The Last Man eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 520 pages of information about The Last Man.

[1] Elton’s translation of Hesiod’s Works.

CHAPTER VI.

I have lingered thus long on the extreme bank, the wasting shoal that stretched into the stream of life, dallying with the shadow of death.  Thus long, I have cradled my heart in retrospection of past happiness, when hope was.  Why not for ever thus?  I am not immortal; and the thread of my history might be spun out to the limits of my existence.  But the same sentiment that first led me to pourtray scenes replete with tender recollections, now bids me hurry on.  The same yearning of this warm, panting heart, that has made me in written words record my vagabond youth, my serene manhood, and the passions of my soul, makes me now recoil from further delay.  I must complete my work.

Here then I stand, as I said, beside the fleet waters of the flowing years, and now away!  Spread the sail, and strain with oar, hurrying by dark impending crags, adown steep rapids, even to the sea of desolation I have reached.  Yet one moment, one brief interval before I put from shore—­ once, once again let me fancy myself as I was in 2094 in my abode at Windsor, let me close my eyes, and imagine that the immeasurable boughs of its oaks still shadow me, its castle walls anear.  Let fancy pourtray the joyous scene of the twentieth of June, such as even now my aching heart recalls it.

Circumstances had called me to London; here I heard talk that symptoms of the plague had occurred in hospitals of that city.  I returned to Windsor; my brow was clouded, my heart heavy; I entered the Little Park, as was my custom, at the Frogmore gate, on my way to the Castle.  A great part of these grounds had been given to cultivation, and strips of potatoe-land and corn were scattered here and there.  The rooks cawed loudly in the trees above; mixed with their hoarse cries I heard a lively strain of music.  It was Alfred’s birthday.  The young people, the Etonians, and children of the neighbouring gentry, held a mock fair, to which all the country people were invited.  The park was speckled by tents, whose flaunting colours and gaudy flags, waving in the sunshine, added to the gaiety of the scene.  On a platform erected beneath the terrace, a number of the younger part of the assembly were dancing.  I leaned against a tree to observe them.  The band played the wild eastern air of Weber introduced in Abon Hassan; its volatile notes gave wings to the feet of the dancers, while the lookers-on unconsciously beat time.  At first the tripping measure lifted my spirit with it, and for a moment my eyes gladly followed the mazes of the dance.  The revulsion of thought passed like keen steel to my heart.  Ye are all going to die, I thought; already your tomb is built up around you.  Awhile, because you are gifted with agility and strength, you fancy that you live:  but frail is the “bower of flesh” that encaskets life; dissoluble the silver cord than binds you to

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The Last Man from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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