God, Thomas Hardy is like magic. So innocuously placed, these phrases paint a landscape of subtlety and delight. Loving my current fling–Madding Crowd and all.
The hill was covered on its northern side by an ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose upper verge formed a line over the crest fringing its arched curve against the sky, like a mane. To-night, these trees sheltered the southern slope from the keenest blasts, which smote the wood and floundered through it with a sound as of grumbling, or gushed over its crowning boughs in a weakened moan. The dry leaves in the ditch simmered and boiled in the same breezes, a tongue of air occasionally ferreting out a few, and sending them spinning across the grass. A group or two of the latest in date among this dead multitude had remained on the twigs which bore them till this very mid-winder time, and in falling rattled against the trunks with smart taps.
Between this half-wooded, half-naked hill and the vague still horizon its summit indistinctly commanded was a mysterious sheet of fathomless shade–the sounds only from which suggested that what it concealed bore some humble resemblance to features here. The thin grasses, more ore less coating the hill, were touched by the wind in breezes of differing powers, and almost differing natures–one rubbing the blades heavily, another raking them piercingly, another brushing them like a soft broom. The instinctive act of human-kind here was to stand, and listen, and learn how the trees on the right and the trees on the left wailed or chanted to each other in the regular antiphonies of a cathedral choir; how hedges and other shapes to leeward then caught the note, lowering it to the tenderest sob; and how the hurrying gust then plunged into the south to be heard no more.
Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (Toronto: Penguin Classics, 2013), 8-9.
Absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of when I go for a walk, by myself or with my dog, and I just stare into the distance. The way I notice the trees that line the variegated sun-setting sky. All you can do is breathe in the magic. Hardy’s lines are such beautiful examples of being a crafter of words and the subtle experience of existence. It feels like breathing. It feels like fresh air. It gives life.