words and pictures by charles rangeley-wilson

The Spirit of the Age

Chalk is not a Romantic rock, Sir Francis said. He had replaced Leda and was standing in front of me in a long, black cloak. An old man with an Ottoman scarf wrapped about his head. Water is as much to this landscape as blood is to the body. It is within it. He looked right at me and with tears in his eyes he continued: Yet they think it a prodigious pity that this faithful looking-glass of mine, gentle in her attentions, should not by some magic be metamorphosed into a new River Eden, rolling over a bed of rocks! Such a quicker circulation they say would give an infinite spirit to the view, thinking if not to make nature, then at least to mend her. No, do not look for my Leda here, he said, weeping bitterly. She is raped and taken down and the spirit of the age now looks for paradise in a more … igneous landscape. These well cultivated plains cannot compare to their wild nature, nor Leda’s soft bosom to those far-off mountains, those rocks, precipices and cataracts down which thunder the whole weight of vast rivers, dashed into foam. A paradise indeed!

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