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.