The agreeable eye

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Now although this elegant ordination of vegetables, hath found coincidence or imitation in sundry works of Art, yet is it not also destitute of naturall examples, and, though overlooked by all, was elegantly observable, in severall works of nature.

—from the Garden of Cyrus

I dreamt I was made to sit an examination on the style of Sir Thomas Browne, to be written over the course of seven days in a language of my own devising. During that week I was not to leave the examination room, and indeed I did not, despite the otherwise complete evacuation of the building due to fire, earthquake, and terrorist threat.

On the morning of the seventh day—as my exhausted hand added the last feeble marks of punctuation—the proctor (to whom the local constabulary had given permission to re-enter the building) returned. He stood before my narrow desk, eye upon his watch, a draft from a broken window fluttering the black sleeve of his gown against the table’s leg. I glanced over what I had written—indifferent sense in an uneven hand. I capped my pen and set it on the table. The proctor looked up from his watch. Then he took my scripts and burnt them page by page before my eyes.

‘Congratulations,’ he said; ‘you may go now.’


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