Carman's Letters to Margaret Lawrence 1927-1929
by D.M.R. Bentley
by Margaret Maciejewski
Haines Falls, N.Y.
30. August. 1927
Margaret! Both your letters are here and are so wonderful.
I am so thankful you have chosen to "come through."
Those who do not know and do not count are so many.
And when, so rarely in life, one of the understanding
ones appears and smiles, so sure, so comprehending,
it is a day of days. I want to cry. You must never go
back, Margaret. It was so dear of you to want to tell
me about the picture and the poem, and to tell me. I
know so little, so [sic] nothing, about your life, but
it will always be precious to me. I know enough from
these letters to make a vita
thought the lines you quote were from a Book called
"Songs of the Sea Children", and when I looked
them up I found them thereó No. 53 among a hundred or
more.2 I have
not read these particular verses in a score of years.
There are so many of my things I have not read for years,
and as I remember, it takes me by the throat. Not any
old association. That is nothing almost. But the fact
that I, me, have done so much. And that you,
you of the Fifth Race,3
care for some of them. Margaret, I think it is part
of wisdom to live so intensely in the present that there
is no atom of room for regret of the past. I have none.
And what I have cared for supremely I care for supremely
still. You will understand.
it is more concern to me to be entrusted with the making
of a new poem to-day, than all the verses that are done
and gone on their errands. I have the artistís pride
only until the job is finished.
I smile as I think of you watching me so often from
the silence, and saying never a word, while I doubtless
all forgetful that a visitor from Shamballah4
might be looking on. You must have many a misgiving.
Never mind! Now that you have told, and confessed to
the "tough old observer sitting inside" of
you, we can go ahead perfectly. I also am one.
yes, I laughed aloud at your reply to my suggestion
that you do
the bards in so many histories! Impossible, of course.
I know Cosmic Consciousness.5
One of my chiefest instructors of recent years has been
Do you know him[?]. "Edinburgh Lectures" and
"the Creative Process and the Individual,"
are two of his books. Do look them up. Not rare nor
expensive. Should be in the Library. He builds a bridge
for the confirmed rationalist and modern scientist to
to mountains, you will easily catch up. When we have
our first ride or hike on a wild mountain trail, you
will have the gist of the matter, and I shall see them
all again for the first time in seeing your happiness
in them. I was far over thirty when I first saw them
and began to love them. The earlier poems are full of
the sea. Then I came to love the hills.
I am too old to be a chela, and too ignorant to have
a chela.7 What
can we do about that?
course I have always realized that any artistís work,
when it is excellent, is not of his own rational devising.
He knows not at all how
it happens. It simply comes to him. Like all poets or
painters or musicians, I have known this always, and
have recognized it as part of natural law. Beyond this
I have never had any conscious revelation, nor expected
any. Though I believe in such things, that they must
be and are. And I am sure others have had them. I am
I am I disappointed. I only blunder along, and know
it is all right. I have always been rather diffident
and perhaps too aloof. At least that is what I have
often been told. But I donít mean
to be aloof. So that is why I value your friendship
you know any of Krishnamurtiís writing? I met him three
years ago in California, and liked him immensely. Again
last winter in the Ojai valley. He is most charming
and unaffected. Not in the least
like a Messiah. The exquisite manners of a young English
Public school man, and an Oxford man as he is.9
He is to have a camp next May in California, such as
the Theosophists already have every year in Holland.10
A sort of Chatauqua11
where all students or artists will be welcome,
thesophist or not. Arrangements will be made for most
inexpensive accomodations [sic] and I have promised
to be there. Wouldnít you like that? When you write
and print any of your pioneer sketches,12
when any of them touch the Rockies and the far west,
if you need to know the scenes at first hand, it ought
to be easy for you to get transportation on the C.P.R.
and C.N.R. Also you might do incidental impressionistic
travel bits. Then from Vancouver to California is not
so dreadfully far!
* * * * * *
hours later: Here my letter was interrupted by a telegram.
I have to leave for New York to attend a funeral, and
cannot finish what I was saying until I come back in
a couple of days, when I return to the quiet hills.
Meanwhile, be happy, dear heart, as I am
life (Latin). [back]
a letter of August 27, 1927, Lawrence quotes Song
LIII of Carmanís Songs of the Sea Children
think the sun when he turns at night,
And lays his face against the seaís,
Must have such thoughts as these.
I think the wind, when he wakes at dawn,
Must wonder, seeing hill by hill,
That they can sleep so still.
this lyric is one of a series inspired by various
women (Jessie Kappeler, Mary Perry King), it might
well have had "old associations" for Carman.
to Madama Blavatsky (see Letter 2 n.1) and other
theosophists (see Letter 20 n.4), life on earth
has evolved in a series of successive cycles, each
of which has brought into being seven root-races
that are, in turn, divided into seven sub-races.
"The Fifth Race, our present Aryan, took its
rise in northern Asia, spread south and west, and
ran the course that is known to history," wrote
Alvin Boyd Kuhn in 1930 in Theosophy: a Modern
Revival of Ancient Wisdom, Studies in American
Religion and Culture: American Religion Series 2
(New York: Henry Holt); "[t]he Anglo-Saxon
is the fifth sub-race of the seven that will complete
the life of this Root-Race. The beginnings of the
sixth sub-race are taking form in America we are
told [see Letter 2 n.1]. Mentality is the special
characteristic of human development which our fifth
sub-race is emphasizing" (225). [back]
the Buddhist mythology of Tibet, Shambhala (Sambhala,
Shambala) is a "mystic kingdom ruled by lineage
holders of the Kalachakra Tantra . . . the
last of whom . . . is expected
to return and establish Shambhala as a universal
kingdom" (Penguin Dictionary of Religions,
ed. John R. Hinnells [London: Allen Lane, 1984]).
In Carmanís "Shamballah," which was included
in his Far Horizons volume of 1925, "the
mystic Shamballah" is a "Magian City"
in the north from which have been "sent forth"
"the Masters of Wisdom . . . the
Sons of the Word," a company of "teachers
and avatars" that includes Krishna, Jesus,
Swedenborg, Blake, Plotinus, Browning, Beethoven,
Handel, Raphael, Michelangelo, and FranÁois Delsarte
(see Letter 18 n.2). "Oíer Rome, over London
and Paris / The morrows of destiny wait," concludes
the poem, "Yet who now seeks work from Shamballah?
/ Who knocks at the Ivory Gate?" (Poems
[Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1929], 415-19).
As Michele Lacombe notes in "Theosophy and
the Canadian Idealist Tradition: a Preliminary Exploration,"
Journal of Canadian Studies 17.2 (1982),
117, stanzas from "Shamballah" were printed
in the Canadian Theosophist, 4 (December,
1923), 154. [back]
Consciousness: a Study in the Evolution of Human
Mind (1912) by Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902),
the British-born psychiatrist, mystic, and biographer
of Walt Whitman. Bucke defines "Cosmic Consciousness . . . [as]
a higher form of consciousness than that possessed
by the ordinary man" and suggests that a cosmically
conscious race destined to possess the earth is
in the process of coming into existence and power
(see n.4, above). [back]
Troward (1847-1916), who served for many years as
a judge in India, was the author of several books
and essays on religion and psychology, including
The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science
(1904; 2nd. ed. 1909; enlarged ed. 1909; rpt. 1921)
and The Creative Process and the Individual (c.
1910). The stated purpose of the Edinburgh Lectures
is "to indicate the Natural Principles
governing the relation between Mental Action and
Material Conditions, and thus to afford the student
an intelligible starting-point for the study of
the subject" and its governing principle is
that "the subjective mind is the builder of
the body, and that the body is subject to no influences
except those which reach it through the subjective
mind. . . . [W]hat we have to
do is to impress this upon the subjective
mind and habitually think of it as a fountain of
perpetual Life, which is continually renovating
the body by building in strong and healthy material. . . . When
once we fully grasp these considerations we shall
see that it is just as easy to externalize healthy
conditions of body as the contrary. Practically
the process amounts to a belief in our own power
of life. . . . To afford a solid
basis for this conviction is the purpose of Mental
Science" (27-28). [back]
disciple (Hindustani): a student of religious mysteries
and rituals under the guidance of a master or guru
(see also Letter 20 n.4). [back]
gist of Carmanís remarks suggests that he might
have meant to write "I am not sceptical."
Letter 2 n.1. On March 28, 1927 Carman reported
to Grace Fewster (see Letter 8 n.13) that he has
recently called on Krishnamurti at the theosophical
settlement in the Ojai Valley and been "charmed
with his good manners, quiet modesty, and radiant
smile" (Letters 339). Krishnamurti did
not attend Oxford University, however, though this
was the ambition of Besant, Leadbeater, and his
tutors. The publication in 1926 of Besantís How
a World Teacher Comes as Seen by Ancient and Modern
Psychology: Four Lectures Delivered at the Queenís
Hall, London, During June and July, 1926 made
Krishnamurtiís status as Christ and Buddha a subject
of much journalistic commentary on both sides of
the Atlantic. See Geoffrey West, The Life of
Annie Besant (London: Gerald Howe, 1929), 249-56.
is referring to the annual gathering of the Order
of the Star in the East on the Eerde Estate at Ommen
in Holland. [back]
devoted to esoteric religion were also held each
summer at Lake Chatauqua in western New York State
(see also Letter 3 n.6). [back]
Introduction xi and xix n.5 and Letter 4 n.1. [back]