Commentary

Disciples


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Saturday, August 8, 1891

     To W.'s a little after four. "No I guess I must not go, Horace, it is too much for me. The mere strain of going down the stairs is

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enough to wear me out. No, not today, no—let us postpone."
But he desired me to go. "See what you can see—come back and tell me. I want to know if all the work is done"—of course having reference to Harleigh. "No news at all in the papers about Baker I see—but I take it, no news is good news. The noble fellow! Yet nothing explicates the case for me—how the man ever got mixed in it."

     Would practical things make poems? "They are poems—that is one of my purposes: to show the universal beat of the poetic. There was the locomotive: how often I heard of its artificiality—that nothing but dust and iron could be made of it. I accepted the sneers as a challenge—then the 'Locomotive in Winter.' How clearly I remember my anxiety—to get terms straight, to express the technicality of the trade, then to infuse all with life. It was a challenge—yes, a challenge—perhaps I was reckless to take it up. But something came of it—whether the thing I was after or something less I do not know." I had been speaking of the beauty of the bed of a railroad to Reeder days before, he protesting its artificiality, therefore not beauty—I contrary. W. now: "You were clearly right, at least"—with a smile— "right as our gospel puts it—as 'Leaves of Grass,' science, evolution, holds it."

     W. protests, "I am very weak—seem to lose my ambition. I believe I have not written a letter in three or four days." On his bed "often and often," for "it is my only thorough relief." Speaking again of the Smiths, with whom we had thought Bucke would stay, W. said, "I still address Doctor there—don't know where other to address him. I suppose I have sent over eight or nine notes—mostly postals." While I sat there Mrs. Davis brought in a plumbing bill (four dollars) which he thought excessive. He turned to me with a comical gesture, "You know these fellows, Horace? They turn to the left, cost two dollars—they turn to the right, cost two dollars—total $4—and whoso protests, he is no man!" And laughed and continued, "Of course I must pay it. I always believe in paying a liberal price, but this beats all." I put in, "Perhaps is illiberal," which

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made him laugh. Mrs. Davis went down and sent the boy up. W. asked, "Are you Mr. —'s boy?" "No, but I collect bills for him." "Well, can you write?" The boy seemed astonished at the question. "Of course," his manner amusing W.—dropping his hat on a pile of books and scrawling a receipt with great facility.

     Word from Bush that he could not come on today. His mother dying—Bush gone to Springfield. W. pathetic in his condolences.

     Away and out to Harleigh—things there seeming in improved order. Moore has hardly improved things by squaring off the embankment. Told him so, and he confessed, and would change. Picked up a few granite chips from the doorway to send abroad. Lock not on yet—Moore not satisfied with it—but the latch is hung. Moore full of talk and anecdote. Walked both ways.

     To W.'s again at 8:10 to tell him about trip, of which he was full of question. Rather surprised that the O'Donovan party had not been out yet.

     Speaking of the idea of a Whitmanite, that he had been slighted because not put at the head of the table—dinner at Reisser's—W. said, "Which was the head of the table? I am sure I was at a loss. I never just knew where I sat. I wonder if the Colonel was worried on that point?" Then, laughing, "I suppose it mattered nothing to him. He must know that where he is, there is always the head of the table anyway." And further, "It is astonishing how perfectly the Colonel has preserved all directness, spontaneity, of a child. It is the indication of a great nature."

     Mrs. Davis brought him in some cream, which he ate with much enjoyment. "I never lose zeal for that," he said.

     Still insists, "I will get all the sheets bound up—bring them here."


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