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William Faulkner

ABSALOM, ABSALOM!
excerpt
(for a reading diary)

 

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V

Rosa Coldfield speaks:

“Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both ­touch and touch of that which is the citdel of the central I-Am’s private own: not spirit, soul; the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone’s to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibboleth of caste and color too....

“Perhaps I couldn’t even have wanted more than that, couldn’t have accepted less, who even at nineteen must have known that living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash. Or perhaps it is no lack of courage either: not cowardice which will not face that sickness somewhere at the prime foundation of this factual scheme from which the prisoner soul, miasmal-distillant, wroils ever upward sunward, tugs its tenuous prisoner arteries and veins and prisoning in its turn that spark, that dream which, as the globy and complete instant of its freedon mirrors and repeats (repeats? creates, reduces to a fragile evanescent iridescent sphere) all of space and time and massy earth, relicts the seething and anonymous miasmal mass which in all the years of time has taught itself no boon of death but only how to recreate, renew; and dies, is gone, vanished: nothing-- but is that true wisdom which can comprehend that there is a might-have-been which is more true than truth, from which the dreamer, waking, says not ‘Did I but dream?’ but rather says, indicts high heaven’s very self with: ‘Why did I wake since waking I shall never sleep again?’...

“There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass-- occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention, like a sheet of glass through which we watch all subsequent events transpire as though in a soundless vacuum, and fade, vanish; are gone, leaving us immobile, impotent, helpless; fixed, until we can die....

“He was gone; I did not even know that either since there is a metabolism of the spirit as well as of the entrails, in which the stored accumulations of long time burn, generate, create and break some maidenhead of the ravening meat; ay, in a second’s time-- yes, lost all the shibboleth erupting of cannot, will not, never will in one red instant’s fierce obliteration....

“...not madman, no: since surely there is something in madness, even the demoniac, which Satan flees, aghast at his own handiwork, and which God looks on in pity-- some spark, some crumb to leaven and redeem that articulated flesh, that speech sight heating taste and being which we call human man....

“You see, I was that sun, or thought I was who did believe there was that spark, that crumb in madness which is divine, though madness know no word itself for terror or for pity.... villain true enough, but a mortal fallible one less to invoke fear than pity: but no ogre; mad true enough, but I told myself, Why should not madness be its own victim also? or, Why may it be not even madness but solitary despair in titan conflict with the lonely and foredoomed and indomitable iron spirit: but no ogre, because it was dead, vanished, consumed somewhere in flame and sulphur-reek perhaps among the lonely craggy peaks of my childhood’s solitary remembering­or forgetting; I was that sun, who believed...

“I mean that he was not owned by anyone or anything in this world, had never been, would never be... Because he was not articulated in this world. He was a walking shadow. He was the light-blinded bat-like image of his own torment cast by the fierce demoniac lantern up from beneath the earth’s crust and hence in retrograde, reverse; from abysmal and chaotic dark to eternal and abysmal dark completing his descending (do you mark the gradation?) ellipsis, clinging, trying to cling with vain unsubstantial hands to what he hoped would hold him, save him, arrest him... To find severence (even if not rest and peace) at last in the stroke of a rusty scythe.”

 

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