Friday, November 25, 2016

Gold letters on marble pages

I'm spending a lot of time with Virginia Woolf lately, as I'm writing an essay on her 1927 book, To the Lighthouse. For those -- like me up until now -- who haven't cracked it yet, it's about the big Ramsay family (eight kids), their friends and relationships, and their shabby summer house in the Hebrides. I'm focusing on other sections for my essay, so had forgotten the pure poetry of the middle section, "Time Passes," which describes what happens to the house, deserted during the war, as the seasons come and go. My friend Andre, a Woolf aficionado, brought it to my attention yesterday. I thought others might enjoy it too:

"But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore."

1 comment:

  1. Wow....well, I have always found Woolf amazing and I did love To The Lighthouse but I am still surprised by this wonderful passage. I'm not really into re-reading but maybe...