Far Away and Long Ago [ePub]

by William Henry Hudson

Montaigne asked, "Why is it not lawful for every one to draw himself with a pen, as he did with a crayon?' Virginia Woolf said, "..when we attempt the task, the pen falls from our finger; it is a matter of profound, mysterious, and overwhelming difficulty."

Succeeding where few have, William Henry Hudson (1841-1922) has captured the passions of his early boyhood—his intense love of his mother, of nature, of all wildness, and of sport. In his eightieth year, he remained a boy at heart, able to revive the past mentally, and picture it in its true, fresh, and original sensations.

Hudson was born in Argentina on the outskirts of Buenos Ayres, the son of American settlers. It is this changing time from casting off the Spanish "yoke" to revolutionary outbreaks and anarchy and finally the absolute power of Dictator Rosas that becomes his narrative.

His appreciation of the natural world is communicated with fullness and depth of feeling. From the ombu tree, poplar and black acacia trees growing on the sides of the moat, to the detail of each bird, serpent, and bat that populated the district, his recall and passion of the experience is contagious. Just two or three miles from his home, he observed bats tolerant of the day content to hitch themselves to the twig of a tree under a cluster of leaves until night came.

He ventured out everyday, walking or riding horseback to find species new to him. On one such excursion he spotted a black snake, the only one of its kind in the land, a "melaninized individual" of the species. It crawled lazily over his shoe into its lair. The sight of a magnificent sunset was sometimes "more than I could endure and made me wish to hide away."

Hudson confesses to an animistic faculty, "lost to civilized man", a sense of the supernatural in natural things. He distinguishes between the time when the joy in all natural things was purely physical, but then the sensations experienced on a moonlite night among the trees became animated...as if, albeit silent and unseen, a being was "divining every thought" in his mind.

When the author was fourteen, he traveled across country the twenty miles to Buenos Ayres. He observed the Saladero, the killing grounds of fat cattle, horses and sheep. The ground was red with blood, the putrified flesh stank beyond endurance, and the men observed the same ritual of throat cutting from centuries past. He contracted the dreaded typhus from the pestilential city, and for three weeks his life was in grave danger.

Upon his recovery, he celebrated his fifteenth birthday, and said, "I had only just become conscious." The author, naturalist, and ornithologist appears to this reader to have been fully aware and appreciative of every moment of his long and productive life. Highly Recommended!

16.10.2011

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