Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025183, Wed, 12 Mar 2014 14:00:07 +0100

Signs and Symbols in Thomas Hardy
I am not offering any solution to VN's "Signs and Symbols", but would like
to draw attention to a relevant and interesting passage from Thomas Hardy's
novel which I read a while ago:

The casual glimpses which the ordinary population bestowed upon that
wondrous world of sap and leaves called the Hintock woods had been with

these two, Giles and Marty, a clear gaze. They had been possessed of its
finer mysteries as of commonplace knowledge; had been able to read

its hieroglyphs as ordinary writing; to them the sights and sounds of night,
winter, wind, storm, amid those dense boughs, which had to Grace

a touch of the uncanny, and even the supernatural, were simple occurrences
whose origin, continuance, and laws they foreknew. They

had planted together, and together they had felled; together they had, with
the run of the years, mentally collected those remoter signs and

symbols which, seen in few, were of runic obscurity, but all together made
an alphabet. From the light lashing of the twigs upon their faces,

when brushing through them in the dark, they could pronounce upon the
species of the tree whence they stretched; from the quality of the

wind's murmur through a bough they could in like manner name its sort afar
off. They knew by a glance at a trunk if its heart were sound, or

tainted with incipient decay, and by the state of its upper twigs, the
stratum that had been reached by its roots. The artifices of the

seasons were seen by them from the conjuror's own point of view, and not
from that of the spectator's.

Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders, pp. 340-41 (Macmillan [1887] 1975, New Wessex
Edition, ed. Furbank)

A. Bouazza

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