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quence of his absence, Chang, now left entirely to his own resources, is soon unmasked by the father, brought to a decisive trial, from which it appears that he cannot write a passable couplet, were it his neck-verse at Hairibee,' and being thus plucked of the borrowed feathers, in which he has hitherto plumed himself, is dismissed ignominiously from the house.
Such is the solution of the second principal difficulty which obstructs the happiness of the lovers, and which carries us forward, as we have already remarked, to the middle of the third volume. From this point the current of the action proceeds with comparative smoothness, though not wholly free from shoals and rapids, the nature of which we have not room to describe in detail. The leading object of the last volume and a half is not so much to create and remove new obstructions to the marriage of the principal parties, as to bring forward the second heroine, Dream-of-a-Peartree, whose introduction is effected in the following manner.
After taking leave of his mistress in the manner above described, our hero sets off for the capital of the empire, where he expects to find uncle Gu. He gets on for some time prosperously enough; but at length falls in with a band of robbers, and is stripped of every ounce of silver that he has about him. In this embarrassing situation he has recourse to his talent for poetry to recruit his finances, or in the more popular phrase, to raise the wind.' It is observed by Voltaire, in reference to the great Frederic, that there is always some hope of a king who can write verses; and it appears from the present example, that the rule may be extended to private citizens, at least in China. It so happens that a magistrate named Li, residing at the village where the robbery takes place, is preparing a large screen in four parts, as a present for his superior officer; and having already adorned each part with a painting, wants nothing but the appropriate poetical inscriptions to complete his plan. The province of Canton, where the scene is now laid, is, it seems, not so dear to the Muses, as some others, particularly that of Nankin; and Li no sooner hears that there is a Nankin poet in town, than he invites him to his house for the purpose of putting his talent in requisition. Sa writes the four inscriptions at a sitting, for on this as on all other occasions he (and the case is the same with all the other poets that are mentioned) produces poetry of the first order with a facility only paralleled by that of the Scotts, the Southeys,
the Byrons, and the Bowrings of our time. Whenever they take the pencil in hand, the author is careful to mention the expedition with which they work; and seems to be at a loss for words and images sufficiently strong to give a complete notion of it. Thus, in the present instance, his enthusiasin at the rapidity with which his hero wrote the inscriptions, transports him above the regions of plain prose into the following quatrain;
'The movement of his hand was not slow like that of a pedestrian,
'But as rapid as the course of the swiftest steed.
'He starts off and checks his flight with the lightness of a winged spirit;
'His thoughts cover the paper as the fleecy clouds spread themselves over the sky.'
In the same way, when he sits down on a previous occasion, by order of his mistress, 'to write the acrostic which is to decide his fate, notwithstanding the delicacy of the situation, he loses nothing of the freedom of thought and expression.
'Pearls and diamonds,' says the author, flew about the paper like drops of rain in an April shower.'
So when the heroine produces the little chef-d'œuvre, which we quoted from the first chapter,
"Thoughts drop from her pencil, like rain from a dark summer cloud; and spring up under her rapid hand in seven-fold clusters of flowers, till the whole paper becomes, as it were, a chain of pearls and diamonds.'
It must be owned that the Chinese poets, like the Vicar of Wakefield's painter, are not sparing of their jewelry. A slow manner of composing, on the other hand, is the invariable accompaniment of dulness. Thus Pa, after bringing Chang and another stupid pretender to the experimentum crucis, goes back to his daughter, and tells her that they had been wagging their heads over their inkstands the whole afternoon, without being able to shake out a word. These passages seem to imply a false notion of the difficulty of writing good poetry, which, we imagine, does not lie in the metrical arrangement, or mere form, as is here supposed. When the rules of versification are once settled, and good models given, it is rather easier to express ideas in these regular measures, than to write harmonious prose. The difficulty lies in supplying the thoughts
These are articles which,
that breathe and words that burn.' as Géronte in the play says of the five hundred crowns, ne se trouvent point dans le pas d'un cheval; and there is great room for choice among the fruits of even the finest intellect. 'Good poetry,' says Gray, 'requires the best talents, and the best of those talents.' It must flow with ease, and at the same time exhibit the vigor of thought or imagination and the finished style, all which supposes labor, meditation, and reflection. This was the opinion of Boileau, when he boasted that he had taught Molière to write easy verses with difficulty; Je lui ai appris l'art de faire difficilement des vers faciles. When a person writes with great rapidity, or, in other words, sets down his ideas as fast as they occur to him, without study or selection, it is certain, whatever may be his talent, that his work cannot be of the first order. In general your easy writing, as was well observed by the author of the 'School for Scandal,' is the hardest reading a man can undertake.
To return however from this digression; our hero, while engaged in writing his inscription in the garden, hears a person say aloud, in a pavilion placed in the garden adjoining and overlooking his, that the pomegranate-trees without the wall are in full bloom. This was of course a strong temptation to the flowery fancy of a Chinese; and as soon as he has finished his work, Sa walks out to see the show, in which he is at first rather disappointed, but soon penetrates the real meaning of the remark, when he finds himself accosted by a handsome youth, who issues from a door in the wall of the adjoining garden, and who proves to be no other than Dream-of-a-Peartree in disguise. If Red-Jasper hold the post of heroine, this visionary beauty has, we suspect, the whole heart of our author, though he allows her only half of that of his hero. He describes her on this her first appearance in the following
The gate was seen to open, and there came out a youth of about fifteen or sixteen years of age, dressed in a violet robe with a light cap on his head. His vermilion lips, brilliant white teeth, and arched eyebrows gave him the air of a charming girl. So graceful and airy are his movements, that one might well ask, whether he be mortal or a heavenly spirit. He looks like a sylph formed of the essence of flowers, or a soul descended from the moon. Is it indeed a youth who has come out to divert himself, or is it a sweet perfume from the inner apartment? '
This charming person enters into a long conversation with our hero, which gradually assumes a confidential character. Sa acquaints his new companion with his engagement to Mademoiselle Pa (as Mr Remusat generally styles the young lady), who proves to be a cousin of the supposed youth before him. The latter, on hearing of the engagement, reinarks that the empire is vast, and inquires of Sa what he would do, if he should find in the course of his travels another damsel equally remarkable for grace, beauty, and poetical talent with his mistress. To this point-blank question Sa very naturally replies, that he has but one heart; which in English would probably be understood to mean, that his affections were preoccupied, and that he could not do justice to the merit of any other object; but being interpreted à la Chinoise, implies, that he cannot be insensible to beauty wherever he meets with it, and that if he should become acquainted with another young lady as lovely as Miss Pa, he should of course love her as much. 'If such be the case,' rejoins the youth, 'I may venture to inform you, that I have a younger sister about sixteen years of age, who was in the pavilion yesterday while you were writing, and was so much struck with your agreeable person and dexterity in handling the pencil, that she fairly lost her heart upon the spot. I easily discovered her inclinations, and as we are orphans, and have no friends to provide for our establishment in the regular way, I took it upon me to sound you on the subject; but since your affections are elsewhere engaged, it were better perhaps to think no more about the matter.' In answer to this, Sa proposes the expedient of a double marriage, which appears to be satisfactory to the other party; and it is then arranged, that he shall proceed to the capital, as he originally intended, and after settling the preliminaries of his alliance with Miss Pa, shall call at Canton on his way back, and conclude the arrangement with Miss Lo, who, as the intelligent reader does not require to be informed, has been treating for herself under the name of her sister. She very generously insists upon supplying our hero with funds for his journey; and thus provided, he departs at once without stopping to take leave of the owner of the screens.
In the mean time his new mistress, who seems to have a fund of enterprise and vivacity in her character, without waiting for her lover's return, sets off with her mother for Nankin upon a visit to her cousin. The ladies are very cordially re
ceived, and immediately domesticated in Pa's family. The merit of the fair Peartree is soon brought to the usual test, and she is found to possess a talent for poetry little if at all inferior to that of her relation. The two cousins gradually contract a great liking for each other, and in order to avoid being separated at any future period, determine that they will, if possible, arrange matters so as to marry the same man. Their dialogue on this occasion may be quoted as a favorable specimen of the style of the work, as well as a curious illustration of the sentiments of the Chinese on this subject. Peartree has just produced a copy of verses in praise of her cousin, who is so much delighted with them, that she exclaims,
"What a charming piece of poetry! It is worthy of the most celebrated ancient writers. Ah, sweet coz, how happy I should be, if I could hope to keep you near me all my life. I would have you, if I could, as close to me as my head-dress."
Why do you say if you could? sister," said Peartree in reply; "do you think of sending me away from you? This is but a poor proof of the affection you profess."
"You misunderstand me, my sweet Peartree," said Jasper, laughing. "I have the greatest affection for your person, and the highest opinion of your talent. I would gladly, as I have just said, pass my whole life with you; but I fear that it is not possible, and this fear is the only reason of the sentiment I expressed. Why then should you doubt my affection?"
"Does it not depend exclusively upon us," said Peartree, "to decide whether we shall pass our lives together or not? If we both wish it, who is to prevent it? What can render it impossible?"
My fear is," replied Jasper, "that you may not really desire it."
"Nay, then," said Peartree, resuming her good humor, "I can have no doubt of your affection, and I am sure that mine for you is unutterable. But you know the condition upon which only we can hope to live together for life; is it to your taste?"
"We are told," replied Jasper, "that Ohoang and Niuying devoted themselves of yore to the single Chun. Were it agreeable to you, my sweet Peartree, I would willingly imitate them."
"If such had not been my desire," replied the other, greatly delighted, "I should not now be here."
"If these celebrated ancient heroines, Ying and Hoang, with whom we can of course make no pretensions to be compared for beauty and talent, did not blush at such a union," continued Jasper, "I know not why we should feel any delicacy about it. But