“To a very young poet, ignorance is not a limitation but an advantage; it absorbs new experience with an intoxicating intensity.”

“Presently I got up and dressed, stuck my violin under my jacket, and went out into the streets to try my luck. It was now or never. I must face it now, or pack up and go back home.”

“I was living at that time on pressed dates and biscuits, rationing them daily, as though crossing a desert. Sussex, of course, offered other diets, but I preferred to stick to this affectation. I pretended I was T.E. Lawrence, engaging in some self-punishing odyssey, burning up my youth in some pitiless Hadhramaut, eyes narrowing to the sandstorms blowing out of the Wadis of Godalming in a mirage of solitary endurance.”

“I lay on my belly, the warm earth against me, and forgot the cold dew and wolves of the night. I felt it was for this I had come: to wake at dawn on a hillside and look out on a world for which I had no words, to start at the beginning, speechless and without a plan, in a place that still held no memories for me.”

“The road ran through the wheat as straight as a meridian, like a knife-cut through a russet apple, and I followed it east towards the morning sun, which was already huge and bloated.”

“There was little life to be seen in the listless alleys, and the street lamps were hooded by a mysterious thickness of the light. I felt once again the unease of arriving at night in an unknown city–that faint, sour panic which seems to cling to a place until one has found itself a bed.”

“When he’d gone, I sat on the bed and swung my feet and ate my last bit of bread and cheese. I was feeling easier now, in spite of the savagery of the place. I was established. I had a room in the city.”

“To be charmed from sleep by a voice like this . . . the borders of consciousness are anxious enough, raw and desperate places we shouldn’t be dragged across them like struggling thieves as if sleep was a felony.”

“I followed this straight southern track for several days, living on figs and ears of wheat. Sometimes I’d hide from the sun under the wayside poplars, face downwards, watching the ants. There was really no hurry. I was going nowhere. Nowhere at all but here. Close to the spicy warmth of this foreign ground a few inches away from my face. Never in my life had I felt so fat with time, so free of the need to be moving or doing. For hours I could watch some manic ant dragging a piece of orange peel through the grass, pushing and pulling against impossible barriers in a confused and directionless frenzy.”

“He led me into the kitchen, where we sat on little chairs and drank wine out of leather cups. The room was a mazy violence of light and shade which dazzled the eyes at first, but slowly the jigsaw began to fit together and the details reveal themselves.”

“Once again the fierce sunlight obliterated everything it fell on, burning all colours to an ashen glare. When people stepped out of their houses, they seemed to evaporate for a moment, as if the light had turned them into vapour; and when they passed into shadow, they disappeared again, like stepping into a hole in the ground.”


Read Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning


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