Gallantry

James Branch Cabell

Gallantry, by James Branch Cabell

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Title: Gallantry Dizain des Fetes Galantes
Author: James Branch Cabell
Release Date: August, 2005 [EBook #8715] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on August 3, 2003] [Date last updated: August 11, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
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GALLANTRY
Dizain des Ftes Galantes
By
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY LOUIS UNTERMEYER
"Half in masquerade, playing the drawing-room or garden comedy of life, these persons have upon them, not less than the landscape among the accidents of which they group themselves with fittingness, a certain light that we should seek for in vain upon anything real."

TO
JAMES ROBINSON BRANCH
THIS VOLUME, SINCE IT TREATS OF GALLANTRY, IS DEDICATED, AS BOTH IN LIFE AND DEATH AN EXPONENT OF THE WORD'S HIGHEST MEANING
"A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.... Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee, which frameth mischief by a law?"

INTRODUCTION
These paragraphs, dignified by the revised edition of Gallantry and spuriously designated An Introduction, are nothing more than a series of notes and haphazard discoveries in preparation of a thesis. That thesis, if it is ever written, will bear a title something academically like The Psychogenesis of a Poet; or Cabell the Masquerader. For it is in this guise--sometimes self-declared, sometimes self-concealed, but always as the persistent visionary--that the author of some of the finest prose of our day has given us the key with which (to lapse into the jargon of verse) he has unlocked his heart.
On the technical side alone, it is easy to establish Cabell's poetic standing. There are, first of all, the quantity of original rhymes that are scattered through the dozen volumes which Cabell has latterly (and significantly) classified as Biography. Besides these interjections which do duty as mottoes, chapter-headings, tailpieces, dedications, interludes and sometimes relevant songs, there is the volume of seventy-five "adaptations" in verse, From the Hidden Way, published in 1916. Here Cabell, even in his most natural r?le, declines to show his face and amuses himself with a new set of masks labelled Alessandro de Medici, Antoine Riczi, Nicolas de Caen, Theodore Passerat and other fabulous minnesingers whose verses were created only in the mind of Cabell. It has pleased him to confuse others besides the erudite reviewer of the Boston Transcript by quoting the first lines of the non-existent originals in Latin, Italian, Proven?al--thus making his skilful ballades, sestinas and the less medi?val narratives part of a remarkably elaborate and altogether successful hoax.
And, as this masquerade of obscure Parnassians betrayed its creator, Cabell--impelled by some fantastic reticence--sought for more subtle makeshifts to hide the poet. The unwritten thesis, plunging abruptly into the realm of analytical psychology, will detail the steps Cabell has taken, as a result of early associative disappointments, to repress or at least to disguise, the poet in himself--and it will disclose how he has failed. It will burrow through the latest of his works and exhume his half-buried experiments in rhyme, assonance and polyphony. This part of the paper will examine Jurgen and call attention to the distorted sonnet printed as a prose soliloquy on page 97 of that exquisite and ironic volume. It will pass to the subsequent Figures of Earth and, after showing how the greater gravity of this volume is accompanied by a greater profusion of poetry per se it will unravel the scheme of Cabell's fifteen essays in what might be called contrapuntal prose. It will unscramble all the rhymes screened in Manuel's monologue beginning on page 294, quote the metrical innovations with rhymed vowels on page 60, tabulate the hexameters that leap from the solidly set paragraphs and rearrange the brilliant fooling that opens the chapter "Magic of the Image Makers." This last is in itself so felicitous a composite of verse
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