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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brideshead Revisited - my favorite passage

At the end of the day

" There was one part of the house I had not

yet visited, and I went there now.

The chapel showed no ill-effects of its long neglect; the art-nouveau paint was as fresh and bright as ever; the art-nouveau lamp burned once more before the altar. I said a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words, and left, turning towards the camp; and as I walked back, and the cook-house bugle sounded ahead of me,
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,' I thought, stepping out more briskly towards the camp, where the bugles after a pause had taken up the second call and were sounding 'Pick-em-up, pick-em-up, hot potatoes', '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.'

I quickened my pace and reached the hut which served us for our ante-room. 'You're looking unusually cheerful today,' said the second-in-command."


Anonymous said...

Love it!

Phil said...

Did you know that the theme music to the television series fits the words of 'Tantum ergo' perfectly.

gemoftheocean said...

Jackie: Glad you enjoyed it. I remember how pleasantly surprised I was the first time through it discovering why WAugh had used all the passive constructions for Charles Ryder's inner monologues...
culminating with "those ancient words, newly learned." Somehow I expect he had an easier time converting than Rex Mottram did! I don't think he was concerned with "Sacred monkeys in the Vatican" - denying Cordelia the thrill of proclaiming him "what a glorious chump!"

Philip: No, I didn't know that! Are there more than one setting for Tantum Ergo? It seems to me that for one of the benediction songs there seems to be a different tune possible than one I am used to. I usually catch things like that.

Here and there in movie scores, etc. I can catch the Dies Irae, and that's always fun. I think: "aha, there's some composer who was well versed in the literature." Usually they play it when the monster is about to axe-murder the baddie.

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