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"Generous deed should not be checked by cold counsel." (Tolkien's Return of the King)

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01 May 2006


...a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words, and left, turning towards the camp; and as I walked back (...) I thought: The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with the stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet... that is not the last word; it is not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended, has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time; a small red flame--a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones. (Excerpt from Waugh's Brideshead Revisited)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Sheridan said...

Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:21 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Sara said...

This is the most incredible passage--thank you for putting it up!!! I must read this book now...I only saw the series by Granada (eons and eons ago! Young Jeremy Irons and young Anthony Andrews..) but never got aroudn to actually reading the thing. Now I simply MUST! There is so much force in Waugh's writing, it's incredible...

10:36 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Marianne said...

I especially like the 'sola civitas' lines. Anybody out there ever read "When the Going was Good"? Wondering if anyone else thought it wasn't really his 'best'... :(

9:36 AM GMT-5  

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