-Rainer Maria Rilke
[My favourite Snoopy jumper from the market in Cambridge, aptly expressing my sentiments]
I had, from the beginning, to adore heroes
& I elected that they witness to,
show forth, transfigure: life-suffering and pure heart
& hardly definable but central weakness
for which they were enthroned and forgiven by me.
In the fabulous Planet Narnia [did anyone else see the documentary on BBC1 on Thursday?], Michael Ward writes that: "In fairy tale the author… is free to show the reader something better than mundane norms. [Lewis wished to show] the tragic splendour of humanity… of true goldeness, gentleness and strength. Lewis’ ‘knightly ideal’ – 'two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason' - is “a man of blood and iron,” but also of chivalry, “gentle and modest.” The successors of this 'practical and vital… living reality… must be bred up if men are to escape from a world divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable.'"
You want a better story. Who wouldn't? A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on. What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
flames everywhere. I can tell already you think I'm the dragon,
that would be so like me, but I'm not. I'm not the dragon. I'm not the princess either.
Who am I? I'm just a writer. I write things down. I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
I sink the boat of love, but that comes later...
For a while I thought I was the dragon. I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
the princess, cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with confidence
but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess, while I'm out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
and getting stabbed to death.
Okay, so I'm the dragon. Big deal.
You still get to be the hero. You get the magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
What more do you want?
...I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
"The great [in history] are not solitary; out of the night come the voices of those who have gone before, clear and courageous; and so through the ages they march, a mighty procession, proud, undaunted, unconquerable. To join in this glorious company, to swell the immortal paeon of those whom fate could not subdue - this may not be happiness; but what is happiness to those whose souls are filled with that celestial music? To them is given what is better than happiness: to know the fellowship of the great, to live in the inspiration of lofty thoughts, and to be illuminated in every perplexity by the fire of nobility and truth."
"The Piazza Signoria is too stony to be brilliant. It has no grass, no flowers, no frescoes, no glittering walls of marble or comforting patches of ruddy brick… the statues that relieve its severity suggest, not the innocence of childhood nor the glorious bewilderment of youth, but the conscious achievements of maturity. Perseus and Judith, Hercules and Thusnelda, they have done or suffered something, and, though they are immortal, immortality has come to them after experience, not before. Here, not only in the solitude of nature, might a hero meet a goddess, or a heroine a god."
-E M Forster
"He staged a mighty triumph over himself for the sake of love’s extremest possibility. Behind this devotion begins, first with small things, saintliness: the simple life of a love which has passed through the fire, which, without ever praising itself therefore, steps up to all things, unaccompanied, unostentatious, wordless. True work, fullness of task, everything begins beyond this ordeal, and he who has been unable to strive thus far will, when he gets to Heaven, no doubt see the Virgin Mary, a handful of saints and petty prophets, King Saul and Charles le Temeraire – but of Hokusai and Leonardo, of Li Tai Pe and Villon, of Verhaeren, Rodin, Cezanne, even of the Almighty Himself, they will only be able to bring him travellers’ tales."
"In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls."
-Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
[Ruins in the Forum in Rome]
Who says that all must vanish?
Who knows, perhaps the flight
of the bird you wound remains,
and perhaps flowers survive
caresses in us, in their ground.
It isn't the gesture that lasts,but it dresses you again in gold
armour - from breast to knees - and the battle was so pure
an Angel wears it after you.
“He is really – I think he was taken by surprise, just as I was before. But this time I’m not to blame; I do want you to believe that. I simply slipped into those violets. No, I want to be really truthful. I am a little to blame. I had silly thoughts. The sky, you know, was gold, and the ground all blue, and for a moment he looked like someone in a book.”
”In a book?”
”Heroes – gods…”
-Forster, 'A Room With A View'
I don't often believe in angels, but on the day I left Louis pulled a feather from his pillow and said, "This is for you." I half expected him to say, "See, this is the first one I grew."
A brief list of immortal heroes.
Robin Hood. Aragorn. High King Peter. Superman. A boy "with eyes like the sea after a storm..."
[like Brandon Tyler]
Westley. Will from His Dark Materials...
...and, of course: Galahad. La Cote Male Taile. Sir Tristram. King Pellinore. And King Arthur.
"Georgiana Spencer: Duchess of Devonshire… her heart was very lonely.
Just like the stars in the sky.
There are many of them… entire civilisations of constellations… but miles and miles of time separate them all. One could travel by magic carpet but your hair would be grey by the time you reached Cassiopeia.
There are no pirates sailing through the dawn on a ship made out of pearls.
Arthur laid his sword down a long time ago.
The heroes only live in sentences now.
No wonder Georgie is lost.
Despite all her names, despite all her titles, she is alone."
-From the exquisite and then byron turned into a teacup
You pale child, yours also is a life,
-the singer comes to tell you that you are,
and that you are more than a dream of the forest,
more than the blessedness of sunshine
that many a grey day forgets.
Your life is so inexpressibly your own
because it is laden with so many. Don’t you feel how all the many pasts
grow light, when you live awhile,
and how they prepare you for amazement-
companion each feeling with images,
and how whole epochs seem only a sign
for some lovely gesture that you raise.
This is the sense of all that once existed:
that it does not remain, heaped up in all its weight,
that, woven into us, by magic,
it returns-to our hands
and to our hair
and most of all to our feeling.
Thus were these women as of ivory
by many roses redly shone upon,
thus the weary mien of kings grew dark,
thus sallow mouths of princes turned to stone
and were unmoved by orphans and by weepers,
thus boys resonated like violins
and died for the heavy hair of women;
thus virgins for whom the world was wild
dedicated themselves to the Madonna.
Thus lutes and mandolins grew loud
in some unknown player’s greater span,
into warm velvet slipped the polished blade
-destinies accrued from faith and fortune,
farewells sobbed in evening arbors,
and over hundreds of black iron helmets
the battle on the plain pitched like a ship.
Thus cities grew slowly great
and collapsed back like waves in oceans,
thus the swift bird
strength of the iron spear
hurled itself toward high-rewarded goals,
thus children dressed themselves for garden pastimes
-and thus things trivial and difficult took place
only to give you for each nascent day
a thousand great smiles and likenesses,
by which you prodigiously may grow.
Past upon past has been planted in you,
in order out of you, like gardens, to rise…
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists... it is real... it is possible... it’s yours.