THE LYNX and DE MORTUIS by Walter de la Mare


“She could have repeated the letter word-perfect, and yet could no more resist reading it again than a dog can refrain from returning to its vomit.”

This is a very powerful morsel excelling most WDLM”s stories in style but also in inscrutability, involving, I think, a servant girl with love letters in a tea-caddy, the last of which she has just placed in there, and her view of the romantic goings-on in the rest of the household, making me think she is implicated in one of the men who may or may not marry the daughter of the house, and so — accidentally or deliberately — smashes, by dropping it, a valuable ornament in front of the other participants, including the house’s matriarch. But what is the significance of the title? The matriarch, I guess, earlier “lowered her fair-fringed pale lids” — but who was it at the end whose “cold greenish eye had surveyed each conspirator in turn – ‘would you be so kind as to pass me that little tea-caddy?’”?


De Mortuis

This is the apotheosis of WDLM’s graveyard epitaphs that play their part in some stories. This one is not a story at all, but the epitaphs shine forth with wit and candour. And the lonesome graveyard is a wondrous wild wayside genius-loci teetering on the edge of its own eventual evanescence. “Perhaps, but for its abundance and its solitary tower, it will presently be at one again with the wild and broomy moor.” The eventernal evanescence of this work and of all WDLM stories the tail end of which is soon to be swept up in my reviews before I also die.


Just some examples in this work…

Here lieth alone John Alfred Mole:
He hath burrowed now so deep, poor soul.

This quiet mound beneath Lies Corporal Pym,
He had no fear of death, Nor death of him.

Here lieth our infant Alice Rodd;
She was so small,
Scarce ought at all,
But just a breath of sweetness sent from God.

What seek ye in this old Churchyard?
The dead are we,
The forgotten dead who, dead long since,
Close together in silence laid,
Find death sweet we once thought sad,
And peace the last felicity,
The dead are we.


All my WDLM reviews:

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