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

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17 October 2008

Et in Arcadia Ego

I know I posted another longish passage below somewhere (May 2006), in an earlier Brideshead-mood.  But with the advent of the new film, I believe it necessary to return to the roots.  Waugh's Brideshead, and his alone holds the real story.  As they say, always go back to your roots.  And flourish from there.

“Hooper was no romantic He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the campfires at Xanthus-side (…) Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon—these, and the Battle of the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.

“What’s this place called?"

He told me and, on the instant, it was though someone had switched off the wireless, and a voice that had been bawling in my ears, incessantly, fatuously, for days beyond number, had been suddenly cut short; an immense silence followed, empty at first, but gradually, as my outraged sense regained authority, full of a multitude of sweet and natural and long-forgotten sounds—for he had spoken a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror’s name of such ancient power, that, at its mere sound, the phantom of those haunted late years began to take flight.

“I have been her before,” I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June when the ditches were 
white with fools-parsley and meadow-sweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour such as our climate affords once or twice a year, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God.  And though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned to this my latest.
~ Evelyn Waugh, Prologue, Brideshead Revisited

One name can light the memory's dark chambers to a sunlit secret place "through that low door in the garden."  Those mysterious workings of grace within one person, within an entire world.

(ALL IMAGES ARE FROM THE 1981 TELEVISION MINISERIES STARRING ANTHONY ANDREWS, JEREMY IRONS, LAURENCE OLIVIER, AND JOHN GIELGUD. PROPERTY OF GRANADA. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.)

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