Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stinson Beach Sunset

Now the sun had sunk. Sky and sea were indistinguishable. The waves breaking spread their white fans far out over the shore, sent white shadows into the recesses of sonorous caves and then rolled back sighing over the shingle.

The tree shook its branches and a scattering of leaves fell to the ground. There they settled with perfect composure on the precise spot where they would await dissolution. Black and grey were shot into the garden from the broken vessel that had once held red light. Dark shadows blackened the tunnels between the stalks. The thrush was silent and the worm sucked itself back into its narrow hole. Now and again a whitened and hollow straw was blown from an old nest and fell into the dark grasses among the rotten apples. The light had faded from the tool-house wall and the adder's skin hung from the nail empty. All the colours in the room had overflown their banks. The precise brush stroke was swollen and lop-sided; cupboards and chairs melted their brown masses into one huge obscurity. The height from floor to ceiling was hung with vast curtains of shaking darkness. The looking-glass was pale as the mouth of a cave shadowed by hanging creepers.

The substance had gone from the solidity of the hills. Travelling lights drove a plumy wedge among unseen and sunken roads, but no lights opened among the folded wings of the hills, and there was no sound save the cry of a bird seeking some lonelier tree. At the cliff's edge there was an equal murmur of air that had been brushed through forests, of water that had been cooled in a thousand glassy hollows of mid-ocean.

As if there were waves of darkness in the air, darkness moved on, covering houses, hills, trees, as waves of water wash round the sides of some sunken ship. Darkness washed down streets, eddying round single figures, engulfing them; blotting out couples clasped under the showery darkness of elm trees in full summer foliage. Darkness rolled its waves along grassy rides and over the wrinkled skin of the turf, enveloping the solitary thorn tree and the empty snail shells at its foot. Mounting higher, darkness blew along the bare upland slopes, and met the fretted and abraded pinnacles of the mountain where the snow lodges for ever on the hard rock even when the valleys are full of running streams and yellow vine leaves, and girls, sitting on verandahs, look up at the snow, shading their faces with their fans. Them, too, darkness covered.

—Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

Wonderful waves, wonderful Woolf.

I have heard people compare the rhythm of VW's writing voice to the beating of the waves.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

In a letter sent during the writing process of "The Waves," Virginia actually said she was writing to a rhythm and not a plot or narrative. One reason so many people have had a hard time with this novel, which is structured remarkably differently than most other novels, is that it is indeed structured as waves, following a rhythm, rather than a more traditional linear narrative. In my opinion "The Waves" along with "To the Lighthouse" are her two greatest novels, and still they are remarkably misunderstood, especially by readers and critics who require fixed narrative formalism.

Of course you're not one of those. I see that you "get it" quite well, what Woolf was doing. Excellent!

And thank you.

8:28 AM  

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