Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Hue, As of a Heaven Turned Hell"

After yet another troubled night, Helen climbed out of her four-poster bed and, as had now become her custom, reassured herself that the sky was still blue and the sun still bright. Thus calmed, she sat down at her desk and began to work, painting her next picture -- a spring scene of flowers.

When she paused, she saw a disquieting image rather than the pastoral image she had planned. The colors of the flowers were all wrong; bitter greens too fierce and acrid to be natural for the leaves, corpse-white rather than snow-white for the snowdrop blossoms, blood-color for the red roses. Everything was slightly off; the sky was not cloudy but livid, like a raw bruise; the sun shining through the clouds was too reddened. The whole scene, cast in a too-weak light, was discolored.

She paged through her previous attempts, finding once more nightmare ice-locked lands beneath a wan burned-out sun, shadow-girdled forests cast in too-yellow greens under a sky white rather than blue, oceans freezing over; the dreadful landscapes of her visionary dreams.

The Earth of her age seemed almost too lush by contrast to her future visions; the Sun intense nearly beyond bearing, the beauty of the singing streams too sweet, the forests' vivid green lovely past grasping. And yet all this wonder could not quite still her fears and despairs; ever a shadow-seed, a whisper of "You know to what end all this shall come", was awake in her heart. She strove to convince herself that what should occur in the measureless future - some hundreds of times the brief days that had passed between Christ's time and hers, after Britain that stood now glorious among all the nations had passed with all its colonies beyond even memory, to become things utterly lost to time - was of no importance; not her nor her descendants to the thousandth generation would see the doom. It was all in vain; too clear were the terrible images of that dead world and of how the end would ineluctably come, however long-delayed it might be.

The darkness had seeped into all her works; and though they were everywhere praised when her earlier works had been ignored, though she was beginning to be acclaimed as the preeminent artist of the age, still she hated the shadow that had fallen upon her art. She longed for the clean, bright dreams she had previously had and painted; though no other recognized their worth she loved them no less.

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