Contents | Books in English


Gardens have ceased being fragrant." Thus said Mrs. Eiskalf in her lecture to the American Women's Club. She continued, "In ancient times the wealthy men and administrative officials of China cultivated gardens in order to create around their homes the illusion of the natural hills and fields of their provinces."

Taking pleasure in this recreation and change of atmosphere within the boundaries of the city, they furnished enjoyment to their wives also. Especially for Chinese women, obliged to lead a secluded life, these gardens added beauty to their existence.

In constructing the gardens, the Chinese strove to come as near as possible to imitating that scenery which was particularly pleasing to them.

These gardens did not occupy a large space. The Chinese valued the land too much as an area suitable for agriculture. Yet on a comparatively small plot of ground the art of the Chinese gardeners enabled them to create true works of art.

For example, Mrs. Eiskaff mentions the garden of a certain Kan-En, grown by him within the limits of Shanghai in the year 1577, "In this garden were brooklets and ponds, hillocks, a bamboo grove, subtropical flora, pavilions, and valleys."

Speaking about Chinese women, she expressed regret that at present they have become as changed from what they were as the old gardens. Strange as it may seem, though the Chinese women are incomparably more emancipated now than they formerly were, nevertheless they have lost much of that influence which they had in the life of the country. Formerly, though almost without exception leading a secluded life, they still knew how to exert a desired influence on their husbands.

Mrs. Eiskaff's lecture takes on still greater interest in that she is a well known translator of the ancient Chinese poets, occupying the post of honorary librarian of the "Royal Asiatic Society," as is noted in a newspaper.

Once when I was asked, "What is the difference between East and West?" I said, "The best roses of East and West are equally fragrant." We have had occasion to read very condemnatory books about different countries. Each such condemnation has immediately provoked a rebuff from the censured country. A new book, sometimes very hastily written, appeared, full of the most extreme judgments.

One book-collector displayed in his library a special shelf of varicolored books, saying, "Here is a collection of condemnations." Thus the books were set apart in an order according to negations or condemnations.

The collector-philosopher noted quite appraisingly in this sequence how widespread is the poison of condemnatory judgment. Chronologically examining these peculiar accumulations, one can see that these authors hastened to immerse themselves in only negative values. Let us even admit that they did not wish to tell lies intentionally, but only to compile an odd lexicon of negatives. Occasionally such censorious collections remind one of a certain jocose critic who counted how many times the negative no was used in a certain book, and pathetically concluded, "Well, can this be a good book, in which the word no has been used seven hundred times?"

Indeed, in his condemnatory mood, the critic did not try to count up how many times the word yes was said in this book. In any case, when you see an entire section of a library composed of negations, it becomes frightening. Indeed, negations alone will not be comforting; it seems that without offering a panacea we have no right to criticize.

In the complexity of life there can be found new monstrosities, and yet let us not be in the position of pronouncing any general condemnation. Take the case of The Good Earth, the author has tried to set in opposition two, as it were, mutually excluding currents. This is not passing a judgment, it is comparison. In general, we ought not to say simply that something is bad without saying what is good or how it can be made good.

In each garden there occur periods when the blossoms have not yet opened and when leaves and buds are not even visible, yet the gardener will tell you that within three months you would not even recognize the garden. Everything will blossom, open up, take on new forms. The experienced gardener provides a multitude of examples which are applicable in all life. A winter's tale about summer gardens will always be expressed in particular words. Especially in winter does one dream about summer.

And speaking also about woman's task, about the destination of women, often more and more is required of woman in view of the fact that in an inner sense she bears a special significance. Right now, equal rights for women are spoken about everywhere. Already this formula sounds somewhat old-fashioned. Already it becomes impossible to speak in generalities about it. And how otherwise? Where can equal rights be inadmissible? Sometimes it is customary to say that grandmothers knew something better than their granddaughters. And this comparison will be absolutely conventional. The best roses are equally beautiful. Here, outside the window, the trees are budding, the cherry trees are already covered with their floral finery, and there can be no garden without fragrance.

Let there be a garden, let the deserts bloom, let the life-giving underground streams again rush forth.

The gardens will be fragrant.


March 19, 1935

<< Back    Next >>