Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh, a Quotation

Never hesitant to promote my favorites, herewith another small snippet from Angela Thirkell’s 1958 novel, Close Quarters:

     “You know, Margot, you are a remarkable woman,” said Everard. “You never lost the childlike in the larger mind.”
     “Haven’t I?” said Mrs. Macfadyen. “Who said that?”
     Mr. Carter said Tennyson.
     “Oh, a quotation,” said Mrs. Macfadyen. “Donald was always saying bits of poetry and bits of prose too. His people were very poor and he taught himself to read and save up his pennies, when he got any, to buy books off the second-hand stalls on market day. But I don’t think Tennyson was one of his poets. It was mostly Scott and Burns and the metrical psalms. He would have liked that line you quoted just now—he never lost the child’s mind.”
     “I think the biggest people don’t,” said Mr. Carter. “That’s why one can meet them so easily.”

The quote comes from a longish poem by Tennyson and a passage quite remarkable especially after the years have cumulated and taught a body the actual truth of it. I’ll quote it here, piling it on, as it were:

For woman is not undevelopt man,
But diverse: could we make her as the man,
Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this,
Not like to like, but like in difference.
Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
The man be more of woman, she of man;
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
Till at the last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words;
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers,
Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other even as those who love.
         [Lord Alfred Tennyson, The Princess]

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