Idiots Of The Sea

‘Everything found on land is found in the sea.’…

“Another day I was looking for somewhere to live and went in a north-westerly direction. From some dingy agent in the vicinity I got the key of a house to let. Wandering along the streets I came to a row of peeling stucco houses with cat-walks in front, and mouldering urns, which could hold nothing, surmounting their plastered gate-posts.

“My key fitted the front door of one of these houses; I went in and up the stairs to the first floor. I entered a large room with three windows looking out upon the road; folding doors connected it with the room behind. These I pushed open and found myself in another room exactly like the first; I went over to the central one of its three windows and looked out. Instead of the characterless gardens and hinder facade of a parallel block, I saw a sloping strip of ground overgrown with brambles, then a pebbly shore, and beyond, the crash and smother of Atlantic waves, breaking ceaselessly and without tide. This ocean stretched away to the horizon where it met a misty sky, but did not merge with it – the heaving water set up a melancholy distinction out there; and here within, a briney exultant smell penetrated the panes, cutting through the mustiness of a house long closed.

“What extraordinary growths, I wondered, flowered in those wasteful depths? There must be a submerged garden whose silken green held curiosities far surpassing those I had come upon before. Idiots often describe such places and describe what they see; making idiots is one of the sea’s favourite games. But when it tires from this from time to time, it casts up instead a supernatural being on an unwelcoming strand, who ever afterwards, spends his nights asleep at the bottom of some vast watery gulf.”

Ithell Colquhoun, Goose Of Hermogenes (1961)

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