Wednesday, September 20, 2006


With Achilles in the Trenches

Alexander Smith, Books and Gardens, from Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country (1863):
In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. I go into my library, and all history unrolls before me. I breathe the morning air of the world while the scent of Eden's roses yet lingered in it, while it vibrated only to the world's first brood of nightingales, and to the laugh of Eve. I see the Pyramids building; I hear the shoutings of the armies of Alexander; I feel the ground shake beneath the march of Cambyses. I sit as in a theatre, -- the stage is time, the play is the play of the world. What a spectacle it is! What kingly pomp, what processions file past, what cities burn to heaven, what crowds of captives are dragged at the chariot-wheels of conquerors! I hiss, or cry "Bravo," when the great actors come on the shaking stage. I am a Roman emperor when I look at a Roman coin. I lift Homer, and I shout with Achilles in the trenches.

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