Alice Meynell

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Title: Essays
Author: Alice Meynell
Release Date: March 15, 2005 [eBook #1434]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)

Transcribed from the 1914 Burns & Oates edition by David Price,
email [email protected]

Essays by Alice Meynell
Ceres' Runaway Wells Rain The Tow Path The Tethered Constellations
Rushes and Reeds
A Northern Fancy Pathos Anima Pellegrina! A Point of Biography The
Honours of Mortality Composure The Little Language A
Counterchange Harlequin Mercutio
Laughter The Rhythm of Life Domus Angusta Innocence and
Experience The Hours of Sleep Solitude Decivilized
The Spirit of Place Popular Burlesque Have Patience, Little Saint At

Monastery Gates The Sea Wall
Tithonus Symmetry and Incident The Plaid The Flower Unstable
Equilibrium Victorian Caricature The Point of Honour
The Colour of Life The Horizon In July Cloud Shadows
The Seventeenth Century Mrs. Dingley Prue Mrs. Johnson Madame
Fellow Travellers with a Bird The Child of Tumult The Child of
Subsiding Tumult The Unready That Pretty Person Under the Early
Stars The Illusion of Historic Time

One can hardly be dull possessing the pleasant imaginary picture of a
Municipality hot in chase of a wild crop--at least while the charming
quarry escapes, as it does in Rome. The Municipality does not exist that
would be nimble enough to overtake the Roman growth of green in the
high places of the city. It is true that there have been the famous
captures--those in the Colosseum, and in the Baths of Caracalla;
moreover a less conspicuous running to earth takes place on the Appian
Way, in some miles of the solitude of the Campagna, where men are
employed in weeding the roadside. They slowly uproot the grass and
lay it on the ancient stones--rows of little corpses--for sweeping up, as
at Upper Tooting; one wonders why. The governors of the city will not
succeed in making the Via Appia look busy, or its stripped stones
suggestive of a thriving commerce. Again, at the cemetery within the
now torn and shattered Aurelian wall by the Porta San Paolo, they are
often mowing of buttercups. "A light of laughing flowers along the
grass is spread," says Shelley, whose child lies between Keats and the
pyramid. But a couple of active scythes are kept at work there summer
and spring--not that the grass is long, for it is much overtopped by the
bee-orchis, but because flowers are not to laugh within reach of the
civic vigilance.
Yet, except that it is overtaken and put to death in these accessible
places, the wild summer growth of Rome has a prevailing success and

victory. It breaks all bounds, flies to the summits, lodges in the sun,
swings in the wind, takes wing to find the remotest ledges, and blooms
aloft. It makes light of the sixteenth century, of the seventeenth, and of
the eighteenth. As the historic ages grow cold it banters them alike. The
flagrant flourishing statue, the haughty facade, the broken pediment
(and Rome is chiefly the city of the broken pediment) are the
opportunities of this vagrant garden in the air. One certain church, that
is full of attitude, can hardly be aware that a crimson snapdragon of
great stature and many stalks and blossoms is standing on its furthest
summit tiptoe against its sky. The cornice of another church in the fair
middle of Rome lifts out of the shadows of the streets a row of
accidental marigolds. Impartial to the antique, the mediaeval, the
Renaissance early and late, the newer modern, this wild summer finds
its account in travertine and tufa, reticulated work, brick, stucco and
stone. "A bird of the air carries the matter," or the last sea-wind,
sombre and soft, or the latest tramontana, gold and blue, has lodged in a
little fertile dust the wild grass, wild wheat, wild oats!
If Venus had her runaway, after whom the Elizabethans raised hue and
cry, this is Ceres'. The municipal authorities, hot-foot, cannot catch it.
And, worse than all, if they pause, dismayed, to mark the flight of the
agile fugitive safe on the arc of a flying buttress, or taking the place of
the fallen mosaics and coloured tiles of a twelfth-century tower, and in
any case inaccessible, the grass grows under their discomfited feet. It
actually casts a flush of
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