Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Angels, Polyphony, and Lots and Lots of Glitter

This is why Catholics don't need shiny televangelists.

The audience (congregation?) packed into the pews and galleries where no air has moved for two hours roar their applause and shout: "Long live the mother of God!" Some cry, some make the sign of the cross; the rest drop their fluttering fans (which have made the church look like home to a host of giant butterflies), drip sweat and clap loud and fast.

This religious drama, known as the Misteri d'Elx, is a wondrous example of Catholic Spain's sensual celebrations of its religion. Its origins are as mysterious as its name. History says that it dates from the end of the 15th century. But folklore says that in May 1266 a chest washed up on a beach near Elche was found to contain both a statue of the Virgin of the Assumption and the consueta, a book containing the text (in the language of Valencia) and music of a play telling of Mary's death and miraculous ascent into heaven.

You've gotta love this stuff...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century

Has anyone else read Tom Shippey's study of Tolkien? It's wonderfully unique as books about Tolkien go: most of them are biographies, which are bound to repeat the same familiar facts, or religious looks at Tolkien, like Joseph Pearce's Tolkien: Man and Myth and the great anthology of essays he collected. But Shippey's book examines Tolkien's work in its philological, literary AND philosophical aspects. It's also really, really fun to read. Especially the parts where he slices and dices Tolkien's irrational critics. Bwa ha ha ha ha!!! "Come, my songs,/ Let us take arms against this sea of stupidities and all the Bulmenian literati," or whatever it was Pound was saying.

Uh... anyway, here are some quotes from his book:

"The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic."

"Tolkien's approach to the ideas or the devices accepted as modernist is radically different because they are on principle not literary. He used 'mythical method' not because it was an interesting method but because he believed that the myths were true. He showed his characters wandering in the wilderness and entirely mistaken in their guesses not because he wanted to shatter the 'realist illusion' of fiction, but because he thought all our views of reality were illusuions, and that everyone is in a way wandering in a 'bewilderment', lost in the star-occluding forest of Middle Earth. He experimented with language not to see what interesting effects could be produced but because he thought all forms of human language were already an experiment. One might say that he took the ideals of modernism seriously instead of playing around with them."

"However Tolkien did not just copy the 'Tally of the Dwarves', or quarry it for names. He must rather have looked at it, refused to see it, as most scholars do, as a meaningless or no longer comprehensible rigmarole, and instead asked himself a string of questions about it. What, for instance, is 'Gandálfr' doing in the list, when the second element is quite clearly álfr, 'elf', a creature in all tradition quite distinct from a dwarf? And why is 'Eikinskjaldi' there, when unlike the others it does not seem to be a possible name, but looks like a nickname, 'Oakenshield'? In Tolkien, of course, it is a nickname(...)"

"Inside The Lord of the Rings, the horn of Rohan stands for a rejection of the despair which is Sauron's chief weapon, and which hangs persistently on the edges of the story, in the barrow, in the Dead Marshes, in Fangorn Forest, in Mordor, and even in the Shire. Outside The Lord of the Rings, it stands maybe for The Lord of the Rings. If Tolkien chose a symbol for his story and his message, it would be, I think, the horn of Eorl. He would have liked to blow it in his own country, and disperse the cloud of post-war and post-faith disillusionment, depression, acquiescence, which so strangely (and twice in his lifetime) followed on victory. And perhaps he did."

These examples are chosen nearly at random. I could give others: his considerations of Bombadil and the English countryside, Tolkien's "stars and trees" motif, the contrast between Faramir and Éomer (and what it says about Gondor and Rohan), the presence in LotR of both Manichean and Boethian conceptions of evil, Tolkien's phenomenal control over the level of his diction, the significance of the birch in Smith of Wootton Major...

Anyway, it's a very insightful and many-sided book, and entirely worth your time.

Poets and the Latin Mass

This is the beginning of Seamus Heaney's essay, "On Translating Beowulf":

As the text of Holy Scripture, the written Word of God and the ultimate source of authority, St Jerome's translation of the Bible was enshrined for centuries not as an authorised version but as the pristine word itself. Even in the 1950s, when I attended the pre-conciliar Latin Mass every morning of the school year, the beginning of the Last Gospel sounded like the first note of God's tuning fork. 'In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.' I soon knew enough Latin to be thoroughly at home with this, with the result that the English translation ended up having less immediately persuasive power than what I then took to be the original. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' - venerable as this English sounded, it carne across as secondary. For whatever reason - maybe because of the numinous force which Latin then possessed as the medium of the liturgy and of the Church's magisterium, maybe because of some older need for a magic language that would altogether open and close the world - for whatever reason, the Gospel heard in my own tongue sounded smaller, whereas St Jerome's version came forth like those orb-sized words of pre-Babel speech imagined by Wallace Stevens at the end of his poem 'The Idea of Order at Key West':

Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

To put it another way, when I stood up in those days at the end of the Mass and followed the priest's spoken Latin in my missal, I was becoming aware of the arbitrariness of English as a linguistic system. My Catholic education had succeeded to that extent, at any rate: the primal rightness of the Church's language had been established as a fact of the aural life. 'Adeste fideles' would henceforth win out over 'O come all ye faithful'. 'De profundis ad te clamavi, Domine, Domine exaudi orationem meam' would be prior to 'Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord, Lord hear my prayer'. I left St Columb's College, in other words, a perfect construct of that pre-Vatican II culture, and I remain reluctant totally to deconstruct myself.

There are many other, less rarefied and literary arguments for the restoration of the Latin Mass and its attendant culture, but I think its effect on budding artists should at least be mentioned. Here is another poet's take on "that pre-Vatican II culture," in this case Dana Gioia:

RM: What was your childhood like?

Gioia: I had a happy, solitary childhood. Both of my parents worked. My father was a cab driver and later a chauffeur. My mother worked as an operator for the phone company. I was left alone a great deal. I was raised in a tightly-knit Sicilian family. We lived in a triplex next to another triplex. Five of these six apartments were occupied by relatives. Sicilians are clannish folk. They trust no one but family. My grandparents rarely socialized with anyone who wasn't related. My mother (who had been born in Hawthorne from mainly Mexican stock) had to become more Italian than the Italians to fit in. All of the older people had been born in Sicily. Many of them spoke little or no English. Conversations among adults were usually in their Sicilian dialect. It was an odd childhood by mainstream American standards but probably not too unusual among immigrant families.

Living in New York now, I often hear people describe Southern California in the typical Hollywood cliches. These popular images of glitz and glamour have little to do with the working-class Los Angeles of my childhood, which was quite old-fashioned, very European, and deeply Catholic. No, "European" is the wrong word. Very Latin. The Sicilians blended very easily into the existing Mexican culture.

RM: Was Catholicism important to you?

Gioia: Catholicism was everything to me. Growing up in a Latin community of Sicilians and Mexicans, one didn't feel the Roman Catholic church as an abstraction. It was a living culture which permeated our lives. In parochial school, we attended Latin Mass every weekday morning, in addition to the obligatory Mass on Sunday; so for eight early years I went to Mass six days a week. The hymns we sang were still the classics of Medieval Latin liturgy. As altar boys, we learned all the ceremonial responses by heart. Our nuns scrupulously drilled us in liturgy, ritual, and dogma - which we tolerated - and recounted the flamboyant folklore of saints and martyrs - which we adored.

This world seems so distant now. The Second Vatican Council unintentionally killed it. Working-class kids in Los Angeles today do not have the benefit of this sectarian but nonetheless broadening and oddly international education. In my Catholic high school the Marianist brothers drilled us relentlessly in Latin and Theology. We worked our way through most of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas' arguments. We also read Horace, Catullus, Virgil, and Ovid. We even translated the bawdy and beautiful songs of the wandering scholars. I was in the last generation that experienced Latin as a living language. Some of my teachers had attended ecclesiastical colleges in which all instruction was done in Latin. This cultural heritage opened new worlds to kids like us whose everyday lives were otherwise so narrow.

RM: What was it like to go from this working-class, ethnic background to an elite university like Stanford?

Gioia: Going to Stanford was a great shock. I had never been around people my own age whose parents had gone to college. At Stanford I experienced the shock of meeting the children of America's ruling class. It took me years to sort out my own reactions. I was simultaneously impressed and repelled by the social privilege my fellow students enjoyed. I was also naively astonished at how little their education meant to them. I felt then, as I do now, that in the circle of my friends in a working-class Catholic high school there were more serious intellectuals than among my contemporaries at Stanford. Of course, I was then - and continue to be now - most naive of all in thinking that being an intellectual has some value.

It's very true that Latin encourages a heightened awareness of language. When I was little I didn't have much exposure to Latin, but whenever I did, I would wonder why Latin needed fewer words to say the same thing, why the word "Lord" was sometimes "Dominus" and sometimes "Domine," why some of the words were so similar to English. It is taken for granted that the Latin Mass has inspired great music, but not as much attention is paid to the sheer fascination of its language.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Toscana and the refuges of light

Storm over Impruneta

Last summer my youth symphony went on tour in Italy, going through Venice, Napoli, Florence, Rome - those iconic cities that represent something "beautiful and terrible" in the mind, long before you see them. (Well, maybe Napoli is just "terrible." If you ever go there, make sure you go to confession before you try crossing the street.)

By day we walked in the cities; by night we gave concerts in the outlying towns. We always started playing at 9:00 in the evening, to avoid the heat (which was murderous. We arrived in Venice during a record heat wave; there were people actually jumping into the canals. [Now that's desperation. Ooh! Do I get Belloc-points for my interior brackets?{"Is this algebra?"}]).

It was, by turns, astonishing, exhausting, exhilarating, and poignant. For someone whose idea of a Great Cathedral was the little Romanesque see of Santa Fe, New Mexico (built by a very homesick French bishop), the churches of Florence and Rome were "a real eye-opener, and no mistake!" My awe over Saint Peter's and Santa Croce was very amusing to my friends - but not to the chaperones, who kept dragging me away from the votive candles so that we could hit the next "historical site."

The numen of music and religion surrounded us everywhere, continuing to haunt us even when we weren't giving concerts or visiting churches. Religion in particular. The shrines and churches seemed to be a sort of catalyst to people, stirring us into talking about a usually taboo subject. I was pretty much the only Catholic in the group, and people kept bringing that up. The adults would ask what I was praying for when I lit a candle. My roomate (protestant) talked about CS Lewis with me, and I sang a Kyrie and the Salve Regina for her. I found myself standing outside a hotel at midnight, arguing about religion with my friends Tobias and Alex (Alex's father is a Buddist while his mother is Catholic. He is - or was - thouroughly confused. He spent the whole argument channeling Carl Sagan, which was so annoying that even Tobias started gesticulating at the stars and earnestly treating of the First Cause.), and as we went back inside, Tobias started asking me how God could be a Trinity, and we ended up talking for another quarter-hour.

I couldn't help thinking of my own religious questions, since for so long I had been hearing about the Demise of the West and the End of Christendom As We Know It. I came to Italy wondering if I would see any evidence of the decline, wondering if words like this were true:

"The loss of faith, in Europe, is like an ‘unseen black star’ that still has a tremendous gravitational pull. They don't understand why their culture is failing. They don't understand why divorce rates and suicide rates are so high. They don't understand why so few European women have more than one child, and why on most European streets, you see more dogs than children. This is the impact of the death of real Christian belief in Europe." - Dale Hurd, CBN News Sr. Reporter

As I walked back to our hotel in Florence one day, tired and hungry, I couldn't keep that darkness at the back of my mind any more. So far I had seen Venice, Cento, Bologna and Florence - and in each city I could count the children I saw on one hand. It was troubling me.

The hotel was six stories with no elevator, and I was on the sixth floor. It was like a sauna in the room, because the other girls refused to open the shuttered windows and let in some light and air (the mosquitoes would have gotten in too). After an hour of this purgatory we got on the bus and drove off for our concert. Soon after we crossed the Arno, the crowded city fell behind us. It startled me when I looked out the window and saw only sunbaked hills, with a tower or a cypress here and there. It looked for all the world like the East Bay hills in summer - but much older.

We stopped in Impruneta, at the top of one of those Tuscan hills. The little town boasted a church that had been built in thanksgiving for a miraculous delivery from the plague - Mary's doing, as usual. Mariae Precibus Depulsa Peste Stygmatum D Franc Flor Societas Deipara Liberatrici is what it said on the façade, anyway. You can see the church in one of the three bottom pictures; it closes off the eastern side of the town square. Its ochre walls glowed with the level light of the sun, which was already touching the western rooftops. Dark clouds were gathering behind the church, so that the light looked strange on it. Some of the guys started unloading the truck and bringing the drums onto the stage that had been set up next to the church, and the rest of us left the piazza and went to take in the view on the other side of the town. (Look at the middle picture at the bottom to see it.) After that, we all ate dinner on a little terrace. (The wives of the city council members made dinner for us - it was so good...)

Garden at the base of the wall

While they finished setting up tables in front of the stage, I stood in the piazza with another girl, also named Meredith, watching the turbulent clouds moving over us like a huge armada. Two cheerful-looking nuns in long blue habits walked past the church. Then one of the wooden side doors opened, and a family walked out. Smiling, they closed the door as if on a beautiful secret. We suddenly wanted to see what was inside. The other Meredith took my hand, and we went under the inviting colonade on the side of the church. We read a bulletin board that listed times for Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, dates when the priest was teaching catechism classes for children, and other hopeful pieces of information. But the huge heavy door was so imposing, and our glimpse of the interior darkness suggested something so sacred and inviolate, that we couldn't go in. I still don't know what the inside looked like. It remains a wonderful mystery.

The piazza was a silent amphitheater for the passing clouds, its periphery making a small and intimate horizon. The sun had fallen just out of view. The western roofline was fringed with a prismatic nimbus of light.

Suddenly the whole aspect of the piazza was changed: everything took on the cool and gentle cast of evening, and receded into an aqueous twilight. And children began running into the square.

When we arrived in the sultry afternoon, there hadn't been a child in sight. Now they were all coming out of doors - brothers and sisters, friends finding each other. Some of the boys ran over to the colonade of the church and started kicking a soccerball around, shouting delightedly. Five girls climbed on the stage and huddled together, playing a game. A boy pushed his friend around in a wagon and another one chased after his dog. There were children running everywhere, playing tag, circling back to their parents who were watching them happily from the tables in front of the stage.

Within the four sides of that piazza, under the shadow of the church and its campanile, there was a feeling of such security and certainty... I can't believe that it was ilusory. I could see it and feel it so plainly. Maybe it was only a small chink in the darkness, and maybe it was more fragile than I knew, but that place had hope and life in it. When a hundred lights go out and only one is left, that light is then brightest.

I watched them for what seemed like a long time, listening to the quiet echo of their feet, a sound like rain. Then the concert was begining, and I picked up my violin and went up on the stage. By now it was completely dark, and the lights on the stage and around the tables were shining. We started with Rimsky-Korsakov. Thunder spoke on the horizon, and a fierce gust of wind hit us, blowing away music and knocking over stands. Somehow we kept the Capriccio Espagnol going; brilliant skirls of spiccato and pizzicato, the interlude of a flute solo that evokes a hot, still afternoon, somewhere between waking and sleeping. Our sunwashed music made a surreal contrast with the stormy night, and people were eating, laughing, talking quietly at the tables, under the festive stage-lights.

A little girl in a red dress was dancing in front of the stage. She was so absorbed, whispering to herself a little, as children do.

A few cold raindrops strafed us, but those vast thunderclouds, so black and heavy that they seemed to be defying gravity, kept racing overhead. The storm passed us over that night.

As we left, it seemed like the whole town was waving goodbye, and we waved back until their faces were lost in the darkness and Impruneta was gone.

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

- G.M. Hopkins


While I'm working on a post about Toscana…

Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says.
"¡Ay, Guadalquivir!" Yep, that's all, from The Selected Poems of Frederico García Lorca. That was the last line of "Poem of the Saeta." (Saeta means "dart," but it's also a kind of song that they sing in the Holy Week processions in Seville…)

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
My open notebook. With a Latin dictionary and some poems by Ezra Pound underneath.

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
Can't remember. Which is a very good answer, if you ask me.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
A little wooden plaque painted red, gold and blue with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the middle, a copy of the San Damiano crucifix which has hung over my bed since I was a baby, a calender with Fra Angelico paintings on it that cost me 14 euros in Venice. Also two movie posters for LotR and one for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, a poster in Italian advertising one of my youth symphony's concerts (I nicked it in Caldogno), and maps of Middle Earth and medieval Europe.

What is the last movie you saw?
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. My little sister decided to watch all three movies back-to-back, and I had forgotten how much I like them. "I am a Jedi, like my father before me…" Great stuff.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
A bunch of ruined English abbeys. I'd have them re-roofed and restored, turn them over to some traditional Benedictines or something, and spend my days going to Mass in them and dancing on ol' H8's grave. Bwa ha ha!

Tell me something about you that I don't know.
My mother became a Catholic at Harvard, in the Sixties, by reading Amalarius of Metz and Erasmus' Praise of Folly. Will wonders never cease? (The good Chestertonian answer: Never.)

The Wondering Minstrels

This website boasts one of the most ecclectic conglomerations of poetry I have ever seen. Yeats, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Thomas... medieval bards and modern rock lyrics... almost all of it is worth reading. And the commentary is almost as fascinating - nice to see that there are still serious poetry nuts out there. There are even some poems by Belloc that AREN'T from "Beasts." Like this one. Dios mio, but I love that song! One Scott Bloch reports that he sings it at "Belloc Society meetings." Who says there is no hope for the West!

Sometimes you turn up poems like this that take your breath away with their poignancy, not only of the words, but of the larger context of the poem. Or these two: "Lament for Eorl the Young" and "The Horses."

The latest poems are posted at the bottom of the page, not the top. You can look up different poems and poets if you go back to the index.

Auden, Keats, Shel Silverstein - what's not to like?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Fun Translating Garcia Lorca

Cathedral at Córdoba

Several bloggers have commented on the minor flap over Muslims asking to pray in Córdoba's cathedral. It seems that the request was only a rumor (sigh of relief), but the mention of Córdoba set off echoes in my mind, as it always does. The begining of Warren Carroll's gripping account of Pelayo's resistance and the dawn of the 770-year Reconquista was at the back of my head as I was reading:

"In Spain there was a man named Pelayo. His name was the proto-Spanish version of the Latin name Pelagius, "man of the sea-shore." He came from the north, from the Asturias, the mountains overlooking the coast at Gijón. He was distantly related to some of the Visigothic kings.... Governor Munuza of the Asturias, in Gijón, sent Pelayo as a hostage with a Muslim party going to Córdoba, the new Muslim seat of government, in 717. As soon as Pelayo had left, Munuza seized his sister, whose beauty had evidently caught his eye, and put her into his harem.

South across much of the length of Spain rode Pelayo. As a hostage, his life was forfeit to his Muslim companions. Everywhere he saw the signs of their new dominion, their government, administration, and garrisons. The land where his Visigothic forebears had dwelt for 250 years must have seemed suddenly, utterly alien. It was Muslim land now; to human eyes the whole world would soon be theirs. It was probably summer, so that as the party cantered southward toward Córdoba, it grew steadily hotter under the ardent Spanish sun. More and more they would have traveled in the cool night and slept in the afternoon blaze. We can best visualize that silent, dusky journey on once friendly roads gone strange and sinister with the enemy's brooding presence - a journey ultimately to prove epochal for Catholic Spain, and through her for the whole world - in the haunting images of Garcia Lorca's Canción de jinete (Song of the Horseman)"
("The Building of Christendom," pg. 272)

I remember that poem well, because it was the first Spanish poem I ever translated. Since then, I've come across inumerable English versions of it, all savouring of different poetic philosophies. Here is the text of the poem:

Lejana y sola.

Jaca negra, luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
Aunque sepa los caminos
yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.

Por el llano, por el viento,
jaca negra, luna roja.
La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba.

¡Ay qué camino tan largo!
¡Ay mi jaca valerosa!
¡Ay que la muerte me espera,
antes de llegar a Córdoba!

Lejana y sola.

Steven Spender's translation is the one that appears in my little book of Lorca's poems. I'm afraid I don't know much about Spender, but he wrote a poem which involves his son's canary and... the Illiad. It sticks with me for some reason. Anyway, his version is so literal that it sounds as though he ran the poem through Google Translator. For ¡Ay que la muerte me espera, he puts "Ay! That death should wait me." What's with that? True, esperar literally means "to wait" or "to hope," but the construction makes no sense in English. We have a nice word that conveys Lorca's meaning more exactly: awaits. This is my English (better Spanish speakers out there are welcome to correct any mistakes):

Distant and alone.

Black pony, big moon,
and olives in my saddlebag.
Though I know the roads
I will never come to Córdoba.

Through the plain, through the wind
black pony, red moon.
Death is watching me
from the towers of Córdoba.

Oh, the long road!
Oh, my brave pony!
Alas that death awaits me,
before Córdoba!

Distant and alone.

Haunting indeed.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Introducing myself

Let's see: My name is Meredith, and I'm an 18 year old girl from California (I live about an hour south of San Francisco, to be exact). I've been lurking (how sinister that sounds!) on St. Blog's for a few months now, commenting under the name "Alantua," but I feel like I've finally learned enough to launch a blog of my own. I'll be writing about poetry and poets - Hopkins, Heaney, Eliot, Pound, Lorca, Yeats... - literature - Tolkien, Belloc, Bernanos, Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor... - and art in general. There will be reflections on the Latin Mass and such issues from this wannabe-Traditionalist, and there will be memories and day-to-day observations.

A little more about me: I have been playing the violin for ten years, and I love classical and sacred music. I am going to Christendom College this August, where I plan to build up my (presently minimal) Latin and become a better writer. The blogs that have most inspired me are Shrine of the Holy Whapping and El Camino Real...

Well, that should be enough to go on. ::yawn:: It's so late!

Monday, April 19, 2004

[testing 1-2-3...]

A wonderful essay by Hilaire Belloc:


I knew a man once. I met him in a wooden inn upon a bitterly cold day. He was an American, and we talked of many things. At last he said to me: “Have you ever seen the Matterhorn?”

“No,” said I; for I hated the very name of it. Then he continued:

“It is the most surprising thing I ever saw.”

“By the Lord,” said I, “'you have found the very word!” I took out a sketch-book and noted his word “surprising.” What admirable humour had this American; how subtle and how excellent a spirit! I have never seen the Matterhorn; but it seems that one comes round a corner, and there it is. It is surprising! Excellent word of the American. I never shall forget it!

An elephant escapes from a circus and puts his head in at your window while you are writing and thinking of a word. You look up. You may be alarmed, you may be astonished, you may be moved to sudden processes of thought; but one thing you will find about it, and you will find out quite quickly, and it will dominate all your other emotions of the time: the elephant's head will be surprising. You are caught. Your soul says loudly to its Creator: “Oh, this is something new!”

So did I first see in the moonlight up the quite unknown and quite deserted valley which the peak of the Dead Man dominates in a lonely and savage manner the main crest of the Pyrenees. So did I first see a land-fall when I first went overseas. So did I first see the Snowdon range when I was a little boy, having, until I woke up that morning and looked out of the windows of the hotel, never seen anything in my life more uplifted than the rounded green hills of South England.

Now the cathedral of St. Front in Perigeux of the Perigord is the most surprising thing in Europe. It is much more surprising than the hills—for a man made it. Man made it hundreds and hundreds of years ago; man has added to it, and, by the grace of his enthusiasm and his disciplined zeal, man has (thank God!) scraped, remodelled, and restored it. Upon my soul, to see such a thing I was proud to be an Anthropoid, and to claim cousinship with those dark citizens of the Dordogne and of Garonne and of the Tarn and of the Lot, and of whatever rivers fall into the Gironde. I know very well that they have sweated to indoctrinate, to persecute, to trim, to improve, to exterminate, to lift up, to cast down, to annoy, to amuse, to exasperate, to please, to enmusic, to offend, to glorify their kind. In some of these energies of theirs I blame them, in others I praise; but it is plainly evident that they know how to binge. I wished (for a moment) to be altogether of their race, like that strong cavalry man of their race to whom they have put up a statue pointing to his wooden leg. What an incredible people to build such an incredible church!

The Clericals claim it, the anti-Clericals adorn it. The Christians bemoan within it the wickedness of the times. The Atheists are baptized in it, married in it, denounced in it, and when they die are, in great coffins surrounded by great candles, to the dirge of the Dies Ira, to the booming of the vast new organ, very formally and determinedly absolved in it; and holy water is sprinkled over the black cloth and cross of silver. The pious and the indifferent, nay, the sad little army of earnest, intelligent, strenuous men who still anxiously await the death of religion—they all draw it, photograph it, paint it; they name their streets, their hotels, their villages, and their very children after it. It is like everything else in the world: it must be seen to be believed. It rises up in a big cluster of white domes upon the steep bank of the river. And sometimes you think it a fortress, and sometimes you think it a town, and sometimes you think it a vision. It is simple in plan and multiple in the mind; and after all these years I remember it as one remembers a sudden and unexpected chorus. It is well worthy of Perigeux of the Perigord.

Perigeux of the Perigord is Gaulish, and it has never died. When it was Roman it was Vesona; the temple of that patron Goddess still stands at its eastern gate, and it is one of those teaching towns which have never died, but in which you can find quite easily and before your eyes every chapter of our worthy story. In such towns I am filled as though by a book, with a contemplation of what we have done, and I have little doubt for our sons.

The city reclines and is supported upon the steep bank of the Isle just where the stream bends and makes an amphitheatre, so that men coming in from the north (which is the way the city was meant to be entered—and therefore, as you may properly bet, the railway comes in at the other side by the back door) see it all at once: a great sight. One goes up through its narrow streets, especially noting that street which is very nobly called after the man who tossed his sword in the air riding before the Conqueror at Hastings, Taillefer. One turns a narrow corner between houses very old and very tall, and then quite close, no longer a vision, but a thing to be touched, you see—to use the word again—the “surprising” thing. You see something bigger than you thought possible.

Great heavens, what a church!

Where have I heard a church called “the House of God”? I think it was in Westmorland near an inn called “The Nag's Head”—or perhaps “The Nag's Head” is in Cumberland—no matter, I did once hear a church so called. But this church has a right to the name. It is a gathering-up of all that men could do. It has fifty roofs, it has a gigantic signal tower, it has blank walls like precipices, and round arch after round arch, and architrave after architrave. It is like a good and settled epic; or, better still, it is like the life of a healthy and adventurous man who, having accomplished all his journeys and taken the Fleece of Gold, comes home to tell his stories at evening, and to pass among his own people the years that are left to him of his age. It has experience and growth and intensity of knowledge, all caught up into one unity; it conquers the hill upon which it stands. I drew one window and then another, and then before I had finished that a cornice, and then before I had finished that a porch, for it was evening when I saw it, and I had not many hours.

Music, they say, does something to the soul, filling it full of unsatisfied but transcendent desires, and making it guess, in glimpses that mix and fail, the soul's ultimate reward or destiny. Here, in Perigeux of the Perigord, where men hunt truffles with hounds, stone set in a certain order does what music is said to do. For in the sight of this standing miracle I could believe and confess, and doubt and fear, and control, all in one.

Here is, living and continuous, the Empire in its majority and its determination to be eternal. The people of the Perigord, the truffle-hunting people, need never seek civilization nor fear its death, for they have its symbol, and a sacrament, as it were, to promise them that the arteries of the life of Europe can never be severed. The arches and the entablatures of this solemn thing are alive.

It was built some say nine, some say eight hundred years ago; its apse was built yesterday, but the whole of it is outside time.

In human life, which goes with a short rush and then a lull, like the wind among trees before rains, great moments are remembered; they comfort us and they help us to laugh at decay. I am very glad that I once saw this church in Perigeux of the Perigord.

When I die I should like to be buried in my own land, but I should take it as a favour from the Bishop, who is master of this place, if he would come and give my coffin an absolution, and bring with him the cloth and the silver cross, and if he would carry in his hand (as some of the statues have) a little model of St. Front, the church which I have seen and which renewed my faith.

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