"Appearance of the Lights at Scheveningen and Flood", anon, woodcut from Staadkundige Historie van Holland, Atlas van Stolk, Rotterdam*
I was there last summer, the woodcut's overwhelmed, overseen, huddle of habitations - men's and God's - but what I saw wasn't seen as this. The waters have been mastered, it is highly to be hoped for good this time ("In the Netherlands anything is possible") and the strand was moist under the warm caress of blond and browning bodies. One no longer fears the liquid embrace - makes recourse to her domesticated virtues, restorative of vigour and a happy household. Yes but for how long? I had a beautiful, marginal, expansive time in this place, but some introspective fault-line was it, or my hosts' impenetrable barriers, that occluded from my sight the glorious beacons, withheld from my touch the reality of their appearance (as when over scarred scenes of men's delvings have I seen shine out a rainbow)?
* being the cover illustration to Geoffrey Hill's 1996 collection Canaan, Penguin books, London