I am inclined to believe that Brideshead Revisited is a book about missed connections & misunderstantings, of, yes, thwarted passion; of giving a sad proud look when one should weep; of the “well then”. Most of the characters try too hard, or not enough.
Charles left, after being made a sufferer. I suppose missing Sebastian was better than sharing in the misery – but the smell of summer, made the stench of sickness, is not one that washes off. It is a dark stain on the breast.
Stifled grief, English charm – composure. So he wore the mask and saw himself become it. So growth stilled.
APRIL IS THE CRUELLEST MONTH, BREEDING
LILACS OUT OF THE DEAD LAND, MIXING
MEMORY AND DESIRE, STIRRING
DULL ROOTS WITH SPRING RAIN
Yellow finches dart in pairs, unencumbered by Fate, no red string to trip them in their flight. It is said this long red string is used by men to remember the way out – as one lost in a dark wood, where trunks make walls and rivers rush beneath the earth, to swallow one if he missteps. (Of course one is never in danger – a tug and one misses a trap – as if a strange god whispered, Turn left, turn left, one unaware they had heard him.)
I do not think a finch would know what that is.
Man should know the string for a safety – fallible, as in truth it may be cut. But men live of what isn’t theirs. (You can’t live off what isn’t yours!)
TRUTH IS AN ODD NUMBER, THERE IS SAFETY IN A TRIAD
The dead come out the strangest doors. The wan face a familiar sight, all fear is struck from one. (What one fears is the lifting of veils.) The smile is a stiff lip on yellow waxwork. Still there is light in the eyes – a taxidermist’s prize, such shine one would think they had blinked away a tear. Our precious dead! Are we not ghosts all, loves and hates and curious scenes, misremembered? A distortion, approximation, which is imagination, (which is Poetry, which is Truth).
What is dead will go the moment one raises a trembling hand – to the face, perhaps, in a fever of feeling. If dead men have fevers of feeling I do not know. The dead may stir in alien ways. For even the soulless are capable of some fondness, a detached benevolence, in spite of their diminished capacities.
The small man in spectacles no longer says, “My wife is lost at sea!” She has come to him in dreams, mottled and bent, to tell him of her marriage to a sea-prince.
Come morning he coughs a wad of green. A piece of soul is broken off and drifted, like an aether, not to be held in cupped hands or blown on lover’s lips.
Ah, to have many affections in place of one mad love! That is what he should have done. Grief would be brief (being not quite grief, then). “Wait, wait, give me a minute,” to put a stopper to the wound as easily as one caps a bottle.
Ah, had he not loved his wife…!
When they wed he did not care much for her. Then he was certain of everything. That she was a practical, sensible sort; that she would have his best interests in mind, and try not to make him unhappy. A good prospect, in appearance unremarkable.
One night he woke from a dreadful dream, since forgotten. (Vines, and vines, and damp.) Crinkling an eye at the back turned to him – the curve of that bone! That steady breath – he knew he loved her then. For quite some time, he had loved her; but it was then that it hit him, that he was made aware of the fact. “Well then,” he said, for in his many years he had never been in love, and knew it not as a cruel master.
A year from then she was sailing the Atlantic. Misty-eyed, she promised him a letter; she gave him her love, though he knew she’d find another. All her things, she too shipped west, answering thus the question of return. She had lost something he could not see, she said, and could not help her find. A burden, he would be – this, in kinder words. (“You would not know it,” which is a form of saying, “You do not know me.”)
In a week the ship was wrecked, her bones picked clean by bottom-feeders.
(“Do terns flock here in the summer? Do they hatch soft, speckled babes?”
“That was somewhere else.” There lives a shade of myself, who faces West at the cry of gulls, and dreams of mine own sorrow; a small man like myself, when I had but one chin, and bled brackish blood.
I’d call my man at Ingolstadt to electrify my loins, if sheer vigour were enough to rouse you from the deep. If white worms grace your chest like flowers, slick stalks nibbling here and there, I will tie them head to tail in a funereal wreath.)