Et in Arcadia Ego

Here’s a little lighter fare after a series of rather meaty posts—an absurdly over-the-top, yet still powerful little passage from Stephen Fry’s autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, which I couldn’t resist sharing with the world:

“Further upriver, the beauty of the [Cambridge] Backs in late spring and early summer is enough to make the sternest puritan moan and shiver with delight.  Sunlight on the stone of the bridges, willows leaning down to weep and kiss the water: young boys and girls, or boys and boys, or girls and girls, punting up to Grantchester Meadows, bottles of white wine tied with string trailing through the wake to cool, ‘No kissing in the punt’—careful how you say that, hoho.  Revising finalists under chestnut trees, books and notes spread out on the grass as they smoke, drink, chatter, flirt, kiss and read.  Garden parties on every lawn in every college for the two weeks in June that are perversely designated May Week.  Dining clubs and societies, dons, clubs and rich individuals serving punch and Pimm’s, beer and sangria, cocktails and champagne.  Blazers and flanners, self-conscious little snobberies and affectations, flushed youth, pampered youth, privileged youth, happy youth.  

Don’t be too hard on them.  Suppress the thought that they are all ghastly tosspots who don’t known they’re born, insufferable poseurs in need of a kick and a slap.  Have some pity and understanding.  After all, look at them now.  They are all in their fifties.  Some of them on their third, fourth or fifth marriage.  Their children despise them. They are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics.  Drug addicts or recovering drug addicts.  Their wrinkled, grey, bald, furrowed and fallen faces look back every morning from the mirror, those folds of dying flesh bearing not a trace of the high, joyful, and elastic smiles that once lit them.  Their lives have been a ruin and a waste.  All that bright promise never quite matured into anything that can be looked back on with pride and pleasure.  They took that job in the City, that job with the merchant bank, stockbroker, law firm, accountancy firm, chemical company, drama company, publishing company, any company.  The light and energy, the passion, fun and faith were soon snuffed out one by one.  In the grind of the demanding world their foolish hopeful dreams evaporated like mist in the cruel glare of the morning sun.  Sometimes the dreams return to them at night and they are so ashamed and disappointed that they want to kill themselves.  Once they laughed and seduced or laughed and were seduced on ancient lawns, under ancient stones and now they hate the young and their music, they snort with contempt at everything strange and new and they have to catch their breath at the top of the stairs.”

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