Aug 23 2012

Sweet August Sadness

Published by at 8:39 am under John Cowper Powys

From The Philosophy of Solitude (1933), by John Cowper Powys.

As you walk along—with your eyes on the ground—you think of the whole strange rondure of this terraqueous globe and the spirit within you voyages with it through immeasurable space. It is twilight perhaps; and all around you there is that indescribable blue light which, like the blue robe of the Mother of God, the city wears at this season and this hour. But you still keep your eyes upon the ground; for you can feel the presence of that blue light in a certain mystical taste.

There is an indescribable sadness in this air as you breathe it in, as of a lingering incense in a vast empty temple; for the Autumn is beginning, though it is still only August. But this sadness is far sweeter to you than all the gaieties of all the places of pleasure in the world! This air which you taste in your mouth is indeed the very atmosphere of the earth, and into it have passed all the subtle, gentle thoughts of the men and women of the old time who in their day slipped out, just as you have done, to get a breath of air after their day’s work!

Work, work, work! Thus do the days of the years of our life pass by. But it is this daily half-hour—our very own out of all the rest—that makes it worth it to us that we were born at all.

And as we walk on, avoiding the people and still staring at the ground, the mute expectancy of all this vast mass of mineral substance beneath us, all this “thick rotundity” of Inanimateness between us and our antipodes, steals over us like a spell. Can it be that this huge mineral body—covered with its green pastures, its grey seas, its yellow deserts, its white mountain-ridges, and now with this strange blue light—is absolutely devoid of anything corresponding to what in us is consciousness?

And as we think of this—as we have done every day for the last five, ten, fifteen years!—the rare ecstasy we are always seeking begins slowly to tremble through our being. Is it—can it be—the response of all this vast orbic volume of Not-Self to the cravings and longings and fumblings of the Self, this quivering ecstasy that trembles through us?

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