Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"A wild stirring in its ancient sleep..."

When in my early teens, having graduated from the Hardy Boys, I consumed the Saint books by Leslie Charteris. I have taken a break from other reading, seeking something undemanding, and chose to see whether I could, so many years later, still enjoy one of those books. They are all now available for Kindle. I chose The Last Hero (1929), one of the earliest, now titled for some reason, The Saint Closes the Case. I am enjoying it. I just read this: Simon Templer (The Saint) is hurtling through the night on a quest to save his love who is held hostage by a really evil villain...
That he was going to an almost blindfold assault took nothing from his rapture. Rather, he savoured the adventure the more, for this was the fashion of forlorn sally that his heart cried for—the end of inaction, the end of perplexity and helplessness, the end of a damnation of doubt and dithering. And in the Saint's heart was a shout of rejoicing, because at last the God of all good battles and desperate endeavour had remembered him again.

No, it wasn't selfish. It wasn't a mere lust for adventure that cared nothing for the peril of those who made the adventure worth while. it was the irresistible resurgence of the most fundamental of all the inspirations of man. A wild stirring in its ancient sleep of the spirit that sent the knights of Arthur out upon their quests, of Tristan crying for Isolde, of the flame in a man's heart that brought fire and sword upon Troy, of Roland's shout and the singing blade of Durendal amid the carnage of Roncesvalles. "The sound of the trumpet. ...."
Would any teenager today have a clue about the references in that last paragraph? Or have the curiosity to find out? Today Google could discover the answers very quickly but in the '20s, or even the '60s, discovering their meaning would have been a considerable break in reading an adventure.