In Ben Jonson’s masque The Fortunate Isles and their Union the opening dialogue is between a poor Rosicrucian and an Airy Spirit, suggesting that the apprehension that illuminati could be more than a little silly is not one exlusive to our own (post Il Pendolo di Foucault) times. Among the tasks which the Airy Spirit sets the poor Rosicrucian is one, most beautifully phrased, which came into my head yesterday evening.
when you ha’ made
Your glasses gardens in the depths of winter…
This occured to me because we were gardening at ten thirty at night with heavy snow falling. I had spent most of the eveing by the fire in the sitting room reading the last few texts for the revised Idea of North and the Lady Novelist, having finished her disagreeable novella about adultery and home improvement, was doing the copy editor’s queries on her very massive book on Girls who did Latin. Somehow we met in the greenhouse which opens off the drawing room, a poor replacement for the original Victorian vine-house which fell down under the late regime of les sales paysans, but a very great deal better than nothing. We were both retiring bowls of withered hyacinths from their different rooms in the house and replacing them with fresh ones. We paused a moment under the jasmine and in contemplation of the flowering climbing geraniums, the lemon and orange trees, the tobacco plants still in flower in the greenhouse border and started to water things , listening to the fountain, when quite suddenly a blizzard struck outside and we continued, quite warm and quite calm, to water lemon trees and tend the flowers while outside, quite visible in the light spilling out from the house, the air grew solid with flakes and the wind shook the hedges. And there were our reflections amidst so much greenness projected out into the air above the snowy lawns.