Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Wordy Wednesday: No Moral Right at All

Two weeks ago, Magistratrium at Myriads of Thoughts posted some quotes from The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill.  They were so wonderful - beautiful and enticing - that I ordered it for my Kindle and planned to start it soon.  I started last Thursday and finished yesterday.  What a lovely, satisfying book.  You can see my review here.

So, now I follow with some quotes of my own ... I'm trying to not duplicate hers - lovely as they are - because so much of the book is beautiful.  One theme I noted in the book of seasonality is the idea that we have a responsibility to update (choose your noun here) without destroying the character of the past.  This is a idea that resonates with me as a Classical Educator even though Hill was mostly talking about houses.

I believe you need to handle an old house carefully, restrain the first urge to knock down and replace and add on, or even to restore; you need to settle to a place, give it time to speak to you, about itself, rub along with things as they are and see how they work. There has been so much lost, so much alteration and modernisation and ruination at the transitory whim of individual taste and fashion, so many excrescences have been added which are entirely wrong in style, so many plain, sensible features, walls, roofs, window frames, ripped out. It is not a question of my liking or not liking open-plan living or picture-windows. When you buy an old house, you buy a small part of the past, a piece of history, and yet you do not become the owner of that, and never can, you have only taken it on trust for your lifetime or, more likely nowadays, until you move on and pass it to someone else, in a cash transaction. You have every legal right, preservation orders withstanding, to alter and take down and put up, to imprint your own personality, to wrench a house into a new shape to fit your own living requirements. But no moral right at all.
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 ... the castles and the great houses, our national heritage lies in all those modest, small-scale public and domestic buildings that still remain in the villages of Great Britain.
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... the church of St Nicholas is nothing if not traditional in its celebrations and so just as, without fail at Harvest time, ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’, on Easter Day we sing the resurrection hymn and at Whitsuntide ‘Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire’. And so I like it, so it should be, as long as repetition of what has always been said and sung is not all, and the spirit of each festival is re-created every year, to renewed ...
The above quote was especially poignant to me as I love traditions, especially Christmas traditions, but need to consider the staleness and mustiness of doing the same things over and over. How to renew, recreate the festivals without damaging the meaning of what has gone before.

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Our apples are tiny and hard, sour, more or less inedible even after cooking. This is an old tree, after all. We do not keep it for what we can get from it – or at least, not in terms of fruit.
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I dread what someone insensitive may do in rebuilding the place, and dread the smartening and tidying of the garden, for then no badgers, or owls, or nightjars or parties of long-tailed tits will come so close to us, the creatures will retreat further back, on to the Fen again. I shall not see a badger feeding off the windfall apples next autumn.
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(Quoting Thomas Traherne, emphasis mine) "I seemed as one brought into the estate of innocence. All things were spotless and pure and glorious, yea and infinitely mine and joyful and precious. I knew not that there were any sins or complaints or laws. I dreamed not of poverties, contentions or vices. All tears and quarrels were hidden from mine eyes. Everything was at rest, free and immortal. I knew nothing of sickness or death or exaction, in the absence of these I was entertained like an angel with the works of God in their splendour and glory. I saw all in the peace of Eden. Heaven and earth did sing my creator’s praises and could not make more melody to Adam than to me. All time was eternity and a perpetual Sabbath. Is it not strange that an infant should be heir of the world and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?"
  Linked to Wednesdays with Words at Ordo-Amoris. Join us with a quote from your current read!

5 comments:

  1. We just bought an home that one man lived in for 30 years....As we did our final walk through he gave a tour that included his visions for the place that never transpired. It was such a tender time to walk through with a person that loved this home, as much as we plan on.
    I love old things and have difficulty tearing apart things that tie us to the past.

    Have a great day...

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  2. I adore that first quote!!! I may print it to hang on a particularly knock-down-able wall.

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  3. I've seen this book mentioned/quoted a few places recently too. May have to add it to the to-read pile. (Ack!)

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  4. The quote about remodeling an old house was one that particularly struck me when I was reading it. So true...

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