A Northern Light

Letter From London

Living in Italy, as I have done for some years, may result in an incremental loss of the vivid sensation, in my view all but indispensable in a writer, that the world as a whole is a barbarous place.  It is then that I feel I must go back to London, to immerse myself afresh in the savage and godless existence that I seek to describe, to gamble side by side with my socially brutalized hero, and to cheer him on even as I watch him thrashing about within the vicious circle of cosmopolitan heartlessness, cultural sterility, and northerly frustration.  For the unhappy personage whom I call the “poet player” is, after all, something of my own alter ego, my approximate kith and vaguely recognizable kin.  I cannot but experience his predicament as my life’s own.

Western civilization, which conceived itself in the primordial sunlight of the Mediterranean, can be explained to a visitor from another planet as an infinity of variations on a single theme, and that theme is fertility.  This means that every flower, both literally and figuratively, will some day turn to fruit, which will then, as a general rule, come to ripen; that every undertaking, whether individual or communal, whether of the body or of the soul, will be seen by and by to seasonal fruition; and that culture, in animals as in men, with plants as with peoples, is nothing if not such affirmation, complication, and deepening of what is already...

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