Page:Poet Lore, At the Chasm, volume 24, 1913.pdf/11

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Bohdan.—And of course you journalists have the right to point out the ways of genius.

Karel (calmly).—I am not speaking of genius but merely of great talent. If Mr. Ladislav Bystrina were a genius I might discuss the subject more extensively. His picture is weak, positively weak. It can move, or we may say hypnotize youth and women.

Cilka (sighing).—Poor women!

Karel.—Yes, the children and the women of our sickly and artificial civilization—but strength, health and vitality of original source it has not.

Bohdan.—And who says that it must be healthy?

Karel.—Drop those theories, young fellow, and let us get to that which your Ladislav Bystrina drew. Cilka's long face tells me that she agrees with you entirely, and that you both suffer from that cult and cant of unappreciated and unrecognized genius. As I said, youth and women. Well, what did that gentleman picture? On a throne made of skulls and bones sits Death. It has a scepter and a crown and toward it move in a long procession crowds of miserable mortals. First come the children—poor things. They have white chemises down to their heels and in their hands they hold antediluvian palms; and how thin they are, and how their eyes bulge! Is it not absurd—the child, the joy and happiness of life, is put in the first row of a procession of the dead. I need not speak about the other things in that picture. That itself is horrid and bad.

Bohdan.—Just as if not enough children died young. That idea itself is thoroughly humane.

Cilka.—And genial!

Karel.—Humane! Genial! What else will I hear? Whenever anyone wants to move every-day people he always starts to play with their sentiments. He would be a decidedly bad preacher who would not talk of widows and orphans and stepmothers whenever he would make his congregation weep. Of course, everybody knows that all orphans are little angels and all stepmothers infuriated witches, and now add to that, that the public is as inane as ever. Out of a hundred mothers there are at least ten who have buried a little child, and these see it, now, in a white night-gown, marching to the throne of Death. Most certainly they are moved to tears. Then it is that the picture is humane and genial. It can't be otherwise. But the painting is unsound.

Cilka.—The artist certainly did not draw it for old bachelors.

Bohdan.—Nor for heartless people. In order to understand a work of art one must have something here (pointing to his heart), but the critic