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Crome Yellow - Chapter XX Post by :PKNAUSS Category :Long Stories Author :Aldous Huxley Date :February 2011 Read :3812

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Crome Yellow - Chapter XX

Ivor was gone. Lounging behind the wind-screen in his yellow
sedan he was whirling across rural England. Social and amorous
engagements of the most urgent character called him from hall to
baronial hall, from castle to castle, from Elizabethan manor-
house to Georgian mansion, over the whole expanse of the kingdom.
To-day in Somerset, to-morrow in Warwickshire, on Saturday in the
West riding, by Tuesday morning in Argyll--Ivor never rested.
The whole summer through, from the beginning of July till the end
of September, he devoted himself to his engagements; he was a
martyr to them. In the autumn he went back to London for a
holiday. Crome had been a little incident, an evanescent bubble
on the stream of his life; it belonged already to the past. By
tea-time he would be at Gobley, and there would be Zenobia's
welcoming smile. And on Thursday morning--but that was a long,
long way ahead. He would think of Thursday morning when Thursday
morning arrived. Meanwhile there was Gobley, meanwhile Zenobia.

In the visitor's book at Crome Ivor had left, according to his
invariable custom in these cases, a poem. He had improvised it
magisterially in the ten minutes preceding his departure. Denis
and Mr. Scogan strolled back together from the gates of the
courtyard, whence they had bidden their last farewells; on the
writing-table in the hall they found the visitor's book, open,
and Ivor's composition scarcely dry. Mr. Scogan read it aloud:

"The magic of those immemorial kings,
Who webbed enchantment on the bowls of night.
Sleeps in the soul of all created things;
In the blue sea, th' Acroceraunian height,
In the eyed butterfly's auricular wings
And orgied visions of the anchorite;
In all that singing flies and flying sings,
In rain, in pain, in delicate delight.
But much more magic, much more cogent spells
Weave here their wizardries about my soul.
Crome calls me like the voice of vesperal bells,
Haunts like a ghostly-peopled necropole.
Fate tears me hence. Hard fate! since far from Crome
My soul must weep, remembering its Home."

"Very nice and tasteful and tactful," said Mr. Scogan, when he
had finished. "I am only troubled by the butterfly's auricular
wings. You have a first-hand knowledge of the workings of a
poet's mind, Denis; perhaps you can explain."

"What could be simpler," said Denis. "It's a beautiful word, and
Ivor wanted to say that the wings were golden."

"You make it luminously clear."

"One suffers so much," Denis went on, "from the fact that
beautiful words don't always mean what they ought to mean.
Recently, for example, I had a whole poem ruined, just because
the word 'carminative' didn't mean what it ought to have meant.
Carminative--it's admirable, isn't it?"

"Admirable," Mr. Scogan agreed. "And what does it mean?"

"It's a word I've treasured from my earliest infancy," said
Denis, "treasured and loved. They used to give me cinnamon when
I had a cold--quite useless, but not disagreeable. One poured it
drop by drop out of narrow bottles, a golden liquor, fierce and
fiery. On the label was a list of its virtues, and among other
things it was described as being in the highest degree
carminative. I adored the word. 'Isn't it carminative?' I used
to say to myself when I'd taken my dose. It seemed so
wonderfully to describe that sensation of internal warmth, that
glow, that--what shall I call it?--physical self-satisfaction
which followed the drinking of cinnamon. Later, when I
discovered alcohol, 'carminative' described for me that similar,
but nobler, more spiritual glow which wine evokes not only in the
body but in the soul as well. The carminative virtues of
burgundy, of rum, of old brandy, of Lacryma Christi, of Marsala,
of Aleatico, of stout, of gin, of champagne, of claret, of the
raw new wine of this year's Tuscan vintage--I compared them, I
classified them. Marsala is rosily, downily carminative; gin
pricks and refreshes while it warms. I had a whole table of
carmination values. And now"--Denis spread out his hands, palms
upwards, despairingly--"now I know what carminative really

"Well, what DOES it mean?" asked Mr. Scogan, a little

"Carminative," said Denis, lingering lovingly over the syllables,
"carminative. I imagined vaguely that it had something to do
with carmen-carminis, still more vaguely with caro-carnis, and
its derivations, like carnival and carnation. Carminative--there
was the idea of singing and the idea of flesh, rose-coloured and
warm, with a suggestion of the jollities of mi-Careme and the
masked holidays of Venice. Carminative--the warmth, the glow,
the interior ripeness were all in the word. Instead of which..."

"Do come to the point, my dear Denis," protested Mr. Scogan. "Do
come to the point."

"Well, I wrote a poem the other day," said Denis; "I wrote a poem
about the effects of love."

"Others have done the same before you," said Mr. Scogan. "There
is no need to be ashamed."

"I was putting forward the notion," Denis went on, "that the
effects of love were often similar to the effects of wine, that
Eros could intoxicate as well as Bacchus. Love, for example, is
essentially carminative. It gives one the sense of warmth, the

'And passion carminative as wine...'

was what I wrote. Not only was the line elegantly sonorous; it
was also, I flattered myself, very aptly compendiously
expressive. Everything was in the word carminative--a detailed,
exact foreground, an immense, indefinite hinterland of

'And passion carminative as wine...'

I was not ill-pleased. And then suddenly it occurred to me that
I had never actually looked up the word in a dictionary.
Carminative had grown up with me from the days of the cinnamon
bottle. It had always been taken for granted. Carminative: for
me the word was as rich in content as some tremendous, elaborate
work of art; it was a complete landscape with figures.

'And passion carminative as wine...'

It was the first time I had ever committed the word to writing,
and all at once I felt I would like lexicographical authority for
it. A small English-German dictionary was all I had at hand. I
turned up C, ca, car, carm. There it was: 'Carminative:
windtreibend.' Windtreibend!" he repeated. Mr. Scogan laughed.
Denis shook his head. "Ah," he said, "for me it was no laughing
matter. For me it marked the end of a chapter, the death of
something young and precious. There were the years--years of
childhood and innocence--when I had believed that carminative
meant--well, carminative. And now, before me lies the rest of my
life--a day, perhaps, ten years, half a century, when I shall
know that carminative means windtreibend.

'Plus ne suis ce que j'ai ete
Et ne le saurai jamais etre.'

It is a realisation that makes one rather melancholy."

"Carminative," said Mr. Scogan thoughtfully.

"Carminative," Denis repeated, and they were silent for a time.
"Words," said Denis at last, "words--I wonder if you can realise
how much I love them. You are too much preoccupied with mere
things and ideas and people to understand the full beauty of
words. Your mind is not a literary mind. The spectacle of Mr.
Gladstone finding thirty-four rhymes to the name 'Margot' seems
to you rather pathetic than anything else. Mallarme's envelopes
with their versified addresses leave you cold, unless they leave
you pitiful; you can't see that

'Apte a ne point te cabrer, hue!
Poste et j'ajouterai, dia!
Si tu ne fuis onze-bis Rue
Balzac, chez cet Heredia,'

is a little miracle."

"You're right," said Mr. Scogan. "I can't."

"You don't feel it to be magical?"


"That's the test for the literary mind," said Denis; "the feeling
of magic, the sense that words have power. The technical, verbal
part of literature is simply a development of magic. Words are
man's first and most grandiose invention. With language he
created a whole new universe; what wonder if he loved words and
attributed power to them! With fitted, harmonious words the
magicians summoned rabbits out of empty hats and spirits from the
elements. Their descendants, the literary men, still go on with
the process, morticing their verbal formulas together, and,
before the power of the finished spell, trembling with delight
and awe. Rabbits out of empty hats? No, their spells are more
subtly powerful, for they evoke emotions out of empty minds.
Formulated by their art the most insipid statements become
enormously significant. For example, I proffer the constatation,
'Black ladders lack bladders.' A self-evident truth, one on
which it would not have been worth while to insist, had I chosen
to formulate it in such words as 'Black fire-escapes have no
bladders,' or, 'Les echelles noires manquent de vessie.' But
since I put it as I do, 'Black ladders lack bladders,' it
becomes, for all its self-evidence, significant, unforgettable,
moving. The creation by word-power of something out of nothing--
what is that but magic? And, I may add, what is that but
literature? Half the world's greatest poetry is simply 'Les
echelles noires manquent de vessie,' translated into magic
significance as, 'Black ladders lack bladders.' And you can't
appreciate words. I'm sorry for you."

"A mental carminative," said Mr. Scogan reflectively. "That's
what you need."

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Henry Wimbush's long cigar burned aromatically. The "History ofCrome" lay on his knee; slowly he turned over the pages."I can't decide what episode to read you to-night," he saidthoughtfully. "Sir Ferdinando's voyages are not withoutinterest. Then, of course, there's his son, Sir Julius. It washe who suffered from the delusion that his perspirationengendered flies; it drove him finally to suicide. Or there'sSir Cyprian." He turned the pages more rapidly. "Or Sir Henry.Or Sir George...No, I'm inclined to think I won't read about anyof these.""But you must read something," insisted Mr. Scogan, taking hispipe out