Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
6 December 1821

STENDHAL,

novelist, writes to his sister Pauline from Paris:

"Picture yourself at a delightful ball, where all the women are attired with the utmost grace. The fire of pleasure gleams in their eyes, one descries the glances they cast upon their lovers...

A thousand candles give out a celestial brightness; a gentle perfume drives one out of one's mind. Suddenly the perceptive soul who finds himself in the midst of these delights, lucky man, is obliged to leave the ballroom; he goes out into a thick fog, a rainy night and mud; he stumbles three or four times, and finally falls into a hole full of manure. Such, in brief, is the story of my return from Italy."

10 December 1910

TE LAWRENCE,

later soldier and author, writes to his mother from Athens:

"I had to go back through the town to reach the Acropolis and the further I went the stronger became a curious sense of unreality. Here was a town

full of people speaking the same tongue as the old inhabitants of 3,000 years before. It was out of Aristophanes or Juvenal, all in keeping, so that it seemed quite natural when I walked

up a little hill, and passed under the pillars of the temple. It stands today as perfect as it ever was, with the added beauty of the stains and hollows with which Time has endowed its stones. The quiet was really uncanny. There were no boys to bother one, only a misty sunlight in which all Attica, Phaleron, Salamis, Eleusis and the distant Peloponnese lay motionless.

A heaviness in the air made my eyes swim, and wrapped up my senses: I only knew that I was walking on the floor of the place I had most desired

to see, the greatest temple of Athene, the palace of art, and that I was counting her columns, and finding them what I already knew. The building was familiar, not cold as in

the drawings, but complex, irregular, alive with curve and subtlety, and perfectly preserved."

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