Tag Archives: Literature

Happy July 4th

I post this every Independence Day and each time I read it, the passage gives me goosebumps. Happy 4th, Everyone.

I never forgot this passage from Vera Brittain’s Testament to Youth. I think it’s appropriate to bring up on July 4th. Vera was a British nurse during WWI. In 1918, the war was going badly for Great Britain. Each week, her field hospital retreated before the German advance. Though the English newspapers painted a rosy picture, Vera and her colleagues knew their army had little time left, until…

WWI Dough Boy

WWI Dough Boy

Only a day or two afterwards I was leaving quarters to go back to my ward, when I had to wait to let a large contigent of troops march past me along the main road that ran through our camp…though the sight of soldiers marching was now too familiar to arouse curiousity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their swift stride caused me to stare at them with puzzled interest.

They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall, straight figures were in vivid contrast to the under-sized armies of pale recruits to which we had grown accustomed…Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me.

“Look! Look! Here are the Americans!”

I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the War, so god-like, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerved-racked men of the British Army. So these were are deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine!

…An uncontrollable emotion seized me – as such emotions often seized us in those days of insufficient sleep; my eyeballs pricked, my throat ached, and a mist swam over the confident Americans going to the front. The coming of relief made me realise all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.

That Anne Girl, VIII

Just before Christmas I finished the last Anne book, Rilla of Ingleside. It was a fine book but the characters didn’t draw me in; though I did cry at the death of a certain character. (No Spoilers!!!) I think Montgomery was glad to put her imaginary PEI friends to rest.

Here’s a piece from Rilla of Ingleside:

“Where are you wandering, Anne o’ mine?” asked the doctor, who even yet, after twenty-four years of marriage, occasionally addressed his wife thus when nobody was about. Anne was sitting on the veranda steps, gazing absently over the wonderful bridal world of spring blossom. Beyond the white orchard was a copse of dark young firs and creamy wild cherries, where the robins were whistling madly; for it was evening and the fire of early stars was burning over the maple grove.

Anne came back with a little sigh.

“I was just taking relief from intolerable realities in a dream, Gilbert – a dream that all our children were home again – and all small again – playing in rainbow Valley. It is always so silent now – but I was imagining I heard clear voices and gay, childish sounds coming up as I used to.”

[…]

The doctor did not answer. Sometimes his work tricked him into forgetting for a few moments the western front, but not often. There was a good deal of grey now in his still thick curls that had not been there two years ago. Yet he smiled down into the starry eyes he loved – the eyes that had once been so full of laughter, and now seemed always so full of unshed tears.

That Anne Girl VI

I just finished book 6, Anne of Ingleside. This one felt like Montgomery had trouble getting through it. At turns, I had to keep my interest in it. Rainbow Valley, #7, is a sweet read so far and I’m having no feelings of, “I’ve got to get to the end.”

From Anne of Ingleside:

April came tiptoeing in beautifully that year with sunshine and soft winds for a few days; and then a driving northeast snowstorm dropped a white blanket over the world again. “Snow in April is abominable,” said Anne. “Like a slap in the face when you expected a kiss.” Ingleside was fringed with icicles and for two long weeks the days were raw and the nights hardbitten. The the snow grudgingly disappeared and when the news went round that the first robin had been seen in the Hollow Ingleside plucked up heart and ventured to believe that the miracle of spring was really going to happen.

[…]

Spring was trying out her paces that day . . . like an adorable baby just learning to walk. The winter pattern of trees and fields was beginning to be overlaid with hints of green and Jem has again brought in the first mayflowers. But an enormously fat lady, sinking puffingly into one of the Ingleside easy-chairs, sighed and said sadly that the springs weren’t so nice as they were when she was young.

“Don’t you think perhaps the change is in us . . . not in the springs, Mrs. Mitchell?” smiled Anne.

That Anne Girl V

Last week I finished Anne’s House of Dreams. Cried twice, BTW. There is a common thread throughout all the Anne books (currently I’m reading Anne of Ingleside) of change and turning chapters in one’s life. Every life chapter is represented by a place, ie. Green Gables, Peggy’s Place, Windy Poplars, House of Dreams, and now Ingleside.

 There’s a haunting thread of nostalgia whenever Anne revisits these places, especially Avonlea. Lost girlhood? Lost Dreams? Yet, Anne seems to be happy in her present. I thought HoD much better than Anne of Windy Poplars which seemed to drag in sections.

Here’s my selection from Anne’s House of Dreams:

The Green Gables folk went home after Christmas. Marilla under solemn covenant to return for a month in the spring. More snow came before New Year’s, and the harbour froze over, but the gulf still was free, beyond the white, imprisoned fields. The last day of the year was one of those bright, cold dazzling winter days, which bombard us with their brilliancy, and command our admiration but never our love.

[…]

“The old year is going away beautifully,” said Anne. She and Leslie and Gilbert were on their way to the Four Winds Point, having plotted with Captain Jim to watch the New Year in at the light. The sun had set and in the southwestern sky hung Venus, glorious and golden, having drawn as near to her earth-sister as is possible for her. For the first time Anne and Gilbert saw the shadow cast by that brilliant star of evening, that faint, mysterious shadow, never seen save when there is white snow to reveal it, and then only with averted vision, vanishing when you gaze at it directly.

“It’s like the spirit of a shadow, isn’t it?” whispered Anne. “You can see it so plainly haunting your side when you look ahead; but when you turn and look at it – it’s gone.”

That Anne Girl IV

I just finished book #4, Anne of Windy Poplars, and I’m deep into Anne’s House of Dreams. Looks like I’m not going to finish the series by summer’s end, but somehow, it seems fitting that I begin Anne’s ‘adult’ married life in the autumn.

From Anne of Windy Poplars:

Poor Dear Gilbert,

‘I said of laughter, it is mad, and of mirth, what doeth?’ I’m afraid I’ll turn gray young…I’m afraid I’ll end up in the poorhouse…I’m afraid none of my pupils will pass their finals…Mr. Hamilton’s dog barked at me Saturday night and I’m afraid I’ll have hydrophobia…I’m afraid my umbrella will turn inside out when I keep a tryst with Katherine tonight…I’m afraid Katherine likes me so much now that she can’t always like me as much…I’m afraid my hair isn’t auburn after all…I’m afraid I’ll have a mole on the end of my nose when I’m fifty…I’m afraid my school is a fire trap…I’m afraid I’ll find a mouse in my bed tonight…I’m afraid you got engaged to me just because I was always around…I’m afraid I’ll soon be picking at the counterpane.

[…]

Gilbert darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!

[…]

Gilbert, I’m afraid I’m scandalously in love with you. You don’t think it’s irreverent, do you? But then, you’re not a minister.

That Anne Girl III

If only there were more Gilbert Blythes and Anne Shirleys in the world. From “Anne of Avonlea:”

Gilbert stretched himself out on the ferns beside the Bubble and looked approvingly at Anne. If Gilbert had been asked to describe his ideal woman the description would have answered point for point to Anne, even to those seven tiny freckles whose obnoxious presence still continued to vex her soul. Gilbert was as yet little more than a boy; but a boy has his dreams as have others, and in Gilbert’s future there was always a girl with big, limpid gray eyes, and a face as fine and delicate as a flower. He had made up his mind, also, that his future must be worthy of its goddess. Even in quiet Avonlea there were temptations to be met and faced. White Sands youth were a rather “fast” set, and Gilbert was popular wherever he went. But he meant to keep himself worthy of Anne’s friendship and perhaps some distant day her love; and he watched over word and thought and deed as jealously as if her clear eyes were to pass in judgement on it. She held over him the unconscious influence that every girl, whose ideals are high and pure, wields over her friends; an influence which would endure as long as she was faithful to those ideals and which she would as certainly lose, if she were ever false to them. In Gilbert’s eyes Anne’s greatest charm was the fact that she never stooped to the small jealousies, the little deceits and rivalries, the palpable bids for favor.  Anne held herself apart from all this, not consciously or of design, but simply because anything of the sort was utterly foreign to her transparent, impulsive nature, crystal clear in its motives and aspirations.

That Anne Girl II

I read this passage one week after attending a June funeral in Massachusetts. The dearly departed in the Bay State was in her late 70’s, Ruby Gillis in “Anne of the Island” was approx. 19 years old. What a striking passage from  a piece of “children’s literature:”

Mrs. Rachel Lynde said emphatically after the funeral that Ruby Gillis was the handsomest corpse she ever laid eyes on. Her loveliness, as she lay, white-clad, among the delicate flowers that Anne had placed about her, was remembered and talked of for years in Avonlea. Ruby had always been beautiful; but her beauty had been of the earth, earthy; it had had a certain insolent quality in it, as if it flaunted through it, intellect had never refined it. But death had touched it and consecrated it, bringing out delicate modelings and purity of outline never seen before – doing what life and love and great sorrow and deep womanhood joys mights have done for Ruby. Anne, looking down through a mist of tears, at her old playfellow, thought she saw the face of God had meant Ruby to have, and remembered it so always.