February 3

High wind, cloudy but no rain all day; have moved my tent down by the men's, so am quite comfortable to-night. The officer of the day came along about 4 a. m.; all was quiet along the line during the night. The countersign is "Mexico." My rations are getting very short.

Wednesday, February 3rd.—Moved on last night, and woke up at Bailleul. Some badly wounded on the train, but not on my half.

On the other beat, beyond Rouen, the honeysuckle is in leaf, the catkins are out, and the woods are full of buds. What a difference it will make when spring comes. On this side it is all canals, bogs, and pollards, and the eternal mud.

We found pinned on a sock from a London school child, "Whosoever receives this, when you return conqueror, drop me a line," and then her name and address!

February Third

Snow! Snow! Snow!
Do thy worst, Winter, but know, but know
That, when the Spring cometh, a blossom shall blow
From the heart of the Poet that sleeps below,
And his name to the ends of the earth shall go,
In spite of the snow!
John B. Tabb

(In welcoming “The Forthcoming Volume” of the poems of his fellow soldier, fellow patriot, and fellow artistSIDNEY LANIER )


Sidney Lanier born, 1842

Albert Sidney Johnston born, 1803



February 3

February 3, 1862.--Self-criticism is the corrosive of all oratorical or literary spontaneity. The thirst to know turned upon the self is punished, like the curiosity of Psyche, by the flight of the thing desired. Force should remain a mystery to itself; as soon as it tries to penetrate its own secret it vanishes away. The hen with the golden eggs becomes unfruitful as soon as she tries to find out why her eggs are golden. The consciousness of consciousness is the term and end of analysis. True, but analysis pushed to extremity devours itself, like the Egyptian serpent. We must give it some external matter to crush and dissolve if we wish to prevent its destruction by its action upon itself. "We are, and ought to be, obscure to ourselves," said Goethe, "turned outward, and working upon the world which surrounds us." Outward radiation constitutes health; a too continuous concentration upon what is within brings us back to vacuity and blank. It is better that life should dilate and extend itself in ever-widening circles, than that it should be perpetually diminished and compressed by solitary contraction. Warmth tends to make a globe out of an atom; cold, to reduce a globe to the dimensions of an atom. Analysis has been to me self-annulling, self-destroying.

February 3

February 3, 1857.--The phantasmagoria of the soul cradles and soothes me as though I were an Indian yoghi, and everything, even my own life, becomes to me smoke, shadow, vapor, and illusion. I hold so lightly to all phenomena that they end by passing over me like gleams over a landscape, and are gone without leaving any impression. Thought is a kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can make transparent the mountains and everything that exists. It is by love only that one keeps hold upon reality, that one recovers one's proper self, that one becomes again will, force, and individuality. Love could do everything with me; by myself and for myself I prefer to be nothing....

I have the imagination of regret and not that of hope. My clear-sightedness is retrospective, and the result with me of disinterestedness and prudence is that I attach myself to what I have no chance of obtaining....

May 27, 1857. (Vandoeuvres. [Footnote: Also a village in the neighborhood of Geneva.])--We are going down to Geneva to hear the "Tannhäuser" of Richard Wagner performed at the theater by the German troup now passing through. Wagner's is a powerful mind endowed with strong poetical sensitiveness. His work is even more poetical than musical. The suppression of the lyrical element, and therefore of melody, is with him a systematic parti pris. No more duos or trios; monologue and the aria are alike done away with. There remains only declamation, the recitative, and the choruses. In order to avoid the conventional in singing, Wagner falls into another convention--that of not singing at all. He subordinates the voice to articulate speech, and for fear lest the muse should take flight he clips her wings. So that his works are rather symphonic dramas than operas. The voice is brought down to the rank of an instrument, put on a level with the violins, the hautboys, and the drums, and treated instrumentally. Man is deposed from his superior position, and the center of gravity of the work passes into the baton of the conductor. It is music depersonalized, neo-Hegelian music--music multiple instead of individual. If this is so, it is indeed the music of the future, the music of the socialist democracy replacing the art which is aristocratic, heroic, or subjective.

The overture pleased me even less than at the first hearing: it is like nature before man appeared. Everything in it is enormous, savage, elementary, like the murmur of forests and the roar of animals. It is forbidding and obscure, because man, that is to say, mind, the key of the enigma, personality, the spectator, is wanting to it.

The idea of the piece is grand. It is nothing less than the struggle of passion and pure love, of flesh and spirit, of the animal and the angel in man. The music is always expressive, the choruses very beautiful, the orchestration skillful, but the whole is fatiguing and excessive, too full, too laborious. When all is said, it lacks gayety, ease, naturalness and vivacity--it has no smile, no wings. Poetically one is fascinated, but one's musical enjoyment is hesitating, often doubtful, and one recalls nothing but the general impression--Wagner's music represents the abdication of the self, and the emancipation of all the forces once under its rule. It is a falling back into Spinozism--the triumph of fatality. This music has its root and its fulcrum in two tendencies of the epoch, materialism and socialism--each of them ignoring the true value of the human personality, and drowning it in the totality of nature or of society.