The Writings In Prose and Rhyme In North Staffordshire Dialect by the Potteries Poet

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At the end, at the extreme end of the row of booths, as if, ashamed, he had exiled himself from all these splendors, I saw an old mountebank, stooped, decrepit, emaciated, a ruin of a man, leaning against one of the pillars of his hut, more wretched than that of the most besotted barbarian, the distress of which two candle ends, guttering and smoking, lighted up only too well.

Here, absolute misery, misery bedecked, to crown the horror, in comic tatters, where necessity, rather than art, produced the contrast. He was not laughing, the wretched one!

the writings in prose and rhyme in north staffordshire dialect by the potteries poet Manual

He was not weeping, he was not dancing, he was not gesticulating, he was not crying. He was singing no song, gay or grievous, he was imploring no one. He was mute and immobile. He had renounced, he had withdrawn. His destiny was accomplished.

But what a deep, unforgettable look he cast over the crowd and the lights, the moving stream of which was[Pg 68] stemmed a few yards from his repulsive wretchedness! I felt my throat clutched by the terrible hand of hysteria, and it seemed as though glances were clouded by rebellious tears that would not fall. What was to be done? What good was there in asking the unfortunate what curiosity, what marvel had he to show within those barefaced shades, behind that threadbare curtain?

In truth, I dared not; and, although the reason for my timidity will make you laugh, I confess that I was afraid of humiliating him. At length, I had resolved to drop a coin while passing his boards, in the hope that he would divine my purpose, when a great backwash of people, produced by I know not what disturbance, carried me far away. The Chinese tell the time in the eyes of cats. One day a missionary, walking in the suburbs of Nanking, noticed that he had forgotten his watch, and asked a little boy what time it was.

As for me, if I turn toward the fair feline, to her so[Pg 69] aptly named, who is at once the honor of her sex, the pride of my heart and the fragrance of my mind, be it by night or by day, in the full light or in the opaque shadows, in the depths of her adorable eyes I always tell the time distinctly, always the same, a vast, a solemn hour, large as space, without division of minutes or of seconds,—an immovable hour which is not marked on the clocks, yet is slight as a sigh, is rapid as the lifting of a lash.

What are you hunting for in the eyes of that being? Do you see the time there, mortal squanderer and do-nothing? Indeed, I have had so much pleasure in embroidering this pretentious gallantry, that I shall ask you for nothing in exchange. Let me breathe, long, long, of the odor of your hair, let me plunge my whole face in its depth, as a thirsty man in the waters of a spring, let me flutter it with my hand as a perfumed kerchief, to shake off memories into the air.

If you could know all that I see!

My soul journeys on perfumes as the souls of other men on music. Your hair meshes a full dream, crowded with sails and masts; it holds great seas on which monsoons bear me toward charming climes, where the skies are bluer and[Pg 70] deeper, where the atmosphere is perfumed with fruits, with leaves, and with the human skin.

In the ocean of your hair I behold a port humming with melancholy chants, with strong men of all nations and with ships of every form carving their delicate, intricate architecture on an enormous sky where lolls eternal heat. In the caresses of your hair, I find again the languor of long hours on a divan, in the cabin of a goodly ship, cradled by the unnoticed undulation of the port, between pots of flowers and refreshing water-jugs.

At the glowing hearth-stone of your hair, I breathe the odor of tobacco mixed with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair, I see shine forth the infinite of the tropic sky; on the downy bank-sides of your hair, I grow drunk with the mingled odors of tar and musk, and oil of cocoanut.

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Let me bite, long, your thick black hair. When I nibble your springy, rebellious hair, it seems that I am eating memories. I should like to give you an idea for an innocent diversion.


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There are so few amusements that are not guilty ones! When you go out in the morning for a stroll along the highways, fill your pockets with little penny contrivances—such as the straight merryandrew moved by a single thread, the blacksmiths who strike the anvil, the rider and his horse, with a whistle for a tail—and, along the taverns, at the foot of the trees, make presents of them to the unknown poor children whom you meet. You will see their eyes grow beyond all measure. At first, they will not dare to take; they will doubt their[Pg 71] good fortune.

Then their hands will eagerly seize the gift, and they will flee as do the cats who go far off to eat the bit you have given them, having learned to distrust man. On a road, behind the rail of a great garden at the foot of which appeared the glitter of a beautiful mansion struck by the sun, stood a pretty, fresh child, clad in those country garments so full of affectation.

Luxury, freedom from care, and the habitual spectacle of wealth, make these children so pretty that one would think them formed of other paste than the sons of mediocrity or of poverty. Beside him on the grass lay a splendid toy, fresh as its master, varnished, gilt, clad in a purple robe, covered with plumes and beads of glass. But the child was not occupied with his favored plaything, and this is what he was watching: On the other side of the rail, on the road, among the thistles and the thorns, was another child, puny, dirty, fuliginous, one of those pariah-brats the beauty of which an impartial eye might discover if, as the eye of the connoisseur divines an ideal painting beneath the varnish of the coach-maker, it cleansed him of the repugnant patina of misery.

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Across the symbolic bars which separate two worlds, the highway and the mansion, the poor child was showing the rich child his own toy, which the latter examined eagerly, as a rare and unknown object. Now, this toy, which the ragamuffin was provoking, tormenting, tossing in a grilled box, was a live rat! His parents, doubtless for economy, had taken the toy from life itself. And the two children were laughing together fraternally, with teeth of equal whiteness!

It was that great assembly of the fairies, to proceed with the repartition of gifts among the new-born who had arrived at life within the last twenty-four hours. All these antique and capricious sisters of destiny, all these bizarre mothers of sadness and of joy, were most diversified: some had a somber, crabbed air; others were wanton, mischievous; some, young, who had always been young; others old, who had always been old. All the fathers who believed in fairies had come, each bearing his new-born in his arms.

Gifts, Faculties, Good Fortunes, Invincible Circumstances, were gathered at the side of the tribunal, as prizes on the platform for distribution. What was peculiar here was that the gifts were not the reward of an effort, but, quite the contrary, a grace accorded him who had not yet lived, a grace with power to determine his destiny and become as well the source of his misfortune as of his good. The poor fairies were kept very busy; for the crowd of solicitors was great, and the intermediate world, placed between man and God, is subject, like man, to the terrible law of Time and his endless offspring, Days, Hours, Minutes, Seconds.

I really think that from time to time they looked at the hands of the clock with as much impatience as human judges, who, sitting since morn, cannot help dreaming of dinner, of the family, and of their cherished slippers. If, in supernatural justice, there is a little of haste and[Pg 73] of luck, we should not be surprised sometimes to find the same in human justice. We ourselves, in that case, would be unjust judges. So some shams were enacted that day which might be thought bizarre, if prudence, rather than caprice, were the distinctive, eternal characteristic of the fairies. For instance, the power of magnetically attracting fortune was awarded the sole heir of a very wealthy family, who, endowed with no feeling of charity, no more than with lust for the most visible goods of life, must later on find himself prodigiously embarrassed by his millions.

Thus, love of the beautiful and poetic power were given to the son of a gloomy knave, a quarry-man by trade, who could in no way develop the faculties or satisfy the needs of his deplorable offspring. You are forgetting us! There is still my little one!

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However, she recalled in time a law, well known, though rarely applied, in the supernatural world, inhabited by those impalpable deities, friends, of man and often constrained to mold themselves to his passions, such as Fairies, Gnomes, Salamanders, Sylphides, Sylphs, Nixies, Watersprites and Undines—I mean the law which grants a Fairy, in a case similar to this, namely, in case of the exhausting of the prizes, power to give one more, supplementary and exceptional, provided always that she has sufficient imagination to create it at once.

I give him … the gift of pleasing! A philanthropic journalist once said to me that solitude is harmful to man, and, to support his thesis, he cited—as do all unbelievers—words of the Christian Fathers. I know that the Demon gladly frequents parched places, and that the spirit of murder and lechery is marvellously inflamed in solitude. But it is possible that solitude is dangerous only to the idle, rambling soul, who peoples it with his passions and his chimeras. It is certain that a babbler, whose supreme pleasure consists in speaking from a pulpit or a rostrum, would be taking great chances of going stark mad on the island of Crusoe.

I do not demand of my journalist the courageous virtues of Robinson, but I ask that he do not summon in accusation lovers of solitude and mystery. There are in our chattering races individuals who would accept the supreme agony with less reluctance, if they were permitted to deliver a copious harangue from[Pg 75] the height of the scaffold, without fear that the drums of Santerre[1] would unseasonably cut short their oration.

I do not pity them, for I guess that their oratorical effusions bring them delights equal to those which others draw from silence and seclusion; but I despise them. I desire above all that my accursed journalist leave me to amuse myself as I will. He knows that I scorn his, and he comes to insinuate himself into mine, the horrible killjoy! For she has naturally the air of a princess.

We would not feel at home. Besides, walls riddled with gold would afford no niche to hold her likeness; in those solemn galleries there is no intimate corner. Decidedly it is there I must live to develop the dream of my life. Yes, in truth, there indeed is the setting that I seek. What have I to do with palaces?

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Pleasure and good fortune are in the nearest tavern, in the chance tavern, so rich in happiness. A great fire, gaudy earthenware, a tolerable meal, rough wine, and an enormous bed with cloths somewhat coarse, but fresh; what more could be desired? Why constrain my body to move about, when my soul voyages so freely?

And to what end carry out projects, when the project itself is a sufficing joy? The sun pours down upon the city with its direct and terrible light; the sand is dazzling, and the sea glistens. The stupefied world sinks cowardly down and holds siesta, a siesta which is a sort of delightful death, in which the sleeper, half-awake, enjoys the voluptuousness of his annihilation. None the less, Dorothea, strong and proud as the sun, advances along the deserted street, alone animated at that hour, under the immense blue sky, forming a startling black spot against the light.

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She advances, lightly, balancing her slender trunk upon her so large hips. Her close-fitting silk dress, of a clear, roseate fashion, stands out vividly against the darkness of her skin and is exactly molded to her long figure, her rounded back and her pointed throat. Her red parasol, sifting the light, throws over her dark face the bloody disguise of its reflection. The weight of her enormous, blue-black hair draws back her delicate head and gives her a triumphant, indolent bearing. Heavy pendants tinkle quietly at her delicate ears.

From time to time the sea-breeze lifts the hem of her flowing skirt and reveals her shining, superb limbs; and her foot, a match for the feet of the marble goddesses whom Europe locks in its museums, faithfully imprints its form in the fine sand. For Dorothea is such a[Pg 78] wondrous coquette, that the pleasure of being admired overcomes the pride of the enfranchised, and, although she is free, she walks without shoes.

She advances thus, harmoniously, glad to be alive, smiling an open smile; as if she saw, far off in space, a mirror reflecting her walk and her beauty. At the hour when dogs moan with pain under the tormenting sun, what powerful motive can thus draw forth the indolent Dorothea, lovely, and cold as bronze? Why had she left her little cabin, so coquettishly adorned, the flowers and mats of which make at so little cost a perfect boudoir; where she takes such delight in combing herself, in smoking, in being fanned, or in regarding herself in the mirror with its great fans of plumes; while the sea, which strikes the shore a hundred steps away, shapes to her formless reveries a mighty and monotonous accompaniment, and while the iron pot, in which a ragout of crabs with saffron and rice is cooking, sends after her, from the courtyard, its stimulating perfumes?

Perhaps she has a rendezvous with some young officer, who, on far distant shores, heard his comrades talk of the renowned Dorothea. Dorothea is admired and pampered by all, and she would be perfectly happy if she were not obliged to amass piastre on piastre to buy back her little sister, who is now fully eleven, and who is already mature, and so lovely!

We came across a pauper who, trembling, held forth his cap. Something lies there which approaches that depth of complex feeling in the tearful eyes of dogs that are being flogged. But in my miserable brain, always busied seeking noon at two p.

Could it not multiply itself in valid pieces? Could it not also lead him to jail?