The Goshawk

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Loading comments This was why women had insisted on the prerogative of being allowed to cook.

The Goshawk by T.H. White: | Books

Part of the joy was that now, for the first time in my life, I was absolutely free. Even if I only had a hundred pounds, I had no master, no property, no fetters. I could eat, sleep, rise, stay or go as I liked. I was freer than the Archbishop of Canterbury, who no doubt had his fixed times and seasons. I was as free as a hawk. Gos had a hunger trace, a visible threat that sooner or later the art of imping would have to be practiced on the living bird. The effect of this blemish was to make one frightened of giving him another while his feathers were still growing.

I did not realize it for many days, but actually he was being fed far too well. The troubles which arose during the previous and the next week were due to the fact that, in ignorance of his normal cubic content, the tetchy princeling had been reduced to a condition of acute liverish repletion. Gos regarded me like the sphinx. I held out the partridge. It seemed that partridges were not attractive. Gos regarded me with tolerant contempt.

He had no doubts about who was the slave, the ridiculous and subservient one who stood and waited. What a peace-loving but prudent race they were, not predatory and yet not craven. Of all the birds, I thought, they must be the best citizens, the most susceptible to the principles of the League of Nations. They were not hysterical, but able to escape danger. For panic as an urge to safety they substituted foresight, cunning and equanimity. They were admirable parents and affectionate lovers.

They were hard to kill. It was as if they possessed the maximum of insight into the basic wickedness of the world, and the maximum of circumspection in opposing their own wisdom to evade it. Grey quakers incessantly caravanning in covered wagons, through deserts of savages and cannibals, they loved one another and wisely fled. Of all the quilled creatures which nature in her plethora of species had reared to sing and to prey over the fields of England, and the prairies of America, and the grey, warm tundras and steppes and pampasses and forests and brakes and marshes and jungles and flat deltas and mountain chains and sun-lonely moors, Gos was one, as I was one of the other: so insignificant as to be significant, so transitory as to be eternal, so finite as to be infinite and a part of the Becoming.

How should we feel fear or impatience, being so large and small? Sitting on the floor at ten-twenty in the evening, with a glass of neat whisky and the new wireless set, alone it was the ultimate bliss to be alone at last I found a man singing mournfully to some thin stringed instrument. One either side of him the thunderous Sunday orchestras of Europe rolled out their massive melodies: but he, eastern and unbelievable ancient, went on with his unillusioned chant.

Where was he, this muezzin, this older civilization? I should not know, nor find him again.

But it was the music of a grown-up race: grown-up, middle-aged, even actually old. Our adolescent exuberance, our credent classical music and full-believing orchestras were pretentious beside his thin recitative. 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. I did not disapprove of war, but feared it much. What did it matter however?

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?

Hunting with Goshawks in Essex

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.

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