Thursday, August 22, 2013

Famous? Last? Words!

Oscar Wilde is purported to have said on his deathbed, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go."

My summer internship is ending, but my departure from the SLFL blogosphere won't be quite so dramatic. However, in composing a final blog, it did get me to thinking about last words.

The beginnings of stories are usually the most memorable. Those words set us off on our journey, and we are full of hope and expectation and wonder at what will happen next. First lines draw us in, hook us, and make us want more. One of my favorite first lines ever is from the beginning of 100 Years of Solitude:
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
I just love that.

Nonetheless, last lines can hold just as much power. With a perfect last line, the entire world that you've just traipsed through can be wrapped up in a dense bundle and used to punch you through your gut.

This was the feeling I got when I first read, and finished, James Joyce's The Dead:
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
With the weight of the story behind it, that last line can cement the rare and perfect understanding that only that particular story could bring you.

Unfortunately, I myself don't have the wherewithal to leave you with such a line of my own! And besides, it's not "really" goodbye, as Mr. Pete Benson has so kindly invited me to come back as guest blogger from time to time. So I'll leave you with a certain line of poetry that, to me, has its own sense of finality and hope, and a little bit of a story behind it.

When I was an undergraduate, the Irish poet Seamus Heaney gave a speech at my college. In it, he stressed the importance of memorizing lines of poetry and literature. And he gave us this verse to start us on our way:

The riverbed, dried up, half-full of leaves.
Us, hearing the river in the trees.

So, that's the line I'll leave you with. Look up. Look outside. Memorize beautiful words. Always hear the river in the trees.

I've had a wonderful summer, folks! Thank you for all your kind comments and I hope to be blogging for you again soon!

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