Friday, November 21, 2008

The Aeroplane

...I had gone on horseback to call on the Verdurins and had taken an unfrequented path through the woods the beauty of which they had extolled to me. Hugging the contours of the cliff, it alternately climbed and then, hemmed in by dense woods on either side, dived into wild gorges. For a moment the barren rocks by which I was surrounded, and the sea that was visible through their jagged gaps, swam before my eyes like fragments of another universe: I had recognized the marine and mountainous landscape which Elstir had made of the scene of those two admirable watercolours, "Poet meeting a Muse" and "Young Man meeting a Centaur" which I had seen at the Duchesse de Guermantes's. The memory of them transported the place in which I now found myself so far outside the world of to-day that I should not have been surprised if, like the prehistoric age that Elstir painted, I had come upon a mythological personage in the course of my ride. Suddenly, my horse reared; he had heard a strange sound; then I raised my tear-filled eyes in the direction from which the sound seemed to come and saw, not two hundred feet above my head, against the sun, between two great wings of flashing metal which were bearing him aloft, a creature whose indistinct face appeared to me to resemble that of a man. I was as deeply moved as a Greek on seeing for the first time a demi-god. I wept - for I had been ready to weep the moment I realized that the sound came from above my head (aeroplanes were still rare in those days), at the thought that what I was going to see for the first time was an aeroplane. Then, just as when in a newspaper one senses that one is coming to a moving passage, the mere sight of the machine was enough to make me burst into tears. Meanwhile the airman seemed to be uncertain of his course; I felt that there lay open before him - before me, had not habit made me a prisoner - all the routes in space, in life itself; he flew on; let himself glide for a few moments over the sea, then quickly making up his mind, seemed to yield to some attraction that was the reverse of gravity, as though returning to his native element, with a slight adjustment of his golden wings he headed straight up into the sky.
~Cities of the Plain, Part Two: Chapter Three, page 1061-2.

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