ON a July evening in 1913 two women of St. Louis sat with a Ouija board upon their knees. The result of what was to come has remained one of the biggest mysteries in literary history and a key event in psychical research to this day.
Spiritualism was still popular in certain circles and with World War I just over the brow of the hill, many families would soon want to connect with deceased love ones, and the Ouija board seemed an easy way to do this.
The women is question were Mrs. John H. Curran, wife of the former Immigration Commissioner of Missouri, and Mrs. Emily Grant Hutchings, wife of the Secretary of the Tower Grove Park Board in St. Louis. Mrs. John Curran was know to her friends as Pearl and on this particular night it became clear that Pearl was something of a sensitive or a medium, and in her presence the pointer of the Ouija board became agitated. The two women watched in amazement as without any physical help from them the board spelled out…“Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name.”
The women gazed at each other as the board continued…“Wait. I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I. I make my bread by thy hearth. Good friends, let us be merrie. The time for work is past. Let the tabbie drowse and blink her wisdom to the firelog.
Although guarded about her identity, Patience identified herself as an English woman who lived in the 17th century who had emigrated to the USA and died at the age of 44. When pressed for more information about herself she stated, “About me,” “thou wouldst know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past.”
Over night, Pearl was awarded celebrity status as she was beseeched with requests to sit with ‘Patience’, and psychologists and sceptics queued up to debunk her and expose the ‘trickery’ but no one ever did.
Over the next 24 years, Patience dictated approximately four million words, including seven books, some short stories, several plays, and thousands of poems. She discussed philosophy, religion, death, and the meaning of life with eminent visitors who came to see her in droves.
Curran was often accused of inventing patience, and skeptics claimed and claim that Patience was a subconscious personality, a fantasy that had laid dormant in Pearl’s mind and was probably due to her sheltered upbringing in middle America.
There are many reasons to suggest that this wasn’t the case, not least the fact that Patience spoke in a dialect not spoken for over 300 years and very peculiar to the England of the 1600’s. When a philologist asked Patience how and why she used the language of so many different periods, she responded: “I do plod a twist of a path and it hath run from then till now.”
By 1917, Patience had dictated millions of words, and these had been faithfully recorded by pearl’s husband John. In June of that year, to great fanfare, The Sorry Tale, a 644-page, 325,000 word novel about the last days of Jesus, dictated by Patience was published in the USA. The New York Globe stated that it exceeded Ben Hur and Quo Vadis as “a quaint realistic narrative.” And Professor Roland Greene Usher, dean of history at Washington University, called the novel “the greatest story of Christ penned since the Gospels were finished.” He pointed out that the book was written in seventeenth-century English with no anachronisms.
Pearl being a very ordinary St Louis housewife claimed she knew nothing of the life of Jesus other than what was written in the New Testament, and in one evening why the author of this book was present, more than 5000 words were dictated covering the crucifixion.
Patience had this to say on life: On life: ‘Life is a gaysome trickster. Yea, life poureth about the atoms o’ man wines of cunning, and equally is he filled up of Him. Thereby is man given freely and his lighting unto life leaveth him for his choosing. Aye, and the giving be wry-fallen atimes, for flesh to tarry long and dance with life, fearing the greater thing athin it.’
She considered herself a messenger from God, when she exclaimed; “Morn hath broke, and ye be the first to see her light. Look ye wide-eyed at His workings. He hath offered ye a cup.”
When asked about Death she quipped: ‘Cheap pence paid for eternity and yet man whines!’
Patience showed her love for God when she stated; “Think ye,” she cries, “that He who doth send the earth aspin athrough the blue depth o’ Heaven, be not a wonder-god who springeth up where’er He doth set a wish! Yea, then doth He to spring from out the dust a lily; so also doth He to breathe athin (within) the flesh, and come unto the earth, born from out flesh athout the touch o’ man. ‘Tis so, and from off the lute o’ me hath song aflowed that be asweeted o’ the blood o’ Him that shed for thee and me.”
Patience continued to speak through Pearl until 1937 when Pearl was taken ill and died of Pneumonia.
Her works have been compared with Shakespeare and Chaucer, to this day remain one of the greatest examples of channelled writing we possess.
About the author
Casper Salathiel Yost was born in Sedalia, Missouri in 1864. Yost was employed as a reporter in 1881 at the age of just 17. He stayed for some months before leaving to pursue a job on the railroads. In 1885 he returned to the world of newspapers, eventually becoming the longtime editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He founded the American Society of Newspaper Editors and was influential in developing its code of ethics.
Yost began visiting Pearl Curran around 1914. Curran, a St. Louis housewife, claimed to be channeling via a Ouija board, and entity calling herself Patience Worth. Yost wrote a series of articles for his paper on ‘Patience’ and in 1916 he published his book, Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery.
He wrote in the forward; the editor of this book is not a spiritualist, nor a psychologist, nor a member of the Society for Psychical Research; nor has he ever had anything more than a transitory and skeptical interest in psychic phenomena of any character. He is a newspaper man whose privilege and pleasure it is to present the facts in relation to some phenomena which he does not attempt to classify nor to explain, but which are virtually without precedent in the record of occult manifestations. The mystery of Patience Worth is one which every reader may endeavor to solve for himself. The sole purpose of this narrative is to give the visible truth, the physical evidence, so to speak, the things that can be seen and that are therefore susceptible of proof by ocular demonstration. In this category are the instruments of communication and the communications themselves, which are described, explained and, in some cases, interpreted, where an effort at interpretation seems to be desirable.
Casper Yost died in St. Louis in 1941.
THE COMING OF PATIENCE WORTH
ON a July evening in 1913 two women of St. Louis sat with a ouija board upon their knees. Some time before this a friend had aroused their interest in this unfathomable toy, and they had since whiled away many an hour with the inscrutable meanderings of the heart-shaped pointer; but, like thousands of others who had played with the instrument, they had found it, up to this date, but little more than a source of amused wonder.
The messages which they had laboriously spelled out were only such as might have come from the sub-consciousness of either one or the other, or, at least, were no more strange than innumerable communications which have been received through the reading of the Ouija board.
But upon this night they received a visitor. The pointer suddenly became endowed with an unusual agility, and with great rapidity presented this introduction:
“Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name.”
The women gazed, round-eyed, at each other, and the board continued:
“Wait. I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I. I make my bread by thy hearth. Good friends, let us be merrie. The time for work is past. Let the tabbie drowse and blink her wisdom to the firelog.
“How quaint that is!” one of the women exclaimed.
“Good Mother Wisdom is too harsh for thee,” said the board, “and thou shouldst love her only as a foster mother.”
Thus began an intimate association with “Patience Worth” that still continues, and a series of communications that in intellectual vigor and literary quality are virtually without precedent in the scant imaginative literature quoted in the chronicles of psychic phenomena.
The personality of Patience Worth—if personality it may be called—so impressed itself upon these women, at the first visit, that they got pencil and paper and put down not only all that she transmitted through the board, but all the questions and comment that elicited her remarks; and at every meeting since then, a verbatim record has been made of the conversation and the communications.
These records have accumulated until they have filled several volumes of typewritten pages, and upon them, and upon the writer’s personal observations of the workings of the phenomena, this narrative is based. They include conversations, maxims, epigrams, allegories, tales, dramas, poems, all the way from sportive to religious, and even prayers, most of them of no little beauty and of a character that may reasonably be considered unique in literature.
The women referred to are Mrs. John H. Curran, wife of the former Immigration Commissioner of Missouri, and Mrs. Emily Grant Hutchings, wife of the Secretary of the Tower Grove Park Board in St. Louis, both ladies of culture and refinement. Mrs. Curran is a young woman of nervous temperament, bright, vivacious, and ready of speech. She has a taste for literature, but is not a writer, and has never attempted to write anything more ambitious than a personal letter. Mrs. Hutchings, on the other band, is a professional writer of skill, and it was to her quick appreciation of the quality of the communications that the starting of the record is due. It was soon apparent, however, that it was Mrs. Curran who was the sole agent of transmission; for the communications came only when she was at the board, and it mattered not who else sat with her. During the first months only Mrs. Curran and Mrs. Hutchings sat, but gradually the circle widened, and others assisted Mrs. Curran. Sometimes as many as five or six would sit with her in the course of an evening. Mr. Curran has acted as amanuensis, and recorded the communications at most of the sittings, Mrs. Curran’s mother, Mrs. Mary E. Pollard, occasionally taking his place.
The Ouija board is a rectangular piece of wood about 16 inches wide by 24 inches in length and half an inch thick. Upon it the letters of the alphabet are arranged in two concentric arcs, with the ten numerals below, and the words “Yes” and “No” at the upper corners. The planchette, or pointer, is a thin, heart-shaped piece of wood provided with three legs, upon which it moves about upon the board, its point indicating the letters of the words it is spelling. Two persons are necessary for its operation. They place the tips of their fingers lightly upon the pointer and wait. Perhaps it moves; perhaps it does not. Sometimes it moves aimlessly about the board, spelling nothing; sometimes it spells words, but is unable to form a sentence; but often it responds readily enough to the impulses which control it, and even answers questions intelligibly, occasionally in a way that excites the wonder and even the awe of those about it. Its powers have been attributed by some to supernatural influence, by others to sub-consciousness, but science has looked upon it with disdain, as, until recent years, science has looked upon nearly all unprecedented phenomena.
Mr. W. T. Carrington, an eminent English investigator of psychical phenomena, in an exhaustive work upon the subject, has this to say of the Ouija board: “Granting for the sake of argument that the board is moved by the sitter, either consciously or unconsciously, the great and vital question still remains: What is the intelligence behind the board, that directs the phenomena? Whoever sets out to give a final and decisive answer to this question in the present state of our knowledge will have his task cut out for him, and I wish him happiness in the undertaking. Personally I am attempting nothing of the kind.”
The Ouija board has been in use for many years. There is no element of novelty in the mere fact that curious and puzzling messages are received by means of it. I emphasize this fact because I wish to place the board in its proper relation to the communications from the intelligence calling herself Patience Worth. Aside from the psychical problem involved—and which, so far as the board is concerned, is the same in this case as in many others—the Ouija board has no more significance than a pen or a pencil in the hand. It is merely an instrument for the transmission of thought in words. In comparison with the personality and the literature which it reveals in this instance, it is a factor of little significance. It is proper to say, however, at this point, that every word attributed to Patience Worth in this volume was received by Mrs. Curran through this instrument.
NATURE OF THE COMMUNICATIONS
“He who buildeth with peg and cudgel but buildeth a toy for an age who will but cast aside the bauble as naught; but he who buildeth with word, a quill and a fluid, buildeth well.”—Patience Worth.
THERE are a number of things that distinguish Patience Worth from all other “intelligences” that have been credited with communications pretending to come from a spiritual source. First is her intellect. One of the strongest arguments against the genuineness of such communications has been the lack of intelligence often displayed in them. They have largely been, though with many exceptions, crude emanations of weak mentalities, and few of the exceptions have shown greater intellect or greater knowledge than is possessed by the average human being.
In a work entitled, Is Death the End? Dr. John H. Holmes, an eminent New York divine, gives considerable space to the psychic evidence of immortality. In the course of his discussion of this phase of his subject he concisely describes the characteristic features of psychic communications. “Nobody,” he says, “can study, the evidence gathered in this particular field without noticing, first of all, the triviality, almost the inanity, of the communications received. Here we come, eager for the evidence of future life and information as to what it means to die and pass into the great beyond. And what do we get? First of all—and naturally enough, perhaps—frantic efforts on the part of the alleged spirits to prove their identity by the citation of intricate and unimportant details of where they were and what they did at different times when they were here among men. Sometimes there is a recounting of an event which is taking place in a part of the world far removed from the locality in which the medium and the recipient are sitting. Again and again there is a descent to obscurity and feeble chattering.”
I quote this passage, not merely because it so clearly states the experience and conclusions of many who have investigated these phenomena, but because it serves to show by its marked contrast the wonder of the communications from Patience Worth. There are no efforts on her part to prove her identity. On the contrary, she can rarely be induced to speak of herself, and the personal information she has reluctantly given is disappointingly meager. “About me,” she says, “thou wouldst know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past.” She never speaks of her own acts as a physical being; she never refers to any event taking place in the world now or that has taken place in the past. But far more important than these, she reveals an intellect that is worthy of any man’s respect. It is at once keen, swift, subtle and profound. There is not once but always a sustained level of clear thought and fine feeling.” There is obscurity at times, but it is usually the obscurity of profundity, and intelligent study generally reveals a meaning that is worth the effort. There is never a “focusing of attention upon the affairs of this world,” except for the purpose of displaying its beauties and its wonders, and to assist in explaining the world that she claims is to come. For that other world she seems to try to explain as far as some apparent limitations permit, speaks as few have spoken before, and her words often bring delight to the mind and consolation to the soul.
Before considering these communications in detail, it would be well for the reader to become a little better acquainted with the alleged Patience herself. I speak of her as a person, for whatever she, or it, may be, the impression of a distinct personality is clear and definite; and it is, besides, more convenient so to designate her. Patience as a rule speaks an archaic tongue that is in general the English language of about the time of the Stuarts, but which contains elements of a usage still more ancient, and, not rarely, word and phrase forms that seem never to have been used in English or in any English dialect. Almost all of her words, however, whether in conversation or in literary composition, are of pure Anglo-Saxon-Norman origin. There is seldom a word of direct Latin or Greek parentage. Virtually all of the objects she refers to are things that existed in the seventeenth century or earlier. In all of the great mass of manuscript that has come from her we have not noticed a single reference to an object of modern creation or development; nor have more than a dozen words been found in her writings that may be of later origin than the seventeenth century, and some of these words are debatable. She has shown, in what would seem to be a genuinely feminine spirit of perversity, that she can use a modern word if she chooses to do so. And if she is living now, no matter when she was on earth, why should she not? (She has twice used the word ‘shack’, meaning a roughly constructed cabin, a word which is in that sense so new and so local that it has but recently found a place in the dictionaries.) But the fact remains that the number of such words is so small as to be negligible.
Only one who has tried to write in archaic English without committing anachronisms can realize its tremendous difficulty. We are so saturated with words and idioms of modern origin that it is almost impossible wholly to discard them, even when given every advantage of time and reflection. How much more difficult must it be then to use and maintain such language without an error in ordinary impromptu conversation, answering questions that could not have been expected, and flashing repartee that is entirely dependent upon the situation or remarks of the moment. Yet Patience does this with marvelous facility. So she can hardly be Mrs. Curran.
All of her knowledge of material things seems to be drawn from English associations. She is surprisingly familiar with the trees and flowers, the birds and beasts of England. She knows the manners and customs of its people as they were two or three centuries ago, the people of the fields or the people of the palace. Her speech is filled with references to the furniture, utensils and mechanical contrivances of the household of that time, and to its articles of dress, musical instruments, and tools of agriculture and the mechanical arts. There are also a few indications of knowledge of New England life. Yet she has never admitted a residence in England or New England, has never spoken of a birthplace or an abiding place anywhere, has never, in fact, used a single geographical proper name in relation to herself.
The communications of Patience Worth come in a variety of forms: Conversation that is strewn with wit and wisdom, epigrams and maxims; poems by the hundred; parables and allegories; stories of a semi-dramatic character, and dramas.
Here is an example of her conversation from one of the early records—an evening when a skeptical friend, a young physician, somewhat disposed to the use of slang, was present with his wife.
As the ladies took the board, the doctor remarked:
“I hope Patience Worth will come. I’d like to find out what her game is.”
Patience was there and instantly responded:
“Dost, then, desire the plucking of another goose?”
Doctor.—“By George, she’s right there with the grease, isn’t she?”
Patience.—“Enough to baste the last upon the spit.”
Doctor.—“Well, that’s quick wit for you. Pretty hard to catch her.”
Patience.—“The salt of today will not serve to catch the bird of tomorrow.”
Doctor.—“She’d better call herself the bird of yesterday. I wonder what kind of a mind she had, anyway.”
Patience.—“Dost crave to taste the sauce?
Doctor.—“She holds to her simile of the goose. I wish you’d ask her how she makes that little table move under your hands to spell the words.”
Patience.—“A wise cook telleth not the brew.”
Doctor.—“Turn that board over and let me see what’s under it.”
This was done, and after his inspection it was reversed.
Patience.—“Thee’lt bump thy nose to look within the hopper.”
Doctor.—“Whew! She doesn’t mind handing you one, does she?”
Mrs. Pollard.—“That’s Patience’s way. She doesn’t think we count for anything.”
Patience.—“The bell-cow doth deem the good folk go to Sabboth house from the ringing of her bell.”
Doctor.—“She evidently thinks we are a conceited lot. Well, I believe she’ll agree with me that you can’t get far in this world without a fair opinion of yourself.”
Patience.—“So the donkey loveth his bray!”
The Doctor’s Wife.—“You can draw her on all you please. I’m going to keep perfectly still.”
Patience.—“Oh, e’en the mouse will have a nibble.”
Mrs. Curran.—“There! She isn’t going to let you off without a little roast. I wonder what she has to say to you.”
Patience.—“Did’st ever see the brood hen puff up with self-esteem when all her chicks go for a swim?”
Doctor.—“Let’s analyze that and see if there’s anything in it.”
Patience.—“Strain the potion. Mayhap thou wilt find a fly.”
This will be sufficient to illustrate Patience’s form of speech and her ready wit. It also shows something of the character of the people to whom and through whom she has usually spoken. They are not solemn investigators or “pussy-footed” charlatans. There is no ceremony about the sitting, no dimmed lights, no compelled silences, no mummeries of any sort.
The assistance is of the ordinary, fun-loving, somewhat irreverent American type. The board is brought into the living room under the full glare of the electric lamps. The men perhaps smoke their cigars. If Patience seems to be in the humor for conversation, all may take part, and she hurls her javelins impartially. A visitor is at once brought within the umbra of her wit.
Her conversation, as already indicated, is filled with epigrams and maxims. A book could be made from these alone. They are, of course, not always original. What maxims are? But they are given on the instant, without possibility of previous thought, and are always to the point. Here are a few of these prompt aphorisms:
“A lollypop is but a breeder of pain.”
“An old goose gobbles the grain like a gosling.” “Dead resolves are sorry fare.”
“The goose knoweth where the bin leaketh.” “Quills of sages were plucked from geese.”
“Puddings fit for lords would sour the belly of the swine boy.”
“To clap the cover on a steaming pot of herbs will but modify * the stench.”
“She who quacketh loudest deems the gander not the lead at waddling time.”
“Climb not the stars to find a pebble.”
“He who hath a house, a hearth and a friend hath a lucky lot.”
She is often caustic and incisive.
“A man loveth his wife, but, ah, the buckles on his knee breeks!”
“Should I present thee with a pumpkin, wouldst thou desire to count the seeds?”
“A drink of asses’ milk would nurture the swine, but wouldst thou then expect his song to change from Want, Want, Want?”
“Some folk, like the bell without a clapper, go clanging on in good faith, believing the good folk can hear them.”
“Were I to tell thee the pudding string were a spinet’s string, thou wouldst make ready for the dance.”
“Thee’lt tie thy God within thy kerchief, else have none of Him, and like unto a bat, hang thyself topsy-turvy to better view His handiwork.”
“‘Twould pleg thee sore should thy shadow wear cap and bells.”
“From constant wishing the moon may tip for thee.”
“Wouldst thou have a daisy blossom upon a thistle?”
“Ye who carry pigskins to the well and lace riot the hole are a tiresome lot.”
“He who eateth a bannock well made flattereth himself should his belly not sour.”
Aside from the dramatic compositions, some of which are of great length, most of the communications received from Patience have been in verse. There is rarely a rhyme, practically all being iambic blank verse in lines of irregular length. The rhythm is to come as soon as the hands are placed upon the planchette, and the evening is given over to the production of verse. At others, verses are mingled with repartee and epigram, but seldom is an evening spent without at least one poem coming. This was not the case in the earlier months, when many sittings were given up wholly to conversation. The poetry has gradually increased in volume, as if the earlier efforts of the influence had been tentative, while the responsiveness of the intermediary was being tested. So, too, the earlier verses were fragments.
A blighted bud may hold
A sweeter message than the loveliest flower.
For God hath kissed her wounded heart
And left a promise there.
A cloak of lies may clothe a golden truth.
The sunlight’s warmth may fade its glossy black
To whitening green and prove the fault
Of weak and shoddy dye.
Oh, why let sorrow steel thy heart?
Thy busom is but its foster mother,
The world its cradle, and the loving home
Weave sorrow on the loom of love
And warp the loom with faith.
Such fragments, however, were but steps leading to larger things. A little later on this came:
So thou hast trod among the tansey tuft
And murr and thyme, and gathered all the garden’s store,
And glutted on the lillie’s sensuous sweet,
And let thy shade to mar the sunny path,
And only paused to strike the slender bumming bird,
Whose molten-tinted wing but spoke the song
Of fluttering joy, and in thy very hand
Turned to motley gray. Then thinkest thou
To build the garden back by trickery?
And then, some six months after her first visit, came the poem which follows, and which may be considered the real beginning of her larger works:
Long lines of leaden cloud; a purple sea;
White gulls skimming across the spray.
Oh dissonant cry! Art thou
The death cry of desire?
Ah, wail, ye winds,
And search ye for my dearest wish
Along the rugged coast, and down
Where purling waters whisper
To the rosy coral reef.
Ah, search! Ah, search!
And when ye return, bring ye the answering.
Do I stand and call unto the sea for answer?
Ah, wisdom, where art thou?
A gull but shows thee to the Southland,
And leaden sky but warneth thee of storm.
And wind, thou art but a changeling.
So, shall I call to thee? Not so.
I build not upon the spray,
And seek not within the smaller world,
For God dwelleth not abroad, but deep within.
There is spiritual significance, more or less profound, in nearly all of the poems. Some of the lines are obscure, but study reveals a meaning, and the more I, at least, study them, the more I have been impressed with the intellectual power behind them. It is this that makes these communications seem to stand alone among the numerous messages that are alleged to have come from “that undiscovered country.”
An intense love of nature is expressed in most of the communications, whether in prose or verse, and also a wide knowledge of nature—not the knowledge of the scientist, but that of the poet.
All silver-laced with web and crystal-studded, hangs
A golden lily cup, as airy as a dancing sprite.
The moon hath caught a fleeting cloud, and rests in her embrace.
The bumblefly still hovers o’er the clover flower,
And mimics all the zephyr’s song.
Whose wings bespeak late wooing of the buttercup,
Wend home their way, the gold still clinging to their snowy gossamer.
E’en the toad, who old and moss-grown seems,
Is wabbled on a lilypad, and watches for the moon
To bid the cloud adieu and light him to his bunt
For fickle marsh flies who tease him through the day.
Why, every rose has loosed her petals,
And sends a pleading perfume to the moss
That creeps upon the maple’s stalk, to tempt it hence
To bear a cooling draught. Round yonder trunk
The ivy clings and loves it into green.
The pansy dreams of coaxing goldenrod
To change her station, lest her modest flower
Be ever doomed to blossom ‘neath the shadow of the wall.
And was not He who touched the pansy
With His regal robes and left their color there,
All wise to leave her modesty as her greatest charm?
Here snowdrops blossom ‘neath a fringe of tuft,
And fatty grubs find rest amid the mold.
All love, and Love himself, is here,
For every garden is fashioned by his hand.
Are then the garden’s treasures more of worth
Than ugly toad or mold?
Not so, for Love
May tint the zincy blue-gray murk
Of curdling fall to crimson, light-flashed summer tide.
Ah, why then question Love, I prithee, friend?
This is poetry, but there is something more than liquid sweetness in its lines. There is a truth. Deeper wisdom and a lore more profound and more mystical are revealed or delicately concealed in some of the others.
I searched among the bills to find His love,
And found but waving trees, and stones
Where lizards flaunt their green and slip to cool
A down the moss. I searched within the field
To find His treasure-trove, and found but tasseled stalk
And baby grain, encradled in a silky nest.
I searched deep in the rose’s heart to find
His pledge to me, and steeped in honey, it was there.
Lo, while I wait, a vagabond with goss’mer wing
Hath stripped her of her loot and borne it all to me.
I searched along the shore to find His heart,
Ahope the lazy waves would bear it me;
And watched them creep to rest upon the sands,
Who sent them back again, asearch for me.
I sought amid a tempest for His strength,
And found it in its shrieking glee;
And saw man’s paltry blocks come crashing down,
And heard the wailing of the trees who grew
A feared, and, moaning, caused the flowers to quake
And tremble lest the sun forget them at the dawn;
While bolts shot clouds asunder, and e’en the sea
Was panting with the spending of his might.
I searched within a wayside cot for His white soul,
And found a dimple next the lips of one who slept,
And watched the curtained wonder of her eyes,
Aflutter o’er the iris-colored pools that held His smile:
And touched the warm and shrinking lips, so mute,
And yet so wise.
For canst thou doubt whose kiss
Still lingers on their bloom?
Amid a muck of curse, and lie,
And sensuous lust, and damning leers,
I searched for Good and Light,
And found it there, aye, even there;
For broken reeds may house a lark’s pure nest.
I stopped me at a pool to rest,
And toyed along the brink to pluck
The cress who would so guard her lips:
And flung a stone straight to her heart,
And, lo, but silver laughter mocketh me!
And as I stoop to catch the plash,
Pale sunbeams pierce the bower,
And ah, the shade and laughter melt
And leave me, empty, there.
But wait! I search and find,
Reflected in the pool, myself, the searcher.
And, on the silver surface traced,
My answer to it all.
For, heart of mine, who on this journey
Sought with me, I knew thee not,
But searched for prayer and love amid the rocks
Whilst thou but now declare thyself to me.
Ah, could I deem thee strong and fitting
As the tempest to depict His strength;
Or yet as gentle as the smile of baby lips,
Or sweet as honeyed rose or pure as mountain pool?
And yet thou art, and thou art mine
A gift and answer from my God.
It is not my purpose to attempt an extended interpretation of the metaphysics of these poems. This one will repay real study. No doubt there will be varied views of its meaning.
These poems do not all move with the murmuring ripple of running brooks. Some of them, appalling in the rugged strength of their figures of speech, are like the storm waves smashing their sides against the cliffs. In my opinion there are not very many in literature that grip the mind with greater force than the first two lines of the brief one which follows, and there are few things more beautiful than its conclusion:
Ah, God, I have drunk unto the dregs,
And flung the cup at Thee!
The dust of crumbled righteousness
Hath dried and soaked unto itself
E’en the drop I spilled to Bacchus,
Whilst Thou, all patient,
Sendest purple vintage for a later harvest.
The poems sometimes contain irony, gentle as a summer zephyr or crushing as a mailed fist. For instance this challenge to the vainglorious:
Strike ye the sword or dip ye in an inken well;
Smear ye a gaudy color or daub ye the clay?
Aye, beat upon thy busom then and cry,
‘Tis mine, this world-love and vainglory!”
Ah, master-band, who guided thee? Stay!
Dost know that through the ages,
Yea, through the very ages,
One grain of hero dust, blown from afar,
Hath lodged, and moveth thee?
Wait. Wreathe thyself and wait.
The green shall deepen to an ashen brown
And crumble then and fall into thy sightless eyes,
While thy moldering flesh droppeth awry.
Wait, and catch thy dust.
Mayhap thou canst build it back!
She touches all the strings of human emotion, and frequently thrums the note of sorrow, usually, however, as an overture to a paean of joy. The somber tones in her pictures, to use another metaphor, are used mainly to strengthen the high lights. But now and then there comes a verse of sadness such as this one, which yet is not wholly sad:
Ah, wake me not!
For should my dreaming work a spell to soothe
My troubled soul, wouldst thou deny me dreams?
Ah, wake me not!
If ‘mong the leaves wherein the shadows lurk
I fancy conjured faces of my loved, long lost;
And if the clouds to me are sorrow’s shroud;
And if I trick my sorrow, then, to bide
Beneath a smile; or build of wasted words
A key to wisdom’s door—wouldst thou deny me?
Ah, let me dream!
The day may bring fresh sorrows,
But the night will bring new dreams.
When this was spelled upon the board, its pathos affected Mrs. Curran to tears, and, to comfort her, Patience quickly applied an antidote in the following jingle, which illustrates not only her versatility, but her sense of humor:
Patter, patter, briney drops,
On my kerchief drying:
Spatter, spatter, salty stream,
Down my poor cheeks flying.
Brine enough to ‘merse a ham,
Salt enough to build a dam!
Trickle, trickle, all ye can
And wet my dry heart’s aching.
Sop and sop, ‘tis better so,
For in dry soil flowers ne’er grow.
This little jingle answered its purpose. Mrs. Curran’s tears continued to fall, but they were tears of laughter, and all of the little party about the board were put in good spirits. Then Patience dryly remarked:
“Two singers there be; he who should sing like a troubadour and brayeth like an ass, and he who should bray that singeth.”
These examples will serve to illustrate the nature of the communications, and as an introduction to the numerous compositions that will be presented in the course of this narrative.
The question now arises, or, more likely, it has been in the reader’s mind since the book was opened: What evidence is there of their genuineness?
Does Mrs. Curran, consciously or subconsciously, produce this matter? It is hardly credible that anyone able to write such poems would bother with a Ouija board to do it.
It will probably be quite evident to a reader of the whole matter that whoever or whatever it is that writes this poetry and prose, possesses, as already intimated, not only an unusual mind, but an unusual knowledge of archaic forms of English, a close acquaintance with nature as it is found in England, and a familiarity with the manners and customs of English life of an older time. Many of the words used in the later compositions, particularly those of a dramatic nature, are obscure dialectal forms not to be found in any work of literature. All of the birds and flowers and trees referred to in the communications are native to England, with the few exceptions that indicate some knowledge of New England. No one not growing up with the language used could have acquired facility in it without years of patient study. No one could become so familiar with English nature without long residence in England: for the knowledge revealed is not of the character that can be obtained from books. Mrs. Curran has had none of these experiences. She has never been in England. Her studies since leaving school have been confined to music, to which art she is passionately attached, and in which she is adept. She has never been a student of literature, ancient or modern, and has never attempted any form of literary work. She has bad no particular interest in English history, English literature or English life.
But, it may be urged, this matter might be produced subconsciously, from Mrs. Curran’s mind or from the mind of some person associated with her. The phenomena of sub-consciousness are many and varied, and the word is used to indicate, but does not explain, numerous mysteries of the mind which seem wholly baffling despite this verbal hitching post. But I have no desire to enter into an argument. My sole purpose is so to present the facts that the reader may intelligently form his own opinion. Here are the facts that relate to this phase of the subject:
Mrs. Curran does not go into a trance when the communications are received. On the contrary, her mind is absolutely normal, and she may talk to others while the board is in operation under her hands. It is unaffected by conversation in the room. There is no effort at mental concentration. Aside from Mrs. Curran, it does not matter who is present, or who sits at the board with her; there are seldom the same persons at any two successive sittings. Yet the personality of Patience is constant and unvarying. As to subconscious action on the part of Mrs. Curran, it would seem to be sufficient to say that no one can impart knowledge subconsciously, unless it has been first acquired through the media of consciousness; that is to say, through the senses. No one, for example, who had never seen or heard a word of Chinese, could speak the language subconsciously. One may unconsciously acquire information, but it must be through the senses.
It remains but to add that the reputation and social position of the Currans puts them above the suspicion of fraud, if fraud were at all possible in such a matter as this; that Mrs. Curran does not give public exhibitions, nor private exhibitions for pay; that the compositions have been received in the presence of their friends, or of friends of their friends, all specially invited guests. There seems nothing abnormal about her. She is an intelligent, conscientious woman, a member of the Episcopalian church, but not especially zealous in affairs of religion, a talented musician, a clever and witty conversationalist, and a charming hostess. These facts are stated not as gratuitous compliments, but as evidences of character and temperament which have a bearing upon the question.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published January 2012
Size: 229 x 152 mm