Saw two cats on the roof of the shed earlier. Not the Beaker cat, Grendel, or his even more fearsome mother. Just a random ginger tab and a tortie.
And the cats are up there, looking at each other and around the garden, like they would never do anything different. As if the world is as it always is, and they will always growl at each other and sneak around after the pigeons like they do today. A cat has no concept of passing time. Age must come as a shock to it, which it adjusts to slowly.
Not so bluegirls.
The face that launched a thousand ships
Is sinking fast, that happens you know,
The water gets below.
Seems not very long ago
Lovelier she was than any that I know.
Angels never know it's time
To close the book and gracefully decline,
The song has found a tale.
My, what a jealous pool is she.
The face in the water looks up
She shakes her head as if to say
That the bluegirls have all gone away.
There's a piece at the end of Hardy's most cheerful book, Under the Greenwood Tree. The vicar has just discovered that Fancy Day is engaged to young Dick, the tranter's son.
Parson Maybold wanders to the bridge, and rips up the letter he was planning to send to a friend, telling him of his plans upon marriage to Fancy Day:
"Why, she's my sweetheart, and we are going to be married next Midsummer. We are keeping it rather close just at present, because 'tis a good many months to wait; but it is her father's wish that we don't marry before, and of course we must submit. But the time 'ill soon slip along."
"Yes, the time will soon slip along--Time glides away every day--yes."
Maybold said these words, but he had no idea of what they were. He was conscious of a cold and sickly thrill throughout him; and all he reasoned was this that the young creature whose graces had intoxicated him into making the most imprudent resolution of his life, was less an angel than a woman.
Maybold stood still upon the bridge, holding the card as it had been put into his hand, and Dick's footsteps died away towards Durnover Mill. The vicar's first voluntary action was to read the card:--
DEWY AND SON,
TRANTERS AND HAULIERS,
NB.--Furniture, Coals, Potatoes, Live and Dead Stock, removed to any
distance on the shortest notice.
Mr. Maybold leant over the parapet of the bridge and looked into the river. He saw--without heeding--how the water came rapidly from beneath the arches, glided down a little steep, then spread itself over a pool in which dace, trout, and minnows sported at ease among the long green locks of weed that lay heaving and sinking with their roots towards the current. At the end of ten minutes spent leaning thus, he drew from his pocket the letter to his friend, tore it deliberately into such minute fragments that scarcely two syllables remained in juxtaposition, and sent the whole handful of shreds fluttering into the water. Here he watched them eddy, dart, and turn, as they were carried downwards towards the ocean and gradually disappeared from his view. Finally he moved off, and pursued his way at a rapid pace back again to Mellstock Vicarage.
And so Maybold's dreams rush downstream from him. Ripples that have gone to the other side.
The book - cheerful as it is - is full of warnings of what happens to young, flighty women. Mrs Leaf, widowed and having lost all of her many children but one, looks out of the window like a pot-sick plant. Mrs Dewey worries about appearances, and the fact that she has only had five kids. Liz Endorfield - smartest of them all except, maybe, Fancy - is a witch.
Is it just me sees Fancy and Lizzie Endorfield reflected in the mirror on the album cover? The young girl hungry for love and the crone who has seen it all. Gotta be said, despite her evil reputation, that Lizzie the Witch is a bit less stressy than Flirty Fancy, the hottest school-ma'am in South Wessex.
It's not just young women whose looks don't last. Any lad who has put his efforts into being particularly toned must know that one day those muscles will turn to dust. The sharpest-minded thinkers may lose their wit more slowly than the bluegirls see the ripples run away. But it will come, one day. One day, when we don't depend on our beauty, our strength, our speed or our brains. What rock can we cling to that day?