Copyright Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1947, 1948 / All rights reserved Selected Writings From Raintree County --The world is still full of divinity and strangeness, Mr. Shawnessy said. Ross Lockridge, Jr.,
Raintree County, 1948
--raintree seed pod with 3 seeds--
(Passage from the Day Section, pp. 914-7)
--The wisdom of the mythmakers is still with us, Professor. The profoundest mystery in the world is the existence of Another. Erotic love is the intense awareness of this Other, a Sacred Place. The lover bears the golden bough of godlike appetite and mysterious power and passes through the dismal wood that lies at the portals of Tartarus. Among the gibbering shades, he presses in with mortal thrust, making the boat of Charon heavy with his unusual weight. He bears the golden bough to the inmost shrine of the earth-goddess where he repeats the ancient frenzy. As you say, this rite is not unconnected with blood and death, for the renewal of form is possible only by the destruction of form. Love is a sweet death. A million die that one may reach the mark.
He beheld the fading beauty of the day over Waycross. Now the roofs of the town were drenched in a last red bath of fire. A few rays thrust through to paint the green body of a nymph and touch the pooled and spouting fountain with golden light. The children were little blind swimmers in the valley of the day's receding brightness. Corn filled the earth with blind roots. All things were bathed in light and longing.
--We'll never go any farther than those broken stones beside the inland ocean, the Perfessor said. The corn god is gone, and we have --behold!--only the corn.
He took a long pull at his bottle, coughed, and sighed.
--The world is still full of divinity and strangeness, Mr. Shawnessy said. The scientist stops, where all men do, at the doors of birth and death. He knows no more than you and I why a seed remembers the oak of twenty million years ago, why dust acquires the form of a woman, why we behold the earth in space and time. He hasn't yet solved the secret of a single name upon the earth. We may pluck the nymph from the river, but we won't pluck the river from ourselves: this coiled divinity is still all murmurous and strange. There are sacred places everywhere. The world is still man's druid grove, where he wanders hunting for the Tree of Life.
--This conversation is hard on an excitable old man, the Perfessor said. Just look at little Evelina out there! I wish you could persuade her to do her duty as a vestal. And isn't it a ritual day that we've been having?
The Perfessor moved his head in quick darts to an odd rhythm. Under his breath, he was reciting,
--Io Hymen Hymenaee!
Io Hymen Hymenaee! On the day of the birth of the Republic, after the runners had gone down the lane of faces to a distant string and the women had made a music of laughter and applause with their red mouths, in the young afternoon, by a curious and curving pathway, the hero made his way unto the place.
And the waters of the lake slept in the solitude of the encircling hills, the stream of the serpent river came down by shore and shallow, through tarn and tangling swamp, the murmur of its waters was beautiful in dense reeds.
And according to a legend, there was a grove near that lake and in the midst thereof a sacred tree, from which the earth there had taken its name of music and of strangeness.
In distant and dark woodlands, in the attitude of one listening, the young hunter stood and waited for a sign. And this was in the time before the fall and death of so many woodland deities, when the earth was young, and the goddess still lived on earth in the person of a woman with bright hair and gracious limbs. It had also been said in the legend that she might be known by a curious and curving mark on the bare flesh of her body.
And the tall oaks of the wood were filled with a living sound, the barky lips were calling to him through the dim forest, saying:
Io Hymen Hymenaee! 0, fleet of foot, the goddess is waiting by the tree. 0, impetuous young man!
In distant and dark woodlands, in the attitude of one listening, he waited for a sign, and the voices of the woodland deities were saying:
Io Hymen Hymenaee! 0, sun-beloved! For you, the golden bough, all heavy with seed. For you the talismanic branch. For you a prize, dangerous and sweet. 0, mortal more than mortal, o, young man more beloved than a god, hunt deep and far and do not be prevented.
Come, come, the voices said, come unto these woods with dark hair glancing. Come and join our revels. But first drink deep the blood-exciting potion. We will imprison you in ropes of flowers. Io Hymen Hymenaee! 0, strong young bull! 0, young prizewinner!
Victorious boy, feed on the flesh of apples smitten by the sun. It is the season when the corn is green beside the river and the sacred juice of life is rising in the stalk. Let there be rains and golden warmth for many days. 0, brave young man, be tender but compulsive. Lo! you were chosen from among thousands to make the goddess fruitful.
The vestals are jealous--all afternoon they plunge their fevered bodies into the lake without relief.
The corn is as tall as the knee of a goddess. Let the corn be high and the seedshock stiff to bursting. Fling seed and make the earth tremble from delirious feet.
Come, come, and bring the hero to the shrine, sweet sisters, unclothe his body, let his limbs be laved in the cold waters of the sacred pool, and bring him, bring him, jealous sisters, into the presence of the goddess
July 4-- BARE --1859 EXCEPT FOR A CHAPLET OF OAKLEAVES, JOHNNY SHAWNESSY'S HEAD
was dizzy from the noonday sun and other, more worldly causes. . . . .
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