Tuesday, 21 August 2007

On the sands

WH Hudson

...But, no, there was one more, one of those rare days when nature appears to us spiritualised and is no longer nature, when that which had transfigured this visible world is in us too, and it becomes possible to believe - it is almost a conviction - that the burning and shining spirit seen and recognised in one among a thousand we have known is in all of us and in all things. In such moments it is possible to go beyond even the most advanced of the modern physicists who holds that force alone exists, that matter is but a disguise, a shadow and delusion; for we may add that force itself - that which we call force or energy - is but a semblance and shadow of the universal soul.

The change in the weather was not sudden; the furious winds dropped gradually; the clouds floated higher in the heavens, and were of a lighter grey; there were wider breaks in them, showing the lucid blue beyond; and the sea grew quieter. It had raved and reared too long, beating against the iron walls that held it back,and was now spent and fallen into an uneasy sleep, but still moved uneasily and moaned a little. Then all at once summer returned, coming like a thief in the night, for when it was morning the sun rose in splendour and power in a sky without cloud on its vast azure expanse, on a calm sea with no motion but that scarcely perceptible rise and fall as of one that sleeps. As the sun rose higher the air grew warmer until it was full summer heat but although a "visible heat," it was never oppressive; for all that day we were abroad, and as the tide ebbed a new country that was neither earth nor sea was disclosed, an infinite expanse of pale yellow sand stretching away on either side, and further and further out until it mingled and melted into the sparkling water and faintly seen line of foam on the horizon. and over all - the distant sea, the ridge of low dunes marking where the earth ended, and the flat yellow expanse between - there brooded a soft bluish silvery haze. A haze that blotted nothing out, but blended and interfused them all until earth and air and sea and sands were scarcely distinguishable. The effect, delicate, mysterious, unearthly, cannot be described.

Ethereal gauze...
Visisble heat, air-water, and dry sea,
Last conquest of the eye...
Sun-dust, aerial surf upon the shores of earth,
Ethereal estuary, frith of light...
Bird of the sun, transparent-winged.

Do we not see that words fail as pigments do - that the effect is too coarse, since in describing it we put it before the mental eye as something distinctly visible, a thing of itself and separate. But it is not so in nature; the effect is of something almost invisible and is yet a part of all and males all things - sky and sea and land - as unsubstantial as itself. Even living, moving things had that aspect. Far out on the lowest furthest strip of sand, which appeared to be on a level with the sea, gulls were seen standing in twos and threes and small groups and in rows; but they did not look like gulls - familiar birds, gull-shaped with grey and white plumage. They appeared twice as big as gulls, and were of a dazzling whiteness and of not defintie shape: though standing still they had motion, an effect of the quiverieng dancing air, the "visible heat"; at rest, they were seen now as separate ojects; then as one with the silver sparkle on the sea; and when they rose and floated away they were no longer shining and white, but like pale shadows of winged forms faintly visible in the haze.

They were not birds but spirits - beings that lived in or were passing through the world and now, like the heat, made visible; and I, standing far out on the sparkling sands, with the sparkling sea on one side and the line of the dunes, indistinctly seen as land, on the other, was one of them; and if any person had looked at me from a distnce he would hafve seen me as a formless shining white being standing but the sea, and then perhaps as a winged shadow floating in the haze. It was only necessary to put out one's arms to float. That was the effect on my mind: this natural world was changed to a supernatural, and there was no more matter nor force in sea or land nor in the heavens above, but only spirit.

Afoot In England 1927

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