A melancholy spirit, the mind like a great desert lifeless, and the sound of march music in the street, passes like a wave over the desert, unifies it, but then goes. T. E. Hulme, Collected Writings, p. 23

This may be the saddest essay ever written about modernism. Sadness washes over all I have to say, dissolving each truth I hope to claim. Sadness exceeds all sense of personal tragedy – it cannot be contained by Hulme’s demise, by the professional failure and young death of a great thinker. Sadness exceeds all social tragedy and nostalgia – it flows past and then over the once proud monuments of modernism. Yes, this sadness pours forward, silting the appraisable, pushing itself beyond its original cause and towards a different future. This sadness is a productive force, one of the most transportive aspects of modernist writing. It is what at first drives and then routs the modernist polemic, what pushes modern thought and vision beyond the glacial impasse of modernity.