It is time to ease into summer hokku.
As a kind of introduction, here is one of the most evocative excerpts in English literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, filled with transience, the sense that all things are ephemeral and passing and slip like water through our attempts to grasp them. One must read it slowly and savor the words:
‘I have been here before,’ I said; I had been there before; first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were white with fool’s parsley and meadowsweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, such as is given us once or twice in a life-time, when leaf and flower and bird and sun-lit stone and shadow seem all to proclaim the glory of God; and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest.
That day, too, I had come not knowing my destination. It was Eights Week. Oxford — submerged now and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in — Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days — such as that day — when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth.
Originally, Waugh had written, “exhaled the soft vapours of a thousand years of learning,” but his emendation of the line evokes precisely the spirit one finds in such a place, where seemingly the young never grow old. But they do, as the rest of the book informs us.
I have combined both the original and later emended versions in this excerpt.
And now for summer hokku.