Part One of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is titled “Et in Arcadia Ego.” The Latin phrase is often interpreted to be uttered by Death personified: “I am even in Arcadia.” In Waugh’s novel this demonstrates that even in those heady days at Oxford, Sebastian’s teddy bear Aloysius in drunken hand, the seeds of decay are already sown. Death is with us from the start, even when we are most full of life.
Here in the dark those halcyon days are revisited. Right there in that frame, a fleeting moment of youthful zeal. But if you look closely it is just possible to see the shadow of decay encroaching upon us.
Those early years stand out as characterizing the story, but in truth they represent only the beginning: experience is significantly weighted towards the descent into loss. We all have those early years, we all feel the tangible sense of grief at their passing.
This is the Room of Loss, stages of decay, fragments of time, captured in analog like bugs in amber.
But Waugh short-changed both his characters and audience. It is often but not necessarily true that our lives are significantly weighted towards the descent into loss. There are continual new beginnings, returns to Arcadia: now richer, informed rather than eclipsed by decay.
Here in the light these halcyon days are made. Right there in the rock a pattern noticed for the first time, in the wood a new understanding.
This is the Room of Becoming, stages of creation, fragments of time, captured in analog like bugs in amber.