In a recent post, the topic of the first line of the Narnia book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was mentioned. It is a most excellent first line!
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
MCM, who corrected my slight misquote on the line, hastened to remind me why Scrubb was such an awful boy:
(His parents) were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes.
After spending much time lately on heavier topics (and we're not likely done there), I thought I'd offer a little enjoyable reading today by offering a few of my favorite literary lines. I invite you to post any of yours, as well, along with some explanation if you wish.
I'm thinking fiction primarily (and relatively short – 2-5 lines – preferably), but if you have something non-fiction you'd like to add, feel free. I'm also thinking of excerpts that use sparkling or intriguing language moreso than literature espousing dogma.
It would go without saying, for those of you who've read much of what I've written here, that Wendell Berry would probably top my list on quotable authors, as well as Mark Twain. I'll forgo them here as I already have quoted them a good bit. Suffice to say, go out and read all the Berry and Twain you can get.
How about if we begin instead with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein? While generally thought of as merely a horror novel, at least to those who haven't read it, it is pure poetry:
My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.
Are you mad, my friend?" said he; "or whither does your senseless curiosity lead you? Would you also create for yourself and the world a demoniacal enemy? Peace, peace! learn my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own.
Victor Frankenstein to Captain Walden
Another favorite of mine is A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean, a recent novel that overflows with beautiful phrasing (and has been made in to a movie that does a respectable job of staying true to the language and story). Enjoy:
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing...
The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters...
My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things–trout as well as eternal salvation–come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy...
Another author that those who haven't read may fail to realize their art is A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh). Observe:
Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
I could do this all day, but I'll let you all carry it on if you choose. I'll close with one more. How about a little of Melville's Moby-Dick, since most of my quotes have had a watery theme?
God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.
He pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married... Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg - a cosy, loving pair. [with apologies to those who find men laying together a touchy topic – dan]
There are some strange summer mornings in the country, when he who is but a sojourner from the city shall early walk forth into the fields, and be wonder-smitten with the trance-like aspect of the green and golden world.