Yes; Good Night, Good Night

James Gould Cozzens is not much in fashion these days, is little read.  But whatever one may think of the man, the man could write.  Here are the closing paragraphs of his final novel, Morning Noon and Night, a remarkable novel of old age, loss and mystery.

When in certain moods I look back I seem to myself wandering directionless down these many years in a kind of game or exercise of blindman’s buff–now sightlessly bumping into things, now suprised by sportive unreturnable blows.  When in certain moods I look around me, I seem to see current experience as resembling progress of a tourist who revisits relics of the past.  I pick with subdued curiosity an aimless way through memory’s remains.  I investigate fragmentary scattered ruins, eons old, of a lost city of antiquity whose traces extend over a campagna otherwise empty under a clear level vacancy of sunset light.

Like that childishly remembered pound of band music cemetery-bound, the picture can be guessed to take shape from a forgotten actual incident of long ago, a childhood occasion in the course of foreign travel with my parents when on an unidentified day at an unidentified place the little boy finds himself wandering out beneath evening skies to gaze at scattered classical ruins which are the local sights–temple columns in twos or threes still loftily upright, damaged capitals held high, while marble drums of others fallen apart lie around them sunk in earth, half concealed by bush and grass.  He looks down curving wide ranges of shattered stone steps while he is informed that here had once been a theater.  At a distance he can see the tall line of a dozen or more aqueduct arches, commencing suddenly, and suddenly ending; coming now from nowhere, now going nowhere.  Thin final sunlight of a sort sometimes seen in Canaletto paintings gilds gently enigmatic ancient stone, sere swards of coarse modern grass, and occasional broken hunched old trees.  A calling or twittering of skylarks or other birds has ceased; the immense twilight silence settles, and the child must soon be taken away to bed.  Yes; good night, good night.  Good night, any surviving dear old Carian guests.  Good night, ladies.  Good night, all.

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