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He knew, where we believed. To belong to an older civilization: not a dominant one, but one which had reached knowledge. We should reach our own peace eventually. Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin and all the rest of them: they would bring us to the preliminary ruin perhaps in our own lifetime. And then, we should be able to crawl out to knowledge. Out of the waste and murder, out of the ruin, with power eventually gone on westwards, we should emerge to sing uncredulously accompanied by one balalika or zither. His was a lullaby which knew the fate of man. To divest oneself of unnecessary possessions, and mainly of other people: that was the business of life.
How to Train Your Raptor | The New Yorker
I did not disapprove of war, but feared it much. What did it matter however?
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It might kill us a score of years before we should in other circumstances die. It was pointless, cruel, wasteful, and to the lonely individual terrible: but it did not matter in the least whether he survived or not. I should be killed, likely, and my civilization perhaps wiped out. But man would not be wiped out.
What did it matter then? That one dictator for his own megalomania should destroy a culture: it was a drop only beside the sum of cultures and perhaps a good thing. In the world which I had run away from I had found so much wickedness in our present development that one could have no definite feelings about its termination: and, as for myself, I was wind in any case. The ground round the chapel stood higher than the hayfield beside; as all old churchyards did, heaped up with the common and coffinless clay of centuries that had returned to their own dust.
I wondered whether there had been a graveyard at the chapel in the old days, and whether, if so, the old bones would be grateful to see a goshawk again. I mean that this phosphoric and bony atmosphere had the aura of actually being able to breed disease, which was not in itself an unpleasant thing. It was a thing to shun, but not a thing to regard with loathing. Disease was virile, because it worked.
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You could feel it with fear, but not with contempt. It was only the things for which I had contempt that made me feel unpleasant. The air of death, I smelt it vigorously. It was a challenge to life. It was a tonic. It had before been a fumbling among conjectures, with only the printed word to help; but now, inside, there seemed to have begun to grow the personal flower of knowledge.
Secretly and not quickly enough to be visible as motion, the roots had begun to push their filigree net through the loam of the unconscious mind. Gently and tenderly the smallest buds of intrinsic certainty had begun to nose out of the stalk, fed with the sap of life rather than theory.
I saw now that I must learn to feed him with diligent and minute observation.
Suddenly I realized that this was the secret of all training. I had thought before, without understanding the thought, that the way to the heart lay through the belly. The way to government lay through the deprivation of the belly. Every great overlord had known this about my companions in the lower classes.
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But I was sure of one thing that I still loved, and that was learning. I had learned always, insatiably, looking for something which I wanted to know. It was easier to combine the two: to learn and then to write about it, thus making money out of what one loved.
This solitary life was one of almost boundless misdirected energy, but even misdirection was a form of direction. For months at a time I was content with that. Then suddenly the blow fell, a kind of stroke like that which afflicted Orlando, and even misdirection failed. It was not that he came. It was a matter appreciable in time. Thus, when being seemed hopeless and nothing left but to endure, often God would turn a kind face in real reward for labour and, at a dark moment, surprise with his present: so much more lovely as a surprise. For that matter, nearly everything concerned with falconry was illegal: our modern legislators, busily passing laws for urban criminals, had forgotten altogether, or never heard, that hawk-mastery existed.
Half the things we did were forbidden by laws recently passed to curtail quite different activities: the other half were presumably still governed by laws passed before Elizabeth, which nobody had troubled to repeal. I had gone half bird myself, transferring my love and interest and livelihood into its future, giving hostages to fortune as madly as in marriage and family cares.
If the hawk were to die, almost all my present me would die with it. It had treated me for two days as if I were a dangerous and brutal enemy never seen before. I did not know then that this was a common state of affairs with goshawks, that the best of them were always haunted by moods and mania. A woodland mouse, lonely as I was and less accustomed to man, came boldly to eat my biscuits, and was soon tugging at one side of the biscuit while I tugged at the other.
Hitler and Mussolini, Gos and the irreclaimable villein kestrel, seals that preyed on salmon and salmon that preyed on herrings that preyed on plankton that preyed on something else: these knew that God had given a law in which only one thing was right, the energy to live by blood, and to procreate. It happened like this in the world. Old things lost their grip and dropped away; not always because they were bad things, but sometimes because the new things were more bad, and stronger.
The great and good Mr.
Gilbert Blaine, whose book I cherished, had confessed to me in a letter that he did not love goshawks. Their crazy and suspicious temperament had alienated him from them, as it had most falconers. Perhaps for this reason, I had loved Gos. I always loved the unteachable, the untouchable, the underdog. Why should he, a wild princeling of Teutonic origin, submit to an enforced captivity?
He had hated and distrusted me, the intransigent small robber baron. He had had guts to stand up against love so long. I hoped he would snap his jesses safely, the ungovernable barbarian, and live a very long, happy life in the wild world: unless I could catch him again as a partner whom I should never dare to treat as captive.
It was well enough to construct these traps, but it was the watching them for a day of fourteen hours that tested the base metal of the historian. Every falconer was an historian, a man who had found the hurly-burly of present-day lunacy to be less well done than the savage decency of ages long overpowered, and overpowered because they had not been wicked enough to conquer the wickedness that time had brought to accost them. To write something which was of enduring beauty, this was the ambition of every writer: as it was the ambition of the joiner and architect and the constructor of any kind.
It was not the beauty but the endurance, for endurance was beautiful. It was also all that we could do. Wing your way to The Goshawk Get the biggest daily stories by email Subscribe We will use your email address only for the purpose of sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
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