Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

I had an earlier post with quotes from the first book in this series Titus Groan.  This is the second book in the increasingly dark series, Gormenghast.

From this high window a few rays of sunlight, like copper wires, were strung steeply and diagonally across the hall, each one terminating in its amber pool of dust on the floorboards.  A spider lowered itself, fathom by fathom, on a perilous length of thread and was suddenly transfixed in the path of a sunbeam and, for an instant, was a thing of radiant gold.

What there was in the doctor that loved beauty, selectivity, delicacy and excellence–and there was a good deal in him that responded to these abstractions–shrank up like the horn of a snail and all but died.  But his hand, which was poised in the air and was half-way to the trapped sunlight of a long-lost vineyard, merely fluttered to and fro as though it was conducting some gnomic orchestra, while he turned about, apparently in full control of himself.

Sometimes the setting sun as it neared the horizon slanted its rays into the hall, and as they skimmed the rough nests the white network of the branches flared on the floor like leprous corals, and here and there (if it were spring) a pale blue-green egg shone like a precious stone, or a nest of young, craning their long necks towards the window, their thin bodies covered with powder-down, seemed stage lit in the beams of the westering sun.

To the ignorant nothing is profound.

Oh, bluebottle, you would fare ill at a ball!  There would be none who could dance better than you; but you would be shunned: you would be too original:  you would be before your time.  They would not know your steps, the other ladies.  None would throw out that indigo light from brow or flank–but, bluebottle, they wouldn’t want to.  There lies the agony.  Their buzz of converse is not yours, bluebottle.  You know no scandal, no small talk, no flattery, no jargon: you would be hopeless, for all that you can pull the long gloves on.  After all, your splendour is a kind of horror-splendour.  Keep to your inkpots and the hot glass panes of schoolrooms and buzz your way through the long summer terms.  Let the great clock-ticks play counterpoint.  Let the swish of a birch, the detonation of a paper pellet, the whispered conspiracy be your everlasting pards.

For what is more lovable than failure?

Was this what it was to be an explorer?  An adventurer?  To gulp this sleeping silence.  To be so unutterably alone with it, to wade in it, to find it rising like a tide from the floors, lowering itself from the mouldering caverns of high domes, filling the corridors as though with something palpable?  To feel the lips go dry; the tongue like a leather in the mouth; to feel the knees weaken.  To feel the heart struggling as though to be allowed its freedom, hammering at the walls of his small ribs, hammering for release.

The trunks of the great oaks were blotched with honey-coloured shadows and the prodigious boughs were stretched like the arms of bygone kings and appeared to be heavy with the weight of their gold bangles, the bracelets of the sun.

“I am so tired of your way of saying things with all its figures of eight.”  “Figures of speech! speech! speech!”, cried the Doctor, rising to his feet and wringing his hands, “why do you always say figure of eight?”

And all the while the progress of the seasons, those great tides, enveloped and stained with their passing colours, chilled or warmed with their varying exhalations, the tracts of Gormenghast.

He ran as though to obey an order.  And this was so, though he knew nothing of it.  He ran in the acknowledgement of a law as old as the laws of his home.  The law of flesh and blood.  The law of longing.  The law of change.  The law of youth.  The law that separates the generations, that draws the child from his mother, the boy from his father, the youth from both.  And it was the law of the quest.  The law that few obey for lack of valour.  The craving of the young for the unknown and all that lies beyond the tenuous skyline.


3 thoughts on “Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

  1. Pingback: Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake | standingoutinmyfield

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