Congo Song, by Stuart Cloete – 1943 [Unknown Artist]

Channel went back over his life in his mind.
He thought of the things he had done…the things he had not done.
There were always regrets at the things that had ended before their time.
There was regret, too, at the loss of pain that was almost pleasure,
at the pleasure that was almost pain.
For many years these regrets had come back continually at the sight of a shop,
a restaurant,
a street,
the name of a certain dish on a menu,
a word found in a book, at hazard, as you turned the page;
at a song,
at a bar of music,
at the turn of some woman’s head in the street,
at the color of a dress or the sound of a voice. 
All this because it was not done,
because it had never been finished one way or the other,
and your heart had been left dangling like a puppet on a string.

congo-song-stuart-cloete-1943-1_edited-2And what had you actually known of any woman, of her desires?

What had she wanted of you?

You only knew what you had wanted of her.

You only knew your own desires, your own motives.

And even those you did not know fully. 

You only knew what you were permitted to know of them,

for your personality kept its secrets from your person.

congo-song-stuart-cloete-1943-2He thought of his own father;
he remembered him singing him to sleep,
walking up and down,
holding him in his arms.
He remembered him swimming with him sitting on his back,
his legs about his neck, his hands in his hair.
He remembered riding in the front of his saddle.
His father must have had similar memories of his father;
and his father of his father, and so on,
an interminable chain;
each generation tending to repeat stories that they remembered
from their own childhood…
fairy tales, folklore,
superstitions that came down like this by word of mouth
from the ancient past, were absorbed in the mothers’ milk,
transmitted by nurses, grooms, servants.
His father had been born in 1844.
His grandfather had been a boy at the time of Waterloo.
And it went on like that, back into the past,
each life overlapping another life, as tiles overlapped each other on a roof.
The more you saw of life,
the stranger was its variety and differentiation.