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Robert William Chambers: Quotes

An April night, soft and delicious. The air was heavy with perfume from the pink and white chestnut blossoms. The roof dripped with moisture. Far down in the dark court the gas-jets flickered and flared.

In the Quarter (1894) — Chapter 1

The air was brisk; he buttoned his coat about him. Here and there a moonbeam touched the lapping edge of the water, or flashed out in the open stretch beyond the point of pines. High over the pines hung a cliff, blackening the water all around with fathomless shadow.

In the Quarter (1894) — Chapter 16

Paris lay sparkling under a cold, clear sky. The brilliant streets lay coiled along the Seine and stretched glittering from bank to bank, from boulevard to boulevard; cafés, brasseries, concert halls and theaters in the yellow blaze of gas and the white and violet of electricity.

In the Quarter (1894) — Chapter 17

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

The King in Yellow (1895) — Cassilda’s Song in The King in Yellow: Act I: Scene 2

This is the thing that troubles me, for I cannot forget Carcosa where black stars hang in the heavens; where the shadows of men’s thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, when the twin suns sink into the lake of Hali; and my mind will bear for ever the memory of the Pallid Mask.

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Repairer of Reputations: Chapter 1

It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced of literary anarchists. No definite principles had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Repairer of Reputations: Chapter 1

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed it’s time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Mask: The King in Yellow: Act I: Scene 2d

Feverishly I struggled to put it from me, but I saw the lake of Hali, thin and blank, without a ripple or wind to stir it, and I saw the towers of Carcosa behind the moon. Aldebaran, the Hyades, Alar, Hastur, glided through the cloud-rifts which fluttered and flapped as they passed like the scolloped tatters of the King in Yellow.

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Mask: Chapter 3

I had always found the organ-playing at St. Barnabé highly interesting. Learned and scientific it was, too much so for my small knowledge, but expressing a vivid if cold intelligence. Moreover, it possessed the French quality of taste: taste reigned supreme, self-controlled, dignified and reticent.

The King in Yellow (1895) — In the Court of the Dragon

I looked with sick eyes upon the sun, shining through the white foam of the fountain, pouring over the backs of the dusky bronze river-gods, on the faraway Arc, a structure of amethyst mist, on the countless vistas of grey stems and bare branches faintly green.

The King in Yellow (1895) — In the Court of the Dragon

There are so many things which are impossible to explain! Why should certain chords in music make me think of the brown and golden tints of autumn foliage? Why should the Mass of Sainte Cécile bend my thoughts wandering among caverns whose walls blaze with ragged masses of virgin silver?

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Yellow Sign: Chapter 1

“Shall I tell you all about her, cat? She is very beautiful—your mistress,” he murmured drowsily, “and her hair is heavy as burnished gold. I could paint her,—not on canvas—for I should need shades and tones and hues and dyes more splendid than the iris of a splendid rainbow. I could only paint her with closed eyes, for in dreams alone can such colours as I need be found. For her eyes, I must have azure from skies untroubled by a cloud—the skies of dreamland. For her lips, roses from the palaces of slumberland, and for her brow, snow-drifts from mountains which tower in fantastic pinnacles to the moons;—oh, much higher than our moon here,—the crystal moons of dreamland. She is—very—beautiful, your mistress.”

The King in Yellow (1895) — The Street of Four Winds: Chapter 1

That blue radiance which a starless sky sheds lighted her white shoulders; transparent shadow veiled the contour of neck and cheeks.

The Maker of Moons and Other Stories (1896) — The Case of Mr. Helmer

“But we are already there,” I stammered, turning my eyes fearfully; for the tall pines dwindled and clustered and rose again cool and gray in the morning air, all turned to stone, fretted and carved like lacework; and where the pines had faded, the twin towers of a cathedral loomed; and where the hills swept across the horizon, the roofs of a white city glimmered in the morning sun. Bridges and quays and streets and domes and the hum of traffic and rattle of arms; and over all, the veil of haze and the twin gray towers of Notre Dame!

The Mystery of Choice (1897) — The White Shadow: 3

“We ought to be so happy that I am beautiful!” she would say to me. “Just think, supposing I were not!”

The Mystery of Choice (1897) — The White Shadow: 8

We tried to smile, but our hearts were like lead.

The Mystery of Choice (1897) — The White Shadow: 11

Now the days began to run more swiftly than the tide along the tawny beach; and the nights, star-dusted and blue, came and vanished and returned, only to exhale at dawn like perfume from a violet.

The Mystery of Choice (1897) — The Key to Grief: 5

The sea was a sheet of silver, tinged with pink. The tremendous arch of the sky was all shimmering and glimmering with the promise of the sun. Already the mist above, flecked with clustered clouds, flushed with rose colour and dull gold. I heard the low splash of the waves breaking and curling across the beach. A wandering breeze, fresh and fragrant, blew the curtains of my window. There was the scent of sweet bay in the room, and everywhere the subtile, nameless perfume of the sea.

The Mystery of Choice (1897) — A Mater of Interest: 3

Breezes blowing from beds of iris quickened her breath with their perfume; she saw the tufted lilacs sway in the wind, and the streamers of mauve-tinted wistaria swinging, all a-glisten with golden bees; she saw a crimson cardinal winging through the foliage, and amorous tanagers flashing like scarlet flames athwart the pines.

The Younger Set (1907) — Chapter V: Afterglow

Toward dawn a fever of unrest drove her from her hot, crushed pillows to the cool of the open casements. The morning was dark and very still; no breeze stirred; a few big, widely scattered stars watched her. For a long while she stood there trying to quiet the rapid pulse and fast breathing; and at length, with an excited little laugh, she sank down among the cushions on the window-seat and lay back very still, her head, with its glossy, disordered hair, cradled in her arms.

The Danger Mark (1909) — Chapter 8: An Afterglow

It was almost mid-April; and still the silvery-green tassels on the wistaria showed no hint of the blue petals folded within; but the maples’ leafless symmetry was already veined with fire. Faint perfume from Long Island woodlands, wandering puffs of wind from salt meadows freshened the city streets; St. Felix Street boasted a lilac bush in leaf; Oxford Street was gay with hyacinths and a winter-battered butterfly; and in Fort Greene Place the grassy door-yards were exquisite with crocus bloom. Peace, good-will, and spring on earth; but in men’s souls a silence as of winter.

To Northland folk the unclosing buds of April brought no awakening; lethargy fettered all, arresting vigour, sapping desire. An immense inertia chained progress in its tracks, while overhead the gray storm-wrack fled away,—misty, monstrous, gale-driven before the coming hurricane.

Ailsa Paige (1910) — Chapter 4

[…] nor did they comprehend the ceaseless tremors of a land slowly crumbling under the subtle pressure—nor that at last the vast disintegration of the matrix would disclose the forming crystal of another nation cradled there, glittering, naming under the splendour of the Southern skies.

Ailsa Paige (1910) — Chapter 4

There was no hope for him. To let himself drift; to evoke in her, sometimes by hazard, at times with intent, the delicate response—faint echo—pale shadow of the virile emotions she evoked in him, that, too, was useless. He knew it, yet curious to try, intent on developing communication through those exquisite and impalpable lines that threaded the mystery from him to her—from her to him.

Ailsa Paige (1910) — Chapter 5

She drew a deep, sweet breath as she entered the leafy shade and looked up into the bluest of cloudless skies. Odors of syringa and lilac freshened her, cleansing her of the last lingering taint of joss-sticks. The cardinal birds were very busy in the scarlet masses of Japanese quince; orioles fluttered among golden Forsythia; here and there an exotic starling preened and peered at the burnished purple grackle, stalking solemnly through the tender grass.

For an hour she walked vigorously, enchanted with the sun and sky and living green, through arbors heavy with wistaria, iris hued and scented, through rambles under tall elms tufted with new leaves, past fountains splashing over, past lakes where water-fowl floated or stretched brilliant wings in the late afternoon sunlight.

Iole (1913) — XV

Earlier in the evening there had been a young moon on Isla Water. Under it spectres of the mist floated in the pale lustre; a painted moorhen steered through ghostly pools leaving fan-shaped wakes of crinkled silver behind her; heavy fish splashed, swirling again to drown the ephemera. But there was no moonlight now; not a star; only fog on Isla Water, smothering ripples and long still reaches, bank and upland, wall and house. The last light had gone out in the stable; the windows of Isla were darkened; there was a faint scent of heather in the night; a fainter taint of peat smoke. The world had grown very still by Isla Water. Toward midnight a dog-otter, swimming leisurely by the Bridge of Isla, suddenly dived and sped away under water; and a stoat, prowling in the garden, also took fright and scurried through the wicket.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 5: Isla Water

On the way across Isla bridge and out along the sheep-path they chatted unconcernedly. A faint aromatic odour made the girl aware of broom and whinn and heath. As they sauntered on along the edge of Isla Water the lapwings rose into flight ahead. Once or twice the feathery whirr of brown grouse startled her. And once, on the edge of cultivated land, a partridge burst from the heather at her very feet—a “Frenchman” with his red legs and gay feathers brilliant in the sun. Sun and shadow and white cloud, heath and moor and hedge and broad-tilled field alternated as they passed together along the edge of Isla Water and over the road to Isla—the enchanting river—interested in each other’s conversation and in the loveliness of the sunny world about them. High in the blue sky plover called en passant; larks too were on the wing, and throstles and charming feathered things that hid in hedgerows and permitted glimpses of piquant heads and twitching painted tails.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 5: Isla Water

Again the brown grouse whirred from the whinns; again the subtle fragrance of the moor sweetened her throat with its clean aroma; again the haunting complaint of the lapwings came across acres of bog and furze; and, high in the afternoon sky, an invisible curlew sadly and monotonously repeated its name through the vast blue vault of space. On the edge of evening with all the west ablaze they came out once more on Isla Water and looked across the glimmering flood at the old house in the hollow, every distant window-pane a-glitter. Like that immemorial and dragon-guarded jewel of the East the sun, cradled in flaky gold, hung a hand’s breadth above the horizon, and all the world had turned to a hazy plum-bloom tint threaded with pale fire.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 5: Isla Water

For ten minutes, holding her by the arm, he pushed forward up the wooded slope. Then, when it was safe to do so, he halted, jerked her around to face him, and flashed his pocket torch. And he saw a handsome, perspiring, sullen girl, staring at him out of dark eyes dilated by terror or by fury—he was not quite sure which.

She wore the costume of a peasant of the canton bordering the wire; and she looked like that type of German-Swiss—handsome, sensual, bad-tempered, but not stupid.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 6: Mount Terrible

When the news of a Hun atrocity committed on Swiss territory was flashed to Berne, the Federal Assembly instantly suppressed it and went into secret session. Followed another session, in camera, of the Federal Council, whose seven members sat all night long envisaging war with haggard faces. And something worse than war when they remembered the Forbidden Forest and the phantom Canton of Les Errues.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 7: The Forbidden Forest

A declining sun painted the crags in raw splendour; valleys were already dusky; a vast stretch of misty glory beyond the world of mountains to the north was Alsace; southward there was no end to the myriad snowy summits, cloud-like, piled along the horizon.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 7: The Forbidden Forest

The sunny silence of the mountains was intense. Over a mass of alpine wild flowers hanging heavy and fragrant between rocky clefts two very large and intensely white butterflies fought a fairy battle for the favours of a third—a dainty, bewildering creature, clinging to an unopened bud, its snowy wings a-quiver.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 7: The Forbidden Forest

Only the fern fronds quivered where spray rained across them; and the only sounds that stirred were the crystalline clash of icy rapids and the high whisper of the leaves in Les Errues.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 7: The Late Sir W. Blint

His cats had come out into the garden for “the cats’ hour”—that mysterious compromise between day and evening when all things feline awake and stretch and wander or sit motionless, alert, listening to occult things.

In Secret (1919) — Chapter 12: The Great Secret