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Journal of Katherine Mansfield

The Glimpse

The Glimpse.

And yet one has these ‘glimpses’, before which all that one ever has written (what has one written?)—all (yes, all) that one ever has read, pales…. The waves, as I drove home this afternoon, and the high foam, how it was suspended in the air before it fell…. What is it that happens in that moment of suspension? It is timeless. In that moment (what do I mean?) the whole life of the soul is contained. One is flung up—out of life—one is ‘held’, and then,—down, bright, broken, glittering on to the rocks, tossed back, part of the ebb and flow.

I don't want to be sentimental. But while one hangs, suspended in the air, held,—while I watched the spray, I was conscious for life of the white sky with a web of torn grey over it; of the slipping, sliding, slithering sea; of the dark woods blotted against the cape; of the flowers on the tree I was passing; and more—of a huge cavern where my selves (who were like ancient sea-weed gatherers) mumbled, indifferent and intimate … and this other self apart in the carriage, grasping the cold knob of her umbrella, thinking of a ship, of ropes stiffened with white paint and the wet, flapping oilskins of sailors…. Shall one ever be at peace with oneself? Ever quiet and uninterrupted—without pain—with the one whom one loves under the same roof? Is it too much to ask?

page 149

February 29. Oh, to be a writer, a real writer given up to it and to it alone! Oh, I failed to-day; I turned back, looked over my shoulder, and immediately it happened, I felt as though I too were struck down. The day turned cold and dark on the instant. It seemed to belong to summer twilight in London, to the clang of the gates as they close the garden, to the deep light painting the high houses, to the smell of leaves and dust, to the lamp-light, to that stirring of the senses, to the languor of twilight, the breath of it on one's cheek, to all those things which (I feel to-day) are gone from me for ever…. I feel to-day that I shall die soon and suddenly: but not of my lungs.

There are moments when Dickens is possessed by this power of writing: he is carried away. That is bliss. It certainly is not shared by writers to-day. The death of Cheedle: dawn falling upon the edge of night. One realises exactly the mood of the writer and how he wrote, as it were, for himself, but it was not his will. He was the falling dawn, and he was the physician going to Bar. And again when …

Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Ne reviendra plus ce printemps-ci,
Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Est passé—le temps des œillets aussi.

Le vent a changé—les cieux sont moroses
Et nous n'irons pas couper et cueillir
Les lilas en fleurs et les belles roses;
Le printemps est triste et ne peut fleurir.

page 150

O joyeux et doux printemps de l'année
Qui vint, l'an passé, nous ensoleiller;
Notre fleur d'amour est si bien fânée
Las! que ton baiser ne peut l'éveiller.

Et toi, que fais-tu? pas de fleurs écloses
Point de gai soleil ni d'ombrages frais;
Le temps des lilas et le temps des roses
Avec notre amour est mort à jamais.

Life's a queer thing. I read this to-day, and in my mind I heard it sung in a very pure voice to a piano, and it seemed to me to be part of the great pain of youthful love.