Two American Landscapes: Lydia Davis, Eliot Weinberger

No Meeting
Lydia Davis

The hour of nine passes; then ten, and half past,
and there is no sound of the church bell.
Not only is there no bell on the old meeting house,
but there is also no meeting there,
for the aged pastor Underwood has retired,
the venerable figure I barely remember.
And these Sabbath days without a meeting
followed one another for weeks and months and years…

The degenerating influence of neglected ordinances
was, after a while, apparent even to myself.
A wider range was given
to my Sabbath day walks
as well as to the Sabbath reading.
A ramble to the Long Pond, halfway to Brewster,
and to the seashore on the south
were none too much
for a boy of 12 or 13 years of age.
Yet they were always taken alone.
The presence of a single person
would have broken the charm of my reveries
and disturbed my conscience.
I avoided all roads,
and the only limit of my walk
was the southern shore of the Long Pond.
From that high bank,
at whose foot the small waves were dashing
over the loose boulders of all sizes
and making their own peculiar music,
I surveyed, by the hour,
that clear sheet of blue water, three miles long,
with its high, wooded bluffs on the Brewster side.

The mothers of Israel mourned over the desolation,
and a movements was set on foot:
we engaged Mr. John Sandford of Bridgewater to preach to us.

Our Village, a memoir by Sidney Brooks (1813–1887), Lydia Davis’s great-great-grandmother’s younger brother, was among the family papers inherited by her father, and took the form of three handwritten school copybooks. Eventually donated by her father to the Harwich Historical Society, it was faithfully transcribed by volunteers, who reproduced its occasional errors, repetitions, and cross-outs, and published in 1995.

from A Journey on the Colorado River (1869)
Eliot Weinberger

And still new beauties may I see,
and still increasing light

The wind annoys us much today. Piles of broken rocks, a long line of broken cliffs, stunted cedars – ugly clumps, like war clubs with spines. A region of the wildest desolation; we name it the Canyon of Desolation.

Read more of both in Little Star Weekly (#4)

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