21 August 2017

from The Sea, The Sea, History, chapter 3 (Iris Murdoch)

'We are such inward secret creatures, that inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason.  But we cannot just walk into the cavern and look around.  Most of what we think we know about our minds is pseudo-knowledge.  We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value.  The heroes at Troy fought for a phantom Helen, according to Stesichorus.   Vain wars for phantom goods.  I hope you will allow yourself plenty of reflections on human vanity.  People lie so, even we old men do.  Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn't matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.  Proust is our authority on French aristocrats.  Who cares what they were really like?  What does it mean even?'

'I should say it meant something simple and obvious, but then I am no philosopher!  And I should say that it mattered too.  It matters to the historian, it even mattters to the critic.'  Nor did I care for 'we old men'.  Speak for yourself, cousin.

'Does it signify what really happened to Lawrence at Déraa?  If even a dog's tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light.  The venerated object is endowed with power, that is the simple sense of the ontological proof.  And if there is art enough a lie can enlighten us as well as the truth.  What is the truth anyway, that truth?  As we know ourselves we are fake objects, fakes, bundles of illusions.  Can you determine exactly what you felt or thought or did?  We have to pretend in law courts that such things can be done, but that is just a matter of convenience.  Well, well, it doesn't signify.  I must come and see your seaside house and your birds.  Are there gannets?'

from The Young Visiters, chapter 9, A Proposale (Daisy Ashford)

Next morning while imbibing his morning tea beneath his pink silken quilt Bernard decided he must marry Ethel with no more delay. I love the girl he said to himself and she must be mine but I somehow feel I can not propose in London it would not be seemly in the city of London. We must go for a day in the country and when surrounded by the gay twittering of the birds and the smell of the cows I will lay my suit at her feet and he waved his arm wildly at the gay thought. Then he sprang from bed and gave a rat tat at Ethels door.
Are you up my dear he called.


Well not quite said Ethel hastilly jumping from her downy nest.


Be quick cried Bernard I have a plan to spend a day near Windsor Castle and we will take our lunch and spend a happy day.


Oh Hurrah shouted Ethel I shall soon be ready as I had my bath last night so wont wash very much now.


No dont said Bernard and added in a rarther fervent tone through the chink of the door you are fresher than the rose my dear no soap could make you fairer.


Then he dashed off very embarrased to dress. Ethel blushed and felt a bit excited as she heard the words and she put on a new white muslin dress in a fit of high spirits. She looked very beautifull with some red roses in her hat and the dainty red ruge in her cheeks looked quite the thing. Bernard heaved a sigh and his eyes flashed as he beheld her and Ethel thorght to herself what a fine type of manhood he reprisented with his nice thin legs in pale broun trousers and well fitting spats and a red rose in his button hole and rarther a sporting cap which gave him a great air with its quaint check and little flaps to pull down if necesarry. Off they started the envy of all the waiters.


They arrived at Windsor very hot from the jorney and Bernard at once hired a boat to row his beloved up the river. Ethel could not row but she much enjoyed seeing the tough sunburnt arms of Bernard tugging at the oars as she lay among the rich cushons of the dainty boat. She had a rarther lazy nature but Bernard did not know of this. However he soon got dog tired and sugested lunch by the mossy bank.


Oh yes said Ethel quickly opening the sparkling champaigne.


Dont spill any cried Bernard as he carved some chicken.


They eat and drank deeply of the charming viands ending up with merangs and choclates.


Let us now bask under the spreading trees said Bernard in a passiunate tone.


Oh yes lets said Ethel and she opened her dainty parasole and sank down upon the long green grass. She closed her eyes but she was far from asleep. Bernard sat beside her in profound silence gazing at her pink face and long wavy eye lashes. He puffed at his pipe for some moments while the larks gaily caroled in the blue sky. Then he edged a trifle closer to Ethels form.


Ethel he murmured in a trembly voice.


Oh what is it said Ethel hastily sitting up.


Words fail me ejaculated Bernard horsly my passion for you is intense he added fervently. It has grown day and night since I first beheld you.


Oh said Ethel in supprise I am not prepared for this and she lent back against the trunk of the tree.


Bernard placed one arm tightly round her. When will you marry me Ethel he uttered you must be my wife it has come to that I love you so intensly that if you say no I shall perforce dash my body to the brink of yon muddy river he panted wildly.


Oh dont do that implored Ethel breathing rarther hard.


Then say you love me he cried.


Oh Bernard she sighed fervently I certinly love you madly you are to me like a Heathen god she cried looking at his manly form and handsome flashing face I will indeed marry you.


How soon gasped Bernard gazing at her intensly.


As soon as possible said Ethel gently closing her eyes.


My Darling whispered Bernard and he seiezed her in his arms we will be marrid next week.


Oh Bernard muttered Ethel this is so sudden.


No no cried Bernard and taking the bull by both horns he kissed her violently on her dainty face. My bride to be he murmered several times.


Ethel trembled with joy as she heard the mistick words.


Oh Bernard she said little did I ever dream of such as this and she suddenly fainted into his out stretched arms.


Oh I say gasped Bernard and laying the dainty burden on the grass he dashed to the waters edge and got a cup full of the fragrant river to pour on his true loves pallid brow.


She soon came to and looked up with a sickly smile Take me back to the Gaierty hotel she whispered faintly.


With plesure my darling said Bernard I will just pack up our viands ere I unloose the boat.


Ethel felt better after a few drops of champagne and began to tidy her hair while Bernard packed the remains of the food. Then arm in arm they tottered to the boat.


I trust you have not got an illness my darling murmured Bernard as he helped her in.


Oh no I am very strong said Ethel I fainted from joy she added to explain matters.


Oh I see said Bernard handing her a cushon well some people do he added kindly and so saying they rowed down the dark stream now flowing silently beneath a golden moon. All was silent as the lovers glided home with joy in their hearts and radiunce on their faces only the sound of the mystearious water lapping against the frail vessel broke the monotony of the night.


So I will end my chapter.

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.