I used to be a terrible maudlin romantic. I was thirteen when I discovered Far From The Madding Crowd, and since then I must have read it twenty times. As for Jude The Obscure, I’ve lost count. Was there ever such a tragedy? – children being hanged, heroines going mad in graveyards – I thought all my Christmasses had come at once. Whoever said ”Nothing is so sweet as lovely melancholy” was speaking my language.
I still think they’re two of the greatest books ever written, yet I can no longer bear to read them. In fact, that goes for all the classics. Is it age? As we get nearer death do we become more superficial? Or is our understanding too close for comfort? I now realize what Hardy wrote was true, and I don’t want to know.
But for all you romantics out there, here’s an eighth century Chinese poem from Li Po:
”I had gone aboard and was minded to depart,
When I heard from the shore your song with tap of foot.
The pool of peach blossom is a thousand feet deep
But not so deep as the love in your farewell to me.”
‘Farewell’ – the most terrifying word in the English language. The time comes when you don’t want to be reminded of it. I’m afraid the following is about my level now:
Little Boy: ”Mummy, Mummy, Daddy’s been run over by a steamroller!”
Mother: ”Oh, don’t make me laugh, you know my lips are chapped!”
(It’s the way I tell ’em.)