Sunday, March 20, 2011

...the senses and the flesh.  Having cried for a time, slept; and at his waking felt first the bitterness of mere cold.  The old servant came and took him back , knowing that he knew his father was dead.  The corpse lay with lips still apart, and brows that seemed unquiet.  He had said little during the last hours of his life; asked for his wife twice, and would not hear that she was dead; bade someone keep Herbert from the water and send for him if the boy disobeyed.  Then moving with his hands, 'My father wouldn't hear of it,' he said; ' his own was lost at sea.  I should have done better.  Ay, but lost on land for all that,
--cast away and broken: not your fault,  sir, not yours.  She thrives, though; but I should have taken the little thing and kept it for all that.  I said her children would never thrive if she married:  she'll die a barren stock--barren.'  After which he fell into a vacuous mumbling state of speech and mind, and gave no more clue to the old story of his weary life, ended and emptied now of interest for anyone alive.
      They buried him three days after; his daughter and her husband arrived the day after his death, and took charge of the boy.  These three and the old woman alone attended the funeral; he was buried by his wife, in the barest part of the grey slope which lay between the church and the water: a naked unquiet descent of land whose lean pale growth of grass was shaken  and vexed by every wind that rose:  for on all sides th bleak churchyard fell away sharply and steeply from around the small church at top; on two sides the thin stormy stream went about it, and the shallow noise of its rapid windy flow was heard all round the hills.  The grass was all flowerless, and full of low stained gravestones.
      After the burial Kirklowes was left in charge of the old servant and a neighbour, and Herbert went to Ensdon with his sister.  A shrill wind shook the trees and bushes about the old house as they started;  the day was sharp and the light hard and fitful.  No rain fell but the flooded burn had not yet gone down; the long reeds sang sharp in the wind, the flowerless heather heaved and quivered under it by fits.  Following the watercourse they passed  out of the line of moorland and under the grey and yellow crags  that faced the low barren fields beyond; dividing these and twice recrossing the broader stream, their road rose again over green hills and between small wayside rocks, formless and weather-scored.  After miles of high lonely land it went down among sudden trees and out into a land of old woods and swift streams, backing and doubling, crossing and mixing and over copse and down from the right hand came a sound and a smell of the sea.  At the next turn they were in sight of it; a spring-weather sea, grey and green as leaves faded or flowering, swelling and quivering under clouds and sunbeams.  The wind played upon it willfully, lashing it with soft strokes, kissing it with rapid kisses, as one amorous and vexatious of the immense beautiful body defiant even of divine embraces and lovers flown from heaven: far out among shafts and straits of fugitive sunshine, near in under cloud-shadows, waking with light blows and sharp caresses infinite and variable smiles of weary beauty on its immortal face, soft sighs and heavy murmurs under the laughter and dance-music of its endless stream.  The water moved like tired tossing limbs of a goddess, troubled with strength and vexed with love.  Northward and southward the grey glitter of remote foam flickered along the extreme sea-line, marking off the low sky so that water and cloud were distinct.  Nearer inshore, the sea was as an April field of sweet and pale colour, filled with white and windy flowers.
      To this, the only sight of divine and durable beauty on which any eyes can rest in the world, the boys eyes first turned, and his heart opened and ached with pleasure.  His face trembled  and changed, his eyelids tingled, his limbs yearned all over: the colours and savours of the sea seemed to pass in at his eyes and mouth; all his nerves desired the divine touch of it, his soul saluted it through the senses.
'       What on earth is the matter with him?' said Lord Wariston.
      'Nothing on earth", said his sister; 'its the sea'.
                                                                                                     swinburne -   1877

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