"...and the songbirds just a going it!"

Henry James once wrote that the two most beautiful words in the English language were "summer afternoon." That may have been true for James, who spent most of his life in England, but for my money you can't beat a summer morning in the Midwest. That seems doubly true now that we are in the heart of winter. I keep thinking back to those summer mornings only a few months ago. For some reason, the next season for me has always been a memory.

Last summer I spent as many mornings as I could on the water, fishing and watching the sun come up. There is just a unique beauty to such mornings in the Midwest. It's often the stillest and most magical time of day. I also spent some time last summer reading Huck Finn aloud to my eight-year old son. It occurred to me that Twain must also have been partial to summer mornings here in the middle of the country. I noticed this when we got to Chapter XIX and Huck and Jim were spending a few blissful days gliding down the river, running at night and laying up at sunrise. Huck describes it this way:
Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line--that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off and warn't black anymore, but gray; and by and by you could see a streak in the water which you know by the look of the streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes the streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the songbirds just a going it!"

Yep, and all this was taking place before Henry James ever roused himself from his linen sheets in Chelsea.

Comments

Me said…
I was wondering what you think about the censored edition of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”?
Professor Quest said…
Well, it's silly. People reading literature with an expectation that it must reflect our current values, tastes and ideals are not reading. They are Ayatollahs seeking to ahistoricize their world-views.

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