Saturday, September 06, 2008

England: "so bright, so comprehensible, so sane so settled and so old."

Endured a bus ride to Chester yesterday, and two hours in the pouring rain. Failed to buy lightbulbs, for which the trip was intended. But at some point, without quite remembering having done it, I must have stopped into a second hand bookshop because I've come away with a new H.V. Morton: "I Saw Two Englands", his book about England in the last moments before WWII.

I had refrained from buying this one until now, for fear of finding it too melancholy. But the weather here has been so uniformly dismal since the middle of July (at least) that it seemed that worries about becoming more melancholy are simply moot. Can't fill a full glass.

The windows of the bus were so steamed up from the wet, and the fields and cows so drenched as to be not worth looking at anyway, I read about the Vanished Realm on the way back to my cave.

"How good it is to awaken in England in the month of May, when birds are singing in the early morning and the first sounds of a new day are coming through an open window. It is good , too, to draw the curtains and to see the sun shining in a blue sky, giving to each tree an immense shadow on grass.

Among the precious memories of travel in this country are those moments when, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs and marmalade, a man stands up on the steps of a village inn lighting the first pipe of the first sweet cigarette of the morning, as he contemplates a day of idle wandering.

The sun rises, the shadows shorten, the postman goes his round, the children come along swinging their school satchels, the doorsteps are swept, cloths are shaken from windows, women pause in the village street to exchange some domestic importance, there is a sound of boots crunching on the gravel of the road, the bright jingle of harness, and the sound of rooks leaving the churchyard elms for the fields.

It is all so bright, so comprehensible, so sane so settled and so old. And the feeling comes over you that you have stood on this very step before at some time, in a dream maybe, smoking the same pipe and listening to the same sounds.

Someday one of those flying convictions of having lived before may remain with a man long enough to be held and pinned down; and a great mystery may be solved."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brightness, comprehensibility, sanity, settledness--sums it up well. We've replaced it with gloss, incoherence, sanity certifiable as a mental derangement, and mobility (generally downward). And we've no respect for old (unless it is valuable).

Hope you'll post more.