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10 Jul 2014 2:08am

carved in air


‘The outer suburbs have almost a moorland fascination when fog lies thick and orange-coloured over their huge flat wastes of grass ... but does not quite conceal the stark outlines of a traction engine, some procumbent timber, a bonfire and frantic figures darting around it, and aerial scaffolding far away. Other fields, yet unravished but menaced, the fog restores to a primaeval state. And what a wild noise the wind makes in the telegraph wires as in wintry heather and gorse ... If a breeze arises it makes that sound of the dry curled leaves chafing along the pavement; at night they seem spies in the unguarded by-ways. But there are also days -  and spring and summer days too - when a quiet horror thicks and stills the air outside London.

The ridge of trees high in the mist are very grim. The isolated trees stand cloaked in conspiracies here and there about the fields. The houses, even whole villages, are translated into terms of unreality as if they were carved in air and could not be touched; they are empty and mournful as skulls or churches. There is no life visible - for the ploughmen and the cattle are figures of light dream. All is soft and grey. The land has drunken the opiate mist and is passing slowly and reluctantly into perpetual sleep.’

-Edward Thomas, The South Country, 1909, p.96-97

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