. Stella was the black-eyed, black-haired child of the housekeeper. Even then he was little M.D.'s writing-master,' and it is with a reminiscence of the teaching-days no doubt that he rallies her over her spelling long afterwards. Who are those “Wiggs ” who think I have turned Tory?' 'Which “Wiggs?" And are you sure you do not mean Whigs?' But in Moor Park days he was a proud disconcerted gentleman whose position as hanger-on of a great man irked him. Sir William must have been changeable of temper, for we read how long after Swift cried out to Bolingbroke • Never to appear cold to me, for I would not be treated like a school-boy; that I had had too much of that in my life already; and then he goes on : 'Don't you remember how I used to be in pain when Sir William Temple would look cold and out of humour for two or three days and suspect a hundred reasons ?' At Moor Park he contracted the deafness which never left him in sitting out of doors in a study he had made for himself in the woods. And we read of his violent exercise, dashing up a bank wooded with firs to relieve himself of sick headaches to which he was subject.
The one spot of relief in all the black book of his life is Laracor, his parsonage at Trim, before he had been removed to the 'great empty Deanery-house which they say is mine,' and at which he took up his residence 'horribly melancholy.' Laracor is in a smiling pastoral country. Stella and her companion Mrs. Dingley had come over from England to live in Trim, within easy reach of Swift. They were his constant companions. He had his glebe and his garden, and the little stream flowing through his possessions, the banks of which he planted with willows. When he had left that quiet life for London and the affairs of State, and under the Harley Ministry he was the mainspring of everything, he often sighs his soul back to Laracor and Stella. “Why don't you go to Laracor,' he asks, 'and give me an account of the garden and the river, and the hollies, and the cherry-trees on the river-walk ?' And he wonders what the two women are doing : ‘Are you good housewives and readers ? Are you walkers ? I know you are gamesters. For they used to play at piquet with a certain Dean and Mrs. Wall, their neighbours. He rallies Stella on her liking for a small game and recounts his own ill-luck: ‘Instead of my canal and willows, I lose all my money here among the fine ladies. I have lost five pounds the five weeks I have been here. He was in London for three years that time, from 1710 to 1713, but he never forgot his fortnightly budget to Stella. In those pages of the Diary, sparkling with the names of the Queen and the Queen's woman, Harley and Bolingbroke, Dukes and Duchesses many a one, he is at his most lovable. Nothing is too great or too little to set down for Stella's eyes. He doesn't sleep well in the house in Little Rider Street over against Stella's old lodgings: the street-criers are at it early in the morning, women with old satin and taffeta, men with old suits and cloaks, and one special fellow crying cabbages so loud that Swift prayed his largest cabbage were in his throat. It is now high cherry-time,' he writes once, 'take notice. Are they so soon with you? We have early apricots, and gooseberries are ripe.' A year later Queen Anne was dead, Bolingbroke fled into France, Harley in the Tower, and Jonathan Swift back at Laracor with the cherries and the willows, and Stella. But only as the petrel that might rest awhile in the sunlight before plunging again into storms, or that might fly before the storm in a faint gleam of light while all the tempests cried upon his track.
ONLY a leaf, I said,
Damp with the dew,
If a gale blew.
Only a love, I sighed,
Only a life, may-be,
Tending to tears,
Joy through its years,
LIONEL W. LYDE.