09 June 2017

from Clover, chapter VII, Making Acquaintance (Susan Coolidge)

The sun was very hot; but there was a delicious breeze, and the dryness and elasticity of the air made the heat easy to bear.

The way lay across and down the southern slope of the plateau on which the town was built. Then they came to splendid fields of grain and 'afalfa, - a cereal quite new to them, with broad, very green leaves. The roadside was gay with flowers, - gillias and mountain balm; high pink and purple spikes, like foxgloves, which they were told were pentstemons; painters' brush, whose green tips seemed dipped in liquid vermilion, and masses of the splendid wild poppies. They crossed a foaming little river; and a sharp turn brought them into a narrower and wilder road, which ran straight toward the mountain side. This was overhung by trees, whose shade was grateful after the hot sun.

Narrower and narrower grew the road, more and more sharp the turns. They were at the entrance of a deep defile, up which the road wound and wound, following the links of the river, which they crossed and recrossed repeatedly. Such a wonderful and perfect little river, with water clear as air and cold as ice, flowing over a bed of smooth granite, here slipping noiselessly down long slopes of rock like thin films of glass, there deepening into pools of translucent blue-green like aqua-marine or beryl, again plunging down in mimic waterfalls, a sheet of iridescent foam. The sound of its rush and its ripple was like a laugh. Never was such happy water, Clover thought, as it curved and bent and swayed this way and that on its downward course as if moved by some merry, capricious instinct, like a child dancing as it goes. Regiments or great ferns grew along its banks, and immense thickets of wild roses of all shades, from deep Jacqueminot red to pale blush-white. Here and there rose a lonely spike of yucca, and in the little ravines to right and left grew in the crevices of the rocks clumps of superb straw-colored columbines four feet high.

Looking up, Clover saw above the tree-tops strange pinnacles and spires and obelisks which seemed air-hung, of purple-red and orange-tawny and pale pinkish gray and terra cotta, in which the sunshine and the cloud-shadows broke in a multiplicity of wonderful half-tints. Above them was the dazzling blue of the Colorado sky. She drew a long, long breath.

'So this is a canyon,' she said. 'How glad I am that I have lived to see one.'

21 March 2017

from The Human Not-Quite-Human (Dorothy L. Sayers)

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about woman's nature.

05 February 2017

from Confusion (Elizabeth Jane Howard)

She had thought that a weight would be lifted once she had got into the train with the visit behind her, but the pall of boredom and irritation was quenched now only by guilt, as she thought of all the ways in which she might have given her mother more pleasure, been kinder, nicer, more patient.  Why was it that, in spite of all these years during which she felt that she had grown from being a spoiled and selfish girl into a thoroughly grown-up wife and mother and reponsible member of a large family, she had only to be with her mother for a few minutes to revert to her earlier, disagreeable self?  It was her behaviour, after all, that made her mother so timid and conciliatory, made her, in fact, everything that she, Zoë, found most exasperating.

28 January 2017

from 'On the art of conversation' (Michel de Montaigne)

Meanwhile nothing in stupidity irritates me more than its being much more pleased with itself than any reasonableness could reasonably be.  It is a disaster that wisdom forbids you to be satisfied with yourself and always sends you away dissatisfied and fearful, whereas stubbornness and foolhardiness fill their hosts with joy and assurance.  It is the least clever of men who look down on others over their shoulders, always returning from the fray full of glory and joyfulness.  And as often as not their haughty language and their happy faces win them victory in the eyes of the bystanders who are generally feeble in judging and incapable of discerning real superiority.  The surest proof of animal-stupidity is ardent obstinacy of opinion.  Is there anything more certain, decided, disdainful, contemplative, grave and serious, than a donkey?

15 January 2017

God's Grandeur (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

In Memoriam A.H.H. CVI (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
  The flying cloud, the frosty light:
  The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
  Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
  The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
  For those that here we see no more;
  Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
  And ancient forms of party strife;
  Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
  The faithless coldness of the times;
  Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
  The civic slander and the spite;
  Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
  Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
  Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
  The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
  Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.