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Essays   By: (1847-1922)

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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 Roland


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... Continue reading book >>

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