Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Boy Waiting To Be Punished

I gave my son Miles Watership Down for Christmas. I must have been about his age (13) when I first read it; I went on to read it four or five times. Yet I have only the vaguest memory of it—or so I thought. Then Miles showed me a paragraph that he liked so much that he wanted to post it on Facebook, the second paragraph of chapter 12 of the book. As I read it, it came back to me with complete vividness and familiarity, as if I had only read it the day before myself:

Here is a boy who was waiting to be punished. But then, unexpectedly, he finds that his fault has been overlooked or forgiven, and at once the world reappears in brilliant colors, full of delightful prospects. Here is a soldier who was waiting, with a heavy heart, to suffer and die in battle. But suddenly the luck has changed. There is news! The war is over and everyone bursts out singing! He will go home after all! The sparrows in the plowland were crouching in terror of the kestrel. But she has gone; and they fly pell-mell up the hedgerow, frisking, chattering and perching where they will. The bitter winter had all the country in its grip. The hares on the down, stupid and torpid with cold, were resigned to sinking further and further into the freezing heart of snow and silence. But now—who would have dreamed it?—the thaw is trickling, the great tit is scented; and the hares bound and skip in the warm wind. Hopelessness and reluctance are blown away like a fog and the dumb solitude where they crept, a place desolate as a crack in the ground, opens like a rose and stretches to the hills and the sky.

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