That's why we take stacks of movies with us when we go out of town on vacation. Sometimes we watch movies we've already seen (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Trois Couleurs (all three of them, but Red is my favorite), some things we don't cry over - like The Prisoner (slightly disorienting, but not a tear-jerker), or The Avengers (ditto, plus funny), or To the Manor Born (plain funny)... and we rent other stuff we haven't seen yet, and we watch these movies. And I cry. Sometimes we cry. It's beauty that does it to us. Beauty and love. Courage. Sacrifice. The good stuff.
And sometimes, sometimes we find passages in books that do it to us too. Right now I am taking a Modern Lit course - and one such passage has just appeared. In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the young clerk Septimus has been swallowed up by London, just as "London had swallowed up many millions of young men called Smith; thought nothing of fantastic Christian names like Septimus with which their parents have thought to distinguish them."
He makes his way for awhile, Septimus does ... reads incessantly - determined to educate himself on the classics - and then he enlists. He goes to France. He comes home shattered, like many men did from the first European War, which "smashed a plaster cast of Ceres, ploughed a hole in the geranium beds, and utterly ruined the cook's nerves at Mr. Brewer's establishment at Muswell Hill." He comes home from a war that has changed him irretrievably. But he had to go. You see ...
Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. He went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare's plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square.He went to France, in other words, for the sake of England's soul - and for it, he paid with his own. What makes The Great Husband great is that this exquisite sentence awed him too - and he knows why I cry.