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#0236: Willa Cather to Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, June 15 [1912]

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⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ Dear Elsie1

I did escape, some of me, you see. I wasn’t utterly drunk up by the sand of the desert. But when you are there you do feel as if you might very easily be drunk up. I may still go back for Julio4. He would be lovely at Mrs. Fields5’. A mimosa tree is nothing to him. But Mrs. Gardener6 would snap him up and take him to Fenway Court7 and he would like that better than my apartment8. The only cloud on my joyful horizon at present is the news that you are no better, or not much better. Oh I wish, I wish you were! Perhaps, after all, Julio would have y done you more good than Tryon9. I wish I could simply say “yes” about Paris10. But I fear I wont be able to get away. But as to Provence11. I know you can work at Avignon12, and if the mistral blows there go to Lavandou13. A tiny fishing down on the Mediterranean about forty or fifty miles east of Hyères14—it may even be nearer15. Sea, fine woods, a good hotel, nothing else. No cottages. It is on the coast road to Italy16, and motors may have made a difference. The hotel may be more expensive now, but eight years ago it was something less than nothing a day. Trust me, the place is just right for work. And I know you could work in Avignon. The Rhone does put it into one; and the Rhone is your whole life at Avignon–the Rhone and the sun. The place is at its best in September. Oh I wish I were to be with you! But perhaps you can go to Madre Mejicana17 with me sometime. Julio has a funny song about “Oh bright-eyed Mexico18, Oh golden Mexico!” I went to a Mexican dance19 with Julio the night before I left Winslow20, at that was a dance. They have a curious pantomime waltz which a man dances with two women. It is certainly the prettiest dance I’ve ever seen. I was the only “white” at the ball; such wine and such dancing. How can I write you about Julio? He is without beginning and without end, and there is no place to begin. He really was like all the things in the Naples21 museum, and having him about was like living in that civilization. He had a personal elegance of which I’ve never known the like. You see I use the past tense; I did get away. I made a sort of translation22 of one of his songs which may give you some ideas of his music, except that it is sultry and he is not at all sultry, anymore than lightning is. And aside from ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ his lightning aspects he is a very cool and graceful young man who carries his great beauty as lightly as one could ask. This serenade, he explained carefully, is to be sung only by a “married lady”, but she may with perfect propriety sing it to either her husband or lover.

I’m so glad to to hear of Mrs. Peattie23’s daughter24, and that she is happy. Her mother was so kind to me long ago. Do let me hear more from you soon. I wish I could give you Julio’s serenade in the Spanish, with the stars and the desert and the dead Indian cities on the mesa behind it. The English is clumsy. But don’t mind the accent on “but”; they have a trick of accenting unimportant words with the guitar and voice,—as if, after all, the words were more to a mere convention, and the undertow was as apt to break through at the wrong place as the right.

Serenata Mejicana25 (Voz Contralto26) The flowers of day are dead— Come thou to me! The rose of night instead Shall bloom for thee. Stars by day entombed In darkness wake; The rose of night has bloomed— Beloved, take! The wine of day is spent, The springs are dry; So long above them bent The ardent sky. A thirsty lip since dawn Hath pressed the fountain’s brink— The wine of night is drawn, Beloved, drink! The eyes of night are shut, So thine should be; The tired stars fade but To dream of thee. Dew-drenched blossoms spill Their odors deep; The heart of night is still— Beloved, sleep!
Miss Elizabeth Sergeant1 4 Hawthorne Road Brookline 3 Mass. RED CLOUD2 JUN 15 1912 730 PM Please forward