Moths and Transience @ Link Wanderlust


I stumbled upon an essay called The Death of The Moth by Virginia Woolf. As the title of the essay suggests, she invokes the moth in its entirety- the color of its wings, the weather when it flutters, and the entire scene that the author sees before her. The moth symbolizes above all transience.

The same energy which inspired the rooks, the ploughmen, the horses, and even, it seemed, the lean bare-backed downs, sent the moth fluttering from side to side of his square of the window-pane. One could not help watching him. One was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him. The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth’s part in life, and a day moth’s at that, appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meagre opportunities to the full, pathetic. He flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment, and, after waiting there a second, flew across to the other. What remained for him but to fly to a third corner and then to a fourth? That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea. What he could do he did. Watching him, it seemed as if a fibre, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body. As often as he crossed the pane, I could fancy that a thread of vital light became visible. He was little or nothing but life.

Woolf empathizes for the little life and a surge of pity fills her at the story of its death and the immense effort the creature makes to preserve itself. Her essays are filled with detail and meander into life’s philosophy, slowing you down in this information age. That is a good thing. Have you read Woolf’s prose? Tell us about it.



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