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be deeply concerned in the near future to continue this interpretation on an even larger scale, no one of us doubts. We wish we might hope for another genius like Hearn to carry on the work.
The merit of the chapters printed or reprinted in the present volume seems to me their power to teach us to imagine our familiar traditions as foreign and exotic in the eyes of other peoples. We are accustomed, like every one else, to think of our literature as the final product of other literatures—as a terminal in itself, rather than as a channel through which great potentialities might flow. Like other men, we are accustomed to think of ourselves as native, under all circumstances, and of other people at all times as foreign. While we were staying in their country, did we not think of the French as foreigners? In these chapters, not originally intended for us, we have the piquant and salutary experience of seeing what we look like on at least one occasion when we are the foreigners; we catch at least a glimpse of what to the Orient seems exotic in us, and it does us no harm to observe that the peculiarly Western aspects of our culture are not self-justifying nor always justifiable when looked at through eyes not already disposed in their favour. Hearn was one of the most loyal advocates the West could possibly have sent to the East, but he was an honest artist, and he never tried to improve his case by trimming a fact. His
interpretation of us, therefore, touches our sensitiveness in regions—and in a degree—which perhaps his Japanese students were unconscious of; we too marvel as well as they at his skill in explaining, but we are sensitive to what he found necessary to explain. We read less for the explanation than for the inventory of ourselves.
Any interpretation of life which looks closely to the facts will probably increase our sense of mystery and of strangeness in common things. If on the other hand it is a theory of experience which chiefly interests us, we may divert our attention somewhat from the experience to the theory, leaving the world as humdrum as it was before we explained it. In that case we must seek the exotic in remote places and in exceptional conditions, if we are to observe it at all. But Lafcadio Hearn cultivated in himself and taught his students to cultivate a quick alertness to those qualities of life to which we are usually dulled by habit. Education as he conceived of it had for its purpose what Pater says is the end of philosophy, to rouse the human spirit, to startle it into sharp and eager observation. It is a sign that dulness is already spreading in us, if we must go far afield for the stimulating, the wondrous, the miraculous. The growing sensitiveness of a sound education would help us to distinguish these qualities of romance in the very heart of our daily life. To have so distinguished them is in my opinion the felicity of Hearn in these chapters. When he was writing of Japan for European or American readers, we caught easily enough the exotic atmosphere of the island kingdom—easily enough, since it was the essence of a world far removed from ours. The exotic note is quite as strong in these chapters. We shall begin to appreciate Hearn's genius when we reflect that here he finds for us the exotic in ourselves.
The first three chapters deal from different standpoints with the same subject—the characteristic of Western civilization which to the East is most puzzling, our attitude toward women. Hearn attempted in other essays also to do full justice to this fascinating theme, but these illustrations are typical of his method. To the Oriental it is strange to discover a civilization in which the love of husband and wife altogether supersedes the love of children for their parents, yet this is the civilization he will meet in English and in most Western literatures. He can understand the love of individual women, as we understand the love of individual men, but he will not easily understand our worship of women as a sex, our esteem of womankind, our chivalry, our way of taking woman as a religion. How difficult, then, will he find such a poem as Tennyson's “Princess," or most English novels. He will wonder why the majority of all Western stories are love stories, and why in English literature the love story takes place before marriage, whereas in French and other Continental literatures it usually follows marriage. In Japan marriages are the concern of the parents; with us they are the concern of the lovers, who must choose their mates in competition more or less open with other suitors. No wonder the rivalries and the precarious technique of love-making are with us an obsession quite exotic to the Eastern mind. But the Japanese reader, if he would understand us, must also learn how it is that we have two ways of reckoning with love-—a realistic way, which occupies itself in portraying sex, the roots of the tree, as Hearn says, and the idealistic way, which tries to fix and reproduce the beautiful illusion of either happy or unhappy passion. And if the Japanese reader has learned enough of our world to understand all this, he must yet visualize our social system more clearly perhaps than most of us see it, if he would know why so many of our love poems are addressed to the woman we have not yet met. When we begin to sympathize with him in his efforts to grasp the meaning of our literature, we are at last awakened ourselves to some notion of what our civilization means, and as Hearn guides us through the discipline, we realize an exotic quality in things which formerly we took for granted.
Lecturing before the days of Imagism, before the attention of many American poets had been turned to Japanese art, Hearn recognized the scarcity in our literature of those short forms of verse in which the Greeks as well as the Japanese excel. The epigram with us is—or was until recently—a classical tradition, based on the brief inscriptions of the Greek anthology or on the sharp satires of Roman poetry; we had no native turn for the form as an expression of our contemporary life. Since Hearn gave his very significant lecture we have discovered for ourselves an American kind of short poem, witty rather than poetic, and few verse-forms are now practised more widely among us. Hearn spoke as a prophet or as a shrewd observer—which is the same thing—when he pointed out the possibility of development in this field of brevity. He saw that Japan was closer to the Greek world in this practice than we were, and that our indifference to the shorter forms constituted a peculiarity which we could hardly defend. He saw, also, in the work of Heredia, how great an influence Japanese painting might have on Western literature, even on those poets who had no other acquaintance with Japan. In this point also his observation has proved prophetic; the new poets in America have adopted Japan, as they have adopted Greece, as a literary theme, and it is somewhat exclusively from the fine arts of either country that they draw their idea of its life.