« PreviousContinue »
Though he welcomed warmly any new line, any fresh developement, which might be alien though not opposed to his own, he loved perhaps above all to recognise the fruit of seeds which he himself had sown, the upshot of interests which he himself had implanted in us.
While I was still a boy at Eton, he used to encourage me to send him anything I wrote, translations or original poetry, and he returned them carefully corrected with many suggestions. And one can hardly express with what graciousness he received and with what tenderness he valued the firstfruits of one's work,-as when I was able to present to him my first book of poems which I had dedicated to himself.
Again he had always desired that one at least of his sons should take Orders; he never urged it; but when the choice was voluntarily made by my youngest brother it will be seen with what heartfelt joy he welcomed it.
He used to be preoccupied with deep anxiety with regard to his children. My mother has told me that before she went down to breakfast, he would pray at his prie-dieu, in the simplest and most affecting way, mentioning one after another of his family by name, and praying for their special needs to be supplied. At the same time he often exaggerated trivial points, thinking them to be indications of character and bent, even when they were quite fortuitous. I remember a little instance of this when we were all staying at Porlock Weir; I was then an Eton boy and suffered for some days from toothache, which I did not happen to mention; and finding that it was painful to open my mouth, went two or three walks with him and others but said nothing; he made himself very unhappy over this and came to the conclusion I had something on my mind which I could not tell him-SO indeed I had, but it was only a toothache.
He used to lament sometimes, if one of his children happened to be silent or preoccupied, over their uncommunicativeness, and say that he did not possess their confidence; indeed his sensitiveness to the way in which he was regarded by any member of his home circle was quite extraordinary and never diminished. Shortly after the death of my eldest sister, he asked our dear friend Lucy Tait, whose sister was married, to come and make her home with us, and from the moment that she entered our household she was to him as a beloved daughter. With very different traditions and instincts they often had heated arguments on points about which they disagreed. On one occasion she and my father had a difference about felling timber in the Park; he was anxious to open up views, while she disliked the trees being removed ; there was a contention between them, and he spoke strongly, but atoned for it a few days afterwards by presenting her, with a smile, with a little axe made after his own design.
But it is impossible to exaggerate the intense delight that my father took in family life. Indeed it played so large a part in his whole career that it is difficult to imagine him without it. He always wanted as many as possible of his family to be with him. When he first went to Wellington my mother was for years the daily companion of his walks. As his children grew older, he always wished to have them about him and with him; he was not content with one companion, but always desired that all should be there.
“My dearest love to the dearests,” he wrote to my mother on one of his visits to London in 1881,—“I think I ought always to have one with me here. They could go into a state of coma when I went out, and thus would not find it dull.” In a similar letter, looking forward to his return to Kenwyn, he wrote: “I had rather teach Hugh Greek, or walk with the girls, than anything else—and
would promise not to be idle !” And again in more serious strain ;—“How little we knew of the intense brightness which was shining over us at Wellington College ! What the blessings to us of those children were ! And now I do not know how to look on to the years without little children."
He was fond, as I have said, of playing writing games with us in the evening in holidays; every member of the party wrote a question : the questions were then shaken together and distributed, and answered in verse by other members of the party. But his great pleasure was to have everything written by the others read over more than once, and to express his appreciation. The following are some instances of his versifying. In answer to the question
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ? the Archbishop wrote :
Alas! my spells are earthy of the earth;
Hid juices of the leaf, petal or root,
Is of the magnet or that amber fruit.
Quickens or lays to rest; their true consent
Sinks not beyond the subtle element.
A myriad angels out of heart; a light
Some deep rebellion in the infinite.
You can but listen to its echo, caught
In horror o'er vain lips and broken thought.
Past time and space and all created dower,
Took itself captive, shatter'd its bright power.
In answer to
What is the most threatening cloud on the political horizon?
he wrote in 1891:
“Before thy temple, goddess pure,
Thou standest, and thy helmet plume
Is seen o'er all the Aegean spume,
“ Athena! down from Macedon,
To where sharp Malea parts the seas,
What is it thy wise owlet sees?
“Wherein some fount of wrathful fire
Lurks, or some deluge of cyclone,
Some windy wreck of rocks o'erthrown,
One breath just curled that lip divine,
A sudden moisture dewed the eyes-
We gazed with faithless mute surprise,
“Nowhence but from within the curse
That wrecks the temple and the state
Seek self, not truth-let calm debate
“Let rulers by the crowd be ruled :
Let law's high dooms be falsely spoke,
Then is Athena's compact broke-
“Farewell”—the plume in thunder waved
The mighty lip was still once more
The dew on that full orb was frore-
He began lightly and finished seriously this answer to
Whoever said so?
There is no balm i’ the hyacinthine sea
No song in the deep tremblings of the moon,
Who ever said so?
But in thy voice is balm for sick men's thought,
And in thy merest movement there is song-
Hath no man said so?
For why? because they each in each are one
One and no more things each one doth and can.
Me most, who said so.
I will give one further instance of his verse, written privately and laid among his papers.
He was fond of watching from his study and dressingroom windows at Addington the swallows, or rather housemartins which used to go and come in that sunny corner. In two or three of the frescoes in the Chapel he had represented a martin, settling or flying, and in 1889 he wrote these touching verses in memory of his eldest boy:
The Martins are back to cornice and eaves
Fresh from the glassy sea.
Flying no more to me.
And twittered a note to me.
Whom you know better than we.