Monday, 19 September 2016

Toomas Karmo: extract from Victorian humourist Jerome K. Jerome, on Sorrow

One of my four Debian GNU/Linux desktops. In the upper right-hand corner is the usual pair of operations clocks (green for civil time, red for UTC, disciplined  to plus-minus perhaps 300 milliseconds by Network Time Protocol). The four images are stills from a YouTube upload entitled "Three Men in a Boat [Jerome K Jerome] Full Movie- With Subtitles", by YouTube user Gampa Abhinay, under date 2014-02-22. This "Full Movie" is a 1970s British television dramatization of the minor  classic, which captures the spirit of the Jerome K. Jerome's 1887 original even as 1980s-1990s Jeremy Brett captures the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian-through-1920s originals.  Anticlockwise, from lower right: (a) a supper at the landlady's, as the decision is taken, for hypochondriacally fancied reasons of health, to go boating; (b) the upstream Thames journey begins, from Kingston; (c) an unfortunate encounter with a photographer-for-hire (not visible), as the boat sits in a slowly - and, as it turns out, a perilously - filling canal lock; (d) a supper on the water, I suspect somewhere between Kingston and Oxford. 

Revision history:

  • 20160919T1802Z/version 1.0.0:  Under pressure from Ontario's DDO&P heritage-conservation file, Kmo uploaded almost 6 hours ahead of his normal weekly schedule, as version 1.0.0. He reserved the right to upload minor (i.e., cosmetic, as opposed to substantive) tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, .. .  

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some late points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears.]

It appears that for the next couple of weeks, the David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P) heritage-conservation file will be so active as to prevent me from blogging at my usual time (Tuesdays in the UTC interval 0001Z/0401Z, corresponding to Monday evenings in Ontario; awkwardly, it looks as though I shall have to be in the public area at Town meetings for a couple of such evenings). And it will for a couple of weeks probably be hard to find the time to wrap up my blogging on Moise's Elementary Geometry from an Advanced Standpoint

What to do? 

It is now appropriate to blog four or six or so hours earlier than I normally would, and to continue reporting on DDO&P, and to drop Moise for the time being, and to fill in with some uplifting or entertaining material outside the ambit both of DDO&P and of Moise. 

Accordingly, I today reproduce one of my favourite passages from British literature, from the tenth chapter of Jerome K. Jerome's minor 1887 classic  Three Men in a Boat: 

They awe us, these strange stars, so cold, so clear. We are as children whose small feet have strayed into some dim-lit temple of the god they have been taught to worship but know not; and, standing where the echoing dome spans the long vista of the shadowy light, glance up, half hoping, half afraid to see some awful vision hovering there. 

And yet it seems so full of comfort and of strength, the night. In its great presence, our small sorrows creep away, ashamed. The day has been so full of fret and care, and our hearts have been so full of evil and of bitter thoughts, and the world has seemed so hard and wrong to us. Then Night, like some great loving mother, gently lays her hand upon our fevered head, and turns our little tear-stained face up to hers, and smiles, and, though she does not speak, we know what she would say, and lay our hot flushed cheek against her bosom, and the pain is gone. 

Sometimes, our pain is very deep and real, and we stand before her very silent, because there is no language for our pain, only a moan. Night's heart is full of pity for us: she cannot ease our aching; she takes our hand in hers, and the little world grows very small and very far beneath us, and, borne on her dark wings, we pass for a moment into a mightier Presence than her own, and in the wondrous light of that great Presence, all human life lies like a book before us, and we know that Pain and Sorrow are but the angels of God. 

Only those whose have worn the crown of suffering can look upon that wondrous light; and they, when they return, many not speak of it, or tell the mystery they know. 

Once upon a time, through a strange country, there rode some goodly knights, and their path lay by a deep wood, where tangled briers grew very thick and strong, and tore the flesh of them that lost their way therein. And the leaves of the trees that grew in the wood were very dark and thick, so that no ray of light came through the branches to lighten the gloom and sadness. 

And, as they passed by that dark wood, one knight of those that rode, missing his comrades, wandered far away, and returned to them no more; and they, sorely grieving, rode on without him, mourning him as one dead. 

Now, when they reached the fair castle towards which they had been journeying, they stayed there many days, and made merry; and one night, as they sat in cheerful ease around the logs that burned in the great hall, and drank a loving measure, there came the comrade they had lost, and greeted them. His clothes were ragged, like a beggar's, and many sad wounds were on his sweet flesh, but upon his face there shone a great radiance of deep joy. 

And they questioned him, asking him what had befallen him: and he told them how in the dark wood he had lost his way, and had wandered many days and nights, till, torn and bleeding, he had lain him down to die. 

Then, when he was nigh unto death, lo! through the savage gloom there came to him a stately maiden, and took him by the hand and led him on through devious paths, unknown to any man, until upon the darkness of the wood there dawned a light such as the light of day was unto but as a little lamp unto the sun; and in that wondrous light, our wayworn knight saw as in a dream a vision, and so glorious, so fair the vision seemed, that of his bleeding wounds he thought no more, but stood as one entranced, whose joy is deep as is the sea, whereof no man can tell the depth. 

And the vision faded, and the knight, kneeling upon the ground, thanked the good saint who into that sad wood had strayed his steps, so he had seen the vision that lay there hid. 

And the name of the dark forest was Sorrow; but of the vision that the good knight saw therein we may not speak nor tell. 

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