Sunday, July 22, 2012

That Algebraic Symbol "W. C. Hodges"

State Senator William C. Hodges
From a 1933 clipping in Hodges scrapbook.  There is no indication who wrote this or, really, why he or she felt called to do so:
What did that algebraic symbol "W. C. Hodges" equal in your mind?  No doubt those letters so arranged made no especial impression on you--called up no particular image.
But I saw a man with the bayonet irony of Tom Reed, the lean figure of Dante, and the face of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, or more like, the face of King Charles 1st from the portrait of Vandyck.  A man with the lean frame of an Indian chief and the brain of a Voltaire.  In some sort of Byron's lines come to me:
"His folding cloak
Around him folding,
Slow swept he through
The columned aisle,
With dread behold,
With gloom beholding
The rites that solemnized the pile."
His nature is rich in the way that the English nature is rich.  Many peoples, Danes, Angles, Saxons, Romans, Normans, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Greeks, Italians, have contributed in blood and in thought to the nature of the Englishman.  So from many different influences that have enriched the nature of W. C. Hodges.  The rain of art has fallen upon his soul and the moonlight of poetry and the sunshine of logic, and over it has risen the river of philosophy leaving an alluvial deposit from which his spirit harvested treasure.  He, too, "has been a diver in deep seas and keeps their fallen day about him."*  He is a connoisseur of roses and poems and beautiful women, but his intellect is masculine and of the best.  Toledo steel nicked with many combats.  "He has fought with gods on the ringing plains of Troy."*
I see his contemplative arresting face, pale, distinguished and haughty, clearly painted against the dark background at the funeral of Judge Raney and I note that out of that gathering met there to pay their last tribute of respect to the Prince of Florida--except one man alone, the powerful face of W. C. Hodges crowned by his fine eyes filled with introspection, suggested to the observer that here was the most interesting and powerful and distinguished intellect present in that gathering of the nobility of the state.
I cannot adequately convey to you a sense of his superb audacity and intellectual insolence, his defiant, triumphant, unconquered, victorious, exultant spirit!  His laughter is like a cave squirming with rattlesnakes and hooded adders into which cave his enemy has fallen.  It might be that on one of his visits to the south of Europe, the spirit of one of the old Roman diplomats has possessed him.
I admire him.  He has charm.  His intense nature burns with a swift white flame, hot enough to vaporize a diamond in a moment.
He is a cosmopolitan individual and he speaks the universal language.  The appetite of his mind for ideas is voracious and he ploughs deep, and when he shoots you the bullet is steel jacketed and drills through flesh and bone like a steel rod goes through American cheese.  It takes a long time and many experiments to make such a shining individual, which such poise, and bravery and authority and wit and power.  His smile is a sunlit pillar of cloud that glistens always over Tallahassee, and occasionally from this could a zigzag arrow of lightning reaches out and stabs a prominent citizen with fatal results.  He is a perfect aeroplane loaded with high explosives, hovering over London. 
The bayonet irony of Tom Reed (Thomas Brackett Reed,
speaker of the House of Representatives, 1889-91 and 1895-99)
The lean figure of Dante
The face of Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke
Or more like, the face of King Charles I by Van Dyck
*"Has been a diver in deep seas and keeps their fallen day about him."
     from Mona Lisa by Walter Pater
*"He has fought with gods on the ringing plains of Troy."
     paraphrased from Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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