Friday, 8 October 2021

Grisaille by George Santayana

 Still busy doing KS stuff so my apologies. Here is a little fragment of "Soliloquies in England" by George Santayana.


England is pre-eminently a land of atmosphere. A luminous haze permeates everywhere, softening distances, magnifying perspectives, transfiguring familiar objects, harmonizing the accidental, making beautiful things magical and ugly things picturesque. Road and pavement become wet mirrors, in which the fragments of this gross world are shattered, inverted, and transmuted into jewels, more appealing than precious stones to the poet, because they are insubstantial and must be loved without being possessed. Mists prolong the most sentimental and soothing of hours, the twilight, through the long summer evenings and the whole winter's day. In these country-sides so full of habitations and these towns so full of verdure, lamplight and twilight cross their rays; and the passers-by, mercifully wrapped alike in one crepuscular mantle, are reduced to unison and simplicity, as if sketched at one stroke by the hand of a master.

English landscape, if we think only of the land and the works of man upon it, is seldom on the grand scale. Charming, clement, and eminently habitable, it is almost too domestic, as if only home passions and caged souls could live there. But lift the eyes for a moment above the line of roofs or of tree-tops, and there the grandeur you miss on the earth is spread gloriously before you. The spirit of the atmosphere is not compelled, like the god of pantheism, to descend in order to exist, and wholly to diffuse itself amongst earthly objects. It exists absolutely in its own person as well, and enjoys in the sky, like a true deity, its separate life and being. There the veil of Maya, the heavenly Penelope, is being woven and rent perpetually, and the winds of destiny are always charmingly defeating their apparent intentions. Here is the playground of those early nebulous gods that had the bodies of giants and the minds of children.

In England the classic spectacle of thunderbolts and rainbows appears but seldom; such contrasts are too violent and definite for these tender skies. Here the conflict between light and darkness, like all other conflicts, ends in a compromise; cataclysms are rare, but revolution is perpetual. Everything lingers on and is modified; all is luminous and all is grey.

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