The fourth of July, 2011: snatching up and snatching up

An optical phenomenon I’ve often remarked myself and long intended to put into writing (without ever getting round to it) appeared in two very unrelated items of my reading recently. Exhibit A:

‘And how wilt thou go?  It is a far cry to Delhi, and farther to Benares.’

‘By road and the trains. From Pathankot, having left the Hills, I came hither in a te-rain. It goes swiftly. At first I was amazed to see those tall poles by the side of the road snatching up and snatching up their threads,’ – he illustrated the stoop and whirl of a telegraph-pole flashing past the train. ‘But later, I was cramped and desired to walk, as I am used.’

I love that snatching up and snatching up. I’ll tell you who wrote that and where after you’ve obediently read Exhibit B:

The door of the compartment was open and I could see the corridor window, where the wires – six thin black wires – were doing their best to slant up, to ascend skywards, despite the lightning blows dealth them by one telegraph pole after another; but just as all six, in a triumphant swoop of pathetic elation, were about to reach the top of the window, a particularly vicious blow would bring them down, as low as they had ever been, and they would have to start all over again.

I like the impressions of frustrated flight in this one. In both I like the naïveté (the first is spoken by an unworldly lama, the second written by (or on behalf of) a child). The first is from Kipling’s heart-tremblingly vivid novel Kim (1901). The second is from Nabokov’s lambent memoir Speak, Memory (1951; revised, 1966).

Against most of my instincts, I declare Kipling the winner on points.




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