Sunday, November 22, 2015

When Farmer Oak Smiled

"When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread, till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to mere chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun."

I love these opening lines to Thomas Hardy's classic novel of an independent and spirited woman courted by three suitors. I watched the film adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd last night, my third time in as many months, and found more insight now that I've finished the book. Farmer Oak, as can be easily discerned from the lines above, is a delight, and Hardy's talent with the pen inspires in me such admiration, as well as sadness that he so early gave it up (with his last novel being released thirty years before he died). Just think what else there might have been!

Back to Farmer Oak:

"In his face one might notice that many of the hues and curves of youth had tarried on to manhood: there even remained in his remoter crannies some relics of the boy. His height and breadth would have been sufficient to make his presence imposing had they been exhibited with due consideration. But there is a way some men have, rural and urban alike – for which the mind is more responsible than flesh or sinew – a way of curtailing their dimensions by their manner of showing them; and from a quiet modesty that would have become a vestal, which seemed continually to impress upon him that he had no great claim on the world's room, Oak walked unassumingly and with a faintly perceptible bend, quite distinct from a bowing of the shoulders. This may be said to be a defect in an individual if he depends for his valuation as a total more upon his appearance than upon his capacity to wear well, which Oak did not. He had just reached the time of life at which "young" is ceasing to be the prefix of "man" in speaking of one. He was at the brightest period of masculine life, for his intellect and emotions were clearly separate: he had passed the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet arrived at the state wherein they become united again, in the character of prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family. In short he was twenty-eight and a bachelor."

Isn't it beautiful? Happy and fortunate is he who can craft a novel.

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